6/24/2011

Everything I need to know.

Everything I need to know they taught me in kindergarten.  I borrowed that line from somewhere.  But it's true.

What better field trip could kindergarten offer the kids than a tour of the local fire station?  I remember my trip fondly.  One spring day in 1977, the teachers loaded us up in a big yellow bus with "Polish air conditioning."  That's what the bus driver called opening the windows.  I'm not making this up.  Polish air conditioning -- ah the days before political correctness.  Anyway, we rode to the fire station where we split into two groups.  Both groups got the grand tour of the fire house, one after the other.  My group entered first.  The fireman tour guide showed us all the components of a fully functional fire station.  Fascination struck the group of kids.  We ooh-ed and ah-ed as if we were watching fireworks.  I felt we could have skipped over the shower room, what account of several showing fireman winking and offering us a chance at "working the hose" and whatnot, but what would I know at the age of six?  How dirty could we kids have been anyway?

I had a great day at the firehouse.  I learned much.  I found the firemen friendly and charming.  The trucks, poles, radios and equipment together made one giant adult playground.  Heck, one day when I grew up, I might become a fireman myself.  It made that big an impression on me.  But at the end of the tour came the grand finale: a bag of candy for each tourist!  The fireman leading our group gave us kids the candy.  What a hero!  I found it a nice touch.  Classy.  Sure, the tour was entertaining.  But being able to take something away from the experience, something tangible, delighted me.  I love candy.

We dashed to the bus where we were to reconcile with the other group.  My group arrived a few minutes early and boarded the bus first.  The teacher for the absent group, Mrs. Thomas, boarded the bus and addressed us kids.  Get this load of crap:


"I understand you all received bags of candy after the tour.  Unfortunately, my kids didn't.  There was a mix-up.  So you'll all have to share your candy with the students boarding the bus in a minute.  Everybody has to share."

Come again.  Share?  Look lady, I'm sure in adult-land bags of candy fall in your lap all the time, but when you're a kid, it's a damn rare event.  I regret learning that the other group didn't get any candy, but I fail to see how that's MY problem.  The way I saw it, kindergarten was a ripe age to learn that life isn't always fair.  And I was going to teach that lesson to whichever poor bastard child sat in my seat.  There was only one problem.

I understand that nowadays the word "retarded" is offensive.  So I didn't have a retarded kid sitting next to me.  Instead, I had a "learning disabled" kid sitting next to me.  His name was Jamie.  And like me, he was lucky enough to have been in the candy group.  I'm sure you see the problem.  If a candy-less kid sits next to me and the retar...  learning disabled kid offers his bag of candy for sharing, the new kid could surmise that I, too, had a bag of candy to share.  I had to think fast.  An idea hit me.

First, my story would be that I was one of the poor children who got gipped out of a bag of candy.  Second, I had to make certain my booty was concealed.  Third, I had to get the LD to go along with the story.  This was a tall order for a kindergartner.  I had to marshall all my wits and nerve.  And I had to enlist the help of an "LD."

I was confident in my ability to hid my candy and lie convincingly to the Tiny Tim booger-eater begging me to share.  But coaching Jamie to play along would require a small miracle.  Everybody knows that the slower the kid, the more sincere he is and the more eager to please.  God bless our learning disabled.  They don't have the faculties for deception.  Just the same, Jamie was going to get a crash course in chicanery.

Talking under my breath, I explained to Jamie that our bags of candy were going to lose weight unless we stuck together and cooked up a scam par excellence.  We would have to assume the identities of children who were in the latter group, the ones who got screwed.  In fact, we were hoping he had some candy to share with us.  Of course, Jamie needed to conceal his candy on his person and keep it there until the coast was clear.  This is no time to 'tard out on me, Jamie.  Focus!

A minute later, sure as tomorrow, some Tiny Tim takes a seat in Jamie's and my booth.  The boarding group had been briefed that candy awaited them from those inside the bus.  I didn't even wait for this little douche bag to ask.  I immediately addressed him: "So, do you have any candy?  Because we didn't get any."  I turned my head to Jamie and flashed him a look of encouragement.  This is your cue, Jamie.  I could only hope my instructions remained intact in his short-term memory long enough to pull off the caper.  Come on, Jamie.  Remember all those after-school specials?  You can do it!

Whatever "learning disability" those teachers diagnosed Jamie with, they were full of crap.  Jamie delivered.  He shrugged his shoulders with all the dejection of a disappointed child and echoed my sentiments.  "No candy."  Yes!  Move over, Al Pacino!  You ain't got nothing on Jamie the LD.  I studied the new kid for signs of doubt.  If he voiced any suspicion, I'd have to snuff him out and blame Jamie.  But the little bastard bought our performance.  Not a trace of doubt crossed his disappointed face.  Who's the slow kid now?

Prologue:  Jamie did indeed keep his mouth shut for the duration of the trip.  He and I enjoyed every sweet, delicious morsel in our bags.  And I believe we both learned a valuable life lesson: if you have anything of value, keep it a secret, because there's always some asshole with a sob story who believes he's entitled to a piece of it.

6/22/2011

WWKW

  1. What is the best or worst pick up line you have ever been given?
  2. What is your most and least favorite day of the week?
  3. How many hours of sleep do you require each night?
  4. Is there a song that takes you back in time? What song is it and what memory is it attached to?
  5. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Worst pick-up line:  "Congratulations.  You've met my minimum standards for attractiveness, earning power and social status.  Let's go to my place."

Most/Least favorite days:  Fridays suck.  Mondays are sublime.  (I work weekends).  Loverboy claimed "Everybody's Working for the Weekend..."  I'm working for the weekend's end.  My favorite day of the week used to be Pizza Night -- when I was a kid.  Now that I'm a grown-up, every night is Pizza Night if I damn well please.  I often mitigate the psychological anguish of Fridays by making it Pizza Night.

How much sleep:  Eight-and-a-half.  Eight isn't enough.  That last thirty minutes have all the rejuvenating power packed inside.

Song that takes you back in time:  She's Tight, by Cheap Trick.  Man, oh man.  Does that song bring back memories.  Unfortunately the details exceed the boundaries of good taste and blogger sensibility.

Guilty Pleasure:  I have a few.  Sometimes I crank call PETA -- I pretend I'm calling a restaurant and ask whether they serve baby seal meat.  Other times I read the Finance Page of the newspaper in public and mockingly quip, "What?  I thought Obama was supposed to fix that!"  Or I'll watch C.S.I.-Whatever and try to guess which suspect the spunk belongs to.  Honestly, how many murder mysteries are solved by way of male ejaculate in real life?  TV forensic science is 90 percent spunk.  Go figure.  I don't suspect I'll ever murder somebody.  But should I someday yield to the temptation and croak some deserving a-hole, I'm not rubbing one out afterward.  That's just uncouth.  

6/15/2011

WWKW

WWKW

{1} You have been asked to give a 10 minute speech to teenage girls. What is it about?
{2} Do you have a pet? Tell us about them. No pets? Why?
{3} What is the biggest inconvenience about the place you’re currently living?
{4} What do you think is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
{5} What are the THREE "nevers" of your life? (things you would never do or have never done)

Answers:

1)  Ten-minute speech to girls:  Ten minutes isn't a lot of time.  So I'd rattle off the following:  Don't let the fashionable but false belief that men and women are the same, seduce you.  It's bunk.  You're different.  Embrace it.  And if you want to understand how and why, read some layman evolutionary biology.  Not only is it fascinating, but it'll give you tremendous insight into women's and men's penchants, behaviors, emotions and sexuality.  Also, know that college is the most overrated and overpriced commodity.  Don't go 100 grand in debt before you discover that!  Women and minorities are particularly vulnerable because we're so damn hot and heavy to outfit them with (always expensive and often useless) college degrees.  Don't get me wrong: Education is wonderful.  But college is a racket.  Take great care when investing in your education. 

2)  My Pet:  I have an adorable puggle named Bella.  And if you want to see her, just visit IA for a facsimile.  See:  Lexi.  

3)  Inconvenience of living where I live:  It's 150-miles away from my job -- the most wonderful hospital in the world!  Luckily I only have to commute once per week!

