Friday, September 25, 2009

#1102 Old-itude

It’s funny how one’s perception of old-itude keeps changing as one gets older.
I was talking to someone the other day who was talking about “cougars” and I didn’t know what he meant. He explained that “cougars” were older women who hit on younger men. Like older men that hit on younger women are lechers, or lounge lizards, or just plain hound dogs, the older woman who pursues younger men now has a mascot.
But it will make it easy next Apple Cup. If someone starts telling a joke about a Rubenesque older woman hitting on a younger man at a football game it’ll be a Husky Cougar joke for sure.
But it is funny the words and things that seem to denote age. When I was a kid, I grew up in a town that was a haven for snowbirds and retirees. So I was pretty certain only old people drove this one type of car—the Oldsmobile.
It made sense to my young kid mind. Particularly since the only folks I ever saw driving Oldsmobiles were squinty-eyed blue-hairs barely peeping over the giant steering wheels. 4 tons of Detroit steel and Mrs. Magoo. It kept me quick on my feet.
Speaking of old things and words. The other day someone asked me to try an heirloom tomato. As she was someone I care for, I put aside my initial repulsion at the idea and tried it. Turns out heirloom doesn’t have to mean dried out doilies stinking of powdered lilac. I expected a tomato that was maybe a little musty. Like the inside of a slowly decaying jewelry box—reeking of mildew, or formerly wet but now dry and fungal-encrusted crushed velvet.
But actually, the tomato was quite delightful. Not unlike the young lady that gave it to me. It’s heirloom qualities were exactly that, the quality you would expect from when they made things good.
But I wasn’t sure what I saw the other day when I went past a butcher shop that called itself Heritage Meats. What, pray tell, is a heritage meat?
Yeah I’ll have the historical ham-hock please, and, oh yeah, throw in a chunk of that antique pork loin...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

#1101 Call of India

I’m concerned about the shrinking global marketplace. We may have reached the point where too many jobs are being outsourced to the Far East.
If you’ve had computer issues at any time in the last 5 years, it’s likely you’ve had occasion to converse with someone in India who has been trained to not only help you with your problem, but also to try to speak American-style English.
It’s sad these jobs have been outsourced. I’m sure there are plenty of Americans who would love to be paid to sit around and answer the phone and tell people to reboot their computers in surly incomprehensible mumbling English. In their day, one of my teenage sons would have filled that position just fine.
Especially the surly incomprehensible mumbling English part.
So it was strange when I actually got a call from India the other day. The phone rang at the telemarketer time of day. Unusual because I pay to have an unpublished number, I’m on various “do not call” lists, and expect my dinner hours to be free of unsolicited solicitations. My caller I.D. showed nothing so I warily picked up the phone prepared to do battle.
What should I encounter but a thickly accented Indian voice. He told me my name and asked if it was correct. I said yes. Then he rushed through some garbled sentence about who he was from, then asked me if my computer was on. “Why?” I asked. He gargled some more English, and I asked him to repeat it, slowly.
“We need to check the status of your computer,” he said. “Is it on?” Suspicious now, I said no. “Could you turn your computer on now so we can check it,” he said. Again, I said no. “When will you have your computer on?” he said.
“Not ‘til tomorrow at 5:00,” I lied.
I make exceptions for the “do not lie” commandment when people don’t honor the “do not call” list. He said he would call back. He didn’t.
So here’s the deal. I always thought telemarketing con-jobbers made a lot of money. Is the economy so bad they’re trying to cut costs too? Have we reached the point where we’re having to go overseas to find cheaper scam artists?
We’re outsourcing our crooks?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

