REMINDER: ChicagoBoyz KC Meetup, 10/7-9

Original post here; minor schedule changes reflected in the version below. I will be sending an e-mail to known likely attendees shortly after this post appears and will follow up as needed with any additional prospectives.

When Friday 7 – Sunday 9 October; details below
Where Kansas City; Missouri side and generally downtown-ish; details below
lodging should be in or generally near ZIP code 64108
Who ChicagoBoyz contributors, fans, and general associates; if you have not already done so, provide an e-mail in comments, using such discreet conventions as “john [UNDERSCORE] doe [AT] provider [DOT] com”, unless you know that I already have a good e-mail for you, in which case just indicate that you hope to attend
Why primary objective is fun
secondary objective is exchange of interesting ideas

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Another Texas Road Trip

We took Wee Jamie on another road trip, this last weekend. My daughter and I have decided that we should dedicate one day a week to “Not Doing Work Stuff” – and have an outing of at least half a day, doing something … something diverting. This long weekend demanded a whole day of ‘Not Doing Work Stuff.’ My daughter suggested a road trip to Fredericksburg, and I thought that we should check out the Museum of the Pacific War, as it has been at least five years since I visited it. It was indisputably the last war which we won, after all. The first time I went to the War Museum was maybe in 1995 – when it was all still contained in the old Nimitz Hotel on Main Street, and an annex down the road – IIRC, a side-less pole barn. (And Fredericksburg was still a sleepy little town with an attractive Main Street, with local-oriented business situated in profitable commercial real estate, where they tended to close shop and roll up the sidewalks at about 5 PM. Well, that has come to a screeching halt, I assure you.)

We took the back way, to Fredericksburg, after stopping at a local restaurant for a breakfast which turned out to be more substantial than expected – a local outlet for the Maple Biscuit Company. The fresh-squeeze orange juice was fantastic, and yes, I would know about all that, having grown up with orange trees in the back yard. The biscuits and sausage gravy were so generous and so good that we were resolved to split an order next time. (This was the last place I saw anyone wearing a mask, BTW. The staff were all masked-up.) The back way to Fredericksburg meant driving up 281 to Johnson City, passing memories all the way; Blanco, where we had done market events at the Old Courthouse, and where once we scored some amazing deals at an estate sale at an old house just off the highway. Johnson City, where we had a wonderfully fun three-day long market one year, for the lighting of the Courthouse, the weekend after Thanksgiving. (We had to stay two nights for that in a cabin at the Miller Creek RV resort, which meant that we barely broke even.)

Johnson City, when I first went through in the late 1990s, was sad and depressing in comparison to Fredericksburg. It seemed to be hanging on based on the relation to LBJ, the Johnson ranch and various residences where LBJ’s family had lived. Now it is the beginning of the Texas Wine Road and has a new lease on tourist life. Some years ago, I had suggested that the Hill Country had all the components save castles, villas, and quaint hilltop towns to become the New Provence, since they produce such Frenchified specialty items as lavender, wine, olive oil, goat milk cheeses … and wine. Oh my gosh, have they gone into producing wine. Someone has even built a castle! The usual maps of the Texas Wine Road usually include only the top twelve or fifteen of the biggest and most well-established of the wineries along 290 – or at least, those with the flashiest central building. As we discovered, just about every commercial or retail business along that road was posted as a winery, and even a couple of places, like Wildseed Farms, which initially specialized in some other commodity – like peaches or wildflower seeds – had added on a wine tasting room. If you started at the two wineries just outside Johnson City to the south and stopped at every single winery or tasting room and had a single glass … your liver would be screaming for mercy when you got to Stonewall, and you’d be on the list for a liver transplant once you got beyond Fredericksburg itself.

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ChicagoBoyz KC Meetup, 10/7-9

[7/13 UPDATE: Truman Library substituted for Nelson-Atkins]

So, I shot my mouth off at the Denver meetup about doing the next one in KC, and Jonathan reminded me yesterday that I should set a date. I knew I wanted to do it before the midterms, and looking at my calendar, the first weekend of October is best, so there you go.

