Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hey you! Shut up!

Yes, you.  It's the time of year at which I start to bitch and moan more than usual about what you have been doing to my language in that pathetically  passionate and Sisyphean pursuit of  being like the cool kids, the hip, with-it, urban, hang around the mall texting, thug pretending Clearasil crowd you wish you were like instead of the afraid-to-grow-up nerd with the 6000 word vocabulary you are.   Don't take comfort in the idea that I'm the only one.  I have allies.

Lake Superior State University may be seeking status by publishing their annual list of banned words.  I admit I would never have heard of them otherwise, but standing up for human dignity, taking a risk or even sticking their necks out (which is a cliche on my own banned list ) is easier for the little guy than for the English Department at Yale or Princeton or Harvard who have so much jargon laden linguistic naughtiness of their own to hide. I mean listen to those people some time.

It's to be noted that the Oxford dictionary folks have given us "selfie" as the word of the year, as though the nickname, the childish contraction, the conveyor of infantile cuteness makes the useless word preferable to 'self portrait' or simply 'picture' and as though we've made a statement  as important, as piquant, as precious as wearing your hat backwards some 40 years after the cuteness and uniqueness turned rancid.  Like most of this pretentious pre-teen babble, it says, "I'm not a stodgy grown up, I'm a kid, a street urchin, a rebel."   The hell you are.

No wonder then that  LSSU puts 'selfie' at the top of the annual banned list and suggests that we all teach by example and not use it no matter how much the idiot press tries to gain favor from the never-grow-ups.  It doesn't make you younger and  more charming than covering your encroaching baldness by wearing a hat in a restaurant or running shoes with a business suit.

Sure, many or maybe most people will giggle at the list and perhaps snicker about the rural pretentiousness  of  some college housed in some igloo somewhere on the frigid shores of Lake Superior and offers majors in  Fisheries and Wildlife Management, but they're heroes to me. Back when I was riding about alone with a lance and tin pot helmet like trying to like get people to like not say like so much it was encouraging to have them out there with me, not that anything ever retards the advance of  acid dripping aliens or drooling Americans yearning to be hip.  But you do what you have to do. You make a point of  ignoring the latest media infatuation, the latest gleeful descent into ever more nearly transcendental  vulgarity like  that culture destroying practice of  waving one's genitals in the public face like a blue-assed baboon in heat or a moose in rut: twerking. It's on their list and mine, targeted for destruction.

It's equally as encouraging to have LSSU riding at my side when approaching that  overripe, fly-blown and stinking cliche that has has anything larger than common as "on steroids."   Perhaps we should start the rumor that saying "on steroids" does the same thing to your genitals as actually being on steroids.  Maybe untrue, but anything for the cause. 

But there's a gorilla in the room, to pick another beaten to death trope, and although this year's list doesn't mention it, it may be the most vile, most overused, most needful of a quick and merciful death and it's "awesome."   There must be some psychological principle involved but most of us don't notice that you can't get through a dozen words without one of them being Awesome.  You can't say it without a certain smile, inflection, gesture or bit of micro-theater -- everything from relieving your bladder to the contemplation of the cosmos is just Awesome!  Didja hear that smile in my voice? Ain't I childlike and cute?  I just hope the next time something seems just 'Ahhhhsome' that you choke on it and don't expect no stinking Heimlich from me or my buddy on the donkey here: LSSU the fighting Lakers.

And then there's "urban."  That accursed term which no longer has much to do with metropolitan life. We have definitions and we have "urban" definitions. We have an "urban" dictionary which serves to give some ersatz dignity to any ignorant patois and attempts to explain those great linguistic questions of the difference between big and big ass and all the strange agglutinative properties of  affixes like ass.   Indeed "urban" stands for a subculture and the language it uses.  I have only one thing to say about it: don't.  By the time it gets into the Urban Dictionary it's too damn late and probably inaccurate at that.  That makes you a follower, a  loser a poseur. 

