Department Of A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do
Dateline: Sunday, 10:30 am-ish. MH sits across from moiself at our breakfast table, with his copy of Saturday’s NY Times crossword puzzle. He’d started it yesterday but stopped when he couldn’t finish a small section of it. As he’s revisiting the puzzle he tells me he’d made a mistake with one four letter answer, whose clue was “____ stage (concept in psychosexual development),” and that fixing that one answer allowed him to figure out the rest of the puzzle:
“I had to switch from oral to anal.”
I look up from my own (KenKen) puzzle; MH pauses for a moment, then says,
“I need to rephrase that.”
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Department Of Only A Certain Kind Of Geek Will Get This One
Good name for a punk band:
Edith Keeler Must Die.
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Department Of Space, The Vinyl Frontier 
MH and I – and MH and I translates as, MH – did a clearing-out-space-in the-attic project at the end of the year. A significant portion of space-which-needed-clearing-out was taken up by a dozen or so crates of LPs. MH moved them to floor the Cat Wall Bedroom ®…
…where we could sort through them. In the next couple of weeks, hundreds of albums were whittled down to a select eleven, set aside by MH and/or moiself for sentimental reasons.  Almost all of those eleven you can get somewhere else…but since, for example, there’s no guarantee of finding this gem of mine online or elsewhere, it stays:
The LPs are gone, given away/donated, and the bed in the Cat Wall Room is now covered with hundreds of CDs awaiting a similar culling process. We haven’t had a working turntable in two decades; up until a few years ago I’d still play CDS, but my new laptop doesn’t have a disk reader. It feels like the end of an era, of sorts, as we’ve belatedly acknowledged that we no longer “consume” (shudder) music in the same ways we used to. We still attend live music shows but listen to recorded music in different ways now. 
Side observation: as we were going through the records MH noted that the digitization of the everyday makes gift-giving more difficult: it used to be that an album or a book was an easy and “safe” bet for a friend’s birthday present. 
There was one LP I came across which surprised both MH and I, as in, neither of us had *any* idea it was in our collection. I have no memory of “making” this record  and MH has no memory of receiving it. Its front and back covers:
The bean/peas theme, I assume, comes from a running joke between us, from our dating days. One day, early in our courtship  when we were out driving Somewhere® on our way to do Some Thing, ® MH pointed out to me a bumper sticker (on the car ahead of us) which read, Visualize World Peace. He said that whenever he saw or heard that slogan his mind turned it into, “Visualize whirled peas.” Apparently, so did entrepreneurial others, for not long afterward I saw (and bought for him) a t-shirt…
…which he has to this day.
But wait – there’s more.
When I saw the album I’d made for him, moiself removed the record from its sleeve and discovered that I’d also altered record’s label, with track listings fitting the cover theme.
- I’ve Bean Working On The Railroad (Pete Seeger)
- I’ve Bean Lonely Too Long (The Rascals)
- You’ve Bean In Love Too Long (Bonnie Raitt)
- I’ve Bean Searching So Long (Chicago)
- I’ll Bean Back (The Beatles)
- Could This Bean The Magic? (Barry Manilow)
- Give Peas A Chance (John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band)
- Peas Of My Heart (Janis Joplin)
- Peas Train (Cat Stevens)
- Peas Peas Me (The Beatles)
- (What’s So Funny About) Peas, Love & Understanding (Elvis Costello)
- Peasful Easy Feeling (The Eagles)
- Peas Come To Boston (Dave Loggins)
- Peas Peas Peas (James Brown)
I’d done that at least 35 years ago. At this point, attempting to remove the labels and the album’s covers might damage both the alterations as well as what lies beneath; thus, it’ll have to remain a tantalizing mystery as to what record I bastardized blinged to make that compilation.  However, if we find a working turntable on which to play it….
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* * *
Department Of A Worthy, If Unsettling, Read
“The New Puritans,” by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic. The article is over a year old but moiself just got around to reading Applebaum’s thoughtful and disturbing thesis – on how mob social justice tramples democratic ideals and threatens intellectual freedoms. The article begins with a recollection of The Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic tale of Hester Prynne, a woman who bears a child out of wedlock. Prynne is subsequently exiled by her Puritan peers, many of whom themselves are guilty of the same sin for which she is scorned: (excerpts from the article; my emphases):
“We read that story with a certain self-satisfaction: Such an old-fashioned tale! Even Hawthorne sneered at the Puritans, with their ‘sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats,’ their strict conformism, their narrow minds and their hypocrisy. And today we are not just hip and modern; we live in a land governed by the rule of law; we have procedures designed to prevent the meting-out of unfair punishment. Scarlet letters are a thing of the past.”
“Except, of course, they aren’t. Right here in America, right now, it is possible to meet people who have lost everything—jobs, money, friends, colleagues—after violating no laws, and sometimes no workplace rules either. Instead, they have broken (or are *accused of* having broken) social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior, or even acceptable humor, which may not have existed five years ago or maybe five months ago. Some have made egregious errors of judgment. Some have done nothing at all. It is not always easy to tell.
Yet despite the disputed nature of these cases, it has become both easy and useful for some people to put them into larger narratives. Partisans, especially on the right, now toss around the phrase cancel culture when they want to defend themselves from criticism, however legitimate. But dig into the story of anyone who has been a genuine victim of modern mob justice and you will often find not an obvious argument between ‘woke’ and ‘anti-woke’ perspectives but rather incidents that are interpreted, described, or remembered by different people in different ways, even leaving aside whatever political or intellectual issue might be at stake.…..
