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Sunday, November 22, 2015

What the World Really Needs is a Good 2€ Skillet


One Spanish Grandmother’s Garbage is Another Man’s Gold

I found this skillet in a box of old pans at the used furniture place I frequent. It was a bit funky from but I know how easily stainless steel cleans up. I am guessing that the former owner passed away and this was among the items cleared from his/her apartment because who would ever throw something like this in the trash? It has immediately become the workhorse in my kitchen replacing a couple of other pans I used before. Two Euros!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My TED Talk

Some TED talks are informative while many others are pompous and thoroughly unctuous sales pitches by hucksters or know-nothing evangelists. I just thought that I’d throw my hat into the ring (I also want to write a serious TED talk, probably about language learning but I begin with satire). A lot of these talks are about a microscopic idea that is blown up to seem important. Malcolm Gladwell has blown a hell of a lot of hot air into trite aphorisms to make them seem like real topics and then backtracking to make a case for his initial mundane utterance, kind of like what I do here.

My TED Talk
Don’t shit where you eat: Baseless wives’ tale or wise counsel? In this talk I’ll be deconstructing conventional thinking.

For centuries mothers have been passing along a bit of conventional wisdom that has heretofore been taken at face value. The seemingly bullet-proof chestnut that you shouldn’t shit where you eat has gone largely unquestioned since the beginning of time, or at least since we first came across a written version of it in Aristophanes’ early play The Steaming Pile. There are two widely-regarded assumptions as to the result of defecating in your general dining area: to wit, a decrease in the flavor of what you are stuffing into your fat pie hole and an increase in our intake of pathogens contained in aforementioned excrement.

I propose that both of these assumptions are false. If you disagree about the taste of tainted food then how can you explain the popularity of McDonald’s? As far as pathogens go if we are dumping on or near our own sustenance then we needn’t worry because we already have those pathogens inside of us which is why we excreted them in the first place.


I think that’s probably more than enough. I’m sorry but I really don’t like the typical self-help gurus who shout at us about how we need to be all we can be or whatever. I just don’t think that anyone ever has been helped by this sort of rubbish. In the end their tactics are as empty as any fatuous marketing slogan we’re meant to ingest. I rate self-help gurus right up there with diet books; if any of them were effective there wouldn’t be a million of versions of the same falsehoods.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Support the Arts

A sort of funny thing happened to me the other day when I was walking home from work. I like to think that I’m the sort of person who minds his own business and doesn’t cause trouble for anyone. I wouldn’t consider myself to be short-tempered but even I have limits. The whole episode was completely silly, to be perfectly honest. I’d imagine that it made a huge impression on the villain in this story but I can’t blame myself. It’s not like I was out to provoke a world war. If it isn't the incident that I am about to describe then something else surely will push that guy over the edge. He's simply strung too tightly. I’ll do my best here to recount the details.

I was taking my usual way home one evening when a group of vagabonds in the square caught my eye. One of them was selling bunches of wild flowers he had arranged on a blanket on the sidewalk. A colorful arrangement cost me what I normally paid for a beer in a cafĂ©. The plan was to give them to my girlfriend at the time with the hope that she would assume that I had paid more and had actually put a bit of thought into this bit of thoughtfulness instead of the truth, that I had literally almost tripped over the blanket stretched over the sidewalk on my way home. I’ve always been a firm believer in the “what they don’t know can’t hurt them” school.

After paying for the flowers I was almost immediately overcome with pride in what a caring and generous lover I was when I noticed another vagabond selling oil paintings. He had a small sign on which was scribbled “Need Money for Art Supplies” next to his four poorly-framed canvases. I resisted the joke of telling him that he could also use a few more art lessons but I’m not a cruel person, never have been. His stuff wasn’t bad, really, forlorn representations of local architectural landmarks and farmhouses devoid of much light and completely lacking in vitality or humanity. I was too much of an art snob to even consider hanging one of these amateur works in my flat but I thought that perhaps I could pass one of these painting off on a less discriminating friend as a birthday gift.  

