12/27/17 Transparency in the New Year

We have

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heard the word transparency a lot for the last near decade. We mostly hear it from government upper-echelon apparatchiks. They spend a lot of air time trying to assure us of their transparency and desire for more. Their transparency, they tell us, is a sign of their dedication to the good of the country and their sacrificial statesmanship. They serve in all branches of government. They come from all political parties. They try to sell us clothes that would ill-fit an emperor. Somehow, the transparency they bring to their tenures in office leaves them and their cronies extremely wealthy. It is as if transparency is used to hide a lot of shenanigans.

Boasting about transparency is a sure sign that someone has his finger on the scales. I am leery of transparency that is pushed on me, as if it were a bad life insurance policy issued by a fiscally destitute company, preferring, rather, a transparency that reveals, not conceals. It is always the bold print, the tabloid-esque headline, the double amplitude commercial that promises transparency; it is the fine print, the exclusionary clause, the semantic pin-headed angel dance that occludes. Each come in a minimum of equal amounts, with perhaps more of the latter, though it is far harder to see, our attentions being purposefully diverted to the transparency we are being sold. Caveat emptor!

We had a transparent Christmas. It was a good Christmas, filled with all the joys of the season and more than a little bit of thankfulness. It was not a Christmas of excess, but one of not too much…not so much that the granddaughters raced from one package to another, ripping them open without ever stopping to see what it was that they had already received. I suppose when one is a child and there are dozens of presents under the tree, the lack of transparency caused by the wrappings contributes to this. Fewer presents equates to more pleasure from each of the fewer things one receives.

“What do you want for Christmas?” Debbie had asked me a while back, someone who typically gets what he wants pretty much when he wants it, whether he needs it or not.

“Underwear and socks,” I said.

“Something besides that. Those aren’t really gifts,” she said.

They may not be creative gifts, but they are certainly useful to one who has looked longingly at specifications for engraved double rifles in 416 Rigby caliber, which would make a fabulous but absolutely useless gift. Just thinking about the deep relief gold-accented engraving, the deeply and exquisitely finished English walnut stock, its checking precise and sharp, with ejectors that fling out the spent brass from the breech with a measurable percentage of the velocity the bullets exit the muzzle, leaving the barrel ready for insertion of two new long and tapered brass cartridges topped with 500 grain hard-cast bullets, and me at the ready for a follow-up shot to instantly drop the deadly charging armadillo….er…I mean…lion, I mean. I can actually use the socks. I can actually use the underwear. The Rigby?

In the interest of transparency, I confess that I cannot use the Rigby. Though it would be capable of taking down any game in North America, or Africa, it more a question of wanting one than needing one. I can go the rest of my life wanting a 416 Rigby, never needing one for a single instant. I already have a 375 H&H Magnum I have yet to even shoot (yes, I transparently split that infinitive) which is only slightly smaller than the Rigby, perfectly useful on lions, leopards, and Cape Buffalo, only falling a bit on the under-powered side for charging elephants, hippopotami, and rhinocerouses of which I do not encounter too many here in East Mississippi. On the other hand, I am likely to actually need underwear and socks on a daily basis. Hopefully they will not be too transparent, at least not as transparent as my ignorance concerning the plural nature of the word “rhinocerous”. I could look it up, but what’s the fun in that? It is a word needed only a slight bit more often than a Rigby, which is not too often. I may never need it again. I suspect it is “rhinoceri” but prefer the sound of “Rhy-nos-ser-RUSS-sez”.

I got the underwear and socks. I sure was pleased with them.

I was a bit too transparent with Debbie’s gift. Long ago, I learned that household appliances are perhaps not the wisest of Christmas gifts for one’s wife, as they are far too opaque. The transparency of diamonds make much better gifts, and I admit that a couple of times over the years, having waited until the last moment to do my shopping I resorted to the always acceptable gift of diamonds; they are there, and they are welcomed as well as transparent. They are also an expensive transparency, but that is the price one pays by waiting until Christmas eve to buy one’s wife a present, as jewelry stores seem to be the only things still open late on a Christmas eve that have anything in left in stock since a very small amount of space can hold a whole lot of merchandise. A jeweler’s safe is never without them, I expect, though these days, some of them may be less than transparent.

We have all heard about the “four Cs” of diamonds….color, carat, cut, and clarity. The higher the value of the four Cs, the better quality of the diamond. As of late, our completely transparent friends at DeBeers have been trying to persuade us on the desirability of Chocolate diamonds, which in all likelihood utterly fail on their own scale of color and clarity. They are trying their very best with their ads but are flunking the transparency test themselves. If they were to tell the clear (transparent) truth, perhaps their ads would say, “We can make you a really good deal on these industrial grade diamonds, which are far cheaper and more common than clear diamonds, and make ourselves a lot more money when we sell them as jewelry than as diamond dust glued to steel discs and used as industrial abrasives.” We don’t hear that, though. One can almost taste the rich dark chocolate when the ad is shown on TV, though I daresay that diamonds are a bit too crunchy to offer much in the way of flavor.

