all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: reader

Once Again, It’s Time to Look at Our Reader Mail!

 

Abstract:  Well, dear readers, it’s time to again have a look at the stack of mail that our biggest fans have been sending in! The letters (mostly of complaint, some with wrong addresses, and one threatening to sue us “for being so damn stupid”) have been piling up! So, ahem, let’s have a crack at some mail!


 

Letter #1.  The classic “you can take a flockbinker out of the Northern Hemisphere, but can you turn it into a question” line of inquiry.

This reader from Brisbane, Australia, Big Nick--no, really–i’m serious, that’s actually what he seems to call himself–no, we didn’t make it up–why would we make up a name like THAT?–had a question about flockbinkers and geography:

Love the blog, got a question. I realize that you like to say all flockbinkers are treadknicious. But, i have to wonder if this is only because you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, i happen to live in the Land Down Under. Are all flockbinkers just as treadknicious here in the domain of the koala and the wallaby? I’ve not done a study of the subject. I was just wondering.

The Blogger:  Well, now that is a terrific question! It seems to me that it can be further broken up into a cluster of smaller questions: (1) Do flockbinkers even live in the Southern Hemisphere? (2) If they do, are they of the same variety as the ones living up here in North America? (3) If they are not of the same variety, then is it possible for a species of flockbinker not to be treadknicious? And finally, to summarize: (4) Is the treadkniciousness of flockbinkers affected in any way by geography?

These are deep questions indeed, “Big Nick” (heh heh heh), and shall require a great deal of further study.

 

Letter #2.  A Reader has clearly been smoking grass. Is there a question?

Herman, who makes his home in Macon, Georgia, shared this with us:

Took the Quiz #3, had this comment — Wow, man! Yo! That was some serious, you know, like all of it! I mean, like WOW! I’m totally reeling! I am against the ropes, going down for the last time! Whoah, whoah, whoah. So, so very vast and free and all the pretty horses, and, you know. Like, WHO in the WORLD. I mean: YES. I am SO. Y’know? So VERY. SOOO VERY! Aaahhhh. I think i just achieved enlightenment.

The Blogger:  Well, golly, Herm. Is it okay if we call you “Herm”? It’s hard to know even where to begin! Inspiring stuff. Oh my word! Your observations fill us (the editorial staff here at All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious) with feelings that we don’t recall having ever experienced before. My advice to you: Keep doing the quizzes, and send us any additional input you can come up with! More material similar to what you’ve sent us above would be terrific! Be assured: We’re going to love getting mail from you.

 

Letter #3.  Do flockbinkers have an ontologically stable identity? Inquiring minds want to know.

Buffy hails from Visalia, California, and had this somewhat raw criticism to offer:

Saying that “All flockbinkers are treadknicious” is kind of a generalization, isn’t it? By which i mean: a sexual (or quasi-sexual) (or, like, sexual-ontological?) stereotype. What if a flockbinker happened to self-identify as something else? Are not flockbinkers freely-choosing beings, like you and me, or my sister Hubert? Is it your responsibility to be placing such a limiting definition on a group of freely-choosing beings? I bet you also think that there are only two genders. Pig. I despise you. I predict that you will rot in hell.

The Blogger:  Golly, Buffy, you’ve left us with a lot to munch on there! First off, we cannot be 100% certain that flockbinkers even have a gender. But you seem to be getting at something else. Are you asking… whether flockbinkers are… flockbinkers? I’m not sure i understand the question. (Man, i really should have paid more attention in that gender studies class i had to take in college!)

 

Letter #4.  Flockbinkers and Elk: A Disquisition on Identity.

We’ve apparently got a reader in Medicine Hat, Alberta–Clive–whose philosophical interests seem to incline toward ontology:

Love the blog! We don’t see too many flockbinkers up in our area, although we’ve got plenty of elk. Have you anything to say about elk? Are they treadknicious, in the way flockbinkers apparently are? Or, are there any other big fancy words that apply to elk? Are they, maybe, oh, i don’t know, splendnicious? I just made that one up. Heh heh. Splendnicious. I think i shall use that one regularly from now on.