So look, if you really speak English, if you enjoy novel and creative usage and know something about the history of the words you're building something out of, go ahead.  It's how language progresses, it's where poetry and literature begin, but if you use it to cover up ignorance or even to promote it, if everything is awesome only because it's all you know. you're on the list bud. You're got me and the LSSU Lakers on your trail and they're not just bad-ass, they're awesome and might just do something impactful, if you know what  I mean.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

We can forget the Norse
Gods here -- their trees and fires.
The Winter nights aren't all that cold
or long
and we don't need their help.

The inns don't have room
in tourist season
if you don't have reservations,
and there aren't many of them.

But if you have to sleep outdoors
in the balmy night
behind the dumpster at the Winn-Dixie
or even on the beach
it's not so bad.

Not hard to find an old cooler
to put the baby in.
Hey, I know an abandoned car
if it rains.

No shepherds in Florida.
Thank God.
But watch for the cops
and no worries,

any wise men from the east
won't get past the Coasties.

Will the armadillos come to marvel?
The hoot owls hoot Hosanna in the night?

Monday, December 23, 2013

What goes around, comes around.

So here's me looking at this guy in the store selecting Christmas lights. He's got a little kid with him - shorts and tank top and skin covered top to bottom with graffiti like a subway car from the 60's. Looked like Bible quotes.  

"What the fuck you looking at?  You like my legs, huh?"  It's one of those "shoulda said" in retrospect moments, but  I didn't say "if you didn't want anyone to read it you should have tattooed it on your ass," discretion being very much the better part of valor particularly for someone who's left his Colt .380 at home since the Zimmerman incident.

So again, a bit later,  I'm about to pull into a parking space at the post office, sunny day, top down, feeling merry -- but there's a guy there - old dude about my age about to step in front on his way to the other side.  I stop and wave for him to go ahead because I'm polite to other geezers and good looking women. 

"What the fuck does that mean, asshole? What the fuck you wavin' at you cocksucker? I'm tryina walk, dooya fuckin'  mind?"  

"Merry fucking Christmas to you too, you crazy bastard" I said with a grin and getting out of the car. Not worried about this one.  The postal employee emptying the outside box pretended he saw and heard nothing, going postal being a metaphor for good reason.  Ran inside, grabbed the flat rate box I came for and saw Mr. Nice guy rummaging in his late model Mustang convertible for something in the console.

Now here's that better part of valor again. I didn't wait --  and once  again, didn't have weaponry in the car like so many other Floridians. If I had,  it would have been a felony just to have it there much less to take it out and show it, whether standing my ground or not, concealed weapon permit or not. 

Sometimes it's nice to have 400+ horsepower. So here's the old man in white beard, red sled with presents in the trunk pulling out on to Old Dixie Highway with Christmas spirit and lotsa tire smoke -- and he looks over his shoulder as he steps on the gas:   

Merry Christmas to all and y'all kiss my ass!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Faith Drivers

Faith Driven Consumer is an "on-line community" (business) that steers the Faith Driven toward businesses that seem compatible with their beliefs.  There's nothing unique about it really, no different than the dating service for farmers,  or directories of gay-owned companies or of environmentally friendly enterprises. Hey, it's a free country - unless of course you ask the people who despise censorship, but still want to dictate to retail stores what language their signage can use (English, of course) or can't use (Spanish or course - it's still OK to call snails Escargot or Dolphin fish Mahi-Mahi.) It's OK When We Do It is as much the foundation for American politics and popular sentiment as it ever was.

I can't say that I reject the idea of putting pressure on private business concerns with regard to all kinds of things per se, but it's as close to being censorship to do so as is the firing of Phil Robertson because of some offensive comments.

I've had it emphatically pointed out to me that with certain exceptions, a business may hire or fire whom they please for any reason they please and this is certainly a right that's staunchly defended by conservatives.  Tell a business it has to hire minorities and we'll certainly hear about freedom to hire and fire as we please. Tell a business it has to send a paycheck to someone who damages the marketability of the product and hear the conservatives quack like ducks - and rightly so.

