Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scare up some ideas

I have been thinking recently about combining the works of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Navin R. Johnson.

I have probably confused some of my readers with an unfamiliar name. One man is known as a brilliant speaker, a man of conviction dedicated to enhancing of the lives of millions of people, a man ahead of his time who brought the rest of the world forward with his sheer force of will and the other is Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Joke writing 101: the unexpected turnaround.)

For those of you who spent too much time in movie theaters in the late seventies you will recognize the name Navin R. Johnson as the character played by Steve Martin in “The Jerk”. There were dozens of fabulous quotes from that movie: “The new phone books are here!” and “He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans.” But my personal favorite soliloquy of silliness has to be when his life goes to pot and as he leaves his mansion he claims he doesn’t need anything from his former life and then proceeds to pick an odd variety of things that he really does need. It goes something like this:

Well I'm gonna go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this. [picks up an ashtray] And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

This brings me to my idea of combining the philosophical musings of Navin and one of the most famous quotes from the 32nd President of the United States: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

If President Roosevelt were a practicing politician today he would have pulled a Navin and kept talking. I am guessing it would have gone something like this.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Well, and we should also be more than a little worried about global warming. Oh, and the health care system is in a right awful state. There are terrorists all over the place with dynamite sewn into their Fruit of the Looms. The stimulus package is full of pork barrel spending and none of it came to our state. We are inexorably changing into a socialist, communist, fascist, alarmist, anesthesiologist, chauvinist, contortionist, cubist, elitist, empiricist, escapist, existentialist, exorcist, hedonist, ichthyologist, imperialist, misogynist, narcissist, neoclassicist, nephrologist, nihilist, nonconformist, nudist, opportunist, orthodontist, pessimist, philatelist, plagiarist, pointillist, projectionist, propagandist, pugilist, recidivist, repudiationist, sadomasochist, secessionist, solipsist, surrealist, ventriloquist, nation. The government is out to take all your money with unreasonable taxes and then they are going to spend it all on ashtrays and remote controls and paddle games.

That was only slightly exaggerating things. It seems fear is the most important thing to invoke when talking to groups of more than six people. In the old days people subscribed to the “hope for the best expect the worst” methodology of planning ahead. We have now removed the “hope for the best” part and added to the “expect the worst” part with a side order of “and it probably causes cancer”. On top of that we feel compelled to make a seven step plan of action to deal with the inevitable doom coming our way complete with designing a staging area to coordinate all emergency first responders (firemen, paramedics, police officers, CNN reporters and psychologists to help us cope), drawing up escape routes to Canada and assembling public relations departments charged with spinning the apocalypse in a more positive light (each and every child can have his or her own pet frog since they are raining from the sky).