Category: Oddish and/or endy


Meow

My cat went out cutting capers all night, which had me worried to death.  I don’t let him outside on purpose, but sometimes he darts between my ankles while I’m on the way out the door, and poof!–he’s gone, off like a shot.  Maybe it’s silly, but until he comes back inside I fret and worry.  What if he gets into a fight?  What if he starts running with a bad crowd?  What if he decides to be Huckleberry Finn and never come home again?

Well, he came home this morning, and although I was in no mood to lolly-gag in bed all day, he was, so that’s what we did.  He curled up in a very efficient ball and slept, on my chest, like Morpheus himself.  We stayed that way for hours, until I broke the news to him:  “Look, I have to go.  I’m going to have to move you, so prepare to hate me.  Okay, commence hatred on my mark:  three, two, one.”  Sure enough, he did, but it didn’t last very long.  He conked out again after about eight seconds–a very brief but, I assume, satisfying hatred.

When I was nine years old, my maternal grandparents came down for a week-long visit.  Toward the end of their stay, my grandfather settled himself into the recliner in our den, with a copy of Time magazine.  My sister’s cat, Misty, promptly settled herself onto my grandfather’s substantial belly, and went to sleep.

My dad was at work, but the rest of us–my grandmother, mother, two sisters and me–went off shopping.  Shopping for what, I don’t remember.  My job, in those days, was standing by the entrance to the store (usually Lerner’s, the Popular, or the White House) and holding their purses until they were done with the seemingly interminable process of trying things on.

Anyway, as we were leaving, my grandmother said to my grandfather, “We’re going shopping.  Would you like to come with us?”

“No, thanks,” he said.  “I’m pretty happy here with my cat and magazine.”

I was looking over his shoulder at the time, and I can tell you that the magazine’s left page was two columns of ad space, and the right page was just one full-page ad, so that just leaves one column of actual content:  not much to read.

We came home about four hours later (four hours of purse-holding for me, thank you very much), and my grandmother looked at my grandfather in his continued repose.

“Old man!” she cried.  “You’re still on the same page of that magazine” (which, indeed, he was).

“Well,” he said, “I was afraid that if I turned the page I’d wake the cat.”

My kind of man.

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I don’t know why, but typographical errors make me absolutely batty.  There are very, very few things that get me sufficiently steamed that I would find pleasure in kicking a hole clean through a stained glass window, but you can count typos among them.

It might have something to do with the fact that I used to edit a literary magazine, or that I used to run the classified ads and create display ads for a newspaper.  I don’t know.  If anything, it’s probably the other way around:  I wound up editing and running things because I get uptight about things like typos.  Sounds silly, I know, but everybody has their own little areas of OCD.

I’m most sorely aggrieved by my own blunders (of which there are plenty).

It’s a weird phenomenon, and it breaks down, more or less, thus:

  • Hey, look at that:  I left out an apostrophe!  Good thing I proofread it before going global.
  • I’m an idiot for leaving out an apostrophe.
  • Oh God, what else did I screw up?
  • Here we go again.
  • This is kind of fun.

That, however, is the life that I have chosen, and I’m pretty well stuck with it.  I’ve almost come to terms with it, and I’m okay about that.  Honest.

The thing that really takes the pleats out of my kilt is repeated and/or public typos.

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • I went to pick up a cake one day, for the honor of a kid who was graduating from high school.  His school colors were red and white.  So I picked up, from the local bakery, a red cake with white frosting letters on the top, saying “CONGRATUTIONS!”
  • Any time that any business has to shut down for the day, or that they run out of something, I can pretty well guarantee you that there’ll be a sign somewhere which includes the phrase “We apologize for the inconvience.”
  • Finally, here are the words taped to a gas pump at one of my local service stations.  I present it to you verbatim:  “dear valuble customer currently credit card is not working at gus pump please use your card in siad store sorry for in conveniente store, Thynk you.”

Drives me nuts.

In my mind, the most forgivable of the three is the last one.  I know for a fact that if I decided, for whatever reason, to up and move to Karachi or wherever, I’d be at a total loss to write anything Karachi-ish.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  At least he’s trying, and he seems to have a pretty good head-start.

The other two, if you ask me, are unforgivable, yet they happen all the time.

