Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hints to Those That Would Be Rich: From Poor Richard's Almanac, 1737

The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.

For £6 a year you may have the use of £100, if you are a man of known prudence and honesty.

He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above £6 a year;  which is the price of using £100.

He that wastes idly a groats worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using £100 pounds each day.

He that idly loses 5 shillings worth of time, loses 5 shillings, and might as prudently throw 5 shillings into the river.

He that loses 5 shillings not only loses that sum, but all the other advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which, by the time a young man becomes old, amounts to a comfortable bag of money.

Again, He that sells upon credit, asks a price for what he sells equivalent to the principal and interest of his money for the time he is like to be kept out of it;  - therefore,

He that buys upon credit pays interest for what he buys,

And he that pays ready money, might let that money out to use;  so that

He that possesses any thing he has bought, pays interest for the use of it.

Consider then, when you are tempted to buy any unnecessary household stuff, or any superfluous thing, whether you will be willing to pay interest, and interest upon interest for it as long as you live, and more if it grows worse by using.

Yet, in buying goods, ’t is best to pay ready money, because,

He that sells upon credit, expects to lose 5 per cent by bad debts:  therefore he charges on all he sells upon credit, an advance that shall make up that deficiency.

Those who pay for what they buy upon credit, pay their share of this advance.

He that pays ready money, escapes, or may escape, that charge.

A penny saved is two pence clear.  A pin a day is a groat a year.  Save and have.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Every Man Dies Alone

Based upon the Gestapo files of an actual case, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (Brooklyn, NY:  Melville House, 2009 ISBN 978-1-933633-63-3) is about a middle-aged, working class couple who resist the Nazis in 1940 Berlin.  Otto and Anna Quangel drop postcards and leaflets in mailboxes and in public places protesting Hitler’s government and the war.  They know what they are doing can and probably will result in their capture, torture, and death by the Gestapo.  They also know what they are doing is a very small disturbance in the larger world;  but they must do something.  After the death of their only son in the war, they have nothing to lose.

The daily atmosphere of Nazi rule is described so you feel the constriction of the limited choices, always on the edge of violence, every person had to make, every moment of every day.  Everyone is alone in a world where everyone is an informant.

Fallada stayed in Germany throughout the war though he was blacklisted by the Nazis and institutionalized for a time.  He reportedly felt he was something of a collaborator. Every Man Dies Alone was Fallada’s last book.  He died before it was published.  The book was not translated into English and released until 2009, becoming a surprise success. With the wave of authoritarian nationalism and tactical cruelty by despots washing around the world right now, it is a difficult book to read though, perhaps, a necessary one.

We are, it seems, always a few years away from extermination camps in any society and I think I could make a reasonable case that, all my life, there was and is almost always attempted genocide happening somewhere in the world.

Quotes from Every Man Dies Alone
(page 9)  Not that she’s [Eva Kluge, Karlemann’s mother] a political animal, she’s just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she’s of the view that you don’t bring children into the world to have them shot.  Also, that a home without a man is no good, and for the time being she’s got nothing:  not her two boys, not a man, not a proper home.

(20)  Because you could see it with your eyes closed, the way they were making separations between ordinary citizens and Party members.  Even the worst Party member was worth more to them than the best ordinary citizen.  Once in the Party, it appeared you could do what you liked, and never be called for it.  They termed that rewarding loyalty with loyalty.

[footnote]  Winter Relief Fund was a Nazi-organized charity collected during the winter months.  Pressure to contribute was considerable, and armbands and pins were distributed for public display to identity donors - and thus non-donors.  Much of the money was siphoned off by the Party, and scholars have noted that it kept the populace short of extra cash and acclimated to the idea of privation.

(43)  Father of Karlemann: “On his last furlough he showed me a photograph that a comrade took of him.  He was proud of it.  There’s your Karlemann, and he’s holding a little Jewish boy of about three, holding him by the leg, and he’s about to smash his head against the bumper of a car.”

(64)  For an instant, Baldur Persicke [Hitler Youth] thought the game was up.  But then he remembered one of his maxims, Shamelessness wins out…

(78)  [footnote]  Jewish women were forced to change their names to Sara by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (also known as the Nuremberg Racial Purity Laws);  Jewish men were forced to call themselves Israel.

(132)  He might be right:  whether their act was big or small, no one could risk more than his life.

(146)  In the year 1940, he had not yet understood, our good Harteisen, that any Nazi at any time was prepared to take not only the pleasure but also the life of any differently minded German.

(153)  “Show me one that isn’t afraid!” said the brownshirt contemptuously.  “And it’s so unnecessary.  They just need to do what we tell them.”

“It’s because people have got in the habit of thinking.  They have the idea that thinking will help them."

(157)  In other words, the Quangels were like most people:  they believed what they hoped.

(223)  That was all his superiors really cared about:  something had to be done, even if it was the wrong thing, as the whole pursuit of Kluge [father of Karlemann] was wrong. It was the waiting around the gentlemen couldn’t endure.

(278)  “Thoughts are free,”  they said - but they ought to have known that in this State not even thoughts were free.

….They had failed to understand that there was no such thing as private life in wartime Germany.

(284)  "They just need to overcome their fear.  At the moment, their fear of the future the Nazis are creating is still less than their fear of the present.  But that will change before too long."

…. “Second, my dear chap, you ought to know that it doesn’t matter if there’s a handful of you against many of them.  Once you’ve seen that a cause is right, you’re obliged to fight for it.”

