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August 05, 2004

Sid Says: Good Brains Don't All Travel The Same Way

What with one thing and another, I had let slide the series of Sid Says posts that I'd started with such enthusiasm last year. The wife would say that this was nothing more than typical, that I flit from interest to interest like a butterfly from flower to flower, or a fly from one pile of shit to another, more like, never staying with one thing. For two weeks she can't get me to shut up about the passion du jour, then I never speak of it again.

When I bring up the fact that the blog has been around for over two years now, she accuses me of keeping it alive just to annoy her.

She's probably more right than she knows.

So, anyway, the pace of the Siddall posts had slackened, though if anyone had asked I would have said it was due more to a lack of available material than dwindling enthusiasm. The only sources left for information on Siddall's life are in collections of papers located in out-of-state libraries--all of which want me to pay for access. I don't mind researching John M.--rather like it, in fact, but having to pay for the privilege slows down the process somewhat. It also cut into the sheer enjoyment of it all.

When I first started the series, I had nothing more than a vague feeling that the Siddall essays, and practically everything else over a certain age in my library, should be put on the web--not that they had any great value to me, but because I had the idea that they were bound to have value for someone, somewhere, at some point in time. To me it was a close equivalent to putting a message in a bottle and tossing it out to sea, not because I needed help, but because I wanted some stranger to have the thrill of finding it. Everyone wants to find a message in a bottle, don't they?

Everyone wants to, but no one expects to. Yet every now and then someone does. The thrill of finding a message in a bottle must be great indeed, but I wonder...Is it really a bigger thrill than knowing that someone has found one of yours?

Thank you very much for your comments and information on John Siddall, my great-great uncle (my grandmother's uncle, my great-grandfather's brother). Thanks to you I ordered and now have the best two of the three "Sid Says;" both my 88-year-old mother and I am enjoying his essays. I had made copies from the old American Mag in library stacks of many for my uncle, also a journalist. But the book is priceless. I had not known about the John Reed reference. Thanks again. I must read the Ida Tarbell biographies..have searched some for references.

Some info you might be interested in. John MacAlpine Siddall was the youngest of six brothers (one died as a youngster) born in Oberlin, Ohio, where he did his undergraduate work. His progressive views were certainly influenced by the school and town and his father's Quaker habits. Family lore believes the Siddalls who moved there in 1857 were involved in the Underground Railroad. When he did the legwork for Ida Tarbell he joined John D. Rockerfeller's Sunday school class, just to be up close to the guy. He also snuck onto the grounds of the Cleveland mansion to observe and prowl. He is thought to have been aided with some inside information from his brother Ben, who was a highly situated Cleveland lawyer. (again, family lore). Minnie Siddall was his sister-in-law, wife of brother William, a Cleveland dentist. Jean Joiner was his wife. They had no children. When he knew he was dying, sadly so prematurely, he prepared eight months of Sid Says columns for use after his death.

There are relatively few Siddall descendants, but we are very proud of his life and legacy. Thank you for keeping them alive.


Good Brains Don't All Travel The Same Way

In their mental operations I see about me all the time two groups of men—the mosquito fleet and the elephant brigade. The mosquito boys think quickly, and dart to conclusions like lightning. You will get an opinion out of them instantly that will be superior to any they will be able to produce after consideration. The elephant boys take more time. They move slowly. They like to think things over. Ask them for an opinion, and they will do better if they meditate. There is no special choice between these two groups. In each group there are quantities of men of great ability. I can at this moment think of two wonderful Presidents of the United States—one a mosquito and the other an elephant.

As between men and women, it can be said in general that women are of the mosquito type. They pride themselves on their instinct for quick judgment. Men call it intuition. The "bright" boy at school is usually of the mosquito type. His intellectual performances are rapid and showy. He may or may not go on and succeed—but if he does make good he won't get any particular credit for it from his schoolmates, simply because they "always knew he was smart." It takes a successful elephant to go back to his class reunion and stir up enthusiasm. Nobody expected much of him, and consequently everybody is prepared to applaud his achievements.

It is amusing to watch these two kinds of men meet. The mosquitoes bother the elephants, and the elephants bother the mosquitoes. In games, especially, the irritation between the two reaches its height. If it is cards, the mosquito, with his leaping mind, knows in a second what he wants to do, while the elephant has to wait for his inspiration. Some games are better adapted to one of these groups than to the other. Take chess, for example—an admirable game for the elephant type of mind. There is a game which two elephants can enjoy for a week at a stretch.

The worst thing that can happen to a man is to think himself an elephant when he is a mosquito, or a mosquito when he is an elephant. Some of the most terrible misfits in the world are misplaced elephants and misplaced mosquitoes. For example, a mosquito and an elephant can go into law practice to-gether and supplement each other's talents beautifully. But the elephant had better keep out of court, where nimbleness of mind is peculiarly required.

Another point is that the mosquitoes ought never to tease the elephants to try to take on mosquito-like speed. Neither should the elephants tease the mosquitoes to try to take on elephantine deliberation. It can't be done. Let every man work according to his own instinct. The minute he begins to imper-sonate somebody else he loses himself, and his judgments and decisions are of less value.

As a final observation, it may be well to record the fact that both classes of men are entirely satisfied with their equipment. The mosquitoes think there is nothing so greatly to be desired as agility, and the elephants pride them-selves on their deliberation, which is, I suppose, as it should be—for without self-appreciation man would surely perish.


I suspect that the presidents Sidall mentions are Theodore Roosevelt (mosquito)and Woodrow Wilson (elephant), but that's only a hunch. Were I to break down bloggers into elephants and mosquitoes, I'd start with USS Clueless and This Blog Is Full Of Crap respectively--more because of their style than any actual knowledge of their mental processes. For myself, I would claim to be a mosquito masquerading as an elephant--something I have a strong suspicion John M. would entirely disapprove of.

Next: Consider Your Ears--They Are Not Purely Decorative

Posted by Bigwig at August 5, 2004 11:09 PM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

Good choice of essays. Mosquitoes and elephants tend to marry also. Don't I know, but, like lawyers, it can work out and be a long term partnership. Though, itching and trumpeting plentiful. I would guess JMS was an elephant and his wife, Jean, a mosquito.

Posted by: Hamp at August 8, 2004 10:34 AM
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