Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wittgenstein, Popper and the Poker

There's a story about Wittgenstein that's well worth remembering. At a gathering of great minds, he got kind of heated around the subject of whether morality was an objective true thing or whether it was essentially a rule constructed by us people to make ourselves feel that we might be getting somewhere useful in a cooperative and friendly way. At the gathering was a man called Karl Popper, who was all about analytical empiricism which essentially is when you look at data collected by the evidence of your senses and you make your judgments about what might be real on the basis of stuff like math, physics, the sciences in general, and this way the argument runs you have a still remote yet much better chance of being roughly correct. No doubt it was some nuance in the discussion that resulted in Wittgenstein picking up a poker from the fireplace and waving it around in a somewhat threatening manner, and having done this for a while Wittgenstein left the room. When Wittgenstein was gone Karl Popper is reported to have remarked that in his view an example a moral rule was that you don't threaten visiting academics with fireplace pokers. I've no clue what point Wittgenstein was trying to make when he got so worked up, but his body of understandings included the idea that the underlying structure of language mirrored the underlying structure of the world.

Worth noting that he didn't say language was logical or scientific, he said language mirrored the world. So if you wanted to know more about what was real, language was the direction to take, and fair warning, if you weren't able to say something clearly then a very good chance what you were trying to say shouldn't be said. And you can understand why Wittgenstein's position might be truly infuriating to anyone who might be remotely interested in for example math. The thing is Wittgenstein was very much about mathematics, his point as I understand it, was that the meaning of a word depended very much upon the context in which the word was framed or uttered. And with respect to the context or game in which the word was uttered the meaning of the word changed. And he argued that within the particular game in which the word was uttered, there were rules as firm as the rules that make mathematics possible. So if you take "Evil is Real" Popper might get a little '"where's your empirical evidence" snide around the statement. Wittgenstein, whether he believed "Evil is Real" or not didn't matter, he'd call the statement true in the context of the rules of the game in which the statement was uttered. Tricky business Wittgenstein, but lessons in his thinking for the relationships you and I develop with the mathematics that power new media, technology, robots, Russians, climate change and it's a long sometimes terrifying list.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


In 1973 the US Ambassador to Uganda in a telegram to the US State Department described the President of Uganda in this way "racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic."

This particular president of Uganda remained in power for eight years and a little over two months. In those eight years he gained the reputation of being one of the most brutal dictators Africa has ever known.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Subjects, Objects, Foucault

West of the English Channel Paul-Michel Foucault was most definitely considered "disconcerting and strange" and consequently many followed his work in a somewhat cultish manner, he was a bright star in a Thatcher Reagan nightmare. One of his questions was why does a society divide people into sane people and insane people, and he wondered how a society did this. One of his conclusions about how a society did this was that a society marked a distinction between sane people and insane people. The distinction permitted society to do things like lock up those of us deemed nutty. And when he started looking around he saw all kinds of distinctions made by society, from sexuality all the way to what a person did for a living. What modern society did, Foucault suggested, was to make members of the society objects of the society instead of subjects. And here in the English language subjects generally means owing obedience to, as in subjects of the King. But by subjects Foucault meant subject in the subjective sense, which is best explained by using the medical use of the word where a subjective condition is a condition perceived by the patient and not a condition diagnosed by an examiner. In short, to be objectified by society is to be told what you are by society, and more often than not when society tells you what you are it's not necessarily who you think you are, but who knows, maybe society knows more about you than you do, so if you know what's good for you sit back and shut up.

Then if a person decides this isn't actually good for me, they come up against a whole social structure that maintains the distinction that yes this is what you are and you'd better get used to it because you're not going anywhere. Foucault goes on to suggest that within the distinctions marked between people within a society by a society, we don't necessarily think like objects and are very prone to trying to come to terms with ourselves by trying to understand our selves, and this can lead to confessional conversations with others. Which is fine if you're confessing something to the Girl Cat, but is a great deal more rewarding if there's someone at the other end of your confession who can say something better than 'open the door I need to go outside.' Thing is in this area of our trying to feel like subjects instead of objects to be moved around on a chess board, we generally look to some form of authority. And as we do so a power relationship develops between our yearning to be subjects, masters of our domain, rather than objects, with an authority. Power relationships like all relationships are mutually reinforcing. The power relationship between Fox News and its viewers, mutually reinforcing. Same with MSNBC, and when you think about it Twitters and Twitter followers, Facebook. The whole thing is depressingly endless and in modern society, despite rumors to the contrary we increasingly remain steadfast objects. Foucault was of the opinion that modern society had come to this as a result of increasing complexity resulting from the demands of the advance of technology. Not just internet, he was 57 when he died in 1984, back then it was all about the microfiche, but he would have read about Walter Cronkite deploying his own power relationship in his February 1968 news broadcast.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Stinkbug, Tomato Alliance

I have a wooden pencil in my mouth, which under any definition qualifies as a touching of wood. I have a clove of Garlic in my shirt pocket. I have tied the laces on a pair of empty shoes, and though I say so myself the bows are quite elegant as they wait on the table beside me. I have read the definition of hubris several times, it's from the Greek for excessive pride and wonton violence. And I finally feel able to say that there might be fewer Stinkbug in the Tomato this year.

Not saying there aren't any, and certainly not saying that the paucity in Stinkbug numbers is in anyway a denigration of Stinkbug's capacity to thrive in high temperatures that the Devil might envy. Stinkbug are what they are and God bless them. So I'll not be gazing lovingly at what could be several perfectly unadulterated by Stinkbug Tomatoes. I'll not take a selfie with them, and won't be jumping up and down or expressing any sense of  personal satisfaction, but I will suggest local Stinkbug and Tomato plants might have watched my horrendous reaction to this year's Bean Bug plague and very diplomatically pulled themselves together gardener-relations-wise.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Couple of War Donkeys.

