Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 10th, 2021

Craig Ferguson speaks from the heart — worth watching

leave a comment »

This is from 11 years ago, but still relevant.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 6:11 pm

She Lived Through the Capitol Attack. Now This GOP Staffer Is Calling Out Her Friends’ Conspiracies.

leave a comment »

Cameron Joseph reports in Vice News:

As pro-Trump rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, GOP aide Leslie Shedd helped barricade her office door with a couch and prayed she and her colleagues wouldn’t have to use the two baseball bats they’d found as makeshift weapons. 

That’s when the misinformation started pouring in.

As friends and family texted to make sure she was safe, two claimed in separate conversations that the rioters were really left-wing agitators in disguise, not the Trump supporters who’d flocked by the thousands to a rally where the president claimed the election was stolen from him. A third floated a conspiracy theory involving the Capitol Police.

“People online saying it could be antifa dressed as MAGA people,” one friend wrote, arguing it was really “BLM and antifa people” and citing a debunked story that a busload of antifascists had been spotted at the U.S. Capitol.

Shedd, the GOP’s House Foreign Affairs Committee communications director, let him have it.

“I’m locked in my office still and two bombs were blown up within two blocks of my office and like five blocks from my house, and a woman died,” she messaged him. “I really can’t go down the insane conspiracy debunking thing right now. This was MAGA people and Trump supporters 100%. That is a fact.”

Most Americans don’t have a harrowing personal tale from the day of the Capitol insurrection, but anyone with conservative friends and family on Facebook knows that Shedd’s online interactions aren’t all that unusual. One-third of Americans have seen posts on Facebook or other platforms supporting those who stormed into the Capitol, three-quarters of Republicans believe the myth that there was widespread voter fraud in the last election, and a quarter of Republicans at least partly believe in QAnon, according to recent polls. If they’re not willing to hear out a friend who actually works in the government—and personally witnessed the Capitol Hill riots—who will they listen to?

The wake-up call

Shedd used to politely change the topic when friends would float fringe right-wing conspiracy theories, and she usually ignored fringey Facebook posts from high school or college friends from back in her home state of South Carolina. But the attacks on the Capitol were a wake-up call. 

“I sat down and thought about what responsibility I have for what happened. What role did I play in January 6 happening? I always tried to be honest and forthcoming with people,” she told VICE News. “I’m a communicator. This is my job. I of all people should use my skill to figure out ways to politely push back on disinformation of any kind, even if that makes me uncomfortable or upsets people.”

Since the Capitol attack, Shedd says she’s had more than a dozen conversations with friends trying to knock down their conspiratorial beliefs. No, the election wasn’t stolen by Democrats. No, the Capitol rioters weren’t a false flag operation. No, QAnon isn’t real.

“I want to throw something out there as someone who works for the federal government and on Capitol Hill and has worked for multiple national and statewide campaigns,” she posted on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Turns out all our lives are generally boring because – spoiler alert – there is NO mass conspiracy within the government. QAnon is a cult.”

“Do you think that I am a pedophile that also eats children?” she continued. “If not, stop listening to anyone who ‘supports’ or claims to be QAnon adjacent or spreads QAnon beliefs to you.”

When some conservatives accused New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of exaggerating her own story of surviving Jan. 6, Shedd defended her:

“That’s what it felt like. People were running and making loud noises in the hallway, alarms are going off and any noise you hear is terrifying. They’ve gotten into your building,” Shedd told VICE News in defense of AOC.

Shedd was in the same building as Ocasio-Cortez on the day of the attack. She spent January 6 huddled in her Rayburn House Office Building office with her boss, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, and a half-dozen staffers. When the building was locked down, they barricaded the main door with a couch and propped chairs against the other exterior doors.

The emergency alarm of the building entrance kept blaring, just down the hallway from their office. They heard banging. At one point, they heard a “mad rush” of yelling people run down the hall outside their office. Shedd isn’t sure if it was cops or rioters. They took in a refugee—a friend of Shedd’s who’d been trapped when the building locked down and was hiding under a set of stairs because they couldn’t get back to their office.

Before she left the office, Shedd posted on Facebook to let her friends know she was safe—and to put on notice the GOP lawmakers who were preparing to vote against certifying the election results.

“To those Members who supported this farce, I hope you seriously look at what happened today. Your words and your actions have consequences. And the violence we have seen today is what happens when people in power purposefully mislead the public,” she warned.

Shedd got home, had a large glass of wine, and passed out. It wasn’t until the next day that the emotional toll of the day hit her, when she burst into tears during a phone call with her parents.