#1100 De Fibs

Two things today.
First, I got a flyer from a new old folks home not long ago. You know you’ve crossed the mid-life threshold when you start getting direct mail for senior centers.
As I was trying to open this flyer to see how seniors live, I was stymied by my lack of fine motor skills. When you get old, I’m told, your fine motor skills go first. Then your medium motor skills, then you can’t drive a car at all.
The flyer was one of those tri-fold deals, which for some reason are now always held together with these little clear adhesive sticker discs. The post office must require them so the page doesn’t flop open and jam their automatic postage machines.
But the net effect of the adhesive stickers was I couldn’t open the circular. The stickers are all well and good for young people with thick skin and flexible fingers. But for folks with thin paper-like paper-cut sensitive senior skin they’re pretty scary. If there’s one item of wisdom age brings, it’s looking ahead to possible problems—the “see it before you step in it” insight.
And if paper cut-ability wasn’t enough. Think of the poor folks suffering from arthritis. Un-stickering and unfolding a flyer could really hurt.
The company should have sprung for the printing process that includes post-it like adhesive right on the page, without the stickers. I’d write them a letter if my fingers weren’t so sore.
On another subject, I heard a rather interesting rumor the other day. Seems cities across the land are really strapped for funds thanks to the depression. Excuse me, economic downturn. The story is that fire departments are being scaled back and police officers are being trained as EMT’s. Part of their training is in how to use a Taser in a new way—as a defibrillator.
“Set Taser to revive. Clear!”
I had a defibrillator used on me once and I wasn’t able to tell a lie for a week.
Which would have made it hard for me to tell that last story...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#1099 Anti-Protectionism

Sometimes, when I talk of all the things I survived from my youth, I get a little dismissive of today’s advances like airbags and bicycle helmets and such. I shouldn’t. It’s important to remember that we are the ones who survived not having those things. Many of those that didn’t, didn’t.
But I read an interesting article the other day about how car seats can be dangerous. Not in and of themselves, like being laced with fireproofing chemicals that totally screw up a baby’s growth hormones.
They’re dangerous because parents use them for one-stop napping. It’s the carryall car seat, going straight from the car to the stroller to four hours at the mall. The kid is curled up like a baby in a Barcolounger the whole time.
And it’s not so good for his development. Folding the baby up in a car seat is good and safe for traveling in a car, the rest of the time it’s compressing his lungs, restricting his airways and lowering those important blood oxygen levels by 20 percent—the oxygen levels that promote growth and feed the growing brain.
So if you’re a parent you might want to take notice. You don’t want your kid growing up and saying, “Dude, I scored low on my SATs because my folks had me scrunched in my car seat for-like-ever...”
Which, speaking of driving, brings me to another safety subject. The other day I was driving around and these two 12-year-oldish kids on bicycles were riding to football practice. I surmised this because they had on football pads and uniforms.
Strangely, their football helmets were dangling from their handlebars, and on their heads were bicycle helmets. So my question, which helmet don’t they trust?
If a helmet is good enough to keep you from getting hurt smashing into other people with helmets on the field, wouldn’t it be equally good at protecting you should you fall off a bike?
Here’s why I asked. One of the kid’s dangling helmets jammed between the handlebar and his knee when he was turning and almost made him crash his bike.
Two helmets are not safer than one.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

#1098 Toddler Torture

Yesterday I remarked on how so many of us managed to survive glass thermometers with mercury in them shoved under our tongues, while today’s kids have a little electronic wand passed gently over their foreheads.
A good friend of mine wrote that I triggered the memory of his mom coming in to his bedroom when he was sick, shaking the heck out of that thermometer thing, and then sort of rolling it trying to read something. She would put it in his mouth, tell him to keep it closed and then disappear for a while.
His memory totally agreed with mine at that point. It was like we all saw it on the Donna Reed show or something. The fifties uber-family. When my mom disappeared from her not so gentle medical ministrations, I could usually surmise she had gone for a smoke while she waited for my temperature to register, because when she returned to my bedroom she still had a very un-Donna Reed style cigarette pinched thermometer-like between her lips.
My friend remembered not just his temperature, but his fears increasing while his mother was gone, as he was left with a fragile piece of glass in his mouth and the mortal dread he would bite it and the shards would cut his innards.
He also worried about having it straight as it would sometimes slip off to the side. Would he mess it up if he touched it to correct the slippage? What if it then gave a bad reading and his brain cooked?
Such are the fears of youth. I remember the thermometer being so incredibly sharp. It literally jabbed into the sensitive underside of my tongue where my mom would always seem to stab for the webbing in the center.
I suppose this unconscious torture had something to do with the suspicion that I was faking being sick to get out of school. Or worse, I really was sick, and it would totally mess up her work schedule if I had to stay home.
It must be hard for current parents to vent similar frustrations by passing a wand over their kid’s forehead.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

