all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Conversations Overheard

What to Do When the Dingbat You’re Talking With Says Something Illogical

 

Abstract:  In which a range of possible responses is considered, for those occasions when you’re talking with a complete oaf–and i’m talking about a real dingbat, here–you know, someone with the brains of a walnut that hasn’t even been removed from the shell–and that person says something so unbelievably illogical, it makes your toenails curl. These principles may also be applied to conversations that are NOT about sports.

 


 

Some possible responses when the person you’re attempting to reason with turns out to be a real yo-yo. Illogical discourse cannot be avoided completely, but there are strategies we can employ to take the sting out.

 

Smile and walk away (obviously not the right approach)

In such a situation, the response some people might make would be simply to ignore the infraction and leave peaceably. But please understand: THIS IS THE WRONG REACTION. To leave a person wallowing in his ignorance and metaphysical silliness would be to consign him to the dust heap of intellectual history. Only a cad, a bounder, a blackguard would commit such a crime against the tender thoughts of an ignorant neighbor! No, the correct response would be to bring correction to such an illogical person. Below, you will find a number of possible responses in this vein.

 

Correct him brusquely

“I say, my man, you’re talking like an idiot! And not just any idiot, but one who has had his brain removed and replaced with one of those little mini-microwave ovens! Or even… an Easy-Bake oven! Why, if you were any stupider, they’d have to come up with a new word for it! Like, “drupid,” or something. The assertion you just made will go down in the annals of dumb assertions, along with the grassy knoll hypothesis! Um, uuhhh.”

This is the sort of thing you might say to someone whose opinions on The Nature of Things do not appear to pass muster. Of course, if you’re feeling a bit more charitable, you might adopt the following strategy.

 

Ask some leading questions

Try prodding the person in the right direction with one or more of these:

“Have you thought this position through in a thorough manner?”

“What are your basic assumptions in this case?”

“Might there be an alternative hypothesis that you’ve not considered?”

“How many fingers am i holding up?”

“If there’s a truck heading out of town at 45 MPH, and another truck heading the opposite way at 60 MPH, how many midgets will it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“Tra-la, tra-la- tra-la, tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum.” (Not, technically, a question.)

 

Deliver a brief lecture on the principles of logic

This one might be an iffy bet if you’re unsure whether the person you’re talking to is firing on all cylinders. But as a general rule, something like this might do the trick:

“I say, my man! What say we hunker down for a spell and talk about some basic logical principles, eh? For instance, the Law of the Excluded Middle? In any situation where a strict yes-or-no answer is required, there is no possibility of a ‘maybe’ response; it would be the same as not having answered the question. And of course, we wish to answer questions, don’t we! That’s right. We do. And so, when the logical scenario with which we are presented demands a ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ response, it’s no good delivering a response of ‘your mom’ or something on that order. Ha ha. Am i getting through? Nice chat! I like your trousers.”

 

Seek out a safe space

There will be times, regrettably, where your well-meaning attempts to reason with your subject all come to naught, and you may have to beat a hasty retreat. You will want to seek out what we in the industry like to call a ‘safe space’. This is a place, preferably within a budding grove, where you will be insulated from the possibility of disagreement or pushback… where your presuppositions will remain untouched by the probing tentacles of an opposing viewpoint… where you will not be forced to re-examine any of your own guiding principles. Whew! That was a close one.

 

Begin jerking violently

Another possibility, if a budding grove turns out not to be available, is that you create your own ‘safe space’ by behaving in an astonishing manner. Zing! Whoosh! Bam!

“Dude, are you okay?”

Fop! Smash! Yow! Whoom!

“Um, i think i’m just sort of gonna back away, if you don’t mind.”

Mission accomplished.

 

Belch VERY loudly

This response has the virtue of being a vocal response, which seems in keeping with the fact that the illogical person’s statement was also vocal. Fight fire with fire, as the old-timers (and some firefighters) used to say. Such an exchange might go something like this:

Person X:  I think the Braves are gonna have a good season this year.

You:  [BRAAAAAAACKK]

Person X:  Excuse you!

You:  [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeelch]

Person X:  My my my!  [person looks somewhat uncomfortable]

You:  [r-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p-p-p]

Person X:  Are you okay? I feel like your internal organs may be undergoing stress.

You:  [one lung pops out]

Person X:  Jeepers, man, i’m calling a doctor!

You:  [make it all the way through the alphabet down to ‘W’ before running out of steam]

 

Present the person with a ‘logical discourse’ tract

You may want to get in one last blow before the exchange comes to an end. This might take the shape of a tract dealing with the range of principles by which logical modes of communication are carried out. Similar, you see, to a gospel tract, but with a different purpose.

“Dude, it’s been a great talk. Can i leave you with this?”

“Sure. Um… ‘Basic Principles of Logical Discourse.’ Wow. I feel so very loved.”

“Dude. Here for ya.”

 

Call the police

This step should be considered a “last ditch” sort of option. But if the playground monkey you’re attempting to have a reasonable conversation with can’t be reasoned with, it may just be time to bring in the authorities.

Cop:  You have the right to remain silent.

Person X:  What? What’d i do? I was just trying to have a conversation with this bimbo.

Cop:  Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Person X:  Yeah, that sounds strangely familiar.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of interpersonal tools available for use in situations where the shmoe with whom you’re talking just can’t be reasoned with. Use them at your discretion, and have a lovely day! Dingbat.

 

Important Announcement Regarding New Flockbinker Schedule. No! Seriously!

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger puts on his ‘gosh, i really mean it’ hat and launches into a discussion of the… well, what has historically been a somewhat funky posting schedule for the “All Flockbinkers” blog… and the possible advantages to setting it on a regular, weekly footing.


 

The blog “All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious… And Other Salient Observations” has been online for several years now. However, as i look at my blog posting counter i see that we’ve only posted to it about 70 times. There’s a perfectly good reason for this: The Blogger’s inability to manage his life in a way that is reasonable or structured. No! Wait! That’s not what i was going to say! [The] Good Reader, are you messing around with my computer interface again?

 

The Good Reader:  Me? Naw. That’s not the sort of thing i would ever do. Heh heh heh.

The Blogger:  Well, let’s just hope so! Because i’m about to make an important announcement!

The Good Reader:  Blogger, if you have something important to say, i’ll just sit here as quiet as a mouse and respectfully listen to the gushing stream of nourishing wisdom that is doubtless about to come bursting forth from your honeyed lips.

The Blogger:  Well, i’ll be blowed.  [momentarily forgets what he was going to say, while turning seventeen shades of red]  Ahem. Well! Here’s the announcement. This blog is becoming just a wee bit more popular these days, which puts me in mind of the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but too many cooks spoil the broth.”

The Good Reader:  Sorry Blogger. That’s not actually a saying.