I know, I know.  I shouldn’t go around whacking stones at people when I am not without sin.  Trust me, I’ve made more typos than Carter’s got pills (ask your grandmother to explain that reference, if necessary).

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors–can’t remember her name, but she was very nice–told me that I suffered from “a pretty severe case of digital metathesis,” which was her overly polite way of telling me that I couldn’t type worth a hoot and screwed everything up.

“‘Euceminalc’?  What does that mean?”

“Oh, sorry.  That’s supposed to say ‘ecumenical.'”

“Ah.  Now it makes sense.”

For the life of me, I cannot keep double consonants straight.  Here’s a quick list of words that baffle me by their spelling, some of which, no doubt, are misspelled:

  • misspelled
  • sherrif
  • fettuccinne
  • broccoli
  • accommodate
  • spaghetti

Good thing I’m not a commodious Italian deputy with an appetite.  I’d be well up a creek.

My only savior is my sage daddy’s advice, which I probably heard about 462 million times:  “There’s a dictionary, right over there.  Use it.”

Pat, been a ‘tard?

I hate hearing people using words like “‘tard” and “retard,” but here I am guilty of it.  I couldn’t resist, and you’ll see why.  In a nutshell, sometimes a perfect title makes a story worth telling.

A long time ago–the very late ’80s–I worked at the Comic Strip in El Paso.  Mostly I ran the kitchen, but I also had the responsibilty of keeping the comics entertained on their off-time, of which there was plenty.  I mean, think about it:  They’re there for a week, living in a cheap motel, and working twenty, maybe sixty, minutes a night.  That’s a lot of time to kill.

A lot of them were happy to go golfing, which worked out well as my good friend Jeff also worked at the Comic Strip, and he was a golf fanatic.  He went on to become a golf pro out at Painted Dunes; now I think he’s some kind of salesman in Colorado.

Be that as it may . . . .

I got to meet a lot of really cool comics back then.  Ellen Degeneres, Gary Mule Deer, Rich Hall, Dave Chappelle, Paula Poundstone, George Lopez, Bob Zany, that fat guy from Minnesota who hosted Family Feud for a while (sorry, but I can’t think of his name)–the list goes on and on.

One of my keenest memories is of dropping a just-opened #10 can of cocktail sauce on Brad Garrett’s brand new Tony Lama shark-skin boots.

Brad Garrett, in case you can’t place the name, is probably best known for playing Ray Romano’s brother Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond.

The Cocktail Sauce Affair was well before his sitcom success.  He was just a touring stand-up schmoe at the time, and he wasn’t a very happy person.  He had won Star Search with his stand-up, but he really only had about twenty minutes of good material, and he was still trying to milk that same twenty minutes, which everybody had already seen.  He was getting a bad rep on the stand-up circuit–not because he was a bad guy or anything, but because he didn’t have any fresh material.

So he was bitter, built like an oak tree, and I had just spilled a #10 can of cocktail sauce on his brand-new Tony Lama shark-skin boots.  I figured that I was pretty much a dead man, but, to his credit, he was very nice about it.

“Don’t worry,” he said–and I can still see his fake smile and hear his very deep voice, like he used on Everybody Loves Raymond–“it’s ooooo-kay.”

Anyway, there was this one comic–I forget his name–who was married, and was determined to stick to his vows of fidelity.

It’s very, very easy for a stand-up comic to get laid–after all, the room is full of young women getting drunk.  They approach the comic at the bar after the show, trade a little small talk, and next thing you know, they’re off to the motel room.

This guy wasn’t like that, though.  He refused to have any hanky-panky on the road.  He did have his wife’s permission, however, to visit strip clubs–as long as he kept his hands to himself.

So one night, after the show, I took him to this awful strip joint called Prince Machiavelli’s.  I hate strip joints–I think it’s because I don’t like wanting something I know I’m not gonna get–but that’s where he wanted to go, so off we went.

Quick sidenote, and then back to the story:  When I lived in Austin, one of my various jobs was driving a cab.  Around three or four in the morning, a lot of strippers need a ride home, so I’d take the call.  They invariably paid me with one-dollar bills creased the long way, sparkling body-glitter and stinking of cheap perfume and perspiration.  A lot of them like to talk about how wonderful their lifestyle is, and how much money they make, but trust me–it’s a sad, lonely life.

