Category Archives: culture

Reflected Glory: Axe Cop

So, you may be familiar with the opening of Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra, where he describes the three metamorphoses: spirit becomes camel, camel becomes lion (and slays dragon), and lion becomes child. I think that Nietzsche’s metaphor works really nicely in a lot of circumstances. I most strongly associate it with biology graduate training, but I think that similar reasoning probably applies in a lot of other fields.

In the early stages of education, through high school and college, and into the beginning of graduate school, the student is like the camel, who has to develop a strong back by learning to carry all of the received knowledge. Then, starting typically in grad school, you learn that all of the things that are in the textbooks you’ve been using are not strictly true. This is like the transformation into the lion, who has to slay the dragon covered with scales, where each scale has golden letters that read “Thou Shalt!” It is only after passing through these two stages that the third transformation occurs (maybe while you’re a postdoc?), where the lion becomes the child. The child is innocence and creativity, and it is this child who advances knowledge by possessing skills and knowledge, but no longer being beholden to them.

Now, one of the problems with the system is that not everyone makes it all the way through the transformations. Many scientists never fully shed the camel phase. They are quite skilled at the type of incremental research that NIH and NSF love to fund, and are often successful, but are excessively (IMHO) tied to the dogma and assumptions that define their discipline.

Other people get stuck in the lion phase. These are the compulsive paradigm shifters. They are Don Quixotes who spend their lives slaying imaginary windmill-dragons. In evolutionary biology this is the phenomenon responsible for the perennial “Darwin was WRONG!!” headlines.

That last step is really the hardest one. It requires us to recapture the innocence and creativity of childhood, but to wield it tempered with skill and knowledge. Unfortunately, the implementation of most science education is such that the camel and lion stages are coupled with a soul-crushing strangulation of the childlike curiosity that we are all born with.

So, what does this all have to do with Axe Cop? Axe Cop is a web comic (and now a book) written by a pair of brothers, Ethan and Malachai Nicolle. The twist? Ethan is 29 years old, and Malachai is 5. Ethan has clearly absorbed the illustrating and storytelling skills of the comic-book camel, and has slain the comic-book dragon. The comic itself is just bursting with a child-like creativity that is easy to recognize but difficult to produce. How do they do it? I suspect that Ethan was able to retain and/or recapture his creativity and innocence better than most, but the biggest thing is probably the co-authorship with Malachai, who has not yet entered the camel phase.

There is undoubtedly a lesson here about how to do great science, although I can’t quite figure out the mechanics. One possibility is this.

So, in the spirit of understanding Nietzsche, and biology graduate school, and education reform, and dragons, and ninjas, unicorns, avocados, vampires, dinosaurs, and robots, go read Axe Cop.

Also, it’s AWESOME!

I can haz rapshur? Bible pwns doomsday n00bz

So, wickd preechr sez teh rapshur cumn dis May. Him sez did da calclashunz. An go on teh muzik box an sez evrywun gotta lisn 2 him kthx. But dat crazy cuz jesus sez in teh matthew book chaptr 24 dats liez:

36 “but bout dat dai or hour no wan knows, not even teh angels in heaven, nor teh son, [e] but only teh fathr.37 as it wuz in da dais ov noah, so it will be at teh comin ov teh son ov man.38 4 in da dais before teh flood, peeps wuz eatin an drinkin, marryin an givin in marriage, up 2 teh dai noah enterd teh ark;39 an they knew nothin bout wut wud happen til teh flood came an took them all away. Dat iz how it will be at teh comin ov teh son ov man.40 2 doodz will be in da field; wan will be taken an teh othr left.41 2 women will be grindin wif hand mill; wan will be taken an teh othr left.42 “therefore keep watch, cuz u do not knoe on wut dai ur lord will come.43 but understand dis: if teh ownr ov teh houz had known at wut tiem ov nite teh thief wuz comin, he wud has kept watch an wud not has let his houz be brokd into.44 so u also must be ready, cuz teh son ov man will come at an hour when u do not expect him.

Wen Ceiling Cat cummin, dis preechr no can haz cheezburger kthxbai.

