Monday, July 31, 2006

#324 KWA

Those in the know know that I once spent a spell in the fashion industry. Okay, I sold clothes. There are many interesting reflections on humanity engendered by working the retail end of the fashion continuum, not least of which that men generally find less pleasure in the whole process than do women. On Venus, changing a wardrobe every three months is perfectly acceptable. On Mars, they need clothes with freshness dating. Of course, I’m talking about middle aged men here. Typically, after he age of forty-five, men only buy clothes to replace those that have worn out. Which is why if Carharrt isn’t careful they’ll “quality” themselves right out of the market. Although I’m not sure how Carharrt would rebrand at this point. Did you check out the spring Carharrt line? Ooh, it’s so FAB-ulous. I just love the repositioned rivets. In any event, that’s why women’s stores outnumber men’s stores ten to one in a mall. And teenager stores...
For the only people on the planet even more fashion fickle than the fair gender are the young. And here both sexes qualify. The only time in his life when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of fashion is in his genetically-hardwired mating frenzy. It’s then that you’ll see the fashion extremes—the giant baggy pants, the crazy t-shirts, the bling, the sports attire, the expensive tennis shoes. And something weird I saw the other day. Now baggy shorts have been around for a while—and long baggy shorts. Gradually the length has been increasing. From the high thigh days of the OP Corduroy short to the mid-thigh beach bum baggie, we’ve kept going to the nearly knee length jam and the over-the-knee carpenter short. But lately it’s got even worse. I saw this kid the other day walking downtown in full NBA regalia. He had on the full-on baggy jersey, which hung down to about miniskirt level and the baggy shorts, which drooped to nearly his ankles. They actually bottomed out at the lower third of his calf. Needless to say, the guy was about five eight and hopelessly out of shape. I saw another fellow at the fair. He had long shorts too. But he was dressed like a Goth, all in black with big steel-toed biker boots. His shorts had rivets and chains, but they still hit him lower calf. I assume he was supposed to look menacing but I had to work hard not to snicker. Cause they reminded me of knickers. Those below-the-knee trousers old golfers used to wear. Or worse, pedal pushers. Feminine fashion in the flesh. Who would have thought fierce young men would dress in capris. Then again, it’s all in how you brand it. Capris for men won’t sell. But how about if we call them “knickers with attitude.” Yeah, that’s it, KWA. We’ll sell a million of em.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

#323 What it is

I used to know this guy in college. He seemed to think he was the next best thing as far as catch phrases. I guess to some extent he may have been successful. One day he came in saying “what it is?” rather than “what’s up?” For a while there we all said it jokingly, and then people started to just say it. Good slang’s like that—easy to say. Some combination of syllables, rhythm, inflection, and phonemes that never got combined before and like the notes in a new hit tune just seem to fit so naturally you find yourself flinging them out on the street or humming them in the elevator. Jimmy Jet had another phrase. Never really caught on. “Sometimes you can’t win for losing. Sometimes you can’t go wrong. But it all evens out in the end.” That’s what I tell myself every day. That and “believe in humanity but keep your expectations low.”
Things shift on you. The concept of service comes and goes like the tide. Remember when all the big banks were going automated and were even starting to charge for teller services. Remember when people started withdrawing in droves. Well, banks are opening on weekends again, and they’re advertising that the have more tellers and lots of things are free. Of course, they still want the majority of people to do online banking, but apparently, they’ve found a way to put back in the bennies as well. Free checking was just the beginning. Some of the banks now even have free checks and a precious few are actually sending your checks back to you again or at least digital photocopies—also for free. Maybe someday the carbon copy check will join the Atari video game in the landfill.
So that’s why I’m hoping the airlines, those fine cattle herders of the skies, will turn around again sometime soon. I understand fuel prices are killing them. But now that we can bring electric shavers back on the airplanes, I think the airlines need to start the courtship process to bring us back to the friendly skies. Cause it’s pretty pitiful up there. You can fly from LA to Seattle these days and not get a meal. Some airlines don’t even let you have nuts. There has to be a way. Is it possible to create another class of riders? I mean does it have to be Taj Mahal spacious super first class or crowded as an industrial chicken shed coach? I’d think someone who’d pay 5 bucks for a latté would pay an extra 10 bucks for a meal on an airplane. My sister just flew up from California and she gave me what the airline gave her for a snack. A piece of bread. Mostly Muffin bread it was called. Had nuts in it. What they give you to drink I asked. She held up a small bottle of pseudo-spring water. All right, I observed, bread and water. Service is coming back they’ve already upgraded to the amenities of a jail. What it is? It all evens out in the end.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

#322 Wonder Bus

What America ought to do is start a new sport. Bus racing. It’s a natural. First of all, urban bus drivers have developed reaction times as good as any astronaut. I’m surprised someone hasn’t caught on yet and started staging full on bus races. I’m sure you could recruit the crankiest urban bus drivers, used to cutting into traffic and squashing Subarus, completely inured to the hazards of barreling across three lanes of oncoming traffic to left turn into a shopping mall—while only bouncing off a couple of Goth skateboarders and a pigeon flock. There is a whole talent pool of aggressive behemoth drivers out there just waiting to be drafted for the bus racing circuit. These are the stuff of legend. The city bus driver, used to claiming the right of way no matter whose front fender he sheers. And not everyone could do it. Bus drivers are a rare breed indeed, sitting over the top of their giant steering wheel, tuning out the meaningless jibber-jabber of well-meaning oldsters who think the cure for his sourpuss visage is just a little conversation and understanding. Those old biddies have no idea that secretly he’s a road warrior, Mad Max on his way to piloting his whale on wheels down the center of the boulevard, his own natural adversary others of his kind. These are the drivers who poo-poo the straight ahead power humping of the monster truck competition. No, these drivers know that real driving is being able to maneuver your giant to the curb into a slender sliver of space left by two Harleys on one end and a soccer mom minivan on the other, nose in and discharge a pierced punk and a eco-cyclist in record time and nudge back into traffic before the cyclist even has his bike completely unhooked. Nothing funnier than seeing a bicyclist have to run in those funny clip on shoe thingies while he tries to unhook his non-gas guzzler from the skewering hook of the transit terminator. And talk about enormous potential for advertising. Already every urban bus worth its entrepreneurial soul has prostituted its pristine panels for bank and hospital and check-and-cash broadsides. When the bus races start it’ll be easy to cover those same sides with the brands and logos of the racing world—Schlitz and Fritos and Redman chaw. And talk about a built in fan base. A big group that Nascar draws are RV people. They travel all over the country to camp outside of Nascar events. Modern day gypsies, Winnebagos and Airstreamers replacing the 3-mule cart, living off the processed fat of the land. Portable refrigerators stuffed with Velveeta, Slim Jims and Ranch dip. These fans would fiercely relate to bus drivers and have a more personal empathy for their travails. Some of them even drive RVs that are, in fact, converted greyhounds. A great sport opportunity. Now what to name it? Nascar is taken, how about Nasbus?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

