WAHOO–Chief of the Logos

In honor of the 2016 World Series, & the Cleveland Indians–


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Follow-up (after clickable file):

Chief Wahoo’s friend, at right, may illustrate a few other dimensions of the logo issue. First off, unlike Wahoo, he might be considered a real Indian, albeit from the high country of high up-lift which feeds various great rivers of the sub-continent, including the Indus.

He obviously carries considerable cultural meaning–most of which I don’t yet know. [I’ll put up more when I learn it, and hope those who know will help teach me. -Yours Crudely.]   Some might call him–or possibly her–grotesque, others fearsome. I see a distant relative of Chief Wahoo, though far more intricately developed. In comparison, the Chief seems  like an emoji. No doubt the many details of the hardwood mask shown [which hangs in the Bod, from the Richardson collection] all come with highly developed back-stories from over-lapping religious, mythological, and folk traditions.

Depending on how we consider it, the image itself exists in multiple dimensions at the same time. Besides the spatial & historical, there’s presence, essence & response. The presence is the wordless sense of the perceived object. The essence is the spirit with which it was made & intended to be shared. The response is what’s stimulated in the viewer, beyond the simple perception.

When we suggest the nature of a response is “in the eye of the beholder,” that’s what’s meant. The Dalai Lama may respond quite differently on many levels from how you, I, a wide-eyed child, a cutting-edge painter, or a TIbetan villager might–let alone a Taliban exclusivist or radical fundamentalist of any other tradition. So, too, may one person react as if the image of Chief Wahoo were of a “grinning fool” & consider that demeaning to Indians, whereas another (e.g., any Indian fan) may consider that same concept (of the “crazy fool”) elevating, a non-sectarian, folk version of holy.

There is no denying the huge effect the responder’s predisposition has on any response. Indeed, sometimes the world seems “lenticular,” i.e., like one of those signs that show one image looked at from one angle, and an entirely different one from another direction. We see the evidence of such everywhere, certainly in political interpretation & response. One of the pleasures humans find In art involves this freedom of response; in art, this freedom of response is appropriately enshrined as a fundamental principle.

It is what it is. Each observer is entitled to free response–so long as this does not infringe the freedom of others to respond differently. Freedom of response does not mean freedom of action, destroying something just because you don’t like it, for example. We may say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, along with its opposite. That’s because response depends so much on the responder. All but exclusivists who would mandate everyone’s responses, if they could, at least half recognize this principle.

I say half-recognize, because we are also right to half-disbelieve in the principle. Usually the disbelief comes from the sense that our responses are in synch with those of others and seemingly directly based on the perceived reality giving rise to the image–magnificent landscape, work of art, or whatever, where we say, Ah, that’s so beautiful, it takes my breath away. Similarly, most people will find certain things inherently disgusting–& don’t want their noses rubbed in same.

Nevertheless, in art & other use of imagery, there’s a more or less large grey area in which we don’t just acknowledge “the eye of the beholder,” but consider the principle of free response so enshrined, that we implicitly regard all responses as equally valid. Since each responder has an equal right to that freedom, we may tend to consider each response equal valid, but the two concepts–“validity of response” & “freedom of response”– aren’t at all the same, a confusion that can easily give rise to a fallacy of “relativity.”

The fact that you have the freedom to be “wrong” doesn’t make a wrong response right! First, the freedom rightly assumes what the Romans expressed as degustibus non disputandum est, meaning there’s no dispute in matters of taste. They are what they are. There’s no right or wrong in most such matters, even if there is more & less nutritious or healthy. If lutevist taste good to you, I have no basis to claim that’s wrong. Nor the reverse. Where taste is the question, right & wrong aren’t part of the equation until introduced from another dimension, e.g., the moral dimension (“don’t eat people”).

It’s hard to find a more “lenticular” or polarized response than that generated by Chief Wahoo. On the most basic level, one camp finds the image profoundly offensive, while the other responds with protective affection. If it were only a matter of “taste,” there would be no right or wrong in the matter; yet both camps believe more than taste is involved, including various principles. To avoid confusion, before considering this “more,” I emphasize that the “freedom to have one’s own taste” in the matter is a given.

