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Thread: Stuff you just don't get.

  1. #3781
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    Apparently, there is this thing called "cultural appropriation", and I don't get it.
    It apparently offends some people if you do something that can't be traced directly to your genetic heritage.

    If I open a food truck that sells Mexican food, but I'm not Mexican, it is somehow bad.
    Bob's Burgers is good, but Bob's tacos is bad?

    My neighbor, who was born in Korea, has this cool wide-brimmed hat that she wears while gardening.
    It would somehow be considered offensive if Mrs Extravoice wore a similar hat while gardening?

    I don't get it. At one point, the country in which I live was referred to as the great melting pot.
    Now, everyone has to be segregated into separate bins like those old-time TV dinners?
    Don't you dare mix your peas with your mashed potatoes?

    What am I missing?
    A couple of thoughts...

    I never thought "the great melting pot" was a great analogy for the US. I think we've always been more like a stew, where you can usually recognize most of the pieces. I'm not sure we've gotten to the "TV dinner" stage (though that's a funny metaphor).

    I also think that the cultural appropriation thing is a matter of degree. I don't think anyone cares what hat your wife wears for gardening, and if they do, they need to get a life. I don't even think that the vast majority of people care if you sell tacos.

    I think where this becomes an issue is, for example, if Hollywood makes a movie about Fuji, and not a single cast member is from Fuji or anywhere in the Pacific ocean (extreme and deliberately weird example). Or you are making a movie about someone with a disability and you don't use an actor that has that actual disability (I know that particular issue has been raised).

    I can appreciate the concern about the extreme example; I have very mixed feelings about the second, more subtle example. If one is only going to hire a disabled actor to play a disabled character, first, is that still acting. And second, does that mean you don't hire a disabled actor for a part where their disability has nothing to do with their role. Because I think that is the downside of only picking minorities to play that minority, or disabled people to play disabled characters - they won't be hired when that isn't significant to the role.

    More than having Inuit actors play Inuit characters, I would like to see more examples where they hire an Inuit actor and it has nothing to do with the role. Or have a disabled actor play a character that has absolutely nothing to do with their disability. That to me is real inclusion.
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  2. #3782
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    Extravoice, that's not really what cultural appropriation is.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/20...ow_a_23253460/
    (I think having "exactly" in the headline is a bit ironic)

    https://www.theatlantic.com/entertai...iation/411292/

    https://au.reachout.com/articles/why...tion-isnt-cool
    This article gets at the heart of the matter of "power".

    Of course, cultural borrowing is always going to be subjective, and there's no clear "line", but I hope these articles (and any research you've done yourself) at least give you an outline of what can be wrong with cultural appropriation. In the broadest sense, it's the use and promotion of another culture that doesn't respect - or outright - disrespects that culture. It's also often about power of a dominant culture over an oppressed or overlooked one.

    I hope you can see the difference between selling tacos and wearing a Native American Headdress as a fashion item. Or wearing a yukata after a bath vs wearing a "sexy" geisha costume for Halloween. Music has some of the blurriest notions of appropriation, and I'm sure you can find more. But when discussion of cultural appropriation surface, they are not normally about cooking tacos or wearing a hat while gardening. [Aside: wearing said hat might fall into a darker gray area, because many times in entertainment on stage and screen, those hats were/are used as part of costumes and negative depictions of Asians.]

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  3. #3783
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    Apparently, there is this thing called "cultural appropriation", and I don't get it.
    It apparently offends some people if you do something that can't be traced directly to your genetic heritage.

    If I open a food truck that sells Mexican food, but I'm not Mexican, it is somehow bad.
    Bob's Burgers is good, but Bob's tacos is bad?
    Yes, I've seen this issue popping up for a few years. My take on it is that there is a valid issue with "cultural appropriation" where, for instance, some aspect of another culture is mocked, or used in ways that might have once been considered generally acceptable in the mainstream, but no longer is. However, I feel the phrase is massively overused, and often refers to what I would consider perfectly reasonable cultural mixing.

