When I was in high school, we had a terrible double standard when it came to dress codes.
I attended Central High School in Muncie, Indiana, and graduated in 19-none-of-your-business. (Okay, it was in the mid '80s. Now get off my lawn.)
Back in those days, when the weather got hot, the boys could wear shorts to school, but the girls could not. They had to wear jeans, dresses, or skirts, but no shorts. There was even a minimum length to their skirts — no higher than the girl's fingertips when her arms were at her side.
This always worked against the girls with unusually long arms and big hands.
The administrators believed we boys would be distracted by girls wearing shorts. Never mind we had co-ed gym class. Never mind that many of us were athletes and saw the girls who ran track and cross country. Or that we grew up with girls in shorts.
No, the temptations of femininity would no doubt render us stupid and we would be unable to control ourselves.
I always felt a little insulted by this. Not because girls couldn't wear shorts, but because people thought so little of us boys.
For one thing, I knew how to control myself whenever I saw a girl's leg. For another, there were already plenty of things to distract me from learning. It's not like this would be the thing that would result in me managing a Hot Sam stand in the mall.
Near the end of my senior year, some girls decided they wanted to fight the dress code, and wore shorts to school. They were pulled from class and told they had to change clothes or be suspended.
They chose suspension, and their parents were called. Parents with a sense of civic duty and civil mindedness. Parents who hated double standards created by sexist boneheads who thought boys were slobbering perverts.
According to the school rumor mill, there was a huge blowup in the dean's office. There were accusations of sexism and double standards, and threats of lawyers at ten paces. But the dean relented and allowed everyone to wear shorts whenever it hit 82 degrees.
It's hard to imagine anyone being so unyielding today, but it still happens. There are always administrators who make boneheaded decisions and then justify them using addle-minded logic.
And before you go shouting #NotAllAdministrators, I'm not accusing all administrators of being morons. Just the ones who take a myopic, narrow-minded view of the rules and make up ridiculous reasons for their decisions.
Like the ones at Drayton Park Primary School in Milton Keynes, England. They thought Charlie Chafer's teeny-tiny mohawk was dangerous and a disruption to the learning process.
Charlie, who's six, has a 1.5 inch mohawk, and when he went to school a few weeks ago, he wanted to show it off to his classmates. It's a little boy's fauxhawk, not one of those 12" punk rock mohawks that look like a Roman Centurion's helmet.
But the administrators decided Charlie's hair was "too extreme" and could distract others. They called Charlie's mom, Kirstie Lea-Day and said he couldn't come to school with that haircut anymore.
"I was even told he needed to shave his head for safety reasons, as it could poke someone in the eye,"
Erik is out of the office this week, so we're reprinting a column from 2003, with a few updates to make it more current.
Dear Bar Patrons,
This letter is a little late in coming. About 25 years late. And for that, I apologize. In fact, I need to apologize for a lot of things. When I was your bartender at that tiny little bar in northern Indiana, there were things I said and did, or things I didn't say or do, that I should apologize for.
First, I’m sorry for not being a smoker. I know that’s a strange thing to apologize for, but when you’re literally the only non-smoker in an entire building full of half-drunk smokers, you tend to make people feel self-conscious. So I apologize if I made all of you feel uncomfortable by being concerned about my lungs and my overall health. I also apologize for any second-hand smoke lawsuits that show up at your house in the coming years.
I’m also sorry I called all of you a bunch of cheap, non-tipping jerks. A couple of you were actually quite generous. But to the rest of you, I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear that this was how I made my living or that I had a new family to support. I’m also sorry I didn’t try to better understand why you tipped our female bartender twice as much as you tipped me. So I hope you understand why, if you were flirting with someone else, I ratted you out to your spouses.
Walter, I especially hope that you accept my apologies. You told someone that you didn’t tip me because I was a guy and you were afraid people would think you were gay. In retrospect, signing you up for having subscriptions to "Out" and "Hot Young Men" magazines sent to your workplace was probably a little harsh. So was telling your co-workers you were seen frequenting several gay clubs.