The FDC folks have put up a website where you're asked to sign a petition demanding that A&E reinstate Robertson, red neck and all.  It's a free country, what can I say?   If they have a right to petition the government they should have the right to petition a company even if  supporting one person's right to self expression while denying it to another would tickle a dead duck with the irony.

As I've said previously, I have certain misgivings about someone being punished for statements made outside of business premises and outside of business hours. I'm irritated, I'm worried when Wal-Mart fires someone for privately discussing a Union.  It worries me that someone has a right to fire me for calling George Bush a dangerous and dishonest delusional.  The whole concept of corporations holding us hostage in that way is irritating, if legal, but  free country means free country and I'm sure conservatives would agree and perhaps that's why the frenzy.  You have to draft them into your mission before they stop to think,

So lets talk, yet once again, about the Framing effect. Frame it in terms of  a man's right to free speech and do it before we remember that the protection is against the government, not against Wal-Mart. Make it about religion and do it before anyone suggests that a man's right to stop sending a paycheck to someone whose actions damage the marketability of his product, because if you frame it as a right to profit, to do business free of regulation?  Do I have to continue?

Such a contradiction might prompt cynicism in certain people. Some might even find it funny to see how an attempt to avoid one boycott has fostered another, that people who "stand with Phil" will start to watch a show they didn't watch before making the show more profitable for the network they're boycotting, that standing up for the right to do dumb things doesn't make sense when you're attacking someone else's right to do dumb things.  I say certain people because, although it may sound arrogant, most people react and are prompted to react the the frame long before they look at the picture and think -- and even then, they don't think all that well.  It's like the people who called me anti-American for criticizing W, yet call themselves "Patriots" for criticizing Obama.

So before we drive this vehicle, let's look under the hood and wouldn't you know - Faith Drivers really is driven by faith and not by truth or logic or even a consistent argument.  It's not a defense of freedom for all, at all but a defense of special rights for special believers.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A&E fires Phil Robertson.

I didn't know who Phil Robertson was until just the other day when I stumbled upon A&E's Duck Dynasty and watched a bit before moving on. I had never watched the show, despite it's immense popularity, despite my fondness for shows about people who live in swamps, tiny towns and remote places -- People who hunt alligators, catch crawfish and run bait shops in towns like  Pierre Part  (the end of the world as the sign says) or Bayou Pigeon -- their cuisine, their music and culture, so quickly fading in an urbanizing country that still, as it always has, is forcing people into a cash economy, into paying jobs with regular hours while their environment - our country- is cut down, paved over and polluted. 

In general I'm comfortable with people who love the 'outdoors,' that odd term we call the actual environment of planet Earth -- people who own fishing gear, snake boots, snowshoes, canoes and all that and still prize the ability to use them in unspoiled country.   That's partially because such people are environmentalists although most will carefully explain that "they ain't no treehuggers or hippies."

That love of nature often sets them against entities like Florida's sugar cartel which has done more damage to our formerly vast wilderness than any terrorist could dream of,  so you'd think that the rapacious right would despise anyone who didn't support fracking, strip mining, clear-cutting, toxic waste dumping, smoke belching and generally destructive industry, and perhaps you'd expect to hear the voice of  the Right raised against such folks, but no.  The American Family Association is calling him a New American Hero. now that the network has suspended the release of next season's show.

Robertson likes to spend his time

"daydreaming about what he calls a “pristine earth”: a world where nothing gets in the way of nature or the hunters who lovingly maintain it. No cities. No buildings. No highways."  

says Drew Magary in a GC magazine interview.  But he also hates sinners and takes the Christian Bible as the standard of morality for the world, or at least the nastier parts favored by the Christian Right. That's where we part company. He's a gracious gentleman, says Magary and he doesn't like swearing or any of the other things Bible thumpers insist God doesn't like either, like people who don't subscribe to current, Christian Right sexual prohibitions.  Like the loathsome 'Reverend' Phelps's God, Robertson's god damns homosexuals and assorted other non-conformists.

