January 31, 2024
AI and the Left Hemisphere
About once a month, I come across an online essay that is so lengthy and compelling that, after reading the first section, I merely scan the rest and print it out so I can study it later.
Such is this essay by Adam Kirsch. It appears to be an explanation of how the left hemisphere came to dominate modern knowledge and how AI is its most recent (and deadly?) manifestation.
Kirsch never mentions the left hemisphere but the essay nicely plugs into the hemisphere hypothesis and, regardless of what you think of McGilchrist is, I believe, a "must read."
Side note: I'm struck by this new journal (it's been around for four years, it appears). I had to resist the temptation to subscribe immediately. I'll get its newsletters and start listening to its podcasts and then decide, but right now, I'm leaning heavily toward purchasing a subscription.
January 30, 2024
QR Codes Aren't Evil
They just feel that way. We ought to be asking "why?"
The left hemisphere thinks that it objectively uses tools. Tools, the left hemisphere thinks, don't affect the brain: the brain simply yields the tools. Tools are the brain's b**ch.
Enter Marshall McLuhan, Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, the Jesuit Walter Ong, Neil Postman, and many other thinkers who have begged modernity's left hemisphere to lift its foot off the cocksure accelerator and ask questions: What is lost when a new tool is employed? What becomes different? How does the tool affect us?
Unfortunately, the questions can't be answered in left hemispheric terms (i.e., "analytically," "categorically," "in black and white"). We can only grope for answers at the beginning, using our intuition and vague impressions . . . our feelings.
Later, after the damage is done, we can use the left hemisphere to pick through the rubble and analyze the pieces, but how much nicer it would've been to allow the right hemisphere to pre-empt the damage.
Bailey Sincox has written a lovely essay that tries to bring the right hemisphere to bear on QR Codes. The essay proves nothing but it's not supposed to. It raises an important question and that's enough.
It concludes with an experience that even the left hemisphere can appreciate:
Spotting an usher standing at the foot of an escalator, I pulled out my phone, opened my email inbox, and followed a link from The Shed. The link took me to a login page where I was asked to provide my username and password for The Shed’s website. Not remembering my account details, I returned to my inbox and searched for “TICKETS” in the hope of finding another email with an attached PDF or embedded information. The usher rang her bell, signaling five minutes until curtain. “Let’s just go to will call,” I said to my companion in exasperation.
Belief Forming Disposition or Disposition Forming Belief?
A Social-Psycho Construct (Marx/Freud Explanation) or Evidence of Connection to Reality?
January 29, 2024
Haven't verified but I'd bet money it's accurate . . .
Also at Catholic365, but in a Slightly-Sanitized Version
Oh My Lions
That franchise is snakebit. They dominated that game; they were the better team; they made one gaff and goof after another.
Oh well. I thought for a few minutes that I was going to enjoy both a collegiate National Champion and a NFC Champion (with a shot at the Super Bowl championship). Maybe I was just getting greedy, and if I am, indeed, only allowed to have one, I would've picked the Michigan National Championship.
January 28, 2024
Rogan Meets Schall
George Carlin is Still Cutting Edge
January 27, 2024
If you're interested in the Mob and Vegas.
Too Fat for Civil War
According to a recent Pentagon study, 77 percent of young Americans do not qualify for military service due to being drug-addled, fat, crazy or some combination of the above. Another study from late last year showed that 20 percent of active-duty military are too fat for active duty.
Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “Fat people do not belong in war.” If wars were decided by eating contests — maybe I’d fear the coming civil war. Perhaps it’s time for the nation to focus on shedding pounds rather than shedding blood. After all, a healthy and united America is far more powerful than fat, crazy and depressed one.
January 26, 2024
Brews You Can Use
January 25, 2024
A Thoughtful Appreciation of the Small and Local . . . of Our Backyards
What if this bog-standard corner of England is actually full of adventure, nature, wildness, surprises, silence, perspective — if only I bothered to go out and look?
