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Asshole with a Purpose, or an Allegory of the Cave

Once upon a time in cave system far, far away there lived a disagreeable ogre named Alfalfa Judge, who was unhappy with all the goblins, orcs, and gnomes living in the nearby lairs and caves, and so it was that he set out to change his fortune.

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At first he ignored the gnomes and paid tribute to the orcs, who were his betters, for he was but a young ogre, and still in need allies. He came upon a young ogrette passing herself off as a gnome, and when one time at a party he asked her to dance and to touch his monkey the inappropriateness of the request but not its results were known to the gnomes and orcs in attendance. The ogrette at some point disappeared to the west, leaving the poor ogre alone in his cave. Alfalfa had serious socialization issues.

From time to time the ogre had friends over to the cave system to visit, and the ever watchful gnomes at first kept their distance out of fear that whole tribes of ogres were invading, but to their surprise most of the visitors were dwarfs and others of similar nature to the gnomes and orcs. The gnomes frolicked with the ogre’s friends once the ogre returned to dank darkness of his damp and dismal abode.

From time to time the ogre approached the gnomes, renowned for their superior intelligence and ability to do the work the ogre himself was unable and unwilling to complete, in order to aid him on certain projects. He promised riches but reneged every time. The first time he told the gnome that it was part of his duty, required in order to grow as a gnome into something approaching an orc; the second time he tricked one of the orc’s helpers into paying the fee; and the third time he provided only half the promised amount, but made enough frightening remarks about food and the poor gome’s future that the terrified creature ran away rather than protest its unfair treatment.

Eventually the ogre reached something resembling maturity. Whereas in the past its reliance on the goblins had swayed them to his side, and had provided him protection against the disdain of the gnomes and the critical eyes of the orcs, he now discarded even them, for there was now nothing the goblins, gnomes, or orcs could do to him; he was secure in his cave. What his projects were the others, even the wise orcs, did not know; they even grew to suspect that the ogre was not spending much time in his cave at all, for when they passed by neither sounds nor smells escaped to alert them to his presense. This disturbed the orcs, for the caves had a system of shared governance and the rotating leadership position would one day come to Alfalfa, but many of the orc’s minions swore they would flee rather than fall under his dominion.

Word finally came one new year that the ogre was moving on. Off on a hunting trip, a group of orcs and gnomes came across a party of dwarfs, who inquired about the ogre. The dwarfs were looking for someone, anyone, to move into their cave system and provide support against the elements and the wild creatures that, at times, threatened their existence. They had many small dwarflings and needed someone to pull his weight and help in raising the young ones, but because their caves were far to the west in unsettled and wild territory few were willing to make the trek. Thus, when they came across Alfalfa and he agreed to their terms, they quickly took him in as one of their own, but they had had little time to do a thorough background check. The orcs were at once surprised as well as somewhat pleased, for their shared governance problem was solved, but they wondered whether the dwarfs knew of the danger into which they had placed themselves, for Alfalfa was a meat-eater, and a none-too-civilized one at that. The dwarfs already had a suitable leader and were merely looking for someone to help out; alas, Alfalfa set about convincing other, younger members of the dwarf community to do his work at once, and soon his lust for power and prestige would surface—the orcs suspected that the dwarfs had no idea what they were in for.

Back at the orc caves chaos bubbled to the surface, for Alfalfa went about his daily routine—ignoring everyone—as if nothing had changed. Would he stay or would he go? The orcs, gnomes, and goblins muttered to one another about the situation. Should they plan for the fall hunt as if Alfalfa would be there to help or should they assume his departure? Could they find a replacement? The orc elders wondered about this strange behavior—what could cause anyone to be so rude so as not to even communicate with his peers?—but they reminded themselves that he was an ogre. They soon realized that his delay in announcing his intentions was a clever plan, for as long as he did not announce his plan to leave, Alfalfa could use the joint resources of the orc caves, which exceeded those of the dwarfs, as well as plan ahead for his takeover of the dwarf stronghold.

It was not long before the autumn arrived and Alfalfa’s departure was secured. Although he succeeded in dominating the mellow dwarfs, it was a tiny dominion hardly worthy of rule, and whether he in the end devoured his minions or whether they rose up against him was never related to the goblins, gnomes, and orcs, whose system of caverns grew strong once again and whose culture blossomed. And if the gnomes have not died, they are still alive to this day ...

A few interesting links:

Andy Warhol
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A.O. Scott’s “Heroes vs. Stars: Revenge of the Nerds” at the NY Times this weekend (listed as May 8, 2005) is interesting with regard to its thesis, but that is not why I found it worthy of linking. Instead I figured that it is/was the sort of article I should pass on to students as an example of a 3-part synthetic argument. Scott begins with a specific anecdote regarding Chris Rock’s Oscar humor. From there he turns to broad analysis of specific films and figures before returning to Chris Rock and his original topic at the end. There is nothing special about this structure, but it is common and effective, and we too rarely reflect upon its use.

Die Zeit has an article on learning Hungarian by way of living in a teacher’s house/apartment. The article is under the category Sprachreisen or language trips/travels and focuses on Budapest. Similar articles do not often appear in major American papers.

Do not forget the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, which “was formed in 1975 to restore an endangered peregrine falcon population in California.” It reminds me a bit of the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Southern Idaho is a great place to live if you want to see/watch raptors. They are always in the sky out in the country, and I recall eagles perching on trees in the pasture. When the ditches ran dry deer and rabbits followed the beds from the river to fields in the valley. Not far behind were coyotes and various large birds. Not far north of Emmett my mom had ten acres that she and my step-father called the “Poor Farm”; they had a hilltop, upon which they were building a cabin. Their schnauzer, Toto, could not be left out alone out of fear that some circling bird on the hunt would carry her off. But they are so cute!

—May 7 2005