Cartoon Thoughts

A middle day. Usually the wind is mild at this time of morning but this morning it was a bit up and so my morning constitutional in the park was a bit accelerated by the convective cooling. To paraphrase the Fonz, sometimes cooling is not “cool”. Sadly this condition also tends to be counter to useful cognition.

I do have some catching up to do, a couple of cartoons:[Link]

and [Link]

Several thought emerge – as in complexity type emergence which is a matter I have seen little publication upon but then I have noted that biologists are almost as bad at maths as economists but, thankfully!!!!, much less vocal in proclaiming their badness. The first is the Future Adults of America. Initially, I thought that what we need is “Current Adults of America” because it sometimes seems that adults are in short supply, especially among elected politicians. But then I reflect on my own rejection of adulthood – scientists are even more neotanous than modal humans – and how adulthood seems to offer few benefits, especially since the invention of chemical birth control medications. But one does worry that the stupidity of anti-choice may be a consequence of this avoidance of adulthood? As a theory it seems more plausible than most, except possibly male insecurity and dominance fantasy?

Then I reflected on the ironic humor of the cartoon, so masterfully done. It reflected an attitude that I first ran across as an undergraduate in one of Leon Uris books – the harder you study and the more you learn, the more you need to relax and refresh the mind/brain – about how the young are supposed to be rebellious. He had the idea emerging from the mouth of a frenchman in relation to protesting students that a russian wanted to disperse with tanks but its validity is apparent as is its greater generality. I have sometimes conjectured that the young rebel so that they will take up the reins of responsibility. And there is scant question that my generation were rebellious but have we assumed the reins? I am not sure. I am sure our politicians have not and they may be doing nothing more than accurately representing a denialist electorate?

I also identify with the sentiment not to eat “food with holes in it.” After all, that encompasses all foods that I know of. I am particularly given to enjoy a good bit of Ciabata (slipper) bread which is more about holes than not. And I do not refer to the Ciabata bread produced in industrial kitchens with steam ovens in the Yankee republic. The only relationship that abomination has to Ciabata is the plagiarism of the name. I am not a great fan of doughnuts. I greatly enjoy those filled with creme or raspberry jelly but not the simple cake or raised glazed “inner tubes”. (Another allusion that dates me, I fear.) I recall the spring semester of my sophomore year in undergraduate schule when the men’s cafeteria inaugurated a doughnut breakfast to reduce outlays and failed miserably by miscalculating how many doughnuts per man mad a breakfast – by a half order-of-magnitude. But it was a grand, artery clogging experience while it lasted and one of my most cherished out-of-classroom college experiences.

I do however also greatly enjoy a good bagel, which are also almost impossible to find the the modern Confederacy, again courtesy of industrial baking and steam ovens. I sometimes wonder if James Watt cringes in his bier over the culinary misuses of his efforts? It is possible to find the occasional artisanal approximation and almost passable cream cheese. How can one enter the proper (pseudo?) Jewish mind state necessary for physics comprehension without? I do not know but it does make life hard here in the Confederacy of Stupidity and Tyranny.

While I am on the subject of things I enjoy, I greatly enjoyed my Erector (R) set as a bairn. I have never experienced the post completion collapse but I can aver that the mandatory post completion disassembly was unpleasant but it did, in the end, teach a good life lesson about balancing pleasure and displeasure. Unless one disassembled one’s creations one could create no more. That’s the fundamental problem with statues and holidays. Once you have them you can’t have any new ones. I sometimes conjecture that the reason my generation has done so poorly socially and (especially) politically is due to the depression of knowing we can’t create new since the place is already too crowded with old.

I also note how much less elegant – crude and nasty are the terms that seem marginally passable – is the humor of the second cartoonist. The only real merit of the cartoon is my own memories of my Erector (R) set and his humor is at best a minor impediment in that memory. This seems to be the halcyon of the new generation. Courtesy of helicopter parenting and group effort they seem totally incapable of finesse or grace. I know, not having either and thus being strikingly qualified to recognize both. Or their absence.