#1097 Wussies

I listen to a lot of radio. I like music, and a good radio station broadcasts better sound quality than the thin and tinny, tiny iPods. I also actually like listening to the ads, as I admire a nice turn of phrase or a clever quip.
And when you think about it, 30-second ads can be mini-psychological masterpieces, doing their best in an extremely short amount of time to hook your interest and motivate you to act. In today’s multi-tasking and distracting society, that’s no mean feat.
And we all know mean feet lead to angry toes.
That last part was to see if you were paying attention.
But what I really get out of listening to ads is an awareness of how our culture is going. The other day I heard an ad for Exergen’s new temporal thermometer. It was one of those dramatized dialogue ads, which frankly I hate.
The imaginary child was complaining to her mother, “I don’t want to get my temperature taken. I hate it.” The mom was soothing her and the child kept whining. “I don’t want it in my ear.”
Then the patient doctor voice came on and assured the child he was only going to pass his magic wand across her forehead and simple as that it was done. “See,” he says, “no more ears.”
The child squealed with delight. (I always love ads that include both a whine and a squeal) The kid then said she, “...couldn’t wait to go to school and take everyone’s temperature.”
The ad went on to say one of the places you could buy the new thermometer was at Toys ‘R Us. Because you know, it’s important to encourage kids to play doctor.
But here’s what gets me. Are we turning into a nation of wussies? I’ve heard of whine country but this is ridiculous. My generation had glass tubes—with mercury in them— stuck uncomfortably under our tongues IN OUR MOUTH!
Or possibly, if we were too weak with fever to hold it in our mouth, they jabbed one up our backside.
And this kid is whining about her ears?
Me too, when I heard the ad.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#1096 Branded Standards

It’s interesting to see how our culture has branded us to certain standards we’re often unaware of.
Like last week, I was at different events and each of them had generic soft drinks in cans. And with barely looking I could tell which flavor was which.
How? By the color of the can. The red can was cola, the brown can was root beer, and the green can was lemon-lime. Why? Because the most successful brands in each of those genres originally used those colors. Now that’s success; when your colors even identify the competition’s products.
Pepsi is working to re-brand itself as the blue-can cola. We’ll measure their true market penetration when the generic brands jump on the blue canned wagon. And they may. If frosty cold is what you want in a soft drink.
Nothing says cold like a blue can.
It’s interesting though. On the one hand, we eschew such exact regularity. Our language is littered with words like dollop and smidgen and load. And our words for our senses are sometimes vague too. We can have a taste of something. But can we have just a tiny smell of something? Maybe. You say, give me a taste of that coffee. So I suppose you could say, give me a whiff of that coffee.
People would just look at you oddly.
Speaking of coffee and unreliable measurements, you know when it says on your coffee maker that it makes 12 6-oz cups? Funny, huh? To everyone one else in the world, a cup is 8 ounces. Or in beer measurements, 2 cups make a pint and 2 pints make a quart.
After 2 quarts who cares.
Well, the reason Mr. Coffee first invented 6-oz cups is that’s how much coffee you make with one teaspoon. If they were smart and patriotic, they would have kept the 8 oz cups and invented a coffee spoon.
That prissy English “tea”spoon held us back from a full 8-oz cup of American coffee.
Sometimes I feel like my food is totally caught up in measurements. Not long ago I went to a potluck picnic and had a foot-long hot dog and 6, um, inch-iladas.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

#1095 A Shot at the Majors

It’s interesting to see how innovative our business people can be during tough economic times. Innovation is what made our great country a success and it’s that “can-do” attitude that will pull us through.
But sometimes when some of our businesses are making do, it looks more like they’re making doo—as in doo doo.
Perhaps it’s best summed up by something Helen Keller was credited as saying. “When one door closes, another door opens—it’s the hallway in between that’s the problem.”
And in that hallway we have the example of a giant outdoor chain that sells lots of guns. Gun sales always go up when a depression hits, and this time they’ve gone up even more because gun lovers fear the Democratic administration may curtail gun availability.
But they had an ad the other day that I thought may have been not so smart. They were offering 0% interest and no payments for 12 months on new Ruger Firearms.
Now I can see such an offer on a new washing machine. But here’s the deal. People who are in desperate straights financially don’t run out and rob a liquor store with a washing machine. I’ll probably get shot for stating this opinion, but I’m thinking that when someone is too poor to afford to pay cash for a firearm, they’re poor enough to be headed towards the desperation that triggers violence.
I shouldn’t judge. Maybe that’s just how desperate I would be.
But major gun stores aren’t the only innovators. Major League ballparks are coming up with funding alternatives too. Now that ticket sales for seats are off, some of them are offering you the opportunity to be a groundskeeper. How much could you make as a grounds-keeper? Well, here’s the twist.
You pay them.
Yep, for $1250 you can put in a day’s work as a groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers. An incredible opportunity. Think of it: You can groom the field that millionaires stand on while they’re waiting for balls. And you only have to pay $1250 for the privilege.
I’d like to take a shot at that. Think they’d accept 0% down and no payments for 12 months?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

