Let’s see what we’ve got in the ol’ mailbag…
An anonymous “family member” of the late Ty Longley, who doesn’t specify whether he has in mind the nuclear, the extended, the Family of Headbangers, or the Family of Man, takes exception to my discussion of Mr. Longley’s alleged second career:
Um, dude, I am a family member of Ty’s and can personally attest, that he is not the “Tybo” in porn. First of all, try searching under the porn name Tybo on the internet….it’s a chic [sic].
Le Freak, c’est chic! But fair enough, especially since my original source was a porn blog — like you were expecting The New York Times. I take Mr. Member’s advice, and plug “Tybo” and “porn” into Google, noting with alarm that my own item is the first entry. Eventually I happen on this, which is a bit sketchy, but it looks like the right Ty Bo, since the dates, 1999-2000, coincide with the dates in my source. Trouble is, the URL includes “gender=m,” so I’m willing to wager this is not a chic we’re discussing. And really, what female porn star in her right mind would call herself “Ty Bo” anyway?
Until further notice, then, God of the Machine regrets that we are unable to regret the error.
On a more serious note, Casey Fahy (scroll down a bit, and, um, dude, get some permalinks) wants to know why I doubt the story about turning turkey guts into Texas tea. Presumably I would believe it if only I, like Casey, were an optimist. Why am I not an optimist? Take it away, Ambrose Bierce:
Optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, turkey guts. Well, I’m not a chemist, and neither is Casey, but Greg Hlatky is, and he’s read the patent. At any rate, the merits of this particular claim, which appear to be small, are beside the point. This is a matter not of optimism or pessimism, but of epistemology. Every day interested parties, like our “tall, well-tanned entrepreneur” of the Discover story, make pie-in-the-sky claims whose technical merits most of us are utterly unqualified to judge, even if we’re willing to do a lot of homework. You therefore have three choices. Door #1: Ask one or several people who might know and take their word for it (my choice in this case, by trusting Hlatky, but not always available). Door #2: Accept them out of hand. Door #3: Reject them out of hand. Rejection is provisional: you can always change your mind later if more evidence comes in. You’ve wait-listed the claim, so to speak. Acceptance is a different matter. No matter what private reservations you may harbor at the time, your brain files away the “fact” that, for instance, we can make oil out of turkey guts, and six months later you’ve forgotten what your doubts were, if you ever had them. A vast amount of error can be traced to this sort of “optimism.”
(Update: Gregory Hlatky, himself, comments.)