El caso de Palamedes, el enemigo del muy retorcido Ulises

¿Cómo es que nadie habla nunca de Palamedes, quien forzó a Ulises a ir a la guerra, y del cual Ulises/Odiseo se vengó después?

En la Ilíada, una obra en la que Homero se refocila en hacer que los buenos mueran de las formas más escabrosas, Palamedes es el que descubre el primer engaño de Odiseo, que había intentado zafarse de la obligación de acudir a la guerra de Troya fingiendo estar loco. Y eso es poca cosa en el historial de Palamedes, al que autores antiguos atribuyeron la invención del ajedrez y el juego de dados, los faros, la balanza, el disco y las guardias con centinela.

El problema de Palamedes es que a Odiseo le quedaban muchos engaños bajo la manga: ya ante las murallas de Troya, Odiseo falsificó una carta diciendo que el rey de la ciudad sitiada, Príamo, había propuesto a Palamedes traicionar a los griegos a cambio de oro. Odiseo escondió el oro en la tienda de Palamedes y éste fue lapidado hasta la muerte por el ejército griego.

Nauplio, padre de Palamades, luego vengó la muerte de su hijo haciendo perderse a la flota griega mediante señales falsas a la vuelta de Troya. En los tiempos homéricos nadie pasaba una.

Odiseo era un tipo curioso. No es de extrañar que, siendo quizás el héroe más conocido de la historia de Occidente, no haya protagonizado ninguna película desde el famoso peplum Ulises de Mario Camerini con Kirk Douglas en 1954, basado en La Odisea.

Esta es una de las películas preferidas de mi padre, así que crecí oyendo sobre las heroicidades y argucias de Ulises, y no sobre las burradas que hizo en La Ilíada; creo que muchos otros están en una situación similar: en nuestros tiempos, el arte popular, y en particular el cine, está curiosamente centrado en una visión maniquea del universo, siempre dividido entre los buenos (Luke Skywalker, Churchill, los demócratas) y los malos (Darth Vader, cualquier nazi, los no-demócratas). Un personaje complejo, frecuentemente miserable y retorcido, como Odiseo no pega en nuestras pantallas.

Los griegos habrían pensado que nuestras películas son infantiloides y simplonas. Pongamos el caso del héroe indiscutible de La Ilíada: Héctor. Antes de morir a manos de Aquiles porque los dioses así lo habían dictaminado, con su capricho habitual, había tratado de salvar a su hijo Astyanax, que fue escondido por Andrómaco en la tumba del propio Héctor.

Después de encontrar a Astyanax, los griegos debatieron qué hacer con él, temeroso de que si le dejaban vivo acabara vengando a su padre al crecer. Hay varias versiones sobre lo que pasó después, pero la más fiable es que decidieron matar al pobre niño, y el encargado fue Odiseo quien, nunca intimidado por el qué dirán, lo lanzó desde las murallas de Troya.

Los griegos no tenían muchos escrúpulos, y no esperaban que sus héroes tuvieran más que sus desmedidos dioses. Cualquier presentación moderna de Odiseo ha de ceñirse al patrón que marcó la película de 1954: un poco borrachín y chuleta, sí (se habría librado de pasarse diez años perdido por el mar si no se hubiera vanagloriado de haber cegado a Polifemo, con lo que Polifemo supo de quién quejarse ante los dioses) pero ingenioso padre de familia que sólo quiere llegar a casa a tiempo de matar a los guarros que quieren quedarse con su trono y su esposa.

Si escarbamos un poco en La Ilíada, claro, de eso nada. Están el asesinato del inventor Palamedes, el infanticidio, el exterminio de los pacíficos troyanos gracias a su Caballo. Observando nuestras historias binarias y simplistas con buenos y malos, con el Lado Oscuro de la fuerza, Odiseo nos sobra. Este es el tipo que, para evitar la profecía de que el primer griego en pisar tierra frente a Troya moriría, tiró un escudo al suelo para caer sin riesgos.

