Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sarah Palin TV bad idea?

Let me go out on a limb and say that I expect Sarah Palin’s Fox TV show Thursday night to draw a huge audience.

Let me go further out and say I don’t expect her to last very long with that show or with her Alaskan reality show for Discovery. Already, the Fox anchors who have her on their shows are beginning to slice her here and there. Ego wars among the thin skins are inevitable. Face time. Gimme.

Initially, viewers will be drawn by her charm and celebrity. But ultimately, she will do herself in with her own word salad which makes little sense and is delivered in a high chirp that is set on stun. Listening to her try to talk about anything substantive is fun, but not informative once you get past the bromides. Great bumper stickers; poor government policy.

If the lady doesn’t know how to answer a question coherently, how do you suppose she figured out how to ask a question? Each is part of the same equation.

Besides, I don’t think Palin truly knows how to share a microphone.

Watching her in a studio two-shot with John McCain, wasn’t it obvious that she really, really likes the spotlight? Too much. I think she will fade from the exposure. Or get mad at the in-fighting and quit -- but only after her bank account green lines.

And then there’s the little question of ethics. "Real American Stories"are not real. Ask rapper/actor L L Cool J, who revealed Palin spliced in an old interview he gave someone else to make it look like it was a chat for her new show. He blew the whistle on the phantom interview and Palin dropped the segment the day before air time.

Likewise, country singer Toby Keith said he never sat down for an interview with Palin. Don’t know if his segment will also be dropped.

Tsk. Tsk.

Maybe quitting that state job was not such a good idea.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Caution: hidden meaning alert

Too damned much violence and hot political BS. What say let’s take a break today…

“And then there is terrestrial spring, which is a matter of hints and wishes, promise and hope, a season that is only vaguely calendrical. (Verlyn Klinkenborg, NYTimes, March 30, 2010)

"The sky was the color of Edgar Allan Poe's pajamas."
(Tom Robbins)

"Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food." (Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought)

"I'll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning. Garroting. That's what justice is."
(Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1961)

"Men's words are bullets, that their enemies take up and make use of against them." (George Savile, Maxims)

A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind."
(Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors)

There. Maybe that fluffs your gestalt.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eric Cantor, harlots and health insurance--redundant?

Confession: I really don’t like GOP Cong. Eric Cantor. You’ll recall, he’s the Republican who claimed someone fired a bullet at his district office. Police say the bullet was just a stray passing by after being shot into the air and bounced off Cantor’s window on the way down.

My first reaction to Cantor’s claim was – he reminds me of a guy who would shoot off his own toes to escape combat.

Later in the week, Cantor blamed Democrats for being on the receiving end of violence. Reckless, he called it. Gunplay, bricks, spitting, etc. -- there is no place in politics for violence from the left or the right.

I’ve been giving this lots of thought. Here’s my working conclusion: maybe we need to change metaphors. Maybe our current metaphors are just too hot. Maybe we should have more fun.

Try this.

Instead of calling Cantor a whore for the health insurance lobby, perhaps we should say his harlotries have been paid for by his tomfoolery.

Politics, sir, is a mugg’s game. It is low. But not so low that you can't still cheapen it.

I stole part of that from here:

"And here, more than anywhere else I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly--the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries, and extravagances--is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows."
(H.L. Mencken, "On Being an American," 1922)

Yes, I am fully aware that Mencken was a brigand. But he was funny while fiery.


Damn. Some crazy guy was just arrested for threatening to kill Cantor and his family. Damn. I am so sorry.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Move over Sarah Palin

The Mystery Woman has a history working with the Discovery Channel. She still does voice-overs for documentaries. Seriously.

When it was announced that Sarah Palin was going to do a reality show about Alaska for Discovery, it was only a matter of time until the Mystery Woman had her own Eureka Moment.

“We’ll do a reality show on aging,” she said. Her working title is: “The Last Frontier You’ll Ever See, Honey, So Wear Your Good Underwear.”

Naturally, I would like something a little more snappy like “Extreme Aging” but she blames my short attention span. Splat leaves no room for sequels, she mutters. Not at our age.

Ever since the notion hit her, the Mystery Woman has been jotting down ideas for weekly shows like: “Everything in Life is a Quarter of an Inch Off” and “Wood Putty and Duct Tape Your Way Through Life” and “How to Tell It’s Thursday Without Looking at Your Pill Box.”

Now that’s reality.

