/ Journal /
1985 – 1997
|Id Intros||Scant Tech Style
id ep (an early attempt to organize by category, starting with one of the most important)
search id files for more. this is only part. then shuffle with synthesis notes on the C64
we need a new beginning. all zeros are arbitrarily located anyway, right? reset the clock. the OT resets the clock with Adam and Eve, the “first” man and the first woman (or the first man and woman), the first family, the first creatures with “language”: they name things. Their children are Cain and Abel. So, the various scientific disciplines set a date (ie a range of limits) of 40, to 45,000 years ago for the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens, homo habilis 2 or so million years ago. The jewish monotheists reset the clock to some vague bunch of generations of long-lived patriarachs before themselves. So where is zero? Somewhere in the fertile crescent somewhere after the independent “invention” there of agriculture and somewhere just before conflict between the two sorts of land use prevalent among humans at the time: reserving land for crops, creating “property,” and reserving land for migrant herding and herding, creating “territory.” (The latter category being far more deeply embedded in animal, especially mammal, relationships with symbionts such as grass lands and forest lands. Etc. Etc.
The NT resets the clock with the “birth,” unknown, so more or less of course, of Jesus. The resettings aren’t exact in either case because they didn’t think to use zero. They didn’t know it, they forgot, anyway, the rest of us suffer confusion till today because our normal arithmetic has only odd relationships with our calendars. Hardly better than among musicians. Anyway, whatever else he was or did, it seems clear with or without an historical trust in the details of the gospels, that someone with charisma and a clear understanding of creatura, gave his life under unpleasant circumstances rather than back down on a life devoted to promoting higher levels of social unity. Be virtuous, be charitable, bring the world together in virtue, charitably. Also be patient; nothing else works.
Virtue? translate kosher. Kosher? yes, but take it easy. bring the world together. Be charitable. Be patient.
Sounds pretty secular to me. It has to be wrong: the whole thing was about god. Right? Right! god, virtue, kosher. self- and social- discipline. a common oddness. identify the group. this is at one with Adam’s naming of things, only it’s higher. that is to say, there’s another dimension involved. The creation (in creatura, of course) of a class. we. we jews. we lovers of unity. we pursuers of monism. we believers in the interconnectedness of all things. well, maybe not ALL things … hell we’re barely into the bronze age, after all. yet if everything is “one,” then how can you tell the difference between anything? how can you distinguish between a man and a maggot? (both classes of “thing,” having existence only in creatura.) ah, by being kosher don’t you see. there is only one god, and he’s ours, and we’re equal (among us mature males), and we’re superior because we’re “chosen.”
Anyway, if mammal males fought to death in territorial and mating displays, there wouldn’t be any mammal species covering the planet. if victors in group contests, the water hole, land use, female availability …, killed the vanquished .. the tables might be turned as to who was the victor, and/or there wouldn’t be too many groups competing for anything. if surviving adults didn’t care for all surviving children regardless of parentage (charity for orphans), if land grabbers left the evicted with no land rather than with inferior land, … etc etc. There ain’t no future, baby, no present, and no past. Does that mean that we’re perfection? Hey, evolution has a purpose and that purpose is us? No: it’s our business to steer the course cybernetically, ratify the same direction or change that direction, and be prepared for outside input: the crops fail, the rains move, the volcano erupts, California moves northwest and underwater. (But, you see, California also has existence only in creatura: so in fact CA hasn’t moved NW and underwater, but the idea of CA has the idea moved the idea NW and the idea underwater. That portion of extensional territory which we called “CA” and which no longer has the same extensional proportions simply did its thing, which we see as through a glass, darkly.
Etc. etc. anyway: It’s time for a clock reset again in my mind. This time make it zero and place the zero anywhere around some planetary and or celestial and or political coincidence. When the sun and IBM headquarters and Gregory Bateson’s location at the moment of concludng a contract with the publisher of Mind and Nature all line up. Zero.
And then, let’s build a future society for a viable species in a viable ecology. We’ll start with refurbishing the most widespread natural language: English. We’ll use the fuzz and indefiniteness and conflicting pronunciations and meanings and histories of current English to build a new artificial language in which terms are definded or left clearly undefined, axioms are announced, anyone showing skill may participate, the punishment for obfuscation is severe whether planned or accidental, while at the same time, charity and patience are observed.
A new epistemology, based in but not slave to tradition.
Rules of thought are declared, but declared to be a model to be improved upon, endlessly open to refinement, identity with the truth (ie where the map and the territory are one) infinitely remote, though any position, anywhere, can be worked from. And always GB’s emphasis “toward” an epistemology … “steps toward …”
Rules severe for arguing under a misidentified epistemology: such as “I am right and you are wrong because I can snarl your rules (which you must then be ensnared in) like a kitten, entropy, and a ball of yarn while you cannot ensnare me because I don’t follow any rules. (exept to persue my own imagined advantage) (Geo Bush & G Ferara)
I propose the above, plus, but I don’t insist that GB be the model, start with anything universally agreed upon to be the standard. Greenwich pronunciation (who in Greenwich? on what day?). any epistemology (so long as there can then be negative statements of it).
