So True

From this week’s New Yorker, the amazing Roz Chwast.

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36 Responses to So True

  1. T Bone Burnett says:

    The internet is a focus group.

  2. Hugh says:

    I wish to associate myself with the foregoing comment.

    Also, I once consulted a formidable analyst, Oscar Thomson of UCLA, a strict Freudian. Though I can’t speak for the late physician, I would think that he would find that pictograph hilarious, as it’s based on one of his cartoons. He religiously contributed to the New Yorker, and sometimes he hit it dead on. Part of the fun…

  3. JTMcPhee says:

    My mom died in 1972, at age 53. Despite a distinguished life of service and excellence, there’s nary a trace of her, unless I want to pay a new “service” to exhume her birth and death certificates. Greta Garbo played the “I vant to be alone” role so very well. Now, Lady GaGa…

    Hugh, I love the pun: “strict Freudian.” Is there any other kind?

  4. Alex Bowles says:

    Why does he look so scared?

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    “Downsized,” “outsourced,” too young for Medicare and his state Medicaid and local health department’s funds have been turned into “tax expenditures” for well-lobbied utilities and agricultural-industry types, the sheriff’s men just dumped his stuff out front from his former apartment building from which he has been evicted and all the “neighbors” have helped themselves…

    “It takes a worried man to sing a worried song…”

  6. T Bone Burnett says:

    He looks scared because he is experiencing a raw, gnawing existential dread that he doesn’t exist. Everybody knows that.

  7. Ken Ballweg says:

    Or maybe it’s the artist’s amusement at the thought of someone actually feeling left out of the party because their internet footprint is so teeny tiny that they feel it cancels out their real existence.

    Might be called irony T Bone.

  8. Morgan Warstler says:

    I read his face as: “why are you all looking at me?”

  9. Hugh says:

    You’re right, JTM: nary a trace of her.

    Except that you’re a healer.

  10. Hugh says:

    JTM, by way of apologizing for insulting your mother, when really I’d meant merely to insult you, let me ask: have you ever read Nel Noddings on the “ethic of Care”, by which she means, pricipally, nursing? It’s quite an interesting attempt at an alternative moral philosophy. Perhaps I’m the last guy you’d take this from, but I think you’d like it if you haven’t already taken it in. [that makes a total of two dangling participles, in your honor.]

  11. T Bone Burnett says:

    The internet is an invasion of privacy.

  12. Hugh says:

    What’s not “So True” is the current Census, which is rigged algorymically for the party in power. Does anyone dare opine on that?

    No. Mustn’t do.

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    Hugh, I didn’t hear either insult, and my mom was who she was in her time and is beyond insult in any event.

    I did a little shallow digging in the grave thought of Nel Nodding, per your suggestion. Interesting that the link I first picked was the personal site of a prof at Kent State University, an geographic icon of the opposite of caring if ever there was one (I for one at least will always remember those photos, the young woman aghast over that one dead ‘Commie Student Protestor’ and the one of a single Everyman shaming — momentarily — a file of tanks to a halt at Tienanmen Square — also a ‘Commie Student Protestor,’ if I remember right. Interesting common features, including “conservative government officials” with the same evil mindset, one “freedom-loving” and the other “Maoist,” having their little secret shoot-to-kill orders and then trying to conceal the real events behind the usual fog-it-over-until-after-I-retire-or-am-dead screen of Narrative.

    Is that (that almost silent cry of “Why are you doing this?”) the kind of caring you understand Ms. Noddings to be invoking, from behind that mildly opaque screen of sociologoeducatorese?

    Please, God, help more of us to be such caring people…. Maybe “we the people” might then eschew that comfortable and fraudulent refraction back into our neat tribal identities, in our implementation of or implication in the great game of “identity politics.”

    The following is what the lawyers call “hearsay,” but here’s bits of Prof. Wattles’ exegisis of Nodding. No nodding off now, class.

    The feminist ethics of Nel Noddings

    First, a summary of NEL NODDINGS, CARING: A FEMININE APPROACH TO ETHICS AND MORAL EDUCATION (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984)

    Beware: summarizing is a rational-analytic process that truncates the intuitive experience of receptivity (e.g., in reading), which is essential to establish an appropriate relationship with another person (e.g., an author).

    Nel Noddings, a former high school mathematics teacher, now in the School of Education at Stanford University, draws on her experiences as a wife and mother. Caring as a parent and as a teacher are her paradigms.

