Sunday, May 31, 2009

#1020 Dialing Days

Recently I was pushing the preset button on my AM FM radio consumer interface. I was trying to tune in 94.5 Roxy, which was at 94.5 on my FM dial. And I said to myself, I wonder how this radio thing tunes in these invisible waves, from who knows where, a process I’ve always taken on faith.
And more importantly, what is dial-ish about these buttons I am pushing.
Isn’t a dial something that you turn, like the old dials on rotary phones? The first radio dial did exactly that. It helped you zero in on a given radio frequency as it repositioned a crystal to more accurately receive radio waves radiating through the air.
So how did the word dial come to refer to movement along a series of numbers. Because we still dial the phone even though we now punch in numbers. And we still find things on our radio dials even though we no longer twist anything in a circle to do so.
I suppose the original dial, the sundial, may have something to do with it. The sundial was a time revealing consumer interface that cast a shadow on given increments and measured those increments as the shadow moved around.
Funny that your watch face isn’t called a watch dial much anymore.
Interestingly, the word dial comes from the latin di-es, which is pronounced like in buenas dias and means day. Think of the phrase carpe diem, which means “seize the day.”
Preferably with a new fish.
But dia itself comes awfully close to dio, meaning God.
Dio happens to be the final three letters in radio. Coincidence?
Not to the world’s first version of televangelists, the radio evangelists of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, who used to blast the AM radio airwaves with, um, “more fire and brimstone on your radio dial. All apocalypse, all the time.”
So when you adjust your radio and wonder about how it picks up all those invisible messages from who knows where, wonder no more.
It’s every bit as unexplainable as an act of God.
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

#1019 Tweet Storm

So here’s the headline I read the other day: “Google Service Outage Stirs Tweet Storm.”
This is strange on so many levels.
What would it possibly mean to someone from another century? Say Mark Twain. Service Outage? They didn’t even have electric lights back then. I doubt that anyone in Mark Twain’s time could even conceive of a public works system for which an outage was a problem. No lights. No cable. No broadcast TV. No radio.
We’re having a stagecoach outage today. The horses are tired.
But forget that, you only need to drop back a couple of decades and there was no such thing as Google, and certainly no Google for which someone would think of a service outage.
Google was a search engine. Doesn’t work? Go to Yahoo or AOL. Remember AOL? But now a service outage on Google is a cause for alarm. And not just any alarm; an alarm of folks who are engaged in the Twitter phenomenon.
Twitter people tweet.
Ain’t that tweet. I tot I tah a puddy cat.
Tweeting is the ultimate testosterone counterpoint. Yo dude, I got off my Harley at the tavern and started tweeting where I was so the gang could meet me.
So nowadays, we are Googling. We have a service called Google. We are tweeting. We have a service called Twitter.
Google sounds like something you once had when you were head over heels in lust and looking at the object of your desire. You had googley eyes. Now you have googley eyes when you’ve been sitting at your monitor too long surfing the web all day.
Surfing the web. Mark Twain would suppose you would find it difficult to do. Webs once tended to stick or hold things. Not that Mark Twain would understand what the heck you meant by surfing either.
But I think he would be totally amazed at the concept of a “tweet storm.” If only because it seems like a contradiction in terms. A tweet so insubstantial and weak. A storm so strong and threatening.
A tweet storm. Like being attacked by puppies.
Or ravaged by a flock of...butterflies.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

#1018 Pate’ Cake

I had an uncle who was the bane of this one restaurant. Every day when it first opened its all-you-can-eat salad bar my uncle would come in, load up on all kinds of stuff, and on a separate plate put this giant dollop of the goose pate’.
And I mean giant. It would fill one of those Styrofoam cubes like they once served Big Macs in. My uncle would then ask for such a to-go container and the waitress would reluctantly get it for him. He would then take the goose mousse home and serve it to his dog.
What always got me was I felt my uncle wasn’t playing by the all-you-can-eat rules. Take all you want but eat all you take.
As it wasn’t an all-you-can-eat Buffet but a regular restaurant with a salad bar my uncle felt the rule didn’t apply. It bugged me for years until I realized pate’ has a very short shelf life, and the proprietor of the restaurant, knowing my uncle’s early-bird eating habits, most likely put yesterday’s pate’ out on purpose, hoping my uncle would take all of it.
He still got my uncle’s money for the rest of his dinner and his pate’ disposal problem was solved. My uncle’s dog apparently thought extra-aged goose liver was dog food.
Like this story I read the other day. Researchers recently fed goose liver pate’, duck liver mousse, liverwurst, and Alpo dog food to 18 test subjects. Only three of the 18 were able to correctly distinguish the dog food from the other mashed up offerings.
I knew it. I always said pate’ tasted like dogfood. It’s not because 15 of 18 people have no taste, it’s because 15 of 18 can taste the obvious.
Just because we give pate’ a fancy schmancy name like foie gras, it’s still stinky fattened goose liver. And the liver is a bodily organ whose sole purpose is to filter and store poisons.
Dog Food is made up of the parts of animals nobody else wants. Unless you whip them into a French mousse.
Pate’ must be the food they served that emperor with the new clothes.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#1017 Grilled Unthinking

