Friday, April 28, 2017

Correspondence: Extraphenomenal

By Moristotle

Could this be just another tall tale?: “Tall story? Men and women have grown taller over last century, study shows” [Nicola Davis, Guardian, July 2016]. Excerpt:
Men and women have grown taller over the last century, with South Korean women shooting up by more than 20cm (7.9in) on average, and Iranian men gaining 16.5 cm (6.5in). A comprehensive global study looked at the average height of 18-year old men and women in 200 countries between 1914 and 2014.
    The results reveal that while Swedes were the tallest people in the world in 1914, Dutch men have risen from 12th place to claim top spot with an average height of 182.5cm (5ft 11.9 inches).
    Latvian women, meanwhile, rose from 28th place in 1914 to become the tallest in the world a century later, with an average height of 169.8cm (5ft 6.9in)....
    James Bentham, a co-author of the research from Imperial College, London, says that the global trend is likely to be down primarily to improvements in nutrition, hygiene and healthcare. “An individual’s genetics has a big influence on [their] height ... but once you average over whole populations genetics plays a less key [role],” he added. “Most populations would grow to roughly similar heights if they were all in the same conditions.”
    A little extra height brings a number of advantages says Elio Riboli, co-author of the paper and director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College, London. “The good news is that being taller is associated with longer life expectancy,” he said. “This is largely due to a lower risk of dying of cardiovascular disease among taller people.” But, Riboli warns, while taller people have been found, on average, to have larger salaries and higher levels of education, there are downsides, with greater height potentially associated with an increased risk of some cancers. [read more]
American troops preparing to sail home
from Russia after World War I
We have you been watching a wonderfully instructive PBS program, American Experience: The Great War. Fascinating. I suppose my high school history teacher must have taught me some of it, but I didn’t remember the extent of Woodrow Wilson’s racism (segregating black federal workers from white); his sophisticated propaganda apparatus (Committee for Public Information) for whipping up public support for American participation in the war, inflaming anti-German sentiment (even a lynching is mentioned), and suppressing the peaceniks; and the paradox of his “war to make the world safe for democracy” over against his censorship, racism, and cracking down on “sedition.”
    The program exposed so many deeply unsavory things about Woodrow Wilson, and about the social behavior he both encouraged and condoned, even when it went to great excess (in beating up anti-war protestors; beating, shooting, burning, and lynching Germans and Blacks [even black soldiers returning home from the war]; allowing the torture of conscientious objectors; and gravely violating the free-expression rights of individuals who spoke out against America’s involvement in “The Great War”).
    I recommend this review: “‘The Great War,’ When America Took the World Stage,” [Mike Hale, NY Times, April 9]. [Read review]

Pirsig’s experience can be a reminder to other novelists not to give up too quickly. He maintained that 121 publishing houses rejected his first novel before William Morrow accepted it, granting him a $3,000 advance, but cautioning him against hoping the book would earn a penny more. Pirsig’s obituary, “Robert M. Pirsig, Author of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ Dies at 88,” says that within months of its release, his first novel had sold 50,000 copies. [Paul Vitello, NY Times, April 24]. Excerpt:
Mr. Pirsig was a college writing instructor and freelance technical writer when the novel — its full title was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values” — was published in 1974 to critical acclaim and explosive popularity, selling a million copies in its first year and several million more since....
    The novel, with its peculiar but intriguing title, ranged widely in its concerns, contemplating the relationship of humans and machines, madness and the roots of culture.
    Todd Gitlin, a sociologist and the author of books about the counterculture, said that “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in seeking to reconcile humanism with technological progress, had been perfectly timed for a generation weary of the ’60s revolt against a soulless high-tech world dominated by a corporate and military-industrial order.
    “There is such a thing as a zeitgeist, and I believe the book was popular because there were a lot of people who wanted a reconciliation — even if they didn’t know what they were looking for,” Mr. Gitlin said in 2013 in an interview for this obituary. “Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”
    Mr. Pirsig’s plunge into the grand philosophical questions of Western culture remained near the top of the best-seller lists for a decade and helped define the post-hippie 1970s landscape as resoundingly, some critics have said, as Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan” helped define the 1960s.
    Where “Don Juan” pursued enlightenment in hallucinogenic experience, “Zen” argued for its equal availability in the brain-racking rigors of Reason with a capital R. Years after its publication, it continues to be invoked by famous people when asked to name a book that affected them most deeply.... [read more]
If u have a Facebook account, now is t time to get rid of it. I just heard that by 2020 there will b more dead people on FB than live people. “When will Facebook have more dead than living users?” [Matt Hunter, CNBC, December 18, 2014]. [Read]

Cover of catalog from Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI)
Mary Anderson, a Founder of the Outdoor Cooperative REI, Dies at 107.”
[Daniel E. Slotnik, NY Times, April 10]

How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle

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