#319 Widget

America, Ya Gotta Love It #319 Widget
The other day when I was writing about the word wedgie I mentioned how many people over the age of 65 were unfamiliar with the term. That of course got me to thinking. From whence cometh the word wedgie. The simplest explanation is most likely the best, it derives from the action of forcing a clothing wedge up the valley created by the twin mountains of the buttocks. I like to pronounce it B-you-tox cause it sounds more genteel than the crass but-tox. Still Buttocks always sounds like some place in a large western state: Yep I’m from Buttocks, Montana. The wedge that’s driven up is, to be sure, not the hard and impermeable wedge one would use to, say, split wood, but rendered accurately a wedgie can feel like it’s doing similar damage The etymological dictionary defines wedgie as coming from the—
O.E. wecg “a wedge,” from P.Gmc. *wagjaz (cf. O.N. veggr, M.Du. wegge, Du. wig, O.H.G. weggi “wedge,” Ger. Weck “wedge-shaped bread roll”), { Okay...} The verb is recorded from 1440. “Wedgie” in the underwear prank sense is attested by 1970s. “Wedge issue” is attested from 1999.
Cool, “wedge issue,” a new permutation of an old theme—he has a wedge issue. So much more genteel than he has a wedgie. It’s comforting somehow knowing that there are even now academicians patrolling the perimeters of our language researching the first recorded instances of people using words like wedgie. We have certainly progressed beyond the “have to spend all our time just finding food and shelter” phase of human development.
A similar word crossed my path recently as well. The word squeegee. Squeegee is a great word, not less so because it was invented. At some point someone must have put it in my spell check because it doesn’t cause a squiggly line. But the other day when I was squeegee-ing my shower I thought, wait a minute, that’s not very grammatical. What are the verb forms of squeegee? Because for gosh sakes we have reached the point where we do squeegee something just like gol durnit, we Xerox something. A word has arrived when it started as a noun and now everyone uses it as a verb. Therefore I elect to shorten the difficult construction squeegee in its verb form to squeege. The verb “to squeege.” I squeeged the shower Honey. Did you squeege the window dear? No but I intend to squeege it later on. Have you been squeeging it lately? I squeeged it just last week. So it’s squeeged then? It has been squeeged good. Yeah, well squeege this. You know what they say, if you can’t dry em, squeege em. Is this toilet paper wet? No, Honey don’t squeege the Charmin...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

#317 Wired-less

I feel sorry for these people. I always see them outside, in any weather, whether inclement or otherwise—braving the cold or the wet or the stormy to service their addiction. They always seem to be about 25 feet from the buildings they’re in front of, relatively near the street, so I’m able to see the looks on their faces more. They don’t look that happy. For the most part, they stand stock still, staring off into space with an almost vacant expression, sometimes straining at the object in their hand, bringing it up to one of their facial orifices and occasionally squinting. I wonder why they put themselves through it. Why they don’t just quit and go inside, where it’s warm and dry and comfortable. Why they don’t just hang up and live.
That’s right I’m talking about the worst modern day victim since Yugo buyers. The poor coverage cellphone user. No bars. Or very few. Drop outs. Missed calls. Lack of service. Oh what a total pain in the neck it must be to own a cellphone and not be able to phone home. The philosophical question every prospective buyer should be asking every provider is: If a cellphone doesn’t ring in the forest does anyone hear it?
I first noticed the phenomenon when I was driving home one evening. Many of my neighbors appeared to be out in their driveways. It was a cold evening, and they were in their houseclothes. Houseclothes are broadly defined by the words comfy and frumpy. Here were my neighbors, obviously not dressed for company, out in their driveways, carrying on with hand gestures and walking around in figure eights and other patterns, every now and then looking up in to the sky with furious expressions on their faces, violently bending their heads this way or that. I thought my neighborhood water supply had been contaminated with mercury or something. Suddenly everyone on the street had a combination Turrette Syndrome-St. Vitus’ dance thing going on. I finally deduced they were all on the phone and in a perfect case of commercials informing reality, I remembered the “can you hear me now guy.” Nonetheless I was struck by the eerie parallel of the banished smoker and the poor coverage cellphoner. Both of them condemned to the limits of their driveways and the 25-foot perimeter of their buildings so they could indulge their habits. The cigarette guy at least has a choice. When he feels the urge to hack a butt he can look outside and go or no. But when the poor coverage cellphoner gets a call from rich Aunt Marge in Tukwila, weak signal or not she has to hoof it outside and brave the elements or that inheritance may not be so strong either. Still, if you smoke and cellphone, and your wife or boss is being a pill, well, time to hit that fake ringer tone and a built-in excuse to head outside. Can you hear me now?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

#316 Weiords

As is apparent by now, I have a fascination with words. Or weird words, or weiords as I call them. I wonder sometimes how certain words came in to common usage and certain others never happened. I understand that the word hemorrhoid does not require a feminine form in her-orrhoid or even a PC personorrhoid. But don’t you just kind of wonder why there are no her-spanics? I know this song by Heart and it makes me curious. What is a cuda and is it illegal to bare it in some states?
And what do we call this most obnoxious plague we are now confronted with, the jaywalking cellphoner? People can’t drive with cellphones and they can’t walk either. I don’t know how many cellphone pedestrians I’ve almost run over. They’re just as distracted and inattentive as their driving cohorts. Walker-talkers I call them, but they faint and flinch and are totally undependable when it come to predicting their next move so maybe walker-talker-balker is more accurate. I saw one yesterday and I was ready to call CPS. It was a young man, obligatory baseball cap on of course. He had a cellphone to his ear so he only had one free hand to hold the hand of what appeared to be his three-year-old daughter. He had her holding the hand of a second, even younger girl, who kept letting go and jumping around. They were between two large SUVs parked on the left side of a one-way street so I didn’t see them until the littlest girl almost darted in front of me. I braked and swerved, noted all of the above, including the fact that the young man was gazing off into space, attention focused on whoever it was on the other end of his terribly important call. In my rearview mirror, I soon saw something much, much worse. They weren’t attempting to get into their vehicle. The guy was leading his little girls across three lanes of traffic. Jaywalking with juveniles. The corner, the crosswalk, and a clear line of sight unimpeded by parked cars was fifty feet up from where they were trying to cross. Where’s a cop when you need one? Where’s a PARENT when you need one? Jaywalking with two kids under three on a three-lane road and talking on a cellphone. The apocalypse is already here. And speaking of street walking, what’s the name for those new advertising animatronic-like people businesses are using to attract attention to their stores. You know the ones, they stand on the edge of the street and hold up signs and try to entice you into toastiness or sleepiness or statue of liberty tax preparation or anything factory direct. Do they call them sign walkers or street signers or streetwalkers? Or recently former bums? Who would have thought holding up a cardboard sign on the street would become an employable skill-set to add to your resume?
America, ya gotta love it.

