Sunday, January 28, 2007

Warning: This Blog May Be Hazardous to Your Health (I don't know how, but it might)

I am arriving late for many of my appointments. Why? Every time I get into my car I have too many things to do. There is a sign on the visor which says, “IMPORTANT Before driving, read the label on the other side of the visor.” For some reason I am compelled to do as I’m told. Then on the other side of the visor it says, “IMPORTANT FOR YOUR SAFETY Following these instructions will greatly improve your chances of avoiding severe injury in case of an accident.” Since avoiding severe injury is right towards the top of my “To Do List” each and every day, I read it most carefully.
That alone would not make me late. The problem is at the bottom of the visor it instructs the driver to consult a section in the owner’s guide. By the time I read all that too, I might as well go back into the house because I am now horribly late for whatever compelled me to get into the car in the first place.
I know it is a dangerous world we live in. If you look around there are warnings everywhere. Coffee cups at fast food restaurants point out the contents are hot. Two liter bottles of soda point out the contents are under pressure and they should be opened with caution. I suppose the next thing will be warning labels on warning labels, after all you can get a wicked paper cut off of some of those things.
A cursory inspection of my house revealed so many imminent dangers it is a wonder I haven’t met my insurance deductible five times over. I found a hand held air pump. I purchased it to pump up a basketball. There on the side in bold red letters it reads, “Warning: designed and intended for inflating purposes only.” This is where the warning label truly needs a warning label. It would read, “Warning after reading this warning label you run the risk of wasting the next hour and half of your life trying to think of things you could use this pump for other than inflating things and what would be the intrinsic danger involved with such unauthorized activity.”
My personal favorite warning labels feature the stick figure icon of a person dealing with the worst case scenario. A while back I was helping a friend paint her house. We were using scaffolding to get to the very topmost parts. Now I am not one of the bravest folks in the land so there was no need to warn me about the danger of falling off a platform forty feet off the ground. I was so aware of the danger of falling off a platform forty feet off the ground I was often seen simply sitting on the plank and griping the iron bars so tightly my wedding ring spot welded in place. It was as I sat there, immobile due to the fear of gravity driving my head into the flower bed below, that I noticed the warning label. It not only had words describing the precautions which should be taken but it also had that poor little cartoon stick figure guy falling backwards off the little cartoon stick figure scaffolding to his little cartoon stick figure death. I am surprised there were not little cartoon stick figure pallbearers carrying a little cartoon stick figure casket past a little cartoon stick figure weeping widow as well.
Since this poor guy goes through so much in his selfless quest to help the rest of us stay safe, I decided he needed more of an identity in order to create some empathy. He is obviously bald. This may be because nobody draws hair on stick figures or it may be because he has set himself on fire so many times by not following all warning labels on cans of aerosol furniture polish. Anyway, I have named him Yul after one of the most famous bald guys ever, Yul Brenner.
Not only does the name Yul reflect his lack of hair, but it also helps him get his point across to the public. If you do not heed the warning labels Yul suffer severe injury, Yul be visited by ambulance drivers, and Yul never win the lawsuit because the insurance company lawyers will make sure Yul appear to be an imbecile of epic proportion in the eyes of the jury because you can’t even read the label telling you that using the hand held air pump to give a constipated kinkajou an enema is an unauthorized activity, etc. etc. etc….

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I don't want it all...just the good stuff

