“In 2004, [Kellog’s Korea] advertised a public vote for a new product: chocolate-flavored Cheki or green onion-flavored Chaka.” (AP)
Cheki won, but per the article there was a vote-stuffing scandal. Now, the injustice has been corrected.
And as odd as it might sound to people who don’t know me, I think I would eat these. It’s a darn shame that unique things like Pepsi-flavored Cheetos™ only surface in the Far East (a big-hearted colleague of mine sent me a couple of bags from Japan, I thought they were awesome); if I were richer than God I think I’d hop a plane to Japan every month just to gather up new bits of strangeness to try. (But not until there’s an effective vaccine for Covid19.)
Sadly, by the time I can afford a trip to Korea and the health crisis has passed, these will probably be gone – limited time offering and all that. But if I ever get over there, I’m sure there will be a host of other bizarre foods that I can sample.
It was the ’60s. I recall my mother sitting at the kitchen table typing out a letter with carbon paper, making multiple copies of something. I remember the words “chain letter,” I never read it, and I don’t know if any money exchanged hands – typical of the so-called “gifting scams – but the point is that these things have been around for a long time.
Back then it was all done by the US Post Office. Then came the advent of the fax machine, and along with the ubiquitous “Nigerian Prince” con, chain letters continued to enjoy popularity.
In 1971, Ray Tomlinson invented and developed electronic mail by creating ARPANET’s networked email system, and by 1976 a full 75% of ARPANET’s traffic was electronic mail. This invention, so useful and so fraught with complications (think Spam), allowed chain mail to come into its full glory.
Now, there are many kinds of chain letters, but the idea of all of them is self-propagation. They are, in a sense, viruses that replicate by the good graces of the receiver and are usually propagated based on the inculcation of guilt. They serve no purpose other than to stroke the ego of some twit who wants attention, and waste internet bandwidth and storage space.
Fully 21 years ago, a valued colleague (thanks, Stephanie) sent me this great send-up of chain letters (by email, of course) and I’ve had it in my files ever since. And it is not lost on me that the fact that I’m sharing it here makes it a chain letter of sorts.
Chain Letter Type 1: The Scroll Down
Make a wish!!!
Really, go on and make one!!!
Oh please… that person will never go out with YOU!!!
Wish something else!!!
Not that, you moron!!!
Something else! Quick!!!
Is your finger getting tired yet?
Wasn’t that fun? Hope you made a great wish.
Now, to make you feel guilty, here’s what I’ll do. First of all, if you don’t send this to 5,096 people in the next 5 seconds, you will be attacked by a mad goat and then thrown off a high building into a pile of manure. it’s true! Because, you know, THIS letter isn’t like all of those fake ones, THIS one is TRUE!!
Really!!! Here’s how it goes:
• Send this to 1 person: One person will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.
• Send this to 2- 5 people: 2-5 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.
• 5-10 people: 5-10 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.
• 10-20 people: 10-20 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.
• 20 to 674,951 people: 20 to 674,951 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.
Thanks!!!! Good Luck!!!
Chain Letter Type 2: Starving Little Boy
Hello, and thank you for reading this letter. You see, there is a starving little boy in Baklaliviatatlaglooshen who has no arms, no legs, no parents, and no goats. This little boy’s life could be saved, because for every time you pass this on, a dollar will be donated to the Little Starving Legless Armless Goatless Boy from Baklaliviatatlaglooshen Fund. Remember, we have no way of counting letters sent and this is all bull. So go on, reach out, Send this to 5 people in the next 47 seconds. Oh, and a reminder if you accidentally send this to 4 or 6 people, you will die instantly.
Chain Letter Type 3: The Horror Story
Hi there!! This chain letter has been in existence since 1897. This is absolutely incredible because there was no email then and probably not as many little 8 year olds writing chain letters.
So this is how it works. Pass this on to 15,067 people in the next 7 minutes or something horrible will happen to you like:
Stupid Horror Story #1: Miranda Pinsley was walking home from school on Saturday. She had recently received this letter and ignored it. She then tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, fell into the sewer, was gushed down a drainpipe in a flood of poopie, and went flying out over a waterfall. Not only did she smell nasty, she died. This Could Happen To You!!!