    And then there are situations where a symbol of another culture is used to make (what I'd consider) to be a valid statement on some aspect of the culture, but some attempt to dismiss this as "cultural appropriation." Here I feel the term is just used to try to silence arguments.

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  4. #3784
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    Incidentally, I suspect a lot of this is more of an internet issue than what most of us run into in real life. How many times in real life do you hear people argue about "cultural appropriation"? But on the internet, you can find someone calling just about anything "cultural appropriation."

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." ó Abraham Lincoln

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  5. #3785
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I think where this becomes an issue is, for example, if Hollywood makes a movie about Fuji, and not a single cast member is from Fuji or anywhere in the Pacific ocean (extreme and deliberately weird example). )
    Though technically itís true that Fuji, the mountain, is on an island in the Pacific, I suspect you meant Fiji. Maybe itís an auto-correct thing?


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  6. #3786
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Yes, I've seen this issue popping up for a few years. My take on it is that there is a valid issue with "cultural appropriation" where, for instance, some aspect of another culture is mocked, or used in ways that might have once been considered generally acceptable in the mainstream, but no longer is. However, I feel the phrase is massively overused, and often refers to what I would consider perfectly reasonable cultural mixing.

    And then there are situations where a symbol of another culture is used to make (what I'd consider) to be a valid statement on some aspect of the culture, but some attempt to dismiss this as "cultural appropriation." Here I feel the term is just used to try to silence arguments.
    I agree it is a bad use of words . Cultural mocking is bad manners and unnecessary. Cultural copying or sharing or imitation is part of a learning process. Cultural appropriation is somewhere between meaningless and a rather unpleasant allusion to bad aspects of nationalism. Most references to racism boil down to culture clashes where the word culture has forced group thinking over individualism. That leads to prejudice. We should always try to avoid prejudice, and “cultural appropriation “ is loaded with several layers of prejudice.
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  7. #3787
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    Cultural appropriation is about power and disregard - it's colonialism without the colony.
    A majority culture takes some component of a minority culture for its own entertainment or diversion, while disregarding the original cultural significance of the appropriated item. The appropriaters also don't "serve time" in the minority culture - experiencing their marginalization, for instance.
    So it's about living on the edge of some dominant society, binding your community together with particular cultural referents of strong emotional significance, and then seeing a member of the dominant society using these symbols as a fashion statement or an amusement.

    It's the power gradient and the lack of regard that makes it "appropriation".

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  8. #3788
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Cultural appropriation is about power and disregard - it's colonialism without the colony.
    A majority culture takes some component of a minority culture for its own entertainment or diversion, while disregarding the original cultural significance of the appropriated item. The appropriaters also don't "serve time" in the minority culture - experiencing their marginalization, for instance.
    So it's about living on the edge of some dominant society, binding your community together with particular cultural referents of strong emotional significance, and then seeing a member of the dominant society using these symbols as a fashion statement or an amusement.

    It's the power gradient and the lack of regard that makes it "appropriation".

    Grant Hutchison
    I can see the historical progression there but is the objection always due to mockery? Maybe I am completely wrong but I remember objection to people choosing a "cultural" cuisine for example. Surely that is OK? Or in art, the inspiration from, say, african art, I can see there could be objection if the original is seen as a religious symbol but is that objection valid if the use is for artistic progress or experiment? The question of where experiment becomes mockery may look different from the two perspectives but that is often that case where offence is taken where none is meant. Are we to stop using words we have borrowed from former colonies on the basis of past power relationships?
    sicut vis videre esto
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  9. #3789
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I can see the historical progression there but is the objection always due to mockery?
    No. I'd suggest that deliberate mockery doesn't fall under the umbrella of cultural appropriation, because no appropriation is going on. As I said, it's about power and disregard - using stuff because you can, without caring about or seeking to understand the original cultural context. Mocking another culture is a rather different thing.
    People do identify strongly with their cuisine, their art, their body decoration, their hairstyles. Seeing someone who hasn't lived the life and who doesn't appreciate the history, using these things in a disposable way as the trend du jour, can be unpleasant. Something of great significance to me has become a passing fancy for someone else. And that's all tied up with power and powerlessness - the experience of being a marginal minority makes these things feel more valuable, more part of one's identity, so their careless appropriation feels insulting and violating.

