Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

What is & what was

OK, right off the bat, let me clear this up. The quote is correct as I have written it in the title. Most people think that the word methinks begins the quote when, in fact, it ends the quote. Don't EVEN think you can quote Shakespeare to me incorrectly. Of course, in Hamlet's day, the meaning of protest was to affirm instead of deny as we use it today. It is in the non-Shakespearean manner that I use it. Having cleared all that up, let's move on.
Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hanna Montana is a far bigger bs'er than Britney Spears, and I'm far less gullible than I used to be. In an attempt to deflect the firestorm coming her way as a result of the "Lolita"-like pose on the cover of Vanity Fair, she claims to be embarrassed by the way the photo turned out (slutty, in my opinion, given the fact that she's all of FIFTEEN!). She is trying to get folks to believe that she never intended to look as if she just arose, naked, from a session of the mattress mambo; this, in spite of the fact that she claimed at one point that the photo was "artsy." ("Art" films meant something racy when I was a kid)
Pity all those preteens who mortgaged their Barbie collections just to get the several hundreds of dollars to see her live in concert this past summer(in which, by the way, she used a body double at one point!). Pity their mothers who now have to explain that it's probably NOT alright for their daughters to even pretend to be Cyrus at this point, much less go to Galmour Shots and have photos taken just like this or have "Hanna Look-Alike" themes for a birthday party or a sleepover.
All of this is not new, of course, and that's why I find it so heinous. We somewhat fell for this when Britny morphed from Mousketeer to deranged flasher (sorry, I promised myself I wouldn't pile on someone who obviously has come off the top rope onto herself!). Now, ANOTHER teen pop star is about to make the jump into "adult" music and begins with a daring photo shoot...then claims to be embarrassed by the result? Fool me once, shame on you, etc. etc. As if the millions scraped from the bottoms of young girls' piggy banks and sofa cushions weren't enough! (Of course, when one realizes that Beyonce was once a porn actress, I guess any publicity is good publicity).
So, I'm not buying the "apology." Annie Lebovitz, noted photographer for such expose-type shots, indicated that Cyrus AND her parents looked over the digital photos and agreed to use them. In one article, I read that Cyrus's "handlers" were on stage at all time...I thought of all the animals Johnny Carson used to bring on his show that had "handlers." Who has handlers at 15, and why weren't they handling this raunchy...oops...artsy photo shoot...and one of her lying across her father's lap in a somewhat suggestive pose? Even Hamlet would have objected to that. (Not protested, mind you, because it meant something different then).
Will this be too much for Disney, especially after the "High School Musical" nude pics on the internet? Will EVERY star now be created at Pixar studios? Should this even be a big deal? I dunno...maybe we just needed something to spice up the news.
But remember this the next time YOU stand in front of a camera lens: the camera doesn't lie...unlike its subjects

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NOT Lance

Sometimes it's difficult to let go of the past, and the older one gets, the more "past" there is to let go of. I've oft been quoted (mostly by myself) as saying, "The older you get, the better you used to be." This is an unquestionable fact proven every day and night in bars, rec leagues and man caves throughout this country, if not throughout the world. Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" should be, like, the pregame music for almost every athletic activity not involving professional athletes. I should get it on my iPod and play it over and over and over, ad infinitum. But guys like Jeff just won't let me fade into the sunset.
Lance Armstrong had barely finished this year's Boston Marathon when Jeff alertly emailed me to note that my Boston marathon time was far better than Armstrong's and implying that, if I really wanted to, I could pound Lance into the pavement. Comparing my Boston time on 1984 to Armstrong's this year is a bit like comparing a Sopwith Camel to a Stealth bomber: both good in their time, but which one would YOU select to stand behind?. I mean, I was the male athlete of the year a total of...NO TIMES, compared to Lance's seven. I've seen crows but never dated anyone named "Crow" (or Sheryl, for that matter). I survived a tonsillectomy, six knee operations and an aneurysm; he almost died of cancer. Still, times don't lie, and the distance remains the same over the exact same makes me wonder...
On the other hand, here is the final word on the recent "race" in which I competed. After all the results were tallied, I finished 3rd among males in my age group (55+). To add more humble pie to the mix, I finished behind a total of five people in that several minutes, at that. Truly humbling. Momentarily, thanks to my buddy Jeff, I thought that if I started training NOW, I could beat a couple of those old-timers NEXT spring...providing no newcomers jump into that age group. After all, who wouldn't want a sweet medal in the shape of a phoenix for his or her chest?
Of course, if I don't tell anyone about the others, I could claim to have won the race in record time, (instead of missing a PR by more than 10 minutes!)proving that I CAN get better as I get older.
Glory days, indeed. Thanks, Jeff.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weighty Matters Considered