The Blogger:  “There will be droughts and days inundated…”

Heh heh. Medicine Hat. Git it? Heh heh. Ah! But seriously folks, your question is a good one. Might the attribute of treadkniciousness apply to creatures other than flockbinkers? It’s a topic well worth looking into, i imagine. In my deep and broad experience with logic and logical placeholders, i’ve never (yet) encountered a critter… other than flockbinkers… to which the state of “treadknicious”-ness has been attributed. But there’s a first time for everything. Thanks for the, er, splendnicious letter!

 

Letter #5.  Are our quizzes self-grading? How can you measure your success?

Ted lives in NYC, and is apparently no stranger to online quizzes:

Took the Quiz #2. How can you know how well you did? On other internet quizzes that i’ve taken, they’re self-grading and they’ll tell you what score you got. I have no idea how well i did on your quiz. It’s unnerving. Have you ever tried to take a quiz, only to find that you have no idea whether you got the answers right or not? It’s like, your whole life passes before your eyes. I’m not being overly dramatic. It’s really awful. Seriously. You need to try it yourself. It’s terrible.

The Blogger:  This is a terrific question, Ted!  Y’know, our method in assembling these quizzes is kind of intuitive. And honestly, it’s never occurred to us that one of our readers might take one of our quizzes so seriously that he would want to know what his score was. As nearly as we can tell, most of our readers seem to have an attitude toward the quizzes similar to that of Etienne, from Amsterdam, who opined, “I very much liked the quiz, it was big and stupid, it made my butt tingle, ha ha. How you can make something so absurd, i do not the know, ha ha. I am the sorry, my English is not so good, ha ha.”  In the future, perhaps we can devise a program for grading the quizzes, so our readers can know which of the abstruse and largely meaningless answers were the correct ones.

 

Letter #6.  Son Volt: A Disquisition on Building the Perfect Jam.

Living (as he does) in Austin, Texas, it’s no surprise to us that Christopher has consummate taste in music:

Hey, I saw what you did up there with the Son Volt lyrics. “Medicine Hat.” Ni-i-i-ice. It’s good to know philosophers can also have great taste in music. I swear, Son Volt is one of the few bands that give me hope for the future of the music scene. Did you catch their performance on Austin City limits? It was a couple of decades ago, but you should be able to find it pretty easily. Son Volt is the bomb, man.

The Blogger:  Glad to see that someone caught that “Medicine Hat” trick, and equally befuddled regarding how you could have found out about it so quickly. But then, nothing that happens on this blog should surprise me anymore. The Austin City Limits Son Volt show was indeed a classic, Christopher. It’s good to find that lovers of philosophical speculation can also be lovers of a great song or two! Hey, keep listening to good music, keep following this blog, and keep it between the painted lines!

 

Once Again, It’s Time to Look Through Our Reader Mail!

Well, it’s that time again. Time to reach into the mailbag and see what kind of correspondence some of you — our most excellent readers — have been sending in.

The last time we looked at our reader mail was… [counts on fingers]… um, oh dear, over two years ago! (If you’d like to check out that post, here ya go.) No wonder the mailbag is brimming over. Apologies for having neglected your letters! You’ve no doubt had all manner of insightful suggestions and lavish praise for the All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious blog during that time! Let’s have a look-see.

Editors’ Note:  We have assigned each letter a handy title — after the fact, you see — for your easy reference. The Blogger did not have these titles to refer to as he was opening each letter, else his entire experience of reading the mail might have been different.

 

Letter #1.  The classic “just what do you think do you’re doing” objection

Let’s start with… okay, here’s a letter from “Lindsay,” who lives in Port Huron, Michigan.

I have read every single post to this blog.

The Blogger:  Well, that is indeed gratifying! It’s good to discover that we’ve got another fan. Let’s read some more.

It’s a form of self-torture. I just can’t make myself look away. Your blog is the most appalling spectacle i can even think of. I have spent years studying philosophy, and your blog is, like, the opposite of philosophy. Making a mockery of the most basic questions humanity has ever struggled with… how are you EVEN a PERSON?

The Blogger:  Oh dear. And this letter started out with such promise. We cannot allow such baseless slanders to go unanswered!

