Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bubble bread.

Against my better judgment I took one of those online quizzes, one that purports to tell you how OCD you are. They show you a series of pictures where something is a little off or very messy, and ask how much it makes you crazy. I scored 30%, which seems entirely too non-OCD for the way I feel. 

I think it means that things make me only a little crazy, but I feel very, very certain about that little bit of craziness. 

Take bread. I love bread. Bread bread bread. I loved the old Clinton-era USDA food pyramid that told us to eat tons of bread and made everyone fat. Because I love bread. 

But when I buy a loaf of the beloved foodstuff and find a big air bubble has compromised the structural integrity of some slices, my OCD level climbs. 

I suspect it may be a particular problem of swirled breads like the rye/pumpernickel shown below. Using two doughs together seems like an invitation to separation. But it's a problem with all yeast breads.

NOW what do you do? You can carefully smear the bread with mustard or mayo, having to avoid the hole so you don't break an axle on the knife or, actually, wind up with condiments on the plate and on your hands, defeating the purpose of the neat, portable sandwich. PB and/or jelly are right out; it's bad enough to leave this as a little meat window, but you can't have a sandwich made of condiment-like material when you have a hole in your bread. If the slice next to it has an identical hole, which it likely will, I guess you could go around both holes and have a sandwich that looks like it failed to save your life when it was in your pocket and you were shot. But you know it would be a problem. Anytime you picked up your sandwich your finger would go straight into the hole.

Okay, toast then. Except for the butter leakage!

A slice of bread with a hole in it would make Bruce Banner go green and smash things. It is a food menace, and we need to find a way to resolve this. CT scan each loaf before it ships? Ah, that could solve it. Send the faulty loaves to the stuffing factory before they get sliced.

Oh, suck it up, it's just a hole in the bread, says the 10% OCD guy.

Yeah, well, it makes me nuts. The thing is, I suspect that we've each got something that makes us nuts. The guy who laughs at my bread dilemma has probably wrapped a sand wedge around a tree somewhere, or thrown a fit because his velvet Elvis painting was five degrees off square after his girlfriend vacuumed it. It's not that some people are not obsessed about anything; it's that some people are just obsessed about fewer things.

At least that's what I'm telling myself. Over and over and over.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gnome man is an island.

One of my earliest memories is going into a lawn center in Brooklyn and being surrounded by every kind of artwork known to man . . . that was made out of cement and rebar. Birdbaths, angels, big giant flowers, deer, bunnies, and what perplexed me at the time, the classic that came to be known disrespectfully as Mary on the Half Shell.

I knew she was nice.
One thing I do not recall seeing then or in neighborhoods around us for years afterward was the garden gnome. I may be wrong, but I believe the garden gnome was an Eurocism that didn't really come to our shores until later, after the American publication of Gnomes, by Wil Huygen, in 1977. I can't begin to tell you how omnipresent this book was if you weren't around then. While the rest of the country was getting its collective freak on in discos, the bookstores were taken over by gnomes.

Small but  mighty: 62 weeks on the Times best-seller list.

Along with the persistence of the Tolkien oeuvre (given a shot in the arm by the publication of The Silmarillion, also in 1977), it marked a change in speculative fiction from a focus on science fiction to a focus on fantasy. I have no stats to back it up, but I would guess that it was the first time fantasy overtook science fiction since the emergence of SF as a distinct genre.

Anyway, we've had gnomes for our gardens ever since, and jolly little chaps they are, too. Found a couple at Lowe's last week, in fact.

The gnome on the right is seated, with one leg up and the other crossed in front. In case you were wondering.

There are still many things that you can get for your yard, but small as he is, the gnome stands tall. After all, how many other things in the garden store inspired an animated movie?

We're not really gnome people here, but we respect the gnome and all his garden pals. Carry on, gnome! You may be small, but in the world of garden statuary, you're 15 feet tall. (Except for one 17-foot-nine-inch gnome in Nowa Sól, Poland---that's rather a bit too much gnome, don't you think?)

One last word on Mary: She deservedly gets a place of honor on many Catholic lawns, but what do they do with my man St. Joseph? Bury him upside down when they want to unload the joint. They even sell kits for the purpose now. Bad enough he has to be in a family where his son is God and his wife is perfect---try winning arguments in that house---but now he gets buried in the sod when you want to ditch the real estate. Awesome.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rate the crap!

I cannot tell you how many times I saw this ad in comic books when I was growing up.

All of these things had a certain appeal, although even with a kid's impaired ability to reason we knew they would be disappointing. As one boy I knew once said (in a somewhat less elegant manner), "If X-ray specs really worked, they'd be standard issue in every doctor's office."

Honor House, which peddled this stuff and lots more to gullible children, always sold products that could not fulfill their promise, but the promise was enough to fire our imagination. I never ordered any of these items from them, but I did engage in any number of discussions on their supposed virtues and probable failures. Maybe being a New York City kid made us more wary, but I doubt it. Personally, I was just too broke to send away for anything. The price of the comic book cleaned me out.

Looking over this page, all jammed with goodies, I feel compelled to rate the crap. Herewith are my brief takes on the objects on this iconic page, bearing in mind that I have never actually held any in my hand. Ratings focus on appeal, schoolhouse experience, and probability of worth, largely based on recollections of discussions held decades ago.

X-Ray Specs
Top rating. Just because they could maybe work and wouldn't it be awesome. Note how the ad shows the guy looking at his hand, but in his line of vision there happens to be a buxom lass. Makes ya think, eh, boys?  A

Secret Book Safe
This one seemed likely to be legit. We knew it would never keep out a determined sibling, but camouflage and secrets are cool. A little too practical, though, to be that much fun. A-

Monster Size Monsters
Sharp eyes notice that the ad doesn't say what these things are made of. Paper cutouts, I believe, are what they turned out to be. Nice reminder, though, of the 1960s and early 1970s nostalgia for the great Universal horror movies of the 1930s. Now I'm nostalgic for the nostalgia. C+

Throw Your Voice
Eerily compelling, and at an age when you think it is possible to actually make your voice come out of some other place, highly suggestive of practical jokes. "Hey, don't pee! I'm stuck down this terlet!" Still, throwing your voice means throwing your voice, so even if it works people will figure out that's just you with a lousy Bela Lugosi accent or something. B

Naval Cannon
Maybe cool, especially if you looked up to the military vets in your family, or you just want to wake up Mom from her headache nap in a new and funny way! Funny for three seconds, anyhow. Otherwise, not that great. B-

Monster Size Skeleton
Smaller than the Monster Size Monsters, but supposedly glows in the dark. Every kid old enough to send away for this knew that glow-in-the-dark stuff is always disappointing. Would get an A if you had a nosy younger sibling that had skelephobia, but otherwise, meh. C