Stupid Horror Story #2: Dexter Bip, a 13 year old boy, got a chain letter in his mail and ignored it. Later that day, he was hit by a car and so was his girlfriend. They both died. Their families were so upset that everyone related to them (even by marriage) went crazy and spent the rest of their miserable lives in an institution. This Could Happen To You!!!
Remember, you could end up like Pinsley and Bip did. Just send this letter to all of your loser friends, and everything will be OK.
Chain Letter Type 4: Meaningless Poem
As if you care, here is a poem that I wrote. Send it to every one of your friends.
Friends A friend is someone who is always at your side, A friend is someone who likes you even though you smell like poop, A friend is someone who likes you even though you’re disgustingly ugly, A friend is someone who cleans up for you after you’ve thrown up on yourself, A friend is someone who stays with you all night while you cry about your loser life, A friend is someone who pretends they like you when they really think you should be attacked by a mad goat and then thrown in a pile of manure, A friend is someone who scrubs your toilet and vacuums and then gets the check and leaves and doesn’t speak much English… no, sorry that’s the cleaning lady, A friend is not someone who sends you chain letters because he wants his wish of being rich to come true. Now pass this on! If you don’t, you’ll be eaten by wild goats.
Chain Letter Type 5: Microsoft or Disney
This e mail is wicked cool! It was started by Microsoft to test it’s e mail tracking system because, you know, a big high tech company like Microsoft always sends important new software out over the internet to be available to any moron who can operate a computer, right? Plus, they have formed a secret merger with Disney Corp., who has agreed to give up millions of dollars in revenue by giving everyone who reads this e mail, passes it on, looks at it, knows someone that looked at it, or is related to someone who is a friend of someone who looks at it A FREE, ALL EXPENSES PAID TRIP to Disneyland, Disney World, or Euro Disney! So pass this on to everyone you know that is gullible enough to believe this (or not)!
Even if it’s not true, hey insulting all of your friends by implying that they are gullible by sending this to them is worth the improbable chance that you could go to Disneyland! Even if you lose all of your friends because they are tired of receiving this kind of junk from you, it’s worth the chance, right?
And just for good measure, if you don’t send this on, Microsoft will send its specially trained attack goats to pilfer your house and eat all of your family, SO SEND IT ON!!!!!
Chain Letter Type 6: Virus Warning
VIRUS WARNING!!! If you receive an email entitled “Badtimes” delete it immediately.
Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer.
It demagnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards.
It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you attempt to play.
It will re-calibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles.
It will program your phone AutoDial to call only your mother-in-law’s number.
So be careful! Forward this to all of your friends, relatives, neighbors, family, enemies, plumbers, garbage men, stock brokers, doctors, and any other acquaintances! It’s for their own good! Thank you.
Chain Letter Type 7: Meaningless Picture
Here is a cute picture I drew.
It is a decapitated angel. Send it on to all of your friends so it will brighten their day like it did yours! If you don’t, demon possessed goats will move into your house and eat all of your socks, leading you to believe that something is wrong with your washing machine because all of your socks keep disappearing.
Have a nice day!!!
Remember, the moral of the story is, if you get a chain letter, ignore the stupid thing. [Edit for 2020: Especially if it involves sending money or sensitive information to someone you don’t know!]
If it’s a joke or something, send it, sure, but if it’s gonna make people feel guilty (i.e. the goatless boy from Baklaliviatatlaglooshen) or nervous (i.e. Miranda Pinsley who ended up in a waterfall of turds) just delete it.
Do yourself a favor, and everyone else in the world, and say, “DEATH TO CHAIN LETTERS!”
Except this one of course. This one must be sent on to 4,170 people in the next 15 seconds or you’ll be eaten by wild goats.