4)  My best decision:  To be the kind of person who examines things instead of accepting things.  I don't know if I decided this or if I was just born this way.  Choosing to observe once in a damn while is a good choice.  A close second was my decision to keep a weblog.

5)  Three never's:  1)  I'll never "go green."  They might force me one day.  But I'll never volunteer.  2) Run for political office. One has to stand back in awe of the wrath the other side spits at their political opponents.  3)  Live beyond my means.  A couple things I've gleaned from 40 years on this planet: stuff doesn't make you happy; and debt is slavery.  

6/14/2011

Minds are like parachutes

I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Minds are like parachutes: they only work when they're open."  At the next red light, I rolled my window down and asked the driver whether she yanked the fucking ripcord when she cut me off a half mile back.  Based on her driving, her parachute is more like that hydrogen zeppelin that caught fire.  Whoever graded her driver's ed test must have had one big, open fucking mind and a parachute the size of Rosie O'Donnell's trousers.  Here's an idea I hope she'll meet with an open mind: learn the rules of the road and follow traffic statutes.  Then you can impart your unsolicited pearls of wisdom on fellow drivers.  I put more stock into people's advice when they're not endangering my life while they chat into their cell phones.

Minds only work when they're open.  This is poor counsel.  We have too many open-minded people and they're to blame for most of our problems.  Before you object, ask yourself whether we have too few or too many gullible people.  Remember we are a nation that spends millions on bottled water, Fen Shui consultants, palmistry, and Glade Plug-in air fresheners.  Open-mindedness gives rise to gullibility.  If you open the cognition valve too far, crap of all sizes squeezes through the pipes.  Then your brain becomes a pool of turds and debris and you develop an appetite for “reality” television programming and The Daily Show.  So much for open-mindedness.

Sometimes an open-mind is a virtue.  I try to keep an open mind whenever I'm at the Chinese buffet.  You must force yourself to sample food from this bin and that one if you're to discover new and delicious concoctions of Chinese delicacy.  Don't trust your first impression.  Much of what you see at a Chinese buffet looks about as appetizing as Chinese water torture.  I swear those people butcher food as badly as they butcher the Eeengrish language.  But it tastes great.  I owe my affinity for ethnic foods to my open mind.  But I close it back up again after I read the fortune cookie and pay the bill, because outside the Golden Dragon is an ocean of bullcrap draining into open mental manholes.

Open-mindedness is useful only for subjective matters: art, music, writing, religion, the collective work of Neil Diamond.  But many other things aren't subjective.  They're objective.  They're facts.  We don't ask anybody to keep an open mind when adding two and two.  We needn't keep an open mind when studying historical records, principles of thermodynamics, biology or the best strategy for Deal or No Deal.  Even social and political issues can be objective.  When you're watching a documentary on Hitler's Third Reich, should you keep an open mind?  Hey, maybe those poor Nazis got a bad rap.  Aren't we being awfully judgmental?  Nonsense.

The parachute metaphor is bunk, too.  Consider what happens if you open your parachute at the wrong time.  You get sucked out of the plane prematurely.  Your chute tangles in the propeller and your diced corpse plummets to earth.  If you'd kept your parachute open from the beginning, you wouldn't have even made it to the plane.  You would have suffered death by strangulation after your parachute tangled on the drinking fountain.  How's that for an epigram?

  Here lies a jumper in his chute, bound.
  He never made it off the ground.
  He left it open, like his mind.
  Propellers diced up his behind. 

The way I see it, if an idea is any good, our minds will open up despite our efforts to keep them closed.  I can still remember my first fried Twinkie, my first episode of Sex and the City, my mini-Mac, my first toke on a fatty, and my first murder by bare-handed strangulation -- I didn't want to like any of these things.  They were rubbish.  But the facts chiseled through my rock head and kicked a foot into my mind's doorway.  Hey, a mixed metaphor.  Cool.  Anyway, even if the world is chock full of close-minded people, there's no keeping a witty, sophisticated HBO sit-com featuring four New York women down.

Let me suggest a better metaphor. Minds are like strip bar doormen: They're only as good as their ability to bounce the riffraff.

