Friday, October 24, 2014

New Frontiers in Religious Headdress

Freedom of religion is Constitutionally protected in the United States; and it is good when people mark solemn occasions with reflections of their religious beliefs.  In the case of oath-taking for public offices, it is a recognition that the person is taking his elected or appointed role seriously.

Unlike several countries, notably France, we usually don't have qualms about people wearing religious headdress, whether they're Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Orthodox Jews, or members of other faiths.

Christopher Schaefer, newly elected to the town council in Pomfert, New York, took his oath of office before the Town Clerk while wearing a colander on his head.  He did so, he explained, because he was a minister of the Pastafarian religion, in which they worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I think that the good people of Pomfert should be confident that Council Member Schaefer will be diligent in his duties and that he has a sense of humor, unlike the typical politician.

Here's a volleyball team, possibly wearing religious headdress to reflect their spirituality:

Some people may go over the top with religious headdress. These products are actually marketed.  I don't think that the typical rabbi would approve.

But some forms of religious headdress are intrinsically funny, like miters.  But you can wear one when you play Cardinal Puff!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A French Euphemism

The French have a charming euphemism:  "Une femme ne pète pas ... Elle murmure dans ses culottes." 

["A woman does not fart ...  She whispers in her panties."]

Thursday, October 16, 2014

St. Cletus Parish's Halloween Festival

It's a common problem of voluntary organizations: there's a continuous turnover of those who might lead them or manage their activities from season to season.  Father Devereaux, Pastor of St. Cletus Parish, had this problem with regard to the annual Halloween Festival committee: the Old Guard gradually eroded, much like the land in the Mississippi River Delta.  So he did what any administrator would do: snare some innocent into serving on the committee until he or she could gracefully beg off of this parish duty.

Part of the problem was Hilda Walspurgis.  Now this lady had definite opinions about what is acceptable and what is not.  Little in the way of innovation was allowable during her tenure as Chairperson.  However, Hilda scheduled a Caribbean cruise in defiance of hurricanes; therefore she could not chair the committee any longer.  (The hurricanes cooperated.)

So Father Devereaux roped Crazy Chester into running things since the local racing season hadn't started.  And over time other parish unreliables had been roped into this sort of duty.  There was Al Gautreaux and Missy Chauvin, local television personalities (just so they could get away in time to read the 10 P.M. news.)  There was Suzanne the Existential Stripper, the Prophetess Madeline, Clotilde Badeaux,  the Lucky Dog Guy, and other New Orleans characters of dubious orthodoxy.  Perhaps the concept of critical mass applies to groups as well as nuclear fission.  

Anyway, this motely group continued some of the old standbys for Halloween Festivals and added a few new ones too.  The old, reliable, well-loved activities included the Half Court Basketball Shoot, the Cakewalk (which became a quasi-contact sport), the Parish Pie-Eating Contest, the Horror House, the Ring Toss, the Kissing Booth, and others  were continued.  Among the new ones for the year was the adult only Cocktail Booth.  There, the Lucky Dog Guy managed to get the recalcitrant adults into both literal and metaphorical good spirits.  And the booth turned a tidy profit!  

Now the old Best Halloween Costume contest had occasional bits of sensationalism, particularly when pre-adolescents participated.  It always resulted in a gratifying shock on the part of the remaining shock-prone people when some boy dresses as a satire of a holy saint or a girl wears a faux strumpet costume (Hilda Walspurgis's term).  However, Madeline reasoned that Halloween involved mischief anyway; so why not have a Best Saint Costume?  In that way they could harness the adolescent proneness to shock with uplifting examples.  It's a time-honored fact that any formerly-forbidden action loses its temptation value when it becomes approved.  "Oh sensationalism, where is thy sting?," as St. John Bosco was supposed to have said.  But there was another element to the costume contest with some over the top acting: who could do the best imitation of the archbishop?

Speaking of uplifting examples: Suzanne proposed a Guess Her Bra Size Contest, in which players would try to guess what was underneath the clothes of seven participants.  Suzanne and three other committee members were among the subjects in this contest; each one walking on the stage while holding a number.

Now Father Devereaux was wont to enjoy a restorative glass of Jameson's in the evening while doing the parish paperwork.  Truth to tell, he wasn't disposed to read very carefully the turgid committee reports very carefully, so these innovations slipped through the cracks.

