Dear White House Press Corps…

One of the drawbacks of swimming at the gym now is that the flatscreen TV in the locker room is tuned to Fox News, and I never thought I would see the day when I hoped that sports would be on the tube.

Me, after two weeks at the gym. (artist’s conception)

Today I heard yet another presser hosted by Melissa McCarthy Sean Spicer and watched in disbelief as one reporter, referring to the Current Occupant’s statement yesterday that terrorist massacres were being “under-reported” by the “very very dishonest press,” fumbled his question.  Spicer skittered away across the surface of the pond, untouched by any attempt to get some hard truth from him.

Sweet Jebus, White House Press Corps, do yourself a favor and head straight to the nearest elementary school. Sign in, and ask to be assigned to a kindergarten class.  Take notes.

BECAUSE KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS CAN GET BETTER ANSWERS OUT OF SEAN SPICER THAN YOU CAN.

Here’s the deal: Never never ever ask a kid a yes/no question about some misbehavior.

TEACHER: Did you hit Suzie?

SEAN: No, I was just blah blah blah.

No.  Watch and learn.

TEACHER: Tell me what happened here.  Sean, you go first.

SEAN: Well, Suzie called me a doopyface so I hit her.

And scene.

How does this work for you guys?

Instant replay:

REPORTER: Yesterday, when the President said that terror attacks were being under-reported, did he mean blah blah blah?

SPICER: —::deny:: — ::pivot:: — ::spin:: — [runs away laughing, possibly shouting “nanny-nanny-boo-boo”]

That’s not how you do it.  Watch and learn:

REPORTER: Yesterday, the President said about terrorist attacks, and I quote, “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”  What did he mean by that?

SPICER: Um… I thought Melissa McCarthy was funny, but she chewed too much gum.  No more questions.

So there go you.  Hie thee to an elementary school and pick up some skills.  I imagine you could even learn this in Betsy Fupping Devos’ new string of for-profit Talibaptist madrassas.  Well, if any of the people being paid minimum wage to ride herd on students there are in fact teachers.

Clearing out: a series

We have begun the process of THROWING AWAY ALL THE THINGS, KENNETH!

Actually, we’ve been doing it for a couple of months now, but this past week I was instructed to go to the storage unit and bring back all the boxes of papers from our various careers that for some reason we thought were worth storing.  For some reason.  So off I went and returned with fourteen banker’s boxes of folders, notebooks, and books.

All that remains out of six boxes. Need folders or notebooks? Hit me up.

The immediate impetus for this was the city’s shredding day last Saturday; we wanted to have everything ready to dump into the chopper.  The secondary impetus was an eventual clearing out of the storage unit so that we’re not paying $100/month to keep stuff that apparently we don’t need and never see.

But the overarching impetus is our old friend death-nesting: making those final adjustments to one’s nest and then sliding towards sweet, sweet decay.

I have to say that I was very impressed with my collections.  I had lesson plans and research materials from both East Coweta High School and Newnan Crossing Elementary.  I had directorial prompt scripts from my entire career. I had the complete collection of the The Line Creek Review, ECHS’s literary magazine that was shoved onto my plate and which I revamped from an annual mausoleum of teen angst poetry into a monthly award-winning magazine.[1]

I had a ton of old music, some of which has never been transferred to actual music files.  There were all kinds of News from the Media Center things from Newnan Crossing—my attempts to market my services to the excellent staff of teachers there who were naturally suspicious of this high school guy.  There were tons of printouts from Usenet articles on all those new technologies (1993, so you know the fossils I’m talking about).

There were the training presentations for both the Curriculum Liberation Front (ECHS) and the Enriched Thinking Curriculum (NX), my attempts to implement all the current research on brain-based learning, active learning, authentic and performance assessment: all those things that “leaders” have said they want in their schools and in their graduates, yet somehow have legislated against.

Lots and lots of stuff.

