Category Archives: Social Rules

Death’s Proximity

There’s a quote out there which asks us to consider whether the issue at hand would seem important if we were dying tomorrow. It depends. Am I on fire? Is the world ending?

It’s ridiculous (but understandable) to use the prism of our own ending as a filter to prioritize the mundane moments and reactions of our lives, in part because 99% of our lives reside in those moments of normalcy.

Unlike many, I learned more than once that death comes as an angry and unwelcome surprise. It often visits without a warning knock or a glance at our calendars. Yes, it even appears with a totally disengaged and indifferent glance in our direction. It simply comes.

Time is irrelevant to death.

At 20, you have no means to determine your proximity to death.

It is arrogance and a disavowal of the way the universe works to believe that you have any inkling of how close the claws of your undoing are.

To live as if nothing is important enough to engage with is a terrible way to move through time, whether you have one day or one decade. It’s possible that you might learn more from spending 23 minutes of your day reading the fine print of a website than you would learn while considering life’s complexities.

It’s difficult to know. Focus on what it interesting to you, now, because it’s what you have.

 

Endergong and Exergong (New Words)

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I’m creating two new words for the English language today.

Are they necessary? No, but neither is “philtrum,” which is the line or cleft between your nose and upper lip. (To the tubercle of the upper lip, to be ridiculously obtuse and exact.)

Luckily for me, the litmus test for word inclusion in our shared collective English language is that there isn’t one. Yes, usage determines inclusion, but a word is a word the second that any meaning is attached to it, even if it doesn’t thrive.  Even “callipygian,” which is an artful way of describing buttocks that won’t get you punched in the epiglottis.

As Douglas Adams once paraphrased, it’s this kind of fact that generally pisses people off.

An endergonic reaction is one in which energy is absorbed and an exergonic reaction is one which results in energy released.

My two new words are these: ‘endergong’ and ‘exergong.’ Words which terminate in “gong” are gorgeous words. Perhaps if the movie had been titled “Gong With The Wind,” it might have fared even better with the general public. We’ll never know. And no, we frankly don’t give a damn.

An ‘endergong’ is someone who requires or takes in more energy than he or she adds to the social fabric.

An ‘exergong’ is someone who adds more to the social fabric than he or she consumes.

The implication is that exergong is a more positive word, characterizing positivity, freedom, and openness. You feel happier with exergongs surrounding you.

An endergong is someone who sulks at the table, complaining about everyone and everything, even the free beer you just handed him or her.

You’re welcome.

P.S. If you don’t like the words, please send a postcard to the American Society For Language, which is a non-existent organization that won’t read whatever it is you have to say about it.

Live Your Life: The X-Hanlon Repudiation

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No matter what, we live our lives in the moment. Often, we convince ourselves we don’t. It’s an illusion. We’ve all said or done things that later come to diminish our ability to continue living good lives. We’ve placed our foot so far into our own mouths that we can taste toenails, so to speak. Whether we’re joking or we’ve simply intersected with the random wheel of life, what we’ve said or done infects our memory and turns us away from remembering the shared joys.

We can’t know that someone is going to die in his or her sleep, fall from the sky, or roll their car 13 times and get crushed underneath it. We do know, however, that these things are going to happen to a LOT of people every day. Statistics tell us that 150,000+ die each day. (106 per minute, if that seems more comprehensible to you.)

If we take overly careful steps as we walk through life, we sacrifice a great portion of what’s possible to what brings fear. We become afraid to speak or to express ourselves because of the immense ‘what if’ lingering on our tongues. Experience teaches us that life is painful. It is also our only opportunity to prance honestly through these ridiculous obstacles we all share.

If humor is at stake, we should err on the side of lunacy and caprice. Life has already sentenced us to death. I see no great reason to allow its shadow to overcome us as we go about our routine lives. A great gaffe will survive a long time. We all love to share stories of incredulity about what friends and family said or did.

Hanlon/Heinlein’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is explained by stupidity.

X-Hanlon Repudiation: Assuming you are interacting with people of mutual like or respect always feel free to do or say the thing which expresses pleasure, joy or greater enjoyment to the moment. Errors may arise – but humanity will exonerate.

I wince when I see the pain that results from good people regretting the things they’ve said or done in good spirit. Life is not only short, but it laughs at these self-conscious hesitations.

