Thursday, December 31, 2009

Exploding underpants

In the 19th century, Victor Hugo wrote a book called "Less Miserable." While that title might seem a cunning attempt to artificially lower the expectation bar, it's not like that at all really. Hugo's original title was "Less Miserable than a Commercial Airline flight." A real visionary that Victor. But the publishers correctly deduced it was too ahead of its time, so there ya go.

Mr. Bill Gates is on record saying the airplane is the most significant human invention to date. He may be right about that. But then again, he probably doesn't fly coach very often.

Oh, I don't mind that the seating gets more cramped every year. The airlines are trying to make it easier on us passengers, in their way. They do that by starving us mid-flight, figuring eventually we'll fit the seating just fine.

What I don't like is the security screenings, so I'm rather perturbed about this Nigerian chap. He bought a one way ticket with cash, and he had no luggage. OK, just going from personal experience here? I recall Myrtle Beach airport, having to throw my deodorant and toothpaste in garbage because my Zip-loc bag was too big.

Yep, they foiled my plot. I was hoping for a pilot with a really tiny head. I'd use my non-regulation plastic bag to smother him, and then I was going to crash the jet into the St. Louis arch. I hate that arch.

But a no-luggage one way ticket guy made it all the way from Europe to Detroit? Guess he had the right size plastic bag is all I can figure.

Personally, I took it as encouraging when that shoe bomber guy was caught. I reasoned that Al Qaeda ranks were fairly decimated, since they'd now been reduced to getting ideas from Wile E. Coyote cartoons. That was before I realized I'm gonna be taking off my shoes every time I fly, for the rest of my life.

Now we enter the era of exploding underpants. I'll be incensed (not to imply I'll smell like Sandalwood; I'll be angry) if the would be terrorist doesn't garner a Darwin award, since he did succeed in rendering his genitals non-functional.

Still, I can't help focus on how this will impact my future commerical airline flights...

"Sir did anyone besides you put your underwear on you?"

"No ma'am. Did it all by myself."

Since we're gonna continue with the PC farce in airport security, drawing out blue haired grannies for wanding and such, I propose a baby step towards sanity. Starting 2010, nobody with more than twenty-four letters in their name gets to fly anywhere.

I think Victor Hugo would agree with me on that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dumbest 'religion' ever!

Oh, I don't really have much original to offer about religion. Anybody who's read the Bible would come to same conclusions as I do. Like for instance...
a. Abram's intended sacrifice of Isaac was the first official 'bring your kid to work day' day.
2. Desert life must be really boring if Moses wanted to go watch a burning bush.

Well, there is this? If Christianity is a made up religion, it's about the dumbest one anybody ever made up.

I'm trying to imagine a bunch of marketing guys sitting around a conference table, couple of thousand years ago...

"Now all the dark stuff in human nature, we're going to tell people they shouldn't do that."

"Well I talked to the Greeks and Romans, and their religions allow all that. Won't we lose customers to them?"

"No, you don't understand. This is all about market branding. We set ourselves apart from the competition. People will love it, trust me."

"Hmmm. Guess it might work. Long as we stick to 'thou shalt not' and stuff."

"You weren't at last week's meeting. We decided to have a bunch of 'thou shalts' too; keep it interesting."

"Like what for instance?"

"We tell people to be humble instead of proud, selfless instead of selfish, forgiving instead of resentful, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, it's a long list really."

"This is just insane! Nobody's gonna want membership in a faith where you DON'T do the dark human nature stuff, but you're supposed to dig down deep and DO what's against your nature! You better change some of these rules, or we'll wind up with a couple dozen converts, tops."

"Fat lot you know Mr. 'in the box' thinker, cause this thing is already taking off. See this scroll here? Nero's invited us all to the Colosseum next week!"

Maybe I've got a limited imagination, but I can't fathom it. Why on Earth would anybody invent such a demanding faith, while surrounded by less rigorous dogmas?
Hmmm... well there is that I guess. Maybe it wasn't invented 'on Earth' at all.

I'll have to be sure to think about that later. Right now it's movie night!!! Picked up a good one at Blockbuster. Some sort of prequel post-apocalyptic global warming thriller, but with a message. Stars Al Gore, Al Franken, Frankenstein and Ben Stein. It's called "The Day before the Day after Tomorrow."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Arrr and stuff

Another Christmas drawing to a close, standing on the cusp of a new year, the mind takes a philosophical, even sentimental bent. So as 2010 draws near, I ponder the same issues everyone else does. By that of course, I mean why is Captain Kidd famous?

You could go stand outside Wal-Mart and ask people... hey, did you know Wal-Mart security guards have tasers? Well I sure didn't, but that's a different story.

So you could stand just OFF Wal-Mart property (I can't stress that enough) and ask strangers to name famous pirates. Answers would be: Blackbeard, Long John Silver and Captain Kidd. LJS was a fictional character of course, but I understand lines are blurry these days. Blackbeard, or Edward Teach? Personally fearless, audacious chap with a cool nickname.

But why Captain Kidd? That guy was such a lousy pirate, were he alive today he'd be pitching for Pittsburgh. His entire short, depressing piratical career consisted of taking one ship. And that only happened because his crew bullied him into it. Yep, some fearsome buccaneer there!

Morgan was a much better pirate. Ships? Pish! Morgan did ships for practice. He also siezed islands and looted cities. Yet Kidd is the more enduring name in the pirate dictionary. So why is that? It's because he had a perfect name.

First, alliterative names have a powerful effect on the memory. An example? Hmmm...
OK, pre-radio no US Presidents had alliterative names. Post-radio, twenty percent have had alliterative names. The graph takes off exactly at the point when mass consumption of the spoken word starts. Not just politicians either. Ninety percent of all cartoon characters have alliterative names too. But politicians, cartoons, I don't wish to get redundant here.

Second, most people are children when exposed to general history stuff like pirates. In a world dominated by adults, youngsters find something empowering in a person named 'Kidd' even if they understand he wasn't actually a child pirate.

So it works like that sometimes. One's enduring fame can be less accomplishments, more the name they bear. But it's the time of year all our thoughts turn to the deeper mysteries of life. Like for instance, what's the deal with that cereal box? "Cap'n Crunch" for Lord's sakes? Can't they show respect and spell the man's rank correctly? Either make the letters smaller or the box bigger; problem solved.

And how come he's been in the Navy all these years without getting promoted? I should go to Wal-Mart and ask people about that. But I'll stand just OFF Wal-Mart property. Can't stress that enough.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's Your Sign?

Last week I was standing next to a steaming vat of Nickel Sulfate reading a sign.

Couldn't help feeling pity for spelling skills of whoever posted that sign. Not even knowing how to spell 'Carcinogen' is a real shame. I must've stood next to that tank more than twenty minutes, thinking how stupid some people can be.

I just like signs generally though. Sometimes even, a sign can say one message to a larger audience, while speaking directly to a specific person.

Modern example of that would be like a restaurant men's room sign reading;
"All employees must wash hands...especially you, Harold."

Was just that sort of sign got Oscar Wilde put in prison actually. Well, somewhat indirectly I guess, I suppose.

Starting at the beginning, once Dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Hmmm, maybe I should compress the time line somewhat?

OK then. There's probably some HS teacher in some AP English Lit class today, somewhere in America, told a bunch of mush heads the great writer Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for two years for being a homosexual. Wrong on two points. He wasn't a great writer really. And he didn't directly go to prison for being a homosexual; his real crime was acting like a moron about the British judicial system.

I start where the story began. Once, Dinosaurs ruled the Earth...Oh, cut it out Dave!

All right then. Oscar Wilde was having a very public homosexual affair with Alfred Douglas. Alfred was son of the Marquess of Queensbury, and the Marquess didn't cotton to the romance much.

Given context of the story, I think 'Queensbury' is a hilarious word, but I digress.

The Marquess, unable to dissuade his son from this attachment, turned all his ample venom against Mr. Wilde. A personal campaign of humiliation was engaged. Very logical. The Marquess can't hate his son, so he must hate the man his son loves. The Marquess has been publicly humiliated, so he must publicly humiliate.

Getting back to signs? The Marquess' campaign culminated with a visit to Oscar's club. In those days, you went to see somebody and if they weren't there? You left your calling card and a short message written on it, so Club Steward could sort cards on the silver platter and direct each to intended party.

Marquess left his calling card. Helpfully wrote on it who the card was intended for: "...Sodomite Oscar Wilde."

Historians argue to this day why Wilde decided to sue the Marquess for libel. They have TOTALLY too much free time at the Harvard faculty lounge my opinion. Consensus is that Alfred pushed Oscar to the suit. This, believing Wilde would win against the Marquess' allegations, when Alfred would provide damning evidence against his father.

It's lost to the Harvard faculty lounge and me, what exactly the damning evidence was. Perhaps the Marquess was a wife beater with a string of mistresses, some same sex, or maybe the Marquess was a lousy tipper, I dunno.

What I do know? Some lawyers are homosexuals, but not all homosexuals are lawyers. One can't pursue a libel charge by attacking the character of the accused. Whatever the damning evidence about the Marquess may have been, certainly wasn't allowed in court.

I'm not a homosexual or a lawyer, but I'm fairly sure it's a bad idea to sue someone for libel about saying something that's true.

Oscar lost the libel case, and given the evidence submitted, Crown had to follow through, so that's why Mr. Wilde went to the big house.

Had the public (and correct) insult of a hurting father been laughed off, no prison time for Mr. Wilde. Instead he was silly enough to chase his doom. Some people, perhaps many, hold within them the seeds of their doom.

On a more positive note though? I reported to management that bad spelling on the Nickel Sulfate tank sign. I'm happy to report it's been corrected.


I'm not nosey by nature, but I MUST find out who this 'idiot' character is. Seriously? I'm willing to stand next to the Nickel Sulfate tank all day, just to learn the identity of this fool they're talking about.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Parrothead

Jesus wasn't born on December 25, but Jimmy Buffett was.

