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... it does not follow thence, that they knew he gave light as soon as he rose.
March 8, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Did you remember to set your clocks? No? Ben Franklin wants to wake you up by the sound of cannon fire in every street.
posted by Flunkie (49 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ben Franklin was a douche.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, just snarky and witty. A very funny guy.
posted by MythMaker at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2009


The Parisians wake up every morning at the sound of a douche.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:24 AM on March 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would be A-OK with being woken up by cannon fire instead of my current situation of a garbage truck backing up, picking up a dumpster of bottles, dumping them onto the ground, with the driver then picking each bottle up individually from a height and smashing it against my window.

At least that's what it sounds like.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait, WTF? Cannon fire? What am I missing?
posted by nasreddin at 10:30 AM on March 8, 2009


what a jerk.

(truly the master of snark, though.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:33 AM on March 8, 2009


That was very funny, thanks for the post! (I can't help but wonder whether the "douche/jerk" people actually RTFA. There's nothing in there that could possibly make him seem a jerk, unless you find the conjunction of mathematics and humor to be jerkish, which would seem an odd attitude around here.)
posted by languagehat at 10:48 AM on March 8, 2009


While I am avowed to love economy almost a dearly as the learned Mr. Franklin, I must for a moment dither with his fiduciary calculations. While the 96 million of savings in livres from reduced candle usage would indeed be a princely sum for any Parisian, the individual's thrift would be quite incremental to that. Taking his hourly and pound numbers, twould only be 160 livres per Parisian per year. A savings reaped only from bedding down with the sun. Or perhaps sitting still in the darkness for a few hours for the gain of 30 sols, while contemplating what great works could be read were said Parisian a heedless spendthrift.
But the real cost of Mr. Franklin's proposal cannot be seen in candlewax saved, but in gunpowder expended! Saltpeter alone must cost more than tallow, as it must be mined rather than gathered from the orts of the abbatoir, such that his proposal to rouse every lie-a-bed with cannon fire in every street in one day would consume all the savings from a half year of tallow abstinence. Let us not, in this case, throw the chandler into penury to make the gunners laughingly rich.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:49 AM on March 8, 2009 [30 favorites]


Oh, I'm stupid, I totally missed the cannon fire on the first read.

To the Royal Academy of Farting
posted by nasreddin at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


For the record, Franklin is one of the original spoof letter writers. I haven't done tons of research on this, but he and Alexander Pope seem to be two of the first. I hate DST!
posted by cjorgensen at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2009


Ever since about high school, I've experienced a certain kind of cognitive dissonance which to this day I've never fully resolved. On the one hand, students are given books to read, usually fiction, that are held up as fine examples of writing. Yet many "classics" of literature, especially those written before the 20th century, read like Franklin's essay, full of what grammarians call "complex-compound sentences".

Since a technical understanding of grammar is not my strong suit, I may be mistaken about using the term "complex-compound sentence". Teachers usually refer to them as "run-on sentences".

The cognitive dissonance for me was that teachers would admonish against writing like this, often holding up Hemingway as a good example to follow. I was always bothered in English class by the unspoken notion that Real Literature is always Fiction. I don't think I was ever given a work of nonfiction as a "great work" to read and analyse.

Yet I read a great deal on my own, though almost all of it was non-fiction. Yes, I recognize Franklin's essay is non-fiction, but stylistically it follows the pattern of the day, parodied well by Cold Lurkey. Heck, I'll even cop to languagehat; I didn't completely "RTFA"...

I can tell that a very large percentage of those who post on Metafilter have a background in fiction that greatly exceeds my own. I can tell that a huge number of writers here have a University level liberal arts education that I lack. Deep down, I consider everything I write here to be a "bluff" of one sort or another, as my skill level is outshined by so many others.

But why don't we call a spade a spade; in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms, like 13" black and white TVs, because reading them is unnecessarily difficult.
posted by Tube at 11:33 AM on March 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms, like 13" black and white TVs, because reading them is unnecessarily difficult.

