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Jay Gould’s Daughter

Musings on a multiplicity of Goulds and the foreverness of Peter Pan

Anna Gould's divorce procession

Anna Gould’s Day in Court (1906). The American railroad heiress, on the dissolution of her marriage with Paul Ernest Boniface de Castellane. They divorced in 1906, after Boni had spent about $10 million of her family’s money. The bouquet is made of indictments against her husband. (click the picture for full reveal)

Jay Gould’s daughter said before she died,
“There are four more things I’d like to ride:
A bicycle, a tricycle, an automobile,
And a bow-legged cowboy on a Ferris wheel.”

— to the tune of Casey Jones

Jay Goulds

abound in the annals of America—two at least. This impressed me as worthy of a mention as one of them, Stephen Jay Gould, was one of the few Yankee/Red Sox rooters to tread the earth whilst considering its millennial doings. The other (and don’t feel left out if you are one of the Jay Goulds we have had to pass over in the service of brevity, Oprah will have something nice for you after the show) was a rabid capitalist robber baron of who had tons of money and no social skills, but an interesting daughter.

Anna Gould (1878-1961)—wife of Marie Ernest Paul Boniface “Boni” de Castellane, Marquis de Castellane, and Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord, duc de Sagan—whose name would survive in railroading lore long after her death.

After her shedding her first Continental honeybear (left), there  was a litany of indulgences Anna Gould sought from her father:

Jay Gould’s daughter said before she died
“Papa, fix the blinds so the bums can’t ride.
If ride they must, let them ride the rods.
Let them put their trust in the hands of God.”

In Stephen Jay (not the railroad robber baron) Gould’s book The Panda’s Thumb, his essay “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?” starts out with a quote from Muhammad Ali (on flunking his military induction intelligence test), “I only said I was the greatest; I never said I was the smartest.” I was delighted. Muhammad Ali’s gifts were his left hook and speaking truth to power when there was much riding on him keeping quiet, the stuff of heroes. I had discovered in Stephen Jay Gould a fellow postulant in the Mother Church of the Cosmic Giggle.

Some Thoughts from Famous Goulds

It was the custom when men received nominations to come to me for contributions, and I made them and considered them good paying investments for the company. In a Republican district I was a strong Republican; in a Democratic district I was Democratic, and in doubtful districts I was doubtful. In politics I was an Erie Railroad man all the time.

— Jay Gould of railroad fame, the father of Anna

Mozart died too late rather than too soon.

— Glenn Gould, a pianist, he defined stereo for the CBC

I usually start with a repulsive character and go on from there.

— Chester Gould, creator of Dick Tracy

I was a tap dancer as a child, so I understand precision and repetition.

— Elliott Gould, actor

Yet another vindication of dinosaurian capability has received very little attention, [...] I refer to the issue of stupidity and its correlation with size. The revisionist interpretation, which I support in this column, does not enshrine dinosaurs as paragons of intellect, but it does maintain that they were not small brained after all. They had the "right-sized" brains for reptiles of their body size.

— Stephen Jay Gould

Football, Facebook, NASCAR and Asperger’s

As we teeter at the edge of an extinction brought about by heedless consumerism and mindless captains of industry, let us pause a moment and celebrate Peter Pan. After all, just how dumb have we had to be to get this far?

“In development, timing is of the utmost importance, and the timing of developmental processes often changes as organisms evolve. In human evolution, developmental retardation, or neoteny, has been proposed as a possible mechanism that contributed to the rise of many human-specific features, including an increase in brain size and the emergence of human-specific cognitive traits.

“Which means that the social orientation (obsession) of modern social types (typified by Americans) is the product of extreme neoteny; neoteny is evident in a lack of logic, rationality, analytical thinking and effective problem-solving, which are absent in everyday life and most seriously, in our political leaders. ‘Juvenile’ neotenic behavior is evident in the inability to recognize that facts and physical reality exist. Instead, emotions are paramount; self absorption is rampant, magical thinking prevails, action is missing, narcissitic orientation is ‘normal’, and worship of childlike celebrities is a substitute for adult models and personal development. Adult children never leave home but remain dependent on parental support. Violence is characteristic of juvenile males; violent behavior usually decreases as males age, but today ‘frivolous violence’ is the perpetual activity of neotenic males and is encouraged by popular culture.”

