September 25, 2013

Words to live by ...

"... These people — and the person leading them — are utterly out of their minds. I do not need to find three sources for this. I do not need to find someone to say, well, some of them are only sort of out of their minds. If I see a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, I can write that I saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head. I don't have to find someone to say they saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, and I particularly don't need to find someone on the other side who will say, no, what you saw was a duck walking down the street with a guy on his ass. I am not obligated to treat transparent lunacy as though it were worthy of respect simply because it happens to be popular. I am not obligated to be that nice a person. And neither are you."
 This from Charles P. Pierce, from Idiot America, about Glenn Beck and his followers. Good medicine ...

September 21, 2013

Change? What change? Oh, you mean change the channel ...

To begin with, I wanna say I'm really glad to see Bill is still with us - I'd been worried for a while there. (Would have commented on his last post, but commenting on Blogger still confounds me, refusing to let me do so, no matter under what profile I make the attempt ...)

Now, to the point of this post:  I recently stumbled across some statistics on TV viewing in the USA, and, as a result, I am now finally and utterly devoid of any hope that there's ever going to be any change at all in this country - even cosmetic change, never mind anything substantive. Dig: 99% of American households have TV (Yaay! I'm finally in the 1%!); 65% - nearly 2 out of 3 - have 3 TVs or more; and over a 70-year viewing lifetime, the average American will have watched nearly 23 solid years' worth of TV, 16 hours per day, 365 days per year. I could not be more profoundly disheartened or discouraged by these numbers ... No damned wonder people like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz get elected, or the likes of Mitch McConnell keep getting reelected ... or, given that there are, according to these figures, only about 1,200 households without TV in the city where I live, why I find it so hard to relate to nearly everybody I talk to ... Well, as my momma used to say, even if everybody else sticks their head in the oven, that don't mean I gotta do it too ...

For those of you who still read and haven't already read it, I cannot recommend highly enough Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, by Jerry Mander. Though written 35 years ago, its arguments are more cogent today than ever - far and away the best treatment of the evils of TV known to me. The absolute sine qua non for pulling your head out of your ass, it will give you all the justifications you need to take the plunge, if you haven't already.

September 03, 2013

A Rare Find

The World Wide Web is, today, essentially a massive, raucous, garish bazaar designed (if that's the right word) to sell as much as possible to as many of us as possible, while simultaneously selling the information it gleans, mostly surreptitiously, from us to any and all bidders. To be sure, there is still useful and/or thoughtful material out there; but it's been inundated by all the feverish Flash and Javascript come-ons hawked by the stallkeepers. I personally spend well less than an hour a day on the Web these days, skimming a handful of trusted news sites, and visiting another handful of sites relevant to the projects and interests I'm still attending to at this late date.

But every so often, in making my usual rounds, or while trying to ferret out info on something of interest, I run up on something reminiscent of the material that used to be the hallmark of the Web. Such a piece came to my attention a few days ago; since such finds are (for me, at least) so unusual, and because it speaks to so much that I consider vastly more important than the typical banal ephemera, I feel impelled to share it with you. The piece is Is Google Making Us Stupid?, by one Nicholas Carr, and here's a quote:
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
Make your own judgements about the man, his oeuvre, and his arguments or conclusions; that's not the point for me. What the piece does is to raise (ironically, quite cursorily and shallowly, albeit broadly) profound questions about the human mind and how it is shaped.

My own mind was reshaped permanently in the mid 1960s by the confluence of three major processes: Becoming fluent in a non-Indo-European foreign language (Hungarian); being exposed to the ideas of Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir (at first through reading S. I. Hayakawa <blush>); and deciphering as best I could the ideas of Marshall McLuhan - said reshaping being facilitated by the sometimes judicious, sometimes not, use of good ol' Cannabis sativa or C. indica, whichever was available, the gods' one true gift to mankind. Coming much later to the practice of vipassana (or insight) meditation has greatly sharpened my preoccupation with how language as such has molded what we think, how we think, and even that we think. And I can tell you, after decades of pursuing the subject, that there is remarkably little thought being given to it; therefore the gratification and encouragement I receive from finding anything even approaching an examination of or speculation concerning it.

Not that any of this matters to anyone else ... Just thought I'd pass it along for your possible perusal and pursuit - and to keep pp alive, too ...