Saturday, December 27, 2008

Year End Pet Peeves

Tibor R. Machan

Mostly I write on topics I suspect concern a wide enough audience. Columnists don’t just write on anything that pops into their minds but need to do a bit of service to reader-clients. But, if one has a regular venue for one’s columns, it maybe fine, now and then, to indulge oneself with a topic or two that’s more personal. Even these will, of course, aim to please, if only by inviting reader-clients to know a bit of the writer.

In that spirit I am going to take the risky step of laying out some of my pet peeves. These are not the most serious complaints I have about culture, politics, religion, and other human institutions. Instead, they are matters that tend to irritate me personally even as they may pose nothing much objectionable to others and might not even need to, either. Individualists like me will fully accept that some stuff is strictly personal, amounts to likes or dislikes and implies nothing about what others ought to feel, do, or pursue.

Take my favorite color, for an example. I am nuts about red-orange, the color of the California poppy and the old Mustang and the setting sun over the Pacific. This is, yes, the opposite of a pet peeve, more of a pet love. It is, however, exactly personal and idiosyncratic.

What about a genuine pet peeve, then? Well, heavy bangs would serve as a good case in point. Cannot stand them even if the face is gorgeous in all other respects. Somehow these bangs even suggest something more generally puzzling--why would someone wish to hide a forehead? Is there some message afoot in that, like, “I don’t like my brain?” No, need not be, but it’s somewhat intimated, at least for me.

Bad dancers get to me, those who go out there and gyrate without a bit of rhythm. Sure, they could be having fun, though I cannot see how, given how bad they are at what they are doing. I just cannot abide by it, maybe because I am such a great fan of the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley. And while I am at it, I should mention singing off key. Totally puts me off, especially in some popular singers--for example, the late Dinah Shore!

There is also that genre of painting, the very poorly executed abstract work! I didn’t used to take to any abstract paintings but then changed and began to like some of them as a form of design--shapes and colors and intensity, all well coordinated. But when it is without the slightest sense of balance it really sucks, as far as I am concerned. I even fancy that I can spot one of these awful efforts at a distance. But I am not confident enough to say I know they amount to bad works of art. Maybe some individuals are really sent by just such stuff!

Pointless Jargon, the sort that reeks of having been manufactured despite there being no need for it at all! I am nearly paranoid about this--some folks write, it seems, to prevent their being understood. Again, I could be wrong but I am awfully suspicious. (I guess one reason is that escaping into jargon is a temptation of writers when their ideas aren’t clear enough to them but admitting this isn’t cool.) At times it appears evident that some of the most erudite folks, highly praised scientists from prestigious institutions, will succumb to this temptation, at least in regions of their discipline they are still confused about.

Cops who swagger really put me off, and this includes nearly all those out there enforcing the rules of the road. Frankly I don’t even regard these people as police officers or officers of the law because rules of the road, however necessary, are just that, rules of the road, just a step or several above rules of attire at some private school. Yes, yes, the rules sort of aim at orderliness and even safety but more often they appear to aim solely at revenue generation. So one is stopped for making an “illegal” U-turn by a person wearing really scary outfits and prominently carrying a menacing weapon! Tends to demean the very idea of law, which is a general system of principles that is supposed to serve to secure civilized conduct, protect the rights of individuals, not bother about the specific details of various forms of life. But I suppose this pet peeve stems in part from my near-anarchism, my fierce resentment of all those who lord it over other people who are carrying on in mostly peaceful ways.

I won't go into the types of driving that I despise. It would fill a book. But here is at least a small sample of what I just happen to like and dislike. It may say a bit about me, for better or for worse.

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