A Happy Memory

Andy at Majestic Mold Making

Andy at Majestic Mold Making

The campaign itself was beyond epic. Twenty-plus years of First Edition AD&D, all played in the same imagined world involving mostly the same group of players had left us with quite a cast of recurrent characters. By now, each of us had some that were old enough to get a driver’s license. My old high school friend, Andy, and I each had characters old enough to buy beer …legally. It was a rich world we had built up over the years. Somewhere in there, we had the idea to round up our biggest and best bad-ass characters and run the campaign to end all campaigns with them.

Each of us chose a bunch of our favorites to add into the small army we would be using and we decided to alternate the job of running the game. Each game would essentially be a one-off with which we would loosely fold into a larger plot ending with some scale of bad-assery we had never gamed before.

The whole thing fizzled of course, as campaigns often do, but not before furnishing us with a few great sessions.

***

Andy ran this particular session. He set up the scenario as we put together out a take-out order and someone set up the stereo with a couple choice CDs. We began placing our characters in the setting and getting ready for the challenge. Straight to initiative! Andy wasn’t messing around, but just before we began the hack & slash, he announced an odd twist. There would be a single modifier of -5 to +5 on all die rolls that would apply to each of the characters belonging to one player for an indefinite time during the course of the game. Andy would assign the modifier whenever it proved appropriate appropriate. We received no explanation, and that was that.

Okay, sounds like fun!

I think Mike got the first modifier. It was a small bonus of +2 or +3, and it helped him a bit with whatever challenge we had for the day. Soon, the modifier changed and I received a -1. Then my penalty was upped to -3 or so. Later Mike got a penalty, and then I got a bonus of +3, followed by a penalty of -5. (That hurt!)

…and we had no idea where this was coming from.

Generally speaking, Mike was doing better than me. He got mostly benefits. Chuck had few modifiers (mostly small penalties), and this modifier never seemed to apply to Andy’s characters at all. I think we once went an hour or so with no modifier to anyone. I was the only player in the entire game to receive the maximum penalty.

The timing wasn’t consistent. It changed at close to an hour, but not quite, and not always at the same time interval anyway. It fell almost in between rounds, but not quite. On an exceptionally long round (we had lots of characters on the table), it might change half way through, but at least once it had lasted 2 rounds, and we even checked. Andy insisted that it wasn’t time to change the modifier.

We thought about actions taken by different players. Was it a response to certain specific spells? Success or failure in attacks? Something to do with alignment? Could it be the enemy? Was there some object on the table that made the difference? Perhaps movement of characters into different parts of the game surface? There were moments when we thought we might have seen a pattern, but then something always happened to debunk our thoughts on the subject. We played the entire game without figuring it out, and it was a very long game, long enough to get a call from another friend’s wife wondering when he was coming home. Not till it’s over (of course!), but we never did figure out the basis for the modifier. The whole challenge ended without resolving that one troublesome question.

I remember this had been a particularly satisfying game. We were still laughing and smiling as we packed. Andy had run a great scenario, enough that we actually said so. Compliments were a rarity in this crowd (except for the back-handed kind of course). Oh there was the occasional ‘fuck you!’ or ‘asshole!’ delivered right after someone did something exceptionally well. That was what usually counted as praise in our circle. But ‘good game’ and ‘I enjoyed this’ were not phrases that rolled often off of our tongues. Still, Andy got a couple of those remarks at the end of the session.

And then we asked.

“The modifier? What was it?”

“Oh, it was based on the music. I gave bonuses if I liked the disc you put on and penalties if I didn’t.”

(The hour with no modifier to anyone had been the one time Andy put on a disk himself. It was The Reverend Horton Heat, as I recall, is what earned me the full penalty of -5.)

I don’t think I ever stopped laughing about that.

***

Andy Sneed introduced me to RPGs way back in our freshman year of high school. He asked me if I’d ever payed Tunnels and Trolls before, and after hearing me say ‘no’, Andy promptly informed me that I was playing the game with him and his brother that coming Saturday. ‘Who the Hell is this guy’ I wondered? But I agreed to come try it. To say that I was hooked from the first game session would be putting it mildly. It was the beginning of a lifelong interest and a long-standing friendship.

Andy and I lost touch with each other in recent years, but I had always hoped we would one day end up back in the same room, tossing playful insults back and forth at each other and fighting over what music we’d listen to as we slew another dragon.

…probably in some old folk’s home!

Sadly, no.

Andy’s funeral was yesterday. His passing has me thinking of this story and countless others like it. I will miss my friend.

Rest in Peace, Andy.

Gray Mountain Murals

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

69915490_10220346134668553_8025486970597670912_n“Honey, this place looks like it’s closed.”

Moni is trying to brush the sleep from her eyes. Leaning forward as far as the seat belt will let her, she cranes her neck around to see if she can see why I have pulled over. The more she sees, the more she realizes how very right she is. As I recall, this place was already closed over ten years ago when I used to drive through Gray Mountain on my way to work. It’s well past closed now.

“Why are we stopping here?”

After a moment, she realized the answer to her question.

(Click to embiggen. …You know you wanna!)

This seems to be the work of Jetsonorama whose “Painted Desert Project” has produced a lot of wonderful pieces. I am occasionally lucky enough to get down there and see some of this beautiful work.

FWIW: My Instagram.

A Late Night Conversation

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Elaborate ScenelMoni: honey if a man shot at me and I died, would you avenge me.

Me: mmmm …maybe.

(Whack!)