The freedom to have what others may consider “poor taste,” like that to enjoy lutevist, remains even where reason seeks to introduce a dimension in which right & wrong, better & worse, become entirely appropriate judgments. In the case of symbolic use, for example, if the intent is to communicate “x” (a stop sign, say), it can be wrong to interpret it as “y” (“drive on through”). Intent & its interpretation are distinct from matters of taste.

Closely related to what may be called “artistic intent,” but also its own thing, is what I called “presence” above, not just a matter of “perception,” however, as created objects & images inevitably incorporate an inner spirit, generally reflecting the spirit that went into their making. This is related to the intent as embodied in the symbolic “essence,” but is not exactly the same, being to some degree independent of the maker’s intended meaning.

In the case of Chief Wahoo, then, people of course retain the freedom of taste in their personal response. They can be entirely wrong, however, to claim the essential intent is to be a demeaning racist stereotype. People do not, as a rule, apply these to themselves, or adopt them as beloved symbols, logos with which bonding has taken place.                   

The issue would be more complicated, if the original spirit of the actual representation had been that of a demeaning stereotype, before being adopted to do the opposite function (encourage bonding, the sense of team). A case could then be made that the particular “presence” was, in fact, demeaning, however unintentionally. Thus, an open mind, though I don’t yet find any basis in presence or essence of the image itself to consider it wrong. Taste aside, it seems otherwise wrong to attribute racist belittling to either its intent or its spirit, and equally wrong to claim some prior proprietary right to the broad territory represented by either the term “Indians” or use of the “happy fool” caricature.


[Obviously, there can be a right & wrong even in matters of taste, as in right & wrong identification of ingredients, for example. Your right to think a lemon tastes like an eclair is not in question, but it would be wrong to mis-label them or try selling one as the other, even though that would no longer be the case if the names were switched in general use.]

In sum: A FRESH (& Final?) LOOK

The issue isn’t natives v. Indians, an oxymoron even in most parts of India. If Chief Wahoo didn’t have a feather, he could as easily represent the Bangalore Space Cadets or Burning Ghat Crazy Sadhus, or the Kamakazi Pirates. Maybe those few critics who claim the generic feather shown is a blasphemous mis-appropriation of a sacred symbol ought to lighten up a little bit, that being quite a stretch (further than those who would prohibit cartoonists from supposedly representing their holy figures).

Those who find Wahoo offensive have a right to their feelings, of course, even though they may be wrong to feel offended. (Or not. See below.) Some misguided fools may even object to any association with grinning fools, though many native cultures elevate versions of the same, revering the holy fool, with respect to the trickster. It’s a disservice, as well as misrepresentation, to act as if native people don’t joke & laugh as well as anyone else.

To a 7th grader in the prime of his happy adolescence, there was no greater culture-hero than one who brought mirth & (preferably uncontrolled) laughter forth. It was always laughing with, not at, however, hilarity, not disdain. That same high regard for holy fools may have helped fuel interests in zen, dharma bums, & stand-up comedy, this no stranger to provoking offense, from breaking linguistic taboos & speaking plain truth to shedding hilarity on the oxymoronic contradictions of everyday life & hypocrisies of the powerful.

It’s true that from ancient times on, satirists have not always fared well personally, thanks to the pay-back of those with power who didn’t appreciate being butt of the fun. Indeed, the territory between humor & political speech, as between speech & action, can be quite irregular, slippery when wet, and a minefield littered with pay-back over gored oxes.

Then again, there are always intolerant critics who will find what any creative artist has to offer offensive, as in response to George Carlin actually saying the “7 words you can’t say on TV” out loud. The potential to cause offense knows no limit in form or genre, as shown by attacks on musicians like Pete Seeger for their political positions.

Note that in Chief Wahoo’s case, neither satire nor any political positions are involved, expressed, implied, or intended. In the case of a provocative artist or taboo-breaking comedian, we can at least trace the kind of conditioning that gives rise to the sense of being offended–for better or for worse. Some entertainers find being offensive their bread & butter. There’s a wide range of “taste,” besides, with no fixed line or formula, so even the best-intended miss sometimes, while the worst may lack any redeeming social value.

