Friday, December 24, 2010

"This Shepherd Might Not Have Led Them...But He Certainly Funded Them..."

It's a season filled, not only, with sights and sounds and scents but, also, with names.

Kris Kringle.
Santa Claus.
Bing Crosby.
Ralphie.
Clark W. Griswold.

And, of course, for those who recall the original, and still official, reason for the season...

Jesus Christ.

There is another name, though, that probably has escaped your notice through the years.

It is the name of a man whose invention has very likely been a large part of your Christmas tradition.

While, at the same time, being, in some measure, the "gift that keeps on giving the whole year through."

And if that's not poignant enough, how about the irony inherent in fact that this man who has become such a big part of our holiday lives is named Shepherd?

John Shepherd-Barron.

The "rest of the story" can be found here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shepherd-Barron

Thank you, John.

Merry Christmas.

This salute is for you.

Do you wish a receipt? Y/N

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Problem With Joe Six Pack Is...Well...The Six Pack....."

Verbose and opinionated minx that I am, it should come as no surprise that more than one friend/acquaintance/listener/reader along the way has suggested that I get into politics.

Admittedly, sometimes the "suggestion" comes in the form of something like "why don't you just shut the hell up and run for something".

But I digress.

And while it, just as admittedly, is flattering to think that something I've said has impressed people enough to make them think that I might be able to articulate and advocate their interests, I've known for a long, long time that tossing a hat into a ring wasn't my destiny.

I found out senior year of high school.

When I got back my S.A.T. scores.

The actual numbers long forgotten, suffice to say that their impact was felt in my freshman year of college as follows...

I was assigned to junior year level English.

And remedial math.

That pretty much ruled out me taking a run at running for something.

Because, while the old adage that "all politics is local" is true, I would offer you that there's an equally true adage riding shotgun.

All politics is mathematics.

As in, lowest common denominator.

I was reminded of that numerical nuance when I came across this story about the opposition to Michele Obama's support, and Barack Obama's signing, of legislation regulating nutritional standards in public schools.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailycaller/mostamericansopposemichelleobamashealthyhungerfreekidsact;_ylt=AuwglhpjeXjEzsGIfZulun62GL8C;_ylu=X3oDMTRlajhtOGNsBGFzc2V0Ay9zL2RhaWx5Y2FsbGVyL21vc3RhbWVyaWNhbnNvcHBvc2VtaWNoZWxsZW9iYW1hc2hlYWx0aHlodW5nZXJmcmVla2lkc2FjdARjY29kZQNyYW5kb20EY3BvcwMxMARwb3MDMTAEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yaWVzBHNsawNtb3N0YW1lcmljYW4-


Here's the phrase that thickened the plot for me.

According to a new Rasmussen poll, however, only 23 percent of those surveyed think the federal government should have a direct role in setting the nutritional standards for public schools.

This is, of course, the latest manifestation of the knee jerk reaction to any thing the Feds do to "infringe" on the freedoms, rights, prerogatives, yada yada of the notorious Mr. and/or Mrs. American People.

The very knees that delightful demagogues like Sarah Palin are counting on to get her a four year, option for four more, lease on a sweet little two story number on Pennsylvania Avenue.

What the knee jerkers are missing, and always miss, for that matter, is that pesky mathematical inevitability.

This country, and the government comprised of people that we freely elect to articulate and advocate for us, enacts legislation almost entirely on the basis of the lowest common denominator.

Or as its known more informally...

The really dumb ones.

No reasonably intelligent (now, there's an oxymoron waiting to happen) person can deny that the evidence is overwhelming that obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular are epidemic in this country, that kids are getting fatter and a fatter future means a more expensive future for everyone in the form of lost wages, health care costs, etc.

And no reasonably intelligent person with children is likely turning a blind eye or deaf ear to the physical condition of their kids or the nutritional requirements necessary to insure their kids a happy and healthy adulthood.

Legislation like the aforementioned isn't for those folks.

It's for the lowest common denominator.

You know, the really dumb ones.

The ones whose own lives are littered with extra crispy crumbs and powdered sugar sprinkles forming a light, but obvious, dusting on that treadmill that hasn't seen a pair of feet on it since it left the factory and whose own kids can probably recite the McDonald's menu from memory but wouldn't know a vegetable if it bit them on their abundant ample asses.

Put simply, the fat parents with fat kids who don't have the sense to take care of themselves or their own.

Or as they're more widely known.

The average Wal Mart shopper.

The knee jerkers who want to throw the chubby baby out with the bathwater by screaming "don't tread on me" are entitled to their resentment at being regulated but they're missing the big, big, I'm talking really big picture.

These laws aren't being written for them.

They're being written to account for the lowest common denominator.

And until some bright light figures out a way to write laws that serve all but only apply to some, those who don't need, want or deserve to be regulated are going to have to swallow the medicine as well.

You would think that intelligent people would understand that.

It's, like, two plus two, you know?

Then again, I had trouble with that one myself.

According to S.A.T.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Somewhere Over The Rainbow, A Star Still Rises In The East..."

First, and most obviously, this is not a "Christmas" song.

But at a time of year when a bright light shines on our humanity and we are moved in ways both beautiful and profound, I would offer that this is most certainly a song of the season.

Merry Christmas...and thanks, Eva.

Your gift continues to grace us all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Now, It's Time...To Say Goodnight...Goodnight...Sleep Tight...."



Spoiler alert.

Blasphemy is about to be committed.

I got my very first guitar, a Sears Silvertone six string acoustic, for Christmas in 1964. I asked(pleaded)for it, putting aside Tonka trucks and baseball gloves, solely because of Paul and his mates coming into my living room via Ed Sullivan that previous February night and changing the history of pop music.

Forty six years, several hundred songs, a couple of hundred demos and a couple of dozen songs recorded later, watching the video of this performance (and other recent live appearances), I find myself reminded not of that time and that hero but another.

Babe Ruth. After he left the New York Yankees.

Old, tired, still giving his all to a worshiping crowd and, simultaneously, eliciting huge waves of love, respect yet a soft, unspoken sadness at the figure of a childhood hero who was doing his best to swing for the fences with a spirit still willing but a flesh obviously weak.

And leaving legions of once young, now grown up, fans with a memory not of a bright, blazing star, but a dimming,faltering light.

Thanks for everything, Sir Paul...

...most especially making good on the promise that "a splendid time is guaranteed for all".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Hey...Seat 19D.... I Ain't Bill Withers, Okay?....Lean On Somebody Else...."

Old saying.

Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.

This story about "to recline or not to recline" airliner seats caught my eye today.

Give it a quick read and then I'll share my two cents with you.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/12/09/reclining.seat.rant/index.html?iref=allsearch

Ordinarily, this would be one of those stories that I would read, think about for a few minutes, ponder the possibilities and then put aside as I returned to back to back to back to back episodes of NCIS.

This issue rang a particular bell for me, though, because I just, a week or so ago, found myself knee deep (or more precisely, lap deep) in the issue.

Flying from Baltimore to Jacksonville the Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend on a plane that was full (holiday weekend, duh), I drew the shit out of luck short straw by ending up behind the single individual (I did a quick head/seat count and verified that I was the lucky winner of the "sitting behind the guy most likely to be thinking 'fuck you, I gots my rights' " passenger award) on the plane who felt the need to take full and extended advantage of his "right" to recline his seat to its full, non-upright and unlocked position. Never mind that he was seated in an exit row which meant that he already had a good extra foot or two of leg room in front of him. He apparently felt like his comfort level would be inadequate unless he availed himself fully of the chance to recline as far as recline could recline on the plane.

As a result, the back of his seat and the top of his head were easily within butting, not to mention spitting, distance of my own and any attempt on my part to utilize my seat back tray resulted in said tray essentially becoming adjoined to my abdominal muscles.

Apparently, the majority consensus of those polled, in a poll associated with the CNN story I attached here, is that being able to recline one's seat on an airplane is a "right" that they have purchased along with their seat space.

Here's my carefully considered weigh in on that opinion.

Bullshit.

I don't travel all that often but, when I do, I never recline my seat. And it has nothing to do with whether I think I'm "entitled" to do so or not.