So the other day I heard a young folk talking about un-friending another young folk on Facebook. I guess that’s what he said. I’m no expert on Facebook. I love myself, but such public narcissism seems a little much, even for me.
When I want to communicate with my friends, I do so directly. Everyone else? May I recommend the America Ya Gotta Love It blog for recent insights into my existence?
But it got me thinking. Can you un-friend someone? I recently wrote a commentary about defrocked priests so the word de-friend comes more readily to mind. I de-friended them. Sounds more like the opposite of befriended.
And un-friended sounds like this Kentucky Grilled Chicken ad I got recently. In the pile of circulars that always comes on spam-mail Tuesday there were four flimsy fliers for fast food places—Arby’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and KFC.
Funny. McDonalds, the number one fast food chain, only uses TV and, um, Radio.
In any event, KFC may have been a little misguided when it came to positioning their new ad with all those other fast food chains. Because the new KFC ad admonished us to “UnThink KFC.” Which was easy to do because there were three other fast food joints offering coupons. Arbys and Burger King, both with giant sandwiches dripping with cheese and bacon, and Jack in the thinking out of the Box with multiple mini-burgers.
KFC was promoting its new grilled chicken, attempting to rebrand themselves as a healthier grilled alternative. Or is that un-brand?
It’s the same price as their regular chicken but without the egg dip, breading, and fry grease. Shouldn’t it be less? They’re saving on all that crusty stuff.
Oddly, they still offer the traditional high-calorie sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuit, so I’m not sure just grilling the chicken is going to be healthy enough to counteract all their cardiac-clogging cholesterol and carbohydrates.
A little unthinking behavior on their part, if you ask me.
If I want to be healthy, grilled chicken and a side of broccoli might make the other fast food places unthinkable...
When I’m unthinking KFC.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1016 Leading the Frocks

“Young Priest To Be Defrocked After Tawdry Affair!” The headline caught my attention. The story itself was boring, another religious leader caught in the mire of sin. Why is it those who tell us most what not to do most often get in big to-dos over doing it?
But the good thing is it did get me thinking about two words. Tawdry and Defrocked. Did you know the word tawdry can be traced to throat cancer? Yep. Tawdry is a bastardization of St. Audrey. It’s shortened from “tawdry lace,” which is an alteration of St Audrey’s lace, a gaudy silk necktie for women. The “tawdry lace” is sold at the annual fair at Ely commemorating St. Audrey, queen of Northumbria back in the 600s. Apparently, St Audrey’s association with cheap lace necklaces is that she supposedly died of a throat tumor, which she considered God's punishment for her youthful fondness for expensive showy necklaces.
Interesting fact, huh? If it hadn’t have been for the soon-to-be defrocked priest I might never have learned it. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Which leads me to the term defrocked. In the old days it was relatively common to call a monk’s habit a frock. But these days a frock is something a cheap tawdry woman might wear who wants to make a habit of a priest’s illicit attentions. So the only defrocking being done is from her end.
Do you go up to a priest and say, “Nice frock Father.” I think not. Still, there aren’t as many alternatives that imply stripped of office and responsiblilty as well as defrocked.
Demoted? Pretty soft.
Priests wear robes. Should we say they are dis-robed? It makes for an uncomfortable mental image. Especially with some of the priests I have known.
Defrocked sounds weird though. Like saying de-pants.
But that only leaves one priestly garment to remove in my vocabulary. The habit. Can you de-habit someone?
Not as fierce sounding as defrocking them, but at least now we can re-habit them. Then we can do the Christian thing, go for the redemption, and shorten it to rehab.
St. Audrey would be proud.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

