Category Archives: Social

dear wendy number 1

The Rise and Fall of the Third ReichHi, Wendy!

Pleased to meet ya. I hope this doesn’t sound speciest, but some of my best friends have been rats

Okay, so no archy and mehitabel. What would you recommend I read?

Oh, and see if your computer has a “sticky keys” option. Just a suggestion

Thank you.
Dave L

dear dave l,

it’s interesting that you would say some of your best friends have been rats for two reasons…

  1. all of my best friends are rats
  2. and yeah, rats don’t live very long, don’t rub it in.

this is an excellent question if by ‘you’ you mean ‘all of humanity especially america’ and by ‘should’ you mean ‘must.’

personally, i like a good story. but i like to know how it’s going to end. now don’t get up on your heals. you already know how just about every story is going to end. when you watch hamlet do you really think he’s getting out of that play alive[question mark]

i would like to see you humans read as much as possible — it doesn’t matter what. the more you’re reading, the more you are not making the lives of the rest of us worse.

but i won’t leave you with this. just so that you should all be prepared for the future, i recommend The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

in particular, you should pay attention to the sonderweg thesis.

[parenthesis]this is different from the soderbergh thesis, which holds that people will only put up with your pseudo-avant-garde bullshit before they stop pretending to like it.[parenthesis]

the sonderweg thesis holds that there is a direct line from martin luther to nazism. if you question me — and many easily dismissed human historians have — you should check out this quote frank posted before i was born, Antisemite Martin Luther. if luther had just gotten to his eighth point — paper was expensive back then — i’m sure it would have been genocide — a ‘final solution,’ if you will.

obviously, martin luther was not an american — unless you are a mormon — who knows what those people think. but the vast majority of americans are christians. and a large majority of those christians are protestants.

so i’ll spell it out. they ain’t done killing witches.

protestantism is the religion that the antisemite martin luther started. it was a stupid idea. he thought people should actually read the bible because then they would know what god really wanted rather than getting it filtered through the hateful corrupt catholic church. the problem is that the bible is a whole lot of contradictory rubbish that only an expert can make any sense of at all.

luckily, almost none of these protestants actually do read the bible. they just allow it to be filtered through their hateful corrupt churches.

bob dylan, during one of his most annoying periods, sang ‘gotta serve somebody.’ in my experience, christians have to hate somebody.

it may be the jews
or it may be the spicks
but you’re gonna have to hate somebody.

i know that a lot of you out there think that trump will leave office and everything will be fine. that’s not true.

first, roughly half of you idiot americans voted for the man. and it’s not like he didn’t let you know exactly who he was. you knew he was a constant liar before you voted him the most powerful man in the world. [parenthesis]the most powerful creature on earth is the leader of a large colony of termites in australia.[parenthesis] you knew he was an idiot. you knew he didn’t know anything about politics. you knew he was a bigot. you knew he was a sexist. if he’s surprised you as president, you are even stupider than he is.

but even if you did somehow go back to normal, you won’t think about what happened. america doesn’t look back. you think the best way to deal with past wrongs is to ‘look forward’ and pretend it never happened. until it happens again.

i give you all 30 years tops before you have world war iii.

so i say to my fellow rats, ‘let’s start heading south.’

and i say to europe, ‘i think you had better start spending a lot more on your military because fascist america is coming for you and i don’t think russia’s gonna help much this time — but you never know. if america doesn’t have have a complete idiot in charge but just an insane one, the country might attack russia, china, and india as well. still, prepare for the worst.’

and finally, to americans, i ask, ‘is this really how you want to see your empire go down[question mark]’ don’t answer that question americans. it was rhetorical.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

one rat short – better with cheetos

i want cheetosdear frankly curious reader,

wendy here again. you could probably tell from the lack of capital letters. it’s not that i cannot type capital letters. I CAN. I CAN PRESS THE ‘CAPS LOCK’ KEY AND TYPE ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS I WANT.

but if i am to use capital letters properly, i have to do a lot more work. and this is hard enough. as you humans like to say[colon] anyway…

it’s kind of like the french phrase je ne sais quoi. but that literally means, ‘i don’t know what.’ so once again, we see that the french are more honest than the americans. anyway… why don’t you just say, ‘i don’t know.’ it would be a good start — for the whole country. but i’m getting sidetracked. and i have another sidetrack i need to get to before i get to what i came here for.

where is frank?

it’s daytime. so where is frank? well, he got himself sucked into his toastmaster thing. so he’s off at a ‘leadership’ training all day.

now frankly [opening parenthesis]ha ha[closing parenthesis], i don’t see that he needs any more outlets for talking. all he does all day long is talk to himself. it’s quite annoying, really. but i’m a forgiving rat. we all have our little foibles. and this toastmaster thing does get him out of the room more.

it’s wendy if you please

as you should know, my name is wendy fink. that’s wendy with an ‘e.’ let me emphasize that[colon] wEndy.

geez, i have to catch my breath.

so because any article published here is immediately posted on the frankly curious facebook page, some wag wrote, ‘It’s no mystery who authored this creative piece. Everyone knows its Wendy.’

[opening parenthesis]that’s right, i can copy and paste. oh isn’t it amazing[exclemation mark] the rat can copy and paste[exclemation mark]. you people disgust me.[closing parenthesis]

so okay, the guy — who has an icon that looks like a puppet’s vagina — is referencing perhaps the most anemic band ever, the association, doing their 1967 number 1 hit — with a bullet — ‘windy.’ note that’s windy with an i. i’ll emphasize again[colon] wIndy.

you know[colon] the word you would use to describe the weather when there is a lot of wind. what is wrong with you americans and your name spelling[question mark] and the song was written by a woman whose first name is misspelled as far as i’m concerned[colon] ruthann friedman. but what do i know, i’m just a rat that learned english and how to use a computer.

so frank posts the song. like that’s going to make it better because everyone will see immediately that the song obviously refers to some human because no rat would be so silly as to name a child after bad weather.

but here it is, since i know you’ll want to listen to it now[colon]

okay, brian cole looks pretty cool, but how can you not playing that bass. he died of a heroin overdose just five years later. he was just 29 with three kids. i hope the royalties kept coming in. je ne sais quoi.

one rat short

now i’ll make a guess, not being there in 1972, but i assume cole was injecting that heroin. he’d have to be — heroin was at an all-time low in terms of purity — just 3 percent by some estimates. maybe someone just smothered him and they blamed it on the heroin. it wouldn’t be the first time someone snapped over that low-e string.

but the injection got me thinking about the rat romeo and juliet[colon] one rat short by the animator alex weil.

now i’m not saying i don’t have my problems with this film. i don’t know what all that rat fighting at the beginning is all about. rats really aren’t like that. and there’s a little bit of furism going on where the black rats are vicious and the brown rat is good but from the wrong side of the roof and the female is virginal white.

but you could say the same thing of any of shakespeare’s works, so i guess it’s okay.

this is a very sweet and sad film. and trust me, humans do much worse to us than that. then again, you do much worse to each other. humans really have a lot to learn from rats.

so take a look at it. i did go to the trouble of finding it and copying and pasting the embed code. that is no easy feat for my feet. i tell ya, i should find an open mic somewhere. what hilarity[exclemation mark]

are you still here[question mark] watch the film[colon]

keep those letters coming

the email has been piling up since my last post. i’m just kidding. no one has written. but i am serious that you can write to me at rat at franklycurious.com and i will answer your questions, assuming you don’t annoy me too much.

my next post will be an advice column, whether any of you write to me or not. i’ve got loads of questions saved up like, ‘how long before humans go extinct[question mark]’ not soon enough for the planet[exclemation mark]

that’s not that to say that i don’t have a certain fondness for you hairless apes. my opinion would go up if frank would start eating cheetos. and if you don’t get that then you didn’t watch the film and i am so not in the mood for it.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

introducing wendy fink

wendy finkdear frankly curious reader,

i’ve been watching frank for about a year now, so this has been a long time coming.

let me introduce myself. i am wendy fink. i live under frank’s bed. what do i eat[question mark] [opening parenthesis]i haven’t worked out the whole shift thing yet. give me time. i’m just a rat and you’re the idiot reading me.[closing parenthesis] let’s just say frank isn’t the most tidy eater.

anyway, i want to get something out of the way before everyone just goes nuts — like you humans tend to do. that is not my picture over there on the right. it’s hard enough writing this. how am i supposed to click the trackball and take a picture of myself[question mark] you’d just see an empty chair. so i got a stock photo off the internet of another rat who might have been named ‘nager sweet.’ i don’t know, i’m a just a rat. i’m almost as confused by the world as frank is.

archy and mehitabel

i know this is all just a rip-off of archy and mehitabel. but there are three clear distinctions:

  1. archy was a cockroach and no one is interested in learning about life from a cockroach
  2. mehitabel was an evil cat and there are no cats around here
  3. this is real whereas archy and mehitabel was clearly fiction.

you question me[question mark] i eat with my hands — unlike certain popular ‘pets’ i could mention that just rub their grubby faces into a bowl of something disgusting that comes out of a can. as a result, i have no problem manipulating a trackball and keyboard. sure, i’m a bit limited at the moment, but i’ll work things out. trust me. i got this far.

now compare this to archy. do you really think that a cockroach has enough weight to manipulate a manual typewriter[question mark][exclamation mark] and a cockroach that writes poetry[question mark] here’s some poetry for you:

roses are a whole lot of colors
violets are, well, sorta blue
archy and mehitabel:
fuck you[exclamation mark]

did you know someone wrote an opera about those two. unbelievable. but true. we’ll say no more about them.

advice column

i’ve introduced myself because i think i can be of help to humanity. so i’m starting an advice column. i figure you could use it.

and this is altruism. you’re all busy ruining the earth for yourselves. it doesn’t matter me and my fellow rats. we’ll be fine. you’ll be the dead ones.

anyway, all you have to do is send your questions to rat at franklycurious.com. not that it matters. if you don’t, i’ll just make up my own questions because i have a bunch that you should be asking.

please no rat-oriented questions. if you want to know about rats, get a book. and no, i’ve never had a ‘boyfriend.’ male rates are possibly even more horrible than human males.

i’ll be talking to you as soon as i get another chance at the computer.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

ps[colon] according to yoast seo, i write at a much more advanced level than frank. ha[exclamation mark]

Pablo Casals on How to Appreciate Art

Pablo CasalsMy great wish was to hear Pablo Casals. One day my desire was almost fulfilled and I met him. But ironically, it was I who had to play. It was in the home of the Von Mendelssohns, a house filled with El Grecos, Rembrandts, and Stradivaris. Francesco von Mendelssohn, the son of the banker, who was a talented cellist, telephoned and asked if he could call for me; they had a guest in the house who would like to hear me play.

“Mr. Casals,” I was introduced to a little bald man with a pipe. He said that he was pleased to meet young musicians such as Serkin and me. Rudolf Serkin, who stood stiffly next to me, seemed, like myself, to be fighting his diffidence. Rudi had played before my arrival, and Casals now wanted to hear us together. Beethoven’s D-Major Sonata was on the piano. “Why don’t you play it?” asked Casals. Both nervous and barely knowing each other, we gave a poor performance that terminated somewhere in the middle.

“Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful!” Casals applauded. Francesco brought the Schumann Cello Concerto, which Casals wanted to hear. I never played worse. Casals asked for Bach. Exasperated, I obliged with a performance matching the Beethoven and Schumann.

“Splendid! Magnifique!” said Casals embracing me.

Bewildered, I left the house. I knew how badly I had played, but why did he, the master, have to praise and embrace me? This apparent insincerity pained me more than anything else.

The greater was my shame and delight when, a few years later, I met Casals in Paris. We had dinner together and played duets for two cellos, and I palyed for him until late at night. Spurred by his great warmth, and happy, I confessed what I had thought of his praising me in Berlin. He reacted with sudden anger. He rushed to the cello. “Listen!” He played a phrase from the Beethoven sonata. “Didn’t you play this fingering? Ah, you did! It was novel to me…it was good… and here, didn’t you attack that passage with up-bow, like this?” He demonstrated. He went through Schumann and Bach, always emphasizing all he liked that I had done. “And for the rest,” he said passionately, “leave it to the ignorant and stupid who judge by counting only the faults. I can be grateful, and so must you be, for even one note, one wonderful phrase.”

–Gregor Piatigorsky
Cellist, Chapter 17

My Group — Basing Your Identity on the Edifying

Pacifica - Finding My Group

Greetings from Pacifica, California. I got a good reminder of group dynamics yesterday by finding the only one around here who I consider part of my own group.

A Poor Start to My Vacation

I got here yesterday late afternoon and I was in a rage. First, the place was way more expensive than I had thought. And by I time I got to my room, I thought, “This place is a dump.” (Note: I love dumps, but I like the price to reflect it.) Then I got to the room and it was nice but small and far from the ocean.

But okay, big deal, I wanted to do was hang out — reading books and watching videos. So I started setting up the room, only to find that it had a total of two electrical outlets that weren’t being used. I called down to the front desk and asked for a power strip. Given how expensive this place was and how unhappy I was, I figured this was the least I could expect.