And most of it went to the shredder.  I have kept some sample lesson plans, the CLF and ETC materials, and a couple of files of memorabilia, but almost all of it was trash.  Sic transit gloria mundi and all that.

It was with more curiosity than rue that I went through all those papers.  This was not a heart-wrenching ordeal.  Mostly I felt affirmed: I was good at this stuff.  I still am.[2]

Anyway, I figured I could wring a series of blog posts out of what I found and what I kept.  Stay tuned.

—————

[1] The April editions—in which we parodied some other publication—are still hysterical.

[2] If your school or school system needs a consultant to kickstart a critical thinking skills component to your curriculum, or help integrate your media center in a more meaningful way, I work cheap.  Call me.

Lost and found

Back in 2010, my Lovely First Wife and I found ourselves in Seattle, where we were staying with inlaws-to-be and attending the Winter Olympics across the way in Vancouver. While there I purchased a little charm, as in charm bracelet/pendant thingie, an old typewriter key: MARGIN RELEASE.

I blogged about it here.

tl;dr: on old typewriters, margins were set by physical metal “tabs,” and if the word you were typing at the end of the line were only going to go past the margin by one or two letters, you could press this key and it would allow you past that boundary.

I bought it to be a talisman on the new Utilikilt I purchased there in Seattle at the flagship store, and I wore it on a little chain attached to a belt loop, along with a little clay talisman of the Man-in-the-Maze design that I got in Jerome, AZ.  The effect was trés woo.

Alas, it has vanished.  I’m thinking that it was last week when I was vacuuming/mulching all the leaves from the labyrinth for an evening out there.  If so, then I might still come across it somewhere.

However, it just as easily could have vanished at any point in the last four or five months.  If it fell off at Alchemy, then I know it’s gone—although I have repeatedly stumbled across items there that I thought were gone forever. Still, I’ve ordered a new one from Etsy, all the way from Australia.  That’s the one in the picture, actually.  I’m prepared to face the margins again.  If the old one shows up, I can gift the new one.

In preparing to write this post, I did a quick search for the original post and realized with something of a shock that it was written at about this time in 2010—seven years ago.  This was before getting and losing the directorship of GHP; before retiring; before becoming ordained by the Universal Life Church so I could perform wedding ceremonies; before I even thought seriously about attending Burning Man or indeed knowing that there was a regional burn here in GA; before formulating the Nine Precepts of Lichtenbergianism and beginning my crusade for world domination.

I have pushed past a lot of margins since then.

Sportsball? Have some cocktails.

I am given to understand that there is some kind of sportsball thing this weekend, and that at least one of the “squads”—I think that’s the correct term—prefers dressing up in red- and black-colored clothing items.

I was also told that acquaintances of my Lovely First Wife were hoping to avail themselves of my cocktail expertise to create a cocktail for this event.  Since I was not available, I offer instead two cocktails that are red and black, created for another concern that prefers red and black.

The first one is a champagne cocktail; the second is a margarita.

Ms. Dawg

  • 1 oz. orange brandy, e.g., Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz. cranberry/pomegranate juice
  • 1 tsp. blood orange bitters
  • champagne/prosecco
  • lime
  • black sugar

Take a small slice of lime and juice the rim of a champagne flute.  Rim with black sugar.  Drop the lime slice into the flute.  Add the first three ingredients, then top off with champagne or prosecco.

Some helpful tips: Make your own Grand Marnier. (This is also useful.)  The blood orange bitters is amazingly available at Publix in the mixer section.  I haven’t checked locally, but both Michael’s and Hobby Lobby should carry Wilton Black Sugar.

Srta. Dawg

  • 1-1/2 oz. tequila, your choice, but for the love of Dionysus, don’t use cheap stuff
  • 1 oz. orange brandy, e.g., Grand Marnier
  • 3 oz. cranberry/pomegranate juice
  • black salt
  • lime wedge

Rim the glass with the lime wedge and black salt; dump the wedge into the glass with ice.  Pour all the other stuff into the glass.  Drink.