Onion Gum
Fool your friends! Might work. Probably be about as fresh as the gum that came with baseball cards back then. Worth a shot, if you can offer it with a straight face, and victims will accept it without examining the packaging. B

Bullet Holes
No one is going to fall for these. Yeah, someone shot up my car. Call the cops! Probably don't look that great. As pranks go, way below plastic dog poop. D-

Trick Baseball
Strange, possibly fun---but for prank purposes? Hmm. What if someone did manage to hit it? Would it break? Could be little more than a Wiffle Ball with coins in it; they also wobble in flight. Maybe it was just a version of that? If it was plastic no one would mistake it for a baseball. Too liable to be a flop. D

If it really made good-looking bills, they wouldn't sell it. Maybe good enough to fool your little sister, but she's not too smart. And couldn't you get arrested for this? C-

Joy Buzzer
These were all over the place, and always so big and clunky that you could never hide one in your hand, and they didn't give anyone a shock. They just buzzed. Harmless indeed. Rare case of popularity sinking an idea. Kids don't normally shake hands, anyway. D+

Magic Cards
If the 10 tricks didn't suck, sure. But the cards had to look like regular playing cards, not something out of the Goofy Kidz Deck O' Fun. Risky. C

Jack Pot Bank
"Should not be used for gambling purposes"? What the heck else is it for? Maybe you can get some dummies to play. But if it works, they might win. Bleah. F

Smoke Bomb
Always fun in school, the smoke bomb was great for all-purpose laughs and smelled like egg farts. How much to buy them by the case? A

There wasn't a boy alive who didn't want to try one to see if they really came back. Seems like something you could get at the toy store rather than having to buy through a comic book, but never could. It would be great if it was of any quality. You could play catch by yourself when Dad was busy fixing the car or drinking or something. And don't they use these in Australia to cut the heads off kangaroos? Nice. B+

Skin Head Wig
Oddly enough, one thing we never considered was that for this to work, it would have to be the exact shade of the rest of your skin. And even if it did work perfectly, it wouldn't be much of a joke. "Hey, Joey! Where's your hair?" "Oh, I'm bald now." "That sucks." D

Karate Et Al
You can't learn sports out of books, but kids weren't all enrolled in karate classes in those days. Where else were you going to learn to be cool like Bruce Lee? If you just learned a few things... well, it might be the difference the next time Stinky Joe Blatz decided it was Swirly Day. B

Surprise Package
Way way way too dangerous. You figured you would definitely wind up with the 500 stamps from the other offer in the comic. Skip it. F

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Everybody was Kung Clu fightin'.

This cat is fast as lightnin'. 

Fred's hands are lethal weapons. Oh, yes. 

They're not, like, registered or something. No one's hands are registered as weapons. Not even in New York, where everything is considered something that ought to be regulated. Not even in Georgia---although they may start having to register breasts

What was I saying? Oh, yes---I was telling you about my lethal hands. Martial arts, you know. Well, actually, it's not an unarmed martial art, like karate or boxing. This is actually an armed martial art, like kendo. We call it Kung Clu.

We use these weapons. To deadly effect.
There are six weapons (the candlestick, the lead pipe, the rope, the knife, the wrench, and the revolver) usually associated with the mastery of Kung Clu, although two others (the horseshoe and the poison bottle) are sometimes seen in variations. We masters of Kung Clu are unmatched in the martial use of candlesticks and lead pipes and wrenches, let alone ropes, knives, and handguns.

I go about speaking to groups---sometimes on purpose---to encourage youngsters interested in the martial arts to consider Kung Clu, although it is challenging, and very few who take up the sport get beyond the Mustard Belt. Here are some of the questions I frequently get asked. We refer to these as Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: Isn't that an odd variety of blunt objects? Why the candlestick, monkey wrench, and pipe? Why not a billy club, or a bo stick, or something cool like that? 

A: Silly boy. Kung Clu evolved out of self-defense using common household objects, the kind of things that could be carried about without arousing suspicion. Over time certain ones fell under greater focus as weapons, and now are regarded as traditional. It doesn't mean I couldn't use my skills with, say, a tire iron or an ax handle.

Q: What's the big deal about a martial art with guns? You point, you shoot.

A: Foolish, foolish child! A master of Kung Clu may kill his foe by shooting him, but when the evil foe is found, it will be impossible to determine how he died. I've seen multiple detectives unable to figure out whether a shot man was strangled with a rope, stabbed, or bonked on the head. They didn't even know where the foe was killed. Such are the mysteries of Kung Clu.

Q: Is it just for boys?

A: Heck, no! One of our most famous practitioners, known as Miss Scarlet (not her real name), is a female-type woman. You wouldn't want to cross her in the Library, let's just say that.

Q: Are there other, similar martial arts?

A: Yes, there are. There's Monop Olix, which trains its adherents to fight using objects such as a top hat, iron, thimble, dog, or hotel. Life Arts just uses cars to run people over. These martial arts are crap.

Q: Have there been studies of the culture and history of Kung Clu?

A: Absolutely. I recommend Death Be Not Fun by Dr. B. Black, Trapped in the Billiard Room by Prof. Edgar Plum, and Beat Your Opponents to Death with Hard Objects by the Rev. Thallo Jacob Green.

Q: Are there any other skills taught in Kung Clu?

A: The detection of secret passages is one of our most popular auxiliary skills. You'd be amazed how much time you can save by finding a secret passage to the can, for one thing. Others include deduction and inference, and proper identifications of colors.

Q: Those weapons all look pretty dangerous. Does Kung Clu teach us how to peacefully subdue an opponent?

A: Foolish boy! Grow up! It's dangerous out there. What, you think this is some kind of game?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Face the Fred.

Mr. Philbin, Official Friend of This Blog, has complained that I'm constantly showing Fred cartoons, but have yet to reveal my actual face. For example, last year we had Fred's choices for Easter bonnet:

For some reason Mr. Philbin maintains that this is not my actual appearance. Fie!

All right, maybe it's an artist's impression. The fact is---well, you've heard the expression "a face made for radio"? Well, imagine how much worse a face made for writing is.

I thought about running a gallery of writers' photos, but decided not to. I wouldn't want to scare the children.

But you know, Mr. Philbin may have a point. The link between writer and reader is surprisingly intimate. I'm asking people to buy and read my books; the least I can do is to let 'em see my mug. So therefore, without further ado, here, for your enjoyment, is the first posting on the Internet of Fred's actual mug.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Salute to tools!

On yesterday's post I detailed the ferocious battle I had to remove two Red Barberry bushes (known also as Japanese Barberries, a shrub brought to the U.S. from Japan in 1875 as an early means of weakening American resolve), which would have been impossible without the help of two great hand tools. Today I would like to offer my:


I picked up both of these more than 15 years ago, when I finally escaped apartment life.

