Tuesday, October 3, 2017

MLB 2017: Peerless Postseason Prognostications

It's simple. I want to see the Nats win a World Series. Is that too much to ask?

I think not! 

As the NL East Division Champs, the Washington Nationals have a legitimate shot at going all the way this year. Here is what the playoff bracket looks like on Day One:

Below is my fearless prediction, posted on the first night of post-season play.

I'll come back and grade my guesses after each milestone. May the best team win!

Play ball! 

Go, Nats!

One Pursuit!

Update after both Wild Card games: on track for a Nats World Series Championship! #OnePursuit!

Update after the Division Championships--and the total collapse of my bracket. The Nats will have to watch the World Series again this year. Go, GO, 'STROS!

UPDATE after the Stros win to force GAME 7 in the ALCS.

Even though my Nats are out and the callous owners somehow saw fit to let Dusty Baker go (WHAT!?), I still have a shot at 50% on my bracket. I predict the Astros will defeat the Yankees tonight (Oct 21, 2017) and then go on to topple the Dodgers in the World Series.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Souvenirs from the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

Mission accomplished!

In an earlier post, I mentioned our planned exploration of Chesapeake Bay lighthouses during the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. I'm writing to say, 

"We made it! We have seen the lights!"

We visited 12 lights in 36 hours. We rode 540 miles to visit lighthouses from the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay in Havre de Grace to the southernmost tip of Maryland at Point Lookout, and from Baltimore's Inner Harbor across the Bay Bridge to Cambridge. 

In addition to crossing the Bay, we traversed tributaries including the Potomac, Patapsco, Severn, Choptank, and South Rivers. That is a lot of bridges, but bridges are the subject of a different post!

A map showing the twelve lights we visited around the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries

By participating in the challenge, we earned a special prize at each stop we made during the two-day tour. The prize was a colorful coaster imprinted with a photo of the subject lighthouse.

We received a coaster as a souvenir at each stop. The top coaster commemorates the 2017 Challenge.
The second row contains coasters from the first three stops

Coasters from stops 4 through 9

Coasters from stops 10 through 12 plus the "Finishers" coaster at the bottom.

Do you like lighthouses? Have you ever just gone on a two-wheel tour of lighthouses around the Bay? We signed up for the challenge and I am glad we did! I highly recommend it!

The challenge is a fundraiser for the US Lighthouse Society to help pay for upkeep of the lighthouses. For more information, please visit the USLHS website here: http://uslhs.org/

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Lights of the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

My proposed route for the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

“I’ve seen the lights!”

The U.S. Lighthouse Society's Chesapeake Chapter presents:

2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

The highly anticipated 11th Maryland Lighthouse Challenge will be held on Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17, 2017. An early bird date of Friday, September 15 offers additional, "unofficial" lighthouse appreciation activities on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Complimentary souvenirs will be given at each Challenge location. You are welcome to visit any number of lighthouses along the Challenge route, but you will have to visit all mandatory stops to be able to proclaim “I’ve seen the lights!” and collect a specially designed souvenir to mark your accomplishment.

The lineup of "Mandatory Lights" around the clockwise route includes these 10:
1. Concord Point, Havre de Grace
2. Seven Foot Knoll, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Pier 5
3. Lightship Chesapeake, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Pier 3
4. Hooper Strait, St. Michael's
5. Choptank River Replica, Cambridge
6. Cove Point, Lusby
7. Drum Point, Solomons
8. Piney Point Lighthouse, Piney Point
9. Point Lookout, Lexington Park
10. Fort Washington Lighthouse, Fort Washington

Bonus Lights include:
• Millers Island Lighthouse at Sparrow’s Point (between Concord Point and Inner Harbor)
• Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse at Annapolis (in Annapolis near the Bay Bridge)
• Blackistone Lighthouse Replica at Colton’s Point (between Point Lookout and Fort Washington)

Visiting these three bonus lighthouses is not counted toward event completion, but will take Challengers to three more beautiful Bay locations, earning them extra event souvenirs!

I'm excited to combine my passions for boating and two-wheeled travel on an early fall weekend. Toss in an overnight in lovely Annapolis, and this trip has the makings of a memorable treat. My plan is to meet the challenge in two days.

