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.