Don’t interrupt. I’m not done yet. It seems to me that you’re doing immeasurable harm to the reputation of philosophy in the eyes of people who are just now learning the basics of it… you’re crippling them before they even have a chance to get started! How can you look at yourself in the mirror while shaving, that’s what i want to know.

The Blogger:  Dear, misguided reader! I am shocked!–appalled!—that you could have so misunderstood the nature of this blog. A lively, comical romp through the bowels of the philosophical tradition (if, er, “bowels” was quite the word i was looking for) is not AT ALL the same thing as “making a mockery” of philosophy. Why, “making a mockery” of philosophy would involve the trivializing of foundational principles of philosophical thought by turning them into occasions for slapstick. It would involve substituting nonsense and whimsy for the sober, perennial discussions of which the philosophical tradition is based. And we would never dream of doing ANY of that!

 

Letter #2.  A Reader has confused our blog with “Buzzfeed.”

Okay now, here we have a letter from “Taylor,” hailing from Pomona, California. Let’s see what ol’ Taylor has to say.

Man! I discovered your website a few months ago, and i’ve been digging on it religiously ever since! Dude! That is some funny jack, right there.

The Blogger:  [blushing]  Well, golly, you’re really being far too kind.

No, seriously, like, your quizzes are the best! Like, the one about what celebrity crush are you actually going to end up marrying. I was roaring.

The Blogger:  Wut.

And, like, the one where i had to answer a bunch of stoner questions and it told me which Harry Potter character i was.

The Blogger:  Um.

And your funny videos! The one about Americans from other parts of the country eating Midwestern food for the first time was HI-larious. And the one where blindfolded strangers try to guess each other’s age.

The Blogger:  Oh boy.

And all the articles about fashion and style and beauty and whatever.

The Blogger:  Okay, wow. Here’s the thing. I’m afraid you may have gotten us mixed up with some other website.

And the one where you have to guess what Stormy Daniels’s favorite color is, based on lines from classic Disney movies.

The Blogger:  [sigh]  I’m afraid we’re gonna need to move on to the next letter.

 

Letter #3.  A joke about ‘fruitcake’

Hmmm. Here we have a missive from “Johnathwane,” who makes his home in Newport, Rhode Island.

I very much enjoyed your Christmas post this past December. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the concept of ‘fruitcake’. It set off a train of thought which i’d like to share with you.

The Blogger:  Well, sure, why not. Knock yourself out.

First of all, it occurred to me that we use ‘fruitcake’ in at least three different ways: (1) those inedible bricks of obscene non-food material that you can buy wrapped in cellophane during the holiday season, (2) the completely legitimate traditional food that the obscene bricks of gelatinous nonsense are supposedly inspired by, and (3) a crazy person.

The Blogger:  Okay… tracking with you so far….

So, in a sense, we could say that fruitcakes (1) are the fruitcakes (3) of the culinary world.

The Blogger:  Hah hah, that was clever. Wait. Was that the joke?

Not so much a ‘joke’. More of a lively observation. But wait: there’s more.

The Blogger:  Ah. Lay it on.

Imagine a fruitcake (3) — an actual person, not a fruitcake (1) that is being construed as a fruitcake (3) —

The Blogger:  With ya so far.

Okay, imagine such a fruitcake (3) attempting to produce a fruitcake (2) but ending up producing instead a fruitcake (1).

The Blogger:  That was it?

Mm-hmmm.

The Blogger:  [glancing furtively from one side to the other]  Wow, thanks, well-meaning reader “Johnathwane.” Looking forward to hearing more from you. Moving right along.

 

Letter #4.  Is logic really necessary?

Ooookaay, here we have a letter from “Madison,” who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Let’s see what Madison has to say.

First off, i’d like to say that i think your blog is a lot of fun.

The Blogger:  Sweet! I tend to think so, too.

So here’s my thing. You seem to put so much emphasis on logic!

The Blogger:  Well, YEAH.

Logical syllogisms, logical premises, logical reason, logical conclusions, logical arguments, logic logic logic.

The Blogger:  Mmmmmmm.

But i feel like logic isn’t really all that necessary, you know? It feels like a lot of stiff, irrelevant, silly restraints on what you can say and think. I feel like logic is sort of the opposite of feeling, intuition, body wisdom, spirituality. So is it really needed? Can’t we just get by with spontaneously saying what we really feel and know deep inside?

