Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chickens in the Tool Room

The chickens have done things to the inside
of a fertilizer-spreader that will
give me nightmares for years to come
Nancy is out of town, and, no, the "mouse" has not been playing.  The mouse has been working.  And whenever the mouse looks up from nibbling, during a well-deserved cheese break, all it sees is more work ahead.

I will now abandon the mouse metaphor, which is the problem with a good metaphor, once you grab hold of one, it's hard to let go.

In particular, I dread having to deal with the tool room this weekend.  I pray that sweet Nancy, who reposts these for me on her Facebook page will not peruse this particular blog too carefully.  Owing to a chicken-coop malfunction the other week, a predator got in and attacked one of our birds.  I moved them into our tool room.  I repaired the coop, but the attack victim is still recovering, and then came an unseasonable cold-snap so I have left the birds in situ.

It has been over a week now.  The chickens have made themselves quite at home.  When you visualize "home" for a chicken, perhaps you think of fluffy clean straw, an egg picturesquely perched in a little hollow, like a pie set on a windowsill to cool.  Some soft downy feathers, mayhap.  A needlepoint reading, "The cluck stops here."

No.

This is not how chickens view home.  I will not explain what home is like to a chicken.  Suffice to say, it is a place of horror.  The chickens have done things to the inside of a fertilizer-spreader that will no doubt give me nightmares for years to come. 
Sunday, I will be working in the utility room with a scraper, bleach, and a hazmat suit.

And Nancy, if you do read this, I'm only kidding.  The chickens have left the tool room immaculate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Coming Crisis in Trendy Foods

The Artist's Depiction of Hipsters
Admiring a Sweet Potato.
Which Goes to Show the Artist Has
No Concept of How Hipsters Look
I am very concerned about trendy foods.  In the previous century, where I still spend most of my time, there were a set number of foods available and everyone ate them, and no one complained, but then, there was a gradual explosion of new and trendy foods.  (Yes, I know explosions can't be gradual, but I couldn't think of another way to say it.)  

I believe it started way back when with the kiwi fruit.  Does anyone remember the first time you saw a kiwi fruit in the grocery store?  "What is it?  A mushy tennis ball?  A really old egg?  No, it's delicious."  Then came sushi.  Ah, sushi.  I've really come to love it, but there was a time I was put off by it, partly because of the notion of eating raw fish, and partly because of an unfortunate incident when I mistook a blob of wasabi for guacamole.

By the way, incredible as this may seem, guacamole was once a "new" food, at least in these parts.  And yes, I do realize, that these novelty foods were only new to us, and by "us," I mean benighted southerners who don't wear shoes in the summer and probably breed with their cousins.  I recall the first time my buddy Mark Silberman explained the concept of a bagel to me.  As he described it, it was sort of a doughnut, only not at all sweet, and chewy enough to pull out a filling, on which you smeared cream cheese - which I hadn't had at that time either - tomato, onion, and smoked salmon, which I'd also never had.  I cannot tell you how revolting I found the prospect of this melange of flavors and textures.  Since that time, of course, I've come to adore lox and bagels.  For a time, bagels were all the rage, and they mutated into varieties that would be inedible with smoked fish, for example, blueberry and cranberry bagels.

Whenever the excitement of a new food reached its apogee and public enthusiasm began to wane, the Novelty Food Industrial Complex could be relied upon to spring some new treat on the stage.  "I don't know about you, but I'm bored to death with edamame... say, have you tried this branzino?  It's delish!"

The first tremor of the coming implosion was the introduction of shrimp and grits as haute cuisine.  You can't throw a stick these days without hitting a restaurant that sells shrimp and grits.  Basically, some clown put shrimp, which everyone already knew about, and dumped them on grits, I repeat, grits, and called the result a flavor sensation.  Then, and the memory of this is only now beginning to fade, there came kale.  Kale, kale, kale.  There was sort of a frenzy about the thing.  Admittedly, I'd never knowingly eaten kale, but I was perfectly aware of its existence.  It was a green, alongside collards and mustards, and presumably, when boiled with a sufficient amount of side meat, indistinguishable from its more familiar cousins.  And yet the public, yearning for some new gustatory experience, jumped on this bandwagon like a, well, bandwagon.

What, the cognoscenti asked themselves, will they think of next?  What they thought of next was - get ready for this - the sweet potato.  When the next thing you think of is a sweet potato, it means you've run out of things to think of.  How bizarre the spectacle of hipsters oohing and ahhing over a - I still can't get over this - a sweet potato.  "Look at all the antioxidants!  And the Vitamin C."  I believe orange peel, which on occasion I do eat, has an equal amount of Vitamin C, and as far as antioxidants go, isn't that something they put in antifreeze?