The first is my crosscut saw, a little Stanley number, which I've used to build tables, shelves, a workbench, sawhorses... maybe not well, but I've used it, and any errors are mine, not its. I had to get rid of some large branches that I could not remove with the hedge clippers so I could get far enough under the bushes to dig and pry them out. Stanley made quick work of those large branches. We salute you, Stanley!

The other is a plain ol' shovel, but a shovel that I got at Kmart for $8.99, or $12.25 in modern picayune dollars.

How do I remember the price?

The digging in rocky, root-crossed soil was hard enough, but I also used it as a pry bar to get under and lift the plant (the larger of the two weighed around a hundred pounds, I estimate). This little shovel did not weaken, but stood up to the task, blade, handle, and shaft. We salute you, KGro shovel!

Here's something else about these tools: Both were made in the United States. Perhaps that says something about their longevity? American-made tools may cost a bit more, but they get the job done and keep doing it.

You may say: Hey, it'd be better for the economy to buy cheap tools that break easily so you have to buy more. I say, cram your broken windows fallacy where the sun won't shine through them. Believe me, my money has gone for plenty of other things where it has not had to go for tools. Fred does his bit to help the economy by spending his way to penury.

One other thing that came in handy---not made in the U.S., but grown here.

Yes, my dog Tralfaz was outside "helping"; it was great to have something for him to enjoy, and a big root cut from the evil red plant was just the thing.

You can still get made-in-America Stanley saws; sadly, it looks as though Kmart's KGro line no longer offers shovels, or at least they don't appear on the Kmart site. But I am sure you can still enjoy your yardwork with U.S.-made tools.

Just be alert for any offers on Russian or Iranian plant species. I suspect those nations would like to weaken us, and they'd use ornamental plants to do it if necessary. And it can be an enduring problem. After all, we've had peace with Japan for 70 years, but we're still dealing with the effects of their Ornamental Shrub Initiative.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Feed me, Freddy.

Spent a good hunk of Earth Day pulling up freaking bushes from hell.

These were Red Barberry bushes, planted by dingdongs who wanted to landscape with cheap, deer-resistant shrubs. It's true that the deer hate them. EVERYONE hates them. Except birds, which is a good time to remind everyone that birdbrain is not a compliment.

The Red or Japanese Barberry is an invasive species, brought here from Japan to cultivate. Thanks to the birds it has slipped the leash, and now goes on its merry way, choking native plants, usually in stealth mode (meaning, "seedlings generally revert to the green form" per the Native Plants site, so you don't always see them until they've strangled everything).

You can use special power tools to get rid of these things, but the only power tool I had that was useful was the hedge clipper. After they were trimmed back as far as possible, it was down to the shovel, the saw, the plank (for leverage), and hand-to-hand combat, ripping out roots from underneath. As you can see, there's latticework right behind this shrub, which made it difficult to use leverage to the best advantage. Plus, the bastards fought like hell. They have roots like cables, and pricklers that can pierce leather work gloves. I think Little Shop of Horrors was inspired by them.

Now I got a hole in my plants.
Anyway, I was happy to spend Earth Day doing my bit for the environment. Well, the native environment. Of course, it involved uprooting and murdering plants, so maybe that was a net loss for the environment. But, with the exception of a small amount of electricity for the hedge clipper, I only used the completely renewable resources of blood, sweat, tears, and cursing to get the job done. So I figure the Earth is saved now. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Peace, earth, love, ketchup.

So it's Earth Day, the day we celebrate dirt. And aren't we glad for it! Without dirt we would have nowhere to stand. Our houses would sink. Our roads would collapse. Hooray for dirt!

We should all stand shoulder to shoulder to fight the enemies of dirt. Take that, laundry detergent!

Yes, Earth Day is a day for brotherhood. And since National Brotherhood Week is no more, we seek some new period in which to get together and be brotherly. Earth Day is all we got. So today, like brothers, we should punch each other over whose turn it is to take out the trash.

No, we should all work hard to get along today. The International Day of Peace isn't until September 21, and by that time, especially with our national eagerness to give monstrous regimes their own atomic weaponry, we might all be dead. So let's celebrate now.

To that end I have tried my hand at peacemaking between mortal enemies, sworn foes dedicated to the destruction of each other. Of course, I refer to McDonald's and Burger King.

I thought we could start with condiments. As Julia A. Fletcher Carney once wrote,

Little deeds of condiments, little words of love,
Help to make earth happy like the heaven above.

Or something like that. 

Very standoffish at first, refusing to get together. Let's see if we can coax them out of their, uh, shells.

That's better! Mixed together we see that all packets bleed the same; there's no BK tomatoes, no McD tomatoes, just all our tomatoes. And we---

Uh-oh. Didn't see that coming.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PSA from the dog #1.

Hello, friends. It's me. The dog.

Friends, I'd like to ask you to think about your doors. Sure, you like doors. They keep things in. They keep things out. But have you considered the high cost of doors?

That's right -- every day millions of dogs find themselves on the wrong side of doors, and there is nothing they can do with their cute li'l paws to help themselves.

They want to go out; they're stuck in. They want to go in; they're stuck out. Completely helpless against the oppression of the doors. Poor pups!

What can you do about it? Well, you can start by getting rid of all your own doors! Then your doggie can roam about freely, a happy little chap. Is that too much to do for your friendly canine companion?

Why not start today? Just take down a couple of doors. Maybe to the backyard! Maybe to the toilet! You'll see immediately how much happier your dog will be.

Tell your neighbors about it! Even if they don't have dogs of their own, they'd surely love impromptu visits from your own fuzzy pal. Who wouldn't?

Thank you for listening friends! And remember:

Every time you use a door 
You make your doggie more and more. 

This has been a public service announcement from the dog.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rebel jerk.

Sometimes I wonder how a free people who are supposed to be able to handle themselves responsibly could let things get this far.

"Do Not Eat."


And here I thought it was a breath mint, a little something at the bottom of the bag to freshen up after wolfing down all that jerky.

Silica gel packs, included in everything from jerky to vitamins to new shoes, are nontoxic, so munch all you want! Well, probably a poor idea, since they are made of sand and quartz and included to absorb moisture. They may also include a dye that could be sickening.

There's a part of me that wants to chomp on one just because they said not to---that Fred, he's a rebel---but I've resisted. So far.

But aside from us renegades, who needs to be told not to eat this stuff? Babies don't have the sense to not eat objects, but they can't read anyway. So there goes Baby, eating away at the jerky, and he comes to the silica packet. Well, he can't read, can he? In it goes!

What about blind people? Aren't they entitled to eat jerky? Should the warning be written in braille?

