Saturday, February 25, 2017

Writing by Hand

I was looking at a site about learning Japanese. And came across the advice that there was no need to practice writing it.

"When's the last time you actually wrote something by hand? Probably the last time you had to sign your name on a receipt at a restaurant."

And... a few weeks ago, I was writing a ten-minute play in a notebook, and a young person asked me, with curiosity and surprise, if I was actually writing in cursive. Which I was. It's not how I usually write plays. But I didn't have a computer handy.

I have become a beast of yore,
A cursive-writing dinosaur!

Victimismo

I was translating... well, I had used an automated translation of an article by Maria Marty from Spanish to English... but I was going back through the result and fixing it up. And I came across the Spanish word: victimismo. And I knew that the parallel English word would be victimism. But is that a word? It turns out that it is, but it's rare.It seems to be less rare in Spanish.

Anyway, what does the Spanish word mean?

victimismo
tendency to see oneself as being victimized


So, it's not victimhood, or victimization, as such. It's more what we mean when we say "victim mentality". And if you google the rare English word "victimism", the first hit is to the Wikipedia article on "Victim mentality", which has this sentence:

"The term is also used in reference to the tendency for blaming one's misfortunes on somebody else's misdeeds, which is also referred to as victimism."

If we think of victimism as an ideological "ism", it might translate into normal English discourse as "the cult of victimhood", which is rather derogatory, of course, and is often a term used on the right, not the left. Partly because there is a left/right split on the "free will" issue, the left leans toward seeing people as tossed about by circumstance, and the right leans toward seeing people as responsible for their own circumstances.

Both your choices
And your chances
Help determine
Your circumstances.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Passing on the Gift of Prometheus

The NY Times had an article about a German program which teaches children how to safely start fires.

"Mr. Karawahn’s workshops aim to prevent tragedies caused by children playing with fire in secret. Young children who make a fire alone often won’t tell adults for fear of punishment. Even worse, they sometimes hide after setting a fire and end up dying from smoke inhalation."

I suspect teaching about it
Has to be sound.
No culture living without it
Has ever been found.

One Lonely Night

I reread the first chapter of Mickey Spillane's One Lonely Night the other day. I hadn't read it in decades. It's a very striking chapter in which the tough guy detective hero, Mike Hammer, struggles with a disturbance in his soul, a doubt as to whether he is actually a good guy or a bad guy. In the book, this has been brought on by a judge who has let him walk free, but who has righteously condemned him as a monster who lives just inside of the law.

This time, when I was reading, I thought - oh my, the detective's self-doubt is a stand-in for the writer's self doubt after being shredded by a chorus of self-righteous critics.

So, today I was at the library, and was looking at what somebody else wrote about Spillane in an introduction, and this guy, who knew Spillane personally, specifically put forth the same theory.

Spillane, back in the fifties, sold tons of books but was a lightning rod for criticism.

He rubbed the elite the wrong way
In the culture wars of his day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Theater Company's Sudden Demise

It's funny, I just got a postcard advertising their upcoming production:

"Dead Writers Theater to Close in Wake of Harassment Allegations"

It all happened this week, very quickly. It started when the theater's artistic director threatened to derail the career of an actress, Megan Delay. In a public Facebook thread, he told her he could "easily smear" her.

"It was the tipping point that unleashed the Chicago theater community on social media in what some might well consider a mob-mentality takedown Tuesday afternoon."

I saw her last summer in their production of The Importance Of Being Earnest. I thought she was quite strong and funny. Here she is in a publicity shot from that production, with Jack Dryden:



What started the immediate ruckus? The actress bowed out of a role, 10 days before rehearsals were set to start. It is, of course, annoying to the producer and director when something like this happens. They have to scramble to refill the role. I know. I've been there. Last time it happened to me, it was 10 days before opening. I could hear the blood pounding in my ear when I got the news. But, you know, stuff happens, and sometimes you have to roll with it.

Someone bailing out of your production,
Is not a reason to threaten career destruction.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Results Oriented


I'm here to review
My lab work with you.

Please be patient while I retrieve it.
It's so good you won't believe it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pangolin

A pangolin
Has scaly skin
But can't play scales
On a mandolin.
Nor can he tango
In trade for a mango
No matter how jolly
A mood he's in.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Self Surveillance

If you want to brag about criminal acts,
Film them all to prove they are facts. 
Viewers will know they aren't being deceived, 
And you will be glad your behavior's believed. 
But should the police obtain the recording, 
You may find that crime is no longer rewarding.

Hunger in America

I remain puzzled about hunger in America. It's evidently a sort of shorthand phrase for insufficient food. I mean, I get hungry every day, which is why I eat, but that's not what they're talking about. So, who has insufficient food? We're not talking about eating-disorder people, or people on hunger strikes, so we must be talking about people who are low on money to buy food. These are the people for whom there are private and governmental food programs. But we also hear a lot about obesity among the poor, so these programs must be working pretty well overall, except that maybe they need to deliver more Lean Cuisine to the heavier recipients. And speaking of the heavy, that's a group of people who are hungry a lot, from what I've seen.

It's a verity
Then and now
Everybody
Needs to chow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dancing at Lughnasa

I finally saw my first Brian Friel play tonight, namely Dancing at Lughnasa. It's a charming play, with a very loosely structured plot, if plot is what you wish to call it, and an adult narrator who is remembering things that happened when he was seven. The core of the play is the household of 5 unmarried sisters, who are lovingly sketched.

I did not know what the title meant. I had assumed that Lughnasa was a place. But no, it is a time, a harvest festival.

"The festival itself is named after the god Lugh. It involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading. There were also visits to holy wells... Lughnasadh customs persisted widely until the 20th century, with the event being variously named 'Garland Sunday', 'Bilberry Sunday', 'Mountain Sunday' and 'Crom Dubh Sunday'."

How do you say
The name of Lugh?
Simply enough:
It rhymes with Hugh.