    But there's always a tension - look at the debate over Paul Simon's Graceland album, for instance. To what extent did he appropriate, and to what extent did he popularize and acknowledge? To what extent were Ladysmith Black Mambazo pawns, and to what extent were they players?

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  10. #3790
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    How does that hurt anyone, though?

    Some of their ideas are being spread, and this will lead some people to become interested in their full culture.

    If someone spread some of my ideas, I'd be flattered.

    Also, how do you clearly demarcate what is and is not a culture? How different is different enough? As an American, can I partake of ideas that originated in, say, Scotland? Can I wear a kilt? Heck, different parts of my home country are as culturally different as Egypt is to England.
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  11. #3791
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    How does that hurt anyone, though?

    Some of their ideas are being spread, and this will lead some people to become interested in their full culture.

    If someone spread some of my ideas, I'd be flattered.
    If someone spread some of your ideas in a distorted form, without acknowledging their origin or the distortion (or acknowledging the origin but not the distortion)? If they profited from their appropriation of your idea, and little or none of that profit got back to you? If the ideas had very specific emotional significance to you, but were stripped of that emotional connection when disseminated? If you've lived in a culture that has been ignored or marginalized for centuries, only to see it strip-mined in order to create transient trends on Twitter?
    Those are the sort of things that give rise to accusations of cultural appropriation.

    Whereas I'd say you're very welcome to wear a kilt, because you can't appropriate something that is freely offered. Scotland has a history of cannily exploiting its own culture (and its own pseudo-culture) for export. One could make a case that Victorian England culturally appropriated much of what it fondly imagined to be Scottish history and culture, but we're nowadays doing a very good job of peddling this stuff ourselves, to anyone who's interested. Again, it's the power gradient that's important - if I send someone to your home town to sell you whisky, kilts and shortbread, I'm not going to complain when you buy them.

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  12. #3792
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    As far as the acting example, it's hard enough for people of minority cultures and so forth to get roles playing themselves. The current issue has been Scarlett Johansson taking a role as a Japanese character and accepting a role she later turned down (causing the movie to just not get made) as a trans man. But there aren't a lot of Hollywood roles for Japanese women and trans men. So that's two fewer roles they can take. And again, without the big name, they just didn't make the latter film at all, despite the fact that current statistics suggest people don't go see movies because of stars. So that means no trans man had the chance to be a box office draw.
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    Just as an aside, there is a new character on Supergirl who is transgender, and the actress playing her is also transgender. Sometimes it happens.
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  14. #3794
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If someone spread some of your ideas in a distorted form, without acknowledging their origin or the distortion (or acknowledging the origin but not the distortion)?
    Not making it clear that the altered version ("distortion" implies the changes are negative) didn't originate from me might bother me, since I value truth, and also if they tried to pass the original off as their own idea (plagiarism). Otherwise, no, I wouldn't care, and would probably be delighted. People have improved or riffed on some of my ideas before and I was pleased, I don't see why them being strangers living in another part of the world changes anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If they profited from their appropriation of your idea, and little or none of that profit got back to you?
    Whereas if they didn't appropriate my idea I would get paid? If them using my idea helps them and doesn't hurt me, sounds all good to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If the ideas had very specific emotional significance to you, but were stripped of that emotional connection when disseminated?
    How would that hurt me? I'm not other people experiencing the lack of emotional significance.

    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If you've lived in a culture that has been ignored or marginalized for centuries, only to see it strip-mined in order to create transient trends on Twitter?
    "Strip-mined" implies destruction. A better analogy would be taking photographs of paintings and publishing them abroad.

    I don't think it's very psychologically healthy to care what the flavor of the day is on social media, much less be offended by it.

