The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

In defense of puns

Longtime (and I mean, longtime) reader DB sent me James Geary's eloquent essay on the value of puns:

There is no sharp boundary splitting the wit of the scientist, inventor, or improviser from that of the artist, the sage, or the jester. The creative experience moves seamlessly from the “Aha!” of scientific discovery to the “Ah” of aesthetic insight to the “Haha” of the pun and the punch line. “Comic discovery is paradox stated—scientific discovery is paradox resolved,” [novelist and cultural critic Arthur] Koestler wrote.

Bisociation is central to creative thought, Koestler believed, because “the conscious and unconscious processes underlying creativity are essentially combinatorial activities—the bringing together of previously separate areas of knowledge and experience.”

This is precisely how wit was understood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the word was used to describe innovative thinking—something more akin to intellect or consciousness than to glibness or flippancy, a state of mind rather than just a sense of humor.

Lately, though, wit’s been whittled down to a sliver of what it really is. Witty has come to mean merely funny, and a wit is just someone with a knack for snappy comebacks.

True wit is richer, cannier, more riddling.

Aren't you glad I came upun this article?

Where to cry in an open-plan office

Another problem with open-plan office spaces, according to comedian JiJi Lee: it's hard to find a place to sob. She suggests some:

By your C.E.O.’s work station: Flatten hierarchies by sobbing in front of your company leader. Open offices were made to foster communication, so introduce yourself and say, “Hi, I'll never make as much money as you!”

The center of the office: The company doesn’t believe in walls, so why build one around your emotions? Let it go and play the “Frozen” soundtrack while you’re at it. Do a cartwheel that turns into a split and then cry onto Colleen’s emotional support dog. You have the space for it! After all, the company wanted to increase productivity and you’ve never been more efficient with your crying in your life.

The restroom: This is where everyone goes to cry. Anticipate long lines.

At least my office has a coat closet. But it's very small.

Sex!

Both The Atlantic and the New York Times have penetrating articles on the subject today. First, Kate Julian examines why young people are having less sex, despite the relaxation of taboos around it:

many other experts, attributes the sex decline to a decline in couplehood among young people. For a quarter century, fewer people have been marrying, and those who do have been marrying later. At first, many observers figured that the decline in marriage was explained by an increase in unmarried cohabitation—yet the share of people living together hasn’t risen enough to offset the decline in marriage: About 60 percent of adults under age 35 now live without a spouse or a partner. One in three adults in this age range live with their parents, making that the most common living arrangement for the cohort. People who live with a romantic partner tend to have sex more than those who don’t—and living with your parents is obviously bad for your sex life. But this doesn’t explain why young people are partnering up less to begin with.

Over the course of many conversations with sex researchers, psychologists, economists, sociologists, therapists, sex educators, and young adults, I heard many other theories about what I have come to think of as the sex recession. I was told it might be a consequence of the hookup culture, of crushing economic pressures, of surging anxiety rates, of psychological frailty, of widespread antidepressant use, of streaming television, of environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, of dropping testosterone levels, of digital porn, of the vibrator’s golden age, of dating apps, of option paralysis, of helicopter parents, of careerism, of smartphones, of the news cycle, of information overload generally, of sleep deprivation, of obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.

Some experts I spoke with offered more hopeful explanations for the decline in sex. For example, rates of childhood sexual abuse have decreased in recent decades, and abuse can lead to both precocious and promiscuous sexual behavior. And some people today may feel less pressured into sex they don’t want to have, thanks to changing gender mores and growing awareness of diverse sexual orientations, including asexuality. Maybe more people are prioritizing school or work over love and sex, at least for a time, or maybe they’re simply being extra deliberate in choosing a life partner—and if so, good for them.

Of course, the best solution for a recession is a stimulus package that encourages growth. I am in favor of this policy.

Ross Douthat, commenting on Julian's article, attributes the decline of civilization sex to porn and masturbation as Aldous Huxley predicted:

Conservatives didn’t expect it because they believed that sexual liberation would inevitably lead to social chaos — that if you declared consent the only standard of sexual morality and encouraged young people to define fulfillment libidinally, you would get not only promiscuity but also a host of dire secondary consequences: Teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates rising together, a pornography-abetted spike in rape and sexual violence, higher crime rates among fatherless young men … basically everything that seemed to be happening in the 1970s and 1980s, when the anti-porn crusade Alberta describes was strongest.

But many of those grim social trends stabilized or turned around in the 1990s, and instead of turning teenage boys into rapists, the internet-enabled victory of pornographic culture had, perhaps, the opposite effect.

