The Goth on Ice is Back!

It’s taken a long time for me to fully recover from the auto accident I was in at the end of January. Concussion from the accident, then pushing too hard to get back to soon leading to setbacks in the recovery and…well, it took time but eventually I got back onto the ice in a limited fashion: nothing that involved any fast head movement, nothing that pushed limits which could lead to a fall, and if the “mental effort” required to skate starts going up it’s time to stop for the day.

Recently I hit a milestone that cleared me for return to full activity. After discussion with my treatment provider, we decided that a good marker is if I could regularly skate 30 minutes without any concussion symptoms (including that marked increase in the “mental effort” required to skate) then I should be good to go. (Please note, this is not medical advice. Consult your own health care provider before returning to the ice after any injury, but especially after a concussion.

One of the things I have been working on in particular has been my two-foot spin. It’s still kind of hit or miss. It happened to “hit” when I was testing for completion of Adult 5 so I passed that…the last element I needed to complete the level. I am now, unequivocally, in Adult 6:

Adult 6

  • Forward stroking with crossover end patterns (Not included in Basic) √
  • Backward stroking with crossover end patterns (Backward stroking is Basic 6, the “crossover end patterns” is not included)
  • Forward inside three-turn, R and L (Basic 6)
  • Forward outside to inside change of edge on a line, R and L (Not included in Basic) (I will note that my current instructor is treating this as “power pulls” which are a different technique but the name in the instructional materials changed from “Forward outside to inside change of edge on a line” to “Beginning power pulls”)
  • T-stop, R or L (Basic 6: R and L)
  • Lunge (Basic 4) √
  • Two-foot spin into one-foot spin (Basic 6)

(Items in bold are the things I’ve already completed.)

Here’s an example of some recent work with spins. It’s not the best I’ve done but a big improvement over where I was. In particular I’m finding the “sweet spot” on the blade a lot more commonly than I was before:

One of the things my instructor had us do in a recent class was this exercise where we were doing forward edges around one of the hockey circles then deepen the edge, which involved deepening the knee bend, so you skate a tighter circle inside the hockey circle and tangential to it. When you return to the hockey circle, you open up the edge a bit and continue on the hockey circle. It looks something like this (forgive the poor artwork):

As I understand it, that’s about control of your edges. I’ve been practicing it some during my public skate sessions. I can hold my forward edges pretty much until I coast to a near stop. Backward…not so much. Still working on that. One online coach recommends as an initial exercise for a more advanced technique than anything I’m working on right now (Back spin, to be precise), doing a backward outside edge while holding the spin body position, all the way around one of the hockey circles. And while I’m not anywhere near ready to start working on back spins (Free-Skate 2, 3 levels above where I am now), I don’t think it’s too early to work on holding my back edges for an extended period.

The other thing I have been working on is the forward inside three-turn. It remains a challenge, in part because I’ve been doing it wrong. That means I now have a bad habit to unlearn before I can start doing it right.

Still…looking back it’s hard to imagine how far I’ve come in just over two years.

Types of Tyranny

Tyrants come in three basic flavors. In order from least bad to worst:
First you have those who have no goal other than their own aggrandizement. They are the ones who want power and wealth for themselves and are pretty open about that being their goal. Most tyrants in history were of this variety. They conquered neighboring lands to increase the tax base so they can have more comforts and luxuries. And if the peasants starve, that’s no problem to them, so long as they get their portion.

This kind of tyrant is almost refreshing in his honesty. You know where you stand with this kind of tyrant. He’s largely predictable. And, when it comes right down to it, people other than the tyrant and his sycophants really have no problem with folk fighting back against this kind of tyrant…provided you win.

(From the mini-series “Shogun”:

Toranaga: “Tsukku-san says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago. Is that true?”
Blackthorne: “Yes.”
Toranaga: “Therefore, the Netherlands – your allies – are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?”
Blackthorne: “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes, but –
Toranaga: “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?”
Blackthorne: “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti- “
Toranaga: “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord!”
Blackthorne: “Unless you win.”
Toranaga looked at him intently. Then laughed uproariously. “Yes, Mister Foreigner…you have named _the one _mitigating factor.”

The second type is a bit more subtle. This type of tyrant is adept at coming up with excuses for why his tyranny is “for the greater good”. You need to give up a little freedom here…for the greater good. You need to pay more in taxes…for the greater good. You can’t have this…for the greater good. You can’t do that…for the greater good.

And one “greater good” after another and soon you find yourself in a straitjacket so tight you can’t breath.

The problem here is that many people buy into the “greater good” arguments. And it’s always a “greater good” to come. When it doesn’t happen, as is the case most of the time, there’s always an excuse. And the excuse is usually whatever you had to give up for that “greater good” you didn’t give up enough. You have to give up more.

And the very extent that people, even those being restricted by the tyranny, believe the “greater good” argument, and if you resist the tyranny in their mind you are the “bad guy”. And, yes, even if you win, you remain the “bad guy” in their minds.

But in this type of tyranny the tyrant remains somewhat limited. He has to at least have some sort of plausible “greater good” for the tyrannies he wants to implement. It doesn’t have to be real, just plausible enough to convince people with limited information (and the tyrant always makes sure they have limited information). The tyrant doesn’t have to believe the arguments. Better, indeed, if he doesn’t (and we’ll get to that in a moment), but plenty of people will.

And so you don’t have to fight the tyrant, but all the people who willingly go along with him because they believe it’s for “the greater good.”

The third type, and the one who is truly the worst, is the true believer, the one who really does believe the tyranny is for “the greater good.” Whereas the non-believer has to concoct a plausible argument for why the tyrannies are necessary for the greater good, the true believer has no such limitation. The true believer only has to convince himself and the human capacity for self-delusion is without limits. While there are limits to how far the openly self-interested tyrant or the deceptive tyrant can go the self-deluded “world saver” seeking “the greater good” has none. He will fill the extermination camps with bodies, send millions to the gulags, “persecute to death” any number, and will feel virtuous doing so.

