Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"The End" of Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison and his father on the bridge of the USS Bon Homme Richard ca. 1964

1966 was a time when sons began open revolt against their fathers. Could there be a more egregious example than Jim Morrison and his father, Admiral George "Steve" Morrison (pictured together above)?

Obviously Morrison was a talented lyricist, and together with his looks and charisma (plus three talented musicians) The Doors' success was a no-brainer in hindsight. And yet I've always thought his most interesting material was culled from his pre-fame days: things he had written well before the band gelled in 1965 and honed their act throughout 1966 [for example Indian Summer from 1966].

Morrison's father is interesting in his own right. He doesn't seem at all like the authoritarian caricature that Oliver Stone portrayed in his fawning homage (surpassed in obsequiousness only by the earlier Danny Sugerman book No One Here Gets Out Alive).  Don't get me wrong.  I still love much of The Doors' music. But as I get older, it's interesting to consider the whole spectacle in a broader context. And it's also disappointing that people still don't take Bruce Harris's message seriously, that Jim Morrison didn't want to be an idol "because he believed all idols were hollow." To Jim Morrison, the whole spectacle was a theater art project. 

My backyard neighbor is the son of retired Navy brass and visits his parents down on Coronado Island. He met Admiral Morrison once before he died in 2008: "a good guy" he told me once. According to this San Diego newspaper account, the elder Morrison still biked around the island until the end, inviting friends to "Steve's Happy Hour."

Admiral Morrison visited his son's grave in 1990 and placed an engraved plaque written in Greek which translated recites:
True to his own genius

I wonder if the son, were he still alive, could have eventually forgiven the father for whatever drove him apart. I wonder if the poet-son could have spared even one poetic phrase for his father.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tijuana Taxi

Friday drives to the middle school are Cash Cab Friday, but Monday through Thursday mornings have become Spanish lessons!  We (me, son, daughter, and the neighbor kid) are learning to speak Español using the Pimsleur method which involves talking back to cued questions.  So far so good.  The neighbor kid already took some Spanish, but my two blondini are pretty clueless.  Their middle school is 57% Hispanic and I figure that being bilingual will be a useful tool in the future. Their electives are already filled with Art and Shop. Hell, it might even help me if I find myself out of a job.

[Added: special shout out to Freeman Hunt for first telling me about the Pimsleur methods and kids]

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tavern

Among the Germans the tavern is a community club house. After church, the whole family, before returning to the farm, is likely to enter to drink beer, while sitting around a table talking with friends and neighbors. These taverns are different in atmosphere from the crowded bar familiar to other communities. They have the attributes of family sociability rather than commercial activity.
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit Ist Meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
More from the Wiki:
In Germania (the German-American districts of cities) a beer culture flourished in 19th-century America in taverns, saloons, and especially beer-gardens which operated on Sundays and attracted entire families. Germans operated nearly all the nations brewries, and demand was high until prohibition arrived in 1920. German immigrants acquired a reputation rivaling the Irish for heavy drinking and alcohol-associated violence. By the late 19th century family-oriented beer gardens provided all day recreation on Sundays. German newspapers promoted temperance but not abstinence. From the German perspective the issue was less the ill effects of alcohol than its benefits in promoting social life. For American Germans, the pub stood alongside the church as one of the two pillars of German social and spiritual life.
Rural Italy maintains such a family tavern culture, or least they did 30 years ago when I spent some time there.  Ironically the Italians don't call taverns "taverns"--they call them bars--il bar--a word and custom which I always thought strange but never bothered to fathom.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Letters Home: "No wonder our taxes are so high."