¿Es este reduccionismo moderno señal de progreso, señal de inteligencia? El famoso bloguero SlateStarCodex lo duda mucho, en un post reciente, muy comentado, sobre lo que llama La Invención de la Narrativa Moral (la traducción es mía), basado en un artículo previo sobre el tema de Robin Hanson:

“Donde las obras antiguas tienen connotaciones de buenos contra malos, generalmente se debe a que leemos adaptaciones más modernas. Robin Hood no robaba a los ricos para darles a los pobres hasta versiones posteriores de la historia; los caballeros del Rey Arturo no comienzan como personas especialmente buenas y la verdad es que no luchan contra un equipo unificado de malhechores; el argumento virtuoso de Arturo contra el malvado Mordred no es predominante hasta las versiones victorianas. El Hércules de Disney, que transforma a Hades, perfectamente razonable dios del inframundo, en villano de la historieta clásica, es un sorprendente ejemplo de finales del siglo XX… El artículo concluye que esto se debe al nacionalismo. Los estados-nación querían que sus soldados se imaginaran a sí mismos como peleando del lado de los buenos, contra malvados enemigos de la historieta. Esta fue una visión tan convincente que configuró la cultura a partir de ese momento.”

 

 

 

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Posted in Conspiraciones, Ethics, Grandes Exitos, Incompetentes Admiradores, Ocurrencias | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral is Better than Philip Roth’s

Addition by subtraction is a common concept in, of all places, sports. Say, you have a team with a player who hugs the ball, is not a good team-mate, etc. Even if this guy is a good player at that sport, the team will probably improve when he’s gone, because everyone else — every other element of that team — will be able to shine brighter when the spotlight-grabber goes away.

That happens with Philip Roth’s classic novel American Pastoral, when one compares it with American Pastoral, the superior, if more spare, 2016 Ewan McGregor film written by John Romano.

The novel tells the story of Seymour Lvov, aka The Swede, a famous high-school athlete (hence the sports metaphor!) who marries his sweetheart Dawn, a miss New Jersey, and settles into a successful family and professional life. He has only one daughter, Merry, who turns out to be a spoiled little brat who, spoiler alert, wrecks The Swede’s life.

American Pastoral, the novel, is good but marred by Roth’s political correctness, much like the life of Coleman Silk, the protagonist of Roth’s Human Stain, is marred by the same issue. He always was a very political writer, starting off with Portnoy’s Complaint, which is all about America’s ethnic tensions, and ending up with The Plot Against America, which is a dark liberal fantasy along the lines of The Handmaid’s Tale.

In American Pastoral, the novel, Merry becomes a communist terrorist who then joins a weird cult, defaces and prostitutes herself, rejects and blames her parents, and hurts them like nobody else can: but she has a point. In the novel, Merry’s fucked up life is a reflection of her parent’s bourgeois betrayals. This is how Wikipedia succintly puts it:

At a dinner party, Seymour discovers that his wife Dawn has been having an affair with Princeton-educated architect William Orcutt III, for whom she undergoes a facelift. Seymour then realizes that his wife is planning to leave him for Orcutt. It is revealed that Seymour himself previously had a short-term affair with Merry’s speech therapist, Sheila Salzman, and that she and her husband Shelly hid Merry in their home after the post office bombing. Seymour sadly concludes that everyone he knows may have a veneer of respectability, but each engages in subversive behavior and that he cannot understand the truth about anyone based upon the conduct they outwardly display. He is forced to see the truth about the chaos and discord rumbling beneath the “American pastoral”, which has brought about profound personal and societal changes he no longer can ignore. Simultaneously, the dinner party underscores the fact that no one ever truly understands the hearts of other people.

The wonderful thing about McEwan’s film is that all of this goes away. All of this claptrap about how society is cruel and we’re vessels of our parents’ follies is removed, all of these oft-repeated clichés are gone and we are left with a simple proposition: what if you raise a monster? What if your only kid, the one on which you put all your effort, all your sleepless nights, all of your hopes and dreams, all that money for good schools and tutors, becomes an independent human, separate from you, opposite from you, one that enjoys tearing you apart?

