Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Hello Reader,
Got emotions?
I have known time-space locations where it’s not safe to feel.

Head quotes
From “the new Travis McGee novel, #14,” by John D. MacDonald, The Scarlet Ruse

(Travis goes to an office to meet a big criminal) 
“His voice was a bit high for the size of him, and he projected it with very little lip movement and no animation an his face at all. It is characteristic of people who have either been in prison or who live in such a manner that their total environment becomes a prison of sorts, a place where communications can be a deadly risk.” (Page 181)

(Travis goes to meet a care worker, to ask her opinion on a suspect she used to work in a store with) She answers:
 “…She was, and is, a very troubled person, I think. She never discusses her background. I had thought her a fugitive in the legal sense. Now I think she is a fugitive from emotion…” (Turns out she had been stuck in an unhappy “school for girls.” Not one of those voluntary ones called “girl’s schools”) (Page 205)

…If sports are a metaphor for life, then they are a metaphor for emotions, too. I have lukewarm memories of boyhood basketball, and very happy memories as a man at my university student union chambers where I was in the student Toastmasters club.  

Sunday afternoon. No one else around. My brother and I are outside at the local high school to shoot a few baskets. One guy comes by with a ball: It is Bueller, a boy on the school team. My brother had been on his school team, but as for me, well, I was more suited to the library. Bueller, a friendly fellow, had seen me years ago around other players, but didn’t known I had been away, so he thought I was more skilled than I was. Skilled at catching a passed ball, I mean.

Catching that passed ball was like when ice hockey legend Geordie Howe—they’ve just named a bridge after him—was retired, and a journalist did a story on him, and they did a little ice time. Howe passed the puck, his blade connecting: Crack! sliiiiide over to the reporter’s stick—Crack! The reporter nearly dropped his hockey stick. The old man could still pass hard.

So, that lazy afternoon, my brother and Bueller and I spent some desultory time passing the ball, swishing baskets, and shooting the breeze. Nothing serious. Except—I kept worrying I was going to drop the ball. My choice: I could risk the big shame of fumbling an easy pass, or take the little shame of saying, to a guy who surely didn’t know anyone he would pass gently to, “Hey, could make all your passes softer?” I just crossed my fingers, focused intently, and managed to get through the afternoon without fumbling. Whew! 

School Club
As a grown man, so happy to have survived my life, of course I smiled a lot at the university Toastmasters club. (For public speaking) I looked like a normal guy, although extra happy. Except—I still couldn’t do emotions well.  Our club met at a huge roundtable, like for King Arthur’s knights, in a big circular chamber like the bridge of the Enterprise. A young lady, Kathy, often sat beside me. Kathy would spin her head over to flash me a smile, or a look of big excitement, big incredulity, big joy…So scary! I was tempted to fumble the passing of emotion by dropping my eyes or looking away. Tempted to look stiff while squirming inside from unwanted emotions. Tempted to say “Soften your emotions please, lest I have to break our connection.” 

Of course I never did. It all worked out. Whew! 

Kathy was young and fun, too innocent to have known anyone from a school for boys. I’m still chuckling over the time a bunch of us, at the end of classes, rented The Graduate and she laughed to say, “It’s sure strange to finally see the actual movie after you’ve seen it parodied three times.” (On The Simpsons, for example) I’ll tell you what’s strange: Once she phoned me up to invite me to her house for a party, because “you are so fun.” Well, I thought, how did I ever get that label? Fun? It just goes to show you never know.

Now I can do speeches and essays on how to get a sense of humour, how to learn to be nice, and more. 

I am still in toastmasters, in a different club. Toastmasters International is ostensibly to learn “public speaking” and “leadership,” while in reality many people join for self-improvement and self-confidence. I keep my eyes open for folks who silently struggle. You never know.

Sean Crawford
Central London

My essay on Getting a Sense of Humour is archived April 2017
My essay on Learning to Be Nice is archived May 2013 
Maybe some day I could write something on fun.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sarah, Surveillance and Racism

Sarah, Surveillance and Racism

“Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24

Hello Reader,
Got genre reflecting life?

Continuing from earlier in August, I want to say that another genre that reflects life is science fiction.