September 19, 1952   Friday
Dear Mom,
I got a little news for you. We are moving again, up near Frankfurt. That's about 200 miles north of here. By the time you get this letter I should be there. I suppose my A.P.O. number will change again.
I got a letter from Dad yesterday. My driver's license came too with it. I won't lose them this time. I can get all the film I want at the P.X. Most everything is a lot cheaper than back in the states. Everything is tax free and that makes it cheaper. 17 jewel watches are about $10.00. American made Bulova sell for 1/2 price in the P.X.
Does Jim J's folks still live in R.C.? That Muller boy would like to get Jim's address. He went to Korea.
Has Jr. applied for his combat pay yet? He will get $45.00 a month for every month in combat. Also under the new law you can get a GI loan. [1] Go to school and get $110.00 a month. They pay 75% of the costs of learning to fly. I might take them up on that after I get out. [2]
We were told it cost $3 billion to equip the 141 tank Bn. When all our tanks, trucks, jeeps etc. once running it takes 250 gallons of gas a minute. No wonder our taxes are so high. I don’t know for sure how many tanks is in the battalion but each one is worth a quarter of a million. The Range Finder in one alone costs $36,000. [3] I'm going to send a picture of one as soon as I can. They sure ride smooth. 810 HP motor. No shifting either. Automatic transmission. [4]
It's raining again today. It won't be too long before it turns to snow. I think my pen is running out of ink. It did. It's the ballpoint one I got from R. last Christmas.
Love, V.

[1] He's probably referring to the Veterans' Adjustment Act of 1952.  His older brother, Jr., reenlisted and did a second tour in Korea.
[2] He never did return to school.
[3] Those numbers must have seemed mind-boggling at the time to rural folks.  Adjusted for inflation, the numbers astound even now, and this was 1952!  This was the sense of out-of-control spending that Robert Taft warned about. And though Eisenhower prevailed in 1952, even Ike famously warned about the Military-Industrial Complex upon leaving office.
[4] The new M48 Patton class tank.  I linked to their specs here: footnote 5.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Old World Wisconsin: Deutschtum Über Allis-(Chalmers)

Blatz-Milwaukee's Finest Beer

Many German "Forty-Eighters" settled in Milwaukee, helping establish that city's progressive politics and decades-long flirtation with Sewer Socialism. Milwaukee's tradition is distinct from Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, Sr.'s Wisconsin Idea, which for the most part was a wholly Madison-based idea.

Holmes observed:
Meantime, among the German immigrants, leaders arose to found new industries that were to make Wisconsin known through the nation. Every German community had its Braumeister. The names of Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and Rahr became synonymous for malt beverages; Kohler for plumbing fixtures; Vollrath for porcelain enamel ware; Vits for aluminum products; Pritzlaff for wholesale hardware; Heil for oil burners; Reiss for Great Lakes coal shipments; Pfister, Vogel and Rueping for leather; Harnischfeger for heavy machinery; Lauson for tractor engines; Stoppenbach for sausage. The list might be extended indefinitely. Perhaps it is the German example of thrift that has resulted in Wisconsin attaining the second highest percentage of homeownership in the United States.
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit ist meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)

The President chose to speak from Milwaukee last Labor Day and I suppose he was hoping to resonate with the crowds there. I was secretly hoping that he would run into Ron Weisflog of Pewaukee or Michael_Haz (from an undisclosed location) when he was there.  You remember Ron Weisflog:

I salute Ron Weisflog and Michael_Haz and hope that their legacy is not fading anytime soon.
The title is a pun on Deutschland Über Alles. Allis-Chalmers is a huge manufacturing firm in Milwaukee. The word Deutschtum literally translates as "Germandom" but the word is more germane to "German-ness" and is typically applied outside of Germany to designate a region with predominantly German culture.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old World Wisconsin: Oh the Germanity!

