Corn is in the eye of the beholder

Speaking with some of my A-day sophomores at the end of class on Friday, I was informing them that I wouldn’t be seeing them for nearly a week, as they will spend the bulk of the day Tuesday doing pre-ACT testing – new territory for them, and I’m not sure they are ready for the rigor of this sort of testing. I was collecting work as I reiterated some of the test strategies they should be using, and they were generally agreeable – then, one young man, usually one of my hipper, more engaging students in that group, asked what I would be doing on Tuesday, if I would be giving a test.

“Nope. I have a senior homeroom, so I get to spend the morning being SpongeBob.” I continued my stroll around collecting tests.
“Being SpongeBob?”
“Yeah. I get to be…HALL MONITOR!
There was a pause, then the same young man said, “Mr. Lucker – that was so…corny.”
His tone was one of great concern.
“Corny?”
“Yeah. Saying you get to be SpongeBob is corny.”
“O.K. But it will be a nice opportunity to wear a SpongeBob tie.”
His tone switched to one of disapproving admonishment. “But that is really corny.”
“Corny that I will be a hall monitor?” The rest of the class seemed nonplussed.
“Yeah, and I don’t think you should be.” He was serious, though the disapproving tone was mostly gone. He was drifting into disappointment.

I shrugged, the bell rang, I told them to have a nice weekend.

I thought the kid’s use of the word ‘corny’ was out of place, so I did a quick check on Urban Dictionary to see if I might have missed some nuance to his concern. What I found didn’t stray very far from my initial thought of how I would use the word ‘corny’ – meaning a lame joke or reference to something. Turns out urban teen ‘corny’ is pretty much middle-aged-dude ’corny’:

‘Something presented as fresh or original, but which is actually tired
and/or lame.’

‘Especially, when its lameness derives from being obvious or done to death.
Oh Grandpa! That joke is soooo corny.’

‘Trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing’

‘Something cheesy or lame’

‘The status of “corniness” is achieved when something picks up old and overused fads just to “fit in,” falsely believes it is cool, and then takes itself too seriously, resulting in a complete destruction of its social life’

I was going to post the encounter for a throwaway, end-of-week classroom anecdote on Facebook – until I did a quick search for a graphic to go with my little tale and got this from Google:

 

 

 

 

 

Encyclopedia SpongeBobia?

I have been a SpongeBob fan since the beginning of the show in 1999, but haven’t watched much the last few years, kids being pretty much grown up and all, though I have watched a few recent episodes with my five-year-old grandson – and, of course, I have seen the movies.

But Encyclopedia SpongeBobia was new to me.

Having two sons both into comic books and superheroes to one degree or another, and being a high school teacher, I have a reasonable understanding of fandom and general obsession with the minutiae of certain characters and their environs, but this?

Of course, I had to (virtually) thumb through the ESB.

Original episode air dates, character list, plot synopsis (‘In this episode, SpongeBob becomes hall monitor, resulting in chaos.’) pretty basic, sums it up nicely. But so does the six-paragraph full synopsis you can scroll to further down the page. And you can keep scrolling, because there is a lot more. In fact, reading through the key points on this compendium entry will take you far longer than the eleven minutes it would take you to watch the actual episode.

Who knew?

Then I noticed a little notice at the top of the page: ‘If you were looking for the article about the book, then see Hall Monitor (book)’

OK, kids cartoons being made into books is not a new thing – you could purchase Little Golden Books of many of the cartoons I watched as a kid, but my curiosity being hat it is, I decided to click to see if the unbridled enthusiasm of the episode Wiki was as detailed for the book.

All sixty-four pages. Thirty, if you are reading on a Kindle.

I am a Kindle-kind-of-guy, so I had to check it out. Sixty-four pages gives you a lot of time for character development and story exposition, and by golly the folks who put it together deliver on all counts. Pretty decent read, to be honest – a bit of an Alexander Wollcott/Robert Benchley vibe, actually – and it did hold my attention, probably more than it should have.

This started out being about the concept of corniness, and while some of this strikes me as all rather corny, and while others may say there are people with way too much time on their hands, I think Encyclopedia SpongeBobia is a good example of how information can be mined, refined, and shared with a broad audience. I mean, somebody had to take the time to compile this information, reformulate and format it, post it for the world to see. That took a certain set of skills that I would love to impart to my students and I might just be able to turn this little classroom anecdote into a true ‘teachable moment.’

My students would surely find that to be a very corny thing to do.

But I’m still wearing a SpongeBob tie on Tuesday.

The Tragedy of Macself

Macself, Act 1, Scene hogger

Is this a cell phone which I see before me,
The camera toward my face? Come, let me clutch thee!
I have thee not, and yet I see me still!

selfie1Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A photo of the mind, a false JPEG,
Proceeding from the need-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I snap.

