Cold Because Warm, plus Pathetic Denialism

I just read online that after forty hours below zero (Fahrenheit), temperatures in my region have at last risen to positive integers. Whoopee!

This event has only marginal significance, even for me. Weʼre supposed to exceed the freezing point finally on Saturday. That will mean something, as we may at last begin to melt some snow.

What stimulates me after some months to write on the blog again is a pathetic citation I noticed in my Facebook feed just now. You see, yesterday Scientific American instructed me via Twitter about the “polar vortex” that reporters in various media have been misconstruing. Supported by an interesting YouTube video, it reveals how climate change (“global warming”) has, by heating the arctic, caused us to suffer extreme “arctic” cold. No big deal, sure. Some basic climate science, really (just stuff I hadnʼt known before). But I posted the links on Facebook and tweeted the same. Another few seconds online, really. However, an old friend, of apparently dextreme opinion, felt it necessary to post a pathetic bit of deceptive rhetoric from the climate-science deniers at The Center for Research on Globalization (funded by whoever knows what excrement-load of Kochoildollars to deny deny deny at all costs whatsoever).

You should click on the link above to read the jumble of words presented as an argument now.

As poor argumentation, the page is worth deconstructing…

source — NASA

source — NASA

Faked “fact” 1 — Climate has always changed, and it always will. The assumption that prior to the industrial revolution the Earth had a “stable” climate is simply wrong. The only sensible thing to do about climate change is to prepare for it. Nonsense: no one, except delusional straw men, has ever claimed the climate never changed. What climate change science has shown is a stark rise in global temperature since the industrial revolution due to dramatically increased greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. exhaust from burring fossil fuels). I guess if you are a Koch stooge, unwilling ever to modify our energy sources, you may believe all one can do about what we have done to global climate is “prepare,” but thatʼs false, too. Deception technique = Straw man.

Faked “fact” 2 — Accurate temperature measurements made from weather balloons and satellites since the late 1950s show no atmospheric warming since 1958. In contrast, averaged ground-based thermometers record a warming of about 0.40 C over the same time period. Many scientists believe that the thermometer record is biased by the Urban Heat Island effect and other artefacts. Apples and oranges. But he is also merely reproducing a pseudofact about the weather-balloon data that I cannot find anywhere except from climate change deniers (and none of them present any source for the assertion, merely repeating in lockstep the same hot air). Is it merely a lie? I suspect so, and our “authority” proffers no evidence for us to think otherwise. His “many scientists” is just the old FoxNews “many believe” lie: who are these many? Nematodes? His “many other artefacts” is simply words without meaning — if there are “many artefacts,” name them. He doesnʼt; ergo, they donʼt exist.

Faked “fact” 3 — Despite the expenditure of more than US$50 billion dollars looking for it since 1990, no unambiguous anthropogenic (human) signal has been identified in the global temperature pattern. Invent your own terms (and moving goalposts). The denierʼs invented unfound”signal” goes undefined (and therefore unfindable, eh?) whereas science established decades ago a clear connection/parallel between human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and climate disorientation. The cost of research is irrelevant to the argument, no matter what (as it will be again later), even if his unsupported number is accurate, which we cannot tell because he offers absolutely no support to his statements ever, anywhere in the article, relying instead on the fallacy of authority (calling himself such).

Faked “fact” 4 — Without the greenhouse effect, the average surface temperature on Earth would be -180 C rather than the equable +150 C that has nurtured the development of life. Just another straw man — no one wishes there were no greenhouse effect ever on earth. The problem is how we have spiked its effects over the past 250 years (and morons who close their blind eyes and shout “No, no, no; I don’t want to hear” instead of working sensibly to do something about our greenhouse gas emissions, I suppose).

Faked “fact” 5 — On both annual (1 year) and geological (up to 100,000 year) time scales, changes in atmospheric temperature PRECEDE changes in CO2. Carbon dioxide therefore cannot be the primary forcing agent for temperature increase (though increasing CO2 does cause a diminishingly mild positive temperature feedback). Now I am getting bored, so letʼs just point out that there is no evidence presented for this assertion sequence — none whatsoever. And no one accepts what he says (well, 97% of scientists disagree).

Faked “fact” 6 — The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has acted as the main scaremonger for the global warming lobby that led to the Kyoto Protocol. Fatally, the IPCC is a political, not scientific, body. Hendrik Tennekes, a retired Director of Research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, says that “the IPCC review process is fatally flawed” and that “the IPCC wilfully ignores the paradigm shift created by the foremost meteorologist of the twentieth century, Edward Lorenz“. Cherry-picking evidence: one climate denier has a single friend who may or may not agree with him (notice we have no link to the source of these clearly partial quotations, so we have no way of knowing what the old Dutch guy actually said in toto). So what? And that “main” before “scaremonger” (nothing but name calling there) is a weasel word — the real meaning is that there are plenty more sources promoting Kyoto or there could be no “main.” Of course, the UN panel isnʼt itself a scientific body (the UN is a political body); their political work, arranging treaties and protocols, relies on the science our denier ducks (the “scaremongers” this guy fears to address and so ignores).

Faked “fact” 7 — Having introduced his single variable, our densewit denier continues to run with it (and with further unsupported nonevidence). The Kyoto Protocol is easily attacked, being a result of compromise and therefore by definition imperfect in itself alone… The Kyoto Protocol will cost many trillions of dollars and exercises a significant impost those countries that signed it, but will deliver no significant cooling (less than .020 C by 2050, assuming that all commitments are met). The Russian Academy of Sciences says that Kyoto has no scientific basis; Andre Illarianov, senior advisor to Russian president Putin, calls Kyoto-ism “one of the most agressive, intrusive, destructive ideologies since the collapse of communism and fascism“. If Kyoto was a “first step” then it was in the same wrong direction as the later “Bali roadmap”. Once again, a single voice (who may or may not even be scientific himself) expressing merely an opinion — cherry picking and substituting opinions for facts. Likewise the false flag of the cost of Kyoto, quickly substituting that ball for the real payment issue — our hothouse future.

