Some Damn Fool

An old Irish toast:

Here’s to the general health of the whole world, lest some damn fool take offense.

I used to think it was an amusing exaggeration. Maybe it’s not. I have realized that there are people out there – people of influence or with the capacity for violence – who really will throw a fit if they feel they’re not in control of other people’s minds, and the center of all the attention.

And I remember this thing my elders taught me when I was young:

Nobody has the right not to be offended.

We have the right not to be attacked.
We have the right not to be exploited.
We have the right not to be terrorized.
We have the right not to be robbed.
We have the right not to be silenced.
We have the right not be prevented from worshiping the god of our understanding.

But we do not have the right not to be offended.
And we do not have the right not be ignored.

So are you offended by something you don’t like? Good for you. So what? Who cares? It has nothing to do with the rest of us, whether we like that thing or not. Your reaction has even less to do with the person who created it. Being insulted is an arbitrary, subjective reaction to external stimuli and just one way of finding the stuff that you do like. Good luck with that.

Civilization does not exist to satisfy our tastes and applaud our eccentric little performance. Creativity is the outward expression of cognitive functions which are not subject to community control. We share and publish and react in the hope of finding common ground. Then it falls to each person to find in the society around them a place of belonging and a means of self-affirming expression. The world doesn’t owe anybody a custom-made reality.

Those of us who feel a creative urge owe ourselves a level of honesty and industry. We owe our audience gratitude, and our pledge to do our best to fill the amount of time we have asked them to give with something worthy of their attention.

The Internet and books and magazines movies and TV and music and art, is all practically infinite. If you find something you don’t like, and stop to complain instead of looking for something that seems right for you, you’re simply doing it wrong. If you think you can tell someone else how to express himself to suit your tastes, you’re just a fool.

Oh Good Grief

Funny thing, until this week I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo. I knew there was a little magazine in Europe that pissed off some whacko extremists a while back, but I couldn’t tell you its name or its nation. It only had 30,000 subscribers on a planet of 7,000,000,000 people. The magazine, and its lampooning of religion, got about a megaton of free publicity this week.

I don’t mean that cynically. It’s just ironic that the crazies who hated the innocent people at the magazine, and murdered them, and are now dead themselves, did vastly more to spread the alleged blasphemy than the victims could have ever have hoped to do.

I don’t know if I would like the content of Charlie Hebdo magazine. I’m skeptical that it would be to my taste. The mockery of religion is not amusing to me. Disrespect isn’t funny, though respectable is as respectable does. But that doesn’t make me angry. It makes me a guy who’s looking elsewhere for his reading material.

I believe there is a God, it’s not me, and God can take care of Himself. The God of my understanding is not weak and vulnerable, a easy victim of bad taste, nor does He require human sacrifice. The necessary sacrifice has been made for me, long ago.

Poetry is Industrious

“It’s easier to understand the idea of death than the reality of life, and so we make an industry of waiting, imagining our end lumbering toward our vain and cubicled selves, inventing the selfish moral blank spots we suspect ourselves of being.”

Michael Thomsen on the vanity of the zombie apocalypse. (Paris Review)

Thomsen was writing about apocalyptic games, but that sure looks like I should be able to relate. Death is the greatest common denominator and poets – and artists in general – have never been able to take their eyes off it for long. 

The Bad List

I have decided to compile a list of all business entities which have the incalculable bad taste to present themselves or their products in any medium, prior to Thanksgiving, with a Christmas theme advertisement.

In the unlikely case that I would be otherwise inclined to patronize such a concern, said transgression of decency will result in my boycotting it until at least Memorial Day, 2012.

The reason for my abhorrence of this tacky practice, which seems to lurch forth from Madison Avenue earlier each year, should be self-evident.

My list will be circumspect, comprehensive, and you can bet your sweet sugarplums, I’m checking it twice.

I Wish This Commercial Would Vanish

You’ve seen this commercial for Nationwide Insurance, right?

I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s generally asinine, but let me explain why.

Their deal is if you’re a good driver, your deductible goes away, over time. Which only matters if you have a wreck; if you crash, there’s no deductible to meet on your collision coverage.

You’re still paying the same premium, and the only way to take advantage of this cool feature of your policy is to crash, wipe out.

Let’s say you had a $500 deductible. If they lowered your premium $100 a year, in 5 years you’d save enough to vanish your deductible all by yourself.

It’s a stupid sales pitch.

Thanks for letting me share that.

The Charlie Syndrome

I guess we can agree that there’s very little that’s funny about Charlie Sheen’s epic meltdown. And I’ll stipulate that really his sad, accelerating spiral into oblivion is out of place on a blog about writing and its peripheral concerns.

Entertainment is just entertainment, but it’s part of our culture. So maybe one short post isn’t out of line. 

I can only say that I have enjoyed the show, watch it every week, but Sheen is just one of several people who make the funny work on that thing. The laughter has always come when Charlie (Harper) is on set with Alan, Jake, Evelyn and Berta. Berta has never gotten enough screen time, for me. I don’t think the show comes back without him, but that doesn’t make him more than one member of the cast.

Sheen thinks he’s the whole deal, and that’s wrong. He’s an actor, and that’s nice for him. It’s an interesting and sometimes valuable profession. But so is a baker, a teacher, or a cop. My Dad was a lineman for the power company. He gave us lights and cold food, and the TV we watch assclowns like Charlie Sheen on. But Sheen gets 2 million for a week’s work. It’s a stupid way to run a railroad, if you ask me.

And it’s my humble, layman’s opinion that we’re seeing a rampant snafu of brain chemistry at work. Sex and drugs and psychosis. I mean, we all know crazy when we see it, unless we are crazy. It’s an insight generally endemic to the human herd.

So watching a career disintegrate is no fun, but here’s some Charlie Sheen funniness that he couldn’t possibly have done better without Jimmy Kimmel’s help. 

It Takes a Villager

I was just skipping through a weekly email from Time and spotted this photo.*


The caption reads: Happy New Year. Villagers party in a local pub during the Allendale Tar Barrel festival on New Year’s Eve in Allendale, England.

I think it would be cool to be a villager. I hadn’t realized the term was still used for people in the developed parts of the world.  I live in a condominium complex that we sometimes call The Village because its name is Casitas Village, but that doesn’t make it one. We don’t have any villages in California, as far as I know. We’ve got some very small towns. But I checked out Allendale on Google maps and Wikipedia, and it’s a village alright. About 2100 people, which makes it 7 times smaller than the town where I live.

Maybe to be a village you have to do some very whacky, insane stuff – like the Allendale Tar Barrel Festival.

Allendale Tar Barrel Festival quN8ahWqfEml

Now those look like some by God villagers, right there. And I have to admit, I don’t think I could keep up that kind of pace, or make that intense a commitment to my community. Not even once a year. But I tell you what, in my little town we recently got a new hardware store, having been without one for too long. I’ve only been in there once, for a little electric plug (buck and a half, a good price) but I imagine they stock pitchforks.

We could use Google Maps to source the local monster lairs, mad scientists and tea partiers. Or if you have a smartphone, there’s probably an app for that. Then you grab a torch, I’ll get my pitchfork out of the garage, and we’ll roshambo.


*Click photos to enlarge.