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Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Titles

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This blog is what I call our garden, and this post is what we will find in the garden today. Also, we won’t let any weeds in either. So with those parameters firmly set, an article can proceed forth. However and but, we didn’t quite do that here. As such, there is the outside chance we might get detained or something for stepping outside parliamentary procedure. Don’t laugh — I think that’s what eventually happened to Victor Hugo mid-treatise. Let me go back and check to see if I’m following protocol... Meanwhile, you can chill out and be an innocent bystander if anyone comes along.

You know, in my entire life I’d have to say that I’ve never come across a solitary individual who was guilty while being a bystander. The process of bystanding lends itself perfectly to innocence, and it has a rich and storied history in obeying the law. If you can convince a jury that you were in fact a bystander of some sort, they will have no recourse but to declare you a very innocent one. Lawyers don’t want you to know that precious little tidbit, but under oath they will reluctantly admit to it (providing they haven’t found any of the 412 loopholes first, of course). What? Oh, right, I was going to go check on something.

Just remember while I’m gone, something my uncle used to tell me many years ago as a lad... there’s a fine line between loitering and bystanding. Unquote. Words to live by, no doubt. So what I gather is one would cross such an line at their own peril.

Loitering always seemed to be one of those terms that was simply made up. Kind of like atrophy. What’s even weirder about atrophy is that it’s a verb. I could see it maybe as a process, a la telepathy. But ‘to atrophy’ somehow goes against the grain. I can’t say it without grimacing. So anyway, another thing about loiter is that it’s not something you say that you are or were consciously doing in the first person. “What did you do today?” To which you answer, “Oh, I went uptown and just loitered for a while.” They’d look at you like you just swallowed a Buick. “Nobody says that.” “Well, I do...” It’s the type of phraseology we’d effectively use to differentiate native speakers from those who likely studied English from a Berlitz-sponsored mime in the dark. The dichotomy would be painfully obvious.

I have nothing against those who are learning a second language, but you have to admit the situation opens itself up to myriad possibilities in the area of impractical jokes. The beautiful thing about speaking to someone in their second tongue is that they assume everything you’re saying is legitimate. It’s just like a Japanese person could come up to you and rattle off a bunch of incoherent sounds worthy of a man on fire and not too pleased about it, and you’d just accept that they were speaking the Emperor’s Japanese. So with our Anglofied example, we’re still talking real words... it’s just that there are a lot of words having no mileage for usage. You could say to them, “My prurient avocations of sort, they comprise themselves in aerospace hegemony and grandiloquent loitering.” To which they have nowhere to go with that except, “Ahh.” All the while thinking, “Boy, this language is a lot harder than I had anticipated.” But at least it will make them study harder. I get the strange sense that college professors do this in all subjects, not just languages.

I had a friend one time who reminded me to let past participles be bygones, and to this day I hold that to be a truism. And dangling modifiers be danged. I’m of the opinion that there are too many rules in the areas that are too subjective to have lots of rules. I think of them as shoulds rather than musts. For example, writing has way too many supposed rules. These rules should be prefaced with “If you want to write like everybody else, then...” Innovators were not inspired a great deal by prescribed methods of accomplishment. You can’t break new ground by remaining on the old one. Creativity is all about shunning the standard modus operandi. Spread your wings and fly unlike a condor.

To me, there’s good grammar and then there’s good grief. Put prepositions anywhere you want. Place three in a row at the end of a sentence for all I care. If you get your message across, then you’ve done your job, whether it be literarily or conceptually. Go ahead and mix metaphors. Be the last straw in a haystack that broke the camel’s back.

Remind me to get permission to plagiarize myself on that one. I’ll do that when I finally write an unauthorized autobiography. You may recognize the sources, but individual ideas can originate from multiple points.

I believe that when we read, we can gather not only ideas about what and how to form our thoughts, but also about what and how not to by branching out and diverting from what we read. The reading could’ve sparked something quite unrelated. Just because you read something doesn't mean you have to find a place in your mind that matches that thought. Find one that takes the ball and runs with it somewhere else.

