Quietude, Truth

Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

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The Annals of Petronius Jablonski unveils the paradigm-shattering contributions of Petronius’ Shovel©, Petronius’ Blender©, Schadenfreude Before-the-Fact©, Quietude©, and Petronius’ Garage©. They take their rightful place in the pantheon above Occam’s dull Razor, Plato’s much-ballyhooed Cave, Aristotle’s overrated Golden Mean, and Russel’s leaky Teapot. (Also includes a blistering critique of the Phoenix legend).

“[R]eads like a surreal existentialist crisis, a stream-of-consciousness narrative that employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force.”  Publishers Weekly 

“[M]ost important philosopher since Descartes?”  Dr. Aloysius Schwankmeyer

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Excerpted from Chapter II: Just as William of Occam gave philosophy his Razor (undeniably useful but somewhat overrated), I hereby contribute my Shovel. This tool will prove to be as easy to use as its namesake. An example of it in action will serve as a good first approach to understanding it.

Now, by what criterion are things considered strange or normal? According to the regularity by which they occur, one might respond. Unfortunately, by this standard a halo above a car is quite peculiar and the strangeness vs. normalcy of a great many things becomes a relativistic mishmash. But this is the mere surface of this issue. A true philosopher feels instinctively that the line separating them is, to an enormous extent (if not altogether), arbitrary or illusory. But how can he dig straight to the root of this quandary, to penetrate the imaginary surface and demonstrate the chimerical nature of the distinction for the common man to see?

“Is the halo stranger than the existence of life itself?” the philosopher asks.

“Certainly not. What can be stranger than that?” comes the reply from any man with the barest semblance of cognition. “Explanations of life, its origin and purpose, always seem inadequate, as though nothing could feasibly constitute an answer, as though the question is a gasp of dismay, not a serious inquiry. I’d rather not think about it. Isn’t there a ballgame on?”

“Is the halo stranger than the fact that Something exists instead of Nothing?” the philosopher asks.

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“Absolutely not,” comes the reply from even a business student. “That’s the most peculiar and disturbing fact there is.” Rubbing his temples he cries, “My mind is awhirl. Bring me a video game. I beg you.”

“And so,” the philosopher concludes, washing off my faithful Shovel, his labor at an end, “the halo is not really strange. Compared to the existence of life, which we see every day, it is perfectly banal. Compared to the existence of everything, it is more akin to a sleeping pill than a mystery. Rather than giving it a pejorative label and running about in a tizzy, it is simply a matter of getting used to it.”

“Agreed,” chime the man with the barest semblance of cognition and his comrade, the business student. “Let’s all compare cell phones.”

Now, far from being a mere principle or abstract utility (like Occam’s much-ballyhooed Razor), my Shovel has the unlimited potential for practical, everyday applications. In fact, as the Reader is about to behold, it saved my life, holding my wits together in the face of what a non-philosophic mind would have deemed unbearably strange.

Quietude Now!

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Regarding Quietude, the telos of the New Stoicism: just as Aristotle gave philosophy his Golden Mean, I hereby contribute my Blender, by means of which the profoundest ideas can be mixed and pureed to produce original and superior recipes. This watershed, which the steely eyes of history may very well deem superior to Aristotle’s much-ballyhooed scale, will be elucidated in graspable increments. Regarding Quietude: while the precise recipe shall remain a secret, it contains ingredients from Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Monadology. The name is from the ancient Skeptics (who should have chosen a more accurate description of their uncertain comforts). Through the use of my ingenious, innovatory Blender, these constituents have been combined to create a bold new flavor. Quietude, as I am using the term, is both an original and significant contribution to philosophy.

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Is it an Eastern or Western conception? A messenger with joyous tidings, I unveiled a concept onion-like in its manifold layers, yet sweet in its succor. Quietude is not akin to a two-by-four. I cannot pummel the Reader into understanding it. A good philosopher relies on the time-tested methods of gradual exposure and the use of context clues. My approach shall be as halcyon as Quietude herself.

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Petronius Who?

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Schrodinger's Dachshund

Everest? Big Whoop!