Faked “fact” 8 — Climate change is a non-linear (chaotic) process, some parts of which are only dimly or not at all understood. No deterministic computer model will ever be able to make an accurate prediction of climate 100 years into the future. The argument avoids acknowleging the utility of statistical projections (such as those meteorologists made to warn us of the current cold snap, duh). And crystal-ball-gazing (our denierʼs flatfooted prediction of future events) is as illogical as it comes, boys and girls. I bet heʼd have claimed weather people would never predict weather patterns with any accuracy whatsoever if heʼd been writing in the 1930s. Straightforwardly, Mr. Denier doesnʼt know the future and doesnʼt even have the guidance of computer models (unlike climate science, which does have models doing just what he says they donʼt).

Faked “fact” 9 — Not surprisingly, therefore, experts in computer modelling agree also that no current (or likely near-future) climate model is able to make accurate predictions of regional climate change. This is actually just number 8 repeated, sadly, and the “experts” go unidentified and therefore unreal. The lie is substituting regional climate for the actual topic; heʼs a wonderful three-card monte sleaze artist.

Faked “fact” 10 — The biggest untruth about human global warming is the assertion that nearly all scientists agree that it is occurring, and at a dangerous rate. Actually that statement is simply false. Nearly all scientists do so agree (just less than a hundred percent).

And now having faced down his weakest (but weirdly last) pseudo-facts, my boredom limit is achieved. The guy had nothing there, just subintellectual legerdemain, and clumsy sleight-of-hand at that. Our denier also later presents some”myths,” too, and I will address those if anyone insists or is interested (almost all are simply more straw men he erects himself to wobble with his own hot air).

Oh, yeah, I am mad (at such stupid deception and those who apparently fall for it), so thus my stylistic choices above — none of which invalidate my points but merely express my limitations as a human.

http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/climatescience/greenhousegases/industrialrevolution.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=global+climate+change+since+industrial+revolution&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/monster-greenhouse-gas-levels-seen/

http://climate.nasa.gov/causes

http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm

http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus

©2014 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

On the Other Hand… Good Stuff

While I was typing yesterdayʼs whining post about software intrusions hindering my efforts to actually use the computer, I was also eating my lunch. In yesterdayʼs case (actually right now, as I begin this new entry, intending it to auto-post itself tomorrow/today), I was consuming leftovers (a not uncommon practice, alternating with a Romaine salad). Yesterdayʼs deliciosity remained from New Yearʼs Eve* when The Lovely One made one of my favorite dinners (probably my most favorite and the subject of todayʼs post) — her own particular recipe (somewhat modified as time has passed) for Beef Stroganoff.**

Iʼll be kind and post the recipe (almost) right up front.

Janetʼs Outstanding Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound beef sirloin (cut into quarter-inch strips — bite sized)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms (I recommend 2 cans)
  • ½ cup onion (half an onion, chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 2 or 3)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (or margarine)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ cup beef stock or 10 ½ ounces concentrated beef broth
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream (we, of course, use fat-free)
  • 2 Tablespoons dry sherry (My Beloved has started using any dry white wine)
  • 6 ounces noodles (a couple cups of brown or brown-and-wild rice is better)
Procedure
The actual (ancient and much abused — therefore difficult to read) recipe card from My Belovedʼs recipe files

The actual (ancient and much abused — therefore difficult to read) recipe card from My Belovedʼs recipe files

Combine 1 T flour and salt. Coat meat with flour-and-salt mixture, then melt butter in a large skillet. When butter is liquified, add meat and brown quickly on both sides. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic. Cook 3 or 4 minutes or until onions are crisply tender. Remove meat and mushrooms, using a slotted spoon.

Then add 2 T butter to pan drippings and blend in 3 T of flour. Stir tomato paste in rapidly. Stir in cold stock/broth. Cook over medium high heat until thickened and bubbly.

Return meat and mushrooms to skillet. Stir in sour cream and wine. Cook slowly until heated through. Do not boil.

Serve over noodles (cooked, of course) or, better, brown and wild rice. [total prep time = 30-40 minutes, tops]

Lately, after our (for which read: “The Lovely Oneʼs”) tongueʼs awakening to the joys of paprika during the 2011 trip to Budapest, we spice with garlic (more than suggested above), pepper (just bought some Tellicherry black peppercorns, which we ground into the sauce) and both hot and sweet paprika. The paprika is a definite must — makes the dish wonderfully better, richer in taste, slightly more exotic. Sometimes (I donʼt recall right now what we did New Yearʼs Eve) we also add garlic powder and onion powder.

We usually have this dish only once or twice a year, almost invariably in the colder seasons. But it really is wonderful. More than well worth a try.

* Ah, with reference to yesterdayʼs justifiable criticism, the computer permitted itself to ignore the “v” I typed between the capital and lower case “e,” thus not creating “Eve.”

** And I deliberately made beef stroganoff (both above and here) a link so you could check out other, lesser recipes for this wonderful meal.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

$263

Apparently, my youth, it turns out, is worth exactly $263.

Perhaps I should say my “sonic youth” (of sorts).

Our lovely new “media storage cabinet” that required the disposal of my youthful recorded-musical heritage

Recently, within less than the last year, My Beloved got us to purchase a new rotating “media cabinet” on which to store our CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes (and, yes, we do have VHS tapes and perhaps more remarkably the devices on which to play them — still functional). Although the item sat in its rather large, six-foot-tall (and better-than-three-feet-wide) box, leaned against one of my (numerous) overstuffed bookshelves in our basement, for an embarrassingly large number of months, we put it together sometime before Christmas and installed as many of the “media” as we could. Sadly, that left a lot of CDs still roaming our house in boxes (and some more or less neatly stored beneath the oversized boom box that serves as one of our stereo systems these days). All well and good and for the most part neat and tidy.

