Killing Me Softly: Fun with Social Media

VicorianAs an instructor of English I have to make reading and writing interesting to students who often consider the internet and its many social networks the epitome of literature, needless to say, much more interesting.

A bit of creativity, and adapting my lesson plans to the world of these students is as important as understanding the meanings of words and concepts such as preterit, subjunctive, subjective, syntax, colloquialisms, first person, second person, or third person perfect tenses, and then hurriedly moving from the theoretical to the practical.  The theoretical has its place, but not as a method to get non English major students to put away their smart phones, or prop their eyes open and pay attention to in-class lectures.

I came across a news story about a Tweet on the Twitter network which I thought might stimulate the prankster in them as well as offer an amusing method of becoming literary nuisances.

FrigThe original Tweet was from someone associated at the ClemsonTigerNet.  It announced the sad death of William “The Refrigerator” Perry, a football player who had played his college football at Clemson University.

(William Perry, for those who couldn’t care less, became famous in the 1980s, a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears professional football team in 1985.  During his rookies season, the reportedly deceased footballer helped the Bears to a Super Bowl win.  Perry was a 350-pound defensive lineman, but was occasionally used in the backfield as a blocker for running backs, and even scored a touchdown once.  An unusual player, on a team of many unusual characters…a minor celebrity of the time).

A response was quickly issued by Adam Plotkin, Perry’s agent, insisting, “William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry is alive and fine.  (The italics are mine…I just thought it amusing Plotkin didn’t use the usual “…alive and well…” wording.  But, I guess fine is better than dead, though most of us would rather be well).  I presented this to my students, and brought them up to speed on who Perry was.  Then, in the finest Trojan Horse tradition, I introduced my literary angle…Jonathan Swift.  And I couldn’t think of a better literary figure to associate with Perry’s death hoax.

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Swift died on October 19, 1745…for real.  Being the satirical giant he was, Swift wrote in his last will and testament that he wished to leave funds to establish a hospital for “Idiots and Lunaticks” in Dublin, Ireland, because, “No nation needed it so much.”  Hoping to instill a sense of just how much fun they could have with social media, using the example of Swift, I then gave them a bit of background on one of England‘s most amusing death hoaxes.

Swift held “almanackers” and other predictors of future events in great disdain.  A fellow named John Partridge was one he disdained the more than any other.  Swift – taking on the pen name Bickerstaff, and presenting himself as an astrologer, issued several absurd predictions, the most unnerving, a prediction in a pamphlet distributed around London that Partridge would die at 11 p.m. on April 1st, April Fool’s Day.  A pamphlet entitled The Accomplishments of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff’s Predictions soon followed, declaring Bickerstaff’s prediction had come true, also noting an error on his part, announcing Partridge’s death occurring at 7:05, four hours different than Bickerstaff’s original claim…a nice touch, I thought.  This created the minor uproar Swift intended. 

Partridge – very much alive, and a bit outraged at the gall of his nemesis, Swift, was awakened by a sexton outside his window who wanted to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon.  Condolences, floral arrangements, and well wishes for the bereaved family were offered by friends, family, and Partridge’s loyal audience.  As Partridge walked down the street several people he knew stared at him, some telling him to inform him how much he resembled a recently deceased acquaintance.

Partridge immediately started a pamphlet-based campaign to rectify the situation, insisting that he was alive and accusing Bickerstaff as a fraud.  Bickerstaff countered in a pamphlet of his own that Partridge was obviously dead, since the response was more poorly executed than Partridge’s best written work.  This went on for some time, amusing many Londoners, especially when Bickerstaff (Swift) noted that Partridge’s own wife had admitted that her husband had “…neither life nor soul…”

Pooh Hamaca 2Now this is the kind of stuff that makes literature come alive to young learners…English can be fun…it can be a sarcastic tool to annoy friends, relatives, enemies, and the public in general.  I am waiting to see if there will be any announcements in my small sea-side town of my untimely demise, or if I’ll have to start fielding complaints from parents about their children using the internet in what might be considered an abusive, embarrassing, or bothersome manner by responsible progenitors.

Yes…I wait, with the shadow of a pink slip announcing my imminent release from my teaching duties.  It’s near unbearable…and I have a hard time with unbearable.

Truly, the possibilities of plotting these sorts of hoaxes are limitless.  How much fun can one have with a lawyer, or a real estate agent, or any honery friend or associate?

I may have created a dozen or so monsters in what was previously a dry, boring investigation of one of the most difficult of subjects to make interesting to students who may have never opened – let alone finished – a single book, yet are so savvy when it comes to the internet and social media.

WARNING: Keep Eyes Open for Serious Nonsense

English: 0

English: 0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’ve gone through my morning ritual of web cruising, and finally arrived at WordPress, but not without a few sobering words of caution.

Some whacko newsletter I have neglected to block from my e-mail sent me this collection of product warnings today, and I feel the social obligation to pass them on to you, my few, yet rabid followers.

Wash hands after using:  This sound advice came from an indoor extension cord.  Why?  I think I’m one of the slow ones such warnings are meant to protect, since I can’t think of one reason why I need it.

– Not for contact lenses or direct use in eyes:  I can think of a zillion products this might be an appropriate aid in guiding the consumer to avoid, but this was on a small bottle of spray-on anti-fog cleaner.  Really…I pass on these warnings because I go by the old saying, “If you save one, you save them all.”  In the past I have used this product on muddy feet, waxy ears, and a few areas discretion leads me to leave to your imagination.  I suffered no consequences, so I’m only passing on this specific warning.

Alright…enough of the serious stuff.  Here’s a bit of the warning label advice I found outlandish no matter how deeply I imagined the warped ways my imaginative readers might tease the fates:

Company will not be held responsible for any illness or injury that is incurred while using the pedometer.   Yes, this came from a pedometer…damn tricky little devices, which have in the past must have been responsible for many a disfiguring accident.

Combustion of this manufactured product results in the emissions of carbon monoxide, soot and other combustion by-products which are known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.   This was the warning on a box of matches…matches I picked up in a convenience store in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, California.  Good luck avoiding inhaling these dangerous substances, Los Angelinos !

Not for human consumption!  Please…just take a guess or two as to the origin of this warning label.  OK…done?  This came from a package of rubber worms intended for fishing.  I have known a few fisherpeople for whom this might be good cautionary advice, but not all that many.

Alright…I can get carried away with stuff like this, so…here’s a few quick-hitters.  Consider these drive-by warnings –

Caution:  Cape does not enable user to fly.   Why, on a Batman costume, of course.

