I have a book called Values and the Future on my shelf which I take down and read short passages from occasionally. In one article, Theodore J. Gordon offers “Forecasts of certain technological developments and their potential social consequences” from his vantage point in 1969. The prospect of wide-band communication systems suggests these possible consequences for education:1
Ready and cheap availability of excellent curricula… might make education a respected and common pastime.
Canned lectures by eminent professors may make TV teaching superior to that in resident institutions.
University degrees will be extended to viewers who complete their courses solely on TV. Residency requirements may disappear.
Back in the halcyon days of three weeks ago, I made this glib but sincere post to social media—
I wish fewer of my friends would make posts advancing some conspiracy theory about the election that they dreamed up over breakfast.
In the meantime, the world has gotten very strange. Election speculation is gone, replaced to a large extent by commiseration, solidarity, and plain kvetching. Yet there have been definite in-roads among my friends toward posting broad conclusions about covid-19.1
I have opinions about elections and diseases, but these are times of great uncertainty. It’s a sign that I’m getting old, I guess, but I have less of a taste for the rhetorical mode of laying down facts under conditions of ignorance than I used to do.
The Introductory Philosophy Quiz has been on my website pretty much since the beginning, and it was a transcription of a quiz that Ryan and I had on the office wall. The following question occurred to me while I was proctoring an exam today, and I couldn’t resist adding it.
Select the best answer.
A. B is the best answer.
B. A is the best answer.
C. There is an instability between A and B; although it is not entirely satisfactory, the best answer is to select one of them randomly or arbitrarily.
One of the regulars at a local game night takes lots of candid photos and posts them to the group’s Facebook page. I idly click through them when he uploads a new batch, looking to see what other people were playing. When I saw one recent photo, I looked at the group of players and didn’t recognize one of them. Who’s that, I thought, before realizing it was me.1
This week of posting my favorite holiday songs concludes with one that’s only tenuously a holiday song.
“Greensleeves” has an alternate set of lyrics which are about baby Jesus, making it a Christmas song. But the original lyrics are just more fun to sing, so let’s sing those instead. It has a million verses, but everyone can sing the chorus.
“Good King Wenceslas” (YouTube) is a song I learned in elementary school. The narrative is actually pretty weird. A king’s magical powers are downplayed in favor of extolling charity and sharing.
What sells it for me is the extra verse, which I saw years later in an episode of Phineas&Ferb (Wiki). Buford Von Stomm, in order to establish that he knows the whole story, gives us this:
The words were by an English guy. The music, Scandinavian. Wenceslas was five-foot-six. He kept his face unshaven. Though just a duke throughout his life, He always ruled so justly His kingly title was conferred Upon him posthumously.
“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (Wikipedia/YouTube) is another grim carol from 19th-century America. It has that distinctively Unitarian sensibility of cosmic optimism tempered with awareness that people are typically terrible.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (Wikipedia/YouTube) is a pretty song. No schmaltzy holiday tune, it reflects terrible darkness. You wouldn’t know it from most renditions, though, because they skip the dire middle verses. The version by Echosmith that I link to has the full lyrics in the comments, but they replace the dark bits in the performance with a jaunty instrumental transition.
Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
“Fuck you if you don’t like Christmas” (YouTube) is a bit Not Safe For Work, but all the NSFWness is in the title. It makes you wonder whether you like that Panama is an isthmus, which is something I never even thought about having an opinion on before.
“We need different stuff in the economy now, things are changing. … You can’t just think of yourself. Just this one time, because it’s Christmas.”
Above all that, it hangs together. And it’s catchy.