Monday, June 30, 2008

#796 X-Truth

Lies are easy to spread. The truth takes time. It’s simpler to accuse than defend—the defense looks suspicious because it takes so long.
Now if you don’t like a candidate because you don’t like his or her politics, then don’t vote for them. But don’t make up lies and stir up fears.
The Swiftboat campaign of the last election proved one thing, lies need to be attacked swiftly or the boat will run you down.
Like the latest lie that Michelle Obama is on tape at the pulpit at Trinity Church at a conference using the word “whitey.”
The spin from the supposed happening is that Michelle Obama is a racist. And the further unspoken spin in the mind of a person who wants to believe this, is if it’s okay for a black person to be a racist, then I can be a racist too.
Neener neener.
One problem, the event never happened. Michelle Obama was not at the pulpit, the event she supposedly spoke at was actually at another hotel, and she wasn’t on the panel.
But that’s okay, when have facts ever stood in the way of a good smear? Dirty Trickster Roger Stone knows that lies are most effective when they agree with what people most want to believe.
These same folks, working for the Bush campaign at the time, used the same tactics against McCain in the South, insinuating that he had an illegitimate black daughter. McCain did in fact have an apparently mixed race daughter that he had adopted. She is Bangladeshi. How horrible it must have been, to have his kindness turned against him in the minds of the unthinking.
Like Kerry was blindsided and amazed that, after having served his country honorably in Vietnam—compared to drinking and AWOL-ing his way through the National Guard—his patriotism was called into question.
Obama at least understands he needs to react swiftly to Roger Stone and the talk show attack dogs. He set up a website called Check it out.
Unfortunately, it probably won’t make any difference with some.
Belief has always been stronger than fact.
America, ya gotta love it.

#795 X-it Strategy

Sometimes a story just begs me to do a commentary on it. In the end, so it was with this one.
Seems there are rumors that Denver authorities are preparing to use a new weapon at the Democratic National Convention should unruly crowds develop—angry Hillary-ites perhaps, or rowdy republicans. I’m not sure where the rowdies will come from, the anti-war movement is mainstream on the demo side, so there doesn’t seem to be a Chicago Seven sort of riot roiling in the background.
What’s controversial is the purported purpose of this noxious new crowd-control device. It controls the crowd by making them lose control—of their bowels.
That’s right. To quote a nationwide news article, it makes them “poop their pants.” There’s got to be something about the Associated Press saying “poop their pants” that has George Carlin rolling over in his seven words.
The weapon is called an intrasound weapon, which I suppose means that it focuses sounds on your interior, much like the weapon the army has that, with a brief flash of radiation, makes you feel like you’re on fire in the nerve endings deep in your skin. That weapon supposedly does no permanent damage.
This weapon can apparently do damage—to your pants.
The notion of bubbling BM bursting out your backside is pretty disconcerting. Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it isn’t.
But I think the whole thing could backfire. One of the biggest problems I’ve ever seen actually causing mob violence has been shortages of outhouses. Lines at large events leading to the loos have loosened many a social constraint.
People get angry when they feel they have no place to go.
And consider this, if you suddenly force a huge crowd of protestors to loosen its collective bowel, they may not decide to scat. They may decide to do something other than mudslinging.
Pooping your pants is only embarrassing when you’re the only one doing so. When you’re part of the crowd—a now really angry crowd—you suddenly have new protest ammunition. And poop flinging becomes accepted social behavior.
Ask any monkey in the monkey house.
America, ya gotta love it.

#794 X-Oral Healthy

So the other day I was at my health club. On the counter was a display that said “Free.” I’m always attracted to free. I’m a child of depression era parents who understood the value of nickel’s worth of pinched pennies.
Plus, the object in question was pretty much pressed upon me by the counter attendant at the club. It seemed impolite to say no, even though it was encased in one of those blisterpacks I hate trying to get open.
The product pressed upon me was an automatic toothbrush. This thing is amazing. It’s called the Crest Spinbrush. It has two head brushes, an up-and-downer and a round-and-rounder. It promises to give your teeth a dentist clean feeling.
Raising the inevitable philosophical question: Can teeth feel?
The handle of the spin brush is ergonomically designed for toothbrushing comfort. With a nicely contoured grip to, I suppose, avoid the excruciating pain of carpal toothing syndrome.
Nothing more liable to invoke a repetitive stress injury than vigorous brushing.
The motor of the brush has two speeds—Gentle and “Max.” It’s very important to have two speeds on any electrical device. Like “Cool” and “Max” on a hair dryer. People feel cheated if they don’t have two speeds on a gadget. And one of them has to be “Max.”
Really good gadgets have three speeds. Gentle, “Max,” and “SuperMax.”
The whole thing is designed to stand up independently on the counter. So now you don’t have to have one of those ceramic toothbrush jars that never quite match your bathroom towels. Which is good, because this puppy’s too wide to fit in one of the holes.
And here’s the interesting thing. It’s powered by two AA batteries. So my question: Do we really need another device in our lives that requires two more AA batteries, and the environmental consequences of manufacturing and disposing of them?
And really, do we need another device that robs us of what little exercise we have in our lives? Has it got so bad that we can’t even use our own power to brush our teeth?
And they gave it away in a health club...
America, ya gotta love it.

