Archive for the ‘Jesting, Infinitely’ Category

What I’m Like When Asked to Rate Something Online

January 26, 2023

Obsessed with This Correction

December 26, 2022

Stigma

December 19, 2022

From a book I love, by Erving Goffman:

“Also, it seems possible for an individual to fail to live up to what we effectively demand of him, and yet be relatively untouched by this failure; insulated by his alienation, protected by identity beliefs of his own, he feels that he is a full-fledged normal human being, and that we are the ones who are not quite human. He bears a stigma but does not seem to be impressed or repentant about doing so. This possibility is celebrated in exemplary tales about Mennonites, Gypsies, shameless scoundrels, and very Orthodox Jews.”

I think “shameless scoundrels” is my favorite.

“Turgenev, can-can. Sad.”

October 20, 2022

In the spring of 1878, Turgenev in Paris and been pleased, but warily surprised, by a penitent letter which he received from Tolstoy: “Forgive me if I have been at fault in any way with regard to you.” Tolstoy begged his fellow novelist to forget all their previous quarrels and to remember only the good things which they had enjoyed together. It was the sort of letter which a postulant nun might have written to a schoolfriend before going into the cloister.

When the opportunity arose, later that summer, Turgenev visited Tolstoy at Yasnaya Pollyanna. He found that a tremendous change had overtaken Tolstoy. Turgenev’s novels reveal the liberal humanist’s ability to recognize life’s master for what it is, and not to worry at it. He was no metaphysician. For Tolstoy, such questions as Why are we here? What is the point of living? Is there a God? What is the Good? were of consuming importance. He had, during this summer, become obsessed by them. Turgenev discovered that there was little meeting ground between the two of them. After this particular visit, he wrote to Tolstoy, “I am glad that your physical health is good and I trust that your intellectual malady… has passed.” He went on to say that he had often experienced such moods of depression himself. To others, he expressed the fear that Tolstoy was going mad. For Tolstoy’s part, Turgenev’s urbanity and good humor were, in such circumstances, intolerable. On a rather later visit, Turgenev, carried away with high spirits, demonstrated a can-can to the children Yasnaya Pollyanna. “Turgenev, can-can. Sad,” was the priggish comment Tolstoy noted down afterwards.

A.N. Wilson, Tolstoy

Gang Names in Lancaster County

August 18, 2022

When Amish youth hit sixteen, they typically begin “running around.” This is the famous Rumspringa period, during which they can do almost whatever they please, because they are no longer under the rule of their parents, but nor have they been baptized officially into the church. I didn’t know before that they don’t do this alone; they join “gangs.” According to Donald Kraybill:

About twenty-seven youth groups, called “gangs,” ranging in size from fifty to a hundred and fifty members, crisscross the Lancaster settlement. By the age of ten, an Amish child will be able to name some of the groups––Bluebirds, Canaries, Pine Cones, Drifters, Shotguns, Rockys, and Quakers––and even describe some of their activities. Youth are free to join the gang of their choice. Young people from the same church district or family may join different groups. The gangs become the primary social world for teens before they marry, but the groups vary considerably in their conformity to traditional Amish values.

What, no Jets or Sharks?

Schools of Therapy

March 1, 2021

One of these days I promise I will get around to writing my essay titled “Against Therapy,” but until then, here are two satirical (but possibly very effective!) modalities of therapy I’ve invented. Feel free to practice them on yourselves!

1. Radical Death Therapy

This therapy involves a patient speaking continuously for forty-five minutes in a manner typical to normal psychoanalysis/therapy. At the end of the session, the therapist smacks the patient with a rolled up newspaper and yells, “Don’t you realize you’re going to die some day?!”

2. Internal Rock Therapy

This is a kind of mindfulness-based therapy that involves the therapist encouraging the patient at every turn to imagine a large, immovable rock inside of them, that cannot be hurt by any external force. Problems in your love life? Think about the rock. Boss treating you poorly? His taunts can’t hurt the rock. Feeling like a piece of driftwood at the mercy of the forceful river of life? You are the rock. You see where I’m going with this.

