Dispatch from a time-starved blogger: the bulge is p-G … and p-G is the bulge

We were surprised to learn that the longest gap between entries in this blog has alarmed some regular readers. (… Sorry, truly …) Someone dear and close — though physically remote — wrote in a state of high alarm seeking reassurance that all was well with us, having forgotten the alert we posted a few weeks ago about the likelihood of other, more pressing demands making it impossible to keep to our old, loose timetable, publishing roughly once a week or every ten days.

There must be a blog visitor or two who thinks that the shock on which we pegged our last entry had turned our typing fingers into useless icicles exactly like the glassy fangs hanging over our front porch all last week. Oh, … and we did have every intention of returning promptly to expand on our exclamation, there, about A. O. Scott’s conception of Steve Jobs as no mere uber-entrepreneur-aesthete but creator of The All — The All-and-All, even. Yet no sooner had we posted in haste than we repented, realising that anything we said would only be repeating reasoning and revelations in earlier entries (on 25 October 2011 and 1 November 2011 ).

The New York Times, by the way, has just redeemed itself — or made up for its temporarily addled film critic’s hyperbole with a calm, well-judged analysis of the fate of the latest Jobs biopic in a Nick Bilton column. Its disclosures about Silicon Valley machinations related to the portrayal of a local hero are worth a close read. (‘”Steve Jobs” Flops at the Box Office and Silicon Valley Cheers‘)

… Has our post-Gutenberg (p-G to friends) hiatus ended? No. We see no change in the pattern of chronic upheavals — moving house, for instance, across hundreds of miles, over several weeks (nearly losing our marbles, every last one, along the way).

Naturally, other scribblers’ reactions to changes in environment and circumstances have been of keen interest, lately. Think back to our post starring Beatrice and Sidney Webb and the Maharaja of Chhatarpur. Presences, absences and surroundings have subtle effects on the most salient requirement, which Beatrice pinpointed in a lament about her inability to keep up her diary during a three-week sojourn in Scotland in which she and Sidney — her impossibly perfect campaigning and writing collaborator — were never apart:

When Sidney is with me I cannot talk to the other self with whom I commune when I am alone — ‘it’ ceases to be present and only reappears when he becomes absent.

She was of course referring to idiosyncratic writing from and of herself, and not the kinds that can be done in partnership — journalism, and (in her day) pamphleteering, or any other fact- and argument-driven nonfiction.

The financially uncompensated keyboard tapping that keeps p-G alive has become more difficult to justify with projects closer to conversations with ‘it’ starved for attention in the recent, seemingly neverending, chaos.

We can only promise to return unpredictably, when we can — though the pressure from inspiration about p-G-related topics fighting to get out and march in lines of text can be intense enough to make us feel for head bulges.

… That word, bulge. … From time to time it reminds us of the ecstasy of watching our elders-and-betters in a long-ago senior school production of Oscar Wilde’s most scintillating, deliciously subversive and wise play, beneath a witty-glittery surface — old even then, but treated undeservingly, now, as a dated Victorian comedy of manners, a relic. Who could ever forget The Importance of Being Earnest? … There is no point in summarising a plot that can be googled in instants, so we offer only a prod or two for the memory of anyone else who knows and loves it. … That brilliantly named governess, Miss Prism, who actually lost one of the characters, Jack, in a handbag at London’s Victoria Station — when he was an orphaned baby. … We cannot remember whether the drama includes the babyhood of someone else, a someone called Algy (Algernon) Moncrieff — any allusions to the time when he had yet to emerge, and wonder whether it was Oscar’s classic that inspired this poem-let as lovely as a tree by an unknown poet:

Algy met a bear,
The bear was bulgy,
The bulge was Algy.

Bliss.

A re-reading is overdue. We have downloaded the play from Project Gutenberg for our next nano-break … and hope to return sooner than later to let Algy …. oops! we mean, p-G, out to play.

 

 

Three mini-master classes from traditional media to show the blogosphere how this journalism thingy is done

Wretched, pathetic bloggers! Most of them can’t be counted on to spell their own names right, let alone do anything remotely like fact-checking. Too much actual work! No sense of history. No understanding of – or attempt to understand – context, in their pseudo-journalism! How can they expect to be treated with the respect owed any halfway decent source of information without curbs on their typing and behaviour — vetting and supervision by editors, sub-editors, copy editors?

Ahem.

from Private Eye, (No: 1399, 21 August – 3 September), an item titled CORRECTION OF THE YEAR 1:

Our Magazine commemorative special ‘The reign never stops’ (last week) included a number of inaccuracies. The Queen acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, not February 8. She married the Duke of Edinburgh six years before her coronation, not four. Her eldest grandson is Peter Phillips, not Prince William. Her uncle, Edward VIII, was King when he abdicated, not Prince of Wales. The photograph of the Queen and Princess Anne at Balmoral shows them with Peter Phillips, not his sister Zara. The battleship HMS Vanguard was not converted into a royal yacht. It was temporarily adapted to take the royal family to South Africa in 1947 but reverted to normal service afterwards. We apologise for these errors.