Moni: you wouldn’t avenge me?

Me: I’d step in front of the bullet.

Moni: Awe!

Moni: But suppose you don’t get there in time, would you avenge me?

Me: What did you do to this guy anyway?

(WHACK!)

A Random Thought on Customer Service

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

20190827_103245.jpgThis last weekend, I enjoyed a few rounds of beer along with a few rounds of one of my favorite games, “Unexploded Cow,” by Cheepass Games. It’s a great game, especially for anyone well into their cups. The game is just predictable enough to lend itself to a little strategy, but not so predictable that victory will always go to the better player. You can try, but you can’t really count on winning, so the important point is to sneak a bad cow into the herd of someone you love, have another brew, and enjoy talking trash to literally everyone at the table.

I love this game!

I mean, I love the game itself.

But the game itself also reminds me of a panel presentation I attended long ago featuring one of its designers, James Earnest. He shared all sorts of wonderful ideas about game design and the gaming business, but what I remember most was brief exchange that took place during the question and answer period. Earnest had described the conditions under which he might reduce the price of a game, and an audience member asked if he ever had customers angry because they had paid for a game shortly before he lowered the price of a product. His response was to say that if anyone ever complained about that, he would gladly refund the difference. This lead to one more question; “Aren’t you afraid someone will claim the refund fraudulently?” Suffice to say that the answer was ‘no’. In fact, Earnest told us, nobody had ever claimed the partial refund at all, fraudulent or otherwise, and he certainly wasn’t worried about the expense if someone did.

Mind you, this was well over a decade ago, so I have no idea if Cheapass Games ever suffered a wave of frivolous requests for small rebates, but at the time, Earnest seemed quite willing to accept the possibility that someone might somehow get such a con past him. Preventing that just wasn’t all that high on his list of priorities.

…which struck me as pretty cool.

***

Note: Another company, Greater Than Games, purchased Cheapass Games sometime back and Katie, their customer service manager, assures me that they would make such a refund now.

***

Whenever I remember this exchange, I am immediately reminded of a very different story, one involving a very different gaming company. It was a fantasy miniature-manufacturing company that had already gained a reputation for obnoxious treatment of others in the business when someone popped into a hobby forum to gripe about them. He had bought one of their larger miniatures for a price somewhere between ten and twenty dollars and when he got the miniature home, he discovered one part was defective. He asked for a refund or a replacement part.

Their customer service rep immediately told him that he should go back to the game store where he had bought the miniature and ask for a refund or a replacement. The store would refund him or replace the product and they would refund the store. This was how they preferred to do business, and no, that wasn’t all that unusual.

The customer then told them that the store had gone out of business (there was a lot of that going around at the time), and so this wasn’t an option. So they asked for proof that he had bought the mini and that the product was defective. He responded by sending them pictures. They then told him that if he mailed the product back to them, they would send a replacement.

It was at this point that the customer gave up. Mailing the product back would have cost a fair chunk of the value of the mini and he had already put more time into the efforts to get a replacement than it was worth. He wouldn’t be buying any more of their miniatures, and venting about it on the forum was pretty much the end of it as far as he was concerned.

The post appearing as it did on a popular website for miniature painters couldn’t have helped their sales much. This was a very niche market and a fair chunk of that niche had just been given a reason to think twice about doing business with them.

I’m not sure that I could pinpoint a specific moment at which this miniature company’s approach became unreasonable, and I never did hear their account of the exchange, but on taking the story at face value, I certainly understand the customer’s frustration. I can also think of numerous instances in which other companies in the business sent replacement parts to myself and my friends without so much as a request for anything but our mailing address or the name of a store in the area where we could pick them up. This might have incurred an extra cost to the companies in question, but I’m pretty sure it inspired a few extra sales from me at any rate.

***

The moral of the story?

Sometimes people can get so focused on watching the bottom line that they hurt themselves in the end. What a business gains or loses in currency may not be worth the cost in goodwill. Conversely, the goodwill of a customer can be well worth an extra expense, even a questionable expense. Mileage varies of course and there is a point at which people obviously need to draw the line. Still, I can’t help thinking a lot of folks draw that line far too early.

They do so at their own expense.

 

Donald Trump Could Let a Man Die on His Watch…

Tags

, , , , , , ,

2019-08-11 (2)Yesterday, the Idiot-in-Chief retweeted this little bit of tripe from one of the lesser grifters riding his crappy coattails to fame. This retweet an entire Gish Gallop in a single tweet. Seriously, you could write a book on the many ways in which this is simply stupid.

Idiots will idiate!

But the particular idiocy that I keep coming back to is this. This is the President of the United States, and Epstein was a high profile suspect in a Federal institution. Epstein’s welfare was the direct responsibility of federal officials, and those officials answer to Trump. If Jeffrey Epstein was killed by ANYONE, it is ultimately the responsibility of Donald Trump. More to the point, that Epstein died in this facility absolutely IS Donald Trump’s responsibility. No hypotheticals needed! Yet trump sits there, just like any other couch-potato, musing on the possibility that something awful might have happened as if he were not himself implicated in the very rumors he is spreading.

