Monday, October 16, 2017

How Time Flies!

This is the first meme I ever constructed. It's hard to imagine, but its birth came one year and one month ago.

I remember at the time, everyone I knew didn't really take Trump seriously. To most, he seemed like a long-shot television thug who somehow drifted by. That's because my friends believe in rationality, logic, Americanism, liberty, equality, education, intellectual growth, personal responsibility and who knows what else. But there's one thing I had in my hip pocket: I was pretty familiar with professional wrestling and its audience. I suspected back in that September that the tide had turned and the WWE mentality had finally achieved critical mass. That's the main problem with a democracy: every vote carries the same weight.

The late Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was so right. It was at least 30 years ago he spouted,
The thing that scares me about marks [a wrestling audience] is that they can vote and they can breed.
And so I quietly put this meme together, suspecting it would probably make more sense six weeks later. I am the Edgar Cayce of Mankato, don't you know...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Picture is Worth...

Even though Spurts of Ink has lost its muse and readers, there are still one or two lines there I hope were worth writing. This one comes from The Empty Word.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Précis

I'm still reading Occult Paris, by Tobias Churton, and ran across the following passage. It made me stop and think: this could in fact be a summary of my A Formalist's Apology, a statement of principles which I've been writing for several years now. Though Churton is describing a time 150 years ago, it could very well be a description of my life view now:
Esoteric traditions provided a tolerant, philosophically oriented region of individual spiritual liberty, centered not on outward conformity and public morality but on the heart and personal spiritual awareness, a principle of revelation, and private morality.
There are many of my favorite words in that sentence!

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Age of Memes -- Part II

Somewhere in my autohagiography, Spurts of Ink (but don't remember which episode now), I wrote the following. Last week it occurred to me that it might make a good meme.

Even better, you know how some people have a brass plate on their door or front stoop that reads "No peddlers"? How about an etched version of this instead? Might cut down on the Saturday morning foot traffic, especially from pairs of lads in white shirts and neckties handing out leaflets.

Anyway, here 'tis:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What's an Extra Syllable Among Friends?

So, I'm reading Occult Paris by Tobias Churton tonight, a gift from my longstanding college buddy, and came across the "word" ambitiousness.

Strictly speaking, there's nothing really wrong with it, I suppose. But I wondered, why not simply ambition? I mean, both are nouns and have the same meaning. So why pollute the waters by changing the original noun form, ambition, to the adjectival form, ambitious, just to morph it back again to a different and more convoluted noun form, ambitiousness?

And that got me reminiscing. Several years ago I had a girlfriend (very briefly!) who once uttered duplicitousness in conversation in lieu of duplicity. What a mouthful, but of course I was far too gentlemanly to even flick an eyebrow. Sir Walter Raleigh had nothing on me when it comes to women.

I blame Alexander Haig for all this. Before he came along in the early 80s, conversationalists and writers simply stuck with well pedigreed words which had gotten the job done splendidly for several centuries. But Haig, probably from a sense of inferiority, began to spin all sorts of monstrosities as Secretary of State. In just the couple years after Reagan picked him, the fad of verbal monstrosities caught on in the press and public culture. Seriously. Believe me when I say that whole business of making nouns verbs, verbs adjectives, and adjectives nouns (when perfectly serviceable words already existed) is due to him. What always baffled me is that no one (apart from journalist Edwin Newman who was savage but never heeded) ever questioned his gobbledygook.

Now we're stuck with it, for once a language changes for the worse, there's no going back, as the Académie française continues to discover a couple hundred years later.

Don't get me wrong. Language is supposed to change as we change. But always in the cause of revealing, not concealing. And never should it be an abrogation of responsibility: I fault the otherwise great leader Bill Clinton for making the passive mood so popular.

Let me leave you with this melancholy opinion. If language truly precedes thought, as I'm still convinced of, then we as a species are thinking far less than we did just fifty years ago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Age of Memes -- Part I

Oscar Wilde was perhaps the originator of the meme. The only trouble is, every real-life graphic (his presence and voice) to decorate his clever statements was always Oscar himself. (Do you recall when he said in conversation, "Enough about me. What do you think about me?")

Well, there are a few things I've written over the years I hope will recall me one day when I'm gone. Today's comes from my God and the Marital Arts.

