I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

July 09, 2015 - 12:46 p.m.

Flag the Flag

I wimped out yesterday and didn't go to see Red Molly in Woodbridge. The show is right by the train station but it still takes a long time to get there and I did just see Red Molly. But it's me and it's Red Molly so it seems wrong. Part of me wanted to go so I could do their merch one last time.

So I stayed home so have less to write about. I did go shopping at Trader Joe's. I had a fun cashier. I love that at Trader Joe's that's not that unusual though this one was unusually fun. She found that one of my eggs was cracked. I always check for that. My thumb must have been on the crack when I picked it up to check. I looked extra close as some eggs were smashed in other cartons and there was egg on the shelf. So I went back to get another carton. The guy was putting them out so I figured, great, these will be good. The first one I picked up they were all cracked. The guy said, "Sorry I dropped a bunch of them." I found one that was fine and went back and told the cashier what happened and she laughed. When I left she said, "have a nice evening." I replied, "You've already made it nice." And she said, "You did too." I think it's all about the smiles. These little interactions make life better

Night before Kevin was shocked that I had never see O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It seems like a natural for me as I love that music. I knew there was a reason I didn't think I'd like it but couldn't remember it. So yesterday I watched it. During the opening credits I saw what prejudiced me against the film, it’s the Coen brothers. I don't like the Coen brothers. I watched the film anyway because I could be surprised. After Taxi Driver I didn't like Martin Scorcese. He became one of my favorite directors. I still don't like Taxi Driver. And now I can say I still don’t like the Coen Brothers. The movie could perhaps work directed by Mel Brooks. It made no sense as anything but a crazy farce. If the elaborate choreography of the klansmen had been to something out of the Ziegfield Follies I would have laughed. The parallels to the Odyssey which it was based on were weak. George Clooney's character's wife was more like Clytemnestra not Penelope. And there was less music than I was hoping for.

I did something I used to do all the time but now rarely do for dinner. I made blackened chicken breast. It was amazing. Why don't I do that more? I don't have to always make the sweet garlic chicken. I still can't get over that I love my own cooking.

When I was walking to the subway from Trader Joe's I started thinking about jews Harps. It started by thinking why the hell do they call a harmonica a mouth harp or a blues harp or sometimes simply a harp? It has nothing to do with a harp. We all know what a harp is. As a little kid it's one of the first instruments you can identify. Which is weird as you rarely seen them played in real life. But if a cartoon character die you see him playing a harp as he goes to heaven.

But back to jews harps. I discussed them with Joy and told her that it isn't anti-Semitic to call it a jews harp. The etymology is unknown but it has nothing to do with Jews. And what if it had? Is French Horn Francophobic? It isn't from "jaw harp." That's what people afraid of sounding anti-Semitic say. It is also in all likelihood not the true etymology. Jaw harp came after jews harp, not before. I came up with my own just so story to explain the name. It's an onomatopoeia. If you wanted to imitate the sound of a jews harp you'd probably say something like Bwoing. But that's not certain. I can so see people centuries ago saying it went zhwoos. So it was a zhwoos harp but when people wrote it down that looks funny so they wrote jews harp. You can now people that's the true derivation as you read it on the internet.

I find myself less willing to post about non-personal issues. I had something to write about the Confederate flag. I think it's valid, but so what? It's not going to change anyone's mind. Damn, maybe it will. OK I'll write it. It's because it's really about the flag.

The Confederate flag was displayed prominently and proudly in so many places for years. It was controversial. It was always viewed as a symbol of white racism and black oppression by many, including I'm guessing most of My Gentle Readers, but it was far from a consensus. It had enough defenders that it remained in official use and in popular culture. What made the change? This pictures.

Dylann Roof, the Charleston mass murderer displayed that picture on his Facebook page. That shouldn't have made a different but it did. Racists have been displaying the flag since the Civil War ended. Of course it's really since it started. It got more prominent as the Civil Rights movement grew and had legal successes. It was displayed and made official in states to show opposition to Brown vs the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts. It was a symbol of segregationists. But people conveniently forgot that. They'd blame blacks for being too sensitive and say that it was just about honoring their heritage. The Charleston Massacre drew the curtains back and revealed what had always been so, that the flag was used as a tool of intimidation and oppression. Now enough people could no longer fool themselves into thinking otherwise.

Language, and symbols are part of language, are based on agreement of what things mean. That doesn't always happen especially in politically sensitive areas. I'm often against the language police. It's what a person means and can expect the listener to understand that matters. That's a two pronged test. The Confederate flag was so often used to convey racism that you can't expect others to see it and say, "oh but he doesn't mean it as a racist threat, he means it as celebrating his heritage." That's especially when part of that heritage, the part being remembered, was a bloody war against the United States at least in part to preserve slavery.

And the real point is people knew all this but defended it anyway. It should not have taken a massacre to see how hateful the flag was. No matter what people's motivation there was racism behind displaying it. It might not have been the message they meant to convey, but it was in their not caring if it offended or understanding that the reasons to be offended were real.

I said this wasn't about the flag, and it's not. It's about that two pronged test. It's about considering how things are meant and how they are heard. I know people will object to the use of gyp and in "he gypped me," as an anti Gypsy term. And I can see that but nobody actually thinks of it that way. Nobody thinks of the Romany when saying gyp. The word Greek was originally a derogatory word by the Romans for the Helenes. That doesn't mean people shouldn't use it now. William Safire said we shouldn’t use "Philistine" as that word evolved into Palestine and Palestinians. That's arcane knowledge. Who knows that? Did you know that? Any anyone most people who do know it will know that the historic Philistines were Greeks and not uncultured louts.

There's a difference between these cases. There's no bright line and there will be areas where reasonable people can disagree. And this conversation is how things evolve. It's much better that way then change coming from an enormity like the Charleston Massacre.

OK so I went all in. Now I'll reward myself with breakfast then I'm off to see the Punch Brothers tonight.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile July 09, 2015
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