A lesson unlearned

It seems that Hasbro has decided to come out with a “Cheaters” edition of Monopoly. Their rationale is that since people are incorrigible cheaters at the classic board game anyway, they might as well play along, encouraging “players to cheat by such methods as moving another player’s token, skipping spaces, or stealing extra money from the bank when they pass Go.”

“Those who successfully pull off the cheats are rewarded with cash and property,” Hasbro sweetly concludes.

Well.

I was never a huge fan of the game as a child.  It seemed to me that there was something inherently unfair about the game, where one person ended up with all the money and everyone else ended up broke. You may imagine how vindicated I felt when I learned that the game was originally meant to be a lesson in unrestrained capitalism, a warning about what happens when you let the rich eat you instead of the right and proper vice versa.

So, Hasbro, “Those who successfully pull off the cheats are rewarded with cash and property”?

You don’t fupping say.

You, free press, listen up.

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  There are two reasons for this.  First, most of my creativity posts have been happening over at Lichtenbergianism.com, and I see no reason to double-post.

Second, I have had to face the fact that if I were to rant liberally here, I would soon be reduced to a soggy lump of foaming, impotent fury. The Current Administration is simply a fire hose of corruption, venality, meanness, and double-talk, and no one can keep up. I do not intend to try, at least bloggingwise-speaking.

However, I have just about had it with the aggressive lying that seems to gush forth from anyone allied with the Current Administration whenever they are asked a question by the members of our free press.  The strategy that makes me scream and throw things the most is the ‘pivot,’ wherein the reporter asks a solid question which the liar doesn’t want to answer, and they will pivot to another topic entirely.  Allow me to demonstrate.

Suppose you were a parent, and you wanted to know if your child had taken out the trash.

—  —  —  —  —

YOU:  Bobby, have you taken out the trash?

BOBBY: The fact that you ask that question means you haven’t taken the time to ascertain the facts of the matter here.

 —  —  —  —  —

YOU:  Bobby, have you taken out the trash?

BOBBY: I think the more important question is whether Jill has done her chores at all.  Has she cleaned her room?

 —  —  —  —  —

YOU:  Bobby, have you taken out the trash?

BOBBY: If you were being honest, you’d recognize that I’d already put away my clothes and taken the dog for a walk.

 —  —  —  —  —

Unbelievable. No parent would tolerate such a response to a direct question.  And yet our press is trapped, especially in live media, unable to press their point and get a direct answer.

For our comrades in print, however, I do have a suggestion.  At the moment, you report their non-answer, catapulting their lies straight into the record.  Don’t.  Stop reporting their words.  You asked a question — report on their answer, not with their answer.

In other words, if they don’t answer the question, report that they didn’t answer the question.  Do not report what they said.  Frame your report so that the reader has an idea of what you were trying to get the bottom of, and then report that the liar failed to answer.

Here are some examples:

With two bags of trash standing by the kitchen door, Bobby was asked whether he had done his chore of taking the trash out.  He evaded answering the question directly.

One of Bobby’s chores is to take out the trash.  When asked whether he had done so, he attempted to shift attention to his sister Jill and her chores.

When asked whether he had fulfilled his chore of taking out the trash, Bobby left the question unanswered, instead enumerating other chores he said he had accomplished.

See?  At no point do you repeat Bobby’s misleading words.  You report on his answer and whether he answered the question at all.

Guys in broadcast media, I got nothing at this point other than a mute button or to cut the interview short after the liar attempts to obfuscate the issue and to tell the audience that since the liar had not answered the question, there was no point in continuing.

Honestly.

There’s a small kerfuffle going on over in the Twitterverse over the New York Times interview with the Current Embarrassment. Maggie Haberman took exception to the rest of Twitter taking exception to the reporters’ abject stenography of the man’s usual incoherent ramblings, and her ratio[1] is about what you would expect.

Have a look:

Etc.

The tl;dr is that we expect the New York Times to dig a little deeper, to confront this fraud with questions that make it clear that he’s a fraud, and not to let him run amok through the truth.  There are those who say that it’s obvious that he’s a fraud just from the transcript, but that is not the case.  If it were, the NYT and the Washington Post wouldn’t keep running similarly uninformative stories about his die-hard voters who still think he’s saving us all from the hellscape of the Obama administration.

Here would be my point if I were to jump into the fracas: at no point in the last six years and especially in the last two has Donald J. Trump even once shown a grasp of legislative or policy matters. Not. Even. Once.  Revealing this to us in an interview once again without any kind of followup question is really really pointless.  You think you’re making it obvious that he’s an idiot, but we already know that.  His followers refuse to know that.  Why keep doing it?

