all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

Forays into Logic, Whimsy, Truth, Meaning and Nonsense.

Confucius, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Mr. T Order Their Dinner at Chili’s

 

Abstract:  In which four of the world’s greatest philosophers discuss the nature of pleasure and pain, over a meal at Chili’s restaurant. (Er, just to give you a bit of advance notice, one of those philosophers is Mr. T.  We’re sorry. It just worked out that way.)


 

Waiter: Good evening! My name is Miles, and i’ll be your server today.

Mr. T:  You wanna know my name? Huh? Do ya? First name: Mister. Middle name: period. Last name: T.

Waiter:  Um–excellent!  [hesitates long enough to absorb this edifying information]

So, can i bring you fellows something to drink?

Mr. T:  Maybe you can shut your mouth. Maybe you can do that?

Waiter:  I… uh… [trembling]… beg your pardon?

Aristotle:  [sighs so very deeply]

Confucius:  How about four waters, please. And thank you for your patience.

[Waiter scuttles off, already apprehensive about the evening’s shift]

Mr. T:  I pity the fool.

Aristotle:  I can’t help noticing that you say that in places where it makes absolutely no sense.

Mr. T:  Yeah, well here’s what i have to say to you: pain.

The Buddha:  Pain is gateway to vision, even as gate is gateway to place on other side of gate.

Aristotle:  Uh: right. Ahem. Okay. So here’s an interesting question. What role do pleasure and pain play in the development of a healthy human person? Can a human truly grow, without experiencing the opposing forces which are not of his choosing?

Mr. T:  My prediction: Pain.

Aristotle:  Indeed.

The Buddha:  Bird in tree sing beautifully. Bird standing on rock also sing beautifully.

Confucius:  Thank you, Sid. Good stuff. So here’s how i would approach that question. It is through standing against the wind that the strong man prevails. The weak man has spent his days sheltered under a bush; he has not allowed the forces of nature to train him. Opposition is our course of training.

Mr. T:  I’ll show you a course of training.

Aristotle:  Someone remind me, how did this ‘T’ person end up at our table?

Confucius:  [sighs]  It’s a long story.

Mr. T:  I pity the fool.

Confucius:  Thank you, Mr. T. Keep it coming.

The Buddha:  Pain is the path that we take, which leads us to the other path.

Aristotle:  Mmm?

The Buddha:  You know, the other path. That other one. The one that isn’t the first one.

Confucius:  Let’s just move on.

Aristotle:  Okay. Um? I think that you and i were agreeing that pain is an important component in the process of maturing.

Confucius:  Right. Furthermore, if we lean into the unfortunate circumstances that beset us, rather than trying to avoid or deny them, then we gain tenfold the wisdom and maturity that we would have gained, had we successfully evaded them.

Mr. T:  Pain. It’s what’s for dinner.

Aristotle:  Look, that did not EVEN.

Confucius:  [sigh]  Let it go. Anyway, strength is gained through having to confront pain when it comes to us. The weak man, you will find, has led an easy life.

Aristotle:  That makes sense. I like it.

[Miles the waiter returns with four waters]

Waiter:  So, have you fellas made up your minds yet?

Mr. T:  I don’t believe in magic; but i have been known to make guys disappear.

Waiter:  I’m…sorry??

Mr. T:  You heard me. Get along now.

The Buddha:  Pain. Heh heh heh.

Aristotle:  [groans]  Could we have another minute, please?

Waiter:  You bet.  [makes a quick getaway before Mr. T is able to comment]

Confucius:  Perhaps we can all take a moment to look at our menus.

Aristotle:  What is this ‘Southwestern Eggroll’…? Isn’t that sort of a contradiction in terms? I thought eggrolls were from [and here he bows slightly to Confucius] the Orient.

Confucius:  I believe these Southwestern Eggrolls may be from the Southwestern part of China. You know, a regional cuisine.

Aristotle:  [somewhat doubtful]  Ah. Of course. Well, i guess i’ll try a batch of ’em.

Mr. T:  I remember one time i tried to pity this fool. It didn’t work out.

Confucius:  Pity the waiter, T, and make your selection from the menu.

Mr. T:  Where’s the bear? I wanna order the bear.

Aristotle:  [disintegrating visibly]  The…bear?

Mr. T:  Yeah, some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.

The Buddha:  I, too, wish to eat bear. It is the bear that brings us to the edge of what we are not, so that we may perhaps then discover what we are.

Aristotle:  [sweating, wilting]  That… i mean, it didn’t… what are we even… i need a drink.

Confucius:  Let’s make that two drinks.


 

Epilogue:  We’re sorry. There was really no predicting that this would be the result… oh dear. We’re just sorry, that’s all.  -The Editors

 

The Blogger Makes an Offhand Observation

 

Abstract:  In which The Blogger waxes eloquent–for a few seconds, anyway–and really puts his finger on the pulse of something important–and the crowds stand amazed.


 

The Blogger:  [after emerging from a protracted reverie, in which he has been pondering things of  a Genuinely Profound Significance for a Very Long Time]

Um, okay, here it is.

[he sucks in a deep breath]

It seems to me that–maybe–

[he glances furtively from one side to the other]

–if all flockbinkers are treadknicious–

[he pauses significantly]

–and if–let’s say–some wamwams are flockbinkers–

[a note of hesitation enters his usually manly features]

–then we are kind of forced to the conclusion that… well…

[he closes his eyes, and balls his hands up into tight little fists]

…some wamwams are treadknicious!