#315 Why-erd?

I’m often teased about my reluctance to own a cellphone. It’s a bizarre stance to many I’m sure, so common have cellphones become, and so deeply integrated into our society. But at heart it’s about how the cellphone, in its attempt to make us more connected, has made us less so. And by that I mean connected to the world at large—to reality. I really like getting in my car and being out of reach. The times I need to be reachable are very small compared to the times I need to be unconnected. Unconnected to other people and dealing one on one with my world. Cellphones bring modern society wherever you take them. Going into the woods with the chance of getting lost is one reality. Going into the woods with a cellphone and GPS is another level of reality altogether. Going to the grocery store with a list and a promise to get a specific brand of ice cream for your wife is one level of reality and responsibility. Going to the store without a clue AND a cellphone is another. Being able to consult with someone about every decision at the drop of an anytime minute completely and totally robs you of the development of a little thing called self-reliance. Self-reliance only comes from making your own mistakes. Self-reliance only comes when you’ve been through the school of hard knocks. If you could always ask mommy’s advice and input on every little thing and get her help wherever and whenever, you’d never get potty trained on the big wide toilet we call the real world. You wouldn’t learn how to cope. Case in point: The other day a friend of mine went to a graduation. His summary: “Graduations sure are long.” “Got that right,” I replied, “That’s one good thing about the WASL. It ought to shorten the length of graduation ceremonies. Flunking a few people ought to cut it down enough so they can hold em in gyms again.” “Yeah,” he said “and boring too. It was really cool though,(and here I embellish) to just look around at all the people and all the looks on their faces and how they reacted to the various speeches and the looks they’d get when their kid got up.” “Cool,” I said, “I know what you mean, I love people watching.” “Yeah my niece was amazing though. The whole graduation she sat next to me text-messaging someone with her cellphone and the minute the ceremony was over she called whoever it was up and started talking.” Here’s the point. We’ve all been to places where we’re bored. There are some that say, hey I’m bored I ought to be able to call my friend, even textually, and not have to sit here and endure this boredom. Well then, take the darn thing to church, or a funeral, or better yet, next time you’re performing somewhere have everyone in the audience totally ignore you because they’re texting their friends. God forbid anyone anywhere should actually have to cope with the reality of the moment. Why, that’s too much
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

#311 Ware Be Skywalker

When I first heard about the “do not call list” I was conflicted. On the one hand, I hated non-solicited calls from telemarketers. That’s why I got an unlisted number. Then the only unsolicited calls I got were from other phone companies. Then the random speed-dialer techo-sweatshop phone places took over and whether my number was unlisted or not, I began to get calls. Of course they were a dead giveaway. The question “is the owner of the house home?” pretty much established the caller was fair game for a quick hang up. Let his random speed dialer try finding my number again. Still the “do not call list” required effort on my part to sign onto so eventually it passed into that backburner of my life where resides all things less urgent than eating, sleeping, working, and the heartbreak of psoriasis.
The other side of my conflict was worry about workarounds. Cause where there’s an advertising will there’s an advertising way. If you’re on the “do not call list” they can still get you if you ask them to. Or if they can trick you into asking. Enter the electronic online sign-up-with-just-a-little-personal-information giveaway. I think I saw one the other day. It was on a corrugated plastic sign wrapped around a light pole at a gas station. It was from a major soft drink manufacturer it promised in big letters that one out of three bottle caps was a winner. And what was the prize? A ringtone. Pardon me if you can’t hear my whoopee through my yawn. A ringtone, now there’s a prize that’s got to be setting Pepsi back a nano-cent. Hey Harold, have the factory floor run off another gajillion ringtones, these winners are piling up faster than empty plastic bottles on the freeway. Yeah right, the only surprise is, it isn’t one out of one winners. And here’s all you have to do. Get a computer, go online, enter in the special code on the bottom of your soft drink cap, and, oh yeah, your name and address and phone number and email address and age and click on this box. Which, if you actually took the time to read the fine print, probably says you are not only authorizing them to use your information in any way they see fit, you are also selling your grandmother into slavery. A similar scam is out there with a major candy manufacturer’s promotion. The call it rapper cash or something and it has nothing to do with bling. Your candy wrapper earns you the right to bid on things in an—you guessed it—online auction, just enter personal identity and sign away all privacy rights here. The only good thing about this contest is the disclaimer. Tongue in cheek? I’m not sure. Overly litigious society? Maybe. The radio disclaimer says “Candy is a treat, use in moderation.” I guess they’re worried all that wrapper cash will drive compulsive gamblers to obesity. All right, a double blame-someone-else-for-your-own-weakness lawsuit. Is that the phone ringing or the cash register...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