So anyway, this stand-up comic and I went to Prince Machiavelli’s one night, and this girl gets up on the stage, wearing a cowboy outfit.  The DJ rattles off the customary “And now, put your hands together for showgirl Tanya!  Tanya!  Right now on Stage B.  Let’s hear it for Tanya.”  And I’m sitting there thinking “Holy crap, I know her.”

Her real name was Patricia, with the Spanish pronunication–Pa-tree-see-ah–and I had grown up with her.  She was assistant manager of a Radio Shack a few miles down the road but, as I found out later, she wasn’t happy with the money she was making there.  This was her first time dancing at a strip joint, and pretty much an audition to see whether she’d get hired.

The music started thumping and blaring–Pat Benatar’s Hell is for Children, which is probably the least sexy song on earth, and now I’m really starting to wonder about her childhood–and she started taking her clothes off, which took forever.  I don’t know about you, but I can get undressed in pretty much nothing-flat.  First she played with her cowboy hat and finally sent it Frisbeeing off into the crowd, very nearly leaving the comic with one eye (which he thought was funny).  Then she flirted with her vest, which went on for an agonizingly long time.

Finally–finally!–it came time for her to take her jeans off, but guess what:  She had forgotten to take her boots off first, so there she his hopping and hobbling around the stage, jeans around her ankles, trying to pull her boots off while her little boobs bounced to and fro.

Can you picture anything less sexy?  I can’t.

After this went on for a minute or two, the DJ mercifully cut the lights and music and she gathered up her few shod clothes in the dark and shuffled, crying, off the stage.

I went to the mens’ room, and when I came out, there she was waiting for me in the hallway.  Turns out she had spotted me from the stage, which probably hadn’t helped her opening-night jitters.

“Oh, John!” she said, throwing her arms around me.  “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”  I could feel her little public boobs against my chest, bobbing up and down as she sobbed.

“There, there,” I said, and gave her a fake pat on the back.  “It’ll be okay.”

She wasn’t welcome back at Prince Machiavelli’s after that, and had already given notice at Radio Shack.  I never saw her again.

When I was at culinary school, I had a roommate named James.  I didn’t really care for him.  He was too testy and tightly wound.  Doesn’t really have anything to do with the story, though, which proceeds thus:

He dropped out of high school at fifteen and dedicated his life to being a “dead-head”–somebody who does nothing but follow the Grateful Dead around on tour and hang out with other dead-heads.  He lived that life for about ten years, crashing in hippified school-busses, cultivating dreadlocks, swapping tie-dye shirts for weed.  Stinking of patchouli and pot.

He had no contact whatsoever with his family during all this time.

Finally, somehow, he got wind that his sister back in Pennsylvania was going to have a baby, making him an uncle (he never really explained to me how word of this development somehow reached him).  James took this a wake-up call, as a sign that it was time for him to get a shower, a haircut, and a job.  The dead-head days had come to an end, so he got on a Greyhound bus bound for Pennsylvania.

First night back, he sits down with mater and pater in their formal dining room, tucking into pheasant and caviar.  Once they’re sated, mater volunteers to clear the plates, leaving just James and his father in the formal dining room.

“Listen, dad,” James says.  “I’m really sorry.  I feel bad.  I was gone for, like, ten years, and I never sent you a post-card or anything.  I never even called you.  I feel sorry about that now.”

“James,” his father says, “we were never really worried about you.  Come here and let me show you something.”

Remember, now, that his dad worked for the NSA.

He leads James into his home office or study or whatever you want to call it, and sits him down at the visitor side of his desk.  Dad pulls a fat manila folder out of a desk drawer and flips it open to reveal a stack of glossy 8 x 10 photographs.

“Here’s you at the Dead show in Santa Cruz on April 12.”  Flips the photo over to reveal another one.  “Here’s you using a pay-phone at a 7-11 in Oakland, May 3.  Here’s you having breakfast at an IHOP in Bakersfield on May 5.  Good thing you don’t hang out with this girl any more; she’s bad news.  Here’s you napping in a trailer in Snoqualmie on May 17.”  On and on.

Finally, his dad cracked a sincere smile and said, “We were never worried about you.  We knew exactly where you were, and exactly what you were doing.”

