An Unpleasant Man

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I endeavor to be polite and civil. But I am often pleased and proud of unpleasant things. I get a warm glow thinking about the LDS missionary sniffling,’You shouldn’t make people doubt their beliefs!’ Well, he was following me home and insisting we talk religion. All I did was argue my case effectively.

Last night I was trying to define a fellow’s Commonwealth accent. He said,’Why do you pronounce “schedule” with a K rather than as “Shedule” as is proper?’

I countered, ‘ Because we prefer to pronounce “Schizophrenia” with a K sound rather than the way you would describe yourself.’

I bask in the afterglow.

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Things We Don’t Show Our Children

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Johnathan,

Many of the Rock & Roll songs I love best are dying away. Not because they are bad or aging. We don’t want our kids to know them.

About the time your father started listening to music there was a catchy, lovely song called “Alone Again [Naturally].” A lovely song about a man contemplating suicide by throwing himself off a nearby tower. I still like the song, but the odds of you hearing it from Charles are, well…. You have probably gone past episodes of MASH on TV. A lovely instrumental theme be cause no one wanted the responsibility for the lyrics to “Suicide is Painless” on television every week.

A man called Meatloaf had a song called “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” Very good, rocking music. Most parents don’t want their children listening to songs about what young couples do at night while sparking. Actually, it is pretty innocent if conflicted. My friend, Dan, says he’ll introduce Meatloaf’s music to his children. Dan is saner than most. Janis Ian had a cultural phenomenon with “At Seventeen” but many parents want to forget the pain of teen-age years.

There was a writer called Robert Heinlein. Heinlein’s voice didn’t really speak to me, but he was the most influential Science Fiction writer in the world. At times he was one of the most influential writers of any genre. His fiction threw off powerful ideas like a grinding wheel throws off sparks. He had no problem outraging readers. [ If you are interested read. Movies made of his books seem diametrically opposed to the books themselves.] I would love to recommend two of his books, but there is a problem. In the 1960’s, when American culture was considerably more open and free than it is today, he lowered his inhibitions and discussed ideas, rationally, that are considerably beyond the pale today. Heinlein was interested in alternative forms of sexuality and marriage. He was, perhaps, an occasional nudist. And one of his marriages is said to have been an open relationship. His last marriage, in fairness, lasted over forty years until his death.

In these days of young people supporting homosexual marriage and thinking themselves open and sexually free, Heinlein’s books can cause flame wars unheard of when they were published. I would love to recommend “Time Enough For Love” or 70 percent of it. But the other 30 percent causes arguments. Character assassinations. One thing Heinlein had was a rational definition of love. One I find myself in total accord with.

Much of Rock Music is that way. I still hear Elton John but not his “Crocodile Rock.”

In high school there was a lovely song called “Lola” by the Kinks. I had a bit of a crush on a girl named Lola. I really liked that song until a figured out what it meant. Turns out it was about a man getting picked-up by a Lola who turned out to be a guy. Lovely song. I doubt I’ll recommend it.

[Update 10-27-13] Lou Reed died. I remember hearing a great sax solo on the radio and a nice dark bass line. Years later I did an internet search and found that the song was about transvestite male prostitutes who were associated with Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory.’ Not a song I wish to explain. Or a milieu.

Is this the way is should be”

Questions, comments concerns?

Uncle David

Things I Do Not Know: Teen Sex

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While we are programmed to be fascinated by the mechanics, sex is really about shuffling information. Shuffle two decks of DNA and you get variety, Perhaps, something new and valuable. Mutations spread around. And most importantly, failures are exposed and removed from the genome.

That certainly sounds cruel. But hemophilia would be much crueler were it common. And cystic-fibrosis is a tragedy. Nobody ever said sex is NICE. That is why it is sometimes important to pay some slight attention to those we have children with.

But this is silly. We all know this. Or should. Had we paid attention in High School. And this works demonstrably well. If you are a beetle you have your behavior programmed, tested and evolved. Humans are different. Our behavior is largely taught. Our programming is not entirely contained in our DNA, but is taught, or programmed via operant and classical conditioning. [ When I was young I thought classical conditioning was murky and confused and so neglected it. I now think it is murky and confused and one of the most powerful factors controlling human behavior.]
One may view learned behavior as extrasomatic genetics. I do. A version of this has recently been tagged as memetics. I differ only in believing that we have evolved for memetics. Just as we are evolved to choose mates by methods we only understand darkly, we are evolved to shuffle our extrasomatic information.