(288)  Eleven of his workforce, including two men who had been at the furniture factory for twenty years, had disappeared without trace:  either in the middle of the shift or they hadn’t come to work one morning.  He was never told what had become of them, and that was further evidence that they had spoken a word out of turn somewhere and been packed off to a concentration camp.

(289)  But sometimes out of that dullness a terrifying rage would explode like the time a worker had fed his arm into the saw and screamed, “I wish Hitler would drop dead! And he will!  Just as I am sawing off my arm!"

(292)  “Danger,” he said.  “There’s always danger, Anna;  otherwise, it’s not fighting….”

(352)  [Detective] Escherich once felt very secure.  He once thought nothing could happen to him.  He worked on the assumption that he was completely different from everyone else.  And Escherich has had to give up these little self-deceptions.  It happened basically in the few seconds after SS man Dobat smashed him in the face and he became acquainted with fear.  In the space of a very few days, Escherich became so thoroughly acquainted with fear that now there is no chance of him forgetting for as long as he lives.  He knows it doesn’t matter how he looks, what he does, what honors and praise he receives - he knows he is nothing.  A single punch can turn him into a wailing, gibbering, trembling wretch, not much better than the stinking coward of a pickpocket who shared his cell for a few days and whose hurriedly rattled off last prayers are still ringing in his ears.  Little better than that.  No, no better at all!

(355)  His parsimony, his “confounded miserliness” prevents him from destroying them, but also his respect for work;  everything that constitutes work is sacred to him.  The destruction of work is a sin.

(359)  They all sense the threat hanging over each one of them.  Because there is not one among the eighty men there who has not in some way opposed the present government, at least by a word or two!  Each one is threatened.  Each life is at risk.  They are all terrified…

(368)  Besides, she seems to belong to the minority that respond to threats with increased obstinacy.  There’s nothing to be gained by knocking her about.

(370)  "Half the population is set on locking up the other half.  Well, it can’t go on like this much longer.  At any rate, I will remain here;  no one is about to lock me up…”

He smiles and nods.

“The worse it gets, the better it will be.  The sooner it will all be over!"

(418)  She had delicate hands, the hands of an old child…

(458)  Everyone is guilty.  You just need to probe for long enough, and you’ll find something.

(483)  A double standard.  Clemency is for Party members, not for members of the public.

(501)  The gravel was a dream gravel, the crunching of stones underfoot was a sound in a dream…

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

I first became aware of Eric Hoffer when I was a young teenager and stumbled upon a half-hour show he did for KQED that was broadcast on the local public TV station in NYC.  I fell in love with his enthusiasm, his joy in learning and thinking, and followed his work until he became an unofficial advisor to LBJ and began to inveigh against the 60s©™allrightsreserved without, to me, much understanding at all.  Still, his books like The True Believer and The Ordeal of Change helped me formulate some of my own thinking and may still be useful to others.

Here are the notes I made when I reread The True Believer in 2008.

The True Believer:  Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer
NY:  Harper & Row, 1951

(xii)  "Starting out from the fact that the frustrated predominate among the early adherents of all mass movements and that they usually join of their own accord, it is assumed:  1)  that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting from the outside, can generate most of the peculiar characteristics of the true believer;  2)  that an effective technique of conversion consists basically in the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses indigenous to the frustrated mind."

(9)  "Those who would transform a nation of the world cannot do so by breeding and captaining discontent or by demonstrating the reasonableness and desirability of the intended changes or by coercing people into a new way of life.  They must know how to kindle and fan an extravagant hope.  It matters not whether it be hope of a heavenly kingdom, of heaven on earth, of plunder and untold riches, of fabulous achievement or world dominion.  If the Communists win Europe and a large part of the world, it will not be because they know how to stir up discontent or how to infect people with hatred, but because they know how to preach hope."

(10)  "There can be revolutions by the privileged as well as by the underprivileged.  The movement of enclosure in sixteenth and seventeenth century England was a revolution by the rich."
NB:  We are now undergoing a similar revolution of the rich, the enclosure of the intellectual commons and the complete corporate branding of life, down to your DNA.

"Another English revolution by the rich occurred at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.  It was the Industrial Revolution."

(11)  "For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power.  They must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking.  Experience is a handicap."

(15)  "The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless."

(16)  "When people are ripe for a mass movement, they are usually ripe for any effective movement, and not solely for one with a particular doctrine or program."

(17)  "Since all mass movements draw their adherents from the same types of humanity and appeal to the same types of mind, it follows:  a) all mass movements are competitive, and the gain of one in adherents is the loss of all the others;  b) all mass movements are interchangeable.  One mass movement readily transforms itself into another."

(28)  "Discontent is likely to be highest when misery is bearable;  when conditions have so improved that an ideal state seems almost within reach.  A grievance is most poignant when almost redressed."

(29)  "It is not actual suffering but the taste of better things which excites people to revolt."

(30)  "There is a hope that acts as an explosive, and a hope that disciplines and infuses patience.  The difference is between the immediate hope and the distant hope."

"Later, as the movement comes into possession of power, the emphasis is shifted to the distant hope - the dream and the vision.  For an 'arrived' mass movement is preoccupied with the preservation of the present, and it prizes obedience and patience above spontaneous action, and when we 'hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.'"

(31)  "Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration.  Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual."

(41)  "It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises.  What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated."

(43)  "When people revolt in a totalitarian society, they rise not against the wickedness of the regime but its weakness."

(51)  "There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society's ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom."

