Page 1 of 16
Posted on October 17 at 12:36 p.m.
What else but a dim-wit democracy does one expect from a society that values actors, athletes and fast food above all else?
In the process of becoming an established subject-matter expert in several narrow technical fields, I learned two things very well: 1) how difficult it is to master a skill or topic area sufficiently to contribute meaningfully to it, and 2) how little I know about most things. With that base, I’m continually amazed at the obvious unknowing ignorance spouted privately and publicly without any inkling of structured thought – that is no discipline in separating opinions and notions from established or proven-beyond-reasonable-doubt ideas. If we all succumbed to the Dunning-Kruger effect and, for example, relied mainly on gut feelings, as most Americans appear to, we’d have no modern science and none of the resultant conveniences that most take for granted.
I suspect that our republican democracy will flounder as long as education continues to be an undervalued and poorly rewarded activity. Without a general populace that has a balanced sense of history and developed capability for critical thinking we, as a ‘democratic’ society, are doomed.
E.O. Wilson summed the underlying issues very well when he said:
“People would rather believe than know.” And
“Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”
On Dimwit Democracy
Posted on October 8 at 6:19 a.m.
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
Howard Beale, Network, 1976
On The So-Called Threat of Terrorism
Posted on October 7 at 12:28 p.m.
at_large the thrust of your comment is general and has little or nothing to do with the subject accident: "Distracted Driver in L.A. Kills Cyclist"
There is little doubt that too large a fraction of road users (auto drivers and bicyclists) are careless and don't obey basic traffic rules, and it'd be beneficial to correct that. But your comment confuses vehicle registrations and the driver's licenses. The purpose of vehicle registration is to establish ownership, tax, insurance and pollution issues - issues which have little or nothing to do with bicycles. The driver's licenses issued in the US indicates that the operator has passed a test showing some basic level of competency. A vehicle is registered, the operator is licensed.
The idea of requiring bicyclists who pedal on our roads to have some sort of operator license may have merit but that is a general issue which has nothing to do with the accident described in the article we are (supposedly) commenting on.
On Failing to Share the Road
Posted on September 24 at 11:13 a.m.
Based on this article, if the driver had obeyed the laws and driven responsibly then this accident likely would not have happened and the bicyclist would be alive and uninjured, and the young driver would not be facing a painful judicial process. There is no reason a car or truck can’t wait until it is safe to pass, and it was reckless for this driver not to do so.
Yet Autocoalition blames the victim of this tragic accident and fails to consider or mention that the perpetrator allegedly was in violation of several laws when the accident occurred. Aside from the gross and pathetic insensitivity this comment demonstrates, the lack of credibility and validity of Autocoalition’s statements are further evidenced.
On Truck-Bicycle Death Charges Filed
Posted on September 23 at 11:59 a.m.
Bicycling is an important and growing part of our transportation system. Our over-dependence on automobiles contributes to pollution, dependence on foreign oil, obesity and heart disease. If, when practical, more people bicycled or walked instead of driving then our population and environment would be healthier. Safer accommodation of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists requires change. The Active Transportation Grant described in this article is a positive step toward improving infrastructures so that bicycles are separated from pedestrians and motor vehicles on busy and narrow streets.
On Pedaling Safely in Our Communities
Posted on June 8 at 10:51 p.m.
Perhaps St Billy is a poodle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-hQwj...
On Survival of the Beautiful
Posted on June 8 at 9:59 p.m.
pk - Thou doth protest too much. Look at your initial post. It is you who began the abusive and dismissive tone. "Perhaps the Independent's Pet Psychic could help." Really? What have you added besides that? The following?
"Since you're the one who claims to have principles of beauty, the challenge is for you, not someone who denies there are such universals, to identify the supposed commonalities in my examples and show how they follow from your principles."
Seems you "just asserted" something that is "just a private redefinition to suit your metaphysical presuppositions." And without any reason or discussion. Why is that? Why are you sure there are no unifying principles of beauty? Do tell.
Seems, at best, you have a double standard. I don't see anything constructive in your comments, rather only reflexive ad hominem and defensive posturing.
Posted on June 8 at 9:03 a.m.
@pk: Let me see if I can simplify this for you: your examples were unclear and appeared to involve only the visual. Beauty is not limited to the visual, it is deeper than that. A “better-balanced, broader, and better-thought-out” example would involve the senses, action and syntax. For example, paintings and music, philanthropic acts, and mathematical formulations can all be perceived as ‘beautiful.’
What do these things have in common? As Tam’s essays make clear, many people have explored that question and looked for unifying ‘principles of beauty.’ Of course, those principles may or may not exist. And if they do, they may be human constructs or be objective quantities. But one who “denies there are such universals” without offering any reason, adds nothing constructive to the dialog.
Posted on June 7 at 8:40 p.m.
Pk thinks that Erin McGraw’s definition of beauty is a “collection of question-begging generalities” that “gets us no closer to what there is in that thing that makes that person react in that way.” While I acknowledge the difficulty in nailing an elusive quality like the subject one, I wonder why no alternative definition or a definition of a quality similar to beauty is offered as a point of reference. One is left to study pk’s previous post which, upon reflection, either indicates a shallow and narrow understanding of beauty, or an imbalanced and poorly thought out example. Paintings and sunsets are superficially beautiful. A woman may be perceived as a beautiful object, or be appreciated for the more subtle qualities KV alludes to and made famous in the saying “Beauty is what beauty does.” If pk was listing his wife with a painting and sunset because she looks good in a bathing suit (for example), then his earlier post suggests the narrow understanding of beauty. If the latter, then his examples are not well-thought out. Either way, it makes the value of further correspondence suspect.
It is interesting that Merriam Webster also uses a collection of question-begging generalities to define beauty that are similar to those used by McGraw: beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
Posted on June 7 at 10:43 a.m.
“What do a painting by Ni Tsan, a sunset on a partly cloudy evening, and my wife have in common? Answer: I consider them all beautiful, a judgment unconnected to your so-called “principles” of beauty.” Pk
“pk, I challenge you to find the commonalities in those things you consider beautiful. Surely it's not random? This is what I mean by principles.” TamHunt
Erin McGraw addresses pk’s question and answers Tam’s corresponding challenge with her principles of beauty when she writes “…the presence of some display of harmony, intelligence, and genius—that will do, I hope, as a rough and ready definition of beauty”