Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Maundering Mooncalves Mismanage Masks

I was thinking of giving this post the title 'Night of the Living Dumbfucks', having just had the following exchange on the job with three persons walking through our parking lot toward a picnic area we maintain for visitiors:

"We're closed!"
"We know!"
"I'm asking you to leave!" By this, I meant, "I'm telling you to leave." I try to initiate confrontations in a tactful manner, and it works the vast majority of the time. A mentor of mine drilled into my head, "If you start off loud, you have nowhere to go but ugly."

Anyway, they got the hint and left in timely fashion. Most people don't want conflict... even the Oppositional Defiance Disorder Poster Boy didn't curse out our National Costco Hero until he was out of earshot. It's amazing how quickly bravado turns to cowardice among the toxic masculinity crowd.

I've been in a bit of a pissy mood most of the evening. Most of my ire is the result of seeing a bunch of people wearing their masks in improper fashion... typically, they have their noses sticking out over the tops of the masks. Yeah, great, that's effective. I have to say, though, the instructions for mask-wearing tend to be pretty bad. The package of masks sitting in my office doesn't have an indicator of which side goes out, though it does make clear that the mask should cover both mouth and nose.

Longtime readers, or sci-fan fans of good taste and breeding, will readily figure out that the post title is a reference to the late, legendary Jack Vance, possibly my all-time favorite author. Jack Vance had a thing or two to say about masks in one of my favorite short stories, The Moon Moth (PDF), originally published in the August 1961 issue of science fiction magazine Galaxy (PDF). It's a fun read, a murder mystery combined with an anthropological mystery, with a hapless protagonist who has to navigate the intricacies of an alien (though human) culture while hunting a criminal who has several 'legs up' on him. The alien nature of the culture in which the protagonist, a junior diplomat on his first assignment, is summed up after an in medias res opening:

Masks are worn at all times, in accordance with the philosophy that a man should not be compelled to use a similitude foisted upon him by factors beyond his control; that he should be at liberty to choose that semblance most consonant with his strakh*. In the civilized areas of Sirene- which is to say the Titanic littoral- a man literally never shows his face; it is his basic secret.

Here on 21st Century Earth, it's the attitude toward wearing masks that reveals a person's basic secret. Is the person a dumbass who can't figure out how to wear a mask? Is a person a self-centered asshole who doesn't wear a mask, believing that endangering others in order to buy stuff is a right?

The seventh anniversary of Jack Vance's death is coming up, I think I might write some more Vance posts (as has been my tradition from the beginning) as a panegyric to this paragon. I've actually been re-reading his 'Demon Princes' novels, along with some critical analyses of the books. I need a break from 'all COVID all the time' posting, and what better escape is there than escapist fiction?

*Prestige, used as currency in the society described in the story. Footnotes are a typical Vancian trope.


bowtiejack said...

Fellow Vance fan here.
The guy was amazing. Loved The Moon Moth, of course.
But he did Lyonesse and that one with all the different languages (too lazy to look it up).
And The Dying Earth.

Incidentally, the UK in its move to a total China-like total surveillance state has hit a bump in the road.
Seems the facial-recognition software is baffled by this mask business,
Two cheers for reality!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

But he did Lyonesse and that one with all the different languages (too lazy to look it up).

I think it must be The Languages of Pao.

Vance was the best. My fave by him might be The Miracle Workers.