Ambiguity

I spent a lot of time when I was a boy, playing around the barn on my grandfather’s farm. That probably explains why, when I heard the phrase “stable genius,” I thought right away of an expert on horse shit.

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Shoulda been, still might be

I refer to Joe Biden, the one Democrat for whom I would have voted with full enthusiasm and for whom I would gladly campaign and vote next time around.

You may reasonably ask why. What does Biden bring that would make him better than any other Democrat? (I refuse to waste time and energy on “why would he be better than Trump.”)

Let me refer you to a recent interview Biden had with Judy Woodruff of PBS. First half was last night and the rest tonight (Friday, Jan 5). Watch just a few minutes of it and compare him with any image you have of Trump. Which of the two men would you rather have at the controls — of a motorcycle, of a corner store, of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, of the State Department, of the White House?

I plan to encouraage the man in any way I can. Encourage him because even if he decides not to run, he’ll be in position to help select and elect a realistic and reasonable alternative.

Joe.

Yes.

What’s in a name?

Or maybe I ought to ask, “what’s in a headscarf?”

The name is Asel Tamga. She’s only a couple days old, the first baby born in Vienna in 2018. The headscarf is a rich pink one, being worn by Alper Tamga. No accident those names look alike — Alper is Asel’s mother. That’s them in the picture, along with Naime Tamga , the baby’s father.

They look typical, don’t they, father stern and protective and just a bit overwhelmed, mother cheerful and protective and just a bit relieved, baby getting ready to express herself.

Asel herself was, at first, the center of attraction. Then people — quite a large number of them, if on-line posting is to be counted — picked up on the scarf, and the names, and realized this was something relatively new to Vienna: a Muslim baby.

Asel has been in the news now for two days. You’ll have no trouble finding other stories about her, her arrival and its implications for an apparently large number of Viennese.

My question, a rhetorical one mostly, is not about the child. It’s about that group of Viennese, the ones who immediately took to social media to express themselves. Tell me what you think — we’ll have no trustworthy access to the necessary date and so must rely on opinion — about them. Were they in the hundreds, the thousands, all expressing the same sentiments, or were they in the ones and two and fifteens, each one venting a dozen or a hundred different places.

The question is one we have to ask ourselves often today, as we never had to before. (Before Facebook, et al.) Are there really so many dozens — or millions — of single-track xenophobic idiots (I believe “Idiot” has emerged as the basic disparagement nowadays) among us? Or are they really in ones and twos and fives and sixes, and armed with a great deal of idle time, clever swift fingers, and a stock-pile of pseudonymous on-line IDs?

Stop the train. I want to get off.

It was more than five years ago that I finally began writing about the inhumane advances in warfare, the crude, impersonal and irreversible damage we — or any armed entity — could do and had started doing.

At the time it had seemed a topic ripe for discussion. Analysis. Counter-measures, if any such might be possible. But no, it seemed to fade from media — and therefore public — attention.

Now, however, it’s back in a new book, Nobody’s Ready for the Killer Robot. The link is to a Bloomberg interview with the author. I haven’t read the book, but the interview covers a lot of ground desperately in need of coverage. It’s a topic I won’t be able to resist coming back to, and soon.

Some of my earlier bits on the same topic:

God. Bombs. Insomnia

Drones, part 1

Drones, part 2 

Credit where it’s due…

Let’s start the New Year with a trivial complaint. Not even a complaint so much as a challenge. You’re all familiar with “A Visit from Saint Nick” and can perhaps rattle off a stanza or two right now. But was it really written by Clement Clarke Moore, or by someone else?

The poem showed up two hundred and some years ago with no clear indication of authorship. Along the way, a few people decided it sounded like something C. C.. Moore might have written, eventually Moore said yes, it was his poem.

OK. No big deal. But let me offer you a comparison test. A poem which is known to have been written by Moore, and the one here in question. Read the excerpts below — or click on to the full text of each one — and see if they sound like the work of the same man.

Old Santeclaus

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.

Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seemed for pigs intended.

… and here’s the other, perhaps sounding more familiar.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

OK. Same guy write both, or not?

English 407, Victorian Studies

Reading through the day’s news, I felt the usual pangs of disgust and anger — mostly but not entirely at Republican politians. When will enough of them, while scratching their asses, discover their backbones? It could happen, right? In fact, it will happen.

And at that point a wee small timorous voice in the distance whispered a couple famiar lines.

Oh yet we trust that somehow good
will be the final goal of ill

That can happen to unreconstructed English majors, even in their eighties. So I listened to the line again. Aha, says I. Tennyson.

Tennyson? That pompous Victorian Empire and Bible salesman? Yeah, him. I’d forgotten he might have written something good along the way. But I couldn’t recall the whole poem, so I looked it up.

Oh well. Should have known. Later verses ramble through gloom and pain and random misery, all — perhaps — to be balance out. Sometime.

Or not.

Is there a lesson here for the Trump generations. Not really.

Is there any lesson at all to be gained from these word squanderings I keep posting on Some Old Guy?

Yeah. The lesson is to hell with Victorian poets.

Except Browning, him and her. And the Rosettis, both of them. And Hood and Morris and Arnold and (maybe) Carroll. And Edward Lear, him too.

But still, to hell with Tennyson.