    She articulates her ethic by contrast with an ethic of rational principle, which appeals primarily to principles, propositions, justification, fairness, and justice (1). This approach is associated with the father, is detached, and is prepared to “tear into others whose belief or behaviors differ from ours with the promise of ultimate vindication” (2). [Gee, sounds like what I do down at my end of the table, but then I always enjoy a food fight, and so do a number of my fellow diners at this smorgasbord of notions…]This approach tends toward violence in the name of moral principle and emphasizes moral reasoning. [Gingrich, Rove, Wolfowitz, look in the miror]. An ethic of rules designed to be universally applied appears to obscure the very differences between people that give rise to moral problems. She regards maintenance of the caring relation, however, as a universal requirement which saves her ethic from relativism (85).

    Noddings criticizes the enterprise of justifying conclusions about morality, but defines ethics in terms of justification: “to behave ethically is to behave under the guidance of an acceptable and justifiable account of what it means to be moral” (27). “When we care, we should, ideally, be able to present reasons for our action/inaction which would persuade a reasonable, disinterested observer” (23). At the same time, “Moral statements cannot be justified in the way that statements of fact can be justified. They are not truths. They are derived not from facts or principles but from the caring attitude” (94).

    The alternate approach is “rooted in receptivity, relatedness, and responsiveness” (2), is concerned with seeking more information, talking to the participants to see their eyes and facial expressions, to receive what they are feeling.” This approach reasons on the basis of feelings and needs and impressions. The focus is “not on judgment and particular acts but on how we meet each other morally.” Uniqueness and subjectivity are emphasized. “Since so much depends on the subjective experience of those involved in ethical encounters, conditions are rarely ‘sufficiently similar’ for me to declare that you must do what I do” (5).

    I especially like that bit about “concerned with seeking more information, talking to the participants to see their eyes and facial expressions, to receive what they are feeling.” The Internet may be a focus group, but it leaves out some parts that have been important for millenia.

    You must have heard the joke about the dangling part:

    Charleston Society Lady driving to Memphis gets caught by a storm and has to shelter in a diner in a small town. Kindly, mostly toothless waitress sets down a chipped but clean and steaming coffee mug in front of the lady and asks, “Sweetie, where y’all from?” SL responds with a sniff, “It is not genteel to end a sentence with a preposition. Do you want to try again?” Says the waitress, “Ok, honey, Bless your heart, here goes: Where y’all from, bitch? …” As to participles, <a href=""peek here. In the end it's all about parts of speech.

  14. Hugh says:

    No. That’s a fair appreciation of her. Still I commend to you, earnestly, her “ethic of Care”. Pleaese don’t take it askance, JTM. What the biosketch doesn’t hold is that she raises hot-house orchids, and adopted ten children. She walks her talk. See?

  15. Hugh says:


    Why are you so cruel? Do I remind you of someone?

    I hope you’re not related to Professor John McPhee, my very favorite journalist and one of the few worthy of that pretentious name.

  16. JTMcPhee says:

    I’m not related to him, but the rest of my family is.

  17. Hugh says:

    You’re related to him perhaps more than you know.

    By the way, Happy St. Patrrick’s to you. In America he’s a posession of Irish Catholics, I accept that, but in Ireland he’s the patron of the entire state. He’s my favorite saint. I’m a grouppie for that guy.

    So go shove it, you bastard.

  18. JTMcPhee says:

    Hugh, let’s bury the hatchet, ok? Bury it in my head or neck if that will help. So sorry that you take my efforts at prosody as picking at you. There’s stuff wrong with the Ship of State, people are fighting on the quarterdeck and wrestling over the wheel, and we are already over the fringes of the reef. Seems to me that some older-age Floridians used to set up false navigation signals to trick ships into grounding and foundering so they could steal the “salvage” that came ashore, those of us who want to keep the ship afloat and moving in safe waters have a common enemy in the wreckers. Bankers, MIC mavens, every special-interest-pleader in our varioius capitals, all with their false flags and lying marker lights. Let’s stay with that, even if it calls for remembering the bad behaviors that got us onto this lee shore.

    Best. And my sister corresponds with the other John McPhee, and I have and have read and re-read all his books.

  19. Hugh says:

    I accept that, JTM, and agree with you completely. It’s so fucking sad, though. So fucking sad.

  20. Rick Turner says:

    And what if we were all to agree not to say “fuck” or variants on that for a week? Might that not be a step in the direction of more polite discourse? I have an employee who can barely get five words out without resorting to the “f” word when he’s upset. He doesn’t get taken very seriously out there in public and nearly got thrown out of the ER a couple of weeks ago because of his public presentation of himself. The guards thought he was a gang-banger…

  21. Hugh says:

    Yes, I beg your pardon, Rick. I certainly can do witthout that seemingly indispensable word.

    May God bless your friend’s recovery, honestly.

  22. Morgan Warstler says:

    I met a gang-banger once.

    You’d think she’d be making a lot more money.

  23. billy-bob says:

    He’s not smiling ’cause he’s a Westerner. He fears he doesn’t exist in other people’s minds.

