Thursday, August 28, 2008

Go, Agribusiness seasonal employees!

It's that time of the year, campers:

School has started, the pools are beginning to close down, amusement parks are scaling down because the kiddies are back in school, and in some parts of this great nation the leaves are glowing with russets and oranges and golds.

It's Football Time.

Of course, you can't have Football Time without politics--meaning that someone is going to get their panties in a twist for some reason--and that reason is team mascots.

I'm not talking about those oversized abominations that patrol the sidelines of every team from Pee-Wee to pro--as the self-appointed Czar of Sensible Mascots, I intend to rid ourselves of said mascots with a very select few:

Bevo--GREAT mascot, even though he's pretty heavily tranked for game times.

TOM--stands for "Tigers of Memphis". He gets to stay in because the folks at the U of Memphis realized that it was folly to have a fully-grown Bengal tiger on the sidelines of a football game where he could mistake the lineup of players for a buffet spread (and the cheerleaders for dessert), and instead installed TOM at the Memphis Zoo, where he lives the life of Reilly.

The Florida State Seminole--Fabulous mascot, rides around bareback on a paint horse and plants a speak in the enemy's endzone. Gotta stay.

Reveille--The pooch that barks his head off at College Station--like so many traditions at A&M, Reveille is filled with pseudo-religious silliness. As one enters the stadium/cathedral, one passes by the burial spots of former Reveilles, all buried specifically so that they can watch A&M play. Ew. Get rid of him.

The Red Raider. Swish. Lose him.

The Sooner Schooner--chaos and really bad craziness waiting to happen: load up a miniature prairie schooner with cheerleaders hanging precariously out, and careen wildly down the field. Oh, yeah, gotta stay. No one at OU has to teach Chaos Theory, they just have to watch the Sooner Schooner. Another fun thing for Chaos Theorists is watching a bunch of Colorado cheerleaders running down the field with Ralphie, a full-grown BISON. It's trample-time in the mountains! One mascot has to stay because he illustrates the creativity of some folks at the University of Georgia; UGA, the bulldog mascot, has his own student name, George Leroy Tirebiter, his student number, and his student ID--this is necessary for travel arrangements. So far, he's never graduated, but he HAS walked during commencements in his own cap and gown. The mortarboard looks a little silly on him, but then they look silly on everybody.

The Billikin--My first Alma Mater, St. Louis U, has a mascot called the Billikin. Very few people at SLU, which was founded in 1818, know what the Hell a billikin is or where he/she/it comes from, but they still bow down. Apparently it means "a good luck charm" and may be Alaskan, but NOBODY KNOWS. Gotta stay, because when you have a mascot that is a bloody mystery it just HAS to stay around.

The Badgers, the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers (oh, for goodness sake!) all look like giant rats and have to go. When you've been to a Wisconsin-Minnesota game and witness a Badger and a Golden Gopher fighting over Paul Bunyan's Axe, you know you're in mascot Hell. You're outa there.

Elegant mascots that have to stay include the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Harvard Crimson, and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Classic and unique. Who cares that only Rutgers plays decent football?

Lots of schools have yielded to pressure from various and sundry lobbyists and changed their names; Stanford, which was early in its history a school for Native Americans, called their team the Indians until they were forced to rename themselves the "Cardinal". Lots of minor-league baseball teams are getting on the controversy-neutral bandwagon, leading to some interesting nomenclature such as the Lansing Lugnuts, the Altoona Curve, the Toledo Mud Hens and the Savannah Sand Gnats. I am not making this up. Perhaps the Savannah team would be more fearsome if they named themselves after the actual name of the Sand Gnat, Ceratopogonidae . Get 'em, Pogos!

Of course, pro football is apparently immune to controversy, and continues to feature the Redskins--but I predict that some day in the future our preoccupation with euphemism will feature the Dallas Agribusiness Seasonal Independent Contractors versus the Washington Indigenous Peoples.

Let the games begin! Let's go, Iowa Park Hawks!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Here a ring, there a ring. . .

