Friday, September 17, 2021

A Hunter-Gatherer's guide and Post-Traumatic Growth

 

On 8-25-21 I was trimming branches out front, sawed most of the way through an especially large one which kept hold of my saw as it fell to the ground.  Unfortunately for me I held onto the saw.  The fingers on my right hand were bent back.  I thought they might be broken, but when I got up found that they weren’t.  However, something in my hand hasn’t completely healed.  When I write with pen and paper, as I do in my journal, pain increases with each line.  Fortunately my hand seems fine when I type.    

I’ve begun A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heyling and Bret Weinstein.   Quite a bit on this subject appears in science magazines, and I wondered if I would find anything new.  Perhaps I have:

From page 7: “Conscious thoughts are those that can be communicated to others.  We define consciousness, therefore, as ‘that fraction of cognition that is packaged for exchange.’  This is no trick.  We have not chosen a definition to make an intractable question simple.  We have chosen the definition at the epicenter of what people mean when describing a thought as ‘conscious.’”

I have gone on a bit in the book but keep coming back to this idea.  I recall Susan, in our early days of getting to know each other, telling me that I wasn’t in touch with my emotions.  She urged me to write her some poetry so I could find out what I felt emotionally, and that worked.  No doubt it worked before Susan urged me to do it.  I was writing poetry long before I met her, but I never thought of it in the terms she used.  

In one of the reviews I read recently, a poet (whose name I can’t recall) was asked the purpose of poetry and he said something along the lines of “a poet writes in order to find out what he thinks.”   That seems right as well.  I do not seem able to sit down and think my way to answers.  That probably wasn’t always true, but it seems to be true now.

In the 9-11-21 issue of ScienceNews is the article “Roads to the Good Life, Happiness and meaning are not the only ways to get there” by Sujata Gupta.  She begins “In December, my husband, our 5-year old daughter and I tested positive for COVID-19.  Life, already off-kilter, lurched.  Smell, taste, breath – were they normal?  The air smelled only of cold; everything tasted vaguely of cardboard. . . Prior to the sickness, I’d been researching pandemic fatigue, a term used to describe the boredom that can arise during a protracted crisis like the one we’re in now . . . research [of Shigerhiro Oishi and his team] suggests that the ingredients of a rich life come not from stability in life circumstances or in temperament.  Rather . . . it arises from novelty seeking, curiosity and moments that shift one’s view of the world. . .

Gupta goes on in a rather stream of consciousness fashion. One needn’t assume that we are all at risk for PTSD.  “A large body of literature shows . . . that natural disasters and other traumatic events can trigger a phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth: a transformation that gives people a newfound appreciation for life and a desire to help others.” [Gupta here quotes SN Online: 4/3/19]

“Growth” sounds unrealistic when applied to someone 86 years old, but perhaps I’m wrong.  I’ll have to give that some more thought, and I should probably give up sawing large branches from trees for fear of losing my ability to think.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Personal, technical problems & Garrison Keillor

 

Yesterday I spent an afternoon and evening as we all periodically do when our computers misbehave, or we think they do.  Yesterday I wasn't able to access wi-fi; which is usually the fault of my router.  After rebooting several times, I thought perhaps my router had failed; so I got a new one from my closet and went through the aggravating trial and error one must go through to set one up, unless one is a techie who does this all the time.

After getting my new router to work, I discovered that I had access to the internet through Mozilla Firefox, but I still didn't have access to my email through Mozilla Thunderbird.  I then recalled a few times in the past when I had access to the internet but not my email; so I hoped that my email would be back this morning, and it was. 

However I still couldn't access the photographic forums and the ongoing discussions I was in.  I could no longer type my password in the space provided for it.  Perhaps I have been banned I finally wondered.  Moderators can do that for all sorts of reasons, and they don't need to explain themselves to the real or imagined offenders.

After checking to make sure my new router was functioning properly, I checked my email system and found they were once again coming into my in-basked without hesitation.  The first one I read was the following from Garrison Keillor:

"I am thinking about moving to Texas so that I can be in open disagreement with the powers that be and express this freely, instead of living in colonies of liberal progressives where I must put tape over my mouth except when among close personal friends. Freedom of speech is watched closely where I live and we all know it. “What exactly is it you want to say that you can’t?” you wonder. It is something that, were I to say it, I’d be kicked out of the Democratic Party and my library card would be confiscated and I’d be barred from Amazon and Starbucks and the Episcopal church would make me sit in the Penitents’ Corner. So I’ll keep it to myself. . . ."  https://www.garrisonkeillor.com/

The moderators would make short work of Keillor if he voiced such an opinion on one of the photographic forums.  I myself occasionally think of moving to Idaho, but then I don't talk or write as much as I used to, so it's probably okay to stay here.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Inadvertent aircraft crashes

Apropos of someone referring to the XB-29's crash into Frye's meat packing plant in Seattle in 1943 . . . 

Although I'm a retired Boeing Engineer, it was only during the last tiny sliver of time I was employed as an engineer that I actually worked for Boeing, it having purchased McDonnell Douglas only a short time before I departed.  Working for Douglas and McDonnell Douglas I was involved in a lot of government proposals in competition with Boeing.  Boeing was always the enemy.  No hard-feeling apparently.  They regularly deposit handsome amounts of retirement money in my credit union account. 

I have no recollection of the XB29 crash in 1943, for reasons you indicate, but even if the newspaper accounts were more forthcoming, I was only nine years old and much more interested in what the Marine Corps was doing in various Pacific Islands. 

A mere ten years after that crash I was in Korea, and for the Marine Corps, and probably the other branches of our military, our equipment hadn't been improved since World War II.  One of my jobs while the Korean War was still going on was to drive a Jeep to the nearby Air Force base, get a copy of their bombing intentions for the evening and return with it to our base in Kunsan.  Someone at the Air Force base was paranoid about sabotage and so had their B-26's located close together in order for them to be more easily guarded.  One evening we saw a brilliant light coming from the direction of the Air Force base.  We soon learned that one of the B-26's exploded for a reason I don't recall (if I ever knew) and because it was so close to another B-26's, that aircraft exploded also.  That went on until all the B-26's were destroyed, and there were no more bombing runs, at least from the Air Force Base in Kunsan, for a while.  I sent a couple of letters back home asking if anyone had heard about the B-26 explosions and no one had.  It was easier to keep secrets back then.

I couldn't remember which bombers exploded, thought they might have been B-29s and so checked Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunsan_Air_Base   They apparently had no B-29s there in 1953, only B-26Bs.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What Help's Creativity

 

"What helps creativity?"

Creativity is indeed tricky.  So many of the novels I'm encountering seem largely autobiographic in nature.  If you are just saying what happened, is it creative?  Perhaps the autobiographic story is cleverly and attractively arranged.  Is it not then a product of genius and creativity?  One thinks of poor Thomas Wolfe excoriated by Bernard Devoto:    


It was during his tenure as editor of the Saturday Review that DeVoto produced one of his most controversial pieces, "Genius is Not Enough," a scathing review of Thomas Wolfe's The Story of a Novel, in which the novelist recounted his method of writing his autobiographical Of Time and the River, as essentially submitting undigested first drafts to be transformed into finished work by others.[4] According to DeVoto, Wolfe's writing was "hacked and shaped and compressed into something resembling a novel by [his editor] Mr. Perkins and the assembly-line at Scribners."[5] Although in passing acknowledging Wolfe's genius, DeVoto excoriated his lack of artistry, "Mr. Wolfe ... has written some of the finest fiction in our day. But a great part of what he writes is not fiction at all: it is only material with which he has struggled but which has defeated him." "Until Mr. Wolfe develops more craftsmanship, he will not be the important novelist he is now widely accepted as being." DeVoto's essay was a decisive factor in Wolfe's subsequent cutting ties with Scribners and editor Maxwell Perkins shortly before his death in 1938[6] and had a devastating effect on Wolfe's posthumous literary reputation."


Alas, Wolfe never had a chance to follow DeVoto's advice, instead dying at age 37 in 1938 of miliary tuberculosis.  