That’s the central conceit of McEwan’s film. In every other respect, it’s a very faithful adaption of the Old Boomer’s novel about how the hidden scars of the 1950s gave way to the betrayals of the 1960s and 1970s. But in the most fundamental sense, it’s an actual betrayal of Roth’s central premise.

In the book, guilt, the most central concern of all of modern literature, is diffuse: the Jewish writer comes to very Christian conclusion that we’re all sinners. In the movie, guilt is squarely on one party: Merry. McEwan, the director and actor playing The Swede, and Romano, the screenwriter, pose this question directly: why if you can’t spread the guilt, collectivize it? What if it’s all on one side?

The movie could have been called: American Pastoral, The Swede’s Version. In it, a lot of little inversions are conducted: The Swede, a good-looking, wealthy man, strives to stay faithful to his wife and rejects the sexual advances of his own daughter Merry, the speech-threapist and Rita Cohen, a friend of Merry. He’s just a hardworking American man trying to provide for his family, be fair with his employees (many of them black) and true to his wife. He doesn’t have a veneer of respectability: he is a respectable man.

The 1960s then roll along, and he’s smashed into pieces, with his very own daughter, a truly frightening character in the movie (and a mere vehicle for guilt-collectization in the book) acting as deus ex machina.

All that McEwan did to the book goes against its central political message. If America is not guilty, but Merry, the terrorist communist, is the one to blame for the problems, then, what’s the message? Just too dreadful to contemplate. No wonder that the movie critics in Rotten Tomatoes hate this subtle, brilliant, haunting film.

The site’s critical consensus reads, fairly enough: “American Pastoral finds debuting director Ewan McGregor’s reach exceeding its grasp with a well-intentioned Philip Roth adaptation that retains the form, but little of the function, of its source material.”

A prominent quote from the Toronto Star reviewer informs us that the movie “fails to illuminate the audience”: of course, only some kinds of illumination are allowed.

 

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Diez Reglas para Discutir

-Con amigos:

1-No olvides que te conocen

2-Dales información que seguramente no conozcan, tus opiniones ya se las saben

3-Intenta que su argumento sea el mejor argumento posible: no utilices trucos sofistas, intenta ver su objeción como si se te hubiera ocurrido a ti, porque seguramente sea valiosa o contenga la semilla de una objeción valiosa

-Con desconocidos:

4-No olvides que no te conocen

5-Asume que ignoran tus opiniones, así que no se las cuentes

6-Indica sus lagunas de conocimientos y sus disonancias cognitivas, sobre todo cuando cambien de tema: a ellos no les tienes que convencer, y no les vas a convencer: sólo al público neutral

-Con idiotas:

7-Asume que no saben nada

8-Si son cachas y peligrosos, no saber nada es algo muy meritorio, y les pone en el mismo nivel que, pongamos, Aquiles de la Iliada, o Einstein

9-Si son letraheridos con poca masa muscular, usa el argumento con el que golpeaban a Thales de Mileto: si eres tan listo, por qué no eres rico y/o poderoso? (Thales se hizo rico, brevemente, sólo para demostrar que podía si quería)

10-Prepara una buena respuesta para los ataques “ad hominem” (que los idiotas, en su idiotez, inevitablemente usan) diciendo “eres un facha, marxista trasnochado, enemigo del pueblo palestino, etc.” Jorge Luis Borges siempre contaba con admiración la historia del hombre al que, en medio de una discusión, el otro le atizo una bofetada. El agredido respondió: “eso, señor mío, es una digresión: sigo esperando su argumento.”

Si quieres una guía mucho más completa (y en inglés) aquí hay una muy ilustrativa.