What are your ideas? Post ‘em.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Politics of fear lost health care reform

We’ve now seen the worst the Republicans/conservatives/tea baggers have to offer. The list gets sad and heavy:

racial epithets
sexual epithets
berating the man with Parkinson's
spittle and phlegm
you lie
baby killer
death panels
political threats
personal threats
assassination threats
guns at public meetings
anger, anger, anger
vote no in lock step despite hundreds of GOP amendments in the bill
and that’s not counting other lies and misdemeanors.

Then their last presidential nominee, John McCain, had an epiphany. He figured out that no Republican, not a single one, voted for health care reform. So he threatened what everybody else has known since birth – the end of bipartisanship in congress.

So be it.

Despite the real possibility of big time losses next November, the Democrats have found their spines. They finally did something right just for the sake of doing something right. It was not poetry. Not even sausage. It was ugly.

But maybe, just maybe, this could be the beginning of the end for big money control over congress. Think insurance companies, big banks, big oil, big lobby.

What have the Democrats got to lose? The election? That die has already been cast. Stand up. Make a muscle. Use it.

Now is the time for action on finance reform, immigration reform, energy reform.

Who knows – the electorate might admire you for voting your convictions.

Go for it. Take the high road.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Winter, remember winter?

Yesterday was the first day of spring -- the sun was shining and everything was on sale at the mall. Too much temptation. We had to get out.

Since I was designated the driver, we crossed town on the parkway rather than the expressway. Generally, I avoid the fast roads unless someone is bleeding. Americans are in too much of a hurry anyhow. Everything is more beautiful at 25 mph. Except the car behind me.

This time the trip was different than it has been the past five months. Something big was missing. The snows of winter had melted away. Only a few ugly piles remain to guard the far end of parking lots.

Last night, everything froze again. Again, the edges of the creek were laced with gossamer ice bravely shining back at the afternoon sun.

Winter got an encore.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My god, they are fun

The great room looked like a crime scene. Only the yellow tape was missing. Couch pillows were tossed haphazard near the footstool. A paperback was in mid-flutter on the floor. Her glasses could get stepped on any minute.

The kitchen looked worse. It was a scene laced with ominous undertones -- a hammer wrapped in a dishtowel was on the counter. Although it looked bad, it was the hammer that signaled everything was actually OK.

During the night, the Mystery Woman had slipped out of bed and come downstairs to wrestle with atrial fibrillation, a heart problem that can be very painful. She uses the hammer to crack ice needed to deaden her jaw pain. She’s on new meds and this is the shake-down period while the docs try to get the dosage balanced.

It’s tough to watch. So, unless the pain is too severe, she simply doesn’t waken me. Meanwhile, her heart is racing like she was running a marathon. A-fib is serious because it can set off strokes and/or heart attacks. But, the doctors say, it is usually not life-threatening. Their words ring a little hollow.

But each day the Mystery Woman shakes off the rigors of the long night, sits down at her computer and begins rewrites on the children’s novel she is writing. It will mark the fifth book she has written. Keeps her young. She giggles as she writes.

Downstairs, in separate living quarters, her tiny little mother is quietly living with pancreatic cancer. Every day, she is up. Alert. Forever curious. Finding fun. Cracking wise. She is in her 90th year.

Neither woman complains much. Nor asks for special treatment. They are tough, self-reliant women who need only to be reminded sometimes that they are loved. They don’t seem to know how much they are adored.

Each gives new life to the quote from Alice Longworth Roosevelt, who said, “First you’re young, then you’re middle-aged, then you’re wonderful.”

Just wonderful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food fight -- they started it

New York chefs are kitchen sissies. Several items in the Dining section of today’s NY Times messed with my digestion.

Let’s ease into the narrative.

There is news that NY city hall is considering a ban on bake sale items such as homemade pumpkin bread, pink cupcakes and spinach tofu empanadas (to name a few). The new rule is aimed at tackling obesity. But packaged junk like Reduced Fat Cool Ranch Doritos and Linden’s Chocolate Chip Minis are deemed delicious. I say keep your capitalistic government out of my kitchen.

It gets worse.

An alleged barbecue pitmaster from Queens (oxymoron?) claims Texas BBQ is “limited” and he proposes cultural shifts that includes these finger-lickers: pork loin brined in bay leaf, lamb ribs marinated in a fermented shrimp sauce, wagyu brisket with chili jam and steamed buns, and duck rubbed with red curry powder which will be flash-fried and…and…Stop.

