Thursday, October 29, 2009

#1121 Farve Dynasty

English words are hard enough, and when you get to given names they get even harder. Like the surprise you first felt when you saw Wor-ces-ter-shire spelled out and realized it’s nowhere near woostershir. Similarly the words boat-swain, pronounced bo’sun, and the word victuals, pronounced vittles.
So I guess I should understand why they pronounce Brett Favre’s name farve even though it’s spelled fav-re. The R- is very clearly after the V in his name yet all and sundry pronounce the R first. Farrrrrrrve. Even more confusing as his first name is Brett and he’d probably deck you if you called him Bert. Bert Farve is way more consistent.
Like his 3-day growth of beard. Every time I see a picture of Brett Favre he has a 3-day growth of beard. Do you think it’s just as hard to maintain a consistent 3-day growth of beard as it is to shave every day? Maybe he sponge-paints it on...
Speaking of names, the other day I was discussing with a Mormon friend the name of the founder of their religion. He may have been a great man, even a prophet, but what an unfortunate name. Joseph Smith. With all due apologies, “Joseph Smith” just sounds like an alias. Like John Doe or John Smith.
It sounds like a name you use when you’re coming into town on the down-low. Which, due to the early persecution of Mormons, because of beliefs they had like polygamy, he sometimes had to do.
It’s like a name you use when you’re checking into a hotel. “Hi, I’m, um, Joe Smith, and this is my, uh, wife, Mrs. Smith and this is my wife, Mrs. Smith, and this is my wife, Mrs. Smith...”
Names are funny that way, they lead you to all kinds of weird assumptions. Like the new Warren Miller film that’s out this year. It’s called Warren Miller—Dynasty.
I imagine this trailer. Big music. Long shot of a female figure shredding this nearly vertical slope. The figure catches monster air as the announcer intones “Warren Miller— Dynasty.” The camera zooms in and it’s... Joan Collins.
Big Air and Big Hair, It’s Joan Collins in Warren Miller’s Dynasty...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1120 Dumb-ability

So my friend Rick, always the observer when it comes to society’s foibles, made an observation the other day about toilet paper.
Toilet paper has recently been in the enviro-news. Turns out toilet paper not only is white, it isn’t green. The super-plush quilted toilet paper can only achieve its buttockial luxuriance by virtue of the long fibers of old growth trees.
That’s right, some 400-year-old tree gave its all so you could have a comfortable rump rub. The majesty of this great and stately living thing, whose sprout was alive when Jamestown was founded, is reduced to pampering your backend.
I have no position on this issue yet, but I’m certainly inclined to look down on the tissue.
The observation my friend made was that there is now a “triple-ply” toilet tissue. One ply is never enough, and apparently two-ply just wasn’t cutting it. So now, it’s three-ply.
What, are they taking a page from the Gillette Track Two people? (I think they’re up to about fifteen overlapping blades by now.)
But, there’s a limit. You would assume at a certain point adding plies would add stiffness as well, like cardboard, or at least a thickness that brings up another tissue issue altogether.
If you have such thick paper, why not just use reusable cloth? It works for table napkins. Cloth napkins have totally cut down my paper towel use. Can butt-cloths and a bathroom diaper pail arrangement be far behind?
But my friend also pointed out something else on the toilet paper package. It said it was flushable. Well I hope so. Flush-ability is a given when it comes to toilet paper. This is not the thing to be cluttering up the bathroom ash can.
It reminds me of a sign I just saw on the front of a bar. It was advertising some brand of beer and the beer claimed it had “drinkability.”
Well yeah. That would be something you would pretty much expect for a beverage.
I mean, I can’t remember the last time I thought my enjoyment of a beer would be better if I used a fork.
Flushablilty, drinkability, advertisers have such dumbassabilty to point out the obvious.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#1119 Clackety Towns

