I should preface this by declaring, as I did last year and as I do every year, that I loathe and despise NY resolutions. They’re silly superstitious nonsense at best. At worst, when they fail (as they inevitably do) they do so at the worst time of year: some point between the third week of January and the end of February. Worst time as coinciding with late-winter down and glumness. High point of the year for depression and suicide.
But here’s one that might be feasible, tenable, useful, and constructive or productive. It’s spot-on for improving on 2013 in the online world. It might make virtual 2014 better than its predecessor. It looks pretty much guaranteed to make people’s lifestyles and lives better.
From the New York Times today: “Tweet Less, Read More”
From Granny (RIP, back in the 1990s): “empty barrels make the most noise.”
I’m off to do some more reading now. Resolution for next year: read more, post less, and have more of my posts being links to things to read elsewhere. First up: the link above. Next ones: get thee to Project Gutenberg and your local public library. We also have urgent issues of “use it or lose it” on the latter. For both, I’m sure there is no-one reading this post, or online right now, or alive anywhere today, who has read everything that has been written in the past that’s worth reading. Great writing that’s out of copyright and free.
All those horrors that unfortunate souls are forced to read at school and university.
A.k.a. some of the greatest writing ever; expressing some of the greatest ideas, feelings, impressions, observations; and sharing moments of wonder.
Sure, some of that fusty old stuff is nonsense, and some horrors are horrors; and some are horrors from horrid past times; and some are not worth reading, by the standards of their own time or of ours.
But most are not: they only seem like horrors to a reader with an attention span so limited as to be disabling. With stunted imagination. Weak creativity. Inability to follow someone else’s train of thought, at their pace, be it faster or slower than their own. Lack of patience and empathy. Blindness and deafness to others. Zero tolerance. No intelligent thought. No thinking. No work. Lazy and intellectually lazy; creative lacks coupled with a lack of curiosity.
Reading that’s deemed horrid because it’s hard.
A condemnation that says everything about the reader, and nothing about the writing. Fortunately, all these ills can be remedied. There is hope for everyone. Anyone can change. There are no limits to the human potential for self-improvement. (OK, except oneself, that’s the only limitation…)
Here’s to 2014: to reading, to making oneself better, to making the world a better place, to making a better world through the Republic of Letters.
Article by Denise Winterman, BBC News (2013-12-03). Excerpts follow below. They may sound familiar. They certainly sounded familiar to me; while we’ve all seen quite enough regular trolling, and trolling of all shapes and sizes and shades—including the good, virtuous, angrily sincere—this is a different, darker side that I’d never thought of. It does make me wonder, though, how far cyber self-harm extends. The BBC item below refers specifically to teenagers and teen issues.
But those of us who spend a lot of time online see these issues frequently and not only in teens. These issues continue into later life: adults, too, may be emotionally damaged, scarred, suffer low self-esteem. Especially, all too often, women. Continue reading
White poppies from the Peace Pledge Union (little seen here, but something I grew up with).
Red poppies, here in Canada, from the Royal Canadian Legion. Elsewhere, from your local veterans’ association.
Wear one. Wear one of each, wear both of them together. Either way, respect and remember.
Stop and think, quietly and concentratedly, at 11:00 today. Or 11:00 on the nearest Sunday; so if you forgot yesterday, you can remember to remember today; or why not remember more than once? This isn’t an occasion to nit-pick as to whether the moment of the Armistice’s signing is “the” moment: what’s important is remembering.
One minute, traditionally, for the 20 million dead of World War I; a second minute for those they left behind. Extend that to those who died in all conflicts, to the veterans who survived and returned, and to their loved ones. The war dead of the last century alone surely deserve at least two minutes of your time, why not make it more? For your own personal war dead, if you have any. For those of your family, over generations. For loved ones of friends, colleagues, neighbours, local community. And in sympathy with other people: anyone, anywhere, any time. This is not about “God And Country” gung-ho war-mongering and macho posturing: it’s about suffering and solidarity; humanist, humane, and human.
Three other perspectives.
1. “This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time” (The Guardian, 2013-11-11)
2. “Crowds turn out to mourn ‘unknown soldier’ Percival after appeal” (The Guardian, 2013-11-11)
3. Remember, also, animals in war: the RSPCA’s campaigns, and the BC SPCA; the famous fictional version of Michael Morpurgo’s Warhorse (and the play and animated movie); and the Dickin Medal. Not to forget other animal casualties of war, as highlighted recently in a care2 campaign.
The Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
During the Second World War (1939-45), PDSA’s founder Maria Dickin CBE was aware of incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front. Inspired by the animals’ devotion to man and duty, she introduced a special medal specifically for animals in war.
The PDSA Dickin Medal, recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross, is awarded to animals displaying conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units. The PDSA Dickin Medal is the highest award any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict.
Theo – Springer Spaniel
Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Arms and Explosives Search dog
Date of Award: awarded posthumously on 25 October 2012
For outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty while deployed with 104 Military Working Dog (MWD) Squadron during conflict in Afghanistan September 2010 to March 2011.
And some previous Dickin Medal recipients:
Images above: Sky News
There’s been a spate of recent bad news about online activity. I have a sense that online behaviour has worsened recently: one person I was talking to thinks the last few months, I think it’s been a downward trend over at least the last two years, with an acceleration after last year’s Arab Spring and its valorisation of Twitter.
Being able to read, write, comment, and discuss online is a good thing. For free and freely. Within the usual limits of social interaction, courtesy, care for others, respect, tolerance, politeness; all these virtues of humane civility that are associated with civilized humanity. This all seemed and I hope continues to seem marvellously utopian.
Ideal, yes. Idealised, over-idealistic: perhaps. In a perfect world, everyone would listen and read carefully, pay attention to others, think before they speak, only open their mouths when they had something to say, and spend more time listening (and thinking) than talking. Unfortunately that’s not the case. It’s never been the case. In two words: human nature. Continue reading
There’s been too much more nonsense recently. Examples and copy-pasting today; commentary follows tomorrow. Continue reading
Continuing on from the return of the lady of shalott, another example of a common online issue and a suggestion on what to do with it. Public service information service:
1. ANTOINETTE (neither her real name nor an online pseudonym) posts constantly on a certain issue on a certain public discussion board. “Board flooding.” Asks the same questions over and over again. JOCASTA is a regular on that same board. S/he also receives many messages off-board (this website has a “private message / mail” area too), being a knowledgeable and helpful person. She has had much correspondence in the past (usually about that same issue) with ANTOINETTE, as well as interacting with her on that board. ANTOINETTE asks the same question on that same discussion board yet again. JOCASTA calls her out on it that discussion board. ANTOINETTE then sends her many off-board private messages. Each one a paragraph long. For hours and hours and hours. All day. Meanwhile, JOCASTA is at work.
What to do next?
As JOCASTA puts it,
Can a 50 year old woman really be that dumb? I mean REALLY??
- service with a smile (2011-07)
Well, we’re back!
Back with a difference.
No more service.
Tolerance and patience have reached their limits.
[Ed. Now updated with notes indicating which parts of what follows are METAPHORICAL. The reason for this is that there have been misreadings, elsewhere; while bad reading is to blame, I must also blame my own bad writing. Even though it's in the nature of the figurative to be opaque and ambiguous, I must take my share of the fault here, as Chief Fool of my own blog.
Also, as this post is about vice. And an important first step in dealing with one's own sins is to look clearly, and to acknowledge them. I try to remember this:
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
The good reader will too.]
As have time and energy: hell, I have other things to do, and other ways to spend leisure time. Like what, say you? (Cheeky monkey.) Like digressing in a leisurely way, says I; which as we’ve seen previously is a crucial leisure activity. Like writing about having other things to do. At great and tedious length. See this here post? That’s over 3,500 words’ worth of digressionary idle chatter: I admit that at least half of that is mine, and I also admit that it’s a far cry from Wordsworth. Now, wouldn’t it be bloody brilliant if we all (myself included, and first and foremost) put that much time and effort and dedication into writing novels and poetry and political rants and generally Using The Pen To Benefit Humankind And For The Greater Good Of The Entire World, Universe, And Anything Else There Might Be And Mayhap Might Come To Be, Potentially, In All Eternity And In Every Dimension / Possible World / Et Caetera Ad Infinitum Et Ultra?
Hence why, if writing anything more than 500 words long, it must include at least a Moral Of The Story (or two, or more; such things usually go in multiples), if not a full-on rant for at least a paragraph. I think I’ve obeyed that rule so far; will try my best to follow it henceforth. That compromise is the best I can do. After all, retrospection is all too easy: it makes one want to punch both one’s own past-self and one’s future-self, simultaneously and at once, and irrespective/disrespectful of not disrupting the time-space continuum. And legislation cannot, in a proper good fair just system, be retroactive. That might also be for good sound space-time-continuum-preserving sci-fi reasons too.