Several of the Old Guard had hissy fits on seeing the changes, particularly the Bra Size Guess and the Cocktail Booth; and Father Devereaux did a double take as well.  But he did visit the Cocktail Booth and made his guesses in the Bra Size Guess.  However, he did not win a prize.  Being celibate can do that to guys.

Now some complaints reached the Archdiocese; but the financial report of the Halloween Festival indicated that the profit turned from this activity was three times higher than from previous years!  A wise administrator does not inquire too closely on how this kind of windfall comes about, particularly if the Archdiocese is bottom-line oriented.

Princess Peach costume for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alternatives to Grad School

I suppose it's inevitable at times.  Grad students get tired of the unending grind of doing classes, writing papers that no one seems to read, and teaching classes of introductory courses for slim wages.  When this occurs, a life style change becomes increasingly tempting.

Now some may go the corporate route, some may (horror!) get a real job, and some may find creative ways of getting money.  For example, for those with terpischorean skills, there's stripping.  This pays very well; but dancing on stage can be hard work; and the clientele is sometimes very critical of your efforts.  And there's the book salesperson route, which I was in for a while.  However, there's little attraction in being a road warrior in the long run.

There's the lower level job along this type: being a used textbook buyer.  Now, given the costs of new textbooks (typically $100 - $150 apiece for typical ones), it's not surprising that sales of used textbooks led to an extensive parasitic set of companies.  However, the used textbook buyer is generally regarded as lower on the hierarchy than the company representative for new textbooks, much like the used paperback book stores are regarded.  And, darn it, you have to carry the books to your car!

Some twentyish women of above average looks and savior faire have even gotten sugar daddies while in grad school.  However, there's the temptation to say To heck with it and become an outright kept woman!  Needless to say, things are more complicated than that: the typical sugar daddy chooses his companion based on smarts, presentableness, and intelligence as well as looks and grands nénés!  In other words, she is not supposed to look like a bimbo but passably like a prestigious protege! (In other words, a trophy girlfriend.)

But wait!  There's an eighteenth century approach to making a living by other means: piracy!

No, not the piracy that the F.B.I. scolds about with regard to copying DVDs or the like; but actual Cap'n Blackbeard piracy!  

The trick is, like in real estate, location, location, location.  The horn of Africa and around Indonesia is too crowded; plus there's a déclassé sort of maritime asset reallocation specialists around there; and you would not get much respect at all from your clientile.  Plus the U.S. Navy is on their case.  And the Caribbean is largely given over to cruise ships and tacky tourist traps.

But wait!  ¡Mire a los locos turistas!  Because of the insatiable demand for bored tourists in the Caribbean plus the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it is possible to be a "pirate" and not worry about being pursued by irate navies and being hanged from the yardarm if they still have any yardarms around.  Just be part of a crew on a pirate tour vessel.  And for those lucky enough to be on a pirate party boat, so much the better!  A free grog ration for the crew!  Now that's incentive!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why Not Other Regional Flags?

Last year Mike had a post reporting on the results of a survey conducted on over 1000 people regarding their views of other states other than their own: which one was perceived as the hottest, the smartest, dumbest, drunkest, most boring, and which one would they most wish to see kicked out of the Union.

It's very clear that people form definite opinions of people living in other places.  Xenophobia is as American as apple pie!  And, to a certain degree, we egg each other on in these views. 

On the other hand, there are states that draw relatively little notice.  I'm afraid that some of us don't have an idea about South Dakota or New Hampshire.  For all I know, they might eat cats as staples there, and speak some foreign language.  But probably not.  Someone would have published a New Hampshire cookbook by now, I suppose.

The obvious example of a sectional flag is the Rebel flag.  While very few Southerners nowadays have it in their heads to secede from the Union, some display it as a token of their heritage, like barbecue, white lightning, grits, and bluegrass music.  Not to mention the Fall obsession with football!  For some, it's to identify possibly with other Southerners.  It's a regional thing.  Southerners are attached to the region.  Some would say overly much.  As a result, some don't transplant very well.  When dining in the West Coast you can actually undergo grits withdrawal!