My only strong impression of Mr. Buffett is: You couldn't make him up, and if you tried, nobody would believe you.

In the mid-1970's American pop music was pretty much divided between Disco and heavy metal hair bands. Then a crop of musicians started showing up, who sang about real things. Jimmy was one of a dozen. The other guys, they all toil in relative obscurity now, but Jimmy is still here. Boy, is he here!

It's easier to list what he ain't doing, then try cataloging all the pies his fingers are in. I swear, if I read tomorrow Jimmy's about to start a space tourism company, wouldn't be a bit surprised. Bet he'd make money at it too.

Parrothead in Chief writes best selling books, tours packed arenas, cranks out platinum sales CD's on a regular basis. That's just his artsy side though. He also owns a piece of sports teams, beer companies, restaurant chains, real estate empire, charter services, and the list goes on.

I find something intensely admirable in crafting an appeal that speaks to a desire to chuck the 9 to 5 drag and go be a beachbum... and turning it into a billion dollar enterprise. That's really interesting.

Happy birthday Jimmy, you done good hoss. I'll always remember you starting out. Looked and sounded lots like your colleagues, except you had this weird Florida Keys obsession in your songs. Who knew where it'd all lead?

Naw, I don't think you did either Jimmy, not until a ways in anyway. You were just trying to distinguish yourself from the crowd, but it came to dawn on you, there's ore here, and you swung your pick hard.

See, that's a joke, well more a play on words. It's like a guitar player uses a pick but so does a minor. Get it, get it? Oh, never mind!

Every life is visited by a certain share of dumb luck, both good & bad. The way we handle what falls in our laps, or on our noggins, makes all the difference in human affairs.

Kenny Noggins, he was pretty good too, come to think of it. Wonder whatever became of him?
Happy birthday Parrothead, long may you squawk.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Boss, boss the Trees!

Ahh, I can't get enough of those holiday song classics...

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, had a very shiny nose"

But I can't think about that right now. I'm wondering what exactly is so cool about the chestnut tree story...

So a guy is hiking along in the forest and stops cold. He's looking at a stand of American Chestnut trees. That's not just any tree. Actually he wouldn't have been more surprised to stumble on a Sioux hunting party. Cause he's not just any guy. He's some kinda tree expert scientist thingy.

American Chestnut was once a dominant hardwood on the east coast, ranging from Maine to Florida. A blight got hold of them, and the species was thought to be extinct until that day. Extinct for a hundred years or more.

It's a very very big deal finding healthy American Chestnut trees. Vastly increases chances to bring the species back as it really was, not some Chinese hybrid.

Folks seem to enjoy that story, and I think I know why. Critical mass of "coincidence" there. Like, millions of Chestnut trees were killed by blight, so why did only these survive? Like, there were lots of axes working in Georgia hill country in the early 1900's but somehow the trees were spared. Like what made the scientist go hiking that particular trail?

So it seems a conspiracy of "coincidence" guided some would say, to bring together a thing of great significance and one of few individuals educated to grasp its meaning. People love stories like that; they're heartwarming, with a watered down higher being.

See? Most people want to believe in a higher being. A watered down loving spirit, flitting from place to place whispering in ears to effect a delightful outcome in the long run. Not saying God isn't like that, but it's a very limiting role, exactly the sort human nature would find pleasing to our vanity.

Imagining God as ONLY like that? Well, there's this old movie, "Harvey." Jimmy Stewart plays a guy with an invisible rabbit buddy who hides purses, car keys, and does other assorted kid's birthday party magic tricks, all so Jimmy can have a happy ending. This is how human nature wishes to imagine God; a big invisible rabbit Who does magic tricks.

Rediscovery of surviving American Chestnut trees on a hiking trip feeds all that, with cascading critical mass of "coincidence" which is certainly there, but there's more there.

An interesting question though? Yeah, even more interesting than how do bats poop while hanging upside down!

How exactly does one prepare himself to see what his entire life experience has conditioned him to believe doesn't exist? I'd love to peruse the syllabus on THAT college course!

How do we get ourselves ready to accept that the totality of this physical world's instruction to us could be absolutely wrong in fundamental ways? I simply don't believe you can do such a thing all by yourself. You might require aid from a higher power, and that might require your asking It not to whisper but speak up plainly.

So maybe the prettiest thing in the story isn't the trees, or the guy who found them. It's the split second he accepted infinite possibility. Could be, just sayin' is all?

I got to get back to my favorite Winter Holiday songs now...
"Children glisten, treetops listen, and everybody has a shiny nose."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tiger Rorschach Woods

Punch magazine, 1850's I think...

"Celebrity is like a playground ball. We chase it when it rolls and kick it when it stops."

Must admit, I don't follow the doings of the famous very closely. Not to sound like a snob, but my free time is devoted to solving the fundamental questions of human existence. Like for example, Root Beer. Why is it called that? It's not beer and it's not made from roots.

So to me, the Tiger Woods story looks like what it really is. A pivotal event in one family's arc. A man now confronting he'd never considered the possible consequences of getting caught.

The larger reaction among those who'd be best advised to mind their own biz though? That's fairly interesting. I wonder if these folks realize their discourse is more self-illuminating than revealing of Tiger Woods.

I readed a blog from someone insisting the whole scandal is result of the "tyranny of Christian morality." On black talk radio a female comedian said this week, "I'm not surprised really. A brother who'd marry white, just something fishy there."
I'm trying to imagine how if skin color paradigm was reversed, a similar comment from Rush Limbaugh might be received.

And some of Tiger's fellow pro golfers have dropped the "sportsmanlike conduct" horseflop to don the brass knuckles. They hate his guts. They wish he'd gain weight, so there'd be more of him to despise. Guess I should say something about golf...

In 1908 election TR advised his chosen replacement Taft not to be playing golf so much. According to Teddy, "golf, while it may be amusing to the participant, to many observers looks rather sissy." TR, about the alpha-est alpha male ever been in the White House. I defer to Teddy on all topics of what is or isn't "sissy." So much to admire in that guy. Brownsville incident, one of the only bads on him. Also, he made the fat man cry in 1912. Not good, not not good.

Golf isn't really sissy, not at the level it's played in 2009. Here's the deal about professional golf? Millions are watching, and you totally own the outcome. Closest sport comparison would be baseball pitcher. Quarterback you say? Naw. One can blame a bad hike, poor blocking, receiver didn't break coverage. With golf, or baseball pitching, once the ball leaves your control, none to bless or blame but you. The pressure has literally driven some to madness and suicide.

I wonder if that side of Tiger explains in part the side of his life now made public (with an exponent) and so the playground ball of celebrity stops rolling, so all may kick it hard.

There's an old Kurt Vonnegut story from "Welcome to the Monkey House." This guy who is devout adherent to some fundamentalist sect? Only way he can figger to have large family required of his faith's dogma, and make required monetary donations is to have part time job playing nasty blues piano in a juke joint. He learned blues piano from his father, an unapolgetic libertine brothel musician he very much despises. The implication is quite clear in Vonnegut's masterful prose. There are some personalities who very much respect discipline, while also yearning for a connection with reckless abandon. Maybe that explains Tiger too, I dunno really.

I'll have to make sure to think about that real soon, once I get this "Root Beer" deal resolved. After all? It's not beer, and it's not made of roots. Someone has to face the fundamental questions of human existence.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Those people in Denver!

Oh yeah, I can talk silly about serious subjects, but only when people in our nation's capital are talking much more silly than I can. Think of me as stupid but with refreshing honesty. I'm silly with lemon fresh crystals!

Now those people in our nation's capital, those people in Denver finally took my advice on this health care thing. Like six months ago I wrote they should simply expand eligibility for Medicare/Medicaid. No big deal, no new massive government entity added to the dozens of other bloated whale corpses stinking up the beach.

So they've finally taken my advice... somewhat. I was rather succinct about it too!
I said AFTER they sign up these 46 Million uninsured (some fifty percent of whom may actually be US citizens) they should fix Medicare/Medicaid. Those folks in Denver don't do AFTER very well.

I've got twenty years experience in business, millions of dollars in cost savings under my belt. OK, so I don't have a belt anymore. Went in a yard sale, I think August. Now I'm doing the Jethro Bodine thing, holding up my pants with a length of rope. I've got millions in cost savings under my rope, so I know how to fix Medicare/Medicaid.

In business, cost improvement follows a cycle called, Plan, Do, Check, Act.
With real healthcare improvement, that would start by asking those actually involved in delivering the service why they think it costs so much. And you must ask honestly why pharmaceuticals in Canada are so much cheaper than in US. Gather info, that's Plan. And then you Do.

After that comes Check, Act. This is where you have metrics in place to learn if you got desired result, and react accordingly. Backup plans it's called. I must point out at this juncture? Those jerks in Denver don't do Check, Act very well, but neither do we jerks in business, not very often. Mostly it's on to the next adventure.

Now that I've had my fun with my clique and those jerks in Denver too? There are three simple ways to reduce the cost of healthcare in this country. The ways are simple, but doing them takes guts and determination... that's Mr. David's way of saying, ain't gonna happen.

1.) Cost of maintenance meds has to be reduced, in a way that doesn't stifle further innovation. Pharmaceutical companies aren't the evil enemy of American citizens. They're benefactors. Let's do this thing without demonizing those who've saved thousands of lives? And let's get Smiling Bob back, cause I miss him!
B.) Wherever possible, push services down the payscale. It's rife in healthcare. MRI tech for instance? What do they do actually? "Get up on this thing, and lay real still. I'm fixing to push the button." God bless 'em but I don't see $40K salary's added value there. Bet I could find someone to happily do that job for $30K.
3.) Increase the number of providers. That's pretty much cost reduction 101 there. All over this country, veterans are returning who have no kidding staunched blood from arteries with their own hands while screaming, "Stay with me, don't you die on me." I sorta think such service should be rewarded with a fast track approach to reward those who've served bravely. Get them to the highest level of competence they can attain, and provide retired phsyicians as personal mentors. I'm sorta thinking 25,000 new Doctors coming into practice in the next five years might lower the cost of an office visit somewhat.

