Tuesday, April 24, 2007

#500 Nibbles and Bits

There’s an old urban legend about Spam—the meat product, not the internet scourge. The legend is that Spam is much favored at those Polynesian islands where cannibalism once existed because it tastes like the meat of human. And here I thought it was because it didn’t spoil in the tropical heat. But it raises an interesting question. Does it? If you kind of like spam, like I do, does it mean that you are more inclined to cannibalism than, say, a wheat germ-gulping, kelp-flossing vegan?
Brief aside here. I’m never able to say vegan without thinking of that Star Trek series where all the different humanoid species with varying degrees of wrinkled forehead hung out at a space station. And it’s interesting that in all the episodes I remember of that show—which aren’t many because I’m even less of a trekkie than I am a cannibal— there were never any that actually dealt with cannibalism. Or even inter-humanoid snacking. And you would think that if you took the entire universe as opposed to, say, one small section of southern ocean on one small planet, you would be able to find at least one humanoid species that was up for a little cross-cultural buffet. Star Trek never even had anyone making the mistake of accidentally gobbling sentient chickens. And everything odd and foreign supposedly tastes like chicken.
Folks who eat gamey dear and bear swear by it. And love nothing better than plucking pellets out of a hindquarter of wild duck. So I suppose developing a taste for exotic human parts or spam is possible, and would make it hard to settle for relatively flavorless missionary cow. Still, depending on diet and all, I’d be willing to bet people taste pretty different from person to person. Corn-fed in Iowa or granola-fed on the coast. And forget about any form of human-eating when asparagus is in season. But Spam is always consistent. And, legends aside, it’s more popular in Appalachia than Micronesia. Because everyone knows Spam comes from the parts of the squirrel no one else wants.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, April 23, 2007

#499 Nose Knows

Recently there was a story in the news that, depending on how you looked at it, showed the best or the worst side of human nature. How compassionate we can be or how just plain stupid. It had to do with the recent pet food-tainting scare. Here’s the path of poison as it stands now. Warning: do not trust this source of information.
There’s a type of pet food put out by Canadian company Menu Foods called “Cuts and Styles.” It is a wet pet food. Wet means it has gravy and comes in cans and pouches¾too many to have been tampered with and resealed. The investigation centered on the gravy. An old mystery novel plot device, when in doubt, question the gravy. Butlers always have access to gravy. The sickening gravy was thickened by gluten. Or possibly the thickened gravy was sickened by gluten. In either event, the poisoned gluten appears to have been imported from China. Which is an interesting little sidebar on world commerce. North American farmers are paid not to grow wheat because if they did the price would plummet and the world market would be flooded with wheat and wheat products. A glut of gluten as it were. So apparently, in order to provide competitively cheap thickener for our pet gravy, companies import wheat gluten from China. And it is this economically problematic gluten that is the source of pet agony from Victoria to Sheboygan. Need I say it? This takes that gluten allergy thing to a whole new level.
But here is the story of incredible empathy, or possibly, egregious stupidity. A Canadian woman was sickened by the pet food as well. When her little doggie turned up his spoiled gourmet nose at her offer of Cuts and Styles—the pet food named after a hairdressing salon—the lady did what some humans do to baby humans. Put some of the food into her own mouth to demonstrate how good it was. Mmm mmm. I haven’t had thick gravy with rat poison gluten this good since the Woolworth’s coffee shop closed. So...think the dog smelled something the lady didn’t?
America, ya gotta love it