So I was driving along the road and this truck went by me and it had one of those license plate frames on it from a car dealer. And the frame said it was from Clackamas Oregon.
And I thought, we have such cool and bizarre names for towns in the northwest. Clackamas. It sounds so spooky somehow. Like the noise a skeleton makes at Halloween. Or a weird fifties song—Clackety clack, don’t talk back.
Or maybe it’s some weird percussion instrument. Somewhere between the claves and the maracas. “All right, drum section, on this next tune we need someone who can really play the Clackamas. Then George, I want you on the temple blocks and Jimmy you get the ridged fish thingy.
Of course Clackamas also sounds like a devastating social disease. An STI that that gives you crusty sores and creaky bones. Did you hear, he got a bad case of the Clackamas. They’re trying antibiotics and percussive therapy.
But a place like Clackamas is what you’d expect in these parts. After all, we have towns like Humptulips and Tulalip. Both places that sound like some sort of strange horticultural practices. Tu-lay-lip... so is this a place where all the tulips grow laying down? And how about Humptulips? Obviously tulips they only plant at places like the Mima Mounds. A tulip species engineered for optimum growth in hummocks.
Worse, we have a town named Sequim. Put aside for a moment that it’s spelled SEE-quee-im, like the sequins on your disco outfit. It’s pronounced squim. Like squirm but without the R.
And there are no pleasant words the start with the skwih sound. You got the aforementioned squirm. But then you got squiggle, which brings to mind slimy snakes. You got squid, one of the least attractive of animals, a chewy snotball with suckers. Again far from pleasant.
And finally, you got squishy, which sounds for all the world like shoes after you’ve stepped in a puddle.
There’s a civic motto for you. Sequim, we remind you of your shoes after you’ve stepped in a puddle.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

#1118 Ah-moon

Not long ago NASA fired a missile at the moon. They were going to run a spectral analysis of the debris ejected and determine if there was any water in it, and, oh yeah, put the fear of god into Iran.
That last part wasn’t its stated mission but you got to wonder. A couple of weeks before the moon shot, Iran had been flexing its missile muscles by firing off some that had the range to make it all the way to Israel, a daunting distance of about 1250 miles.
Scary. They have a missile that can go 1250 miles. We have one that can go 240,000 miles. I think we may have shown them who has a bigger, um, stick.
Because not only that, but we managed to fire the missile right where we wanted to, you know, not blow off any attractive ridges or craters or whatever.
Think it’s possible Ahmadinejad is an Iranian word that means “oops, I screwed up.”
Speaking of which, the recent news story about Ahmadinejad’s origins is certainly a grandfather’s nightmare come true. Turns out that the single biggest and most powerful spokesman for holocaust denial is, surprise surprise, of Jewish blood.
I have an uncle who is that way. Try as I might I can’t shake him from his entrenched bigotry. It’s one of those things he was raised with and never shook. But recently, in the course of genealogical research, it was revealed that he is part Jewish.
By extension so am I. 1/16th Jewish to be exact. Which actually satisfies my tendency towards being economical. At 1/16th Jewish, I only have to burn half a candle at Hanukkah. Plus I don’t have to buy a whole menorah. One candlestick will do just fine.
But I’m guessing Ahmadinejad was not as happy to find out about his Jewish heritage as I was. Actually, since it was his Jewish parents who converted to Islam, he no doubt knew already. He’s not happy that now the world does too. Combined with the NASA missile thing, he’s been caught with his pants down from two directions.
Now that he’s been exposed and, um, em-bare-assed, maybe the world should call him Ah-moon-dinejad...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#1117 Food Violence

I’m not entirely sure what I saw yesterday as I drove by the feed store, but I plan to find out. The sign just caught my attention. It said simply “Beet Pulp Pellets”
It was a feed store so I assume beet pulp pellets are animal food, but I thought, what a violent sounding thing. I guess I should have seen it coming. I mean after all, we have the Angry Whopper as one of our current fast food acts of violence.
And for years we’ve had battered chicken. Which to me has always sounded like a domestic poultry relationship gone terribly wrong. But “beet pulp pellets” take you to a new level. Every word in it speaks of violence.
You got “beet” of course. I know, I know, the violent beat, as in beating on somebody, is spelled b-e-a-t- and the beet you eat is spelled b-e-e-t- but still. It sounds like the violent kind of beat and since I’m talking about it in my mind and on the radio, “sounds like” is all we have.
Then you got “pulp.” When you pulp something you’ve whacked on it fairly good. When a cooking instruction in a recipe tells you to pulp an ingredient you darn well better be applying some form of violence to it. And to precede pulp with beet... The phrase “beat to a pulp” comes naturally to mind.
He was beat to a pulp with a sack of beet pulp. You see what I mean.
Then you got pellet. As in pellet gun. Or as in hail pelleting your windshield. Or pelleting the opposing team with hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes.
Pellet as an item, like a pellet of fuel, no problem, pellet as an action, not so peaceful.
There you have it, “beet pulp pellet”—one of the most violent foods on the planet.
Either that or it’s some strange form of horse borscht. So, to solve the mystery, I Googled it. It appears that among other things, beet pulp pellets are used as a horse laxative. Which means my theory is correct.
I have been behind many horses in many parades.
I can envision nothing more potentially and explosively violent than a horse laxative. America, ya gotta love it.