But liberal optimists were wrong as well — wrong to expect that the new order would bring about a clear increase in sexual fulfillment, wrong to anticipate a healthy integration of sexual desire and romantic attachment, wrong to assume that a happily egalitarian relationship between the sexes awaited once puritanism was rejected and repression cast aside.

Instead we’ve achieved social stability through, in part, the substitution of self-abuse for intercourse, the crowding-out of real-world interactions by virtual entertainment, and the growing alienation of the sexes from one another.

Again, I see an opportunity here for a solution that benefits, if not everyone, at least the participants in the solution.

I can't wait for the comments...

Lunchtime reading

I didn't have a moment to write any code from 9am until now, so my lunch will include doing the stuff I didn't do in all those meetings. At some point I'll get to these:

Now, back to writing code, as soon as I make yet another vet appointment for my bête noir.

Links before packing resumes

I'm about to go home to take Parker to the vet (he's getting two stitches out after she removed a fatty cyst from his eyelid), and then to resume panicking packing. I might have time to read these three articles:

Moving tomorrow. I just want this to be over...

Lyric Opera musicians continue strike

Citing a $10m budget shortfall, Lyric Opera of Chicago has cut their orchestra's year by two weeks and cut six performances. In response, the Chicago Federation of Musicians has gone on strike, forcing the cancellation of La Boheme and possibly other productions:

The orchestra and management have stalled on contract negotiations, and according to bassoon player Lewis Kirk, musicians have been working without a contract since June.

Kirk said management had issued “severe demands.” He pointed to management’s proposal to eliminate five positions in the orchestra as a major point of contention. He said overall quality will be threatened.

[Anthony Freud, general director at the Lyric Opera of Chicago] maintained the proposed cuts come as a result of supply and demand. There were 61 performances during the 2017 to 2018 season.Freud said only 55 were scheduled for the 2018 to 2019 season to ensure the company could  sell enough tickets. According to Freud, fewer performances account for management’s plan to reduce annual working weeks for members of the orchestra from 24 to 22.

Said one of my friends who is familiar with the negotiations:

If Lyric faces financial challenges, it is not because of the Orchestra. Lyric grew its budget in recent years, from $60.4 million in 2012 to $84.5 million in 2017. But the Orchestra saw none of that $24 million increase. To the contrary, the Orchestra’s share of the budget has decreased steadily, from 14.6% in 2012 to 11.9% in 2017. If Lyric wants to make cuts, it is looking in a misguided place. Since 2011, orchestra members’ weekly salary has increased an average of less than 1% per year; adjusted for inflation, wages have actually decreased by 5.1% since 2011. The musicians’ last bargaining proposal to management proposed tying wage increases directly to the rate of inflation. They are not even trying to make up for lost ground. It is infuriating and heartbreaking.

I haven't seen La Boheme yet, and I may not this year. Heartbreaking indeed.

Other things I'm reading

If the Kanye West–Donald Trump crazyfest didn't do it for you, there are plenty of other things to take a look at this lunchtime:

That's all for now. Enough crazy for one Friday.

How to out-crazy the President while in the Oval Office

I just read through the complete, official transcript of Kanye West's meeting with President Trump yesterday, and...wow. That man has some serious untreated mental illness and should seek help.

I know, that sentence was ambiguous, because "that man" could refer to either Trump or West, but in this case I thought West came across as the less coherent. Sample:

MR. WEST:  We have a good — and the thing is, let’s stop worrying about the future.  All we really have is today.  We just have today.  Over and over and over again, the eternal return.  The hero’s journey.  And Trump is on his hero’s journey right now.  And he might not have expected to have a crazy motherfucker like Kanye West run up and support, but best believe we are going to make America great.

And, earlier:

There’s a lot of things affecting our mental health that makes us do crazy things that puts us back into that trap door called the 13th Amendment.

I did say “abolish” with the hat on.  Because why would you keep something around that’s a trap door?  If you’re building a floor — the Constitution is the base of our industry, right?  Of our country, of our company.  Would you build a trap door that if you mess up and you — accidentally something happens, you fall and you end up next to the Unabomber?  You end up — you got to remove all that trap door out of the relationship.

The four gentlemen that wrote the 13th Amendment — and I think the way the universe works, it’s perfect.  We don’t have 13 floors, do we?  You know, so the four — the four gentlemen that wrote the 13th Amendment didn’t look like the people they were amending.  Also at that point, it was illegal for blacks to read — or African Americans to read.  And so that meant if you actually read the Amendment, you would get locked up and turned into a slave.

What is all that? Word salad? Dog-whistle quodlibet?

Here's the pool video from NBC; judge for yourself: