# On the blank tile

There is a very well-known board game in which contestants put words on a grid that interlock, and they score points and play against one another. Each player has seven tiles, each with a little black letter on it, except for a couple of blank tiles that can be used by players as any letter at all–wild cards, so to speak. The playing board is a colorful grid marked with special squares such as “double letter” or “triple word” and players win by using both the grid and their letters to the greatest advantage, which is all very straight-forward, but just like chess, knowing the rules and developing a strategy are two different things. The blank tiles, which show up sporadically, are a strategic mystery in almost every sense. What point value, for example, constitutes using a blank? Thirty, forty, fifty? Or do you only use it for a seven letter bingo which brings in an extra forty or fifty points? The blank tile is a kind of promise for things to come, a bonanza of points yet to be achieved, an investment in the future. Yet, the blank tile is also a mystery because it doesn’t have a value at all–no points are associated with playing the blank. Even a lowly “a” will get you one point any day of the week, but the blank must derive its value from the other tiles being played. The blank tile brings no value of its own, so while it might be a “z” in “zeta”, that particular “zeta” won’t be worth more than 3 or 4 points. So the blank tile continues to be blank in many ways, unwilling to give up its chameleonic identity, blending with the other tiles as players plot their next moves.

# On the blank tile

There is a very well-known board game in which contestants put words on a grid that interlock, and they score points and play against one another. Each player has seven tiles, each with a little black letter on it, except for a couple of blank tiles that can be used by players as any letter at all–wild cards, so to speak. The playing board is a colorful grid marked with special squares such as “double letter” or “triple word” and players win by using both the grid and their letters to the greatest advantage, which is all very straight-forward, but just like chess, knowing the rules and developing a strategy are two different things. The blank tiles, which show up sporadically, are a strategic mystery in almost every sense. What point value, for example, constitutes using a blank? Thirty, forty, fifty? Or do you only use it for a seven letter bingo which brings in an extra forty or fifty points? The blank tile is a kind of promise for things to come, a bonanza of points yet to be achieved, an investment in the future. Yet, the blank tile is also a mystery because it doesn’t have a value at all–no points are associated with playing the blank. Even a lowly “a” will get you one point any day of the week, but the blank must derive its value from the other tiles being played. The blank tile brings no value of its own, so while it might be a “z” in “zeta”, that particular “zeta” won’t be worth more than 3 or 4 points. So the blank tile continues to be blank in many ways, unwilling to give up its chameleonic identity, blending with the other tiles as players plot their next moves.

# On getting another cup of coffee

I sure wish I had another cup of coffee this morning. My head hurts, I’m sleepy, my tongue feels like sandpaper, and my stomach is making noises. I’d like to be drinking another cup of coffee, but I don’t have one, so I can only imagine drinking that other cup of coffee. I’m in the middle of a conference session with thirty other people, and if I get up and walk out, everyone will notice. Sometimes you just get into a situation where you can’t change the parameters, so you just suck it up and wait. The difference between what you have and what you want is often huge, but unless you set the world on its head, you can’t really change anything. The balance between happiness and having that other cup of coffee and making people happy by not doing anything, is too often an imbalance that you cannot rectify without upsetting the apple cart and upsetting others. So you don’t to anything, let you stomach rumble a bit, and you get along without that other coffee. You see, that other cup of coffee is not necessary at all. It is pure caprice. Another cup of coffee would be a huge solace, especially either very early in the morning or very late at night, but life goes on just the same, with or without the coffee. You have to balance your desires against the realities of the possible. Sometimes getting up and walking out of the room for another cup of coffee is just rude, and people might not understand the thirst driving your desire. You can tolerate thirst. It need not be slaked always or immediately.

# On getting another cup of coffee

I sure wish I had another cup of coffee this morning. My head hurts, I’m sleepy, my tongue feels like sandpaper, and my stomach is making noises. I’d like to be drinking another cup of coffee, but I don’t have one, so I can only imagine drinking that other cup of coffee. I’m in the middle of a conference session with thirty other people, and if I get up and walk out, everyone will notice. Sometimes you just get into a situation where you can’t change the parameters, so you just suck it up and wait. The difference between what you have and what you want is often huge, but unless you set the world on its head, you can’t really change anything. The balance between happiness and having that other cup of coffee and making people happy by not doing anything, is too often an imbalance that you cannot rectify without upsetting the apple cart and upsetting others. So you don’t to anything, let you stomach rumble a bit, and you get along without that other coffee. You see, that other cup of coffee is not necessary at all. It is pure caprice. Another cup of coffee would be a huge solace, especially either very early in the morning or very late at night, but life goes on just the same, with or without the coffee. You have to balance your desires against the realities of the possible. Sometimes getting up and walking out of the room for another cup of coffee is just rude, and people might not understand the thirst driving your desire. You can tolerate thirst. It need not be slaked always or immediately.

