The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“By all means, let us be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” — variously attributed to Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, and others.

Oberg

YOUR LIDS ARE BECOMING HEAVY….

I wonder if hypnotists still dangle pocket watches before the eyes of subjects they’re trying to put in trances.

More to the point, I wonder why there are still hypnotists. Then again, I shouldn’t wonder at all, considering we live in a credulous near-theocracy whose citizens largely believe in angels, a 6000-year-old Earth, and alien visitations.

Unbelievably, the ancient art of hypnotism is in Indiana news today. It seems a Christian woman who makes it a practice to visit Loogootee High School to pray for teachers and students is up in arms about the school’s Saturday fundraiser that will feature, yep, a hypnotist.

The fundraiser will benefit the school’s baseball team. Loogootee is a speck on the map in the southwest corner of the state, total population as of the 2010 Census: 2751.

Lots of schools around this holy land hire hypnotists to entertain at fundraisers. It’s all in fun and every once in a while some kid or parent can be seen lurching around the stage, clucking like a chicken. I’m sure such a sight reaps scads of money.

Geneva Yoder, on the other hand, takes her medieval belief systems seriously. Yoder used to have kids at LHS and still cares enough about it to go there, kneel down and implore her BFF in The Sky to smile kindly upon the place.

When she found out the organizers of the baseball team’s fundraiser had hired a hypnotist, she lodged a complaint with the Loogootee Community School Corporation.

Yoder told radio station WBIW that it’s “not morally or ethically right to hypnotize children” just to raise dough for the baseball team.

Not that Indiana has a sterling reputation as a land of forward thinkers but this mini contretemps, coming on the heels of Ft. Wayne Rep. Bob Morris claiming the Girls Scouts are a radical organization, makes us look worse than usual.

The sane among us can only hope our fellow state residents will someday bring their thinking in line with more modern 16th Century ideals.

THE RAW AND THE KOOKED

All my life I’ve been a contrarian, so much so that at times it’s been to my own detriment.

My operative philosophy is, don’t get swept up in group think. The bigger the group, the dumber everybody in it becomes.

For many years, I wondered if perhaps I was — oh, I don’t know — anti-social. Imagine how thrilled I was, then, to read George Carlin’s critique of teams. Here it is:

Teams suck! I don’t like ass-kissers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn kids: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you ‘There is no I in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an I in independence, individuality and integrity.’ Avoid teams at all costs. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, ‘We’re the so-and-sos,’ take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it’s unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don’t participate; it’ll be your death. And if they tell you you’re not a team player, just congratulate them on being so observant.”

Yay! I wasn’t alone. The great George Carlin agrees with me.

Despite mainly being an independent writer since 1983, now and again I’ve worked for a private company. I worked in the Education Department at Whole Foods Market for three years not terribly long ago. This was at the time when companies were spending gobs of cash on foolishness like team-building getaways.

I’d ask, Why do we have to do this junk?

Everybody would say, Oh, so we can all get to know each other and spend quality time with each other. It’ll really make us unified.

Oy, I had so many objections I didn’t know where to start. Here’s a couple. First, if I wanted to get to know my co-workers better, I’d go out with them. Since I haven’t asked certain ones out, that means I don’t want to know them any better.

I mean, the company pays me to spend eight hours a day with people who, by and large, I would never want to be around unless there was remuneration involved. Once that eight hours is up, I wanna go home or to the places I hang out and see people I really like.

Second, why do we have to be reminded we are a team? “Well, it’ll put us all on the same page,” they’d say. For pity’s sake, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Of course we’re a team! Of course we’re on the same page!

They sort of told me when I was hired, This is what we do here. Now you’re going to be doing it with us. I had no illusions that I’d be able to, say, work on my great American novel while I was at work — well, at least not where I could be caught at it. By definition, all our presence in this building makes us a team. We’re trying to sell groceries here, for fk’s sake!

None of these arguments went over very well. And when I couldn’t come up with any credible excuses not to go on team-building functions, I’d go and I’d spend all my time with people I liked and avoid those I didn’t. Just like the regular work day.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about all this because of raw milk.

Huh? Raw milk.

Yeah. WFIU ran a report on the morning news the other day about people who strive to circumvent Indiana’s raw milk ban. See. the state outlaws the selling of raw milk for health safety reasons. Pasteurization destroys most of the microbes that can cause food-borne illnesses.

Raw milk advocates, on the other hand, think pasteurization adversely affects the flavor of moo juice (sorry, I got tired of typing milk.)

When it comes to food fetishists, though, Bloomington often seems the center of the world. Almost immediately, Facebook lit up with people claiming raw milk is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

One person posted that since his family has switched to raw milk, his kids have suddenly been relieved of all their allergies.

Another said that he, his wife, and none of his kids have had so much as a cold since his family turned to raw milk.

I suppose they can believe what they want. What harm does it do for someone to believe raw milk is a miracle substance?

Now, I consider myself an advocate of fresh, healthy, wholesome foods. I try (although I occasionally fail) to minimize my intake of hydrogenated oils, red meat, excessive salt, and other iffy comestibles. I eat spinach every day. I gobble my fruits. I do my best to buy foods that aren’t laden with chemical preservatives or artificial flavors. I restrict my visits to White Castle to once a year.

That puts me on the health food team, I imagine. But remember, I hate being on teams. And the reactions of those Facebook posters is a prime example why. They’ve elevated a personal preference to an almost philosophical imperative.

So, I posted something myself. I wrote, “Look,if you dig the taste of raw milk that’s cool. But it ain’t no magic elixir, folks.”

Aw, that’s one of the 10,000 reasons why I hate Facebook. It too often turns me into a pain in the ass.

ROAM

Hey, Cindy Wilson is 55 years old today. The B52s were the pride of Athens, Georgia and middle America’s intro to punk/new wave pop.

Wilson

Wilson and her brother Ricky were two of the four original members of the band, formed in 1976. The B52s were sailing along in terms of popularity when Ricky suddenly died of AIDS-related complications in October, 1985. He hadn’t told anybody about his illness and his death was a shock to the other band members. Cindy, naturally, was hardest hit by his death. The band went on hiatus for three years.

When they came back and hit the charts in 1989 with “Love Shack” they achieved their greatest success.

2 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. Susan Sandberg says:

    Tin roof……rusted! Love the B52′s but I digress…. Thanks for the Carlin piece – he’s brilliant. Having just returned from a planning retreat myself, I can somewhat relate. It was strangely good just to get away to a new setting, but maybe all that means is…I need a vacation! And now I feel the need to resign from more of my group affiliations and listen to my inner independent. Then again…no woman is an island, no woman stands alone. It’s a puzzlement.

  2. John Bergman says:

    Couldn’t agree more about team-building exercises. What Orwell wrote in “The Art of Donald McGill” on a slightly different topic applies here, particularly the raspberry:

    “I never read the proclamations of generals before battle, the speeches of fuhrers and prime ministers, the solidarity songs of public schools and left-wing political parties, national anthems, Temperance tracts, papal encyclicals and sermons against gambling and contraception, without seeming to hear in the background a chorus of raspberries from all the millions of common men to whom these high sentiments make no appeal.”

    You don’t learn anything about people during “trust exercises” and that sort of ilk. If you’re out in a canoe with them, dump everyone overboard and see what they’re made of. Then hang out in the bar with them afterwards. For good or ill, you’ve then got a common bond. All the rest is just posturing for the bosses.

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