Unfortunately the media storage unit dwells in a spot formerly occupied by a knocked-together shelf unit rescued once upon a time from the disposal pile after some play or another.* And on those shelves were the remnants of our (mostly my) sonic youth — all of our vinyl record albums, roughly 400 of them.

Glorified boom-box stereo in “the office” and associated CDs in what Janet considers appropriate storage containers

In order to construct and place the media storage unit, we had to remove all of the records and locate the not-a-bookshelf elsewhere (itʼs still more or less empty and its destiny still in limbo). The records, lovingly acquired from my sophomore year in high school through college and early career and our marriage until the late Eighties (or whenever vinyl thirty-three-and-a-third RPM records went out of use), along with a few cases of the cassette tapes that took those recordsʼ place in our audio lives in the Eighties and Nineties,** filled seven boxes (each long-ago holding four six-packs of Guinness Extra Stout, long since consumed). We stowed the record-filled boxes in a small chamber off the basement we call “my room” (or in Janetʼs case, “your little room,” always said with a faint or strong tone of repulsion and disgust, as itʼs there in those overcrowded confines that everything I wonʼt throw away even when she finds it no longer desirable, in any manner, in our regular lives, goes to dwell in darkness — including most of my school clothes, even during the days when I was yet teaching).

When I recently discovered that the boxes, stacked in two once-moderately-neat piles, had begun to rip at the corners (from the burdensome weight), it was decided*** that I must soon take them to Half-Price Books to sell. Now the nearest Half-Price Books is Cedar Rapids, roughly an hour away, but that destination for our (mostly my) once-beloved recordings seemed the most profitable possible (as I had no interest whatsoever in listing each record for sale on eBay).

Box Sets of CD music kept near at hand in the office, along with, of course, books

On Sunday I lugged the (amazingly heavy) boxes, one at a time (I said they were astoundingly weighty), to the bed of my truck and called the number for our nearest Half-Price Books store to be sure they did indeed have interest in purchasing a load of 400 vinyl records (I counted 56 cardboard sleeves in one box, one of which was George Harrisonʼs three-album set, All Things Must Pass, ignoring the plastic container of audio cassettes that really served just to keep everything stable but which were going to be gone as well). They did (uh, have an interest in buying my record library — in case we lost the track of that thought).

So this morning, having sent The Lovely One on her way to work, I clambered into the cab of the truck and drove off into the glorious day (highs in the seventies all week and into next — globally warmed, shortsighted bliss for mid-March, indeed) for the trip to the big city. Upon arrival I carried the seven boxes, once again (staggeringly ponderous) singly to the purchase counter, where an attractive young lady observed, as she got my name and my government-issued photo ID, that I had a lot of pop/rock,**** which is what sold well, and that was good. Then she sent me to wander the stacks while they assessed my auditory existence in seven Guinness boxes…

assorted CDs unable to fit in suitable storage elsewhere — including some in, unsurprisingly, a Guinness box

I had left about 8:30, and in just three hours I was back at home (an hour each way for the drive and an hour in the store as the lovely young ladies***** behind the purchase counter appraised my hoard). I got my seven Guinness boxes back, and I found seven books to buy myself (a complete OʼNeill in three Library of America volumes; Richard Wright in two LOA books; a DK guide to eastern American birds — at Janetʼs request, as we have observed some unidentified little eaters at our birdfeeders this early spring, not house sparrows or cardinals, red-wing blackbirds or crows; and volume one of the Mark Twain Autobiography).

And I got paid $263****** for all my vinyl Beatles, Clash, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Bob Seger, The Who, Yes, Warren Zevon and all the other bands and individuals whose music we (but mostly I) had acquired, enjoyed, endured, and sometimes forgotten during our teens, twenties and thirties.

Farewell, youth.

* (we have totally forgotten when or how that long-suffering servant of our storage needs was originally acquired)

** (but decisively not the compact disks that took the place of those former recorded-music formats)

*** Please note that evasive and nonaccusatory use of the passive voice…

**** We had decided that we would retain the relatively slim collection of classical and jazz we had on vinyl for future ditigization to iTunes (our turntable is still connected to the computer, along with the cord for another boom box for cassettes) and possible later discard to H-P Books.

***** None of whom, I observed instantly, had sufficient years to even recognize Savoy Brown, Brewer & Shipley, John Sebastian, King Crimson, Mason Proffit, Gypsy, Starcastle or Uriah Heep (just to pick a few not utterly obscure albums). Moby Grape…

****** (roughly a lousy half-dollar per album, gratuitous cassettes included — such is the price of [this oneʼs] juvenescence, in actual fact)

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Joining the Hall of Shame

1/11/12 

Screen capture taken at 3:25 CST Thursday, 12 January 2012 — click to enlarge

Today we pay off our mortgage. $932.05. The escrow returns to us in about fifteen days, a deliberate delay by Wells Fargo that stinks of greed — sucking additional profit through interest from our 27-year loan servitude). Of which Wells Fargo only inherited the loan about five years ago, acquiring it, if I remember rightly, from Fifth Third (but they may have owned my truck loan).

The worst owner was the insurance-cum-banking scum in Des Moines to whom we were enslaved until the big hailstorm (2001?), Allied Insurance and Mortgage. You see, their insurance arm would not pay us directly for our damage, insisting the cash had to go to the mortgage holder (themselves — Allied) but only after we had made the approved repairs/improvements (kind of a classic Catch-22). The worst part was getting paid for two sides of the house, siding damage, but having to replace all four (so as not to reduce the value of the property). Tight-assed, greedy bloodsucking bastards. Pardon my honesty.

We have paid for our home (but with some “improvements” in the second mortgage we took out with our friendly, local bank, who then sold us on to larger, greedier incompetents) thrice over — probably not even counting “points,” “fees” and other financial thievery.