Comedienne skewers false prophets

So, gifted comedienne Cindy Jacobs has set the cyberverse aflame with her dead-on satirical portrayal of a manipulative, dishonest, bigoted snake-oil salesman. You may already have seen her outstanding video, which has been circulating the past few days. In it she spins a yarn about how the recent large-scale die-off of fish and birds in Arkansas are the result of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

For those of you who are not familiar with this particular brand of irony, let me break it down for you. You see, it paints this completely ridiculous picture of God as a homophobe with tendency to lash out, where he takes out his anger about homosexuals serving openly in the U. S. Miliatry on a bunch of defenseless animals. I actually worry a bit that she may have gone too far, and that this disrepectful portrayal may be viewed as blasphemous by some.

And she nails the pseudo-logic that these false prophets use. It’s like something straight out of a Tina Fey skit. Here’s a snippet:

. . . the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” by a former Governor this was proposed – Bill Clinton.

Great stuff! And there’s more. Like she’s got a whole thing on how California will be destroyed by earthquakes if Prop 8 is repealed.

Back before the 2010 midterms, she had a skit about how if Latinos would support candidates who opposed gay marriage and abortion, God would reward them with comprehensive immigration reform. More Bible humor! See, it’s just like the Book of Job. Elect right-wing candidates, and you get immigration “reform,” like in Arizona.

Even her website is hilarious. She starts off with an oxymoronic description of herself as a “respected prophet.” She then goes on to . . .

Wait . . . what now?

She’s not being ironic?


Well Thank God for THAT: Novelization of Gulliver’s Travels

So, this week at Lost in Transcription we’ll be rolling out a few new features. The first of these is Well Thank God for THAT, which will cover some of those “current” “events.”

If you haven’t been to your local bookstore recently, you may have missed the fact that Simon Spotlight has published a novelization of Gulliver’s Travels. Now a generation will not be deprived of this Jack Black classic during a power outage that is long enough for their laptops to run out of juice, but not so long that their kindles run out of juice.

If you’ve never read it, Gulliver’s Travels offers an almost swiftian satire of human nature. It focuses particularly on two of our most enduring foibles: (1) being fat, and (2) saying “awesome” a lot.

Introducing the Negative Log Google Naked Ratiometer

So, one of the interesting things about having a website is that you can track the keywords that people Google that lead them to you. I get a lot of hits from people searching on “Jon Wilkins naked.” It turns out that’s not as exciting as it sounds. One of the other Jons Wilkins is one of the cofounders of the marketing firm Naked Communications. So, I assume that some fraction of those people were actually looking for him.

It got me interested, though, in the relative web presences of “Jon Wilkins” and “Jon Wilkins naked,” and, by extension, in the relative naked and non-naked web presences of people in general. I’m going to call this the Negative Log Google Naked Ratio (NLGNR): the ratio of the number of hits when you Google “[Person’s Name] naked” to the number of hits when you just Google “[Person’s Name]” in log base 10. Negative.

Here’s an example. When I searched for “Kanye West” today, Google found approximately 38,600,000 hits. I then searched for “Kanye West naked” and got approximately 428,000 hits. The ratio of these two is about 0.011088, and the logarithm base 10 of that is about –1.95.

So, Kanye West’s NLGNR is 1.95.

If your NLGNR is 1, that means that 10% of all of the hits for your name actually come from pages where your name is followed by the word “naked.” If your NLGNR is 2, it is one in a hundred pages. NLGNR of 3 means one in a thousand, and so on.

Just like in golf, low scores are better, assuming that your goal is to have your internet presence primarily associated with nakedness.

I did this for 93 people, and I have to tell you the internet is a weird place. Before presenting the whole chart, here are some of the highlights.

Top among the people I surveyed was Mia Hamm, whose NLGNR is an impressive 0.83. That means nearly 15% of the sites containing the phrase “Mia Hamm” contain the phrase “Mia Hamm naked.” Weird? No. That actually seems low to me.

Mia’s equally dreamy husband, Nomar Garciaparra, came in 64th, at 4.52.

Number two on the list, just behind Mia Hamm? Rosalind Franklin, who edges out Charlie Sheen. Umm.

Where is Jon Wilkins in all this? My NLGNR is 2.32, just behind Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, and just ahead of Kathy Griffin, LeBron James and Queen Elizabeth.

Other weird stretches: just behind Kanye West come, in order, Anderson Cooper, Marie Curie, Ron Jeremy, Kim Kardashian, and Bill Nye.

Yes, Bill Nye the Science Guy has almost as high a ratio of naked to non-naked web hits as porn icon Ron Jeremy. And, yes, both of them have lower ratios than Marie Curie.

Betty White beats out Saddam Hussein and David Beckham.

Barney Frank beats out Ke$ha.