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had kind of a Jekyll & Hyde relationship with the law.  As far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed picking locks and stealing things, and nothing is more tantalizing than a door labelled NO ADMITTANCE.  But I also always wanted to be one of those men in blue, wearing a badge.  It didn’t have anything to do with carrying a gun–I don’t like guns, really–but I liked (and still do like) the idea of defending law & order against the forces of chaos & anarchy.

I know, it’s ironic.  I still haven’t figured it out.

My first career route along these lines was with the El Paso PD, but I was too young at the time.  Then they changed the rules and I was too old.  Same thing happened in Austin, Vermont, California, New Mexico, Maryland, and Indiana–the window of opportunity is extremely narrow, and I always manage to miss it, barely.  Very frustrating.

I’m far too old and out-of-shape to entertain the idea any more, and I regret that the boat sailed without me.

Anyway, after getting nixed by the EPPD, I figured I might have a better shot at the federal level, so I applied at the FBI, which has a pretty big field office in EP.  They interviewed me, and it was a total flop.  I found out afterward that I was supposed to have been vetted and groomed for the interview–shown videos of what to expect, for instance–but that hadn’t happened, so I showed up looking like a total chump (I had a very similar experience with the Navy, which I’ll tell you about some other time).

After the FBI disaster, I applied to be a case officer for the CIA.  They flew me to the DC area and put me up in a hotel in Reston, VA.  The interview process took about a week-and-a-half, and most of it was excruciatingly dull.  They checked my vision (20/18, thank you very much), did an EKG (only one I’ve ever had; happy to find out that my ticker’s jolly), made me endure the maddening MMPI psych exam.  Took blood, weighed me, figured out my shoe size, established my IQ, quantified my electrolytes.  Far more thorough than the Navy, and this was just an interview.

The kicker was the polygraph exam.  The examiner was a short and wirey dude with a buzz-cut (“A-ha,” I thought.  “Special Forces plus Napoleon complex plus lateral transition to a CIA gig after he nailed retirement as a Master Sergeant.  This ain’t gonna be fun.”  And boy, was I right).

He started out with the predictable control questions:  Is your name John?  What is today’s date?  Are your eyes blue?

Then it got down and dirty.

He flat-out accused me of crimes involving sex and drugs, neither of which I’ve ever been guilty of.  Yes, I’ve been a petty thief and minor vandal–both of which I admitted to–but sex crimes?  Drug-running?  No.  Never.  Not by a long shot.  I’ve been a very bad person, in my own way, but I’ve had very little to do with sex, and have bent over backwards to stay away from drugs.

Right away, in the back of my mind, I figure that every polygraph examiner raises the same suspicions, because if any guy’s guilty of anything, it’s probably going to involve sex and/or drugs.

Oddly, the two things I’m clearly guilty of–boozing it up and being irresponsible with money–never came up.

He finally gave up on the sex & drugs angle, and swooped in for the kill:  He accused me of a being a white supremacist.

This was–and continues to be–the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.

You know how he came up with this idiotic notion?  I figured it out in about twenty seconds.

The CIA application asks you to list anything you’ve ever had published.  I had a short story called “Skinhead” published in a very minor literary magazine, so I wrote that down.  Little Army dingus saw that on the application and jumped to conclusions.  If he’d bothered to have read the story, he’d have seen that it’s condemnation of the idea of white supremacy.

I kept saying “No, you’re wrong,” and he kept saying “Hey, it’s not me–it’s the machine.  The polygraph machine showing me that you’re not being truthful.  Don’t get mad at me.  It’s the machine.”  “Well, then, you need a new machine because this one’s wrong.”  “This machine’s not right or wrong.  It measures truthfullnessism, and it’s showing me that you’re not being truthful.”  “You’re full of crap, and you’re asking me to confess to something I’ve never done.”  “It’s not me, it’s the machine.”  This went on for hours and hours.

At one point, he left, to “give me some time to think about my answers,” but I imagine he just snuck out back to have a cigarette.  I was left alone in that small, hot room, staring at the psychedelic carpet and resisting the temptation to rip the electrodes off and run away.

He came back and continued with his accusations–sorry, with reporting the machine’s findings–and I kept denying.  He finally gave up around 4:45.

Two days after I got back home in EP, there was a letter from the CIA.  “We have decided not to hire you.  Do not bother asking why, because no answers will be given and no records have been kept.”