Then comes a NY Mexican chef who says it is unnatural to see people use tortilla chips like a shovel for salsa. “Like watching someone drink salad dressing out of a bottle,” he sniffs. Uh-huh. So you tell me what are the true ingredients of authentic salsa.

I’m waiting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lone Star/North Star/home

My first Big Winter in Minneapolis was a blast.

Every day was a new adventure. And I was like a teen-ager enjoying the ever-changing palate. It was all new to me. And I liked the adventure. Of course, I didn’t have to get out into the cold every day and drive to work. That chore, I imagine, would pffft the buoyancy of winter thrills.

Snow mold. I know, this sounds like Texas BS, but spidery snow mold can grow under the icepack. The stuff causes no permanent harm but it is early ugly for the lawn. It goes away in a couple of weeks, thankfully.

Car wash. Were I to get back in business again, I would buy a car wash in Minnesota. Everybody you meet is a potential customer. Road grime and road salt are rust incubators.

Sunday, the temp reached near 70 degrees. And the traffic jams were awful. Not the roadways, the sidewalks. The whole neighborhood came outside to rejoice. Trikes and bikes and hikers. Oh my.

This weekend, the floods begin. And I almost forgot -- a rain and snow mix is predicted Saturday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Urban threats, Glenn Beck and barf

There was something strange about that kid on the tricycle. He was missing … something. Then it came to me. He was barefoot. Springtime in Minnesota.

The Mystery Woman ran into a problem while re-writing her children’s novel. Somehow, she lost the use of the “n” on her keyboard. “Heaven” became “heave” and the little children loved it. They like barf jokes. Rascals.

German publishers are fussing about Apple’s restrictions for the iPhone. Apple won’t allow them to post racy content and photos. No skin, no where, no time. Hard to take in a country where it is considered prudish to wear a towel to a uni-sex sauna. That’s not a problem for my crowd.

Is the Apis mellifera a problem in your neighborhood? The NY Health and Mental Hygiene board will consider whether the common honeybee pose a public health threat. (They do in my family. Severe allergic reactions.) Many communities prohibit keeping beehives inside the city limits. The little hummers are ranked with hyenas, tarantulas, cobras, dingoes and other urban threats.

Don’t touch that dial. Apparently, not many Americans tune into cable TV during rush hour -- only around five million, compared to American Idol which has 30 million viewers. So how do these braying jackasses like Glenn Beck stir such attention? It’s the media echo chamber and the on-line cults that multiply and amplify such nonsense.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neither rank nor station at the four-way stop

They say government is broken. They say cultural wars are dividing America. They say American is too angry to be governed.

They also say government closest to home works best. Maybe we should re-examine the basics. What IS working?

Editorial Notebook
After You

New York Times, March 10, 2010

Recently, I have been considering the four-way stop. It is, I think, the most successful unit of government in the State of California. It may be the perfect model of participatory democracy, the ideal fusion of “first come, first served” and the golden rule. There are four-way stops elsewhere in the country. But they are ubiquitous in California, and they bring out a civility — let me call it a surprising civility — in drivers here in a state where so much has recently gone so wrong.

What a four-way stop expresses is the equality of the drivers who meet there. It doesn’t matter what you drive. For it to work, no deference is required, no self-denial. Precedence is all that matters, like a water right in Wyoming. Except that at a four-way stop on the streets of Rancho Cucamonga everyone gets to take a turn being first.

There are moments when two cars — even four — arrive almost simultaneously. At times like that, I find myself lengthening my own braking, easing into the stop in order to give an unambiguous signal to the other driver, as if to say, “After you.” Is this because I’m from the East where four-way stops are not so common? Or do most California drivers do this, too? I don’t know. What I do know is that I almost never see two cars lurching into the middle of the intersection as if both were determined to assert their right of way.

I find myself strangely reassured each time I pass through a four-way stop. A social contract is renewed, and I pull away feeling better about my fellow humans, which some days, believe me, can take some doing. We arrive as strangers and leave as strangers. But somewhere between stopping and going, we must acknowledge each other. California is full of drivers everywhere acknowledging each other by winks and less-friendly gestures, by glances in the mirrors, as they catapult down the freeways. But at a four-way stop, there is an almost Junior League politeness about it.