The Blogger:  It is!  [makes his worst pouty face]  You always want to ruin everything. You said you were going to stay quiet.

The Good Reader:  Oops. Sorry. It just sort of popped out. Anyway, i think what you were wanting to say is that some changes may be afoot, since you now have more than three-and-a-half people reading your blog.

The Blogger:  Um. That’s not the way i’d have wanted to put it, but yes. Something like that. Some changes may be afoot.

The Good Reader:  That sounds terrific! What kind of thing did you have in mind? Are you considering adopting a policy of only saying things that make sense?

The Blogger:  Well, that’s not it exactly… Hey! Waittasecond! You scoundrel! Stop it! You’re goofing up my important announcement!

The Good Reader:  Sorry. No, you’re right, i shouldn’t do that to you while you’re trying to communicate with your wee little handful of readers. I’ll just sit here while you talk.

The Blogger:  Well, okay then. Here’s the announcement: I’m thinking of moving this blog to a regular, once-a-week schedule, and posting at the same time every week, so my followers will have a better idea of when the new posts are going up.

The Good Reader:  That sounds terrific! Consistency is always a good thing. I bet your readers–all three and a half of them–will genuinely appreciate a more regular, predictable schedule of postings!

The Blogger:  That’s exactly what i’ve been thinking. (Most of it, grrr.) And the expert voices in the area of internet dynamics seem to think so, too.  From what i’ve read, a weekly schedule of blog posting would be a good rhythm for this Flockbinker journal to fall into.

The Good Reader:  I have to say, i completely agree. Up until the past few months or so, your posting schedule has tended to resemble the flight of the phoenix.

The Blogger:  But the phoenix is a fictional bird.

The Good Reader:  My point exactly.

The Blogger:  Oh. Right. Okay. So, anyway, beginning right around this month or so, i’m going to move these blog posts to a regular weekly schedule. I think i’ll still experiment with various times of day, just to see when the greatest number of readers seems to be available. But i’m going to try and keep the postings to the same day every week.

The Good Reader:  Well, you know what they say: A stitch in time, and then what the cat drags in.

The Blogger:  What? That didn’t make any sense at all!

The Good Reader:  Oops. Sorry. I can’t imagine what i was thinking.

 

Epilogue

So–seriously, guys–i’m gonna try to get this blog onto a regular, weekly posting schedule from now on. If you have any input for me about the ideal time to post new material during the week, please be in touch! And i love each of you as if you were my own fourth cousin, twice removed!

 

 

Confucius, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Mr. T Return to Chili’s

 

Abstract:  In which our four redoubtable philosophers–one of whom is none other than Mr. T (!) (oh my)–continue their sometimes witty… sometimes, um, er, not-witty… and sometimes inexplicable… and sometimes… anyway… conversation about the Higher and Deeper Things at Chili’s Restaurant.


 

Waiter:  Have we, like, at long last, decided what we want to order?

Confucius:  I believe we have, yes. I’ll have the Southwestern Eggrolls.  [he leans in confidentially, whispering]  It’s hard to beat those Southwestern Eggrolls.

Waiter:  They sure do tend to be a favorite with our customers. And you, sir?

Mr. T:  Yeah, well when i was growing up, my family was so poor we couldn’t afford to pay attention.

Waiter:  Hey! This guy’s kinda witty, sort of.

Confucius:  Might want to be careful about encouraging him.

Waiter:  Aww, i think he’s harmless.

Mr. T:  [screws his face up into a horribly threatening scowl]  My prediction: Pain.

Confucius:  Tell you what, he’ll have the Caesar Salad and a Coke.

Waiter:  [visibly nervous, turning quickly toward Aristotle]  A…and you, sir?

Aristotle:  I’ll have the braised goat with milk curds and olives.

Confucius:  Hoo boy! Um, waiter, this gentleman will have the Carnitas Fajitas.

Aristotle:  Are you sure?

Confucius:  You’ll love it.

Waiter:  Um… okay… and you, sir?

The Buddha:  I’ll have what they’re having.

Waiter:  All of it?

The Buddha:  The man of understanding takes in the entirety of his world, and in the end finds it to be: emptiness.

Confucius:  I am so sorry. We’re rather a group of oddballs, aren’t we. He’ll have the cheese quesadillas.

[waiter scurries off, trembling just a little bit]

Aristotle:  So, shall we resume our discussion of the Higher Things?

Mr. T:  I believe in the Golden Rule. The man with the gold, rules.

Aristotle:  [taking a deep breath]  That’s a commonly held belief. So, do you think it’s best that those with the wealth should also be the ones with the power?

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  Are you really wanting to encourage him?

Aristotle:  [stage whisper]  I’m directing his random outbursts into patterned discussion.

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  I don’t feel like that’s going to yield much fruit.

Aristotle:  [stage whisper]  I dunno. We’ll see. Worth a try.

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  Okay, man. Go for it. You do you.

Mr. T:  I, uh, pity the fool.

Confucius:  [to Aristotle]  Here’s the problem, i think. If you ask our redoubtable Mr. T a question for which he doesn’t have one of his pre-prepared answers, you put him off his game and he doesn’t know what to say.

Aristotle:  Is that so!  [gets a devilish look in his eye, like that of someone who has just learned that you’re carrying gold nuggets in your pocket and is trying to figure out how to lift them without your noticing]

Aristotle:  [returning his attention to Mr. T]  So, which fool, exactly, is it that you pity?

Mr. T:  Um… uh… all of ’em?

Aristotle:  Ah! But you cannot pity all of them. For one fool may be at odds with another, and you must choose sides. Which fool are you betting on?

Mr. T:  I… I…  [he begins to tremble]

The Buddha:  Pain.

Aristotle:  Not now, Bud. I’m on a roll with this other guy.

Confucius:  How many kinds of fools are there?

Aristotle:  Dude! Don’t ruin my setup. I think i’ve got him against the ropes.

Mr. T:  Um… uh… uh….

Aristotle:  Imagine a poker table, and four fools sitting around it playing poker. One of those fools will have to win the game. How can a fool win the game?

Mr. T:  [recovering, seeing his opportunity]  There’s two kinds of people: the winners, and the losers. Which one are you?

Aristotle:  Dammit.

Confucius:  Oohh, and it seemed as if you were doing so well, for a while there.

The Buddha:  Pain. Huh huh huh.

Aristotle:  Oh my word, is the little Buddha fellow turning into Mr. T now? I have to deal with a whole table of Mr. T’s?

Mr. T:  Are the Mr. T’s at the table, or is the table full of Mr. T’s?

Confucius:  Dude, that was sort of a tautology.

Aristotle:  [losing patience]  Okay. Fine! You win, i lose! I still fail to understand what this man is doing at our table!