Mount Silenus, Destroyer of Illusions

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“A surreal existentialist crisis” Publishers Weekly

“The mountain is nothing more than an extra hilly hill,” you say, cringing. “I was letting a word freak me out. If you don’t tame their power they control you.”

Positive thinking is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of hubris and stupidity. Try taming cyanide. The perils inherent to things exist independent of our descriptions and attitudes. Wolverines for instance. And Oxycodone. And mountains.

You walk on. Silenus grows faster than you’d expect given your cautious pace, as if clawing at you. An abstraction flickers to life: 20% of climbers take up permanent residence here, which means hundreds of breathing, eating, farting, laughing, beer-drinking, poker-playing men DIED here. They forever ceased and desisted from breathing, eating, farting, laughing, drinking beer, and playing poker courtesy of what you’re about to commence. These were not suicides. They were trying every inch of the way to avoid this irreversible and often unpleasant transformation. Then what happens? Welcome to the concrete reality of this question.

The clouds expand and diminish and the sky sheds a grimy exoskeleton to reveal an orange heart pulsing within a vast creature of which you are a mere cell. The sun pools on the snow like orange juice.

The sun, what is it?

In all your meanderings and voyages you’ve never stopped and gawked at the bone-chilling peculiarity of this. Is the existence of Existence humdrum and self-explanatory, or do these questions open empty chambers no free samples from Dr. Schlotski can fill?

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Based on a disastrous attempt

And you, what are you, and where? That mysterious theatre behind your eyes and between your ears, what perpetuates its dynamism?

“I’ll tackle it tomorrow when the weather’s nicer. I need to get an earlier start. Timing is of the essence.”

In a world where no consensus exists on its creation, who can say with certainty that guzzling champagne in the bath is not the greatest accomplishment in life? Return to your kingdom. Silenus will wait.

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A Vertical Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril began as therapy for Post-Traumatic Mountaineering Disorder (PTMD). Some events never recede on the horizon of Time. Dismissing them as the past is wishful thinking. That they occurred before other things is a trivial property, incidental and irrelevant to the sovereignty they wield. Jablonski filled hard drives with descriptions & analyses of what happened, then projected it into the eyes of characters spanning centuries.

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Petronius Who?

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Canes pugnaces, Schrodinger's Dachshund

The Danzantes of Monte Albán

Would its victims find comfort from knowing it became a tourist spot?

One glimpse above Monte Albán reveals a Copernican revolution of the idea that the moon is a light in the darkness. A slice of dead tissue clings to the black hide of an omnipresent being. Like some curio forgotten in an attic, a temple molders on a hilltop. Its ornate construction stands as a reminder of how little the past can teach the present. Between fits of mad laughter it calls, “Someday you and everything you love will be as irrelevant and forgotten and unfathomable as this.

The Mantis wanders the ruins by day, treading the same ground where priests in fish and bird masks once adjured gods more humanlike than one of love and mercy: gods sadistic, gods insane. Per his secret instructions he studies mysterious carvings, the Danzantes, templates of the human heart to which all literature and philosophy and art are footnotes.

“They weren’t dancin’ for fun,” she told him. “Look at the ones holding their guts in their hands. You didn’t want to get caught alive by the Zapotecs. They were into some wild-ass shit back then. Check out the altar. That wasn’t for sacrificing chickens. Don’t worry, we’ll be checking your thoughts so you don’t have to do nothin’. This is a total promotion. And quit wearin’ green.”

With polite obstinacy he spurns vendors who offer “authentic relics” made of baked manure. “No gracias,” he says, waving a bony finger. Not lost but found in the silent majesty of this crypt of a civilization he spends his days in pursuit of phantoms, guided by a phantom map and at the behest of connections linked by the unrelenting velocity of phantom logic. But his joy is real. Amid dark stains of misery, smeared within a pastiche of solemnity, hilarity, and tedium, the newfound purpose adds a streak of gold to the collage of his life. And like all men he mistakes the fleeting nuance for the color of the underlying canvas.