Seriously, it's not that I've gained flab or extra pounds, even though I need a different-sized waist for pants now (or an elastic waistband). The scales continue to tip in my favor though my exercise plan of Little Debbies and running my mouth really hasn't resulted in the desired effects. But, as the Pharisees were wont to say, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not like these..."
Broderick Lowell is actually upset that he's losing weight...and he's losing a LOT of weight. He's down to just a shade over 300 pounds while in September he weighed in at a hefty 413. He's even filed a suit (vest not included)claiming the Benton County, Arkansas, people have been negligent, resulting in his weight dropping. See, he's a prisoner in the Benton County Jail and has been since, you guessed it, September. He claims that the jail folks are trying to starve him with an inadequate diet. The jail people claim to be giving him 3,000 calories a day (this in a country where the average is around 2,000). The fact that none of the meals is a hot meal weighs heavily (pun intended)in his suit as well. Couple that with the fact that he gets no exercise to speak of (other than that of exercising his constitutional rights), and Lowell insists that his diet is the culprit. Speaking of culprits, he's incarcerated for murder. More fortunate is a guy who really needs to remain nameless.
This man bet his friend that he could get down to 200 pounds sooner than his buddy. The loser would have to mow the winner's yard wearing a dress. The plan revolved around construction of the "man cave," a basement room all guys need in order to undertake hobbies, show off decorating skills and fulfill their every tech need. (As an aside, the man cave at my house has a "Love Shack" sign over the entrance). Anyhow, Robert Klein (oops) spent roughly six hours a day in contruction, and approximately a year later was down to 208. Unfortunately, his buddy was at 198, necessitating a LawnBoy moment, er, half hour. The secret to losing weight? Working instead of sitting on the couch and working instead of eating chips. The wives got together to make the dress out of TWO other dresses. Needless to say, you won't see that photo. Even I have standards of decency.
By any stretch(mark) of the imagination, my belt-loosening issue isn't all that serious, at least not in comparison.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Best of Times

Seriously! a church!

The new Paul McCartney on the altar of ROCK!

It was the perfect grandparent's dream: sitting in the audience of a grade school musical performance, sitting through class after class of youngsters awaiting that perfect moment during which the "perfect" grandchild comes out and wows the crowd with an incredible performance. Interestingly enough, I think I've forgotten all of those moments which involved our own children, but this will not be left in obscurity. My wife, however, grew nostalgic as she envisioned all the past performances in anticipation of this latest one.
What made this interesting was the route we took to get there. Hopping aboard a standby flight in Green Bay at 4 p.m. we managed to arrive in Cleveland by 6 p.m. EDT. Rushing to the performance, I was astounded to find that the musical revue was to be presnted in a church! Not the church basement or the church hall, but the church itself: altar, statues, pews, etc. This place was an actual church. I felt a bit odd seeing a life-sized photo of Elvis adorning the altar area, and assorted other pictorial memories of the 50's and 60's (the theme of the musical performance) adorning the pews. Photos will be available in a couple of days. Wierd, definitely wierd!
However, when the 25 or so first-grader Beatles impersonators took the stage(aisle), all was forgotten. Beatles' wigs and all-black outfits were worthy of any movie, and I swear American Idol udge Simon Crowell gave them a thumbs up for their three numbers.
Following selections from all the classes, the ensemble sang "Hello,Goodbye" and people wept unabashedly. If only the moderator of the evening had not stopped to thank every single person in the world for his or her contribution, the evening would have been an unqualifie sucess.
Peewee soccer was the Saturday morning activity, and the Parma Dudes routed some hapless team 8-1 with the next David Beckham scoring four times.
Next up? Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees at The Jake (aka Progressive Field). This could be the perfect weekend.
Meanwhile, it's snowing back in Wisconsin!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tempus Fugit