The combination of the salt and the sweetness of the juice is a very nice touch.

So there you go, cocktails for your sportsball event party thing.  Enjoy.

The Labyrinth ::sigh::

I was all prepared to rant about that idiot Gregg Phillips, who has been the source of the fable that “3 million illegals voted”[1] in the last election.  I was going to advise Chris Cuomo and other denizens of cable news to confront him, call him a charlatan—A CHARLATAN, SIRRAH— and eject him from the studio.

But I’ve decided to blog about my labyrinth instead.  I’m going to eschew the righteous bitterness of our time and instead radiate hope and light.[2]

Last night, I and several people I like had the chance to sit by the fire in the labyrinth, and we took it.  Since the new iPhone is supposed to be able to take better low-light photos, I put it to work.

This is my favorite place in the worlds.

Isn’t this beautiful?

The new corner (above) is shaping up very nicely.  I have a new stone slab that will be a bench there; stay tuned for updates.

The bowl at the west point.

Either your daily reminder of your mortality or your daily swig of vodka.  It’s all about choices, innit?

My friend Dionysus was in fine fettle last night, broken arm and all.

There, don’t you feel better?  I do.

—————

[1] And yet, somehow, failed to swing the election to Hillary Clinton, for whom they all voted.

[2] Shut up, I am too.

A new cocktail: The Viola Nouveau

I’ve already blogged about the creation of this drink over at Lichtenbergianism.com, but for the sake of completeness I’m adding it here.

The Viola Nouveau

Stir with ice, pour into coupe, twist lemon peel and toss it in, and finish with 3–4 drops more of the bitters.


Violette Syrup (Regarding Cocktails, p. 20)

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz violet syrup, such as Monin Violet Syrup
  • 1 oz simple syrup

It is quite tasty, with a lovely floral/citrus bouquet finishing with the slight bitterness of the gentian in the Suze.

—————

[1] The owners of 18•21 Bitters suggested (via Twitter) naming it The Morning After because it starts sweet and ends in bitter regret or something, but then admitted they weren’t good at naming cocktails.

A lesson

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I have a little story to share with you that illustrates some of where we are in the United States.

Many years ago, I was a wee media specialist at East Coweta High School.  You have to understand that I grew up in the city and attended Newnan High School in town, and that when I transferred as a teacher out to East Coweta, it was a definite culture shock.

This school was literally in the middle of the cotton field.  It was across the highway from a dirt track racing establishment.  And the students were rural.

The “upper class” of the school lived in the minuscule towns of Senoia and Sharpsburg; the rest lived out in the country, along roads which may or may not have been paved.  They lived among family and friends, and they always had.

The faculty knew all the students—the school was only 800 students, 6-12—and more than that, we knew who they were.  We knew their mama ‘n’ ’em, and nobody so much as sneezed without everyone else knowing about it.  We taught whole families, sometimes in generations.

This was in the 80s, and this close-knit community was the water in which all my students swam.

Cut to twenty years later.  I was then the media specialist at Newnan Crossing Elementary School, and I was doing a lesson on the atlas for second graders.[1] I showed them the different sections, how the maps were laid out and numbered, and how the index worked.  They were fascinated, I’m sure.

We looked up a couple of things to start with, probably Atlanta and New York City and Washington, DC.  Then I asked them to look up where they were born.

Out of a class of about 24 7-year-olds, half of them were not even born in North America.[2]  That’s right: half a second grade class in Newnan, GA, were born on other continents, and I mean all of them except Antarctica.  We had Asians, Indians, Africans, South and Central Americans, and even Europeans.

It was an eye-opener for me, to be sure.  I felt as if I were not in Kansas any more.

And trust me, Kansas knows it, too.  All those people with unpronounceable last names, whose grandfather was not on the school board or attended any of the churches hereabouts.  Their funny food, their funny accents, their funny clothes sometime.  And so many of them!  Look at all the stores springing up that either have names we don’t understand, or a definitely not-from-around-here person and their seemingly endless children behind the counter as we buy our Slim Jims.

