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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Fortunate Golf

Another of life’s little mysteries solved: the reason my golf game is not improving as I think it ought became clear this morning as I perused The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Superstitions. It seems that it is good luck for golfers to: (a) to carry a lucky golf club, (b) to tee off using a ball numbered three or five; and (c) when teeing off, place the ball with the trade name facing up. It is bad luck for golfers to: (a) change a club once it has been selected, (b) clean the ball when the round is going your way, (c) approach a tee from the front, (d) win the first hole, (e} use the word “shank” in conversation, (f) unwrap a new ball, (g) start a round at 1:00 PM, or (h) use any ball above the number four.

Obviously, the folk who divine these superstitions don’t talk to each other. The number five – good luck – is above the number four and should therefore be bad luck. It doesn’t matter though because I read once that golf is a game of skill and luck has no place in a game of skill. Therefore, if something unlucky happens, the golfer should just ignore it and proceed as if nothing happened. For example, if your drive winds up with the ball in a divot from a previous golfer, this is patently unlucky. You should move the ball out of the divot to the closest nice piece of grass.

Taking luck and mysticism out of golf had become a significant goal in my life. However, my SITREP to this point is that it hasn’t made a hell of a lot difference in my scoring. Therefore, I am hereby declaring my pitching wedge as my lucky club; it will go wherever my golf bag goes and all my golf balls will henceforth bear the number three.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-17 08:58:31

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The Commercialization of Apples

After reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, I have spent time contemplating another of life’s little mysteries. From Diamond, I discovered that apple trees are a bit of a problem to grow. Growing up with the legend of Johnny Appleseed – the New Christy Minstrels have a great song about him – I just assumed all you had to do was drop seed around and pretty soon you’d have all the apples your heart desires. Turns out, in order to grow a given type of apples consistently, you must know about plant grafting. Since apple production seems to have begun in the fertile crescent long before agricultural universities showed up on-line, I wonder how the first apple grower figured out the necessity of grafting. It’s easy to imagine how fire could be discovered, how wheat could be discovered, but grafting?

Picture the scene: Ugh is out in the woods procrastinating from gathering fruit which his wife and family are doing all around him. He’s sitting with his back against a tree abrading this shoot he picked up into a firm, sharp point. He is thinking that something like this would puncture even the toughest pelt. Ugh is all about labor saving devices. His spouse is not amused with this digression into invention and tells him to get his butt back to picking. Miffed at her lack of appreciation of his cleverness, he jams the shaft into a fresh sprout, broken off by the hurried passage of his five-year-old. He thinks nothing more of it.

The tribe makes it annual trek around the known world and the next year he is sitting at the same tree contemplating a piece of gristle he had just removed from between his teeth. He’d had cat for lunch.. “I bet I could use this as twine and invent the bow and arrow if I took the time.” About that time, his spouse came grumbling he should get off his fat butt and get some picking done. Discarding the gristle from hand and memory, he stood to comply with his wife’s wishes. Doing so brought the grafted tree into his view. Stunned, he examined it in detail wondering at the ability of the rootstock to accept and nurture the scion. He didn’t use those terms, of course; he’d invent them later when he opened his school for apples. But that would wait for another six years after he had performed another dozen grafts and marveled at their efficacy.

Ugh became so successful that he retired from actually grafting trees and spent his time telling others how to do it. With this new pinnacle of success, his wife complained that being known as Ugh was too common for such a successful man so he changed his name to Jonagold and invented apple cider to comfort him on those long afternoons when he was hiding from his wife.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-16 10:10:02

Monday, August 15, 2005
Monotheistic Musing

“Monotheism was a clear advance over polytheism, since it reduced the chaos of the supernatural and made possible a more orderly theology.” Isaac Asimov, 1989

Unless of course there are three versions of the one god with each interpretation supported by a great number of people. Combined with our human competitiveness andour human need to distinguish ‘the other’ from ourselves, this adherence to one interpretation can make things a little sticky. I suspect:

(1) the function of theology is to explain why things happen which is exactly the same thing that science purports to do so science and theology are interchangeable

(2) the function of religion is to explain why the bad things that happen are not our fault and to identify whose fault it is so we can go kick the shite out of them (convert them) and makes things all better

(3) the function of government is to create conditions where it and everyone following it can prosper.

Religion only relates to theology when the theology supports the religion’s needs. Otherwise, religion is quite capable of thundering down its own path with rationale and justification popping up as needed. Government relates to religion when the religion supports the government’s needs. Otherwise, government will tolerate religion as a necessary evil for a time but eventually will casually eliminate the threat religion might pose.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-15 12:07:19

Sunday, August 14, 2005
The Plot's Okay But the Acting is Horrible

Now that the evening news is officially entertainment and ratings are more important than dissemination of information, I have been thinking of the broadcasts in terms of plots. The object of my amusement is to take any given news story and fit it into John Carroll’s seven basic plots:

(1) [wo]man vs. nature

(2) [wo]man vs. man

(3) [wo]man vs. the environment

(4) [wo]man vs. machines/technology

(5) [wo]man vs. the supernatural

(6) [wo]man vs. self

(7) [wo]man vs. god/religion

The majority of our current news stories deal with (1) and (2). If there are many deaths involved – number must be above 10 at once – then (3) and (4) are featured. Without death and dismemberment, (3) and (4) are only used on days when (1) and (2) have been absolutely inactive, i.e., no one involved in these activities died or was injured spectacularly. (5) makes a good featurette every now and then but (6) and (7) are avoided by news media as they involve thinking and presenting a reasoned discourse. It's hard to make that sort of thing into a stimulating sound byte.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-14 10:20:41

Saturday, August 13, 2005
Would you buy this?

Television is not always the most fertile of entertainment sources, particularly if you discard the ninety-million ‘reality’ shows that are currently all the rage – which, at our house, we do. Despite the paucity of shows that leaves, there are always commercials. It is a sad commentary on television’s estimation of the intelligence of its audience that the very best it has to offer are commercials. It is a crime to be required to sit through drivel to get to the good parts, the ads. Why is it that the best of these are generally beer commercials? Because the ideas come from people who are stoned on the product they are selling?

My current favorite is the one where the spokesperson points out that his product comes in a bottle so ugly it makes any person holding one look beautiful by comparison. He asks the guy standing next to him if he would consider himself ugly and then, before the man can adequately respond, the spokesperson says “yes, you are; you are extraordinarily ugly.” Then, he hands the man his product; looks to the camera, and says: “Now, sir, you are beautiful.” At commercial’s end, he thanks us for paying attention to he and “the beautiful” man standing next to him, still holding the bottle of beer.

After which I reminded to remind folk of the immortal words of Vihjalmur Stfansson: “Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.”

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-13 13:05:09

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