It's usually between 34 and 45 this time of year.

Fifty-eight. Sunny. The last act of the glorious decline:


I'd say it's a great day, but my ice maker is on the blink again, and this is a disaster of unimaginable proportions. I'm so upset I can't go to work tomorr. I need to wear clothes made out of Play-Doh and have kittens rubbed on my face. Not the sharp part. The fluffy part.

Of course, you've seen this. Heard this. What's the phrase, "Youth Must be Served"? Preferably with a nice chianti:

A blog post about the Yale Halloween Email Crisis included this window into the emotional state of the people who suffered from exposure to adult advice:

I have had to watch my friends defend their right to this institution. This email and the subsequent reaction to it have interrupted their lives. I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns. I feel drained.

In case you haven't been following the story, the letter above is describing the reaction of Yale students who saw an email from a person in authority declining to issue costume bans for Halloween, and advised people who were offended by a costume to talk to the person who wore it, or just NOT. GIVE. A. BLEEPING. KREP. FOR. CROW'S. SAKE.

Hence the breakdowns. College kids today! Why, when I showed up at the Daily at the U, it was in a bad patch. They'd published a humor issue the previous term, and it contained material many regarded as offensive to Christians. ("Christ Speaks!" was the big headline, if I recall correctly.) The legislature - the STATE LEGISLATURE - was debating whether to yank the Daily's funding, or make it optional for students. You were required to support a variety of organizations as part of your tuition, which was the sort of thing good collegians were supposed to support because it spread then money around to Worthy Groups. In retrospect it seems peculiar that people were required to pay for the newspaper, but the argument was backwards: it served everyone, so everyone should pay. And as these things go, should = must.

The Daily won the fight, but I don't think they ever swung that hard for a humor issue again. Can't say if the humor issue was actually funny; in college, kicking the proper shins is a sign of virtue, especially if the target sees itself as virtuous in the old-style sense. (Modern virtues are called something else - sensitivity, awareness, consciousness-raising, and so on; they are off limits to humorous criticism from outsiders.) There was another humor issue down the road, and by then I was part of the Daily culture, and I edited it. I gave the cover over to tweaking the Big Newspaper, the Star and Tribune; I think they'd just merged. The cover said STAR TRIBUNE MERGES WITH ITSELF, COLLAPSES INTO BLACK HOLE, DISAPPEARS or something.

There were a few shots at the reigning editor, for reasons I can't remember. It had not yet occurred to me that I might want to work there, but that idea came soon enough, and I began the 15-year campaign to get a job at the Strib. I'm serious. I had meetings off and on for a decade and a half. My objective was simple: I wanted to be the humor columnist for the StarTribune. And I am. But that's not the point of all that.

While the Daily was under assault, a newspaper was put out every Monday through Friday. While the big Star and Tribune and Pioneer Press and Dispatch ran stories about the State Legislature debating our funding, and people got up in the august chambers of the Capitol and railed against our blasphemy, what did we do? We wrote, sang, drank, smoked, swore, laughed, and - get this - went to class. Also we slept and consumed nutriments.

Today's students, by contrast, cannot sleep. They cannot go to class. They cannot eat. They are having breakdowns, because they have encountered a variation of their own certainties that differs from the exact parameters of what they believe to be Iron Law. It is an absolute Iron Law that certain Halloween costumes are problematic at best - a Sexy Nurse costume may deny the frequently difficult experience of those in the sex-work industry (which suffers from systemic oppression that results from the intersection of capitalism, patriarchy and misogyny), it reinforces societal imperatives for women to be Sexy even though they are simply going about their job, and it smacks of Identity Tourism, since the person who is wearing the costume is probably not a nurse, and thus appropriates the experience of actual Sexy Nurses.

But setting all that aside for the moment - which does not in any way diminish the objections many have to the Sexy Nurse costume, or marginalize their reactions in any way - Halloween costumes may include sombreros. It is entirely likely that a properly attuned individual will cast his or her or xer or yis's eyes across a party and see many people unaware of the context, subtext, overtext and textual textosity of their outfit, and the very sight of someone draped in an incorrect variety of fabrics can trigger deep emotional responses.

I think that last point needs to be repeated, lest the full impact of the problem eluded you: people may experience unpleasant emotional responses.

The point of life is to never have an unpleasant emotional response. To anything. Note I didn't say that the point is to avoid them. That suggests personal responsibility, when the onus ought to be on everyone else: offense of any kind cannot be made. What's more the definition of offense is the sole possession of the offended. To take offense is to proclaim virtue, to show your highly developed sensibilities, and the point of having these sensibilities is to find a job, or career, or office, or blog, or tumblr, or some other platform where you can ensure that offense is never given. (If one gets a job doing this, it will be by appointment, not election.) The person will pass from the bubble of college to the bubble of social enforcement, keen on perfecting the world. And for the rest of his or her or xer professional life, they'll be shouting BE QUIET to a calm, rational adult who is too terrified to say "you're a terrible child who understands nothing. Go to your room."

These people will produce nothing. They will create no great art, write no symphonies, conjure no novels that speak across the decades, sculpt nothing of beauty. The world outside the bubble is irredeemable. It cannot, of course, be remade all at once, but tomorrow's a new day. Rome wasn't wrecked in a day.

It has that Uncle Jesus vibe you got from some small-fry texts.

A Rand McNally book? Yes. More than maps, it seems. Once upon a time people relied on paper maps, and Rand McNally was the gold standard. Then that business evaporated.

Rand founded a printing company, and McNally was his employee. The latter fellow apparetly had more gumption; the Rand side of the business peeled off long ago and sold to the McNallys, who kept the company in family hands for over a hundred years. It was sold off to Canadians a while ago, who presumably love Canada. So do I. It's a beautiful place, for the most part.




I will not be doing "The Last Frontier," because no one goes to the Moon or wants to take over the world, and there is no Batman. But I will give you highlights of the cliffhangers, since that's all that really matters.


No, you didn't miss one. The horse went over the cliff, but of course they jumped off. Episode two ended like this:


I know it’s tough to come up with cliffhanger ideas, and tough to find surprising ways to get out of the jams, but I really thing they topped themselves with this one.

They survived because they did! That's the level of artifice in this one. Well, the Indians have guns, and there's war.

The Savages end up heading into town, and some gunfire vexes the Comic Town Drunk, who demonstrates that the Indians have glass jaws:

Haw haw! Hyuck. Meanwhile, the Black Ghost is saving The Girl, riding a buckboard as fast as he can. Of course it is loaded with gunpowder. Of course an arrow knocks a hole in the side and gunpowder is spilled. And then, of course:

One of those cliffhangers were you think "that was close" - which is what you're supposed to think at the start of the next one.

I think we're done with this one.

I know we're done with this one.


There you have it; see you around hither / thither. (And yon.)


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