Since I left the Marine Corps for it, I took college seriously.  I didn't feel a need to go to a major University since I mistrusted them all (something I got from my grandmother but can't remember exactly what).  Wolfe was treated with disdain in some class I took; so I decided to read him on my own.  I read Of Time and the River and You Can't go home again -- huge time-consuming works.  I was entertained by them, but also read DeVoto's comments, and so ended up not having an opinion of my own.  Thinking about Wolfe now, didn't the same thing happen to T. S. Eliot?  Eliot wrote a voluminous Waste Land and had it whittled into a masterpiece by Ezra Pound.  One doesn't hear a DeVoto-type criticism of that. 

Where is the novelist or poet who doesn't write autobiography?    I suppose poets and novelists who have a political ax to grind don't write autobiography, but writing for a political end was at least at one time consider the most heinous sin against creativity.

Afterthought:  I didn't mean that all novelists wrote autobiography, but I seem to have encountered quite a lot of autobiography in novels considered "serious," and perhaps I haven't been as impressed by them as though who publish them.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Not my first rodeo --RIP

 

 "Not my first rodeo" is a common expression nowadays.  Each time I hear it, I think of Bill Salois, a fellow Marine.  We were stationed together in Korea and while we weren't in combat, he made do by challenging someone to fight each time he got drunk.  He was part Black Foot Indian and got drunk much before I did.  I was a lot stronger than he was and so, as these "fights" developed would let him fight until he was losing, split he and his oponent-for-the-night apart, declare the fight a draw and haul him off. 

His father had a ranch in Montana.  He proposed that after we got out of the Marine Corps we start our own ranch.  "With what money?" I asked. 

"That won't be a problem," he said.  "We can pick up all the money we need in rodeos."

"I've never been in a rodeo," I warned him.

"That won't be a problem either.  It's easy."

I had my doubts about that.  We were sent to different duty stations after we got back from Korea.  Then I decided to go to college, etc., etc.   While I was in college, he had another Marine look me up.  He hadn't utterly given up the ranch idea, but I had. 

I looked him up on the internet and found:


William 'Bill' Salois

William "Bill" Salois, 68, died Dec. 29, 2001, at IHS of cancer.

Funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 1 at Little Flower Parish with burial in East Glacier Cemetery.

He was born Dec. 2, 1933, worked in construction and was self-employed. He served in the U.S. Marines and was a Korean War veteran.

Surviving are his wife, Shannon; daughters, Kerrie Salois, Dale Rae Salois and Dee Omsberg; sons, John Salois, Will Salois and Gabe Salois; and five grandchildren.

Day Family Funeral handled arrangements.

 

I wasn't surprised that he died at age 68 from cancer.  We all smoked back in Korea and he probably never gave it up.  We all drank beer as well.   Beer isn't necessarily life-shortening, but if he kept picking fights it might well have been in his case.

I note that his obituary doesn't say he was a rancher.  It says he worked in "construction and was self-employed."  That could mean almost anything.

He had a lot of kids and I did find reference to his boys having entered rodeos.  "Easy money?" I still doubt it.


 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Flying, motorcycling, and Jeeps

 

After retirement, I planned to buy a Jeep Cherokee.  I never considered the Wrangler inasmuch as at the time it had a canvas top and was too open to leave at trail heads while I took my dogs hiking.  But in 2002 when I was in a position to buy a Jeep, the Cherokee had been replaced by the Liberty.  In Europe this replacement was called the new Cherokee model, but here in the U.S. for a reason I can't recall, the name was changed to "Liberty." 

Earlier, in Aerospace, there was a new management technique in play.  Those of us on the C-17 were sequestered (not the right word since it was a huge facility) with our own assembly-line and told to make a success out of the C-17 or fail, lose our jobs, and have our plant put up for sale. 

Subsequently, the same technique was used on the Liberty.  Engineers and workers were inspired to do their very best.  The 2002 model was the result, and after all these years it has behaved almost flawlessly.  It is built well enough, if one has added all the off-road options (and I did that) to tackle the most difficult Jeep trails.   

The C-17, as well, has behaved flawlessly, taking troops to and from more battle-fields than the trailheads I've taken my Jeep to.

But I did considered a new Jeep when my son's 2003 Chevy Trailblazer which has 150,000 miles on it developed a few problems beyond his means to repair.  I considered giving him my Jeep and buying a new one for myself.  However, after much anguish I backed away from that plan and decided I would have my local mechanic fix his Trailblazer's problems and keep my old Jeep.  Whatever the cost it would be less than buying a new jeep, and it would enable me to avoid any befuddlement caused by a new Jeep's features. 

As to your motorcycling and its proverbial dangers.  I have over the years had many friends and relatives ask me whether I thought they should buy a motorcycle.  The key consideration I told them was their "accident-proneness."  They knew whether they were accident-prone or not.  If they were, they shouldn't buy a motorcycle.  They had to have excellent reflexes and believe that they could ride day in and day out and never make a serious mistake.  Also, they should never insist that they had the right-of-way -- regardless of what the motor-vehicle brochure told them.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

On flying and motorcycling

 

    The New Yorker has categories for all its contents.  In the August 2nd, 2021 issue under the category "Personal History" I read "Flight Plan, When a marriage is up in the air" by Ann Patchett. 

    Ann Patchett's husband, Karl VanDevender, is a doctor who loves to fly.  Before they were married, he bought a motorcycle.  She looked out her front door at it and said she was going to start smoking again.  In a huff he got on his motorcycle and returned home, which was three blocks away.  He skidded in the ice in front of his house and the motorcycle fell on top of him.  With difficulty he got out from under it.  Ann feared motorcycles.  Next came airplanes, and last was boats although Karl went on a voyage with friends in an 80 foot boat and encountered some life-threatening heavy weather. 

    She writes, "When Karl and I met, in 1994, he was divorced and had a 1976 Beechcraft Bonanza, a model commonly referred to as 'the doctor killer' because the plane was so streamlined that it was hard to control.  'Doctors have enough money to buy them,' Karl said. 'But they aren't good enough pilots to fly them.'"  Karl, thanks to early training with his father, was a good enough pilot.

    "The Bonanza he bought had been on the cover of American Bonanza Society Magazine, he'd been told.  He loved that plane, then loved it less, then sold it.  Later, he bought a 1962 Piper Comanche (loved, loved less, sold), followed by a 1982 Beechcraft Sundowner, and then a 1959 Cessna 175 -- each one a gorgeous piece of junk.  They were the kinds of planes that compelled other pilots to stride across the tarmac and offer their congratulations. The planes Karl had were the planes that other men wanted.  They would have been real bargains, too, except that the Comanche needed a whole new engine.  The 175 needed a new propeller.  The Bonanza needed new gas tanks, which meant that the wings had to be taken apart.  The new gas tanks and the wing-panel removal and replacement cost as much as he'd paid for the plane.  Then it also needed a new engine. . ."

    Over in aerospace, if one were a self-respecting engineer, one gravitated toward airplanes or sailboats.  In my case I knew better than to develop an interest in flying.  I have a terrible sense of direction.  I imagined being to able to take off and land, but flying into clouds, coming out, and having to figure out where I was and which direction I ought to be flying was beyond me. 

    So I gravitated toward sailing.  My first sailboat, a 14-foot West Wight Potter, was mostly a platform for free-diving.  The Potter was designed for rough-weather sailing in the North Sea.  But I discovered it to be unacceptably sluggish in the usually lighter California winds.  But it was a satisfactory diving platform.  Also my kids liked it, and then later on Susan liked it, but like Ann Patchett's husband, I sold it and bought a Catalina 22, a boat designed for Southern California sailing.    I would have probably gone on like Ann's husband with bigger and better sailboats, but Susan's illness but an end to that. 

    Back to motorcycles:  Over the years I encountered many people who while not being motorcyclists themselves, would warn me about how dangerous they were.  Susan's mother, Ruth, once chastised me for putting her daughter in danger, although I once gave Ruth a ride home on the back of one and she enjoyed it thoroughly.  There was one time however, when a semi-truck moved into my lane without signalling and I was forced to put my motorcycle down against a curb to avoid being struck.  I ruined the front tire and wheel and had to walk my motorcycle home.  Susan was sick in bed when I told her what had happened and burst into tears.  She had never before imagined that I might be killed on a motorcycle. 

