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December 2017



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One Big Band-Aid

Where have I been? Healing. No, I didn't break anything. (I did floss one of my crowns right out of my mouth last Saturday night. Note to self: Popcorn hulls don't hide very hard. Back off on the shear force a little.) What I did is watch a number of people I've known for some time, including a few that I nontrivially care about, soil themselves hurling hatred at entire groups of people they've never met and pretty clearly know nothing about. It almost made me quit Facebook for awhile, though it's a little unclear how one actually goes about quitting Facebook. (The account of a woman I knew in college is still there even though she died two years ago.)

Reading that stuff hurts. Am I nuts? Maybe. I value friendship, for one thing, and for another, tribal hatred is the first step toward genocide. Giggle if you want. Years of research into tribalism, psychology, history, and our killer ape origins suggests that it's true. I would write more about it except that knowingly hurling yourself into depression is pretty much as dumb as it gets.

Furthermore, it stopped Ten Gentle Opportunities dead in its tracks, at least for the time being. Am I annoyed? You have no idea.

So I've been spending a lot of time in my big chair, reading things that have nothing to do with elections as a way of putting a sort of giant band-aid on my soul. It's been a mixed bag. Some quick notes:

  • Train Wrecks by Robert C. Reed. (Superior Publishing Company, 1968.) If you need steampunk mayhem in a big way, find this on the used book sites. Virtually every way that locomotives and rolling stock can die are well-represented, including a few that you've probably never heard about. This might even be depressing if I didn't like trains (and steam power) as much as I do. (It also made me damned glad I live in 2012 and travel in a Toyota.)
  • Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin. (Pantheon Books, 2010.) Still working on it, but what we have here is a collection of colorful anecdotes about the Mississippi from 1800-1863, when it was dredged for reliable river commerce. Pirates, floods, storms, and the New Madrid earthquake. I paid a buck online. Worth ten times that. (Maybe not twenty.)
  • Marry Him! by Lori Gottlieb. (Dutton, 2010.) Meh. Short, breezy read extending (a little) what I read in an article in The Atlantic some years back. Got it cheap in the B&N bargain big, which suggests that it bombed. No surprise, given that the author is basically shouting "Attention princesses! We are currently experiencing a severe prince shortage. Please select an archduke or viscount while they are still available. Thank you."
  • Electric Radio Magazine. Jack Smith K8ZOA sent me twelve years of this stunning little monthly, from 2000-2012, and I've been savoring them in my loose moments for several weeks. The focus is vintage ham radio gear, especially AM phone, which I would be doing more of if there were people close by to do it with. I still have a working Sixer, Twoer, 99er, and a G28, plus a couple of other things on the shelf that need work.

Carol and I spent some time in Chicago. Our niece Katie turns six next week and we bought her what my sister described as "an RC helicopter in a hamster ball." It's an Air Hog Heli-Cage, which has a pair of thin plastic hoops around it, like an equator and a prime meridian, which keep crashes from becoming too serious. Needless to say, in the hands of a not-quite-six pilot, the bands earned their keep. It was amazing how quickly both girls learned to fly it, including Julie, who's only four. My brother-in-law Bill is even better, and landed the gadget on one of the blades of his livingroom ceiling fan. Wow.

Now, RC helicopters are fairly easy to describe. Not everything is. One evening, my older nephew Brian and his fiance Alexis twisted my arm into watching a YouTube video called "Gangnam Style." Words fail me. Most of the song is in Korean, except for a peculiar Greek-American interjection, "Opa Gangnam Style!" plus "Hey Sexy Lady!" here and there to prove that computer audio is working correctly. I was impressed by the young Korean chap at about 1:50 who was dancing energetically in an actinic yellow leisure suit. I didn't know you could lase polyester. Most boggling of all was the fact that the video has been downloaded 693,000,000 times, plus or minus a significant fraction of humanity. I caught myself wondering what it would be like if seven hundred million people had read Drumlin Circus. I would probably have a new minivan--and little or no trouble selling Ten Gentle Opportunities.

Anyway. I'm better now. I'll have nothing more to say about the election except for one very peculiar thing, which I will take up as soon as I understand it a little better myself. Hint: There may be a stoner stampede into Colorado next year.

In the meantime, I have a pop song to eject from the inside of my head. Listen at your own risk. About all I can say is that it's better than listening to politics on Facebook.

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I have to say that for myself the biggest relief with the end of the election meant that the robo-calls stopped. I'm also personally thrilled that Obama was re-elected, but mostly, I'm glad it's over.

I didn't notice as much of the vitriol on facebook (which, as you surmised, is really The Hotel California: you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave) as you seemed to have caught. I guess we have different friends there. Well, okay, I noticed some of it, and it saddened me to think that I have family members who would be so quick to marginalize me but hey, it's not like the election of 1860!

Was it?
Not "Opa" -- "Oppan." From Wikipedia: "The song talks about "the perfect girlfriend who knows when to be refined and when to get wild."[23] The song's refrain "오빤 강남 스타일 (Oppan Gangnam style)" has been translated as "Big brother is Gangnam style", with Psy referring to himself;[24][25] "Oppa" is a Korean expression used by females to refer to an older male friend or older brother." And the total view count is up over 711 million. (!)

But, unlike vitriol on Facebook, Gangnam Style is apparently being heralded by the UN as a "force for world peace." So there's that.

And yeah -- so not missing the robocalls, the venom, the hurling of virtual crockery, or anything else about this particular election cycle. Blech.

On the bright side, some gay people will be able to get married, some folks will be able to smoke pot until the Feds catch them, and then the Supremes will get to decide if we're going to get over the war on drugs, and Puerto Rico might become a state. Which is all, in its way, kind of weird and kind of great.

(My take on gay marriage is, like it or not, if you want to see the economy of this country get a FABULOUS cash infusion, let gay people have weddings of their own instead of just planning them for straight people.)
I knew about "oppa" and was mostly being silly. It seemed like everyone in the Western hemisphere knew about it before I did. Having dined in a lot of high-energy Greek restaurants, I found an eerie emotional resonance between the two terms.

Anything that draws attention away from political hatred is a force for world peace. If it works I'll have the DJ play it at our 50th wedding anniversary party, and I'll do whatever it takes to learn the dance. (Having a sexy lady to sing to will not be a problem.)

Many of the best people at my publishing company were gays and lesbians. I will always honor them by supporting for them what Carol and I have enjoyed for 36 years.

Oh--a couple of my stoner friends have begun asking what it's like to live in Colorado. My answer: It's, um, high.
RE: "oppa" -- I didn't, which was why I decided to look it up. I hadn't actually got 'round to watching the video until today, although I had certainly heard plenty about it (including witnessing a rather frightening rendition on "Dancing With the Stars," which program I hope never to see again).

I can definitely see how you made the connection to the, er, original Greek. :-)

The dance doesn't look too terribly complicated. Ride an imaginary horse in an enthusiastic and slightly dorky way. You're there.

Would that be "Rocky Mountain High"? Can't say I recommend it -- look what happened to John Denver....