Blog #31 ANIMATED HOUSEHOLDS; LITERATE CATS

Domesticated animals have always been man’s life-long room- mates. Thus, we see ancient cave paintings in every hemisphere depicting animals, their representation on sculpture (religious and secular) on urns and pottery created by human hands, as well as observed from studies of their natural   remains. They are depicted as hunting partners, protectors, even deities. But, it would appear, their salient feature was their provision of comfort and company.

In today’s world, owners of pets usually bestow upon them human names and, by the phenomena of anthropomorphism, coupled with projection, ascribe to them nuanced and individual personality traits.  They are properly and adequately fed, afforded the latest and best medical attention and assigned a prominent and coveted place in the family household.

In exchange for the multiple benefits derived from sharing life with a pet, there is little or no inconvenience involved. Simply filling bowls with pet food and water, general oversight, and  in  the case of dogs, walking them once or twice per day; with regard to  cats  there is even less, since cats regularly service themselves by way of litterboxes [ does this mean  that cats are literate?] .

We are all familiar with, pet clothes, pet raincoats (with or without hoods) pet booties, pet beds, pet grooming equipment, pet carriers, pets in strollers, pet treats and goodies, pet toys and the like, all part of the enjoyable and rewarding diversion derived from the care of Nature’s offspring. At the end of their too- short lives, we have pet caskets, pet cemeteries and funeral urns for their cremated remains.

Many pets perform invaluable services for their fellow humans, including protection, as lifesavers, as guides for the blind, locating survivors of physical disaster, as sleuths for bombs, bed bugs and dope, as therapy animals and as pest and rodent eliminators.

There are many valid objective reasons for the exaltation give to, and the special love we confer on, these little beasties but, p. would confidently venture the hypothesis that by projection and extension, we are, in a very real sense, giving to ourselves the nurturing we always wanted.

 

p.

Blog #30   THE ROUTE TO CLARITY

The subject of grammar is not a sexy one. However it is vitally important to the success of our interfacing with others of our species. We are fortunate to have such a field manual of the “rules of the road” for our usage of language.  If ignored or violated, the result can be blurry messaging and predictable misunderstandings.

The grammatical code   contains in effect, directional traffic signs created to successfully lead the compliant speaker or writer to his important and desired destination, the intended meaning. Misinterpretation, occasioned by carelessly constructed statements, inevitably leads  to complications and problems; ask any experienced business person or lawyer.

The sentence, the juxtaposition of (hopefully, carefully selected) words to express an idea, sentiment or information, should always be thoughtfully constructed, with the other person in mind, so as to insure understanding; it must not vague or equivocal. The strictures concerning double negatives, the avoidance of parallelism, appropriate plural or singular nouns with plural or singular verbs,  and the many important other rules need be faithfully  observed for successful  results.

Sadly and alarmingly, there appears to have developed, a casual or dismissive approach to these grammatical rules of the road, a downplaying of their necessity too numerous and varied to delineate here. Nevertheless, one instance of this unfortunate trend has been selected because of the simplicity of its demonstration and because it is representative of this all- pervasive trend. The selected example is the lazy and irresponsible conflation of noun and verb. Such conversion of nouns to bogus verbs, it should be noted, however, is far from the most egregious violation of the mandated rules.t

Despite the common understanding that a noun expresses an object, e.g., a person, a sentiment, an object, and by comparison, a verb denotes action, e.g., run, swim write, the proper function of the two has been bypassed, and the two have been carelessly and irresponsibly conflated. Three such examples are:

Noun                                                   Bogus Verb

Impact                                                Impacting, impacted

Party                                                    Partied, Let’s party

Microwave                                         Microwaved

Are there not enough words in our vocabulary?

In order for a society to exist and prosper there must be interaction between its members; such interaction should be useful and without confusion of message.   We need only follow the rules.

p.

 

 

Blog #29  AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

A reading of the history of any period will reveal the age’s reverence for wisdom and erudition; those who excelled in these gifts were highly prized and their contributions are remembered with pride in the record of that society.  Mankind’s potential for reason and discovery is traditionally been celebrated as evidence of its superiority over the beasts.

Yet, surprisingly and unhappily, society, of late, has demonstrated a downgrading and deprecation of these vital and beneficial attributes.