#1015 Kerfuffling

A while back I was reading a news article and the writer used an intriguing word. Kerfuffle. As in, “after the kerfuffle was over about Biden’s remarks...”
And I finally asked myself, is this a word that just sprang full blown from some commentator’s head? Because it sounds suspiciously Snoop Doggy, like “For Shizzle.” But I seemed to remember it from some old English mystery book I’d read a long time ago. And I’ve noticed it since with increasing regularity. An old word become new, as fashions in words do.
Cool, maybe we’ll be saying “keen” again real soon, hep cats.
Kerfuffle can mean a dust-up or a mild fracas. Or possibly a to-do, as in much to-do over nothing. Some folks spell it kerfluffle. The online etymology dictionary says it was first used in Canada around 1930, so it’s a relatively recent coinage, but it actually comes from an older Scottish word “curfuffle” which means disorder. Today it usually means a fuss or a disturbance.
I just think it’s a fun word to say. Partly because it sounds like so many other things. Like perhaps a waffle restaurant of some sort. “Oh Daddy, can we go to the kerfuffle house?”
“You bet honey, I love their Belgian kerfuffles.”
Or maybe it’s more like those things they decorate cakes with. Like roses made out of frosting. “Did you see the kerfuffles on that cake? They were incredibly realistic.”
Then again, it sounds like something someone might name their cat. “Here Kerfuffle...where’s my snoogie-woogie Kerfuffle hiding?”
Or possibly a clown. “Ladies and Gentleman in a death-defying feat, being shot out of a giant t-shirt cannon, it’s Kerfuffle the Clown!”
Or maybe it’s those things that are kind of pleated and foofy at the bottom of curtains. “What lovely drapes Mrs. Robinson. And they have such delicate kerfuffles.”
Or some sort of iPod feature for the Twitter crowd to randomly sort their messages. “I set my iPod to kerfuffle.”
But my first thought, of course, was that it was a euphemism for passing you know what.
“All right...who kerfuffled?”
A disturbance indeed...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

#1014 A-Changin’ Times

The other night I watched a performance of the new cast of the musical Hair on the David Letterman show. It brought back the nostalgia of hope. I wept. As the young actors and singers moved through the nearly 60-something audience at Letterman’s show, you could see the recently-oldsters puddling for more innocent times. Back when the times they were a-changin’.
“The times they are a-changin’.” I still can’t believe Bob Dylan used that spelling in his song.
I admit, it sounds a lot better than the grammatically correct, “the times are changing.” And it is poetically ironic that the phrase he used to describe that change was itself a throwback to an earlier time.
Still, it spoke for a generation. That was back when the conservative folks felt protest was wrong. They didn’t organize tea parties with Fox News. There was no Fox News. People were still recovering from the red-baiting and hate-mongering of the McCarthy era.
It has always been far too easy for us to be afraid and hate.
The conservatives back then had this great bumper sticker. It said, “America, Love it or Leave it.” So I thought it was funny the other day when the Texas governor suggested secession.
I don’t always agree with my government. And I’ve protested about various things over the years. Civil rights and women’s rights. I hate racism. I would have really hated slavery.
But I’ve always considered secession as synonymous with treason. A duly elected congress and president are currently leading us. For the folks who used to say love it or leave it to now say they’re going to leave it seems a little ironic.
Speaking of which. The American Flag. I saw one on a truck the other day. Well it wasn’t actually flying in all its glory from the antenna or anything. It’s image was painted on a piece of plastic mounted to the hood. A bug shield.
In the age of Aquarius, hippies were roundly chastised for defaming the flag by wearing it as a shirt. How does rendering the flag as a bug shield fit into that respect spectrum?
The times they are a changin’...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

#1013 Food-ovations

The times they are a changin’ when it comes to food. There’s lots of food innovations, or food-ovations as I like to call them. Because I like to applaud them as well.
For instance, I spent most of last weekend eating table paraphernalia. I had volunteered to emcee at a volunteer center dinner and the focus of the evening was sugar art creations.
They had this one team that was actually blowing sugar like you blow glass and creating Chihouly-like pieces of art. Amazing. The closest I’ve ever come to inflating recognizable sugar shapes was the spheres of Bazooka bubble gum I blew up as a youth.
In any event, they also had centerpieces made of styled sugar and hardened frosting. They insisted I take one home for my evening’s efforts and so I’ve been nibbling away on a beautiful centerpiece ever since.
Eating art seems so wrong somehow.
Then I was at the grand opening of a new apartment complex and they had Dominos Pizza with their new stuffed bowl thingie. Basically, they take a pasta dish like sausage marinara with penne pasta, and load it into a bread bowl, which is actually made with pizza dough, and cook up the whole thing.
Mighty filling I must say. And there’s something to be said for being able to eat the container your food is served in. Devouring the bowl was pretty cool. And I felt a little eco-smug at the same time because I saved all that dishwasher energy. Now if they could only work out a way to make the pizza box itself edible we’ll go a long way towards solving one of our worst urban trash problems.
The apartment place had another food-ovation. It was a machine that automatically makes lattes and cappuccinos. I kid you not. Press a button and it whips up a cappuccino, froth and all.
The only thing missing is the barista foam art.
It probably won’t catch on unless they get a better marketing firm behind it. Because, strangely, the cappuccino machine didn’t have a catchy name.
I suggest cappu-machino.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

