Super Boor

Super Bowl LI will be played this evening; kickoff should occur some time after the singing of the third or fourth patriotic anthem, the broadcast of a couple dozen overproduced commercials, and the 30 men and 20 minutes required to flip the damn coin. The game represents America at its boorish best — even our most sports-adverse citizens cannot ignore the event, while the rest of the world tolerates our obsession like a kindly yet overbearing relative visiting for the holidays.

I wanted to begin today by reblogging a post about the game that makes no actual mention of American football. Agnes Wright is ready for the halftime show, and shares some recipes for what has become an American tradition.

Adorkable

adjective | adork-able | \ə-ˈdȯrk-ə-bəl\

1: charming and nerdy <an adorkable movie>

2: a quality that can only be appreciated by a nerd <your t-shirt is simply adorkable>

– adorkably \-blē\ adverb

Clicking a link to the future

Interesting post from Fargus Larbis today about the future of retail merchants. It’s not looking good for brick-and-mortar stores, as online retailers are competing with and often beating them on price, delivery, and service. I’m anxious for the retail professionals who staff and manage these stores; some can perhaps find employment with online retailers, but the trend with both virtualization and automation is for fewer employees. And if people don’t work, they won’t have money to feed into an economy that’s increasingly being driven by consumerism. And if the consumer market dries up… I don’t want to think about what comes next.

The fate of conventional retail stores reminds me of my father,  who worked in retail most of his professional life. He was a department store manager for several years, until one day I came home from grammar school to see him sitting in front of a typewriter at the dining room table. This was highly unusual, so I asked why he was home.

“I quit my job today.” There was neither pleasure nor apprehension in his reply. “I’m writing my resume.” Later that evening, I asked my mother about the meaning of resume, as the word was entirely new to me. Immediately afterwards, my father would respond to questions about why he quit with clipped monosyllables, laced with a tone that invited no follow-up queries. A few years later, as his former employer’s immanent bankruptcy made the news, he finally gave me the full explanation. “The company’s profit margin had been falling for years, and they went and built a high-rise corporate tower in New York.” That building was featured in each story about the bankruptcy. “Upper management was in complete denial, but it was obvious to me that I had to get out when I did.”

Our family struggled for a couple years after my father left that job. He eventually opened a franchise for a national electronics retailer in the rural town where he was born; for years in the mid to late 1970s, his store was the only place in a fifty-mile radius where consumers could purchase electronic and computing devices. He was the first retailer in the area to sell an electronic calculator, a primitive device by today’s standards — it could only perform simple arithmetic, had no memory, and was as large as some of today’s notebook computers — but was such a novelty in our area that people would drive in from miles away just to say this amazing device. It was so popular that he kept it in a safe overnight, to prevent burglary.

My father made a good career for himself in retail, and provided valuable commodities to our small town. There will be fewer stories like my father’s in the years to come (he left the industry entirely in the early 1990s, when he saw the potential for online retailers), and while I hope the tales that replace his will end just as well, I fear we’re in for a good deal of social disruption in the coming years.

Habeus Corpus


The smiling jailer nodded as I yelled out my request.
He unlocked my cell, and without a pause, removed my gilded bracelet.

“Come this way,” he said, and like a kindly neighbor
Led me down a darkened hall, to the judge’s chamber.

But when the door opened, I only saw the baliff.
“Where’s the judge?” I demanded, “let’s get this over with!”

“He isn’t needed,” the baliff said, “you’re case is very simple.”
“This is outrageos!” I replied; no time to act civil.

“Show me the charge, and tell me who accussed me.”
The baliff looked at me, then winked: “You can go now, you’re free!”

“Is this a trick? You know I’m nobody’s fool!”
The baliff laughed, then left the room — he seemed so very cruel!

The smiling jailer then said, “I’ll show you what you seek.”
Not knowing what else to do, I decided to take a peak.

He led me down another hall, this one brightly lit
And ending in another door — I pushed, but couldn’t open it.

“It’s locked,” the jailer told me, “you’re gonna need a key.”
But when I turned to ask for it, there was no one there to see.

I looked at the door again, but saw no knob or lock.
And then I knew the answer — it didn’t come as a shock.

I closed my eyes, touched my temple, and wished the door away.
And when my eyelids raised again, no barrier before me lay.

The room was dark, but I felt no fear.
I knew that the truth was near.

So I stepped into the black, and in my mind
I heard a door close behind.

Total darkness, then a moment later, light all around.
I was amazed to see what I had found.

Mirrors everywhere. The ceiling, floor, each wall.
And my face staring back at me. That was all.

I came to seek my freedom, but the truth that I did find
Was that my body was in a prison I had made with my own mind.

Distractions

[A response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post]

“I mean, do they ever wash these things?” Lana’s scowl, and the way she held the fencing jacket at arm’s length after pulling it from the team’s equipment sack, told Annie that she needed to work with the newest potential recruit for the Bark Bay High School fencing team.
Stepping in front of Lana, Annie took the jacket from her. “Coach Dan sends them to the cleaners once a month.” The fencing team captain shook her head, waving her brown pony-tail, then released the jacket — “That one’s too small.” Squatting, she began rummaging through the sack, finally pulling one of the other jackets from the heap. Annie stood, and nodded at Lana — “This one should fit.”

Like all of Bark Bay’s jackets, this one was zippered in the back; front-zippered jackets were just as common and no more expensive, but since right-handed fencers could only use a jacket zippered on the left side, and left-handed fencers required zippers on the right, back-zippered jackets were more suited to the fluctuating membership of the Bark Bay squad. After explaining to Lana how to put on the jacket (first, step a leg through the hole formed by the nylon strap at the bottom of the jacket, then insert your arms), Annie fastened and raised the zipper.

“I mean, doesn’t it bother you?” Annie knew Lana was still talking about the distinct scent of the team’s equipment, the stale perspiration that permeated everything, even after it came back from the cleaners.

“A little, at the start.” Annie actually couldn’t remember her initial reaction to the scent, but felt she needed to establish some sort of bond with Lana. “But when I started scrimmaging, trading touches with other fencers — I didn’t care what I smelled.” She laid a hand on Lana’s shoulder, and smiled. “I knew right away, that fencing was the coolest, most exciting sport ever. From that point, all the smelly equipment, the noises, the bruises — those were all distractions. And I was too busy having fun, to let any distraction get in my way.”

For a moment, Lana stared back blankly. And then, to Annie’s relief, she smiled. “So when can I start scrimmaging?”

“Soon as we find you a mask.” Annie then led Lana to the team’s other equipment sack, which promised to have an even more pungent odor.

Eric Blair

orwell-id-card

You warned us back in forty-nine
About the stamping boot.
The blow could come from right or left,
And render freedom moot.

We fought a frigid war for years
Against an iron curtain.
Your corpse became freedom’s hero,
And the freshman’s burden.

But die Mauer came down, and then
Your words seemed old and tired.
Your famous work a distant year,
No more to be admired.

Our victory seemed so complete –
History at its end!
But the coming years unfolded
In ways we didn’t intend.

We spent our aspidistral lives
In shopping, while asleep.
And sold our freedom on eBay
To a vain, huckster creep.

We thought that meanings chose the words
But we were so naive.
Our leaders tell alternate facts
And ask us to believe.

You never felt comfortable
Born in your evil time.
Perhaps we share a bond with you –
Our eras seem to rhyme.

What would you make of Amazon
And your resurgent fame?
And would you like the adjective
That we’ve made of your name?

We need you in an age like this,
Your words so clear and true.
For none should face despots alone  –
Not Smith. Not Jones. Not you.