But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind. — Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

EppsNet Book Reviews: Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

 

This book is terrible. It’s pretty well known and has a good reputation among fans of “experimental fiction” but it’s terrible.

It’s so bad that there should be a law under which the author could be arrested and charged with subjecting readers to the endless meanderings of a mediocre mind. The book could be read aloud to terrorists as a torture device.

I couldn’t come close to getting all the way through it and I hurled it into the garbage.

Ironically, I found that I bought two copies of the book, I don’t know how. Maybe I bought one a while ago, forgot about it, and bought another one. Maybe I bought one online and one at a bookstore. So actually I threw both copies in the garbage.

One star is a generous rating but it does take time and effort to write a book, even a bad one, and that can’t be ignored.

Rating: 1 star

Athlete, Humanitarian, Champion

 
Muhammad Ali

I’ve got a box of Wheaties that pays tribute to Muhammad Ali as an athlete, humanitarian and champion.

I feel like those are the three words that best describe my own life: Athlete. Humanitarian. Champion.

Except for the “athlete” part.

And probably you could take out “humanitarian” because I don’t like people all that much.

But “champion”? Definitely!

Bravery 2021

 

Bravery (1944): “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity … let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.” — FDR, June 6, 1944

Bravery (2021): “To transgender Americans across the country — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know your President has your back.” — Joe Biden

Biden had nothing to say regarding the June 6 anniversary of D-Day.

Why People Are So Messed Up

 

When I was a kid, I had a cousin Kathy, who liked to eat meals one item at a time. For example, if she had what I had last night, which was salmon, spinach and brown rice, she’d eat all of the salmon, then all of the spinach, then all of the rice. Not necessarily in that order but you get the idea.

Some adults in our family would get mad that she ate meals that way and would yell at her to stop doing it. Like, what difference could it possibly make to anyone in what order she eats portions of food? Mind your own goddamn business.

Bad parenting is probably my hottest of hot buttons.

Or as Philip Larkin used to say:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

One Year Later: Santa Monica Looks Back on Riots

 

One Year Later: Santa Monica looks back on riotsSanta Monica Daily Press

More than 400 people were arrested and more than 150 businesses sustained significant damage.

The story has photos but none of my favorites, which were the ones with people dashing out of smashed storefront windows with stolen merchandise in one hand and a Black Lives Matter sign in the other . . .

Why Can’t Democrats Fix LA?

 

According to my local paper, the Santa Monica Daily Press, LA’s “unhoused” population is being plagued by an epidemic of mental illness.

(The search for euphemisms continues unabated as well. People living on the street used to be “bums,” then “homeless” and now “unhoused.”)

One of the puzzling things about Los Angeles is why our political leaders can’t figure out how to solve any of our local problems, for example, what we fondly refer to as “the homelessness crisis.”

It’s puzzling because the mayor is a Democrat, every member of the city council is also a Democrat, there isn’t a Republican in sight, so there’s nothing to stop them from enacting any policy they want to. It’s like they really have no idea how to solve any of the problems.

It’s possible that in a city in which every elected official is a Republican that they would turn out to be equally stupid but I’ve never lived in such a city so I can’t say for sure.

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

 

My son is visiting . . . we’re in a different place than the last time he visited so he asks, “What’s the wifi?”

“PrettyFlyForAWifi,” I reply.

“What is this, 2002?”

“Don’t use it if you don’t want to.”

Unconscious Bias

 

I was “invited” to a webinar on unconscious bias . . . unconscious bias isn’t my hottest hot button but it’s up there. The fact that everyone has biases isn’t a topic of controversy or interest, not worth having a webinar over.

The webinar happens because “unconscious bias” is a euphemism for racism. You’ve got two options: you’re racist or you’re racist and you don’t know it so we’ll have this webinar to set you straight. As intentional, demonstrable racism faded away, people who made a living from it (i.e., the diversity industry) came up with this new term: “unconscious bias.”

If we don’t know each other, you haven’t lived one second of my life and I haven’t lived one second of yours, I wouldn’t presume to know you better than you know yourself, to be able to peer into your unconscious mind and see all the dark thoughts in there that you’re not even aware of.

It’s ludicrous, first of all — the mystical mind-reading element of it. And it’s offensive to tell me why I did or said something based on this mystical power that no one actually has.

I wish I had 5 dollars for every time someone absolutely knew my motive for doing or saying something and they were completely wrong.

Link

Milton Friedman Quotes on Greed, Freedom, Socialism, and More

EppsNet Book Reviews: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

 

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.

Mission accomplished!

Remarque was a German author born Eric Paul Remark, changed his last name to a French spelling and adopted his mother’s middle name, Maria, as his own.

It says on the cover “The GREATEST WAR NOVEL of ALL TIME.” I can’t think of a better one. The Red Badge of Courage is really good. The Emigrants is remarkable but I’d have to put it in a different category, a post-war novel. Regeneration is very good.

Catch-22 and From Here to Eternity I couldn’t even get all the way through either one of them.

Slaughterhouse-Five is good. Mother Night is good. I’m going to call that a war novel, even though it’s not a battlefield novel. But I don’t think either one is Vonnegut’s best work because that would have to be Breakfast of Champions.

War and Peace I have to admit I haven’t read, nor have I read Gone with the Wind, although I loved the movie.