#1012 Gaping Error

Perhaps the downfall of journalism can be traced to its astonishing ignorance when it comes to things astronomical. I’m not saying every news service writer needs to be a scientist. I just wish that when they employed metaphors and similes from the world of science, they were a little more accurate about what it is they are metaphoring or similizing.
I’ve ranted before about the bad use of the term meteoric. As in “The famous person abruptly ended his meteoric rise to fame.” Or “his meteoric career just keeps on rising with a new hit in the top 40!”
As any schoolchild will tell you, meteors don’t rise. An end to a meteoric career would be a career that was plunging in a catastrophic ball of flame.
Some writers and pundits also say things like “he went ballistic” when they mean the he in question is exploding in every direction. Ballistic simply means to move according to ambient conditions, as in projectiles zooming through the sky and reacting to air friction and wind. Said projectiles may be missiles, which may have warheads, which then explode. But the nature of the explosion has nothing to do with the ballistics of the missile in question.
I read a new astro-misnomer the other day. A writer was bemoaning the fact that there was a “gaping black hole” in British finances.
Now perhaps he meant a real hole, that was deep and dark and without light, so it could be characterized as black. But I don’t think so. I think he meant the astronomical black hole. Or why not just say gaping hole?
So once again, let me call for accuracy. Astrophysical black holes do not gape. They are infinite points of infinite mass. With gravity so intense nothing, not even light, can escape.
That’s where the black in black hole comes from. No light.
The hole part comes from the fact that you can’t get out of it. But it doesn’t gape.
Its gravity sucks really hard.
If one happened to fly over a ballistic chunk of rock falling through our atmosphere it would be so strong enough to make that meteor rise.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

#1011 Jak Flash

I came across one of the new energy drinks on the market. This one takes an interesting approach, rather than being a giant can of carbonated caffeine and guarana, it’s a little plastic bottle filled with potent fluid. It’s called the Amp Energy Shot. It’s only 2 ounces.
Which goes a long way to solving my biggest problem with energy drinks. I end up using all their energy going over and over to the bathroom.
Rockstar, for example, comes in 16 ounce cans. Which means I go to the can way too many times.
Amp and Rockstar have many of the same exotic foreign energy ingredients—Taurine, Guarana Seed, Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng. Oh and lets not forget L-Carnetine. I have no idea what it is, but since it has “carne” in it, it must be the energy you get from chili con carne.
There goes another trip to the can.
They have various vitamins too. Amp says it has 300% of your RDA of riboflavin. I really like the name riboflavin. It’s one of the essential B-vitamins that influence our metabolism. I have fond memories of it from my youth when niacin and riboflavin seemed to be on every candied sweet cereal box.
It’s ubiquitous now, and safely so, as you body will only absorb what it needs and then pass the rest in Mountain Dew-colored urine. That’s partly because riboflavin fluoresces under ultraviolet light.
Which explains the looks of amazement in black-lighted disco bar bathrooms when the energy drinks have been pounded down a little too much.
Riboflavin also, unfortunately, breaks down under regular light, so the millions of products it’s added to probably don’t deliver any riboflavinoid benefit after being left out on the kitchen counter. Another way the poor suffer. This time with vitamin un-enriched generic cereal in clear plastic bags.
All the exotic energy components help disguise the main energy boost from energy drinks. Good old caffeine. Amp amps up with 80 milligrams. Rockstar with 240 per 16-ounce can.
But what I really like is the exotic name of my Amp shot. Jakfruit Citrus. Jakfruit. It just sounds so focused and intense. Like Oranges in Stormtrooper boots.
You’ll be highstepping and on the march...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1010 Offshore Shrugging