The answers are fairly simple. Doing it takes guts, which we ain't got, seems like to me. I hate to think what Daniel Boone dying at the Alamo would think of us now.

Those people in our nation's capital? Those folks in Denver are just stupid!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waders and Divers

Oh, I'm not a bit embarrassed about knowing the lyrics to "Branded." It was only on for one season maybe, mid 1960's. Opening credits were quite dramatic. They tore the patches off Chuck Connors' uniform, and then they broke his sword! Can you believe that? Perfectly good sword too.

"BRANDED! Marked with a coward's shame.
What to you do when you're branded, and you fight for your name?"

Nor do I have any interest in debating the intrinisic value in my knowing who Alcuin was. He worked for King Charlemagne. Lower case letters, Alcuin INVEnted those. What I like best about him is Alcuin invented the ridges on coins. That was to prevent folk from shaving coins. Imagine that! Nations had been minting coins for two thousand years, while carping about shaving, and it took Alcuin to deliver an elegant, simple solution.

I know this stuff because I am a wader. Some are divers and God bless them, but I'm still a wader.

Another way of looking at it? You got that Lake Baikal in Siberia for example? It's a half mile deep, and a thousand forms of life inhabit that lake, can't be found anywhere else on Earth. That's the divers.

Me, the waders? Well there's Great Salt Lake. Very wide, not very deep. Nothing ever sinks in, cause it's quite dense really.

Waders, divers, it's likely a matter of one's nature, enhanced by experiences. Most famous examples are both Italians. Mikey the Diver and Leo the Wader.

Leo's enduring legacy is as one of the top ten intellects in recorded history. Mikey's legacy is dang handy with a chisel or paint brush. Suppose there's a great doctoral thesis topic there for somebody, cause there's real reasons it turned out like that. But sometimes it should be enough to say? Legacy, as with all other human things, sometimes it lands butter side up, sometimes butter side down.

It doesn't normally arise in daily conversation, but I'd never allow anyone to say that Leo was smarter than Mikey.

Mikey's heart burned with one intense flame, one Mecca. His passion was sculpture, and its big brother architecture.

Leo, a wader. His passion was itinerant. A thousand flames, a thousand Meccas. It's true that Leo was a great painter, and didn't view the talent with indignation Mikey did. It's true that Leo was better people person than Mikey. It's true Leo anticipated the helicopter and parachute. Here's a really cool thing about Leo though? Until he came along, everybody thought cannon balls went straight out for a bit, then dropped straight down. No kidding, they thought that. Leo the wader observed that projectiles travel in a parabolic curve, and began a brand new branch of science, ballistics.

The divers of this world are to be held in reverence. There is though, a place in the world for the waders.

WOOHOO! Almost time to buy fireworks! And I still say? If Roman Candles are accurately named, Nero's birthday parties must have been a hoot!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Your Dang Old Relatives

"There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Billy Bob Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I

Have always taken that line to mean it's a very big world. Don't go around thinking you have everything figured out. There are ravens who make tools and demonstrate rudimentary understanding of hydraulics. There are giant worms. There are backwards green coments, and there is Phineas Gage. So don't be copping an attitude Horatio!

So if anybody ever wants to tell me a ghost story, I'll listen. After all, I know what Charles Frohman's last recorded words were, and I know where he was last seen.

That said, I totally reject the concept of a haunted graveyard. Don't the mystics claim that spirits wander around, unaware of their deadness? Therefore, why hang around a cemetery? I can only surmise, if there IS a haunted graveyard, the ghost is a former grave digger who doesn't realize a co-worker "filled in" for him on a particular day in the past.

Me, I don't have much grief from my dead relatives; it's the living ones who annoy the beans out of me.

Stupid criminality is just a hard thing for me to respect. If you're going to engage in a crime, figure what you have to gain and what you stand to lose.

Too often in life I've measured things by smart or stupid, when I should've went with right or wrong. I have relatives who apparently do neither.

But there is this thing? Drove past local funeral home today, on my way to get "His Girl Friday" to watch this evening. It's a REALLY good film. That rolltop desk was SO robbed of a supporting actor Oscar nomination.

Parking lot at the funeral home was packed. Somebody is dead, some will have every Christmas season from now on imprinted with this event.

I know people I wish I wasn't related to, people I wish didn't behave as they did, but I'll miss them when they're gone.

Now if I come back as a ghost, where would I haunt? Definitely some Las Vegas casino I'm pretty sure. Lots of fun with the security detail.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Science and faith

Yep, no doubt about it. Nobody else in the world sings exactly like Neil Young. Oddly enough? In a recent Galloping Poll, a whopping 98 percent responded, "Yes, nobody in the world sounds like Neil Young, thank you Lord, let's keep it that way? After all, Neil will die eventually."

I think that's a bit harsh, but you know the public. You do, but I sure don't. Because I'm actually dumbfounded to learn that some of my fellow Americans never heard of Phineas Gage. No kidding?

And here's another thing I just found out. The existence of God is a controversial topic? I'm getting suspicious that I'm the target of some well organized practical joke, and next thing someone will seek to convince me that car racing is a popular sport.

But I got a phone call from a prominent Atheist last evening. He's half of that comedy magic act, Penn & Teller. I'm not sure which one, but I think it was the one who talks. He was incensed with my commentary on militant Atheism, and by that I don't mean to imply he smelled like Sandalwood. No, he was angry.

Didn't hold up my end in the phone call; I'll admit that. I mostly kept asking him what Atheists say when somebody sneezes. At times I felt like the guy who brought a knife to the OK Corral.

His main point was that Atheists have zero probs with people believing in a Creator, or Leprechauns, unicorns, alchemy, palmistry, phrenology or ESP. According to him, the disgusting thing about believers, is the insistence there is an objective moral truth, impervious to public opinion.

He claims this objective moral truth myth has been used to limit people's personal choices over millenia, and so control the weak minded. Mr. Penn or Mr. Teller (whichever of them it was) rattled off a quite depressing litany of evils done in the name of God.

Guy has amazing lung power, I'll give him that. When he finally took a breath, I asked for his help with my ignorance of scripture.

Where exactly did the Lamb of God instruct followers to burn Giordano Bruno at the stake, do the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials? Cause I missed that part.

Boy, did he get angry, whichever of them it was! He unleashed a tirade of profanity I can't repeat here, since I can't afford the FCC fines. Then he hung up on me.

Never did find out what Atheists say when somebody sneezes, but I suspect it's "Nobody bless you" or something like that.

Hey, know what's funny? When Mr. Penn or Mr. Teller (whichever of them it is that talks) gets really really angry? His voice gets all high pitched and nasal. Sounds a lot like Neil Young actually.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Militants, militants

All these years later, it's lost none of its aching beauty. Couldn't wait to get home and hear "Talk to me of Mendocino." I've had that song stuck in my head all day.
And there are far worse things to have stuck in one's head. Like Phineas Gage for example?

Phineas was among that class of Experimenters who expand human knowledge without previously having expressed intent. Some would prefer the term "accidents" but that's too few words for me.

A tamping rod is about five foot long, inch in diameter. When blasting away rock faces to build highways or railroads, holes were bored, explosive charges were inserted, tamping rod was used to ensure charge is at the bottom. Phineas got one stuck in his head, 1848. Went in under the cheekbone and there he was with a rod half-in and half-out of his skull.

Everybody was surprised he survived, and how his behavior changed after the rod was extracted. In recovery, Phineas went from a chaste vocabulary to nonstop profanity. Went from very polite to extremely rude with visitors, attending physicians, well everybody who darkened the doorway of his hosptial room.

That was before the infancy of brain science. 1848 was second trimester of brain science. Now it's commonly understood when someone suffers trauma to the brain, what comes back first is all the stuff they're NOT supposed to say. This is because among humans, socialization demands that negatives form a deeper impression. In recovery, negatives are retrieved first, inhibition second. That's just how the human brain works; negative memories are very very vivid. Ask anybody who's tried to cross the Tennesee River on an innertube if you won't take my word for it.

The medical term for this is Boggled noggin syndrome, which comes from the Latin 'embogglious noggium' and I think that means "OUCH! I have a rod sticking through my skull!"

But enough about that. There are plenty folks walking around with above average number of holes in the head, and no tamping rod souvenier to show for it...

By that I mean militants. As I define it, a militant is a person who self-identifies with some group where allegiance to a political agenda and willingness to act like Mikey Corleone doesn't fit with the self-identified group definition.

The weirdest ones are militant Atheists. Folks who are passionate about opposing a Being they claim not to believe exists. Forget I said that...

There's a group called "Freedom from Religion" that has set its sights on Memphis. They want the City Council to stop having prayer before sessions.

They're not from Memphis, but apparently it bugs them to no end, that prayers are said before Memphis City Council breaks along racial lines, usually five seconds after the "Amen."

See, me? I want young people in Memphis to stop murdering each other. But according to these militant Atheist visitors, the most pressing Memphis problem is prayer before City Council meetings.

American Revolution, and the form of government that followed, the Abolition movement, the Civil Rights movement, all drawn from "Cause God says so." I don't hear that argument being used much any more, except on suicide bomber videos.

Militants. The entire mass of humanity cries out for direction, and people are going at the compass with a sledge hammer. Well, I reckon the compass must be pointing right if some want to destroy it. And I guess others more powerful have tried & failed in the past.

Seems kind of ridiculous though? Spending all one's passion in opposition to a Being who supposedly doesn't exist.

Forget I said that! I'll just listen to "Talk to me of Mendocino" about eighteen times. Some things never change.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A bone of contention

Hmm. I have no idea where Tiger Woods was headed at 2:00 in the morning either. I can only surmise, must be murder getting a good tee time on those Florida courses.

(Psst, David? Focus?) Oh yeah! This is Daisy, with the bone she just found. Daisy is seven; the bone, about a million years older. I just love the little girl's expression. On first glance she looks only exuberant, but careful study reveals a hint of canine bemusement. Something like...

"Yeah, I get it. I'm a dog this is a bone, I'm supposed to be happy to have it. And I am happy, really I am. Could somebody tell me what to do with the thing?"

I suppose at times, many humans have reason to regard our lives with the same bemusement. Well? A secular approach to the question of what to do with our lives would be to examine what others did with their lives. Best way to consider what others did with their lives, and draw helpful lessons? Last words.

Naw, no kidding. When people are about to pass but don't know it, they often say things that encapsulate their entire approach to the mortality about to be relinquished. I don't know why it works like that. What do you think I am, Sockrates?
I just know it works like that sometimes...

Lots of valuable lessons in how to live one's life, right there in people's final words.

Dylan Thomas: "I've had eighteen straight whiskies, and I think that's a record."
From this we learn, set high goals for yourself and strive to exceed them.

Lou Costello: "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted." The lesson there is always be careful to savor and appreciate every honest pleasure.

P.T. Barnum: "What were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?" OK, I confess a deep abiding affection for Phineas. He faithfully lived his life by a single guiding principle; humans are really really dumb. But his final words offer a lesson. Stay true to your principles, but be willing to shuffle your priorities.

General John Sedgwick: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." What a noble final statement! What may the living take from it? Well, plenty. In every human life, circumstances will conspire to place you upon a hinge of history. That hinges come in different sizes is likely a conceit of our limited vision. When you stand upon a hinge of history, be brave. Be brave enough to accept the guys on the other side might not be aiming at elephants today.

Also though, I must admit? A few people who knew darn well they were about to kick the bucket have also said interesting things...

Thomas J. Grasso: "I did NOT get the Spaghetti-O's I requested. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this." Probably the most useful thing the convicted murderer ever said. From that we can learn, sometimes you might think something is really important. Other folks, not so much maybe.

Sir Walter Ralegh: Yeah, I speeled his name correctly. His last words were impromptu actually. Axeman was rather embarrassed about the gig. Ralegh comforted him saying, "If the heart be right, what matter how the head lieth?" Spoken like a man of the personal courage Ralegh always demonstrated. That's a good life lesson there too. We're all gonna lose in this life. Little battles along the way, and there's a metaphorical axeman in everybody's future. Fight hard but have the wits to discern when you've lost, and be gracious about it.

Being alive is finding a bone and not knowing exactly what to do with it. Our spirt lives forever, while our flesh lives always in the moment. Example? My sources say this exact conversation took place after Tiger Woods' car accident...

"Where am I?"
"It's OK baby. You had a wreck, the Ambulance is on the way darling."
"What happened?"
"You had a wreck. I busted the back window with a golf club and dragged you out."
"What club did you use?"
"Nine iron."
"I'd have used a putter for that shot."

Just how we humans are, really really dumb.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wheezing Geezers

See, that's another bad thing about these harebrained publicity stunts; spawns copycats. My sources report yet another oddball couple showed up uninvited at a White House event today. President was gracious about it though, he let the Bidens stay.

But I hate writing about news events; no shelf life on that kind of stuff. However, some times an issue comes along that captures the nation's attention and I get dragged into it. I'm speaking of course about this year's Super Bowl halftime show.

I've got nothing against the Who. They carved out a niche in high-brow artsy rock, back when nobody else would've believed such a market existed. So God bless 'em.
But after all, this thing is about the market, and the Who is venue inappropriate.

Last time the Who charted, Carter was President. Why not just get Kansas to play instead? Before I'm accused of a double standard, it's not about age. It's about relevance to the target demographic.

Springsteen's old too, but he doesn't sound old. Anybody who can slide across stage full speed and slam their crotch into a TV camera, that's rock & roll there.
And the Stones? Special dispensation there. For one thing, they're not artifacts; they've been steady at it for forty years now. And there's the added entertainment value of the ongoing Keith Richards Deathwatch.

Hey! Y'know why Keith opposes the death penalty? He can't conceive of the term "lethal injection."

Now some would say, well what's the fuss? Instead of the Who, we'll get the Eagles. I'm sure they'll pause their 27th annual farewell tour for a Super Bowl gig. See, I can't go with that either. "Life in the Fast Lane" is a really cool song, but by this point the guys should have the artistic honesty to add the lyric, "with the lefthand blinker on for thirty-five miles straight."

This whole sharp turn into Geezerland never would've happened anyways, if not for that stupid Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake nipple stunt. I can't recall which one of them showed their nipple, but it was a big scandal.

I understand about over-correcting, but could we at least get an 80's band? Bon Jovi would be all right. Straight forward rock from seasoned professionals. Everybody has a good time and no nipples.

And if the search committee really wanted to display camera slamming crotch courage, they might even book a 90's band. Black Crowes for instance can be a lot of fun, and their music is actually a lot better than it sounds. My favorite would be Bare Naked Ladies, but I know that wouldn't work. Confused people would assume Janet Jackson.

Again, I really like the Who. They've produced some soaring rock anthems over the years. Of course, they've had a few stinkers too. Like "Magic Bus" for example? I suspect the song was originally written for the Brady Kids, but they rejected it as too corny.

I'm just saying somebody should be able to book a Super Bowl halftime act without the help of Mr. Peabody's wayback machine. But what's done is done. The Who is the choice, and I suppose the year after that the Beach Boys.

Now we can get to the next burning issue facing our great nation. What couple is going to crash Mr. Obama's Super Bowl party? I say Susan Boyle & Adam Lambert.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Mouse must Die!!!

A helpful reader has corrected me on the topic of torndados removing chicken feathers. According to her... IF I could make a machine that reproduces a tornado's plucking effects, and IF people saw the machine in action and observed it was just like a movie... the correct name of the movie would be, "The Henpire Strikes back."

I appreciate being set straight, so thanks Governor Palin.

On the topic of movies, it's time to start watching the holiday classics. Starting with the big three (Wonderful Life, 34th Street, Christmas Carol) and moving out, there's a surprisingly large amount of solid material.

"The Bishop's Wife" for instance? The woodwork in that house deserved an Oscar, but Loretta Young is nice too. "Christmas in Connecticut" is wonderfully madcap, with that really deep bench of supporting players the old studio system could muster. "Remember the Night" is a shamefully underappreciated classic with a powerful message.

And of course the animation stuff. "Grinch." Chuck Jones, Boris Karloff and Dr. Seuss together. WOW!

Excuse me while I wipe joyful tears and recite a bit of verse worthy of Shakespeare, brought to pop culture via collaboration among a cartooner, a childrens' book author, and Frankenstein's monster...

It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

But as Shakespeare also wrote in that famous speech by Marc Anthony (not the pop singer but some Roman dude) "I come not to sieze her berry but to praise it." Or something like that.

So now I must speak (or type) of the most pervasively perniciously perverse work of holiday programming ever inflicted on the world; "Twas the night before Christmas."

I'm not kidding about the evil of it. Could one get a copy of the DVD, look closely because there just MUST be a '666' somewhere on that cover!!!

That cartoon starts with an adolescent mouse writing Santa to say neither he nor anyone in his town believes in Santa. Why anyone, even a mouse, would write to someone he doesn't believe exists, I dunno. So the apparently extremely thin skinned Santa decides to bypass the town.

Meeting the terrible prospect that the town's children might not get packages, boxes and bags that year, an intrepid clockmaker "springs" into action and "gears" up for the challenge. (That was a clockmaking joke, get it? Seriously, it slays the Swiss)

A huge clock is built that will play a song as Santa flies over. The chorus is...

Christmas chimes are calling Santa, Santa.
Christmas chimes say Santa, we need you today.

No, I haven't refreshed my memory on this indisputably insidiously inisipid bit of animated sewage. I don't have to! I STILL have flashbacks about it, two decades later! A really good memory is a BIT of a double edged sword.

Not to give away the pulse racing climax here? The adolescent mouse screws up the big clock, but at the last minute it gets fixed, and the children get their packages, boxes and bags.

Now what am I supposed to learn from this fearlessly ferociously fetid pile of steaming dog poop, this "Twas the night before Christmas"?

We learn important things from the great holiday classics. Like for instance?

Christmas Carol: You stink! But while you breathe, it's never too late to improve.
Miracle on 34th Street: Comes a time in each life when brain tells you one thing and heart tells you another. No guarantees, but sometimes if you ignore your heart, you'll miss an amazing experience.
It's a Wonderful Life: Never trust your alcoholic relatives with large sums of money.

That's stuff that enriches lives. What am I supposed to get from an adolescent mouse writing hate mail to someone he doesn't believe exists??? Let me see here...

1.) Never miss a chance to hurt somebody's feelings, even if you don't believe they exist.
2.) Santa Claus is an extremely insecure personality.
3.) When you've hurt another's heart, there's a public project to address it, rather than a simple, "Can we talk about this please?"
4.) Christmas is all about getting your packages, boxes and bags.

Well. In the words of Jesse Jackson, I deny the allegations and rebuke the alligators.

Hey, no kidding? I was recently accused of 'hate speech' from an e-mailer, due to my insistence on saying "Merry Christmas."

It's not about a mouse, this Christmas thing. I'm sure Governer Palin would agree with me on that. She can probably see Santa's workshop from her house.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Applying Nature

Here's what will happen soon. I know this because it happens every year.
A bad tornado will hit a small town. After that a nationally recognized news reporter will show up. He/she will enquire of local authorities who is the stupidest person in town.

Some heated debate will ensue at that point (unless it's a town where I live) but eventually consensus will be reached, the village idiot will be summoned, a microphone will be stuck in their face. They will look at the camera and say...
"It was just like a movie."

Now personally? I still nourish a hope that eventually some small town will wise up and run a ringer on Katie, Geraldo, whoever. Imagine if you will some wry modern version of Andy Taylor out there somewhere...

"Well yeah, I'll tell ya what it was like? It was just exactly like a movie. I got up to go to the bathroom and missed the best part."

Probably won't ever happen, but hope is a stubborn thing.

It'd serve the TV people right, because they're missing the real story in tornado activity. That's right, I'm talking about naked chickens.

Seems to be rather common after a tornado. Chickens are plucked up by a tornado and well, plucked. Ambulances and rescue efforts are whizzing everywhere, and there's these chickens walking around absolutely featherless but otherwise quite sound.

Nobody knows exactly how this feat is affected by funnel clouds, and it's not for lack of trying. People have worked on it, because unlocking nature's secrets would mean about $20 million at least.

See like Tyson Farms (they don't have any farms, not really) for instance? They're having to pay people to pluck chickens. And then probably a Quality Inspector has to make sure the chicken carcass is feather-free. Oh and I guess somebody has to write up pluckers who don't really have a plucking passion, and there has to be somebody who keeps track of the paperwork, and a Manager of Quality to graph stuff and do quarterly PowerPoint presentations... and you get the idea. It all adds up to money.

If we could just find a way to do what a mindless tornado does. Imagine a machine the chicken could go through and come out naked. But nobody has been able to explain yet, how a tornado can pluck a chicken clean, yet leave it undamaged in any other way. There is really big money in solving this mystery.

OK, I will take the challenge. I'm going to need two dozen chickens, a particle accelerator, an electron microscope, and a roll of duct tape.

One things for sure though. When I get done folks will say it's just like a movie!
Hmmm, what movie would it be like? "Apoultryclypse Now" maybe? "Grand Tornado" perhaps? Oh, I got it! "Gone with the Wind."

Friday, November 20, 2009

I, Guinea Pig

Not just anybody can do experiments. It requires self-confidence, a noble bearing, and above all? A burning desire to expand the horizons of human knowledge.

That whole "burning desire" thing is ironic too, since the Fire Department has nearly been involved in my experiments over the years.

So not everyone has what it takes to do experiments. I happen to have what it takes.
I have loads and loads of what it takes. With we born experimenters, it's all a matter of instinct really. We just KNOW some stuff.

Like, here's one for instance. No experiment is a failure, as long as something is learned.

OK, here's another. Never never under any circumstances experiment on yourself. I mean, think about it? If you experiment on yourself, who's going to call 911?

They don't teach that kind of thing at MIT, but we born experimenters, we just KNOW such stuff.

However, we experimenters from Dr. Jekyll forward have faced a harrowing dilemma. Sometimes there are more experiments than there are volunteers. The only thing we can do times like that is push forward alone, for duty and humanity.

I'm not going to brag about all my experiments over the years; that wouldn't suit my noble bearing. Instead, I'll list in chronological order the ways I've expanded the body of human knowledge, quite specifically...

1. A towel tied around your neck has absolutely no effect on gravity, not even if it's a very large towel.
2. A spray can does NOT have a really cool marble inside. It does however, though seeming quite empty, still contain a LOT of paint.
3. A short, fat ten year old can't safely ride a bicycle sized for a teenager. Now that whole experiment, I blame on poor parenting. If they hadn't told me over & over (as if I was some reckless child or something) not to ride my older brother's bike? Never would've stirred my intellectual curiosity and my arm wouldn't have broken.
4. Those trying to cross the Tennessee River on an innertube should be advised; that water's actually moving very fast, and BIG barges travel that river.
5. A cigarette lighter is insufficient equipment when exploring abandoned mines.
6. Police officers have no sense of humor.
7. On a 1980 Camaro, the oil light doesn't mean you're fine for another twenty miles.
8. Gasoline is NEVER (and I must stress this?) NEVER an acceptable subsitute for charcoal starter fluid.
9. The fuel gauge on a 1988 Mustang is amazingly accurate.

Yes, it is quite a lot of knowledge for one person to bring to humanity. I frankly don't know how I do it sometimes. And I just keep on going, like the Energizer bunny.
Like today for instance? I learned... well I can't tell, cause it's time to change the bandages.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You name it

So Bruce accidentally says, "Hello Ohio" when he's in Michigan and everybody piles on with the giggles. They should show more respect. First, he's sixty years old, and he's been on tour about nonstop for the past 35 years! Second, touring at the megastar level is like: hurry get on the jet-hurry get in the limo-hurry get on stage... and the next night you have to do it all over again.

Third, I'd like to point out? I've been to concerts, and I bet several audience members didn't know what state they were in anyways.

I understand why states have names, but why must they have nicknames too? My opinion, one smart alec state started it, and then the rest "me-too'ed" right off the cliff. Because some states have really goofy nicknames... you know who I'm talking about, 'Nutmeg' state.

The whole concept of names comes to us via father Adam. He did really good work, especially considering he was running against a hard deadline. Yeah, he knew as soon as Eve came along, she'd be wanting to get in on the action and there'd be arguments.

And near the end of the project, Adam got tired and you know how hard it is to be creative under those circumstances. That's why we have some animals with compound names.

Like spider monkey for instance? It doesn't look like a spider or spin webs, so why spider monkey? Or turtledove. What's that supposed to be, a really slow flying bird?
The only thing that explains it is everybody cuts corners when a deadline is approaching fast.

So I know why we need to name animals, else menus would be fairly meaningless. But I never knew until recently that animals need us to name them.

Newcastle University (that's in Ohio--- I mean England) did a study involving 500 dairy farms. Dr. Catherine Douglas found very conclusively that cows with their own names give more milk than cows named 'cow.' And not just a little bit more milk either; up to 500 pints more per year, which I think is a couple of gallons probably.

It's theorized that when cows are treated as unique individuals they feel more comfortable and productive. I wonder how far this goes through the animal kingdom, a need to be acknowledged as an individual?

Who knows? That treatment could actually work on people too... naw, what was I thinking? Well, reasonable folks can disagree whether it'd be a good idea to treat humans as individuals, I suppose. But one thing we can all agree on; Michigan does look a lot like Ohio.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cartoon Energy Policy

Well how about this? If the Roadrunner was a zombie, then the Coyote could catch him right? No that wouldn't work either, cause then the bird would be the one trying to chase the Coyote. Even the words to the theme song would have to change...

"Coyote, zombie roadrunner's after you
Coyote, your brain he wants to chew"

So the entire concept is unworkable and I regret having mentioned it.

Central gag of that cartoon was never speed differential anyway; it was that Coyote is really really stupid. Wile's poor understanding of conversion ratio demonstrates that. See, a conversion ratio really has nothing to do with a Missionary's annual performance review. (yeah, I was surprised too!)

Conversion ratio is about how much energy it takes to convert an energy source to a useable form. Coyote was trying to convert Roadrunner into calories, and he was just wasting way more calories than he could ever hope to replace.

We know about conversion ratio due to the fine work of Sir Isaac, a man so smart they named a cookie after him. The amount of energy in our universe is constant; all that happens is modification in energy's mode of expression.

It takes a certain amount of energy to convert an energy source, and on that end the math is fairly non-controversial.

A solar energy panel for instance? Its service life can be estimated, and can be expected to deliver X number of watts during that time. Well it takes watts to mine and refine the component materials, then construct the solar panel. And at end of its service life, takes watts to responsibly recycle the components.

Divide construction/deconstruction watts by estimated service life watts and that's conversion ratio. A really good one would be .001 which solar panels ain't got. A dumb useless project not worth doing ratio would be 1.0 and Mr. Coyote running around the desert in a fur coat, well that looks like about 167.5 to me.

You'd think energy policy would be a snap, simply assign conversion ratios to all proposed projects, and the best ratio is what you want more of. By that thinking, the cheapest US energy sources are:

Hydro-electric, nuclear, coal, wind power, and petroleum.

All the controversy comes into it post-use. Lots of nice folks want to weight the ratio with intangibles. Like coal for instance? Really great conversion ratio there, but in this country are some few sissies who don't like breathing sulfur dioxide for some reason. They insist the inconvenience of adding noxious gas to the atmosphere get added to a perfectly nice conversion ratio that was minding its own business..

So the debate rages on about which form of energy is really most efficient, and people on all sides have their agendas. That's why these groups have conspired to remove the good old, intensely violent cartoons from television.

They don't want we, the American people, to be reminded of nature's miracle, a substance with a conversion ratio of .0000001 or something. Yep, I'm talking about spinach. Just think of it? Skinny little Popeye eats one can and all of a sudden he's lifted that grand piano off himself and he's wailing the tar out of that big bully, who is either named Brutus or Blutto. (I find that quite confusing, and Congress should hold hearings about it)

Spinach could probably fuel not only our cars, but the Space Shuttle too, and a group of shadowy figures are suppressing that info by keeping Popeye off the air. Back in the 1960's when cartoons were non-stop carnage, we weren't importing so much oil. Coincidence you say? Ha! Go ahead and live in your little fantasy world if you wish.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In these windy times

That now be sent to test us so,
Harder still lads mind the gap,
Twixt what ye think, and what ye know?

Beautiful poem, probably written by somebody. Likely the bard of Scotland Bernie Roberts. I'm pretty sure that was his name.

Today is Veteran's day. Used to be called Armistice Day, until our nation realized we have more veterans than one can shake a stick at.

OK, now I'm wondering how that phrase entered our lexicon. My opinion, our lexicon should really start checking ID's or something! "Shake a stick at"...hmmm.

How can one's ability to shake a stick possibly be related to the number of objects this alleged stick is shaken at? Sounds like a possible cause of Medieval carpel tunnel syndrome to me. And why would anybody want to go around shaking a stick at objects anyway? Wasn't it enough for them to be walking around with bags containing furry animals? What was up with those Medieval Europeans anyway? I'll have to remind myself to think about that later.

But about this Armistice Day? Such a weird word. Not Day, but Armistice I mean. So I researched it. Turns out "Armistice" is a very obscure word from the Chickasaw language. Translated literally it means something like, "sign treaty in war without decisive result. Ha ha ha, you white folks kill me! I meanum like literally? Stop it already? We already on endangered species list."