And his sincerity can be more convincing than the deliberate deception of the second type leading to thousands, even millions of willing accomplices in his tyranny.

Left vs. Right

Possibly the best representation I’ve seen yet although one might argue where the various societies actually fall on the curve. (I would submit that there is quite a bit less overlap between “Current ‘war’ addicted U.S.A.” and “Most of current Europe” than is shown.)

One could make it a single axis with government control and power to the left and individual liberty and responsibility to the right but by putting them on different axes you acknowledge that some societies can fall not on the curve shown but inside, between it and the axes, having less of both government control and power and individual liberty and responsibility. After all, it’s quite possible for a government to disproportionally restrict individual liberty relative to its overall size and power. Likewise it’s possible for people’s liberty to be restricted by means other than the government they live under. I have elsewhere used the example that being able to get on your roof with a rifle defending your home from barbarians is liberty. Having to constantly do so (and therefore not being able to be free to pursue other pursuits) because the barbarians are ubiquitous is not. Thus, it’s possible for a society to be inside the curve, between it and the axes. The curve, however, represents an outer limit. It is simply not possible to have a great deal of individual liberty and responsibility and a government with a lot of control and power.

But note down there at the lower right. “Threshold of impossibility”.

I have noted elsewhere that at some level someone will get together with some others and combine to impose their will by force on others. Unchecked, this becomes government, since that’s what government is, really, the license to use force to compel obedience. They vary endlessly in form and scope but that one point remains the defining factor.

When that group does get together, the only way to stop them is for others to get together. That requires organizing in defense against them. The problem there is the “free rider” problem. In a strictly voluntary organization an individual benefits not to pay for that organized defense, so long as somebody does. The problem is that each individual has that same incentive: let somebody else pay for it. This is the classic free-rider problem. The end result is either a few people end up disproportionately carrying the burden or the whole things falls apart. And so, those arranging the defense end up, they must end up, compelling contribution from others. And so you have government.

And so we have an irreducible minimum, kind of like a Zero Point Energy of government. You can’t completely get rid of government. Best you can hope to do is to keep it pruned back and kept to the ideals of “to secure these rights”.

Even that goal is highly optimistic and requires a great deal of “socialization” to responsible self rule to implement. We’re nowhere close to being able to implement such a thing. And, so, the best we can hope for is to maybe, with prodigious effort, move things fractionally in that direction.

And given the state of our electoral affairs, I’m not even sure that’s achievable in the short to medium term.

Inspiration from a Comic Book: A Blast from the Past.

Back when I was younger I practically lived for super hero comic books.  I lived vicariously the adventures of the heroes and heroines within them.  And before I grew up and got “respectable” I wanted to be a super hero and, if I may be frank, a part of me never really outgrew that.  And it’s with sadness that I realize I can’t, that the world doesn’t work that way and I would accomplish no more than to get myself stupidly killed accomplishing nothing.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t good inspiration that can be taken from comics.  And one of my favorites back before my general disaffection with comics (part of their generally becoming darker long about the mid 80’s–I pretty much drifted away after DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earth’s”) was Marvel’s Captain America.  Well, it was recently brought to my attention that as of the “Civil War” arc of a few years ago Cap was still a worthy source of inspiration:

“I remember the first time I really understood what it was to be an American…What it was to be a patriot.”

“I was just a kid…A million years ago, it seems sometimes. Maybe twelve. I was reading Mark Twain.

And he wrote something that struck me right down to my core…something so powerful, so true, that it changed my life. I memorized it so I could repeat it to myself, over and over across the years. He wrote –‘In a republic, who is the country?

Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. It’s function is to obey orders, not originate them.

Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command,  they have only their little share in the command.

In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.

It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians.

Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.

To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.

If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of’.”

Cap continues, “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.

When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world–

No you move.”

This, of course, isn’t the first stirring speech that Captain America made.  He was noted for them.  Another good one, involving his intervention in an altercation between a neo-Nazi group and a group of Jewish counter-protesters.  Protest and counter-protest quickly grows into riot.  Cap intervenes, breaking up the fight, and…

“All my life I’ve had a habit of making speeches.  Some people have criticized me for it.  They may be right.  Because I cannot express with words the horror I feel at seeing what you’ve done here today.

Don’t you realize that in your attack, you’ve attacked your own freedom as well?

The Freedom that guarantees all ideas–both noble and ignoble–the expression that is imperative if our society is to survive!

[TWIB:  speaking to Jewish protestor] You!  Can’t you see that in stooping to your enemy’s level–you’re being made over in his image–that you’re becoming the very thing you loathe?

[TWIB:  Speaking to Neo-nazi] And You!  In your fear and ignorance you deny reality!  Rewrite history!  I wish I could take you back with me to the day we liberated Diebenwald [TWIB:  Presume this is the name given to one of the death camps in the Marvel Universe]–let you smell the stomach-churning stench of death–let you see the mountain of corpses left behind by the corrupt madman and murderer you idolize!

You two aren’t interested in the truthare you?

You’re only interested in your own self-consuming hate.

Two of  a kind.

Even in short bits:

When a government functionary demanded that he submit himself to following government orders:

I’m not Captain President or Captain Government.  I’m Captain America.

Or when a General comments that he knows Captain America is loyal:

[TWIB:  Touching the hem of a flag] I’m loyal to nothing, General–except the dream.

Since then, the company that put those words in Cap’s mouth seemed bound and determined to destroy the very ideals he stood for.

But the old ones are still out there, and still worthy of being a good place to seek inspiration.

The dream…survives.