It has to do with the fact that regardless of the best intentions of those who designed the reclining airplane seat, the inevitable and indisputable fact is that,given the crammed in a clown car atmosphere of most medium range commercial airliners these days, it is simply a physical impossibility to recline a seat and not interfere with the comfort of the person behind. And since my well being and happiness in this life don't hinge on being allowed to fly the friendly skies at a forty five degree angle, I'm perfectly willing to spend the flight time in an upright and locked position, preventing the possibility that the passenger behind me will be forced to endure the emotional equivalent of an unwanted lap dance at thirty thousand feet.

It's called courtesy.

And, where I come from, courtesy trumps "rights" on pretty much every level.

And altitude.

Since relying on good graces and common courtesy from people seems, these days, to be, at best, a fifty fifty shot, I would suggest that the airlines who are bleeding red these days and go way out of their way to often verbalize how grateful they are to have us aboard because they know "we have a choice when it comes to air travel" have their maintenance folks de-button those seats and make air travel a level, and upright, playing field.

If I want to pay to have someone spend two hours in my lap, I know a much more enjoyable way to go about it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"...Shut Up...I Can't Hear Myself Interrupting You...."

Linguistics is not in my skill set.

I have, though, through the years, apparently acquired a knack for translation.

Stand by for a demonstration.

First, though, here's a clip of an exchange that took place on Hannity's show late last week.




Now, here's a wonderful version of a piece from "South Pacific".




Ann Coulter is, by any reasonable measure, a limelight fixated, one trick pony who continues to defy the odds makers by continuing to hold an audience's attention though her fifteen minutes were up years ago.

That said, Mr. Johnson's style of "debate" only fueled the fire while botching a wonderful opportunity to let Coulter further prove Mark Twain's observation... "better to keep quiet and have people think you stupid, than to talk and confirm it".

Spirited discussion requires both talking and listening.

Mostly listening.

These days, the goal almost always seems to be "oneupmanship".

Even when the most obvious strategy is allowing the opposition to make Mr. Clemens' point.

Political discussion in media is essentially oxymoronic.

What remains is "twin soliloquies".

Oh...and about my acquired gift for translation?

In most cases, when exposed to "discussion" like the one between Coulter and Johnson, here's, in fact, what most people hear:

Blah, blah...yada, yada....blah, blah....blah.

I'm thinking about applying for a gig with Rosetta Stone.

"...There IS a Fifth Dimension...."

Here's a fun game.

Say the first name you think of when I offer this clue.

Insightful, even prescient, political mind.

Who comes to mind first?

Scroll down for my answer.





















Rod Serling.

Say what?

Yup. The guy who created "The Twilight Zone" was not only a world class dramatist, he skillfully weaved his way in, out and around a wealth of politically thematic parables in the day.

From the overt brush strokes of "He's Alive" to the more subtle shadings of "The Obsolete Man" and "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street", et al, Mr. Submitted for Your Approval was, often, to politics what Noel Coward was to drawing room farce.

Still dubious?

Watch this clip.

And we'll play another fun game.





Now, replay the clip, only this time, imagine....

The old, white haired, Moses looking dude is Common Sense.

The young traveler is John McCain.

And the articulate, charismatic pleading for access is....wait for it.....

Sarah Palin.

Wow.

CNN. Fox News. MSNBC, etc, when it comes to political punditry, move over, there's a new old kid in town.

The Twilight Zone.


(P.S....to those who are offended at the implication that Sarah is Satan, may I simply offer that you're missing the point. Please give your place in the blog read room to another and move along to vote/text and/or tweet DWTS on Bristol's behalf yet another time)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"...A Few Words On Fancy Footwork..."

Book reviews aren't my thing.

The root cause, I imagine, being several elementary and secondary education year's worth of forced labor in the form of book "reports".

At a time in literary history when the only written words my peers and I coveted were the mysterious/misogynistic licensed to kill narratives of Ian Fleming, I really didn't give a shit about reading "Lord Jim", let alone wasting valuable weeknight TV time writing about it.

Add to that my intrinsic disdain for the obviously subjective concept of "review" in the first place (one man's poppycock is another man's Pulitzer,after all) and you needn't worry about finding blog space taken up with my bland efforts to become the cover to cover equivalent of Roger Ebert.

So when I share with you that I have neither the time or inclination to "review" Sarah Palin's newest collection of thoughts and theologies, "America By Heart", you can rest assured there will be no thumbs up or down to be found at the end of this piece.

Meanwhile, though, I would respectfully offer that there is an admittedly thin line between review and reflection.

And I do enjoy an opportunity to tippy toe along thin lines.

To wit, my reflections on the latest gospel according to Sarah:

Her take:
In a chapter on faith and public life, Palin addresses at length John F. Kennedy's noted speech on religion during the 1960 campaign — a speech many saw as crucial to counter sentiment that his faith would hold undue sway over him if he became the nation's first Catholic president.

"I am not the Catholic candidate for president," Kennedy said at the time. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic."

Palin writes that when she was growing up, she was taught that JFK's speech reconciled religion and public service without compromising either. But since she's revisited the speech as an adult, she says, she's realized that Kennedy "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are."

She praises Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for not "doing a JFK" during his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination. "Where Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion, Mitt Romney forthrightly embraced it," she writes. She attributes the gulf not just to the difference between the men, but to the distance the country has come since 1960. Now, she says, America is "reawakening to the gift of our religious heritage."


My take:
The conventional wisdom in 1960 was that electing a Roman Catholic to the presidency would result in some kind of puppet government, the strings attached to the guy living at 1600 Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C, the strings being held by the guy living in Vatican City, Rome, Italy. Any full read of the text of Kennedy's speech on the matter clearly spells out, in some passages bluntly, that JFK believed the separation of church and state was, and is, a constitutional dictate and any violation of that should, and would, be considered an impeachable offense. In other words, elect me, you get a president not a pope lackey. The history of the Kennedy presidency bears out that he kept his word. Sarah's use of fifty year old hindsight is not only obviously out of context but an unmistakable example of the remarkable skill, if no others, she possesses: the ability to play to the crowd, in this case, the crowd being the hard core religious right or, as its known affectionately, the Republican base.

Her take:
Palin, whose daughter Bristol is in the thick of a much-scrutinized run on "Dancing with the Stars," takes aim at another competitive reality show, "American Idol." She says the show's "talent-deprived" contestants suffer from "the cult of self-esteem" to the extent that they grew up convinced they could be stars like Michael Jackson.

But Cowell, the acerbic judge who left the show at the end of last season? He is "almost alone in his willingness to tell hard truths," Palin writes.


My take:
Is there any person on the planet wiling to consider a point of view even resembling objective that hasn't been scratching their heads wondering how a contestant who has week after week after week been at the bottom of the judges list but who continues living to dance another day?

And is there any person who, aware of Simon Cowell's "willingness to tell hard truths", doesn't believe that if Simon were a judge on DWTS, Bristol would have left the show weeks ago, if only in humiliation as a result of the hard truths Cowell would be willingly telling about her performances?

Her take:
Palin praises "Juno," the movie where a pregnant teen chooses to carry her baby. "Most Americans, I think, are a lot like Juno," she writes — they may not be actively religious, "but they still want to do the right thing." She also likes "Knocked Up," in which a baby results from a one-night stand, and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

My take:
Conservative candidate for President of the United States (and let's cut to the chase, okay, she's running and we all know it) deftly sidesteps base line conservative values by momentarily wrapping herself in a loving mommy outfit just long enough to deflect attention from said conservative candidate's daughter who deftly sidestepped base line conservative values by getting knocked up in the year 2008, a year in which birth control is more easily purchased than a fishing license. In one fell swooped paragraph, she mollifies her followers by cloaking conception in courage, while calming the more liberal thinkers who fear she has a puritanical stick where sun shine is lacking. Seriously, is it just me or is this lady the real dancing talent in the family?

Her take:
In fact, she says that if she had to pick a role model between Bristol and Murphy Brown, the 1990s sitcom character who chose single motherhood as a lifestyle, she'd choose Bristol. As for Brown, she laments that former Vice President Dan Quayle's criticism of the character essentially cost him the chance to be president. Quayle, she says, turned out to be right.

