I should be nattering about tonight’s time change, but that can wait. Instead, I want to bemoan as article [Link] I found earlier entitled “There Is No Case for the Humanities.” The journal cited is suspect for the Amerikan high “education” instrumentality has been steadily selling out to corporate oligarchs since the end of the Great Patriotic War. The author, however, is Oxfordian and thus enjoys the suspension of disbelief that attaches to anyone with an upper class English accent. He begins his article with:

“The humanities are not just dying — they are almost dead. In Scotland, the ancient Chairs in Humanity (which is to say, Latin) have almost disappeared in the past few decades: abolished, left vacant, or merged into chairs of classics. The University of Oxford has revised its famed Literae Humaniores course, “Greats,” into something resembling a technical classics degree. Both of those were throwbacks to an era in which Latin played the central, organizing role in the humanities.”

And as a matter of clarification, I also cite:

“The seven liberal arts had a wide mandate covering most of what we consider the humanities, as well as mathematics in all its branches and the physical and natural sciences.”

So much of my personal problem is the unity, not the components. 

When I was an undergraduate in the 1960’s, the largest “college” of the university, the campus of the Black Warrior was Liberal Arts and Sciences, already a progression (digression?) from the “liberal arts.” While departments had considerable leeway to define what comprised a major/minor in that discipline, the college mandated a broadening that basically consisted of four terms of “arts” coursework and a similar amount of “sciences and maths” coursework. In many instances these collegiate requirements doomed many women to early marriages and men to early deaths. (The Vietnam “Conflict” was engulfing every male student who lagged in his grades;” the women were victims of parents who saw little reason for female children to be educated.) I have lost count (as well as memory of names) of all the students that I tried to tutor in basic chemistry and algebra to the level they should have attained in high schule.

I will admit that I did well in the sciences and maths but hated the “liberal arts” and barely squeaked through the minimal requirements with gentlemanly (sic) grades (in the mean) of B. Frankly, I found the material uninteresting, the lecturers, non professors and mostly graduate students, unengaging. Staying awake was the first, oft failed, challenge, at least to me. But then I was the guy who fell asleep in one of Fred Brown’s solid state physics lectures and got festively dumped in the semi-frozen Boneyard Creek. That however was the result of chemical tranquilizers and not verbal ones. Newton save us from the crackling tones of self-anointed thespians reading Shakespeare aloud in lieu of a substantive lecture. 

But the strongest condemnation goes to the “English” department which failed in the combination of high schule and undergraduate schule to teach me composition. So I attained middling grades and no useful skills. I had to learn composition in laboratory science courses and by simple mistakes in writing nerd manuscripts for publication. 

So as far as I am concerned “liberal arts” education in the 1960s was already an abysmal failure. And I will argue that is exactly what it is because that is the critical part of what syntax and literature is supposed to educate. 

Some of this can be forgiven. Education in Amerika has been failing since before the Revolution. The great land grant universities were founded to teach useful skills, like agriculture and civil engineering and accounting, which are not liberal arts nor sciences. The death knell of American colleges arrived after the Great Patriotic War with the GI Bill. In the last couple of decades, the factory diploma mill has become the cancer of all but the original endowed colleges. Today education is irrelevant; career channeling is the only metric.

Even this is not all bad. A scant few, who I still admire regardless, enjoy reading “literature” in whichever language. If they chose a classical education that avails them naught in the workplace but enriches their otherwise lifespan, then so be it. If one cannot have fun in life, no amount of money makes happiness. But for most of us, we want to study what interests us, not what interests ancient academics, and have an existence productive and enjoyable enough to continue that interest and enjoyment. 

Does that justify a liberal arts curriculum? Yes. Should it be imposed on all? No. But in an environment where STEM departments are at once richly employable and remunerative and simultaneously so close to being too small to be fiscally viable and under dire threat of erasure, nothing makes sense any more. A factory school will, like most organizations, specialize itself into oblivion,

And probably take the nation and civilization along with it. 

Once more, glad to be ORF. And not in college.


Sic Transit Hilaris

I noted this morning the discorporation of David Ogden Stiers who played the character of Charles Winchester 3 on MASH the TV series. This gave me pause to consider the matter of MASH.

I can admit to not only reading the original Hooker novel but many of the follow-ons as well. He was a masterful author although I suspect not well respected by his peers for actually writing a GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Many try, and most fail by trying to write literature. As I learned my senior year in high schule, literature is generally a shibboleth, at least none of it was either enjoyable or edifying. Some authors are good story tellers in their lifetimes but get trapped later in the crystal of literature where everything rots away except their writings and the boredom of those it is inflicted upon. 