To be fair, I do see what triggers the offended reaction in many, i.e., the source of the conditioning associated with the image. First, there may be some uneasiness at being a member of any group singled out by others, particularly with a history of negative consequences. Offense may be taken from as innocent a form as a nursery rhyme about “Ten little Indians sitting on a wall,” with no negative depictions (except being eaten).

But then there is an ugly side to racist caricatures, with a negative history of its own.  Leaving my personal associations of the gestalt aside for the moment, I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty weird image, and, however unintentionally, does cross-trigger associations with that negative history, the “little Red Sambo” syndrome some critics have described. One would not adopt an image like that today. (Even the team management can probably see this, at least in private, without expressing any disloyalty to the beloved symbol.)

It reminds me of when a “Friends of the Refuge” organization on whose founding board I sat was designing its stationery. The first version adopted (the best we had) looked (to me) a little like “a deformed crane trying to take a dump into the wind,” although the volunteer artist was doing her best, and had no interest in ridiculing cranes. Subsequent versions became significantly better at catching the elegant grace of the bird.

It’s harder to improve an old logo to which generations of players & fans have become attached. It’s a gestalt, a whole of its own, a matter of love & baseball. Changes can feel riskier than switching to a new recipe for Coke or giving Pepsi a brand overhaul, raising issues of fidelity. Nevertheless, brand & logo styles do change with everything else, and this “feathered bird” could indeed be happily tweaked–retaining an “Indian” caricature, I’d hope, including a grin, but in a style less confusable to the uninitiated.

As in any artistic endeavor, the proof would be in the pudding. But PLEASE! Don’t drop the Chief for some spirit-less alternative–like that ‘Block C’ used on the current batting helmets. Some caps do just great with home city initial(s), but on the Indians, it looks too much like a grade that could use improving.  

Speaking of Heads

“If we don’t completely close the border immediately (preferably with an air-tight great-barrier-wall higher than the highest pilot & deeper than the deepest tunnel, all our best marijuana will soon be heading south, following the jobs & money, making a big suck- toking sound.”~~~~G. Whizz Johnson, Party Hearty Candidate

The first presidential candidate to smoke a joint on top of Mount Everest, in a mostly successful effort to keep frost-bite extending from toes to tongue, the nation’s first triathalon governor claims this shows he’s “fit to be prez.” Others, like the yak-herder who described the ex-gov’s fogged goggles, think “fit to be tied” might be more like it.

He hopes to bridge one great divide in American politics, bringing the macho wing of the athletically fit together with stoned couch potatoes for the first time, thanks to the magic of marijuana & mushrooms. The extreme jocks think Johnson nuts for his grass, while the sofa spuds think he’s nuts for his physical extremes. At least they agree he’s nuts. Many  strategic thinkers agree, if only for claiming that if he wins only his home state, he might stop both major-party candidates & send the choice to the House of Representatives.

Though technically possible the election could be sent to the House, one wonders what he  thinks that would accomplish. It certainly wouldn’t be electing him president, raising questions about his strategic assessment of & touch with reality all the higher, Might a Republican majority and a group of renegade Democrats deny both major-party candidates in favor of him? Barely conceivable, even stoned.

PS: Yesterday, he & his girlfriend staged a 70-mile “Fit to be prez!” bike trip from Taos to Santa Fe. How far we’ve come from the days of Easy Rider….

[The Bod Library’s self-reference librarian hopes you’ve found this report healthy, whether you’re being treated with medical MJ or laugh therapy, or, preferably, a holistic combination of lifestyle choices, good humor, good luck & good placebos.]

Government Shutdown I+II

“The Office of Government Openness–closed until further notice.”

“Sixteen days, and what do you get?
Another four months & deeper in debt.” –Tennessee Ernie Yugo

On this auspicious day in Dang, the two branches of congress got into a hissy-fit & piss-off &, largely thanks to an obstreperous P-party faction effectively leveraging its minority status to prevent funding the continuing operation of the government they supposedly served. Initially, pundits predicted they were “just making a point” (namely that they could sabotage the process if they really tried), but wouldn’t. Then, in the lead up to the deadline, it seemed the obstreperous faction was starting to enjoy their leveraged power so much, the pundits changed their tune, deciding the only way P-party members could really prove they could was to show they would. And they did.

