Reader Chris P writes:
I just got back into reading your blog and spent all day on it
today. Good stuff.
Yes. Sounds like a good day, Chris.
This is something that’s been in my mind the last few weeks and
seems relevant to your stuff.
I was back in Long Island for the first time in a while and since
we’re only doing outdoor things we went on a bunch of hikes that
have elevated plank walkways through marshes. I was reflecting that
I just love those things and it’s always a good hike when some part
of it is on a marsh walkway. You look out on a well made elevated
marsh walkway and everything feels great. You don’t see them as much
in California but there are a few.
Then I found this:
Some of the oldest structures ever found in the British Isles are
elevated marsh walkways. Built in 3800 BC. Older than Stonehenge.
Lots of good stuff in the wiki piece.
“The track was constructed from about 200,000 kilograms (440,000 lb)
of timber, but Coles estimates that once the materials were
transported to the site, ten men could have assembled it in one day”
So it seems like the elevated marsh walkway is one of those human
-constructed landscape elements that people have a deep almost
“genetic memory” affinity before. At least people with ancestry in
the British Isles.
(Similar to the “open” woodlands where natural brush has been
repeatedly burned out by controlled fires to facilitate hunting.)
Anyway… thought you might be intrigued. If nothing else I feel
better having told someone.
Lol truly the motivation over here at Helytimes: To feel better having told someone. The Sweet Track design, illustrated here, seems beautifully efficient.
Good lil bit in this Aeon article by Julian Baggini about Kierkegaard:
find the image of having your heart weighed against a feather after you die very powerful.
How do you do on the 42 Negative Confessions?:
The following are translations by E. A. Wallis Budge.
42 Negative Confessions (Papyrus of Ani)
From the Papyrus of Ani.
I have not committed sin.
I have not committed robbery with violence.
I have not stolen.
I have not slain men and women.
I have not stolen grain.
I have not purloined offerings.
I have not stolen the property of the gods.
I have not uttered lies.
I have not carried away food.
I have not uttered curses.
I have not committed adultery.
I have made none to weep.
I have not eaten the heart [i.e., I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
I have not attacked any man.
I am not a man of deceit.
I have not stolen cultivated land.
I have not been an eavesdropper.
I have slandered [no man].
I have not been angry without just cause.
I have not debauched the wife of any man.
I have not debauched the wife of [any] man. (repeats the previous affirmation but addressed to a different god).
I have not polluted myself.
I have terrorized none.
I have not transgressed [the Law].
I have not been wroth.
I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
I have not blasphemed.
I am not a man of violence.
I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
I have not pried into matters.
I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
I have not acted with evil rage.
I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the spirits of the dead.
I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.
Definite no from me on 31. I’m always prying into matters! Something for me to work on.
I wonder how E. A. Wallis Budge himself would do on this quiz:
Is this a good definition? From my Zen calendar. Quick investigation suggests Buson was the real deal.
Fair’s where you kiss a pig and give it a blue ribbon.
Massachusetts alt version: fair’s where you go to see a giant pumpkin.
How many interesting things are in sociologist Randall Collins’ latest post (which is maybe the text of a speech or something?) Let me excerpt some for us. I have highlighted some nuggets:
I will add a parallel that is perhaps surprising. Those who know Loic Wacquant would not expect to find silent harmony. Nevertheless, Wacquant’s study of a boxing gym finds a similar pattern: there is little that boxers do in the gym that they could not do at home alone, except sparring; but in the gym they perform exercises like skipping, hitting the bags, strengthening stomach muscles, all in 3-minute segments to the ring of the bell that governs rounds in the ring. When everyone in the gym is in the same rhythm, they are animated by a collective feeling; they become boxers dedicated to their craft, not so much through minds but as an embodied project.