    His Eastern, Zen counterpart has a serene and peaceful countenance. He knows his existence isn’t defined by what anyone thinks.

    Or perhaps he’s just another New Yorker, stewing in angst, overcrowding, and his morning black.

  24. Jon Taplin says:

    I’m so glad everyone made up and there will be no more f-bombs for a while.

  25. JTMcPhee says:

    “A gentle answer turneth away wrath.” Can I still type “phooey” and “Pshaw”?

    All these profitable mining programs that let people with bad commercial and/or political intent figure out all those cute little ways to map our desires and weaknesses and trick and hiddenly persuade us into political lockstep zombieism or irresistable purchasing urges. Gee, I wonder if there is a market for a censor creeper that would catch the inflammatory keystrokes of all those flaming flamers, round them up before they are packetized and added to the bitstream toxin loading, and turn them into pictures of daisies and daffodils? All you learning theorists and such, chime in here — if the reward of getting off that torch and being torched back is at least delayed or some different response is substituted, would that possibly reform the net Net behavior of rapid rancid reaction?

  26. Hugh says:

    Well yeah, the cognition people do study how different people learn differently. And some of the psychologists do market their understanding of learning patterns and preferences to “those with bad commercial and/or political intent.”

    it’s really scary, what you’re talking about. I only ever dabbled in it but my sense in retrospect is that if you get half a dozen into a lab you’ll find something close to five distinct inquiry patterns; in other words, no more than two alike. All right, so code the patterns, types 1 through 5, and attach the codes to the persons, and have the persons carry a variety of plastic cards each of which bears a mag-strip capable of telling the commercial/political engine, in the blink of an eye, not what you think, but, worse, how you think. This is even more horrible than the thought of Safeway selling to insurance carriers the details of what you consume.

    Huxley must be stirring.

  27. len says:

    He’s wondering how he can replace his music library now that he can only buy it from two portals and neither recognize him because he has no digital identity.

    Some people refuse to have credit cards. They don’t travel much or far.

  28. Hugh says:


    For some reason I’m reminded of Shakespeare in the alley with his pointed shooooze and his bells. You’re probably right about Huxley. I suspect that were he still living, in L.A., he’d probably decamp with Rick to Tasmania forthwith.

    By the way, it’s not just credit cards. It might be a library card, or a membership card from the local grocery store or big-box tilt-up. I was once really interested in those mag-strips because I wanted itinerant schoolchildren to carry their learning plans and their records, and in the course of that inquiry I learned that those simple little stripes, less than three inches wide, accomodate an impressive memory.

  29. len says:

    @hugh: I realized with credit cards, ATMs and cellphones that we are provided with these convenience capabilities that migrate to must-have-to-survive status in a few short years as the capabilities they are replacing are phased out. Remember when the phone system just worked and had that clear sound? Ma Bell saw to it. We deregulated and broke it up for the sake of innovation which we got and which is quite impressive for it’s other capabilities (how many of you can still remember a phone number without your cellphone?) but which degraded others, such as the terrible sound of a cellphone.

    Creating markets by fiat (not the car) is terrible… I didn’t have a cellphone until I got to this job and was a much safer and saner driver until this. So put me in the luddite column. I’m a prodigious user of the web to get information but I can still spell without looking up the big words. I’m not sanguine about replacing my brain with the tragedy of the commons. :)

  30. Hugh says:

    Hey I loved my Fiat 128 3P. Chix dug it also. Navy Blue, tan interior. Throaty little Italian engine. Very cool.

    I agree with you about Ma Bell. Their stuff worked, and with perhaps the exception of the President’s red hotline to Moscow, we shared the same sturdy service in common. (My late cousin, whom I knew well, actually discovered and developed fiber optic for Bell Labs. He didn’t do anything of great consiquence subsiquently, but true-to-form they kept him on just in case. A real R&D lab will tend to do that, even in the Private Sector, yet we tend to break them up and afterward to complain that they’re not doing enough.)

    The commons is indeed a mess. I’m a lifelong member of the Yosemite Association, but still I discern that you speak of a different commons, Hardin’s one, the commons of the mind. Jon’s guy Gramsci gave that a lot of thought in his last days.

  31. Hugh says:


    Once I attended the shotgun wedding of a famous education school to a famous library school. The Chancellor has forced the marriage for efficiencie’s sake, and it fell to me to write the nuptials. It seemed that the “information scientists”, the erstwhile lib

  32. Hugh says:

    –rians give everything to the others. The librarians know what the self-appointed educators have forgotten. They know access, over exclusion. W

  33. T Bone Burnett says:

    The internet has turned television into Stratford-Upon-Avon.

  34. len says:

    So Callie is Shakespeare? Wicked.

  35. SMerlin says:

    Does not putting this pictograph online render the gentleman in question googlable?

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