So I have sympathy for all the authors my high schule and college literature teachers inflicted on me. I like to think they hated themselves a bit for being such punishment to those who came after them. 

Getting back to Stiers, I also have some respect. He did a good job of playing a moderately difficult role in the shadow of Alan Alda who rather botched Hawkeye Piece, especially after the first season. I suspect he choked on his consistent failure to come anywhere near equal to Donald Sutherland who was the only actor who came close to doing Hawkeye adequately.

On which note, the novel was excellent, the movie was very good, the first season of the TV series was good, and thereafter merely diverting. Despite the injection of Harry Morgan and his genius. 

The damnation of the whole thing was a vision that dumped “Dago Red” but kept “Hot Lips.” Such was the Amerikan misconception of humor. And probably still is but I haven’t seen any decent humor on television since. What we can’t observe we can’t measure and what we can’t measure we don’t know. 

Still, mediocre as it was as a whole it is still better than almost anything else done on television. We may have invented it – that isn’t clear – but we perfected it and like we do everything else, we made a desert of it.

Bog Rings

I ran across an article [Link] this morning on “fan costumes” at the Asian Olympics. I was particularly taken by one,

which is a photography of a woman, (note the use of the proper noun form!) presumably Candanian, wearing a hat emulating a Curling Lith

There is something engaging about the sport of Curling. It seems to inherently be disrespectful of other sports, especially the pornographic ones like football (both types) and basketball and baseball (which is boring as well.) The idea of using a ice field, usually avoided vigorously by other sports, except hockey (violence porn) and figure skating (just plain porn,) coupled with rocks and brooms is definitely disrespectful of megapaid pseudo-celebrities outfitted at the cost in excess of my motorcar when new.

I should mention that I, and a couple of my associates, Magnetic Inductance Force and Dispersion Current Magnetic Field, are members of the Greater Metropolitan Arab Curling Club. As soon as a pond freezes we will have our first practice session. We have been waiting for over ten years. Although one member, Magnetic Inductance Force, has developed a robotic practice device that uses ice cubes for the playing arena. I have trouble with this because I get eye strain rather quickly squinting though the microscope.

And I generally like Candanians. They seem much more like Amerikans were when I was growing up than Amerikans are today. And they seem to still have politicians with integrity.

But I am not a fan of the Olympics. Being that way was probably easier three thousand years ago, when only the competing athletes and a few officials attended. At least the porn quantity was lower. Nowadays it is almost a national pastime. Evidently for a nation to not participate is to not be EXTRO.

The whole thing seems the ultimate in useless competition. One pays great sums to participate and accruces no advantage from winning. Although I have been told that some of the more totalitarian nations have executed athletes who did poorly. I suspect what this illustrates is that organizations can be psychotically insecure. Which is not really surprising but they do try so hard to hide this weakness, even from their members.

I will admit that some of the events are superior in some sense to some Amerikan sports, especially the ones that involve motorcars and chewable tobacco. I also have sympathy for the athletes who are basically devoid of any existence other than the Olympics. I suspect they envy people in comas and with mental deficiency. I have even known a couple such and must note that they seem relatively healthy, at least physically. Mentally is another matter.

It occurred to me that we could improve the quality of our politicians if we made Olympic competition a requirement to hold office, at least at the national level.

It also occurs that the periodicity of the Olympics is beneficial in helping us forget its uselessness in the intervals.

Race to the Dump

Six Day emerges! A restful night’s slumber, largely because the need to arise every couple of hours and make an inspection round of the drip posts was absent. That was a duty I did not have last night. And if the foretellings of the weather beavers is accurate this morning, not for a whole week. 

So absent expressing the discontent of the season, I shall have to dig about to express alternate discontent.

First, I note [Link] that there has been joy and excitement on the campus of the Black Warrior. It seems one of the women Greeks has gone off on a “racial” tirade of great magnitude – made possible by the wonders of technology and the cancer of social media – that has resulted in her expulsion not just from the U but from the bosom of her comrades in Greekdom. 

There are several intriguing aspects to this. The first is the instance of “racism”. Race, of course, is a bankrupt concept that has been scientifically dismissed as odoriferous rubbish numerous times. It does, however, serve a useful purpose for organizations, especially government, to impose a taxonomy on their memberships. And use that taxonomy to control said memberships.

Scientifically, what exists seems to be Us/Them-ism. We identify an in group (sometimes groups) and out groups. The in group is inherently, adamantinely good while the out groups occupy a non-stationary spectrum ranging from tolerable to hated. This distinction is not without some merit but it also has a dark side, and that dark side is an avoidance of mental health. 

