Bridge

From everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with a sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, they are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.

Ivo Andrić, Nobel prize winner for literature
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge – Wikipedia

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge – Roebling’s more famous suspension bridge. I found it a gripping read, much like another work by David McCullough, The Wright Brothers.

The Impossible Dream

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

The Impossible Dream, Man of La Mancha
The Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha

We performed this song at the Leoti grade school I attended back in the late sixties. We did quite a few songs from Man of La Mancha that year. Some Spring or Fall festival that we as a school choir practiced endlessly for. I can still remember that gymnasium and the asbestos filled rubber flooring of the hallways. They were a mottled pink, as I recall.

I will never cease to be inspired by this song. I don’t think that Miguel de Cervantes would appreciate what the playwrights and composers did with his novel or characters. Or maybe he would. It would be interesting to be able to ask him what he thinks about the play. He’d probably don a shaving basin and tilt at windmills himself. Trying to change popular belief is like that.

Moneyland

Ordinary people wouldn’t want to live there. Because if you went there, there is no social life, there’s no… there’s no nothing. These… it’s almost dead environments. So what this is, it has turned parts of our major cities, places like London and New York, it’s turned them now into essentially bank accounts. Bank accounts in the form of bricks and mortar.

Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
Fresh Air – How Oligarchs, Kleptocrats & Crooks Stash Fortunes – May 1, 2019

Trump properties have over 700 units that are held by untraceable shell companies. Tell me again how he isn’t a crook. Caveat Emptor.

Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined

“The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”

George Orwell, quoted in The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey
“Nineteen Eighty-Four – Official Trailer”1984 Novel on Amazon

1984 will always be an essential book, regardless of changes in ideologies, for its portrayal of one person struggling to hold on to what is real and valuable. “Sanity is not statistical,” Winston thinks one night as he slips off to sleep. Truth, it turns out, is the most fragile thing in the world. The central drama of politics is the one inside your skull.

George Packer, The Atlantic, July 2019

Annoying Ya’ll

I occasionally riff on word spellings and definitions on the blog. I don’t do it very often, but when I do, I go all in on the subject. I’m especially fond of obvious, having tripped over that word and its subtlety of definition enough times in the past. This image appeared in my newsfeed awhile back and it resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped was correct. You know how it is. I think this is a word, but spellcheck will save me from having to go dig out a dictionary and look the word up.

Or maybe you don’t know? Who has dictionaries anymore? I haven’t used one in years, but I have a few in the house. Who needs a dictionary when you can just ask one of those ridiculous computer assistants to tell you how to spell onomatopoeia or ask them what something means or to get synonyms for balk. Having to actually type words into the computer by hand?! How quaint.

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) a spelling or word usage, or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. It isn’t worth the investment in time to modify standard spellings for obscure words on company computer spelling dictionaries. Computers that you are forced to abandon every other year.

…And don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious arguments with well-known shorthand acronyms. Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang. I mean it. Or as I said on Facebook at the time,

I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.

Another friend of mine immediately linked to a blog article on just that subject, completely missing the point that I was trying to make in their rush to insist that there was a correct spelling for the words we use in everyday conversation. Improper conjugations and amalgamations of words that may or may not make any sense to the speaker or the listener.

Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system

Ya’ll vs. Y’all – A Texan’s Anguish

Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into one of the Southern states of the United States, someplace where ya’ll is a word ya’ll’d hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect. But since you wouldn’t know the frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail and I’ll just look like an idiot. I’m used to that, but it isn’t a productive use of my time to repeat failed lessons from the past. I’m a quick learner, rumors to the contrary.

To put the problem as simply as I can, the error is in believing that ya’ll is a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. As if slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent, what written language is, and still preserve the emotion of the speaker and listener(s). It simply cannot be done. Even the best writers comment on how what they wrote is received by the reader, and how they don’t get the emotion that they hear in their head reflected back from the average reader.