  • Day One: ride from Alexandria to Concord Point, then bypass the optional Millers Island light in the interest of time, hit the two in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, then cross the Bay Bridge to Hooper and Choptank, then head back across the Bay Bridge to end the day in Annapolis. Option: visit Sandy Point Shoal if time allows.
  • Day Two: Head south to complete the challenge in a clockwise manner, Cove, Drum, Piney, Point Lookout, optional stop at Blackistone, then on to Fort Washington before crossing the Wilson Bridge on I-495 back to Alexandria.
Just under 500 miles over 2 days, to see 10 to 12 lights, collect souvenirs, and earn bragging rights.

The Maryland Lighthouse Challenge…
Making Maryland memories–one lighthouse at a time!

Contact: Challenge Coordinator, Karen Rosage, (410) 437-0741, challenge@cheslights.org. Accessed Sep 3, 2017 from http://cheslights.org/maryland-lighthouse-challenge/.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"My Aim is True" Turns 40

22 July 1977 to 22 July 2017

"It was rather like recording in a telephone booth. Overdubs were barely an option. Everything is heard pretty much as it was played."

--Elvis Costello, via Twitter on July 22nd

L.I.N.K.S. (XVI): MAIT Turns 40

In this edition of L.I.N.K.S. (hyperlinks that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, or Kindle), we focus on the 40th anniversary of the release of "My Aim Is True," Elvis Costello's debut album.

"Recorded in four six-hour late-night sessions in a London eight-track studio, My Aim Is True was the debut album by the audaciously named soon-to-be 22-year-old singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, née Declan Patrick McManus. Produced by Nick Lowe, former bassist for the pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz and a labelmate on the cheeky upstart indie Stiff Records, it reportedly cost a mere £2,000 to make, and was released in the U.K. on July 22, 1977."

My favorite links:

1. Paste features Elvis saying he’s actually not angry as angrily as humanly possible

2. Billboard does the impossible and ranks the album's tracks

3. Trunkworthy pays homage to a track that didn't make the album

4. Treblezine focuses on the artist's professed motives of revenge and guilt

And finally,

5. Spill takes the story to a personal level, drawing from the recent Costello autobiography

“I’ve always told people that I wrote ‘Alison’ after seeing a beautiful checkout girl at the local supermarket,” writes Costello in Unfaithful Music on perhaps the most well-known song on My Aim is True; after all the album takes its name from a line in the song

“Now she was punching in the prices on cans of beans at a cash register and looking as if all the hopes and dreams of her youth were draining away. All that would be left would soon be squandered to a ruffian who told her convenient lies and trapped her still further.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Word of the Day #2: Ultracrepidarian

By © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, CC BY-SA 3.0,

1. The Word of the Day is



2. Ultracrepidarian is defined as:

adjective: Giving opinions beyond one's area of expertise.

noun: One who gives opinions beyond one's area of expertise.

From Latin ultra (beyond) + crepidarius (shoemaker), from crepida (sandal).
The meaning of this word comes from a story in antiquity, in which the famed Greek painter Apelles one day heard a cobbler criticizing the way he, Apelles, had rendered a foot in a painting. Apelles then said that when it comes to feet, the shoemaker "shouldn’t render an opinion beyond the sole," or similar words to that same devastating effect.  Zing!

3. The reason I looked up today's word is:

There are times when we need a word, the perfect word, to describe and disarm a person who gets on our very last nerve.

"I dream of a world where we can sort out our differences by calling someone names instead of pulling out a gun and shooting." --Anu Garg

4. For more information:

Shockingly precise insults: https://wordsmith.org/words/ultracrepidarian.html

Keep trying!

A close friend of mine recently shared the following observation.

Just re-watched the movie Ratatouille yesterday with the kiddos and was struck again at how profound this quote at the end is (from the food critic Anton Ego) and wanted to share it:

Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O'Toole in the Pixar movie, Ratatouille

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

Even if one is not familiar with the Oscar-winning movie, the droll and dreary character's comment strikes a certain nerve. In this scene, Anto Ego realizes that his power comes from passing judgement (often harshly) on the creative efforts of others. I believe he has something of an epiphany: 

Not everyone can be great, 
but greatness can come from anyone.   