Or let it be democratically elected (this is creatura after all, not “reality”), the requirement of citizenship being proof of understanding the terms. (Most important first problem: how to define terms starting with no defined terms to use in defining them.) ah but we’re already into the cybernetic evolutioary circuit. zero is arbitrary. we’re just marking a place in the loop, a place in time, quickly lapped and relapped. ZoroAstrian. Newtonian. Einsteinian. Quantum. Boolian. But then, seek out the inadequacies. bring the skeletons out of the closet.
List what one can enlist in (and be caught being recusant to):
I-y) embrace the rule of parsimony. I-n) I do not embrace the rule of parsimony.
II-y) I assume that “reality” is perceivable and our perceptions testable. II-n) I don’t. or rather, it doesn’t matter what answer I give because it’s all equally meaningless.
See, even the word “equally” has no meaning here. Irony, yes. meaning, no. Still, it might be useful to distinguish those who claim meaning for their utterances and are willing to examine it publically and those who deny meaning to human utterance, especially those who deny meaning to human utterance excepting theirs (except that there’s no way they’ll stand still for examination.)
note added 7/25/87: the universe doesn’t stand still for us either. our frantic (fruitless) search for a unmoved mover, a still center of things. which moves, the sun or the earth? oh no: not both! then how do I draw my map? we still haven’t figured out how to draw it so that top and bottom are arbitrary or relative and that north is likewise conventional, not real.
can significance be “proved” of an utterance even if it’s utterer denies it? “equal” in above, eg. Mark Twain denied any “meaning” in Huck Finn. Can he have been right? Literally? literally?
What would happen if a scientist, I mean a real scientist, fell into a world with a religious epistemology. Or if a x’ian saint fell into a scientific world? (Why it happens all the time.) Simultaneous alternate universes where we actually see each other. Communicate? No, no, hear noises from each other, but not communicate.
epis: we need a clear (by clear I mean a humble “we’re working on it”) statement of hierarchy of conscious assumption with some clarity of overlap into unconscious (or would that be courting even greater disaster?) with the part which is overlap as clear as possible (the over lap would have to be a statistical distribution based on somebody’s guess (based on “objective” “tests”).
rules of perception (ie perception of perception)
would a good map of logical types show a clear structure like a scaffolding? Or would much remain so overlapping as to be hidden like the undercoats in a Klee painting?
what if they made a mandelbrot set?
Newton’s universe implied an attitude to KNOWLEDGE that was at once practical, optimistic and CONFIDENT.
Perceptual conveniencies, fictions, like “the atom”
the whole point of Santa Claus is that he isn’t real (but that generosity is)
any idea of reality, to begin to be objective, should be subject (pun?) to review by at least a second space/time coordinate. double description. modern vs old fashioned. old fashioned? that was the golden age. golden age? what did those sheep herders know? why should we care what Abraham, that old tent arab, thought?
modern medicine says … yeah, but Galen said … even if we knew what future medicine would say, why should we trust the authority of that future age? Woody Allen’s future doctor tells him to inhale deeply of a cigar. and to eat chocolate.
once you have a sense of eplistemological relativity, you don’t have to know what’s true. you’re not just skeptical, believing nothing (by definition, not able to function, not able to live, to be viable for another second, but to live like a backgammon player. I don’t know what the next roll is going to be, but my decisions will be based on expecting more combination or direct sixs or combination sevens than snake eyes or box cars.
we also won’t be surprised when the reigning whatever thinks it’s found fundamental something: god, atomic theory, no, it’s quarks, we’re within an inch of solving physics, GUTS, all we need is to figure out where gravity comes in.
our ancestors worships stocks and stones, but we’ve finally got the true belief. it isn’t a barge which drags the sun across the sky, it’s a chariot. no, silly, the solar system is a nest of perfect crystals. no, it’s a bunch of universes, millions and billions: millions of millions. we like big numbers these days. and maybe it’s true, but there’s every historical reason to suspect that it’s not the end. every reason of vanity to believe that it is. we’re it. the unlimate. we are what evolution, creation, whatever, is for.
anyway, if there are ultimates, we are not creatures of them, we are creatures of the part, of the inside. we don’t lack perspective; perspective is exactly what we have: point of view, limitation, incompleteness. even multiple points of view, accumulated knowledge, wisdom, experience, reading Tolstoy and Shakespeare and living awake and studying history and science, etc, maximizes, doesn’t become all enclusive. god, or the whole, is precisely what we are not. (and neither are the gods most religions typically worship. a god of the jews, of the germans, of the motherland, fatherland, … it’s all fragments. even a god of good. Chaucer’s Saturn, the god of chaos, is more the god of gods than jupiter is. and certainly not venus or mars. and certainly not any manichaen god of light or good. he’s devided already.
but that’s already very ambitious, to include even half of things. see this half? that’s the whole. great. boy, are we smart. see that mountain over there? we’re right on top of it. now we’re not lost.
run down objective/ subjective. quote Paulo Freire.
cf a book in a library to files on a disk. does the book “contain” anything while it’s on the shelf? information is an artifact of the perceiver. but, old materialist us, we imagine the book to be the same whether or not we are looking at it. (cf the ?: is the Sh I read the same as the Sh Y or Z reads? Y or Z may be more literate than I or less. It would be difficult to impossible for I, Y, & Z to be of “equal” literacy.) But find it easier, a bit, to realize that the Lucy Show isn’t hiding somewhere in the tv cabinet while you’ve switched to Who’s the Boss. Good Bishop Berkeley takes Protean shapes.
and 6/22/97 I start to scribble in File Maker Pro where I can organize as I go. Then of course, not trusting my new system, I copy it back here.