It’s no defense, of course, for anti-immigrant behavior or voting for a man who promises to toss out millions of people just because they don’t look like you.  But it is an explanation: most of the students I taught (and the world they lived in) were kind-hearted, but they didn’t like new and they didn’t like change.

The U.S. has changed and is changing.  They have fought back in regrettable ways.

——–—
[1] This was not because my second graders needed to know how to pull a book off the shelf and look up a country, but because of course it was on one or more of the standardized tests which so improve our students’ achievement.

[2] And less than a quarter of the class was even born in Coweta County.

A meditation on the locker room

You should know that last week I joined the gym.  Ugh.  But especially during the winter months I become more and more sedentary, and it’s just not healthy.

The problem is that the only—and I mean the only—form of exercise I can stand for more than five minutes is swimming.  Yes, I can walk around my lovely neighborhood and downtown (risking that I’ll become the next ‘character’ out there), and yes, we have an elliptical downstairs, but OH MY GOD THE TEDIUM.

Why swimming is any less tedious is just one of those weird mental glitches, I suppose.

So I joined up out at OneLife Fitness, gaining a student rate because of my steely-eyed insistence that I would never, not once, use any machine, take any class, and in general not even look at any part of the facility other than the pool.  Which is both saline and heated, thank you.

I used to swim regularly back when the old Racquetball Club was open on Bullsboro Drive. I would leave school and go straight there every day.  But then it closed and I just never got back into the habit, possibly because the alternative gyms were not on my way home.

It is important to understand that I was never an athletic child.  On the contrary, I was a stick-thin weakling.  Super thin.  Starvation-level thin.  All the other boys grew chests and biceps; I never did, so that’s been a point of envy for a very long time here.

Also, because I was not athletic I was not a habitué of the locker room.  I vividly remember the first time I entered the locker room at Stegeman Hall at UGA for a required PE course.  Merciful heavens, all these creatures walking around stark naked, all bigger and burlier and sleeker than I would ever be.  I was daunted, if that’s the word I’m looking for.

So when I joined the Racquetball Club, I was surprised at how quickly I got over all that.  Trotting from the locker to the sauna to the shower without bothering with a towel just became second nature.  I was not even abashed when one day a member of the church choir I directed at the time inquired about a tattoo that otherwise he would have never seen. Part of that was being 40-something instead of 16, of course, but part of it also was coming to terms with my own body and what it was.

I was therefore not concerned about this new venture, other than the usual uncertainty about the culture therein.  (For the record, out-and-out nudity doesn’t seem to be the thing there.)  It’s a very nice locker room, all wood and tile and luxurious appointments.  There’s a flatscreen TV. Tuned to Fox.

So why am I writing about this at all?  This gym is a much bigger, much busier place than the Racquetball Club, and fitness culture has likewise ballooned since the last time I swam, so there are a lot more men in the locker room than the old place, and more than a few of those men are beautifully put together, prime examples of young manhood.  It’s kind of thing that you would be lying if you said you didn’t notice.

And I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me aware of my now-60-something body in comparison.  But you know what?  Because of what I’ve done in thinking through, planning for, and participating in 3 Old Men—my theme camp for burns—all that happens when I see a nicely built younger man is that I think, “Yep.  My body doesn’t look like that, because I am an Old Man.  I have the body I have because of who I am, of what I’ve lived through and experienced. Cool.”

Plus the godawful amount of work they have to put into maintaining that physique.  OH MY GOD THE TEDIUM.  Ugh.

To see what my thinking was that led to 3 Old Men, at least about the physicality of our bodies, see here and here.

Who you gonna believe?

It’s not often you can escape the loop of he-said-she-said-nuh’UH when it comes to the evidence available to us these days.  All those screaming memes on Facebook, convinced that Those People Did This THING, Can You Believe It??