#1094 Srap

There’s no doubt I love the English language and how weird it is. If it didn’t have so many strange characteristics I would have been out of an avocation long ago.
Like I was reading about a hapless person the other day. And I wondered. Is anyone hapful? When you are hapless, you are unfortunate or you have no luck. So is hap a word for luck? Or maybe if having more hap means you have more good fortune, then it’s right to say hapless is the opposite of happy.
Which I know a person I met the other day wasn’t when she was trying to pronounce this restaurant’s name, Cicada. Having grown up near the insects of the same name, I was not stymied by the spelling. But if you think about it, Cicada is one of those words that could go a lot of directions and still have acceptable uses of the letters within.
It’s got 2 c’s in it and either one could be soft or hard. Like Celtic could be seltic or keltic. Funny, because Caribbean, even though it could be Kar-a-BEEE-an or Ka-RIB-e-an is never saribbean. The word facile is also never pronounced Fakile, whether one is being glib or no.
But cicada presents all sorts of possibilities to the uninitiated. It can be the correct sih-KAY-dah. Or it could easily be the slightly strange, kiss-SAY-dah. It could be kiss-KAY-day. Or it could be siss-SAY-dah.
Which sounds an awful lot like that Phil Collins song sue-sue-sudio. Yeah, let’s go to Siss-SAY-da for a sip of sangria.
Sih-KAY-dah could also very easily be Sih-cah-DAY. Or possibly Kah-sah-DAY. Or even Kah-SAH-duh.
Which sounds more like the restaurant this Cicada I’m talking about actually is. Kah-SAH-duh puts me in mind of casaba, as in the melon, or even a giant calzone-sized quesadilla.
“No, the quesadilla sounds too tiny. I’ll have the full kah-SAH-duh.”
K and C sounds are challenging that way. My favorite sign is for a place called Kennedy Creek Quarry. The letters K, C, and Q, all conveying the K sound.
It’s no wonder some Foreigners think English it’s a piece of srap...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

#1093 Van Ill

So the other day I was at a place and they had one of those coffee additives sitting on the counter. You know the kind, the “one stop glop” for people who like coffee but don’t like the taste of coffee. Anyhow, this one said it was French Vanilla flavor.
And for the first time I wondered: What is the difference between French Vanilla and regular vanilla? Is French Vanilla smoother? Or is it more rude? Does it disagree with right-wingers so they have to call it Freedom Vanilla?
Nope. French Vanilla is none of those things. French Vanilla is nothing more than a Mexican immigration story. Or emigration.
In what you would suspect of a word and ingredient that is often synonymous with white bread, it turns out regular vanilla is as American as apple pie, or I suppose I should say as Apple Empanadas. Because regular vanilla comes from the other middle America, Mexico to be exact, where it was discovered and extracted by Mesoamerican tribes.
It’s actually an orchid, and the fruit pods are what we get the flavor from. Mexico was the sole producer of vanilla until about 1819, when a French entrepreneur planted some in the French colony of Re’union in the Indian Ocean. Other plantations were started in the Comoros islands and Madagascar.
Was that in the animated movie?
Soon these places were responsible for 80% of the world’s vanilla production. Then there was a vanilla cartel, controlling supplies, prices, and yellowish ice cream. So tons of money was made from a transplanted orchid. (Yum, gimme some of that flower flavor.)
Vanilla also fetches a high price. It’s the second highest priced spice, because of the labor-intensive methods of harvest, cultivation, and extraction.
And you just want to put it in your coffee. Which, coincidentally, is another extremely labor-intensive crop.
Think of all the man-hours of grueling hot labor that went into your relaxing morning cup of coffee.
Then again, maybe not. A final vanilla factoid: 95% of vanilla flavored products today contain no vanilla. Cheaper living through chemistry.
In the meantime, that French entrepreneur made about a vanillion dollars.
I think I’m going to be van ill...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