(54)  "An effective mass movement cultivates the idea of sin.  It depicts the autonomous self not only as barren and helpless but also as vile."

(58)  "It is perhaps impossible to understand the nature fo mass movements unless it is recognized that their chief preoccupation is to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for untied action and self-sacrifice."

(59-60)  "Such diverse phenomena as a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds fo the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness."

(61)  "The technique of fostering a readiness to fight and to die consists in separating the individual from his flesh-and-blood self - in not allowing him to be his real self.  This can be achieved by the thorough assimilation of the individual into a compact collective body;  by endowing him with an imaginary self (make-believe);  by implanting in him a deprecating attitude toward the present and riveting his interest on things that are not yet;  by interposing a fact-proof screen between him and reality (doctrine);  by preventing, through the injection of passions, the establishment of a stable equilibrium between the individual and his self (fanaticism)."

(63)  "The effacement of individual separateness must be thorough.  In every act, however, trivial, the individual must by some ritual associate himself with the congregation, the tribe, the party, etcetera.  His joys and sorrows, his pride and confidence must spring from the fortunes and capacities of the group rather than from his individual prospects and abilities.  Above all, he must never feel alone.  Though stranded on a desert island, he must still feel that he is under the eyes of the group.  To be cast out from the group should be equivalent to being cut off from life."

(68)  "Glory is largely a theatrical concept.  There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience - the knowledge that our mighty deeds will come to the ears of our contemporaries or 'of those who are to be.'"

(71)  "The self-sacrifice involved in mutual sharing and co-operative action is impossible without hope."

(73)  "It is often the fanatics, and not always the delicate spirits, that are found grasping the right thread of the solutions required by the future." 
Alexis de Tocqueville, On the State of Society in France Before the Revolution of 1789 (John Murray, 1888)

(74-75)  "The radical and the reactionary loathe the present.  They see it as an aberration and a deformity.  Both are ready to proceed ruthlessly and recklessly with the present, and both are hospitable to the idea of self-sacrifice.  Wherein do they differ?  Primarily in their view of the malleability of man's nature.  The radical has a passionate faith in the infinite perfectibility of human nature.  He believes that by changing man's environment and by perfecting a technique of soul forming, a society can be wrought that is wholly new and unprecedented.  The reactionary does not believe that man has unfathomed potentialities for good in him.  If a stable and healthy society is to be established, it must be patterned after the proven models of the past.  He sees the future as a glorious restoration rather than an unprecedented innovation.

"In reality the boundary line between radical and reactionary is not always distinct.  The reactionary manifests radicalism when he comes to recreate his ideal past.  His image of the past is based less on what it actually was than on what he wants the future to be.  He innovates more than he reconstructs.  A somewhat similar shift occurs in the case of the radical when he goes about building his new world.  He feels the need for practical guidance, and since he has rejected and destroyed the present he is compelled to link the new world with some point in the past.  If he has to employ violence in shaping the new, his view of man's nature darkens and approaches closer to that of the reactionary.

(75)  "What surprises one, when listening to the frustrated as they decry the present and all its works, is the enormous joy they derive from doing so.  Such delight cannot come from the mere venting of a grievance.  There must be something more - and there is.  By expiating upon the incurable baseness and vileness of the times, the frustrated soften their feeling of failure and isolation.  It is as if they said:  'Not only our blemished selves, but the lives of all our contemporaries, even the most happy and successful, are worthless and wasted.'  Thus be deprecating the present they acquire a vague sense of equality."

(76)  "One of the rules that emerges from a consideration of the factors that promote self-sacrifice is that we are less ready to die for what we have or are than for what we wish to have and to be."

(77)  "Craving, not having, is the mother of a reckless giving of oneself."

(78)  "All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world.  They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it.  The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ."

"To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason."

(79)  "The effectiveness of the doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude."

"Crude absurdities, trivial nonsense and sublime truths are equally potent in readying people for self-sacrifice if they are accepted as the sole, eternal truth."

"We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand."

"If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague;  and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable."

"There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer.  He seems to use words as if he were ignorant of their true meaning.  Hence, too, his taste for quibbling, hair-splitting and scholastic tortuousness."

(82)  "The true believer is without wonder and hesitation."
NB:  No curiosity

"The true believer is emboldened to attempt the unprecedented and the impossible not only because his doctrine gives him a  sense of omnipotence but also because it gives him unqualified confidence in the future."

(83)  "The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others.  They are easily persuaded and led.

"A peculiar side of credulity is that it is often joined with a proneness to imposture.  The association of believing and lying is not characteristic solely of children.  The inability or unwillingness to see things as they are promotes both gullibility and charlatanism."

(85)  "The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure.  He cannot generate self-assurance out of his individual resources - out of his rejected self - but finds it only by clinging passionately to whatever support he happens to embrace.  This passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength."

"The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle.  He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to."

(86)  "He cannot be convinced but only converted."

"Though they seem to be at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end.  It is the fanatic and the moderate who are poles apart and never meet."

"The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a God or not."

(87)  "He hungers for the deep assurance which comes with total surrender - with the wholehearted clinging to a creed and a cause.   What matters is not the contents of the cause but the total dedication and the communion with a congregation."

(89)  "On the other hand, the leader of a mass movement has an overwhelming contempt for the present - for all its stubborn facts and perplexities, even those of geography and the weather.  He relies on miracles.  His hatred of the present (his nihilism) comes to the fore when the situation becomes desperate.  He destroys his country and his people rather than surrender."
NB:  Now suicide is a tactic

(92)  "Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements.  To share a common hatred, with an enemy even, is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance."

