Friday, February 29, 2008

#710 Acrimonial Text

I railed recently about the charges for texting and I didn’t even touch on a more insidious side of it. The old cellphone golden rule—as you give so shall your receive.
Except “golden” in this case means as in gold, as in money for the Ma Cells. The double whammy that means you’ll get charged whether you give the call or whether you receive the call.
And so it is with texting too. You’re just sitting there, minding your own business, and suddenly your cell buzzes in your pocket. You reach to answer it before it disturbs the room and it doesn’t buzz anymore. Oh, you think, that must be a text. And then it’s a junk text from your provider offering you new features.
At least you don’t get charged for that one, but it still upsets your concentration in the meeting.
Worse is when it really is someone you know and they are just saying that they miss you or something. Beautiful, wonderful, romantic—and 15 cents down the drain.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not sentimental, I’m just not 15 cent-i-mental. Cause that’s the kind of wasted cents that makes me mental.
I want to give flowers and candy and gifts to my loved one. I don’t want to be charged to receive a message from my loved one. It’s like getting a Valentine’s card postage due.
When you care enough etc, you care enough to pay for your caring. Hey Honey, could I borrow five bucks to buy you some candy?
Oh well. At least I don’t have the problem of this guy in England. I don’t have to worry about revenge texting. Turns out, he had to get a restraining order against his ex-girlfriend because she inundated him with vicious texts. 10,000 over a period of two months. An average of one every eight minutes. That’s about 1500 bucks on my plan.
Now that’s insidious. Terrorizing a person by forcing them to be charged for unwanted texts. There’s a cost for that “no greater fury” stuff you hear about.
Nothing worse than a dreaded Texting Ex.
Or is that Ex Texter?
America, ya gotta love it.

#709 Added Text

Texting has taken over the interpersonal communications market. How ironic. We went to such great technological lengths to communicate by voice and now we’re reverting to the written word.
It’s as if we’re saying to Alexander Graham Bell, “Hey, thanks for the talky thing but, you know, we really like tapping out messages on this telegraph key. It’s slower and, um, more likely to lead to misunderstandings because most people can’t communicate subtle things like kidding and sarcasm with the written word. But hey, we learned these letters and this code and everything...”
Funny. Most people can say what they mean ten times faster than type what they mean. Not only that, talking people are not miserable spellers.
Email spelling is bad enough. Failure to capitalize words, inattention to spellcheck with homonyms, flipping diphthongs in words like trail and trial, spelling is a minefield waiting for a flamenco dancer.
Now there’s texting, where every digit counts, so we’re forced to use the number “4” for the word “for” and other spelling nonsense. Why? To save valuable text space and therefore money.
Which, to me, is the biggest telecommunications boondoggle since the days of the Ma Bell monopoly. Back in the old days if you added an extra phone in your house you had to pay extra. Not an extra line, an extra phone. It wasn’t like two people could be on two separate calls and using up extra phone line space. But they made you pay anyhow. As long as they could get away with it.
So tell me, why should you have to pay extra for texting? Texting uses less digital bits than talking. Compare 14 songs of audio data on a CD and a whole encyclopedia worth of written data.
It makes no sense. A texted message takes less time to send, uses less digital space, and frees up the bandwidth more quickly. Even texting teenagers are not prodigious writers, but some people will talk forever.
You’d think the bandwidth-strapped cell companies would give you a discount for texting.
So here’s the subtext. It’s an “added” feature. So the Ma Cells will gouge us.
As long as they can get way with it.
America, ya gotta love it.

#708 Animal Dibs

The other day I was listening to something and whoever it was said “Hurry in and get first dibs on this great offering.”
Now I always like to contemplate how hard it is to be a foreigner and have to deal with learning American. Strange pronunciation rules are bad enough. But words like dib are likely not to be in your basic English/Foreign dictionary.
It’s certainly not in the basic thesaurus in my spellchecker. So if I were to say “I get dibs on that doodad,” it’s entirely possible I’d upset some poor frustrated immigrant enough for them to go postal.
“Doodad,” by the way, is in the thesaurus of my spellchecker, which lists as synonyms, thing, thingy, thingamabob, gizmo and doohickey. All words that fail to produce a red squiggly line underneath them, so they are totally Microsoft Word spellchecker approved.
Wow. Verbal legitimacy for doohickey. For shizzle.
So, from whence cometh the term dib? I’ve been placing dibs on things since kindergarten. But I’ve never actually seen a dib in the flesh.
I know what a dab is. It’s something you apply with a brush. Or any small amount of something. Would you like cream with that? Just a dab.
I’m pretty sure it’s less than a dollop and more than a smidge.
But a dib? Etymology dot com says that it’s “dibs”—there is no singular dib. It’s a “...children’s word to express a claim on something, origin 1932 in the U.S., apparently a contraction of dibstone ‘a knucklebone or jack in a children’s game from 1692 of unknown origin.’”
Dibs comes from dibstone but we don’t know where dibstone comes from. Except that it involve knucklebones of some sort.
I love it that the word outlasted the game that spawned it. Kind of like when we call naval folk “sailors”, even though the American naval vessels they are likely to serve on are currently without sails.
Or when our keypadded or touchscreened cellular phones have a dialtone.
The idea I’d like to claim dibs on for a future essay is that kids once played a game with the knucklebones of some animal.
That’s a toy someone was willing to kill for.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#707 A Lame Name

