Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Concurrence (and Other Things)

I concur:

Another question for Ms. West: If American adults are emotional slackers stuck in arrested development, who is responsible for the innovations and incredible wealth generated by the economy? Accepting restraint and boundaries is important, as Ms. West says, but painting outside the lines is important too. Instead of founding their company in a friend's garage while they were in their mid-20s, Larry Page and Sergey Brin might still be waiting their chance in a traditional top-down business. And if their project were finally approved, it would not carry a name as juvenile as Google.

My concurrence is for the arguments John Leo presents (in today’s WSJ) as a rebuttal and minor book review (of sorts) to Diana West’s “The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.” While it’s certainly true that America’s tastes have been significantly dumbed-down over the past quarter-century or so, and it’s equally true that we’re more adolescent than most as a culture, I’m not entirely convinced this is a Bad Thing. Like Mr. Leo, I grew up in the 1950s. And I’m not even ready to return to Happy Days because, in truth, they weren’t all THAT happy. As a matter of fact, the Eisenhower era is the stereotypical “uptight” period of our history. If you didn’t conform during that time, you were essentially toast. And if you were anything but a WASP back then you were pretty much toast, too. But those points are essentially a minor digression, and I don’t wanna get into a major digression wherein I cite chapter and verse about the ills of the ‘50s. Ms. West and Mr. Leo’s main points are the prevalence of an adolescent attitude in US society. And I agree with Mr. Leo, as previously stated.

Mainly because I don’t intend to ever “grow up.” It’s just too damned late for that…

I concur, Part Deux:

In what will surely be seen as a defining moment for the 9/11 truther movement, the History Channel has delivered a blow for sanity and rationalism by airing a superior documentary entitled 9/11 Conspiracies: Fact or Fiction.

There’s no other way to say it; the truthers got reamed.

They got reamed to the point that the truthers who produced the internet video Loose Change are scrambling to alter the third version of their conspiracy mongering tripe, even going so far as to drop any reference to the twin towers being blown up by the government (they continue to insist WTC #7 was brought down by explosives).

The documentary took no prisoners as it destroyed almost all of the major conspiracy theories associated with 9/11 while revealing the real motivations of the truthers; that they are part of a political movement driven by raw, unreasoning hatred of George Bush, the American government, and to some extent, America itself.


The show will air again this weekend. Check your local listings but I have it in the Chicago area airing at 7:00 PM central Saturday night and 11:00 AM central on Sunday morning.

Don’t miss it.

That’s Rick Moran, writing at Right Wing Nuthouse. I watched the show in its entirety last evening and all I can add to what Mr. Moran says is “It’s about damned time someone said this.” Mr. Moran has a good essay up on the truthers and the History Channel’s show. Highly recommended.

I’m not quite surprised by this:

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds Congress' approval rating the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974. Just 18% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76% disapprove, according to the August 13-16, 2007, Gallup Poll.

The mystery, Gentle Reader, is which 18% of us approve of the job our Congresscritters are doing. Who are these people? And which rocks are they living under?

Jumping the shark?

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The political left and the political right will join forces on Fox's "24" this coming season. Janeane Garofalo, an outspoken liberal, is set to co-star on the conservative-leaning real-time drama, whose co-creator/executive producer Joel Surnow jokingly describes himself as a "right-wing nut job."

Garofalo will play a government agent who is part of the team investigating the crisis befalling Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and company in the upcoming season.

“Janeane Garofalo, an outspoken liberal…” Department of Redundancy Department, that. An absolutely needless and ultimately superfluous characterization, unless you’re part of that 18% that approves of Congress, i.e., you happen to live under a nice comfy rock. NO ONE makes me dive for the remote quicker than young Janeane. Absolutely. No. One. I can’t stand that woman. Doubtless she wouldn't like me all that much, either. So it evens out.

But. Back to the subject at hand. I dunno about you, Gentle Reader, but I believe I’ll give this one a pass. Not that I watched the show to begin with.

We had our first, and only (so far), back to back 100-degree days Sunday and Monday. And it was pretty danged hot yesterday, hitting 103. Days like that make me worry about the health and well-being of my air conditioning unit, which is going on eight years old. The AC systems (I use the term loosely) in RVs are essentially small, low capacity units not unlike a window-mounted air conditioner, and they struggle when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees. My unit ran virtually non-stop from around 1400 hrs until late, late in the evening yesterday. But the unit worked “as advertised” and I stayed cool. That doesn’t prevent the odd “what if” thoughts from occurring from time to time though… especially when the AC unit begins to make strange, unusual noises.