I believe this is why in our teen years we seem programmed to ignore our parents. We reject the programming we have and seek new ideas. We idolize people and ideas strange to us. We try on ideologies like new clothes. After a few years, again like sex, we wake up and wonder at our excesses. We establish a new balance based on that which we have learned and that which our parents taught us. Rationality reasserts control if we are fortunate. We wonder that we once thought our parents so conventional, constrained, and foolish. After all, we are not likely to be much brighter or dimmer than they. And again like balance, we are more stable and rooted for that through which we have been.

This programmed shuffling of ideas and education is the idea I haven’t heard. I think of it as a teenage form of sex. I never hear a bluestocking complaining about teens’ lax sexual mores without a flicker of a smile wondering at the IDEAS they are up to. Also like sex, this memetic variant is something wise folk will keep practicing. When I see older folk desperately pontificating to the young I see a desperate need to spread their memetic seed. [ I would be quite timid about writing this if the idea for this log weren’t Charles’.]

So there it is. An old human custom which we have a taboo-like hesitance to discuss and observe. A sort of sex which is much more advanced and human than animals ever experience.

A Podcast Recomendation

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Johnathon, there are two historical periods all Americans should study:

We modeled some of America after Rome. The way a democratic republic grows, falls into dictatorship, and then collapses is obviously of great importance to us.

But in many ways the most important history for Americans is the English Civil War. It is our birth. The United States started as British colony and these were the events that first formed us. In our minds we are more like the people who fought over tyranny, religious freedom, and arbitrary government than we are like the Ancient Romans. Some of our social movements are obviously descended from the ideas in that struggle. And what that war brought about was the first modern government. Some of the fracture lines in our society are still apparent because they never healed.

Revolutionspodcast.com is going through the English civil war. I highly recommend it.

On a personal note, Johnathan, this is where your father’s family came from. Phillip Bullis was born at the start of the conflict and was buried at the Puritan Second Church in Boston where many of the English republican rebels found themselves.

Nice-Sounding Things With Which I Disagree: Tri

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Amanda,

One of the obvious things you will be hearing soon in college is a wonderful quote, “All legitimate governments possess a monopoly on the use of force.” Sounds ideal, no? It’s a paraphrase of Max Weber.* Actually Max Weber is rather more sophisticated and clever, but I’m discussing how the political class treats it.

According to Weber, the state is that entity which “upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.”

If one is designing a society from scratch, as do freshmen, this seems like an axiom of social engineering. If one observes the processes of history it is a nightmare. No surprise; most history will give you nightmares if taken too seriously.

The first surprise is that this makes all revolutions illegitimate. Stalin is the legitimate government, and any resistance to him is illegitimate. Even if he did kill 3.9e7 people. Pretty much all decent governments have a revolution or violent reform movement. Shall we delegitimize them just because the people were desperate? By all accounts France’s Ancien Regime was legitimate. And the people had no legitimate use of force. Twenty years later how did Napolean, the new government, achieve legitimacy?

The other problem is examining which governments are legitimate by Weber’s criterion.

America circa 1876 is illegitimate because all the citizens have access to the means of violence. Victorian Britain, dominating the globe, would be illegitimate. Britain circa 2013 where a citizen cannot defend against robbers upon pain of imprisonment is legitimate. In spite of rapidly increasing crime and danger and a rapidly declining standard of living.

Germany circa 1938 is very legitimate. The government came in by elections. All means of violence was in government hands. AND they had passed harmonizing laws. Sheer heaven. On a smaller scale Chicago and DC must be more legitimate than Vermont. Dangerous and expensive, but more legitimate. LA is more legitimate than Chico, CA.

But the idea sounded great.

* A problem of life in America is deciding what to call people. You have the choice of calling everyone by their right names and being seldom understood. Or you can call people as they are commonly called and be considered ignorant. The right way to pronounce his name is Vay ber. Most people I talk to call him Wee ber. Toss a coin.