Query of a Seasonal Nature to the Sage and Prophet of the Land of Lakes

O, great and erudite man of popular culture,

He who binds conundrums using an enigma as a rope,

Pray answer my question, which has baffled me, lo, these many years,

‘Who ever thought that a ham was shaped like this?’


Are swine executed on Danish farms using quaint traditional cookie cutters?

Did a smart cookie with a Psychology degree on Madison Avenue ask, ‘Why don’t we do some classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning so that the public conflates a common, but copyright-able, shape with both ham and our product, in spite of there being considerably less ham in our product that gelatin glue?’

Do cans of Spam, air-dropped to poor starving masses, assume this shape upon re-entry?

Did the Industrial Designers who streamlined toasters get their hands on a ham factory, or, shudder, The Pigs Themselves.

[I may entitle a book or a band ‘The Pigs Themselves.’]

Did a can factory in Cleveland have a special on factory irregulars?

O, Great and Esoteric Lileks, Is there an answer?


Feral Plum

The great James Lileks is man in Minnesota who Knows Things and can turn a clever phrase as a jewel on a lathe. Also I have voice envy.



A Conversation With A Sphinx


A couple of women tried to rob me last night. That is unfair. They may have only been trying to fleece me.

About three in the morning a lady – uh, no – a women came around a blind corner dressed all in black with a hoodie zipped up and obscuring most of her head. Her right hand was bunched up in her jacket pocket. She asked if I could break a hundred dollar bill. I laughed at her. She retreated back around that corner. A couple of minutes later a similarly dressed women came around the same corner and asked if I could break a hundred dollar bill. I began to wonder if they simply wanted to know if I was carrying enough money to be worth the trouble.

‘No. In fact I think it would be foolish to tell you such a thing.’

‘What if I said “This is a robbery.”’

‘Then I would beat you about the head until you were incapacitated.’

‘That’s not what you are supposed to do. If some one says “This is a robbery” you are supposed to give them what they want and let them go away,’ she insisted.

‘The hell with that. I’ll be damned if I let an enemy’s battle plan survive contact with me.’ [Thank you Lois Bujold. That is a more pithy and engaging formulation of the idea than they teach at West Point.]

‘Your insurance company must be ashamed of you. You are a terrible liability.’ I swear she said that. Liability. Ashamed. In fact, all these words are as close to exact as I can manage. I laughed at her and she left. Traditionally, I should have at this point spit on the ground to demonstrate that I was not afraid. One’s mouth becomes dry with fear. But I have never been quite that messy. There were a couple of further comments that contained nothing new, and she retreated around the same blind corner whence both she and the other woman came.

I think this is an example of poor education in recent years. Am I a sphinx to answer all questions truthfully so a challenger may defeat me? And just what is the airspeed of a fully laden swallow? There is no moral requirement that I jump up and cry ‘Me! Me! I am an easy target! Rob me!’ Whatever my response to a provocation may be, I am not required to provide and express written consent beforehand.

Many people don’t consider their actions to be the communication and negotiation which the so obviously are.

Consider these stickers on two cars. Which would you presume to be the easier target?




A reason for the first is to tell people that they should consider you to be a nice person. Of course it may provoke conflict. Passivity is provocative to predators.

If you have to tell people you are nice, perhaps you should examine your soul more closely. Another reason for the first is to display false colors. I disdain virtue signaling. I cling to the tattered ideal that people may observe the truth of my character with their own eyes and minds. This is foolish; a great many people believe what they are told over what they can see.

Whatever the beliefs of the person displaying the second one, it would tend to defuse conflict. Does that make the displayer of the second a bad person for showing a B-52 or a good person for discouraging conflict?

By my words I was deceitful to the poor robbers.

Alas, I cannot – will not – repent.