“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” 

he says peremptorily and without regard to empiricism.  Fox News and the extremists in it's orbit  can hardly fail to come to his defense because impediments to religious authoritarianism attract them more than the Robertson's duck calls draw ducks to your blind.  Now of course anything Fox Condemns, anyone Sarah Palin supports ordinarily demands my opposition, but I have to ask myself, should a man be fired for expressing his opinions because we don't like them? 

That's not so easy to be sure about.  If Fox had fired someone for an opinion, for saying their position was "just wrong," I wouldn't hesitate to make it slime time for Fox, so I have to question Robertson's suspension.  After all, his opinion is that one never judges people but leaves it to God to sort out.  He believes in redemption as much as he believes that legal behavior that hurts no one can be "just wrong."

I have no way of knowing whether his contract with A&E stipulated that he make no controversial statements, no expostulations on his religious beliefs, but lacking that, I have to wonder about silencing people for "moral" reasons no matter who does it.   Certainly a network has the right to air or not to air any content, but it's not about the content of Duck Dynasty, but about the opinions expressed elsewhere.

 Some small voice still continues to ask me something the ACLU is asked all the time: are we attacking our own freedom when we curtail anyone's ability to say what "we just know" are ignorant, nasty and disgusting things?


Monday, December 16, 2013

In marketing we trust

When is science not science? When you read about it in e-mail or see it on TV.  Hyperbole in advertising is universal and the more ludicrous the claim, the less it seems to violate FTC truth in advertising laws at least in terms of enforcement. I'm not talking about the ability of advertisers to distract from facts, like running a Toyota Camry through some kind of  roller coaster contraption to 'prove' that's it's not a boring, soulless transportation appliance for dull people, or inventing "the star safety system" to distract from stories about how people are dying because of it's defects. I'm not even talking about TV ads claiming that after driving a Nissan, the speed of light doesn't seem so fast or showing SUVs beating sports cars on a track.  I'm talking about the level of deceit in the marketing of health and science products and advice -- the kind of pervasive disinformation that makes people believe they can eat double bacon cheeseburgers with impunity as long as they don't eat the bun -- eat chili cheese fries  and lose weight by buying Dr. Oz's magic beans and miracle berries, or put their faith in "the proven science of the glycemic index" as though an index could be science. -- as though that handsome guy in the lab coat were a real scientist and his doctorate not in marketing.

It's about the kind of massive promotion of ideas about gluten and fructose that have no scientific support, about making your brain work better by doing 'exercises' that really doesn't have support from neuroscience as claimed, about getting "grain brain" or removing those mysterious "toxins" from your blood or colon. Never mind none of these "studies" ever appear in professional, peer reviewed journals, but only in advertising. Never mind that what they call "studies" never are more than anecdotes, inventions, gross distortions and deliberate misrepresentations.  You just can't get to the science through the smokescreen of marketing -- and in marketing we trust.

We live in an age of snake oil where all it takes is some actor in a white coat, some diet book salesman posing as a scientist to convince our gullible nation that unhealthy things will make them well, that lethal germs and 'toxins' are lurking under the bed, that green tea or green coffee beans or Doctor Bonkers' Egyptian Oil will let them eat 10,000 calories a day while they stay thin and live forever. The sun will kill you quick, we just know it and even on cloudy days and even wrapping yourself like a Bedouin in wool won't help unless the clothing has extra sun protection chemicals in it. Your kitchen counter of course is a dangerous place that needs to be laved with "anti-bacterial" products lest your family die horribly and everything we touch has to be anti-bacterial. Does it surprise you that SPF 50 doesn't give you twice the protection of SPF 25 -- hell no and while the marketing guys smile we cover ourselves with lead foil and hide in the basement.