This month I am going through a sci-fi TV series from a more innocent time, a time of almost a decade ago. In The Sarah Connor Chronicles from 2008 we see people using modern cellular telephones while still holding to their innocent beliefs.

Today we know better, maybe. Sadly, many Americans will have seen that movie Snowden by Oliver Stone where the staff of the NSA watch the six o’clock news and see their boss lying to Congress about whether the NSA staff are spying on loyal Americans. This while it could be said of those staff, as the prophet Jeremiah said, “Not one is righteous, no, not one” Not one regular staffer blows a whistle. 

People keep writing Edward Snowden was a “contractor,” with a disturbing implication: That only a “contractor,” would or should reveal the NSA’s dirty tricks against the republic. What rubbish! This is like saying “only” a “reservist” should blow the whistle if the regular army massacres a village or runs a prison torture system. Again, rubbish! Every man and woman in service to their country, whether contractor, regular or reserve, should know in their bones that “only following orders” is not a legal excuse. (And know that it’s not legal to lie to Congress) That’s why the allies hung people at Nuremberg, right? Just as they hung war criminals in Japan.

Have tempers cooled since the war? To use a scientist’s thought experiment: Should a bleeding heart conservative, who owns a time machine, go back and rescue those German war criminals? No. Granted, it might pluck at our heartstrings down the decades to see war criminals who are bent, limping, senior citizens being hunted down like animals and dragged off for trial—but no. For such cruelty, a noted Nazi hunter had a reply, saying in effect: “The war criminals of tomorrow are already living among us as children today. They need to see there will be consequences…” There is no statute of limitations for murder.

Which brings me back to clear-eyed Sarah Connor and her son John. Sarah knows that if she fails to stop SkyNet, then the consequence will be a rain of blinding fire and bleached skulls. Her resulting sensibility is grim: Maybe it is from her grimness that she doesn’t show the expected horror that would be the normal reaction, back in 2008, to seeing a whole town secretly under surveillance. This by capitalists like Google, not by the government. Today, needless to say, we are mostly ignoring “technocreep” in our lives—by our own electronic devices! We of today have something in common with that 2008 town where the people have been hoodwinked. Maybe not against their will, but without their consent… 

Surely the greatest weapon of any tyranny, (as a Robert Heinlein character noted) be it a Muslim theocracy or a communist People’s Republic, is secrecy. Censorship. In the case of that town, secrecy includes self-censorship. Sarah attends a town funeral where even after 35 workers have suddenly died… people still say they don’t want to know what the company was doing. 

A tearful widow talks to Sarah, saying she “never knew” her husband. Sarah stays silent, although that same husband, a week ago, tried to murder her. 

The metaphor? Besides surveillance? It’s like any town, from any time-space location within “1970-U.S.A.,” where the white women “don’t know” what their menfolk are doing… turning their heads away from jail beatings by cops, and planted evidence… ignoring their husband’s dirty excuses to keep a trial from being “removed” from racist state courts to the federal courts. This even though the “law of removal” was explicitly passed to prevent racism in courtrooms against civil rights workers. The town stood for any little county or city where police beatings and killings are performed at the direction of “the establishment,” the culture, and therefore won’t be stopped, not until the white culture is stopped. But can culture be stopped? Today? As it happens, today liberals are making “culture” a sacred cow. In Canada, for instance, the liberal party believes Government must not say that barbaric practises of another culture, such as honor killings and female genital mutilation, are “barbaric practises, “ and Government mustn’t teach this judgement to new immigrants.

(Note: the values of the enlightenment, from the 1700s, are not picked up by immigrants by magic. Not automatically. In Finland this week it was an asylum seeker, after two years of living in freedom, who went on a terror spree. Here’s a link in English to a proud Finn)

In Sarah’s town the widows and orphans are as clear as light bulbs: They say they don’t want to know, they don’t want to change.

We of today, less innocent, don’t want to know, perhaps, why the U.S. Congress, while claiming there is nothing to fear from surveillance, would not therefore pardon Edward Snowden… meanwhile is also claiming to be be afraid of the surveillance of Hillary Clinton. (by the Russians) Disciples of Big Brother have a word for that: double-think. 

