“Homecoming went well…”

Homecoming went well this year. The Stags played the Mott Mohicans here and won 49-7.

Stoop Harcourt pulled the “Sensation of the Stag Nation” float in the Saturday parade with that old Allis Chalmers tractor of his. His daughter Lirick was Stag Queen. Thistle Hunnicut was her Lady in Waiting. The Antlerettes were the Queen’s Court.

Mason Harcourt bought their dresses at the Dapper Dan in Waverly. We helped her sew organdy and taffeta pettyflurze on them to accent the plunge line. We stitched wire into the bodices so they wouldn’t sag and let bosom pop out like last year with Kendall Tarbuckle.

Faith said Scooter would turn over in his grave if he knew his granddaughter had ridden from Eighth Street to the stop light with nipple showing. Kendall was mortified, though it hasn’t hurt her social life, has it?

Thank God the wire worked.

The only thing that bothered me this year was, Mason made ’em paint sensation with an “i,” so it read “sinsation.” She got that from a dessert at Chez Clancy’s called Chocolate Sinsation. “It’s sinfully good,” the menu says.

Mason thought it was clever and would punch up the float. But I was thinking during the parade, Did I miss a sermon or something? Since when should we suggest to our young folks that sin is delicious? They’re mixed up enough already!

But that’s just a quibble. The float was as pretty as I’ve seen it in a long time. And the girls were gussied up like little floozies — cute as a bug!

(This Is Stag Country, Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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“Tough Rocks”

Tough Rocks

“Two exoplanets proven hard to kill!”
A headline like that promises a thrill.

“The two survived their dying star’s last gasp,”
It says, but this is difficult to grasp.

The parent star turned red, puffed up, and died.
It was assumed the planets would be fried.

Not only did they ride the scorching out,
But played a game of turn and turn about.

For sure the babies lost a hunk of bulk,
But also took a bite of bloated hulk

From the giant, their new-found nemesis.
They say there are few instances of this.

But here’s something that truly gives me pause:
Our own Sun’s contract has an exit clause.

In some five billion Christmases from now
Our Sun will have a red-faced, holy cow.

When starved of hydrogen it will get gross,
And gobble up the planets that are close.

The dear sustaining star that gave us birth
Will swallow Mercury, Venus, and Earth.

It will collapse into a dwarfish thing,
Forgetful of its planetary fling.

Although this fate seems very far away,
The long run’s getting shorter every day.

Should we pray? Of course! It does no harm.
A fervent prayer may prove a lucky charm.

Another strategy that may be sound:
Find a different star to orbit round.

The long and short of this sad tale, however,
Is now, nor then, there’s no such thing as never.

Reference
http://www.livescience.com/17606-survivor-alien-planets-dying-star.html

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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“When did you stop beating your wife?”

“Through his mysterious and appealing lectures, they were guided away from the cold sobriety of genuine knowledge into the picturesque realms of pseudoscience….” (Grete de Francesco, “The Power of the Charlatan,” quoted by John Ganz in an opinion piece in the NYTimes)

When the title of this comment occurred to me, I thought it was from some old comedic shtick, akin to “Take my wife… please.” I have no idea when or where I first heard it. On impulse I Googled “When did you stop beating your wife?” It came up as an example of the “loaded question.”

For me, it symbolizes a type of headline that seems to be a staple of clickbait journalism: The provocative assertion posed interrogatively. It’s a come hither device to draw the surfer into an inflamed or tendentious opinion piece. It’s of a piece with headlines that taunt “You won’t believe…,” and those that scream words like “destroy” and “shred” to proclaim the outcome of a tweet skirmish.

I understand the drive to capture audience. It’s hard to write dispassionately and disinterestedly about a topic. Unvarnished reflection isn’t always shiny. The principled urge to write without embellishment fights with the yearning to be noticed.

My contrivance vice tends to be to let a soupçon of swagger creep in, a saucy dash of erudition, wit, or even modesty. Such strutting, besides playing the reader unfairly, compensates for under-confidence in the face of the sheer volume of quality blogging that’s out there.

I resolve to try to: (1) Strive for greater allusiveness and economy of expression; (2) Err oftener on the side of understatement; (3) Refrain from snuffing my own candle.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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“A Modest Proposal”

Jonathan Swift wrote that the babies of the poor should be spitted, roasted, and consumed. The quotation, in Latin, crowns the main gate to Baldershanks, Sir Alistair Chichester’s estate in Chichesterton-Upon-Hogg.

Many have dismissed the Swiftian proposition as merely a mischievous jape by The Dean. Some have resorted to extreme language and labeled the proposal “callous.”

Adopt a Thatcherite perspective on the matter, however, for the sake of discussion. In theory, consuming offspring of the indigent may have salubrious ramifications. Consider, for example, the chaff it could winnow from good society — videlicet nascent ne’er-do-wells, layabouts, malingerers, and dole mums.

Quantify in at least four ways how taking Swift’s proposal seriously could affect Her Majesty’s economy. Here are possible avenues of inquiry:

(1) Consequences for domestic meat producers;
(2) Tax burden relief owing to shrinkage of the National Health Service;
(3) Workforce implications for the trades;
(4) Property value impact from slum eradication.

(Social Math — UK, Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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“Dancing Tango…”

“But what we fail to do in politics — harness our shared humanity — we do so easily in dance. We embrace the other. We take into account another person’s comfort, how our pace and pressure feel. We compromise to compensate for differences in height, in weight, in skill. We listen to each other listen to the music. We negotiate our way around the crowded floor. We are indulgent, expressive, courteous when things go wrong. We take great mutual care.

If we are capable of this intimacy, then maybe we are not beyond repair.”

(Meghan Flaherty, “Dancing Tango With Trump Voters,” NYTimes)

Brushes, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

Brushes, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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This just in!

The restaurant in the UK House of Parliament has changed the name of a classic British dessert known as “spotted dick”; henceforth it will be called “spotted richard.” (Eater, June 18, 2018)

Spotted dick was featured in the cozy supper that Sir Alistair Chichester shared with the Reverend Bidley-Spaulding in a recent installment of “Social Math – UK.” Consider that installment duly amended ex post facto.

Wadsworth, the butler, has admonished kitchen staff at Baldershanks to be circumspect. Sir Alistair isn’t known for embracing innovation.

Boost Your Bangers, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

Boost Your Bangers, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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“The Rape of Dinah” (Genesis)

“If I were preaching the story of Dinah, I might simply ask, “How do you think she felt?” It’s a question that some men have never considered. Though some abusers are beyond the reach of compassion, I have in my work as a pastor witnessed the ways hearts can open when someone tells a story. It is empathy, not regulations, that will create a different vision for masculinity in our nation, rooted in love instead of dominance. But transformation happens only in the hard light of truth. When we silence the stories of Dinah and her sisters, perpetrators continue to violate. And those who are victimized? Their reactions go unrecorded.”

(Emily M. D. Scott, “The Bible’s #MeToo Problem,” NYTimes)

Door Under Good, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

Door Under God, JMN, photo. (Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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