Tomato Planet
Probably pretty ugly if using Internet
Explorer 9 or earlier.

8 12 18

Telling the Whole Story

In Turtles All The Way Down, the protagonist Asa learns that a story her mother told her was not the whole story. Because of her new knowledge, she undergoes a transformation and acceptance of self.

Asa's mom is not the only one who shorts stories. Angel Chernoff did it too. Here's the story she told.

Socrates

A couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates was strolling contemplatively around a community garden when a neighbor walked up to him and said, You’re never in a million years going to believe what I just heard about our mutual friend.

Wait,” Socrates interrupted, putting his hand up in the air. “Before you continue with this story, your words must pass the triple filter test?

The what?

The triple filter test, Socrates said.

The neighbor just stared at him with a blank expression.

Socrates continued, The first filter is Truth. Are you absolutely sure the story you are about to tell me is true?

Well, no, the neighbor said, I literally just heard it from someone else I know.

Ah-ha… Socrates quickly replied, then let’s move on to the second filter. Is what you are about to share Good in any way, shape or form?

No… no, the neighbor said, This story is actually quite…

Before he could finish his sentence, Socrates interrupted him again, Ahh… so may not be true and it is definitely not good.

That’s right, the neighbor assured him.

Well, you may still be able to save yourself, Socrates said. Is anything about the story you want to share Useful?

The neighbor stared blankly again for a moment and then said, No, I suppose it’s not really.

So, you want to tell me something that may not be true, is definitely not good, and is not useful to know? Socrates asked. The neighbor looked down at the ground and nodded. Well, you have no good reason to tell me this story, and you have no good reason to believe it yourself, Socrates added, as the neighbor dolefully walked away.

The rest of the story: Before the neighbor was out of earshot, Socrates called to him. Is it about Aristophanes? Or Zeno? Or their wives? If so, we can make an exception.

Or at least that's the way the story was told to me.


Conversation with Editor: Do I really have to put a winking emoji on this, or some disclaimer that it's a joke? I mean, do you really give my readers that little credit? I think they're smart enough to figure out that I wrote the ending. Just because you missed the humor is no reason to have to add silly little marks that aren't even really English. Yes, I do think my readers are smarter than you. I think the tie you're wearing is smarter than you. Well, same to you, buddy.



8 5 18

$1,000,000,000,000

Apple just passed $1 trillion in valuation. What does that mean?

  • To Apple:. Nothing. Market valuation is a made-up number derived by multiplying two other numbers. it does nothing much for Apple. It probably helps Warren Buffett. But then, doesn't everything?
  • To Apple haters: They're spinning. Some are pointing out that Apple isn't really the first trillion dollar company. Or they take out the publicly traded part. Or they focus on who will be next.
  • To Apple operations: Pretty much nothing. Apple hit that number by not paying attention to money. At least, it wasn't its primary focus. Apple focuses on building great products that deliver a great user experience. The money is secondary. No Apple executive ever appear those 100 best paid executives lists that show up from time to time.

I guess the lesson is to pay attention to what you do, to what you make, not to your compensation. If you have customers, pay attention to meeting their needs and making them happy.


Cultural Relativity

We are all products of our time and place. I was reminded of this when I saw an article about archeologists uncovering a building in Cologne, Germany, which they claim was a huge, second-century public library.

My first thought was, OMG! Do I have an overdue scroll?

Second thought: How did they know it was a public library? Did they find a list of card holders, or checked out scrolls? Or was there a sign over the front door that said public library? I was going to have to read the article, darn it..

I found out that the archeologists knew it was public because of the location and the size of the building. It was big and in the forum, so public. They found 20,000 niches in the walls, so library.

Partly what threw me was the phrase public library. I was picturing a building with books where people can read and check books out, just like I do every couple of weeks down the street. Then, far less than ten percent of the population could read, scrolls were very rare and of interest only to historians, archivists, lawyers, philosophers and other academical/professional types, not the motley assortment of people at the local library. (I fit right in with the clientele at my library, by the way. No judging me, please.) So not public in the way we think.