Back in 1970, I must admit, when we said, “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem,” back when I myself was walking the earth and wondering about God, I was NOT trying to educate racists in the United States. Just as today U.S. Muslims are NOT trying to educate people over in Arabia that “Islam means peace.” Partly because, let’s admit it, many Americans,  not just Muslims, can’t spell “war effort.” (War on Terror) To be fair, some of those same Muslims DID once help educate the South Africans that “apartheid is wrong.” 

A 1970 level of white racism is something I would not be acclimated to. These days, like science fiction writer John Scalzi, I could happily live in a small town in Ohio where “everybody and their dog” voted for President Donald Trump, but no, I could not now live in a 1970 southern U.S. town like Omelas.  I’d have to walk away.  

In a 1970 town, according to a 1976 book I’m reading by John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down the worst racists are in the white Christian churches. Yes, I know that’s sounds crazy, yet Perkins, a Christian who was bruised for other’s iniquities, reasons out his belief about whites quite carefully. Meanwhile, in our own century, in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, (T:TSCC) a spiritual Black man, who attends Bible studies, teaches a chained up artificial intelligence to know right from wrong. He explains to the machine that killing is wrong “Because we are all God’s children.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect my white neighbors, if they have known only respect, dignity and easy lives, to care about right and wrong the way I do.

The childhood of Sarah’s son John is, for me, a special metaphor. I don’t relate to the adult version of John, in a space-time where he is the very confident leader of the resistance, but I can sure relate him as a growing boy living in a state of hiding. Because as John would say, I too grew up knowing “You are never safe!” 

John could not be protected by twenty F.B.I. agents in the episode What He Beheld, and I could not be protected by two parents. Nor protected from them. The good news is that I’ve grown up into a person who cares about Blacks and my clients, into a functional citizen, caring enough to try to understand the world. I would agree with Sarah Connor: As Sarah knows in her bones, knows when stress knifes into her so badly she attends a Sleep Institute because she can’t sleep at night… Never give up!

…as genre reflects life…

Sean Crawford
Under the big sky of Alberta

Edward Snowden, to his credit, used a “check and balance” by going to solid citizens with “journalist ethics” and then letting them decide whether to publish. 

~Journalists (at least in the British Commonwealth, and presumably also in the U.S.A.) will never turn traitor just for a “scoop.” The gentlemen of the press to whom Snowden confided obviously did not think Snowden was a traitor. Furthermore, ethical reporters won’t print a fact if they cannot either attribute it to a source or at least know themselves that it is utterly true. (For example, they won’t attribute that Paris is the capital of France, but they will attribute how much cargo flows into the Paris docks “according to the Minister of Transport”) 

As newspaper editors know, for a news reporter, a factual error is as rare as a soldier dropping his rifle on parade. Yes I know, magazine editors use “fact checkers,” (a practice some folks such as Peter Drucker disagree with) but remember, sometimes their periodical writers are not like honorable samurai, not like self-respecting reporters “riding for the brand” of journalism ethics, but sometimes are like dishonored ronin, merely “hired guns.”

(A sidebar for stupid trolls has been deleted)  

~I pondered the culture of wholesome clean cut Americans, without involving their wives, allowing themselves to believe in surveillance in my essay Reflections on Surveillance archived October 2013

~I wrote of Sarah Connor in my essay Sarah, Terminators and Feminists archived July 2011

~In the context of innocent John Connor, I wrote of the morality of mainstream Hollywood in my essay Morality, Boys and Hollywood archived July 2013.

~While I’m forever astonished at the cancelation of the show Firefly, (link to my buddy Blair’s review) I am merely frustrated that T:TSCC was canceled from the Fox network. A nerd on the Internet said the show was too philosophical for those expecting a bang-bang action show.

Note to self: Never try to place your TV series on Fox.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Fools These Mortal Readers Be

“I give e-mail skimming a pass. Because a businessman once acted out for me how he and his peers have to be ruthless with reading e-mail.”
From an e-mail to Derek Silvers by Sean Crawford

Hello reader,
Should we read or skim?
If we skim, then what would our dear mothers say?