At first, people thought it would last “just a few days,” but no one, least of all the majority of the senators & representatives, imagined what would happen next. Not that they hadn’t tried. At least they thought they had, having funded the military (& secretly, the security & emergency services) beforehand. The midnight deadline came, and the non-legislators went home to sleep. They hadn’t counted on inability to get back in the next day, so long as the government was closed.

Historians disagree on exactly who first gave what orders, but agree that those who showed up at the Dumdome (where legislative sausage was made), as well as at parks, monuments & national lavatories, found doors locked, gates shut & the way blocked by military guards. “The government has closed,” was all the guards would (or could) say.

Nor was there an initially obvious way for the ex-legislators to remedy the situation, having defunded their own roles, positions & facilities. They were no longer in business, though with healthy benefits & rich friends, few faced the difficulties of lower-paid government servants or of those would-be beneficiaries of the services no longer provided. These could be considered “collateral damage,” sacrifices to make the political point.

Contrary to mass media hype & public expectation, the well-being of the country & even its markets at first seemed to improve, at least according to the RSE Index, named for Richter-Sphincter & Evans–who merged the Richter & Sphincter scales with “Evans’ Even-handed Happiness Measure” (as expressed in the enthusiasm of both hands clapping).  Even shares in large defense companies deriving most of their cash-flow from government contracts rose, along with the role of the military.

By squabbling themselves out of a job, the “anti-government” faction in government had (wittingly &/or unwittingly) escalated the importance of both the military & other federal emergency structures under executive control, necessarily expanding the emergency powers of the president, as Commander In Chief.

It was all the more ironic that this had not come about from a right-wing military coup or dictatorial usurpation by an over-reaching head of state allegedly acting out of their duty to save the country from some real or presumed internal threats. (Whether these threats came from radical progressive free-thinkers on the left, flaming sword religious fanatics on the right or congressional zealots on the zig zag might seem secondary.)

It was not uncommon for military & security officials (or corporate big-wigs for that matter) to use the threat of their power to restrain reform-minded civilian officials who might otherwise be inclined to hold them  accountable after a period of “unfortunate excess” under a more encouraging administration. They were only doing what was wanted, what was asked of them. “You don’t like it, don’t ask. We’re here to serve. (But if you try to punish us, you’ll be sorry, too.)”

The irony is that this time the role was forced on both military & head of state by the congressional abdication, however inadvertent. Whether intentionally sabotaged or an implication of their “unenlightened ways,” they had locked themselves out of a closed government, leaving only the military (& its civilian “commander in cheap,” as he put it privately) to pick up the slack, exercising emergency powers made all the more powerful, it turned out, by hardly known secret provisions of earlier laws the president’s team “re-discovered.”

The ironies pile on top of each other. One was that those most responsible for the shutdown billed themselves as “penny pinchers” committed to putting a lid on runaway federal spending, yet the shutdown cost the country dearly, in added expenses, extra costs, lost work, investor anxiety, & pure waste. “It is hard to put a figure on it, or even to get one’s mind around the negative productivity, except in comparison to the tax system,” explained one economist, recently audited, who was “not at all sure” what the P-party motives were.

“Although they talk as if they above all others want a less wasteful system than the current tax code & large government represent, there is also the possibility they think the quickest way to bring down what they don’t like is first to make it worse, so bad that everyone else will start to feel like them. This is not such an uncommon approach, however  backward, often employed by provocateurs who want the general public to experience a government’s capacity for cruelty & injustice,” he added.