    Ann Patchett also seemed to worry most when Karl was flying by himself.  She writes, "At some point, I'd had a revelation; it would be better for him to die in a plane than to keep talking about whether or not to get a plane.  That isn't exactly a joke.  At his worst, Karl was like a sad parakeet sitting on a swing in a cage year after year.  It was unnatural."

    "Karl was seventy when we bought the Cirrus.  The plane had a fixed landing gear.  Karl told me that it was prohibitively expensive for pilots over seventy to be insured for planes with retractable landing gear, because pilots over seventy didn't always remember to put the landing gear down."

    I gave my Yamaha XV920 to my son when I retired at age 64.  Although I was good at it, I didn't enjoy riding as much as Karl enjoyed flying.  Besides, when Susan became too ill to work, I got her a Rhodesian Ridgeback to be her companion while I was at work.  Part of getting the Ridgeback for her involved taking responsibility for his exercise.  I took care of that by jogging with him as soon as I got home from work. 

    At some point I no longer regretted not having a sailboat or a motorcycle.  My 2002 Jeep Liberty is in excellent condition and will take us to places where we can hike -- when the weather cools -- and if my gimpy leg doesn't cause me too much trouble.  I am sad-parakeetish about not having hiked in a long time, but am thankful that until that happens I have an excellent library and a fondness for using it.  Karl (at 73) doesn't seem to have that alternative although Ann (at 57) will when she gets older.

    In the days when I was traveling back and forth to work, down between the lanes on my Yamaha, I would make a concession and take one of our cars if I wasn't feeling at the top of my game.  After retiring, when I woke not feeling so well, I would say "if I were still working, I would not take the motorcycle this morning."  Karl at 73 presumably wouldn't take his Cirrus to visit his mother in Meridian if he weren't feeling at the top of his game.  He no doubt will relax and day-dream on his flights.  I didn't have that luxury on the motorcycle. 

    I occasionally think about buying a more-modern Jeep, but I've been using mine since 2002 and know all its idiosyncrasies.  The "improvements" I would encounter in a new Jeep might, I fear, find me occasionally "forgetting to put the gear down."

   

   


Friday, July 30, 2021

Hits and contract killing

 

The following from the August 2, 2021 issue of the New Yorker, page 8, written by Richard Brody:

"Film Forum's ongoing Humphrey Bogart series includes the idiosyncratic 1951 film noir The Enforcer (which is also streaming on many services). . . the movies originality is in its script which gives Bogart the role of a district attorney named Ferguson who -- hours before Mendoza (Everett Sloan), the head of a murder ring, is set to be released without charges -- searches his investigation files for overlooked evidence.  As Ferguson's interrogations of garish underworld characters are shown in flashbacks, the action that they relate is seen in flashbacks within those flashbacks.  The intricate structure lays bare a tentacular network of killers for hire whose members are driven literally mad with fear of Mendoza, but the movie's frenzied psychology is also historically fascinating: Mendoza's chilling and cunning criminal enterprise is presented as an innovation -- as are the terms 'contract' for killing and 'hit' for a victim."

I'd like to read a more extensive discussion of these matters.  It seems we have an assassin genre within the film noir genre nowadays -- maybe the term "film noir" needs to be abandoned.   Just last night I watched Ava.  Simon (Colin Farrell) is the current "head of a murder ring."  The previous head, Duke (John Malkovich) in a subordinate role runs the assassin Ava (Jessica Chastain). 

Ava's "sin" is that she questions the people she is about to assassinate about what they did that elicited someone to order a hit.  This sin is unforgivable and Simon orders "hits" on Ava, but they don't succeed.  Finally he attempts to kill her himself and is instead killed by her.  The ending suggests that there may be a hierarchy above Simon.  As Ava in the last scene walks away to go into hiding, Simon's daughter, an assassin in training follows her."

The acting in Ava struck me as excellent.  I did initially question whether the 5' 4" fragile looking Jessica Chastain could pull it off, but she does.  Collin Farrell 5' 10" but in their fight scene they seem comparable somehow. 

Despite being an alcoholic and drunk when Simon enters her apartment, Ava manages to fight him to a draw.  His phone rings to alert him that the police are on their way, so he doesn't resume the fight.  He merely tells Ava that if he ever sees her again he will kill her.  Ava however, knows better than that so she assembles her gear in a matter of seconds and hurry's after Simon.  His gun was dismantled during his fight so he is unarmed.  She catches up to him and shoots him in the head. 

Even though at the end when Simon's daughter follows Ava, one doesn't (at least I didn't) assume that she will be successful in killing Ava, if that is what she intends to try to try.  Ava has conducted 41 successful contract hits and Simon's daughter has yet to conduct her first . . .

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Campfire Middens



    When we were few
    We would say, see
    That blind man, our poet?”
    And over there, the man with
    One leg, our warrior, and if
    You listen carefully you will
    Hear from the trees, Glisten,

    Our singer who sings
    Each time we gather
    To listen to the poet’s
    Tales and the warrior’s
    Wars, but now there
    Are ten-thousand who
    Write as well,

    A hundred thousand who
    Fight and a million
    Clamoring to be heard.
    Does this burgeoning
    Never end?  And if it does,
    Who will tell the tale,
    Who sing?

Currying Flame

  

    The fiery wind,
    Swerved -- a viper
    Rising to strike
    Just where they thought
    They’d found
    Security from
    Nettling distress.

    They shed desires,
    Fortunes deserved,
    Praise they’d coveted.  
    Everything was hot
    To the touch.  The air
    Scorched each thought,
    Not stopping at what

    It revealed
    Throughout the day:
    This attack against
    Beings Ill-prepared to
    Deflect the searing
    Sword from their
    Stumbling numbers.

Helen at her window

  
  
    Helen knew the look
    And feel of her
    Trojan archer; yet
    Set aside as she was,
    Relived her steps:
    Menelaus’s treatment,
    Paris’s tempting salvation.

    Guilt some said,
    And she’d accede to
    Some. Yet being
    Abandoned she
    Felt betrayed, left
    While Greeks played
    Their games, left

    Again while Paris
    And Hector fended or
    Fell.  Set here like
    A precious vase there
    Was no one to witness
    The apprehensions
    Clouding her vaunted brow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Media studies and Gunpowder Milkshake

 

An obituary on Fiske is available from U Wisconsin: https://commarts.wisc.edu/in-memoriam-john-fiske/

I had not heard of John Fiske nor was I aware that the media was being formally studied.  I have however for a long time suspected that Hollywood had a lot to do with my desire to enter the Marine Corps.   Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 when I was seven.  I don't recall timing or details but can still recall the emotional content of some of the war movies.  I recall being pumped up by them.  I tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1951 when I was 16 and the war in Korea was still active.  The USMC found out how old I was and told me to come back when I was 17 if I could get my mother to sign for me.  My step-father insisted that I finish High School first.  Thus, I enlisted in July 1952 when I was almost 18.  By the time I got to Korea truce talks had begun.  I was over there for the last two battle seasons and on Cheju Island next to a prison camp shortly after North Korean prisoners were released and some climbed Cheju mountain instead of making there way back North.

Thinking back I don't have any regrets. The Marine Corps was part of my education.  Even though I didn't see actual combat, I was trained for it and before I got out was a rifle instructor training others:  grammar and high school from 1939 to 1952.  USMC from 1952 to 1955.  College from 1955 to 1959.  Engineering from 1959 to 1998.  Retired from 1998 to the present.   Susan once commented that one of our nephews especially looked up to me because I was the only one in our families that was squared away, or something to that effect.  In thinking back, any squaring originated in my desire to follow examples I found on the silver screen.  I set out to become a Marine and became one, but I didn't really want to become a career Marine and so got out and went to college. 