My take:
Let's just enjoy the laughter of the Murphy/Bristol comparison and move right along to considering the thought processes of anyone expressing regret that history and the American Presidency never had the chance to benefit from the once in a generation brilliance of J. Danforth Quayle.

I said, at the beginning of this piece, that I wouldn't be reviewing the book.

Turns out I wandered into a book report, though.

So, to honor the teachings of my assorted English teachers/professors through the years, let me wrap it up correctly.

The book is "America By Heart" by Sarah Palin.

If you find it interesting and would like to read more, I recommend another work in the same vein.

"Every Man A King" by Huey P. Long.

Now, there was a dancer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Sai wot...?"

Talk, the adage tells us, is cheap.

Apparently, so much so that a lot of it is being purchased these days from the budget tables in the local discount store.

Or, more accurately, the scratch and dent table.

A few weeks ago, Sarah Palin lampooningly languaged that one should "refudiate" any false accusations levied or impressions impressed.

Now, the newest cast member of the reality show that puts them all to shame, "The Stepford Sarahs", Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, in one of her first public speeches as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, told the crowd that she's going to champion, among other things, the protection of our "unalienable" rights.

And, of course, we could do a whole Catch A Rising Star set on the satiric syntax of George W.

Okay. First, let's not get distracted by the inevitable sidebar that starts out with something like "....well,I'd rather have someone who's not grammatically perfect but looks out for the everyday folk than someone who...."

And I'll concede that the inability to put together an articulate and cohesive sentence with both hands and a flashlight is not necessarily a deal breaker when it comes to choosing those whose advice and counsel we shall seek and/or follow.

After all, one of the smoothest public speakers of all time was Professor Harold Hill.

And we all know that the first trombone was a hustle, let alone the other seventy five.

I suppose it's just post traumatic stress disorder, resulting from the diligent professorial pounding I took forty plus years ago from some very dedicated English teachers, that makes me twitch a little when I hear people who are asking to be our role models make that request using words that I'm reasonably sure don't exist in any language, let alone English.

Which I really shouldn't have to press one for, by the way, but that's another blog for another day.

Zealous advocate for the rights of the opposition that I am, though, I began to consider the possibility that our social ills, rather than resulting from a defect in dogma or doctrine, per se' might be, in fact, the result of errors in expression.

And, with that light shining on the path of exploration, I discovered what I think might be the root cause of the whole systemic failure.

We simply didn't say it right, right from the start.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Well, the flies in that ointment are Claritin clear from the get go, wouldn't you say?

"We the people"...anytime you start out anything with the word "we", you're asking for trouble..."we" of course, being the collective of the word "I"...this puts whatever follows, at best, at risk of failure because you can't get a "we" to agree on anything...put four people in a room, take a vote on what everyone wants for lunch and starvation will occur before consensus...

"a more perfect union"...first, and English teachers and/or ghosts of same feel free to correct me but, isn't "more perfect" like saying "more pregnant"?...that bubble in the I.V. bag aside, you have to circle back to that "we" thing again..."we" is still debating Thai versus sushi, let alone getting about the business of forming unions, perfect or more so...

"establish justice'...this is one of those things that sounds flag wavy, but is, thanks to the way we oxymoronically provide criminals with compassion, pretty much a catchphrase as opposed to a catechism...

"insure domestic Tranquility"...first, I think capitalizing Tranquility shoves that definition off in the direction of an historic chunk of the lunar surface...second, if "domestic tranquility" is meant to mean nationwide peace, quiet and co-operation, then it's back to that "we" thing again....the neighborhood family can't get through the Christmas party without somebody getting pissed off, so what are the odds the national family will fare any better?...

"common defence"...Dan Quayle-esque spelling of the D word notwithstanding, "common" is just a semantic subterfuge to keep from overselling the "we" while still slipping it in there...

"general welfare"...SWDD....same "we", different day...

"secure the Blessings of Liberty"...again, not sure why this capital letter thing kept rearing It's Ugly Head....muddies the manifesto, in the first place (didn't Blessings Of Liberty open for Tom Petty in the 80's?)...and in the second place, this is really just an artsy fartsy way of saying freedom for all...which, as life teaches us, is an inevitable hair in the soup...the problem with freedom, the wise man once said, is that you have to give it to everyone...

"do ordain"...church and state...hellllooo.....

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the cracks in our national bedrock might simply be the result of these flaws in the foundation.

Of course, the current wording provides you with the prerogative to refudiate my point of view.

Go for it.

It's your unalienable right.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"September....November...and December..."


Today, I am reminded of the horror.

Of the carnage and the shock, the body blow to our psyches, the assault on our senses amidst the confusion, the stunned disbelief that on such a clear, bright and beautiful day, our lives could be turned upside down by an insane act that would, without warning, irrevocably alter the course of our history.

And I am reminded of how we gathered together, huddled around radios and televisions, bonding together, family with family, friend with friend, strangers with strangers, as we absorbed the horrific details of that horrific day and, almost as a single voice, cried out that we would never, ever forget.

And, for a time, the wound would not, and could not, close, the process of healing denied, primarily the result of our adament and stubborn refusal to let it begin , as if our willingness to let it happen would somehow cheapen the sacrifice that had been made that day, would somehow lessen the honor we all felt was due the life lost, the pain suffered, the heartache inflicted.

With each passing year, the inevitable anniversary brought us around once again to the just as inevitable churning of raw emotion, the tearful return of harsh memories and the renewed passionate determination that we would never allow ourselves the selfishness of pretending that our lives could ever be what we once believed normal, in that time before our innocence was smashed, before our eyes were forced open to the harsh realities of this life by the heartless, hurtful, immoral insanity of this attack.

And on each of those anniversaries, the airwaves filled with tribute and remembrance, with minute by minute or hour by hour replays of the sounds and sights and screams of those terror filled moments of the day when death rained down on us from what had been, until that moment, just another tall building in an America filled with tall buildings, as if to not relive, through those sounds and sights and screams, every insane and gory detail of the horror of that day, we were somehow selfishly allowing ourselves to cheapen the sacrifice and lessen the honor due the life lost.

Inevitably, in time, the process of healing, as it always does, overcame our best efforts to prevent it and, at some point, the once almost instinctive need to relive the sounds and sights and screams, was gently and compassionately usurped by a sense that while we should, and would, never let the sacrifice made that day fade completely from our awareness, the raw reliving must come to an end, replaced by respectful and reverent remembrance, honoring life lost by lighting it up and not dredging it up; paying tribute by not screaming our pain but by sharing our passion, a passion for a way of life and adherance to principles that evil, in whatever form it takes or horror it inflicts, simply cannot, in the end, overcome.

On that day, our innocence was brutally taken away, our eyes forced open to the harsh realities of this life. And death rained down from a tall building that had, until that moment, been just another tall building in an America filled with tall buildings.

The Texas School Book Depository.

In time, the raw re-living of that day came to an end, replaced by respectful and reverent remembrance. A remembrance that, to this day, does absolutely nothing, to diminish or denigrate the honor due the life lost and sacrfice made, nothing to trivialize the horror that must cruelly be a part of every futile attempt that evil makes to overcome us, be it the brutal destruction of a naval base in the Hawaiian Islands on a peaceful Sunday morning...the cold blooded killing of an American president on a sun drenched Dallas street...or the obscenity of our own airliners used as weapons against us.

Today, I am reminded of that horror.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"...Who You Callin' An Eponym, Pal?..."

Was a time when kids wanted to be astronauts when they grew up.

Or president.

That aspiration started to lose its appeal around the time Nixon walked out of the Oval Office on his feet of clay and climbed aboard the chopper.

Hopes of finding show biz fame were big in the day, too. Dreams of becoming a movie or, at the very least, TV, star very nicely filled in the other forty six weeks, give or take, that weren't reserved for visions of sugar plums dancing.

Making it in show biz still ranks pretty high, but with the advent of Idol, America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and all of their offspring, fame and/or noteriety are more easily acquired.

Fact is, You Tube technically makes a "star" out of anybody and everybody who's even remotely interested.

So, since the once lofty dream has now become a more down to earth possibility, the bar has naturally been raised on what's required to achieve genuine immortality.

Frankly, it's simply become too easy to clock in for fifteen minutes of fame.

You want forever, you gotta become an eponym.

(n); the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named.

Becoming part of the culture is fleeting. Becoming part of the language is eternal.