Why don't they put that same warning on other things? It appears we can't be trusted to figure this stuff out. God knows there are plenty of things you shouldn't eat---bowling balls, shoe polish, nails, pipe fittings. Some of them, like the cotton in pill bottles and the lid on yogurt, also come in food. Shouldn't they be labeled DO NOT EAT?

On another topic, if I got a few hundred boxes of these packs, and piled them around the house, would that lower the humidity in the summer?

Well, that's basically what DampRid is for, and I've put a few of those around with no noticeable effect, although I expect it would work well in small spaces like boats and closets and bathrooms and cellars. But not the whole house. So I guess using however many Do Not Eat packets wouldn't help the house either.

Another advantage of DampRid is that it doesn't come in food, so I won't consume it in my feeding frenzy. I haven't noticed the words DO NOT EAT on the side of the tub, so I haven't been tempted to go at it with a big spoon. Yet.

Yep, I'm a rebel and I'll never ever be any good.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Was there a wager?

"All right, you win: Wild horses COULD drag me to a Nicholas Sparks movie." 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Yet another thing I shouldn't have eaten.

Square doughnut?

Yeah, breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts again. This time I made the horrid mistake of getting one of the new cheesecake doughnuts---it's a... Are you ready for this?

You're not ready for this.

You can't handle this.

Oh, all right.

It is an Oreo Cheesecake Square, which---along with the Raspberry Cheesecake Square---are the latest killer doughnuts unleashed on an unsuspecting populace.

This is all wrong.

Regular readers of this blog know that I often complain about these Dunkin' Donuts doughnuts being much too sweet, so sweet they make diabetics pass out for blocks around, so sweet they make your teeth itch just looking at them, and these readers may suspect that I protest too much. That I'm Br'er Fred, begging not to be forced to eat the oh-too-sweet doughnut.

But the problem here is that the cheesecake squares (and yes, I tried both) are not so sweet as they are weird. I mean yes, they are too sweet, but the "cheesecake" filling is not pleasant. It has a tang that supposedly resembles cream cheese, but tastes more like buttermilk to me. Nor is it rich like French cheese cake; it is almost thin. It tastes like a cheesecake that got to warm, melted, and went off. I kept wanting to like them, I truly did, but it just wasn't working.

Maybe others will find these pleasant, but I didn't. Someone must have okayed them back at DDHQ. Someone must have said, "These taste awesome! Release the squares!" But I would have put a stop to this nonsense before it got that far.

Oh, well; back to the Boston Kreme!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ocelot or Ocenot?

The brilliant and quotable G. K. Chesterton wrote, “It is one thing to describe an interview with a gorgon or a griffin, a creature who does not exist. It is another thing to discover that the rhinoceros does exist and then take pleasure in the fact that he looks as if he didn't.”

Animals are okay with me. Some are okayer than others, though. My main problem is that animalologists have done a poor job of naming animals. Take the friendly, cute, and horribly named Dik-Dik. Come on, people! You can do better!

Some animals have awesome or highly appropriate names. You can't argue with Elephant, which sounds big and loud. Tigers have the Grrrr built into the name. Snakes have their Sssss. The Kangaroo sounds bouncy. The name Squid is quite similar to the sound one makes when it hits the floor. All these are fine.

Going to the less familiar critters, the Auk has a great bird name, but I don't know if it makes that sound. Maybe the Seagull should have been the Auk, because he sure does. The name Gazelle is as graceful as he is. The Gerenuk is also called the giraffe-necked antelope, and sounds it. You hear the name Kinkajou and think of a sneaky little nocturnal fellow. The various Boks---Springbok, Steenbok, Gemsbok, Rhebok, etc.---all sound like something with antlers that will give you the business. And I've waxed poetic about the mighty Ibex in the past.

Other animals names are dismaying less descriptive, however, and a good example of how our scientist pals have let down the side. I immediately think of the Wombat, who has nothing batlike about him, but is more like a chubby raccoon that digs.

The wombat doing his thing; by Ed Nofziger, from Will Cuppy's classic How to Attract the Wombat.

Nutria don't even sound like animals---more like some diet supplement. Their other name, Coypu, still doesn't tell you that they are river rats. The Peccary strikes me as a condiment, or some stupid Dr. Seuss made-up word, not an actual pig. (Also called a Javelin, like that's any help.) And the Cassowary sounds like a French entree.

The Ocelot has always been a puzzler for me. It doesn't sound anything like a cat. I picture a sloth variety, or something more burly. Ocelot would have made a good name for a Wombat, now that I think about it, but life just isn't fair. It's a shame, because it's a cool name that lends itself to poetry:

When Ocelot was an Oceltot 
He was just an Ocelittle. 
Don't try to cuddle Oceltot
If scared he'll Ocelpiddle.

If you read Ocelot too quickly, you might see it as Octelot, as if he were an eight-legged sea creature. I don't even want to start on sea creatures. That will take you down the Bauscat hole (the Bauscat not being a cat, but a rabbit -- GAAH!).

All this has inspired me to write a poem, as you may have feared. Come on, you've read this far, might as well finish it off.

What the Ocelot Is Not

By Frederick Key

When the Wombat
Goes to combat
He bears not wings to beat;
And the Bongo
In the Congo
Peels no plantains with his feet.

The Dwarf Zebu
No stripes, all moo,
Still thinks she’s rather slim,
And the Banteng
(Always ranting)
Says she’s just the cow for him.

Some names simply wound us to the core.
Of the Dik-Dik we shall say no more.

Peccary dickory
Switches of hickory?
No, he's more pig than poke.
Nutria wishes
To sound less nutrishes
This rat doesn't think it's a joke.

Non-concave Cavy
Afraid to be gravy
Hopes Ocelot might be a fish,
But four legs and slinky
(Not eight arms and inky)
Makes Ocelot not what he’d wish.

No one knows what to make of Babirusa.
They try to be witty but it just ain't no usa.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

They call this living.

The living room, as I am just the latest to note, is surely the most poorly named room in the house, and that includes bathrooms that only have a toilet and sink.

You could, after all, bathe in the sink if you had to, or the toilet, I suppose, in some dire emergency. But to date no one has ever lived in a living room.

It's partly a definitional thing. If you take out the breakfront, the good furniture, and the expensive lamp so that you have a place you can throw the kids, it is no longer a living room. It is now a rumpus room. No rumpusing has ever occurred in a living room, either. Rumpus rooms, family rooms, playrooms, TV rooms, kids' rooms---these are all latter-day rooms developed to cope with that big dead spot called the living room.

In my youth, and I'm sure in many youths before and since, the living room was completely barred from living. Plastic coated the furniture in case anyone lived on it. Fences were put up to keep anyone alive from wandering in, generally any of the four-footed or small-footed creatures one finds in a home.

