Secret Code

December 4, 2011

Not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true.

I got bawled out this week for implying that the Thompson household does not know how to store pumpkins over the winter. Someone grabbed my collar and hoisted me down to the basement where there are tidy rows of cute little pie pumpkins all lined up, waiting for Christmas Day, I suppose. Meanwhile, as locals or readers of the New York Times know, we had a big snow in mid-Michigan this week, so the squirrels have really been enjoying the uncarved Jack o’ Lantern pumpkins that someone left out on the front porch. Just to be sure that I’m making full disclosure in this week’s edition of the blog, I should probably point out that the squirrely pumpkins aren’t actually on the front porch anymore. They are out back where the neighbors don’t have to look at their gnawed carcasses. And just in case one of my regular readers is wondering who it might have been who grabbed my collar or bawled me out, I point out again that not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true.

Which presents a dilemma. Because as Cephalus once said down at the Piraeus, what is justice but to speak the truth and to pay your debts? And if I’m supposed to be a food ethicist, what am I if not just? And if not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true, how can I represent myself as one who speaks the truth? Let’s not get into the paying your debts part here. I still owe Larry Huang the fifty bucks I borrowed back in 1973 to buy a guitar amplifier. Except that when I think back on it, there’s no way I could have been buying a guitar amplifier in 1973, so it must have been something else. Remember, not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true.

Piraeus is “a name which roughly means ‘the place over the passage’,” according to Wikipedia, though if you are into Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance you may recall a more creative translation that might have been material to a popular ‘70s author’s failure to impress un un-named figure that many have presumed to be Leo Strauss back at the University of Chicago. Strauss had a theory about the great philosophers, holding that they wrote in an elaborate code in order to ensure that that the great unwashed would not be able to understand what they were talking about. Today we refer to “the great unwashed” as the other 99%, but if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it. Not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true.

Owing to my acute intelligence and highly developed since of irony, I have myself developed a code that allows elite readers (some of whom may even be among the 99%) to decipher when they should take what is written here with a heavy dose of salt. The phrase “Give ‘im a dose ‘o salt & water” is often sung as a verse to the folk standard “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?” Few people know that I actually wrote this song back when I was the bass player for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, though I cannot take credit for that particular verse. I was not, at that young age, the expert on food ethics (if we can presume salt and sobriety to have something to do with food ethics) that I am today. According to Billy J.’s website, he performed in New York City as recently as October 9, but as far as I know, he does not read the Thornapple Blog. Need I say that not everything you read in the Thornapple Blog is strictly true?

And speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, I also coined the use of the word “Turkey” in reference to people who are generally clueless or obtuse, as in “How do you keep a turkey in suspense?” My code, which owes nothing to turkeys like Cephalus or Leo Strauss, is an extremely subtle use of the tagging function that is built into WordPress. Some of my regular readers may have noticed that in addition to the subject matter tags like “politics” and “song lyrics”, there are (at this writing) four categories for entries in the Thornapple Blog. Some of them are marked “Serious” and others are marked “Funny”. Still others are marked “CSA Beeswax” and if I don’t check anything, they get labeled “uncategorized”. I leave to elite readers with a highly developed sense of irony (not to say sarcasm) to discern the meaning of these categories.  As for the Monsanto thing (and for those of you who remember Lance Ritchlin and me entertaining gullible co-eds with tales about our days in the Dakotas): Not everything they say about me is strictly true.

Paul B. Thompson (Kellogg Professor at MSU) bends his elbow down at the Piraeus every Sunday. Join him some time.

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