# On the end of the world (or maybe not)

This may be the last note I ever write, or maybe not. That lunar eclipse last night has a lot of people worried about about the end of times, the end of the world, the second coming, the apocalypse. Some think that the full red moon was one of the signs of the end of the world. I must say, though, I have my doubts since normally occuring astronomic phenomenon are both predictable and regular. In other words, since time begin this lunar eclipse was on the calendar for last night–no way to avoid it, no way to be surprised by it. Since the moon goes around the earth and the two of them go around the sun, it is only logical that at some point the earth would come between the moon and sun. It only stands to reason, then, that there was absolutely nothing special or mystical about last night’s lunar eclipse–simple astronomical physical mechanics of planets orbiting other planets–no mystery here. The fact that the moon turned a reddish color is also irrelevant–red light waves are the longest and refract easily in the earth’s atmosphere, lighting the dark moon. Again, no mystery here at all. Stellar and planetary mechanics are naturally occuring phenomena that are predictable and describable and fall into a science that we understand pretty well. This is not a sign of the end of times, not a sign of the coming apocalypse, not a sign of any kind–good or bad. Unfortunately, people have tendency to see “signs” where there are none–black cats, broken mirrors, tea leaves, tarot cards, calendar dates, white whales, spilled salt, raining frogs, ripped pants, falling silverware. When are we going to get it through out heads that there are no such things as “signs” of the future? So I guess I’ll just have to keep writing.

# On the end of the world (or maybe not)

This may be the last note I ever write, or maybe not. That lunar eclipse last night has a lot of people worried about about the end of times, the end of the world, the second coming, the apocalypse. Some think that the full red moon was one of the signs of the end of the world. I must say, though, I have my doubts since normally occuring astronomic phenomenon are both predictable and regular. In other words, since time begin this lunar eclipse was on the calendar for last night–no way to avoid it, no way to be surprised by it. Since the moon goes around the earth and the two of them go around the sun, it is only logical that at some point the earth would come between the moon and sun. It only stands to reason, then, that there was absolutely nothing special or mystical about last night’s lunar eclipse–simple astronomical physical mechanics of planets orbiting other planets–no mystery here. The fact that the moon turned a reddish color is also irrelevant–red light waves are the longest and refract easily in the earth’s atmosphere, lighting the dark moon. Again, no mystery here at all. Stellar and planetary mechanics are naturally occuring phenomena that are predictable and describable and fall into a science that we understand pretty well. This is not a sign of the end of times, not a sign of the coming apocalypse, not a sign of any kind–good or bad. Unfortunately, people have tendency to see “signs” where there are none–black cats, broken mirrors, tea leaves, tarot cards, calendar dates, white whales, spilled salt, raining frogs, ripped pants, falling silverware. When are we going to get it through out heads that there are no such things as “signs” of the future? So I guess I’ll just have to keep writing.

# On Don Quixote as knight errant

This man thinks he’s a knight errant out wandering in the world, righting wrongs, protecting damsels, slaying dragons, and dying for the love of his lady, and that is exactly what he attempts to do. The problem, though, is complex because he is a living anachronism, a knight in a time when knights no longer exist if they ever existed at all. The problem of the mere existence of Don Quixote is aggravated by the fact that all of Quixote’s information about how knights act has been gleaned from a series of fiction novels about knights and their adventures. The crusades have been over for centuries, and the figure of the knight has been rendered irrelevant by the invention of gun powder, lead shot, and the blunderbuss. By the time Cervantes writes about the ingenious hidalgo, the era of knight errantry has been over by more than a century. Most of Spain’s military is now pursuing new aventures in the new world, and central Spain, La Mancha, specifically, has become a social backwater where the locals raise grapes, wheat, and olives, and not much else. Whether don Quixote has read too many old adventure novels and gone crazy, or if something else is motivating his actions may be irrelevant. What is important are his actions while he purposefully reorganizes his identity, rebuilds his armor, changes his name, and sallies out on a new adventure, knowing full-well that there are no knights anymore. He is older, in his fifties, perhaps has a little too much free time, has no clear career or life objectives, and is clearly suffering from a mid-life existential crisis–if he doesn’t do something now, he never will. Instead of being young and virile, tough and toned, he’s skinny, got poor muscle tone, and is running on good intentions only. The question though is exactly that: are good intentions enough in the rough and tumble world of 1605, the cusp of modernity, the kryptonite of the knight errant.