If those who supposedly wanted less government intrusion into our lives & attention, along with more fiscal responsibility, were responsible for a surge in both pure waste & the executive branch’s emergency powers, it was not the best of worlds for many progressives either. As much as they blamed the P-party penny pinchers, they were not tickled pink to be ruled (including on issues of taxes, budgets & free expression) by a  militarized federal structure, even one that seemed benign, hadn’t sought the power in the first place, & pledged to use its new powers responsibly for the benefit of the many, “& only as long as necessary.”{}

A sense of responsibility prevented NEAT/ the National Emergency Action Task-force from giving a congress that had proven itself self-destructive power back to do more damage, at least until the people had had a chance to throw out the saboteurs & start over. Until then, NEAT was given authority for all executive, legislative & judicial planning to  maintain all essential civil functions & bring essential services back in gear (starting with a “Continuing Resolution” to maintain prior levels in most, but not all, agencies).

All federal offices & office holders were given 48 hours to submit a Relative-Emergency-Likely Importance-&-Economics-Evaluation Form (RELIEF), which the NEAT-force folks used to calculate funding levels (if any). Only agencies, offices & branches of government which could establish output worth more than input qualified for emergency funding. It was not surprising that the former carping, whining, & monkey-wrenching legislators fell very near the bottom of NEAT’s “objective-importance-priority list,” quite far under the Parks, Memorials & Recreational Facilities, which themselves fell rather far below Lavatory & Custodial Facilities, all these adding some “emergency relief” value.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame all the legislators equally, nor to blame some at all, but the institutional organization as a whole had “failed to pass the mustard.” Thanks to the efforts of the factional saboteurs, even citizens who had distrusted the military beforehand generally approved of the improvement, however reluctant to express that view publicly–& tentative, reserving final judgment for the transitional return to popular elections, starting over with a more enlightened bunch.

At least that was the hope–that no future congress would sabotage itself so readily ever again, at least in the immediate future–“even in the national interest,” said some; “except in the national interest,” said others. “So what else is new?” asked still others, forged in irony.

[Historians now know the first thing the “new & improved” legislature did when fresh elections were held, as promised, was to exempt itself from future government shutdowns, passing what was called “the unlocked legislature loophole special account provision” slipped in as a footnote to the “Emergency Stress Reduction Act”–over the president’s veto. Henceforth they’d not only keep full funding for their offices, staffs, & spa, with a raise & bonus for the extra pressure, but also insure  certain committee chairs a place at the table on the next NEAT….

Moral of the story: Never underestimate the human potential for learning from prior mistakes, even if only in order to make the same mistakes more effectively the next time.]


II. A few highlights of the Dang shutdown, clipped from UPPS (Unedited Press Post Service) dispatches:

“The Stopped Clock–with no one to wind it.” The National Time Bank may go bust as a result of the government shutdown, according to financial experts in investments involving duration, thanks to the fact that no one was there to wind the standard operating clock mechanism, the first time since the bank was founded….

Witchful Thinking, the organization that turns tricks to treats, has closed its government-funded Halloween Foundation & trimmed staff at its Haunted House Hotel chain to a skeleton crew in anticipation of horrors & doom…..

The National Zoo is closing, leaving the question still uncertain whether this means the staff will lock all the gates & walk away, or open all the gates & run. “Who needs a zoo when you have a congress like this?” asked one observer.

CSiii, the Center for the Study of Ignorance, Injustice & Insanity, the country’s leading experimental clearing house for intra-governmental research, has been forced to suspend all government-funded projects at exactly 11:47 A.M. yesterday, under orders to immediately stop whatever they were doing at that moment, leaving everything just as it was, “& walk away. Those lingering to tend to equipment, volunteers or human subjects in mid examination may be cited, fined, & imprisoned.”

UPPS PS’s (Unedited Press Post Service Post Scripts)

1. Ignorance, Injustice & Insanity are not restricted to our government, nor is the Center’s funding, so some projects continue, including some funded by hostile governments, mad venture capitalists & non-governmental organizations that thrive on mass chaos & failure. Some believe this offered those studying the three i’s in government a golden opportunity that was totally wasted by having the funding for such projects cut off by the shutdown. Others claim this is “business as usual,” just more visible & attention-distracting than average.

2. One high & previously respected expert in the organization suggested that CSiii should use the opportunity to study itself, since “ignorance often begins at home (never mind insanity).” He was then reportedly dismissed without pay, charged with various  crimes (e.g., disloyalty,  reputational sabotage, divulging of secrets), & incarcerated in a mental facility beyond the reach of relatives, the Red Double Cross & other independent observers, but “with a golden opportunity to study the injustice he brought upon himself.”