Meme researcher Delores Locascio writes, “Some memes brush against reality. How many have we seen involving Monte Albán? Princess Nica is the latest of many. This ceremonial altar has several hundred carvings known as Danzantes. The first archeologists to discover the site assumed the figures were dancing. In a sense they were. The Zapotecs depicted rival chieftains being tortured to death, many castrated. That wasn’t a symbolic flower carved between the legs of one figure; it was blood gushing from a hole. Several of the stones depict women with strange objects protruding from their eyes. Archeologists assumed from their vestments and jewels that they were priestesses. As we’ve seen, others claim they were entities the Zapotecs encountered in mirrors and made sacrifices to (until they ran out of victims).”

Schrodinger’s Dachshund is more like a collection of mysteriously connected stories than a conventional novel. Jablonski’s lyrical prose turns creepy during the second-person POV parts. What’s it about? You find yourself in the Bosch-like parallel universe of Cudahy, Wisconsin. Good luck. Jablonski doesn’t hold your hand. It’s like he’s sharing as much as he can, hoping you’ll figure it out because he can’t. This has a way of making these characters come alive. Highly recommended, but this taste is acquired. Not to be mistaken for genre espionage or sci-fi (or anything). This is plain weird! Magic anti-realism? Backhanded compliment time. It’s a showcase for Jablonski’s freaky powers of description. It’s a dark, funny, bizarre book with disarmingly vivid prose.” Goodreads

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Who is Maestoso and Why is He Following You?

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Serial Killers Who Worked Security

A Mysterious Link Explored

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Why are there no paralegals moonlighting as Grim Reapers, no librarians driven to carnage by inquiries about Dan Brown? Security fields a disproportionate number of the empathy challenged. Practitioners of this noble calling succumb to dark nights of the soul, wondering if the property they defend requires blood to sustain its existence. Why is it always the loners? What happens in the cold vacuum of solitude, time spent with the ultimate stranger?  Consider ten instances of this cruel occupational hazard and wonder why “going rent-a-cop” never joined the lexicon.

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“I hate guards who fall asleep on the job and don’t perform their duty”

With an honor code familiar to samurai and superheroes, Bangkok guard Wittaya Jaikhan snuck away from his post to hunt slumbering comrades, killing seven, becoming the Watcher of Watchmen, Guardian of Guards, Slayer of Sleepers. Our motives are never as pure as we believe. He also took their chocolate and phones. We are not justified in assuming that madness is the best explanation. The West has had no understanding of Honor since WWI. Only historical myopia hides Jaikhan’s perspective from us. By bringing shame to his vocation, the snoozing guards brought dishonor to him. You may be okay with that. Don’t speak for others.

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Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK killer, worked for ADT 

The acronyms will give you PTSD. He was as poor at coining them as his company is at informing guards of alarms. Was the B necessary? This is minutia, not substantive information. We assume some means of incapacitation was used, that his victims did not transcend their hard-wired response to pain on his behalf. That leaves us with TK, which is little better than Chokey or Hurty. (It’s not clear he needed the K either, since we can see the final result.) This narcissistic diva distracted attention from the QWERTY killer, UTI killer, and FDDBBFTBH killer, who struggle in vain for their fifteen minutes.

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Corporal Urinalysis

A grain of sand irritates an oyster to create a pearl. With humans all bets are off. Andrew Urdiales killed eight women and counting. In the Navy they called him Corporal Urinalysis and wouldn’t follow his orders. They called him Corporal Urinalysis. He had facial tics and less than awful social skills. If you believe all God’s creatures have a purpose you’ve got your work cut out for you. Most of these men were slated to be recipients of ridicule and conduits of fury. Did you ever make a conscious decision not to become a serial killer? Those philosophical head-trips about free will have obscenely physical instantiations. If you don’t choose your thoughts you don’t choose anything. You don’t choose your thoughts. Were Uriales’ security shifts a fortress of solitude or a hall of mirrors where Corporal Urinalysis leered from every direction? How long before you’d smash the mirror?

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Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha killed thirty-nine people to treat his anxiety

Proceed with caution when judging a man poisoned by cortisol and deprived of its antidote. This could have been prevented by a script for Klonopin: vitamin of Stoics, Viagra for stiff upper lips, pink slip for Mr. Gives a Shit, spinach for nervous guards. Not incidentally, the wicked stereotype of alcoholic guards comes from self-medication for a constant state of fight or flight.