So you can see that I've given one particular media a lot of thought over the years.  In more modern times I've noticed that "Hollywood" [if that is a proper term in media studies] has been busy creating larger-than-life women heroes ["heroines" appears to be a moribund term].  I just the other day watched Gunpowder Milkshake -- tongue in cheek, follows Wick a bit but women are shown as being able to do it all.  Good stuff.  Back in 1952 in Boot Camp we were ushered out onto the side of a hill one night where we were shown High Noon -- also good stuff.  I wonder if Marines going through boot camp today could benefit from being shown Gunpowder Milkshake instead . . . or in addition.

Thus, without ever having studied any of this, I have been aware of movement. I can't bring to mind any complaints at present.  I do enjoy a good "shoot-em-up" movie or TV series, and if it involves some larger-than-life heroine, I can root for her as well as I once did for Gary Cooper.  Good stuff :-)





Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wilmington, fourth of July, 1942



    I’ll tell you something else
    If you hold still, quit wriggling:
    Time was there was a lot
    More going on in that old town:    
    Old Fourth of July festivities
    For example: the banners
    Parades, everyone coming out

    To play the games, win a
    Stuffed animal or two.
    Back when my family
    Lived in that small
    House owned by Joe Denni
    Who also owned the drug store
    Down on Avalon.  We walked

    Over to Avalon, south
    To Anaheim; then down
    To I street where the town
    square was host each year
    To dreams – didn’t even need
    To say good-bye back then --  
    Lots of quick ways to die,

    But not if you worked in
    “Vital” Los Angeles Harbor
    Industries: our fathers who
    Drank their way to sixty,
    Seventy and beyond.  We on
    The other hand were too young
    To evade the draft and drifted away.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Heinlein and The Tomorrow War

This is a pretty good movie; however, it doesn't match in power Heinlein's Starship Troopers in my opinion.  The writers of TTW will disagree saying the father/daughter/grandfather Foresters have power not seen in Heinlein.  But Heinlein does a much better job in hypothesizing what such a war would realistically involve from a military standpoint.   ST resonates for anyone who has been in the Marine Corps or Army infantry.  If you've only seen the very-bad movie, Starship Troopers, then you won't know what I'm talking about. 

Heinlein's novel deals with a galactic war.  The aliens, which are pretty much like the aliens in TTW, are unstoppable by normal means. [Although the aliens in TTW are more like the aliens in the Aliens movie and not like the Predators who use the aliens for sport.  Presumably the creators that operated the space-ship that crashed into a volcano in the Middle Ages were a bit more like the Predators].  So the humans have invented suits of armor and weaponry that movie-makers haven't found the means to simulate.  Heinlein's aliens defeat humans on planet after planet until human scientists find a way to kill the alien queens.  After that the war turns in favor of the humans.  Alien queens on TTW are much tougher than in ST, but I suspect Heinlein's queen is closer to a conceivable hive-organism.  Queens don't need to know how to fight. 

In Heinlein's novel, the humans are organized by a bureaucracy that trains and functions much like the Marine Corps.  And like the Marine Corps, one must volunteer and then go through a difficult boot-camp in order to fight.  In TTW, there is a vague conspiracy-theory-type military-scientific organization "drafting" appropriate humans to go into the future to fight the aliens.  Somehow all the Tomorrow War draftees, without boot-camp type training (glossed over in the movie) by instinct fight as though they've been properly trained.  I don't believe humans can or would do that.  

As I began watching TTW I wondered if movie makers had been influenced by the recent acceptance, seemingly, that there are a tiny percentage of UFO sightings that can't be explained.  Perhaps the writers were stirring up a martial spirit just in case the aliens were hostile.  However the movie soon disabused me of that idea.  It seems to have also (at least in the fight scenes) have been influenced by zombie apocalypse as well as Predator and Terminator movies.

The acting in TTW is very good, better than in the other movies I've mentioned or alluded to.  And the action moves quickly enough so that one doesn't have time to compare this movie to movies very much like this one that were made in the past. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Good



    Something we all decide
    Blank-slate style
    Or something our forbears
    Fresh from the trees
    Evolved hanging with
    Early wolves?  We now
    Are inclined to find

    Their furry faces
    And wagging tails
    An immense delight.
    And if we don’t
    We are aberrant
    As are thieves
    And other deceivers

    Preying out of twisted
    Passions.  But each
    Generation stores
    Stories that the rest
    May see
    Turn
    And choose the good.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Visitation

  
    
    The other night Susan
    Came up next to me
    On the sidewalk.  She took
    My left hand and kissed
    It over and over.  “I’ve
    Missed you so.  It’s been
    So long since we looked
    
    In each other’s eyes. We
    We are so much in love.”
    She looked about, seeing
    Jessica.  “I see you finally
    Got your Irish lass,”
    She laughed and Jessica
    Danced her delight.

    Susan, searching,
    Came along side
    And entered my longing.
    I dreamt too much joy
    To see her go as I woke
    And hear her once
    Again breathe “goodbye.”                

The Parrot



    There is a parrot established next
    Door full of ill-taught squawks.
    He watched me with one eye
    As I raked leaves.  He has an
    Aviary up against our common
    Fence, joining family dogs who
    Paid him little mind, except
    
    The smallest and most
    Alarmed who found a hole
    And squirmed through into
    Our yard where Jessica waited.
    Seeing her he screeched and
    She in delight chased him
    In terrified circles round about.
    
    The neighbor hearing
    Called him through the
    Hole and back in his yard,
    With apologies.  Jessica
    Pleased and panting watched
    Him go.  The parrot squawked
    Amusement and sneered contempt.

On Knowing



    What is it they know
    Or think they know
    Never having taken
    Up Arrow and bow, for
    Even a twelve gauge
    Would kill with a blow
    Were it pointed by

    Anyone really knowing?
    Covey-of-quail sorts-of-fright
    Out near the fringe of what
    He had or thought he had.
    Someone had crept
    In during the night
    Exercising the rights

    They thought they had.
    They came athwart his
    Legal standing far back
    Up the hill, frowning his
    Displeasure and consternation –
    Too far away to threaten more
    Than anger and fiery words.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Another Hot Day

    Here in the heat of day
    We watch, my dogs and I,
    The branches sway above
    Ground squirrels playing.
    I’ve counted their round
    Eyes staring as they stand
    Stock still on stone tops.
    
    There are holes punched
    By the frantic bouts our
    Dogs on both sides of fences
    Use to declare allegiances
    We watchers, some of whom
    Shout commands, don’t
    Understand.  Whenever

    I walk outside into a
    Fiery day I always look
    About to see if perchance
    In this one particular one
    Is a means of escape.  Each
    Time, however, I return
    To my cherished snares.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Katla's ending (spoiler)

 I just finished the Netflix-Icelandic TV series, Katla.   Those who died on Katla as well as some who are still alive are being brought back to life or cloned by a meteor buried underneath the ice.  Whether the rejuvenating substance came from an alien species who modified its world only to have it exploded for some reason and sent as meteors out into space -- or a natural substance isn't explained.

The photography is superb, the acting excellent, and the writing very good.  One is drawn into the predicaments of the various characters and the various confrontations they have with the previously dead or living clones.  Some of the resolutions are ugly but they aren't dwelt upon. 

I assumed there would be just the one season since it had a clever ending.  One set of identical young women decide to engage in Russian Roulette so that the confusion involved in two of them being married to the same husband will be eliminated.  Finally on the last shot, one of them is killed and it seemed to be the cheerful happy clone that is shot, but later in a family gathering you see the happy cheerful one charming her family and playing the piano; so it was the morose original who was shot -- unless the morose one is faking it????

Then, in the tradition of Jason, the last episode ends with not one but six recently risen clones heading toward town through the fog.  I read some reviews and fans of this series hoping the ending means there will be a season two. 

Do I want a season two?   I'm of mixed minds.  I did watch all eight episodes, and I "felt" as though the ending was adequate, but in thinking it over I can imagine writers doing something off-the-wall that would make a subsequent series interesting.  Perhaps aliens could show up looking for their missing meteor.  :-)

Artificial Intelligence in Google and elsewhere

 In the 21 January 2021 edition of the London Review of Books is the review (entitled "Insanely Complicated, Hopelessly Inadequate") by Paul Taylor* of three books:

The Promise of Artificial Intelligence: Reckoning and Judgment by Brian Cantwell Smith

Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We can Trust by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis

The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea pearl and Dana Mackenzie


*Paul Taylor is "a professor of health informatics at University College London."


