The Appetites We Share With Gods

I read an article by Ed Driscoll about how Christmas is getting – I don’t think he used the word – desecrated.  Not by commercialism as such.  He doesn’t go into a “buying gifts for people you love is evil” rant which is good because I like Ed.

People driving around with bumpers that say “Jesus is the reason for the season annoy me about as much as people driving around with Coexist bumper stickers spelled in symbols in which only one has a problem with all the others.  It’s just as SMUG and, sorry, I HATE smug.  Besides, it’s a-historical.  As far as we can tell the historical Christ was born when there were shepherds in the fields – i.e. NOT December in Israel.  And most European religions have always had a holiday with which the longest night of the year is marked.  For a secular treatment of the need that satisfies in the human mind, please refer to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents.  (Yes, I am serious.  I daresay even the religious will find echoes there.  At least, I find my theological thinking in the oddest places, but maybe that’s just me.)

And if you’re a Christian and getting ready to blast me, please don’t.  I don’t think the fact that we celebrate the birth in the wrong day invalidates the whole religion.  The birth date is unknowable, (even if guessable at.  Yes, Israel had a calendar and Rome had a calendar and we have a calendar and with enough time, pencil lead and skull sweat someone who, unlike me, doesn’t transpose digits, could possibly calculate something approaching the “right” date.  The question is, would it be?  Look, my dad was born in 31 (I think I said 41 the other day because I do that with numbers) in a country with widespread literacy and official birth registration.  When time came for him to enter school grandma counted backwards, the way people in rural areas did/do, “Thirty seven, that was the year that the farmer’s cow died.  Thirty six, that was when it rained into August…” and gave his birthdate that she thought to the best of her knowledge was correct.  Except that she always told the story of his birth.  How he was born on a Sunday and she was alone at home and the village half empty because everyone had gone to some Saint’s celebration nearby.)  When dad turned 50 my brother bought him one of those “your birthdate newspaper.”  The date grandma gave wasn’t a Sunday.  So, either dad was born in another year – possible, since in the village school age was determined by “is large enough and has started taking an interest in reading” and if dad was like my boys he grew early – or in another day altogether.  We still celebrate on the date Grandma gave, because that’s the best guess all the same.) and we really have no clue of his real birthday.  And it might have been thirty two or perhaps thirty three.)  And from a theological point of view it makes sense to celebrate in the darkest of the year.  “For those who were in darkness saw a great light.”

All I’m saying is that even if the West hadn’t converted to Christianity (yes, yes, but bear with me) or even if we had adopted the more Jewish-rooted form of Christianity that Peter supported at least for a time, there would still be a winter celebration and reassurance that the light will come back and that darkness won’t swallow the world.  Christianity and Judaism are perhaps to thank for the fact we no longer spill human blood to ensure that.  (Just like alternate histories in which Rome survives rarely include the fact that slavery would/might/likely survives with Rome, alternate histories in which the Celts took over the entire world tend to ignore the blood thirstiness of their religion.  Though nothing and no one had anything on the Phoenicians when it comes to spilling blood in sacrifice.  I’m not sure piety is a virtue when it comes with taking someone else’s life – or to quote Pratchett “And the goat ran away swearing off religion forever”.)

Anyway, forgive me.  I haven’t had but one cup of coffee, or I wouldn’t have wondered so disastrously from the point.  The point being that Ed (and apparently Lileks) were shocked by things like people selling sh*t lipbalm, on Christmas, near a register.

It is a post about the coarsening of the culture, in other words, and most of those make me roll my eyes – but not that one. Partly because it hooks up with Witchfinder writing itself in my head, and I just endured a long speech from a dead character about how it is one’s duty not to rub other’s faces in the grit of the world.  How the honorable man smooths out the worst, most harsh realities to make it possible for others to go on living.  (We’ve spoken of it here, too, in the contest of the Alies crediting the French resistance with helping more than they should to allow the country to heal.)  Look, if you read biographies from the Victorian age, or early, you find a lot of our vices again and again.  But not in public.  In public there was a face and a smoothing, and a way of allowing people to go on.

Hypocrisy?  Perhaps.  But it takes a lot of hypocrisy for people to live together, particularly in large, cohesive populations.