Confucius:  [leaning in toward Aristotle in a confidential manner]  Okay, i suppose i need to come clean with you. I told his mom i’d take him for the afternoon–she’s showing their house to a prospective buyer, and she thought it might be a good idea to show it without him inside.

Aristotle:  Ah. (Grrr.) It is all becoming clear to me now.

Confucius:  The man of genuine strength maintain his place even in rapidly flowing river.

Aristotle:  Please, not just now, bud. There’s a time and a place.

Confucius:  I get it, man. Just trying to be useful.

Mr. T:  My Prediction?

The Buddha:  Pain. Heh heh.

Aristotle:  Okay, look, i don’t think we can have a serious discussion with that man present.

Mr. T:  Yeah, fool.

Aristotle:  I was referring to YOU.

Mr. T:  Oh. Okay. Got it.

The Buddha:  My prediction: Pain.

Aristotle:  And i don’t even want to know what his deal is. It’s like he’s absorbing the ‘T’ person’s personality just by sitting next to him.

The Buddha:  I pity the fool.

Aristotle:  [throwing up his hands]  I cannot EVEN.

Confucius:  I’ll admit, he doesn’t seem to be in rare form tonight. His material is usually MUCH better.

Aristotle:  Which one?

Aristotle:  Mmmm, wow. Good point.

 

 

 

 

 

A Brave [Ahem] Attempt to Define the Term ‘Bertrand Russell’ [Oh Dear]

 

Abstract:  Before there was Bertrand Russell, there was the concept “Bertrand Russell.” Or, wait, did i get that right? Did the actual dude “Bertrand Russell” come before the concept of Bertrand Russell? It’s so hard to keep this stuff sorted out! Anyway, the narrative you are about to read concerns a group of philosophers gathered ’round a table at Chili’s restaurant. Bertrand Russell happens to be one of ’em. But listening in on the conversation, you’d never know it! Heh heh heh.


 

St. Thomas Aquinas:  I greet you cordially, gentlemen. As i believe you all know, we are gathered here to discuss the essence and existence of one Lord Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell:  Greetings, fond fellows! It’s an honor to find myself among such distinguished company.

Albert Camus:  [mumbling]  I’m not certain i understand what’s so great about him, but whatever.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  If only Bertrand Russell were here.

Aquinas:  Oh, and if only the moon were made of green cheese! Look, you can’t always have everything you want.

Bertrand Russell:  But i am! Helloo! You’re such a card. I’m right here. Next to you!

Aquinas:  So. Perhaps we might begin by attempting a definition of ‘Bertrand Russell’ and establishing that definition as having ontological authority.

Wittgenstein:  That odd relationship between the words we speak regarding Bertrand Russell, and his concrete reality among other concrete realities, interests me immensely.

Bertrand Russell:  I’m right here, idiot.

Aquinas:  So here’s the agenda for this discussion. We’re going to establish the ontological basis for belief in the existence of Bertrand Russell, discuss the relationship between the term ‘Bertrand Russell’ and the actual dude, and explore the possibilities regarding his existence, nature, proclivities, and patterns of usage–in terms of lanes and spaces–when he finds himself in a parking lot.

Wittgenstein:  Could you lay all of that out for us in outline or grid form?

Aquinas:  I’m way ahead of you. Check this out:

 

Questions:

  1. Does Bertrand Russell exist?

  2. In what manner does he exist?

  3. Is it possible to define him?

  4. What sort of being is he?

  5. Is defining Bertrand Russell the same thing as defining the term ‘Bertrand Russell’?

 

Wittgenstein:  Dude, you are so cool. I’m seriously lovin’ this. I’m actually feeling just a little bit aroused right now.

Aquinas:  I shall interpret that as high praise, and not as an expression of a perverse, or at any rate non-normative, er, sexual…

Bertrand Russell:  Look here, the joke’s over. I’m sitting right here. I can answer all of your questions regarding my ontological status.

Aquinas:  So, to begin: the ontological status of Lord Bertrand Russell. Is he, or is he not, an actually existent entity?

Wittgenstein:  Of course, we’re using ordinary language to attempt to establish metaphysical realities. That’s maybe a problem right there.

Bertrand Russell:  I am here, right here, you mealy sop!

Camus:  I’m far from convinced that this discussion is of any importance whatsoever.

Wittgenstein:  Yes, that IS what you would say, isn’t it. [to Aquinas] Give this man a range of options, and he will always opt to spotlight his own importance.

Camus:  I’m of no importance. Meaning is all-important. And can only be realized through meaningful action.

Wittgenstein:  Tra la la, tra la la, tra la la.

Aquinas:  Gentlemen! Back to the topic. I believe that sufficient evidence exists, of a documentary nature, to support the thesis that Bertrand Russell is ‘real’.

Bertrand Russell:  Ass! I’m practically sitting in your lap.

Wittgenstein:  Regarding Bertrand Russell, perhaps we might say that he is “all that is the case in the case of Bertrand Russell.”

Camus:  Wut.

Wittgenstein:  I’m just sorta spitballing, here.

Bertrand Russell:  [muttering to himself]  Quelle nightmare.

Aquinas:  I’m having trouble tracking with you, Ludwig. Did you just spout a puffball of utter nonsense?

Wittgenstein:  Well, no. I attempted to formulate a definition of Bertrand Russell that would be both ontologically AND linguistically satisfying.

Camus:  [rolls his eyes]

Bertrand Russell:  I totally am right here next to you.

Aquinas:  I’m going to pretend this discussion is only just beginning, and no one has yet had the chance to articulate what strikes me as the utterest nonsense imaginable.

Camus:  Yo.

Bertrand Russell:  What is WRONG with you people? I am literally RIGHT HERE.

Aquinas:  So, why don’t we address the question, “In what manner does Bertrand Russell exist?”

Bertrand Russell:  Hello, hello! I know this one.

Wittgenstein:  He exists in a manner that can be thought, but not spoken of.

Aquinas:  You and your “thought, but not spoken of” nonsense. Get it together, Ludwig. We’re having a philosophical discussion, not a mystical communion.

Wittgenstein:  Um, ouch.

Bertrand Russell:  Look, i can answer that.

Camus:  It seems to me that if Russell is able to act authentically, then he is permitted to claim for himself existence.

Aquinas:  Yikes, i’d almost rather go with Wittgenstein’s answer. Hoo boy. Who was it that decided to accord existentialism the status of a valid philosophical system, that’s MY question.

Camus:  Yeah? Well, maybe YOUR MOM has the answer to that particular question.

Wittgenstein:  It’s good to experience philosophical debate at its most primal. Where’s Karl Popper when you’re wanting him?  [looking about the room for a fireplace poker]

Bertrand Russell:  Oh, come on! “In what manner does Bertrand Russell exist?” That’s an easy one. I’ve got this.