A hundred years from now, a lot of people will either forget Kardashians ever mattered or, at the very least, will confuse them with the Kardassians that gave Picard and Riker such a hassle.

But do something inappropriate a hundred years from now and chances are your name will still be mud.

As in Dr. Samuel Mudd who, without knowing who he was treating, set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth on the night of Lincoln's assassination and was tried, and later posthumously pardoned, for conspiracy in the killing.

Examples are many and memorable.

When somebody offers up a solution, how often do we say "way to go, Sherlock"?"

A person who is disloyal is still called a "Benedict Arnold".

Some well known epppies have lesser known origins.

You've likely never heard of Ernst Grafenberg. But ladies appreciate him even if men are vexxed by his claim to fame.

The G spot.

And let's not forget the veritable plethora of "-esques".

As in, "Capra-esque", "Reagan-esque", "Beatle-esque" and, the king (or more precisely, the queen) of all left handed compliments, "Ruben-esque".

Here's a more recent arrival that pops up with increasing frequency.

"the next Susan Boyle".

Unless you've been living just west of Andromeda for the past few years, you know the Susan saga. (If not, Google/You Tube away, it's a very touching story...in fact, it is, I daresay, Shakespeare-esque..)

Individual perceived to be average or less in ability blows the audience away with a totally unexpected world class performance, creating a buzz heard round the world.

Here's the latest buzzee.

His name is Carlos Aponte.





Okay. Credit where due.

The guy has game. And it's undeniably poignant and inspiring when we witness somebody not only exceed our expectations but churn up a little guilt in us for having been so snide in the first place.

But here's a little trap door in the whole eponym concept.

You either have to be completely unique.

Or you have to be first.

That same hundred years from now, only sports scholars and/or baseball geeks are going to instantly recognize either the names Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds.

But Babe Ruth will remain iconic.

And while I join you in what I know is a heartfelt cheer for this young Puerto Rican who knocked the naysayers on their asses, I also know how this eponymy thing works.

The next talent who meekly takes the stage and proceeds to bring the house down won't be the "next Carlos Aponte".

They'll be "the next Susan Boyle".

No matter how "Wagnerian" they are.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Monuments Ain't the Only Things That Mildew In the Moisture

Stop me if you've heard this one.

Hot enough for ya?

Almost anyone and everyone who might be inclined to be reading what I'm writing here has already experienced some of the hottest weather in recent years.

And sparing you the tempting "Al Gore dun been warnin' us" schpiel, suffice to say that we have already come through a chunk of a pretty hot damn summer.

And it's just now the first week of July.

Can't wait for August.

Having lived most of my life in the South, though, I, like many of you, am fully aware of one's of life's most set in stone maxims.

It ain't the heat, it's the humidity.

Anyone who lives or has lived in a tropical climate knows the drill.

A 95 degree day, with a moderate percentage of humidity, is a warm, but arguably delightful, summer day.

An 85 degree day, on the other hand, can deplete not only one's energy, but their will to go on living, should the humidity be up there in the " man, are you kiddin' me with this muggy thing?" range.

And I've never once, honest efforts notwithstanding, been able to find anything redeeming about high humidity.

It is simply one of life's little inevitable miseries.

Like mosquitos, the stench of garbage and any TV show whose title starts out "The Real Housewives..."

Here's an interesting fact, though, that I have stumbled across after years of witnessing and/or experiencing the cause and effect of high humidity.

It makes people stupid.

Allow me to elucidate.

So many times, over so many years, I have witnessed seemingly intelligent people, people who are blessed not only with a far above average intelligence and endless supply of common sense but also a near pristine social and moral conscience morph almost over night into stammering, stuttering, confused and confusing candidates for the not so coveted position of village idiot.

For example, an individual sees a simple problem that requires a simple solution. They study and research possible solutions and find there are several available. They put themselves into a position to be able to implement those solutions and begin what, by any reasonable definition, is a generic and basic process of applying the simplest available solution to said problem.

When suddenly, as quickly as the process begins, it begins to unravel in direct proportion to the rise in the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor in a parcel of air to the saturated vapor pressure of water vapor at a prescribed temperature.

Or as we non-Weather Channel geeks say, "damn, it's muggy out here, aint it?"

From there the process of problem solving rapidly deteriorates as the problem solver not only becomes incapable of simple implementation, but compounds the problem by allowing themselves to be drawn into useless and counter productive debate with fellow problem solvers who are both distracted by detractors opposing the original solution for reasons both selfish and self serving as well as finding themselves drawn, as if unable to resist, into the black hole-ish definition of insanity...doing the same futile thing over and over and over again and expecting a different end result each time.

The sad, said end result is, inevitably, in fact, the same each time.

The problem goes unsolved.

The solution remains unapplied.

And seemingly intelligent people who were blessed with a far above average intelligence and endless supply of common sense, not to mention a near pristine social and moral conscience morph into stammering, stuttering confused, and confusing, candidates for the not so coveted position of village idiot.

To wit; high humidity makes people stupid.

While admittedly, to my knowledge, there is no scholarly, let alone empirical, data to support this theory, I would offer that unimpeachable evidence exists and said evidence validates one of the most accurate of metaphoric axioms.

"Proof's in the puddin".

Because, as it turns out, the highest number of recorded instances of common sense solutions to simple problems evaporating as if they had never existed has been documented, time and again, as occuring in a place almost continuously subjected to high humidity.

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Oh Lord, Thy Sea Is So Great...And My Vocabulary Is So Small..."

Funny how some things stick with you.

At this point, I am tippy toe-ing up on the beginning of a seventh decade of life, liberty and the pursuit of a customer service representative whose accent I can come even close to navigating through and/or around and after all those years of exposure to, literally, millions of facts, figures and assorted life lessons provided by peers, parents and professors of one ilk or another, I find the oddest little items popping up out of the RAM from time to time.

This morning, it was a pearl of grammatical wisdom offered up in my seventh grade year by Miss Higgins/Mrs. Baker, the English teacher who went from maiden to married somewhere around midterm, in those days when it was statistically possible, even probable, that a woman was actually still a maiden, pre marriage.

Like any English teacher worth her educational salt, Miss H./Mrs. B was a stickler.

And, for some reason I can't discern, this particular stickle has stuck with me.

Upon hearing any one in the class use a common phrase that implied the activity of bringing offspring from infancy to adulthood, Miss H./Mrs. B. would rise slowly from her seat, purposefully and not just a little menacingly, a little like Godzilla rising up out of Tokyo Bay, smack her well worn ruler on the desk with percussive precision and, in a voice that seemed, at the time, like a cross between Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Bee and that chick in The Exorcist, boom across the room, for one and all, her revisionist position on the aforementioned use of the aforementioned common phrase.

"You REAR children....you RAISE pigs..."

Even then, we were all smart enough to appreciate that she was showing superior teacher chops by forcing us to hone our language skills.

Although, even then, I remember being tempted to counter her contention by offering up that since she had never been to one of my family's gatherings, she couldn't fully appreciate that there were times, that when it came to rearing and raising, both were reasonably applicable.

In hindsight, I realize that she really was an excellent educator.

Because she not only insisted on pounding on us until we got it right, but, also, nurtured in each of us any particular potential she might observe.

In my case, coming up with one smart ass punchline or another for pretty much everything.

Miss H./Mrs. B's stentorian sharing revisited me today when I read this little chicken nugget of "breaking news".


ATLANTA – The fast food-chain Wendy's has pulled a disco CD included in kids' meals because of racy lyrics in one of the songs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that one of the songs on the Disco Fever CD was Donna Summer's "Last Dance." The song has two sets of lyrics. One version includes the words "so bad." But some heard the alternative lyrics "so horny" on the CD, which had been marked as safe for 3 years old and up.

The Atlanta-based chain announced on its website Saturday that it would continue to put three other CDs in the kids' meals. Those CDs include the songs "ABC" by Jackson 5 and "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang. The website said Wendy's is "no longer offering" the Disco Fever CD but doesn't mention the reason.



The path of least resistance, discussion wise, almost certainly leads into point-counterpoint about the sexual saturation of contemporary culture and what an ongoing struggle it is to provide children with the opportunity to actually have a childhood.