#793 X-Quisite Drugs

We are a society that loves our drugs. We look for reasons to pop a pill for a problem. The other day I was reminded of this as I enjoyed a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice that I’d freshly squoze out of a paper carton.
The taste was exquisite and hauntingly familiar. I finally placed it. It tasted exactly like St Joseph’s aspirin for children. I remember nearly overdosing on that aspirin as a child. I would watch my mom popping pills for her various aliments and would invent a headache so I could do the same.
St Joseph’s aspirin tasted good. I got in the medicine cabinet and ate half a bottle. Strangely, I survived without any brain damage. Some would argue otherwise.
So I learned to be wary of drugs. No matter how good they tasted.
I was also a boisterous child—disruptive in class. The class clown. I was energetic and failed to remain on task for long when assigned a boring project. My boredom threshold was low—largely because I was a quick learner. I grasped the essential concepts quickly and was ready to move on.
That quickness has served me well in adult life. In elementary school, it led to frequent exposures to corporal punishment. These days I would no doubt be prescribed Ritalin. I would be labeled with a disorder—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to be exact.
And I would no doubt protest being labeled—vociferously, loudly, and with a big ruckus. Which would call for a further diagnosis and round of medication for the newest psychological pharmacological craze—ODD.
That’s right ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. In the old days, we called it backtalk. Not “minding.” Being a teenager with an attitude.
The classic archetype of a young person developing aggressive personality traits to distance himself from adult authority figures and create a unique adult identity for himself.
There’s a great label to endear him to polite adult society. That boy is ODD.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Catch 22 disease.
Because one of the symptoms is you refuse to take the drug they tell you to take for it.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

#792 X-tras

So, some random thoughts today.
First an extra thought on an essay I did yesterday. I reported a scientific test that determined people eat more when they’re depressed about bad news. The study used college students, who were instructed to spend an hour either writing an essay about their own death or writing an essay about going to the dentist.
Afterwards both groups were led into a room where there were lots of warm cookies. The death writers gorged themselves, the dentist writers only had one or two cookies.
From this, the researchers concluded that thinking about death causes overeating. What they may have missed is that thinking about a painful trip to the dentist makes one want to avoid cavities—and therefore sweets like, um, cookies.
Random thought two. When it comes to large pieces of property, why is it rich people have estates and religious cult leaders have compounds? I suppose you don’t have to be religious. Crazy ultra-rightwing survivalist types have compounds too. But still. They’re just big pieces of land.
Random thought three. I heard an ad the other day for a musical act coming to the northwest. He’s a blues legend. A living legend as they say. That’s got to be interesting getting up in the morning. What pressure. First of all checking that you’re still alive, and then, that you’re still a legend.
Because you can be a dead legend. I mean, it’s pretty much a given. But can you be a living ex-legend?
In any event, this legend’s name is Buddy Guy. Is this not the ultimate generic stage name? What’s his band’s name? The Fellows?
How did this happen? Did he say: What should I call myself? Let’s see. People call me buddy. “Hey buddy, what’s up?” And people call me guy. “Hey guy, how’s it hangin’?”
I know, I’ll keep everyone happy and call myself Buddy Guy.
Random thought four. I saw a flier for an upcoming parade. It gave important times to remember. On that list it said, “Parade starts 11:00 am.” Then it said, “Pre-parade starts 10:30.”
Don’t look now, but the pre-parade has already started.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