People have hated chain mail since its inception:
On the other hand, there is an entire subreddit dedicated to the kind of mindless trash that fills your inbox or WhatsApp or Messenger, r/forwardsfromgrandma. To this day there are people in my circles who send me the most idiotic things – political screeds, conspiracy theories, pseudoscientific garbage, or random bits of inane humor – despite my begging them to stop. There’s no getting through to these people. So many of these things could be easily put to bed with a 10-second Google search, but they can’t be bothered.
I can’t count the number of times I have been warned about a program that will “open an olympic torch that will burn the entire hard disc C” of my computer.
For some reason, many people seem resistant to education, so there’s probably no way to stop the flood of self-replicating messages on Facebook and other platforms. But over time I’ve learned a couple of discernable red flags that something you’re being sent is bogus:
If the message exhorts you to “send this to everyone you know” … just don’t.
If the message says “Snopes confirms this is true!” the odds are that it is completely bogus. Don’t forward it, trash it. A quick Google search is usually sufficient to confirm that the message is a self-replicating hoax.
If the information you’re being sent and asked to share outrages you, check it. Many people forward things that make them angry, thinking that they are doing something to mitigate a problem. In most cases, the information being spread is completely false, taken out of context, or badly misrepresented.
If you want to be metal AF, you could respond with something like this, but in today’s environment you had better be able to read your audience or your next visit might be from the FBI.
Knowing humanity, this kind of thing will probably never disappear entirely, but continuing education will serve to reduce the flood to a manageable level.
Share this blog post with everyone you know. ¹
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ That’s a joke, people. Of course I like increased engagement, but you’re not obliged to share anything you read here with anyone, unless you really think it has value.
Stolen from the Facebook page of a friend; it was deleted by their “anti fake news” algorithm, it being unable to distinguish satire from real information. Saving it here for posterity.
Finally!! A user-friendly guide to the whole 5G-Covid 🦠 Deep State 🇷🇺 Wuhan Obama Paradigm! 🗺
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Aluminum foil sold separately.
Protect your pets now before the cytoplasmic pipeline between Areas 51 and 57 is completed on July 3rd. 7G is already functional in Cuba 🇨🇺 and parts of Epcot. 🙀 Julian Assange knows this, and is helping Putin and Citizenfour procure 7 billion N-97 masks 😷 to initiate the first wave.
Disclaimer: this is pure parody, in case you need to be reminded.
First off, a disclaimer: I’m not a sociologist. I don’t claim to be well-versed in the psychology of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. These are my own thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience and observation from someone born into white privilege and adopted into a generally disparaged faith.
This is a long post. Sorry not sorry.
They taught us about slavery in elementary school. We learned about the ship that arrived in 1620 carrying “twenty and odd negroes.” We learned about how people were stacked in ships like sardines. We learned about the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But we learned nothing about what it was like to be a slave, or the 400-year aftermath.¹
A white citizen in America today cannot really know what it’s like to be a slave, or to live as part of a still-oppressed, marginalized, and often brutalized population.² But I can read, and I can learn, and I can empathize. And over time, in the following works, I have gained a glimmer of understanding about what Africans and African-American peoples have had to deal with over the centuries, up to and including today. There are many, many other accounts out there, but these are the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
If you have a microgram of compassion in your soul, these books cannot help but touch you, and help you to understand what is happening today in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and why.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, Native Son, Black Boy, and 12 Million Black Voices by Richard Wright:
Baldwin and Wright had different ideas about the black experience and how to chronicle it. Both are seminal writers. Particularly Wright’s Black Boy left me absolutely gobsmacked at what growing up in the South was like for a young man who came to earth with a mind that questioned why life around him was the way it was, and could see the injustice, and express it profoundly and honestly.
A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands— a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality. That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation— he was standing against the sky, smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him— I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…
From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city— that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.
Wright, Richard, Black Boy, Cleveland, World Publishing Company, 1937
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
This work was a product of the 60s, but is important for a number of reasons. It’s often disparaged as a naïve social experiment that was doomed to failure precisely because the author was white, but I find it a work that brings me back again and again.
