Friday, July 24, 2009

Skirmish of the Sexes

Ever since Adam gave up a rib there have been disagreements between the genders. I wish to address the some of the more subtle salvos pitched at men over the years.

First there is the dust ruffle. This had to be a woman’s idea. A man can’t feel masculine saying the words “dust ruffle” much less selecting one to match the color scheme. Women claim it hides what is stored under the bed, but we know this is just a way to misdirect men from the real purpose: to declare the bedroom woman’s turf. The hiding things explanation just doesn’t fly. Women don’t put things under the bed which need to be hidden. Actually, men do not purposefully place things under the bed at all. The problem arises organically in a single man’s bedroom. It simply never occurs to us to clean under the bed which is why men often have dust bunnies with actual teeth because they survive on the French fries kicked under there during the Clinton administration. Anyway, if a man wanted to design something to cover up the gap between the bed and the floor there would be no pastel flowers and lace. It would involve duct tape, two-by-fours and some barbed wire thrown in for that touch of whimsy.

A woman also had to create those fuzzy covers that slip over toilet lids. The official story is one of d├ęcor and beauty. When in reality it had to be in response to the eternal battle of seat up versus seat down. I will admit it took some time for me to get into the habit, but now I share a house with three women so the seat is down. This probably delayed the manly development of my son, but his two sisters and mother are happier, ergo, we are safer.

A while back our bathroom was spruced up. A throw rug in front of the sink and another rug at the base of the toilet was added. This was fine with me, tile floors can be cold. The offending addition was the shag carpet slip cover on the toilet lid. Whereas women want the seat down at all times, there are times men prefer to have it up. The shag cover on the lid makes keeping the seat up a balancing act requiring more than a little skill. The guy who spun thirty plates on sticks for “The Ed Sullivan Show” would have a devil of a time getting the seat to stay perpendicular.

The chief casualty of this skirmish is hygiene. A man believes he has the seat securely resting in an upright position and haltingly takes his hand away from it. Invariably it wavers and he instinctively lunges to stop it from slamming down. Aim is compromised.

Pantyhose is where the debate gets a little murky. Women say a man invented it because they are a pain to put on and uncomfortable to wear. I beg to differ. A woman invented pantyhose because it facilitates sending men on errands they would rather not do. Really, they’d rather watch every Sandra Bullock every made than run out to buy pantyhose.

Hose is the most temporary form of clothing ever created. It seems every time we are going to get dressed up for any occasion my wife doesn’t have a hole-free pair in the house. (If I needed to buy a new pair of pants every single time I wanted to go out I’d just stop going out.) Of course, when these emergency replacement hose are required I am dispatched to get them.
On the embarrassment scale this product is higher than a bottle of Midol but a darned sight lower than many other items in the vast range of feminine accoutrements. The problem is there are just too many size variables. If you read the height and weight chart on the display and make the wrong (or even the medically accurate) choice it might be best just to open the bedroom door, toss the package in, and head right back to the car to wait. If she doesn’t show up in twenty minutes you can just sneak back into the house, make up your bed on the couch, and turn on Sportscenter.

There is also the story about when I went to buy my wife some panty hose while I still had make-up on from a theatrical production in which I was acting. I venture to guess the young lady who waited on me never truly believed I wasn’t buying them for myself.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Simply Nice

“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative” are words to live by offered up by Mr. Johnny Mercer from his 1944 song (actually titled “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” but we'll let him get away with that - it was well before spell check) recorded by such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and even Aretha Franklin.

This sentiment is something I often strive for but can fall very short of achieving. It really is easier to dwell on the negative; partially because the grand majority of the media spends most of its time behaving like the world is nothing but a vast collection of bitter medicine spread on a large bowl of cauliflower and then covered with a thin layer of chocolate just to entice you to take a gigantic bite out of it before you have a chance to truly see what it is you are getting yourself in for.
All the news outlets discuss financial wreck and ruin, horrible human rights violations by despotic leaders, and unthinkable crimes committed in seemingly safe locations and that is just the arts and leisure section describing an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey.

People always seem to assume the worst of others, especially others who are different in even the most superficial ways. Remember that episode of Star Trek, the first Star Trek, not one of the seventy-five spin-offs like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Now Caffeine Free, but I digress. Remember that episode of Star Trek where two guys are dead set on killing each other and even Spock isn’t smart enough to figure out why they hate each other so much. It turns out Frank Gorshin, who is white on the left side and black on the right side, really hates Lou Antonio because he is white on the right side and black on the left side. No wonder everyone thought Gene Roddenberry was such a genius at subtly pointing out the weaknesses of mankind.

Actually, upon further investigation it turned out Frank Gorshin hated Lou Antonio because Frank Gorshin’s career would only consist of guest shots on Hawaii Five-O, Get Christy Love, and doing the voice of the Reverend Jack Cheese on an episode of Ren and Stimpy and Mr. Antonio would go on to be the director of episodes of The Rockford Files, The West Wing, and Boston Legal. If I were Mr. Gorshin I’d be pretty ticked off too. But I digress even farther.

