Friday, July 31, 2009

#1063 Advance Ad-vice

So the other day I was walking around a development of the fairly well-to-do. As I walked, I began to notice this unusual thing in the middle of the entrance to each house’s driveway. It was placed precisely in the middle too, as if the placer had been anxious to distinguish it from a random piece of litter.
But still, litter it was. My mind began to run through the rage cycle associated with the weekly abomination from our local paper that they hurl into my yard each week and that I am then forced to recycle and remove. The Hot Ticket perpetrators still annoy me, and by extension, the folks that advertise in their monstrosity. What is the difference between their rolled up newspaper ad and litter?
Nothing. At least the mailbox stuffers pay to place their stuff.
Advertising rule number one: Don’t annoy the potential customer.
The colors on the rolled up thing looked not unlike those I associate with Watchtower, so I first thought it was a new missionary missive method for the Jehovah Witnesses. Perhaps actually ringing doorbells got too dangerous, especially for the children they often drag around with them to witness the process.
I finally picked one up from the driveway of a large three-story home with pillars and natural rock and other luxury accouterments. And it turned out to be something I never would have expected—A brochure for Advance America Check Cashing Services.
Now here’s the thing. The person that did this also included her card in the brochure. She also rolled each brochure neatly and secured it with a multiply-looped rubber band. Then she went all over this neighborhood precisely placing these things in the middle of each driveway entrance.
All that time and effort—for the wrong target customer. The thrust of the brochure was they were targeting people who had trouble handling a checking account. Had she looked at the homes at the end of each driveway she was littering, she may have deduced the owners managed money okay.
Advertising rule number 2: If you’re going to personalize your ad distribution, make sure it’s to the right person.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

#1062 Potty

You reach an age where you hear someone say something you yourself have said for years, or you remember hearing first when you were a child, and you ask yourself, why do we say that?
Like did you ever notice that we have cheesecake and various types of meat pies, but we never have meat cake? It’s not that many things don’t qualify as being cake, like kidney pie and shepherd’s pie, it’s just that we never call it cake if it’s associated with meat. Hamburger cake? Nope, hamburger pie.
Beefcake? Well...only if the chefs are named Chip and Dale.
So the other day when I heard a lady asking her three-year-old if she wanted to “go potty” I started to wonder. “Go potty.” It doesn’t even get the grammar right. Go to the potty.
I think the toddler is capable of understanding the correct way to say it. You don’t say to your child, “Do you want to go grandma?” “Do you want to go store?”
But you do say, “Do you want to go play?” So maybe the “go potty” means potty is the act itself, not the pot you do it in. The pot is not the potty, the potty is the action in the pot.
Then “go potty” makes more grammatical sense. So by extension, other phrases could reflect both a thing’s objective quality and the action performed upon them. Instead of using the lawn mower to cut the lawn, I could “go lawnmower.” Instead of walking through a door, I could “go door.” Politicians go “doorbelling” so there’s some precedent for this.
And instead of getting in my car and going driving I can now simply “go car.” Which sounds more fun because it sounds like a go-cart.
“I like it when we go car like this, Honey”
“Me too, by the way, turn here, we need to go store. I want to buy some new pots so we can go crabby.”
“That reminds me, I have to go potty.”
“Not here on the side of the road, that’s illegal.”
“But Honey, it’s like the song says, ‘We need to fight, for the right, to potty...’”
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#1061 Eentsy Bitsy 2

The other day I did a commentary about the Little People wanting to have the word midget banned by the FCC. They Compared the M-word to the N-word.
And it got me thinking about small words. Especially because I had recently done a crossword puzzle and the answer to the clue was eensy. That’s e-e-n-s-y-. Now when I was growing up, it was always eentsy with a T. Or eentsy-weentsy, both with a T. My thesaurus suggester on my Word program fails to mention eensy either way, but does offer as a synonym for “midget” the word teensy.
It also offers the variation teensy-weensy and teeny-weeny. A phrase I’m guessing the little people would object to even more.
Then there’s the banana bana bo bana crowd who have to have everything with a B. They favor eentsy beentsy. Which sounds an awful like some kind of soup creation, using really small beans, or lentils perhaps. Eentsy beantsy.
Or perhaps it’s a carryover from itsy bitsy. Of the spider and the waterspout legend. Depending on your daycare or nursery school, you could have ended up with spiders that were eensy-weensy, eentsy- beentsy, or itsy bitsy. Interestingly, perhaps because a spider image calls for an “S”, you never hear of an itty-bitty spider.
And although we have eentsy-beentsy and eenstsy-weentsy we don’t have a comparable itsy-bitsy and itsy-witsy.
And what is an itty bitty anyhow? Sounds like some kind of slam against a Little-wittle old person—that old bitty, that old itty bitty.
So what I’m saying is, if we have to start redefining which words we use for “small” we could be opening up a can of worms here.
By the way, vivid images aside, have you ever seen a can of worms? Itsy bitsy or otherwise? How do worms survive the boiling hot canning process? And if they do, do fish think a canned worm is every bit as flavorful as the fresh-picked variety?
That’s just one of those little itty bitty thoughts that go worming piggley-wiggley through my brain.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#1060 Little PO’d