I quite admire any language that can pack so much meaning into one word.

Now of course it's called Veterans' Day. And you know what that means. The Post Office is closed and mattresses are on sale.

Well maybe Veterans' Day is even more than that. Perhaps it's an acknowledgement of a long line of frail, flawed humans who complained about the food, second guessed the commander's decisions to one another, but still got up and marched when told to, and shot straightest to their ability when they arrived at the scene of the ruckus.

Takes my wise brother Donald to say what is of Veteran's Day, besides no mail today.

The sound of flags whipping in a breeze on a pretty day? They also sound like cannon in the distance. And you are marching towards that noise. The machinery that might end your mortal existence, leave a hole in the heart of your mother and your sweet girl back home. No longer about causes or flags, you won't let your buddies down. You march towards the noise of death because you must. A chain that won't be pulled apart by the distant sound.

Perhaps there is no good war. There is only farm boys and factory hands having to settle in blood the failures of diplomats.

I'll have to be sure to think about that later. Right now I have to go find a stick and shake it at objects. This could be a whole new exciting hobby for me!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Follow that Gyro!

In the late 70's I briefly lived on the south side of downtown Tucson, alone. Now, down on the corner? A little grocery run by elderly Chinese couple. They were always yelling at each other about something. In the other direction there was a liquor store that opened at 7:00 every morning. Friday & Saturday nights, there were always police helicopters flying over with spotlights, and the sound of sirens in the distance.

It was very lonely at times, but I was young and found the area colorful, exotic, stimulating... what it was, was a dangerous dump of a neighborhood.

Nowadays business regularly takes me to the Memphis version of my old Tucson area. All the businesses have bars on their windows, gang graffiti everywhere, and some of the store signs? Not only can't I tell what they say, I'm not even sure what language they're in.

Of course I react to the experience same as any sane middle aged man would... there's good eating around here somewhere!!!

Because that's what I forgot to mention about the old neighborhood. Crunchy little meat filled pastries, and candies so sweet they could cause diabetes over the phone!
And the potato chips!!! Cooked up while you waited and put in a little white bag so you could take it with you, strolling down the sidewalk on a glorious Saturday morning.

I would say it's impossible to have a care in the world while eating a bag of warm, freshly fried potato chips, but that's not true. Sometimes there are drunks sleeping on the sidewalk and you have to be careful not to step on them. If you step on a drunk, he wakes up and asks you for spare change.

But what I miss most about my old Tucson neighborhood is the Gyro place. So when I recently passed a sign advertising Gyros, I took note and went back the following weekend. That particular Gyro, it was just what I've always wanted, except not very much.

The people were nice; they tried. And I've never before got to watch the Al Jazierra channel while waiting for a food order. Turns out it's a lot like CNN, but the reporters' names are harder to pronounce. I don't wish to blame the management of Amana cafe, nor the folks at the Al Jazierra network, for my mild Gyro disappointment. The bread was good, but the filling? Too much vegetables, and it lacked that wonderful Gyro sauce.

That Gyro sauce, can't exaggerate about it. Kind of a mediterranean mayonnaise or something, with a hint of cucumber. So today I passed a different store and it sells Gyros. I'm going there this weekend in search of the perfect Gyro.

Can't miss the place really. It's right around the corner from a Buddhist temple, and right next to Sharona's Weaves & Nails.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Good Old Days

In a never ending quest to push personal boundaries, I decided on this one issue to give politeness a try. Frankly, it's no wonder I never tried it before; waiting patiently is a pretty annoying process.

But I waited for years as the mantra got repeated...

"Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires, from Alexander to the USSR."

Every time I heard it, observed to myself it sounds good, but then? Preposterous twaddle usually does. I waited for someone to speak up, and now it's happened. I am SO glad this whole "patience" experiment is done with!

An award winning egghead has written in a forum only read by other eggheads to set the record straight, so now I can speak up.

Alexander the Great didn't get whipped in Afghanistan. Alexander beat the snot out of the Persian empire, so it's unlikely loosely organized tribal bands would give him much sweat. I guess people think Alex was roaming around central Asia setting up little Greek government branch offices. Wasn't like that at all.

Alex and his lethal swarm of human locusts only did the "meet your new boss" stuff at centers of population. Afghanistan didn't beat Alex. I can say that, and I've never been an admirer. Alexander "the Great"? Alexander the Butcher is more like it.

But those were the good old days of conquest, before ideology messed everything up. Back then a nation went to war to kill strangers and take their stuff. Everybody knew that.

Now before I get angry e-mail from the Alex the Great fan club (oh I bet there is one somewhere) I'm not dismissing the long term effects of his reign of terror. He inadvertantly set Greek culture as a dominant force. When Rome replaced Greece, well they always felt a little culturally inferior and copied Greece carefully.

So it's quite possible that if Alex hadn't whipped the Persians, those lovely old mansions in Natchez might not have columns at all. They might have domes and spires instead.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Romance in the desert

The Creator said "Be fruitful and multiply" and so far that's the only heavenly directive where one hundred percent compliance can be shown. There's just a lot of sex in the Bible. If the Bible was a TV show, it could only be on HBO late at night.

Even the rather slow moving passages in the Bible are full of sex. Like that part where it goes, "And Japeth begat Jerobim" and etc. for about fifty pages or so? Well anytime somebody gets begot, somebody's having sex.

Aside from the sex, there's lots of pure romance in the Bible. Like Jacob working seven years at no wages to earn the hand of Rachel. Then on the wedding night he gets slipped the ugly sister instead by his sneaky father in law. Now that's a stunt so wild, I bet the "General Hospital" writers wouldn't touch it, but it happened. Poor Jacob had to work another seven years to get the cute sister. That's love for you.

So I can't help but wonder if John the Baptist had a girlfriend. I'm not like those "mainstream" historians who stick to facts; the snivelling cowards. I think John had a girlfriend. After all, girls dig those edgey rebel types. Eating grasshoppers and standing waist deep in the Jordan river all day? Well you can't get more edgey than that! And John was a celebrity too. Anybody who goes around saying the King and Queen are too trashy for the Jerry Springer show, yeah, that draws attention.

I think I even know who John's girlfriend was. It was the girl who ran the "John the Baptist" souvenier stand. While I'm certain the relationship was chaste, they had deep feelings for one another, and I can easily imagine conversations like this taking place...

Getting dark, the tour buses have all gone, she's locking up for the night.

"John, why don't you come home with me for supper? You know my parents just adore you."

"Naw, thanks but I'll just stay here and eat some grasshoppers."

"Well I know the Creator told you to do all this stuff. But did He specifically say you couldn't have any Lamb stew? Cause that's what we're having tonight."

"No, I wasn't told not to have Lamb stew, but it's like this all right? Grasshoppers are an acquired taste. Nice bowl of Lamb stew would put me back to square one. Let's just change the subject? How was business today?"

"Pretty good, considering the economy. T-shirts are selling well; not so good with the fridge magnets though."

"Well, it'll probably pick up after somebody invents the refrigerator."

Yeah, I think it happened like that. One must be fair to John after all. Presuming he found grasshoppers delicious, and never yearned for a girl to tell his secrets to? That diminishes the scope of his sacrifice, and protects us from the challenge to be more like John in our own small ways.

Myself, I'm not going to eat grasshoppers unless the Creator sends me an e-mail about it. Although I'm pretty sure there's a TV show where folks do that for money.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The real fault line

They had a theory. What if the occasional small tremors along the New Madrid fault line aren't new seismic events at all? What if they're 200 year old echoes? That would be an entirely new way of looking at seismic systems. It would mean this: when a major earthquake happens, it sets up new secondary stresses all along the fault. In a fast moving fault, these stresses are "overwritten" by energy along the primary. But in slow moving faults, the secondary stresses remain intact, surfacing as aftershocks, even two centuries later.

An astoundingly original theory, but it required proof. Sometimes finding a way to prove a theory requires more genius than thinking up the theory. The team went all around the continent looking at fault systems of various speeds. In each case, their predictive data matched nearly perfect with small seismic events proportional to fault system speed. The math looks airtight. The team led by Professor Seth Stein seems to have hit upon a brand new way of thinking about seismic systems.

How about that? I can't believe anybody could do such a thing. Name a kid Seth Stein I mean. Don't take my word for it; try it yourself. Say it out loud, "Seth Stein."
OK, now stop spitting on me.

What you got there is classic example of a fault line between two names. If the surname starts with a soft sound, the given name should end in a hard sound. Seth Stein, not good. Only thing could be worse would be Chris Stein. Seriously, the ease of pronouncing a person's name in their native tongue is a predictor of success in business and politics. There's been a lot of research on it, and it's true all around the world.

Take that guy who ran for President in Afghanistan (everybody's dream job) Abdullah Abdullah? At first glance, one might think his parents are very unimaginative people, but it's not like that. He probably has six or seven names. That part of the world, people have so many names their driver's license folds out. He's just using the two he likes best, so it's Abdullah Abdullah. Easy to pronounce, even in english. What if it was Mustafah Abdullah? That just runs together too much. Same for his opponent in the election, Harmid Karzi (portrayed by actor Ben Kingsley) that's just a crisply pronounced name. Little known fact here, Harmid is actually Afghani for "Billy Ray." Lots of people don't know this.

Parents have a responsibility not to set up fault lines inside the names of children. And to be fair, it's not always the parents either. In Colonial America, it was common to refer to the new arrival as "the baby" until the child attained an age of four or five, and was allowed some input about their Christian name. Given the birthrate back then, that must've been confusing in some households, but that's how they did it. Also explains the name of one of our nation's lesser known founding fathers, Goo Goo Van Buren. He was a bit of a late bloomer, that guy.

Regardless of all that though, Professor Stein and his team have done good work, confirming what I've always suspected. Those people up in Missouri have some lazy rock formations.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For Pete's sake

It happened again last night. I fell asleep watching a documentary. When I woke up four hours later, Peter Fonda was trying to sell me CD's. No, it wasn't a dream. My dreams are more logical than that.

He was wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses. The set was like a living room; sofa, coffee table, stuff like that. Except over on the left there was a motorcycle. For those who don't have motorcycles in their living room, let me explain?

I believe the motorcycle was there to remind aging insomniacs that Pete was once in a movie called "Easy Rider." That's a 60's movie, featuring ninety minutes of two guys riding motorcycles, and then they get killed. But it had a great soundtrack, and perhaps that's how Peter got invovled in the CD project.

He started off saying something like, "The sixties were a time when old ways of thinking didn't work anymore, and so a new music was needed to express the energy of a new generation."

I wish Peter would've gone into that whole thing in more detail. Given my elementary school perspective on the 1960's I think "old ways of thinking" includes personal responsibility and common sense, so I'd sure like to hear what an expert like Pete says on that, but instead he cut right to the clips.

There was Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick glaring at me malevolently, "Don't you want somebody to love?"
And then the Zombies, "It's the time of the sea-ea-son for lo-ove."
Then the Byrds sang, "Turn turn turn" for three seconds, followed I think by Steppenwolf being "Born to be Wild" for three seconds... then I either found the remote or went back to sleep, I'm not quite certain.

It's likely I fell back to sleep, since I seem to recall dreaming that Billie Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge, but that could be a coincidence.

None of this would matter much, except it's time for my generation to shoulder our responsibility. We must decide who'll be selling us late night infomercial 80's music CD's about 15 years from now.

This is a matter of critical importance, because it involves me. Unless God has other plans, I'm going to be falling asleep watching documentaries 15 years from now. I don't want to wake up several hours later to Boy George selling me CD's all right?

I believe in the wisdom of my generation (why did my nose just grow two inches?) and I'm willing to leave this crucial decision to a plebiscite. That's the same thing as an election, except dead folks don't get to vote.

Personally, I'd prefer Cyndi Lauper, or whichever of those Bangles chicks ages most gracefully, but I'm open minded. Matthew Broderick, Emilio Estevez, whatever. I won't even mention Ally Sheedy Ally Sheedy Ally Sheedy Ally Sheedy.

Just don't inflict Boy George on me in my insomniac golden years, PLEASE my fellow members of the idiot generation?

None of this is meant to say I don't feel compassion towards Peter Fonda, and his campaign to sell me 60's CD's. He's in his mid-sixties, and part of that Hollywood bunch. Of course that means he has little ones who need braces, and everyone knows how expensive that stuff is!

I care whether Pete's third grader grows up with crooked teeth. I'd have bought the CD's except my discretionary compassion income is tied up at the moment, in making sure local food pantry is stocked in advance of Thanksgiving.

Peter should sell the motorcycle, that's what I think. Bet his wife is tired of vacuuming around it anyway.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Air in the spare

I'm flattered, but I disagree. Yeah, these are turbulent times. I'd long hoped history would skip my idiot generation, but 9/11 changed all that. No, my voice isn't required to take on the burning issues before the nation.

Hmmm, I've hit a new low it seems. How many basements are there in this house anyways??? I'm now writing quite seriously on the topic of writing silly...

Yep, there sure is a lot of joblessness in America. The job of every human is to be faithful to God, and live in a state of infectious joy. So yeah, there sure are a lot of people out of work.

Harumph harumph, bald hillbilly has a lot of dang nerve lecturing on the celestial, when thousands are losing their homes. First, I'm not lecturing anybody. I'm simply paraphrasing the words of Jesus, who according to movies I've seen looked a lot like George Harrison.

Human hearts are prone to infection; something's gonna dwell there, so why not joy?

We can't be joyful every day, life isn't designed like that. Hospital waiting rooms and funeral attendance are appointments in every life. But I think we all go around dour faced and glum too often, with too little justification.

So I'll just be silly, until I decide to be something else. Small feeble attempt to remind a few people of what we already know. This is an amazingly funny world. It has giant worms and backwards green coments, and cows with names give more milk than nameless cows, but I'll have to get to that in the future.

Sure, these times feel like changing a flat in cold hard rain. Lots of shrill voices are screaming about whose fault it is there are nails on the road. Some of them are likely correct. There aren't enough voices observing how cool it is that there's air in the spare. I'll be silly old "air in the spare" guy and let others address the burning issues.

And hey? I've got burning issues of my own, all right? I'm still trying to figure out how bats manage to poop while hanging upside down.

Friday, October 30, 2009

An apology

My legal counsel says my remarks about scary movies might be deemed injurious by some in the movie making community, and I should apologize.

Instead of taking the path currently popular among politicians and celebrities, an apology that boiled down actually says, "I deeply regret that my statements were misinterpreted by some weirdos, losers and morons" I'll go with option B and really apologize.

I sure didn't mean to imply that making good scary movies is easy as pie. There, that should satisfy my friends at Horowitz, Horowitz, Horowitz & O'Brien.

Yeah, making a good scary film is very hard work. That's because one has to hit some formulaic markers in a way that feels natural to the audience. I'll use as examples two films that seem quite diff but are really about the same movie, "Tremors" and "Jaws." In each of those, you have a buddy pic where a monster happens to show up.

OK, before I hear from the Monsters Union, let me say? I've great admiration for monsters in general, and the monsters in "Jaws" and "Tremors" specificially did groovy work. More than that, a lot of the formulaic horror movie constructs? They apply very directly to monsters.

Like for instance, the monster absolutely can't be shown until the second half of the movie. First half, partial glimpses are fine, but save the full on shot for second half. That builds audience anticipation, which brings me to another rule. The audience has sat there imagining the monster for an hour. If it's going to be a good scary movie, the monster must exceed their expectations.

While we're on that subject, I will say? If you want to make a really great scary movie, that hits audience in the gut and becomes an enduring film, well? You're going to have to let the monster eat somebody the audience identifies with. It's not a great scary movie, if all you feed the monster is cheerleaders, OK?

Now, now, wait a minute. My statements weren't meant in any way to condone an ambivalent attitude towards cheerleaders being eaten by monsters. Cheerleaders are fine patriotic Americans. At primary and secondary education levels, and in professional sports, cheerleaders work hard and add value.

Hmmm. Never thought about that before. Wonder why they don't have cheerleaders at baseball games. Oh, they probably don't need cheerleaders, since the players are all on steroids.

Now, that was taken out of context there. In no way did I mean to suggest that anything but a tiny minority (well, they're not tiny really, they're huge) of baseball players use anabolic steroids in pursuit of success in baseball, America's great pastime, a sport for which I've always nutured...oh, I give up!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Boo and stuff

It's the witching season and everybody knows what that means. 187 cable channels and not ONE decent Halloween movie is playing, not even en Espanol.

I realize that comment may have opened me up for accusation of being "judgemental" and Lord knows nobody wants to wear that scarlet letter in these times. Nazi pedophile would be easier to bear! But like Steve Martin, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Don King, and the Kingston Trio? Comes a time when a man must say, "Here I stand, I can't do otherwise, and hang down your head Tom Dooley" or something a lot like that.

Hollywood perhaps believes it's making horror movies. Mere typo, they're to be forgiven. What they're making is horrible movies.

Saw 87, or whatever number they are up to now? That isn't scary at all. I'm from the generation upon which "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was first launched, so I was there at ground zero when "Gore is more" cinema saw the light of day. Nobody thinks such movies are really frightening, not in the least.

If one wishes to make a horror film, the formula is fairly simple. Characters the audience can identify with and root for are menaced, and stuff jumps out at them unexpectedly. That's all there is to it really.

We don't need plausible explanations of how all this came to be. If you say there is a thirty foot long nuclear mutant alligator living in the sewers under Manhattan, then I will go for it. The reptile can even be an accomplished violin player, I don't care.

Just give me somebody in peril that I can root for, have stuff unexpectedly jump out at them, and we're cool.

Now, there's a totally different genre of Halloween movies that couldn't in their wildest dreams be scare fodder, but are still loads of fun. I'm not going there, as I'm a very busy person, what with the whole vetting process for my nomination as Halloween movie Czar in the Obama administration.

There are two ways to scare people with movies. Cerebral cortex or spinal chord. Very very scary movies, hmmm, let me do a partial list...

Something wicked this way comes
The Lady in White
Dead Again
The Mummy (orignal version with Karloff)
The Uninvited
Ghost Story

All it takes is somebody to root for, and stuff jumps out at them unexpectedly. Pocket your $40M in special effects. Dudes and dudettes in Hollywood? Ain't like this is whaddya call 'em, one of those Quantum physicals?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The whys of spies

It's generally accepted, closeted homosexuals make the most effective spies. Nobody knows why for sure, but I figure? They're already successfully keeping one big secret, so a few more shouldn't hurt.

The 'household' names spies; Nathan Hale, Benedict Arnold, Mata Hari and the Rosenbergs. We know of them because they got caught. Know why they got caught? Yep, that's right. Because they weren't homosexuals.

While invasion plans and atomic secrets are glamorous, it's always been industrial espionage where the big money and steady work are found. In that area, there's no one personality type that shines above the rest.

The Quinine project, that was big deal industrial espionage. One of the team was captured and tortured to death. The brilliant team leader was an Alpaca farmer.

Operation silkworm was even bigger, when done in the 11th century, and two monks pulled that one off. I really should be more admiring of their daring, but I'm distracted by reverence for some other guy in the silk story, lived a few thousand years ago and his name is lost to history. Whole thing must've started like...
"Hey, Kwang Chai, see that worm chewing that mulberry leaf?"
"Yeah, so what?"
"We should make clothing from its cocoon."

Wow! What an original thinker!

But of all industrial espionage stories, the chair has to be my all time favorite.
First, I think it's hilarioius someone had to invent the chair, yet archaeologists agree the chair was first invented in Egypt.