Keep trying! The world is full of critics, and let's just agree that critics have their place in the world. But who are the critics, really, without the creators? Ask yourself this: do we need more critics, or more creators? 

When you go to a restaurant, a play, a concert, or a movie, you are a consumer. As a consumer, you should feel free to form your own opinion about the performance. There is no accounting for taste, so if you don't like the expensive wine, don't buy it.  

But what really matters in this world is not what you consume, nor what you or others think about the offered goods. What matters is what you produce! What are you good at doing? What can you offer? And here is where I must say, "Don't pay attention to the critics!" Pay attention to what you are here to do: Create. Produce. Add value. 

You will only hear the voices of critics if you are actually doing something. You will only get complaints if you are making a difference. Strive for the adulation of critics and the loyalty of customers, and learn from the reactions, good and bad. At the end of the day, the world needs more producers than consumers.  

Keep trying! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

That Moment When #7: Alarm Clock

That moment when your 5:30 alarm goes off and you get mad at yourself for even setting an alarm on Saturday and you go back to sleep and it's Tuesday.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Choir! Choir! Choir! Rufus Wainwright and 1500 singers sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

I love everything about this music video: the song itself, the crowd, the production--everything. Please click HERE and enjoy immensely.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Word of the Day #1: Meretricious

The Word of the Day is:


adjective  mer·e·tri·cious \ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs\

The definition of today's word is:

  1. 1:  of or relating to a prostitute :  having the nature of prostitution meretricious relationships
  2. 2a :  tawdrily and falsely attractivethe paradise they found was a piece of meretricious trash — Carolyn Seeb :  superficially (see superficial 2) significant :  pretentiousscholarly names to provide fig-leaves of respectability for meretricious but stylish books — The Times Literary Supplement (London)

And the reason we looked this word up today is:

The Mom Who Hosted Naked Twister Also Allegedly Took A ‘Multi-Party’ Bubble Bath With Teens

What is this WORLD coming to?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Week in the Life of Deve

I'm working on a personal philosophy of life. The book is tentatively titled, The Tao of Deve. This is obviously a riff on the movie titled The Tao of Steve, with the name modified to a nickname I sometimes use.

That being said, this past seven days has been rather, um, "interesting." Pull up a stool, sit a spell, and hear tell about A Week in the Life of Deve. Have you ever had a week like this?

  • Last Thursday, a person I did not know committed suicide in the parking garage under the building in which I work. Crime scene tape went up, and we are all left wondering what happened to this poor soul to cause this irreversible outcome?
  • Friday, while riding home from work on my motorcycle, I came upon a fatal accident involving a fellow motorcyclist and a truck. The collision had occurred moments before I arrived at the intersection between Richmond Highway and the street that goes to my house. The biker was traveling at a high rate of speed and the impact with the turning truck was so violent as to require life-flights for the driver and the two passengers... of the truck. Let's just say out of respect for the dead that life-flight was not required for the biker, who obviously died on impact. More crime scene tape, and hundreds of stunned neighbors. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, at the fateful intersection, family and friends held nightly vigils for the motorcyclist.
  • Wednesday morning, a gunman started shooting at people practicing for the Congressional baseball game. This national news occurred minutes after I rode my motorcycle right by the Alexandria park on my way to the office. The camera crews were still there at noon when I went home for lunch. Five people were injured and the gunman, who shot some 50 rounds from his rifle before Park Police and Special Agents protecting Congress-persons stopped him, is dead. More crime scene tape. More questions.
  • Wednesday, continued. While driving my daughter to pick up her car over our lunch break, we witnessed a driver in the lane to our left swerve to his right, over-correct to the left, lose control of his car, and sideswipe the Jersey barrier separating inner and outer loop of Beltway traffic. His side airbag deployed and we watched him safely slow his vehicle to a stop in the breakdown lane. Thankfully, no other vehicles were involved. What-if questions abound. What if he had completely lost control? What if there had been no Jersey barrier and the driver went head-on into opposing traffic? What if he were injured by the impact with the barrier--would we have be competent to render aid? What if there had been more traffic--and more cars involved in a pile-up? Lastly and most hauntingly--what if he had careened into our car?