No, it makes no sense, but insofar as the Negro is concerned, nothing makes much sense. This was brought home to me in another realm many times when I sought jobs. The foreman of one plant in Mobile, a large brute, allowed me to tell him what I could do. Then he looked me in the face and spoke to me in these words: “No, you couldn’t get anything like that here.” His voice was not unkind. It was the dead voice one often hears. Determined to see if I could break in somehow, I said: “But if I could do you a better job, and you paid me less than a white man …” “I’ll tell you … we don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” “I know,” I said with real sadness. “You can’t blame a man for trying at least.” “No use trying down here,” he said. “We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We’re taking it slow, but we’re doing it. Pretty soon we’ll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have.” “How can we live?” I asked hopelessly, careful not to give the impression I was arguing. “That’s the whole point,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, but with some faint sympathy, as though he regretted the need to say what followed: “We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state.”
Griffin, J.Hl, Black Like Me,, 1960
Griffin himself even said,
As I had suspected they would be, my discoveries were naïve ones, like those of a child.
The entire book has the overriding attitude of “You mean this really happens? This is what life is really like for black people in the South? Yes, the discoveries were simple, and everything was filtered through the mindset of a white man of privilege, but it’s still very much worth reading.
Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools by Jonathan Kozol:
Above and beyond describing the hideous disparity that existed in the Boston public school system in the ’60s, it shone a light on the vicious racism that took root there. The persona of the “Art Teacher” is especially breathtaking in its ignorance and ingrained evil – she was a master at destroying the souls of children whom she clearly thought belonged to a sub-genre of humanity. Read it and weep.
“All white people, I think, are implicated in these things so long as we participate in America in a normal way and attempt to go on leading normal lives while any one race is being cheated and tormented. But I now believe that we will probably go on leading our normal lives, and will go on participating in our nation in a normal way, unless there comes a time where Negroes can compel us by methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure.”
Kozol, Jonathan, Death at an Early Age
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester:
While this book is aimed at youth readership, its collection of tales from people who actually lived through slavery cannot fail to move adults if they have a shred of humanity.
“One day while my mammy was washing her back my sister noticed ugly disfiguring scars on it. Inquiring about them, we found, much to our amazement, that they were Mammy’s relics of the now gone, if not forgotten, slave days. This was her first reference to her “misery days” that she had made in my presence. Of course we all thought she was telling us a big story and we made fun of her. With eyes flashing, she stopped bathing, dried her back and reached for the smelly ol’ black whip that hung behind the kitchen door. Bidding us to strip down to our waists, my little mammy with the boney bent-over back, struck each of us as hard as ever she could with that black-snake whip. Each stroke of the whip drew blood from our backs. “Now,” she said to us, “you have a taste of slavery days.”
Frank Cooper, Library of Congress
Don’t You Turn Back by Langston Hughes
As described by Nancy Snyder at Bookriot.com, “Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.” His poetry is beautiful, yearning, and haunting. It should be on the to-read list of anyone who is interested in the human condition.
Dream-singers, Story-tellers, Dancers, Loud laughers in the hands of Fate— My People. Dish-washers, Elevator-boys, Ladies’ maids, Crap-shooters, Cooks, Waiters, Jazzers, Nurses of babies, Loaders of ships, Porters, Hairdressers, Comedians in vaudeville And band-men in circuses— Dream-singers all, Story-tellers all. Dancers— God! What dancers! Singers— God! What singers! Singers and dancers, Dancers and laughers. Laughers? Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers— Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
Hughes, Langston, Don’t You Turn Back
Be warned, these books are “products of their times,” and the language used in most of them would be highly offensive by today’s standards. But this is the way it was, and you can’t whitewash it or sanitize it.
We didn’t know nothing like young folks do now. We hardly knowed our names. We was cussed for so many bitches and sons of bitches and bloody bitches and blood of bitches. We never heard our names scarcely at all.
Sallie Crane, Library of Congress.