#1116 California Drivers

The other day I turned onto this newly remodeled freeway onramp. They’d put in a dedicated lane for the people who were turning left off the road onto the ramp.
Used to be, if you were about to turn right onto the onramp, the person facing you on the other side of the road had the right of way because you had a yield sign. Now you can both end up on the onramp at the same time and you’ll each have your own lane.
For a while.
The two lanes eventually merge to one before you make it to the freeway. But instead of giving you about half a mile like some major combined onramps this one did it in a quarter mile.
And a quarter mile is, you guessed it, dragstrip length.
I found this out on my first outing on the dragstrip, I mean onramp. The left turner and I arrived side by side at the same moment and he stomped on it. I naturally felt it was appropriate to test his mettle by putting my pedal to the metal as well. We stayed neck and neck, fender to fender, hood ornament to hood ornament. As the onramp narrowed to merge there came a moment where it was crash side to side, dive into the ditch, or say chicken.
Cluck cluck.
But it got me thinking, what a great innovation. For years we’ve been telling people not to dragrace and now they go ahead and build a track for us.
It’s kind of like the roundabouts. The other day I was at a regular intersection drifting through a right turn without stopping at the stop sign, no one was coming and I was, um, practicing fuel economy. This action was what we once called a “California stop.”
But that’s all a roundabout is—an extended California stop, the traffic engineers are telling you to use good judgment and they won’t force you to stop with a sign.
Pretty cool, dragstrip onramps, California stop roundabouts, it’s like the California teenagers I grew up with infiltrated the ranks of traffic engineers.
Next up, you won’t come back from dead man’s curve...
America, ya gotta love it.

#1115 Yoga Bomber

Every now and then, I get blindsided by something that defies expectations.
Here are three examples.
First, the other day I was listening to a radio station from Seattle. On it was a presumably professional newsperson, as the main announcer said, “and here’s the news with so-and-so.”
The so-and-so in question then proceeded to tell a news story, in the course of which she used the term “nuke-ya-lar.” That’s right, a professional newsperson mispronounced the word nuclear as nuke-ya-lar, just as badly as our ex-president.
The newsperson sounded like she was a 20-something, so it’s possible her formative news listening years were during the Bush administration, but still. One of the things they used to teach you in newscasting classes was eliminating your regional accents.
While Bush may have been able to claim that nuke-ya-lar was a Texas colloquialism this gal could not.
Second, the story she was actually reporting on was an expectation violator as well. At the time, Iran had just agreed to ship all the enriched nuclear fuel resulting from its new reactors to, of all places, Russia. And the world appeared to see this as a breakthrough. And further, that the world community saw this as a good thing.
I, of course, thought about how much the world as changed since the cold war. For anybody to be happy about anyone giving Russia enriched bomb-makeable nuclear material shows we have come along way down the path of either peace or total nuclear annihilation.
And it’s not even like Putin is putin’ us on. He’s more belligerent than ever.
The third example, speaking of peace, is the meditation class at my club. Seems they meet upstairs every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10:30 to 11:30. Our racquetball court down below has been closed during that time. They’re worried the ball will come over the open balcony and disrupt the meditation.
When did meditators get to be such wussies? Isn’t this the art that teaches people how to walk over hot coals? You’d think they could handle an occasional surprise ball in their laps. Test their concentration for gosh sake.
It’s not like a nuke-ya–lar bomb.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#1114 Graham Kilos