#791 X-Mortality

It’s bad news that America is so obese. Especially when it turns out that America is so obese because of bad news.
The results are finally in; America’s obsession with bad news causes obesity. Wow. And for years we thought it was our sedentary lifestyle. Our heavily starched diet. Our vitamin-less fast food.
Perhaps those are contributing factors. But the big bottom line sits on a very simple principle. You only gain weight when you put stuff in your mouth.
A recent study tested a theory. Do thoughts of mortality affect how we eat? Different students were asked to write an essay contemplating either their own death or a trip to the dentist. Afterward they were exposed to a plate of fresh cookies and told to help themselves. Those that wrote about the dentist hardly took any. Those who had been dwelling on death for the previous hour gorged themselves.
Further tests helped researchers decide that things that reminded people of their own mortality caused them to eat more—an apparently hard-wired biological response to fears of termination.
The conclusion is obvious. If there is one thing that has steadily increased in America during the time obesity had steadily increased in America, it’s bad news.
Some of it, ironically, bad news about obesity.
More Americans have more access to more news outlets than ever before. There are more TVs in every room, from wall monsters to tiny sets under the kitchen counter. Every desk has a computer to click on news. There are even automated news alerts you can have pop up on your computer all day long.
Is it any coincidence they call them “feeds”?
Used to be America would tune into one channel of evening news once a day. That’s when we were on a sensible news diet.
Now it’s bad news gluttony. Wifi bad news flowing out of our laptops is making our laptops overflow. There’s bad news on big screens in every bar and every mall, with main screen sound and silent crawl.
We are bad news junkies.
And apparently, junk food keeps the jitters down between fixes.
America, ya gotta love it.

#790 X-Flabby

Cut, Ripped, Shredded. Sounds like a slaughterhouse doesn’t it? But this is cut without blood, shredded without pain, ripped without flayed ribbons of dangling gory skin.
These words are the new slang for a good look. This is muscular beauty. This is how young guys in dance clubs want to look¾so bad ass they use anal medicine to do it.
That’s right. It’s the newest dance craze and the newest drug craze in all the hip dance clubs. It’s in all the news—ABC, FOX, VH-1. It’s the emergence of a wholesome drug in a whole new off-label use. The popular pop-out drug? Preparation H.
That noble anal cream, minister to generation after generation of the rearly challenged. From truck drivers to peace officers, this cream has protected and served those in need of the relief of shrinkage.
But today’s’ kids have found a new use. Shrinking the skin over their chests and arms so they look more ripped. It started with body builders. They needed to look their leanest for the judges. But sometimes, try as they might, they might have a little bulge in the love handles, or an abdominal pooch.
Enter Preparation H. Apply to skin. Skin contracts, small site looks leaner. Enter crazed young bucks on way to dance cub. Slather mass quantities on chest and upper arms. Flabby dissolute lifestyle skin shrinks, girls more attracted, dancing and mating ensue.
Ah, true romance, thanks to hemorrhoid cream. Can’t wait to tell the kids how mom and dad met.
Preparation H, the first drug implicated with the first ‘roids, finally able to break away from the stigma of backside association that nearly wrecked ‘em.
Out of the dark alleys and into a bright new light of company non-condoned off-label usage. But hey, whose gonna turn down a little extra swelling profit.
I always thought the H should stand for headache and Preparation H would be a good name for a headache drug. A hemorrhoid drug should be called aspirin.
But in the final analysis, the H doesn’t have to stand for Hemorrhoid.
Now it stands for Hunk.
Of Burning Love baby...
America, ya gotta love it.

#789 X-Pired Tomatoes

It sounds like a bad science fiction movie. Beware the Killer Tomatoes!
Because the most recent threat to public health is tomatoes. The latest outbreak is from a rare strain of salmonella called Salmonella Saintpaul.
I didn’t even know you could grow tomatoes in Minnesota.
Actually, as of this writing, the FDA hasn't been able to track the source of the contaminated tomatoes to a single grower or packer, or even a specific geographic area. It is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health departments and the food industry to track the cause of the outbreak.
Before this, it was raw spinach. Before that, it was raw green onions, and raw lettuce. Do you see a pattern emerging? Someone, somewhere, doesn’t wasn’t us to buy raw veggies. It looks to me like the work of the anti-vegans. Carne-nistas.
Remember a while back when the only foodborne illness outbreaks were related to meat and dairy products? Under-cooked hamburger, restaurant hepatitis, and the dread disease of lukewarm lattés at internet cafés—E-coli.
But now it’s tainted veggies wherever we turn. For years, the health mavens have been admonishing us to eat our vegetables. And the rawer the better. Don’t cook them, you’ll cook out all the vitamins.
Just rinse off the pesticide residue and chomp away like a rabbit. Do like we used to shout at high school games—Eat It Raw.
Now, all of a sudden, it isn’t healthy to eat raw vegetables. We’re being told to cook everything again. Or better yet, buy canned. The high heat of canning may kill vitamins but it kills most gut bugs too.
Looks like a conspiracy to me. I wonder. Healthy-eating earth muffin types are also usually on the front lines as anti-war protestors, global warming warning warriors and administration detractors.
Maybe the good old boys of Texas BBQ, whose only exposure to a tomato is when it’s thrown at them on stage, have decided this is quick way to thin the numbers of the opposition.
And when everyone else has to cook everything, they’ll use a lot more energy.
And a lot more oil...
America, ya gotta love it.