The problem isn’t that simple. It isn’t something that can be fixed that easily. Just knowing the proper spelling for a Southernism will not make you Southern. Just knowing how ya’ll fix the issue of pronouns in your region of the English speaking world will not make me understand what it is to be from that region. The problem is that English is broken when it comes to second and third party plural pronouns.

In “standard American English,” meaning, essentially, schoolroom English, the second person pronoun is “you,” for either singular or plural. Talking to your spouse? Use “you.” Talking to your spouse and his or her entire family, at the same time? Use…well, also use “you.” It is a huge, strange weakness in American English: when someone is talking to a group of people, we have no way of indicating whether the speaker is talking to only one person or the entire group. Peeking your head out from the kitchen at a dinner party and asking, “Hey, can you get me a drink?” is likely to score you a look of confusion. Who are you talking to, exactly?

Thou and ye is a perfectly fine arrangement of second-person pronouns, and we’d all be better off if they’d stuck around, but they didn’t. Nobody exactly knows why, but scholars have focused on the mid-17th century work of Shakespeare to help tell us how people were talking to each other and what pronouns they were using.

Atlas Obscura, Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English

There’s no two ways about it, English is broken when it comes to pronouns. You could be any number of people including just one person. I’ve had innumerable written confrontations with people on the internet just because they read the word you and think he’s talking to me. And while I am talking to you, I’m also talking to the ten thousand or a million or even a billion other yous that might happen upon these words and read them. It is a conundrum of English that I cannot express the difference between you (thee) and you (them) The Wife and I will occasionally use thou and thee because we are weird people who read a lot. You can blame Piers Anthony for that.

Speaking of readers: sometimes things in my fantasy fiction become real in Mundania. One is the “Thee Thee Thee” convention, said as a declaration of complete love. I was told of a couple who married using that instead of “I do.” Now I have heard of one who did use it as part of the ceremony, some time ago; he is now dead and she is passing along the ring to a family member with the words engraved on it. She asked me which book it came from, and I said Out of Phaze, where the robot Mach calls it out to save his beloved Fleta from death, the sheer power of that declaration nullifying the magic that had doomed her. But then I thought, how did Mach know to do that? Did the convention appear earlier? My senescent brain does not provide the answer, and I’m too busy to reread my own earlier novels; time is a greater constraint for me than money. If there is a reader out there whose memory is better than mine (that is to say, most of them), please let me know, so I can let my reader with the ring know: what was the first instance of the “Thee Thee Thee” convention?

Piers Anthony

It’s somewhere in the Blue Adept series, Mr. Anthony. It was earlier than the one you recall. It’s been thirty years since I read the series myself. I have no idea where the first instance is, but it definitely was not that passage of the book. I’m sure someone knows and will correct both of us pretty much the minute I hit enter. They probably corrected you (or thee) the minute you hit enter, too. Unfortunately, that newsletter wasn’t the one I found first. This is an aside, don’t get your underwear in a bunch.

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all. That it is a contraction of you and all and so duh! But as I say to them, that’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe. The apostrophe represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words the speaker doesn’t feel they need to take the time to pronounce. If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all. After a bit of pushback on the subject, more than a bit to be honest, I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point I was trying to make. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once. What does this sentence mean?

Ya’ll be round later

Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it? Well, it depends on the speaker. If they’re asking a question,

Ya’ll be round later?

It would probably be completed something like this,

Will all of you be present when I need you later?

If the speaker is making a statement

Ya’ll be round later.

It would render out something like the following in proper English,

Come by the house later, I’ll be here.

or maybe something more like Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later. There really is no telling what the speaker meant without the context of the usage. If the speaker is making a demand,

Ya’ll be round later.

It would come out something like

You will be here later when I’m looking for you.

…And if it was dad (or pop maybe) making this demand, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay. So ya’ll is not two words squeezed together. It is a hodgepodge of meaning scrunched into four letters and an apostrophe, and I can spell it any damn way I like.

