Positive Ape Factor

About 200 years ago, give or take a zero, I managed the sales division of a theatrical lighting company.  Most of us, including myself, had earned our chops climbing around in flylofts, swinging from light to light on the old, wooden, and impossibly high ladders large auditoriums use, and feats of skill and daring were sort of a way of life, providing endless fodder for war stories about the good old days, as we mostly by then just provided the equipment with which the new generation could play Tarzan.  One attribute that was particularly valuable to the stage monkey was a Positive Ape Factor.  You see, most humans have an arm span about equal to their height, which looked good in Da Vinci drawings but was nonetheless something of a handicap for a career backstage, meaning that those whose arms were unnaturally long were the fittest for survival; being able to hang and focus more lights, manipulate and touch up scenery, etc, from one ladder position was a decided advantage in the paradoxically backward evolution of the American (usually unionized) stagehand.  My P.A.F. (number of inches by which arm span exceeds height ) was a respectable 4, but there was this guy in rentals closer to 8, and even though he was short, we all looked up to him.

Outside the theatre, though, I can’t think of any place where the ability to pull up one’s socks without bending over has much advantage, unless perhaps you want to join the Republican Party.  Of course, their P.A.F. is, unfortunately, metaphorical, and they would no more use their Darwinian backwardness for any good use than they would use it to reach into their pockets.  These knuckle-draggers wear Playtex Living Gloves when they pretend to swing from the trees, and are thus opposed to a lot of crazy backtalk about evolution; it only points up their innate inferiority to their hairier forebears.  (No pun intended, natch…)

But honestly, I’d like to string a tape measure to that Rand Paul, he of the dismissively Darwinian “accidents happen,” who seems to exhibit less empathy toward his fellow primates than a rogue member of a chimp colony…  is he a product of Intelligent Design, or is he the Missing Link?  Inquiring minds want to know.  The two lil’ ol’ “accidents” to which he referred killed 40 human beings, and one is on its way to devastating a substantial portion of the biosphere, perhaps permanently.  Clearly, the guy leapt off the Darwin train about the time opposable thumbs came along, and never looked back.  He could have a P.A.F. of 10, and it wouldn’t be a valid excuse for this sort of behavior, which proved so detrimental to the Neanderthals that they went extinct.

One thing we higher apes know that Republicans refuse to accept is that from the time we came down from the trees, what made humans so (often confoundedly) successful was the cooperative action they undertook that came from being social animals who recognized collective needs and met them.  Hunting/Gathering is great, but when you get home, you’d like a little order, and stepping over the bodies of your clan doesn’t really advance this rather modest goal, nor does warring on the colony next door.

It seems like each day we hear, approvingly, about such pre-civilization travails as bartering with livestock, ritual and excessive child-bearing, and the unfortunate but necessary culling of the herd through privation, as though these concepts were, if not new, smart.  But if indeed we are returning to the law of the jungle, the proponents of this move clearly plan to just watch the spectacle on “Wild Kingdom.”


  1. michlib says:

    Republicans should at least be thanked for the shocking number of inconsistencies they babble with nary a harumph of irony. Thus the reich wing which recoils in horror from the notion of evolutionary “theory” being taught to students just adores the practice of social darwinism.
    Note well the corollary to the republic parties idea of ” ownership society ” carries with it the idea that if any misfortune in life besets you, expect no help from any govt. agency – that accident is your own bed, enjoy at your leisure. Any notion of being in the same boat, shared sacrifice or venture, is anathema to the ” have almost everythings “. But should that accident beset a financial or energy company, head snapping alacrity is employed to underwrite the free market masters victimized by ” unforeseen ” calamity. And all this is done with a straight face.

  2. retzilian says:

    Thank you for confirming to me that it’s the lack of empathy and depraved indifference that separates the merely narcissistic from the outright sociopathic.

    The Republican Party attracts, nurtures and rewards sociopaths.

  3. avelna says:

    “This is the schizophrenia I alluded to above: I want my freedom undiluted, and unhitched to responsibility, up and until the moment I need Big Brother to rescue me.” Quote from NYT Op-ed columnist Roger Cohen’s piece today.
    Indeed, the Rethugs attract, nurture and reward sociopaths – in many instances very confused, ignorant and just plain dumb sociopaths.

    • cocktailhag says:

      You and Retz are both spot on. It was what JK Galbraith once called “private luxury and public squalor,” and it comes from this mentality. Some of the stateliest and loveliest buildings in downtown Portland are City Hall, and the old Federal Building and the Custom House…. each over a hundred years old, hearkening back to an era of civic pride that has all but vanished today. We marvel at the extravagant walled compounds of the rich we see only in “shelter” (!) magazines, and we scream and yell if government constructs a building nicer than a trailer, even if we have to use the building for a generation.
      It’s worse than mere sociopathy; it’s self-destructive, too.

  4. dirigo says:

    “Private luxury and public squalor” indeed.

    Back East, I’ve observed over quite a few years the selling off of some well-built public structures, notably school buildings which were erected during the depression.

    In one egregious case, in New Haven, a quite fine elementary school, built way back when, was sold and converted to condos. Literally across the street the city then built, almost simultaneously, a new, one story elementary school, all in contemporary red brick, with no design resembling anything other than a large box on a slab: flat roof, all right angles, aluminum flashing all around the top of the walls, and large window units strung together laterally all around the building.