Look, if I hate someone I’m related to (I don’t.  Most of them have died.  Which is the best revenge) with the deep gut-level hatred that’s making me sick for days in advance of a family gathering, is anything gained by my telling the person hosting the gathering that I’m not coming, that she has to choose between me and that SOB?  Or is it better to go to the gathering, make nice if I have to, stay as far from him as I can the rest of the time, and enjoy the other people.  Or alternately to call and say “I’m sick.  I can’t make it.”  Is it a lie?  Sure.  Is it hypocrisy?  Sure.  But what would be served by telling them “I hate so and so” – chances are they already know it.  We’re far more transparent than we like to think. But they still wish to see this person, and they wish to see me.  What does “frankness” do but make life miserable for as many people as possible?  The cry against hypocrisy often seems to me the cry of the two year old who just made a poop mural all over the bathroom wall and is screaming that everyone must admire it and not wash it away.  (Interesting, reading the biographies of “intellectuals” who insisted on “frankness” and railed against immorality, they were only frank when it was convenient.  I.e. when it hurt everyone but them.)

But somehow – and probably because of resentment of the just and good men – weirdly most of them REALLY were such, just not perfect – who caused WWI and WWII we have decided that a sort of rude frankness, the rubbing of people’s noses in the worst/darkest/rudest aspects of life for no other reason than just doing so, is the greatest public virtue.

I’m not talking of sexual orientation – though the Witchfinder speech in my head is tangential to that.  At that time, in those circumstances, the only way to smooth over things is to soft pedal that – or even political orientation.  When something is intensely at the center of you lying about it CONSTANTLY taints the soul.  I know this.  I speak from knowledge.  This doesn’t mean I don’t lie about it occasionally by omission.  The best way to get along with people who think all libertarians are terrorists is to enlighten them, but at a family party or an office gathering, if the boor in the corner is screaming about evil libertarians, it might be best to smile in a strained way and slide away.  (And the insistence to bring politics into occasions that are definitely not political is why I don’t have many friends on the other extreme of the spectrum anymore.)

To an extent – a limited, “appropriate time and place” extent – frankness is a virtue at least in matters pertaining to the essential qualities of a person.  Appropriate time and place?  Well, yes.  Do I need to know the guy selling me tickets to the amusement park is gay?  I mean, I might suspect it, but that’s neither here nor there.  His interaction with me has NOTHING to do with his sexual orientation and it would be very odd if he said “Here are your tickets, by the way, I’m gay.”  Or if the elderly man doing alterations on my dress said “It’ll be tomorrow before it’s done.  By the way, I am a Maoist.”

However, what we’re facing is exactly that – a slipping of the intrusive “doesn’t belong here” in places where it doesn’t belong.  And in many cases, what we’re seeing is the slipping of the “doesn’t belong anywhere outside the nursery” into adult life.

What I’m talking about is stuff like the sh*t lip balm…

Look, adults know that every animal excretes the end product of our metabolic processes.  That’s fine.  It’s perhaps not ideal – in an ideal world, we live off unicorn twinkles and good wishes – but we live in flesh and flesh has needs.  What Rex Stout called derisively “The appetites we share with dogs.”

Kids are fascinated with this – partly I think because they’re fresh from potty training.  Learning to control their sphincter is SUCH an accomplishment they’re fascinated with the whole process. – I remember my younger kid and a little female friend, at three, while her mom and I were in a bookstore, looking over a book of cat pictures.  They were planning to get married and have cats.  And they kept reassuring each other their cats would poop.  They talked about it all through lunch, afterwards, making the adults’ diet easier.  (No, to this day I have no idea what the alternative to cats who poop is.  They just swell very large and eventually burst?  I mean, it seems like it would be easier on the litter box but hard on cat longevity.)

And for the last few decades, society has become fascinated by it as well.  Excretory processes, meaningless sex, and just sheer strange and demeaning antics have long been a staple of modern literature, and have been making their way into popular books, movies and other forms of entertainment. (There was the year Water World came out, where every movie HAD to have the obligatory pissing scene.)

Some of my socon friends see in this a plot to desensitize society and take us down the primrose path to hell.  I think they’re giving it too much credit.  Oh, someone or other at the head of houses MIGHT think that, but I don’t think so.

It is all the worship of “frankness” and this vague idea that if it’s taboo it MUST be violated.  That violating a taboo – or what used to be a taboo, these people are preserved in amber and seem to be unaware we don’t live in the fifties – by itself makes a rather pedestrian craft into art.

I am not, understand opposed to the representing in art of excretory processes, or of sex, not even of the strangest forms of sex (TENTACLES!) provided it serves a purpose.  (I’m not even opposed to the representation of it in craft, which is more what I do than art.)  But it has to serve an internal story purpose greater than “And it’s one in the eye of the Man” – particularly since these days “the Man” is likely to be a jaded aged hippie who will be cheering you with “right on.”  I will even cheer you right on, if you’re writing this to provide the readers with titillation.  That is an ancient and traditional purpose, and what the heck, why not if you CAN do it?  But in that case it serves a purpose – it’s part of why you’re writing this.  Again, it’s your right.