Thou marshall’st me the way my Tweet is going;
And such an instrument I will to use.
Mine posts are made the fools o’ the other feeds,
Or else worth all the rest; I see me still,
And on thy wall and Twitter feed gouts of envy,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
It is the bloody self-portrait which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one viral halfworld
Nature seems dead, and narcicists abuse
The curtain’d sleep; haters celebrate

Pale Hecate’s duck-face offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his viral sentinel, the message wolf,
Whose howl’s his forwards, thus with his stealthy pace.
With hater’s ravishing dislikes, towards my design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
see not my poses, which way they face, for fear

Thy very updates prate of coffee shop ‘is at’ whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I Tweet, they live:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

Lexiconvenience*

(* lexiconvenience noun  lex·i·con- ve·nience  \ˈlek-sə-ˌkän- ˈvēn-yən(t)s
language made to fit personal preference) – editor’s note

I need a new word for euphemism.

As the world gets progressively weirder, and as I try to maintain some sense of dignity and self-control in my communications with others – both written and verbal – all the good euphemisms seem to be losing their luster from overuse – especially the ones people use euphemism-ed2to avoid to whole insensitivity-to-deity issue: gadgadzooksgosh; geejeepersjeez.

Aside from their overuse, they lack etymological ‘oomph’ – unless you are currently starring in a production of Grease.

Before you offer up new, non-offensive, not oblique suggestions, keep in mind that euphemisms are not exactly synonyms – although the major disparagements of our language are showing a fair amount of wear-and-tear as well; moron, idiot, nitwit, halfwit, imbecile, twit, dolt, nimrod, et al, are repetitively redundant in an accelerated manner as never before seen.

Personally, I blame Facebook and Twitter, though the case could certainly be made that we are living in different times – the Age of the Buffoons, perhaps.

Doesn’t have the same pleasing linguistic lilt to it as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ does it?  Since we seem to be living in a time that is just the opposite realm of intellectual renewal, 235bff49638c63dfa6d69b1a5bb587ab945db2d8maybe my first euphemistic recalculation can be something along the lines of ‘The Age of Fried Filaments-ment’.

Eh, rather clunky.  And too obscure – the younger folks used to curly bulbs will be as clueless as they are filamentless.

I do have a personal euphemism that I coined a few years back, but it hasn’t really caught on in any major way: “Son-of-a-Bisquick-pancake!” I find it a catchy little euphemism good for all sorts of occasions, and with a tweak to a syllabic inflection here-or-there, you can punch it up to convey a wide range of emphasis and meanings. Starting out with a hard, guttural “SON-OF-A…’” will get attention more quickly than a wistful, musing, ‘son of a…’ – the euphemistic equivalent of a Jimmy Stewart-ish “Whattaya know about that.”bisquick-4ed

‘Son-of-a-Bisquick-pancake!’ perfectly fits the definition of euphemism, too.  As is my wont, I turn to my friends at Merriam-Webster:

‘Euphemisms can take different forms, but they all involve substituting a word or phrase considered to be less offensive than another.

The substituted word might, for example, be viewed as a less coarse choice, as when dang or darn is used instead of damn or damned.’

“Damn, Skippy!”

That is another personal, flexible euphemism I like to use, and it usually hits its mark

skippy

because, as I have gleefully discovered, if you say it with a bit of a chuckle, it gets a laugh, but when you add in a disapproving look and an edgier inflection, not a lot of people find the applied moniker ‘Skippy’ to be one of subjective endearment.

“Damn, Skippy! Lighten up!”

As sometimes happens, though, doing my homework results in some different perspectives that don’t always fit my narrative thesis.  As the fine folks at M-W reminded me, ‘a euphemism may also consist of an indirect softening phrase that is substituted for the straightforward naming of something unpalatable: people being “let go” rather than “fired”; civilians killed in war described as “collateral damage…”

Ugh.

Damn, Skippy! That’s just watering stuff down to make things seems peachier than they really are, and I don’t think we need to go down that road, as the idea of making something all soft-and-sweet-and-vague in this age of chaos and uncertainty is already being expanded by the absurdity of ‘alternative facts’ – which is not a euphemism for alternative-facts‘opinion’ it is just plain wrong from a grammatical and practical standpoint.

And that is an English teacher fact, though this next one is my opinion: ‘alternative fact’ is the most pure and unspoiled of oxymoron, a complete and contradictory abomination of language and rational thought. Though not being totally comfortable with the medical origins of the word ‘moron’ maybe I should opt for something more neutral; oxyclod? Oxydolt? Oxydunce, perhaps.

This is the point where you, dear reader, gets to say to me, “Damn, Skippy! Step back!”

Son-of-a-Bisquick pancake. You really did.

Still politicking me off

I originally wrote this back in 2010 – not a presidential year, but still rather volatile, politically. Stumbling across it again now, I wondered if my gripes then differed from today.  I’ll let you be the judge, though I have added a few more contemporary comments, in bold italics.

October, 2010

I recently had a firsthand experience that outlines just how acutely American politics has gotten to the vapid, too-partisan-for-words, what-about-us-in-the-mainstream, point that it is now at.

The other day, my phone rang; picking it up, I was not surprised to hear a chirpy-sounding pollster/political operative voice on the other end asking me if I “had a moment” to answer a quick question. Before I could get the “Sure” out of my mouth, the young woman (no personal identification, party phonebankor PAC affiliation given) just jumped right in:

“Good afternoon, sir, I am wondering if you plan to vote on November second?”
“Indeed I do.”
“Great! Could you please tell me then, do you plan on voting for the Republicans, the Democrats or are you undecided?”
“Well, I plan on voting for some Democrats and some Republicans.”

