Josna Rege

Posts Tagged ‘A-to-Z April Challenge’

Anachronidioms

In Notes on March 8, 2021 at 11:33 am

We all speak—and think—in anachronisms, our language having arisen from a landscape that may have since changed out of all recognition. The idioms, sayings, proverbs, figures of speech we use are picked up from what we hear and later read as we are growing up. We pick them up from our families, friends, teachers, communities, and workplaces—from conversations, songs, and books—and they shape the way we see the world around us. Many of our sayings hark back to an era before we were born, others to our childhood or to the decade in which we came of age.

The landscape that shapes our daily speech is frequently multilingual as well. So many of the sayings that English speakers use every day have seeped into it from other languages, giving us glimpses of our collective as well as our family histories. Do we adopt new language as we grow older or do we cling to the language of a bygone age? Does that make us anachronisms or living treasures? I for one enjoy rolling words and phrases around on my tongue, using expressions that are becoming archaic. Why? For this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge, starting on the first of April, I’ll reflect on these questions with a different saying or category of sayings every day. I’ve coined a word for them: anachronidioms.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old blogging friends and meeting new ones. This is the seventh year I’ve participated in the A to Z Challenge, the sixth year with a theme. Below are the links to my themes and post from all the previous years.

2013: Blogging from A to Z
2014: Traveling Light
2015: A Printer’s Alphabet
2016: Bringing Me Joy
2019: Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles
2020: Fifty Years in the United States

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A-to-Z 2019: Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles

In Notes on March 17, 2019 at 12:01 am

With some trepidation, I’ve signed up for the annual A-to-Z April blogging challenge for the first time in three years. My chosen theme is Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles, a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and which, of course, is an urgent issue—perhaps the urgent issue—worldwide. Last year the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that by the end of 2017 a cumulative total of 68.5 million people had been forced to leave their homes. More than 25.4 million people became refugees that year alone, fleeing their countries to escape war and persecution.

In the current climate, these vulnerable displaced people have become the perfect scapegoats for unscrupulous politicians. We see it everywhere we look: immigrants and refugees characterized as alien invaders, a disease that must be vaccinated against, a problem that calls for a final solution. Nativist rhetoric fans the flames of hate and gives the nod to violent attacks like the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand and the posting of the military to the Southern border of the United States where families and children had undertaken a long, arduous trek to seek asylum. Their essential difference from “Us” is always invoked, as if they are a breed apart.

My family and I are immigrants too, though not refugees, so all this is very close to home. My posts will be as personal as they are political, and I will try hard not to preach, though I can’t help having strong opinions. The A-to-Z entries on words and terms related to my theme will be punctuated with links to some of my favorite novels and songs on the subject.

Although I’m returning after a two-year break, this will be my fifth time participating in the April blogging challenge. For anyone interested, here are my post-Challenge Reflections posts for the first four years, each with a list of hyperlinks to each of the A-Z entries:

2013: Blogging from A to Z (no theme)
2014: Traveling Light 
2015: A Printer’s Alphabet (my favorite)
2016: Bringing Me Joy

April is a cruel month for academics, so sometimes it will be a struggle for me to post my daily entry on time. Wish me luck and All the best to my fellow-bloggers!

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358. Darjeeling

In 1960s, blogs and blogging, Education, India, Nature, places, Stories on April 6, 2016 at 12:19 am

Blogging from A to Z
  Theme: Bringing Me Joy

photo by Karl Hagen

photo by Karl Hagen

DDarjeeling is a hill station in West Bengal, India, set mile-high in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was formerly part of Sikkim and its name derives from Dorje Ling, abode of the thunderbolt, a monastery built for the Chogyal of Sikkim in the mid-nineteenth century. Its diverse population of about 130,000 includes Gorkhas, Lephchas, Bhutias, Bengalis, Marwaris, Anglo-Indians, Chinese, Biharis, and Tibetans. It is justly famous for its flowery, faintly orange-scented tea, its cool climate, its ancient narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that chugs up from the plains, its botanical garden, its Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (founded by Tenzing Norgay), and, when the mists clear, its stunning views of Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world.

I love Darjeeling because it was my home for two and a half years during my teens, when my parents sent me to boarding school there, to Mount Hermon, where the snows of Kanchenjunga were the view from our dormitory window. Keeping in touch with my MH friends and classmates (Batch of ’69), drinking whole-leaf Darjeeling tea, lifting my voice and my eyes to the mountains as we did every day, and recalling the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayan landscape, all continue to bring me joy.

Some 17 years ago the Batch of ’69 celebrated its 30th anniversary in Kathmandu, hosted by Lobsang, our classmate who is settled there. Three of us, Tsognie, Marianne, and I, being based in the U.S., were unable to travel to Nepal at that time, and so we got together at the same time for a mini-reunion at my house. We made a video in which we reminisced, sang MH songs, and sent our greetings to everyone. In it, Marianne, who has the clearest, purest voice I have ever heard, sang To Sir with Love, that she had first learned as a tribute to our class teacher, Mr. Mellor. In short order, we converted the videocassette from the U.S. NTSC format into the Indian PAL, and sent it to Kathmandu by Global Express Mail. (This was before Skype or Youtube were founded (2003 and 2005, respectively) and email, even if some people had access to it, was slow and unreliable.)

Our video got to Kathmandu on time, but on that day it was either a long weekend or the post office was closed due to a strike. Our classmates celebrated without us while it languished in the mailroom. Months later, Mr. Mellor, who was retired back in Australia by then, visited Calcutta (just before it became Kolkata again), where we believe that members of our batch of ’69 showed him the video. We hope it meant half as much to him to receive it as it meant to us to record it for him. Mr. Mellor passed away not long afterwards, and so did dear Santosh, our classmate who had brought us all together on an email list after many years.

I realize that my tone here is nostalgic; but Darjeeling is a place of such sublime natural beauty that, even half a century later, it is still able to cast its mountain mists upon my inward eye, bringing with it that emotion recollected in tranquility so treasured by the Romantic poets.

I had to leave Darjeeling a year before the rest of my class graduated. While it was a wrenching parting for me, Darjeeling itself was devastated almost immediately afterwards by the terrible landslide of 1968. It was not until twenty-five years later that I returned again, and I haven’t been able to return since. How is it that a place lived in for such a short time, and that too so long ago, still means so much to me?

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357. Chillies and China

In blogs and blogging, Britain, Food, India, Inter/Transnational, Stories, United States on April 5, 2016 at 12:23 am

C

Blogging from A to Z  Theme: Bringing Me Joy

China: I don’t know much about china, not the kind of things collectors know, but I love coming upon beautiful pieces in church bazaars, yard sales, and thrift shops. They must be  inexpensive, in excellent condition, and, with rare exceptions (I know it’s nationalist—what to do?), made in England. Being fine bone china is an added bonus but not at all essential. I don’t collect sets or anything like that; most of what I have is one of a kind. Bringing out my favorite china cups and plates for  afternoon tea with my friends never fails to make me happy.

chillies and china

Chillies: Just looking at fresh green chillies buoys my spirits; holding them in my hands produces an ear-to-ear grin; eating them sends tears—of joy, mind you—streaming down my cheeks. I can’t get enough of them. Memories: going alone into a Bangladeshi restaurant in Brick Lane, London. Must have been the 1980s. A tumbler of cold water on each table along with a bowl of green chillies. Macho me, woman on my own, needing to prove I knew the ropes, chomped manfully into the chillies while waiting for my lunch order and tried to pretend that I didn’t need more water. Hah! More memories: going shopping in the market in Delhi, in what must have been the early 1990s. Economic liberalization hadn’t quite taken hold yet, and neither had plastic bags. When the man had filled your cloth shopping bag with vegetables, he threw in a bunch of dhaniya-patta, fresh coriander leaves, and a handful of green chillies for good measure. And in the present: when burning the midnight oil, buttered toast and Marmite with my tea is pretty sweet, but add a slice of tomato or cucumber and a few pieces of chopped green chilli and I am good to go for another couple of hours. Chillies bring me joy. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

