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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Topical Guise: Motif Legerdemain

Quick, give me a topic. All right, I'll give you ten seconds if you must... Maestro, cue the orchestra for the Jeopardy! soundtrack... (Does Jeopardy! really need an exclamation point? While I enjoy the show profusely, I've never gotten so excited about Jeopardy! that I wanted to exclaim its title in a fit of jubilation. Just be on notice that if they start pulling this tactic with the nightly news broadcasts, I'll be just a tad dubious.) OK, your time is up. Whatta ya got for me? Hmm. This medium clearly is not conducive to an interchange of ideas, as I can't hear a word you're saying. Perhaps you could speak a little louder? Mime got your tongue? You can't say I didn't try to involve the reader, which would be you in this case. (I'm just guessing that it's you on a hunch)

Life fits together in many ways that we don’t see right away, or maybe ever. We just assume that everything is the way it is for no particular reason when it doesn’t formally announce itself over a loudspeaker to a vocal throng of evidence-starved wannabes, also known as us.

And as much as the universe would suggest otherwise, pairs figure skating has an underlying theme. The male participant, it turns out, must be burly and stout. Meanwhile, the female she must be petite as well as aerodynamic. If not, then the Earth would spin off its axis. This is ostensibly so the woman can be hefted by the man and twirled about through the air with the greatest of ease. Highly patterned and verily predictable. It's so every-four-years. We get it already.
How about we give them extra style points for pushing the weight envelope. Degree of difficulty extended even further to forces of nature. Let's see Scott Hamilton and Katarina Witt as a doubles team, because as soon as Hamilton tried to lift Witt up above him, she’d squish him into the ice like a frozen parfait with blades sticking out. That would be worth maybe an extra 0.4 in their score for attempting to defy the laws of gravity. Considering this duo in a routine, a more plausible hypothetical would be Witt hefting Hamilton up above her instead. Look at Scott twirl about! That’s the kind of improvisation I would like to see. Shake it up a little bit. We can only dream.

Me no lift her... More like other way around
Not only did the authorities prohibit this otherworldly scenario from playing out, but they would ultimately confiscate all photos of the two of them together, suggesting that they were never in the same room at once. Any notion that Witt and Hamilton could've ever been an item on ice is to be melted away in the burner of speculation. The propagandists even threw Kristi Yamaguchi up above the pair as a makeshift guardian angel just to distract everyone. These are not the humanoids you're looking for

Don't have fits
Grouping Hamiltons and Witts
You'll soon figure out
It's as good as it gets

There's a correlation — not always apparent — lingering about. Watch for it, for it can sneak up on you. Hold onto that thought. Let it take residence in your mind and pay rent, along with a last month's deposit. Mull it over. Let it simmer a skosh. You might need it later.

When officers are giving somebody their Miranda rights, if that person is already talking, do they have to wait until that person has stopped talking so they can then say to them, “OK, now you have the right to remain silent”? Because in that case technically they aren't currently silent, so they can’t very well remain that way. Maybe they should tell them, “You have the right to first become silent and then remain in that condition once you have achieved silent status.” 

I think they should make the whole rights thing somewhat less specific in order to cover all possible instances: “You have the right to either be silent or talk, or both, or neither, regardless of what you’re already doing. You can remain or change whatever you happen to be doing at the moment, and you will have that right based on whatever that is, e pluribus unum.”

People talking with-out speaking
People hearing with-out listening
People writing songs... that voices never share
No one dare... disturb the sound of silence

Then they go on to say: “Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.” Which, to me, is essentially saying, “When you get to court, we’re going to get you any way we can. Basically, whatever words come out of your mouth are not going to be for your benefit, so heed the words of Thumper very judiciously, e pluribus unum.”

On further inspection, the ‘can and will’ combination is a curiosity, clearly a product of legalese. Let’s break it down a bit. First of all, they’re saying “Anything you say can backfire.” And then they’re also saying “Anything you say will backfire.” So when we combine those, we get “Anything you say can but will anyway be held against you.” Get that? The function of the ‘can’ in that sentence is merely nothing more than to make the person saying it sound important, which is what most of legalese is anyway. Otherwise, ‘will’ is already part of ‘can’, so you can’t have a ‘will’ without the ‘can’, thus all ‘wills’ are also ‘cans’. The fact that all ‘cans’ are not necessarily ‘wills’ is immaterial to this exercise, and no more than a diversion.

So let’s double-check to make sure…
Yep, it’s all included. Just barely, but it made it.

So the ‘can’ part turns out to be redundant after all. Hmmm. “Anything you say can and will and would and should and is and otherwise does and all that be held against you…”

And the whole court of law thing… is this to distinguish it from a court of merriment, or possibly even the court of ergonomics? As a person being arrested, I suppose it could get confusing as to which court they are referring, so specifying the court of law really helps bring it all into focus for me. “By the way, did you happen to say ‘law’, or was it ‘cole slaw’? I don’t particularly want to be called into a court of cole slaw, just so you know. I don’t feel that I would get proper type of jurisprudence served that way. My first preference would be the kind of court that has law in it, if it’s not too much trouble.”