Let us pray…

Today’s Pic: “Your Moment of Zen,” as Jon Stewart used to say (and maybe still does, I dunno). A view of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, SFO. Golden Gate Park was one of the places that I always included on “the nickel tour” for visiting firemen, relatives, friends, and such who came to visit while I lived in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Soviet Socialist Republic. YMMV, but I consider GGP to be one of... if not the... best municipal parks in all of North America. And I’ve been in more than a few…

July, 2000. Another of my “first generation” digital camera pics. The usual disclaimers about quality apply.


  1. I will miss that show on the History Channel, though it will no doubt be given plenty of show time in the coming weeks as we approach the 6th remembrance of 9/11. Thank GOD someone finally had the gumption to speak volumes against the truthers. Speaking as someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 - I have a different view of the situation than the majority of people. And while there are 9/11 family members who are part of the "Truthers Movement" - I submit that they are trapped in a grief so profound that they will clutch at anything that allows them to vent their rage and grief. I feel so sorry for those 9/11 family members who are being duped by the truthers - they are holding these people back from truly learning how to live with their losses.

  2. If I'm understanding this right, Ms. West is sounding an alarm bell that adulthood has become passe. Leo is going along with the argument insofar as it warns of a Gammorhic saturation of juvenile peccadilos, but dissents on the prospect of our society devolving into dysfunctionality. Google was built in a garage, after all.

    If I have that right, and I'm not entirely sure that I do, I can't offer much hospitality to Leo's point. Before Google we had Apple. And CP/M, which became DOS, which was mixed with a bunch of stuff stolen from Steve Jobs to became Windows. The C Programming Language, RAID technology, the Internet itself...

    ...all of it either built in garages, or among the stuff that was developed in universities, developed by interns who dressed in rags and left their shoes untied. Most of us see this wonderful stuff for the first time after a large capitalistic behemoth bought it off someone, or added value with some other thing. There is a huge value to us in what the megacorps did with this stuff. But the simpler nuts & bolts of these creations, the doodads that were conceived out of nothing, where nobody else thought a doodad was possible -- this work was done in garages.

    And the Google billionaires, from my vantage point, look like the very last wave in that chapter. Leo has made a great point but his example is poor, because he distorts the epoch in which we're living now. Simply put, in 2007 things are "invented" by the grown-ups or they don't get invented at all.

    Of course I blame the "grown-ups" for that; the skateboard-riding garage-inventors never hurt anybody except maybe their competition, but the fact remains they've been systematically rubbed out. And it's plain to see you'd have to round up an AWFUL lot of beanbag-chair-sitting, Red-Bull-drinking, tee-shirt-wearing 40-year-olds before you'd ever trip across a Page/Brin duo now, as opposed to twenty years ago. I think West has sounded a wake-up call here, one worth listening to, and Leo has dismissed it somewhat lightly.

    The challenge, at least how I see it, is finding a balance. Businesses (grown-ups), we have learned over and over again, can capitalize and finance and fund and subsidize to their hearts' content, but that won't bring on any new ideas if they lash out with a sufficient level of disdain toward anyone caught coloring outside the lines. Capital is no substitute for creativity. This is where I see us now; what's the big creative innovation this year? A $600 cell phone with a fancy interface. Cell phones have been around awhile; fancy interfaces are even older; this just marries the two together and slaps an enormous price tag on top. What else have we got? This year, not much. Last year it was a new iPod. And a PS3. None of these things are really creative. They don't change the way things work, or make new things workable. They're just newer, faster, more capable packages of the same-ol'.

    Contrasted with that, creativity without capital is useless too. Out of the truly inventive items I listed backaways that actually changed our modern history, half or more would be completely useless to us if they had not accumulated the momentum necessary to impose a standard on other technologies, so that the creative energies of others could be harnessed and focused in a single direction. MS-DOS for example -- did -- what? It had a more capable memory model and some enhanced operating system calls. But there were other operating systems that did the same thing. The entangled corporate history behind MS-DOS, the ownership of the product, was what made the product unique. Business rallied behind one environment...and because of that, we "all" ended up on that environment, and by conforming in this way, made business prospects viable which otherwise would not have been.