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Be a Bonobo Who Loves Islamic Vikings

I came across the word “bonobo” for the first time over a decade ago. This African ape, media stories explained, was the gentle, pacifist, feminist relative of the chimpanzee. It didn’t take long before even the New Yorker, hardly a scientific publication, dispelled this absurd media myth, in 2007:

For a purportedly peaceful animal, a bonobo can be surprisingly intemperate. Jeroen Stevens is a young Belgian biologist who has spent thousands of hours studying captive bonobos in European zoos. I met him last year at the Planckendael Zoo, near Antwerp. “I once saw five female bonobos attack a male in Apenheul, in Holland,” he said. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth. Now, that’s something to counter the idea of”—Stevens used a high, mocking voice—“ ‘Oh, I’m a bonobo, and I love everyone.’ ”
Stevens went on to recall a bonobo in the Stuttgart Zoo whose penis had been bitten off by a female. (He might also have mentioned keepers at the Columbus and San Diego zoos who both lost bits of fingers. In the latter instance, the local paper’s generous headline was “ape returns fingertip to keeper.”) “Zoos don’t know what to do,” Stevens said. “They, too, believe that bonobos are less aggressive than chimps, which is why zoos want to have them. But, as soon as you have a group of bonobos, after a while you have this really violent aggression. I think if zoos had bonobos in big enough groups”—more like wild bonobos—“you would even see them killing.” In Stevens’s opinion, bonobos are “very tense. People usually say they’re relaxed. I find the opposite. Chimps are more laid-back. But, if I say I like chimps more than I like bonobos, my colleagues think I’m crazy.”
(…)

On another occasion, Hohmann thinks that he came close to seeing infanticide, which is also generally ruled to be beyond the bonobo’s behavioral repertoire. A newborn was taken from its mother by another female; Hohmann saw the mother a day later. This female was carrying its baby again, but the baby was dead. “Now it becomes a criminal story,” Hohmann said, in a mock-legal tone. “What could have happened? This is all we have, the facts. My story is the unknown female carried the baby but didn’t feed it and it died.” Hohmann has made only an oblique reference to this incident in print.
These tales of violence do not recast the bonobo as a brute. (Nor does new evidence, from Lui Kotal, that bonobos hunt and eat other primates.) But such accounts can be placed alongside other challenges to claims of sharp differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. For example, a study published in 2001 in the American Journal of Primatology asked, “Are Bonobos Really More Bipedal Than Chimpanzees?” The answer was no.
The bonobo of the modern popular imagination has something of the quality of a pre-scientific great ape, from the era before live specimens were widely known in Europe.

Down the stream from the New Yorker, mass media, which is not really good with complex issues like this, decided to ignore the evidence and go full steam ahead, refocusing on the feminist part of the narrative. This short video posted weeks ago in one of the largest Youtube channels is a good example of the trend. Even in prestige media, the trend is clear: as recently as 2016, the New York Times was still running stories about exemplary bonobos:

Last year, somebody took the trouble to publish a deeply-researched book about bonobos where all the touchy-feely myths of the great peaceful ape of the forest are demolished comprehensively. You can see a good review of that book in this website. Here’s hoping somebody in media still read books.

Sometimes, the New York Times reminds me of what Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once said about Ayn Rand(*): “she spells out the secret premises of the ruling ideology so clearly that they are an embarrassment for the ruling ideology itself.” Ayn Rand is gone, so I suppose the Times has taken on that role now.

It all makes one wonder: why is mass media so insisted in telling the bonobo’s fairy tale? And, while we are on the subject of wild speculation with wide prominence, why do they want people to believe the absurd notion that Vikings were secret Muslims? This is a really, really weird idea based on the flimsiest of evidence, as The Atlantic (a competitor of the New Yorker) helpfully explained in a recent article – only after all the major media outlets run with it like kids with Halal ice-cream:

Annika Larsson, a textile researcher at Uppsala University who was putting together an exhibit on Viking couture, decided to examine the contents of a Viking woman’s boat grave that had been excavated decades ago in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden. Inspecting the woman’s silk burial clothes, Larsson noticed small geometric designs. She compared them to similar designs on a silk band found in a 10th-century Viking grave, this one in Birka, Sweden. It was then that she came to the conclusion that the designs were actually Arabic characters—and that they spelled out the name of God in mirror-image. In a press release, she described the find as “staggering,” and major media outlets (including The New York TimesThe Guardian, and the BBC) reported the story last week.