What’s in a name? Who knows for sure? In the current presidential race, it makes for some interesting speculation. Just the sound and the cadence of syllables in the names evoke different feelings. And reactions.
Take Hillary. Almost no one wants to call her Senator Clinton. As if some nationwide consensus doesn’t allow folks to take a step down from President Clinton. Maybe the media just likes calling her Hillary because Hillary rolls off the tongue. But it’s plenty familiar for a presidential candidate.
You don’t here them calling Barack Barack.
Or take Mitt Romney. I once was exposed to the German language for a number of years. Mit with one ‘T’ is the German word for with. I’ll have my weinerschnitzel mit kartoffeln—meat with potatoes. So my presidential candidate Mit Romney makes me wonder what kind of a side dish Romney is.
Or I heard a guy they other day doing a credible Conehead’s imitation, saying over and over Mitt Mitt Mitt. Consume mass quantities Mitt Mitt Mitt.
Mitt, I hear, is short for Milton.
Yeah. I’d pick Mitt too.
Then there’s Huckabee. Did you ever ride your bicycle when you were a kid? And the wind was blowing in your face on a warm summer day. The weather was perfect and the sky was crystal clear, with that incredible blue you can only get in late June. You just wanted to shout for joy at all of God’s creation. You had an almost religious rapture of happiness, and your mouth was hanging open in a big old expansive wide-open grin.
And then a bee flew into your mouth right into your throat. What did you do then?
Huck a bee.
Or possibly hock a bee. In any event, rapture was forgotten in the face of trying not to choke to death.
And then there was the mass joy of a rock concert. And that seems to be what one of the candidates is bringing to his followers.
So much that he was able to, um, Barackus at the caucus not long ago.
And they’re starting to call his campaign rallies, Barack Concerts.
And everyone is shouting his campaign train is ready to Barack and roll...
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

#706 Astrological Rat

So I’m listening to the radio and I hear this ad for a Chinese restaurant. They are inviting people to come down and help them celebrate the Chinese New Year¾and the year of the rat.
Do you think it’s a good idea for a restaurant to be bringing up a rat?
Not me. I don’t care if it’s Chinese, Indian, Irish or a good old pizza joint. Rat is not the word to use in the same sentence as restaurant.
Yeah, I’ll have the family size special please. And do you have rat pepperoni?
Oh senor, you have to try the chimichanga with rat, it is so especial.
Knock back a green beer laddie, this St Paddies we’re havin’ bangers and rats.
Pardon me sir, and welcome to the New Delhi deli, was it you that ordered the rat kebabs?
So I’m telling this to my son, and he comes up with an incisive observation. Why is it we never hear what the Chinese New Year astrological sign is any other year?
It takes a year of the rat to put it on the American media’s radar. And he’s right. Do you remember when the last year of the tiger was? Or year of the boar? How about the year of the ox?
Yes, they have a year of the ox.
People born in the year of the ox are supposed to be dependable, calm, methodical—and narrow-minded and stubborn.
That’s one cool thing about Chinese astrology. They give you the bad stuff too. None of this vague, namby-pamby, “generous to a fault” stuff like American astrology. They come right out and say what a jerk your sign’s bad traits can cause you to be.
I was born in the year of the dragon so I, of course, have the traits of being strong, self-assured and vigorous. I’m also dogmatic, overbearing, and brash.
Ouch. This yin and yang stuff cuts deep.
It’s great to have the heart, stamina, and lung capacity of a dragon. It’s not so cool to have dragon breath.
But hey, at least I’m not a rat.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

