I like the phrase, "a pig in a poke," partly because of the image it brings up (a poke is a bag or sack: it's dropped from the language, but we still use the diminutive, "pocket"). So, you're buying a wriggling sack, but the piglet is only assumed: the phrase itself refers to someone buying something sight unseen.
Why does this phrase enter the language? Because sometimes people would take advantage of others, and place another animal of dubious economic value in it's place: the cat. (I stress "economic value" for the cat-lovers among my readers, because I'm also fond of cats. But you can't eat 'em). So, buying a "pig in a poke" is to take a risk on something sight unseen.
One reason I find this particularly interesting is that this is also the origin of another phrase: "let the cat out of the bag." (How often was this going on, anyway? Were there lots of gullible people routinely buying piglets in sacks?) You've given away the secret: it isn't really a pig at all. The cat runs away, and you're left holding the bag.
Actually, that's a phrase that's been running through my head lately, but it seems to have a different origin. They can't all be about buying piglets, after all.
You'd think the gap since I last posted would mean that I'd have something really good today. Sorry.


The end: introduction

I suppose some sort of explanation is due here.
Anyone familiar with Plato will see a similarity between his metaphysics and the metaphysics of Christianity, popularly interpreted. For instance, we live in a place of darkness, but there is also a place of light. There is an individual who is able to bring the news of the light into the darkness, but he is killed for his efforts. The allegory of the cave is fine as long as you keep in mind that Plato is talking about Socrates, and not Jesus (or Neo). But I like allegories.
The line is another matter. For Plato, "reality" become more real as we ascend the line. Among other things, that means that mathematical formulas are more real than the computer you're reading this on. (There's also the question of whether the Realm of Forms contains an Idea of the Computer, or Cell Phone, etc., but I'll save that for another day.)
Transposed into Christianity, that spells trouble: our bodies and anything having to do with them are evil. Ditto "creation." This is particularly trouble since it's not a Christian idea at all: it's a Gentile idea that wouldn't have occurred to a Jewish carpenter. At least in my copy of the Bible, God sees what has been spoken into being and calls it... hm, it's here somewhere near the front... yes, here it is: "Good."
In terms of understanding the history of Christianity, it's important to have at least some notion of Platonic metaphysics. In terms of understanding Christianity itself... well, that's where the cartoon came from.


Odd, irrelevant postscript

Part of the irritation of working at the Onim
was that Mai was so totally focused on the
hotel industry that she didn't really understand that I was taking a break from school for a year, and that I already had an MA. I wrote my masters thesis on Foucault (as represented in the cartoon), and this was a feeble attempt to re-establish my identity as someone other than a hotel desk clerk. (Not, as George and Jerry say, that there's anything wrong with that.)
A few other loose threads:
I was a Pi Kappa Phi, and left the fraternity in a snit in the middle of my senior year. (Among other things: they weren't as much fun when I wasn't drinking)
When I joined, it was just a few guys who wouldn't really fit into the other fraternities on campus, but by my senior year it was starting to look just like all the rest (which I had not even bothered to rush). There was a rather pointless argument about the true function of the annual ski-trip, and finally some dissension about whether we should change the fraternity constitution. I was actually initiated (contrary to some of the hate mail I recieved, along with Stu Dabbs), and never formally withdrew: technically I still belong, and they still ask for money.
As for the Spin Doctors, I guess I was implying that they were are one-song band... and yet they're still around. Who knew?
(I hope this post lived up to its title.)

End of the Onim... off to seminary!

If we're posting lyrics today, here's my contribution (and, given my comments about eighties music, I hope you're not disappointed that it's not the Bangles):

Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please
He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger he shoot coca-cola
He say "I know you, you know me"
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together right now over me
He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
Come together right now over me
He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say "One and one and one is three"
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Come together right now over me

I'm tempted to reopen the "who is your favorite Beatle" debate (personally, I'm torn between John and George), but I'm more intrigued by the tatooed fellow showing off for the girl behind the desk... yo, dude, she's only interested in your tatoos! Who knew the library could be such an interesting place!



I've been thinking about a fraternity brother of mine, M*A*S*H, and the Spin Doctors this morning.
Something Gary Burghoff (the actor who played Radar) came to mind, in conjunction with a song... and the fraternity brother. Well, that's a long story involving a ski trip that he never went on. Maybe another day.

At least there's a cartoon!


No Cartoon!