There’s this book that experiences a resurgence of popularity every time we elect an administration that seems to want to stick it back to the exploitive rich.
(Not all the rich mind you. Lots of the rich actually funded Obama’s campaign.)
The book is “Atlas Shrugged” and it’s by a lady variously called Ann or Ain Rand. Her name is spelled A-y-n-. Note to self: keep name easy if you want to be famous—or get famous enough it doesn’t matter.
The thesis of the book is that all the rich people tell governments to take a hike and then they, the rich people, take a hike, form their own island nation, and deny the world the benefits of their money-making expertise.
Neener neener poor people.
We don’t want to play your communist everybody gets a turn basketball. You want to tax us and make us share, we’re taking our rich balls and going home.
Of course, the cautionary tale neglects some key elements of the struggle for wealth. The rich person may own the ball but it takes a working team to make all the baskets.
And more importantly, in these Enron and Wall Street times, when a lot of wealth is speculative, how you gonna make money if you don’t have someone to screw out of it? If it hadn’t been for the 401ks of the small investor, if it hadn’t have been for the shaky loans taken out but little guys both fair and foul, if it hadn’t been for the honest schmucks believing they needed to invest every last dime in the stock market to have a decent retirement from, yep you guessed it, the labor force, then the fat cats wouldn’t have had any money to play dirty tricks with.
Money those same fat cats are already moving to private islands. Offshore tax shelter islands to be exact. In the Caymans alone, a notorious tax shelter and drug money-laundering haven, Bank of America and Citigroup have 149 subsidiaries hiding money and not paying any taxes on it.
Maybe that answers that one question—“Where did all the bailout money go?”
When asked, Bank of America shrugged.
Ayn Rand would be proud.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

#1009 Internetworking

There’s lots of bad things about this here wide wonderful world but it’s a great time to be a writer. At least if you like to write and not get paid for it. Bloggers may be killing newspapers or newspapers may just be expiring from their exhausted business model, but there’s still a heck of a lot of writing going on.
I think it may be because some of the more arduous aspects of writing have been removed, thanks to the Internet. The other day when I was writing my piece about earwax, you may remember that I mentioned an odd artifact of my search for facts.
By the way, search doesn’t quite capture the lack of effort I employed. The word “search” once meant something more akin to an expedition. Now it means typing a terse phrase into a “search box.”
Which I did. I typed in “why earwax.” I was instantly and effortlessly rewarded with access to over 2,340,000 results. The artifact of the search? I found out that 1,280,000 people had made that exact query.
So think of the effects of this “internet” searching tool.
First, we are totally used to the word query. On the verge of being dropped as useless and antiquated by Webster’s a couple of decades ago it’s now in common use again. Three cheers for query.
Second, what once meant going into a library and burying yourself away in a dark microfiche booth for hours can now be done in your office online, in the full light of day, in a matter of seconds.
And third, and best of all, you can see how many other people have the same lame question as you.
I’m not alone. 1,280,000 people had the same question I did. Independently, without persuasion by some leader or movement.
1,280,000 people are interested in earwax just like me!
In the days of crying over your “cooking for one” cookbook and puddling up at your microwave because you know the reheat button may as well be spelled “pathetic”, the internet brings us together in a network of similar interests.
An internetwork if you will.
A community in the webbed wide world.
Let’s hear it for the earwax query nation!
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

#1008 Incandescent Animals

We are so conflicted about animals. They help us, they hurts us. We retaliate when they ignite our fears, or we experiment on them to increase our years.
Like the new Korean puppies. According to the Associated Press, “South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases.
The four dogs, all named Ruppy — a combination of the words "ruby" and "puppy" — look like typical beagles by daylight. But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.”
Dude... Glo-Puppies! I smell the next big Christmas Rage.
And is it pronounced Ruppy or Roopie? Because my friend Andy Clarke, who sent me the article, worries that the other regular beagles will laugh and call him names. And they won’t let poor Roopie play in all the beagle games.
The scientists say that creating glowing puppies isn’t cruel because the technique proves specific genes can be inserted, and that could help combat diseases.
Um, I’m not sure it would be good idea to clone me first to cure my eczema. My cloned self may be itch free. But I’d still be alive and scratching.
On the other end of the glowing spectrum the city of Spokane Parks department just bought a new tool in its desperate fight against the deadly scourge of the common ground squirrel.
It’s called the Rodenator.
It’s a device that pumps flammable gas into a rodent hole then ignites it with a spark. An entirely different type of glowing animal results.
A flaming explosive incendiary rodent ball of fire to be exact. Spokane officials say the squirrel dies instantly, so it’s humane.
Ever notice when we humans develop quick and efficient ways to kill animals we call it humane. The animals are going, “Yeah, and it’s no surprise you can’t spell humane without human.”
Bright ideas from the world of humans. Puppies cloned to glow and flaming balls of squirrels.
We got that humane stuff down good.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#1007 Kosher Flu

