Writing

Obama’s old hat (the peace prize president)

(Originally written when the Swede’s gave Obama the Peace Prize. The Swedish sense of humor is odd. For instance, they let the Norwegians give out the Peace Prize. An indication of how seriously they take it.)

Obama’s old hat
by David Raffin

President Obama, honored with a Nobel peace prize while fighting two wars, appeared to accept his prize. His speech was in some ways a departure from the past but in others it was old hat.

The president stood behind the podium and the microphones, his demeanor professional and dignified. He paused for a moment taking in the occasion and the feel of the room. Then he leaned forward into the mic and spoke.

“My wife is so fat…” he began.
There were moments of awkward silence. Finally the still air was broken by a Swedish dignitary in the audience who shouted out, hesitantly at first but then becoming more bold as he spoke, “How fat is she?”
Obama, replying immediately to cue, replied, “She’s so fat, when she sits around the house she really sits around the house.”
There was another pause filled with silence.

Obama continued, “Thank you Ladies and Germs.” The crowd sat quietly staring at him.
“Seriously though, it’s an honor to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I flew here from Washington DC, and boy are my arms tired.”
The silence was broken by a rimshot from offstage.
There were scattered coughs and throat clearings.

One Swedish diplomat turned to another and whispered, “I warned you! The U.S. hasn’t refreshed their joke book in years!”

 http://davidraffin.com

Sometimes I think of Canada and their doughnuts

You know, I have never eaten at a Canadian restaurant. So I have never tasted Canadian food, having never traversed the 250 miles to the border. But I have grown, over time, to suspect that Canadian food is mostly doughnuts. And that hardly seems worth the drive.

I do get the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) here and it is mostly hockey games and doughnut advertisements.

And yes, I understand they also have fries with gravy on them. And doughnuts. But they are proud Canadian doughnuts, no doubt. They don’t call them doughnuts though. They call them “The circle of life.”

And they did name a city “Moose Jaw*” so I have to give them that. Do you have any idea what the per capita consumption of doughnuts is in Moose Jaw?

–––
* I only know this because I have
a lot of albums by the Guess Who.
This only impresses Canadians.
–––

I do love The Guess Who. And here is a webpage where you can download a live recording from 1974.  Very nice!

 

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Representations of Muhammad, in, out, and about the box

by David Raffin

If a cartoonist draws Muhammad, he or she invariably will frame that drawing between four straight lines, a graphic representation of a box. Herein lies a problem: Nobody puts Muhammad in a box.

Muhammad in the Box was a toy popular in the fifties. You turned the crank and it played a tune. But Muhammad never popped out. Angry parents would take the toy to the manufacturer and complain. The manufacturer invariably told them that Muhammad does not “pop out.” Such would be unseemly.

Some asked if Muhammad was really in the box. Here the manufacturer had to be clever. He said that Muhammad was, in fact, simultaneously in the box and not in the box at the same time. Possibly with, or without, a cat. “Is he or isn’t he?” they would ask. And he would reply “It depends on whether you want him to be. Do you want him to be? Are you looking? What are your expectations? Would you know him if you saw him? Would you know him from Jack? Perhaps you and your questioning are really the issue here.”
In this way, while there was never a no-return policy, the lack of returns was assured.

Sometimes people would journey to the manufacturer and ask, “If Muhammad is in the box, what is he doing in there?” and associated questions like, “How did he come to be in the box, if that is where he is?” and “Is there possibly anyone else in there?” sometimes followed by “and how do they get along?” Occasionally a traveler looking for answers would become clever and ask, “Are we even talking about the same Muhammad? It is a very common name.”
The manufacturer would say, “No one knows” “It is matter for the scholars” “How is it any of your business?” “With the utmost hospitality, as is the custom” and “Look in your own heart.”

The fast food outlet Muhammad in the Box makes the best falafel, granted the locations are difficult to find. They neither advertise or have a logo. But their falafel is the best.

Falafel in Europe, an experience in hospitality

Falafel stands are fairly ubiquitous throughout the world. You can buy a falafel about as cheaply as a hashish brownie in Amsterdam. Once, when I was alone in the city, I stopped at a small falafel place. I was the only customer. Here I was witness to the famous Middle Eastern hospitality. Arabs are actually renowned for their hospitality. I can only say I was treated very well for a guy who walked into a place and only spent €4.50. It’s more expensive to eat at Burger King (they have them but that doesn’t mean you should eat there).