[For more china, see TMA #273, Everyday Use; and chillies, TMA #294, Without Whom]

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355. Accomplishment

In reflections, Stories, women & gender, Words & phrases, Work on April 1, 2016 at 9:38 am

Bringing Me Joy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge, April 2016

AAccomplishment (pronounced accumplishment) brings me joy. Carrying a task to completion delivers, with the deep breath drawn in the moment of its fulfillment, a quiet confidence that has been fully earned. In the very next breath, new doubts will certainly arise again, and old business that demands attention; let them come in their time, but for now, I must savour this moment, look upon what has been done, and know that it is good.

There is a world of difference between accomplishment in the active sense of accomplishing something and in the passive sense of being accomplished. It is not for nothing that the expensive institutions where young women from wealthy families were sent to be prepared for their entry into fashionable society were called finishing schools: they were polished so as to be polished off, so to speak; with their suitable marriage, it was thought, there would be an end to it, no need for further accomplishments on their part besides hanging like an adornment on the right man’s arm.

More than 200 years ago, Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), displayed a healthy cynicism regarding society’s expectations of the accomplished woman in her time. Here’s the infuriatingly snooty Miss Bingley and the aristocratically aloof Mr. Darcy rehearsing the requirements for membership in that exclusive club, followed by Elizabeth’s cool, clever reply:

     A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
      “All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
     [Elizabeth:]“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women.  I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”   [Pride and Prejudice, via Modern Mrs. Darcy]

Being accomplished entails being worked on, staged, as it were, for the marriage market. Setting out to accomplish a task, on the other hand, is an active process that produces positive change. Real accomplishment is a product of hard work, skill, and persistence over a period of time. For me, among all the registers in the range of joy, a sense of accomplishment is one of the most deeply satisfying.

A change is achieved in the day it is done.

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354. The Pursuit of Happiness

In blogs and blogging, Family, reflections, Words & phrases, Work on March 27, 2016 at 5:24 pm

(from fitforaframe.com)

(from fitforaframe.com)

A few years ago my brother-in-law Dan, computer wiz extraordinaire, designed a little game for each of our computer desktops. He called it The Meaning of Life. In those days, about all I knew about computers was that in order to open an application you had to click on it. I duly took hold of my mouse and aimed it at the little Meaning of Life icon: but it slipped away from me. I tried again: again, perversely, it darted out of reach. Yet again: no dice. Once more: still no joy. Eventually I realized was that this was, in fact, Dan’s point. No matter how hard one tried to get a fix on the meaning of life, it would remain elusive. It was bound to be a lifelong pursuit. That is, if one saw life in such terms, as a pursuit.

This anecdote has come to mind as I have been contemplating my no-doubt foolhardy decision to sign up for the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge with my chosen theme of things that bring me joy. I had thought it would be quick and easy to write a daily paragraph on something that lifts my spirits, brings a smile to my face, or makes me laugh out loud. But today I’m feeling doubtful about the task, and wondering whether this whole Pursuit of Happiness business—enshrined as an inalienable right in the United States’ Declaration of Independence—is misconceived. What is the pursuit of happiness but the lifelong attempt to play Dan’s little game, self-defeating by design? Isn’t happiness something that comes quietly, unsought, like grace, when least expected? Isn’t it the by-product of consistent hard work, of loving commitments kept, furthered, moved closer to realization?

My parents’ generation didn’t seem to believe in the pursuit of happiness; at best, they distrusted it. They felt that doing something simply because it made one happy was mere selfishness. Instead, even while showering the fruits of their labors on us, their children, they attempted to instill in us the principles of hard work, thrift, and delayed gratification. What we saw, even at the cost of their personal happiness, was their continual, habitual self-sacrifice, even when we felt it to be unnecessary. While we supposed it was kinda noble, it was also infuriating. We wanted to be happy, and we also wanted them to be happy. Young and restless, we wanted it all, and wanted it now.