Aquinas:  Perhaps we should move on to the next question, “Is it possible to define him?”

Camus:  How is that not the same question as “What sort of being is he?”

Aquinas:  Well, if it’s not possible to define him, then we cannot say what sort of being he is.

Camus:  So they’re basically just two parts of the same question.

Aquinas:  I am developing a downright Aristotelian dislike for you.

Camus:  That did not EVEN.

Wittgenstein:  I can’t help thinking that neither of you has a point to make that “is the case.”

Camus:  Oh, go fondle yourself.

Bertrand Russell:  Ho! Woo-hoo! Look: I’ve got the answer to that one. I am a human person, the definition of which is consistent with the definition of humanity in general–if you want to get into all that.

Wittgenstein:  Look, what if we move on to the last of our five questions, which to my way of thinking seems the most interesting anyway. Is defining Bertrand Russell the same thing as defining the term “Bertrand Russell”?

Camus:  Of course not. Bertrand Russell defines himself through the series of choices he makes in a world of ambiguities. The term “Bertrand Russell”, on the other hand, is merely that: a term.

Aquinas:  And you, Camus, consistently choose to define yourself as an idiot.

Camus:  Maybe it’s your Mom who’s the real idiot.

Wittgenstein:  I’m thinking the terminological problem is intertwined with the problem of Russell’s identity so intimately that the two questions cannot be separated.

Aquinas:  Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah.

Bertrand Russell:  Imbecile! I am totally sticking my fork into your Southwestern Eggroll. Hmm? You like that?

Aquinas:  Interesting. My Southwestern Eggroll seems to be moving about of its own volition. I feel moved to revise my understanding of locomotion, causality, objectivity and the self. There are apparently things that Aristotle hardly dreamed of.

Camus:  [muttering]  Your Mom is Aristotle.

Bertrand Russell:  I am about to start poking all of you in the ribs with my fork.

Wittgenstein:  How can his Mom be Aristotle? Was your speech-act an attempt to characterize some aspect of the real world? Or an expression of the sublime and irrational?

Bertrand Russell:  Idiot. Here i am. I am literally poking my fork into your freaking spleen. There is literally blood coming out! You can’t feel that? Hmm? What about this?  [pokes his fork into Camus’s liver]

Camus:  Ow. It feels as if someone is poking his fork into my spleen. And also, perhaps my liver.

Aquinas:  I’ve about had it up to here with your attention-grabbing egocentricity, Al!

Bertrand Russell:  This is actually almost as enjoyable as getting to participate in a philosophical discussion. Here, i’m going for Aquinas now.

Aquinas:  Hey! What was that?

Camus:  What was what?

Aquinas:  One of you $!%*&#^@&$% s  just poked me in the ribs!

Camus:  Hey there, watch the blasphemy, Tom! Isn’t that one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Aquinas:  Actually, no, it’s not, although it might cogently be argued that it–

Bertrand Russell:  [a giant poke]

Aquinas:  Ow! Who’s doing that?

Bertrand Russell:  Okay. I have to confess i’m actually considering giving up philosophy to become a practical jokester. Did anybody hear me say that? Of course not. This is the greatest! I’m here, but i’m not here! I’m an ontological impossibility!

Wittgenstein:  I’m still trying to figure out how Aquinas’s Mom can be Aristotle. Is there a variant sense in which you are using the terms?

 

The Dessert Course

In which B.R. exults in his newfound freedom, and continues joyously poking his tableware into the torsos and limbs of all present–much to his own entertainment and the growing consternation of the assembled company.

 

‘Flockbinker’ Sort of Rhymes with ‘Spock Finger.’ I Feel This Must Be Significant.

 

Abstract:  *Yawn*  Yet another exploration of the ontology of flockbinkers. But! This time we examine the issue through the eyes (or finger) of a Vulcan, which i suppose DOES make things a bit more interesting. What do Vulcans know, or believe, about flockbinkers? A topic well worth considering!

A Random Vulcan:  Please note that a Vulcan does not ‘believe’ anything for which he does not have sufficient logical warrant.

Abstract, continued:  Uh, well, there ya go! Okay! On with the show!


 

Mister Spock, of Star Trek fame, enters from stage left, in a contemplative mood. He is joined by his father, Sarek, and his Mom, Amanda, entering from stage right.

 

Spock:  [muttering to himself]  The nature of flockbinkers. Hmm. It is, indeed, an interesting question.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am gratified, Spock, to hear that your mind is engaged in substantial pursuits.

Spock:  Indeed. Ontology has always seemed an engaging area for exploration.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  My mind is not entirely clear, my son, regarding the issue we are to discuss.

Spock:  It is the question of the existence and nature of flockbinkers. Are they real entities, and if so, what are their attributes?

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I must confess to being no less in the dark now, than i was 15 seconds ago.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Sweetie, Spock’s friends are wanting to play an interesting game with him. I’m not sure that you need to take it so very seriously.

Spock:  It is perhaps a more important issue than you are assuming, mother. There are those who believe that a correct understanding of flockbinkers is directly connected to the mastery of the self, the eradication of evil, and the fostering of world peace.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am astonished to hear that so abstruse a discussion is believed to have such concrete implications!

Spock:  [whispering]  Just play along, Dad. I suspect it’s actually kind of a stupid topic.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Aaahh. I see. This conversation is at last making a modicum of sense to me.

Spock:  Indeed.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  At least it’s an interesting subject to occupy a delightful Spring afternoon!

Sarek and Spock:  Indeed.

[enter random girl-dude vulcan and miscellaneous vulcan feller]

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Do you mind if i chime in?

Spock:  By all means.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Well, it seems to me that if we had an actual specimen of a flockbinker here with us, we might study it and answer at least some our questions.

Spock:  There would seem to be much truth in what you say.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Well, so where do we find one? Is it a swamp-dwelling creature? There’s a nasty marshy area just a little ways from here.

Spock:  I am very much afraid that the issue may be more difficult than you have anticipated.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Difficult? What do you mean ‘difficult’? We bag a flockbinker and we study it! You people are so dang philosophical.

Spock:  It is, i fear, a much more complicated discussion that you have anticipated. For, you see, flockbinkers (according to those experts who view themselves as qualified to address the topic) are not… er, physical… in the same way that you and i are.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Flockbinkers are not… physical. Riiiiight. I get it. There’s a hidden camera, isn’t there.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Are you saying that a flockbinker is not a physical being, but is more like an energy field or a point of pure consciousness?

Spock:  Um: No.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  A flockbinker, then, is a kind of crystalline structure embodying certain living characteristics?

Spock:  Uh: Nah. Nice try.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  [whispering]  You’re just encouraging him. Dude has obviously been smoking the ol’ Andromedan parsley.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Oh, Spockie would never touch that stuff. We raised him better than that, i can tell you!

