Friday, January 09, 2015



By Fred Owens

Manhunt ... I love that word ... so archaic ... current headlines screaming MANHUNT!

Mockery. Mockery is essential to freedom. We need to give Islam the razzmatazz.....because that's how we say I like you.....We need to appoint Bill Murray to direct us in this approach.......the victims in Paris were archly adolescent.....and we support them best by a juvenile smart-ass response......Fans of the New York Mets need to step up and lead the cheers.......any dignified carefully calibrated call to tolerance is a waste of time...heck, we already know that....We know that mockery is not hatred. We know that insult is not prejudice....This is not a moment for MLK. This is a moment for Rodney Dangerfield!....... Seriously, if you are responding seriously, then you are part of the problem.

The Media. Expecting others to show courage is no way to show courage. Calls for the media to "show courage" while the rest of us hide behind a tree? That is nothing.

The Word and the Image. The word was given and the image was banned. This battle was fought to the death a long time ago, and the war ended with the peace that comes from exhaustion. Now, easily, the Catholic Church is bursting with art, the Protestant church has bare walls, and there is no statue of Moses at the synagogue. Thus the issue was settled in what used to be called Christendom.
France. Everybody in France is Catholic, even Sartre. Nobody goes to church, but that doesn't matter. France is a Catholic country. Declare yourself an atheist, it doesn't matter because Chartres and Notre Dame are still there. In France, even the Jews are least they know that they live in a Catholic country. There is nothing wrong with that. The people of France are not nicer than anyone else, but they are good people after all...
France will always be France.
Baby Bok Choy Stir Fry pound firm tofu pound mushrooms
...cut tofu into cubes, slice mushrooms in half
...marinate tofu-mushroom mix one hour in a bowl with olive oil, toasted sesame oil, paprika, garlic powder and lemon-pepper salt
...stir fry the tofu-mushroom mix until the tofu gets a little crispy and brown

...set aside and keep warm
Part Two
...cut four baby bok choys into pieces
...slice one carrot thin
...slice or chop one-half red bell pepper
...slice or chop onion as much as you like
...stir fry the veggies
...fix a plate or bowl with the tofu-mushroom mix and add the veggies on top might make rice or noodles to go with this but we were skipping the carbs that evening

It Depends on What You Mean

You can't make a word mean what you want it to mean. Unless you're talking to yourself, in which case you can invent your own language. But if you are talking to other people, then the words you use mean what other people think they mean.

Words need to have a meaning that is held in common with a language community. The word "stop" for instance. The meaning is embedded in the law of the land. You might want it to mean "slow down to ten mph"  -- that would be your personal interpretation, but tell it to the judge, as they say.

You might hear the word "stop" during an intimate encounter. Stop what? It has been harder to establish precise meaning in these situations. We might declare loudly that stop means stop  --- that would make an interesting entry in the dictionary. Also, apple means apple, and white rabbit means white rabbit. And and means and. Not or.

The new Alice in Wonderland Dictionary is simply hilarious, when the Red Queen declares that every word means precisely that. A peach is a peach, now and forever.

But meaning changes. Words evolve. We used to say bachelor in reference to an un-married male, and spinster for an un-married female. Now we say single for both sexes. And we dispute that there or both, none or many sexes  -- or was that gender? It gets confusing.

We have been discussing the meaning and usefulness of the word passion. I declared that passion has become a creature of corporate culture and cited a quotation from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Bezos uses the word frequently in his pronouncements, and it has become a common question in job interviews, "What is your passion?"  Hint: you are supposed to have one.....In this usage it is a substitute for ambition or goal.

I do not favor this change in meaning. I liked passion the way it used to be -- it was once highly personal, to say the least. But then the personal became political, and the boundary between the bedroom and the boardroom disappeared -- almost disappeared, depending on who ask.

But my voice is one among millions in our language community. Meaning is a collective enterprise. It has to be collective. Collective meaning is the very definition of culture. We are who we say we are, but only if we agree.

And if we do not agree, and if each one of us has a distinct and separate meaning, then we are insane. Insanity is a language understood and spoken by only one person -- meaningless.

But there are personal examples. I disputed the notion of a passionate gardener. I declared that gardening is tranquil and not inclined to intensity of expression, that it is a relief rather than a stimulus.

Perhaps. But this is only my effort to nudge the word gardening in my direction. My good friend David King would not agree. He gardens passionately. I do not.

So we arrive at a variety of meaning. I garden for a few hours and then I get bored. My interest in horticulture is limited. I do it for exercise and stress relief. I do it for love and community. I do it for money, having been employed many years as a landscaper and farmworker. But I do not love it half as much as some other people do  -- people I know and admire -- people who are focused intensely on this occupation, who scheme and dream it, who promote and preach it.

We hope for a harmony of meaning, but harmony and variety are not current usages. Instead we have that ugly word, diversity. Diversity rhymes with divorce and division. I am aghast at its dominance. I am entirely opposed to diversity. I dispute it, I deny it, and when that fails, I flee.

I am in favor of variety, harmony, and integration. I ask you to consider this and join me.

I regret the decline of bachelor and spinster, words that were at least colorful.  Instead we have single, which is mathematical and bland. Single is safe, but it is no fun. My hope is that bachelor and spinster, given a well-deserved rest for a few decades, might return to usage in a better light. If we can agree on that.

And passion is tainted. Jeff Bezos is uncontrollable. He's probably droning over my house right now. This is his day.

But his day will pass, and passion will again be ours.