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.