Wells Fargoʼs corporate greed blew its public relations, at least with me (and perhaps now with you, too, Gentle Readers), three times over since Friday. 

First, after more than half a decade of handling our payments nearly perfectly — no delays in check-cashing to force late fees, as I had suffered under other institutions — on our penultimate payment, they somehow ignored the amount for which I had made out the check and cashed it for the monthly payment only, without the additional thousand of additional principal. A mistake? The probability of driving up our final payment by a couple of bucks a day made the coincidence of this “error” seem overly convenient to me. So I called the company (with three motives in mind — to complain about their deliberate error and get it corrected; to verify the final payment procedure and, after the “error” correction to determine the appropriate timing of our payoff; and to investigate our acquisition of the funds in our [currently rather hefty] escrow account). 

Check the incomprehensible bookkeeping from yesterday

Their second PR goof occurred there — not once I got to human customer relations agents, but in their labyrinthine and totally annoying voicemail system. All corporations should realize in these web-presence internet times that no one calls a corporation to deal with a machine. No one. And these foolhardy corporate managers, who insist on erecting these voicemail barricades against providing service, are making their customer-contact workersʼ lives far worse than necessary by automatically outraging each caller with the completely unnecessary barrier and frustration of voicemail (not to mention the addition of time-wasting and annoying advertising with the endless voicemail menus). 

Obviously, four menus into my (wasted) time, when I finally could dial zero for a human, I was raging, and poor Keisha, who answered, had to accept the burden. Nor was I interested in her long waits online for me while she “brought up” my check, nor her subsequent apologies. I wanted the correct amount credited toward paying our loan on the correct, original day. She could not do it; Wells Fargo could add the thousand the day I called, a weekend after (three daysʼ of interest later) but not retroactively. I kept insisting their “mistake” was not my problem. I had paid the amount I wished already. She passed me up to a “supervisor,” Carmen Kearney, in, as it turned out, “another state.” 

Carmen and I went round and round (and round and…) as well, although she almost immediately was able to postdate (predate?) their additional draw, as per my original check, on my checking account. Carmen apologized profusely (and pointlessly), too. It really got ugly — okay, I got ugly as she stoically stonewalled — when I got to my second and third topics, paying off the mortgage (delayed, thereby forcing several daysʼ more interest, by Wells Fargoʼs little “error” with my monthly check-plus-additional-principal) and acquiring our escrow account. Nothing could be done about the payoff delay (me: “Why should your incompetence be my problem?”), nothing, but she was “facilitating” the fastest possible acquisition by Wells Fargo of my additional thousand. And Wells Fargoʼs standard policy is to retain all escrow accounts for fifteen days after receipt of final payment to ensure sufficient funds in the payerʼs account to cover the payoff — no exceptions. (Me: “Yeah, Sure. Lets you collect fifteen unearned daysʼ interest on my escrow account.” No response to my repeated assertions of fraud. Me: “So are you going to pay me the four percent daily interest I could have been earning on those escrow funds if you had transferred them to my account with actual efficiency?” No acknowledgment of that idea.) 

And third, Wells Fargoʼs insistence on me (in this circumstance) having to follow their penny-ante regulations blew any respect I might have for this bloated, incompetent, cheating and deceptive, dis-serving and abusive financial giant stomping clumsily and viciously on the lives of its victims. They had mismanaged my payment, but I had to serve and obey humbly their inflexible regulations, to my detriment after their rude error. “Third” means that they cheated me. Is it fraud? I say, “Yes.” After all, they supposedly erred. They owe me reparations, not their selfserving regulations-as-usual. 

Wells Fargo joins the ranks of corporate malfeasance with Qwest/CenturyLink, DirecTV, Fox News, Allied Mortgage/Insurance, and whatever customer-abusing companies I have already mentioned here on the blog for the Hall of Shame in business (mal)practice. 

I actually wrote this (as dated above) yesterday. Janet did overnight the check via UPS, which showed it arrived, signed for at 9:54 this morning, Thursday, 12 January 2012 (as I had verified would happen, per a Wells Fargo note on the website, 24 hours in advance with their “Quinn” yesterday about 8:40 AM).

So far, although I post late in the afternoon, nothing shows to change our account status to zero. Way to suck, Wells Fargo.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Itʼs a Guy Thing

Our production of One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque is past the halfway point in its two-weekend run. The remarkable cast and crews have made us very proud (and themselves, too, I hope)  — so far (I hope I havenʼt jinxed us somehow with this observation before the run is over, but the performances and the technical efforts have been exquisite and amazing).

Although a rehearsal shot (the setʼs not even finished yet) — the moments before Ratched inflicts electroshock, attempting to control McMurphy (and Chief Bromden). I was kind of proud of our electroshock machine and the “crown” which inflicts the voltage on the patientʼs brain. The actual lighting is far better than this posed photograph reveals.

Although the run seems long (the last show in which I was involved with more than one weekend was Gypsy, just after the turn of the century, and the only other production with seven nights of performance to my record was My Fair Lady back in the early Nineties — both starring The Lovely One, coincidentally), the approach of strike after Sundayʼs final performance weighs me with a certain vague dread. However, even if itʼs just a few of us (which, by the way, cast, it will not be), and even if we end up missing the cast party because the work takes so long, it will eventually get done, and all I will have to worry about is returning the two large storage cabinets to Andrew Community School on Monday. Then this production, too, like so many hundreds before it, will be memories. And in this case, almost all will be pleasant and proud ones.

Sitting in the balcony observing the show night after night (and it was Monday through Sunday for tech week and the opening weekend — seven in a row with a break), all kinds of critical and directorial thoughts flicker through my mind. Few of them are critiques on the acting or production. Mostly I ponder the patterns that have emerged in this production, deliberately from the beginning, through one or more actorsʼ inspirations, developing from an almost random observation, or by other confluent synergy or synchronicity. Most of my emotions and intellectualizations are the appropriate consciousness-response (or intuition) to the action and the play, evaporating when I try to recapture that deep insight into the script and/or our production that a particular moment enflamed. (The depth to any work of art is what goes on within the reader/viewer/audience/participant; and the achievement of critics is to objectify and communicate that subjective experience.) So these next three nights, since (I hope and expect) my directorial suggestions or corrections will be reduced to almost nothing, I am going to try to take notes on those fleeting impressions and inspirations to see if I can assemble a set of observations on the play (and perhaps the book if I sit down to reread it fully).

