Last week’s post closed with the reflections of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Company on the nature of the BBC weather map.
This isn’t an original problem, of course. Africa’s got it a lot worse. There’s a summary of some of the problems and approaches to mapping here. Have a think about what projections of the globe you like, and then find out why Randall xkcd hates you here.
‘What’s this got to do with strokes?’ you might ask. If you’ve not been here before.
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Well, strokes are major events in the lives of those they affect both primarily and secondarily. Though, those terms aren’t a value judgment on how different people are touched by stroke. There’s a strong argument that Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth was hit harder by my stroke than I was. I mean, if anyone thinks that undercuts the impact of stroke, drop me a line; that’s not my intention. And my arm did hurt more.
Long before The Event, Beth had spoken about the importance about being open to changing one’s perspectives in the light of new facts and events. She’s smarter than me — and I like, like like her — so much as I was inclined to just plough on with my previously-established prejudices, or judgments in advance, I decided to keep an open mind about keeping an open mind. Yawn. And being cut down was a useful lesson in humility, particularly in conjunction with other events taking place at the time.
This attempted new mindset has been much at work this week. As a mid-period Generation X-er — and notwithstanding my interest in relative time — I think I’m inclined to believe in a form of history that flows like a river towards some better place.
Over half of the United States have embraced equal marriage, and marijuana legalisation is spreading across the country like a big, tax-generating octopus. Go X-er smugness, right? Well, it’s not quite that easy. I should have known this, of course. I read Douglas Coupland’s tales for an accelerated culture when it was square. I mean, in the shape of a square. And what was that, if not a story of “the first post-war generation to be worse off than their parents, left with reduced expectations and downsized hope for the future”? But then our Macs got more and more powerful, and Moore’s Law rumbled on, so everything’s cool, right?
Well, not so fast. This week, I read Jackson Lears‘ reviews of Hillary Clinton’s doorstopping I’m-a-presidential-condidate book, and an accompanying volume by members of her inner circle. Jim Crace’s Digested Read versions of those should be fun. Here’s the passage in the review that really caught my eye, delivered as part of a discussion of the role ideas of American Exceptionalism in modern diplomacy:
Only a secular providentialist could ask what it means ‘to be on the right side of history’. Clinton poses this question as if it were a guide to policy. The notion that history has a discernible direction, and that nations must align themselves with it, is a relic of the grand historical narratives of the 19th and 20th centuries. Such views are no longer held by serious historians but continue to animate the pundits and politicians in Washington.
That’s unfortunate. Still, the stultifying nature of the Jane Austen novel I had to read this semester, with Middlemarch on deck, suggests that some things are improving, right? But imagine my surprise when I read the secondary reading paired this week with Willa Cather’s awesome O Pioneers!
Scholes’ and Kellogg’s The Nature of Narrative opens with an attempt to, literally, put the novel in its place. They write about how the Western view of narrative literature — this was written mid-century, but still largely applies, I think — “is almost hopelessly novel-centered.” This cuts us off from the literature of the past, as well as “the literature of the future and even from the advance guard of our own day…. The novel, let us remember, represents only a couple of centuries in the continuous narrative tradition of the Western world which can be traced back five-thousand years.”
And this must be right, because it was written in 1966, and that was only yesterday.
Or maybe I should admit, I really don’t know. I only read that his morning. It’s like looking at a map, assuming that it’s right, then finding out there’s lot more too know. But that’s the exciting bit, isn’t it? I’ll just lash down a bunch of unconnected musings, codify them as gospel and looking forward to learning more later. After all, that worked last week, didn’t it…?