A large proportion of violent confrontations of all kinds– street fights, riots, etc.– quickly abort; and most persons in those situations act like Marshall’s soldiers– they let a small minority of the group do all the violence. Now that we have photos and videos of violent situations, we see that at the moment of action the expression on the faces of the most violent participants is fear. Our folk belief is that anger is the emotion of violence, but anger appears mostly before any violence happens, and in controlled situations where individuals bluster at a distant enemy. I have called thisconfrontational tension/fear; it is the confrontation itself that generates the tension, more than fear of what will happen to oneself. Confrontational tension is debilitating; phenomenologically we know (mainly from police debriefings after shootings) that it produces perceptual distortions; physiologically it generates racing heart beat, an adrenaline rush which at high levels results in loss of bodily control.
This explains another, as yet little recognized pattern: when violence actually happens, it is usually incompetent. Most of the times people fire a gun at a human target, they miss; their shots go wide, they hit the wrong person, sometimes a bystander, sometimes friendly fire on their own side. This is a product of the situation, the confrontation. We know this because the accuracy of soldiers and police on firing ranges is much higher than when firing at a human target. We can pin this down further; inhibition in live firing declines with greater distance; artillery troops are more reliable than infantry with small arms, so are fighter and bomber crews and navy crews; it is not the statistical chances of being killed or injured by the enemy that makes close-range fighters incompetent. At the other end of the spectrum, very close face-to-face confrontation makes firing even more inaccurate; shootings at a distance of less than 2 meters are extremely inaccurate. Is this paradoxical? It is facing the other person at a normal distance for social interaction that is so difficult. Seeing the other person’s face, and being seen by him or her seeing your seeing,is what creates the most tension. Snipers with telescopic lenses can be extremely accurate, even when they see their target’s face; what they do not see is the target looking back; there is no mutual attention, no intersubjectivity. Mafia hit men strike unexpectedly and preferably from behind, relying on deception and normal appearances so that there is no face confrontation. This is also why executioners used to wear hoods; and why persons wearing face masks commit more violence than those with bare faces.
NOTE THE POLICY IMPLICATION: The fashion in recent years among elite police units to wear balaclava-style face masks during their raids should be eliminated.
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. 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. At the extreme, this happens in the big victories of military combat, where the troops on one side become paralyzed in the zone of 200 heartbeats per minute, massacred by victors in the 140 heartbeat range. This kind of asymmetry is especially dangerous, when the dominant side is also in the middle ranges of arousal; at 160 BPM or so, they are acting with only semi-conscious bodily control. Adrenaline is the flight-or-fight hormone; when the opponent signals weakness, shows fear, paralysis, or turns their back, this can turn into what I have called a forward panic, and the French officer Ardant du Picq called “flight to the front.” Here the attackers rush forward towards an unresisting enemy, firing uncontrollably. It has the pattern of hot rush, piling on, and overkill. Most outrageous incidents of police violence against unarmed or unresisting targets are forward panics, now publicized in our era of bullet counts and ubiquitous videos.
Another pathway is where the fight is surrounded by an audience; people who gather to watch, especially in festive crowds looking for entertainment; historical photos of crowds watching duels; and of course the commercial/ sporting version of staged fights. This configuration produces the longest and most competent fights; confrontational tension is lowered because the fighters are concerned for their performance in the eyes of the crowd, while focusing on their opponent has an element of tacit coordination since they are a situational elite jointly performing for the audience. Even the loser in a heroic staged fight gets social support. We could test this by comparing emotional micro-behavior in a boxing match or a baseball game without any spectators.
(among the photos that come up if you Google “crowd watching a duel”:
Finally, there are a set of techniques for carrying out violence without face confrontation. Striking at a distance: the modern military pathway. Becoming immersed in technical details of one’s weapons rather than on the human confrontation. And a currently popular technique: the clandestine attack such as a suicide bombing, which eliminates confrontational tension because it avoids showing any confrontation until the very moment the bomb is exploded. Traditional assassinations, and the modern mafia version, also rely on the cool-headedness that comes from pretending there is no confrontation, hiding in Goffmanian normal appearances until the moment to strike.
