Archive for friends

“Virtue Signaling”

My friend Jonathan Mayhew has been on a tear over at his blog Stupid Motivational Tricks these last few months: an astonishing amount of writing – on poetry, criticism, daily life, creative hygiene, social rhetoric, translation, as well as on academia and a ton of other things, all with his characteristically vivid lucidity. It has been thrilling – and also *very* humbling – for me to read.

I had never used this phrase before but it struck me that this is what I don’t like in emails from the provost or chancellor.  I realize that this is part of their job description, but I just automatically delete, after reading the first few words, any message to the entire university community that is intended to verbally signal commitments to certain values. It doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see these statements, and of course I’m not crazy about times when departments compete with one another to come up with statements of solidarity, pursuit of excellence, and so forth.

When my group of friends meet every week people start by rehearsing bad things Trump has done recently. How he is the worst ever, etc… It’s not that I disagree, but come on, I know this is a social ritual and so does everyone else. And it doesn’t happen to be my favorite ritual either. You won’t find bumper stickers on my car.

Right-wing virtue signaling is the same thing, except the causes are different: “life,” “freedom,” “the troops,” “guns.” Empty patriotic gestures and ritualistic affirmations of support for Israel.

The opposite of virtue signaling is the deliberately transgressive shitting on virtues. That seems refreshing at times, doesn’t it? W.C. Fields style. What makes it refreshing is that we all react against manipulative virtue signaling even as we are doing it. Think of the children!  For anyone not old enough to know, Fields would say things like “Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.” We all know that the cute commercial with the happy family at McDonald’s is manipulative, as morally bankrupt as the lite beer commercial with bikinis.

Poem

There is a sweetness in your eyes / that makes me want to give up gambling and yoga – the opening lines of “RENOUNCE,” by Jonathan Mayhew, part of his erudite and entertaining “bad poems” series.

Scott Brown

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He really was one of the best.

Lorraine Marshall

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My old friend Lorraine passed away in her sleep yesterday. We worked together closely in the late ’80s and early ’90s, at Prometheus Books, where she was the Marketing Director. She was very funny (and very thoughtful); she was lovely.

Her Facebook page had this Lou Reed quote on it: “There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out.”

Family and friends

The holiday season was extra busy for me, with lots of family and friends visiting B.C. One consequence has been the slim pickings here at basil.CA and on my other online platforms.

Lots of eating activity, though, was accomplished over the break. Below is a photograph taken by the wonderful Lincoln Clarkes of Alie Sokol, Dr. Miles Basil, and me at The Flying Pig in Gastown a couple of weeks ago.

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Sociability

From Clarissa’s blog:

Sociability is difficult not because it’s hard to socialize but because I never know if my sociability switch will turn on at any given time. When I approach people or people approach me, there are two possible scenarios:

  1. Sociability switch flips, and I become the most charming, gregarious, exciting person ever.
  2. Sociability switch decides to remain inactive and I feel intolerable boredom. I can try to conceal it but the boredom is overwhelming.

The bad part is that I can’t predict when each scenario will unfold. I don’t suffer from not knowing how to engage with people or how to make small talk. I’m actually great at it because I don’t understand the concept of worrying what people think about me. What I do suffer from is frequent and uncontrollable attacks of not wanting to engage.

It feels very weird when in the middle of a conversation I lose all interest and become extremely bored but not because of anything the other person said or did.

It’s equally disturbing when I open my mouth and all of a sudden this very charming, talkative persona appears.

Poetic aspersion

My friend Kat once described a guy this way: “He has a pickle shoved so far up his butt that it makes him hiccup dill.” That still cracks me up.