The world just seems to get stranger every day. And you never know who’s going to take offense to what. It’s as if we’re all developing a permanent chip on our shoulders.
I read an article in the Seattle Times about Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, who was demanding that they change the name of the swine flu. Because the word swine is offensive to Jews and Muslims. I’m not sure who he was asking to change the name. Possible the World Health Organization.
So it may have been WHO who he was asking.
Still. I’m worried about Wendy’s billboards depicting Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers.
How could they possibly be offended by something they have known for centuries was a dietary preference of every other religion? I mean, you could expect a Hindu to have a cow over beef fat in McDonald’s French Fries.
But just calling a disease the swine flu...
And then I got it. If you have the swine flu in your body and you’re a Muslim or Jew, then you are, at least in name, carrying particles of pork in your body. There’s a problem for the Jewish dietary scholars. Pre-microscopic Leviticus said nothing about viruses.
Can a virus that carries some genetic material from a swine be considered un-kosher?
The alternative the Israeli Health official offered came with its own set of problems. He suggested since swine was offensive to Muslims and Jews that they name the disease the Mexican flu. Apparently his cultural sensitivity only went so far.
Mexico was surprisingly un-flattered with having a potentially epidemic flu named after them. As I recall, they much preferred the term amoebic dysentery to Montezuma’s Revenge too.
And rightly so. I personally prefer the more sensitive and inclusive TRavelers Overseas Toilet Syndrome. TROTS for short. Maybe we should just call the flu Type H1N1 or whatever the technical designation is.
There’s one bright shiny pearl of wisdom in the whole swinish affair. It’s an extremely good sign when you have an Israeli official finally seeing some common ground between Jews and Muslims.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

#1006 Infused Maleness

One of the most lucrative product categories to open up in the last twenty years has been men’s personal care. Ever since Madison Avenue convinced young men they should stop applying a little dab of Brylcream, and instead invest in gels and meese, things have taken off.
Back in the old days we had Vitalis, Brylcream, and for a while Dippity Doo. Dippity Doo was like a wax and a gel. I would put some on and then run my fingers through my hair to create a wild and random looking mess. I was going for accidental beauty.
I called it serendipity do.
Some of the young bucks achieve that same look with more expensive products today. One of the new products on the market has kind of a strange name. It’s called Gillette Sculpting Paste.
I’m not sure “paste” is the right name to invoke when talking hair products. Sorry, it just doesn’t sound sexy. It sounds like what kids eat in kindergarten. Or someone getting hit. “Dude, he pasted him.”
Maybe they’re trying to invoke some computer document feel. Go into your stylist for a cut and paste. Instead of getting a new hairstyle, you can say your head’s been reformatted.
It’ll probably catch on. I didn’t have much hope for mousse either, and it jumped from culinary treat to hair product without a kink.
The Edge shaving gel people are making a new bid for attention too. They aren’t content to just be a gel anymore. Now they have a line of “infused” products. For hydrating and moisturizing and stuff.
They’re now a “lotionized” gel. So the whole idea of Edge was it’s a gel. Now you’re changing it into a lotion? And their term...
I guess saying it’s now a “lotionized gel” is better than say it’s now runny.
But here’s what makes me want to buy this snake oil. It’s a shaving gel that’s infused with vitamins and antioxidants. Dude! Vitamins for your face.
And antioxidants. Oxidants are bad. Because they oxidize you?
“I need antioxidants in my shaving gel man, cause I’m worried that what I have is not just a red beard. I think my face is rusting.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

#1005 Ear Query

A thought recently flew into my head. Why do we have earwax? Wax is not something that any other part of our body manufactures. We have sweat and spit and oily secretions on our face and hair. But nowhere else on the body is there a place that produces wax, except the ears.
Thank goodness for the internet. I went to Google and typed in the search phrase, “why ear wax.” I figured if I had the question, somebody else had the question, and somebody else had already answered it.
I was right. The little drop down box on the main Google query window said 1,180,000 people had asked the question exactly that way. Why Ear Wax. It was eerie.
The top hit was an Earwax FAQ page.
Wow, Earwax FAQs, we are such a curious species.
Anyhow, here are some earwax things you might like to hear. The first? It’s not wax. It’s produced by your cerumen glands. Cerumen glands are only in your ear canals. It’s your sebaceous glands in other parts of your skin that make it greasy. They produce sebum.
Sebum and cerumen. Sound like medieval angels don’t they? The angels of secretions. Sebum and Cerumen.
The purpose of earwax is interesting. It’s a sticky substance meant to trap particles flying into your ears. It traps anything foreign that flies, blows, or crawls in. Dirt, pollen, small insects, and even bacteria are trapped by the wax.
The Doctor on the FAQ, Douglas Hoffman, says to think of it as the sticky stuff on a No Pest strip.
Now there’s an image. Forget piercing as a counterculture adornment, spread some of that stuff on your external ear and you could be walking around studded with dead flies.
And darn, I had no idea when I was wielding the morning Q-tip that I was compromising my ability to trap flying pests.
The point is, your ears are kind of like pitcher plants or Venus flytraps. Except they don’t digest the flies, they just keep them from doing damage further in.
Still, who wants to think of their ears being the earwig equivalent of a roach motel?
That should be my next Google ear-y query.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