Regardless of people’s opinions, I maintain that Heinlein was serving a story purpose with the talk about sex in his later books. (No, he really didn’t SHOW sex, not really.  If you think he did, you’ve never read romances.)

If you’re going to show me your characters in bed with an octopus, show how that scene changes the characters, and what it means for the plot.  And then I’ll defend to the death your right to put it in the story and yell at anyone who slanders you.

However, showing such things just to show them, to be “modern” and “taboo free” is a) stupid.  b) boring.  BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE IS DOING.

And making lip balm out of sh*t seems completely bizarre when there are so many things you can make it out of.  Not that I dispute your right to make it.  I also don’t dispute your right to sell romance novels between a woman and her squid.  JUST don’t think you’re being brave or speaking truth to power, or even being very interesting, because you’re not.

Look, the Rex Stout derisive comment about “the appetites we share with dogs” was said by his detective, Nero Wolfe about sex.  Nero Wolfe is a character who is grossly fat due to his indulgence in food.  Food is also an appetite we share with dogs.  So there is a contradiction, right?

No.  If I remember the scene well, Wolfe was talking about sex as sex.  Not love, not even one of the more refined forms of lust, but the use of another human being as a masturbatory device.  Reading a blog the other day and seeing commenter after commenter say “women have the right to orgasms” and “It’s our birthright” made me want to weep because it was a glorification of the appetites we share with dogs, simple and unvarnished.  It was the pursuit of physical reaction with no thought and nothing attached.  I wanted to say “chickies, if that’s your birthright, you’d be better off with a mess of pottage.”

Rex Stout’s relationship with food does not consist of eating whatever he finds by the way side.  He has a refined relationship with food, one that takes in account years of tradition and culinary expertise.  It is not in any way an appetite we share with dogs.

Humans are more than orgasms.  Arguably our mating rituals involve everything from poetry to quantum physics.  Giving yourself an orgasm by means of a mechanical device (what the blog was talking about) might be okay (if your religion permits it.  So not going there) to take the edge off or whatever.  However, I’ll quote Heinlein here (or perhaps allude to it.  I remember the saying in Portuguese as I first read it, and I never QUITE remember it in English. “Masturbation is clean, cheap and doesn’t keep you outdoors till all hours.  It is also lonely.”

And if you think your birthright is to give yourself endless orgasms with a mechanical device, you’re going to end up, sooner or later, feeling rather hollow.

Because we’re not just the appetites we share with dogs.  If we were we’d still be living like dogs – or rather – like wild wolves, falling on whatever might give us calories or sexual pleasure without a second thought.

We and our overgrown brain have also the appetites we share with gods.  By which I mean, in this case, not Himself, maker of the Universe and in many ways beyond our knowing, but those flawed gods of the ancient mythos, who were human like us, only more so.

They too shared appetites with dogs, but all of Zeus philandering was marred — enhanced? — by his wife’s jealousy, which is what made it relevant to hear about, because even the gods themselves cared enough to be jealous, and to want this other god to love only them.  Some of the myths still move us, because they go beyond the appetites we share with dogs, to that place of flawed greatness we each senses within ourselves.

In my corner of the world, which is the arts, all I can tell you is that submerging yet another object in urine, or flinging poo at yet another icon is jaw-cracking-yawn boring.  It’s been done.  In fact it is “the done thing.”  It might at one time – if it did it was before I was born – have shocked people out of complacency and made them think.  Now?  It’s just “oh, yeah.  He/she thinks he/she’s being edgy, poor sod.”

To move people, to reach them, you need to violate some real taboos.  Say, for instance suggest that men and women aren’t EXACTLY alike other than the obvious reproductive organs?  No?  Of course not.  Because the people in charge will never let that through, (unless you’re with a  few, limited publishers) and if they do you’ll be crucified…  Which tells you what the real taboo is.

By which I mean – you want to do REAL stuff, do so.  Violate real taboos.  (Go indie, if you have to.)

If you don’t have the courage to/don’t want to, then don’t.  But stop pretending to.  Stop rubbing our faces on things that are no surprise to anyone who has learned to tie his own shoes – and of no more interest.