#320 Walkin Tacos

I was in Yelm recently at their annual Prairie Days celebration. I had a great time. Yelm is at that cusp between small town and burgeoning metropolis that made our country great. They still have that enthusiasm of youth that makes them think that anything is possible. Things are growing helter-skelter but, like boomtowns of the past, that doesn’t seem to matter, that they are merely growing is a good thing, after years of languishing on the prairie as the bastard stepchild of Olympia. Prairie Days reminded me of my own childhood. Us hotshot kids would go to the county fair and make nuisances of ourselves. We were too cool to be entertained by the likes of corny carnivals and smelly 4-H animals but there we were. Small towns across the country share the same “there’s nothing to do” boredom of disaffected youth. What was really interesting to me was that these modern kids presumably had the evil internet and video games and email and texting and all manner of electronic connectedness that today’s youth sports and yet here they were at a cheesy carnival, riding spinning pukers and wolfing down elephant ears just like we did. Sauntering past all the booths of their elders, many of them designed to reach out to youth with constructive summer activity alternatives. The only alternative the kids sought was interfacing with the carnys, those romantic representatives of youthful wanderlust. Their modern circus, and potential ticket out of this stifling village and see the world, ironically, one small town at a time. Of course the kids would swing into their parents or relatives booths for some food—like walking tacos. Madison Avenue has nothing on small towns for creative marketing ideas. The McKenna Boy Scout Pack 64’s got walking tacos. Bipedal locomotion is always a dangerous direction to take when naming food, just in case a little too much time in the sun for the sour cream or a little breeze blowing out the Sterno under your chafing dish promotes some bacterial growth and your walking increases speed in your digestive tract to a, um, trot. What was that cool Taco Bell slogan, run for the border? That was Madison Avenue. They should know better. Foreign food and anything to do with running is not good. In any event the walking tacos were a great blend of home-cooked and junk food. The perfect Boy Scout “be prepared” hodgepodge of make-do culinary resourcefulness. You take a small bag of nacho cheese Doritos, pour em in a paper boat, add hamburger, cheese and lettuce, smother with salsa and sliced jalapenos and you got a semi-taco semi-nacho semi-snack food, Perfect to stroll around the park and snarf with your friends. And as a carnival souvenir you get that lingering Dorito cheese powder under your fingernails for a late night computer snack.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

#327 Kill Date

In radio, we have an expiration date on ads. The time an ad is supposed to stop, we call the kill date. Sounds like something from a twilight zone world doesn’t it? Some grotesque Kip Kinkle version of a play date. I’m going out on a kill date Mom. Okay Honey, don’t let it get out of hand into a spree. That’s another weird word, spree killing. Different, according to one South Florida author, than a regular serial killer, spree killers just go off on temporary rampages. Rampage is a better word. Rampage killer sounds more Rambo like than spree killer. Spree killer sounds like an Uzi-toting Ronald McDonald.
I like the idea of a kill date when it comes to men’s fashion. Your average man would respond to an expiration date on his, say, shirt rather well; he’s relatively good with milk cartons and cold cuts. He even tested well when one of the beer companies came out with freshness dating a while back. With cottage cheese he’s less than good, but in his mind cottage cheese is already something that has gone over, not to mention that his few encounters with it tend to be in the what-my-wife-put-in-front-of-me instead of steak the last time “we” went on a diet, category. Which must be why we say old fashion. Like old fashion ice cream parlor. Or is it old fashioned? As in fashioned from things that are old, like curtains are fashioned from fabric. An old fashioned Fourth of July celebration. With old fashion fireworks. So I read this story the other day. Actually it was two stories side by side. Google news arranges all kinds of new stories like an old fashioned newspaper layout. So these two semi golf related stories were side by side. One of the stories was a follow up to the Rush Limbaugh Viagra flap. Rush pulled a Winston Churchill and said the stories of his premature demise were inflated and that he wasn’t going to get a stiff penalty after all. There were too many points of legal confusion so the prosecutor, rather than just let the case hang indefinitely, decided to drop it. Rush was pretty up about the whole deal. Apparently, the Viagra had gone beyond its expiration date, and so was it still an illegal drug? Rush’s interview with at a golf course. The article right next to it said that Phil Mickelson, choker extraordinaire, would be competing in the Cialis Western Open. So, two stories side by side on the Google news page deal with both golf and Erectile Dysfunction drugs. The Cialis Open? Is there a demographic thing here? This has got to be the first time a Erectile Dysfunction drug has sponsored a major US tournament. They ain’t cheap. And they say drug companies aren’t making money hand over fist. It takes a lot of hard currency to sponsor the Western Open. But really, in a post Janet Jackson Superbowl world, is Erectile Dysfunction an appropriate subject for prime time kid questions? Just go out a play with your toy machine gun Kippy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

#329 Krud-up

So while I’m on the subject of Fourth of July waste let me just ring the bells of freedom and say distributing debris all over my yard is not my idea of a patriotic thing to do. While it may be true the single most signifying thing about American culture is our conspicuous production of waste, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to celebrate by creating more. Ring the bells of freedom and that’s what I mean. Let’s all get reusable bells and noisemakers and whoopee cushions. If you have to make a little noise to celebrate, get one of those disco noise things. To what purpose is it to blow off a bunch of explosives? Just because my neighbor is a pyromaniac, it doesn’t seem right that he gets one day a year to put all the rest of us in fear of a conflagration. Is that what they call it when you burn a flag, by the way, a conflagration? Say I was into flooding things to get my jollies. Does that mean that every Noah reenactment day I get to flood my cul-de-sac, putting my neighbors at risk of severe mildew? I don’t think so. Not to mention all my Vietnam vet buddies, who crawl under the table with shell shock every time one of my explodo-maniac patriotic stay-at-home peers decides to blow off a chain of bottle rockets. Question: The other day I was giving out balloons to kids at an event and one of them slipped from my hand. It promptly rose up to the stratosphere. So my question is, if it goes up, is it still litter? Cause bottle rockets certainly qualify. And those exploding mortar thingies definitely spray around a lot of particulate air pollution. Really, is a bunch of exploding gunpowder and paper good for the environment? I mean, they make teriyaki places have scrubs on their smokestacks to filter out noxious vaporized chicken flesh and soy sauce. I would think nitrates and saltpeter would be in the non-healthy-to-breathe category. They make smokers stand twenty-five feet from anybody. Maybe a patrio-pyro should have to blow stuff off an additional twenty-five feet from the presumed extent of his explosion. Or, I have a better idea. Make July fifth a holiday. We could call it “Sleep in for America day” or “Independence from going back to work tired day.” Yeah, that’s it. That solves all our problems, except the burning yard and trash, of course. But at least cranky spoilsports like me will be less cranky because we’ve had a good nights sleep. Better yet, let’s make July fourth always come on a Friday. Of course we’d have to drop the whole fourth thing but hey, “Independence Day” is well established, let’s just disconnect it from the fourth. We don’t celebrate Washington’s or King’s birthday on their actual birthday any more. We could make it the first Friday in July. And we could celebrate our freedom all night long. And the Saturday afternoon after could be Annual Neighborhood Cleanup Day. Then we could have the picnic.
America, ya gotta love it.

