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Writing About Being Wrong

I’ve never really seriously taken into consideration that I might, someday, write a non-fiction book. Humor, perhaps. But a screed/diatribe/exposition on one subject? I don’t think I’d have the patience – or expertise enough in one subject – for that. But I’m close to changing my mind. The subject? Why and how I just changed my mind. OPINION.

Since you have to have a “BOLD TITLE: Followed by a colon and some quip or pithy summary,” I think I’ll call it “WRONG! OR AM I?: How Hard it is to Change your Opinion… Or is it?”

I guess I could work on that. I heard a snippet from a podcast, probably “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe,” remarking upon how when you confront people about an instance in which they changed their minds about something, they say, “Sure!” but when you ask for an example, they say, “Uh… uh.. hold on.” Nothing comes immediately to mind. But eventually, they think of something. Any mature and reasonable human can eventually call to mind a subject on which they changed their opinion.

But why is it difficult to recall that right away? Because it’s a process. If you can recall an issue in which you reversed yourself, it’s highly unlikely you can think of that ONE MOMENT in which you suddenly decided, “OK, I guess tomatos are fruit,” or “I give up, I guess Pluto’s not really a real planet.” No. It’s a gradual process. You learn and you evolve over time. Facts and evidence chip away at your opinion. You may have a moment someday, when you haven’t thought of something in a while, and realize that your mind has changed on it. But the revelation didn’t occur all at once – the realization may have, but the actual reversal didn’t.

But I have to delve deeper. Why does it take so much for us to change our minds? Presupposing, of course, that the issue is not borderline or personal. Say it’s something that is obvious to most people; there is overwhelming evidence, and it’s in front of us every day. I’ll go for the obvious, Climate Change. Why do so many insist on its lack of existence when there is no way they are right? Do they know it and they just cannot humble themselves and accept the evidence? Or is it merely a cynical stance that supports their broader political ethos?

Take the internet, the main place we see gatherings of opinion these days. It’s such an immediate medium. You can’t possibly convince someone with an opposing viewpoint to come over to your side. At least not quickly enough to satisfy anyone. Ideas have to seep in over time by osmosis, percolate, and soften the hard edges of a person’s opinion. The concrete fortress of people’s opinions have to be made malleable over time, until (what are hopefully) facts can wedge their way in.

Look at your friends on Facebook. Can you remember anyone convincing anyone else of anything substantive? And the pointless, childish, futile insult-fests in the comment sections of articles and blog posts. How much effort at one-up-manship and needless rage happens in dark rooms across America and the world, with anonymous people verbally abusing each other? And for what? Fun? For some people, it’s fun, I suppose. It’s hard to account for taste sometimes.

Why is it so difficult to say “OK, I guess I was wrong?” Well, I believe it’s a combination of things. Pride in being right. Fear of embarrasment in admitting error. Sheepishness in validating the fact that you’re not the smartest one on every subject. But it’s deeper than just that, I think. On a fundamental level, if we are proven wrong about something, do we believe that the person or people who proved us wrong are BETTER than us? Smarter, more tolerant, more insightful? Or, depending on our level of personal insecurity, that they are perceived by others to be superior to us? It’s an interesting question. Or maybe it’s not. Hell, I could be wrong.

I’ve been wrong before. It just took me a long time to figure it out.