Pause.

“Soooo….then I should mark you down as ‘undecided’?” she asked as a statement, in a puzzled tone.
“Not at all! I know exactly who I am voting for.”
“O.K….but will you be voting for the Republicans or the Democrats?”
“Some of each, actually. I haven’t voted a straight party line ticket for many years.”

Pause.

“So, I should mark you down as ‘undecided’.” She was quite certain this was the correct answer.
“No,I am definitely not ‘undecided.’ I will be voting for some Democrats, some Republicans.”
“O.K. – so you’re not undecided.” Her tone reverted to bewilderment, but at least it was a statement, not a tentative question.
“Not at all. I know exactly who I’ll be voting for. . . I can tell you I will not be phonebank2voting for the Republican running for the senate.”

“O.K….well…” it seemed as though she was checking her notes seeking the proper response to my, uhhh…independent streak, “…you’re not undecided.”
“No, I ‘m definitely not undecided.”
Short pause.
“Thanks a lot, sir. Have a nice day.”
“Thanks. You too.”

Click.

Again, I don’t know what organization, party, PAC, coffee klatch or bridge club she was representing – but there were a few things about the call that concerned me.

The first is that my answer should not have been seen as such an oddity.

Surely I am not the only person in the country who will vote for – GASP! – the best candidate (as I see it) for the job, regardless of party affiliation – or am I truly the last of a dying breed? I wouldn’t think my answer should have led to such consternation; flustered the woman completely, I did.  2016: I believe I may indeed be the last of a dying breed, and should photo-5-copyprobably be protected in a game preserve somewhere to prevent my extinction.

Secondly, given the state of today’s political landscape, why was I only given the ol’ Repubs/Dems option – even in Louisiana? It’s 2010, for crying out loud – no Tea Party, Independence Party, Tupperware party – nothing? (Not that any of those entities have much to offer me– except I could use some new storage bowls.) It’s just the principle of the thing: only offering bunting2me ‘will you be voting for the Republicans or the Democrats’?  makes no sense, though I especially liked her old-school ‘THE Republicans’ and ‘THE Democrats’. then again, maybe having principles is too old school for the modern electorate.  In 2016, here in the deeply red state of Louisiana, the Republicans running do not identify as such in their advertising; they simply geaux (sic) with “x-and-o, CONSERVATIVE for (whatever office)”.  I have yet to see a commercial here identifying a candidate as ‘Republican.’

All in all, it was a very strange call to be getting but certainly not the most egregious political intrusion of the season. Some other election year pet peeves? Let me count the ways we can make this a much more comfortable process.

1. Keep yours/ours/their religion out of politics – and vice versa. Yeah, we may belong to the same faith – heck, even the same denomination – but just because we share a pew on Sunday morning doesn’t mean I share your political stance. And it really ticks me off when you start talking politics over coffee, and you assume we all agree – because we go to the same church – and you continually use the pronoun ‘we’ in your pronouncements. Let me tell ya, guys…you seem like basically decent fellows, but there is usually no pogo3‘me’ in your ‘we’.  Six years later, I am attending two different churches regularly, and this is not an issue at ether. Though at one, people do not discuss politics at all, and the other is a more social justice oriented congregation, where differences are discussed and celebrated.  A much more comfortable scenario in either case.

2. Along the same lines is this sidebar to candidates; stop telling me you’re a ‘family values’ kind of guy. Who’s family? Aadams? Manson? Swiss Robinsons? It’s especially galling when you talk of ‘family values’ and your background includes dalliances with hookers, DUI’s or past domestic disturbance calls to your home. I’m all for redemption, but don’t play the family-values‘family values’ card – stick with issues, give me your solutions to problems – ya know, the stuff I really want my politicians to do. This is more true than ever – at least in regards to the phrase ‘family values’ which now has the linguistic value of a three-dollar-bill.

3. Quit demonizing everyone you disagree with absurd labels: Socialist! Darwinist! Illegal immigrant supporter! Racist! Anti-business! Muslim! Not a real (fill-in-the-blank)! I know, I know – shock value gets attention…when you are in the sixth grade. Grow the hell up, people. Yes, please do – as individuals, and as a culture. 

4. Oh yeah, while you’re at it, please drop the use of the word ‘pro’ from your electioneering. Pro-life! Pro-choice! Pro-guns! Pro-business! Pro-environment! Pro being pro-whatever-you-want-me-to-be! Per the fine folks at Merriam-Webster:

  • pro (noun) \ˈprō\  1.an argument or evidence in affirmation  2: the affirmative side or one holding it.

‘Affirmative side or one holding it’. By definition, you are implying that anyone who is not ‘pro’ like you is automatically ‘anti’ whatever you are ‘pro’ of. That is absolute nonsense. On any issue you want to be ‘pro’ on, there is pros-and-consplenty of room on the spectrum of logical, rational thought before you get to ‘anti’. (see number 1, above)  Does this one still hold true?  Absolutely. ‘Pro’ may be the single most misused word in American political discourse. 