That was the end of that.

Paper angels

Sounds like a Marie Osmond song, or a movie-of-the-week starring Meredith Baxter-Birnie.  Maybe a very special, must-see episode of “Blossom” for the entire family.

However–nah.  It’s a very simple, cheap, and super-cool artsy-crafty project.  Witness the coolness:

In this case, they’re Christmas ornaments, but you don’t have to use angels to adorn a pine tree if you don’t want to.  You can use whatever mold you find (might be a fire-plug or a kokopelli, for all I know) to adorn whatever you want.  Let yourself get loosey-goosey and creative, and live it up.

If you snoop around the Internet, you can find some pretty cool molds.

Your local kitchen store can be a good source for such molds, as can Goodwill or whatever thrift shop you have up in your ‘hood.

A lot of good molds are terra cotta, but you can also get very nice ones made out of wood.  Don’t be nervous about trying this project with wooden molds; they sound awfully delicate, but we’re not putting them through the wringer, so they’ll be just fine.

So anyway, here’s what you’ll need to get the job done (most of which you probably already have lying around; the rest is cheap and readily available):

  • cookie molds, either terra cotta or wooden
  • art paper–the kind with a high rag content, like for watercolors or charcoal
  • tissue paper, if you want to add some pizzaz (purely optional)
  • some cheesecloth
  • a paintbrush
  • beeswax
  • an ordinary kitchen blender
  • an ordinary bowl
  • a double-boiler setup (for melting the beeswax)
  • a very ordinary kitchen sponge
  • some spray sealer

Right.  First thing we do is make paper (out of existing paper).  Tear all the paper up into little bits–maybe about the size of your fingernail.  Also tear up the tissue paper, if you’ve decided to go that route (stick to one color of tissue paper per batch, or you’ll wind up with a muddy and indeterminate mess).

Soak all that paper in water overnight, or, if you’re in a hurry, boiling water for about an hour.

Take a little handful of the paper and put it into your blender along with about two cups of water.  Give it a good zap for fifteen seconds–maybe thirty; however long it takes to get it to a pulp.  Don’t over-process it, or you’ll wind up with paste.  If anything, it’s better to under-process it a bit, as you might wind up with bits of paper that haven’t been broken down, and they add character and texture to the final product.  Monkey around with it a few times, and you’ll see what I mean.

Do that over and over until you’ve processed all the paper into pulp.

Note:  “Moist” and “pulp” are two of my least favorite words.  I also don’t like “panties,” “rural,” “knuckle,” “Julie Newmar,” and “snacks.”  Go figure.

I guess my greatest nightmare would be knuckling Julie Newmar’s moist and pulpy panties while rooting around for rural snacks.

Be that as it may . . . .

Put the cheesecloth over the bowl and glomp the paper mix onto it, to drain the water.  Press it and squeeze it to get rid of  as much of the water as possible.

Now, the fun (meaning “potentially fatal”) part:  Melt the beeswax in your double-boiler.  Do not try to melt the beeswax directly in a pan on your stove-top, or you will probably burn your house down.  Beeswax is flammable, and as pretty as you are, you wouldn’t be nearly as pretty if you were on fire.  Got it?  Good.

Take your paintbrush and give the business-side of your cookie molds a nice thick coat of beeswax.  Let it set, which won’t take long at all.

Now press the pulp into the mold.  Press it well into all the nooks and crannies, and cover the mold completely.

Take your dampened sponge (is “damp” really any better than “moist”?) and press all over the whole thing, which will help push the pulp into the details of the mold and also–ironically–wick out the moisture.

Wring out the sponge now and then, and keep pressing on the inside of the mold until the pulp is as dry as you can get it.  By the time you’re done, the paper pulp ought to be about as thick as that cardboard that comes packaged inside men’s dress-shirts.

I know that’s an awkward comparison, but it’s the best I could think of.

Okay, now put your pulped mold (ick!) into your oven, at its lowest setting, and leave it there for thirty minutes or an hour–however long it takes to get the paper totally dry.  When the paper starts to separate from the mold, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re done.

If you want, for whatever reason, you can let it air-dry instead, but that’ll take a good twelve hours, at least.

Take the paper carefully out of the mold, make sure that it’s completely dry, and then spray it with sealer.

All you have to do now is punch a little hole in it, run a ribbon through, tie a pretty bow, and you’re done.