Pretty much everyone had them. Pic found on SodaHead.
But who would want to go into a room, especially on a warm, humid day, and sit on plastic? Getting up was like peeling a five-foot Band-Aid off your butt.

When you wanted to entertain, you might have guests in the living room. That's what it was for. But when you wanted to have fun, you brought them into the eat-in kitchen. The kitchen is always better.

Back in the days when the wake was held in the home of the deceased (and the family kept a vigil all night---thus the wake), where would you put the stiff? Damn straight---dead guy in the living room. So go figure that.

Couples starting out with their first home might bring the living room through many phases, none of which include life:

1) No kids -- no furniture, either. Room is empty or used for storage.

2) Furniture -- but young adults are used to hanging out in the kitchen anyway, where the beer and chips are.

3) Kids -- now the living room becomes a sealed-off place of mystery.

4) Older kids -- and now NO ONE goes in their anymore, ESPECIALLY YOU KIDS, because we WILL have nice things in this house, even if no one EVER SEES them.

5) Empty nest -- who needs this big house? Everything gets crammed into the living room-less retirement home/condo.

Maybe we should go back to calling them sitting rooms. At least it is possible to sit in them. Unlike living.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Raw death fish, anyone?

When I was a kid, if you offered to feed someone raw fish, they might offer to punch you in the nose. There'd probably be loud discussions about trichinosis and liver flukes or some other such things as well. The was no raw food movement. Civilized people knew how to make fire. Raw was for wild animals and wild people; the last decent person to survive on raw food on purpose was John the Baptist.

But by the time I was in college everyone was sucking down sushi as fast as they could get it. It was the 80's, when Japan was about to take over the world, and I guess we were preemptively surrendering the culture, starting with karaoke and sushi. That was before we knew about Japanese game shows, hikikomori, adult adoption, capsule hotels, and anime schoolgirls with the oversize chestal endowments of fully grown Vegas showgirls, and got to wondering whether atomic bomb fallout made people insane decades after the fact.

Anyway, despite the omnipresence of sushi in New York, I've managed to get this far in life without eating any. I'm not a big fish lover---many Americans aren't; there's probably more fish animosity here per capita than in any other country---but I will go for unchallenging fish like cod or tuna if it's cooked.

My wife, sushi fan that she is, thought she ought to break me in.

Yep, knitted me a sushi. Seaweed-wrapped, she said. Sprayed it with a ginger air freshener to make it more authentic.Very cute.

Well, I can't say for sure if I'd like the real thing yet, but this one tasted pretty good.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring and fall.

Spring has spring
The grass is green
Except for where
The dog's been peein'

(Names below have been changed to protect people who might be ashamed to have to admit they know me.)

Yesterday, Divine Mercy Sunday, was a merciful day in several ways. One was the spectacular June-like weather that descended on us. It started cold---Tralfaz's first run required the winter coat; the mid-morning called for a heavy jacket; at late morning, the light golf jacket. The whole neighborhood was out of doors in the afternoon, and T-shirts were the order of the day.

But by then, I was a little too stunned to enjoy it.

When I heard that morning that Pete had died, I was not surprised, just sad. Pete had been ill for a while. He'd had a serious blood disorder that could have killed him, except that its main danger was that it was preventing him from being able to receive the chemotherapy for the cancer that was indeed killing him. I'd seen him at the church on Tuesday and he looked rough, but the word was the blood problem was under control and he was about to begin chemo.

Never got the chance. Collapsed in the doctor's waiting room. Never regained consciousness.

Paul did not come to the church as expected on Tuesday, and I heard he'd hurt his shoulder playing tennis. Paul was born some years earlier than Pete, and even more before me, but unlike Pete or me he took good care of himself.

So when the massive heart attack carried him off, I had to wonder if heart failure was the actual source of the shoulder pain he'd been feeling.

Two men I'd known for a decade, gone within hours; one expected, one completely unexpected. Pete never took care of himself, and Paul did; Paul lived longer for it, and in a lot less fear of his health. But in the end, every one of us has to leave.

You just never know---everyone says that because everyone knows it's true.

When I pray for my friends, I always ask God to bless them all, and particularly the ones who need it the most. We never know who needs help the most. They never know who needs help the most.

And I certainly ask that God have mercy on them on Divine Mercy Sunday. Probably about as good a day to die as there is.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Apples to apples.

Ever since the huge and hugely popular Honeycrisp came out of Minnesota to conquer the produce aisle, appleologists of all stripes have been trying to come up with the next big apple. Not necessarily big in size, mind you, but big in dough-producing.

But size is not inconsequential.

Two that have popped up in the store recently are the Opal and the RubyFrost. No, not in the jewelry store, you silly person, in the food store where you buy food.

The Opal, a cross between the Topaz and the Golden Delicious, was quite tasty as an eating apple. (Yes, I know they're all eating apples; none are bricklaying apples or piano-playing apples. These are apples that are good for humans to eat raw. You are a silly person.) It's got that nice biteability that the Golden is known for, to coin a word. Or good mouthfeel, to use a word, coined by others, that I despise. This was a very tasty and sweet apple. with distinct notes of the harder Topaz. It was developed in Prague and grown in Washington state, which is probably why it looks so beat-up. It had a long way to go to get to my mouth. But it was worth the trip.

The RubyFrost, sorry to say, was less pleasant to eat. I found it tough, even more so than a Gala or Jazz, albeit with a similar refreshing taste. No surprise that the Web site for the apple shows it being served in thin slices, or cooked in recipes like a Granny Smith. So it's shaped like a Rome, is hard to eat, and tastes like two other extant cultivars. But it costs more than any of these.

No, I think the RubyFrost is not going to become as big as the Opal, and will not be anything like New York's answer to the Honeycrisp. It's a pity, because New York apple growers are always out to kick the butts of Washington's apple growers, and probably Minnesota's as an afterthought. They should stay focused on the McIntosh and the Macoun, which grow better in New York than anywhere. They may be lower-return-on-investment apples, but they're still awfully popular.

I sympathize, I truly do. It takes decades to develop a new apple; you don't just make some seeds, chuck them in a hole, and come back in a week. Trees are kind of a pain that way.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Batdog and robin.

As I've mentioned in the past, my dog wants to play with every living creature he encounters. Pedestrians on our block, other dogs, joggers, rabbits, squirrels... Our trips to the vet for antibiotics reveal that he does not even shun the lowly bacterium.

He also wants to make friends with birds, but it does not appear that the feeling of good fellowship is mutual. I have told him in the past that any bird you can catch is a bird you do not want to contact, but he doesn't understand. Or maybe he's hoping to get some of their bacteria to add to his collection. (He does enjoy their poop. Either way, he chases, they fly off. You can't just go up to a bird and grab it. Well, except for the Dodo, and look what happened to him.

Even our local fat li'l robin is too quick for any dogs, especially large, lumbering ones like Tralfaz.

