Literature

Not Quite a Polish Joke, or, Rather, a Joke from Poland That Isn’t Really a Joke

Sorry, Pooh-Bear, you’re just not manly enough for Tuszyn.

Pooh-Bear is apparently not masculine enough for the satisfaction of Tuszyn, Poland.  Fuck you, Tuszyn, you stupid fucking bigots.Officials in a Polish town have opposed a proposition to name a playground after Winnie-the-Pooh due to the bear’s unclear gender and immodest clothing.

The matter was debated in a closed-door meeting weeks ago in the central Polish town of Tuszyn, but didn’t get much media attention in Poland until recent days.

Voice recordings of the meeting were leaked to the media in which officials complained that Pooh Bear is immodestly dressed and also lacks a clear gender. One called the bear a “hermaphrodite.”

(Associated Press)

Sorry, Tuszyn, you’re just not smart enough to demand respect.

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Associated Press. “Polish town opposes Pooh Bear for unclear gender”. KATU. 22 November 2014.

Automated Vengeance

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal', by Zach Weiner, 20 November 2014.

Coincidence. Synchronicity. I don’t know, God’s will? Hell, why not get mystical, right?

Or is it just that we happened to see the same article as Zach Weiner?

Which would bring us back to coincidence. But, hey, we don’t know.

Question for an interview that will never happen: From conception to posting, about how long does it take you to produce a cartoon? Or is that already answered in a podcast?

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Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 20 November 2014.

A Shot in the Somethin’

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 12 May 2014.

“I think it’s partly [suspicion of authority], but I also think it exposes something about liberal politics. It exposes the libertarian vein that can run through liberal politics. This is an issue where you see people who call themselves liberal and say that they’re concerned with social justice joining the same movement as people who are actually libertarians and more on the far right side of things or part of the Christian right.

“I think it has less to do with the suspicion of experts than it has to do with this thing that we treasure and nurture in America, individualism, which can actually be quite damaging if it’s taken to political extremes. And we can see it both on the right and the left.”

Eula Bliss

Here is a hint to any parent who might well be caught up in the process of trying to convince a coparent that skipping vaccinations is a bad idea: If you’re the parent who takes the kids to the doctor, just get them the freakin’ vaccinations.

The RumpusThat’s what we did. And, sure, there was some back and forth in there about who ever objected—as if I, for some reason, would—but surely enough it came up again from familiar quarters, this time repeating the vapid Michele Bachmann line—you know, the one about cognitive disabilities so ridiculous that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement to make the point?

Right. So, yeah. If the coparent wants to show up and pitch a fit in front of the doctor, she is welcome to do so. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward. To the other, I doubt she would actually go so far as to show up at the doctor’s office and pitch a fit. After all, nobody likes being laughed out of the room. And, besides, it would require actually showing up at the doctor’s office.

Not everyone is gifted with such disposable tinfoil, but there are likely more than we might otherwise guess.

And for those, yes, subterfuge by omission is completely acceptable, because when it comes to harming your children, the fact that the other parent is a parent only matters so much.

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Koven, Suzanne. “The Big Idea #10: Eula Bliss”. The Rumpus. 17 November 2014.

Drobnic Holan, Angie and Louis Jacobson. “Michele Bachmann says HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation”. PolitiFact. 16 September 2011.

Burton, O. Marion. “American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on HPV Vaccine”. American Academy of Pediatrics. 13 September 2014.

Excessive Pedantry (Either Way)

Detail: Engraving of a sperm whale

There is this joke, see, and it’s not exactly a good one. Rather, it is a barb intended to poke and cut, and comes when one is just being a bit too pedantic: Do you read novels? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … come on, Charlie, it can’t be both!” Don’t laugh. Er, I mean … right. Go ahead and laugh. But take a moment to consider the chuckle and what it is for; you might be amazed how often this point comes up.

Then again, when it is not politics but, merely, a job to keep the roof raised and the cable television connected … oh, wait. We’ve picked on Todd Van Luling before, but then, the pointα still holds.

Scrutinizing the science of Moby-Dick is definitely beside the point, especially because there’s evidence in Herman Melville’s notes that he purposely skewed facts to bolster his story. Melville even wrote a friend saying he embellished things writing, “To cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy.”

But the rambling scientific musings of the character you’re supposed to call Ishmael are often so maligned by high school and academic readers alike that noting a few places where the facts are all wrong seems a worthwhile exercise. Today, November 14, is the anniversary of the United States release of Moby-Dick, so it’s as good a time as any to knock it down a peg leg.

Here are five scientific inaccuracies in Melville’s masterpiece ....

Yes, really.

It’s a living.

Perhaps it should suffice to say that Moby Dick is a difficult novel to read for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be its length, general verbosity, or glacial pace; and, further, we might remind that not everything is a drinking game. Spotting inaccurate science in a nineteenth century adventure novel is a bit like looking for inaccurate science in science fiction. Where The Odyssey becomes Star Trek, reality warps.

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α That is to say:

Articles like these always recall a curious episode from over a decade ago, before CNN Headline News became the HLN monstrosity you find playing on the flatscreens in a bourgeois McDonald’s. Late autumn, 2003 or so. There’s a war on. The phrase, “I died a little inside”, had not yet risen to fashionable heights. Or maybe it had. A new young reporter gets his first big shot on the air, and he’s stuck doing a report on which sweaters will look best on your small dog during the Christmas season. Which, in turn, is enough to inspire a recollection of the old Wayne Cotter joke about masturbating a fish.