You get the idea. The whole black/white concept of American politics is ridiculous, dangerous and stupid – and the results are pretty obvious. Our national debate should be taking place in the gray areas where most of us live – somewhere between the I’m- pro-this-and-you’re-anti-that-so-go-to-hell extremists.

As Walt Kelley’s  famous comic strip character Pogo famously observed, way pogo1back in the 1950’s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

In 2016 it remains true: we have, they are – and therein lies our greatest weakness as an American electorate:  we, they.  Very little ‘us’.

As in all of us.  As in U.S.  As in ‘We are all Americans’.

We need to start acting like it

History, in person

I am thinking today of my mom’s great aunt, Maybelle Sivertsen.

Having watched Hilary Clinton accept her nomination last night, and seeing all the posts on Facebook – especially from women – history came to life for me.

Born in 1898, Maybelle was an intelligent, raucous, bawdy, charismatic, charming and always elegant woman of deep faith,who was married to a prominent doctor, but her own life resume was pretty impressive in its own right. Among her many suffragettes2proud accomplishments were being a suffragette, and the work she did in helping women achieve the right to vote.

There is a family photograph from a cousin’s wedding in the mid-70’s. It is in my aunt and uncle’s basement, at the afterparty. Maybelle is seated in a chair in the corner, hands in front of her on the head to the cane she then used. She is sitting up bolt-straight, and is obviously in mid-oration. It is a picture that perfectly captures Maybelle as I knew her, but it is not what makes the fuzzy, Instamatic shot so memorable.

Sitting at her feet – some cross-legged on the linoleum floor, one or two crouching, all in their powder-blue tuxedos, many with long, ‘hippie hair’ – are the groomsmen from the wedding. Their heads are all tilted upwards as they are focused on Maybelle, and a couple of the more visible of the young men’s faces carry looks of awe. I have no idea what she is regaling them about; even in her mid-seventies, she was abreast of all the current issues and had definite opinions about all of them. She was a progressive, all-in for civil rights and equal rights.

Whatever she was saying the rapt attention of those young men. I totally get that.

Maybelle always had time for me; in part because she made time for everyone, in part because, more than most of my immediate family, I loved history and loved hearing (and telling) stories. At about the same time the photo was taken, America had just ratified the 26th Amendment giving eighteen-year-olds the right to vote. I was still a few years shy of eighteen, but Maybelle wanted to make sure I was crystal clear on the importance of that newly-minted right – a right that was obtained a lot more peacefully than was her’s.

From a woman who had personally worked, a half-century before, to get the 19th Amendment ratified, giving her suffragettes1entire gender the right to vote, I heard the gravity in her plea, the hopeful tone. In Maybelle’s eyes, this was a logical progression, just another step, and the right to vote was something I should cherish, and take very seriously.

I still do.

So the morning after watching history unfold on television, I am thinking of my great-aunt Maybelle – the suffragette. Somewhere, she is seated in a chair, sitting elegantly, proudly…her hands clenched firmly atop the head of her cane.

She is beaming.

Middle-aged, and sticking it

calf-strainIt has been a while since I have feted you with a pogo update.

The last two weeks have been shorter workouts due to weather issues and a pulled left-calf. Fine for the most part, mid-pogoing, it tightens up once done. It is also a bit twingy on the dismounts – but improving. Not debilitating enough to keep me on the pogo sideline.

There have been some more interesting street encounters while on the stick. (Keep in mind I always stop pogoing and stand to the side when traffic is on the block.)

One day last week, a young police officer pulled up, rolled down the passenger window, said to me quite sternly, “That thing looks very dangerous!”

The SuperPogo 2 was leaning up against my chest, so with outstretched hands, I pleaded my case: “Ahh, but not in the hands of a pogo6qualified, with-it user!”

The cop laughed and we chatted for a few minutes; I ran through the Reader’s Digest version of the story – always wanted one, got it for Christmas, longest stretch I’ve stuck with an exercise routine in decades, etc. He seemed mildly impressed.

“I tried a friend’s pogo stick out when I was a kid. Hit some gravel, wiped out. Hit a hole, fell on my face in a puddle. That was it for me.” He shook his head, smiling ruefully.

“Again” I stated, arms outstretched, palms up, pointer fingers aimed back. “Skilled, responsible practitioner.” He laughed heartily, told me to keep it up, and to be safe, I wished him the same good fortune.

Two nights ago, longest workout in a while, breaking a nice sweat and had a strong rhythm – except for the traffic interruptions: a young couple walking a schnauzer that I apparently scared the hell out of, and two young moms pushing toddlers in baby strollers. One child was fascinated enough to stop sucking on her bottle, the other one…not so much; he kept working his pacifier. The moms glanced at me awkwardly, looking up from their texting briefly enough to do so.

pogo2A middle-aged guy on a pogo-stick may strike some as odd, but moms pushing kids in strollers down the middle of a street, talking to each other while also texting on smartphones balanced on the trays of their strollers, brings a whole new twist to ‘distracted driving.’