But other experts are not sure the silk bears Arabic script at all, never mind the word “Allah.” They warn that people being credulous of Larsson’s claim may be guided less by solid evidence than by a political motivation: the desire to stick it to white supremacists.

I’ve come up with a lot of crazy ideas for story pitches in my fifteen years working for The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. One thing I learnt: if you want them approved, make sure they correlate exactly with what gatekeepers want everyone to believe.

(* In an interview with an Australian radio station, in 2015, available here)

 

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Desigualdades durante el asedio de Leningrado

En “Los 900 Días,” un estimable libro sobre el asedio de Leningrado, Harrison E. Salisbury escribe a propósito de la hambruna durante el horrible invierno de 1941-42, el peor de los que sufrió la ciudad bajo asalto nazi:

“Surgió un cierto orden de inanición. No cayeron primero los viejos. Fueron los jóvenes, especialmente aquellos que vivían con las raciones más pequeñas. Los hombres murieron antes que las mujeres. Las personas sanas y fuertes colapsaron antes que los inválidos crónicos. Este fue el resultado directo de la desigualdad de las raciones. Los jóvenes recibían una de dependiente, que era idéntica a la ración de los niños hasta la edad de doce años. A partir del 1 de octubre, esto equivalía sólo a 200 gramos, aproximadamente un tercio de barra de pan, sólo la mitad de la ración de un trabajador. Por ello murieron tan rápido. La ración para hombres y mujeres era la misma: 400 gramos de pan para los trabajadores, 200 para todas las demás categorías. Pero los hombres gastaban más energía, al llevar una vida más vigorosa. Necesitaban más comida. Sin ella, morían más rápidamente que las mujeres.”

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Against George Plimpton

I don’t remember how or why I came across the self-published autobiography of Robert S. Griffin, a cranky, retired college professor. I certainly forgot why I felt compelled to download it and put it in my tablet reading list, but here we are: reading it with great enjoyment, and having a lot of fun with the idle thoughts of a man who knows his time is up. It’s pretty short too, so I highly recommend it to anyone: it’s here for free.

This book definitely reminds me of another unexpectedly great autobiography: Travels, by Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame (which is not free). In Travels, Michael Crichton explains there’s no point to his writing a description of his mostly boring and uneventful life, so he just tells a handful of stories, mostly about his travels across the world and his short, exciting time as a medical student.

In “From Old to Elderly,” Griffin starts off with a regretful description of a youth wasted on pointless sports pursuits and his sad-sack family, and then complains about random stuff and tells of interesting moments of his life and the things he saw and read. There is a bit about the once-idolized writer George Plimpton, whom he never met, which is to me a masterpiece of couldn’t-give-a-shit literary criticism, and I will copy it here in full, below this post.

By way of introduction, the Times Literary Supplement recently discussed Plimpton, in his role as co-founder and longtime editor of The Paris Review (here, behind a paywall). J.C., the anonymous contributor to the TLS’ back page, doesn’t hate Plimptom, actually kind of like him, but still has this to say:

During Plimpton’s reign, the Paris Review was a club. The issue before us lists myriad distinguished types and family members as advisory editors, editorial assistants, contributing editors, among other concoctions. Here are a few: Donald Hall, Nelson Aldrich, William Styron, Rose Styron, Dana Goodyear, Philip Roth, Matthew Bruccoli, Francine du Plessix Gray, Ben Sonnenberg, Jonathan Miller, Frederick Seidel, Sara D. Plimpton, Robert Silvers. The last, to take only one, wasn’t listed as “advisory editor” because of the advice he gave. The masthead was the assembly point of a branch of the establishment – the kind whose members invariably unite to deny its existence.

Wherever you are, thanks a lot for this here, Mr. Griffin:

33 Pseudo-Self-Effacement
May, 2013.
I’ve been paying attention to how people who are fawned over get themselves in that position when they don’t really deserve to be that high on life’s totem pole. It’s not that these people are unaccomplished; it’s that the adulation they evoke goes beyond their actual merits. How do they pull that off? I ask myself.