Now that I think of it, Jesus Christ is the most complex oxymoron I can think of. Invisibly oxymoronic. Therefore, the more powerful, working behind the mind’s defences.
First, the Jesus part: Jeshu. A common Hebrew name in Roman Palestine.
the “historical” Jesus
utterer of the Sermon on the Mount
a man of peace
a sacrificial lamb
lamb of God
the aspect that doesn’t require too much in the way of faith (except for the miracles part. Or is that gullibility?)
Then, the Christ part:
the “Eternal” Messiah
comes with a sword
sits on the right hand of God, etc
our Judge, our intermediary (all confused)
the aspect that’s all faith and no evidence
So, if someone asks, “Do you believe in Jesus?”; and someone else asks, “Do you believe in Christ?”; and a third asks, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?”; you can say “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe” (in any order) and still be making sense.
A rational response would be to demand a clearer question. A much clearer question.
Except of course that the question asked has nothing to do with truth or belief, but with social and psychological control, with who’s who in some pecking order, with one group trying to control an individual or another group. In which case is doesn’t matter what you answer: either they’re got you or they don’t. Or, you’ve got them, or you don’t. Or neither has got either. Like the Middle East.
Fri, Jul 11, 1997
I am going to try to organize a set of perceptions I’ve been developing for some time, hints of it finding their way into these files, into conversations with bk …, but never articulated in any organized way before I improvised them before Catherine this AM:
Background context: bk may recall my pronouncing the ideas of “right” and “wrong” entirely subjective, bk commenting that the perception was “rare” (apparently not shared as a given among the tribe of “philosophers.” Also: bk’s several recent references to Plato in the Euthyphro, SI’s several recent references to the same source (eg. Shick, Summer, 97). Also: my recent statement to bk, accompanying my rejection of Plato in the Euthyphro: “it’s all so subjective; we can’t have anything like an objectively based morality (ethics) without a few somewhat strict definitions AND a basic set of declared GOALS (and a willingness (and ability) to review and improve them with additional experience). (For example, a society with the imperative(s) Go forth and multiply; (Me first; My family first; Jews first; We’re all equal except Jews, N-s, Commies, Chicks, Women, and Children, and of course, employees …) will have a different morality than one which say prefers a vital, diverse biosphere. [Bowdlerizing K., 2016 08 01, I censor an offensive word and substitute something more obscene: euphemism!]
It’s important to recognize that sometimes morals and ethics are synonyms and sometimes they aren’t. I follow Shaw’s distinction: morals are how the group behaves; ethics are a considered morality, proposals for a morality.
Morality is related to outlook and outlook is related to training and experience. The toilet trained child has a different outlook from the not yet traumatized infant. The infant accepts its “privates” and its functions; after toilet training, they’re taboo.
The adolescent traumatized by a few years experience of puberty (where hormones are in conflict with mother, and we once again, this time overwhelmingly, need to show our privates and functions) has a different outlook from the toilet trained child: three human kinds, all within a baker’s dozen years.
The young adult who’s coupled with more than one partner has a different outlook from the one with one partner. Both have an outlook different from the virgin’s.
But these changes are as nothing compared to the change in outlook that comes with parenthood (not equally to all parents). (And there are subdivisions of such experience: I don’t doubt that the female begins to be a mother with pregnancy; while the male doesn’t typically begin to be a parent till sometime between the announcement of delivery and first beholding the babe.)
A city is a mixture of all those moralities. And the police enforce legalized morality differently in different zones. Mike LaCroix assaulted me in my shed, cutting off my escape route. The sheriff’s people commented that it was a crime anywhere, more of a crime on my property, still more in my shed, but yet trivial compared to an attack inside the house. A fourteen year old girl may be thought fair game alone around Times Square. The same girl would be left alone going to the movies with her parents, and might be left alone going to the movies with a date.
I got that far with Catherine, then switched to a quasi-historical, quasi-mythic, newly imagined example. The standard picture of Jesus has him as, to say the least, a nice guy. Compassionate. A (quasi-)pacifist. A healer. The story has him tortured to death as a criminal. (That part more than quasi-historical.) The story has him abandoned and denied by his friends, his disciples (who’ve shown precious little recognition of who the story then makes him out to have been all along). The story then has him express the feeling of being forsaken by God, the Father, in the midst of his torture.