I was also on the side of Carthage during the Punic Wars, I got terrible excited about the great sea battle of Cape Ecnomus, which was off the southern coast of Sicily. But Carthage, despite outnumbering the Roman Fleet was very badly defeated. The wretched Romans won the battle because they cheated by coming up with a dastardly ship boarding device.

The device was called a corvus and it turned a perfectly decent sea battle into more of a land battle. So you can imagine how keenly I anticipated Hannibal's attempt to invade Italy using War Elephants. That was a long time ago of course, I was young, innocent, incredibly naive, and possibly a little simple. Still reckon we might all benefit from a couple of War Donkeys.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Inkblot Solution

Some minds seem more prone to conspiracy theory than others, and the issue for anyone who due to mental and physical exhaustion might be avoiding the outdoors by obsessing a little on Inkblots is the extent to which Inkblot Nine might produce insight into the conspiracy prone personality. My own experience of Inkblot Nine was lasting and unpleasant, and produced more than the odd raised eyebrow from the examiner, indeed there there was I recall some diligent and gleaming eyed note taking, which struck me as a little unfriendly and without the sort of charm one expects from an individual probing for something more than an eccentric version of reality.

But if a subject who finds it difficult to form an impression of Inkblot Nine is then assumed to be uneasy around structured thinking, I suspect that those reaches of imagination that produce speedier responses might indeed be prone to engaging in conspiracy theories. Of course if a subject instantaneously embarks upon an absolutely confident account of any of the ten inkblots then an examiner might well reach the conclusion that the subject may well have been cheating, which in the view of many is a first suggestion that there's a mind at work that's not too concerned with the veracity or otherwise of source material. The honest answer is to look the examiner in the eye and say "It looks like an inkblot to me, but I'd need more information."

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Inkblots and Justice

On the inkblot test there are ten inkblots, each one attempting to illicit a reaction to an established pattern of thinking. For example, image three is supposed to grant insight into how a person deals with people, and depending on the person's response to the image the examiner can determine how well that person manages social interactions. If the person has a bit of a struggle coming up with how he or she perceives the image, odds are he or she struggles with social interactions.  Number nine is the image which brings to my mind either two Seahorses facing off or an angel trying to find his fly button and it has to do with how well a person manages data. Difficulty responding to image nine suggested difficulty grasping unstructured data.

A very good chance the whole Inkblot Test theory is a frail attempt to deal with the inner working of a mind and the whole thing is a terrible racket. But in the spirit of a Special Council's reluctant appearance before two congressional hearings, it's worth wondering how Robert Swan might have described Inkblot Nine immediately following the hearings. Far be it from me to follow the example of our congressional leaders and attempt to put words in the Special Council's mouth, yet tempting to think the great warrior for justice in whom so many have placed their hopes and dreams might just say "Go F yourselves." Which of course is the right and proper thing to say when anyone is looking for a simple answer from a person devoted to the value and complexities of honest structures.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Volume One Inkblot

Volume One Inkblot is all about how the apparatus of the Russian State observed the venerable traditions of messing with someone else's internal affairs. And the thing is they were very, very successful, and they were primarily very, very successful for two main reasons. The first reason was the effective Russian use of the more modern types of subversion by utilizing social networks that were originally designed to raise vast amounts of money through advertizing revenue. Penny here, a penny there it all adds up and the more effective advertiser needs to have a good idea about who is likely to be interested in their product, otherwise they're selling blind. Clearly the same good and sensible practices apply to anyone with a mind to mess with someone else's country. Generally subversion has less to do with selling shaving cream and more to do with selling discontent, but the techniques are identical.

The second reason the state apparatus of the former Soviet Union was very, very effective has to do with the increasingly precarious position of one of the US political parties which has made a decision to ignore the possibilities and potential of changing demographics within the nation. Instead they appear to have chosen a path that requires them to shall we say take a very dim view of the spirit of democracy, the whole one person one vote thing, and in the process have picked up a lax attitude toward pretty much anything they don't actually want to deal with, because cheating, bullying and lying is just so much easier. This means that even though they might have shuffled their feet a little they welcomed the help of a foreign government to secure the possibility of remaining in power for a couple more years, a little longer and who knows they might not even have to worry about elections. And I wish pundits would stop desperately saying Boris Johnson is 'well read,' he's just another dangerous and mindless megalomaniac. Nero played the lute for goodness sake, and Hitler actually wrote his very own book.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Inkblot Theory of Congressional Hearings

Not sure how many of us might have read both volumes of the Mueller Report, nor am I sure how many of us might have followed the recent debate over whether or not the ten standard images used in the Rorschach Test, or the inkblot test, should be permitted to enter the Public Domain. The prime, and by prime I mean the more sensible, argument in the Inkblot Debate had to do with the effect publication of the images would have on the effectiveness of the test, the assumption being that people prior to being subjected to the test would somehow cheat by having a good long look at the images, come up with ideas about them that were a long way from first impressions, and this would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the test as a tool of psychology. Indeed there's one image that could look like two Seahorses facing off, but given time they begin to look like a single winged angel trying to find his fly button and there's a whole mind flow that can develop from that about whether angels wear trousers, which in turn enables the observer to start trying to see trousers and odds are the observer comes up with the idea that the angel is politely standing behind either a very poorly built wall or some kind of water coloring of an ornamental shrub. Then when you realize you're actually going to be tested for mental balance you know full well that it's best not to mention angels, fly buttons or urination and stick with the clearly much safer Seahorse idea.