Taylor quotes Brian Cantwell Smith to say "huge efforts are made to constrain the vocabulary used in clinicians' computer systems, but the problem goes deeper hat that.  It isn't that we can't agree on the words: it's that there aren't always well-defined concepts to which the words can be attached." 

"Smith tried to explain this by comparing a map of the islands in Georgian Bay in Ontario with an aerial photograph showing the islands along with the underwater topography.  On the map, the islands are clearly delineated; in the photography it's much harder to say where each island ends and he sea begins, or even exactly how many islands there are.  There is a difference between the world as we perceive it, divided into separate objects, and the messier reality.  We can use logic to reason about the world as described on the map, but the challenge for AI is how to build the map from the information in the photograph."

"Cantwell Smith argues that if we seem to inhabit a world that is constructed of 'discrete, well-defined mesoscale objects exemplifying properties and standing in unambiguous relations', that is an achievement of our intelligence, not a truth that can be used when engineering an artificial intelligence.  This will resonate with anyone who has tried to express seemingly straightforward concepts in sets of rules, only to be defeated by the complexity of real life."

Comment:

I was once passed over for a promotion because, according to the manager, I was the only one who knew how to do the work.  So the promotion went to someone with a business degree who regularly attempted to get me to create procedures to describe how the work ought to be done.  Since I wouldn't comply, he brought in outside experts to create the procedures he wanted; so I marked them up to show how they wouldn't work.  So yes, Smith's arguments resonate with me. 

Perhaps the above is part of the reason I have never taken the Vienna Circle, especially Carnap, seriously.  Carnap for example defines everything that doesn't have its roots in empiricism as "nothing."  Godel would never say such a thing.

Godel, Manifest and Katla

 If Godel received his breakthrough insights through a sort-of poetic inspiration and felt about them in the same terms in which poets have described their best poetry, namely that the poems weren't created by the poets but by their poetic muses, then he wasn't going to be impressed with the Logical Positivists.  The Logical Positivists subscribed whole-heartedly to Wittgenstein's Tractatus and discount his ladder as combat fatigue or something like that.  But Wittgenstein himself never subscribed whole-heartedly to the beliefs of the Logical Positivists. 

As proper atheists, the Logical Positivists believed that man would eventually know everything -- that there were no limits to man's capabilities.  The poets and Godel benefited from inspirations they could neither explain, duplicate nor cause to work at their behests.  And while not necessarily crediting God, though some did, they knew better than to sign up to the Logical Positivist narrative.

I am only 35% through the biography of Godel and so don't know to what extent he credits God, nor any of the reasons he believed himself to be a failure, nor the reasons he felt incapacitating guilt.

Setting Godel aside off and on this past week I watched the first two seasons of Manifest.  An airplane takes off and then disappears for 5 1/2 years -- and then it lands.  The 159 passengers and crew aren't aware of a time lapse.  The world muddles about and draws all the wrong conclusions.  The passengers hear voices, but only a few realize these voices are "callings" -- sort of like the Biblical Holy Spirit urging a person to do the right thing.  "Right" in the Manifest sense isn't exactly Biblical.  It has a Karmic twist to it.  If you do it wrong you will suffer consequences.   The Biblical Holy Spirit if resisted has consequences by definition, i.e., if you resist doing the right thing then you will be doing the wrong one and doing things wrong usually have negative consequences.    

What Scientific theory is Manifest building upon?  Parallel Universes, some of which are mentioned in this wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org but they don't fit Manifest very well.  What seems to be happening is the abandoning of an atheistic parallel universe for a supernatural karmic parallel universe.

In the Netflix Icelandic series Katla, one perhaps instead, thinks (instead of a scientific theory) of Jung's conclusion in his book on Flying Saucers, i.e., that they were mandalas created by man's oversoul (man confined in each sighting to the people who claimed to see the Flying Saucers).  That is, the clones being created covered in volcanic dust would be (in this theory) created by an Icelandic oversoul.  This theory while probably not fitting whatever the Netflix-Katla writers have written (I've only watched 2 seasons and 4 seasons exist), fits best (in my opinion) as far as I've watched.  A really poor story line would involve the ingredients in the Katla volcanic ash doing the cloning.

Godel as a sick soul

alsoI ordered Journey to the Edge of Reason, the Life of Kurt Godel both in Kindle and in the hard copy. 

Godel was mentally unstable late in life.  Several poets that I have liked have been mentally unstable, but their brand of instability, for most of them, was manic-depression, bipolar disorder; which fits well with the writing of poetry.  One cannot write in an inspired mode continuously; so when that mode is gone, one is bound to feel a bit depressed.  Anyone, perhaps, would feel a bit of mild depression, but the ones I have in mind entered into extremes.  

Some however descended into extreme depression which seems from the little I've thus far read to have been Godel's situation.  He didn't seem to have a manic mode.  The fact that he was being deserted: Einstein's death, Roth's suicide among others who died, but especially his wife's hospitalization affected him strongly.  He believed someone was trying to poison him and so would only eat food that she prepared.  After she was hospitalized he wouldn't eat anything and so starved himself to death.

Leo Depuydt's opinions are interesting.  He thinks that if someone has deep feelings of failure, you should take him at his word.  I thought, when I read Depuydt, of William James' Varieties of Religious experience.  James classed people into two categories: Healthy and Sick souls.  Godel would be a sick soul.  Depuydt sounds as though he is a Healthy soul.  Perhaps people with healthy souls aren't very good judges of people with Sick souls.  

Vienna as an ideal "place"

 Stephen Budiansky early in Journey to the Edge of Reason reports that Godel was affected by the suicide of Joseph Roth, "one of the countless victims of what the historian George Berkley called 'the most unrequited love affair in urban history" -- the tragic devotion of Vienna's 300,000 Jews to the country that had given them and 2 million of their kinsmen an unparalleled haven and hope only to see it ground to ashes." 

Budiansky adds, "'Austria is neither a state, a home, nor a nation,' says the mad brother of one of Roth's characters, a Polish count from the Austrian territory of Galicia.  'It is a religion.'  'It is thus not a multinational state, but a supra-national one,' he explains: 'the only supra-nation which has existed in the world.' (As a private person my brother is as mad as a hatter,' says the count, 'but where politics is concerned he is second to none' -- one of Roth's many wry allusions to the schizophrenic realities of Austrian life.)"

Further down, Budiansky writes, 'Those years, recalled the writer Stefan Zweig, another contemporary of Godel's, and like Roth another Austrian Jew who managed to escape Hitler only to die by his own hand in heartbroken exile, were the 'Golden Age of Security.'"

Comment:  I've been walking about with the idea of "place."  But none of California's places are as well established as those in Europe where 300,000 people can have a love affair with Vienna.    I didn't care about that sort of thing.  I'm used to getting everything else from magazines, books, and the internet.  And yet, I've been wondering lately what it means to miss out on the sort of thing 300,000 Viennese Jews felt for their place.

When our ancestors began farming about 15,000 years ago they had "places" that their hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't. Did early farmers love those places?  Or did the love have to wait until more beautiful places were built?

To what extent Godel was affected by the loss of Vienna, I have thus far only Budiansky's hint, but Budiansky quotes Godel's psychiatrist to say that Godel mourned the loss of the intellectual vigor he had in his twenties when his mathematical achievements were established and praised.    

