More Conundra

Why do 2020 automobiles try to look like rabid carnivores?

1950's United States of America bloatmobile automobiles – pace their hubcaps and tailfins – at least had a front bumper that spanned straightforwardly all the way across the front end of the car. Some of today's automobiles (e,g,: Toyota Corollas) have front ends with big grated holes in the middle that look to me like a big carnivore's widely opened maw. Maybe it just looks like Darth Vader?

Yesterday (21Sep20) I saw one of these cars parked on the street outside the house where I live. It still looked to me to be an enduring design, as modern as could be. I then looked over at my current 2018 Corolla with its Darth Vader front end, and I thought: How not very good this thing is. It may be more "up to date", and, of course, when one is inside it one cannot see its outside. The new can has not aged well and it hadn't aged well well even when it was new/unsold in the dealer's showroom. I am not a Star Wars fan (I did like Star Trek, but much prefer The Prisoner).

Does the radiator of a 2 liter 4 cylinder SOHC natural breathing regular-gas engine need this kind of "le concorde"/TU-144 size air intake? Its 2003 avatar did not (see above). Does the big open maw provide superior anti-dent protection for the car's front end or even for itself? What's the Edward Bernays' (aka Mad[ison Avenue] man) angle here?

Paths of glory lead to what?

I recently came across a quote by French General Philippe Pétain in World War I: "One does not fight against materiel with men but with materiel." Machine guns would mow down a Pickett's Charge like leaves of grass(?). General Robert Nivelle, whom Pétain was to replace, to his men: "They shall not pass." In a response which presages Bertolt Brecht, men annotated: "And neither shall we."

As a USA folk song about military conscription – I can only imagine it being sung by World War I era "hillbilly" moonshiners who were neither Oxford nor Cambridge university graduates – goes: "It ain't me you're talkin' to". When will we, you, my reader, and myself, yet again believe, that Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori? A parable: Odysseus had himself bound to a mast to permit himself safely to listen to the sirens' songs. (If you look closely, my reader, the text in the little image at right is entirely legible.)

The business case

In IBM, I once worked on a project that had what one might all a "need to know" level of security. It was very important to the company, because the objective of the mission was to make the company's most powerful new computer model have a viable business case. The problem was simple, as, so it turned out, was my contribution to its solution: The System 370 3030MP computer was too powerful to keep its 2 processors busy with only 16 megabytes of real storage memory, which was the hardware architecture limit at the time, and therefore no customer had any reason to buy/lease one. My contribution was to enable the machine to use 64 megabytes of real memory, which did give it a viable marketing case. Let me say: I felt both the project and my role in it were entirely honorable.

On the other hand, while this project was happening in POK Buildings 705 and 706, in Building 707, less than 100 yards away, another secret project had a few, and only senior, employees assigned to it. This project was secret but not mission critical security like the project I was working on. The employees only needed to keep the architecture document in their office safes when they went home each night; there were lots of documents around "the Lab" with that effective level of security. This project was to modify the basic architecture of IBM S370 mainframes to use very large real and virtual storage by pairing the address registers with "access registers", thus turning a 32 bit machine into a pure 64 bit machine. I thought this project was elegant, but there was no place in it at the time for a low-level person like me and the project did not seem to be very important either. Rightly or wrongly, I had the impression that, while the persons working on it were senior, what they were doing was kind of speculative; they did not seem to be working overtime, even.

Here's what I learned: The conceptual interest of something does not always vary directly with its security level.

Do you have the guts to kick the habit?

Of course you, my reader, like all normal Americans, would not have attended Dr. Josef Goebbels' late 1930's Nazi propaganda rallies. Maybe you disapprove of teenagers' big loud Rock music concerts? How about classical music symphony performances in Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall?

I see two problems here: (1) The audience crowd, and (2) The performers crowd. To put things in perpective, The New Yorker magazine once had a long article about the terrible working conditions of symphony musicians. Symphony musicians never hear the music until they retire, and especially the ones who are so unfortunate as to have their chairs near the percussion section may suffer permanent hearing loss. I am here talking about classical symphony music, not "hard rock". Musicians try to protect themselves against the noise by shielding themselves with pieces of large cardboard boxes such as refrigerators come packed in. (ref. lost) Etc.

Should high culture production subject cultural workers to unhealthy working conditions? Of course being a symphony musician is better than being a migrant farm laborer. The one symphony musician I have known made ends meet by being a house painter in the off season. Did painting houses raise his cultural level? If what goes around comes around and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, etc., I think he should play in the: "I'm screwed" symphony, or at least: "the Internationale" (which latter composition has been written, even if the former has not been written).

