“A C?!” Alvin shouted. “He gave me a C?”
“I’m sorry,” Rika said as she sat next to him in his room, both looking at the email regarding his Civil War essay.
Alvin began reading the comments that accompanied it. “’While your approach is colorful, your perspective is skewed. You seem to miss the primary point. Also, your desire to allot space and text to absurdity rather than to significant issues, does a disservice to the reader who is looking for a clearer understanding of this extraordinary event in the nation’s history. It might serve you well to reconsider your ultimate scholastic pursuit and give thought to a change of direction. I might suggest short fiction and a move into the university’s journalism school. Keep in mind, however, I’m a moronic boob who has achieved their present status by being compliant and dull of mind.’”
“What!” Rika got closer to the screen, looked, then stood back up. “He didn’t say that.”
“He didn’t have to.”
“Well, I liked your essay, if it makes you feel better.”
“Thanks. It does.”
Note to the Mother Ship
America is a very tense place. On a scale from one to ten with ten being very tense, I’d give it an eleven. I think one of the reasons it’s so tense is because Americans have a tendency to believe things that aren’t actually true. Kind of like the ancient Romans. The tension then gets heightened by an insistence that everybody else believe the same untrue things that you do. This causes a lot of problems. I think another reason for this considerable degree of tension is because there’s no trains here. Europe has trains, passenger trains, and those countries are fairly calm by comparison. I took a train once, on Amtrak. It was very calming. It took me forever to get where I was going, but I didn’t care. The food and the porter service were the absolute pits but everything else was nice—like looking out the window. I hate airplanes. So does everyone else. Airplanes and humidity are the leading causes of irritability. America is desperately in need of more trains.
America used to be referred to as a “melting pot.” They taught little kids this in school. Now, I don’t know what a melting pot actually is, so don’t ask me to explain it. I’m not sure if it’s a pot that’s melting and caving in on itself or a pot you put things in and melt them. It’s probably the latter, though, I’ve never actually seen anything in a store called a “melting pot.” So, I think it’s just any pot, technically. Though, I don’t know what group of things you would put it in. I imagine really soft things, like butter and cheese, wax, snowballs. I don’t know what the final product is supposed to be. But either way, the idea is a thing or group of things all melting together and becoming one. Now however, they teach little children that America is a “salad bowl.” Everything in the salad bowl is of an independent nature, existing in the bowl in its own space, part of the overall whole but maintaining its own sense of individuality, and then the salad bowl is set out in front of a bunch of goats who eat it. I think that’s the idea anyway.
Note to the Mother Ship
There’s an expression here that says “People believe what they want to believe.” I thought that was supposed to be suggestive or figurative, but it’s actually literal. Now, putting Albert Einstein aside, he having developed the theory of cosmic repulsion and that his cat was wearing his underwear when he wasn’t home, only to eventually admit that he was wrong, humans as a rule never admit when they’re wrong. Firstly, I find that humans generally come to their conclusions about any subject without being fettered by facts (pictures devoid of context, though, are real thought provokers. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This is true. It’s usually all the wrong words, but it’s still probably a thousand nonetheless). That aside, assuming you’re the human, once you believe strongly in something, it then becomes necessary to deflect any evidence contrary to your opinion. You start with a small angle, but then as time goes on, and you have to deflect one concept of reality after another so as to maintain your belief in the original premise, the distance between the tips of the two rays of the angle that have been traveling apart from each other for considerable time, don’t even occupy the same dimension. This leads one, for example, to believing they don’t live on the Earth, but rather inside it. Sure. Why not?
I think most humans have a frightfully difficult time seeing anything as it really is, and instead see it as either what they want it to be, or what the majority of society tells them what to see it to be. While majority opinion tends to outweigh personal fantasy, both tend to lead one astray, usually to the additional detriment of some other third party. In short, I think animals have the ability for independent and discerning thought; humans not so much.
That said, I was watching a documentary about Australia just recently. This is a continent that is like a giant piece of toast. It’s possible to live and be joyful and bountiful on the crust but everything inside the crust is a wasteland that will kill you. Unless you’re a sheep. Sheep seem to do okay for some reason. And everybody who lives there—in Australia but on the crust—pretty much minds their own business and they don’t start wars and stuff, and they all get along pretty well. But one of the things that poses a continuous threat to them, the crust people, are great white sharks and sea crocodiles. These things are, in brief, monsters.