If you should happen to be giggling, don't, and steer clear of Oklahoma and Texas. Giordano Bruno would fare no better today than he did in 1600.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sometimes I Feel Like Tithonus

Tonight I thought of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. While the funniest play I've ever seen, paraphrasing one of her lines provokes anything but guffaws:
To lose one friend may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness.
Not that I'm becoming moody or anything, but it occurred to me just how many dear friends I've lost this past year or so, the following by demise:
  • Rez: the finest poet I've ever known, interested in everything, footnotes never required in conversation,
  • Sue: colleague, logician, swimming partner, fellow imbiber, Monty Python freak, who left behind a noteworthy thesis on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem,
  • Howie: ah Howie, will anything ever equal those debauches at 249 Norton, of the days on the road with Spiff Cool?
  • T. J.: professor of mathematics, author, lover of professional wrestling, all-around drinking buddy and the greatest department chairman one could ever wish for.
It's the latter I want to write of tonight, this being the anniversary of his departure from my life. I could say so much, how he hired me because MSU denied me tenure, how he defended me from evil deans when I failed "too many" students, all the times we became blotto together, and the sweet acknowledgment he made to me in his magnum opus on Banach Spaces. Gauss, I loved the guy.

But instead, I like to leave you with a short episode, not particularly important I suppose, but it still makes me dewy-eyed.

I believe it was my first year at Gustavus, and I had requested the department choose a better textbook for the joint sections of our Calculus courses. T.J. said “fine” and put me in charge of the transition. I had homed in on the well-known G. B. Thomas book, which had been standard issue at all the better institutions since the 1950s at least (newer, revised editions of course). The department was well-satisfied with my choice; in fact, the members really didn’t care one way or another! But they seemed inclined to humor my desire to switch.

Just about this time the book rep for the company which published the text we were jettisoning appeared on campus and made the rounds to our offices. Naturally, he was horrified to learn of the impending switch, and petitioned all the mathematics faculty one by one to reconsider. Hah! T.J. and Jeff and Mike and Ron and John all cleverly told the rep that it was I who was “chair of the textbook selection committee.” That was one crazy group: Kent State, Berkeley, Iowa State, U of M and CalTech coming together in one spot with a love of mathematics I had only dreamed of.

The chap worked on me for quite a spell, getting angrier by the minute. He could tell I was new, the young pup in the department, arrogant as hell, and yet everyone seemed disposed to support my decision. The guy left my office in a huff, and apparently made the rounds once more trying to dissuade the others.

So, it’s time for my next class. I walked to it by way of T.J.’s office. His door was always open, and he had a comfy sofa. As I strolled by, I saw the book rep sprawled out on the sofa, holding his head in his hands, eyes covered, muttering, literally tugging on his hair. T.J. was sitting at his desk, behind him, and looked up just in time to see me walking by. He gave me a wink, a bit of a smile, and then one of those low chuckles from the belly I remember so well. He was terribly amused by it all!

And we in fact started using the new textbook for the Calculus the following year. Just one of my many remembrances of that wonderful guy. Not a deep story by any means, but it’s just that his chuckle keeps coming back to me.

But even more noteworthy: T.J.'s mother was the bridesmaid at Gorgeous George's wedding. I kid you not!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Books and Mottos

This has been a moderately odd day. The torrential rains were great, of course, but somehow sitting in the sun-porch enjoying it alone isn't quite the same. Frankie abandoned me upon the very first drops.

And then there's the fact my upper left molar split in two, one piece coming free, leaving an Xacto-Knife edge to lacerate my tongue repeatedly, with the dentist unable to see me until 7:50 a.m. Monday morning. Blood and Copenhagen don't mix all that well. Moreover, that Monday morning is about the time I usually go to bed...

And then I bump into two books tonight (while anesthetizing my tongue with some Old Smuggler), whose titles riveted me. Chalk two more up to the increasing stack. Mind you, I have no idea if either is a good book, but the titles so grabbed me.

Each describes, in a short phrase, exactly how I've conducted my eccentric life:
  • Strangers Have the Best Candy
  • Running with Scissors
As I thought about the titles, I realized I have always sought candy from strangers and have run with scissors.