One is tempted to sympathy for the untold preceding generations of the human race, telling each other, "I'm so tired of standing up, but I don't want to lie down, somebody should do something about it!" But our sympathy truly belongs with the Egyptians, I think.

See, by all rights they were sitting (literally) on a gold mine of export biz with the new invention. Only problem was, once an outsider got a look at the chair, good luck defending your patent! The cat was out of the bag. Wait a minute, ancient Egyptians, how would they say it? Oh yeah! The scorpion's out of the canopic jar buddy! So you got this really cool invention, and you won't make a darned shekel off it.

If that's not bad enough, try putting yourself in Pharaoh's place for a minute. You've invited dignitaries from foreign lands, to intimidate them with the might and majesty of Egypt. You say, "Behold our eternal pyramids, our sphinx, our war chariots in number like unto the stars in the sky" and just when you get going good, it's "Excuse me Pharaoh, but what's that you're squatting on there? We got NOTHING like that back home! Can I try it out? WOW! A cup holder too?"

You can imagine how, after four or five ambassadors in a row, it would get annoying.

And, I don't know? Could've been way indirectly, invention of the chair even led to conquest of Egypt. Think about it. A guy sitting on a stump. I sure couldn't with a straight face address such a man as "Alexander the Great." Stumps simply aren't regal. History might've been vastly changed, if every time an ambassador visited, Egyptians were just standing around winking slyly at one another. Alexander might never have become a conqueror. Instead maybe he'd have been a spy, and a really good one too, cause he was homosexual.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The borders of wilderness

No, I haven't run out of silly. There's still lots of it out there. For instance? Pearl Jam is angry because their music was played loud and often to annoy Gitmo prisoners. While I understand how the band feels? As the father of a former teenager I must admit, that's a very effective method. Works on parents anyway!

The B-17 tour is worth some attention though. It complements the general theme of middle aged determination to expand one's horizons. And yeah, too? This life ain't a dress rehearsal, so stop and smell the roses (or in this case the machine guns) or whatever the Creator puts it in your squirrely head to find honest joy in smelling, every chance you get.

But this should be about the plane and the boys.

Here are two things every American schoolkid should know about the B-17...
A.) If you survived 25 missions in a B-17 you automatically rotated back to the US for the duration of the big shooting match. You'd done your bit.
B.) One third of all B-17's that saw combat were shot down by the enemy.

That makes it sound like an unsafe plane, though it was anything but. The Nazi military carefully studied all B-17 wreckage (they're so precise, those Germans) and concluded it was one stubborn aircraft.

Better to let an actual participant speak. Paraphrase from an interview, New Yorker magazine, 1944.

I was bombardier, sat right up in the nose. I remember my first mission. The Ack-Ack exploding far below us looked so beautiful. We dropped the bombs, seemed like a game to me. On the way home, I saw three B-17's explode. Not go down smoking, but explode, mid-air. One minute they were there, and the next gone.

This one mission I recall? I thought they had us. I fired a nose gun until it jammed, ran aft and fired a waist gun until it jammed too. They were coming in so close I could see their faces. About that time the belly gunner got hit. I ran to him, and about that same time a round hit me, nothing bad but knocked my headset off. He was blinded from plastic dust in his eyes, from the bubble getting shot up. He was leaking bad from the cartoid artery, all I could do was apply pressure, and he was in semi-shock. I was yelling fore loud as I could, "Get me some help back here, Eddie's hit kinda bad. My headset got blown off." So now he's screaming he's gonna bail out, cause Johnny just got his head blown off. I'm yelling right back at him, "Shut up you idiot! I'm Johnny, who ya think has his hands on your dumb throat?"

So that's what a participant had to say about it in 1944. But it's not all blood and gore and fighting for your life over Europe. A certain amount of absurdity attends every human endeavor, moreso if Americans are involved.

A B-17 once got so lost, they bombed Zurich, Switzerland. Not funny for the citizens of Zurich, but kind of hilarious in an objective sense. I really don't know how they managed that, Switzerland kind of being known for lots of Alps and stuff, but they did it. However it happened, they had a good story apparently, since they were absolved at the Court Martial. Myself, personally? I think the navigator was distracted by listening to Pearl Jam probably.

What I don't understand about last weekend, is the old men flocking to run their hands on the fuselage of that B-17. That's something I'll never forget. The way they lovingly ran their hands across the riveted skin of that old plane. What makes a man revisit an artifact from the borders of his personal wilderness? What is it that draws old men to a symbol of past terrors, almost impossible to imagine?

I wish I'd had the guts to ask them. But shaking their gnarly cookie hooks, thanking them for what they once did, tears in my eyes? I couldn't ask them WHY, because my heart was filled with a partial understanding of their personal WHAT.

Why do old men flock to an artifact from a time in their youths, when they nearly died, over and over? I'm not sure, but I suspect Pearl Jam has something to do with it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dis-Honest Injun

It's fairly weird actually. Sure I got some data on folks pretending to be French or Russian, but nothing in numbers or intensity compared to the fake Indian gag. Why is that? Hmmm...

American Indians have been romanticized for nearly two centuries now. The lure of the underdog too, there is that. Also, these hundreds of cultures are mostly lost now, and there's always a willingness to believe lost cultures took with them mysterious wisdom. So yeah, I get generally why somebody would want to go Indian. There's probably lots more going on in each individual choice though. Such an intensity to it.

Grey Owl was the first widely famous fake Indian. Books, lots of time on the lecture circuit. Once he passed away, turned out his name was Archibald and he was from England. Me personally? I'd have rather been "Grey Owl" than Archibald any day. Wish I knew more about him, but I suspect at the lecture podium ol' Archie really thought he was Grey Owl.

Forrest Carter is a stranger case. Back when he was Asa Carter, might've been the only guy ever got kicked out of the KKK for extremist views. But around 1970 he started taking a bizarre turn. Wrote a well recieved book about being an orphan raised by Cherokee grandparents. Only snag there was he wasn't an orphan, and didn't have enough Cherokee blood to interest a vampire bat. From 1976 until the end of his life, Forrest Carter insisted he didn't know who this "Asa" Carter was, and why does everybody keep asking about him. I kinda think he believed that at times.

My favorite fake Indian is Iron Eyes Cody. He's a born in Louisiana, and his a momma and a poppa, they were from a Sicily. At some point in his life though, he went Indian all the way. Married an Indian girl, adopted two Cherokee kids, wouldn't leave the house unless in the buckskin getup. What an amazing thing really.

Objectively, I so admire those who go straight at whatever their heart desires. Admittedly, such behavior seldom yields positive results, but hey? It's fun to watch!

Surrounded by fake Indians! Drawing most of my life experience from B-movies, I think my line is, "Yeah, it's quiet. Too quiet."

Tonto, Jay Silverheels, I trust him. He was an authentic no kidding Indian. The Lone Ranger though? I don't trust that guy. It's not the mask, but the powder blue jumpsuit. Just saying? If I'm sitting around a campfire in the desert and cat in a powder blue jumpsuit shows up, I'm going to keep a sharp eye on him.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Bluff City

I'M GONNA TOUR A B-17! WOOHOO! A REAL B-17 WITH A HALF NAKED LADY PAINTED ON THE FUSELAGE, THAT FLEW MISSIONS IN WW2!!! (not the half naked lady I mean, I don't know what she was doing at the time)BUT THE PLANE! THE PLANE!

Calm down David. Deep breaths, think of a quiet meadow...OK

Memphis would have long ago changed its name to "Rodney Dangerfield" but the City Council won't consider any proposal unless race can somehow be injected.

Any time a "worst" list is published, look for Memphis near the top. Most obese, dumbest, least healthy, most violent... Memphis is always on the list somewhere. Now, when "best" lists are made? Always look for Spokane near the top. My personal opinion, somebody from Spokane is making all these lists, but I can't prove that, so I'll talk about Memphis instead.

Memphis just had a mayoral election, and keeping with tradition two of the candidates were an aging professional wrestler and a self-identified space alien. This is taken in good spirit because of the modern South governing rule...

Visitors to Memphis would be forgiven for believing the city is actually governed by the Bail Bondsman Association, since they seem to profit most from the status quo, but it's really not like that. It's the rule that governs.

Stated vaguely, goes something like: Do what you like, long as you're not hurting anybody else, and I don't have to watch.

Now the recent biz with the "National Coming Out Day" billboards? That was example of knowingly violating the rule and leverage of the resulting reaction. Me, I didn't even know there was a National Coming Out Day, but there is. Big billboard on a main thoroughfare, grinning homosexual Marine. Somebody was going to tear it to shreds, cause they have to drive that road everyday, and considered the billboard a violation of their privacy. Then the advocacy group had a big "Stop the Hate now" rally, getting more donations and publicity than if the billboard had been left alone.

See? Even when violated, the rule works, long as everybody knows there is a rule. Everyone involved had fun and nobody got their eye poked out. Which is a much better result than some family reunions I've attended.

Conversely, when people ignore the rule it looks like what it is; trashy and disgusting. Example of that is vandalizing the Jewish frat house last week. Spray painting swastikas. Swastikas for Lord's sakes? Nazi stuff? Hang on, let me look that one up...

OK, says right here...NAZI: Group of people believing blue eyed blondes are destined to rule the world, organized and led by a guy who looked like Moe Howard.

Yeah, that's a very logical bunch to emulate. But aside from that, it's against the modern South rule, with no goal except to hurt strangers. If folks leave you alone, you leave them alone. Bunch of Jewish college boys, just wanting to quietly do their thing, and some creep paints swastikas on their frat house. Now I'm just saying? It might've been somebody from Spokane, snuck in here and did that.

Either way, it really is an amazing world. Spray paint is easy, but I'm about to tour a B-17. A plane built by civilians who hated swastikas, flown by young, frightened boys who hated swastikas. The world can't ever be rid of those who do creepy things, but we can turn the spotlight upon the response, and consider courage and sacrifice instead.