All this sounds rather grisly, but nevertheless confrontational theory of violence has an optimistic side. First, there is good news: most threatening confrontations do not result in violence. (This is shown also in Robert Emerson’s new book on quarrels among roommates and neighbours.) We missed this because, until recently, most evidence about violence came from sampling on the dependent variable. There is a deep interactional reason why face-to-face violence is hard, not easy. Most of the time both sides stay symmetrical. Both get angry and bluster in the same way. These confrontations abort, since they can’t get around the barrier of confrontational tension. Empirically, on our micro-evidence, this zero pathway is the most common. Either the quarrel ends in mutual gestures of contempt; or the fight quickly ends when opponents discover their mutual incompetence. Curtis Jackson-Jacobs’ video analysis shows fist-fighters moving away from each other after missing with a few out-of-rhythm punches. If no emotional domination happens, they soon sense it.
Anne Nassauer, assembling videos and other evidence from many angles on demonstrations, finds the turning points at which a demo goes violent or stays peaceful. And she shows that these are situational turning points, irrespective of ideologies, avowed intent of demonstrators or policing methods. Stefan Klusemann, using video evidence, shows that ethnic massacres are triggered off in situations of emotional domination and emotional passivity; that is, local conditions, apart from whatever orders are given by remote authorities. Another pioneering turning-point study is David Sorge’s analysis of the phone recording of a school shooter exchanging shots with the police, who nevertheless is calmed down by an office clerk; she starts out terrified but eventually shifts into an us-together mood that ends in a peaceful surrender. Meredith Rossner shows that restorative justice conferences succeed or fail according to the processes of interaction rituals; and that emotionally successful RJ conferences result in conversion experiences that last for several years, at least. Counter-intuitively, she finds that RJ conferences are especially likely be successful when they concerns not minor offenses but serious violence; the intensity of the ritual depends on the intensity of emotions it evokes.
High authorities are hard to study with micro methods, since organizational high rank is shielded behind very strong Goffmanian frontstages. David Gibson, however, analyzing audio tapes of Kennedy’s crisis group in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, penetrated the micro-reality of power in a situation in which all the rationally expectable scenarios led toward nuclear war. Neither JFK nor anyone else emerges as a charismatic or even a decisive leader. The group eventually muddled their way through sending signals that postponed a decision to use force, by tacitly ignoring scenarios that were too troubling to deal with. This fits the pattern that conversation analysts call the preference for agreement over disagreement, at whatever cost to rationality and consistency.
How about how social interactions affect job interviews?:
We have a long way to go to generalize these leads into a picture of how high authority really operates. Does it operate the same way in business corporations? The management literature tells us how executives have implemented well thought-out programs; but our information comes chiefly from retrospective interviews that collapse time and omit the situational process itself. Lauren Rivera cracks the veneer of elite Wall Street firms and finds that hiring decisions are made by a sense of emotional resonance between interviewer and interviewee, the solidarity of successful interaction rituals. Our best evidence of the micro details of this process comes from another arena, where Dan McFarland and colleagues analyze recorded data on speed dating, and find that conversational micro-rhythms determine who felt they “clicked” with whom.
OK what about sex?
I will end this scattered survey with some research that falls into the rubric of Weberian status groups, i.e. social rankings by lifestyle. David Grazian has produced a sequence of books,Blue Chicago and On the Make, that deal with night life. This could be considered a follow-up to Goffman’s analysis of what constitutes “fun in games” as well as “where the action is.” For Grazian, night-life is a performance of one’s “nocturnal self,” characterized by role-distance from one’s mundane day-time identity. By a combination of his own interviewing behind the scenes and collective ethnographies of students describing their evening on the town, from pre-party preparation to post-party story-telling, Grazian shows how the boys and the girls, acting as separate teams, play at sexual flirtation which for the most part is vastly over-hyped in its real results. It is the buzz of collective effervescence that some of these teams generate that is the real attraction of night life. And this may be an appropriate place to wind up. Freud, perhaps the original micro-sociologist, theorized that sexual drive is the underlying mover behind the scenes. Grazian, looking at how those scenes are enacted, finds libido as socially constructed performance. As is almost everything else.
