Friday
Jan232015

Darwin at Work

It has been noted that, while the percentage of unvaccinated children is quite low overall, those little squalling time bombs are not evenly distributed among the rest. Instead, they tend to be clustered in communities where like minded persons live and congregate. When infection occurs, then, there is a ready-made field of opportunity for its rapid spread.

Nature’s lesson here is plain: In order to remain among those fittest to survive, children are strongly urged not to pick stupid parents.

Wednesday
Jan212015

O tempora! O dummkopf!

Just spotted this in a little article in the Atlantic (often considered a high-class mag):

"...the old Greek adage nosce te ipsum (know thyself)..."

Nertz.

Sunday
Jan182015

On Bakewell on Montaigne

I have a piece in The Fortnightly Review. Read it if you are so moved.

 

Wednesday
Jan072015

Charlie Hebdo

If you are male and have not always been a hulking brute of a fellow, chances are that sometime in grade school you were challenged thus:

“You sayin’ something about my mother?”

Probably, but not necessarily,  you knew the challenger, at least by reputation. It’s unlikely that you ever gave a thought to his mother, however, much less honored her with a remark. But suddenly there you are, on the wrong side of an affaire d’honneur.

Now that we’re grown up we recognize the scenario for what it was:  a piece of street theatre, produced by the challenger in order to amuse and impress his invariably moronic followers.

In our victim-happy age it is too often forgotten that offense is taken rather than given and that taking it is a conscious choice. There are those who thrive on taking it in order to have occasion to demonstrate what they believe is their morally superior position.

Whereas sayin’ something about the schoolyard bully’s mother can get you a beating, sayin’ something about someone’s prophet can get you dead. The other difference is that you might be able to squirm out of the beating with only a slight loss of dignity, while you can avoid the death penalty only by yielding your liberty.

Some say that the liberty of speech and publication that is at stake ought to be seen as more theoretical in nature, subject to the very practical consideration that pushing it too far can lead to disaster. It’s a fair argument but, I think, a flawed one. It grants a veto to the crazed and violent among us, and a veto once granted to one species of insanity will surely be sought after by every other species.

Those who use satire and ridicule to keep the corrupt and the lunatic at bay merit our thanks, no matter how tasteless we in our secure fastidiousness may find their work.

Saturday
Jan032015

Rah! Rah! Bah!

The college football bowl season is just about over, leaving me, who watched hardly any of the games, nonetheless vaguely curious what a “Duck Commander” is, that it should sponsor one, and who or what “Belk” might be. And, naturally, I am still chuckling at the thought of a marketing genius who believes that a name like “Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl” or “R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl” or “Taxslayer Bowl” will really pull in the Nielsen numbers. (On the other hand, I find “Famous Idaho Potato Bowl” quite homey and sweet.)

If I have counted correctly there were 39 bowl games this time around. That’s 78 teams. There are so many bowl games that schools with losing records are drafted to fill out the lists. Quite an honor, that is. But when you’re staging an orgy, you can’t be too particular about who might wander in.

When it comes to considering what is wrong with college football, the first things that come to mind are, of course, the ridiculous salaries paid to the top coaches, followed by the coaches and administrators who conspire to ignore, excuse, minimize, or cover up bad behavior by their unpaid and often unsocialized workers.

But there are other, lesser offenses against taste and good sense that might conceivably be open to remediation, if enough people complained of them. Herewith, in no particular order, a few such:

1. TV timeouts. If you only watch games from the couch, you probably don’t notice because you’re in the kitchen or the bathroom, but if you’re in the stands, these are increasingly tedious and annoying. And surely the game officials must resent having to stand idly about waiting for some headsetted nobody on the sideline to wave that they may resume play.

2. Sideline posses. Who are all those people? And why are they allowed to get in the way continually? Backup players I understand, and a couple of coaches, and even the waterboy or -girl. But there is always a hefty crowd on hand. Agents? Bail bondsmen?

3. Preening and praying on the field. Imagine what would happen if every time a baseball fielder snagged a fly ball he doffed his cap and tried to leap into the bleachers. Or if a batter got safely to first and then celebrated by a mad leaping dash around the outfield. Absurd, you say, and you are right. My old Coach McCrary wouldn’t have stood for the chest-pounding and sky-pointing, I can tell you. “You did your job; that’s it. Now shut up and prepare to do it again!” I can hear him say (I’ve bowdlerized a bit).

4. Camera shots of idiot fans. Yes, they exist, like acne; we don’t need to see and are not improved by having seen.

5. State police. Why do some coaches think they need the same protection as the President? Is this a form of conspicuous consumption (in this case, of public rather than private funds)? Or just plain old vanity? I suppose it follows by some sort of logic from the salaries. And My! don't they look fierce!

6. The SEC. I know -- there’s nothing to be done. (But I’m sorry that the University of Missouri has chosen to keep such low company.)

The old joke about building a university that the football team can be proud of seems pretty quaint nowadays, doesn’t it?