For example, there’s Princess Kate in Britain. She used to fold clothes at the Gap, not there is anything wrong with that, and seems a nice enough person, and she keeps herself slim and trim and has a pleasant smile, good precision with it, upper lip exactly to the top edge of her front teeth, but really, she’s no better as far I can tell than the young women I see looking in store windows in downtown Burlington, Vermont where I live.

Of course what Kate has going for her is the princess title—or I guess actually she’s a duchess—which, princess or duchess, from what I have read, she went after pretty hard. If you can bring it off, the princesses and kings and queens and duchesses and dukes stratagem is a good one: you get you and yours designated royalty and the rest of us commoners. We get to watch you ride by in carriage. Good deal for you.

This past week, I’ve been paging through a book of reminiscences about the late George Plimpton (Nelson Aldridge, Jr., editor, George, Being George, Random House, 2008). Plimpton (1927-2003) was an American editor, author, and partyhosting man about town in New York City. He was best known for a being a co-founder and editor of The Paris Review literary magazine and for his sports writing in which he would recount his exploits as an everyman participant in big time sports.

Plimpton’s most successful book in the sports area was Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last String Quarterback, published in 1966, in which he wrote about his experiences in the training camp of the Detroit Lions pro football team. His angle was that he wasn’t there as an observer but rather as a player. He even took a couple snaps as a quarterback in one of the Lions’ pre-season games. Paper Lion was a good book and a best seller. I remember enjoying it at the time it came out.

Looking back on it now, I realize that more than anything the reader of Paper Lion comes away from the book thinking what a super guy George Plimpton is. Here he is, this Harvard man and big time literary type, and yet he gets around these rough and tumble jocks and they accept him in their world and really take to him.

Yes indeed, George Plimpton is a man for all seasons. Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, I would nightly sit alone in front of a TV set in a darkened room in the Midwest munching on potato chips watching late night talk shows out of New York City—Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett in particular—and Plimpton was a regular on those shows.

Plimpton would sit on the couch or chair with Johnny or Dick in his tweed sport jacket and, without being heavy-handed about it, get across in a vaguely British accent that he was from old money and went to Harvard and went to the right parties and knew everybody that was anybody. He related amusing name-dropping anecdotes to an attentive and borderingon-reverential Johnny or Dick–as well as to me, of course.

Now that I think about it, the only thing that stuck with me from these little stories was that not only was George Plimpton a superior being compared to the rest of us, he was an upbeat, chipper, fine fellow to boot. I got that message loud and clear, but at the same time I didn’t feel as if I were being sold anything or put town. I felt fine about me being a humdrum plebeian and George Plimpton being a lively noble; that was just the way things were.

When I think about the people who have been masters of selfpuffery over the span of my long life, George Plimpton’s name is right up there at the top.

I didn’t pick up the Plimpton book this week to read it from the angle of Plimpton’s self promotion, but it couldn’t have been more that twenty pages into it and I was caught up with examining how Plimpton worked his self-inflating magic. The book has been a fun read for me, I’m not done with it yet. Techniques that went right by me back in the old days jumped out at me now.

One of them is what I’ll call the pseudo-self-effacement technique. The basic idea with this maneuver is ostensibly you’re putting yourself down, but what you are really doing is building yourself up. I’ll use a transcript of an after-dinner speech Plimpton gave in the mid-eighties that was in the book (pp. 323-326) to illustrate how the pseudo-self-effacement technique can be effectively employed. I’ll quote from Plimpton’s speech and insert my comments in caps to point out how George was selling himself even as nominally he was documenting his limitations:

I think I should start off by saying that I didn’t do very well at Exeter. I WENT TO EXETER, AN ELITE PREP SCHOOL. My marks were terrible. I’M NOT HERE PITCHING HOW GREAT I AM. I’M A MODEST, SELF-EFFACING GUY. I had the strange notion that in class, even if I were daydreaming of something else I’M CALLING IT DAYDREAMING, BUT YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT ME TO GET THAT IT WAS ACTUALLY MATURE, INSIGHTFUL, CREATIVE MUSING AT A VERY YOUNG AGE, my brain was still absorbing all the material like a specialized sponge, and the next day at the exam I could scratch around in the appropriate corner, in the detritus I KNOW WORDS LIKE DETRITUS, and there would be the appropriate answers. I HAD CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF EVEN BACK THEN.

