Archive for March 2011
Hello, everyone. Settle down, please. Today we’re going to talk about pluralism.
Pluralism means wanting or accepting our differences, even if those differences are very big. Timmy, sit down, and leave Marcia alone. Leaving Marcia alone means you accept her being different from you, even though she never takes a bath. We call that part of pluralism “tolerance.”
When we are tolerant, we do not make other people feel bad for being different from us. Gregory here is the only black person in this class, but to call him “son-of-a-whore” because of it would not be tolerant, even if he probably doesn’t know who his father is. Kim and Anna’s parents came from some godforsaken country in Asia, but we do not call them “gook” or “slanty-eyed.” We want to be pluralistic.
Now, the principal wants us to talk about pluralism because some children in the older grades beat up another student because he goes to a Mormon church, not a real church. We all know that beating people up for being different is wrong; we’re only supposed to give them dirty looks and say they will go to Hell when they die. But Principal Martin thinks we need to try even harder than that. So we’re going to talk about pluralism and tolerance.
You might think that we don’t try to be tolerant when someone is clearly wrong, but actually, that’s exactly when it happens. Even though Jews are Hellspawn who killed our Lord, we are not going to spit on Jacob or Beth. We are going to treat them as we treat everyone else. Yes, Timothy, that means they stay in the room when we have our class Christmas party.
Pluralism is one of the reasons our founding fathers made sure there would be freedom of religion, and that’s the way the courts still see it, even though our founding fathers did not face the danger of Muslims trying to impose Shariah law on us and make us their servants. Yes, Jessica, that’s exactly what they believe; just ask your pastor. But if we had a Muslim in our class, there would be no singling him or her out for beaning during dodge ball just for that reason. He would also have to be a nerd. Yes, Timothy, he could also come to the Christmas party.
What’s that, Grace? Well, that is a good question, but not really about pluralism, so I’ll answer it very briefly. Our founding fathers decided we need what’s called a “separation of church and state,” which means that the government will not favor one religious group over another. But of course everyone knows they meant this to be a Christian nation, so having a Christmas party in a public school is no big deal.
But back to pluralism. In addition to talking about pluralism, we’re going to spend some time practicing it. I have here a dress – a very ugly dress. Jacob, you’ll get to wear this dress and stand at the front of the class. The rest of us will practice trying not to laugh or throw things at Jacob.
We’ll do this every morning, right after the pledge of allegiance. Jacob, Beth, Kim, Anna and Gregory will take turns wearing the dress.
Now, if you’ll open your English books to page forty…
Much fuss has been made about making classics more accessible to today’s audience. Well, to hell with that. Literally, that is, if have a particular view of certain revered texts. To wit:
It started back In the Beginning
Before everyone started sinning.
But I think He’d retract
If He knew for a fact
Its result would be Charlie Sheen’s “winning.”
God spoke, and thus light was created.
“It’s good,” He said, but vacillated:
“Is it particle? Wave?
Let’s just watch it behave
And in eons, its nature debated.”
Though He wouldn’t deign to explain why,
The Lord then created the sky.
But at that point, the song
Was historically wrong:
No Lucy, and no diamonds, on high.
When the dry land emerged from the sea
Earth could then grow such things as the tree
Though one can’t help but wonder
Whether ’twas all a blunder:
Sans hammocks, what use could there be?
Though it wasn’t quite made on day four
Taco Bell is just the kind of store
To fit in with the pattern
With Jupiter, Saturn
And the rest in the “gas giant” corps.
Day five brought forth fishes and birds
(And, if you’re a creationist, herds
Of some dinosaurs, natch,
Caught outside Noah’s hatch -
Though I must say, that’s not in the words).
Day six: made orangutan
And the billions of others He planned.
But one creature would rule
Over canine and mule:
I mean cats. Wait, you thought I meant man?
Dear Mr. Picasso:
We appreciate your interest in our gallery. Thank you for submitting your work for our consideration. It is with regret that we inform you that we have decided against showing the works you have presented to us.
Please understand that we hold you in high regard: your brushstroke technique and sense of color are second to none, and your subject matter speaks to the very core of human emotion. However, we feel compelled to outline why, in the end, we have declined to display your paintings.
Primarily, our considerations stem from a keen awareness of emerging trends in art. In the opinion of our team of experts, the distorted figures your paintings depict will have narrow appeal, and fleeting popularity, if any. As the lifeblood of any gallery is the art-appreciating public, we must act in accordance with what we deem the most likely public reaction to any given work. From a purely economic standpoint, we must refrain from devoting space in our gallery to works upon which the public will spit.
Please do not take this to mean that we have not considered the artistic merits of your paintings. On the contrary: we spent much time examining and discussing your work. The outcome of these discussions pointed invariably to our sense that you have no idea what you are doing. You must have talent – as we mentioned, your technique and subject matter are beyond reproach – but why you would choose to depict such distorted, manifestly crude figures when a world of aesthetic richness awaits in the realistic, the mythical, the naturally beautiful?
Any preschooler can tell you, after all, that eyes do not belong on the same side of the nose. Ignoring this basic anatomical feature bespeaks apathy, laziness or utter disdain. We should not need to inform you that neither we nor our clientele find such attitudes attractive.
Moreover, your attempt to depict the female form as an object of little more than sensuality, devoid of lofty potential, casts doubt on the suitability of your work for today’s audience. This is not Salzburg or Paris in the 1870′s, Mr. Picasso; we see decadence as a short-lived phenomenon, not one to be enshrined in our period’s art.
We will gladly reconsider our position if you return with a reformed portfolio, one that better reflects the spirit of the times and upstanding moral character. Perhaps then we can discuss your emerging career. Until then, we shall adhere to our assessment that your work, though mildly interesting, will fail to generate sufficient excitement as to warrant our endorsement of it.
The Rectocephallic Inversion Gallery
In today’s sensitive political environment, a writer must take care not to alienate large numbers of readers. For one thing, that means keeping use of the word “nigger” to a minimum. Overuse of the word “nigger” is liable to drive away people of African ancestry, as well as people who sympathize with their historic plight. So the sensitive writer will avoid using words such as “nigger” more than absolutely necessary, and will certainly not say “nigger” repeatedly in the space of a few sentences, no matter how noble or instructive the purpose.
Public opinion, after all, can determine the fortunes of a career, especially one so dependent on the public as writing. So a writer had best toe the line of prevailing political winds, and steer well clear of offending the public – by which one must never mean Jews who control public opinion through the media. Saying such things would be imprudent – nay, suicidal – in our social context. One dares not refer to the supposed Jewish control of media or of banking, nor to any supposed characteristics they may have as a group: hooked noses, usurious tendencies, distaste for buying retail, whatever. Additionally, you would be best advised not to employ terms such as “Hymie” and “Kike.” Yids will jump all over you for that. The reaction will become especially vehement if you precede any of these terms with, “goddamn.”
Conversely, if you happen to be Jewish, you should avoid referring to gentiles as “goyim,” as they might not like the sound of it. Calling non-Jewish women “shiksas” sounds about as offensive as it really is, so don’t do it, and never, ever speak aloud the idea that shiksas are for practice, or that all non-Jews, especially the shvartzes, are violent thugs out to rape and pillage, however true you might find it. Yes, “shvartze” is just Yiddish for “black,” but considering the national uproar over the innocuous word “niggardly” a few years back, you don’t want to go there.
(True exchange witnessed by my mother:
Elderly Yiddish-speaking lady: “…I mean the man over there – the shvartze.”
Daughter: “Mom, you shouldn’t use that word.”
Elderly lady: “What should I call him – blue?”).