Van Luling, Todd. “5 Scientific Inaccuracies You Didn’t Know Were In ‘Moby-Dick'”. The Huffington Post. 15 November 2014,

The End of a Story

Detail of illustration by Paul Granger for 'Space and Beyond', a Choose Your Own Adventure book (#4) by R. A. Montgomery.

It is easy enough to draw R. A. Montgomery’s obituary as a cartoon, only slightly harder than Monte Hall’s. Yeah. Somebody should draw that one.

R.A. Montgomery, the author and publisher who founded the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, died Nov. 9 while at his home in Vermont. He was 78.

Montgomery’s popular Choose Your Own Adventure series allowed readers to select different actions at different points in the plot, leading to different outcomes and, ultimately, a variety of conclusions. His passion for the series was rooted in his value for finding innovative ways of reaching young learners, as he believed the role-playing element of the series allowed students to learn to fully engage in a book.

(Fallon)

Who, me? Damn it, I’ll have to learn to draw.

Meanwhile, I would note that we have yet to discover Venusian Swamp Fever … but we’ve got ebola. If we traded out, well, that would mean we could at least fly to Venus to catch the “Ebola of Maxwell Montes”.

For some reason, Sif Mons Lys just doesn’t work. And no, a Scwarzeneggar joke doesn’t work here, either; didn’t you know it’s not cool to make fun of the way people talk?

Oh, right: Thank you, Mr. Montgomery. A billion points of light, a billion childhood dreams.

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Fallon, Claire. “R.A. Montgomery, Author And Publisher Of Choose Your Own Adventure Books, Dead At 78”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

A Look Ahead to History

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at Dawn in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15, 2013.  (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

So this is how it goes: Historically speaking, a rising group first finds the Devil in its specific opponents; as it expands, the group next finds the Devil in where its converts and new members are coming from; established, the group begins searching for and attempting to purge the Devil in its own ranks.

One of the great human narratives in which this occurs is the Bible: a rising Jewish sect invested the personification of evil in the Romans and the Jewish abettors who oppressed them. As it gained converts from the various paganistic religions of the day, the Devil became a personification of their former gods and goddesses. When Christianity achieved political power, it began finding the Devil within itself.α

The archetype emerges in other contexts; consider the Tea Party:

As most Republicans were taking a victory lap the morning after the elections, a group of conservatives huddled anxiously in a conference room not far from Capitol Hill and agreed that now is the time for confrontation, not compromise and conciliation.

Despite Republicans’ ascension to Senate control and an expanded House majority, many conservatives from the party’s activist wing fear that congressional leaders are already being too timid with President Obama.

They do not want to hear that government shutdowns are off the table or that repealing the Affordable Care Act is impossible — two things Republican leaders have said in recent days.

“If the new Republican leadership in the Senate is only talking about what they can’t do, that’s going to be very demoralizing,” said Thomas J. Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group that convenes a regular gathering called Groundswell. Any sense of triumph at its meeting last week was fleeting.

“I think the members of the leadership need to decide what they’re willing to shut down the government over,” Mr. Fitton said.

(Peters)

The Tea Party appears to be in a transition between the second and third phases. They rose to prominence complaining about Democrats (2010); turned to challenge Republicans, gaining converts in doing so (2012); in the wake of the 2014 midterm, they would appear poised to attempt to purge the Congressional GOP of moderation. The only real question is whether they have the political power to do so. If they succeed, they might be setting up a 2016 “blue wave” to hand the White House and Senate to Democrats while demolishing the numbers advantage in the House. Then again, the House numbers are a little more secure; Republicans can continue sending exorcists to legislatures as long as they want, it seems.

And while that might suffice for, say, Colorado Springs, the rest of the country is starting to weary of the proposition that we must always, always, always slow progress, and even take a few regressive steps, in order to be fair to delusional bigots.

Remember the states and districts in play this year. The next two years of discord and gridlock that can only be broken by “compromising” with extremists who are only satisfied with a 100:0 compromise ratio—“We tell you what to do, you do it; see? compromise, we all have a role to play.”—are entirely on states like Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado.

And remember, it’s not like voters couldn’t see this coming; They were told.

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α cf, Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan. 1995. New York: Vantage, 1996.

Peters, Jeremy W. “With Fear of Being Sidelined, Tea Party Sees the Republican Rise as New Threat”. The New York Times. 8 November 2014.

A Disgrace

Consider, if you will, Maria Popova’s review of Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media:

A book maligned by a positive reviewWhat makes Thornton’s take most compelling is the lucidity with which she approaches exactly what we know and don’t know about the brain. Every day, we’re bombarded with exponentially replicating headlines about new “sciences” like neuromarketing, which, despite the enormous budgets poured into them by the world’s shortcut-hungry Fortune 500, remain the phrenology of our time, a tragic manifestation of the disconnect between how much we want to manipulate the brain and how little we actually know about its intricately connected, non-compartmentalizable functions.

Actually, you’re probably better off if you don’t.

You know, everybody has a bad day, sometimes. But if e’er there was a book review that made me not want to read something I otherwise might find compelling, this would be it.

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