January 24, 2024
The struggle to reconcile our use of Amazon with our hatred of big corporations is a constant mental, even emotional, struggle, especially when facts like this are plopped in front of us:
Money is power, and companies like Amazon suck this economic power out of local communities and concentrate it far away.
The author of this piece does a nice job of struggling with the layered problem that is Amazon. I say "layered" because it afflicts the individual, the community, the nation, and the globe.
That being said, I squint at her application of the principle of subsidiarity to economics. The principle of subsidiarity is a political issue, not an economic one.
The biggest problem we have today is the (successful) effort by businesses to use politics in their economic pursuits. This blurring of the spheres (i) exacerbates the inequality that is bad enough already in capitalism and (ii) it results in legal thievery by the economically rich and politically connected against everyone who isn't both rich and connected.
I'm not sure it makes sense to blur the two realms in our effort to get rid of the blurring, but otherwise, it's a compelling essay. It even offers a few good responses to the problem (I love the idea of barter), even if, I fear, they don't amount to much.
Sometimes, a small thing is the only thing we can do. The fact that it's small doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
January 23, 2024
Localism without Fundamentalism
We can applaud yesterday's small towns without worshipping them. We can appreciate the local without demonizing the central.
But we also need to insist that today's progressives applaud yesterday and that today's centralizing gnostics respect the local. I'm afraid those just aren't going to happen, so we're left with the natural response to idealize (a form of worship) the past and hate the central.
January 22, 2024
I don't think I'll run this one at Catholic365. It's a bit too ribald. Maybe I'll run a sanitized version there later.
January 21, 2024
If You're Near Toledo, Check This Out
A TDE reader sends this along.
Eric: Toledo Museum of Art is actually having an interesting exhibit. (Museum has a really good permanent collection, but recent exhibits have been lame.)
Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy (ca. 1595-96), Caravaggio’s first religious painting, presents the 13th-century saint’s vision of his miraculously receiving the signs of the stigmata, the wounds left in Christ’s body by the Crucifixion.
Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, bishop of Toledo, will discuss “Caravaggio” in conversation with director Adam Levine on Friday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Great Gallery.
January 20, 2024
My father-in-law is 93 and really sharp. One thing he does to keep sharp: jigsaw puzzles. He times himself and works them serenely but with focus.
The mental exercise drips with lessons explored by Dr. Kevin Majerjes at Optimal Work: short bursts of sustained focus, little goals that keep you motivated during the burst, engagement in an activity that lessens the desire to multitask.
Jigsaw puzzles have a lot of benefits (touched upon here). I'm not inclined to start doing jigsaw puzzles, but I have started something similar: writing "non-stories" within tight time constraints (30 minutes, normally). I find an article at the Spectator or Epoch Times that I like, then sit down and write a non-story about it in 30 minutes. Sometimes, I find interesting material from a book and do the same thing.
I think the effect is kind of the same thing that my father-in-law achieves with his jigsaw puzzles. Short burst, the little goal of "putting together" the first draft of the article within 30 minutes, a lighter activity (they're written like newspaper articles, not weighty essays) that sustains focus.
Anyway, my Botox piece came from the Spectator. The non-story about winter resolutions came from The Epoch Times. The non-story about the magician came from the (surprisingly interesting and fun) Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures.
January 19, 2024
Brews You Can Use
January 18, 2024
A Previous OtML Installment
January 17, 2024
Anthony Daniels aims at three of my favorite targets: (1) The relentless propaganda to push the WNBA on the populace (but in Daniels' case, he marvels at the propaganda to push female soccer in Europe), (2) tattoo culture, and (3) ugly buildings ("brutalism").
Underlying these three seemingly disparate things: A sinister insistence that everyone appreciate and accept something that isn't good. Women's basketball/soccer is fine, but it's simply not as good as men's. A modest tattoo might be a matter of taste, but a tattoo-caked arm is unsettling. Brutal buildings are downright menacing and ugly.