Simple Stuff?

An exciting morning thus far. Off to the park for morning constitutional followed by an expedition into the heart of Greater Metropolitan Arab to retrieve mail from the Yankee government’s postal facility. And now returned to assay a foray against the few tabs remaining in this immediately post-silly season period. In keeping with that sentiment I start by noting an article [Link] in Linux Journal about Window Maker that compares it, functionally at least, to Unity.

Although the comparison is made in the context of “old guys”, implying the founders or even just ORFs, the association is pretty clear that Unity is a desktop GUI that seems to work for those who do simple, sequential, independent things – like old flatulences and newbies and MegaHard converts? Seems accurate to me.

I also ran across this cartoon [Link]

yesterday and was instantly enamored with it. The punch line “Physics is a big ol’ rip-off.” is delightful. It’s a bit sad that this isn’t about physics, per se, but chemistry. But then, half of chemistry – the logical, enumerate part – is physics. So the two share?

Anyway, several thoughts sprang up from this. First, that someone needs to explain the difference between extensive and intensive properties/phenomena to the kids. Not however, the sort of thing that bog parents can do easily, or well, so they don’t even try, in most cases because they have no idea of what these are. Second, that kids are natural scientists, or at least science geeks, at least as cartoonists, who are often quite perceptive, see it. And third, that there are mathematical operations that are idempotent – repeated exercises of their operator have no effect – so only one box of that operator is necessary.

My last though was to wonder whether a swimming pool’s water could be jelled? Is it too chlorinated? Waiting is.

Holy day tomorrow. Much misery likely.

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Cartoon Cornucopia

About once a week my cartoon reading tends to condense, and today was one of those. The starting point was this cartoon [Link]

which brought out two memory chains. The first was that in the seventies, when I was balancing working for the Yankee army with graduate school, grown men actually wore shirts with a paisley pattern. Every time I saw one my mind was shuttled immediately to that bit in The Great Gatsby where the question of whether a man should/can wear a pink shirt is explored, a horrid result of having to read TGG for undergraduate ‘English” class. It instilled a continuing and deep aversion to Fitzgerald. One more instance of the academic instrumentality achieving the opposite of what it intended.

I had a paisley shirt myself, that was bought to wear with a ‘leisure suit’, which was not made, either by cut or by composition, to be conducive to leisure. It was, I recall, one of the most uncomfortable ‘suits’ I ever wore. The shirt was also uncomfortable, not because of the pattern, but because it lacked a yolk and hence did not move ‘correctly’ when the body flexed. Since then I have had several paisley ties, which have consistently been acceptable attire and I have enjoyed wearing the well made ones because the pattern does rather remind me of the paramecium I observed under microscope in high shule and undergraduate biology labs. I shall forbear to comment on spirochetos for digestive reasons. I also reflect that one of the advantages of being an ORF is not having to wear a tie often inasmuch as the construction of ties has degenerated greatly over my life span. Of course, the young, unless they are in some intimidation job, do not have to wear ties frequently today and therefore I consider them beneath contempt.

The second cartoon [Link]

struck me because it embodies two SF metaphors that I am generally disinterested of. The metaphors are those of the English SF series “Dr. Who”, and the Amerikan movie series “Star Wars”, the theme is a competition between principals and their respective technologies, a ‘sonic screwdriver’ and a ‘light saber’. I have enough knowledge to know the light saber thing is almost certainly absurd and I suspect the screwdriver is similarly. hence the designation of SF instead of science fiction. Both have the unsavory aspect of representing world views that are inherently oppressive and reactionary, the one overwhelmingly tyrannical and the other sanitary of change. Neither is on my list of regular viewing.

Nonetheless, I find myself rather agreeing with the picture. The Star Wars millieu is one that is not just abiding but supportive of slavery on the parts of both good and bad. Hence all are evil. The Dr. Who is, from what I have seen, not supportive of slavery and hence a lesser evil. That is the prescription of freedom, that the lesser evil triumph for a time until an even lesser evil may arise.