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Ted Bundy 

He blamed his urges on pornography. It’s always hidden beneath the Soldier of Fortune, next to the handcuffs you aren’t supposed to use, atop the SECURITY MANUEL, across from the half-eaten bag of Fritos no one has touched for three years but you hope the new guard does just to see if he survives. Like Bundy, security guard Neal Falls had victims who all looked alike. They say routine is the anchor of life.

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Steven Alexander Hobbs, the large red-headed guard

What vicarious sacrifice did the fifteen prostitutes represent? Were they substitutes for cubicle-dwelling women who treated him with disdain, like his job was a Wiffle job, his life a Civil War reenactment? Ginger-themed taunts do not recede on the horizon of Time, where it’s always third grade. The discovery that atonement cannot be attained is bitter. The indignities guards endure come with compounding interest. The harder you try to catch up the further you fall behind.

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Kenneth Bianchi, Simon to Angela Buono’s Garfunkel

The Hillside Stranglers toured California in 1977 with a van that may as well have had FREE CANDY painted on the side. Bianchi attained the Holy Grail of security: an in-house position at a jewelry store, free from polyester uniforms and reliefs who don’t show and companies who make $20 an hour while paying you nothing. But he gave jewelry to girlfriends and paradise was lost. Many who pursue careers in this competitive field are forced to trade dreams of in-house security for sweatshop lives of rent-a-cops. Bianchi had to settle for the Whatcom Security Agency. The mysterious springs of the heart are unwound by less. Some said he had company in the attic: Multiple Personality Disorder was the flavor of the day. Here’s a secret. All guards do. Their exquisitely honed instincts become distinct and incompatible like Greek gods. The most ruthless prevails.

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They don’t sport horns or a scarlet SK

Rodney Alcala was “the devil. He’s very personable, good-looking. It’s easy to get in with this guy. He likes women with good shapes. He convinces them to let him take their photos.” A serial killer’s success is a function of camouflage. Remember that. Putting victims at ease by appearing to be something else is a screwdriver in Nature’s toolkit, like the hungry fish that looks like a rock. Primates do it too. A high IQ sans moral radar acted like a turbocharger for Alcala. His victim count remains unknown. And he brought a popular hobby among guards into disrepute. Don’t take your Nikons to work anymore.

It depends how you define “self-defense”

Louis van Schoor erred on the far side of caution when killing thirty-nine burglars in South Africa. He may have shot more than 100. Trigger happy? More like finger spasms. It also depends how you define “serial killer.” Van Schoor considered himself a crime fighter. He had no idea how good he had it. Guards in the states have to be clean-shaven.

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Britain’s worst serial killer may have been a guard

And Scottish. Jack the Stripper killed a parliament of prostitutes. His suicide note said he was “unable to take the strain any longer.” A recent study may shed light on his sorrows. “They found that shift work was associated with impaired cognition, and the impairment was worse in those who had done it for longer.” It ages the brain. Remember your grandfather’s obscene tirades when he lost his dentures? Imagine that frame of mind transplanted into a young man. Don’t judge him until you’ve slouched a mile on third-shift.

It’s not the news that any shift worker wants to hear. Not only is working irregular hours bad for your social life and likely your health, but it has a chronic effect on your ability to think, a new study has found.”

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Misfortune comes in threes

A lady guard broke Joseph Ferguson’s heart. Then his rent-a cop slavemaster fired him while he grieved. Then he missed the serial killer list because he didn’t pace himself and became consigned to the footnotes as a lowly spree killer. Where would we be without profilers and their arcane taxonomy, without men who keep a straight face as they inform us the profile is a white male in his twenties, as if we would have assumed an elderly Asian woman was to blame.

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What crimson thread links these men? Does an aptitude for solitude predestine one to infamy? Silent shifts are petri dishes where life’s indignities mutate and grow. Theories about postal workers suffering from “golden handcuffs” are equally plausible. Unarmed security is the most dangerous job in the United States. The authority it gives is not proportionate to its perils. The authority is an illusion. A guard has no more legal power than a common citizen. They’re sitting ducks and accountable for everything that occurs on their watch, the worst of both worlds. What are the long term effects of cognitive dissonance? To begin a campaign of social justice for guards, to stop the killing, begin by addressing them as Safety Technicians.