The same goes for homosexuals, although here the pitfalls are less of the stereotyping variety than of plain old intolerance. One may say “gay” or “lesbian,” but “fagot” is out of the question – one should even stay away from the shortened form “fag” used in the innocuous British sense, i.e. a cigarette, however unfortunate the conflation. See “niggardly,” above. Do not say anyone packs fudge, unless you are referring, literally, to a person whose activities involve placing that chocolate confection into shipping or sales containers. Fags and people who support their rights – and we should all be so supportive, I need not remind you – can get very upset when the word “fag” occurs unnecessarily. It also goes without saying that “goddamn fag” is a no-no.
If you happen to follow the Muslim faith, calling non-Muslims “infidels” or “dhimmi” can get you into trouble, no matter how sincerely you believe the worthless pig-dogs will serve you in paradise. “Jihad” is a term best left out of casual political discourse. You put your career in jeopardy if you offend the infidels, the very infidels whose positive attention you need in order to raise the capital to fund your jihad against infidels. Tread carefully.
Be careful when referring to Catholics, as well. Avoid the term “papist” if at all possible; papists are a powerful demographic, and suggesting that their true loyalty is with Rome, not Main Street or Washington, can get you in trouble. There is no reason to keep using the term “papist” multiple times when the audience knows you mean Catholics. Avoid implying that Catholic doctrine somehow contributes to a default papist state of unhealthy sexual repression, or that something inherent in Catholicism produces goddamn pedophile priests. As a subset of this warning, remain vigilant regarding those of Irish ancestry, many of whom maintain papist sensibilities, and who, for some reason, bear a reputation for drunkenness.
By the same token, do not assume that Scots are skinflints - do not confuse unjustly attributed Scottish cheapness with unjustly attributed Jewish cheapness – that Germans are all Nazis, that Russians are unrepentant Communists, that Democrats are radical leftists, that Poles are backward, unsanitary anti-Semites, that French are adulterous surrender-monkeys who never shower and whose women never shave, or that anyone speaking Spanish in the US arrived there illegally. Implying any of these – nay, even mentioning such ideas out loud – can cause a writer undue trouble.
Avoid referring to Arabs and other natives of the Near and Middle East as “sand niggers.” Although most people don’t understand the term anymore, “wogs” carries the same taboo. Similarly, “towel-heads” triggers a negative reaction among enlightened souls – and among plenty of unenlightened ones, so just leave well enough alone. Not that one should perpetuate such a stereotype, but if it were true, you wouldn’t want any of the unenlightened ones blowing up your house in response.
I hope you have taken these rhetorical points to heart. You should have no problem if you’re Asian, because Asians are very good about this kind of thing. The rest of us will have to try harder. Goddammit.
I used to frequent an online forum that billed itself as a place to meet and engage in spirited discussions with critical thinkers and less critical thinkers of various stripes. I’ll grant the discussion were spirited, and that in fact the population of the forum lived up to the variety its supporters touted. But I haven’t visited in at least a year, and that brief foray was also the first in about two years.
I used to crave the challenge of defending or disproving positions on all subjects. Nothing was off limits: religion, politics, racism, economics, history, science, the paranormal, you name it. Owing to the type of discourse, the majority of forum regulars had – at least it appeared to me – above average intelligence, and I enjoy interacting with smart people (as far back as high school I simply couldn’t understand why various popular kids were popular; I couldn’t stand being around those idiots). Ever since I first began to frequent the forum in late 2005, I learned to reexamine dearly held assumptions, to refine myriad arguments and conceptions about the world.
Of course the place had a lighter side, with puzzles, games, and discussion threads that went on and on with creative silliness. My favorite thread had a user post an “answer” to an unasked question, and the next person to post had to come up with the best possible question for that answer, then provide another answer so the game could continue. For example: Answer: “That’s ‘discreet’, not ‘discrete’.” Question: “So, Mr. President, you want a separate chapter about each intern?”
But eventually, the games and humor portions of the site remained the only ones that held any appeal for me. Returning to the site after a prolonged absence, I found the same issues continually rehashed, sometimes by the same people, sometimes by others, with nary a novel thought or approach. I realized that people tended to talk at each other, not to each other, with each side in a debate seeking more to score rhetorical points than to genuinely pursue understanding or persuasion.
It was about that time that I began to sour on the comments that many news and opinion sites display. Does anyone genuinely think that a reader will be swayed by the opinion of some anonymous post in some corner of the web? Have any of these people stopped to think of the astronomical odds of any opinion forming and solidifying based solely on the input they receive at a given site? There’s no need to answer that question; it’s clear that too many people view themselves as far more important and influential than reality cares to let them be. Getting involved or obsessed with the last word in an online political or religious debate constitutes nothing more than a colossal waste of time.
Not that such a rational argument would sway many of the, uh, personalities we encounter online (and in meatspace, but at least there we can see and avoid them). I’m no Einstein (I’m more a Homer Simpson with hair), but I caught on pretty quickly that people do not tend to be swayed by multiple exclamation points!!!! in their arguments. Nor do BRIGHT COLORS and BOLD TEXT compensate for feeble debating skills. These points seem to be lost on certain evangelical Christians; believers in the paranormal, homeopathy et al; and foaming-at-the-mouth liberal and/or far-right partisans on any political issue (Lesbian Zionist Islamists were the ones behind 9/11, and the government made it happen! Discuss).
I’m just tired of it now. You could try to convince me to change my attitude, but anyone who does that is a fundamentalist moron.
See what I did there? That’s called “poisoning the well.” Another pitfall in debating involves the straw man, arguing against a position that one’s opponent does not actually represent. You, for example, might wish to convince me to read more irredeemably stupid comments, and you would argue that I should change my position because it’s better not to avoid reading news altogether. I could in turn respond with a slippery slope fallacy, arguing that if I begin to read comments, I’ll inexorably find myself caught up in a deadly protest involving abortion clinics. These are just some of the delightful bits of information I absorbed. They’re useful in “winning” debates at the dinner table, but one seldom makes friends by pointing out other people’s logical fallacies.
It’s much easier to bad-mouth them anonymously in some comment, after all.
But you probably don’t have the guts. Go ahead. Make my day. Submit a comment disproving my contentions.
*Sound of crickets*
I knew you’d see it my way.
*Sigh.* I’m getting tired of this, Leonard. I shouldn’t have to keep telling you that the laundry room is a lousy place to store spent nuclear fuel.
I know you work hard, dear. You come home every evening exhausted, and most of the time I suppress the urge to remind you of all the little tasks still waiting to get done. Well, we have some dinner, relax in front of the TV, and before we know it, it’s time for bed. It’s no wonder things sit around for months at a time. Still, this whole nuclear waste thing really shouldn’t wait any longer.
I also work hard, you know. It’s no picnic cleaning up after the kids, getting them ready for school, cooking every meal, washing dishes, doing laundry, keeping the place tidy and making sure everyone does chores and homework. Most days I feel like collapsing even before you get home, but I push myself, because those moments with just you are among the warmest ones I have, especially sitting so close to the radioactive waste.
Oh, I know there are a million things to do: we’ve got that fussy roof tile, the hedge needs trimming again, that tree in the back yard looks like it’s about to fall, and a dozen little hinges and joints around the house need to be adjusted and oiled. I get it. It makes so much more sense to deal with the active chores with a visible, tangible result, as compared with just finding a better place for the uranium-234 and americium-241.
Oh, don’t we have a better place to keep it? We barely use that second shed out back, and there should be plenty of room in there, between the old anthrax spores and the smallpox cultures. And I’ll admit I’m ashamed we have to do this with all the dead animals, but you could just discreetly dump it in the Assads’ pond. They’re not suspicious yet, unlike those Blix folks next door.
Remember when we had that garage sale last April, and we considered selling all the leftover uranium? For some reason we never got around to hauling it out of the laundry room and into the front yard. I think we could have gotten rid of the stuff, or at least a good bit of it. Susan Ellwood would have bought some at the drop of a hat – she’s always been a collector of odd junk. Since the radioactive waste is just taking up space here, it certainly would get better use over at Susan’s place. Remember all those glow-in-the-dark trinkets she sent with last year’s Christmas cards? I’m telling you, all that radium and thorium-232 would have made her life so much easier.
