Nietzsche Notes

/ Scholarship / Reading Notes /

I first heard of Friedrich Nietzsche as a freshman in college. I didn’t then claim to have read much or well (or understood much, or well) but on a number of occasions since then, 1956-57, I realize I’d read (and understood) more than I’d claimed. I remember walking with my favorite intellectual, Myron (age fifteen), from Battery Park back to Columbia on Morningside Heights and we talked as we walked, Nietzsche, Nietzsche, Nietzsche.

It’s hard for me to remember, humiliating, because Myron was a Schopenhauer scholar: I still only barely know who Schopenhauer was!

Yesterday evening I watched Genius of the Modern World, Chap 2, Nietzsche. Now I’m about to watch it again: and prepare this spillway for notes.

I like this presenter, Bettany. Three days ago I watched Merx, two days ago I watched Marx again! Then I watched Nietzsche, and yesterday watched Nietzsche again: and watched part of Nietzsche again this morning. Some of my thoughts from the mid 1950s return to me now, and most welcome. Bettany tells us that Nietzsche despised Darwin: in his search for a post-Christian morality, a morality that didn’t need any authority, any God, Nietsche argued that his superman had no need to procreate, or even to survive himiself: martyrdom (non conventional) might be the best, the most noble, heroic path. Suddenly my own life, my whole life, shines before me as an example. The herd needs survival, not the hero.
Note: people misread Darwin, impose alien misreadings on him, it’s the readers’ fault, not Darwin’s. Ah, but Nietzsche: that’s partly the philosopher’s fault: he wrote so vividly, leading into our prejudices. It’s certainoly Elizabeth’s fault.

I’d always heard the Nietzsche’s sister (Elizabeth) fooled the world by appropriating his work, abandoned by him, and making it hers, adhering to her lights. So: which Nietzsche are you reading?
I’m reminded of Thomas Hardy. Mrs. Hardy was forever being told that she was married to a genius, a great writer: Oh, yeah, well I’m a pretty great writer too, Mrs. H. thought: by which she mean stock Christian. No, no, that is not what Hardy was.

So funny: remembering my Victorian studies from 1963: Hardy today, Eliot yesterday!

Reading Notes A — L By Author M — Z
Posted in reading notes | Leave a comment

Mushroom Anniversary

/ Culture /

I have a rare memory: I remember Pearl Harbor! US involvement in WWII was packed into the next couple of years: ’41 to ’45. I also remember in that period hearing huge airplanes overhead: bracing, trembling. There were airplanes before WWII, but it wasn’t until Hiroshima that the sky was filled with nghmare. Little kid, six, seven years old, hears the loud bombers: we brace, we freeze, we’re ready for eclipse.

By 1950 people my age were ready for any day to be our last. It didn’t matter whether the US won or lost some war, we expected our life to be at an end. And we certainly didn’t believe that even at age 3 or 4 that we were innocent in the matter. There followed Kennedy’s threats and Khrushchev banging his shoe and bombs and bombers filling Havana.

Most Christians believe that they’re the exception, No? I was always ready to believe that we are the rule: there’s no essential difference between us and the goofballs who stood by while the Romans, led by the pecker by Jews, crucified Jesus. We’re stupid, we’re evil, and we’ll do stupid and evil things at every opportunity.

But let’s concentrate on only one thing here: I heard loud noises in the sky, monster machines roared overhead, I was not the only mortal expecting any moment to be my last. We bombed, why shouldn’t we be bombed? The Passion typified our acts of justice: we built a republic on slavery, not to mention genocide: anyone can see the quality of our innocence.

Did Germans believe after WWI, with Hitler’s rise in the ’30s, that bellicosity made them safe? ? I suspect that’s a fault universal in human belief.

Look at Trump: he really seems to believe that leading with his face makes him look intelligent.
We want to look intelligent, fool the world, so we elect him.

What launched this babble last week was a Yahoo headlined Trump Has Been President for Six Months Now and It’s Exhausting. And North Korea is banging its shoe on our lectern. Between me in the early ’40s and this generation of kids is acceptance of your own doom the norm? or the exception?

I drafted this last week without posting it. Now I do post it, sparked by today’s Yahoo headline that N Koreas IBMs aren’t very dangerous after all. I believe it; but it doesn’t make me trust the world. I don’t trust humans, I don’t find human intelligence to be genuine: more like BT Barnum suckers: This way to the Exodus.

Note: Am I quoting Barnum’s sign correctly? Barnum charged admission, people pid it, but then stayed all day. Barnum wanted more cash at the entrance: so he put up sign intended to confuse the illiterate, get them to leave: they could come back in if they paid a fresh entrance fee. Good. But was “exodus” the word he chose to mask “exit”? You know what I mean whatever the word was.