So after we cut out all of the fat, basically what we get is: “You have the right to do whatever you want, but just don’t talk.” There, was that so hard?

The whole idea of Miranda Rights is filled with deceptive misnomers. Police officers are required to read people their rights, but do any of them actually read them? No, you never see that. If I get to court, I’m going to claim that the officer didn’t read me my rights, but instead he had the gall to recite them from memory.

How about this one: You're under arrest... I am? Hope it doesn't fall on me. Must people be arrested so idiomatically? Do criminals truly appreciate the formal linguistic nuance of their incarceration? Why not just "Hey, you're arrested"? Short and sweet, but effective. So who writes this stuff? What backroom meetings are attorneys holding to come up with this extraneous mumbo jumbo to confuse the masses? Somebody should complain to somebody about it.

To shift gears a bit (from 5th into reverse), as we follow up on boundaries, addressing the salient point that the shapes of states are not their own. States share shape properties with all their neighboring states. It matters how many are around them, and it matters who got there when… The first state that was there gets to claim the most shape credit, though natural borders like oceans and lakes were there even before that. Delaware was the first state, but it did precious little to take advantage of the situation, merely camping along the bay front and then putting a short horizontal line below, a vertical line to the left, plus a small arc at the top. We find that Delaware was quite timid as far as staking its claim and expanding its horizons. How it got to the front of the line is a mystery. It probably just pulled out in front of some other state and then went 15 miles an hour once it got on the road. Delaware could’ve taken as much of the United States territory as it wanted, but it settled for a small plot of land representing about 1/1900th of the entire size of what would become the U.S. In other words, you could fit over 1,900 Delawares in the United States. It had a chance to make a big splash, but all it did was dip its toe in to see what the water was like. Had Delawareans been big thinkers we might see a huge chunk of land extending from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico, as one big humungous superstate that nobody would want to mess with. Such was not their vision, but they had their chance. 200 years later, because of its tiny dimensions we can't even find it on a map. It's more like Dela-where? It's the place that Waldo calls home as well as everyone in the witness protection program.

Next, Pennsylvania took the top impression of Delaware and rested on it comfortably, and then New Jersey played off the right side of Pennsylvania — almost like some kind of existential puzzle. This pattern followed for over a hundred years. What it all translated into in the end is that basically Utah, Oklahoma and Arizona took what was left after all the other states had chosen up sides, in literal fashion. Of the contiguous states area, Arizona took a look at all the available options and said, “Hmmm

OK, where should we put our state? Decisions, decisions...  (circa 1912)
Realtors everywhere heaved a huge sigh of relief after having posted "Prime desert property" signs all over this blackened area for years and years without any kind of success. And that, my friends, is spatially how the west was finally won. 

You may think it to be trifling, but this is precisely what nations throughout world history have fought wars over: what shape each of them should be. If civilizations over the course of time could have just agreed on shapes, everything would have been fine. Something so simple yet so onerous to negotiate. Someone ought to send us to our rooms with identical miniature square plots for bad behavior.

You inherit your environs, or is it they inherit you?

To segue a tad, historians will note that back in the ‘70s, an inauspicious commercial claimed that 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommended Trident for their patients who chew gum. But what did they recommend for that 1 patient who didn’t chew gum? And since when do dentists talk to their patients about gum? “Hey, um, dude… are you a gum chewer?” And the patient replies, “Dude! How did you know? I thought I hid it so well.” “Yeah, we keep a log of which of our patients chew gum so that we can track these things and answer surveys about it.”

So it turns out that for the 1 patient who didn’t chew gum, dentists curiously recommended Hubba Bubba. To me, this would be an even bolder claim, because then you’re saying “1 out 5 dentists surveyed recommend Hubba Bubba for their patients who don’t even chew gum.” How cool is that? In spite of the fact that you don’t chew gum, I’m recommending that you in fact start chewing gum. And not only that, but I want it to be Hubba Bubba. So to summarize… if you’re already hooked, stick with Trident. But if you’re just beginning the habit, my professional advice is to go with Hubba Bubba. That’s what dentists are here for. That other stuff is all for show.

Let's see the gentlemen genuflect like this without getting a hernia
Whenever I go to a new dentist, the first thing I ask them is "Can you recommend some gum for me?" And if they can't think of anything, I know I can't trust them as a competent dentist. I want an expert in the synthetic confectionery field.

Bringing this all together, think figure, think stick, think quiet, think shape. You surely have an imagination that can make them coalesce not unlike the way Oklahoma and Texas form their geometric symbiosis. You as the reader want me to bring some semblance of order to this melange and help it to have a happy ending suitable for framing. And yet not everything necessarily fits together for what we would deem as obvious reasons. Which is neither to say that they don't fit at all. Round pegs and square holes have a way of morphing into their counterbalances. Which is to pose once again: Why? as well as its cousin Why Not?

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