Personal

Old Mr. Block

In the folklore of the IWW Mr. Block is a man who never does anything right. He stands up for all the wrong things and is disappointed with the outcomes.

When I was in the seventh grade Mr. Block was my woodshop teacher. Not only was he Mr. Block because he taught woodshop, he was Mr. Block because whenever something raised his ire he would throw a random wood block at students.

Wood blocks would whiz through the air, wobbly projectiles barely missing random student heads. Then, often, colliding or not colliding with their intended target. Mr. Block had terrible aim; which was just one of his many sins.

One day a random block whizzed within an inch or two of my ear. My left ear. One of my two favorites. The intended target/victim sitting behind me and to my left.

When the projectile hit him he shouted, “Hey, you can’t do that.”

Mr. Block was incensed. More incensed than he was when he decided to launch an attack.

He basically said that he could do anything he wanted to in his classroom. Wherein I said, “No, he’s right, you can’t throw things.”

This made him even angrier. Mr. Block was well known for throwing things at students in class. Everyone knew this. In retrospect I must wonder if anyone ever challenged him before.

He said, to me, “This is none of your business!”

I said, “You made it my business.”

He said, “How would you like to go explain yourself in the office?”

I said, “I’d love to.”

Later, in the administrative wing, and all schools have ever-expanding administration wings, the assistant vice principal tried to take the side of Mr. Block.

I pounded my fist on the table and demanded  justice.

The assistant vice principal said, “How would you like me to call your father?”

I told him I thought that was a terrific idea. The only good idea he had thus far that afternoon.

My father, a union representative, came into the office later that afternoon and chewed out the assistant vice principal. And told him that, in fact, teachers cannot throw projectiles at students in class. And that assistant vice principals could not attempt to punish third party students who voice opposition to the throwing of projectiles in class. This was expressed in a low voice but in no uncertain terms.

And I never again saw a piece of wood fly through the air at school. At least not in my presence.

I stole this image of an Easter Bunny from That Great Beast, Richard F. Yates.

 

Saturday afternoon on the street, a true story

Walk down the street. The man in front of you is disheveled and has wild hair. He speaks to himself, sometimes a mumble. Sometimes alternating volume. Sometimes abruptly stopping mid-sentence to wait a moment and start a seemingly unrelated sentence.

Then he says, loud and clear: “Just Kill them yourself. It’s easy.”
Then he mumbles something.
He crosses the street.
There is a man on the corner sitting on the sidewalk with a begging sign.
The disheveled man says, “Hi, Frank.”
The man on the corner says, “Hi, Ned.”

The walking man walks on down the block, talking.

Reagan’s Legacy: Homelessness in America

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Representations of Muhammad [for Charlie Hebdo]

in, out, and about the box [for Charlie Hebdo]

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.

The Muhammad in a 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, or at least that’s what they keep telling me.
——
From the upcoming book Tragic Stories Disguised as Jokes by David Raffin
***

And also an excerpt from Viva Chapeau
from the book Rhyme or Treason (the hard fought illusion of choice) by David Raffin :

Now, Islam is the youngest of the three faiths descended from Judaism.
Muslims pray on a schedule five times a day. Five Times. I am amazed you can get any suicide killings planned and carried out on that kind of a schedule.

In this country a lot of people believe “Moslem” is synonymous with “terrorist.”
This is probably unfair. Like all the Jews who don’t run people over with bulldozers, and all the Christians who don’t torture people, there are all those Moslems who defy categorization by not blowing anything up. In mathematics there is a phrase for all of these people in all three groups: they are individuals who fall outside the standard deviation.

It should be pointed out that men wearing turbans are more than likely not Moslems but Sikhs. I have nothing disparaging to say about the turban. The turban is a perfectly fine piece of headgear. In fact, I like to think the turban is a great mystery box that may hold many fascinating things.

In the 1970s, in the Saturday morning cartoon starring the Harlem Globetrotters, there was a character (“Sweet Lou” Dunbar) who could at any point reach into his giant Afro and pull out whatever was needed. I like to think this about the turban.
It may not be true, but that has never stopped the propagation of any belief.

Sweat the backstory

At night it falls as low as 17°.
The sweater I am wearing comes from near the beach. It was knitted by hand by a lady with MS. She owned a large cat who would sit on the piles of sweaters for sale.
I don’t have stories for all my clothes. Most people are not aware of the backstory of their attire. And they’re not all as nice as that. Best not to ask the origin of my pants.

An excerpt from my user manual

I don’t know if you can tell this just by looking, but I move my mouth through a process of mind control. The fact that you can’t tell this, it seems seamless, is part of the art; or rather, the magic of the act.

Up close I am life sized. This is explained in the manual, though I know no one ever reads instructional guides. But this is alright as I am also fully automatic. Please do not be unduly alarmed.

–This is an excerpt from my user manual. I know it is strange to mention the fact that no one reads user manuals in my user manual but it is a very meta user manual.

Yesterday I saw…

I saw a man with a giant afro. At a distance it looked like a giant cowboy hat. It is impossible to express the joy of this sighting.
Blame psychogenic alexithymia, if you must.

A sign at a rest stop stating “You cannot be forced into work” translated into many languages. Whoever hangs these posters are unfamiliar with the peculiarities of capitalism in society. Also they hang these signs over the sinks, showing they are unaware that 90% of men do not wash up in the bathroom. And that is another reason to avoid shaking hands.
Or perhaps they do know these things. I enjoy a good conspiracy theory.

I thought: “People don’t ride trains enough because there aren’t enough trains. There aren’t enough trains because there isn’t enough track. Society has gone off track.”

I ate at a vegan restaurant. I like to eat at vegan restaurants because they have a wider selection of food I want to eat. I ate at Papa G’s vegan organic deli. It looked like this:

Tempeh, corn, mashed potato with mushroom gravy. Papa G's Portland, OR.
Tempeh, corn, mashed potato with mushroom gravy. Papa G’s Portland, OR.

A cat tried to steal my love.
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