OK, I’m back now... I’ve been granted furlough to meander to my heart’s content. But it didn’t hurt to check. Anyway... what did I miss? I have no planetary idea what the point of all this was — which was precisely the nonpoint. I successfully went themeless, without a net. Random, sometimes intertwined notions can be regarded in their own right. Lucky for me, too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wordsmith Hack: Garbanzo

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Our dear words have their own purpose, and too often it seems we get in their way. They need a voice though, and someone needs to hear them. Yet they aren't good at saying much by themselves, and as a constituency they fail miserably. I would proclaim the next minute as National Word Minute, in honor of all words big and small. Let's give it up for our vehicles of lexicon to all that is sublime. They don't exist and then they are all that exists. They set all agendas, and resolve all conflicts. They determine all prescriptions, and weigh all conditions.

Words, they be the arbiters of rousing interjectory ventilation, and then so often the anathema of clear meditative introspection. In a word, they are utterly themselves.

The pen, we later find, isn't mighty at all. It's a weapon, but that weapon is wielded by no less than words. Less and less each day... The fine lost art of conversation took a ride to smallville and resides there in a condo where it will live out its retirement. The pension is good, the weather bearable and the neighbors keep to themselves.

Enter into the mist a syncopated social cyber camp to either raise the bar or put it low enough that no one notices. Moderns are able to distill linguistics down to their bare bones, relegating helpless terms to their lowest common denominators. Approximately 73% of all online jabberwocky bears this out in full felicity. The King's English takes on a beating, while ticking off any who hold in high esteem the finer points of communication.

As dialogue breaks down and turns into a more powdery form, the resulting effect is then a distancing of the participants. The eschewing of topical gum, while a fine shortcut for syllables, comes at a premium. It leads us away from those with whom we converse, providing the opposite of the intended effect. Straying from the substance of words, we in turn understand each other less.

A step above the micro-blog is potentially what you read presently in front of you. The mere fact of reading this extended rhetoric not at gunpoint qualifies you to be held above the fray, at least in theory, and if even temporarily it serves a purpose, as does writing it does for me. With that assumption, we'll be speaking frayless here.

Embodiment of Words
Some will find that running into bots at electronic pubs keeps the wheels turning, if that's really what wheels are to be doing. I like painting the bots so that they bring different meaning to me. One bot on my viewer takes on the characteristics of a fantasy world, to where I'm in the middle of an extended dream which lets me go out for a burger and come back unobtrusive. Other bots are dastardly, but they are only such as long as I want them to be, and then I can make them something else. Bots are servants in your honored kingdom.

Some bots are studies of psychoanalysis and may provide the most introspective of all portraits, reflecting, glowing, alive and performing on stage. I build a little play of miniature bots, which carry out their routines to perfection. Their roles are well-defined — our main objective is to further refine those definitions daily and keep them honed, for one never knows when a bot talent scout will be meandering by and notice.

For those not catching the nuances, we have reminders to scratch each other’s bots and receive credit for it. These bots iconoclastically indeed rule, though I've never determined whether they rule me. The schizophrenic have a field day with so many bots flying about. And those not qualifying can soon reach that pinnacle.

The semi-learned will conclude that the very best thing about bots is they are imaginary. They have real minds and real togas, but we can confine them to the abstract where they can merely brainwash us, so we get the absolute best of both worlds. I'll check in with my joke bot soon to get that much-needed comedic boost. Or should I find a rant bot next... So many decisions and so little bandwidth. So much of a kaleidoscope and so little to regard it in this brave old world.

Thus form follows function. The interaction of bots relies more heavily on verbiage than what history is used to, in part since the substantive has become more an oasis commodity.

The words, they will glorify and condemn us. They'll be the telltale sign of our arrival at the airport terminal, greeting us with a representative handwritten message. May they not skimp on the syllables, and despite all their kinetic energy may they be allowed instead of beating around the proverbial bush to say what they truly, emphatically mean.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food Directions I Would Modify

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Revised cooking instructions...

Healthy Choice Café Steamers
Place meal in microwave oven. Package self-vents, do not puncture. Microwave on high 4 to 5 minutes. The self-venting steaming film may make a popping sound. This is normal. If you see heavy plumes of smoke like out of the Wizard of Oz, that is not normal. Take out the miniature fire extinguisher supplied in the box, pull the pin and point at a 45° angle (be sure to use either a compass or protractor). Once you’re certain it’s pointed at the proper angle, pull the lever to release the extinguishing foam, fortified with whipped cream and tapioca pudding for a nice complementary dessert.