 

The Assembled Throng:  [bursts into wave upon wave of excited applause]

The Blogger:  [visibly moved]  Well, shucks, y’all. Thank you. You’re way too kind.

 


 

Epilogue

Y’know, it’s always good to be reminded of the truly classic stuff.

 

 

Jennifer Smith and Elvis Wu Talk About Whether ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Social Skills’ Are Mutually Exclusive Categories

 

Abstract:  So here’s a challenge for ya. Imagine a philosopher. Got him? Okay. Now imagine him entering into a normal, everyday conversation with someone. What, you say you can’t imagine that? Well, my dear reader, you are not alone. There are vast numbers of people out there who have no idea what philosophers talk about when they’re not philosophizing. Perhaps, then, this blog post will be of help to you. Because, please understand, Elvis Wu is the consummate philosopher…but he knows how to talk about all manner of things.


 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Jennifer Smith is hanging out on the front patio at the Panera Bread in downtown Chattanooga, sipping a latte and reading something by Debbie Macomber. (If you were to ask her, “So what’s the title of the book you’re reading?” she would roll her eyes at you. She would probably not even know the title. She doesn’t typically make her reading selections based on their substantial content…and she figures that the title is more or less randomly chosen anyway.) However, when Elvis Wu spies her sitting at her table on the sidewalk, the first thing that pops into his mind is not the title of her book. He is, as ever, focused on matters of greater substance.

Elvis Wu:  Well, if it isn’t Jennifer Smith! Fond greetings to you!

Jennifer Smith:  Er, “fond greetings” to you as well, Elvis.  [she smirks playfully]

Elvis Wu:  Hah! Do you take exception to my somewhat unusual salutation? I guess no one else says “fond greetings.” Yet it’s precisely what i meant.

Jennifer Smith:  It’s okay. At least you didn’t say, “I choose to greet you with fondness in my heart,” or something extra uber-nerdy like that.

Elvis Wu:  [contemplative]  Wow, that one was really good. I’ll have to file it away for future reference.

Jennifer Smith:  Rar rar rar. So what are you up to today, good sir?

Elvis Wu:  It’s a beautiful afternoon, no? So i’m just walking about the downtown area soaking up some rays before the really wintry weather sets in.

Jennifer Smith:  Good plan. I guess that’s sort of what i’m doing, as well. You got big plans for Thanksgiving?

Elvis Wu:  Oh, i’ll be getting together with some friends for our own version of a Thanksgiving feast.

Jennifer Smith:  Sweet.

Elvis Wu:  And you?

Jennifer Smith:  Thanksgiving dinner with the fam. We all sort of live around the Chattanooga area.

Elvis Wu:  Nice! Well, i hope you and your family have a delightful holiday.

Jennifer Smith:  Thanks. I guess you’ll be spending your holiday wishing “fond greetings” to people.

Elvis Wu:  Well, probably something along those lines. Do you approve?

Jennifer Smith:  You know, it’s funny. We do have all these accepted ways of talking to each other, that have sort of developed as fixed conversation patterns. And even slight departures from the basic “hi, how ya doin” sort of thing really do come off as odd. I just never really bother to think about it.

Elvis Wu:  A terrific observation! I like to mess with those conversation templates a bit, when i think i can get away with it, to shake people up a bit–get them out of their fixed ways of thinking about conversation.

Jennifer Smith:  No wonder you seem to have a somewhat limited friend pool.

Elvis Wu:  Mmm. Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Smith:  I’m sorry–that didn’t come out the way i intended it to.

Elvis Wu:  No, it’s okay. You’re right. I choose my friends carefully, and not usually on the basis of whether they know how to talk like regular people.  [smiles]

Jennifer Smith:  Gosh, i just don’t know if i could be that committed. When i’m talking with someone, i don’t want to have to think through every single thing i’m saying to make sure it’s fresh and original and…

Elvis Wu:  Genuine?

Jennifer Smith:  Owch. Touché. Sure, okay–genuine. We all have these conversational patterns that we’ve learned–it sure does make talking with people a lot easier than if we had to come up with brand new stuff every time.

Elvis Wu:  I get that. And, really, the whole idea of “social skills” is largely attached to whether a person has mastered those ready-made templates for conversation. Philosophers, regrettably… [he smiles sadly] …tend not to have the reputation for making use of the regular conversational patterns that everyone else does.

Jennifer Smith:  Well, i mean, you’ve got excellent social skills. But then, i don’t think you represent all philosophers very well.

Elvis Wu:  Shall i interpret that as a compliment?

Jennifer Smith:  By all means.

Elvis Wu:  So. I wonder if it’s possible to be a true philosopher, and at the same time have excellent social skills?

Jennifer Smith:  Gosh, i don’t see why not. In principle, y’know? Philosophers like to talk about real stuff, real issues–but surely that can be done without wierding out the people you’re talking with.

Elvis Wu:  Fair enough.

Jennifer Smith:  Y’know, i have wondered sometimes–what it would be like if people had conversations based on what they were really thinking and feeling. So much of the stuff that we say to each other really does seem to be memorized junk. I do it. We all do it. Well, not you.  [she scowls at him]

Elvis Wu:  [laughs]  Why don’t we try an experiment?

Jennifer Smith:  Er, an experiment? Like what?