The first time p. heard the newly created word, “Brainiac” as a spoken reference to a knowledgeable person, he was shocked and outraged. The newly created noun was intended as an epithet. This new label has been used it appears, by low information people in a collective and defensive attempt to make a norm of ignorance and a pathology of knowledge. Such current slang is but one example of (to borrow the words of the late and learned Senator Moynihan) the “dumbing down” of society.

Among too many it now seems to be within the acceptable mainstream of society, and even stylish (“cool”), to deprecate the intellectual and offer praise to the self-limited person (especially if the latter is good looking). What is now in vogue is smart phone and cool dude, or cool  gal; ” selfies” instead of self- examination, electronics in lieu of conversation-the search for style instead of the pursuit of truth.

This trend is nothing short of alarming and is an effective roadblock to potentiation and self- realization on the part of the individual as well as the quality of a democracy; it makes of  the magnificent gift of life, a surface phenomenon; life and the world is left  unexamined and  potential growth stunted. The result is (in addition to the disinterest in nature, the world and its events) a low interest in life itself and a constant search for short-term stimulation.

The “Brainiac” ( p. is revolted by that word) is the most commendable member of society and predictably lives a fuller and more fulfilling life with the potential of real understanding and enduring joy. But we seem to be dealing with a species that is contracting and has become endangered.

Fortunately, albeit limited in number, we still have certain institutions of learning which maintain a “core” curriculum mandating the study of the liberal arts and sciences.  Exposure to such studies is broadening and enlightening; it counsels meaning and purpose. The preparation for a job or calling which should follow will also be enabled by such studies. Higher education should exemplify the goal of the enrichment of the individual and not be limited to the purpose of job   preparation.

The individual and the nation cannot achieve the highest potential where people sacrifice self-examination in favor of “selfies.” Maybe everyone should strive to be a brainiac.

 

 

Blog #28 STALE TAGS: LAZY TAKES

The current expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression like all aphorisms, (See blog #11) is of little value and may moreover be rather misleading. Its basic premise is that one is in control of someone else’s perception. The truth is that a first impression is solely within the psyche of the other person over which you have very little control. That perception can either relatively objective or unfortunately as more often is the case, founded on accumulated stereotypes, projection or even, neurosis. It would, in any event, appear that the avowed ability to properly evaluate another person for any purpose, at the first contact is an egotistical and presumptuous fantasy.

One is entitled to be evaluated, or judged, on at least a modicum of interactive experience, in a rational manner and not be prejudged.

Reliance upon recollected characteristics of others, with whom one has had past experience, is a   thoughtless and lazy criterion for evaluation for any purpose, professional or social.  It is only too often the practice to assign a populist label to the other person (often without fair basis) and thereafter, lacking any knowledge, and without rational inquiry, deduce wide-sweeping conclusions concerning him. Reflexive judgment would seem to trump rational and fair inquiry; labeling or tagging is easier.

It may be interesting that, while this pernicious practice is not new, such labels (used to unfairly and reductively judge others) have themselves evolved, Darwin style to suit the changing contexts in which society found itself. (See blog#22).

For example in the 19th Century the labels, “liberal” and “conservative,” had meanings which were the polar opposite of today’s use.  In the days of Adam Smith, “liberal” meant free of the influence of the King, the Church and Government in general. The liberal believed that commerce was to be governed by the natural law of the market; self -reliance of the individual was paramount {Classical Liberalism}. During the same period in history, the label or tag “conservative” was applied to those who believed in the authority of the King, State and Church viz., rule by a central, hierarchical authority.

In today’s parlance, the “liberal” is understood to believe that the Government has a legitimate role in regulating commerce and an obligation to assist the needy (some of which are casualties of market forces). The current label, “conservative” is assigned to one who like the Classical Liberalism of Adam Smith, wants a “hands off” policy on the part of Government and with regard to social assistance to the poor. {A modern-day example of a Classical Liberal is the novelist Ayn Rand}.

Putting the evolution of specific labels aside, regardless of era, the evaluation or judgment of individuals based upon convenient labels is not only unjust, inaccurate and reductive, but makes for a fractious and contentious society where the well-intentioned exchange of varying ideas, so necessary to a democratic society, in the solution of problems is thwarted. {See blog#21,” Civic Amity, A Requiem”}

In ancient Hebrew the word, “Shibboleth” (meaning corn, also flood) was utilized by one warring State to identify the enemy since the citizens of the enemy could not pronounce the “sh” sound in the word (shades of Gulliver’s Travels). In more modern times, the slang word,” lollapalooza” was used to identify Japanese spies who could not pronounce it. Happily there are no present day “shibboleth” tests we do however still have tags, unfounded assumptions and ignorant and lazy labeling. The myopia, ignorance which typify baseless and divisive labels and the resulting judgments based upon stereotypes, is unfair, irrational and, by the way very, un-American.