Dude, if you don't like them, don't read them. Your standards are not valid for all of humanity.
posted by languagehat at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Daylight Savings Time is one of the very few things I don't find awesome about Ben Franklin. In most other respects he seems like an archetype of much that was/is good about America and the West in general. In my experience, people who think he's a douche have only been exposed to the cartoonish sanitized version of him presented in grade school - it doesn't take you much reading at all to get closer to the funny and brilliant rockstar we see in Mason & Dixon and elsewhere, playing with whores and static electricity in seedy coffee joints, or squinting out at the crowds on the docks through colored lenses as he busts a free glass harmonium session from the deck of his arriving boat.

A pretty cool guy, and personifying much about that era and ours that makes history seem less like a stumbling bloody downhill tumble into knife-pits of our own devising. Nonetheless - fuck Daylight Savings Time, and fuck cannonfire in the street to "wake up the sluggards". I strongly suspect he was up at dawn but rarely, and just thought this would be great for the plebes.
posted by freebird at 11:53 AM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms

*erases really condescending annoyed diatribe*

It makes me very sad that you might be right, because the complexity of language is one of the best things about being human.
posted by freebird at 11:57 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I may be mistaken about using the term "complex-compound sentence". Teachers usually refer to them as "run-on sentences".

But why don't we call a spade a spade; in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms...


Franklin doesn't write run-on sentences. His sentences are complex--pretentious even--in that they draw attention to his style and facility with words, but a run on sentence lacks punctuation and/or a conjunction between independent clauses, and therefore is grammatically incorrect.

An anachronism is a chronological mistake, or something out of its proper time in history, and Franklin's essays do not fit this definition because they were written in his time. They seem stuffy today because people don't write or talk like that anymore, except for Prince Charles, who says, "I wouldn't be talking to you about this if it didn't think that I wasn't alone in my views" when he means "I think you agree with what I am saying." That is anachronistic.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2009


Ever since about
tl;dr
posted by Flunkie at 12:03 PM on March 8, 2009


I strongly suspect he was up at dawn but rarely... (Mr. Freebird)

Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon... (Mr. Franklin)

He admits to being one of the sluggards in the article.
posted by sleslie at 12:09 PM on March 8, 2009


well, at least i only have to push that button on the back of my clock once...not like 23 times (fucking november!)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:17 PM on March 8, 2009


Snarky, sarcastic and bloviating; Ben Franklin was my kind of guy, and would have made an excellent mefite.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:25 PM on March 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Daylight Stupid Time.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:27 PM on March 8, 2009


But why don't we call a spade a spade; in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms, like 13" black and white TVs, because reading them is unnecessarily difficult.

Well, it's kind of a pain in the ass to dig through the prose, but there are gems underneath. Franklin was obviously a wickedly funny man in an absolutely deadpan way, and the payoff of laughter is still, even now, worth juggling the extended sentences to get to.

People still read Shakespeare for much the same reason. The language is awkward, but once you accustom yourself, quite beautiful. You may not find it worthwhile; I'd say a majority of modern humans don't. But that's not an absolute truth that should, thus, be imposed on everyone. You prefer more modern styles, and that's fine: Lord knows there's plenty of modern literature.

But I will observe, and this is from the standpoint of someone who really isn't terribly well-read in the Great Classics, that many of those older works are well constructed indeed. People didn't have much else in the way of entertainment back then, and many of those early writers honed their craft to an extraordinary degree. Printing a book was a very expensive proposition, so it generally had to be very high quality to even be bound and distributed at all. Look at the the Canterbury Tales as an example: it's damn near illegible to a modern eye without coaching, but when read aloud, it's just beautiful.