""It seem that, like the ideal deity, the ideal devil is one.  We have it from Hitler - the foremost authority on devils - that the genius of a great leader consists in concentrating all hatred on a single foe, making 'even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.'"

(93)  "Finally,it seems, the ideal devil is a foreigner."

"But we always look for allies when we hate."

(95)  "There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than be doing him a grave injustice.  That others have a just grievance against us is a more potent reason for hating them than that we have a just grievance against them.  We do not make people humble and meek when we show them their guilt and cause them to be ashamed of themselves.  We are more likely to stir their arrogance and rouse in them a reckless aggressiveness.  Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us."

(97)  "It is startling to see how the oppressed almost invariably shape themselves in the image of their hated oppressors.  That the evil men do lives after them is partly due to the fact that those who have reason to hate the evil most shape themselves after it and thus perpetuate it.  It is obvious, therefore, that the influence of the fanatic is bound to be out of all proportion to his abilities.  Both by converting and antagonizing, he shapes the world in his own image."

"Hitler, who sensed the undercurrent of admiration in hatred, drew a remarkable conclusion.  It is of the utmost importance, he said, that the National Socialist should seek and deserve the violent hatred of his enemies.  Such hatred would be proof of the superiority of the National Socialist faith.  'The best yardstick for the value of his [the National Socialist's] attitude, for the sincerity of his conviction, and the force of his will is the hostility he receives from the .. enemy.'"
NB:  The propagation of "Bush-hating" by Republicans?

(107)  "Ferrero says of the terrorists of the French Revolution that the more blood they 'shed the more they needed to believe in their principles as absolutes.  only the absolute might still absolve them in their own eyes and sustain their desperate energy.  [They] did not spill all that blood because they believe in popular sovereignty as a religious truth;  they tried to believe in popular sovereignty as a religious truth because their fear made them spill so much blood.'"
Guglielmo Ferrero, Principles of Power (GP Putnam, 1942)

(116)  "The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership.  What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world."

(121-122)  "A mass movement's call for action evokes an eager response for the frustrated.  For the frustrated see in action a cure for all that ails them."

(132)  "'Vanity,' said Napoleon, 'made the Revolution;  liberty was only a pretext.'"

(154)  "The mass movement leader who benefits his people and humanity knows not only how to start a movement, but, like Gandhi, when to end its active phase."

(162)  "In the eyes of the true believer, people who have no holy cause are without backbone and character - a pushover for men of faith."

(1680  "JBS Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 BC and 1400 AD."
JBS Haldane, The Inequality of Man (Famous Books, 1938)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

My Name Escapes Me: Alec Guinness' Diary

I found a copy of _My Name Escapes Me:  The Diary of a Retiring Actor_ by Alec Guinness (NY:  Penguin Books, 1996  ISBN 0140277455) and, since I’d liked Guinness' autobiography, Blessings in Disguise, put it away in my book closet.  A few weeks ago, I took it out and read it, enjoying it as much if not more so than the previous book.  Guinness could write.  In fact, I discovered these three found poems which are very good imagistic works:

(page 75)  The fish lie low and still in the pond, covered by a layer of plate-glass ice.

(126)  Little blue scillas shaking violently in the cold wind, making the borders of garden paths look like running water.

(127)  The sea was driving for the shore with thousands of white horses riding over a pale grey-green surface.

And this following quote reminds me of something Gulley Jimson says in the movie version of "The Horse’s Mouth" which Guinness wrote, his only screenplay, and starred in:  
"'It’s my belief' I said, 'that if you took all the waiters’ boots off, their feet would make such rude remarks to the customers that nobody would be able to enjoy his dinner.’"
(8)  Will 1995 be the year of Universal Suing?  Policemen, I read, are resorting to the courts because of the state of their nerves after the horrid things they have seen at football matches;  and a lot of soldiers want compensation because they have discovered that war is beastly.
Guinness in his diary is continually thinking about winning the lottery, declares himself “not a star,” expresses annoyance at his “Star Wars”  notoriety, buys presents for his wife, and dines out often with friends and colleagues.  He listens to classical music from a wide range of composers and pays great attention to painting and painters.  He seems also to have been a committed Catholic, converting as an adult and taking his spiritual life seriously.

I’d always enjoyed Guiinness as an actor, in the great comedies as well as the dramatic roles and even thought he might have been a fine dancer, judging from a scene in “All at Sea” where he leads a conga line out of a seaside club with, believe it or not, Jackie Collins, Joan Collins’ sister.

I’ve found that there are at least two other books by him I can read, _A Positively Final Appearance_, a continuation of his diaries, and _A Commonplace Book_ which makes me like him more as these notes on the books I read are my own version of an electronic commonplace book.

When I think of Alec Guinness, I smile.  Now my smile is wider and my admiration deeper.

(3)  …rather embarrassing successes and expected failures.

(5)  Early in the war I had tea with him [the painter Tchelitchew] in New York;  very agreeable, and camply amusing, but I had the impression I was in the presence of a professional exile - something I often feel about Russians or eastern Europeans.

(57)  There seems to be no end to the senseless wickedness done on this little planet in a minor solar system, and we puny mortals appear to be decreasing in importance so far as the universe is concerned.

(96)  …. St Augustine, who quoted, with admiration, an old man he knew? - ‘Time comes from the future, which does not yet exist, into the present which has no duration, and goes in to the past, which has ceased to exist.’