I’m now older than my parents were when they routinely infuriated me with their self-denial. I still want personal happiness, but I’m enough of my parents’ daughter to distrust it for its own sake. I hope that if I can manage to keep up with this year’s one-a-day challenge, my month of daily posts will explore the visitations of happiness in all its facets and forms, from overflowing joy to quiet contentment, from hot-footed pursuit to simply letting the mystery be.

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305. Bed

In blogs and blogging, Books, Stories, Words & phrases, Work, writing on April 2, 2015 at 10:25 pm

051-16th-Century-letter-b-q97-680x727

The bed of a press, that is. In letterpress printing, the bed of a cylinder press is the flat horizontal surface on which the type is laid. After the type has been set, it is leveled and locked firmly in place on the bed. The rollers are inked, the impression is adjusted, and printing can begin.

(from sometimesiweartiaras.wordpress.com)

(from sometimesiweartiaras.wordpress.com)

220px-Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0006317_023_Mitarbeiter_der_Druckerei_Offizin_Haag-Drugulin

Anyone who has worked on a big project, especially one with a deadline, is eager to put it to bed. The expression comes from the production process in printing and publishing. Of course, when the work of the writers, editors, graphic designers, typesetters, and layout artists is done, and both they and the print job are cozily tucked into bed, the printer’s work is only just beginning.

I can’t let the letter B go by without a nod to three serif typefaces:

baskerville1757

Baskerville, (a transitional typeface—in-between classical and modern—designed in 1757)

Bembo (a twentieth-century Monotype revival of a fifteenth-century typeface)

WmBembo

baskerville

Bodoni (a series of modern typefaces designed in the late eighteenth century and “embodying the rational thinking of the 7548Enlightenment”). When I worked at the Godine Press and later with our own Whetstone Press, we lived for typography and fine printing; I’ve fallen out of touch with it these many years, but it all comes back as I thrill to the style and balance of these letters.

And now my deadline looms and it’s time to put this project to bed.

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Reflections on Traveling Light

In Notes on May 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]

My heart sank when I remembered that the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge was coming around again. Not because I dreaded it: on the contrary, I had loved every minute of it the first time around; but because this Spring I was on sabbatical and would be on a research trip out of the country for the entire month of April. There would be work to do, continual movement, and uncertain availability of wifi. But simultaneously, my heart fluttered and rose up: what a lark it had been last year, dashing off new posts between drafts of students’ term papers and dreaming them up during tedious end-of-year meetings. I would do it!

For better or worse, I did. Choosing “Traveling Light” as a theme to match both my movement and my subject matter, I promised myself that I would neither let blogging interfere with my work nor with my interactions with real people. I’d rather not reveal whether or not I kept that promise, but suffice it to say that I completed the Challenge, if a few late posts and one hasty space-filler at the end of an exhausting day can be overlooked.

The month, my travels, and the Challenge came to an end all at once, casting me ashore safe, but strangely bereft. This past week, no longer traveling light but alternately drifting and drowning in a state of sleep-deprivation and a stack of unpaid bills, I have tried to reflect on it all, but I don’t have enough distance on it yet. Here’s what I have, such as it is:

First, no matter how often I told myself that I could and would simply give it up if it interfered with my work or my interactions with family and friends, it took on an imperative of its own. Many was the night I found myself staying up writing into the wee hours so as to be able to post the day’s story while keeping my promise to myself to focus my days on the task at hand. My family and friends were caught up in it too. Realizing that if they couldn’t beat it, they needed to join it, they came to me with suggestions for topics that could dispatch the thing as speedily as possible. My cousin Jacky, for example, came up with “Quiet” for Day Q, so that I would be able to dispense with words and simply post peaceful pictures. If she hoped that I would take the hint and simply quit blogging, she was too polite to say so.

