Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recent Anecdotes
Recent Anecdotes
Taking Stock

A good writer is like a good conversationalist: You can’t say everything you know…. But I sure wish I could.

A computer wizard and essayist at Google, “Stevey” Yegge, once said he had way too much stuff to write on. How much? He said it felt like shoving an elephant through a keyhole. Meanwhile, a computer millionaire and essayist, Paul Graham, no doubt with his own elephants, wrote that he uses footnotes to contain digressions. Me too. Even so, I find myself having to withhold some darn fine footnotes.

While I always have space for a few footnotes, I never find space to include anecdotes and explanations. Until today. Having finished another of my website administrator’s “page” of 25 titles, I feel entitled to have a catch-up-on-anecdotes day.

Recent Anecdotes
… Christopher Columbus was once at a big formal dinner of men and women. This was a couple decades after he had discovered the New World. At his table a young man sneered that Christopher hadn’t done anything special: lots of people are crossing the Atlantic these days. Chris didn’t engage him. Instead, he addressed the other diners: “It’s possible to balance your hard boiled egg on one end. Can anyone else do so?” Everyone got interested, they all tried to balance their dinner egg, and all failed—including that young man. All eyes were on Chris as he held his egg upright at the table—and then tapped the end so it crumpled… into a base that would support the egg, balanced.

The young man was still in sneer mode. “Anyone could have balanced their egg, if they knew that trick.”

Chris said calmly “Yes, and anyone could have sailed to the New World, once I showed them how.”    … For (October) Television Appreciation.

… Bertrand Russell was a brilliant man, born into the Victorian Age. A foolish age, as we can read in Jerome K Jerome’s 19th century comic novel Three Men in a Boat. Jerome satirizes how if an unmarried woman gets pregnant then she has no way to repent for her sin, no option but suicide! (Of course, Jerome tells it far better than I can)

As for Russell, in his essays he raged at the foolish beliefs of his peers. He despised society’s belief that to keep young people away from any pre-marital sex, society could simply hide all information about sex until after they were married adults. Hide any statues, hide any oil paintings—hide any art, no matter how classic or priceless, that could reveal what people looked like under their clothes. Withhold inform-ation! Then all the men and women, right up until their marriage, would be innocent and chaste and sexless and celibate. Russell hated how, as these actions failed, society said the answer was to censor even more, try even harder. The theory behind all this madness, of course, was that being heterosexual was an inform-ed choice.

At last, finally, we know that feeling heterosexual is not a choice, but is pre-programmed from birth into the very cells of the body, thanks to “evolution.” We have learned our lesson. Or have we? As Santayana said, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”: Our US cousins—even unto the 21st century—still think feeling homosexual is an informed “choice.”    … For (October) Fools and Their Choices.

… Remember that TV situation comedy, Seinfeld? It made a lot of people happy. After it finally ended, for several seasons afterwards, I kept reading about the “Seinfeld curse”: Back then, none of the actors were able to make it as “the star” of their own series. Really? Stars? They were all nice ensemble actors, but…

And who can forget Lindsey Lohan? She was the star of Mean Girls, a film based on the nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabees. I loved that movie! Meanwhile, the train wreck of Lindsey Lohan’s life just goes on and on. At first, some reporters had wondered “when” or “if” she would make a “come back.” Not now… Really? A come back?

If Lohan would drop her addiction-fueled grandiosity, and be content with only a humble walk-on part, and later a small supporting role, then Lohan could start on the long straight road of abstinent recovery;  … meanwhile, if the Seinfield cast put being actors in supporting roles ahead of being “the” star, then, being already (presumably) rich for life, they could, without the distraction of earning the rent, enjoy the road to mastering their craft.

There is no silly curse: Everyone just needs to embrace being humble.     … For (November) Humble and Iraq.

… No wonder Canada is a land of immigrants: Such an immense land! Five and a half time zones! No one ever drives all across it. When you do drive, and you finally come to a small town, and you’re thirsty for good fellowship, all you need to do is look for the Canadian flag: If it’s not at the city hall then it’s flying at the Royal Canadian Legion: For war veterans. Active in the community, for all sorts of volunteer causes, the Legion is as Canadian as a railroad, grain elevator or an outdoor ice hockey rink. Note: Under the liquor laws, since the Legion is a private club, you have to be invited, or be a member, in order to go inside.

One day a man went into a Legion hall and asked to sign up as a member. He was wearing a typical Canadian lumber jacket. The man at the desk, wearing his proud blue blazer and blue Legion beret, grabbed a form and said, “OK. Were you in the Royal Canadian Air Force?”
“No, not the RCAF.”
“Were you in the navy?”
“Ah, the army then.”
Big exasperation: “Then what were you in?”
Big smile: “I was in the Luftwaffe!”
Yes, they allowed him to join. True story. He was the first. After him, the Legion made it official that axis veterans were welcome.

I came across this story while researching the Legion for a college term paper as part of a class on volunteers and volunteer-run organizations. This was a few years before our winter Olympics, the Games where Calgary surprised the world with our widespread use of volunteers. I’ve written before of how North Americans, from better citizenship, are better at volunteering than Europeans. Calgary folk, as it happens, are especially good. Official observers from France looked on with wonder but were unable to duplicate our great volunteer component for their own Games four years later.

When I presented my paper to my class, as part of my diploma in Therapeutic Recreation, (Leisure Services) I learned something about college students. As I told this anecdote, standing in front where I could see everyone, I was careful to hold back the punch line, careful to make the very last word in the very last sentence be “Luftwaffe.” I watched as half the class contorted in mirth, and the other half remained perfectly still…. I learned people could be smart enough for college yet not have basic WWII vocabulary.   … For (October) Hatred and Canadian Muslims.

Taking Stock
As for my yet again “Taking Stock” of another page of 25 post titles, well, what can I say? After recently being translated again I’ve resorted to spelling “translators” all in caps, as in “TRANSLATORS, please comment so I don’t die of curiosity.” I guess I could have been a little faster to capitalize… As is, about 20 guys in the former “worker’s paradise” of Moldova, interested in my (April) Peace Without Democracy, a piece with references to Marxism, have made no effort to feel “worker’s solidarity” with me: They left me no comments. I suppose this is merely due to human nature, not from formerly being dirty Godless communists.

After all, Buffy fans—2,121 hits and still counting--don’t comment either, which reminds me: When I expanded my (January) Buffy essay into (October) Television Appreciation on this page I didn’t think to add the label (tag) "Buffy" until it had been out for a week. Reason? I forgot. Plainly, the many fans who didn’t comment didn’t make enough of an impression on me, not enough for me to remember to make a label for them.

Going by hit counts for the previous “25-titles” my two most popular posts were both ones where I felt I was a “minority of one.” For this latest page I made an essay where I felt I was most especially a minority of one, because I dared to argue against making Internet links. And to my surprise, for this page, that’s the essay with the most hits by far. That’s heartening—or is it?

I have a reason to doubt: This morning as I lay in bed a memory popped in. One night I was at the Ship and Anchor pub for an evening of garage bands. One band was especially bad, while also being especially enthusiastic and innocent. So the crowd kept nudging each other and winking and shouting “More!” And the band innocently obliged. “More!” I suppose this memory was my subconscious warning me not to take the hit count for (July) No Links is Good Links too seriously. Perhaps robot search engine crawlers are using my essay as a pivot. Beats me. Maybe after another 25 posts I’ll have a clearer view of what my readers like to read.

I suppose the lesson for us all is: If you know what you like, then don’t just click on it: Write a comment, too.

Sean Crawford
Calgary 2012

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