“People who were actually in the Capitol building definitely had a much bigger threat against them and were in a worse situation,” she said. “I’m grateful I wasn’t in the Capitol building. But being locked down in our offices like that, not knowing what’s going on and not knowing what’s going on—it was very, very frightening.”

Shedd is uniquely positioned to convince some people to think harder about their views. She’s a longtime GOP staffer who voted for Trump and has worked on a conservative presidential campaign (Carly Fiorina in 2015), a major Senate race (Ohio in 2018), for a large state party (the Georgia GOP in 2014), and for three conservative Republican congressmen. If her friends aren’t going to listen to the mainstream media, at least they’ll hear her out, right?

“For some people, it probably helps to hear someone like me say these things,” she said.

Experience doesn’t count

But she’s frustrated she’s not making more progress. A lot of the conversations, she said, have been like “beating my head against a wall.” At one point she wrote a three-page email debunking a series of false claims about the election only to have her friend respond with other disinformation. Half of the conversations have been about . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

That last paragraph describes something I’ve noted is fairly common: people faced by a refutation simply ignore it and move on to make other arguments, never responding to the arguments presented to them. When that happens, communication seems impossible: such a person is set to “transmit” with “receive” being out of operation.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 1:39 pm

How to create compelling characters

leave a comment »

Psyche has a reasonably long and quite interesting article on creating fictional characters. The author:

Kira-Anne Pelican, is a writer, educator and script consultant, specialising in helping writers develop more compelling films and TV series through insights from evidence-based psychology. She is the author of The Science of Writing Characters: Using Psychology to Create Compelling Fictional Characters(2020). She lives in London.

I would guess that her article draws heavily on her book. The article begins:

Need to know

It’s first thing in the morning, I’ve plenty to do but I can’t stop thinking about Nicole Kidman’s character from the American TV series I watched last night, The Undoing. It’s a psychological thriller, and Kidman was mesmerising. When written well, characters seize our attention and compel us to engage. They stay in our minds long after we’ve closed the pages of our novel, binge-watched the entire box set, or exited the auditorium. We mull over their relationships, wonder if they did the right thing, and ponder how they might behave in different scenarios. But why is it that some characters are more compelling than others?

Perhaps you’re a writer struggling to create your own captivating characters. Or maybe you’re an avid consumer of novels, films and TV dramas and you’re intrigued that made-up people can cast such a spell on you. Either way, I believe that scientific psychology can offer a fresh, illuminating perspective and I’m going to show you how.

Many books that discuss the craft of writing fiction suggest that the best approach towards creating engaging characters is by ensuring that they are believable, complex and flawed. Suggestions typically include drawing on personal observation, giving the main character conflicting conscious and unconscious goals, and developing an interesting character backstory. One of the most influential books of this genre is Aspects of the Novel (1927) by the English author E M Forster. In it, he argued that the most engaging characters move us emotionally because they feel real, and continue to surprise us as we turn the pages of the text. Describing these complex characters as ‘round’, Forster included as prime examples Madame Bovary, the romantic heroine from Gustave Flaubert’s novel of the same name, as well as characters written by Jane Austen.

By contrast, Forster proposed that ‘flat’ characters have just two or three pronounced character traits, can be summarised by a single sentence, and are incapable of moving us in any way other than through humour. When confined to secondary roles, these flat characters support the main story without distracting the reader. However, to Forster, the most compelling characters capture the full complexity of being human. They also transform and surprise us in believable ways.

Along with Forster, many other writerly guides offer similar advice about the importance of creating complexity in characters – but what is ‘complexity’ in this context, and how do we go about creating characters who are at once surprising but psychologically credible? As a psychology graduate-turned-writer, these questions intrigued me during my doctoral research. Early in my writing career, I received notes on one of my screenplays from a respected script consultant. They were full of excellent observations and useful suggestions, except on the area of character. I was in full agreement that my character needed more complexity and was missing something, but these comments alone were too vague to be useful. What I needed was to better understand what complexity means in a character, and with that to recognise what specifically was missing from my character and how to go about fixing it.

Although some literary critics have resisted the idea that fictional characters are anything more than textual constructions (ie, a writer’s device or tool), an alternative approach – and one that I find far more useful for practitioners – is to treat them as akin to real people. Since most writers intend for their fictional characters to be proxies of their human counterparts, it arguably makes sense to examine and understand their characters through many of the same scientific models used by psychologists to understand real people. More specifically, the field of personality psychology is likely to be especially illuminating because writers characterise their fictional personae by describing their thoughts, feelings, motivations and behaviours – the exact same set of factors that psychologists see as making up personality.