With respect to the projected gathering of the political class around Special Council Robert Swan Mueller, there's been a suggestion that given how few of us seem to have read what are apparently actual words, brilliant punctuation and very carefully framed sentences contained within the Mueller Report, nonetheless all sides of the political spectrum have had plenty of time to absorb an inkblot impression of Mueller's Report, come up with solid answers to uncomfortable questions raised by the inkblot that better align with their own private personal hell of ambition which invariably has absolutely nothing to do with the good of the whole. One could argue that this is exactly why the ten Rorschach images should have been kept out of the Public Domain, to keep them honest you have to catch people on the hop. My own argument would be to go with the whole Mueller Report as Inkblot Theory and in the same way that a psychologist might take detailed notes of various responses from the gathering in an attempt to come up with some sort of mental balance and acuity profile for each of the questioners with a view to determining the extent to which the questioner is pursing an existence that vaguely resembles truth seeking as opposed to those sets of visceral emotions that suggest a personality struggling with imbalance which is the more professional way of saying gone full Graham Cocoa Bananas. At the same time one of the criticisms of the Rorschach Test has long had to do with the bias of the examiners, and from bitter experience let me assure you'd best to empty your bladder prior to the examination.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

No Surrender

By evening time yesterday I'd almost decided to devote the rest of the year to indoor winter projects and to heck with all the consequences. Canned Tomato this morning, and that was it I decided, the end of the outdoors for this year, a good long opportunity to embark upon a return to well punctuated short highly meaningful sentences with the possibility of finally coming to terms with colons and semicolons, instead of this endless stringing together of mostly redundant words that basically do nothing but take up valuable space, a classic, pointless and horrible waste those of us familiar with plenty are far too inclined to indulge in as we claw around feeling sorry for ourselves searching for a place in which to become lost in a perfect circle of honey and roses out of which there is no need to venture.

And maybe for the second time since the end of March I found myself suddenly enthusiastic around my chances for actually experiencing a sense of fulfillment in this really awful year of 2019, and by awful, no bones about it, I mean awful while at the same time accepting that in most ways I live what could be called perfect life if I didn't have the misfortune to be an ill tempered, get off my lawn type older person with some very strong and often totally irrational opinions that pretty much reach the presidential end of the continuum of neurotic, which is a polite way of saying mental patient suffering from delusions of grandeur that Mussolini would have been proud of. I was on the verge of burning the notebook that contains a far too complicated to remember password required to access the technical device and the internet news. Then it rained, and for one reason or another I calmed down.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Not the Economy

So what with one thing and another, after all the soul searching, the polls, the hand wringing, the woe is me, Facebook, the opinions and the millions of maybes, fairly safe to say "It's Not The Economy, stupid." And without beating about the bush, it's again time to finally pull ourselves together, address the Wealth of Nations as a moral issue, which on my own reading was what Adam Smith attempted to achieve in his Theory of Moral Sentiment, and in his more famous work The Wealth of Nations.

And stop all this denigration of the great bulk of our species as being perfectly happy and obedient, like Milk Cows in a field waiting to give, just so long as we have a good job and can regularly go shopping for totally pointless things. Mind you and fair warning, that's probably not going to happen this side of some kind of geological time scale.  Depressing? Of course it is, and so was the Protestant Reformation in some quarters. Kind of no wonder Saint Teresa founded the Discalced Carmelites as she searched for her own solutions. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Left and Right

The origin of Left and Right in politics goes back a bit. In the May of 1789 in France there was a financial crisis, this along with a general all round grumpiness with the way things were going resulted in a gathering of interested groups which in France was called the Estates General. It was kind of like the Jirga of the Afghans and the tribes of the western part of Pakistan, some tribes more powerful than others. Yet it was a get together to discuss things and maybe come up with a solution without resorting to bloodshed. The Estates General included three basic Estates, the Clergy, the Nobility and Commoners. In France the Estates General had been around since the 14th Century and over the years it had evolved a little. Well in the June of 1789 the power sharing arrangements in the Estates General weren't really cutting it for us Commoners, decisions were being made that we Commoners didn't really feel represented our point of view at the table and pretty much anything we said was being totally ignored and then denigrated as stupid or ignorant, or unpatriotic. The result was we Commoners decided the Estates General didn't give us the power we felt our ideas deserved, and we demanded a new system otherwise things out there in the streets of Paris could break loose and we as representatives of the commoners might well be persuaded to encourage that unrest. The result was a new gathering called a General Assembly which had a more democratic distribution of power between the individual representatives, and there were quarrels about whether a representative should be even allowed to join a party or whether each individual should just have to jolly well think for themselves, instead of turning up and being told how to vote or face dire consequences.

One of the things was that the General Assembly was held in the same very important looking building that the Estates General had been held in. And you know how people are, we get all self important when we're in important buildings. So there was a sort of traditional positioning when an individual representative was deciding what to wear, where to stand or sit. In the old days the more aristocrat types had the Right side of the building and the more commoner types had the Left of the building. And the same kind of thing happened with the General Assembly, which despite the intensity of the Revolution nonetheless included many who were over there are on the Right side of the building who found the more common in their number somewhat distasteful of manner, language, dress, education, bathing habits and so on. In the General Assembly the Right side of the building were more backward looking in terms of Equality, Brotherhood and Liberty, and the Left side of the building were all for the possibilities of a truly unique and wonderful future for everyone. This free wheeling General Assembly struggled on for a couple of years and was soon replaced by a more tyrannical arrangement. It was the French newspapers, in their attempt to grasp what was going on in the General Assembly, who came up with Left and Right to describe the opposing political leanings. Not until the 1930's did Left and Right enter the political discourse of the English Language. British newspapers were attempting to grasp where the English Parliament stood on the Spanish Civil War. Those Members of Parliament who had positive thoughts about the Nationalist or more backward looking tyrannical fascist cause were the Right and those who rooted for the Republican or the more adventurous and exciting cause were the Left.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Big Balloon Theory

 Septic and drain field work here where I live. It's a massive and noisy distraction, fortunately a forecast of invisible rain stopped play today, and apart from the piles of various aggregates, which include subsoil, gravel and an enormous bit of crumpled metal that was ye olde septic tank, and a row of politely parked machinery all is quiet.  For those interested Septic comes from Latin via Greek for "Makes Rotten," so it's kind of useful word for anyone interested in novel ways of describing a political process should they ever feel a need to get away from "Disruptive" were the assumption is that minds need to be "Shaken Up." A nice distinction between shaken and stirred can be drawn, nuances explored, but if for example your foot is septic probably best to cut it off before the rot spreads. A cruel and painful idea which is why, when it comes to cutting things off,  it's probably best to think in terms of the Balloon Theory of Narcissism rather than go on about whether or not septic and drain field work provides an opportunity to observe the extent to which domestic pets might also be prone to varying measures of narcissistic impulse.