#705 Awakening Cell

Me going off on cellphones has been a pretty common theme in this column. Of course, since I’ve had one I find it hard to live without. I’m sure many a heroin and oxycontin user can say the same.
But at least heroin users can sleep. Yes sleep, and the same cannot be said for many cellphone users.
For years there have been inconclusive studies linking cellphone radiation to brain tumors and mental aberrations. It kind of makes sense, you got low frequency radio waves beaming right next to your gray matter. One of them has got to knock a DNA molecule loose at some point and trigger tumorescence.
As I said, all of these studies were inconclusive, but that didn’t stop me from carrying my cellphone in my front shirt pocket. My front pant pocket was never a serious consideration.
Even though it might have bestowed an Englebert Humberdinck in concert, roll-of-socks-in-the-trousers benefit. An updated Mae West might have intoned to Englebert at one of his concerts, “Is that a cellphone in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”
But a recent study has the ringtone of truth. It demonstrates that cellphone use before bed triggers headaches and insomnia. That’s right, insomnia. It said, “People exposed to cellphone–grade radiation before bed also had trouble reaching deep sleep, and they couldn’t maintain sound sleep as long as people not exposed to wireless frequencies.”
Oh boy, have a hard time getting there, and can’t maintain it.
The drug companies already have somni-agra in the works...
Or possibly Sleep-alis.
Swedish researcher Bengt Arnetz concluded, “The study strongly suggests that mobile phone use is associated with specific changes in areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system.”
Especially if someone calls you at 3 A.M.
So what they’re saying here is, no phone calls right before bed. Oh great. Another thing to fight with your teenager about. And another personal habit to undo.
Funny isn’t it?
Turns out those cheap nighttime minutes have a price after all.
America, ya gotta love it.

#704 Advocation

I normally don’t delve into politics in these columns. There’s enough arrogant pundits out there as it is and I don’t want to be one. Pundits are so sure they’re always right. It’s great for the media, but in ordinary life, people like that make miserable company.
So I was reading through the voters’ primary pamphlet and giving each candidate a fair look. Since voters’ pamphlets supposedly contain a candidate’s position in his or her own words, and since the size constraints of the pamphlet keep those words few, I figured it was worth the time.
One of the interesting things in the “bio” part of each candidate’s resume and position statement was the space for occupation. Not surprisingly, a number of them listed their government office¾Governor, Senator, US Congressman.
A couple of them offered other things. John Edwards said he was a former US Senator, former Director and former trial attorney. So essentially, he’s unemployed.
Good, at least he’s available to be president right away.
Or at least as soon as he passes the drug test.
Mike Gravel said his occupation was Presidential Candidate. Well that’s refreshing. We all know it’s a fulltime job campaigning, but no one’s ever just come right out and said they’re living directly off campaign contributions before.
I wonder if the Presidential Candidate job has good benefits. Like dental.
No one seems to offer dental anymore.
And candidates above all need a good smile.
Mike Huckabee ignored the line altogether, skipping right to the other categories on the list. How nice to have a candidate who just refuses to pay attention to a form like everyone else.
Look out constitution.
Fred Thompson lists as his occupations Lawyer and Actor. His agent insisted on the actor part—just in case.
And Mitt Romney’s resume says simply this, Occupation: Business. Huh? A rather broad category. No specific job, mind you, just business as a whole.
It’s good to think you’re capable of anything, I guess. Don’t want to narrow your scope any and get caught in a specific position you might not want to stay in. It can be so confining.
Especially if it’s not getting you enough votes....
America, ya gotta love it.

#703 Apiary Sauce

I hadn’t been in a Kentucky Fried Chicken in a while until the other night. Are they still Kentucky Fried Chicken—or are they again?
For a while I know they were trying to rebrand themselves as KFC, which for me always sounded like they were playing with Kool and the Gang for some reason.
I went to this one that had been there for awhile. So long in fact it had three different eras of signs on its front. I could tell because the Colonel had three different hairstyles.
The power of advertising. Pretty cool when a dead guy can change his hairstyle.
So when I went in, I was amazed. First off, last time I was in a KFC they didn’t have corn. Which was a good idea because you didn’t get confused about kernels at the colonel’s.
When I went there last, chicken was served in those great square boxes. They’d fold in a napkin, place hot chicken pieces on it and then pack around the little paper cups of coleslaw and mashed potatoes and gravy.
Coleslaw and mashed potatoes and gravy were your only choice for sides. Now you have all kinds of confusing stuff to choose from. And they serve everything in those segmented plastic plates with segmented domes.
It used to seem like a picnic box. Now it seems like a TV dinner.
I ordered original recipe. Funny, I don’t remember those eleven secret herbs and spices containing so much sodium. My biscuit seemed about 50% smaller than the old days as well, but that’s a good thing. The thick breading on the chicken skin probably contained more than my daily allowance of carbohydrates.
But as I prepared to put the honey on my biscuit I noticed something odd. The honey packet said “Colonels Honey Sauce.”
Honey Sauce? What’s honey sauce?
Are bees now sou chefs?
According to the back of the packet, honey sauce is high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, corn syrup, natural flavor and caramel color. Have things gone so horribly bad that they now have to economize by stretching honey with sugar?
The bees have gone missing and the apocalypse is here.
It’s sad.
And it’s just not good finger-licking.
America, ya gotta love it.

