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

Posted in Opinion, Politics | Tagged | 1 Comment

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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Why So Violent?

Recent events, featuring shootings by police, shootings of police, children shooting themselves, parents shooting children, and, just in general, a whole lot of shootings, makes me ask, why are we so violent in the United States?

It’s not the guns—or, rather, not just the guns that you can find in around a third of all US households. I suspect it may have something to do with the culture of violence we invite into our homes every night.

I just took a look at the prime-time TV schedules of the five major networks for 2015-16, and, depending on how you want to count it, I see that of the roughly 90 hours of prime-time TV available each week, you can watch a show that features crime or violence as a regular part of the show during something like 39 of those hours.

Sure, the numbers of both prime-time hours and violence-based shows fluctuate throughout the year, but the ratio remains relatively constant: roughly 40% of the network prime-time schedule consists of violence based shows.

Gun control isn’t the answer. Censorship isn’t the answer. I don’t know what is, but it does seem that we have a violence-addicted culture.

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“I Do Not Know”

Lauren Goode, at writer at The Verge, says that Apple’s forthcoming watchOS 3 is “an admission that Apple had it all wrong when it came to interactions on the first-generation Apple Watch.” It is no such thing, although the headline makes for great clickbait!

With the first release of the Apple Watch’s OS, Apple got some things wrong and some things right, just as most developers do when they release a brand new product. Designing a user experience is an inexact science. Sure, there are protocols and methodologies for doing it that have a deep grounding in psychological and behavioral research, but all employing them does is get your product closer to delivering a good user experience the first time out of the box.

It’s only when a product has been in use for a while in a large and diverse user population can the developers see more of the pain points their initial design had, and then devise ways to mitigate them. Apple addressed some of them in watchOS 2, and has addressed more of them in watchOS 3.

Goode says that watchOS 3 “requires fewer swipes and taps and less wait time just to get an app going. Why wasn’t it like this before? I do not know.”

I do know. Anyone with actual consumer software development experience does.

Why doesn’t Goode know this? I do not know.

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Soup of the evening, beautiful soup

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup…

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup…

This started with my grandmother’s recipe, but has mutated over the years. I make it in an improvisatory fashion, so the measurements below are all approximate. It honestly does help reduce the symptoms of a cold. And it tastes even better if you don’t have a cold. (By the way: the large pot I use is a ceramic coated cast iron pot that I got from my grandmother about 40 years ago, and which she used for several decades before that, but any large pot will do.)

In a large pot, toss in 4 large or 6 small chicken thighs (thighs make a richer, sweeter broth than breasts)

Add 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into large chunks

Add 2-3 stalks of celery, sliced into half-inch pieces

Add 2-3 carrots, sliced into half-inch pieces

Add 5-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

Add 1 tsp. salt

Add 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/8 tsp. hot red pepper

Add 1/4 tsp. each of oregano, dried sage, basil, marjoram, rosemary

Add 2-3 sticks of cinnamon

Cover all ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Remove chicken thighs, discard skin and bones, shred chicken and return to the pot. Let simmer for another hour or two.

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