Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finding Your Inner Slop

  The Americans made the first automatic transmissions for cars. The British took a U.S. transmission and copied it exactly, but it would not work. When they had an American engineer check it out he told them it was too tight. "You have to build in a little slop."
  It's like that with anything you try to do in life. Bread making for example. My first loaves were disasters. It didn't help that I was using my grandmother's 1899 edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I spent half the day running around the South Shore looking for obscure ingredients like cake yeast. Then I followed the ancient method of letting the dough rise overnight. I found people to eat my results, but they did so without joy. Later I realized dough is forgiving. But only in certain specific ways.
  Or take foreign languages. You hear a delegation from Botswana is coming to town. You dig out an old National Geographic and learn a couple of phrases of greeting. But when you try them out, you only get the universal look for WTF for reply.  Unfortunately your accent is off because your vocal cords are up tight.
  And a final example from the art world. I want to be the Rembrandt of Roseau County. He lived in a flat country and so do I. When I look at his pen and ink landscapes, I can see the peasant shoveling manure in his stable five miles across the dikes. But in my tightly rendered views, all you see is a jumble of ink lines. I need to loosen up without falling apart completely.
  Thanks to much practice, I have the bread making down. The language and the art are still sloppy in the wrong ways.

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