#702 Aught Grams

They say that cynics are romantics at heart, and I guess that’s true. Because here I am, years into the development of a crusty cynical demeanor, and I still assume the best in people.
Or at least not the very worst.
A while back, I wrote an article on “Zero Grams of Trans Fat” and how it was one of those stupid Madison Avenue Americanisms that were essentially meaningless, like “Zero Percent Financing” and “Zero Payments Until 2009.”
They use zero as a way of adding a positive spin to a sentence. Instead of no payments they say zero payments.
But then the other day I was eating some tortilla chips. I looked at the bag and it said “0 Grams Trans Fat.” Then I read the ingredient panel on the back and it said the chips were made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Wait a minute, I thought; partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is trans fat.
I then looked at the serving size. It said 7 chips. As I was even then on my 28th chip, I was suddenly alarmed. What if they mean zero grams in a serving? And zero grams doesn’t mean no trans fat, it just means not enough trans fat so it’s actually one gram.
Off to Guess what? They conducted a study of various “0 grams” advertised foods and they all contained significant amounts of trans fat. But those amounts were less than half a gram per serving and so legally the company’s involved didn’t have to list it.
Because, and here’s the cynical twist, a full one gram was not present in the serving size. If it’s not one it must be zero. Therefore it was indeed zero grams per serving.
Never mind that no one in their right stomach could possible eat 7 chips and walk away.
Never mind that as of the time of this realization I had already consumed 41 chips. (Fortunately 0 full grams over my daily allowance of 2.)
I had once again been fooled by a less than forthright manufacturer as to the goodness of their goods.
All very legal of course.
Like, if it makes no medical claims, snake oil.
America, ya gotta love it.

#701 Ambi-Valent

So I saw this ad recently and it struck me as a little odd. I like to think I’m up on new products and product categories but I admit, this one kind of snuck up on me like a Prius on a blind man. It’s a new car type. Not car—type of car.
Used to be you could pretty much count on a sedan, a coupe, or a station wagon. Then vans came along. Then mini-vans for smaller people.
Mini-vans, with all their luxuriant touches, were the gilded and gelded version of the shag carpet-enriched “If this van is rockin don’t bother knockin” vans of the 70s.
After that, everyone decided they wanted to look like they could drive off-road and the SUV took hold of America’s automotive awareness. Even though the sad truth was the most “off road” any of them got was when suburban housewives accidentally took a shortcut through the neighbor’s landscaping after drinking one too many Long Island Iced Teas at a bunco gathering.
The ad that finally shook my brain up enough to notice this new category was for a Buick Enclave. Enclave, as in, I guess, a closed society. Right there you got a cliquish snob appeal thing going. But then the tag line said it was “...the finest luxury crossover ever.”
And that’s the new category. A crossover.
Now set aside for a moment that the word crossover, a practical functional type of word, clashes with the word luxury, which pretty much sums up unpractical and non-functional.
Luxury crossover sounds a little oxymoronic. Like camouflaged high-heeled pumps.
But the word “crossover” itself... It’s like some metro-sexual description; maybe someone who recently decided on dressing like the other gender or perhaps making the whole thing surgically permanent.
At the very least, it implies a little bit of traitorism. Oh yeah, he’s counting on the crossover vote to get his bill passed. Ohio delivered the crossover voters for the republicans.
Or it’s like the new I-can’t-decide-what-sport-I-want-to-do shoes—cross trainers.
Metro-sexual? Ambivalent? Or just indecisive, hesitant and vacillating?
Finally, a car category most everyone can more or less sort of think about. The crossover.
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