The Balloon Theory is out there, wandering lonely as an idealistic cloud, essentially the idea is that narcissism is like a balloon and narcissists don't feel quite right unless their balloon is being constantly pumped up so that it's bigger than everyone else's balloon. Generally big balloon narcissists are extraordinarily devoted to the size of their balloon, and quickly they learn how their personal balloon, or personal hell, might get itself filled with more and more air. Praise, adoration, achievement, measures of success and so on, however fragile they are, aren't really the issue in the matter of seeking attention, rather it's the constant nagging need for attention itself that fills the balloon. Which would suggest that if that attention was cut off then the balloon would deflate. Trouble is big balloon narcissists respond by what they call "doubling down" on their obnoxious behavior. It's an "I will not be ignored" kind of sound. So yes, septic, as opposed to "Not Normal" is a more courageous way of thinking about it. Pet-wise, within the context of the Balloon Theory, I'm almost ready to make the observation that any balloon blowing up narcissist impulse that either domestic pet may be prone to is instantly deflated by the awesome power of earth moving equipment. And there could well be a lesson in this

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Kitten, Crowder Peas and Ayn Rand

Not sure the Kitten has a green thumb, or will ever have a green thumb. A huge sadness and a little disappointing, but at the same time your gardener himself doesn't have much of a green thumb, it's a little this side of dark purple, so the greenness of a thumb isn't absolutely central to the well being of a vegetable garden, which means we're not talking the cold hands of the pastry chef, rather we're talking a lackadaisical attitude toward the more sedentary of our number, and under no circumstances do you do things like lie down, roll around on a row of harmless young Crowder Peas struggling under dry conditions. And I have seen some terrible sights through the course of my time upon earth as a gardener, but this was an act of such wanton environmental vandalism that it raises serious issues. I mean people have faced court martial for less. 

The Artist who was armed to the teeth doing battle with Johnson Grass guessed there was a lack of harmony in the vegetable garden and advised "a less conversational approach" to the impasse. By which I think she meant that wishy-washy snowflake wheezing at the Kitten was little better than cooing at my four legged assistant which would achieve less than nothing. I had to be very fierce, and totally unreasonable when I attempted to lay down a rational framework of behavior. I briefly gave consideration to the Feral Morning Glory, the Cypress Vine and both Political Parties. Yell at them all you want, doesn't do any good at all, gives the yeller a soar throat, serves only to encourage sneaky, lumpen and characterless self serving Creeping Grass type behavior. Nonetheless it was a worth a shot, I gave it go. The Kitten for her part, kind of blinked and shrugged, in a most chilling Ayn Rand kind of way.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Compost work through the morning, it was the only thing that made any sense at all, and as a rule compost piles are dry at this time of year, but not this year. Last year's raked leaves, astonishingly, have mostly turned to leaf mold, a blissful and happy making sight, and rather than dwell on why the leaves weren't bone dry, best to cling to such silver linings, allow the smell and sight of fine, crumbling leaf mold to linger, warm the soul a while before it retreats into the deep caves of memory where as I understand it they essentially hang like bats waiting to be tickled. And it's also true that most of the bats that took roost in my own collection of caves over this past couple of years, are either engaged in a petty minded industrial action, or have succumbed to some form of White Nose Syndrome.

Clinicians have a number of suggestions for the causes of short term memory loss, most of them have nothing to do with old age. Heart bypass surgery, there's alcohol and drug abuse, concussion, head trauma, but the two most interesting of their suggestions are depression and lack of oxygen to the brain. And while it's not yet an established theory, I'd argue that the depression the current administration has produced in the general populace in conjunction with rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have in fact been deliberately inflicted upon us by a cabal of tyrannically minded billionaires hell bent upon turning us all into a bunch of forgetful automatons wholly reliant upon the deceitful interpretations of technical devices. We're all doomed, we all know it, and there's nothing we can do about it, except drink, abuse drugs, beat our heads against brick walls and get on a list for a federally mandated heart bypass.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Ship of State

Don't know whether you've ever been interested in what foreign travel might have been like during the age of Sailing Ships. It took about two, more often three years, to sail around the world. James Cook's first trip around the world departed Britain in the August of 1768 and arrived back in Britain in the July of 1771. He wasn't racing or anything like that, the stated objective of the trip was to observe the Transit of Venus which was going to happen in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and by making this observation it would be possible to better determine the distance between the Sun and the Earth. But there were other objectives many of which had more to do with funding the great adventure and coming home fabulously famous and rich. There's a wonderful moment when a Scottish Geographer and potential rival to James Cook went on a bit about trade with the estimated 50 million people who lived on the Southern Continent and he pointed out that such a trade would "maintain the power, dominion and sovereignty of Britain by employing all its manufacturers and builders of ships." So no such think as art for art's sake, unless you're a Beatnik. James Cook wasn't the only ship's captain who wandered the oceans, and the thing about sailing ships they weren't that big, had a lot of sailors on them, were very prone to climatic conditions, food was terrible and a two or three year long trip was a high end act of discipline that rested primarily with the ability of the Captain to manage the human relations side of the operation. Sailing Ship Captains were pretty much like God. They held court, made judgments about all sorts of things, including the sea worthiness of their ship, a task they were assisted in by the Ship's Carpenter. Captain's word was the law aboard ship.