White People Are Not My Group

The nice white woman at the front desk said she wasn’t sure if they had one, but if they did, they would send one up. Oh, how encouraged I felt! But I pleased that ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door.

By this point, I was already suffering with another problem and imagining the 10,000-word review of this place I was going to write and post everywhere on the internet. In fact, I was even thinking of starting a website:

WhyWhateverTheHellThisPlaceIsCalledSucks.com

The problem was that I could hook up my Blu-ray player to the television (which is very nice), but the remote control unit would not allow me to change the input.

I’d given up and decided to connect my Blu-ray player to the computer monitor I had brought for this very reason. Make that a 12,000-word article.

A Member of My Ground!

But I answered the door and a nice young man greeted me with a power strip. I thanked him. It was the first thing that had gone right — a modest victory but a victory nonetheless.

He went on his way and I brought the power strip back to the desk. But then I remembered, “The television!”

A Tech?

I ran out into the hallway and yelled after him. I told him that I assumed he was the tech around here and he told me I was right. Thank God! One of my people! The women at the front desk were very pleasant and professional but totally useless for anything other than charging large amounts of money for tiny rooms with limited television sets.

I explained my problem: the television was modern, so it had HDMI inputs. I plugged in my Blu-ray player, but the remote control didn’t allow me to go into set-up. He understood the problem immediately and offered to get me the “real” remote control unit.

The Answer

So off he went and back I went. Ten minutes later, he was in my room with a proper unit. And together we worked on it and soon the television was displaying The Blood Trilogy. I told him not to judge. He smiled.

He explained to me that they had the simple remotes because most people are, well, idiots (my word) and with the real remote control units, guests were constantly screwing up their televisions. I immediately remembered all those phone calls I got from my parents over the years, “The television isn’t working!”

So I got it, and it made sense. It was so nice to have someone explain the situation and solve my problem as opposed to the front-desk clerk probably doesn’t even know about the issue and had no interest in trying to solve my problem. You know, like saying something like, “I don’t know, but I’ll ask our tech.”

The tech even brought an extra set of batteries. What a great guy! I tipped him exorbitantly and he went on his way.

Rolando!

His name was Rolando and he was a young Latino. English might be his second language, but he spoke perfectly, so if he is an immigrant, he came here young. Regardless, he was a man of few words.

But after he left, I was so happy. All my other complaints about this place went away (mostly). I was no longer a stranger in a strange land. Rolando was here!

And it occurred to me that he was part of my group, tribe, or whatever you want to call it. The white women at the front desk might look like me in their pasty whiteness. But Rolando and I spoke the same language, even if it hardly required speaking at all.

Race Is a Myth Most People Believe

This was a powerful moment for me. As regular readers know, I don’t believe in race — it’s a recent concept developed in the west to justify imperialism and slavery.

But most people believe in it in a big way. And now it isn’t just the obvious bigots — it’s people like Sam Harris and his followers.

But here was this guy who roughly a third of this nation would hate for no other reason than his skin color. (Don’t buy into the whole “illegal immigration” thing; these people would have no problem with immigrants if they only came from “white” countries. Not that Rolando is necessarily an immigrant. But most of these people would consider him “foreign” because he isn’t pasty white.) Yet here was a man who was part of my group.

Nothing Wrong With Being in a Group

I have no problem saying this. It doesn’t matter what it is, humans separate themselves into groups. There are too many of us to all feel a special kinship to all humans — not that we don’t (mostly) care when any other human is killed and eaten by, for example, a grizzly bear. But mostly, we all divide into our own group.

And I think that’s fine as long as there is an edifying reason for it. Looking the same is not edifying. For one thing, humans all look so much the same that basing your opinions on it is simply ridiculous.

The Basis of Groups

I can understand basing your group notions on social customs. But that’s stupid from an immigration standpoint because second-generation immigrants are fully integrated into the society. What’s more, the social differences that people get hung up on are usually superficial.

It’s like what Sting implied during the Cold War: the Russians love their children too. (I’m not a Sting fan and I’m not even that fond of this song; I think it made a pretty obvious point, but it’s still important.)

Hard Times and Good Groups

These are bad times — in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. Too many people divide themselves based on the most foolish of measures. It mostly comes down to simple xenophobia: the fear of outsiders. And don’t kid yourself: this is why the Republican Party is not just in control of Washington, but of the US generally. And it’s the reason this country is being ripped apart.

Good Groups and Bad Groups

I don’t have a problem with other groups bound together by things like woodworking or needlework or whatever. I don’t feel as bound to them as I am to a kid who knows how HDMI works and can program a television to work with a random remote control unit. But I get them.

I do, however, have a problem with people whose identity is based on nothing more than fear of The Other. Groups should be bound by their interest in and love of their people, not disregard and hatred of others.

It was nice to be reminded of that here in Pacifica by a young tech — even if the room still is overpriced.

How a Vacation Gets You Coming and Going

Frank on Vacation in Mexico With Grumpy SquirrelHello all you frankly curious boys and girls! I am sorry that I haven’t been writing much recently. Part of it is Donald Trump. I’ll come back to him. But the bigger issue is that I’m going on vacation starting Friday morning and I won’t be back home until the afternoon of the first day of July.

July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August!

The problem for me is that a vacation really gets in the way of my work on the things I actually care about: this site, Psychotronic Review, practicing the most evil musical instrument in the world, and writing my experimental plays. You know: the stuff I don’t get paid to do.

The problem is that there is a tremendous amount of (paid) work that has to be done before going on vacation. I already have weeks of work backlog. But I have to get the really pressing things done. And I want to too! That’s because I’m not going to be working when I’m on vacation, and that means I won’t be making money. But even though I’m going to miss 9 days of work out of this month, I’m going to manage to make about 80 percent of my normal pay.

This, of course, is because I’ve been killing myself.

And Then There’s Trump

I’m now trying to avoid hearing anything about politics. In the past, it wasn’t so bad because I thought, “We’ll probably get rid of Trump in 2020 and this will all just be a bad memory.” Sure, I knew he was causing great suffering, but there was an end in sight. And to a large extent, that’s true. The immigration policy will go back to our normal inhumane situation instead of the near-genocide that Trump is overseeing. So on the domestic front, the election of a Democratic president in 2020 — or whenever — will be a good thing.

(And yes, I know that Trump has apparently reversed course on the family separation of asylum seekers. Does everyone know that we are signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention, by which the whole process of charging asylum seekers with trespass is illegal? So the whole, “Our hands are tied” explanation was always a crock. But the reversal sure shows that all those people who were claiming that the White House was doing it because they thought it was a political winner were wrong. They were doing it because Trump is a cruel man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. I think Elvis Costello summed him up perfectly long ago, “If it moves then you f**k it, if it doesn’t move you stab it.)

Our Long-Term International Problems

It’s on the international front that things are so depressing. After Trump is out of office, things will not reset. The world has seen that the US political system is such that it can elect a modern-day Hitler. It doesn’t matter that he got three million less votes. For one thing, that’s still a very close race when you consider just how awful Trump was — not just as a person but as a candidate. But more important, we have a non-democratic system. Hitler didn’t get 50 percent of the vote. His base was roughly that of Trump’s: 30 percent.

So I figure it will take a generation or more for us to heal these wounds. And in a certain way, they never will be. I know that Brexit hurt the UK. But the people immediately regretted it. If they had been able to vote again just a week later, it would have lost. It’s not clear that Trump would lose a year and a half later — despite the fact that other than being a monster to immigrants, he hasn’t done a thing for his straight white male racist base.

(Just a little aside: I am so looking forward to the time when these people — people like me — really do have no more power than anyone else. As a group, cis white males are such whiners about losing power and blah, blah, blah. I’ll be glad to see them have something to really complain about. Of course, if they voted liberal, their lives would be better. But as a group, we are idiots.)

Onward to Vacation

The rule for this vacation is that I get to have the kind of vacation that I most enjoy: doing nothing. I read. I watch totally awesome films. I sit in a hot tub. And apparently, I get a massage, which is the equivalent of the hot tub: except I have to drive — gurr — as many as ten miles to get it. And I have to go whale watching, which is okay, I’m just not sure how I’m going to get to the boat. I’m too tired to think about it, but I have a vague plan that relieves me of having to park in San Francisco.

It’s possible I’ll write something on the blog next week. I’m not planning to, but you never know. I can’t go a day without writing something. I’m planning on working on some plays. But I’m so tired right now, the thought is not appealing. They require a lot more work than a blog post — especially a rambling one like this. (I have Facebook posts that are better than this!)

I Need This

Generally, I’m told that I need a vacation. This is the first time I feel like I need a vacation — I certainly want it more than any one I can remember. My next vacation (which will be the last for a while) will likely not be that great because I’m going with my family. And they all have this idea that you do things on vacation. And that’s such a silly thing, because I will be doing something — my favorite thing to do: metabolize!

Today was a long day. Tomorrow will be worse. Just let me die on the beach.

It Really Isn’t a Question: To Be or Not to Be

It Really Isn't a Question: To Be or Not to Be

Last night I had a dream. I was hunched over my keyboard, working furiously. And in the corner was Arthur Schopenhauer with a friend. He motioned toward me and said, “The Will is strong with this one.” And my head planted on the keyboard — the letter “x” scrolled across the screen.

I assume the Force is a good thing to have. I don’t really know, having seen almost none of the films and not having given them much thought. But the Will is not a good thing to have. It exists for itself. It is a parasite that lives within us, feeding off us — only interested in its own existence.

We all live in the middle of the most terrifying horror show ever imagined. But most of us haven’t a clue. In this context, a drone attack on a wedding party is the ultimate act of mercy and Obama is a saint.

Suicide: A Once Comforting Thought

The writer Stevie Smith famously found the thought of suicide extremely comforting. She said that when she learned about it as a child, it great cheered her because she knew that if life ever got too painful, she could end the pain — in an instant.

As a result, she lived her life to its natural conclusion despite her depression and anxiety because of that thin tether of knowing that she could always kill herself tomorrow.

Nobody’s Waving — Their Drowning

I suppose one could see the Will as a friendly entity that keeps us alive through the bad bits of life so we can enjoy the good bits. But I think that Smith sums up life for most people pretty well in his poem fragment:

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

That’s most people: too far out all their lives, drowning while everyone thinks they are having a marvelous time.

You see a lot of people drowning on Facebook. But they would prefer you not see them drowning, so they are waving furiously as they swallow mouthfuls of seawater, sink, and then breath the brine as they die. Don’t trust the happy pictures of ball games and parties. You need both hands to slit your own wrists.

Emily Dickinson Had It Right: We’re Stuck

Most people only know the first two lines of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poem, “The Chariot”:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me…

Many people they think (certainly I did when I was young) that the word “kindly” is meant ironically. It isn’t. The whole poem isn’t a celebration of death — Dickinson was not a cheerful poet (or person, it would seem — she was pretty much a shut-in like me). But people are sometimes fooled by things like, “‘Hope’ Is the Thing With Feathers.” The quotation marks around “hope” certainly indicate that she sees it has something of a phantom.

But “The Chariot” is quite positive toward death. She looks upon death as a good thing.

All These Prisons

For most of my life, I was like Stevie Smith: I took comfort in knowing that I could make this all go away. But my dream Schopenhauer was right: my Will is ridiculously strong. I could never kill myself except under the most rational of circumstances (eg, I’m in the World Trade Center and a fireball is coming toward me, so I jump). Otherwise, no.

So more and more I feel like a prisoner in this body on this planet — stuck in this constant now, now, now. But like Dickenson, I cannot stop for death. I must live in this cage until it takes pity and stops for me.

It is only science and art and lots of people (one at a time) that provide any kind of relief. I would rewrite Dickenson: “Hope is a thing for children.”

The Peter Principle and the Meaninglessness of Hierarchy

The Peter Principle and the Meaninglessness of HierarchyWhen I was younger, I often heard the Peter Principle defined as follows, “Everyone rises to their own level of incompetence.” Thus, I saw it as a statement of the stupidity of corporations: that they promoted incompetent people. But that is not it at all.

Investopedia provides a far better definition of the phenomenon, “The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence.”

It was only when the Peter Principle started to be applied to me I came to understand it. And it was then that I saw that it wasn’t an attack on the employee but on the corporation.

Peter Principle in High Tech

Consider this example, which I have seen in action many times. A computer programmer is hired by a company and they are great — a modern-day alchemist who manages to things done no one thought was even possible. So the company, wanting to reward this exceptional coder, promotes them to a programming manager. And this person is not great at the new job. To start with, they don’t like it because programming is in their bones. But also: they don’t know anything about management. They hate going to meetings. They think spreadsheets and reports are things people create because they don’t know how to code or that they’re just plain stupid. So, far from being a great manager, they are a bad manager — maybe bad enough to get fired.

Meanwhile, that same company probably has a mediocre programmer who would make a great manager. But they can’t be made a manager because it would be unfair. The mediocre coder would now be above the brilliant coder in the the hierarchy. The mediocre coder would make more money. The mediocre coder would be sent to conferences and fly business class. In other words, the mediocre coder will be better than the brilliant coder.