When the Us/Them relationship is accessed rationally in the light of valid data, then it is a healthy thing, protecting us from stupidity. When we blindly accept an Us/Them relationship without rational validation, then we become serfs of our imaginations and irrationality. We may even accept the prejudices and insanities of society unquestioningly. In a sense, we become EXTRO Bog, since so many EXTRO Bogs are not mentally functional nor healthy. 

This appears to be the situation at the campus. It is not surprising. Greek organizations are hotbeds of fascist irrationality, at least on that campus, and have never done anything to correct the problem. They have become very good at hiding the problem, which is why the young woman in question became bus motorway. What is conspicuously absent is any effort by either organization, sorority or university, to help the young woman with her mental sickness. 

Of course, no effort has ever been made by either in this direction except for scholarship jocks who add measurably to the brand revenues of the organizations. Sadly, this indicates the fundamentally mercantilist mind set in those campus organizations. 

Perhaps we should be happy that no direct harm was done the young woman. She could, I suppose, have been sold to sex slavers or looted for her organs? 

There is little humor to be found in this matter. If there is, it is likely galgenhumor although as one of the nation’s major purveyors of college athletic pornography, the galgen may be far off. 

I should like to say I am happy to be ORF, but that would ring hollow since I attended this schule and did nothing to change it. “Against Stupidity the Gods themselves contend in vain.” I am not sure that I would not do the same again. Survival dictates other states that fight or flight. 

But we don’t have to like it. That’s what happens when we find our In Group is evil and nasty. 

New Year, Same Ills

1/1/2018. And no joy to be seen. Or, at least, felt. 

The air temperature here in Greater Metropolitan Arab is reported by the local weather station as 11 degF and that agrees with my own air thermometer. 

The situation is degraded by the local news programming on the electro-magnetic audio-visual receiver. FD SCP is watching WAFF [Link] and their presentation wins an award for being banal, nauseating, and self-serving. 

First, they covered some shooting incident at some dive in Nawth Huntsville last evening. Lots of dire pronouncements but no real content.

Second, they spoke to motorcar care and usage in these low temperatures. This actually began last evening. And is hideously self-serving since it is too late for people to implement almost all of their guidance and there are likely few stores open that could provide goods and services. 

Third, the weather beaver has been prattling on about other effects of the weather. Sadly, almost all of this has to do with wind chill and rapid on-set hypothermia. Nothing on first aid thereof. Little on preservation of property and humans, Nothing on cabin fever and allied ailments.

And all of this is presented with the usual unctuous tomes and the occasional, totally inappropriate, grin. I can’t say smile, although that is clearly the attempt, because the presentation is so overdone and inappropriate.

At least they haven’t yet announced someone’s discorporation with a smile like they do on national programming. But I suspect they will have the opportunity before the week is out.

And no attempts to allay the politicians denials of climate change by declarations of it’s colding today and hence no global warming. Except, of course, neither knows what colding means and its difference from cold. 

Somehow, life was better with meteorologists in two-tone wing tips like H. D. Bagley, news writers who knew syntax – and used it – and news readers who knew to look unhappy when they were reading bad news. 

Meantime, I have to tend the Lars and Penates, which today, and most of the week, means dripping taps.

Last Hawgin’

The year ends today. And yes, I know it is a silly artificial arbitrary designation based on local – i.e., planetary – seasons rather than the actual orbit of Tellus but it still has some social impact and more inertia. I have scant doubt the evening will be marred by repeated explosions of illegal fireworks and more illegal firearm discharges. One may only hope no collisions – humans are not good at killing each other, only maiming.

The winter has settled upon us, admittedly rather gently so far. But we shall plumb the immediate depths by the morrow, which will be another wasted day of pseudo-holiness. I shall retain my bile for such till then.

It being the end of the year, it seems appropriate to natter a bit about some tabs that have survived far too long, kept alive only because of my lack of attention span and will power. Somehow the two enjoy a Heisenberg-like relationship. 

First, an article [Link] entitled “Mystery solved: why hot water freezes faster than cold.” The title is a bit of a rubbish since we have had theories of the Mpemba effect for quite a few years. It’s also rubbish because the results reported are based on a simulation that hasn’t been experimentally verified.

So it’s typical contemporary journalism, a mixture of pony and poo. Which doesn’t seem to bother contemporary journalists and indicates why we have a problem with news. 

I though this article appropriate at this time since it addresses why we need to drip the hot water lines as well as the cold now. I’m also not going to elaborate on the why because it’s the end of the year and I can be a bit grumpy. And intolerant of asentient, arational, aintelligent Bogs. I also want to share the article’s gratuitous illustration:

I fear that I rather identify with this chap even if I am nowhere near as handsome.