I’m behind schedule for another post about 
me and “blogs in general.” 

(OK: Before I forget, let me say, for “blogs in general,” John Scalzi blogged on July 4 that “… the general collapse of blogs, which has been happening for a couple of years now, really seems to have accelerated in the last year.” 

I don’t think people are leaving their screens, rather, they’re just switching their viewing to things like Facebook and Twitter)

Never mind me. I’ve been wondering what other readers are like. Readers of the Internet, I mean. For readers of the screen, scientists have found them to be a little stressed at trying to squint at digital fonts: It seems people don’t want the same blocks of text on screen they would easily read on paper. This I already knew, instinctively, and so I’ve been writing paragraphs almost as short as in a newspaper.  I trust my instincts, even though I’m a middle-aged man from the time before computers. May I confess something? I still have an odd feeling that anyone reading a screen must be a computer nerd… 

I think it’s Politically Correct for me to blog about PC users, because I think I still have my nerd credentials: After all, I still like fantasy and science fiction. In fact, I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, and seen the 1980’s movie. At the cinema. Haven’t done the new TV series yet, but surely I would like it. Elizabeth Moss has a nice familiar face. Speaking of sci-fi, may I do a fantasy thought experiment?

Imagine I’ve walked into the old library tower at the university. I walk in awe among the exciting stacks. Maybe I sit cross-legged on the floor in the dusty aisle to read intently. And since this is my fantasy: Matrix-style, I can wave my hand to make the stacks race past me, then wave stop! —and I pick out a book or periodical —and be engaged. Committed. Sitting in the aisle. After all, you get out of life the effort you put in. 

Regarding real life, and people reading the Internet… research shows that many will arrive on a web site, glance at the “homepage” and then skip off again along the web. No sitting cross-legged, figuratively. 

Sad to say, I cannot, metaphorically, imagine Americans as smiling Buddhists in canvas sneakers skipping alongside the new exciting “temple of computer” like excited kids going through cyberspace. No, for the research is damnably depressing: Lots of people will be reading fonts with feelings of low grade distress, while also, like having an annoying fan whir-whir-whirring in the background, be reading with an ongoing impatience. Not only do they skim and click off, but even when they are quote “reading” unquote, they are doing so with just as much impatience as enjoyment. Forget any awesome “temple of learning.” According to science, many people skim every page of any site they like. Call it “skimming as a lifestyle choice.”

Maybe they think they are “trying” to read. I think of Yoda: “There is no try, either do or do not.” These poor guys are missing a chance to be present like Yoda, instead rushing along in a pathetic doomed search for their digital pot of gold. Such a twisted form of FOMA: fear of missing out. I get it. For them, the long scroll of article titles in a nerd forum must be as intimidating as the looming university stacks. But there’s a difference. A lady smart-as-a-nerd, carrying her regional library card, wandering over to the campus and up the tower, does not regard the stacks with distressful impatience, let alone have a helpless compulsion to skim.   

I would ask those poor skimmers: The last time you stood up from your screen, did you feel a sense of accomplishment? Had you lost track of your time because you were having so much fun? Or, if you lost track because it was just so much compulsion, did you stand up feeling hollow? 

A modern-day Henry David Thoreau would decry consumers frantically rushing to be consumers of screen time. And for what? A life of quiet desperation?… Oh, believe me, I get it. Sometimes, if I am on my computer and my neck is somehow stiff and unable to turn a mere ten degrees to look at my clock, then I know my head is clamped in the vice grip of a compulsion. And I stand up hollow. 

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I have to say it: At those times I don’t respect myself. So then how can I respect the nerds in skimmer-land? At least they’re happy in their own way. I suppose. I hope.

Maybe they could take a step towards sanity by spending twice as much time on merely half as many sites. Maybe, like a television addict, they need to… I don’t know. What do addicts do?

I really should stop writing now. I don’t suppose, dear reader, you want me to rant and rave. 

Better for you to hear me being positive, so here goes: Two of my favorite bloggers are computer nerds. One is a former manager at Microsoft, we correspond by e-mail. Recently he was feeling depressed, so I advised him I feel cheered up by reading the blog of Derek Sivers, a guy who can program in several computer languages. Derek, I told him, presents a down-to-earth sanity.