The story then has him resurrect. The all myth part has him resurrect as the Christ, the Messiah, the Boss’s son, equivalent to the Boss himself. (Myth does not mean necessarily “false”; it means not historical, a part with no ordinary evidence. (The resurrection part does have ordinary evidence: testimony: evidence not reasonably to be trusted unless corroborated by other kinds.))
The standard interpretation has him basically the same nice guy, only this time with the Power. Or rather he had the Power all along only this time he’s going to use it. (The difficult question of So what’s keeping him, going unresponded to.)
I’ve long been tempted to write a story that has Jesus resurrect all right, but transformed by the abandonment and the torture, as different as the Lakota before “the white man” and the Lakota after discovering Whasi Chu. (Last year I discovered that Farmer had already done it and done it damn well. In common, we imagine the resurrected Jesus as a man, a man who had believed himself to be the son of God.
The final example I gave to Catherine is all historical: history including the present. The Jews had their God tell them that Canaan was theirs, that they could freely exterminate the already numerous population. Under the reigns of King David and King Solomon, their empire seemed complete. Then it fell apart. From a non-Jewish perspective, the Middle East is the Middle East, and has been for a long time. (The Jews feel special? So do the rest (except for those completely squashed. The Jews can be commended (or condemned) for their success in making a dogma of being special despite their experience.))
Now take the Palestinians. England (after demonstrably not giving a shit) and the Allies (also not having given much of a shit) create Israel and give it to the Jews, England more cooperative than God in the matter. Then an armed Israel takes more: the Palestinians so many chiggers, like the Lakota to the Whasi Chu.
Most of us know our history best through fiction, well through good fiction. My own best feeling for the Palestinians comes through LeCarré in The Little Drummer Girl, especially in the character of Tayeh. After your family has been killed, some bombed, others tortured, after your yourself have been tortured and jailed, when your homeland has been taken, when you’re now the chigger, it can give you a whole new attitude.
And now we not only have cities with church-going families, with industries, businesses, neighborhoods, cops, gangs, muggers, saints, thieves, infants, children, teens, parents, fourteen-year-olds loose in Times Square, pimps, all of us predators, soldiers in and out of uniform, … and terrorists, uniformed and non-uniformed.
The rhetoric by which we threaten them is strictly for us, not for them. How can you threaten those you’ve already all but killed?
If we don’t recognize the dimension that experience as well as training gives to morality, what we say about morality will be so much self-serving gibberish.
Heisenberg with a Vengeance
British Open. story of Jesper Parnevik coming onto the 18th for the fourth day, leading by two strokes. The ball lips out. He finishes his score at 17 plus 5 instead of his score at 17 plus 4. One hole behind him, the a guy eagles and his final four-day total is one less than Parnevik’s, for the championship.
Fine. So what? That’s how golf is scored.
Parnevik had been playing great without knowing the score. He earned second place in that great golf major.
But the story invites us and him to agonize over the “missed” putt. Parnevik was playing sane; we want to drag him back into the communal pathology.
[Side note: putts don’t “miss.” Golf is a game where the ball is played to reduce the distance between the golf ball and the hole until the ball occupies the space within the hole. The score is: how many times the ball was struck between the start of the game and the conclusion of the ball occupying the same space as the hole over a succession of 18 holes over four consecutive days (weather cooperating, and counting special penalty “strokes,” if any). A billiard player on a true table can miss; not a golfer. Skill there is in reducing the factors that interfere with the player’s minimizing the distance. The more you can minimize, the greater your skill. But nature still holds hidden cards. And the player’s control is not total over his body let alone over the ball, the wind, over the subliminal nuances of topography (which, at the macro level is smooth; pebbled at the micro)…]
Introducing the story, they were praising him for his non-obsessive, golf-should-be-fun attitude. Then we ignore the moral: come wallow with us in our pathology.
By the end of the story I was imagining championship golf psychology applied to the competitive grading of students. Imagine 100 students in a hall taking the SATs. They mark their answers until the time limit is up. Two weeks later they’re mailed a score. Now imagine the scoring being executed synchronously with the marking of each answer and the ranking and changing order of rank announced to each student with each answer. Now imagine an experiment where a series of SATs of similar difficulty are given; in one the students just take the test; in the second it’s a horse race.
Under which condition will which individual score better?
I don’t doubt that some would concentrate better, at least temporarily, in the horse race. But overall, I imagine the great majority of students performing better in the silent test.
Maybe Jack Nichlaus would always opt for the horse race. But would he want his practices also to be horse races?
What would the lottery be like if the MCs got inside the bubble with the balls and got hysterical about what each ball was doing as they “randomly” bounced around? “Oh, look, the 16 ball could get sucked up. No, now I think the 09 is in position. No they just suck out a ball and read the number. (Yes, of course I realize that the lottery balls are not jockeying into position to be selected, that they don’t “care” whether or not they’re the one. I’m considering the audience, the spectator psychology at this moment.)