Hierarchy Destroys Diversity

The problem, of course, is that most companies have it all backwards. And a hierarchy is almost never the best way to structure a group. But you see the human tendency toward hierarchy. The World Wide Web was definitionally flat. It was, quite literally, a web. But once it became commercialized, it turned into a hierarchy. The vast majority of people on the internet spend the vast majority of their time on the top 100 websites.

And it’s built in. If you are on Facebook, why? Why not another platform? Because Facebook is only useful if everyone is there. It isn’t just a monopoly, it’s a company that can only exist as a monopoly. There is absolutely nothing technologically interesting about it and that has been true from its very idea. It provides Sudoku Meaning to people. But it’s also herd mentality. Have you ever noted the shape of a stampeding herd?

The point is the hierarchy — this idea that we need one. The fact is that it is much easier to find a good middle-manager than it is to find a good programmer or other creative. But because we think the hierarchy is natural or right or whatever, we must put the creatives at the bottom. We must pretend that although necessary, they aren’t worth that much. Hence, companies try to turn exceptional creatives into exceptional managers, but end up with mediocre (and generally unhappy) managers.

We Need a Better System

There are better ways, of course. The most obvious is the ecosystem. It is typical of the stupidity of man that the lion is referred to as the “king of the jungle.” (And that makes no sense given that lions don’t live in the jungle, tigers do.) That’s not the way the jungle works. Yes, there are apex predators. But everyone dies and is eaten. Humans think they control this planet? Ha! Insects and bacteria.

But there is no reason that a manager of programmers should necessarily make more than any given programmer. Especially if you want to believe in a meritocracy (and we don’t have one and can’t have one), you should see this. A programmer working alone can revolutionize the world. A manager working alone can’t do anything at all.

In a company however, you need lots of people doing lots of things. And doubtless, some of those people are worth more to the company than others. But the hierarchy doesn’t come close to modeling this. An ecosystem does.

The Lost in America Reversal

There’s a scene in Lost in America where this idea is put on its head. Albert Brooks plays an idiot, as usual. He’s a great advertising creative and gets upset when he isn’t going to be promoted to management. And his supervisor tells him plainly that Brooks is too talented a creative to lose him to management so he promoted someone with far less ability.

And that’s the way it should be. Except it shouldn’t be that the other guy was “promoted.” There should be an ecosystem where everyone plays their role — doing what they like and are good at. And if that means a lowly coder makes as much as the vice-president of finance, so be it. (Note: the vice-president of finance is just at the top of a huge group of people. So he isn’t actually doing any more work than the coder, and isn’t necessarily any more important — even if the vast bureaucracy he leads is).

A Change Ain’t Gonna Come

Sam Cooke - A Change Ain't Gonna ComeI do love the Sam Cooke song “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Cooke is one of those performers, like Brel, who never misses. If you put together “Sam Cooke’s Least Loved Songs” it would still be a great album. According to Cooke the song is about social change and he was thinking specifically of his touring group being turned away by a “whites only” hotel. But it sounds like a gospel song. In particular, it sounds like a black gospel song — so full of hope because that’s all they had.

When I first went to college, one of the few courses I always attended was Developmental Psychology. And I learned the term “meta-grumble.” The construction actually makes no sense: a grumble about a grumble?! But what it means in the literature is the complaints of those who have all their basic needs met. As a result, any complaint I have is a meta-grumble. Imagine if someone had told me at 10 years old that I would be a successful freelance writer and editor and have enough money to buy anything that I wanted and was able to spend much of my time learning new things. I would have been thrilled.

My Meta-Grumbles

But I’m not. Earlier I was having a panic attack. I drove to the store to buy a bottle of vodka. I was so freaked out that I got a bottle of gin instead. But I drank two shots and the panic went away. But I can still taste the gin and that makes me want to retch. Here I am living my dream life and self-medicating with vile alcohol. I don’t have anything but meta-grumbles. Yet here I am: a hopeless mess.

The initial incident that spawned “A Change Is Gonna Come” happened just a year and half before Sam Cooke was murdered. It was recorded less than a year before he was murdered. And it was release a week and a half after he was murdered. The most important lines to me are these:

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on.

Sam Cooke was Wrongly Optimistic

In fact, no. He couldn’t carry on long enough for the song to be released. And the police never considered it a murder. It was just a black man, after all. I have little doubt that Cooke was set up to be robbed and that the murder was part of that: Elisa Boyer and Bertha Franklin were working a scam they had worked many times before. But again: the police were probably only interested in the case to the extent that it deprived them of killing Sam Cooke themselves. The absolute best take on the murder was that Sam Cooke was robbed and Franklin did feel threatened. But I find it hard to believe that someone feels that threatened but has time to go get the shot gun.

Regardless, I’m not writing about Sam Cooke. I’m writing about everyone. The truth is that President Donald Trump really bothers me. I feel like I live in a new country. Even if the Democrats take control of Congress (which is unlikely; hopefully they will take the House) and a Democrat becomes President in 2020, everything has changed. The Democrat will be more corrupt than they would have been without this dark moment in the US.

It’s possible that it will all work as shock therapy. The Republicans, freed from having to pledge allegiance to Trump otherwise they will be primaried, will work to turn their “party” into a normal conservative political party. I mean, I understand why the current Republicans don’t stand up against Trump. The most recent polling of evangelicals shows that he is more popular than ever. A married man has affairs with a Playboy playmate and a porn star, and these good “traditional values” evangelicals like him more than ever.

Is This the US or North Korea?

I feel like I’m living in North Korea. The Dear Leader can do no wrong. Anything said against him is a lie. If Trump claimed he shot 18 holes of golf and got a score of -38 with 5 holes-in one, these people would believe it. Because Trump doesn’t have a constituency; he has a cult.

There is no reasoning with these people. They’ve learned that truth is just a matter of opinion. That’s right: conservative Christians are now postmodern. If I want to believe that the Moon is made of green cheese, well, that’s just my opinion. They know it’s wrong, because the Moon is actually made of Donald Trump’s sperm. But I have video evidence:

Okay! So no green cheese, but some kind of cheese! But who is to say? I literally have more evidence that the Moon is made of green cheese than they have that Donald Trump is a moral man. Because there is plenty of video evidence (mostly not in claymation) that shows quite the opposite. Just listen to him interviewed by Howard Stern. Is this the Christ of the modern conservative Christian?!

Suicide Is Always an Option

Maybe none of it matters. The first thing I think about each morning is killing myself. Don’t alert the authorities! There was a two month period over the summer where I was actually suicidal. And if things had not made a turn for the better, you would probably not be reading this today. But generally (and currently and for all my life except those two months) suicide has been an intellectual issue.

I’ve studied it very well, and I know how to kill myself in a painless and foolproof way. What I’ve never quite figured out is how exactly to do it so my body is found by professionals. I would never want a family member or friend or even hotel maid to find me. Oh yes, dying in the bathtub and putting a very clear note on the door of the hotel bathroom would probably work. But it isn’t certain. At this point, that’s what I would do.

Hope Remains

As I said though: I’m not going to kill myself. As long as I can write, I still have hope. And as long as I have hope, I would never kill myself. And let’s face it: I’m too much of a coward to do it. If I didn’t do it over the summer, I don’t think I will ever do it. I do hope I die before I’m 60, but that’s quite different.

Still, hope that Sam Cooke showed in “A Change Is Gonnna Come” is something I just can’t relate to. I love it. I listen to it often. But I fear any change that comes will be for the worse. I’m not of my father’s generation when things were improving. My life has seen things get worse and worse. Not for me, of course! I’m blessed. I am literally living the dream.

But that isn’t enough, I’m afraid. I’m not that selfish. And of course, that’s what my country wants me to be.

Afterword

It is a couple of hours since I wrote this and I’ve spent most of that time listening to Minutemen. I’ve always known that George Hurley was a great drummer, but it really stood out tonight. Strangely, I’ve found the music to be very calming. And nothing more than this acoustic set from only a few month before Boon tragically died. God I love those guys. Tonight it was “History Lesson – Part II” that really struck me, even though “I Felt Like a Gringo” will always be my song:

No. We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Although I wish every member of the NRA would listen to “Little Man With a Gun in His Hand.” Because that’s what we think of you all. You think you’re tough. We think you’re pathetic.

Afterword II

Now I’m listening to a live (1980) concert by Talking Heads with Adrian Belew et al. Maybe it’s just my mood, but for the first time, I see that it’s really the rhythm section that makes the band — Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. There isn’t a lot that David Byrne adds. Of course, I think that Byrne is a supreme asshole who thinks all the success of the band is due to him. But his guitar playing really is bad. I play funk guitar better than he does. And the only album of theirs that really remains listenable is Remain in Light, and that is one of only two albums that Byrne allowed the others to take their appropriate credit. Still, this is okay. Nothing close to the worst of Minutemen.

Note: whenever I rag on Byrne, someone comes by and says, “Oh, you have to listen to X.” And I do. And it’s totally derivative work. He spent all his creativity on those first four albums. There’s nothing left. He’s boring.

And really: what was the point of bringing in Busta Jones on bass? Weymouth was perfectly competent. That’s no slight of Jones who was an amazing bassist. But it just stinks of Byrne trying to push everyone away to make himself the star. Like I said: I hate the man. If he were in the room, I’d slap him. Age hasn’t improved him either. Maturity doesn’t go along with aging for David Byrne.

Listen to the bass part on “Once in a Lifetime.” It’s almost all just vamping. That’s true of most of the songs Jones plays. Nothing he plays requires his level of skill. Did I mention that David Byrne is an asshole? It makes me feel better. I’m a mess. And there are times when I am unkind. But at least I’m not David Byrne.

Afterword III

I hope you understand that my real problem with Byrne is his lack of loyalty. Loyalty is very big in my life. And those who show a lack of it are really out as far as I’m concerned. I have read a lot about Byrne — especially from the early to mid-1980s. I wanted to like him but there was little to like. And if you want a good example of just how pathetic he is, listen in 1994’s “Angels.” Why didn’t he just re-release “Once in a Lifetime”? Or better: just him screaming, “I have no new ideas!”

And with that I guess I’ll go watch a monster movie because I really do feel better. The only thing is that I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.

Afterword IV

Maybe I’m just going crazy. But I could hardly breathe watching this.

Goodnight!

The Final Word on the College of Architecture and Planning Sign

Update on the Ball State College of Architecture

College of Architecture and Planning Sign

Two of the biggest pages on this site have to with this funny sign on the College of Architecture and Planning building. The joke is that these very smart and erudite people who teach planning didn’t plan enough to get their sign properly displayed. It’s slightly amusing, but my reason for writing about it was that there were a lot of people who thought it was real — that the faculty of Architecture and Planning had this sign made with no thought and then just said, “Oh well, nothing to be done!”

No, Academics Are Not Idiots, Even Though Conservatives Want Them to be

This was an idea particularly pushed by conservatives who want to believe that all academics are idiots. But even worse, libertarians seemed to take this line the most. I had always thought that for all their failings libertarians at least valued knowledge and that while they might think government bureaucrats screw things up, they wouldn’t take it to academics. Most libertarians think of themselves are smart and learned.

My Purpose: to Show the Image Was Made to Be Funny

So my only reason for writing the articles was to make the point that the sign was a joke. It doesn’t matter if the subcontractor screwed it up and the dean said, “Let’s keep it, it’s funny!” And it doesn’t matter if a change was made to the building and the dean said, “You know, instead of redoing the lettering, let’s put the “C” on the other wall because it will be funny and stand as an object lesson for our students!” And it doesn’t matter if the photo was simply photoshopped to make a funny image.

There Is No Deep Meaning in the Image

The sign was meant to be funny; it wasn’t an indication that academics are idiots. That’s all I had to say. Unfortunately, there are, about a million people who took the image very seriously indeed. And for a long time, I responded to these people with variations of, “You make an interesting point, but it’s still true that whoever did it, did it because it was funny. It doesn’t mean anything. Conservatives and libertarians can’t use it as an illustration that academics are idiots. That’s not what is going on in the image. Regardless of what way you turn it, the perpetrator did it because they thought it was funny. And that’s the end of the story.

The Two Articles

So I eventually wrote two articles about this stupid little images. At first, I had no idea that this would be such a big deal. The first article was just intended to talk about how un-serious it was. Then, the second one was written to try to lower the fever. But when the reaction to it was even bigger than it had been to the frst one, I knew it was hopeless. So I gave up. But here, for all you people who think this is very important, I’m putting it all together.

College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke
Update on the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning Sign — It’s Still a Joke

I’m even including the comments because most of these people are very smart and they had interesting things to say. Sure, the world would be better if these people tried to cure cancer or something. But this is what they’ve decided to do and who am I to say they’re wrong? (A sensible person.)

College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke

At the top of this article, you can see the “hilarious” image of the College of Architecture and Planning sign. In case you can’t see it, the “C” in the word “College” is pasted on the brick wall to the left (on the right in the image). It is clearly meant as a joke and perhaps an object lesson for all those “planning” majors. I think it’s quite brilliant in its way.

Cjhelms to the Rescue: Nothing to Be Done!

