The Day I Didn’t Take the Pledge

I saw this story about a boy who was arrested for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and it reminded me of a similar transgression from my youth.

When I was in high school, we had to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the first class we had each day. It was the end of the turbulent 1960s, the Viet Nam war was raging, protest was in the air, and I thought the school was ludicrous to ask students to renew their pledge of loyalty to a piece of cloth every day, as though the pledge wore off sometime overnight and had to be reapplied. So one day I decided not to.

At the time, my first class of the day was German, and my German teacher and I had an interesting relationship. On the one hand, she sincerely seemed to like me, but on the other my inability not to open my mouth and crack wise at the slightest opportunity infuriated her sensibilities. Almost every day she tried (and failed) to put me in my place, usually literally with a hollered “Setzen Sie sich!”, and so she saw this refusal of mine to stand up and recite the Pledge as a particularly valuable opportunity for place-putting.

She ordered me to report to the Principal’s office to explain myself. This order wasn’t because she disagreed with my anti-Pledge stance—she was something of an anti-war liberal herself and, I think, secretly approved of my protest. Rather, it was a double-bird-with-a-single-stone opportunity for her: she could get my disruptive ass out of her class for one day, and could bedevil the school Principal, whose few fans among the faculty did not include her, with my smug adolescent attitude and anti-war sentiments.

So I marched off to the Principal’s office, which, by the way, I (and my parents) had already come to know well at this point in my academic career. As I impassively stood before his desk, he fixed me with an obsidian gaze asked me why I was there. I told him that I had refused to say the Pledge that day and that Frau Vorster had ordered me to see him about it.

“I see,” he said, and then launched into a lecture about liberty and freedom and all the flag stood for and about all the brave men who had given their lives for it over the years. He wrapped up by asking me if I would say the Pledge out of respect for them.

I told him, “No.”

Non-plussed, he asked me sternly, “Is it because you hate America?”

With feigned outrage, I replied, “No.”

“So, then, why won’t you say it?”

Finally, the jackpot question, the one that my teacher likely assumed I would answer with some anti-war sentiment or other, delivered with all the self-assured righteousness and disdain of which she knew I was capable. I told him, “I didn’t say the Pledge because we don’t have a proper flag to say it to.”

His eyes widened. “What do you mean? Of course your classroom has a flag.”

“Yes, but it’s not an American flag.”

“What?!”

“The flag in our classroom has only 48 stars,” I smugly let him know.

And it was true. I had noticed early on that the flag in my German classroom had but 48 stars—although Hawaii and Alaska had become states around ten years earlier, the school had not yet got around to replacing all the old 48-star flags in its classrooms with the current 50-star edition. “I refuse to pledge allegiance to a flag that isn’t our country’s flag!” I said proudly.

He blinked and summoned the head custodian, who said he would check, and left. We sat and waited in silence. A few minutes later he stuck his head back in the office and said, “Kid’s right. I’ll change it.”

The Principal and I stared at each other for a few more seconds, then he lowered his eyes and gruffly ordered me back to class.

My teacher nodded at me as I came back and smiled to herself, no doubt thinking that I had either kowtowed to the Principal or had been dismissed from his presence out of sheer annoyance. What she thought later that day when the custodian brought in a new flag and swapped out the old one I never bothered to ask her.

Posted in Humor, Politics, Reminiscence | 1 Comment

My New Low-Impact Drinking Game

Because I hate myself, I have begun to dip into the seemingly endless parade of made-for-TV Christmas movies currently running on the Hallmark channels. Furthermore, because the stories are so contrived and because the acting and direction are so pedestrian and because I seldom am exposed to so much concentrated blondness, I devised a drinking game. It’s a perfect drinking game for me because I seldom drink.

The rules are simple: take a sip if you see a person of color in the background of a scene; take a heavy slug every time a person of color has speaking lines in a scene; polish off a bottle if the movie’s leads are people of color.

Happy Holidays!

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I need a flux capacitor to fix this…

I recently wrote an article for TidBITS about the app’s resurrected text-box-linking feature. A reader responded with complaints about Pages 7:

Whatever, it is still the most ignorant word processing software. I can open a document in Word I made in 2007 with office 2016- with Pages no way. I have to update to a more recent version. That’s not just cloudy it’s ridiculous and nobody I know who uses a Mac uses Pages. If they would have made it backwards compatible then it would be a viable software. But as we know Apple only does things (basic word) to their convenience on many levels.

