What is moral?Posted: July 31, 2018 Filed under: writing Leave a comment
How do we decide what’s good or bad, right or wrong?
A interesting question obvs. One every person answers for themselves somehow.
But how many of us can articulate our answer?
Would you come up with something like “not harming anyone else”? Living with honor and honesty and compassion?
Really, I doubt most of us bother to articulate a moral philosophy or definition of morals. We sorta just go with what feels right or wrong.
About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
This is a quote attributed to Hemingway.
One thing I think is wrong is quote sites that don’t include the source or context for the quote.
(Brainy Quotes has the nerve to suggest how you can cite Brainy Quotes itself as the source.)
As always, hunting the source proves enriching. Hemingway said this in chapter one of his book Death In The Afternoon.
Back up just a few pages. Here’s how Hemingway starts the book:
In Hemingway’s day, what was most repugnant about bullfighting was the suffering of horses.
Horses (this is described in the book) would get gored and have their entrails hanging out and trailing like grotesque ribbons.
At what bullfights remain this problem has been mostly eliminated, I believe, by armoring the horses. At the only bullfight I ever saw in person, the horses were unharmed, though nine bulls were killed, one of them especially tortured because of the incompetence of the matador (lit. “killer”). (This video is upsetting if you don’t like seeing bulls hurt, but you can see how horses are now protected.)
Hemingway continues, justifying why he got into bullfighting even though he likes horses:
I was trying to write then, and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced.
A theme Hemingway came back to frequently.
He mentions Goya’s Los Desastros de la Guerra.
So I went to Spain to see bullfights and to try to write about them for myself. I thought they would be simple and barbarous and cruel and that I would not like them, but that I would see certain definite action which would give me the feeling of life and death that I was working for. I found the definite action ; but the bullfight was so far from simple and I liked it so much that it was much too complicated for my then equipment for writing to deal with and, aside from four very short sketches, I was not able to write anything about it for five years — and I wish I would have waited ten. However, if I had waited long enough I probably never would have written anything at all since there is a tendency when you really begin to learn something about a thing not to want to write about it but rather to keep on learning about it always and at no time, unless you are very egotistical, which, of course, accounts for many books, will you be able to say: now I know all about this and will write about it. Certainly I don not say that now ‘ every year I know there is more to learn, but I know some things which may be interesting now, and I may be away from the bullfights for a long time and I might as well write what I know about them now. Also it might be good to have a book about bullfighting in English and a serious book on such an unmoral subject may have some value.
So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after and judged by these moral standards, which I do not defend, the bullfight is very moral to me because I feel very fine while it is going on and have a feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality, and after it is over I feel very sad but very fine. Also, I do not mind the horses; not in principle, but in fact I do not mind them.
Just thought is was interesting, this succinct definition of morality came in the context of why it shouldn’t bother us to see horses mangled during the ritual killing of bulls.
Mission: Impossible: FalloutPosted: July 30, 2018 Filed under: film, movies 1 Comment
Question about this film, if you’ve seen it:
(and don’t get me wrong, I had a good time)
why was a high-altitude parachute jump the best way to get into Paris?
Never listened to a corporate earnings callPosted: July 30, 2018 Filed under: business, the California Condition Leave a comment
but there’s a first for everything. I am pretty curious about the Tesla call, Weds Aug 1 at 2:30 PDT
Steak fries well done and a virgin pina coladaPosted: July 30, 2018 Filed under: food Leave a comment
Christine Baskets room service order on a Baskets ep, catchin’ up.
The wild man and his “wildies”Posted: July 29, 2018 Filed under: comedy, movies Leave a comment
From Comedy’s Greatest Era (1949):
Sennett used to hire a “wild man” to sit in on his gag conferences, whose whole job was to think up “wildies.” Usually he was an all but brainless, speechless man, scarcely able to communicate his idea; but he had a totally uninhibited imagination. He might say nothing for an hour; then he’d mutter “You take . . . ” and all the relatively rational others would shut up and wait. “You take this cloud . . .” he would get out, sketching vague shapes in the air. Often he could get no further; but thanks to some kind of thought-transference, saner men would take this cloud and make something of it. The wild man seems in fact to have functioned as the group’s subconscious mind, the source of all creative energy. His ideas were so weird and amorphous that Sennett can no longer remember a one of them, or even how it turned out after rational processing. But a fair equivalent might be on of the best comic sequences in a Laurel and Hardy picture. It is simple enough – simple and real, in fact, as a nightmare. Laurel and Hardy are trying to move a piano across a narrow suspension bridge. The bridge is slung over a sickening chasm, between a couple of Alps. Midway they meet a gorilla.
Agee speaks of the side-splitting laughter that would erupt in silent movie houses, and how you just can’t get that level of laughter from “talkies,” no matter how funny.
the best of comedies these days hand out plenty of titters and once in a while it is possible to achieve a yowl without overstraining
but nothing like what the “ideally good gags” of the silent days would provoke.
