Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Snow, Red Bull, Pork Chop, Bad Knee: Only Connect!

There's a difficult and popular BBC quiz show called, "Only Connect," which rewards the team that guesses the connection among several seemingly unrelated elements--fitting as a 21st-century pop-culture coda to the last century which began with a hearty British debate over the doctine of "internal relations," pitting Bertrand Russell against A. N. Whitehead, and a group of neo-Hegelians, who believed that relations among things are internal to the reality of that thing--that the relation "smaller-than" is part of the reality of the moon with respect to the sun, for example. Most would be amazed by the importance of one's answer to such a question.  All the major imponderables of truth, reality, value, history, and meaning seem to hinge on it.

But here I will leave the Big Question itself aside to undertake a brief writing exercise for this new blog (though noting that my Marxist view of history is unthinkable without adherence to some version of the theory of internal relations, as do most of the key tenets of contemporary astrophysics.)  (Maybe.)

My less ambitious goal here is to write about my day from yesterday afternoon to today in a manner that I used as armature for my lectures in front of philosophy classes and film seminars over 2-3 decades: free association.  I hasten to add that when a human mind is involved, there are no "free" associations--indeed a computer requires a mathematically careful program to generate any truly random series.  I relied on a version of Freud's powerful theory of the unconscious motivations of any "spontaneous" association to provide a structuring invisible hand to give form to my stand-up classroom performances. Down that road lies the entire history of surrealism!  And the comedy of Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams. And jazz improvisation.  Finally,... most artistic creation.

You may have noticed that it is too damned cold.  Winter has come to extract its tax against the best Maine summers.  Snow, ice, and single digit temperatures are readily available.  Three days ago on my morning walk, while stepping over a wide spot of ice on an uneven section of sidewalk, I felt something give in my left knee--just a brief unexpected displacement, followed by a few limping steps before continuing my walk.  That night I was awakened by sharp pain in that knee, and since then, I have had to limit my mobility, and reacquaint myself with ice packs, Nsaid medications, and new ways to descend our stairs.  Also a few blasphemous invocations.  Finding myself less mobile and in need of icing, I settled myself at the computer for yesterday's afternoon. One can only read so much about The Donald, so boredom led me to have a look back at the long-abandoned blog, Exocentrist, that used up my winter 3 years ago.  I thought I might update the software version of Word Press, the database, and the various widgets and extensions that populated several hundred computer screens with my
digital expostulations.  Software updates being what they are, one button-click delivered the message, "Fatal Error: Call to undefined function get_taxonomies_for_attachments()..."  My access to the command center dashboard had been dashed, putting a full stop to my vague plan to update and reanimate the blog.  You see where this is leading.  A couple hours later I had decided to start a new blog with different software (Blogger, rather than Word Press, since F., ma femme, had used it to make a blog for her class last week, and the results were impressive).

So blame the snow for this sequel, Exocentrist2.

Could have gone so many other ways.  Could be trying to write poetry after recalling Frost's snowy classic. Could have tracked down old photos of ski trips decades ago to wonder again why people enjoy X-country slogs in the woods, when the exhilaration of whooshing descents in France, Vermont, Colorado, or California still exists for those with legs (knees) not approaching 80 years in age. Could have started planning in earnest for our move to Delray Beach,  or Sarasota, Florida.  Could have scuttled my no-alcohol resolve of last May to seek out a good bottle of cognac or armagnac to toast the pleasures of a long afternoon in bed with the latest by Knausgaard or an old familiar E. B. White collection. Instead, I spent the afternoon typing English into rectangular boxes and clicking on links to connect up the innumerable zeros and ones of someone else's programming idea of a good way to spend a snowy afternoon.  Why, o why, did s/he offer such lousy layout and background options?  Such limits on options? Such invitations to Spam and toxic commentary?

Today, I resumed my Drunkard's Walk decision procedures:  oatmeal for breakfast, because COLD, and I grew up eating Quaker Oats every morning for about 30 years.  F. off to teach.  Realized we needed coffee and such, and decided to go to get groceries, thinking about oats, which led me to choose a packet of thin-cut pork-chops of the sort that my grandma always made in Oklahoma.  While thinking of that I passed a box of Gluten-Free Bisquik!  So long since I've had biscuits--best were at Grandma's house before my wheat sensitivity years.  Yum.  Oh, we're out of shortening.  I'd heard of Red Bull (just passing it there on the high shelf). What is it?  Decided to try it since a little extra caffeine might perk up my cold day indoors?  No wine.  Lunch time: why not just throw a chop into a skillet. Better pick up some apple sauce.  Grandma was 5' 9," thin as a rail, and in her 80s, after 7-8 kids, still driving well past any Oklahoma speed limit, while cackling and complaining to my 5' 5" ox-like grandpa, a blacksmith, then welder for the town's wealthy founder and big time philanthropist boss.  Kicked by horses.  Gimpy from that--and falls off houses. They hated snow, but pork chops, biscuits, and white gravy kept them their idea of healthy.  Never a drop of alcohol.  Jesus 24 hours a day.  Racist to the core. No blogs. Would they have voted for Trump? Did his knee always hurt in the night?  Grandma once told me that she worked in the garden every afternoon, since Charley always wanted her to come in and rub his leg.  "I knew what THAT meant!  Pretended I couldn't hear him."...

Time to ice my knee.  What ever happened to that anvil in grandpa's basement? My other grandpa was born in 1860, I think, before the Civil War.  He was an itinerant preacher and farmer out of Tennessee, and in Oklahoma while it was Indian Territory.  Could barely read the Bible. Did he preach by free association? Dad only finished 8th grade.  They'd all say, "What's a blog?"  "What's a computer?"  "Pass the pork chops."   Better go find some Crisco. Butter?  We don't have grandma's coffee can of bacon grease.  When mom told her I had finished my Ph.D., she wrote me to ask for advice about her roses.  Over fifty years ago, and the only letter I ever got from her.  Please pass the pork chops.