At least for those parents who still ongoingly struggle and havent simply conceded defeat to the onslaught of sensory salaciousness.

Yes. I'm showing off a little bit with the verbosity. But, just on the odd chance that Miss H./Mrs. B. is still around and/or might be reading this, I wanted her to know that her efforts to educate and/or illuminate weren't for naught.

It might also be said that getting one's parental panties in a knot over hearing Donna Summer sing "so horny" in a thirty year old disco song in this day and time is a little bit like making sure that the kids are very careful about playing with matches while Rome burns all around us.

Still, as Edmund Burke, the man historically known as the father of modern conservatism, once eloquently observed, "...all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing...".

So, the Wendy's folk deserve props for de-Donna-ing the kiddy meal.

Something better than nothing, as it were.

That said, I think Miss H./Mrs B., aggressive advocate of an accurate grasp of grammar would agree that in these times, in this culture, whether you're rearing or raising...

...it ain't easy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If The Bird, Bird, Bird, The Bird's The Word...Then Why Can't We Tweet?"

There's probably nothing quite as reassuring as those who are in this world to protect us from ourselves.

The latest do-gooder is the standards editor from The New York Times.

(CNN) -- To anyone who uses Twitter, the word "tweet" is as natural as, well, a bird. But don't expect to see it in The New York Times.

"Someday, 'tweet' may be as common as 'e-mail,' " wrote Phil Corbett, the Times' standards editor, in a memo this week, according to The Awl. But, for now, Corbett has nixed further use of the word -- "outside of ornithological contexts," he wrote.

The Times will stop using the word because "tweet" isn't standard English, "and standard English is what we should use in news articles," Corbett said.

Corbett noted that not everyone uses the micro-blogging site and therefore may not be familiar with what a "tweet" is.

After all, The New York Times always uses words people are familiar with, like "louche" and "shibboleths."

So what will The New York Times be calling these Twitter updates now?

" 'Tweet' may be acceptable occasionally for special effect," Corbett said in the memo.

"But let's look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you've established that Twitter is the medium, simply use 'say' or 'write.' "

I don't know about you but the first thing that popped into my mind as I was reading this story was that scene in the movie "The Paper" where Michael Keaton interviews for a job with the "big guys", the newspaper whose bow tied, suspendered, stick up the butt editor smugly reminds Keaton that "we cover the world".

The second thing that popped into my mind was my high school senior year journalism teacher, Mrs. Kiern.

And not because she had a stick up her butt, quite the contrary actually, but because I remember that she managed to teach us the fundamentals of good journalism while not coming off like a strident parent with, well, a stick up her butt. No easy task in the freewheeling days of the late 1960's as you might imagine.

I suspect two things about this guy with The NYT.

He didn't have a journalism teacher half as hip as Mary Kiern.

And I bet you my paycheck against yours that he wears either a bow tie or suspenders or both.

That said, it's probably only fair to give him the benefit of one doubt.

He is, however lamely the effort appears, trying to do his small part to stem the flow of the dumbing down of America.

Boy, you've chosen to tilt at quite a sizeable windmill, there, Phil.

In the spirit of good old American work togetherism, though, I'm ready to pitch in and offer up a few words/phrases that I think should be thrown on the bullshit bonfire on which word boy has thrown the troublesome term "tweet". Words and/or phrases that do nothing to either enlighten or inform us in any substantive way.

As for phrases...

At the end of the day.

Think outside the box.

Like.

Whatever.

You know.

My two cents.

Awesome.

My bad.

I could care less. (I once did a fun interview with Bill Cosby and he and I instantly shared a laugh about this one, because it's not only overused, but it's overused incorrectly. If what you mean is you could care less, what you REALLY mean is you COULDN'T care less...)

It is what it is.


As for words which neither enlighten or inform...


Congress.

Politician.

And, in tribute to Mary Kiern's teachings that brevity is no excuse for laziness...


LOL

LMAO

ROFL


Etc....

I imagine there's going to be a lot of snickering around the water coolers at The New York Times for a few days.

And probably rightly so because, I mean come on, Phil, loosen the bow tie and live a little.

But I do appreciate the spirit of your intent.

After all, it's a herculean task, trying to keep the bar of literacy from hitting the ground in this culture.

So, nice try, dude.

Oh...forgot to include one word, probably the most useless of all.

Kardashian.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Bet Leno Won't Try to Steal HIS Show...

It was only a matter of time.

Envelope pushing in this life is a lot like drugs or booze, et al.

The more you do, the more you want, or even have, to do in order to achieve the same effect.

In this instance, the desired effect is rattling people's cages.

Ladies and gentlemen....the comedy stylings of...

Jesus.

That paragon of conservative values, Comedy Central, is working with some folks on an animated series about everybody's favorite Savior (well, everybody except those who embrace any of the world's umpteen other recognized religions and, of course, that one group that seems unable to express the beliefs in any other way than flying innocent passenger filled airliners into innocent office worker filled skyscrapers).

Here's the link to the the scoop, if you're interested and, ergo, likely a heathen, a Democrat or a seven year old.

http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/07/show-about-jesus-is-just-a-maybe-for-comedy-central/?hpt=Sbin

I've never had a problem with satire.

I'm one of those people who think that our sense of humor is legitmately one of the tiles that God uses when he puts together the mosaic that is our being.

Humor is, like almost everything else though, a subjective thing.

I, for example, appreciate what the gang at Monty Python has done through the years while, truth be told, honestly remember only ever laughing out loud at something they did a couple of times...including the first time I saw the Dead Parrot Sketch.

And despite the tendancy to romanticize all of it a brilliant, hilarious, cutting edge comedy, my instincts are that if you took every single bit that SNL has done in almost forty years of on air work, the acutal belly laughs would take up less than twenty minutes total, give or take.

You don't have to be one of the flock, though, to see what's coming if this series makes it to the weekly roster.

Cries of foul from every single being on the planet with a fish on the back of their Camry.

Personally, my problem with the idea isn't so much about the Lord. (Although, Lord knows, it probably should be...)

It's about the Lazy.

For a long time, the path of least creative energy effort has been T&A.

When you can't think of anything sincerely funny or clever or witty, you can pretty much get people's attention with boobs and butts.

And, of course, anything and everything scatalogical comes right out of that same folder.

Admittedly, at least from a dollars and cents point of view, there's no arguing with the success of that approach.

Fess up....take the high gloss shine of "quality actors" like Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen out of the equation and isn't the ragingly successful "Two and Half Men" just a twenty three minute weekly potpourri of T&A/fart jokes?

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's just lazy.

And it's lazy of us to laugh at it.

Because that kind of humor requires no thought, no education, no sophistication, no finely honed and/or tuned sense of wit or wisdom to agitate and fire off the funny bone.

And, fair being fair, who wants to do all that brain work after a hard day at the nine to five anyway?

But, let's not fool ourselves, either.

It's nothing more, or less, than the middle aged equivalent of the kid in the back of the class who always got us to laugh when he made fart noises with his armpit.

When we were six.

Given that this project is coming from the same network that brings us the one show I'm pretty sure has never showed up on the Sarah Palin family flat screen, South Park, I think it's not a stretch to assume that the show won't be offering weekly lessons and morals of the story in the spirit of say "Highway To Heaven" or "Touched By An Angel", for example.

It will most likely be more of that kid in the back of the class making fart noises with his armpit.

Only the kid will be wearing a long robe and bear a striking resemblance to an animated version of Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. (I've always wondered why the touchy type Christian faithful haven't raised more Hell about that very common depiction...)

And the inevitable result will be that heathens, Democrats and seven year olds (of all ages) will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Ratings will zoom and "JC" will be around just long enough to put all of us in increased danger of looking around one Tuesday prime time evening to find that we've been "left behind"

The thing we seem to forget, as we grow older, is that laughing at that kid in the back of the class didn't result in better, wittier, funnier material being offered us.

It just encouraged the kid to keep flapping that arm and abusing that pit.

It isn't in my character, flawed or un, to be offended by much of what TV spews out.

That's always seemed like giving in to their desire to rattle me.

So, view and let view, I'd say.

On the other hand, if , just once, I stumble across a clip of little, stocky folks scurrying across the animated screen yelling "they've KILLED Jesus", I'm gonna reconsider my no letters to the FCC policy.