Eddie, I’m sorry I yelled at you when I threw you out of the bar when you called your mistress the "b-word." You didn’t speak to me for two weeks afterward, so I obviously hurt your feelings by not letting you call your illicit lover a nasty word. At least that’s what your wife said when I explained the situation to her. The entire situation. (I'm serious about that tipping thing.)
For you Bud drinkers, I’m sorry I served you Bud Light when we ran out of Budweiser one night. It was wrong of me to believe that all of you had the sophisticated palate of a congested warthog. I mean, it's completely true, but I probably shouldn't have taken advantage of that fact.
I’m also sorry that I never told you about the switch, since you never actually realized I did it. And I feel bad that I continued to do it to see if you ever caught on. You didn't, and I never switched it back.
The fact that none of you did was no excuse for my continued experiment. You asked for Bud, you paid for Bud. The fact that you actually do have the taste of a congested warthog is no reason to perpetuate a six month hoax.
I also apologize for wanting to leave each night at 1:00 am. I know you were all having a good time every single night, and that it was wrong of me to want to do selfish things, like get some sleep before I went to my day job the next morning. I realize you had your own jobs, but if your bosses don’t mind you showing up half-drunk on three hours of sleep, who am I to call and tell them? Or call you at your homes at 5:00 in the morning and then hang up?
Abby, I’m sorry I called you a poor excuse of a boss behind your back several times a day. The fact that you were a nagging, mouth-breathing shrew is no excuse to tell everyone about it. I mean, they already knew, so it's not like this was breaking news, Also, writing it on your bathroom walls may have crossed a line.
I’m also sorry I poured a little extra alcohol for my favorite customers. I should never have let their friendliness and tipping generosity influence the fact that they were getting more than you wanted me to pour. Hey, if you tell me to short all the drinks after 11:00, who am I to expect that we treat our customers fairly? This was a frequent discussion I had with many of them, which may be why most of them started going to the bar down the street instead. But I can't actually be sure. I'm not a mind reader, you know.
In short, I'd like to send you good wishes to most of you and leave you with this old Irish toast: May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint.
And for the rest of you cheap jerks, a few coins is all you'll ever tip with, so enjoy your "Budweiser."
I was nine years old when my mom gave me a key to the house and let me walk or ride my bike home from school, a little less than a mile away.
My mom was in graduate school and my dad was a college professor, and they were usually home by 5:15, so I couldn't get into too much trouble. I could watch TV, play with my friends, or read a book. I was even encouraged to do my homework, but that literally never happened.
Someone told me this made me a latchkey kid, and I got a little irritated. I was never a latchkey kid, I was allowed to be by myself for two hours on a school day, because my parents knew I could take care of myself. Nowadays, if you let a 12 year old stay by themselves for more than 15 minutes, some busybody will call the police.
There was a field and woods at the end of my street, and some friends and I would spend most days playing there. We knew where all the trails led, and knew the location of the two large holes we called the Giant's Footsteps. We had our favorite spots where we would build forts and hang out all day eating candy. We would make campfires and roast hot dogs and eat sandwiches from home.
In the field, there was also an almost-abandoned broken-down step van (like a UPS truck) complete with old construction supplies, like rebar, sacks of concrete, and pieces of lumber.
I say "almost-abandoned" because whenever we would play in it, some old guy at the end of the street would yell at us to get out of his truck.
It was like waving flies away from a candy bar. We would run into the woods, wait for a few minutes and then swarm all over the truck again. The guy would run out of the house again, and we would tear off again.
He finally caught us by sneaking out and cornering us in the truck. But instead of yelling at us, he told us he didn't mind if we played in there, he just didn't want us to throw his stuff out of the truck anymore. (We used to pretend the rebar was phaser fire.)
There was never any discussion about us getting hurt or insurance and lawsuits. He had left the truck there when he retired from his contracting business and just didn't like cleaning up after us.
That actually made the truck less fun for us and we quit playing there soon after.
But we don't let kids do any of that today. Instead, they have to be protected and hovered over, so we can make sure they succeed at everything.