Should people be free to watch the WNBA, get a tattoo, and construct ugly buildings? Sure.
But they should be even freer not to. A person of true freedom doesn't succumb to the propaganda. A person of true freedom and a bit of bravery (or brashness) is comfortable pushing back, preferably with mockery.
It is not the fault of women that they are not very good at football, any more than it is the fault of fish that they are illiterate, but the fact that everyone pretends not to notice it and dares not say it, at least in public, is surely a little sinister. A man of seventy may still play a good game of tennis, but it is always for his age: one wouldn’t expect him to win Wimbledon, nor would one expect excited, breathless reports on an over-seventies’ tennis tournament. The sudden interest in women’s football thus has a bogus feel about it, like the simulated enthusiasm of a crowd for the dictator in a communist state.
January 16, 2024
Bring Back H.L. Mencken!
I'm not sure if I was more intrigued to find an essay about Rabelais or to find a journal dedicated to Catholicism in South Louisiana. They're both fine discoveries.
One of my favorite writers, Albert Jay Nock, was a huge Rabelais fan. He wrote two books about him. From the first:
It must be laid down once and for all, that the chief purpose of reading a classic like Rabelais is to prop and stay the spirit, especially in its moments of weakness and reservation, against the stress of life, to elevate it above the reach of commonplace and annoyances and degradations, and to purge it of despondency and cynicism.
According to Robert Crunden's indispensable Nock biography, Nock wrote in a letter to a friend:
Rabelais was one of the world's great libertarians and if I can do anything for him with American readers of the more thoughtful kind, I shall be truly happy; he has been a stay and support to my spirit for thirty years.
Nock's essay on Rabelais was a work of sheer devotion, a cheerful attempt to repay a debt that could never really be repaid.
January 15, 2024
The Monday Column
I thought I published this essay at TDE but I can't find it now. I previous version appeared at Medium.com, but it's not there now. Anyway, as far as humor goes, it's one of my better efforts.
January 14, 2024
January 13, 2024
Wow, pretty brutal weather this weekend. It took Marie and me 90 minutes to clear the driveway and now, two hours later, it's covered again.
You don't need a gym membership when you live in the north. That was an insight instilled into me from growing up with Rocky IV.
January 12, 2024
Brews You Can Use
January 11, 2024
Can Pope Francis' good supporters at least concede he is surrounded by scoundrels?
January 9, 2024
Congrats to the Wolverines
I'm pretty stoked about this championship. I was again engrossed and had trouble falling asleep afterward, even though I was tired after spending the day taking Max back to Ann Arbor and spending a bit of time walking my old haunts. I would again be mildly ashamed at my interest in the game like I was on January 1st, except for Fr. Schall's assurance that it's good to take interest in something frivolous: it shows how something can be good for its own sake, not for what it brings you.
I'm inclined to think it's a very right-hemispheric experience: a sports victory brings nothing to the fan that the left hemisphere values: profit, preservation, prey.
But then again, the left hemisphere is "essentially competitive," so the whole experience of rooting for your team is essentially left-hemispheric.
I'll have to ponder it some more. For now, I'll just enjoy the victory and see what transpires for this Michigan program over the next month. I'm afraid it won't be pretty, but it'll be interesting.
January 8, 2024
Over at Catholic365. It's in the genre of the "non-story" I've been toying with.
National Championship Day
My alma mater plays for the championship, and I'm gonna be in Ann Arbor . . . this morning. I'm taking Max back to college. He'll be watching at the Crysler Arena with thousands of other screaming students.
God willing, I'll be home, cozily in front of my TV with two of my other sons and wife.
Funny: I offered to take Max back to campus tomorrow so he could hang here with me, but he declined. Hmmmm.
January 7, 2024
Slightly More Expansive Reflection on Dry January
Friday's BYCU with a bit more background for the non-TDE reader.