Anyway. That’s at least one digression out the way. Onwards and upwards and back on-track:
Yes, it’s nice to be great and good and know stuff. To be Richesce personnified. And it’s nice to then do something about it and incarnate that greatest of Medieval virtues, Largesce. But remember, remember: Continue reading
Adding in comment, further to yesterday’s Thought For The Day about bottoms: euphemism of the day!
“It’s all relative” = “wrong / false / untrue”
EXPANSION WITH POSSIBLE RATIONALE:
- innocence and ignorance: the speaker genuinely pseudo-thinks (or, “believes”) that everything really is relative and that there are no such things as rights or wrongs
- speaker is too dense to understand such differences, and does not hear and understand when they are explained (using their own utterances as examples). They may or not also be blind, deaf, and generally insensitive: to what others say, to being in a conversation, to any learning experience and experience of change (which all communication is, or should be).
- the speaker cannot possible be wrong, as they are the only right entity in the universe, and otherwise the universe would implode, explode, or otherwise cease to exist. This may also be called the superstitious approach: not wishing to jinx the continuing existence of the universe (and oneself).
- spoiled pampered princess: cannot possibly be wrong, stupid, or foolish because centre of universe (see previous item). Alternative explanation: speaker has been told all their life that they’re a treasure and treasured, a special unique precious brilliant snowflake, and all their faults and flaws have been translated into positive attributes. Everything they say is right, true, and a gift to the rest of humanity: pearls dropping from their lips (and no jokes about alleged extra qualities of Demi Moore’s alleged latest squeeze). This is of course a fascinating kind of illusion and a psychological gem in its own right. But such people are not diamonds. They are delusional, and may even be dangerous.
- passive-aggressive self-defence: speaker knows what they said is in fact wrong, but they have not yet learned the crucial distinction between “what one says” and “oneself”, so they err in the view that they cannot say anything wrong as otherwise they would be wrong.
In many countries, this issue is addressed in kindergarten and is one of the items on the checklist for permitting a child to pass the last year of kindergarten and progress to Primary One.
In many countries (with some intersection with the previous category), there is also a deliberate re-blurring of the categories, accompanied by infantilization and regression and encouragement of monstrous egotism, in postgraduate study. Especially, irony of ironies, in the “humanities.” Blame Derrida and the religious cult constructed around him. OK, not just him: blame the place of theory in that end of academia.
OK. On which happy note of blaming Derrida (and his mis-translators, and idiot Dummy’s Guide / Spark Notes pseudo-digested versions, and second-hand drivvel based on sketchy skim-mis-reading, and the vagaries of foolish fashion)—on wards and upwards, to a quite delicious recent bout of MUAing. Putting the phenomenon that follows below in its historical context, this might be this year’s incarnation of The Spring Troll. It might, being flat-footed and practical, just / also be a foolish young creature. Hell, the web’s full of them these days, and they get younger and younger every year. But at least it’s always nice to see young people able to read and write. After a fashion…
There may well be more serious comments to be made, and repercussions and implications. Along the lines of the classic statement: it’s not guns that shoot people and bombs that blow them up, it’s (usually, most often) men. Combined of course with the fear, ignorance, territorialism (on which, see this recent post), and idiocy, that result in individuals (again, usually men) acting in hunting packs with unthinking lunatic mob mentality.
Yes, I mean “men” in the specific not generic/species sense. And no, of course I don’t mean all men are psychotic bastards with delusions, or even just skewed perspective. That would not be logical.
It’s interesting that throughout intellectual history, in most traditions/cultures it’s men who have been associated with reason, reasoning, rationality; and rational, free, self-aware, conscious and conscientious, understanding and intelligent thought has been percevied as the central human attribute, distinguishing them from other sentient being (let alone any life-forms and other things in existence). With women occupying a, well, other place in such orders of things.
I haven’t really felt like posting anything on here, or indeed anywhere else, for the last week. Partly thinking about Hélène and her loss. Partly work. I went back on MUA today, you know properly, actually logging on and reading stuff rather than skimming through in 10 seconds and thinking “vapid vapourous vacuous ****s” and deciding not to log in cos otherwise I’d write something that was true, but also hurtful.
There were a couple of interesting things turned up today. Continue reading