Fire & Fury
2017 08 10 Uh oh, now Trump is toying with the nukes, toying with crazy men.
Read Jared Diamond’s stats on primitive warfare: seems to be universal, universally deadly: how did we ever get to here from there. One day we’ll really be here, and there, and everywhere: so much jelly.


Posted in culture | Leave a comment

Sexist Quantification

Quantification is a key concept, modern and still only partially developed: Galileo timed things with his pulse: most people still don’t get it, not even if they’re in a science department at Harvard.

Wimbledon is coming, the tennis world, the civilized world, is about to retest its enthusiasms: who’s number 1? (on grass) Who’s #2? Who’s 1 and 2 among the women …

Johnnie Mac, a good tennis player but an even better stand-up (or sit-down) commentator, had said that Serena Williams was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He’d also said that she was the best female tennis player ever seen publicly. Ah, but people, people who don’t know their ass from their elbow, were saying that he said she was one of the greatest, period; so he had to qualify: greatest female tennis player. He qualified further: if we were talking about tennis players worldwide, without regard to gender, he estimated she’d be able to play competitively among the males at a level around 700 world-wide: the top 699 male tennis players would beat her off the court; she might split sets with players #700, 701.

Serena didn’t thank him for the compliment. Until we actually test such claims in a series of tournaments, it’s neither a compliment nor an insult. It would become a compliment if we knew, from rational testing, how other great female tennis players would have faired against the top several hundred men. Ask yourself, you can’t “look it up”: how deep among the males would Chrissie have had to play before she won, ever? before she won consistently? How deep would Navrotalova have had to play? Lenglen? Hingis? When would Sharapova have started to win a set now and then playing against males? 800? 900? Would Martina Hingis have been able to beat ranked males while the number was still three-figures? Played the 700th ranked male Hingis loses 0-6, 0-6? How about Court? Lenglen?
How many women players would win a single game before we got to male #1,000? #3,015?

Myth must not be tested.

No, no. Notice. Civilization doesn’t know the answer. We’ve been protected from the answer. We’re in the realm where reason is forbidden, myth rules. Myth must not be tested, no quantification for religious beliefs.

Serena’s reply to Mac was was cute: please limit yourself to things knowable!

Wait: no imagining allowed? Notice, the web interviews celebrities; no scientists, no philosophers. No, no. Our prejudices are far too important to us to allow rational inquiry: no testing allowed.

Chrissy’s responses to such speculations decades ago were right on the moneh: playing about John, her husband, Lloyd, she wouldn’t have won a single point! the best woman player in the world, multiply tested, not one point!!

later Tuesday afternoon
Wow, Mac got a lot of people’s goat. Now he’s said he wished that men and women did compete together: then we’d “know”; “We wouldn’t have to guess!”

Whatever John’s point; that’s my point: Guessing is all we’re allowed because myth is involved. Vested interest.

It’s too late to test the past; but we could try to figure out how to test the future: next Wimbledon women’s champ: schedule her against the men, figure her place: then, Always test.
Or, don’t: but then admit that you don’t want to know.

Knowledge isn’t easy, but some knowledge ought to be possible: at least more possible than it’s been.

2017 09 21 Way back memory:
I was just watching a doc with guys surfing in Scotland amid snow: and I remember first seeing Tne Endless Summer, so great, wonderful. and I’m reminded of a surfing profile from that period: California surfer gal explained why she wore a long pony tale. She explained that as a proud sufer gal she wanted her gender to be telegraphed at a distance: because if anyone mistook her for a guy they would think she was lousy! Bless that girl. That was the 1960s. Glad to be remembering you, gal: I love you.

I love women. I love athletic women. I love funny women. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve been gaga over Jessie Graff, the marvelous stuntwoman. Search YouTube.

EG Scrapbook
Something related has been assaulting me on YouTube: clips of Jason Statham as a NARC among meth-cooking rednecks, you know, something like witness protection, he’s living in disguise: some fat ugly stupid bully, that is, a male, fails to intimidate the NARC daughter, Maddie. It’s ridiculous, it doesn’t correspond to the world: Holywood having no idea of reality. Do men ever bully women? Certainly they do, regularly, but distinguish extortion from harem building. Bulls don’t but heads with the females; they fuck the females and but heads with the candidate males.

Thinking Tools

first draft,
2017 06 26 -27

John McEnroe called Serena Williams one of the greatest athletes he’s ever seen. He ameded that to The greatest female tennis players, etc. Now Mac says that if she played on the men’s tour she’d be ranked maybe 700th. That’s very good: has any female player ever been likely to do better than that? It’s a surprise only to those who don’t know or understand a thing about it.

I’m reminded of an interview with Chrissie Everett from decades ago, she was married to tennis player John Lloyd at the time. Lloyd was a pro but was wasn’t top dozen or two. An interviewer asked Chrissie how she’s fare if whe played singles against her husband. “I wouldn’t win a single point,” Chrissie answered.
No. She was just the best female player in the world. The best.
And we fans loved her.