Whatever happened to kids being allowed to play on their own? Why don't we let kids do things by themselves anymore?
Kids are smothered by helicopter and snowplow parents who not only hover protectively over their children, they clear the way for them. These kids eventually go to college as overly-sensitive helpless reactionaries who demand trigger warnings in their Ancient History classes and call for safe spaces from ideas and new ways of thinking.
A recent story on NPR talked about the "new trend" of free-range parenting, a technique everybody was doing in the 1970s and '80s. Only then it was just called "parenting."
But then it got ruined by helicopter parents who forgot what it was like when they were kids. Now, they arrange play dates for their children at indoor play parks with foam rubber floors, put them in organized sports and camps, and don't let them out of their sight until they go to college. And even then, they don't completely let go.
Back in May, Utah passed the nation's first free-range parenting law, which changed the state's definition of neglect, and said parents could allow children of "sufficient age and maturity" to do things on their own, like walking to school or walking the dog around the block without the kids being picked up by Child Protective Services.
In Plas Madoc, Wales, there's a playground filled with junk called The Land. It's a place where kids get to do whatever they want. There are piles of wooden pallets, tires, wheelbarrows, and even hammers and punching bags.
There's a brook running through the place, and kids will sometimes start small fires to burn up broken pallets and debris. Adults aren't allowed, but kids rarely get hurt, apart from the occasional twisted ankle. Kids are allowed to use saws and hammers to build whatever they want, and nothing is discouraged. In fact, the kids police themselves and know not to do anything that might hurt them.
If only today's parents were half as relaxed about letting their kids play on their own. Free-range kids learn to solve their own problems, they're more confident in the classroom, and they have stronger leadership skills and initiative when they're older. If we could all just unclench a little bit, I'm sure our kids will grow up to be normal, healthy adults who can handle the problems and issues we all face in life.
Now if you'll excuse me, my parents aren't around, so I'm going to build a fort in my backyard.
Photo credit - Adventure Park in Berkeley, California:
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000
I try to be a live and let live kind of guy. I'm not one to cling blindly to tradition or let long-held practices dictate my beliefs about what others do. In fact, the best way to get me to hate a practice is to tell me "we've always done it this way."
I didn't get upset when the Associated Press said we could start sentences with "hopefully" a few years ago, even though that drove some language purists crazy. I didn't care when they started using instant replay review in Major League Baseball. And if they want to change the Indianapolis 500 to the Indianapolis 550, I'm not going to lose my mind.
But there are plenty of people who don't just stand on tradition, they've got both feet firmly planted on his back. I think these people are usually old-fashioned, myopic, and inflexible, and I try not to associate with them.
Unless we're talking about food. Then we're fellow warriors in the fight for truth and justice.
For example, I hate all seed-based "milk." Not to drink, because chocolate almond "milk" is pretty good. But I can't call it "milk" without using snarky air quotes and rolling my eyes.
Instead, I'll call it almond juice, almond squeezings, or almond slurry. That's because it's made by soaking almond chunks in water, pureeing them, and then squeezing out all the liquid.
Now, before the healthier-than-thou crowd gets all up in my face, or the ice-cream-makes-me-fart people say I'm being lactophobic, let me say that I'm not opposed to the existence of almond juice.
If you don't like milk, or can't have it, that's totally fine. Remember, I'm a live and let live guy. You do you, and take care of yourself.
But I can't abide calling it "milk." It's not milk, and using that word insults the honor and sacrifice of the cows and goats that create milk for human consumption. Mammals make milk, plants make, well, something else.
Missouri gets it though. They understand what it means to be a food purist. They just became the first state to enact a law that prevents food companies from calling things "meat" if they're not made from animal flesh.
According to a story in the Springfield (Missouri) News Leader, the new law makes it illegal to "(misrepresent) a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."
The Missouri Cattlemen's Association helped to pass the law, saying consumers were confused by claims that "plant-based meats" were the equivalent of meat.