Milwaukee's vocabulary is still replete with adopted German words and expressions. Hannah Jacobson found the city's dialect sufficiently unusual to furnish her theme for a B.A. degree thesis at the University of Wisconsin. She discovered :"Ach" being used as an exclamation in everyday speech. Many Milwaukee children say "tante" for "aunt"; the streetcar bends (turns) the corner"; people "stay to home" (zu Hause) instead of "stay at home"; "I go by my aunt's house" instead of "I go to my aunt's house"; "make my apron shut" is a current idiom for the English "tie my apron"; "nix come eraus" is a customary byword for "nichts kommt heraus"; "set yourself down" is a translation of the request "setzen Sie sich nieder" and "Aufwiedersehen," a friendly farewell word, may be overheard on any Milwaukee street corner as companions part to go different ways.
Near the turn of the [20th] century, with the discontinuance of language papers and decline in the preaching of sermons in German, many of the cities began to lose their Old World flavor. The change is less noticeable in rural communities.*
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit Ist Meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
*I noted a few of my father's own curious rural Germanic idioms expressed in his letters home: here (footnote [2] and here (footnote [1]).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Old World Wisconsin: Freiheit ist Meine!

Revolutions roiled nearly the whole European continent in the late 1840s. Alex de Tocqueville said of that period:
Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror. link
Wisconsin entered the Union in 1848, just as waves of European emigrants sought new lives. The Revolution of 1848 led to a diaspora of German-speaking peoples, some of whom settled in Wisconsin. They were the intellectual seed for the Wisconsin progressive liberal tradition.

Holmes wrote:
Roughly that segment of the state with Madison as the string center of the arc and with Manitowoc County as the upper swing and South Milwaukee as the lower tangent is densely settled by the descendants of people representing every class and community of German society. The first settlers arrived as early as 1839. Some came seeking religious and civic liberty; others for the purpose of improving their economic and social status. Some were Protestants, others were Catholics and a third group, composed mostly of so-called "Forty-eighters," were "Free Thinkers." Before the migration ended, the Germans were so scattered that their settlements dotting the map of Wisconsin looked like a uniform patch-work quilt.

Scattered among the early German settlers were many so-called "Free Thinkers." At one time this group had twenty-three societies in Wisconsin alone. Mayville had one of the leading organizations. These people were mostly "Forty-Eighters" --men of culture and means. Some had exchanged titles of nobility for their freedom. They were sympathizers with the German Liberal revolution of 1848, and were the progressive liberals of their times.

It is difficult accurately to define their dogma. They were not atheists but they held a belief in some godlike principle of nature. They spoke glibly of their followership after Thomas Paine, French-thinker and American revolutionist. Some had their children baptized in "the name of the United States of America." Often at their gatherings they would display the cap of freedom on the top of the liberty pole. [1]

"Freiheit ist meine!" they shouted.

For eighty years the little village of Thiensville on the old Milwaukee River resisted Christianizing influences.  They had their children married without benefit of clergy. They buried their dead in the old Mequon cemetery under memorials to their name only. Rural neighbors looked askance upon these strange townsmen, calling their community "Little Paris" or the "Godforsaken Village." When a non-conformist newcomer attempted a collection for the founding of a church he was met with a double offer of the amount raised if no church be founded. Repeated efforts to establish a church failed.

At Sauk City remains the last active Freie Gemeinde hall and library in Wisconsin. [2] A spacious lawn and spreading trees give it the imposing setting of a rural community social center. As its members die they are buried in the nearby Free-Thinker cemetery in the Town of Honey Creek.
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit Ist Meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
[1] The seated Liberty on that 1848 quarter in the photo clutches a phrygian cap on a pole.

[2] Wisconsin author August Derleth (1909-1971) associated with the Freie Gemeinde of his beloved "Sac Prairie." Derleth lived, and was buried, in Sauk City.

Inspired By Amba

Amba wrote here:
There is a fascinating fundamental disagreement here about what is courage and what is cowardice. What is defending our civilization and what is betraying it. The views are diametrically, 180 degrees opposed. And in some crazy way they chase each other in a circle, like a snake swallowing its own tail.

There is the irony of defending an open society by closing it.

But there is also the irony of being so tolerant you tolerate intolerance.

Meditate on that pair for a while.

OK, imagine a line segment having at each end an opposite charge. Along the line between the two ends is a "continuum" with neutrality in the middle.*
It might look something like this:
The views are diametrically, 180 degrees opposed.

