Friday, December 21, 2007

Celebrity Death Match: A. Maslow v. S. Claus

There has often been a great disparity between what a person needs and what a person wants. Since I went to school to work in a school I spent time with Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” This world renowned smart guy put forth the idea that human beings have certain needs and he showed them in a progression from basic to more complex. He also said one can not focus on fulfilling the next need until the more basic need is at least partially met. The main purpose of this in how-to-be-a-teacher-school was if a student is hungry and cold he is not very likely to care about the chief exports of Ecuador. In case you are fully fed and your temperature is properly regulated: oil, bananas, flowers and shrimp.
Since this is not my educational philosophy final I will not go into a bunch of detail but I will say Mr. Maslow does not mention getting an iPhone anywhere in his treatise. He does discuss when explaining the top of the pyramid section of self-actualization that opportunities for creativity, spontaneity and problem solving are important. Hmmm, creativity, spontaneity, and problem solving…I don’t know about you but that just screams “The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.” Do you think I could get a prescription from my healthcare provider for a Wii and therefore get insurance to pay for it because it is a health NEED.
Okay, if we are going to put Mr. Maslow out there as the champion of “need” who better to step up to represent “want” than the most famous bearded fat man in history, Raymond Burr. Mr. Burr represents the wants because of his long career on television including the great made-for-TV Perry Mason movies of the early 1990’s. Okay, that is truly lame. Santa Claus is the bearded fat man who should be the personification of “want”. Mr. Claus has been answering want lists for hundreds of years. If he only brought what was needed he would have a sleigh full of socks, underwear, warm coats, bran flakes, and Bowflexes. Would that stink, or what? If the poem read “children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of lima beans danced in their heads” it just wouldn’t ring true.
How about we look at some Christmas lists from around the world and then focus on the needs?
George W. Bush: Wants a legacy which would place him in a modern day Mount Rushmore of presidential greats. Needs someone to explain to him that WMD does not stand for “Wasteland, Mostly Desert” which Iraq actually does have plenty of.
Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears’ mother: Wants to publish a book on how to parent. Needs to read a book on how to parent. (I think if Dr. Benjamin Spock saw what she was doing in the name of parenthood he would have no choice but to knock her up side the head.)
Duncan Hunter: Wants to be president of the United States of America. Needs to have more than seventy-five people in his home state of California know who the heck he is.
Wal-Mart: Wants to have a net income larger than the number of grains of sand on the world’s beaches plus the number of stars in the heavens plus the number of fish in the sea plus the number of times Elizabeth Taylor got married. Needs to realize getting a rich man into heaven is like getting a camel through the checkout line in under fifteen minutes on a Saturday afternoon when there are forty-seven cash registers but only six of them open.
Bill Belichick: Wants to win every football game he coaches. Needs to take a charm course. He is about as appealing as a having Dr. Benjamin Spock hit you upside the head.
The People in Favor of Why Not Dodge?: Want to have a visit from the Special Events Fairy who magically sets a fully functioning, well placed, tastefully designed reasonably priced building somewhere in Dodge City. Need to realize this building will not fix all the cities woes and create a boon of tourist dollars akin to Branson, Missouri when that Japanese violinist opened his theater
The People Against Why Not Dodge?: Want to have a freak accident involving a heretofore unknown tectonic fault rupture beneath the newly placed Special Events Center causing a stream of molten lava to bubble forth and melt the building to a sparking slag heap. Need to realize the building will not be built on 666 Mephistopheles Avenue taking the city straight to the place which gets even fewer snow days than we do.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Striking a Blow for Workers Everywhere