Just sayin’.

I was just winding down my workout when the guy across the street came home from work. I don’t know him, but he is usually pretty amiable, waving and saying hello and such. He is about my age and works out fairly regularly – or is just in really great shape. I think he hits the gym on a regular basis, while his wife, Mary, is an avid runner.

Per street-pogo protocol, I hopped off, stood to the side as he pulled up. He got out, waved and said, “Now THAT looks like quite the workout!” in a tone that suggested ‘impressive stuff, dude’!

“Is that something new?” He, too, then got the Reader’s Digest version of Mark’s Pogo Saga.

“Well, that’s great!” (same, ‘impressive, dude’ tone) “Keep it up and have a good one!”

With that, he waved, went inside his house, I worked a couple more med-range runs of 30-40 in and called it a night.

(Sidebar, here: at the start of the new year, I took a teaching job at the same school my wife has been teaching at for the last five years, so we now get to commute together, which is pretty cool, but was very funny the morning following my encounter with the guy across the street.)

pogo1

The next morning, Amy and I are headed out to go to work at the same time that Mary, our neighbor across the street is doing the same.

The next morning, Amy and I are headed out to go to work at the same time that Mary, our neighbor across the street is doing the same. The three of us greet each other with waves, and then Mary (the avid runner) says, “My husband said you were out here last night jumping on a pogo stick!”

“I was indeed. It’s my new workout regimen.”

“That’s awesome!” I could hear my wife sigh.

I gave Mary the R-D version of the story, adding, “And it works! Dropped two pounds and two belt notches since I started!”

“Oh, wow. That’s great! Be careful and keep at it!”

“Oh, I will. “

With that, she got into her car; I climbed into the driver’s seat of the van. Amy had already taken up residence in the passenger seat. She was shaking her head, and then, with a rueful smile, she sighed. “Yeah….” We started driving away. “The neighborhood must all think we’re nuts.”

“Funny how they all express concern about my safety.”

“Yeah, well, you probably look a little…wild out there. They ARE entertained by you. “She shook her head.

The situation reminded me of a previous street pogo-encounter. “I’m guessing their conversation was something like that jogging-guy who was staying with his parents I met a few weeks ago; ‘Hey, mom! Some old kid down the block let me use his new pogo stick!’”

“Yeahhhhhh, I’mmmmm sure it was something like that.” We had turned two corners, were heading for work. Amy was still shaking her head. “You. Are. Something.”

“What can I tell you?”

“Pogo on, I guess?” she offered, with another sigh.

“Pogo on!” I confirmed.

What more is there to say?

pogo13

 

What’s up with that, anyway?

You cannot watch a televised sporting event without an onslaught of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra commercials. It makes sense that the target market for said products would be males living vicariously through big, strong athletes doing stuff most men never got close to accomplishing outside of their fantasies and backyard they had when they were ten. ED1Frustrated, wannabe, could’ve been athletes watching the real thing, drug makers unrealistically marketing a product that mimics a real thing. It’s a package deal.

Pun intended.

‘Erectile dysfunction’ is one of those quintessential American phrases that entered the lexicon to titillation and ridicule and has now become mainstream in its conversational usage, if only for its catchy initialism, E-D. It has become such a part of conversation that I rarely even hear parents having to try to uncomfortably explain to youngsters just what ‘E-D’ is. The ads are ubiquitous, and most people, I think, just tune them out – except for those who are fantasizing about and/or ridiculing the people and situations depicted in them. But…

Ever pay attention to the sales pitch wording and the disclaimers?

ED2For the sake of this piece, in place of actual product names, we’ll just use the generic ‘Boing!’® as a surrogate, made-up trademark. Plus, as a generic, available over the Internet placebo word, it is less than ten percent of the cost of the name-brand words.

Ask your doctor.

I wonder if those who put together these ads for E.D. products realize just how counter-intuitive their copy proclamations (especially the disclaimers) are for most men. To wit:

“Stop taking ‘Boing!’® if you have any sudden hearing loss or decrease in vision.”

This one is immediately problematic for most men as hearing loss and fuzzy vision are natural byproducts of the attraction to someone being strong enough to require a dose of ‘Boing!’® to begin with.

Especially on a Saturday night at last call.

“You could be more confident in your ability to be ready.”

ED3I really like this one. It makes a totally illogical connection between a man’s confidence level and his ability at much of anything.  Oh yeah…that’s why the ads target couch potato sports fans and DIY home improvement shows and rarely on Dancing With the Stars’– though I have seen a few pop up during presidential debates.

THAT is an entirely separate post.

‘Boing!’®

And this should persuade men…how?  “Side effects may include headache, upset stomach, delayed muscle ache or ED5backache’

Man-logic sees this as a neutral proposition; not being able to perform gives you the headache and upset stomach, actual performance gets you the delayed muscle and backache.

Pick your poison, guys.

My favorite part is where the serious-as-all-get-out announcer says,“Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sexual activity.”