Think instead on the appetites we share with gods.  The mythological stories survived the demise of the religion because they reach some deep aching place within us – a place of strife between the animal and the something other which can neither be reduced nor appeased.

And then – if that’s your purpose, and if you’re very, very good (which I’m not) – maybe you’ll achieve art, which will still make people weep when you’ve been dead a thousand years.

Even if you fall short, that is worth trying for.  And trying for it IS our birthright as humans.  Why should you settle for less?  Go all in or go home.

UPDATE: As is usual on Wednesdays, there is a different (writer craft related) post over at Mad Genius Club.  And sorry to be so late.  Today is one of those… interesting days.

70 responses to “The Appetites We Share With Gods

  1. How on earth do “Frankness” and “Political Correctness” both manage to be annoying in the same universe?

    • We live in the crazy years!

    • Because the “things” are the just two sides of the same thing– offending the right people, but respecting the right taboos.

      • Quite what I was thinking. A way of proving you are in with the in crowd — you share their sensibilities. As previously discussed humans are tribal in nature.

      • In the tribe there are always one or two ODDS who are observers, healers, shamans– ;-) so many times they are not on the same page. In the tribal culture, they were important. Nowadays they are NOT– (or at least are hidden)

        • Refusing to acknowledge the contributions of ODDS leads to many nasty things. Refusing to acknowledge the EXISTENCE of ODDS leads to the death of society. ODDS are the yeast that makes up such a small part of the bread dough, but without which you end up with soda crackers. Let me introduce you to the biggest accumulation of ODDS in one place at one time: the Founding Fathers. If you read their life stories, you see that they were the ODDS of their time. They not only “stuck out”, they created one of the most lasting forms of government ever to exist. It’s taken more than 200 years of constant war against it, and we still, as a nation, at least give lip service to it (a few actually believe the document is the most profound method of governing they still believe it should be the center of our government — most are today’s ODDS).

          A society without ODDS is a dead society, whether it realizes it or not.

          • Given the history of the world it is rather ODD to think that 1) the government rules at the pleasure of the citizens and is subject to the people — not the other way around, and 2) it should be and is rightfully limited.

  2. What if you were to say that by encouraging the animal and the “transgressive,” certain elements of society are denying the divine that is in other people? If humans are no more than their appetites, and appetite is all that matters, than the best system is one that provides for those appetites, correct? And to deny those appetites is to oppose that “best system,” is it not? And what right-minded, caring individual would do that?

    Interestingly, one thing I talk about fairly often in my day-job is how humans are a keystone species much as beavers and bison were. This is not to denigrate humans or to elevate beavers and bison, but to point out that all three modify their environments in ways that cause major changes to the surrounding ecosystems. It seems that the Forces of Frankness missed that distinction.

    • Oh, you could say that. I might even have said it, if I had more caffeine in me… BUT you can’t say it in fiction and hope get published.

      • Oh, no, of course not. *rolls eyes* One would never want to pander to the traditional, patriarchal, hetero-normative, anthropocentric, eh, what else am I missing?

        • Caucasian (or White) ;-)

          • Almost none whom have ever been within a hundred miles of the Caucasus. What’s up with that?

            • No idea– when I had my mtDNA and ptDNA– it pointed to the Middle East and Greece as origin sites (we seem to have started in Africa with the rest of youse.) ;-)

              • Actually– I think it was a eugenics idea– I could be wrong though–

              • And then got sadly melanin deficient, you poor things. (Runs, laughing.)

                • LOL– you have no idea ;-) We moved from Canada to San Francisco and I did fine. Then we moved to Utah. That summer I had the worst blistery burn I have ever had in my entire life. I still have to be careful when I am out in the sun between 10 a.m. -2 p.m.

                • I do turn rather brown during the summer, when I’m out more often. It’s part of all that “other” heritage.

                • *snort* I used to hold the Upper Midwest’s Zero-to-Lobster sunburning speed record. I’m not quite as bad as the Lawdog (“I’m the guy that vampires warn their children about. ‘You think you have it bad, look at him!’ “) but I’m definitely colored for life above 45 degrees north latitude.

                  • I burned for the first time at 19 and it took extraordinary effort. I STILL don’t burn easily. Until about three years ago sunblock was an alien concept, and even now, it’s something that happens to other people. If I’m outside a lot, I just get progressively darker. Not as much as the nut-brown child, my son, who is pale ivory in Winter and as soon as the sun peeks out in Spring, even without being outside much, starts getting darker and darker and darker.