In the documentary, and this just following a crocodile having killed one of the local crust inhabitants, a man living in the vicinity of the attack was asked the question, “Do you think crocodiles are evil?”
He didn’t have to give it a whole lot of thought. Reflectively he said, “Well, they do evil things.”
I like this answer. It really cuts to the chase and sums things up nicely.
The Loadstone: Simply Short Issue 21
Simplifyitol: Medication for the Above Average
By Alvin Zaronsky
The following is a paid advertisement.
Hello, I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV. Let me ask you a question:
Do you consider yourself a smart person? Do you have an I.Q. of 110 or higher? If you do, then you most likely understand that life is filled with complexities, shades of gray, and causes and effects that are not apparent to most other people. But while you may not know it, you may also be suffering from Socio Complicosis Miasma, or SCM, a disease affecting four out of ten people with above average intelligence, debilitating them with what we in the medical community more commonly refer to as the inability to see the forest for the trees.
That’s where Simplifyitol comes in. Taken once daily this little pill has been reported to lower I.Q. levels between 10 and 30 points, letting you see things for what they really are. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what others have said:
“My husband used to beat me and the kids. I felt that his upbringing in an impoverished environment coupled with a father who was not present and a mother who worked two jobs and was unable to provide the sufficient amount of love and attention he needed to develop a healthy relationship with a woman and his own children was the reason he took his frustration out on those nearest to him. He drank a lot too, but I knew alcoholism was a disease beyond a normal person’s control, and with the pain that he had experienced in his life, he was simply self-medicating. Because of that I felt an obligation to stay with him and nurture him. But after taking Simplifyitol for two weeks my I.Q. dropped fourteen points all the way down to 96 and I was able to see that he was just kind of an ass. Me and the kids are moving to Seattle. Thanks, Simplifyitol!”
“I’m a public-school teacher. It used to be tough every day to find things that would inspire the kids and encourage them to sit quietly and listen to what I had to say. They could be pretty rowdy and distracted. It was getting stressful and so my doctor recommended Simplifyitol. I’d been taking it for a couple weeks. Then one day, when the class was being quite boisterous and unruly, I remember I said, ‘Shut the hell up! And if you’re not going to shut the hell up then you can get out of my classroom and not come back ever, and not graduate, and be ditch diggers and two-bit stickup men and spend the rest of your life in prison, because I don’t give a rat’s ass!’
“I knew then that the Simplifyitol was kicking in. And funny enough, I never had any problems with the kids after that either. I think they were frightened actually. And that made my life so much easier since I no longer felt the need to come up with inspiring things, which was kind of exhausting. Thanks, Simplifyitol.”
“I’ve been a corporate consultant for the last seven years. I’ve travelled all over the country giving seminars called Increasing Employee Productivity Through Person Acknowledgement. Between those seminars and selling my books and instructional CD’s, I was making a six-figure income. But something was missing. I just wasn’t happy. Maybe it was all the travel and so much time away from my family. I told a friend and she suggested Simplifyitol. Several weeks went by and my feelings really hadn’t changed. Then one day I put on one of my CD’s and heard myself saying,
‘To enable an employee to be more productive it’s necessary that you listen for the content in their opinion and listen for the implied relationship that signifies whether or not they’re receiving the appropriate input that enables them to voluntarily provide the level of productivity you desire while simultaneously giving them access to a reward system which in turn promotes continued reciprocal impetus.’
“I was drinking a glass of Chablis at the same time as listening to this and it almost came through my nose. Wow, what a gas bag. Is that really me? And this CD set is sixteen-hours long. Yikes. Now when I get emails or phone calls from companies asking to set up a seminar, I just respond by telling them to allow their employees some measure of autonomy and treat them with the same degree of respect that they would want in return. Then I send them a bill for $4,000. It’s been a huge time saver. And my family loves having me at home again. And I’m still making a six-figure income. And I’m not selling snake oil to corporate sheep, so I sleep better at night, too, mainly because I don’t have those weird dreams anymore where I’m in a gondola with Satan punting along a Venice canal and Jesus is hanging out a bakery window trying to grab me by the hair. I never liked those. Thanks, Simplifyitol.”
