Oh dear.

Here go read this.  Don’t want to click on it?  What if I were to tell you that the headline is

This Man Is Launching Himself in a Homemade Rocket to Prove Earth Is Flat

?

It’s easy to laugh at this guy, but every day we see the same thing all around us.  I was guided to the article from a friend’s post on Facebook, and just a few posts before that some guy was ranting about “Benghazie” and how come we hadn’t investigated that, henngh??

When someone pointed out the seven or so endless, fruitless congressional investigations and linked to a Wikipedia article, his response was, “I don’t get my facts from Wikipedia.” (The linker pointed out the 30+ references at the end of the article and noted acerbically that perhaps Mr. Whacko didn’t get his facts at all.)

This is where we are, folks. It’s an appalling repeat of the 1840s when the Flat Earth theory first popped up: shyster pitch-men who may or may not believe what they’re selling to the rubes; the appeal to Scripture as an absolute truth; the scalding vituperation towards science and fact; and the refusal to countenance any evidence that contradicts the Holy Word of whoever it is that’s telling you that the Earth is Flat.

You see it in the Alabama senatorial race, where all news is fake. You see it in the Sandy Hook truthers. You see it in all the commenters on the Current Embarrassment’s Twitter feed. (No link — you’re on your own there.)

And this from a crowd who used to scorn liberals for holding “relative values” and for wanted to teach skills and process instead of “facts” in schools.

Here’s your amygdala on drugs…

…or at least that’s the only reasonable explanation for this:

This is the chart Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Derp) plopped out the other day during the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.  They were interviewing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some of the lesser-brained were asking/demanding that Sessions launch a special prosecutor to investigate ALL THE CLINTON URANIUM, KENNETH!

Okay. Let’s remind ourselves that a) Hillary Clinton didn’t approve anything, much less the sale of “all our uranium” to Russia; b) eight different federal agencies had to sign off on the deal, which c) involved allowing a Russian company to invest in a Canadian company that mines uranium in the U.S., and d) no American uranium was allowed to leave the country…

… so what the hell is this chart supposed to be telling us?

Actually, this is an easy question to answer.  This chart is telling us LOOK, A CLINTON! so that the amygdala-based lifeforms can get their life-sustaining shot of fear and anger.  There is no logical pattern to the chart.  It does not present any kind of evidentiary trail or connections. It’s just a conglomeration of buzzwords that make the wingnuts buzz.

Gohmert, who is not the sharpest spork in the knife drawer, was probably quite serious in presenting this chart.  If it were someone else, one might suspect him of being cynically manipulative, but Gohmert’s brain  — and the brains of everyone like him — actually works like this: lots and lots of ill-defined code words that swarm around his amygdala, giving him the energy to continue living.

If I were an elected representative in that meeting, I would be tempted to ask my esteemed colleague from Texas to walk us through the chart. On national television. I would probably interrupt to ask him to clarify the connections between items.  I would definitely ask him to state his conclusions in simple, declarative sentences.

Because I’m a mean, mean man.

This is who is voting on tax reform, people.

Top Elf: a review

Yes, I know that every day before Thanksgiving that you decorate for Christmas an elf dies, and honestly I wasn’t going to read my friend Caleb‘s new book Top Elf until December, but one night I picked it up and then couldn’t stop.

Caleb was an RA at GHP back when I was director, and now he works at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA, which is owned and operated by another former RA, Janet Geddis.  Both are extremely wonderful people, and so when I read that Caleb had written a book — not only written but published — I was excited for both of them.

So I ordered it and got my autographed copy (thank you for the kind words, Caleb) and tried not to read it until December. Which I failed to do.

Top Elf is a whiz-bang adventure, narrated by Ollie Elf, a youngster who loves loves LOVES Christmas.  He’s also a nervous child, often doubting himself and bursting into emotional tears.  When Santa announces his retirement and a competition to replace him — unnerving his oldest son Klaus — Ollie and his best friend Celia decide they’ll go for it.  We follow them through the familiar tropes of reality-TV competitions as one competitor after another is eliminated.