It takes real effort on our part to read the old books. I haven't personally done that much of it, something I'm coming to regret. And I can't imagine that, in the era of Youtube and political soundbites, that it's going to get better. Those things are baby food for the mind, instantly consumable, but without much lasting value. Old books are thick, meaty things. You have to chew for a good long time to be able to digest them. In exchange, the nutritional payoff can be very high.
posted by Malor at 12:32 PM on March 8, 2009


Although writers don't write like Franklin anymore, it's not unnecessarily difficult. According to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, it's written at about a college (grade 14) level, with a readability score of 44.

And now the readability function on Word is telling me that it's written at a 9th grade level, so it's obviously not a perfect system.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:03 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The language is awkward, but once you accustom yourself, quite beautiful.

I recall some people saying as much about President Obama's way of speaking. Writing like this necessarily engages the reader in a way that short declarative sentences cannot.

That said, given that we don't actually change our schedules when we change the clocks, and end up having do do certain things in morning darkness, are there really any health, safety, or energy benefits from observing DST? Congress seems to think so, and gave us an extra month of DST starting in 2007. So why not just leave the clocks that way the whole year?

Previous discussions here.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2009


I'm thinking of starting a Facebook group to protest Daylight Savings Time. If I do that, I'm fairly certain that DST will be rescinded within the week.
posted by lukemeister at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2009


WHERE is FRANKLIN
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2009


yeah, of all the stuff Franklin did I rank DST as being only slightly better than raping slaves.

Great thinker, great inventor, wickedly funny, came up with a completely crapful way to jack around with clocks.
posted by sotonohito at 2:05 PM on March 8, 2009


(Ben Franklin didn't come up with Daylight Saving Time).
posted by Flunkie at 2:21 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


fuck Daylight Savings Time

I don't understand this attitude. Are there really people who want it to get dark before dinner? I guess there are. Me, I want DST extended throughout the year.
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe some here didn't read the article, but I thought it was tongue-in-cheek and really funny.

He's saying that people are shocked that the sun is up before noon? That's an incredibly dryly witty comment on his fellows, not a statement of fact. The whole article is really dryly sarcastic, and it seems like some here are reading it straight.
posted by MythMaker at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2009


One way or the other Le Hat's way is fine with me. The other way is also fine with me. Just QUIT DICKING WITH IT!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It gets dark before dinner whether we have DST or not, in my part of the world, and I'm not even very far north. I suppose there's a band of latitudes where it's about right, but in the south, it's completely unnecessary, and here, one hour's shift isn't nearly enough to do what DST claims to do. (And any father north than me, and you simply don't have enough hours of daylight to cram a full workday in there.)

I'd much rather simply have various civil functions start at different hours depending on sunrise and sunset. Do away with DST, but have schools start later in Northern winters. And, um… I actually can't think of any other arguments for DST, other than schoolchildren and milk cows, come to think of it.
posted by hattifattener at 3:14 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


(That was in response to languagehat, of course.)
posted by hattifattener at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2009


Early to bed; early to rise




Or else.




Also, milk cows do not care what the farmer's clock says; don't try to blame them. Crops don't care either. I can't imagine why a farmer would think it's worthwhile to jigger with the clocks twice a year, but IANAF.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are there really people who want it to get dark before dinner?

I just find it really easy to adapt to the slow natural change in "when" it gets dark and "when" I get up and "when" I eat dinner; the sudden DST change feels unnecessary and abrupt. So, no - I just prefer to eat dinner "a little before dark" and get up "a little after sunrise", and am totally OK with the fact that this may vary over the year in terms of "clock time" - in fact, I rather enjoy it. So I don't see any real benefit to DST.
posted by freebird at 3:22 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm keen on this change to DST because now it will be light out when I wake up. I just wish we kept it that way the entire time, rather than reverting back in the winter so that the entirety of the hours of daylight are squarely centered within the time I need to work, or be readying myself to work. Waking while it's still dark out is difficult and cruel.
posted by explosion at 5:52 PM on March 8, 2009


Farmers don't like daylight savings time, so don't blame them for this shit.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:22 PM on March 8, 2009


So, no - I just prefer to eat dinner "a little before dark" and get up "a little after sunrise", and am totally OK with the fact that this may vary over the year in terms of "clock time" - in fact, I rather enjoy it.