Anyway, I’d like to see alternating approaches used in sports competitions. The producer keeps cutting to the scoreboard in games 1, 3, 5 & 7 of the World Series; in games 2, 4, and 6 the scoreboard is kept veiled. Next year reverse the odds with the evens.
At Troon next time, unveil the leader board only after all competitors have finished their 72 holes.
After a few years, we’d know what our obsessions gained or cost us.
Democrats: believe that their right to interfere is infinite;
Republicans: believe that their right to interfere is strictly limited: that is: infinite, minus the right to interfere with a corporation’s freedom of speech, which shall eternally be construed to mean their right to deceptive, manipulative advertising.
freedom of speech, censorship
In our conversation you made a point that I recognized from earlier discussions: freedom of speech doesn’t mean government subsidy of every possible view. Those weren’t your words; they’re mine. But I trust you recognize the reference and don’t find it to misrepresent your words. (Your words were something about the leftists say … Or was it the communists say … Forgive me. The radicals? Something left.)
Anyway, you’ll find Illich saying much the same thing here and there. And I agree with both of you. Yet still have (and had when Illich said it) something to add. Might as well get to it here, since I never said it to him. With him I mostly read and listened. Fuming sometimes, but I listened. (I could talk (or write to him later: time with him (even reading time) was too precious.)
Once again, a PK duality: (two gods: one of magic; the other order:: two governments: one of magic; the other of order …)
There are two freedoms of speech: one technical (the Bill of Rights, etc); the other practical (are the people willing to listen to good speech?).
You’ve heard my views on technical freedom of speech. You’re right that they’re not exactly what you were referring to. Mine isn’t a point about law but about human nature. My point is that while it’s important that we have technical freedoms, it also helps to have actual freedoms; and also that some freedoms won’t be tolerated no matter what the constitution, the bible, the law … says. I just heard a quote from Mrs Pat Campbell (Shaw’s great love (in his letters anyway)): “it doesn’t matter what you do so long as you don’t do it in public and frighten the horses.”
I also like the story of a debate where the “liberal” gave a big speech against censorship. His opponent screens some kiddy porn. The “liberal” tears the screen down.
My favorite of all I’m sure I’ve quoted often enough to you. Twain: “God gave the American people three great blessings: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the good sense never to practice either.” Close, if not a quote.
To me history recounts the achieving of certain freedom, then their dilution till they’ve reversed their meaning, then new attempts to regain a victory already supposedly won. For example, tenure was the medieval achievement of freedom of speech (in their secular monasteries, the universities). If your colleagues didn’t silence you in the first five years then they had to let you keep talking. (It had NOTHING to do with job security. See Paul Goodman.) Then comes the first amendment: but the universities keep tenure (instead of saying, Oh good, now we ALL have tenure, we can drop it for the few. It’s redundant.).
I’ve come to think that we won’t ever make any enduring sense until we take a rigorous look at some of these things and drop from our vocabulary those shibboleths that keep running us into trouble. Personally, I’ve said good-bye to some of my most cherished concerns. Emotionally inflammatory, rationally, they’re dead ends. Freedom is one. Should we want freedom to pollute, to force extinctions, to go extinct?
Now that I think of it, Illich decades ago, argued against positive statements of rights in favor of a few negative don’ts. OK, so he was a priest, but a smart one.
I started out thinking I’d present this is a logical order, but that plan failed starting close to the beginning. I don’t have time to make it right. It’s hard enough merely to layout some of my main concerns. So I’ll go ahead and throw in another story from my PhD orals. Max Patrick, the Milton man, asked me something about Milton’s Areopagitica (I don’t have access to my library to check accuracy of spelling etc). I’d been thinking some of the above and I wanted to challenge any glib talk about censorship with the story about the liberal and his opponent. So I said something about how I could have gotten Milton to favor censorship. (You do realize of course that Milton was the famous anti-censorship guy of the 17th cen and in that essay. but he’d never seen Times Square. Yes, he would have come out again prurience. however much he may have indulged in it privately, forcing his daughters not only to be his secretaries, but to milk the poor widower.
All my life I’ve needed a good straight man, but I’ve never had one. Patrick hit the roof. Thought I didn’t know what every schoolboy knows about Milton. Wouldn’t let me start my point, let along finish it. He was talking about Milton; I was trying to talk about Censorship (and Milton. and him, and me, and the USgovt, and the UShoipoloi)
That’s enough for now anyway. I trust you see some of my thinking here.
The Wason test is crucial. Most educated people get it wrong. Only the rarest genius would get it right without training. And I can’t believe that any genius who has ever lived, without training, would get it right time after time, day after day. We’re simply not programmed to be rational to that extent.
ie, everyone understands that you have to test the rule by turning over the card with the vowel on it; only the disciplinedly rational understand the equal necessity of turning over the odd numbered card. We look for proof; but you also have to look for disproof.
I’ve just ordered a book from the Promethius people, Abracadabra, due out in Dec, that promises to detail the tricks illusionists use to fool people. We’re not only foolable, but we like it.
As I carried the catalogue to the phone, it occurred to me that what the Wason test tests is the precisely the flaw that three-card monte cons, shell artists, and carneys exploit.
