Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4.29 Tuesday (Apparition of St. Cuniculus)

Culled from "Harper's Weekly Review" for April 29: "Children celebrating Easter in Richmond, Virginia, collected eggs stuffed with white-supremacist propaganda."

White supremacist

Residents in a Richmond suburb who put Easter eggs on their lawn for Easter morning noticed that their private cache had been seeded during Easter eve with alien eggs bearing messages inside like the little paper slips in fortune cookies. A bald attempt to overtake the plastic minds of children ab ovo, quite literally. 

Richmond of palmy memory was the capitol of the late and apparently lamented Confederate States and home to all sorts of nostalgic, plantation-themed nuttiness like Sons of Confederate Veterans costume galas, battle reenactments (a.k.a., a chance to get it right) and myriad opportunities to get togged out like a Confederate general.

White supremacist

What could the little missives inside the plastic eggs contain that might send a parent scrambling to wrest it from the sticky hands of a curious little seeker after God's own truth? Everyone knows that the Easter Bunny is a white rabbit. But this isn't really about Easter, it's about access to young minds. Santa is also white, but we think about Santa during a season when educational opportunities are scarcer. A dog can leave things on a lawn, but it's harder to get inside someone's house to fill the stockings with instructional materials. 

 (Ate an Easter egg)

Monday, April 28, 2014

4.28 Monday (Diminution of Agia Elisaveta)


"The Elizabeth Warrens"

This past week, on one of my endless daily drives through the Rattlesnake Belt, having reached that point of blank distraction at which even the basest form of cultural diversion would suffice, I turned on the car radio. The instant jackpot was a political talk show, the topic was banking regulation, the sympathies of guest and host alike were conservative free marketeering. 

The  guest was a spent intellectual force from American Heritage Action who began reasonably enough by pointing out a shared perception that the "banking industry" has perpetrated high crimes and misdemeanors with no consequences to itself. But if anyone were hoping for a bit of home truth about rigorous new regulation or strict oversight of an institution gone haywire, the speaker quickly volunteered that he did not agree with "the Elizabeth Warrens." A palpable relief emanated over the broadband (which Miguel still thinks of as "the airwaves.")

Now I confess I was ignorant of any other Elizabeth Warren in political life or in the public notice, not to mention several of them. Who were these other Elizabeth Warrens, I wondered, that he had even heard of them, could know their views on regulation, could know of their universal agreement on the question? And why would these women, all sharing a name, necessarily agree in questions of banking policy? Isn't it at least conceivable that, of the set of all women named "Elizabeth Warren," at least one might have landed on the side of the free market angels?

Oh, Miguel (I chided myself), always too literal minded. I had at last spotted the rhetorical coup de grace, the trick of diminishing a policy or argument by reducing it to the name of its proponent (Marxism, Keynesianism), then reducing the proponent to a type; the implication is that there is not a single individual named EW, no such person exists in her own right, no one individual capable of advanced and clear thinking.

There are only "the Elizabeth Warrens," which is to imply a set of clones or nested Russian dolls or kittens, all singing the same monotonous mechanical tune without a single functioning consciousness. An ideology requiring no counterarguments.

In a more positive vein, one might speak of "the Ronald Reagans" as a single functioning consciousness.

 "The Ronald Reagans"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

4.26 Saturday (Ecstasy of St. Teresa)

St. Teresa at the vending machine

From Miguel's home state of Colorado comes a further innovation in marijuana dispensaries. American Green, an enterprising vending company, has recently installed the ZaZZZ in Montana’s Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Avon, the speed trap of Eagle County (this post includes a bit of news and a driver alert). 

It’s the nation’s "first marijuana edibles vending machine," explains a company officer. “Many people could look at this and say that’s just a vending machine, and they’d be right, but mostly wrong.” Which sounds very much like what you might say when you're like totally bombed, dude.

 
 A photo in case you . . . ummm, like . . . get lost.

The machine will soon be stocked with happinesses from Herbal Elements, probably wrapped in those maddening cellophane pouches that try the forearms of the strongest, the patience of the meekest, and could completely flummox an amateur stoner. Maybe herbally enhanced favorites like brownies, pretzel bits, Tootsie Rolls, "space cake," Rice Krispie treats, banananananana bread and other cannabis classics for the krispie fried set from the Stoner's Cookbook.

The Dude abides, although in a pale and attenuated way. Users of the new vending service will need a valid medical marijuana card and be verified through what the company calls the machine's "active biometrics." Still, what better place than a barbecue outlet for vending medical marijuana? The analgesic properties of cannabis are well-documented, and one prevalent source of chronic pain in America is overeating. It's a win-win, though it's named the Smokehouse, so God only knows what might go on in the rest rooms. . .


