November 24, 2009



The Prevalence of Humbug

Max Black's article "The Prevalence of Humbug" is worth reading. Max Black was a philosopher of science prominent in the middle of the last century. As best I can tell, he was the first one to say that "in the final analysis, there is no final analysis."

My hunt for this quotation led me to Black, and that led to his wonderful article about bullshit. Its first few sentences read:

"Humbug has the peculiar property of being always committed by others, never by oneself. This is one reason why it is universally condemned. No doubt we can agree that humbug is a Bad Thing; but what are we agreeing about? It proves astonishingly hard to say."


"What are we to make of the following episode? On January 25, 1980, Mary McCarthy said, in an interview with Dick Cavett on Public Broadcasting, that Lillian Hellman was "a bad writer, overrated, a dishonest writer." Well, true or false, justified or not, there was no humbug about that. But on being asked by Mr. Cavett what was dishonest about Miss Hellman's writing, Miss McCarthy continued: "Everything. I once said in an interview that every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'" Well, did she really believe that one could lie by using the words "and" and "the"?"

The picture of Rorty has nothing to do with Max Black. Anyone who has seen him on the cover of Contingency, Irony, Solidarity for long deserves another photo.

November 23, 2009

'Save this chat forever'

One of the best online chats I've ever had:


FYI: Katie ate about 3 dozen cookies and bread and nuts and is ... sic.

what the fuck

yeah, she tore into the stuff we had upstairs, all ready to go. luckily she only marred 1 gift and mostly just the extra foods we were going to bring, unwrapped, for everyone to try


what are you talking about? why would she eat gifts? Are you making this up?


ok we had all these baked goods upstairs, mostly wrapped or in tuppers. she went up there and ate so much that she's fat and bloated right now


is it right that I feel shocked by this?

well it did freak me out. but the vet said her size will save her from her gluttony


you said Katie.
jesus man
You had me all worked up
Plus I was surprised to hear you say Katie "tore" into cookies upstairs




how epic


I'm laughing out loud..."she's fat and bloated right now" hahaha

save this chat forever

* Rivy is a bull mastiff.

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November 13, 2009


Tony and Chase make a good tag team, but Nick and I just did the best-ever tag team job for two reporters/ music listeners who don't even live in the same state, much less work for the same newspaper.

A rundown: I see on Pitchfork this morning that King Khan is arrested. He was supposed to play in St. Louis yesterday, which is why I was interested. The news item gave this update:
The Kansas City Pitch reports that King Khan & BBQ Show's booking agent has confirmed that the band was indeed arrested in Hopkinsville, Kentucky yesterday.
Hopkinsville, you might recall, is where our very own Nick Tabor lives and works as the Kentucky New Era's cops reporter. I wasn't sure if he had known about it or seen jail bookings. I sent him the story, and it turns out he had not.

Within about two hours, he had the full version up online.

I'd like to say that's some pretty sweet team reporting, if I do say so myself. Even though I did absolutely nothing except read my normal Google Reader feed in the morning.

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November 8, 2009

Local history

I'm writing a "novel." Truthfully, I don't expect to finish it on time, but I started it under the impression that it would kickstart my creative juices and get me writing more fiction and creative stuff. For the most part, it has.

I've been rereading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and it's getting me more and more interested in the art of storytelling. Maybe more specifically, the art of telling local history and how it influences who someone is. There's a story in there called "Speaking of Courage," where a young soldier comes back to his Iowa town after Vietnam. Without retelling the whole plot, he's trying to come to terms with how he didn't win the Silver Star and drives around the lake in his town all day, having fake conversations with different people around the town (his dad, his ex girlfriend, his best friend) in his head.

My "novel"'s concept is still hazy, but I'd like to explore this a little bit— the idea of local legends or local history and where history and legend meld into one. Maybe I'm trying to hard to be Faulkner, I dunno. But I did a bit of research on Missouri history — I might set the novel here, plus I was doing a bit of research on local sports history anyway.

That's why this website got me into a brainstorming frenzy. It's an archive of Missouri place names and basically tells you, by county, everything you need to know about how a particular town, school, landmark or anything got its name.

For instance, the Roubixdoux Creek, in my county, is one of the tributaries of the Gasconade River. It got its name from French explorer/ settler Joseph Robidoux. (It did not say why the townsfolk dropped the first "u" but not any of the other vowels.) Wikipedia did not originally know about this. It now does, thanks to me.

This search for a little local flavor of my new home got even more of my internal engines whirring and led me to more gems that even the non-Missourian SadBear brethren would appreciate.

I sought out the Pulaski County Historical Society and looked at the last names of some of the original settlers. I now know just how many families around here have lived here for generations.

From there I found the Osage County Historical Society (for reference, Osage compared to me and our capital), which has a much snazzier website and more stuff. Including the crown jewel, which I am seriously thinking about pointing out to the Strange Maps blog: JPEGs of the 1892 Map of the United States of America for the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis.

Notable for the fact that despite being so old and before the advent of the highway system, each state map is pretty well-detailed.

Looking at old-school eastern states like Virginia or Ohio or Michigan doesn't reveal much new about said states that we don't know already. But the maps for the more sparsely-populated Midwestern and Western states still have an air of mystery about them. For instance, Oklahoma is still considered Indian Territory here, and I'm pretty sure neither Oklahoma City nor Tulsa existed yet (or else they were nothing more than cowboy towns). Wayne Coyne and Oral Roberts were just a gleam in the worlds' eye...

I also found some even more interesting stuff on the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, which runs directly through my county (now called BNSF) and directly contributed to the high school sports league I cover, but that stuff's so good I think I'll save it for another post.

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