Donald Trump is arguably the most powerful man in the world. (Well, to be honest, that status would probably belong to Putin, but that aside,…) Trump is arguably the most powerful man in the United States, and yet he still reacts to major political events as though he is simply Archie Bunker sitting in the comfy chair with nothing better to go on than his first impression of a news item and no more responsibility for the events in question than any other guy who just walked into his living room tired from a long day of work and sat down in a chair to learn about events well beyond his scope of power and expertise. The problem here is that Donald Trump isn’t just another guy sitting in a chair learning about the news from the pundits of his personal choice. He is in charge of the institutions in question and this death happened on his watch. Ideally the President of the United States should do more and know more than this President appears to, and there is every indication that this appearance of a hapless hackwit with neither self-awareness nor public consciousness is absolutely the underlying reality of this living facade.

There is no underlying truth to anything Trump says or does, no deeper meaning or real intention underlying the many misleading slogans which constitute the entirely of his political engagement. Donald Trump is the surface impression he creates, nothing more and nothing less.

…all of which is why it is so disturbing to see the President talking as though he were not implicated in events unfolding under his own authority. Donald Trump is the proverbial man (as in ‘the man’) talking about the politics of his day as if he were just another underdog, just another guy trying to make sense of another scandal, a scandal in which he doesn’t seem to see himself, even though he is all over it.

It’s an iconic moment, this tweet. Trump at his Trumpiest. It is also the present GOP and its most GOPest, a party completely devoid of any sense of responsibility for anything it or its members do.

I suppose Republicans have played the underdog for as long as I can remember, but that particular theme wasn’t always quite so prominent as it is now. There was a time when it was substantially overshadowed by themes of respectability and adherence to time-honored traditions. When I was in college Republicans were more likely to hold themselves up as the standard of moral and intellectual propriety from which liberals sought to free themselves. Back then the proverbial Man was understood to be a conservative Republican, and Republicans typically assumed a level of authority across the board which is fundamentally inconsistent with the ethos of rebellious underdogs fighting the powers that be. They were the ones telling the rest of us how to live, and quite often they were happy to tell us why they had the authority to do that.

Something changed.

But what?

If you ask me, it was Rush Limbaugh. It was Limbaugh that taught conservatives the joys of playing the smartass in the back of the room instead of posing as the Professor and then having to answer somebody else’s smartass questions. Limbaugh never tried to assert the authority of tradition; he always preferred to mock the efforts to liberals in whatever they happened to be doing. He set aside the authority tat was once so central to ‘conservative’ politics and instead opted to play the underdog fighting against somebody else’s authority.

It was also Limbaugh that taught bigots and bullies all over the country to think of themselves as conservatives, and to filter their hatreds through a political lens. You don’t hate blacks or Mexicans or women or homosexuals, or any of these people, so went Limbaugh’s message. No, you hate liberals, and you can always identify a liberal by their willingness to advocate for any of these groups. What looks on the surface to be hatred of an oppressed minority is instead, according to Limbaugh, rebellion against the oppression of those who would tell you how to think and act. That was a powerful message, a bigotry-laundering, and a successful one at that. Today’s bigots don’t just come out and say that they hate this group or that group; they consistently tie their contempt to some narrative about liberalism. It’s liberalism that they really hate, so they want to believe, even if their anti-liberalism means consistent attacks on underprivileged minorities.

In point of fact, Limbaugh’s hyper-politicization of prejudice goes hand-in-hand with his assumption of under-dog status. In retrospect, this was the real-pay-off for decades of PC-bashing. It enabled ‘conservatives’ to disavow any sense of responsibility for the real world outcomes of anything people experienced as a result of the culture wars. In their rejection of political correctness, hateful words directed at the powerless became spirited rebellion aimed at the real powers that be, and those who sought to help the unfortunate became oppressors in the new plantation system. (Don’t laugh, the DNC as a plantation system is a prominent theme in republican circles. It’s shit, yes, but the deplorables are eating that shit right up!)

What Limbaugh did was to help the racism goes down by teaching conservatives to think of someone else as the real authority. That authority could be the liberals, the Democrats, the coastal elites, Hollyweird, or whatever else you care to imagine as the over-arching power behind any policy that might help the underprivileged. Either way, someone else always had the power, and the expression of prejudice became, under his influence, resistance to that authority. When you use the N-word, you’re not really attacking African-Americans. No, you are just offending liberals. If they weren’t so touchy, then you wouldn’t have done it, right? How many times has Limbaugh played this gambit and countless others like it? And how many of those now flashing the ‘OK’ sign in racist circles have done so just because it would offend liberals, not because they endorse white supremacy.

…supposedly at any rate.

Anyway, my point is that all this PC-bashing which has long since become central to ‘conservative’ Republican thinking effectively transformed the GOP’s relationship to power and authority. They are no longer the 80s-era Christians telling us who to marry or what books to read or how we should dress. No, now they are the ones defying authority. And thus punching down has come to look an awful lot like standing up to the Man in the rhetoric of cultural conservatives.

Donald Trump took over the market for this message in his Presidential campaign. PC-bashing was a big part of his act from the very beginning. Nobody has ever inhabited the role of the politically incorrect rebel with such abandon. Under Trump, defiance of political correctness became everything from the usual racial epithets and sexist slurs to outright violence against protesters or explicitly discriminatory policies. In being politically incorrect, Trump wasn’t just hurting people’s feelings; he was declaring his intent to hurt people in very real and very tangible ways. Lest we dwell on his victims too much, trump has always (true to form) called our attention to some external power, some liberal authority, that is always the real reason things had to get so ugly. Trump’s every exercise of power counts now as defiance of the ultimate power, the ‘deep state.’ With such a fictional power somewhere out there, how could any mere mortal be anything but an underdog?

…unless of course that person was an emissary of the deep state!

