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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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Weak LII


24 December 2017

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No. 3,683 (cartoon)

I think I’m in love.

I think I’m in trouble.

Same thing.

25 December 2017

A Cautionary Xmas Tale

I generally try to try ignore Xmas like the plague it is, but Emilia hit one of my many Achilles heels. (I have no idea how I can have more than two heels; that’s a question for a biologist or perhaps a philosopher.) I initially declined her dinner invitation but reconsidered when she said she had a whisky buffet that featured several of my Islay favorites.

I took the bait.

It was a trap.

After I was pleasantly pleased, she asked me to read a story to her five-year-old son Duncan. She chose a tragedy, Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The book is a perfect example of why I loathe this disgusting celebration of superstition and consumerism.

I started by providing the wee tyke with a bit of expectation management. I explained that the story he was about to hear was a cautionary tale, one that provided a valuable life lesson.

Grinch was an iconoclast, a renegade who wasn’t mindlessly enslaved to submitting to the dominant paradigm. He wasn’t strong, though, and didn’t have the determination to sustain the courage of his convictions. Under societal pressure to conform, he abandoned his values, beliefs, and ultimately his identity and individualism. He ended up broken, just another sheep in the flock.

Much to my surprise, he got the message. When Emilia told him it was time to go to bed, he told he wasn’t a loser like the Grinch and wasn’t going to follow anyone else’s rules.

I’m fairly certain that will be the last time Emilia asks me to entertain her kid. Merry humbug indeed!

26 December 2017

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Loret’s Linens

After a “going out of business” sale that lasted six or seven years, the linens place down the street is, in fact, out of business.

Wow; I didn’t see that coming! I rarely do.

27 December 2017

Canary Islands Snow Parrots

I accepted Malcolm’s invitation to join him at Ursula’s goodbye party tonight. He rattled off all sorts of superfluous information, but I stopped listening after I heard the word, “party.”

When we got there, I learned she was headed to Spain with a six-month grant to study Canary Islands Snow Parrots. I know very little about birds or geography, but I had a hard time imagining such a feathered beast in a tropical climate. I had a quick glance at the Internet, and sure enough, it never snows in the Canaries.

Ursula was not happy when I asked her about her research.

“Why is it every guy I meet has an encyclopedia in his pocket even if he’s not glad to see me?” she asked.

(I think that was supposed to have been funny, and, if I was as inebriated as she was, it might have been.)

She went on to berate me for my ignorance of scientific rigor. Does the fact the no one has ever seen a snow parrot in the Canaries mean there are none? Even if there aren’t any there now, does that mean there never have been and never will be?

“Those are good points,” I lied. “What approach will you use?”

“Approaches plural,” she corrected. “I’ll be using an interdisciplinary approach.”

It would have been rude to have pointed out that she mentioned a singular approach, so I didn’t. My diplomacy paid off—it usually does—and we went on to have a pleasant conversation.

Ursula explained that she’d be drawing on her degrees in biology and anthropology for her research. She happily admitted that would involve spending six months in Tenerife bars asking the locals about snow parrots. After half an hour, she admitted the whole project was a scam; there’s no such creature as a snow parrot.

Brilliant! That’s one of the very few times I’ve been envious of a scientist.

28 December 2017

House Bondage

Ever since I met him, Ross has complained bitterly about the “investment property” he bought thirteen years ago in a sketchy neighborhood in Richmond, California. He lost money every year, and spend most of his free time including vacations maintaining it after one irresponsible renter after another trashed it. He finally sold it last month for sixty thousand dollars less than its appraised value.

He lost money but gained more freedom. He seemed relieved when he told me that he could finally return to writing, a pursuit he’d all but abandoned while he spent so much of his life as a property manager.

He claimed he learned from the fiasco, but I doubt it. He just announced that he just bought an old house in Sacramento. I’m sure lots of problems were part of the deal, so now he’ll have to drive for three hours instead of one to clean gutters, unclog a drain, fix a door, and all of the other things that go with being a landlord.

Ross is in his sixties. I cannot understand why anyone would postpone doing what s/he really wants to do at that age. Or any other age.

29 December 2017

The Wholly Roman Empire

Nerissa works for a big publishing house, and confirmed two things I’ve always believed. First, short attention spans are healthy and natural, and attention deficit is no disorder. And secondly, the book as we’ve known it for the last few centuries is dying and must evolve to survive.

Her company is commissioning essays for a completely new edition of The History of Western Civilization. She invited me to submit a chapter. (On spec, alas.) She said that she had only two criteria: it had to be somewhat entertaining, and shorter than two hundred words.

Miranda was born and raised in Vicenza; she told me everything I needed to know about ...

The Wholly Roman Empire

Once upon a time, swarthy Mediterraneans with relatively large noses lived happy, joyous lives subsisting on the same healthy yet tedious diet of anchovies and olives that had sustained them since antiquity and beyond. One day a village baker’s third cousin twice removed invented pizza; that unique dish led to the establishment of The Wholly Roman Empire.

A wise man, Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, declared that beer would go better with pizza than wine, so he ordered his centurions to conquer what is now Germany, and the Romanians prospered. Tiberius Claudius Nero decided a digestivo would go well after pizza and beer, so he commanded his troops to annex Scotland and swipe all of their single malt whisky. The hirsute Scots defeated the would-be invaders, who were weakened by decades of interbreeding with all of the tarts they met on their journey north.

The Wholly Roman Empire was no longer whole, and imploded into the relatively small rump we now know as Italy. Italians still eat pizza, but the cognoscenti drink German beer instead of the watery, fizzy Italian swill.

And that’s all anyone really needs to know about that, with fourteen words to spare!

30 December 2017

Those We Lost in 2018

Lorenzo, a doctor in a Beverly Hills hospital, told me a great story I promised never to repeat. And here it is!

One of the patients in his ward is a dead ringer for Nora Desmond, except she’s not quite dead. Yet. She’s brain dead, or, technically speaking, in a persistent vegetative state somewhere between a potato and a cucumber.

Per her will, her family told him to keep his celebrity patient (her breasts were quite popular in the late fifties) “alive” until Wednesday so she’ll make the “Those We Lost in 2018” list. (She missed the appropriately named deadline to be included in this week’s remembrances.)

Hollywood does strange things to people, and vice versa.

31 December 2017

Some Seconds Were Better Than Others

2017 was a year like any other; it began the second after new year’s eve and ended exactly thirty-one million five hundred thirty-six thousand seconds later. Some seconds were better than others.

And that concludes my twenty-second year of writing this twaddle and flapdoodle.


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©2017 David Glenn Rinehart

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