The Blogger:  I totally feel your discomfort, Madison. I guess here’s what i’d like to say to you. Elephants are floating across my chewing gum. It’s a great day to be flaming, viscous and incoherent! I’m a jumping bean of putridity and amazement. Go, run, little napkins, be free! Eat more chicken. Fly a reindeer. Beat the odds, even the losers. We the people of the effervescent universe, fall, fall, fall. Rise. Fall again. Roll Tide.

What? That was your answer? But i don’t get it. That was just crazy talk. I don’t think you understood my question.

The Blogger: Tradition up a shrimp pole, forty-five asterisk, wah-wah, oh my stars, the square root of disharmony! Planet of the vapes, http://www.muumuu.org, 3.1415, owch, hmm.

Stop it! That made no sense at all! It’s all just nonsense! I can’t EVEN.

The Blogger:  [goes into a spastic seizure accompanied by grunts and screams, rolling on the ground, kicking his legs up in the air]

I have LITERALLY no idea what you’re EVEN trying to do right there. I am SO scared right now. I am LITERALLY shaking with nervousness.

The Blogger:  And i thus conclude my remarks on that topic. Due to space constraints, i wasn’t able to go into as full an explanation as i’d have liked to. We may just  have to devote a whole post to this topic later on.

 

Letter #5.  An idea about the Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence

Whew boy! All right, here’s a letter from a reader living in Taos, New Mexico. This one is named “Rainbow Steed.” The person who wrote the letter, i mean. “Rainbow Steed.” The reader who sent in this letter is named “Rainbow Steed.” It appears that i actually have a reader named “Rainbow Steed.” What a remarkable world we’re living in. Anyway, here’s what “Rainbow Steed” has to offer.

Okay, so i’ve been thinking about those three Scotsmen. The ones who are always sitting on that fence? I’ve been thinking about them a lot.

The Blogger:  You’ve got to level with me. Is your name really “Rainbow Steed”…?

Yuppo. So in a drama class i’ve been taking, they say you’re always supposed to try and get inside the motivation of the character. What is motivating the character?

The Blogger:  Yes, i think i understand you.

So these three Scotsmen. They’re up on that fence. Why? What are they doing up there? What motivated those three Scotsmen to get up on that fence, and sit there?

The Blogger:  A penetrating line of inquiry.

So. What if they’re really up there so they can more easily reach the light bulb?

You know, “How many Scotsmen does it take to screw in a light bulb,” and the answer is “three, but they have to get up on the fence first so that they can like reach the light fixture.” That would be funny, wouldn’t it? And that would explain their motivation.

Or cross the road? As in, “Why did the three Scotsmen cross the road? And right before that, they were like sitting on a fence, why were they doing that?”

Just brainstorming, you know, for some possibilities. And i’ll write again when i come up with some more ideas about the motivation of those three Scotsmen.

The Blogger:  Your further input will be highly appreciated, o most perspicuous reader!

 

Letter #6.  A Critique of the very form and content of this blog post.

I think we’ve got time for one more letter. Let’s see. Here’s one from “Malthe” in Copenhagen, Denmark! It’s always good to hear from our international readers.

Thank you. I have very much enjoyed reading the blog. I find it interesting in the extreme. It challenges my burgeoning philosophical inclination. And it’s funny.

The Blogger:  You’re too kind, Malthe. So what’s on your mind?

How is it that these letters are arranged in the form of dialogues? Like, the person who sent in the letter can tell what you’re saying in response to their letter, and so they add stuff in response to what you’re saying? What? How is that even a thing? Does the U.S. Postal Service even work that way? You can send mail that responds right as the reader reads it? No way. I’ve never sent a letter like that. The Danish mails do not work in this way.

The Blogger:  It might seem a bit odd, to the untrained observer…

I’m not an observer. I’m one of the people writing you a letter.

The Blogger:  Right, right. And i agree that it might seem a trifle odd that conventional mail should turn out to be… shall we say, interactive?… in much the same way that the internet often is. But that’s only to scratch the surface of the mysteries that surround the All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious blog.

