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August 12th, 2010

Speaking for myself, I am bored with undisciplined talent. The intertwining vines and aimless vegetation that spring from careless genius are of little use to a world which suffers from obscurity, and not from too much clarity. Life is so short that no musician has the right to expect any appreciable number of people to devote any appreciable part of their listening lives to the wild free notes that dribble from his talented but casual fingers.

Oscar Hammerstein II


For sale: very rare margarine spreader. Looks a lot like a butter knife but isn't. $4 OBO. Box 39.
Will trade first class tickets to Kuala Lumpur for a nice picture of me winning Le Mans. Box 11.
Missing: one Halls cough drop. Last seen in my pants pocket. Modest reward. Box 49.

The Mystery of the Lost Lenore

Listen to Part Sixty-Eight

Click on the picture. (3:17)

Or start from the beginning.



The Shirtsleeves Philosopher

Takes a Look at The Straw Man

We have all seen, or a lot of us have, war movies in which recruits bayonet straw dummies. It is clear, or should be, that this is an inherently less dangerous move than charging an armed enemy.

This is the basis of the Straw Man Argument in philosophy. It is much easier to refute a stupid argument than a clever one therefore if you are engaged in a philosophical difference of opinion with someone whose position is clever and nuanced you should not engage in a direct assault on their ideas but instead construct a straw man to attack.

How does one do this? It is simple.

If you were to say that you think online banking is preferable to going into the bank because of the lineups, I would counter by saying:

I do not think it humane or reasonable to suggest killing people who line up in banks just to make your life easier.

If you were to take the position that speed limits in school zones are a reasonable way to make the streets safer for children.

I would say that my grandmother is an old age pensioner who lives alone on a fixed income and should not be subjected to obscene phone calls from sickos like you.

Get the idea? The Straw Man is such an effective strategy for arguing because it invariably confuses your opponent and causes them to splutter as they try to explain their way out of the rather foolish position in which you have placed them.

Just imagine trying to defend yourself from the suggestion that you make obscene phone calls to old ladies. Wouldn't that kind of take the wind out of your sails?

Remember to always make the straw men shoddy enough. If you are not paying attention you can actually construct a Straw Man who is stronger and harder to defeat than your opponent's original idea.

And that would be bad.

Graham Craquar

Mister Backyard

Looks at Cherry Tomatoes *

One of the true delights of this fantastic summer season is the almost nightly pleasure of cherry tomatoes! These little red fellows are a veritable explosion of summery tastastic sensation! I usually have seventeen or eighteen cherry tomato plants in my garden and by staggering their planting somewhat I have weeks and weeks of small bowlfuls of these delightful treats.

The cherry tomato is sometimes looked down on. It is seen as a poor cousin to the giant Beefsteak or the oddly elongated Roma but I believe that their perfect round little bodies pack a lot of delicious and nutritious punch! They have a sharpness and a sweetness that cannot be found in any other tomato. And you can just pop them whole into your mouth which is great. Or cut in half they are a great addition to salads.

Also I like to make my own version of a trail mix using cherry tomatoes, fennel seeds, basil leaves and arugula. Not only is it delicious but if it gets a little beaten up on the trail it makes a good soup base.

The cherry tomato is sometimes called the grape tomato and like the grape it can be made into a lovely wine. Even as I am writing this I am drinking a small glass of my own homemade cherry tomato wine! Hope I don't get too drunk to finish! Just kidding. Please drink responsibly.

*not the porn star

Public Service Announcement

There will be a Public Service Announcement symposium at the Public Service Announcement Institute of Canada in Ottawa this weekend. Anyone interested in learning about public service announcements is welcome to attend. Topics to be covered include: writing a public service announcement and where to send your public service announcement.