The Beijing Olympics is fittingly underway, and the opening ceremony showed us the following:

1. Dem Chinese sho do have some nifty gaming technology. How about a two football field-sized Koala pad?
2. A totalitarian government can, indeed, get large numbers of people together and get them to do ANYTHING it wants, and in a simultaneous manner.
3. 20 years ago, there was officially NO confucianism in China. At least that's what the government of China told us. Last night they brought 2,008 of 'em, funny hats and bamboo scrolls and all, and paraded 'em before the World. Hmmm. . .
4. Even though China endeavored to prove to the World that it's light years ahead in technology, they still featured cheerleaders in Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader autograph-model white naugahyde thigh-highs. Apparently kitsch, like Dim Sum, is universal.
5. Even though you can put on the most spectacular production the World has ever seen, George and Laura Bush will STILL be bored. Did you notice him slumping in his chair and checking out his watch a couple dozen times? They are soooooo ready to git back to Crawford. And so am I.

As the Canadian Olympic delegation marched in, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer discussed the practice of paying ringers to join an olympic team and paying said ringers for medals. Canada does it, and Brunai and the good ole U.S. WTF are we having an olympics FOR, anyway? As Jerry Seinfeld says, we're just cheering for laundry here, for any merc who can fit into a uniform just so we can have national pride that we didn't earn. Therefore, I have switched my allegiance during the Olympics to those nations who have entered the Olympics in the true spirit of fair competition and the thrill of competition at a higher, faster and braver level. Nations like Andorra and Swaziland and the like, nations with no organized sports program because they'd rather buy CLOTHING and FOOD, nations who have no freakin' hope of even competing against the Big Boys and Girls but who dress up in their wild costumes and parade around the Bird's Nest anyway and have one Hell of a time celebrating all that's RIGHT about sports. And don't get me started about doping and steroids. Yet. Go Lichtenstein!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Useless emotions

Emotions are good. They help open our hard shells, the armor we build up to defend ourselves from the World. During the Romantic Rebellion of a couple hundred years ago, it was thought that plays and other entertainment that created tears in the audience were the most healthy form of recreation. Tears, you see, were an acknowledgement that we were after all human, subject to the same animal instincts and weaknesses. And everyone talks about needing "a good cry". Even Aristotle claimed that the end result of producing tragic plays was katharsis, or a purgation of emotion.

If a smart cookie like Aristotle gets on the side of emotion, than who is a szhlub like me to argue?

Yet there are useless emotions that dirty up our lives, and sometimes cause us to end our lives unhappily and even desperately. I know, because I was one of les desperes subject to those useless emotions. And it made me opressively sad, old before my time, and physically ill.

One of the useless emotions is envy.

The other is regret.

Envy is difficult to deal with because our entire culture is based on it. Capitalism is founded in this emotion, and television advertising is a perfect example of envy at its worst. Dove soap has even instituted a program that untrains grade school-age girls from envying the body types we see so constantly on television, and encourages them to think of themselves as beautiful in their own way instead of wishing they were Miley or Paris some other "The Week's Blonde". Envy is what happens when we see someone's new car, house, fashion statement, significant other, or dog and determine that we MUST have one of those. Our current economic system encourages this kind of rapacious consumerism, and we follow blindly in the futile hope that THINGS will make us HAPPY. Got a problem? Get a new model! Consumerism fuels our system, and it's an inexhaustible supply of energy because as Stephen Wright says: "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

George Carlin's lovely rant about "stuff" sums up our hamster-in-a-treadmill mentality in a haiku: we need a house to keep our stuff safe from other people while we go out and get MORE STUFF.

Stuff won't make you happy, muffin.

Only YOU can make you happy. And maybe other people, but only if you love yourself first.

Remember that Buddha said, "the more possessions a man has, the more careworn he becomes." Thanks, Gautama.

And now, campers, we come to the most insidious emotion of all: regret. Henry II of England lived longer than most of his peers, conquered England and most of France, and ruled a kingdom as large as Alexander's or Napoleon's--and Henry died despairing, regretting his failures. For that matter, so did Alexander and Napoleon. Regret will kill you, bubba.