And some Gods were fairly charismatic Solomon like characters, other God's fell prey to a kind of loneliness I guess that turned them a little delusional and paranoid and very icky. There are lots of stories about it, and I think there's an insight that can be had from the accounts of shall we call them less well balanced ship's captains from the age of sail who basically lost it. The insight, I suspect, applies to high achieving members of the political class who become something like the Leader of the US Senate. They say that power corrupts which might not be the all of it. What corrupts is fear of losing power, and sometimes when like a sailing ship captain you begin to believe that the sun turns around you and you're totally indispensible, you begin to get the sense that this or that is out to get you, out to cheat you of your indispensability and you get kind of desperate, and shall we say unbound by both decency and common sense. So when you hear a personage like a Leader of the US Senate say without any sort of shyness that any investigation of interference by a foreign power into an electoral process is quite obviously an attempt by an opposing political party to produce an adverse result for his own party, then frankly you're either dealing with someone who has lost it, or your dealing with someone who is in league with the foreign power. Alternatively to begin to think in this way, a person has to have had a lot of practice in the arts of deception, so much in fact that they've lost contact with the real. A good Captain in the age of sail, would have listened to the judgments of his carpenter and said something like, "Arggggg, let's have a good look at that leak, even if we do miss the Transition of Venus." Amazingly enough, there are reports of possibly slightly deranged Captains from the age of sail not troubling to listen to the wisdom of his Ship's Carpenter. There were two sailing Ships, the Cinque Ports and the St. George, lost in the Pacific sometime in the early 1700's, everyone on board except the squadron's commander knew their ship's hulls were already worm eaten when they left their home port, but a God's a God, I guess.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Heart Ache

The outdoors has been really very inclement these past few days. I'd call it hell, but for one reason or other I follow the Buddhist tradition of hell, which is cold. It's not so much the heat that gets you when you're homeless or locked up in a dog cage, it's the cold. One lesson from the past for me at least is to sacrifice what bedding or whatever you might have to keep your head warm. When it comes to food, eat what you have to, and don't get sucked into an expectation of particular kinds of food, there's a sense sometimes that without a particular food item your existence has less meaning, this isn't so much a symptom of hunger as it is of distress, fear and the panoply of emotions challenged by hardships that you might never have expected to enter your world and every part of your being wants to backwards.

If you're looking for some kind of comfort and you are amongst others in your same predicament, a degree of comradeship is central. And if you want to know why, I'll tell you. Comradeship gives you power when in circumstances of helplessness, and that little bit of power helps you feel better, it arranges the relationships in your new circumstances, offers direction by giving you an horizon to hold on to. Of course you have to be about five or six years old at least to even begin to get beyond a sense of incomprehensibleness. So look out for the little ones, play with them, hold them, let them know they are loved, so that one day you might grow old and wise instead of as angry, vengeful and brutal as your captors seem to be. But if you're alone learn to live in your imagination, dream new stories that never dwell in the past, make them come alive in your mind with you as the hero.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Suborning the Youth

Some might remember the Profumo Affair. It rocked British Politics, and did the Tory Party no favors. A man called Ward, who was an oesteopath of all things, a fairly suspicious, hands on sort of occupation, was accused and found guilty of living off the illicit earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davis, two young ladies aged between 19 and 20 years old. The year was 1963, and something of a rude introduction to Liberal Democracy for a youth of very tender and innocent years who was a recent arrival in the British Isles. Along with my fellow boarding school pupils we'd pool our very limited resources, and on the Sunday when we were granted permission to roam around so that school employees might not have to see us for a while, we'd pretty much rout march the two miles or so to a news agent and one of us, who was well fed, looked a little older than the rest of us, he was almost shaving, would put on his gruffest voice and he'd obtain a copy of a very salacious Sunday Newspaper called The News of the World. It was an important current event in our view, vital reading, excellent pictures, werewolf sightings in Wales, that sort of thing and worth every penny, but great woe unto anyone who might have raised the subject of the Profumo Affair with a teacher during lunch, because the Profumo Affair in each and every one of its details was "Dreadful Smut." And there was a whole thing about washing your mouth out with soap, which in the much dramatized folk memory of the student body had happened once at the hands of the School Matron, not a particularly well balanced person. Then one day, I forget which class it was, all of us school boys were called to the school library which doubled as an assembly room and a Chapel.

This sort of call in the middle of lessons didn't happen often and when it did it was hugely exciting and usually ended up as a huge disappointment, very rarely did the preoccupations of us boys meld with the preoccupations of the adults in whose care we'd found ourselves. Not this time. Somehow or other, and no one could ever work out how, the stash of Sunday Newspapers had been discover. When he entered the Assembly Room it was clear to us that the Headmaster was struggling with some deep and abiding passion, which the old hands amongst us recognized as Churchill related. The old man had never fully recovered from the ungrateful public which had prevented the war time leader's election to office as Prime Minister in 1945 and instead had elected the Labor party in a landslide victory, which in the Headmaster's opinion was the sole contributor to the decline of once proud nation into socialist hellhole. Nor was the Headmaster someone who might ever have considered supported Socrates in his trial on the subject of suborning the youth of Athens. And indeed the rot always began with "Dreadful Smut." His solution was to lock his young Athenians in the school library until someone owned up. We boys had our code of honor, and a little before suppertime, we called for a volunteer to take the beating. When none came forward, it occurred to our well fed, gruff voiced  leader, upon whom the Headmaster had bestowed the title of Head Boy, that if we were to ever eat again bribery might be necessary, and most of us knew that in his possession he had a naked picture of what might have been Hollywood Starlet which he'd stolen from his father during a school holiday. No shortage of volunteers after that. Dread to think what that Head Boy might be doing these days.