“Greed is good,” was a battle cry of the late 1980’s made famous by Michael Douglas’s uber-rich and powerful Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street. For some reason Mr. Douglas chose to play the role sporting a hairdo he received when he took a wrong turn at the strip mall and ended up at Jiffy Lube instead of Super Cuts. It has been twenty years since that film hit the multiplexes of the land and it is no longer cool to wear your hair like that (note to Pat Riley) nor to overtly claim one of the seven deadly sins is actually a virtue. It is, however, still ingrained in most every American to want more than he or she has at the moment.
This is proven on a nightly basis on every “reality” television show on every network. It must be greed driving the people on American Idol who have the same chance of having a song played on the radio as my son’s guinea pig has of winning the Kentucky Derby (she has a tendency to drift too wide of the rail on the last furlong). It surely can’t be any reasonable semblance of an awareness of one’s own talent. When these people sing in the shower the soap on a rope hangs itself.
Greed must be the motivating factor behind anyone signing up to compete on Survivor. There would have to be a GUARANTEE I would be given a million dollars (not a CHANCE amongst 15 other pathetic graspers at fame…sorry, competitors) if they wanted me to wade through leech infested stagnant ponds, eat rats on a stick, or go without a shower for 48 hours. I have a very sensitive scalp and I need to maintain my proper shampooing regimen.
People who want to improve their lot in life through hard work are not greedy. People who utilize special talents to earn large amounts of money are not necessarily greedy. People who refuse to split the last slice of pizza are. I do not think of myself as greedy, heck you can have the entire Canadian bacon and pineapple if you want it, but I sure wouldn’t mind having more money. I would even settle for more free time and less stress, which can sometimes be a by-product of more money.
Being Bill Gates rich or even Paul McCartney rich is not what I want. It doesn’t bother me to drive a used minivan. However, last week when the minivan had a flat tire I wished I was rich enough to call “the guy,” have it taken care of and just write the check. When you have something akin to surplus money you can always call “the guy.” I do not know who “the guy” is but he can fix the flat tire, unclog the sink, remove the viruses from your computer, and if the price is right, “the guy” has a cousin in New Jersey who can “Jimmy Hoffa” the person of your choice.
Many people would tell me I need to be grateful for what I have. When I grumble and grouse about things which really are rather unimportant my wife often says, “It could be worse.” I prefer not to subscribe to the “It could be worse” school of optimism. Of course it could be worse. It could always be worse. One of Job’s buddies from the Bible could have said “It could be worse” and it could have been. I mean with all those boils it would have been worse if he had been married to Lot’s wife. Can you imagine coming home from a hard day of questioning God’s existence with open sores all over your body and hugging a pillar of salt? Ouch.
Just because “it could be worse” is no reason to be content with the way things are at the moment. As the old words of wisdom say: Some people look at the world as it is and ask “Why?” Others look at the world as it could be and ask “Why not?” Yet others look at the world around them and ask “Why can’t I have the same chances other people have, really, I have as much talent as Jason Alexander, for goodness sake, and not only will he receive money from the never ending reruns of Seinfeld, but just because he’s kind of famous he gets a children’s book published even though there is no reason to believe he has any talent as a writer of children’s books or even deserves to have a publisher look at his manuscript, but because he was a whiny self-centered nebbish on a hit sitcom he gets to do what ever he wants.” Or maybe that’s just me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Some are more equal than others

At the risk of sounding un-American I have to admit I am finding it harder and harder to buy into the “All men are created equal” precept Mr. Jefferson threw into the Declaration eleven score and ten years ago. Well, when I think about “created” equal it might be viable. As an example let’s take Alan Greenspan and Jimmy Kimmel’s Uncle Frank, they may have started out equal but on down the line some things went a bit haywire. I do not intend to devalue either person, but you cannot say they are equal in many comparable traits.
This great land of ours has always valued the individual. The idea that anyone can grow up to be President is a wonderful thing to tell children. Even though it may have the same merit as telling them “if you keep making that face it will freeze that way” or talking them into doing things they really hate by telling them it builds character. Also, if you spend twenty minutes at any grocery store and you will be able to point out at least a dozen kids you hope will never become president of the local chapter of the Frodo Baggins Fan Club much less of the United States. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about. (Gimme some cookies? Gimme a candy bar? Gimme some gum? Buy me something, buy me something, buy me something.) Actually, if you spend twenty minutes at the national conventions for either party and you will be able to point out at least a dozen candidates you hope will never become president of anything more powerful than the local chapter of the Dan Quayle Fan Club. Once again, you know the type. (Gimme your attention? Gimme your trust? Gimme access to your wallet? Vote for me, vote for me, vote for me.) The problem is the idea of equality has been twisted a bit.
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but we are not all equal. Think of it this way. If you require heart surgery it would make much more sense for the person wearing the rubber gloves to be someone who spent more time in med school than playing Super Mario Brothers. This brings to mind a conversation I overheard as I was walking across campus in my undergrad days. One twenty year old hung over guy stops staring at the coed jogging by and says to the other twenty year old hung over guy: “I was going to go with a pre-med major, but I decided to go for business because you can party more.” Now if I became a patient of this man in later years I would not want the last few words I heard as the anesthetic took hold to be: “I was going to us the scalpel but the DeWalt 6.5 Amp Heavy-Duty Variable-Speed Top-Handle Jigsaw sounded much more fun.” Come to think of it if this guy did graduate with a business degree I wouldn’t want my vice president in charge of the long range planning saying to his buddy as they stroll down Wall Street: “I was going to invest the company’s retirement funds in FedEx and Exxon stock but I decided betting the whole thing on Chicago Cubs to win the World Series was more fun.”
Technology has made it possible for anyone to get his or her ideas out to the general public, and I do mean anyone. The world of “blogs” and YouTube means people with the journalistic acumen of Walter Cronkite’s left shoe can tell the world what is happening, whether it actually happened or not. I’m sorry, but I still prefer the information being spread around the countryside be gathered and distributed by people with ethics, intellect, and a conscience. Not by people with a laptop, a modem, and the spelling ability of Walter Cronkite’s right shoe.
It has gotten to the point that even Time Magazine named the nameless “You” as its Person of the Year for 2006. To explain this choice Time editor Lev Grossman wrote, “It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.” However, the previous sentence could be pure bunk because I read it on Wikipedia, a website written by the normal guy on the virtual street, not by stodgy men in horribly out of date clothing who spend hour upon hour researching the accuracy of things before they put them into print for hundreds of thousands of people to read.
Just because Time Magazine named the common man Person of the Year doesn’t mean it’s a positive thing. Josef Stalin was also named Person of the Year, twice!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Auld Lang Syne of the Apocalypse