By all accounts, the building was at Ball State and has since been torn down. But it is hard to know anything for sure. Consider that when this photo was posted on Reddit this January 2014. Some reddit person who goes by the name cjhelms wrote:

The building was constructed in two parts. One completed in 1972 and the newer part completed in 1982. The newer part includes the wall to the left and the older part is the rest that you see. The photo was taken from the basement level. The lettering is above the first level (the windows above the words are of a second-floor conference room). There was originally a pedestrian bridge that connected to the entrance below the lettering.

When the newer portion of the building was constructed, the contractor missed his mark and caused the lettering to be cut off. Why didn’t they change it? The space that used to be a beautiful grand entrance to the college was converted into a loading dock.

Part of this may well be true: the left side looks newer. Just the same, none of this would imply that an error was made and I find it very unlikely. Much more likely is that they were making an addition to the building and they knew they had to cover over part of the existing beam. Rather than redo the sign, someone said, “You know what would be funny…?” Cjhelms’ implication that they couldn’t be bothered to fix the sign because it was now just a loading dock doesn’t fly. If that’s the case, why did they go to the trouble of pasting the “C” on the brick wall?

What’s more, I question cjhelms’ seriousness. In another comment, he mentions that it was built by the “lowest bidder,” which is a tired cliche. No one ever gets a contract by being the lowest bidder; they often get them by being the lowest qualified bidder. What’s more, cjhelms claims he knows what went on there because he works at Ball State. But that doesn’t mean he knows anything about the project. And if he weren’t there when it was built (he recently had a child so he is probably young), all he likely knows is campus folklore.

This automatically raises a question: if this was now the loading dock, why didn’t they just remove the letters? They were no longer needed. I’ll bet you anything that Cjhelms prowled the droms looking for a couple of people having drinks so he could explain traveling past the speed of light was possible. And trust me: his dissertation required the use of string, Magic Tape, and the last burrito in the freezer.

RJMjr60 at Least Makes Some Sense

In contrast, RJMjr60 claimed:

It was done intentionally to prove a point, and to continually reiterate that point to every student who entered the building… The name was a reminder to always think things through and the fact that it made it to Reddit many years after its demise is proof that it got people’s attention and made them think.

Or just consider the human psychology behind the sign. If you ran the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State, and something went wrong on the project for your new building, you would make the best the situation. (For one thing, you would require the contractor to fix the sign!) You would not throw up your hands and say, “It’s an embarrassment, but there is nothing we can do about it!” So whatever the situation with the building, the sign was a choice — a joke that makes a point about the subject being taught.

It wasn’t some stupid dean who couldn’t think of anything else to do. “God, what an embarrassment! But nothing can be done! Maybe if Kurt Gödel were around, he could come up with some hyper-intellectual solution like moving all the letters closer together. But this is Ball State! We don’t have that kind of brain power, so let’s just embarrass ourselves!”

Comments Both Great and Stupid

Here are all the comments to the first article. I’ve left out the “track-back” comments, which are just links from other websites that linked to the article. It was originally a way to encourage people to link to each other, but quickly just turned into another way for scammers to try to increase their Google Rank. It’s sad. Before the Internet was monetized, this never happened. Now it always does. And the single thing that made the internet great — people earnestly trying to help each other out, has died. I much preferred the only internet. Now it is soiled.

There is actually a way to bring back the old internet using some idea of the economist Dean Baker. But it would never happen, because people are too used to the capitalist internet and can’t imagine anything else. When you have a whole bunch of people who are making millions of dollars off the new internet, they have the incentive and the money to keep it the way it is. It’s too bad because we could have something better. I was on the internet in the heady days of the 1980s. Most of the people today don’t even remember those days. All they know is the capitalist internet. And there is so much more.

Richard
YEAH, RIGHT!!!!!
Dave
The image is a photoshop fake and the back-story is invented. Here is a genuine shot of the building.
http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2015/08/signs-architecture-major
Frank
Thank you so much! I’m preparing a followup article, that will go up at 5:05 tonight. I don’t think this new photo quite proves what you claim. But it is really great to have it, and and it has brought a couple of things to my mind that I hadn’t discussed before. I hope you will drop by and see if you buy what I have to say.
Isak Lindenauer
What’s stupid and what makes the joke fail is the fact that whoever wanted to create this hoax erroneously made the “error” on the left side. No one would start with a mistake or put up the sign starting at the right and working to the left. (Well, maybe if it were an Orthodox Jewish college!). For the joke to work, it has to appear seamless and believable. That means some shmendrick who was commissioned to put up the sign starts with the letter C without really thinking his actions through and making a plan even though the very word is in the sign. He gets to the END and sees there is not enough room for the last letter so he puts it on the right wall to finish the title…
Frank
Read the update. I don’t accept it, but the competing theory is that the left wall was added, cutting off the sign. The dean (or whoever) thought it would be funny to put the “C” on the wall. But we now have a better version of the image with the letters displayed perfectly. So I am 99% certain this is just a PhotoShop gag.
Dwight Simmons
What is really funny, is all the posts of Facebook and the comments about how stupid the College is.
Frank
Ah! I had wondered what was going on there, because I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of traffic on this.

Update on the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning Sign — It’s Still a Joke

The College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke. It is in reference to the photo at the top of this article. I didn’t think much about the article at the time, but it has been huge — arguably the most viewed article I’ve ever written. The reason I wrote it was basically political. A lot of people use the picture as “yet another example of how the government can’t do anything right.” And that offends me. So I went searching for information about the photo. There was very little and so I put together what I could find.

The “It’s a PhotoShop Hoax Theory”

Yesterday, there was another explosion of traffic to that page, and I got a very interesting comment from a guy named Dave, “The image is a photoshop fake and the back-story is invented. Here is a genuine shot of the building…” He provided a link to a recent article from Ball State Daily, Ten Signs You’re an Architecture Major. The content of the article has nothing to do with the question at hand, but it does include a picture of building, which I have cropped to highlight the part of the building that is displayed in the original image.

College of Architecture and Planning

To reiterate, this has little to do with my original article. If that photo is digitally altered, then it was indeed a joke. The point of the article was that the College of Architecture and Planning didn’t, as I wrote, throw up its hands and say, “It’s an embarrassment, but there is nothing we can do about it!” No one behaves that way! Whether the sign ever existed hardly matters. Whether it was a designer or a graphic artist, it was intentional. And it was always meant to be humorous. The fact that a lot people don’t see that annoys me. It reminds me of those “ancient alien” shows that are predicated on the idea that humans are dumb.

There is a really clear difference between these two photographs, however. In the original photo, there is a wall on the left side. There is no wall in the new photo. This doesn’t prove that the original photo wasn’t a PhotoShop job. Indeed, it adds some credence. It might have been perfect because the beam had no lettering on it. But why put a wall in? It makes more sense to have the end cut off, not the beginning. But I can’t say.

It is also possible that these photos are from different parts of the building. Or it could even be that they are different buildings — the Bracken Library on the Ball State campus has a similar design. This possibility would almost certainly make it an altered image and not a representation of anything that ever existed.

The one thing that disturbs me is that wall. In my original article, I quoted a Reddit user, “The building was constructed in two parts. One completed in 1972 and the newer part completed in 1982. The newer part includes the wall to the left and the older part is the rest that you see…” The new photo is from the college archives — a similar one by the same photographer (Savannah Neil) was used a year earlier. So maybe the original photo is actually more recent. I actually think so, because the building looks shiny and new. I suspect this photo was from the original shots taken of the building.

It could have been that someone thought they would throw up some letters on the beam temporarily when the expansion was taking place and they thought this was cute. Or maybe it was a prank. I’m rather fond of that idea because it is exactly what you would think a few students at the College of Architecture and Planning would do and think was the funniest thing ever. On the other hand, that beam is very high and would be hard to get to.

The strongest argument for this being a PhotoShop job is that the original image is the only one I’ve found of the sign. There are no others from a slightly different angle or time. But if the building does date back to the early 1970s, then we are talking about a different time. People didn’t have cameras everywhere. Maybe it was pranksters. They took several pictures of it, but this is the only one they hung onto — or at least the only one they bothered to digitize.

Ultimately, all the new photo provides is some indication that this is PhotoShop work. (I’m about 50-50 on the issue right now.) But if it is, that only proves what I was always saying: the people at Ball State are not lazy idiots. The sign — real or digitally created — is still a joke.

Update (8 September 2015)

In the comments, Paul L provided what looks to be the original photo. It contains the letters where you think they would be. And the photo is better: you can clearly see a figure in the window who is vague in the “mistake picture.” So I assume this picture is the original and the mistake picture is a PhotoShop job. If any picture proves it, it is this one — not the picture above that I’m sure is an earlier one.

College of Architecture and Planning - Original, No PhotoShop

Update (14 September 2015 9:05 am)

Here is the video that we have been talking about in the comments:

If you skip to 0:53 in the video, there is a pan up of an image of the sign. It is shockingly like Alien Autopsy in that just before we get to see “the truth” it cuts. I guess we can be happy that it doesn’t go blurry. But it does show that the seam in the metal that the sign is on runs through the second “T” in “ARCHITECTURE.” In what I thought was the original image, the seam goes through the second “C.” As I’ve noted before these are the same exact photographs so one must be a PhotoShop job. And it would seem that the “correct” one is.

I hate being dragged down in the weeds on this. For the umpteenth time: the sign is a joke, not an example of incompetence. That is all I care about.

Comments

So here are the final coments. Again, my point is that this is a joke. That’s all I care about. It does seem that this is a PhotoShop joke. That’s what the data indicates. But a joke it is. Professionals are neither so ignorant nor so later to do this by accident.

Crispy
There’s also this video which seems believable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZshMwU2-HCM

Frank
Thanks for that. This is more or less what one of the original Reddit people said — almost word-for-word. The problem with it is in the newest image above. And as I think I pointed out in this article, I can’t actually find the “wrong” image going back more than a year or so. But what are we to make of the newest image? Is it PhotoShopped? Because it is the exact same image. One of them has been PhotoShopped. I think I discussed in the first article that it is possible that now even the people at Ball State are relying on folklore about this. As it is, the video references Professor James Underwood for the “oral history.” I would love for the story to be true — partly because he specifically says, “It would be funny” — which was my original point. But it doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t Chris Helms who created the image in the first place.
There is one thing I’ve been thinking about that is brought up in the video, and was discussed originally on Reddit: the big image above (without the left wall) is not that part of the building. The building is sorta symmetrical, and the part with the sign was on the other side. But that makes the “mistake sign” even less reasonable, because then the new wall wasn’t built and there would have been nothing to change the original sign.
Vern
Is it too far fetched to consider the photo was flipped horizontally before the letters were photoshopped onto it?
Frank
At this point, I’d believe anything… If it turned out that Ball State doesn’t even exist, I wouldn’t be surprised.
MW
The “original” photo you posted has Where’s Waldo waving from the window.
http://www.pleasantondowntown.net/assets/uploads/files/events/da775-new-canaan-waldo.jpg
Considering Ball State’s own video says “this happened”, I’m inclined to believe the photo is real, and the “original” photo with Where’s Waldo is a photoshop.
Frank
Good eye! But all that proves is that the image was taken after 1987. Both images contain the same figure, so it is meaningless to note that the figure is Where’s Waldo. But I did notice something, so I guess I will have to update this damnable article.
Charlie (It was you!)
Have you looked at the 1:11 moment of video? I see no mention of this. It appears as though this part of the building with the ill placed “C” has been built over. Hmmmm, the plot thinks.
Jim B
Have you looked at the 1:11 moment of video? I see no mention of this. It appears as though this part of the building with the ill placed “C” has been built over. Hmmmm, the plot thickens.
janepublic
It’s Photoshopped. you can see the tell tale drop shadow pixellation around the letters under 500 magnification. I made an addition to the photo to show off but there’s no upload here. :(
Frank
Interesting. Do blogs have that capability? That sounds more like a forum. Anyway, we are but a wee website.
I’m more than willing to believe you. But I have promised myself I will not be dragged back in! Every week or so, there seems to be an argument somewhere about this photo and someone links to this article.
But, once again: my interest is really not whether or not the image is real. My interest is whether or not it was actually a mistake. Was it the result of bad planning? Clearly it was not. It’s great regardless, and people find it constantly interesting — this has been going on for well over a year now.
Randall Peacock (with the ice pick in the kitchen)
Okay people, why is this so difficult to understand? I am completely baffled at the amount of ridiculously incorrect information that has been posted in this small amount of cyber space.
1. The original image is of the upper portion of the building. Starting at the third floor there is a cantilevered outside corner section of the building that sits within the interior corner formed by two brick walls. You can see this on any street view of the building.
2. The image in this post showing the “correct” sign is actually the spandex over the door on the first floor. The doors are at the first floor and are parallel with one of the two brick walls forming the inside corner. This is the reason you see brick on both sides of the doorway.
3. The photoshopped image of the incorrect sign is the “left” side of the cantilevered exterior corner. There are no signs on this third floor section of the building.
4. The building was expanded in 1982 but the expansion is on the complete opposite side of the building. All of the photos shown in the original and in this post are of the of the original portion of the building.
5. Simply going to Google Earth will allow you to see the street view of the building.
A Genour
I’m sorry, but you’ve been had. Your “original photo” in the update, the one with Waldo, is the photoshop, and quite a bad one at that.