It's interesting that the Romans thought it important to establish libraries, even in the hinterlands. Personally, I never think of the Romans that way. Decadents, conquerors and engineers, yes. But they understood that administration, law and culture were equally important to maintaining the empire as the military.

I could be wrong. Maybe they did have Vandals and Goths Days, where tribesmen were let though the gates, er, doors. But my whole wrong attitude? Chalk it up to looking at the past through the lenses of this time and place.


7 29 18

Trailing Indicators

I've started reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art as research for a book about writer's block. I'm only a few pages in, so I can't give a review, but one of his themes is wanting to do something (like writing or painting) but never getting started. We're always chasing dreams, he says.

For some reason, that made me think abut other catchphrases–Follow your bliss (Joseph Campbell) and the pursuit of happiness promise in the Declaration of Independence.

It strikes me as odd that, in a culture that encourages us to take responsibility for our destiny and chart our own path, as it were, that in two major expressions of creativity and freedom, we're not in control, we're not directing, we're not taking charge, we're following, chasing after, always trying to Catch Up.

And here's a quote from Pressfield, totally unrelated:

Every sun casts a shadow.

I'm not sure if that's supposed to be hopeful, or realistic, or if I've embarked on a downer book. I'll let you know.


They said It

And since we're dong quotations, here's another one from Marc Chernoff:

We are often far too concerned about how people died rather than how they lived.



7 15 18

Prime Day

The Mr.

Our Amazon Prime package arrived, and we couldn't be any more pleased!

Actually, we probably could be, if it was the toaster we had ordered. But this is good, too.


Be Like the Daffodil

I recently completed a poem about the garden in the front yard, One of the images was daffodils.

We always think of daffodils as being spectacular, but two things struck me about the image. First, daffodils spend eleven months out of twelve working out of sight. They only put on the show one month a year. Second, one daffodil is nice, but they only achieve crowd-drawing spectacle status when they are in large groups.

I'm sure there's message there for people who think if they aren't living out there 24/7, they cease to exist, and another about the myth of the solo artist and creative genius.


Not your Momma's world

There was a flurry of stories this week about the last Blockbuster store. Apple also announced they will be closing the Photo Print Shop. Frankly, both had fallen off the radar a long time ago, and were candidates for the Remember When? columns that pop up on social media every now and again (like remember when someone delivered potato chips in cans to your front door?). (We never got those. I was so jealous of the kids who did, and the few times I had them they always seemed waaay tastier than the bagged chips we bought in the store.) So like Tamagotchi toys, black & white TV, and hoop skirts, there are more things your mother experienced that you never will, unless you become a re-enactor.


Dealing with Trolls

The Verge recently ran an article about dealing with trolls. There's history and not-quite satisfying solutions in Don’t feed the trolls, and other hideous lies. Although somewhat enlightening, it's not the first time that we have had to deal with trolls. It reminded me of the old Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff.



7 7 18

Permission Granted

I'm sure we all remember permission slips from grammar school. Some were big things--slips saying it was OK to go on field trips, or some other major out of school event (which sometimes were like out-of-body experiences). I recall there were also internal permission slips, like to go to the office or another classroom or the bathroom (like a formal hall pass).

Well, we now have permission slips for adults, or more accurately, permission blogs. The basic premise is it's OK to do, feel, or be something. Or not, as the case may be. Recently, I've been given permission to:

  • be myself
  • do nothing
  • screw up
  • not write
  • succeed
  • fail

I'm still waiting for permission to breathe, sleep, and be rude to people who are rude to me. Not that I need permission (which is the way these articles seem to start), but still...


Cancelled

Way back in the day, Andy Warhol came up with the fifteen minutes of fame concept –everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I could live with that but did get annoyed when people try to drag out their time to a half-hour or an hour with no justification. Brothers of Democratic Presidents come to mind.

