The Princess Bride Reunion Script Reading

Organized by the Wisconsin Democrats, to whom you can contribute any time, this amazing tribute to an amazing movie; since the invention of the film, there have been five movies that were rated the most perfect, the most pure. This one left them all behind.

(Scroll to 18:22 to get to the beginning of the reading)

The Princess Bride Script Reading

The cast list for this delightful event was as follows:

*Original Cast*
Cary Elwes as Westley
Robin Wright as Buttercup
Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya
Wallace Shawn as Vizzini
Christoper Guest as Count Rugen
Billy Crystal as Miracle Max
Carol Kane as Valerie
Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck

*Introducing*
Rob Reiner as The Grandfather
Josh Gad as Fezzik
Eric Idle as The Impressive Clergyman
King Bach as Yellin, The Assistant Brute and The King (unable to attend because of technical difficulties – his part was taken over on a moment’s notice by Finn Wolfhard)
Finn Wolfhard as The Grandson
Shaun Ross as The Man with Albinism fka The Albino
Whoopi Goldberg as The Ancient Booer and The Mother
Jason Reitman as The Narrator

*With*
Patton Oswalt as The Q&A Moderator
Norman Lear as The Man That Made It All Happen (Executive Producer will join the Q & A)

There were a few technical glitches. It happens. It took a while to get going, and the server kept crashing under the “hug of death.” Occasionally someone was muted; sometimes there was audio lag. But everyone took it in stride, the technical people behind the scenes (I have no doubt) were running around with their butts on fire to make things work, and it all came together in the end to create a once-in-a-lifetime, thoroughly enjoyable presentation.

Right off I noticed some differences in the dialog from the script and what was finalized in the movie. We got to experience a little bit of “deleted scene” stuff there, things that didn’t make it into the final cut. And of course, there was some choice ad-libbing from Billy Crystal and a few others, entirely within the spirit of the whole production.

The performances were mixed. Without mentioning any names, I would have to say that I felt like a few of the cast were just phoning it in (figuratively, since all of them were literally phoning it in for the virtual round table); but most of them were having a great time and many of them were giving it 100% of their best effort to recreate the glory of the original.

Especially notable for outstanding performances were Mandy Patinkin, who stepped into the rôle of Inigo Montoya as though it were 33 years ago (he even produced this incomparable sword during the reading); Wallace Shawn as the inconceivable Vizzini; Chris Sarandon as the king’s stinking son; Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Miracle Max and Valerie; and newcomer Josh Gad paying astonishing tribute to André the Giant. Rob Reiner channelled Peter Falk so well that it was uncanny. This in no way implies that the others were not wonderful as well, but these were the stand-outs for me, and of course Your Mileage May Vary.

There was a Q&A afterward, based largely on questions submitted by fans; I sent one in for Billy Crystal, but sadly it wasn’t selected. After Montoya tells him that Humperdink will suffer “humiliations galore,” Max says something – supposedly in Yiddish – that sounds like “hy didde lik val dang nation. Haha, that is a noble cause. Gimme the 65, I’m on the job!” Now I have a passing knowledge of Yiddish, fluent German, and a modicum of Hebrew under my belt, but this is nothing I could make any sense of. I fear I may just have to wait until I meet Billy in the Great Beyond to get my question answered.

Some good stories were told, and – not unsurprisingly – a lot of the conversation turned to the current political situation and the need for Wisconsin to give its electoral votes to Joe Biden instead of The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office. But then, this entire delightful event was organized to help Wisconsin Democrats, and so I had no objection.

My wife and I are great fans of this film; we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving it a watch and then eating Mutton, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches for lunch or dinner. It’s hard to find lean mutton here in Maine, so we usually make do with lamb… but it’s still so perky.

If you also love this movie, I recommend that you hit your library up for a copy of As You Wish, the moving behind-the-scenes story of how the film came together written by none other than Cary Elwes.

My thanks to Benjamin Canant for capturing and uploading this event. Enjoy watching.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The truth about “ugly produce.”

This post is taken from a series of tweets by Dr. Sarah Taber (@SarahTaber_bww). I’ve collected the tweets, edited them for clarity and brevity (sometime abbreviations help you meet Twitter’s length limit), and bowdlerized them just a bit for a family-friendly audience. If you don’t mind a bit of language, you can, of course, view the original thread here.