#328 Krud

So recently, my neighbors engaged in their annual burn-up-a-bunch-of-money fest. Oh, they got a lot of bang for their buck. In fact, they got the original bang for their buck. Cause they were blowing off expensive fireworks for half the night. People in the southland don’t appreciate the nature of living in the northwest when it comes to fireworks. Cause it doesn’t get dark here at a reasonable hour. Us early risers, if we want to have a halfway non-sleep deprived existence, must of necessity be early-to-bedders as well and already have to go to bed when it’s still light out. So unfortunately, come Independence Day, we are just nestled into a nice deep sleep when we are suddenly shocked out of it by a loud crash boom and a sound like someone has exploded a mortar round on our bedroom balcony. True story, the next morning I found an exploded cardboard sphere on my balcony. Thank God Juliet doesn’t live at my place: Oh Romeo, wherefore art this noxious sphere that explodeth me out of deepest slumber so mine underdrawers doest be drenched with the fluid of fear? Like I say, darkness falls late in the summer northwest and neighborhood blasters, armed with the ordnance of hellsfire and brimstone start exploding things at 10:30 and keep it up till after midnight, when they finally let it all hang down and shuffle back to sleep. And no doubt a late morning sleep in. I think perhaps it’s a conspiracy between our Native American brethren and our Chinese commercial competitors to deprive the active early to bed Americans of the vital sleep necessary to function effectively in a global economy. And it’s kind of strange when you think about it, that the two groups making the most money off American Independence day are sovereign nations not exactly 100% signed on to wishing the American people success. And another thing: Trash. I wake up the morning of July 5 and my yard is littered with krud. Blown shells whose trajectory indicates my house was in dire danger of going up in flames the previous night. Big cardboard tubes in the shrubbery next to my front wall, mortar spheres next to my garage door, numerous, small, expired bottle rockets on my dry lawn. All in good fun. Ha ha. Nothing better than waking up from a short night’s fitful sleep because of my neighbors’ exuberant patriotic noise pollution and finding my yard a litter zone of cardboard, confetti, scorch marks, and unexploded gun powder. Makes you proud to be an American, yes it does. Oh lighten up, Funny Guy you say, and I should. But it’s hard not to be cranky when your neighbor has not only deprived you of sleep but generously given you a yard full of litter to clean up as well. What made it worse was Independence Day was on a Tuesday this year. And Wednesday was complete dependence day, on the job I need to pay my fire insurance.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

#310 Wowboards

You’ve seen em, corrugated plastic, about the size and shape of political signs. Fastened to wooden or wire stakes and driven into the ground at intersections or along roadways. Except instead of political candidates they’re for furniture stores or mortgage places or lose-30-pounds-in-30-days-guaranteed. They’re that latest scourge on the advertising landscape, wowboards. I call em that because whenever I see em I go, “Wow, what the heck?” I suppose I could call them what-the-heck boards. But the point is they’re proliferating like bunnies on Viagra. It used to be you could actually see an individual wowboard tree but now, with a whole forest of them out there it’s like bank on a bus syndrome déjà vu all over again. When everybody’s doing it no one sticks out. The appeal of these signs seems to be that they are both effective and cheap—the two key words of guerilla marketing. Get your name and a message out there in way you can to slip under people’s ad-defensive perimeter. Once you’ve planted your message inside their subconscious, next time they need the product, bingo, they’re yours. Top of Mind recognition they call it. It’s all the rage. Used to be branding, before that it was positioning, before that it was name familiarity. Basically it’s all the same. Place your name in the prospect’s mind in such a way that the next time he’s thinking about your product he’ll think of you. The trick is, you want him to think of you in a positive light. So maybe you don’t want to advertise next to a documentary on the destruction of the big tsunami. Or as I’ve pointed out before, on the back of a diesel exhaust-belching bus.
So it may be that wowboards are heading in the same negative direction. We put up with political signs every couple of years because we have to. And candidates have strict rules about taking the darn things down once the election’s over. Real estate signs generally are on the property for sale. So how long is it before the cities and counties, finding every roadside and corner festooned with 2 by 3 advertising signs in prodigious quantities, start citing the responsible businesses for littering? I mean, if I throw a piece of cardboard on the ground, even if it has a “Will Work for Beer” sign scrawled on it, it’s still litter. What distinguishes these signs from the same designation? That they have a wire stake? Look honey, it’s litter on a stick! Is vertical litter any less litterry than horizontal litter? If I suspended a plastic bag full of cigarette butts and beer cans from a foil helium balloon at about two feet off the ground, would it be any less of an eyesore and an assault on the environment? The great thing is when the city decides to cite someone, the company name and phone number is right there on the sign. Um, yeah, that’s my sign officer, but, um, a vandal must have put it there...
America, ya gotta love it.

#308 Wasted

Sometimes reality is only a secondary issue in perception. Positioning is the key. If your first experience with Wal-Mart was when you were in college and it was the only place you could afford to get essential stuff, you’ll probably hold a fondness for Wal-Mart for the rest of your life. Even if the Wal-Mart you went to was new and the only reason its prices were so low was because it was actively engaged in killing the mom and pop down the street in its first wave of wipe-out-the-competition-first-then-raise-prices, overall strategy. There’s a great bumper sticker: “Wal-Mart killed my Mom and Pop.” It’s what I call the Ted Bundy effect. Neighbors and friends of Ted Bundy thought he was a nice guy. Only his victims felt negatively. His friends, well, “Yeah I liked Ted, I mean, he never killed me...”
It’s all about marketing. The monstrosity which is the way we tell people what we have to unload. It has grown steadily since the first caveman had too much meat and needed to fob some off on his neighbors before it spoiled. Here Ugg, try some almost-rancid rat meat. It’s, um, new and, arghh, improved.
Claiming a name first can make the difference. On the face of it, you would think a good name for an environmentalist would be “conservative.” I mean, they’re all about conserving things—especially nature. There are those to whom the idea of pristine unspoiled nature is hateful. The last thing in the world they want is to preserve nature in its raw state. They want to pave it and build houses and offices on it and put a Wal-Mart next door. They have laid permanent claim to the name conservative, because they are conserving our values—even though those values appear to be more destructive than conservative. The value of unspoiled nature does not appear to be among them. The value of commerce is paramount.
Somewhere there’s a middle ground. I too, like nice schools for my kids. Nice schools depend on a nice tax base. A nice tax base depends on nice homes in nice neighborhoods, which attract nice stores. One of the jewels in the park system of the city of Lacey is a place called Rainier Vista Park. It has baseball diamonds and soccer fields and big toys and basketball hoops and picnic areas up the yin yang. It also has acres of grass. And across the grass and the rooftops of the surrounding dense developments, you have a view or “vista” of the wild natural beauty of the craggy peaks of Mt Rainier. You didn’t used to be able to stand where the center of the park is and see Mt Rainier. The whole area was cluttered with a bunch of view-spoiling hundred foot trees. Arguably, its hard to play soccer in a forest. And with the new park you can still see one on the flanks of Mt Rainier. And it’s only 40 miles away...
America, ya gotta love it.