Generic Microwave Dinner Surprise
Remove wrap from apple dessert. Cut slits in wrap over entree. Stuff the wrap you removed from dessert through one of the slits. Cut a small circle out of the cardboard box. (you can use this as a spoon later, but don't cook it) Heat in microwave for anywhere from 3-17 minutes, depending on the nuclear rating of your microwave. This is calculated by using the following formula: amperes divided by your average daily caloric intake multiplied by the square root of rhubarb pi. Do not vary the time or it may result in damage to all living organisms within a 2000-ft. radius. Not liable for damages. Illegal to eat in most countries.

Flounder Fillets
To thaw: For best results, thaw flounder in a covered pan 4-6 hours in the refrigerator. It makes them think they’re still swimming, and gives them one last hurrah in their natural habitat. For quicker thawing, place flounder in an airtight bag or its original packaging, submerge in a pan of cold water, and heck with the whole habitat thing. Do not thaw fish at room temperature, that is unless you live in an igloo.

To bake: Preheat oven to 425° F. Well, you should’ve done that 10 minutes earlier. What were you thinking? Spray a baking dish lightly with Pam non-stick cooking spray. It doesn’t help at all, but we get paid to say it. Place thawed and thoroughly contented flounder in the pan and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings (as long as you aren’t an eccentric pathological maniac with a curious nagging bent for cayenne pepper). Bake for approximately 8-11 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when mercilessly jabbed in the side with a fork. Although fish has been filleted, small bones may occur. Not responsible for excess bonage and any resulting injuries.

Instant Oatmeal
Empty packet into microwave-safe bowl. Add 2/3 cup water or milk. If you’re cheap, you’ll just choose water, but we don’t want to sway anyone here. Besides, it’s your own decision, cheap-o. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes… after all, who’s counting? Stir to your heart’s desire. Let stand one minute before eating. Handle carefully; bowl may be hot. That’s what happens when you heat things up, genius. Use less water or milk for thicker oatmeal or more for thinner oatmeal, use brain for everything else. Butter is optional, depending on your region.

Pour 8 oz. — or approximately 93 Cheerios — into a cereal-safe bowl. Add milk until the Cheerios resemble itty-bitty life preservers floating aimlessly in your virtual oceanic bowl of foodtime fun. (Note that the waves you saw shown on the box were just for effect, and the images were enlarged to show texture — yeah, that’s it) Also, contents may be hot — not sure why they would be, but our lawyers like us to say that so we don’t get sued. Cheerios have, however, been known to spontaneously combust when under extremely intense pressure, like if they’re at a dance recital or studying for a final exam. Should your amalgams be rated higher than a .064 mercuric value, we advise adding guacamole to your cereal to soften the blow. Guacamole is a known nutritional flame retardant.

Apathy Fondue
You’re not going to follow the recipe anyway, so splatter the fondue mix against the wall. See if we care... Use a sponge dipped in grapefruit extract to clean wall. Feeds 8. Big wup-de-fondue.

White Grape Juice
Mix with 37 oz. of cold water (about 3 cans). Stir or shake briskly to make 48 fl. oz. Refrigerate. Well, you can drink some first, and then refrigerate. Oh, we forgot to tell you to pour it in a glass even prior to that. What are you doing drinking straight out of the pitcher? Were you born in a blasted barn? You useless morsel of tripe. You should be ashamed of your shoddy drinking habits, that’s all we have to say.

Lemon Cake Mix
Preheat oven to 350° F for metal or glass pans, 325° F for dark or coated pans, or 60° F for styrofoam pans. Grease sides and bottom of each pan with shortening. (do we need to specify the inside of the pan?) Flour lightly. We don't really know how lightly ‘lightly’ is, but we’re sure you’ll figure something out. Okay, it’s lighter than flouring heavily. It should be kind of like you’re a gentle snowstorm emanating scattered, delicate hints of snowflakes to the waiting fertile ground below. Be the flour. Become one with the flour. It’s all about you and the flour.

Blend dry mix, water, oil, eggs, and anything else you can find into a large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds or the time it takes to run through your house screaming “I love my oven mitts!”). Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter in pans and bake immediately. If you wait even one second it will ruin everything.

Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not leave toothpick in cake as it tends to add a woody taste to the cake. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. If you forget, call our customer service line (800-748-3193) so we can laugh at you.