If I succeed, you may have to read about my supposed insights here.

Billy pleads, in the aftermath of the big party, for Ratched not to tell his mother of his moral disgrace — also pleading, whether her no-longer-virginal victim is fully conscious of this truth or not at this moment, for her to spare his life, to rescue him from the suicide into which she has, probably deliberately, cornered him.

One realization arose from last Saturday nightʼs show, when my sister Margaret was watching, and from her responses. When asked, she observed that by far her favorite performer was Nurse Ratched (an appropriate critical stance, as Andrea is wonderful and many-toned in her performance, developing gradually a hardness to Ratched that results perhaps primarily from McMurphyʼs almost pre-adolsecent defiance). When asked to judge McMurphy (whom we all have sat back awed at Danʼs spirited and uninhibited characterization and embodiment thereof), she wondered if she were quite certain if he didnʼt belong on the ward. Both Janet and I felt she really didnʼt like McMurphy (the character here, decidedly not the actor). I think Margaretʼs preference for Ratched might have resulted partly from her response to a male-female, early-Sixties war-between-the sexes conflict in the play that I hadnʼt consciously considered since the earliest days of rehearsal.

It is a show for men, with a woman as the villain (whether Ratched deliberately means to be a bully or not) and the group identity and evolving mutual empathy of the patients revealing a kind of male-bonding (which we did strive consciously to develop) in antipathy to the Big Nurseʼs authoritarianism. But conversing with Margaret, I began to realize that One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest is also certainly (at least somewhat) misogynistic. McMurphyʼs alpha-male behavior is decidedly preferred (through the plot and the play) to Ratchedʼs antagonism to everything (male and) chaotic — gambling, noise, physical exertion, game-playing, fraternizing. If the perfect state is achieved for her in the stillness of a lobotomized patient in a post-operative coma (“Thatʼs fine,” she says. “Thatʼs just fine” — her final words in the show, over a motionless and quiescent McMurphy on a hospital gurney), it is Macʼs manic exuberance, violence, rebellion and wildness that have driven her to that extreme.

A grim mother-figureʼs quiet home versus an overgrown boyʼs testosterone-driven, no-holds-barred frat party. Iʼm glad our production (perhaps unconsciously, possibly as a result of Janet and me cooperating as directors) gives expression to both sides.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Cur•mudg•eon

(noun)  — bad-tempered or surly person

(with my most insincere apologies, of course)

Maybe this post results just because I have had time, with our production of One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest up and running — beginning its second weekend tonight — but I have been astonished and annoyed by unimportant things lately. Like commercials. And Facebook links.

Having been able to watch a little TV over the past few days,* I have again realized that commercials not merely appeal to the stupidity in us all but actively cultivate vapid witlessness (the most egregious examples being the selfdestruction-instructive “Do the Dew” series from the late Nineties and early Aughties and the interminable Hardeeʼs ads from the last few years that presented consumers at those restaurants as moronic males with severe limitations not just in taste but all matters beyond the selfishly animalistic**). Admittedly, studies have shown that it is far easier to sell stuff to folks who have shut down their higher-order thought processes, thus the historical stream of “entertaining” and/or amusing commercials over the history of TV. But do advertisers have to cultivate imbecility?

Hmmmm…

I think I may have, if blogs must discover such, found my niche for Wakdjuknagaʼs Blog… and an apparently endless stream of future posts: advertising analysis and criticism. The Old Curmudgeon rides again?

But first, for today, a really minor annoyance from Facebook (yeah, the ultimate time-waste of my mostly doltish existence), which I think results from the powerfully promoted “live stupidly”*** culture of consumer commercialism.

Lack of thought enters into many phases of ordinary life, even as television casts its dull glow into every cranny of existence. And Facebook is one of those forums**** for dim-wittedness. Just in the past few days, a supposedly cute bit of humor (check the picture, above us here, to see it) has been making the regurgitation circuit in the Newsfeed. I think I have witnessed its appearance about a dozen times from as many friends.

Ignoring the subtle antiCanadianism***** of the concept, the problem with the joke is simple geography. Mt. Rushmore is in South Dakota, kids…

“A” marks the spot, with the Canadian border near the very top of the map

Imagining the enormous length of the unseen torsos between those famous faces and that quartet of historically inaccurate asses (not to mention the lack of continuous mountain between Rushmore and wherever in Canada… unless, of course, the torsos are wormholed into some alternate universe between the two distant sites…) kind of saps the laughter.

Geography — itʼs reality.

Ah, but geographical ignorance ties in so well with (evolves so neatly from?) the Dextremeʼs Big War (of lies) on science… Doesnʼt it? Talk about the power of mindless advertising.

And while I am at it, how about this example, below, of pure non sequitur? Nonsense is nonsense, even if it suggests a political perspective some would like to feel (unconsciously perhaps, probably at the urging of corporate interests, of course) is appropriate.

And so, The Old Curmudgeon raises his grisly head to utter some grumpy commentary into the digital æther again.