Recently the Little People of America asked the FCC to ban the word midget. They said that radio and TV don’t allow the “N” word, so they shouldn’t allow the “M” word either. And you know what, until I heard it that way, I never knew how serous an insult it was to them.
But there’s the problem of using the term midget generally. You don’t use the “N” word when you are describing something as general as size. Saying midget racers or midget cars will be hard to stretch into something as insulting as N-word anything.
I wish the Little People luck, although I don’t expect much. If only because the term “Little People” is such a poor replacement. It sounds more cartoon-y than the term they are trying to replace. And the tongues of the cruel will soon twist it too.
You wonder sometimes about words, though. I was reading something the other day and the writer was talking about putting butter on a piece of toast. He put on a “pat” of butter. If you think about even a little bit, the term “pat” doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It’s okay as a verb. When you pat someone on the back or you pat down a clump of hamburger into a “patty.”
Still, we all know what a pat of butter is. In fact, even if we start with a butter cube, most of us can slice off a pat of butter at a nearly uniform size. Probably because we all encountered individual pats of butter at school cafeterias or restaurants.
Pats of butter were like the first individually packaged miniature portion. Wow. We owe all the single condiment packets in the landfills to the success of “pats.”
There may be an internationally recognized measurement for a “pat”. One of those lines on a butter cube wrapper perhaps. Then again, a “pat” may just be part of the broad category of “almost measurements.” The dollops and the pinches and the smidgens.
Which show, by the way, that we probably wouldn’t miss the word midget. Because there sure are a lot of other words that mean little.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

#1059 Every Dayword

I worry sometimes about our school system. On the one hand, we encourage children to pursue excellence, and then on the other we fail to show that excellence ourselves.
Case in point: The other day I was driving by a local elementary school. It had one of those reader-board signs on its building that you could read as you drove by. The sign said, “Have a happy summer, read everyday.”
Nice sentiment, and mildly ironic in the sense that you had to read the sign in order to get the message to read every day. Unfortunately they had the two words “every” and “day” rendered as one word “everyday.” As any reader who respects the sometimes-tortuous conventions of the English language will tell you, that’s not the waY to do it—especially every day on a sign board on a school.
It’s two words when you are talking about each and every day. You are modifying the word day with the word every. It’s only one word “everyday” when your are using the whole word “everyday” to modify some other word. As in, “it was an ‘everyday’ occurrence.”
You could say, “We would like it to be an everyday occurrence for you to read.” Or, “We would like reading to be an everyday habit.” But when we want you to read every day we want you to understand when you are reading what is a noun and what is an adjective.
Another confusing term is getaway. I once saw a billboard that said, “Hawaii is a great place to getaway.” That’s right, one word, “getaway.”
No. It’s a great place to have a getaway if by getaway you are referring to a thing. Like a giveaway in a radio contest. I won the giveaway and it was a getaway.
If you are getting away then the “away” is what you’re getting. The “get” part is a verb. Like you got a sunburn or are going to get a book.
You don’t say, “Hey this is a great place to getabook. I can read it everyday...”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

#1058 S’cool Dude

As I was perusing this circular I got in the mail for young people headed back to college, I noticed a couple of interesting things. Our good old American inventiveness is still wasted on doodads.
Like there was this bed-desk you could get. In case you need to do a lot of studying when you’re suffering from that binge hangover. The ad blurb on it proclaimed “built in mouse pad!”
Really. Does anyone use mouse pads anymore? Didn’t they go the way of mouse balls? I haven’t seen any of those hanging around in a long time.
Another thing they had was a compact charging station, for all your different personal appliances, iPods, phones, laptop. Which I hope will be obsolete when they finally come up with a universal USB based charging device. Something we really need more inventiveness on soon.
Our landfills are bursting with old chargers.
Speaking of USB, the circular had this new weird peripheral. It’s a laptop cooler. I kid you not. It’s a flat device that fits under your laptop and is about as thin. It fits between your electronic laptop and your actual laptop. It contains little fans which blow and cool your laptop, either your electronic one, or possibly your biological one if you’re twittering with a hot Facebook poster.
The fans are powered by the USB from your laptop. Your laptop is being used to power an external fan to cool your laptop. But is your laptop getting hotter because it’s working harder to provide the power to send out the USB to power the fans to cool it?
Something for college students to discuss in their physics class no doubt.
This other device in the catalogue was even weirder. It was a “man groomer.” A device meant to shave body hair. The copy says “back and shoulder” and “chest and abs.” It also says it has a five level adjustable comb.
Do we want different levels of body hair? The “five-day all over stubble look” or “luxuriant but groomed” armpit hair? Either you shave your body hair or you don’t. Styling it just seems too strange even for Generation Tat.
Maybe it’s the inventors of our inventiveness that are wasted...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