All Quiet hits you like a rifle butt in the face. Really a powerful work. Bob Dylan cited it in his Nobel acceptance speech as a significant influence on his songwriting.

Rating: 5 stars

Long Working Hours Killing 745,000 People a Year?

 

Long Working Hours Killing 745,000 People a Year

The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours.

The study, conducted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), also showed almost three quarters of those that died as a result of working long hours were middle-aged or older men.

Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked.

Is this science? You know, people say “follow the science” but most people aren’t smart enough to understand science, let alone explain it to others.

Lots of problems with this one, starting with the fact that “associated with” doesn’t imply cause and effect and doesn’t mean the same thing as “hard work is killing a specific number of people every year.” Were obesity and other comorbidities controlled for? Smoking, drinking, other poor health habits?

I note that a large majority of the deaths were middle-aged or older men. That’s what old men do, you know. They die.

And finally, the deaths often occurred “much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked.”

So maybe the work didn’t kill them at all. Maybe retirement killed them. Maybe if they’d kept their noses to the grindstone, they’d still be alive.

NY Times Annual Dissing of Black Students

 

Elite High Schools

First of all, I don’t know who is helped by these annual NY Times headlines on the academic underperformance of students with darker skin pigmentation.

The black kid going out on an interview and the interviewer reads the NY Times — is he helped? Who is helped? What’s the point?

Asian students by the way are doing great! Over half of the offers to “elite” NYC public high schools went to Asian kids. And these are not crazy rich Asians we’re talking about, they’re low-income Asians, immigrants, children of immigrants, who have an added disadvantage of living in homes where English is not the primary language.

In my experience, kids can achieve remarkable competence in anything that’s important to them, and getting into these top schools has enormous significance in Asian families.

Why doesn’t the NY Times run an annual story on how many Asians are selected in the NBA draft?

Playing basketball is not deemed important by Asians. Except Jeremy Lin, and even he went to Harvard.

EppsNet at the Movies: Affliction

 

Affliction is a sad, painful movie about “boys and men for thousands of years: boys who were beaten by their fathers, whose capacity for love and trust was crippled almost at birth, men whose best hope for connection with other human beings lay in detachment, as if life were over. It’s how we keep from destroying in turn our own children and terrorizing the women who have the misfortune to love us; how we absent ourselves from the tradition of male violence; how we decline the seduction of revenge.”

The beatings, actually, are optional. I don’t remember my dad ever laying a hand on me but my parents were still able to send me into the world afflicted with crippling anxiety, depression and fear of failure.

Not much happens in the world, in my opinion, that can’t be explained by good or bad parents.

Rating: 4-stars

Affliction

A deeply troubled small-town cop investigates a suspicious hunting death while other events jeopardize his sanity.

Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn

IMDb rating: 7.0 (15851 votes)

All Your Problems Are Caused By Other People

 

There are few ideas more potent than the notion that all your problems are caused by other people and their unfairness to you. That was the royal road to unbridled power for Hitler, Lenin, and Mao — which is to say, millions of human beings paid with their lives for believing it.

— Thomas Sowell

Minimum Wage: $33.58/hr?

 
1 U.S. dollar banknote on white surface
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Here’s a factoid someone posted on LinkedIn:

If the minimum wage had kept up with CEO pay since 1978, it would be $33.58 an hour now.

Assuming that’s true, it’s also true that a lot of people do not have skills worth $33.58/hr and it would therefore be illegal for those people to have a job.

Also, no one is required to work for minimum wage. If you want to make $33.58/hr, get a job that pays that. If you can’t, then be happy that $33.58/hr isn’t the minimum wage and you can still get a job that pays what your skills are worth.

Healthy Enough to Type

 

I have a student in my class — let’s call him John — who missed the entire first week, so I sent him an email to the effect that I hadn’t seen him in class yet and what were his plans going forward.

He replied that he had really been looking forward to the class but had a health condition that was going to force him to drop and who could he contact about a tuition refund.

So he’s healthy enough to type. The class is online, so he could watch from his hospital bed if necessary.

In short, I don’t believe him but what can you do?

A slightly better way to play it, in my opinion, is to send me back an email saying “I’m typing this for John because he’s too sick to move his fingers. It’s really touch and go at this point. Please remember him in your prayers. P.S. Who should I — errr, he — contact about a tuition refund?”

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Biological Women Will Be Extinct. Also: Roger Bannister

 
Roger Bannister

On this date, May 6, in 1954, in Oxford, England, 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister became the first athlete to break the four-minute mile, finishing with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

In other news, there’s currently a controversy over whether or not transgender girls and women should be allowed to compete against biological girls and women in sporting events.

To that debate, we add a few more facts:

  • The current men’s world record for the mile run is 3:43:13 by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco.
  • The current boys’ high school record for the mile is 3:53:43 by Alan Webb.
  • High school boys have been running sub-four-minute miles since at least the 1960s.
  • The current women’s world record for the mile run is 4:12:33 by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands.

The athletic performance gap between men and women is so big that the best women in the world couldn’t come close to competing against high school boys.

If transgender girls and women competing against biological girls and women becomes a thing, biological female athletes will become extinct. Competitive athlete will no longer be on the list of things that women can be.

The Doors of Perception

 

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude.

— Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception