The Stubborn Swedish Cow

The following story was written for my “Write-Now” class which is conducted by Dr. Carolyn Wedin a retired professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin.  Dr. Wedin gave us a short email message she had received from a friend in Sweden about a cow that would not give milk.  The assignment for the class was to use any element or perspective from the email to write a story.  My story loosely embraces some of the key elements from the email but is of course embellished by my own writing fancies and imagination.  Since I generally write social and political commentary, this story might seem a bit odd. However, if you reflect on it a while after you read it, I think you will find that there is a message or at least a few morals from this tale that you can take away.

swedish cowOnce upon a time there was an old farmer and his wife who had a cow that suddenly decided to stop giving milk.  It was a Swedish cow and you know how stubborn those Swedes can be.  The old farmer was going to go out to talk to the cow but quite unexpectedly he choked to death on a bone in a piece of lutefisk.  His wife now inherited the farm, the chickens, the pigs and the stubborn Swedish cow who would not give any milk.

The farmer’s wife went out to talk to the stubborn Swedish cow and tried to explain that without any milk, she would not be able to keep the farm and would have to sell everything.  The chickens would go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and become original crispy chicken legs.  The pigs would go to Famous Dave’s Barbecue and become hot and spicy pork ribs.  Last but not least, she explained the stubborn Swedish cow would go to Mc Donald’s where she would probably become a Big Mac with Double Cheeseburger Sandwich.

But the stubborn Swedish cow would not budge.  “I am tired of giving milk she thought to her-self” and being a stubborn Swedish cow she was not moved by the farmer’s wife arguments.

The chickens and pigs heard all of the arguments though and were quite perturbed.  The chickens nominated one of their own to go and talk to the cow.  “How selfish of you and inconsiderate” the delegated chicken argued.  “You don’t care that we will become fried chicken; all you can think about is yourself.”  This line of attack did not persuade the stubborn Swedish cow.

Next, the pigs decided to have a talk with the cow.  In mass they went though, as pigs like to do everything together.  In one voice, they pleaded with the stubborn Swedish cow:  “Please don’t let us become barbecue ribs at Famous Dave’s we don’t want to die. We know you have your reasons, but we hope you will change your mind and save us all.  You may be a stubborn Swedish cow but deep down inside you are really a good bovine.”  This line of reasoning also failed to persuade the stubborn Swedish cow.

mouseUnbeknownst to all, there was a small little field mouse that lived with his family in the great barn.  The field mouse had overheard the plight of the farmer’s wife and the arguments of the farm animals and was quite moved by their problem.  The field mouse was an avid reader and many of his kind would have called him an intellectual.  He was a follower of the famous Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and also more recently the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom well known for his work on existential risk, the anthropic principle, human enhancement ethics, superintelligence, the reversal test, and consequentialism.  The little field mouse decided to try explaining the theory of the Anthropic Principle to the cow in the hope that logic would prevail where pure emotion had failed.

“Listen please” said the little field mouse to the stubborn Swedish cow “The Anthropic Principle is the philosophical consideration that observations of the universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.  It is well known that cows give milk and to be a conscious cow, you have the obligation to perform this duty for the universe.”  Now the cow had recently been reading from the writings of Dr. Niklas Boström and was quite impressed with this line of thought.  “Yes”, reflected the cow, “even though I am a stubborn Swede, I am also a creature of the universe with an infinite obligation to take my proper place in the grand scheme of things.”

“You have convinced me” said the once stubborn Swedish cow to the little field mouse.  “Hence forth, I will take my rightful place in the universe and give milk every day as long as I am able, thus fulfilling my role in the grand scheme of things”

And the farmer’s wife, the chickens, the pigs, the once stubborn Swedish cow and the little field mouse and his family all lived happily ever after.

Time for Questions:

What strategy did the Farmer’s wife use on the cow?  The Pig and the Chicken?  How effective were these?  Could they have been more effective?  What strategy did the mouse use?  Why was it effective?  In real life, which strategies do you think work best?  Why?  Which strategy would you have used?

Life is just beginning.

“Here and there and not just in books we catch glimpses of a world of once upon a time and they lived happily ever after, of a world where there is a wizard to give courage and a heart, an angel with a white stone that has written on it our true and secret name, and it is so easy to dismiss it all that it is hardly worth bothering to do. … But if the world of the fairy tale and our glimpses of it here and there are only a dream, they are one of the most haunting and powerful dreams that the world has ever dreamed…”
― Frederick BuechnerTelling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten!

The lyrics from the title song above were written by Daniel Decatur Emmett.  One well known verse is:

I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray!  Hooray!

In Dixie’s Land I’ll take my stand

to live and die in Dixie.

Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

Ironically this song was written by a Northerner and first sung in New York City in 1859.  The first shot was not fired in the Civil War until April 12, 1861 when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter.  I often heard this song when I was growing up since my mother and I were both born in Alabama.

farm roadsI was born in Fairfield, Alabama and my grandparents had a farm in Ensley, Alabama.  Years later and the farm is now ancient history and Ensley is a bunch of suburban homes adjacent to Birmingham.  The cow paths, chicken barn, pig sties and goat pens are long gone.  The rolling dirt road that once led to the Farmers Grain and Feed store is now a paved two lane highway leading to Walmart and CVS.  I remember feed millmany trips down this road beside my grandfather who always had a large quart canning jar full of ice and water and wrapped in a towel.  When we arrived at the feed store, he would go in to purchase his feed and buy me an RC Cola from the metal soda box on the front dock.  I would sit on the side of the feed store loading dock while the workers would pack his pickup truck with bags of grain and other assorted farm essentials.   My grandfather would have a brief chat with the workers and we would be on our way back to his farm.

Old Farm

My grandfather and grandmother lived in a Quonset hut that they purchased after the end of WW II.  The hut was all metal and “rooms” were defined by hanging blankets.  I do not remember any doors in the hut except the single door leading outside.  Beyond this door was the path that would take you directly to the outhouse.  Other paths branched off this main path to the barn and various animal areas.  My grandfather and grandmother always lived frugally but they did not scrimp on the food.  Breakfast would be grits, brains, bacon and eggs.  Lunch would be fried chicken with collard greens and large baking powder biscuits.  Supper would be fried potatoes, green beans and either roast pork or perhaps barbecued goat.  Fridays we would eat catfish and okra.  I never tired of my grandmother’s southern cooking.

blast-furnaces-of-a-steel-mill-light-j-baylor-robertsMy grandfather supplemented his meager income by working at the Birmingham Steel mill.  I remember when we would go to Birmingham at night.  The sky would be full of smoke and sparks from the various steel mills in the city.  The steel mills dominated ingot of steelthe city architecture and they owned the night.  As we came closer to one of the mills, we would soon see the large red hot ingots lying on their side cooling off in the mill yard.  Occasionally, we could see the huge ladles of red hot ore pouring out their contents into the casting molds.  Sparks would fly everywhere and cauldron of steelthe night sky would be lit up with flames streaking hundreds of feet into the heavens.  It was almost like a fireworks show that went on night after night.  I left the mills and Alabama when I left home in 1964 thinking that I would probably never see either of them again.  I was wrong though.

One after another each of the five major steel mills in Birmingham shut down, unable to compete with more modern methods of making steel.  Soon there were only large rusted metal cities looming ominously over the landscape but devoid of soul and spirit.  The smoke and flames were gone from the night sky.  Each of the mills were torn down and replaced by shopping centers or parking lots until finally only one of the old mills

Steel Mills Birmingham

Steel Mills Birmingham

remained.  Civic minded leaders in a spirit of trying to capture history decided to turn this last steel mill into a museum.  Later on in my life, I toured this museum and visited the various plant areas but it was not the same anymore.  The plant that had killed hundreds of men and took my grandfather’s left foot was now lifeless.  In my imagination, I could see shadows of the dead men who had sweated in the heat of the blast furnaces and stoked coal to feed the hunger of the ovens for fuel and a growing nation for automobiles.  A steel mill that had once been a dangerous fiery roaring tiger was now simply a large cavernous rusty building that echoed in my mind with the mute sounds of the past.

Years after my first marriage was over, I took my second wife Karen down to Alabama to visit the remnants of the clan that my mother had belonged to.  By this time, my grandparents were dead and most of my aunts and uncles were also deceased.  I had never gone south with my first wife and so it had been years since I had visited Alabama.  Karen and I had taken trips together to several different countries.  We had been to England, Scotland, France, Germany and China.  I warned her that going down South would be a culture shock.  I was not surprised when she later told me that the “culture shock” she experienced in the South and with my relatives was greater than any she had experienced on our overseas trips including China.

Karen said she had heard that the South was still fighting the Civil War but she could not believe what she heard and saw during the trip.  Numerous bumper stickers, ain'tfergettintattoos, hats and t-shirts proclaiming:

  • Hell no, we ain’t forgettin
  • The South will raise again
  • Long live the Confederacy
  • Nathan Bedford Forest: American Patriot
  • Confederate American and proud of it

And of course, she saw numerous Confederate flags hanging from houses, pickup trucks and motorcycles.  We even found a roadside stand where they were selling Confederate memorabilia and a large sign over the stand proudly proclaiming “Heritage Not Hate” as though the Civil War was about mint juleps and the right of slaves to sing and dance all night long.

red neck shirtIt became apparent to me why I never took my first wife to visit my relatives.  Deep down inside, I was both appalled and ashamed at their ideas and behavior.  During our visit Karen and I listened to more prejudice and bigotry then I had heard in years.  I retreated to an almost catatonic state.  I did not once broach the subject of racism or discrimination despite the abundant evidence of its pervasiveness.  My normal outspokenness for intolerance was stilled in the onslaught of insults and harangues that I heard towards Blacks, Mexicans and other minorities.  It was like a Gordian knot of discrimination and I did not know where to start unravelling it.  On our way home, Karen and I discussed our mutual inability to speak out or take any action in the face of this prolific bigotry.  I perhaps more than Karen was embarrassed that I had said and did nothing.  I had become the silent person who fails to speak out.

We can talk about moving on but I don’t think many of us realize how long it takes to change a culture and to really let go and move on.  There have been and continue to be many changes in the Old South.  Slavery has of course ended.  The plantations are gone and Jim Crow rule is finally over.  The Confederate Flag has even been taken down from most Southern State Capitals.  The symbols and icons of the Old South are fast disappearing.  Nevertheless, in the hearts and minds of many Southerners, you can still hear the refrains from Dixie repeating: “Old times there are not forgotten, Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land.”  When it comes to the South, old times there are still not forgotten.

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been down South?  What was your experience?  Do you have any roots in the South? If so, what changes have you seen over the years?  What do you think it will take to make the South forget the Civil War and move on?

Life is just beginning.

“In the South, history clings to you like a wet blanket. Outside your door the past awaits in Indian mounds, plantation ruins, heaving sidewalks and homestead graveyards; each slowly reclaimed by the kudzu of time.”  ― Tim HeatonDon’t Be Ugly:

 

 

 

 

Bumper Sticker Philosophy?

bumper stickersRecently, I was thinking of starting a bumper sticker business.  Bumper stickers can do quite well in terms of bringing in revenue.  They are cheap and inexpensive and everyone has something they want to show off to the world.  If you go to any trade show or convention or some special events like Roller Girls, Star Trek conventions, Comic Cons, you will find lots of different bumper stickers at the various booths.  Someone once told me that bumper stickers (selling for 1 or 2 dollars) were a bread and butter item for them.  “Big expensive items hardly sold, but everyone had a dollar or two for a bumper sticker.”

This got me to thinking.  If I had some good ideas for a bumper sticker and if I sold each one for $1.50 with .50 shipping and handling and if everyone in the world bought just one of my bumper stickers, that would be 3 billion people X $1.50 which = $4.5 billion dollars.  If it kept 1/3 of that as net profit, I would earn $1.5 billion dollars.  I would still not be as rich as Donald Trump but if I could sell just one per year to everyone in the world, it would only take me 6 or so years and I would be wealthier than Donald Trump.  At that point, I could then finally claim “I am great!”  If I lived another 25 years, I might eventually surpass Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in net worth.

my_kid_beat_up_your_honor_student_bumper_sticker-e1425666062414Of course, a great bumper sticker business must start with great ideas that have universal appeal.  You must cater to the masses.  You must have themes that resonate with the common person.  You can’t have bumper stickers that say confusing things like E=MC2 or Circumference= Two x Pi x r.  You must have ideas that are simple to understand and that everyone can relate to.  For example, one classic one that I have seen on many cars is “My Kid Kicked Your Honor Roll Kids Ass.”  This of course expresses the clear concept that it is better to be a bully than be intelligent.  This seems to be an idea that among Trump supporters, Tea Party advocates and many right wing extremists resonates very well.