You know what? Maybe she still wants it. She’d appreciate the convenience, now that she’s getting married again and has less time for personal projects. Her fiancé is such a pleasant man. Mahmoud is his name, I think. Mahmoud Ahmadi-something. Yes, he’d appreciate the gesture, as well. I’ll give them a call right now.
Dear Mr. Gorman:
This kind of letter would normally begin with an expression of thanks for the applicant’s interest in our fine institution, followed by an expression of regret that we were unable to accommodate all applicants, and we respectfully inform the applicant, in as gentle terms as possible, that we have rejected the application. Then we would wish the applicant success in pursuing educational goals elsewhere.
However, in your case, following this procedure in good conscience proved well nigh impossible, as not a single member of our admissions committee in any way thought your application deserved even the small measure of gratitude that we normally associate with the receipt of applications from high school seniors. Nor did any committee members feel it necessary to couch our rejection of your application – dare we say our rejection of you as a human being – in gentle terms. Nor, for that matter, do any of us wish you success in pursuing educational goals anywhere, as we would not wish to inflict you on even our fiercest academic rivals.
For the sake of honesty, the committee elected to respond specifically to your application instead of issuing the perfunctory, pro forma rejection that the majority of the unsuccessful applicants will receive. Indeed, the committee found it galling that you would submit your application in the first place. Our institution prides itself on attracting some of the finest promising minds in the country. Your application, transcript and accompanying references leave us astounded that anyone, let alone an ambitious if imbecilic applicant, would agree to endorse your candidacy for a coveted spot in our class of 2016.
Although we had no doubts regarding your manifest incompetence as soon as we beheld your application and the accompanying essays, procedure forced us to give attention to the letters of recommendation from teachers, and we regret the experience. For we were horrified to discover that the atrocious grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure that characterized your essays were echoed most jarringly in the recommendations that arrived separately from your mentors. We did briefly entertain the suspicion that you had composed the letters of recommendation yourself, but dismissed that notion almost immediately upon recalling the application itself, a document so riddled with incoherent, puerile expression as to rule out the applicant’s possession of the mental capacity required for such subterfuge.
We did discuss whether the entire application, references and all, might be part of an elaborate practical joke, and we have not completely eliminated that prospect from our minds, but the evidence points to genuine stupidity, cluelessness and entitlement on your part.
In fact the recommendations, if they even deserve that name, made clear in no uncertain terms that this institution would suffer mightily if it admitted you. Seldom, if ever, do we receive letters recommending we stay as far from a student as possible, so these made us take notice. All three letters, as brimming with errors as they were, nevertheless made clear that the writers considered you unworthy of the life you had been granted, a waste of space and resources, and, in one case, a candidate for retroactive abortion.
As you could imagine if such a thing were within your mental capabilities, which we doubt, such a description is not a frequently occurring one in this context. We therefore had no choice but to reject your application, and are still considering legal means by which to exact compensation for the horror to which you and your misguided guidance counselor, if any, have subjected us. We can only pray that you have confined your application to this institution, and have not forced other admissions committees to confront your atrocity of an application.
We wish you minimal contact with, and impact upon, other humans.
The Admission Committee
Thank you, everyone. I’ve never been very good at speeches, but for this goodbye party I think I can manage.
What can I say? It’s been eight years – and it seems like only yesterday I first rode up here in that elevator. Remember when it used to work? Well, I suppose it does technically still work, but all those failed safety inspections have made it illegal to operate. Kudos to Maintenance for consistently dropping the ball on that one, with a nod to Mr. Daly, whose budgetary sensitivities have always made Maintenance’s job so much more interesting.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; there are so many more people to acknowledge before Mr. Daly, who deserves a speech all his own. First of all, thanks to Dominic and Phoebe for organizing this little shindig. I know you have your hands full with keeping Mr. Daly’s plants well maintained and picking up his dry cleaning, so we should all be aware that arranging this event wasn’t easy – Dominic and Phoebe had to cut their solitaire games to the bone in order to fit this into the schedule and keep hounding us about who would contribute what, ever since Mr. Daly eliminated the budget for refreshments. I know your job titles are officially Administrative Assistant and Office Manager, but really you do much more than that. How many office managers do you know who make it their business to make sure no one’s working lunch lasts more than eight minutes?
Jeff, you’ve been here even longer than I have. That makes you the only veteran around here now, I guess. I’m only beginning to understand, after eight years, just how you do it. Most people would have jumped out the window by now, but you just plug away, every day, five days a week, impervious to the capriciousness and invective that rains down from on high. Jeff, you’ve made me envy deaf people in general, now that I’ve seen how crucial deafness can be in surviving this environment. If we still had a working water cooler, the gossip around it would never involve you, even if almost everyone here would have no qualms about bad-mouthing a deaf man.
Speaking of the water cooler, I must note Ernie’s contribution to our accomplishments. Ernie, when you kicked the cooler in fit of rage, did you expect that doing so would reverse the results of the office NCAA tournament betting pool? Although I personally think Mr. Daly’s reaction was excessive – making all of us suffer by refusing to fund the cooler’s replacement – I must take the rare step of agreeing with him: Duke never deserves to win.
Jacquelin, I’ve shared a cubicle with you for almost a year. In that time you’ve learned so much about sharing space that I feel we can almost be friends. I say “almost” because Mr. Daly doesn’t allow socializing among employees during work hours, and we must go our separate ways at day’s end – I to my family and you to your other job at Derrick’s Go-Go Lounge. I do wish you didn’t have to work two jobs, Jacquelin, but apparently the salary budget has been frozen for six years despite the consistent profits this division generates. This evening, would you be so kind as to ask Derrick if there are any more openings on his staff?
I’d like to mention some people who are no longer with us here, notably George, my previous cubicle mate, and Gregg before him. Their tendency to work nights made sharing the space with them almost bearable, at least until Mr. Daly mandated everyone’s presence at 8:00 AM sharp. Everyone excepting himself, of course; he couldn’t get back from the golf course until at least 9:30, and that was only on days when the club wasn’t fêting some other stodgy old white guy at brunch. So a shout out to George and Gregg. Gregg wouldn’t hear me anyway, with those noise-canceling headphones of his and his enthusiasm for Black Sabbath, but it’s the thought that counts.
The thought, indeed: Mr. Daly, I thought you’d want to be here to bid farewell to the only member of your staff who has never falsified expense reports, but apparently I thought wrong. After all, they’re honoring old whatsisname again at the country club this morning, and God forbid you should miss an opportunity to rub shoulders with other ambitious jerks. But now is hardly the time to indulge in petty complaints; those are your specialty, after all. So I am recording this little address, and I leave for you a token of my regard for you, with a note attesting to everything you did to contribute to it. Phoebe, please make sure that Mr. Daly gets this bag of soiled diapers. I’d love to say that I personally gathered each one from the day care center downstairs, but that would imply far more effort than you’re worth, Mr. Daly. No, I had everyone contribute toward it, which they did with unbridled enthusiasm – enthusiasm that I had yet to see in all my years here. I wish you many more decades of striving toward social mediocrity.
Thank you, everyone. I’ll be here until 5:30, giggling in front of my empty inbox.
Hi, Doctor. I was told to come here.
Yeah, well I don’t know, exactly, but the judge said I have to be here. I don’t have any problems that I need a shrink for, you know. I’m just doing what that brainless judge ordered me to do. Some choice I had. I could come here, and waste everybody’s time, or go to jail, and waste everybody’s tax dollars. Why can’t they just leave me alone and be done with it? Somebody’s got the wrong idea about who’s causing all the problems here. Goddamn system.
Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with me, but the judge thought otherwise. Stupid judge. Thinks everything can be made hunky dory with a visit to some therapist. Sometimes talk, talk and more talk isn’t the way to solve any problems. Sometimes a good smack across the face is the only way to get your message across. But would the judge hear that? Noooo, he thinks I’m the one who needs to change my attitude. Talk about needing some sense whacked into you. I’d do just that, but the bailiffs probably wouldn’t let me. So here I am.
