Next Please!

Yesterday we were in a pet supply store to buy a couple of items. When we got in line to check out there was another couple ahead of us. They were apparently trying to remember how long it had been since their dog's last flea treatment and both of the store's two employees were standing there talking with them. The store's computer showed the date that the couple last purchased the flea control product, which was about six months ago, but the couple seemed to think it had been more recently.

We had to wait for about ten minutes while they went back and forth, store clerk and customer each repeating the same thing they had already said several times before. Everyone involved was very calm and friendly but nothing was being accomplished. Eventually, one of the two employees moved over to the other register to check out the other customers. (One person had gotten in line behind us by then.)

Normally I'm very patient about waiting in line. In fact, heaven help the nitwit who tries to strike up a conversation with me by complaining about how long we're having to wait. Such a person is likely to get an earful from me about the diffuculties and frustrations of working in retail, number one amoung those being pushy, impatient and arrogant live sex chat customers who expect to be treated like they are the only person in the store. However, what aggravated me about this particular experience is that in ten minutes or more no new information was exchanged. Both parties just kept repeating the same things they had already said.

Unfortunately, this is not an unsual situation. It happens all the time. Therefore, I have a message for... well... everyone. If you find yourself in a store asking a salesperson for information and they have given you the same answer two or three times that probably means that really is the answer and it's not going to change no matter how many times you ask, no matter how many times you rephrase the same question and no matter how worried you are about doing the right thing for you dog, cat, child, husband, grandmother or whoever. Either make a decision quickly or get out of line!

And here's one for store employees. I know how rough it is working in retail so I can understand that in certain situations you might want to give your co-workers a little moral support and help confirm, every fifteen seconds or so, that the information in the computer has not changed while the customer has been standing there, but if you don't quit wasting time and pay attention to the other customers you might soon be the one requiring moral support, not to mention, possibly, a job.

Changing Language

It's interesting to see how English has changed in two hundred years. When reading a very old text it is easy to see from the context that some words did not mean the same thing then as they do now. It is an odd and uncomfortable feeling to come across such words but also, often entertaining. Here are two examples from Edward Gibbon's (1737-1794) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

1. From near the end of this section: The subjects of the great king exalted, without a rival, his power and magnificence: and the Roman, who confounded their vanity by comparing his paltry coin with a gold medal of the emperor Anastasius, had sailed to Ceylon, in an Aethiopian ship, as a simple passenger.

That one is a little confusing. The modern definition of confounded does not seem to fit. Confused their vanity? Befuddled their vanity? What does that sentence mean, exactly?

2. I found ths one a bit amusing. From the middle of this section: Amidst their pious occupations, they viewed with a curious eye the common dress of the Chinese, the manufactures of silk, and the myriads of silk-worms, whose education (either on trees or in houses) had once been considered as the labor of queens. There was another sentence somewhere in there that refers to the "education" of silkworms. It seems to mean the care or farming of silkworms. Education of silkworms... haha. Do you think they have teachers with little blackboards and tiny Jasminlive books to teach them how to spin silk fibers?

By the way, here is another page about Edward Gibbon and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which asks and answers such entertaining questions as "Why Should I Spend God Knows How Many Hours of My Life Reading a Million and a Half Words About the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?" and "Naughty Footnotes? What Naughty Footnotes?"

Supreme Court Decision

The US Supreme Court narrowly voted to block enforcement of a law restricting access to pornography on the Internet. Therefore, predictably, the evening news had interviews with concerned parents who are upset about that evil, unelected Supreme Court blocking a law passed by Congress to protect their children.

I do not believe that selling, buying, displaying or viewing pornography is an inalienable right and I do not believe that the First Amendment is intended to protect it. I wish it was possible to completely get rid of it on the Internet and everywhere else. I'm telling you that because I want you to keep that in mind as you read the rest of this.

The problem with anti-pornography laws is that someone who might or might not agree with you about what pornography is will be put in the position of determining the difference between pornography and legitimate art or educational materials.

I remember reading a letter to the editor in a large city newspaper, heatedly protesting the "pornographic" cover photo on the paper's Sunday magazine. I wasn't sure what the letter writer was talking about because I didn't remember any photo that was even slightly indecent but she had given the exact date and, thanks to the fact that I'm a bit of a slob, I had several weeks of old newspapers laying around so I searched through them and found that issue. It was a picture of a young Live Jasmin woman in a modest shirt and typical hiking shorts.