But that role, the role of a deep state emissary, is of course reserved for Trump’s enemies. By definition, they are the real powers that be. If someone gets in his way, they are the ones working to maintain the status quo. And Donald trump’s every abuse of authority takes on the significance of fighting the power of that deep state and its surrogates. The children who have suffered in his internment camps are really the victims of that deep state, so the deplorables tell us, just as those who died in those camps are really victims of the deep state. Everyone he hurts is really the victim of that other power, the shadowy deep state that made all of this necessary. That is reality as Trump and his ilk understand it. So when this faux-Underdog in orange is sitting on his ass learning that his own people have let an important prisoner die, then he too can imagine that it must really be the fault of someone else.

Someone with REAL power!

It stands to reason that Trump would blame the Clintons. Of course they too may have reasons for wanting Epstein to be silent, so he can make a case for it, but Trump has other reasons for pointing at the Clintons; those that have more to do with story-line. The notion that the Clintons did it fits the narrative he has been using since the 2016 campaign. Far from diminishing her authority, Trump inflated it. He made Hillary into a surrogate for anything the government had ever done that his fans might have found objectionable. Whatever powers she might have had as a Senator or a former First Lady, they were dwarfed in comparison to the power that trump attributed to her in his campaign rhetoric. I lost track of the number of times Trump blamed Hillary for anything that did or didn’t happen in Congress when she was there (and even when she wasn’t). Trump held Hillary personally responsible for things well beyond her control so many times in the actual debates it was laughable. As if she, simply by being a Senator, were directly responsible for everything Congress (or the President) did. I wondered then, as I do now, how anyone could be so gullible as to believe him? But I also knew it was a powerful story-line. It made Hillary a symbol of government, of the establishment, of anything that disaffected Americans could imagine themselves to be up against.Trump then had only to oppose her to become a hero to many.

…even to those who would be hurt by his policies.

In Trump’s rhetoric, Hillary (and the Clintons in general) came to represent the government as it is and he came to represent government as anyone might imagine they wanted it to be. (That Trump  never really provided policy details or even finished his own damned sentences certainly made it easier for others to imagine the details as they wished.) The logic of Trump’s rhetoric has consistently made Hillary (and the Democrats) responsible for actual policy and real-world consequences. He in turn occupies an ideal world of government that is divorced from anything, even his own policies. So, I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise us that the Democrats in Congress have been responsible for every failure of the Trump administration. Neither should it come as any surprise that we’ve been hearing “What about Hillary” for close to 3 years now. To the deplorables, she is still government as they imagine it to be, or at least everything that’s wrong with it, and Trump is still government as they might hope it will be. Anything bad that actually happens is still her fault. This symbolism just isn’t affected by facts. It never was. And that is why countless people look to her whenever something goes wrong, even if it is directly the result of something Trump himself has done.

It’s also why a President whose own Department of Justice somehow took one of the most important prisoners off suicide watch can sit there on his ass and wonder out loud if the Clintons didn’t really do it.

Mileage Varies

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

67249247_10220021150664156_1178125180153626624_oI’m at the airport in Anchorage. The woman standing next to me is visibly irritated.

“Yes, I’m waiting here for the shuttle. Another gentleman is waiting too. There are three of us. We called half an hour ago and you ssid it would be 15 minutes. You told the other gentleman you’d be here any minute. It’s been 30. We’ve already called you twice and nothing’s happened. We’re just waiting…”

…a group of at least half a dozen people walk up and pushes between us just as the airport shuttle arrives and opens its door right in front of them.

“Oh, he’s here already. Boy are they fast”

Review, The Donald Trump Presidential Library and Museum

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

9780446353250_p0_v1_s600x595I’ve been to the future, and I came back with a review of Donald Trump’s official library. That’s right; I’m a time traveler, or at least I was this evening. I know, I could have used this power to bring back important information about climate change or impending wars, but I really wanted to see what was in that library. So, that’s what you are getting here, a review of the Donald Trump Presidential Library and Museum.

The library itself is really kind of hard to miss, being a fifteen-story tower, and of course you do have to wade through the casino to get there, but you can’t mistake the front entrance to the library itself, sitting as it does just off to the side the gambling hall. The name of the library is printed in great big golden letters, right over the doorway.

When I arrived, there were two showgirls and a carnival barker out front. I’m told that the number of showgirls varies and sometimes Geraldo Rivera takes the place of the carnival barker.

“You’ve been to the fake libraries, now come see the bigliest book depository ever inspired by an occupant of the Big House.”

I asked if he meant ‘White House,’ and the man said ‘of course.’

Entrance to the library is free, but donations are encouraged. If you contribute $30.00 to the Donald’s 2036 political campaign, then you also get two free drinks at the casino floor and one spin on the roulette wheel (as a $5.00 bet). Also, the showgirls will like you more if you donate. I asked how Donald’s health was holding up and they all assured me that rumors of his demise were all fake news. He would surely be President at the turn of the next century.

I laughed of course, and they just stared at me.

In the end, I agreed  to pay $60.00, but the barker assured me that this was the best deal as it gave me VIP membership and I would receive a special bookmark signed by The Donald Himself in his own sweat, the result of long hours spent in service to the fabulous people of the United Golf Courses of America. Having agreed to this, I was actually charged $452.36. The difference I was told was due to inflation, and anyway this would automatically enroll me in a 1-credit starter course at the newly resurrected Trump Graduate School of Bigly Business. “Don’t worry,” the barker said “everyone of Donald’s students gets an A.” I was a little more worried when this fee was referred to as a down-payment, but anyway, I figure I have a decade or so to figure out how to wiggle out of any future payments.