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So, Mister Spock, the curiosity is killing me! What IS a flockbinker?

Spock:  Well, that–um–is where it gets a bit complicated.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Oohh, i love a logical conundrum!

Spock:  Erf. Oh boy.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am as curious as these young people are, my son! Can you not characterize this ‘flockbinker’ in a manner consistent with logic?

Spock:  Well, that’s the problem, Dad: the available documents seem to present a profile of the flockbinker that is anything but consistent with logical rigor.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  But… but… how can this be?

Spock:  Regrettably, the only materials we have relative to the nature of flockbinkers are to be found on a weblog run by a 20th century human whose grasp of even the basics of logic seems highly suspect.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  What is it with you guys! Come on, let’s have a look at the evidence. Surely we can come up with SOMETHING.  

Spock:  Your enthusiasm, though commendable, is perhaps not well founded.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Well, it can’t hurt to simply examine the evidence.

Spock: [sigh]  Alrighty then. Here goes.  [he pulls out a manila folder and removes a sheet of paper]  First piece of evidence. This one’s from a couple of years ago. It says, “Whoah! Dude! So it appears that flockbinkers are not quite so gnarly as expert opinion has asserted! Them stuffed shirts can stuff it right HERE!!”  

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am afraid i don’t understand. Gnarly?

Spock:  Dad, it only gets worse. Here’s another snippet, from a few months later: “So, as nearly as we can tell, an entity can be classed as a ‘flockbinker’ if it… wait! What was that? Was that the opening chorus from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio?”

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Wait. What did he say a flockbinker is?

Spock:  He didn’t. He appears to have gotten distracted by music playing in the next apartment.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I… I don’t even.

Spock:  Oh, we haven’t even scratched the bottom yet. Here’s document number three: “Oh my stars and garters, i believe that may be a flockbinker roosting out in my back yard! No. Wait. Sorry. Apparently my neighbor’s laundry has blown over the fence.”

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I fear i must sit down.

Spock:  You and me both, Pop. 

Spock’s Mom, Amanda: Well, this information may not turn out to be useful, but at least we’re finding out that the experts have been working on the issue for several years now. That’s important, isn’t it?  

Spock:  You take a refreshingly positive interpretation, mother.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So, let me be sure i understand. We do know that there is such a thing as a flockbinker, right? Not just from these moronic documents, but from other sources?  

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Man, i haven’t had this much fun since the master at our academy accidentally burned his own hand off with his own phaser!  

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Ugh, you are so vulgar. So here’s the real question: do we have any concrete, credible evidence to the effect that flockbinkers are even real? And not just the figments of some middle-aged blogger’s diseased imagination?  

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  [mumbling]  I am not vulgar. He really did zap his own hand off. It was so cool.

Spock:  I am afraid that we do not. Whatever evidence there is, appears to be contained in… [he grimaces in a most un-Vulcan-like manner]… this folder.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So what reasons do we have for even crediting their existence? One mentally unstable blogger mentions them in a few of his editorials, that’s not much evidence. 

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I fear i am in agreement with this young one, Spock. Is there no further evidence?

Spock:  There does not appear to be, father. And yet….

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Yes, my son?

Spock:  And yet i feel strangely compelled to believe.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am tempted to interpret this as the influence of your human side.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Well jeepers, dear, you say that as if it was a bad thing.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I feel compelled to plead ‘no comment’.

 

Conclusion

And it turned out to be the case, indeed, that Spock (perhaps lulled into complacency by his human side) devoted much of his time during the next several years to research into the reality and nature of flockbinkers. The summary of his findings may be found in the archives of the Central Library on the planet Vulcan, under the title: “Flockbinkers: A Review of Certain Researches into Their Ontological Status, Physical Characteristics, Habits, and Method of Obtaining Food on Those Occasions When a Handi-Mart Does Not Happen to Be Open in the Vicinity.”

 

 

 

 

Elvis Wu and Jennifer Smith Further Explore the Impossible Relationship between ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Social Skills’

 

Abstract:  This is part two of a dialogue that began several posts ago, between two of our thrice-worthy protagonists–Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major, and Jennifer Smith, budding philosopher-at-large. In the first part, the two of them talked about the nature of everyday conversation, and why it is that people approach it in the ways that they do. This time, the conversation moves to the even more interesting topic of whether philosophers are capable of having a normal conversation.


 

The scene:  Elvis Wu and Jennifer Smith have been talking for a while on the patio out in front of Panera Bread in downtown Chattanooga. The topic? Philosophy, philosophers, and whether these people know how to talk about the same normal things that everyone else talks about. They started out talking about typical conversational patterns, and now they’re moving on into darker territory: What DO the philosophers talk about, when you catch them in an unguarded moment?

 

Elvis Wu:  So here’s the interesting thing. Are conversations between philosophers substantially different from conversations between regular people?

Jennifer Smith:  Um. I guess? Because they’re full of lofty thoughts.

Elvis Wu:  Oohh! I like it.

Jennifer Smith:  So, do philosophers skip the small talk? What in the world DO they talk about?

Elvis Wu:  Well, you know, the usual: departmental politics, tenure tracks, the syllabus. That sort of thing.

Jennifer Smith:  Hardy har-har.

Elvis Wu:  Really, most philosophy professors talk about the usual kinds of things. That’s why i’d rather not use them as my examples of what philosophers are like. A real philosopher…you know, someone who actually lives it…would be more like your friend Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith:  Dang it! Somehow i knew–i just knew!–he was going to come up in this conversation. I just knew it.

Elvis Wu:  Well.

Jennifer Smith:  I just knew it.

Elvis Wu:  The dude thinks things through, and he chooses his words carefully.

Jennifer Smith:  That he does.

Elvis Wu:  And he’s never afraid to call anything into question.

Jennifer Smith:  You’re right. That he isn’t.

Elvis Wu:  He’s a philosopher.

Jennifer Smith:  I guess he is.

Elvis Wu:  And he’s a really good philosopher. He’ll not let go of a question until he’s fully satisfied that he’s gotten an answer that makes complete sense.

Jennifer Smith:  [sighs]  Yes, you’re right about that.

Elvis Wu:  Yet you seem not to appreciate these exalted qualities of his.

Jennifer Smith:  Well… they can make conversation difficult.

Elvis Wu:  Hah! Conversation isn’t always supposed to be easy.

Jennifer Smith:  [muttering things under her breath that do not sound very nice]

Elvis Wu:  There there, Jennifer. You’re a philosopher too, you know. It’s just that your philosopher side is not your favorite side of yourself.  [smiles]

Jennifer Smith:  [mutters a few more things]

Elvis Wu:  And that places you in the weeny minority, and in highly exalted company!