These low grades elicited letters from my father. MY FATHER CARED ENOUGH ABOUT ME TO SEND ME LETTERS. Genetically speaking, I was supposed to soar I COME FROM GOOD STOCK through Exeter I WENT TO EXETER. Wasn’t the family full of outrageous successes? I’M FROM AN OUTRAGEOUSLY SUCCESSFUL LINEAGE. THAT’S MORE THAN PARTICULARLY SUCCESSFUL, OR REMARKABLY SUCCESSFUL, OR EXCEPTIONALLY SUCCESSFUL—OUTRAGEOUSLY SUCCESSFUL, GET IT? CAN YOU HONESTLY SAY THAT ABOUT YOUR PEOPLE, OUTRAGEOUSLY SUCCESSFUL? NO, YOU CAN’T.

I hadn’t studied, but why hadn’t my brain compensated out of thin air? I DIDN’T GET BAD GRADES BECAUSE I WAS DUMB. I HADN’T STUDIED, THAT’S WHY. Somewhere in Melville’s Moby Dick is the line “my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded.” I HAVE READ MOBY DICK AND CAN QUOTE IT FROM MEMORY. Which is apt, thinking back on it, because my head when I was in Exeter I WENT TO EXETER was ever off somewhere else I WAS THINKING BIG THOUGHTS funning it up I WAS A GOOD TIME KIND OF GUY, NOT A DRUDGE with heads of the few others who were having difficulty. We beheaded few, we band of brothers. I WASN’T AN ISOLATE LONER REJECT. I WAS PART OF A BAND OF BROTHERS.

At nightfall, I went down to the Plimpton Playing Fields THIS ELITE SCHOOL HAD FACILIITIES NAMED AFTER MY FAMILY and drop-kicked field goals with Buzz Merritt I HAD FRIENDS, just the two of us in the gloaming YOU DON’T KNOW WORDS LIKE GLOAMING, often with a thin moon shining above the pines, above the river. THAT IDYLIC IMAGE WAS ME—YOU WORKED IN A CAR WASH. Why did I do this when I should have been studying Tacitus WE STUDIED TACITUS IN THIS ELITE SCHOOL I ATTENDED, WHILE YOU STUDIED HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW IN THE ONE YOU WENT TO for the exam I knew was coming up the same day? THE ANSWER: BECAUSE I WAS INTO COOL THINGS LIKE BEING WITH MY BUDDY BUZZ—PREPPY-SOUNDING NAME, RIGHT? TOP DRAWER–KICKING FIELD GOALS UNDER A FULL MOON, NOT CRAMMING FOR AN INANE TEST LIKE YOU DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER THAN TO DO. Sometimes to escape the exams, I went to the infirmary. There was a secret way, which I have now forgotten, to drive up the temperature on a thermometer. CLEVER OF ME, HUH?

But what really got me in trouble were the little things I thought were funny—like sneaking in at night and turning all the benches around in the Assembly Hall because I thought it would it would be funny to have my classmates sitting backwards when they came in for assembly. I WAS ADVENTUROUS AND CREATIVE AT A VERY YOUNG AGE.