The Sunday Times, 9 August 2015

… and on the facing page in the same issue, the arguably even more astounding CORRECTION OF THE YEAR 2 — from a sister newspaper:

Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as ‘the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years’. This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian’. We apologise for the error.

The Times, 11 August 2015

Rich newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, with their armies of text-massagers, are not the only large media operations to give one pause. Still, the following correction by a senior staffer at the world’s greatest, undefeated world-champion broadcasting organisation could be the nicest mea culpa we have ever read — but do pass the paper tissues, our eyes are streaming …

from the Eye’s Media News column, (No: 1400, 4-17 September 2015):

The BBC’s local news bulletin South East Today was out in force at Biggin Hill to cover the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 18 August, closing its show with footage of the day’s flypast of Spitfires and Hurricanes accompanied by suitably rousing martial music. Or rather, unsuitably rousing martial music.

‘You keenly spotted the music from the film Battle of Britain composed by Roy Goodwin which was a terrific soundtrack,’ programme editor Quentin Smith replied to a viewer who had emailed him about the programme. ‘Our team was asked for the Battle of Britain theme from the film and unfortunately took that to be the opening music to the film which, as you rightly point out, is the “Luftwaffe March”. I hope it did not spoil your enjoyment of the occasion too much.’

… About that first item, we’d say, howler of the year? More like a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

At last, a professor emerita — buried in a print letters column — has the right answer for evolutionary biologists justifying infidelity as an exclusively male biological necessity

 

roos in spring 3 postgutenberg@gmail.com

Mating season at the Melbourne Zoo — photographs by postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

For those of us who relish a sharp debate with a truthful, witty opponent, discovering someone so talented lurking in a Letters to the Editor column of a print newspaper — and not the comments section of the paper’s site — is nearly tragic.

Never mind that papers have been reproducing these columns online for at least two decades. A dazzling argument deserves a response from the widest possible audience — at the very least, a towering mound of bouquets. Online commenters do not usually debate old-fashioned communications directed to editorial ears.

The letter to The New York Times below, from Luci Paul — a professor emerita of psychology — is an example of the kind of commentary that raises the game in a well-run online comments section. It attracts other excellent debaters, and the conversation that follows can be far more stimulating and enlightening than the article or essay that is its subject. Well-established corps of comments contributors could form the core of a new economic model for media — as we have been pointing out on this site for some time.

Professor Paul’s missive was aimed at one of the oldest arguments in defence of male infidelity, a claim that evolutionary biologists have been inflicting on the rest of us — largely unchallenged — for as long as their discipline has existed. It appeared dressed up in new tat — justifications rooted in genes and hormones — in a NYT essay published on 24 May.

At the top of the letters it drew, Henry J. Friedman, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, spoke for the wilful romantics among us when he said: ‘Dr. [Richard A. Friedman] attributes power of influence to two hormones that undoubtedly have their effect on our bodies, but in extending their effect to the mind and promiscuous sexuality, he leads readers to make conclusions about sexual behavior that are unwarranted and hardly shared by the majority of clinical psychiatrists.’

Professor Paul’s reaction, the last in the column, is the argument we have been waiting all our lives to hear from someone in a position of responsibility. Do not be misled by the unimpeachable, dry, academic prose. This is a woman not merely wise but with a delectable, barbed sense of humour:

To the Editor:

Richard A. Friedman nicely characterizes the genetic and neurohormonal bases for infidelity, but I must challenge his view of its evolutionary value to the sexes. He sees male infidelity as evolutionarily rational: the more partners, the more offspring. Since that equation does not hold for women, he suggests that women’s infidelity is mere frivolous fun, likely based in sensation-seeking and activation of reward circuits by sex.

Because women’s reproductive success depends on genetic quality of offspring and resources to support lengthy gestation and rearing, there is clear adaptive value to female infidelity. The more partners a woman has, the more men she can tap for resources to help rear her children, especially in difficult times.

Second, if a woman carefully chooses extramarital partners, her offspring will carry genes superior to those of her marital partner. Third, different fathers for different children promotes genetic diversity, not a trivial matter given that genetic diversity is the main advantage to sexual reproduction. These advantages suggest not only that women would wander in the face of marital difficulties, but also that a tendency for sexual exploration has a firm adaptive value.

LUCI PAUL

Staten Island

The writer is associate professor emerita of psychology, Temple University.