January 6, 2024
Catholic 365 Posting
January 5, 2024
Brews You Can Use
January 4, 2024
The Press' Claimed Monopoly on Truth
It's the worst monopoly of all time . . . because it's an impossible monopoly and, therefore, a monopoly that can be exercised only through force (censorship).
January 3, 2024
Top-down Planning is Rational
And therefore always dominated by the left hemisphere and therefore fundamentally misguided. One urban scientist is trying to explain a different way to envision our cities. This essay contrasts this new way with the dystopian way that Dostoyevsky described at the start of modernity's mania for urban planning.
If Dostoyevsky reveals the ill effects of top-down planning through the pathologies that it enables, Almazán expresses the benefits of emergent urban spaces through their positive aesthetic, economic, social, and moral results. . . .
Almazán observed [last year]: “We can start looking at the mistakes we [make] here on Earth. . . . One of them is functionalism. Basically, it means thinking rationally and assigning to each problem a functional solution. We forget that human beings are not always rational. And cities, in fact, solve that issue through liminal spaces.
"Liminal": Barely perceptible, those areas of city life we don't notice . . . because they emerge without notice (pre-thought, rationality, planning).
January 2, 2024
My Experimentation with the "Non-Story" Continues
My third non-story shows what this "new genre" of online writing can do and why I'm so interested in it.
Congratulations to My Wolverines
It has been a heckuva ride so far. I'm a little embarrassed to say how wired I was during the game last night, but in my defense, it was one of the most fun (if frustrating) college football games in years.
Now my son, Max, has a choice: Shell out over $1,500 to watch the championship game in Houston or re-sell his ticket and watch the game in Ann Arbor next Monday (and enjoy the ensuing wild celebration that will occur if Michigan pulls off a victory)? Choice, choices.
January 1, 2024
Happy New Year
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul…” G.K. Chesterton
Zero Hedge on "Hoeflation"
This is one of those pieces that flooded my brain with all sorts of thoughts as I read it. Here are two:
Zero Hedge is Fairly Well Written
Robert Kiyosaki supposedly once counseled a new "creator" about the perils of good writing: "It's 'bestselling author,' not 'best-written author.'" His point: If you want to be successful online, you need to write for sales, not art. He's right. It's unfortunate, but if a writer spends time doing something stupid like, you know, writing well, turning phrases, and such, he won't be spending time churning out swill and won't make any money.
Exhibit A: Zero Hedge. Tyler Durden couldn't write well, but he always got his point across in a pithy, often sensationalist, manner, and he knew his field (financing, investment) very well. His readership exploded. He then started branching out into related areas, going beyond economics into current affairs and politics.
Tyler Durden also started writing well. When I read this piece, I was like, "Dang, this is well done."
I guess a guy can start as a hack and, after doing it for a few years, develop an objectively decent style.
(Aside: "Tyler Durden" is the main character in Fight Club. Not only is it not the real name of the blogger behind Zero Hedge, but it's also unlikely that the Zero Hedge blogger is just one guy. It is speculated that up to 40 people are authorized by Zero Hedge to post under the name "Tyler Durden.")
More Guys Need to Get to the Trad Mass
The women described in his piece (the "hoes") are taken straight from the movies and other pop culture. They're also taken straight from real life (art mirrors life).
But not all young women are like this. Not remotely. Some young women don't think family life is an "artificial prison." They know their best chance of happiness and fulfillment isn't found in the workplace. They aren't "woke." They know their ability to maintain a home is the most important thing any woman can do. They don't want to work unless necessary and, even then, preferably "on the side." (I believe, but can't prove, that women in the workforce have placed downward pressures on men's wages, while at the same time increasing the cost of living because two-earner couples can afford to splash money around).
You can find these women at your local Catholic church, especially the ones at Latin Mass. Look for young ladies who are wearing a white veil over their hair (a black veil means they're married or engaged to be married . . . my new daughter-in-law explained this to me last week). I'm sure they can be found in other enclaves, but unless you find such an enclave, you're gonna have to pluck these lovely needles out of filthy haystacks, like your local office or university campus.