For G-d's sake! They multiply, and mutate into toadstools! Who would want to be a toadstool? Why not be a bristlecone pine? Or a saguaro? Or a mighty oak? Ein feste berg (BWV 80)

I say: "Just say no!" to all massing, including, e.g., both symphony music audiences and also symphony music itself. Doesn't it make you sick, especially if you believe in the dignity of each individual person? Or don't you? Or have you already kicked the habit or maybe even you never got hooked, in which case, I say: "Good for you! You have helped eliminate degrading social relations from our society!" "Hey, Bradford, you don't need to lecture to us! Where are you coming from? The Middle Ages? We had parents and teachers who respected us and who set an example for us to respect others. We've never done groupie stuff. We think for ourselves. We aren't fans and we don't go gaga over so-called 'stars'! And we've also warned our kids off from appalling things like team sports and cheer rallies in their school, just in case the school still has that kind of benighted stuff." "Wow! I didn't know such persons as you existed! I thought you would all shun me for not getting off on going to street protests for good causes! I'm awed! Bless you all!"

The company of good friends is the best learning environment

"Friends have all things in common." (Pythagoras, Plato, Erasmus)

Aristotle "spent his time either in discussion with his friends and more advanced pupils, as they walked up and down in the shaded colonnades... or lecturing to more general audiences." (Loeb Library, Metaphysics I-IX, p. viii; BMcC[18-11-46-503]: Why cannot we have this in 2020CE, when machines can free slaves, so that they can study, too?)

"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine." (12 May 1780, John Adams)

Maybe this is obvious, but here is where I get a chance to elaborate my thoughts, and I do not presently have the company of good friends. I am writing alone, except for my good cat Nibble, who communicates only in cat and only about subjects worthy of felid interest. Also to be included, of course, must be any good introjects from the past, and any prospect of felicitous interactions in future, such as, my reader, the thought that you might be motivated to email me with your thoughts. But those things are, in a non-metatheoretical way, speculative, i.e., not fulfilled in present experiencing.

I think Dr. François Rabelais would agree with me. I think that the Abbey of Thélème, like Eero Saarinen's IBM T.J. Watson Research Center (right), would have ample naturally lit intimate public spaces for a few persons to gather and THINK together. The design of The Abbey of Thélème might combine the Saarinen's Watson Lab with THE VILAGE Apartments in guangzhou. Architecture can faciitate culture in an honorific sense.

But what should transpire in the spaces thus built? I would think: Peer discourse. Surely, like Alexander the Great, lesser luminaries could be instructed by reverse engineering Diogenes of Sinope's observation that he could not distinguish the bones of a slave from the bones of Alexander's father. I would invite a Great Teacher, who otherwise would be asymmetrically kowtowed to by students or others, like Socrates, to come down off his or her high pedestal and clue in their interlocutors as to the conclusions they had in mind for their questions before asking them, which, of course, would radically change the subject of discourse from the questions' manifest first-order content in abstracto, to their encompassing social context.

If Socrates were to participate in the kind of studying experience I have in mind here, he would talk, first of all, directly about the discussion itself, i.e., about his relationship-in-progress with the persons around him, and that, of course, would not be only theoretical/speculative, but also materially reconstellate the conversation itself, in medias res. The conversation would dynamically self-reconstitute itself and the personalities of all its participants would self-critically reconstruct themselves in real time – hopefully, in the direction of making the discourse itself ever richer, and each of the participants ever further enriched. Value would be added for each person everywhere and extracted from no person anywhere.

Obviously, deep drill-down of the immediate living situation is not the only constructive topic for discourse, if only because the present discourse situation disposes over everything as possible object of discourse. First things first and always attend to them, but like a house, the foundation is not the whole building. The participants in the peer conversation could [also] talk about anything that interested a participant, for instance, understanding what a certain book says. My main proviso here is simply: "Respectfully, comrade Socrates, don't pull any punches on us. Don't play word games with us, or we will need to separate our conversation from you." Socrates: "Got it. You have taught me something. I regret how I've treated people in past, and I'll try not to do it any more. Please point out to me should I fall sort."

Perhaps we would study one of Kant's Critiques, or some other text which would be worthwhile but also opaque to some persons (e.g.: me, BMcC[18-11-46-503]) without assistance, or maybe texts which were more easily understood so that the interest in disussing them might be more directly oriented toward such subjects as their social application, e.g., Bertolt Brecht's writings. Everybody would live happily after until Mother Nature's Assistant Secretaries of various Heavenly sub-departments, such as Pain and Death, would interrupt. What do you think here, my reader?[1]

Q: What is the worst possible learning environment? A: Grading/Testing.


+2024.06.17 v040
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  1. "Why so many polysyllabic words here, Bradford?" "Because I think that, from the standpoint of a person trying to think and study, flies are better occupied dealing being entrapped in a spider web, than on the loose, buzzing around said person's head."

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