If you keep up with this blog, you know that I’m in favor of kids catching tadpoles vs. playing Nintendo, climbing trees vs. memorizing bilingual flash-card drills, going camping vs. doing homework every day and night.  I think there’s a lot to be said for Kid as Savage, which is a Romantic idea.  Have a gander at Wordsworth, Coleridge, Burns, or any of the innumerable French Romantics, and you’ll know what I mean.

It’s probably because I grew up eating dirt and cracking my head open every other day–all in the interest of adventure and discovery.

I know I sound like a  fussy old coot, and I probably  am one.

Sometimes, though, even a fussy old coot is vindicated.

I’ve long thought that molly-coddling young-uns is really doing them a disservice.  The whole “You’re great!  You’re a winner!  You’re terrific, no matter how badly you’ve done!” ethic dooms them to a life of feeling superior when they probably aren’t (statistically, most people aren’t superior–let’s face it) and, worse, the inabilty to cope with criticism, even when it’s well-founded and deserved.

I started teaching in 1985, and if I gave somebody an F, they took it on the chin, because they knew they deserved an F.  Now, 25 years later, a lot of students who don’t get an A–no matter how badly they performed–blubber, whine, and complain to those over my head, calling me a meany.  They’re all from the “You’re terrific, no matter what!” generation.  Older students are more likely to take their lumps, do the work, and try to learn, rather than rest on their assumed laurels.

If I had to chalk this phenomenon up to anything, I would chalk it up to–believe it or not–quick-and-easy birth control.

I know, I know.  Now I really sound like I’ve gone ’round the bend.  But listen.

A guy named Carl Djerassi (who, by the way, lives in a house bordering Neil Young’s property in Kalifornia) invented the birth control pill–synthesized from a Mexican yam, oddly enough.  Djerassi has expressed some regret–not a lot, but some–at this accomplishment.  Once upon a time–pre-Mexican-yam-synthesis–people lived in houses and had kids.  Now women have some control over birth, and we delay families in the interest of school and careers, and we live in apartment complexes, and a lot of women have kids because the condom broke or the guy lied or it was a moment of passion or whatever–the underlying idea that “I don’t have to get pregnant if I don’t want to” is still there.

Please don’t misunderstand:  I am absolutely in favor of women making their own decisions about their bodies.  Intelligent women tend to make intelligent decisions; less intelligent women tend to make less intelligent decisions.  I’m starting to think that less-intelligent women are an encroaching percentage (and, of course, there are loads of unintelligent men, which certainly doesn’t help things).

I just think that quick-and -easy birth control (a very recent development) makes it much too easy to get away with thinking that profound actions don’t have to have profound consequences.

So Tommy Beefcake and Suzy Creamcheese get it on one night, she gets pregnant, and figures “It would be nice to have someone around who will love me and need me”–since Tommy Beefcake was a one-nighter and doesn’t fit that bill.

Suzy Creamcheese has a beautiful baby boy, but Suzy is still in college or climbing up the corporate ladder, and doesn’t spend as much time with Baby Creamcheese as she could.

How does she deal with it?  “You’re terrific!  Now mommy has to go.”  Superlatives take the place of time climbing trees, looking at bugs, making cookies, and skylarking in general.

No, I’m not heaping the entire onus on mothers.  The fathers in question can be just as bad, if not worse (there’s an argument for a biological imperative there; read Jared Diamond’s Third Chimpanzee).

Thus we had the rise of “helicopter parents” and the “nanny state,” the altissimus cuspis, of which, I think, was the nut allergy mania.

There are public schools with segregated cafeteria tables specifically for nut kids.

I’ve been around a little while–since 1961–and I never heard a jot or tittle about nut allergies up until about ten years ago.  It was all the rage for quite a while, kind of like ADD was ten years before that.

ADD has pretty much crapped out, and people are starting to realize that nut allergies were over-estimated.

There was an outfit called the Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.  Want to guess what they did?  They fostered paranoia, printing and distributing pamphlets, flyers, and posters for schools, all about the evils of nuts.

Want to guess who funded the A & A N?

The people who make the Epi-Pen, which is that hypodermic thingy you jab into your thigh when you have an allergic reaction.