More on Godel

 I just read the Wikipedia article which is more respectful of Godel than Depuydt is.  I was interested in this description of Godel's belief in religion: 

Gödel was a theist in the Christian tradition.[38] He believed that God was personal, and called his philosophy "rationalistic, idealistic, optimistic, and theological".[39]

Gödel believed firmly in an afterlife, saying, "Of course this supposes that there are many relationships which today's science and received wisdom haven't any inkling of. But I am convinced of this [the afterlife], independently of any theology." It is "possible today to perceive, by pure reasoning" that it "is entirely consistent with known facts." "If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife]."[40]

In an unmailed answer to a questionnaire, Gödel described his religion as "baptized Lutheran (but not member of any religious congregation). My belief is theistic, not pantheistic, following Leibniz rather than Spinoza."[41] Of religion(s) in general, he said: "Religions are, for the most part, bad—but religion is not".[42] According to his wife Adele, "Gödel, although he did not go to church, was religious and read the Bible in bed every Sunday morning",[43] while of Islam, he said, "I like Islam: it is a consistent [or consequential] idea of religion and open-minded."[44]

Kurt Godel and Leo Depuydt

 There is a biography just out:  Journey to the Edge of Reason: The Life of Kurt Godel by Stephen Budiansky.  I was tempted, a little bit.  Then I read Leo Depuydt's review (on Amazon) which I consider very much worth reading:   [Depuydt abbreviates the names of the people he discusses.  Thus Albert Einstein is AE and Kurt Godel is KG.]  Here is the last bit of his Amazon review:

At that time, the Einstein fuse had burned out and he was just a shadow of his former self, turning himself into some kind of a freak show that still dominates the airwaves.

I am not even trying to be critical of KG the Man. He was talented in many ways. So, he was weird. But then, he was harmless. And you can’t say that about all weird people, though he did freak out people a little on occasion and also got into all kinds of disputes a good deal more than most people. The author and myself are evidently diametrically opposed in regard to KG The Myth. But then, the author does transmit the prevailing narrative, a narrative with which I could not disagree more. And the book did nothing to change my mind regarding this disagreement. Quite to the contrary, it helped me strengthen my personal opinion about something that I had long suspected; that is why I personally welcome the book. Reporting the prevailing narrative may just be the task of the biographer. And the author does report the narrative objectively. The author reports the Myth. I see his book as a tool to finally help end the Myth. There are many indications throughout the book of cracks in the Myth. For example, KG later in life felt that he had not done much over several decades at the Institute of Advanced Studies. And that was true. Should such a statement not just raise some suspicion? KG even once, still in his prime, as I learned from the book, submitted an article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was rejected because the reviewer could not make any sense of it. Should that not raise some suspicion?

I add in the margin that books about KG and accomplices are often packaged by the media and the book industry as books about a supreme genius. So for a $20 bill or so you can “read the mind of God” or the like. That is a really good deal. Beats going to Disneyland. This reminds me of AE’s famous statements quoting the thoughts of God. Either this was totally ironical or just plain stupid. But people actually buy it most of the time. Go figure. (By the way, I talked to God the other day and he told me He would not tell AE anything because He was afraid as to what he was going to do with it).
In sum. This book needed writing. Finally. It took real work. Impressively. And it is well written. Thankfully. We need many, many more books like this.* To cut more of the crap. There is too much of it. Quousque tandem?

*In fact, a book about another Holy Cow just came out, about St. Stephen (that is, Hawking) by Charles Seife. Also recommended reading.


Leo Depuydt currently works in the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology, Brown University. "Leo does research in Rational Human Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and the History of Science. His current projects include 1) "Complete definition of the operating system (OS) of the human brain" (yes: all of it! see the book[*]), trying to show at the same time how all current efforts at AI are completely misguided and money down the drain (such a terrible waste) and 2) "Mapping the Geography of Infinity" (or "The Role of Infinity in the Physical Universe"). In regard to the latter, it can be shown mathematically that the universe is infinite and timeless and that time is only a limitation imposed on the human condition; it is a straightjacket in which all of humanity is held captive. LD"

[*] I went to Amazon to "see the book" Depuydt refers to, but it isn't there.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Marjorie Perloff on Menand's The Free World

 I just read the review in the TLS by Marjorie Perloff of Louis Manand's The Free World, Art and Thought in the Cold War. 

Perloff begins her review with a quote from the beginning of Manand's book:  "This book is about a time when the United States was actively engaged with the rest of the world.  In the twenty years after the end of the Second World War, the United States invested in the economy of Japan and Western Europe and extended loans to other countries around the world.  With the United Kingdom, it created the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to support global political stability and International trade.  It hosted the new United Nations.  Through its government, its philanthropic foundations, its universities, and its cultural institutions, it established exchange programs for writers and scholars, distributed literature around the globe, and sent art from American collections and music by American composers and performers abroad. . . . Works of literature and philosophy from all over the world were published in affordable translations.  Foreign movies were imported and distributed across the country. . . ."

I thought of Clive Bell's Civilization.  Surely the United States doing the things Manand describes is deserving of some slight bit of the classification "Civilized."  But that thought begins to crumble as one gets past this first section, as I have, having bought the book.  The U.S. becomes embroiled in the world's shadier activities and doesn't manage nearly as well as it did during the first period.  But this is not, apparently, a point Menand wants to emphasize.  He wants to show how the U.S. has been changed, how its art has grown and improved, how in fact the U.S. has become more cultured and perhaps (I am hopeful) civilized.  The news is full of our shortcomings, but something dramatic and even revolutionary has happened in art, in culture, in understanding if not in politics during the period Menand discusses . . . at least it would seem so from Perloff's review and in the few pages I've thus far read. 


The retired haenyeo Oh Yeong-Geum

 

I received my copy of Moon Tides, Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea, published in 2011.  I turned first to the section on Aging.  There is a photo of Oh Yeong-Geum, born in 1915.  She would have been 38 years old when I was there and might conceivable have been one of the women I saw bobbing up from dives to rest briefly on her float.  Here is what she's quoted as saying in an interview with the book's author Brenda Paik Sunoo in 2007:

"I learned to be a haenyeo all by myself when I began going to the sea when I was 15 years old.  My mother and grandmother were not haenyeo. I have never been to the mainland or the deep sea to do haenyeo work.  I've only dived around here, and only in shallow waters.

"I have four daughters and two sons.  Two daughters live in jeju-si, and two live here in Gimnyeong.  Two of them are haenyeo.  But the second one who lives here doesn't do haenyeo work because she is afraid of the deep water.  I live with my first son's family here in Gimnyeong.  He is 59 years old, a barber.  My second son lives in Seoul.

"I stopped doing haenyeo work when I was 75 years old, in the late 80s.  In past times, we never had rubber suits like the women divers wear today.  During the winter, we were really freezing when we came out of the sea.  We shivered terribly and even gritted our teeth a lot because it was so cold.  These days, the haenyeo wear rubber suits, so they can stay in the water for five hours straight without feeling too cold.

"When I was a haenyeo, we made a fire with dry grass or wood brought from home around a bulteok (fire pit).  These days, the haenyeo can take a hot shower after diving.  They're so lucky.  When we washed out our cotton suits and laid them on the rocks to dry, they quickly became frozen.  It was such a miserable and tough time back then.  One of my daughters went to the mainland to do haenyeo work.  No one has had a harder life than her.

"Before I got married, I took a boat for two days to Japan.  Many people got seasick and vomited and couldn't eat anything.  But I was okay.  I worked at a zipper factory.  While there, I met my husband through a matchmaker at age 20.  He was originally from Gimnyeong.  I am from Sehwa.  After we were married, and I got pregnant, we came back to Gimnyeong when the Pacific War broke out.

"Through the years, I did farming and haenyeo work.  I never went to school.  Because my husband was an only son, he didn't do much of anything.  While farming, I grew barley and foxtail millet."

Comment:  I gather Sunoo has never been a haenyeo or dived along with them to see what it was like.  I distrust some of her comments a little.

My recollection, which may be faulty is that the haenyeo I saw wore bathing suits, but I only saw them when they came up and then from perhaps 50 yards away so perhaps I'm "remembering" what was actually an assumption.  I started diving again perhaps shortly after 1963 and well before I could afford a wet suit.  The Pacific Ocean I dived in was probably warmer than the Ocean off Jeju Island.  It seemed pretty cold at the time, but then so did the Pacific after I'd been in it for a few hours.   At first I got a partial suit which was easy to swim with and didn't require many lead weights to allow me to submerge.  But eventually I got a full suit like the women are depicted using in the book.  They were cumbersome, but they did allow me to stay out longer.