PS Would Chrissie have been around 700 among the men? I doubt it. That’s Serena’s accomplishment.
And of course she would have shellacked Bobby Riggs, the conning old drunk. But until it can be quantified, tested, it’s just bullshit. And “Bobby Riggs” isn’t a real test: he was the top male pro once upon a time, a long time ago. That was tested, quantified. But tests would have to be regular, and unregulated, that is not regulated by church or crown, to be rationally meaningful. I like to see Serena, at her best, say age twenty-five, tested against the top males, the top several hundred males, for lots of money, before we judge whether “700” is a compliment or an insult. I read it as a compliment, but what do I know? same as Mac knows: next to nothing.

There was a story today right on the money where Mrs. Mac said to John Why don’t you and I play mixed doubles together at Wimpledon. Johm replied, But you’re not a tennis player! She responded, “Exactly.”
You need a tradition of quantification, continuous testing.

I’m also reminded of the days when Nixon’s White House was acusing Times journalists of being “self-appointed.” And actual Times journalist mocked, “Hello, I’d like to appoint myself Nixon-critic at the New York Times“!
No, the jounalists are hired and promoted by the editors who are hired and promoted by the owners who are hired and promoted by the advertizers, the university journalism departments. … Right, Mrs. Mac, exactly, you don’t just walk into Wimbledon and appoint yourself to the qualies, then to the final sixteen …

If Mac is right, and Serena would really be able to play @ 70 +-, then where would Martina fit? and where Martina Hingis? and where Margaret Court? Evonne … If there are really difference between males adn females let us know rationally what they are, and not by court of no-data-allowed.

I would really like it if you’re average fan could instantly retort, Yeah, Serena can play at 700; could Martina have played anywhere near 700? or Hingis or Suzanne Lenglen?

Suzanne Lenglen

PS I was able to track down pix of the divine Suzanne Lenglan because since age 15, wandering MOMA, I’ve been a huge fan of her cousin, Jacques Henri Lartigue.

Posted in culture | Leave a comment

Job Offer

/ Teens /

My poor mother threw our father out not because he was a drunk but because of his philandering. Once Mom saw that Dad was not doing what she’d thought he was supposed to do, love and support her and her alone, Mom, with Utter naivte, continued to believe that Christian American society would do what it was supposed to do: force him to continue to support us even after he’d been thrown out. Next thing we know Mom is ready to scrub floors in order to feed us. No matter how hard she worked she would have needed luck to get $40 a week for humiliating labor; but, she was a gorgeous red head, learned shorthand, and got a job as a secretary for an insurance broker who specialized in matters marine. So Mom takes dictation and is also the decoration on the boss’s series of yachts, using his 30 footer and his 50 footer to display his wares. Next thing I know Mom is making friends with thrice-married millionaires who buy each grown kid a Cadillac for his birthday: while wife #4 totally redecorates the mansion. This story is about one such, guy with a thirty foot yacht who piled up the money selling cork for Armstrong. His secretary was a whiz, maiing out birthday presents and Christmas presents to a long list of customers, friends, and colleauges. Wally was a runt, always laughing in his throat: a prinkster: Do you want to see a hair stand on end, he asked me. He guided me to my knees at his side, told me to look at the wet drink ring on the coffee table surface, put my eye right next to it. Wally yanked a hair from my scalp, dropped it on the drunk righ. Splash! har har har. Wally had flicked the drink ring in my eye.

Then he asked if I was born again, told me that Jesus was the greatest salesman who ever lived. “He had something to sell,” I commented.
“Oh, I’m not going to worry about you, quoth the practical joking salesman.
Mom dismissed me. Wally asked what I planned to do for a living as I stood once again. “Don’t know,” I said, still uncomfortable with this clown. “Well, go to college, then come see me,” advised Wally.

I think that was my first job offer: and the first job I ever knew for sure I didn’t want. YoYo.

Wally had a huge mansion on the ocean in Bayshore. I always thought of him as we drove to our weekend beer parties in the Hamptons. There the ocean is held offshore by barrier islands; in Bayshore is think it was ocean directly on Long Island. Wally had multiple acres and the whole ocean. His wife was in there, all alone.