(114)  Oh, if only we had written everything down daily [in a diary] we could bore the pants off everyone all the time with our exactitude.

(116)  When interviewed by the press he [Russian actor Alexei Gribov] gave a classic reply to the perennial question,’Which is your favorite of the parts you play?’  Gribov replied, sotto voce, “I can’t tell you that because, you see, it would make the other parts jealous.’  A very true observation.

(123)  Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of the Divine

(130)  My experience is that given time - and plenty of it - I can usually bring myself to forgive, quite genuinely, a personal injury, but I find it virtually impossible to forgive an injury to those I love.

(136)  Group-captain [Geoffrey Leonard] Cheshire, V. C.  [Cheshire Homes, Leonard Cheshire charityk] a man Alec Guinness thought would be considered a saint for his work supporting the disabled and on conflict resolution

… Then with tears in his [Nehru’s] eyes, he turned to an aide and said, ‘That is the greatest man I have met since Gandhi…"

(162)  Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 32 - for me the greatest piece of music I know

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Szenasy, Design Advocate: Writings and Talks by Metropolis Magazine Editor Susan S Szenasy

Szenasy, Design Advocate:  Writings and Talks by Metropolis Magazine Editor Susan S Szenasy
Metropolis Books
ISBN 978-1-93892

(page 22)  …Charles and Ray Eames, whose mission involved delivering, in their words, “the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.”

(53)  As successful adaptations of buildings tend to point out, a design is most meaningful and lasting when it accommodates possibilities far beyond its original talent.

(70)  … lighting designer Barna.  “Light tends to penetrate into a space about twice the height of the window.”

(74)  Though the living-room setting expresses the social side of doing business, it doesn’t really reflect the real needs of the office’s occupant.  A famous case in point is the story of Hollywood director Billy Wilder who didn’t want the stigma of having a “casting couch” in his office but needed a place to stretch out in private and, at times, take a quick nap between scenes.  Wilder’s friend Charles Eames came up with a solution in 1960 when he designed an ascetic-looking long chair (some like to call it by its more familiar French name, chaise longue).  With its wafer like leather cushions on a slim steel frame, the chair was made to lift the head, stretch the back, raise the knees, and keep the feet level with the heart.  (Since the late nineteenth century that postion has been advocated by various physicians and furniture manufacturers as a healthy way to relax the tense body.)

(92)  One of these workers [in a paper manufacturing plant mentioned in Shoshana Zuboff’s book In the Age of the Smart Machine] was prompted to ask himself, “What is work now anyway?”  Then he defined it:  “It seems to me that our work has really changed and our work is now a lot of sitting, and watching, and thinking.  You try to anticipate problems and concentrate on the process, even if you’re having a conversation.  Your mind never leaves the information."

(102)  presbyopic - a condition associated with aging of the eye that results in progressively worsening ability to focus clearly on close objects

(104-105)  Remember it was George Bush Senior’s VP, Dan Quayle, who championed the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], which forced designers to think about complex human needs, at all stages and ages of life.  While a lot of agriculture and design firms saw it as another nuisance regulation, I saw it as a flawed but great piece of civil-rights legislation.  What is more American, after all, than access to the good life for everyone, regardless of ability or disability?

(141)  Local is no longer provincial.  Local is real, it’s rich, it’s useful - and it’s beautiful.  Discover it anew, and make the rest of the world want to come into a place that cannot be found anywhere else.  Remember what your countrywoman Frida Kahlo said:  the intensely local is universal.

(150)  Roland [Gebhardt] and Brent [Oppenheimer], for instance, used the kind of anthropological and anthropometric studies they learned as industrial designers and office planners to create a whole new system of maps.  They called it experience mapping, which is a way to understand what works and what doesn’t work in neighborhoods by interviewing residents and visitors about how they use the neighborhoods.  Experience maps are great graphic presentations of people’s everyday lives.  They’re much more revealing than cold statistics.

(157)  Edward Mazria:  US greenhouse-gas emissions in the building sector are down 11 percent [in 2013] from 2005 levels, which is a huge drop.  

(174)  Socially and environmentally concerned citizens are dismissed as BMWs - bitchers, moaners, and whiners.

(175)  There is something very beautiful and elegant about the thought that we all share one giant breath with each other and every other creature on earth.

(206)  He [her father] was the best pilot around and felt that he was totally independent.  So when he married my mother at the age of 29, his commander said to him, “Remember, marriage is like flying in formation.  What you do is watch the others’ wings.  You are in a group of equally skilled people who are trying to create something beautiful together.”  This story taught me about precision - being precise about how you talk, what you do, what you say, how you explore an idea.  It taught me about caring for something and someone other than myself.  It taught me about the consideration of some other person’s abilities.  Collaboration is looking at how you work together, how you make that perfect line of planes, and how you keep them in line.

(208)  In my opinion, the source of our current gender stereotypes is a set of economic trends that began after World War II.  It became an economic imperative to put American women in suburbia, so they could become consumers of the massive industrial output that emerged during the war.  Women adjusted their lives to an economic construct.

(222)  What was different about this group [2005 students]?  My class roster began to reveal the new pattern:  a large portion of these 25 students came from the Design and Technology department at Parsons, in New York, and their idea of history seems to be something you Google, not something you study slowly and deliberately.  Yet they were superbright kids, navigating easily and creatively through complex software programs, making sophisticated presentations of information and ideas, but unable to connect with the historic information they were assigned to gather and analyze.