Even as I write this, the sweet potato craze has passed, and Americans are nervously looking around and wondering what will come along to replace it.  Perhaps they dimly sense, it's over.  The last truly new food was edamame, and now, we're not only scraping the bottom of the barrel, we're clawing at it, and soon will come out the other side.

I can't say for certain what tired old standby will be foisted on the gullible public as the latest thing, but just in case - I'm investing heavily in turnips.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pick Your Jesus

To list all the known Jesuses available to date would be too cumbersome, and so the essential questions of Jesus are divided up under headings I, II, and III.  By selecting one or more appropriate choices under each heading, you can perfectly identify which Jesus you accept.  A traditional Christian, for instance, would believe in Jesus Ia,IIa,IIIa.

I. Identity of Jesus
     a. Jesus was God incarnate, and healed the sick and blind.
     b. Jesus was a prophet who may have healed the sick and blind, but only if they were faking weren't all that sick and blind in the first place.
     c. No such person as Jesus existed at all, or if he did, he wasn't Jesus Jesus, but some ordinary guy, and the whole Jesus Jesus story was made up by Paul and some others.

II. Death and/or resurrection
     a. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, and on the third day, he rose again.
     b. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.  The end.
     c. Jesus was crucified, but he got better.
     d. Jesus was crucified, and is buried next to his wife and children.  (See III f)

III. The Virgin Birth and Immaculate Conception
     a. Jesus died a virgin, as did his mother Mary.
     b. Jesus died a virgin, but Mary stopped being a virgin after Jesus was born and had other children by Joseph.
     c. Jesus died a virgin, but Mary was not a virgin and never had been and just told Joseph the whole virgin birth thing so as not to get in trouble,
     d. Neither Jesus nor Mary were virgins, or not for their whole lives anyway, and Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.
     e. Neither Jesus nor Mary were virgins, and Jesus was gay.
     f. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children of their own.
     g. Jesus died a virgin but secretly thought Mary Magdalene was cute and often asked the disciples, "Does she ever talk about me?"

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Problems are More Interesting Than Your Problems

There's nothing worse than hearing people talk
about their problems when you don't have one.
One of the most important assets in modern society is a good, interesting set of personal problems.  One problem will do, if it's a real doozy, but most people need three to four, good reliable problems.

There's nothing worse than hearing people talk about their problems, and you realize you don't have any.  You're fresh out of problems, and all you can do is nod and listen and say, "That's really terrible... Too bad... That's quite a problem you have there."  If you have a problem, when people start comparing their woes, you can whip it out and say, "You think you got problems..." and you're in the game like the rest of them.  

You can always make a problem sound worse than it really is, but if you have to make up a problem out of the clear blue sky, people can tell you're faking and then they ostracize you, whereas, if you have a really first-rate problem, your life is one mad social whirl.  People hang on every word you say, they shut up about their penny-ante problems in deference to yours, they invite you to parties.  

A lot of times, if you have a really good problem, people will give you advice.  It's a big mistake to refuse advice because it makes you look ungrateful, but it's an even bigger mistake to take their advice because sometimes it actually solves the problem which only makes them look good and meanwhile leaves you without something to talk about.  You've gone and wasted a perfectly good problem.  

The trick is to follow their advice in just such a way that it actually makes your problem worse.  This is pretty much a win-win for everyone concerned.  You've added value to your problem and proved its fascinating intractability, and they get to come up with more advice to give you.  Everyone gets to look like they're trying their best to make your problem go away, and actually it's just getting worse. 

If you're skillful at complaining, selectively following advice, and exacerbating a situation, even a relatively minor problem can be played out and enjoyed for years, sometimes and entire lifetime.

I pity anyone who doesn't have at least one good problem.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Coming Apocalypse

No one ever foresaw anything like this
My daughter Spencer recently gave me an iPhone.  It is wonderful.  In fact, it's so wonderful, it's terrible.  It's dangerous to own something so useful and so much fun.  It is so wonderful, so dangerous, so fun, and so terrible, I believe it is a harbinger of the Apocalypse.  This seems like a pretty broad statement, but I believe I have ample evidence.

Back in the sixties and seventies, when people visualized the future, ie, "now," they imagined a world of talking computers, a world of massive environmental degradation, and a world where we would be able to watch adorable-kitten videos anytime we pleased.  All of this has come to pass.  What no one ever imagined, was that people would go through their daily lives, heads bowed down over their smartphones, that we would take pictures of food before we ate it, or that we would text.  It is texting in particular that constitutes the greatest threat to civilization as we know it.

Pause for a moment, to think of conflicts great and small brought about by something somebody said and was unable to take back.  Caesar crosses the Rubicon and says "the die is cast."  A lot of bloodshed and empire-building could've been prevented if he'd said nothing at all.  He could've changed his mind and walked right back across the Rubicon, and no one would have been the wiser.  