Monday, July 8, 2019


Had to put the foot down on bickering, it was a long, wide ranging diatribe on my part that ended with brief outline of the dynamics of Capital which pretty much guaranteed that without some form of redistribution wealth would continually accumulate in the hands of fewer and fewer. Then I went on to explain that cats have a responsibility to set an example to the rest of us mammals and that example was not set when both of them behaved like billionaires. Classically enough neither was impressed, the Girl Cat bopped the Kitten before retiring to her day bed and the Kitten is now asleep on my bed. So it's been a fairly tense day here where I live and in the absence of a twitter account, I thought I might let off a bit of steam on these pages. I guess too, well balanced is a relative concept, very much in the eye of the beholder, not something that can be fully grasped through an objective analysis, and I believe I can say this with confidence having spent five minutes this morning with the News Headlines, against which I am therefore either relatively speaking incredibly well balanced or wholly deluded, which is entirely possible given the current temperatures and the levels of humidity.

However, the word Mawkish comes from the Middle English word Mawke. A Mawke was a Maggot back in those days. And how soft bodied worm like larva of the order Diptera often found on decaying meat products came to be associated with objectionably sentimental and sickening or insipid in taste, I had no clue until recently. Revelation of course is inevitable, and I can now tell you that very obviously the association was made by keen eyed observations of those who obsessively pursue rampant ambition, self aggrandizement at the expense of the weak and improperly represented through what they call a career, or prostrating themselves to the powerful as they feed on the body politic then turn into flies, buzz around in a Hurray Henry the Meth-Head kind of way and when they're not copulating drive a gardener and his small four legged loyal and rather hopeless assistant who might be trying to do a little weeding in very adverse conditions to absolute complete and utter distraction. Letting them get away with that sort of behavior, indeed thrive it would seem, is entirely a consequence of mawkishness on the part of those around them. "Oh it's just Adolf, isn't he adorable, he's growing his wings." Inevitably more maggots are then produced, and there is no help in us.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Final Irradiance and an Elderly Gardener

A near death experience while weeding the Asparagus in extraordinarily adverse weeding conditions did produce what I guess might be described as a brief glimpse of the past, which did lend credence to the notion that just prior to his end moment a gardener's life does flash before his eyes. Personally I'd rather it was the good memories that did the flashing, and I guess it might be worth preparing in advance for that awesome moment when the great Zucchini in the sky calls home a faithful servant, just hope the Highest of Beings hasn't noticed the quantity of perfectly good Zucchini which have over the years found their way into the Compost, and at the same time it's perfectly possible that the Supreme Intelligence having been blessed by a membership in eternity might have over the eons blimped up into an amorphous vastness that's turned he, she or it a great deal less than diligent in the area of note taking and remembering where a pencil might be.  Either way, my advice to fellow elderly gardeners, when feeling a little peaky or poorly hydrated don't risk weeding the Asparagus because clearly the Hugeness has a low opinion of Asparagus and he, she or it brings out the worst flashes of memory in an unfortunate gardener teetering on the brink of surrender anywhere near Asparagus, especially in the swamp of July. 

So the question really is, if not in the Asparagus where might the Wonderfulness grant a supplicant a pleasant memory of two in those final seconds. There is in my view an argument that might present the possibility that a Gardner's frame of mind while at his final task might warrant examination. Not saying that there's a choice in this matter, but pretty please, and humbly beseeching here, don't let it be the Lettuce, I'd hate to see that in the obituary. "He shuffled off weeding the Lettuce," can you think of anything less inspirational for future generations of gardeners. And here quite why I assume it'll be while weeding that I greet the end time I've no clue. No reason it shouldn't happen when I'm standing up addressing a more sun bonnet and elegant wrist cause, such as tying the Tomato, or training the Cucumber, rather than grunting around on hands and knees, trowel, bucket and enthusiastic Kitten in tow. Should I happen to be watering, just hope to goodness I've the presence of mind to turn off the hose wand, hate to compound the possible damage that might result from carelessly toppling onto something and then in my absence drown it. And too there could well be some who might consider these thoughts morbid, to the contrary. It's time spent in reconnaissance my friend. Damn good chance atop the throne of the Great Totality sits a Bean Beetle, and everyone knows Bean Beetles never, ever forgot. Not even the slightest insult, let alone an entire generation of Bean Beetle grubs while still peacefully feeding on Bean plants being carefully popped into black plastic bags and left to cook slowly in the sun. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Modern Manufacture and Tariffs

In the 1920's here in the USA, productivity was way up thanks to electricity running the machines of mass production, employing thousands and thousand of people. There was great excitement about the internal combustion engine and even though the roads were appalling, cars and trucks were quickly replacing mules and horses, this freed up almost one quarter of agricultural land that no longer had to be devoted to feeding mules and horses. The crash of 1929 had nothing to do with the internal combustion engine or electricity, there was lots of stuff but no one was buying it, and profits tumbled. In 1920's nations got together and declared that the time had come to put an end to tariffs, and one of the reasons they decided to do this had to do with World War I reparations. Countries that owed money didn't have gold to transfer and those who were owed money wanted to be paid. Under the various modifications to the Gold Standard that occurred through the 1920's it was thought that ending tariffs would go someway to enabling debtors to pay their debts in goods and services, but this would mean a flood of cheap goods and services that would do the home industries of nations owed money no favors, and most nations had no intention of letting that happen. Then in the 1930 and again in 1934  members of the political class here in the United States decided they were going to try and do something about what came to be called The Great Depression.