A recent post (June 2, 2020) on Facebook by Caroline Crockett Brock illustrates poignantly that these attitudes, these experiences are not a thing of the past. They are not just the stuff of history, of Emmett Till and Rodney King and George Floyd and so many nameless others. It relates the experiences of Ernest Skelton, the owner of Grand Strand Appliance Repair Services.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in.
As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble? The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year.
He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another.
Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances.
They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs.
These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way.
Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore.
He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark.
He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark.”
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him.
He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard.
Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years.
He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me.
I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is.
His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.
When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up.
I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today.
Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
The Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. The George Floyd riots. These are “the methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure” that Jonathan Kozol mentioned. Taken by themselves, the destruction and looting are senseless and wrong. Taken in the context of 400 years of systemic oppression, they are entirely understandable. These things happen because the white establishment refuses to listen, to understand, and to act.
The BLM movement is being used by opponents of progress and maintainers of the status quo to show their ignorance. There is no implied “only” in front of “black lives matter.”
An exquisite example of this happened in 2016, when a supposed group of law students wrote a letter to Patricia Leary, a professor at Whittier Law School, taking her to task for wearing a BLM teeshirt “on a day in Criminal Procedure when we were explicitly discussing violence against the black community by police.” ³ Images of the letters and concomitant transcripts can be found at Imgur; the professor’s response to these entitled and presumptuous brats is a takedown worthy of 1998, when the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell, and he plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.⁴
Of course all lives matter. Despite the fact that there are pervasive problems of racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and unwarranted brutality among police departments today, blue lives matter too. But as mentioned before, BLM is not about “only” black lives. It’s a movement because black lives are the ones that have been being – and continue to be – devalued and oppressed and taken.
Two recent artistic representations of current events:
We are at a difficult and critical juncture of our nation’s history right now. Things could go a number of ways. It’s not inconceivable that given the attitudes of our current leadership, we could see a Tienanmen Square type of event in our country. Or much in the way of Occupy Wall Street, the BLM movement could peter out into irrelevance and we could see a return to the status quo. These are extremes. It is my hope that the momentum gained in recent times will continue, and that rational heads will prevail, because we owe it to our founders to preserve the republic that they gave us.
Edit: This belongs here.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Just in passing: Most of the kids in my class were white and Jewish. I was one of only three goyim. There were two black kids. Most of us have stayed in touch for 65 years. We never heard from the black kids again, even though we tried hard to find them for our 50th reunion.
² Some white people in this country know what it’s like, even if for a brief time. I refer you to the depredations suffered by members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they were cursed, hunted, slaughtered, mobbed, abused, robbed, subject to a statewide legal extermination order, and driven west across the country from 1830 to 1847. It was a small taste of what slaves and their descendants have suffered for over 400 years. But the point is that unless you’ve experienced this kind of systemic hatred and persecution first hand, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
³ Although the text has been widely shared with critical details redacted, Inside Higher Ed posted the relevant details to show that this was an actual event that really and truly happened.
⁴ With thanks to redditor u/shittymorph for the useful reference.
I loved comics as a kid. No shame, I learned a lot. Loved things like Strange Tales, Creepy, Weird Science, along with the standard DC and Marvel fare.¹ And over the years, some things just stuck in my mind. Tales like “Tim Boo Baa,” “The Mask of Morgumm,” or “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I’ve been able to recover quite a few of these and revisit them in all their glory.
But there was one memory I was never able to recapture, although it popped into my mind frequently… until this week.
It was about this poor inventor, Alphonse Orr, who was taken advantage of by a hideous, bullying con-man of a boss. Finally his name popped up in a comic database, and I was able to score a copy of the issue that the story appeared in.
I was ten when this comic went on sale in 1961, and somehow that last panel, the image of this little man wondering if he could afford pie impacted me profoundly,² as did the idea of the injustice perpetrated upon him by his evil boss – and stuck in my mind for over half a century. Kids have an over-developed sense of injustice at that age, and I was no exception.³
So you’ll pardon me if I found the ending to the story immensely satisfying, and re-reading it after all these years I find that my feelings haven’t changed one whit.
