Saturday, May 7, 2016

Insightful People, God Bless 'Em

Guest post by Baloo [link]:

There are insightful people all over the place, they're just difficult to find. Ex-Army makes finding some of them easier — all you have to do is look at his blogroll over there on the right. He/we (I help with this blog in various ways) also reprint things we find insightful. And "insightful" isn't just a way of saying that we agree with what is said. Sometimes we disagree. But even when we do, we frequently find the points made to be insightful and enlightening, even if we disagree. In fact, the ideal person to read is someone you usually agree with, but who stretches your mind by disagreeing with you now and then.

As I was growing up, I didn't think in those terms, of course, and just read stuff that I found enjoyable, and some of that was, as it happened, insightful. I read a lot of science fiction, or course, and that's a genre full of insights, or at least ideas, some good, some bad. Very early on, I happened to read C. S. Lewis' Perelandra [link] and Asimov's Pebble in the Sky [link] at about the same time. Big difference there, to say the least, and I went on to read just about everything those two ever wrote. And, of course, I found insights in both.

Other writers that I read starting when I was eleven or twelve were Robert Heinlein, Philip Wylie, and, of all people, Stuart Chase. Everybody knows Heinlein still, Wylie is quite obscure now, but he's the guy who wrote Gladiator, which inspired the creation of the Superman comic-book character. He influenced a lot of people, I'm sure. You can read about him here [link]. One of his non-fiction books, A Generation of Vipers, really blew my young mind. All I clearly remember is that it was an indictment of just about everything.

Stuart Chase [link] is even more obscure these days, and I remember him mainly as a social critic, who was sort of an economist-sociologist-linguist. He goes way back, having been associated with FDR's New Deal, and he probably got me interested in social ideas and linguistics.

Somewhat later, I read Robert Ardrey, whom I've blogged about before [link].

I got sidetracked again. What I intended was to discuss current insightful people. I started to, with the blogroll bunch, but there are others. One that certainly fits my criterion — that I find myself in agreement most of the time, but not always — is Camille Paglia. Stuart Schneiderman writes about one of her latest pronouncements here [link]. Another one of the best is Steven Pinker. I've read most of his stuff, and I give a long quote of his here [link]. And, as a matter of fact, I kicked off this blog seven years ago [link] with a reference to what is maybe his most ground-breaking book (at least to me), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. I'm big on human nature — indeed, on nature of all kinds — and Pinker demonstrates that my thinking on the subject is pretty much valid. And though it may seem obvious to you, it's not obvious to everybody. I keep being challenged by liberals and liberal-libertarians on the subject, who either say that there's no such thing as human nature, or that it's determined completely by envioronment. And some of them demand a definition of human nature as though the concept is so bizarre that it should be re-proven every time it's brought up.

In a way, I've saved the best for last. And he's special to me, because we're roughly in the same profession — Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. You may be one of those who enjoy his comic strip every day, but don't realize that there's much more to him than that. Other than his blog, [link], he has several books out, some of which are of course comic strip collections, but some of which are full-fledged nonfiction tomes. I recommend all of them.
Someday soon I'll do a post just on Adams, but for now I'll leave you with a quote that shows just how sharp a cookie he is. For some time now, he's been predicting a Trump landslide, and backing it up with an analysis of just how brilliant Trump is at getting his message across, in spite of the efforts of two big political parties and the mass media to destroy him. Here he takes what most commentators dismiss as a joke and shows what a mind-bogglingly masterful coup it was on Trump's part.This is from his latest blog post [linkl:

The Taco Bowl Photo
By now you have seen the image of Trump eating a Taco Bowl on Cinco De Mayo and saying, “I love Hispanics!” It was funny, provocative, playful, and viral as all get-out. 
But more importantly, every time it got retweeted and shared, more people saw a smiling Trump proclaim his love for Hispanics. Repetition is truth. Trump’s truth had a good day. That was a clean win.
Finally, a point about the quibcag quote. Do you see what Adams is doing there? The really big appeal Bernie's "free college" idea has isn't the education — oh, some would like it, but most aren't after education, free or otherwise. They're after four years of free playtime. They want all that cool lifestyle, paid for by dumb clucks carrying lunchbuckets around who don't go to college. They want the booze and the sex and the fun tearing things up and getting attention from the media for whining and bitching about everything. They want to have hissy-fits and tantrums and be rewarded for it. Bernie, being largely old-school old left, might very well not realize this himself, and think that his support is all coming from young people who want to Study Real Hard. Well, you can study real hard online, and you can learn practically everything that way that you could learn in a classroom, and you can be tested and awarded a degree that certifies you as having learned/become competent in whatever field you choose.  But online, you can't do the sex and booze and partying and virtue-signaling and demonstrating and marching and other narcissistic stuff.

So Adams proposes to give them all what they say they want, while actually giving a minority of them what they do want, cheaply and efficiently. And disappointing hell out of the special little snowflakes who are so into the freebie thing. If I were President, I'd have Scott as a chief advisor. Trump ought to, also. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he does.


Quibcag: The girl getting her college education online is Izumi Konata of Lucky Star (らき☆すた Raki☆Suta)


  1. Not to mention the fact that many college ''educations'' are downright useless.
    Who in their right mind would rack up $35k in debt to get a Master's degree in Puppetry? You think I'm kidding don't you?
    Quite a few other 'studies' have no real-world use as well, ''women's''/ethnic/LBTBBQ for example.
    You mentioned the ''dirty little secret'' of both college life and lots of debt, didn't you? Yeah, nearly all those 'students' that went to Florida for 'spring break' didn't work for, or get the money for that Animal House experience from their parents. It got plowed into the student loan.
    Why would the lender care what all that money is spent on? Being repaid is a safe bet, not only can repayment be forced by methods unavailable to other types of loans (can't bankrupt out, in some cases even death won't end it) if worse comes to worst, FedGov will come to the rescue.
    Some have suggested making the school ''have a stake'' in student loans, I.E., the debt becomes bankruptable again, but the school has to eat at least half the loss should that happen. Take it out of the coach's $million-plus salary perhaps, or shelve plans for that fancy dining hall and not hire the chef for it.
    Some suggested reading on the subject:

  2. I encourage you all to read Philip Wylie's thoughts on:

    I Catastrophe, Christ, and Chemistry
    II Subjective Feudalism
    III A Footnote to Chapter Two
    IV A Psychology Lesson, a Study, and a Sermon
    V A Specimen American Myth
    VI A Specimen American Attitude
    VII A Specimen American Institution
    VIII Common Man: The Hero’s Backside
    IX The New Order for Common Man
    X Uncommon Men
    XI Common Women
    XII Businessmen
    XIII Statesmen
    XIV Professors
    XV Congressmen—with a Footnote on Mecca
    XVI Military Men
    XVII The Man on the Cross

    all of which are available at :

  3. There is an essay by Steven Dutch about Evolution and Adams --

  4. I any case I should mention that I appreciate your blog and the very interesting essays and links very much.

  5. I'd like to replace college "degrees" with fairly-administered tests of proficiency in skills. Languages, sciences, mathematics, whatever. If you pass the test, you get the certification, no matter your age or how you got the knowledge. If the criterion is knowing Spanish, does it matter whether I got it in school or from spending my summers in (forex) Puerto Rico?