#498 Nigh

So the other day I was talking to my neighbor and I heard a horse neigh in the distance. For the first time the two words clicked together in the same place in my head. Neigh and Neighbor. Where did the word neighbor come from? Is it a farm term of some sort? Someone who lives close enough to hear your filly neigh, or your spouse nag? So I looked it up in my favorite online etymological dictionary. Guess what? Nope, no relation. Neighbor derives from the Old English “neahgebur”—“neah” meaning near and “gebur” meaning dweller. Neah is an example of language regression, as with the return to Old English practiced in Boston. Nee-ah. “Neah” is also where we get the word nigh. As in, I wish the end of this essay was nigh.
Neigh is imitative in origin. Like the word nicker, or the highly expressive bovine elocution, moo. Interestingly, when you look up the word neigh it gives as a synonym another word of imitative origin, whinny. Sorry. I don’t buy it. That’s like giving scream as a synonym for whisper. Another example of human arrogance. As if horses can’t have a range of expression. That are different and not repetitively the same over and over in a redundant way.
I admit it, sometimes my brain draws weird conclusions just based on the sound of things. And the neigh/neighbor deal isn’t the only one. Like I heard the singer Nelly Furtado the other day. I’m sorry but for some reason her name sounds like something on the menu at Taco Bell. Yeah, I’ll have the Nelly Furtado please, and a chalupa and some mexi-fries. I don’t know about you, but I envision the Nelly Furtado as a rolled tortilla stuffed with spicy unidentifiable chicken parts. Or no, wait a minute, an open-faced Mexican egg dish. A Taco Bell Frittata. And they load on that melted cheese sauce that’s not really cheese until you say whoa nelly. You know, like what you tell your horse when it’s running out of control. Or I should tell my brain.
America, ya gotta love it

#497 No Cost Obligation

There are few things more annoying than junkmail. Unasked for advertising is the scourge of American commerce. But at least with junkmail you know the sending companies are limited by the economic resources they can bring to bear on your particular mailbox. The internet version of junkmail, spam, is one of those things that actually is more annoying. And it’s out of control, because it doesn’t cost anything to the sender to send it. If advertising is free to the sender, why wouldn’t they flood you with offers for weight loss, penny stocks and cheap Viagra.
I worry about people who send out annoying advertising. As if anyone would buy anything from someone who makes every morning an email hell. When I have to wade through hundreds of spams to get to one possibly important message, which nowadays I’m likely to inadvertently delete anyhow, I am one unreceptive individual. But I really worry about the 1% of people who actually do buy something from a spam advertisement. Has our educational system failed that horribly? I mean, think about it. Is buying drugs from a spamming company a wise decision? Ingesting something from an unnamed and untraceable source is a hell of a lot more dangerous than eating green onions at Taco Bell. Yet, presumably, there are thousands of people each and every day forking over stiff cash for a cheap Viagra stand-in. Without even knowing the firm that formulates the pill in the first place.
But you know what’s the absolute worst in advertising? Junk Faxes. Or Fax Spam. We get them at the station all the time. Offers for mortgages and free trips to Mexico and what not. Fax spam is even more insidious because it still costs the sender nothing, but the receiver has to pay for paper and ink. Talk about adding insult to injury. I mean, it’s like having to pay for the privilege of having people advertise at you. It’s like my fax machine’s suddenly hooked up to, um, cable. It’s spam-tastic!
America, ya gotta love it

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

#496 Not Nice

Interesting news item lately. One of our local legislators was so upset a bill he supported didn’t survive he threatened to quit his position. As near as I could tell from published reports, he was angry his bill died at the hands of a fellow party member who appeared to have made a compromise with a special interest group. Much ado was made about his supposedly immature reaction. Kind of the equivalent of clenching his fists and stomping his feet. I mean, everyone knows that political officials don’t care enough about things to get actually mad. They’re only supposed to get pretend-mad long enough to get their point across.
But I always look for the deeper story. Why, I wondered was so much ballyhoo being made of the legislator’s tantrum? What was the backstabbing compromise that he supposedly resented? Call me a political babe in the woods, but I’m always a little suspicious of our tendency in American politics to be preoccupied with the personal and forget the issues. From voting for leaders for their looks to nationally obsessing over the first pets, we seem to miss the point of elected officials, namely that we send them to wherever to get a job done. And that was what this legislator seemed to take seriously enough to get in a snit over. He believed, wrongly or rightly, that his constituents sent him out to do a job. Which was to get new homes warranteed. The warranty he wanted included 2 years for general defects, 3 years for electrical and plumbing and 5 years for moisture issues. His bill was apparently killed because a Building Industry lobbying group said such a warranty would put builders out of business and destroy our economy. Pardon my immature innocence, but am I missing the point here? Warranties only cost money if they have to be used. Are builders only in business because they build crappy houses? And can they stay in business only if we allow them to continue to build crappy houses? It must be my childish logic that’s flawed. I think I’ll go home and suck my thumb in my mildewed bedroom.
America, ya gotta love it

