January

I have never in my life seen a January coming.  It is always a surprise, and never a pleasant one.  It may have something to do with its namesake, Janus, the two faced, Roman god of the doorway.  Two faced, the pagan liturgy goes, to see both last year and next year.  Even for a god, if you’re looking at two things, you aren’t really seeing either.  If you represent both the beginning and the end, you represent neither.
It’s a widely held belief that January is nested somewhere between December and February, but I could not swear to that.  Calendars are for the unimaginative.  I prefer to live my life unencumbered by mundane processes like sequence.  Besides, who can believe in something so convoluted that it needs to add a day every four years?
Besides that besides, January is not a matter of days or weeks or temperature, or duration of sunlight.  Like the Dark Ages, like anxiety, like envy, January is a state of mind.  For me, it appears without warning, like a fox slipping under a fence just behind the hen house.  December, with the change of season and the holidays, takes up so much time and effort, that January is a formless afterthought.  A placeholder between what has happened already and what I want to happen. After December ends, I move quietly between the rooms of my life, and suddenly there is screeching, feathers flying and sharp teeth sinking into soft flesh.  “What?”  I say.  “Huh?” And then realize, oh yes.  It’s January again.
There is no baseball in January.  Any month without baseball is guaranteed to be a disappointment.
The Super Bowl has been backed up into February.
There’s college basketball, but it doesn’t have the mass and gravity that it will in March.
There’s the vacuous flurry of lists in January; the best of whatever happened in the year before January.  Or sometimes in the decade before.  The best movies, the biggest celebrity break-ups, the top ten squid recipes, the most deadly strains of new diseases, the hair-care products with the least potential for catastrophic environmental impact.
And the resolutions.  Even people who make resolutions know that resolutions are lies swapped around some internal psych ward waiting room by the ego, id and superego.
Super-ego: We are so fat.  We need to go on a severe diet. Let’s eat only dry toast and apple juice until we lose fifty pounds.  It should only take a week or two.
Ego: I agree that a diet is a good idea, but let’s find a structured weight loss program so there are no negative side effects. And wear a tie.  Ties make a person look thinner.  Meantime, we should cut down on the snacks and sweets.
Id (his mouth dripping with chocolate and one hand wrapped around a sausage): Who, me?

 

To say that January is barren is like saying that Martha Stewart likes to get her way.  Or that Tiger Wood dates a lot.  Or that there are nine planets in the solar system. (Oh, wait, that changed.  I saw the new list.)
Here is an exhaustive list of crucial things that there aren’t in January: Olympics, baseball, flowers, barbecues, summer blockbuster movies, baseball, outdoor concerts, body surfing, drive-in movies, baseball.
Here is a list of things that there are in January: Ice.  Wind.  Snow.  Darkness.  And a disturbing lack of baseball.  That’s pretty much it.  That’s the menu.
Here is an exhaustive list of things you can’t do in January; fish, jog, play baseball, cut the grass, trim the hedges, nap in a hammock, swim, surf and play baseball.
Here are the things you can do in January:  Work.  Wait for February.  That’s pretty much it.  That’s the menu.
So, that’s what many of us do.  Work and wait for February.  I can’t say that I love February, but at least it never sneaks up on me.  I guess I have January to thank for that.
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The Three R’s

I went looking today for someone to repair a charger cord for Bryan’s laptop, but ran into a garden variety, 21st century technology brick wall.  It would cost more to have it repaired than the 90 bucks for a new one.  The labor for taking apart the old charger, scraping the solder, resoldering, and putting it back together would take at least a couple of hours at 50 bucks per hour.
The alternative is digging out my soldering iron, driving to a hardware store for solder, and then taking apart the old charger, scraping the solder, resoldering, and putting it all back together.  Not to mention the time in purgatory for all the cursing that I will probably do and the wear and tear on my knees, praying that it all works when I’m finished.
Things these days are not made to be repaired. That can actually be phrased more forcefully; things are made to NOT be repaired.  In days past, people knew how to repair things, and were not afraid to try.  Now, if you can get past the screwless plastic casing without cracking it beyond repair, you are often faced with some kind of non-replaceable computer chip.  The three R’s of conservation, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, is, in reality, three very different R’s: Replace Rather than Repair. I know that the term “Intelligent Design” has a very different focus, but if we mere humans are caretakers of this world, couldn’t the things we manufacture be designed a bit more intelligently?

