Friday Philosophy: By the pricking of my thumbs…

It has been a strange week.  Of course, it has been a strange lifetime, so maybe this past week’s strangeness may just be relative.

There is the economic bullshit, of course.  No matter what happens with that, I’m just assuming it is going to suck big green weenies.  That last time some economic policy crap actually benefited the people was when?  Does anyone have any recollection?

But maybe there are some good things to take away from that.  In hard times we sometimes need some of that.

The trouble is that even if we can find a smidgen of good being a comrade with the bad, there always seems to be more bad as a fellow traveler.

And then there is the fence turtle’s story.

There was this from Hunter:

But “what do you read” is something that I file under the other category of Questions To Ask Candidates. I call that other category, for the sake of simplicity, Questions A Clam Could Answer. There are the hard questions, and then there are the Questions A Clam Could Answer. Vertebrate questions, and bivalve questions. Questions that require a spinal cord to answer, and questions that do not.

And that followed this from Darksyde:

And while we’re on the subject, for our own Democratic Party, Christ Almighty man, do we have to stamp on your head Do Not Trust Republicans? Calling you spineless worms is an insult to intestinal flukes; there are entire invertebrate phyla whose larva learn to avoid pain quicker than you do.

If those two quotes don’t call for an image of a geoduck, I don’t know what does.  So herewith are born the Geoduck Awards for humor in the face of adversity.

Honorable mention goes to what I received through email.  It might have been a winner if I hadn’t actually heard it before.

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, who’s hand was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Palin and her bid. The old rancher said, “Well, ya know, Palin is a ‘Post Turtle'”.

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was.

The old rancher said, “When you’re driving down a country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a ‘post turtle”.

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor’s face so he continued to explain. “You know she didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there, and she doesn’t know what to do while she’s up there, and you just wonder what kind of idiot put her up there to begin with”.


On the other hand, there is that which contains no portion of humor.  Maybe we also need an award for those events, to commemorate the horror which they invoke.  Maybe there can be a Banana Slug Award for outrageously bad behavior.  Except maybe outrageously bad might not be a strict enough classification to reduce the candidates.  Maybe we can come up with some better label.

Maybe we need an example to think about.  Here’s one that happened 19.6 miles from the house I grew up in…about 41 minutes down the Pacific Highway (US 99W) from Lake Oswego, OR, in a sleepy burg called, with all due reverence for blandness, Newburg.  When I grew up and we traveled there to play their high school in sports, Newburg was known as the dry city with the tavern at either end.  But it was “gonna be wet just as soon as enough of people out at the old folks home died,” according to the people I played those sports against.

Newburg is, and has been for some time, the home of George Fox University (well, it was a college until it merged with Western Evangelical Seminary on January 1, 2000).  One might think that a bit strange, what with George Fox being a famous Quaker and all and Quakers in general not being terribly evangelical, but part of the Evangelical Church grew out of the United Brethren, also historically a peace church, so maybe there’s a fit.  The seminary inhabits the sliver of Portland that keeps the peace between Lake Oswego and (what was when I went to school, our arch rival) Tigard.  And these Quakers seem to have an exceptionally virulently evangelical bent…to the point where only 5% of the students are Quakers.  According to their website, the student body represents 50 different denominations, the largest of which is Baptist.

The school claims to value diversity, but their notion of what constitutes diversity is extremely limited.  They think they try, though.  I mean, they even have a program called Act 6 which they and other northwest private schools have embraced in order to attract “urban students.”  So it came as quite a shock when maintenance workers discovered an effigy of Barack Obama hanging, via fishing line tied around the neck, from a tree in front of Minthorn Hall (writing, literature, communications, languages) on September 23.  Minthorn Hall is the only building remaining since the days in which Herbert “Bertie” Hoover was a matriculant.

Upon the life-size cardboard cutout of Obama were the words “Act 6 Reject.”

Investigation uncovered four students who confessed to the act.  FERPA prevents their identification.  They have been suspended for a year and must perform community service.  The forgiving nature of the university values prevents more stringent penalties, such as expulsion.

But I do declare the Faceless Four to be the first ever recipients of the Banana Slug Award, for an outstanding display of a human beings having the critical thinking abilities of said pulmonate gastropod, of people who give doubt to the appropriateness of the classification homo sapiens.


…something wicked this way comes

Acts of abandonment

of common decency

litter our times

with inhumanity

so dense

as to require

skillful excision

using a scalpel

of hardened hope

and dreams made real

by the collective

efforts of people

with opened eyes

uncovered ears

and noses

capable of smelling

the stench of greed

which moves the planet

ever closer

to the edge

of catastrophe

But the scalpel is dull

and the hands too few

the will appears too weak

to wield it now

on the mouldering body

of what passes for

our culture

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–October 3, 2008


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    • Robyn on October 4, 2008 at 00:04

    My alternative was to write about personal events which seem weird in their own right, but probably only because I have lacked the time to step back and try to absorb them here in the middle of a semester.

    When one falls in a river, one’s best course is to acquiesce to the current.  I figure that, somewhere down the timestream, all will be revealed.


    • Robyn on October 4, 2008 at 02:01


    • Alma on October 4, 2008 at 03:51

    Really cool!  

    • plf515 on October 4, 2008 at 04:29

    I’ve been going “beyond invertebrates” and reading about bacteria, in the interesting book Microcosmos.  

    • Robyn on October 4, 2008 at 17:41

    …is apparently easier to write than I would have thought.

  1. Want a pretty lame comment on the poem, Robyn?  It’s different from your earlier poetry (that I’ve read, anyway) that becries your personal experience with the inhumanity that commits “acts of abandonment of common decency”.  Here, you address the same issues with the perspective of the group, define the solution, and then you end with an acknowledgement that, while the times are a-changing, things don’t look so good for a solution right now.  

    Even in that acknowledgement, you manage to leave the whisper of prosopopoeia (another great word) prodding the reader to beef up and try to handle that scalpel.  Finesse!

    The progression in your long sentences from the definition of the problem (“acts of abandonment of common decency”) to the consideration of the solution (the surgical removal of the problem) to the inevitible end (catastrophe) is a well-formed and reasonable jorney for the reader.  The thoughts cohere.

    It’s a wonderful poem, and I would say that 2008 is a watershed year for your poetic style.  Kudos: many, many kudos.

    And the art is great.

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