    So today we have neat stuff because of some people acting like adults -- and other people not. It's truly a hybrid. Go back in time a quarter century and eradicate or convert one half or the other -- it doesn't matter which one -- you'll be miiiiighty disappointed when you come back here and find out how things have changed.

    That's the point I want to make here: To keep the experiment moving forward, you have to have a marriage between teenage creativity and grown-up convention. If we can find a way to do this, it will happen in America. Perhaps that is the real reason why America has so many enemies...but they needn't worry because in the last ten years, we have resoundingly failed in this matrimonial task. We have a way of embracing convention and custom not where it would do some good, but where it keeps people from behaving too abnormally -- from thinking up anything too new. And we embrace the "rebel without a clue" not when he goes into his garage with his ratty tee shirt to invent the next mousetrap, but instead, when he lies around, drinks all the beer, plays games and generally acts like a grown-up baby. We seem to be worshipping the weak side of each, rather than finding ways to rivet the strengths of these parts together.

    Which isn't to say I'm out-and-out disagreeing with Leo. I gather the impression he agrees with Ms. West, but just doesn't know it. But I'd probably have to pick up her book and read it cover-to-cover to be sure I'm right about that.

  3. From what I understand, Diana West
    blames the Beatles for the decline
    of Western polpular culture over the last 50 years. This strikes me
    as profoundly silly and undermines
    whatever valid point she's trying to make.

  4. Sometimes I worry about my real AC going out when its this hot! The outdoor part of the unit was replaced last year, but a part has already had to be replaced this year. No idea the age on the inside part of it. But every now and then the whole darn thing freezes up.

    I finally updated my family website, in case you wanted a peek at my dull life in pictures.
    www.jandjessary.com and go to updates to see the pages I added.

  5. Morgan said: Which isn't to say I'm out-and-out disagreeing with Leo. I gather the impression he agrees with Ms. West, but just doesn't know it.

    I think he does agree with Ms. West, but thinks her focus on the '60s counter-culture and the Boomers who led it is misplaced. Leo suggests she should have focused on the '20s, instead. Interesting idea, that. From what I've read about that particular epoch, and the angst caused by flappers, speak-easies, and the Blackbottom (among other licentious dances), "adults" of that era weren't particularly amused. Plus ça change, and all that.

    Your other points are well-taken, Morgan. There doesn't seem to be too many "revolutionary" products coming to the (consumer) market these days. But I don't think that fact means that development has stopped, or that there aren't legions of faceless, nameless geeks working to all hours of the night to develop and perfect what ever it is they're working on. And I know the non-consumer world (read: the mil-industrial complex...you may capitalize the term, if you like) is churning out lots of wondrous things that are, by nature, removed from public view, i.e., classified.

    I think your larger point, if I read you correctly, is we seem to be failing at achieving a balance between adolescent zeal/impetuosity and adult stodgyness. I think the jury's still out. But I'm nearly five years removed from the working world, so I don't really know.

    Finally...Ms. West does make many valid points, and she has numerous Big-Name supporters, chief among which is Judge Bork...sort of a hero to me. But OTOH, Lou Dobbs sings her praises, too, and that a$$hole is the very definition of demagogue...in MY book.

    Jenny: I checked you out this morning; thanks for the link! Great vay-kay photos, and the one example of fireworks photography you posted was just pretty danged cool! Were there more?

    Kris: I suspect you're entirely correct about The History Channel and re-runs, given their past "history." The program Moran and I were on about it devoted an entire segment to the relatives of 9/11 victims vs. the Truthers... and the GREAT majority of the victims families have nothing but contempt and outright anger (bordering on violence) towards them. Yes, there are a few families of victims within the Truther movement, but not many, as far as I can tell.

    Harold: Thanks for your comment, and thanks for dropping by. Dunno if you're a "drive-by" commenter, or if you'll be back... but none the less, you make a valid point.

  6. Thanks for the compliment on the fireworks photo. I didn't think it was too bad, considering I didn't have a tripod or anything, just laying on the grass on the hill of the arena. Kinda neat that we were both watching the same display (well, til you went inside due to rain). I didn't post any more of them, but I took a ton. I need to get a flickr account or something to post more photos. Maybe I'll upload another page of them soon. I thought that was the best one, but there were a few more that were interesting, too.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.