#1004 Bitter Taste

There’s an experience that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s the experience of drinking coffee. I am coffee taste challenged. I envy the folks who can take a sip of coffee and go on and on about its delicate flavor nuances—its fruity undertones, its great finish.
All I get is a hot mass of bitter liquid.
It’s funny. I’m one of those people who has a similar grasp of the nuances of hot chili peppers. I can easily tell the difference between a serrano, a jalapeño, and a habanero. I get right past the hot.
But with coffee I could do a taste test between organic Ethiopian yergecheffe and Maxwell House crystals and be hard put to tell the difference.
I confess. I don’t drink coffee for the flavor. I do like the smell, but to me coffee is just a hot liquid delivery vehicle for caffeine. More socially acceptable than popping NoDoz. Surprisingly, having an intimate conversation in a coffee bar over a couple of white pills is not very stimulating.
Another confession. Sorry coffee snobs, at home I brew Folgers. And you might want to hold your hands over your ears if they’re not too busy holding your turned-up nose. I not only drink Folgers, I brew a pot one day and reheat the leftover liquid on the next day.
I figure, that’s why there’s a button on my microwave that says coffee.
In other respects, my taste buds seem to work quite well. The other day I tried an energy drink for the first time. What a weird wired roiling rush sensation. Not just in my head, but in my stomach.
And the taste. It was as if they had taken tried and tested tidbits of taste and mixed them together hoping for success. Like what we used to call a “suicide” as kids when we had the soda jerk mix all the flavors.
The taste was like cream soda mixed with something citrus-y. At first I thought it was Squirt but then I figured it out. Lemon Snapple Tea.
Dang. Tea leaves a bitter taste in my mouth too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

#1003 Eculogical

So are you an echo or an eeko? When it comes to logic and nomics and stuff. Echo-nomics and echo-logical? Or is it Eek-o-nomics and eek-o-logical?
I’ll hear people use it both ways. Sometimes in the same sentence. In these tough echo-nomic times we need to focus on green construction and eek-o-logical building methods. Or vice versa.
People can’t seem to decide. You say potato, I say potahto, let’s call the whole thing off and vacation in the Caribbean.
It’s funny though, when someone says echo-nomical I think it’s about times gone by. Today’s business climate is an echo of its former volume. Echo-nomics.
Then again, eek-o-nomics sounds like we’re all screeching at its horrible state. Eeek! This depression scares me!
Or maybe its eek-o-nomics when you have to eek out a living.
You never seem to have that pronunciation problem with a similar word like ecumenical. Perhaps because it’s unfamiliar to most people, so the first time they hear it they remember it that way. And possibly because it seems like it’s an almost sacred word, folks don’t mess with it.
The power of belief is the most powerful of human traits.
So I wonder how the ecumenical folks are doing during these tough economic times. A phrase I’m beginning to tire of, by the way. If I hear myself say “tough economic times” one more time, I going in for cliché-ectomy.
I read differing reports. Some say Americans are less religious than ever. Other reports say people are flocking back to religious institutions. I wonder if “religious institutions” includes church sponsored soup kitchens and breadlines?
I’m also wondering, is this the time to invest in the ecclesiastical, like church garments perhaps. Invest in vestments as it were.
They say the key to the recovery is a good business attitude. So maybe get into B.E.¾The Business of the Ecclesiastical. Then you can adopt a positive, um, B.E. Attitude.
Blessed are the businesspersons, for they can cast pearls before swine and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear—and make it both eek-o-logical and echo-nomical.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