***

I couldn’t see Donald’s signature. One of the showgirls reminded me that it had been signed in the sweat of unpaid laborers, just like his checks.

Of course!

***

Once inside, I met a young man in a business suit who asked me if I was ready to make America great? This turned out to be the reference librarian. I asked him if America wasn’t already great after all these years with Trump at the helm, and he insisted that it was becoming greater all the time. If only the Dumbocrats would help solve the crisis at the border with Columbia, our country would surely get better soon. That and people really needed to get over the whole black lives matter thing! Also, he was pretty sure the folks at CNN would need to go in front of a firing squad by Wednesday. I asked if this wasn’t a little harsh, and just a bit against freedom of the press, and the man assured me that Fox News would be allowed to write anything they wanted about the executions, just so long as they ran it through the Ministry of Final Public Perspective.

“The Ministry of Final Public Perspective?”

“Yes, Tomi Lahren has been in charge of that agency for the last 6 or 7 years. She’s absolutely doing an amazing job.”

After staring at the man for a few moments, I asked if he could direct me to the book stacks. He responded by offering me a complimentary copy of “The Art if the Deal” and telling me that I could certainly go on in and enjoy the books. Feel free to look around; we are the greatest library since Alexandria, probably even better than that one, certainly better than that Library of Congressional Commies!

“Okay, but where do I go? What kind of books does the Donald Trump library specialize in?”

“Oh, we have all kinds of books,” he assured me. “We have the greatest portrait ever painted of any president ever. It was done by this Argentinian guy. You know, they love The Donald down there. And then of course you have the entire exhibit of red ties. We have a special collection of small vials containing the tears of Democratic leaders, small children from the border, and of course the entire nation of Puerto Rico.”

“Nation of Puerto Rico,” I asked. “Isn’t it part of the United States?”

“Oh you hear all kinds of rumors these days. You know those Dems plant all kinds of lies in the newspapers, the history books, assorted government documents.Just lies! All lies! Ivanka is heading a committee. They are going to get to the bottom of it for sure!”

“Okay,” I said, “but can you tell me something about the books?”

“Oh of course, do you know we have a special signed copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities by that Wolf guy, something or other.”

“Are you sure he’s still alive. I thought…”

“Look dummy!” He snapped. “Don’t be a lie-brul. I saw that Wolf guy personally sign a couple thousand copies of Bonfire just last night. He was on a roll.”

“Really,” I just stared at him a moment and then decided to shift the topic a bit. “So, where is your own copy? I mean the one still here in the library?”

“Oh it’s, …hold on a minute. We have it around here somewhere.” The man shuffled through some papers, then hit a speed-dial number on his desk phone. “Hey Mooch, do you know where we keep the book? Yeah, that one, the book? …Are you sure? I mean, I could have sworn they took it up to the fourth floor sometime last month. Okay. I’m not gonna do that. Seriously, no. Could you just tell me. …Okay, you’re sure? Yeah, I think this guy actually wants to see it. But if you’re sure, that’s where it is, then that’s where I will send him.”

After hanging up, the man turned to me and said he was pretty sure the book was on the third floor. Seeing me head toward an elevator, he quickly waved me off.

“Oh no. No, no, no, the contractors never finished installing the cables. They got mad or something. Nobody knows why. You’ll have to take the stairs.”

I hesitated a moment, then moved towards a doorway marked “Stairs.”

The man waved at me and raised his voice. “Be careful of the third step, and be sure to walk on the right side. Some of them are a little rickety. And if you hear a cracking noise, just hold onto the railing and try to distribute your weight as evenly as possible.”

Seeing my alarm, he added; “At least the whole staircase is covered in ivory, brought fresh from Africa.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “you won’t be seeing any more of that any time soon.”

He was still laughing as I left the room.

***

I arrived at the 3rd floor limping a little bit and nursing my wrist. It took me several minutes to catch my breath, but I looked around and I must say that I couldn’t find a single book. In fact, I found nothing but awards given to Donald Trump from various sources. They included every Boy Scout badge ever conceived as well as a few I didn’t recognize; “Trophy Wife” and “Ocasio Ownage” seemed new. I also noticed an Emy, Three Oscars, and the entire array for Country Music Awards from the last three years. Every wall was plastered with honorary doctorates on display from what seemed to be every college in the country.

“Price of accreditation.” Another young man came walking up to me. “If them damned professors want to keep dumbing our kids down, the least they can do is send a few coolaids down Donald’s way. Each of his kids has quite a collection too.”

“Accolades?” I asked.

“Pardon me?”

“Did you mean accolades?

“Yeah sure. Whatever buddy! Can I help you?”

“I was looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Vanities?”

“Really?” He seemed quite shocked. “What for?”

“Well, I thought maybe I’d read it…”

“Oh yeah, sure. Of course. I read it too. I think we all read that one. Donald did. Did you see his fire badge? That’s what good reading skills will get you. Only I don’t think it’s up here. Maybe down on the second floor?”

“Are you sure?” I was really dreading the return trip down that staircase.

“Yea, of course. …Well let me check.” The man got out a walkie-talkie. “Hey Mooch! I got a guy here, who, wh… well, I mean… um.”

Turning off the walkie talkie, he looked right at me and said; “Mooch told me to tell you to stop being a dickhead and look at the trophies.”