I responded to the “backwards compatible” complaint:

I just dug up an old Word .doc file of mine that was last modified in 2004 and had no problem opening it with Pages 7. I can also open files made with Pages 4 in Pages 7. The rumors of Pages’ lack of backward compatibility may be exaggerated.

Turns out, this reader had a…unique…interpretation of what backward compatibility entailed:

Pages 3.0.3 will not open documents created with later Pages. That’s a problem.

Pages 3.0.3 was released 10 years ago. I suppose I could climb into my Delorean, travel to Apple in 2007, and deliver the Pages 7 file format specs to the Pages 3 development team, but that almost certainly would split the timeline and cause serious instability in the multiverse. So I probably won’t.

I guess the disgruntled reader wins this round.

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I am not David Redux

[Author’s Note: A couple of decades ago, I wrote the following essay after I was called, yet again, “David” instead of “Michael” during a meeting. It lived on a site of mine for a while until the site, and the service that hosted it, went where all evanescent internet sites go. However, today I saw a cartoon by Chris Hallbeck that made me realize that Michael-David-derangement-syndrome was a real thing. So here’s the essay, brought back from the misty archives.]

I Am Not David

It doesn’t happen every day, but 2 or 3 times a year someone will call me “David.” It might be in a business meeting, it might be at a party. Almost always it is someone who has been introduced to me within the last 10 or 20 minutes.

Perhaps it is a failure of short term memory. I’m sure that’s part of it, and, as far as it goes, it is a failure with which I can completely sympathize. Lord knows, I’m terrible with names myself, and always have to take great pains whenever I’m introduced to anyone new to remember the names I hear so I won’t make a complete fool of myself. But it’s not the inability of other people to recall my name that bothers me. No, it’s that they almost invariably think that they know what my name is – and somehow, they always think that it’s David.

I have nothing against the name as such. It’s a good, traditional, easy-to-spell, eminently pronounceable, honest, work-a-day, dependable name. It’s just that a) it isn’t my name, and b) there’s no reason I can see that would make people think that it is. Some names, when you hear them, tend to conjure up a stereotypical image or two: Mortimer. Quincy. Bubba. But what quality is it that inheres in “Davidity”? I just don’t see it.

I know several genuine Davids. One of my best friends is David the neurologist. Another is my cousin David, the lawyer-turned-restauranteur. There’s also David the musician, David the Shakespearian scholar, and David the multimedia producer. No one could mistake any one of them for any of the others. Other than the fact that they are all adult males, there isn’t much that links them together other than the fact that they are named David and that I know them. They are not each other, I am not they, they are not I.

A friend of mine once suggested that calling me David was a form of crypto-anti-semitism: after all, David is a Jewish name, and I am Jewish. Calling me David is, according to this theory, an attempt to deny my individuality and pigeon-hole me in an ethnic category. Although I do love conspiracy theories, this one doesn’t work for me. I know of a lot of non-Jewish Davids: David Copperfield, David Letterman, David Rockefeller, David Nelson (son of Ozzie and Harriet), Dafyyd Ap Gwilym. Not only am I Jewish and they are not, I don’t know Micawber, have never been to Indianapolis, haven’t entered politics, don’t have show-biz parents, and don’t write Welsh poetry.

So why do people consistently call me David? My theory is that everyone has a Platonic name, a name that is really theirs despite what birth certificates, driver’s licenses, social security cards, dossiers, permanent records, wills, stock certificates, and mailings from Publisher’s Clearinghouse may say. This is the True Name, the name by which the universe is uniquely configured to identify you. It has nothing to do with what the name represents, where it comes from, what qualities it evokes, or who else has it. It is simply the True Name, the Platonic Ideal of your name. Mine is, apparently, David.

But don’t call me David. I probably won’t answer.

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R.I.P. Harlan Ellison

I learned from several tweets on Twitter today that Harlan Ellison has died. I didn’t know the man, though I had read a number of his works, but I do have one tale to tell of him.

It was many years ago at the Writer’s Guild theatre in Beverly Hills. I had gone with a Guild member friend to a screening. I don’t recall the film we saw, but I have a vague recollection, likely unreliable, that it was a new (at the time) James Bond film. In any case, after the film a few of the filmmakers responsible held a question-answer with the audience, at which point the diminutive Harlan stood up (looking scarcely taller standing than seated) and made some sort of snarky comment. In response, a number of the audience members groaned and several shouted, “Sit down, Harlan!”