Political opposites supposedly repel each other, but suppose that just as in nature, opposites actually attract. They attract but never merge with each other, like two oppositely charged ions: Na+ and Cl-.

A political analogy could be like the "attraction" between fascism and communism along the border between Germany and Russia in WW II. But in that case, the attraction was an action-reaction phenomenon. 

Now suppose that the two ends begin to attract each other, bending the line into a circle trying to meet. We have the makings of: 
The views are diametrically, 180 degrees opposed. And in some crazy way they chase each other in a circle, like a snake swallowing its own tail.
The more neutral elements along the continuum between the two extrema are not directly involved in the polarized attraction, yet they "feel" the strain of the curvature.
There is the irony of defending an open society by closing it.
The political spectrum is closing up on itself. Perhaps it's just a reflexive defense posture but I sincerely doubt such polarized "circling of the wagons" is unprecedented. It's been a while since we've had something truly unprecedented and I doubt this is it--yet. Anyways the circle is just a metaphor.
But there is also the irony of being so tolerant you tolerate intolerance.
I hear this mostly from those who feel uncomfortable being "polarized" by the extremes at one end or the other. They are the neutral ones, the "covalent" elements.* In the circle scheme they are around the ring from, and approximately equidistant away from, the polarized heads, yet they feel the strain.  Perhaps the irony comes from being so far removed. As the Dutch learned, there's nothing good about tolerating intolerance.

The polarized ends of the spectrum are actually surrounded by smaller, oppositely charged entities:

A coterie of independent detractors surrounds each extreme. They serve an important purpose: they neutralize some of the raw charge of the extreme. They also prevent direct and destructive collisions and arcing between the polarized ends. They are part of free speech and they ultimately help to unbend the spectrum, to relax it back to a more linear shape.
*The spectrum model is analogous to a periodic row of elements with lithium and fluorine being the two extrema and the covalent elements B, C, N lying in between. link [Fixed the link]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Parable of the Gas

Consider a spherical, sealed glass container of gas. Further suppose that the gas inside is all the same -like helium in a balloon. Room temperature and stable. Everything equal inside...but it's not. The individual gas atoms in the container have unequal energies because there's a range--a statistical distribution--of energies present: Some atoms move more slowly than others, some more quickly, some much more quickly.

How can we make things fair? How can we make it such that each individual (atom) has the same energy as its next nearest neighbor? We cannot. The only way to approach that state is to remove energy from the entire system. Cool the economy. Everything slows. Eventually, approaching zero Kelvin, all motion stops. Of course catastrophic things like condensation (downsizing from gas to liquid) and solidification (loss of liquidity) occur along the way. But the goal is achieved: every atom is finally the same (or nearly the same) energywise.

[added: an explanation here: link]

Old World Wisconsin: Avant Ouisconsin!

Jean Nicolet lands at Green Bay in 1634
Every Wisconsin school child learned (and I hope still does learn) that the French were the first Europeans to explore and map that territory. The name Wisconsin derives from an Algonquian language, but there's a story of how the French invented the name: link