That was over 20 years ago but it has stuck with me because that was the first clue I had as to just how insanely prudish some people are. I come from a fairly prudish family myself but not even the most Victorian-minded elderly relative of mine would ever have referred to a picture of a woman in hiking shorts as "pornographic."

I tell that story to illustrate the fact that you can't simply rely on the "I know it when I see it" formula for determining what is pornographic and what isn't. If you write a law banning or restricting pornography you had better be careful to define "pornography" very specifically. The law in question, as described in this Wired article sounds reasonable enough to me. It would require that porn sites have adult access codes or require a credit card. But I haven't read the actual law. I could easily look it up but I'm no legal expert so I might not completely understand the full implications of what I was reading. We could end up requiring kids to have a credit card to view works of art.

The decision was very close: 5-4. It could have been the wrong decicion and similar decisions in the future could go the other way. One thing that I do strongly disgree with is the opinion that filtering software can handle the problem. According to the filtering software used by some Chaturbate libraries, this site which you are viewing right now is a porn site and considering the number of times I've used that word in this post I'll probably be bumped way up the list. This really makes me angry and if I had the money I'd sue somebody. I'm serious; it's absolutely ridiculous that this site is considered obscene!

But, to get back on track, (and maybe, finally, to the point) it is popular to attack the Supreme Court when they apparently go against the wishes of the majority but I appreciate what the Supreme Court is trying to do even though I don't always like their decisions. Instead of attacking them for doing their job, maybe it would be more productive to demand that Congress write better laws - carefully worded laws that truly are constitutional.

Abstract Art (Part I)

I frequently feel compelled to rush to the defense of "modern art," but then I remember that there are people in the world who consider unmade beds and pickled sheep embryos to be "Art." We all draw a line between art and non-art and considering that I have my limits just like everyone else, I have to ask myself if it's really fair of me to consider myself more enlightened than people who draw the line somewhere before they get to abstract art.

However, I do like abstract painting. I don't claim to see some kind of deeper meaning in it; I just like to look at the colors and shapes. So I want to try an experiment. Below are three abstract paintings. At least one of them is by a famous artist who is accepted by the art establishment and at least one is by an amateur or "non-artist." If you know any of these because you've seen it before or because you recognize the artist's work please don't give it away and spoil the game. Otherwise, the comments are open for free discussion. Do you think one of the paintings is significantly "better" or more professional than the others, more worthy of being called "Art"? Do you think they're all great or do you think they're all crap? Praise them, trash them, review them in detail.

Have fun. I want to see lots of discussion. I will reveal the artists' names in another post on Monday or Tuesday.

Abstract Art (Part II)

I have been enjoying the responses to my little experiment so much that I was tempted to drag it out a little bit longer but I don't know if I will have time later this evening and I don't want to keep everyone in suspense for too long.

Those commenters who have some training or experience in the arts called it pretty well. As a defender of abstract art I am pleased by that because it appears to indicate that some irregular smears of paint are better than others and that, no, your cat or your toddler cannot paint just as good as Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko. But, as a regular gal with a wicked sense of humor, I think it would have been more amusing if the experts had showered praises on one or both of the amateur paintings. On the other hand, almost everyone hated #3 so maybe you don't need any training to know when something is truly awful.

Painting #1 is Untitled III (1982) by Willem de Kooning. I picked this one after spending a lot of time browsing through the abstract expressionists at Artcyclopedia. I wanted to pick a work by a well-known artist but one that would not be immediately recognizeable.

Painting #2 is, to me, the most visually pleasing. I like the color combination and there's something soothing about the long vertical brush strokes. The artist is a "professional," in that his paintings have been sold for hundreds of dollars and he has even been on television but he is not a serious artist and is not recognized by the art establishment. Seng Wong, a 23 year old who lives in Bali, is, in fact, a very unusual "artist." Please visit this webpage to find out more.

For painting #3 I had originally thought of getting my grandson to do it since remarks such as, "a four year old could have painted that," are a common criticism of modern painting, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of giving him paints even if the label does say "washable," and besides, he's not really a sitting and painting kind of kid. He's more of a running around the house crashing toy trucks into the furniture and screeching very loudly kind of kid.