Remove child before folding.   Oh my…this is from a children’s safety seat made for automobiles.  Get it new parents?

Off Road Commode

Off Road Commode (Photo credit: signalstation)

Not for use on moving vehicles.  From an Off-Road Commode, a portable one that attaches to a trailer hitch.

 

Danger: Avoid Death.  Excellent advice, I would think.  It came from a motorized yard appliance.

 

Harmful if swallowed.  There are so many objects and substances, from the mundane to the exotic, I could apply this to, but does this really need to be on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook?

 

This product moves when used.  What a novel warning…for a Razor motorized go-cart.

 

Do not use for personal hygiene.  This, probably my favorite, came from a toilet brush.

 

So, there you are.  I feel as though my work is done for the day.  If I’ve saved a life, or an eye, or even some run-of-the-mill embarassment, I feel vindicated in my obsessive search of American cultural toys, tools, and health aids for possible dangers to you, and all yours you care enough about to not let swallow fish hooks, scour their private areas with toilet brushes, or see folded into child car seats.

march 28 2013 695Have a safe rest of the summer, and check any local listings for the dangers of jumping into piles of leaves as fall approaches.  Remember, there’s a possible lawsuit in nearly any action in the Land of the Litigious.

I’ll be here on the beach if any emergency cases arise despite my best efforts at steering readers clear of such dangers.  And, yes…I am reading the warning label on my water bottle, since I’ve finished the warning against wearing baseball caps backwards.

Later…

A New Call for Prohibition

Bread rolls

Bread rolls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people are completely unaware of a dangerous substance sitting on their pantry shelves. It’s commonly known by its street name: “bread.”

Facts About Bread
  • More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread eaters.
  • Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
  • Newborn babies can choke on bread.
  • Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.
  • In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever and influenza ravaged whole nations.
  • More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
  • Bread is made from a substance called “dough.” It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!
  • Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low occurrence of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis.
  • Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.
  • Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.
Take Action Now!
In light of these frightening statistics, we propose the following bread restrictions:
  • Duck Pond: Whole Piece of Bread

    Duck Pond: Whole Piece of Bread (Photo credit: Vicky TGAW)

    No sale of bread to minors.

  • No advertising of bread within 1000 feet of a school.
  • A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread.
  • No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
  • Limits on the sale of large amounts of bread, no use of bread in public places such as restaurants and sandwich shops.
  • Eventually, a total ban on the production, sale and use of bread.

 

Join the fight to combat this dangerous substance. Write your representatives today!
****
Readers, please share this with your friends — before it’s too late.
Alright…my work is done.  I’ve shared this with WordPress Nation.  Now it’s up to you to take action.
* This bit of sarcastic nonsense was Liberated from the mind of a concerned citizen and should only be taken seriously, copied, re-transmitted, or taken to heart solely by those who have nothing better to do.  It is the product of a mind associated with the Society of Assenine, Silly, Supercilious Yammering (SASSY).

Immortal Bananas, Super-Sizing for Jesus, and My Last Meal

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I survived a few extremely uncomfortable experiences on my trip to GringoLandia, probably the most uncomfortably numb moments were shopping with my wife.  I could go on about that in detail, but it would just decay into cliché bitching.  Here’s one of the weirder things I noticed while shopping – Immortal Bananas.

How can it be that the hundred or more bananas at some Box Store were all the same size, the same perfect color of yellow, and as pristine as the photos on a grocery store advertisement?  And, after making off with a few of these Franken-Nanners, they defied the aging process, staying as yellow and perfect as plastic fruit for several days…no splitting, no browning, no banana activity whatsoever.  I live in a Banana Republic…I eat bananas every day…they’re supposed to get spotty, split at the seams…and smell…and taste like something other than paraffin.

I decided to do some internet cruising while waiting out the Immortal Bananas, and, of course, found weirdness.

One of the stranger websites I came across while waiting for my bananas to act like bananas was one dedicated to last-meal requests in the state of Texas.  Texas proudly claims to be the first state to offer specialized last meals, reportedly starting the ritualistic chow-down in 1924.  That all came to an end though, in September of 2011, after condemned prisoner Lawrence Russell Brewer requested a huge last meal and did not eat it, saying he wasn’t hungry.  Brewer’s refused request –

Two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza topped with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage; one pint of Blue Bell ice cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.

Most states offer last meals to condemned inmates a day or two before are scheduled to be executed.  Some opt for simple, like some joker named Victor Feguer – a single, unpitted olive.  Timothy McVeigh, of Oklahoma City in-fame, ordered two pints of mint, chocolate chip ice cream.  John Wayne Gacy ordered a full meal, with the addition of a bucket of original recipe fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken.  The site I found this on was comprehensive enough to include the fact that before Gacy became a student nurse killer he managed three franchises for the Colonel…ahhhh, the memories.  (Wasn’t he also a semi-pro clown?)

Seems that Super-Sizing has reached into even the most remote niches of American Life…and Death.

Oh well, if you think websites dedicated to last meals is nonsense, get a load of this nonsense:

Brian Wansink photo -- Executive Director of U...

Brian Wansink photo — Executive Director of USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist at Cornell University, conducted a study comparing the size of food portions in 52 of the most famous portrayals of Jesus Christ and his disciples at The Last Supper.

I don’t know which is stranger, that some moron gets who knows how large a pile of grant money to investigate and quantify such balderdash, or that some moron would come up with such an idea. But, any how, with the smell of filthy lucre in the air, Wansink brought his brother, Craig, a professor of Religious Studies at  Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia, in on the scam.

Utilizing computer technology that allowed them to scan, rotate and calculate images regardless of their orientation in the paintings, the brothers compared the portion sizes to the heads of the disciples. Their findings…between the years 1000 AD and 2000 AD, numerous artists enlarged the size of the main dish by an average of 69 per cent; the size of the plate, 66 per cent; and the bread, 23 per cent.

I get the picture, I think…though I don’t know why.

Religiously inspired artists through the ages must have put as much value on the size of a serving of food being placed before Jesus the Christ and his disciples as modern-day parents do when grazing their increasingly obese children on the obscenely large doses of what is considered food in these modern-day United States of America.

But, this can’t be the whole story…that only came out when the details of the study were published in the April issue of –

International Journal of Obesity

International Journal of Obesity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The International Journal of Obesity.

Yes, folks…there is an actual International Journal of Obesity. Who would have thought?  I can’t even imagine who the target audience is.  And, this only gets weirder.