In Siver’s post (link) about writing for the screen he says “people are busy.” (see comment #122 for “research on readers”) That’s a charitable way for Derek to put it, but no: “People skim.” The folks shown in the research studies may be in the majority, but still, “they skim because they skim.” Of course I believe in “democracy” and “the majority,” but—The majority also consumes too much sugar, owns too much stuff, and exercises too little. I know this, because I am human too. But I don’t have to like it. In fact, I could wink sideways to you and say, “My blood just boils, boils I tell you, thinking about the research on screen readers.”

Or I could lose my sense of ha-ha and get angry, then: “OK Self, try to calm down. Meditate: … “ohmmm, ohmmmm, …” Works for Yoda, not so much for me. Let’s change the topic to my own blog. 

I write for a niche market: For readers who know the name Henry Thoreau, or at least are willing to look him up. Without needing me to present them with a link on a silver platter. People with a God-given attention span. 

I won’t make my essays any shorter. Even Aesop, teaching his morals, had to wrap his sound-bites in a two-page fable, if he wanted his datum to stick. I realize my beautiful, perfect, darling posts get skimmed—I came up through newspaper journalism, I know—Still, if you manage to skim all the way to the ending of one of my essays then truly you are doing better than the mass of men. Good for you, good for me.

Now, without skimming or rushing, I suggest you go and take your… time… in seeing your dear mother.

Sean Crawford

~ My last scheduled self-indulgent essay “about me and blogs in general” was Twenty-Five Blogs archived October 2016.

AND THEN there’s Doctor Who, with his reading glasses, in that show about a sad near-immortal with mortal companions:

~Here’s a nice link to Abigail’s Song performed on stage, backed by a string quartet, by the classically trained singer Katherine Jenkins who first sang the song on Doctor Who. In the show, Abigail is a tragic figure with a beautiful soul. Her song begins, “When you’re alone, silence is all you know.”

~I wrote of the New Doctor Who, with his space-and-time machine, back in February 2017. He has a habit of saying, “back in ten minutes” and then returning after years. Well, for one of his pretty young companions, he returns to find she is 63 years old and retired. But at least she’s taught in every country in Europe, and even learned to fly a plane. But still… He feels badly—and he should. Maybe adults like your mother don’t grow as fast as children do, but yes, they are growing. Don’t miss out.

~There are two Dr. Who contrasting back-to-back episodes: The Girl who Died and The Woman who Lived. The beloved girl, who died surrounded by people who loved her, was lucky. The woman? Unfortunately, she lived too long, too lonely, and then she stopped caring about people. As a script writer said (link) on the Joss Whedon quotes site, “Loneliness leads to nothing good. Only detachment.”

…like I said, go see your mother. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Art, Genre and Cowboys

“Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24

Hello Reader,
Got art showing life?

Strange how sometimes genre, for prose and television, can be such a powerful metaphor for real life, just as “real literature” is. To me, there’s no point in being a literature snob looking down on genre. 

“Genre” means “category” where the audience arrives with certain expectations: A “cowboy” story, we think, must include a gunfight, and the plot should be like straight yarn, no tangled flashbacks. In contrast literature, or art, is beyond glib category. If it isn’t genre, then the audience is expected to release expectations, and just “be present” for the art. 

A splendid movie—five stars out of five in the Roger Ebert review—by Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, was Art— And that’s why, in regular cinemas across America, people who insisted on their regular Hollywood fare walked out… A  simple genre movie, or a genre novel, is something I can recommend to any stranger, using a star rating. But for an “art movie,” unlike a western, I need to first know the person I would recommend it to, or, if not, I need to spend a lot of time explaining not just what it’s about, but as Roger would say, how it’s about. 

Of course even genre for a mass audience may still sneak in some artsy metaphor. Back in the days of black and white TV Rod Serling, despite his surrounding culture of the 1950’s, managed in The Twilight Zone to sneak in some anti-conformity and anti-racism. I’ve mentioned Serling and Malick. Put it this way: Genre might be made by a committee, but art, as Rita Mae Brown once noted, must be made by a single unified consciousness. 