I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang. They have the same problem that the rest of the English speaking world has, no way to speak clearly to an individual or a group using indefinite pronouns to define the loose collection of people being spoken to. You guys, you’unz, whatever. We’re all just making it up as we go along. Sometimes the apostrophe just shows up where it wants to. There is no accounting for it.

But try and explain it all again to me, if you feel the need. I’m from here, I’ve got nothing but time. But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this. If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell. The tea will be on ice, but it won’t be sweet. There’s only so many Southernisms you can indulge in before the accumulation of them kills you.

Wildly expanded article first published in 2014.

Amazon is IOI

So we’ve discovered the genesis of IOI then? Well, that’s good news.

What’s IOI? Innovative Online Industries. You know, the corporation from Ready Player One. If you haven’t read it, get the Audible version read by Wil Wheaton. It’s excellent. Don’t watch the movie of the same name; or more exactly, don’t watch the movie of the same name and expect to see the story from the book. The movie contains an entirely different narrative, with different characters and different FX sequences. The plot for the book would have been far less exciting on screen, and would have made for a much longer film. As far as video stimulation goes, the movie has excellent FX sequences, they just aren’t plot points that occur in the book. At all.

How do I know that Amazon is the corporation from Ready Player One? Well, for one thing, that cage looks like something that IOI would think was OK for workers to spend the majority of their lives in. For another, the links to the book and the movie both go to Amazon. I could point other places, but they’ll all be owned by Amazon eventually.

The Wife and I watched the film a few weeks back. I had never read the book at the time, she had read the book. We set the viewing up on purpose as a test to see who enjoyed the film more. I’m pretty sure I won that contest. I had nothing to compare the film to and so had no expectations for it to fulfill. She spent the first thirty minutes of the film just trying to figure out where in the book the scriptwriter started the narrative at, because it certainly wasn’t anywhere in the first half of the book in spite of the fact that the first scenes have him living in the stacks.

Having watched the movie I then fell asleep to Wil Wheaton’s voice in my ear for the next week or so, describing the world of Ready Player One. A world that is either a post-apocalyptic hellscape or a capitalist paradise depending on your point of view going into the book. In any case, as usual, the Hollywood version has cardboard cutouts for villains and the novel has pretty well-fleshed characters that you can believe exist somewhere. Neither tale is free of flaws, but both have their own moments of entertainment value.

Just understand that, when I envision the giant robot battle for capitalist dominance of the globe, I will now picture Jeff Bezos inside the Mechagodzilla.

Based on a Facebook status from last week

What’s So Bad About Being A Replicant?

A tribute to Blade Runner on it’s thirty-fifth anniversary, while the sequel Blade Runner 2049 is being screened in theater. A Tuesday podcast extra from On The Media.

On the Media – What’s So Bad About Being A Replicant? – October 5, 2017

A tribute for one of my favorite films, as well as a tribute to one of my favorite authors, from one of my favorite podcasts. The guest is the author of Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture, Alison Landsberg. She has some interesting insights into the meanings behind memories.

Instead of compartmentalizing American experience, the technologies of mass culture make it possible for anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender to share collective memories—to assimilate as personal experience historical events through which they themselves did not live. That’s the provocative argument of this book, which examines the formation and potential of privately felt public memories. Alison Landsberg argues that mass cultural forms such as cinema and television in fact contain the still-unrealized potential for a progressive politics based on empathy for the historical experiences of others. The result is a new form of public cultural memory—”prosthetic” memory—that awakens the potential in American society for increased social responsibility and political alliances that transcend the essentialism and ethnic particularism of contemporary identity politics.

Columbia University Press

It’s just over fifteen minutes. Surely you can spend fifteen minutes listening to a podcast about what all these memories might mean to us?