I heard a story the other day that was disturbing on so many levels. Seems this guy in Graham was caught with a bunch of pit bulls probably used in a dog-fighting ring.
No Michael Vic is not from Graham.
Graham, Washington, true or not, has the image of a place where this sort of thing might occur. Once a backwoods rural sort of place, some now think of it as a West Coast Appalachia.
The sort of place where you might find a Graham Cracker.
And that Cracker would most likely be on the wrong side of the meth wars. As the economic opportunities in his little neck of the backwoods dwindled as the woods themselves were cut for fuel, the Graham cracker would naturally turn to brewing up batches of meth to keep warm on cold northern nights.
And perhaps turn to fighting pit bulls as well.
But the story revealed some other things I’m still trying to sort out. Like the guy had a bunch of marijuana plants on his property. And he was dealing kilos.
I have been out of the loop for so long. Whatever happened to the peace-love-dope-spare-change days of the sixties? Hippie peaceniks would never fight pitbulls, dude. Marijuana was the great mellower. It supposedly made you want to chant your way to Nirvana.
Not headbang to Nirvana while you’re jacked up on pot and crank. Marijuana-toking dogfighters were not in the 12 ways to enlightenment.
Ah, the innocence of youth. We never fully appreciate what humans are capable of.
And what is humane. Because that’s the other disturbing side of the story. The humane society plans to have the pit bulls destroyed. Because they are vicious and a danger to humans. So it seems a little odd when they say they “rescued” them from the dogfighter. Since now they’re going to “destroy” them.
Some rescue.
The dogs themselves would probably say, um, we can go on fighting other dogs. It would be a lot more cruel to kill us...
Druggies listening to this story right now are trying to figure out the math. Did he say we can get a kilo in Graham?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

#1113 Chuckin’

So in the course of a recent commentary I mentioned the word “chuckhole.” I had a friend ask me what it meant. Why, pothole, I answered. And it occurred to me that it’s one of those regional words. Like tullies and dingleberry. They either mean nothing at all or something entirely different in different places.
But, you know, it makes you wonder. Who is Chuck and why did they name a hole after him? Was he some forgotten, except in infamy, civil engineer who always cut corners? Would the roads he built always develop potholes, which soon bore his dastardly name?
Or possibly it was a woodchuck thing. When they aren’t chucking wood and making people wonder how much and if they could, they’re gnawing holes in the roadway.
Which reminds me, I need to go another way. Which way are you headed Funny Guy? Into this segue.
Why is it you notice chuckholes most of all when you’re already in frustrating, emotion-roiling, rush hour traffic? And why do we still call it rush “hour”, when the radio traffic reports start at 4 o’clock and end at 6:30? In my book that’s rush 2 and a half hours. It ain’t no hour.
Likewise the bars that say happy hour is from 2 to 7 pm. Even a drunk could figure out that it’s five hours from 2 to 7pm. So it’s Happy Five Hours. It’s not Happy Hour.
When people tell me they are going to do something in a second or a minute I expect they won’t take five of either. And if someone tells me he’s going to be here in a day, I sure as heck don’t expect to not see him ‘til the end of the week.
So let’s not play fast and furious with the concept of an hour. Time flies fast enough when you’re older, let’s not meld one hour into five.
Not least because that’s a lot of drinking. And if I drink that much I’m gonna encounter that Chuck guy in a different way.
But this time before I hit the road he’ll be getting rid of my cookies.
America, ya gotta love it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