Now, from the world of bloggery and social media, we now have the concept of Cancelled, which provides a remedy for this problem. At first I wasn't too keen on the idea. Who sets themselves up as arbiters of what's important, of who should have a voice and who should not? But then I found out that cancelling can be personal or a group or universal. So I can cancel someone, or everyone can cancel someone. There are probably rules, but mine just consider annoyance and stupidity. Larger cancels have more elaborate or vagarious rules, I'm sure, but I bet at bottom it still depends upon annoyance and/or stupidity.

Still, though, we have those who haven't been reading their email and did not get the message that they've been cancelled–nobody cares about their bloviations any more, if anyone actually ever did.

Now, I'm not trying to cancel these people's right to speak out, earn a living, or even be caustic in public. I just don't want to have to listen to it, especially when they're being stupid in areas they know little to nothing about. I'm tired of them consuming my bandwidth with nonsense and churning the kettle, so to speak.

I'm thinking particularly of:

  • Ted Nugent
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Kathy Griffin
  • Rick Santorum 1or any failed, self-styled Presidential contender)
  • Kardashians
  • Charles Barkley
  • John McEnroe
  • Any Real Housewife
  • Terrell Owens
  • Alec Baldwin and his brothers
  • LaVar Ball

The lack of links is intentional, and done as a public service.



6 30 18

Niagara, Wayne, other border forts to be recommissioned to counter growing Canadian menace

Fort Niagara

Under urging from President Trump, the Department of Defense today announced that the Department of the Army would be recommissioning a number of forts along the Canadian border, including Fort Niagara, Fort Montgomery, Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Wayne. They defended us before from the marauding Canucks, spokesman Nelson Eddy said. If those hosers think they're just going to march in here and force their steel and aluminum on us at NAFTA-agreed prices, well, they've got another think coming. They burned Washington! It's payback time!

Eddy says it won't take much to bring the forts up to speed. Proposed improvements to the forts include a fresh coat of paint and additional parking. Eddy noted that adding discount malls to the forts was under discussion. We know how popular these malls are now along the border. We'll use them to lure Canadian families into the country, and then it will be easy to separate the adults from the children. It's what happens now in food courts and arcade centers in malls. Nobody will notice.

Fort Wayne

Canadian retaliatory measures are unknown at this time, but one news outlet is reporting that William Shatner, Justin Bieber, Martin Short and Nickelback have been recalled to Ottawa for discussions. We were hoping they would recall the entire Kardashian family, an American Department of State spokesman said. But then we found out they were Americans, and so we're going to be forced to leave them at the Mexican border ourselves and hope somebody picks them up and takes them across.

Trading in the Canadian dollar was halted on the American exchanges, until someone pointed out that the Canadian dollar was worth 75% of the American dollar before the Defense Department announcement. Trading was then resumed. At the close of trading, the Canadian dollar remained unchanged.


One less Droste Effect

One of the great cognitional moments in my life was discovering that the Indian maiden on the Land O'Lakes butter box was holding a box of butter with an Indian maiden holding a box of butter with.... It was my first encounter with infinity, and the limits of human perceptual capabilities. In the imagination, though, the boxes go on and on to infinity.

Fortunately, I never thought to ask if the box I was looking at was itself being held. That's like thinking about the billions of microbes swimming around in your body. It's not mind-healthy to do that.

It turns out that self-holding-self infinity thing is called the Droste Effect.

For fans of the Droste Effect, we have some sad news. You will no longer be able to get a quick fix in the dairy aisle. Evil marketing/graphics people have redone the Land O'Lakes box. It now features a head shot of the Indian maiden. Very attractive. Just not right.

The good news is that, for the moment at least, tradition lives on at the website, where the original kneeling maiden is still part of the logo, and is still gracing packages of sliced cheese. Tradition is good, especially for iconic products. Trust me, they don't get more iconic than Land O'Lakes.