* (with no rehearsals or performances to attend, we can make use of the over-priced “services” of DirecTV again)

** Probably I perceive the idiocy of those commercials as a consumer of neither product… ?

*** (Which advertisers and consumers would prefer and falsely believe to be “live stupid”)

**** It still hurts slightly to use that incorrect, unLatinate plural (which should, of course, be fora). But one can only push correctitude so far, you know… After all, data serves as both singular and plural. And donʼt get me started on the loss of medium to identify one of the mass media…

***** How many well-dulled dolts seriously have taken the South Park movie premise to heart?

Map image via Viola from GoogleMaps™

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Forgotten Inspiration

This one is for Janet, mostly because I wrote it about her once upon a time. And also because as of today, she has survived the big birthday party that I mentioned a while back…

The setting is our first apartment together, the one on maple Street that my father enjoyed so much (and which I donʼt think my mother ever visited).

forgotten inspiration

The house resounds with your noises
(and sometimes still your silences)
subtle often but also definite—
floorboards creaking with footsteps
doors opening and closing
upstairs down
stair steps too
running water, coffeemaker gurgles

Found in a notebook 1/10/99

7/6/96

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Fishing with Darwin

Having given blood again Monday (conveniently at the United Methodist church just up the street), I may have sucked any clear purpose from my writing. I had found something on Sunday, checking over my blogʼs stats, that got me musing, and today, those vague perturbations turned into a post…

A screenshot that shows the WordPress Dashboard for this blog. Click to enlarge.

Browsing through the statistical information that WordPress provides on oneʼs blog can be fascinating (too fascinating, killing hours of time periodically). That was how I developed one previous post, having spent far too long musing on the ways and means that had and had not brought readers to Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog. (I promise that today, unlike that previous exploration of statistical marvels, I wonʼt affix an endless series of blog links to this post.)

The most obvious statistic which a WordPress user finds is the count on the number of hits each day. WP presents that on a bloggerʼs main screen, the Dashboard, along with possible spam, recent comments, oneʼs own recent drafts for the blog, and a summary of the most popular posts recently. But the WordPress enumerators have much more available under the Site Stats link.

There you can get not only the numbers but also some interesting other information, such as recent websites referring viewers to you and what search terms lead viewers from search engines to your site. It was the list of search terms that let me know so many people were looking for images and information on Impressionists, probably for assignments in art history. By the way, that single Impressionist essay I posted with pictures (mostly borrowed from other sites, just as the hitters on this blog were likely doing) remains among the most popular items on the blog. Site Stats is a favorite stop for me when I’m checking e-mail, Facebook and the status of the blog as I begin each day.

The belegged fishy symbol in question/being searched about…

Recently, one search drew my interest. The day after Christmas, someone had arrived at Wakdjunkaga’s Blog by searching for “darwin fish rather than the religious creationist view.” Itʼs not a particularly profound request, but it touched me emotionally. My interest wasn’t because arriving here would be inappropriate for such a search (I am clearly no creationist) but because of the peculiar wording of the investigative quest. The latter part of the antithesis, “the religious creationist view,” makes a fair, mispunctuated sense. It’s the opposition of that wishfully contrafactual point of view with the “darwin fish” that intrigued me, putting that parodic image in contradistinction to a barely theological belief.

The emblem is merely a kind of joke (it actually began as a joke that blossomed into profit, even with legal suits, moreso than the smiley face provided for its creator), perhaps most popular as a Jeffersonian sign of resistance to the aggressive intrusion of (what should be a personal) religion into daily life, or personal opposition to deliberate ignorance wailing in terror of scientific rationality. Unfortunately, the parody emblem in no way posits any particular point of view, merely a vague mistrust or antagonism to willful fatuity. I sport a Darwin fish on my truck (and unfortunately sold the old vehicle, rapidly, a decade ago with its better, plastic emblem still attached) not in opposition to religion but to empty, wish-fulfilling falsehoods.

Can you see the fishy emblem?

Faintly amusing to me, back in the Nineties, when I subscribed to the MacAddict periodical, on the more-or-less humorous final page of one issue, the writer listed “things that were so over” and prominently featured the Darwin fish as the emblem of a debate long-settled (I guess that writer underestimated the stubbornness of wishful self-deception in America). And one of my neighbors-to-the-westʼs kids (at least at one time, a year ago) had a “Truth”-fish-eating-a-darwin-fish emblem on his vehicle, which I guess wasnʼt meant to concede the debate (by having a larger specimen consuming a smaller one — thus admitting survival of the fittest?) but rather to assert oneʼs personal denial of the the rationalistʼs parodic imagery, as acceptable as my truckʼs rear end. I do enjoy the aggressive and devouring “Truth”-Christ asserted in what must be deliberate defiance (or ignorance) of the Saviorʼs Gospel preachments (the link, just to present an evangelical view on that matter).

But I didnʼt want to post today to vent my spleen against nonsensically self-referential bias-defense maneuvers but rather to briefly imagine what might have caused that search which landed, however briefly, on this blog. Was this some poor homeschooled kid in an unobserved moment trying to find some unbiased, objective information, using the pathetic misinformation s/he had available? I can see this child hunched over the computer in the postChristmas haze, struggling to acquire knowledge rather than mere propaganda but only possessing the jargon of the True Believers, attempting hastily to discover what might be learned before the Authoritative Presences intervened once again. A sad scenario that perhaps could become a story…

Of course, alternatively, it might as well have been someone searching from the other end of the rationality spectrum. But if so, I donʼt have a good guess why the fish emblem would be the alternative to religious prejudice* rather than a biological point of view. Surely even an adolescent scientist wouldnʼt oppose the symbol to a creationist belief?

Of course, the information from WordPress is what it is. I donʼt know who searched that eight-word phrase or why. My awareness that it happened, however, just stirred my imagination. Maybe I should have put my effort into that story I mentioned instead of huffing my internal furies by discovering all those shrill creationist sites I have linked. In that other universe, you might have read instead…

Christmas was over. We went to church on Sunday, the day after, the day that the Brits call Boxing Day, and heard about how the wicked evolutionists are headed to hell. Including everyone who has a demented Darwin fish on their car.

I had seen a Darwin fish on one of the cars that came to the church building in the fall when the pastor permitted a blood drive. I think I know which nurse was driving it, and he had been the one to take my pint of blood. He seemed like a nice man, and I thought he was kind of cute, being so solicitous about just another girlʼs state of mind as she got her elbow pierced. Was he going to hell?

