Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's New Year's Eve

So that means it is the time of year when we give thanks . . . .

opps wrong holiday. Let me try again.

It is the time of year to gather with our loved ones and honor the baby Jesus . . . .

damnit, that is wrong too. Ok; trying once more . . . .

2005 is DEAD!

2006 RULZ!

Ahh. Now that is sounding better! But as 2005 was such a suck-ass year, we better make sure that puppy is truly dead, before we bury the bastard.

Happy New Year to all~~

Monday, December 26, 2005

End, Not With a Bang, but With a Whimper.

Thanks to T.S. Eliot for the point of depature. Yes, I have been neglectful, but it is that time of year, when we drag our tired, weary bodies to the finish line of yet another year on this rock called Planet Earth, and hope we make it to the new year (yea!) It just occurred to me that New Year's Celebrations are like the first taste of spring, even if the worst of winter may be yet to come.

Anyway, today I was just going to toss up a quickie; some musing that just came to mind. But first the set-up. I think politics are an inherently sleazy, gutter pursuit (trust me, I know of what I speak, as I have been a lobbyist!) And I think that politics can be more vulgar than raunchy porn. Following that idea, it occurred to me that the most extreme forms of displays of patriotism are also on a level with raunchy porn.

Within reason, it is a healthy enough thing, but when done excessively, patriotism is every bit as cheap, exploitative, seedy, shameless, gratititious, graphic, mind-alteringly addictive, baser-passion-driven, narrow-minded, unartful, sordid, trashy, dehumanizing, disrespectful, egotistical, violent-minded, hate-driven, and lastly, BORING, as bad porn.

That is it for now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Promise of a New Year

Things I am looking forward to, in the new year.

The latest installment in the Merry Gentry Series of books, by Laurell K Hamilton.

Other than that???

(*the wind howls, tumbleweeds tumble, my beard grows longer and greyer*)

Aw hell, at least 2005 will be dead and buried and in its grave. That nasty bugger was the WORST year I have had since . . . hmmm . . . 1996. Oh and that has been the bench mark, for break-a-my balls BAD for almost 10 years.

Now it will have to settle for 2nd place.

Anyway, I doubt this will be my last entry before 2006 gets welcomed in, but in case, ya'll have a Fun Christmas and a merry New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Taking Another Crack at the Internet

I have derided the Internet before, and will likely again in the future (I guess you could say that I have at best an "I use it and do not love it"/often hate it, relationship with The Goddess of Cyberspace. Or maybe I should not describe the Net as a goddess, but instead as a Street Corner Crack-Ho. See what I mean?)

Anyway, I have been loathing it again, recently. Now as far as my blog goes, this is a new way of describing it, metaphorically, although it has been in my mind for a few weeks. Time to let it out of there, I suppose.

The Internet is like a shopping mall.

Nooooo . . . . not the nice, new, shiny, pretty one, in the good part of town, with the clean well lit parking lot, and plenty of good sized parking spaces, and visible security, and helpful staff, and full of good smells.


No, the Internet is like the shopping mall that is in the bad, sleazy part of town. The one where the parking lot is filthy, the security guards (if any are there) look sorta dodgey themselves, and broken lights, when you see any lightposts at all, and has those rotten little parking spaces that you'd be lucky to shoe-horn a VW Bug into. The mall where the stores are badly lit and staffed by unhelpful if not downright NASTY staff. And it is the one that when it is mentioned on the news, it is not a fluffy community interest piece because of some neat event or appearance, but because of the latest carjacking or mugging. It is the mall you usually will not go to, unless there is something that you can only get there, that you just can't find anywhere else, close, and need to get your hands on, fast.

Yes, the Internet is that shopping mall; the crummy, scummy one.

And before anyone tags me, saying then why are you on the internet so much if at all?

