Category Archives: Social comment

Medieval mentalities

When you think of the Middle Ages, you think of a wholelottaignorant, right? Loopy folk beliefs, slavish acceptance of draconian religious programming, a profound lack of empathy for most other people (especially those different from one), squalor fairly easily alleviated but not being a priority.

Although I must say that at the recent Society for Creative Anachronism event my friends Rebekah and Forrest took me to, they seem to have left out all of the above.  Anyway, consider this dominant reality before you judge your medieval ancestor’s mindset with too much disdain:

They knew nothing was going to get better.

I was walking through my house today, thinking about the stiff knee that results from (what I believe to be) botched cartilage surgery.  Avascular knee cartilage will not regrow, of course.  That which was removed no longer acts as a pad for the weight of my thigh and upper body.  What remains, taking more stress, will deteriorate further.  My knee will never be the same again, and all because for once I finally attempted to evade a pitch rather than let it hit me.  And I thought, well, maybe they’ll invent artificial knee cartilage by the time I need it.

“Maybe by the time I get that old, there’ll be something better.”  The exact form of hope that peasant LeBlanc, tilling his fields in medieval Anjou, did not have.  Could never have–not if sane.  What reason had he to imagine his sore knee would be ameliorated by a new invention? He had never seen a new invention.  He had seen new proclamations from the clergy, the nobility, the merchants.  In nearly every case they were bad news for him:  you are going to hell, you must produce more grain, you must pay more interest.  Unless you imagine that anyone ever told him:  “You get to go to heaven, you are allowed to produce less crops for me now, and we’ll lend to you without charging interest this time.”

His knee hurt, it would continue to hurt, and nothing would be invented to fix it.

My knee hurts, and not only do I hope something will be invented for it, I am not insane to imagine that it may be.  As a child, games were things played on a board with tokens and dice and spinners.  Today’s child (who when I was his or her age, I marveled at Pong) plays a realistic and immersive game of army combat.  With Koreans.  Who are currently in Korea, not in his living room.  Also an Australian guy and some gal from Norway.

I saw this change.  It is more scientific to tell myself things are possible than impossible, all considered.

You probably feel the same way too, especially if you are in your forties and hoping they’ll fix all the elderly ailments before you get them.  (They intercepted polio at the pass, did they not?)

Now imagine your life, your entire life, with no such rational hope.


Amazon’s little game

Do you buy used books through Amazon? I do, though I’m seriously considering ending that practice.  If you’re anything like me, you have absorbed the following salient facts:

  • Any used book costs a minimum of $3.99 for shipping.
  • Often that’s the entire cost, with the book selling for $0.01.
  • If you make an order of any size at all, Amazon gives you free shipping.

Perceptive readers with business sense, and at least a little bit of avarice, have just done the mental math.  Okay.  So if I’m Amazon, here’s my game.  I’ll set up my system to adjust my price to $3.98 above whatever the best independent bookseller deal is.  And if they buy from the bookseller in spite of my undercut, since I take most of the profit anyway, I can’t lose.

The reason this offends me is that it is so scientifically designed to hose the little guy or gal, the independent bookseller in Waverly, KS who keeps a local retail store going by using the business as a net-order warehouse with retail capability.  It’s not malice, just scientific greed, and I see through it.

What I have taken to doing, when I do buy used books from Amazon, is easy and inexpensive.  Buy it from the little guy or gal anyway, for the extra $0.02 or $0.50 or $2.00.  It would be great if others did so also.

Spring beauty

Spring really is glorious.  I started taking more time to appreciate it one day when I realized that someday I would see my last spring, and I doubted that on that day, I would say to myself:  “Self, one of your regrets should be all the time you wasted appreciating warm sunlight, gentle breezes, lilacs, roses, quail families, doves, freshly mown grass, cherry blossoms, apple blossoms and so on.  You should have spent more time staring at computers and berating corporations.”

So if you are getting a spring, I suggest luxuriating.  There really is something to that.  And it is all too transitory, and you will see only so many springs in your days here.

M*A*S*H Iraq

How long will it take for us to see this show? It took nineteen years from the Korean armistice to the M*A*S*H premiere.  (Hogan’s Heroes took twenty, which reinforces the evidently unofficial timeline.)   With Hollywood doing more recycling (of ideas, since it has no new ones) these days than your typical granola Oregonian, it is just a matter of time.

If it’s the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the necessary time has elapsed, yet the problem there is you have months of buildup followed by about three minutes of blowing the other side to hell followed by a decade of periodic bombing–difficult to structure a show around, unlike Korea, a war whose stalemates, steady casualties and periodic cease-fires made actual dating of events in the show rather nebulous. We are, of course, well overdue for a Vietnam sitcom.  My guess is that the networks are too chicken there.  I think they don’t give Vietnam vets enough credit.  They have had, after all, thirty-five years to think about it.  Who thinks they have not done some processing?

If it’s the 2003-2009 Gulf War/occupation, of course, the necessary 19 years for society to accept comedy mixed with its tragedy have barely gotten a start.

The decline of message boards

While I do not think they will just go away, I think they are fading overall.  It came to me today while reading a post I thought was fairly misguided, though not offensive.  For whatever reason, I posted that the poster was missing the point.  He of course challenged me to prove my point.  I thought about it, and then I thought:  Why would I care? I don’t care to make him agree or see it my way, and I don’t care what he thinks especially to begin with, and I don’t care if anyone else on the board looks down on me because I didn’t engage him.  I simply do not care.  So I just told him it wasn’t worth my time, and left it at that.

It’s not that he was stupid, or that it wasn’t a debatable point.  It was that the whole message board environment simply has worn down my ability to care what he or anyone else says there.  And I am wondering if others sort of passed through a message board phase and lost general interest in them, as I have.  In many ways, Facepalm walls and posts and comment threads seem to have taken over, and often with even greater idiocy, though at least some greater need for circumspection how one points it out.  One never wants to hear from a liked friend, “Uh, that’s my brother-in-law, and while I agree he’s a fairly dim bulb, I’m not having fun reading you sending his BP into triple digits over triple digits.”  Or worse:  “I’m sorry about my brother-in-law.  He wasn’t always this way.  He got caught in an IED blast and has never recovered.  Before that, though, he won the Silver Star, and was the best Little League coach ever.”

Anyway.  Am I the only one out there who nowadays only bothers with message boards when he has a specific question for a specific group/subject, asks it, thanks them for the answer and then vanishes for two years?

Business accountability

Why do we hold mom & pop businesses more accountable than Dow 30 corporations? If a local mom & pop sent us deceptive advertising personally created for us, we’d be outraged.  Yet a major corporation may do the same, impersonally, to millions–and people just accept that as normal.

How are mom & pop more culpable? Or, for that matter, why are the largest companies not culpable at all? If mom & pop don’t return our call, they get a black mark.  If the largest companies don’t return our call, it’s “what did you expect?” If mom & pop said, “sorry, that’s our policy,” we’d hold a stupid policy against them.  If a huge company has a stupid policy, we accept that same answer in ovine fashion.