Author Fred Holmes waxes nostalgic for traces of les Français, already long disappearing back in 1944:
Would you see historic places, authentic relics, hallowed ground? Would you hear the French folk songs of the first settlers sung by present-day descendants? Would you like to walk in paths bordered by old-fashioned flower gardens? Green Bay has all of them. She was the gateway to the Middle West opened wide by Frenchmen whose ineradicable imprint is still discernible after the passing of nearly two centuries.
Wisconsin is cognizant of its debt to the intrepid French explorer, priest and trader. Soon to stand in the shadow of the capitol dome at Madison will be the Bedore statue of Jean Nicolet,* the first white man to come to Wisconsin, who arrived at the Green Bay entrance in 1634; in the streets of De Pere, a tablet marks the site of the first mission founded by Pere Claude Allouez in 1620; the black-robed Father James Marquette, co-discoverer of the Mississippi in 1673, is one of the two representatives of the Statuary Hall in Washington; Charles de Langlade, "the bravest of the brave," who created the first farm out of the wilderness, is memorialized by a bronze cenotaph in the city of Green Bay; "Villa Louis" at Prairie du Chien and the "Grignon House" at Kaukauna have been rehabilitated to perpetuate the high cultural attainments of the French; and two State parks--Perrot and Brunet Island--designate localities where French fur traders conducted extensive operations. 
The early French who came to Wisconsin were pathfinders rather than empire builders. They preferred to trap; to wander in wilderness solitudes, and to puff a pipe at night around the fire, while telling other loiters of the incidents and exploits of the day. Their observations on the cunning of wild animals, the ingenuity of the beaver, the wariness of the muskrat--interspersed tales of their own courage and fearlessness.  The harsh struggle for existence and the rugged outdoor life gave these people an individuality of their own.
But war shattered the silence of their woodland security. The Black Hawk episode that made a trail across southwest Wisconsin in 1832 was to hasten the decline of the fur industry's supremacy. Soldiers scouting through the brush, around silver lakes, across verdant meadow lands and along fertile valley bottoms in search of the fleeing Sacs came to realize the possibilities for developing a home in such a country of contagious beauty and wild productivity. Their letters back home stirred the East. Soon came the the New Englanders and New Yorkers--typical, farseeing Yankee stock, who were to run the governmental affairs of Wisconsin in pretty much their own way until the end of the [19th] century. The greatest advance in American history had begun to take a form that was to roll westward until the vast continent was subjected to settlement. 
Green Bay and Prairie du Chien still radiate French tone and charm. For more than a century the French influence has been fading. Those who came as soldiers and traders in colonial times turned into farmers as economic conditions changed.
Three epochs of history mark the settlement of the French in Wisconsin. Many of the first to arrive were traders and trappers who came directly from France to engage in fur trade; the second influx came mostly from the French province of Quebec just before the Civil War and became active in the lumbering industry; the third were the remnants of both groups who remained to farm, once the timber had been removed and the log drives ended. This explains the the presence of French settlements along the rivers of Northern Wisconsin.
Four generations of life in Wisconsin have not eliminated the sharp inflection given to the pronunciation of many English words; nor removed, from ordinary conversation, expressions that sound odd though literally translated from the mother tongue. Characteristic among the French-Canadian is an emphasis on the last syllable so that "Frenchman" is pronounced as "French man" and "high school" as "high school"; or they pronounce beginning with a vowel with the letter "h" so that "oil" is articulated as if it were spelt "hoil" and "air" as "hair." Among the less educated "she" is commonly used after masculine nouns,---"Mrs. Demarse said of her dull boy--'my son Dolph, she funny boy.'" Expressions that are perfect in French become awkward when translated into English, "Me, I do not know him" (Moi, je ne le connais pas)--or "You, are you crazy, you?" (Vous, etes vous fou?). Among these people I found that the parents speak the native language to their children when they do not want strangers to know what they are saying. Otherwise, English is used in conversation about the home. Less frequent every year are the occasions for songs and recitations in French at school programs and entertainments.
While the romantic, religious days are fast leaving the lives of the French in Wisconsin, their devotion, respect, courtesy and hospitality to Old World ideals continue as inherited traits. 

-Fred L. Holmes, "Romantic Days Are Fading" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
*The statue never made it to Madison but was instead placed near the spot where Nicolet came ashore in 1634. link  The statue has since been moved to a different site northeast of Green Bay. link

Monday, September 13, 2010

Old World Wisconsin

-Fred L. Holmes writing in the preface to his Old World Wisconsin (1944):