#788 X-amine

So I was at this open house for a new medical sleep center. It was impressive. It will specialize in diagnosing and treating sleep ailments; particularly insomnia, but also night horrors, night tremors, and restless leg syndrome.
No word about getting up in the middle of the night and having a bowl of ice cream because your gut is rumbling.
In any event, the place was pretty cool, every last bit of calming feng shui technology employed to make the place comfortable and restful. The treatment rooms themselves were perfectly tricked out bedrooms, except of course, they were wired up better than a Guantanamo Bay detention cell.
A physician explained to me that the rooms were meant to mock ordinary bedrooms. Surprise, the former hospital-like decorating approach of sleep centers created austere clinical conditions that weren’t conducive to slumber.
I imagine.
If it’s hard to sleep at home in your own bed, dozing off in a clinic on a high gurney with adjustable side bars would probably get you pretty wired.
Speaking of which, they do still put a lot of monitoring wires on you. The doc said the patients get used to having all the wires stuck to their scalps and body, but I don’t know.
When I’m insomniacal I can’t even stand a wrinkle on my sheet. And every itch feels like a tiny spider’s hunting dustmites on my skin.
I’m guessing wires and tape would be a challenge.
But I think what would bug me worse would be the cameras. Because part of the process is round the clock technicians observing you in your bedroom.
Now I don’t know about you, but my bedroom is like the most private area of my house. And frankly, I’m not sure what embarrassing things my body is doing while my consciousness is away in dreamland.
I mean, if you’ve ever watched a dreaming dog pumping its legs chasing a sandman rabbit, you know what I’m saying.
One interesting thing about this sleep disorder center. It’s inside a large medical clinic. And inside the building, directly across from the sleep center entrance, is a full blown espresso stand.
No patients please.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#787 X-Person

Not long ago I wrote an article about the environmental effects of burial. Bodies taking up valuable urban real estate. Cremation releasing toxic gases from mercury fillings.
I suggested someone remove the fillings from my own remains, then compost me. Let nature take its course. Go green.
Well apparently, I’m not the only person thinking about eco-friendly internment. Which, as it turns out, is no interment at all. Or not much.
The method goes by the catchy title, alkaline hydrolysis. Which means, roughly, making liquid using lye. Basically, reducing your body to a slurry.
Can you slurry? Can you picnic? Woh-oh-oh.
Here’s what they do: Place the corpse in a steel container. Add the caustic chemical lye. Stir. The vat is then heated and pressurized, kind of a Kentucky Fried person process, but adding lye.
The remains reduce to a fluid that is sterile, brown, and roughly the viscosity of motor oil. This can then be safely flushed down the public sewer system.
A tiny amount of dry bone residue is left, which can be given to the family for inurnment in a pint-sized urn. Perfect. Who has shelf space these days?
From body to knickknack in just couple of hours.
Just don’t put the urn next to the Cremora.
The process is already being used on cadavers in medical schools. Critics say it’s disrespectful, but dude, digging a hole and stuffing someone in the ground is?
As always, the challenge is going to be coming up with a name that both captures the imagination and resonates with people so they choose it as an option. The funeral industry is actually pumped about the whole idea, lauding it as the first new game-changing technology that has come along in years.
So instead of “lying in state” will they say “stewing in a vat”? Suffice it to say the idea of being boiled, slurried and flushed has some PR work ahead of it.
Reducing granny to a sauce may be kind of charming if she was a good cook.
But seeing a loved one’s whole life go down the drain is a pretty dismal final image.
America, ya gotta love it.

#786 X-word Puzzle

Some words businesses choose to describe things make me cross.
And it’s a puzzle. Like whoever invented the term “Tater Tots.” “Potato Nuggets” works better for me. One of the taco places once tried to fob off the name “mexi-fries,” but it really didn’t catch on.
There is absolutely nothing intrinsically Mexican about processed re-rendered potato shrapnel. Maybe they were going after the refried potatoes of the refried beans set.
But Tater Tots is terrible. Using the term “tater” brings to mind trailers in Tennessee. And calling something a tot is dangerous territory in my book. Tots are most often associated with young children.
I’m not entirely ready to have the specter of children-eating added to my fast food plate. I usually avoid any food that is based on the young—Lamb, Veal, even that cleverly marketed juvenile chicken, the Cornish Game Hen.
Game hens, right—they’re toddler chickens.
So it is with tater tots, the young and tender veal of potatoes.
Another of my verbal concerns is the term “Nail Spa.” Please tell me how what is essentially a crust of dead protein entirely lacking in the nerve endings associated with feelings qualifies to have the pampering suggested by the term spa.
Oh, sure, any good torturer knows know the nail bed has nerves. But the signs don’t say Nail Bed Spa. They say Nail Spa.
So what do they do? Give your nails a gentle Swedish massage? Break out the tiny loofahs and vigorously exfoliate? Pack your nails in a seaweed and cucumber paste then wrap a luxurious heated Turkish towel around them in the shape of a tiny turban? Settle them into a diminutive desktop sauna and bake the impurities out of their microscopic pores? Then after an invigorating rinse with a pulsating modified waterpik, have Juarez the stylist come in and give them a sassy new look with some filing, filling, and a few foils?
Then off to a color consultation and a leisurely browse through shelf after shelf of nail product.
Spend all day with just you and your nails in total pampering luxury. At the Nail Spa...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