#1092 License to Dumb

So the other day I was feeling kind of dumb. You know how sometimes you do something unconsciously and then two seconds later you go, “Now why the heck did I just do something so dumb?”
I was writing about how some birds had flown in from the offshore islands. And then I thought, “That’s dumb. Aren’t all islands off shore?” I mean really. They’re islands.
And if you say to me, but wait, they’re probably talking about the islands that are directly next to the mainland, then I would counter: “Consider this Kwai Chang, do not islands themselves have shores?”
Maybe that’s why I was confused when moments later I opened a letter from the Department of Licensing in which I was offered the choice to renew my license online, in person, or by mail. I was still trying to decide whether I should choose one of the options, or opt for one of the choices, when two days later another letter came in the mail offering me the same alternatives and this time included a return envelope.
So that’s the way I did it. Not having to hunt up an envelope swung me. But here’s the dumb thing. Security-wise, going in person was the best choice. But I so wanted to avoid the hassle of the DMV, I accepted the risk of losing my license in the mail and having my identity stolen.
But isn’t it strange we are being offered this alternative in the first place? Many states are now requiring you to not just come in, but pose in a particular way when you get your renewal. They don’t even let you smile, so your face will look more like a mugshot and make it easier for their face recognition software.
But here we are in Washington State, sending licenses through the mail, using pictures that are at least 5 years old. My old license picture was taken in 2005. My new license with my old picture won’t expire until 2014. A lot can happen to your looks in 10 years. Just ask any ex-president.
I hope my identity thief looks as dumb as me.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

#1091 Bit-o-Humor

I’ve run into some new fashions lately, and I’m not sure what to make of them.
First, I was at a Mariners game and I noticed that some of the players were wearing long pants. I mean really long. Like over the shoe flares. They looked sort of like the pants flamenco dancers wear. Whatever happened to the mid-calf show-some-striped-sock look? Well, some of the players had that too. I’m not sure optional dress is a good thing. Makes that whole uniform thing seem meaningless.
And is this a baggy-saggy or giant basketball shorts-like-dresses carryover? The pants were dragging pretty low. If they’re not careful they could trip over them when they’re trying to grab balls.
Speaking of changing fashions, I was up in Seattle visiting my son, who sells these beds that go for $10,000. It’s the bed so good, it does your sleeping for you. When we were discussing the internet he made the astute observation that one should be very careful about what one posts in any place, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, even comments on news and other websites.
Because what you put on will be there years later. Maybe when you are applying for a job, or dating someone new. Maybe you actually changed your mind about something you railed against, maybe using some fairly blue language in the process. The point is, think before you post. An internet posting is like a social tattoo. Get it right and put it where you want it.
Fashion even changes in food stamps. Not long ago, I wasn’t sure what this thing was when I heard about it on the radio. A pizza place was saying it now accepted E-B-T-. It turns out, as I’m sure you’re well ahead of me on this, that it’s an electronic way of doing food stamps. It stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer.
Which means you can go to a U-Bake pizza place and use it. But I’m sorry, E-B-T- actually sounds like a pregnancy test of some sort.
So the first thought that popped into my mind was, where do you hold the pizza to make the test work?
“Honey...My pizza has a plus on it, what does that mean?”
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

#1090 Buriality

One the quirkier stories in the news of late is the lady who wanted to sell her husband’s burial vault and move him somewhere else. The vault in question is directly over Marilyn Monroe. The lady thinks she can auction it for a fairly good price on eBay.
Your final bay...on eBay.
The lady plans to move her dead hubby to a different cubby, next to the one he’s currently in. It was reserved for her. She intends to be cremated.
Probably because she’s still hot from the whole deal.
Seems her deceased loved one bought the crypt from Joe (say it ain’t so) DiMaggio, on the occasion of Joe’s divorce from Marilyn. The guy then bought a vault next to his for his wife. And here’s where it gets really strange. The guy not only thought it would be cool to eternally rest over the top of Marilyn, he asked that his body be placed face down so he would be looking at her.
Someone might have explained to him that that whole looking and seeing thing sort of stops happening when you die. They might also have explained to him that, embalming or no, corpses rot, and after the first 60 years, looking down, even if it were possible, would involve a slightly different view.
But think of the implicit insult to his wife. “Oh hey Honey, bury me over Marilyn Monroe face down because she’s so beautiful, and when you die you can be buried right next to me. Face whatever direction you like. And wear something nice. Marilyn will be close.”
I’d move the bastard too. No word who he will be face down over after the move. Knowing Hollywood, it’s probably Roy Roger’s horse.
But burial reality, or buriality as I call it, can be funny. I recently saw an advertising banner hanging at a cemetery. It said, “Basic Cremation $623.”
And my first thought was, why six twenty three? Why not 621 or 625?
“621? You’re killing me here, I can’t possibly burn you for under 623.”
My next thought was, what is there besides basic cremation? What do they do with an enhanced version? Add hickory chips?
Or do you get like a...spice rub?
America, ya gotta love it.