I'm not sure I can come up with anything insightful without a cartoon to distract you from the text... but here goes. A lot is going through my head these days, including Myers-Briggs types, Enneagram numbers, spiritual gifts that we may or may not have (and more importantly, may or may not claim, or have supported). Wondering about a summer job... and when I'll get back to Roanoke. And other mundane things I don't like to think about.

I keep meaning to find my copy of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, since I keep seeing the phrase, "live the questions"; yet part of me wonders if the desire to read is precisely an evasion of those questions.

Several people this morning talked about the gift of writing, a gift which I have been reluctant to claim. However, I have a half-finished essay on Kant and Kierkegaard that I need to finish and submit; the real hold-up is deciding on a suitable venue, since the sort of revisions that need to be made depend on where I submit it. But thats my pattern: I've started something that might be worthwhile, but I can't quite get around to finishing it and submitting it to public scrutiny. (Does this sound more like an INFP or a 5? Explain)

I've also continued to think about the politics of rock & roll as a medium, as well as concrete examples in which the Myers-Briggs Thinker/Feeler split manifests itself in politics. But I'll save that for a later posting, so you can be distracted by a cartoon.

Losing my Religion

I was inspired by Matt to post this cartoon, despite the fact that it's out of order. (If I'm going to post Biblical cartoons, I really should start at the Beginning, right?)
Ezekiel 18 isn't one of my favorite passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, but there's something almost Sartrean about this passage. I'd explain, but that would be pedantic (and we wouldn't want that, would we?).



The concept, "my people," needs clarification.
I think of it in terms of recognition, perhaps even a sense of homecoming. But note: Uncle Jerry is hitting on my girlfriend, Aunt Jeanie is stirring up trouble and trying to create factions and dissent, Cousin Cliff is really, really stoned and seems to have wet himself. These aren't the only people in my family (thank God), but they are also my family. I have disagreements with "my people," but they're certain recognizable types of disagreements.
I've also had the experience of welcoming the stranger, and being the stranger who is welcomed. I've gone to places where I'm happy to sit and chat, liked the people very much, but never felt at home. I can see that I'm part of a much larger community--even brother- and sisterhood--but they aren't really "my people" in that sense.
This is an attempt to see a connection beyond my local group, without watering down the sense of belonging. At the same time, it isn't exclusive: there are circumstances in which I might recognize someone as "my people" who I wouldn't normally identify as such. I guess that's why I keep coming back to recognition, and why I want to stress that it isn't simply liking someone (or some group).
Perhaps someone else can explain it better than I... or, more likely, people will disagree. I welcome your comments.

Shout, shout, let it all out!

A lot of bad music was released during the eighties. Yeah yeah, a lot of bad music gets released all the time: but I don't have to hear most of it over breakfast. At least people weren't trying to rule the world.
I had another insight over the weekend about the perceived liberal/conservative split, and it is much simpler than I had originally thought: it's the Thinker/Feeler split in the Myers-Briggs personality sorter. I'll say more about this later, but it certainly explains a lot.
Oh--do I need to say anything about this cartoon?



Today I'm really, really sleepy. And sneezy. (I'm sure grumpy is nearby, and possibly dopey).
I continue to sit with the conservative/liberal distinction I've suggested, and the more I talk to people the more I realize that I might be picking up on some other trait. Spencer B., for instance (I really can't remember his last name) was a clear example of someone who was politically and religiously conservative who was very much focused on the letter of the law; but is this necessary or contingent?
Perhaps contingent.
We began our discussion of the enneagram today with the observation that any attempt to categorize people is always a bit messy; and yet, since there are some clear connections between types of people, we continue to be drawn towards sorting them out. I'll keep thinking about this distinction, though.


More of the same

To continue our tedious story: Jill took a job with the other nice hotel in town (actually much, much nicer, but the only real competition), and I think that Mai was worried that I would follow. Of course, I absolutely hated the work. (If you're confused, remember that I'm a 5 on the enneagram.) Stephanie went to work for a store nearby that sold oriental rugs and such, but she liked people. I got a job filing: completely anonymous, very boring, but absolutely safe.

More later!