You can read the entire story from “Forbidden Worlds, Issue #98 here as a pdf download.⁴
It’s nice to be able to put memories to rest.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ I could have put my kids through college if I had kept all the first editions I bought, but that’s another story.
² Never mind all the abject poverty and true starvation and famine in the world; at that age I was not aware of what was happening in third-world countries or even of food insecurity in America, but at that time the thought that Alphonse was so poor that he couldn’t afford pie deeply saddened me.
³ Those impressions have never left me. I have found that when it comes to the injustice and cruelty and stupidity of corporations, there’s always a relevant Dilbert.
⁴ Edit: If you do read this story, keep in mind that it’s the ’60s and that it’s fantasy; the Challenger Deep is 6.85 miles below the surface, whereas Edgar W. Simmons claims to have taken his new submersible 120 miles down. Just as a matter of curiosity, the pressure at that hypothetical depth would be 19,259.37 atmospheres, or 250,371 pounds per square inch, or roughly 42 Humvees stacked on your thumbnail. Science? We don’t need no steenkin’ science!
I keep getting text messages from realtors or real estate investors, all calling me “Mike” (not my name) and asking if I would be interested in selling my home at [address] in Sandy, Utah.
In addition to the name being wrong, I lived in the Salt Lake area for over 40 years, but have never owned any property that far south, and I haven’t lived in Utah since 2015. So today I did a bit more digging.
Tax records show that the property in question is owned by Mike [obscured], and a quick search at a data aggregator shows that this individual has several phone numbers listed, one of which is mine.
I’ve had this same phone number since the introduction of the cell phone, so I’m not sure how my number got associated with this Mike gentleman. I’ve petitioned the aggregation service to remove it, and we’ll see if this goes anywhere.
At any rate, here are the messages I received:
8/22/2019 – from (385) 250-0401 Hi Mike, I’m Nate and I know this is a shot in the dark but I saw your house at [address]. Would you possibly consider selling it?
1/29/2020 – from (435) 265-3414 Hi Mike! Mark here! I’m a local investor looking for properties in Sandy! Would you be open to an offer on your property at [address]?
4/6/2020 – from (435) 304-4355 Hello Mike this is Brenden. Sorry for reaching out in these uncertain times. I’m looking for a house to buy in the neighborhood. I’m curious if you are looking to cash out equity before a possible market shift on [address]. I’d love to see if we might be able to work together.
5/29/2020 – from 304-3769 Hello Mike, we’re looking to pick up some properties and was wondering if you’d be open to an offer on [address]? – Jake
Well, I chatted with “Jake” for a while as though I were “Mike” and might be interested. He asked about details on the house, and I asked him for his full name, the name of his agency, and the name of his broker. He responded,
I’m a local real estate investor – I’m looking for another rental or rehab project and I like the area.
Notice that he didn’t provide any of the requested information. I then laid out the entire situation for him and essentially asked him what his game was. His response?
There are so many red flags surfacing around this chain of messages that I feel like Tootle in the meadow.
I have no idea what these people’s game is – I wish I knew – but I suspect it’s not on the up and up, especially given the fact that multiple individuals (supposedly) are contacting me regarding a property that is not even on the market.
Be careful out there. Never give out sensitive personal or financial information unless you know exactly who you are dealing with, and why.
The miracle of the Internet allows one these days to do a deep dive into the oddities of humanity, and many of Robert Ripley’s stories can be either verified, clarified, or debunked. I was an inveterate consumer of Ripley’s collections as a youth, and this particular item always intrigued me. As it turns out, this story happens to be entirely accurate, as documented at Human Marvels.
Included at the link is a video that shows the late Mr. Langevin demonstrating his odd talent.
A lot of the human skull is empty space, and as you can see from the above illustration, there’s a very small partition between the sinuses and the orbits of the eye. All it would take is a small malformation or injury to either the skull or the nasolacrymal duct to connect the eye with the sinuses, and Bob’s your uncle.