3. In the belief that ” stopped clock is exactly right twice a day,” the National Stopped Clock Museum was founded & now draws countless visitors every day, many of whom pay extra for souvenirs, including replicas. Among the centerpieces of the museum’s collection are the clock that stopped during the Dang shutdown, remnants of the country’s first two atomic clocks smashed into each other “to see what would happen,” & an experimental black-hole simulator in which clocks are not the only things stopped.

4. There is also a “Tardish,” modeled on the archaic British telephone booth used by the alleged time-lord/ charlatan (take your pick) operating under the name Dr. Whom, sued by Britty Telecom who claimed their booths were not designed for examinations, let alone Dr. Whom’s operations. They claimed the misrepresentation made people angry at the company when they found the actual telephone booths did not have more room inside than they looked, nor could they flip the bird at time-space constraints except as fiber optic lines, satellite bouncebacks & recording machines made possible.

5. Secretly telecom experts were pleased as punch cartoons made them out to be at the extra attention the show & their lawsuit brought to their booths, as later confessions made clear–just as booths were about to disappear, or morph into something else (like a cellphone in your pocket or a bug in your ear). Starting with the 1st miniaturized portable telephone boothlet you could take with you wherever you went, & finishing with every head containing its own connection to the cosmic web, the iTard now comes with aps for examining, operating & traveling through time, space & other dimensions.

6. iWitch, uWitch, oui-allWitch for goodWitch 4 gr8 Itch–are all rumored to be in one pipeline or another. The iWitch will supposedly not only cater to your every wish, but find water. (An advanced model may turn pumpkins into carriages.) The oui-all sounds like it’s from the French south. The goodWitch4 is supposed to be a 4th generation iWitch, whereas the gr8 Itch represents “a revolution in smart product design.” Said to come with its own marketing, gr8 Itch may also sport a service contract to radically expand the company’s scratch potential.

7. Skeptics have questioned the newness of such offerings, pointing out the various itches said to have been released from Pandora’s box, as well as the many alleged witches sold in bottles, lamps, & other rubbables over time. Nor were the two only recently conjoined. The witch’s itch, although variously expressed & interpreted in folklore & psychology labs, seems to trace back to a time before memory. (See “Call Me Hazel,” in the Witch-is-Witch Apothecary, if you can get your hands on one, for the history of itch unguents & scratching powders.)

8. “Of all the numbers one through ten, odd & even back again,
of those that I expect to rate, the juiciest is probably 8.
Two may spit & ten come late, the hungriest is probably 8.
One may hold its finger high, invite another in the eye,
stick a thumb in pumpkin pie, cross your thighs & hope to sigh.
Three’s a crowd & four’s still more, cornerstones for floor & door,
five’s a hand (whether in fingers or poker),
with six & nine & seven jokers.
Still when it comes right down to choose a mate,
.                  nothing beats an 88.”

–from “Eat What You Love, Love Whom You 8: the cannibal’s cannabis  cookbook,” Dr. Whosits Whatsits, Tardy Press: any day now*

* In which the not necessarily good Dr. traces the love-8 relationship from the predator’s “prey, eat, love” to modern dating practices in which  prospective mates are offered dinner & drinks as part of “the hunt.”**

** See The Hunt for What: in search of the elusive,” if you ever get the chance.  Extremely difficult to find, let alone identify & describe, some believe it contains an account of “what they were really thinking” when trying to figure out what possible rationale was behind many policy decisions supposedly in response to vital national interests. Others think it contains more erotically inclined material, e.g., an account of “the search for & ultimate discovery of the elusive G-spot, famed among mariners & submariners alike.”

*** Although it was no Shakespeare who wrote “the quality of elusiveness is not strained,” it could have been someone almost as eloquent & articulate working for a modern advertising megafirm. If so, the credit probably went to his boss, who went on to win many industry awards as “the man who bottled elusiveness,” “the expert who made absence the essence of presence, pre-scents & presents”–“the genius who left his stamp on various absinthes, his touch on countless seductions, & his strain on puree of carrots.”