I find myself much more in Franklin's shoes, and I gotta say DST is still annoying. And I don't think it saves power, since I the same amount of time home awake after sunset either way.
posted by pwnguin at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2009


if there is one example of 'the developed world's" imperial arrogance it is DST.

that Reagan signed into law the practice thanks to the clamors of the "Clorox and potato lobby" tells you even more about how the Republican mindset fetishizes imperialism: if they can fuck around with time for the benefit of big business, they can invent their own political, cultural and economic reality to suit the whims of their highest bidders.

i so hate DST :P
posted by liza at 8:25 PM on March 8, 2009


I love having daylight time... dunno about starting it in early March, but I love it in principle.

We're in a world with natural rhythms and pulses and shifts, and we do an awful lot in our personal environments to obliterate the distinctions. Our cities crush the difference between night and day. We keep our workplaces at a constant 72F, summer or winter, the same bland overhead light all year.

But here's this one rhythm of changes that we don't just leave alone... we actually amplify it, to make summer even more summery, and winter even more wintery by comparison. Awesome.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2009


The idea that this letter would be difficult for someone to read surprises me, but it certainly explains a great deal. I wonder if this contributes to the problems so many seem to have with the Constitution. After all, they were written around the same time. Imagine where the SCOTUS might lead us had that document been penned in the style of Mr. Hemingway.
posted by carping demon at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2009


But here's this one rhythm of changes that we don't just leave alone...

That's an interesting view! I tend to think of it as an attempt to mask natural cycles and separate us from the natural world, but I guess it could be interpreted the other way - that's interesting. I'm not entirely convinced, because it seems like DST *reduces* "business hours" light in summer and increases it in winter, which seems like the opposite of "making it more summery/wintery". Still, it can be seen as a ritual of seasonal change I suppose.
posted by freebird at 10:10 PM on March 8, 2009


"I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind... At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme, I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy, and wise in spite of themselves."
-- Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947
posted by mmoncur at 10:48 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


From dirigibleman's link:
Daylight saving time did indeed begin in the United States during World War I, primarily to save fuel by reducing the need to use artificial lighting.
It looks like somebody didn't get Franklin's joke.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:03 AM on March 9, 2009


Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following.

This is certainly true. Unfortunately, the sun will still not shine at 4 am nor at 5:30 am at least in winter in Chicago.
posted by aetg at 3:37 AM on March 9, 2009


in the year 2009, essays like Franklin's are gross anachronisms, like 13" black and white TVs, because reading them is unnecessarily difficult.

It's the other way around. Our awful, stunted use of language is the portable Magnavox here. Franklin, and the like, wrote in HD.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:57 AM on March 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient?, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

This is that same double standard that I've been bitching about this whole time; sure, I go outside at the crack of dawn and I start firing my gun in the air to wake up my lazy, sober neighbors and I get arrested, and why? Because I'm not a founding father, that's why.

It's completely unfair.

And don't even get me started on Daylight Savings Time, which I'm pretty certain, at this point, is all part of a global conspiracy to screw over completely reasonable people who are too busy to watch "the news" or pay attention to tools with a fascist agenda, like "calendars", by making us late for work.
posted by quin at 9:53 AM on March 9, 2009


quin, you need to fire your rifle, not your gun. IYKWIMAITYD.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:14 AM on March 9, 2009


*blinks*

Ohhhhh, that explains why the cops kept screaming at me to put my weapon away even when my hands raised up above my head and empty.

Why do society's rules have to be so damn complicated?
posted by quin at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2009


Just a quick followup after the first workday morning of DST. It is in fact a disastrous abomination; a usurpation of natural and holy cycles of time, body, and season; and a pox upon the already marred face of modernity.

I am, however, relieved that my hero Ben Franklin had little to do with it beyond some forgivable shit-talking.
posted by freebird at 11:21 AM on March 9, 2009


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