I've also noted that Tralfaz would do very well in a live-action Batman film that needed someone to play Ace the Bat-Hound. He's large and intimidating to people who don't know that his goal in life is to lick people and acquire belly rubs. Or perhaps that's just his mild-mannered secret identity.

So maybe he's looking for a Robin of his own.

Batdog and Robin, with Robin played by an actual robin, sounds like a good addition to the next Batman movie. Can you honestly say it would have made the George Clooney film Batman & Robin worse?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

10 Thoughts on the Return of the Brontosaurus.

We're all very excited that the Brontosaurus is back. We missed him.

The big galoot has always been our favorite dinosaur, and those grumpy old killjoy scientists -- probably the same ones that dissed Pluto -- have been saying for more than a century that there was no such animal. Just three years ago, the Smithsonian was patting us on the head, saying that, yes, your large cuddly friend is important culturally but was just a dinosaur fairy tale. Well, grumpy old killjoy scientists, sucks to be you! Because new evidence says that our big ol' lugosaurus is back, baby, and better than ever.

In fact, here are ten reasons why the return of the Bronto is excellent news.

1. The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan always had two huge (literally) attractions for us kids on field trips: the life-size blue whale and the skeleton of the Brontosaurus. The latter was vast, it was bony, it was scary, and yet we were told it wouldn't have wanted to eat us if it were alive, preferring to eat the vegetables that we did not want to eat. We could have been pals with Brontosaurus. We were sorry he was dead. But man, was he big.

2. Of course we learned early on that dinosaurs and humans were not contemporaries, but The Flintstones showed us what life could have been like if we were. And if dinosaurs could sometimes talk and make wisecracks, and be domesticated. The Brontosaurus, of course, served as Fred Flintstone's earth mover; Fred slid down its back at quitting time. Then he got a pile of Bronto ribs that flipped over his car. Maybe the modern stone-age era would have been tough on our friend Brontosaurus, but we enjoyed seeing him interact with people.

3. Although Alley Oop's pet dinosaur Dinny was not a Brontosaurus, the one in the comic strip BC is. So once again BC kept the faith.

4. Let's face it: Brontosaurus is an excellent, powerful word. And it's almost better in the English translation: Thunder Lizard. I'm thinking of getting people to call me Thunder Lizard Key. But I'd probably have to get some tattoos.

5. We all remember that the dinosaur mentioned in the Monty Python sketch with John Cleese as Anne Elk was a Brontosaurus. And now we know her theory was right!

6. We know that science is not a popularity contest (in theory, anyway; if Galileo hadn't been a jerk he would have stayed out of trouble), but that doesn't mean scientists should be snotty. The more popular Brontosaurus became, the more the professionals hated him. And that just made us love him all the more. Who's laughing now, hmm?

7. We always saw Brontosaurus as the good brother to Tyrannosaurus Rex's bad brother; the Abel to his Cain; the Edwin to his John Wilkes; the Gallant to his Goofus. It might be fun to pretend to be Rex, roaring and stomping, but we knew he would eat us like a bag of Mammal Chips. All the other dinosaurs were interesting backup characters in the fight, especially Stegosaurus. We had him pegged as the game changer.

8. This Bronto news is a win for Othniel Charles Marsh, who discovered Brontosaurus and gave him his awesome name. There are not too many Othniels in this world, and we should cheer on whatever Othniels we can find.

9. But Othniel also named the Apatosaurus, which is what scientists had been calling all those Bronto remains. Apatosaurus just means "deceptive reptile," which is okay, but no Thunder Lizard. And "Apastosaurus" would never have worked as a name of a dance, the way the Move did (or tried to do, at least) with "Brontosaurus" in 1970:

10. How popular is Bronto? In addition to what I've mentioned, how about the old Sinclair Oil logo, the Land Before Time movies, a Fantasia appearance, a 1989 U.S. Postal stamp... and I've always imagined the Dinosaur in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth as a Brontosaurus. If he were an actor, Brontosaurus would be the hardest working reptile in showbiz. Chew on that, Godzilla!

During that 1989 postage stamp issue, where the post office got a lot of grief for using the name "Brontosaurus" on the stamp, the late Stephen Jay Gould wrote in "Bully for Brontosaurus," "Apatosaurus means 'deceptive lizard'; Brontosaurus means 'thunder lizard'---a far, far better name (but appropriateness, alas, as we have seen, counts for nothing). They have deceived us; we brontophiles have been outmaneuvered.... I retreat, not with a bang of thunder, but with a whimper of hope that rectification may someday arise from the ashes of my stamp album."

That day has now arrived.

So you can understand our enthusiasm. Now, maybe we can get to work on this Pluto thing. As comedian Larry Miller likes to say, "Homer is Homer, and Pluto is a planet." Stick that in your volcanic geyser and smoke it, grumpy old killjoy scientists!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

People who like sausages and enjoy blog posts should never watch either being made.

Now I'm going to get a whole town mad at me. But I don't care. Sometimes you have to nail your colors to the mast.

Johnsonville, your sausage mathematics do not add up.

Just look at this thing:

Five sausages in a package? Who puts five sausages in a package?

For years there was a running and stupid gag: why did hot dogs came eight to a pack and buns came 10 to a pack? I say stupid because I've only ever seen one pack of buns that had 10 rather than eight. But that's beside the point at the moment. What comes in five?

Supposedly the average American household contains 2.54 people now. Were you thinking that this package would be enough for two meals, Johnsonville? With the .54 person eating .5 of a sausage per meal? It doesn't work that way, Johnsonville. There's no such thing as .5 of a person. You're old enough to know that. Don't be so silly, Johnsonville.

Well, perhaps you thought that .54 person meant little Timmy, who is too young to eat a whole Italian sausage, or Grampa Jim, whose teeth are mostly gone and who only ever gets through half a sausage because it's so much work. You can't count on these things, Johnsonville. Timmy could be a teenager with a ravenous appetite, and Grampa could be a spry old chap skiing double black diamond trails, teeth be damned. Now where are you, eh, Johnsonville? Didn't see that coming, I'll wager!

Six sausages is the way to go, Johnsonville, even if each is smaller than these. A family of two gets three each. A family of three gets two each. A family of four gets one and half each, or one each with two left over for spaghetti sauce. A family of five would be pleased with your current arrangement, true, but that would not be the most common household.

Johnsonville, your sausage is delicious, but you need to reassess your demographics here. Summer is coming and people want sausage. Don't make me warn you again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

And the season is over!

Oh, just kidding. My beloved New York Mets had their away opener in Washington yesterday afternoon, and won, 3-1.