Wansink’s position at Cornell – one that would allow enough academic juice to engage in such idiotic research…he’s the John S. Dyson Endowed Chair in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University.  For his intrepid efforts he also became a 2007 recipient of the humorous Ig Nobel Prize and was named ABC World News Person of the Weekon January 4, 2008.

What a world !

Wansink was no joker though.  He has figured out how to belly up to the private trough, researching the size of the Last Supper, for whatever reason, and he’s also elbowed his way into position at the taxpayer-financed trough.  George W. Bush tabbed Wansink for his Executive Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), a post which Wansink filled from 2007 to 2009.  And, what good is any of this unless a book deal can be the end result?  Well, there was such a result…

 

Mindless Eating

 

Bon appetit…I think I’m done eating for a week or two.  I’m going to send out an e-mail to the friends I was staying with in the states…ask them if those bananas have started to show any sign of Mortality.

Later…

 

Saving Women from the Abyss of Criminality

people breeding or how rats view us?

people breeding or how rats view us? (Photo credit: Ken Kindoku 菌毒)

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

This comes to you, from me, as quoted from the Equal Rights Amendment.  I was always fascinated by the “…on account of sex.” bit…as if my rights would be abridged or denied for participating.  Then I got educated.

In my Hall of Musty and Dusty Books Library I’ve become a bit more enlightened, and I’d like to share a bit of how Women have been separated from the fates of rats, cats, pigs and she-asses.

The E.P. Evans’ book, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), has been my starting point for animal criminality…my memories of Ronald Reagan and Pat Robertson – along with a bit of research on the Equal Rights Amendment – my re-education as to the criminal tendencies of women.  Let’s explore the dangers suggested by animals first.

Evans claims to know of 191 animal trials between 824 AD and the year his book was published.  Here’s a few Hi-Lites:

A she-ass condemned to death in France in 1750 was pardoned because of good character.  There’s not much information concerning this case, coming at the end of a paragraph about the Catholic Church’s reasoning for accusing, prosecuting, and punishing animals for crimes usually thought of as exclusively human transgressions.  Their reasoning – it that’s a proper term – was based on Plato’s assertion that animals are intelligent, and therefore responsible for their actions.  This doesn’t seem to follow traditional religious reasoning, but…you know…sometimes times get dull.  There’s got to be someone, or something, to keep the religious persecution business bumping along.

So a she-ass slipped through the legal system of the time by being interesting, or at least trustworthy.  Other cases were more fully documented.

Pig!

Pig! (Photo credit: timsackton)

A sow and her piglets were accused of murdering and partially eating a child in Lavegny, France, in 1457.  Hauled into court, the sow was sentenced to death.  Guess all that Plato-suggested intelligence wasn’t as deeply cynical as the situation called for, since any sow should know that justice is a business, and we all get as much “justice” as we can – or are willing to – afford.  The courts back then did have some mercy though.  The sow’s piglets were acquitted because of their youth, the bad example their mother had set, and a lack of evidence that they had took part in her crime.  Probably went on to terrorize in their later years…cull the bad apples while the culling is good, we all know now.  More nonsense?  Sure…there’s plenty to go around.

In another landmark case of French jurisprudence,  some rats were charged with feloniously eating and wantonly destroying the province’s barley crop.  This was in 1522…Autun, France.  When the rats failed to show, their attorney argued the summons was too specific, and the summonses should be read from a church pulpit.  They were.  Again, the rats failed to show.  This time their attorney argued his clients were afraid to leave their holes out of fear of their accuser’s cats.  A bit of legal maneuvering over bonds from cat owners guaranteeing their animals would not molest the rats left the court befuddled, and another court date was left up in the air, and eventually forgotten as a case of Black Death ravaged the lands about the time of the crimes.  Rat’s favor…they also were acquitted, and more power to them.  Now, speaking of rats, pigs, and asses, here’s a couple of appropriate quotes from some defenders of the common good of men, if not women:

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human beings are not animals,” Ronald Reagan said during the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment, adding “…I do not want to see sex and sexual differences treated as casually and amorally as dogs and other beasts treat them.  I believe this could happen under the ERA.”  Reagan supporter, popular televangelist, and one-time presidential candidate himself, Pat Robertson, made Reagan look like a moderate when he spewed the following:

“It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement,” he said, “that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”  As I often am when fully comprehending I share a common biology with such creatures, I am feeling a bit bedazzled by all this.  Do I need to repeat the full text of the Equal Rights Amendment?  Oh well…here goes a bit of it –

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any other state on account of sex.”

Thaaaaaaats All, Folks…. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

It’s All in My Head – Elephants, The Sailor, and Bogus Gin

Elephant safari

Elephant safari (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

As  a teenager I read a book of teachings proffered by Hindu holy men.  One of them had to do with a student who had just taken in a lesson on how interconnected the word was…that he was one with the world and all living things.  Leaving the lesson, the student was walking down a trail and saw an elephant coming from the opposite direction.  Taking his recent lesson to heart, the student put a smile on his face and walked right at the elephant, which he was one with.  Later, after a bit of recovery time from his trampling, the student questioned his teacher about the practicality of such philosophy.  The teacher told him that, yes, he was one with the world, but the student should have stepped aside since elephants always have the right of way.  I think this stuck with me because it reminded me of one of my childhood heroes.

My grandfather was a boxing fan, and I often watched boxing matches with him.  One of our heroes, being from Washington state, with its large population of Scandinavians, was a heavyweight boxer named Ibar “The Sailor” Arrington.  Ibar was a local legend.  He had the seemingly suicidal habit of lowering his guard during boxing matches and challenging his foes to wail away at will on his Norwegian noggin.  It worked for him…for a while.  Most of the local meatballs he fought weren’t that good of fighters, and after they exhausted themselves wailing away on Ibar’s rock-like head, he would knock them out.  His final record was 27 wins (20 by knockout), 7 losses, and 2 draws.

Ibar’s retirement came after returning from Durban, South Africa, where he had fought a lightly regarded boxer named Gerrie Coetzee in a packed Kingsmead Stadium on December 15, 1978.  The Sailor had taken a severe beating – again – which left fans like my grandfather and I in a pitiful state.  It was featured on local news, and Ibar sat quietly, staring blankly at the microphone in front of him.  His manager did the talking, announcing The Sailor was leaving the ring due to medical reasons.  A reporter asked Ibar if he would have done anything differently during his career.

“I would have ducked more,” was all the wisdom he had to pass on to his disappointed fans.  I think Ibar would have understood the Hindu teaching about giving elephants the right of way.  After witnessing the Sailor’s demise, I have always given elephants the right of way.  My grandfather knew that giving elephants the right of way was not always a possibility.