Now Regret and her sister emotion Shame have an essential place in our society, or any society--they keep us from doing sociopathic things that would really screw up the fabric of civilization. But mulling on regret, and feeding on it, is a real sickness. And it's useless at base, because the idea is to:

1. f*&^k up.
2. LEARN from it.
3. Don't do it again.
4. There is no 4.

We find regret most evident in personal relationships, and it can murder a present relationship because of missteps that happened in a past relationship.

We call these things "baggage", and some people bring an overnight case while others bring a big honkin' steamer trunk. It's insidious, because regret is a GOOD thing, but too much of it, an obsession with it, is poison. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches are really yummy, but too many of them will cause you to explode. Ask Elvis.

So mess up by all means, learn from it, and move on. You'll be surprised now light you feel when you get rid of that baggage, and how relatively easy it is to travel when you travel light. That lightness is the lightness of your own heart.

Now Excuse me while I go and mow my back yard, because I wish I had a lush green lawn like my neighbor has, and I'd really regret it if I put it off till next week.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

About the fella in the picture . . .

The guy in the picture at left is the patron saint (he would detest the name) of this Blog. His name is Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken, and although he died 52 years ago, his acerbic comments on American culture and life are as timely as today. Witness his comment on presidential politics and see if you don't recognize the candidates for president and the current sitting president:

"The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." (Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920)

Mencken's beliefs are condensed below, and (with the exception of the afterlife, because I have never had the courage to believe in nothing) will provide the guiding principles for this blog:

"I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking. I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty... I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect. I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech... I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run. I believe in the reality of progress. I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant."

Want more?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Little House, Little House au Prairie

News from Minny-ah--polish:

The Guthrie Theatre is producing a musical version of Minnesotan Laura Engels Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. This sent Himself spinning in two different directions: the first was his own version:

(Sung to the tune of "I'm calm" from A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM:)

"I'm blind, I'm blind, I'm totally blind! I run into cows all the time--
Some others can see me, but darkness won't free me--yecch! Swine!
Pa-pah, pa-pah, go get my ma-mah and fetch me a dog and a cane;
My life's hit a coda here in Minnesota--what pain!"

or perhaps:

(Sung to the tune of the opening number of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS:)

Chorus of chilly townspeople, as a little child, wearing Ray Charles Ray-bans, runs through sunflowers:

"Little house, little house au prairie
Eek! a mouse! Little House au prairie
Get deloused--Little House au prairie

Considering that LITTLE HOUSE--which was the poster child for "family viewing" back in the day--features one disaster after another, it would seem to be perfect for grand opera, not a musical.

But lots of others are:

The musical version of THE BIG BANG THEORY

The musical version of Alton Brown's GOOD EATS

The musical version of BIG BROTHER

The musical version of ALL IN THE FAMILY and THE JEFFERSONS combined

and (drum roll please). . .

The one which I would go to Minneapolis to see. . .

WIPEOUT! The Musical

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The point may be moo - the news is goo(d)

As a condition of my physical problems this past weekend, I had to see my PCP [not Angel Dust but my Primary Care Physician, for those who don’t speak Managed Healthcare] and my Neurologist.

Heres the good news: my problems this past weekend were caused by an ulnar neuropathy, which in effect means that my left elbow and the nerve endings contained therein are the culprit behind the weakness in my indispensible left hand. It was a case of the old vaudeville joke: “Doctor, my elbow hurts when I do this.” And the doctor says “So don’t do that. Pay the receptionist at checkout.”

So. . .instead of buying a new Black and Decker Firestorm cordless drill or treating SWMBO to dinner at Moni’s in Arlington, I fork over the same cash for a hoary old Smith and Dale routine from the 1910's. It would drive me to drink [if I still drank], but I shouldn’t bend my elbow.
Ba-dum-ching! Thank you - we're here all week - try the veal!

Speaking of hoary old Vaudeville schtick, tune into Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along . Neil Patrick Harris is very funny in a 3-part musical written by Josh Whedon. Also, for those who don’t know about Brook McEldowney, go to and check out PIBGORN, then look at his blog and check out 9 CHICKWEED LANE. My kinda funny.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Things that make you go OWWWWWWWWWW!

Good day to ya!