May old acquaintance be forgot. Out with the old and in with the new. New and improved. Better tasting plus more cleaning power! Humans always seem to think new, in and of itself, proves better. Well, here we are at the beginning of a “new” year, so following this logic things will be better or at least have increased cleaning power.
Personally, many things went quite well last year. I do not feel the need to throw it aside like a sock with a hole in the toe. Actually, I don’t throw away socks with a hole in the toe. I still hold to my theory stating each pair of socks you own is one more day without having to do laundry. There needs to be two holes in the toe and one in the heel before I think about tossing aside an old sock. Something my wife does not understand, but is willing to tolerate. Which brings me to one of the reasons 2006 was a good year.
I didn’t get divorced. Now those of you who know me need to realize there was never any danger of this happening. The reason I take the time to mark I didn’t get divorced is because my marriage is the best thing in my life and if 2006 was a good year, which it was, my wife is a major contributor to that success. Getting sappy is not in my job description for this column so I will now digress.
One big reason I do not have any problems in my marriage is I am too tired to create any. Infidelity is often cited by couples ending a relationship. If Cheryl Tiegs, (this proves I am out of the “lusting in my heart” stage of life because I had to reach all the way back to when I was thirteen to think of a “hot babe” to use as an example), if Ms. Tiegs offered to make my deepest fantasy come true she would remain fully clothed as she wrote the check getting me out of debt so I could quit my job and sleep until 9 o’clock every morning. Okay, to prove I’m still a red-blooded American man she could write the check while wearing that white mesh swimsuit she wore in Sports Illustrated.
Another example of why 2006 was a good year is 364 days of the year I did not throw up. Everyone can agree that a day without throwing up is always better than a day in which one does throw up. The day I had some sort of virus which caused extreme discomfort was horrible, but it was not self-inflicted. There were times in my youth I ingested a few too many containers of cereal malt beverage and became unwell because of it. That was long ago, just a few years after Cheryl Tiegs lived in my daydreams.
Nowadays the things which threaten my day-to-day health are a result of spending my work days in what amounts to a petrie dish of bacteria and viruses, a school. I have decided there are only two ways to avoid catching any illness when working in a building with six hundred germ incubators (a.k.a children). The first is to arrive each day wearing one of those suits the NASA guys wore when they invaded Elliot’s house looking for ET. This makes it very hard to sit at my desk and the gloves make it impossible to type discipline referrals into the computer. The other way is to bar students from the building. This greatly reduces the risk of being exposed to germs and it eliminates the need to write discipline referrals as well, two for the price of one, cool.
Looking forward to 2007 I have to admit I have my worries. Even though the Chiefs got into the playoffs which required Kansas City winning, Tennessee losing, Cincinnati losing, Denver losing, the moon moving into the seventh house, Jupiter aligning with Mars, causing peace to guide the planets, and love to steer the stars. There are other indications the world may be headed for disaster. Not the least of which is “Armed and Famous.”
Ad after ad for this “reality” show was displayed as I watched the game. If handing an ex-professional wrestler (Trish Stratus), a has-been television heartthrob (Erik Estrada), the son of a whacked out rock star (Jack Osbourne), a little person who made his living being publicly humiliated by someone named Johnny Knoxville (Jason Acuna a.k.a. Wee Man), and a member of the most famously dysfunctional family of all time (LaToya Jackson) real guns and badges is not a sign of the apocalypse I suggest someone study the Book of Revelations a bit more closely.