In conclusion. Will interaction ritual, or for that matter micro-sociology as we know it, become outdated in the high-tech future? This isn’t futuristic any more, since we have been living in the era of widely dispersed information technology for at least 30 years, and we are used to its pace and direction of change. A key point for interaction ritual is that bodily co-presence is one of its ingredients. Is face contact needed? Rich Ling analyzed the everyday use of mobile phones and found that the same persons who spoke by phone a lot also met personally a lot. Cell phones do not substitute for bodily co-presence, but facilitate it. Among the most frequent back-and-forth, reciprocated connections are people coordinating where they are. Ling concluded that solidarity rituals were possible over the phone, but that they were weaker than face-to-face rituals; one was a teaser for the other.
Conceivably future electronic devices might wire up each other’s genitals, but what happens would likely depend on the micro-sociological theory of sex (chapter 6 in Interaction Ritual Chains): the strongest sexual attraction is not pleasure in one’s genitals per se, but getting the other person’s body to respond in mutually entraining erotic rhythms: getting turned on by getting the other person turned on. If you don’t believe me, try theorizing the attractions of performing oral sex. This is an historically increasing practice, and one of the things that drives the solidarity of homosexual movements. Gay movements are built around effervescent scenes, not around social media.
I will try theorizing the attractions of performing oral sex, Professor!
I recommend Collins’ book written with Maren McConnell, Napoleon Never Slept: How Great Leaders Leverage Social Energy, which I bought and read though I do wish there was a print edition.
Previous coverage about Collins’ work. Shoutout to Brent Forrester, who I think put me on to him.
Briefly shared a publisher, Grove/Atlantic, with Jim Harrison, which made me feel cool. Some gems in his New York Times obituary:
There was the eating. Mr. Harrison once faced down 144 oysters, just to see if he could finish them. (He could.)
“If you’ve known a lot of actresses and models,” he once confided with characteristic plain-spokenness to a rapt audience at a literary gathering, “you return to waitresses because at least they smell like food.”
Mr. Harrison had his detractors. With its boozing and brawling and bedding, his fiction was often called misogynistic. He did himself no favors with a 1983 Esquire essay in which he called his feminist critics “brie brains” and added, in gleeful self-parody, “Even now, far up in the wilderness in my cabin, where I just shot a lamprey passing upstream with my Magnum, I wouldn’t have the heart to turn down a platter of hot buttered cheerleaders.”
James Carville, talking about BC in his book, quoted in this old Politico article:
I’ve learned some great lessons in life from Bill Clinton. And one was his rule for working a room: the moment you walk in, you pick out the most vulnerable, least powerful person and you go talk to that person first and foremost. You knock the MVP over to hug the guy who dropped the game-winning pass. Everybody notices it. And he’s probably the more interesting guy to talk with, anyway.
(AP photo from 3/4/97)
tubechopped her speech from Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve” (1942).
Fact (?) I learned in college: Goebbels was constantly infuriated and impressed by how much better and subtler American and English propaganda films were.
[Celia Johnson] later recalled her choice of an acting career with the comment, “I thought I’d rather like it. It was the only thing I was good at. And I thought it might be rather wicked.”
She was married to Peter Fleming, brother of Ian. He held his own in the adventuring department:
In April 1932 Fleming replied to an advertisement in the personal columns of The Times: “Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June to explore rivers central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Percy Fawcett; abundant game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given.”
The expedition, organised by Richard Churchyard, travelled to São Paulo, then overland to the rivers Araguaia and Tapirapé, heading towards the likely last-known position of the Fawcett expedition. During the inward journey, the expedition was riven by increasing internal disagreements as to its objectives and plans, centred particularly on its local leader, ‘Major Pingle’ (a pseudonym).
Here is a picture of him from this intriguing blog:
ht the great FK for the photo, from the wikipedia entry for “Shorts”
This is the Pacific-Union Club, at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco:
Are you going to tell me you can walk by that building and not think, “I want to make their famous punch!”
For a party of ten. Into a large punch-bowl place ten tablespoonfuls of bar sugar and ten tablespoonfuls of freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice. Add two jiggers of Curaçao and dissolve the whole in about a quart of effervescent water. Add two quarts of champagne and one bottle of good cognac. Stir thoroughly, ice, decorate and serve in thin glassware.