You’re changing the subject. I want to know how mail can talk back while the person reading it is still reading it.

The Blogger:  Well, you know, it’s… it’s… kind of… complicated.

 

There Are Two Kinds of People in the World. (It’s Not What You Think!)

No, it’s true. There are. There are two kinds of people in the world.

(You know it’s true. Come on. Seriously. Don’t even.)

And actually, while we’re talking about this, we must go on to observe that there are even more than that. There are at least seven billion kinds of people in the world, if you stop to think about it: one category for each individual human person.

But seven billion categories might be just a bit much for most of us to manage. Who can think about that many categories of people? Who’s got the time? Who’s that good at math? Seven billion? I have trouble remembering which cabinet i keep the Vienna Sausages in.

So it’s convenient to reduce all of those people down to just two categories.

And the two categories are:

1. The people with massive, grotesque tufts of fur poking out of their nostrils, and
2. The people who have at least one Led Zeppelin poster on their bedroom wall.

Those are the two categories of people in the world.

If those two categories don’t sound familiar to you, it may be because you aren’t very observant, or you’ve not done much heavy thinking about The Human Condition.

Or (and this is a possibility that, as philosophers, we must always be prepared to consider) it may be that something is wrong with the system of categories we’ve set forth.

Not that this last one is very likely — The Blogger wouldn’t have put something on his blog if it weren’t true — but we ought to explore it, y’know, just so as to be sure we’ve covered all the bases.

So: If there should happen to be something wrong with our two categories, what might that something be?


 

The Good Reader:  Where to start. I literally do not know where to start.

The Blogger:  An inauspicious beginning, The Good Reader! You’re going to have to do better than that.

The Good Reader:  [mumbles something that sounds as if it might be awfully un-ladylike, but we can’t tell for sure]

The Blogger:  What was that?

The Good Reader:  Wienerschnitzel.

The Blogger:  Excuse me?

The Good Reader:  I said “wienerschnitzel.” It’s an innocent enough word, but i find it convenient for blowing off steam.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  If i may step in at this moment, i think The Good Reader should be commended for her display of self-control.

The Good Reader:  THANK YOU.

The Blogger:  What in the world are YOU doing here, Wu? I wasn’t expecting you to show up on this post!

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, the topic was so interesting, i could hardly stay away!

The Good Reader:  And who is this courteous gentleman?

The Blogger:  What, you two haven’t met before?*  The Good Reader, this is Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major. Elvis, this is The Good Reader. She reads my blog and then dials in to deliver her (often tart) opinions.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The pleasure is entirely mine.

The Good Reader:  [blushing]

The Blogger:  So, Elvis, what makes you think this topic is so interesting?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, for one thing, it’s an area in which false dilemmas tend to thrive. And hunting down false dilemmas is one of my chief recreations.

The Good Reader:  What’s a false dilemma? The Blogger has probably tried to explain it to me at some point, but his explanations are murky and confusing.

The Blogger:  [reddening]  Well, now, i say, that’s just not —

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  A false dilemma is a situation where the person you’re talking to sets up two options as if they were the only two possibilities, and expects you to pick between them. Very often, they will make one of the options sound stupid or wrong, so that you will feel that you have to choose the other one. In reality, though, there may be other possibilities that have not been mentioned.

The Good Reader:  That makes sense! What’s an example?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, a great example would be the one that the Blogger led off with. He said that there are two categories of people in the world:

1. The people with massive, grotesque tufts of fur poking out of their nostrils, and
2. The people who have at least one led Zeppelin poster on their bedroom wall.

Now, it is entirely possible that those two categories do not cover the territory. There may be other kinds of people — many other kinds — and large numbers of people who do not fit into either of those groups. It’s a false dilemma.

The Good Reader:  Take me, for instance. I don’t particularly care about Led Zeppelin, and i don’t think i could even name one of their songs —

The Blogger:  [still bruised from The Good Reader’s comment a minute ago]  “Stairway to Heaven.” Everyone’s heard of that.

The Good Reader:  Okay, fine, but i certainly don’t have any Led Zeppelin posters on my walls. What are we, still in college?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Very good. And what about the other category?