                    • Hubby is the same way– I don’t think he ever EVER burns. *sigh He has learned to watch me because I start with a pink skin and then progressively worse– fast. Funny I did well during rainy season in Panama– but there were other problems.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Heh. My wife would hate his guts. She’s given to severe bouts of jealousy for people who have qualities she wishes she had.

                    • I’m only jealous of people who write better than I (half the publishing field.) Okay, and people who look naturally good as they roll out of bed. Oh, yeah, and people who eat what they want and stay skinny…

                      Okay, I’m an envious b*tch.

            • Actually, many scientists have reverted to using Indo-European instead of Caucasian. It’s not only more accurate and truthful, it gets rid of that “point-reference” to development. It also covers all the territory from India to Portugal, from the Urals to Iceland. It also says “we don’t know how they got here, but there seems to be a lot of people with similar traits that were suddenly spread from here to there, and up to there, at the end of the last Ice Age”.

              • I agree– more truthful– I had wondered when Indo-European replaced Caucasian– and with the DNA migratory record, which is now the big thing, it makes more sense too.

  3. I haven’t read the whole post yet, but I MUST share this in reference to ‘COEXIST’ ;)

    http://images59.fotki.com/v684/photos/6/675701/2680827/earmgunmanufacturerlogosticker-vi.jpg

    I like this version much better!

  4. Yes! A mans reach must exceed his grasp. So reach for the stars! You’ll probably miss, but you might catch the moon on your way back.

  5. In Inquisitorial Spain, moon catches YOU (unexpectedly).

  6. Ahh, Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe versus the appetites we share with dogs. Although Wolfe and Archie occasionally grumble about each other, one of the defining characteristics they share is the great joy they get out of doing things innately human—enjoying good food and wine and (in Archie’s case) the company of attractive women. Also of course wickedly outfoxing the police and, more importantly, the criminals. I heartily recommend not only the books, but also the TV series with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin—not the other one with William Conrad woefully miscast in all but size as Wolfe. We bought the Hutton/Chaykin series for ourselves last Christmas and have enjoyed it immensely.
    I applaud your good taste Sarah. Those are the type of books my wife and I fell in love with and wanted to write. May the human wave revive such art!

    • There was a short-lived late 50s Nero Wolfe tv show in which Archie was played by William Shatner…

      • A surprisingly good film attempt (apparently a TV pilot) starring Thayer David (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0203076/bio) as Wolfe was made in 1979 but is rarely shown on television. Fans of Dark Shadows might recognize the actor. Nero Wolfe was the last production he was in before dying of a heart attack at 51.

        A review of the IMDb database for the character confirms he was portrayed in film by Edward Arnold (Meet Nero Wolfe – 1936) and Walter Connolly (The League of Frightened Men – 1937), two character actors familiar to devotees of Frank Capra’s work: Arnold played Jimmy Stewart’s character’s father in You Can’t Take It With you and was the ruthless ambitious industrialist.fascist who was Gary Cooper’s bete noir in Meet John Doe. Walter Connolly — who is probably most readily recognised as the father to flighty heiress Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night but also appeared in such classics as The Bitter Tea of General Yen,Lady for a Day and Broadway Bill — also played G.K.Chesterton’s Father Brown in one film.

        Wolfe has been brought to the small screen a number of times in foreign lands, first Germany (“Zu viele Köche” in 1961), Italy currently (“Coppia di spade”.)

        • BTW, I ought have mentioned that in each of the 1930’s films the role of Archie Goodwin was filled by Lionel Stander (fondly remembered as Hart to Hart‘s Man Friday, Max.

          In the first film, Archie’s “dingbat wife” was played by Rita Hayworth in her screen debut (and under her birth name.)

          Which might explain why Stout never licensed another film production of Nero before his death in 1975.

          Wolfe aficionados (Wolficionados?) might enjoy burning more time at http://www.nerowolfe.org/htm/miscmedia/miscmedia.htm

  7. Oops, I should have said beer of course, although I remember Wolfe enjoying wine as well.

  8. The RAH quote is: Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don’t have to go home in the cold. But it’s lonely.

    There is a correlated saying of his: Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys; it’s more sanitary.

    RAH had a bunch of aphorisms which can lead quickly to violating real taboos if you incorporate them in stories:

    * Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.

    * Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful —just stupid.)

    * The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty.” Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute — get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.

    And of course, three’s Heinlein’s statement for Edward R Murrow’s “This I Believe”. One of my favorites of that series: http://www.heinleinprize.com/rah/thisibelieve.htm

    (RAH’s This I Believe is in my opinion the best ever written, with Penn Gillette’s second, and a very-near-run second at that. http://thisibelieve.org/essay/34/ )

    Close this with his closing from This I Believe:

    And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown –in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability….and goodness…..of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth –but that we will always make it….survive….endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure –will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage –and his noble essential decency.