    Something Tom Wolfe gagged about some twenty years ago: a building with no character at all because design of any kind, apart from a floor plan, was an extra.

    Several old public school buildings in New Haven have been disposed of this way, and many others in the region.

    I don’t get it. It’s annoying.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I know what you mean… The fine and imposing grade and high schools I attended still are in use, but ruined by remodeling and window replacements. The only two dignified and academic buildings on the PSU campus, where I live, are a former grade school, lovingly restored, and the old Lincoln High School (Mel Blanc, of Bugs Bunny fame, went there…). The new Lincoln High is a crummy 1950′s cluster of ranch-style boxes a few blocks away, which wastes acres of downtown space on ball fields, etc.

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  6. sysprog says:

    Just shoot me.

    I’ve got cable now, after taking an offer I should’ve refused. Zillions of channels. For a quick news summary with my morning coffee today, I figured I’d go for quality, so I switched to the BBC World News channel and I got – - Bill Kristol talking dreamily about Ronnie and Maggie.

    • timothy3 says:

      Poor sysprog.

      I feel that pain. I have cable, too, and usually end up watching TCM or something. But I love the GOP free-market idea of having to pay for FoxNews. It’s like, say, having to foot the bill for BP’s oil-rig disaster.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Arrgh! There’s no escape. I’ve never had cable, or even a television, for my whole adult life, and stories like that confirm the wisdom of that choice. At least talk of Ronnie and Maggie are timely… all their demented dreams came true and look how it turned out. Kristol probably wasn’t the best person to discuss this, though. (or anything else, for that matter.)

  7. timothy3 says:

    Coupla things:

    Rand Paul, he of the dismissively Darwinian “accidents happen,”

    Wouldn’t you hate it if this guy was your opthamologist? Or that doctor in FL who put the sign in his window directing away from his practice any Obama voter?
    Such have forgotten their Hyocritical oaths–first, do no harm (but have remembered the corollary; and if you do, call it an accident).

    There are some lovely turn of the century schools here in Boise. One elementary was recently torn down because, while it was at one time in a rural part of the county, growth had sprung up, tumor-like, around it (and I say “tumor-like” because most of the building is just strip mall garbage).

    And, I should add because it’s really quite funny: You might’ve heard of the House GOP’s new apish plan called America Speaking Out where righties are invited to comment at the website and offer their grand ideas for the nation’s restoration.
    Among them:

    a poster on the site suggested repealing Section II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it was “UNCONSTITUTIONAL, PROGRESSIVE and HITLER.” [yes, they used Hitler as an adjective]. (That entry has since been shut down by the GOP.)


    The little addition of “progressive” is almost certainly the rotted fruit from the Beck Tree of Stupidity, he of “buy bullion NOW ’cause you can never have enough soup in the house.”

    Anyway, here’s the funny part, via ThinkProgress:

    After Saying House Republicans Will Listen With ‘America Speaking Out,’ Pence Says ‘It’s Not A Listening Tour’


    • cocktailhag says:

      I also heard that any suggestions that go against GOP dogma (like raising taxes) will not be permitted. So, they’re interested in having their old ideas reinforced, those oh-so-successful ones that turned out so well. Nice way to rebuild a discredited, disgraced party into a well, permanent minority party.

  8. dirigo says:

    I would like to know why the president hasn’t ordered the Navy to take over operations around the gulf oil gush and shut the fucker down.


  9. nailheadtom says:

    Oooooooh, kvetch, moan and groan! The country is dominated, in fact ruled, by a minority plutocracy of the evil REPUBLICANS, snatching bread crusts from the mouths of toddlers and building ugly buildings on the public dime, despite a Democratic congress for all but a fraction of the last century and the federal entitlement programs they initiated, administered by careerist bureaucrats, that will be sucking the blood of the country as long as the big dome stands on Capitol Hill. But, according to you simpletons, we need more and bigger government, financed by the confiscation of citizen’s (not you, other citizens) wealth, to keep those evil REPUBLICANS from stealing the country blind, turning the browner elements of the population onto the streets and reducing the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty into a moonscape.

    A filibuster-proof Democrat senate, an overwhelmingly Democrat house, and a Democrat president from the altruistic south side of Chicago should be able to get every member of the proletariat whatever they desire. How do the evil REPUBLICANS foil these wonderful people?

    • dirigo says:

      Sounds like a plan, Tom.

      Say, what’s up with this Nikki Haley? Any thoughts on that?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Try putting down you Ayn Rand blowup doll for a second there, Tom, and look out the window. We are complaining about actual public policy over which citizen have control, while you wax utopian about a society that has not and could never exist. Taxes and public works have been around since Babylon and before, and most humans think they are a good thing. Greedy, spiteful, and short-sighted rich people have been around, too, and everyone from Jesus to Teddy Roosevelt recognized them as a cancer. (Please, I implore you to read a book once in a while…)
      We may have a “Democrat” (thanks, Tail Gunner Joe, America’s most famous chicken hawk) Government, but most of it is almost as bought and paid for as the monstrous mess they tossed out. Please make a note of it. Tomorrow, we’ll work on the alphabet.

  10. dirigo says:

    And the hits just keep on comin’ …


    • cocktailhag says:

      That was pretty chilling, and I think, unduly generous to the Obama Administration, which has continued the “travesties.” Thanks for the article, Dirigo.