The Good Reader:  Grotesque tufts of fur sticking out of my nostrils? I don’t THINK so. But you would be a better judge of that, from where you’re standing.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Not a bushy thicket of nose-hair anywhere to be seen.

The Blogger:  [sulking]  You two are interpreting my categories extremely literally.

The Good Reader:  Mister Wu, would you say that i have any figurative or metaphorical tufts of nose-hair?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Even in the realm of metaphor, i would say that you are blissfully nostril-hair-free. The fact is, those two categories are not even remotely parallel; they aren’t about the same kinds of things, and so they don’t divide the field of possibilities in any kind of sensible way. A person could, for instance, have a nose-hair problem and walls papered with Led Zeppelin posters. Or they could be in just one or the other of those categories, or, like most people, they could be in neither one.

The Blogger:  [rapidly losing patience]  We should maybe get back to the point, which is that there are numerous ways of dividing the human race up into two groups.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Absolutely! Perhaps an inexhaustible variety of ways. For instance, at a pretty basic level, there are (1) men and (2) women. There we have a set of two categories that divide the field pretty cleanly. Another scheme would be (1) people who are 5’6″ or taller, and (2) those who are shorter than that. Or (1) people who have traveled outside of their home country, and (2) those who have not. Or (1) people who are named “Taylor” and (2) those who are named something else.

The Blogger:  Or (1) the people who eat Corn Flakes at least three mornings a week, and (2) those who only eat them a couple of times per week.

The Good Reader:  What? That doesn’t sound right.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  I suspect, although i cannot be sure, that the Blogger is messing with us. He is challenging our powers of logical analysis.

The Blogger:  [slightly disoriented]  Um, exactly. That’s just what i was doing.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  What would you say, Good Reader, about the Blogger’s ‘Corn Flakes’ breakdown of people into two groups?

The Good Reader:  Well, i mean, it sounds like one of those false dilemmas you were talking about. I don’t think those two categories exhaust all the possibilities. What if someone never eats Corn Flakes at all? Or only a few times a year?

The Blogger:  Unthinkable!

The Good Reader:  How do those people fit into his categories? According to the Blogger’s setup, those people don’t even exist. But i have to say, i’ve only eaten Corn Flakes a few times in my life, and i don’t remember finding it a thrilling experience.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  They taste kind of like little chips of soggy cardboard, don’t they.

The Good Reader:  That’s exactly what they remind me of!

The Blogger:  What.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  In order to work properly, a categorization scheme needs to be complete; it can’t have gaps in it. We could say this, for instance: everyone on earth either (1) has tried Corn Flakes at some point, or (2) has not.

The Good Reader:  That seems to work. It doesn’t have any holes. It covers the territory, like you said earlier. Everyone in the world would have to fit into one of those two groups. No one would be left out.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  If we imagine all the human beings inside a vast circle, and we want to structure them into two groups, it would be like drawing a line from one side of the circle to the other. Everyone in the circle would be on one side of the line or the other —  they would be in one category of the other.

The Good Reader:  Why don’t you guys come up with a bunch more examples. Just for yuks. I think i’m getting the hang of this.

The Blogger:  Okay. Everyone on earth is either (1) a Patriots fan, or…

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Don’t say it.

The Good Reader:  What?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  [to The Good Reader]  He was going to say, “An Eagles fan.” But lots of people didn’t have a dog in that fight, as it were. Not everyone watches the Super Bowl, and not everyone cares who wins, and even of those who did watch this past Super Bowl, not everyone who was pulling for either the Patriots or the Eagles would have said that that was their favorite team. Maybe their favorite team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, and they had to settle for a team they weren’t completely thrilled about.

The Good Reader:  So it would not be accurate to say that everyone is either a Patriots fan or an Eagles fan, but maybe you could say that everyone either (1) cares about football, or (2) doesn’t?

The Blogger:  Hrmmff. That would work.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  It would indeed. You can always get away with saying that everyone either has a certain attribute, or they do not. That’s a clean, perfect division. For instance, everyone is either an accountant, or something else. Everyone either has smoked a cigar at some point, or they have not. To put it in somewhat Aristotelian terms, everyone is either ‘A’ or ‘not-A.’ They either have a certain characteristic, or they do not.