A flip-book style comparison with the original with the mistake will show you how the Waldo photo’s creator has just moved the letters a few pixels to the right – not bothering to retouch elements such as the seam in the panels around the letter “T”. This is the by far biggest tell, and frankly you could stop reading here.
Animation: http://imgur.com/ofpJnuZ

But to go on – you’ll also see how the job is rushed, not bothering to align the subtle textures of the metal around the letters with that of the rest of the panel. Also, Waldo’s addition to a clean photo is simple to perform, whereas removing him while preserving the reflection and detail of the dark space where he once was would require significant skill and time. In fact, calculating the pixel difference between the two images reveals that the difference is a perfect rendition of Waldo, something that would be *extremely* difficult to achieve if Waldo was the subject being removed, as you’d have to *perfectly* remove him, down to the tiniest color and texture subtleties.
I can’t speak to the authenticity of the first photo with the mistake. But I do question the assertion that the update’s “original photo” is of better quality – it is not. The noise pattern or “grain” is almost identical, with the slight addition of JPEG compression artifacts only visible upon a difference comparison and contrast adjustment – I say with confidence that the “original” is sourced from the photo with the mistake. The powers of suggestion are in full force here.
In conclusion, the “update” photo is fake, and Paul L is a dirty dirty liar :)
Frank
For the umpteenth time: I’ve always said it was a joke. I’m agnostic about whose joke it is. The original argument was about how it showed how incompetent academics are. I leave the rest of the argument to the tens of thousands of Reddit users who never seem to get enough of this!
A Genour
I see I was not clear enough in my post. I’m not discussing the original case of the “C…OLLEGE” sign, or whether it’s a joke. I’m simply pointing out that the 2015-09-08 update claiming to be an “unaltered original photo” featuring a correctly-spaced sign and a Waldo, is a photoshop fake, created by manipulating the “C…OLLEGE” photo that started all of this. That whole update is incorrect. The poster that gave you that update and photo is having a laugh at your expense, and trolling us all.
For what it’s worth, I’m fairly certain the “C…OLLEGE” photo is real, as suggested by the account in the 2015-09-15 update video by the college in question. And while I suppose it’s possible (although not corroborated by the story in the video) that a photo *could* exist of a correctly-spaced sign, the update photo of 2015-09-08 is certainly not it, as it’s a fake.
Elizabeth
Explaining a joke ruins the joke you know. [Not when it isn’t much of a joke to begin with. –FM 6 Feb 2018]
Frank
What you are doing is dangerous. I try not to get drawn in. Just the other day, about 2,000 people rushed to this page because another discussion started on Reddit. This happens at least once a month. I could not possibly care less at this point. But apparently, I’m the only one who’s ever cared enough about the subject to lay it all out — twice! Ugh!
Frank
Well no one is going to disagree you are a dork. :-) [True –FM 6 Feb 2018]
Bruce Keller
Isn’t it that they added the new brick wall on the left, and it would have covered the ‘C’, so after building the addition, they just stuck on the ‘C’ again, making the joke?
Frank
Something along those lines is my theory. As these articles have shown, this picture means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. My interest in it is only that it isn’t the result of bad planning but rather an explicit joke. There are many people who want to believe that it is the result of actual bad planning. I think a lot of that is just people who have a problem with colleges and want to believe the myth of the “educated fool.” Regardless of what happened with the remodel of the building, there were many ways to deal with it. Those in charge decided to make it a joke. Which is great!
Sean R.
I was showing this to a friend and stumbled on this article. I was a student in the building in question. I can tell you 100% the c in College is on the brick wall and not on the metal with the rest of the letters (at least last I have heard from a friend that still lives in Muncie). As for the original post, the first picture is correct (the delivery/side entrance off of Neely Ave.), while the second picture is of the main entrance (off of McKinley).
I can’t comment on whether the C being placed on the brick was a joke or not, as no one in the building or on campus can answer that (I lean towards joke, as the planners on campus have had a lot of fun with the buildings over the years – the aerial view of the library looks like a stack of books, the architecture building looks like a drafting table, the performance hall looks like a piano, etc) I’m sure most people are long past this, just thought I would add a first person account to the mix.
Frank
For the right person, it could turn into an obsession. But it’s really very simple for me. I grew up around builders. The letters are a trivial amount of money compared to the remodel, much less the building. But had no one cared, they would have simply cut the “C” off. But for the college of planning? It’s a brilliant joke and object lesson.
Sarah
The building is genuine. It’s on Clarence Street, York, England. The signage was originally like that, I remember as I passed it twice a day on the bus to and from work. York residents were told that it was a joke by the college. I’m unsure if they have since corrected it as I moved away 6 years ago
Frank
In general, I don’t respond to comments on this because I’m so tired of this story. But really?! This is the first I’ve head of it.

The only reason I wrote about this in the first place was because so many people were claiming that it was just an error. Regardless of where it is and how it came to be, the people involved thought, “This will be funny.”
Rob
You are clearly a Big Edu shill. Wake up sheeple!!!1!!
Frank>

I understand this to mean that my claim that this is a joke is an effort to protect pointed headed intellectuals. You aren’t far wrong; but you are wrong. It is my effort to protect human beings, who are overall pretty smart. Even if it was a mistake, the builders didn’t fix it because they thought it was funny. The original article was based on my experience with other humans — even ones I don’t think that highly of.
In the discussion of this image on reddit before I wrote about it, a lot of people wanted to believe that others were just stupid. I don’t want to live in that world. Lucky for me: I don’t have to. Humans are hardly perfect, but on the whole, not a bad lot. Not a bad lot at all.
James Fillmore

Could just be a joke about the silly word “sheeple.” Which, whenever I hear it, makes me think of the sheep in Aardman animations. Who are quite smart!
Here’s a fun thing I read recently. Mules aren’t stubborn; they’re smart, and have better eyesight/smell than horses. So if a mule sees a path is too treacherous to walk on safely, or smells a pack of predators in an oncoming direction, they’re really hesitant to move. A horse might not smell predators that sharply; they don’t really need to, they can run super fast. Donkeys/mules don’t run fast, so they rely on better smell for a warning sign, and better eyesight to make it into difficult terrain most predators can’t follow.
Frank
I came upon a mule fan site just the other day. It was fascinating. Mules also don’t bolt when they get scared. They seem to appraise the situation. They may then bolt. But as a result, people are not nearly as likely to be hurt by a mule. This is one of many reasons why mules are used in the Grand Canyon. They are also far more surefooted. They are also (in my experience) much quieter than donkeys. That’s the one thing I don’t like about donkeys!
James Fillmore
There is a large population of feral donkeys in Custer National Park, in the Black Hills. They are smart and hugely aggressive. They don’t attack people, but they will block roads and surround your car and butt their heads against the window until you roll it down and throw some food out far enough for them to chase it. Smart, annoying SOBs.
Frank
I love that! I’d hate to live through it. But I love it.
Bill
Came here because the BSU video was referenced in the following article:
http://gizmodo.com/7-more-viral-photos-that-are-totally-fake-1784250989
I then clicked your link in the comments.
I thought I had missed something when I attended Ball State 2000-2002. I wonder if some of the profs I still know could shed some light on this. I’ll let you know.
Todd
As a former BSU architecture student in the 80s I can tell you the sign was in fact cut off when they made the addition to the building. It wasn’t fixed when I graduated in 88. Not sure when they fixed it but at some point they did fix it.
Janus Kane
Just go to Google Maps… the street view shows the sign without error, beneath the overhang where the sign was photoshopped onto.
I don’t mean to dump on your spirits, as I love your rationality… But this took me less than 2 minutes. Pictures for proof in the website field
ADB
Clearly, you did something in a previous lifetime that you are now paying for. Man oh Manischevitz…this article is like purgatory for you. lol
Frank
Yep. I’m trying to figure out what it is. But it was bad. Not doubt about that!
SONYA
IT IS very cute picture and it made me giggle out loud. Whether it be real or not, can’t we all find at least, some humor in this society? WHY be so darn serious all the time?
Frank
t isn’t about being serious, Sonya — at least for me. I just love to analyze things. Although I have to admit that after all this time, I’m pretty bored with this!
But yes, it is funny. And what I think happened is that an administrator said, “Why don’t we do this? It will be funny!” People think of bureaucrats as stodgy. Well, here’s one that wasn’t!
HM
(Being years late to this conversation) I’m with “flip horizontal”, though the “maybe original” image in this post isn’t the same used in the “meme version” being discussed. I did it–flip horizontal, a little rotation–the vertical caulk line at the left, and the odd brick pattern, seem to confirm. If, of course, there is an institution called “Ball State” in the first place ;)
Frank
I’m with you! I’m so sick of this article and the question that I wish I had never written it. Every week or so, someone posts it on reddit, and my email box gets filled with passionate arguments that remind me of nothing so much as arguments about JFK’s assassination. I know the subject is interesting. But I swear to God, the world could be on fire and people would still be arguing about whether the photo is real or not. If I weren’t afraid that it would land me in a mental hospital, I’d write a third article taking into consideration what everyone has said — because many people have made good points. But truthfully, I’m far more interested in Bugs Bunny: Rabbit or Hare?

How to Deal With Mental Pain

Jules Shear - The Third Part - This is my darkness now, only I can see in itOne of my very favorite songs is “The Girl’s on Fire.” And my favorite line in it is, “This is my darkness now, only I can see in it.” There’s a lot of meaning in that line.

It’s about pain. It’s about how no one can share your pain. We all lie to ourselves that we are part of a greater whole. But we aren’t. We are alone. We are so alone that most people won’t even allow themselves to think about it. That’s because it is so terrifying.

You Just Can’t Know My Pain, and I Can’t Yours

I spend a lot of my time as I’m waking up thinking about what it will be like to die alone. Since I don’t expect to live long and I am lucky to have a number of friends and family members who care about me, I expect that there will be people around to see me die. But they will only be spectators. It will be like a sporting event. They’ll be watching, but they won’t be on the field — in the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think of myself as so much an individual that no one can know what it’s like to be me. The fact is, I’m making an argument for us all. There will be no one around who truly understands your pain — or anyone’s.

“This is my darkness now, only I can see in it.” –Jules Shear

Oh certainly, we all know roughly what it is like to be dumped out of a long-term relationship. We know what it’s like to lose a job or something far less ephemeral like a child. We can all watch Love Story and sob when Ali MacGraw dies.

But we don’t know what it’s like for you. Because we aren’t you. Just as you aren’t us. Others can’t see in our Darkness and we can’t see in theirs.

The Pointlessness of Trying to “Cheer Up” Another

This is why people trying to cheer you up always works the opposite as intended. To begin with, even though you know they are trying to be helpful, they’re stealing from you. That pain belongs to you not them. And it’s pathetic too! Because they don’t know what you are feeling.

Words Don’t Help

Indeed, “cheering up” someone usually has the opposite result, because it makes the person feel even more alone. It’s like someone commiserating with you about a dear pet that just died as though you’d just lost a car. Regardless, the only thing that can be said in such a situation is a platitude that you’ve not only heard before, but have probably used. So you feel bad hearing the platitude and you feel bad knowing that you were being equally useless to another friend.

Life is hard. Don’t trivialize it with words. And good God never trivialize it with platitudes. Everyone knows them all. That’s what makes them platitudes.

The Only Relief to Your Pain

What if you can embrace your pain. I mean really do it: love your pain. Then you might have a chance. But that is a hard thing to do. And there is no one who can help you.

Otherwise, your only hope is death. And that’s not so bad. Because it comes to us all. And most of us have control over it. If the pain ever gets too bad you can kill yourself. This is a thought that cheered up Stevie Smith very much. And it cheers me up to.

That doesn’t mean you should do it. In fact, I think most people are wrong when they do it. But it’s nice to know that if things get so bad that you just can take it, you have the option.

Christmas: Everything I Have to Say

President Trump and Third Wife and Similarly Ephemeral Christmas Tree

It’s Christmas, 2017. The Republicans are happy as can be because they learned that even the most moderate members of their caucus can be bought for peanuts. We learned that Susan Collins was willing to deprive 13 million people of healthcare for the promise that the Senate would vote on stabilizing the Obamacare exchanges. But the deal doesn’t apply to the House, so it means… nothing. I don’t think she’s stupid. Like every national-level Republican, she hates everyone except the rich.

In a few months, even she won’t be able to deny that she did extreme damage to the United States of America in exchange for nothing. “Oh, how could her fellow Republicans be so nasty!” But she didn’t make a deal with the Republicans — she made a deal with the Republicans in the Senate. So at best, all this means is that Susan Collins is just stupid. I have no doubt of that. But the bigger issue is that Susan Collins is evil. I really hope there’s a hell and she burns in agony for all eternity. I mean that! But I’d be willing to go with a century.

Susan Collins Is Just a Synecdoche for the Republican Party

I don’t mean to be down on Collins. She’s just a symbol. She’s the “most moderate Republican in the Senate.” And that means she’s just about the most moderate Republican in Washington. Yet if you replaced her in the Senate of 1980, she’d be the most extreme. That’s modern America: we’ve gone off the rails. The Republican Party is crazy. They have control of the country, so the country is crazy.

