Gnomicon 283

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  283
Saturday 6 April 2013
Read gnomica 1-250 here!

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We’ve put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it.
Frank Howard Clark (1888 – 19 Jan 1962)

When I was in grammar school some years ago I was, as I distinctly recall, taught in one of the interstices of the morning hours all about good nutrition, to wit, that every day should, optimally, begin with a glass of whole milk, orange juice, toast and butter with jam, eggs, and bacon.  Ah, if they had only known!  Today of course most of this food is all but criminalized, much less recommended as a healthful way to a healthy life.

Let’s see: whole milk and butter and bacon – fat and cholesterol; orange juice and jam – sugar; eggs – more cholesterol.  Shame, double shame on those misinformed morons of the forties and fifties!  Then came the whole cigarette things in the mid-sixties, and the nutritional floodgates were flung wide open.  Then it was recantation time on the eggs and all that cholesterol … until recantations of the recantations came into fashion.  For, new “studies” revealed, there was actually something yclept “good cholesterol” that somewhat de-demonized the erstwhile cholesterol-bashing of eggs.

Butter was next.  The devil’s invention itself!  Say no to butter, yes to margarine … until it was demonstrated – again, of course — by new “studies” that margarine was in some ways (“high in trans-fatty acids” – and we all know about those traumatizing ‘trans-fats’:  here is the famous Mayo Clinic take on that one!) actually worse for you than butter, or at least six of one and half a dozen of the other.  Back to butter?  Yeaaa?  Not so fast.  What we really should do is delete both butter and margarine for good heart-health.  Or did I get that right?  Is it a little of one and more of the other or more of one and little of the other or just stop eating either one or use both ‘in moderation’ – whatever that precise advice means.  It’s all so confusing, you see.

But hark!

Now (Wall Street Journal 11 March 2013 p. A6), under a headlining ‘Telltale Finding On Heart Disease’, we read that ancient mummies from “four cultures, spanning 4,000 years” show an alarming incidence of just those factors that lead to cardiac collapse in us moderns: atherosclerosis and calcification of arteries.  Whether of ancient Peruvians or even older Egyptians or others, findings about the unfortunate former inhabitants as it were of the mummies studied suggest that “all levels of society were at risk, regardless of diet.”  While this glum conclusion as well as our own experience with what I think of as a kind of medical terrorism about what’s “good and bad” for you do not, as one researcher said, “challenge the need for a healthy diet”, at the same time, “regardless of diet and culture, we’re all at risk for atherosclerosis.”  OK.

If I may momentarily revert to Platonic dialog mode … “So, tell me, Phaedo, what then is ‘a healthy diet’, and what difference does it make anyway if I follow it since “regardless of diet and culture, we’re all at risk for atherosclerosis”?  And while I’m pseudo-Platonizing, I wish Phaedo could tell me something about that curious medicalization of the vocabulary of ethics: ‘good’ cholesterol (aka HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (aka LDL)?  Is this a putatively subtle way to moralize our dietary choices, make us avoid the bad and pursue – in the Platonic sense — the ‘idea’ of the good?

And – can you top this? – on Saturday 16 March the Wall Street Journal runs a piece called “Let Them Eat” in which, among other shattered shibboleths of the modern foodistas, fat now “can actually be good for you” – apparently supporting the recently debunked anathema that being overweight is probably not all that morally and medically disgusting!

Well, as if all that were not enough, consider the 18 March 2013 edition of The Weekly Standard  and a review (pages 36f.) of the book Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left by Alex B. Berezov and Hank Campbell.  True, their beef is not with medical research on – but with “unscientific ideology” about (in part) — food and what’s “good and bad” when it comes to certain comestibles – I bring the review up because it offers yet one more source for the vast and unending confusions that exist among the public about “good and bad” food and eating.

I have my own (perhaps perverse) view of why the medical/scientific establishment seems wedded to the model of ‘studies’ and ‘findings’ and then ‘more-research-is-needed’ and ‘new findings reveal’ – a model that seems to allow for the latest new findings to contradict the old findings, and so on.  I am neither scientist nor doctor, but I do know with an unshakable certainty that the human body is a cruel and relentless counter of calories, and acting appropriately on that knowledge will presumably help take you a long way towards longevity … if that is your wish (but do be careful what you wish for!).

Of course, what a bankrupt society with fewer and fewer young people like ours is planning to do with its growing numbers of these long-lived (and perforce increasingly needy) individuals is a question of a very different order.