Humorous titles, indeed, but does anyone realize just how hard it is to break the rules nowadays?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Queen Anne Weekend

I recall reading Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung, way back in 1974 or so. It made a big impression on me. Two things caught my attention, and both were sensible:
  1. Dreams are an attempt to fulfill some need lacking in conscious life, and,
  2. oftentimes dreams use symbols, analogy, puns, humor and irony to convey ideas.
So, I had a dream last night which has perplexed me mightily. I've tried to analyze it all today, but with no results. Care to offer an unbiased, outsider's opinion? Here's the setup:

In the dream, I was unattached, but just a couple weeks earlier had met someone who intrigued me no end. We apparently had had a few 1-hour dates, and it looked like a romance might be brewing. But I wasn't sure she was as intrigued with me as much as I was with her.

Next thing I know, it was Thursday and she said she could come stay Friday through Sunday for some overnights.

So here's the question. In the dream, the phrase "It's going to be a Queen Anne weekend" arose, not from anyone's lips but just in my mind. This made me ecstatic for some reason. I remember puzzling over what that meant, but after some real head-scratching (in the dream) figured it out. And it apparently was a good thing, for I was so happy with anticipation.

Upon awakening, and after a day's consideration, I have no idea what a Queen Anne weekend is. Apart from the fact she made Isaac Newton the Warden of the Mint, and was last of the Stuarts, Queen Anne means little to me.

It's just got to be a pun or something similar. Any ideas?

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Golden Rule

If you click on this snippet, you'll hear what I've always considered the most amazing sentence ever aired on television. Fifty years later, I'm still astounded.

It's bad enough some playwright thought it worthy of penning, but what could the producer, director and sponsors have been thinking of by not stepping forward with a bit of an "ahem"?

Unless it was supposed to be some sort of Lord Haw-Haw parody to make us see how ridiculous the establishment was. Counter-propaganda as it were.

I was only fourteen back in 1967 when I first saw it, and though I was hot for hippie chicks myself, distinctly remember hearing that adverb "even" and thinking, "What business is that of yours, bub?" I was too busy charting my own development (with concomitant atheism, narcotics and promiscuity in the offing, as icing on the cake) to bother much about what others were doing.

So tonight it got me thinking about the Golden Rule and how one word can make all the difference between it being a gentle tool for self-development or a bludgeon.

Here's what I mean. Consider this version from the 7th century BCE Egypt:
That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.
Plato also picked up on this take a couple centuries later. But contrast it with the cheapened, plagiarized version spouted in Christianity:
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
See the difference? The former conveys an absence of action, because I'm too busy with my own self-development to make time to interfere with yours.

And this further got me thinking about something related. I suppose most of my friends would say that I'm a liberal. But that's not really the case. I embraced the counterculture fully in the sixties and have never given up on its principles. Once the Age of Aquarius came to an end in 1980, I simply sought refuge in liberalism, but it's a pale substitute for the real deal. In fact, liberals genuinely piss me off from time to time, and that doesn't mean that I'm heading for conservatism; far from it!

What I mean is that both liberals and conservatives think the solution lies in society, even if the former mean well.

Consider these responses to the "Skipper" in the Dragnet snippet of above, imagined from a conservative, a liberal and a hippie:
  • Conservative: "Yup! With you all the way, feller. Now let's do something about it and rout the bastards!" Homosexuality is a choice.
  • Liberal: "No, love them just the way they are and take them into our fold." Homosexuality is not a choice.
  • Hippie: "Far out! Got any blotter acid?" None of the above: the topic of homosexuality never came up.
My point of course is that the conservative is too busy worrying about others to tend to his own self-development; this is just nursing an inferiority. The liberal has completely missed the point and moral prejudice is still there, simply hiding barely below the surface, under a veneer of rationale. Only the hippie gets it right: "So? What's that got to do with me?"

And to Joe Friday's "Skipper," I neither praise nor denigrate; I keep plugging along trying to be more than I was yesterday whilst doing no harm to others.

When you think about it, the genuine Golden Rule willingly embraces what many consider selfishness. Is it? Anyway, I wonder, how different would the world be, if each and every person had no time or inclination to hold others back?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Question for My Friends

When I was fourteen or so, I used to have all sorts of libidinous dreams about Policewoman Dorothy Miller, with she in various stages of undress.

I'm curious, did any of you feel the same way?