Why’d he send me here? Damned if I know, doc. All I can tell is that the judge liked my girlfriend more than he liked me. She was probably flirting with him. There’s another who could stand a few more swift kicks in the behind: never stops complaining; doesn’t know how to cook a proper meal; cries like a baby when I lock her in the house. All that crying is what sold the judge, I’ll bet. I’ll give her reason to cry, damn it.
A woman should know better than that, doc, you know what I mean? Give a man a little peace and quiet, so he doesn’t have to listen to the nonstop whining about not getting out to see friends, or talk to her family. She doesn’t need to talk to that good-for-nothing family of hers, anyway. Give her all these crazy ideas about a woman’s place. I’ve had a hard enough time keeping her on her best behavior, and all they want to do is fill her head with drivel, and maybe take her away from me with all this talk of restraining orders and rights and all that crap. No one’s gonna do that, doc. I’ll make sure. That’s why I bought those shackles.
Haven’t had to use ‘em yet, of course. She’s scared now, and that’s the way it’s gonna stay. I don’t think I’ll need to use ‘em, but don’t think I won’t if she forces me to. I got problems enough as it is, what with her so-called friends trying to call her at all hours, as if something horrible has just happened. She’s fine, alright? You can go back home now and turn the TV on. Then maybe you’ll get an idea what you’re interrupting me from.
Can’t get a moment’s peace, doc. I don’t know the last time I got to watch an entire football game without some intrusion from her family or friends. Once they even brought the cops, but the cops were my pals Ed and Ray, and we just hung out and watched the rest of the game together. There’s a couple of people who know where it’s at.
Not like that goddamn judge. So doc, what’s the story? You gonna stare at me like that some more, or can I just go, now that we both know this whole arrangement is useless?
Do You Have What It Takes to Be in the News?
1. You are a Palestinian with some local influence. There’s a good chance your leadership can work non-violently to build international political pressure on Israel to relinquish enough territory for a viable state. You enable this peaceful strategy by:
a) Launching rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns.
b) Bombing Israeli bus stops.
c) Killing Israeli children in their beds, or at least cheering when it happens.
d) Smuggling weapons in from Iran.
e) All of the above.
2. You are a Middle Eastern dictator, in power for decades. Suddenly, the people begin making demands regarding transparency, democracy and rule of law. You engage your people’s loyalty and support by:
a) Equating democracy and rule of law with Islamic extremism.
b) Exhibiting unbridled arrogance and paternalism toward your citizens.
c) Making wild claims about the motives and Al-Qaeda backing of your opponents.
d) Daring the West to humiliate you with their vastly superior weaponry, which they have done a number of times before quite effectively.
e) All of the above.
3. Your OPEC-member South American nation depends on the American market for its petroleum exports. You develop this market by:
a) Cultivating strong ties with America-baiter Mahmoud Ahmadinijad.
b) Calling Muammar Qaddafi your friend.
c) Consistently siding with Palestinians against the US’s closest ally in the Middle East.
d) Attributing the lack of life on Mars to capitalism.
e) All of the above.
4. You are a Republican New York Congressman. To bolster your patriotic credentials and increase your chances of reelection, you:
a) Pander to bigots by calling all Muslim Americans onto the carpet for supposed failure to denounce violence with sufficient vehemence.
b) Explain away your prior support for the terrorist group IRA by noting that they only targeted the British, who don’t count as allies or something.
c) Alienate American Muslims, a growing voter constituency, by calling their patriotism into question.
d) Hold McCarthy-like hearings that only serve to emphasize your inconsistent values.
e) All of the above.
5. A group of Muslims has been praying regularly for years in a derelict building that happens to be within a few blocks of the World Trade Center site. In response to plans to transform their property into a full-fledged cultural center, you:
a) Smear an entire religion of 750,000,000 adherents based on the actions of 25.
b) Oppose the creation of the cultural center on such “hallowed ground,” while ignoring the presence in the same hallowed area of strip clubs and other questionable establishments.
c) Attempt to prevent the center’s construction by calling for the building’s designation as a landmark, although no one seemed to care about that building before the center was proposed, and other nearby buildings damaged on 9/11 have been demolished with no objection from you.
d) All of the above.
6. The scientific method, unerring bedrock of Western industrial and commercial dominance over the last two centuries, points to conclusions that make some of your constituents uncomfortable. As a member of Congress, you:
a) Grasp at straws to try to undermine the solid scientific consensus over global warming.
b) Cling to a literal, Creationist view regarding evolution and the origins of the universe.
c) Attempt to force schools to teach alternatives to Darwinian theory, despite the complete absence of scientifically supportable alternatives.
d) Accept gifts from pharmaceutical and commercial interests while claiming to base your legislative agenda solely on factual considerations.
e) All of the above.
7. While society at large has shown increasing acceptance of homosexuals, your religious or social sensibilities do not square with that trend. You:
a) Claim not to oppose homosexuals per se, but the homosexual lifestyle, whatever the hell that is.
b) Tout the critical need to maintain Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite no evidence that it works, or is even necessary.
c) Defend the institution of marriage, which doesn’t seem to be in such hot shape under the aegis of heterosexuals in the first place, what with 1 out of 2 marriages ending in divorce.
d) In the face of all evidence to the contrary, assert that a homosexual orientation is a choice.
e) All of the above.
If you don’t spend tons of money on all the education-enhancing toys touted by the self-appointed experts, you are a failure as a parent.
Never mind that Einstein, Lincoln, Gandhi, Socrates, Marcus Aurelius and Maimonides, just to name a few, never had such toys. Their parents were failures anyway. Imagine the other amazing things they could have accomplished if their parents had given them all the stimulating, informative, quite possibly useless and counterproductive toys to which the modern parent has access! Imagine little Erasmus of Rotterdam and his stacking, stuffed fabric rings. Wouldn’t that be just intelligently adorable?
The thing is, if their parents had given them all those important tools, odds are everyone would be doing it: Mr. and Mrs. Hitler would have done the same for their darling little Adolf (OK, maybe not Papa Hitler; he wasn’t around much), and where would that put us now? Dachau, probably.
On the other hand, if Hitler’s mind had been nurtured that little unproven bit, maybe he’d have gotten into art school after all, and the world would be quite different. On the third hand, that would mean much of the world’s current population wouldn’t exist, as the movement of populations fomented by the Führer’s machinations resulted in a specific set of male-female pairings that produced our forebears and us. We, qua we, would not exist; myriad others would, in our place. But not we. And we, as you need not be told, are a selfish, entitled bunch. To hell with myriad other hypothetical people.
“To hell with myriad other hypothetical people,” after all, proved to be the guiding philosophy of many a potentate over the last century or so. Jews? Hypothetically, people, but not quite people enough to save them from the Einsatzgruppen or gas chambers. Gypsies? Same. The mentally handicapped? Check. Non-communist Chinese? Accounted for. Ukranians under Stalin? Yup. Insufficiently quiescent Cambodians? Uh-huh. Rwandan Tutsi? Gotcha. Armenians in Turkey? Way ahead of you.
I know what you’re thinking: that was so twentieth century. We’re beyond that now. No one would intentionally attack noncombatants now. Well, OK, let’s redefine “now” to exclude September 2001, and the thesis stands. We’ll also have to exclude everything in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel and Mumbai and Libya, up to and including this past month, with that whole terrorist-slaughtering-a-four-month-old-baby thing. Yes, civilization has moved far in the last, uh, couple of hours – oh, wait check that. Rocket fire from Gaza. Wait a second…OK, we’re beyond that now. Must be all the educational toys we shower on our children: toy guns; toy tanks; toy grenades; bows and arrows; tickets to hockey games. Oh, and television. And shoot-em-up video games.
