Notice to Consumers

It has come to our attention that some of you have been seen engaging in activities that have little or nothing to do with consuming.  This, of course, must stop, as it jeopardizes the entire consummation system.  In the 19th century, enthusiasm for consuming was so robust that people were even reported to have died from consumption.  Are we to fail such a heritage?

Even the French have surpassed us.  There is a soup there called consommé which is quite widely used in cooking, even though, judging from the name, it has clearly already been consumed before.  Surely we can do as well or better.

If the general population fails to improve by next Tuesday, all businesses in the US will be forced to not only become French, but to move all operations involving wage earners to an impoverished country … what?  Oh, never mind.  Become French, then.

How red meat is like … red meat

I go through long periods when I just can’t seem to finish anything: poetry, fiction, essays, it doesn’t matter. I work at it. I take notes, jot down ideas, begin paragraphs, sit in coffee shops streaming my consciousness. No matter how promising it looks, or, in desperation, how passable, I just can’t seem to pull the trigger. It’s a log jam (I won’t use the more obvious metaphor, although, as you’ll see, it’s more appropriate).

Then something comes along that just pushes the rest of it through willy-nilly.

For the last couple of days, the news has been all over social media that WHO has declared red meat to be “probably” carcinogenic. Vegan friends are beside themselves crowing, rubbing our faces in it with a vicious glee. There is nothing more likely to raise the hackles of the normal person.

Sometimes, though, it’s better to let sleeping hackles lie. The rest of us might experience that rare motivation to check things out for ourselves, rather than believe the first meme that comes along.

First of all, WHO has also declared the night shift to be probably carcinogenic. It’s not exactly an exclusive category. It’s just a statement of statistical fact; no attempt is made to judge how much of a danger it really represents

In the case of red meat, it seems that daily consumption of more than 100 grams is correlated to a 25% or so (the figures vary, depending on what you’re reading) increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer. “Yikes!” you might say. But what does this actually mean?

For some reason, WHO appears to have conflated processed meats with red meat for this study, so it’s difficult to assess either category by itself. It also appears to have ignored other lifestyle factors, but let’s go with what we’ve got.

The incidence of colorectal cancer in the general population is about .04%. Eating red meat raises your chances to a whopping .05%; that’s right, an increase of .01%.

Friends, you are more likely to die driving to the grocery store to buy the red meat than you are from eating it.

Some rank observations

Why is the lowest rank in the army, which affords its holder no privacy whatsoever, called private? The corporal, at least, seems reasonably preoccupied with bodies. But what is a sergeant? Someone bedecked in serge? A warrant officer, I suppose, is the person in the office which processes warrants, but you’d never know it from their duties.

I get lieutenant; he’s a tenant in a place, and the captain is surely the head man. But if he’s the head man, why are there ranks above him?

To be sure, in the navy, there are fewer ranks above captain, but that’s the navy, always going their own way, doubtless from spending so much time on the bounding main, far from civilization. A friend, and ex-submariner, once told me they left port with 150 sailors, and returned with 75 couples. I guess that explains the ranks of mates; very chummy, these sailors. Perhaps it also explains admirals, presumably persons most to be admired. As for the rest of them (only some of whom are able bodied), they are seamen. Very clear and to the point, much like the airmen in the … air force. Someday soon these basic descriptive ranks will have to be modified to reflect the modern military: seapersons and airpersons.

But above the captain in the army there are majors and colonels before you even get to the highest ranks. Majors, I believe, are self-explanatory, but what on earth is a colonel? Something to do with columns? If so, why is he allowed to lord it over the head man?

The generals, those with the highest ranks, presumably do not have any specific duties, like the lower ranks, with the exception of the lowest of them, the brigadier, who mucks about with brigades. Yet they feel compelled to recapitulate practically the entire officer rank system among themselves, from lieutenant to major, skipping colonels, perhaps because generals get nowhere near any columns except during parades.

Don’t get me started on unit designations; that’s something only a very admiral general could explain.

The long, long silly season

Hard to believe, but it’s still over a year until the election we’re all obsessing about. That’s more than enough time for all the current front runners to fade away, and for new ones to emerge from nowhere. Meanwhile, we’re filling Facebook, Twitter, and, yes, blogs, with not so much political opinion as ad hominem. Never have slings and arrows so thoroughly disdained outrageous defeat. Have at them now, lads, if they disappear, you’ll have missed your chance to smite those who disagree with your clan. Come to think of it, disagreement isn’t even necessary, just designation as the Enemy.

The worst part of all this is the ugly deterioration of discourse in social media. Of course, the bar was never set very high to begin with, but now it’s steadily approaching negative numbers. More like limbo than the high jump. How low can you go?

There’s an insidious dynamic at work, one which, I admit, has affected me at times as well. You make some statement, simplistic because, in the buzz of the moment, you don’t feel like putting in all the nuance, all the exceptions and caveats. Besides, what sells on social media is the punchy one-liner. In any case, you assume your friends will get all that, because they know you so well.

But then, it turns out they don’t. Someone responds with an objection, which itself ignores nuance, the better to firmly repudiate the shallowness of your post. In other words, by this point, the two of you have posted opinions that, although you generally find the gist agreeable, you do not wholly buy into. It could stop right there, and often does. All it takes is one side or the other opting out.

But sometimes, you just can’t seem to leave it alone. You feel wounded; it’s a kind of betrayal for a friend to think you would actually believe such simplicity. How could they, especially since their response is just as trivial? Besides, you’ve thought of a zinger that will stop the whole process by making it clear you have the superior position.

You’re off and running. The “debate” slides further and further into sheer defensiveness, until each of you finds yourself fiercely defending a position you would never have even acknowledged before things got out of hand. Worse, a friendship is threatened over what usually amounts to a difference in nuance.

With any luck, something truly horrific hits the news just then, and the two of you can come together on what dangerous lunatics the other side are.

Damned PC!

Tired of all the political correctness? Hey, me too! Here’s a list of the rules of political correctness from when I was young.

• If you’re black, always defer to a white person
• If you’re female, always defer to a male
• If you’re a white male, always show your superiority by using the words nigger, chink, spic, pollack, and sheeny every chance you get
• Remember, when a woman says no, she means yes
• If someone uses a racial slur, a good-natured laugh and hearty agreement are the best responses
• Always laugh at jokes at the expense of minorities or women
• Never show an interest in shop class if you’re a girl
• Never show an interest in home ec if you’re a boy
• If you’re male, love sports. or at least pretend to
• If you’re female, wear clothes that emphasize your sexy bits, and give in to rape graciously
• If you’re an overweight college girl, be grateful when a frat boy takes you to an “ugly date” party
• If you’re male, always remember, no matter how ugly or disgusting you are, you get to pass judgment on the appearance of any female

Well, that’s just a few; there were many more. Bet you’re surprised that we’ve been fighting PC much longer than you suspected!