#1089 Mourning Serial

When I was at a Mariners game, I noticed a peculiar scent. Which I’m sure will be forever associated with baseball in the primitive nasal memory of little boys who have been at Safeco Field. Hot dogs? Hot peanuts roasted in the shell? Nope, the modern baseball culinary delight¾Garlic Fries. Man, the sweet odor of garlic fries was wafting to the rafters.
My son pointed out another interesting gastronomic anomaly. On their menu, the chocolate-covered strawberry kabob people listed “Dingleberry on a Stick.” Maybe dingleberry means different things in different places, but it in the end it didn’t sound very appetizing to me.
My son and I talked about recent news items during the slow parts of the game. Like the reinstatement of Michael Vick at a pitiful 1.2 million “probation” salary. Nice to know he can do all he did and still come back to barely struggle along on a mere 1.2 million. Of course, that amounts to minimum wage in the NFL. How unfortunate. I’m guessing his lawyer, as good as he is, probably won’t be getting him the Alpo endorsement to supplement his salary. We’ll see if the audience greets him with howls of disgust as his reputation continues to dog him.
But we have lawyers to thank for one thing. One of the worst recent news items is the millionaire who decided to kill and render his estranged wife, and did so strangely. Apparently, he’d been watching too many episodes of CSI. In his attempt to dispose of her beyond scientific recognition, he went to the trouble of removing her fingertips and pulling her teeth.
You got to wonder about a guy who not just kills someone, but methodically does what he did. Talk about processing his issues.
He was finally undone by a miracle of modern medicine. She was identified by the serial numbers on her chest enhancement accouterments. That’s right, they have serial numbers. Like all prosthetic medical devices.
Why? Thanks to lawyers. Because our litigious society demands a paper trail of whom to sue if something goes wrong. Or in this case whom to catch when his number comes up—before he becomes a serial killer.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

#1088 Good Training

I had to go up to a Mariners game and I thought, “Hey I’ll just drive to Tukwila and pick up the new light rail.” Yep, light rail, Seattle finally has non-buss mass transit just like a big East Coast city.
I would have saved a lot of time and money too if I hadn’t missed one key automobile turn and got lost in the bowels of Burien.
The turn I missed sent me involuntarily to the airport. I looped through and got back to International Boulevard, but one of those stupid amber warning signs told me the street I needed was closed so I turned off one street early and descended into the winding guts of suburbitude that can only be summed up with the woeful word Burien.
I finally ended up approaching the intersection I needed from the opposite direction. The problem? The traffic lights were out. Totally out, not blinking-red out. So everyone was going for it. With four streets and four left turn lanes it was a traffic cluster of epic proportions.
Maybe it was Sound Transit’s way of really making you appreciate getting out of your car. I had spent from 5 to 6 o’clock wandering the streets of Burien. It only took 20 minutes on the train to the Stadium depot. No charge for parking where I started at the Tukwila Station. A one block walk to the entrance of Safeco Field when I arrived. $4.50 for a round trip. A lot less than the E tickets we once tendered for the Disneyland Monorail.
I think we’ll see more rail now that we have one. It’s fun to ride. Weird though. The train refers to itself possessively. A female voice says things like, “Now arriving at Othello Station, doors open to my right.”
I was confused. It’s already an otherworldly experience riding this high train through tunnels and up in the air soaring above traffic. And with the pleasant female voice talking about exiting on her right, I felt like I was riding some fantasy creature and not a train.
On my next trip to the Emerald City, maybe I’ll see flying monkeys.
I already saw worse in Burien.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

