Friday, October 04, 2013

the idiot

so i talked to the painter for a while, and his first wife was from iowa, so we did a little iowa geography. the town of laverne scratched my memory, but i knew it was one of those towns that you'd see this sign at the interstate, and a road would snake off one way or the other and get there in so many miles. he was up there one time, he said, and maybe it was in the mayo clinic elevator, this would be in minnesota of course, but the elevator, he felt, was pretty fast. so he said, "'es thing kicks it," or something like that, in a texas accent, and nobody, like nobody, understood him. he's a big old guy, a texan, so you can imagine, maybe they were a little nervous, with this big guy saying incomprehensible things. funny thing was, he was happier coming back to texas, this was the memory he brought home. stuck in an elevator with nervous people.

heard another elevator story. this one was in japan. star professors were invited to this one campus, but they were stars in slightly different areas, both americans. elevators are slow in japan, but buildings are big. one young woman was "playing one off the other," but in an academic sense. she needed a thesis supervisor, but liked both guys. each one was telling her to do the opposite thing. she kept going from one to the other. the one would tell her to revise it, and the other would tell her to undo what the first had told her.

the problem happened when all three happened to get into that very slow elevator at one time just by chance. by the time the elevator hit the bottom floor the two professors were screaming at each other and the poor young woman was cowering in the back. the lesson to be learned is, pick one thesis advisor.

i heard the story because i'm studying up on the perils of writing dissertations in universities these days. there are plenty of perils. the university has these sessions and we sit around talking about the perils. my class talks about the perils. i read a few dissertations.

my daughter's dissertation was great; that was years ago. you had these stomach viruses, or maybe they were bacteria, PrgX and PrgY, and they somehow got it on & reproduced and everyone lived happily ever after in some poor host's stomach. problem was, i couldn't understand a word of what the language was all about. it was like a love affair in paris or montreal or something, where you have to live without language and somehow figure out what to do next. apparently they were genetically programmed to do the right thing once they were in that poor host's stomach, which was good, because that's what accounted for their survival.

big storm up on the northern plains tonight; i had ancestors who settled up there, up in the siouxs, on the west bank of the missouri, where the wind piles in and dumps heavy wet snow even in early october, or a tornado comes up unexpectedly and everyone runs for cover. i'm not sure what goes for cover, up there in the northern plains these days, i'm sure they have something. that, or everyone digs in the ground and hunkers down when it gets intolerable. fortunately we're down here in the warm stuff soaking it up and not worrying about it.

leviticus 11 8 says clearly, we are not to eat pig or touch their carcass, so football is out. that's all there is to it. now i'm not doctrinaire about the bible, i do all kinds of things the bible prohibits, in fact i ate some bacon on a hamburger just tonight. so i've already violated leviticus 11 8, so it goes. but i don't care if they replace those true pigskins with the petroleum kind, i'm not touching them. no way. they're kind of funny shaped anyway. doesn't the bible say a ball has to be round? what has this world come to anyway?

so there's this massive government shutdown, everyone has been talking about it. it's happened maybe for about a week. biggest thing is, all the national parks are closed, and i assume other government things too. one stepdaughter works for social security; a sister-in-law works for the irs. some of these people are having "snow days", except there is no snow, at least where they are. funny thing is, i've gotten kind of inured to political wrangling. in my own district is the congressman who chewed out the park ranger for closing down, even after he had voted for the shutdown, it clearly wasn't the park ranger's fault. it was kind of a bizarre sidelight to the whole shutdown thing, how could people who actually run the country be so stupid. yet this guy ran unopposed, if i recall, because he's a republican, and because nobody can beat a republican, i guess. maybe a libertarian ran against him, but no democrat did, he didn't even have to put up a lawn sign. i couldn't believe it, but this was way back in 2012 when we first got here. maybe now that he's embarrassed the area, somebody will come along to run against him. maybe it should be me. but i write this blog. if anyone actually read, and found out how truly radical i am, they'd have lots of dirt, and i'd never win. i'd have to destroy my blog, or take it underground. actually i kind of enjoy calling my congressman an idiot. i think people everywhere should be able to do it. not that i want everyone else to have idiot congressmen. just that, if it's true, you ought to be able to point out the obvious. what was this, blaming a park ranger for closing the park? maybe i misheard it.

i got to texas the day ted cruz was winning the republican primary, which might as well have been the election, because there were no democrats except obama on the ballot who had a chance. he was winning it by calling his opposent a "moderate." this seemed unusual to me because it seems that one should seek out the center. but shifting to the right i guess was seeking out the center, at least in texas, at least in the republican party. using "moderate" in the same way other people use "communist" or "liberal" is one way of letting everyone know who is really vile, untouchable. it's a different kind of conversation, i guess.

the old elevator clip about conformity has surprising life; you see it every once in a while. in this clip, probably from the early sixties, they put people in elevators who turn around, until the remaining guy decides he'd better turn around too because everyone else is doing it. or they all take off their hats, so he does too. and he gets a little uncomfortable, because he kind of knows they're pulling one over on him, but he does it anyway, no idea that candid camera is trained on him or that this particular movie will be shown in sociology classes for sixty years.

in another elevator story another guy stayed late at work one friday night, got into the elevator to go down for a smoke, got stuck in the elevator at a time when nobody was answering the alarm, realized it was friday the thirteenth, spent the whole weekend in there getting hungry and thirsty, having to use a potty, but of course got out eventually, maybe monday, and sued the place for a fortune before it was all over. question was, whether he still had his faculties intact, whether he could still work in that building, even if he wanted to. sure it was a lousy weekend, but he probably came out all right, financially, might not have even had to keep working, but in that kind of condition, one doesn't want to stay home either.

got on an elevator near kenmore square in boston one midwinter day, can't remember where i was going or who i was with, but there were two or three people in the elevator. one guy asked us if we wanted to buy a book of poetry and showed it; it was maybe a couple of bucks. a woman on the elevator bought it on the spot, gave him a couple of bucks. said she'd bought the last one too. she was happy to get it. i thought it was a miracle. the elevator spilled out onto that little area near fenway park, but it was winter, there wouldn't be baseball for months. it was grim and cold and windy up there, but different politically. they don't have that problem of idiot congressmen, for example, they've got other problems. but people buy poetry, that's kind of interesting.


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