But Tofurky, the company that makes tofu-based turkey — or as I like to call it, futurkey — said they've never had any complaints about people confusing their product with real meat. Which is not surprising because I don't think anyone would ever confuse tofurky with real anything.
So the company filed an injunction against the law, saying it's a violation of their First Amendment rights, and said the word "meat" can also mean the edible part of fruits and nuts.
That's a stretch though. Referring to the meat of a walnut or a pumpkin is more of a metaphorical usage — a meat-aphor, if you will — and not one to be taken literally.
It's this literal usage of "meat" that we should concern ourselves with. It has traditionally referred to animal flesh, and it's only in the last several decades that people have begun trying to trick people — I mean, equate it with — that stuff made from soybeans or mushrooms or chopped nuts all mushed together.
The law was originally intended to only refer to lab-grown meat, also called "clean meat," which are just meat cells that are induced to grow and reproduce. However, the plant-based "meat" producers were concerned that they were going to be harmed by the law, and so they picketed in front of the Missouri State House, waving signs and placards until they grew tired and listless and had to lay down.
Okay, that part's not true, so I don't need a bunch of vegetarians writing to me about how they have plenty of energy and blah blah healthy stuff blah. This is a humor column and I exaggerate things for humorous effect. Besides, a lack of iron causes humor deficiencies, so just chill out.
Ernest Baskin, assistant professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University, told the Springfield News Leader that people use the word "meat" as a shortcut to understand how they should eat this #FakeFood.
He said. "Putting those options together in front of consumers gives them the thought that 'Hey, maybe these two are similar..'"
Except they're not similar. Just because you press minced black beans into a patty and fry it like a hamburger doesn't make it a hamburger. You can call it a black bean patty, but when you call it a hamburger, it's a lie.
It's a lie when you say Tofurky is "like turkey." The only thing like turkey is another turkey. Or chicken.
If you want to call it Thanksgiving Lies For People Who Hate Tradition, I'm fine with that. That's truth in advertising, which is what the Missouri law is all about. Not to trick those of us who just want to eat a damn cheeseburger. Call real meat "meat" and tell the truth about plant-based "meat." Let it stand on its own two to-feet and be judged on its own merits.
Because we're going to fight about turkey "bacon" next.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 24 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000
Remember about 15 years ago, when people started calling French fries and French toast "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast?" Congress got so angry over France's lack of support over the proposed Iraq invasion that Congressman Bob Ney, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, ordered the three Congressional cafeterias to change their menus as a way to stick it to the French.
Never mind that French fries and French toast don't actually have anything to do with France at all.
And let's not even discuss "Freedom kissing."
French toast is named after the guy who introduced it to America in 1724, Joseph French. According to legend, French was an Albany, New York innkeeper who didn't understand how apostrophes worked, so when he promoted his concoction, he named it "French toast," not "French's toast." However, the dish is much older, with recipes dating back to 1st century Rome.
French fries are so named because the method of cutting the potatoes into sticks and then frying them in boiling oil. The term was first used in the mid-1800s in a British cookbook, but the name is most likely related to the old English term "frencisc" that means "to cut lengthwise."
By the early 1900s, "French fried" came to mean anything that was deep-fried in oil, including onion rings and chicken; French fries were originally called "French fried potatoes."
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 17 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000
People marry weird things. Not weird people, weird things. A few years ago, a woman married a Robert Pattinson cardboard cutout. Several men and women have married themselves as part of something called "sologamy." And in 2010, a Korean man married a large body pillow with a female anime character printed on it.
So it's no longer unusual to hear about women who want to marry, or at least have a serious relationship, with a ghost.
Six months ago, I wrote about Amanda Sparrow Teague, a 45-year-old Irish woman, who married Jack Teague, the 300-year-old ghost of a Haitian pirate. (Or as I like to call him, the Dead Pirate Roberts.)
Amanda and Jack were married on a small boat with 12 of her friends and family, and presumably hundreds of Jack's ghost friends who were just hanging around.. Coincidentally, that's how Jack was executed for thievery.