#1057 Back to Cool

Well here it is mid-July and summer is officially over. I just got my first back-to-school circular in the mail.
Yep. The Bed Bath & Beyond “Back to College” edition. And let me tell you, with Bed Bath & Beyond you won’t just be going back to school, you’ll be going back to cool.
How about an 11-piece matching bedclothes set, comforter, sheets, shams, pillows, towels, throw and hamper? All in lovely matching colors and patterns. In cramped-in-the-dormitory twin bed size too.
Wow. Things sure have changed since I went to college. If I’d showed up at my dorm with a matching set of sheets—much less comforter, sham, and throw—I’d have been hung by my heels from the freshman flagpole.
The only thing in this ensemble that would have been handy is the giant mesh laundry basket. Which apparently hasn’t changed. Page after page of this circular offers portable hamper ideas—mesh bags, retractable hampers, nylon bins on wheels. It proves one thing—college students are still going to store up massive amounts of laundry to take home when they visit the parents.
“Hi Mom, I’m home for the weekend. Here’s my laundry. I’ll be back after I spend all night visiting my old high school friends.”
And, man, the age of Ikea has hit Bed Bath & Beyond too. All the portable assemble-yourself shelving, hang-on-the-pole shoe and sweater organizers for your closet, clip to your box-spring bedside shelves for your alarm clock and iPod.
Dude! Whatever happened to orange crates?
They even offer laptop desks for your laptop computer. Little raised bed desks you can prop on your lap like breakfast bedtrays at fancy hotels. And they even measure the lap. “171/2 inches!” one of them proclaims.
Hey, you need room for all kinds of stuff while you’re “studying” in bed to prepare you for the real world. Learn those laziness skills early. They’ll come in handy in this great economy.
You’ll be beyond cool. You’ll be unemployed.
And no doubt your parents will appreciate your matching décor items when you come back to live with them...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

#1056 Un-understandable

I’ve noted before how our language holds a few traps for the unwary. But lately it seems like our entertainment folks are getting worse at it than ever. Maybe they just ain’t so smart without a script.
The problem comes with the use of the prefixes un, in, non and dis. Usually when you take a word, say, “do” and you put an “un” in front of it, you have the opposite action, “undo”.
But understandable doesn’t take that same route. Who knows what derstandable means. And if it’s not understandable we can’t say its un-understandable. We just use another word altogether.
There’s also the ongoing issue with flammable and inflammable. They mean the same thing. You can flame something or inflame it. If you can’t burn it, it’s non-flammable or even more confusingly, non-inflammable.
But back to entertainers. Not long ago Emma Watson, one of the actors that stars in the Harry Potter flicks, was quoted about how difficult her first on-screen kiss was. She said she wanted it to look right and not rush through it. Her words: “Rupert and I were quite nervous that it might look ingenuous as we were so desperate to get it over with.” Actually ingenuous is not like insincere. Ingenuous means innocent and truthful. Disingenuous means not innocent and untruthful. “Genuous” is not a substitute for genuine. Ingenuous is.
And Jaclyn Smith the other day, one of the supposedly smart angels, was quoted with a similarly egregious error. She was describing Farrah Fawcett’s struggle in the end. And she said Farrah was “unrelentless” in her fight.
Sorry Jaclyn. Check the script. Relentless is what you mean when you’re saying she didn’t give up. She was relentless it her fight. The suffix “less” reverses the meaning of relent, which means to give up. You can be unrelenting and not give up. You can be relentless and not give up. But you can’t be unrelentless and not give up.
It’s like I heard a person recently saying she was going to make dinner so she needed to unthaw the chicken. I ask her if her intent was to freeze it again.
The date was relentlessly chilly from that point...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

#1055 Driving Knowledge

My mom always said I could only succeed with drive. So I learn a lot in my car, while I drive.
Like the other day, I was listening to this guy on the radio who does a commentary every morning around 6:15 who does run-on sentences a lot and he was going on about this new study that shows caffeine helps eliminate Alzheimer’s in rats.
The dosage required is equivalent to about 5 cups of coffee. So I thought about it, and I realized that the study never said you actually had to drink coffee. You just had to take the caffeine.
I thought a little further, and I remembered all the fracas over products like Herbalife—they were supposedly misrepresenting their health benefits because the products mostly contained caffeine. And then I thought, Herbalife’s claims turned out to be accurate after all. They did improve cognitive function. They did make your brain better and improve memory and all that stuff.
And then I thought, Dude, today’s energy drinks can do the same thing. Red Bull and Amp and all the others. They’ll be sending cases of Rockstar to the old folks home.
Granny’s gonna be slamin’ back the Monster.
Not long after that, I noticed as I was driving by one of the adult video places, that they had cut back their hours. Used to be 24/7, now they’re only open from 11am to 2am.
Wow. The economy has really gotten terrible. People can’t even afford to pursue prurience any more. I guess all aspects of the auto industry are bad. Even the auto-erotic industry.
Then a news broadcast came on my car radio and I heard this story about how they did this big bust in Jalisco, in Mexico, and they shut down a huge group of meth labs supplying the United States. And I thought, oh no. Meth labs in Mexico? Have we outsourced our meth labs too?
That used to be such vital local industry. The sort of mom and pop thing that really small entrepreneurs are good at. All you need is persistence and lots of energy.
And, oh yeah, one other thing.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1054 Cones and Donuts