Wasn’t sure I understood what levels of laughter in the movie theater Agee was talking about until I saw the Jackass movies:
SchumpeterPosted: July 29, 2018 Filed under: business Leave a comment
This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.
The Economist has a column named after Joseph Schumpeter and it’s been giving me a lot of ideas. Who was Schumpeter?
Schumpeter claimed that he had set himself three goals in life: to be the greatest economist in the world, to be the best horseman in all of Austria and the greatest lover in all of Vienna. He said he had reached two of his goals, but he never said which two, although he is reported to have said that there were too many fine horsemen in Austria for him to succeed in all his aspirations.
On what would happen:
Schumpeter’s most popular book in English is probably Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. While he agrees with Karl Marx that capitalism will collapse and be replaced by socialism, Schumpeter predicts a different way this will come about. While Marx predicted that capitalism would be overthrown by a violent proletarian revolution, which actually occurred in the least capitalist countries, Schumpeter believed that capitalism would gradually weaken by itself and eventually collapse. Specifically, the success of capitalism would lead to corporatism and to values hostile to capitalism, especially among intellectuals. “Intellectuals” are a social class in a position to critique societal matters for which they are not directly responsible and to stand up for the interests of other classes. Intellectuals tend to have a negative outlook of capitalism, even while relying on it for prestige, because their professions rely on antagonism toward it. The growing number of people with higher education is a great advantage of capitalism, according to Schumpeter. Yet, unemployment and a lack of fulfilling work will cause intellectual critique, discontent and protests. Parliaments will increasingly elect social democratic parties, and democratic majorities will vote for restrictions on entrepreneurship. Increasing workers’ self-management, industrial democracy and regulatory institutions would evolve non-politically into “liberal capitalism”. Thus, the intellectual and social climate needed for thriving entrepreneurship will be replaced by some form of “laborism”. This will exacerbate “creative destruction” (a borrowed phrase to denote an endogenous replacement of old ways of doing things by new ways), which will ultimately undermine and destroy the capitalist structure.
Schumpeter emphasizes throughout this book that he is analyzing trends, not engaging in political advocacy.
Any day now!
Schumpeter was interested in the wave theories of Nikolai Kondratiev, a Soviet economist who ended up executed.
He is best known for proposing the theory that Western capitalist economies have long term (50 to 60 years) cycles of boom followed by depression. These business cycles are now called “Kondratiev waves“.
I can’t claim to understand Kondratiev, but the idea that waves are a good metaphor for the cycles of capitalism seems like a start.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb on lionsPosted: July 28, 2018 Filed under: Africa, business Leave a comment
The Fooled By Randomness author and deadlifter describes going to Africa and seeing lots of giraffes and impalas but only one lion:
It turned out that I had squarely made the error that I warn against, of mistaking the lurid for the empirical: there are very, very few predators compared to what one can call collaborative animals. The camp in the wild reserve was next to a watering hole, and in the afternoon it got crowded with hundreds of animals of different species who apparently got along rather well with one another. But of the thousands of animals that I spotted cumulatively, the image of the lion in a state of majestic calm dominates my memory. It may make sense from a risk-management point of view to overestimate the role of the lion — but not in our interpretation of world affairs.
If the “law of the jungle” means anything, it means collaboration for the most part, with a few perceptional distortions caused by our otherwise well-functioning risk management intuitions. Even predators end up in some type of arrangement with their prey.
The origin of algorithmPosted: July 28, 2018 Filed under: business, Islam Leave a comment
The word “algorithm” comes up a lot these days. We’ve spoken before about the origin of this word, in the name of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, author of The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing.
written around 820 CE in the city of Baghdad.
The man from Khwarizm.
The Khwarazam region today doesn’t look too great.
I’m talking about live the life.Posted: July 27, 2018 Filed under: the California Condition Leave a comment
Jonathan Gold talking to Ann Friedman:
JG: [Laughs.] There’s a taqueria in Santa Barbara I like that… most of what they serve revolves around a stewed cow’s head. You can order it by name or you can point to the part of the cow’s head that you’d like your taco to be made of. It’s pretty bland, but then you put salsa, cilantro, and onion and stuff on it, and it’s pretty good. There’s a couple of places in East L.A. that do that, but there you have to order it by name.
AF: Like, it wouldn’t be on the menu?
JG: It would be on the menu, but you wouldn’t be able to point at a whole cow’s head and say what you want.
AF: Ah, the visual.
JG: That’s one of the great things about L.A. You can decide that you want to eat essentially as if you live in Guadalajara, or you can decide you want to eat essentially as if you are in Chengdu. There are enough places around that you could probably manage it. I’m not just talking for a meal, I’m talking about live the life.
PleasantriesPosted: July 26, 2018 Filed under: America Since 1945, the California Condition Leave a comment
Woke up and felt putting some pleasantness on the Internet could be a service. Pic I took of Caleb and Hana’s alpacas.