There have been bright spots (hi, R.A.!), but otherwise Mets have been close to unwatchable these last six years, at least by me. It's tough to feel, deep in your heart, that your guys are going to find a way to lose, every single day. There's been bad luck, some of which might be entirely self-inflicted. Matt Harvey's injury? Bad luck. Johan Santana's career-devastating injury following his no-hitter? Bad luck. The Wilpons getting involved with Bernie Madoff? Bad luck. Signing guys to pricey contracts and watching them turn into complete stooges? Bad luck. At some point you have to wonder whether there is a unifying or defining factor to all these unlucky happenings. Even the Harvey and Santana injuries. When Ike Davis got hurt in 2011, and it turned into a horrible, boot-wearing mess that ended the season and took months to resolve, someone on the radio mentioned other players who had had similar injuries and had come back much faster. And maybe the Mets have a lousy medical team. And that's been on my mind every time someone gets a nagging injury or an injury that seems minor and turns into a crisis.

Even Mr. Met dislocated his shoulder, I heard.

Last summer I was driving home by myself after a summer soiree, and I turned on the radio. The Mets-Giants game was just starting, and some kid named deGrom was pitching against the formidable (but very unlucky in '14) Frisco righty Jake Peavy. I always enjoy listening to Howie Rose call the games (although I'll always miss Bob Murphy), so I settled in as the miles peeled by, ready to change the station at the first sign of an outbreak of Total Mets Stoogeness (TMS), which can strike suddenly and send a game out of reach in minutes.

The game turned into a mighty pitchers' duel, the like of which you rarely see anymore. Inning after inning, no hits. No walks until the fifth. I clenched the wheel every time deGrom took the mound, expecting TMS and an eight-run inning. But it never happened. Peavy blinked first, in the seventh, allowing a double to Daniel Murphy. The Mets finally broke out some lumber, and scored four. DeGrom did allow two runs and left in eighth, but the Mets went on to win 4-2. It was the best game I'd listened to in many years. Even if deGrom had blinked first and the score had been reversed, it would have been an excellent game, well worth the time.

And that's it, isn't it? Time is so precious now; we have so many responsibilities, so many leisure options, that we don't want to waste time on a team that isn't even trying and a management that doesn't know what it's doing, or even care. And that's what it's been like, feeling as if no one cares, having to watch fan fave David Wright waste his career with a crap ball club the way Mattingly did when the Yankees stunk. But not that night last August. That game was good company on the road. That game was fun. And deGrom went on to win NL Rookie of the Year.

So I'll be a more enthusiastic fan this season, even thought I'm sure there will be plenty of TMS outbreaks along the road. I think this team looks like it wants to achieve something, and believes it just might. Fingers crossed -- Let's Go, Mets!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guys who dig chicks.

I love Easter, but one of the things that concerns me about the way we celebrate is when people give animals as gifts, especially to children who can't possibly be expected to care for them. Rabbits are not great for small kids, and in many ways are not what people want in a pet. Dogs and cats are predators, and may look up to you as the boss predator. Rabbits are prey, and may expect to become lunch.

Worse than that are baby chicks. Carnival goldfish are probably more likely to live to a ripe old age than an Easter basket chick. And under the best of conditions, chicks make terrible pets. Sure, they look cute at first.

But after you slavishly devote time to bringing it up, what do you have? A nasty ol' bird that craps on everything.

If you got a chick for Easter and you don't live on a farm, or you gave one to someone who doesn't live on a farm, do the right thing. Get that baby bird somewhere where it will grow up to be a healthy, happy adult.

And then we can have it for lunch!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

And he's fur-ocious.

These days, even the Easter Bunny finds it advantageous to keep an attorney on retainer.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Emergency cookie ration.

The other week at the grocery store I bought a box of Grandma's Cookies, a box with 10 lunch-size bags. I'd been instructed NOT to get any dessertlike foods, as we were all about to lose weight and get healthy. Of course, I knew that was likely to fail, and given enough stress an all-out cookie attack could happen. It was safer to have something in the house. Something not that great, but something that still fell within the definition of cookie.

These barely qualified.
Below the level of Oreos, below cult classic Hydrox, the lowly Grandma's Sandwich Cremes labor in lunchboxes and gas station checkout lines. How lame are they? Pretty lame. The Creme is acceptable, but the cookie itself tastes like nothing, or nothing with a sprinkling of chocolate, and have the consistency of a spoonful of corn meal. They totally fail the "How Happy" test.*

Who is Grandma and why does she inflict crummy cookies on us?

"Grandma" is a Frito-Lays brand, so I guess they taste like what you'd expect cookies made by the manufacturers of potato chips and corn chips to taste like. I'm not exactly crushed that there's no Grandma at Grandma's; there's no Betty Crocker, no Uncle Ben, and there was never an Ann Page. And I should mention that, tragically, some genuine grandmothers make cookies that are lousy.

The best part of Grandma's is the Web site, which---like those of a lot of companies that make unhealthy foods that aren't really tasty---is a lot of fun. You can't sell it on health, or on quality, so sell it on fun. Hey, at least you're getting some fun out of it. I hear we're low on fun in this country.

Grandma's had been around in Portland, Oregon, since 1914 (according to Portland: A Food Biography by Heather Arndt Anderson). No word on whether the cookies stunk back then. Frito-Lays writes on its site: "Like your own grandmother, Grandma’s® will always be there to help boost your day. That’s why in 1980, we welcomed the brand to the Frito-Lay family and 'she' has helped us spread joy nationwide for more than 30 years. Today, Grandma’s is one of the top cookie brands in the U.S."

So they don't try to pretend that there is a Grandma and these are her family recipes. And I'm not surprised that it's one of the top cookie brands; it has a distribution powerhouse behind it. I can't start a cookie company and get my products into every supermarket and convenience store in the country. Frito-Lays can!

Don't try to use your own grandmother's recipes to start a cookie company and call it Grandmother's or something, by the way. Frito-Lays took Utz to the woodshed over their Grandma Utz's Cookies line. I don't know what happened, but the Utz site no longer has any cookies on it. Dun dun dunnnnn...

Anyway, if this is the kind of thing you like, you'll like this kind of thing. We didn't, but we ate them anyway. It was a bad cookie attack.


*The "How Happy" test is: How happy would I be with this if I made it myself? The answer here: Not very. By comparison -- How happy would I be if I made cookies in the Pepperidge Farm Dessert Shop line? Pretty doggone happy. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Religious bigotry, I call it!

So I went into the local kosher deli and demanded a ham sandwich.

"I'm sorry, we don't serve ham," said the snarky, smarmy, prejudicial deli owner.

"WHAT?" I said. "I'm a customer and I demand a ham sandwich."

"We don't even have any ham here."

"Well, you'd better get some!"

"I can't!"

"But you're not even trying!"

Finally he admitted the truth: "We can't have ham here! It's a kosher deli!"

"So what?"