My grandfather was another tough guy, and like most tough guys, rarely talked about the experiences which had made him so.  I always thought he was an average grandpa.  I only found out after his death that he had been sunk in the North Atlantic while serving on a convoy ship during World War I.  He spent what must have been the longest, most hellish night ever as he bobbed around in one of the most wicked patches of sea in the world, clinging to any flotation aid while his friends and crewmates screamed for help…drowning slowly…or quickly if sucked down with the ship…or succumbing to their burns and slowly slipping beneath the waves.  After being “in the water” sailors were routinely sent to the Pacific where there was little chance of deadly naval action.  He soon found himself put ashore, handed a rifle, and told he was infantry, when the United States sided with despotic Czar Nicholas’s White Army in their efforts to defend Vladivistok, the most important of Russian seaports.  He was shot in the leg, the bullet lodging close to an artery.  A veterinarian tried to take the bullet out, making a complete hash of the leg.  My grandfather refused further offers of help, fearing a future with one leg more than one complicated by a limp.

That man worked hard all his life, and I never knew what a mind over matter existence he lived, dealing with that buggered-up leg and the psychological scars of those two years.  He always preached mind over matter to me…that if things were going bad, or I was hurting, just ignore it and it will get better over time.  I always thought this was a fantastic rather than realistic approach to something as physical as the pain I suffered breaking several bones, getting burned, and even shot once.  Guess what folks…it isn’t, I received a sobering lesson in how fantastic this world really is after becoming so poor for a short time I offered myself up for medical experiments at the University of Washington.

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

I started answering ads for test subjects during such a time of economic distress when I had moved to Seattle to become a rich rock and roll star.  One I answered – eagerly – promised $50 for an hour of my time, but I had to be over 21 years old, since the study involved drinking alcohol.  Quite a few people were lined up outside the advertised test site when I got there, but I was a frequent flyer, and got preference.  We chosen few were instructed to fill out a questionnaire concerning our attitudes toward sexual expectations following a dinner date, a movie, and various other similar situations.  We were then given three large glasses full of gin and tonic and instructed to drink them down within fifteen minutes.  My fellow test subjects seemed as eager as I was to comply, and an air of alcohol-relaxed sensibilities was soon evident.  People were more talkative, a bit more clumsy, bumping into tables and chairs, dropping pencils as we again filled out a similarly formulated questionnaire aimed at discovering the sexual expectations associated with various social situations.  There was quite a bit of cross-talking and plenty of innuendo-laced attempts at humor the second time through.  Then came the punchline  –

None of had to worry about driving home, and we need not be concerned about other safety issues…there had been no alcohol in the foul-tasting drinks.  It was a double-blind test.  We weren’t being tested on amorous expectations associated with dating, we were being tested to see if the suggestion we were drunk changed not only our answers, but our behavior.  We were all a bit stunned, and somewhat embarrassed, by the looks on the faces of my fellow lab rats.  I had wondered why the psychology department had chosen a drink like gin and tonic…something that seems more English Officers’ Club in Bombay from the era of the Raj than Rock Musician Decadence in Seattle during the Grunge Era.  They knew that none of us had probably ever had gin and tonic, and if we had, the drink is so sour it would be difficult to discern the gin-lessness of the drinks.

Since my introduction to the placebo effect, I not only understand the full-on power of suggestion, but have considered opening a bar that doesn’t  bother including alcohol in its drinks.  As long as it looked like a bar…and smelled like a bar…and the patrons seemed to be drunk – why not avoid the expense of alcohol?  After all, it’s a mental world…it’s all in my head.

Two Saints for Comic Debris

Human Writes

I must confess, I am not a Catholic.

The Philosopher Red:  “Do you realize what you’re writing?  Confess…you write like you’re really lost sometimes.   I think -”

I think I’m becoming irritated with the Philosopher Red…he’s always looking over my shoulder, making untoward and useless comments about everything from word choice to standing up straight when I write.  Anyway…

Even though I’m not Catholic, I’ve searched out a couple of saints, just in case I need some saving grace.  Without further interruption, I’ll introduce them and get to the Mercado Organico.

The Philosopher Red: “Interruption?  It’s more like the firm guidance your type needs to be relevant in this -”

Anyway…here they are in their glory.

Saint Mathurin (alias, Saint Maturinis) – A French exorcist and missionary – died c. 300 A.D.  Fathered  by a Christian exterminator named Marinus, and mothered by Euphemia – both pagans – he was secretly baptized…

View original post 497 more words

The Mysterious Art of Speaking in Tongues

It was a dark, damp night when the Alchemist got off the bus in a small, Central American beach town.  He wore the garb of his arcane and mysterious profession – a dark suit of linear stripes, mirror-sharp footwear, and carried a black leather case full of flat, bleached wood pulp embossed with 44 mysterious black ink symbols arranged in linear rows.  It had been raining for three days, and the rutted dirt streets ran red with mud, blood, and liquid spirits.  His arrival from Cleve Land, an outpost in the Empire to the north, went unnoticed in the chaos of neon signs, weighted jungle foliage, and streets with no names or number associations.  No One was there to meet or aid him, and he wanted for no One here at the edge of the Western World.  His foreign sweat, mixed with jungle-steamed rainwater, ran in rivulets down skin that marked him as an outsider…an interloper…an emissary from the land of Commerce.  His cellphone rang…it was her.

Alright, enough playing around.  I’m here to discuss my personal experiences teaching ESL, English as a Second Language, and maybe relate a few experiences from trying to teach EFL, English as a First Language, if I feel like it.

wayra class 2First off – I had an interview to teach English at a Spanish Institute in the beach resort of Playa Tamarindo.  This is the dream gig of every teacher, and maybe some real people also.  What can be so hard about teaching English…especially if English is Your First Language?  And, who wouldn’t want to live in a resort community, getting paid to work in a place where people spend $400 a night or more just to have a place to sleep with an air conditioner?  And look at this classroom…open air, parrots flying about the campus, monkeys dropping in on class sessions, sloths sleeping in the roof supports – what could be better?

What could be better?  There are a few considerations to take into account.  Not everyone who knows how to speak English, even people with college or university degrees that imply they should know plenty about a specific subject, has the tools to pass that knowledge on to others.  Teaching is an art.  I know high school dropouts, surf bums, even criminals, who would make fine teachers.  And, in the same vein, I know highly intelligent people, or educated, people who suck at teaching.  I’ve met many of these people, enough of them as teachers in classrooms to make that statement with complete confidence.