Glenn Beck beats out Maya Angelou, but just barely.

Most of the poets appear way down at the bottom of the chart, which makes you wonder, what’s the point of being a poet at all.

Evolutionary biologists did even worse, with many having absolutely no naked internet presence.

A bunch of people actually returned zero naked hits, giving them infinity for their NLGNR. Most impressive among these was “Ted Williams,” whose nearly 46 million hits cover both the Red Sox legend and the golden-voiced, formerly homeless internet sensation. Others, from most non-naked hits to least, include: Jerry Coyne, James Watson, Francis Crick, HRP-4c, J. B. S. Haldane, Stephen Jay Gould, Louis Macneice, E. O. Wilson. John Ashbery, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jorie Graham, Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, and Richard Lewontin.

I’m afraid I could not bring myself to do the analysis for Justin Bieber.

The 78 finite NLGNR scores at time of publication

Find any other interesting NLGNR scores? Add them in the comments.

Spokeo: Protection Racket, or just Doucheracket?

So, I’m reading teh Boing Boing the other day, and they have this article about Spokeo, which I assume is having a burst of coverage right now because its founder, Harrison Tang, was just elected Grand Sucktard of Douchebekistan.

This is a “service” where you can type in your name (or presumably the name of someone you want to rob, terrorize, and/or murder), and it will show you a satellite image of their house, along with a bunch of personal information about things like number of children and estimated wealth.

Just how much of a wankwad is this Tang dude? As Boing Boing point out, “Tellingly, Mr. Tang opted out of his own site over privacy concerns.”

A full set of instructions on how to opt yourself out can be found here. I clicked on the privacy button, and was greeted by the statement that “Spokeo cares about data privacy.” You can then have yourself removed from Spokeo’s public searches (although presumably not from their database) “for free.”

BUT, they are quick to point out, YOUR PRIVACY IS STILL AT RISK!!1!11! Your information will still be available through other sites, and you will have to contact them “one-by one . . . to protect your online identity.”

Fortunately, the heroes at Spokeo have “partnered with” the company “Reputation Defender,” which will protect your online identity for a modest fee. What I’m wondering is, what’s the deal with that? Is that Spokeo’s actual business model? How is this any different from having the guy who threatens your family “partner with” Vito Corleone?

I’m not breaking any news here. I just wanted to post something because I thought that the protection-racket aspect of this whole thing did not receive enough emphasis in the article by Boing Boing’s Xeni. Not a complaint, as that article had a somewhat broader point, and is a great read for anyone interested in online privacy issues.

Also, I had about a million HILARIOUS ways to misspell “Harrison Tang”, but then decided to spare you.

The Cost of Christmas

So, if you haven’t already, you’ll probably soon receive the credit card bill with all of your Christmas purchases on it. Was it worth it? Well, was it, punk?

If you’re like most people, some of your presents were probably intended to impress someone. The question is, what’s the best kind of present for that? Should I give the girl from math class diamond earrings, or new batteries for her calculator? Should I give my boss a mug, or a gift certificate to Glamour Shots?

Fortunately, Science!™ has the answer. Today’s journal club entry concerns a model of gift-giving that considers three different types of gift that differ in their cost to the giver and their value to the recipient. “Cheap” gifts are, well, cheap. “Valuable” gifts are expensive to give, and have value to the recipient. The interesting category is the third one, the “extravagant” gifts, which are expensive to give, but have little inherent value to the recipient.

The specific context is gift-giving and mating. The model is of a sequential game with three or four stages. First, the male offers a gift to the female. Second, the female either accepts or rejects the gift. Third, she chooses whether or not to mate with the male. Then, in one version of the game, the male decides whether or not to stick around and contribute to the care of the offspring.

This $305 luxury frisbee is an example of an extravagant gift.

The conclusion of the paper is that there are many combinations of parameter values that will lead to males giving extravagant gifts. There are two critical features of the model that seem to be necessary in order to get this result.

First, there is uncertainty. The female has a guess about the quality of the male (or, equivalently, in the version of the model with paternal care, the probability that he will stick around after mating). By accepting the gift, she gains additional information about his quality or intentions. Similarly, the male is uncertain about the quality and intentions of the female – whether it is worth it for him to stick around after mating, and whether or not she is a gold-digger, who will just take his gift and skip town with his cousin.

[Editorial note: the term “gold-digger” is from the paper. Those of you who know me know me know that I would never have gone with such a politically incorrect term. I would have used “■■■■■■■■■■”.]

