The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More whiny excuses for not writing. You'd think I'd get tired of writing these things.

I should write more often, I suppose; I have plenty of time, in a sideways sort of fashion, and no real excuse not to write, so I should do it more than I do.  I can’t even use Dorothy Parker’s excuse for not writing: the pencil was broken. I have boxes of pencils in my desk and a new pencil sharpener (a manual) that I like very much, so the breaking of a pencil is a non-issue for me.  And I am sure that you’ve read some of my paeans to sloth and writer’s block and procrastination, none of which is really applicable in this particular case. So why am I not writing more? I don’t know. I don’t have too many ideas at the moment, but that’s never stopped me before, which is not really true but it does make me sound like the little red engine that could, a story I loved when I was a kid, With an election going on, one would think that there would be veritable scads of things to write about, given that the citizenry of this our Great Republic can choose this year between an unqualified carnival barker and a felonious oligarch whose main qualification for the highest office in the land appear to be her reproductive organs. In any normal society, the only job for which possession of reproductive organs are an absolute requirement is that of porn star, but we do not appear to be living in a normal society at the moment. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with reality anymore.

No, I’d say that the reason that I haven’t written anything in a while is that I just don’t want to write anything.  As an excuse, this smacks of a certain willfulness—it’s the sort of excuse that a child gives for not wanting to eat her Brussels sprouts and is usually the first stop on the way to a first class temper tantrum. But why should she eat her Brussels sprouts? Brussels sprouts are revolting; not as disgusting as Lima beans or asparagus or calf’s liver, mind you, but still pretty disgusting in their own right, and the parental pretext that Brussels sprouts are good for a growing child hardly seems an adequate reason to eat the damn things. Many things are good for you, like root canal work and colonoscopies, but no one recommends that children endure them on a regular basis. So let’s stop with the Brussels sprouts already, okay? As the prominent American social philosopher J. H. Marx once pointed out, the world would be a better place if the parents had to eat the broccoli.

And why should I write? A Sumerian tax collector invented writing so that he could remember how much he was gouging honest, hardworking Sumerian and Akkadian entrepreneurs. The abomination of taxation that began then has continued unto this very day. As I sit here in this dingy watering hole contemplating the unfairness of a world where that smug creep drinking whiskey sours down at the end of the bar has a chance with the hot blonde who just came in and I don’t, the tax code in this country is now just over seventy thousand pages long. Think about that for a minute: you could probably fit every book worth reading in the English language and throw in ten years’ worth of the Manhattan White Pages and maybe a copy of the Talmud as well inside of seventy thousand pages, and all of that stuff put together would have a more interesting plot than the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986. So why write? After seventy thousand pages, what more is there to say, assuming there was anything from the IRS worth saying in the first place? O, will this too too solid flesh melt and resolve itself into a dew, preferably the diet kind: the Dew with the sugar is too sweet for me, even if there’s enough caffeine in it to keep me awake for most of the day.

All right, I am drifting here; I know that when I am purposefully quoting Shakespeare. Quoting Shakespeare will let you get away with a lot of things, especially when you are whining and want to make the whine sound vaguely distinguished. This doesn’t really work, but I like to think that it does, so I keep doing it. This is better than beating up old people in the street, I think, or writing cookbooks for tarantulas, so I will keep at it.  And I won’t eat my Brussels sprouts or write until I feel like it. So there, take that.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

And Eliza says...

The[1] rain[2] in[3] Spain[4] stays[5] mainly[6] in[7] the[8] plain.[9]

[1]English’s definite article, the word that says that the word after it is the one you are talking about and not some other word that may or may not mean the same thing. The is in direct contrast with a or an, which are English’s indefinite articles, which do not describe specific things but rather members of a class of the same thing. For example, the rock refers to a specific rock that I may or may not throw at your front window as the fancy strikes me, and if the fancy does strikes me you can bet your bottom dollar that I will throw the rock—I am no turn the other cheek advocate, not by a long shot, guys, and if you think you can chuck a fancy at me without me chucking something right back at you then you are seriously deluding yourself. On the other hand, a rock refers to any rock that I may have at hand to accomplish this purpose. An is a’s little brother and is used in front of words that begin with a vowel. English objects to the idea of naked vowels at the beginning of a word for some reason and so insists that a consonant precedes them. This sort of Victorian prudery went out the door during the 1960’s, of course, and normal people don’t insist on this sort of rubbish anymore, but the grammar police still demand that words beginning in a vowel have a consonant chaperone, lest the neighbors start talking and give the word a bad reputation. All words would like to have a good reputation, except for the swear words, for obvious reasons, and ain’t, which has been disreputable for so long that it has a hard time imagining itself as a reputable member of lexicographical society. It keeps on trying, God love it, and who knows, maybe someday ain’t will be respectable. As Noah Cross says in Roman Polanski’s film, Chinatown, ‘politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.’ The same process might occur for ain’t; we can only hope. Ain’t deserves some respect, I think, if only for hanging on for so long against the power of the grammar Nazis.
       So to reiterate, the is the definite English article and a or an is the indefinite English article. Some languages, like Russian and Chinese, do not have articles at all and do not seem to care, whereas other languages, like French or German, can have three or more. This seems to be a matter of linguistic taste, along with anchovies on pizza or mayonnaise on French fries, both habits that are more than a little nauseating and which good parents should endeavor to discourage in their children.