My fear is that, given the apparent taste of the general viewing public, the show will not only succeed, but flourish, resulting in a cottage industry, T Shirts and all.

Even a bumper sticker hyping the next week's show.

WWJDNW

What WILL Jesus Do Next Week?

As for me, I've already got a plan.

Continuing, while "JC" is airing, to be safely tuned to USA to enjoy back to back to back to back episodes of NCIS.

While tightly gripping the shirt tail of any sincerely devoted Christian who might be in the room at the time.

Just in case.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Give Me Liberty...Or I'll Just Sneak In...."

Knee bone connected to the thigh bone.

Thigh bone connected to the hip bone.

Hip bone connected to the...

You get the idea.

If that little ditty doesn't ring a bell, by the way, shut down the Wii, turn off your IPod/IPad and get your damn homework done.

I revisit the old bone littany because it occurs to me that there is a cause and effect relationship in human beings that I don't believe has ever been covered in conventional medical texts.

The connection between passion and stupidity.

Admittedly, there may be empirical medical evidence of a biophysical synaptic chain reaction occuring when passion comes surging along through our veins and/or nerve fibers.

I haven't really done any seriously deep research.

Hey, if I had wanted to be a doctor, I would have started working on crappy handwriting and improving my backswing right out of high school.

I don't need any medical texts, though, to know that the connection is there and totally functioning.

In its more primal instances, it manifests in immoral, even amoral, behavior.

As in, passion, in the form of lust, for example, wells, blood rushes from head to loins and stupid is as stupid does.

I can't speak to any documentation of the phenomenon in medical texts.

But the tabloids are chockablock full.

Tiger. Jesse.

Etc.

In a more insidious form, though, the passion/stupid syndrome presents cloaked in a robe of well intentionism and do-goodism.

Still, however, generally resulting in less than brilliant behavior.

And it seems to show no prejuidice for social strata, appearing pretty naturally and automatically across all sociological groups.

From the essentially harmless, but nevertheless stupid, behavior of most hockey fans.

To, in its more extreme instances, something as spectacularly stupid as the Klan.

This burst of layman's diagnostic pondering came to me this week as I have read and/or discussed the brouhaha stirred up by the passage of the Arizona immigration law.

Something that inevitably arouses our passions.

And something that, just as inevitably, brings out the the stupid in us.

But the passage of the law wasn't the beginning of the whole passion/stupid chain reaction.

For that, you have to go back to the genesis of the creation of the law in the first place.

Passion in the form of anger.

Or, perhaps more appropriately, resentment.

At the very least...frustration.

And, again, while I don't have an M.D., a PhD. or even HBO (hey, we're all pinching pennies these days, oui?), I can see, even through the haze of all my human weaknesses and prejuidices, the exact place in the pond where the rock hit, causing all these ripples.

America is tired of not being America anymore.

And that weariness is starting to make a lot of people who wouldn't necessarily say, let alone think, things that might be interpreted as socially and/or racially prejudicial are starting to freely let fly with things that can pretty much be interpreted as socially and/or racially prejudicial.

For a while now, we've tried to retain some sense of civility about it, expressing our dismay in subtle ways.

I long ago suspected that those "America-Love it or Leave It" bumper stickers were aimed as much at illegals as they were at those whose political views were in contrast to those of the bumperer.

Then, as feelings (translation: passions) grew more, well, passionate, the "in cheek" gave way to the "in your face".

As in the newest cottage industry: TShirts, bumperstickers, Facebook pages, et al with pretty much one theme/slogan:

"I am an American...I shouldn't HAVE to press 1 for English."

From here, Lord only knows what the next "there" will be in answer to the question
where do we go from here?"

One thing is sure, though.

It will involve stupidity.

Like, for example, the Arizona law.

A law that meets the aforementioned criteria of being wrapped in cloak of well-intentionism and do-goodism.

In this case, the stupidity is not in the why but in the how.

The law simply won't work.

Because it certainly won't solve the problem and it will , bet the hacienda, just ramp up passions.

Ergo, ramp up stupidity.

Because even the wheel on the short bus goes round and round.

As with every good intention that ends up paving the road, though, there is a kernal of common sense lying patiently under the pile created by the shit storm and waiting to be harvested and replanted in a more fertile field of revision and reform.

It occurs to me that, in this case, that common sense might go a little something like this:

Visualize, for a moment, America as a spectacular country club with all the appointments and opportunites one would expect from such a facility.

And, add to that vision, the remarkable knowledge that, unlike many posh, prestigious clubs, America does not restrict its membership and does, in fact, welcome man, woman, child or any race, creed, color, gender, religion, sexual persuasion and/or political point of view.

And to join the club, all one need do is meet a few simple, basic and completely reasonable requirements.

In fact, it's almost easier to join this club than it is to get through the license/tag gauntlet at the local DMV.

All one must do is meet the requirements for membership.

Though, in this club, its called something else.

It's called citizenship.

Learn the club lingo (language), promise to be a member in good standing (affirm that you won't blow the club up) and you can pretty much do whatever you want from there on out.

As a full fledged, and authorized, member of the club.

In recent years, though, the club has seen some wear and tear.

Because those members who have honored those simple commitments and who have every right to enjoy the club's facilities have had to endure a deterioration of club services caused, almost exclusively, by an influx of people who either can't or won't make the effort to join the club.

Simply put, there is usually no room for members to enjoy the pool anymore because it is filled, side to side, diving board to shallow end, with folks who got in by digging under the fence and sneaking past the check in desk.

Not to mention the tremendous drain on club resources and supplies by those gate crashers who freely use the facilities without helping to replenish in the form of the dues that card carrying members pony up.

And the members in good standing ,upset that their willingness to make it easy for new members to join, only naturally resent that that hospitality is being abused.

And that resentment becomes anger.

That anger becomes passionate.

And stupidity is sure to follow.

No reasonable person would be offended by being politely asked to offer evidence that they are a member of the club they are trying to enter and enjoy.

From fitness clubs to social clubs to Sam's Club, each of us are asked for, and offer up, that evidence every single day.

Arizona is, however ineptly, trying to post a greeter at the door to check membership cards.

Good luck.

Because reasonable people already have, or are getting, membership cards.

The rest will rely on inflamed passions to cover their tracks.

Because they already know what I just figured out.

Passion can make us stupid.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Truth...Plane and Simple...

The mayor named Fiorello was a stand up guy.

The once upon a time New York City mayor once found himself disagreeing with a judge, only to be reminded that he, himself, had appointed that judge to the bench.

"When I make a mistake," he imortally opined, "it's a beaut."

That historic utterance popped into my head as I was reading about the problems fliers are having because of the volcanic eruption and the ash that is shutting down air travel all over Europe.

Because when it comes to mistakes, I've long thought that America made a pretty big one a long time ago.

Well, two if we count thinking Ellen would make a good judge on Idol.

America should never have given up on trains in favor of air travel.

At one time in our history, long before the terms "overhead compartment" "upright and locked position" and "we're number sixty three in line for takeoff" became a part of our everyday vocabulary, we moved from city to city, state to state, cross country via the rails.

And for over a hundred years, the railroads got us where we needed to go, when we needed to go, pretty much when we needed to get there.

The story is actually fascinating. Check it out here.


As is our technologically hungry wont, though, air travel pretty much put the kaibosh on the choo choo and by the 1960's, train travel went the way of the eight track tape player.

Here's a thing, though.

For all of the flash and fancy of winging it back and forth across the land of the free, there was really only one advantage flying had over training.

It saved time.

Simply put, a plane traveling at 500-600 mph is faster than a train traveling at 60-70mph.

So, in theory, you get there, wherever there might be, sooner.

Much like your household budget, though, the numbers on paper are misleading.

A little compare and contrast:

By train...you show up at the station, check your baggage and board the train.

By plane...you show up at the airport, check your baggage, bitch under your breath about being charged extra for your luggage, say goodbye to your luggage and grimace as you realize that you wore the socks with the hole in the toe and you're going to have to take off your shoes before they let you anywhere near the jetway.

By train...you take a seat next to, near a, or within easy eye shot of a pretty nice sized window.