Through many questionings and wanderings in my native state, I have formed an appreciation, beyond ordinary measure, of the people who are Wisconsin. To know them from their racial backgrounds through their New World cultures is to understand more clearly the reason for our hegemony in the family of states. They came from youthful, youthful stock of many Old World nationalities--seekers after freedom in religion and government; pursuers of opportunities; men and women of pioneering strength and courage, anxious to weave their lives into the warp of national existence. Wisconsin history has been enriched by them.
Wars become universal innovators.  During centuries of peace, customs change but little.  Religion, language, and habits strive to keep alive the past.  While sojourning among the Wisconsin people of racial memories, I have listened to the legends of lands across the sea as handed down from mouth to mouth, from generation to generation; visited scenes of their high emprise and holy devotion; observed customs that time has seen practiced through many decades; enjoyed the pageantry of ancient drama.  No other state has gathered in a melting pot such a diversity of rural and urban foreign groups. With them I turned the pages of living history.
Each little transplanted group has its own individuality.  Ways of dress, eating and worship are all different.  My own wanderings through Europe have been taken by the vicarious method of trodding the byways of newer Wisconsin. The wings I saw and the voices I heard in these Old World-New World communities are here told against a background of Yankee advance.

Holmes' book is still in print as a paperback: link

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chromatography is Just a Metaphor for Stains and Skid Marks

Chromatography once meant "color writing" but now it's just an analytical tool in chemistry.   Chromatography started out with scientists dipping paper in solutions of crushed plant juices.  Capillary action drew the solutions up the paper--just like the quicker-picker upper Bounty paper towel does.  Things in the solution-called analytes- lag behind the wetness line creeping up the paper.  You may have even seen this phenomenon if you've ever found an old paper coffee filter with annular stain rings.
Anyway, the phenomenon gets interesting if there are two or more colored substances in the solution which form two separate rings. In theory you can dry the filter and cut the paper up, isolating the two substances.  Voilà, chromatography!

In paper chromatography, the paper is what's called a stationary phase and the water is the mobile phase. Analytes flit between the two phases to different extents-whence the separation.  Nowadays there are a ton of different chromatographies--column chromatography, thin layer chromatography, high pressure chromatography, gas chromatography, chiral chromatography--but they all rely on similar principles.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Letters Home: Not His Brother's Keeper

This letter is the first that he wrote to just my grandmother (note the salutation). I'm not quite sure of the significance of that if any, other than to signifiy that the contents were personal and probably shouldn't be conveyed to his younger siblings, especially his younger brother, R.

Apparently, some sort of breakup occurred and his brother's girlfriend wrote to him, asking him something or explaining something to him. The identities of both "K" and "that girl in Milwaukee" are unknown to me. None of them ever married each other or became a couple.
September 12, 1952
Nellingen Casern

Dear Mom,

I guess I owe you about 2 letters so I will get busy and answer tonight. It's been misting and raining for the last week.
Did my drivers licences come yet?
By the way, how much money have I got in the bank now?  Another check should be coming. I still haven't got the cookies from M. [1]

I don't suppose Jr. will be going back to Madison to work. R. should be working down there.
I got a letter from K. the other day. I don't know why she wrote to me. What happened is between her and R. I don't know whether I will answer her letter or not.
I've been writing to that girl in Milwaukee. She would like to go with me when I get back, that is if I want to.  I'm sending some more pictures.
I guess there’s not much to write about this time as we aren't doing anything.

[1]  M is his older sister.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whiffing Aromaticity

Aromatic chemistry.  The very name suggests something sweet and pleasant smelling. I still recall the distinct aromas of purified benzene, toluene, xylene(s), anisole, phenol, benzaldehyde, benzylchloride, aniline, styrene, and naphthalene. It's been over a decade since I whiffed any of those but I'm certain I could score 100% on a blindfolded aroma test for all of them.

Those names are fascinating--despite the stylized suffixes "ene" and "ol".  Many are old words derived from older languages like Greek, Persian, Arabic and those of other ancient trading cultures.  The root words were probably once familiar to everyday people in those cultures, much like the ancient substance called myrrh.  If there were an aromatic hydrocarbon derived from myrrh, I'm certain that chemists would have called it myrrhene.

Few of the aromatics smell bad.  But then again, I've always thought the smell of gasoline was rather pleasant. But some of them smell better than others, especially benzaldehyde (which smells like almond extract) and anisole (which smells like licorice). Not so with the saturated straight-chain hydrocarbons: methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane, hexane, etc. The odors of those are much fainter.