# On Don Quixote as knight errant

This man thinks he’s a knight errant out wandering in the world, righting wrongs, protecting damsels, slaying dragons, and dying for the love of his lady, and that is exactly what he attempts to do. The problem, though, is complex because he is a living anachronism, a knight in a time when knights no longer exist if they ever existed at all. The problem of the mere existence of Don Quixote is aggravated by the fact that all of Quixote’s information about how knights act has been gleaned from a series of fiction novels about knights and their adventures. The crusades have been over for centuries, and the figure of the knight has been rendered irrelevant by the invention of gun powder, lead shot, and the blunderbuss. By the time Cervantes writes about the ingenious hidalgo, the era of knight errantry has been over by more than a century. Most of Spain’s military is now pursuing new aventures in the new world, and central Spain, La Mancha, specifically, has become a social backwater where the locals raise grapes, wheat, and olives, and not much else. Whether don Quixote has read too many old adventure novels and gone crazy, or if something else is motivating his actions may be irrelevant. What is important are his actions while he purposefully reorganizes his identity, rebuilds his armor, changes his name, and sallies out on a new adventure, knowing full-well that there are no knights anymore. He is older, in his fifties, perhaps has a little too much free time, has no clear career or life objectives, and is clearly suffering from a mid-life existential crisis–if he doesn’t do something now, he never will. Instead of being young and virile, tough and toned, he’s skinny, got poor muscle tone, and is running on good intentions only. The question though is exactly that: are good intentions enough in the rough and tumble world of 1605, the cusp of modernity, the kryptonite of the knight errant.

# On Catwoman (Julie Newmar)

The fascination for this character is extraordinary and produced one of the worst movies (Catwoman, Halle Barry, 2004) ever–horrible is generous way of describing that incarnation of the myth. The highly camp television version of the Batman story was both horrible and edgy at once, and the few episodes done by Julie Newmar in the Catwoman role are a tour-de-force in a no-holds-barred examination of blind materialism, greed, and ego. By contrast, Newmar played the role as a strong, take charge, get-it-done woman, but her character is unwilling or unable to take an ethical stand as a law-abiding citizen, which is the great tragedy of the character. Unwilling to share her loot with even a single henchman, she drugs the last one in order to keep her ill-gotten booty for herself. Appearing in thirteen episode during the show’s run, she is finally “killed off” when she falls into a bottomless chasm, unwilling to let go of a bag of silver and gold. Granted, she is supposed to be the ultimate femme fetale, curvy, beautiful, and very sexy, but she is fatal for all around her, unable to demonstrate even the slightest ounce of empathy for either friends or foes. Even though the show was rather cartoonish and production values were low by today’s standards, the script, if you could see past the silliness of it all, was really a kind of morality play populated by characters that were unambiguously either good or evil. Catwoman, though beautiful, was evil, egocentric, and sadistic. As a metaphor, Catwoman is a medieval misogynistic representation of the feminine, which is portrayed as uncontrolled animalistic emotion. Catwoman is the dark side of human behavior, uncontrolled, chaotic, and anarchic. Catwoman isn’t capable, though, of even saving herself, dying while trying to steal a bag of pirate loot. Even though the show was high camp and extremely exaggerated, the comedy only thinly veiled its criticism of poor behavior and bad choices.

# On Catwoman (Julie Newmar)

The fascination for this character is extraordinary and produced one of the worst movies (Catwoman, Halle Barry, 2004) ever–horrible is generous way of describing that incarnation of the myth. The highly camp television version of the Batman story was both horrible and edgy at once, and the few episodes done by Julie Newmar in the Catwoman role are a tour-de-force in a no-holds-barred examination of blind materialism, greed, and ego. By contrast, Newmar played the role as a strong, take charge, get-it-done woman, but her character is unwilling or unable to take an ethical stand as a law-abiding citizen, which is the great tragedy of the character. Unwilling to share her loot with even a single henchman, she drugs the last one in order to keep her ill-gotten booty for herself. Appearing in thirteen episode during the show’s run, she is finally “killed off” when she falls into a bottomless chasm, unwilling to let go of a bag of silver and gold. Granted, she is supposed to be the ultimate femme fetale, curvy, beautiful, and very sexy, but she is fatal for all around her, unable to demonstrate even the slightest ounce of empathy for either friends or foes. Even though the show was rather cartoonish and production values were low by today’s standards, the script, if you could see past the silliness of it all, was really a kind of morality play populated by characters that were unambiguously either good or evil. Catwoman, though beautiful, was evil, egocentric, and sadistic. As a metaphor, Catwoman is a medieval misogynistic representation of the feminine, which is portrayed as uncontrolled animalistic emotion. Catwoman is the dark side of human behavior, uncontrolled, chaotic, and anarchic. Catwoman isn’t capable, though, of even saving herself, dying while trying to steal a bag of pirate loot. Even though the show was high camp and extremely exaggerated, the comedy only thinly veiled its criticism of poor behavior and bad choices.