[[Meta-editorial note: parts of the previous editorial note have been redacted.]]

The other key feature is that there must be some cost to the female in accepting the gift.

Now, there are lots of parameters in a model like this, and several equilibrium solutions are possible. The interesting one is the one where males give cheap gifts to unattractive females (females whom they judge, with some uncertainty, to be of low quality), and give extravagant gifts to attractive females.

The key to getting the interesting equilibrium is that the ability or willingness to provide and extravagant gift has to correlate with the male’s quality or intentions. For example, a male can’t afford to spend two-months salary on a diamond ring every time he wants to have a one-night stand. Therefore, an extravagant engagement ring becomes a reliable indicator of his intentions. Ideally, the gift has to have no inherent value to the female, for example, if it were impossible to sell the engagement ring for cash money. Recall also that it has to cost her something to accept the gift. Then, taking the gift constitutes a commitment on her part as well. Otherwise, she benefits most from accepting the gift and walking away.

In the salacious application-to-human-mating case, this cost to the female is easiest to envision as a reputation cost (e.g., the risk of being labeled as a ■■■■■■■■■■). In certain species, where females mate with multiple males, store the sperm, and then use it selectively, there may be direct opportunity costs that do not require catty moralizing.

Just one last point.

The paper starts with, “Gift-giving is a feature of human courtship”. The authors cite Geoffrey Miller’s 2000 book, The Mating Mind. If the paper were being written today, I assume they would have cited more recent work by Hefner and Harris.

Sozou, P., & Seymour, R. (2005). Costly but worthless gifts facilitate courtship Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272 (1575), 1877-1884 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3152

Top 10 ABBA songs

So, the year is almost over, which means it’s all top-ten lists all the time. Lost in Transcription is no different. Do we really need a top-ten ABBA song list, you ask? I mean, aren’t they dead – and Swedish?

Do we need an electric spin-the-bottle game? A motorized ice-cream cone? A combination fork and pizza cutter?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Let’s get started.

10. Lovers (Live a Little Longer)
     The premise in this one is that a woman reads in the paper about a scientific study finding that romance increases lifespan. The science writing apparently moves her to burst into song. The high point is the sassy emphasis on she, indicating that the lead scientist on the study was a womyn.

9. Hey, Hey Helen
     Half feminist anthem, half catty anti-feminist anthem. She’s a single mother, making it on her own, but her children are becoming irrevocably twisted by the absence of a male role model, and will probably wind up being serial killers. Was it worth it? Well, was it?

8. Love Isn’t Easy (But it Sure is Hard Enough)
     Um, what?

7. Kisses of Fire
     Kisses of fire, burnin’ burnin’
     I’m at the point of no returnin’

6. When I Kissed the Teacher
     Companion song to Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police. That teacher is SO fired!

5. Bang-a-Boomerang
    Bang a boom a boomerang 
    Dum de dum dum de dum de dum dum
    Bang a boom a boomerang
    Love is a tune you hum de hum hum

4. King Kong Song
     A song about a guy writing a song about watching a King Kong movie. It’s just like Inception. My mind is, like, totally blown.

3. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
     Awesome in part because this is actually the title, with five “I”s, five “Do”s and four commas, and in part because this was the song that my wife and I went back down the aisle to at our wedding.

2. So Long
     In which the narrator repeatedly asserts that she is NOT a prostitute.

1. Waterloo
     Extended “love is war: metaphor. You see, she is defeated utterly and completely by his romantic advances, just like Napoleon was defeated utterly and completely at Waterloo. Then, just like Napoleon, she contracts syphilis and dies alone on an island in the middle of the ocean.

Where are Chiquitita and Dancing Queen, you ask? Yeah, well, where are your mom and the – um – guy – um – who’s not your dad?

Douchebilly of the Magi

So, for Christmas my wife got me an Urban Dictionary mug with the definition of “douchebilly” on it:

A combination of a douchebag and a hillbilly. Not just a douchebag and not just a hillbilly but both! A Douchebilly! 

My ex-husband is a real douchebilly

Why, you ask? Two reasons. First, my wife is AWESOME! Second, this is a word that I made up at a bar, and a friend contributed to Urban Dictionary. It had its origin in an unbearably precious conversation about which Ivy League school was the douchiest. (If it occurs to you to ask, the answer is, “Whichever one you went to.”) I suggested “douchebilly” as the answer posed to the question (asked in reference to me), “What do you call someone with two degrees from Harvard who wears old jeans and cowboy boots?”