“But I…”

“Don’t make the Mooch get medieval on your ass!” He broke into an evil grin. “You should see what he did to the last panzie-poofter fella that came in here looking for some kinda literature.”

“I just…” I stammered a bit here. “I know this book comes with Donald’s personal recommendation, and I really wanted to see if I could get my hands on a copy. I don’t mean to be a problem, but this is, I mean…”

“Ah yes, The Donal’s himself does vouch for it. Don’t worry about it, I gotcha” The young man softened his stance a bit and nodded his head. After switching the dials on his walkie-talkie, he began; “Hey Sarah! …Yeah, Sarah, I got a guy here looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Manitees. Yeah, that’s him. Well we had one make it up here last week too. I mean, sometimes these people just come in. Yeah, well can you… No, don’t tell Mooch. He’s already mad. Can you just tell me where you think the book might be? …yeah, okay. Thank you Sarah.”

After hanging up the man looked at me and said; “She says the book is definitely on the second level.”

“So, I should just take the stairs back down?” I was beginning to gather my courage.

“No, I wouldn’t do that. It’s definitely not there.”

“But didn’t that woman say…”

“Oh yeah, she’s totally sure it’s on the second floor.”

“So?”

“It’s clearly not there,” He nodded his head. “I would head up to the fourth floor and go into the diplomatic archives. Here, take another copy of ‘The Art of the Deal’ before you go.”

***

I made it to the fourth floor with only a moderate loss of blood, but all I could see were golf clubs and pictures of towers under construction. There was one at the base of the grand canyon, another on top of Mount Rushmore, and one in Yosemite. I saw labels for “The Bear’s Ears,” and Niagra Falls. The center-piece of the whole floor appeared to be a giant model of a special tower built with an open center containing a great big fountain. That one had several model Bison and a couple moose scattered across the grass around it. It had been labeled; “Trump Faithful.”

***

I shuddered a bit at this last find, but I also noticed a small room sectioned off from the main area. So, I headed right over there. It was indeed where the diplomatic archives were kept. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about this place, because the woman inside it spoke only Russian. I kept asking if anyone else was available to talk to, but she just stood there in front of me with a great big range of newspapers behind her, all of them fully blacked out, shouting ‘nyet, nyet’ at me, I really wasn’t ready to go back down the stairs yet, so I kept trying to get through to her.

Eventually I learned that I had once been videotaped cheating off a friend’s test in third grade. Additional footage of me walking on some forbidden grass, staring longingly at the head cheerleader of my high school, and rolling through a stop sign somewhere in Houston Texas followed. Finally, I figured I better get out of there.

She gave me a copy of “The Art of the Deal” before I left.

***

I stood staring at the entrance to the staircase for some time, because I just wasn’t ready for the challenge yet. A young woman happened along and asked if I was the one looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Vanities. I said ‘yes’ of course, and she told me that they were looking for it somewhere in the basement.

“The basement?” I asked.

“Well yeah,” she said. “We really wanted to keep it out for public admiration, but we think SHE swiped it.”

“She?”

“You know,” she looked around a bit and then whispered; “HER.”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “Who could possibly…”

“You know,” the woman cut me off. “The one mentioned in the Bible. The woman who tempted Adam in the form of a plumbing snake; the one who told Jesus he was a loser even though he was the coolest billionaire ever; the one who once emailed every secret of the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe directly to Muslim terrorists. The woman who must not be named!”

“Really?” I think my jaw just about touched my toes at this point. “Hil..”

“NO!” She shouted. “She must not be named. Really she mustn’t.”

I stood there in shock, but a little relieved to find out that, um, you know who, was still alive. After all, quite some time had passed. But anyway, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around what the young woman had just told me.

Seeing my surprise, the woman made a point to nod some more. “You must not name her, except in official campaign literature of course. And if you make a point to spit aterwards.”

“Of course,” I said, “but do you have any of that literature here in the library?”

She shook her head and offered me another copy of “The Art of the Deal.”

“Okay,” I said. “So, you are saying that she, SHE, the woman who must not be named is here? In the library?”

The young woman nodded her head vigorously. “Also her daughter and I think a few cousins. Some of her neighbors. We also have a bunch of them angry Democrats in there too.”

“Really?” I asked (again). “You mean Mueller’s team? Are they really still around?”

“Them or their children. We got ’em all, along with most of them Holly-weirdos. Roseanne is back on television, of course, but sometimes they let other people do a show too.”

“And you keep all of these people in the basement? Along with Hi…?”

She just glared at me.

“Sorry,”

She nodded again. “Sometimes they let her out. I think it’s to scare people. We think this time she might have stolen the book.”

“To read it? That’s really what she does when she gets out.”

“Well she WOULD!” The Young lady positively sneered. ” I hear them types read all sorts of things. Mostly fake news.”

“Well,” I asked, “do you have any real news here? Maybe some history?”

She thought long and hard at this before answering; “Maybe go back to the first floor and talk to Spicy.”

***

It was a very long day.

I left with three fractured ribs and four broken toes along with a sprained ankle. I would eventually get 28 stitches and a court order indenturing me to the GOP for a period of not less than 6 generations. I also received 13 copies of “The Art of the Deal.”

I give the library 5 out of 5 stars. It’s absolutely the best!

(Please tell the Russian lady I said that.)

Us and Our Spoiler Alerts

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Us_(2019)_theatrical_posterSeriously, if you ever plan to watch the movie, Us, give this post a skip, because I’m about to drop the mother of all spoilers.

No really!

