April 24th, 2008


When Birthdays Attack

My resolution to pick up the berfday posts again has taken a beating. As in, I haven't done any all month. ¬.¬

So without further delay, happy belated birthday to mooivos, katayamma, guigar, trpeal, the late not forgotten wabbitcalif, babsbunny, bjbuttons, banditloaf, and berin!

Hope you don't mind sharing today's Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk)...

buttermilk cow
A bull. When children ask why a bull is not milked, they are told that he is a "buttermilk cow."
--Rollo Brown's A Word List from Western Indiana, 1912

Write No Evil
On April 24, 1704, America's first continuously published newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, printed its first issue. French visitor Maria Theresa Longworth's Teresina in America (1875) had little good to say about the American newspapers she encountered: "American newspapers contain most startling reading to strangers unaccustomed to such exposés. In England or France they would soon be suppressed by law. Their effect on young minds must be destructive to all purity and innocence. I was informed that an Act of Congress was in progress to restrain this wholesale exposure of vice. Notwithstanding all this, ladies pretend to faint if they hear the words 'bull' or 'donkey.' There are houses, certainly, where newspapers are not admitted into the family. ... American ladies scruple [hesitate] as little to display their legs as do Boulogne matoettes [fast women], but to mention them greatly shocks their sensibilities. They are particular even to straitlacedness in what they say, but not often in what they do."

'cause, y'know, vice is so much better when it's kept secret.

-The Gneech

Roads Not Taken

Somebody smarter than me (but I forget who), said that life had to be lived forwards but could only be understood backwards. And it's a commonality of human nature that we often think about what we could have done here, or wish we'd done there, and how things might have come out differently. I mean, just look at the "note to myself of 10/20 years ago" posts floating around.

On the other hand, a lot of this kind of wishful thinking is just so much frippery. My opinion is that most people's fundamental natures don't really change that much over time, and that much of life is inevitable. For instance, I was quite the slacker in college -- for all my impressively hugemongous SAT scores I nearly flunked out because I'd never learned to study and I was always off working on my own stuff rather than the "job" of going to class. I'd like to think that had circumstances been different I would have done better -- but then I look at my current life and realize that I haven't really changed that much (as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this post from my cubicle at work, instead of crunching away on web code).

I still engage in the "if only X had been different" fantasy, of course. In my mind I've built up a very interesting alternate-universe version of myself, who was inspired by his helpful and not-at-all-insane parents to become a black belt by age 12 and went to Cambridge as an exchange student before getting a job at the BBC and segueing from that into a dazzling film career. And it's possible that, were I able to step through the Wayback Machine to 1978 and relive my developing years with that goal in mind, I might even pull it off.

On the other hand, it's also possible, and fairly likely, that I would get distracted and sent off-course by an entirely different set of circumstances, and end up somewhere else entirely. I nearly flunked out of Virginia Commonwealth, fer cryin' out loud ... can you imagine the spectacularly bad grades I might get at Cambridge? But of course, one of the key aspects of the fantasy is that I would have already have the hard-won lessons of how to succeed in school that enabled me to pull my VCU degree out of its tailspin and escape with a Cum Laude -- not to mention the incredibly valuable knowledge that nothing the idiots around me in high school said or did had any bearing on real life -- and thus would get spectacular grades in high school, thus getting a scholarship and being prepared to succeed brilliantly.

On the other hand, if I did have that option, that would mean throwing away the things I have actually achieved with my life so far. No laurie_robey, no Suburban Jungle, and so on. Heck, to go all George Bailey on it, no being there in the parking lot in Richmond to help those kids in the runaway car. Would I be prepared to do that? There's no way to know. But I suppose that's the great thing about it being a fantasy -- if I put my mind to it, I can think of ways to get around all those things. I mean, if you're going to dream about something, might as well shoot the works, right? :)

-The Gneech
Mad Red

Self-Referential Creepitude

I have, at work, been re-listening to my audiobook edition of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, as read by the author, the late great Douglas Adams.

Today, I happened upon the passage where Dirk Gently is listening to the taped message Gordon Way left on Susan's answering machine before being shot, and there's a bit about how Dirk feels slightly creepy listening to the dead man's voice on the tape.

So I was listening to a dead man's voice on tape, talking about listening to a dead man's voice on tape.

Strangely enough, I didn't get creeped out. I suspect that it's because if I were to encounter the ghost of Douglas Adams, I would expect the first thing to happen, after I asked for his autograph, would be that he would demand a cup of tea.

-The Gneech