My reply:

"Hey, I have been known to shop in the crummy, scummy shopping mall. It is the closest one to me. Hey, that is where I will likely finish up my X-mas shopping. I am not going to drive all the way to the Woodbridge mall (but ohh . . . that is a nice one!) Hell, I won't even drive out to Paramus. That one is definitely crummy/scummy-ish, these days, and much more of a pain in the ass to drive to, then the one in Jersey City."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Quotable Quotes -- Niceness

Yes, it is partially true that I am prone to slapping up quotes when I do not have too much seemingly original content to add. However, that is not the whole of it. I do actually think there are people out there more perceptive than me; or at least there are people out there who have said very perceptive things, that I doubt I can improve on.

Anyway, this is the reverse side of the mirror of my displeasure with nasty hateful people. Let us now praise (or at least showcase) aspects of Niceness:

In truth, politeness is artificial good humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue.
-- T. Jefferson

When a woman behaves like a man, why can't she behave like a nice man?
-- Dame Edith Evans

We are great mysteries. No matter what we imagine we may know, even for all the facts we might gather, we don't know each other. Never do, probably never will. Our reputations depend on the opinions of the ill informed. We all have better moments than anybody ever knows, and so do all the others. We are, each one of us, books that are read by critics who only glanced at the chapter headings and the jacket flap. Each one of us is a secret, and on that basis we ought to treat each other with the deepest respect.
-- Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion (March 19, 1994)

* * * * * * * * * *

Yes the Keillor quote is less 'quotable' because of it's length, but I think it is worth reading, and rereading, even if it is not something easily remembered and repeated.

That is it for now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What I Want For Christmas

What I am hoping for in my heart is just one moment, just that feeling of such complete bliss and joy, that I could feel so at one with life, the universe and everything, that I would not have the slightest bit of regret, if I threw a brain-clot and keeled over, right after it. But I will settle for that whopping winning lottery ticket. As soon as the check clears I will be heading for Puerto Rico, to scout for a site for the new family vacation compound and retreat.

(One of those rare moments of brevity for me. I usually babble, I know, yes I really do!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Richard Pryor finally just says "Fuck it."

Before anyone judges me for announcing his death in such a way, I will declare that Rich would know what I am saying, and approve; afterall that is a line from one of his routines (the one where he shot the car with a .357, specifically.)

A lot has been said about his legacy, far and wide. I will try to avoid repeating what others have said already, although I have to admit that after reading what others have said, some of that is likely to dribble out. Apologies in advance, for that.

Let me start with the part of his legacy related to my tribute to him, in the title, here. Unfortunately, he will likely be remembered too much for the cuss'n. Yes, he bravely went where no comic had gone before (although, following the trail left by Lenny Bruce.) But in his case, it was more (to my mind) a matter of his choice, if not natural inclination, to speak in the honsest, if vulgar, vernacular of his own context. And even if I did not grow up in anything resembling a black working-class neighborhood, it was a working-class neighborhood. That is not to say I grew up around rude people. I grew up around people who were perfectly comfortable using rude language. So again, I can relate. Some folk resort to cuss'n only when emotionally-upset. Some use that language because the words honestly reflect the thoughts and ideas they are thinking about.

Speaking about honesty, Richard Pryor's version of comedy was so brutally honest that there is one adjective that best describes it; NAKED. Again, another sad (maybe) irony is that people are likely to remember more about the uproar over the gag on his short lived TV show when he wanted to appear naked, than the naked quality of his act. Suffice to say, one does not need to study literature and dramatic analysis at the college level to understand the essence of metaphor. Rich did, no doubt. In my mind, the true meaning of the story of the naked tv bit is that Prime Time TV was not ready for that level of nakedness, emotionally or otherwise. I have never read or heard an interview with Rich where he discussed that, however I am guessing, that was the whole point. I am guessing he was too brilliant an observer of humankind to have thought that up only for its value as a sight-gag.

And that leads to my thoughts on his skills as an observer of humankind. I really can't say 'like other comics,' as he seems to have been the trailblazer in this comic-dramatic technique, but I believe that before any others, he truly understood the idea that in order for a comic to show the flawed if not tragic beauty in all of us, a comic needs to dig deep inside their own psyche, history, and heart. And you have to be willing to be totally emotionally naked before an audience to do that. And no other comic has ever come as close to plumbing the depths of humanity by searching so deep within themselves as Rich, between the routine about his heart attack, and the one about loosing his mind and shooting the car, and lastly, the routine about the freebasing incident.