I’m telling you this because I hope that you will start using this word all the time, and that you will mail me a nickel every time you do.

You might be wondering, do we really need more words, especially one like “douchebilly”? If the only use for “douchebilly” was to describe me at a bar, well, then you could argue it either way. But I also think that there’s a real need for this word in American political discourse.

For reasons I do not fully understand, American politicians have to downplay their education, upbringing, and accomplishments, at least in certain contexts. If they are not able to do so, they risk losing the votes of people for whom it is critically important that their leaders be “like them.” Bill Clinton grew up poor in Arkansas. He went on to tremendous academic achievements, but maintained a folksy, southern manner that was critical to his political success. I suspect that this was a calculated decision on his part. George Bush was a fifth-generation Yalie. Sure, he grew up partly in Texas, but in incredibly privileged circumstances, and finished high school at Phillips Adademy before going to Yale. The only way he talks like that is through deliberate construction. Even Barack Obama, while running for president, would periodically slide into this vaguely southern accent. Obama did not grow up in privileged circumstances, but the guy is from Hawaii, went to Columbia and Harvard, then moved to Chicago. What’s up with that intermittent accent, then?

And when I say, “I do not fully understand,” what I mean is that I am completely and utterly baffled by this. I don’t want the people in charge of running the country to be like me. I want them to be better than me in every possible way. Maybe if we started referring to politicians as “douchebillies” whenever they actively misrepresent their educational and economic status, we could encourage them to portray themselves more honestly.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am a linguistic relativist, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a southern, Texas, or any other sort of accent. There is nothing inherent in any accent or dialect that indicates intelligence, or education, or the ability to ably lead. I am also sympathetic to the idea (although I don’t personally feel this way) of having the country run by people who are truly representative of the overall population. The fact is, however, that accents in America are not just regional, but correlate strongly with education level and socio-economic status.

What bothers me is that we have a system ]stocked with a lot of “elites,” as Fox News likes to say, but elites who pander to the public by pretending to be un-elite. Some are self-made, but many were born into privilege. I would love to see more people in government who are intelligent and hard-working, but who are not obscenely wealthy, and do not come from privileged backgrounds. There also seems to be a desire among the electorate to vote for such people. I’m not sure we’re going to get a lot of them, though, so long as all you have to do to come off as a “man of the people” is drawl a little bit.

Like any good American, I have only a passing familiarity with the politics of other countries, so I do not know how wide-spread this phenomenon is. I am heartened, however, by the recent election in Brazil of Tiririca, a 45-year old television clown. Not television clown like Glenn Beck, but television clown like Bozo. He ran on a campaign with slogans like: “What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and I will find out for you.” After being elected to congress, Tiririca had to take a literacy test, which he passed after displaying “a minimum of intellect concerning the content of a text despite difficulties in writing.”

Tiririca – NOT a douchebilly – Just awesome.

From Friendster to Wikileaks: In Defense of Oversharing

So, I assume that by now you’ve heard about how Wikileaks is run by traitorous, anarchist terrorists who hate freedom. This is not going to be a post about how the US government’s knee-jerk overreaction, its moronically overinflated rhetoric, or its Orwellian attempts to control what government employees can do in their own homes. You can probably guess my opinions, and others have written on the subject more knowledgeably and compellingly than I would.

I want to write about oversharing more generally.

I’m part of the generation that has spent much of the past five years hand-wringing and tooth-gnashing about how kids these days are posting pictures and videos of themselves drunk and naked, or with their mouths on things that – if only for hygienic reasons – mouths really shouldn’t be on. We worry in print about these kids’ futures. What will happen when a prospective employer or prospective spouse types their name into google twenty years from now? We worry that they fail to understand the consequences of youthful indiscretion in an age where every action is recorded and broadcast.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my generation. Someday, when Ryan Seacrest is the NBC news anchor, he will hire James Frey to ghost-write a book about us called The Most Greatest Generation Ever! But somehow I feel that history will look back on us like the people who fretted about blue jeans, rock and roll music, and comic books. At least, I hope that is true.

I hope that the next generation, immersed as it is in oversharing, learns to admit that people are, well, human. The thing is, everyone does and says stupid things. Everyone always has. Yet, somehow, we’ve painted ourselves into this corner where we all have to pretend to be perfect (at least along certain, critical axes) in our public personas. People who aspire to politics carefully guard what they say for years, so as not to create a sound byte that can be used by their opponents. And somehow, we and the media jump on the bandwagon to vilify people for past indiscretions – even for things that we’ve done ourselves.