In a just society, superficial “first impressions” should not be determinative and should be followed up and supplemented by real data.

p.

BLOG #27 ETHNIC STEW IN THE MELTING POT

The question whether the progenitors of our native- American citizens, who walked across the Aleutian Islands and entered North America (without documentation), may correctly be termed, “immigrants” is difficult of resolution; they did emigrate from foreign lands, bearing their own distinctive culture.

Over the ensuing centuries, the many diverse peoples who arrived here, at various times and under various circumstances, can without question be referred to as immigrants. As the ages progressed and the process continued, an unfortunate phenomenon reared its ugly head, to be consistently repeated at the arrival of each new nationality. The population which had previously come to America and had already settled in found reasons (largely fictional) to oppose the admission of others of different national or ethnic origin, forgetting their own family’s past history.  How soon they forget!

Despite our national motto,” E Pluribus Unum” many have evinced fear and hatred of the” other” (See Blog #3). Where some people properly and generously see others yearning for the “American Dream”, others see invasion and want to build preventative fences.

Blog#17,”The Isis Crises” suggests a policy of liberal admission of Syrian refugees (with vetting as necessary) risking their family’s lives to escape Isis and Shari Law; it would give the lie to Isis’ claim that it is creating a paradise; but equally because we have the national  tradition of providing a safe haven for refugees.

P. remembers the disgraceful depiction and caricaturing of the Japanese people in the 40s’ (not to mention the internment camps), the McCarren Act, which initially barred all Chinese immigration, then was liberalized to permit their entry only as laundry operators .Later experience revealed the beauty art and elegance of the Japanese, the industry and intellectual gifts of the Chinese. Who does not know an Indian Computer Scientist? An Iranian Physician? An Italian orchestra conductor?

An accredited food historian, in a television lecture, presented the case that American-English cuisine had been tasteless and uninteresting until the entry of the Mediterranean immigrants who introduced olive oil, cheeses, seasonings, and other delicious ingredients We all eat very happily at ethnic  restaurants, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, French and so many others. Immigration has many great advantages, but p’s favorite is the cuisine. No one is bigoted when it comes to great dining.

This indeed posits a new and useful immigration policy. All otherwise acceptable applications for entry to the U.S. should be granted, provided each applicant brings his ethnic menu or a grandmother who is willing to tell all.

p.

Blog #26 STEEL CUT, NOT STEEL– GRUEL NOT CRUEL

The admonition, “Don’t compare apples with oranges,” familiarly used when contradictory data is presented, often references such  metaphor to express the point  that dissimilar subject matter is not to be postulated in the discussion of principle.  While useful in debate, these two items are, in fact, compatible, when placed in a glass bowl.

Two items that cannot, incontrovertibly, be seen as comparable or compatible, are steel and oatmeal.  Steel has historically been used in the production of weapons and instruments of warfare and death. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is nourishing and life sustaining. Yet it is constructively necessary to include both for our purpose despite their obvious and myriad differences.

It would not take much of a stretch to postulate the principle that the greatest drive of man and beast is survival,   Want and famine ineluctably lead to fear, hopelessness and life-threatening insecurity. This condition, historically, has made it ripe ground for messianic demagoguery and consequential  war. Causes of warfare also include xenophobia, desire for aggrandizement, as well as clashes of culture and religious belief (see Blog #3). While the causes are many and disparate, the solution here proposed would serve as a universal deterrent.

P. has the memory of being driven along the Hudson (or was it the East River) when he was very young, and observing the very large number of retired World War 11 naval ships, rusting and falling into further disrepair  There are, surely,   a great many more throughout the country. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to engage in the wholesale manufacture of nourishing oatmeal, on a vast and continuous basis, and deliver it by ship, or otherwise, throughout the world, wherever needed, free of charge and without conditions. It may be envisioned that there would be no refusals. Whether those served had previously liked or hated us would be irrelevant.  People need food to survive. Once it were  universally credible, and regularly conducted, the causes of war would be ameliorated and predictably, more people would live in a situation of world peace.