My favorite western novel to make use of artistic metaphor was by war veteran (European theatre) Louis L’Amour, entitled The Kiowa Trail. L’Amour’s novel starts off with a typical trail herd headed north to the rails. But then members of the dusty cattle drive ride into a town for drink. After, say, (I forget) a cowboy gets shot in the back, the town denies justice.  The townsmen take their rifles to the rooftops to defy the cowboys, to keep them from entering the town for any arrest or trial. 

Obviously this is a metaphor: The “townsmen” are the folks of Nazi Germany defending their choice to deny human rights. Is it proper then for the ranchers to blame the whole town? Surely there are still a few “good townsmen,” even if they are keeping totally invisible. Must they be judged too? 

Yes. The angry cattlemen proceed to act against the whole town. I forget how, but I think they blockade the town. In those days they would have known their biblical judgement: “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.” 

Today judging may be controversial, but maybe not in the cowboy days. You see, the entire civil population of the CSA, Confederate States of America, had recently been subjected to starvation by blockade, and then further exposed to the horror of General Sherman’s army with their controversial “marching through Georgia.” No doubt, to the tune of John Brown’s Body, the marching troops sang, “We shall hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree.” Then came peace, with blessed sanity. Then, of course, veterans of both sides would work on cattle ranches together. Just as in the next century fighter pilots of West Germany and Britain flew together in South Korea as part of the United Nations force. (Canadian forces were in Korea as part of the Commonwealth Division) 

When my father’s generation bombed the civilian factories of the Rhine and Berlin, while the London blitz must have somewhat eased their conscience, part of the formal reasoning was “people get the government they deserve.” (Are best fitted for) At the same time, I suppose the allies used the infamy of Pearl Harbor to somewhat ease their conscience as they used U.S. submarines to blockade the nation that deserved Prime Minister General Tojo—again, just as with the blockade of Europe, innocent fascists starved… 

How strange that I could conjure up all these memories of history by reading a book in the western genre. While art and genre are at two separate poles, truly genre meets art at the equator. Metaphors are world-wide.

Sean Crawford
Under the big sky of Alberta

~As for The Tree of Life, as I see it: The movie is about how a shocked family has their faith shaken, and so they question and ponder God’s creation and God’s very existence. Maybe I would question too, were I in such grief. Here’s a link to Roger Ebert’s review.

~Both a movie about Korean jet fighter pilots, and a Reader’s Digest condensed novel about a trail herd, North to Abilene by Zachary Ball, include a scene where a freckle faced boy, too young to have fought, folds his arms and refuses to drink with a former enemy. The older men, veterans of both sides, teach him he is mistaken.

~I heard in a tavern that Muslims in certain countries are taught while still children, by their parents, to have hatred. If true, then a simple peace treaty would not restore them to sanity. How sad.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Blog Interview with Me

Hello Reader,
Got belonging?
(For that, the essay body is prelude to the footnotes)

I haven’t written about me in a long time. Of course I don’t mean “Me,” the woman on Doctor Who. I mean just me, Sean. 

As for my life, there’s nothing worth writing home about, but maybe you’d like to see me through a blogging lens. For a blog interview, what would the lovely Me ask me? Me from Doctor Who, I mean. That overly long-lived lady.

Me: Hullo. Are you male?

Sean: Isn’t it interesting how we Celts go in for bi-sexual names? I worked with a man who’s name tag read Shirley, at college the man who ran the physical education equipment room was named Beverly, and of course I share a name with the actress from Bladerunner, Sean Young. 

"As it happens, I’m proud to be male. —Well, not exactly proud, I mean I was merely born this way, but I might just as well be proud, since there’s no changing it, —well, you can if you have some money and you’re determined, but, well, don’t go there. Just don’t."

The above was me channeling the tenth doctor. I liked him. Wasn’t it awful when he was all torn up and said, “I don’t want to go” and then, of course, he had to regenerate into another body? Now I know why the eleventh doctor was the torn up “raggedy man” beloved by a young girl. Poor girl, I grieved.

Me: Do you cry when innocent companions of the doctor meet their end?