But tweeters who are more likely to be noticed by the NYT than I are already making that point.  I’ll stick to #Lichtenbergianism and my Precepts.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] The ‘ratio’ is kind of new intertubes-speak for the ratio between your retweets and your comments.  When your comments — which usually indicate disagreement — start outweighing your retweets, you know you’ve stepped in it.

A SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT [insert flashing light icon here]

Well.

Saturday night was the Lichtenbergian Society’s Annual Meeting, and before I could even call us to order that wretched scum W. Jeffery Bishop introduced a resolution to strip me of my chairmanship, a position I have held with honor for the past ten years.  His reasons?  Oh, something about accomplishing all my goals blah blah blah.

For what it’s worth, here’s the complete text:

WHEREAS

In the Year of Our Lord 2007 a group of like-minded individuals came together to form a Society to be known thereafter as the LICHTENBERGIAN SOCIETY, and

WHEREAS

These individuals set forth a CHARTER in which they solemnly pledged and swore an oath to further the renown and uphold the honor of their guiding inspiration, Master Procrastinator GEORG CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERG, by “putting off whatever we can in such a way as to be in solidarity with our fellow Lichtenbergians,” and

WHEREAS

Our ILLUSTRIOUS CHAIR, Dale Lyles, has VIOLATED HIS SACRED VOW to uphold the tenets of Lichtenbergianism, TO WIT:

CHARGE NUMBER 1: The Chair has on consecutive years achieved EVERY STATED PROPOSED EFFORT announced at the previous Annual Meeting (GUILTY)

CHARGE NUMBER 2: The Chair has PROFITED SHAMELESSLY through the exploitation of the Sacred Society’s name, including the publication (various) of blog posts, articles, books, broadcast media, &c for the sake of advancing his own personal notoriety and for his personal financial gain (GUILTY)

CHARGE NUMBER 3: The Chair has violated the Sacred Code of the Charter and of the Brotherhood of the Society by laying bare its SACRED RITUALS AND SECRET CEREMONIES (GUILTY), and

WHEREAS

Craig Humphrey has shown himself to be a MODEL LICHTENBERGIAN through his refusal to meet even a single goal on consecutive years, and through his failure to attend numerous meetings, including the required Annual Meetings, due to his imprisonment and other such excuses, and through his failure to exploit or profit from his membership in this Society in any perceivable way

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED

That we as a UNIFIED BODY do hereby REMOVE OUR CHAIR, DALE LYLES, from his illustrious office, and IMPEACH HIM, and do hereby beseech him to AMEND HIS WAYS and return to the TRUE PATH of Lichtenbergianism, as established by our namesake, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, and that we do also hereby APPOINT the Esteemed and Most Honorable Craig Humphrey to serve as Chair in his stead.

SWORN TO AND AGREED this 16th Day of December, the Year of Our Lord 2017 THE ESTEEMED MEMBERS OF THE LICHTENBERGIAN SOCIETY

 

Fine. Whatever.  Putz.

I hauled out the Charter and pointed to the very first Article, stating that “The Purpose of this SOCIETY shall be the promulgation and promotion of Lichtenbergianism,” and I alone had done that this year, but those ungrateful schmucks voted to defenestrate me anyway and install Craig Humphrey in my place, just because Craig accomplished nothing this year.

Pfft, I say.  Pfft.  And also feh.

I’m sure I wish Craig well in his future career as Chair.  I will note for the general, though, that I do not see a Report on the Annual Meeting on our official website, nor did our so-called “Chair” take the leftover coals from the fire to ship to members who were not in attendance.

Pfft.

So here are my Lichtenbergian Proposed Efforts for 2018:

Become a self-promoting whore

Following Turff’s lead in his successful goal to become a “corporate tool,” I am going acquire the skills needed to sell the book and become a speaker/workshop leader all over the place, up to and including a TED Talk.

Peter & the Starcatcher

Auditions Jan 7–8.  Performances Mar 1–11.

Labyrinth fixes

I have a short list of labor intensive projects that need to be taken care of in the labyrinth.  I will get those done after Peter is over and when the weather warms up.

William Blake’s Inn

I am pursuing the production of William Blake’s Inn for its world premiere.  In fact, I am heading to a meeting in about 50 minutes to begin those discussions.

new music?

Since I will finish the music for the Mar 17 Southern Arc Dance performance before January, I think I will cast about for another project.  It may be Southern Arc’s RED DRESS come back to life, or it might be something bigger.  SUN TRUE FIRE, again, or another project I’ve been knocking around for a while but haven’t named because of copyright/derivative works issues.

I will say that it looks like I am as likely to be as successful with this list of Proposed Efforts as I was this past year.  Dammit. Whatever happened to goals I couldn’t possibly achieve?

Fearless

I have to say that I am continually astounded with the fearless manner in which Cecil, the Assistant Assistive Feline™, approaches life.