Good people will not bear malice toward you for openly embracing life and its whims. Mistakes are going to happen.

Go ahead and tell your grandmother that her house smells like boiled derriere if it makes her laugh. If it’s the last time you speak to her while she’s alive, you will have shared a moment of frivolous life together. There is no greater compliment than sharing your wit, wisdom and laughter will someone. Do not soften who you are because fear sits on your shoulder.

For anyone who knows me, you’ll know that this idea is one I earned one stupid comment at a time.
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Chillax, It’s Totes English For All Of Us

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It’s not about whether you accept a word as standard usage or not; it’s that our shared language ignores your opinion. That semicolon that I just used? Obsolete. Or out-dated, if you prefer more unwieldy adjectives. (Much like the letter ‘c’ in ‘adjective.’)

Words need no invitation. They are born from our careless lips and either languish or flourish. It’s just as futile as arguing whether a tulip is more beautiful than a dandelion. (The correct answer is undoubtedly ‘dandelion,’ though, for the record.) English is coldly practical about your derision of its children. It also allows many of its creations to wither without a second glance. Language is neither math nor codified science and there is no universal standard which determines which children live under its roof. Not to hound the point, but even the word ‘dog’ wasn’t originally our word. It took a long time for it to replace ‘hound.’ Yet, we now have both words, with ‘dog’ being top-dog. (And 10 other ones, for good measure, ones into which you can stick your canines.) Irregular verb conjugations dissolve over time, much like our ability to have an expansive view of subjective subjects. Being difficult largely results in a short trip to the dustbin. Oddly enough, though, English has a wordlist longer than any other language. We steal words like pieces of candy from grandma’s purse.

In the 70+ years you’ll use our language, massive change will creep into it. You can resist or embrace it. It’s why we no longer speak Latin and that even basic spelling fills a chasm between us and our mother tongue in England. You’re standing in a river as it flows.

A better use of your time, though, would be to learn at least one other language. It will help to rupture the nonsensical insistence that ‘standard’ or ‘proper’ is anything except a label. It’s hard for me to understand how someone who hasn’t mastered more than language can ignore the certainty of expression another language provides. Competing languages express the same thoughts, hopes, and ideas of one’s mother tongue, yet do so under an alien alphabet and syntax. This is the only proof you need that wasting one’s life over semantics in a language is folly. Early English was considered too crude to express abstract concepts. Some speculate that this is still the case. Some of our current users make us wince in pain and beg to have pencils shoved into our ear canals.

It’s fascinating that language is designed first and foremost for communication yet so many fights pour from the incessant evolution of its form and content. The only winnable war where words reside is to yield and abstain from the fight. Just as most people can’t adequately explain the engines in their personal vehicles, most can’t diagram a sentence or correctly detail the preferred syntax of the language they use for their entire lives.

Whether you want to be in the same boat with those who share your language, you’re there nonetheless, all of us with rows in the water, all of us both perpetrator and victim to the infinite nuances and bastardizations of words and expression. You can row backward if you want but it is counterproductive.

Observing harsh criticisms of language’s evolution, I am confounded. The history of our language is one of appropriation, misuse, creation, and abuse. Why then do so many seemingly ignore the tower of linguistic history behind us?

If you loathe words such as bae, bling, hangry, deglobalization, listicle, ginger, humblebrag, infomania, bromance, totes, chillax, binge-watch, meme, staycation, or any of the other hundreds of words taking up residence in our collective lexicon, I can only say that you’re going to have an unpleasant road ahead of you. It’s what we’ve always done. We welcome all comers to our dictionary. Some stand at the doorstep longer than others but usage knocks loudly and those with an upturned nose lose their votes as time and repetition makes way for all manner of poorly-constructed houseguests.

Language belongs to all who use it. You’ll pass on soon enough, leaving your usage in a hazy trail of rules which will not hold up over time. Language is for the living. The greater your resistance, the more likely that your own evolution of expression is now frozen in a fixed place, one which you’ve placed in a tidy box marked ‘Finished.’ Because it is – and you are.