    When the fad has passed it's back to normal, with certain of your cultural markers more familiar to outsiders.
    Last edited by SkepticJ; 2019-Feb-09 at 08:20 PM.
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    Hmmm. I really thought you were using this thing about "ideas I've had" as a metaphor for the real situation. But I'm worried I made a mistake. Do you actually believe the issue here is just about one person running off with someone else's idea for a cool haircut, interesting tattoo or satisfying way to draw a lizard?

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  16. #3796
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    For acting, there has always been role playing and since the whole thing is artifice, maybe the acting ability is more important than whether the actor has lived the role in life. But i can see the argument that there must be a competent ethnic actor for an ethnic part. But is an actor guilty of cultural appropriation? Any low budget act, like a school play will use what’s available to play the various parts. Are they automatically guilty too? It is a shame if “culture” is a cloak for xenophobic nationalism. But then it’s also illogical to assume that all culture is equivalent, obviously it is not. People still make value judgements based on their culture and respect for others is clearly a cultural variable.
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    Ironic. I'd guess that good, confident actors would want to play characters that are quite unlike themselves. Yet, they had better not stray too far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    As far as the acting example, it's hard enough for people of minority cultures and so forth to get roles playing themselves. The current issue has been Scarlett Johansson taking a role as a Japanese character and accepting a role she later turned down (causing the movie to just not get made) as a trans man.
    Gillian, I expect the Japanese character you're referring to is Major Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell? The director of the anime himself didn't think much of the complaints, here's an article with his comments:

    https://www.vulture.com/2017/03/ghos...johansson.html

    Quoting:

    "What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her,” he told IGN via email. “Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”

    Also, in manga and anime (as is common in those mediums) the character's physical features are vague. It depends on how a viewer wants to interpret them.

    Personally, I certainly wouldn't have minded seeing an actor of another ethnicity (whether Japanese or not) but I don't see why it should be a concern for that role.

    But there aren't a lot of Hollywood roles for Japanese women and trans men. So that's two fewer roles they can take.
    On the other hand, if she had been allowed to play the trans man role, it could have perhaps led to roles for trans men in other roles in that movie or (if there was a positive response) future movies. After the response to that, producers might just decide it's easiest to avoid the subject.
    Last edited by Van Rijn; 2019-Feb-10 at 01:49 AM.

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  19. #3799
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    Yes, the Ghost In The Shell thing seems to be more about appropriate representation of ethnicity and minority groups in film and TV (which is itself an important debate, of course) rather than about cultural appropriation. Manga and anime are such a global phenomenon now, and strongly marketed, it's perhaps difficult to find anything to appropriate that hasn't been willingly distributed and assimilated already. Or so it seems to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    ... I don't even think that the vast majority of people care if you sell tacos. ...
    You might be surprised. I've participated in at least two online conversations recently with self-described 'foodies' where the majority felt Bob should not be selling tacos and that they would boycott any such business. The issue was not so much cultural appropriation but rather a matter of perceived authenticity, something I've commented on before. But in both conversations, there was an element of it being wrong somehow for Bob to sell tacos even if his tacos were excellent. That, I think, spoke to cultural appropriation and was misguided, in my opinion.

  21. #3801
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    One can clearly go too far, I eat Porridge sometimes without worrying if my grandfather being Scottish is sufficient, and pasta and pizza and even tea without a thought about cultural appropriation. If i had to worry about the cultural origin of my clothes would I have to carry provenence papers? The principle here is that there is no justification for one group of people to claim rights over their culture if there is no threat to that culture from copying and to maintain the peace, no implied mockery. Humour is often used to make criticism of culture where we disapprove, so it could be debated.