Abigail at his age (and even now) was much more cautious and amenable to correction. One squirt from a water pistol and she knew not to get on the couch again — and if she does, then just the sound of my priming the water pistol is enough to get her down.  Cecil? He flinches at being squirted, but then looks up with a curious look on his face… WHAT WAS THAT? OH YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT AGAIN?  HM.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘GET DOWN’? OH WAIT YOU DID IT AGAIN. THIS IS MAKING ME DAMP. OH WOW YOU DID IT AGAIN.

Last night I built our first fire of the season.  It was over a year before Abigail would get any nearer to a fire than the other side of the living room, and even so she has to reintegrate the concept every year.

Cecil?

Yep.  He’s an idiot, absolutely fearless.

Meanwhile, Abigail sits cautiously on the other side of the living room.

Changes in the herd

A couple of weeks ago Abigail, my Assistive Feline™, went missing.  I was working in the back yard, and the basement door — which has a habit of not latching — had been blown open by the wind.  Abigail saw her opportunity and strolled out.

She has done this before, but I’m generally around and spot her.  She will go all OH NO YOU WILL NEVER CATCH ME HOOMAN I WILL WALK THREE FEET THIS WAY AND SIT DOWN WHERE YOU WILL NEVER WAIT WHY YOU ARE PICKING ME UP AND TAKING ME BACK INSIDE WHERE I’M SAFE CURSE YOU PURRR. In other words, she is not a wild beast yearning to be free.

This time, however, I was not around, and she had escaped.  I checked all around the house and the adjoining shrubberies, but she was not there.  It was worrisome.

Night came and she was still nowhere to be found.  I (and my Lovely First Wife) were frantic.  Abby has no survival skills that we know of, and it was easy to imagine some horrific fate befalling her.  The next morning I plastered the immediate area with posters, and the next evening she showed up at the front door, utterly unconcerned.

Somewhere she had gotten snagged on a bush or something, because she was missing her purple halter, which I use to hook her up to a lead in the back yard so she can lounge in the sun and pretend to hunt chipmunks.  Fine, I thought, you’re grounded anyway.

Then two nights ago she did it again, this time hopping down from the back porch, where she is allowed to go mean-mug the birds of a morning.  This time I was not too worried; clearly she was able to hunker down somewhere and find her way home.  And there she was the next morning at the back door, acting as if she were a big girl now and why was I all torqued even?

I decided to go buy her and Cecil, the Assistant Assistive Feline™, collars with nametags.  That way if they were ever lost they’d be identifiable and returnable, and even more, as Cecil reaches his adult size, we could tell which tuxedo we were yelling at as they scampered away from the scene of the crime.

All of the preceding was background info.

Cecil the Pest, temporarily nonplussed

Cecil has earned himself the nickname The Pest for his annoying behavior: pouncing on Abigail and gnawing on her; careening across the dining room table — while we are dining; the usual. Good thing he’s adorable. Abigail, in response, has become withdrawn, hiding from Cecil and often begging to be let onto the back porch to escape him.

So it was extremely interesting what happened when I put their new collars on them.

Cecil of course freaked out because there was this new sensation.  He did the normal flippy thing trying to see it or get to it. Also there was now this tinkling noise that was always there right at his ear!  Aieeeee!!!!

Abigail, being older and wiser, just nodded calmly at her new adornment.

That’s when it got interesting.  Abigail was suddenly lounging out in the hall, or strolling around rooms where people were, being sociable.  Cecil was in hiding up here in the study. When he emerged, he mostly tore around rooms, still jingling and completely unnerved.   When he encountered Abby, he meekly walked up to her and stood and allowed her to groom him.  When it was supper time, he didn’t do his usual adorable meowing as if he were starving.  He was a completely changed cat.

We figure Abby is feeling secure again with the feeling of her collar, since she’s worn a halter all of her adult life. Cecil, on the other hand, is simply weirded out, and we’re assuming that’s only temporary until he gets use to hearing a jingle bell every move he makes. Then he’ll return to his regular goofball Pest persona.

And that’s a report on the state of the herd.

I can’t even.

Isn’t this lovely?

This is the open stairwell to our basement playroom, featuring a really spectacular photo of my Lovely First Wife kayaking in the marshes on the coast.  One day when I was not paying particular attention, she had the photo enlarged onto canvas and hired an electrician to install the very attractive lighting fixture you see here.  What’s not to like?

Of course, being the hyper-rational, analytical green that I am (Greens: 98% Right!), my first question was, how do we replace the bulbs?  There was a vague answer about a ladder and boards, but since these were halogen bulbs it would be years before we needed to worry about it.