The memory of the unicorn, though? That was also implanted. By Ridley Scott. From footage filmed for Legend. I don’t remember that scene being in the original cut of the film, although several people have insisted it was there then. I don’t know. I just know that it is in the film now. Was that reference added, and we assume it was always there? Or did I simply forget the moment remembering the movie as I first saw it on screen, mixing it with later viewings of Legend with the Wife, and extracting the scene by accident? I have no idea.


2019. What I do know is that it is well past time for me to see Blade Runner 2049 again. For a second time. It has been long enough for me to form a second opinion of it. I thought it was pretty cryptic, but well done, when I saw it two years ago. Typical for Ridley Scott. That I want to watch it again is a good sign. Few movies motivate me to see them again when thought of later.

The First White President?

“By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.”

From The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

An essay from his collection of essays due out shortly We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy I wish I could disagree with the content of the article more than I do. But I can’t. He’s voiced a lot of what I think privately in this article. It’s just too painful to read it and agree with it. The naked truth out in public like that. Shocking.

He was recently on All In with Chris Hayes, one of the few shows I find myself missing since I cut the cable. The first segment is titled You might be a white supremacist. The second one titled In 100 years, people will say we lost our minds carries his assessment of what history will think of the Trump presidency. In my opinion, history will only remember us as crazy if we are lucky enough to survive this flirtation with authoritarianism and white nationalism. Here he is being interviewed on WAMU’s The 1A.

1A – Ta-Nehisi Coates On The History That Continues To Haunt America – October 3, 2017


Is Ta-Nehisi Coates being too harsh on White People? I sure wish I believed he was. But I suspect that from the eyes of a black man, he still hasn’t said enough. That, in itself, is a frightening thought to contemplate. To some extent the author is being over-broad in his condemnation of white action as racism. The broader social policy, the wrong-headed economic notion of the zero-sum game, is to blame for the belief that there must be social winners and losers, people who give and people who take. The economic structure crafted to make the zero-sum game a part of human life is where racism manifests; but in the end it is racism that is the cause for blacks and the brown-skinned to be seen as lessor, the natural losers in a zero-sum game.

This is so wrong-headed as to baffle the senses, adhering to the zero-sum game in modern society. When a farmer produces food for the marketplace and sells it, is he the winner or the loser? Are the people who buy the food winners because they get to eat, or losers because they paid for the food? Is he the winner because he keeps his farm and gets to keep working by accepting a money transaction, or is he the loser because he didn’t keep the food for himself? Life is not a zero-sum game beyond the observation that it starts with nothing and ends with nothing, but all that bit in the middle, the part where life is? That is the only part that matters from a personal perspective.

Does a black man care that he is poor because his ancestry led him to this place and time, through mechanisms that he doesn’t approve of and cannot control? No more than a poor white man does, I’m sure. Which is actually the heart of the problem of dealing with structural racism resultant from belief in the zero-sum game. White Nationalism masquerading as the alt-right will attempt to keep blacks in their place for fear of losing what is theirs, and in equal proportion poor blacks will push to escape the place forced on them by institutions that should never have been created in the first place.

I wrote the historical entries on poverty for this blog specifically to bring to the forefront the very issue in contention here. Systemic acceptance of grinding poverty as a necessary evil, a side-effect of the free market. Not just white poverty or black poverty, but poverty of and for itself. Poverty doesn’t have to exist anywhere on this planet. We humans are wealthy enough and understand enough now to be able to make every person on the planet capable of meeting their own needs. All we lack is the will to see this change take place.

The triumph of Trump’s campaign of bigotry presented the problematic spectacle of an American president succeeding at best in spite of his racism and possibly because of it. Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed. This presented the country’s thinking class with a dilemma. Hillary Clinton simply could not be correct when she asserted that a large group of Americans was endorsing a candidate because of bigotry. The implications—that systemic bigotry is still central to our politics; that the country is susceptible to such bigotry; that the salt-of-the-earth Americans whom we lionize in our culture and politics are not so different from those same Americans who grin back at us in lynching photos; that Calhoun’s aim of a pan-Caucasian embrace between workers and capitalists still endures—were just too dark. Leftists would have to cope with the failure, yet again, of class unity in the face of racism. Incorporating all of this into an analysis of America and the path forward proved too much to ask. Instead, the response has largely been an argument aimed at emotion—the summoning of the white working class, emblem of America’s hardscrabble roots, inheritor of its pioneer spirit, as a shield against the horrific and empirical evidence of trenchant bigotry.