#785 X-pedient

Recently there was a big flap about American Airlines’ decision to charge passengers $15 to check their first bag each way. Some vowed never to fly American. Others screamed about their rights as travelers being violated. Some compared it to ATM fees.
Anybody noticed how all the banks are offering “no fee” everything these days? “No fees”, as in no fees like it used to be? Isn’t it interesting how they charged a fee for no apparent reason but greed in the first place and are now making a big deal about their generosity in removing the fee?
Getting people’s banking dollars a little tough, do you think?
I’m sure we’ll see the same thing with the airlines eventually. Waiving “bag fees” for certain customers. “Bag fee” removal instead of miles for another. The “bag fee” will become one of many negotiating chips to entice travelers to pick a particular airline.
But why risk all the fuss and negative publicity? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to raise rates?
Nah, you’re missing the psychology. It’s part of the ala-carte-ization of modern times. Used to be everything was “included.” Meals, bags, seats with legroom. But “included” doesn’t have any value in some people’s minds. People take it for granted. They tend to dismiss it. Throw it away even.
Remember your nuts on your last airplane flight? Think how valuable that bag of airplane nuts became when you knew it was your only meal.
Remember the first time you went to a fancy restaurant and you had to pay for your salad separate from the entrée? Did you throw that salad away, or eat every last parmesan-encrusted crouton?
So, by alacarting fees, the airlines can still look like they are charging lower fares on Expedia and Priceline and all the others.
They can slip in the fine print extras once they have you hooked, then lock you in an immutable, ironclad, supposedly terrorist-preventing, can’t be cancelled by anyone but them unless they bump you off the flight at the last minute because they’ve overbooked contract.
Nuts they’ll still kick in for free.
America, ya gotta love it.

#784 X on Speed

Not long ago, I heard about a thing called an MPG rally, in which people competed to beat their cars EPA fuel ratings. The driver with the largest percentage increase over average mileage ratings was the winner.
In the course of learning about this, a fact emerged we probably all ought to be paying attention too. Slowing down saves gas. That’s right, if you’re almost out of gas, drive slowly to the gas station. Hurrying will burn up more.
The fact is, any increase in speed increases wind resistance, and any increase in wind resistance makes mileage go down.
It’s a pretty obvious proposition; breaking wind uses gas.
So obvious that even airlines are having their pilots fly slower. What they hey, passengers are already used to frustrating delays so why not save incredible amounts of money by slowing down.
I put it to the test last Sunday night when I drove to Seattle. I thought, I’ll go 60. 60, for all of you who apparently hadn’t bothered to read the signs on the freeway to Seattle, is the speed limit.
In the hundreds of cars I shared the freeway with, I was only able to pass one person, and thereby remove my sense of total road emasculation. A woman in a diesel rabbit.
She was going 55. Which, you may remember from the great 70s oil embargo, was the speed limit imposed by our government then to force everyone to save fuel.
A charming pre-hummer philosophy.
It was really hard staying at 60 when everyone was passing me going 75. Every now and then, when I was the only other person on the road for a stretch, someone coming up behind me would slow down, thinking I had a radar detector sensing a cop nearby.
But when another person would race past them, they’d speed up too and rush off. Figuring, I guess, that the imaginary cop could only stop one of them.
I felt like I needed a bumper sticker to explain my adherence to what, after all, was the posted speed limit.
Something like: Slow ain’t stupid, I’m saving 20%.
When gas hits five dollars a gallon saving that buck will make even more sense.
America, ya gotta love it.

