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CSotD: Focusing on Dystopia

Being ADD is either a disability or a great advantage, depending on severity and other talents. A lot of ADD people pop up in emergency services, because they do their best work, as someone put it, “when the world is moving at my pace.”

It’s also a potential benefit for newspaper reporters because the combination of tight deadlines and unpredictable assignments fits well with a mind that moves quickly, if perhaps erratically, and in particular because a lot of ADD people have the added superpower of hyperfocus, which is how, as students, they could fritter away six weeks and then write a B+ term paper overnight.

So today’s xkcd made me laugh, because, yes, I’m fully capable of sitting down at the computer and never getting to whatever task had brought me there, or, conversely, of grandly over-thinking something fairly simple.

F’rinstance:

The obvious gag in this Mr. Boffo is associating bankers with pigs.

But it spun me off in several directions, all interesting but not necessarily productive (except that I’m exploiting them now).

My first reaction was that there are a lot of financial education programs aimed at kids, most of them not very good, some a little more lame than that.

Utterly irrelevant, not the point, move on.

But “piggy bank.” Why piggy banks?

Now we’re off to the Googles, and, no, it doesn’t matter, either, but, well, off we go anyway.

First place tells us that it’s a piggy bank because it’s made of a clay called “pygg” in Middle English, which is interesting but sounds suspiciously like that which pigs roll in.

Second source repeats the “pygg” story, but adds that ceramic banks shaped like pigs first appeared in Java a couple of centuries earlier, which raises the interesting question of why Javanese people would model their banks on a Middle English pun.

And then a third source explains that reports of an orange clay called “pygg” are nonsense, and has some more credible comments about pigs and wealth and banks and suchlike.

Hemingway said that journalists need a built-in bullshit detector, but those of us with ADD don’t need loud alarms to send us off to dig deeper. We do it compulsively.

Note, too, that none of this is relevant to the Mr. Boffo gag. Comparing bankers to pigs didn’t confuse me in the first place.

But we’re not done yet, because the xkcd cartoon is called “Wikipedia Caltrops” and I’d never heard of caltrops until a few days ago when I encountered the term in a historic novel and this is now the third time I’ve seen it since then.

I guess the universe wants me to know about caltrops, because I’ve now looked them up three times in the last week.

And what I tell you three times is true. (Look that up!)

 

The compulsion to look things up is not just a useful, but a critical, job skill.

This Chip Bok (Creators) cartoon spun me off on two chases, because, first of all, I hadn’t heard about “Vaccine Tourism,” so I had to go look that up to see if it’s really a thing.

Okay, it’s a thing, but “really a thing”?

Not so much, as this Al Jazeera story explains, to which I would add that we have no shortage of vaccines here, so that, even if some rich foreigners came and got shots, it wouldn’t hurt our own efforts.

Our efforts face greater challenges, primarily in the form of stubborn, antisocial resistance from the sort of people who think foreigners take jobs Americans won’t do, like motel maid, vegetable harvester or meat cutter.

 

Or, as a popular joke went, sleeping with Donald Trump, but also

 

Astronaut.

 

AIDS researcher.

 

College professor.

 

Secretary of State

 

Supreme Court Justice

 

Fidel Castro impersonator

And I’d add, as someone who reads a lot of history, that we’ve not only seen this before …

… but we seem far too willing to pretend we aren’t seeing it again, and to tolerate the hate being spewed on the topic.

I can’t help but think that this would be a better country if more political cartoonists had a compulsion to seek at least a second source, if not a third, before they echoed something they’d heard.

 

As an example of doing that, Clay Bennett (AMS) is pushing back against the hatemongering in his home state, where new laws targeting transgender people — including, specifically, kids — are equally as vicious, unnecessary and inexcusable as anything Jim Crow or the Chinese Exclusion Act ever put in place.

He doesn’t clutter this simple, clear message with a lot of footnotes, but it doesn’t take much poking around to discover that he’s done his homework.

At which point, I lose focus on his piece, in order to voice a strong opinion that people need to stop making “I identify as …” jokes.

Those jokes are no different than lighthearted comments about “jewing someone down” on a price or throwing around the word “retard” as a comical insult.

If nothing else, people who think those jokes are harmless should consider who they are lying with in that gutter: KremlinCruz said that efforts towards equity and fairness have turned our armed forces into “pansies.”

“Pansies.”

In 2021.

Lord help us.

 

The legislation this bigotry has produced is a serious issue, because it’s being directed at refugees, at transsexual children and at pregnant women, and, while I hope to see a flood of furious voters arise and throw the rats out of office, Mike Luckovich (AMS) is correct to point out the concerted efforts these bigots make to avoid the threat of majority rule.

I believe a flood of additional voters in 2022 could negate their plots, but those midterms might well be our last chance.

 

To which I would add that it’s frightening that the people who the GOP does want to see vote accept accusations of “Cancel Culture” from those who demand there be no teaching about minorities, and who, as John Cole notes, pressured UNC into denying tenure to a professor who produced a prizewinning historical piece on the impact of race on our society.

If you’re not pissed off and frightened, I’m not the one with a problem focusing.

 

Community Comments

#1 Brad Walker
May/25/2021
@ 8:51 am

“And what I tell you three times is true.”

Now that’s a snarky comment…

#2 Kip Williams
May/25/2021
@ 9:04 am

Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811):
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5402

Among many other interesting things, I learned of the “choak-pear,” a mechanical contrivance used for blackmail which actually cheered me up a little, as I’d been beginning to think of ours as a uniquely crappy age.

Since then, I’ve read that the device was as much of a fiction as the chastity belt, but even the fact that someone thought the thing up shows a world of depravity out there. Here’s the entry. They say it was those darned Dutch doing it!

***
CHOAK PEAR. Figuratively, an unanswerable objection: also
a machine formerly used in Holland by robbers; it was of
iron, shaped like a pear; this they forced into the mouths
of persons from whom they intended to extort money; and
on turning a key, certain interior springs thrust forth a
number of points, in all directions, which so enlarged it,
that it could not be taken out of the mouth: and the iron,
being case-hardened, could not be filed: the only methods
of getting rid of it, were either by cutting the mouth, or
advertizing a reward for the key, These pears were also
called pears of agony.

#3 Elizabeth Oliver
May/25/2021
@ 9:39 am

My son used to play with plastic building blocks which were painfully similar to caltrops.

#4 Mary McNeil
May/25/2021
@ 4:30 pm

No surprise that Chip Bok ignored the story from months ago(when the vaccines first became available) of “vaccine tourists” showing up in remote Aleut villages to partake of the vaccines sent to the “natives.” The fact that the tourists were rich – wouldn’t have attracted Chippy’s notice.

notice.https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rodney-ekaterina-baker-yukon-covid-vaccine/

Of course, the ones in this story weren”t ‘Muricans, so they couldn’t vote here anyway.

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