The writers have been on strike for over a month now. Wait a minute, I’m a writer and I am writing this very moment. There I go again. I just wrote that sentence, too. I can’t seem to stop myself. Does this make me some sort of strike breaker, scab?
Oh, now I remember. It’s not Hutchinson News Community Columnists who are on strike, but rather television and movie writers who are walking the picket lines. Many scripted TV shows have already gone on hiatus. (The big question is: How will wrestling continue to air shows?) Will television networks throughout the land go dark? Unfortunately they will not. We will have a plethora of unscripted shows. Shows like “Survivor”, “The Amazing Race”, “The Bachelor”, “Wife Swap”, and “We Turned Over Another Rock to Find the Worst Aspects of Humanity and Now We Will Point a Camera at it to Prove Some People Will Watch Anything” will multiple like rabbits on Viagra.
This strike will not cause much consternation for me. I don’t really watch much television any more. This is not a way of setting myself up as some aloof person for whom television is not aesthetically challenging enough for my superior brain. I used to claim the sentence “I only watch public television” was the mating cry of the pseudo-intellectual. I like TV. I watched quite a bit during many different stages of my life. But, at the moment, I have a wife, three children, a mortgage, a job, and a strange desire to sleep so sitting in front of screen is not a frequent option. I do watch the Chiefs (the previous statement is akin to admitting one purposefully runs one’s fingernails over a chalkboard), and KU basketball whenever possible and I got hooked on “Heroes”, but I watched that on my computer. Television is not very important to me any more.
In preparing for this column I did my usual exhaustive four and half minutes of extensive research. It seems there have not been a whole lot of strikes in the entertainment industry. There was an actors strike in 1952. It seems Ronald Reagan was the president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was lucky there wasn’t an air traffic controller in the White House at the time or all actors might have had to look for a new profession. There was another actors strike in 1960. Then things settled down for twenty years. A three month actors strike in 1980 was followed by a three month writers strike in 1981. There was a short-lived (two weeks) writers strike in 1985. The one and only directors strike was in 1987 and it lasted three hours and five minutes, roughly the time it takes to watch Warren Beatty’s movie “Reds”. I’m sure that was a ploy by the producers. “If you don’t come back to work we will only have movies like this to watch over and over again.” The most recent writers strike lasted five months in 1988.
I remember no effects from any of those strikes. This leads me to wonder what repercussions other strikes would have on the world. A trash collectors strike would be noticed much more quickly than a strike by the people who put those colorful cellophane decorations on deli toothpicks. Oh, sure the ham on rye with sauerkraut and pickles would not be nearly as festive, but sandwich eaters throughout the land could make the sacrifice.
Living in a world without teachers would mean wholesale home schooling. Since the vast majority of people cannot stop working every day due to financial reasons many home schoolers would be left to self-teach. This would create a generation of people very adept at computer chatting, cell phone text messaging, leaving the lights on throughout the house, and sleeping until noon. I have yet to see a want ad listing that skill set as prerequisite to employment, and if I had seen one I would have driven my daughter there post haste.
I am sure everyone can suggest the job least likely to be missed if the people doing it went on a permanent strike. Jobs like: dust ruffle manufacturers, anyone helping Kevin Trudeau be on television twenty-four hours a day and campaign managers for Mike Gravel, the former senator from Alaska currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination. No really, he is. I read it on CNN. At the moment he garners only one percentage point more in the polls than either I or Ernie the Keebler Elf does.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Whoso removeth this clog is the rightful king

There is a great desire in many people to be heroes. The popularity of everything from comic books to John Wayne movies to video games testifies to this fact. Seeking heroic satisfaction by pretending to do undertakings of epic proportion also shows that people don’t think they can reach the level of Champion of the Human Race in real life. I beg to differ. Just two weeks ago I lived the hero quest story and still got to watch most of the Kansas – Missouri game on television.
The story of the hero quest is ancient and there are very specific steps which describe the process. Step One: The Call to Adventure. In the great stories this is often represented by a terrifying herald of doom. In my case it was simply my wife. No, that is not some cheap wife joke. She was simply the person to call my attention to the quest at hand. She told me the sink was clogged. Scoff if you want to, but with a true dearth of minotaurs and women sporting garter snake hairdos in the world, a clogged sink is about as good as I get.
Step Two: Refusal of the Call. Often the hero is so set in his ways he does not heed the call or refuses to step up to the challenge. I was no different. I ignored the problem. This is the typical man’s first action whenever there is a problem. The baby is crying. The man: she’ll go back to sleep. The wife is mad. The man: she’ll get over it. A man’s body is covered with weeping sores and his left arm has fallen off. The man: Who needs a doctor? I’ll be okay.
When I finally answered the call I went to simple answers. I plungered, which just moved water around, much of which ended up on the floor. Next I used highly caustic will-eat-the-through-anything-even-molecular-bonds fluid. You think I’m joking. Well, it proceeded to eat through the basket in the drain of the sink. This got the water to drain out of the basin, but it went into the cabinet underneath and then flowed out onto the floor of the kitchen.
The real adventure begins when the hero crosses over the first threshold. For me this was when I let a stream of less than happy words flow out of my mouth like the water flowing onto the floor. This was the point of no return. The hero is forced to face the problem and wade into battle. I was forced to face the problem and wade into the kitchen. Sorry, too many fluid puns.
Every great hero has his mentor who gives him special knowledge or tools to meet the challenge. Perseus was given a special shield by Athena. King Arthur had Merlin. Glooscap was given a magical bag by Grandmother Woodchuck. (I did not make that up…look it up.) I was no different. Like Luke Skywalker I had a teacher. Mine was Obi-War-Ren.
Okay, his name is actually just Warren. He is a friend who knows all those things which make someone actually useful. As opposed to someone who can tell you about the great Wabanaki hero Glooscap and how Grandmother Woodchuck plucked the hairs from her belly to make a magical bag. I know it is hard to believe that understanding plumbing would be more useful than that, but just look at the bill for a plumber and then think about how much you paid to read this.
Warren was my guide through the Road of Trials encountered by heroes. He knew how to navigate the vast Terra Incognito of the hardware store. He showed me such arcane weapons as plumber’s putty, traps, and drain baskets. He explained the mysteries of water pressure. He let me do actual labor instead of just having me hold tools and barking at me to point the flashlight in the right spot.
Next in the hero quest is the apotheosis. This is when the hero’s ego is disintegrated in a breakthrough of consciousness. He then takes his “ultimate boon” back to his home. After all this the hero is now a master of two worlds, both the divine and the human.
With Warren’s help on my hero quest I am now the master of two worlds. I can write a column containing such words as apotheosis, woodchuck and weeping sores as well as get the potato skins out of the u-bend using a drain auger and a screw driver. I am no longer impressed by Hercules.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Just Because CNN Says it, Should We Care