Thoughts on the 2014 World Cup

  • Muticulturalism rules: When you have two black half-brothers named Boateng, one who plays for Ghana and the other for Germany. When I see a US national team member, a black dude with dreads, speaking English with a German accent. When among the Gonzalezes and Rodriguezes of a Central American team, there’s a “Campbell.” OK, so most of the guys’ names on the Balkan teams still end in “-ic.” It’s still a work in progress. But I dig it.
  • It must really chap the old Germans’ lederhosen – you know, the old bigots complaining at their Stammtisches – to know that their foremost strikers are, well, two Poles and a Turk.
  • I hate Ronaldo. I don’t like Ronaldo. Please don’t make me like Ronaldo. (http://sportbild.bild.de/fussball-wm/2014/fussball/geschichte-hinter-ronaldos-narben-frisur-36501386.sport.html)
  • Luis Suarez should join up with Mike Tyson and form a support group for those who have an irresistible appetite for manflesh.
  • Sure, I love Germany, and I want them to win it all. But it’s about time for someone besides them and Brazil, Argentina, and Italy to win. I say the Netherlands. Come on, give them a break, they live in a country with 30 people that’s below sea level. And they had to send most of them to Brazil to play soccer. They’ve come in second three times!
  • Is it me or does Alexi Lalas seem to have contempt for every other analyst? He works through it, but, initially, man, relax.
  • How do so many people from so many countries afford to show up to the world cup? No matter where it is, really? You’d think that at the prices they must be charging for airfare, hotels, etc., that only the elites could go. But you see the same face-painted, bare-chested, dare I say, “blue collar” madness that you might at any NFL game. Somehow, soccer rules.
  • That guy’s knee hit you in the thigh. Why are you grabbing your face?
  • I remember playing (American) football, and when it was my turn to come out, loping casually off the field. And the coach screaming at me, “Get your ass moving, Goldman! Why should we have to wait for you?” So when I see these Pro players casually striding off the pitch, wasting precious seconds, and no one is protesting, I wonder. The clock’s running, man.
  • But man, those little dudes can move quickly. When they want to.
  • Never do I remember seeing such a myriad of inked skin. Some of these teams are tatted up and down. Arms, stomachs, chests, necks, even faces. Not being a tattoo guy, I don’t get it. Maybe I’m getting old and inevitably old-fashioned; seeing multimillionaires running around looking like gang members or rock starts is odd to me. I realize a bunch of ink doesn’t make you a low-life; I have friends with tattoos. I guess I just don’t get the attraction of permanently marking your skin…
  • Hairdos. Chileans with Mohawks. Belgians with Afros. There are more hairdos at the world cup than at a Milan fashion extravaganza. Some women would kill for some of that hair. When you see a guy with “normal” hair, you have to point it out. “Look, that guy has normal hair! What the hell’s wrong with him?”
  • There’s a guy on the Brazil team named Hulk. Hulk say no handball. Hulk angry. Hulk never flop.
  • Sportsmanship. One of my absolute favorite things about the whole spectacle is seeing players getting along with players from the other team. Sure, often they’re on the same club team together. But seeing a Japanese player and a Colombian player grin and hug each other before a game bodes well for the world. Even if they DO both play for Dortmund or ManU.
  • Diving/flopping/falling. One of my least favorite things about Le Fusbol. OK, the absolute WORST thing. And one of the things that has always made me a non-fan of the South American teams, particularly Brazil and Argentina. The flop left, they flop right. Another player taps them lightly and they flip a somersault and hurt themselves far more landing than whatever the other player did. Then they writhe around, crying soliloquies of pain, histrionic like a wordless Olivier. They finally get up and limp like they have a shattered femur. Then, miraculously, two minutes later, they’re sprinting like a Jamaican track star. Must be their training.To be fair, I’ve seen a few flops by my favorite teams, too. I still don’t like it. I know you’re trying to win a foul, an advantage for your team, perhaps at a critical moment. But it feels dirty. In fact, I’ll even call it, yes, a wussy move. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if you’re an adult male, and you’re crying and acting like you’re hurt when you’re not, then you’re a big, fat, whining wuss. Get over yourself, you big baby. Stand up and play the damned game.
  • And what a game it is.

Create a file from a directory list

To create a text file listing the contents of the directory, navigate to the desired folder in a command prompt and type:

dir /on /b /s >list.txt

The /on orders the lists by alphabetical name, the /b makes it only list the filename, and the /s includes subdirectories files in the list.

(Courtesy 0f http://liveslick.com/2007/10/18/make-a-directory-list-with-the-command-prompt-in-seconds/)


Rant In Passing: Hatequake

Ongoing hatred, as much as it is human, eats at the spirit, does it not? I have found as I age that it is easier to analyze the hatred, find its roots, and try to laugh at the people that cause it. Laugh at them for their ineptness in life, their walled-in narcissism as they crash through the world, flailing about in helpless attempts at relevance. And laugh at them knowing that, if they even make it that far, they will sit old and decrepit, eaten away by the bile of their selfishness and mania, and stew in a pool of dementia and insignificance.

All that said, a good bout of angst and animus is also healthy. We are not Vulcans.

In Tribute to RJD

From correspondence years ago… seemed an appropriate tribute.

From: MG
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008
To: VB

I think “Hoochie Koochie Lady” and “Never More” will make it onto the Dio mix – I’ve been groovin’ to the other 2 albums, but naught can stand next to the other material. According to Wikipedia, he’s 66! Wha?

From: VB
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008
To: MG

Yes, those two songs are the best. Actually, “Never More” has always been my favorite Elf track. It sounds similar to the “jam” part in Floyd’s “Echoes”.

Yeah, a big mystery surrounding Dio’s actual age. I think he is actually 5,293 years old and remained youthful because he long ago entered the Mystifying Wood and found the Enchanted Tree where he slew the Frog Wizard and took his Magical Golden Ring. Or some shit.