Geometry was always my worst subject in high school. Not because I hated geometry, but because I had one of the worst geometry teachers on the globe. The guy had been teaching 30 years and you could tell he had hated the last 29 years and 365 days of it. He was just slogging through.
It’s axiomatic that such enthusiasm is often infectious.
In any event, between nodding off events, I still managed to learn about cones and cylinders and the topological shape of the donut. Which is known as a torus.
The key thing about a torus is that the surface of the inside is continuous with the surface of the outside. The hole in the donut is a continuation of its exterior. Like us. Our digestive system is essentially a long tube. The gut starts out in the embryo as an indentation in the skin and then goes from there. Follow the hole from the mouth to the anus and we are nothing more than a fleshy misshapen donut.
At least we’re not cones.
Nor, I noticed the other day, are pinecones. Pinecones are really more egg-shaped. Slightly larger on one end than the other and bulging in the middle. A true cone has a wide circular base which tapers down to a pointy tip. A true geometrical cone looks more like the waffle cones and not the pale beige crispy flat-bottomed cones. The beige ones are more like cups. Cups are more like cylinders. As are pinecones.
Most of the pinecones I’ve seen look like pinched cylinders. Like beer cans with a little crimping at either end. So I suppose we should call them pine cylinders. Of course that totally screws up their scientific name, which is conifer.
So should we call them cylinder-fers, or cylin-fers?
But a cylinder is essentially a wide tube. So maybe we should call them tube-ifers. Not to be confused with tubers, which are potato-shaped.
Actually, potatoes and pinecones are shaped quite similarly. The only plant that’s really shaped like a cone is a carrot.
My point? The guy who named all these plants and vegetables probably fell asleep in geometry class too.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

#1053 Coffee Surge

As an aging single person who lives alone, I was interested in a couple of recent studies. One determined that single people were more likely to develop dementia. The second study indicated that coffee removes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Time to move out of my house and camp in the coffee shop.
The second study mentioned that not only does caffeine appear to improve memory in rats, it prevents the formation of beta amyloids, the chemical crud that sheaths nerve cells in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Caffeine is kind of like a douche for your brain, as it surges right past the blood-brain barrier and flushes out your noggin.
And you just thought a triple macchiato was good for flushing out your kidneys.
Which is actually my other worry. If I’m going to live in the coffee shop, there’d better be a bathroom handy. Because the dosage they used on rats to fix their brains was the equivalent of five cups of coffee.
Now this hasn’t been totally proved on humans yet. This is just on rats bred to have something like Alzheimer’s. I’d hate to be that researcher. Which would you rather have, totally forgetful rats or rats hyped up on five cups of coffee?
The other study is a little scary as well. Just living alone appears to double the chances of dementia. It’s three times higher if you’re divorced. As a three-time tri-defector that’s nine times higher for me.
But as I asked myself the other day, what’s dementia? I see absolutely no problem with talking with yourself just to pass the time. Who says that’s a sign of craziness?
Think of all those crazy hermits whose names I can’t remember right now who wrote all those deep religious and philosophical things. And those monks living on mountaintops finding out the meaning of life. You’re telling me they had dementia?
Dude. There would be no Buddhism if Siddhartha had had a cup of joe? That is crazy.
By the way, they recently started the enhanced caffeine treatment on seniors with memory disorders. And they found there’s one thing they still forget.
What it’s like to have a good night’s sleep.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1052 Twain Marked

Every now and then I look back at one of my commentaries and realize how filled they are with modern stuff. In the last essay, I wrote about Blackberries, iPhones, Twitter, and Tweets. Mark Twain would never Twitter. He would have been stifled by their free verse American haiku.
Mark Twain says no to Twitter. Never the Twain shall tweet.
So much has changed, even since the fifties. I remember the first time I saw a seatbelt in a car. It was just plain in the way, and uncomfortable to sit on with its giant airplane passenger buckle. There were no airbags or whiplash-preventing headrests either.
Next time you see some guy driving by in a vintage car, check out how his head and shoulders seem to stick up unnaturally high from the seat. You were really exposed. Truck trailers didn’t have crash guards back then either, so the fifties was an era of unfortunate decapitations.
And they said we lost our heads in the sixties...
I sat in a hydroplane the other day. Now there’s protection. The pilot’s seat had a wraparound contour and the headrest had little wings curving out on either side so when you had your helmet on it would wedge in and make your head nearly immobile.
The thing that bugged me about it was there wasn’t enough room to hold my cellphone to my ear. Worse, the entire hydroplane cockpit had no cupholder.
I remember cars from the fifties only had indentations on the inside of the glove compartment door. You didn’t see them till you flopped the door open. The depressions were so shallow they didn’t really hold the cups, so there were plenty of messes when my mom would bump her knees on the underside of the glove compartment door and upend chocolate malteds.
That was when we went to burger joints without carhops. Mark Twain would have loved carhops. And I think they’re the answer to global warming. How many times have you waited endlessly in a drive-thru coffee joint, your idling car engine spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?
Carhops would clear than line out quicker than you can Google Huck Finn.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