Elvis Wu:  Like, let’s try to have a regular sort of conversation, and analyze it as we go along.

Jennifer Smith:  Oohh. I do not EVEN know about that.  [she smiles]  But sure.

Elvis Wu:  Okay. Why don’t you start? Pretend that you just walked up to me, and you want to initiate a conversation. Do you start with a greeting?

Jennifer Smith:  Uh–sure. I’d say, like, “Hi, how’s it going.”

Elvis Wu:  Whoah, stop, stop! We could spend the next half hour just analyzing that!

Jennifer Smith:  Oh golly, let’s not. Please.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  Okay. Let me just make a couple of observations.

Jennifer Smith:  Fire away.

Elvis Wu:  First, there’s the word “hi,” which essentially doesn’t mean anything. Think about it. What does “hi” mean? It’s basically a way of acknowledging the other person. “Hi,” “hello,” “greetings,” etc. are basically just ways of saying, “I acknowledge your value and the relevance of your presence in my life,” something like that.

Jennifer Smith:  OMG. I do not even.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  And then there’s the part where you said, “how’s it going.”

Jennifer Smith:  Mmm-hmm. And now i’m thinking, i have no real idea what that means.

Elvis Wu:  Ah! Well, perhaps it means something like, “I wonder what the–long or short, depending on the circumstances of the conversation–table of contents of your life would feature, were you to lay it out for me.”

Jennifer Smith:  Elvis, you are so weird.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing again]  Oh, it’s probably gonna get worse. So then, if i were a normal sort of person, i might reply to you, “Oh, nothin’ much. You?”

Jennifer Smith:  Mmm, that sounds right.

Elvis Wu:  Which is a completely wasted opportunity to talk about real things, but we can set that to one side for now.

Jennifer Smith:  Good. Please.

Elvis Wu:  So it’s basically just a reflexion of what the first person said, and we’ve already covered that.

Jennifer Smith:  [breathes a sigh of relief]

Elvis Wu:  So then, what would you say next?

Jennifer Smith:  Um, i might say, “Not a whole lot.” Or, if i really wanted to talk about what’s going on in my life, i might mention something specific, like, “Well gee, i just got a raise! That’s pretty cool.”

Elvis Wu:  Nice! You’ve provided two possible branches the conversation might take. The first one isn’t very interesting, so let’s pursue the second.

Jennifer Smith:  Okay.

Elvis Wu:  If i’m really interested in you, and the circumstances of your life, i might pursue the idea of your raise. How much? Was it for doing good work? Will it enable you to expand your household budget?

Jennifer Smith:  People don’t usually go into all that.

Elvis Wu:  No: Because people usually aren’t all that interested in learning about what’s going on in your life. Sad but true.

Jennifer Smith:  Harsh!

Elvis Wu:  Am i wrong?

Jennifer Smith:  Er, well, not really. Most conversations take only a few seconds, and don’t go into any real detail at all.

Elvis Wu:  Well. So if i’m really interested in you as a person, i might pursue the details of your job situation. But if i’m not, or if time is limited, i might just say, “Sweet! That’s great.”

Jennifer Smith:  Sounds about right.

Elvis Wu:  And what would you say in response?

Jennifer Smith:  Well, maybe something like, “And what’s up with you?”

Elvis Wu:  Perfect! And, again, if they really feel like engaging you, they might come up with something interesting that’s going on in their life. Otherwise, they’ll probably just say, “Aw, nothin’ much.”

Jennifer Smith:  Yeah, that’s pretty much how it goes.

Elvis Wu:  And that takes us to the exit point, if the two people aren’t really interested in pursuing a real conversation, or they haven’t got the time. So one of ’em might say, “Well, all the best to ya!” And the other one might reply, “Sure, man, you hang in there!” Both of which could be translated, roughly, to mean, “I hope your future circumstances are consistent with your best plans and hopes,” something like that.

Jennifer Smith:  Something like that.

Elvis Wu:  And then they go their separate ways.

Jennifer Smith:  My word.

Elvis Wu:  Such a funny thing, conversation.

Jennifer Smith:  Y’know, from now on i’m going to be terrified–well, maybe half terrified, and half curious–about what you’re really thinking when we chat.

Elvis Wu:  Ah! Such a feeling of power.  [clasps his hands under his chin after the fashion of someone named “Smedley” or “Igor”]

Jennifer Smith:  Dude, you are SO strange, i cannot EVEN.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing heartily]  I assure you, my thoughts are nothing but charitable toward you, even when you’re talkin’ ’bout nothin’.

Jennifer Smith:  [smiles]  Well, that’s comforting. Sort of.

 

 

Three Philosophers Analyze Their Dinner at Chili’s

 

Abstract:  So there’s these three philosophers, see — variously interested in radical empiricism, rationalism, and the analytic/linguistic school of thought — and they meet at Chili’s for dinner. (For those of you who’ve not studied philosophy, the only people more fun than philosophers are [1] morticians, and [2] my Uncle Federico, who runs a dry goods store in Muncie, Indiana.) Gosh, what a barrel of monkeys! Can you dig it! Don’t you wish that YOU’d been at Chili’s that day? I know i do! Let’s listen in.


 

Our three philosopher-friends are seated at a booth by the windows — “so as to remain in touch with the more ecological aspects of human experience,” as one of them explained to the hostess while they were being seated. The following conversation picks up just as they’ve had the chance to settle in for a minute.