From: MG
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008
To: VB

He also took a holy dive into the enchanted waters of the invisible Lake, flew the golden dragon over the rainbow at midnight, looked into the evil eyes of the spider-beast, had a gypsy dream in which he danced with the rock ‘n’ roll angel in the land of milk and honey before the gates of babylon, and sped (at night) to the wizard’s tower from which he stole the Elf-Sceptre from the Big black shape and then…

From: VB
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008
To: MG

..he jumped (from a ladder) onto the back of his trusty warhorse, Murray, and, as he saw a rainbow rising, he galloped through the misty morning, through widing roads and treacherous passes of the Forbidden Forest towards Castle Magica where he was to sample poorly made ale and the juice of grapes (evil or da wine) but even with much haste he arrived tardy and was the last in line. By the time Dio made it to the front, they said it was over.

From: MG
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008
To: VB

Then at the front he met a snake charmer from the sixteenth century, who had come forward in a time machine. She was a fortune-telling woman who claimed to have run with the wolves (unlocked) and seen the devil cry. She was born on a silver mountain and lived among the night people. He asked if she was a mistress of insanity, and she said, “Listen to the shadow of the wind, boy – we’re all stars.” He grew fearful and flew away breathlessly. After he dropped Murray off at a stable, he walked to a weird freeway where he saw some wrathful robots passing by. He crossed it and came to a lake where another lady lived, and though she was beauteous, her aspect was evil. She said, “You have a sacred heart, strong warrior, but I bid you leave me.” He thought to charm her with guile, and said “But I’m hungry for a little bit of heaven!” She stood up and shouted, “Eat your heart out!” He grew wroth and drew himself up to his full height. Four foot three. He announced petulantly, “I am the King of Rock n’ Roll! Never More shall you taunt me, you Hoochie Koochie Bitch!” Then he slipped away and followed the southern cross, muttering something about “damned country girls.”

My Present Times are Better than Yours

If I were World Coordinator, I would immediately outlaw anyone speaking in melodramatic tones – or any tones – of our living “in extraordinary times.” To me, this is narrow-minded and bombastic talk. That we live in “changing times” or “a fascinating era” is a highly subjective point of view, like saying that Britney Spears’ latest dance opus Bare My Midriff Baby – or whatever it’s called – is a pivotal moment in music history, or that Trading Spouses represents a massive step forward in the evolution of television. Everyone knows that Britney will never top her debut, and Survivor was just as good as TV gets in teaching Americans the two-faced, manipulative, peer-ridiculing values they need to succeed as unapologetic cormorants. What, don’t you agree?

Perhaps outlawing isn’t a good answer. I, being an uncompromising advocate of free speech, would never want to criminalize expression, even if it is godlike in its moronity. Maybe public flogging with historical texts of boring eras (the Reformation, my college career), and groping by a wet Wookie. Hey, I’m in charge here.

All times are “historical times.” Current events always affect the course of history; that’s how things work, if you operate from the supposition that time is linear. The false view that current times are more exciting or relevant than others is sort of a reversal of the enhanced nostalgia to which people often fall victim – when past times in their lives seem so much better than the present (when often they weren’t). I call this dichotomy the “Inverse Era Bias.” Not very sexy, but better than “the 80’s ruled, the 90’s totally sucked, dude.” So from a personal perspective, things were better in the past, but from a societal perspective, events were never more interesting and pivotal than now. The Inverse Era Bias demonstrates, I think, the continuing separation of the individual from the community; at least in America. Was 1776, 1865, or 1945 a more important year than, say, 1993? Were the years surrounding the Norman or Mongol invasions or World War II more relevant than now? Perhaps, but how can we judge that? If the Serbians hadn’t assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, we may never have had a World War I or II. So that’s all the Serbs’ fault. Sorry, a little sarcasm there, I’m still practicing the art. If Nader hadn’t run in 2000, we would never have had to deal with the idiocies we’re dealing with now. So it’s all Nader’s fault. Well, not all of it – I can’t blame him for Global Warming.

Any important historical event is preceded by a cause or causes, which are usually other events or a succession of events. Situations are shaped by many circumstances, individuals act upon those circumstances, and create the next situation, and the cycle continues. It is also extremely subjective to put boundaries on events or eras, as in, it started here and ended here. Let the victors of future wars and political conflicts modify history to decide that.

So I admonish people everywhere, especially speech writers and commencement address deliverers, to avoid the Inverse Era Bias. Yes, the times we live in are extraordinary, fascinating, pivotal, historical, blah blah yadda yadda blah, but please don’t claim that they are more so than any other.

If I were World Coordinator, I”d have to further address this issue. But I’m not, and it’s probably better that I’m not, but hey, it’s just a point of view.

The Lost Decade

I think somehow we’ve lost some years in evolution. Shouldn’t there be another decade in there between the twenties and thirties? That way we could live off our parents for a few more years and not even think about taking on real responsibility until our thirties. I guess there’s never enough youth to really enjoy youth.