trump hateOne other example of a great bumper sticker has been around for many years.  It is quite popular and goes:  “God, Guns and Guts Made America Great.”   This bumper sticker shows quite clearly that God loves guns and guts and thus favors Americans who have more guns and guts than any other people in the world.  Statistics prove this fact as it is well known that there are enough guns in the USA for everyone to have at least three guns each for every man, woman and child in the US.   Even as I write, gun manufacturers are working to improve this statistic.   Ruger has a goal of selling two million guns this year and will donate a dollar for every gun sold to the NRA to help promote their goal of selling more guns.  In no time at all, we will have 4 guns for every person in the country, thus helping our nation become even greater than it is.

I would say something about guts, but we all know that Americans don’t run or that the colors on our flag don’t bleed.  It is an American truth that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  What is lesser well known though is that there are now so many obese or “adipose challenged” (see my bumper sticker below) men in America that we are now having more difficulty getting it up, never mind running or getting going anywhere.  Statistics show the following:

  • More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. [Read abstract Journal of American Medicine (JAMA)
  • Obesity is higher among middle age adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults over 60 or above (35.4%) adults.

funniest_crazy_cool_pictures_of_funny_bumper_sticker_2_20090814_1080511172But what the heck, you can still be fat and send drones and guided missiles to bomb the hell out of other people.  Guts are overrated!  If we can maim and slaughter our enemies, we will still win and that is what counts.  Winning is a common bumper sticker theme and one that I have tried to utilize in the following concepts.  I present these ideas as possibilities for my bumper sticker company.  I am open to other ideas.  Please feel free to share any great ideas you have for bumper stickers.  When my bumper sticker company becomes rich and famous, I will share some of my profits with you so that you can also be “Great” someday.  Thus, without further ado, here are my top ideas for “Great” bumper stickers.

  • My grandkids are smarter than your grandkids
  • Next to my girlfriend, my wife is the prettiest woman in the world
  • Harley Davidson – Made in Japan
  • Growing old sucks!
  • If you’re so rich, why aren’t’ you smart?
  • Free money
  • Sex, sex, sex, that’s all you ever think about!
  • Why do I have to swallow?
  • Trump is a big fat rich ass-hole, but I love him anyway!
  • Egotists rule
  • Not fat, adipose challenged
  • Intellectuals are stupid
  • Salads are for sissies
  • My mother can beat your mother up
  • Where is God hiding?
  • Send a missile, don’t send me!
  • Immigrants don’t belong here
  • Kill a terrorist for Christ
  • Who is John Persico?

funny-bumper-stickers.jpg-620453-Google-Chrome_2014-03-03_12-11-08-OptimizedI am working on other ideas but I thought this would be a good start.   One caveat that must be admitted is that bumper stickers can offend some people; but as they say “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”  Furthermore, the people that buy bumper stickers usually have an innate desire to express themselves in ways that they can’t manage as well verbally.  A truly challenging bumper sticker lets people say things that they could not express as succinctly or eruditely if left to their own linguistic devices.  For instance, the NRA says that “When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.”  Can you imagine the average person making such an eloquent defense of guns and assault rifles with such a short but biting comment?  With one very unique phrase, millions of people have come to believe that they must buy a gun or be at the mercy of the millions of outlaws just lurking out there to rape and pillage their farms and homesteads, steal their cattle and ride off into the sunset with their women.

trump_supporters_bumper_bumper_bumper_stickerA great bumper sticker is an algorithm for self-expression.  Those commie pinko intellectuals who can confuse you with their big words and high sounding concepts don’t stand a chance against a good bumper sticker.  Bumper stickers let the average or even below average person duke it out on a level playing field with a Harvard college professor.  One of my favorite bumper stickers says:  “Just cause you’re so smart and went to school don’t mean you know anything.”  Wow, is that profound or what!  Take that you college Ph.D.’s that think you are so smart.  “My son will kick your graduate son’s ass.”

Time for Questions:

Do you have any favorite bumper stickers?  What do you think makes a good bumper sticker?  Do you ever put bumper stickers on your car?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“The world’s bumper sticker reads: Life sucks, and then you die. Perhaps Christian bumper stickers should read: Life sucks, but then you find hope and you can’t wait to die.”   ― Ted Dekker

 

 

 

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