More out of politeness than interest I asked him what it would take for him to part with one of his masterpieces. He named a completely ridiculous price which he almost immediately lowered to one tenth of that when he saw my reaction. To this I countered with an offer that was far from insulting yet he instantly became unpleasantly hostile.

“You must be joking,” he screeched. “This is a work of art, not a postcard.”

“Listen, kid. I make a pretty good living and I offered you what it takes me five hours to earn. Even with supplies this is more than fair,” I said.

I quickly noticed what a rat-faced little creep he was as he worked himself into a lather. He started gesticulating wildly as he shouted, “What could you possibly know about the life of an artist?”

“I never said that I did know anything about the life of an artist but let’s find one and ask.”

With this he stepped closer to me still spitting as he wailed, “Get out of my sight, you cretin!”

He wasn’t that short but I had a good 20 kilos on him so his aggression amused me more than anything. He was boiling with rage. Jesus, what a touchy little fucker! Now I thought that I’d just have a little fun with him.

“Yo fucko, this is a city sidewalk in case you didn’t notice. If you want me out of your sight I’d suggest you start running as fast as you can…and take your paint-by-numbers trash with you.”

A few passersby who had stopped for the developing spectacle were laughing at this. His humiliation further fueled his tantrum, especially when I started laughing out loud at him. He rattled off a stream of obscenities aimed first at me but then towards a host of other demons he obviously had cooped up inside his diseased mind. His insane and racist rant caught us all off guard for a tick.

After momentarily recoiling in revulsion I came back calmly with, “Dude, what in the fuck are you even talking about?”

The peanut gallery on the street had quickly grown to quite a crowd and they all laughed at this question which everyone seemed to have been thinking. The hack artist lunged forward and began swinging his arms in what looked like a hilarious parody of a man fighting. It was obvious that he had never been in a fight and perhaps had never even seen one before. I simply placed my left hand on the top of his head to stop his advance as he flayed wildly with both of his twig-like arms. The crowd went wild with laughter. I still had the bunch of wild flowers in my right hand as I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by the fanning of his harmless punches.

An old woman told me to let the man go, that he had suffered enough. It was sort of pathetic and the old woman’s words put a stop to the laughter as we became aware of the fact that we had become bullies. The half-pint artist stopped swinging and I thought that he had had enough but he turned towards the old matron and spat at her. He then let loose a string of hateful obscenities and racial epithets concerning the woman’s presumed religious beliefs. Then he spat at me. That was it! I’d had enough. No more Mister Nice Guy.

I tossed the wild flowers to the old woman who caught them deftly. Then I grabbed the artist by his stupid little mustache and yanked very hard. He let out a terrible yelp. I looked down and saw that I had a good clump of his facial hair and skin between my fingers which were no longer attached to his upper lip. I didn’t mean to go that far but it isn’t my fault that his skin was so fragile. He was bawling like a child at this point and galloped away comically while holding his injured lip with both hands. He’d left his paintings and other belongings on the sidewalk.

At this point I thought that I’d better get out of Dodge before a policeman showed up but I didn’t want to leave the guys stuff unattended. The other vagabond vendors were already scattering with their wares under their arms. I just sort of pushed his four canvases and his bag into a pile. There were still several witnesses standing around as curious as I as to the identity of the horrible little artist. I picked up one of the paintings. I saw that it was signed. He used only A. for the first name and I speculated to the crowd that it must have stood for “asshole” (arschloch in German). 

The last name was Hitler. I hope the little guy gets some sort of psychological therapy because the path he is on will surely end badly.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Ubran Architecture the Village Way

When I first came across these two forlorn benches in a small corner of an even smaller village outside of Valencia I was a little perplexed. Why bother? What purpose could they possibly serve? Then I came to the obvious realization that nobody likes to stand while watching onions grow. I can’t remember where this was, just some damn village somewhere on just another bike ride. I wish that I could be there right now. Don't you?