What did that silver emblem on his Camaro even mean? All the pastor and my parents ever said was “godless communism.” And thinking back to his big brown eyes, teddy-bear personality, suddenly I donʼt feel all that certain I know what their accusation even means.

And that could begin the story the search inspired.

*Oh, boy. That site is crazed.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Christmas? Elementary…

The snow seems so utterly appropriate today…

As Christmas Eve arrives, I remember that this festive time of the year is connected emotionally for me with Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps not for the reasons one might suspect. Yes, there is “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” with its seasonal setting (December 27, for the uninitiated) and even seasonal themes (not the robbery part, but the forgiveness element). But that story came later than my original tying of the great detective to Christmas.

When I was a child, we seemed always to make great journeys for Christmas, visiting both my maternal grandmother and my fatherʼs folks over the break (since my dad was a teacher, as I have reported before, we enjoyed the ten days to two weeks off that education provides). Both sets of grandparents lived in Iowa, about two or three hours apart originally (later my Grandma Fischel moved to Traer, where she died, a location that put the two sides a little closer for travel purposes). And, as I remember things, we always, invariably, tediously for me, had to be at both households over the holidays. Sometimes actual Christmas arrived at my momʼs motherʼs, sometimes at my paternal grandparents (and even sometimes the holiday was at “home,” then we would get on the road to Iowa). The problem was that we werenʼt living in Iowa for much of my remembered childhood, not returning to this state until my sophomore year in high school (the big move to Mt. Pleasant), so our family had some long drives to get away from home for the holidays.

I told about those drives for Thanksgiving. The pilgrimages at Christmastime were simply snowier, on worse roads, freezing even colder in the back of my dadʼs car. (I am, by the way, certain that my attitudes as a child made those drives just as unpleasant for my siblings and parents. Apologies at last.) It seems like it was always either dark or snowing to me now, although I know better — just one or two events remaining as the only relics of those visits.

My Burrow grandparents lived in an old farmhouse, later a new ranch farmhouse, across the road from my Uncle Bill and his family, who had taken over running the farm. I dimly recall the old farmhouse, which by the way had no running water (meaning we used an outhouse), but the new home is the realm of most of my memories. They had old-fashioned bubble lights on their Christmas tree, which some of my siblings still think is the only kind to have (although I do remember hearing those were about as dangerous as any kind of tree illumination). The whole clan, four big families, would gather at that place for Christmas Eve when my grandmother would make her notorious oyster stew (notorious among us younger cousins who didnʼt like the slimy oysters), and in hilariously overcrowded conditions we would eat, us kids usually being discharged to the basement, which was fine with us as we had developed many games to play down there, including one involving the clothes chute (a novelty, I believe, to all of us, something found only there, at the grandparentsʼ house). Presents were on a draw-a-name system, at least by the time I got old enough to understand, so we didnʼt have too many gifts awaiting us at this celebration, but it was still great fun.

And you probably expect me to say I got a Sherlock Holmes book for Christmas one year. But I didnʼt. Well, I didnʼt back then…

However, it was at my grandparentsʼ home, perhaps not even at Christmastime, that I first read one of the tales. It was in a book of stories for children that the old folks owned, probably just for us grandchildren, and sometime between about fifth and seventh grade I devoured whatever was in that book, including the excitement of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” That story was my introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle, a pleasure I have never outgrown.

That wasnʼt my first encounter with Holmes, however. One summer at Spartan Village, when my dad was getting his masters, or some further training, through Michigan State University, I think as part of some other kidʼs birthday celebration/party, many of the boys and girls in our area went to the movie theater to see the Peter Cushing Hound of the Baskervilles. It mesmerized and terrorized me, and I know I had dreadfully, delightfully technicolor dreams for weeks after involving the scenes and settings from that movie. (I am pretty sure that reading the other story came later.)

In Mt. Pleasant, at the public library I found the Christopher Morley one-volume edition of all 56 stories and the four novels (which Janet kindly gave me for Christmas many years later and many years ago, 1986) in which I first read all the stories, particularly The Valley of Fear. I believe I was reading that book while waiting for the dentist at least once. (I actually have the feeling I was reading Holmes while in a dental waiting room one time in Michigan, earlier, as well.)

My Sherlockian enthusiasm was rekindled in my adult life, me having given way to more literary reading in my late college and early teaching years, by acquiring the two volumes of Baring-Gouldʼs Annotated edition about 1979 or ʼ80 (by mail from Barnes & Noble, only a mail-order catalog house in those days, or Scholarʼs Bookshelf, from which I also acquired a complete Arden Shakespeare and a complete Shelley), once I was in Jackson County and living in the apartment on Matteson Street. I really enjoyed his quirky notes and the game of pretending the characters were real (the Irregular practice of which I had previously been innocent). I also got aroused by his rearrangement of the stories in his own chronology, which gave many of them a freshness, out of order.

As a teacher at Andrew Community School, I eventually incorporated Holmes into the curriculum, once I realized that I was instructing kids who had never read any of the stories. An old textbook had “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” in it, and because it was usually late December when we would read some Doyle (either before or after Dickensʼs A Christmas Carol, perhaps my first favorite piece of literature), I also included “The Blue Carbuncle.” Over the decade or so that we included Holmes in Advanced English, I acquired some old videotapes of the Jeremy Brett series, particularly, although not a favorite story for me, “The Resident Patient.” I hope the students enjoyed that unit; I meant for them to. They should. The tales are pure storytelling, done pretty well, and Sherlock Holmes is, like Tarzan, one of the few literary figures mythically larger than the literary oeuvre in which he actually resides.

I have lots to say on Holmes, but I have wildly exceeded my thousand words, and perhaps a genuinely literary post isnʼt the thing for Christmas Eve. Later will do fine. I will conclude merely by adding that the current updated Sherlock on PBS (from Britain) gets it very right and works well. Robert Downy Jr. wasnʼt bad at all, either.