Packer dismisses the Democratic Party as a coalition of “rising professionals and diversity.” The dismissal is derived from, of all people, Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and White House economist, who last year labeled the Democratic Party “a coalition of the cosmopolitan élite and diversity.” The inference is that the party has forgotten how to speak on hard economic issues and prefers discussing presumably softer cultural issues such as “diversity.” It’s worth unpacking what, precisely, falls under this rubric of “diversity”—resistance to the monstrous incarceration of legions of black men, resistance to the destruction of health providers for poor women, resistance to the effort to deport parents, resistance to a policing whose sole legitimacy is rooted in brute force, resistance to a theory of education that preaches “no excuses” to black and brown children, even as excuses are proffered for mendacious corporate executives “too big to jail.” That this suite of concerns, taken together, can be dismissed by both an elite economist like Summers and a brilliant journalist like Packer as “diversity” simply reveals the safe space they enjoy. Because of their identity.

From The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The basket of deplorables that voted for Trump, friends and family among them, should take a long, hard look in the mirror and recognize the face of modern American racism. I rejected Trump from the beginning. I recognized his race-baiting tactics immediately. He never tried to hide what he was doing, and I remain mystified why anyone, ANYONE voted for him. Why anyone didn’t know what they were voting for, a white nationalist, a racist, someone who started his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. He couldn’t have made it more obvious if he stitched it onto bright red caps that he and everyone around him wore.

Oh, wait, he did stitch it onto hats! Make America Great Again by definition means a return to an America that was more racist than it was in the Obama years. It means more racism because America has never been less racist than it was during the last eight years, and it is only going to get worse as Trump’s administration continues to ramp up the racist rhetoric,. This is something he did just last week by announcing the repeal of DACA. The entirety of the history of Hispanics in this country has been a thinly veiled tale of racial exploitation. This really shouldn’t be news to anybody, but even I didn’t understand the full history of the expletive wetback until listening to a segment on the Texas Standard last week.

Texas Standard – Help Wanted, Get Out

I’ve said this many times on this blog and elsewhere. When you are working in construction or out on the farm, anywhere there is labor that needs doing, you see brown faces out in the sun. The white faces are almost always hidden inside. They’re leading construction from the comfort of an air conditioned trailer, sitting in comfort inside of an idling truck. There are exceptions to this rule, but the presence of those few white faces simply amplifies the disparity.

My father did me a great service when I was a teenager, but I never understood it then. He sent me out in the fields to work one summer, so that I could get a taste of what working for a living without an education felt like. I was given over to a friend or perhaps a relative of one of his employees. A one-armed ancient hispanic man who made me look like a slacker, or the complete novice that I was, by doing more and better work with one arm than I could with two. He could and did do it day-in and day-out for months and years spanning into decades. He probably died out there in one of those fields. I don’t know because it wasn’t important to me. The lesson was learned, never to be forgotten. I wanted to work indoors, out of the sun. I wanted to turn knowledge into profit. I wanted to work smart instead of hard.

The ability to do what I’ve done? The ability to assert one’s knowledge without credentials or any evidence of talent or knack for the process? That comes from being who I was, where I was. If I had been born brown or black, African, Asian or Latino in this part of the world? That sort of assertiveness would have been ground out of me before I was even an adult, back in the time I was born into. That is what white privilege means. Ask Philando Castile if he can carry a weapon like a white man does, if you doubt this is true. Ask Ahmed Mohamed if he’s even allowed to be unusually bright and curious in this day and age. I could probably trot out a million examples of why my experiences warrant the label white privilege, but I would not convince a single Trump voter that what I said was the truth. That is the shame we are living through today.