I share these four vignettes to express my grateful heart and to encourage others to find things to be grateful for amidst the occasionally terrifying events around us. Yes, sometimes we must look a little harder to find the good, but it is always possible and always worth the effort.

Life is stochastic. I personally believe in something I call God-authored randomness. In other words, the Universe is intentionally and deliberately uncertain--by design. I don't believe that there is no plan. Rather, I believe that the plan is to allow random forces to work. If nothing else, this keeps us on our toes. But it also explains why good things happen to bad people.

The effect on me of being in close proximity to any one of these four recent events? I feel lucky. Nothing more. I do not feel protected by the hand of God, though I appeal to God for protection and believe that such appeals have a positive effect. I am only vaguely aware of how often I've dodged bullets like these. I am grateful to be alive in terrifyingly interesting times.

The effect of all four of these events in a week? I take a step back. I get a bit philosophical. I realize I must pay attention to my surroundings. I vow to never take a single day for granted. We should all consider that fate is fickle. Life is good, even when it seems chaotic, unfair, or tragic.

Speaking of chaotic, I had a friend ask me if my concept of God-authored randomness wasn't just a new name for Chaos Theory. Not really, not in my humble opinion anyway. Chaos theory states that underlying the apparent chaos is an unseen order. The oft-cited example is the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and causing a a tornado in Texas--"causing" being the key word. Chaos theory depends on the inter-connected-ness of all things. Unbroken chains of events only appear to be chaotic but are actually predictable.

Perhaps God is the Master Watch Maker and the Universe is an inconceivably complex watch, as Chaos Theory implies. But it is simpler and saner (IMHO) to imagine God as an all-powerful but somewhat laissez faire Creator who unleashed the life force and who delights in all its many manifestations as it struggles, adapts, and overcomes all obstacles in seeking its Source. The God-authored randomness theory states that life happens according to the biological imperative (which could be seen as a Divine charter) and the circumstances of daily living are completely random--no underlying order can or should be inferred.

Believe it or not: we are where we're meant to be. Some of us are more successful, some less so. Every moment is a gift. The wind is at our backs. The sun is in our faces. Rain falls gently on our fields. Storms do come and go--some wreaking devastation and leaving destruction in their wake. That's part of the deal. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, but we can all know that, come what may, life is good. Bad things happen to good people, yet we must strive to be good, just, and compassionate. I am happy, and grateful to be alive.

It's been a rather interesting week in the Life of Deve.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why Genius Takes Time: Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen

This post should be entitled, PhilosFX on Open Culture's Article about Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History Podcast on Why Genius Takes Time: A Look at the Making of Elvis Costello’s “Deportee” & Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Because, truth in lending, that is what you are really getting here today.

Things I like: podcasts, Malcolm Gladwell, genius, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah,” and writing about all of that on PhilosFX. If today's post strikes some as a bit derivative, so be it. That is a Venn diagram I can really get into! 

Malcolm Gladwell has an new podcast, called Revisionist History. Gladwell recently aired a podcast about the genius of Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen. Here is a link to a recent episode of unsurpassing interest. The show is 39 minutes in duration, and highly recommended.


How does genius emerge? An exploration of different types of innovation—through the lens of Elvis Costello’s extraordinary song “Deportee,” once utterly forgettable and then, through time and iteration, a work of beauty and genius. 
Check it out! To learn more about the topics covered in this episode, visit www.RevisionistHistory.com and search for Episode 7, Hallelujah.
When I searched for this podcast, I first landed on this Open Culture story about the podcast (derivative, right?).

One quibble: Gladwell selects John Cale's cover of Hallelujah as his favorite. While there can be no accounting on matters of taste, I respectfully disagree with Malcolm on this point. For reference, I have opined upon this question in a previous post.

Sharing is caring. Here is a bit more info about Open Culture

Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in-between.

And now in conclusion, a bit more about Revisionist History

If you're looking to go deeper into the subjects on Revisionist History, visit Malcolm's collection on iBooks at http://www.apple.co/MalcolmGladwell -- iBooks will update the page every week with new recommendations. 