“The final total for workplace homicides in the United States, from 1990 to 1999, stood at 508 security guards slain in the line of duty and 495 police officers, and detectives, slain in the line of duty. In just one decade private security guards had surpassed even law enforcement officers in the rate of workplace homicide – an ominous occupational indicator for all those in working in the private security field. In the year 2000, the dangerous trend in violence would continue with another 46 security officers murdered in the line of duty. The same year witnessed an occupational homicide rate for public police officers and detectives of 35 killed by criminal assault or ambush.”

Incoming: Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, Guardian of Grocery.

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For more on the sorrows of security guards, read Schrodinger’s Dachshund: A Novel of Espionage, Astounding Science, and Wiener Dogs.

Petronius Who?

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Schrodinger's Dachshund

Great Irish Writers with Polish Names

GIWWPN found Celtic Consciousness in likely places. Turn on, plug in, pass out, and see how it’s clovers all the way down. (Regrettably, GIWWPN found no other Irish writers with Polish names. 2017 has been a lean year.)

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GIWWPN salutes Jim Morrison for Land Ho! Hear him discuss his proud heritage.  Humor is the key to our survival. And dancing.

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GIWWPN features the greatest playwright since Shakespeare. To the Irish, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a comedy about a functional family. Your mileage will vary. (Seeking info about the production with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Any bootlegs?)

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GIWWPN celebrates the greatest novel ever writ, Tristram Shandy,  Joyce’s ladder, Schopenhauer’s favorite: 

“A novel will be of a high and noble order, the more it represents of inner, and the less it represents of outer, life; and the ratio between the two will supply a means of judging any novel, of whatever kind, from Tristram Shandy down to the crudest and most sensational tale of knight or robber. Tristram Shandy has, indeed, as good as no action at all; and there is not much in La Nouvelle Heloïse and Wilhelm Meister. Even Don Quixote has relatively little; and what there is, very unimportant, and introduced merely for the sake of fun. And these four are the best of all existing novels.”

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GIWWPN trips on experimental fiction because we Irish invented it. Visit the Post-modern afterlife in  The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

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GIWWPN places Maeve Brennan in the same pantheon as Chekhov.

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GIWWPN finds prophetic descriptions of modern Academia in Gulliver’s Travels: Cucumber Studies.

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GIWWPN reveres a visionary. He was deeper than we’ve been led to suppose.

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GIWWPN embraces the realism of Yeats: “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

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“The History of Ireland in two words: Ah well.” – Niall Williams  (See these for details.)

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Existentialism, Fatalism, Ontology, Truth

An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy

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Jablonski’s writing “employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force. … [He] is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. An engaging narrative.”  Publishers Weekly

When his classic Pontiac is abducted by a deity who lives in the depths of Lake Michigan, Petronius Jablonski is offered Enlightenment in compensation. To obtain it he must decipher the coded features of an odyssey. He neglects to share these minor details with his longsuffering girlfriend, Sandy, who accompanies him. Home-schooled by an eccentric father, Petronius holds the modern world in contempt, the demise of polytheism and eighteenth century English in general, the plague of democracy and “internets” in particular.

Despairing of his ability to understand the journey and rarely paying attention, he engages the Reader’s assistance. His propensity for digressions complicates the search for a solution while making a mockery of first person narration. He anticipates absurd questions and adds chapters in response, he accuses the Reader of being smitten with Sandy and makes her less attractive, and he revolutionizes Philosophy by superseding Occam’s overrated Razor and Plato’s much-ballyhooed Cave with the paradigm-shattering contributions of Petronius’ Shovel, Petronius’ Blender, Schadenfreude Before-the-Fact, Petronius’ Garage, and Petronius’ Wheelbarrow.

As he subjects the Reader to increasingly demanding prerequisites it becomes clear he is wandering the remorseless hinterland between genius and madness, which raises questions about the accuracy of his chronicle. Sandy’s terrified warning that he’s behaving like his tragic father elicits rage: “What Cato did, and Addison approved, cannot be wrong.” But is Petronius a victim of ancestral fate or wisdom? What if Truth is poison? Perhaps a big sedan is more precious than “enlightenment.”