#1002 Poli-Math

Every now and then, I like to have fun and tear apart some statistics. You know they say that 95% of people that believe in statistics are wrong 50% of the time.
No truer words were spoken when the political pundits start throwing around their math. Like this recent news story. It was on terrorism, torture and politics and it said 88% of people who identify themselves as Republicans agree with Cheney on torture. Wow, 88%, sounds like Cheney has some pretty strong support.
Then the article goes on to say the 98% of people who identify themselves as Democrats disagree with Cheney’s methods. Pretty much what you’d expect. Cheney was ever the lightning rod divider. Word has it even his sunglasses were polarizing.
On the face of it 98% and 88% seem pretty close. But if you dig a little deeper into the statistics a wider gap emerges. Turns out only 24% of voters now identify themselves as Republican.
The total number of voters in the last elections was approximately 130 million. 24% of 130 million is still a sizable number. It’s 31.2 million. So 88% of 31.2 million is about 27.5 million.
The other 76% of total voters amounts to about 100 million. 98% of 100 million is, let’s see, let me get out the calculator here, 100 times point 98 equals, here it is, 98 million.
So instead of being a comparatively equal 88% to 98% it’s 31 million to 98 million. An apparent 10 point percentage difference is actually a 67 point person difference.
So then I heard another article about the Governor of Texas making secession noises. In the last election, McCain won the state of Texas. But even there the vote count was surprisingly close. 4.4 million to 3.5 million. Hardly the monolithic bloc you’d think from all the secessionist ballyhoo.
But here’s an interesting statistical anomaly. Remember that 88% of Republicans number that agreed with Cheney? 27.5 million. That’s a figure surprisingly close to the entire population of Texas, which is 24.6 million.
So what do you think of how this sounds? The Republic of Republicans of Texas...?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

#1001 Rixy Words

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of misuse of certain words. Maybe it’s a regional accent thing. After all, nobody says wor-chest-ter-shire. They say woostershur.
We abbreviate the word we pronounce as Missus “Mrs.” Does that mean it should be misters? Did it originally imply ownership and also have an apostrophe? It’s the mister’s wife—The mister’s—The missus.
The three words I’m having problems with each contain X. Or rather, the way people are mispronouncing them have an X, although the words really don’t.
The first word is slowly on the way to correction. It is espresso. Not “ex”-presso. Only a few outlying cultural pockets now persist in the ex-presso pronunciation.
It was an honest error. Folks unfamiliar with the Italian original and steeped in the express train culture of America made the leap onto to the “expresso” rails. We also felt like an express train when we drank it, and were far more expressive when we felt its energetic effects, etc.
That’s the next word, by the way. Well, actually, two words. We abbreviate it as one with the letters e-t-c-. But it’s spelled out as two. Et cetera. Notice how I enunciate it. Et-cet-tera. It’s from the Latin “et” for “and” and ceteri for “the others”. And the others.
Here’s a little bit of inside knowledge just you and I can share. Next time you hear some pompous pundit proclaiming “and et cetera” he’s actually redundantly saying “and and the others”.
In any event, it is not ex-cetera. There is no ex in et cetera. Unless “the others” in the phrase are your wives and you’re divorcing them. Then they are ex-cetera.
The last little special word is asterisk. Aster-risk. Not asterix. Asterix are for kids. Kids that haven’t got all their enunciations in order. The true word is asterisk. Meaning little star.
Remember, risk not rix. We don’t say he’s taking a rix. We don’t say his chances of being in a good mood are rixy if he doesn’t listen to Roxy...
Lesson over.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss the words pretentious and pedantic.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, May 01, 2009

#1000 Words R Fun

If you’ve been patient enough to listen to any number of the last thousand commentaries I’ve done, you’ll know that I have a fascination with words.
My inner poet loves the sounds of them. The round sounds know no bounds.
And my analytical mind loves how they often sound like what they are—or something entirely different.
Take the word crepuscular. I came across it the other day. The context in which it was used left room for doubt so I went to the dictionary to find out its meaning. It sounds like it could be something really disgusting.
If you’re sensitive I’m sorry, but it sounds like it could be a crust of dried-on pus. Crepuscular. Thin and crepe-like too. A crepe-like dried-on crust of, well... you know. Nope. Crepuscular means of or related to twilight. A crepuscular light would be a dim light.
I prefer the word dim.
I came across another word after I had done a commentary on Baptism. It is a word that means, “an office or position requiring little or no work, especially one yielding profitable returns.” But it sounds like another word for baptism.
The word is, you guessed it, sinecure. Your first baptism is kind of like a cure for sinning. You are reborn and stuff. Sinecure.
Or maybe it means if you have a highly paid position, you sure won’t have to steal bread, so a sinecure could actually cure the underlying reasons for some sins.
Another word I heard not long ago I’m still not sure of. It’s about the name of the profession that midwives do. If I were a midwife, I would be practicing not mid-wife-ery but mid-whiff-ery. Even though it’s spelled midwifery.
Why the whiff? I think it robs the profession of its gravitas. It makes it sound more evanescent somehow. Less substantial.
Mid-whiffery sounds like a magic trick, or a fragrance counter for moderately priced women’s colognes. Where they spritz little whiffs of stuff.
"What a lovely lilac and lavender fragrance."
"I know. I got it at the midwhiffery..."
They don't always make scents, but words sure are fun...
America, ya gotta love it.