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October 2010

Sunset Yesterday As Seen from R&R Seafood

We went to eat at R&R Seafood, on the causeway, last night--my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. When we got there, about 6:30 or so, the western sky had this beautiful band of pure pale green light at the horizon, turning into a sort of pink-orange higher up, then blue. My wife bought herself a new camera not long ago, and I grabbed it and tried to get a picture of the colors. Which as usual, of course, do not really appear in the picture, at least on my monitor. Still, I sort of like it.   This is looking toward Mobile from the causeway, and those giant cranes are at the shipyards.SunsetFromR&R

Update: this is R&R.

Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash: One Piece At a Time

Weekend Music

Something a little different from them. June doesn't actually sing in this one.


Ok, you want something more romantic from these two, I know. Here you go: someone put together "Ring of Fire" in separate versions by each of them, with a montage of images from the excellent movie Walk the Line. The words of the song, as you may know, were in fact written by June about Johnny.


Mid-Week Miscellany

I haven't seen very much of Stephen Colbert's tv show, because when I have seen him I didn't think he was really that funny. The opening is quite funny, but to my taste that's the best part. My first impression was that he was just another smirker, like Jon Stewart, but I think he's really better than that. This appreciation of him by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review makes him sound much better than that. It's not enough to make me watch his show; there are too many other more interesting or important things to do. But having read this, I respect him in a way I didn't before.


Speaking of Jon Stewart, there's some amusement in the fact that a Rally to Restore Sanity, a rally "for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat" is being organized by the guy responsible for this. I've only seen Stewart a few times, but on the basis of those I think you probably have to be a member of the church of the left to enjoy him very much; unbelievers are likely to wonder what all the enthusiasm is about.  (I was pleased, some months ago, to find that Christopher Hitchens doesn't think much of him, either.) No doubt it's always the nature of political humor that it appeals more to those of the same persuasion--one man's wit is another's hate speech in this context. But I wonder if that isn't even more the case now, with the political climate so polarized.


It's always partly funny and partly disturbing when left-wing academics talk about the right. For people who pride themselves on being smart and rational, and who habitually criticize others for failing to understand those who are different, they have an awfully hard time dealing with the possibility that people can disagree with them without being evil. It was comforting to read that most of the participants in this meeting were unreceptive to the idea exploring legal mechanisms to "crush" the Tea Party.  "Prospects for an American Neofascism," indeed. I think that in some obscure way they get off on play-scaring themselves this way, and that they're a little disappointed when fascism fails to appear (as it has persisted in doing since the '60s).  Likewise for some of their counterparts on the right--I think Obamacare is a really terrible plan, but, come on, it's not Kristallnacht.


I laughed out loud at the self-contradiction in the title of this album


I was pretty depressed a few days ago (I'm better now) and I often found myself thinking about how much of life consists of disappointment, and fighting off the idea that it's not really worth it (which is probably what I would think if I didn't believe in God). Monday night, out for a walk, I saw clouds passing swiftly across the still-nearly-full moon--billowy cumulus clouds, but thinned by the strong south wind that was pushing them along. Most of the time the moon was visible, at least faintly, now and then coming into clear view through a space in the clouds or being completely obscured by an unusually thick one.  And I thought what a privilege to see this


This touched me.

Warm Front

We don't really have autumn here. At this time of year the nights get a bit cooler but the days are still fairly hot, into the mid-80s (F--high 20sC). Mobile Bay is a shallow body of water that gets very very warm during the summer. By the end of summer the water temperature is at least in the high 80s, warmer than the summer air in a lot of places. It doesn't even feel especially cool if you step into it. 

In early fall the humidity is also generally much, much lower. So sometimes at night the air is some twenty degrees (F) lower in temperature than the water, and very dry. And when there's a mild breeze off the water, and I'm walking toward the bay and am still some little distance away, I find myself suddenly, in the space of just a step or two, moving from cool dry air into warm moist air. I love that.

More Stuff I See On the Way to Work

This morning I saw a car that had a big sticker saying "Dog Is Love," and some other dog-fanatic message that I can't remember now. Well, fine, I like dogs, too, but I wondered if this person really meant the implicit putdown of Christianity ("God is love, and he who lives in love lives in God, and God in him"). Then I noticed that the car also had one of those Darwin-fish emblems. You know what I mean if you drive in this country: it's a parody of the Christian icthus symbol, with Darwin's name in place of the Greek letters (also little feet--fish evolving into amphibian). 