There is raw and then there was Rich. And he was not only raw, he was elemental.

Much has been said about his take on race relations. I will not vamp much on that, but to say the beauty in his way of talking about "that shit" was he did not approach the matter from the point of view of making a social or political statement, but instead was talking about life, not only as perceived, but lived. Yes, he was beyond edgy at times with it; he struck a lot of nerves. The honest (emotionally) truth will do that.

They say that the best comedy always has a bit of truth to it; with Rich, that general rule was a gross understatement.

And if you want to properly remember Rich (and don't have any of his concert albums or tapes or DVDs) I suggest you go to his website and listen to a few clips of some of his classic routines.

A couple of final points, as there are two memories involving Richard Pryor that comes to mind. On is the day, when I and my sisters were still very young, and my parents chased us away from the living room, as they and my aunt and uncle were listening to "That Nigger's Crazy."

I never heard them laugh so hard in my life.

And the other memory is of my dad taking me to see " Richard Pryor: Live in Concert." I was only 16 at the time. I guess my dad thought I was ready for that stuff. And I never enjoyed laughing so hard with my dad before, or ever again . . . until a few years later when we went to see "Live on the Sunset Strip," together.

Bye Rich. You were not only a gifted entertainer and comic, but because of your genius and courage in showing us the darker, flawed parts of your own self, you not only made us laugh, but made it easier for all of us to accept our own dark and flawed selves, and be able to find the humor in our own shortcomings and mistakes, and our own humanity.

Goodbye, to a brilliant, flawed and beautifully human being.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not that I am calling this a New Year's Resolution, but . . .

if I were to make a list, I might be inclined to include the following:

No More Ranting About Anything.

I'd joke, if I were serious about that as a resolution, that I only have about 20 days to get all of my ranting of my system, but I know that at some point something is going to make my blood boil (or at least above simmering temperature.) So instead I will just say:

I will TRY to keep that to a minimum, not only after 1/1/2006, but starting now.

Pray for me (LOL!)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Setting The Baseline. Debating vs. Pontificating

Yes, I am still for the most part abstaining from the sewer that is partisan political "debate," as it is horribly and viciously done here in America, these sad, bad days. Thought occurred to me to show why what many folk have been doing is TECHNICALLY 'debating,' perhaps it would be more fitting if not accurate to call it 'pontificating.'

First, a standard def. of debating:

One entry found for debate.

Main Entry: 2debate
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): de·bat·ed; de·bat·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French debatre, from Old French, from de- + batre to beat, from Latin battuere
intransitive senses
1 obsolete : FIGHT, CONTEND
2 a : to contend in words b : to discuss a question by considering opposed arguments
3 : to participate in a debate
transitive senses
1 a : to argue about b : to engage (an opponent) in debate2 : to turn over in one's mind

Then, a standard def. of pontificating:

Show phonetics

to speak or write and give your opinion about something as if you knew everything about it and as if only your opinion was correct: I think it should be illegal for non-parents to pontificate on/about parenting.(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Here comes the commentary. Based on the definitions, it cold be said that yes, even if one argues in an obstinate and disrespectful way, it is still technically debating.

However, perhaps we should use the word pontificate, whenever someone argues in a manner that is obstinate and/or rude.

Problem is, that obstinancy and rudness are now so common and seemingly accepted as the norm (thank you NOT, Talk Radio Hosts, for defining downward, the standard and norms) that trying to get many people to drop the hatefullness, the dogmatism, and ugliness is now a seemingly impossible task. (*sigh*)

My next comment is personal, and some readers here who know my history and the fact I used to swim in that sewer all the time, should be able to attest to the following:

Fawking Hell! If Abstentus can give up that shit, anyone can. He used to be one harsh bastard (and tricky too!)

Some last thoughts, and I will sort of tie in that uncheerful practice known as sarcasm.

As I imagine, anyone who reads this knows that the basically shitty and witless form of insulting reparte, sarcasm, is an often employed alongside or in concert with the crass and boring pontificating that is so common, nowadays.