#1051 Tattle Tale

One of the more interesting social trends to emerge in the last decade has been body art. No longer the sole province of sailors and bikers, tattoos¾or tats as they are now affectionately called¾are adorning the arms, necks, and gluteal cleavages of all and sundry.
So it’s no wonder we are now hearing the horror stories of Generation Tat. Tattoos misplaced, misspelled, and just plain botched. Permanently. Because the more frequently you do something, the more chance there is for screw-ups. And the more lucrative an endeavor becomes, the more amateurs enter the market looking for a quick killing.
Which can literally happen in odd ways. There’s a piece of equipment used in the medical industry to sterilize instruments. It’s called an autoclave. In the “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” department we have the story of the clueless amateur tattooist who tried to use his microwave as an autoclave.
Sparks flew. Microwave exploded. Tattooist was blown from here to Tattooine. Yes, I said Tattooine. That Star Wars guy George Lucas was pretty psychic. Way back in the eighties he envisioned an entire planet name after tattoo folks.
The other thing Generation Tat appears to be good at is using their thumbs. I was watching one of them the other day. First, he had a thumb ring on. Then he was using his right thumb to slide it across his touch screen back and forth and up and down to find the “app” he needed to find out where he was with his GPS or something.
I could have told him. He was standing under a street sign.
Then he took out his thumb and wagged it at a passing car, which picked him up. As he was getting settled in the car he turned his phone device sideways and immediately started using both his thumbs to text something. Possibly a tweet.
And I thought, man, isn’t it lucky we evolved opposable thumbs in time to take advantage of iPhones and Blackberries? I guess its one of those inevitable things.
As Bobby Hart, morning DJ on 94.5 Roxy said, “If you give a bunch of monkeys iPhones, eventually they’ll call Shakespeare.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#1050 Supreme Number

I make it a point to avoid politics in these essays. There are plenty of pundits out there bringing histrionic arguments to the airwaves.
I blame Jerry Springer. If he hadn’t proved ratings go up because Americans love people fighting we probably wouldn’t have all those confrontational talk shows on Fox News and MSNBC.
I just get tired of people shouting at each other. Life is tough enough; do we really need more conflict? So I subscribe to the simple rule I learned as a bartender—Never discuss religion or politics.
But I can discuss math.
Apparently, a number of prime folks on the right side of the aisle have a problem with math. A group of these people are set against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice. They are neither sympathetic nor empathetic towards her. But their last argument ended up being simply pathetic.
Here’s what happened. When they nominate Supremes, it’s typical to look at how the nominees decided past cases. Not long ago, Sotomayor was in the majority of a 3-judge appellate court who voted a certain way on a case. The plaintiffs were unhappy with the outcome so they took it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court just reversed the decision.
Conservative opponents of Sotomayor’s nomination pounced. “See?” They said. “Sotomayor doesn’t agree with the court. This is proof she’s outside the mainstream. She decided one way and the Supreme Court decided the other. How can she be on the Supreme Court when she doesn’t agree with them?”
Here’s where the math comes in. It was a majority decision, not a unanimous decision. Only five of the Supreme Court Justices voted against the thing that Sotomayor voted for. Four of the Supreme Court Justices voted for the thing Sotomayor voted for.
So if there were a ten-person court it would be five to five.
The Supreme Court has been defined as the court that decides cases about which reasonable people disagree. Almost all their decisions seem to be 5 to 4.
But here’s the really interesting item; David Souter, the Supreme Sotomayor is replacing, voted the same way she did.
That must count for something.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

