I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

August 13, 2012 - 4:45 p.m.

Catching Up

I didn't do anything yesterday. I finally get to write about my thoughts. It would really help if I could remember some of them. It is really hard not having a brain or even a reasonable facsimile of a brain. I hope you are grading this on a curve.

One thing I wanted to write about is the Olympics. There were lots of complaints about NBC. It's hard for me to complain because no matter the faults the broadcasts were so much better than the ones in the eighties and early nineties. I believe those were on ABC. In those days considerably more than half the show was spent on things other than the events. It was a non-stop stream of "Up close and personals;" stories about the athletes, and tourist guides of the host city. This year there was only one stupid segment a night that left me scratching my head. In those days they geared the coverage for people not interested in the actual Olympics.

This year I got to watch lots of volleyball and water polo, two of my favorite sports that I only see during the Olympics. The only events I felt were slighted were the field events. I still remember the winners from the first Olympics I watched back in 1968. Who could forget Bob Beamon's record breaking long jump?

This year they just summarized the field events. Instead of going through them in real time they just showed the top competitors attempts in quick succession. There was no drama.

Did anyone else feel that Gabby Douglas was an Disney automaton, a Stepford Wife? None of her reactions seemed natural. I found her interviews creepy. There was no joy. No spontaneity. She went through a checklist of politically correct responses. When Missy Franklin was interviewed she held up her medal and said, "It's pretty!" That's how a teenager reacts. Not 1, thank god. 2 praise hard work. 3 ...

I understand they have a following but I hate the "artistic sports." If judges decide who wins I don't want to watch. Sometimes people will say, "What about boxing?" And of course the answer is that boxing has a history of scandals involving the judging. Boxing is great to watch but unfortunately it is only clear who won when someone suffers physical damage. Nobody likes the current scoring system which is akin to fencing without swords. They are changing it before the next Olympics. I'm not sure if it is possible to get it right.

But back to gymnastics, diving, and their more ridiculous kin, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized anything. I think I came up with a rule for sports I don't think are sports. If you can't play it without judges or refs it isn't a sport. In real sports the officials are needed to keep the peace not decide who wins.

Don't ask me about the opening or closing ceremonies. I didn't watch them. I never do. They might be fun to see live but I don't enjoy them on TV. There's no right or wrong, just personal preference.

I finished reading Terry Pratchett's Jingo and I didn't even tell you I started it. It a Discworld novel. It's about war and chauvinism and xenophobia. I just noticed something really odd. There is a joke in it making fun of Sarah Palin. The remains of a statue is found in the desert with the inscription "I can see your house from here." A reference to Palin's, "I can see Russia from my state;" which was misquoted as "I can see Russia from my house." The thing is the book was written in 1997, well before any of that happened. Pratchett's good, he makes jokes that can only be understood in the future.

One passage impressed me so much that I highlighted it with the intention of discussing it here.

And then he realized why he was thinking like this

It was because he wanted there to be conspirators. It was much better to imagine men in some smoky room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over the brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn't then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told their children bedtime stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of US. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever things of themselves as one of Them. We're always of us Us. It's them that do the bad things.

That's profound. It is how people think. It's how people avoid thinking. Pratchett is characterized as silly and comic but that doesn't preclude him from being a first rate philosopher. People are silly and comic and the tragedy comes from them being silly and comic when they are trying to be serious. Pratchett gets that. It's the main thrust of his writing.

The "he" in that passage is Sam Vimes. What makes me love Vimes so much is that he is aware of his own prejudices. He knows he isn't being totally rational. That lets him work around it and find the truth. Con men say the biggest sucker is the one that thinks he knows it all. That's even more true when people are deluding themselves.

I'm now reading Who Got Einstein's Office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study by Ed Regis. He makes some mistakes on his science and math; the book is really about the people. Kurt Gödel is as close as anyone comes in real life to being a mad scientist. I didn't know that before. He was Einstein's closest friend at the Institute and the only personal thing I ever heard about him was a line by Einstein. He said to Johnny Von Neumann, "Gödel has gone completely crazy. He voted for Eisenhower." That wasn't in the book. What is are stories of his paranoia and hypochondria. He died of starvation; he wouldn't eat because he was afraid his food was being poisoned.

That's what I can remember today. I'll see if I can come up with something else to write about tomorrow. I must have some stuff on politics. I just thought about something about people. Now let's see if I can remember it till tomorrow.

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Horvendile August 13, 2012
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