My friend later told me that this was not the first time the Writer’s Guild theatre had hosted such a display of authorial camaraderie.

Harlan Ellison may be gone, but, if there is any sort of after-life, I suspect that he is not resting peacefully in it. It would be wholly out of character.

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Time Lapse Synchronicity

I have one of those novelty cat clocks that has moving eyes and a wagging tail. I thought it might be fun to shoot about 20 minutes of time-lapse video of it so it would look like the cat was manic, with rapidly twitching eyes and tail.

Turned out that the frame-rate of my iPhone’s time-lapse feature is an even multiple of the eye-moving, tail-wagging period. As a result, the clock seems to look quite normal in the video if you don’t notice that its hands are moving rather rapidly (expand the video below to full-screen to see the hands more clearly).

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Ozymandias at Mar-a-Lago

I met a traveller from a strife-torn land
Who said: “An orange and empty head of stone
Screamed at the people . . . Near it, in the grandstands,
Half drunk, a bitter correspondent, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and trembling hand,
Tell that its owner knew his hopes were dead,
Could not survive, insulted by this orange thing,
The crowd that mocked him, as his poor heart bled:
But in his notebook these words appear:
‘His name is Donald J. Trump, ranter of things:
Pay heed to his word salad, and despair!’
No one with brains remains. Past the fairway
On that benighted course, boundless and bare
The greens and empty sand traps wait, unplayed.”

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Green Shoots

Things look grim for our ship of state, but they could be grimmer. President 💩🔥💰 is not having everything his own way. He just took it on the chin from the 9th Circuit. News about Flynn’s pre-election discussions with the Russians has begun to leak out, which I’m sure is leading to some upset digestive systems in the White House.

And, in addition to breaking stories, there are ongoing triggers for Administration agita.

There are a number of “rogue” White House and Cabinet staff, for example, who are not only leaking to the press but to those who are officially investigating the Administration. Just as a cadre of pro-Trumpers in the FBI helped sabotage Clinton’s election, there are cadres of outraged staffers who are keeping their heads down as they work to puncture the Trump bubble.

Whether these rats in the adminstration’s wainscoting will be successful or not is hard to say. They do exist. And they’ve been getting the word out. WaPo and NYT, et. al., been having a heyday reporting tales of inside the WH tantrums and screw-ups because of them.

At the same time, while the GOP in Congress is still goose-stepping behind Trump almost in unison, that precision march may not last into Spring. GOP representatives around the nation are suddenly finding their local town-hall meetings overrun by constituents asking pointed and inconvenient questions, and their calls and visits are overloading their local district offices’ resources. And the pressure seems to be mounting, not declining. Congress is going on a short break next week: lots of Representatives will be back in their districts and I suspect that a lot of their public appearances may be more contentious than they’d like.

So, three weeks in things have gone to shit as quickly as we’ve ever seen in this country, but, at the same time, massive numbers of people seem to have noticed that and they are not sitting back and sighing, “Nothing to be done,” because they’re actually doing quite a lot.

Resistance may or may not be futile ultimately, but it certainly isn’t insignificant right now.

And that, as Gandalf said, may be an encouraging thought.

Green shoots

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Comic book cities

I was talking with a friend this evening to distract ourselves from our forthcoming dystopian future, and our rambling conversation came around to comic books:

“Most cities in comic books tend to be based on New York, because that’s where the comic book industry was based.”

“Yeah. Like Spider-Man really wouldn’t work in a city like Los Angeles.”

“Or in a small farming community in Kansas. What could he swing from? He’d do a lot of walking.”

“Imagine if the comic book industry had developed in San Francisco.”

“Hm. Well, comics would feature a lot more leather and chaps for one thing.…”

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It happened again…

Every so often I’ll draw a cartoon and then, a few days or even a few months later, I’ll see that some professional cartoonist has done something that seems very similar to the gag in my drawing. It’s happened again, this time with the comic strip “Six Chix.”

I drew this cartoon using a caption I thought of a month or so back, and I posted it on my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline on October 2: Disappointed princess

Today I saw this cartoon in the Washington Post, attributed to Isabella Bannerman, Margaret Shulock, Rina Piccolo, Anne Gibbons, Benita Epstein, and Stephanie Piro:

Six Chix inspired by me?

Not quite the same gag, but close enough to make me wonder if any of the artists involved have been following me on Twitter or Facebook.

Coincidence, or the sincerest form of flattery?

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