I have a lot of pleasant memories of diving.  For me it wasn't the hard work that these women describe -- not really work at all.  If I could spear 3 or 4 fish that weighed over a pound each, that would provide more fillets than we were willing to eat in a week -- and I often speared more fish than that.  These woman had to keep working until their nets were filled and then swim them to shore so their good-for-almost-nothing-husbands could take them.  The husbands would then give them fresh nets so they could keep on working. 

Yeong-Geum is quoted as saying she gave up working as a haenyeo when she was 75 years old.   I gave up diving because Susan didn't really like to be along when I was spearing fish and I didn't usually want to just sail, but especially when Susan became too ill to do either.   It is interesting to read these active and former Haenyeo discussing matters like these . . . I too once took a sea voyage to Japan.  Mine was on the General Gordon and took 13 days.  Like Yeong-Geum on her voyage I didn't get sick, but most of the others did and everything below deck smelled like vomit.

Preferring a liberal to a technical education

 

On page 62 of Civilization, Clive Bell writes, "A sense of values, as I understand the term, is possessed only by those who are capable of sacrificing obvious and immediate goods to the more subtle and remote.  People who deliberately sacrificed comfort to beauty -- with no practical or superstitious end in view -- would appear to me to possess a sense of values.  To prefer a liberal to a technical education, an education that teaches how to live rather than one that teaches how to gain, is another manifestation of this highly civilized sense."

This is on Bell's list as an attribute of a civilized person, and beyond that as a value that will be "enthroned" in any Civilized Society.  He doesn't insist that every member of such a society think in this way, but it must be enthroned. 

In my own case I enrolled in college on the G.I. Bill but didn't at first know what to major in.  I was predisposed because of my grandmother's teachings to study "the classics," which weren't taught as such, but eventually declared "English" as my major.  It was as close as I could get to my grandmother's ideal.  However, I don't recall any professor ever suggesting that if one majored in English he would learn "how to live", nor did I graduate with the understanding that I then knew how to live. 

But even if I were to understand my education in the Clive Bell sense, this understanding was not "enthroned" in my college or society.  I met Bell's requirement of not choosing a major that would teach me "how to gain," but I didn't feel good about it.  My stepfather had urged me to major in Engineering because "that's where the good-paying jobs are."  But I had unwisely gotten married, was supplementing my G.I. Bill by loading and unloading trucks, and doing my studying in the Teamster's hiring hall.  If on top of that I had to major in a subject I didn't like, I was fairly sure, I would never have graduated.  I majored in English because its course of study was what I liked best and not because the value of a Liberal Education was "enthroned" in my society or in my family.  Engineering was.

When I was sent by the Bliss and Sons Employment Agency to Douglas Aircraft Company to work in Engineering, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to succeed there; so I kept my Teamster's membership active.  Also, I enrolled in graduate school and worked on my Master's degree, first at California State University at Long Beach State, but later at California State University at Dominquez Hills.  I got half way through the Master's program before figuring out that I was probably going to stay in Engineering, and the vague idea that teaching at perhaps a Junior College might be preferable to loading trucks on the docks went a glimmering. 

I learned that Douglas preferred loyalty in its workers.  If someone employed at Douglas was clearly working on a degree that would enable him to work at something more to his liking, then such a person became vulnerable when a layoff was required.  I enjoyed studying English literature, but I was far enough along to know I could study it (or merely enjoy it) on my own.  Also, I couldn't risk being seen to be studying in order to leave Douglas for something else.   The idea of a Liberal Education as something to be valued for itself and not as a means "for gain" was not enthroned at Douglas Aircraft Company.

As to the popularity of Clive Bell's ideas, I just checked Bell's Civilization on Amazon's "Best Sellers Rank."  It is 9,505,896 in Books.  But Bell, if he were able to come back to life and observe this fact, would say it is what he would expect.  "Civilization" is rare and difficult to achieve.

Menachem Kaiser and Lafcadio Hearn

 

I just finished the Menachem Kaiser's Plunder.  

I was especially interested in the matter of how current generations deal with past injustices.  I just read an article on Lafcadio Hearn, "Far From the Realm of the Real" (from the June 10, 2021 issue of the New York Review of Books) in which Christopher Carroll examines three "recent" books by Lafcadio Hearn.  Hearn died in 1904 but there has been an ongoing interest (mostly by the Japanese) in and reverence for the writings of Hearn who repudiated the industrialized ways of America and moved to Japan before it became industrialized. 

Carroll writes, "Perhaps the best and best known of the tales from Kwaidan [which Hearn wrote] -- and according to Setsu [Hearn's wife] one of Hearn's favorites -- is 'The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi' . . . about a blind biwa player famous for his musical recitation of the epic history of the Heike and the Genji, two rival clans fighting for control of twelfth-century Japan.  'Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi' opens with a brief account of the final battle between the clans -- the Battle of Dan-no-ura, one of the most significant in Japanese history -- in which 'the Heike perished utterly, with their women and children, and their infant emperor likewise.' . . .

Even if there were descendants of the Heike.  (There could be. Historians back then weren't very civilized either.)  I doubt they would be resenting the Gengi for what they did in the twelfth century.  It isn't that Hitler did anything without precedent.  Lots of generals in Europe as well as in Japan a thousand years ago, did that sort of thing.  It is that the predominate view of Western Europeans was that they were now too civilized to do that sort of thing.  The proper way we (who are more civilized than Hitler) fight a war is to fight until the other side gives up.  Then everyone gets to go home.  We no longer attempt to slaughter all of our enemies. 

Kaiser, as did most of the people he encounters, seemed to believe that we in the West (and probably the world) are past wanting to destroy our enemies utterly.  We are now more secure in our civilization, whether German, Pole or Jew.  Kaiser likes the tenants living in Unit 12 (during the time he thought it was his grandfather's building).   The Poles living there now aren't prejudiced against Jews.  Kaiser likes them which makes it easy for him to later on let things go when the implacable Polish bureaucracy can't abandon its procedures in order to do what is right. 

The bit about the ten golden eggs is amusing and a good way for Kaiser to end his book.  While he and Steve are surreptitiously digging into an attic wall, with the permission of the apartment owner, their guilt is mounting.  As they are getting close to discovering whether the eggs are really there, the apartment owner sends up word that they can buy the whole apartment for $10,000.  Heck, Steve says, I don't want her apartment, but if the eggs are there I'll give her $10,000 (the golden eggs are worth $120,000). 

Earlier Kaiser tells Steve he won't put anything in his book about the egg search that Steve disapproves of.  Steve tells him that if they find the eggs, Kaiser isn't to say so in his book.  So instead, Kaiser tells us, as he digs the bricks out of the way, Steve looks in and exclaims "Oh my god!" 

Places, some of them nostalgic

 Torrance did have a beach, Hermosa, Redondo or some place like that, but it was sandy and no place for free diving.  I drove to places in Palos Verdes, especially White's Point with lots of rocks like the Jeju ladies climbed over.  It took me 20 or 30 minutes to drive to those places.   In those days, when my first wife was learning to spend more than I made, I supplemented my initially meager income by keeping our freezer full of fish.  We ate more fish than most people.

As to surfers, I did have some conflicts with them on occasion.  Some of them seemed as though they would have liked to have gotten pushy with their boards, but by then I used a spear-gun with a 4-foot-long stainless steel spear which I'm sure impinged upon any aggressive thoughts they might have entertained.   

More nostalgia:

At age 12 while living in Wilmington I got a paper route delivering the Long Beach Press Telegram.  That's where I learned to wrestle, which is what we did until our papers arrived -- after which we'd fold them, put them in our bags, sling our bags over the racks on our bicycles and rush off to make our deliveries.  Collecting was the worst part of that job.  We collected every month and not everyone was happy about paying for their papers. 

