Maybe my favorite of the current Bernie meme torrent.

The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect

I loved this quote from Michael Crichton:

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

Many of us have probably done the same. Several times I’ve been at an event that makes it into the news, and found the story full of errors/falsehoods about what I saw happening. Yet I don’t learn.

Source. I came across the quote today without any link to a source, so had to spend a bit of time tracking it down. You’re welcome!

"Sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want."

Favorite quote of the week: “I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they’re one-of-a-kind and they’re unique and sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.” – The lady who made Bernie Sanders’ now-coveted Inauguration mittens.

(But I’ll bet that patterns are circulating even now in the knitting world)

Only significant rioting on inauguration day was Portland Antifa attacking Democrats. I feel as if Thomas Pynchon or Hunter Thompson is writing our headlines.

The inauguration seems to be shaking the faith of QAnon cultists. I fervently hope it’s true. If we all start taking a minute to think about the evidence for our beliefs, it will be a new day.

COVID: In the US, new cases, new deaths, and hospitalizations have been dropping for a week. Not reflected in the headlines I read. Don’t want people to drop their guard?

Leaving the Fatith?

Yes, we need to be very careful about saying that fellow Christians who do things we don’t like aren’t Christians. (It’s much like solidarity among the Jews in the face of persecution.) I know people in my own church who think the election was a fraud. But sometimes I think the Church ought to be able just draw the line and say, these people are no longer Christian in any meaningful way.

Phil Spector, dead in prison.

This is an emotionally complicated post. Phil Spector produced some of the greatest music of my youth. I give some samples below. If I listen to classical music now, or listen carefully to almost any music, it’s because I learned to understand orchestration, instrumentation, polyphony, everything, through Phil Spector.

Yet he was, by all accounts, not a good person. He died this week in prison, serving a well-deserved (as far as I can tell) sentence for murder. A difficult thought for me is that the same hyper-controlling personality that made him a great music producer probably made him a twisted controller of women, and led to the vicious crime that put him in prison until the end of his days.

So, I don’t know. Appreciate what you can of brilliant, twisted people? Reject them entirely? I suppose I’ve chosen the former in posting these.

A probably crazy suggestion that smartphones themselves, not just their content, are messing us up.

Current reading: I’m learning about T. C. Boyle. Read Riven Rock (excellent), now on World’s End.

Damon Linker dreads “the first fully postmodern civil war in history.” Yikes. Thanks, Damon. :-(

Today we commemorate the (fairly obscure) St Maximos the Hut-Burner, a personal favorite.
We talk about “minimalism,” but we don’t even know…

"then God have mercy on us."

Russell Moore on “Christian” treason:

People are watching. People are overhearing. Some of them are your children.

The sight of “Jesus Saves” and “God Bless America” signs by those violently storming the Capitol is about more than just inconsistency. It is about a picture of Jesus Christ and of his gospel that is satanic. The mixing of the Christian religion with crazed and counter-biblical cults such as Q-Anon is telling the outside world that this is what the gospel is. That’s a lie, and it is blasphemous against a holy God.

If the world rejects us because of Christ and him crucified, so much the worse for the world. If the world rejects us because they think Christ is just a mascot for what we would already be supporting or doing even if Jesus were still dead, then God have mercy on us.

(emphasis added)

FYI: There is no such thing as a Christian flag.

How is it that the same person wrote Moby-Dick and Bartleby the Scrivener?

Pray Now.

Via email, I just read some bad news about an acquaintance, and remembered something I’ve learned, but have to remind myself of again and again :

If I say (and mean) “I’ll pray for you,” I’m likely to forget, in which case my statement will become nothing more than a social nicety. When news like this comes along I’ve been working to remind myself to pray in that moment. There’s no need to make a public show. Perhaps it’s better if no one else knows at all. But do it right now.

Then, if you want, say “I’ll pray for you.”

My County Health Department had worked out, and announced, a smooth, efficient plan for distribution of the COVID vaccine. Then the State (NY) took over the process and now everything is in confusion. Argh.
I still have hope that I’ll survive this process.

Everybody loves a winner, but when you lose, you lose alone. A lot of people who backed DT as long as he was a ticket to success have found their conscience in the past couple of days. That’s good, I guess. At least it helped me remember this great song.


In other news, it was the Great Feast of Theophany in our corner of the Orthodox Church yesterday. Among the priest’s many prayers is this:

Trinity above being, above goodness, above divinity, all-powerful, all-seeing, invisible, incomprehensible, creator of all spiritual beings and rational natures; goodness itself, the inaccessible light enlightening all who come into the world, shine in me, Your unworthy servant, and enlighten the eyes of my understanding, that I may make bold to praise Your infinite benevolence and power. May my prayer for the people here present be well-pleasing; may my offenses not impede the coming of the Holy Spirit among us, but judge me uncondemned as I cry to You now and say of Your surpassing goodness:

We glorify You, loving Master, almighty, king from everlasting. We glorify You, creator and author of all.

Amen. This helped me begin to re-focus my mind on the real and important things.

Пресвятая Богородице, Спаси нас!

Our monstrous approach to the elderly.

You know this is a theme of mine. Here’s this from a good Atlantic reflection :

“When we look back on this in the years to come, I imagine there’s going to be a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking around whether it was a good idea to blockade older adults in their nursing-home rooms for eight, nine, 10 months out of the year, without letting them have access to their families,” David Grabowski, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, told me. “I think we’re going to look back and say, What the hell were we doing?” What we were doing was failing to save seniors’ lives or maintain their livelihoods.

Normalized scams. I concur.

Help, Spanish!

This past year, I’ve been working through DuoLingo’s Spanish course, and I can see ahead to being done with it pretty soon. Then what? For 2021 I’d like to maintain a habit of reading and continuing to learn Spanish.

I know there are quite a few native Spanish speakers among my acquaintance, so maybe you can help?

  • I’d be interested in any Spanish-language adult literature that might be good for a newbie. I keep seeing Como agua para chocolate recommended as a good, real Spanish novel that’s not too hard to read. Any other suggestions? Any poetry? Garcia Lorca? Neruda? Opinions? I’ve read that La casa de los espíritus is kind of hard, and that Cien años de soledad is definitely too difficult for beginners.

  • I read a few English-language daily news digests. Are there any of those in Spanish that might give me a helpful daily dose, and be interesting?

  • Bible: I got a copy of La Biblia de las Americas and would like to do some regular Bible reading. Did I make a good choice, or is there a better/more accepted translation?

Thanks for any help you have to offer. bendiciones para el nuevo año, if that’s right: :-)

Is UBI getting more acceptable? That would be good.

A dry run?

A few strands of conversation today led to my wondering if God, in his mercy, has sent us this mild pandemic to clear our minds, make us think about what’s important, and possibly re-orient ourselves and our societies to be better prepared next time.

“Mild pandemic?” So far, about one-tenth of one percent of the US population has died of COVID19. Our case fatality rate has been less than 2 percent. That’s a lot of people, of course, enough to seriously strain the health-care system. Suppose the next pandemic appears with a case fatality rate of, say, 25 percent. There would almost certainly be a pervasive breakdown of society: we couldn’t count on food in the stores or electricity in our houses. Civil order would break down in various ways. The health-care system would be, not strained, but immediately overwhelmed. Just figuring out how to dispose of the dead would be a major issue.

So, yes, we’ve been let off lightly. This time.

Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

– Psalm 90 (KJV)