And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon.

From The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In 2015, the political scientists Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan L. Hajnal published White Backlash, a study of political trends, and found that “whites who hold more negative views of immigrants have a greater tendency to support Republican candidates at the presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial levels, even after controlling for party identification and other major factors purported to drive the vote.”

While that finding may seem obvious, it isn’t simply a description of existing Republicans, but of the trends driving some white Democrats into the Republican Party. Using data from the American National Election Survey, Abrajano and Hajnal conclude that “changes in individual attitudes toward immigrants precede shifts in partisanship,” and that “immigration really is driving individual defections from the Democratic to Republican Party.”

The Atlantic, The Nationalist’s Delusion

Offered simply to put paid to the lie that Republicans aren’t the racists in America. By and large, that is what they have become, and the OHM is an outgrowth of that increased racism in the party. He embodies and embraces it in ways that a less cynical man would be ashamed of. But the OHM knows that the average American is a clueless rube just waiting to be fleeced of the few coins in his purse. Just so long as you say the right things, stand the right way when you say it. I personally prefer our leaders to have more going for them than just the color of their skin, the type of sex organs hidden under their clothing. Apparently that is asking too much in this day and age.  

Can’t Do a Western Top Ten Either

David Gerrold requested a quick list of Westerns the other day. I immediately fired off a quick list of ten films that fit the bill in random order;

Silverado, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Outlaw Josey Wales, True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, Unforgiven, McClintock, Dances With Wolves, Tombstone (with Kurt Russell), The Cowboys, Young Guns, 3:10 to Yuma which was the last western I watched.

But as you can see, I can’t count.

Not only can I not count, but I left off at least a dozen films that I know are better than the ones I put on it. I know that, because I read back through the hundreds of posts and kicked myself for not putting them on the list.

For starters, I’ve been doing a Netflix Clint Eastwood retrospective. Not exhaustive, just felt like I wanted to see some of his films I enjoyed back in the 70’s and 80’s and hadn’t seen since. The son wanted to watch Dirty Harry, so we’ve made our way through all five of them and now we’re about to start the spaghetti westerns. His middle work, the westerns that followed Sergio Leone’s films, those I’m just going to add to the home library, which is why I kicked myself for not including Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter, just to name the next two films I’m planning on buying.

But that’s just to name what is going on in my head right now.

I completely forgot I watched The Hateful Eight quite recently, and that is damn annoying because it was such an excellent tribute to the vanishing art of super 70 wide screen films. It was good too. Not as good as 3:10 to Yuma which I own and did remember. Not even as good as Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s previous film.  I’ve seen all of Quentin Tarantino’s work, it is all worth watching if just for the experience. There is a reverence for the art of filmmaking in his films that you can’t find anywhere else.

I also forgot The Revenant along with the 60’s original Man in the Wilderness (h/t to Jim Wright) both based on the true story of Hugh Glass, and if you don’t know that name, you have some really interesting reading to do over the next few hours.

But again, that is just scratching the surface. Reading back through the other comments reminded me of Little Big Man which I haven’t see recently but remember fondly. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a mainstay of my childhood that held up well the last time I watched it. Many mentions of Shane. I hate to admit to the cardinal sin of never having watched Shane, but I guess I can always atone for it by watching it soon. So I will.

I just barely scratched the surface of the impact that John Wayne had on my young life. I literally didn’t even have to think to name three films of his that I rated top ten. I could have done all ten as John Wayne films and still had some left over. I remembered True Grit because I saw the remake recently. Really can’t watch the John Wayne version without watching the unofficial sequel Rooster Cogburn. Really can’t watch McClintock without watching its unofficial sequel Big JakeThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had the most mentions, but I think The Shootist is the most memorable of all his films because he was already dying of cancer when he made it.