Second, I found Tell Me Another and the blogs of other participants with similar themes and shared life experiences gravitating toward each other: a storey of stories, written by an expatriate whose daily posts expatiated on the different places he had visited or lived in; galeriaredelius, the blog of a jewelry-maker who circumnavigated the world through the Internet, visiting a different online art exhibit each day; the cross- and trans-cultural reflections of people of Indian and/or British origin in blogs like Drifting Traveller; in calmgrove, the shared childhood love of books, read in places far from the “home” of the writer; Smidgens, Snippets, and Bits, a loving, painfully honest blog by the full-time caregiver of an husband with a chronic disease; aliceinbloggingland, who chose Memory and memories as her theme; and, to my delight, saltyspring, a wide-ranging blog I responded to without realizing that the author was none other than my sister!

Third, the Challenge gave me the joy of random discovery of excellent, innovative writers I might never have encountered if not here. As a young mother, the author of abundance in the boondocks is in a different stage of life from mine, but one that I read and remembered with a pang of recognition. As a flamboyantly imaginative persona whose writing is not afraid of walking on the wild side, the author-narrator of The Essence of a Thing set off sparks in my dull, academic brain.

Fourth, at a time when I felt that my blog had reached a plateau, A-to-Z brought me new readers and followers. Tell Me Another had just under 200 followers when I first announced my intent to take up the Challenge, and now, barely a month later, it has 250 followers. The daily visits spiked, a welcome development; though they started to drop again even before the month was out (perhaps others were getting as overwhelmed as I was) and I will have to see whether there will be any long-term effects on the blog’s traffic. Still, I will be grateful if I emerge from this experience with a reciprocal relationship with even one new blog. Last year, that blog was Finding Eliza, still one of my very favorites.

Finally, it was the hard traveling of the Challenge’s co-hosts and helpers that allowed me to travel light. Thanks to Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs (also doing the A-to-Z Challenge on Daily Writes), who first suggested it to me back in 2012, to Arlee Bird, who dreamed it up in the first place, and to all the others who worked eight days a week to make this global initiative, 2000 bloggers strong, run like clockwork all month long.

Here’s an annotated list of my A-to-Z posts:

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme
in which I introduce my theme

Air Travel The start of a month-long journey and also the A-to-Z April challenge

Baggage About excess baggage, both literal and figurative (Written in transit)

Culture After 24 short hours in a new country, some observations about the culture as I see it as well as on Culture in general.

Deutschland (or Germany?) On stamp collecting and nationalism, by no means just the German version.

In the Eurozone Decentering Europe (is it really a continent?) and reflections on the EU

Food, Bremen-style lavishly illustrated post on the German—or at least the Bremer—diet, as I have been experiencing it

(On not knowing) German The embarrassment and unevenness of this for an English-speaker, when so many Germans speak English so well

Holidays, religious and otherwise, and the cycle of life and death

Interior Design The joys of beautiful, functional, and human-friendly design

(Leaving on a) Jet Plane On this song, others like it, and the two different senses of “jet”

Kuchen a German institution: no explanation needed

London without Lily contemplating returning to a London without this dear person in it and realizing the magnitude of her influence on me

Monuments The problem with monuments and why I prefer markets

Nostalgia When is it harmless and when toxic?

Oh, to be in England For the English colonials, “Home” was always England; the beloved (and clichéd) original and the hilarious send-up

Pardon the Liberty (but I plead pure exhaustion) Unable to write a new post, I beg pardon and list previous ‘P’ stories

Quiet The rush and tear of travel is graced with moments of peace

Railways, Real and Imagined Chasing trains, in reality, and in my mind’s eye

Swagmen While I hit the road by choice, I have a home to return to; these people, past and present, do not.

Tea While I’ve been known to be a bit of a tea snob, in the end it’s all about the company

U and Non-U Images of nature and reflections on class, occasioned by a visit to the royal estate of Sandringham

Variations, Variety, Vocab As Doris Lessing once wrote, we’re all made of the same stuff

Walls Do they really keep the peace? For whom, and at what cost?

The Challenge of X The beauty of x is that a) it’s unknown and b) it can be what you want it to be.