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The history of this novel would bring comfort to John Kennedy Toole, Job, and Sophocles. Three agents tried to sell it. One lost his mind sparring with illiterate editors and depraved accounting departments. Then the Sentinels of the Chandelier blocked a Kindle deal. Further hardships will be interpreted as Divine intervention, deserved.

Petronius Who?

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Schrodinger's Dachshund

Lay with Cudahy?

Petronius Jablonski grew up in this fine city. The defamation of a man’s hometown is no better than slandering his mother. This meme is an atrocity, spawn of ancient prejudice.

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STAND with Cudahy, give the finger to snobbery. The Annals of Petronius Jablonski: An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy includes a magisterial History of Cudahy’s taverns, Proustian woolgathering, Tristram Shandy-like digressions, and the revolution of Western thought. Cudahy has a rich Life of the Mind. We just don’t wear it on our jammies. Let the real Cudahy arise.

A Mesmerizing Excerpt

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“Driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly

The gloomy, taciturn Dr. Harris, glaring at us through bifocals and removing them to intensify his sulphurous gaze, stroked his unkempt beard and shook his head when we proposed a joint independent study titled, A History of the Cudahy Taverns: Packard Avenue. We returned the following day to plead our case, wielding the deadly argument that his dismissive reference to Cudahy as “some small, blue-collar abutment of Milwaukee” was no less contemptuous than describing the Temiar of Malaysia (his dissertation subject) as a group of uninteresting savages with absurd religious beliefs. A twenty-minute session of furious beard stroking ensued, probably infested by the realization that we had actually perused his dreadful, meandering doorstop.

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Sheridan Park 1984

“Alright boys,” he whispered. “Three credits. Due at the end of the fall semester. I will not give you an incomplete. I will not extend the due date.” After a brief but intense session of beard stroking, he removed his bifocals and fixed us with his legendary disintegrating stare. “Don’t disappoint me.”

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Packard Avenue in the Olden Times

I emerged from his office like Trajan returning from Dacia, but Buzzcut expressed reservations. Though in possession of an uncharacteristically athletic mind for a member of our generation, a congenital diffidence often restrained him from ambitions of heroic proportions. “Petronius, what if there aren’t any records at city hall or the historical society?”

“Records? We are starting ex nihilo. The historian who relies on books is no more than a glorified plagiarist. We are poised to become the primary source to which posterity, in humble gratitude, shall turn. For this we must go to the primordial, oracular sources themselves.”

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Where Does Time Go?

The vintage Schlitz globe above the entrance to Otto’s tavern, was it not an atlas of dreams, radiant with the light from a better world? “Bottle of Pabst,” I commanded, my voice a crash of thunder. Though billions of nights had preceded this one, and billions would follow, I detected a singularity, a hand-woven weave in the strands of Fate. I beheld the label on my bottle as Edmund Hilary must have looked upon the flag he planted atop Everest.

“I think we’ll need to present this thing as a horizontal tree, the trunk being the first tavern established,” said Buzzcut. “Branches multiply over the course of the century.”

“Will we wear cute matching dresses when we present our little chart? Will we invite our mommies? Will we serve cookies?”

“We have too much data to put in a simple paper,” he said, squeezing a slice of lemon over a gin and tonic.

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Second car belonged to the Cudahy Kid

“No doubt Boswell warned Johnson not to put too many words in his dictionary.”

“Different old-timers are giving us different names and dates. We at least need a thesis.”

“Please remind me, what was Suetonius’ thesis? Did he use a mulberry or chestnut tree to coalesce the staggering volume of data he worked with? A great historian does not theorize; he installs a window where none existed, he provides a clear view of what has been obscured.”

“Gibbon theorized.”

“I am aware of that great man’s shortcomings,” I snapped, “all of which are more than redeemed by his pinnacling prose. Now, while we gather data unrelentingly, tonight we must address the question of whether to begin with a prologue, a prolegomenon, or a preamble. I contend that a prolegomenon is the proper choice, prologues being the filthy denizens of science fiction and fantasy novels. And given Harris’ modest scholarship we can safely assume he has never before encountered a prolegomenon. The very word will strike terror into his black heart, an overture of the awe that will send him to his knees long before our addendum to our prolegomenon.”

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Petronius Who?

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