Quoted: source
Abstract: (PubMed.gov)

George W. Bush and the End of Days

Ronald Reagan, a movie cowboy from the 1980s (like Casey Jones, a good ol’ rounder but he’s dead and gone), has been granted near godlike status by his acolytes. I submit he was a boob with a great script writer. Likewise Dubbya, except for the great scriptwriter part. [Reagan winged it at his press conferences, a dubious option. Remember this Reagan quote?] To paraphrase Dr. Gould (and deflect his original context in “Were Dinosaurs Dumb” cf. his Panda’s Thumb collection): “The crests of some hadrosaurs are well designed as resonating chambers; did they engage in bellowing matches? Slow wit is the tragic flaw of a giant.” Does Ronald Reagan’s Brylcreem flip bring joy to compare with the Trump comb-over crest? Even here in the trailing days of the anthropocene the Reagan shade still gibbers at the full moon.

Do we instinctively seek out dim-witted leaders? Is there a protective group-think that compels us to promote those from whom we have least to fear to the front of the pack, where they can do us great harm? Seems so. The conveyor belt of reality is moving so slowly that we think we are standing still, hence the bucolic caesura in which we dwell is not post-evolutionary; we may yet learn to breathe under water at temperatures that liquefy our brains. Just remember the slogan of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade: Believe. But here come the flagellants, and out front is our alpha male: the biggest, the loudest and meanest, the most bemuscled—a tempting canape for a pissed-off predator or prowling übermensch. And we, the pack, get the leftover bits. Yummy, the wild dogs have left us kibble. This is of course prehistory and not post-evolutionary time, a fable (see below) at the brink of our race’s extinction. Today we can only hope there may be a successor species. An ant, a bacterium, something cuddly perhaps. Aha! A panda. Just the thing. Let us pause and ponder Andy Panda and the Gould called Stephen Jay.

No Chickens Need Apply

“Ontogeny phylogeny fat old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes nine, sometimes ten
Plop ’em in the hat for the railroad men...”

“Ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution-paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.”

— p.20 The Panda’s Thumb, More Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1980

Allan Bridge

Stephen Jay Gould

“Giant pandas are peculiar bears, members of the order Carnivora. Conventional bears are the most omnivorous representatives of their order, but pandas have restricted this catholicity of taste in the other direction-they belie the name of their order by subsisting almost entirely on bamboo. They live in dense forests of bamboo at high elevations in the mountains of western China. There they sit, largely unthreatened by predators, munching bamboo ten to twelve hours each day.

“As a childhood fan of Andy Panda, and former owner of a stuffed toy won by some fluke when all the milk bottles actually tumbled at the county fair, I was delighted when the first fruits of our thaw with China went beyond ping pong to the shipment of two pandas to the Washington zoo. I went and watched in appropriate awe. They yawned, stretched, and ambled a bit, but they spent nearly all their time feeding on their beloved bamboo. They sat upright and manipulated the stalks with their forepaws, shedding the leaves and consuming only the shoots. I was amazed by their dexterity and wondered how the scion of a stock adapted for running could use its hands so adroitly. They held the stalks of bamboo in their paws and stripped off the leaves by passing the stalks between an apparently flexible thumb and the remaining fingers. This puzzled me. I had learned that a dexterous, opposable thumb stood among the hallmarks of human success. We had maintained, even exaggerated, this important flexibility of our primate forebears, while most mammals had sacrificed it in specializing their digits. Carnivores run, stab, and scratch. My cat may manipulate me psychologically, but he’ll never type or play the piano.

“So I counted the panda’s other digits and received an even greater surprise: there were five, not four. Was the panda’s “thumb” a separately evolved sixth finger? Fortunately, the giant panda has its bible, a monograph by D. Dwight Davis, late curator of vertebrate anatomy at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. It is probably the greatest work of modern evolutionary comparative anatomy, and it containsmore than anyone would ever want to know about pandas. Davis had the answer, of course.”