Philosopher #1:  Hmmm. What an odd document this ‘menu’ appears to be.

Philosopher #2:  How so?

Philosopher #1:  I see several problems. The subsections into which the whole is divided make no sense, either structurally or as bodies of intelligible data. And the menu begins with a listing of intoxicants. Should not that sort of thing come after the decisions have been made?

Philosopher #2:  Probably. I think i’m going to have the salmon with broccoli and rice.

Philosopher #3:  I don’t even see that.

Philosopher #2:  You’re looking at the desserts, goofball.

Philosopher #3:  Oh. This has very quickly become my favorite page.

Philosopher #2:  You can always come back to it. The dessert is supposed to be the last part of the meal.

Philosopher #3:  What canon of judgment establishes a necessary order for the components of a meal, ordered out of a menu?

Philosopher #1:  Here we go again.

Philosopher #2:  Look, dude, just allow the received social structures to define the manner in which you interact with the data.

Philosopher #3:  That doesn’t even.

Philosopher #1:  What if i were to eat a page from this menu, rather than any of the food items depicted thereupon?

Philosopher #2:  Please tell me that you’re joking.

Philosopher #1:  The ‘joke’ is a language-game in which i tend not to willingly participate.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  [sidles up to table]  Hi there! My name’s Geoffroy, and i’m going to be your server. Can i start you fellows off with something to drink?

Philosopher #1:  What is the square root of inert negativity?

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Um. Heh heh. I’m not sure i understand the question.

Philosopher #1:  [irritated]  It was a simple enough question.

Philosopher #3:  Great! Now he’s going to be in a mood for the rest of the meal.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Heh heh. Heh heh. Um.

Philosopher #2:  What is the square root of Your Mom.

Philosopher #3:  [laughs inexplicably]

Geoffroy the Waiter:  You know what, i’m gonna let you fellows look over the menu a bit more, and i’ll be back in a minute.

Philosopher #1:  Good plan, Ghee-off-rooy.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Heh heh, it’s pronounced “Jeff-ree.”

Philosopher #1:  No it’s not.

Geoffroy the Table Server:  Um, heh heh.  [scuttles off quickly, sweating]

Philosopher #1:  What an idiot.

Philosopher #2:  Never mind him. Just look at the menu and decide what you want to eat.

Philosopher #3:  Remind me again, at what point in the meal is it permissible to look at this “desserts” section?

Philosopher #2:  After you’ve eaten some real food.

Philosopher #3:  And by what standard are we able to evaluate the Real in the world of nutrition? Is not everything depicted in this menu Real? At some level?

Philosopher #1:  Perhaps it’s worth pointing out, at this juncture, that “nourishing” and “it looks good in the picture” are not necessarily equivalent concepts.

Philosopher #3:  Oh dear. I’m still not able to detect any intelligible pattern of interaction by which this ‘menu’ is mapped over the data of my own experience.

Philosopher #2:  When is that waitress person coming back? Before i’ll have had the chance to make a rational decision based on an adequate survey of the relevant data? I’m feeling pressured to make a decision based on insufficient data.

Philosopher #3:  [waxing oratorical]  I sense that he shall return in the fullness of time.

Philosopher #2:  Time! Now there’s a self-contradictory construct for you.

Philosopher #1:  I’ve told you a thousand times [sic], that doesn’t make any sense. Just because you’re able to slip something past your dissertation committee, that doesn’t make it a real thing.

Philosopher #2:  Nyah nyah nyah. You can’t dismiss an idea just because you’re not equipped to understand it.

Philosopher #1:  [muttering]  Your Mom’s not equipped to understand it.

Philosopher #2:  What? Did you say something about someone’s Mom?

Philosopher #1:  Maybe i did, and maybe i didn’t.

Philosopher #2:  If we were to have this same conversation an infinite number of times, i wonder how many of those times would involve a reference to your Mom.

Philosopher #1:  Well, even after ‘x’ number of conversations, even if she hadn’t come up any of the previous times, there’s no guarantee Your Mom wouldn’t come up the, like, infinite-th time.

[Geoffrey the Waiter slips back up to their table, having braced himself with a few slugs from the vodka bottle he’d conveniently hidden in his backpack that morning.]

Philosopher #3:  Well, how very Humean of you.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  It didn’t sound very human to me.

Philosopher #1:  What? You’re still here?

Philosopher #3:  I didn’t say ‘human’… i said ‘Humean.’

Geoffroy the Waiter:  So, you have trouble pronouncing ‘human’? Nobody’s perfect. We’re only human. Or ‘humean.’ Heh heh.  [immensely pleased with himself for holding his own amid such august company]

Philosopher #1:  ‘Humean’ is a reference to the philosophy of David Hume, an important philosopher of the 1700s.  [mutters under breath]  Imbecile.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Oh.

Philosopher #2:  Among other things, he said that if all of your knowledge is based on observation… which he believed to be the case… then you can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, even if the same thing has tended to happen over and over in the past. For instance, just because tipping a glass over has tended to cause water to splash all over the table every time you’ve done it before…

[He deliberately knocks a glass of water over onto Philosopher #1’s lap]

…that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen the next time. Oh, will ya look at that. I appear to have made a boo-boo.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  I just thought you had a funny speech impediment.

