Both the Quran and the Bible claim the World was created in 6 days by a God who even took a final day to rest up. I am okay with this explanation. It is simple, understandable and interesting. It certainly beats all the hours needed by me in an attempt to dimly comprehend the physics, chemistry and biology behind evolution. However, this is not a column about the age-old discussion about science versus religion. No, this is a plea to the sadists who write the directions that accompany Do-It-Yourself home improvement projects such as installing a ceiling fan.
If God needed only 6 days to create the World, it is pretty obvious to me He did not have to decipher some instruction manual written originally in Chinese then translated into what resembles English. God had the advantage of proceeding unencumbered by misleading photographs of parts and diabolical descriptions of which part goes where. My assumption is Satan was still in God’s good graces when the World was created or he had already been cast out of heaven before God decided to amuse Himself with Adam and Eve.
Apparently Satan did not attempt to confuse God with some phony How-To book on Creation as did the fiends who wrote the instructions for installing the ceiling fan Peg demanded I put up last weekend.
Let me first point out the light Peg told me to replace had been put in by me only 10 years earlier. I had no trouble unscrewing the old one and connecting the black wire to the black, the white wire to the white and the green ground wire. After all, I have had about 20 years of formal education and labored at numerous jobs that required I follow instructions, being a husband for instance. If things are simple, I am your man.
But when I opened the 39 page instruction manual for the “Impreso en China” (made in China?) ceiling fan and light I had the same sinking feeling I experienced when I sat for the Bar Exam. It did not help that the portion written in Spanish made as much sense to me as the part in English.
The most nefarious part of this guide into the depths of the “simple” procedure was the statement on page 5: “ESTIMATED ASSEMBLY TIME – 45 MINUTES”. Yes, this was all in capital letters and in bold type. I could sense the glee of the group of nasty nerds when they wrote this great Creation Myth. God would have just thrown up His hands had these sadistic purveyors of obfuscation been around to “help” Him develop the World.
I read the reports of the death of 85-year-old Karl Lagerfeld (1933-2019) who was one of the Western World’s most famous fashion designers. Lagerfeld had his own design company and designed for Chanel and Fendi. Although I had never heard of him until he died as my clothes designer is Levi Strauss, apparently a lot of people had heard of him as he left a fortune worth between 200 and 300 million dollars.
Lagerfeld never married and had no children. He did have a cat named Choupette (sweetheart). Lagerfeld was German but lived and worked in Paris most of his adult life. Although cats are fairly well challenged when it comes to understanding the benefits of being a beneficiary, Lagerfeld was able to execute a will and create a trust that directed Choupette’s ashes (when she dies) shall be buried with Lagerfeld’s. Such a beau geste probably will mean little to Choupette but the life-long pampered care set up by the trust surely will mean quite a bit.
As Lagerfeld had no family survive him who could care for Choupette it appears to me to have been the responsible thing to provide for the cat after the designer shuffled off this mortal coil. Whether a lifestyle of the rich and famous is morally defensible for a cat when there are so many surly French waiters demanding exorbitant gratuities is another matter. I thought the French were still somewhat miffed about Germans and that World War II thing. I wonder what the Parisians will think about a German lavishing money on a Burmese cat. Perhaps some of Choupette’s inheritance will be needed for a round-the-clock security detail.
When Peg and I consider providing for our cat, Phantom, we usually discuss how concerned Phantom would be if he was asked to provide long-term care for us. I do not know about your relationships with your pets, Gentle Reader, but if any of us seriously believe our cats would lose even one cat nap over our welfare then a Brooklyn Bridge sale is a real possibility.
Phantom views us as about as worthwhile as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un does his half-brother and uncle. As some wag has already said, to cats we humans are merely staff. Phantom will occasionally not bite or scratch us if we keep his food dish filled and do not disturb him when he is snoring.
Oh, the difference between cats and dogs. Dogs curry our favor; cats desire our absence. Dogs only bite strangers; cats seek every opportunity to sharpen their claws on our hands. Dogs come when called; cats pretend to be deaf. Dogs run into burning buildings or icy ponds to save us; cats observe our distress much as our high school English teachers did when asking us to explain Shakespeare.
Perhaps you think I am being overly critical of cats or perhaps you sense some envy of Choupette’s life of millionaire ease. Perhaps you can address these issues with your cat. Well, perhaps you can if your cat can be convinced to acknowledge your existence. Phantom will not ours.
Two weeks before actor Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police he had been assaulted by two white men Smollett sent himself a letter with similar sentiments. Smollett who claims to be “Bluish”, that is, the offspring of a Jewish father and a Black mother, and who also says he is homosexual created the letter. The letter was released by Smollett in hopes of causing sympathy for him so he could demand a raise in his salary on the television series Empire.