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

#495 No More

Sometimes you wonder. I read about a study recently that was instituted to determine whether duct tape was effective in curing warts. I guess you could say the study was conducted. Well, high time if you ask me. It’s not enough that duct tape is the perfect tool for any household repair, it really needs to carve out its niche in the medicine cabinet as well. Seriously, expensive research was conducted to determine if the old wive’s tale about duct tape curing warts was true. Those old wives sure are our ancient font of wisdom aren’t they? Native Americans had their shaman (or is that sha-men? Sha-people?) Australian aborigines had their dream guides. We Euros have our old wives. I wonder how they originally determined that duct tape was an efficacious manner for eliminating warts. Did someone rescue a hostage one time who had been bound up with duct tape and notice the peculiar absence of warts around their wrists? Or perhaps someone who had been gagged. Were their lip warts diminished? Back around the turn of the century, it was a common ADHD treatment to duct tape hyperactive kids’ mouths shut. Maybe the old wives noticed then. Who knows, if this wart cure thing pans out, maybe we’ll see a new Ritalin-free classroom.
Funny thing about the results of the research. The reporter reported that the use of duct tape worked only 21 percent of the time and was no more better than moleskin. At first, I was taken aback that the Associated Press used the phrase “no more better.” I think they could have phrased things more better. But hey, the fact still is that duct tape works 21 percent of the time. And that’s more better than nothing at all. The other interesting fact is that other scientists are saying the study was flawed because the researchers used transparent duct tape and not the grey rubberized kind. They speculate the rubber facilitates wart removal. My question is, what idiot scientist decided to test transparent duct tape? These guys gotta spend more time in the garage. I know, let’s spend a huge amount of money researching whether coffee keeps you awake. But let’s use, um, tea.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, April 16, 2007

#494 Nubile

The other day I used the word versatile and it got me thinking. My mind is agile that way. Words that end in I-L-E- are almost always more socially acceptable. Partially it’s the sound of them. And partially it’s because they somehow manage to achieve a verbal distance. Saying the word “touch” is immediate and in your face. Saying the phrase “tactile sensation” removes any possible threat you may feel from that encroachment on personal territory. “Nubile” doesn’t sound as scary or as socially questionable as “horny” or “slutty”, nor does it carry with it any assumed condemnation. “Infertile”, pronounced with a long “I” in the last syllable, adds an air of scientific detachment to an emotionally difficult situation. “Domicile” sounds like a place you’re living but not really living. Not a home, just kind of a place where you’re staying while you’re waiting for some other change to progress in your life. As in: “He was staying in a domicile while he waited for the witness protection program to find him a new home.” “Juvenile”, delivered with an appropriate sneer, is such a snitty little down-your-nose denunciation. “Hey, they’re just kids”, is warmer and more human. “Pedophile”, unfortunately, sounds like a foot doctor. “Pervert” cuts to the quick. Or consider the word erection. The erection of a building was something you hardly ever heard discussed in the media because that e-word was considered objectionable. But the big-budget-for-marketing-because-they-charge-so-much-for-drugs pharmaceutical mega-corps discovered that the word erectile would work instead. It was so distant, scientifically detached and pristine, it could even be used during the family hour on the Christian channel. Heck, even former presidential candidates could say erectile. And do so while the guy that beat him was getting into trouble for executive deployment of same. Because erectile refers only obliquely to things that are erect. One could have an erectile spine or an erectile stuffed lizard—an erectile reptile as it were. An erectile disorder? Sounds like something my hostile third grade teacher would say when she wanted to correct my posture.
America, ya gotta love it