About Thanksgiving, Debbie had bought herself a counter-top food mixer. It was a compact job, on sale at a local department store, and well reviewed by several purchasers, who may not have been actual purchasers, whose reviews may have been more opaque than transparent. It was a beautiful mixer, if mixers can be beautiful: as if a team of top Italian designers from Lamborghini had designed it, sleek like Italian leather shoes, sexy like Italian garden tillers, as beautiful as a Florentine fresco, each layer of its red lacquer finish yielding a transparency that made the finish look as deep as the Washington Monument reflecting pool. It boasted several speeds, from slow to fast, but for transparency’s sake, according to Debbie, the speeds should have read, “Fast”, “Faster”, “Ridiculously Fast”, “Top-fuel”, “Afterburning Turbofan”, and “Warp Drive”.

She came over to me in the living room wearing about a third of a cake mix spattered all about her head and shoulders. “I’m taking that mixer back,” she declared, shaking a wooden spoon at me as she did so. “It is too fast and slings stuff everywhere.” I don’t know why she shook the spoon at me. She was transparent in her anger. I perhaps was opaque enough to be an easy target. I must make myself more transparent.

She wiped the cake mix from her face. “Even on the slowest speed it slings batter all over me, the floor, and the walls.” She added, “I wish I had a new Kitchen-Aid mixer.” The spoon flailed about, dangerously close to my nose. I dared not move.

She once had a functional Kitchen-Aid mixer, but the variable speed switch went bad about twenty years ago. We still have it, always preparing at any minute to send it off to be repaired, but never quite getting around to it. It is up in the attic, perhaps a bit angry at having been neglected all these years. Every time I trip over it, I say to myself that I need to crate it up and send it back for refurbishment. I expect I will be saying that twenty years from now. If mixers could talk, it would say my intentions were as opaque as a DeBeers chocolate diamond commercial.

I picked up my phone. I hit the Amazon app. I searched for Kitchen-Aid mixers. They had three grades: The standard, the heavy-duty, and the commercial. Debbie uses the commercial grade Kitchen-Aid mixer down at the Lodge kitchen (We live at Timberview Lodge and in addition to hunters, we host group meetings, wedding receptions, etc.). She has brought that mixer up to the house a couple of times when she had lots of cooking to do, mentioning that she really didn’t have the counter space for it. I was on to something now. The heavy-duty Kitchen-Aid mixer in red was what she needed. I chose red because she had chosen red for the warp-speed Florentine mixer she would be returning. While red may not be the color she really wanted, it was a color she apparently could live with. Such things are important to wives in their homes. To a man, a mixer is a mixer is a mixer…spinner-bait chartreuse or toad-frog green are as good of colors as any. Unlike a diamond, the color of a mixer has no impact on its value or usefulness.

I hit the “Buy Now” button. Thanks to Amazon Prime, her Kitchen-Aid mixer was on the way in plenty of time to get here before Christmas.

I was out of town when the package arrived. On the carport, patiently waiting near the door was a white box proudly proclaiming “Kitchen-Aid” on every side, on the top, even on the bottom, with glossy four-color renderings of the mixer printed on the sides. I picked it up and took it inside the house, thinking that perhaps they were just a bit too transparent in their packaging. The package may have well had windows. It certainly made itself a target for the plethora of seasonal package thieves who so casually seem to conscript for themselves the property of others in their drive-by shopping trips.

“By the way,” I said to Debbie after entering the house, “That is definitely not a Kitchen-Aid mixer in that box that was on the carport.”

“It sure is a nice Kitchen-Aid box, whatever it is,” she said, pretending not to know. She was very transparent in her attempt. I could not expect her to be otherwise, but could have used a bit more discretion from Amazon.

I got Piper to wrap it for me and put it under the tree. She wrote on the box, “This is definitely NOT a Kitchen-Aid mixer.” I am glad we were able to somewhat obfuscate the transparency of the packaging, at least to our own humorous satisfaction, fooling no one, not even ourselves, with our attempt to render a layer of opacity to that which is too transparent, which happens a lot if we pay attention. It still happens a lot even if we don’t pay attention. We were every bit as successful in our subterfuge as politicians are in claiming transparency as the hallmark of their service, though we had much less at stake than the governed class.

I started out writing about transparency. We hear that word a lot these days, freely used by government officials, mostly from those determined to be abstruse and opaque while assuring us of a transparency we can not very plainly see for ourselves. Perhaps transparency that has to be pointed out is is not transparency at all. The previous administration claimed to be the most transparent administration in history. The current administration claims transparency for itself. So does congress. So do bureaucracies and agencies. So do our local officials. Perhaps they are as transparent as a DeBeers chocolate diamond commercial, though less transparent than the diamond. Certainly, they are not as transparent as that Kitchen-Aid box, but perhaps every bit as transparent as Piper’s writing on it.

I am all for transparency. While the emperor thought he was well dressed, it turned out his clothes were a bit too transparent for his own good.

Here’s to more governmental transparency in 2018.

If one can’t have that, perhaps one could find a bargain on a top quality industrial diamond, or sleek Italian-designed warp-speed mixer. One may get stuff all over the walls, but what’s left will be thoroughly, even transparently mixed, and perhaps enough left in the bowl for one large cupcake, which is still a cake, though not what one had in mind since it serves only one.

If I can’t have transparency, maybe I can get at least some hint of a vague translucency. It would serve for a good beginning.

©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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