Two weeks ago I noticed we were down to only one of the bulbs.  It was time to worry about it.  About the same time we had electricians in to reconfigure the outlets in our two guest rooms — different long story —and I asked one what the solution might be.  He opined that I might need one of them foldy-bendy ladders one sees on the TV.

Well then.  An excuse to buy an expensive foldy-bendy ladder?  I’m in.

This of course necessitates a drive to Home Depot, which is not convenient.  Remember that fact.  I buy a likely-looking Gorilla Ladder™ and stuff it in the car and bring it home and set it up in the living room. It is immediately apparent that none of its configurations will work in our stairwell; trust me on the geometry and physics of this.

It is clear that I will have to go buy boards to lay across the stairwell to the little ledge that for some reason our contractor built in there, possibly because he foresaw a day when my LFW would have such a fixture installed.

It dawns on me at about the same time that I do not know what bulbs I need to buy, which means that after I drive out to Home Depot — inconvenient, remember? — and buy two 2x8s and lug them home, I will have to set up the whole thing in order to climb up and remove a bulb, then MAKE A THIRD TRIP OUT TO HOME DEPOT TO BUY THE BULBS.  It is at this point I decide to congratulate myself on what a superior husband I am.

So today, I have errands to run and I cleverly figure out that I don’t have to drive all the way out to Home Depot because there is an establishment right next to the grocery store that sells bulbs.  And batteries.  I will refrain from naming this establishment, because the previous two times I went there, they did not have the bulb or battery that I needed.

This time, however, they did have the exact bulb I needed.  They had four of them.

I needed five.

And here we are.

And from below:

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that the bulbs are tricky to remove and install, have I?  Or that for the fifth and final one I will have to edge my way to the other side of the ladder to climb up to reach it?

Or that I am a really, really superior husband?

About those Lichtenbergian goals for 2017

Well, this is embarrassing.

At the risk of exposing myself to [even more] Censure at the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting in a couple of weeks, I would like to review my goals for this past year and evaluate how well I did.  If you want a full explication of each one, see here.

Lichtenbergianism

A carryover from 2016: finish the book, keep the website going.  Check.

Backstreet Arts writing project

Another carryover, which had to be carried over because Backstreet didn’t open until Jan of this year. Check.

SUN TRUE FIRE

Cras melior est.  Didn’t do a lick of work on it.

Peter & the Starcatcher

I didn’t name this last year because it hadn’t been announced.  On track, though not as much as I’d like.

3 Old Men

Continue as Placement Lead, design another new burn. Check.  Wanted to plan to go to Burning Man itself, given the theme of Radical Ritual, but no one else seemed interested.

Unsilent Night

Check.

Establish a routine

Check.

See how embarrassing this is? I basically accomplished all my goals.  Crap.  The Annual Meeting is going to be a bloodbath.

Book review: Symphony for the City of the Dead

If you’re a longtime reader, as in last month, you know that I’m a huge fan of author M. T. Anderson. Whether he’s being serious (Feed) or silly (Pals in Peril series), his writing is solid.  In some kind of synesthesia, I feel as if he provides you with a smooth, hard surface that you can walk across with confidence: there are no soft spots or distracting undergrowth to impede your progress.

When I was writing the review last month for Landscape with Invisible Hand, I popped over to Amazon to snag the URL for the book, and that’s when I noticed he had written another book I had missed: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad.

Well.

I am a huge Shostakovich fan and here was a book about him by one of my favorite authors.  It implied that Anderson is also a fan, which made my heart go pitter-pat.  (Are you, Mr. A.?  If so, text me, bro.) I ordered it immediately.

This book is amazing. I knew the basis of the story: when the Nazi army laid siege to Leningrad in 1941, Shostakovich stayed in his hometown to be part of the war effort and decided to write a symphony that glorified the bravery of the Soviet citizenry. Word got out, and the entire world (at war) waited to hear the results.  When it was finished, the score was microfilmed and rushed to the West in a pretty bizarre sequence of events, where it was performed to general acclaim as part of the war effort.

I didn’t know the half of it.  Anderson has given us a thoroughly researched book that is simultaneously a biography of Shostakovich, a history of the Soviet Union, a political examination of Stalin and Hitler, a telling of the horrific story of the siege, and a musicological look at the Symphony No. 7 while it is being composed.  Like a skilled cinematographer, Anderson leads us from scene to scene, directing our focus in a way that gives us the context to understand both the larger frame of the war and the intimate setting of Shostakovich’s personal life.

Even as I was reading it, my meta-reader’s mind became fascinated with what it must have taken for Anderson to write this book — the staggering amount of research; the pulling-together of all the facts, quotes, context; the balancing of definite facts and the “what-ifs,” of which there are more than a few in the Stalin era.  And what possessed him to write the book in the first place?  These are the things that I will ask him once he texts me and we become BFF.

In the meantime, I have these resources:

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.