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Obiter Dictum: Outis

If you have not already done so,
check out some introductory comments on my
category type obiter dictum here.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Obiter Dictum: Outis
[Other obiter dicta found here]

Outis, an intergalactic extraterrestrial roaming the vastnesses of the cosmos, is on a quest for potentially habitable loci to which her own crowded home planet (which lies even beyond that remote, distant quadrant known as ψ-Cerberus) may export its redundants.  Today she – easily morphed into a visible instantiation that will prove convincingly comprehensible to this cacophonous vivarium that its denizens call Earth – has landed in front of the John Hancock Center in downtown Chicago. Being, like all other educated telepaths of her tribe, a fluent reader of English, she has just gathered from a tachyscan of something called the national edition printed in Chicago of The New York Times nestled on a rack that “Retailers Track Employee Thefts In Vast Databases” and that “Lawmakers [are] Tied To Bribery Plot In Mayoral Race” and that “Crucible of Change [is] in Memphis as State Takes On Failing Schools”.
Hmmm.
The teachers don’t teach.
The lawmakers are lawbreakers.
The employees rob the employers.
And that’s just what on this planet is called the front page!
Outis’ report is rayed across the chill parsecs in nano-seconds:
“Current stop uninhabitable – translating to ω-Omphalos quadrant.”

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Gnomica 282

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  282
Monday 1 April 2013
Read gnomica 1-250 here!

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“Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities
and draw a spark from their juxtaposition.”
Max Ernst (2 Apr 1891 – 1 Apr 1976)

This morning’s front page of the mid-west print edition of The New York Times offers a striking illustration of the power of juxtaposition, and that illustration is powerful indeed (and is apparently not a cruel April Fool’s joke).

What first catches your eye is the header of the far left column. As you begin your scan for the latest outrages, you read that “Pay for Boards At Banks Soars Amid Cutbacks.”  Leaping from the page is this observation in connection with Goldman Sachs: “Some of the firm’s 13 directors make more than $500,000 because they have extra responsibilities.”  You remember Goldman Sachs, don’t you? Right!  Yeah, that was one of those companies that were right in the thick of the mess a few years back that promoted the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression (cf., e.g., here, here and here).  A lot of responsibilities there!

Now, for the juxtaposition of “distinct realities”!

Abutted against the top part of that piece is a large photo (above an article titled “Painful Payment for Afghan Debt: A daughter, 6”) of a gathering in a Kabul refugee camp.  In the picture is an Afghan refugee family from Helmand Province with a six-year old girl named Naghma in a bright red dress who “will be forced to leave her family’s home forever to be married to” the 17-years old son of a man who had lent Naghma’s father $2,500 to pay for medical care for his family – and that the father is now unable to repay.  Get it?  A six-year old girl “who does not know what is shortly going to happen” to her is a human payment with a value of $2,500.

Now, if that ‘transaction’ all by itself were not sufficient unto itself for arousing the outrage needed to note that difficile est saturam non scribere I for one don’t know what kind of infuriating obscenity would be.

All of this of course ‘works’ in no small part because “the Afghan government makes little attempt in the camps to enforce laws protecting women and children.”  This  is the government whose self-righteously enraged president rants and raves at the United States for being in some kind of cabalistic cahoots with the Taliban to destabilize ‘his’ country.  Yes, that is the country where American ‘nation-building’ has squandered many trillions of dollars ‘borrowed’ from other nations, where American delusions about democratizing what seems to resemble a medieval culture have sacrificed thousands of American lives, where American hubris has created legions of walking woundeds both over there and here at home who are trying to put their lives together again.

Yes, America (= the nation’s young and your taxes and mine!) has done that for that country so that 6-year old girls can in effect be assessed a value of $2,500 and ‘sold’ for the settlement of debts!  After all, as the ‘elders’ in the camp noted, “the resolution was a good one.”  Yeah!  Really good!

Here’s a thought!

How about those “13 directors [at Goldman Sachs who] make more than $500,000 because they have extra responsibilities” dividing $2,500 by 13 and each contributing $192.31 to pay for Naghma – I mean, it’s true they wouldn’t get their $500,000 plus for all those extra responsibilities with which they are so onerously burdened but only $499,807.69 plus.

Well, what can you say, guys (and gals?): life’s just a really nasty bitch all over these days — for everybody!

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Art 4×4 Runner’s Torso

ART 4×4
If you have not already done so, do read the intro to this category here.

Thursday 28 Mar 2013
31

Runner’s Torso
watercolor on paper

Art 4x4  031  runner torso  2013-03-27W
PREVIOUS PIECES
1-25
26. Brain of a Famous American
27. Petals
28. Woman in Crowd
29. Angled Rectangles
30. Sandals

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Gnomicon 281

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  281
Monday 25 March 2013
Read gnomica 1-250 here!