By plane...after faking patience at the lady who will, by God, cram that overstuffed backpack in that overhead compartment come hell or high water, you wiggle and squirm your way into one of three seats that will either a) put you next to the porthole sized window, but guarantee that getting out to take a leak will involve some ability at contorting your body, b) put you in the middle between two people who will either put their elbows on your armrest and/or spend the entire trip trying to shove that overstuffed backpack that just wouldnt go in the overhead compartment in the half as much space under the seat in front of him/her or c) put you on aisle where you will be required, for the duration of the trip, to be ever vigiliant lest you get whacked in the shoulder or back of the head by people and/or flight attendants weaving and bouncing up and down the aisle possesing no discernbile depth perception.

By train...you settle back as the train pulls out of the station, gathers speed and begins to move steadily and rhythmically across the landscape of amber waves of grain...(ps...you dont give your luggage a second thought as you instinctively know that it's riding comfortably just a couple of cars behind you)

By plane...you unbuckle and get up to allow the last minute check in to climb over you to their window seat, sit back down, rebuckle, settle back and wait for the little dinging bell that indicates you and your fellow travelers are about to take your place in the line of sixty odd aircraft taxing their way toward an eventual departure...(ps: you say a quick multi-level prayer that you will a) get off the ground before your kids have kids, b)fly and arrive safely and c) your luggage will also have a safe trip and, ideally, end up where you do)

By train...when mealtime arrives, you walk to the dining car, sit down, order up and eat a nice meal...

By plane...you realize that you have learned to accept, without question, that a balanced meal can actually consist of mixed nuts and/or pretzels washed down with a plastic specimen cup sized 7-Up.

By train...you marvel at the wonder of the landscape that is the United States of America.

By plane... you marvel at the wonder of God's creation as you view the cottony blanket of clouds below you...but only if you have the seat next to the porthole sized window and can avoid being totally distracted by either a) that annoying arm on your armrest and/or b)your efforts to put a full bladder out of your mind lest you have to climb over two fellow travelers in search of relief.

By train...the train pulls into the station, you disembark, pick up your luggage and continue with your life...

By plane...the plane touches down, you unbuckle and start calculating how many minutes/hours it will be before the aisle is sufficiently clear of people trying to remove overstuffed backpacks from the overhead compartment to allow you to stand up, let alone head toward the cordial "buh-bye" and the sweet release of the jetway entrance...and the process of traversing to the baggage claim area, all the while hoping and praying that there will, in fact, be familiar baggage to claim at some point...

And by the time you factor in the waiting, delays, etc, inherant in air travel, the single advantage, saving time, is largely illusory.

In hindsight, I think a pretty compelling case could be made that, all factors considered, letting our rail system fade away was a mistake.

I'd also offer it's the kind of mistake that Mayor Fiorello would agree was a beaut.

Not to mention ironic with a capital I.

Given that the man whose wry observation was Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

As in LaGuardia Airport.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Something From The Two Major Food Groups...Corn Dogs and Nachos with Extra Cheese..."

George Carlin had a pretty good take on the whole "eating healthy" thing.

He said that if the nutritional types really wanted us to eat healthier, they'd come up with more appetizing names for the good stuff.

Because given the choice between "tofu" and "twinkie", which way do you think most people will go?
Exactly.

In that same spirit, I came across a fun online article from the guy who does the "Eat This, Not That" thing.

Here's a couple of his thoughts regarding the "unhealthiest" foods in the mall and the "healthy" alternative.


Worst Chinese Meal
Panda Express Orange Chicken with Fried Rice
970 calories
38 g fat (7.5 g saturated)
1,540 mg sodium

It’s unfortunate that this dish happens to be one of the most popular on Panda’s menu. Consider the recipe: Battered and fried, then coated in a sugary syrup. It’s like Colonel Sanders meets Willy Wonka. Pair with a scoop of fried rice and you’ve got a dish with serious flab-enhancing potential. Here’s a better survival strategy: Skip the rice altogether and choose steamed veggies instead. Then pick any entrĂ©e besides orange chicken.

Bonus tip: You already know to watch out for calories from food. But we consume about a quarter of our day’s calories in liquid form. Read
The 40 Best and Worst Beers to find out how that’s possible, and look for the upcoming Drink This, Not That! book, which shows you how to make the smartest choices in the entire beverage world.
Eat This Instead!

Panda Express Broccoli with Eggplant and Tofu460 calories30 g fat (4.5 g saturated)1,400 mg sodium
SAVE 510 CALORIES AND 8 GRAMS OF FAT.



Worst Mall Drink
Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo’d (22 oz)
770 calories
20 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
108 g sugars

The scary thing about this 22-ounce shake is that you can consume nearly half a day’s worth of calories in 3 minutes of spirited sipping, all under the pseudohealthy banner of the sacred smoothie. What’s even scarier is you’ll be slurping up the sugar equivalent of 6 packs of peanut M&M’s, all while thinking you’re doing your body a favor. While at Jamba, stick to their impressive list of smoothies in the All Fruit and Light categories.

Bonus tip: For thousands of tips and tricks like this one,
download Eat This, Not That! to your iPhone. It’s like having your own personal nutritionist in your pocket wherever you go--with facts on more than 100,000 restaurant and supermarket foods.
Drink This Instead!Jamba Juice Mango Mantra (16 oz)150 calories0.5 g fat (0 g saturated)27 g sugars
SAVE 620 CALORIES AND 20 GRAMS OF FAT! Make this smart swap just a couple times a week and lose more than 15 pounds a year!


The article has some other examples...you can check them out here...

http://health.yahoo.com/experts/eatthis/48983/unhealthiest-foods-at-the-mall/

Good intentions notwithstanding, I find that as I get older, I'm less informed by these kinds of articles than I am amused.

First, there's that pesky common sense thing.

The more fat, grease, sugar, etc we eat, the less "good for us" it is.

I don't think you have to be a registered dietician to figure that one out.

Second, if all other information doesn't put the whole "eating at the food court" thing into perspective, I'm thinking that there's a pretty obvious clue right in front of our proverbial faces.

Two words, Benjamin.

Mall food.

Bon appetit.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"...Catch A Falling Star......Tonight! On TMZ!..."

There's a song refrain pogo-ing around my synaptic gaps today.

"...fairy tales can come true/it can happen to you..."

The more pop music trivia wise amongst us will, naturally, offer that the line plays out "...when you're young at heart.."

Correctamundo.

The line didn't pop into my own noggin' in that context, though.

What I heard as the admittedly non-correct meterish, non-rhyming, non-sequiterish tag was "....so be careful what you wish for..."

For about the fourth time in as many weeks, I came upon a "news" story detailing one emotional travail or another of one tightly wound celebrity or another.

In this case, the paragon of unquestionable talent and questionable gender, Lady Gaga,

Who, so the story goes, has apparently begun the process of unraveling from the pulling and tugging at her psyche that apparently comes automatically with membership in the rich and famous club.

Not to make light of the dark side but, as the noted Motown quartet once offered, "...it's the same old song..."

Of late, Lady Gaga.

And Susan Boyle.

Back in the day, Judy Garland.

And even backer in the day, Frances Farmer.

Who?

Doesn't matter.

The names change but the story remains the same.

At some point in the process, the wear and tear on the human nervous system, subjected to the admittedly inhuman stresses of celebrity, exacts its toll on said system, in a variety of forms, the most common being the familiar "collapse/breakdown".

Of course, it doesn't help if the celebrity takes the very first steps onto the yellow brick road in borderline institution worthy shape to begin with.

Or as our thesaurus challenged friends would describe them..."a wack job.."

At this point, in the sincere, if often seemingly sardonic, quest to be part of the solution and not the problem, I asked myself, "what can we do to help?"

The answer came pretty quick.

Not a damn thing.

Because the inescapable bottom line is that the inhuman stresses of celebrity inevitably and unavoidably come with the territory.

Put less verbosely...

If you don't want to get burned, don't become a firefighter.

If you don't want to get break a bone, don't become a slalom skier.

If you don't want to be thought of as a moron with no discernible ability to inspire, lead or organize, don't become Nancy Pelosi.

And if you don't want to subject yourself to the inhuman stresses of celebrity....

...all you have to do is follow the advice of an unlikely expert on the price you can expect to pay if your dreams of fame come true.