#1087 Electrifying Parallels

I’ve been reading this book by a guy named Felix Rohatyn called “Bold Endeavors.” It’s about 10 things the Federal Government did to pump massive amounts of capital into our non-government intervention capitalist system that made America greater than it could have been otherwise.
Things like the Transcontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System, and the G.I. Bill. Things fought vigorously by the opposition at the time. Things condemned as socialist, or against states rights. But when pushed through by leaders with vision really ended up benefiting American capitalists as much or more as they did the common man.
One of those things was the Rural Electrification Administration. In the 20s and 30s, 90% of rural farms had no electricity. That’s shocking, you say. And indeed it was.
Living on a farm is hard work enough. Worse still when you have to deal with the drudgery and hygiene issues of essentially camping every day without electricity. So the Roosevelt Administration proposed the Rural Electrification Act.
At the time, power hadn’t been extended to distant farms because the utility companies said it was too expensive. Electrical Power was in the hands of a few utility holding companies. They were not federally regulated and had a stranglehold on rates. And had decided no current profit was to be made from extending power to poor farmers.
Roosevelt proposed having the federal government pay the cost. The utility companies fought it tooth and nail, as did their representatives in congress. Who happened to be recently out of power as they were the Republicans left after Hoover had been roundly rejected by a depression-suffering nation.
In an attempt to compromise, Roosevelt wiggled a bit on one of the main sticking points—the public option, where farmers could buy power directly from the government.
The whole thing eventually went through, the people benefited, farms got more productive and America became the breadbasket to the world.
And here’s the electrifying historical parallel. Ironically, the people who benefited most from this massive federal big government plan, that gave them the power that private industry wouldn’t, are the people that now live in anti-big government red states.
Is this a great country or watt?
America, ya gotta love it.

#1086 Tender Anger

In response to my scattered observations in a recent commentary about Adrian Beltre and his unfortunate moving ball encounter, and then Burger King’s unfortunately-named Angry Whopper, my friend Rick asserted that if they wanted painful sounding food they should come out with the Angry Beltre Whopper.
I cringed.
But that leads me back to the discussion of the Angry foods offered by Burger King. By the way, is it just me or are fast foods getting further and further from their poster pictures in terms of looks? I don’t know how many times I’ve been suckered in by a giant picture of a 6-foot burger only to shell out five bucks and then unwrap this limp pitiful little mess.
It makes me angry indeed.
So I’m thinking Burger King is going the wrong direction in inciting the whole anger notion. Call it hot, call it a fiery burger, call it lava sauce, slap it between halves of a fulminating fuma-role but don’t mess with invoking anger when you’re so vigorously disappointing people.
And the burger’s not the worst of it. Every time fast food joints come up with a new spice mix, they have to apply it to all their big sellers. So Burger King also offers the Angry Tender Crisp. As Tender Crisp was the name of their chicken sandwich, I guess they had no choice but “Angry Tender Crisp” invokes all kinds of conflicting emotions.
Like being conflicted.
Because you got your Angry and you got your Tender. Sounds like a relationship with a passive–aggressive. Or one of those battered spouse relationships, which is particularly unsettling because the Tender Crisp is essentially battered chicken. I’ve never liked the image invoked by battered foods generally.
It sounds so violent.
An Angry Tender sandwich sounds like a recipe for Dr Phil. Sorry Doc, I think I should send my sandwich to anger management. One minute it’s tender and the next minute it’s hot enough to burn my mouth off.
I’m thinking fast food companies ought to stick with taste and leave emotion alone.
Although naming something “angry tender” shows they probably don’t have any taste either.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

#1085 Angry Food

I worry about us sometimes. I was listening to the radio the other day and they actually said the words “bleeding testicle.” It was on the occasion of third baseman Adrian Beltre taking a hit to the, um, boys of summer.
I suppose its okay to say testicle when one is rendering a clinical description of that area of impact. But still, in a ball game that also alludes to the whole dating progression of first, second, and third base, and all the way home, it’s a little much.
It has helped us on the racquetball court though. We don’t have to use the T-word any more. Now we say someone was smacked in the “Beltres.”
Adrian had said he didn’t like wearing a cup because they’re uncomfortable. I’m guessing he has a different definition of uncomfortable now. He’d probably be willing to wear a coffee cup down there to prevent this happening again.
Which is the image we first had as children. When my 6-year-old older brother was about to join a baseball team he said they told him he had to wear a cup. Not knowing what it was, we rushed to the kitchen to experiment. Afterwards, we just put the coffee cups back in the cupboard, so our mom wouldn’t be mad we were playing with them.
She’d have been angrier than a new Whopper.
Another mystery. Burger King has come out with a new burger and it’s called the Angry Whopper. Taco Bell had just come out with the Volcano Burrito and Nachos too.
I like Taco Bell’s name for hot stuff better. “Angry Whopper” sounds like our society is getting way too uncivil. Let’s not celebrate anger shall we? Things are crazy and tense enough in the world. Do we need to make our food have emotions too? Especially anger.
Worse, the name’s confusing, when I mentioned Angry Whopper to Morning DJ Bobby Hart, he thought I’d said the name of that guy that used to do weather on TV. Andy Wappler. Andy loved whipping out his Doppler readings. Andy Wappler and his handy Doppler.
Hmm. Sounds like an angry harassment suit waiting to happen.
America, ya gotta love it.

