Ernie and Bert

15 October 2001

When I was very small, less than three years old, I assume, I was attached to my Ernie and Bert "little people." You know what I mean? The little plastic dolls with the hole in the bottom for your finger? Those. I had one on each hand when we went on vacation, and as long as I had one on each hand, the world was fine, but God help my parents and grands if I was lacking either Ernie or Bert.

By all accounts, I used Ernie and Bert to explain my world to each other, to talk things out. "Where are we today, Bert?" "We're in Yellowstone Park, Ernie. Lots of wild animals live here, but I haven't seen any." "What about those squirrels, Bert?" (I know, I know, "As you know, Bert....")

But I think this is really useful. I think sometimes we could all use Ernie and Bert to have conversations out for us before they happen, because sometimes conversations are allowed to be simple and predictable:

Ernie: Hello, Bert.
Bert: Hello, Ernie.
Ernie: I'm sorry you're sad, Bert.
Bert: Thank you, Ernie.
Ernie: If there's something I can do to help you feel happy, let me know.
Bert: Thank you, Ernie. I will.

See how easy that was? But it really, genuinely works that way. So for all of you who've called and written -- thank you, Ernie, I will.

I didn't end up going to the writing group meeting at Avi's last night. Ah, hahaha. No. When the writing group was meeting, I was in the middle of fighting a rather high fever. Taking acetaminophen, putting cold cloths on my forehead and neck, drinking cool water, eating ice cream -- hey, no sacrifice too great when you're really sick, right? Finally got the fever down so that I could go to bed without fearing that I would wake up really messed up. When I've had high fevers in the middle of the night a couple of times, bad things have happened. At one point, I tried to drink from the tap in my grandparents' laundry room, because it was the only water I could get to without going up some stairs and I was too dizzy to do more than crawl into the laundry room. Didn't want to have that kind of fun again. I still feel cruddy. My voice comes and goes. But the fever is manageable.

So one of the things we did yesterday while I was being all sick was to finally watch Wednesday's episode of "Enterprise" that we taped while we were coming home from the airport. (It does not seem at all reasonable that a week ago today we were having lunch at Perkins with Cal and Bobbie, wandering around the U of M, and hanging out with Aaron and Chip.) Oof. It did nothing to change my assessment of the cast:
Chick One: Waaaaa! I'm the chick! I'm here to scream, whine, and cry, and occasionally to Bite My Lip and Look Brave.
Chick Two: Hmph! I'm the other chick! The seven year Vulcan mating cycle has given me six and a half years of PMS. I will declare anything I dislike illogical without explaining any of my supposed reasoning.
Men: Grr! We're the men! We're into manly things like exploration and shooting at stuff and fixing stuff!
Porthos: Woof! I'm the dog. I'm the only character whose actions and motivations consistently make sense.

Here's my question: has Star Trek done for the concept of logic what Alanis Morisette did for the concept of irony? That is, has it taught it to a couple of generations all wrong? Because there are all kinds of things that would be logical that the Vulcans don't do, and all kinds of illogical things that they do -- yet nobody ever questions that they're the logical ones. The questioning always comes in the form of, "Logic is not the whole answer! Sometimes emotions are important, too!" Fabulous, but it cedes ground unnecessarily. In the new series, especially, "That's illogical" means, "I don't waaaaanna." Yuck.

Yesterday the Merc ran an article about how -- gosh, I'll bet no one knew this already! -- Tolkien was pretty much a Luddite, and yet he's popular among geeks! Did they know? Good heavens! The assumptions and misunderstandings here bother me a lot. One of them seems to be that you can only enjoy a book if you wholeheartedly agree with the author's philosophy. No. Just, no. And another is that geeks, even geeks who work in tech industries, are wholly pro-technology. These people run a newspaper in San Jose. Don't they know better than that already? Two words: Bill Joy. Yeah. Pay attention, folks.

Mostly I just feel like sending them off to read Darko Suvin and making them repeat after me: literature of alienation. Literature of alienation. Got it? Good. There may be people who are more aware of feeling alienated in this culture than your average geek, but not too many of them, and not by much. And Tolkien? Like the rest of fantasy and SF: pretty darn alienated. Of course many of us love it, or at least parts of it: lots o' world-building, unlikely heroes, epic scale plot...we know he was a Luddite, you really can't miss it. But is that important? Not really, no. No more than you have to be an angry flaming atheist to enjoy Philip least, parts of him. Sometimes the message overwhelms for some authors, but for the most part -- sheesh, of course you don't have to agree with them all the time.

So I finally finished Tales Arab Women Tell and The Paper Grail yesterday; I have to say they've broken my track record of reading really good books when I'm sick. I'm still working on Lonely Planet's guide to Finland and on The Age of Patronage, about how Cromwell's Commonwealth government changed the arts in England at the time and afterwards. I worked a bit on the Not The Moose Book, but only a little bit; wrote a letter to Liz. Mostly I tried to relax. Watched some stand-up comics. Tried to let Mark do most of the talking on the phone to my folks. He doesn't do conversational noises on the phone very well, so I was itching to go, "Uh huh" at appropriate intervals. But I can't talk that well yet. Here's hoping that improves as the day goes by. Take care of yourselves.

Especially if you're Scott and you're doing your thesis defense. Go Scott! Defend away!

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