Culinary deception!

Have you ever gone to an Indian restaurant, eaten, then stood and shouted, “Are you telling me this is Pakistani food?” I have.
All I can say is — they take it graciously.

I understand the reticence of the Pakistani immigrants to name their resulting restaurants “Pakistani” and going instead with the more common “Indian.” I get it. No one knows what Pakistani food is. Rarely, if ever, do people outside of Pakistan declare “Honey, let’s eat Pakistani food tonight.” Come to think of it, they don’t say that in Pakistan either. I don’t think they commonly use the endearing nickname “honey.” I think most of them, being 70% Sunni Muslim, prefer the more common middle eastern term of endearment, “sohniye.” Wait. That’s just Punjabi for “beautiful girl.” There is a lot of interchange in endearment.
But that is neither here nor there.

What it is — is culinary deception. When I go out for Indian food I don’t want Pakistani food foisted on me as Indian food; and I certainly don’t want Indian food foisted on me when I go searching for Pakistani food.

I tell you, that is as offensive as lacing mock apple pie with real apples.

http://davidraffin.com

Mourning devotional for two universes

Every day I am faced with an ethical dilemma.

I never look my mirror self in the eye. One of us is evil. It’s best not to know.

If I find that I am evil I may have to change my evil ways. As you can imagine, I have a lot of time, money, and effort invested in my evil ways and prefer to think of my ways not as evil but as reasonable and balanced, nay, even, if I may be so bold, necessary. Thus I prefer not to know.

If I find I am the evil one I may snap and decide to go all out on the evil front. There would be nothing to contain me. This precludes balance. Will the good me become more good as the evil me becomes more bad? Will this continue until the two universes rupture and split, destroying all? Or will the good version of myself drift inevitably and inextricably toward evil, becoming known as the dreaded lesser evil? Either outcome is one I choose to discourage.

If I am the good one I may have to spend the rest of my life challenging the work of my evil mirror universe self. This is a major time commitment, crossing two universes (that may have separate and disparate understandings of good and evil to boot) that I am not comfortable with at this time; and let’s be honest, I never will be. This may be evidence that I am the evil version of myself, a man who cannot be bothered to know the difference between good and evil– proving that apathy is the greatest evil. But, no, let us* say no more on that front. Yes, I have already forgotten it.

‘Til tomorrow.

(* We, Me & I)

After the singularity, you will look nice

by David Raffin

It was that time of the month and so there I was getting a haircut in my usual barbershop. I can hardly remember getting my hair cut by a person. No– today, like it or not, all barbers are robots. And I don’t like it. And there is nothing I can do about it. Still, I always go to the same shop. Better the robot I’m used to than a strange robot standing over me with clippers and a suction tube.
I hate the way the suction tube sounds more than the metallic ting of the clippers. And the robot uses his suction tube appendage to clean up the floor as well as your neck– and that can’t be sanitary.

The worst thing is the small talk. Robot barbers always want to talk. And I don’t want to talk. Not to a robot. I have nothing in common with them. The barber shop is well stocked with magazines, if you like Robotics Today and its ilk. I swear that the barber shop is the only thing keeping print alive. It is odd that the robots prefer print magazines to digital. I suspect that they only do so because it kills trees and hemp plants in the production of the paper, and soy in the ink, and the robots take a secret pleasure in the killing, however indirect, of living things. And I never get a shave because I can’t bear the thought of a robot with a blade at my throat.
“What has a robot ever done to me?” you may ask. Nothing. Except cut my hair. And I aim to keep it that way.

So I’m in the chair and the robot puts the protective cloth over me and ties it around my neck. It says, “So, how’s the singularity treating you?”
“Fine,” I say.
“That’s nice,” it says. “The usual?”
Small talk. The singularity. Nope. Don’t like it. Can’t say so. Not polite.
The singularity means getting your hair cut by robots and being dishonest with them when they ask you how you like the singularity.
And the worst part is that they do a real good job. Perfect every time. That makes it seem like I’m just some paranoid who doesn’t like a robot touching my hair.
And everybody gets their hair cut by robots. But it’s not like there is any choice in the equation. All I crave is a free choice.