6/08/2011

WWKW

I've got some dues to pay.  So I'll have LAST week's WWKW questions and answers below.  But first let me participate in this week's WWKW Q&A:


  1. Everyone seems to have a quirky family situation-- what is something unique about your family dynamic?
  2. What is the most stressful aspect to blogging (aside from the network going down)?
  3. We all end up on a blog at some point in our day, but name your top 3 favorite websites you flock to daily (non blog)!
  4. What’s your sign?  Believe in it or not, does any part ring true to you?
  5. IceCream!! ICECREAM!! We all scream for icecream! Name your favorite flavor/brand! (Its hot here, can't help it)
BONUS QUESTIONS if you dare..
            A.  Name the blog you credit for linking up with us today?
            B.  Suggest a question you want to see in future WWTK’s!

Answers:

1)  Quirky family situation:  My brother appears to be half black.  Dad's white.  Hmmm.
2)  Most stressful thing about blogging:  Word processing.  I hate formating stuff.
3)  Three most frequent sites:  Drudge Report, YouTube, Facebook.  PrematureEjaculatorsAnon.com was a close forth.  
4)  Sign:  Taurus.  And yes, it applies; most of what I say is bullcrap.
5)  Favorite ice cream:  Mint & Chip.  Nothing else compares.
A)  Blog link for WWKW:  IA, now and forever.  
B)  Future Question:  "If you were granted legal impunity and the Lord's forgiveness, which one person would you murder?"  

...And now for last week's WWKW:  

1). If the blogging world had a talent show, what would your act be?
2). What's the most likely reason you might become famous?
3). What question are you repeatedly asked that you are tired of hearing?
4.) What's the last thing you broke?
5.) Finish this sentence.  I can't believe I used to ________.

Answers:

1)  Talent show:  My one great talent is being mediocre at everything I do.  So I could showcase my talent by doing just about anything.
2)  Likely to become famous:  Either my Snoop Bloggy Blog will propel me to stardom, or if that doesn't happen, I think I hold the world record for lifetime consumption of Diet Coke. 
3)  Question I'm tired of:  "Dude, are you sure you're heterosexual?"
4)  Last thing I broke:  The Fellowship of the Ring.  This pudgy midget gave me a gold ring to hold onto for him, but it didn't fit so I pawned it Sal's Pawn Shop for 150 bucks and a PlayStation 3.  Then this old man with a beard and a pointy hat started yelling at me.  Chill out, Merlin!
5)  I can't believe I used to... be a woman.  Wow, that surgery went about as well as I could have hoped.  Great job on the plumbing, Dr. Feldstein!

6/06/2011

This MAY HELP

A big political topic nowadays is the “crisis” whereby old people can’t afford medicine.  Evidently our seniors must choose between buying food or buying drugs.  They can't afford both?  When I was a high school senior I bought drugs.  I never went hungry.  And I was only making minimum wage!

This seniors' prescription drug crisis doesn't pass the smell test.  Something isn’t up to snuff.  Snuff, incidentally, is among the finest drugs.  Sadly, the custom of sniffing snuff has snuffed out the sniffers.

Old people can't afford their medications because they take 23 different pills every day.  Who can afford 23 of anything?  If I had to eat 23 packs of Ramen Noodles every day I’d go broke -- even with coupons.  Thanks to an overambitious medical community and a very seductive pharmaceutical industry, today’s seniors have become a bunch of Charlie Sheens without the YouTube.  Not long ago, when somebody chose to buy pills instead of food, we called them “junkies.”  Now we call them the “World War II Generation.”

There’s not a problem in the world that a pill won’t fix.  Oops!  I misspoke (I’ll bet there’s a pill for that, too!)  Have you noticed these pills never fix anything.  They don’t cure any diseases.  They “help prevent” the ailment. They “may aid in the fight against” a disease.  They “can reduce the risk” of some condition -- along with a sensible diet and exercise.  There’s a reassuring claim!  “Golly, Marge. This $17 pill may reduce the risk of my 83 year-old heart exploding -- if I take it twice a day and run half-marathons.  Looks like we better put the tuna back on the shelf.  No meat this week.”