Still not over

In the movie Constantine, the title character flips off Lucifer at the very end of the movie, which some have noted is fairly lame (as if the devil is offended by profanity). I don't really recommend the movie (except, as has been noted, that I like Tilda Swinton--check out The Chronicles of Narnia, even though it isn't really that much better of a movie), but this was an interesting point.
However, there have been several occasions in my life when the relatively mundane takes on new meaning (not quite like flipping of Lucifer, but as close as I care to get). This was one of those times: the addresses had been such an irritating focal point in Mai's nagging that I couldn't resist.
On a vaguely related note, a friend of mine who is an economist had a disagreement about my characterization of liberals and conservatives, noting that (my words, not his) they often act with short-sighted idealism. I think this is true and unfortunate; but not really my point. I hate to dig too deeply into actual issues on this trivial little cartoon-posting ground, but here's one example: needle-exchange programs. Should people be using drugs? No. Should people be sharing needles? No. I don't think there's much disagreement on this: even many libertarians tend to draw a line at needle-drugs (not all, of course). How should we proceed? We can either let disease spread, because after all it's illegal in the first place (the conservative response), or we can try to help people struggling with addiction. The second seems like the compassionate response. I know there are problems involved, but punishing people (i.e., letting them share infected needles) further seems unnecessarily callous. By all means, shut down the drug trade (heroin is more available now that we've ousted the Taliban, but that's another story); but the users suffer enough.
I don't want to focus on that particular example so much as the pattern in the differences between the liberal and conservative response, and not just in terms of politics.


I'm almost done with this story; then back to your regularly scheduled programming (that is, more snarky cartoons).

So Stephanie quit, then Jill quit on Stephanie's last day, and on Jill's last day I gave my two weeks notice. I didn't really plan for that to happen--we didn't conspire to all quit at once--but I did schedule a trip right after my last day, so I wasn't as flexible as I might have been. I did feel bad about it, though. Mai fixed that, though.


Just aggressive

And then I moved from exhibiting passive-aggressive to just being aggressive. Well, not really: can you imagine?

It looks like it is another gray day here, although it's warmed up a bit since yesterday. I think I probably need more coffee before my day gets going.

A funny thing happened...

We didn't conspire about quitting, but the three main desk clerks--Jill, Stephanie and I--all quit in rapid succession. Stephanie quit first, and on her last day Jill gave her two-weeks notice.
We were left with Pam, a particularly unpleasant woman who had been working as the night audit. Although it was never proven, it seemed that Pam stole some money out of my drawer; I don't remember the details, but she was the only one with access.



I won't rehash the circumstances behind this cartoon. However, I've recently made the acquaintance of a young woman who bears an unfortunate resemblance to Mai. This may mean that fewer cartoons get drawn over the next two weeks, at least featuring Mai.

On a completely different note, I should have more fan art in the near future.

The weather is cold--relative to the season--and dreary today, but I may have gotten a job today, which would be a good thing.

Vous gagnez!

What a week. Glad to be back.
Aren't you?


The phone

Again with the rule-following.
I was reminded this morning of a time, long long ago: I was playing clarinet, sitting between two girls (I was about to call them "young women," but really, they were maybe 15 or 16, and I couldn't have been older than 17 myself at the time). I hit a wrong note, and both of them turned towards me. The funny thing is, of course, that they weren't playing any more, so they missed a lot more than just one note, but their desire to point out my mistake was apparently more important than actually playing.
Charles Bolton, the band director used to say, "I'd rather hear the wrong note than not hear the right one." I always liked him.
Anyway, besides a Monday trip down memory lane, it struck me that Mai was just like one of these girls: just waiting for me to mess up something and point it out to me. Did she have other work to do? Probably. Did I have something better I could have been doing? Maybe not.
Occassionally, I really did something that I wasn't necessarily supposed to d0--the phone of course was for business purposes only--but was anyone in the lobby at the time? And we had multi-line phones, so I wasn't "tying up" anything either. Some would of course say that I was still breaking the rules, and that the rules need to be enforced. I continue to reply that context is everything: what is the intention behind the rule?


Cinco de Mayo

I'm not feeling very celebratory this morning, even though things ought to be better now.
It occurs to me that my "passive-aggresive hospitality" was never really directed at the customers: even when one fellow who came down and chewed me out for about ten minutes straight for all the problems everyone else had caused him (this was one of the time Mai didn't schedule me to work both the evening and the following morning shifts, so I knew exactly who had caused all the problems), I stood there and took it, just like a good desk clerk should. The bell-captain came up to me afterwards and told me that he--Dan, a really nice guy--would have punched the fellow. I could take the flak from the customers, but that was very draining for me.
Mai, on the other hand, wanted everything to go exactly by the book, regardless of the lived reality of the situation. That drove me nuts: you can either complain that things aren't the way they're supposed to be, or you can deal with the situation as it is. I see that as one primary difference between conservatives and liberals: the conservatives tend to want people to abide by rules and punish them if they don't, whereas the liberals tend to try to deal with the situation as they see it, and make things better. People are using needle drugs: throw them all in jail, or start a needle-exchange program? Gay men (and of course, many, many others) are having unprotected sex, contracting and spreading AIDS: call it God's punishment and counsel abstinence, or distribute condoms and educate people (which might help reduce promiscuity)? There are of course a lot if issues, but this is the basic pattern I see. And when I see it elsewhere--people trying to enforce an idealized version of reality, what Rush calls "The Way Things Ought to Be," and complaining or punishing, rather than adapting and trying to help a situation--I get frustrated.
Of course, I did antagonize Mai a bit. If I knew where she was today, I'd ask for her forgiveness: in my reactivity, I became part of the problem.