#783 Olfactory Direct

So I was reading a magazine the other day and there was an interesting article about allergies. Actually it was about a new, natural and effective, millennial old method for treating same.
It involved cleansing the nasal passages of microscopic allergens. The cleaning method employs an isotonic solution of saline and water. It is called by some nasal irrigation.
Yes, nasal irrigation.
I know I know. Sounds like you’re trying to grow your nose. What’s next, nasal fertilization?
And, although the theory is a good one, cleaning the inside of your nasal passages with a flow of warm fluid, the practical implementation means pouring water in your nose.
A shiver goes down my spine just thinking of it. Visions of the discomfort of swimming and diving in the pool and getting nasal burn. Or accidentally laughing while drinking and getting the dread searing snort of Coca-Cola.
And they’re telling us to do it on purpose?
There’s even a little device for it called a neti pot that has purportedly been used by people in India for ages. It looks like a tiny teapot, so if you’re at someone’s house in India, be careful of being offered tea. They use it as part if their daily routine; shaving, brushing their teeth, irrigating their noses...
If you’re into a more olfactory direct method, the article suggests you use a turkey baster. The American turkey baster, such a versatile household tool. From artificial insemination to nasal irrigation, who has time for turkey?
Anyhow, the article inspired me to look up the practice on the web. I found that the stinging sensation of accidental water-snorting need not occur if you have the proper balance of salt to water and you make sure the water is at room temperature. They recommend kosher salt too, as most American table salt has iodine in it, which contributes to stinging.
Simply squirt or pour into one nostril and let drain out. I’m guessing it’s messier than it sounds.
Oh, by the way, I teased about the term nasal irrigation. I’ve decided I can live with it.
The other term used by insiders is nasal douching.
America, ya gotta love it.

#782 Over Closure

I’m a little worried about the future of rock and roll. I suppose its natural for any living, breathing, vital, artistic medium to take as its raw materials the language and sensibilities of its era.
For shizzle.
So I guess I’m not totally put off if a rock and roll song uses the term “posse” or even “peeps.” I would even expect an occasional shouted out “Word!” or “Dude!”
What I don’t like is whiny psychobabble.
Songs about heartache and heartbreak and even an occasional crossover heart achy-breaky are all red-blooded macho rock and roll pain¾the angst sharing we come to expect from rock and roll and not a group therapy, sensitivity training, encounter session.
Rock and roll is its own psychodrama, it doesn’t need a facilitator.
Psychobabble is not rock. Don’t expect to hear words like “transference” and “acting out” in a rock and roll song. Likewise words like co-dependency or passive-aggressive behavior.
But lately some songs have crossed the line between legitimate rock torment and psycho-interventiony whining. And not one but two different groups used the word.
The word was “closure.”
I’m sorry, the word “closure” does not belong in a rock and roll song.
“We’re over.” Not, “We’ve found closure.”
“I’ve moved on and put my life back together.” Not, “I’ve found closure and adjusted.”
The group Daughtry in the song “Over You” and the group Hinder in the song “Better than Me” both used the dread word. And the bad thing is, they’re ordinarily pretty rocking groups.
Time marches on, I guess. I first heard the word closure in an episode of the popular early 90s drama-dy “Sisters.” “Sisters” was kind of the pre-cursor to “Sex in the City.” Four females confronting life’s vicissitudes and reacting to them in often sexual ways. And often making relationship mistakes. One of them was always having trouble finding “closure” from her current previous relationship.
What we take for normal is what we grew up with. Hinder and Daughtry must have been children then. “Closure” was an ordinary word to the kids watching the emotionally self-involved TV of the early 90s.
Oh well, at least it shows rock and roll is alive.
I’d just much rather it scream than whimper.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

#781 Offbeat Head

I’d be the first to admit I’m not cut out to be a cult leader. I lack one major ingredient in my psychological makeup—the ability to tolerate people who would follow a cult leader.
Some people have lanolin or wool allergies. I’m just allergic to sheep.
In any event, one recent cult incident has finally come to a more or less peaceful, if not entirely un-bloody, end.
Seems there was this doomsday cult in Russia. The offbeat head of it was a certain Father Pyotr. Pyotr, I believe, is the Russian equivalent of Peter, meaning rock.
Or possibly it’s the Russian equivalent of someone named after a soured kitty litter box. Pee-odor.
The wise Father convinced his followers that the world was going to end and so they should hole up in a cave. A much better alternative than caving in a hole.
After six months, the last nine members of the cult emerged from the cave recently. Last November, thirty-five of them went into the hideout and threatened to blow themselves up if the authorities tried to get them out.
I always like it when people threaten to kill themselves one way if you try to save them from killing themselves another way. Like the local guy not long ago who threatened to shoot himself in the knee in an attempt to keep the police from arresting him. He was a lot easier to catch with a shot knee.
Most of the thirty-five left the doomsday hidey-hole last April, but the last holdouts didn’t give in until two of them died.
At least for those two the leader of the cult was right. It was certainly the end of the world for them.
The leader, meanwhile, was hospitalized after beating himself over the head with a wooden stick. Get this: It was a suicide attempt.
I guess it takes the tenacity of a cult leader to beat yourself to death with a stick. Or possibly the word I’m looking for is stupidity.
Still, he did convince others about the doomsday thing. Maybe charisma works better when it doesn’t include common sense.
America, ya gotta love it.