Christmas is …. (part deux)

….. A Turduckhen
For the sake of variety, we decided to try a turduckhen for Christmas dinner.  A turduckhen, for those as ignorant as I was just a few short weeks ago, is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, all of which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey. This sounds like an awful lot of work, and a personal insult to three forms of game bird, but the result is delicious.  For my July 4th barbecue, I’m looking forward to trying a Frankburgernugget.
 ….. A Big Screen TV
Never wanted one, but we seem to have one anyway, at least as long as my son is home from college.  It is forty inches, corner to corner, of bright, colorful, action packed video providing us with 2,073,600 teeny tiny dots of color capable of flashing red, green or blue instantaneously for our viewing pleasure.
I had always heard and read that watching something on a big screen TV is completely different than on a regular, say, 17 inch TV.  ‘Vibrant’, ‘richer’ and ‘immersive’ are used to describe it.  That last one, ‘immersive’ is pretty much a new word, mutated from immersion, specifically to accommodate new video/audio technology.   Personally, I am wary of any description that requires two words separated by a slash mark. Oxford Online defines ‘immersive’ as “generating a three-dimensional image which appears to surround the user.”  I’m not sure I want anything surrounding me in my living room, but apparently, one no longer simply watches television, one now ‘experiences’ it.
Well, on Christmas day the Heat beat the Mavericks, and Harry Potter defeated Voldemort.  Watching it on a forty-inch television didn’t really seem like an immersive experience.  It just seemed bigger.
 ….. Quality Time With My Laptop
Not shopping, not transferring funds into the checking account, but reading a bit about the foolishness of the world around me, and arranging words in a row.  This last activity seems to bring me more and more pleasure.  I often smile, and sometimes actually laugh, at what I have written.  Shameful egotism, I know, but at least I have the grace to admit it.
I have no illusions that throngs of others will share this appreciation for my written words.  To have a popular blog, one needs to be adept and acceptable at the social media frolic.  I am not, and do not wish to become so.  I am a curmudgeon, after all.
So, most of my pearls will swirl down into the black hole of the blogosphere without comment or kudos or contrary opinions.  I can live with that.

 

Ahhhhh, Christmas.

 

Big Fat Hat Facts

In some cultures, hats are considered an art form.  In fact, Vincent Van Gogh once did a painting called “Starry, Starry Hat”, but in a raging fit of absinthe fueled sanity, destroyed it.

Curious George’s best friend was The Man In The Yellow Hat.  There has never been an explanation of why he wore a yellow hat, or indeed, chose to live in Manhattan with a monkey.  Stonehenge, crop circles, and The Man With The Yellow Hat all remain unexplained until this very day.

Stetsons, once the standard in cowboy hats, are no longer made by Stetson.  Since the 70’s they have been made by a company called “Hatco”.  Really, “Hatco”.  For creativity in naming, this is right up there with “Petco”, and the firm that manufactures those high quality weed whackers, “Whacko”.

Buster Keaton used to make his own porkpie hats.  In a major Hollywood scandal in the 1920’s, Keaton, whom many suspected of being Jewish, was accused of making them out of real pork.

A size 8-¼ hat in the U.S is a size 9 in France, proving once again, as if we didn’t know, that Frenchmen are fatheads.  So stick that in your ‘je ne sais quois’ and smoke it.

BRVNG

Here is the cautionary tale of a man who came to call himself ‘Juh’, although he was originally graced with the more conventional name of James.  James shaved his brain, or perhaps his brain was shaved without any input from him.  Although brain shaving, or ‘Brvng’ as it is now known, is common today, James was the first.  Brvng is the practice, or perhaps malady, of eliminating waste in thinking.  Some latter day experts, mostly bloggers, think this was a purposeful attempt by James to improve the quality of his life.  To support this theory they rely on a journal entry of his, early in his process of Brvng, that reads as follows:

“Oh, god, no more, it just keeps coming at me, celebrity baby names and L3 cache turbo charged portfolio sinking fund factor, intertropical convergence zone end user license agreement fascia gutters reuptake inhibitors transfat hydrogenation ground fault interrupter catalytic converter neuro linguistic programming teleological suspension of the ethical.”  From here, the handwriting becomes illegible and trails off into a more or less horizontal line with a smudge at the end.