I love sharing things I love. Today, here on PhilosFX, we are all about Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, song-writing genius, creativity over time, and revisionist history through the mind of Malcom Gladwell. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Seven Day Weekend"

I rode CERUS[1] to Annapolis to take in the spring sailboat show, along with other things[2]. For reasons which are about to be revealed, I am grateful that I happened to wear a certain concert t-shirt for the day.

Sporting an Elvis Costello Concert T 

I found a convenient parking spot for my Harley and stripped off the outer layer of riding gear to reveal an inner layer: sandals, shorts, and a glorious Elvis Costello concert t-shirt--perfect attire for hanging out on the dock and checking out the sailboats! I was pleasantly surprised at the number of conversations sparked by that t-shirt. It seems I am not the only Elvis Costello fan who also loves sailing!  

This sleek catamaran is owned by a fellow Elvis Costello fan. 

In fact, I was strolling along the dock, about to leave, actually, when a sweet British lass spotted my shirt, commended me for my obvious good taste (ahem!), and, with the promise of a special surprise, lured me aboard a 38' Seawind catamaran. Like a sailor from Homer's Odyssey, I followed

Turns out my siren was a member of the Seawind staff [3]. Coincidentally, she and Elvis Costello are related--in that they both attended the same secondary school: Archbishop Myers Roman Catholic School, which is now St Mark's Catholic Secondary School. Will wonders never cease?

(I suppose most PhilosFX readers can name the most famous person who graduated from their high school. Remind me some day to remind you that I attended the same high school as did the one and only King of Late Night, Johnny Carson.)

Turns out, this was just the beginning of the coincidences in store for me on this day... Following closely behind my siren-guide, I paused at the hostess station and removed my sandals as the hostess beckoned me to sign the guest book prior to boarding the vessel. Lo and behold, the hostess also commented on my shirt, and I began to get excited.

Again under the spell of my siren-guide, I was escorted to the salon and the first of many surprises. Imagine a living room with a wrap-around sectional couch. Now picture the couch lined with comfy pillows. Now flip the pillows around and notice that they spell out a familiar sounding lyric:

"I can't wait until I maybe 
Get off work and see my baby
One, two, three, four, five, 
six, seven day weekend!"

Soon I met a gentleman named Bob, the owner of "Seven Day Weekend." We talked about our common interests, including sleek, super-fast catamarans and prolific, living-legend musical geniuses. We hit it off from jump.

Soon, Bob told me the story of how he came up with the name for his boat. He was playing some Elvis Costello, as he often does--Blood and Chocolate, as it happens--when suddenly a catchy tune caught his attention. The words jumped out at him: seven day weekend. Perfect! And I couldn't agree more.

Enjoy listening to "Seven Day Weekend," the 30-year old Elvis Costello song that inspired the christening of this sleek catamaran.

"Seven Day Weekend"
Written and performed by Elvis Costello and Jimmy Cliff
Available on Blood and Chocolate, 1986

[1] CERUS is the name of a mythical warhorse, and my 2008 Harley-Davidson Road King
[2] I also met some friends at Chick & Ruth's Delly for a delicious brunch featuring--what else?--crab omelettes! When in Annapolis...
[3] Here is a link with more information about the Seawind catamaran "Seven Day Weekend"

H/T to MGBW for the ticket to the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ode to a Catalina 385

Sung to the tune of "Wild Thing"
by The Troggs

You make my heart sing-a

You make everything

I think I love you...

But I wanna know for sure!

So c'mon and hold me tight
I   L-O-V-E  you

You make my heart sing-a

You make everything

I think you move me

But I wanna know for sure!

So c'mon and hold me tight
You   M-O-V-E   me

You make my heart sing-a

You make everything


C'mon, c'mon, Catalina

Shake it, shake it, Catalina

Monday, April 24, 2017

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Author Robert M. Pirsig Dies at 88

Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968.

I am saddened to learn about the passing today of Robert Pirsig, author of one of my all-time favorite books. I read it first when I was a teen, and my idea of a cross-country trip on 2 wheels was #RAGBRAI.

Many years later, I re-read the same dog-eared copy as a 50-year-old cancer patient with a broken marriage, an unfinished dissertation, and a glorious #Road_King.