#1112 Dot Gov

I did a commentary not long ago about the good things government occasionally manages to do. Big investments that private industry sees as too risky or with not enough profit potential.
Much safer, I guess, to invest in credit default swaps.
Anyhow, the government steps in and gets it done. Capitalists are only too happy to see this take place if they can get a portion of the spoils. Workers too. The Intercontinental Railroad and the US Highway system worked like that—lots of dollars in worker’s pockets and even more in speculator’s pockets. All funded by taxpayers, who happened to be many of the same people that got the bucks.
Classic redistribution of wealth through government-sponsored capitalism.
Well I just read about another example of business the government did because business turned their noses up at it. The Internet. That’s right, the guy who invented the Internet actually took his plan to a couple of big corporations first.
His name was Robert Taylor and he was a Defense department employee. His idea was to establish a linked network so computers could talk to each other about research projects and stuff. He took his idea to AT&T, who controlled the telephone network. They rejected it as too risky with no profit potential. He also approached IBM, who, since it involved using all computers, some of which it hadn’t made, turned him down.
Internet schminternet, put all my money in the IBM Selectric.
He was finally able to get the government to see the light and the Internet was born. From the Intercontinental Railroad to the Interstate Highways to the Information Super-highway, each major technological leap that has leveraged our economy to the top of the heap has happened thanks to government.
But I worry. A lot of that infrastructure is crumbling. The political will to build highways never seems to last long enough to maintain them. Potholes and chuckholes abound.
That must be what’s happening when your computer burps and freezes when you’re on the Internet.
You just hit a cyber-chuckhole.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#1111 Brother Kindle

I’m a big reader. But I’ve resisted getting a Kindle. Part of me is really impressed by it. The screen is very easy on the eye, and I like the idea of its size. It’s portable enough to take into every room of the house.
Some rooms are a little cramped for laptops.
I also like the fact that you can download a new book from just about anywhere. Plus, your Kindle can hold up to a thousand books or something, and even more in the permanent web-based storage space.
But there’s where I worry. I actually like having a library full of books. I like simply owning the book. And with Amazon’s Kindle, you don’t.
Recently their customers found that out when Amazon remotely reached into everyone’s Kindle and deleted a copyright-violating version of a book. And they did so without warning.
Some kid who was working on a paper, and lost all his notes and annotations, is suing for damages. (You can use Kindle to annotate by the way.) He didn’t know Kindle had let a copyright-violating version through. He just paid his 9.99 and started annotating.
But Kindle kindled up a fire of paranoia in a conspiracy-minded person like me. If you don’t really own the books, what’s to keep them from taking all of them away? What if they decide to be the playground cyber-bully and take their ball home when they don’t want to play anymore?
Or worse, what if we all get enslaved to the various e-books and all knowledge is stored on those book computers? And then some unscrupulous demagogue takes over and wipes out human knowledge.
Our cultural history is currently protected from fire and calamity by being stored in separate houses and libraries all over the country. If we centralize that, can’t Big Brother take it over?
The title of the book they pulled off people’s Kindles was, ironically enough, 1984.
Then again, Kindle does let you instantaneously access and use a dictionary just by highlighting a word. And that does save the effort of having to get up and use Google...
Let’s see, laziness or protecting all human knowledge...?
What the heck, Kindle it is.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

#1110 Bloody Lemmings

It’s funny. We go through life convincing ourselves we’re the great individuals. The American Way. The pioneer spirit. The solitary hawk. The lone ranger.
It’s the mystique of our culture, and the goal of everyone from Harley riders, to truck-nut sporting Ford 250 jockeys, to D&D role-playing computer nerds.
And then we are reminded what lemmings we all are. Someone yawns. And we race off the cliff of oblivion on the tail of our herd instinct.
You’re in a group, and someone yawns. Suddenly, hard as you try to suppress it, you feel the urge to yawn yourself. The power of suggestion is so strong, you’re probably trying not to yawn and failing right now...
I was reading a science article on the phenomenon the other day and the writer said the scientific word for it is “involuntary pandiculation.” Pandiculation. I’m not sure if it means acting with the herd or yawning, but what a cool new word if it does.
I’m not yawning, I’m pandiculating.
I like to think I’m an individual too. Then something like yesterday happens. I go to get a blood test and I arrive first thing. As I approach the door to the lab there are already 2 people in front of me. Dang. I get in line.
There’s also a newspaper stuck in the push-bar of the door. You can make out people inside under the blinds. They can’t see out. We can only see their hands at their desks.
Another person arrives. He gets in line behind me. We all wait patiently for another five minutes. We are patients, after all.
And then we get impatient, as it’s obvious that the office is now 7 minutes late in opening. Suddenly, with a sigh of exasperation, the second person in line goes up to the door and tries it.
It opens.
The first person had assumed the newspaper indicated the office was locked and never tried the door. The rest of us assumed whoever was in front knew something we didn’t.
We all assumed and got 7 minutes of our lives thrown into a yawning hole of oblivion.
I felt, um, pandiculated.America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#1109 Harley Vespa