Voting Is Like Boots For Cows

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Warning: this madness may trigger you, either on the grounds of satire or foolishness. Were it my choice, partisanship would go the way of the Blue Squirrel, full of pellets and eaten with roasted potatoes. Part of the joy living in a d̵i̵c̵t̵a̵t̵o̵r̵s̵h̵i̵p̵  free country is that each of gets to voice our own ridiculous opinions. Unless you work in the NFL, home of the buy-one-get-one-free concussion special.

I voted on election day because the rodeo grounds in Springdale is the best voting station in Northwest Arkansas – and not just because they have free coffee and tanning beds available. The voting stations are no longer drive-through, though, as I discovered the hard way. Note: vehicle insurance covers these types of mishaps. My apologies to Janet, John, and Frida, who thankfully escaped injury as I drove through. It is fitting that the same odor which sometimes graces the hallowed acres of the rodeo grounds also captures the essence of the political process. It is an olfactory reminder that we shouldn’t take our own vote for granted, much in the same way that those already in office tend to take us for granted.

It serves as an early voting location, too, for the county. I tend to early-vote twice and then just once on election day unless my social media friends have been especially tedious and annoying about voting – in that case, I vote 3 or 4 times. The throngs of ineligible voters the Democrats bus to my voting location usually give me adequate cover to not get caught. (Note: part of that was a joke, obviously, much like the current presidency.) As a fairly nondescript middle-aged white guy who is often favorably compared to Danny Devito, I tend to blend in well with people, until I open my big mouth. They assume I’m a Republican mostly because I sound ridiculous and doubly so if you can understand what I’m saying. Once I get my hand inside their wallets, though, they know I tend to vote as a progressive. Any chance I get to vote to raise taxes, I do so gleefully and if I can raise yours too, I consider it a bonus.

I opted to vote in the Republican primary again, mainly to disrupt the process. Not that the GOP needs my help. Putting Trump in office has given everyone the idea that they should run for office, even if they are currently leaking brain fluid. I gladly did the same in 2016 so that I could vote against Trump in the GOP Presidential primary. In November, I had the honor of voting against him again. Because I live in Arkansas, though, the hordes overwhelmed me, as they were armed with the antiquated “Electoral College,” which is just about as bad as weighted voting on “The Voice.” I wish that the Native Americans would get together and deport all these white Europeans who are ruining the country. Somewhere, there’s a “Fox and Friends” viewer who is reading these words who is getting really pissed off. “That’s racism!” he or she will undoubtedly repeat two or three times before dragging out his or her old typewriter to write the editor an angry letter. That last part is supposed to be funny, too, because we all know that no self-respecting Fox & Friends viewer is going to read anything past the first paragraph unless it says “Applebee’s” across the top of the menu.

I voted against Steve Womack in the 3rd District race and I’ll vote against him again in November, probably twice just to be safe. There’s a rumor that he might have to drop out of the race in order to have the stick up his rear end removed. Those who revere his rigid posture often overlook the fact that it’s due to that same stick. (Also, he looks like Mike Pense’s 2nd cousin after a hard weekend of drinking.) I voted against Asa, even though Jan Morgan is nuttier than a closet full of fruitcakes. She wouldn’t win the primary, of course, so I’ll vote against Asa again this fall. She might be the next VP candidate, though, if Tom Cotton ever figures out that literally, anyone can become president. Additionally, it irritates me that Asa’s actual first name is “William.” For the supreme court, I voted for David Sterling, because more dark money was spent in his favor than the other candidates. In the Age of Trump, that’s the kind of idiotic logic that I find myself agreeing with. A massive influx of dark money and influence is very important to me, unless you ask me, in which case I’ll say the opposite and do so while waving my arms nonsensically. I’m not too fond of the supreme court, anyway, since black olives and onions are generally terrible on pizza.

Because I’m adept at reading upside down, I scanned down the clipboards the poll workers left in plain sight on the registration table. First, the text I was reading upside down was inverted- not me. I think the poll workers would not have been amused had I been upside down, either like a slumbering vampire or a gymnast walking on my hands. The R columns vastly outnumbered the D columns; simply put, the Republicans turned out in much greater numbers to vote today. I understand that there are variables which affect this observation, not the least of which is that a progressive voter is more likely to early-vote and traditional voters also tend to be retired and can, therefore, follow the tradition of voting on the day of the election. I like to think that by voting in the GOP primaries that marketers foolishly assume that I am anywhere in a Venn Diagram with their targeted constituency. Obviously, if I were to suffer a major head trauma it is possible that I would suddenly start seeing both logic and appeal in the platform of the GOP but until then, please continue to send me ridiculous flyers to warn me of the dangers of foreigners and the need to personally own no fewer than 17 guns, each of which I’ve given cute names.