I know what I wanted out of the day. I had no expectations of grandeur or even mild surprise. The body is capable of some amazing things, but I knew mine was not going to pull off any surprises; and I was right. Looking back, I wonder if there wasn't just a tinge of disappointment even though there was no reason for it. My mind would simply not let go of its tenuous hold on irrationality.
I "ran" a 5K race this past weekend as something of a corollary to a running class offered by the university. During the week, I attend Coach Kline's running class whenever I do not have an appointment with a student; I run with the slower students, giving encouragement and tidbits of what might pass for running knowledge. They enjoy it, and I get some casual exercise...staying in the back yet secretly "knowing" that I could run up front with the faster students...there's just no need to prove it (he said as others winked and nodded knowingly).
So, when the fundraiser for the cross country team came up, I convinced a group of students to participate by saying I'd hang back in the back with them until they felt strong enough to move up: a great plan, I thought. What I did not consider was the years of inbred attitude training I'd done. Physically? No way could I expect to race, particularly after "training" at such a slow pace.
On race day, I was relieved to feel no nervous tension; I didn't warm up other than stretching, I didn't do the customary wind sprints to ready my every nerve for explosive action, and I started in the back with a few students who'd never raced before, after the customary five trips to the bathroom!
Eventually, most of the other students left two of us behind as they sought a more competitive atmosphere, and I was comfortable with the idea. Seeing little kids and other people ahead of me that I would have destroyed "back in the day" didn't bother me, and my partner for the day who was running in a race for the first time and I made steady progress, passing a few people and never getting passed (the benefit of starting dead last!). The hills were small though they felt a lot bigger. Our splits were very even for the entire race, averaging just about what we had planned my partner could run; the whole thing was uneventful in spite of the fact that my breathing was a bit irregular due to absolutely no real training at all...until...
We were about 50m from the finish line, running smoothly with no real idea of a frantic finish to place 130th instead of 131st. Just to the side of the path stood a runner who had finished already, and he said to someone eveidently close to us, "Come on. You can take them!" End of normalcy; I was determined that anyone who was behind us would finish in that position so I immediately picked up the pace--not the embarrassing sprint of the last-place finisher--but the acceleration barely noticed by casual onlookers. Of course, about this time, my right calf muscle created a nuisance by screaming with pain (for all the good it did). Look back? Never! Some things just aren't done.
Result? A painful muscle for a couple of days, a finish time at least ten minutes off my personal best, and the small satisfactions of seeing a kid enjoy the first race...and not getting passed in a stretch kick. Some things are everlasting, no matter how much we think they are gone forever.
Thomas Wolfe would simply shake his head as if to say, "Hey, idiot! I said you could never go home again." I know, I know, but it IS somewhat sad.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

NetFlix Or The Opera?

I don't know Italian. Let's get that straight from the outset. I took Latin and French in high school, and I can do Sesame Street Spanish (and order beer in Mexico..oh yeah, I know the word for "ice cream" and the word for "snow" is the same in Mexico--"nieve"). But Italian, not even close. Sophia Loren is about it.
Thus, it has been a real sticking point in my cultural advancement: I mean, why go to the opera if I can't understand what the hell they're singing about? I would just sit and wait until the "fat lady sings" then get up and leave. However...
this week I was presented with the golden operatic opportunity: opera done in English! A student production of "L'Orfeo" was being performed on campus, and several of the students I tutor were going as an axtra credit assignment. I knew what the story was about since we'd read "Orpheus" in high school (as, I'm sure, you did). Thus, it seemed like an inexpensive opportunity to get a bit cultured, in spite of the fact that Ryun insisted that it was NOT opera unless it was performed in English. "Hell, Dad, you're going to a musical! Just don't tell anybody it was done in English, or you'll be laughed out of Mensa," was his take on it. I had to agree that the substitution of English for Italian WAS a sticking point, but this was Green Bay after all...sacrifices must be made.
Normally, I'm a NetFlix kind of guy, but that's not very highbrow. Having experienced Montiverde's masterpiece (thought to be among the first Italian operas EVER), I feel qualified to make the comaprison between opera and NetFlix in case you are ever faced with the dilemma of deciding between the two.