So I was talking with my good friend Rick the other day. He’s retired and so has lots of free time to observe human behaviors I miss. And he pointed out the interesting differences in motorcyclists. Notably those who ride Harleys and those who ride Vespas.
Although, as Rick observed dryly, one could hardly use the word “ride” to characterize what the Vespa people are doing. If anything, it’s more of a perch. God forbid that a Vespa rider ever straddle their machine and sling their arms up over ape-hanger handle bars.
I’m guessing you won’t be seeing a chopped Vespa anytime soon.
Harley riders ride hogs. What do Vespa riders ride, piglets? The thing is, it must be clear to Vespa riders that they actually look like wussies. Everything about their posture and attitude is completely un-Harley like.
Not least that they don’t appear to be men going through mid-life crises who like to play dress up and deck themselves out like desperados.
You’d never see a Vespa rider, excuse me percher, tricked out in a fringed leather jacket and chaps over blue jeans. I’ve seen Vespa riders wearing skirts for gosh sake. And being ordinary women with nice little pert helmets and prim glasses instead of goggles. Biker Be-atch is not the appellation that springs instantly to mind.
The only thing that seems to transcend biker style divisions is the tattoo. Tatts bridge the gap. 20-something, laptop-in-their-backpack, city-dwelling Vespa perchers and 50-something hog-riding weekend road warriors chasing inadequacy issues, all have embraced the tattoo as a symbol of their uniqueness.
I love it when so many people can engage in the same mode of individual expression.
But the real difference between Vespa perchers and Harley riders is that with their tiny little tinpot motorbikes, the chances of them getting hit and killed by a car are so much greater. No wonder they sit with that clenched up sitting-on-a-lemon paranoid posture. It’s not a perch so much as a pre-flinch. Vespa folks are either a lot more stupid or a lot more brave.
Born to be Wild and Born to be Wussy? Tough call.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

#1108 Walking Pursuits

Walking is a wonderful and underappreciated human function. One could make the case that walking upright is one of those things that truly sets us apart as human.
Of course, if one did so, one would be totally dissing kangaroos and ostriches.
In any event, I do a fair amount of walking. Not least because I get a sense of satisfaction in the process of just going from here to there. So I’m interested in how other people make use of this simple human function.
The other day I’m driving down the road and traffic gets held up for some reason. My brain flashed to some scene I had just seen about India, some sacred cow had got on the road and it was a total cluster.
But no. This traffic tie-up is caused by humans. That sub-class of humans known as jaywalkers to be exact. And like most jaywalkers, they’re not hurrying across the road. They’re taking their time and pointedly going as slow as possible—seeming to enjoy the mess they’re creating.
It must be a pathetic existence when the only control you can exert in your life is to impede traffic.
But humanity balances out. Not long after that, I read an article about a guy out doing good walking, for exercise. But he couldn’t just walk. He was afflicted with that other human trait, the need to do something constructive. So he walked and he used his metal detector.
We’ve all seen the ads about how much fun metal detecting can be, and what great exercise. I’m not really sure about that last claim. I’m not fully convinced there is such a thing as aerobic metal detecting.
Still, if it’s anything like wielding a weed whacker there’s got to be some upper body strength stuff involved.
But this guy will get to exercise his spending muscles. Because he discovered a huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure in an English field.
But what really got me about the article was what the English press called him. They said he was a Metal Detectorist.
The guys that invented English called him a metal detectorist.
“Whatcha do for a living, Merl?”
“I’m a metal detectorist.”
“Really, I’m a humor writer-ist myself...”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