Now it occurs to me (and I admit, not an original thought) that whether or not someone's use of sarcasm seems at all amusing or justified in the eyes of another, seems mostly, if not entirely dependent on that other's feelings about the target of the shitty sarcastic remark.

For example:

Jim-Bob directs an acidic, vitrol-laden, personally-insulting piss-stream of sarcasm at Tracy. You think Tracy is a stupid git. Under that circumstance, you find Jim-Bob's use of sarcasm to be funny and justified.

However, when Jim-Bob unleashes his sarcastic piss-stream of hate at Lucy, whom you thing the world of, you find Jim-Bob's use of sarcasm unfunny and unjustified, under that circumstance. So much so, you decide to call Jim-Bob a nasty, hateful, excuseless asshole, and you do so.

Now would not the world be a better place if everyone called Jim-Bob a nasty, hateful, excuseles asshole when ever he is pissing in someone's eyes (so to say) no matter who is on the target end of his piss?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Strangest-Titled Congnitive Bias (Maybe)

Again, I had essentially little to no clue where to go with my post today.

When in doubt, I go to congnitive issues.

Today's entry:

The Lake Wobegon effect.

Lake Wobegon effect
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search

The Lake Wobegon effect, also called the Lake Wobegon fallacy and the better-than-average effect, is a term used by psychologists to refer to the human tendency to report flattering beliefs about oneself and believe that one is above average. Many experiments have shown that most people believe that they possess more desirable attributes than other people. The term is also related to the tendency to treat all members of a group as above average (a statistical impossibility), particularly with respect to numerical values such as test scores or executive salaries.

According to one frequently cited statistic that demonstrates this cognitive bias found by a study conducted by Ola Svenson, 80% of students believed they were in the top 30% of safe drivers. The effect has been found repeatedly by many other studies for other traits, including fairness, virtuosity, luckier and better investors, to name a few.

In 1987, John Cannell completed a study later popularized as the Lake Wobegon effect. He reported the statistically impossible finding that all states claimed average student test scores above the national norm. In addition to teaching for the test, he concluded that some teachers encouraged low-ability students to be absent on test days, helped students take the test and allowed outright cheating.

One College Board survey asked 829,000 high school seniors to rate themselves in a number of ways. When asked to rate their own ability to "get along with others," a statistically insignificant number—less than one percent—rated themselves as below average. Further, 60% rated themselves in the top 10% and 25% rated themselves in the top 1%. Some have argued that more subjective traits like this may be more easily distorted.

The effect is similar and may be related to ingroup bias and wishful thinking. In contrast, the worse-than-average effect refers to a tendency to underestimate oneself in certain conditions, which may include self-handicapping behavior.

The term is named after the fictitious Minnesota town Lake Wobegon invented by radio humorist Garrison Keillor, who described it as a place "where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

Compare to the false consensus effect.

See also
List of cognitive biases.
overconfidence effect

I am not entirely sure how I landed on this one. Well, I know how I was topic jumping in Wikipedia, and I started off in psychology, and found myself in familiar congnitive subject matter, and well, after some link-hopping, saw this one and thought . . . Hmmmm . . . . as a longtime if sometime listener of that radio broadcast, Lake Woebegon, I always got a kick out of that line

"And all the children are above average."

Today is not the first time I noticed there was a specific cognitive bias inspired by it, but I decided it was a good day to highlight it.

Having reread the quoted text, I do have one last observation:

Lake Wobegon is a ficticious town, ya'll should remember.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Nahhhh . . . I Ain't Gonna Do It

No, I am not going to go off on the Hot article of the day, the editorial by David Brooks (who, by the way is so all over the map that he can make me cheer him or cuss him out) where he describes how conservativism has Run Out of Steam . . . but to say the following:

Where is MY credit? I have been saying the same shit for years, monkey-boy!

Then again, many of us on the left side of the fence have been saying all that stuff for years and years.

I am kidding about deserving any credit, I should say plainly. Most of the points in the editorial are so self-evident and obvious that even a monkey-boy can see the validity in the points and the conclusion.

But in any case, kudos, Dave, for daring to tell it like it is.

Your invites to certain fancy "Holiday" parties may be revoked on account of it, though.