Jennifer Smith:  [mutters a couple more things, but at least she’s smiling now]

Elvis Wu:  He’s a pretty sharp kid. You’re fortunate that he’s picked you out to be his friend. He doesn’t connect with most people. He obviously thinks you’re pretty smart.

Jennifer Smith:  [stops muttering things, but doesn’t stop smiling]

Elvis Wu:  [smiles back]

Jennifer and Elvis:  [just a couple o’ grinnin’ fools]

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. I surrender. So, can we get back to a point you were making a minute ago? About the differences between philosophers’ conversations, and the way regular people talk to each other.

Elvis Wu:  Sure. It’s an interesting theme to explore.

Jennifer Smith:  Um. Do philosophers talk about…the weather? Do they talk about professional team sports? Do they talk about men’s fashion? How about movies and books? I suppose yes, on the books. Do they talk about nerdy books, or the regular ones?

Elvis Wu:  Whoah! That’s a lot of questions.

Jennifer Smith:  And music! Do they care about music? Or art? Do they attend the ballet? Do they go to rock concerts? I have so many questions about what philosophers are interested in!

Elvis Wu:  Apparently.

Jennifer Smith:  I mean: if your life is all about digging into things and asking the tough questions, then is it possible to be interested in the normal things that everyone else is interested in?

Elvis Wu:  Well, you’ve piled up a bunch of stuff for us to examine. Why don’t we start on in, and let’s use our little friend Biffy as the archetype of a philosopher.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, okay. The little nerdo.

Elvis Wu:  He’s a perfect live model to make use of here, because we both know him and we’ve got some idea of what sorts of things he would talk about, think about, take an interest in.

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. I surrender. Little Biffy it is.

Elvis Wu:  You mentioned art, music, and dance. Let’s start there.

Jennifer Smith:  Sure.

Elvis Wu:  So, if Biffy were to express an opinion about the arts, what sort of opinion would it be, and what sort of basis would he have for it?

Jennifer Smith:  You’re asking ME?

Elvis Wu:  Sure. You’ve dialogued with him enough to know what kinds of approaches he’s likely to take in the analysis of an idea.

Jennifer Smith:  [sigh]  I guess so. Well, let’s see. Biffy might say something like, “What is the purpose of art, and does this particular sculpture serve that purpose?”

Elvis Wu:  Marvelous! I think you may be on to something.

Jennifer Smith:  And then he might say, “This sculpture, for instance, looks like a lobster whose innards were blown out by a hand grenade and then swept into a little pile. In what way does this serve the purpose of sculpture as an artistic medium?”

Elvis Wu:  You’re nailing it. I almost feel like he’s speaking through you.

Jennifer Smith:  [smiles]  And then he would say, “If a sculpture is supposed to represent some aspect of the concrete world, then this one has failed. But might there be other aspects of reality that the sculptor was attempting to capture?”

Elvis Wu:  Wow. Go on.

Jennifer Smith:  And then he might say, “Why don’t we start by laying down some definitions. What do we mean by the term ‘art,’ and what are we saying when we claim that a given work of art is ‘good’?”

Elvis Wu:  I’m in awe. It’s almost as if you ARE Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith:  I’ve had enough conversations with him by now, to guess where he might go in our little scenario.

Elvis Wu:  You’re doing great. So, let’s stop there, and examine what he’s said so far.

Jennifer Smith:  The little dude’s barely getting started.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  I realize that, but you’ve already given us some good material to start with.

Jennifer Smith:  Good-o.

Elvis Wu:  So, one of the things he’s wanting us to do is to start out with definitions. How very Socratic! Our man Socrates would have done exactly the same thing. What is art? And what does it mean for something to be good? If we’re not clear on these two things, then the whole discussion turns out to be pointless.

Jennifer Smith:  But doesn’t everyone just sort of intuitively know what art is? I’m not Biffy right now, i’m me. Forgive me if it’s a stupid question.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  Not at all! The majority of people would probably say something similar. So, here’s my response. My little nephew recently created an art installation that involved some play-doh, a pile of weeds from the back yard, and one of his own bowel movements.

Jennifer Smith:  Eewww!

Elvis Wu:  Right, right! So, how should we approach this body of material… as an art object? As a pile of nonsense? Or something else?

Jennifer Smith:  You’re not being fair. Most art isn’t like that.

Elvis Wu:  It’s astonishing, the range of material that’s being offered to the public these days, under the title of ‘art’.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, okay. I guess that’s true. So how WOULD we define art?

Elvis Wu:  Well, i suspect our young friend Biffy would say something like, “Let us define ‘art’ as that which has been created not primarily for its usefulness, but in order to satisfy our ideas of what constitutes ‘beauty,’ or, at any rate, ‘the visually interesting’.”

Jennifer Smith:  Okay, i give up. You’re way better at channeling the Biff-ster than i am.

Elvis Wu:  Ah, i have learned from a master! So do you like the definition?

Jennifer Smith:  Sure, i guess. I’d have to think about it for years to really decide whether i agree fully with it or not. So let’s just say: yeah. It’s a good definition.

Elvis Wu:  Honestly, it’s as good a definition as we’re likely to come across anywhere in the literature on art, or philosophy–or, for that matter, philosophy of art.

Jennifer Smith:  [smiles]  I’m not even going to ask you if there’s really such a thing as “philosophy of art.”

Elvis Wu:  Oh, there are branches of philosophy for everything. Philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of knowledge, philosophy of education, religion, history. Every academic field has a corresponding body of philosophers who’ve taken an interest in that particular area of study… but they approach it as philosophers, not as scientists or religious leaders.

Jennifer Smith:  I mean, wow. I had no idea that the field of philosophy was so diverse!

Elvis Wu:  That’s a whole conversation by itself, and we probably want to get back to the one we were having–about art, examined philosophically.

Jennifer Smith:  Wow. But okay.

Elvis Wu:  So, Biffy–that is, you playing Biffy–also wanted to know what would be a good definition for a ‘good’ work of art. Even if we can establish what art is, in general, how do we decide whether a particular work of art is a ‘good’ one?

Jennifer Smith:  Yeah, wow. That *is* a good question.

Elvis Wu:  Everyone’s heard of the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s David, and maybe a painting or two by Picasso. What sets these monumental works of art off as examples of what art can be, at its best?

Jennifer Smith:  Wouldn’t you have to have a degree in art, or something, to even begin to be able to talk about that? I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Elvis Wu:  Certainly, it’s a complex topic. And maybe we don’t need to get into it for now. What we were trying to do, if you recall, was to figure out what a properly ‘philosophical’ approach to things would look like, and i think we’ve at least made a start at finding out.

Jennifer Smith:  You’re letting me off easy.

