Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cut. Paste. Laugh.

Some weeks, it's not easy to spit out this column.

Like when my wife comes down with the flu, which puts me in charge of all the child care, all the housework, all the football watching, and all the undecorating and removing the Christmas tree before it finally turns orange.

So much for my weekend.

Under these conditions, I hope you can forgive my format this week, which was conceived at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, and my deadline is Sunday at dawn.

I encourage you to browse sometime, if you haven't already. It's a site that compiles oddball news stories. The best feature is the headlines they write to link to each story, some of which made me laugh so hard I nearly puked up my egg nogg.

If you need any extra incentive, take a look at these gems from their 2009 "Headline of the Year" contest (I almost hesitate to show them to you, since they make my weekly efforts to amuse you look rather pathetic, but I am quite desperate at the moment):

- Marilyn Monroe hormone discovered. Or should it be called Norma Gene?

- Plane crashes in Florida panhandle, no pilot found. Well, there's your problem.

- North Andover Andover Andover man survives SUV rollover.

- Adolf Hitler's family won't see any money from the sale of his paintings, since their past efforts raised a little furor.

- Bristol Palin graduates from high school, despite failing Trig.

- Peephole in door of girl's dorm room reversed; police are looking into it.

- One killed, six injured in pie factory explosion. Blast heard up to 3.14159265 miles away.

- The Pope encourages young people to use the internet, but says they have to use the same computer for the rest of their lives and they'll go to hell if they use any anti-virus software.

- Man gets called into work so he can be fired, returns home to find his house on fire. Wishes he had been laid off.

- Truck carrying a load of pigs overturns on interstate, witnesses report multiple cases of swine flew.

- Misplaced period lands man in jail, rather than the more traditional marriage.

- 80-ton wave generator works briefly as advertised when it falls into the ocean.

- Millions of women find sex unbearable. They can be identified by a ring on the fourth finger of the left hand.

- That foot found at a NY recycling center? Turns out it belonged to a bear. You'd think police could recognize a bearclaw when they see one.

- Police in London solve 1 crime for every 1000 closed-circuit TV cameras. Or about 2 for every 1984.

- Gay couple handcuffed and cited for trespassing after one kissed the other on the cheek in the Mormon temple plaza. Church officials say they've never seen such an inappropriate display in all their wives.

- Feet are washing ashore at Cockey Creek in Maryland. And you don't want to know what's washing up at Footy Beach.

- Group finds high levels of lead in Disney, Barbie toys, which can cause irreversible brain damage. The lead can be harmful too.

- Judge rules that City of Chicago can use eminent domain to relocate cemetary for O'Hare expansion. The move is expected to displace almost 1,100 potential voters.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We Aught Not Relive this Decade

As if those God-awful year-end retrospectives the media keep feeding us weren't bad enough, now we have to put up with decade retrospectives, as well.

It's almost an insult that nearly every mainstream media outlet in the country is about to assume I don't remember September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq War.

I'm ready for them to remind me that 2009 saw the deaths of Michael Jackson, Ted Kennedy, and all the equity in my house.  If I wasn't paying attention when it happened, what makes you think I'm paying attention now?

The only thing worse than seeing all this drivel in the news media is knowing that people actually read it.

One critical function of the media, I've realized, is to validate our reality. We want to see that someone else remembers it the same way we do, even if that someone else is the same people who told us about it in the first place.

It's lame.

I understand journalists have to fill air time and copy inches during the news void that is the week after Christmas. But why not go back and fill me up with interesting stories that I probably missed the first time around? Let's see something new, not something old.

Let's give it a try:

2000: I manage to graduate from college, despite commuting to class on Firestone tires, spending 30 hours a week downloading songs from Napster and playing "Twisted Metal" on the Playstation 2.

2001: The United States experienced an event of soul-chilling violence that exposed our vulnerabilities, left us confused and scared, and sucked us into intense conflicts. Or, as people in the Jerusalem call it, "Tuesday."  

2002: I took a leave of absence from my job and drove around America for four months, searching for the soul of a nation, wondering what I might see that someone could hate so intensely. I quickly learned that the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico is not open when it claims to be.

2003: The United Nations proclaimed 2003 the "International Year of Freshwater," which President Bush observed by standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declaring that everyone in the world already had ample access to fresh water.

2004:  A dead whale exploded in downtown Tainan City, Taiwan, while being transported to a university for study. The bursting whale splattered blood and whale guts over surrounding shop-fronts, bystanders, and cars, proving that Americans really do need to pay closer attention to international news.

2005: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma bully and batter a lot of people we don't know living in places that are far away. Gas prices jump well over $4 per gallon. Yikes!

2006: Upon noticing that the decade is not going well, the world takes a year off.  

2007: Caught up in the hysteria over Bird Flu, I buy 50 pounds of extra non-perishable food and store it in the shed. It has since perished.

2008: Somehow, "Kung Fu Panda" becomes the third-highest grossing film of the year, finishing behind some Indiana Jones movie and some Batman movie. Ridiculous.

2009: Wake me up when it's over. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Clean-Up Time

As you watch a news update about the global climate summit in Copenhagen, where politicians debate if we should lower our carbon emissions by an eensy-weensy bit, or just a teeny-tiny bit, a neighbor walks up to your swimming pool and dumps a few gallons of some mysterious liquid into the water. Are you concerned?

