Friday Notes (Dec 16, 2022)

Since my last post, I’ve been metaphorically becalmed. Which might sound nice, but it’s a term sailors use when there’s no wind, and they’re stuck in one place. Lately, I’ve felt as if there was no wind in my sails.

Some of that is seasonal. The short days, and then that damned “falling back” with its even earlier sunsets. The winter cold and the joy/misery of snow. (I genuinely do enjoy getting outside and shoveling, but it gets harder every year. Growing old is a pain.)

I thought maybe I could kickstart myself with a Friday Notes post.

For one thing, these are usually pretty easy to bang out. (Although, right now, the writing isn’t flowing. Each sentence seems to come grudgingly.) My problem certainly isn’t a lack of topics. As usual, the note pile is piled. My problem is I find it increasingly hard to give a shit.

Some of that is on me. Age, social isolation, general irascibility. I’ve gone from running on fumes to coasting downhill. And make no mistake, there is a certain peace in waking up every day and just being. No goals, no projects (no housework), just letting the day go by with music and a good book.

I’m waiting for that to grow old, but it fits like a favorite sweater. (Maybe because I’m growing old.) It’s got me seriously considering how much I want to keep blogging. But there has been a worthwhile return on the investment in terms of people I’ve met, and that’s reason enough to stick with it. People I get along with over time seem rare, and I do value them.

Besides the season and my general moroseness, I’m sick at heart over what’s happening in our culture these past years. Modern culture repulses me on so many levels. The polarization, the extremism, the mindless groupthink and tribalism. I’ve never been more disgusted with humanity. (And I have a long history of being very disgusted by humanity, so this is saying something.)

So, part of why I’ve found blogging so hard lately is that it feels like spitting into the ocean. Pointless. (Although I suppose the spitting can make one feel good.)

Anyway. Enough cheerful intro. On to the Notes…

§

For Minnesnowta, winter has finally arrived:

What I woke up to yesterday morning!

Very pretty, but the reason it sticks to the trees is that it’s wet. And therefore heavy. Which makes it backbreaking and exhausting to shovel. People have heart attacks!

But very pretty. The only thing prettier is a hoarfrost. (And those don’t require any shoveling!)

We’d gotten a bit of snow before this, but just a bit, and we’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures. Until now. We got enough snow that it’ll probably stick until we get more, so the frozen water on the ground everywhere phase of winter has begun. Time to reacquire those winter driving skills.

§

Speaking of which, a minor rant about a minor stick in my craw: the Minnesota Left Turn. Drives me crazy (for a very small value of crazy). And the thing is, they do it year-round.

I’m talking about such a broad shallow left turn that it all but clips the oncoming lane of the cross street they’re turning into. It’s as much of a straight line as they can make it, the merest deflection of the wheel to accomplish the turn.

Instead of proceeding into the intersection and making a properly sharp left turn. Using that big round thing in front of the driver. Grip it and turn!

It’s true that on icy roads, where inertia is so not your friend, sharp turns will introduce your car to the ditch. Or worse, the lamppost. At the very least, will jump start your heartrate as your car goes sliding beyond your control.

(A bullet I’ve managed to mostly dodge my almost four decades driving here. Only happened a handful of times and all without unfortunate introduction to unmoving objects. One time, though, as I was sliding at a good clip sideways through a snowbank along the freeway, I did think to myself, “Welp, this is it. Nice while it lasted.” But nothing flashed before my eyes except the billowing snow I was kicking up.)

So, I get why people make those broad left turns. When the roads are icy. But year-round? What’s up with that? Not a good way to make a left turn is what I’m saying.

§

Filed under: What’s the word for it? Politics has become sociopathic.

It’s no longer about compromise or getting along or even so much as recognizing the fundamental legitimacy of opposing points of view. It’s no longer about the common good or the body politic. It’s about my side winning the pot. Whatever it takes.

I find it depressing and reprehensible.

§

Give us this day our daily two-liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew. Served from a room temperature bottle over lots of ice (to both dilute and increase fluid amount).

Which means I go through a lot of ice, but I seem doomed to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous ice cube trays.

A while back, the high mineral content of my water having made the existing ICTs unpalatable, if not unusable, I ventured into the wilds (Target) seeking suitable prey. Which turned out hard to find. Only a small population lurking under a bush (shelf). More prominently displayed, fancy ones that made tubular ice slugs to slide into water bottles. Great for the Hydration Nation, those never far from a water bottle.

These, and the more normal fancy ICTs, came with a silicon rubber mat that flopped over the cubes to protect them from freezer smells. Purity in ice cubes! At about ten bucks a tray.