The Blogger:  Either they fit into a certain category, or they do not, in which case they fit into the category of people who do not fit into the first category.

The Good Reader:  Um.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  [laughing]  That was actually a pretty good way of putting it. Take Fred, for instance.

The Good Reader:  Fred? Who’s Fred?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  He’s some hypothetical guy that we just made up. Now, Fred is either a barber, or he is not. Right? He can’t be both a barber and not a barber. That’s a logical impossibility. You can’t be something and, at the same time, not be that thing. And he can’t be neither a barber nor not a barber. There are only two possibilities: either he’s a barber, or he ain’t.

The Good Reader:  He could be a part-time barber.

The Blogger:  Then he’s a barber.

The Good Reader:  He… could be a guy who was once a barber, but now he works for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Then he’s not a barber.

The Good Reader:  He could be a barber sometimes, and not a barber sometimes.

The Blogger:  Then he’s a barber. Unless you’re saying that he fades in and out of existence. He’s a barber sometimes, and at other times he gets sucked into the insubstantial ether of the vast cosmic void.

The Good Reader:  Um, no.

The Blogger:  Good. Because that would complicate things somewhat. He’s a barber.

The Good Reader:  Hmmm. Okay. what are some other examples?

The Blogger:  Everyone either makes $40,000 or more dollars, or they make less than that.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Everyone either thinks that Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was the greatest album of the 1970s, or they do not.

The Blogger:  Everyone either has an authentic Wish You Were Here concert tour shirt, or they do not.

The Good Reader:  Wait. That first category has got to be a tiny one. Is that fair? What if one category is WAAAAYYY bigger than the other? Is that a good way of dividing the human race up into groups?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  There’s no rule that says the two groups have to be equal in size. We could say, for instance, “There are two groups of people in the world: (1) those who are currently the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and (2) those who are not.”

The Good Reader:  But there would only be one person in that first group. And like seven billion in the other group!

The Blogger:  Mmm-hmm.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  That’s the point. It’s still a perfectly valid way of divvying up the human race.

The Good Reader:  Okay. Whew! A few more examples, and then i’m out.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have read David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, and those who have not.

The Blogger:  The people who live in a certain remote village in Botswana, Africa, and the people who live somewhere else.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have ever, at some time, even once, been picked first for a team in gym class… and those who never have.

[All three look kind of sad, and the conversation continues.]

The Blogger:  The people who have tried that broccoli slaw they’ve got at the deli counter at The Fresh Market, and those who haven’t.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who own a pet that can talk and weighs less than ten pounds, and those who do not.

The Blogger:  The people who have ever gone trick-or-treating dressed as Conan O’Brien’s haircut, and those who never have.

The Good Reader:  You mean, dressed as Conan O’Brien, complete with the haircut?

The Blogger:  No, i mean they are going as Conan O’Brien’s haircut. The haircut, specifically. “And what’s your costume?” someone might ask them, and they would reply, “I’m Conan O’Brien’s haircut.”

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have watched that episode of House, M.D. in which Dr. House has himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and those who somehow missed that one.

The Blogger:  Man, that was a hard-hitting episode.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Yeah, it really caught me right here.  [He indicates the middle of his chest.]

The Blogger:  The people who have something hanging from their rear-view mirror, and those who do not.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Ah, but that’s assuming that everyone has a car.

The Blogger:  No, the people who don’t have a car go in the category of people who don’t have something hanging from their rear-view mirror.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Touche! Nice one. Good game.

 

* Actually, if you’ve been following the blog, you’re aware that Elvis Wu and The Good Reader have met before, once, at a Christmas party the Blogger threw for some of the people he populates his blog with. But you know how these fictional online characters can be: selective amnesia, not very good with faces and names, that sort of thing.

 

In Which the Blogger Learns that a Photographer Is Not the Same Thing as “Being Stupid.”

Let’s just be honest. Odd things happen, from time to time, on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Odd things happen routinely on this blog. In fact, i think it’s safe to say that if something is found on this blog, it is by definition an odd thing.