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me (truthfully the News doesn’t pay that well) I have to take exception to what the media decides I should know. Actually, the News does not cause me the consternation that larger, nationwide entities do. Let’s take a look at CNN.
CNN is a pioneer in its field. It is a gigantic world-wide enterprise with reporters in every corner of the globe (which makes no sense because a globe is round and has no corners). It even has Darth Vader doing the voice-over for its commercial. This (scuba tank regulator intake of breath and exhale) is CNN and I am your father. It is supposed to be a highly reputable news organization. As I write this it is nine o’clock Monday evening and if I go to their website three of the main headlines are: “Bride was an insurgent in disguise”, “Iraqis help ‘crush’ al Qaeda in Iraq”, and “‘I just lost it’ Ivy League prof admits killing his wife”. So, explain this to me. Do I need to know any of this stuff?
Headline number 1: Bride was an insurgent in disguise. This was a story about a wedding convoy getting stopped by soldiers north of Baghdad. Upon closer inspection they found the groom was wanted on terror related charges, the wedding gown was tea length which is so not done anymore, and the bride had a five o’clock shadow and was a chased man not a chaste woman.
Whether you are in favor of the way the government is handling things in Iraq or not you have to admit war is a nasty proposition. This news report sounds like the plot for the next comedy hit of the summer. A wanted terrorist decides to go on the lam disguised as a newlywed bride. Just watch the wackiness that ensues as Adam Sandler and Kevin James star in “I Now Pronounce you Haider and Abbas”. I don’t want to bring the room down, but reporting the ‘lighter side’ of terrorists and war seems at the very least in bad taste.
Headline number 2: Iraqis help ‘crush’ al Qaeda in Iraq. The story itself about how citizens of Iraq are contributing to the increased security of a section of Iraq is worthwhile and shows a modicum of progress can be found from time to time. The overstatement journalism is found in the headline. They say this line of defense is “crushing” al Qaeda in Iraq. If success in one sector of Baghdad is crushing al Qaeda than when the Miami Dolphins play the New England Patriots on December 23rd and they block the living daylights out of the Patriots kicker than they can say they crushed New England.
Headline number 3: ‘I just lost it’ Ivy League prof admits killing wife. I do not wish to denigrate the awfulness of the act or say that it should not be made public, but why does a national news service feel it needs to be a major story? Unfortunately, awful things happen everyday in most every sector of society. Would it be okay if all news organizations made a pact to stop trading in sordid acts of people murdering one another and simply placed an article in every paper saying: People do awful things to each other with a frequency that is quite frankly depressing and we need to remind you of it so you all take a moment to appreciate what you have and to remember to be careful out there. However, we are not going to tell you about this one guy who killed this other guy because that implies his death is more important than the other people who met a similar fate but were not famous enough or remarkable enough to get mentioned in the paper.
I do not want a Pollyanna approach to the news which only reports “good” stuff. What I would like is information about what our governments are doing which directly affect our lives. Information about the world’s economy and environment which impact me and my children is useful. Information about the candidates running for office which goes beyond sound bites and spin make for an informed electorate. All of these things would make me feel like an intelligent citizen of the planet while still not breaking with the mission statement of most news organizations promising to depress its readership like reciting Sylvia Plath at a birthday party.