Deus X-Files

Deus ex post facto: plot twists and other dilemmas …

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In classical drama, the term deus ex machina refers to a plot device wherein a plot problem is suddenly solved by the arrival of a previously unannounced character who supplies the answer or solution. “But don’t you know? That’s your brother!” would be a line delivered by a deus ex machina character, thus helping our hero avert or defeat a troublesome situation.

When a playwright or a novelist needs to fix an intractable plot puzzle, he or she might resort to the tool, which is Latin for “god from the machine,” or “you couldn’t figure it out for yourself with the characters you’d created, so you punted,” but audiences since ancient times have tended to see through the fix. “Where did HE come from?” More often than not nowadays, it is used ironically, but when you find yourself reading a book and seeing lines delivered by a character that you do not remember being introduced to, your inattentive reading is not to blame. That character really was not there 20 pages earlier.
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Today in History: Sept. 26

For the first time in U.S. history, the two major party nominees for President of the United States debated on this date in 1960. It was also the first time the two nominees would be seen together on television.

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon met in Chicago; the two held three more debates through the fall that year. Howard K. Smith moderated.

Senator Kennedy had spent the day preparing for the debate with close aides and then rested. The Vice President had not prepared, was recovering from the flu, and, perhaps worse, re-injured one of his knees on the way to the studio. (The swelling had just gone down when he banged it in into his car door.) Nixon refused makeup and did not shave just before the debate, so his 5 o’clock shadow stood out under the hot TV studio lights, as did his heavy sweating, which was caused by either his flu, the pain from his knee, or the heat from the lights.
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Pretending to Understand

No one who asks the question, “What’s your problem?” is expressing an invitation to join them in the quest for a solution. It is a statement costumed as a question. In linguistics, this sort of accusation-posing-as-a-question/concern is known by a linguistic term that I have not yet researched and may not get to today. “Accusation-posing-as-a-question,” or APAQ (™ pending) works for me, though.

It is aggressively passive-aggressive only almost approximately one-hundred percent of the time that it is uttered. The person speaking the non-rhetorical non-question is profoundly certain of one thing, is philosophically sure of this, however: That they are not now doing, nor have they just been doing, nor were they about to do, something that falls in the range between perplexing to annoying to criminal.
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Today in History: Happy Birthday, Jen!

Today is the birthday of the love of my life, Jen. I keep discovering how few ways there are to say “I love you” but how wonderful it is to learn new ways to tell her.

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The Bill of Rights was approved by Congress on this date in 1789 and was readied to be sent to the states to ratify.

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Satchel Paige pitched in his final major league baseball game on this date in 1965. He was 59 years old, and Charles O. Finley, the owner of the Kansas City A’s, signed him to a single-game contract. The game was against the Boston Red Sox, and Paige started, pitched three scoreless innings, and stuck out one batter, the opposing pitcher. Paige sat on a rocking chair in the bullpen between innings.

An interview with Satchel Paige from 1958 (after the jump):
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Panic Room

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

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Any room with me in it is a panic room.

“Take my advice—I’m not using it.” I can tell you to keep calm. At my worst, I might insist that you keep calm. But as someone who can introduce stress into the least stressful, sweetly innocuous, and even some of the more pleasant experiences in life, when I am confronted with the parts of life that others find truly stressful, I hunker down and find the effort deep inside myself to make them yet more stressful.

In one of my lesser achievements in the field of stress management, I gave myself a black eye while tying my shoes. These were boots with leather laces (I am not a cowboy) and such laces can take a little effort to yank into position. While securing my “half-knot” on my right shoe, the length of lace in my left hand broke and I clocked myself in the right eye. At the time, I was 34 years old, not 11.
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Today in History: September 24

The first edition of 60 Minutes was broadcast on CBS on this date in 1968.

About to begin its 49th season, with several spin-offs and more than 1000 episodes, the program holds many American broadcasting records: the longest continuously running show in prime time; the only show (of any kind) that has been in the top ten for as many seasons (it was in the top ten for 23 consecutive seasons); the only show that has been a top 25 show each season for the last 41 seasons. It is one of only four shows to have been the top-rated program for an entire season for as many as five seasons.

The creator of the show, Don Hewitt, had worked with Edward R. Murrow on both of Murrow’s legendary television news programs: See It Now, a hard-hitting news magazine with long-form articles, and Person to Person, an interview and celebrity profile show. Hewitt wanted to produce a show that would combine “high Murrow” with “low Murrow.” Hewitt remained the executive producer of the 60 Minutes until 2004.
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A Generous Dose of Hate

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you. You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”—Kathy Miller, former coordinator for the Donald Trump campaign in Mahoning County, Ohio, this week. She resigned upon being quoted and called her remarks “inappropriate.” (What aspect of the statement qualified it as “inappropriate,” she left a mystery.)

“Look at what’s happening in the world today. The blacks are getting uppity again. I don’t know why, but it’s scary again.”—a personal acquaintance of mine, explaining why he has started carrying a gun again here in Orange County, New York.

Two decades ago, I worked for a weekly newspaper. Even though it was a small-circulation publication, the fact that we ran a “Letters to the Editor” section meant that we received letters. Lots and lots of letters. Our editorial policy was simple: no profanity or personal abuse.

I, a young assistant editor at the time, did not understand this simple policy, because the letters were often awful, hate-filled documents, even when they were free of profanity and free of personal abuse. My boss, the editor of the newspaper, explained that these individuals wanted their thoughts exposed, after all, and we were helping to expose them. “Let them show the world what it looks like,” was her reply to me concerning one letter’s ugly racism. “It is better when they (racists) are out in the open.” Absent profanity, I was not to edit, “clean up,” or not publish the letters.
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Today in History: September 23

At noon on this date in 1938, at the site of what was to be the 1939 New York World’s Fair, a time capsule was buried with much fanfare. It is to be reopened in the year 6939, or 5000 years in the future.

People have buried time capsules for centuries, but the term “time capsule” itself was coined for this particular object, buried on this date 78 years ago, at this World’s Fair. About 35 objects of everyday importance and several microfilms (along with a handheld microfilm reader) of many documents were placed in an airtight container that was placed in a rust- and corrosion-proof metal container, especially created for this capsule to last 5000 years.
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