Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator

If you have read any or all of the fifteen issues of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator either in the print or PDF formats since it was introduced in fall 2004, you are aware that it “is published regularly on an irregular basis.”

The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator blog by comparison has appeared only twice before; once on June 7, 2005 and again on April 26, 2007. That nearly two-year hiatus in between blogs has been extended with this third issue to nearly three years.

 Life has a way of intruding on many of our ventures as evidenced by The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator itself whose idea was conceived in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey in 1967 but wasn’t born until thirty-seven years later. That’s why you’ll find H. L. B. Hertz listed on the masthead as cunctator, which simply means procrastinator.

Why cunctate? The print version of the Cogitator is a lesson in the extremes of pain and pleasure with the former coming as I lock myself in my writing room for days and write, edit, rewrite, edit and rewrite each story sometimes seven or eight times. That’s before my design and syntactical enhancer helps hone each story even more. I realize that no writing will ever be perfect for even after it is printed you can always find something that could have been done a bit better. When I taught writing at universities, I would tell my students that Gloria Steinem found writing peace only after she realized that she didn’t have to write a Pulitzer Prize winner each time, only one that was publishable.

Unfortunately, I haven’t learned that yet but I do know that I have far too much to write about in each issue of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator and become frustrated when I am unable to squeeze in everything that seems worthwhile and interesting for the reader.  The blog may be a viable repository for the excess and working on it at the start of a day would be an excellent way to warm up my two typing fingers before segueing into other writing projects.

However when I read about bloggers who have quickly worn out trying to maintain their audience’s attention or trying to hustle advertisers or becoming an unwilling slave to their creation, I cringe.

One blogger started out by first defining why he started it and what he hoped his work would accomplish. I have done the same in the piece entitled “Nine Reasons Why We Are Here.”

This blog will not be fancy and multi-dimensional — at least not yet. As a reconstructed Luddite I will attempt to lay out, write and edit this blog on my own. If complaints mount and readers disappear (or never appear) I may seek help and guidance from blogging services or from those who are far more knowledgeable and adept than I.

The research and writing will be the mainstay of this blog and as the doctor said to his patient in the final line of Philip Roth’s 1969 book Portnoy’s Complaint “So, Now vee perhaps to begin. Yes?”

                                              Religious Rites Here and Abroad

Both Tiger Woods and Pope Benedict XVI practice their religious beliefs in somewhat dubious ways. After some inept advice and misguided efforts Tiger finally admitted his dalliances. During his poorly presented, pseudo-sincere stiff and awkward press conference, he confessed to his sins allegedly to ease the burden and disappointment of his wife and her children. Although they were not primarily mentioned, he silently prayed that this action would allow him back in the fold with the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and his sponsors. The PGA was most grateful and eagerly awaited his return in the hope that television ratings and concomitant support from their sponsors would once again rise. According to Sports Illustrated Woods' on-course earnings amounted to only 7% of the nearly $100 million he took home in 2008. Most of his income came from his endorsements of products and services he may or may not have used. Several companies including AT&T, Accenture and Gatorade left the fold not wanting to be associated with Tiger’s outside hobbies. Perhaps Tiger will be able to recapture his low scores on the golf course and eliminate all scoring away from other playing fields.

Pope Benedict and his priests may need to follow Pope John Paul’s rituals described by a Polish prelate promoting Pope John Paul II for sainthood. He wrote in his book “Why He’s a Saint” that the Pope whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and defended John Paul’s practice, “It’s an instrument of Christian perfection.” Nobody’s perfect. Self-flagellation might help celibate priests curb their lustful urges, or the Vatican could create a dating website where priests could find other priests to share their leisure-time activities. When Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict, was Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1980, a priest who had been accused of molesting boys was allowed to return to take care of his flock. Ireland’s Catholic leader recently apologized for his role in mishandling sexual abuse accusations in the 1970s. “I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in.” As a Vatican cardinal in 2001, the current Pope wrote a church directive instructing bishops to keep abuse cases confidential. If only the Holy See could see.

Go to the Source of True Wisdom

It was apropos that sage advice on how to curb an insatiable sexual appetite was offered by Jeanne Phillips who writes the “Dear Abby” column. Perhaps Tiger and the Pope’s people should go to “Abby’s” recommended website of Sexaholics Anonymous at SA collects no dues and the soul requirement for membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober. A sobering thought indeed. Potential members are given ten questions online to test themselves beginning with: “Have you ever thought that you needed help for your sexual thinking and behavior?” Tiger sought help and perhaps offered inspiration to Pope Benedict to seek the same for his priests. The Pope may not have read about Tiger’s quiet confession given that the official Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, eliminated its sports section when advertising revenue appreciably diminished after the Inquisition.

                                                  Fore They Are Jolly Good Fellows

An excellent March 24 editorial page cartoon by Mike Luckovich in The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper captured the Pope’s dilemma and offered a reasonable solution to the bizarre and shameful narishkeit. It showed the Pope on the right bedecked in full regalia including his robe, staff and papal hat.

Three cardinals in their outfits stood on the left with one of them pondering, “I wonder what he’ll do to take the focus off the church’s European abuse scandals…” The Pope responds, “I’ve decided to play in the Masters…”  I would have included this cartoon but since it contains the copyright ©, the cost would have been prohibitive. If you revere the Pope or Tiger or both of them, you can purchase framed, autographed copies of the cartoon for only $279.95 each at

                                                 Nine Reasons Why We Are Here

1. To provide faithful readers of the print and PDF versions of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator an outlet to visit and read the writings of F.L.Togg and Harvey Gotliffe in between the irregular issues of the Cogitator.

2. To continue to show readers that at too many times their world is sated with ridiculous amounts of narishkeit (nonsense) and if they are mad as hell, they don’t have to take it anymore as vividly shown on page nine of Vol. 4, No. 2 of the print version.

3. To inspire others to ponder the imponderable, to reconcile the unreconcileable, and to let all who are overwhelmed with the narishkeit realize that they are not alone and that we need to learn to be alone together, at least every so often.

4. To motivate each reader to look at the narishkeit that surrounds them and offer ways to fend off the excesses with mental and emotional Tai Ji hand screens. It is imperative that each person learns how to do something about that narishkeit that permeates society and causes consternation and frustration in our lives.

5. With such an overload of narishkeit, this blog will try expose some of it and help readers to deal with it successfully although many feel that they are trapped on a “treadmill to oblivion.” Those words in quotes are the title of comedian Fred Allen’s 1954 book.

6. To encourage readers to ruminate and cogitate about the insanity in the world around them and to do something about it.

7. To promulgate the idea that cogitating can be an excellent indoor activity regardless of the season.

8. To further motivate readers who are inspired by the writings and firmly believe in us, such as Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes.” Andy was one of our first subscribers and on October 28, 2004 he enthusiastically wrote, “Where have you gone wrong in life – including leaving The Village (of Ho-Ho-Kus) for Santa Cruz? Although I don’t have any confidence there will be four issues, I am sending my unlimited income subscriber’s check for $16. Please don’t send me a funny letter.” I just reminded Andy that Vol. 4, No. 2 was the fifteenth issue.

9. To provide a place to publish other stories for in this meshugeneh world it’s quite difficult to fit in more that a miniscule number of them into a twelve-page print version of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator. As soon as an issue is completed the meaningful (or meaningless) overflow would appear in the blog.