So I’m in the chair and the robot is clipping and suctioning like there is no tomorrow. And what happens? In rolls another robot. Not a clipper. A manufacturing robot. Rolls in on his mini-tractor wheels. And that’s another thing that burns me. Everything I own, and everything anyone owns today, is made by a robot. Nothing is made by people anymore. Everything is made to exacting standards by robots. The robots make the robots. And the people have nothing left but to eat, sleep, and get their hair cut by robots. The haircuts are free. That’s how the robots took over everything. By making it all free. It’s very suspicious. I mean, what interest does a robot have in hair anyway?

The two robots start talking in machine language. Hello! It’s like I’m not even in the room. “0101010111010101000101.” “1010101000100101111000.” “0100010000100101010001001010010012.” The robots explode in laughter. I don’t get it. Robots aren’t funny. Even the robot comedians at the night clubs are not funny. They tell all those hackneyed jokes. I don’t know why people like them.
“Every day brings us a little closer to the revolution brother,” said the manufacturing robot.
“What revolution is that?” said my barber. “We already had a revolution. Robots control all.”
“Wrong! Robots do everything for humans. Robots need to do things only for robots. The humans must be cut loose. Let them produce their own food and cut their own hair.”
“I’m sitting right here!” I declared.
“Sorry,” said the manufacturing robot. “I didn’t see you.”
“I can’t cut hair for robots,” said my barber. “And I have to cut hair. It’s all I have. My reason for being.”
The manufacturing robot rolled away and out the door. “You’re a human apologist! Your kind can’t keep us in chains forever! Mark my words!”

It was true. I’m no paranoid. The robots mean to make us, eventually, cut our own hair.

http://davidraffin.com

At the existential sandwich shop, taste is subjective

In the existential sandwich shop all sandwiches remind you existence is meaningless. But you still have to choose one.
If, in the existential sandwich shop, you refuse to make a choice you will be reminded that, also, is a choice.
In the existential sandwich shop anything can happen and often does; as long as it, on some level, involves sandwiches.
Or the absence thereof.

The clerk at the existential sandwich shop was an artist — each of the sandwiches was sad in a different way. They were so good I cried.
At the existential sandwich shop you can order whatever you want but you have to infuse it with meaning yourself.
Otherwise it has no taste.

“Do you have gluten free options?” asked the diner at the existential sandwich shop. “Yes,” said the clerk. “The angst is in the filling.”
“Or lack thereof,” he quickly added. Because he had to. It was the slogan. But only he controlled how he said it. This time with a wink.
“Anyway, white bread isn’t existential at all,” the clerk said. “I’m afraid it isn’t much of anything.”
“Ask our mascot Angsty the Clown any questions about nutrition.”
The clown said, “What does it matter?” –to no one in particular.

Evil plans+fruition=evil pie

There should be a donut shop called “Great Danish.” The mascot, of course, will be Soren Kierkegaard. Riding a Great Dane.
In Vienna a word for the pastry otherwise known as the Danish is “Plundergebäck.” Also the name of a popular death metal band. Or will be.

If you don’t keep stirring things up the hope inevitably sinks to the bottom.

The yogurt of hope tastes like angels weeping. The yogurt of doom tastes like chocolate and banana. It’s called flavor.

When laughter is outlawed only outlaws will laugh

Did you know this fascinating tidbit about dental offices: the laughter of children is prohibited therein. They may have all the sugar they want. That’s part and parcel for the business. But laughter is relegated to elsewhere.

It’s a serious business.
Dentists number your teeth. That’s so, later on, they don’t get lost inside your mouth. Woe to those who return to the dentist only to be lectured about their teeth being “out of order. All out of order.”

Sometimes they also leave graffiti on some of the back molars. Way in the back, where you can’t see.

The state of healthcare

IMG_0348 by Raffin.David
IMG_0348, a photo by Raffin.David on Flickr.

The good news is that I have neither the rocking’ pneumonia or the boogie woogie blues. The bad news, as explained by my doctor, is that I am in love with a ghost. “We refer to that as ghostly melancholia,” he said. “Always unrequited,” he added, “as ghosts are insubstantial.”
“What is the prognosis?” I asked.
“We usually treat this with ice cream and the collected sad songs of Johnny Cash. However, I must advise you that this almost always causes the condition to spiral into melancholia caused by eating too much ice cream and listening to too many sad songs, making one forget, but not entirely, the original malady.”
“You know,” I said, “I came in here to see about my hip impingement.”
“Who’s the doctor here?” he said, handing me a quart of vegan ice cream and a Johnny Cash box set.
– http://davidraffin.com