So, just how should a language instructor prepare for such employment?  Here’s a short list.

 

1) Schooling – Most language schools will require instructors to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in some subject, and it need not be in the language they are to teach.  While negotiating for my job at this school I slowly became convinced the English classes weren’t going to be enough to support me.  I discovered they also needed a Social Studies tutor, an American History tutor, an Ancient History tutor, and a Science tutor.  I became those things.  Along with a basic degree, most language schools – and I mean most – will require an ESL, TEFL, TEOSL, or CELTA degree or certificate.  The Cambridge University CELTA is the gold standard.  They don’t come easy.  A simple internet word search will reveal dozens upon dozens of “online schools” offering cheap certificates with the other acronyms on them, or one can be found at the end of a short higher education course.  Easy enough.  The main point is paper.

 

English: An Italian immigrant makes an America...

English: An Italian immigrant makes an American breakfast aided by instructional materials from the YMCA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Paper, Paper, and More Paper – My ESL teaching experience came in Latin America, and Latin Americans love paper.  The general rule for resumes in the U.S. is keep it to one page, so the HR department people can make a snap decision as to hiring you or the 12,428 other candidates crowding to fill a position.  Not here, bucko…the more paper the better.

A three or four page resume, along with a photocopy of every degree, certificate, or good conduct award only adds luster to your qualifications.  I even included a “work well done” commendation from a library I worked in while I was suffering through grad school.  I would have discarded it long ago if I had recognized it for what it was.  It had a fake gold leaf border, and an official-looking stamp on it, so I mistakenly chucked it in with my other degrees…it was treated with reverence south of the Rio Grande.  I had no CELTA, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, or certificate of any other degree of competence attesting to my skill at teaching languages.

And, as any educated person knows, it’s impossible to perform even the smallest of tasks, such as boiling water, without large pieces of paper.

 

English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in...

English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkand. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915. Français : Enfants juifs avec leur professeur à Samarcande. Une des premières photos en couleur de Russie. Prise par Sergueï Prokoudine-Gorski, c’est une partie de son travail d’un document sur l’empire Russe de 1909 à 1915. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3) Teaching Experience – This is stressed by most prospective employers in the language instruction field, but there’s a first time for everybody.  But, some type of teaching experience – any type – comes in handy.  Do you have the personality for such work?  Students can be difficult.  Are you a good public speaker?  Fewer people are than think they are.  Can you adjust to the learning styles of “unique” students without losing the attention of the rest of the class?

I had one young genius that would hum songs, doodle castles and dragons, nod his head rhythmically, make faces at other students behind their backs, and generally carry on like a lunatic.  He was driving me nuts…all my efforts and he was ignoring me.  I stopped my lecture and asked him a question about a point I had made a couple of ideas back.  He repeated what I had said word for word, adding his own interpretation of and thoughts on the subject.  I didn’t even remember what I had said.

But, he was setting a bad example for the rest of the class whose brains weren’t as compartmentalized as his…what would you do in such a situation?

Would you cramp his learning process, or let the rest of the students follow his example until the whole class ran off the rails?

Tough question.

 

4) Flexibility –  Besides dealing with unusual students, dysfunctional or non-existent classroom equipment, and dysfunctional or non-existent school staff or directors, can you adapt to often radically different climates, expectations, and local customs that may seem wasteful, useless, or at best, downright confusing?  How well would you deal with a job interview after slogging through knee-deep mud, a good drenching in a tropical downpour, with a stomach-cramping case of the you-know-whats?  Are you capable of restoring malfunctioning internet systems?  Can you eat something that makes you sick to look at, let alone eat?  Are you resourceful?

I was teaching creative writing for an at-risk-youth program, the kind where I had to disarm some students.  The classroom supplies – several broken pencils and a couple of run-dry magic markers – were handed to me in a Tupperware container.  I had to go to a local university, wander around the halls looking for un-guarded pens and pencils, and in the process found a packet of multi-colored binders, then discovered an unlocked supply room where I liberated several packages of computer paper, as well as four packages of lined-paper legal pads.  I took a trash bag out of a garbage can, emptied it, and tossed my school supplies into it as I made my escape, only stopping at the information desk, where I slipped a plastic container containing paper clips and thumb tacks into my Santa Sack of necessities.  Artful Dodger 101 is a pre-requisite for teaching in a Developing Nation.

 

Marie F.U.S.S.5) More Flexibility – So, let’s say your teaching gig is a flop…let’s say that you can’t handle the spoiled rich brats and their sense of entitlement, and their defensive parents who think their little darlings can do no wrong…and all their shortcomings and problematic behavior becomes YOUR problem…then what?  You’ve run your bank account dry moving to some shit hole of town in the middle of nowhere, and you’re getting hungry.  Can you talk your way into some alternative employment – at least enough to get bus fare back to a city, and air fare back to what you consider civilization?  Can you operate a boat?  Catch fish?  Guide Yak Tour Inc. customers up into the Himalayas?  Burn your resumes, degrees, and library service appreciation awards for heat or to cook Iguana over?  Handle an AK-47?  Sell your body on the dusty streets of an oil-boom town?

You might have to.

The Confession of a Word Thief

"You brute! You coward!" from an ano...

“You brute! You coward!” from an anonymous artist’s illustrations to Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many things which I wish I had said, in real life and in other situations.  I often find these bits of compact wisdom when looking up quotes to head a short piece I’m working on, or to back up a point in a longer one.

Sometimes I am searching for a quote I can “liberate” to be used as dialogue for a character.  This is, I imagine, a practice that is employed by more authors than myself, but I’ve never heard any One admit to it, and chances are, I won’t.

Here’s my confession…and for a momentary bit of entertainment while readers of this confession form opinions about the degree of my transgressions, here are a few fun quotes I came across while looking for the source of a quote I wanted to “liberate” a couple days ago:

“If you look like your passport photo, you’re too ill to travel.”  – Will Kommen

“Tradition is what you resort to when you don’t have the time to do it right.” – Kurt Adler

“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” – Kenneth Boulding

  

“You have to choose where to look, and in making that choice you eliminate entire worlds.” – Barbara Bloom

All these were wonderful little bits, small amusements on the way to what I was looking for.  I needed a smart, memorable.  quick-hitting line I could put into the mouth of one character trying to calm another character who was worrying way too much about something nothing could be done about…except worrying.  Such liberations, if done properly, need to be from a source that is not famous, since recognition ruins the appearance of originality, for people attached to the idea that all their thoughts and writings are pure of intentional or unintentional borrowing.  I had remembered hearing a quote once about the “…unimportance of most things…”, and I had done a word search with as much of it as I remembered, and got lucky.