The most widely supported scientific model of personality is the ‘Big Five’. The approach originated with the US psychologists Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal, and was further developed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae and others. These pioneers built on the idea that the attributes of personality that we consider to be most important must be encoded in everyday language. They used factor analysis on personality survey data to reveal five broad semantic groupings among the words that we use to describe each other, and these have become the Big Five traits or personality dimensions: extraversion-introversion, agreeableness-disagreeableness, neuroticism-emotional stability, conscientiousness-unconscientiousness, and openness to experience-closed to experience. The idea is that these dimensions are independent of each other, so the degree to which a person rates on one dimension has no bearing on how they rate on any other dimension.

By applying this framework to our understanding of what roundedness means in relation to fictional characters, we gain an immensely useful approach for fictional character analysis and problem solving. This five-factor model allows writers to examine whether they’ve characterised their fictional personae across all five dimensions of personality, and whether they’ve achieved this consistently enough through their text to create the sense of another being. In addition, the Big Five model illuminates the way that people typically transform throughout their lives ­– writers can use this knowledge to create more believable character transformations in fiction, and consumers of fiction might find it intriguing to reflect on the evolution of their favourite characters in the context of what’s known about real-life personality change.

The Big Five model also gives us insights into why some characters are more compelling than others. In reality, the range of scores across all personality dimensions are normally distributed in a population (similar to height or weight), and so the majority of people that we meet are moderately extraverted, moderately agreeable, moderately conscientious, moderately neurotic and moderately open to experience. They’re likely to make less of an impression because they’re rather average. By contrast, people are more likely to stand out from the crowd if they score towards the extremes of at least one or two of the dimensions. Such characters are compelling because they’re unlike the majority of people we meet every day. Whether real or imagined, we’re more likely to remember these individuals, precisely because they’re different.

What to do

Audit your character on the Big Five dimensions

When meeting someone for the first time, often the first personality dimension to make an impression on us is extraversion. Extraverts are outward-facing and gain energy from their social interactions. Full of life, they seize the limelight and compel us to watch. They’re generally warm, gregarious, active, assertive and upbeat characters who are drawn to excitement. Fictional examples are plentiful – from Becky Sharp, the cynical social climber from William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair (1847-48), through the inventor-cum-superhero Tony Stark from the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise (2008-). At the other end of this spectrum, introverts are more serious in nature, and gain energy from spending quiet time alone or in the company of close friends or family. While extraverts use big, assertive actions and extensive dialogue to grab our attention, introverts can be equally compelling precisely because they reveal so little. Written well, they’ll leave the reader wanting to discover more about them. Take, for example, Mr Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet’s aloof romantic interest from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (1813), or Little/Chiron/Black, the highly sympathetic son of a crack addict from the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight (2016).

A second dimension that we pick up rapidly in others is agreeableness. People who are agreeable are typically kind, trusting, cooperative, straightforward, humble and tenderminded – qualities that we generally like in others. We repeatedly see these traits in sympathetic characters such as Samwell Tarly, steward on the Night Watch in George R R Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-), and the female lead in Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Annie Hall (1977). By contrast, disagreeable people are typically more selfish, opinionated, suspicious, competitive, arrogant and sometimes devious. Unsurprisingly, antagonists will usually score highly on disagreeableness. However, some subtraits associated with disagreeableness are also useful in creating strong protagonists. Think about the leading character Mildred Hayes from the BAFTA Award-winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Blunt, single-minded and without any concern for who she’s going to offend on her way, Hayes wins over our sympathies when we learn that she’s fighting for justice for her daughter who was raped and murdered. Strength of character often comes from the determination to fight for what’s right and a refusal to compromise.

A third dimension, neuroticism, relates to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including (at the end) a selection of useful llinks.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 11:28 am

Mystic Water’s Jeff’s Lavender and a rematch with the Yaqi double-open comb

leave a comment »

The double possessive brought to mind George Starbuck’s sonnet “On First Looking in on Blodgett’s Keats’s “Chapman’s Homer” (Summer. 1/2 credit. Monday 9-11.)” quoted in an earlier post.

The lid is slightly off center. I bought the puck by itself and a tub separately and realized after placing the label that the label was too large for the tub I used, so I trimmed the edge away for the label to fit — thus the off-center appearance.

The puck was smaller than the tub and fit loosely, but that was easily remedied: I cut a slab from the top of the puck and then, after placing the puck in the tub, pressed strips of soap cut from the slab around the puck to hold it in place and fill the tub so there were no gaps. The soap is flexible, so this was easy.

The lavender fragrance was pleasantly noticeable but not aggressive. Mystic Water shaving soaps are tallow-based, and this soap includes shea butter and lanolin, so the effect on the skin is good. Other ingredients include “stearic acid, sustainably sourced organic palm oil, avocado oil, aloe vera, bentonite clay, silk protein, allantoin, and extra glycerin.”