After the paper route job, my truck-driving step-father got me a job as a water-melon stacker working for Al Harrison, "the water melon king."   After that I worked for Harry Foster who bought a burned-down warehouse on the docks.  It was full of clocks.  He hired a crew of high-school boys to remove G.E & Telechron roters.  We also salvaged pot metal.  He made me the foreman; which involved some conflicts.  Some of the kids who didn't want to work as hard as I did would dig themselves inside of the stacks of empty cardboard boxes and hide out.  When I discovered that I fired the worst culprits, one of whom was my cousin David.  This occasioned my aunt Dorothy saying she would never forgive me, but she did.  This also occasioned a fairly savage fight between me and the boy who first learned about the salvage job, Andy Dugas.  He thought he should have been the foreman.  He thought I didn't have the authority to fire him.  Mr. Foster showed up while we were fighting, asked what was going on.  I told him.  He backed me up and Andy stalked off.  As far as I know, he never forgave me. 

When I started college, at what was then Long Beach State, I had the G.I. Bill which wasn't very much.  My father got me into the Operating Engineers and I drove a lumber carrier for a while.  After that my step-father got me into the Teamster's Union and I loaded and unloaded trucks.  I worked out of the Teamster's Hiring Hall in Wilmington.  I would put my name on the list and when a truck driver would call to say that he needed a couple of swampers, unless he specified particular ones by name, the next names on the list would be called.  That worked out well for me.  I arranged my classes either Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesdays and Thursdays and worked out of the hiring hall on the other days.   I would take books inside and study until my name was called. 

While I was in the Teamster's Union we had an election.  We were all encouraged to vote for Jimmy Hoffa.  We could have voted for whomever we wanted, but we were advised, "sure, Jimmy Hoffa is a crook, but he's our crook" so of course I voted for Jimmy.

When I started work at Douglas Aircraft Company in August 1959, I wasn't sure that job was going to work out; so I kept my Teamster's membership active for a few years. 

I bought the Torrance House in 1962.  That was the year McNamara cancelled the Skybolt program which is the program I was working on and doing well enough to encourage me to risk buying a house.  Thankfully I was able to transfer over to the Commercial side where I worked on DC-8s and DC-9s.  One fellow I worked with, one day challenged me about all the different jobs mentioned doing (and I didn't mention all of them above).   His name was Ken Hackney.  We became good friends, but he was eventually laid off.  He "borrowed" $50 from me so he could take a job as editor of a small newspaper in some state like Kansas.  Before he left he gave me a copy of the poems of Yeats in which he inscribed

"For the Helms, Christmas 1969

"And many a poor man that has roved,

Loved and thought himself beloved,

From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes."

Thank you both,

Love, Ken & M.L."

[I had forgotten about M.L.  Ken's first wife left him.  He crashed his car but survived; after which he found himself a librarian, M.L.]

Further on "love of place"

 I think I have always wanted to make the best of wherever I lived, but not overtly, not consciously, not (as Susan would observe) acknowledging that sort of feeling, and not usually with much success.

Yes, I miss the ocean as well, but my discovery of the videos on the diving women of Jeju Island caused me to think more clearly about diving.  I bought the book I referenced, Moon Tides: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea by Brenda Paik Sunoo.  Sunoo's title may be a bit off-putting to many.  It doesn't seem to have sold well on Amazon.  I bought it not because I saw them diving, but because many of them are still diving at about my age.  The lady for example who is 80 and plans to dive until she is 85 was interesting inasmuch as I'm now 86.  Of course I no longer dive, but I think about it.  Diving was for me a "place" that I loved.  But I couldn't avoid the impracticality of it.  I admired the lady who had her left arm bitten off by a shark who has figured out a way to keep diving and seems to enjoy every minute of it.  I sympathized with the 91-year-old lady who stumbled on the rocks, fell down, and yelled "I'm going to die."  I wonder if that was the correct translation of what she said.  I suspect she was intending to go on her first dive after the two month hiatus that was mentioned elsewhere.  She had deteriorated in those two months, but she probably thought that if she could make it over the rocks and into the sea she would be okay.  When she couldn't she may have concluded while she lay there on the rocks that if she could no longer do what she had loved to do for so many years, that she may as well die.

The rocks they had to traverse were worse than what I normally had to contend with. 

As to this house in San Jacinto being a place that is "the best place for [this] time of [my] life," I can't really say that.  It was always a compromise.  Susan and I negotiated where we would live until her parents died.  But I admit that it is comfortable, and the view out my study windows is better than that from any house I've ever lived in.  It also is close to the river in which I still enjoy hiking.  Also, with 2,000 square feet, a three car garage as well as a storage shed, and just the dogs and I living here, it has as much room as I can ever imagine needing. 

Several years ago a family moved into the house across the street, a man, wife, a passel of kids and some relatives.  The mother of the kids once looked at me, then looked at my house, which was larger than hers, shook her head, and observed,  "All that room and just the two of your living there."  Alas, there is now just one. 


Further on diving, Jeju Island and elsewhere

 

I deviated from Nazi treasure after discovering the Youtube videos of the diving women of Jeju Island.  I didn't know much about them when I was there and hadn't thought much about them since; so not only did I enjoy the education, but much of what they did was something I also did.  A big difference was that I used a spear gun and went only after fish whereas they dove for delicacies, most of which I've never heard of. Some of them did spear small fish, but they were forbidden spear guns. 

I did know about abalone.  That is the one thing we could get before we learned how to spear fish.  We didn't have much money when we were 15; so a cheap lunch for us was to dive for a bunch of abalone, pound them up and fry them.  Years later when I began diving again, taking abalone was illegal. Perhaps the Koreans who came to California after that war took too many.  I was down there once when a Korean was arrested with 30 abalone in his bag. 

One of the Youtube videos showed a woman diving with only one arm.  the other had been taken by a thresher shark.  Her husband was interviewed saying he tried to talk her out of diving but she said she wouldn't feel right about herself if she stopped.  She said she had to work twice as fast as the others because of having just the one arm.  One sequence showed her getting ready to dive and asking the camera person to help her with her mask.  She seemed happy.

One sequence showed a woman who was said to be 91, spindly legged and feeble, but nevertheless loaded up with all her diving gear.  She stumbled on the rocks and fell.  She lay on her back in frustration yelling that she was going to die.  She didn't look strong enough to make it all the way into the sea.

In the videos they all had the same sort of floats.  In my case I tied an old gunny sack to an inner tube.  I had to swim after my float after I came up; so on windy days I had to swim a little farther.  I thought about an anchor, but there was much on the bottom for one to tangle in. 

The diving women all made whistling noises when they came up.  They said that helped them in some way, maybe with the bleeding.  I never learned to do that. 

A typical diving day for them was five hours.  Perhaps my dives would have added up to about five hours, but I came in when I got too cold to hold my spear-gun steady.  I would then sit on a rock until I warmed up.  If my hands continued to shake then I just went home.  The longest I would stay out on a single dive was three hours.  After warming up I was usually good for another hour or two.  One of the videos asserted that women were less affected by the cold water because they had more body-fat than men. 

The women dived in groups.  That never worked for me.  I didn't want to dive near anyone else using a spear-gun.

Some of the women in the videos were funny.  One woman said that she had to work long hours diving so her husband could afford to buy enough liquor to get drunk.

What those women do is hard work, and they enjoy doing it, but some of them were quoted as saying they were continuing on as long as possible (one 80 year old women planned to keep diving until she was 85) so she could pay for her daughter's education.  Someone commented that they all wanted their daughters to get educations so they wouldn't have to do the difficult work they did. 

In my case I slowly gave up free-diving after Susan became too ill to enjoy being out on our boat.  She never tried diving.  I tried to make the outings enjoyable for her.  One day she, along with some guests, were in our boat (a Catalina 22) when I excused myself and slipped over the side.  I found a rock with a lot of seals on or around it.  A couple of them looked as though they were going to object to my presence, which was interesting, but I went ahead and speared several fish and then dashed back to the boat.  I dumped the fish into the cockpit because that is what I always did (I'd normally clean the fish at sear and store them in a cooler before heading home), but in this case Susan shrieked and yelled, "get those fish out of here." 

"Where shall I put them" I wondered outloud?

"Can't you tow them behind the boat?"

"No, that won't work."  I thought for a moment and then decided to put them back into my gunny sack and store them in my anchor locker.  I was going to have to clean them later at home which Susan wasn't going to like either.

Our friends were amused; so Susan turned to them and explained, "they were flopping on my feet."