You’re Allowed to Use Examples, Part II

A Duke sociologist has a new paper out on the subject of “nuance.” He comes out strongly against it (to see just how strongly, have a read of it). The paper is infuriating. Not because it’s wrong, since its argument is absolutely right and I agree with every word of it. And also not because he says he’s against nuance, but then immediately qualifies by saying that he’s actually not against nuance but rather a particular kind of abstraction that he has called nuance, and that while his critics might be tempted to scoff that this distinction is itself a nuance thereby making him a hypocrite, he is not in fact a hypocrite because as he as already stated clearly, he’s not against nuance per se but this other made-up variety, and since the distinction itself is nuance per se and not nuance of his particular imagined sort, he is ipso facto not a hypocrite. No, that’s not why it’s infuriating.

It’s infuriating because after 11 tightly-written pages denouncing the tendency of sociology toward abstraction and needless distinction, he says the following:

I could have made my case by picking out some egregious examples of overly-nuanced theory and then spent my time ridiculing them. But I deliberately chose not to curse at anyone in particular, and avoided getting into personal fights… Instead, I invite you to spend some time in the theory literature…

Meaning: I could have used examples in order to support my argument, but instead I have not. If you would like to know why I am right, you the reader must go and prove my case for me.

Now, let’s leave aside the fact that an “invitation to spend some time in the theory literature” is rather like being invited to an evening of having scalding-hot forks thrust into one’s testicles. One of the most remarkable things about this is the supposition that to use examples would be needlessly “personal” and would create “fights.” This, it seems to me, and not “nuance,” is the true mark of a failing discipline. If proposing strong criticisms constitutes of someone’s work constitutes an unnecessary personal attack, the prerequisites of the scientific enterprise are in bad shape indeed. This author, Prof. Healy, feels as if it would somehow be low and petty for him to “ridicule” somebody’s work. It’s striking that he feels ridicule is the only option, as if serious criticism of someone’s methods is inherently making fun of them. 

All very concerning. You are allowed to, and must, use examples in your arguments. You can’t get away with thunderously denouncing an entire perceived category of scholarship, without giving some proof that what you are talking about exists in the first place. Not to do so is not politeness and courtesy to your colleagues, it is cowardice and a failure of argumentative rigor. (Although Prof. Healy should note that I do not mean that personally and would never wish to pick a fight.)

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A Case Study in Academic Failure

Here is an article abstract from a scholarly journal, which I like because I think it captures many of the worst aspects of both contemporary leftism and contemporary academic writing:

In this paper, I read Trayvon Martin’s murder at the hands of George Zimmerman and the ensuing debates surrounding Stand Your Ground law through Frantz Fanon’s critical reformulation of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic. For Fanon, the unacknowledged reciprocity of Hegel’s dialectic obscures the sub-ontological realm—to which Fanon and Martin alike were condemned—and Fanon’s concept of comparaison sheds further light on Zimmerman’s motivations as a liminally racialized subject. I argue that it is precisely by questioning the circularity of Hegel’s formulation—in which to stand one’s ground is to claim what one already has access to—and by diagnosing what lies beneath that ground that we can avoid mistaking the legal symptom for the underlying ailment and craft strategies for resisting white supremacy in the present.

I am sure that, for many, the reasons for recoiling at this sort of thing will be self-evident. But since some people write this stuff (if not read it), presumably some people would also think “What’s so wrong with that?” at seeing a sample of it. Also, my own distastes are uniquely personal, so let me list why I myself react with unmitigated horror followed by despair:

  • Hegel – Anytime Hegel is mentioned, nothing clear is going to be said.
  • Being relevant without actually being relevant – The author is clearly concerned with racial injustice. The author wishes to develop “strategies for resisting white supremacy” (in the present, no less!) According to this person’s faculty webpage, the author “encourages students to leave behind the realm of pure theory and enter instead into rich conversation with the empirical and everyday world.” And yet, this engagement with the real world, this abandonment of “pure theory,” simply involves taking the same theory and slathering it atop current events. The author wants to make a difference, but believes that actual political gains can be made through the correct application of Hegelian analysis. The author wishes to produce something relevant for stopping a wrong, and yet produces something that can have no conceivable effect on stopping that wrong.
  • Dialectic – See above re: Hegel. Anytime dialectic is mentioned, unless it is as a synonym for “dialogue” (in which case “dialogue” should be used instead), nothing clear is going to be said.
  • “mistaking symptom for ailment” – Cliché. Personal pet peeve.
  • Liminal, sub-ontological, reciprocity – Terms at too high a level of abstraction, or with too little precision, to have useful meaning. “But wait,” you say, “you are only judging by the abstract. Perhaps you should read the article, and they will be defined and specified.” Good point. I have just checked the article. They are neither defined nor specified.
  • comparaison – This is a French word, meaning “comparison.” But the author does not translate the word. Instead, the author italicizes it and leaves it in the original. These seems to me one of the more ludicrous examples of deploying foreign words in ordder to seem intelligent. Here we have an almost perfect cognate, but the author would have us believe that that extra “a” makes all the difference, and that Fanon’s idea of “comparaison” was so far different from our own word “comparison” that we must use the original if we are to do him justice. I object to this. (Of course, I also object to all of the philosophers who have loudly insisted on “ressentiment” as importantly distinct from “resentment,” so I might just be an idiot.)
  • As far as I can understand, the actual theory about the sub-ontological realm – As far as I can grasp it, I think I actually object to part of this author’s thesis. The author says that Fanon and Martin “alike were condemned” to the realm of sub-ontology, which as far as I can tell, means that black people do not really “exist.” In another abstract, the same author discusses “the violent self-assertion and public appearance of colonized and racialized non-beings which creates the necessary groundwork for their entry into being.” Thus, because the process of colonization and racialization strips one of one’s humanity, people subjugated by race do not properly exist until they successfully assert themselves through violence. This is not a position I find sympathetic or well-founded; I don’t share the opinion that one’s very being or non-being is defined by one’s place in a racial hierarchy. But my complaint in this respect is probably unfair to the author, since he is simply borrowing Fanon’s (Hegel-derived, as I understand it) premise that “[m]an is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him.” (Black Skin, White Masks, p. 216) So I believe that both Fanon and the author have bad conceptions of existence and humanity. Why on earth would we define being human the way Fanon does? Fanon’s own statements in support of the position are non sequiturs (“As long as he has not been effectively recognized by the other, that other will remain the theme of his actions.” What does it even mean for actions to have themes?) So, yes, the author gets partial blame for the article, Hegel gets some other portion of it, and Fanon gets a sliver as well, although at least Fanon was a doctor and tried to do some good with his life.

Now, a hypothetical critic may here come back at me: “You are relying an awful lot on the author’s abstracts. Abstracts are not articles, be fair!” Ah, yes, I know. But (1) most of the time if an abstract sounds dreadful, the article will be worse, and (2) even though the author is a staunch leftist committed to destroying privilege, his articles are still locked behind a paywall in an expensive limited-access journal, and I can’t get to them. So I was working with what I had when I first jotted down my list.

But I did actually manage ultimately to find full access to the Trayvon Martin article. I did not get very far through it before giving up. Would you like to know how it begins? First, it describes the rainy night on which Martin was shot. Then we get:

Were it not for the drizzling rain and strange choice of weaponry, this confrontation might evoke the abstract world of G.W.F. Hegel’s dialectic of lordship and bondage in which one “self-consciousness” is confronted by another, with each holding the key to the other’s full recognition. But as powerful as the Hegelian framework might seem…

Now when I, as the reader, see the assertion that were it not for the rain, Hegel’s dialectic might be evoked, I must ask myself “Might it? Might it really?” (And why does the rain make all the difference?) And when I see the statement “But powerful as Hegel’s framework might seem” I reply the same way. If I am being honest, I have to think that it very much might not.

[Update: It has come to my attention that some people do not believe this could be an actual article. I had hoped to spare the author the embarrassment of being identified as having written it, but the necessity of proving that I am not engaged in an elaborate act of parody demands that I reveal my source. Here.]

“It was his tendency when he found himself in a sea of troubles to float plaintively; to pick up the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and fling them back was not a habit of his.” – P.G. Wodehouse, Piccadilly Jim

Dream Diary: “Fame”

When a series of mishaps force me to take the school bus, I discover that my students are exceptional doo wop singers. They agree to form a group and let me be their manager. But when I forget to get off at the correct bus stop, our chance at fame is ruined.

Important Circumcision Question (ICQ)

I’d like to briefly pose the following ICQ:

One of the primary non-religious justifications for the practice of circumcision is that it has health benefits. Circumcised men are less likely to get some STDs than non-circumcised men. But if we found that cutting off a person’s nose reduced the risk of their getting the flu, would this serve as a justification for cutting off children’s noses? Why would health justify the one procedure but not the other?

This is far from a point original to myself. Many opponents of circumcision ask this question also. But I have not found a satisfactory answer yet, and I would like one.

Dream Diary: “The Tiger”

Fighting the tiger was easy. All you had to do was bop the tiger on the head, and it would turn into a man. Then if you bopped the man on the head, it would turn into a child. And if you bopped the child, it would turn into a fly (though still with the head of a child).

But it was the tiger who had the last laugh.

“Why didn’t you just turn into a tiger yourself?” he asked, and I had to admit that I did not know.

Is there a principled distinction between refusing to watch American Sniper and refusing to read Fun Home?

Here is my own summary of an argument I saw today that seems well worth considering:

It is hypocrisy for liberals to laugh at and criticize the Duke students who have objected to their summer reading book due to its sexual and homosexual themes. They didn’t seem to react similarly when students at other universities tried to get screenings of American Sniper cancelled. If you say the Duke students should open their minds and consume things they disagree with, you should say the same thing about the students who boycotted American Sniper. Otherwise, you do not really have a principled belief that people should respect and take in other opinions, you just believe they should respect and take in your own opinions. How can you think in one case the students are close-minded and sheltered, but in the other think they are open-minded and tolerant? What principled distinction is there that allows you to condemn one and praise the other, other than believing people who agree with you are better? 

I think that is an important and difficult question, and that anyone who does condemn the Duke students but is fine with the American Sniper ones should take it very seriously. I also disapprove of both the attempts to cancel the film screenings and the refusals to read a lesbian-themed graphic novel.

But I want to address the question of whether a principled distinction can be drawn between the two; i.e. whethere it is possible to be consistent in your beliefs if you oppose one and support the other. Whether or not such a distinction ought to be drawn, I believe it can be drawn.

If a person says “I think people should take in all kinds of material, even if they disagree with it” and then says “I also think students should refuse to attend screenings of American Sniper because it is offensive,” that person’s second proposition appears to contradict their first. If we should take in material we disagree with, but we shouldn’t take in American Sniper because we disagree with it, we’re hypocrites.

But that’s not quite what a person who holds both positions is saying. What they are actually saying is: “Generally I think we should take in lots of material, even that with which we disagree, but I also believe we shouldn’t financially support things that are racist or valorize mass murder.” Those two propositions are technically consistent.

Let’s first leave aside the question of whether American Sniper is in fact racist or a valorization of mass murder. Clint Eastwood has said he intended the film to be anti-war, and there has been much suggestion that those who are critical of it do not understand its complexities, and speak ignorantly based on what they’ve heard about it. I can’t weigh in on that because I haven’t seen it, but I’m not interested in that question. (I do, however, think Chris Kyle himself was a racist mass murderer, which is a position you do not have to have seen the film in order to believe.)

In response to my assertion that the two principles are consistent, someone might say: “Yes, but you’ve just restated the central problem: you have a general principle that people should take in a diverse array of viewpoints, but you specifically exclude from that the viewpoints that you disagree with. So the principle is worthless. It means ‘I take in and appreciate all views except those I do not hold,’ which just means ‘I only appreciate my own views.'”

I don’t believe that’s quite the case. While it is possible that “I take in a wide variety of things, except for X” draws the category of X to exactly correspond to the things one dislikes, it is also possible to have a category of X where one’s exceptions are narrowly limited to a set of true extremes.

I think this can be illustrated well by adding a few more items to a hypothetical list of things students are being asked to consume, and then evaluating what we would think of a student who refused to watch or read the item:

  1. A graphic novel with explicit depictions of homosexuality
  2. A film about the life of a soldier, which many think is racist and militaristic
  3. A memoir by a Holocaust denier
  4. A children’s book about an adorable kitten
  5. An ISIS beheading video

This opens up the analysis somewhat from a simple right-left issue. Now, I think nearly all of us would be willing to allow a student to opt out of watching an ISIS beheading video. A professor in our class on “The Nature of Evil” might insist that without seeing the video, it is impossible to comprehend the nature of evil, or even discuss the question intelligibly. Yet the video would be disturbing and horrible and might cause a person lasting nightmares and torment. Even if it would help understanding, nobody should be required to watch such a thing. But that means that our principle is not “Students should take in anything that is assigned, in order to diversify their viewpoints and experiences,” but is rather: “Students should take in many things, but things that are truly traumatic and disturbing should be subject to refusal.” It’s an exception, but it’s not a contradiction. We believe there is a sphere of things that are legitimate and debatable and should be viewed in order to understand them, and a sphere of things that one does not need to view in order to understand and have opinions about.

Now, take the kitten book. Say I am in a class on children’s literature, which I have taken because it seems an easy way to pick up some credits without having to exert my mental faculties. We are supposed to read The Very Adorable Kitten, a children’s book about a kitten, each page of which depicts a different passerby going “Awww.” I object to being assigned this book, because I do not like kittens. “They revolt me,” I inform the professor. “I cannot in good conscience read anything with a kitten in it.”

Am I being ridiculous? I am. I think the professor would be fair in failing me on my Adorable Kitten book-report assignment. Because it’s not the case that no possible distinction can be drawn between those things that might legitimately cause trauma (such as the ISIS video) and those things that cannot (such as a cartoon of a kitten). We can say that we feel exactly as traumatized by the kitten. But we are almost certainly lying.

What about a memoir by a Holocaust denier? This seems to be a more difficult case, because there is a strong argument to be made that reading such things, critically, helps us evaluate and defend against propaganda. Just like reading John C. Calhoun’s defenses of slavery helps us understand the mind of the slave-owner, and strengthens us against future similar arguments. But it is also obvious why a descendent of Holocaust survivors would be disgusted by being asked to read, say, Ernst Zündel’s Did Six Million Really Die? To even debate the question appears an outrage.

I bring up these examples to show that holding a blanket view that “students ought to have a right to refuse to take in material that offends them” and “students ought to have to take in material that contradicts their sensibilities” is very difficult. Evaluating the balance requires adopting a substantive view of the merits of the material presented, and a view of the zone of legitimate refusal.

One point here is worth clarifying, because it’s easy to get lost. The two incidents in question, the American Sniper screening and the Fun Home refusal, are not actually exact parallels. In the case of American Sniper, students wanted to shut down a voluntary screening on the campus. In the case of Fun Home, students were assigned the book and refused to do their assignment. A good case could be made that the former behavior is far less defensible than the latter. In the case of a screening, we have an option whether to go or not. For an assignment, we do not.

So there are a couple of questions:

(1) Is it legitimate for a university to require students to take in material they find disagreeable?

(2) Is it legitimate for students to block others from taking in material those students find disagreeable?

(3) Should students themselves feel obliged to take in material they find disagreeable?

(There’s also a sense in which these issues could be seen as not being distinct: in each, to take in the opposing view means financially supporting it. So if a school pays to have American Sniper screened, a sum of money is given to the studio, a portion of which goes to Chris Kyle’s estate, presumably. Similarly, the Christians who must purchase Fun Home are being asked to give Alison Bechdel money. In that sense, students could argue that stopping the American Sniper screening means that they do not want Chris Kyle (whatever, assume he’s alive) benefitting financially, and the Christians could make the same argument.)

But one of the problems here is that everything is being reduced to the vague phrase “material they find disagreeable.” As I’ve mentioned, this covers a wide set of things, and I do not think any of those questions can be answered affirmatively or negatively without further specifying the nature of the “material” we’re talking about. For each, the answer is “it depends.” After all, there is a distinction that could be drawn between a book about lesbianism and a (again, for the sake of argument) racist propaganda film. Racist propaganda hurts people, while lesbianism does not. There. A principled distinction.

“But,” comes the immediate reply, “that’s just, like, your opinion, man. The Christians see it in precisely the opposite way. To countenance lesbianism would be in violation of their moral code, just as the portrayal of Muslims in American Sniper might be in violation of yours. Thus, we must adopt a general principle that can be applied in both cases, or else you’re back to “things you agree with.” ”

Now, I think this perspective is quite radical in its relativism. It’s radical in its relativism because it believes that neither liberal nor conservative values are superior. Liberalism is just “the stuff I agree with” and conservatism is just “the stuff you agree with.” Neither is better or worse, they are just two competing factions, the red team and the blue team.