#700 A Necessary Levy

I once felt the purpose of the newspapers was to provide unbiased news. Oh, they could do opinions too, but they were supposed to be on the editorial pages. Nevertheless, I did think it was odd that articles on the front page would sometimes take one side and sometimes another.
I eventually realized there was a greater purpose at work. It wasn’t about news. And it wasn’t about opinion. It was about something bigger, wider, and more fundamental.
It was about selling newspapers.
Shout those scandalous headlines! Incite the crowds! Get their ire fired! Get the people’s dander up so they’ll plunk down their daily buck.
So it is lately with the school levies. The local paper’s shouting scary headlines. Funny, an inside editorial says to ignore the headlines that very paper is blaring. Disingenuous? And as recently as last October it was publishing neutral articles on its inside pages about the upcoming levy and how necessary it is.
School districts are growing, technology is falling behind, special education needs to be funded, as do music, sports, and all the things we want for our kids and grandkids.
Our tech and science skills, once the envy of the world, are now the laughing stock. The U.S. has fallen far behind other countries in math, science, and technology.
And it’s partly because of our dumb way of funding schools. What if the army had to go to the voters every time they responded to an emergency?
And this knowledge crisis is an emergency.
Today’s kids are our future. And if they aren’t at the top of their game, our country and way of life will be destroyed as sure as you can say Chinese competition.
But now the newspaper wants to sell papers so it screams out “30 Percent Increase!” to get everyone all roiled up.
Gas has gone up more than you’ll pay on this levy. If you have a $200,000 home, your tax bill will go up about 70 dollars next year. That’s $5.83 a month. Less than 20 cents a day for a giving our kids a better shot at their future.
Less than the cost of an extra shot in your latte.
Of course, that’s not scandalous enough. And “Levy Costs Less Than a Quarter!” isn’t a headline that sells newspapers.
A subscription to those newspapers, by the way, costs about 500% more than the levy.
America, ya gotta love it.

#699 Atechno

I saw something a little disconcerting the other day. And it makes me wonder about technology.
Now I’d be the first to admit I’m something of a Luddite. Luddites are people who resist change and technology. I suppose it has a little something to do with my age.
After all, I’m so old I remember when they came out with three-mica.
But it also has to do with what I’d feel we are capable of as humans and what we lose when we depend too much on the technological.
A sense of accomplishment. A sense of satisfaction from overcoming problems on our own.
Is this instance, I saw a girl in a restaurant using her cellphone to figure a 15% tip. I’m sure the server was happy. The girl appeared to be happy, but somehow I felt like humanity took a step backwards.
Our kids have some of the best technology in the world. But it’s in their toys. Computers in school generally suck, as we make it difficult to fund education with a lot of levy nonsense every couple of years. But at home, those same kids have the newest X-box or PS-3 or Nintendo Wii.
They have their fancy cellphones that do everything but feed them intravenously. Their Ipods with a Library of Congress worth of compressed audio of compromised quality.
And they can’t figure 15%.
And it’s not just kids. We adults and our PDAs free our failing memories for more important things than the next appointment. Remembering how to get to a place in Seattle is no problem either. We can just turn to our dashboard GPS system. And hey, if somehow we do manage to get lost, we can always cellphone a lifeline back home and make it to the next level.
But lost is what we are. And longing for what we’ve lost.
Is it any wonder some of the most popular TV shows are about people stripped of the crutches of civilization and forced to deal with life in the raw.
It’s almost like being there and really, um, living.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

#698 Anti-Love

Here it is February already. Spring is just around the corner. And with spring, thoughts of love.
We got all your loving holidays this month. Except they aren’t really holidays because we don’t get to take a day off with any of them.
There’s Groundhog’s Day for all you rodent lovers. Mardi Gras for those whose thoughts of love turn to thoughts of abandon. And, of course, there’s the traditional Valentine’s Day, where we massacre one another with an affectionate over-abundance of heart-stopping calories.
St Valentine’s, by the way, is not only the patron saint of romantic love, but also of beekeepers.
It’s true, Honey.
He’s also the saint that protects you from fainting. Must be an exceptionally conflicted saint up in heaven when someone goes into a lover’s swoon.
The only holiday we do get off this month is President’s Day. A not very romantic holiday at all when you get right down to it.
Here’s a suggestion: It’s not so far from the day we really love, super bowl Sunday. If we started the NFL season a little later, we could have a 3-day holiday come super bowl Sunday.
We could even use the super bowl to educate people on presidents. Do a little on screen graphic with Millard Fillmore, a “Prez Day” factoid, some stats on his term, and then back to the action.
Just a thought. There’s already lots of football history trotted out during the super bowl, why not some real history as well?
In any event, we don’t give lovers much of a holiday. And a Japanese firm thinks that’s too bad. At least when it comes to broken loves.
This Tokyo-based company is letting staff take paid time off after a bad break up. They call it “heartache leave.”
I’m guessing it accrues kind of like sick leave. One day per month or something. Or the one-night-stand bar crowd would be off more than on.
It’ll never happen here in the US. Not until we give it a less wimpy name. “Heartache leave” wouldn’t cut it.
It would have to be something like PRSD.
Post-Romantic Stress Disorder.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#697 Unheard Reading