(230)  All I saw [among the 100 new buildings in Miami the Miami Herald did an article about] was a lot of modern glass boxes and duded-up postmodern behemoths that could be designed for any city anywhere in the world by architects who still believe that the International Style gives them a license to ignore local climate, resources, and cultures.  But this can no longer be the way of architecture.

(240)  Kate Lydon:  Our Lunar Resonant Streetlights have sensors on top that anlayze light levels so that when the moon is full, the streetlights dim, and when the moon is in varying stages of waxing or waning, the street lights generate the correct amount of illumination needed to see.

(242)  Bill Stumpf, industrial designer, author of The Ice Palace That Melted Away:  Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday Life

(260)  Working behind sealed glass windows, in steady settings of 70 degrees and 50 foot-candles of light, may not be as universlaly desired as we’ve been led to believe.

(289)  We build greatness then we neglect, abuse, and misuse it, and eventually, we lament its demise.

(310)  Ray Anderson Mid-Course Collection:  Toward a Sustainable Eneterprise, The Interface Story (1988) and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist:  Profits, People, Purpose - Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009)

(322)  I’m on a conference call with Tony Doublas, who works in mobility services at BMW in Munich.  He’s describing the company’s BMWi program, which is about to change how we think of urban transportation.  These electric cars (with carbon-fiber chassis) will be deployed on the West Coast by late summer and on the East Coast by the end of the year.  The services they offer are a direct outgrowth of our familiar smartphone technology.  Through these small, handheld devices you’ll be able to reserve a car and find a parking space and a charging station.  But the connectivity goes beyond the automotive;  in fact, even people like me who don’t drive will be able to take advantage of this multimodal system.  We’ll connect to all available transportation options - in New York, that means finding out about the next bus, train, and plane schedules, and bike-sharing locations.

(326)  Dwelling on the visual has turned design into an image-driven, superficial practice that provides sleek buildings, rooms, and objects of consumption.  But we’re not as one-dimensional as that.  Our species also collects information through touch, smell, taste, and hearing.  It behooves us to create a constructive design discourse about the needs of the whole human being.

(334)  Starchitecture has nothing to do with effective place-making.

(336)  Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 film Powers of Ten gave me an idea.  I came up with the Cycle of Responsibility - my own Powers of Five.  Responsibility starts with yourself, then extends to your profession, your client, your community, your planet.  Like Fuller’s systems thinking, these five layers form a system, too. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Hierarcheology: The Peter Principle, The Peter Prescription, and The Peter Plan

The Peter Principle by Laurence J Peter and Raymond Hull
NY:  Bantam Books, 1969

(7)  The Peter Principle:  In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

(8)  Peter's Corollary:  In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.

(10)  Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

(18)  ... in every hierarchy_the cream rises until it sours_.
NB:  Edgar Bergen to Charlie McCarthy at a society party:  Here we are among the cream of society.  Do you know why they call it the cream of society, Charlie?  Because cream rises to the top.
Charlie McCarthy:  Yeah, so does the scum.

(25)  But if the superior has reached his level of incompetence, he will probably rate his subordinates in terms of institutional values:  he will see competence as the behavior that supports the rules, rituals and forms of the status quo.  Promptness, neatness, courtesy to superiors, internal paperwork, will be highly regarded.  In short, such an official evaluates input...

In such instances, internal consistency is valued more highly than efficient service [output]:  this is Peter's Inversion.

(28)  ... in most hierarchies, super-competence is more objectionable than incompetence.

Ordinary incompetence, as we have seen, is no cause for dismissal:  it is simply a bar to promotion.  Super-competence often leads to dismissal, because it disrupts the hierarchy, and thereby violates the first commandment of hierarchical life:  the hierarchy must be preserved.

(38)  Employees in a hierarchy do not really object to incompetence (Peter's Paradox):  they merely gossip about incompetence to mask their envy of employees who have Pull.

(56-57)  In any event, neither sound nor unsound proposals can be carried out efficiently, because the machinery of government is a vast series of interlocking hierarchies, riddled through and through with incompetence.

(58)  Even if the majority of the nominating committee consists of competent judges of men, it will select the candidate, not for his potential wisdom as a legislator, but on his presumed ability to win elections!

(62-62)  As we have already seen, an employee's prospects of reaching his level of incompetence are directly proportional to the number of ranks in the hierarchy - the more ranks, the more incompetence.  The area DC [Dominant Class], for all practical purposes, forms a closed hierarchy of a few ranks.  Obviously, then, many of its employees will never reach their level of incompetence.
NB:  Why upper-class twits may demonstrate competence

(72)  C. N. Parkinson, eminent social theorist, accurately observes and amusingly describes the phenomenon of staff accumulation in hierarchies.  But he tries to explain what he calls the rising pyramid by supposing that senior employees are practicing the strategy of divide and conquer, that they are deliberately making the hierarchy inefficient as a means of self-aggrandizement.

(76)  Unfortunately Parkinson's investigation does not go far enough.  It is true that work can expand to fill the time allotted but it can expand far beyond that.  It can expand beyond the life of the organization and the company can go bankrupt, a government can fall, a civilization can crumble into barbarism, while the incompetents work on.

(86)  A favorite recommendation of efficiency experts is the appointment of a co-ordinator between two incompetent officials or two unproductive departments.  A popular fallacy among these experts and their clients is that "Incompetence co-ordinated equals competence."