Aromaticity has a whole nother meaning in chemistry, but that will have to wait for another time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Henry Louis Le Chatelier

Henry Louis Le Chatelier (1850-1936) proposed a general principle in chemistry called Le Chatelier's Principle. The concept is easy to grasp because it is so intuitive:
If a chemical system at equilibrium experiences a change in concentration, temperature, volume, or pressure, then the equilibrium shifts to counteract the imposed change and a new equilibrium is established.
 The principle has even broader implications, embodying the pendulum shifts in culture and politics:
Any change in status quo prompts an opposing reaction in the responding system.

Appartement: A New Word For Our Times

noun: a real or imagined psychological discomfort caused by the expectation or anticipation of future political or socio-political events.  The term originated with specific reference to November 2010 elections but may also relate to future events (see further below under Extended Meanings).

Appartement derives from the French word for apartment, and is preferably given a French pronunciation. The cognate English word apartment conveys the notion of "a set of private rooms in a building entirely of these".  The new word is derived from an older notion of separateness which ultimately manifests as solitary living. A paradox of appartement philosophy is an anti-communal spirit (preferring to abide alone) and this feature distinguishes adherents of appartement philosophy from earlier anti-establishment movements, for example, the hippies.

Extended Meanings
(1) Appartement philosophy began in the early 21st century as an earnest rebellion against what adherents viewed as increasingly materialist, amoral trends within United States social culture. Initially identified with a politically left-leaning philosophy, the appartement movement championed greener living, despite the need for more and more additional single person dwellings.  Appartement philosophy championed cultural diversity, indeed to the point of regarding everything and everybody as equal (but separate).  Adherents of appartement, notably white, young and affluent, actively despised cohabitation with opposite and even same sexed partners, especially if children instead of pets were involved, preferring the solitary "apart" lifestyle.

(2)  Appartement describes the existential angst of living alone in a big city surrounded by relative well being, yet having the feeling that that relative well being may unexpectedly vanish.  As a societal phenomenon, appartement sentiment first emerged as embodying independence and upward financial mobility, particularly amongst youths reaching or exceeding college age.  Appartement philosophy was best exemplified in the halcyon days of condominium speculation in the first decade of the 21st century. 

(3) Appartement sentiment describes the feeling of willful detachment that adherents may feel when contemplating great swaths of fly-over-country where people live in actual family-based units which they consider archaic.

After the November 2010 elections, fictional and real portrayals in novels, films, and television began depicting appartement adherents with growing derision and scorn.  Adherents of appartement began to be seen as an isolated phenomenon.  Paradoxically, as world events incurred to unify the United States, the appartement movement smoothly blended into the fabric of greater American society.

[Addedappartement is exacerbated by modern social networking. To some degree, people "network" at the expense of forming older, more traditional social networks such as neighborhoods]

50 Years Of MyTunes: 1966

Ann Althouse and I agree that 1966 was the best year on record for pop music. Yay! Link

My truncated list for the best of '66:

Rain ~ The Beatles
For What It's Worth ~ The Buffalo Springfield
Eight Miles High ~ The Byrds
Psychotic Reaction ~ Count Five
Good Lovin' ~ Young Rascals
Hey Joe ~ The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Reach Out, I'll Be There ~ The Four Tops
Gimme Some Lovin' ~ The Spencer Davis Group
Ain't Too Proud To Beg ~ The Temptations
Paint It Black ~ The Rolling Stones
You Can't Hurry Love ~ The Supremes
Wild Thing ~ The Troggs
When A Man Loves A Woman ~ Percy Sledge
Summer In The City ~ The Lovin' Spoonful
Sunshine Superman ~ Donovan
Shapes Of Things ~ The Yardbirds

Should there even be a vote?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tipping Points and Change

Worthwhile change always requires sustained effort. Getting from point A to point B is an uphill slog and has a tipping point--the point where just enough energy and will power is expended to get to point B. The tipping point comes late along the uphill pathway. To illustrate:

Tipping points are important because measured in effort they represent the maximal effort required to get to point B. From the the tipping point it's but a short distance to B, the goal. For example, I don’t decide to lose weight, join a gym and credibly say I’ve changed (psychologically perhaps, but not physically) until I reach that tipping point which is well along towards the goal. Understanding the factors involved in the tipping point could, in theory, lower the barrier to such a change.

