Monday, January 21, 2013

Guinness and the Essence of Stupidity

The writing assignment I tackled last night was a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  I probably could not have completed it in one session were it not for the assistance and support of my good friend Mr. Guinness.  At about 2:15 a.m., I ventured downstairs, opened the bar  refrigerator, and helped myself to a bottle of the vile-tasting ale or beer or lager or whatever it technically is in the lexicon of libations.

Just as I was preparing to remove the cap from the bottle, my dad appeared.  "What in the hell are you doing?" he demanded.

I assumed the question was rhetorical. If I've learned anything the hard way in my first eighteen years of life, it is that rhetorical questions are best left unanswered.

The question was apparently not intended to be rhetorical. My dad pressed the issue further. "You were about to open a Guinness, Alexis. When I was in college, I at least did my drinking at college
-- not at home."  He  need not have added that the only way he could have consumed any alcohol at home was to bring it there himself, as his tee-totaler Mormon parents didn't even have cooking sherry on hand. For that matter, I wouldn't be surprised to find out my grandparents have non-alcoholic mouthwash and vanilla extract in their home.  Even their alcohol probably has no alcohol in it.

On rare occasions, sometimes even where parents are concerned, the truth is  much  more effective than the most carefully crafted lie could ever be.  "I have to write a paper, " I told him. "The assigned topic is 'Answer the following question:  "What is the essence of stupidity?" ' "

He whistled softly. "I'm impressed if you can write this one with just alcohol," he responded.  "I'd probably need magic mushrooms to even come close." He took the bottle from me, removed the cap, and took a glass from the cabinet above the mini-fridge. "Half a bottle," he said to me as he opened the Guinness, pouring the remaining half into the glass, and handing the bottle to me. He took a drink from the glass. "Why don't you get your laptop and write it down here?  Maybe two heads are stupider than one."

I went upstairs, retrieved my laptop, and made myself comfortable on the sofa, my Guinness within reach on the end table.  He asked me what I had come up with so far. "Nothing," I answered. I had no serious intention of writing on the "university students are the essence of stupidity" angle.

"I may have underestimated this. You'll probably need a full Guinness." He downed the remainder of the contents of his glass in a single swallow, then waited while I plugged my nose and attempted to do the same with what was in my bottle. It took seven swallows for me. "You're not much of an alcoholic, are you?" he asked. I nodded between swallows. I couldn't tell  whether he was more relieved or  unimpressed.  He opened another Guinness and divided it, this time leaving slightly less than half in the bottle for me.

"Here's what I'm thinking," I told him. I briefly shared with him what I thought the professor might be interested in hearing, which is that stupidity in its purest form is a byproduct of societal expression, manifesting itself in the form of pop culture.

"Not bad, "  he mused, "but can you  come up with nine hundred words on that?"

I thought for a moment. "Yes, "I told him, and here's how. . ."   The key, I told him, would be bullshit in both literal and figurative senses. For two years our family lived on the property of a large dairy in the San Joaquin Valley; I've had greater than average exposure to bovine excrement.  i could kill almost half the paper in a discussion of animal feces:  its forms, its uses, its quality in the sense that what goes in most definitely affects what comes out.

Then, after my lengthy dissertation on the properties of cow dung, I would transition to the properties of societal expression, and how what comes out in the from of pop culture is essentially metaphorical excrement.

"Make sure to include some of those Kardashians in your characterization of the bullshit of society," my dad added.  I nodded as I typed. Fifty-seven minutes (and roughly ten sips of Guinness) later, the typing was complete.

I began to read the draft aloud to my dad, but he took the laptop from me, explaining,  "I'm visual."
I waited as he read, and I watched with curiosity as he hit the mouse pad.  "You use too many commas, " he said in response to my puzzled expression.

"Whatever," I mumbled.  I'll  re-insert the commas later if I decide I care. I quickly typed a title page, and added a post-script note about my agricultural expertise having come from years of living in close proximity to cows so I would not be penalized for not having cited any sources in my somewhat technical discourse on the technical aspects of bovine excrement.  I printed the document and breathed a rather large sigh of relief.

This is not one of the prouder moments of my academic career, but I'm incredibly happy that this #*$@(  assignment is finished.

Happy Martin Luther King Day, and enjoy the inauguration. I will.


  1. i liked him when I was little, and now that I'm older, I like him again.

  2. You drink Guinness? It's a stout by the way. I had to google libation. I once saw a West Indian guy do it at a funeral. Now I now what it's called.