Who says jocks are dumb? These days they probably read more than a texting teenager with an emoticon generator.
Where? you say.
Bookstores are hurting. Magazines are all pictures. Newspapers are nearly defunct. Its TV, satellite, and cable TV everywhere you look. Bigscreens at the supermarket, bigscreens in the bars, even bigscreens in the churches, for gosh sake.
Ah, well, you answered your own question Kwai Chang, it’s all the reading on the TV. I challenge you to turn on a news-o-tainment show and not see script scrolling and scrawling across the bottom of the screen.
“The crawl,” they call it. Sometimes there are even two or three of them. Stock tickers, sports scores, and a continuous update on breaking news. All of this independent of the flashing, word dense graphics on the rest of the screen. Watching a news-o-tainment show requires more fractured attention span than an air traffic controller.
Or the hunter-killer mind that thrives on sports. Opponents coming at you from all sides, finding a path through the defenders, catching a ball, scoring the goal.
It ain’t all just brute strength or the ability to stand in the outfield for hours on end.
And bar and health club TVs hardly ever have the sound on. Instead they employ the hearing-impaired function that puts even more words on the screen and allows a viewer to read the sentences being mouthed silently from the announcers’ or soap operators’ lips.
It first occurred to me when I walked into my club and saw a bunch of people lined up on treadmills, trudging along, all of them with their lips moving.
Ah, I thought, walking and aerobic muttering. There’s a sure calorie burner. Then I turned around and saw they were reading the day’s news, their lips slightly out of sync with the lips of the commentator on the tube. Like a bad Japanese movie.
The most popular programs seem to be sports wrap-up shows. With snarky commentators dishing on the latest games and steroid-scandaled players.
So reading isn’t dead, it just not exactly deep.
Maybe they should do a show on sports in literature. I think somewhere in War and Peace, Tolstoy mentioned hockey.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

#696 Un-hanced

So this article comes out recently about new revelations in the steroid scandal. It seems that Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares has broadened his probe to include steroid and hormone users in the entertainment community at large.
I mean, why stop with every sport as long as you’ve got good public money to spend on dragging entertainers through the tabloids?
P. David Soares sounds like he has political aspirations for the governorship. Hey, it worked for Elliot Spitzer. After that, who knows, he may be able to ride his probe right to the White House.
Quite frankly, I’m not as upset as I suppose I should be about this whole steroid thing. It’s kind of like laissez-faire economics. Things tend to find equilibrium.
Like the recent revelation that Roger Clemons supposedly took steroids. He’s a pitcher right? If the pitchers are doing it and the batters are doing it, well it sort of all evens out doesn’t it?
A pitcher and a batter, both on steroids, levels the playing field. If, in fact, Roger Clemons did do such a thing, it’s not much different than the baseball league raising or lowering the mound.
In any event, District Attorney P. David Soares announced that the entertainers Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent have used steroids or human growth hormones. Now what’s the point? Does it put more hip in your hop?
Or the more insidious, and dangerous to society, hop in your hip?
Does injecting a little hop in your hip make you rap a little faster, get down a little harder? Easier to keep up with the rhythm or hit the beat?
A spokeswoman for Blige said: “Mary J. Blige has never taken any performance–enhancing illegal steroids” Well, that’s good. You want to avoid that performance-enhancing stuff.
Look what happened to Milli Vanilli and Ashley Simpson.
Funny thing though, when I first heard of the scandal I thought of P. Diddy Combs. Maybe because the investigator was named P. David Soares.
People watching the potential New York Governor candidates positioning themselves will want to know one thing: That Hip Hop Investigator—P. David Soares—is he running?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