Friday, April 13, 2007

#493 Nefarious Litter

Sometimes I’m driven to wonder why words are what they are. Our language is so rich in some ways, with fifty different words for the act of sexual congress, and yet it other ways so deficient, as if the person in charge of naming certain things got lazy. Either like the biblical Adam got tired or he decided to delegate some of his duties to people on the naming committee. And then everything went to hell. If you’ve ever been on a committee you know what I mean. There’s always one person who loves to hear himself talk, one suggester, who always has lots of ideas but never does anything, and then at least one person who is just lazy period. The lazy person on a committee is the one you never, ever, want to delegate any responsibility to. He’s the one who always manages to suddenly have a family emergency when the project deadline rolls around. I think he’s the one who named litter.
Litter is a surprisingly versatile word. Or perhaps accidentally versatile is more like it. You got your trash litter to be sure. But you also got two—count ‘em two—things that cats do. They have a litter when they have kittens, but they use the litter box not, as you might expect, to have children but when they have to poo. Kitty litter can therefore be confusing to our young. At least it was to me when I was four years old. I knew what was in the litter box. So when I saw a mamma cat with a litter of kittens I thought something more nefarious was at work than the way I knew humans to be born. With a stork. In a way, maybe it was a good thing. It inspired my early interest in scientific observation. I was sure next time my mom emptied the litter box I’d hear mewling noises. So for a while, I was watchful and curious and a little bit scared too. I mean, if kittens could come from a litter box was it safe for my mom to leave my baby brother’s diapers soaking in the toilet?
America, ya gotta love it

#491 Source of Course

Every era has its ERA. The Equal Rights Amendment, remember? Or was that Earned Run Average? One of the first episodes in my life of acronymic confusion. I’m fully aware that if you want to be exact about it, ERA is not an acronym unless you actually pronounce it as a word but who is exact in this grammatically murky language we call American? The big problem with initials over words is that, depending on whom you’re talking to, they could come away with entirely different meanings. If I’m talking about equal rights for women and you think I’m talking baseball pitching statistics we could drop the conversational ball right away. So it behooves one to be careful. International Business Machines’ new initialization IBM worked for them only as long as nobody put out a commercial with a caveman introducing himself by the name Em. “Ug. I be Em.” Cavemen do get lots of fiber. AT&T must be working since every time a larger company swallows it up its initials keep getting regurgitated back out as its singularly memorable name.
The there’s the PDA confusion. Personal Data Assistant or Public Display of Affection? You choose. With the new sleek shapes and vibrating ringtones one could probably name it a Private Data Assistant as well. Or perhaps a Private Digital Assistant. There was a while there where I didn’t go anywhere without my Palm Pilot. And I know my palm better than most.
And if the confusion of PDA isn’t bad enough, what about the confusion of ED? Ed used to be a pretty straightforward term of address to a relatively whitebread middle class sort of guy. Hi Ed, how ya doing? Seen Ralph lately? Now ED is an acronym for Erectile Dysfunction. Which, sorry, still sounds like the iron framework of a new skyscraper collapsing. Maybe the Freudian Towers. But my big problem is I’ll never view talking horses the same again. Go right to the source and you’ll endorse there’s nothing that leads to a divorce of course unless of course it’s lack of force from the famous Mister Ed.
America, ya gotta love it

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

#490 Snarky and Such

I had an epiphany the other day. The biggest problem with epiphanies is cleaning up afterwards. All that personal revelation stuff is a real beast to sort out. But I still felt comfortable because my epiphany was that I had good friends to support me through all the weirdness in my life. Even my weird obsession with words. I love words and I love speculating about what I think they mean. When I first heard the term “astral projection”, I was convinced it had something to do with some kind of flatulence. Astral projection. Yep, still sounds like it. Or the other day a special lady in my life said she was giving me a ring. I was overwhelmed. Until I realized she meant she was giving me a special ringtone on her combo cellphone-PDA. PDA itself is confusing. Does it mean Personal Data Assistant or Public Display of Affection? Amazing how intertwined all our technical stuff is in our personal lives. And in a way I guess that with a ringtone that means just me, when I call her she is getting a public display of affection. As long as I don’t try to reach her by astral projection.
I was at an event the other day and a friend was telling someone else about this column. My friend went on and on about my snarky tone. Snarky. I really like that word. I had thought I was being ironic and a little bit supercilious from time to time, or at least super silly, but snarky? Snarky sounds like when I open my sneer-twisted lips, venom drips from my sharp teeth. Snarky...and here I thought I was being a curmudgeon.
Or an insufferable punster. My grandma used to cook with tongue. Once when she was frying some up in a pan, I asked her what she called a quiche with tongue in it. She shook her head with worry. A French quiche! I shouted. As she chased me out of the kitchen she said Spatula is a French word for tongue. They sting too. In this case I think spatula meant epiphany facilitator.
America, ya gotta love it