Disclaimer: my dad used to work for Land O'Lakes. I'm very proud of him.



6 24 18

Hogwild Hogweed

giant hogweed

The local news channels have been having a field day (actually, week) with giant hogweed (AKA Heracleum mantegazzianum) invading the Commonwealth. And for those of you concerned about such things, yes that pun about a plant and fields was intentional. You're welcome.

The first report was that giant hogweed was an attractive plant, but a dangerous invasive plant. Touching the plant could cause major skin irritation and blisters; contact with the eye could cause blindness, and rubbing it all over your naked body could cause death. (There was a reason Springsteen did not write Blinded by the Giant Hogweed. It didn't scan as well as 'light,' or maybe it hadn't invaded New Jersey at that point.) And worst of all, the reporters told us, it was already in the Commonwealth and heading directly toward us!

Well, OK, we found out on Day 2 it's only in Clarke County, or about as far away from us as it can be and still be in Virginia. But hogweed! Giant hogweed! Be scared! Be very scared! Later on Day 2, yes, it still burns and blinds and kills, and it's still only in Clarke County, be afraid, be afraid, and oh, did we mention it's only one plant? But it's giant!

Onto Day 3 reporting of the plant that blinded an entire Commonwealth, are you still afraid? It still burns, it still blinds, still kills and it's invasive! Invasive, I say! Someone planted that one plant (as an ornamental), but still, it's here, it invaded, be afraid, be afraid. Burning. Blindness. Death. Fear.

And reporters wonder why they're losing credibility.


They Said It

My characters don’t really care how many books I’ve sold.

Dan Brown


Not nice, probably

I know it's awfully incorrect, but when I hear someone say Kyrgyzstan, I think they're trying to clear their throat.


Decoding House Hunters

In this episode of Decoding House Hunters, we explain some new terminology on the show:

  • Craftsman style: It has a porch.
  • Mid-century modern: One story with no porch.
  • Colonial: Two-stories.
  • Move-in ready: I'm going to bitch and moan about the renovations that the previous owners did. Why didn't they put two sinks in the master bathroom?
  • Curb appeal: Sorry, you're on your own on this one. But only one part of the couple cares about it.
  • Forever home: See Curb appeal.


6 17 18

This Week in Writing

As a writer (yes, Mr. Snarky-pants over there, I am a writer. I might not be great, but I do write. This posting. Every week or so, five hundred words delivered to you at no charge), I run into some odd things and do some odd things to further my craft. As a reader, you get all the benefits with none of the pain, except that incurred in reading, and hey, you can always stop reading. I'm the writer. I can't stop. It's in the contract. Next contract, I'm going to have a lawyer look at it. Like I can ever afford one of those.

Where was I? Oh, yes, writing. This week. An interesting week.

Going to class.

A while back (defn:: so long ago, there's no date on the computer file), I got the idea that I should write a memoir. Yes, about me. No, I'm not expecting anybody to read it either (can somebody get Mr. Snarky-pants out of here?). Then I got the idea that I should take a class since I don't know anything about writing memoirs, and want to know what rules I'll be breaking when I do my memoir. Outside of writing conferences (two in twenty years) I don't think I've ever taken a writing course.

The first class was Tuesday. We will be bringing in pieces to workshop (yes, to workshop is a verb. You really have to try to keep up). I had a draft of a couple of sections. It has not gotten off to a good start.

Now, when I say I had an idea (or in this case two), that does not mean that they were good ideas. If three of ten ideas pan out, it's been a good day (or week) These may not have been good ideas, insofar as I seem to be second-guessing them (defn: .saying uh-oh a lot). I'm not sure now what the idea was with writing a memoir, but it was probably word play, look back at old times, and maybe personal exploration. Dragging out another draft section of Life every other week for public consumption/criticism is not really necessary to reach the goal. Or desired, come to think of it. Oh, well. Live and learn. I wish I could say, hey, I can add that to the memoir! but there are already too many sections devoted to lessons (un)learned.