The soap lathers quite well. On her site she provides lathering instructions:

1. Soak your shaving brush in warm water for at least a couple minutes. While your brush is soaking, place a teaspoon or two of water on top of the soap to help soften it. It helps if you have previously “roughed up” the surface of the soap, which allows the brush to pick up soap more easily.

2. Give your brush a few shakes or a gentle squeeze and get some – but not all – of the water out of the brush. Some say that it is better to err on the side of less water prior to loading your brush, as you will be adding more water later, but if the brush is too dry it won’t be able to pick up soap at all so please experiment to discover what works best with your brush.

3. Dump the excess water off the soap, then take your brush to the soap and begin to swirl lightly, loading soap into the brush for approximately 40 seconds (a good starting point, adjust as necessary). Your brush should look fully loaded with thick creamy soap proto-lather. If your lather is watery and shows many visible bubbles at this point, you either have not loaded enough soap or have too much water in your brush.

4. Take the loaded brush to your bowl (or face) and begin swirling gently and calmly. Once the lather looks uniformly thick, add a few drops of water either manually (by dripping a few drops of water into the brush or your bowl) or by dipping the very tips of the brush into the water.

5. Continue calmly swirling until the water is fully incorporated and the lather has no visible bubbles. If more water is required, do the same thing again, each time incorporating the water fully before adding more, until your lather reaches the desired thickness.

6. To really make your lather pop, once it reaches the desired thickness on your face, use side to side (or up and down) paint brush type strokes with your brush. In a short time you will be rewarded with a thick slick lather that will give you a close, comfortable shave.

I disagree with some of those instructions, based on my own experience. Specifically:

  1. There is no point in soaking a badger or synthetic brush. Soaking (i.e., wetting the knot thoroughly and letting the brush stand, sopping wet, for a few minutes) is needed only for boar and horsehair brushes. There is also no point or need in putting some water on the soap to soak, not is there any reason to rough up the surface of the soap: it is quite easy to load a damp brush on a dry smooth hard shaving soap (a triple-milled soap) and even easier on a softer soap like Mystic Water soap. Note, however, that water softness helps a lot (thus the popularity of water softeners in hard-water areas — not just for shaving, but also to preserve plumbing (hard water is hard on pipes, water heaters, faucets, and other plumbing) and help washing machines and dishwashers do their job. For shaving, hard water can be softened by dissolve a pinch (very little is needed) of citric acid in a sink half-filled with water.
  2. It is important to shake a wet brush before loading. If the brush has too much water, the excess water floods the puck and prevents good loading. Wet the brush under the hot water tap (even for boar and horsehair brushes, which have been soaked — the hot water will heat the brush again), give it two or three good shakes, then begin loading.
  3. There will be no water on the soap if you use my approach. Don’t brush the soap “lightly” but briskly and firmly. Within seconds, you see soap moving into the brush. You may have to add a driblet of water, particularly for hard soaps that contain clay and especially if the brush has a large knot (e.g., the Omega Pro 48). You do not want much water, though, or the lather will be loose. Experience and experimentation will quickly help you determine whether you need additional water and how much.
  4. Lathering in a bowl can be helpful in that it allows you to study the process of lather development and to experiment by adding small amounts of water and seeing the effect of that. I found that once I had a good grasp of the process, the bowl was no longer needed and I now lather on my face.
  5. I don’t know that much swirling is needed, but I do spend time brushing the lather on my face and into the stubble, partly because I enjoy it but also to give the lather time to do its job. I brush back and forth, briskly and firstly.
  6. I always brush side-to-side and sometimes up-and-down. How else would you brush?

This brief video shows me loading a brush as I describe. I used a soft brush and a hard dry puck (Mitchell’s Wool Fat in this case) whose surface was smooth. The soap had not been used for a long time, and the puck was totally dried out. (Mitchell’s Wool Fat is a tallow-based soap that’s much harder than Mystic Water soaps.)

In the Guide I have more detailed instructions regarding lathering and more information on brushes, soaps, water, and other aspects of shaving.

I found Mystic Water quite easy to lather using the method shown in the video. No added water was needed this morning — in fact, I could have given the brush another shake before loading and probably had better lather.

I checked that the razor head was tightly screwed on and shaved with comfort and delight, producing a perfectly smooth face with no damage and indeed no threat of damage very quickly — quite a contrast with yesterday’s shave with the same model of razor.

A splash of West Coast Perfumery’s Lavender Water, and the day begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 10:07 am

Posted in Daily life

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: