Friday, May 13, 2016

Shakespeare & Co.

Photo by the editor, April 23
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

[“Recent” is relative; some of these items arrived while my wife and I were in Paris celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.]

“William Shakespeare [1564–1616], Playwright and Poet, Is Dead at 52” [Louis Bayard, NY Times, April 23]. Excerpt:
On this date — April 23, 1616 — the creator of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” left the beauty of this world. To us, he bequeathed his tragedies and comedies, his sonnets and verse, which would survive 400 years. [read more]
This neat poster from the National Theater in London, humorously and graphically tallies all the deaths and by which means in Shakespeare’s main plays: “An infographic that keeps track of all of Shakespeare’s deaths for you” [Katharine Trendacosta, Gizmodo].
    You can get the poster in the theater’s gift shop for 10 pounds, or get a mug with these pictograms for 15, or a shopping bag adorned with the pictures for 19.90 pounds. For intellectual housewives or men going shopping.

[see more infographics]
Trump Headstone in Central Park: Mystery Solved
The summation line of the NY Times article “Trump, Truth, and the Power of Contradiction” [Michael P. Lynch, May 7] is “Why are all other candidates held to higher standards by their followers?” I have often asked the negative of that question: Why are other candidates not held to higher standards by their followers?
    Trump’s lies are about superficial things, distasteful and cliched as they may be – race, gays, Mexicans, etc. Trump plays off the fantasies of blue collar guys with small penises. The words of Trump are like the proverbial Shakespearean idiot, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
    Hillary supporters don’t want to discuss anything in her record. Her lies are far more substantive and grievous. The things she lies about – things like trade, marriage equality, her support for corporations, and “There's noting in those emails, trust me” – are far more ominous and grievous than Trump could ever come up with.
    Bernie supporters don’t like to discuss his record of voting to support military spending and support for Israel, two hot-button issues with many of his supporters. I think the record will show Bernie was the most honest of them all. He just doesn’t like to talk too much about military spending and Israel.
    All you have to do is read Ralph Nader to understand that no one is being held to any objective standard with regards to anything high or low. At least, thanks to Bernie, we are for the first presidential election since perhaps Carter or FDR, actually discussing some important domestic issues.
    Excerpts from “Trump, Truth, and the Power of Contradiction”:

Mr. Trump’s willingness to be inconsistent — even in a single interview, or the same speech — has baffled political strategists for months. Even more puzzling is his followers’ happy toleration of it. It is as though the content of what Mr. Trump says doesn’t matter; only the fact that he is saying it does....
    The explanation, I think, lies in the power of contradictions themselves. That power, and Mr. Trump’s effective use of it, tells us as much about ourselves and our culture’s attitude toward truth as it tells us about him....
    Of course, politicians often “walk back” comments — either because they misspoke, or because of unwelcome attention generated by the remark. Yet an explicit contradiction isn’t the same thing as “massaging” a comment. A contradiction doesn’t signal that you misspoke and that you really believe something else.
    Walking a comment back says you are taking responsibility for what you’ve said. Blatant contradiction puts the responsibility back onto the shoulders of the listener. If I simply deny what I earlier affirmed and act as if nothing has happened, then you are left having to decide what I really meant. And psychology, as well as common sense, tells us that human beings are prone to “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to interpret evidence so that it conforms to what we already believe....
    That contradictions are particularly useful to Mr. Trump also tells us something about what some people find appealing about him. Indeed, it reveals an even deeper contradiction. Mr. Trump’s explicit lack of authenticity is what makes him so authentic. He is like a walking oxymoron (which is perhaps not surprising, given that reality TV is the medium in which he has most flourished). To some, that he is contradicting himself so freely shows that he really doesn’t care what “they” (read: the news media, liberals, women, minorities) think. The signal this sends is one of strength: Only the strong can afford not to care.
    There is also a deeper philosophical issue here. The most disturbing power of contradiction is that its repeated use can dull our sensitivity to the value of truth itself. That’s particularly so given that most Americans live in a digital world that both makes it easier and harder to figure out what is true. Googling is like being in a room with a million shouting voices. It is only natural that we’ll hear those voices that are most similar to our own, shouting what we already believe, and as a result Google can find you confirmation for almost anything, no matter how absurd. [read more]
Bernie Sanders is the George McGovern candidate of 2016. He has a certain appeal to the ivory tower element in the Democratic party. They don't really care about who might become president. They care about purity of heart and vision. This attitude is one of the things that helped Richard Nixon get elected in 1972. Donald Trump and the also rans on the Republican side would undo every hard-won step that has been made in this country against global warming and environmental protection. Hillary Clinton is far better than Trump, Cruz, Rubio, etc.