Well, no, you can’t.  I even have posited the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery, which I have to deploy so often that I have a macro to type it up for me. Watch: Remember the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery: If it’s too outrageous to be believed, don’t believe it.

Remember the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery: If it’s too outrageous to be believed, don’t believe it.

Remember the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery: If it’s too outrageous to be believed, don’t believe it.

Remember the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery: If it’s too outrageous to be believed, don’t believe it.

Enough of that.

However, this recent foofaraw over the attendance at the Current Occupant’s installation has given us a break out of the endless loop.  Let’s recap.

Soon after the installation, this little image started popping up all over the intertubes:

Look, it said: on the left, Obama’s 2009 inauguration, and on the right, the Current Occupant’s.

That’s a pretty stark difference.  Incredibly stark.  Unbelievably stark (but I repeat myself).

Once again, boys and girls: Remember the Lyles Rule of Internet Fuppery: If it’s too outrageous to be believed, don’t believe it.

So my first inclination was to think, you know, I’m thinking that second photo must have been taken much earlier in the morning, before all the loyal Trumpsters found their way out of the Metro and into the daylight.  Of course, the Capitol faces west, and we can already see that the second photo was at least taken… after noon?  So maybe this is after the Trumpsters wandered off?

More research was required.

We will pause a moment here for a short lesson.  That’s what you do, folks, when presented with evidence that makes you cock your head to one side.  You go try to verify it.

But all the evidence confirmed that, sure enough, the man claiming to have swept the election in a “historic landslide”[1] couldn’t even fill up the Mall.

Reaction was predictable.  The photo was taken earlier/later in the day.  (It wasn’t.)  Trumpsters, being the respectable, god-bothering, horny-handed laborers that they are, had to work at their jobs (THEIR JOBS, KENNETH!) and therefore couldn’t attend the coronation.  (Pffft.)

Still, there was no way of knowing, was there?  Hold that thought, we’re going to come back to it in a big way.

Then, I accidentally found this:

And there you have it.  The entire day, in time lapse video.  VIDEO, KENNETH.  No editing, no chicanery, no claiming that a 10:00 am photo was at the moment of actual inauguration.  Even your racist aunt can see that the Mall never filled up.[2]

The reaction by the Current Occupant was completely predictable.  Obsessed with ratings, he went into a rage (which as late as yesterday had still not subsided) about the lying media out to get him blah blah blah.  He sent out his poor press secretary to throw a tantrum in his stead, and Sean Spicer was immediately eaten alive by the world at large, including by people whose job it is to be on his side.

That was followed by the infamous Kellyanne Conway “alternative facts” appearance on Face the Nation, and off we went.[3]

Is this important?  The answer depends on the antecedent of “this.”

If “this” is “How many people were at the inauguration on Jan 20, 2017, as opposed to Jan 20, 2009?”, then no, it’s not important.  Only insecure wannabe strongmen think that kind of thing is important.

However, if “this” is “What kind of relationship to the truth does the current administration have?”, then we have a real problem.

Let me preface this part of the post by saying that we should all keep in mind the principle of Trump’s Razor, i.e., the safest bet where Trump is concerned is the stupidest possible answer.  It’s entirely possible that neither he nor his minions (or puppetmasters) are doing any of this on purpose.

It’s also entirely possible that doesn’t matter, because the damage is going to be the same.

First, the whole #AlternativeFacts thing is not a new phenomenon.  All the way back in 2011 we had Sen. Jon Kyl (Guess which party–AZ) to kick around with his “not intended to be a factual statement” bullshit.  And as I said at the time, what the hell was it intended to be, then?

The answer is that it was intended to manipulate the minds of listeners, and it still is.

And the manipulation it intends is to make you a) doubt whether anything is true; and b) not care one way or the other.

This post is too long as it is, and so to explain my point I’m going to send you off to read the following two articles:

Go.  You have reading for homework.

—————

[1] He didn’t.

[2] Further evidence.

[3] If nothing else, these events seem to have shaken our news media out of their stenographers‘ dreams.