High Noon had the most mentions of any film (rough count) but truthfully I didn’t find it that memorable. I mean, I’ve seen it. I don’t recall anything about it. I don’t think I’m a Gary Cooper fan, to tell you the truth. I remember more about the movie tribute to the TV series Maverick than I do about that film. Both the series and the film are worth watching just for the experience, but then I grew up watching The Rockford Files so go figure.

For the many people who recommended Magnificent Seven (or the more recent remake that is on my list to see) I suggest you watch the original. No, not the 60’s American film which was so popular they made a sequel and a series. No, I’m talking about Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa.  I’ve seen three or four of his films and I have not been disappointed by any of them. Fair warning, be prepared to read subtitles.

Finally I suggest Cowboys & Aliens because, why not? You have cowboys and they are fighting aliens. What could you possibly hate about this film? Just joking, save your criticism, I’m well aware of its failings having seen it four or five times. It is one of the Wife’s favorite films, and it really is quite good once you’ve seen it a few times.  This from the guy whose favorite episode of recent Doctor who featured Cowboys & Aliens, just different ones. Episode title A Town Called Mercy. Give it a try.

Weirdest film I’ve run across in reply to David Gerrold’s hive mind query? Well, weirdest film that could be called a western anyway? Zachariah. Just watch the trailer. If you can that is. I couldn’t, but I’m going to try to watch the film.

So as you can see, I can’t do just ten, and I’ll be kicking myself for forgetting something that just has to be part of this list the minute I hit the publish button.  Such is my life. 

Global Warming Versus Global Greening

For Jason Pratt

Climate science. Climate science features highly in my laundry list of reasons for why I no longer consider myself a libertarian. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in libertarian gatherings without hitting a conspiracy fantasist or a climate denier when I left the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I find the phrase knows just enough to be dangerous to be quite apt when it comes to most things climate science. This applies even more strongly to those within the scientific fields than it does to the man on the street who is just trying to get by in life working three jobs and sharing an apartment with 3 other people.

The video (and transcript) below were shared by a friend the other day. I tuned out of watching the video when I realized that the article beneath it was just a transcript of the video presentation. The fact that my friend didn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change the last time I checked influenced my dismissal of the video as Not. Real. Science. There was also the looming risk of being sucked into another conspiracy fantasy to factor into the weight I would give any data found within the article.

Everyone has a bias. Especially people who disagree with science.

My friend insisted that I had to watch the video or at least read the transcript, so I bit the bullet and watched. I’m not making any promises on producing insights that would be accepted by anyone who would deny climate changes, the determinable causes of climate changing, but I’ll give it my best shot.

There is a transcript available at this link.

First off, if I had realized that the video was from the GWPF I would have been a little slower to dismiss it. I don’t write about climate change on this blog very much because, quite frankly, I’m one of the dangerous people. I know just enough about the subject to get myself into trouble and can be (demonstrably have been with other subjects) lead down rabbit holes unless I keep my guard up.

I was slow to buy in to the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was,

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

Ice cores demonstrate that throughout human history (several hundred thousand years in fact) CO2 levels have remained low. What CO2 was prior to human history is hard to determine. Hard to determine because discovering clues to that data in geologic strata is hard. However, as this study notes,

The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperature and sea level. For earlier periods in Earth’s history, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is much less certain, and the relation between pCO2 and climate remains poorly constrained. We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the past 20 million years. During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels. Decreases in pCO2 were apparently synchronous with major episodes of glacial expansion during the Middle Miocene (~14 to 10 million years ago) and Late Pliocene (~3.3 to 2.4 million years ago).

If you need help converting meters to feet, it’s about 3 feet to 1 meter. About floor 9 of a beachfront Miami condo for those still not getting the impact of sea level changes in our modern world. Manhattan will eventually be right on the water, which will mean it will take quite a trick to keep water out of those subways in the future.