Life can be complicated. But as James Whitcomb Riley once noted, “If it walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” And Sigmund Freud seconded that idea by saying, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” even though he might have been talking about something else. But they’re sort of the same. So try Simplifyitol for sixty days and find out what you’ve been missing. If you’re not satisfied with the degree of invigorating mental clarity achieved after sixty days of use, we’ll give you your money back. That’s the Simplifyitol guarantee. Isn’t it time you gave it a try?
Side effects of Simplifyitol have been known to include nausea, dizziness, itchiness, mild weight gain, vomiting, death, really unpleasant death, blurred vision, unplanned pregnancy, and the bends. Do not take Simplifyitol if your I.Q. is lower than 90. Do not take Simplifyitol if you intend to vote in a presidential election within the next seven days. Some respondents have reported an increased desire to watch professional football. Be sure to tell your doctor if this happens to you as in clinical tests 31 out of 32 people studied who watched professional football have complained of long-term depression and prolonged feelings of emptiness lasting as long as eight months. Do not take Simplifyitol if you’re currently using an oxy based inhibitor (you probably aren’t so don’t worry about it).
Simplifyitol–because most of the time life isn’t nearly as complicated as you think it is.
Note to the Mother Ship
OAF, The Animal People, broke into the city zoo in the middle of the night and released a lot of the animals. One of these was a tiger who immediately killed the OAF member who had just opened the gate to its cage and was just apparently standing there waving it forward to its freedom. I don’t know why someone wouldn’t have seen the potential for the attack to occur, because it’s a tiger. Most of the animals were still running around the zoo proper, but some had escaped out into the city streets. Some of those were recaptured but most—given that they were a threat to the community—were shot and killed. I’m not sure what the OAf people were anticipating the outcome of all this to be. It seems like the plan was not thoroughly thought through.
Note to the Mother Ship
Rika relates her day: She was sitting in her car in the drive-through at Culver’s hamburger and what-not restaurant. There was a car in front of her and several cars behind her. One guy somehow managed to enter through the exit lane by mistake—having driven into the out lane rather than the in lane—and now was trying to figure out what to do next, in terms of getting into the food line, having been presented with zero options. He was near Rika’s car, so she was able to see the problem. She pulled her car back three feet, which was as far as she could go. She tooted the horn for the guy and signaled him to make a sharp hook and go in front of her when he got the chance. He gave a thumbs up. When the car at the cashier window moved out, the exit lane guy waved to Rika again, and moved in front of her as there was now room.
He got his food and drove away. Rika moved forward and was handed her lunch. As she took her wallet out of her bag, the cashier said, “The guy ahead of you already paid for it.”
Note to the Mother Ship
There’s a lot of religions here. I mean a lot. You’d think one would do. America is mostly made up of Christians, but even they have a humongous amount of variations. Rika says her parents live in a small town in Virginia. There’s about two hundred people in the town and they have twelve churches, one for each sect: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Mennonite, Baptist, Methodist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, and What Not. Then there’s a couple of Witches and a family that handles snakes and makes moonshine. A full house in anyone of these churches is about five people. Rika posits that if anyone of them was asked what the difference was between their religion and any of the others, they’d be hard pressed to respond. She also states, given the fact that you have to pay for the upkeep of the building and an individual minister for each group, that this is inefficient, especially given that they all believe in the same thing. She thinks they should all get together and just have one church and then believe in whatever microscopic variant they want to privately in their own head while they’re standing there all believing in the big picture. I agree. I also think would make for a much better sing-along.
I’m reading about Joan Didion. She was a writer. She has some interesting points to make and also seems kind of nuts. One might be able to say that about any human, though. Anyway, she said this:
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
I think America should put that on the one-dollar bill in place of “In God We Trust.” They might have to cut some things out to fit it in, though, like that pyramid with the eyeball. I have no idea what that’s there for. I’m pretty sure nobody else does either.
I’ve developed a theory that states the more one studies the past, the less likely they are to complain about the present.
Note to the Mother Ship
There is constant news here, I mean, information constantly coming in about everything that could possibly be happening in the entire world. It’s very loud. And distracting. Also, even though they call it the news, there’s never anything actually new about. I think they should stop calling it the news. I think a better name would be The Daily Horror.