After that, it seems appropriate to include an article [Link] entitled “Why evangelicals are OK with voting for Roy Moore.” I realize that the election is over – shy of the named individual mounting armed rebellion – but the density of ground state crazy is still way TOO HIGH in Alibam. I have to admit the explanation offered by the journalist makes some sense but it is still evil at its core. I am undecided if it’s hubris but I am sure that there is a classical Greek term for doing unspeakable evil for misplaced good reasons. Personally, I put it down to curing dandruff with a plasma cannon: yes, you do get rid of the dandruff; yes, you also get rid of the head and thereby the person. Of course, I am assuming that the person is good which may be a misplaced assumption in this context.

Some insight is offered towards this by the next article [Link] entitled “Religion may alter your psychology, even if you’re a non-believer.” An academic study performed in Finland indicates that the idea of God is wired into our physiology. 

That’s a nice way of saying it’s hard to be rational about the deity. And that Bogs probably can’t do it at all. Hence the Evangelilcals – or, as they have revealed themselves, Evilgelicals. 

Bottom line, religion ain’t rational. And today is an Ice Cream day. Literally, it would seem. 

This is a pretty dismal picture. It’s one of those instances of looking about us and wondering how we not only haven’t killed ourselves off – because that’s about all we seem to do – but that we have made progress from hanging in trees and screaming insults at the predators below to being able to destroy the planet. Which we seem to be doing. 

And the politicals and religious seem to be taking satisfaction in that destruction. 

So, yes, it is colding. Inside and out.

And the new year offers scant encouragement. 


Confederate Waterloo

“It had been a damned nice thing – the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life. (Waterloo 18 June 1815)

I have to admit to being bemused a bit about the election of Tuesday. 

Living in Alibam, I have to also admit that I didn’t expect very much. Alibam has the attraction of being primitive: I enjoy the primitiveness of its environment – except where it has been polluted by capitalist oligarchs – but I don’t enjoy dealing with some of the people. Especially the politicals and the ersatz Christianists.

When I approached the polling place I was a bit concerned that I would be met by a Christianist Fascist militia demanding loyalty oaths to their demigod, but the path was surprisingly void of any form of influence, including candidate propaganda signs. Inside the hall was as usual except for being a bit more crowded. But the density of scattergun toting ruffians in forest camouflage was no greater than usual. In fact, the notable thing was the density of women.

I presented my ID and was not greeted with growls about it being Federal in origin, but I was offered a privacy envelope for my ballot. I declined. Better to die young than suffer the transition from “Heart of Dixie” (license plate catch phrase) to “Heart of Pedophilia.” 

Even before the senator from the Campus of the Black Warrior had spurned his party’s candidate, I had reasoned my way past any consideration further. Simply put, the man was a pariah and if elected would reduce the number of Alibam senators to one even if he was seated. His career has been marked by an absence of cooperation with anyone so I would not expect any from him in the Congress.

I marked my ballot, admittedly in a booth, and walked to the nearest (of two) scanning machines. No one offered to look over my shoulder. I slid the ballot into the slot and the traction wheels drew it from my grasp into the bowels of the machine. I accepted an “I Voted” sticker and departed the hall, displaying my maternal programming by holding the door for three women leaving as I did. As Southrons used to do they thanked me and I “you’re welcome”‘d  them in reply before entering my motorcar and motoring to Castellum SCP. 

On the morrow, in gym, I was surprised to be informed by one of the Huntsville television stations that the other candidate had won. My efforts to steel myself to the reign of an ostracized sociopath proven needless. By a sparse but adequate margin, the citizens of Alibam had overwhelmed my fears of their depravity.

Not that such depravity is not still present, but it is demonstrated in smaller quantity than I feared.

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, related to me that he saw a clip – on the same station – of the loser in denial invoking among other things, the “Pursuit of Happiness.” We both rolled on the floor laughing over that. 

Why? Because the politician in question is a rather flaming evangelical bigot. Who evidently has no idea that that basic tenets of contemporary evangelical doctrine (dogma?) is antithetical to the “pursuit of happiness” in the Founding Fathers’ sense. As I understand it, contemporary evangelicals have no use for science unless they can warp it to support their interpretations of (many times translated and unknown authorship) scripture. 

The current theory and interpretation of “pursuit of happiness” is finding the deity by studying nature in a scientific fashion. It was practiced by the national founders and still, but also still rarely in number, today. 

And to my naive view, these two outlooks cannot be reconciled no matter how much shaken or stirred. But then I have scant ability at evangelical idea warping.

I find it hurtful that so many of our founding fathers who held political office “pursued happiness” and so few today. So no great victory of Amerika, only a small one for Alibam.