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difficile est saturam non scribere. nam quis iniquae
tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se
Saturae 1.30-31

It’s hard not to write satire.  Who is so tolerant of a
wicked city, so iron-hearted that he can restrain himself?
Juvenal ( ? 55 – 127 ? CE)

It’s true that since my declaration on 16 February in Gnomicon 280 that I needed a break I have in fact not posted any musings.  But that does not mean that I have stopped paying attention to what’s supposed to be going on – least of all the utterly shameless kabuki politics now ineradicably – it seems — entrenched in that vacuum of leaderless drift among the putative leaders in this great nation’s dysfunctional capitol.  And thus, turning to the first page of the Wall Street Journal print edition back on Monday 4 March after the fraudulent panic patter about the ‘sequester’ was shown up for what it was, it no longer seemed possible for me, like Juvenal, not to write – if not satire, at least some sardonically sarcastic somethings.

I certainly won’t lay claim to being an American Juvenal of our own corrupt age as he was of his Roman one, but write I must.

Let’s see.

We’ll use the lead headline (“U.S. Boosts War Role in Africa”) on page 1 as a jumping-off point.  Perfect – just in time for the problematic disengagement from a disastrous (in my view) Afghanistan decade-plus war (2001-2014]?]) that in truth will not really be a disengagement at all as we jump from that durably sizzling frying pan into the fanned fires heating up in Mali and environs.  That’s what we, troping  the stalwart U.S. postal service’s ‘forever stamps’, mean by ‘forever war’ – war that’s valid forever.  Sure, today it’s just drones – kind of like Kennedy’s military ‘advisers’ in Viet Nam in the early sixties … and we all know the sad story of how that adviser-thing kept escalating, blurring boundaries, sucking us for a decade or more (depending on the source consulted!) into a swampland from whose adhesive quicksands the U.S. made a most ignominious exit.  So, given what Kennedy’s ‘advisers’ turned into, what should we expect of Obama’s drones?

Now, all of this is going on as the histrionic sequester hype (“Rhetoric Cools on Near-Term Pain of Cuts”: it “would produce profound disruption [p. A1] … ‘You can only cry wolf once – maybe twice [p. A4]”) holds star billing, an operation designed, we are told, to save us “some $85 billion in spending” of dollars that we will surely spend anyway — but do not have.  Given such commendable government thrift, one is then incredibly, absolutely, mind-blowingly confounded by the item in the Journal’s front page column “What’s News –“ that reports “the U.S. would release $250 million in aid for Egypt after Morsi pledged progress on political and economic overhaul.”  Now there’s a pledge by one of America’s greatest friends you could put in a leveraged bank, right?  (The details of this ludicrous fraud on the American taxpayer are amusingly spelled out on page A6 — but I’m really not laughing.)  True, $250 million is much less than 1% (only 0.29%) of $85 billion, so why quibble?  Millions here, a billion there – it’s just pocket change!  Why quibble indeed?  Especially since, equally absurdly, that $85 billion in savings – that I will believe in only when I see them! — is only 2.36% of the 2012 federal budget of $3.6 trillion.   Why not put that quarter billion to speeding up  airport security or hiring high-school math teachers in the United States rather than dribble it out in the unaccountable and forever-voracious sands of the Egyptian Sahara?

This incomprehensibility is also reported prominently in the day’s New York Times (page A6).

Do you see, finally, why for me difficile est … non scribere (“it’s hard … not to write”) about the day’s maddeningly absurd incongruities?  I may at times wish I could stop reading the news and rushing in high dudgeon to the keyboard, but, as St. Augustine [354-430 CE, born in North Africa] asked of the Lord (Confessions 8.7) in a very different context, da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo “Give me chastity and restraint, but don’t do it just yet!”

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Art 4×4 Sandals

ART 4×4
If you have not already done so, do read the intro to this category here.

M 25 Mar 2013
30

Sandals
watercolor on paper
Art 4x4  030 sandals  2013-03-25MPREVIOUS PIECES
1-25
26. Brain of a Famous American
27. Petals
28. Woman in Crowd
29. Angled Rectangles

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Art 4×4 Angled Rectangles

ART 4×4
If you have not already done so, do read the intro to this category here.

M 18 Mar 2013
29

Angled Rectangles
watercolor on paper

Art 4x4  029 angled rectangles 04  2013-03-18M

PREVIOUS PIECES
1-25
26. Brain of a Famous American
27. Petals
28. Woman in Crowd

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