I’ve written often about affiliate marketers who use advertorials and farticles (advertisements designed to look like news articles) in their never-ending hunt for clicks and commissions. It’s an ongoing plague, but one that seems to have become an inextirpable part of the internet landscape.
As annoying as it is, this technique is not new. Here, an example from the Iowa City Daily Press from 16 May, 1905 (page 2). The snippet below is from a section of the paper entitled “News In Brief” and shows two advertisements shoehorned into the section dedicated to short news articles:
It just goes to show that historically, the journalistic drive to ethically bring the news to people has always been intermingled with a desire to earn as much revenue as possible, regardless of how it’s done.
In today’s world, the mad rush for clicks, eyeballs on ads, and sales conversions has turned the Internet into a wild west of unreliable or downright deceptive pages and advertisements, and it’s a true challenge to sift and sort the wheat from the tares. Teaching kids how to tell one from the other would be a valuable class in any high school or college.
Il Presidente Trump si puo’ definire un por- tento di abilita’, oltre che un uomo politi- co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de- cantato con rime sacre come ad altri è gia’ capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster- minata mole marmorea che fungesse da e- co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe- lice e caro nome di questo grande comunica- tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron- catore di malgoverni e uomo tutto d’n pez- zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu- te rispetto e ammirazione. Di Trump si par- la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi- tica era di benessere con la sua onesta faccia e seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’America unita scor- giamo in lui l’uomo del destino e perciò lo sor- reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu- tevole clamore delle folle, alzando un applau- so a Lui e al suo Governo!
President Trump can be defined as a marvel of ability, and in addition, a first-class politician. As has been done for others in the past, he deserves to be extolled with sacred rhymes. He is worthy of a marble monument of immense size which would serve as an indestructible echo through the centuries, so that the beloved name of this great communicator might be known throughout eternity. A man who crushes misgovernment, a man of impeccable character like no other, this knight arouses within us feelings of respect and admiration. Trump is spoken of far and wide, and with his honest and serious face, he will lead us into that mythical era of prosperity. All citizens of a united America see him as a man of destiny, and as a result we support him with all our energy amidst the ever-changing clamor of the crowds, raising plaudits to him and his government!
Now… Read Every Other Line…
Presidente Trump si puo’ definire un por- co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de- capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster- co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe- tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron- zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu- la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi- seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’America unita scor- reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu- so a Lui e al suo Governo!
President Trump is a first-class pig. He deserves to be beheaded. He is worthy of a monument of dung, indestructible throughout the centuries, so his stench might be passed down through eternity. A turd like no other, he buggers us far and wide and will lead us into misery. With all our energy, we citizens of a united America will fart in the face of Trump and his government.
I was first introduced to the world of automated translation in 1977 via Brigham Young University’s TSI (Translation Sciences Institute) which later spawned ALPS (Automated Language Translation Systems); I worked at both enterprises as a linguistic programmer.
It’s a huge field now, much more than it was in the ’60s and ’70s when the technologies and theories were merely a-borning; much has been written about automated translation since the ’60s and even earlier. The history is out there on the Net if you want to do your own research ¹ (and that doesn’t mean watching two hours of YouTube videos that tell you what you want to hear). There’s also some funny stuff out there. ²
A post from one of my Facebook friends and translation colleagues was the source for some Japanese text; this is just a raw comparison, and you can draw your own conclusions or dig deeper if you want. Or don’t. But it’s something that fascinates me, and I could study it for a lifetime. Wait, I did. Whatevs.
Google Translate began by using statistical machine translation (SMT), which uses the analysis of huge bilingual text corpora to generate translation based on statistical models. They later moved to a combination of SMT and neural machine translation (NMT) which uses an artificial neural network to predict the likelihood of a sequence of words.
DeepL is a relative newcomer to the automated translation scene, but has received high praise from translators and governments alike. It uses neural machine translation, but its power comes from the massive Linguee database. While it currently works with only 11 languages as compared to Google Translate’s 109, the results appear to be consistently better and more natural.