Most “ugly” produce gets turned into soups, sauces, salsa, jam, ice cream, etc. You think that stuff gets made from the pretty fruit and veggies?! Jeebus, think about it for a minute.

The amount of produce wasted because of labor problems (can’t get a crew to harvest) and bad weather (melons that rot in the field because it’s too hot and wet, etc) WAY outstrips produce thrown out because it’s “ugly.”

Because again… we eat a LOT ugly produce. You just wouldn’t know it because it’s salsa.

As someone who works in produce, this whole “ugly fruit” movement is actually kind of enraging because it’s completely disconnected from what really happens in the supply chain. It’s a big honkin’ wad of fraud that self-promoting foodies get away with because nobody knows better.

After it leaves the farm, most produce goes to a packinghouse. This is where they cool, wash, sort, and package it. In other words, it’s where the ugly fruit people think all this “waste” is happening.

he only time packinghouses throw out fruit is when IT’S ACTUALLY INEDIBLE. Like it’s either rotten or (in the case of one watermelon field that one time) it had rained so hard that the melons filled up with water and were completely tasteless. Also about to explode.

Produce gets graded by size, prettiness, and (sometimes) flavor/eating quality.

Know what happens to most of the produce that’s edible, has enough shape to survive in transit, but looks funny?

IT GOES TO THE GROCERY STORES THAT POOR PEOPLE SHOP AT.

In the broke times of my life I did not shop at farmers’ markets, because they’re at bizarre times when working class people are usually working or sleeping (late service sector nights = no 7 AM Saturday farmer’s market for you). Farmer’s Markets are built around the “9 to 5” white-collar schedule.

Most of your real poor people, when buying produce, get it from shops white collar people don’t go to.

Those shops stock ugly produce.

[The shops] that white collar people don’t go to. Then conclude, looking at their nice stores stocked with pretty No. 1 produce, that nobody’s eating the ugly stuff.

So there’s one beef. The “eat ugly fruit!” movement is as classist as it comes. You’ve got to have a debilitating level of ignorance to assume that if Whole Paycheck Market doesn’t stock ugly fruit, it must be getting “wasted.”

Upside-Down Face on Microsoft

Back to the packinghouse. When produce is EXTREMELY UGLY, it goes into cull bins.

My fave cull bins to date:

  • Sweet potatoes. Did you know that they make a *lot* of giant, freaky-shaped spuds? Like a rat king of sweet potatoes, somewhere between football and basketball sized. What happens to these ugly, unloved sweet potatoes? OH WAIT THEY GET LOVED, THAT’S WHERE EVER-LOVIN’ SWEET POTATO FRIES COME FROM!
  • Apples. We love to say we don’t mind “spots on our apples,” but actual sales data tells us we really, really do. And honestly, we should. Even “cosmetic” lesions can make micro-breaks in the apple’s skin, allowing fungus to enter. One rotten apple, barrel, etc. Fugly apples ARE WHERE APPLE JUICE AND APPLE SAUCE AND APPLE CIDER AND APPLE BUTTER AND APPLE JELLY AND APPLE PIE COME FROM! “Wasted” my eye.

    “But some apple variety are better for fresh eating, not processing!” D’ya think Hy-Vee brand apple juice from concentrate really cares at all that today’s shipment of cheap juicing-grade apples are not The Optimal For Juicing?

    NO THEY’RE GONNA JUICE THAT STUFF!

    Did you know: Honeycrisp apples are extra prone to a mostly-cosmetic skin defect called bitter pit?

    Ergo, most Honeycrisp apples become apple juice. That’s why whole, fresh, pretty Honeycrisp apples cost so fricken’ much.

    Because most of them become cheap bulk juicers.

Yes, every once in a while you’ll run into a variety of produce that only really works for fresh and doesn’t lend well to processing. This mostly happens with leafy greens (we don’t make … lettuce sauce), which is such a minuscule amount of the produce tonnage grown per year.

When produce is too far gone to sell and there’s no processing market (say, melons), it often gets fed to livestock.

That’s… actually a lot of the point of livestock, historically. They eat stuff we can’t and turn it into meat, milk, and eggs that we can.

Feeding crop and food waste to livestock also means we’re not having to use as much livestock-only cropland. Just assume that most years a certain percentage of human food crops will get messed up and become livestock feed, and that’s less pasture/grain land needed for livestock.

That Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe back in 2011? As best we can tell it happened because they fed ugly melons to cattle.

Which, in itself, is fine.