#1049 Dishonest Mistake

Every now and then, someone screws up. I know I do often enough. But when they do it’s usually not a matter of malice. It’s just an honest mistake. It happens out of ignorance or ineptitude but rarely was there immoral intent.
These small errors we call honest mistakes. I suppose to distinguish them from dishonest mistakes. Or possibly lying mistakes.
Like the one I heard the other day. You may remember William Bennett, the corpulent uber-conservative who has gone in and out of the rightwing spotlight. He was the drug czar for Reagan. He once published a book on the fading virtues and morals of American society in which he then told us the morals we need to honor.
One of the virtues he extolled was self-control. He had no patience with people who lamented afterwards, “Oh, if only I had stopped myself...” Shortly after, he was revealed to have a gambling addiction.
That briefly labeled him with the scarlet H of Hypocrite.
Recently Mr. Bennett was on a Fox talk show and he was talking about Obama’s response to the protests in Iran. He said Obama needed to show toughness, show the “…clenched fist of the Statue of Liberty.”
Here’s the funny thing. When I heard this, I instantly conjured up a mental image of the Statue of Liberty, and in that image I visualized/remembered her with a raised clenched fist ala the Black Power protest movement of the sixties.
But the Statue of Liberty has no such fist. As she is welcoming the tired poor huddled masses to our shores, she is holding high the torch of freedom. Not the fist of freedom.
What is insidious about the metaphorical image Bennett chose to use is that either he’s stupid or he knows exactly what the Statue of Liberty looks like and yet thought he could deceive his audience by drawing the false image in their minds.
Now that is the definition of a dishonest mistake.
So here’s a suggestion from my book of virtues. Doctors have to take the Hippocratic Oath. Politicians and Pundits should take the Hypocritic Oath.
Especially when they make a name for themselves as critics.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

#1048 Spelling Spiel

Writing and reading a lot as I do, I often encounter spelling mistakes and mysteries. Like I opened an e-invitation the other day and it said, “your invited.” Y-o-u-r. I wanted to send back a reply that said, “Your invitation was wrong. It should have said y-o-u- apostrophe r-e-. As in, you are invited, not as in your invitation.”
I saw another website written by a purported Marketing VP which said they were passing savings onto the public. Onto was one word. Um, no. Not unless the savings were solid glumps they were passing out of their digestive system. Money savings they would be passing “on”—separate word—“to” the public.
But then again our language is tricky. I use the word “spiel,” for instance, and sometimes I pronounce it like it’s spelled, s-p-i-e-l- but 90% of the time I pronounce it like most folks, schpiel, adding some Germanic or possibly Yiddish “sch” to the whole schpiel deal.
And what would a foreigner make of the following five words? Sold, solder, soldier, should and shoulder. Add the letters e-r- to the end of “sold” and you suddenly have a totally different sound, solder. Now it’s not the person who sold something, it’s a piece of metal that melts easily. Add an “i” between the “d” and the “e” and you get the “sold” sound back. Now you have soldier, who may be a do-it-yourself mechanic, so he would occasionally be sold some solder at the PX.
Should he buy such solder and get a bad deal he may turn to his wife for a shoulder to cry on. Adding those mysteriously magical two letters “e” and “r” at the end of should suddenly changes the pronunciation again. “Should,” formerly with a silent “L” now decides to reveal the glory of its “L” sound and become “shoulder.”
Of course “should” should be spelled liked wood—w-o-o-d-. But then again, how would we spell the would in “how would we spell the would” if we didn’t chuck wood—w-o-o-d-?
Sold, soldier, should, shoulder—the thought makes me shudder.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

#1047 Rapscallion

People often ask me, Funny Guy, where do you get your mildly funny ideas? And I tell them, things are just twisted on the way in. My perceptual system is damaged somehow, probably as a result of my mom smoking “Kool, the Healthier Cigarette for your throat,” while I was a fetus.
It left me with the endless capacity to see things strangely. Unfortunately not in really funny, potentially profitable ways.
Like I hear an advertisement for a dog-walking place called the Huff and Puff park, and my first thought is, is it for smokers, or should it be called the Poop and Stoop?
I hear about the protest rally against David Letterman over the Sarah Palin flap. Then I hear that only 12 people actually showed up. My first thought—Yeah, and three of them were Rush Limbaugh.
Then I hear Conan is getting buried in the ratings as a result of Dave’s issue with Sarah. Conan is “Palin” by comparison, so he’s thinking of inviting her to a Dodgers game but hasn’t decided yet on the right tactless remark to get Todd riled up.
The other day I’m walking by this older guy telling a friend he was going to get one of those new “Kittles.”
“I think you mean Kindle,” I remarked.
“No,” he said, “I’m pretty sure it’s a kittle.”
“It’s a book thing,” I say, “It’s not dog food.”
“That’s Kibble,” he fires back.
“True enough,” I replied, “and your new reading device will use bits, but it’s still a Kindle.”
This is the same guy who tried to save money on a Blackberry, so he let some street vendor talk him into buying a Dingleberry. He thought the dingle meant it included a fancy ringtone.
He’s also one of those old codgers who calls whippersnappers rapscallions. Which is actually okay with me. I like the term rapscallion. It has an old English ring to it. The kind of thing you’re likely to hear in a play shouted out by someone wagging a cane at an artful dodger who’s just kicked a dog.
Rapscallion also sounds like some rare ingredient the Naked Chef would use on the food channel.
Thanks Mom.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