(106)  Many executive conferences consisted of the high-ranking employee telling hard-luck stories about his present condition.

"Nobody really appreciates me."

"Nobody co-operates with me."

"Nobody understands how the incessant pressure from above and the incurable incompetence below make it utterly impossible for me to do an adequate job and keep a clean desk."

This self-pity is usually combined with a strong tendency to reminisce about "good old days" when the complainant was working at a lower rank, at a level of incompetence.  

This complex of emotions - sentimental self-pity, denigration of the present and irrational praise of the past - I call the Auld Lang Syne Complex.

An interesting feature of the Auld Lang Syne Complex is that although the typical patient claims to be a martyr to his present position, he never on any account suggests that another employee would be better to fill his place!
NB:  The rich today

(121)  [Substituting]  The rule is:  for achieving personal satisfaction, an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.  (Peter's Placebo.)

Note that although this technique provides satisfaction to the user, it does not necessarily satisfy the employer!

Peter's Placebo is well understood by politicians at all levels.  They will talk about the importance, the sacredness, the fascinating history of the democratic system (or the monarchic system, or the communist system or the tribal system as the case may be) but will do little or nothing toward carrying out the real duties of their position.

(133)  The method [of creative incompetence] boils down to this:  create the impression that you have already reached your level of incompetence.

(140)  The more conceited members of the race think in terms of an endless ascent - or promotion ad infinitum.  I would point out that, sooner or later, man must reach his level of life-incompetence.
NB:  Has homo sap reached the level of our incompetence?

(150)  You can apply the power of negative thinking.  Ask yourself, "How would I like to work for my boss's boss?"

Look, not at your boss, whom you think you could replace, but at _his_ boss.  How would you like to work directly for the man two steps above you?  The answer to this question often has prophylactic benefits.

The Peter Prescription:  How to Make Things Go Right by Laurence J Peter
NY:  Bantam Books, 1972
ISBN 0-553-12686-5

(6)  True progress is achieved through moving forward - not through moving upward to incompetence.

(46)  Unless you know your real position you may be an Unwitting Incompetent.  As an Unwitting Incompetent you will not know the truth about whether Incompetence lies within yourself, within others, or within the system.

(57)  ...hardening of the categories...

(60)  ...bureaucratic pollution

(62)  The ultimate Hierarchal Regression is the Mediocracy in which the political leadership is derived from selling to the Processionary Puppet a leader conceived in his own image.  This is achieved through utilization of the same technology that is employed in mass producing, packaging, and selling a vast array of products.
NB:  Political elections

(77)   Each one has to find his peace from within, and peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.  - MK Gandhi

(86)  Hierarchies are unlike most ladders in three fundamental ways:  (1)  the step size, or distance between one rung and the next, varies;  (2)  the rungs are movable;  and (3) eligibility to take a step is determined by a number of different systems of promotion.

Dow's Law:  In a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion.

(119)  Greed enables a person to buy things money can buy while losing the things money cannot buy.

(125)  Take care of the means and the end will take care of itself.  MK Gandhi

(140)  Today's objectives are tomorrow's realities, therefore management for competence must be management by objectives.

(144)  Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.  F Nietzsche

(145)  The purpose of an objective is to give everyone a means to decide what has to be done, so that it can be done without constant instruction and direction. 
NB:  A clear, shared vision, chance for mastery, and a degree of autonomy - what people want from work

(146)  The Peter Panel:  Involve the personnel in establishment of objectives.

(147)  The Peter Policy:  Make group goals compatible with individual goals.

(148)  The Peter Proposition:  State the objective in terms of the need it serves rather than the form it takes. 

(150)  The Peter Practicality:  Make the objective one that can be achieved.

(152)  The Peter Portion:  Let others join in the process of establishing interim objectives.

(153)  The Peter Precision:  State objectives in specific, observable, or measurable terms.

(154)  The Peter Peace:  Be satisfied to stop.

(155)  Happiness and a state of contentment can only occur in the present. 

(159)  Three Rational Questions:  1.  Where am I?
2.  Where do I want to be?
3.  How do I know I am getting there?

(162)  The three questions focus your attention on the starting point, the ending point, and the intermediate measurements.  Unless you are one of these people who simply cannot make a decision, the questions automatically elicit decision making.

(169)  The Peter Parsimony:  Make your decisions solution-directed
The simplest course of action that will do the job is the one to select.  In the hierarchy of solution characteristics simplicity must be near the top - it yields so many untold benefits and avoids so many unseen pitfalls...

The Peter Partition:  Separate the solution from the people problem

(171)  The Peter Promise:  Watch for the decision no one asks you to make

(178)  The Peter Particular:  Define the job clearly before the candidate is selected or promoted

(182)  To the small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name knowledge.  Ambrose Bierce

(206)  As a university professor working with doctoral students who were supposed to be capable of independent study and research, I rarely found one who could evaluate his own work.

(207)  I began by having the student define the objectives for his project, establish his criteria for successful completion, identify the checkpoints, and evaluate the project at each checkpoint.  I then reinforced the student for his evaluation of his own performance,  In other words, instead of providing reinforcement for doing the project the way I thought was best, I reinforced him for _his evaluation_ of _his project_ in terms of _ his own criteria_.

(217)  The Peter Proposition:  Provide discriminable differences between the rewards given for good and poor performance

(221)  The Peter Pantry:  Allow each employee to select the compensation benefits he or she would like to achieve

(222)  The Peter Participation:  Reward group performance

(223)  No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.  RW Emerson

(224)  The Peter Power:  Compensate competent performance by providing opportunities for individual initiative.