The problem is they kept driving the truck back into the cantaloupe shed AFTER getting its tires caked in cow poop during deliveries.

This whole “ugly fruit! uwu”¹ thing is bewildering because in order to believe that retail consumers can change the world by buying ugly fruit, you have to believe that the entire supply chain is made of numpties² who make a regular habit of leaving money on the table.

The food system is a hot mess but using ugly produce is one thing it’s actually really good at. Using every single part of what’s grown, if there’s any possible way to sell it.³

The one big source of food waste that I do worry about is crops that are perfectly good, and rot in the field because the farm can’t get anybody to harvest them. (Orrrrr they don’t want to pay enough for people to come harvest them.)

These labor shortages come down to 2 things:

  1. Bad immigration policy
  2. Farm business models that can’t survive a competitive labor market

(which kinda tends to feed back into that first one)

We SHOULD be worried about THAT. And “buy ugly fruit!” does virtually nothing to address it.

But those aren’t fun problems to fix, because they’re not the kinds of problems that the everyman consumer can fix by just making a simple yes/no choice in the supermarket.

They’re like … systemic or something.

Anyway, that’s my semiweekly grinching about shallow attempts to reform the food system that completely miss the point and at this point the ugly fruit thing is such an accepted belief that. like. you can’t even blame people for believing it, it’s absolutely everywhere.


I originally saw this posted on Facebook. What follows are some comments from a friend of mine who spent his entire career as an agricultural consultant and extension agent for a large midwestern university. I thought these contributed to the discussion.

Story 1: In college, I spent a couple of years in Cooperative Education working as a USDA fruit and vegetable inspector. My job was to examine a shipment of produce, pass or fail it on both cosmetic issues as well as actual decay. After the receiving company got his money back from the shipper (thanks to my report), he’d then sell the produce for top dollar. And I watched how the ugly produce would be separated and sold to organic food coops (because “that’s what organic produce looks like”…mind you, this was back in 1980, when organics were not regulated).
I remember one case where we went to a pickle factory outside of Boston. The load of cucumbers came in with over 50% rotted. Have you ever seen a rotted cucumber? It’s basically a green water balloon…touch it and it explodes. After we finished the inspection, we sat in the receiver’s office while he negotiated with the shipper. After he got almost all of his money back, he hits the intercom and says “OK, run them!”. About 10 tons of rotted, slimy, water-balloon cucumbers were dumped into the pickle juice. It was nearly 10 years before I could eat pickles again.

Ewg!

Story 2: Early in my career with Extension, I had a farmer in southern Indiana who wanted to start an organic apple orchard. He was extremely well-educated, knew a heck of a lot more about apples and apple pests than I did. He fought this for 7 years before giving up. Because in the humid Ohio River Valley, you MUST use fungicides to prevent fungus diseases, or every fruit will develop unsellable spots. His entire crop, year after year, was only good for cider. And you cannot make a living growing cider grade apples. You MUST have a high percentage of US Number 1 apples that the fresh-eating public buys. And despite what all of my organic-gardener friends tell me…if you put out two bins of apples: 1 bin with perfect-looking fruits that are labelled “sprayed every week all season long” and 1 bin with spotted apples labelled “organic,” the sprayed bin will always be bought out quickly. Always.

Story 3: When younger, I took my kids to my local strawberry farmer for U-Pick berry picking. And I watched as the general public would only pick the biggest and most perfect berries. They would leave unpicked the smaller berries (which actually are sweeter than the big ones); they would leave the misshapen ones. And that’s if they were being generous…because the farmer could always pay his workers to go back over the field and pick the skipped-over fruit. But no…the public would pick the less-than-perfect fruit, and toss it or smash it because it wasn’t good enough for them. And that is waste.


Footnotes:

¹ “UwU” is an alphabetic emoji representing a cute or smug face. You might see it as this:

² British for “morons.”

³ Just recently I saw this ad show up on my Facebook wall:

Some executive somewhere: “Hey, I’ve got a great idea how we can make money from getting people to buy the garbage we used to throw away!”

Being a global linguist for fun (and just a little profit)

Languages are Hard - Making Voice Assistants Speak Many Languages

The numbers have changed a bit since 𝑁𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑇𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑢𝑒𝑠 was published by Charles Berlitz in 1982, but the principle remains sound.