It is finally time to start fulfilling my “bucket list” of items to do in my checkered lifetime. My aspirations of pitching for the Cardinals MAY be a little out of my reach now, but I still have time for my main ambition: to become the Chief Lord of Time, Space and Motion. Also to write a blog. This is it. Please read it at your leisure. Leave me a comment or two.

Below is a little something I wrote last Friday – how was YOUR weekend?

So, it's Friday morning and Himself is checking his Email and thinking about adding to the play he's writing, when the ring finger and pinkie of his left hand lose sensation and kinda droop around, leaving him without his usual pianolike dexterity--something like slapping a pancake on the laptop keys. The Maher goes to She Who Must Be Obeyed and tells her--in a VERY calm tone of voice--that something is kinda wrong. He does this so that SWMBO doesn't jump up with eyes like saucers and yell '"Omigod! TIA! and calls every doctor and hospital in creation (I'll explain about a TIA in a minute--are you still there? Good.) I'm very proud of SWMBO, who calmly showers and dresses as I dress using one hand, then we go to the spankin' new ER at the Spankin' new Mansfield Methodist Med Center. They see me right away (!) and it's not too long until I'm in examination room 3, where a physician's assistant diagnoses the problem. To make a long story short, I end up in the spankin' new MMMC room 309 for observation.

And thereby hangs the story of THINGS YOU LEARN (TO YOUR COST) AT THE HORSE PISTOL:

Since they suspect that I've had a TIA or transischemic attack--the onset of a stroke--I get every test known to man or animal at the MMMC: EKG, EEG, MRI, BBW, BMW, BFD, the whole thang. While under observation (the nurse's station has a window with a blind on it so that you're literally under observation), I discover the following, which I dutifully share with you the reader:Men, shave every hair on your body before coming to the hospital. Don't ask questions, just do it. Trust me. Remember Steve Carrell getting the chest wax in THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN? Um hummm. I thought you would.If you are needing a good rest, the hospital is the LAST place you want to be. In the 18 hours I was under observation, I was awakened 9 times by nurses with needles, BP cuffs, probes, and other instruments of medicinal torture. And only one of them was cute. Her name is Keri, and she's a tech. Everybody else looked like Aunt Esther from SANFORD AND SON.

Remember the old days when you could fly on an airplane and get a real dinner? You can't do that any more, can you? It's because the people (ARAMARK) who supply high school cafeterias and airlines with cardboard sustenance have moved to the hospital arena. My very favorite on the menu was the Chef's Salad--without meat, cheese or egg. WTF! You might as well say "lceberg lettuce leaf with inedible dressing." I am not kidding about this. I'm a cook, and a good one, and even I know how to prepare a healthful lo-cal, lo-carb meal without making it taste like packing peanuts.

If you are awakened at dawn by a nurse that is not named Keri, and when she asks you a question, DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY ANSWER IN THE AFFIRMATIVE. Take a moment, get orientated, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, and listen closely to the question, paying close attention to the words "enema" and "vasectomy". Otherwise, some verrrrrrry uncomfortable things will ensue.Ask someone, preferably your "Executive Meal Hostess" (I am not kidding about this), where you can find some coffee. They will tell you, and it's usually the waiting room lounge. There you will find a Douwe Egbert's coffee maker, the Mother of All Senseo Machines, which will dispense glorious Columbian or Espresso (!), and you can wire yourself so tightly that when you get a blood test they'll think you've been free-basing in your room.

DO NOT actually free-base in your room. There are great honkin' tanks of OXYGEN in there, dummy.

Tell EVERYONE that you want to go home. It worked for Dorothy, it worked for The Maher, and it will work for you.The hospital is one place where you can be a complete dillweed and get away with it. As I was leaving, nay running, to the car, Keri said "thanks for being such a great patient. You're very rare around here." If someone like ME gets a compliment like that, that means they must be used to legions of Idi Amins at the MMMC.So that's it--I'm back at home, I didn't have a stroke, I had a neurological hiccup that could be related to my shoulder surgery. Most of my body remains intact after the MMMC got done with it.

Now we need a month's stay at the rest home for SWMBO. Maybe we'll ask Keri to take care of her. Or Aunt Esther.