Happy holidays!*

* Weʼre supposedly getting up to seven inches of snow overnight and today.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Mashing Up — Snow, Gifts and Guinness

Not me (you can tell because s/heʼs wearing boots), but a nice website if you click the pic. Maybe some day I will get The Lovely One to shoot me in my snow-shoveling garb.

I am probably shoveling as this post appears. We are supposed to receive up to four inches of snow overnight. I begin the composition process about twenty-one hours earlier than the posting time, so right now at 8:30 AM yesterday, itʼs just a miserably gray day, although as warm as it has been any day in the last three (9° — a gloriously equatorial torridness we remained five or ten degrees below all through Monday and Tuesday). But the snow is supposed to begin about the middle of the afternoon, which means that The Lovely One will get to drive home in snow and then again in snow to work this morning. The least I can do is to clear our drive.

Actually, the driveway wonʼt truly be clear. It has been so cold that even with the sun shining brilliantly on Monday and Tuesday, the glaze of ice from frozen rain on the drive from the last storm (Saturday) hasnʼt fully melted/evaporated (and slip-sliding around on that will make adventurous the shoveling of this new snow, supposedly light and fluffy instead of the dense, half-melted mess I struggled to clear away over the previous weekend). However, with the gelid precipitation being the antonym of dense this time, perhaps the snowblower, now that I got it to start this year, will get its first use.

Aside from moaning about snowfalls (this is our third in less than three weeks), which can only lead to elderly complaints about my manhandled hands and finger-joints*, I think I may have exhausted my stock of inspiration for now. I must hit the road myself, for Dubuque (Samʼs, Hy-Vee, perhaps Borders, who put a 50%-discount coupon in my hands yesterday) and lunch with Janet. Letʼs see what I have to discuss once I go and return.

…And I returned home, heavily laden with goodies well before the storm hit. Even now, having been home for almost two hours (I said I was heavily laden with goodies, and the truck took a while to unload, among a few other things), I donʼt think thereʼs a flake in the air. Yet. However, it has grown dramatically dark — on the other hand, weʼre closing in on 4:30, and the sun sets this time of year by 5:00.

Janet did cop a gift or two out of the trip, but mostly I was out to stock us up for Christmas (I believe I mentioned at some point that weʼre hosting her side of the family here this year). So Samʼs provided us with boxes of frozen hors dʼoeuvres of several kinds, several large bottles of Australian chardonnay The Lovely One enjoys, and a couple blocks of feta. I also visited Hy-Vee for some decaf French Roast beans, really just for us, but very utile with guests, I assumed. Furthermore, once we shared a delicious lunch, I got delegated to acquire several gifts for others, including a certificate of immense value, a special bottle of wine and an excellent vodka.

Dubuque and its environs host one of the better liquor stores we have patronized, and Janet has formed a personal relationship with the owner/manager at Family Beer & Liquor** (in her regular role as assistant to her initial boss; she also gets close and personal with restauranteurs, Chicago parking lot supervisors, and lots of interesting folks one might not immediately expect). She told me to ask for Tim when I went in and to have him to help me pick the correct wine for the gift. Being me (and a male) I went ahead and found a bottle that seemed perfect, but as I could not locate any Guinness Extra Stout (horrors of hideousness, both in being unable to spot my favorite beverage in my favorite store***, but also that I had let my home supply run down to a single six-pack), I decided I would check with him about the wine while also getting him to guide me to the Guinness (and unlock the Grey Goose). Tim carefully studied my selection, checked on the computer and decided with me that the chosen wine was very appropriate. He also checked that there should be eleven cases of Guinness in stock, and once I located two of those cases on the floor, he went to the back room to cart out four more for me to truck home.

If I was concerned that the truck might not have enough weight in the back to handle the slippery roads if snow started falling, I accidentally (and, yes, expensively) made sure I was well weighted with my personal purchases (and thatʼs what took the longest to stow away for future use). Maybe I need to get one of those pick-up bed toppers or locking covers, so I can just store my boxes of stout back there safely as the extra weight to haul for wintertime driving…

Anyway, I got home. This post is written. Stupid Qwest just knocked me off the internet (again), naturally. But if I can get a connection, this drivel will appear for your reading pleasure at the regular time on Thursday, December 16, 2010 (just twelve hours from almost exactly right now, when I will, as I began this meandering piece of nonfiction by noting, be out in the driveway and the street shoveling snow). And I have only fifteen more compositions to complete a full year of daily posts to the blog.

* Actually, now that itʼs afternoon before the storm, itʼs my elbow that hurts horribly. Tennis elbow? From what? It hurt badly even before I picked up my first case of Guinness.

** We have two favorite liquor stores that we originally noticed only for the comedy of their names (both happen to be excellent stores as well, once we visited them instead of just laughing as we drove by). On the western edge of Madison, Wisconsin, is one. We spent years making fun of the fact that we were about to go past “Liquor Town” en route to or from sister Dianeʼs house. Until one time I boldly decided to stop, mostly just as a joke to say we had visited Liquor Town, and we discovered our private joke was a fine (and inexpensive) place to shop for multitudes of wines. The other hilarity was visible on our way to or from Galena, and thatʼs Family Beer and Liquor (now come on: that really is a funny name for a liquor store — just what kind of family would that be that a liquor store could serve each and every member?) — also reasonable in price, stocking a huge variety of interesting items, and, if you read everything above, the primary source in recent years for my Guinness adoration.

*** For more than a decade, initially because their prices were so incredibly reasonable, I have trucked on up and over to Family Beer when I wanted more Extra Stout. And now, thanks to my conversation with Tim, I learn that the fabled Foreign Extra Stout is available in the united States! And thanks to his close, personal relationship with the Executive Assistant, light of my life, heʼll let us know as soon as he has some for sale. Sometimes life is good. Very good indeed.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A