The book is thick with pop culture references, stupid jokes, and sly allusions.  Most of it would go over a younger reader’s head, but I’m sure there were some references in there that went right under mine as well.  There is a fun twist ending that I’m pleased to say I didn’t see coming, and a satisfying (if After School Special) ending. (Well, how else could you end it? Fight Club?)

I asked Caleb if it had been optioned yet for a movie — if nothing else, it would make a spectacular TV movie or even series — and he just laughed.  But if you’re listening, Hollywood (or Atlanta, at this point)…

Recommended as a Christmas gift for older elementary readers, especially those who like gaming.

In other news…

I’m double-posting here, because that’s what us self-marketers do.

From Lichtenbergianism.com:

It’s almost here! On Friday, November 17, you will be able to give me money via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other venues!

In return, of course, you will be receive your very own copy of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, first edition!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

As a special promotional deal, anyone who buys the book from Amazon on launch day will receive a couple of bonus gifts. From me, you will receive an autographed Official Lichtenbergianism Precepts Bookmark and an invitation to join the Lichtenbergianism: Doing the Work group on Facebook, where you will have access to my advice and guidance on any of your ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS.

Also, several of my friends are offering freebies of their own: things like chapters from one of their books and other goodies.  You’ll have the opportunity to request one of these.  (A page listing these goodies is forthcoming.)

How do you avail yourself of this treasure trove?

  1. Buy the book on Friday, November 17, on Amazon.
  2. Email your purchase receipt or a screenshot of same to dale@Lichtenbergianism.com.
  3. I’ll send you a link to the form to claim your bonus items. Easy!

This is so exciting! Start spreading the news.

Shame! (a warning)

I have a complaint.

Yesterday I was minding my own business when I got a text from a phone number with which I was unfamiliar.  That’s not unheard of, of course, but this was the text:

I mean, what the heck, right?  Who among my friends was doing this to me?  After some consideration I clicked on the link, which took me to a legitimate Apple App Store webpage for an app called Gather—In Real Life.

Gather—In Real Life purports to be an EASY FUN FUN WAY to arrange get-togethers with your friends.

But Gather—In Real Life is a vile piece of crap.  I went to the App Store itself, where, as I suspected, the app was rated around a 1, and the top review said bluntly that if giving a 0 were possible, the reviewer would do so.  They went on to describe in detail the app’s spammy practices: merely downloading the app allows it to take all your contacts and send the above spam text to them.  Imagine: your family, your business associates, your random contacts—all of them get a text saying they’ve been “invited.”

It’s actually worse than that: the app will seize all your info from your phone.  Horrific details here, here, and here.

Needless to say, I did not download the app.  I texted STOP, then sent an excoriating message, then texted STOP again in case they thought I was saying it was okay to talk to me ever again.

I have more complaint: at some point in the upgrade process, Apple has done away with the Report button in the App Store.  If you’ve downloaded an app and need a refund or something, there’s a webpage for that, but after a day of searching I can find no way to let Apple know that this app is offensive, intrusive, and needs to go.

So here’s my blogpost on Gather—In Real Life.  Any response from the company will be posted and ridiculed here.

A thought experiment

Whenever we have yet another mass shooting in the country, the usual cry is that because of the Second Amendment we can’t do anything about restricting gun ownership in this country.  Proponents of guns will throw up all kinds of slippery slope arguments about restricting types of guns, numbers of guns, or ammo, and demand that the rest of us answer their unanswerable questions.  Or they throw up smokescreens about “mental health” and “banning cars” and other non sequiturs.

So, no, gun humpers, I am not going to engage in your hypothetical impossibilities.

Instead, let’s try this.  Imagine that this country is largely gun free.  You know, like the rest of the industrialized world.  Don’t pretend we had to have a way to get there.  Just assume that’s where we started, with no “Second Amendment” or other shibboleths that allow anyone to own an arsenal.

Imagine we live in a United States without the gun deaths we now have, a country without guns.

Now, let’s imagine you want to convince me that the country needs to become the United States we now have, with stockpiles of weapons and ammo, and daily gun deaths, and mass shootings every other day.

What are your arguments?  Remember, there is no “Second Amendment.”  You need to convince me that our actual current status is where we want to move towards.

Or if this is too hard, then pretend I’m Australia, and convince me why I need to become the United States.

Take all the time you need.

