Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

Thoughts @ Large: 79

•  War crimes in Ukraine?  The war itself is a crime.

•  In 1984, the company named Apple introduced a personal computer named Macintosh which is the only variety of apple that Apple ever used as a product name.  Apple missed a golden (delicious) opportunity to call their AirTag tracking device Northern Spy.

•  I read very few novels, no doubt an adharma I will be asked to atone for in my next life.  With most novels, I tend to suffer from LCI, or Low Character IdentificationFor instance, in the last novel I read (Freedom by Jonathan Franzen), I felt no empathy for any of the characters, major or minor.  Their motives were pathetic: most were carnal, and each was more-or-less an exploitation of the people and opportunities that presented themselves.  This post-modern view of human motivation is apparently the new rule, not just in novels but in serial dramas (Breaking Bad) and films (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).  Can a skillful writer no longer imagine a realistically decent, thoughtful, semi-heroic character without imbuing him/her with a host of dark qualities?  Has Batman killed Tom Hanks?

•  Nature Nugget No. 1:  Cardinals usually mate for life.  Nature Nugget No. 2:  On average, cardinals only live for three years.  Hmm.

•  It was the summer of 1969.  My years-long best friend Bill — of whom I’ve always meant to write an essay — and I were attending summer school at our Pennsylvania high school.  This was our school district’s one-and-only means of advanced placement: if you wanted to take, say, pre-calculus in 12th grade, you had to take trigonometry in the summer after 11th grade.

In any event, it was summer (as I said) and one day Bill decided to wear a preppy-looking v-neck knit shirt to school.  His teacher objected and Bill was sent back home to change, because of the v-neck collar.  It was summer, dammit.  And 1969, not 1869, though in our hometown it was often hard to tell.

•  On a recent stop in West Virginia, I heard for the first time someone use the possessive form of y’all (it was your’all).  Now I’m going to be on the lookout (hearout?) for our’all and their’all.

•  On this day in 46 B.C., Roman Emperor Julius Caesar looked into his mirror and thought, “Have they invented these yet?”

•  Speaking of ancient days, it’s hard to believe that it was once common for restaurants to prepare Caesar salads tableside.  My spouse and I recall them — especially the one that we watched our server (also our back-door neighbor) prepare with his bandaged finger.

•  Here’s one from the “been thought of already” chronicles.  I came up with the phrase “Armed and Beautiful” and thought it might be a good title for a NRA-type country song.  Well, it turns out that this was in fact the title of a 2006 hip-hop EP by Roger Robinson.  Before that, it was the title of a 2005 photograph by Sandie Yi.  Before that, well, nothing.  Here, I figured the phrase “armed and dangerous” would have inspired all sorts of “armed and…” variations in popular culture.  For example, if I had a gun fetish, I could have titled this column Armed and Thoughtful.  Which, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been used.

•  Onions spoil every dish they are in, except onion rings.

•  I’m torn on what to title a future essay.  Would it be better to say, The New York Times Should Not or Does Not Define American Liberalism?

The rings inside this weathered tree
mark every cloud passed over me

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  We’re back!  It’s Love Month.  So much more romantic than Save Your Tooth Month, Refrigerator Month, Quilting Month, American Cheese Month or Anti-Boredom Month.  Lots of love from this writer to all you readers.  This month, anyway.

  I love the software that helps me create songs out of thin air.  I love the press-to-open, press-to-close trunk lid on my SUV.  I love the warmth and comfort that my gas furnace provides in the winter, not to mention the days when it just feels a little cold in the house and I bump it up a degree.  I love Santa Rosa plums, on the rare occasion I can find them.  I love typing two spaces after a period even though modern style guides insist I must only use one.  I love my mom’s recipe for beef chili with macaroni which my spouse (whom I dearly love) lovingly and patiently agrees to re-create for me.  I love being helpful.  I love being acknowledged as if what I do matters.

  I also love fresh berries on my cereal.  My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and their idea of what was and wasn’t affordable determined what fruit topped my cereal. In other words, sliced bananas — I don’t think blueberries, raspberries or blackberries  ever made one appearance in our house.  Strawberries were a once-a-year thing, always reserved for strawberry shortcake, too special to put on cereal.  As for cherries — I know, not a berry — let’s just say I was good friends with the Thank You brand of glop-in-a-can.  So in retirement, I’m doing my best to compensate for all my young berry-less years.

Buncombe County Omicron Wave Graph  I’m not really retired — my full-time job these days is avoiding covid.  I’ve had this job nearly two years, with no vacation time,  and the pay has not been that great either: $3200 in total, or 28 cents per waking hour.  Hey, I’d like to quit this job, like everyone else in the Great Resignation, but I’m afraid the next job I get might really suck.

  Just because those close to you accept you the way you are and show appreciation for things you do doesn’t mean you have a free pass from doing more and better.  The Land of Missed Opportunities is the vastest, least-explored expanse on Planet Humanity.

  Studies show that people who eat vegetarian chili live, on average, 140 days longer than those who eat meat-based chili.  Other studies find that those who eat chicken/turkey chili live 19 days longer than we Neanderthals who plunge our hairy hands into the real thing, i.e., beef chili.  If nothing else, beef chili people will die happy knowing we will have more attendees at our funerals than those of alt-chili persuasions.  So do us beefy-types a favor, look beyond our taste in chili and pick us out some nice flowers.

  Eulogy at my funeral:  “He was, by some accounts, a fine man.  Yes, he ate beef chili and relished it.  But how shall we judge this man?  By how he ate or how he orated?