Sean: No. See answer to first question. Well, Ok, if I am binge watching when a companion moves off this mortal plane then, well, I don’t watch any more that day. Won’t. Can’t. But, —Oy! Let me tell you—back in my day? I can remember a companion saying goodby and then skipping gaily down a nice English country lane. None of this awful ending stuff.

Me: Binge watch?

Sean: No. I like to make my series last, and I have a life, but the sole exception is Doctor Who: He, I mean she, I mean, the doctor is so popular the library puts the DVD on a one-week loan. But hey, binging on that “person” with his/her two hearts is fun.

Me: Tragedy or comedy?

Sean: For my blog? I guess mostly serious, after harkening to the advice of the closest thing to an essayist I read as a boy: Province newspaper columnist Eric Nicol, author of some funny books. He liked doing his serious, citizenship, “save the world” columns, but for his final column, his summing up, he had a warning: Don’t do any humorous columns. He said “once the public hears your jester bells tinkling,” they won’t pay attention to your serious stuff. Such a pity. Say, do you think that’s changed?

Me: …no answer…

Sean: I can relate. The previous columnist was Jack Scott, whom my grade five teacher, Mr. Thompson, really liked. Jack used to wonder, as he typed his “save the world” pieces, if there was anybody out there reading. Anybody? Hello? One day he dashed off a piece about picking blueberries up on Mount—Mount X, I better not blab the real name—Next day there was a long line of cars edging up the sole mountain road. Every car carrying a hopeful bucket for berries.

Myself, I write serious speeches to deliver at my toastmasters club. One day, for a quick topic, I did one on the joys of carefully mixing your breakfast cereal. Result? A nice couple from another club have been telling me for years that is their favourite speech of mine, and how they still mix their cereal. Glad to be of help, says I. I can save the world some other time, says I.

Me: You’re so naturally funny.

Sean: Ya, in real life. Not sure whether I should be funny on my blog, though. I mean, what would Eric Nicol say?

Me: What did Eric say? Besides what you said, I mean.

Sean: He said it is not a good idea to put lots of man-hours into learning how to be funny on the page. Now that television is in colour, that’s where people get their laughs.

Me: That was before computers. Now there’s lots of screens. With print. Like on a page.

Sean: What do you think?

Me: Why ask me? With a center-of-the-world name like Me you can bet I don’t feel any need to be apprehensive about measuring up to others, nor be worried about life in general, nor do I have any ego-need to put people down. No tension-need for laughter. Maybe I still do laughter from being surprised, but that’s about it. I’m happily learning to appreciate beauty, just now, but really, I don’t focus on comedy.

Sean: Oh. That’s all I can say: “Oh.” You’ve lived such a long time, Me.

Me: Goodby, Sean.

Sean: Goodby, Me.

Sean Crawford
After the thirteenth “the doctor” has been announced,
after I did The New Doctor Who in February of 2017

~Shall I do humour?

~I guess Eric Nicol was “out of community” when he died, with a small, small funeral. Shall I be enraged or sad? Here’s a link to remembering him.

~Here is a link to a young man who, like Me, is “out of community” but, unlike her, is trying hard not to be “out of empathy.” In his case, his condition is because he moves over the globe so much. Here is a quote of how he copes:

I always prioritize making at least one deep friendship in each place I visit (ideally more of course), because I have seen the dangers of ignoring the human aspect – I have met a couple of long-term travellers who simply lose the ability to empathize with other people, because they never get the chance to care for anyone for long enough. I never want this to happen to me, and go out of my way to try to really get to know and help people so there is always some human connection, and that I perhaps leave a place better than how I found it.

But I actually miss routines a lot. I have to essentially look for a new supermarket that has what I want, new friends that I can confide in, a nice walking or jogging path, a good regular social event to attend, a place with great food, every single time I move somewhere. Sometimes I really wish I could have these things more easily accessible and not be constantly searching for them.

By the end of the time that I live in a place, the guy I get coffee from recognizes me and gives me a nice smile, or the weekly party I go to has the same familiar faces who wave at me… and then I have to go. It takes time to build these kinds of little nice parts of your routine that so many people take for granted. For me it's such a novelty to be able to say somewhere that I'll have “my usual” order…