Downhill change also has a tipping point, but it lies closer to the starting point A:

Downhill change is "easy" in the sense that not much effort is required to reach the tipping point: gravity, age, chaos and disorder bring us to a point B which is lower than where we started from at point A. In this scheme, "effort" is not negative, but rather represents what it would take to climb backwards from point B to point A. A lifetime of cascading tipping points can ratchet down to a dire circumstance.  Death and decay are the ultimate energetic low points. The only way back out is a sustained uphill effort.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Hippies: By Hunter S. Thompson

As a youth I found this inspiring:
The British historian Arnold Toynbee, at the age of 78, toured San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district and wrote his impressions for the London Observer. "The leaders of the Establishment," he said, "will be making the mistake of their lives if they discount and ignore the revolt of the hippies and many of the hippies' non hippie contemporaries on the grounds that these are either disgraceful wastrels or traitors, or else just silly kids who are sowing their wild oats."
Toynbee never really endorsed the hippies; he explained his affinity in the longer focus of history. If the human race is to survive, he said, the ethical, moral, and social habits of the world must change: The emphasis must switch from nationalism to mankind. And Toynbee saw in the hippies a hopeful resurgence of the basic humanitarian values that were beginning to seem to him and other long-range thinkers like a tragically lost cause in the war-poisoned atmosphere of the 1960's. He was not quite sure what the hippies really stood for, but since they were against the same things he was against (war, violence, and dehumanized profiteering), he was naturally on their side, and vice versa.
--Hunter S. Thompson, The Hippies (1968)

Now I wonder what I was thinking then.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Hippies: By Hunter S. Thompson

My parents bought us a set of Collier's Encyclopedia when we were kids.  They may have been conned into it by a door-to-door salesman.  If so, I'm glad they were. I can remember poring through those volumes as a kid, much like I do now with Wikipedia, just randomly looking stuff up.

The Collier's Encyclopedia came with a supplementary annual Yearbook and we got that too, well into the early 1970's. The Yearbooks had feature articles covering the year's previous events. Two articles from those books stand out in my memory: The first was a black and white photograph of Jimi Hendrix (which I had never seen before nor have seen since) in the 1971 (covering the year 1970) volume.  The second was an article from the 1968 volume written by none other than Hunter S. Thompson, covering the Haight-Ashbury scene of that infamous Summer Of Love the previous year.  Now Hunter Thompson ended up doing do some pretty weird things later on but to me, as a kid, he wrote and sounded like everybody else who wrote for an Encyclopedia in 1968:

The best year to be a hippie was 1965, but then there was not much to write about, because not much was happening in public and most of what was happening in private was illegal. The real year of the hippie was 1966, despite the lack of publicity, which in 1967 gave way to a nationwide avalanche in Look, Life, Time, Newsweek, the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post, and even the Aspen Illustrated News, which did a special issue on hippies in August of 1967 and made a record sale of all but 6 copies of a 3,500-copy press run. But 1967 was not really a good year to be a hippie. It was a good year for salesmen and exhibitionists who called themselves hippies and gave colorful interviews for the benefit of the mass media, but serious hippies, with nothing to sell, found that they had little to gain and a lot to lose by becoming public figures. Many were harassed and arrested for no other reason than their sudden identification with a so-called cult of sex and drugs. The publicity rumble, which seemed like a joke at first, turned into a menacing landslide. So quite a few people who might have been called the original hippies in 1965 had dropped out of sight by the time hippies became a national fad in 1967.

You can read Thompson's whole essay here (scroll down about a third of the way).