#1107 Tolerating Necessity

I read this interesting article the other day about a positive consequence of religious toleration. It got me thinking about how convenient it is for all of us that there is religious diversity.
You’ve probably seen photos of traffic in India being blocked by cows meandering along. But the sacred cows don’t block the road forever. Hindu Indians themselves may not feel it is religiously appropriate to move the cow from its divinely ordained wanderings. But they have no exception to a Muslim wandering up and shooing the cow off the road.
Likewise, Muslims and Jews have no problem with a Christian arriving to remove an unclean pig that’s got into one of their gardens. Or handling pig DNA to find a vaccine for the Swine Flu.
In these instances, religious toleration works quite well. Have some heathen stain his or her soul with an action you yourself are loathe to commit.
This is a rich tradition. As in making some people rich. Early Christians were forbidden from lending money at interest. It was the sin of usury. In the Dark Ages, there was no such thing as a Christian-owned express check-cashing place. Nor were there overdraft fees.
Which kept things dark, because there wasn’t much capital loaned out for start-up businesses and construction projects and stuff. Because no one would lend money without getting interest.
Except Jews.
So the Christians let Jews soil their souls. The Jews were cool with that cultural payback. They were persecuted, with interest, in so many other ways.
So this story I read was kind of funny. Seems this group of atheists, who bill themselves as atheists, are offering a pet service to Christians who believe in the rapture. The form of rapture where they are taken bodily to heaven.
Tragically, at that point little Fluffy will be left behind to starve. So pet-loving rapture believers are paying these definitely-to-be-left-behind soul-soiled atheists an upfront fee of $110 to take care of their stranded pets when the rapture comes.
Is this a great country or what? Sometimes we can all get along.
The rich tradition continues...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

#1106 Health Clutter

So the other day I’m clearing off my desk and I see this magazine with a couple of sticky notes sticking out of it. The date on the cover says it’s from October of 2007.
Sticky notes sticking out of a magazine mean I thought something was interesting in it to use in a commentary. What was a surprise was I had the thing sitting on my desk for 2 years.
And what really surprised me was it hadn’t biodegraded by now.
So I looked inside to see what was so interesting 2 years ago that I thought it merited sticky notes. Turns out is was health news. So it could easily be wrong by now.
If there’s one thing you can say, it’s that health fashions are cyclical.
The first sticky note marked a story that offered health advice about longevity. Recent—as of 2007—research indicated that eating dark chocolate and sipping red wine is good for your heart.
All of a sudden I was in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, where this guy who once owned a macro-biotic health food store wakes up in the future and the scientifically-determined healthiest foods are steak, wine, and chocolate cake.
Apparently, that future is now. Just make sure it’s dark chocolate cake when you embrace these facts to shore up your already established belief that you like cake. And bonus, the wine improves not only your heart but your cognition.
Which ties into the other sticky note, which marked a story that said Alzheimer’s can be postponed if you’re persnickety. That’s like if you were part of an odd couple friendship, and you were the Felix one. The neatnick, the detail guy, the duster of every doily and the launderer of every antimacassar.
If you even have antimacassars, you will not go goofy so quickly. This research, by the way, was proved by a study of nuns, the white rats of psychological science.
Turns out the fastidious use the section of their brains that is involved in decision-making and planning. And apparently, neatness. As with muscles, the more you use your brain the better shape it stays in.
I’m guessing I should clean my desk more often.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

#1105 Pot-Pouring

Time to tip over the joke bin and dump out some small ideas that were too crumby to make a whole loaf of an essay. A potpourri of joke fragments.
Like the word potpourri. I love how when we say it we can feel so French for just a moment. Like croissant, it’s an artifact of that time when euro-stuff was all the rage.
A good old American would look at the word, spelled p-o-t-p-o-u-r-r-i-, and think Pot-purry, what’s that? Sounds like some sort of slurry you dump out of a pot, or maybe something people smoking pot do or eat.
Not unlike this other word I heard lately—Curbstoners. Curbstoners are people who illegally sell cars. They say they’re doing it for a friend or ancient Aunt. In reality they picked the cars up at an auction and hid all its flaws and are trying to rook you. The Department of Licensing calls them curbstoners. I guess because they sell you something from the curb.
Nobody actually ever says curbstone anymore but heck, I guess they couldn’t just call them curbers. As the only thing they’re curbing is their hapless customers’ exercise of common sense.
The problem is, “curbstoners” sounds more like something from a Cheech and Chong movie. A couple of lowriders firing up a bong and pulling over to the curb because they’re too stoned to drive. “Dude, we were curbstoning the other night, and to fool the Man we used some of that potpourri incense...”
And speaking of new technology. I know, I wasn’t, but I am now. Here’s a little heads up to techno-inventors. I think it’s time we had a keyboard shortcut for the @ key. You know, the symbol you put in email addresses and URLs. So-and-so@such-and-such dot com.
The @ key is tucked way the heck up on the little finger left side of the keyboard. I type in a lot of emails and URLs and dude, you have to be a virtuoso lead guitarist to have the kind of pinky finger flexibility.
Makes you wonder if the guy who thought up the QWERTY keyboard layout was hitting the potpourri pretty heavy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