This, of course, is an example of conflict on the world stage, but things people say bring about the majority of smaller-scale contretemps as well.  I do not need to give examples of these because everyone is already all too familiar with examples of their own.  Consider, however, that in the past, there was an "escape hatch" available for anyone who found he'd spoken not wisely but too well.  You could always deny having said it at all.  Remarks such as "That's not what I said," or "You misheard me," or even "I never said anything like that in my life, and you'd have to be crazy to think I ever would," might have been frustrating at the outset of a good, promising argument with lots of potential, but they had the effect of derailing things before they got out of hand.  

Couples would say things such as, "I wish I had a tape-recorder right now so you could hear how you sound."  The real wish was to document precise wording to be used  later on in a good old knock-down, drag-out fight.  (For youngsters who never heard of a tape-recorder, it was like an iPod only not.)  Fortunately, however, the wished-for tape-recorder, unlike the iPhone, was never available when you wanted it.

If you were completely cornered with a verbatim transcript of the exact dumb-ass comment you had made, you could still wriggle out of it by saying, "I was only kidding."

Now, however, we have to taken to committing our every passing thought to print where they will be available in some cybernetic cloud until the crack of doom.  "That selfie makes you look like your mother if she put on a few pounds and hadn't waxed her mustache," might seem a witty and apropos remark at the time, but it is not perhaps something you'd wish available should your significant other one day cross-examine you about it on the witness stand.  Moreover, if you unwisely put an emoticon such as a frowny-face with an eyebrow raised, signifying seriousness of intent, you would not later be able to claim you were "just kidding."

Widespread texting has been with us less than a generation, and the full calamitous threat of the practice has yet to be revealed.  But we have already seen countless personal tragedies brought about by careless posting of personal pictures and videos on Facebook and elsewhere.  In the fullness of time, these incidents, painful as they are, will pale in comparison to the damage wrought by texted comments that cannot be retracted or denied.  We will see our error only when earth is a smoking ruin because of things we texted and cannot take back.

But don't hold me to that.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chickens Under Attack


If you're getting tired of seeing pictures like this,
imagine how tired I am of drawing them.
For the second time in as many weeks, I have come running out of my house in my underwear.

Around midnight, I awoke to a loud, distressed clucking.  I ran outside and two of our hens were in the coop clucking like mad. 


We are supposed to have three hens.


I heard something scamper over the fence, and quickly grabbed my two birds and locked them in an outdoor utility room.  (Our feral cat lives there as well, but she is too small to go after a chicken.)


I got in bed, and then a half-hour later, I heard the clucking again; I ran out, but the chickens in the utility room were perfectly fine.  They were like, "Nobody here but us chickens."  So I ran into the backyard, following the clucking, and found our other chicken, lying in back of the coop, stunned and wobbly, but still alive.  The predator, which was either a raccoon or a fox, was high-tailing it to the fence line.

I put our chicken in the utility room with the others.  As for her survival, I don't think I'd give her better than a 40% chance; I didn't find any blood, but she was extremely wobbly and weak.  On the other hand, she was clucking up a storm.


It sucks having your personal property gone after twice in such a short space of time.  The chickens bother me more than the break-in.  The GPS didn't know anything was happening to it, and I don't feel a moral duty to safeguard it like with a chicken.  


Still, there's solace to be had.  Every person is allotted a certain amount of good luck in his lifetime.  So when I run into a sucky streak, I don't feel like the universe has turned its back on me, but just that I'm saving up my ration.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Denials

Some people deny the problem even exists, which is itself a problem, but some people deny that anyone denies the problem.  We can't deny that.  If you deny that you deny a problem on the basis there is no problem to deny, then you're just part of the problem.  The problem of denial is not the same as the denial of the problem, but the problem is that denial of the problem can be as big a problem as the problem of denial in the first place, or possibly the other way around.  This is a something no one can deny, and yet they do.  Are you beginning to see the size of the problem we face?

Mark Twain famously said, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."  But this is something we must deny.  First off, Denial is not a river in Egypt.  Perhaps he had it confused with the Nile, which is a river, or else the Sebennytic, which is another river in Egypt, although not as famous.  But on top of that, Mark Twain never said that, although the quotation is famous precisely because he did say it, because Twain knew too much about Egyptian rivers to make a careless error like that with their names.  He's more likely to have said, "Romance ain't just a city in Arkansas," because whereas Romance really is a city in Arkansas, there is no such river as Denial, as far as I can tell.

So we can deny that Mark Twain said, "Romance ain't just a city in Arkansas," but we can't deny that it actually is, but we can deny that Mark Twain ever said, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt," as well as that there really is a river in Egypt named Denial or ever was one.

And yet people still deny it.