UV and Toxins and Germs, oh my! Unless you buy anti-bacterial products you'll be eaten alive by bacteria, no matter that there are more of them inside and all over you than there are people in the world and you wouldn't be healthy otherwise. Anti-bacterial soap, lotion, shampoo, body wash, eye drops, sprays, food, gels, creams, toothpastes -- there are kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags -- we're told to be afraid of such things on the food we eat, but we're soaking in it. is it even practical, necessary, healthy or smart to attempt living in a bacteria free bubble? Is that attempt involved with all the allergies everyone seems to have these days?

We never ask what anti-bacterial means, do we?  If cleaning our hands with soap and water removes adequate amounts of bacteria according to real double blind scientific studies, we still want to be righteous and hip and enlightened and we don't bother to ask why some chemical that prevents bacteria from reproducing is needed after the bacteria already has been removed by plain water.  We all feel much better eating "organic" food in the faith based belief that chemicals used by those farmers are safer than the chemicals used by regular farmers and the food is healthier and more nutritious. We obsess about unnamed "toxins" and chemicals and preservatives but we don't ask if long term exposure to the serious toxins in anti-bacterial products might have side effects. But hey, better safe than sorry, right? and if it's on TV it must be true!

There are at least 2000 anti-bacterial products on the market says the FDA.  They're finally going to begin to ask for evidence that they are safe. It's about time. In fact scientists have been pressing for the FDA to remove one chemical, triclosan, that interferes with the thyroid gland in rats, since 1978 even though there is no evidence that soaps containing it are any more effective at preventing disease in your home than washing with plain soap and water. The Government is  finally going to demand evidence of safety and effectiveness and it's about time!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yes, Virginia, it depends on what you mean by Santa.

The disappearance of widespread fear of witches, (sorry Mrs. Palin) and the age old need for blaming things on them has left us trying to fill the void with Communists, sexual predators and racists, amongst a few others.  So when the somewhat loathsome Megyn Kelly, used her position on the always loathsome Fox News to stress that like Jesus, Santa Claus was a white man, the accusations of racism were not far behind.

I have to wonder however. Leaving the Jesus question aside -- the question of whether Jews are considered white by most modern 'authorities' -- I have to wonder just how biased it might be to assert that St. Nicholas, a 4th century Greek resident (and Bishop) of  Patara was white as well.  The sort of saint we Americans call Santa Claus  seems to have lost the connection with the real 4th century Saint in more ways than weight. The department store employee and Coca Cola pitch man whose nickname now rhymes with 'straws' rather than 'house' in America now only gives gifts to children and leaves prostitutes to fend for themselves. But he's still of European extraction.

Does that mean, as  Aisha Harris asserted in Slate.com, that 'forcing' Santa only to be white caused non-white children “insecurity and shame.”  Argue about the color of God and perhaps she has a valid idea, but I'm sorry, God is a human creation, created in our image. St. Nicholas was what he was - a Greek white male. Jesus was still Jewish even if it makes everyone else feel left out during Simchat Torah. If you want to get Biblicaly literal here, the first man was Red and if he was an image of God himself -- well then. More scientifically the first man was African and dark skinned.  Am I offended?  Seriously?

Now if she's suggesting that the real Santa is the guy at Macy's I once visited in the late 40's, that's a different question.  If he's the incarnate spirit of generosity Virginia was told about,?  Kindess, compassion, love -- these have no color.  I'm all for black Santas, Mohican Santas, Mexican Santas and Chinese elves because for atheist me, that's all there is to Christmas, but hey, some people are still serious about their religion and about history and have a right to be.  As Americans we get to determine our own traditions, or should and the often malicious Megyn may be right.  If history offends thee, thou getteth not  to rewrite it.