This is worth careful consideration: “When Did Optimism Become Uncool?” [Gregg Easterbrook, NY Times, May 12]. Excerpt:
Given Donald J. Trump’s virtual lock on the Republican presidential nomination, you’d think he’d be a bit more upbeat. Instead, his campaign began last summer with “our country is going to hell,” then declared, “we’re becoming a third world country,” and by this month had progressed to the United States “losing all the time”....
    Social media and cable news, which highlight scare stories and overstate anger, bear part of the blame. So does the long-running decline in respect for the clergy, the news media, the courts and other institutions. The Republican Party’s strange insistence on disparaging the United States doesn’t help, either.
    But the core reason for the disconnect between the nation’s pretty-good condition and the gloomy conventional wisdom is that optimism itself has stopped being respectable. Pessimism is now the mainstream, with optimists viewed as Pollyannas. If you don’t think everything is awful, you don’t understand the situation!
    Objectively, the glass looks significantly more than half full....
    Is the middle class in dire straits, as Mr. Sanders contends? Yes, inflation-adjusted middle-class household income peaked in 1998 and has dropped slightly since. But during the same period, federal income taxes on the middle class went down, while benefits went up. Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution has shown that when lower taxes and higher benefits are factored in, middle-class buying power has risen 36 percent in the current generation.
    Is American manufacturing in free fall, as Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump assert? Figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis show industrial output a tad below an all-time record level, while nearly double the output of the Reagan presidency, another supposed golden age. It’s just that advancing technology allows more manufacturing with fewer workers — a change unrelated to foreign competition.
    Manufacturing jobs described by Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders as “lost” to China cannot be found there, or anywhere. As Charles Kenny of the nonpartisan Center for Global Development has shown, technology is causing factory-floor employment to diminish worldwide, even as loading docks hum with activity. This transition is jarring to say the least — but it was always inevitable. The evolution of the heavy-manufacturing sector away from workers and toward machines will not stop, even if international trade is cut off completely.
    A century ago, most Americans worked in agriculture: Today hardly any do, and we’re all better off, including farmers. That manual labor, farm or factory, has given way to 60 percent of Americans employed in white-collar circumstances is the important story in the long term. But nothing is achieved by moaning about the past. The challenge is to create even more white-collar opportunities....
    The lack of optimism in contemporary liberal and centrist thinking opens the door to Trump-style demagogy, since if the country really is going to hell, we do indeed need walls. And because optimism has lost its standing in American public opinion, past reforms — among them environmental protection, anti-discrimination initiatives, income security for seniors, auto and aviation safety, interconnected global economics, improved policing and yes, Obamacare — don’t get credit for the good they have accomplished.
    In almost every case, reform has made America a better place, with fewer unintended consequences and lower transaction costs than expected. This is the strongest argument for the next round of reforms. The argument is better made in positive terms — which is why we need a revival of optimism.
    Recently Warren Buffett said that because of the “negative drumbeat” of politics, “many Americans now believe their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” This was not Nebraska folk wisdom; rather, it’s sophisticated analysis. The optimistic view is that it’s still morning in America, and if we fix what’s wrong, the best is yet to come. Such can-do, better-future thinking needs to make an appearance in the 2016 presidential campaign. [read more]
You (and other procrastinators) might benefit from reading the article “The real reasons you procrastinate — and how to stop” [Ana Swanson, Washington Post, April 27]. I wondered, when I read “Most of us seem to tacitly believe that our emotional state has to match the task at hand,” whether it applied to you. Excerpt:
“Most of us seem to tacitly believe that our emotional state has to match the task at hand,” says [Timothy] Pychyl [a professor who studies procrastination at Carleton University, in Ottawa]. But that’s just not true. “I have to recognize that I’m rarely going to feel like it, and it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it.”
    Instead of focusing on feelings, we have to think about what the next action is, Pychyl says. He counsels people to break down their tasks into very small steps that can actually be accomplished. So if it’s something like writing a letter of reference, the first step is just opening the letterhead and writing the date.
    Even if it’s an extremely small action, a little progress will typically make you feel better about the task and increase your self-esteem, which in turn reduces the desire to procrastinate to make yourself feel better, he says.
    Pychyl believes that teachers and parents should teach kids to deal with the temptations of procrastination from a young age. “A lot of teachers think that kids have time-management problems, when they procrastinate. And they don’t have a time-management problem. ... What they have is an emotion-management problem. They have to learn that you don’t feel good all the time, and you’ve got to get on with it.”
    “Mark Twain is quoted as saying, ‘If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first,’” Pychyl says. [read more]
This is what my family thought when they were stopped by an irate property owner while walking along the shore of Chippewa Lake: “This Is Our Country. Let’s Walk It” [Ken Ilgunas, NY Times, April 23]. Excerpt:
In much of Europe, walking wherever you
want is perfectly legal. Not in America. [read more]
Jōmon Sugi, a large Cryptomeria tree...
in Japan...about 2000 years old
Magnificent sculptures, if you need pictures of great age: “Top 10 World’s Oldest Trees in 2016” [World List]. Excerpt:
According to scientists, trees absorb carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and many other potentially harmful gasses, and release oxygen in exchange. Without oxygen, humans and animals can not live, therefore trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. [read more]
Inspiring story of woman who quit her toxic relationship and city life to move to remote town with just one pub...And she now takes some of the most magical photographs of Australia you’ll ever see: “Up Close and Personal” [Julie Fletcher Photography]. Excerpt:
My passion for photography centres on my love for Australia adventure and the great outdoors. Whether I am swimming through a canyon or setting up a tripod in complete darkness or chasing a storm front; I am always in search of new and unique locations, travelling the length and breadth of the Australian Outback to capture fresh and unique landscape and nature images. [read more]
You’d think the Christian fancy of eternal life through Jesus Christ would have long since died out, given that there aren’t any 200-year-old Christians around, let alone any who are going on 2,000.

Grateful for correspondence, Morris Dean


  1. "Grateful for correspondence, Morris Dean" means what it says. Thanks to all for the correspondence.

  2. In the Washington Post article "Meet the 116-year-old Italian woman who may be the last living person born in the 1800s," note that the woman doesn't credit Jesus for her longevity, she credits eating raw eggs.