Go away!

If you ever plan to watch the movie, go away!

I’m doing this for your own good, go away!

…er, I mean; Get Out!

Okay, so this movie packs a whole lotta creepy into one punch. That’s no surprise of course. Anybody who’d seen Get Out should have known what was coming. Us, seemed oddly more subtle to me. Oh it wasn’t hard to see the social commentary encoded in the plot, but the specific details of the message didn’t map quite so easily onto those of the plot, at least not for me.

…until the very end.

I watched this film quite shortly after it came out, and the final moments are still under my skin. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. That final reveal does change everything.It’s all kind of disturbing.

…and it leaves me with this one question; which is more disturbing?

The thought that a young girl could be stolen from her life with all its wonderful possibilities and thrown into a living Hell?

or

The thought that somebody might have come to enjoy a rich and full life by throwing another little girl into that very Hell?

Because we do the latter every day.

We all do.

A Joke from a Bygone Era

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

My father served in three wars. He didn’t see action until Korea and Vietnam, but like so many young men from his generation, on graduating from high school, Dad signed up for service in World War II. He  spent the balance of that war as as an airplane mechanic working on Corsairs.

Dad had plenty of war stories to share at the dinner table. He had more stories from boot camp, then anything else, which is saying something, because his actual war stories were pretty amazing. Of course, Dad spared us the worst of it. Being the youngest, I was probably spared more detail than my siblings (though I did know what every one of the weapons in my green soldier pack could do by the age of five).

Sometimes, Dad would just tell jokes. Jokes he and his buddies had swapped over the years. I remember one of them. It seems so corny now, but I used to laugh and laugh. It was definitely my favorite. I’m sure, a lot will be lost in translation here, but I’ll try to convey it as best I can.

***

A young recruit shows up to boot camp late. He goes to get his gun and the man in charge tells him, he’s too late. They are all out. Not knowing what else to do, the man breaks off the end of a broom stick and says; “See here kid, whenever they tell you to shoot, you just point this stick at the target and yell “Bangity-bang-bang!”

Kid says ‘okay’, but what about a bayonet?

Guy takes one straw from the end and ties it to the end of the stick and says; “Okay, so whenever they tell you to stab something, you just point the stick like so and yell “stabbity-stab-stab!”

So the kid goes all the way through boot camp that way. He thinks he might have the idea, but he’s really hoping he’ll get the real thing soon.

Only he doesn’t. The kid’s unit gets rushed out for the invasion, and he gets all the way to Normandy and he’s still got his broom-stick in place of a gun. The kid tries to tell somebody, but they just push him into the landing craft. He actually storms the beach with a broomstick in his hand.

And then he sees a German (Dad, might have used a different word), and he doesn’t know what to do. the German is shooting at him. So, in desperation, the kid points the stick and says; “bangity-bang-bang!”

And the German dies.

Kid can’t believe it! But he’s surrounded by Germans, so he tries it again; “bangity-bang-bang!”

The next one goes right down.

So, the kid just keeps doing it; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”

…and the German soldiers go down every time.

He storms a German machine gun nest and kills a bunch of them saying “bangity-bang-bang!” Then one charges at him. He doesn’t know what else to do so he points the end of the broom-stick at him and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!” The guy falls right down.

So the kid just keeps going, all through D-Day; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”

And the Germans just keep right on falling down.

Except this one big guy.

That one German just keeps coming.

The kid points his stick and shouts; “bangity-bang-bang!”

The German keeps coming.

The kid points the stick at him up close and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!”

And the German just walks right over him.

And as he does, the kid hears “tankity-tank-tank!”

 

Spurious Responses

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

totallyreallincolnnailsitBeen thinking a bit lately about THIS old post?

It’s still an interest of mine.

So, I sometimes make a point to call out the spurious quotes thriving all over the net these days. It’s not the most noble of personal callings, I know, but I noticed a long time ago that the information correcting some of this stuff isn’t often found in the same electronic neighborhood as the political pornography in which these bullshit quotes normally reside. So, I reckon it ain’t the least useful thing a guy could do with a spare 15 minutes or so to introduce the author of an un-sourced quote to a well reasoned debunkitation.

I’m often fascinated by the responses I get.

***

I was quite interested when Pinterest suspended my account for a few weeks, …I think over this. I could be wrong, but I do think this pastime is what did it.

The thing is, you can find the same spurious quotes in countless memes all over Pinterest. It’s just so damned easy to spread information when all it takes is the click of one ‘save’ button. The net is full of ccrap, I know, but the political hashtags at Pinterest are a particularly bullshit rich environment.

I can say it in a few different ways, but what needs to be said in response to these fake quotes is usually pretty simple, and I can’t help thinking a good link to Mount Vernon or Monticello.org ought to find itself somewhere in the response. The link alone really ought to suffice. The trouble is that these misquote-laden memes are distributed through a variety of different accounts on Pinterest. If I’m posting a lot of links to the same page correcting them, then of course I am the spammer.

Oops!

Don’t get me wrong, the principle in question makes a kind of sense, as does its application. You don’t want someone posting the same link over and over again on a social media platform, but it does create an ironic outcome. In this instance, at least, it seems that’s a lot easier to spread disinformation than it is to counter it.

Oh well!

