courtesy Travis Hardin Home : Essays : Rave of December 25th


In my demented and hopeless attempt to keep somewhat informed, I've been taking four hours every week or two to browse the current magazine section of the public library. And I mean browse, as in wander around and pick up items nearly at random. Here follows some notes and editorial comments on what I happened across in December (2000).

A George magazine article tells me that the abortion debate will never be solved, because the leading organizations on both sides have an interest in keeping their partisans frightfully concerned. That interest, says George, is contributions. The coffers of the Feminist Majority were said to be overflowing, as well as those of Focus on the Family. (I think that's the one mentioned. If I'm mistaken, pick another one.)

I picked up The Progressive. Molly Ivens seemed to be the most conservative voice there. An article called for so many additional rights and benefits for workers that I-a person who feels for the underdog-felt pity for businessmen as I was reading it. For balance, perhaps, another magazine I had never read had a cover story about the falsity of biological evolution. I feel no need to read it again. It was American Century or American Enterprise.


I scanned that acclaimed article in Science magazine (8 December 2000) that announced stratification on Mars. I couldn't read the writin' but I could read the pictures. The most impressive one for me showed a rock fault-and it was indisputably a rock fault, because the banding of the multi-toned strata was identical and sharp on both sides of the fault. Had it been softer than rock, there would have been tailings. Consolidation (rock formation) required geological and fluvial (water) activity for much longer than if the soil were loose. A longer period of water activity implies a greater possibility of past life.

The authors put forth a non-liquid theory of what they are seeing-having to do with pressure differentials of the atmosphere. But they by far preferred a hydraulic theory. And furthermore, they wrote, "The pictures described exactly the types of materials in which the record of Martian life, if it ever existed, is most likely to be preserved." TO MARS! TO MARS!

Also in Science. Mathematical discovery. We'll all use this one.

The outer edge, that is, frontier, that is, bounding line of the Brownian motion of a particle is a fractal with a dimension of 4/3. Restated, the size of a Brownian path's frontier is proportional to the 4/3 power of its diameter (the longest distance across the frontier). Reported on page 1883.


This intellectual publication is one that should make every Mensan humble, and at the same time challenge them. It is in the New York Review of Books that Noam Chomsky wrote,

"It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of government, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world at least, they have the power that comes from political freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology, and class interest through which the events of current history are presented to us."


An article on J. S. Bach helps us know the order in which his works were put into manuscript, that he considered all the works he published during his lifetime as instructional (Chopin always played a Bach fugue to warm up, but never before an audience), or that his great organ works and cantatas were created for local performance in Leipzig, so they retain "his private style [and] striking inward intensity" when we hear them now. As we have been told before, few or none of his work was widely known or appreciated during his life. Bach died in 1750; one of the first works to become widely known, "The Well-Tempered Keyboard" had been studied by the eminent professionals by 1770, but it was not until 1800 that it was finally printed, and it burst out, being issued by three publishers the same year .


There were 4,742 known lynchings between 1882 and 1968.(U.S.)


A regular writer for the New York Review of Books is Joan Didion. What an intellect! In the late 80's she and her husband went to El Salvador during the civil war. Her account of it in The New York Review of Books was supplemented and published as "Salvador," a small book which I have read. Description alone, without editorial comment, was her technique to convey the fear and the death that permeated the country.

My own editorial view of what she described-inappropriately light-is that the Republicans drove around at night in bullet-proof pickup trucks and lurked with rifles. The next morning gruesome Democratic bodies were found in the countryside or, in the city, dumped into the city dump. The Republicans, of course, were the oligarchs while the Democrats were the dirt-poor socialists of mostly Native American stock who wanted some of the oligarchs' land, but mostly wanted to live their lives without being killed or starved. But they were being killed on two fronts-by night riders and by the military. The Church had crafted a sort of socialistic theology the people liked, while some of their militia groups accepted some aid and comfort from Cuba. That combination had enough of a whiff of GODLESS COMMUNISM to Washington that President Reagan and the Congress wanted to de-fumigate El Salvador of it. The method selected was to support their fellow Republicans in El Salvador with resources (guns, helicopters, etc. for the army) to kill off the Democrats on one hand, while giving lip-service to and occasionally actually encouraging the government to consider reconciliation on the other. (The fact that the gente (the people) were all targets strongly implies that they were being encouraged to reconcile also.) I am unaware of the current state of El Salvador.


[During the last quarter-century] "elections have become less decisive as mechanisms for resolving conflicts and constituting governments ... Rather than engage in an all-out competition for votes, contending political forces have come to rely upon such weapons of institutional combat as congressional investigations, media revelation, and judicial proceedings to defeat their foes." ... "Real combat follows the election, when the congressional committees and the special prosecutors begin their work. In that they are greatly aided by a broadcast and print press that is not liberal-leaning but 'scandal-leaning.'"

Reviewer Mark Danner including quotes by Paul Beglia, former Clinton advisor and cable television commentator, reviewing Benjamin Ginsburg's book "Politics by Other Means," Norton 1999.


On to the magazine "CURRENT," for October 2000, where an article by Richard A. Epstein, Prof. Of law at the University of Chicago Law School appeared with the above title.

Prompting this article was Steven M. Wise's book "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals," which pretty well explains Wise's position. Wise wants to grant "personhood" to animals, particularly those near human beings on the evolutionary chain. Professor Epstein answers Wise's proposals well, as if he took them seriously.


Also in "Current," October 2000, an article by Iain Steinberg with the above name.

Steinberg went to a rigorous high school, and college, he said, held nothing for him after the first year. He was intellectual, but unemployable, in his view, so he put away his conscience and joined others on the Internet who offered to write term papers for money.

He did extremely well, in customer count. His story includes how the coach of the college football team hired him to do ALL the papers of the football team. This became so tiring that Steinberg told the coach he had to stop. The coach insisted he continue, and it was only by threatening him with exposure that Steinberg dodged coach's wrath.

Steinberg did many graduate school papers, and the most heart-rending one was for a timid woman, who, when she graduated, wondered to him, "What field should I pursue?"

His story includes all kinds of students, but I will give you his take on education majors.

"...The majority of my clients confided to me that they were studying education because no other 3- or 4-year program resulted in immediate job placement after graduation. Many more admitted that they are in the field because they had no sense of direction, singular calling, or passion. Just the right combination of attributes for the type of public school teacher we all want teaching our children!"

"...Teachers are the most underpaid, underappreciated contributors to society. As a result the field often attracts two breeds of student: the dedicated scholar and the totally vacant. Both types graced my doorstep, though I must admit to doing more actual work for more dimwits in education than in any other discipline. Many of these "graduates" are now teaching in the field. Look for them at your elementary or high school near you!."

[due to multilingual and socioeconomic diversity] "teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to design lesson plans that are all-inclusive. More often than not, they wind up teaching to about half the class at best, with one-quarter falling progressively behind and the other quarter struggling to stay awake."

To his last paragraph I say, "So what has changed since the '50s?" The 1850s, that is. It also sounds like my school in the 1950s.

Let me tell about my one experience in a college classroom with education majors. It was to accompany a state of Georgia elementary music specialist from Atlanta to the University of Georgia where she would make a multimedia presentation. It was a small auditorium, and the five girls in attendance sat in a knot back near the middle, sullen and voiceless when asked to participate. That's my one swallow, which does not a summer make.

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