June 15th, 2004


Pibgorn Lives!!!

93, all:

I have an email back from Brooke McEldowney (of Chickweed Lane fame, of course) confirming that his perfectly brilliant online strip, Pibgorn, will be returning to new strips in October. In the meantime, they're selecting a series of the earliest strips, to bring new readers up to speed. (Members of the site, www.comics.com, can see the whole thing in the archives, and tons of other stuff, for a very low annual fee.)

If you don't know Pib, Geoff, Drusilla and the rest, you can meet them here:


-- the selected reposts began yesterday (June 14).


93 93/93 -- Relieved AJ


Join the Party!

93, all!

This may be a post to nobody -- if everyone who reads this stuff is already Friended here, I'm wasting my typing.  ;)

But just in case anyone else is reading, and wants to know whether they'd be welcome to join in -- the answer is You bet!, long as you're willing to keep it relatively friendly. ("Relatively" friendly is where you can agree or disagree, with me or anyone else here, but you keep it more or less polite. I have a very high tolerance for disagreement (particularly disagreement with yours truly, which is one way I learn stuff), and a very low tolerance for bad manners.)

For that matter, feel free to use this thread as a suggestion box. What would you like to see more (or, alas, less) of here? I can't promise to comply, but I can promise to read all such suggestions with interest...and I always love answering questions 'n' such.

Having now issued an invitation to quite possibly nonexistent people, I withdraw into my lordly Silence.  ;)

93 93/93 -- AJ The Gweat and Tewwible


Another Plug for Semantics

93, all!

I've plugged S.I. Hayakawa's wonderful textbook Language in Thought and Action here before, but while I think about it, want to plug it (and General Semantics itself) here again. What "GS" gives one is a "consciousness of abstracting" -- an awareness that one is constantly selecting details out of a vast sea of largely undifferentiated experience, and that such a process includes pitfalls: conceptual (often verbal) traps, if you will.

Any sufficiently intelligent and articulate person can take any two things (experiences, concepts, etc.) and persuasively argue that (in some respects) they are nearly identical. Any sufficiently intelligent and articulate person can take any two things (experiences, concepts, etc.) and persuasively argue that (in some respects) they are utterly dissimilar. Consciousness of abstracting helps us to see the relativity of language: to tell when we're having a solvable argument (about a fact in nature), and when we're having an insoluble argument (about our own abstractions) -- which latter can be plenty valuable, and very much worth having, but cannot (ultimately) be solved, be made to yield conclusive proof.

What prompts all this is my happening to recall the "Law, Language and Ethics" class at USC Law School that decided me to quit pursuing a law degree, many long years ago. In brief, the prof -- no mean semanticist himself -- pointed out that since (a) any two cases can always be compared, and (b) any two cases can always be distinguished, as a matter of simple logic the notion of "rule by precedent" is an illusion. What we call "the law" isn't completely imaginary (and in particular the closer it gets to concrete physical fact the less imaginary it is*), but it is awfully arbitrary...and the skill of a lawyer is largely the skill of an actor blent with that of a  hypnotist, making something arbitrary seem as indisputable as possible.

Cool. Did it for me. I packed up 'n' left, damn grateful for the insights.  :)

People with a consciousness of abstracting might as well be living in a different world from everyone else...which is part of the reason that lawyers seem so sneaky or tricky to the uninitiated -- in part because they are, of course, but also because they see things from more perspectives than most people do. "Common sense" is that thing which makes it perfectly obvious that the sun rotates around the earth. Those who understand how things actually work are operating on a different plane entirely. That this insight has nothing to do with whether they're decent people or not, makes me want to see a lot more decent people understanding how things actually work.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* Compare (say) "Did the defendant enter the locked warehouse without permission and take stuff out of it?" to (say) "Is commercial fishing a business or a profession within the meaning of Business & Professions Code Sect. No. XXX?"