The last cartoon [Link]

is at once more welcome and more upsetting. As is consistently the situation with Chaim’s work I find myself remembering my own days as a graduate student. Too many of us go to graduate shule with the idea of getting a degree or of securing our life work and find ourselves having to accept a marriage to an advisor on much the same standing as slaves securing a master and then working on whatever we are assigned rather than what we want to work on. In my day there was still the fiction that a graduate student could propose his degree research and be affirmed in it. In practice none were and today none even try.

As a result, one is basically unhappy and dissatisfied from the get go, once the initial thrill of having a project wears thin in the realities of it being either drudge work one step removed from harvesting microbes from sewage  or not only being highly unlikely of success but more unlikely we will be brilliant enough to overcome the difficulties of it being unwanted as much as unwanting. And we are ill equipped to realize that we are being used; that is why the slave-master metaphor is so apt.

As a result, one of three things happen. First, the weight of uselessness and alienness overwhelms and we drop out of graduate shule to do anything else we can. The folks who do this are often the happiest. If they can avoid re-entering in later life. Second, we have those who by dint of years of mind trashing finally win through and receive a degree as a Cracker Jack prize and obtain about the same value from. Or third, the project and student merge and creativity actually results, the advisor/master is surpassed, and the student graduates a pariah who can go on to future greatness.

Sundae Vacuum Sorrow

It is Sundae again and I am informed this morning of the discorporation of Alex Anderson. [Link] Who prithee is Alex Anderson,you may ask. Did he sell insurance in Greater Metropolitan Arab or build some crucial part of some missile in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill that kept democracy solvent? Rather a bit of both, it would seem.

Alex Anderson is one of, if not THE, brain/mind behind Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose aka Rocky and Bullwinkle aka Moose and Squirrel. Back when I was growing up there were two cartoons series that held first place in my attention span. One of these were coyote cartoons, those of Wiley Coyote who was perpetually chasing The Roadrunner in a perpetually frustrated fashion. The other was Moose and Squirrel.

Both of these cartoon series were multi-layered, having content that included the usually cartoon mayhem that delights the dinosaur part of children’s brain, but also deeper content of appeal as one aged and ossified mentally into adulthood. Of the two, Coyote cartoons, or as they were erroneously called by their manufacturers, Road Runner cartoons, were the more intellectual of the two. The basis of this was a studied, systematic negation of the laws of nature. Coyote cartoon are about physics and by the violation of various laws of physics serve as a learning ground of basic mechanical physics that transcends any other know source. If Renaissance Italy had had cartoons, Galileo would have stolen Newton’s thunder.

Several years ago I was called upon to teach a course of sophomore mechanics, the first part that is almost entirely Newtonian. This was at the time when the Vietnam war was wound down and the student body was again warped by the presence of veterans. The class I had had a few unshaven not-yet-enfranchised members but the bulk were veterans with all the attitude towards authority that the recent conflict implied.

My approach was to make use of Coyote cartoons. Yes the boards of equations and their derivations were still there, but the key concepts were illustrated by Coyote cartoons and the exam was an exercise in identifying ten things unphysical in a cartoon and explaining why.

The experiment, viewed dimly by the regular faculty, was a resounding success. The medium of Coyote cartoons bridged the age precipice in the class and brought the veterans down from their sullen pedestals. The only difficulty I experienced was one fellow who was married with children and whose wife refused to believe that a college course in physics would require him to watch cartoons on Saturday when he should be doing Ward Cleaver stuff.

Moose and Squirrel were not so much about science as about humans and society. If Coyote cartoons taught us about physics by demonstrating violations, Moose and Squirrel taught us about the adult world by demonstrating violations. To this day I attribute – blame – my lack of business sense to watching the parodies of society in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. And if the intellectuality was greater in Coyote cartoons, the depth of attraction and relevance was greater in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Even today, as a drooling, doddering ORF, I take pleasure in watching Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The only thing I regret is that there is no contemporary equivalent for the current age cohort to be taught by. Surely an indication of the irredentist impending collapse of civilization and the extinction of humans.

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