Not only did Smollett create a letter that would not pass muster as a prop in a grade school play the letter brought no response from the people in charge of Smollett’s salary. As to creating sympathy for his meager pay, that too might ring hollow with the rest of us in the real world. Smollett is paid $65,000 for each episode of Empire; the show has eighteen episodes per season and it is in its fifth season. Let us see about that sympathy thing: $65m x 18 = $1,170,000 per year and a total of $5,850,000 for five years. How are your sympathy pangs, Gentle Reader?
Of course, as an actor playing the role of a minority Rhythm and Blues singer on a television show I had never heard of until Smollett faked his attack, I am not aware of any great general benefit Smollett’s acting has conferred on society. On the other hand, these issues of false claims and payroll negotiations are not what this column is about. If Smollett had given just a little more thought to his scheme, he probably would not have paid his two “attackers” by check, a copy of which the Chicago police recovered in less than a week. However, Smollett did claim the attack occurred in downtown Chicago at 2:00 a.m. so his story started out sounding believable.
Anyway, this column is not about Smollett’s infantile plan to boost his career. It is about the initial hue and cry in the national media and political figures in response to Smollett’s phony plot. We just don’t learn, do we? The rule is get the facts then speak out, not rush to a judgment we wish to believe based on our own prejudices. We, and I do mean most of us, would benefit from understanding what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls “Thinking Fast”.
Thinking fast is making decisions based on our intuition and emotions instead of “Thinking Slow”, which is gleaning the facts first and applying a critical analysis to those facts. We all want to believe things. Unfortunately, “Wanting don’t make it so”. Now, in much of what we decide it does not matter what we think. If we want to believe in Santa Claus, where’s the harm? However, when the national news media or our national leaders decide things based on hope or hate instead of objective investigation and analysis, real harm may result.
So, Jussie Smollett, your silly attempt to get attention is of little consequence and thankfully you made the Chicago Police Department’s job easy. Once again, thanks for paying by check. But what has caused true harm to our national debate about several forms of prejudice has been the rush to stand upon your shockingly juvenile strategy as a pedestal to spew real prejudice.
The first television I saw was displayed in the front window of an appliance store on Main Street in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in 1950. It had a real wood cabinet which swallowed the 9” screen. The picture was a blurry black and white that showed the same Indian Chief test pattern for hours. It just sat there as a continuously gasping crowd of gawkers oohed and aahed. I was unaware that I was in the presence of the beginning of the end of meaningful conversation, the reading of books and independent judgment based on individual investigation and analysis.
These insights appeared to me after almost 70 years because Peg and I have spent the past two weeks without access to television. I mention this woman I found living with me because until a couple of weeks ago our conversations had for years, especially the last two years, consisted mainly of “What is a Kardashian and what is it that they are doing?” Or, “Can you believe what those bobbing heads, most of whom seem to be twenty years old and chosen for their hairstyles, just stated as fact?”
With the T.V. out of the picture Peg and I have made some startling discoveries. It turns out we both enjoy getting out of our matching recliners and going outside. There is a lot to do out there. And we discovered that rather than watching inane commentary from screaming news pundits we seem to have some common interests, three children and seven grandchildren for instance, who are themselves engaged in some fascinating endeavors. Well, at least when they are not glued to some T.V. program such as Duck Dynasty or The View or on a cell phone.
Another discovery I made about Peg is she knows quite a bit about non-television things. These past two weeks we have wondered together how long the ten-thousand-year Egyptian dynasty would have made it had Egyptian children been educated by re-runs of Howdy Doody instead of mentoring by Imhotep. By the way, according to Wikipedia, Imhotep means “The one who comes in peace”, a pretty good mantra for civilizations wishing to build more than hamburger stands and hoping to last more than a few years.
Now, I know the smart people who read this column, and only smart people do, have picked up on a logical lacuna in my diatribe against television. How is reliance on the Internet any better? Well, it isn’t; it’s worse. In fact, what little bit of culture and polite conversation was left after television became ubiquitous has now been obliterated by cell phones, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc., etc.
My only defense is, society started me on this downhill slide in 1950. In other words, if I had been like Alexander the Great and had Aristotle as my personal advisor, instead of television, I too could have been great.
My grandfather smoked a pipe. Every Christmas his seven children and numerous grandchildren filled Grandpa’s stocking with tins of crimp-cut Granger tobacco. Grandpa smoked only Granger because he was a working man who also, along with Grandmother, eked out a living on a tiny hard scrabble farm. Grandpa did not drink, swear or hug his kids nor his grandkids nor did he talk, other than to nod at Grandma to get dinner on or to sternly tell a grandkid to not slide on the cellar door or to get out of the cherry tree. Pretty much what he did was work and smoke his pipe. He died of cancer.