I would really like to know how much money they made off of the nut-paranoia scam.  There are kids who won’t walk down Aisle 6 at Safeway, for fear that the nuts will jump off the shelf and kill them.

Yes, I know, some people have legit nut allergies, and I’m not making light of that.  I’ve seen it happen, and it ain’t pretty.  But they’re a very small percentage of the population, especially compared to all the freak-out “Oh, good God, don’t let cashews near my baby!” parents.

The good news is that we finally seem to facing a turn-around.

Sensible scientists never let go of the idea that kids need to be exposed to icky things like germs, so that they can develop resistance.  And if you crack your head open as often as I did, you will eventually get the idea that it’s not a good thing, and you’ll cut it out.

Part of me wanted to slap every mother I saw at the grocery store, swabbing her shopping cart with disinfectant–and then wiping her kids down too.

Your kids spend a large part of the day at child-care and/or school.  Do you really think that sanitizing a shopping cart will somehow make them better?

Kids are naturally filthy, and I see nothing wrong with that.  If anything, I encourage it.

I certainly don’t want my daughter to crack her head open–ever–but if she comes home with tadpoles in the pockets of her overalls, I’ll be a very happy daddy.

Critical update

Okay, I lied.  Nothing critical.  Nothing interesting.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

I had a fascinating and blog-worthy thought earlier this evening, but now I can’t remember what it was.

I’ve been watching the Dark Knight for the tenth or twelfth time (“twelfth” is an awfully funny word, isn’t it?).  Heath Ledger nails it, R.I.P.  Gary Oldman’s pretty good too, but I have my doubts about Christian Bale.  It’s probably not his fault so much as it is the director’s.  Has anybody ever successfully played the Batman role?  I can’t think of anyone.

As a nifty little lagniappe, it’s got Morgan Freeman and Sir Michael Caine.

Here it is late May, and I still have my heater running.  That has absolutely nothing to do with Batman, although I doubt that Bruce Wayne ever had to scramble for wool socks and sweatshirts in May.  At least he had an Alfred to fetch them if and when the time came.

“Fetch” is a funny word too.  “Twelfth Fetch” would be a good name for a band, or one of Shakespeare’s plays.  “What purple grace offend thee, milord, that I may fetch thee twelve?”  “‘Tis well that I procure thy pole, most murd’rous engine dire, yet twelve do not your dozen make.”

Hell, that was easy!  I could be Shakespeare.  Sure.  Sure I could.  You bet.

And now, without any transition whatsoever, a bit of a book review:

I just finished reading Craig Ferguson’s autobiography, American on Purpose.  It’s a pleasant, quick, and easy read.  Neither fabulous nor awful, and how can you dislike anything written by someone who loves America?  If anything, it’s a nice reminder that we’re lucky to be Americans.  Yes, life–even in America–can be lousy, but it beats the hell outta life elsewhere.  As Will Rogers said, America’s the only country on earth where you can drive your own car to the poor-house.  At the very least, we have clean water, which is a huge blessing (even if you have to steal it from your neighbor’s outdoor tap at four in the morning.  Not that I’ve done that.  Lately.  Much).

“Neighbor” is yet another funny word, but I will spare you the Shakespeare dust-up.

Back to Craig Ferguson:  If his book accomplishes anything, it’s making it clear that Glasgow is a dreary and awful place.  I’ve been to Glasgow, and I can tell you first-hand that it’s dreary and awful.  They like to brag about their architecture and whatnot, but so does Columbus, Indiana, which is a pile of crap piled on other piles of crap, with some vestiges of crap squeezing out from the edges.  Of crap.

That’s all I can think of for now.  Stand down from Red Alert.

Next time you’re sitting around bored, consider your gifts and what you can do with them.

I ain’t here to preach or proselytize, but the Episcopal Church’s “Meaning of Gifts” gives us a pretty handy list of common gifts to look for and, once found, develop and put into meaningful action (the list, as acknowledged by the Church, is by no means complete).

  1. The gift of teaching
  2. The gift of encouragement
  3. The gift of mercy
  4. The gift of helps
  5. The gift of administration
  6. The gift of giving
  7. The gift of leadership
  8. The gift of evangelism
  9. The gift of discernment
  10. The gift of faith
  11. The gift of healing
  12. The gift of intercession
  13. The gift of hospitality

Gifts, I think, are kind of like a knack for music or languages–everybody has it, to one degree or another.  The harder you work at it, the better you get at it.