Yellowcake and other Euphemisms The nuclear power industry is both global and local, as are the production of yellowcake and the (ab)use of language to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Zindagi Here’s to life! Let a thousand flowers bloom!

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272. Zindagi

In 1940s, 1960s, India, Inter/Transnational, Media, Music, Stories, travel, Words & phrases on April 30, 2014 at 2:53 pm

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

As I return home from a month of travel and reach the last day (and letter of the alphabet) of the A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge, I offer the word zindagi, meaning life or existence in Hindi-Urdu. A Hindi synonym is the word jeevan. It’s fitting to end the month with a non-English word, since many different languages  are echoing in my ears. Here’s zindagi in the Arabic script: زندگی, and here, in Devanagari: ज़िन्दगी.

220px-ZindagiIt is a staple in Indian and Pakistani film songs, and has given its name to no less than five major movies over the years, including Zindagi (1940) the classic directed by P. C. Barua. It was the highest-grossing Indian film that year, with music by Pankaj Mullick and starring K. L. Saigal, who plays an unemployed university graduate. Here’s So Jaa Raajkumari, one of the most popular songs in the movie (another being Jeevan asha hai). The film poster pictured here is from Zindagi (1964), directed by Ramanand Sagar.

There are too many songs to list with zindagi in their title, but here’s Zindagi Hai Kya Sun Meri Jaan, sung by Mohammad Rafi, from the super-hit Bombay classic movie Maya (1961), directed by D.D. Kashyap, with music by Salil Choudhury, starring Mala Sinha, Dev Anand, Lalita Pawar & Amjad Khan.

So, as my travels come to an end—for now, at least—here’s to life, and all that comes with it.

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atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

271. Yellowcake and other Euphemisms

In Food, health, Inter/Transnational, Media, Politics, Stories, Words & phrases, Work, writing on April 30, 2014 at 3:41 am

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

yellowcake (geoinfo.nmt.edu; photo: Cogema, Inc.)

yellowcake (geoinfo.nmt.edu; photo: Cogema, Inc.)

Funny, isn’t it, how the most dangerous things are given the most benign names? This is especially the case if they make a profit for someone. Nuclear power facilities, for example: why are they called “plants”? They don’t grow naturally out of the soil but are entirely man-made (and I use ‘man’ advisedly). The only thing that grows as a result of these plants is cancer. The same is true for uranium ore. It is radioactive and releases deadly radon gas when mined, leaving the miners with a dramatically increased incidence of lung cancer (Listen to this program on the medical effects of uranium mining); then it undergoes a process of milling, which results in the so-called yellowcake, as if to suggest that it’s good enough to be served up with ice cream. (See the trailer of Joachim Tschirner’s documentary Yellowcake: The Dirt Behind Uranium).

original_Rapeseed-bottle-RGB_217_231_c1Another misleading naming practice is to change the name of something if it has a negative association in the public mind or if it is likely to give a bad name to the corporation with which it is associated. Some of these practices are less reprehensible than others. For example, Canola oil is a strain of rapeseed oil developed in Canada; the name was changed for obvious reasons, and since the oil is low in saturated fats, it was readily accepted by an increasingly health-conscious public. But to return to the nuclear power industry for another, more pernicious example. The near-disastrous 1957 fire in the core at the British Windscale nuclear complex and the ensuing popular opposition caused British Nuclear Fuels to change the name to Sellafield. It didn’t make the facility any safer, though.

The military is the chief manufacturer of euphemisms. War and the machinery of death aren’t very pretty things, and would be a hard sell if they weren’t dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Starting with war itself: if you were to go by the military’s language alone, you’d think that they were making love, not war. They don’t fight the enemy, they enter into an “engagement” with them; if they want to stop short of an all-out Armageddon, they call it a “limited engagement.” Rather than killing a person, they “neutralize” or “take him/her out”; rather than torturing, they engage in a bit of ‘coercive interrogation.’

In 2002, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kenneth Adelman, assistant to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, predicted that conquering it would be a “cakewalk” (not that that was so easy either). Piece of cake, eh? Wonder if it was yellow?

yellow_cake

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