NetFlix: $10.95 a month...comes right to the house...mailperson takes it movie every four days...big screen TV...really comfy snuggling couch...popcorn, juice, etc. readily available...action can be paused for bathroom break...always in English or subtitled...I can fall asleep if the movie is boring...I can watch in my jammies...

The Opera (or "musical"): $7.00 per ticket( as I said, it IS Green Bay where you can't even take a tour of Lambeau for 7 bucks)...I must drive to campus (1.5 mi.) performance on rare occasions...HUGE stage chock full of people, dancers, Greek chorus, etc....relatively comfy seating, especially since the crowd was small and I could get an aisle seat without elbowing somebody out of the way or whining...absolutely NO damn snacks whatsoever (if this is typical, somebody is missing out on a goldmine) break after the second act for bathroom services, but NO DAMN SNACKS... even in English, I had no idea what most of the singers were trying to tell me so I just watched the ballerinas flit about being trees or fluttering a sheet for the River Styx...all the clapping between acts kept me awake; though, in truth, it was actually an interesting story...I dressed up a bit for this one, meaning no athletic shoes or T-shirt.

So...all in all, I thought it was 'way better than some of the crappy movies I've been getting from NetFlix, but I think I'm going to have to pass on the Italian versions...unless there are snacks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vindicated? or Still A Nutjob?

I really had to chuckle with irony lately when I came across BusRadio. It took me 'way back to my days as a caring, dedicated educator who was dismissed as a crackpot for daring to suggest that Channel One and Coke in our school was not a desirable thing. My complaint then was the same one being raised now in New York, Vermont, Massachussets and South Carolina...but enough about me...for the time being.
Being a bus driver has to be almost the hardest job in the world: transporting kids to a place many of them would rather avoid at ungodly hours, then returning them home long after their classmates have plunked themselves down in front of the mass media machines (like the alliteration?) of the latest generation. Trying to keep the rowdies, the bullies, the kids taking and/or selling medication under control is a daunting task. Some, like my friend Sylvia, takes along songbooks and gets the children to sing Christmas carols during that season. Corny? Maybe, but it works for her. What she does when it's not Christmas, I don't know. She, however, like most bus drivers, has found the magic bullet: music. Someone wrote something about "soothing the savage breast" (or beast, I don't remember). It's simple: noise? no tunes. Quiet? tunes play. It seems foolproof; and BusRadio intends to make money from that idea.
Much like Sirius radio (and XM before the merger), BusRadio equips buses with $2,000 worth of equipment and plays slect songs from a playlist of about 1,000 tunes every day. There are playlists for each level (grade, middle and high) and the songs rotate daily. Seems like a good idea, especially when the company kicks in 5% of their revenue to the school systems. Aha! you say! There is a catch...and, being the kind of erudite individual who reads high-class blogs like this one, you know it. Like Channel One (which provided free television sets to schools) and Coca Cola (which provided money AND, AS A BONUS, legions of caffeine-addicted, high fructose corn syrup-fattened preteens and teens with an imprinted brand identification) BusRadio uses advertisers to provide the service, making our students unwilling participants in consumerism.
Years after I was labeled a kook, soda companies voluntarily took their product out of schools as a result of withering criticsm (not that school boards would sacrifice the money readily), and now parents are beginning to get active in their resistance to having advertisements repeated daily on the bus (disguised as entertainment designed to keep the children quiet) to impressionable kids.
Don't bother responding with all the idiotic comments like, "Well, this is one way to support the enrichment programs for our students." or "Well, without this money, we'll just have to reduce the art and music programs and give kids physical education only a couple of times a week." I've heard all of it, and those claims are bogus. "Oh sure, it's easy for YOU to say since your incredible teaching salary took all the money we could have spent on our kids." Yeah, yeah...I was the one who listened to the kids when they struggled with parents or bullies or teachers or (the list is endless). I was the one who came in early and stayed after in order to work individually with a child and took classes every summer (and paid for them out of my pocket)so I could be better for those kids. (wow...sounds a bit bitter, doesn't it?)
Selling our kids was not right years ago, and it is not right now. They have enough to do just to get through school...they should not have to pay for it,too.
Besides, most of them have an iPod and a cell phone anyway.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Having babies hurts; there is no doubt about it. I've watched it happen and could hardly stand it myself...I guess that's why I was told to "sit there and don't move." Having had an abdominal surgery, I can relate somewhat to those women who have endured a C-section delivery. Yeah, it hurts, and it takes a heck of a long time to get over it. However, in the case of childbirth, there is a wonderful reward at the end, at least until the child becomes a treenager. Thus, the pain is bearable (pun intended) in this case.
Not so for "manly" pain. Not only must one endure the agony, he has to listen to the snickers or outright guffaws of anyone standing nearby when that "low blow" happens. It certainly happens often enough that we don't forget the excruciating pain and waves of instant nausea that accompany such a shot; but, would you (meaning guys) endure that in order to further science? I witnessed just such a sacrifice the other day on a television program titled "Sport Science." Honest.
While everyone knows that the pulse rises with exercise, reseachers wondered if it could be made to rise to much higher levels if a subject was doing nothing but standing still?
The point of the experiment was to determine whether or not a man's pulse would rise to unreasonable levels when faced with the imminent prospect of being hit in the groin, in this case, with a tennis ball moving at 60 m.p.h. Again, let me emphasize: I AM NOT KIDDING!

There were three readings taken of the test subject's pulse:
1. standing upright in a normal situation; our test subject's pulse was about 90, I believe.
2. standing upright behind an unbreakable glass panel while the experimenters lined up the ball-throwing apparatus so it would hit the exact "spot" needed for the experiment. As the experimenter marked various spots with yellow tape, the subject's pulse rose to 145 b.p.m.
3. standing upright, getting hit "right where it counts" with a tennis ball, followed by rolling in agony on the floor for several minutes as the pulse climbed to an almost unbelievable 185 b.p.m.

To the incredible delight of the experimenters, this was scientific proof that a pulse could be raised to unbelievable levels WITHOUT EXERCISE! (Of course, anyone who's just had the crap scared out of him or her could have told them that, but NO, they had to hit a guy in the nads to prove it.
Fortunately, a medic was on hand to provide an ice bag, and the test subject was able to somewhat "walk it off" though no details were given as to his condition over the next few days.
I'll say right here and now that I did not laugh or even snicker. I have too much empathy for that; however, any guy dumb enough to stand there for THAT probably deserves to get laughed at.
That type of reality TV is simply too real for me. "Sport Science," indeed. (Sunday, 9 p.m. FSN)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bartman Revisited in the Bronx

Poor Gino...he's definitely on his way out of the Bronx. If he's lucky, he won't get the @%** kicked out of him as the latest Steinbrenner-in-charge has suggested. His family will be hounded, and he'll probably get tossed from the union though it's certain that there's a place for him in BeanTown. Why all the fuss?
In case you are not part or party of the "The Nation vs The Universe" feud, it's all about Yankees vs Red Sox. We had to listen forever to the people in Boston whine about no World Series wins because of the "Curse of the Bambino." Now that they've won twice in four years, the talk is strangely gone. However, Gino, a construction worker from the Bronx and diehard Boston fan, decided to bury a David Ortiz jersey in the concrete which made up the floor of the visitor's dugout in the new Yankee Stadium in hopes of instilling a curse on the Yankee Universe. Of course, he could NOT keep something like that to himself (he IS a Boston fan, after all...much like Bill Simmons)so the word spread, and The Universe was in a tizzy. Hank decides that other construction workers (probably not including the guy in The Village People even though The Village is in New York) should do grievous bodily harm to the guy while Yankees preident Randy Levine called it a "bad, dastardly act."
I thought it was funny though the Yankees did not, paying construction workers to jackhammer the suspected concrete into bits until the jersey was a cost of many thousands of dollars, union scale being what it is these days!
So, now The Universe is again safe, and the jersey will be sent to Boston along with a "Yankee Universe" T-shirt to be auctioned off to benefit the Jimmy Fund.
Funny thing, though: the day the jersey is removed, A-Rod goes 4-5 with a home run and 3 RBI's after stinking up the place in Boston over the weekend. Johnny Damon hits like he's supposed to, and Robinso Cano hits a pinch-hiot home run to win a game!
Jinx? Curse? Maybe not, but I, for one, am glad it's over. All can be right with the world again...except for the recession, the food shortage, the gouging of gasoline prices, the worlwide wars that are occurring and the fact that it's still damned cold here in the middle of April.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Camera Shy? I'm Not Buying It.

Why do we slow down at traffic accidents, fires and assorted unfortunate circumstances which happen to others? Glad that it's not us? Rubbernecking as entertainment? I'm not sure, but it's the same reason we watch hockey and NASCAR, I'd suspect: bad things happening to other people. That's why the Florida beating case has gotten so much publicity. People really want to revel, perhaps, in the unreal fortune of others. This photo is one of 25 to be found on the website of the Chicago Tribune...and I looked at all 25: some were mugshots with the requisite height scale behind them...some were of the initial court appearance for each...and the most poignenat were of the family members of the girls who will be tried in the case. Those photos made me sad since I could only imagine how painful the whole ordeal must be for parents and family. With the evidence out on the web for everybody to see, and post-beating photos sure to follow,there isn't much hope of a plea deal. As for the perps? They've suddenly become camera shy.
Fame must have gone to their heads already...certainly these chicks weren't afraid to be on camera when they were pounding on a single girl for 30 minutes in the Florida "Cheerleader beating" case. All of a sudden, the millions of hits on YouTube have turned them into shy teens? Uh, no.
I just cannot wait to hear
a) what they were thinking in order to justify such an act.
b) what they were thinking when they posted the video on the internet.
c) what they think about the punishment they are about to get...I hope.
True, the juvenile frontal lobe is not fully developed and gives reason for miguided acts; however, 30 minutes of basically uninterrupted violence? Somebody HAD to have had a cogent thought during that time.
Truth will probably be MUCH stranger than fiction in this case.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In the Nick of Time

Jolita Berry might never become a household name, but she should become a symbol for what's wrong in public education. Now that I'm thoroughly ensconced in the ivory towers of higher education, I seem to be the token representative of the "American education system in public schools." I get asked all the time which candidate for president will do the best to reform the public education system, and I have to say that they all think they can, but I'll bet they won't. Understand, while I was educated in private schools until college, I have been a part of the system of public education for more than 30 years...a direct, involved, front-line part. Not so the candidates. Talk is cheap..."Help people like Jolita" is my first response to them.
Is throwing money at the problem the answer? No. Merit pay? Not really. "No Child Left Behind"? A joke. Help people like Jolita and hundreds if not thousands of others like her in the system.
Jolita was attacked by a high school student this week, and the video, taken with a cellphone camera by cheering classmates, made its way to YouTube (as everything seems to). The issue? Jolita Berry is a high school art teacher in Baltimore, and she was attacked by a student who was egged on by classmates. Reporting the incident to the principal, Berry was told that she "...brought it on herself by asserting that she would defend herself if the student attacked." That is a QUOTE from the principal. It became the TEACHER'S fault for getting attacked. That's like saying women invite rape. Freakin' idiot! One might expect such a comment from an under-involved school board member, but from a principal? I thought the principal was supposed to be my "pal."
Oh yeah, this is Baltimore, not your school? We had a similar incident last year in the small school in which I taught. A student swore at and began shoving around a 65-yr. old teacher before other students hauled him off. The worst? Nobody was really surprised that it happened! Though, to our credit, the student WAS expelled.
Usually, though, in schools the violence is kids on kid as many will attest.
Eight girls in Florida face life imprisonment for a video beating of another girl last year. They were anxious to get the video on YouTube and were so nonchalant about it that one girls said, "I guess we won't get to cheerleading practice." "Are you kidding?" you ask. Uh, no. According to statistics, in 2003, more than 25% of all teen girls ahd been involved in a fist fight, according to CNN. Boys weighed in at a hefty 40.5%. Even worse, by 2006, girls who had reached age 17 were asked to report how many of them had assaulted another girl with the intent to cause serious bodily damage: 21% indicated that they had engaged in such an act.
Need more proof? Search "girl fight" on YouTube, and you will get more than a thousand videos of such violence, and that's just girls pounding on girls...there are other girl vs boy fights, etc. In fact, I believe there's a web site set up JUST to show such acts of violence.
Why do we need to see ourselves posted on the internet universe being total jackasses? I don't know, but it is of epidemic proportion, apparently.
Thus, I posit that I left teaching just in time. I feel sorry for all my teaching brethern who are left in the trenches. They don't get, not money...they do not get enough support and protection. They get thrown under the bus at every opportunity. I sympathize but breathe a relieved sigh that it is no longer my responsibility to protect myself (condoms notwithstanding).
If a student challenged me to a physical battle? I would have to let him or her know that I have won every fight I've had by at least five blocks.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Happy? Why The Hell Not?

"If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife." Note the quotation marks...that means I didn't say that (in case word should get back, y'know?). It's actually part of a lyric from a rock and roll song "back in the day" when rock and roll was actually NOT drowning in teen angst and hedonistic pleasures. Well, OK, rock music has always been about those things, but I didn't understand it at the time Jimmy Soul was singing the aforementioned (I love using that word) song. (I also love using parentheses).
Barnes and Noble and every other book purveyor in this country is awash with self-help books about attaining happiness. Professionals make gajillions of dollars treating "unhappy" people, and movies like "Dumb and Dumber" go boffo at the box office. What the hell is wrong with us? We try to medicate in order to achieve happiness; we attempt to work ourselves tirelessly so we can avoid the problem; we flit from one interpersonal relationship to another seeking fulfillment, and we find ourselves basically dissatisfied. Some say exercise is the cure; some say comfort food like Ho Ho's and Ding Dongs are the path; some even use religion as a conduit. Drugs, loud music, fast cars, loose women (or men, but that's a given)have all been applied as balm to a tortured psyche, but here we are: still seeking.
Why am I thinking about this and requiring you to do the same? I just finished a book named "The Geography of Bliss," and there are some thoughts worth sharing. Irony? There's plenty, but what would you expect when the self-proclaimed grump author's name rhymes with "whiner."
Said author was a reporter for National Public Radio for years and traveled some of the most depressing roads of the world...when given the opportunity, he wanted to find out if there were any specific places in the world that were more happy than others, hence the title. Surprisingly, there was a vast amount of research already done so his search did not exactly start at the beginning. In fact, it started in Amsterdam, home of legal drugs, prostitution and every other hedonistic pleasure imaginable.
Now that I've titillated you curiosity, I won't be sharing any of his findings of a specific nature like "where, dammit!" I will share some things I found enlightening...some of which I had already surmised, but others not so much.

1. The United States is not the happiest place on earth. In fact, I think it ranked behind even Costa Rica on the final scale (23rd).

2. A LOT of money is not any kind of guarantee of happiness; in fact, it has been shown in entire countries to lead to unhappiness! (think "Quatar")

3. Poverty is no decided determiner of sadness; in fact, the poorest people in Calcutta, noted armpit of the world as far as slums are concerned, were found to be happier than the poorest people in parts of California. This was due mostly, I suspect, to the level of expectation of each group. Indians can always have it better in any of the next hundred lives while Californians might well have just one shot at it.

4. Sunshine and blue skies are not great determiners of happiness, either; while the vote isn't in from those in the Pacific Northwest, it IS in from Iceland, and you'd be surprised.

5. There are some entire countries in which happiness is simply a myth, a picture postcard from around the world. Imagine what those folks do for a vacation! Where would you go?