The Peter praise:  Communicate for specific acts of competence

(226)  The Peter Prestige:  Communicate with competent subordinates in all ranks
NB:  It's good to have friends in low places

(238)  In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.  MK Gandhi

The Peter Plan:  A Proposal for Survival by Dr Laurence J Peter
NY:  William Morrow and Co, 1976
ISBN 0-688-02972-8

(10)  A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul. - GB Shaw

(28-30)  In contrast to the hit-or-miss method, the systems approach seeks to arrange all the components of a system to work in harmonious, interrelated cooperation.  It is not a magical solution, nor is it a new solution.  What is new is the degree of the development of the skills of systems analysts in dealing with large-scale problems.  The essence of the approach is still only common sense and logic applied realistically and consistently.  Although its core is common sense, the method requires that this be enhanced by large quantities of detailed and accurate knowledge, along with the intellectual discipline to bring that knowledge to bear on the problem.  Nature is not easily duplicated by man

(48)  Callous greed grows pious very fast. - Lillian Hellman

(55)  Modern man tends to believe that competition is the driving force behind progress, but this belief does not stand up to close scrutiny.  Competition has no inherent virtue.  There is plenty of competition in organized crime.

(71)  Lobbyists are the touts of protected industries. - Winston Churchill

(82)  "The energy companies stand ready to engage in solar energy research if we are given exclusive, long-term rights to the sun, adequate federal subsidies and development money, government backing of our investment, and a twenty-seven percent radiation depletion allowance."
NB:  Positive vision for 1990 from 1975 with solar-saline +

(106)  The earth does not belong to man - man belongs to the earth.

(146)  Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. - Will Rogers

(160)  Corporations have at different times been so far unable to distinguish freedom of speech from freedom of lying that their freedom had to be curbed. - Carl Becker

(161)  Liberty!  Liberty! In all things let us have justice, and then we shall have enough liberty. - Joseph Joubert

(186)  Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man. - Stewart Udall

(214)  Achievement of an ecologically sound economy based on renewable resources would be true progress today.

(217)  Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age. - Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Selected Fables of La Fontaine

Selected Fables of La Fontaine by Jean De La Fontaine
NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995
ISBN 0-19-282440-6

The Frog and the Rat
(84)   The ruse best ordered
can turn against its inventor
and often treachery
returns to its author. 

La ruse la mieux ourdie
Peut nuire á sone inventeur;
Et souvent la perfidie
Retourne sur son auteur.

This was the last fable told by Aesop.  He was condemned to death by the Delphians, whom he had insulted in a fable.  They planted a sacred vase on him, accusing him of theft and sacrilege.  He told them this fable in the hopes of saving his life by persuading them that by destroying him they would incur the anger of a powerful foe.  The Delphians, unimpressed, put Aesop to death by throwing him off a cliff.

The Ass Who Carried Sacred Relics
(112)  To an ignorant Magistrate
it is the Robe that one salutes. 

D’un Magistrat ignorant
C’est La Robe qu’on salue.

The Ass and His Masters
(129)  Never happy with our plight, 
our worst day is today.
We tire Heaven with our petitions.
When Jupiter does grant our requests,
we batter Him again about the head.

Notre condition jamais ne nour contente:
La pire est toujours la présente.
Nour fatigons le Ciel á force de placets.
Qu’á chucum Jupiter accorde sa requête,
Nous lui romprons encor la tête.

The Cobbler and the Businessman
(183)  The care of Providence had not done well
by failing to sell Sleep at the market, 
just like eating and drinking.

Que les soins de la Providence
N’eussent pas au marché fait vendre le dormir,
Comme le manger et le boire.

The Two Friends
(199)  Monomotapa - African empire acquired by Portugal in 16th century

(200)  A true friend is a sweet thing.
He seeks your needs at the bottom of your heart;
and saves you your modesty
to discover them yourself.

Qu’un ami véritable est une douce chose.
Il cherche vos besoins au fond de votre coeur;
Il vous épargne la pudeur
De les lui découvrir vous-même.

The Husband, the Wife, and the Burglar
(234)  I infer from this tale
that the strongest passion
is fear

J’infére de ce conte
Que la plus forte passion
C’est la peur

The Man and the Snake
Reason offends them;  they put in their heads
That all is born for them, quadrupeds, and people,
and serpents.
If someone loosens their teeth,
He's a fool. - I agree with that. But what must we do?
- Speak from afar, or be silent. 

La raison les offense;  ils se mettent en tête
Que tout est né pour eux, quadrupèdes, et gens,
Et serpents.
Si quelqu’un desserre les dents,
C’est un sot.  - J’en conviens.  Mais que faut-il donc faire?
- Parler de loin, ou bien se taire. 

The Fishes and the Cormorant
(260)  It taught them to their cost
that one must not have confidence
in those who eat people. 

Il leur apprit á leurs dépens
Que l’on ne doit avoir de confiance
En ceux qui sont mangeurs de gens.

The Old Cat and the Young Mouse
(306)  Youth flatters itself, and believes all can be obtained;
Old age is pitiless.

La jeunesse se flatte, et croit tout obtenir;
La viellesse est impitoyable.

Love and Folly
(314)  The result in the end by the supreme court
was to condemn Folly
to serve as the guide of Love. 

Le résultat enfin de la suprême Cour
Fut condamner la Folie
A servir de guide á l'Amour