Honey, please

I haven’t ranted nearly as much as I could, given the opportunities that abound in our nation today.  Part of it is that the opportunities are such a fire hose.  I feel like I’m in one of those money grab booths: I’m being bombarded by all the outrages of the Current Embarrassment and I just can’t seem to grab just one.

Somehow, though, I was completely struck dumb by one of the outrages that flew past yesterday — YESTERDAY, KENNETH! — so you know it had to be spectacular.

For some reason, in the midst of the Mueller indictments/arrests/pleas, John Kelly, chief of staff and supposed “adult in the room,” chose to go on Laura Ingraham’s show and defend the Confederacy.  The topic was Confederate monuments — for some reason — and Kelly said, and I quote, “… the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

Wait, what?

My reaction, and that of the entire internet, can be summed up thusly:

WHAT THE HELL, JOHN KELLY? A lack of compromise caused the Civil War?? A lack of compromise on what, exactly?

I can’t even. Once again I am rendered dumb by the brazenness of this administration.  I will let Ta-Nehisi Coates do the honors.

UPDATE: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on the kerfuffle, i.e., Robert E. Lee being a dedicated slave-owner and similar niggling details: “All of our leaders have flaws, that doesn’t diminish their contributions to society.”

Wait, what?  She went on to list some of those men: “Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy” — niftily giving John F. Kennedy two personæ in the process.

Okay.  Let’s see if we can suss out the problem with Sanders’ statement.  Here’s a quiz:

Sarah, sweetie, I know you’re from Arkansas, but ROBERT E. LEE WAS NOT ONE OF “OUR” LEADERS. This is a very, very hard concept for us Southerners to understand, but IT IS TRUE, KENNETH.

Here’s the answer key to the quiz.  Don’t peek.  I SAID, DON’T PEEK, KENNETH!

 

A memory

We’re rearranging about half the house and in doing so are coming to those decisions one comes to when one has a metric tonne of stuff.

You know what I’m talking about: those tubs of t-shirts and sweatshirts that commemorate things like shows you were in or GHP summers or (now) burns.  I understand completely that I have not worn any of them in probably a decade and I am not likely to wear them ever again.  Even I understand that they need to go, even if it means — to me — cutting the ties to that event.[1] 

But that’s a discussion for another day.  Today let’s look at this sweatshirt, which we made to advertise the Newnan Community Theatre Company’s production of Comedy of Errors, back in 1993.

First of all, I am still delighted when I see my tagline: deadpan hyperbole of obvious truths that say nothing about the quality of the show itself. (One of the younger cast members asked, quite sincerely, “How many twins does Macbeth have?”)

We had done Tartuffe back in the spring of that year.  Jeff Bishop directed, and he wanted to do it in straight-up period style, so we built a raked stage with wings and all those costumes.  I love costumes, I love period costumes, but these got to me for some reason, and one day as we were all furiously cutting and sewing, the subject of Comedy of Errors came up: would we do Elizabethan costumes for it?

Aghast, I joked that no, we would put everyone in sweatpants and be done with it.

And then I thought: why not?

In a play about identity, what could be more appropriate than a mise en scene where all the characters are identical? So I decided that everyone would wear grey sweatpants and sweatshirts, and that each character would have a different color of facepaint.  The twins, of course, would have the same color as each other.  (We came to refer to the show as “the Smurfs do Shakespeare.”)

This concept had the advantage of being astoundingly cheap, of course, but it came with a cost.  As I explained to the cast as we began work, the facepaint would obliterate any but the wildest facial expressions.  They were not going to be able to rely on subtle glances or grimaces.  This was going to have to be the broadest slapstick ever, with Shakespeare.

This was the first time that I auditioned a show and didn’t cast it right away.  The actors and I spent a couple of weeks working with the text, playing with it, and developing a physical language, a shorthand that we could call on when we began putting the show together.  Finally, the actors began to panic and demanded that I assign roles, mostly so they could start learning lines. Fair enough.

