WE NEED NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK

CONVERSANT AGAIN – NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK AND CELEBRATING WORLD WAR THREE – IN ADVANCE (WE WON ‘T HAVE TIME, LATER)


Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is probably the point of such created events.

brotherhoodweek-624x446

The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars. Unless you watch PBS or the History Channel where you might see a documentary or two.

The man who took it seriously — even in the old days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write a lot of songs since he, till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred yet as he’s alive and living in California), thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs. Not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this particular holiday dead to rights. Ya’ think?

He got a lot of stuff right. Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs. (Remember CDs?)

And because the news has been so … fraught … I thought I’d add a couple of  more shockingly relevant songs for this day in February, 2018.

My, how times have not really changed — except we really do have colored TV pretty much everywhere!

CONJURING MAGIC WORDS – TURNING LATIN TO SORT OF ENGLISH

I WOULD CONJURE MAGIC, BUT …
NO LATIN ALLOWED


I hadn’t thought about it. To be honest, my eyes have seen it. My brain has skimmed over it. Whoosh. Away it went with no thought given to its meaning. I do know what a couple of “Latin as part of English” shortcuts supposedly mean.

“Illegitimi non carborumdum” — which I believed (and lots of other people also believe) translates to: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” from the mock-Latin word, illegitimatus, or bastard, and carborundum, an ancient brand of abrasive stone. But apparently, it’s not “real” Latin. Who speaks “real Latin” anyway? Whatever Latin you speak, it ain’t the real deal. Whoever speaks Latin speaks a reconstruction of it based on what we know from old writings. No native speakers hanging around in this century.

But QED? From this morning’s Boston Globe’s Theresa Hanafin, comes this bright light for the day:


The Question of the Day from The Old Farmer’s Almanac is: What does the abbreviation “QED” stand for? It’s Latin — quod erat demonstrandum — and means “that which was to be demonstrated.” It’s often used at the end of math proofs or philosophical treatises where the writer reaches a conclusion. Sort of a “ta-da!” I always thought it stood for “Quick, eat the doughnuts,” which has been very helpful over the years.”


What does this have to do with anything?

Well, since I cannot find any conjurable magic (is that a word?), the closest I’ve got are those little Latin sayings we drop into our English language. When I was first working as a tech writer in the U.S., having been working in Israel as a tech writer for five or six years, I encountered an actual English-language editor. My editors in Israel had been a lovely French woman who had excellent English, but sometimes her editorial decisions were a bit … continental. I had a great Russian guy and some of his editorial decisions were … unique.

This was the first time I got to fight over my words in my native tongue with another New York native.

ARTWORK: Evil Squirrel’s Nest

She was fixated on never using a Latin expression if there was an equivalent English word for the same thing. Should she come upon “etcetera” she would always change it to “and so on.”

“We do not speak Latin in this department,” she would announce. To this day, when I’m editing anyone else’s work — Garry or one of the other writers on our “team” and I see an etcetera looming, I can hear her voice carrying over the television or audiobook:


WE DO NOT SPEAK LATIN IN THIS DEPARTMENT.


I am forced to change it to “and so on” and occasionally, to something more obscure like “moreover.” Can’t use “ad infinitum” either … a sad waste of clever language skills.


Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” or “forevermore”. Description: In context, it usually means “continue forever, without limit” and this can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated “forever,” among other uses.


It’s amazing how a single determined editor can fix something in your brain forever, even when you have long since passed a point where you need instructions.

Thus if you are doing any conjuring today, please do it without Latin. We don’t speak Latin here.

A CONGLOMERATION OF CONUNDRUMS

What animal walks on all fours in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening? Man, since he crawls as a child then walks and uses a cane when he gets older.

No sooner spoken than broken. What is it? Silence.

I am weightless, but you can see me. Put me in a bucket, and I’ll make it lighter. What am I? A hole.

What is so fragile that when you say its name, you break it? Silence.

I have a tail, and I have a head, but I have no body. I am not a snake. What am I? A coin.

What falls, but does not break. What breaks, but does not fall? Night falls and day breaks.

You throw away the outside and cook the inside. Then you eat the outside and throw away the inside. What is it? An ear of corn.

I have holes in my top and bottom, my left and right, and in the middle. Yet I still hold water. What am I? A sponge.

What can run, but never walks
Has a mouth but never talks,
Has a head but never weeps,
Has a bed but never sleeps?

A river.

I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will,
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.
What am I?

Tomorrow.

CONUNDRUM definition meaning

I am the black child of a white father, a wingless bird, flying even to the clouds of heaven. I give birth to tears of mourning in pupils that meet me, even though there is no cause for grief, and at once on my birth I am dissolved into air. What am I? Smoke.

Pronounced as one letter and written with three.
Two letters there are, but two only in me.
I’m double, I’m single,
I’m black, blue, and gray.
I’m read from both ends,
Yet the same either way.
What am I?

An eye.


The final conundrum: How can we get ourselves into this mess?