Philosopher #3:  I do have a funny speech impediment. It’s extremely rude of you to point it out.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Um. Uuhhh…Sorry?

Philosopher #2:  What does that have to do with David Hume?

Philosopher #3:  Nothing, so far as i can tell. I’m not going to be tipping this embarrassing specimen of a table server–i can tell you that.

Philosopher #1:  Me neither!  [hitching on to an apparent excuse to leave off tipping]

Geoffroy the Waiter:  [slinks off, unnoticed]

Philosopher #3:  I think i’ll have the ‘Southwestern Eggrolls.’

Philosopher #1:  What an incoherent concept. Eggrolls are not associated with the American Southwest, either historically nor as a cuisine.

Philosopher #3:  I think you’re demanding too much philosophical rigor from a popular family restaurant.

Philosopher #1:  If a food makes no sense, i’m not putting it in my body, that’s all i’m saying.

Philosopher #2:  Well, um, okay. So, do you see anything that appeals to you?

Philosopher #1:  I find nothing in here that meets my standards for logical coherence.

Philosopher #2:  Dude, how do you not starve on a regular basis.

 

Epilogue

As it turns out, the three philosophers did end up receiving nourishment, although it was not Geoffroy the Waiter, but the Chili’s restaurant manager who ended up making sure they got hooked up with the appropriate foods. Geoffrey was meanwhile quailing in the back, trembling slightly, and peeping out from time to time to see if the three philosophers had left yet. His life would never be the same. Shortly after the events recorded in this blog post, Geoffrey quit his job at Chili’s and has since been happily employed as a vacuum cleaner salesman…just a few miles, interestingly, from the place where “Southwestern Eggrolls” were invented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit of Discussion — Long Overdue — of the Concept of ‘Your Mom’

 

Abstract:  It’s the classic rejoinder: “Your Mom!” Jeepers… I’m laughing uproariously right now, just typing the words! But what is this ubiquitous bit of linguistic magic all about? Where did it come from? What exactly does it mean? Is there, in fact, a Real Thing called ‘Your Mom’? Is it, you know, some sort of insult… and ought your actual mom to have an opinion about it? I bet she does. [snicker]


 

So here’s the thing. We spend so much time on this blog analyzing terms like ‘logical coherence,’ ‘metaphysical grounding,’ ‘epistemic hoo-ha,’ ‘frozen ontological patties,’ ‘what the heck,’ ‘wamwam,’ ‘treadknicious,’ ‘um-bum-bety-boom,’ and ‘eWeeWee,’ that we appear to have overlooked one of the classics.

What about the expression “your mom” [snicker]?

Perhaps it should be noted, by way of introduction, that linguistics and metaphysics are not the same thing and do not necessarily cover the same territory.

“Dang!” i can hear you saying. “What the consarn tootin’ heck are metaguistics, and that other one you said right afterward?”

Ah, an excellent line of inquiry, gentle reader. What we mean here is simply that just because we have a word for something, that doesn’t mean that the something actually is a real thing in the real world.

‘Unicorns,’ for instance. We have a word for them, but they’re not real.

 

Unicorn #1:  Up yours, buddy!

Unicorn #2:  Paul! Calm yourself. The man spoke in ignorance.

Unicorn #3:  If he’s going to go around listing off the things that aren’t real, why doesn’t he start with his own intelligence quotient?

Unicorn #2:  [sigh]  You fellows just need to chill out for a bit. Why don’t we go graze awhile. Maybe by the time we come back, he’ll have said something sensible.

Unicorn #1:  Not much risk of that, if you ask me.

[The three unicorns exit, stage left. Meanwhile, the Blogger continues, unaware that his blog has been host to three unicorns.]

 

The Blogger:  So, the first question we have to ask is this: does the term “Your Mom” mean anything at all, anything that actually exists in the Real World?

The Good Reader:  Well, MY Mom certainly exists. I got a letter from her just a few days ago. And she calls about once a week to see if i’m married yet.

The Blogger:  Ah, but that’s not what we mean when we use the expression “Your Mom.” We’re not talking about your mom.

The Good Reader:  Oh. Wow. I could have sworn.

The Blogger:  No, it’s more of a universal expression. It means something more like, “One’s Mom,” or, “That sort of philosophically-defined Mom over there.” Or even, something like “You’re a weenie.”

The Good Reader:  Ah. But when you say to me, “Your Mom,” i figure you mean, “My Mom.” You know. It just sort of figures.

The Blogger:  Well… i suppose that is one possible meaning of the expression.

The Good Reader:  Well gee. Thank you.

The Blogger:  There’s probably a range of possible meanings of the term “Your Mom.”

The Good Reader:  [dubiously]  Maybe.

The Blogger:  Well, let’s experiment! Let’s see how many possible definitions we can come up with for the expression, “Your Mom.”

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay. Knock yourself out.

The Blogger:  So, to begin: One possible definition of the expression ‘Your Mom’ is, “the woman at whose o’er-brimming paps you nursed as a wee, itsy-bitsy infant.”

The Good Reader:  Okay. That makes sense. You said it kind of funny, but i guess we can let that go.

The Blogger:  And another definition of ‘Your Mom’ would be Russia. You know, as in “Mother Russia.”

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay. I don’t think that’s what people have in mind when they say the expression, ‘Your Mom.’

The Blogger:  …and of course, ‘Your Mom’ can also mean, “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed because it’s got cheesy material encrusted on it.”

