Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aw nuts--just too much to say

I thought I'd heard every weird thing to come out of California. Then I read about the Testicle Festival in Oakdale, CA.
I hope this link stays up simply to prove that I'm not making this up. Here's another, just in case.

To begin with, this explains where all the cojones in California are. It's the one social event I know of where you go to get stones, not stoned.

I note, with some concern, that Oakdale is also the site of a Hershey's chocolate factory. The aforementioned news items assure readers that these are fried balls, but I'm not sure I'd swallow a chocolate ball in Oakdale without first making sure what's inside.

I suppose this event has a certain degree of macho bravado attached. Nevertheless, if you go to this Oakdale site do take note of the posture of the gentleman in the centre of the picture. I think that may be a safe posture to assume coming to and going from this event: you want to make sure that $50 is all you're contributing to this worthy cause.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One of those top five things things

This was on CNN while I was at the gym today (yes, after work as usual: playing for sympathy on that one :p...) It hasn't made it to the Web site yet, but I'll link if it does.

The top five businesses to be in during a recession included publishing romance novels, at #3, and manufacturing condoms, at #4.

I leave it to the evil minds of my readers to connect those two dots.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Bubble Boy

I have followed the blogged travails of a recently fractured friend with professional interest as well as sympathy. The Harrumpher's comment on the noise level in his medical-surgical facility struck a chord of memory. Uncle Sam's navy did not offer me a semi-private room: I had 39 roommates. I think the chief difference is that I took the noise level for granted, having been by that time half a year on active duty.

Something I read recently noted that the first thing that surprises people new to combat is the constant noise, even when nothing in particular is happening. Of course, when something is happening, the noise level can become literally deafening. I'd take that one level further to say that, in the armed forces, noise is your constant companion. Even in the relative quiet of a nighttime barracks, crew space or hospital ward, there is always some level of racket.

After a while, two things happen. First, your brain incorporates noise into its landscape of living, and the noise ceases to bother you. It filters out most of it while staying alert for noises that represent threats. Second, your psyche builds a balloon of privacy around you, so that you can rest, if not sleep, while things that ought to bother you are happening not far off. Only when an activity or unfriendly noise pushes against the balloon do you stir.

I have also read some speculation that we may be wired to become our own bubble boys. Our species has a long history of occupying crowded, noisy quarters, from caves to Colonial kitchens to Five Points tenements. We would probably have slaughtered one another to extinction if we did not have this capacity.

It is one of those abilities we have nearly lost through neglect. It's a pity that most people discover its presence--or absence--when they are too ill to cultivate it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who's winning?

Recently, one of my less political stops in the blogosphere veered into politics. Regrettably, the content took me off the wagon as far as political comments go. But it did make one think.

What I thought about, for a rather tangential reason, was smoking and its place in the world (choke) 50 years ago. In those bygone days, absurdly worshipped by people who didn't live through them, virtually everyone with both feet out of the grave smoked. Many people with one foot in the grave smoked. Actors playing doctors smoked in TV dramas.

Actors playing doctors sold cigarets. Anchormen (no anchorwomen then, sorry) sometimes smoked on the air. It was every child's ambition to smoke. I was not quite 12 then. I had already illicitly tasted tobacco, although it didn't impress me enough to smoke in earnest until I was 17 or so. To be anti-tobacco was either to be morbidly ill or some kind of pinko.

People, like my mother, who didn't smoke because they did not enjoy it, felt compelled to apologise for not smoking. That's the memory which came up when I was reading at that site about how people who have abortions or support them now feel similarly apologetic.

My observation as an historian on the cusp of 62 is that the victories of reaction are temporary and transitory. They are likely to be overturned in unexpected ways. Despite the ebb and flow (which can, unhappily, set things back for more than a lifetime) the general movement is toward more tolerance and less apology. It seems to be hard-wired. Regrettably, the habit of substituting either ideology or superstition for frontal lobe function seems just as hard-wired, and hence very hard to overcome.

I have my own probable scenario for the eventual resolution of what seems like an irresolvable conflict. Past experience here tells me to keep it to myself.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You know who you are

This one is going out to all those readers whose taste in furniture doesn't coordinate with their cat's taste in fur. (As the title says, you know who you are.)

I suppose this solution required a little give and take, as in the hooman gives up, and the kitteh takes advantage. As long as the hooman can count on the kitteh performing a stealth ambush of annoying houseguests, I suppose all is well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No soup for you, WGBH!

Last night I caught a snippet of "Celtic Thunder" for the first time. This is, in case you don't know, one of those programmes that local public TV trots out several times a year to warn people that they're begging for money again.

WGBH, you're cut off and timed out! There was no Welsh thunder on Celtic thunder; even though Wales is producing some of the hottest avant garde rock in Europe, and it would make pledge week worth listening to.

Grumble grumble...buncha people in kilts with attitudes, and they didn't even have someone playing the electric bagpipe!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bangs head slowly on...

The low note of Secy. Clinton's European tour has to be her "reset button" faux pas in Russia.

When last I looked, the United States had become home to umpteen million Russian emigres, a good number of them geekish enough to get the implications of "reset." I'm waiting to hear why it wasn't possible to have just one of them spell-check a well-intended gesture like this. I'm also wondering why the right word, perezagruzka, couldn't have been in Cyrillic.

It is this sort of utter bone-headedness that keeps the Ugly American stereotype alive. Clinton should abandon her chief of protocol, whose first name is presumably Bubba or Sally Mae, at a European airport and make him/her bum a ride home.

(Exit left, shaking banged head)

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Dark Side of Fifties comics redux

I'm not talking about the avowedly dark ones, either, but the allegedly G-rated Disney comics. Nor am I talking about the fact that most of the male characters went around without pants, which probably had a lot to do with how this twig got bent.

What I recall was how, in his character of resilient but hapless loser, Donald Duck was generally out of work. I recall this because, yet again, I find myself wondering about all these people who apparently have never been laid off or had to worry about being laid off.

I've been out of work as much as Donald Duck, and so have a good many other people, and I wonder how the fuck these people missed being run over by this bus. They don't carry it well, I've been noticing: very poor form. They didn't have the possibility in mind, evidently, because they're mostly arse over teakettle in debt. And they whine...oh, how they whine!

One question I have is whether any of these nouveau jobless will learn anything from the experience. I think not. They managed to avoid learning anything about the chances of life vicariously, and I don't see them taking away constructive lessons from the direct experience.

On the whole, I prefer Duckville.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Another sign of hard times

Boston's Mayor Menino is going to lay off the police horses? As if the firefighter's union wasn't giving him enough shit!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Moment of Gestalt

The common riff about people my age is how it was always five miles uphill both ways to school.

It's been growing on me, all this past winter in my present job, this accident of topography: it really is uphill both ways.

But, it isn't five miles. I'll work on that.