***

Before moving onto the more personal responses I’ve gotten over the years, I must admit that my own tone here varies. If I think the person passing along a fake quote has done so accidentally, I try to just call attention to the problem. Hell, I reckon I’ve probably made this mistake myself once or twice. It ain’t no hanging matter; I just want to correct a (hopefully honest) mistake. If, on the other hand, the fake quote is accompanied by narratives about how teachers, media, and liberals are too damned deceitful to share the ‘truth’ of the quote, I must admit, my own response is likely to come with a little sarcasm on the top. There are of course other signs of bad faith that I typically meet with a more combative tone.

Sometimes I’m nicer about this than others.

Also, sometimes, I just ask people for a source to see what they come up with.

Anyway…

***

Oh yeah, my first post on this topic, the one about Abe Lincoln, has a couple rich responses of its own. Still kinda chuckle about those.

***

By far and away,, the most interesting response I get is the occasional effort to document the quote by linking me to the ‘spurious quotes’ pages at Monticello or Mount Vernon. Seriously, this has happened a few times.

“Did you read it?” I ask.

At least once, someone realized their mistake at that point and owned up to it. She gets props for doing the right thing.

Once I was assured by someone that clearly hadn’t read the material that he totally had read every word of it. He also assured me that he understood what ‘spurious’ means. Yep! Definitely! We went a few rounds on that, before he dropped out of the conversation. A ‘block’ button may have been pushed. I dunno…

Others simply stopped responding immediately.

Someone else told me I was being rude.

…which was of course true.

***

Several people have tried to tell me that the quote in question may have been undocumented, but that it accurately reflected what the person to whom it was attributed really did believe. I got this at least once with a popular bastardization of George Washington’s first address to Congress.

…right after I had explained in detail exactly how the quote misrepresented him.

It seems that to some people making this argument these quotes are a kind of Kantian thing-in-itself (a truth truth-in-itself?). The truth as they envision it rests over and above the facts, even the facts of its own expression. If you can’t find one clear expression of that truth in the messy real-world of the historical record, that doesn’t matter, because we know the truth and the source to whom it has been attributed must have known it. So they might as well have said it.

It’s all true anyway, so what’s the problem?

This is one of the more disturbing responses I get, because it reveals an air tight echo chamber in the thinking of the person in question. They love America’s founding fathers and they love their guns and such, and two things they love must love each other, and so when the real-world George Washington doesn’t live up to their masturbatory fantasies, well then, they can just speak up and say what he woulda said anyway.

The rationale also works for any number of subjects certain people feel America’s founding fathers must certainly have loved every but as much as they do.

…even if those founders didn’t actually say so.

Not much to be done about folks who reason like that.

***

Another common response is to ask how I know the quote isn’t real.

…and that’s one of those moments when I remember why burdens of proof matter.

***

A related tactic is to assure me that the quote is real and tell me to do my own research. Faced with credible sources that claim the quotes can’t be found in any known archives, those using this tactic assure me that the quote is real and that we skeptics really ought to work harder.

…which brings to mind words like ‘gaslighting’, ‘trolling’, ‘asshole’, and a  quick end to the conversation.

***

Sometimes people complain that my efforts to check them reveal a character flaw on my own part. Don’t I have anything better to do?

No such questions seem to have been asked about the time it takes the individuals in question to pass along a spurious quote. But of course, we all have much more important things to do when the one we are presently engaged in turns out to be a little frustrating. It’s human nature.

***

Probably the most common response I get to declare the source of the quote irrelevant. It’s the idea that matters, I am told, and surely that idea is true. So, it doesn’t matter if Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin or any other made up source didn’t really say what they were supposed to have said. That’s not the point. The point is it’s true.

I must say that it’s an interesting coincidence that so many timeless truths that could come from any source really, seem so often to be attributed to sources of great political value. It’s also an interesting coincidence that so many of them seem quite useful to specific political agendas today, agendas which often sail under the banner of faithfulness to American principles and respect for the wishes of America’s founding fathers. It’s really quite convenient that so many questionable quotes would seem to provide the politics of the people in question with the authority of a voice from the founding fathers. The sources really don’t matter, so it seems, not after the source has been debunked.

Perhaps I could be excused for thinking the source mattered, at least a little, before that source came into question.

What I always find most interesting about this tactic is how seamless the transition is from presenting an undocumented quote to declaring the named source irrelevant to its content. People employing this tactic rarely take so much as a moment to acknowledge their error. Often they avoid conceding the point altogether as they shift from a historical claim about who said what to a kind of Platonic reasoning in which the idea itself is all that really matters.

And thus a person wholly unconcerned with the falsehood of a factual claim suddenly becomes the priest of a timeless truth.

***

Oh yeah, some people don’t respond at all. Some just keep right on producing the bullshit quotes too. This is particularly true of some websites like BrainyQuote. It’s also true of some dedicated ideological warriors. They just keep right on posting the fake quotes long after a reasonable person might have at least quietly deleted the material from a blog or a social media account.

***

There is one response that gets me every time, and that’s the one where somebody simply acknowledges the mistake. Often this is followed by a ‘thank you’. Maybe they take down the quote. Maybe they just let their acknowledgement of the correction stand for itself in the discussion. Either way, it’s a class move.

These days, such responses surprise me a little more than they ought to.

…and that’s kinda sad.

***

I suppose it doesn’t really surprise me that people would respond defensively to such things. People don’t usually like to be corrected. I know I don’t. And of course, any of us could get things like this wrong. That’s not terrible. It’s human. Still, some of these rationalizations do seem to give you a peak behind the curtain, so to speak, into the mind of someone for whom due diligence is simply unthinkable. They must be right one way or another, so they seem to think.

…even if they are wrong!