NYT has an opinion piece (published Friday) titled “The American Dilemma: Why Do We Still Watch Football?” We know it’s violent, we know the players are setting themselves up for years of brain damage, yet we still watch.
I’ll watch. If I do move as planned, this might be the last time. And here’s my take: if the NFL was truly dedicated to reducing CTE among its players, instead of giving them even more padding they would instead take away their helmets and shoulder pads. The players would figure out in a matter of days how to stop before hitting, how to not lead with their heads, how to avoid the worst collisions. Would the game be less interesting? We won’t know until we try; the results would be instructive.
I have long said that the “meaning of life,” to the extent that there might be a meaning, is that life is hard, and we’re here to help each other. That’s it: We’re here to help each other. Which, it turns out, fits nicely with Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, which might even be why I was drawn to Zen in the first place. It’s not that Zen somehow makes sense to me, but that it fits the way I live anyway.
Now it turns out that my philosophy was described in 432 pages by someone named T.M. Scanlon around 20 years ago in a tome entitled “What We Owe To Each Other.” Which found a life-changing place in the finale of season 2 to The Good Place. As summarized in a nice little review in GQ,
We shouldn’t be good for the sake of a hypothetical cosmic reward [“moral dessert”]. We should be good because it’s good for other people. It’s difficult to be alive, and one of the only ways we can actually help other people is by doing what we can to improve and enrich their lives. . . [Quoting Chidi] “We choose to be good because of our bonds with other people, and our innate desire to treat them with dignity. Simply put, we are not in this alone.”
There it is. We are not in this alone; we are here to help each other. And I didn’t need to read Scanlon to learn that.
In the process of packing up my office (at IBM, not home) pre-move (to another building), I tossed out a number of ancient historical trinkets that really only qualify as clutter at this point, including a stash of conference badges that would impress no one. But I’m glad I opened up one little box, curious what it held, and found my long-lost iPod Shuffle! This one was a gift from ACM in recognition of. . . something. I assumed I’d left it in a pocket somewhere, or a bag or backpack. Nope, cleverly squirreled away with a little speaker.
Now, of course, I don’t know where the charging dock is, so I ordered up a charging cable from Amazon. Two for $7.99, delivered Sunday.
I’m spending the day at Mission College in Santa Clara, right near Levi Stadium, for TC Camp, an Unconference for technical communicators.
First item on the agenda: WordPress tips & tricks + SEO. More to come. . .
Unexpected bonus: Keynote address from Dan Rosenberg, ex of Oracle and SAP, now consulting and teaching at SJSU. I’ve known Dan since I started hanging around UX events, and have friends who worked for him in years past. He gave a great, densely-packed talk about language and usability, including numerous references to facts of human cognition I hadn’t heard before. Must remember to email him and request his slides!
After that I made my escape. The former colleague I had hoped to see there didn’t show, so I was less motivated to talk with a bunch of strangers about things I soon won’t care about.
The U.S. Presidential oath of office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
I don’t see how one gets from there to “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want”.
Back some time in November, Streetlight Records announced a contest to win Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s new album, Rest, in vinyl, along with a signed photo. I signed up, never expecting anything to come of it.
Well, today I got the call from Paige at the San Jose store: I won!
Why do I care? Well, for one, I’m listening to a lot of French pop music to augment my efforts to learn French, which means hearing Charlotte’s father, Serge Gainsbourg, and sometimes her mother, Jane Birkin. For another, I’ve seen her in a couple of films (Lars von Trier seems to like her), and find her intriguing. So this should be fun.
I took a break from poetry for, oh, 40 years. Just like the near-20-year gap between the purchase of my last Zappa LP with Joe’s Garage in 1978 or so until my purchase of the entire Zappa catalog on CD as it stood in 1995, I didn’t keep up with new poetry after graduating from UCLA with a Master of Arts in English in 1975.
Now, I’m back, trying to figure out who is new, fresh, important in poetry today. My Virgil in this endeavor is a lovely, intelligent, and justifiably opinionated young lady at Bookshop Santa Cruz named Amber. She helped me pick out a couple of recent books of poetry as Christmas gifts for Miranda; because Amber was so helpful I felt obliged to return when BSSC had the Best American Poetry of 2017 back in stock (today) and picked up three more works for a purchase totaling more than $80. Good job Amber, I hope Bookshop Santa Cruz appreciates your value!
When neighbors and acquaintances learned about my son JJ’s condition, they would sometimes say “But, he’ll be OK, won’t he?” That’s what they wanted to believe, because the alternative was clearly, inconveniently, painful. And my answer was always, “No, no, he will not be OK. He will never be OK.”
And when he died, I remember thinking that I would never be OK, either. Not that I ever was — OK — but I never would be. That was 14 years ago, in 2003. The same year that John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion’s husband, died, and also the year in which Joan’s daughter Quintana got ill, went to Los Angeles to recover, hit her head disembarking her flight and went into the coma from which she never recovered.
Watching the Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold (Netflix), with descriptions of The Year of Magical Thinking (book and play) and conversation with Vanessa Redgrave, whose daughter Natasha died of another head injury, I wander into consideration of loss, and the possibility of losing another child, and thinking no, I will never be OK. I will be functional, I will be capable, I will be productive, and occasionally happy. But I will never be “OK.”
And I’m OK with that.
P.S. More than a small part of my interest in both Didion’s writings on California and those of Eve Babitz is that they write about a time in which I was “coming of age” in the same milieu: suburbs of Los Angeles. Specifically, Didion and Dunne lived in the Portuguese Bend community of Palos Verdes at the same time I was in middle school on the other side of the peninsula; lived in Hollywood as I was in high school (Rolling Hills HS, now Peninsula HS), then Malibu while I left high school and went off to UCSD. It took more than 40 years for me to discover and start reading both authors.