Nobody who is either a liberal or a conservative can agree to this perspective. To accept either liberal or conservative values means believing they are something more than arbitrary. I don’t think radical relativism is a tenable position, because to accept the position “Racism is bad and should be stopped” and “All views on racism are equal” seems flatly contradictory. Unless, of course, you’re saying “I don’t personally like racism, but that has no more justification than my liking chocolate ice cream, and someone who does like racism is not any worse than me. The difference between being a racist and not being one is the difference between liking different ice creams.”

In practice, hardly anyone is a true radical relativist, who believes that none of their moral values should be imposed on other people. The condemnation of murder and torture are moral values. To stop them is to believe our morality should apply beyond ourselves. Many people say they are value-pluralists, who think every kind of values ought to be allowed to blossom. But when it comes down to it, here in reality, everyone has a finite spectrum of values that they think ought to be allowed to vary, and some things they are absolute on. Even the person who thinks that there is no principled distinction between liberalism and conservatism, that the anti-racist views of the liberals and the anti-lust views of the conservatives are simply all things under the general category of “beliefs,” will find it hard to maintain their relativism absolutely. If they think a general right of refusal for belief should be permitted, they will struggle with the kitten scenario, and if they think there should be no right of refusal on grounds of belief, then students cannot be exempted from having to watch Salò.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to say that the difference between liberals’ anti-racism and conservatives anti-lustism is not great enough to alter the calculus of whether refusal is permitted. Both are the sort of beliefs that should be debated. I believe that myself, really. I think American Sniper should be shown, even assigned, and then discussed. And I think Fun Home should be assigned and discussed too. My own conscience exceptions to material are quite narrow; just the stuff whose consumption causes a real risk of being harmful and disturbing. (Though I think students shouldn’t have to pay for stuff they hate, so I’d pirate some copies of the film and the book for the objectors.)

But look how vague I’m being! “Real risk”? Who am I to say what’s real, what’s legitimate? How can I possibly claim the right to make that judgment for myself? Well, I can’t. Nobody can, really. There is no “right” set of values determined from on high. But equally, there is no neutral set of values that avoids making distinctions. We can say we allow everything, but we can’t really allow everything. If Seung-Hui Cho performs his disturbing, violent plays for our class, you can bet he’s getting removed. Political decision-making cannot respect all values, because at some point certain values are going to need to be implemented that trample other people’s values. The kid who believes he shouldn’t have to read any books for college will not have his values respected.

But what of slippery slopes? Once we admit that we have to impose some of our values (even if it’s just the value of pluralism and open debate!), how do we keep from just imposing all of our values? This is what people are afraid “political correctness” does. First, liberals decide that speech calling for murder is their one exception to their general rule that speech should be free. Then, they reason that spewing racial invective is not really any better than calling for murder, so outright racism becomes an exception to the rule and is not permitted on campus. Then, saying things that are coded racism doesn’t really seem to be any better than saying things that are overtly racist, so things that are intended as coded racism are banned. Then, we realize that it’s effect more than intent that matters. If we’re interested in harmful speech, surely we should be concerned with how the listener takes something rather than how the speaker meant it. And thus can a free-speech liberal find themselves producing a speech code prohibiting any speech that could be construed as racist.

Because I fear this, too, I agree that the liberal objection to American Sniper and the conservative objection to Fun Home should be treated equally when we consider whether to either ban the thing or allow students to opt-out. But I actually disagree with the idea that we shouldn’t impose all of our values on other people, that we should only impose the essential ones that most enable the proliferation of values. Instead, I believe we should impose all of our values, but that those should just be better values. Thus, I believe there is a principled distinction between American Sniper and Fun Home, because I am a leftist, and I believe that there are good reasons why racism is worse than lesbianism. I think people who disagree with me don’t “just disagree,” but have a set of beliefs that hurt people in ways I find objectionable. And yet I have more than one moral value. I also believe that debate is good, and that the best way to deal with opposing perspectives is to hear them out, and that when we encounter different things we learn from each other. And that value is superior in my personal hierarchy when it comes to deciding what to do about American Sniper and Fun Home. By saying both should be treated equally, I’m still imposing all of my values, but I have a set of values that values freedom and anti-racism, as compared with someone whose values are limited solely to anti-racism. People shouldn’t refrain from imposing their values on others, they should just get some better values that don’t countenance totalitarian speech-policing.