Strawman schedule:

  • Friday (7th) evening
    • First Friday in the Crossroads (north-central portion of ZIP code 64108); we will meet at a predetermined spot and poke around for at least a couple of hours
  • Saturday (8th) morning
  • Saturday (8th) afternoon
    • MAIN SESSION, venue TBD but probably ~25 min S of museum
    • early dinner, B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, 5 min from probable main session venue
  • Saturday (8th) evening
    • weather-dependent: Powell Observatory, Louisburg, KS, ~35 min from B.B.’s
    • alternatively, we just hang out at B.B.’s for the live music or go somewhere quieter nearby, 5-10 min away
  • Sunday (9th) morning/afternoon
    • brunch, venue TBD
    • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 10 min from downtown Truman Library, Independence, 20 min E of downtown KC

Next Steps/Non-Steps:

  • Interested parties, provide contact info in comments, using such discreet conventions as “john [UNDERSCORE] doe [AT] provider [DOT] com”, unless you know that I already have a good e-mail for you, in which case just indicate that you hope to attend.
  • Airport code is MCI, due to early-’70s optimism about trying to name it “Mid-Continent International.”
  • I don’t pick a hotel, but you are advised to begin your search in 64108.
  • A vehicle is a sine qua non in the KC metro, which is physically large and low-density, with all that that implies. You may wish to coordinate/combine with other attendees.
  • In general, the above venues except for the Nelson will have some kind of admissions charge, and the Nelson gets you on parking (typically $10).
  • The “main session” will be in a conference room and ideally consist of multiple ≤ 30-minute presentations, each of which is followed by Q&A/discussion. I may attempt to get this video’d. You will need to let me know if you expect to be a presenter.

Memes, Political Persuasion, and Political Intimidation

An interesting and important post at Quillette: Confessions of a Social-Justice Meme Maker.

I observe that political memes today tend not only to be oversimplified, which goes with the nature of the medium, but also to be insulting.  Political communication today has too often abandoned persuasion in favor of approaches which are believed to rally ‘the base’ while insulting opponents.

I am again reminded of something that Stalin’s master propagandist, Willi Munzenberg, said to Arthur Koestler back when Koestler was still a Communist:

Don’t argue with them, Make them stink in the nose of the world. Make people curse and abominate them. Make them shudder with horror. That, Arturo, is propaganda!

A very high proportion of political memes today would cause Munzenberg to nod in approval.

In addition to stirring up one’s own side (good for contributions and for election day turnout!), a sufficiently vitriolic stream of insults can intimidate opponents from speaking out, lest they themselves be subject to such attacks. This intimidation is more effective, though, when a political side largely dominates the channels of communication, as the Left dominates most American media today.

The insult-and-intimidate approach, though, does have a downside: it may well alienate people who are somewhat aligned with the opposing side but may still be persuadable.  Even if they are intimidated from speaking out, they may still remember the sting of the insults when they alone in the voting booth.  Few practitioners of meme-driven insults and other forms of hostile political communication seem worried about this side effect of their work, though.

A factor that should not be underrated: many people get a certain kind of pleasure from engaging in cruelty while feeling virtuous and also reinforcing their sense of membership in an in-group.  See this horrible example from the UK.  I’ve seen no evidence that this particular incident had anything to do directly with memes, but I’m confident that the same kind of attitude is well-represented among the forwarders and makers of malign political memes.  My 2018 post Conformity, Cruelty, and Political Activism is relevant here.

As I noted above, memes oversimplify, by their very nature.  As the author of the linked Quillette post winds up her piece:  “Everything worth knowing is much more complex than any slogan can possibly convey.”

While this is true, it is also true that the kind of simplification represented by memes is by no means a new thing.  Political cartoons, for example, can be seen as a forerunner of memes.  Is the effect of today’s bad memes any worse than that of scurrilous political cartoons in, say, 1900?  I think that it may be: In 1900, literacy (in a broad sense) was on an upswing, and key cultural institutions of society were encouraging more of it, as did the technologies of the time. Whereas today, literacy (in the sense of being able to read, follow, and understand arguments of some complexity) seems to be on the decline, a trend certainly aggravated by the short-attention-span nature of much Internet media.

Neal Stephenson wrote an interesting little book called In the Beginning Was the Command Line.  While the book does talk about human interfaces to computer systems, its deeper subject is the impact of media and metaphors on thought processes and on work.  He contrasts the explicit word-based interface to systems and to information with the graphical or sensorial interface.

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