Among the several thousand world languages, only 101 count over 1 million speakers. Of these, the fourteen most important in number of speakers are, in approximate order:

Chinese
English
Hindi/Urdu
Russian
Spanish
Japanese
German
Indonesian
Portuguese
French
Arabic
Bengali
Malay
Italian

All of these have at least 50 million speakers, including dialects. Chinese is definitely the number-one language, with almost 1 billion speakers. English, second by several lengths—with approximately 300 million native speakers is nevertheless much more widely spoken over the world’s surface than Chinese. Perhaps 200 million additional speakers around the globe use English as a second language.

Since most of the world’s population either speaks or is familiar with one of the fourteen languages listed above, or with one of three other widely spoken languages—Dutch, Greek, Swahili-or with a language in either the Scandinavian, the Turkic, or the Slavic group, it is possible for an individual with the time and inclination to be able to communicate with the great majority of the inhabitants of this planet by learning to speak these 20 languages.

Berlitz, Charles, Native Tongues, 1982, Grosset and Dunlap

It’s an interesting concept for someone who might want to travel the world and speak to just about anyone.

I regret that the days ahead are fewer than those behind; I would need another lifetime to master all 20 of these, but I have attained conversational facility in English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian and I have made progress in Japanese, Mandarin, and Arabic, along with a bunch of others not on this list like Irish, Norwegian, Croatian, Farsi, and Hebrew.

Some people have great musical skills. Others can do artwork that will knock your eyes out. Or write captivating stories, or all sorts of talents. This one is mine; I’m neither boasting nor do I apologize, and I’m not even a hyperglot like so many others in history. Learning languages was a career, (that’s where the little bit of profit comes in) and also became a hobby. For me, it’s sheer enjoyment.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
A: Trilingual
Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
A: Bilingual
Q: What do you call a person who speaks one language?
A: American

I can’t count the number of times while traveling for work or enjoyment that I encountered people who were delighted that an American would take the trouble to learn a bit of their language. It has generated more goodwill than I could describe.¹ Even a few phrases will usually get a smile.

There is, on that note, one other way to get the natives of another country to like you: Enjoy their food. That’s a subject for another essay, but I can share that my stock in the books of the good people of Kinshasa rose precipitously when the learned that I thoroughly enjoyed their fufu, plantains fried in red palm oil, and chicken moambe.

If you’re going to travel, make the effort. Even a rudimentary effort will pay large dividends. For ease of acquisition, [and I’m not a paid shill] I recommend the Pimsleur courses, many of which are available through local libraries. Listen at home, or in your car, or in the great outdoors and by the end of 10 lessons (or 30, for more popular languages) you’ll have a feel for the language and be able to produce and understand some common useful phrases. Another useful site is Omniglot, and there are some great apps out there – Duolinguo is very popular.

Just do it.

Il vecchio lupo ha parlato.


¹ Note: In Paris it doesn’t matter how well you speak French, they’ll be rude to you anyway.

Old pages

It used to be that anything that was on the Internet lasted forever. Sometimes that’s true – the Streisand Effect makes sure that when people do their best to scrub things from the web, they are replicated and hosted in multiple places, so that the Wayback Machine (a part of the Internet Archive) can grab them.

The more Xi tried to suppress this image and ones like it, the more widespread they became.

On the other hand, the advent of robots.txt and other devices ensured that archive copies of some websites were never grabbed, and that’s a shame. But a lot of pages, even if they become obsolete, are still available.

The oldest page on the “World Wide Web,” a term that is about as common these days as NCSA Mosaic, is this one; the earliest screen capture was taken in 1992.

I ran across this picture from September 2008 in my Livejournal:

It linked to a quiz at NerdTests.com, which I was pleased to note still exists. How geeky are you?

A list of websites created before 1995 can be found at Wikipedia, for further perusal.

The Million Dollar Homepage was one of those flashes of inspiration that came to someone who was in the right place at the right time. Once an idea like this is done, it can’t ever be successfully replicated. Kinda like “The Princess Bride.”

The Net is a strange and wonderful place, a rabbit hole with no perceptible bottom. But if you surf diligently enough, you can actually get to the end.

Of course, if you’re a manager you can always have one of your peons print the Internet out for you. ¹

OK, Boss, here’s Volume 1 of 16,384:

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Dilbert was a lot funnier in earlier years. It’s gotten pretty stale and repetitive. If you ask me, it’s time to retire him.