  I have been spending hours upon hours the past few months date-sorting and scanning our old family snapshots from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  It has been impossible for me not to notice, in these micro-captures of our lives, how the subjects always seem to be beaming, if not downright vivacious.  Which brought to mind the current-day criticisms of sites like Facebook and Instagram, namely, how shared images unrealistically over-depict good times and good looks and so generate feelings of envy and inadequacy in viewers.  The fact is, Americans have been curating their lives (we called them “Kodak Moments” back then) long before Instagram arrived and we still do.  Snapshooters, myself included, create selectively-good, real yet unrealistic, memories the instant we press the button.

  Among the 20th-century traditions I miss, and they are many, is how your average-to-nice restaurant would offer you a treat as you left the establishment. My favorite such confection was the Ice Cube, a refreshing mint-chocolate morsel.  I can’t recall the last time I saw an Ice Cube, but I do remember the creamy mouth sensations I would enjoy the first few minutes on the car ride home.  Ice Cubes were not just treats but post-dinner memory-implanters.

  Democratic politicians are being criticized in the media for not listening and responding to the needs and desires of “ordinary” Americans.  The narrative is that Democrats unduly focus on minorities and the disadvantaged — as if they are not also “ordinary” Americans.  What Big-D Democrats have been reluctant to accept, and so have struggled to respond to, is the fact that most “ordinary” Americans are on-the-whole more concerned about what is in their wallets than what is in their hearts.

  Forgiveness.  Such a familiar word, yet one with many and diverse opinions about what it means.  Operationally, I think it’s pretty simple: forgiveness is one’s declared promise to the Other that the Other’s hurtful act will no longer be a factor between them.  Ironic then, how the burden of forgiveness falls upon the Wronged.  Funny how that works.

Funny how love is.

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Thoughts @ Large: 77

•  On October 9, 2o21, only days after I covered the topic in this blog, The Washington Post reported that the city of Albuquerque has established “a new category of first responder” wherein “911 dispatchers [have] an option beyond police, with social workers and others in related fields patrolling the city and fielding calls pertaining to mental health, substance abuse or homelessness that otherwise would have been handled by an armed officer.”  Let’s hope that this model is successful and becomes the national standard — but with its own 988 number if possible.

•  There’s always that scene in crime movies where the leader of the criminal enterprise is forced to remind the official “weak guy” in the gang, wavering in his dedication, of why the weak guy needs to get himself together and do his assigned job.  But we all know that the weak guy’s ineptness and/or his empathy for the protagonist is what lets the protagonist find and leverage a small advantage and ultimately prevail.  So here’s to you, Weak Guys. Just be ready when your leader’s plans implode, because afterward, the tide rarely turns in your favor.

•  I think I have discovered a side-effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.  While those who get the COVID-19 virus often lose their sense of smell, people who get the COVID-19 vaccine seem to lose their sense of humor.  Take me, for example.  I got vaccinated in February/March (and got my booster shot last week).  Ever since getting my vaccines, I’ve had a really hard time finding anything funny about those who don’t.

•  Actually, I wasn’t really joking here.  Because I have in fact noticed that I am not really  joking much, anytime, anywhere, and haven’t been for some time.  “Take my melancholy… please!”  I promise to work on my routine and come up with some fresh material real soon.

•  Walked into the barber shop this morning.  “Need a haircut?” Tony asked — the barber’s name was Tony.  I say to Tony, “I don’t need a haircut, I need hair!”  So Tony goes over to his drawer and pulls out a rabbit.  He brings it over and says, “Hare you go!”  I take a good long look at the rabbit.  Then I turn its head to Tony and say, “That’s the best you could do on the whiskers?”

•  As I said, I’m working on my routine.

•  My spouse gets credit for this thought.  Those who don’t wear masks or get vaccinated and just go about business as usual, and then have the nerve to say to you, “I don’t live in my fears,” are not really referring to themselves but to you.  They want you to know that you are a coward and they are king-of-the-hill, the childhood bully they once envied and now emulate.  As always, it’s best to avoid bullies — no matter how old and stupid they are.

•  I listened for hours on July 27, 2021, to the powerful and emotional testimony of four of the police officers who, on January 6 of this year (yes, it was this year), helped defend the U.S. Capitol and its occupants from a mob of American anarchists.  But already, the events of that day are being swept under a rug of indifference by the burn-the-place-down faction of our “fellow” citizens.  It is apparent that January 6 is destined to be considered quaint, vis-à-vis the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, just another case of the fringe rousing the rabble. 

•  We will never change the minds of libertarians (and other just-plain-selfish people) who interpret the U.S. Constitution (or the words they think it says) as affirming their faith that they deserve the benefit of living here and exploiting its advantages while remaining free of almost all its obligations.

•  Why is there such a thing as locker-room culture?  More specifically, who decided it is OK for men to say and do things in locker rooms that are frowned upon everywhere else?  (Answer: Men.  Next question.)

•  You may not know it from the topics I write about, but I am weary of how social justice issues have come to dominate — if not monopolize — news reporting, left, right and center. Imagine if Woody Guthrie showed up at your house with his guitar, and at first you were pleased to have such a talent share his gifts with you, but then he played anti-fascist songs for hours on end, and you got so weighed down by it, you finally turned to him and asked, “Do you know She’ll Be Comin ‘Round the Mountain?”  That’s what it’s feeling like.

•  However, if I was stranded on a desert island, and I had to choose between social justice stories and this version of She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain, I would pick the former and hope for a quick rescue.

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