#307 Waste not

Waste is an odd thing. One man’s waste is another’s sales opportunity. Our neighborhood had their neighborhood garage sale again this weekend. Now that it’s in its fourth year, with the same people participating, I just don’t get it. How do you build up so much that you want to get rid of in one year? At some point, you got to get something you like enough to keep. Is it possible to have garage sale after garage sale without actually going out and acquiring stuff specifically for garage sales? Of course not. In a way, I suppose I should be happy. I’m always going on about the importance of recycling. Some of these garage sale items haven’t seen the inside of a house in a decade. They’ve just been shuffled from garage to garage on the social biddy-ness circuit. That would make an interesting movie sometime, following a white elephant item from garage to garage all over town, taking a snapshot of each owner that acquires it, illuminating the pathos and bathos of their existence during its brief stay, then moving on to the next family vignette. I do believe garage sale denizens and/or practitioners form a cult in its own right. And that the buying and selling of garage sale items is less for the money or the use of the items and more for the social interaction and sharing of a almost spiritual bond. I don’t know you well enough to invite you into my home but please feel free to peruse my garage.
Contrast that with cigarette-dropper lady. The other day at one of the strip malls a lady got out of her car. She had two grown sons. They all had butts in their mouths. They didn’t appear to be in any hurry. The mom pulled a half-smoked cigarette from her mouth, dropped it to the sidewalk, still burning, and shuffled towards the video store. One of the sons puffed furiously on his, ground the butt under his heel and followed Mama in. The other son stood casually outside the entrance by a sand-filled ashtray, smoked his cigarette till it was done then suffocated the glowing ember in the sand. How different people are. You can calculate that I’m on the last son’s side of the social responsibility equation. Cigarettes are litter. Crushing them and leaving the butt on the pavement is a social affront—a discourteous act to the rest of us. Not that people like that care, they can’t be bothered with little niceties like common courtesy. Theirs is a rude and ultimately unhappy world. In the attempt to assert their right to do whatever the hell they please, they find themselves shunned by their fellow humans. The mom really got me—dropping the half-smoked burning cigarette to the ground in a perfect finger to the rest of the world. She didn’t look like she could afford the gesture. At five bucks a pack, a cigarette is worth 25 cents. I bet if she saw a quarter on the pavement, she’d have picked it up.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

#306 Waste

A word is whatever we make of it. I recently met a woman at a Chamber of Commerce event. She worked for Best Buy, apparently in a sales capacity, I wasn’t sure. Her card didn’t say salesperson or sales representative or even account executive. It said “customer experience manager.” So I’m led to believe her position is managing the customers experience of Best Buy. Sounds like a feng shui artist, saleperson, facilitator, wedding planner and Dr. Phil all rolled into one. Talk about creating unrealistic expectations...
What is waste? Is it something we refuse to reuse? Is it all about intention? Is that what changes the inflection from reFUSE to REFuse. I remember the old Mariners t-shirts “Refuse to Lose.” When they lost we all started pronouncing it REFuse to lose. So at what point in the cycle of use does something become waste? The act of throwing it away? Take a piece of gum. I chew it and chew it till the flavor goes away even if I didn’t leave it on the bedpost over night. If my mom tells me to spit it out but I swallow it in spite is it now food? Or is it just waste in the upper tube waiting for a ride. What if I do spit it out as I’m driving along in my car? Is it now litter? It’s not inorganic but it’s not easily biodegradable either. If we come down on the litter side then there are a lot of sunflower seed eater husk-spitters out there that deserve some fines. If we come down on the organic okay not litter side we’re sliding down a slippery slope of discarded banana skins. How about if there’s another animal out there that can eat it or benefit from it? I’ve seen robins use Easter grass in their nests. Easter grass is more indestructible than a Twinkie. An apple core left on the ground is arguably useful to a raccoon or a possum. Squirrels will eat human nuts if they’re left out. If I pour a bunch of inedible-to-humans seed in my bird feeder and the birds toss all the bad stuff on the ground is it now littering? Animals die in the forest all the time and get slowly consumed by the recycling resources of nature. But when my dog dies I can’t drag him into the forest. I have to pay the pound to dispose of him. They have a very lush forest out back. Do crematoriums have emission standards? There are some mighty big smokestacks on the top of teriyaki places. They seem to filter out everything but the smelled of charbroiled chicken. Oil burning plants have scrubbers on their stacks to prevent toxic particulates from getting into the breath-o-sphere. Uncle Ralphy loved his beer. He died of an over-toxified liver. Hate to be downwind of the crematorium when he flared up to heaven. He was also into making pottery. And his final wishes were to use his ashes like they did with Mt St Helens—make them into a ceramic glaze and coat a series of beer mugs. Here’s to Uncle Ralph, the ultimate recycler, wasted to the last.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

#305 My Pet Peeve

I love dogs. For most of my life, a dog has graced the inner sanctum of my home—a boon companion, a solemn source of solace when things are bad, a giddy, panting, what-do-you-want-to-do-now when things are good. A bundle of willingness and clumsiness and unreserved joy. Dogs and their chosen humans get on good. But a dogs genetically-hardwired function, to protect the pack, which the dog’s owner is an extension of, can sometimes lead to trouble with the neighbors. Humans spread their courtesy more thinly than dogs. A human who doesn’t like his neighbor will nonetheless small talk with him. That same human, safe behind the confines of his own walls, will curse said neighbor and all his faults. Many of those curses fall on doggie ears. Even if they don’t understand every word they are completely capable of grasping the sentiment and putting said person on their doggie doo list. Dogs are not as disingenuous as humans, so when next little Fifi encounters the neighbor in question the yapping commences. Or if the dog is larger, he charges at the neighbor out to the perimeter of the property—and sometimes beyond. That brings us to a couple of human stories involving dog deaths at the hands of neighbors. In one, a family is suing their neighbor for a million bucks, saying he ran over their dog on purpose. The man served 90 days in jail for reckless endangerment. The family is seeking monetary damages for loss of companionship. Currently, the most a family could hope for is compensation to purchase a similar size and breed of pet, training, shots, etc. The law defines pets as property and not companions. This case seeks to break that trend. The dog was old and senile, and had taken to sleeping in the middle of a private road used by numerous neighbors. A case up north involved a man who used a shotgun on a dog that he said charged him. The dog was unleashed and on the man’s property. The dog’s owner maintains that her dog is gentle and loving and her next-door neighbor is a vicious brute. I had a dog who was an incredibly loving dog—to me. But whenever a friend or neighbor was on my property and turned their back, he would jump em. Dogs are like that. So I did the responsible thing. I kept him on a leash and didn’t let him roam free through the neighborhood. And, oh yeah, I didn’t let him sleep in the road in front of my house. Just like I didn’t let my young kids play in the road. Why? Because my dog and my kids were too dumb to know better. And because it’s not my neighbor’s responsibility to watch out for my companion or my property if I leave it outside my yard. And if a big dog comes into that yard and charges at me, teeth bared and growling, small talk or no, I’m gonna protect myself. Loving my neighbor does not include being mauled by his dog. Sorry, that’s why they say responsible pet owners.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