The “News” is really good at telling you what’s happening—even though more often than not you’d be happier not knowing. What the News is not good at is telling why it happened. For example, there was a woman recently who went on a high-speed chase with police in pursuit—driving a forty-foot mobile home with two dogs in the cab, one sitting on her lap. Why she was driving a forty-foot mobile home as a getaway vehicle was never mentioned. Also, what happened to her after she plowed into a Burger King and was subsequently apprehended, I’ll still never know.
I’ve grown weary of “the news.” And I’ve stopped watching it on TV and reading it on the Internet. I do feel that having taken this direction leaves me as an ignoramus, but rather than continuing to pursue it and be socially aware and enlightened, I will instead just hang out with other ignoramuses, so as to not feel inept. I do believe as though that was the great advantage to living in any other previous century, especially the way backy ones: you weren’t overwhelmed by the world; you just had to focus on feeding your family and figuring out what to do when your cow stepped on its tit.
To be honest, though, I do skim the news. However, the only reason I do so is to see if Krakatoa blew up again or if the Star of Bethlehem came back.
At just a smidge over five feet tall, in her tennis shoes, jeans, and untucked shirt, Cathy was neither an imposing nor commanding presence. But she nonetheless garnered more passing attention from the males that were also there shopping and browsing in Barnes and Noble than did other present females. Her smooth light brown hair was parted on the side. It framed her face but stopped just short of her shoulders. She wore no makeup, had no rings, no earrings, and no tattoos. And while she was not stunningly or classically beautiful, she was pretty darned cute. She looked like a model in an LL Bean catalog. Not the main model at the forefront of the picture, but maybe somebody standing off to the side holding a pitcher of lemonade to pour for the children models.
This was her favorite place. She was oblivious to the lingering looks of passing males, and only aware of the wonderful vastness of everything the store had to offer. She’d seen it before, but every time she came in, the same sense of awe and giddy joy took hold of her. While her destination was the back where the DVD’s and CD’s were, she took her leisurely time in getting there—as always—as she afforded herself the meandering scenic route. She looked at all the titles of the books she passed; she looked at the decks of cards in their cardboard display case; she looked at the toys for children; she looked at the toys for adults; she looked at the games; she looked at the novelty items made in China; she looked at the book lights, the pens, and the calendars with castles and horses and wiener dogs; she looked at the memoirs of real people, the histories of people and machines, and the humor books that had the words SH*T and F*CK in their titles. She wanted to buy them all—except for the humor books that had SH*T and F*CK in their titles as that struck her as a bit low and caused her to roll her eyes and leave their innards uninspected, wondering why they were in the same building as five-year-olds.
Eventually her self-designed maze led her out to the back area filled with DVD’s, CD’s, and vinyl albums.
Here she was much more efficient with her time. She gave a brief observation of the DVD’s on one wall. She found the alphabetized ‘M’ section. She spent no time in reading the subject matter of the movies, nor who was in them, nor if they were Blu-ray or widescreen or full screen, but just grabbed what was immediately in front of her: Midnight Cowboy, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Midway, Million Dollar Baby, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mrs. Miniver, The Mists of Avalon, Molly’s Game, Mome, and Mommie Dearest. So as to be unencumbered for part two of today’s quest, she put the lot down on a cashier’s side table, as there was no cashier present, and so assumed that would be okay for the moment since she wasn’t intruding on anyone’s work area.
She went to the music CD section. Again she focused on the ‘MI’ to ‘MO’ group, as that was her design for today, and took one selection for George Michael, Bette Midler, Glenn Miller, Steve Miller Band, Joni Mitchell, Thelonious Monk, The Monkees, Montrose, Alanis Morissette, Motley Crue, Jason Mraz, and Motorhead. She looked at the Mraz again. It had no business being in the MO group, let alone having been put in front of Motorhead. Obviously indiscriminately filed. She looked to file it correctly back in the bin, but there was no MR section, the next being MU, where it didn’t belong either. It also had no plastic jewel case but instead just a cardboard cover, which created an additional lack of uniformity in her selections, and an addition to the dilemma. She held it in her fingers, hovered it over the bin between MO and MU, moving it back and forth with indecision, as if hoping some magnetic force might draw it in and solve the problem for her as to where it belonged. But that was not to be. “Orphan,” she said, and that resolved the issue. And so was included in her group.