The first time I saw it was with Rudy at the RVC “carnival”: the guy had a “game” booth with a ball on a chain suspended from a swivel. He put a bowling pin in a position given precision by a wooden vee jig, swung the ball away toward the rear of the booth, and on its return pendulum swing, the ball knocked the pin over. “Here you try it.” Every time, a knock down. Then he challenged you to put money down on your ability to knock the pin over: 25¢, and you’d get your choice of prizes.
I wouldn’t do it. Rudy tried. Lost 50¢ and quit. Walked away. But I was fascinated. 12 years old or so I was determined to solve how the guy controlled the path of the ball. So I stepped back to watch. People would come, lose 25¢ to a couple of dollars. If a crowd was around, you’d see somebody walk off with a big teddy bear.
How long would I have had to observe to be sure whether or not they were shills? Well, the public can play shill unwittingly too. Maybe the guy chooses a pretty girl for his unwitting shill now and then. I’m sure he got his teddy bears real cheap. I bet they fell apart within days. (Not like mine that John Eberth finally took an ax to.)
The guy chased me. The first but not the last time I’ve been chased by a con irate at too close an inspection. But I came back and watched from a safer distance.
Finally, I got it. That is to say, I’m pleased to this day to believe that I got it. I never formed an actual experiment, satisfied with my hypothesis. If the guy stood upright, not touching the booth, just with his feet on the ground, you couldn’t miss. If the guy leaned on the counter with his elbow, stood back and slouched but with his hand on a post or on the counter, you couldn’t hit it with a guidance system.
I’d gone around behind to see where he had a colleague hidden with a gadget, switching the con on and off. All unnecessary. The con was most economical. The booth itself was the con. Just shift the position of the swivel ever so. Take the pressure off, and it came back to true.
In Wason terms, if you show somebody a couple of free vowels, then you can feed him an odd number and he’ll just be perplexed. If he gets too pissed off, you can have him arrested. Maybe you’ve got to give the cop a teddy bear too.
The shell game artist shows you the pea, shows you the shell, puts the pea under the shell, shows you the pea under the shell … A, A, A, A & A. Put money down and it’s a 7. But we never get it. All we get is the A.
Leonard’s Rev. Dawn, the psychic: “She’s something else,” Louis said. “Can tell you things about yourself you never even knew.”
The double question, as always, is: how can you verify it? how can you falsify it?
I love Leonard’s use of her the more considering my normal hatred for normal bullshit. The Government, like the Church before it, like the shaman before it, use, consciously or unconsciously, the principles of astrology and the psychic’s cold reading. You don’t need too many clues if you keep it general and vague enough. Rely on the complicity of the subject: they want to believe.
The priest says I know what’s wrong with you: you’ve got a dirty mind. And we say: Yes! God, how insightful. I do have a dirty mind. You could get a computer or even just a billboard to say the same thing. With equal insight.
That’s all familiar stuff. What I want to know is: isn’t there something different about the modern anxiousness to believe things we can find neither Wason’s vowel nor his odd number for? The psychologist says, “You feel guilt.” I do? It must be unconscious. I don’t see any evidence for it at all. This psychologist is really deep.
The priest telling you you have original sin, to a Christian, is like telling you you have two eyes and a nose. Like telling an American that they are highly moral and love freedom. It’s standard mythology.
(9/28/97 I read more and add more, next page)
see today’s EMail to bk: Can someone who churns out pop genre crap: Steven King, Elmore Leonard: really write a great novel? Well you already know that I believe that Yes, they can. And do.
In fact it’s only genre crap when they keep churning out the same thing.
Hell, Shakespeare churned it out. But though there are themes he deals with in series, fashions he follows (and forges) for a while, he then does something else. 36 core plays: 10 tragedies, 10 histories, 16 comedies, breakable down into sub-groups: romances, manners … revenge tragedies … problems of kingship …
You may also recognize that I don’t believe it can ever be the greatEST literature if it is the same stuff that keeps coming. And the genre itself is a kind of lid: horror, magic … really?
For Elmore Leonard, I think he gets better and better. The early Mr. Majestik will always have a special throne for me. And “better and better” still allows Get Shorty to be the best. In my opinion. For the time being.
I thought The Tailor of Panama was going to be a righteous sibling of The Little Drummer Girl. Wrong.
I’m only half way through Leonard’s Riding the Rap, copyright 1995. But it’s certainly started out up there.
Anyway, I want to tell you about it in terms you already know as mine. I liked the miraculous science fiction when I was a kid but hate it now, think it very wrong, irresponsible to pander. Is the “science” part the real “fiction”? New makeup to palm off the same old bullshit? A little technical jargon to dress superstition and self-indulgence as rational?
When I was growing up you heard about seances and astrology and palm reading but everyone understood it to be nonsense. OK, like losing a few dollars and the track. What harm, so long as you didn’t bet the mortgage.
But of course there are people who do bet the mortgage. Who sign their inheritance away for a few raps under the table in the dark.
