Monthly Archives: August 2020

Word Plays

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•  I thought I had invented a new word, charmogram, as in, “He knew that he had said the wrong thing, so he sent her a charmogram.”  Sadly, Winx Club already thought of it.

•  I don’t know how leaders of other nations are viewed by their citizens, but when it comes to our president, Americans seem to have unrealistically high expectations.  We are always looking to elect President Superman.  But we usually wind up with hapless Jimmy Olsen.

•  Here’s a story that has been buried by coronavirus coverage.  On July 29, as reported in The Wire, a 15-year-old Pakistani teen, Faisal Khan, got past three security checkpoints at a Pakistan courtroom and gunned down Tahir Naseem, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2018 for blasphemy.  As a local cleric explained, Naseem “kept saying things like, ‘I’m a messiah or a prophet,’ and that caused great trouble in our village.”

Khan, the shooter, has been hailed as a hero by many fellow Pakistanis.  Lawyers across Pakistan offered to “defend Khan for free, to support what they see as the justified killing of a heretic.”  Needless to say, I find this shocking and sad.

So, how long ago did we more civilized people end our blasphemy trials?  400 years ago? 1000 years ago?  Try 1928…  I don’t mean 1928 years ago but the year 1928 in the U.S.A.  That is when Charles Lee Smith was convicted of blasphemy in Arkansas for distributing atheist literature.  Even better, he was not allowed to testify on his own behalf because he refused to take an oath on the Bible!

We may not condone stonings in 2020, but there’s still plenty of blowback when a person says the wrong thing to the wrong person about religion (as well as many other subjects).  Americans like to bluster about how much we cherish freedom, but far too many of us still don’t take kindly to people who don’t look like, talk like, or think like we do.  So let’s not over-congratulate ourselves on how unlike Pakistan we are.

•  I had to laugh at Trump’s recent insinuation that electing Joe Biden would “hurt God.”  If God could be hurt by Joe Biden, he (Biden) must be more powerful than we all thought.  Powerful enough to pre-ordain the outcome of the election, I would think.  This suggests that God and Trump are both in trouble come November.

•  In most countries, the god is elected by popular vote, not an outdated electoral college.

•  As a side note, if God can be hurt, it means that God feels.  But how can God feel or sense anything without nerves, neurons or substance?  I suggest that God — at least the popular conception thereof — requires far more explaining than how nothing became something.  There you have it, my gender-free atheist thoughts for this year.  No stoning please.

•  I have seen many red skies in the morning and never once has the warning come true.

•  Boomer Mystery Quiz: In the 1966 song “No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits (lyrics by Graham Gouldman), why was there no milk today?

  •  ▢ Because she had Friday on her mind.
  •  ▢ Because she was groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon.
  •  ▢ Because she left home to meet a man from the motor trade.
  •  ▢ Because she went up, up, and away in her beautiful balloon.
  •  ▢ Because she don’t want to work, she just want to bang on the drum all day.

•  The other night, I dreamt that a stoner-type invited me to a party scheduled from 3 AM to 9 AM.  I asked him, “What will you do until 3 AM?”  He said, “Party.”

Coronavirus Outbreak Statistics on TV•  News doesn’t have to be fake to be unhelpful.  Take, for example, this screenshot of statewide COVID-19 figures that regularly appears on our (only) local TV station.  It enumerates the total number of cases, deaths, hospitalizations and tests performed in North Carolina, along with the increase in each figure since the last update.

While the death figure is important, particularly to the victims and their families, knowing the cumulative numbers of cases and tests since the pandemic began doesn’t help a viewer make decisions.  Journalists, of all people, know there’s a difference between statistics and information:  just reciting a screenful of statistics without interpretation is lazy reporting.  Nonetheless, news broadcasts, local and national, seem to thrive on big numbers.  

It would be more informative if (1) local figures were cited rather than statewide figures; (2) current figures (say, over the last two weeks) were cited instead of cumulative figures; and (3) figures were normalized, e.g., cases per week per 100,000 residents, or percent of total ICU capacity remaining.  This would give us a better sense of what it’s like out there, and it would let us compare our situation to other localities.  Is that too much to ask?

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Larry Davis

My friend Larry Davis, who I met via our high-school newspaper, the Hurricane Courier, embraced life on this planet from March 14, 1951 to November 7, 2013.

Photo of Larry Davis, ca. 1971Our friendship began in September 1968, when I became a writer/cartoonist for our school newspaper, of which Larry (one year ahead of me) was editor-in-chief.  I admired Larry’s earnest, intellectual breadth and he enjoyed my irreverence.  But over the years, to Larry’s dismay, I placed him on a pedestal as the arbiter of what was good and bad in the works I created.  He, rightly so, was not comfortable serving that role — totemic was how he described the position I put him in.  (I’ve never heard this word since.)

Our friendship lasted until 1977 or 1978, when either Larry or I or the both of us conceded that we had increasingly less in common, and at some point a letter was not responded to, and the lack of a response was not addressed.

How I regret this!

Our disconnection was a joint undertaking, I think.  I had married, become a homeowner, had our first child and buried my nose in the grindstone of my career.  Meanwhile, Larry charted his own path, eventually heading to New York where, in 1991, he became director of the Bloomingdale School of Music.  But I did not know this — by then I had lost touch with Larry and with the value of long friendships.  As he had with me.

In 2014, a whim led me to put my internet skills to the test and see what Larry was doing.  That is when I learned he had passed away the year before.  I was crushed.

I had hoped to reconnect/rebuild our friendship on a more mature basis.  Sadly, I didn’t even get to say hello again before I was forced to say goodbye.

Larry, who was now going by Lawrence, had begun to write a blog in (what would be) his final year.  His essays captured his dedication to his students, his professionalism and his love of music.  Reading these writings after his death only made me sadder about thoughts unspoken and experiences unshared over the many years of our separation.

• • • 

On September 9, 2014, I launched lawrencedavis.org, a tribute website of my own design.  It incorporated Lawrence’s later-life blog posts, as well as the correspondence, poetry and other writings I had preserved from our friendship years.  I contacted his contemporaries, letting them know about the website and hoping they might contribute their own thoughts and remembrances to the site — or even better, some musical and/or lyrical creation that Lawrence had composed during his tenure at Bloomingdale School.

Though Bloomingdale School suitably lauded Lawrence on its own website, my appeal to his colleagues for items to memorialize Lawrence elicited nothing.  So lawrencedavis.org would remain one-sided, dated and fragmented.

Which brings me to now.  My web host recently informed me that lawrencedavis.org is coming up for annual renewal.  Being that almost no-one has visited the site for six years, despite its Wikipedia link, I have decided to shut down the lawrencedavis.org domain.  But I am preserving the pages of the tribute site at chcollins.com/ldavis, which you are encouraged to explore.

I have added a link to the tribute site in my “Links to Friends” in the sidebar of this blog.

I wish you had the privilege to know Larry — he had a cynic’s eye, yet was optimistic and delightful.  I loved to hear him laugh.  I wish he had lived longer and that I had known him in his later years.

When we are transported … by music and human endeavor, it is an evanescent moment.  And when we return to everyday life with its multiple headaches and stresses, I can only hope we bring something back — something that is life affirming — something that proves that, even if it is only a moment, life can be perfect. — Lawrence Davis, “The Soul Speaks”

Reach out to your old friends, now.  Because they are more special than you know, and because you should take nothing for granted.

_______________

In the image above, probably from 1971 or 1972, Larry is shown shooting a photo on a walk we took along Neshannock Creek.  The manila envelope he was holding contained a copy of the latest edition of my zine, Reader’s Disgust.
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