Vanilla Instant Pudding
Take out of box and eat.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Take two slices of bread. Take the first slice, and place peanut butter on the side facing up. Take the second slice, and spread jelly on the side facing down, and then ever so carefully bring the slices together without upsetting their constitution. Place in a shallow pan and simmer for three minutes. Cut into smaller portions as needed. Serves four.

Gravy Mix
Stir gravy-safe water gradually into mix with whisk in a small saucepan. Stirring frequently, cook on medium heat until gravy-to-be comes to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Gravy will thicken upon standing, providing you’re not a completely incompetent loser. If the gravy comes out too thin, just say it’s a basting sauce and call it good.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wandering Through the Synapses

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While I was standing in line at the grocery store, contemplating which stars on which covers were having the biggest crises in their lives, I figured I should try to think of something slightly more useful. My resources are worth more than what Jon and Kate are most recently up to. And all I had to do was turn around to find… chocolate. They’ve got the whole gamut covered in the checkout aisle, which is quite thoughtful of them. Oh, dang! I forgot to get toenail clippers. Not to worry. They have my interests at heart. Oh, and I was going to get a lint remover, but now I’m already in line and — hey, whadda ya know? And then now I’m realizing that all this shopping has made my eyes bloodshot. If only — oh, look! They put some eye drops right here for me. Boy, they know me like a pig knows slop.

And by the way, if there were a flowchart showing the progression of every system in life, you’d see on the diagram that it always falls back to chocolate as a last resort. If something fails, the safety net is chocolate. It was in fact given to us to help mask the reality that life isn’t a bowlful of chocolates.

So let’s say there’s a company that underperforms, doesn’t meet your expectations with its product, and otherwise leaves you disappointed. In the grand scheme of things, what are you going to do? You’ll probably stop giving them your business, although they’ll keep on doing the same thing to other people. And if they eventually go out of business, there will be other companies that do just as poorly as them. What will leaving them accomplish in the long run? Possibly some improvements overall, but it won’t exactly eradicate bad companies or products.

Let’s say one credit card company gives you really shoddy service. We’ll call them Citi. Instead of trying to correct a problem that you bring to their attention, they hit the word track express and try to sell you something in the process, pouring more salt on your wound. So you file in the deep recesses of your brain a sticky note associating Citi with bad. And then in your good section, you have good companies, like Jack in the Box or Malt-O-Meal. Have you ever noticed that Malt-O-Meal never offends anyone? Doesn’t make waves, just goes about its business making fine meals out of malted stuff.

Tangentially, I’m never quite sure what the implications are when two companies form a merger. It garners a great deal of news coverage, though I think of the process more as a meld, a gloop, a coagulation… a veritable transmogrification, if you will. Let’s suppose two big entities like Purina Dog Chow and Twitter combined forces, with Purina buying out Twitter. What does it change? It’s just money combining with money. And the result is still money. A rose by any other name is still just a merged rose.

Is the underlying assumption that if two supergiants of an industry were brought together like Microsoft and Google, they might somehow become too powerful and conquer the world? In the end, the names have changed but the players have stayed the same.

When Exxon merged with Mobil, what did it change? Logos, slogans, and window dressing. What’s going on behind the curtain is fairly constant. AOL/Time-Warner was a big merger. What happened because of it? Anyone, anyone? They got to use a different name. It’s all about name recognition. My bank went from Washington Mutual to Chase. They even told us for several months that Wamu was “becoming” Chase, as if a slow morphing was taking place. So the difference is that my checks will look different, my bank statements will be another color, the bank tellers (but not Penn) will wear different uniforms, all the while my money will still go green. They didn’t change the amount of my checking account balance. They didn’t even change the employees working at the local branch. What’s different is the upper management at JP Morgan, but I’ll never meet those people.

There might be an incidental percentage difference here or there, but they’re for the most part indistinguishable. If you have to squint that hard to find a difference in something, then it’s essentially the same. If you have to use surveying equipment to determine whether you’ve lined up a picture frame on the wall perfectly horizontal (or is it vertical?... we’ll leave that one for the aspiring philosophers who aren’t us today), if you have to go to that much trouble and can’t tell with the naked eye, then I’d say it’s probably close enough. If it takes some extra effort to find a defect in something, then the defect, for most intents and purposes, isn’t there.