It turned out well.  I thought it had been Oscar Wilde…that kind of sarcastic and witty wordplay.  That would have ruined it though, since most people will recognize Wilde like they do Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln or other such iconic voices.  Like I said, I was lucky.  The quote was ascribed to someone named John Loque, a name that when I put it in a google search didn’t even draw a hit…John Locke, the economic theorist came up again and again.  Seems Loque hasn’t drawn any attention from any One except me.  Good.

Here’s the original quote:

“It’s almost impossible to overestimate the unimportance of most things.”

– John Loque

A truly unknown source – and to not have the name even come up on a google word search is about as close to a definition of anonymity as I can think of.  Do a word search on yourself…see if something doesn’t come up.  I’ve got a little short of a page full of hits.  I did a similar search using my mother’s name…again, hits.  Some of her hits even had photos.  Weird world.  Anyway…I needed to do a little re-working of this quote, like a guitarist taking a riff and playing around with it until it becomes theirs.  What had drawn me to this quote originally was the way it turns back on itself, using “overestimate” and “unimportance” together…over…under.  I was going to put these words in the mouth of my character – a witty guy who likes the way words can play off each other, pushing and pulling against each other like a line of boats moored together in a choppy sea, so the line would have to come off as ambiguous, over-stated, a thought stopper.  Here’s what I came up with:

“It really is impossible to overestimate the relative unimportance of most everything that actually happens.”

Now that worked perfectly.  It rolled off the tongue of my character with the elegant ease of one trying to reassure a friend, but maybe agitating them even more with all the push-and-pull, along with a few qualifying words that would truly make the character spoken to have to stop and slowly figure along the sentence to gauge exactly how the words were working together.  And, the bit at the end about “…everything that actually happens…” allowed me to not have to have my slippery character say something un-slippery like, “Don’t worry.  Things don’t usually turn out as bad as we make them out to be.”

Pooh Hamaca 2Besides all that, it’s just a good piece of advice.  It might even be showing up soon while doing a google word search.  I am truly standing on the shoulders of Giants…Giants such as John Loque.  If there really is a John Loque, and if he’s still alive – or if there’s a family member managing the fortune in royalties lost due to my liberation of this quote – here’s where to find me.  I remain, faithfully yours, and unconcerned.

Traditional…Independent, or – Don’t Publish at All?

Engraving for Thérèse philosophe (libertine no...

Engraving for Thérèse philosophe (libertine novel, 18th c.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting a rejection letter can be depressing, especially the form letters, or even worse – No Response.  Or, they can be uplifting to the author if there is a bit of writing on the rejection, and maybe even a bit of advice, a crumb on the path to publishing.  But, like an intelligent child focusing on the one time years before when he was stamped stupid by some teacher, parent, or other bully, some authors crumble and go for the strychnine.

 

Chuck Ross, a door-to-door salesman was an aspiring writer back in 1975 when he came up with the idea that the publishing industry couldn’t and wouldn’t recognize talented authors, and to prove it, he typed up 21 pages of Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – a book that had won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969, and mailed it off to four major publishing houses and was rejected by them all, including Random House, the publisher of Steps.

Ross aired his un-scientific discovery, and left publishers sputtering – Kosinski himself said if the whole book had been submitted it would have received an offer to publish.

Ross was a true trickster, one that would make Old Man Coyote proud.

In 1979 he repeated his prank, this time typing up the whole manuscript, changing the “author’s name” to Erik Demos, and sent it to fourteen publishers.  Fourteen more rejections.  Good luck out there in Unknown Author Landia.  It’s probably easier to publish independently, or not publish at all if one wants to be the next big thing in literature.

That was Jean Shepherd’s take on the world of literary success.

Jean Shepherd was a radio deejay in New York City during the 1950s, and held down the plumb hours of midnight to 5 a.m.  Out of boredom he dumped the scripted format of the show and became Howard Stern before Howard Stern became Howard Stern, talking trash, delivering dark, satirical views of whatever was on his mind that day.  He developed a hardcore following of what he called Night People, making them feel special by professing, “night is the time people truly become individuals because all the familiar things are dark and done; all the restrictions are removed.”  Every clique or gang or country needs enemies, some good ‘ol bonding by fear or disdain.  Shepherd’s chosen enemy “others” were day people, creatures who fed on “creeping meatballism” and were responsible for all rules, red tape, and disturbing the daytime sleeping habits of Night People.

Shepherd was another vicious doubter of the wisdom of the book publishing establishment.  He decided to prove his point, suggesting that his followers all over the country go into bookstores and ask for a hot new book that didn’t exist.  Not existing is difficult, even for a book.  He came up with a title for his non-existent 18th century bodice-ripper of a book, I, Libertine, a non-existent author, Frederick R. Ewing, whose fictitious bio made him an Oxford graduate, retired Royal Navy Commander, and a scholar who delivered a series of BBC talks on “Erotica of the 18th century.”

I, Libertine

I, Libertine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first day of Shepherd’s experiment went alright – 27 requests placed at a 5th Avenue bookstore.  Many more followed in the following days, from all over the United States, England, and Scandinavia…the perks of having a steward on the Queen Mary as one of his followers.  Bookstore owners started contacting publishers, publishers were befuddled, but publishers know the merit of a buck, even if they may not always care to bother with the merits of an unknown book by an unknown author.  Ian Ballantine – publisher extraordinaire – sniffed along the trail until he discovered Shepherd, and knowing the merit of free publicity already in place, commissioned science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon – a Night Person follower of Shepherd’s – to write I. Libertine in a hurry.  Sturgeon did.  It sold approximately 130,000 copies, although critics panned it, some savagely.

There you go, hopeful writers…to toss pages upon pages over the transom, give up and independently publish, or not publish at all…buy the ticket, take the…

Trivia Extra for the Day:  Theodore Sturgeon was one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite science-fiction writers, and the Vonn’s alter-ego, fearful vision of his literary future and certain legacy, the character Kilgore Trout, was named in honor of  Sturgeon and the G.I. Kilgore of World War II fame…Kilgore Trout.

The Beat Goes On…The Beat Goes On…

The Politics of Yertl the Turtle

Your Majesty please…I don’t like to complain,/ But down here below, we are feeling great pain./ I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,/ But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

 

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That quote is lines 65-68 from “Yertl the Turtel”, one of three stories from Yertl the Turtle and Other Stories by the rabble-rousing labor activist and raving anarchist, Theodor Suess Geisel, better known to you, me, and millions of other children as Dr. Seuss.  The famous children’s book was published by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and Dr. Seuss’s demonic, socialistic thoughts, have been polluting minds – young and old – ever since.