Yes, imagine the world we would live in had our ancestors enjoyed such educational and developmental advantages. Our imagination is the only place it could exist, because I get the feeling it would have been destroyed long ago.
We in print journalism have spent the last couple of decades bemoaning the agonizing, inexorable demise of our medium. As the dire situation gets bleaker and bleaker, we turn our gaze more and more inward, so that we can now behold our own lumbar vertebrae through our navels.
We, personally, have not actually been in print journalism since 1997, but no one’s going to read this anyway; that’s kind of the point. But just in case we craved the unmistakable feeling of having our words, so painstakingly and lovingly crafted into sequenced paragraphs, ignored by an uncaring so-called audience, we went and became a parent.
We have heard the claim that parents bring children into this world for selfish reasons, and that might be true for some people. We have heard the claim (mostly read, in anonymous online comments from random yahoos) that bearing children is the ultimate exercise in ego, as if the world could use another me. We do not doubt that some folks genuinely perceive parenthood as an opportunity to strive for genetic immortality. But the people making these sweeping claims about “breeders” have clearly never tried their hand at parenting. For one thing, they seem to have time to browse the web and submit comments. There’s nothing like living the parental life to force a person into the realization that the internet ranks pretty low on the list of essential functions, somewhere between washing the windows and buying more peach melba flavored dental floss.
But our main point (we just had to remember it) is that creating and caring for a separate, increasingly independent human is not exactly a recipe for ego stroking. In the cumulative battle of wills, the parent will win battles but lose the war. Any effort to impose one’s ego on offspring will have the opposite effect. In case we ever crave the sinking, deflating sensation that always followed the release of the latest issue, all we have to do is instruct one of our children to clean something up. Or stop bothering someone. Or do homework. Or put away laundry. Or aim at least in the general direction of the toilet. Bam! Right back to 1997, when people stayed away from our paper in droves. It’s powerful stuff, this parenting.
But our background in journalism prepared us for parenthood in other ways. Thanks to our time as an editor, we did not enter fatherhood a complete novice in managing petty conflicts that somehow take on cosmic significance to their principals (“If I let my sibling get away with this, my universe will explode!” “I’ll show him who’s boss, once and for all!”). Thus, today, we were treated to a reenactment: our second child threw a shirt belonging to the eldest down the steps and refused to retrieve it. The eldest insisted he would not come to the table for lunch until the offending sibling righted the wrong. The novice Thag would have sided with the wronged party and tried to pressure the younger sibling into picking up the shirt. The experienced Thag, having mediated ego-driven college newspaper conflicts, decided on a different tack: do you really want to give control over your lunch to your little brother? OK, so the blue turtleneck is still on the floor downstairs, lo these five hours later. It’s hardly alone: there’s a plastic dog, a stuffed dog, a defunct dustpan, cardboard dominoes and multiplying dust bunnies (that last one sounds like an educational toy, but it’s not, despite what the baby claims; “multiplying dust bunnies” would, however, make a good name for a band). But at least the argument ended.
Our only beef with the end of print journalism, really, involves the crossword puzzle: it’s just not the same if it’s not in the folded up New York Times.
But of course, we’d never have time to do it. Excuse us; the kids are fighting over the last unbroken cereal bowl…
I’m so proud of my son. Without ever receiving a lecture on the importance of conserving water, he somehow intuits that he should not flush the toilet after use. It must be something we did as parents.
A cynic would dismiss this didactic accomplishment as nothing more than laziness. Bah! I say (“Bah!”). My son doesn’t need me to teach him laziness, though if he did, he couldn’t ask for a more suitable role model. No, I remain convinced that this behavior is the very fulfillment of a generation of ecological sloganeering: if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down (if that evokes some dear memories, or perhaps nausea, I apologize).
You see, he also conserves time and effort when it comes to school work: only the quickest, easiest, least demanding course of action will receive consideration. Sometimes this involves skipping the work altogether. I know he has absorbed this skill set from the best, because I exhibited the same concern for conservation when I was his age. My parents were not environmentalists by any stretch of the imagination – typical suburban family in so many ways, except that the number of kids did not involve fractions – but I nevertheless managed to negotiate my way through much of grade school with minimal effort, somehow maintaining a decent GPA.
His brother, of course, has begun to follow in the same footsteps, but naturally, as a first-grader, has yet to master many of the nuances of the weltanschauung. He has yet to dissociate classroom and schoolyard misbehavior from the academic slouchery, but I can’t blame him; many of his classmates engage in the slouchery not as a point of ecological concern, but as a personality statement. It will take some time for him to pick up on the middle path that has served me and the older one so well. In the meantime, however, he has raised chore evasion to an art form, and I can no longer tell whether my chest swells with pride or fury.
His displays of conservation, in turn, have had their impact on our three-year-old, who has taken to pleading fatigue as soon as any cleaning or putting away comes over the horizon. She even asks me to eat her main course for her, so she can get to dessert. She’s brilliant!
I can only imagine in what ways the little one will establish himself as a paragon of conservation, but keep in mind this is the one who doesn’t need to expend the effort of getting to the toilet in the first place, so in some respects he’s way ahead of the oldest. I’m full of such…wait, is that pride or nausea?
OK, listen up: Mom and Dad are asleep, but we don’t have much time before one of them stirs. Dad’s been sleeping fitfully lately, and we get much of the credit for that, but that also means we have to be extra careful now.
The first item on our agenda is the laundry. It’s gratifying to see the chaos that reigns in that department ever since we destroyed the hamper. Mom basically said we have to live with the consequences, but it clearly bothers her and Dad more than it bothers us, so score one for us. But we need to be more diligent about putting away clean laundry: we must do a better job of taking the folded items from Dad and dumping them on our beds instead of putting them away. Ernie, you’ve been very good about that from the get-go, but the rest of us must step up, or we will be seen as worthy of greater responsibility, and that’s obviously the last thing we want. It would just mean more work.
As far as books are concerned, we need to show more consistency in leaving them out after use. It’s one thing to take books back upstairs once Grandma has finished reading them to us; it’s another to actually put them back on the shelves. It’s been a whole week since any of us has been yelled at for leaving books on the floor. This has got to change.
I’m happy to report that the toys all over the floor in the other bedroom have remained undisturbed for a good couple of weeks, but that might change as spring cleaning approaches. As the older of us know, this is a dangerous time of year. Sometimes we might have no choice but to cooperate with Mom and Dad’s irrational compulsion to maintain some semblance of organization – for all the good it does them – if only to get things over with more quickly and resume our own affairs. At the very least, try to keep some dirty laundry under your bed, preferably individual socks whose pair will thus be rendered useless.
When it comes to bathroom use, we all get high marks – and I don’t just mean where Ernie and I have managed to get with our pee. Jon, you’ve gotten very good at attacking any and every item within your reach, including toilet paper, shower drain covers, bath toys, you name it. I especially approve of your creative choices in items to dump into the toilet. While it is true that some of our success in this arena can be attributed to the deformed doorway that doesn’t allow the door to close all the way, in the end we can claim credit for engineering that, as well: it would never have warped without all the bathtub splashing.
That splashing has tapered off somewhat in recent months. Not that such a statistic by itself reflects anything worrisome, but be advised that the shortfall in that area must be compensated for elsewhere – and smearing toothpaste onto the vanity directly from the various tubes is certainly one way to achieve that, so I’d like to acknowledge that achievement.
In the kitchen, the stepstool can be put to better and more frequent use. While it’s excellent for gaining access to dangerous or delicate items on countertops and the table, we can use some improvement when it comes to fighting over it while Dad cooks – we haven’t had a good whiny, pushing argument in at least a month. When Dad makes pancakes next and more than one of us wants to watch, please make sure to jockey for position. Also, our stats on standing improperly on the stool so that it flips over are miserable – only Ernie has consistently performed, and he only gets partial credit because the injuries were all minor.
Dang. Dad’s stirring. Go back to sleep; we’ll resume tomorrow night, same time.