#489 Singlehood Challenged

One of the peskiest things about getting a divorce is the labels. The recently divorced suffer from a scarcity of such. When it comes to words here in America, the operating principle is, when in doubt go to the French. So the most popular term for the recently-divorced is divorcée. This is spelled and looks like divorcee, but is pronounced with a different frenchified vowel tone at the end. There’s also the pre-divorce term, estranged. Which for some reason always sounds like a stalker of some sort. She was pursued by an estranged husband.
There is at least a plethora of terms of endearment. Even though none of them quite hit on the mark. And until you get to the actual spousal terms of permanence, society doesn’t want to invest too much in temporary states of romantic being. If you are only starting to fall in love with someone, you lose all the variety of words of bachelorhood on one end and marriage on the other and verbally slide on the slippery slope of relationships.
So what do call your new friend? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? How junior high school. Flame? Can we possibly sound any more volatile and temporary? Inamorata? Descriptive, if you want to go around sounding all foreign and hoity-toity. My guy? My girl? As in, “I guess, you’d say, what would make me feel this way? My girl.” Great song but really, sounds a little possessive. My house, my car, my girl. I think I’ll keep her. How about lover? Well that kind of fits into the social category of T-M-I-. Too Much Information. It probably wouldn’t always be a good way to introduce your flame. Yes Parson Brown, what’s your missionary position on calling my girlfriend “Lover?” Significant other? A relationship between psychologists or accountants. Partner? Effective, but unfortunately too businesslike. So once again we turn to the French. Beau and Belle. He’s my Beau. She’s my Belle. I like Beau, sounds tough and rugged and French African foreign legion. Or like the thing that’s shoots cupid’s arrows. My Belle? Sounds like the new AT&T. They were single once too. Or was that Cingular?
America, ya gotta love it

Friday, April 06, 2007

#488 Say Cheese

One of the greatest things about getting older is you begin to see the world as a wild and wonderful place with so many possibilities, if only you back off from your prejudices a little bit and open up. Admittedly, opening up is hard sometimes, especially when part of your protective shell is crusty and horny from scar tissue. Horniness can be both good and bad.
But the first step in breaking out of the crusty chrysalis of self-important youth and emerging into the butterfly of middle age is to get over oneself. Don’t be so convinced what you think you knew is what is. Like the words connote and denote. I always thought they meant the same thing. Then I was writing one of these pieces that I knew a friend of mine who knows English good was gonna be reading, so I looked it up. Denote means to be a name or designation for. Connote means to suggest or imply in addition to literal meaning. Cheesy can denote having lots of cheese. It can connote tackiness as well.
Or how about gratin? That same friend and I were having a discussion with another friend. She pointed out to us that gratin did not necessarily mean a dish with cheese. Full of myself as I was, I doubted her. I mean, everybody knows au gratin potatoes have cheese. Scalloped potatoes have milk. But knowing the person, I began to doubt myself. Good thing. I was wrong. Turns out gratin is a French word for a casserole with a crusty top. Said crustiness can be facilitated by cheese to be sure, but can also be achieved with breadcrumbs and béchamel sauce. Gratin also connotes top brass. Whether because the whole thing has a golden crust, or military officers have a crusty attitude, I have no idea. The important thing, friends, is that au gratin potatoes, Kraft propaganda to the contrary, do not have to contain cheese. And although I love cheesiness in all its forms, having this woman tear away my self-important au gratin prejudice left me with a cool new fancy word for crusty.
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, April 05, 2007

#487 Snow What?

Food Food Food. The things you know. The things you think you know. Like the other day when I was talking about the various sizes of shrimp-like things. One of my listeners got upset because I didn’t mention freshwater lobsters. You mean freshwater midget lobsters? I asked. Yep, he said, Crawdaddies. Another regional favorite. At least regionally-named favorite. You got your southern crawdaddy and plural crawdaddies. And of course crawdad. I’m surprised there isn’t a craw-pappa or craw-pappy. Then there’s the crayfish, which I believe is the Northern term for the same Jerusalem Cricket-like mini-monstrosity. Then there the Mason-Dixon compromise, the crawfish. Frankly, they’re all bugs to me.
And speaking of bugging people, apparently there’s also a big culinary controversy over the langostino. Dumb gourmet-challenged guy that I am, I figured langostino was just a Spanish word for lobster. And indeed in some circles it is. Those same circles maintain that langostino is to lobster in Spanish what langouste is to lobster in Italian. Not so, assert others. They assert that the true langostino is actually from the crab family. Although it bears a roughly lobster-oid shape, it is more directly related to the snow crab. My tongue being unable to actually interpret DNA, I’m comfortable with something looking like a lobster being called a lobster, especially if it’s in a foreign language. I know on an intellectual level that the panda bear is more closely related to the raccoon but it’s still a cuddly teddy bear to me. So the fact that unscrupulous cooks are saying they’re using lobster bits in their cooking and that they’re actually from lobster look-alike and taste-pretty-close crabs is not as important to me as, say, over-harvested seafood generally. Or the fact that 15% of Americans have never heard of global warming. Pardon me for assuming those 15% are crawdaddy people. They’ll probably benefit anyhow. Rising global temperatures will give them a lot more bugs to eat.
America, ya gotta love it

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

#486 Savor

I recently watched a movie. “Mrs. Henderson Presents” I think it was. About a prim English duchess type that had a nude review during some war in England. Quite risqué for its time. And fairly risqué for ours too, as one scene featured full-frontal nudity with that Bob Hoskins “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” guy.
Fortunately, this scene wasn’t animated.
But it got me wondering, why the sudden rush by all these aging actors to appear nude? I mean, Diane Keaton, Laura Linney and Harvey Keitel barely scratch the surface of middle-aged actors rushing to don the robes of Oscar respectability while they doff the robes of self-respect. Let’s face it, a bare tush does seem to put one to the head of the line in the Oscar competition. Perhaps because it’s a testimony to how much you will sacrifice for your art. I don’t know. All I’m sure of is it definitely counters the trend of our anorexic-driven women’s magazine culture. No could accuse Kathy Bates of terminal thinness. But she did have the substance for an Oscar. Too which I say, go for it. If there’s one thing America needs, it’s a healthier outlook on body image.
We all start out looking pretty much the same—squirmy little diaper-fillers whose only saving grace is big-eyed cooing. Then we go through our middle life looking pretty different. All the genetic possibilities unfolded, all the wings unfurled and the peacocks tails arrayed to display our individuality and fecundity. Then, as we descend the steps of our final years, we merge again. Spine contracts, faces shrink, ears and noses continue their infinite growth.
I was driving behind some guy the other day and I thought, wow, that's my Dad. It wasn't, of course, but it was another 80 year old. Same silhouette from the back, big ears, hunched posture, baseball cap. It's as if all the genetic variations we have in the fullness of life reduce to the same basic structure. Grapes are varied but every raisin looks the same. Is there a lesson there somewhere?
Yep. Make wine while you can.
America, ya gotta love it

#485 Say Wahr

I was at the Governor’s Mansion for this soiree and fate managed to insert itself into my life in wonderful ways, which I’m not going to go into here. But it was interesting. The chief reason I went was the chance of meeting the governor in person. I didn’t want to interrupt my unbroken streak of Washington governor meetings that stretches back to Dan Evans. Okay, I never met Dixie Lee Ray. Since I am a radio guy, I also wanted to ask our governor a question that’s been on every Disc Jockey’s and Newscaster’s lips for a number of years now—how the heck to pronounce her name. For all the permutations of pronunciations you hear in the media you’d think she was named al qaeda or something. There’s greg-wi’-er, greg’wire, greg’-wah, greg-wor, greg-u-wire. Yes, greg-u-wire, kind of like the way people pronounce that car, jag-u-wire. She said her personal favorite wacky pronunciation was greg-ee-or-ee. Yes¾she said. Because I asked her. By the look on her face, you’d guess it was a question nobody ever bothered to ask, as if they figured they’d pick it up by osmosis somehow, or settle on the most common version in the media. Like people did with Newt Gingrich. For the record, the Governor, prefers the pronunciation greg-wahr’. Kind of like a redneck says wire. Think aborted state tourism slogan, Say Wahr.
The governor also now prefers to be called Chris. There is much speculation about why, but I favor the homonym school of political strategy. Which goes like this: Christine sounds like pristine, which not only overstates pureness, a political liability in these hypocritical times, but reduces too easily from pristine to prissy. Prissy in turn denotes an individual that is a little stuck up and perhaps overzealous in the personal hygiene department—as in anal-retentive. Again, bad images to overcome in the bare-knuckled, roll up your sleeves and get to work, male-dominated, political arena. Chris works better. Cause it kind of sounds like grits. And grit is what you want when it comes down to the wahr.
America, ya gotta love it

