Not a Bug

hqdefaultIt’s not a bug–it’s a feature! But said with thinly veiled irony–snark. In other words: sneering sarcasm. That could very well be the etymology of snark. Like the way you could glean the meanings of words in the Jabberwocky from context and onomatopoeia. Take two words and mash them together. A mix tape. Of course, “mix tape” is a rapidly receding cultural reference point. Don’t blink, or you just might miss it.

Let’s see what Eeyore has to say. Actually, what Eeyore said was, and I quote: “It’s not a bug–it’s a feature!” So the resident pessimist of MESH has already weighed in, and provided me the title of this Monday morning’s blog.

Serendipity Doo Dah. So, yes, I don’t really have a theme for this thesis. Unless that theme be the increasingly malleable condition of language in the modern age. There are two types of grammarians: The Descriptive and the Prescriptive. The former “describe” how people actually do talk, while the later write a “prescription” for how they should talk. Both types are necessary, but while I might seem to be scoffing at the prescriptive grammarian, with a meshing of a sarcastic sneer into snark, I am actually on their side. How many idiots have to write “your” where a phrase clearly calls for “you’re” until majority rules kick in? I hope never. On the other hand, I fully support “ain’t” but will never, under any circumstances, accept “Irregardless.”

So, the gatekeepers of grammar are important to me, and certain words, because of ignorance and a distinct lack of logic, are wrong and will never be right, but language is a fluid thing, ever changing, and certain neologisms must be added to the lexicon from time to time. Sometimes a word will be coined that will catch on so quickly that young people will scratch their heads in wonder that we were ever able to communicate without it.

But I digress: I think that what I really wanted to say was that my thoughts could be compared to a swarming hive of wasps, and it is a constant struggle to follow the flight path of one wasp when you are constantly distracted by all the others, the connections between them, and how the whole Gestalt relates to the Zeitgeist. It’s not a bug–it’s a wasp! Then you have to consider the context, and the relationship between speaker and listener. Do they share common cultural and literary reference points, or are you obligated to provide background and expository material?

It is almost as if a comedian were telling a joke, and he had to map out a Venn Diagram to see who, if anyone, would get the joke: Looking for an audience of Quantum Physicists who also are fans of the comic strip, Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. This would be the genesis for the recent “joke” on Young Sheldon where Sheldon’s father conflated Irwin Schrödinger, who posited the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, with Schroeder, the Ludwig van Beethoven enthusiast, who was able to play Ludwig’s entire oeuvre in spite of the fact that the black keys on his toy piano were only painted on.

Which brings me to the humor displayed in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons I watched as a child. When I review them now as an adult, I find that a lot of the jokes that were over my head then are now crystal clear. For instance, the Kirwood Derby was a hat that made whoever wore it smart. But it was really just a spoonerism for announcer, game show contestant, and television personality Durward Kirby. In November of 1961, Durward Kirby threatened to file suit against Jay Ward, but after donning the Kirwood Derby he quickly realized how ridiculous it was.

I once tried to explain Spoonerisms to my mother while we were having a discussion of recipies. She laughed, but not because she “got it.” It was because it made her think of spoons while we were talking about cooking. And the dish ran away with the spoon.

In researching this, I noticed that Mr. Peabody was modeled on the actor Clifton Webb, who portrayed gossip columnist Waldo Lydecker in the 1944 Otto Preminger directed film noir, Laura. Lydecker was in turn purportedly modeled on critic and knight of the Algonquin Round Table, Alexander Woollcott. Woollcott was also the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, the main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939) by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, two other Algonquin regulars.

Mr. Peabody’s first name, evidently, was Hector. Mr. Peabody, along with Sherman, would use the Way Back Machine to travel back in history for the purpose of making atrocious puns. An archive of the Internet was named after Mr. Peabody’s machine, but it would be hoped it will be used for more serious purposes than that of making atrocious puns:

Horticulture: You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.

Anyway, what I really, really, really wanted to say was that not only is language under assault. Truth itself is called into question. Alternative facts are not facts at all, but rather lies, falsehoods, propaganda. Certain people are telling The Big Lie and repeating it over and over until it is believed. There is a deluge of information, and some people are becoming like ostriches with their heads in the sand. There is just too much for them all to take in. They listen to news not to be informed, but to confirm what they already believe.

This is happening. The truth is out there, and while it is a chore to find it, it can be found. Paradoxically, it can even be found on Twitter. Though there is a lot of misinformation spread on Twitter, there are certain sources who are getting the word out there. I am talking about you, Seth Abramson. It is essential that you follow Seth Abramson to understand what is happening with the investigation into President Donald J. Trump’s crimes. Seth Abramson has the background in Law and Journalism to put together the facts–connect the dots–and present it to the public, at least those non-ostriches who do not have their heads buried in the sand. Many stories he has presented have come out in the Mainstream Media perhaps a month later. So far, he has not faltered. His focus is on Trump and Russia, and he leaves some of the more salacious charges, such as the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, to other, more gossipy and easily distracted “journalists.”

For me, a very interesting thing about Seth Abramson is that he has a copy of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest on his bookshelf. And not only has he read it, but he teaches it, as a professor of Literature, along with the Law and Journalism. Of course, his threaded tweets present information in easily digestible chunks–the complete opposite of the footnoted and serpentine narrative–convoluted would be an understatement–of David Foster Wallace in Infinite Jest. But the fact that he is able to follow such a labyrinth is what also allows him to sift through the massive amounts of information and put it all together. He is adept at separating the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff. Connecting the dots.

Anyway, ignore Seth Abramson at your peril. Ever wonder what you would have done if you were a citizen of Germany during the rise of Hitler? Now is your chance to find out. The Constitution, the very fabric of our Democracy, our Republic, is being tested. Delicious irony if it is the emails of his transition team that bring him down. “But the emails . . .” Live by the sword, die by the sword. Donald J. Trump has lived by Twitter, and it is only fitting that he will die by Twitter. Politically, not literally. And it is Seth Abramson who is making it possible.

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