The Good Reader:  That’s not even a thing!

The Blogger:  It most certainly is.

The Good Reader:  What? You’re a wee wee.

The Blogger:  [chuckling]  At least you didn’t call me an eWeeWee.

The Good Reader:  Um. What.

The Blogger:  Didn’t you notice? Oh dear…”eWeeWee” was one of the technical terms listed at the beginning of this blog post.

The Good Reader:  That… what? I don’t even.

The Blogger:  But back to the topic at hand. Your denial that the expression “Your Mom” as indicative of “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed” is a real thing.

The Good Reader:  I can’t even think about that anymore. I’m still thinking of “eWeeWee.” Is that a sound that you made up yourself, or did you overhear one of the kids on the street corner saying it?

The Blogger:  [somewhat irritated]  Never mind. You’re missing the point.

The Good Reader:  “eWeeWee.” It is kind of fun to say, isn’t it? “eWeeWee. eWeeWee.”

The Blogger:  Stop that! We’re talking about Your Mom.

The Good Reader:  Let’s not do that. She isn’t here to defend herself.

The Blogger:  [on the verge of blowing his top]  Not THAT Your Mom! The other one! Er, the other ones! Or something.

The Good Reader:  Golly, there must be at least, what, two or three billion of ’em? Out of our total population of about seven billion?

The Blogger:  Okay, you need to cut that out right now. We’re trying to have a serious philosophical discussion here!

The Good Reader:  Correction: Neither one of us is trying to have a serious philosophical discussion. I’m certainly not. And your idea of philosophy appears to be “making odd sounds with your mouth and then trying to justify them intellectually.”

The Blogger:  [pauses for a moment, decides the best course of action is to ignore this]

Okay. So, one possible meaning of the expression “Your Mom” is a Crock Pot that very much needs to be washed. On account of the cheezy material, and whatnot.

The Good Reader:  [rolling eyes]  Okay. Sure. Go on.

The Blogger:  And another is, a meteorite that left a Volkswagen-sized crater just a couple of miles outside the city of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The Good Reader:  No. I’m sorry. Just no.

The Blogger:  …and another possible meaning is, “what you ate for breakfast this morning, but with the strawberries removed.”

The Good Reader:  What? Stop that! You’re just making up random nonsense.

The Blogger:  [somewhat huffily]  I am practicing philosophy at a level that you, perhaps, as a layperson, are not able to appreciate.

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay, i’ve got another one. Your Mom can also mean, “the little flakes of dead skin that come off when you scratch your butt.”

The Blogger:  Uh…hmmm. Maybe. What’s your justification for that definition?

The Good Reader:  You’re impossible.

The Blogger:  I’m a philosopher!

The Good Reader:  Indeed.

 

Epilogue

As of the publication of this blog post, The Blogger has since come up with another 27 possible meanings for the expression “Your Mom”… and he doesn’t seem to be tiring of the subject. This may be worth following up at some point.

The unicorns do not appear to have returned.

 

Let’s Go Through a Whole Post Without Once Mentioning Flockbinkers

 

Abstract:  In which our cast of characters–in a decided departure from common practice–attempt to go for an entire blog post without once saying the word… well, you know, THAT word. The word. The word floc… ooohh, you know. The word. THAT one.


 

The Blogger:  [addressing a small group of people gathered in his living room]

So hey there, fellas. Thanks for coming! I wonder if each of you would mind glancing down at the piece of paper that you’ve been handed. It explains the one big, basic ground rule for this particular post. Note that your attention is being called to one word in particular: the one word that none of us is going to use in this here blog post.

Jennifer Smith:  Blog post? What blog post? Biffy, what does he mean by ‘blog post’? He’s making strange remarks again. I’m already feeling disoriented.

Little Biffy:  Just roll with it. Pretend he’s talking about a “log post” that you tie your boat off to, right when you’ve returned from a satisfying morning of fishing.

Jennifer Smith:  You just made things ten times worse. NOW i seriously do not EVEN.

Little Biffy:  Oops.

Jennifer Smith:  No, come on. Log post? I’m feeling disoriented.

Little Biffy:  Heh heh. Forget i said anything. Post? Where’s the post? I don’t see a post. Nobody said anything about a post. There’s no post. Not a post in sight.

Jennifer Smith:  [begins breathing heavily; her eyes start to roll back in her head]

The Good Reader:  It’s okay, Jennifer. Here, come sit next to me. We can be sensible together in the midst of a whirlwind of chaos and nonsense.

Jennifer Smith:  Thanks, sort of. Um.

Elvis Wu:  [gazing intently at the note he’s been handed]  Ahh! So we are to conduct ourselves normally, except that there is one word, one particular word, that we may not, under any circumstances, allow ourselves to say.

The Blogger:  Precisely.

Elvis Wu:  And that word is Flo–

The Blogger:  [with hands over ears]  Aaaahhh aahhhhhhhhhhh aaaaaaaaaaaahh aaahhh aaaaaaaahhhhhh aahh aaaaahhhh…

Elvis Wu:  Just kidding, my good man. I just wanted to see what you would do. That reaction was actually a bit more interesting than whatever i was expecting.

Aristotle:  Hmmm. Interesting. I can’t help thinking… hmmm.

The Blogger:  [consumed with curiosity–after all, this is ARISTOTLE we’re talking about]

Um, yes? What’s on your mind? Something profound and philosophically spiffy, i’ll bet!