This one sounds reasonable, in a medical-professional way, but…come on, most men lie to their doctors about their diets, level of physical activity, sleep patterns and vitamin intake. How many men will actually bring the ‘hey, doc, if I get lucky tonight, will I have a heart attack?’ up in doctor conversation? Is there such a thing as talking-to-your-doctor Boing!’® because I’m pretty sure the traditional ways men get up the nerve to talk to anyone about anything serious/sensitive/personal is not appropriate here. Showing up to see your doctor with Jack Daniels breath is going to pretty much negate any virility advice – especially if you start hitting on said physician.

‘Boing!’®

And of course, there is the best medication-disclaimer-punchline ever:

“To avoid long-term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours.”

This one actually seems tailored to the psyche of the modern American male, who if he is still going after four minutes is going to know something different is up.

An hour into such a situation, most guy’s bravado will supplant any rational medical thought and go straight to braggadocio potential. They are going to want to document the experience, and will take to Facebook, Instagram, ed8Twitter, Vine – pretty much any social media with prominent time-stamps to share the progression (or, really, lack of regression) with the world. Even the more introverted or shy types will simply use their phones to take sexting shots they will then later share surreptitiously in health club locker rooms, with their pals on their over-fifty softball teams or the barista at their neighborhood Starbucks.

You think I’m kidding? ‘Boing!’®

Use this post only as directed.

Now, about those ridiculously unsafe hillside bathtubs…

Hiatus. How ya doing?

Back and posting.

Busy July. I should have hung up the ‘gone fishing’ sign but, alas, I planned no, and did no fishing this summer. I did eat some fish, however. What else did I not do on my summer vacation of which I didn’t really have because my school goes year around? I didn’t clean my garage, for one. Threw some stuff out, but organization time escaped me.

While I didn’t get my garage cleaned out, I did clean out my wallet and phone and it was quite the purge – especially the phone, whose memory I had completely tapped out with photos, videos and saved text messages. Some of those were interesting back-and-forths with my wife that were fun to reminisce on. There were at least a dozen ‘Hey’ ‘Hey’ ‘Goin?’ ‘Fine’ ‘What’s for dinner?’ exchanges of at least twelve comments each. Romance probably isn’t dead, but sometimes the files are corrupted.

‘Cleaning out’ a phone in this day and age is the twenty-first century equivalent of delving into the attic to see what might garner a few bucks at a yard sale or set up a messy tax return after the sale of an Antiques Roadshow find.

Except it’s all in pixels and the really interesting stuff you already forwarded or printed out. Plus, my current phone is only a year old, so the whole ‘antique’ concept is lacking – though the pictures from last summer of my grandsonFelix 05 07 15 - CopyFelix at Honkers game 2014 - Copy seem like an eon removed from now.

His current, ‘almost-four’ (far R)  looks a whole lot closer to fifteen than last summer’s ‘almost-three’ (near L) was to two. Wow. Pretty cool, actually.

Not to say that there weren’t a few other treasures unearthed in my July data-dumping. To wit…

IMG_20150605_144103 IMG_20150605_144114The fire alarm system outside of my classroom. Seriously. I’m all about self-sufficiency and try to impart that to my students, but I am not at all down with a DIY fire alarm. Besides, set one of those air horns off here in New Orleans, and people will just think it’s a drunk Saints fan or reveller just coming-to from last Mardi Gras. This falls somewhere between ‘epic fail’ and a Dr. Phil “What were you thinkin’?!”

IMG_20150212_210159I saw this late one night at the drug store, and was then able to document this historical note: most people are unaware that the Swiss Miss eventually left the world of hot cocoa, grew up and went off to med school. For a time, she had a thriving pediatric practice in Bern, but lost most of it after a stint in rehab due to an addiction issue after she was caught popping excessive amounts of little, white, freeze-dried marshmallows.

Eventually, trying to build a new life, she moved to Nebraska and worked with a colleague in developing this new product. Note the generic packaging; the financial backers of the venture wanted to put her picture on the box, but there was an ugly ‘trademark infringement’ issue that was rasied.

Who knew? Yeah, me either.

An actual conversation that occurred during the rather swift  demise of this suburban New Orleans restaurant after less than a year in business:

Customer, pointing“Umm, excuse me waiter. There is a typo on  your menu here: it should say ‘Cajun-blackened-chicken pizza,’ not ‘Cajun black-lung-chicken pizza.”

Waiter, sighing deeply, for the umpteenth time and with deep resignation, “No, sir. That is NOT a misprint.”

IMG_20150129_141833

 

On the more practical end of things, I really like the new style coffee cans with the little foil seal across the top, and no lid to cut off, leaving tendon-severing edges behind. These little lips on the cans are great for bloodless storage in IMG_20150807_065956most any setting, once the coffee is gone.

Except the coffee is never gone. There is always that little, grainy glob of coffee that you cannot get out of the can. It just slides around underneath the can lip – back and forth, back and forth. Maddening, and the only foolproof way to jettison that little amoeba-like colony of coffee grounds would appear to be with the suction doohickey the dentist uses for saliva. To all the dentists I have ever known: could be a nice little side ka-ching for you.

Hey, Kopi Luwak (monkey digested, pooped out) coffee beans sell for about $165 a pound, retail.

Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, most of my personal books in my classroom are labeled with my name – a common teacher practice. As I was IMG_20150508_080507shuffling some things around one day, I glanced down and saw the book I was holding and wondered just how many of my students, former students, colleagues, friends, relatives, offspring, mother – would actually lay down a few greenbacks for any understanding provided by this particular, personal  installment of the popular ‘Dummies’ books..

My wife failed to see the humor, noting that it would defeat the purpose of the series to have one that would require multiple volumes.

Point taken.

Then one day I saw this really big display in the grocery store and all I could think of was every mother and grandmother I have ever known IMG_20150407_172636saying, over-and-over, “Stop playing with your food!”

My real fear here is if the fine folks who make Pringles find success with this ad campaign, we will be deluged with copycat store displays, leading to possible picketing of grocery stores and boycotts of produce departments.

Look, I could have been cheesy here and gone for the meat department joke, but I didn’t. So there.

Before we reach the end, there was this sign that I noticed while walking by a Porta-Potty at a local music festival. At first glance, I thought the sign said ‘MUSE’ and being the writer-guy I am, I thought, ‘well, that is interesting’ and then upon closer inspection I saw that the supposed ‘M’ was really a small, smooshed-together ‘IN.’ Then the poet-guy inside of me thought, ‘well, this is even more interesting’. And so, without further ado-doo:

IMG_20150216_153400The Green Lavatory

so much for Depends
without

a Porta-Potty
tomorrow

used with pain
no water

hot, fiberglass box
you’re chicken.

Crashing my own party

I’ve canceled the pity party. I returned the decorations and told the caterer it was a no go. She was nonplussed as I wasn’t serving anything, and the party store clerk just shrugged.

Sometimes, we all get a little ahead of ourselves and can’t get a hold of ourselves. The start 2015 year has not been among my best – almost from the get go.

January fifth, first Monday of the year, I returned to school from our two-week Christmas break to greet my colleagues and sit through a day of welcome-back/here-we-go professional development in preparation for the return of our students on Tuesday.

I never saw them. The end of the day saw me handed my walking papers; the dismissal was unexpected and unexplained. A job search – usually something I relish the excitement and challenge of – was now the extent of my list of New Year resolutions. This one was different: it was a challenge, but I was not excited.

As January rolled into February, and as the results started coming in from various applications and resume submissions, and as the ‘TBNT’ (thanks-but-no-thanks) section in my job search ring binder continued to fill, the situation became more frustrating, the opportunities – the potentials – more scarce. My aggravation was growing in inverse proportion to our bank account. My frustration was duly noted by family and friends, though I was also complimented on my optimism. I don’t think I was becoming a total malcontent.

Since moving to New Orleans nearly seven years ago, I had begun to look forward to February, and the onset of Mardi Gras season – a big deal in New Orleans. While we are not among the formal-ball-and-pageantry oriented, socialite crowd, my wife and I have developed some traditions centered on favorite parades, and scoping out comfortable, familiar spots from which to view them. Nothing major, but some couples time that we enjoy. This IMG_20150217_114308season promised a bit of a respite to my employment situation. Figuring correctly that most employers would be putting their hiring practices on the back burner for a few weeks, I would temper my frustration in lack of any new job postings or progress in any processes

The first full weekend of Mardi Gras festivities, my wife and I broke with personal tradition to take in three of the Sunday parades (they run parades back-to-back-to-back on multiple days). The weather was great, we found easy parking, got to our usual curb-watching locale, set up our lawn chairs and settled in. A little journal writing and some reading, plus talking to nearby revelers quickly and amusingly kills off an hour of wait time. The parades themselves were good, the beads plentiful, and floats creatively amusing. All in all, a nice relaxing day.

Yet we headed home with me in something of a funk.

It had been an enjoyable afternoon, with thoughts of my job search temporarily shelved, until two not unexpected encounters with the marching bands from the school I had been let go from and from the school I taught at the bandprevious three years. No big deal, I thought. It was even enjoyable in a way, as I was able to exchange shouted greetings and a high-five with a teaching colleague and a couple of students that I wouldn’t have expected to take notice of my presence. Still, thoughts of what was and what could have been had me frustrated and had me mentally playing the self-pity game.

Then I got home, and hopped on my computer.

Expecting to simply check Facebook and then some email before moving on to other simple, to do list items, I logged on for a late Sunday afternoon, quick perusal of Facebook postings. Not much new, numbers wise, than I had left off at that morning, though one particular post immediately caught my eye in its abrupt casualness: an old friend was passing on the news that his wife had died that morning of breast cancer. She was forty-eight, and they have five kids, the oldest of whom is in college.

I read the string of condolences from various friends –  their fellow church members, mostly, who expressed sympathy and admiration at her strength – noting in many cases at her resolve in that most of them were unaware of just how seriously ill she had been. It was touching, sad, inspiring and thought-provoking. I left my note of condolence for an old friend and moved on.

A few minutes later, checking my email, I noticed one that I had read already, but had left in my inbox; an update frcaringbridge1om the website CaringBridge – an update on the adult son of old friends. His leukemia, thought to be five years in remission, had recently returned and the email was an update on the status of his re-hospitalization and the hope behind an impending bone marrow transplant.