I would hope so.

I know what you're thinking: "I don't even have a swimming pool." Fine. Poor example.

Let's try this one: I poured a bottle of unmarked pills into your well a few days ago. I found them in the back of a friend's medicine cabinet. The label was missing. They were pink and white.

I have no idea what the pills do, but I can't imagine they can be too harmful. A doctor prescribed them to someone, after all. They're meant to be ingested.

You've already had two or three glasses of water since then, with no problems so far. So what are you all worked up about?

What? You're calling the police? Pressing charges? Interesting.

Now ask yourself how you feel about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

No big deal? Carry on as normal?

Global warming skeptics insist there's no proof that man-made carbon emissions are causing any problems.

Whatever. What they don't say is that no one can prove our carbon emissions are NOT causing problems.

I assume you'd like to keep your drinking water the same. I vote we keep the atmosphere pretty much the same as when the first neanderthals started beating each other with mammoth tusks, or whatever they did.

Even if you think science hasn't proven anything about global warning, you also can't assume fundamentally changing the Earth's atmosphere is harmless.

The International Energy Agency, which is considered conservative in its carbon estimates, says we're on pace to more than double the CO2 in the atmosphere this century. Meanwhile, the Earth has less than half the carbon-eating rain forest it had a couple hundred years ago.

So: my daughter could live to see a global temperature change severe enough to suck our soil dry, turn vast swaths of temperate zones into deserts, and melt the polar ice caps, which would put just about every lobster pound on the coast of Maine out of business. (Are you paying attention now, Baldacci?)

But even if you remain skeptical that an atmosphere absurdly thick with CO2 is contributing to a serious climate change problem; even if you're not convinced there is a scientific consensus that man-made CO2 emissions are bad news, tell me what good could possibly come from futzing around with the atmosphere.


You wouldn't dump anything into your well if you didn't know exactly what the risks were. Why are we so quick cling to doubt when it comes to the air? When there are plenty of legitimate scientists shouting "Catastrophe!" and their opponents, mostly energy industry lackeys, can only muster, "maybe not."

Fine. Even though it's an absurd violation of everything we know about peer-reviewed science, I'll grant you your lack of consensus. "Maybe not" it is, then.

Big deal.

Let's clean up after ourselves, anyway.

And not like your nine-year-old cleans his room, by shoving everything under the bed and hoping it disappears into a convenient black hole. We actually have to get rid of our waste, and stop making so much of it to begin with.

It's the right thing to do.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Top Five Things That Prove America is the Greatest Nation in History

5.  Juice in a bag!

You know you live in an advanced society when liquid refreshment is widely available in bags. 

The bag is a container traditionally reserved for substances that don't leak, seep, drip, or permeate. But not in America, dammit. 

Our space-age metallic juice bags will not only wet your palate, but they'll still be piled up in landfills 1 million years from now, just to let future space alien archaeologists know how much ass we kicked.

Don't even start in about how difficult it is to stick that flimsy little straw into that little hole in the top without bending it all to hell. Your failures in manual dexterity need not reflect poorly on our genius scientific advances. 

Besides, your frustration may eventually force you to heave the bag of juice against a wall. Don't tell me it wouldn't feel satisfying.

4. Disability benefits!

According to the AFP news service, a woman in Quebec suffering from "crippling depression" recently lost her disability benefits when her insurance company discovered a photo of her on Facebook, relaxing at the beach, wearing a bikini and a smile. How typical of those commie canucks to yank this woman's livelihood just because she decided to share with friends the one rare moment of non-anguish, when she forced herself to smile for the camera on a doctor-ordered vacation. 

This would never happen in America. We call this behavior "living the American Dream." She can afford a beach vacation without having to work? No wonder she's smiling! Any loyal yankee would have to tip his hat to her, even an insurance agent.

3.  The Clean Air Act!

I recently read a book called "Lost on Planet China" by J. Maarten Troost, who pretended to be a real estate investor so he would be allowed into China to make fun of it. The primary target of his ridicule is the air, which, by his account, is about as fit for human lungs as used motor oil. The sun does not exist in much of China. The smog blots it out.  With four cities larger than New York and 16 larger than Los Angeles, it's easy to see why.

Leaving aside the fact that China is ruled by insecure and paranoid government officials representing a dysfunctional political ideal, the fact that we've managed to keep our air clear enough to see celestial bodies through it is reason enough to be thankful to live in the good ol' U.S.A.

2.  The best health care system in the world!

In Middleton, Nova Scotia, an 81-year-old man was having a heart attack in the parking lot of a hospital. His wife went in to get help, but they told her to call 911 or bring him in herself. 

After paramedics arrived and took her husband into the hospital, she was told she'd have to pay for the ambulance trip.

All this was reported in The Canadian Press last week, with no mention of a lawsuit. Obviously, they have no idea how to operate a health care system up there. Malpractice makes perfect, that's what I say.

1.  Bizarre scented candles!

I just discovered, where you won't find the sissy traditional aromas like "French Vanilla" or "pumpkin spice." 

Instead, they specialize in unusual odors, including: "bacon," "beer," "mouthwash," "new car," "sawdust," "stripper," and "urinal cake."

Yes! I can finish my Christmas shopping early this year!

Thank you, America.