**** “Who was that masked man?” The man who liked to be called “Mr. Elusive” had a genius for attracting attention, even in a crowd, where he was usually the only one masked. (If other masked men arrived, it was said he either slipped away or took off his mask & went unrecognized.) It is believed he may have been the first person to use the name Alias as a first name, before it became almost as generic for Pseudonym as Anonymous or for a Pen Name as Red Ink, after which it was seen (like the mask) as calling too much attention to itself.

***** In “The True Elusive–the ghost within,” written for, by &/or about the founder of Ghostwriters Anonymous &/or its main competitor, Ghostwriters in the Sky, the former Dean of Day & Night Students in Absentia at UGS–the Unfamous Ghostwriters School–says “The famous elusive is not the true elusive. The true elusive is neither particularly proud, nor unusually shy, but mainly humble as dirt, easily blending in.”

****** By contrast, there was the famous photographer who had only himself as a subject, including, among his many self-portraits, a rather large collection of thumbs, although many more of flashes in mirrors, & others without flash of a body with a camera in front of where a face might once have been.

Gone Fission with Donkeys

[Moved to an earlier time.]

But as long as the space is here, so inviting, I can tell you about a devout fellow named Shlomo met the last time I was in the big city. He was wandering around as if looking for something, while muttering “Thank god! Thank god! Thank god!” over & over. I asked him if he’d lost anything, & he said, yes, he’d lost his car & his wife, & didn’t remember where he had parked either of them. I couldn’t help but ask why he was thanking god, then, and he answered, “If I were with them, I’d be lost too.”

This sounds like a version of the Arkansas traveler, who couldn’t fix his leaky roof while it was raining, & when it wasn’t, didn’t need to. Or the Mount Moron Academy boy west of the river who yelled to the Miss Manners Academy girl east of the river asking how he could get to the other side–to which she answered, “You’re already on the other side.”

Shlomo’s story is also told about a fellow named Gohaha who’d lost his donkey, & went about from place to place muttering “Thanks be to Allah. Thanks be to Allah.” Why was he thankful to Allah for losing his donkey? “Because had I been riding it, I’d be lost, too.”

Here’s a Goha/Gohaha story adapted from “Muslim Journeys”:

File:Harikalar Diyari Nasrettin Hoca 05981 nevit.jpg

 Goha Gives His Son a Lesson About People

Goha had a son who worried about what people might think or say. The boy could never do anything, just from being afraid people might think him foolish. Goha wanted to show his son that it was a waste of time to worry about the opinions of others, so he  saddled up his donkey & told his son they were going to a neighboring village.

Goha got on his donkey & had his son walk behind, until they passed some people who pointed & said, “Look at that heartless man who rides his donkey & makes his son walk.” When he heard this, Goha got off the donkey & had his son get on, while he walked, until they passed some people who pointed & said, “Just look at that boy who has no manners or respect for the elderly — he rides the donkey & lets his old father walk.” So Goha decided both he & his son should ride, until people pointed & said, “What a cruel man, with no pity for his donkey, both him & his son on at the same time.”

So Goha and his son got off & both walked behind it, until some people started gabbing among themselves, “What a couple of fools! Imagine walking when they have a donkey they could ride.” Finally, after a lot of thought, he said to his son, “Come, let’s carry the donkey between us.” So they lifted up the donkey and began carrying it along the road. As they were staggering along, some people saw them and burst out laughing. “Look at those two madmen,” they said, “carrying the donkey instead of riding on it!”

So they put the donkey down, & Goha said to his son, “You must know, my son, that whatever you do in this life, you will never please everyone.”


Johnson-Davies, Denys. Goha. Cairo, Egypt: The British Council and Hoopoe Books, 1993, pp. 20; 34-37. Image: Photograph by Nevit Dilmen of Nasreddin Hodja and donkey at the Ankara Amusement Park, 2007, published under GNU Free Documentation License at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harikalar_Diyari_Nasrettin_Hoca_05981_nevit.jpg.

[The moral of this story may be that is you can’t please anyone–not even the old man.]

File:Harikalar Diyari Nasrettin Hoca 05981 nevit.jpg