#695 Unlikely Juxtapositions

Sometimes what hits me is things that don’t go together. Unlikely juxtapositions if you will.
Like that camo cellphone I was talking about the other day. What kind of ringtones do you get for something like that? They’d have to be camouflaged too or it would definitely give you away to the prey.
In fact, camo ringtones are available—duck quacks and geese honks, maybe even an elk whistle. Of course you take your life in you own hands when you use them.
If you’re sitting in the woods, all decked out in leaf flap textured, odor subtracted, invisible camo and your camouflaged cellphone starts erupting like an elk in rut what do you think the chances are you’ll draw a wild shot from a slightly inebriated fellow hunter?
Another thing that didn’t go together: I was driving by this church and it had a big sign that said, “Join us for Superbowl Sunday. Watch the game on our big screen TV.”
And I thought, that’s weird, but it’s clever as hell. The devil of it is, it’s a perfect workaround to the “I’m not coming to church on Super bowl Sunday” excuse. Invite that TV temptation right in and sit it down in a pew.
Talk about taking the mountain to Mohammed.
The only thing missing is the mountain fresh beer. Maybe you could sneak some in with one of those camo beer cozies I saw at the outdoor store...
Which was another incongruous thing I saw. On this tavern was one of those signs the beer companies will pay for if it also displays the name of the beer.
The sign said, “Welcome Bikers.” Okay, I thought, this tavern’s up for a little action.
Then I noticed the beer brand on the “Welcome Bikers” sign was Miller Lite.
I suppose it’s all right for bikers to worry about their beer guts but, you know... For some reason Miller Lite just seems a little wimpy for a hog-riding road warrior.
Sounds like maybe he and his buds are ready to watch the Superbowl at church...
America, ya gotta love it.

#694 Unforeseen Camo

I went into this giant outdoor store and they had everything you could ever imagine relating to outdoor stuff. They kind of specialize in hunting and fishing so I expected guns, bows, and fishing rods.
I even thought I might see a creel.
What I didn’t expect was a whole section devoted to cooking. From ordinary utensils, to smokers, to giant deep fat turkey fryers, they had it all. Jerky makers too.
These people take their hunting seriously. Which is good. If you’re gonna kill it, you oughta eat it.
And if you’re gonna mount Bullwinkle on your wall, then you at least ought to have some moose jerky.
So I was amazed at the camo section these folks had. But some of the camo products were perhaps a little odd. The products may be meant to be unseen, but the results of using them were unforeseen.
For one, they had camo wallets. Now I know from personal experience this is not a good idea. I once made the mistake of buying a camo wallet and taking it on a hike. It was one of those nylon tri-fold jobbies and I promptly lost it from my pocket one night in camp when I was shucking my drawers.
The next morning I looked all over hell and gone for it. Finally found it when I stepped on it. Guess what? Blended right into the scenery. Just like it was supposed too.
The stupid thing is, my wallet’s always in my pocket so it doesn’t need to be camo. I’m not going to take a regular colored wallet out and spook game because it’s highly unlikely I’ll be paying for anything in the woods.
Same with this other thing I saw at the store. A camo cellphone. A lot more expensive thing to drop and lose in the woods. And again really, if you’re hunting game is it a good idea to be jabbering away on your cellphone?
You think that deer might have a clue you’re human at that point? Because you’re, you know, talking...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

#693 Untied Together

So I drive around a lot in the course of my life. I lead kind of a drive by existence. And as I do I see things on the fly that make me wonder.
Like what I’ve come to call Key Bank architecture. Key Bank architecture is when a company gets big enough to have three or more locations and has one of two issues. It’s either not rich enough to have each of them reflect one architectural design, or it chooses to inhabit places that are, basically, available.
As a result, each branch looks like the design of whoever owned it before. Places with one architectural design are like McDonalds and Jack in the Box.
Key Bank architecture is most evident in places like Subway.
So as I was musing on this, I discover that I’m driving behind an Acura Legend. And I ask myself, do they even make Legends anymore?
And if not, then is Legend a more accurate name than ever? And was that some incredible piece of marketing foresight by some advertising genius? Or because some clever Japanese wit decided he’d like to name a car that would prove once and for all that the linguistic stereotype was untrue and it was perfectly possible for a Japanese person to pronounce a car named with the initials R and L?
Personally, I think Legend is easier to say and remember than RL. Letter names confuse me. GMC, GTO, CRV, I feel like I’m in a scrabble game gone horribly wrong.
So then I drive by this furniture store and it’s got every sign in the world festooned on its front and on flimsy corrugated plastic staked into its lawn. I couldn’t find the name of its tree for all the forest of qualifiers. As near as I could determine, it was called Your One Stop Big-Box Furniture Design Warehouse Headquarters.
Finally I’m driving home and it’s dark. The moon is rising in the east and as I look south I see a star emerge brightly from the clouds.
I make a wish.
Then the star gets bigger and I realize it’s a plane.
So does my wish still count?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