You shall know them by their wings...

For a while there was a question whether I was a 5 or a 9 on the Enneagram, but I found some conclusive evidence that I am a 5: the wings. There is no way that I am either an eight--the aggresive type--or a one, the perfectionist.
I'd say more, but I have to leave now. But I'm still skeptical about the value of the Enneagram as a whole, particularly as compared with the Myers-Briggs test.

There is of course a story behind this cartoon, but I think in many respects it speaks for itself.



A few weeks ago I recorded a song that some friends had written; I thought that I would be able to burn it to a CD this morning, but something is wrong and everything sounds fuzzy. (Not the good Guess Who "American Woman" fuzzy, but a very bad, FM radio-with-dying-batteries fuzzy.)
That's disappointing, but I really do have other things I ought to be doing. I'm sure they'll get done... eventually.

Wednesday morning

Things move along. As a new plan comes together, I'm not quite as worried about the unexpected changes.

Today's cartoon is once again based on a true story, although Mai did not in fact have a wagon. Nit-picking and pointing out every instance where something wasn't done exactly correct is not terribly helpful, and ends up undermining morale. Let me again state, the hotel cartoons were drawn approximately thirteen years ago. Still, it obviously left scars.


Collaborative work

I realized belatedly that yesterday's posts may have been a bit too harsh. I'm irritated, but the world certainly isn't coming to an end. This too will pass.

So, to lighten the mood I thought I'd post some more fan art, this one a collaboration. It was pointed out to me that Monkey's version of Mr. Miro don't have noses. Like Hebrew texts, this cartoon needs to be read from right to left: the large Miro poses the question, answers his own question, then the smaller Miro responds ("I don't," i.e., I don't smell), and then the duck (or pigeon, I'm not sure which) sprays deodorant onto the smaller Miro.

Now, what could be funnier than a pigeon (or possibly a duck) spraying deodorant on a Miro with no nose?

Another day, another 28 cents.

Some days, I'm not just playing dumb.



I've had a string of bad Aprils for the past seven years, and I thought I was getting through this one fairly easy... but no. I'm a fan of T.S. Eliot (like having the soul of Sinatra, this may be a liability), so it almost seems inevitable that this April would be bad. In any case, here's the beginning of The Wasteland (1922):

APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

I don't know the nature of other people's problems; but I've given you a reference in English, and I haven't made your salvation dependent on knowing it. Still, it seems that it really might be time to go into the basement and deal with my "nasty crap," quite literally.

In other news, prayer may be bad for other people's health. That's a shame, although I do wonder about how they tracked outcomes: even the article linked (which is commentary on the study, not the study itself) suggested that God might have different ideas of what constitutes a "good outcome." In the healing circle I've attended, we've always asked for wholeness, knowing that "healing" doesn't always mean getting better.
I guess that isn't too different from where I started: the past few Aprils have had some fairly horrible surprises, and the answer usually wasn't for things to go back to the way they had been.
Tillich suggested that there were only two coherent approaches to the world: as a Stoic or as a Christian. The difference, if I recall correctly, lies in Hope: the Stoic sees the wisdom in keeping Hope hidden in the bottom of Pandora's box, whereas the Christian of course thinks Hope is a good thing.
So, let's see what this new month brings.


There are times when people do things you don't understand, and they don't seem to understand the impact they're having on you. Or they don't care.
There are some things--such as being able to use a cash drawer at a desk with a limited number of drawers--that you'd think were obvious. There's an agreement, sometimes implicit and sometimes explicit, with regard to behavior that can be expected, and we make plans according to those expectations.

Now, a lot of my friends say that "expectations are pre-planned resentments." Fair enough: the less I expect of you, the less chance I have of being irritated. But if you simply announce that you're going to Washington with no warning or sense that your plans can be changed, I can't help but take it personally. Now I've got to rearrange my life around you.
Have fun in Washington.