— p.21 The Panda’s Thumb, More Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1980

“If complex consciousness has evolved but once in the admittedly limited domain of known evidence, how can anyone defend the inevitability of its convergent evolution? I don’t know how else to interpret the cardinal fact that life did originate on earth almost as soon as environmental conditions permitted such an event—an indication, although surely not a proof, of reasonable expectation and predictability; whereas consciousness has evolved only once, and in a marginal lineage among so many million that have graced our planet’s history—an indication, although again not a proof, that such a phenomenon is not inevitably meant to be.

“The Burgess Shale, in the Canadian Rockies, contains the world’;s most important fossil fauna—a detailed and exquisite record (with rarely preserved soft parts included) of marine life about 520 million years ago, just following the Cambrian explosion.”

— from Showdown on the Burgess Shale, a defense of Wonderful Life (W. W. Norton, 1989)

The League of Misplaced Moms

Psychologist Dan Kiley, who defined ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ in 1983, also used the term ‘Wendy Syndrome’ to describe women who act like mothers with their partners or people close to them.“Wendy is the woman behind Peter Pan. There must be someone who deals with the things Peter Pan doesn’t do in order for Peter Pan to exist.”

The syndrome is not currently considered a psychopathology. However, an increasingly larger number of adults are presenting emotionally immature behaviors in Western society. They are unable to grow up and take on adult responsibilities, and even dress up and enjoy themselves as teenagers when they are over 30 years old.

Humbelina Robles Ortega, professor of the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment of the University of Granada and an expert in emotional disorders, warns that the overprotection of parents can lead children who haven’t developed the necessary skills to confront life to develop the Peter Pan Syndrome. “it usually affects dependent people who have been overprotected by their families and the ‘Peter Pans’ of present society “see the adult world as very problematic and glorify adolescence, which is why they want to stay in that state of privilege.”

The researcher from the UGR says Wendy “makes every decision and takes on the responsibilities of her partner, thus justifying his unreliability. We can find Wendy people even within the immediate family: the overprotecting mothers.” The biggest disadvantage of both disorders (Peter Pan and Wendy Syndromes) is usually that the person who suffers from them doesn’t feel as though they are part of the problem, they are not aware of it.

Science Daily op. cit.

A Sort of a Fable

That their infant child might be named Burgess had delighted his parents-to-be at the moment of conception.

“Burgess it is,” said Miles Shales, referencing Wonderful Life, a book by Stephen Jay Gould.

“You are only trying to humor me,” said Kathy Shales.

“This is true,” Miles replied; his wife was pleased and bit his ear. “He will be a Coelacanth, a trilobite, something. He shall live forever.”

“Cool. See this glass of water? In it are most likely millions of microorganisms, the soul of my monster son among them.” Kathy swallowed the glass’ contents, Burgess and all.

NOTES and ADDENDA:

For John Gould, another Gould, but no relation, look here.

Being More Infantile May Have Led to Bigger Brains (Scientific American)

The blind is an enclosed box behind the coal car where crews sleep. On freight trains the blinds are cars not designated for passengers.

Bucolic Caesura. That’s Greek. A dactylic foot in poetic meter—one long followed by two short, unstressed syllables. Bump-titty, in English. Mrs. Weatherwax in 7th grade Latin class told me I’d be using this later on.

Mother Church of the Cosmic Giggle: Thanks to Ron MacKechnie, 35-year morning announcer at WQDY-AM, Calais, Maine, where he and I discussed life, the universe and everything as we waited for the filaments to warm up. Ron, a Baptist minister, is gone now, but the answer is still 42 (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and no, it’s not supposed to mean anything in particular). And yes, we were friends who agreed on the futility of religion.

Remember this Reagan quote? “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”

“Hand the children death and pretend that it’s exciting [...]
Just like Oliver North introduced us to cocaine
In the 80’s when the bricks came on military planes...”
— Killer Mike, Reagan (2012)

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