Now for your regularly scheduled random topic.

Yesterday I vamped on SNEAKY PEOPLE. Today I can and will say a few words about something I think of often :

Why Do Politics Suck?

Now yesterday I googled that. Typed that search string in, exactly like that, and one of the first articles I found was actually some guy's essay, pretty much titled as I say it there.

But after a quick skim, I realized that the essay itself, sucked.

Further down the google hit list I found another article, this one written by that infamous jailhouse journalist, Mumia.

But his article basically focused only on the matter of money in politics. So I have to say, that article sucked too!

Further down the list, I found a hit for Adult Thumb Suckers. I kid you not! Here is the link:

At that point, I realized that even trying to figure out why do (or does, to be more gramatically correct) politics suck, itself SUCKS.

But honestly, even if it might not seem obvious, I can see a genuine connection between the sucking nature of politics, and alleged adults who are so maladjusted that they utilize a behavior most often assocated with infants, thumbsucking, for their own comfort.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sneaky People

Nope, not going to be a long one (and I have skipped a day or two; sorry to dissapoint.)

I am going to just vamp a bit on the idea of sneaky people. Yes, we all know some people who are fairly, if not mostly decent (acceptably decent), but now and then they run a scam, or try to "Get Away," with some crap. I am not talking about them. Those are normal, if flawed (and that is what makes them normal, among other things) people.

Instead, I am talking about people who are habitual scam artists, routine "players," the kind of people who's minds spin for hours just about every day, thinking about some way to get some advantage over others, or at least use others in some underhanded way, for their own sick amusement. And when they get called on their deceptions, ploys, and knavery, they LIE LIE LIE, and blame anyone else but their own sorry selves . . . for their own sneaky, mean, underhandedness.

I am talking about the kind of people who, no matter how they look in real life, make you think that under that facade, they too-closely resemble the character Gollum, from "Lord of the Rings."

People like that SUCK so BADLY!

Yes, it is supposed to be the season of forgiveness, and all that, but some people deserve, only, to get a big hunk 'a coal in their stockings this year. And I mean the low quality shit!

And I add . . . I am not talking about politicians (SWEAR) but if it seems to fit in your eyes, dear reader, I am not going to expend any more energy to convince you otherwise!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Move Over, "Stay The Course." Your Time As Top Iraq War Catchphrase Is Nearing It's End.

Still trying to avoid the mudslinging (or worse) here, but on Sunday morning I was watching the Screaming Pundits on McLauglin Group.

(Not the first time the Idea came to my mind) but for the first time I heard people on the boob tube say, among other ideas, that part of the "Exit Strategy" is, at a certain point, to "Just Let Them All Fight it Out."

This seems to my mind to be the "Yes, We Can Comprehend Reality" based counterpoint to the simplistic slogan about "Staying The Course."

And, way I understand it, it is not meant (as it was used by Mr. McLauglin, particularly) just pull out and leave them (Iraqis) to it. To paraphrase my understanding, it is a recognition that the insurgency is not going to end anytime soon, and if We (the Nation, as a policy) actually believe that we can and should be turning over control of Iraq to Iraqis, we should actually be doing THAT. Tied to that end-idea are others, such as getting the Iraqi Forces into the nastier nooks and crannies, and redeploying the US/Coalition forces to the borders (to do the interdiction function) and other places where they can still provide a "support" function, and finally doing what (in my mind) should have been a prerequisite to Starting the war:

getting the Arab League states significantly involved in the matter (as alternative peacekeepers.) Frankly, and even if I thought getting some sort of Global Mandate (ya know, like from the UN Security Council) would have legitimized the adventure, We (or to be specific, the Bush Admin.) should have AT MINIMUM, waited until we had some sort of Regional Mandate, and broad support and SUPPORT before going in. Even better would have been Us supporting Them, in an attempt to clean up their 'hood. It is their 'hood not ours, am I right???

Sounds like a much better idea than fighting someone else's war for them.

If there is any lesson to be learned by the Vietnam war it should be this:

DON'T fight other people's wars. BAD IDEA! VERY BAD!