#1046, Skin Niche

Well the results are finally in. The filthiest place on your skin. Or should I say the most biologically diverse?
A group of researchers recently took samples of the various places on the body organ known as our skin and determined the composition of the biological colonies of bacteria and suchlike that lived there.
It’s pretty disgusting.
They sampled 20 separate areas and found, according to geneticist Julie Segre, a smorgasbord of ecosystems. Yum. Let’s all go to the skin buffet.
I hope it has a sneeze guard.
The skin is home to roughly 1,000 species of bacteria, nearly as many as in our gut. The most diverse region of our skin, when it comes to these micro-ecosystems, is the forearm. Whodda thunk it?
It’s not the navel, which certainly makes sense—when was the last time your navel brushed up against a toilet flush handle. It’s also not the nostril or the armpit. It’s not even what scientists call the gluteal crease.
You heard right. Scientists refer to the valley between the cheeks as the gluteal crease. Darn, I guess I lost. When they had the “Name the Chasm contest”, I suggested “buttockeal cleavage”.
Well, ripe as that area is for bacterial contamination, what with its darkness and wetness and being the excremental exit, it has far less bacteria than the forearm.
Here’s the funny thing. They found the most bacteria free area of your body is the one your mom always told you to be sure to scrub. Behind your ears. I guess we actually paid attention.
Scientists are wondering why the worst area is the forearm, but I guess it’s pretty understandable. You almost never pay attention to washing, wiping or Purell-ing your forearm. And yet it is almost constantly exposed to the outside world. It’s not tucked away under underwear—t-shirts, briefs, bras or panties. It usually has lots of hair follicles for bacteria folk to grab onto too, and isn’t shaved and plucked and lasered.
And most skin-ificantly, nerdy scientific student types, who researchers usually use to research on, stereotypically employ their forearms to, um, wipe their runny noses.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

#1045 Writing on the Wall

I recently received a circular in the mail, which featured the latest must-haves for interior décor. One of the offerings was a set of three giant circular disks that you stick to your wall.
They are a rather intrusive shade of florescent pink, sure to clash with any other décor color on the planet. The purpose of these disks is for your youngster to write on. To jot down “notes-to-self”, doodles, or whatever their little minds desire.
They use the new “dry-erase” technology, so they can be wiped off again and again as your flibbertigibbet youngsters go through their endless enthusiasm swings.
They are called Wall Pops.
The picture in the ad shows a teenage girl scrawling a “don’t forget list” on one disk. The other disks on her wall feature a “paper due on the 2nd” reminder and a drawing of a happy face with hair.
Interestingly, the picture also shows the girl’s desk, on which is an open brand-new laptop. One would think a young person like that would be so versed in the technology of her laptop that she would be able to program in an automatic alert to tell her when her paper is due, so she might avoid scrawling the reminder on a large pink disk on her wall.
But no, the Wall Pops are a retreat to an earlier technology—the technology of jotting down a note. In this case with a system that is functionally not unlike a, um, chalkboard. Chalkboards were the original “dry erase” system. Used by countless generations of boring lecturers and geniuses in physics.
Wall Pops, though they sound like a very large sucker, are really an acknowledgement that sometimes we really do just want to jot something down. And that large temporary and physical reminders are better than a gigabyte of electronic memory.
Plus, if you use the Wall Pops in your toddler’s room, they could be cute early training in the fine art of graffiti.
Better yet, when your child actually forgets one of her reminders, you can ask her pointedly why she couldn’t see the writing on the wall.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

#1044 G-Man GPS

They say that freedom won’t go out with a bang, but a whimper and I’m beginning to believe them. Slowly, surely, we are trading our privacy for the seductive vixen of convenience.
It’s convenience that makes us want to carry cellphones wherever we go. Convenience that makes us sign up for a service that tells our friends where we are without us having to Twitter it. Convenience that leads us to accept that each and every portable cellular device we carry contains a miniature GPS unit.
GPS helps us find other places. But it also helps other people find our place. It is theoretically possible at this point for someone to track you down based on the cellphone in your pocket.
In the old days you might get in your car, and if the police were after you because they thought you had committed some crime, they could put out an APB on your license plate, and if someone was lucky enough to spot it, they could track you down.
Now, they don’t need your car...or your cellphone.
The new enhanced driver’s license makes finding you easy. Enhanced drivers licenses are the new in-between documentation you can take with you if you don’t want to spring for the time and money of a real passport. They are so much more convenient to acquire.
Say you’re only going to Canada for an illegal prescription drug run every now and then. No problem, hop down to the DMV and pick up your new “enhanced drivers license.” How is it enhanced? Simple and convenient. Embedded in your license is a little radio device with unique numbers. It’s like the microchips they put in dogs.
Except now it’s in your back pocket. They’re passive radio devices to be sure, but every time you walk by a government reader they know you’re there.
“Who cares?” you say. “If you’re not doing anything criminal you got nothing to worry about.” All well and good if your trust your government will always be led by the right people.
I mean who ever heard of unscrupulous politicians misusing power?
Only when it was convenient...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