Weiner even goes so far as to posit, as did Judy Garland, "There's no place like home" though I'm not sure he meant it. No philospher, he, but he did interview some interesting people all over the world in order to come to his conclusions, the most important of which (to me) seemed to be, "Don't ever, under any circumstances, go to Moldova."
One of his favorite questions was to ask people to rank their happiness on a scale of 1-10. Me? I vary from day to day and remember that every day I'm not looking up at dirt has the chance to be a wonderful's all up to me.
As for the song lyrics in the beginning? If anyone asks, I'm miserable.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Surely We Have Something Else To Do!

Figures released this week indicated that at the end of March, more than 80,000 people had lost their jobs in this country. While nobody is saying 'recession" out loud, if it looks like crap, smells like crap and (probably) tastes like crap, it must be crap. Political candidates are sparring over an unpopular war and the degree to which our soldiers must remain in Iraq...on and on. (and I won't even mention the latest from Africa or Tibet or China, or...)The book I'm reading even is a downer, in a certain respect. Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss has a chapter which deals with the most depressed country on earth, and reading it seriously bummed me out. Amid all this real misery and turmoil, we find time to get all upset about some of the most inane, stupid (according to me)details of life. To wit:
Michelle Malkin (admittedly not a favorite of mine) is all bent out of shape concerning an Absolut vodka ad which appeared in Mexico recently. The ad protrays an "Absolut World" e.g. a perfect one in which Mexican boundaries are set at the 1800's stage, making California and Texas part of Mexico. A big hit south of the border, tha ad had Malkin calling for somebody's head. I mean, REALLY! Aren't other countries allowed to have their little jokes at our expense? Get a grip...go bash Keith Olberman or something.
CNN news has apparently little else to do than cover The Fourth Estate, the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which reported in its April Fool's issue that Brett Favre was unretiring and returning to the Packers. EVERYBODY gave time to this story, and I was left to wonder where all the real news was on that day.
This was almost as ridiculous ass the national story about the 13-yr. old kid getting attacked by a red-tailed hawk during a tour of Fenway Park in Boston. So what if her name was Alexa Rodriguez, and her friends called her "A-Rod"? This is national news? The way both teams are getting pounded during the early season, it won't be long before NOBODY talks about either team!
It's not just national types that seem to have these kinds of issues. We were gone for three days last week, and a neighbor put a "for sale" sign in our lawn for an April Fool's joke...which, of course, was on him since we were gone. However, we had two phone messages and several emails begging us not to leave the neighborhood! Seriously...don't people work any more?
I guess this is all just a sign of the times: we're trying so hard not to notice the elephant in the room that we focus elsewhere. Me? I'm going to start a polygamist compound somewhere in Texas...nobody will ever notice that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Just Another Front Seat Driver

Generally speaking, I have a rather good sense of direction. Like most men, I don't usually see the need for real directions, and it's seldom that I get hopelessly lost. At those times, I hope that I'm alone because the shame would be too much. My sweetie is mostly accepting of my many piccadillos, but she has this thing about my driving. The various twitches, stiffening of the posture and grabbing door handles (and occasional minor swear words)serves only to make me uncertain at the time when I must be MOST certain. At such times, I usually bear it patiently...for about three seconds. But today, I was faced with a truly daunting task: traveling 34 miles from a strange airport, through a major city to a destination which I had visited but never as a driver. I had the barest of directions (I-79N/SH60) until the exit for Wexford. Seemed easy enough, but there was this idea that maybe those directions were not sufficient. Fortunately, GPS was available. Hooking it up was a breeze, but the problems started then. "Home" involved an address that was not right. Fifteen fruitless minutes later, my sweetie figured that the address was so new that we should just take the one available and figure it out from there. Christopher Columbus would have been proud.
Finally adjusting to the beeps which signalled turns and being able to read the screen while keeping a focus on the road, I was on my way. Only one false turn ("At the first opportunity, make a legal U-turn") later, we managed to find our way.
I'm not sure I can stand the strain of having two entities scrutinizing my every automotive move.
I'm taking a cab on the return trip!