She left the lot on the abandoned cashier’s table and ventured out to the games and puzzles section. There were some puzzles comprised of metal rings and others with interconnected wooden pieces but they didn’t pique her interest. But a Rubik’s Cube in a box grabbed her attention. She gave it a look-see through its plastic window but that gave her little information as to its quality, substance, essence, or relative monetary value. She pulled a stainless steel, out-the-front switchblade knife from her front pants pocket. She flicked it open and the four-inch blade shot out with its iconic and threatening metallic ‘shunk!’ She started to cut the seal on the box then looked to her right at a woman and her pre-teen daughter standing six feet away in the aisle who seemed to be alarmed.
“I always have to see what’s in the box,” Cathy explained with a pleasant smile.
“Aren’t those illegal?” said the mother.
“Oh, are they?” Cathy offered, looking at her knife.
“I think so,” said the mother, now wondering if expressing her complaint and initiating this conversation was a wise choice.
“Oh. Sorry,” Cathy said. Still looking at the mother, she closed the blade with a discreet pull of the button and the blade disappeared with the same alarming sound as when it had presented itself.
The mother shuffled the daughter off to other parts.
Cathy took the cube from the box, assessed it as being a worthy item of purchase with a satisfactory, “Hm!” then boxed it up and brought it back to where her other items were waiting.
With considerable care she was able to arrange everything in a moveable stack and firmly secure it between her lowered hands and her chin. When she went through the security gate the alarm signaled, but she paid it no mind as the same thing happened last time she was there and a clerk told her not to worry about it. She plopped all her items on the front checkout counter.
“That’s $312.43 including tax for today,” said the middle-aged female clerk pleasantly. She looked at the ad hoc assortment. “You know, we have a section of CD’s for $4.99.”
“Oh,” said Cathy. “I’ll have to look at that next time. But these’ll be fine today.”
Cathy took out a wad of ten-dollar bills from her pocket, counted out thirty-two of them and put them on the counter.
“You must like ten-dollar bills,” said the clerk.
“Uh huh,” Cathy responded agreeably.
The clerk put each selection in the plastic bag. “Hm,” she said, taking note of each title, “You have very eclectic tastes.”
“What does that mean?”
“Oh, varied. Things real different from each other.”
“Ah,” Cathy said and smiled. “New word.”
“Have you seen all these before?” the clerk asked.
“No, not yet,” Cathy responded, intent on the things going into the bag to make sure everything did.
The clerk took note of Midnight Cowboy. “This was rated X when it first came out, you know.”
“Well, kind of dirty. A little different. You know. Not really my sort of thing. They say it’s good, so, what do I know? Ohhh! Mrs. Miniver. Oh, it’s nice to know that’s still around. I like that one.”
“What’s that about?”
“World War Two.”
The clerk took the Rubik’s Cube last but Cathy stopped it from being put in the bag. “Oh, could you do me a favor?” she asked.
“I think that’s supposed to be all mixed up before you start,” Cathy said. “Could you twist it up for me? And I won’t look.”
“Okay,” the clerk said obligingly. She set about turning the sides and axes in a random manner. And Cathy, as she had said, didn’t watch. She looked around the store at everything and at nothing in particular.
“This should do it,” the clerk said. Cathy turned back around and watched the cube get put in with the rest.
The clerk gave Cathy her change and put the receipt in the bag. “Well, looks like you’ve got a lot of watching and listening to do. Enjoy!”
“Have a blessed day.”
“Pardon?” said Cathy.
“Oh,” said the clerk and she grimaced. “Not supposed to say that. Sometimes I forget. She opened her eyes wider and beamed more fully. “Have a nice day.”
“But what was the other thing you said?”
“Well, I said have a blessed day, but we’re not supposed to do that.” The clerk glanced briefly around then came back to Cathy. “But you have a blessed day anyway.”
Cathy was unclear on what exactly that meant, but determined it was something positive and so after thinking about it for a moment, responded with a reasonably safe, though still somewhat perplexed, yet friendly, “Okay.” She took one step to leave but then turned back to the clerk and as an afterthought added, “You too.”