The result is that we have a country run predominantly by two sets of people: those who efficiently and ruthlessly fictionalize their own pasts, and those who have lived so carefully that you begin to question the extent to which they have lived at all.

I have done and said stupid and offensive and hurtful things. Am I proud of them? Of course not. But I hope that I have become smarter and better and kinder, and I hope to continue to become smarter and better and kinder in the future. Maybe if everyone’s flaws and mistakes are cataloged on the internet, we can recognize that people are complicated and dynamic. Maybe we can learn to judge people based more on who they are and who they may become, rather than on random, isolated snapshots of who they were at some point in the past.

This is not a relativist argument. I believe that there are good people and bad people. I just think that we would all do a better job of identifying them if we did not have to place so much weight on the little slivers that leak out of the carefully constructed public shells.

The same argument goes for Wikileaks. The US government was embarrassed by the leaking of documents from the state department. Why? I honestly have no idea. Was anyone really surprised that internal memos spoke in frank terms about goals and objectives, about other countries and leaders? Was anyone really surprised to learn that the US uses its political muscle to promote the agendas of US corporations? Does anyone doubt that most of this is fairly vanilla behavior in the world of international diplomacy?

In a world filled with classified documents, fictions develop and take on a life of their own, spinning off their own morality. Governments pretend to be high-minded and moral, which turns out to be somewhat inconsistent with many of the things that real governments need to do in the real world. Then, something leaks out about some government activity, everyone pretends to be surprised and outraged, no matter how trivial or justifiable the infraction. Sometimes the infraction is only against this weird, artificial, fictional morality. But when the response is to enhance secrecy, to reinforce the fiction, it creates the opportunity for the government to do things that truly are horrific.

I have not spent a lot of time looking through the the latest Wikileaks documents, in part because most of them seem dreadfully boring. I’m glad that there are people who are reading these documents, pulling out the interesting bits, and cataloging them. It is conceivable to me that there will be pieces of information here and there that demand immediate action. However, my greater hope is that Wikileaks and its successors will allow us to make our peace with the messiness of government and diplomacy, so that we can focus our outrage on the big infractions.

Some of the Afghan leaks revealed certain atrocities, like the killing of civilians. Most of the reactions that I saw were some version of “It’s just a few bad apples,” “Leaking this will ruin our relationship with the Afghans,” or “America is evil,” all of which miss the point. I believe that the point should be that when you take tens of thousands of kids, some just barely out of high school, and put them halfway around the world in hellish conditions, bad things are going to happen. At some frequency, civilians, including children, are going to be killed. We need to focus on training and policies that keep those incidents to an absolute minimum. AND, we need to understand that this is a part of war, and part of the reason that military intervention needs to be the option of last resort. Secrecy leads to the romanticization of war. Currently, it seems that each generation has to rediscover the horrors of war for itself. Maybe additional transparency would let us hang on to those lessons for longer.

I was not in favor of Rand Paul (although his election has the silver lining of future comic potential), but I would have liked to see the media coverage focus more on his opposition to civil-rights legislation, and less on college pranks involving the “Aqua Bhudda.” Maybe the future will contain copious footage of every Senate candidate being young, naked, and drunk. If we become desensitized to the salaciousness of it all, perhaps the media will cover the substantive philosophical and policy issues that distinguish the candidates.

The future that I am hoping for is not an entirely comfortable one, especially for those of us who came of age before the camera-phone panopticon. But, I want to trust the next generation to turn overshared lemons into lemonade.

In Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, the protagonist, Eddie Carbone lives with his wife, Beatrice, and his niece, Catherine. They house two of Beatrice’s cousins, who are are in the country illegally for work. When Catherine falls in love with one of the cousins, Rodolpho, Eddie’s romantic desires toward his own niece are revealed, and, acting out of jealousy, he turns the cousins over to immigration. The other cousin, Marco, has a starving family back in Italy, and deportation spells disaster for him. Eddie’s betrayal of the cousins ruins him in his community and his family. In the end, Eddie and Marco fight in the street. Eddie pulls a knife, but dies after then knife is turned on him.

The family lawyer and narrator, Alfieri, closes with this:

Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory – not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be! And so I mourn him – I admit it – with a certain . . . alarm.