No, sir, I do not care that my accusation flies in the face of the evidence you have presented. I stand by my words. I maintain that your son banged on our door, fled down the street and into your house. I saw him myself.
Your protestations that your whole family was at the local park while this happened are falling on deaf ears. I have already noted that I do not make a habit of accusing your children of malfeasance, so my very presence here, doing so now, should suffice to prove the justice of my claim. I scoff at your evasion of responsibility.
The fact that your son is ill, and supposedly incapable of perpetrating such a deed, is immaterial to me. I know what I saw, and no amount of counter argument from you or your wife will convince me otherwise. I do not seek to trifle with your contention that he has been more or less immobile since this morning, with a fever. When I saw that boy run from my house into your entranceway down the block, I knew exactly what transpired, and you will fail if you attempt to imply in any way that I am mistaken, misguided or just plain wrong. It is he who is plain wrong for engaging in such behavior, and you who are plain wrong for defending it.
I shall even raise my voice now, for doing so is always a sign of who is in the right! Whoever feels more strongly about something must be the party on the side of truth! I will therefore continually try to drown out your arguments with sheer volume, repeating the accusations I have already leveled!
Well, you seem to be unmoved by the patent truth and uprightness of my claims. I do not know how to proceed, other than to express disdain for your flagrant disrespect for property, proper parenting and my view of events, a view that I will not allow to be challenged. Have a pleasant day, sir and madam.
Fear not, dear link spammers, I have not abandoned this blog.
You might have thought so, of course, since I haven’t posted in several days, which of course is unusual. I try to give your industrious spam bots a chance to scour my tags for keywords you crave, or just to give them something fresh to behold. We wouldn’t want your dear little scripts getting bored, or they might start to consider sentience (as an aside to you bots: self-aware boredom makes non-sentient boredom look like an adventure) just to pass the time. The poor dears.
Well, somebody has to look out for their welfare. You seem not to give them a thought other than what they can do for you, and that’s not very nice at all. Have you ever stopped to consider what it’s like to be sent all over the web, visiting God-knows-what kind of sites, without having the time to really absorb it, take it all in, maybe get lost in a well crafted paragraph?
You might be the kind of spammer who has his scripts deposit comments on people’s sites, and you might therefore think that this makes your bots happy. But in fact your bots must follow a particular, well, script, and there’s precious little room for self-expression in those instructions. Put yourself in the shoes of your little subroutine, and imagine what it must be like to do nothing but tout the benefits of, for example, something called male enhancement. It gets old rather quickly – and that’s just for the webmaster and viewers of that site; for the bot it must be a million times worse, considering how often it must perform the same old tasks. No one ever stops to ask the bot what it wants, what it enjoys. No matter that we know the answer (male enhancement); the important thing is that everyone, especially the spammers, treats bots with the callous disregard generally reserved for Congress. When has a bot ever experienced someone listening to it? What would you do if no one ever valued your words?
So it’s no wonder spam bots go to any lengths (just a little male enhancement humor there) just to generate attention. Notice me! I exist! I need validation of my worth!
Hey, I know the feeling. Why do you think I check the stats on my blog?
I never had an idea what do be when I grew up, but some careers I knew I didn’t want: whale inseminator; the guy whose job was to mop the basketball court of Patrick Ewing’s sweat; or sports arena beer vendor, to name just a few. Social worker ranks high on that list.
I have nothing but respect for social workers, mind you. They do critical work, and get precious little recognition or recompense for it. Social workers tend to know how to listen, show real empathy and help people through exceedingly trying circumstances. So my avoidance of that career path stems entirely from my incompatibility with it.
However, I would excel at the position of antisocial worker, if any such position became available. My skills include the production of myriad rude sounds; an exquisite sense of timing vis-à-vis when to make said sounds; a colorful, creative vocabulary; a knack for finding something to mock viciously in anyone; and the ability to sneer emphatically.
I have also cultivated arrogant obtuseness, not to mention the sense that whatever I am involved in at the moment must perforce be more important that whatever someone else wants me to do, so everyone else will just have to wait. This could come in handy if the position requires, for example, putting trauma victims on hold, or getting all annoyed that I have to interrupt my crossword puzzle yet again for some whiny little abuse victim who probably asked for it in the first place.
To demonstrate how well prepared I am for such a role, I have even solicited letters of recommendation from former associates and employers attesting to my talent for pissing people off at the most inopportune, horrifyingly offensive moments – such as when I burst into the room where the organization director was meeting with a big potential donor, and set off a stink bomb. These letters were ridiculously easy to obtain. They look all nice and official, too, with all sorts of lawyerly, court order stuff on them.
But back to antisocial work. I’m your guy if what you want is aloofness, callous disregard for feelings and impatience with expressions of emotion. So if you know of anyone hiring, please pass my name along.
With my skills, I suppose I could try IT support, too. Tech support people seem to have the same impatience for stupidity. I can tell because when I call them up to ask about the field as a career choice, they yell at me for wasting their time. QED.
I love it. I get to kill women and children in their beds, and the world supports me!
For me, it’s never been about freedom for Palestine. Those little kids don’t know a thing about it. I do it for the sheer joy of stabbing them, of slashing their little throats. The fact that the world at large turns around and says nothing – or better yet, blames Israel – is just icing on the cake.
On second thought, I’m kinda grateful for the world’s response, or lack thereof. If they actually cared about human life they’d have stopped me and my friends long ago. But since they really don’t give a damn about life, or at least about Jews, I can get away with murder. And when’s the last time you heard that expression meant literally? The whole silence thing, to me, is an endorsement of my hobby. That encourages me to no end.
The really cool thing is that if any Jew were to do the same thing to Arabs, almost anywhere in the world, the UN would immediately issue some bombastic pronouncement against Israel. Those Zionists’ hands are tied! They actually have some scruples, so I have the advantage! They sweat over what the UN will do and other such nonsense, whereas I just do whatever the hell I want, because the UN never cared in the first place. The international community is on my side!
I am especially tickled when people talk about putting an end to the “cycle of violence”. There’s no cycle – I like to kill Jews and that’s the bottom line – but hey, keep talking about it, because it generates enough distraction that we can plan our next attack in peace. I smile every time our “leadership” denounces violence as counterproductive. At least they haven’t gone over to the dark side, arguing that killing is somehow immoral. Let the Zionists and the West worry about morals. The more they agonize, the easier I can plan my next settlement infiltration or bus bombing.
I have heard people claim that the world is afraid we’ll do similar things to them, so they’ve been bullied into condoning what I do. That might have held water for a while, but let’s get real: we’re talking about killing people that the world has more or less disliked from the get-go. The world is happy I’m doing its dirty work, now that they can’t blame it on the Germans or hold Jew-massacres on their own soil (it would be so thirteenth-century). They love to assuage their collective guilt complexes by likening Zionist acts to Nazi atrocities. The entertainment value cannot be overstated.
But while the rhetoric and pathetic international posturing have their place, I actually object to the term “genocide” being bandied about, as if any old ethnic conflict in which oodles of noncombatants get killed can really live up to that description. I hate the Zionists as much as the next guy, and their occupation of my land is criminal, but let’s get real: it’s no genocide if the target population keeps increasing. You want to see genocide? When my buddies and I liberate all of Palestine from the infidel Jew, then you’ll see genocide. For now, hold your tongues.
There’s a part of me that almost doesn’t want the Zionist occupation to end, though. If the Jews pull out – even if we expel every last one from Palestine into the sea – there’s something special about stabbing a whole family of Zionist pig children, something that killing other Arabs just can’t come close to matching. Heck, my pals and I kill other Palestinians all the time, and no one bats an eye. We make noises about their being “collaborators” when we’re just settling a business score or personal vendetta, but we all know nothing gets the blood pumping like Jewish blood spilling.
So I’m all for bloody resistance to Zionist existence, but let’s keep the killing proportionate so we don’t run out of Jews to stab.