Somehow it all worked.  The actors all became extremely free in their physical work, and that spilled over into their ability to interpret the text as well.  One night I had to leave rehearsal for a short meeting, and I told them to play around with the scene in II.2 in which poor abused Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, confronts the wrong man in the marketplace with her complaints.  When I got back I was presented with the astounding spectacle of Judy (Adriana) doing the entire long speech pursuing Mary (Ant. of Syracuse) as if they were in a professional wrestling match, ending with both on the floor.  Mary dragged herself free, panting, stood, and barely gasped out, “Plead you to me, fair dame? I… know… you… not.”  Brought the house down.

More: Blue (Pinch) being flipped on his back by Jeff (Ant. of Eph) in a cloud of white hair powder.

More: the performance when Jeff, refused entry into his own home, hurled himself at the door three times during his long speech (with the elders of Ephesus nodding complacently behind him)—only this performance, on the third run he suddenly grabbed Brady (Dromio of Eph.) and hurled him at the door.  Brilliant.

So yes: the sweatshirt is a physical reminder that we did good work.  But it has to go.  If nothing else, I’ll need to make room for my Peter & the Starcatcher sweatshirt, won’t I?

—————

[1] Yes, yes, I know: make a quilt. Now I have a quilt I have no use for and have to store. But that’s what I’ll probably do.

Marketing, feh.

M. T. Anderson is one of my favorite authors, young adult or otherwise.  His serious works, like Feed or The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, will radically alter the way you perceive what you thought was established reality. His comic works, like Whales on Stilts and Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, are gaspingly funny.

Since I’ve been retired from checking out books to kindergarteners for six years now, I’m often behind on when YA authors have written something new.  So it was with Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, which I ordered as soon as I stumbled across it.

It’s a slim volume, only 149 pages, but it is an incredibly tough read.  Not because it’s densely written, but because of the world depicted in the book.

Quick summary: it’s earth, in the future near enough that we can recognize our society, and the aliens who have been buzzing us since the last century have finally revealed themselves to us, bearing amazing technology which they are perfectly willing to share with us.  Our narrator, teen Adam, is an artist.

Here’s my complaint—and it’s not with the book, which is brilliant.  My complaint is with the marketing department: the inside of the dust jacket gives us a plot summary without giving away the nexus of the story, and then it says this:

“M. T. Anderson, winner of the National Book Award and author of Feed, returns to future Earth in this sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.”

No.

That’s not what this book is about.

I mean to say, it’s right there in the title, marketing department!

The aliens—called the vuvv—are perfectly willing to share their amazing technology with us,  for a price. They can cure any disease if you can pay them. They can raise food and manufacture goods cheaper and better than any Earth company, which promptly puts Earth companies out of business, with a staggering loss of jobs and income for most of the citizenry.

The rich, of course, are unaffected: they are able to invest in vuvv technologies.  They live in floating homes/apartment complexes that block out the sun below. Their lives go on much as they do now.

The vuvv are not cruel.  They are simply intergalactic capitalists unconcerned about anything but trade.

And that’s what the book is about: unrestrained capitalism, colonization/imperialism, and the impact it has on the powerless.  Anderson’s socioeconomic logic is relentless and inescapable, and Landscape is one of the more frighteningly disconcerting books I’ve ever read.

But I think there’s more here than meets the eye. Here’s my question to M. T. Anderson: there’s more to come, isn’t there?  We’re actually following Adam’s radicalization, aren’t we? That bucolic ending in Asheville was false hope, wasn’t it?  Jebus.

Gin Number Two

You will recall that I made gin a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t horrible, as the label proudly proclaims, but I wanted to see if I could make a more nuanced version.

To that end, I took one of my new, handy-dandy Field Notes Brand “Dime Novel” editions and began taking meticulous notes—as opposed to just dumping stuff into vodka like I did last time.

With that strategy, I think I was more successful.  I now have a recipe that I can reuse if I decide this is a good one.

Mostly, it is a good one.  Whereas the first one was almost overpowered by the lovage and had a huge bitter finish, this one is more herbal and has an interesting wood note as a finish.

That would be because as I finished up steeping the botanicals (gentian, angelica, lemon zest, lovage, coriander, burdock, and star anise), I rediscovered a jar of what I think is tincture of cedar chips.  I boldly added 30 ml of that to the mix, and lo! it makes a lovely difference.

So here’s Dale’s Gin No. 2.  Not objectionable at all.