I wrote for The Exetonian I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO WRITE FOR A LITERARY MAGAZINE AT A PLACE LIKE EXETER, I WENT TO EXETER, but if you were on probation you couldn’t use your real name. I took piano lessons from Mr. Landers. He assigned me a Debussy piece called “Bells,” as I recall. I PRACTICED PLAYING DEBUSSEY ON THE PIANO WHILE YOU LEARNED THREE CHORDS ON A GUITAR SO YOU COULD POUND OUT CHEAPASS ROCK ‘N ROLL. The next week I appeared at Mr. Landers’ quarters NOT AN OFFICE OR DESK SOMEWHERE, QUARTERS, GET THE PICTURE? and sat down to play. Mr. Landers said, “Well, that’s very fine, but that’s not Debussy’s “Bells.” I PLAYED NOT JUST FINE BUT VERY FINE PIANO, WHAT CAN’T I DO? PLUS I ADDED MY OWN INDIVIDUAL TOUCH TO IT–CREATIVE, UNIQUE, ONE-OF-A-KIND, THAT’S ME, GEORGE PLIMPTON.

I tried out for a play called Seven Keys to Ballpate. I WAS GAME, TOOK RISKS, TRIED NEW THINGS. They found a minor role for me, that of a young widow. I was required to let out an unearthly scream, perhaps at the sight of a corpse, I’ve forgotten what. My scream carried far out over the quadrangle QUADRANGLE, GET IT?, down the hill past Langdell and into the Jeremiah Smith Building CATCH THE IMPRESSIVE-SOUNDING NAMES AT THE ELITE PREP SCHOOL I WENT TO, past the mailroom with its letterboxes WHEN I DID SOMETHING, I DID IT BIG, where in those days I received my father’s letter once a week I WAS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO MY FATHER FOR HIM TO WRITE ME ONCE A WEEK with its admonitions—and up the stairs to Dean Kerr’s office WE HAD A DEAN IN MY PREP SCHOOL; YOU HAD A PRINCIPAL IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL YOU WENT TO, where he sat comfortably smoking his pipe A PIPE–GOT THE IMAGE? when suddenly this high-pitched shriek wandered in and his blood curdled and he said aloud, “My God, what’s Plimpton up to now.” THE DEAN KNEW ABOUT ME. ONE MEMORABLE ESCAPADE AFTER ANOTHER. “MY GOD, WHAT’S PLIMPTON UP TO NOW,” THE DEAN WOULD SAY. QUITE THE TEENAGER, ME, DON’T YOU THINK?

Could it have been that, having failed in all the departments at Exeter I WENT TO EXETER, I was driven in later life to compensate, to try once again to succeed where I hadn’t? I’ve wondered on occasion whether these exercises in participatory journalism for which I am known I WROTE PAPER LION, A BEST SELLER, THAT WAS ME were as much to show my mentors at Exeter I WENT TO EXETER AND HAD MENTORS; YOU HAD A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR that I had somehow managed to intrude into the highest plateaus of their various disciplines. THE HIGHEST PLATEAU IN NOT JUST ONE DISCIPLINE, OR TWO DISCIPLINES–VARIOUS DISCIPLINES. ME, GEORGE PLIMPTON, I DID THAT. AND YOU PICKED UP THAT I WENT TO EXETER, AN ELITE EASTERN PREP SCHOOL, WITH FACILITIES NAMED AFTER MY FAMILY, RIGHT? THAT DIDN’T GET BY YOU, DID IT?
How about if you come up with an example of the pseudoself-effacement technique? I think you’ll find that it’ll be a good time, and that it will give you a better handle on how people acquire unwarranted reputations and status in the world generally
and in your own circumstance.

 

 

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¿Cuál es la diferencia entre una revolución y un golpe de estado?

Un golpe de estado sólo se llama así (lo que supone un etiquetado negativo) si se percibe como contrario a los intereses de la ideología dominante; si es favorable, se llama “revolución”.

Usemos un ejemplo cercano a un español como yo: Portugal. En el siglo XX, Portugal tuvo tres golpes de estado militares, tres:

-En 1910, un alzamiento militar acaba con la monarquía portuguesa (previo asesinato del rey y su heredero) y lo llamamos Revolución del 5 de Octubre.

-En 1926, un alzamiento militar acaba con la república para imponer la dictadura derechista de Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, y lo llamamos golpe de estado del 28 de Mayo.

-En 1974, un alzamiento militar acaba con el régimen del ya fallecido Salazar, y lo llamamos Revolución de los Claveles.

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