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The Distorted Mirror

I'm often intrigued by the FiveThirtyEight podcasts on their YouTube channel, but was really enthralled with one of their recent videos , where the topic was Why Misinformation Spreads So Quickly on Social Media . Host Galen Druke interviewed guest Max Fisher for nearly an hour. Fisher has written a book called The Chaos Machine , and listening to them talk about the subject of social media's psychological effects on people was, at least to me, quite fascinating.
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The Next Generation

35 years ago today saw the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation , or TNG , as we fans often refer to it. For a few years preceding its launch, I'd watched reruns of "the original series" on our CBS affiliate, Sunday evenings after the local news. It was, of course, the standard bearer - Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, etc. But, TNG is my favorite. It was the Star Trek of my generation (no pun intended), and I was a devout viewer during its seven year run.

Opinions Without End

Recently I was part of a conversation about novels written by straight people that were about gay relationships. I kind of bristled at the idea. There's a well-reviewed book that I cited - Days Without End , by Sebastian Barry - about two men who fall in love during the American Civil War. Barry is straight. That's great - most people are. And, the writing of his novel came from a good place - he was moved by his son  coming out . Awesome. Based upon that, and the high praise the novel has received, I went to a local bookstore and purchased it. That was about five years ago. And it's sat on my shelf ever since.


Early last week, Kevin Drum wrote a blog post about debate. Specifically, Drum proffered the the view that most people aren't swayed by truths, or a logical laying-out of facts, but instead by feelings and sentiment. This resonated with me as 1) I agree with it, and 2) most folks agree with it, as well, but would deny that they do. Let's first look at a salient quote from Drum's piece: "Sadly, people are not persuaded by facts. They are persuaded by emotions. They are persuaded only when they're listening to someone who shares their worldview. They are persuaded by "arguments" that are beneficial to them - perhaps monetarily, perhaps in conferring status, perhaps in vilifying people they already didn't like. This is how you win in real life." I'm not sure it's always been this way. It feels like (there I go with feelings) people are more hardened in their beliefs now than they used to be, though that could just be a trick of memory. R

Candle in the Wind

In the early morning hours of August 31, 1997, Diana Spencer (aka Diana, Princess of Wales) succumbed to injuries received in an automobile accident a few hours earlier. This all occurred in Paris, France, so here in the United States -- specifically, Central Standard Time, where I reside -- it was during the evening of August 30. Regardless, it was twenty-five years ago that the world lost one of its most high-profile royals. The last such occasion was probably the death of Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco). That was in 1982 and, while I've watched a few of her movies, I've no memory of when she died.

Final Mission

Not long ago, I watched the 1993 film, The Remains of the Day . Based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, it's a Merchant Ivory Production about life at a British estate, pre-WWII. It stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, as the butler and housekeeper, respectively. There is the most subtle element of potentially romantic feelings between the two, but Hopkins's character is far too repressed to ever be able to acknowledge them. Today is the 25th anniversary of my father's passing. There's rarely a week that goes by where I don't think of him -- what his life would have been like had it not been cut short by cancer, how our father-son relationship would have evolved as I'd grown more into adulthood, what he would've thought of everything that's happened since August of 1997, etc. I've also come to realize that he's one of the reasons I tend to be drawn to emotionally unavailable men in fiction and, sometimes, in real life.

Across the Pond

"And look at the view from your balcony  the sunset is searing the sky  and how proudly you are pointing out to me  London through your eyes"  - Pet Shop Boys, The view from your balcony Those who know me know I'm an Anglophile. From novels by Agatha Christie, Peter Lovesey, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, to television shows such as Inspector Morse, Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, Black Adder , and Midsomer Murders , to following Instagram accounts that are nothing more than photos of various British locales, from a young age I've been a fan of (nearly) all things English. Heck, I even used to regularly watch Prime Minister's Question Time on C-SPAN during my teenage years, and listened to the book-on-tape of Margaret Thatcher's The Downing Street Years memoir. You can imagine my exuberance when, in late spring, some friends asked if we'd like to join them on a trip to England this summer. I was able to get the time off of work for it, as was Ashley. The final r