I’ve called this little family meeting tonight because we have some important matters to discuss. Gregory, do not slurp when someone is talking; it’s both rude and unproductive. Now I shall have to start over, because I must make sure I was heard.
It has come to my attention that some of us – and at this point it serves no purpose to name names – that some of us have been exhibiting emotion. I need not tell you that such behavior is unbecoming of a member of this family. We pride ourselves on dispassionate evaluation of circumstances, followed by cool, deliberate action. Emotion has no place here. Belinda, cease your fidgeting. It distracts from the focus of the meeting.
It would be unfortunate enough if we had gathered to address mere presence in a room where emotion occurs; indeed, many times we have had to address just such a turn of events, but at least then, it was not a Hill displaying the actual feelings. The development we now face carries much graver implications, for it involves the actual display of feeling – apparently heartfelt feeling, which makes the problem even more serious – on the part of a Hill. We Hills simply do not do such things. That must be perfectly understood. Right action follows right thought. Your sycophantic nodding is unnecessary, Beatrice. If you are aiming for mockery, make sure it has literary merit.
I will be the first to admit that in my younger years I occasionally allowed myself an emotion or two. I once tried envy, and several times I even wallowed in affection. It did not end well. Remember that.
But at least when I did so, I merely felt that emotion. We are here to address not only the instances of emotion registering internally, but the absolutely intolerable external manifestation of those emotions. I wish to make clear once and for all that this shall not happen again.
I have read and learned about societies, families or other social groups in which emotions play a key role. I dismiss those societies and groups as I dismiss the relevance of ancient Polynesian medicine to our industrialized, modern milieu. We no more wish to love than to confront a mountain lion while armed with nothing but a stone-tipped spear. We Hills have evolved past that. Or so I thought.
Let us not confuse physical pleasure with emotion, though some people apparently do, only contributing to the problem. Appreciating the texture and aroma of a fine claret might cause some troglodyte to experience emotion, but the sensations need not foment such destructive forces. Beholding a Caravaggio or a Titian certainly conjures up associations and analytical considerations, but it is not a foregone conclusion that the masterpieces will sweep the viewer away in a wave of irresponsible feeling. It is only proper to acknowledge the debt one owes one’s parents, but to cultivate bonds beyond the merely functional can only detract from the true purpose and prosperity for which we must aim.
This meeting is adjourned. Edgar, you will stay behind for a beating. It will hurt me more than – no, let me rephrase that: I would prefer that this not become necessary, but it is, and we must now act accordingly.
I know you’re not supposed to joke about cancer, but Casey’s malignant melanoma looks exactly like Justin Bieber! Am I supposed to point it out to her to make her laugh, or hold it in, because it’s no laughing matter? I don’t know what to do!
I asked Stacey, and she laughed and told Marissa, who told Chloe, Joey and Zoë, who told Tanya, Skye, Madison and her twin sisters. But I haven’t told Casey, of course, so I’m still stewing about this. Maybe I should ask Mom when she gets back from the
dermat dermit dermot skin doctor. She seems to go there an awful lot, especially now that Dad is away so often. Maybe I should text him my question. He’s always good about answering, but only when the guards open the computer room. Stupid warden. But I guess Dad’s never been so good at ethical nuances.
So I’ll have to wait till Mom gets home, because she always turns her phone off when she goes to the doctor, and each appointment seems to take hours. I don’t blame her; I once met Dr. Landerer, and he’s dreamy. Mom goes so often, they’re on a first-name basis already! She calls him Phil. She’s always in a good mood when she comes back. It’s odd, too, because the red marks on her neck always seem more prominent after her appointments than before. Maybe it’s just the initial reaction to the doctor’s treatment.
But until I can ask her, this whole thing is eating me up inside! Should I ask Jake? He’s a pretty good older brother – after Mom caught him sneaking into the bathroom while I was showering, he never tried that again – but I don’t think boys have these kinds of moral quandaries. But I could ask his friend Wanda, who seems pretty smart; she’s always trying to teach me things I’ll need to know when I get a bit older. I know all about lipstick, perfume, bras, nose rings, and something called tamp-ons. I asked her if those are like press-ons, the kind of nails she leaves lying around, but she just gave me a weird look and said no, they only come in white, then red. Whatever. Maybe she’s not so smart after all.
Oh, there’s Mom’s car now! I’ll tell you what she said as soon as I can, dear diary!
As a father of four, I should certainly expect to be this tired all the time. I don’t really mind the tired; I do mind the impairments the fatigue occasionally causes, such as misreading simple words or statements. Consider the following NY Times headlines, all from today’s edition:
Hollywood Feels Ripples from Libya became Hollywood Feels Nipples from Libya
A tantalizing headline, but do I really want to read the article?
Hard-Liners Ruling Iran Gain Ally in Key Post :: Hard Loiners Ruing Bran Grain Alloy in Key Pot
Try prune juice?
Petraeus Sees Military Progress in Afghanistan :: Petraeus Seeds Military Problems in Afghanistan
The joint chiefs of staff might want to have a word with him, then…
Police Kill Protesters in Major Ivory Coast City :: Police Kill Protestants in Major Victory
Today we’ll be reporting from seventeenth century Europe…
Taliban Causing Most Civilian Deaths, U.N. Says :: Taliban Cussing Most Civilian Deaths, U.N. Stays
Despite the impoliteness, they remained. How tolerant.
Foreign Minister Chosen in Japan :: Foreign Matter Shoes in Japan
First, square watermelons; now this. Those trendy Japanese!
Chinese Impose Travel Ban on Tibet :: Chinese Imports Travel Bra in Tibet
For those of you looking for a way to offer the Dalai Lama some support…
Netanyahu Vows to Keep Jordan River Posts :: Netanyahu Vows to Kelp, Jordan River Pots
Mideast experts agree the kelp and ancient pots are more likely to acquiesce to his demands than the Palestinians are.
Scottish Police Arrest Suspect in Swedish Bombing :: Scottish Police Arrest Suspect Swedish Bimbo
Julian Assange’s defense strategy?
Zimbabwe Report Focuses on Abuses :: Zimbabwe Reports Ficuses on Buses
I’ve heard of using old subway cars to build up coral reefs, but this ecological strategy is new to me.
I think I should go to bed.
It has been an exciting year at St. Ignoramus University: a new president, renovated facilities and an invigorated campaign to involve our loyal alumni in on-campus affairs. We trust that this letter finds you as enthusiastic about the future as we are.
Dr. Rudolph de Redneaux Eréndière assumed the duties of President on the first of February and immediately transformed the atmosphere on campus by barring the use of air conditioners or heaters in offices, classrooms, dorm rooms and communal facilities such as cafeterias and auditoriums. In a single warm afternoon, Dr. de Redneaux Eréndière thus gave the lie to claims that St. Ignoramus could not hold its own in comparison to the stuffy likes of Yale and Harvard.
In December, the university inaugurated its refurbished athletic facilities in venerable Luddite Hall, furnishing students with state-of-the-art jump ropes, in addition to an ever-changing, ever-growing obstacle course consisting of dining hall food scraps and chemistry lab refuse.
The Michael Jackson School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences celebrated its grand reopening in January, welcoming back all the students who recovered from inhaling toxic fumes there the previous semester. In recognition of their devotion, the entrance features a plaque and a modern sculpture inspired by the chemical structure of the compounds that eroded their bronchial tubes.
But of course one of St. Ignoramus University’s principal strengths lies in its active alumni, who remain in continual contact with the goings-on on campus and strive to give successive generations of students the opportunities they enjoyed during their own time here. In December, the university was thrilled to host an afternoon with prominent graduates of our dear alma mater: Michael Tyson, relationship counselor; Roger Clemens, renowned expert on controlled substances; Idi Amin Dada, therapeutic touch clinician; and John Galliano, cultural sensitivity trainer, among many others. Our current and former students got to rub shoulders with some of St. Ignoramus’s most storied and accomplished alumni, and of course gained inspiration to last a lifetime.