I tried both the regular and, for fun, the tubular. Both currently gather dust in a hard-to-reach upper cupboard shelf. (Out of sight, out of mind. I’m not a hoarder, but I hate throwing away anything with actual value. Never really got onboard the Disposable wagon.)

Anyway, back into the wild to find that small population of unregarded ICTs in plain old white plastic. They were perfect. Three fit in a cafeteria tray that followed me home from work, so I could schlep all three in and out of the freezer at once. Very handy; repetitious work annoys me. I was happy.

Except I kept finding ice on the tray. Apparent spills? No, a leak in the ICT! Huh. Bought replacement, but another tray started leaking. Long story short, every ICT I bought from Target very quickly developed a crack and began leaking.

I took them back to Target and suggested they find a better supplier.

I guess they did, because I can’t find those anymore. I liked them because the half-liter bottles of spring water I buy fit exactly. One bottle filled one tray. Very handy. But unusable.

Yet another venture into the wild bagged me these black ICTs. Which so far have survived the apparently grueling and too-much-for-some environment of my freezer. But black is a weird color for an ICT. So opaque. More to the point, these are too big for my cafeteria tray (note in the photo how it’s upside down below the ICTs to give them a flat surface to sit on).

And they take more water to fill. Four half-liters fills all three trays, but I usually just use one bottle per tray and go with smaller cubes. Then it occurred to me that Amazon might have a bigger tray. Should get here Wednesday.

Which is probably a lot more about my ice cube trays than you care to know about.

§

I see FX has an adaptation of Kindred (1979) by Octavia E. Butler. I’ve posted a number of times about Butler and how much her writing blows me away. In particular, see this post about Kindred.

I haven’t seen much about the adaptation, and I haven’t noticed it talked about on YouTube. (I didn’t even know it existed until I logged into Hulu last night.) I generally don’t have much faith in modern adaptations (see this post).

Funny thing about the post I just linked. In it I wrote, “Why aren’t there adaptations of stories by Octavia Butler or Paul Beatty?” I hope this doesn’t turn out to be another case of being careful what you wish for.

Kindred centers on the very heavy, but ever timely, topic of race, so it’s an important book and one that needs to be done right. Ideally by simply sticking with what Butler wrote as much as possible. It will really boil down to how much this is a labor of love versus yet another grasp for success cynically using an existing well-loved property.

It’s available on Hulu, eight episodes of season one with more seasons planned if the show is a success. I have a lot of trepidation but will give it a try. Fingers crossed.

§

Microsoft has apparently added a new feature to Edge. As I type this, I’m seeing ghosts of one or more words I might type next with a tiny [Tab] sign indicating I can just press the [Tab] key to use those words. It’s actually pretty good, but a little hard to get used to. Does save some typing, though.

§

A note from what ought to be an increasingly distant memory but which lingers to this day:

It’s been interesting and terrifying watching this country erode away like a sandcastle. We allowed complete bullshit in the door, and this is what we got.

According to myth, vampires need to be invited in, but once you do so, they’re as hard to get rid of as bedbugs. We got Frank’s Monster and a host of mindless zombies.

It started with all the deconstruction and materialism. It started with the destruction of honor, honesty, and good faith. It continues with our bullshit “heroes” and comic book mindless destruction and violence.

This cancer will kill us (is killing us) if we don’t excise it.

The call is coming from inside the house.

§

On a lighter note… hmmm… nope, got nothing.

§ §

It’s old news by now that Christine McVie died on the last day of November. She was 79.

Like most people my age, Fleetwood Mac was a favorite band, part of the soundtrack of a bygone era of my life. Back in 1975 they came and played at my college, in the gymnasium. We sat on the floor about 20 yards away. I’d remember it better, but we made hash brownies. Awesome concert.

Here to play you out today, a favorite by the inestimable Ms. McVie:

Heaven gained yet another awesome musician! The music there must be incredible.