John Milton said “I cannot praise a cloistered virtue,” meaning that you might harbor the gift of hospitality (for example), but if you don’t get off your arse and do something with it, it’s a big waste.  Not turning a gift into an action is worse than just a waste, really–it’s downright vain and sinful (I think).

Humility is one of the Three Graces, which, in a master-stroke of theology vs. math, handily defeat the Seven Deadly Sins.  “Humility,” though, doesn’t mean acting like Uriah Heep–not in this sense, anyway.  It means being honest about both your strengths and your weaknesses.  ‘Fess up to your faults, but don’t hide or minimize your gifts.  Be open with all of it.

The rest of the Three Graces, in case you’re wondering, are fortitude and justice.  Seems to me that if you can nail the Three Graces, the Seven Deadlies don’t have a prayer–especially pride, which is the King Kat Daddy-O of sins (look at what it did to Oedipus and all them other farty Greek maroons).  If you can look pride in the eye, laugh, and go back to maximizing your gifts, you’re one bad-ass mofo–in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t, by any means, have a grip on this Gifts Defeating the Forces of Sin bidness.  I’m at least as sinful as the next guy; probably moreso.  I’ve spent a good hunk of my life as a rat-fink.  Not in the criminal sense:  I’ve never beaten anyone up, fired a gun, dabbled in drug sales, gotten high as a kite, skipped out on child support, blown up a bus, or any of the other things that usually put people in the pokey.  I have, however, filled my tub with sin and taken a nice, long soak.

Lucky for me, crime and sin aren’t exactly the same.  If sinning got met with jail-time, I’d be in some serious dutch.

Hey, wait a minute.  Isn’t an eternity–or even just a weekend–in hell a lot worse than a month or a year in jail?

You might not believe in hell.  Most Americans don’t (it’s kind of funny–most people believe in heaven, but not hell.  That tells you something, don’t it?).  I kind of agree with Sartre, that “hell is other people,” but that’s a pretty sassy-pants response to a serious issue.  Once again, I call upon Milton:  “Myself am hell,” as Satan said.  You’re your own hell–unless you dodge that bunker and rewrite Satan’s pithy statement as “Myself am heaven.”  The way to do that?  Exercise your gifts.

You might not wind up wearing a winged toga and sitting on a cloud, playing a harp in heaven.  You might just get eaten by worms and that’s that (how would I know?).

But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that deploying your gifts will make you happy and give you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment–even if you just wind up as compost, at least you’ve made the most of a short ride.

On slavery

Oh, boy.  Ugh.  Here we go.  Argh.

Slavery is, always has been, and always will be very rotten and unpleasant business.  It is also, I think, a totally natural and predictable thing.

Whether you’re black, white, brown, yellow, purple, striped, or whatever–it’s a lead-pipe cinch that you have both slaves and slave owners up your family tree, so stop playing the “boo-hoo” card.

Guess who rounded up Africans and shuttled them off to English slave boats.  Other Africans.  And yes, they got paid for it.

Guess who rounded up Scots and shoved them off to Ireland.  Other Brits.  And yes, they got paid for it.

Guess who’s still rounding up black kids and selling them.  Brits?  No.  USA?  No.  Other Africans?  Yes.

Same goes with Asia, Central America, Europe, South America, and the rest of the world.  Bastards traffic in bastardry wherever they are.

I’m chagrined that the USA took so long to getting around to legislating anti-racist legislation, but I’m pleased that it all took off like a rocket.  I mean, let’s face it–think about how things were fifty years ago.  Can any other country make such sea-changes in such a relatively brief time?

I think that the loveliest quality of the USA is that it is occupied mostly by people who have run away from bullshit.

I’m not proud of, or happy about, what white folks did to the Indians.  That was jingoistic egotism and stupidity.  The same goes for every empire vs. colony deal–Portugal in Africa, Portugal in Japan, Arabia in Spain, Spain in Mexico, France in Mexico, Britain in India, India in Pakistan, China in Tibet–on and on.

If anybody deserves a Slavery Medal of Honor, we all do, but we all–all of us–also deserve Slave-owner Medals of Shame.

The best thing to do, I think, is fight current slavery rather than dwelling on ancient offenses.