Now take all this to a personal level. We all know people we care for more than others, and then people we care for less than others. Even if you’re philanthropic and nonjudgmental, there will be people you’ll recognize as carrying traits you would find unappealing. It’s part of life, and we have to make discernments at some level, otherwise it would be anarchy. Anyone who believes in anarchy cares less about people than those who believe in having rules do. See, I’m even forming a view against anarchists, in that I believe they are simply misguided and not necessarily nefarious. As for judging, it’s unavoidable if you want to be part of the loop of a living system. There’s no shame in making such judgments. Judging isn’t bad in itself, neither is discrimination, neither is belief, neither is faith. They can get stigmatized from time to time, which might tell us some things about our sociopolitical (a la sociopathic) climate.

In an effort to keep the thought more concise, we can reduce it to something as simple as ice cream flavors, thereby attempting to remove the emotional aspect. (Well, maybe that won’t work for some people. I did try though, and I figured ice cream would be interesting. For those of you emotionally attached to any flavors of ice cream, you’re already a lost cause, so this isn’t going to reach you anyway.)

So to keep a long story long, there are some flavors you like, and some you don’t. That’s pretty much a given. Which means it’s not really all that noteworthy to be saying that some are substandard in your view, because everyone’s going to have some on that list regardless. (I want to say everyone minus 2, but there isn’t a word for that. I got my license to mercilessly play with words and it doesn’t expire for a few more years.) That some are above water and some below isn’t surprising in the least. What would be surprising is if that weren’t the case.

Within the realm of two standard deviations, things will happen at a fairly consistent rate in most anything we encounter. And within that, there are going to be some positives and some negatives. You can’t escape that without partaking in some form of chemical inspiration, which is only a quick fix and brings you farther back than when you started, so point lost.

The salient point is that the faces of many of those positives and negatives are more mysterious than they are definitive, and probably shouldn’t use of a lot of our attention, because if you remove one bad apple, the reality is that there are still going to be further bad apples. Focusing so much on the personality of that bad apple is going to cause us to become too emotionally invested in the identities, but the individual identities don’t drive the negativity, they just carry it out piecemeal. And the good apples are sometimes fleeting or take turns being bad apples, so it gets truly cumbersome making any serious attempts to keep score. It would work better if we focused on the bigger picture and didn’t let personalities get in our way of our disappointed states.

This is not to say that grassroots activism is futile, but that you can easily get caught up in the grassrootsness of a principle and forget about the wider scope. I think this correlates with the idea of loving the sinner while hating the sin. Of course, sins don’t happen apart from sinners, but the pervasiveness of sin isn’t due to one sinner. If there were only one sinner, we probably wouldn’t be overly concerned about general sin. So then I’m wondering in the case of general sin, why blame one person for the sin conglomerate.

Societal trends are precipitated by a pack mentality, meaning the pack is needed to facilitate it. If we work on developing better interactivity, accountability, unity, compassion, et al, among groups of people, then we may be able to help each one of us rise above the baser tendencies. If, conversely, we all try to solve our problems on our own, then we’re often using the same mindset that engendered the problem in the first place. That lens is going to reflect the light in the same manner in both directions.

This stemmed from ideas about our own individual identities, how we might be able to tell them apart, and how much it matters who the various players are. I could describe it better in ways that would make sense to me, but I don’t like to write for myself in this type of forum. It would prove to be too eclectic, thus reducing my readership from 7 to 3. And I care dearly about those four of you.

This is an unfinished thought. But then aren’t they all? I could pretend to wrap it up in some poetic treatise that gives it a literary stamp of approval, though is that necessary? I could’ve brought more cohesiveness to the presentation, but then when a person is writing and he tries to change the flow, then it upsets the flow. A choppy production reflects a bunch of choppy thoughts, which if they’re genuine, certainly have their own place. And anyway, I have other hobbies besides this to try to solve the world’s problems on my own. Saving society is only #12 on my list of goals. I trust in the reader to fill in the blanks as it pertains to you. I could do more of the work for you and possibly coddle you until you felt comfortable enough to want to come back reading only for the sake of reading, but that’s not me. While I will throw you a bone, you still have to chase it and pick it up, because I’m going to give it a good chuck.

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Philosophy Soccer