Stay warm, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

18 responses to “Friday Notes (Dec 16, 2022)

  • Matti Meikäläinen

    I like the Acronym “SAD” (seasonal affective disorder). We’ve missed you kiddo! Fleetwood Mac eh? You and Bill Clinton—Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow! I

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    Well done! I told myself that I would read a chapter of the book I’m reading- so that first. Then …

  • Matti Meikäläinen

    Wyrd, “Politics has become sociopathic” is dead on. When they ”Tea Party” climbed up from the the fringe of the right around 2010, I started to research the historical/intellectual causes. I initially opined that the slow melt down of our political culture might have something to do with the historical fact that the US founding generation was at an intersection of two intellectual influences; a revival and reformulation of sorts of ancient civic virtue and the beginnings of modern political theory propounding a system of political stability based on openly acknowledging (and attempting to balance) competing special interests—Madison and Hamilton labeled them “factions.” The ratifying debates include numerous arguments from one side or the other. Madison and Hamilton, in their joint genius, married virtue to an argument for a system that openly dealt with factions and was thus less dependent of civic virtue. In short, factions were to compete and balance each other. It worked more or less Ok for two centuries. However, during that same period civic virtue declined as a concept in our political culture and, even more recently, the concept of faded away—you will not find it even mentioned in any High School history or civics classes. So now we have “factions” competing for selfish gain without any reference to or acknowledgement of virtue. Politics pro-wrestling style. I think other intellectual trends have exasperated this sad situation—for one, the growth and general acceptance over that same time period of a skepticism (and relativism) regarding values. I think there are other factors involved for sure. Intellectual history trends to work itself out in a painfully slow process. However, the more I look into it the more I fear that the insanity of the first half of the 20th Century may be only a dress rehearsal for what is to become. SAD for sure. Sorry for the logorrhea!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Nothing to apologize for, long-form is standard currency around here!

      I quite agree with your analysis and equating politics with professional wrestling is a great analogy. It’s all show, none of it is what it appears to be, and it’s all according to a careful script. And it’s filled with loud mouths, empty assertions, and manufactured melodrama. Yeah, great analogy!

      Civic virtue is just one of the many things washed away by deconstruction and materialism. It really is just about the Golden Calf now, at least for many. I’ve wondered if civilizations and cultures just wear out. We seem to have reached a point of serious decadence in thought and behavior. Truly victims of our own success as a species.

      Recently I read The Clockwork Man, a little-known novel from 1923 by E.V. Odle (and I believe the only book he ever wrote). If it hadn’t been seriously overshadowed by hugely successful R.U.R., the 1923 play by Karel Capek that introduced the word “robot”, it would be well known today as the first SF novel about a mechanical man. Of course, it’s really a thinly veiled critique of the social mores of the time (as was R.U.R.).

      Following that, I read The World Set Free (1913) by H.G. Wells. It’s about a devastating world war using atomic bombs (probably the first mention of such a thing and long before it became reality). It’s literally a “war to end war” and it forces humanity to grow up. And form what is essentially a fascist world government, but such is Wells’s version of a utopia. (And it is presented as such.)

      In contrast, Aldous Huxley’s Island (1962), which presents a genuine, albeit tiny, island utopia that actually works. (But such is possible on the small scale.) A while back I read Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and am working through his related book of essays, Brave New World Revisited (1946).

      Which has all been fascinating but very depressing in terms of how intelligent people have been seeing these problems for at least 100 years. Yet still we muddle on as we have for thousands. We even seem to be sliding backwards intellectually.

      “However, the more I look into it the more I fear that the insanity of the first half of the 20th Century may be only a dress rehearsal for what is to become.”

      Yes, I feel the same thing. Upward trends can only continue for so long. Something has to give eventually. Ideally it comes from self-moderation and self-control, but this is humanity we’re talking about.

      • Matti Meikäläinen

        Interesting. Intelligent people—many fiction writers—have been seeing the problems in our culture for a long time now. I agree, and in some respects they seem to be ahead of the philosophers, with notable exceptions. Recently I read a book on four remarkable ladies (Mary Midgley,

      • Wyrd Smythe

        And there’s that almost certainly apocryphal bit about the ancient Greek (usually Socrates via Plato) who wrote, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Usually cited in support of the notion there’s nothing new under the Sun, it was ever thus.

        And while there is a great deal of truth to that — as we’re saying here, some have seen the problems for a long time — that linked post is arguing what we were saying yesterday about how things are not the same.

        It’s an interesting conundrum. Humans haven’t changed in 10,000 years (arguably much longer) and yet, especially in the last, say, 500 years of that 10K (a mere 5%), our technology and scope have exploded. The problems of our behavior have always been in plain sight. Technology so far seems to magnify them. Literature (and, as you point out, philosophy) documents both our depths and heights. (And it’s comparing those heights to current realities that breaks my heart.) We have the knowledge, experience, and tools to do better, but we wallow in superstition, fantasy, and fashion.

        And so it goes.

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    Oh my – my wish is that we could sit by the fire and conspire. And so my psych-girl says, “why not?” And I give her reasons. She says, “it’s up to you”. And I shake my head at her naivety.