Here's an idea: maybe some of the other regions could come up with regional-specific banners to indicate their regional pride: in the Mountain West, in Appalachia, in New England, in the Upper Peninsula*, in the Northwest . . . .   And display these on the beach while drinking too much beer, hanging out at rock concerts, and on automobile bumpers.  I can imagine the slogan: "Get your Heart in New England or get your Ass out!"  As a matter of fact, I'm gonna copyright that expression. (c)

I think this is a good idea.  After all, those Washington State and Oregon people need a banner to wave to taunt those ubiquitous Californians, those in nearby states need to have theirs to irritate those Greenies (Colorado residents), and those Yoopers need to have theirs to make the people from the Mitt, not to mention those Ohioans, feel like outsiders.

And Arkansasans need more than their timid state flag and their proclivity to wear hats shaped like hogs to proclaim their individuality!  Come on, guys: make up a banner that proclaims, "I am from Arkansas and I'm proud of it!"  Who knows, even Hillary Clinton may display it!

*Of Michigan.  The Yoopers need their own flag to counter the rash of Yooper Jokes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Control of Nature

This inscription on the College of Engineering building at the University of Wyoming urges humans to strive on to control nature in various ways.  It is a very apt inscription for a college of engineering, a profession oriented to improving on nature.*

I found it mentioned in John McPhee's fine book, The Control of Nature.  This book describes three large-scale instances in which humans are engaged in a titanic effort to control nature if possible.  These are: (1) The attempt by the people of Heimaey, Iceland to protect their harbor from volcanic lava by spraying it with water. (2)  The Army Corps of Engineers trying to prevent the change of the flow of the Mississippi from its present path into the Atchafalaya, and (3)  The residents of the San Gabriel Mountains trying to prevent debris from destroying their homes.

McPhee's book is excellent non-fiction; and well-worth your reading.  Each of the sections contains extensive descriptions of undertakings on a mammoth scale.  I found his description of the regulation of water into the Atchafalaya River to be particularly interesting, as the river commerce of the Mississippi would be impossible beyond a point, and New Orleans and Baton Rouge would face a wide but more shallow stream.

Humans have audaciously controlled nature in unusual ways.  For example, the construction of massive dams has allowed the control of flow of large rivers and the settlement of places that otherwise would be impossible.  Extensive causeways such as the one across Chesapeake Bay have linked areas that once were thought impossible to bridge.  We should not overlook the impact that girder-reinforced concrete structures have played in making high-rise cities possible.  And there are the remarkable developments in semiconductor physics which have made possible the computer and android technology.    

Some recent developments as genetically modified organisms, stem-cell research, space exploration,  developing new variants of plants, new breeds of dogs, cats, and ruminants as daring expansions of what humans are capable of; while others see these as dangerous and ill-advised.

This can even seen in the legends of antiquity and more recent times.  Daedalus's flight and Prometheus's stealing fire to benefit mortals can be viewed as cautionary tales against exceeding some ill-defined boundaries as to what's acceptable.  Likewise, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can be seen as a warning against attempting to create life.  Some people might construe this as a warning against genetic surgery or in vitro fertilization.

In my opinion, it is our species' birthright to push the boundaries of possibility: to not just simply live in nature but to attempt mastery over it.  And, by and large, WE HAVE TO DO THIS!  Because of our numbers, and because of the various problems we face, we've lost the option to let things remain static.  Unfortunately, it's also part of our species' nature to be wary of too much change.  In that way, some of us have an unfortunate lack of nerve or gumption.

*As a joke has it, an optimist sees the glass as half full; the pessimist sees it as half empty; and an engineer sees the glass as twice as large as it needs to be,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thibodeaux's New Hunting Dog

Thibodeaux was visiting with his friend Boudreaux one day. Boudreaux asked Thibodeaux what he had been up to lately. Thibodaux says, "Well, I just came back from Lafayette."

"What were you doing in Lafayette?" asked Boudreaux.

"I went up there to buy me a new hunting dog," replies Thibodeaux.

Boudreaux says, "Mais, Thibodeaux, what's wrong with the hunting dogs from around here?"

Thibodeaux says, "Well, this hunting dog can walk on water; his name is Hay-sus."

Boudreaux laughs, "Thibodeaux, you got fooled. Hunting dogs can't walk on water."

Thibodeaux says, "I'm telling you. My new hunting dog can walk on water. You want to see?"

So Boudreaux and Thibodeaux go out on the lake with Thibodeaux's new hunting dog. Pretty soon, Thibodeaux brings down a duck. The dog immediately walks out across the water, retrieves the duck, and jumps back in the boat.

Thibodeaux turns to Boudreaux, "So what do you think of dat?
Boudreaux replies, "That dog can't swim, can he?"