#780 Off-track Petting

So not long ago we were at this go-karting place. It was totally cool, all indoor, quarter-mile track, really fast go-karts. I see why speed can be addictive.
These little butt-scooters zipped along at close to forty miles an hour. That doesn’t seem that fast in a big SUV, but buddy, when your equipment is zipping along at 3 inches from the pavement, it’s fast.
And amazingly physical too. Wrestling the steering wheel on these tiny road terriers left me feeling like I’d had an intensive upper body work out. Your shoulders and upper arms were pumped.
The race was eight minutes long and that was just perfect. I was whipped, not from just whipping around corners, but from driving myself to fantastic physical feats of exertion. Funny thing is, after I caught my breath, I was ready to get back out and do it again.
My goal? To beat my own time. The prospect of speed addiction was rearing its roaring head. Forget about road rage—this was road mania. Faster, faster, round and round, faster.
But the cool thing? It was also a pastime that brought other speed freaks together. There were adolescents there, country and hip-hop and RC nerds ready to drive a real car. There were older folk of all walks of life, and there was this one couple that was really surprising.
Surprising because they both left the place on motorcycles, but she had a Harley and he had a Japanese crotch rocket. She was decked out in leathers; he was clad in a brightly-accented tech suit that matched the colors of his bike.
Were they going to get it together for good, or just a little off-track petting? Was it possible that they could have a relationship? Cross-cultural relationships rarely work out. Go-karting could bring them together, but go-karting makes up a small part of life.
The biggest danger in any relationship is the everyday. Your Harley bikin’ buddies, his crotch-rocket cronies. Let’s face it, your whole perspective on life is different, shaped by whether you drive leaning back or leaning foreword.
And what about the kids? Vespas?
America, ya gotta love it.

#779 Observant Waste

A couple of food-related moral stories.
First, an interesting statistic. I’m not sure how they came up with it, I don’t remember participating in the survey, but it looks impressive.
Americans throw out 27% of the 350 million pounds of food they buy every year. The factoid comes from the New York Times.
27% of 350 million is 94.5 million pounds. I kid you not.
94.5...sounds like a radio frequency.
But really, that’s a whole hell of a lot of food. What’s more worrisome is that we apparently didn’t pay attention to our parents at all. All those evenings at the dinner table picking at our putrid peas and our moms telling us about all the starving children in China and what do we do?
Throw out more than a quarter-pound for every pound we purchase.
One thing worries me about this statistic though. There are 301 million people in the US. Granted, they don’t all buy food. Let’s say half of them are either children or farmers. That’s still 150 million people buying 350 million pounds of food. That means I buy 2.33 pounds of food a year. If I throw out 27%, that means I’m living on 1.7 pounds of food.
Lose weight with statistics!
The other food moral story is this. A meatpacking plant in Postville Iowa was busted by the immigration service, where they arrested 389 illegal aliens.
Wow. All the way from Mexico to Iowa.
The odd thing is, Hasidic Jews founded this plant to make kosher foods. I wonder if kosher foods are allowed to contain large amounts of irony.
Because kosher foods are made for observant Jews who wish to adhere to the dietary guidelines set forth, they believe, by their creator. The Laws. They abide by the strict laws of their scriptures to the point of making it really difficult to buy food sometimes.
And yet they break the immigration laws to have kosher food made cheaper. Illegally kosher. It just sounds weird.
I guess they never signed on to that “Render unto Caesar” thing, they were more concerned with how to render beef.
I hope they don’t waste any.
America, ya gotta love it.