Other theorists, more scientifically oriented, feel that the change came about as a result of a bacterium, similar in function to those intestinal bacteria that assist the human digestive process.  These bacteria, not yet identified, but called ‘bah’, infest the brain, grow at a steady pace, and inhibit the flow of random and extraneous information to the cerebral cortex.

Historical researchers have traced the sequence of James’ transformation, as well as a process of this complexity can be recreated, and the results offer a unique insight into the development of a popular world wide trend.

One morning on his way to work, James was at a traffic light trying to decide if the dog crossing the street was a Tibetan Mastiff or a Bedlington Terrier when the driver of the car behind him, who happened to be an interior decorator, beeped his horn and yelled, “The cleverly suspended traffic sign is a ethereal shade of harlequin green!  Idiot!”

A moment of clarity swept over James, but like most waves, receded quickly.  As Churchill told us once, “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time will pick himself up and continue on.”

James drove on, but a small toggle somewhere in his semantic web kept switching back and forth.  “It’s a dog, or it’s not a dog.  Its green or its not green.”

Shortly after, at a convenience store, he found himself reading a list of “premium coffee beverages” and trying to decide between eight flavors of coffee, three types of decaf, café au lait, latte, café mocha, cappuccino, iced coffee, and espresso.  Subsequent interviews with the young man behind the counter, whose command of the English language was not robust, revealed that James made a simple request.

“Can I have a large coffee, please?”

The young counter man, a ‘Barista’ as his nametag suggested, did not know what to do with this information.

“Sorry?” he said, and he truly was.

“A large coffee, please,” James repeated.  “To go.”

The barista stared dully into space for a moment and then turned and pointed to the list of ‘premium coffee beverages’.

James was also nonplussed, and could only gurgle and side step toward the door uncertainly.  Outside on the street, a witness heard him remark, “It’s only coffee.  Really, its all only coffee.”

It was on this sidewalk outside the coffee shop that James had his apotheosis, a word he would soon come to eschew.  He began to carefully scrutinize his environment and his thought processes, and make some decisions about what had to go.

The first neuro-follicles to be cut away were lyrics to torch songs of the 1950’s.  Sinatra and Doris Day went swirling down the metaphorical drain.  Next were sports trivia statistics like Cy Young’s 511wins, DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak, and Barry Bonds’ 4-inch increase in neck circumference.  In rapid succession, he rid himself of country music, Union generals fired by Lincoln, bad books by Stephen King, names of unstable countries that emerged after the USSR broke up, assassinated presidents, gods of Mount Olympus, the speed limit in Montana, and the anatomical difference between dolphins and porpoises. (He decided to keep the names of Santa’s reindeer and the name of the blonde that King Kong carried up the Empire State Building.  Some things are simply inviolate.)

For days he breathed easier, and his step was lighter than Fred Astair on a low-gravity planet.  But he soon came to believe that he had not gone far enough.  He soon gave up first names, relying on ‘kiddo’, ‘lady’, and ‘sport’, or in more formal situations, ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’.  The weather was no longer ‘partially cloudy’, or ‘with a chance of snow’ or worse, something intermittent, it was either ‘a nice day’ or ‘a crummy day’.  Food was reduced to its basic elements; soft, crunchy, sweet, salty and ‘take it away because I can’t stop eating it’.  And, in time, he began to shorten the few words that he did use.  Thus, James became ‘Juh’, please became ‘ease’, and thank you was compressed to ‘kyew’.  He radiated happiness and mental clarity, and others noticed.  Soon, a cult developed around him.

Juh is now a personal consultant, or ‘perstant’, and spends much of his time on a large stage talking to crowds of easily manipulated people through a wireless headset microphone.  He says things like… “You, me and maybe them!  Why? Or why not?”  And, “Ifs and buts, but we know better.”

Many of his followers claim to understand what he means.   The rest of us continue to cling to our time honored waste of mental capacity.  For example, Santa’s reindeer are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.  Oh, and King Kong carried Ann Darrow to the top of the Empire state building in 1933.  She was played by Fay Wray, who insisted on being a blonde and personally picked out a wig for the part.