Two shots of perspective is a good prescription for what ailed me, but it didn’t stop there.

I didn’t have to look too hard for other there-but-for-the-grace-of-God examples, they were just sitting there: the multiple, usually lame, emailed jokes from an old friend in his second decade of battling Parkinson’s – the internet provides his solace and socialization these days. There was the Facebook chat transcript from an even older friend, back on the wagon and doing well after a sobriety relapse, and an entry from another friend who periodically shares the inspiring blog posts of her cancer-battling, twenty-something daughter. I also took note of some funny Facebook posts from another old friend – a former college professor of mine – who has inspirationally beaten his cancer back three different times.

More sobering was another post by a friend, commemorating the accident seven years ago that claimed the life of four school kids, including a member of my son’s then-scout troop. And there was also that day’s text message exchange I had with an old friend, during which I was mindful that we are approaching the one-year anniversary of their child’s death.

Perspectives.

Each social media induced realization was like the end of an ophthalmologist’s new-glasses exam: “Which one makes theyechartings clearer? THIS one…or this one? This one…or this one….?” By the time the new week rolled around, I had a new outlook and viewpoint on my job search, and a different take on my life in general.

As humans, we tend to be myopic in our approach to life; sometimes we just need to put on our glasses, sometimes we need to purposely seek out a different set of lenses.

Oh, about that party I mentioned earlier? Don’t hold your breath. I won’t be sending out any ‘save the date’ cards.

Signs of the times

Oh, sign, sign everywhere a sign
Blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign
Five Man Electrical Band, 1965

Oh meme, meme, everywhere a meme
clogging up my Facebook, beating on my mind
animals, politics, cutesy kids clogging up the scene
everything’s a statement, everything’s a meme
Me, 2012

Memes. We all get them, many of us have made them. Facebook, emailed, texted them. Memes are everywhere; cute, political, sarcastic. Pictures with a message, many that ‘go viral’ in our Internet age and end up coming to you from half a dozen different folks in far-flung corners of the world. Or Detroit.

I am not putting any memes in this posting. In the spirit of D.I.Y. and not being an enabler, I am offering you the raw materials to make your own meme(s). The supplied pictures are all from my phone, having been snapped, filed away, and rediscovered as I was trying to download new pictures on my phone and was accosted by the ‘Memory Full – Delete Some Items’ warning from my dumbphone.

Dive in, have some fun. See what you can come up with.

One more thing: Realizing that just the pictures might not be enough for some of you, there are also some random comments included – meme prompts, off sorts. They are not etched in stone. As food packages frequently read, ‘SERVING SUGGESTION’

Speaking of food…

I encountered this ‘Express Lane’ signage array in a Missouri grocery store last winter. Really befuddling for those with grocery-cart-approximation issues or general math anxiety, sweaty palms territory for the OCD crowd.  The outright indecision (1 -15, ‘About 20′) is definitively Midwestern.

This store does give you multiple options for ticking off the people in line behind you. Always nice to have choices.

My wife (who found this one and sent it to me) knows that the whole canned food/can food issue continues to bedevil me; in the Midwest, where I grew up, it is ‘Canned Food’ – presumably because it is canned. Or jarred, which is still referred to as ‘canning.’  In New Orleans, it is ‘Can Food’ – because, so I have been told, ‘Because it is food in a can.’ Admittedly not as compelling as the ‘pop’ versus ‘soda’ vernacular debate, but curious nonetheless. At this particular New Orleans grocery, the indecision is palpable.

Or not.

This sign is really indicative of nothing; it’s just the street I live on and I enjoy being able to tell people that (or in this case, write it) using a French dialect: “I leeeve on LOUeee zeee four-teeeze Street!”

I found this one last spring in a Mississippi gift shop. Nice reminder, as long as your kids aren’t yet old enough to read. I would take this particular warning to heart; the proprietor of the shop had a certain, ominous Deliverance quality to her.

And they serve the espresso there in Mason Jars…straight up. Buyer (or parent-shopper) beware.

This New Orleans billboard conjures up all sorts of interesting interpretations: costumed ushers, Kool-Aid and graham cracker communion, aw-shucks-and-brimstone sermons…

“I luv YEW….yew love MEEEE…” with Barney the Choir Director.

This is just a cool sign you will see all over New Orleans – phrase copyrighted by the artist, Dr. Bob. They are ubiquitous in public locales and in very high demand. Just a very cool sentiment.

‘Be nice or leave.’ 

I saw this one a few years ago at a campground in southern Mississippi and it made me laugh simply because of the placement of two seemingly unrelated signs. Then again, in whatever context you might read them, its decent advice.  I mean, you get a couple of shots of schnapps into your typical gator, and..

As my old friend Mark Preston put it, ‘Hey – “Gators Gone Wild.”

Conversely if you have a few, and you see a cute gator…just don’t.

F.Y.I.  – Do not ask local game wardens for clarification on the topic, “But what if the gator comes right up here to your tent?”

Finally, this bumper sticker. And if you have read this blog more than once, now you truly do!