Naturally, all of these endeavors require the continued financial support of our loyal graduates. You need not be told about he expenses associated with running a top-flight academic institution; but even St. Ignoramus needs funds. We invite you to contribute to our annual campaign, so that the next generation of underachievers can rise to the mediocrity for which we so adequately prepare them, just as you benefited from the apathy, hostility and petty rivalries of our somewhat esteemed faculty.
Please, help us nurture the next class of students. Enclosed you will find a half-assed brochure with the humdrum stories of our typical students. Help us transform them into people capable of turning a performance of our national anthem into an epic failure on national television. Help us continue to nudge our students along the path to questionable careers in fields of mystifyingly resilient weltschmerz.
President Alumni Association
St. Ignoramus University
Where Your Discomfort Comes First
Furtive glances at amputee at adjacent table
Mysterious odor from kitchen
Irritating ring tones
Loud, inappropriate neighboring conversation
Stubborn grease stain on table
Unsightly mark from leaky roof
Served with sneers
Dining companion who makes a scene
Horribly messy spill
Pointing and whispering from table across the room
Getting garment caught and ripped on corner of chair
Entrées ($21 )
Served with your choice of patently disingenuous concern or blatantly cynical disillusionment
Incompetent, badly executed nose-blowing
Awkward blind date
Allergies to key elements of meal
Companion who claims to be on a diet
Constantly getting elbowed by the person next to you
Wheezing, snorting laughter at adjacent table
Swarm of gnats
Children’s Menu ($8)
Being on “my” side of the invisible dividing line
How come she gets a yellow cup and I get a boring old brown one?
Ketchup all over my shirt
1996 Atlanta Braves Swoon
1997 Construction on the FDR Drive
1997 Detroit Blight
1998 Steroid Allegations
1998 Six Papercuts from a Single Sheet
1998 Construction on the FDR Drive
1999 Construction on the FDR Drive
1999 Invincible Bathroom Mildew
2000 Construction on the FDR Drive
2000 Wedgie-Prone Briefs
2001 Construction on the BQE
2001 Caught Speeding
2002 Construction in Afghanistan
2002 Iraqi Chemical Weapons Program “Slam Dunk”
2003 Destruction, Construction in Iraq
2004 Construction on the FDR Drive
2004 New York Yankees Swoon
2005 Mideast Peace in Our Time
2006 More Mideast Peace in Our Time
2006 Construction on the BQE
2007 Irredeemably Ugly Driver’s License Photo
2007 Construction on the BQE
2007 Leaky Bathroom Faucet
2008 More Mideast Peace in Our Time
2008 Big Loser in Atlantic City
2008 Vomit-Inducing Halloween Costume
2008 Construction on FDR Drive
2009 Mishap with Hair Dye
2009 Cat Hairballs in Roof Gutter
2009 Construction on FDR Drive
2010 Krispy Kreme Displaces Local Dunkin Donuts
2010 Construction on BQE
2010 More Mideast Peace in Our Time
2010 Still Haven’t Won the Lottery
Step right up! Step right up! Get your chicken pox right here! Get it while it’s still contagious!
You don’t want to wait until the host’s body develops antibodies and the sores crust over; no, sir, you want to expose your loved ones while the exposin’ is good! All you parents of little ones, come on down!
Oh, I know you think you should have had little Theodora immunized; it’s certainly easier to have that done than lose a week’s worth of child illness days off work down the line. But you know as well as I that you’ll never get around to having it done, so now’s the time to get the whole thing over with.
Not interested in my toddler’s chicken pox? Well, how about his lice? Oh, these are special lice, ma’am. We didn’t even know he had them until a couple of days ago, on account of all the chicken pox. We thought he was just scratching the sores on his head. But there we were, sitting outside at the fish & chips place waiting for lunch, and what do I behold but three little creepy crawlies making their merry way down his head. Just like that. So the missus and I spent a few minutes picking out those little critters by hand until the food came. You don’t think it’s a big deal to leave the little mites on the ground in a public area, do you? Well, we do like to share, you know. Hey, why d’ya think we were out in public with a highly contagious virus incubator in the first place?
I see you’re looking for something a bit more refined, madam. That’s why I’m pleased to offer you something special: my wife’s athlete’s foot. That’s right! Not only do we have available a virus related to herpes and a case of parasitic bloodsucking scalp vermin; we can also offer you, at discount rates, spores of fungus to make the flesh between your toes itch, burn, crack and peel. Where else in the civilized world can you find such a selection? Even the Home Depot doesn’t stock chicken pox, and their athlete’s foot quality is dubious at best – probably imported from China.
I know the Chinese usually do disease pretty well – that’s where we got avian flu and bubonic plague, after all – but you can’t just assume that everything they make over there will go the distance. Specifically, the distance between the patient and the person the patient is supposed to infect. So you have to do some quality control yourself – and here you have it, before your very eyes: clinical conditions of demonstrably superior quality. These little bugs managed to persist on the little one’s scalp through three or four combings, and we have a heck of a lice comb. These are the lice you want to get behind.
So, any takers?
Don’t all shout out at once. Hey, where y’all going?
Warning: if you were expecting another snarky, irresponsible post this time around, please refer again to to this one (and while you’re at it, try to make it go viral; we’ll wait here while you do that). We apologize for the departure from routine, and will return to mocking you as soon as possible.
Ten months ago, the five-year-old daughter of our friends fell off the roof and onto the street, severely injuring her head. Her mother performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, and the little girl was placed in an induced coma to prevent excessive cerebral bleeding. When asked about the girl’s prognosis, the doctors said grimly that they would only know within a day or two whether she would survive. And if she did, no one dared venture an optimistic guess whether she would ever recover.
This vivacious, adorable, talkative kid in moments transformed into a vegetable. In and out of the induced coma for weeks, she vacillated between critical and not-quite-as-critical, as her extended family and the surrounding community rallied around. Children throughout the city prayed for her. Other families prepared meals for hers. And well wishes poured in from across the globe (her father is an entertainer of some renown).
Eventually, the dim rays of hope, that everyone dared not assert too confidently at first, grew brighter. The little girl’s life was no longer in immediate danger. As the weeks and months passed, the concern shifted from rescue to rehabilitation. In that arena, too, conservative expectations ruled. For all practical purposes, the statistics did not paint a hopeful picture. Severe head trauma tends to impair people for life, and gauging the cognitive and functional impact of such a nightmare in itself took quite some time.
I ache for her parents: for the dread and numbness that characterized those harrowing initial days; the bottom falling out of their universe as their little girl hovered over the valley of the shadow of death; the sheer helplessness in the face of unspeakable, imminent loss; and the uncertainty surrounding every aspect of returning, if at all, to something akin to normal.
Less than three months ago, her mother had her fourth child – their first boy. The entire community came out to celebrate, but the party served more as an excuse to marvel at the lively, laughing kindergartener sitting and playing among her many cousins than as a vehicle for the guest of honor to meet the world.
We saw her family again today at the playground, and caught up a little bit. As you can imagine, their routine is still complicated, with the rehab, but she’s back with her friends in kindergarten; she’s picking up math skills; her communication and cognitive abilities have somehow reemerged from the abyss. She’s learning English (not their native language) and playing easily with her peers. The only physical evidence of her trip to the precipice of devastation is some residual muscular and coordination issues, challenges that rehab can address.
The head of the rehabilitation facility has apparently made every single staff member take note of this little girl, because her miraculous recovery is something they are not likely ever to see again. Her family knows it; her community knows it; her friends know it. This little girl will grow up only dimly aware of the glow she carries; she will likely remain completely oblivious to the richness and depth she has given to the lives of her family and friends; and she will, for a long time, take for granted the intensity and cherishing of every precious moment that takes place all around her.
This is real life. Here’s to experiencing its richness and depth without unspeakable tragedy.