Amy Wright and the “How Dare You” COVID essay

When something becomes a meme on the Internet, you can be pretty sure there’s a kernel of truth behind it. Tidbits of wisdom, even when inspiring, are often attributed to the strangest, though incorrect sources. I can only assume this usually happens out of ignorance (meaning, they just don’t know the source and feel like adding a “likely” origin) rather than malice, but once something is out there, it can spread like wildfire – and pretty soon everyone and their sister’s cat’s grandmother thinks the quote is accurately sourced.

This has happened in recent days with a powerful essay that is circulating on Facebook and elsewhere about the Coronavirus, widely attributed to Dr. Fauci. The trouble is, the authoress is Amy Wright, who wrote it and posted it on Facebook on June 14, 2020. You can see the original post here.

I have replicated the full text of the post below, because it deserves to be widely seen with correct attribution.

Here is my take. Short-sighted people want to dismiss COVID-19 as “just a virus”. You may hear some suggest it’s “like a cold”. Maybe that makes them feel better because it’s familiar and makes this crisis feel less overwhelming.

But here’s the problem with that:

Chicken pox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don’t think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you’re older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don’t just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it’s been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they’re going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you’re going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don’t just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it’s been around for years, and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system, and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be catalogued, much less understood.

So far the symptoms reported include:

Fever
Fatigue
Coughing
Pneumonia
Chills/Trembling
Acute respiratory distress
Lung damage (potentially permanent)
Loss of taste (a troubling neurological symptom)
Sore throat
Headaches
Difficulty breathing
Mental confusion
Diarrhea
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
Swollen eyes
Blood clots
Seizures
Liver damage
Kidney damage
Rash
COVID toes (weird, right?)

People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again.

A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.

This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:

How dare you?

How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as “getting it over with”, when literally no one knows who will be the lucky “mild symptoms” case, and who may fall ill and die. Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30 year olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.

How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don’t yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:

Frequent hand-washing
Physical distancing
Reduced social/public contact or interaction
Mask wearing
Covering your cough or sneeze
Avoiding touching your face
Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren’t immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

I reject the notion that it’s “just a virus” and we’ll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance. Being intentional and taking basic, common sense precautions has permitted me to avoid many common viruses. I’ve never had the flu. And while I’m not saying I never will, I also am not about to run out and intentionally expose myself to “get it over with”.

I, and several other people, posted comments on Facebook to Amy indicating that her writing was being shared widely, either with the Fauci attribution or with others trying to claim authorship. She responded with this:

In a spirit of complete openness, Ms. Wright also confessed that with regard to accuracy, only the list of symptoms has been verified through multiple sources, and that the thrust of her essay was that we know so very little about SARS-CoV-2 that it will be a long time before we fully understand the virus.

That said, I found that the entire essay struck a chord with me, and I include it with gratitude here.

The Old Wolf has shared.

Green Onion Flavored Chex – A wrong, righted.

OK, this is worthy of The Old Wolf’s Banquet from Hell.

“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.

Kellogg's Green Onion Chex Cereal Release Info Buy Price Where Milk Review

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.)

Now, my Korean is about as good as my Silbo Gomero, but this commercial is funny.

Pepsi-flavored Cheetos are selling in Japan, but will they hit the ...

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.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The ongoing scourge of Chain Mail

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?

STOP!!!!

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.

Thanks again!!

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:

Takk til Nemi.no

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.

Oh no! There it is! My computer is ruined!

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:

  1. If the message exhorts you to “send this to everyone you know” … just don’t.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

A complete guide to The Covid-19, deep state, Illuminati, 5G, Bill Gates, Vaccination, Pizzagate, Benghazi, Obama conspiracy.

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! 🗺

If you are having trouble connecting the dots or understanding how mechanized murder hornet drones 🐝 will vaccinate 💉 world 🌎 populations and bring Bill Gate’s 5G empire 🤴🏻 to the forefront with new 2020 Comet Ping Pong Pizza 🍕 cryptocurrency 💰 funded by Soros and Branch Covidians 🚀 aligned with the 9-11 Illuminati elders, this handy composite guide can help.

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.

Understanding persecution

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.

ibid

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.

My People

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.

(Ernest Skelton checks out a client’s washer. Photo: Anjali Patel/WPDE).

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.


Footnotes

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.

Edit: recently found one – he was delighted to be contacted!

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.

Edit: It occurred to me some time after writing this post that understanding persecution does not always automatically translate into compassion and sensitivity. The history of the Latter-day Saints with regard to people of color is unenviable.

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.