There were a number of theories. One was raise tariffs to protect home industry, another was to readdress the modifications that had been made to the Gold Standard, another was to do nothing and let it sort itself out, and still another was to get the hell off the Gold Standard, this argument had a new understanding of what money was. Just printing money that was entirely divorced from the value of gold made huge sense to this new idea of money. It would boost demand which would reinvigorate industry but to avoid people having to use wheelbarrows to take home their pay, the supply of money and inflation would be controlled through things like interest rates.  Senator Smoot and Representative Hawley went all in on the tariff idea, in 1930 their bill raised tariffs on over 20,000 imported items, and it's been generally argued that this badly exacerbated he Great World Wide Depression. And the idea of people carrying their wages around in wheelbarrows was such that in 1934 the USA went back on the Gold Standard, which resulted in the very opposite of an inflationary spiral which is a deflationary deflation. In short the decisions taken in the 1930's were worse than doing nothing, and everybody had to wait for the Government to start spending all sorts of money in order to fight the Second World War, this raised demand which got the economy running usefully again. Far be it from me to nag, but productivity in manufacture, or making stuff as cheaply as possible, is increasingly dominated by replacing labor with robots fueled by electricity. Raising the price of goods with something like a tariff, serves to hasten the process driving productivity, and these processes don't have much to do with employing more and more people to work in factories.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Thrills and Spills

I remember the Dot Com Bubble. Not so much for any other reason than the craft circuits The Artist and I used to engage in. There are basically three kinds of crafts people on those circuits. There are those who are in it for the life style, they're mostly retired and any extra income is welcome, it gave them something to do, a broader horizon, travel and so on. There were those who thought crafts added value to society, a gentle if eccentric noble minority. And there were those who were in it for money and reputation. In there somewhere through the late 1990's were a number of crafters who got themselves excited by the prospect of easy money through investing in tech companies. One fellow crafter had become something of an expert on tech stocks, and he'd go on and on about the miracle as he rattled off this and that, stars in his eyes. His conviction was such that he'd borrowed money against his house to increase his portfolio, and his private advice to me was that anyone in their right mind should be following his example. Used to dread being anywhere near him in a craft show, he started dressing snappy, he got himself a new van, might even have lost weight, then thank goodness he was suddenly gone from the circuit.

Call me cynical, but I preferred the company of more dedicated crafts people such as a glass blower and her husband who made glass paperweights. I recall a conversation with this couple, and you should probably know that most of the time at a craft show there's not much to do, and the subject of this whole Dot Com thing came up. Neither glass blower had anything good to say about stock markets, they were essentially down right evil devices to screw people out of their hard earned money, and they both went on a bit in a manner that suggested a religious conviction, and then he said that as a couple one of their great joys in life was visiting casinos. I had a funny accent, and the glassblowers had some rural American accent that probably hadn't changed much since maybe the colonists, and I just assumed that there'd been some kind of miscommunication. "You mean like gambling?" I offered. "Slot machines," was the answer. "The thing is," the glass blowers explained very slowly, "With slots at least it's you that's pulling the lever and you always got that chance to win big." In later years I met an older logger, he told me he really got a thrill from cutting down trees, it was a thrill that had never faded, still made him feel alive.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Twilight's Last Gleaming

Back in the day when Medieval Saints roamed places like Wales, many a natural phenomenon not unique to somewhere like Wales might have been apocryphal, which as I understand it means of shady authorship. Of course if it was a biblical text, it had to be literally true, and call me crass, but something like the many terrifying shakings of the earth that figured large in God's plans to regularly discipline the Israelites and of course there's something like the very Christian earthquake that freed Paul from the prison at Philippi, it might be argued passed into the imagination of a wandering Welsh saint, and if it so happened that a Welsh wandering saint was casting about for a miraculous happenstance, they indeed might have decided to cause the earth to swallow some ne'er-do-well so as to set an example for those trying hard to be righteous. Certainly it would be the polite thing to do, a small localized rather than regional event that didn't take an entire flock of Sheep with it the netherworld, and at the same time made a good, solid point about what should happen to loutish princes who had no concept of boundaries in their interactions with others. Why didn't she use lightening, I hear the call. Well, there's no messing around with the Medieval Welsh Saint, and for particularly egregious behavior the suddenness of a lightening strike doesn't really cut the rug, a slower more suffocating end gives the soul it's opportunity to beg for forgiveness, maybe burst into tears, and regret this or that unconscionable earthly behavior on it's slow way down to the eternal bowels of hell.

And, having lived in a Wales for a bit, I can certainly attest to the bounty of rain that falls, or fell, on that green and pleasant land. It was mostly a generous rain, very rarely accompanied by lightening, all of which might have changed, but I suspect that during the heyday of Medieval Saints causing lightening to strike down on some little twit might not have figured too often in Wales. Biblical references to lightening are very even handed, both good and bad. Lightening and hail won a couple of battles for the Israelites, vaguely remember Moses doing something with fire from the sky to make his point with Pharaoh, many a reference to the heavens speaking and heaven always seemed to sound like or was introduced by thunder and lightening. So I guess there are reasons why it was the more Eastern Medieval Saints who thought in terms causing lightening to reassure the faithful that someone was looking out for them. It was the Patron Saint of British Naval Gunners, Saint Barbara herself who might have used lightening to rid her of an absolutely appalling father. I say might, because she was nowhere near the actual site of the patricidal lightening strike. Daddy was several days away from Barbara's Tower in Anatolia, wending his way home on a horse when Barbara was saved, so very obvious to me at least, what with boys being so much in charge in that part of the world, that she wisely caused lightening to strike from afar in order to pursue her calling to save the world. Always have considered it a genius move on her part, it's no wonder she's the Patron Saint of many a Tunneling Industry around the World.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Dear Leader

When your gardener first arrived in the USA, he worked as a jobbing gardener in Washington DC. My employer, though I'd hardly call him an employer, he rarely paid me, physically he was extraordinary idle, couldn't manage much more than a couple of hours a day, an hour before lunch and an hour after lunch, so most of the day was driving the fifty odd miles to DC and try to begin the trip home before the rush hour. He had a few regular customers, we'd stare at garden stuff, the rest of the time was really spent driving around the city. He'd worked for the Dukakis Campaign, referred to Dukakis as the Duke, and when things fell apart he worked briefly for the DNC before something mysterious happened and he had to look around for new work. I once gave him an opinion on my impression of Washington DC. I told him the Capital of the United States looked like a peaceful provincial town with an underfunded and wholly inadequate road system that had devoted itself to harmless pursuits, and I added that I thought this rather wonderfully refreshing in the Capital City of a military power.