Elvis Wu:  Well, to be honest, i’ve got a class coming up in a bit, and i need to get over to the university. Which means you’re off the hook for now.  [smiles]

Jennifer Smith:  Um, do you think we might be able to pick this conversation back up at some point? It was starting to get interesting.

Elvis Wu:  Well, you really ARE a philosopher, aren’t you!

Jennifer Smith:  Um. Maybe. I think the jury may still be out on that one.

Elvis Wu:  Well, when the jury convenes again, we shall discuss the philosophy of art in more detail! For now, mademoiselle: adieu, adieu, adieu.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, adieu right back at you, dude.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on the Oft-Neglected Wamwam

 

Abstract:  In which some attempt is made to discuss wamwams: to establish their ontological status, distinguish them from flockbinkers (and woodoos and frou-frous and humma-hummas and bumma-bummas and blastcabbages and CharlesBabbages and Your Mom and a long list of everything else), to figure out what exactly makes them tick, and to discover what sorts of things they pick up when they go to the supermarket.


 

One of the ongoingly vexing things about this blog, is that we keep using terms that we don’t even know the meanings of.

(No, wait. That can’t be right.)

What we meant to say, is that we sometimes speak of things about which many people have a somewhat limited understanding.

(There. That’s much better.)

One of these somewhat abstruse terms is “wamwam.” It you’re a follower of the blog, you’ve seen this word appear on numerous occasions, and you may have been as confused as we are about what it means.

(No, wait. That’s not at all what we meant to say.)

What we meant to say, is that the term “wamwam” is a somewhat difficult one, requiring a delicate linguistic touch and a healthy dose of philosophical insight.

So: Why don’t we devote the current post to an examination of this term, “wamwam,” with the hope of arriving at some even remote understanding of what the blasted term means?

(No, wait.)

 

The Good Reader:  Howdy there, Blogger! I see that i’ve arrived at just the right time to get in some good discussion of some of your favorite meaningless terms.

The Blogger:  Howdy, The Good Reader! Your wit appears to be as sharp as ever.

The Good Reader:  You flatter me. [smiles sweetly]

The Blogger:  So, how do you view our prospects for solving the mystery of the humble wamwam?

The Good Reader:  Far as i’m concerned, there’s no mystery at all.

The Blogger:  Seriously? Why this IS good news? What do you have to tell us about wamwams? Do enlighten us!

The Good Reader:  Sure thing. They don’t exist.

The Blogger:  Wha– um, i mean– surely you can’t–

The Good Reader:  They are as fictional as the unicorn.

The Blogger:  Well now, um, as we’ve seen in an earlier one of these posts to the All Flockbinkers blog, unicorns aren’t actually fictional. They’re something more like, oh, “archetypal” or “ontologically scrappy” or “they show up on weekends and certain holidays.”

The Good Reader:  Um.

The Blogger:  Seriously, unicorns aren’t fictional. They’re more like, oh, “trans-existent.” Or maybe, “provisional.” Or i dunno, maybe, “sorta missional”…?

The Good Reader:  Okay. Anyway, you were wanting to talk about wamwams.

The Blogger:  Um, yes, of course. Wamwams. One of the more real entities featured in that astonishingly diverse body of materials that we call “the universe.”

The Good Reader:  Um.

The Blogger:  So. I was thinking that i might enumerate some of the things that we know to be true about wamwams, maybe?

The Good Reader:  Knock yourself out. My movie doesn’t start for another hour.

The Blogger:  Cool! Well, the first thing that most people would think of, when the term “wamwam” is mentioned, would be, “it’s somehow related to flockbinkers.”

The Good Reader:  Um. That doesn’t establish it as a real thing. Quite the opposite, really.

The Blogger:  Oh, please, stop! Your ignorance of even the most basic principles of philosophy is showing itself.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  So flockbinkers and wamwams are part of the same family, let’s say. They both fit into a similar category of reality.

The Good Reader:  Like, “Words that are fun to say when you’re wanting to get a laugh out of a classroom full of third graders?”

The Blogger:  I shall ignore that highly ignorant remark.

The Good Reader:  Knock yourself out.

The Blogger:  You say that with distressing regularity. Anyway, flockbinkers and wamwams are what we might want to call “ontological cousins”–they belong to a similar sector of reality. But they’re not the same thing.

The Good Reader:  No, of course not. Not at *all* the same thing.

The Blogger:  No. So what we’re wanting to do here, is to establish what exactly is unique about wamwams–how they are different from flockbinkers.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  Um, well, first-off, i think we can say that–

A Flockbinker:  [appears out of nowhere]  Howdy.

[The flockbinker disappears in a puff of smoke]

The Good Reader:  Wait. Was that a flockbinker?

The Blogger:  It was indeed! Sorry about the brevity of his greeting. Flockbinkers tend not to be very talkative.

The Good Reader:  But… i mean… golly… what i mean is… he’s actually real?

The Blogger:  Well, of COURSE he is! What do you think we’ve been talking about all these years?

The Good Reader:  I figured i was just patiently indulging the ravings of your fevered brain as it attempted to sort through things it had absorbed in nursery school.

The Blogger:  Oh no. No no. There’s nothing fevered about MY brain! Flockbinkers are very real indeed! And–here’s the point we’re interested in right now–so are wamwams.

The Good Reader:  [muttering to herself]  Golly. Something to think about.

The Blogger:  Um, indeed, and furthermore–

[enter none other than the Three Scotsmen!]

Scotsman #1:  I see you’re addressin’ the abstruse philosophical themes agayne.

Scotsman #2:  It’s the kind o’ thing that really gets me blood up! Whooh!

Scotsman #3:  Sittin’ on a fence.

The Good Reader:  Oh my word. WHAT do we have here.

The Blogger:  You can’t tell me you’ve never met the Three Scotsmen? You’ve been on this blog for, how long now? I’d have figured you would have crossed paths with ’em at some point.

The Good Reader:  No, i don’t think so. I’d have remembered it, i’m pretty sure.

The Blogger:  Well, there there are, in all their Celtic glory.

[the three Scotsmen beam congenially]

The Good Reader:  That second one is kind of handsome.

The Blogger:  I cannot think of a less relevant observation, The Good Reader. You surprise me.

The Good Reader:  Hey, i’m just sayin’.

Scotsman #2:  [blushing]  Milady pays me an undesoorved compliment.

The Good Reader:  [curtseys like a champ]

The Blogger:  Oh, stop it, you two! I be-leeeeeve that we were talking about wamwams.

Scotsman #2:  Indeed we wehre.

Scotsman #1:  In all their ontological glory.

Scotsman #3:  Sittin’ on a fence.

The Good Reader:  …and whether or not they exist.

The Blogger:  Stop that! Of course they exist! Well, um, i mean… it’s complicated.

The Good Reader:  That’s your favorite thing to say.

A Flockbinker:  [appears briefly, just long enough to say]  Howdy.