What’s with all the “may help” stuff the medical community is laying on us?  If I’m paying for pills, I want to know they work.  This angle would never work on young people.  Young fellas, would you date a girl who “may help prevent” blue balls by putting out after dinner?  It’s a cinch she’s not getting surf and turf!  And dear young ladies, would you become familiar with a man who “may reduce the risk” of premature ejaculation by imagining transmission repair?

Hell, no!  Yet we’ll pump ourselves full of pills assuring us of no more than prudes and premature ejaculators.  Hey, these pills may help.  So prescribe 37 different kinds of them and make sure you specify name-brand stuff.  I don’t want generic pills lessening my chances for success.  Thanks, Doc.

When you get old, if you ever find yourself having to choose between food and medicine, choose the food.  It’ll do exactly what it promises to do: fill you up and make you happy.  No “may” or “might” about it!

6/01/2011

Evolutionary psychology

I shoot people through the prism of evolutionary psychology and project their true colors on the wall.  It's a hobby.  We're all driven to understand others.  Social animals from our primitive beginnings, we need to understand our own species.  Life and death decisions depended on how well we understood our clan, trading partners, mates, and competitors.  Our ancestry bequeathed on us modelling software -- genetically encoded in our brains -- for explaining and predicting others' behavior.  It's a handy tool even in the modern age.  Look how easily your brain detects the motives and machinations of others, despite their ruses.  What an important piece of software!  We can even turn the app on ourselves so that we might understand our own puzzling behavior, if we're brave enough.  But know this.  The only valid model, contrary to a hundred fashionable psychological theories, is primitive man, the hominid, the hairless ape whose brain has evolved and persevered the rigors of 5 million years in the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Other models compete for explaining the human condition.  You've got your positive psychology movement, behaviorism, the ghost-in-the-machine, the noble savage, socially constructed man, etc.   All rubbish.  I predicate my model for understanding humans on this simple postulate: 6,ooo years of culture can't compete with 5,000,000 years of biology.  In fact, all culture can do -- when it succeeds at all -- is redirect evolutionary forces into civilized channels.  This is why socialism always fails and that loathsome system, capitalism, remains the best game in town; we serve our own needs.  Forget all that huminist crap.  We're just animals with  jim-dandy computers inside our heads.

Recently I was trapped in a traffic jam.  I wrote about it on my blog.  And I've been thinking about it ever since.  Driving for 24 years, I've marveled at how angry traffic makes me.  At first blush, one inclined to view people through the lens of evolutionary psychology might doubt driving could affect us at all.  Automobiles are, from a biological perspective, a brand-new novelty.  They've only been around for 100 years -- just a click on the clock in evolutionary terms.  Driving doesn't garner us food or shelter or status or sex.  It's just a means of travel.  So how could driving resonate in our primitive brains with their Serengeti Plain software?  Yet it does.  Driving taps into the deepest, most fundamental layer of our emotional core -- the lymbic system.  I wasn't joking when I described myself as temporarily insane with rage during that traffic jam.  For an hour or so, I was no different from the raging primate of my ancestry -- minus some body hair.

Here's how I explain it.  Driving isn't just novel travel.  It's the 20th century permutation of the herd.  And it indeed evokes our herding instincts (or better, our prairie instincts, as we roamed the prairies as hominids).  Our cars become our bodies -- extensions of our bodies.  Driving puts us in a trance in which our rational minds doze and our instinctive mentalities thrive.  We intuit the dangers of lagging.  Our hominid sensibilities go on alert when we slow down or grind to a halt.  Imagine life on the prairie to understand why traffic jams ping our instincts. We become tempting prey to enemies on the hunt.  We're wasting resources, too: loitering on the great plains exposes us to the elements, food scarcities and manifold mishaps.  We can't rest, eat or mate on the trail.  In the Serengeti, sluggishness spells death.  This is why we hate commuting.  This is why traffic jams rattle our cages.  What irony that within one of our most celebrated technological triumphs, the automobile, we devolve into the apes of our ancient ancestry.

It's just a theory, I guess.  Just my model for explaining my behavior.  It helps me feel less insane and more normal.