Here is a Scottish fold from when I was researching how many famous Internet cats (Maru, Shrampton, Waffles, Taylor Swift’s cats) all have the same common ancestor in Scotland, 1961.
Here’s a comparison of the size of Netherlands to the size of LA, probably from OverlapMap or MapFrappe. I’m not sure if the Netherlands is bigger or smaller than I expected.
ImpressedPosted: July 24, 2018 Filed under: the California Condition Leave a comment
via Curbed. Impressed is such a great word. “It made an impression.”
Is E. M. Forster “wrong”? (or, maybe, are our meanings different than his?)Posted: July 24, 2018 Filed under: writing 2 Comments
Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. “The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot.
So says Forster in Aspects of The Novel.
But this is the exact opposite way I feel most professional TV writers talk about this. Shorthanded, “plot” means the events and “story” is the emotional journeys of the characters.
Over here commenter Kenny Chaffin, a writer himself, puts it succinctly:
I’m not sure I’d say Forster was wrong, but these words seem to have an inverted meaning in 2018 Hollywood. When you have plot and no story, the audience will be bored.
In The New York Times, there is a casual distance between story and truthPosted: July 23, 2018 Filed under: the California Condition Leave a comment
writer of this article says a number of wrong things, including confusing the 1994 Northridge earthquake for the 1992 Landers earthquake. Easy to get a fact wrong, I do it every day, but it’s pretty funny to pair it with a cliché about how people in the desert are always making up stuff.
Weak, weak, weakPosted: July 23, 2018 Filed under: America Since 1945, politics 2 Comments
The Trump era will end when a Democrat can get in Trump’s face and confidently say this. American politics is not structured for this kinda face to face thing so maybe it won’t be until 2020.
Jump to 3:42 in this director’s cut to see the almost sexual excitement that explodes when Blair drops the word “weak”:
Sherrod Brown is the Dem who physically resembles Blair here the most, imo.
Once a confident Democrat is calling Trump weak to his face, the fight will enter the pattern laid out by Randall Collins:
How does violence sometimes succeed in doing damage? The key is asymmetrical confrontation tension. One side will win if they can get their victim in the zone of high arousal and high incompetence, while keeping their own arousal down to a zone of greater bodily control.
Trump will enter a state of high arousal and high incompetence. Collins continues:
Violence is not so much physical as emotional struggle; whoever achieves emotional domination, can then impose physical domination. That is why most real fights look very nasty; one sides beats up on an opponent at the time they are incapable of resisting.
Unfortch a US president in a state of high arousal and high incompetence has a non-zero chance of ending human life on Earth, so that also must be weighed.
AyahuascaPosted: July 23, 2018 Filed under: drugs, Wonder Trail Leave a comment
It was only when I came home from Peru, and started researching Amazonian shamanism, that I realised how different indigenous Amazonians’ conception of ayahuasca-healing can be. Westerners tend to think that emotional problems are caused by issues in our past, which ayahuasca can help us accept and integrate. Indigenous Amazonians (to generalise) are more likely to think emotional problems are caused by sorcery. You are out of sorts because you have been cursed by a secret enemy, or because you’ve offended a spirit. Ayahuasca will help you identify your hidden enemy, remove their curse, and get revenge.
cool article at Aeon by Jules Evans about whether our cultural assumptions are shaping our psychedelic experiences and leading us to misunderstand traditional uses.
More on this topic can be found in:
Interview: John LevensteinPosted: July 22, 2018 Filed under: writing, writing advice from other people 2 Comments
Classical KUSC / soundless WW2 footagePosted: July 21, 2018 Filed under: film, music, WW2 Leave a comment
found that playing Smithsonian Channel’s The Pacific War In Color while KUSC our local classical station was coming out of my old radio created a cool effect.
not sure whyPosted: July 20, 2018 Filed under: advertising Leave a comment
but I found this ad for Media Group on the Forbes website depressing. (Also “Media Group”?)
something about the affect of the girl in the shopping cart.
where are her friends? for whom is she performing? does she need help? I can see she’s pretending to be happy but also doesn’t truly seem to be having fun.
I guess it got my attention.
I’d love to discuss it with Ogilvy.
When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death knells ringingPosted: July 20, 2018 Filed under: America Since 1945, politics Leave a comment
we used to listen to this record when I was a kid.
when friends by shame are undefiled
also a good line.
The first was the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Afterward, many people who interacted with Putin noticed how deeply Qaddafi’s death troubled him. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. “The way Qaddafi died made a profound impact on him,” says Jake Sullivan, a former senior State Department official who met repeatedly with senior Russian officials around that time. Another former senior Obama-administration official describes Putin as “obsessed” with Qaddafi’s death
reported Julia Ioffe for the Atlantic in February 2018.
h/t my colleague EmiliaPosted: July 20, 2018 Filed under: birds 2 Comments