The Darwin fish seems to be pretty popular, which means a lot of people consider it a pretty good jibe, but it's always struck me as a massively ineffective one, because it's so asymmetrical. It's like an envious person saying "Well, you may be rich, but I have a coupon for a free order of fries at McDonald's." It suggests that the person displaying it puts in Darwin or Darwinism the same sort of faith that a Christian puts in God, which is just sort of sad. He would be better off putting faith in his dog--at least the dog knows who he is, and loves him. In the case of the owner of this car, the dog might be a better philosopher than the master.

Today is a sort of palindrome, if you think of month-day-century-year as the units: 10/20/2010. In U.S. form, anyway--it always throws me for a complete loop when I see something like 20/10/2010--month 20?!?

Richard and Mimi Fariña: Pack Up Your Sorrows

Weekend Music

I picked this over several other clips on YouTube because it's the song that is probably most strongly identified with them, and because the bit of dialog at the end is so charming. Mimi is the sister of Joan Baez, and actually I always like her voice better.


Theirs is one of the sweeter stories of the '60s, at least at first glance, in part because he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966. And much or most of their work exemplified the sense of poetic and (relatively) innocent wonder that appears in a lot of the music from that period. (As is suggested by the titles of their two studio albums, Celebrations for a Grey Day and Reflections in a Crystal Wind.)  But the story had a darker side, and I'm not just being cynical in believing that it would most likely not have ended well in any case. I read Fariña's novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, in college in the late '60s. Allowing for the fact that I haven't read it since and my memory is probably selective at best, I think there was an underlying corruption in it, as can be said (and as I have said often enough) of the whole '60s bohemian movement.

Still, the music remains. Here's "Swallow Song":


Darwin Award Candidates

Perhaps you've heard of the Darwin Awards. I think the idea began as only a joke of unknown origin: a Darwin Award was proposed for people who brought about their own deaths in strikingly stupid ways, thus, according to evolutionary doctrine, improving the human race by removing their stupid genes (I mean, the genes that made them stupid) from the pool. The classic example is given in the old adage about sawing off the limb you're sitting on.

I thought of that idea this morning on the way to work. It was foggy, and on the Mobile Bay bridge people were tailgating at 75-to-85 miles per hour (120-135 km/hour). This is a really, really stupid thing to do, because you can find yourself very abruptly unable to see more than 30ft/10m ahead, and totally unable to avoid crashing into the car in front of you if, somewhere up ahead, traffic begins to slow or stop.  Back in 1992 there was a pileup involving over 100 cars in just such a situation: one car hit a guardrail or something, and then a chain reaction followed, with one car after another piling into the others. Amazingly, only one person was killed.

Anyway, I thought of the Darwin Awards, as I cruised along at 70 in the right lane with a safe hundred feet between me and the next car, and people passed me in the left lane doing 80 with only ten feet or so between them.

It occurred to me that death-by-stupidity is only Darwinian if the deceased had no children. Once you've had a child, or children, it doesn't matter what happens to you--your genes have been passed on, though of course the more children the better, from the evolutionary point of view.

And then it hit me that a lot of the people who laugh at Darwin Award winners are probably qualified for it themselves, by virtue of their decision to have no children, or perhaps to have only one, when others are having three or five or ten. Worldwide, it's the most educated and sophisticated people--those who invented and are amused by the Darwin Awards--who are having the fewest children. I keep reading that the native populations of some countries in Europe are already in an irreversible population decline because of a deliberately chosen low birth rate. 

Of course I'm a Christian, and I don't believe that Darwinistic criteria should be a guide to human behavior, or a measure of achievement, or that evolution explains everything. But those who do think that way tend to be the same educated and sophisticated people who deliberately choose to have few or no children (as opposed to being prevented or hindered by circumstances). So you have to wonder just how smart they are,  according to their own evolutionary views. 


Dot Day

"dot" = "period" = binary 00101110 in ASCII, or 10/11/10.