But, like all instigators of class warfare, the good Dr. got called to account for his dangerous words a little over a year ago by Dave Stignant, acting director of the Prince Rupert School District in the sleepy little hamlet of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.

But, let’s start this from the beginning.  The photo of the turtle that heads this bit of pinko thinking was taken by my wife.  The turtle is at home in a pool outside of Auto-Mercado, an American-style supermarket between Tamarindo and Villareal in Costa Rica.

I commented at what a limited world-view this poor creature must have had, and a friend of mine replied that it probably wasn’t all that bad, since the turtle was king of all he surveyed.  I immediately thought of one of the first books I owned as a child, Yerlt the Turtle and Other Stories.

It’s a short piece -probably one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous – from this stanza:

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
 I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it.  Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food.  We are starving!” groaned Mack.

 

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cart...

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cartoon published in PM on March 20, 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The gist of this story is that Yertl the Turtle is the King of the Pond on a “faraway island of Sala-ma-Sond, and wanting to be more powerful, he had ordered his turtle subjects to pile up so he could survey more to be King of.  Mack, a most common and plain little turtle, was on the bottom.  All was fine until the moon came up, and Yertl called for more turtles since there should be no higher than the highest authority…himself.

How this all became an issue in the Prince Rupert School system was that a elementary school teacher had introduced this book into her class plan.  She also seems to have had a t-shirt with “But down at the bottom, we too should have rights” on the chest.  She was a union member, and there was a bit of re-working to be done as far as contracts and pay-scales were concerned.  The indignant Stignant banned her from using the book in her classroom, wearing the t-shirt, and from even having any items concerning Yertl the Turtle on school grounds, or in open view inside her car.

“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” the indignant Stignant said.  “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute.  It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligations to children and their families.”

 

YERTLE

I was digging farther into this, the results of the Yertl the Turtle controversy and book ban, and especially the fortunes, or misfortunes of the indignant Stignant…but the internet connection went south, I lost my original post, art, and settings, so I’m getting this off as fast as I can before it happens again.

Save it for another day.

I do know that the end of the tale has plain little turtle Mack burp (which was quite a rude thing to say in 1958) and the turtle tower collapsed, leaving King Yertl face in the mud of the pond.  Maybe the final stanza gives some indication of how the whole union brouhaha, as well as the indignant Stignant’s, fortunes fared:

And tosay the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
 As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

Just Who am I Writing For?

A trip HusbandHave I lost my way?  Have I found my way?  Am I busy being born instead of busy dying, to quote Bob Dylan?  A constant reader commented the other day I was a “softie” under my crusty exterior.  I had written a post about my wife and I rescuing an abandoned kitten.  How mushy is that?  And, I’ve been writing posts about joining in on clean-up projects promoted by a young boy in Florida, and worrying over the fate of people from the other side of the world…people I wouldn’t even know of without this social media connection I’ve fostered.

Where did my inner curmudgeon go?

Have I pawned all my angst, anger and attitude off on the Philosopher Red/alter-ego I seem to use more and more often for dirty work?

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an old Kurt Vonnegut interview published in Playboy magazine in the early 1970s, post-Slaughterhouse Five, and he answered a question posed by the interviewer about why he writes with this:

Writers are specialized cells doing whatever we do, and we’re expressions of the entire society – just as the sensory cells of your body as a whole.  And when a society is in great danger, we’re likely to sound the alarms.”  Later in the interview he answers further questioning by saying that artist’s work reflects the society they are a part of, and if they’re good at their work, they offer comforting lies to make people feel good about being alive.

Sometimes I think I should be sounding the alarm.  I agree with megalomaniac dictators like Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that artists should serve their state…I just disagree with them as to how I should serve my state.  But, to do this I need to define my state, just who it is I’m writing for.  I know the most common answer from artists is they create for themselves and the audience can buy the ticket and take the ride, or they can go jump in a volcano…but their work is still affecting their society, even if they reject that society and any approval from that society.  A question I used to pose to students…a writing prompt –

“What does ‘America’ mean?  Is it a geographical area…rivers and mountains and deserts and seashores?  Is it the people who live within those borders?  Is it an idea, started by a gang of rich Virginia planters and Massachusetts importer/exporters and interpreted by succeeding generations to fit their times and fashion?  When you pledge allegiance to the Flag, what does that piece of cloth symbolize?”

I got about as many answers as I had students, and none of them made much sense.  The one know-it-all I had write a screed about Communism’s faults and Democracy’s superiority…I told him he was comparing a method of organizing the commercial life of a group of people with a political one and he should sober up if he was going to preach.  The ones who answered it’s the American people…I asked them exactly who they were including: crack dealers…robber baron CEOs…lazy cretins who live off SSI or other taxpayer-supported programs intended for the truly needy, or people they perceived to be very much like themselves.  I wanted an answer for myself as much as I wanted them to think about something beside “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “American Idol” results.

I seem to be going in several directions…or, are they connected in some manner beyond my non-inquisitive intellect?  I guess I’m flailing around for a subject to write about, and I’ve written about one.

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1...

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just now I was having an e-mail conversation with a writer, and I told him about the little comic books I saw in Mexico called “revistas.”  They’re turned out every week, and the government gave them away for free in the Mexico City subway, thinking that people who are reading don’t commit as much crime as those who aren’t.  These “revistas” are hyper-sexual, awfully written, and the cheapest form of “low art” imaginable…but they were being used to serve the “state” in a positive way.  Goofy entertainment to reduce the chance your grandmother won’t get beat up and mugged on the way home from her $12 a day job cleaning rich people’s toilets.

Big Joe Stalin, Benny Mussolini, Uncle Adolf, and The Dylan would all probably spit on revistas if they even thought it worth their while.

 

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

But I’m still at an impasse…do I serve my “state” better by promoting small, feel-good posts that make readers go, “Awwww…” or do I dredge up heavy-handed, loaded, and brain-straining issues that are not – and have never been – manageable to the average reader?  I think I’ll just shut up until someone more intelligent than I offers some sort of answer…or write for these three gals.

Later…

 

Crucifying My Inner Monkey

And a thousand thousand slimy things lived on; and so did I – Samuel Taylor Coleridge “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

I told a “friend” about an idea I had for a simple post.  He stole the idea, the photo, and who knows what else.  Got to love some people.

