Jerwin's rabbit holes

A few days ago, it was gently suggested that to me that I should stop working out my personal problems in other people’s threads. So, I’m making a space for myself to blog random stuff.

Maybe it will end up a wasteland, and maybe it will be a place where I beat dead horses.


The snark is nice.

From an article on ping pong diplomacy:

The Chinese government would also like to emphasize that many foreigners are not fully educated about why state authorities with clubs are beating protesters in Hong Kong, where the violence has been increasing, and that they do not understand exactly what Xi Jinping meant when he said, on Sunday, “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.” The idea that free speech has financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual costs is one that undemocratic governments encourage, and that thinking can spread, too. That’s the thing about bridges: they go both ways.


Unfortunately, many of the physics researchers who need quiescent lead “for the good of humanity” are being out competed by chip foundries who need it for reasons that aren’t really explained.

This may explain this phenomenon.


From a 2013 nytimes story

Deep pockets are an unofficial requirement for many postings. While ambassadors currently earn a maximum base salary of $179,700, and housing is provided with the job, in some capitals they can expect to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on entertaining. So those who can “self-finance” have a competitive edge.

an academic pape r tallies up the price tags

Warren has said sshe wants to stop this practice…

but I’m not sure that formally appointing Giuliani as ambassador insstead of someone like Sondland would have solved much.


I dunno-- retiring this trope would mean affirming that abuse cannot happen in a psychiatric institution.

(The last story I read featuring a psychaitrist-- The Swan Thieves, by Elizabath Kostova, was an ethical nightmare.)


A new republic writer has a theory about deadspin.

Comparisons to the largely dead alternative weeklies are made.

I’m not one for sportsball, so I don’t think I’ve read more than a couple dozen deadspin articles over the years-- they were mostly the articles that had little to do with sports.


Interesting history of Bill Barr’s corrosive theories on executive power-- starting with the Reagan administration


Can’t have a dictatorship if someone is telling you what you can’t do.


Two essays on language from the Boston Review

Láadan is mentioned. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t seem to have Native Tongue on kindle, only its sequels (described here as “without the joy of discovering the world through the mosaic.” . (This oversight reminds me of my local library’s weeding policies, which always seem to prevent me from starting any new series. But I digress…_

However historical his material may be, Gardini seems persistently disinterested in history and politics. He attempts to link the beautiful to the political earlier on when he writes, “Beauty is the face of freedom. What all totalitarian regimes have most strikingly in common is their ugliness.” Yet claims of “beauty” and “truth” were central to the discourses of fascism in the twentieth century. His avoidance of this fact is either incredible naiveté or willful denial.

written six months apart, by two different authors, but I can’t help but observe that linguistic conservatives (sometimes rightly) condemn constructed languages on the basis of asesthetics.


This makes me feel two generations behind.


Oh, this is ironic.

Creating a ‘Truer’ Language Within a Work of Fiction: The Example of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue

Imaginary voyages and Utopias use a fiction – that the lands and peoples they describe actually exist somewhere – in order to encourage readers to explore reality, re-examine the here and now, acknowledge its failings and consider potential solutions. The otherness of the imaginary worlds is not an end in itself, but a means of gaining new perspectives on the familiar and the known. Behind the smokescreen of the fictional travel tale, many authors of imaginary voyages, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries, explore in their works new philosophical and scientific ideas, which it would be risky to express in more direct modes. To succeed, this ploy relies upon the deceptive nature of language and writing, and on the readers’ ability to recognize and accept that deceptiveness, so that they will read between the lines and consider the sub-text beneath the imaginary travel tale.

This, is a utopian tale about the impossibility of sub-text.

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Doesn’t German do this—put words together to create new ones?


“The German language is a dozen fragments of words flung into an octagonal cylinder - take a good look at them before you begin to turn the machine, for you will never see them in their simplicity again - never never any more. Turn! - up spring your fragmental elements with Ver’s & Be’s & Ge’s & Er’s & lein’s & chen’s & ung’s & heit’s & keit’s & zu’s & a thousand other flashing and blazing prefixes, affixes & interjections broidered on them or hung to them. - Turn & turn! The combinations will be infinite, & bewilderingly enchanting & magnificent - but these, also, like the original fragments you shall see but once, then lose them forever. The patterns in this linguistic kaleidoscope are never repeated.”