For those who would be somewhat inclined to remark that  this solution is reductive and the product of a naïve mind ,they could be reminded that, historically,  diplomacy, copious treaties, ententes- cordiale, World Organizations, alliances, the  balancing of national  power, international conferences and other complex efforts at peace have had dismal results .One  hesitates to reference the adage “a dog does not bite the hand that feeds it”  because we are here dealing with no less than human beings,  many of whom live in dire straits. The recommendation also calls  for a  commendable act of true, brotherly empathy.

Oatmeal is friendlier and much cheaper than napalm.

P.

Blog #25 Disfluency Gap Fillers and Style

It is entirely possible that as p. gets older, he is becoming more critical.  Be that as it may, the misuse of many words {he almost said “bugs (but a bug is a small insect or a telephone tap}, “bothers” him. Most people have the ability to select, from the copious inventory that constitutes the English lexicon, words to satisfy their need to effectively communicate. There nevertheless are many, whether by reason of disfluency, or perceived style who fill in gaps in their conversation with code or ersatz words. A small, but representative sample is set forth below:

The word: “so” (style). A particular, quirky, use of this word demonstrates a mistake in style of a simple word, rather than a gap filler. The utility of this word is seen, properly, as a statement of consequence, or extent, as to a previously expressed statement. Thus, the day was cold, so we needed a warm coat, he looked pale so I asked him how he was feeling, or, I was very tired so I stopped working.  Also, I was so hungry.

Why many people especially those most celebrated and knowledgeable, (especially on television) precede their answer to a question with the word, “So,” boggles the mind. Perhaps it is a direction to pay attention, a chance to think of an answer or the quick dispersal of mind fog…

(1st Filler) “Totally”:  This word, when used as intended, is useful in expressing quantity or extent:  The jar was totally full or, he is totally blind.

It is often misused as a one word, emphatic response to signify agreement. “Are you planning on going to the dance? “ Totally” Do you think he is good-looking? “Totally” What happened to words?

(2nd Filler) “Awesome”: This word when appropriately used means majestic, fear inspiring,” mind-blowing.”  For believers, the power of the Deity is awesome. The movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates can be seen as awesome; maybe, just maybe, Victoria Falls qualifies as awesome.

The word has been so frequently misused and diluted as to render it essentially meaningless. The taste of pizza can never attain the heights of “awesome” nor does an exceptionally good performance of a singer or professional athlete. Surely, there is whole panoply of words to describe the feeling.

(3rd Filler) “Whatever”:  A useful word to express the word, anything, no matter what, or the remainder of a quantity. The misuse of this word is no less than truly obnoxious.

It has been used, insensitively, to indicate a lack of interest on the part of the listener, most dismissively when uttered twice.  A patient, in long time   treatment for a diagnosed bad back, tells his doctor that he has received a second opinion to the effect that the problem, in fact, is with his kidneys. Should the doctor reply “whatever,” the patient is well advised to go elsewhere, at full speed ahead.

4th Filler (“Like”): This word is properly be used to express affection or as a comparative, or simile. Its misuse seems to also qualify under “style” (see above).

Instead, it is generously sprinkled throughout the user’s conversation like powdered sugar, as a substitute for words (filler), to avoid expressing words upon the occasion. It is truly viral and chronic, taking such aesthetic form as, “Greta, like, why don’t you come over?” Greta, like, my mother goes to me like, and I have to clean my room.” “Like” gives Greta the sense that she has fully responded yet has kept things  “cool” {see below} by thus providing a hedge against the revelation of her feelings.  {This malady may be incurable}

5th Filler (“Hot”): Simply put, this usually a reference to temperature (heat). For example, the feeling when we are sun bathing. It can also be used to refer to food of a spicy or peppery nature, to enthusiasm, to dedication or to anger.

As currently misused, it is the expression of a personal opinion to the effect that someone has sex appeal; is sexy. ”He is hot,” or, I have the hots for her.” Talk about fillers! This is a truly sad and inadequate substitute for poetry or love ballads.

6th Filler (“Dude”): This word, historically, was used as a reference to an especially well- dressed gentleman, or,” fop”.  It is also acceptably used to describe a city dweller, inexperienced with the milieu of a farm or a ranch.

The word, however, has been used as a single word declaration, usually from one male to another, of criticism or as a warning. This failure to use any available vocabulary words, in this instance is especially emblematic of the concept of the word, “filler” and the subject point.

Prehistoric man used signals and grunts; we can do better.

p.