In any case the speaker, Matt Ridley,  agrees with virtually everything the IPCC concludes are science. The one verifiably true thing aside from these concessions of agreement I heard by the 20 minute mark is that,

“We should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.”

Well, that is a no-brainer. I was reading books like ICE when I was in my teens. I was well aware that we were supposed to be caught up in a returning ice age by the time we got to 2000, according to the doom & gloom types, as the speaker goes into in the video (this is a myth, just FYI. A myth that I believed) I never bought into Al Gore’s propositions of global disaster from global warming; but the science is pretty solid as I noted above, and it is just the models which fail to predict outcomes in any meaningful way.

As far back as 2010 I was noting things like this,

Trees in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the last two centuries in response to Earth’s warming climate, a new study finds.

For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker, based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center outside Washington, D.C., has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland.

Parker’s tree censuses over this period have revealed that these forested areas are packing on weight at a much faster rate than expected; on average, the forests are growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That works out to the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet (0.6 m) sprouting up over a year.

And this in 2014,

Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what’s the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades.

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

I replied with this article in the facebook comment thread where this argument started,

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well).

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

Washington Post – Thanks to climate change, the Arctic is turning green

Before being pestered into watching the full video, commenting on the full transcript. The greening argument is old news for me. I’ve already looked into it. It is an interesting development. Its full impact is still unknown.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Matt Ridley’s note that most dire projections are based on RCP 8.5. I can agree with him on the lunacy of projecting based on this worst-case-scenario outcome. It just makes you look foolish when your predictions turn out to be so incredibly wrong.

Then he goes off the reservation and never returns.

No renewable energy subsidies? Fine. You first. Get the entirety of the rest of the fossil fuels industry to give up their subsidies and we’ll talk. Worse than being disinterested on the subject of Global Warming or Climate Change (which ever label you prefer) Matt Ridley is invested in coal. Lives and dies by demand for coal. I suggest, as I have about a dozen times, that we either remove subsidies from all ventures, or encourage all sound ventures with subsidies.

Sound ventures. That doesn’t me we subsidize ethanol, which I have never understood being considered a green product. However, creation of wind farms across the windier areas of the world, and solar cells on every rooftop that gets moderate sun are completely reasonable propositions and should be subsidized if other forms of energy production are subsidized.  I can generate electricity and to spare with solar cells on my roof, and that includes charging my electric car. That is a benefit to me and the planet in general.

He also never mentions that while sea level rise isn’t as bad as projected, any rise in sea levels produces larger disasters than we’ve seen in the past, as both hurricane Sandy and Katrina demonstrated. I’m still betting we are surfing through the ruins of Miami long before the arguments about climate change are settled, and I’m willing to bet the current residents of Miami would find that outcome pretty disastrous.

For what it’s worth, The next to last video loaded on the GWPF stream is the one I find most relevant.

GWPF Report: Why scepticism about peer-reviewed research is essential

This is the problem with modern science. Findings are reported as if they are science by most journalists, when the complete opposite is the case, as the short video goes into. Findings are not science. Findings are discoveries. Duplication of findings is science, the drudge work of science that far too few people show any interest in doing, to the detriment of us all.


With time comes addendum and additional information. After watching the GWPF feed for awhile and tracking the general tone of their reportage, I have to agree with the assessment of others who dismiss them as a nexus of science denial.  The name of the group itself screams of astroturfing and their latest video goes out of its way to defend Breitbart and their unapologetic science denial on the subject of global warming. I was really hoping for a group that I could rely on for reportage that wasn’t gloom and doom on the climate change front, but the GWPF doesn’t appear to be that group.

This episode of Inquiring Minds fits the hopeful bill pretty well.

Inquiring Minds 159 David Grinspoon – Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future

Even in the face of the triumph of climate deniers and outright economic criminals (the looming election of the OHM) the astrobiologist David Grinspoon sounds a hopeful note for the future, pointing out that we are already moving in new directions climate-wise with or without our governments attempts to influence our behavior.