In any event, I expect that much like Mission Creep, the Administration will be creeping to this for an exit strategy. If not on their own, they will likely be forced to adopt it. It is not as if a speech by Bush is going to greatly change the overwhelming numbers of Americans who are experiencing buyer's remorse over this Now Very Unpopular war.

It does seem that a majority of Americans are less concerned about how it ends (if it should end something too closely like the end of the Vietnam war than something Bully-Bully, like the Spanish American War) as much as they want to avoid another costly 10 years spent on some foreign dung-heap, where even under the best of possible outcomes, the payoff for the Nation is sure to be paltry.

I hope this doesn't come across as partisan. I am still trying to avoid that crap. However, the idea that We (the Nation) need to think seriously about realistic best case scenarios, and knowing and deciding when to play the end-game, warrants serious attention now.

And slipping back into my usual subject areas of late, yes, we need to avoid Sloganeering, and Sophistry, and Fallacious reasoning, and do some serious empirical thinking, if We want to avoid getting bogged down there much longer. That is, if you are willing to see that that, getting bogged down there for much longer, is a bad thing (or that things are fairly bad there, already.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I Almost Got Almost Snarky

Yes, I am still trying to follow the Angels of My Better Nature, and abstain from the bitchy, nasty, snarky, ugly Partisan Bickering. Have done a fairly decent job of that (*dislocates shoulder patting self on the back*) However I just nearly gave into the Snarky Impulse.

On this message board I still visit? Yes I am still avoiding the partisan issues, but it still bugs me and tickles my Snark-Bone, when I see people who can't seem to compose two coherent, logical, original lines just spew the most witless bullshit, and seem totally oblivious, that they in fact can not argue themselves out of a tissue-paper bag. The snaky factor kicked-in when I thought to post the following, and try to disguise it as an oblique if not generic "Public Service," message. Anyway, here goes:

A persuasive argument has four key components:

the writer's claim
the writer's use of logical reasoning and evidence in support of the claim
the writer's calculated anticipation of disagreement, involvling the acknowledgment and perhaps accommodation of counterpositions
the writer's refutation of counterpositions
Each of these components is discussed below.

As should be obvious, I did not post it there. The two reasons for witholding, and instead posting here? (1) Avoiding getting snarky, if still not exactly partisan, and (2) it would have not made a bit of difference to the witless one.

Now I am thinking . . . (and if you are a past visitor to this page, you know my bias by now) would not the world be a better place if people did discuss things in such a rational and thoughtful manner?

Instead, too often, we have people who spew, bark, and insult, when pushed to 'splain themeselves, and in the end, say nothing worth listening to (reading) instead, far to much of the time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Either STFU, or Read The DAMNED Dictionary

Ok. I don't mean to seem ranting. I am trying to get over that shit. But honestly people!!! If you are going to ACT as if you are able to COMMUNICATE, in the English Language, learn the damned meaning of the words you use.

Yes, I am still killing time on internet message boards and over the past week I have had to post definitions of the actual and real and true meanings of words twice, and additionally had to go back and reexplain shit to someone (and this was not some moron with an IQ of 75 or less. This MatherFaker was an allegedly educated professional who should have KNOWN BETTER!!!)

I know I am using the word shit a lot here. But people who don't know the meaning of words, or try to redefine them, are some of the PRIMARY and most PERNICIOUS purveyors of the purest bullshit on the planet.

Yes, folk are entitled to their beliefs, BUT NOT on the meaning of words.

If anyone looking at that thinks otherwise, Please Please Please, trust me on the following point.

If Messrs. Webster, Funk and Wagnalls, or the fine folk at Oxford and Cambridge say the meaning of the word is X, and you thing the meaning of the word is Y, you are totally WRONG.


Beyond that, have a lovely weekend all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Just a Quickie. What is ONE of the things I like BEST in the WORLD?

A smile from the right person.

I am needing that, more than a little right now, so that is why it is on my mind.

Ya ya, I know. I better stop with this touch-feely stuff before I start quoting Dr. Phil.

Perhaps tomorrow I will be getting back to my sociological and philosophical ramblings.

Later, for now.
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