Saturday, March 31, 2012

Coffee, Tea or Energy

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m sitting at the computer drinking coffee and thinking I should write something: maybe a poem, maybe an essay, maybe a short story, maybe a lengthy e-mail to an old friend. That’s the extent of my activity: thinking. There’s this poem – a bit of doggerel, really – I’ve been thinking about. “The fair young Millicent/Was not so innocent,” is an auspicious start, but I need more rhymes, and frankly, that is an awful lot of work for a silly verse. I mean, why knock myself out?
   Essays are cool. All I need are a few hundred words, but they can be any words. A dictionary and maybe a thesaurus are helpful but not necessary, and I don’t have to worry about things like does “steep decent” rhyme with “Millicent.”  Or is that an example of assonance? And does the definition of assonance really have to do with words that almost rhyme? Or is assonance the technical term for a writer in the act of making a fool of himself?
   To write an essay, I need a topic.  Any dolt can dream up a topic. But if I’m going to sit down and write, it should be a topic of interest to other people. That isn’t easy, you know. People are so fussy; if the essay isn’t on a subject that intrigues them, they’ll treat it like so much blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they’ll only go as far as blah, blah before they stop reading. Then there are those sticklers for facts. They seem to think the world is littered with facts, and all you have to do is go to the park and wait for somebody to toss one or two aside along with his empty Coke can. But finding real facts is work. It entails reading books, going to the library, getting on line and other stuff. Making up facts is a more efficient use of a writer’s time, and it allows the writer to create facts that support his conclusions. Do you realize how frustrating it is for me to go in search of actual facts that support my preconceived notions and find out there aren’t any? Then I have to reconsider things, and that’s an awful lot of work, especially if no one else is interested in the topic in the first place. I don’t think it’s worth the effort.
   A short story should be easy, you say. It’s fiction, and I can make up the whole thing. But the story has to make sense, and it needs to have plot, and description, and characterization, and all sorts of other literary doo-dads. And who reads short stories these days? Hardly anyone, that’s who. Sure I could write a short story, and maybe I’d get a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from the experience. But what would I do with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment? As for a long e-mail, refer to the comments on essays.
    I should have more ambition; I slept well last night, ate a good breakfast and have had a gallon of coffee this morning. But I’m just going to sit here and play solitaire and meander around the Internet. Well, maybe I’ll get another cup of coffee first.
    I get the last of the coffee, start another pot and go back to the computer to see what’s on This is interesting; it says “Coffee makes you lazy.” Apparently, some scientists with nothing better to do have discovered that when hardworking rats – the rats that willingly undertake more difficult tasks in order to get greater rewards – are given amphetamines they become lazy. But when lazy rats get amphetamines they turn into hardworking rodents. Coffee also makes the hardworking rats lazy, but it doesn’t do a thing for the lazy rats.
   Maybe I should give up coffee. But why put myself through the pains of caffeine withdrawal when there is the possibility I’m naturally lazy and the whole thing would be an exercise in futility. I’ll get another cup of coffee and think about it. No, I’m not going to worry. I bet the study is a bunch of hooey.
   Here’s another item: “Conservatives losing faith in science.” Thirty or forty years ago, the article says, around seventy percent of those who called themselves liberals and those who called themselves conservatives said they had a great deal of faith in science. In a recent poll, the percentage of liberals who said they had faith in science remained about the same, but the percentage of conservatives who did had fallen to around thirty-five percent.
   I knew it. How lazy can those coffee-drinking rats be if they’re dragging me across the political spectrum? Believe me, I’m not easy to move these days.
   I think I’ll have another cup of coffee.

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