    Is this an intellectual property issue?
    sicut vis videre esto
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    Of course, the phrase "cultural appropriation" has turned into yet another piece of ammunition in inter-cultural mudslinging contests, and such claims need to be judged on their merits. But the fact that the phrase is sometimes (indeed, often) associated with poor-quality arguments about the authenticity of tacos doesn't undermine those real cases in which a majority culture plucks some cultural item from a minority culture, ignoring the sensitivities involved.
    Blithe arguments such as "Well, I wouldn't mind if it happened to me", "Where's the harm to your culture anyway?" and "Surely it helps create interest in your culture?" simply add fuel to the fire, because at best they miss the point, and at worst they come over as self-serving.

    Again, and I'm sorry to keep coming back to this, it's ultimately about power and control - who has it, who doesn't.

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  23. #3803
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Hmmm. I really thought you were using this thing about "ideas I've had" as a metaphor for the real situation. But I'm worried I made a mistake. Do you actually believe the issue here is just about one person running off with someone else's idea for a cool haircut, interesting tattoo or satisfying way to draw a lizard?

    Grant Hutchison
    I was using it as a metaphor.

    It's okay for one person (or many) to use and possibly modify another's idea, but it's totally not cool for numerous people (or just one) to do the same with the ideas of numerous people?
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    I was using it as a metaphor.

    It's okay for one person (or many) to use and possibly modify another's idea, but it's totally not cool for numerous people (or just one) to do the same with the ideas of numerous people?
    Well, it's called cultural appropriation not idea appropriation, and that's because it has very little to do with issues of intellectual property. Fundamentally, it's not about ideas, but about the differences between cultures, and the (often unwitting) exercise of privilege, power and control. As I said, colonialism without the colony.

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  25. #3805
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    What are cultures but collections of ideas put into practice?
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    What are cultures but collections of ideas put into practice?
    Yeah, there's the difficulty. Your attitude to your culture may be that it's just a bunch of ideas. But historically, that's rare. A culture, as commonly considered, and especially a minority culture, and even more especially an oppressed minority culture, is an emotional webwork of ideas that tells a story about why people are the way they are, and how they belong. It has often been maintained in the teeth of attempts to suppress it, and may have been the focus for insult and denigration.
    That's where the metaphor of "cultural strip-mining" comes from. The culture is a web of ideas and emotions, forming a familiar and beautiful landscape to those who are part of it. In contrast, the strip-miners want only one thing, and are oblivious to its connection to the wider landscape.
    It's the emotion and the history and the symbolic significance that creates the problem - the examples I gave (hairstyle, tattoo, lizard drawing) were all just interesting ideas to the people who appropriated them, but their rebranding did violence to the emotional sense of community of the people they were appropriated from.

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  27. #3807
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    You know. This thread now has served one good(?) purpose. It has shown me that while there are some tolerant and wonderful people on this forum, there are quite a few less than what I thought. When I took a year or so off from it, it was more to just reorient my expectations and clarify my place in the community. Thanks for finishing that effort.

    I'm going to miss some of you, and I can only hope the rest of you have the intellectual honesty and the humility to grow and change. I deal with enough intolerance and privilege as it is outside of CosmoQuest, I certainly don't need any more. I may not be leaving for good, but I'm certainly going to use my increasingly limited energies to more fruitful and open-minded pursuits.

    Thanks for trying to fight the good fight, Grant, Gillian, and Swift. See you around.

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    Well, that's a shame.

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    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

  29. #3809
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Olympia, WA
    Posts
    30,599
    I'm actually from one of the most integrated parts of Los Angeles County, it turns out--because while Los Angeles as a region is full of more ethnic groups than some people seem aware even exist, Los Angeles specifically is often incredibly segregated. The melting pot has always been a lie; cultures are only allowed to integrate as much as the dominant culture allows them to. In many cases, the issue with cultural appropriation is that the thing the dominant culture things is worth taking is more acceptable than people of the ethnic group are.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

  30. #3810
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    No longer near Grover's Mill
    Posts
    4,692
    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    See you around.
    I hope Iím not responsible for this.
    I point out my non-comprehension of a societal meme (in the ďI donít get it threadĒ) and suddenly people are quitting the board?

    Personally, I appreciate the insights that have been brought forth in the discussion.


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    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

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