But I guess it's what you know about Washington DC that defines it for you. My employers reaction was a tad sneering, he went on a bit about the underhandedness of it all, and how it all depended upon who you knew, had nothing whatsoever to do with ability, and before lunch he drove his van to the White House. And I kind of suspected that one of his broken dreams was the failure of the Dukakis Campaign, which had it succeeded might have resulted in a job for him in the White House. If you haven't seen the White House from the street, it looks tiny, like a big doll house for Ken and Barbie. My employer however told me it had been built by slaves on a swamp, and it was currently occupied by a B rate senile movie actor, and for some reason he went on about Chimpanzees in a manner that was less than admiring. It's true all this was a good thirty years ago, so things might have changed, but the idea of tanks parading in Washington DC is a little hard to comprehend. There's no Red Square there, there's no purpose built victory boulevard, a Champs-Elyesees, which is over a mile long 230 foot wide and all of it tree lined hardtop to parade along, can't imagine where a marshalling yard might be in DC, a dozen or so tanks in single file, much more than that and you need years of practice. The whole thing could be a little Dear Leader embarrassing, but you never know. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Romantics and Science

The Period of the Romantic Poets celebrated thoughts, emotions, and feelings about nature. The period included Wordsworth, and, all though he wasn't a poet, it included John Walking Stewart. Nature was a preoccupation almost and oddly enough included romantic attitudes toward revolutionary change. The main spring of this area of contemplation was in my view that "a love of nature would lead (or could lead) to a more enduring love of man." You can never be sure with poets, and stuff's got to have some kind of rhyme for poets, but "Erewhile my verse played idly with the flowers, enwrought upon thy mantle; satisfied with that amusement, and a simple look of child-like inquisition now and then cast upwards on thy countenance, to detect some inner meanings which might harbor there."  Erewhile means a little while ago and enwrought means made of material. Then the poet goes to stay in a big city, he's gained a bit of a reputation and yet something's missing. Not least an absence of wild things, but more than that it felt like a sort a madding wilderness of people, some of them rude, unkind, not very nice, many of them pushy, crooked, but at the same time it was what people become when they were removed from nature. At least that was the gist of it, I think. Nor, it might be safe to say, had many of the Romantic Poets engaged for living in agricultural or factory labor. Their hands would have been soft, their nails probably clean. Meanwhile Curlews might well have "tolled the knell of parting day" but no word from the actual ploughman as "homeward he wends his weary way," but maybe it was so much a part of him the ploughman didn't have to wonder at it.

Walking Stewart described himself as the "First Man of Nature." Nor was he much known for anything like modesty, and you have to think that the Armenian private soldiers tunic that he chose to wear was a badge of some sort that set him aside from the company of the intelligentsia that he was so anxious to become a part of. It was a company many of whom were inclined to considered him a "untutored" although they couldn't hide their admiration for his adventures and his feats of endurance, even if some suspected he maybe exaggerated a little. And yet the Wordsworth crowd, romantic or otherwise, conceded that in their opinion John Walking Stewart knew a lot about nature. Why did they think this? It's almost two hundred years since Walking Stewart put an end to himself, so not easy to be certain. But I'd venture to suggest it was his materialist understanding of the way in which the world as Nature was interconnected, and it was this ecology, that appealed to the Romantics. It touched their vague feelings about what the modern society was losing. Add this to Walking Stewart's assertion that mathematics had more to say about metaphysics than probably anything, and you got a sort of theory which might be supported by evidence, "enwrought upon the mantle," a basis with which to rationally detect some "inner meaning which might harbor there" instead of going on about "gathering ye rosebuds while ye may." Then your government decides to do away with funding science and rather than discuss those findings attempts to silence them. Worth remembering Walking Stewart was friends with Thomas Paine. "Common Sense" was the title of one of Paine's contributions to the American Revolution.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Bean Beetle

It's a landslide for the Bean Beetle, and I've written a sharp note to the non-beneficial insect picker, suggesting he might not be as highly trained or as competent as he thinks he is. It's that whole Dunning-Kruger effect, we're all subject to it of course, but he's well past his prime, he's reached the dodder phase of his earthly passage, and definitely time to follow the Lead Bull into the night return again to an entirely different occupation. And the thing about the spawn of Bean Beetle, it's not just Beans they are partial to, they like the Clambering Squash, particularly Spaghetti Squash and things like Mellon, and Bean Beetle are perfectly capable of producing three generations a year. So, short of actually giving up on growing Beans for a couple of years, what to do?

One solution is to pull the Beans early and incinerate them. Does seem mean on the Beans, it's not their fault, it's not as though they can escape the peril, they just grow peacefully, badly harassed  now and then by a Bean Picker. Either way, and I don't know how many times in years past I have considered this, could be that a Determinate Bush Bean is the solution. With a Determinate Bean you pick once around end of June, leave them be a couple of days, pull them out and as you do so get the last of the Beans. By first week of July the Beans are all gone from the garden. So they're not the wondrous Blue Lake Bush Bean which can go on producing until well into August. Oh sure, the hotter it gets the later into the year you go with Blue Lake Bush, the Beans get gnarled and ill tempered, and those are the Beans you Pressure Can.