And then suddenly, in the 60s, then more in the 70s, and then more since, your friends in GRADUATE school! are talking with what sounds like seriousness about birth signs! What level of put on is this?
So I got a little itchy when Leonard introduces Reverend Dawn, the psychic, and she actually seems to be good, insightful, uncanny. far more than even a smart con could be from a cold reading. WE know the character she’s reading a little bit, so WE recognize how right she is, just as he does.
He’s a bookie the Fed has retired. He’s in a restaurant to meet a guy he’s hired to collect some of his bad debts so he can split the country. The guy says he’s collected sixteen five from his worst deadbeat. As he’s waiting, the Rev Dawn is walking around the restaurant with her Tarot cards. Quick little reading here and there. We can see she knows how to impress, knows her Sherlock Holmes, coal dust on the shoes, he’s been in the cellar.
She gets to the book’s table in turn. Starts saying things. Better than she could get from coal dust on the shoes.
The debt collector hasn’t showed for ever so long. The alcoholic book on the wagon shows his resolve by knocking them down while he’s waiting. Rev. Dawn says she can do a better reading at her house, near by. $100.
“Cash,” he says. “I always pay cash. Bought that Cadillac outside with cash. Simplest way.”
We go to Dawn’s seedy dump. She’s a toucher. Gets her reading by direct contact with the vibes. One guy thinks she’s pretty enough, near 30 to the book’s 69, to point at prizes on a game show.
Well, she’s even better at home than she was in the restaurant. The more “insightful” she’s getting, the more I’m becoming uncomfortable with Leonard. He’s now shilling for the loonies?
She’s been touching him. Now she’s got him lying down. Hypnotizing him. We’re gonna regress to his past lives. Someone’s trying to contact him from the past.
When out of the closet comes the guy supposedly working for him to collect his sixteen five and another guy, also working for the guy who owes him the sixteen five, who, rather than paying, has hired the bill collector as a kidnapper. Lying down with his eyes shut, it’s easy for them to ducttape him into a mummy. Just as easy as it was for the deadbeat, who’s known him for years, to give Dawn all her insights.
The dead beat has got nothing but a senile rich mom who no longer backs him. The book is a millionaire. Who should give who the money?
Has there ever been a more subtle predator than man?
“She’s something else,” Louis said. “Can tell you things about yourself you never even knew.”
I’d appreciate your input on something. The palmist tells you you’re got a long life line, you’re going on a journey, you’re about to meet a tall, dark stranger … You hope so, in all cases.
The priest tells you you’re sinful, you’ve got a dirty mind: Gosh, that’s true, how insightful.
Once upon a time art wasn’t art unless everybody got it. You didn’t make the art unless it was something everybody already got. The pieta, the passion … the reverence of the king. In modern times modern art is what nobody gets: Stravinky’s audience leaving the hall threatening lawsuits.
It used to be the palmist, the priest told you what you already knew, feared, or hoped … How did it come about that modern wizards, Freud et alia, flourish by telling you neither what you know nor what you hope, but only what you fear? And all with no evidence?
“Can tell you things about yourself you never even knew.”
I don’t recognize that at all. Guy must be a genius.
Elmore Leonard’s Rev Dawn: my chap two.
I write bk about feeling uncomfortable with Leonard having Dawn seem to be genuinely psychic, then we see it’s a con: what looks like a cold reading is actually a script. I read on. And he does it again. Same trick, Same result. In spades.
p 169 our hero asks another cop about her. Gets the police read on her. They think she’s genuine. She’s THEIR psychic. Helped them with a case. Uncanny. Poor thing, they thought she needed protection.
And once again, we see the illusion from the audience point of view: the illusion works. Slowly imperceptibly, Leonard pans around. We see the illusion from the side. It still works. Until finally the camera is back stage. We see the illusion, realize that … wait a minute, wasn’t that the stage assistant doing … we figure out what the assistant’s role is, reflect, and now, through unavoidable ratiocination, p 174, the illusion is exposed.
add to bk: 9/28/97 Oh, good: I didn’t send this to you yet. A hundred pages further into it, he does it again: tricks me with Rev. Dawn. Tricks ME!
Wait a minute. There he is again. showing her to be genuinely psychic. The police themselves testify for her. Oh yeah, really tried to help them. Uncanny.
Pages 168 to 174. Brian, you gotta see.
And having already necessarily spoiled at least one aspect of your potential enjoyment of the novel merely by detailing one thing that impressed me, I’ll say no more about his subsequent use of Reverend Dawn.
But I will share a metaphor that’s just occurred to me thanks to the coincidence(?) of my just having ordered a book due out in December called Abracadabra: an illusionist explains, with illustrations, the fundamentals of fooling the marks: misdireciton, the force …
A novelist is an illusionist. Great ones can let you see what they’re doing and still entertain. Educate too. Houdini. The Amazing Randi.