READER: be sure to use regular, orange Curacao, not blue curacao, or your punch will be a revolting green color.
That recipe is from William “Cocktail” Boothby’s 1908 book, The World’s Cocktails and How To Make Them. Let’s take a look at Boothby’s resume, just to make sure he’s for real:
- Minstrel performer.
- Bartender in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Kansas City.
- Bartender at Byron Hot Springs.
- Bartender (or in his terms “presiding deity”) at Hotel Rafael, San Rafael, California, in “the gay days when Baron von Schroeder was making history over there”.
- Bartender at the Silver Palace, San Francisco
- Bartender at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco.
- Saloon owner.
- Assemblyman in California in 1895. The 1908 edition of The World’s Drinks & How To Mix Them begins “To the liquor dealers of San Francisco who unanimously assisted in my election to the Legislature by an unprecedented majority.”
- Soda drink counter supervisor, Olympic Club, during Prohibition
OK, wikipedia, gimme the tragedy:
On 30 June 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House Luke Kelly collapsed on the stage. He had already suffered for some time from headaches and forgetfulness, which however had been ascribed to his alcohol consumption. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The subject of the song, btw?:
[Kelly] was dragged from his bed and hanged by British soldiers who decapitated his corpse and kicked his head through the streets shortly after the fall of Wexford on 21 June 1798.
A good pick-up tactic, from the Tain, as translated by Thomas Kinsella:
Nes the daughter of Eochaid Salbuide of the yellow heel was sitting outside Emain with her royal women about her. The druid Cathbad from the Tratraige of Mag Inis passed by, and the girl said to him:
“What is the present hour lucky for?”
“For begetting a king on a queen,” he said.
The queen asked him if that were really true, and the druid swore by god that it was: a son conceived at that hour would be heard of in Ireland for ever. The girl saw no other male near, and she took him inside with her.
She grew heavy with a child. It was in her womb for three years and three months.
That kid, as you no doubt know, Reader, was Conchobor, who gets obsessed with Deirdre later on. Bad idea, Con, she ain’t called “Deirdre of the sorrows” for nothing.
A quotation by [mountaineer W. H. Murray] is widely misattributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The following passage occurs near the beginning of Murray’s The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):
… but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
– from our old friends at Wikipedia. That Goethe quote is great, sure, but I’ll take Murray himself if I’m going on a hike. Murray’s autobiography, btw, was entitled The Evidence of Things Unseen, citing of course Hebrews 11:1.
The novella-length monologue at the center of Pale King thus tells a story Wallace had told a thousand times before, of an American adolescent attempting to escape his head, and grow up. Formerly a self-anointed “wastoid,” I. R. S. auditor Chris Fogle recounts having muddled through his youth in the aptly named Libertyville, Illinois, unable to hold down a job and drifting between three different colleges and “four or five different majors.” Fogle, who describes himself as “like many of my generation,” speaks of having led a “crude approximation of a human life.” he was, he said, “the worst kind of nihilist – the kind who isn’t even aware he’s a nihilist.” He might have said he was leading a life of quiet desperation, or of conformity, even though it felt to him at the time like a free life of non-conformity. Many of us are leading such lives, according to Wallace. Our problem is not that we walk around angry and confused, as in Freedom. Our problem is that we sleepwalk, “choosing to have nothing matter.”
Fogle’s unlikely conversion – which is how he describes his transition to maturity, as if religious in nature – occurs after he stumbles into the wrong classroom at the Catholic DePaul University, where a “substitute Jesuit” holds forth in the waning moments of an advanced accounting class. Alternately a parody and a paraphrase of Kierkegaard, the Jesuit delivers a peroration on the necessity of the “leap outward” into adulthood -a leap bound to look, from the point of view of the ego’s Eden that is childhood, like the “first of many deaths.” The speech impresses on Fogle the negative aspect of his seemingly limitless freedom. “If I wanted to matter – even just to myself,” he explains, “I would have to be less free, by deciding to choose in some kind of definite way.”
– from this essay by one Jon Baskin.