#304 Monster Wheels

The other day my kid came home—he’s sort of moved out—and wanted to borrow twenty bucks for food. He figured he could Value Meal his way through the week till his next paycheck. “What happened to your last paycheck?” I inquired fatherly. “I blew it on some wheels,” he said. “Cool,” I enthused, finally he was getting his own car. “Let’s take a look.” We went outside and he showed me what he had said. There was my car I still let him drive. On it were some new wheels. “Oh, I get it,” I said like the un-cool oldster I am, “when you say wheels you mean wheels. Wheels doesn’t mean car anymore again.” “Oh yeah,” he said, “it still does, I just meant wheels wheels.” And wheels wheels they were. He called them 18s, which I suspect refers to the wheel diameter, as the tires themselves now looked like they’re about as thick as the ones I put on my tenspeed. “No spinners?” I asked, trying to regain a modicum of hipness. “Yeah,” he spit, “like I can afford spinners.” I looked at the Civic with all its dings and dirtiness and birdcrap stains, the interior jampacked with Value Meal detritus, dirty clothes and coffee cups. But goldurnit he had some nice shiny wheels to roll that pile of junk around.
It reminded me; I was in a car dealer’s the other day and chanced to pick up a catalogue from Les Schwab. Ol’ Les has gone way beyond the Free Beef days. Oh sure, he still peddles tires but today he’s also spun off heavily into the wheel business. What goes around comes around. And to make even more opportunities to sell even more wheels and therefore more tires, he also installs lifting and lowering kits. So yes, while I expect somehow that Les Schwab would be a place you could get a raised suspension, so you could put those big monster tires under your big monster truck to cart home your big monster carcass of meat, I didn’t suspect they were also the place you could go to get big wheels, and lower your chassis, as you pimp out your ride. Is this a great country or what? Les Schwab is here to pimp your ride. I saw this one set of wheels I couldn’t believe, they were like 22s. And they showed them in a picture on a Cadillac Escalade. I always think Escalade is a great word for a great big car cause it sounds like a mountain brook coming off a soon-to-be-melted-by-global-warming glacier. But no. Escalade really means the act of scaling or climbing the walls of a fortified place by ladders. As high off the ground as Escalades usually are, a little flip down step from the running board would be a good idea. You can then escalade into your Escalade. But I see something very very wrong with lowering any SUV. Wasn’t the whole point of SUVs the sport thing? Take it on the backroads; see a little America in the raw. Not the way this SUV was lowered. Forget about stump-humping, you couldn’t clear a manhole cover in this monster.
America, ya gotta love it.

#303 Muzak 2.0

The music industry is known for its hyperbole. I was taking out an old CD the other day and when I attempted to play it, it skipped a lot. Sir Skip-a-lot, wasn’t he one of the Village People? Anyhow, when I took the CD out of the player I couldn’t help but notice it had more scratches and dings than the jewel case I’d stored it in. Hmm. One of the reasons I use the always-falling-apart jewel cases is because I’ve seen what happens to CDs when my kids put them in their little notebook soft plastic sleeve thingies. Or worse, the car visor slip-in organizers. One of my sons always had his on the visor so they faced outward, into to the sun. He found out that CDs not only scratch and ding, they warp. Or possibly he teenage-drove fast enough to go into warp drive. Seems to me the original hype on CDs was they were indestructible. But only if you don’t touch them or put them in the sun. Now they’ve come out with new combo CD DVDs. Why can’t they figure out a way to put all the data on the same side? I get so confused loading the wrong side into the wrong player. And the labels are no help. I stopped being able to read print that small when I was in my late twenties. Teeny-tiny nano-print in the center of the CD-DVD does not constitute readability.
Course it’s my own damn fault for insisting on listening quality. If I was smart I would invest in a Mp3 player of some sort. I mean hell, my hearing is getting as bad as my vision, maybe if I get a Mp3 player with a big screen I can read what song it is I can’t actually hear.
So maybe I should get one of those I heard XM radio advertising the other day. The ad showed a guy at a café listening to his XM radio. Presumably, he liked the song he was listening to as the announcer said, “just push one button and it’s yours.” Wow, a national company encouraging song piracy. It’s on the margins of legality to record a song off the radio. Oh sure, people do it, and they only do it for, um, personal use, but it’s not supposed to be encouraged or facilitated by a big company. I suppose a recording industry lawsuit is the least of their worries. XM and Sirius have to sell something. Because people aren’t listening. They like terrestrial radio cause they like ads and they like local announcers. Just music is for elevators. Nobody’s buying XM and Sirius radios for the radio. Sirius’s investors are seriously miffed—and suing. Sales aren’t good enough they say, and Sirius isn’t marketing as aggressively as it should. Oops. You know you’ve got a bad satellite radio when people just buy it for the built-in GPS. The Securities and Exchange Commission isn’t too happy either—there’s talk of bringing charges about exaggerated earnings claims and all that. No penalty is expected though, Sirius will probably just get off with a stern warning.
America, ya gotta love it.