#692 Un Shui

I get into the habit of using certain words. Words that I didn’t understand before I started using them. Then I just naturally assume everyone else is on the same page and am surprised when other people don’t know what I’m talking about.
In the sales business, we call it jargon. You are supposed to avoid using it—inside terms about your industry that may make other people feel ignorant, and therefore resentful, and therefore think you think they’re stupid, and therefore don’t buy from you because you made them feel like an idiot.
All of which is to say that the other day I made a joke about feng shui and was surprised when the couple of people I made it to didn’t get it.
Feng shui, as you no doubt know, is the art of placing things in a room so the energy lines promote feelings of joy, good will, harmony, and possibly weight loss.
I don’t really know a lot about it, nor, frankly, do I care to, I just like the sound of the phrase feng shui. It’s confusingly Asian enough to stand in for any number of other Asian ideas or phrases.
One of the people to whom I made the joke was bumping the other and I said to the bumper that he should be careful because the bumpee knew feng shui. They both looked at me blankly. Then the bumper, obviously not sure, said, “Isn’t feng shui the...”
“That’s right,” I interrupted, “the ancient Chinese martial art of decorating. Bump her like that one more time and she’ll knock you out with a well-placed knickknack.”
At this point, everything resolved nicely into laughter. But like many jokes, it could have gone flat because the listeners weren’t up on the references.
But you know, it got me thinking a little further.
Ikea furniture is certainly not the most elaborate in the world. And its sparse, no frills, styling really doesn‘t lend itself to elaborate and foofy decors. It is, in a word, functional.
So would it be possible to decorate a place along that theme?
And call it functional shui?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

#691 Unstrung Tea

The other day I was at a coffee house with a friend and I decided to have tea. They had a bunch of different kinds in jars and it was cool to watch them take a measure of tea, place it on a piece of tea bag paper and fold it into a little diaper.
After pouring a cup of blank water, they gave it and the diaper to me. What, no string? I asked.
They looked at me with the scorn only people in the know have for the uninitiated.
It was like the first time I went to a peel-your-own-shrimp place. I really hadn’t expected to get my fingers that messy. So it was with stringless tea bags. I couldn’t figure out how to squeeze the bag enough with only a spoon so it wouldn’t create a sopping puddle on the table when I took it out.
And I really didn’t want a hot tea bag bouncing off my lips every time I drank if I left it in the paper cup.
So I wondered, is there some environmental crisis I hadn’t read about with teabag strings? Some exotic animal being choked with all the string littering the landscape.
Some bird perhaps, regurgitating the tangling remains of a teabag into the unsuspecting throat of its young, only to watch that bird-child waste away from the avian equivalent of an impacted colon?
Maybe a landfill-adjacent pocket gopher accidentally garroted by two teabags strung across his hole.
These are concerns.
And then I had another, because all of a sudden I wondered about the staple. So I went home and rummaged through my pantry for an old-fashioned stringed bag. I found some traditional medicinal herbal tea and, yep, my memory was right. There was not only a string, but a metal staple holding it to the bag.
Ah, that explains the taste that’s missing from all those fancy hand-diapered teas—aluminum. Or possibly nickel or some other base metal.
In any event, a probably toxic-in-enough-quantities metal leeching its poison into each and every cup of, um, soothing herbal tea.
So how do you fold those diapers?
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

#690 Unhinged

Life sucks then you die. But first there’s pain. Nothing funny here. Just thought that was a cool way to start an essay.
What is funny, as in odd, is that I need to find a way to turn off my unhinged and twisted brain.
The other day I was driving down the road and I saw this sign that said “We Don’t Serve Teens.” I immediately thought, is this a veal kind of thing? We don’t serve babies either, or even mature adults.
Because we aren’t cannibals!
So then, the song “Stacy’s Mom” comes on the radio. You know, the one that’s got it going on. The story of the teenager that’s hung up on his girlfriend’s mom. My first thought is, I wonder if Stacy’s mom was actually Jesse’s girl. And then, unhinged mother that I am, I think, what if Stacy’s mom was Mary Kay Letourneau? That teen got served a whole different sad song...
So then, someone tells me its 9 O’clock and my mind starts to whittle down that word. O’clock means of-the-clock. So what people are really saying is it’s 9 of the clock.
That means that at some time someone felt the need to specify. I mean it’s 9 right? Maybe 9 in the morning or 9 in the evening but either way it’s still 9.
Why do we need to stipulate from which method of time keeping we got our information? Was there once a big rivalry and the clock was deemed more or less suspect as to time accounting?
Well it’s 9 of the clock, but it’s 10 of the sundial.
Yeah, and according to the old hourglass its only 7:30, but it looks as if there’s a crack in it and some of the sand is coming out.
Time keeps slipping away doesn’t it?
Apparently, at some point in the past, the clock won out. But we still delineate the source of our measurement. Maybe we should modernize.
I look at the bottom right corner of my computer a lot. Should I say it’s 9 O’computer?
Or how about the timepiece that’s constantly serves our watchless teens.
It’s 9 O’cellphone...
America, ya gotta love it.