Is This Funny?

September 22, 2020

I started to write a “humor” piece about someone calling Gd’s office asking to reschedule the end of 2020 like it’s a doctor’s appointment, but I’m not sure it’s funny, or, even if it is, there’s enough to go on. Thoughts?

Hi. Oh, yeah, hi, um, can you hear me? Sorry, trying to use Skype cause of long-distance charging and all, sometimes the service isn’t so great. Uh, hi. I’m trying to reach God, or whoever is in charge of His scheduling there? Sure, I can hold.

Hi! Yeah, so I’m really sorry for the late notice, but I’m calling to reschedule an appointment. Yes, it’s “the remainder of 2020.” I’ve been meaning to reschedule for ages, but things have just been so hectic, with the Zoom school and the remote working and everything.

Yes, I do realize you have a 24-hour-cancellation policy, but if we start the cancellation from 24 hours from now, can I avoid the fee? You know what, actually, on second thought, I don’t think I can endure another day, so I’ll just pay it. Yes, the credit card on file is fine.

So as for rescheduling, hm, let me take a look at my calendar. I was really hoping to make it up when my kids are able to dress themselves, but before I am no longer able to. Some kind of sweet spot like that––maybe when they’ve just gone to college? Do you have any openings in 2040? Really any time that year, I don’t have anything scheduled yet. Oh, there’s another pandemic scheduled for then? And a world war? Shoot. Is there anything else I should know about for 2040? You know what, don’t tell me, I almost think it’s better if I don’t know.

Hahahaha

June 12, 2020

For work I get the online dispatches from the medical journal JAMA, and today one of their headlines is below.  What an understatement!

Screen Shot 2020-06-12 at 4.59.04 PM

Lego Auschwitz

March 29, 2020

Libera, Lego Concentration Camp

From the beginning, Konzentrationslager caused a huge sensation, with viewers split on whether it was an important work or a travesty. Depicting genocide with a toy made people uncomfortable. Some Holocaust activists saw the work as trivializing the experiences of survivors, while others disagreed. The Jewish Museum in New York City displayed the sets for several months in 2002 as part of an exhibit on Nazi imagery in modern art.

Even LEGO joined in the criticism, complaining that [artist Zbigniew] Libera hadn’t told the company what he was intending when it donated the bricks and that this contribution didn’t constitute sponsorship as implied by the packaging’s labeling. LEGO tried to get Libera to stop displaying the work, backing down from its pressure only after the artist hired a lawyer.

From The Cult of Lego by John Baichtal and Joe Meno

The Butlers of Post WWI England Are the Millennial Tech Company Underlings of Today

March 8, 2020

“In fact, a comparison of how I might interpret a ‘distinguished household’ with what the Hayes Society understood by that term illuminates sharply, I believe, the fundamental difference between the values of our generation of butlers and those of the previous generation.  When I say this, I am not merely drawing attention to the fact that our generation had a less snobbish attitude as regards which employers were landed gentry and which were ‘business.’  What I am trying to say –– and I do not think this an unfair comment –– is that we were a much more idealistic generation.  Where our elders might have been concerned with whether or not an employer was titled, or otherwise from one of the ‘old’ families, we tended to concern ourselves much more with the moral status of an employer.  I do not mean by this that we were preoccupied with our employers’ private behavior.  What I mean is that we were ambitious, in a way that would have been unusual a generation before, to serve gentlemen who were, so to speak, furthering the progress of humanity.  It would have been seen as a far worthier calling, for instance, to serve a gentleman such as Mr. George Ketteridge, who, however humble his beginnings, has made an undeniable contribution to the future well-being of the empire, than any gentleman, however aristocratic his origin, who idled away his time in clubs or on golf courses.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day