. . . or the kitchen

In another food-related note, adding to the proliferation of choices on grocery shelves is another variation on Hershey's chocolate syrup. There's the old favorite, then the special dark chocolate version, and now the "calcium" version. So what has been from childhood a reliable source of triglycerides is also an important nutritional supplement. It's like buying health care at the Piggly Wiggly. It's all good news today.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

4.24 Thursday (Apotheosis of St. Cunagunda)

If only to feed my penchant for gentle raillery, our great states of Dixie have once again hoisted the banner of evangelical fervor on a truly African scale. Two recent instances of legislative zeal, the first from South Carolina, where a legislative amendment has been proposed to another bill that recently passed the state House to designate the Columbian mammoth as the state fossil. The initial bill is stalled after Republican senator Kevin Bryant added two verses from the book of Genesis. (That would be the Republican senator Kevin Bryant who posted the now famous Osama/Obama photo on his campaign website a few years back.)  

Bryant's amendment was ruled out of order, but senators rallied to debate his addendum to the bill, which allows that the mammoth was "created on the sixth day along with the beasts of the field." (Which would include dinosaurs.)

The original measure came in response to a letter to elected officials from Olivia McConnell, an-8-year-old resident, who pointed out that there is as yet no South Carolina state fossil. Funny, I always thought the state fossil was Strom Thurmond.

The great state of Mississippi, much to the premature delight of a few enlightened teachers and parents who should have seen this coming, mandated that schools now must provide a state-wide curriculum of sex education. As it happens, the state commissariat of education was neither interested in sex nor in education. A central prop in the standardized instruction is a Peppermint Pattie, which is unwrapped and handed about the room until everyone has handled it, whereupon it is displayed to a horrified classroom in all its sweatyfingered, deliquescent moral torpor. "They're using [it] to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex — that she's been used," explained an outraged parent who is also a public health worker.
No shame

I wonder what the Africans are up to these days. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

4.5 Saturday (Nativity of St. John Chrysostom)

Culled from a recent episode of Harper's "Weekly Review": "[F]ormer American president Jimmy Carter offered advice on evading government surveillance to panelists on NBC’s Meet the Press. 'When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately,' he said, 'I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office, and mail it.' "

 "Bit of a dustup last night I expect."

Reading this bit of sage counsel I was touched - by its commonsensical soundness, by its elegance, by its very simplicity. The day has not dawned (yet) in this country when ordinary citizens, upon retrieving their mail, find that it has the rumply appearance of having been steamed open in a government basement, redacted with a black Sharpie or pair of sharp scissors after passing under the grim scrutiny of the warden's office or some mysterious Commissariat of Domestic and International Communiqués. The facilities at the National Security Administration and its ancillary operations at Google and AT&T are all too high-tech to open envelopes and scratch things out, or even to read nonsearchable, nondigitized character matrices in fonts which, far from being uniform, are more often impressionistic at best.

I was also touched by that image of a beloved former president, seated at his wooden writing desk, a patch of Georgia sunlight falling through the study window, fountain pen in hand, a studied frown on his brow as he considers how he will begin (prolepsis), how continue (excursus), how argue or cajole, how raise up or cast low, admonish or praise. Then, folding the letter, licking the envelope and trundling off down the sidewalk with it to the local post office to buy a stamp, exchange pleasantries and how-dos with Hazel Mae the postmistress, to the soda fountain for a quick one before ambling back to Rosalind and the wire-haired terrier, Suleiman Omar ibn Rashid.

But still, something puzzled me. I thought a moment, thought again, and puzzled yet again - why would the NSA have any interest in a note to the likes of Clement Atlee, John Major, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Linda Ronstadt, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Yitzak Rabin, Imelda Marcos, Pope John Paul II, Strom Thurmond, Everett Dirkson, Claire Booth Luce, President Sukarno, Robert McNamara, Ralph Abernathy, Shimon Peres, Harold Stassen, Konrad Adenauer, Betty Friedan, John Maynard Keynes, George Kennan, Shirley Chisholm, Thich Nhat Hanh, Averill Harriman, Anwar Sadat, Nelson Rockefeller, Adlai Stevenson, William O. Douglas, Wendell Wilkie, Menachim Begin, Martin Buber, John Foster Dulles, Dean Acheson, Alger Hiss, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Zbigniew Brzinski or Racquel Welch?


Well, it beats me. But these days it pays to be careful.