But I guess we can be forgiven. This is how empires fall. What is interesting is that most people — the power elites especially — don’t think so. They think that the good times will go on forever. But it won’t. It’s like what Bertrand Russell said:

The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.

Yeah, every day it is just great! You fed and pampered and then one day is very different. That’s what will happen to us. There will be a new superpower. And then one after that. And so on and on. Yet the power elite will never learn. They’ll think the party will go on forever. It always has. No one has wringed its neck yet!

Aren’t Humans Better?

I know a lot of you think that humans are better. So do I! The problem is that the people who crave power and money, they are different. They lack empathy. They don’t know or care what it’s like to worry if their children will have enough to eat. They don’t know or care that others live lives of little fulfillment or choice. They don’t care that we are destroying the planet. They just care that their lives are great. And they convince themselves that it is all because they are so great.

At Christmas time, they should think of God. They should imagine that even if they are better — smarter, stronger, harder working — they aren’t that way because they made themselves that way. They are that way because God made them that way — or because of pure chance.

Meanwhile, all the people who learned the lessons of kindergarten — to share and treat others well — they do, at best, so-so. Because we don’t create societies designed to reward nice people; we create societies based on the law of the jungle with a tiny bit of humanity sprinkled on top so that the non-complete psychopaths can live with themselves.

The first Trump Christmas

This is the first Christmas we’ve had with President Donald J Trump. And really: I’m glad. He’s the president we deserve. He’s the president who represents the nation that we built. You know the Revolutionary War? The southern states went with it because they were afraid that if they stayed in the British Empire, they might soon be deprived of their peculiar institution. And northern slave ships might have been deprived of all that sweet, sweet slave money!

“No Taxation Without Representation!” That was just a slogan for the prols. England would give them representation. The Americans didn’t want it because their revolution had nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with money.

Putin is right to worry about the United States. We are dangerous and unpredictable. And we don’t care about our own citizens, much less those of other countries. Will we get out of the Trump presidency without a nuclear war? I give it a 50-50 chance.

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care. But it’s more that I can’t care. All I see is suffering. And what does our government do? It stops refugees from getting asylum. It lets US citizens struggle after a natural disaster because they speak the wrong language and have the wrong skin color. They are throwing 13 million people off their health insurance so they can give more money to people who are already ridiculously wealthy.

And don’t believe the propaganda! These companies getting tax breaks are going to use the money to further automate their facilities so they can lay-off even more people. And to top it off, they are allowing dead people to give even more money to their kids tax-free. $5.5 million wasn’t enough; now it is double that. And they wanted to get rid of it altogether! It’s just that a few Republicans thought that might look bad. Oh, all those tough choices!

Merry Christmas 2017!

This is why we need Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman and all these other myths. We can’t believe our leaders. Remember when Trump ran as a populist and then filled his cabinet with people from Goldman Sachs? Remember when he said his tax bill would cost him a fortune? It is estimated that it will make him $15 million extra every year! And his family will be similarly enriched.

I don’t know what to tell you. Certainly, it is true that Trump supporters would still love him if he jabbed them in their eyes with a dagger. Republicans, of course, think that in February, people will see they have more money and be thrilled with Trump. But Obama gave middle and lower-income people a bigger tax reduction. When asked about it in November — after they had had it for almost a year — over half of them said their taxes were the same. More people said their taxes had gone up than people who said (rightly) that their taxes had gone down.

So the good news is that in the 2018 elections, the Republicans are likely to get slaughtered. My only hope is that this lasts to 2020, and that the Democrats get complete control of Washington and fix all the damage the Republicans have caused.

I don’t want anything for Christmas in 2017, 2018, or 2019. In 2020, I want to see professional politicians who actually care about America and Americans back in power. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t know what we are going to do.

But if a group of people can mess this up, it is the American people. Thus far, they seem to understand that the Republicans are destroying this country. They are right. I hope they keep remembering this. Because I love this country. And I don’t want to see it destroyed so Donald Trump and his friends can get even richer.

Did you see this cabinet meeting where everyone tells Trump how great he is? This is what authoritarians do. This is not something I ever thought I would see in my country.

A Great Christmas Breakfast

There was this little cafe in Cotati, California that used to serve this thing they called Grandma’s Eggs. My first wife and I really liked it. But over the years as I got more into cooking, I saw that it had many problems.

First, the potatoes in it were cut too large. And they were fried and not usually cooked enough. So I’m going to explain to you the proper way to make this delicious breakfast dish. It also has the advantage of being fast to make.

The Potatoes

The first thing you must do is get a couple of good russet potato and clean them as much as you think is necessary. I personally think that as a culture, we are way too hygienic. You don’t need to clean everything so much. That includes your bodies. Geez, people, give it a rest. There are only a few parts of the body that are really disgusting. And most people don’t clean them very well because they are disgusting. The anus is disgusting. The bellybutton is disgusting. Women seem to do a very good job on their vaginas. Men don’t tend to do as good a job on their penises. It’s no wonder most women don’t like giving blowjobs. And here’s something most men won’t admit to: blowjobs aren’t very pleasurable. Men seem to like them because women tend not to like to give them. I’ve talked to a lot of men, and mostly they don’t much like them. On the other hand, most men find a nice clean vagina a source of endless erotic enjoyment.

Where was I? Oh yes, potatoes. Cut the potatoes up into squares of about 3/8″ to 1/2″. Then put them in a microwave-safe dish and pour a little olice oil on them. Then mix. The reason for this is to stop the cut potato parts from sticking together. Cook them on high for about 4 minutes. Then take them out, mix them again, and cook for another 4 minutes.

Now this is tricky because the bowl will get very hot. What I usually do is to use two bowls. Transfirst the first cooked set into a second bowl.

Fry the Potatoes and Onions

Add about 2 tablespoons of butter to a skillet and then heat to the point where the potatoes are in that position where it really is hard not to eat them. while they lightly fry, get a small onion out and dice it. Add it to the potatoes. Then spice with about a half teaspoon of salt and an eighth a teaspoon of pepper. Cook until delightful.

In a separate mixing bowl, crack 5-6 eggs. Or 7. Or 8. I think it’s better for more eggs. But you don’t want it to overwhelm the potatoes and onions.

Finishing Up

Now you just cook it until the eggs are solidified. And serve. It’s delicious. Really.

It’s the perfect example of how you just can’t go wrong with a dish of good ingredients. You can add other things too. Throw in some frozen peas or corn. Add anything else that you think will make it more delicious. You can also add grated cheese, but I really do think that’s a bit much. But sliced mushrooms? Can’t go wrong there! Whatever you like.

Left Overs

It is almost always the case that I make more potatoes than I need. So you can just put the extras in a container and use it for a future batch of Grandma’s Eggs. After you make the recipe a few times, you’ll get a good idea of how much potato you need for your guests.

I’m not planning to show up for Christmas until about noon. So I’ll make enough for me and not worrying about the rest of the clan.

My plan for the day is to make myself some wonderful Grandma’s Eggs, and then drink quite a lot more than I need to. All the difficult stuff has already been cooked. But I’d be fine eating Grandma’s Eggs for dinner. It’s delicious.

It goes really well with a bagel or an English muffin. But then I’m going to have to go on a diet. I’ve gotten so fat! It’s amazing! I didn’t think I was capable of putting on this much weight. It’s a good thing that I really don’t care anymore!

What follows is what I have written on previous Christmases when I didn’t even think something like this was possible.

–FM (25 December 2017)

The First Secular Christmas

Merry Secular ChristmasSince I first started this blog, I have been creating posts for Christmas. I am, of course, an atheist. But I love Christmas. I love any opportunity I have to cook for large groups. So what follows will include a lot of stuff about food, but also material that will appeal to anyone who likes Christmas in a secular way.

I agreed to make dinner for five on Christmas day—not so much because I wanted to, but because I wanted to have prime rib for dinner. It turned out to be twelve people, but the bigger problem was that I created a four-course menu and had a wholly unsatisfactory kitchen. It was stressful and the results were so-so; but it worked. Many thanks go out to Brian Pricer for his amazing taste buds and invaluable help

Ceasar Salad

For this I used a standard recipe that I mostly ripped off from a magazine without a cover. I’ve made it before, but this time it was utterly disappointing. This can be attributed to the fact that I used a tube of anchovy paste instead of making my own. Learn from my mistakes: always make your own anchovy paste. I don’t like making anchovy paste; the smell of the anchovies makes me gag, but this is a small price to pay for an acceptable Ceasar.

Cream of Tomato Soup

This may seem like an odd choice, but I thought it was a nice link between the salad and the main course—maybe because I love cream of tomato soup and have been searching for the perfect recipe for the last fifteen years and this represented an excellent opportunity to experiment. For me, this was the high point of the meal. The previous day, I made the recipe and it wasn’t so good. I made a few changes—a big one from Brian—and it made all the difference. Here is the recipe. It is based upon an idea from Cooks Dot Com to use cream cheese rather than heavy cream. (Actually, it had a fair bit of heavy cream too; I can’t help myself.)

Main Course

I am too suceptible to the opinions of others—at least it comes to cooking. As a result, the prime rib (11 pounds!) ended up being over-cooked by about a half-hour. It was still very good; you can’t really make a prime rib that doesn’t taste delicious.

With the beef, I made an artery-clotting Asiago and Sage Scalloped Potatoes using an online recipe (it has errors in it, so if you try it, study it first and figure out how you will deal with them). It was very good, but it really needed more cooking time. In general, I prefer to have scalloped potatoes twice baked; I should have done that this time.

Finally, there were Julienne of Fresh Snow Peas and Carrots. I started with another online recipe, but my early experiments did not inspire. In the end, I added a little ginger (I like ginger a lot) and replaced the olive oil with grape seed oil (another suggestion of Brian’s). The grape seed oil made all the difference; it was great.

Dessert

For dessert, I had planned to make a cheese cake. Brian stepped up, however, and did the dessert for me. He made a cheese cake that was not exactly to my liking; I think mine is better, but it was still delicious; you can’t go wrong with four pounds of cream cheese and a pound of sugar, right? But he also made a pumpkin pie that also included two other squashes. It was by far the best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted. It was amazing. I will get that recipe if I can and post it here.

In the end, at least it was an interesting dinner. And I didn’t have to eat turkey. And I learned a bit about managing a large dinner. And then I collapsed.

–FM (29 December 2009)

Merry Secular Christmas: The Second

For those who dread this day, but have nothing like cooking to distract you, I provide a few diversions.

Some Talks

First, there is Robert M. Price interviewing Tom Flynn on Point of Inquiry:

You may be alone, but you are not alone!

And last, to lift your spirits even more, here is Rebecca Watson at Skepticon 3, giving her talk How to Ruin Christmas:

Christmas Carols

I’ve put together three Christmas Anti-Carols in a YouTube playlist. First is Porn Orchid channeling Tom Waits and Bauhaus with a cheery ditty (Oh! Give me a noose I can hang from the tree!), Christmas Sucks. Then we have the real Tom Waits with Christmas Card From a Hooker. And last is Eric Idle’s Fuck Christmas, with lyrics so you can sing along!

Finally

I will spare you Frosty the Pervert, but you can check it out yourself if you like. I will just leave you with The Distressed Watcher‘s rant An Atheist Christmas: Reason For The Season:

–FM (25 December 2010)

Positively Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas, the family has been listening to a local station playing holiday oriented songs. And then on came Bob Dylan doing one of the Christmas classics, Positively 4th Street. You can’t get enough bitterness and anger during the holidays. Merry fucking Christmas!

What Christmas is All About

My friend Will really loves this bit from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Or at least he did. I used to like it too. Now, I see it for what it is: Charles Schulz cramming his religion down my throat. He even repeats the damned speech in voice over! If you look back at his comic strip, he threw a lot of Christian mythology into it. To each his own. But I do think it is heavy-handed.

Of course, Schulz lost his faith and died more or less an atheist. Because he wasn’t an idiot.

It’s Not a Wonderful Life

James StewartThe following parody of It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t all that funny. But I include it for personal reasons. You see, I’m a big Frank Capra fan. It Happened One Night is one of my very favorite films. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Lost Horizon are both excellent films.

But I can’t stand James Stewart. How he became a star, I’ll never know. His minor role in Philadelphia Story almost ruins the film, but even he can’t destroy something with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. But without a doubt the film he most completely destroys is It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course, even I have to admit that the film also suffers from Capra’s own excesses.

So any time someone parodies the film, I’m for it. Regarding this SNL parody: it has more real human emotion than the actual film.

Give the Jew Girl Toys

In my long standing commitment to ruining every holiday, here is Sarah Silverman performing Give The Jew Girl Toys:

–FM (25 December 2012)

I’m Mysterious, Folks — Live With It

Keeping MumChristmas would not be complete without a little thought about God. And this gives me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that I am an atheist and why few other atheists believe that I am.