#1043 I Scream

As both a hysterical paranoid and a person who believes in statistics, I can only scream one thing. Sometimes they are out to get me.
Case in point: The other day I’m at the grocery store. I go through the self-checkout line in my self-sufficient fashion. I used avoid that because I didn’t want to put people out of work, then a number of checkers annoyed me so I’m trying to get them fired in a passive-aggressive way.
Anyhow, when I paid for my stuff a receipt slips out of one little printer and a coupon comes poking out of another. The coupon is for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. What a coincidence, I think, and, as usual, a day late and a dollar short, I just bought some Haagen-Dazs.
Then I read the coupon. No coincidence. The coupon says, “Have a free mini-cup on us. You just lost a serving of ice cream with that 14-ounce container you bought. Ben and Jerry’s is still a full 16 ounces.”
Now I am both scared and upset. They knew what ice cream I just bought! The bar code told the computer and computer paid attention to a standing message from Ben and Jerry that the next time someone buys a 14-ounce container of Haggen-Dazs it should spit out this coupon.
So what’s to prevent the computer from sending my debit card and identity info back to Ben and socially conscious Jerry? What if Ben and Jerry are harvesting that information for the next time they want to take over bovine-threatening America?
Do they know I bought steaks with growth hormones at the same time? Or that I bought an I love Rush Limbaugh jigsaw puzzle? (Tough one, too, it’s so hard to tell his bulging cheeks from his bulging tummy.)
And here’s the part that really upset me—because I’m a cheapskate of long standing. The Haagen-Dazs I bought was in a 14-ounce container. And I never noticed. I assumed it was 16 ounces. A stupid coupon printer had to point it out to me.
The machines are not only out to get me.
They’re smarter than me too.
It scares me so much, I scream.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

#1042 Privacy Piracy

Having said that I hate Facebook and will always unfriend it, it doesn’t address the larger issue of those who do love it and the consequences of that love.
E-peer pressure. Or perhaps i-Peer Pressure.
Because it is becoming impossible to sidestep e-association all together. The other day a person from an organization that had been keeping me updated on an upcoming event said I should check her Facebook for the latest copy of a poster. Couldn’t she have just sent it to me when she sent the email telling me to check her Facebook?
Not long after, I’m at the David Letterman website and it says David Letterman is now on Facebook. I like Letterman. But now if I want to see what other people are seeing, I have to join Facebook.
Lately it seems everyone wants to use a new e-invite service. They make me use this online system to RSVP. I don’t like doing that. The site harvests data they don’t need to know.
Hey. I’m coming. This is my name. Deal with it.
On the site you see a list of everyone else who is coming and their clever little “I’ll be there with bells on” remarks. Sorry, it’s not that important to me to read other people invitation confirmations. And I sure as hell don’t want to share mine with anyone but the hosts.
Then again, it did help me duck an ex-girlfriend once, so maybe it’s a good idea. Definitely provided me a little temporary e-harmony.
But it’s getting out of control. Now every time I attend an event and leave my email address I get a follow-up “survey monkey” sent to my inbox. Hey, I went to the event, I don’t want to provide you with exhaustive demographic information about me as a result.
My day is enough like a zoo already, I don’t need to spend it with monkeys, survey or otherwise.
But I do feel like one animal—a cow in a chute on the way to the slaughterhouse. Being forced with the herd down this inexorable path to e-doom.
And the total piracy of my privacy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

#1041 Un-Following

I once said I would never get a cellphone, largely because I found people using cellphones rude and their use intrusive. I’m saying the same thing now about Facebook and the like.
BTW, I now use a cellphone all the time.
I suppose the biggest question I have to ask about the whole social networking thing is, are these people feeling less lonely? The biggest complaint about modern society once was that people were isolated and alienated by the hubbub of the daily rat race.
Nuclear families, living in suburban homes, separated by walls, buried in the bowels of their TVs. Social networking proposed to change all that. You could be connected to your friends 24/7. You could post your whereabouts on Twitter, summarize your day and share your digital photos on Facebook, and generally peel back the layers of privacy to even the most marginal of your acquaintances.
Is it working? I’m not sure. I see two friends walking together down the street and they both have their iPhones or Blackberries out tweeting to someone else. They spend so much time chronicling their day they forget to live their day.
New social anguish has kept pace with technology as well. The web is filled with horror stories of people being publicly “unfriended.”
Another objection. Friend is not a verb. You can’t “friend” someone. You befriend them. You can’t unfriend someone either.
At least the kids don’t enemy people. That would sound too much like an orderly with a large syringe of warm soapy fluid. Yeah I’m going to enema Mr. Jones in 2-b.
So now rather than gradually drifting apart as friends do, or never speaking another word to someone and they don’t know why, ex-friends publicly unfriend each other on Facebook.
Social Un-networking is the new teenage torture.
The other reason I won’t twitter or join these types of things is I won’t be a “follower.” “So and so is a follower of this blog.” “He has so many followers on Twitter.”
Sorry, not for me. Subscriber? Yes. Interested party? Okay. Follower? Never.
It’s feels too much like the Twitter equivalent of Dittohead.
America, ya gotta love it.