The Blogger:  [being all sly and stuff]  Ah! But, The Good Reader, YOU are a regular on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Hrrmmmff.  [disappears in a puff of virtual smoke]

As we were observing a moment ago, it is not unusual for unusual things to happen on this blog. Usually. This means that, as a reader of this blog, you must not be surprised no matter WHAT happens. Indeed, the good reader will quickly discern…

Waittasecond, who are you? YOU’RE not The Good Reader!

The Photographer:  I don’t know what you mean. I’m an excellent reader!

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant. You see —

The Photographer:  I read all the time. I’ve even been reading your blog lately.

The Blogger:  That’s terrific! But what i —

The Photographer:  I don’t have any trouble reading, and i’m mildly insulted that you would imply that i can’t read.

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant at all! I simply —

The Photographer:  I’ve been doing all of my own reading since i was 26.

The Blogger:  There’s no doubt of that.

The Photographer:  I intended that as a joke. Of course i could read when i was 26. Geez.

The Blogger:  Right. Um. So, okay, here’s what i’m trying to say. The expression ‘The Good Reader’ as used on this blog is how i characterize my readership in general, and sometimes, ahem, one of my regulars in particular.

The Photographer:  Ah! I get it. And i’m not him.

The Blogger:  Her. At least, i think it’s a her. When it comes to the readers of this blog, you can never be 100% sure what you’re dealing with.

The Photographer:  If it helps, i’m a her as well.

The Blogger:  Excellent! And i can see from the script we’re both embedded in, that you’re a photographer.

The Photographer:  What?

The Blogger:  A photographer. Someone who takes pictures.

The Photographer:  I know what a photographer is. I meant, what script are you talking about?

The Blogger:  The script that we’re both embedded in.

The Photographer:  The script that we’re both embedded in…

The Blogger:  The very one.

The Photographer:  Either you’re attempting to be poetic, or your doctor probably needs to change the dosage.

The Blogger:  Heh heh. That was clever. Tell you what: this little discussion of the script is throwing us off the point. Maybe we should leave that to one side for now.

The Photographer:  No argument from me.

The Blogger:  So, Photographer, what brings you to my little blog?

The Photographer:  I thought it looked really interesting. Philosophy and flockbinkers and unicorns and strange conversations and funny quizzes: it’s my kind of entertainment.

The Blogger:  Wow, that’s great! And you’ve been able to keep up?

The Photographer:  Able… huh? Able to keep up?

The Blogger:  You know. You’ve been able to track with us. You’ve understood everything. You haven’t felt left behind.

The Photographer:  I’m a photographer. That’s not the same thing as being stupid.

The Blogger:  Oops. Right. Heh heh. Of course.

The Photographer:  And i’m also an artist. I create abstract images using photographs as raw material.

The Blogger:  That sounds impressive! I imagine that sort of thing must require a certain kind of intelligence.

The Photographer:  Oh my gosh, did you just patronize me in the most appalling way imaginable?

The Good Reader:  Don’t feel too bad. He does that kind of thing to me all the time. All. The. Time.

The Photographer:  Really? And you put up with it?

The Good Reader:  Not exactly. He’s got some battle-wounds. Ask him about it.

The Photographer:  You go, girl! Well, anyway, here’s what my work requires of me, and you, Blogger, can decide whether you think it involves ‘intelligence.’

The Blogger:  Fair enough. Lay it on me.

The Photographer:  I select one or more photographs, not just for content but for texture, line and color, and i create a geometric matrix within which the visual field is structured using the elements of the photo as source material, analyzing the raw content in terms of not just line, color, texture and subject-matter, but also positive and negative spaces, patterns of energy and movement, reconstructed form, and i shape all of that into re-visioned aesthetic structures while trying to, at some level, respect the integrity of the source material.

The Blogger:  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Photographer:  Which, i suppose, makes me a kind of visual philosopher. Maybe.

The Blogger:  [recovering composure]  Jeepers.

The Photographer:  Well, you did want to hear about what i do.

The Blogger:  Yes. Yes, i did, and i am impressed.

The Photographer:  Why thank you.

The Blogger:  I must say, these are uncharted waters, Photographer.

The Good Reader:  I like this one. I hope she sticks around.

The Blogger:  Me too!

The Photographer:  Me too! Oh, wait.

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