So, Happy Dot Day, or:

This is so exciting. We'll have some more binary days in November.

(Yes, those ones and zeroes do say "Happy Dot Day" in the text coding format used by your computer, but no, I didn't work it out by hand: I used this cool converter.)

My father quoted an early computer expert whom he encountered in his engineering work as saying "A computer consists of a million idiots, each of whom can count to 1." Nowadays it's many many millions, but remember, when your computer is misbehaving: they're still idiots.

Really, the fundamental concept is so brilliant: a number system in which the only digits are 1 and 0, which can be represented electrically by "on" and "off". And everything--the whole Internet, and lots of other stuff--is built on that. Mankind is wonderfully ingenious.

Star Day

"star" = "asterisk" = "*" = binary 00101010 in the ASCII coding system (almost universally used). Ignore the leading zeroes and you have 101010 or 10/10/10. 

Not that it matters in the least, of course. 

Sonic Youth: Teenage Riot

Weekend Music

I thought I remembered reading that Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were married, so I checked, and they are. Moore is the one singing. Gordon is the one in the dress. This is one of the more accessible Sonic Youth songs from their earlier years. 



Almost twenty years later:


There's something sort of weird about people in their forties singing teenage anthems and doing the stage moves that they did when they were young (not to mention calling yourselves Sonic Youth).

Forties? No, make that fifties. I just looked up Thurston Moore on Wikipedia and according to his bio he's only ten years younger than I am--which makes him 52. Well, I think I'll go play my guitar now.

Mid-Week Miscellany

On the way to work a week or two ago I was passed by a Prius with a bumper sticker that said SIMPLIFY. It made me chuckle, because if there is one thing a Prius is not, it's simple.  There's a huge disconnect between the pastoral imagery of sophisticated advertising directing us to be more "green" and the sophisticated technology much of it is pushing. I don't say the technology won't deliver--maybe it will and maybe it won't--but it is quite the opposite of a back-to-the-land impulse, in which very few people are seriously interested.


Perhaps you've heard about this disgusting bit of climate-change propaganda. Let me describe it before you click on that link, because it's really a little disturbing: it portrays schoolchildren and others being given a pep talk about doing something to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and then being asked whether they intend to participate. Those who say no are blown to bits, very graphically. It's meant to be funny, but the almost universal reaction has been that it's just repulsive and perhaps a bit scary. 

One thing about it that hasn't been mentioned very often, though, is the assumption that the school has the right and probably the responsibility to preach environmental activism. I always knew that the expulsion of Christianity from American schools would not mean that there would be no moral teaching there, only that it would come from a different world-view.


I've often thought that the movie Bonnie and Clyde marked an important shift in our culture, a shift which was mainly for the worse.  Here is a leftist making my point for me, and more:

My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.

Of course sometimes the outlaws are the good guys, etc. But to erect that as a cultural dogma is sick. I remember how startling Bonnie and Clyde was--I was a college freshman at the time. You can expect a lot more on this topic in my memoir. 


Speaking of leftists, I am astonished to find myself in agreement with Katrina vanden Heuvul that we need to stop calling each other Nazis. It doesn't seem like much to ask, but it probably won't happen.


I think this was the funniest title for a blog post that I've run across in the past week or so: "They will know we are traddies by our love". The target is radical traditionalist Catholics, and the author considers himself more or less one of them, but recognizes that they do often come across as hostile. Several commenters make the point that they have good reason to be hostile, and that's true: one thing that really struck me as a new Catholic ca. 1980 was the contempt which was heaped on traditionalists by progressives (modernists, whatever you want to call them).

The ArchRooster

To those caviling small-minded persons who would ask "Why should a Catholic radio station be in possession of a giant rooster?" I answer: why not?

I mean, angels are popularly pictured with wings, and roosters have wings, so.... You'll note that he is tethered, so as not to menace the populace.

Ian and Sylvia: Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Weekend Music

They were either married or soon to be married when they recorded this early Dylan classic, which at least for many years was never released by the man himself (possibly it's on one of the many volumes of old unreleased material that have been issued in recent years).  This particular recording was very dear to my teenaged heart.

A couple of years ago I did a tribute to them, which has more information and another song or two.