–Mark Twain.


:rofl: I learned that one from a couple of my millenial friends. The translation as I understand it:

kk : [excited anime voice] Okay! Let’s do this! Yay!
k : [Gen-X slacker voice] Aight, why not? Got nothin’ better to do.
ok : [tired sigh] Okay, I guess if we have to, we can do that then.

But it’s one of those things that I don’t think about, it only occurs to me when I see the other person use it, so I might still default to old mode most of the time.


Vice article on abortion quackery:

One of the reasons that Crenin et al set up a controlled study was was to disprove Delgado’s dangerous medical ideas.

The journal article “Continuing pregnancy after mifepristone and “reversal” of first-trimester medical abortion: a systematic review”


The clinical use and new state laws concerning abortion “reversal” raise serious ethical concerns. The limited data on mifepristone reversal grew out of the anecdotal experiences
of physicians who performed experimental treatment on pregnant women, without usual research safeguards.
Delgado and Davenport [7] do not report that their study had an ethics board or institutional review board (IRB) approval. Case reports involving retrospective analysis of three or fewer cases do not generally require IRB oversight, although institutions or journals may require IRB review to determine that the report is exempt. While Delgado and Davenport [7] published their findings as a
“case report," their study is clearly“research”as defined in federal policy.
Federal regulations define research as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generaliz-able knowledge
The report clearly extends into the realm of research, whether measured by its prospective
nature, the number of patients on which it reports, its attempt to assess a specific new treatment regimen or the suggestion that the data produced be used to guide treatment of other
women. In recognition of the report’s limitations, Delgado and Davenport[7] themselves called for further clinical trials before routine use of their protocol. The new laws in Arizona
and Arkansas have now bypassed the research process, in effect making all women who undergo this treatment subjects in an uncontrolled, unmonitored experiment.

So there you have it-- a network of Catholic doctors is too busy fretting about the ethics of “birth control” to have any ethical sense when it comes to medical experiments on their patients.


One of the books I picked up recently (on “consumer society in Fin de Siecle France”) made me painfully aware that I had not read Madame Bovary. So, in order to understand that book, I needed to locate a good translation of Flaubert.

New Yorker seems to like Lydia Davis

and the Guardian says that Adam Thorpe’s is so much better.

The Library has Davis, but not Thorpe.

To Amazon, – to check out a sample of Thorpe-- my kindle has resizable fonts, and is a bit more portable.

I click on kindle.

"This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. "

Uh oh. The project gutenberg edition. Old, possibly bowdlerized translation, strange formatting quirks.

I click back to the Thorpe version, and click on “Look Inside.”

People have said that Thorpe faithfully captures the intricacies of the French language, but I wasn’t prepared for this!


And they didn’t even use google translate.

I just downloaded a Project Gutenberg copy of Psmith, Journalist by Wodehouse, and so far it’s an excellent transcription. I’ve noticed only 2 or 3 minor copy editing issues half way through.


I’ve been reading Umberto Eco’s Ur Fascism.

available here assuming that it’s a true and accurate copy of the original NYRB article. Most readers these days use the abbreviated form “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt” since it purports to answer the age old problem of how to label Trump and the Republicans as fascists-- and therefore as evil. I prefer the longer version, since it’s wittier.
The first “tell tale sign” reads:

The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.

This statement has been taken to describe, and thus condemn the practice of erecting monuments across the south in the nineteen twenties and nineteen fifties. It constructs a mythology of the past and seeks to venerate it.

Superficially, this seems a reasonable metaphor. At the same time, I’m skeptical. It’s reasonable to assume that Eco’s purpose was not merely semiotic-- he states that

We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world.

and the existence of fore shortened version Eternal Fascism:
Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt
– (perhaps a joking allusion to thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird)-- reinforces the prescriptivist theme.

But it’s worth pointing out that the practice of putting up statues to reinforce pseudohistorical myth was fairly common in countries which weren’t fascist.

This eats into the specificity of Eco’s guide. (Howard Zinn, and some marxist historians would probably argue that the fascist regimes borrowed elements from the United States to build up their ideological foundations-- including, perhaps, this school of monument statuary.

It might be more useful to inquire into whether cult of tradition is a calque that means something more specific in the Italian, or in Roman catholicism.

It’s not straightforward-- Eco suggests that it is strange.

If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled as New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge – that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.