The Blogger:  Oh, shut up.

 

 

 

The Good Reader Appears to Be in an Unusually Good Mood.

 

Abstract:  In which our good friend, The Good Reader, enters stage left and spreads clouds of euphoria all about. And what can be the cause of this unaccustomed good humor? WE DON’T KNOW! But, doggone it, we’re about to find out.


 

The Good Reader has been one of the central characters on this blog since its inception, or the point when we started the blog, whichever came first. She is a fairly sharp cookie, and enjoys engaging the Blogger in a variety of topics, often taking the devil’s advocate position simply to keep things lively. Um, at least we assume this is why she would even consider taking a position different from that of the Blogger. It’s difficult to think of any other reason. I mean. Anyway.

Regrettably, The Good Reader often appears to be in a less than ideal mood, perhaps owing to her being unaccustomed to philosophical discourse–

The Good Reader:  Now, just you wait one cotton-frickin’ minute, Mister Blogger. I’m every bit as good with “philosophical discourse” as you are. At LEAST.

The Blogger:  Well now, if it isn’t The Good Reader herself, in the flesh! How delightful to receive a visit from you.

The Good Reader:  Don’t change the subject.

The Blogger:  Absolutely not! We were about to talk about the fact that you’ve recently seemed to be in a much better mood than you’ve tended to be in, in the past.

The Good Reader:  Hrrmph. Well, i guess that’s sort of true.

The Blogger:  So, i imagine our readers are curious to know what’s the cause of your change of mood?

The Good Reader:  Readers? Our ‘readers’? What readers? What do you mean, ‘readers’?

The Blogger:  Um, oh dear, ooff.

The Good Reader:  ‘Readers.’ What a queer sort of thing to say, Mister Blogger.

The Blogger:  Um, uh, it was a figure of speech.

The Good Reader:  A figure of speech? Meaning what? You’re not making any sense.

The Blogger:  Um, er, ahem, so what prompts this change of mood?

The Good Reader:  Mmmm. Well, i’ve had some really good news this morning!

The Blogger:  Indeed?

The Good Reader:  Indeed what?

The Blogger:  Indeed: what’s the good news!

The Good Reader:  Oh. Right. I feel silly. Well, the good news is that my nephew just earned his black belt!

The Blogger:  He earned his black belt?

The Good Reader:  He did.

The Blogger:  What martial art does he practice?

The Good Reader:  Oh, i don’t know, “Hae Kwon Phu” or something. I can’t keep them all sifted out in my mind. It sure looks impressive, though.

The Blogger:  I didn’t even know you had a nephew.

The Good Reader:  There is much that you do not know about me, oh Mister Blogger-Fellow. I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

The Blogger:  Say, that was good! “A mystery stuffed into a riddle.” Did i get that right?

The Good Reader:  Oh, close enough for rock and roll.

The Blogger:  Is this an expression of your own devising?

The Good Reader:  Nah. I think Sir Winston Churchill came up with it.

The Blogger:  Such a clever chap, that Sir Wilson Churchwell.

The Good Reader:  Ahem. Back to my little nephew.

The Blogger:  Yes. A prodigy, by the sound of it!

The Good Reader:  Kid’s a regular martial arts phenomenon! He was kicking, um, hiney, and taking names.

The Blogger:  Your pleasure in his achievement seems entirely justified.

The Good Reader:  You’re dern tootin’!  [a proud expression invests itself upon her features]  He made one of the other little boys cry.

The Blogger:  Did he now! Well, that’s just wonderful.

The Good Reader:  I’m so proud of him.

The Blogger:  I hope he didn’t get in trouble for wounding one of his fellow competitors.

The Good Reader:  What? Oh! No, you don’t understand. He didn’t HURT anybody. He used LOGIC on them.

The Blogger:  Ah, so he… um. Waittasecond. He used LOGIC on one of the other children?

The Good Reader:  [beaming]  He did. And i know you and i have had our differences, Mr. Blogger, but i must confess that i stole some of your logic oriented material and fed it to him to use during the tournament, before he went up there.

The Blogger:  The Good Reader, you must fill me… and my readership… in on all of the juicy details!

The Good Reader:  Sure thing! No. Wait. Your ‘readership’? What in the Sam Hill are you talking about?

The Blogger:  Oh, ha ha, just messing around with you, ha ha, once again, ha ha.

The Good Reader:  [a somewhat dark expression on her face]  Okay. Whatever. So little Aloysius was up against another little fellow who seemed bigger and more aggressive than he was, and i was honestly kind of afraid for him.

The Blogger:  The poor tyke!

The Good Reader:  And i could tell that he was kind of nervous.

The Blogger:  Bless his heart!

The Good Reader:  But then, i saw a kind of resolution pass over his brow, if i can put it that way, and he leaned in and whispered something to the other little boy.

The Blogger:  Did he now! Probably something along the lines of, “Please don’t break too many of my bones.”

The Good Reader:  Ha! No. I’ll tell you what he whispered to him. This is based on what Aloysius told me about it later. He said, and i quote, “All flockbinkers are treadknicious.”

The Blogger:  No!

The Good Reader:  He did.

The Blogger:  You’re toasting my egg noodle!

The Good Reader:  Nope, not that that expression means anything. That’s what he said. See, i had prepped him before the event. And the other little boy fell back a little bit.

The Blogger:  I should say! No one can stand before the force of sheer logic.

The Good Reader:  I guess not. And then Aloysius–

The Blogger:  That’s a terrible name, by the way.

The Good Reader:  Right, right. So then Aloysius took a step toward the other fellow, and whispered to him, “And all wamwams are flockbinkers.”

The Blogger:  Well i’ll be.

The Good Reader:  Now, the other kid was beginning to get kind of shaken up, you know, sort of confused and disoriented.

The Blogger:  There’s no force stronger than logic.

The Good Reader:  I guess not. And then… remember, the round hasn’t even begun yet, they’re just standing there on the mat… Aloysius…

The Blogger:  He’s had to go through life with that name.

The Good Reader:  Right, just for a few years. He’s eleven. Aloysius leans in and whispers one more thing to the other kiddo, who begins shaking violently, and weeping openly. You want to know what he said?

The Blogger:  [proudly]  I can guess. I bet he said, “Therefore, all wamwams are treadknicious.” Hmm? That’s what he said?

The Good Reader:  That’s what he said. He’s a black belt now.

The Blogger:  Well of course he is. How proud you must be.

The Good Reader:  I really am. I gotta thank you for the gift of logic, Mister Blogger. I know we’ve had our differences, but i have now seen with my own eyes the power of logical discourse.

The Blogger:  What’ve i been telling you all this time?

The Good Reader:  I know, i know. You were right about at least that one thing.

 

 

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

 

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.

 

 

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