Leonard here like shows you the illusion from the audience perspective. The illusion works. Meantime, the camera’s been on an imperceptibly slow pan toward the side of the stage. We see the behind the facade. We see what the assistants are doing, that they’re not just decoration. The illusion is exposed. Now you think the camera track is over, done, accomplished. No, you’re just in the middle of the shot. Wait till you see what it looks like from overhead, so gracefully arrived at that you didn’t even realize you were looking at the same stage, that the trick with sawing the lady in half is really the same trick as the one with the lion and the Ferrari.
When you realize that in the second case, the illusionist is still the criminal, and that the duped audience is the police and court system … !
Elmore Leonard’s Rev Dawn: my chap three
… When you realize that in the second case, the illusionist is still the criminal, and that the duped audience is the police and court system … !
and I think of my own case coming up.
I tell my lawyer the irony of courts getting witnesses to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth … What? The greatest philosophers can’t swear that. Truth? What does a court room have to do with truth? I said to him, when the government wants to get a man to the moon, who do they hire? a bunch of lawyers? judges? No, scientists.
And now, far from for the first time, but from a fresh perspective, I think of the court room.
When I was 19 or so I wrote about the pulpit as a stage, the Puritan ascent as related to the closing of the theaters from the plague. If the people couldn’t get their entertainment from Shakespeare, they’d get it from Dr Donne, Dean of Pauls, and out in the sticks, from John Bunyan …
My obsession these decades with a democracy having a judge elevated on a “bench”, the court as stage.
Now I think of the jury, assigned to their seats, the audience for the illusions.
Rational inquiry can’t tolerate being shown the evidence from the hand of the prosecutor. then you get to handle it in the jury room. That’s like the magician showing you he has nothing in his sleeves.
Part of any good illusion is the magician’s inviting the marks to inspect this and that. The inspection always controlled by the illusionist.
The Amazing Randi goes with the Skeptical Inquirer to the house with the poltergeist. They don’t want to let that “magician” in there. That’s because, as a magician, he won’t passively inspect the set up as instructed. He won’t just see that you have nothing up your sleeve. He’ll also want to look in your pants, under the stage, behind the curtain.
why doesn’t each discipline publish a digest of its knowledge/beliefs, annually? Biannually? Each half century?
Why instead do we listen to one doctor tell the tv magazine host today that salt is bad for us, and tomorrow listen to another tell us it’s good for us?
For the same reason that we still go to church to hear the bible read to us. Civilization still hasn’t absorbed printing. How can we understand the information age?
This evening I watched Captain Kidd, Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott, Carradine Pere …
A scene from the beginning has been in my mental gallery since early childhood, but till now I couldn’t have guessed what it was from: burying the treasure, the pirates demand of Kidd that they check the goods, see that nothing’s missing. They raise the lid, and there are all these glittering jeweled pieces.
So Randolph Scott is the noble son of a framed pirate. He’s turned pirate in order to clear his family name. Spies on Kidd, gets the goods, caught, claims that the kind knows about his spying and will miss and avenge him.
Lady Anne comes aboard and thinks she recognizes him. Some Spaniard promises to have her. Why haven’t they all already had her? Aren’t they pirates?
Finally the spick is snooping around while Randolph Scott is protecting her. They draw and duel. I’m sure that as a kid I was all worried about Randolph Scott, as Hollywood intended me to be. It sure looked different at age 59.
Two differences: I’ll deal with one familiar to my thinking first. First they fight with real weapons. No one gets hurt. Then they close and wrestle or hit each other with their elbows or something. Finally, some damage is done. The kung fu guys fight to a draw with the swords and numchuks, the poles etc break and now they can do the real damage with their fists and feet. Then why have we wasted all this time and all these resources inventing weaponry?
Because it’s only the primitive that we relate to as manly.
But 2 was new: Here’s the spick fighting so he can fuck her; there’s Randolph Scott fighting so that no one fucks her. !!!??? What? Where did this perversion come from. Carnivores battle for territory, prey on prey; ruminants and carnivores do single combat, male against male, to build a harem. How can a species expect to survive fighting to prevent sex? ?Why in order to protect virginity: to protect monogamy; to promote family. Fine. But she’s not his fiancée. Neither is she a “tribal” bride.
Soldiers serving the tribe is one thing: soldiers serving a master is something else.
Good for evolution? I strongly suspect not.
the term devil’s advocate comes from the Church’s practice, when evaluating the appropriateness of beatification for a candidate saint, of appointing a priest to try to poke holes in the candidate’s sanctity. a stumbling step toward science which requires an attempt at disproof in addition to the assembling of evidence in favor of a theory. So the priest play acted being from hell and speaking as the devil’s spokesman. The trouble was: he wasn’t from hell and didn’t represent the devil; he was a priest: he worked for the Church.
My own attorney in the Canfield LaCroix case reminds me of a devil’s advocate. He’s pretending to represent me, but he really works for the society, for its prejudices, blindnesses, and superstitions. If that’s true where he’ll be paid best if I win, how much truer must it be in the case of a public defender. The court appoints an attorney to defend an indigent accused: or is it “pretend to defend.” Their own testimony in this regard would of course be worthless. One needs an independent study.