Answer: I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. Or, if you get there first, call me. I’ll be waiting!


CONUNDRUM | THE DAILY POST

SAME OLD SAME OLD AND AN HISTORICAL NOTE

Ecclesiastes 1:9 — New International Version (NIV)

What has been, will be again,
what has been done, will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

I’ve given this a think and come to realize not only have I not done anything completely new or outrageous in recent memory, I don’t know that I ever have, or wanted to. If I’d wanted to do it, I’d have done it.

I’d love to get a repeat performance for some places I’ve been. I wouldn’t mind a first run at a couple of spots I always wanted to go — if someone will transport me there without complicated travel arrangements.

Irish Signs Ireland

My mind wanders towards travel because I love traveling. Sadly, that’s one thing that’s lost its savor. It was more fun in years past. Not mere nostalgia. Fact.

Airline travel especially has fallen to the bottom rung of the desirable-modes-of-transportation ladder. That alone would put a damper on any lingering travel lust.

I fear not flying, but I dread airports. Luggage handlers. Airport food. The so-called lounges where we wait for flights that never arrive or never take off. Incomprehensible announcements over garbled sound systems. Delayed flights. Security checks.

And the eternal question. Why is the connecting flight inevitably at the farthest point on the opposite side of an airport the size of Alaska? And why is that connecting flight on time when the flight on which you arrived, is late?

I haven’t done anything “beyond the pale.” Not recently and, on further reflection, ever. I’ve always been the same old me. How dull.


Historical Footnote: Does the author of this prompt know the derivation of “beyond the Pale?” It refers to the Pale of Settlement, in which Jews were allowed to live, other places being forbidden to them.

Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement in Russia in 1791. This was the name given to the western border region of the country, in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, ‘beyond the pale’.

Pales were enforced in other European countries for similar political reasons, notably in Ireland (the Pale of Dublin) and France (the Pale of Calais), which was formed as early as 1360.

REFERENCING SOURCES

Make It Anywhere

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” goes the famous song about New York City. Is there a place — a city, a school, a company — about which you think (or thought) the same? Tell us why, and if you ever tried to prove that claim.


One of my many home towns.
One of my many home towns.

I’ve never been particularly ambitious and I am not sure I ever “made it” anywhere. I have no idea why I am so unmotivated to climb the ladder of success. Wired that way, maybe.

Personal stuff — relationships, home, having fun — has always been more important to me than traditional success.

My current home.
At home in exurban New England

Which means that where I live has always been for personal reasons. New England, because Garry was (is) here. Jerusalem because it’s a giant tel full of ghosts, artifacts, and history. New York city, because I was born there and I was a kid, so I didn’t have a choice. Long Island (New York) because I went to school there, married a guy who worked at the university, and got stuck.

I never lived anywhere because it was professionally advantageous … or even sensible.

Being as I have nothing much to say about this, I thought I’d include some quotes from other people about success.

Which reminds me of college where I discovered you don’t actually have to write a paper yourself. You just have to quote sources and properly reference them. This will impress your professor without straining your brain to come up with an original idea.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”
W.C. Fields

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

“The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.”
Bette Midler

“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut”
Albert Einstein

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston S. Churchill

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Salvador Dalí

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
Abraham Lincoln

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure. ”
Mark Twain

And so it goes. Success is however you define it and whether or not you’ve made it is entirely a matter of opinion. Yours is the one which counts.

YOU MIGHT AS WELL LAUGH

Oh, The Irony

For some of us, irony is just the way it goes. Life is one ironic incident after another. Just when you think you’ve finally got it together, it falls apart. The job that looked like a career maker comes with the boss from Hell and some vital organ fails. Oh well. You might as well laugh. There’s no percentage in tears.


Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Meds not working? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just  a little ironic humor by Life, Inc.

Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on. No suffering allowed. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart (though it lasted longer than it ought because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made), I staggered — bloody, dazed, and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling as if I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins.

There’s a fine line between comedy and a tragedy. Mostly, it’s all about the ending. Tragedies end with piles of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s mostly timing.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Later, with perspective, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in both breasts (they were having a two-for-one-special at Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties, the high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

Ironically — there’s that word again — a mere two years later, my heart needed a complete overhaul. The ultimate irony (but luckily, not the final one) because I’d been telling everyone my heart was the only organ that worked properly. Famous last words.

When life goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, a lot of people who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious? But they also look at you with a subtle whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be so rude as to say it aloud, but they are overjoyed it happened to you, not them.

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage may emerge a book — or at least a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. It wasn’t for nothing after all.

Personal traumas are collateral damage in our Darwinian battle for survival. No one gets through life unscathed. Just, for some of us, it’s rather more scathing.

Mindful of future tragedy lurking down the road, prepare some clever repartee. You can give it a test drive at the next get-together with your successful pals. Something to look forward to.

As a bonus, you’ll truly appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces.

No matter how awful things are, you will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Depression will ebb. The crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic which you will call “normal.”

It’s all in good fun, right?