Reading a book the second time can be an amazing experience, particularly if the intervening years had some character-building experiences...

In my youth, I latched on to the lighter part of #ZAMM which deals with adventure--the open road, and a mechanic's appreciation for the well-engineered machine. 

My second exposure occurred many hard miles later. At that time, Pirsig's dark and desperate struggle to find truth, keep his sanity, and add value to the world--all of that absolutely pierced me. 

I am grateful for my life and all of its lessons. I am grateful that every time I was ready to learn, a teacher appeared.
Thank you, Robert, for so much wisdom lurking behind the veneer of a travel story. You taught us to not merely exist but to truly "be in the scene." May your heavenly highways be full of twisty turns. In the afterlife, may man and machine work as one, evermore.

Links for further reading:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Turn the World Down

This is the cover art for the album Black Cat by the artist Zucchero Fornaciari. The album's English version includes collaboration with Elvis Costello on "Love Again" (renamed as "Turn the World Down").

This song--Elvis Costello's words and Zucchero's bluesy rock voice--this is great stuff

Watch a video HERE as you scroll through the lyrics below.

"Turn the World Down"

Now and then
It’s night again
Like black ink pouring from a pen

Curse my eyes
For opening
I’m having trouble just recovering

And in those hours we gazed
Upon white sheets, torn back from a page
My heart is spent

Almost erased
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between?
All this beauty and this suffering?

Please if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything.
Like a blade Keen and thin
Scimitar Soft like a maid
Beneath his skin

Upon this scene
Disgrace and sin
Where are you now?
Where have you been?

And in those hours we gazed
Upon red sheets, pulled back by the rage
My hearts are spent

Almost erased
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

And if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

My mind is all bent
It’s stamping my soul

I’m burning down
To tar and charcoal

To blood and ash
To feathers and trash

I gotta move

Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

And if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything

Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

I gotta move
I wanna move
Now and then
It’s night again
It’s night again

You can learn more about Zucchero's 12th studio album and listen to all 15 tracks HERE

The copyright for the Black Cat cover art displyed above is believed to belong to the label, Universal, or the graphic artist(s). Source: Fair use. File:Zucchero - Black Cat.jpg. Uploaded: 24 March 2016.

Begging the Question?

Everyone knows that "begging the question" is a technical term used in logic and debate. The term refers to the flaw of asserting an unproven assumption as if it were true. Therefore, obviously, no one would ever use "begging the question" to mean raising or posing a question that needs to be answered.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Pink Freud Matter: Today's Lesson in Critical Thinking

Have you seen this quote circulating on any of your social media sites?

Quote attributed to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) 

Odds are good that you have seen this quote at least once. It showed up in my news feed again recently. This particular image has 1.2 million shares on just one Facebook site (Fb / The Idealist, as in "idea list"). There may be countless other individuals and groups circulating this same image via Facebook. It's on Twitter, too. And Pinterest. In short--it's everywhere.

Furthermore, plenty of creative people have entered their own versions of the meme into circulation. A simple Google search reveals a multitude of variations.

Not only have you probably seen this exact poster--or one very similar to it--but you may have even shared it with your friends and contributed to its popularity. Oh, we love the sardonic and heartfelt wisdom in the remark. And we'd love to ascribe such earthy wisdom to someone whose reputation validates our instinctive trust. Confirmation bias (the tendency to believe statements because they reinforce our previous understanding) makes it easy for us to accept the attribution to Freud without question--as millions of others have done.

However, the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is most certainly not the author of that quote. That's right, we've all been duped! Because ...

Freud never said those words!

Freud was a prolific writer. Many great quotes are legitimately attributed to him. The following links feature quotes gleaned from his writings. At best case, they are properly cited. As you read through them you will notice certain tonal qualities to them that reveal the context and content of Freud's thoughts. Yet no where will you find the "quote of the day."