…Hawthorne dedicated an entire novel to the complex motivations of Hester Prynne, her lover, and her husband. Nuance and ambiguity are essential to good fiction. They are also essential to the rule of law: We have courts, juries, judges, and witnesses precisely so that the state can learn whether a crime has been committed before it administers punishment. We have a presumption of innocence for the accused. We have a right to self-defense. We have a statute of limitations.
By contrast, the modern online public sphere, a place of rapid conclusions, rigid ideological prisms, and arguments of 280 characters, favors neither nuance nor ambiguity. Yet the values of that online sphere have come to dominate many American cultural institutions: universities, newspapers, foundations, museums. Heeding public demands for rapid retribution, they sometimes impose the equivalent of lifetime scarlet letters on people who have not been accused of anything remotely resembling a crime. Instead of courts, they use secretive bureaucracies. Instead of hearing evidence and witnesses, they make judgments behind closed doors.”
Journalist/historian Applebaum has previously studied and written  about how the political and social conformism and oppression of the early Communist period and other totalitarian dictatorships was the result “…not of violence or direct state coercion, but rather of intense peer pressure,” along with the fear of what will happen to you and your family if you violate the norms, and of how such fear leads to intellectual stifling.
But, the author notes, you don’t need government coercion to obtain the same results. In our country, Applebaum writes, “…we don’t have that kind of state coercion. There are currently no laws that shape what academics or journalists can say; there is no government censor, no ruling-party censor. But fear of the internet mob, the office mob, or the peer-group mob is producing some similar outcomes. How many American manuscripts now remain in desk drawers—or unwritten altogether—because their authors fear a similarly arbitrary judgment? How much intellectual life is now stifled because of fear of what a poorly worded comment would look like if taken out of context and spread on Twitter?”
In her article Applebaum goes on to write about the people whose stories she investigated, whose violations of the sudden shifts in social codes in America led to their professional and/or personal “dismissal or…effective isolation.” It is a disturbing read, to see what happens to a variety of disparate persons, whose only commonality is that they have been accused of breaking a social code, and subsequently find themselves at the center of a social-media storm because of something they said, or supposedly said:
“… no one quoted here, anonymously or by name, has been charged with an actual crime, let alone convicted in an actual court. All of them dispute the public version of their story. Several say they have been falsely accused; others believe that their ‘sins’ have been exaggerated or misinterpreted by people with hidden agendas. All of them, sinners or saints, have been handed drastic, life-altering, indefinite punishments, often without the ability to make a case in their own favor.”
The cases Applebaum cites show that cancel culture/mob condemnation can happen on all sides of the political sphere, and evince a tangible, nonpartisan lesson:
“No one—of any age, in any profession—is safe. In the age of Zoom, cellphone cameras, miniature recorders, and other forms of cheap surveillance technology, anyone’s comments can be taken out of context; anyone’s story can become a rallying cry for Twitter mobs on the left or the right. Anyone can then fall victim to a bureaucracy terrified by the sudden eruption of anger. And once one set of people loses the right to due process, so does everybody else…. Gotcha moments can be choreographed. Project Veritas, a well-funded right-wing organization, dedicates itself to sting operations: It baits people into saying embarrassing things on hidden cameras and then seeks to get them punished for it, either by social media or by their own bureaucracies.
But while this form of mob justice can be used opportunistically by anyone, for any political or personal reason, the institutions that have done the most to facilitate this change are in many cases those that once saw themselves as the guardians of liberal and democratic ideals. Robert George, the Princeton professor, is a longtime philosophical conservative who once criticized liberal scholars for their earnest relativism, their belief that all ideas deserved an equal hearing. He did not foresee, he told me, that liberals would one day “seem as archaic as the conservatives,” that the idea of creating a space where different ideas could compete would come to seem old-fashioned, that the spirit of tolerance and curiosity would be replaced by a worldview “that is not open-minded, that doesn’t think engaging differences is a great thing or that students should be exposed to competing points of view.”
(Excerpt from “The New Puritans,”
by Anne Applebaum, 8-31-21, The Atlantic, my emphases )
* * *
Department Of Things That Make Me Smile Number 892 In The Series
Sup-Department Of Things That Make Me Love My Fellow Snarkers
From “The Week” 2-10-23, a section of news blurbs listed under and heading Good week for/Bad week for:
Good week for:
Plain English, after the Associated Press amended a policy, advising staff to avoid “dehumanizing ‘the’ labels, such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French…”
Online wags had wondered if people in France should be called “people experiencing Frenchness” or people “assigned French at birth.”
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
* * *
May you enjoy a trip down the Memory Lane of your own storage space; 
May you steer your social justice passions clear of the New Puritanism;
May you, at some glorious point in your life, experience Frenchness;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Sorry, but after the previous Star Trek reference I think I am owed at least one bad pun as a segue.
 Son K stopped by to take a few, thinking he might get a turntable…eventually.
 I for one still listen to music on my car’s radio.
 However, most people will still “tolerate” actual/physical books, as MH put it.
 Although of course it is something I would – and apparently did – do.
 I never would have used that word then but for some reason it’s fun to use it now.
 Probably/hopefully the album was one I found at the bargain bin at Tower records, an album for which I paid no more than $1.25 for and which deserved to be papered over, ala The Best of the Osmond Brothers or Havin’ My Baby – The Worst of Paul Anka.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org
 An actual street in my actual hometown. Actually.