Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
If you’re like me, your idea of “Working Out” means bringing your briefcase to Tim Horton’s.
If you’re like me, you have found yourself stranded in a blizzard because your Honda Civic, which has power windows, locks, steering, braking, and hundreds of other convenient bits of power, inexplicably lacks any sort of warning chime or buzzer or siren to alert you that you’ve left your headlights on.
But you are most like me if you find the Holiday Season a gauntlet of stressful brainstorming sessions and last-minute shopping excursions, followed by an unsatisfying letdown that results from feeling like maybe your brother-in-law doesn’t appreciate the meat grinder as you thought he would, given that he’s a vegetarian.
Well, this year, you won’t have that problem.
I have devised a perfect three-step system to rescue you from the normal December doldrums.
1. Give until it feels good. You might have heard the phrase “give until it hurts.” Less popular is the phrase “give until it feels good.”
Abandon all reason in favor of that sweet euphoria that can only come from prioritizing someone else without any consideration for yourself, flinging fistfuls of $20 bills at random strangers until you’re flat broke.
If you don’t choose that third level, you might as well Bah-Humbug yourself back up that mountain above Whoville, or whatever.
But that still begs the question: what to give?
2. Give something that matters. You know, actually matters. Notice I didn’t say “matters to the recipient” or “matters to you.” As long as it matters to someone, somewhere on the globe, you can always say, “It’s the thought that counts.”
That relative who seems to have everything, who is impossible to buy for, deserves a $25 donation made in their name to the charity of their choice (even if it is some depraved cause like the Church of Scientology or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).
Think about it: if your house is already full of plastic crap imported from China, and you are living comfortably enough to buy whatever would be in a gift-giver’s budget anyway, what would feel better than knowing you inspired someone to help the less fortunate?
You can also go retro by giving something that took time, creativity, or ingenuity to make. This year I’m going to make soap. Nothing sends the perfect message to your filthy relatives than a box of soap on Christmas morning.
I also want to make cinnamon applesauce ornaments decorated with glitter glue and bits of ribbon, which will delight the whole family until your three-year-old niece eats one off the tree and has to be rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped.
What epitomizes the spirit of family giving this holiday season more than offering to drive someone to the emergency room?
No need for giant piles of expensive gifts to create cherished holiday memories. Keep it simple, that’s what I say.
3. Sing modified carols to keep your spirits up. Example:
Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas.
Let Your Cart be Light.
From Now On Your Expenses Won’t be Out of Sight!
Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas.
So Your Nerves Don’t Fray.
From Now On Our Stresses Will Be Miles Away!
Here We Are as in Olden Days,
Crappy Gift Parades, Ignore.
Faithful Friends Who are Dear To Us
Don’t Want Your Wal-Mart Crap Any More.
Through the Years
We All Will Be Together,
If the Streets Are Plowed.
Hang a Homemade Ornament On the Highest Bough!
And Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas Now.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
It feels good to get the last of my firewood split and stacked before October’s chilly breeze turns to November’s biting frost.
But that dog turd has other ideas.
As my splitting maul careens down toward that first unfortunate log, I slip on an ill-placed pile of poop.
My legs split. The log does not.
What should happen next is a drastic groin injury that leaves me whimpering on the ground until my wife comes out to check on me. I would tolerate her amused ridicule as long as she is prepared to deal with the firewood until I recover from surgery.
Instead, I manage to land on one knee to avoid serious injury. I was lucky.
My wood splitting area is a known dog defecation zone. I should have checked. I just was not using my noggin.
Such embarrassing moments keep us humble. I can accept their necessity.
But what if your underwear explodes?
I read about a woman in the early 1950s who bought a new netted underskirt made with nitrocellulose, a basic ingredient in gunpowder. She wore it to a New Year’s Eve party. One casual flick of a cigarette, and BOOM! She suddenly became the center of attention.
Oh, sure. It’s funny now. The woman, in her highly charred state, did not find it quite so amusing. Hers was one of several incidents that sparked (heh, heh) the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953.
That’s right: the government had to step in and make it illegal to sell highly combustible clothing.
After a series of lethal and disfiguring incidents.
It’s easy to look back now and see how stupid that was. Unthinkable nowadays, right?
If you believe that, I’ve got a yard full of dog turds to show you.
Remember in 2007, when a bunch of Thomas the Train toys were recalled because they contained lead? People who sent their trains back received an extra toy train as a complimentary gift.
How thoughtful of the distributor, RC2 Corp. Too bad the new toy train also contained lead.
You can’t possibly fire enough people to make up for such epic incompetence.
I read about all this stuff in a book called “Slow Death By Rubber Duck,” by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. It describes “The Secret Danger of Everyday Things;” how toxic chemicals ubiquitously and invisibly inhabit just about everything in your house.
“From the time we get up from a good night’s sleep under our wrinkle-resistant sheets (treated with the known carcinogen formaldehyde) to the time we go to bed after a snack of microwave popcorn (the interior of the bag coated with an indestructible chemical that builds up in our bodies), pollution surrounds us.”
The authors experimented on themselves, exposing their own bodies to mercury, phthalates, bromine, BPA, and bunches of other toxins widely available at the supermarket, proving that the human body does absorb this stuff - not just in massive, unrealistic quantities, but through normal use of common products.
They enumerate some steps you can take to protect yourself, but stress that public awareness and better regulation are the only long-term solutions.
Maybe 50 years from now, people will look back on how we dressed our kids in pajamas coated with poisonous flame-retardants and stored our food in chemical-leeching plastic containers, and wonder what the hell we were thinking.
Sometimes I wonder if we’ll make it that far. Our scientific knowledge and technological advancements truly are remarkable. But we don’t really know that much.
We know just enough to be dangerous.