In Freud's day (the early 20th century), few educated people used offensive gutter terms like "assholes" in serious conversation. Apparently many others have questioned the language of this quote, because a simple search of the Internet turns up many variations of the quote of the day in which the offending term is replaced with something else.
  • I found an "arseholes" version. (Born and educated in eastern Europe, Freud died in London. This term is common vernacular in England today, but was it used by an Austrian ex-pat in 1920?)
  • There are many versions, still attributed to Freud, where the offending word is replaced with benign synonyms: "idiots," "bunch of jerks," or "mean people." 
  • In one version, the offending word is not replaced but boldly over-written with "idiots." This edited version makes it clear that the person circulating the quote did not approve of "Dr. Freud's" language and wanted to substitute a more suitable term without breaking attribution. 
  • Many of the modified quotes are shared anonymously, without attribution of any kind. 
  • Perhaps my "favorite" version is the one published by Board of Wisdom (www.boardofwisdom.com) and credited to someone supposedly named Laura Rose. Neither the Board of Wisdom nor Laura Rose understand plagiarism.  

Nice try, Laura Rose! (If that is your real name.)

Laura Rose: Altering is not authoring!

So far, we've seen how the popular quote has been attributed to Freud without a shred of evidence and despite the inconsistency with his other, properly attributed quotes. We've seen how the language of the quote has been edited by a number of others, and even co-opted by at least one more would-be author. Turns out, Freud is not the only person people want to believe uttered these words. The quote has also been misattributed to  the award-winning science fiction author, William Gibson.

William Gibson (1948-present) did not say these words, either

Compare the Freud and Gibson versions and note the subtle difference in the last phrase: "...just surrounded by assholes," versus "...just surrounding yourself with assholes." The former is passive, and the latter is active. Unlike our friend Laura Rose, Gibson did not change a couple of words and pass the quote off as his own idea. Gibson merely re-tweeted--initially without attribution--something he saw and enjoyed. Others, seeing the Gibson imprimatur, were all too quick to ascribe his authorship and create posters such as the one above. But the fact is that Gibson not only did not write the quote, he has actively attempted to give credit to the (less famous) person he re-tweeted. Yet the misattribution to the more well-known writer persists.

The question of who authored the quote was put to Quote Investigator (http://quoteinvestigator.com) and researchers there scoured the Internet and written records for clues. They actually searched Freud's papers and contacted people such as William Gibson and asked questions. They found a tweet by @debihope published in 2010. When contacted, she said she just wrote what she felt after a bad breakup. The researchers failed to turn up any prior citations.

Based on current evidence, we conclude that Debbie Hope (Twitter handle @debihope) should be credited with composing this saying. The attribution to William Gibson (Twitter handle @GreatDismal) was based on a misunderstanding because he re-tweeted the remark. Gibson himself never tried to take credit for the quote, and attempted to credit Steven Winterburn (Twitter handle @5tevenW) from whom Gibson had re-tweeted the quote. Interestingly, Winterburn has claimed to be the originator, but his first use (May 24, 2011) was 16 months after that of Debbie Hope (Jan 24, 2010). The ascription to Freud has no substantive support.

Note how easy it is to believe that Freud said these words. The words make sense and we want to believe them. We may even want to share them so that we can be affiliated with the wisdom contained in them. But when it comes to credibility, with which person do we prefer to align our opinions? Sigmund Freud? Impressive! Or William Gibson? Popular! How about Steve Winterburn? Debbie Hope? Anonymous? Or maybe we follow the Laura Rose example and put our own name on it?

From evidence, we conclude the attribution to Freud is incorrect. Gibson vigorously denied authoring the statement. Both Winterburn and Laura Rose claimed attribution in error. That leaves Hope, the person who claims the quote. So far, no previous version has been documented.

So the matter is settled. Or, is it? Why do so many people persist in attaching the quote to Gibson or Freud?  

Pink Freud to the rescue! 

Fixed it! Or, did I? Who is Pink Freud?

So, what is the point of all this? Several lessons can be drawn.

  • Don't believe every poster or meme--they are easy to make. Deb Hope is not the meme artist known as Pink Freud even though I spent all of 5 minutes making the above poster.
  • Think critically about the information that is pouring into your ears and eyes. Don't be so quick to trust the attribution given by someone else.
  • Avoid confirmation bias by asking challenging questions about what you know versus what you want to believe.
  • Always test what you know and check sources. Don't make up a source or accept an unverified source
  • Give credit where it's due. Do not plagiarize or take credit for someone else's idea.

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