Aristotle:  Well, it’s just that, if we were to think of all human behavior, or perhaps all human tendencies of personality…

The Blogger:  Yes, yes, hmmm?

Aristotle:  …as being laid out on a kind of grid, with one sort of extreme at one end, and the opposite extreme on the other end, and a satisfying, happy medium in the middle…

The Blogger:  Uh-huh, yes?

Aristotle:  Well then, we… hmmm. I’ll need to put a bit more thought into this one.

Confucius:  Sounded like you were on a roll there, o most eminent among Greeks. Don’t let that one drop. I think it’s going to lead somewhere.

The Buddha:  First we go through the fire, then we go through the water, and then we go through the, um, the wasteland of ice, and then we go through, uh, umm, the place where, uh, earwigs come from, and then, then, uuhhh… that bottom dresser drawer that we rarely open and there’s no telling what’s in there.

Confucius:  The wise man know when to remain silent; the fool go on and on about ridiculous fire and earwigs and other nonsense.

The Buddha:  Bearded Greek is allowed to make no sense, but not the Lord Buddha?

Confucius:  Sometimes we must take one for the team.

The Buddha:  Um, okay. Not fair.

Scotsman #2:  My bonnie lies over the ocean.

The Good Reader:  Wait. What?

Scotsman #2:  My bonnie lies over the sea.

The Good Reader:  No. Stop.

Scotsman #2:  My bonnie lies a couple of blocks past 57th street, but you gotta jog left when you get to that stop sign where it looks like the road comes to an end, but it really doesn’t.

The Good Reader:  He can’t even hear me. Hello! Hello!

Scotsman #2:  Oh bring back a couple of ham loaves, some ginger and cinnamon and clove, a box of cigars, two earwigs…

Confucius:  Again with the earwigs! What is this, National Earwig Day?

Scotsman #2:  …and maybe one of those oversized lollipops with all the colors in them.

The Good Reader:  Of course.

Scotsman #2:  [triumphantly]  …to ME.

Your Mom:  [enters]  Hi, i hope i’m not late! It was really sweet of y’all to invite me.

[The Blogger hands her one of the explanatory cards, which she glances at for half a sec and then stuffs into her purse]

The Blogger:  Welcome, Someone’s Mom–perhaps yours! Well, i mean, not YOURS [glancing at Your Mom] but probably someone else’s. As long as you’re prepared to observe our one simple rule, come on in and join the party!

The Good Reader:  The joint’s rockin’. You got here just in time.

Jennifer Smith:  I still don’t understand what he meant by the word ‘post.’ Isn’t this bothering anyone else?

Little Biffy:  Think of a ‘post office.’

Jennifer Smith:  Is there a word that means “the opposite of a helpful comment”…? Cause that’s the word i’m looking for right now. [Gazes menacingly at Little Biffy]

Elvis Wu:  Biffy’s a good fella. He means well. Perhaps we ought to be thinking of ‘post’ as meaning, in the present context, something like, “that bounded range of trans-rational yet rule-bound [within a subjectively established set of expectations] experience, in which The Blogger is able to enact any one of a potentially infinite number….”

[Jennifer, bless her heart, has summarily yet placidly passed out cold by this time]

Your Mom:  So, okay–[glancing again, oh so briefly, at the card she was handed]–sorry, i’m just curious–what ARE flockbinkers, anyway?

The Blogger:  Dammit! Oops. Sorry.

The Good Reader:  Okay, calm down. It’s not an emergency that someone said the word “flockbinker.”

The Blogger:  Oooff! Stop that!

The Good Reader:  It just means we can start taking ourselves a bit less seriously about this admittedly stupid blog post.

The Blogger:  Doggone it!

Your Mom:  Did i say the wrong thing? I just wanted to know a little bit more about these, what did you call them? FLOCKBINKERS.

The Blogger:  [hacking, gagging, hopping about on one foot]

The Good Reader:  Oh, come on. You know i’m right. Setting yourself the goal of having a blog post in which no one says the word “flockbinker”–

The Blogger:  Owww! No! Cut it out!

The Good Reader:  –ranks waay down on the list of significant things for you to be concerned about.

Your Mom:  Am i pronouncing it right? Flok – bing – ker?

The Blogger:  [the agonized eruption of a thousand dying suns upon his face]

The Good Reader:  Now now. Be nice. She’s your guest.

The Blogger:  But doggone it, The Good Reader, it’s MY blog–i should be the one determining what people do or don’t say on it!

The Good Reader:  You just go on believing that. We all need something comforting to hold on to in the darkest days of winter.

Jennifer Smith:  But it’s summertime. Well, okay, as of a few days ago, it’s fall. As if you could tell that from these temperatures.

Little Biffy:  Which leads us, if you think about it, to this ultimately arbitrary (and really, somewhat unhelpful) cultural habit of ending ‘summer’ and beginning ‘fall’ on the same day–well, you know, basically–every year, as if the annual shifts in temperature and seasonal dynamics…

The Blogger:  [to everyone’s consternation, he begins to expand, turn green, sort of roar–sort of–kind of loudly, and transform into The Incredible Hulk]

Elvis Wu:  Now there’s something you don’t see every day. Great party, guys!

 

 

Epilogue

[A few hours later. The room has pretty much cleared out.]

The Good Reader:  You’ve thrown another winner, buddy!