#302 Mouse-ke-tears

Occasionally I’m chastised for doing something in bad taste. I think it’s more accurate that I do things in bad timing. Usually my humor response is a little quicker than my contemporaries, probably because when something makes me uncomfortable, my natural reaction is to make a joke about it. Like life.
All comedy, by its very nature needs to be a little on the edge. Part of the laughter response is surprise. You suddenly see things in a new way, or two things that were once separate are jammed together in a new combination and for a brief moment, it shocks your system. Serious thinkers have thought about this process and have actually named it the “haha” reaction. I kid you not. There’s a whole list. A reaction of shock is the “ah!” reaction. Wonder is “ahhh..” And epiphany or the eureka moment of discovery is the “aha” reaction. Then there’s the instant upset when you’ve done something wrong or banged your knee into a piece of furniture, the “ohsh--!” reaction. Named after that noise you make when you about cut loose and then suddenly notice your prim aunt Enid talking to the parson.
The great Bill Cosby is no exception. Bill is widely considered one of the cleanest comedians on the planet. Like Red Skelton, he sees no need to use profanity and amuses with inspiring little stories about human stuff. Kind of the Pat Boone of Comedy. Few know or remember that when Bill first hit the comedy scene he was considered a little edgy. In one of his first comedy releases he went on and on with the story of a dialogue between Noah and God. The famous “What’s a Cubit?” bit. There were certain southern fundamentalist religious groups that took great umbrage with a black man making fun of one of the scared stories in the good book. Dangerous stuff indeed. The only reason they weren’t measuring out more lynch rope was they couldn’t agree on what a cubit was. Today Bill’s original Fat Albert bit may go down equally badly, as more and more Americans find themselves joining the girth of famous opera singers. I’m talking of course about the three-tenners. Even though Placido Domingo can’t be over 220. In some ways we are becoming more sensitive, in others less, such is the dynamic of comedy. Shortly after 911 no one would dare make a joke about buildings collapsing. Now the observation that they didn’t need to spend all that money precisely placing dynamite charges on the Trojan tower in Oregon, they could have been brought it down a lot cheaper with two old Boeings and a load of airplane fuel, is still a little on the edge.
But the world is finally ready for the release of the lost Disney classic featuring Mickey as a slapstick knock-off of a World War Two Italian dictator—Mouse-ellini. But casting goofy as Hitler? Got the unh unh reaction on that one.
America, ya gotta love it.

#301 Miss-Shapen

I’m kind of surprised sometimes by Word. Not words plural but Word, the program. It presumes to tell me when my sentences are overly wordy yet it fails me time after time when I’m looking for a quick synonym. As most people who use Word know, when you position your cursor over a word and right click it, a little menu will appear on the screen with a list of possible synonyms for that word. Unless, of course, you’ve misspelled it, then a list of possible correct spellings will come up, unless you’ve really misspelled it bad, in which case an empty window comes up with nothing, kind of the windows equivalent of a shrug. Or possibly, if the word occurs in a sentence which has a green squiggly line under it, Word will ignore your request for a synonym until you’ve taken care of your fragment or your wordiness or god forbid, your passive voice. Word has a real thing when the passive voice has been used. Still, synonym-ally it’s quite deficient, or perhaps prejudiced. Right click under the word synonym for instance, and it tells you to check the thesaurus. Or perhaps it’s just saying that the thesaurus is a place I should check for synonyms. But yesterday, when I was writing about tarts and prostitutes, I thought I would check the word prostitute for a synonym, just to make sure tart came up. Nope. Word has no list of synonyms for prostitute. Nor Whore. I checked the word tart. A long list of synonyms for tart: Pie, tartlet, pastry, quiche, or sharp, bitter, acid. No saucy wenches there. So I begin to detect a G-rating system to Word’s instant synonym bank. Type in the word fox and synonym-isize it and you get deceive, trick, hoodwink, bamboozle, and not a hot chick in the bunch. Much less hottie or hunk or babe. Bill Gates, the secret prude. This window is through a glass darkly.
I had a normal upbringing with regular not too prudish but not swinging parents. So my prude quotient is about middle of the road, I guess. But I remember coming home once with a new cologne on. Teenagers are the worst when it comes to drenching themselves with stinkwater. My mom said I smelled like a French whorehouse. I was somewhat taken aback. The next year I came home from college, where I’d been living off campus with some roommates. They had taught me to cook a breakfast dish called by the odd name toad-in-the-hole or toat-in-the whole. Basically, you rip a circular hole out of the center of a piece of bread, put it in a frying pan with sizzling butter then crack an egg into the hole. Fry it, flip it and serve with jam. I showed my mom and she said “tote-in-the-hole? You mean whorehouse eggs.” So these many years later I finally have the courage to ask myself. Why did my mom know so much about houses of ill repute? What’s a synonym for warped?
America, ya gotta love it.

#321 World Mug

The recent early exit of the US team from the World Cup underscores the indifference most Americans feel for soccer—what the rest of the world calls football. Americans are high-score fanatics and games like hockey and soccer suffer in the public consciousness from lack of reward syndrome. Americans are motivated by the score not the process, the destination not the journey. We hear ads all the time about some place or another being your “auto shop destination” or your “dinner house destination.” Forget that you may have the prettiest drive in the world getting there or the restaurant is enclosed in a park-like setting of stunning natural beauty, it’s your “steak destination” that sells the sizzle. Some folks like the hunt but most folks like the head on the wall. Like in baseball, America’s pastime, if you include the Caribbean, Japan and Korea. Remember how baseball is always dinkin with the height of the mound? Get it up too high and it’s a pitcher’s game. A pitcher’s game has all the excitement of soccer—the battle of minds, the tension of wills, the poetry of motion in the gentle nuances of the infield players adjusting their cups or the outfielders spitting seeds. Pitchers games are inherently more boring than even baseball itself. No wonder baseball fans find themselves drawn into endless references to Rainman-like statistics. That was the first time since 1893 that a man on second was tagged out by a first baseman crossing over to third to field a popped bunt when the pitcher tripped on his shoelace. Definitely definitely, can’t miss wheel of fortune. So my theory is, baseball is to us what soccer is to the rest of the world. We’ve already embraced one catatonically boring sport there’s simply no room in the human psyche to hold two. And bedsides, we’ve got Nascar. Who could possibly watch a ninety-minute game, where the Deff Leopard drummer has as much chance as anyone else, that battles to a scoreless tie when instead you can participate in the dizzying thrill of watching a bunch of drivers race around an oval? Over and over and over and, oh yeah, did I mention, over. Auto racing reached its pinnacle in the good old USA. Why? Look at the size of the ad space. With every car and driver decked out in more logos than a phone book how the hell couldn’t it survive? And the drivers, their iron will, their steely determination, their incredible left arm strength. Cause let’s face it, auto racing may have been invented in Europe but they screwed the whole thing up by treating it like a stupid bike race. Auto racers aren’t supposed to actually go anywhere. How many people are going to be able to watch that? As one wag put it, American auto racing is as excruciatingly simple to understand as a shampoo bottle, go fast, turn left, go fast, turn left. Rinse, repeat. But say what you will, it sure as hell beats glorified kickball.
America, ya gotta love it.