Harry S. Truman.

"...if you can't stand the heat....."

Leave it to a Midwesterner to tell you what Hollywood won't.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"...Good Night, Mr. Phelps..Mr Newton...Captain Oveur....."

The old saying is "be careful what you wish for..."

A valid variation on that might be "be careful what you're known for..."

A long time ago, pop legend Roy Orbison told me that when he wrote his songs, he was always cognizant of the fact that if they became hits, he would have to be singing them night after night after night for the rest of his career.

He was right.

Peter Graves, who just died at age 83, could likely relate to Roy's point of view.

Because not an obit that I've seen online or on air or in print has failed to include this sentence, in one form or another...

"...best known as Jim Phelps, the leader of the IMF Force in the classic 1960's-1970's TV series, Mission Impossible...'

True enough.

But while, from all appearances, Graves embraced his fame as the guardian of hundreds of self destructed tapes, he deftly managed to avoid being known as a one trick pony and created a resume to be envied , starting out in the 1950's as the dad on the Saturday morning show, "Fury" to his roles in a whole film buff's Rolodex of "so bad they're good" sci-fi movies ("It Conquered The World"..."Beginning of The End")...and, in later years, following the lead of his generational peer, Leslie Nielsen , he moved effortlessly from "serious actor" to "comedy icon" with his roles in "Airplane", etc.

Most recently, he did a wonderful turn as an oversexed octogenerian in an episode of "House".

Sixty years of success in a business where fifteen minutes is the standard ration issued from the fame and fortune spicket.

Talk about your impossible missions.








Sunday, March 14, 2010

..."Uh..Merci' For Nothing, There, Ben...."

Notice anything missing this morning?

Something precious and valuable was taken away from you, most likely while you were sleeping.

Something that the wise cherish, the unwise waste and those participating in one form of pleasure or another can't ever get enough of.

Don't bother calling and reporting it missing.

There's not a jimmied door, broken window, picked lock, rifled drawer or even a foreign fingerprint in your house to prove that any nefarious activity took place.

But it was yours.

And it's gone, baby.

Admittedly, a case can be made that it wasn't, in fact, stolen, that it was, rather, merely borrowed because just as the surely as the sun rises and sets, as night follows day, as your teenager will say or wear something today that will make you question your intelligence at having had kids, it will be returned to you.

And it will be put back just as it was taken from you.

Late at night, somewhere in that etheral space between the stroke of midnight and the wee hours of the morning, replaced in exactly the same spot it from which it was taken, again with no tangible or court worthy forensic evidence that it was ever even tampered with, let alone taken from your possession and held in a metaphorical escrow.

And it happens to everyone, with the exception of a select few who remain immune to the loss with no more complicated a defensive strategy than to choose to live in a few select places

No charges can be filed, no complaint officially lodged for this particular act of acquisition isn't prohibited or even discouraged by any statue, federal, state or local.

It is, in fact, mandated by law.

And because there is no violation of law and no charges filed, there can be no one accused, tried, convicted and/or punished for the action.

No one to hold accountable.

There is, though, something, and someone, to blame.

Candles.

And Benjamin Franklin.

Seems that the zany old kite flyer shared an idea, some many years ago, that would save his friends in France some serious francs by cutting down on the number of candles they needed to burn each night to keep from having to curse the darkness.

The trick, Declaration-boy suggested, was to simply limit the duration of the darkness.

But while Ben was a pretty sharp tool, he was no Gene Roddenberry and messing around with the sun/earth rotation ratios was a scoche beyond even his considerable grasp.

So, he did the next best Star Trekkian thing.

He suggested a little ratchet wrenching of the space/time continuum.

And in what has to, admittedly, be a pretty ingenious example of getting around not being able to raise the bridge by lowering the river, he invented that which came into our homes and places of business last night and left with that aforementioned precious and valuable possession.

One hour of our lives.

And while Daylight Savings Time became, and remains, a very popular concept amongst the vast majority, a clever mind could still, I think, advocate convincingly that it is, in fact, a theft of sorts.

If only because that precious hour is, rather than plucked out of the day during business hours when each and all could view it as a extra bonus mini vacation, so to speak, taken from us, instead, in the dead of night, while we sleep....

...during our weekend.

Can't speak for you, but waking up Sunday morning to find that, through no fault of my own, I'm sixty minutes closer to Monday morning than usual leaves me feeling a little robbed.

And all because the French were too damn cheap to pop for a few extra candles.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"...Think, Think, Think, Go for The Brain Burn, Baby..."

Mark Twain.

Will Rogers.

Dorothy Parker.

Bill Cosby.

Just a few of the folks who have ramped up the quality of our lives in the past hundred years, give or take, with their ability to infuse insight with humor, wisdom with wit.

A nutritious spoonful of sugar, so to speak.

There's another name I think deserves mention.

Dean Wormer.

For the beleagured head honcho of Faber University, in the must own film classic "Animal House", was never more spot on then when he spoke the immmortal phrase...

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

That flash of waxing both practical and poetic occurred to me today as I was reading a story about a young student being "bullied" by one of her teachers.

Or to be more precise...

Not reading a story about a young student being bullied by one of her teachers.

Explanation just ahead, but first....

Let's talk about fat.

Over the past couple of years, I have spent a fair amount of time on the air talking about the "epidemic" of obesity in America.

Not so much as a matter of heath as, hopefully, humor.

After all, my shows are more Dr. Demento than Dr. Phil.

And given that I just ended a two year stint in the southern U.S. state (jury is still out on that status, by the way) that leads the nation in both adult and child obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, it seemed a no brainer to fire my witty weapon in that direction.

And give folks the skinny, as it were.

Arr-arr.

Boiled down to its simplest, though, the whole cause and effect thing shakes out this way.

People are getting fatter because they are eating more and doing less.

Kids are trans-fattingly replacing the playground with the Playstation.

And a lot of older folks think a treadmill is a factory where used tires are given a new life.

The end result, proved beyondashadowofadoubtingly, is a decline in physical wellness.

The lesson that seems to scream "obvious" while, at the same time, falling on deaf ears is that when we replace any kind of activity with inactivity, the result is inevitably atrophic.

Or as the less verbose, articulation challenged might offer....

Use it or lose it.

In this case, cholesterol 1, arteries nothing.

Now, it turns out, that the pattern, having done a pretty good job of corroding the physical , is turning its attention to the ultimate muscle.

No, not that muscle.

Perv.

The brain, baby, the brain.

The same technological advances that brought us the Wii and Playstation and subtly parked us in front of the tube instead of behind the bicycle handlebars are now offering us a source of entertainment, information and, yes, even instruction that, while ostensibly beneficial, could very likely turn out to be detrimental.

Video.

And lest I be charged with anachronism and my theories summarily dismissed, let me add that I enjoy You Tube as much as the next guy, know what embedding is and how to use it and appreciate having an easy and economical means of recording memorable life events for future generations to enjoy.

Though I'm pretty sure that my great grandkids will be as bored with watching the gray hairs flip flopping around Cozumel in 2009 as I was watching the gray hairs Bermuda shortsing around Yellowstone Park in 1959.

As with guns, drugs and the Kardashians social lives, my problem with video aint so much with the what it is as with the how its used.

And the slow but sure increase in the use of video taking the place of print in our world.

Which brings us back to the story I didn't read about the young student being bullied by one of her teachers.

Because I didn't read it.

I watched the video.

On a news website.

Where I can still, from time to time, enjoy one of life's more nourishing pursuits.

Reading.

Unfortunately, the opportunities seem to waning with each new cyber day.

More and more, the typography is being usurped by the videography.

And I'm not challenged to increase my ability to discern definition or ponder pronunciation.

I just looks at the picture and listens to the talkin'.

And in that same odd way that I just know I can hear my arteries clogging when I scarf down that taco bell grande while expertly juggling the Nintendo controller, I just know that I can hear my brain putting on a few pounds while I stare at the little screen, listen to the werdz....and....

....wotch the purdy piktures.....

Whoa.

Shake it off.

Note to self.

Pick up that attachable book stand for the treadmill on the way home tomorrow.

Because any expert will tell you that exercising both the body and the mind is key to quality of life.

I remember reading that somewhere.

And was so inspired by it that I went right out and bought the video.