Friday, October 22, 2010
After the Bangor Daily News endorsed Eliot Cutler, I got an impolite mailing from the Democratic Party. It painted Cutler as an Earth-raping tree pillager in bed with the oil companies.
I don’t know if this is true, but I do know it was a pretty weak attempt at a campaign flier.
To start with, they used a picture of Cutler smiling harmlessly. Granted, they darkened the picture, trying to make him look grainy and foreboding, but they failed to create the impression of a villain eager to spread black viscous slime all over our pristine coastline.
Most campaign attack ads use rather unflattering photos of the target. They dig around for a picture of him yelling maniacally, picking his nose, or at least frowning. You mean to tell me the Democrats could not find a single picture of Eliot Cutler frowning?
I saw Cutler at the Common Ground Fair. He was frowning all over the place. He frowned his way from the political action tent all the way over to the lamb-ka-bobs. Where was the Donkey photo sniper?
I tried to remain close to see if Cutler would notice that a likely voter was standing a few feet away, waiting to be persuaded. But he just kept frowning along, surrounded by a group of young supporters in white Cutler tee-shirts. The supporters were smiling, albeit nervously. I’m not sure they’d ever seen hippies before.
At any rate, the Democrats don’t really need to worry about the BDN endorsement. Cutler has the campaigning skills of a sea urchin.
Plus, in a different editorial, the BDN endorsed a moderate, rational approach to politics, and you can see how influential that was.
It is true; running a government is complicated and requires nuance and careful thought, rather than knee-jerk angry reactivity. But talk to the average voter about any divisive issue, and you’ll see that even the ones who think they’re rational are really just controlled by vague impulses and subconscious fear.
People are all wound up about Cutler working as a lobbyist for Chinese corporations, as if Chinese wealth is grown by exploitation, but ours is not. Meanwhile, they flock to Wal-Mart and fill their carts with stuff that was Made in China.
Hypocrisy springs eternal.
Then we have a recent CBS News poll showing that 61% of Americans think illegal immigration is a “very serious” problem. Republicans and Tea-Baggers lead the charge to close our borders.
They have no sense of irony. Illegal immigrant labor reduces the costs of goods and services in the U.S. by an average of 5%, according to the non-partisan National Research Council.
If someone proposed a 5% sales tax increase on everything sold in the United States, Republicans would have a fit the size of Great Britain. They’d raise a valiant defense against this assault on small business and corporate stockholders.
But I guess we can afford the extra expense if it means fewer people with brown skin hanging around.
Maybe the BDN is correct in noting that we should vote for someone who actually knows what’s going on, and that Cutler is the only candidate with an actual detailed plan to solve Maine’s fiscal problems.
But he’s still going to lose. And so will Mitchell. They do not have LePage’s edge, the proper outrage and intensity we look for in a candidate we expect to Change Everything.
Democrats: Stop putting out cheesy fliers. Save your money for 2012 and 2014.
And hire some more photo snipers.
Friday, October 15, 2010
As a child, my Halloween costumes were a series of comic mishaps worthy of a much larger audience. If reality TV had existed back then, I might have been rich and famous.
My parents, God love them, were happy to oblige whatever crazy costume idea I came up with each year. This was exceedingly educational. Read on to partake of my wisdom.
Once I was a mummy. They wrapped me in about $60 worth of toilet paper, only to find that whenever I moved any limb at an angle of five degrees or more, the paper ripped. By the time I got to the car (we lived in the woods and had to drive to the suburbs for Trick-or-Treating) I had inadvertently
shredded the costume.
DO NOT DRESS YOUR CHILD AS A MUMMY FOR HALLOWEEN.
Then I went through a series of box-oriented costumes. One year I was a robot, the next, a birthday present. There might have been a jack-in-the-box mixed in there somewhere, as well; I’m not sure.
At any rate, my mother slaved for hours elaborately decorating large cardboard boxes in colored paper and tin foil, only to discover on Halloween night that the costume would not fit into our undersized Subaru station wagon.
You’d think we would have realized somewhere along the way that the whole box thing was a poor idea.
DO NOT MAKE A BOX COSTUME FOR YOUR CHILD unless you’re absolutely certain you won’t have to drive him or her anywhere for a while.
I vaguely remember my mother pressuring me to be a pirate one year. I must have been just a little tyke, but the idea of wearing an earring scared me to bits, partially because I imagined searing pain in my earlobe, and partially because boys did not wear earrings in those days unless they wanted to be picked on relentlessly.
It’s too bad that I felt the need, as a six-year-old with big plastic glasses, to assure everyone how manly I was by not wearing an earring. I might have had more fun.
At any rate, needless to say, DO NOT PRESSURE YOUR CHILD INTO CROSS-DRESSING.
Another year, when I was closer to adolescence, I got the idea of dressing as Johnny Paycheck, who sung the famous tune “Take This Job and Shove It.” Instead of saying “Trick or Treat” at every house, I wanted to say, “Take this Halloween Candy and Shove It.” Thankfully, I was talked out of that idea.
No matter how original and avant garde your child may feel, DO NOT PERMIT HIM TO DRESS AS A DISGRUNTLED COUNTRY MUSIC STAR. (But a gruntled country music star would be fine.)
Also, please resist the temptation to dress your child as a politician. Every year I see shorties running around in Regan masks and Bush masks and it makes me wonder if there’s been a robbery at Midget National Bank or something.
I admit, though, a Paul LePage costume would be pretty scary, but you’d have to instruct your child to curse at people after saying “Trick or Treat.” Then, if they don’t give the exact candy he wants, he should storm angrily away from the house.
My daughter, wiser than I ever was, is a bumblebee this year. If my ego can recover from the sting we’ll have a great time.