[2] A natural phenomenon best known for its ability to ruin parades. I am not sure why rain hates parades so much; the frequency with which rain will go out of its way to ruin a parade suggests that the animosity is personal, which in turn suggests that this is some kind of childhood trauma or perhaps the result of a love affair gone horribly wrong, but science does know that parades invite rain the way a white shirt invites spatters of spaghetti sauce. Given these facts, one should always go to a parade with an umbrella and galoshes. Rain that does not fall on a parade or anywhere else is called virga. This really doesn’t have anything to do with anything we are discussing here, but it is the sort of meteorological fun fact that you can impress your friends with at the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show while you are waiting for the rain to end.

[3] An uninteresting word, well-known for its Bolshevistic tendencies. In its youth, in was a Trotskyite with Bukharinist overtones, but after the Moscow show trials began in began its full-throated support of Stalinism and demanded that the security organs destroy all kulaks, class enemies, and wreckers. A lot of this went on in those days and the people who had been Stalinists all along could not help but notice that in was a little late to the game. In noticed that the Stalinists noticed and, being a highly intelligent article as articles go, decided to get himself out of the worker’s paradise before the inevitable meeting with Vasili Blokhin occurred.  So in the summer of 1937, in had himself smuggled out of the Soviet Union disguised as a bottle of cheap vodka. After the tumult of the October Revolution and the Civil War and all the other crises that made early 20th century Russia a bad place to sell life insurance, in decided that he wanted a quiet, well-ordered existence where he would be safe from the Chekhists. He found this existence inside the Oxford English Dictionary, where in resides to this day. He is very old now, of course, but he is very happy that he outlived all the other Old Bolsheviks and everyone who remembered the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (for those of you interested in such things, the Cubs last won the Series in 1908).

[4] A place. It rains there, or so I’ve heard.

[5] What you can count on relatives to do whether you want them to or not.  Free room and board will attract lots of people that you only want to see on the Christmas holidays, and not even then, to be perfectly honest. They are very nice people in their native habitat, wherever that may be, and you wish they would go back there as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they are eating you out of house and home, and expect you to do their laundry and drive them to the mall whenever the urge to commit commerce strikes them. I understand that family feeling should count for something in this day and age, but frankly, I don’t remember when I started to think that opening  a not for profit hotel was a good idea and I wish to get out of the business as soon as possible.

[6] An adverb, which is just a verb without full time employment. Please don’t start on me; I know that the economy is hurting and that the competition for full-time employment is intense. No one wants to hire English verbs anymore, not when they can get a Mexican verb to do the same job for less than minimum wage, but most adverbs are just not trying hard enough. If they had stayed in school like their parents told them instead of hanging out in the boy’s bathroom smoking marijuana and listening to that damn heavy metal music, they’d all have good paying jobs now instead of living in their parents’ basement playing video games to all hours of the night.  Am I right or what? Adverbs today are just a generation of slackers that just don’t want to grow up. Annoying, and probably not politically correct to say so, but true is still true whether you like it or not.

[7] Cf. Note 3. Not going there again, folks. Been there, done that, got the revolutionary t-shirt to prove it.

[8] Cf. Note 1. Ditto.

[9] Yogurt without the stale fruit on the bottom. I am not sure why anyone eats yogurt in the first place. Eating something with the look and consistency of snot seems to be a complete repudiation of what our mothers told us not to do in kindergarten, but I seem to be alone in this opinion. Every year dairy farmers turn millions of gallons of milk into yogurt and someone must eat the stuff because it disappears off the store shelves with great regularity.  I can’t explain why anyone would want to eat yogurt, in much the same way I can’t explain why anyone would think voting for a Democrat is a good idea, but someone must want to; they keep turning up on the ballot like termites in an old house.  It’s just another of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

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