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

#484 Scampering Scampi

So not too long ago I was in Hawaii and I chanced to sample some of the island cuisine. One of the dishes I tried was shrimp. But not the shrimp I was used to. This was the full-on shell type, head and all. When the waiter first brought me the plate, for some reason I thought of the film “Alien.” And something bursting through my tummy on its way out to terrorize the world. Except, I was about to voluntarily put it into my tummy. I had never encountered a complete shrimp before and frankly, I was appalled. It was like ordering a steak and having the wait staff come out with a cleaver and a cow. Some things are best left for others if we are to maintain our genteel omnivorous society. Why is it, by the way, that we “gut” game animals, “clean” fish, and “de-vein” a shrimp? Are they telling me that vein thing is its digestive tract? Eeyew.
It’s really interesting how many shrimp-like things there are. You got your shrimp, which appear to vary in size from about an inch to about 3 inches. Then you got your scampi, whose name seems to relate to how hard they are to catch—you know, because they’re scampering away. Then you got your prawn, which is to your ordinary shrimp like Johnny Holmes is to that Harvey Keitel guy in the Piano. Then, apparently, the langostino, which is a macho Latin lobster wannabee, then your rock lobster, famous for its tail, and your Maine lobster, famous for the whistling noise it makes when you dip it live into boiling water. As if any scream can be called something as innocuous as a whistle.
But as the shrimp on my Hawaiian plate reminded me, all of them are nothing more than insects of the ocean. Big ol’ waterborne cockroaches, with antennae and feelers and icky tiny little articulated legs. What’s for dinner Mom? Crickets of the sea, kids. And you thought smiling motorcyclists were the only people who ate bugs.
America, ya gotta love it

#483 Spell Y’all

I was writing a commercial the other day, and I was attempting to do it in redneck lingo. Naturally, when I was done with the piece, I clicked over into mental editing mode and started parsing it for radio. Radio speak is also non-grammatically correct, leaving out many a modifier, preposition, and conjunction in the quest to be both persuasive and brief. When the document was done, it was almost solid green and red squiggly lines. You know what I mean, the mistakes so dense that when you go in to correct a red squiggler it won’t even suggest a spelling alternative till you deal with the green squiggler in which it’s nestled. So it occurred to me as I looked at the document that what the world needs is a redneck spellcheck. Country has taken over every other aspect of American life, from midnight cowboys to John Travolta bull riders. And beef is what’s for dinner again largely because of the basso profundo of that guy’s country-tinged good ol’ boy voice. So why wouldn’t it be a good idea to have redneck spellcheck? You could spell “get” g-e-t and the little red squiggler would come up and suggest g-i-t- “git.” “You all” would always be green-squiggled as y’all. You could set your autocorrect to always replace “that” with “that there” or the even more prairie poignant “them thar.” As in, “Hey I needs to git them thar possum bellies over to the moonshiner fore he lickers up his sister for the night. It would be great. And the envelope address tool on the whole redneck Word program would have the default address of “cuzzin.” As thar’s not one damn mailbox in any redneck town’s survived that thar cherry bomb festival nohow. It could open up a whole new vista of opportunities for Microsoft. I mean, you already have your choice of languages when you open up just about any new program. Why not dialect choices as well? Watch out for bugs though. Don’t want to confuse hip-hop slang with redneck spellcheck. Some unhip writer might talk about pimping someone’s rig.
America, ya gotta love it

