Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nice Blog, Have A Cookie!

On Tuesday, September 23, 2008 I posted the following:

I make cookies. They’re scary good, but I don’t eat them, I only give them away. That’s got to be a metaphor, but for what?

Robert says that a blog has to be about something. Considering how many he reads, I don’t know where he got that idea. If a tree falls in space, and Superman isn’t around to save it, do generations of rationalists spin in their graves?

It’s all about metaphors. When we’re trying to explain a thought, we don’t exercise our vocabulary to give a specific definition. Instead, we come up with an example. “Okay, imagine a couch made out of a single giant marshmallow. No, wait. Not one big marshmallow. Lots of those little ones. Now, imagine that you’ve poured hot chocolate all over it and they’ve gotten all gooshy. That’s why hydrogen cars are better than electric.” Metaphors aren’t always a good thing. But they’re here to stay. And that’s why “scary cookies”.


That’s the first post, unedited and in its entirety. I’ve posted more than 189 times since then.

For those of you who have asked “Why Scarycookies?” this is the best answer I can give. In other words, I don’t know. Why not?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Art Who?

Once upon a time, I took a “Philosophy of Aesthetics” class and on a rare day when I actually attended a lecture, the discussion was on the validity of artistic interpretation. Specifically, is it fair to find meaning in a work that the artist didn’t intend to put there? People who picket galleries or sign petitions to complain about a joke on a sitcom notwithstanding, there is a serious argument on both sides.

My grandmother read “The Lord of the Rings” back in the early 1960s. She liked it fine, no big deal, until she saw or read some interview with Tolkein in which he stated unequivocally that the story was not an anti-war allegory. All of a sudden, her perspective of the books shifted; what she had considered mediocre literature she suddenly considered a mediocre fairy tale.

I remembered all this when Robert and I were talking about music yesterday. He commented on the inanity of the lyrics of a band I like. Since I rarely understand anyone’s lyrics (old fogy alert!) that started me thinking.

You know that movie/TV show you really liked until you saw an interview with the star? Your experience with, and feelings for, the work changed because of the information that the actor is an egotist/idiot/(insert political affiliation here). It can go the other way, when you find out more about what the author/director intended, you take the work more seriously and give it another chance. Don’t make that face, it’s happened to me.

Art is an expression of meaning, or an experience of beauty, or both or neither. I enjoy music despite my complete ignorance of a lot of the lyrics. Traditional examples of beauty include sunsets and a child’s laugh. My own example would be the onion soup at Fleur de Lys. Does the depth of my admiration make a bowl of soup Art? Think of the first person who snorted, “My five year old paints better than that!” before you answer.

This is what happens when a degree in Philosophy outlives its sell-by date, folks. It ain’t pretty, and it sure ain’t art.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Angst In Your Pants?

Anxiety: part fear, part dread, all yuck. Worst of all, like self-pity, anxiety requires neither logic nor reason to flourish in abundance.

Sure, there are a million logical reasons to use “dread” as a verb. Read a newspaper (or whatever it is you do), answer the phone, open your email. Fear is Darwinian. Without hazards there would be no evolution, survival would not require adaptation. “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger,” etc.

But just as paper covers rock, and scissors cut paper, both chance and luck beat logic. In the middle of the gloriously crappy action-horror novel I’m reading was this chunk of gold: Nihil desperandum. “Never fear.” This is stupid.

Thinking about why it’s stupid was enlightening. Fear is good. It tells us to get out of the way of an erratic driver. It warns us to check caller I.D. and not to put stinky milk back in the fridge. Anxiety is the baby sibling of fear. It’s a whining and bratty sibling, nonetheless anxiety can be ultimately useful as motivation.

Trust your instincts. If you’re anxious, there’s a reason for it. Trace it, track it. Figure out if there’s something you can do to prevent whatever you’re afraid of, then do it.

But, if you’re anxious because of insecurity, that’s a different animal entirely. In that case, take a deep breath and know that even if you have doubts, I believe in you. Man up. One foot in front of the other, lift your chin and keep going. Trust me. You will get through this.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

De Feet

Picture one of those hardcore Ironman scenes. An elite group of gals and guys -- each completely devoid of a speck of body fat-- pound mercilessly toward the next challenge. Faces set, eyebrows grim, forcing themselves rhythmically forward through pain and trauma with nothing but discipline and those little chemically spiked Jello packets for fuel. Onward they go, toward survival, their watchword is “endurance”.

Okay, now imagine that the entire group stops for pizza and beer.

That’s pretty much where I am, only without the pizza or the beer. The 20 Jokes A Day marathon was going swimmingly until I ran smack into a metaphoric wall. Interestingly, that was after I managed ten on “foot massage”. The topic that stopped me wasn’t that tough. It was “time off” and the options were legion. God, Santa, Barbie – what would any of them do with a day off? The punk rocker listens to Lawrence Welk. The chef eats McNuggets. The comedian goes to funerals. I wrote nothing.

Still, I’m not admitting defeat. I’ve just paused to reflect. It’s the pause that refreshes. (What product used that line? I forget.) Anyhow, I expect to start up again any minute now, so if you have a topic, let me know.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


“Funny” is a funny thing. By this I mean that “funny ha-ha” is “funny strange”.

It’s happened to you, lots of times. @rpaulwilson was here for dinner last night and I started telling some of my jokes from yesterday, which were stupid and not particularly funny. This devolved into all of us telling old and silly jokes, which in themselves weren’t funny but the accretion was hilarious. Laughter is a flame and anything becomes fuel until it sputters out.

Contrast this with the last time someone tried to make you laugh when you were depressed or just pissed off. Nothing is funny then, the flame never sparks.

Stay with me here, this is a mini-meme. I’m doing Jokes Of The Day in order to make better sparks, or to be able to spark on command. The challenges this time around have been fierce -- eye twitches, velociraptors, all you can eat restaurants -- to the point where I’ve dropped the minimum down to ten from twenty, keeping pretty much the same ratio of sparks to duds. (The random “Tudor regicide confectionery” joke doesn’t count, except maybe to the glorious @radiantfracture.)

The funny-strange thing is, it’s working. So much so that when I was given “Jello molds” for today, my brain started percolating. Then, this morning on the way to the gym, the radio cooking show mentioned Jello Easter eggs. I made the following note on my hand at the next red light: J-EG’s.

Now that I’m sitting here trying to write jokes about Jello molds, the fundamental problem becomes obvious. Sure, I can craft a joke with breezy ease and perfect ba-dum-bum cadence. But, to flog the metaphor that’s already been squeezed dry, I’m trying to start a flame with soggy matches. Writing them is easier, but “funny” is still elusive.

That’s when I realized that funny is a funny thing. Please keep the topics coming, folks. I’m not ready to give up yet.