The Blogger:  [sniffling]  It was awful.

The Good Reader:  Oh, come off of yourself. You have the worst attitude. I think they all liked it. It was fun!

The Blogger:  It was an unmitigated disaster. I throw the worst parties.

The Good Reader:  What! You’re a weenie. Buck up. Everyone had a great time. [a glint in her eye]  Especially Your Mom. My goodness, i don’t think i’ve ever heard anyone say the word ‘flockbinker’ that many times in a single setting! She was great.

The Blogger:  [gazes, glumly, a man bereft of hope, off into deepest space]

 

What IS a Flockbinker, Really? The Philosophers Weigh In

 

Abstract:  One of the ongoing challenges we’ve experienced in association with this blog, is the fact that some of our most essential vocabulary never seems to have been defined. Flockbinker? Wamwam? Someone’s Mom? Perhaps even yours? The assembled throng furrow their brows; heads incline with justifiable concern; someone passes out and falls over from the mental strain. So we’ve brought in some brainy types to see if this problem can be rectified. These include some of the leading luminaries in the history of philosophical thought, as well as some of our regulars here on the blog. This exchange ought to be a real treat.


 

The Blogger:  Okay, fellas, so here’s the question. What is a flockbinker?

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  A flockbinker is all that is the case, in that particular realm of discourse in which the term ‘flockbinker’ is applied as relevant.

Rene Descartes:  [Scoffing in a particularly French manner]  That was ridiculous and did not mean anything.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Your Mom is ridiculous and doesn’t mean anything.

Rene Descartes:  [Deliberately ignoring this remark]  Rrmff. I would say that a flockbinker is that which (in its capacity as a flockbinker) thinks the thoughts of a flockbinker, and therefore, is, a flockbinker.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Wut.

Rene Descartes:  Well, it was better than that stupide thing you said.

Plato:  Okay. Here it is. In order to ascertain what the term ‘flockbinker’ applies to, we must first determine whether we are talking about a feature of the ultimate realm, or merely an item in the world of appearances. Of course, if a flockbinker is a feature of the Real world–that realm from which the world of our ephemeral appearances derives–then it will of course have its analog in the world of our perceptions.

Rene Descartes:  [mutters]  That, too, was ridiculous and did not mean anything. These people who have chosen to call themselves philosophers!

Francis Bacon:  Well, what Plato calls the “world of appearances” is simply reality. Let’s strip away the foolish hocus-pocus. If a flockbinker can be demonstrated to exist–if he is available to our senses in the world of the real and concrete–then he is a real object. We cannot begin the discussion of his attributes until we have settled the issue of his existence.

The Blogger:  Well, of course he exists! He’s at the very center of what this blog is about!

[Francis Bacon looks the Blogger up and down in the way that one would examine a particularly fascinating centipede.]

William James:  Well, you know, this Plato fellow made a helpful distinction between different levels of reality. I’d like to, if i might, distinguish between the mental and the physical parts of the real world. It might be argued that any mental state in which a flockbinker is featured as real, according to the consciousness of the individual, is one that is, in a certain sense, peculiar to its own flockbinkerosity.

Everyone Present:  Wut.

Little Biffy:  So much philosophical talent assembled in one room! Gosh, i’m practically speechless! But not quite, heh heh. I would say that a flockbinker, insofar as it has any kind of independent existence, is a sort of logical placeholder for use in certain kinds of (generally quite funny) philosophical dialogues and syllogisms created by The Blogger.

The Blogger:  What an excellent answer! This little fellow’s a winner if ever i saw one!

Little Biffy:  [grins innocently]

Elvis Wu:  Hmmm. The flockbinker, he is like a cup of the very finest rice wine that can be imagined. Each saloon claims to feature it on their menu.

Everyone Present:  Wut.

Elvis Wu:  When one has a reputation for being wise and inscrutable, it’s necessary to invest some effort from time to time in cultivating the impression.

[Francis Bacon looks at him sort of cockeyed. Wittgenstein, on the other hand, has obviously had his respect for Elvis Wu’s intellect considerably deepened.]

Jennifer Smith:  Okay, here’s my question. If a flockbinker is not a real thing–

Plato:  Define “a real thing.”

Descartes:  Yeah. Define “a real thing.”

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. A real thing is a thing that actually exists in the real world.

Plato:  Define “the real world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Yeah. Define “the real world.”

Jennifer Smith:  [rolling eyes]  Um. Okay. Whatever. Pass.

The Good Reader:  Well, my question is, so long as we’re getting all serious about nonsense words and such, why do we need to define a flockbinker specifically, as if it were a real item, like my purse? Are we also going to define a squibblymidget?

The Three Scotsmen:  Arrrgh!

The Blogger:  Well, of course a flockbinker is a real thing! It’s what this blog is about!

The Good Reader:  Okay. My little finger is a real thing. Is a flockbinker a real thing in the same sense that my little finger is?

The Blogger:  Well, um, we would kind of need to, um. Uh. Hmmm. Yo.

The Three Scotsmen:  Arrrrgh!

 


Epilogue

The Good Reader:  I’m thinking that this discussion didn’t go quite the way you expected.

The Blogger:  [Pouts, refuses to look her in the eye]

The Good Reader:  [Not to be put off]  Mmm-hmm, so, ya didn’t get the kind of conversation going that you were hoping for?

The Blogger:  Go away.

 

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