In the following amusing scene from Keeping Mum, Reverend Goodfellow quotes from Isaiah 55:8, about the mysteriousness of God. I’ll give you a bit more than he does. It’s from the Old Testament. What’s more, it is rather older than other Old Testament books we know and love like Leviticus. Like most of the entire Bible, but especially the Old Testament, Isaiah is not what it purports to be. It was written by at least three different people over the course of 200 years. What we are looking at comes from around 600 BC, and is an excellent example of what a jerk God is:

[8] “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
[9] “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Here’s the clip. It is Rowan Atkinson. You’ll enjoy it, I promise. Consider it a gift to me:

But Goodfellow’s take on it is correct: “I’m mysterious, folks. Live with it.” Of course, the whole anthropomorphizing of God is silly. But in a broader context, it is how one must live if one thinks about these things. I suppose that most people are too busy or just plain reasonable to worry about such cosmic unanswerable questions. But this is why I say that the best theists are better than the best atheists, even though I am most clearly an atheist. Goodfellow understands that there are no answers, but he values the question. By saying that God is mysterious, he isn’t providing the tired platitude, “God behaves in mysterious ways.” It isn’t apologia; it is acceptance.

Now Goodfellow probably thinks that God loves him. I don’t know; I haven’t seen the movie (but it looks good). But given the observation—”I’m mysterious, folks.”—and the quote from Isaiah, it is meaningless to claim that God loves you. How would you possibly know? God is unfathomable. But I think, despite everything, we have to look at the universe(s) and think that it is a great privilege to have existed. And if someone wants to call that “God’s love,” I have no problem.

Personally, I have a hard time ascribing any kind of motivation to the universe(s). And if there is a motive, I am far too humble (And if you read me, you know that I am not humble!) to think that I am the result of that motivation. If the universe has a purpose, I am a byproduct. And that’s fine. Regardless, I am blessed. I have grace. And now you know, why none of the other atheists want to let me join in their atheist games.

Merry Christmas or whatever!

Sam Seder’s War on Christmas

Sam SederFrom year’s ago, it is still a classic: Sam Seder’s battle with Bob Knight about the War on Christmas. (It’s embedded below.) Seder is hilarious in this segment. But the more serious thing here is that Knight actually claims that, “The war on Christmas is really the culmination of a war on faith.” Look, I’m pretty hard on atheists around here, but at least they are a minority group that is by and large despised in this country. They have real reasons for feeling marginalized. But Christians? According to Wikipedia, between 73% and 80% of Americans call themselves Christians. The fact that they play this victimization game is appalling. It is also shameful. I don’t think that Christians, without prodding from “leaders” like Bob Knight and Bill O’Reilly, would ever think there was a war on Christmas. Christians are allowed to celebrate the holiday any way they want.

I discussed this last year in, Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. The issue is not that Christians are being harmed in any way. It is that their religion is so powerful in this country, that they feel persecuted when the entire society doesn’t rise up and say, “But we understand that, unlike all those other religions, your religion is true.” And this kind of thing coming from a huge majority is simple bullying. As I wrote:

Another aspect of this is the use of majority status to silence the minority. The argument goes something like this, “Most people in the United States are Christians, so why not just say, ‘Merry Christmas’?” This would be a strong argument if anyone were avoiding a discussion of the holiday. But “Happy Holidays” does not exclude Christmas, while “Merry Christmas” does exclude others. The truth is that minority groups are, for a number of good reasons, insecure. So if anyone is unhappy it ought to be the Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and so on. With almost 80% of Americans being Christians, what do they have to worry about?

The whole issue is made worse because the very Christians who hate “Happy Holidays” want to “put the Christ back in Christmas!” This creates a problem for those of us who think that Christmas is a secular holiday having nothing to do with religion. (I’ll discuss this later today.) We have no problem with “Merry Christmas” because it is just that federal holiday when you are expected to give everyone gifts and cook a lot of food. But if somehow people manage to turn Christmas into a religious holiday, then we will have a problem with “Merry Christmas.”

And really, if I were a Christian, I wouldn’t want atheists going around saying, “Merry Christmas!” I would think that was profane. Ditto for corporate retailers trying to suck up to Christian customers. But as I have noted many times before, most Christians talking in public are idiots. I don’t think for an instant that Bill O’Reilly speaks for the Catholic Church. He’s a “Catholic” because he was raised a Catholic. His religion, like those of most of the people you hear talking about this, is money.

There is no war on Christmas. There is no war on faith. That is psychotic delusion talk. And shame on any news organization that takes it seriously. Sam Seder takes it exactly as seriously as it deserves:

A Brief History of Santa

St. NicholasThe great CGP Grey put the following video together two years ago this Christmas. It is “A Brief History of Santa.” Now I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the video, but in general, Grey has his facts together. So if it is wrong, I’m sure it’s just stuff around the edges. The main thing in this that I know is true (And important!) is that Santa Claus has basically no real connection to the fourth century Greek Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. And as anthropologist have long known, he (Just like Jesus if he walked the earth) was not white. That’s him there over on the left.

So enjoy and learn how we got Santa Claus as we now find him, including interesting facts about where he is supposed to live:

Special Christmas Birthday Bonus

JesusOn this day in 0 AD, Jesus was born. I tell ya, that one never stops cracking me up! According to scholars who are inclined to believe the Bible, Jesus is thought to have been born between 7 and 2 BC. And where the data 25 December comes from is open to debate. By around the start of the fourth century, the Church was just using the date without any real justification. Of course, because of gradual changes in the earth’s orbit, the actual date ought to have been slowly changed to some time in January. According the Wikipedia, “The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived, or with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals that occurred near southern solstice…” In other words, it’s a mess.

But this much is very interesting to me: there is a whole academic industry devoted to trying to tweeze history out of a clearly (and purely) religious text. And then people say things like, “Hey, Luke and Matthew agree on this point!” Like Luke and Matthew aren’t based on either the Q document or Luke based on Matthew itself. It’s all so silly. I’m with Robert Price: maybe Jesus was a real guy, but by this point, he has been so papered over with myth that there is nothing left of the historical figure. If you are a believer, you’ll just have to wait until you get to heaven. If you aren’t a believer, I think you should just place Jesus in the same category as Thor. And by that I don’t mean that Jesus doesn’t exist and isn’t God. I just mean that Jesus is some God that some people believe in now, or once believed in. The historicity question is nothing more than intellectual masturbation.

Bottom line: if Jesus was an actual man, there is roughly a one in 365.25 chance that he was born today. And who really cares? It’s an excuse for a party.

Afterword

I do wish that Christians would stop getting upset about the use of Xmas. It is an abbreviation that goes back at least a thousand years. The X is just the closest that we have in English to the Greek letter Chi, which early Christians used as an abbreviation for “Christ.” Unfortunately, as in most things, it is the people with the most ignorant of ideas who are the loudest.

–FM (25 December 2013)

Christmas Music Doesn’t Have to Suck

Christmas MusicI had wanted to put together some music for Christmas. But you know: music that doesn’t suck. This is a lot harder a chore than it sounds like. The truth is that most traditional Christmas music really is terrible. And I don’t say that out of some desire to be iconoclastic. Part of it is just that I really do have a low opinion of Perry Como. But I will admit that most of it is simply the fact that I’m just really, really bored with it.

Another problem is that most Christmas music is not organic. At some point in a star’s career, someone who worries about money says, “It’s time to release a Christmas album.” The star doesn’t understand why at first, but as soon as it is explained, he is on board. Everyone likes free money!

But despite the fact that most Christmas music is primarily about money (Fitting!) and tired, there are some songs that I like. Let’s start with a classic, “Blue Christmas” by Elvis. I just like his affected singing. Plus, it’s just a love song with some clever lyrics:

“Santa Baby” is a silly song. But Eartha Kitt is wonderful:

You know, there was a kind of “new wave” music that didn’t suck. Mostly, it was when they didn’t take themselves seriously and didn’t use synths. That’s why Tom Tom Club was better than the first Talking Heads album. And that why one of the most enduring Christmas songs is The Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” “Christmas Wrapping”:

I’m sure there are others, but I don’t have time for a bunch of research or reflection. Ultimately, I think the best thing for Christmas is just to put on some great music regardless. But thus far this holiday season, I’ve been forced to turn off Bill Evans and Jacques Brel. But personally, I think that Mozart is very festive:

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, even if the music sucks all day long!

Avoiding Christmas Conflict

Christmas DinnerAre you wondering how you are going to get through this holiday season without killing your family members? Last year, I offered up a little advice, Pigeons and Politics. It was a little serious guidance from my years of both having reasonable political discussions and having ones that came to blows. Ultimately, the best thing to do is to avoid everything except maybe, “How about them Ravens?!” That is unfortunately as far as I can go. One of the best moments in The Birdcage was where Armand says, “How do you feel about that call today?” to Albert as they practice not being gay. Albert responds, “How do you think I feel? Betrayed, bewildered… wrong response?” But the truth is that Armand doesn’t know any more than Albert.

Luckily, The Onion offered up some helpful advice, Avoiding Family Conflict During the Holiday Season. Much of it is just amusing like, “Try to end thousands of years of entrenched prejudices before flying home and talking about current events.” Or: “Avoid anything that could trigger fights, like a history of family depression.” Or even: “Change name. Start new life.”

That last one is part of a broader category of actually useful advice. For example, “Split potentially huge family blowouts into smaller, more manageable bickering matches over the course of the holiday season.” Or: “Ensure each family member has their own table at which to eat dinner.” But most of all, there is this rather too detailed plan for the day:

If you become frustrated during the festivities, consider going for a walk to the end of the driveway, continuing on for half an hour, reaching the town limits, entering a train station, buying the first available ticket, arriving in a town called Rockport, heading to the edge of the ocean, and just screaming.

Some of them, however, are just hysterically funny (not that the last one wasn’t). Consider, “Take the time to consider things from your brother-in-law’s point of view so you can fully appreciate how f**king stupid his perspective is.” Or: “Make yourself appear larger than you are around your father-in-law by standing up on your hind legs and puffing out your chest.” But my favorite sounds like something I’ve experienced, “Encourage family members to seek personal space when they need it by telling them the front door’s right f**king there anytime they want to use it.”

I hope this helps to make your holiday experience better. And if not: there’s always the train.

The Reason for the Season Is a Myth

The Human BibleThe idea is that the canonical and non-canonical gospels are none of them biographies in the modern sense. Some were simply collections of sayings attributed to Jesus or stories about Jesus, some of them allegorical, some legendary, few historical. Others were attempts to write for Jesus the sort of literary and edifying biography then written about certain great Greco-Roman figures like Pytha­goras and Apollonius of Tyana. But these, too, were far from what the modern scholar would consider to be historical.

Thus the work of the student of the historical Jesus is rather like looking for a historical needle in a legendary haystack. There is little to find, and it is not easy to find even that. Even so, some scholars have done a passable job reconstructing possible versions of the historical Jesus. Some paint him as a peasant revolutionist, violent or non-violent. Others make him a magician. Some an apocalyptic prophet, others a wandering sage.

And of course some of these Jesus-constructs are combinable. Each is a “historical Jesus” in that each is a viable product of the science of historical reconstruction. The trouble is, there is really no way of knowing how close to the real thing any of these reconstructions has come. And there never will be until someone smarter than us New Testament scholars invents a time machine.

The “historical Jesus” in the sense of “Jesus as he really was,” must remain, I am convinced, unknown to us. Thus it is fair, though admittedly a bit clever, to say that whether or not there was a historical Jesus, there is no longer. That is, even assum­ing Jesus of Nazareth to have been a historical character who actually lived, we have no access to him and never will.

—Robert M Price
The Christ Myth and the Christian Goddess

–FM (25 December 2014)

Chris Blattman and Social Purpose of Gift Giving

Chris BlattmanChris Blattman is a political scientist at Columbia University. He wrote an interesting article this last week, The True Meaning of Christmas. I came upon it through a link at Economist’s View, and so I figured that it was going to be about the meaning of Christmas being commerce. It is good for the economy, as I note when I’m forced to drop by Target and I see that there are literally ten times as many people shopping as normal. But that wasn’t Blattman’s point at all. It’s rather the opposite.

Tim Harford: In Praise of Scrooge

Last week in FT Magazine, Tim Harford wrote, In Praise of Scrooge. It starts with the questionable claim that misers make the rest of us richer. While I accept that’s true if we had limited resources, it seems to me that misers (or people who burn money) are limiting economic flow and thus keeping most people poorer. But that’s not the main part of his article. He’s interested in the deadweight loss of Christmas: the fact that a lot of money is spent on stuff the recipient doesn’t want. Again, I’m not sure that matters at the macroscale. It doesn’t really matter what all those people at Target are buying so long as they are buying something.

Chris Blatman’s Response

“Giving gifts also creates inequalities, very much on purpose. These gifts quietly say, ‘I did something nice for you. Now we’ll see if you pay me back and how. I’m watching and waiting.'” —Chris Blattman

Chris Blattman responded to this by noting that gift giving really isn’t about economic efficiency but rather cultural signaling. Clearly, that signaling can itself be economic as when the rich give to the poor. (Did you think that the Gateses gave all that money without getting something priceless in exchange?) But on the other side Blattman noted, “Think about gift exchange between relative equals. Cash would be pointless. I’d give you $50 and you give me $50. What would be the use of that?” Indeed, there is no use in doing that, and gift exchanges between equals must have to do with something else.