Stories by Theme by Age
Posted in teen | Leave a comment


/ Thinking Tools /

The School Fallacy

I’ve never been a fan of named fallacies: The Pathetic Fallacy, the Ad Hominem Fallacy. I don’t trust fallacies we’re schooled about: but I’m about to jot notes about a common error of human thinking that ought to be named, in fact I’ll name it: I’ll name it The School Fallacy. The School Fallacy is particularly dangerous because it’s assigned to us, typically by experts, by institutions, by priests. It could also be called the Church Fallacy: or the Institutional Fallacy. It could also be called the White House Fallacy, or the Polonius Fallacy:

You get a bill from a lawyer: it’s implicit that you got a legal service, perhaps legal advice. Institutions want you to encumber yourself with the School Fallacy: the lawyer wants you to believe that you got good legal advice. The school teacher, the school, want you to assume that your got a valuable lesson from the school, from the teacher; not just an expensive lesson: a good lesson.

You get a call, the voice says it’s from the White House, the President’s office. Is it Trump on the line? or some bureaucrat telling you to do something as though Trump is telling you?
Should Hamlet believe that Polonius speaks for the king? Should Danes believe that Polonius speaks wise counsel? or palace gibberish?

The priest tells you something, he wants you to assume that it’s God speaking, that what you hear from him is biblical.

The confusion I’ve always been ready to believe is that when I hear from God I’m hearing the truth. God’s word has authority. Not only does God’s word have authority, but it’s right!

If you see a weather report, if the report predicts rain for Wednesday, and it’s Wednesday, is it raining? Are you wet?

If God tells you to circumcise your kid, should you do it? If the kid bleeds to death, is it your fault? or the Temple’s, the rabi’s?

Institutions insist that you make generous mistakes: generous to them, harmful, toxic to you.

Thinking Tools

Posted in thinking tools | Leave a comment

Bible Law

Reading Notes /

Re: Robert Wright, The Evolution of God
Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday

(I’m reading the former, wow; rereading the latter: also wow, very.)

Moses gave the Jews Ten Commandments: laws if you will. Jesus gave us two laws (love God, love your neighbor).
(Note: those are prescriptive, not descriptive laws.) (Jesus was not prescribing adultery; he was recommending social behavior.)

Something I missed as a child (that every child misses): Jesus preached to the most law bloated of ancient societies, the Hebrew. The Hebrews at the time were ruled, like much of the rest of the civilized (cough,, gag, barf) world, by the Romans. The Romans were conspicuously law-obsessed. The Romans didn’t just enforce laws that told others what to do; the Romans chiseled laws for their own behavior: and they obeyed them!

warming up

Reading Notes A — L By Author M — Z
Posted in law | Leave a comment

Universe as Theater

/ Cosmology … Theology /

When I was a kid it seemed to me that the congregation of my church was on the same page as my Sunday School teacher: God would judge us, our sins would be exposed. God would be right. Human institutions –media, government, academia — would serve God, serve judgment, serve the truth. We’d all see it, we’d all understand it. If we hadn’t understood our sins before we’d understand them then, at judgment, we’d see that God was right, we were wrong; but we’ve got it right now. Now we understand what Jesus was forgving us for. We woudn’t be worthy of the forgiveness, but we never thouht we would be: that’s what’s so miraculous about divine forgiveness.

After judgment people who didn’t know shit from Shinola would get out of the way of those who did. Society would finally work. Science, history — future history if not past history — would agree. The philosopher might have a better understanding of the details the way this or that commentator might have a penetrating understanding of Hamlet; but it wasn’t a situation where Hamlet alone understood .01% of things while the bosses committed every sin but understood nothing.

Hamlet was tricky: but we all understood what was what: a little course correction and we’d be fine, forever. It wasn’t one of these things where no one, including Shakespeare, has a clue what the play is about: especially not Polonius or Rosencrantz: and certainly not poor Ophelia! But Polonius-etc. are the ones in charge of church, state … State, state, and more state. Shakespeare knew and we knew too, even if less well. The playwright knew perfectly, like God. The teacher knew too: better than the student, but not as well as Shakespeare: Student-A knew better than Student-B …

Now I believe that Beckett knew, so did Billie Whitelaw: Phil and I knew better than Rosencrantz or Guildenstern: the New York Times critic knew enough to bullshit a few paragraphs. Newton understood part, Halley understood more than anyone except Newton, but after a few years, the whole Royal Society, greedy for funding, was back to shit on Shinola.

Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw
thanx blogspot

How ‘about that for an actress!

Reality Theater scrapbook scribble

Steven Johnson has been presenting us with a magnificent series of books on culture, markets and evolution: I love his image of Darwin bumping near a major invention at a reef in India. Darwin discussed some of his ideas with his ship’s captain, Fitzroy. But he knew to tread lightly, not to go too far: not to let himself see more than a fraction of where the evidence seemed to be pointing. A century and a half later Johnson still has to be careful how he says what he says. (You want proof? just see that he absolutely doesn’t know who I am, who Illich was, what Illich (and pk) said! or tried to say: at least tried to bring up!

I still haven’t make my title point as clearly as I intend, but a little thought will show you a bulk of it.
more in a sec

Cosmology, Theology


Posted in social epistemology | Leave a comment