#1084 Neo-Nutsy

I’ve been giving some more thought to this nutsy Nazi thing and it makes me wonder about the propagandists who came up with the pictures of Obama in SS uniforms and stuff.
I mean, how stupid do they think we are?
The pictures I’m talking about are stylized renditions, like the famous Hope poster that accompanied Obama in his presidential campaign. Except they show him with jackboots and chest belts and swastika armbands.
So follow me for a moment on this. Suppose you were one of the real Neo-Nazis out there—marching around in the woods doing the survivalist thing, and occasionally coming into the old drive-in to buy closeout camo at the gun swap-meets. Do you think you would cherish the idea of Obama being one of you?
I think most everyone would agree that the Neo-Nazis are a pretty right-wing organization. And I would assert they’ve gone on record as being less than loving towards African-Americans and Jews. You remember that whole “white power” thing? White supremacy and white supremacists?
So do you think they’re very pleased when they see people more to the left of right than them accusing people even further on the left of being Nazi? Especially when those people are like a Black President and his Jewish Chief of Staff? Do you see the disconnect there?
By the way, what does sieg heil mean anyhow? You see that salute and you hear the Nazis shout it out and it seems like some sort of call and response Holy Roller meeting or something.
Maybe it means Say Hey! Sieg Heil! Say Hey! Yeah, works for me.
Anyhow, I just want to see some left-wing propagandists come out with another doctored photo/poster. It would look like this. It might be set in a beer garden. Everybody likes sharing a beer. A couple of Neo-Nazis would be photoshopped with arms around Obama and with their Russian automatic rifles held high in their free hands.
And to cap it all off there would be a big banner overhead that says: “He’s One of Us!”
America, ya gotta love it.

#1083 That Whole Nazi Thing

Recently I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the political arena. Everybody’s calling each other Nazis. Even Rush “Joseph Goebbels” Limbaugh has gotten into the act.
The tactic seems to be, call the other guy Nazi-like first and maybe people won’t look at how your own actions are Nazi-like.
I made mention of the King Bloviator because he has been among the most recent to hurl the Nazi epithet. But confusingly, he accuses Obama of socialism on the one hand, and then compares the Healthcare reform logo to the swastika on the other.
Then on the left side of the spectrum, Democratic congressmen compared the tactics of the folks being disruptive in town halls as being like those of the Nazi Brown Shirts.
So bear with me, as I attempt to correct a couple of historical inaccuracies. Most experts will agree that Nazism is the totalitarianism you get when you pursue the ultimate “right” side of the political spectrum. Communism is the totalitarianism on the extreme left. On the mild left, with various degrees of socialism, are countries like, say, Sweden or Great Britain. They have socialized health care.
Socialized health care is like Social Security or Medicare. And it has its issues. Many in our country would prefer privatized medical care, and more power to them. But to say our grandparents are socialists because they get a social security check every month from the government may surprise them.
Notice how at this point in the discussion, we are somewhat removed from gassing boxcar loads of Jews and Gypsies.
So for “Rush to Judgement” to compare socialized healthcare to Nazism is a stretch even for him. True, the actual name of Nazism is National Socialism, but that was just a trick Hitler used to first get elected. His other tactic was to send his brown-shirted bullies into opposition meetings and yell and scream and push people around. They were a para-military group, who hid under the mantle of free speech while intimidating the opposition. And it worked.
Most people steer clear of confrontation, especially when the brown shirts’ friends outside have guns strapped to their thighs.
They must have a helluva a private medical plan they’re trying to protect...
America, ya gotta love it.