Below you will find two examples of highly colloquial Japanese and the output from the three different translation engines.
えーーー？だれ？もっていっちゃったのは！たぶん、カメラに写っているよね。返してー (Eeee? Dare? Motte itchatta no wa! Tabun, kamera ni utsutte iru yo ne. Kaeshitee)
What? Who is this? I took it! Maybe it’s on the camera. Give it back
Eh? Who? What I brought! Maybe it’s in the camera. Return
Ehhh? Who is it? I’m the one who took it! Maybe you can see it in the camera. I want it back.
そんなことをする人には絶対にばちが当たるヨ〜 (Son’na koto o suru hito ni wa zettai ni ba chi ga ataru yo 〜)
People who do such a thing will never win ~
People who do such a thing will definitely be hit
People who do such things are going to pay dearly for it.
Neural network translation is interesting in that repeated submission of a single phrase can often result in different outputs:
返してー 返して. 返してー
when given to DeepL results in:
I want it back. Give it to me. Give it back to me.
Whereas the original phrase reduplicated (返してー返して.) produces:
Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!
The technology has made multiple quantum leaps since the earliest forays into automated translation. My Pixel 3XL phone is many times more powerful than the IBM 370/138 that BYU was using to develop their one-to-many interactive translation system based on Junction Grammar, both in storage capacity and processing speed. To be very honest, I don’t know what kind of hardware these systems are running on, whether distributed or mainframe or supercomputers that are capable of processing whigabytes of data at processing speeds that almost don’t have enough greek prefixes to describe. I just know they’re big, and fast, and they’re only getting bigger and faster all the time.
That said, translation, particularly literary translation, is just as much of an art form as it is a mechanical process, one that has cognitive components that no computer will ever be able to duplicate. No machine would ever be capable of translating Les Misérables into English, or Harry Potter into Hebrew, for example, and preserve the wonder of language; I challenge any machine, now matter how sophisticated or fast, to translate things like this:
“I stepped off the train at 8 P.M. Having searched the thesaurus in vain for adjectives, I must, as a substitution, hie me to comparison in the form of a recipe. Take a London fog 30 parts; malaria 10 parts; gas leaks 20 parts; dewdrops gathered in a brick yard at sunrise, 25 parts; odor of honeysuckle 15 parts. Mix. The mixture will give you an approximate conception of a Nashville drizzle. It is not so fragrant as a moth-ball nor as thick as pea-soup; but ’tis enough – ’twill serve. I went to a hotel in a tumbril. It required strong self-suppression for me to keep from climbing to the top of it and giving an imitation of Sidney Carton. The vehicle was drawn by beasts of a bygone era and driven by something dark and emancipated.” -O. Henry – “A Municipal Report”
The need for human translators is in no danger, and never will be – but that’s not to say that technological advances have not brought both advantages and disadvantages to human translators. Back in the day, it was pencil and paper, and hard-copy dictionaries, and rolodexes. Now it’s translation memories and electronic dictionaries and segmentation systems that allow for rapid recall of already-translated words and phrases and best-guessing (fuzzy matching) for things that are close. This speeds up the work and increases consistency, but as a result translation agencies have taken to telling translators that they’ll pay, for example, 9¢ per word for new material, but only 4¢ for fuzzy matches, and almost nothing for 100% matches. This means that translators have to turn out much more material to generate the same amount of income – but what agencies don’t care about is that every word needs to be processed and reviewed through the skillset of the translator as though it were brand-new. What’s more, the proliferation of free online translation services means that any schlub in India or China can claim to be a translator and charge 2¢ per word, and the agencies love that – but in exchange they’re getting lousy output and dragging down the rates of pay for the entire industry – which is exactly why I got out of the business of freelance translation. It’s a crime, and I won’t put up with it.
The Old Wolf has spoken, Der Alte Wolf hat gesprochen. Le vieux loup a parlé. Il vecchio lupo ha parlato.
¹ If you want to dig into the history of machine translation, you can start here, following the references at the end of the article for more. Warning: It’s a very, very deep rabbit hole.