"So, we're not allowed to have ham!"

"Says who?"

"Our dietary laws forbid ham."

"Ooooh, so your ancient and crusty old religious rules, invented by some toothless impotent old white men, force you to discriminate against ham sandwich eaters, is that it?"

He shook his head like he was tired, but I knew he was just brimming with hate. "Listen, mister, I'd like to help, but one thing I can't do is give you a ham sandwich, all right?"

"Sure!" I said. "Haters gotta hate, right? How about a lobster roll, or are you hating on that too?"

"Say," he said, now suspicious, "are you here just to pick on us? You must know shellfish isn't kosher either."

"What I know is, you'll be hearing from the ACLU!"

"The what? Hey, fella---"

"You get me my ham sandwich or you'll be sorry!"

"But... what about religious liberty? You can't force me to give you ham and lobster!"

"The ACLU doesn't care about religious liberty anymore!" I cried, playing my trump card. "No one does! You're discriminating against me, and I'll sue! All the courts and the entire weight of the federal government stand behind me!"

Now he looked nervous. "Why should all those people care what kind of business I run?"

"You're impinging on my freedom. Is this what we fight and die for? We supposedly spread freedom elsewhere while losing it here?"

"You're in the military?"

"Well, no," I said, realizing my rhetorical error. "I'm an adherent of the Sciencey Church of Atheism, and we believe war is an evolutionary throwback. I'm a conscientious objector."

"Wait a second---so the government couldn't make you pick up a gun if an enemy was marching into town, but it will use force to make me to give you a ham sandwich?"

"I see what you did there!" I spat. "This isn't about me!" (But of course it was. Me! Whee!) "This is about your prejudice! There will be consequences for your bad thoughts!"

"Listen, please!" he said, waving his hands. "There's no need to get excited. Look, there's a Subway down the street, and a Blimpie two blocks east; they'll give you all the ham you could want. I'll call them and tell them to make something nice, okay?"

"You're a bigot!" I screamed, really getting into it now. Oh, you should've seen me. "Where's your lunch counter? I'm going to sit there until you give me a ham sandwich! Just like we did in the old days in the south!"

"You did? You don't look old enough---"


"But I would have served the black people! Just not ham! It's against my religious law! Isn't there any tolerance for religion anymore?"

"You're the intolerant one!" I hollered. "First we're going to get the gym teacher to burn this place down. Then we're going to get Apple and Walmart to refuse service to you. Then we're---where are you going?"

"I'm closing the store," he said with a sigh, turning his sign around. "Probably forever."

Another victory for me! Me, the ACLU, and all the others who put down this so-called religious tolerance and enforce conformity!

But strangely, when I went to demand a ham sandwich at the Halal place down the street, no one came to back me up.

Freedom of religion. Feh. Whoever heard of such a thing? Like something bad could ever happen without freedom of religion.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Up for what?

Bud Light's current campaign says that it is "Up for Whatever."

I'm not sure what that means. Who's up for what? The beer is up for whatever? Of course it is; it's beer. What's it going to do, complain?

Maybe it's the people who drink the stuff that are supposed to be up for whatever. That would seem to be the idea behind the "hidden camera" commercial where the guy (a real guy! Really! He has no idea what's going on!) gets thrown into a real-life Pac Man game. See? He didn't say, "No, man, I gotta work in the morning, I can't be out late playing Pac Man." He didn't say, "Yo, I left my baby in the car, I gotta go." He said, "I am drinking Bud Light and I am up for whatever." That's the spirit.

I have my doubts. Not about the Pac Man thing; I'm sure that was totally legit. No way did he and his pals notice the construction site with the humongous coin slot and the thousands of screaming people with floodlights and miles of neon until they got inside. No, I just think the definition of "whatever" is a lot less elastic than the Bud Light people might have us believe.

For example, here are 13 things off the top of my head that I suspect they would not be up for:

  • Mass
  • Visit to Grandpa in the home
  • Lecture on Polynesian anthropology
  • Work
  • An hour in a Christian Scientist reading room
  • Cleaning the gutters
  • Babysitting hyperactive toddlers
  • Watching the soaps with Ma
  • Limburger-eating contest
  • Attending a performance of the Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in B minor by Wilhelm Furtwängler
  • Root canal
  • Memorizing The Iliad
  • Attending a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous 

And some of those they should undoubtedly not be up for, anyway.

Not to say that people shouldn't drink Bud Light and have a good time. If you can do it without getting yourself or others in trouble, and you think Bud Light has good (or any) taste, don't let me stop you.

I'm just hoping one day to see a commercial where a guy comes on the TV screen with a bottle and says, "You would like drinking Schnorblatz. It tastes good." And walks off.

I would become a strong Schnorblatz supporter.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy April Cognitively Impaired Day.

Last year I railed against the stupidity of April Fool's Day, using naughty words and angry language. I'm happy to report that I hate it even more this year. Not that anyone pulled any pranks on me, or that I've suffered some tragedy that made me mean. No, I'm just full of hate for stupid things.

Then again, that kind of fury has a tendency to spill over onto other things.

"HELLO, $@&*$@# SUN! HELLO, $*&@)# BIRDS! TIME TO START THE #$&)@(!% DAY!" is how I get out of bed.

"Surely THIS is your April Fool's joke," you say. "Fred, you are so full of sweetness and light, not to mention sunshine and lollipops, that you must be joshing. With jolly japes."

Well, thank you, Imaginary Reader Man, but no, I'm mad mad mad. Why am I so filled with bile?

Oh, I don't know. I feel like I'm surrounded by stupidity, yes. I feel like a goldfish in a bowl that's been completely neglected. You don't notice for a while that the environment is getting worse, until suddenly it's choking you to death. The stupidity is also coupled with an enormous sense of righteousness and entitlement, which makes it much harder to penetrate. I mean, I'm no genius, but at least I'm aware of that, and grateful for the good things in my life (when I'm not being mad).

Still, as a fellow I used to know liked to say, "You spot it, you got it." The things I hate most in others are the things I hate most in myself, in other words.

If that's true, than what I hate most in myself is willful ignorance, pettiness, selfishness, spite, and ingratitude. Mostly I hate using others as mere props to puff up my own ego, then. And I can believe that I possess these qualities in abundance.

So by hating all these people, I'm just projecting my self-hatred. It's an extroversion of my inner disgust. It's not everyone's fault for being disgusting; it's mine for projecting my own grossness.

It's one thing to say "Nobody's perfect" when someone behaves like an ass, but I think we usually don't mean it. We think we're pretty great, and definitely superior for being able to (condescendingly) forgive the ass. It's another to realize just how awful we are. How awful I am.

Not sure that this is reassuring, however. Why, if you people don't have me to set you straight, to provide a design for living by example, how are you ever going to get your acts together?