#482 Sylvan Tower

I suppose it’s difficult being a municipality these days, what with the developers on one hand wanting to build up all the empty sections and bring in more tax revenue and the environmentalists and former residents on the other, wanting to preserve the natural beauty and relative peace and quiet they have already. Residents ready to put up with a few potholes if only the don’t have to wait too long in line behind the new traffic light paid for by the new tax revenues that were generated by the new developments that are making the traffic so bad they had to put in a light. Still, I’ve spent the last eight months in traffic hell. I’ve been putting up with the rebirthing of Tumwater Boulevard and seen new businesses struggle because the project has screwed up traffic and taken too long and old businesses fold because the new island down the middle is cutting off access to them permanently. Not to mention all the windshield-dinging flying gravel, the carwash-challenging tar-globbed mud, and the attempt to treat machines as sentient beings when they post the sign “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution.” Through it all, I have been unable to determine whether anything was being gained. It looks as if nothing has. The new traffic island is in place, virtually eliminating any across-the-street access, and the number of traffic lanes remains the same. Funny, I’m no traffic engineer, but it seems to me the problem with Tumwater Blvd was that there wasn’t enough space for the cars on it, not that some of them were turning left.
But I guess you have to expect planning screw-us from a city that went to all the trouble and expense to paint fake trees on their water tower so it would blend in better with the beautiful real trees in which is was nestled, then recently allowed developers to cut down all those beautiful real trees. Rumor has it; plans are even now afoot to repaint the water tower with densely packed houses. Maybe they’ll paint on a traffic light...
America, ya gotta love it

#481 Some Mistakes

It’s usually my policy to steer away from political humor in these essays. Politics is rarely light and Leno and Letterman already plumb the low points that are. I’m an independent, which usually means the right wing considers me too left and the left wing considers me too right. I like to think it allows me to perceive the excesses of both sides of the aisle. The only drawback is, come the wedding I’ve got no place to sit. That disclaimer in place, let me say that it is a testimony to the political brilliance of President Bush and his immediate circle that they have shown Bill Clinton a trick or two. As in the mea culpa. Mea culpa is a Latin phrase meaning roughly, “my bad.” Bush and the boys understood the lesson of Monica Lewinsky far too well. Get out there with your admission and apology early. Before the resentment starts to brew. Because we’re a pretty forgive-and-forget nation. At least a forget nation. Our history SATs are way down.
Bush has honed it down to a formula. The phrase goes like this: “Mistakes Were Made, I Accept Full Responsibility.” Then he rolls the dice, lands on the Community Chest, and draws the Get Out of Jail Free card. If only Clinton had said, “Mistakes Were Made, I Accept Full Responsibility” and said it early, what a different world this would be. For one thing, Inconvenient Truth wouldn’t have been made because Al Gore would have been too busy.
And the phrasing is simply marvelous—the wonderful indeterminate subject, passive voice. Mistakes were made. By whom? Doesn’t matter. Not the question. It’s just those pesky old mistakes. I accept responsibility but I’m not really responsible. It was those mistakes. It was their fault. Except Scooter Libby. His mistakes caught up with him. But his conviction has a bright side. Right wing talk radio has another recruit with the necessary requirement on his resume. Say what you will about Right Wing talk show hosts, they certainly have convictions.
America, ya gotta love it

#480 Super Duper

Homonyms always screw me up. Not least because I think I should be in a “don’t ask don’t tell” mode when I talk about them. Homonyms are my downfall because I don’t hear well and then rush ahead with what I thought I heard. I once got talked into seeing this teacher of ancient Chinese wisdom. I sat through the whole lecture thinking they sure named this guy right, because half the things he said were pretty obtuse and the other half were hard to understand. I expected it though, because I thought my friend had said we were going to see a confusion monk. Turns out, he wasn’t a monk at all and more importantly, he was Confucian. Confucianism was the original opiate of the masses religion promulgated by the ruling class to keep the lower orders in the bondage they so desperately needed. Really. It was good for them. Really. That’s why people need leaders. I mean, the Chinese emperors knew that if they had to depend on public opinion and approval ratings nothing would ever get done. Who would fire the prosecutors? Who would leak secret CIA identities to the press? Who would keep the Hollywood liberals in line? It’s all a land of confusion if you ask me. And I’m not sure about the genesis of that idea. Probably that there’s not enough love to go around. Superman where are you now? Alive again, I hope, because they killed off Captain America. That’s right, as if the world isn’t already a dreary, war torn and depressing place, now the comic book folks have killed off Captain America. Upholder of all that is noble and good and true. I guess it’s hard to be a nonagenarian superhero. I mean, the guy was like 30 in 1945 so that makes him what? 92? Hey, well, the nursing home set needs a superhero too. If only to administer the really difficult high colonics. High Colonic. Sounds kind of like a 70s cologne. Is that a semi homonym? And, tell me this Qwai Chang, why does homonym sound like something you can make grits out of?
America, ya gotta love it