Philosopher Red Proposes War on Mississippi, Elvis, and Blogistan

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

So I wake up on the cold, unforgiving concrete floor of the Ghost Hotel this morning, again, to a scream of rage, again.  The Philosopher Red was shaking me violently, the gargling, guttural sounds of a gut-shot animal rising in his throat.

“Have you seen this,” he said…way too loud for my throbbing head.  He helped me up off the floor and forced me over to my laptop computer.  He pointed at the screen.  “Read that !”

I read what was on the screen.  It was a page with a story I had pulled up the night before, not expecting the Philosopher Red to be searching through my search history, or even be interested in the news of the day.  The story was about the ricin-laced letters some nut job from Mississippi had sent President Barack Obama, some senator named Wycker, from somewhere, and a Justice Court judge in Mississippi.  A copy of the letters was prominently displayed.

No one wanted to listen to me before.

There are still ‘Missing Pieces’

Maybe I have your attention now

Even if that means someone must die

This must stop.

To see a wrong and not expose it,

Is to become a silent partner to its continuance

I am KC and I approve this message.

“What kind of people are we if we let these kinds of attacks go unanswered?” Red raged.  “We got to teach these terrorists a lesson – blow them all to hell,” he said, slamming one fisted hand into the palm of another.

“Like that’s going to scare him,” I said, looking to see if Red had left me any coffee in the pot, “The guy’s from Mississippi.”

“I’d say a couple of drone strikes would do them some good,” Red growled.  “And if a couple of surgical strikes don’t straighten them up, we’ll send in the Marines…or the Navy SEALS…then blow them all to hell…hell, I tell you…HELL !”

The Philosopher Red was working himself into a self-righteous rage, which is never very pretty.  I tried to calm him.  I told him that the letter-sender was a nut job, an Elvis impersonator.

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator (Photo credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent))

“Another Elvis follower,” Red said.  “The last Elvis impersonator I saw looked like Saddam Hussein.  We got to start taking these kind of troublemakers out.  How do these people spread this crap around,” he nearly screamed, pointing at the computer screen.  I told him the suspect, a Kevin Curtis, was a blogger…a frustrated writer.

“A what?  A Blogger?  Who let’s these people in our country?” Red raged.  “We ought to send his ass back to Blogistan where he belongs.  Don’t these damn A-rabs get CNN in Blogistan…just what about Shock and Awe don’t they understand?  They just don’t get it ’til they’re swinging from the end of a rope.”

His outraged threats echoed through the empty concrete chambers and hallways of the Ghost Hotel.

“You could have left me some coffee,” I said, tossing some grounds into the pot…cowboy coffee again.  This was starting to seem like one of those Philosopher Red type of days.

 

The Philosopher Red: A Popeless Night in the Ghost Hotel

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

Another night banished to the Ghost Hotel, hiding out from Maxie Kahn.

I’ve liberated electrical service from the bed and breakfast next door, and The Philosopher Red lies around all day watching television while I try to hustle us up a new place to live. I have inquired about the Rude Red Dude’s new listless lifestyle, which is very similar to his former listless lifestyle, but even more so.

Without taking his eyes off the television, he replies:”There’s a new Popelessness in the air, and I can’t seem to shake it.” As much as I prefer he get his red-robed rear end up and out of the Ghost Hotel, I decide that it’s better to be kind than right.

I take a walk to the local bookstore and find two films that might be appropriate for these trying times.  When I get back the Philosopher Red is wiping the salsa from his fingers onto my sheets.

I toss the DVDs on my bed for his consideration.

We Have a Pope (film)

We Have a Pope (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“How about “We Have a Pope.” I ask him.  “It’s an Italian comedy -”

“Appropriate, so far,” Red replies.

“…originally titled Habemus Papam, the Latin phrase used to announce the election of a new Pope.  Written by Nanni Moretti, directed by Nanni Moretti, and starring Nanni Moretti.”

“Sound wonderful,” the Rude Red Dude sighs, “Couldn’t get any one to join him in this work of genius?”

“Give it a chance,” I say.  “It’s about a Cardinal who is elected Pope against his wishes, and the therapist brought in by the Vatican to help him overcome his panic.  It played during the Cannes Film Festival in 2011,” I add, trying to instill some enthusiasm.

“Played where…Toledo…Des Moines…Caracas…the Vatican,” he says, followed by a snort.

“Jerzy Stuhr is in it too,” not knowing any Jerzy other than Kosinski, but hoping for the best.

“Euro-trash rejects,” the red-robed one replies.

I have to remember, The Philosopher Red is not a foreign film fan…he’s the only person I know who has fallen asleep watching Run Lola Run, and who could fall asleep watching that frenetic film?

My answer…I’m looking at him sprawled across my bed.

Cover of "The Pope of Greenwich Village"

Cover of The Pope of Greenwich Village

“How about an American film then,” I ask.  “I also got The Pope of Greenwich Village with Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Geraldine Page, and Burt Young.”

“This is what you bring me to assuage my Popelessness? And…”

“…and,” I go on, reading from the back of the DVD case, “Page won an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for a two scene role, and -”

“Fitting,” The Philosopher Red replies.  “Popes sightings are rare these days.”

“The movie centers around Paulie, a schemer who -”

“Not a documentary,” the Rude Red Dude whines.  “Wasn’t there already a Pope Paulie, or did I miss a decade or two?”

Pope John Paul II,” I tell him.

“Pope John Paulie II,” he says.  “Wasn’t he the bass player in Led Zeppelin, or something.  How about cutting the crap and nominating Keith Richard for Pope…I’ll get behind that campaign. Does the Pope have to be alive?”  I wonder what kind of smoke would be coming from the Vatican chimney if Keith was elected Pope.

“It wouldn’t seem like it, sometimes,” I say, considering the options that would open up.  “How about that guy Bentham you’re always going on about…or Thomas Hobbes…he had the answer – don’t feed the poor…no more poor.”

“How dare you bring Jeremy Bentham into this mess.  The King of Utilitarianism?  He wouldn’t keep such company…anything else?

“…a schemer,” I carry on, reading from the DVD cover, “who finds himself out of work…criminal activity…no way to support his pregnant girlfriend…expensive tastes but not much money…”

“Sounds like reality television to me,” Red says, “Snookie in this farce?  Snookie…the first Pope from New Jersey…I like that.”

The Philosopher Red gets up, takes the DVD out of my hand, picks up the other one, and throws them both out of the broken window.

“I think the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars is on tonight,” he says.  “I’m not missing that for this pap.”

I’m satisfied if The Philosopher Red is satisfied.