Grandmother did not smoke herself but still died of cancer after living with Grandpa from the time she was sixteen through all those kids and grandkids, many of whom smoked. Grandpa, Grandma and my mother, who was the first-born child, travelled to Oklahoma by covered wagon in 1915. There was precious little relief to be had from the struggle to live and raise a family. Smoking was cheap and ubiquitous; until near the end of the 20th Century about the only warning about possible harm from tobacco was the folksy admonition to young people that it would “stunt your growth”. This was countered by the constant drum beat of the Marlboro Man and movie stars who hardly did a scene without a cigarette dangling from their lips. You may recall that 1978 hippie anthem by Little Feat about sharing a marijuana joint: “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend, Pass it over to me.” Humphrey Bogart, and almost every other hero of the silver screen, was famous for smoking. He died of cancer at age 57.
When I started college at Oklahoma State University in 1961 I did not smoke, but everybody who was cool did. In order to be a real college student I had to teach myself to smoke by practicing in front of a mirror in my dorm room. Yes, smoking was allowed almost everywhere, even in the classes at the option of the professor. One of my literature professors would get so involved in his lectures he would sometimes have three burning cigarettes lying in the chalk rail.
My parents both smoked and both died with cancer. Of the four children in my family, three smoked and one never did. The one who never smoked has never had cancer.
Now, Gentle Reader, what’s this column all about? Well, it is not an anti-smoking diatribe. If you or anyone else wishes to smoke, drink, whatever, I am not seeking the role of hall monitor. This is America. Do what you choose as long as you do not harm others. No, what this column is about is the smoker who was so addicted to tobacco he left his baby in a basket on a train as he stepped out to have a smoke.
This happened in Cleveland, Ohio on January 12, 2019 on the Regional Transit Authority train. When the father left his baby and stepped off the train the doors closed and the train took off for the next station. You can imagine the father’s panic.
It turned out okay as the engineer was informed and then returned the train to where the father was. The baby was fine. My guess is that when the baby’s mother heard about the event, she engaged in an intensive stop smoking intervention with the father. Maybe he won’t follow in Bogart’s footsteps.
I like dogs. I like cats. And while I have no desire to get close and personal with most of the rest of Mother Nature’s critters, such as snakes and spiders, I still find them interesting. With such, my general attitude is let’s just go our separate ways.
I do not know of any heroic acts by cats, but the positive actions by dogs are legion. In my family, our Chow dog was a firm babysitter that kept an eye on Mom’s four kids as she did the laundry. And my Uncle Bud’s dog, Whizbang, waited by the front gate of my grandparents’ farm every day for two years until Uncle Bud came back from the War.
As for me, my dog Dandy, was sometimes the only friend I had when I committed some sin such as failing to complete a chore Mom or Dad had assigned to me. Dandy was not judgmental. He kept wagging his tail at me even when the rest of the cruel world wagged its finger.
And when it comes to depression, it hit home to Peg and me to have to say goodbye to our Schnauzer, Haley, after sixteen good years. We have not been able to try to replace her yet.
I bring up these points to show you, Gentle Reader, I am sympathetic to people who rely on their pets for emotional and even physical support. Seeing-eye dogs and large dogs and small horses that help disabled persons to have independence by aiding peoples’ movement are truly a blessing.
And, when it comes to Emotional Support Animals, I am fully supportive of allowing people in need to rely on a loving, loyal and well-trained, safe animal even in public. Now, as to sharing my seat on an airplane, bus or train with someone else’s overly protective or not quite potty-trained ESA animal, my position is the owner can probably make it through the trip alone as well as I can. Hey, we all have emotional problems dealing with public transportation.
Anyway, a trend that appears to be coming an epidemic is the proliferation and diversification of the number and type of animals people claim are essential to their emotional health. Of course, these people and even those in charge of public transportation seem to have no concerns for the rest of the world who must accommodate the ESA folks. Also, what veterinary college or medical school did the doctors who certify some of these ESAers go to?
For example, sixty-five-year-old (you might think he’d know better) Joie Henney of Pennsylvania and Joie’s medical doctor (go figure) have declared Joie needs the love and affection of an alligator for his ESA animal. Wally is what Joie named the five-foot-long gator with razor sharp teeth and a powerful tail. Joie takes Wally to public parks and Walmart on a leash. He also enjoys wrestling with Wally and getting whacked by his tail.
Apparently, Wally has his own emotional troubles because Joie now has added a smaller, younger gator for his own and Wally’s depressed moments. Wally may grow up to sixteen feet long and 1,000 pounds. Joie pets Wally and even sleeps with him. And believe it or not, Joie has a real girlfriend and seventeen grandchildren. Well, he has them for now.
Joie says the gators make him feel better. Maybe so. But I suggest that a pet rock or a Chia Pet plant may work out better over time.