Written

One good piece of fallout from the class–in preparing for the class, I went rummaging around in the closet for a three-ring binder. I found one, containing twenty-six short short stories that I had written more or less around the turn of the millennium. I had been looking for a couple of them for a reading in August. There was nothing–NOTHING!– on the hard drive. I figured I had probably offloaded them to claw back some space. Really offloaded over 50 singles spaced pages into wherever. So having found the hard copies, I spent part of Friday cleaning out drawers, looking for backup CDs. I finally found one with a lot of the stories on it. I just have to go through and see if I'm missing any of the stories in electronic versions. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a couple more stories I had forgotten writing and didn't print.

I also found a dozen poems I wrote in college. My only defense is I was an English major in the early seventies. Look, we all make mistakes. None of us were thinking straight then. You won't be hearing about those ever again.

New Genres

When I first started hanging around writers, they would inevitably ask, What do you write? The answer they're looking for is usually some sort of subgenre, like urban fantasy or Amish romance or dystopian children's poetry. But I don't write in one genre. I write a lot of things, including this posting (is Mr. Smarty-pants still here? No? Good.) So I just ended up saying words. It was an unsatisfying answer for all concerned, but got me out of trouble or long, elaborate answers, which works out to the same thing.

If you write, you read. This morning, I was reading submission requirements for a new magazine. I've been thinking about submitting something or other for publication, and AOM seems like a good place to start. They're new, and the list of things they accept is huge. Plus, I'm probably overqualified, at least for the old man part, and probably the only person in the history of the website to make that joke.

Unfortunately, irony and sarcasm are not categories.

That's where I bumped into two new genres. The first is called asemic writing, the second flarf. They're technically not new (one is described as a movement of the early 21st Century), but are new to me. These guys would make Marcel Deschamps look like a straight arrow and a paragon of clarity and mainstreamosity. Or bring Devo into top-40 pop land. I always thought that readers were partially responsible for adding a certain sense and meaning to a story, adding their own unique perspective, but with asemic writing, everything in terms of sense-making is left to the reader. Senseless or just plain bad is the goal of flarf.

School of Flarf might make a pretty good title for a movie.



6 8 18

Revivals

sally jessyNo, not the broadway show (although the Tony Awards are this Sunday) kind of revival. Fashion trends, cultural trends. Stuff like that.

Specifically, I wonder if Big Red Frame Sally Jessy Raphael-style glasses will make a reappearance.

Also apropos, the May 20 Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times could have been subtitled the Time Machine. There were articles about disco musicals, how 90's songs speak to today, Dystopia, Apocalypse, Culture War: 2018 or 1968, and 2001: A Space Odyssey travels back in time,

On a totally related unrelated note, it's the fiftieth anniversary of 1968. I am not ready to deal with that. Judging from the lack of noise about 50 years ago today, I think a lot of my contemporaries aren't either.


Teacher of the Year

The local school announced that Mrs. Jones is the Teacher of the Year. So is this a good thing? Is teaching competitive? Do other teachers go to Mrs. Jones for tips and advice? Does Mrs. Jones get some sort of prize besides a designated parking space? What are the criteria? Does Mrs. Jones challenge students or is she easy and fun? So many questions, so few answers.

Short answer for me: this is not a good idea. Recognize good teachers. All good teachers. Let them teach.


Quote?

I have this written down. I have no idea who is responsible–maybe Tom Hart. At any rate I'm going to put it in quotations, 'cuz that seems like the right thing to do.

So many things go wrong, we should be suspicious when someone gets it right.


Fred the Flower


8 13 18

Fred has a snowflake moment.

Fortnightly T-shirt

8 13 18

We all have dilemmas aned conundrums.

Apt 123


8 13 18

Cultural misunderstanding..