    This I believe with all my heart.

  9. Look, if you read biographies from the Victorian age, or early, you find a lot of our vices again and again. But not in public. In public there was a face and a smoothing, and a way of allowing people to go on.

    Hypocrisy? Perhaps. But it takes a lot of hypocrisy for people to live together, particularly in large, cohesive populations.

    Grace. At least, that’s what my grandma always called it– when someone makes a silly mistake that you HAVE to correct publicly, you make sure to give them a graceful out. To take from a recent-to-me example, if someone goes on a rant about how there hasn’t been a mass shooting in the UK in 16 years, and you know that one happened two years ago, say something about how you don’t remember it making a big splash in the international news when you link to it.

    It’s a basic part of love thy neighbor, as I understand it now– you know that being publicly wrong will embarrass them, so you give them an excuse. The obligation is passed on is that everyone else avoids making others needlessly uncomfortable, either softening the blow or keeping it from folks entirely.

    It’s the WD-40 of society!

    • Remember the parable of the bet between the North Wind & the Sun? Confronting an idiot in mid-rant rarely changes their mind and often risks bystanders concluding idiocy a trait you share with the ranter.

      Subversive argument works far better than confrontation, as Foxfier’s grandma understood.

      Sadly, too many today are too coarsened to realize when they’ve been granted grace — yet one more reason for subverting their views rather than confronting them. (This is ably portrayed in Chris Muir’s marvelous Day-by-Day web comic.)

  10. Wow…this post made me dizzy.

    • It WORKED.

      Sorry. I was uncaffeinated.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Oh, pshaw. I frequently have to give the family whiplash alerts when I have made more than a 1 step connection* in my head, before I start speaking.

      * Indicates the number of word or concept connections that don’t really relate to the original conversation – ex.: hearing “My friend is a shrimp.” Thinking, “shrimp… shrimp cocktail sounds nice. Mmm… Cocktails… ‘Hey, I wonder what happens if you grab a rooster by the tail?’ “.

  11. The worship of frankness is merely an ostentatious way of disdaining hypocrisy, often touted by folk who think every schoolchild needs to be convinced that they are “special.”

  12. The alternative to “cats who poop” is simple: cats who teleport their feces into the litter box, forest, your dress shoes .. Face it, feces teleporting cats lack strong evolutionary need to target.

  13. “And most European religions have always had a holiday with which the longest night of the year is marked.”

    Err — no actually. The Roman feast was over nearly a week before the solstice, except for the one that shows every sign of being the Kwanzaa of its day, because the records of it are more recent than of Christians celebrating Christmas.

    Which springs from the Jewish superstition that great men die on the day they were conceived. You can work out the day of his death much better than that of his birth, and add nine months.

  14. On taboos — the thing I notice about the New Atheists online is that they go around insulting religion in random comment threads — using blasphemy rather as the potty-mouthed use their taboo violations, as a substitute for saying anything worth the phosphors it takes up.

    • It is a form of “intelligence-by-association” — they believe that if they parrot the positions and prejudices of the “smart” people, they will then be smart. It is a sadly common delusion of our time.

      I betcha these are also among the first people to “speak out” against bullying, too.

      • That would explain the views but not the “sky fairy” and other language they use, which aims for the same level as potty-mouthed.

  15. Wayne Blackburn

    It is all the worship of “frankness” and this vague idea that if it’s taboo it MUST be violated.

    As I’ve said before, in describing this as “pushing the boundaries”, what happens when you’ve pushed the boundaries so far that they no longer exist? Or, more particularly, what about when you’ve pushed them so far that you’re pushing them into territory where you’re literally hurting people, or at least suggesting that it’s OK to hurt them?

    When Older Son was in school, he got sent to an art awards ceremony. They made a point of saying that they didn’t count against any art because of the content. Do they, then, want society to descend into barbarism? Because that’s what I see as the endpoint of such statements.

    On the other hand, I considered trying to convince him to put in an offensive piece the next year that had to do with Obama. I would bet that he would have gotten talked to about that one, if I had.

  16. I have an octopus story! Octopus-inspired, rather.

    Posted for free on my blog! Though my son said it was rather dark. Mentioning it here because I can’t see another opportunity occurring for another century.

    http://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/free-short-stories/the-house-of-the-vord-sf-short-story/