#778 Occasional Redundancy

Abbreviations occasionally lead to weird redundancies and misusages.
A new abbreviation out is R.O.I. It means return on investment. How much you’re liable to get out of something compared to what you put into it. It was originally a business term. But now people use it in everyday language.
Especially with gas prices so high. A 5-mile trip to Dairy Queen for a blizzard may cost a couple of bucks in gas. So is the pleasure of the blizzard a good ROI?
Unfortunately, like the acronyms VIN and PIN, American language users don’t like to leave things hanging with a made-up word or initial. Which leads to the redundancies of “VIN number” and “PIN number.” So it is that the other day I heard a guy at a speech say “it was a good ROI on investment.”
Saying, “I couldn’t get any money out after I went to all the effort of putting my PIN number into the ATM machine so I guess had a poor ROI on investment” sounds okay.
But actually, it translates into “I couldn’t get any money out after I went to all the effort of putting my personal identification number number into the automated teller machine machine so I had a poor return on investment on investment.
I think I’m having a heart attack. Somebody give me CPR resuscitation.
Likewise my old favorite RSVP. I heard someone the other day backing out of a commitment to go somewhere. She should have simply said she wouldn’t be able to attend. Instead she said she would have to withdraw her RSVP.
That’s what comes of initializing French I guess. RSVP stands for Repondez S’il Vous Plait, which means respond if you please, or more Americanly, please respond. So, of course RSVP please is the redundancy, respond if you please please. And withdrawing your RSVP is withdrawing your respond-if-you-please.
Nonetheless, our facilities of understanding are plenty flexible so we all know what she meant.
And that wonderful capacity of humanity is why people tell cramp-brained little nitpickers like me to mind our own wax of the B’s. America, ya gotta love it.

#777 Obama O’Reilly

I think when people are hurt or afraid they tend to conflate all their fear factors into one ball of angst.
A while ago, I commented on some guys at my health club who had bundled higher gas prices, the mortgage crises, and levy rises all into one “they’re out to get me” paranoid scenario.
Reading the comments section of an article about the levy passing, I found two anti-levy complainers who advanced the same theory. The nebulous “they” were out to get them. And “they” were attacking through the pocketbook.
One guy said he might as well give up. The fix was in. They’ll just keep redoing it till they win, just like Gregoire.
I’m not sure if Dino Rossi wrote the comment or not.
Funny, since election weirdnesses left both Rightwing Rossi and Leftwing Gore on the sidelines, so it certainly looks to me like “they” can’t make up “their” minds who to screw.
But people hold onto their fears in spite of everything. And certain political strategists know that. A top Republican showed that the other day when asked about Obama.
He said something to the effect of, oh, once people figure out he wants to appease our enemies and raise taxes on average Americans he won’t last long.
I thought, wow. Hammering the power chords of fear. And all in a 4-second sound byte. This guy is good.
Like when they interviewed West Virginians after Hillary’s primary win. The three I saw may not have been indicative of the entire state but they were plenty scary.
One said she had voted for Hillary “cause of race. That race thing has been trouble.”
A guy said, “Cause he’s a Muslim. Them Muslims is out to kill all Americans and all we stand for.”
The third took it even one-step further. She said, “It’s cause his name is Hussein. We’ve had enough of Hussein.”
Where’s an elitist when you need one?
Presumably, she was referring to the Hussein that was a horrible dictator of Iraq who was recently, um, hanged like a dangling chad.
Like I say to my O’Reilly-infatuated dad, if there is a liberal media, it’s sure not doing a very good job.
America, ya gotta love it.

#776 Ouse

I must be getting to that old fart age. I seem to give young people unasked for advice. And, unfortunately, I seem to approach it as if I occupy some lofty perch and am dispensing pearls of wisdom, and not unwanted puffs of hot air.
The other day a young person had done a job at the studio. He had filled some holes with concrete. “I probably shouldn’t have to put a warning around the holes,” he said, “it’s pretty obvious it’s wet concrete.”
“When it comes to people’s intelligence,” I intoned, “always assume the lowest common denominator. People will go out of their way to find a way to be stupid.” I then placed chairs over the tops of the holes.
I was sure the wisdom-dispensing thing was old fartile the next day. The same young man wondered aloud why no one had carved his or her name in the wet cement.
“Age.” I said, “You know you’re getting older when having fun is too much work.”
But there’s still lots I don’t understand. Like the other day I heard someone instructing members of an organization on how they should register their spouses. And I wondered, is that the nicest word we have for someone we’re married to? Spouse?
The synonym suggester in my Word program doesn’t help.
One suggestion is, “other half.” Obviously unwieldy. Would all members please register their other halves?
It also suggests “wife” or “husband.” Again unwieldy—like our language’s possessive pronoun plural paucity “his and her”.
Another suggestion is “next of kin.” What is this, an Arkansas synonym program? I’d like to introduce my lovely next of kin to whom I is married.
Its last suggestion is “partner.” Sorry, sounds like a business arrangement. I’m surprised it didn’t suggest mate. But of course mating need not involve marriage.
So we are stuck with the thoroughly unromantic sounding “spouse.” Which, unfortunately, rhymes with the even less romantic louse and mouse.
Sounds like a bad game show question: Which of these three similar sounding things is often considered the most intimate domestic pest?
Mouse, louse, or spouse?
America, ya gotta love it.