I enjoy the moment immediately after I give the poll worker my I.D. Given that the average poll worker is older, he or she invariably reads my name at least ten times. Most of them usually give up and assume that my license, like every other person in this state, lists my last name first and vice versa. When requested to do so, I try to find the strangest way to recite my name, address, and date of birth. Today was no exception. My wife hates the way I recite my date of birth even though logically it’s the only way to be precise while simultaneously getting on everyone’s nerves. That last part is very important to me. One of my favorite quips is to quickly ask, “Date of conception, you asked?” and then pretend to start counting backward with the months of the year.

I sometimes ask if they have ballots with pictures of the candidates on them. One day, the answer will be “Yes.” It seems only fair if they can ask me to repeat the information that is plainly visible on the I.D. they are holding, I have the reciprocal right to amuse myself with a barrage of my own questions to yield the confused and nervous looks they often give me.

All of y’all pushing to get everyone out to vote should sometimes stop and remember that people like me listen and go vote, much to the detriment of the political process.

I was a little disappointed to find out that it was a rumor that Springdale was voting on whether to get rid of that horrible criss-cross pattern it chose as it’s mascot. Logo. I mean to say, “Logo.” The poll workers did tell me, however, that I was welcome to get some colored permanent markers and change all the logos in the city myself. Heads up, Chamber of Commerce and local constabulary.

Once done voting, I boarded the bus with the throngs of ineligible voters. As we drove away from the rodeo grounds, we saluted our framed picture of Robert Mueller.

 

A Few Words on Voting…

A couple of basic ‘voting’ posts I wrote a few years ago, especially regarding the feeble, illogical, and nonsensical “… if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to voice your opinion” arguments seen every election cycle.

Not Voting Doesn’t Negate Your Right of Participation or Expression

Voting Disenfranchisement Is Wrong

P.S. I of course vote. But those who don’t, voluntarily or involuntarily, don’t forfeit their right to participation or opinion.

The Futility of Caring Less In A Couldn’t Care Less World

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If someone says, “I should be so lucky!” it implies that they know they’ll never be that lucky. Everyone except those recently hit on the head with a Wile E. Coyote anvil easily recognize the words spoken and the intended meaning. The word for such a phrase is ‘idiom,’ which can be loosely defined as ‘words which have incorporated a meaning not easily evident in the words themselves.’ In other words, an idiom can take on any meaning we ascribe to it, regardless of how divorced it is from logic, lexicon, and lippitude. The more vibrant and involved a culture is, the more likely that the language used has evolved in an infinite trajectory, one more often determined by confused and seemingly incoherent words.

Those most invested in the idea of a stagnant and static language usually tend to be those who incorrectly think they’ve arrived at the imaginary train station marked as “Correct.” They tend to look at a painting and see that the proportion is slightly off rather than observe that a great work of art sees them as well, in part precisely due to its defect. While language’s mechanics might be best understood in the mind of a master, it is on the lips of the young and those dancing around the fringes of normal usage who see to it that it undergoes the transformation which grants our words magic.

Usage, collectively or popularly applied, constantly creates idioms that defy their own origins. Entire books have been written on the subject and a million doctoral candidates have expounded on the folly and futility of language. The well of this subject will never run dry, as most of its underpinnings sit on opinion rather than science. The rules can be any we choose. Regardless of our choices, none of us will ever learn ‘Standard English’ as a means toward poetry or as a dialect born in our infancy.

For me, it is sport to watch educated and well-intentioned people gnash their teeth at one another for esoteric perceptions of correctness. Almost all who do battle on the field of language do so at their own peril. At feud’s end, the language has already expatriated itself to foreign terrain, evolving even in the midst of disagreement. For those who’ve not noticed, I root for the team advocating a dose of anarchy.