I have to wonder  about the controversy in the Netherlands, where the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas, a strong influence on our tradition is accompanied by companion Black Pete or Zwarte Piet,  giver of sweet treats to children. Wouldn't you know that the character, usually a Dutchman in blackface and curly wig, according to the racially sensitive Dutch could be interpreted as a "racist caricature of a black man."   I suppose it could be, but as an immensely loved character, which children is he alienating?  

Isn't racism, or at least the kind we rightly object to, about imputing negative things to a distinctive group? Is it racist to insist Michael Jordan is black?  Nelson Mandela? So we, or some of us,  are damned if he's black and damned if he's white and we go on arguing about which of us is free of prejudice while real racists are left alone.

You know what I want for Christmas? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paranoia, Inc.

If you've read this blog over the years you know I'm always griping about the "changes" occurring in my favorite language and I'm sorry but the "language has to change" argument misses my point. "Yes everything has to change but that's hardly a defense of sabotage, ignorance and malicious marketing schemes.

Sure it's usually some phrase like "We're efforting the details" or "here's a genius new technique."  It may be nothing more than some bozo saying "snap" over and over again as though he were selling Rice Crispies and couldn't remember the rest of the slogan. But these things things are probably no more than symptoms of a population in transition from thinking citizens to consumers and the products of American education trying to put a gloss of sorts on weak vocabulary and make up for confusion with jargon.  Worse things are happening.

Pernicious hipness is one thing, but for many Americans the fact that "patriot" now primarily means you think the President, the government and the "takers" are plotting to kill us all, that the nuclear attack from North Korea is imminent and inevitable and that the big question for the future is whether or not Obama will catastrophically destroy the economy first.  Yes, Patriots know all about the mass graves being prepared, the secret laws enabling  millions of us to be rounded up and incarcerated or worse.  Patriots know that before long, when the food stamps and Social Security payments stop, the armed mobs will be breaking down your doors, emptying your refrigerator and raping wives, daughters and grandaughters while you watch.  Patriots know that unless you fortify, arm and provision yourself today, the Liberals, Koreans, Obamaheads and the poor are gonna getcha.

How do I know this?  For some reason I attract salesmen. Every fear peddler on earth has my e-mail address and I suspect that if you ever bought hunting equipment or even fishing gear from a catalog, or searched for a crossbow or a gun cleaning kit on the internet, you're on a list too, the internet being a far more effective and perhaps intrusive method of surveillance and intelligence gathering than the NSA could ever cook up on their own.  Order some gizmo for your boat and be deluged with adds for boating gear on every web page you open up for weeks.  Somewhere, somehow, someone has me listed as a PATRIOT.

FEMA plans for massive depopulation, it screams.

FEMA Banned This Video...
First off.
If you care about your safety...
Stop what you're doing.
And watch this video with the door shut.

I wish this was a joke.
Unfortunately it isn't.
It's deadly serious.
I'm sending this to all my friends, family and patriot brothers...
As quickly as I can...
Because it's the ONLY video I've seen that reveals the lethal "December surprise" nobody is talking about...

The "December surprise" is bigger and far more dangerous than Sandy could have ever been.
And it's headed to YOUR neighborhood...
WAY faster than you think.

The chilling speaker on the video (my new favorite patriot)...is going to give you the 3 practical steps you need to take TODAY...
To make it out alive and well...
This is the big one folks.
Don't take this lightly..
The "December surprise" has already begun in certain parts of the country.
And it's about to make Hurricane Sandy look like a six year old flower girl.
Your fellow Patriot,
Jason Richards
P.S. Do both Obama and Romney know ALL about this, but are SWORN to secrecy...?
 Read it and weep.

If you truly are a "Patriot" of course you won't be bothered that FEMA did not, has not, could not ban this video or any other video.  Patriots just know and never mind that this is a rerun of something that firswt ran over a year ago and that the author predicts the utter collapse of civilization by 2013. Never mind that the narrator is the same one selling a book that promises to make you irresistible to women if you know the three secret questions to ask them -- Patriots just know it's all true and only Patriots like Bubba and Bevis will survive to lead us all into the future.