#1104 Peanutty

I love it when I grab a packet of peanuts and the first thing I read on the ingredient list is “Allergy Warning, manufactured on equipment that processes tree nuts.”
No kidding.
I suppose those that don’t suffer from peanut allergies could suffer from tree nut allergies. But tree nut or peanut or over the sea nut you gotta wonder: Did allergies originate in the natural nut¾or the artificial processing?
Case in point, the above-mentioned package of peanuts. I had picked up a little bag of Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts, figuring they were a nice healthy alternative to chips. A little more salt than I usually eat perhaps, but the natural nut value—what with protein, manganese and Vitamin E—would probably be good.
As I was munching on the nuts it occurred to me that they were far more flavorful than some regular nuts I had recently tasted. So off I go to the ingredients list. Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts sounds like they just lay out peanuts and bake them doesn’t it? Wrong. There are 12, count ‘em, 12 ingredients listed on the ingredients list.
Are you ready? There’s peanuts. Then salt, then sugar. Gosh, we all know nuts are better when sprinkled with sugar.
After sugar is cornstarch, I’m guessing to bind the sugar and the salt to the nut. Then there’s the killer chemical MSG, monosodium glutamate. Probably to bring out the salty and sugary flavors.
Then there’s corn syrup solids, or as I like to call it, corn sugar.
Then a very mysterious ingredient—dried yeast. Huh? So you can make peanut bread perhaps? Or peanut beer?
Then gelatin, because, you know, what peanut isn’t better when you add ground-up cow hooves? Then there’s paprika, onion, and garlic powders, spices, and finally, natural flavor.
I always love when they add natural flavor.
I can hear the folks in quality control now: “Call the lab. We added all this other junk and now we can’t taste the peanut. Have them put in more peanut flavor.”
So I’m just wondering. Do you think it’s possible somewhere along the line that it was MSG that mutated DNA and caused the first nut allergy?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

#1103 Cramalot

In the course of pursuing my job, I venture through the nooks and crannies of our county. So I often stumble across interesting signs and suchlike in the further reaches of the Thurston domain.
Like this self-storage place I saw. The U.S. now has 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage, more than 7 square feet for every one of our 304 million citizens. So many self-storage places mean a variety of creative and/or cute names.
The cute name I saw was a place called Cramalot.
Sorry, but the word Cramalot just doesn’t ring with the same soaring nobility as the word Camelot. Cram is in that family of words that evoke negative associations. Partly because cram is inexorably associated with cramp. When you cram something in, it always sounds like some discomfort is going to be involved. Those that cram their food often have cramps. When you cram for an exam, you have brain cramps. And when you cram a bunch of stuff into a small space you inevitably feel cramped.
In no sense are cramps or cramming good.
Worse still to make a play on words with that great and original heart of chivalry, song, and legend—Camelot. That’s the kind of thing that gives me a brain cramp.
The Knights of Camelot and spending the night at Cramalot have to be an entirely different experience.
Like the people... Instead of King Arthur and his entourage, you got the manager Arty. He’ll use his plastic prop Cramalot sword to slash prices. His wife Gwen will brew up a fresh urn of coffee every Wednesday while the janitor guy Lance is skulking in the back with his dragon breath, leering at her with custodial lust. The maintenance guy Merle is a wiz at fixing a balky rolling storage space door. And of course there’s Dwayne the groundskeeper, always roaring into the lot in his jacked up Charger.
Oh the joy. Oh the poetry. Oh the inspiration, of that noble legend. I can hear the song ringing from the hills.
“We eat jam and ham and spam a lot, as we store your stuff at Cramalot.”
America, ya gotta love it.