Another peculiarity of our language is that we can juxtapose both negative and positive connotations of the same words and phrases, yet mean exactly the same thing. Our language is stuffed with examples, ones which remind us that language is not math and the roadmap toward language in no way follows a logical course. If I shout, “I can’t hardly wait!” you know that I’m full of enthusiasm. On the other hand, if I shout, “I can hardly wait!” I mean exactly the same thing. Both listener and speaker understand the context and content of the contradictory utterances. You can artfully quibble with this specific example but be warned that our language is an arsenal of similarly-defective pairings.

When you snarl your lip and smugly make your assertions, you are not presenting the scholarly front that you anticipate; you’re demonstrating an unwillingness to bend to reality. Language is not math and it certainly isn’t logic. Its consistency lies only in the recognition that it cannot be learned like a finite subject.

We use the word ‘awesome’ without stopping to consider that ‘awful’ also derived from the same root. Usage redefined the intention of the words. I could literally write a list a mile long, one filled with words which have drifted away from their linguistic docks, often to mean the opposite of its cousins.

Having written all the above, I move to one of my most cherished phrases: “I couldn’t care less.” An idiom which reveals the flawed understanding of its detractors more efficiently would be impossible to find. Many an argument has been waged by those using the word in the presence of those who’ve made up their mind about an idiom that means exactly what it is supposed to.

There is no real controversy here, not really. Before this phrase appeared in popular usage, even before its counterpart of “could care less,” people always said, “No one could care less than I.” If said aloud, this phrase sounds as if it had been born in the stilted and feverish imagination of a terrible English writer. It died precisely because of its ridiculousness.

Saying, “I couldn’t care less” in no way conveys confusion, except in the mind of the person who doesn’t understand language, idioms, or the dynamic and evolving presence of our language. If you persist in your insistence that “I couldn’t care less” isn’t correct, you are doing so in contradiction to all evidence to the contrary. You have become contrary yourself.

Language is whatever we decide it is to be.

The sacrosanct of today will soon lie dormant on our lips, replaced by what is to come.

Your objections?

I couldn’t care less.
Love, X

DNA and the Golden State Killer

In regards to the Golden State Killer being identified by using genealogy indexing, this is an area where I have experience. I’ve written so much about privacy over the years that I forget that people have an unusual and mistaken perception of their own privacy. DNA is the universal math of identification. Like our fingerprints, we leave it everywhere we go and transmit it through our intimate family web. To believe that we will one day not have a database of every living person’s DNA is to ignore the pull and push of history. The same arguments against DNA indexing are the same as those once used to push back against fingerprinting.
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In those cases where I have tracked down missing fathers and absent family members, DNA would have immediately unlocked those doors.
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I don’t ‘worry’ about my genetic profile being misused because I understand that it is already something out of my control, much like my identity and credit history. Before you accuse me of it, I will agree that I’m decently ignorant about some of the ramifications.
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DNA unlocks the lies and misconceptions we have about our own family trees and the mechanics of our biology. Genealogy was already sufficiently fascinating for me prior to the DNA component; now, it is ethereal and scientific magic, opening doors and both answering and asking questions about what we think we know.
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For years, I’ve predicted the scenario such as the Golden State Killer breakthrough.
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For anyone related to me, you can relax. They already have our entire genetic code. Like with most puzzles, a relatively small sample size of the populace is enough to identify everyone. Even if you don’t ‘choose’ to share your DNA profile, statistically it is almost a meaningless decision on your part. It’s difficult to be able to piece together the math and science of this truth and even more frustrating to find a way to like it if you find yourself in disagreement.
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The services I used don’t sell or transmit my genetic profile without my consent, which is more than I can say for other companies I’ve dealt with. Most people are unaware just how often they might consent to DNA indexing or sharing, especially when dealing with clinics, hospitals, or insurance companies.
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When the Facebook hyperbole surfaced, I cringed at people’s over-reactions. Google, for instance, maintains massively larger databases about all of us, yet receives much less press for it. During the data breach at Equifax, most people simply didn’t understand what had happened. It certainly didn’t stop Congress from rewarding Equifax with an exclusive contract with the federal government.
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Your DNA, like your fingerprints and credit history, is already ‘out there,’ beyond your control.
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I have several concerns, of course, but know that my personal opinion won’t divert the trends already beyond my reach. Right now, I am grinning a satisfied grin, knowing that what I predicted for years finally happened.