And when the stoplights go out at the big intersections, as they do sometimes, everyone reverts to the etiquette of the four-way stop as if to a bastion of civilization. But there are limits to this power. We can only gauge precedence within a certain distance and among a very small number of cars. Too many, and self-policing soon begins to break down. But when we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I heart books, springtime -- and her

Now that e-readers are the coming rave, moving will be easier. No more boxes of books to haul from relationship to relationship. But, as books disappear, parties won’t be as much fun. We've all peeked at the host's library seeking insight and gossip. But empty bookshelves will reveal nothing about the inner workings of the reader’s head. Pity.

Around 60,000 years ago, Stone Age people scratched notes on eggshells, ostrich eggshells. Before writing paper was invented. Or any other kind.

In England, they have weaponized Mozart, claims a guy writing in Reason Magazine. He’s plenty PO’d because a school is piping classical music into a detention hall filled with troublesome students. Culture wars.

Sure signs of spring include: ice-free Mississippi River, boats on trailers, sprigs of green grass an inch from the retreating snow line and the bucket boys of winter packing it in. All across Minnesota and Wisconsin, the ice fishermen are coming home and asking what’s for dinner.

The Mystery Woman and I had an unusual date this week. We both signed up with the same new cardiologist. And giggled in the waiting room like 70-year-old teen-agers. It’s part of our goofy narrative. Last year, she got a heart stent on Valentine’s Day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gimme re-write

In Minnesota, “spring is more of a theory than a reality,” says Meteorologist Paul Douglas in the Star-Tribune.

Hot investment tip: asphalt. After such a brutal winter, we’re going to need tons and tons for pothole repair across the nation.

Harlequin’s book titles say a lot. The Guardian reports: Analyzing a total of 15,019 books, Anthony Cox from the Center for Psychology and Computing in Dartmouth, Canada and Maryanne Fisher from the department of psychology at St Mary's University in Nova Scotia found that "love" was the most frequently used word in Harlequin romance novel titles (occurring 840 times), followed by "bride" (835), "baby" (696), "man" (672) and "marriage" (612). Other frequently used words included "cowboy" (314), "night" (340) and "nurse" (224). Delving deeper, into the most popular professions in the romance books, they found that "doctor" topped this count with 388 making it into titles, followed by "cowboy" (314), "nurse" (224) and "boss" (142). "Prince", "rancher", "knight", "king", "bodyguard", "sheriff", "pirate" and "midwife" all came in behind.

Writing in Vanity Fair, professional atheist Cristopher Hitchens, says there are three or four versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible and he suggests it’s time for a good re-write man to have a go at new rules. I would like to see something about "and thou shall have universal health care."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dial-up drugs in geezer world

All I wanted to do was to call the drug store and renew the prescriptions for a couple of my heart medications. These damned modern phones don't cradle. And the goddamn bifocals are not much help in this close-up drill. Try to punch in nine prescription digits without dropping the phone. Or the pill bottle. Or losing your place. Grumble, snarl.

Remembering the phone comes with a speaker inspired me. I hit that little orange button and laid the phone on the desk so I could concentrate with both hands. Gripe, complain.

“Please don’t use that damned speaker phone,” the Mystery Woman fussed. She hates the recorded voice that messes with the morning quiet. “And you don’t have to wait on the machine,” she said. “Just do this. When their recording starts, punch 4. Pause, then punch 2. Pause again. Want a.m. pick-up? Punch 8. Hit pound. Hang up.”

The realization was jarring – she has memorized the entire Walgreen’s pharmacy routine.

We’ve been old too long.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Winter, where is thy Spring?

OMG, I’ve gone native up here on the Minnesota steppes. Yesterday, the outside temp warmed to nearly 40 degrees. And I found myself thinking, “Where’s the challenge in that?” However, forecasters say computers hint at a foot of snow next Sunday. Hell yes, it’s only March.

In bad times, auto repossession is a growth industry that jumped 90,000 cars in 2009 over the year prior. Now comes high-speed side scan and front scan digital cameras that capture license plate numbers even at 80 m.p.h and flash them to on-board computers. Question: is the life of a repo man getting more or less intense?

In the U.S., brewery tours began in the late 1800’s at the St. Louis Anheuser-Busch plant. Want something older? The Weilhenstephan Brewery in Germany dates to the year 1040. For three grand per person, you can spend a week touring Bavarian beer country. Aspirin included.

England has twenty percent of the world’s surveillance cameras yet hosts only two percent of the world’s land mass. France. That’s where the cameras would be more fun.

Wisdom: “You will never like something as much as you like it in the store.” Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

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