So, to go back to the opposing argument I summarized at the beginning: I think the arguer is wrong to say that we cannot draw any distinctions between the two cases. We can. One thing that is correct is that we cannot draw a distinction and be a radical relativist, which is what causes some liberal hypocrisy on this issue. I have seen it said that because liberals have made so many things off-limits for discussion, they have cleared the ground for conservatives now to do the same. If everyone is entitled to personally decide what’s offensive, then liberals have no argument when conservatives say they personally find liberalism offensive. But that’s a function not of liberals “imposing their values” but of their imposing their values on a pseudo-relativist framework, and refusing to defend the superiority of those values. If I say “Racist speech is banned because I find it offensive,” and then you say “Well, now LGBT speech is banned because I find that offensive,” then I am stuck. But if I say “Racist speech is banned because racism is harmful,”  then I do have a response to you, since LGBT speech isn’t harmful.

Of course, I don’t personally believe in banning racist speech either. But I do believe in fighting for and imposing my values, one of which is free speech and open debate. I do not falsely pretend that I am neutral. I do not pretend that I find there to be no difference between liberalism and conservatism, and that nobody can make any real moral claims because all values are arbitrary. I believe some values create human well-being, and others create human misery. I believe many moral questions are up for debate and cannot be resolved, but I believe some beliefs are self-contradictory or premised on falsehoods and misunderstandings. That doesn’t mean those beliefs should be banned, or that we should cancel screenings. On the contrary, we should allow as much as possible. But we can believe open debate should occur while still believing that our values are worth holding.

Dream Diary: “The Mountaintop”

We visit the petting zoo at the Los Angeles Railway Terminal. Getting to the terminal requires driving for hours up precarious mountain roads, so by the time we reach the zoo, we are angry and exhausted. But we see can already see the animals long before we arrive. There are ducks the size of houses, whose bills could sever a child at the waist. One animal appears to be a cross between an enormous anemone and a birthday cake. It is cream-coloured with little red bubbles, gooey to the touch, and when you try to pet it, it sucks on your hand and laughs. The zoo has many venomous snakes, which alarms me. They are in manacles, for safety, but I point out to my companions that it is easy for a snake to escape a manacle, on account of their shape. My companions tell me I am not being fun, that they don’t know why they brought me. As they turn to stroke the owls, I watch the snakes escape.

Dream Diary: “Nelson”

“I miss those days when my father was still there,” I think. “Back when we still lived in the dirigible, and we used to wave at people.”

Washington, D.C.: I remember being called to the Palace Plaza Hotel once before. I took the executive elevator from the courtyard. But that was impossible, I could not have been there before, because the only people that came here were expensive lawyers on job interviews. And why had I been summoned there now? Yet the blue ring of light around the elevator button was impossible not to forget.

When I got out at the top, I was greeted by a familiar voice, and I suddenly remembered it all. The man with the golden bowtie. He is bald, with a shriveled face. The bowtie is made from solid gold and has little black-and-white tips. It is actually more like a scarf than a bowtie. The man with the golden bowtie has been there all my life, as a sort of mentor, I think. No, wait, it was a job interview.

The man with the golden bowtie is furious with me, and now I remember why. “Over $900 was paid to you for services,” he says, “and all we received were these pictures.” He was from the Princeton Review. Some time ago, I had been given a job grading tests, and then immediately forgotten about it. Instead of sending them the graded tests, I sent them photos of cowboys.

The man sends me to live with my mother, telling me I need to prove myself. My “mother” turns out to be a schoolteacher I have never met, but I quickly accept my role as her son. My name, it turns out, is Milhouse, and I have a brother named Nelson. Nelson is cruel to me. He resents the fact that each night, as he begins to do the dishes, I am still buttering my bread.

The first time I meet my “mother,” I make her cry when she asks me if I like her sweater and I say it is too bright of an orange for my taste. When she gives me an opportunity to replay the scene, I say instead that it is “unusually soft,” which makes her talk about my father and the dirigible.

I find a job cleaning the baked bean remnants off lunch trays. I encourage my coworkers to learn the keytar with me, so that we can start a business recording radio jingles. I tell them I even know where to find a keytar: down the Very Wide Hallway.

The man with the golden bowtie and I have a fight in his office. I tell him he cannot find me, and he insists correctly that he can. I know he has my best interests at heart.
At a beach party, nobody will sit next to Bill Cosby. He looks depressed, and I begin to tell him he can sit by me. Then I remember that he is a rapist, and think better of it. Just then, a rousing speech begins in which the recent accomplishments of the union are listed.