    Anyways – I get it. I’ve a dozen posts sitting around collecting dust. I.e. what’s the point?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      There’s a quote I copied out of a book I was reading. Haven’t verified it, but it goes:

      A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!”

      “However,” replied the universe, “That fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”

      Attributed to Stephen Crane.

      I guess we just have to muddle along with our own tiny lives and do the best we can. I just wish so much of it wasn’t uphill.

  • Matti Meikäläinen

    Sorry, I hit send before I was done. As I was saying, recently I read a book on four remarkable women—Mary Midgley, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot and Iris Murdock. They were permitted to attend Oxford while most of the men were off fighting WWII. Cambridge, however, still did not admit women at that time. The book is called “The Women Are Up To Something.” It’s by a philosopher, Benjamin Lipscomb and the writing is quite good. I’m also reading a follow on work called “Metaphysical Animals” by two women philosophers (Cumhaill and Wiseman) about the same four women. Anyway, the subtitle of the first book is “How they revolutionized ethics.” That’s all you need to know to get the gist. Back then ethics was considered a joke in most philosophy departments as logical positivism and emotivism a la A. J. Ayer flourished. These women loudly exclaimed BS! From them the modern ethical theory of virtue ethics was revived. It’s also interesting that more than half a century later, they are getting the recognition they deserve. Although Midgley lived to be nearly 100. She became a minor celebrity when she jousted with Richard Dawkins and folks started reading her works. Their efforts, IMO, may help save us.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ha, been there, done that! The WordPress page I use to respond to comments on my own blog has a user interface issue that’s been a huge problem for me time and again. If I accidentally press the [Esc] key, the edit window closes and any text I was working on, no matter how long, is silently lost. There’s no, “Are you sure you want to exit?” prompt. Just loss and tears.

      And I hate retyping something I just typed. I can never remember, and it never turns out right. The thing is, my programming editor, which I’ve used for decades (so major muscle memory), uses [Esc] to exit “insert” (typing) mode and return to “edit” mode. (It’s gvim, a Windows version of vi, if that means anything.) So, I am very used to hitting [Esc] after typing a bunch of stuff. Almost a reflex reaction. And it’s lost me a lot of multi-paragraph comments. Sloppy programming. I’ve complained to WP, but they never listen.

      Anyway, Midgley and crew sounds awesome, and it’s very much on point to what I was saying.

      People sometimes try to convince me morals are so very relative (whereas I see some absolutes). They talk about how we all thought slavery was fine once upon a time. But no, “we” didn’t. Plenty of people at the time identified it as inhumane and worked to end it. (And no, the Civil War was not “just about the economics of growing cotton.” The moral issue was front and center.)

      And it’s not at all surprising to me that ethical foundations come from a group of women. Generally speaking (very generally), I think women are more practical and less emotional than men. A metaphor I’ve long had for humanity is the double circle — men and women in a vast double circle, women on the inside, men on the outside, back-to-back, all arms linked, women facing inwards to community and family, men facing outwards to horizons and threats. Put simply (and again very generally), women are local, men are global. (I wrote a post about it once.)

      So many unsung women throughout history (herstory?). Friend of mine named her dog Rosie after Rosalind Franklin, the actual discoverer of DNA. I told her she should name her next dog Emmie after my personal favorite, Emmy Noether, the mathematician whose work ended up giving us the various physical conservation laws (energy, momentum, etc). The drive these women must have had to succeed in their time is so impressive!

      • Matti Meikäläinen

        There is a moving chapter in “The Women Are Up To Something” that sticks with me. I think it was Mary Midgley went to the cinema to view the very first documentary film about the Nazi camps. At that time there were rumors but no proof. Afterwards she joined her friends and (in more philosophical terms) said A. J. Ayer and his followers are full of it. I can’t imagine myself as an undergrad deciding to take on the prevailing wisdom of my professors! Also, little known, Anscombe was mentored by Wittgenstein who was then at Cambridge. In fact she executed his will and translated his “philosophical Investigations” from the original German.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, see, that’s the awesome drive these women had. Indomitable spirit, as they say. Very cool!

  • J Ryan

    Best line EVER is in Songbird. “But most of all I wish it from myself.” Thanks for a great post.

  • Friday Notes (Jan 27, 2023) | Logos con carne

    […] Last December I mentioned I’d added to my watchlist the FX adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred. After reading the description of the episodes, as well as a few comments by viewers, I’ve decided to give it a pass. I think too highly of the novel to risk what sounds like a poorly done adaptation. […]

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