Close Captioned For The Expletive Impaired

I was sitting in my car, sipping coffee, pretending that I was not late for work.  Two parking spots over, a station wagon pulled in and a young mother got out, opened the back passenger side door and bundled out her baby.  Within a minute a man, well dressed and fortyish, came charging out of the convenience store and began yelling at her.  Apparently, when lifting the child out, she had dinged his car with her door.  I could see some of what happened next, like bad seats in a theatre, but I could not help hearing it.
Shakespeare has told us that “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” But I don’t think Shakespeare ever wrote language quite like this for his troupe.
He yelled at her for dinging his car.  She yelled back at him for yelling at her.  The baby screamed at both of them for being obnoxious, vacuous and immature.  Although most of us have heard this language many times in many situations, there may be some who have not.  Men who grew up in a monastery, for example, or women raised by wallabies.  For them, I am happy to provide close captioning for the expletive impaired.
Man:  You stupid (female canine)! You hit my car with your (present participle form of a physical act of sexual intimacy) door!  What the (physical act of sexual intimacy) is (present participle form of a physical act of sexual intimacy) wrong with you?
Woman: What?  Who are you talking to, you (Present participle form of a physical act of sexual intimacy) (anatomical organ involved in the final act of excretion)!
Baby: What?  Huh?
Man: Look what you did to my (deity condemned) door, you stupid (fecal matter) head!
Woman:  I didn’t do anything, you (anatomical organ involved in the final act of excretion)!
Baby: Why is my mother talking like this? What kind of a world was I born into?
Man:  Just because you’re a (deity condemned) blonde, you think you can get away with this bulls(fecal matter). Well, I got your license, and I’m reporting it to my (present participle form of a physical act of sexual intimacy) insurance company, you (female canine)!
Woman:  Go ahead and (present participle form of a physical act of sexual intimacy) report it, you (anatomical organ involved in the final act of excretion)!
Baby:  This is the world where I’m going to grow up?  Am I going to have to talk like them?  Noooooooooo!!!
As I drove away, another Shakespeare quote sprang to mind.  “A plague on both your houses.”

Hell’s Foyer

In the past few weeks, I have been in roughly a dozen hospital waiting rooms, from nuclear medicine to orthopedics to pre-surgery.  They are all well furnished, decorated in soothing colors with pleasant, if unspectacular, paintings, and are the equivalent of one of the outer circles of hell.  I say “outer” circles, because those sinners condemned to sit in them know that things will get worse.  This is no more nor less than hell’s foyer.

There is no sign that says “Abandon Hope, All Who Enter Here” but there do seem to be a few rules governing waiting rooms.

1.There is never a place to hang up a coat.  Summer, winter, spring, fall, rain, snow, category 5 hurricane, sunshine.  Not a hook.

2. The more populated a waiting room will be, the further it is from the elevator, and the smaller.

3.  A TV must be on, and loud.  Talk shows are popular form of torture, followed by court TV and, as a last resort, soap operas.

4.  Forms with small boxes for print, are always available, always necessary, and always redundant.

Here is a waiting room with The View on, and sign that says “PLEASE DO NOT TURN OFF THE TV”.  I asked, politely, if I could at least turn it down.  I was told, “We prefer it as it is,” but there was no explanation of who “we” were.  I assume that, conceptually, the need for background chatter in a hospital waiting room goes all the way back to Asclepius, Hippocrates, Galen, Doctor Doolittle, Albert Schweitzer, Jonas Salk, Doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush, Doogie Howser, House, Doctor Who, Doctor Phil, Hot Lips Houlihan and nurse Ratched.  The current arbiter of all this altruistic governance is a hospital administrator somewhere in the bowels of this beast.  (I’m willing to bet he grinds his teeth and has bad posture, but can’t really be sure of that).  He has spent hours researching social media sites to find the most annoying TV shows, and researching audiology journals to find the exact decibel level that will slowly, but inevitably, make the listener’s head vibrate to the exact intensity at which rational thought is only a faint hope.

So I oscillate to The View with my coat on my lap, wondering if I Ieft anything important off the form, and looking at a map of how to get back to the elevator.  According to the route suggested by the Alighieri Construction Company, I should follow the river Styx, cross the Burning Lobby of Agony, pass the Cafeteria of Gluttony, and push the elevator button that says, well, down.