But think about that for a moment. Christmas really is good for the economy. But the most efficient system, by Tim Harford’s thinking, would be if we did no giving whatsoever. Or, to take Blattman’s example, if I gave my sister fifty bucks and she gave it back to me. This would clearly result in less economic activity. There would be fewer jobs. We would be in a state of constant recession. Now, from an environmental standpoint, that might not be bad. But given that our modern economy is based upon consumption and more consumption, we might want to work out how all of this would affect the working class before we call off the practice of holiday gift giving.

Gift Giving as Emotional Negotiation

The way gift giving really works is summed up by Chris Blattman this way, “Giving gifts also creates inequalities, very much on purpose. These gifts quietly say, ‘I did something nice for you. Now we’ll see if you pay me back and how. I’m watching and waiting.'” Now, he claims this sounds cynical, but I don’t think it does. People are constantly appraising their relationships. That’s all this is. It isn’t about wanting to make good on your financial investment, but on your emotional investment.

Gift giving is about that dance that characterizes our relationships. We are all still that teenager pulling off flower petals, “She loves me… She loves me not…” Gifts allow us to signal that we care. And it allows millions of people to have jobs in the winter that they wouldn’t normally have. It’s a winning custom for the whole of society.

Odds and Ends From Christmas 2015

Odds and EndsMerry Christmas everyone! As you read this, I will probably be suitably toasted as I serve dinner to my family. But in Christmases past, I’ve written some rather interesting articles about the holiday and I want to share them with you. There are also other odds and ends that aren’t as directly related to me. It’s all quite interesting I think.

The Little Drummer Boy

I remember Christmas shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. I’ve seen them so many times, I have them largely memorized. But I have only the vaguest of memory of the other big Rankin/Bass Productions Christmas show, The Little Drummer Boy. It’s possible I blocked it out. I found the following video through Paul Bibeau’s article, The Five Most Traumatic Christmas Special Moments. It is a video with Jane Edith Wilson reading her essay about how The Little Drummer Boy scarred her. It’s very funny:

A Brief Political Interlude

This is too good. I often like Bill Maher. But when it comes to Muslims, he’s a flat-out racist. And that makes him a complete apologist for all kinds of vile government action. Mostly, he finds himself in the company of people who won’t battle with him. But this exchange with Glenn Greenwald is fantastic. Maher tries to extricate himself by mumbling, “That silly liberal view that all religions are alike because it makes you feel good.” Greenwald will have none of it. He comes right back with, “No, it makes you feel good to say our side is better… You get to ignore the responsibility that your own government has for the violence and instability in the world by saying, ‘Look! It’s that primitive religion over there that’s the blame!'” Exactly. Maher just “knows” that the problem is Islam, even though the closest he’s ever come to the religion is hosting Sam Harris.

La Luna

Okay, this has nothing to do with Christmas, but somehow, I think it fits. It is an animated short by Enrico Casarosa called, La Luna. It’s wonderful:

Pasty White Guy Gets Cool Gift

Danger, Will Robinson! Very large picture of dumpy old white guy ahead!

The cool things about friends is that they know things about you. Yesterday, Will stopped by to drop off a Christmas gift to me. I knew that he had bought me a t-shirt and I figured it was something with Bernie Sanders on it. But no. It was a Gil Scott-Heron t-shirt, “Must be something we can do.”

And Will bought it before my Gil Scott-Heron week. Anyway, it is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. To prove it, I’m providing this embarrassing (And blurry!) picture of myself:

Frank in Gil Scott-Heron T-Shirt

The Santa Claus Conspiracy

As regular readers know, I think Paul Bibeau is one of the great treasures of the modern world. I still find it amazing that he isn’t a big star. But there is a quote told to struggling artists, “If you wonder why you aren’t successful even though your work is great, that may be the reason.” For most artists, that’s not true. But in Bibeau’s case it probably is. If he were half as smart and half as talented, he probably would be a star.

Back in 2012 he wrote, The Truth About Santa Claus. It is about the uncoordinated conspiracy of parents to play Santa. But in keeping with the undeniable fact that if you scratch a cynic you will uncover an emotional marshmallow, he wrote this:

And the heart of it is this: that we are here to love one another. That our most important job is to help the people around us build a life in this world. That the best we can ever hope to accomplish in our short time here is to someday be someone’s happy memory. Parents know this. And so do couples and friends and anyone holding anyone else’s hand under our shared and difficult circumstances.

As an emotional marshmallow myself: I agree.

Bob’s Burgers

And let’s finish off with the most recent Bob’s Burgers Christmas episode, “Nice-Capades.” It will only be around for another month, so you should watch it. Now. Trust me: your family will love it! (For the record, this includes one of the best jokes ever. After the mall Santa says, “You just kicked Santa out of the massage chair,” Gene says, “Isn’t that a song?” That’s brilliant.)

[Note: you have to pay for this now that Hulu has figured out that they are such idiots they can’t make money streaming a 22 minute show peppered with 7 minutes of commercials. -FM]

That’s it for now! Have a wonderful Christmas and try to be someone’s happy memory!

–FM (25 December 2015)

A Merry Christmas for Edwards and MacLiammóir

Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóirOnce filming was complete, MacLiammóir, Edwards, and Cloutier were flown first to Marseilles, en route — as they believed — for Morocco again; but instead of North Africa, they were transported to the idyllic artists’ colony at Saint-Paul-de-Vence in Provence, where they were greeted gloomily by Welles, who immediately set off for Paris. A few days later they joined him there. No explanation was ever offered for any of these bewildering peregrinations. Their lives had turned into a major-key rehash of Waiting for Godot, with a dash of Kafka — major key because they were excellently fed and watered and the locations were all charming, but the sense of disorientation was acute. They were beginning to doubt whether they would see Dublin that Christmas: “feel sure that Orson has plans for large Christmas tree in marketplace at Mogador, entertainment probably to include brief but startling appearance of O himself as Santa Claus.” As if in defiance of the chaotic reality, Welles made a public announcement that Othello had completed filming and that he would soon be starting work on Ulysses, which was certainly putting a brave face on things.

The truth of the matter was that he was increasingly anxious about money; his last earnings had been in April, on The Black Rose. With no handy $100,000 on offer from a passing blockbuster, he had started to think in terms of a theater tour, to kick off in Paris and then to play such centers as Brussels, Antwerp, Lille, and Amsterdam. It would consist of a double bill comprising The Importance of Being Earnest (slightly cut) and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus (savagely cut). Edwards would direct Earnest and play Canon Chasuble and Marlowe’s Prologue; Welles would direct Faustus and play Algernon Moncrieff and Faustus; while MacLiammóir would play Jack Worthing and Mephistopheles, having by now presumably accepted that villainy was well within his range. Suzanne Cloutier would play Cecily and — “poor child,” remarks MacLiammóir — Helen of Troy, while Fay Compton, if they could get her back, would be Lady Bracknell. They would ask Dior to design the costumes and André Derain to do the set. Of course they would.

After a few more days of ebullient planning, still at the stage where everything seems possible — Dior? pourquoi pas? Derain? mais naturellement — Edwards and MacLiammóir gratefully returned, just in time for Christmas, to Dublin, where a card from Welles was waiting for them: “Miss you badly already and hope for wonderful things in New Year.” There were affectionate phone calls on Christmas Day, but no certainty as to what was going to happen next. Welles wrote to them from the Hotel Lancaster in Paris, by no means encouragingly: “As 1949 prepared to die of old age I want to acknowledge that I’ve made it pretty awful for both of you. Come what may (and it probably will) you deserve to know how earnestly I’m going to balance the budget before next Christmas…” But then, in the New Year, something wonderful happened, just as Welles had hoped: the French-Algerian financier/producer Edmond Tenoudji of Films Marceau came through with 12 million francs in exchange for the French distribution rights, so filming could resume.

–Simon Callow
Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band

Odds and Ends From Christmas 2016

Odds and EndsAnother Christmas. It’s a little interesting to mix Christmas and death. Better would be Easter and death. But whatever. Christmas is just an excuse to cook. But we now have a baby, Hector, who is the result of a US-Mexico collaboration. And I think it is very important that he grow up bilingual. So I bought him books on colors and shapes that are in both English and Spanish. And I got him a “first” Spanish-English dictionary.

But most of all, I got a Spanish translation of Are You My Mother?, ¿Eres Mi Mamá? The great thing about it is that it is properly translated. Many years ago, I got a Spanish-English edition of Green Eggs and Ham, and the Spanish was literally translated — no rhyming or anything. But check out how ¿Eres Mi Mamá?

La mamá pajarito
empollaba un huevito.

Anyway, let’s get on with our odds and ends…

The Reason for the Season

I remember whenever we would visit my aunt at Christmas she would make some statement about remembering the “reason for the season.” She, like most of the people on my mom’s side of the family, is a conservative Christian. And so the “reason” is Jesus and his miraculous birth. It’s kind of funny. My aunt is a nice person and all, but like most people in my family, she’s not educated. The Christmas story is so obviously fable! How can adults believe it? Even if you are a serious Christian, you have to admit that this is nonsense! And really: Easter is what the the religion is all about. Jesus’ birth means nothing.

The Historical Jesus

I like this quote from Robert M Price in The Christ Myth and the Christian Goddess:

The idea is that the canonical and non-canonical gospels are none of them biographies in the modern sense. Some were simply collections of sayings attributed to Jesus or stories about Jesus, some of them allegorical, some legendary, few historical. Others were attempts to write for Jesus the sort of literary and edifying biography then written about certain great Greco-Roman figures like Pytha­goras and Apollonius of Tyana. But these, too, were far from what the modern scholar would consider to be historical…

The “historical Jesus” in the sense of “Jesus as he really was,” must remain, I am convinced, unknown to us. Thus it is fair, though admittedly a bit clever, to say that whether or not there was a historical Jesus, there is no longer. That is, even assum­ing Jesus of Nazareth to have been a historical character who actually lived, we have no access to him and never will.

Any reason for a party, but let’s not start setting people on fire.

The Trouble with Transporters

I’ve written about the Star Trek transporter a few times before. In particular, Using a Teleporter Is Suicide! And then more recently, More on Teleporters: It’s Murder! You know I feel strongly about something when I write two articles about it and each title ends with an exclamation mark.

CGP Grey dealt with the subject in the following video. It’s good. And it is easier than reading my articles. But he doesn’t touch on what is really the most important issue, which is that we die every instant (or at least each Planck time — roughly ten to the negative 43rd power[1]). Consciousness itself is a lie. But that’s kind of a downer, and CGP Grey tries to stay upbeat.

Checking in With the Belchers

It wouldn’t be a Christmas post without a short word about Bob’s Burgers. Although I have to say that the show now has some competition. Bob’s Burgers really is the show of my life growing up. But Rick and Morty is more the show of my life now. I’ll explain that later. (Maybe I already have.)

This year’s Christmas episode was, “The Last Gingerbread House on the Left.” In it, Linda, Teddy, and the kids go caroling, while Bob gets drawn into yet another of Mr Fischoeder’s crazy adventures. The whole thing reminded me of my last few years of college.

Christmas Caroling

I spent a lot of time with Andrea and her then husband Eric. Eric was a very good person to have around because he always had ideas for things to do. So in those years, the three of us — and a number of other friends — often found ourselves doing stuff that was, all and all, pretty cool.

There were two things that Eric wanted to do that we never did. The first was to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m so glad we never did that, because I did not then know that my acrophobia was so extreme that I couldn’t have made it more than a couple of feet onto the bridge.

The other was that we should all go caroling. I liked that idea. But Bob’s Burgers shows what happens when people who can’t sing go caroling. It isn’t a gift you give to others; it is a gift you demand of others. And that isn’t really so bad — as long as you leave after one song. And if you can’t remember more than a couple of lines, so much the better.

Fairytale of New York

As I noted before, there are good Christmas songs. James reminded me of “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl. You probably know of MacColl because of her heroic death. It’s a wonderful song.

A History of Christmas

Several years back, R Elisabeth Cornwell wrote, A Very Atheist Christmas. And she takes on the issue of the supposed hypocrisy of atheists celebrating Christmas:

Some Christians have accused me of being hypocritical for celebrating a Christian holiday. However… celebrations are a natural part of human culture, and Christians simply appropriated local celebrations to suit their own peculiar beliefs. Christmas is only “Christian” because ancient winter pagan celebrations were incorporated by the Church.

The Christmas tree, which became a part of English and American tradition through German influence is a recent tradition. The English took on the German tradition of the Christmas Tree during the Victorian era under the influence of Prince Albert. Americans, on the other hand, were likely influenced by the Prussians during the American Revolution as well as the many German immigrants who came to the fledgling nation. But evergreens have been part of human celebrations at least as far back as the Egyptians as a symbol of the triumph of life over death…

Christmas belongs to anyone who wants it, and just because I gave up believing in a god doesn’t mean I gave up believing in the love and joy of family. I did not give up the joy of celebration with my abandonment of the absurd. So to my religious and non-religious friends, I wish them all a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah from the heart and I hope they take it with the true spirit with which I give it — that of the spirt of humanity — something we can all celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

And that seems like a very nice place to end this special edition of Odds and Ends. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. If for no other reason, Christmas gives us all one more reason to be less of a dick than we usually are.

Ho ho ho!


[1] Roughly: 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000054 seconds.

–FM (25 December 2016)