This assuming the worst of everyone does not accentuate the positive. A great example of this can be found in the bitter partisanship of today’s politics. There was a time a Republican and a Democrat would argue loudly in the Senate chamber about whether a bill was worthy to become law and then they’d go to dinner together and tell each other jokes and have a grand time while agreeing to disagree but still valuing each other as men working for the betterment of the nation. Now a Republican and a Democrat will argue loudly in the Senate chamber about the worthiness of a bill and then go to their individual offices to do phone interviews with talk radio hosts in order to portray the opposition as mother hating, flag desecrating, apple pie burning, communist loving doodoo heads. How’s that for raising the bar of political discourse in the country?

Strangely enough the best place to go in order to wash away the negativity of the news media and politicians is my refrigerator. Not because it contains ice cream, even though that would help, but because it is currently covered with positive stuff.

Alice (middle Pyle child) and one of her friends (Lydia, who I understand is quite fly) spent a couple of hours writing list after list and taping them to the front of the fridge under the heading “Things Which Make You Go Yea!” Alice reported it was quite fun and downright therapeutic so everyone else started contributing lists for the Happy Frigidaire, and darned if it wasn’t a source of fun and lingering good feelings.

Here are some of my favorites chosen at random: good hair days, play-doh, breakfast for lunch, food, hitting every green light, anything shiny, penguins, food, duct tape, Orlando Bloom, anything cow shaped, laughter, snorting when you laugh, laughing until you start to cry, food, Samoa Girl Scout cookies, doughnuts, Dean Martin, lightsabers, the first cup of coffee in the morning, sleep, food, the Indiana Jones Guy, non-smelly markers, prom hair, air conditioning, memory foam, wearing new outfits, blowing bubbles, food, toast, ninjas, and stick figures.

Now grab a pad of post it notes and cover your own refrigerator with things that make you go YEA! It is totally worth it.

Christopher Pyle is happy to have made his wife’s list. Feel free to share your lists with him at occasionallykeen@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Not Quite What We Had in Mind

Last Friday the United States of America celebrated the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This document and the Constitution of the United States which followed were the crowning achievements of a group of brilliant men created from a remarkable confluence of events and utilizing the collective intellectual resources of the time. These men, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and company, even after many personal foibles have been unearthed by historians, are looked upon with reverence as the Founding Fathers of this great nation. I can’t help but think if these men of intellect and innovation were to be fetched from the late 18th century and brought to the early 21st century they would be re-named the Dumbfounded Fathers.

You know they really didn’t mean that “all men are created equal” stuff when they wrote it. There’s no way Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the lightning rod, bifocals, a carriage odometer (you need to rotate horses every ten thousand leagues) and the glass armonica, thought the guy who wrote the Treaty of Worms (1743) was his equal. I mean really, the Treaty of Worms? They couldn’t come up with a snappier title than that?

The Dumbfounded Fathers would shake their heads in confusion whenever hearing people rattle on about all men are equal. Even if they had just gotten to Philadelphia, 2009, from Philadelphia, 1787, it would only take them ten minutes of channel surfing in their hotel rooms to illustrate the mistake of equality by pointing to Bill Moyers Journal and then to I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Hmmm, Dr. Cornel West discussing the concept of social justice or Lou Diamond Phillips eating bugs, you decide.

Watching television might also make them re-think this freedom of speech idea. Back in their day giving everyone the freedom to speak their minds was less problematic. The village zealot standing in the corner of the town square telling everyone that Beelzebub had been seen licking all the licorice whips in Johnson’s Store meaning all the children were now possessed was easy to ignore. Also, the town know-it-all could bloviate all he wanted and everyone in the vicinity knew he was a dolt and just let his words fly off into the, what was then a much healthier, ozone layer never to be taken seriously.

In today’s high tech world the village zealots can blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and use cell phones equipped with cameras (both still and video) in order to get out the irrefutable proof that Beelzebub and Ben Bernanke are the same person and all money printed since 2006 is cursed and the bail-out is a massive plot by old Scratch himself to pull us all into the clay pits of Hades. Because this information is now rampant on the internet and millions of people all over the world are just gullible enough to think “if it’s on the internet it must be true” there will be an immense hit taken on the stock market and the grocery stores will all run out of garlic because these people are always confusing how to ward off vampires and how to avoid being dragged into the underworld.

Also, in today’s world of 150 television channels and 24-hour a day talk radio the guy who was ignored by the locals because he was a known thickheaded blowhard is given four hours of radio airtime in 75 major markets and a prime time television show five nights a week where he can successfully agitate and energize others of his ilk who believe they are the true knowers of what is right and true and everyone else in the world are pansy, tofu-eating, tree-hugging, socialistic, pacifists who should either be shot or sent to go live in New Zealand with all the other Hobbit lovers.

I am sure the Dumbfounded Fathers would not think that just because someone can distribute their ideas to a vast audience doesn’t mean his or her thoughts are wise, useful, or even remotely coherent. The idea that some people’s thoughts have more weight and greater value should not be lost in the freedom of speech maelstrom in which we now live.

I am sure it is very likely many readers are currently thinking I should apply these notions to myself. I know full well my ideas are not necessarily any more important or meaningful than some of the people I am currently mocking and the column inches dedicated to my words could easily be dedicated to better and more cogent thought. To those of you thinking that…nyaaah, nyaaah, nyaaah, I got here first.