I thought Amanda's would be the last of the "I married a ghost" stories, but I was wrong.
The (London) Daily Mail recently reported that Amethyst Realm of Bristol, England says she's settling down with a spirit she met in Australia.
Amethyst has given up sex with men of this earth in favor of ghostly lovers. She says she's had sex with 20 different ghosts over the last 11 years, because "ghost sex is better than sex with real men."
But those days are behind her as she's finally met a ghost who says she's the ghoul for him, and they're going to settle down.
Amethyst told Australia's New Life magazine: "One day, while I was walking through the bush, enjoying nature, I suddenly felt this incredible energy. I knew a new lover had arrived."
Unfortunately, Amethyst has never seen her Aussie boo — sorry, beau — although they can communicate. I'm not sure how, although I imagine she talks out loud and answers questions that only she can hear. Which is totally not insane, or at least not a plot device of every episode of Quantum Leap.
(Seriously, after five seasons of people asking "who are you talking to?" you'd think Sam and Al could have worked out a system where they didn't talk to each other when people were around.)
Amethyst says she's not sure if her spirit lover is even male, but insists the connection between them is totally real.
Amethyst first started sleeping with ghostly lovers when she had moved into a flat with her fiancé. She felt a spirit presence, and while her fiancé was away, she began a relationship with him.
Amethyst's fiancé — I like to think his name was "Alexandrite" — learned she was cheating when the ghost actually showed its physical form to him, which is something she had never seen.
I imagine things got a bit awkward after that.
"I think it was in love with me too, and it wanted me to end the relationship," Amethyst told Phillip and Holly, the hosts of ITV's "This Morning" television program last December.
Their relationship lasted for three years until it became as lifeless as her unseen lover. That's when she started sleeping her way through the spirit world. She told Phillip and Holly she's more embarrassed by the number of lovers she's had than the fact that she has never seen them.
I'm not slut shaming anyone. If she wants to have an active sex life, more power to her. It's just one thing to never see a sex partner again, it's a whole other thing to not see them in the first place.
Phillip and Holly asked how Amethyst was able to tell her ghostly lovers apart.
"You can always feel the difference, it's the same with different humans, they have different energies," she said.
But Amanda Teague isn't buying it. When she was interviewed about her ghostly wedding, she said she believed Amethyst was having sex with the same ghost, and was only imagining things.
She told the New Zealand Herald back in February: "I am certain it is just one spirit and not many, like she claims. (S)he doesn't appear to connect with the spirit at all."
Amanda felt bad for Amethyst because she could be having a real relationship with her ghost, "rather than just these weird one-off sexual experiences."
Yeah, that's the weird part.
Still, despite her colorful past, Amethyst thinks her unnamed boyfriend could be the one for her. She wants to settle down and even have a ghost baby.
"I know that sounds crazy," she told New Idea magazine, "but I've been looking into it and I don't think it's totally out of the question."
You're right, it sounds crazy. But who knows? It may be possible. After all, a few months after she got married, Amanda Teague had a pregnancy scare, but it turned out to be the start of menopause.
(Get it? Pregnancy scare?)
Still, Amethyst believes there's a way to have a ghost baby and she's bound and determined to do so with her unknown, unseen, undead lover.
I'm only sorry she didn't want to get married first.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 10 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000
Years ago, I was in Germany on business and had a chance to visit an old friend from graduate school. As we were walking around, we visited a small cafe for a bite to eat. When I paid the bill, I left a few Deutschmarks for a tip. (This was pre-Euro days.)
She got rather irritated with me and said, "You Americans and your tipping. You can't leave that much or the servers will come to expect it."
I felt like I had just been told by the park rangers not to feed the bears or else they would learn to depend on handouts. She handed me back my money and left a few coins on the table.
"That's all you tip them?" I asked, surprised.
"Sure, why not? They already get paid fairly well. The tip is just a thank you, not an expected part of their salary."
This helped me understand why so many American servers hated waiting on European tourists. "They're such poor tippers," my server friends would say. "They demand everything and they don't even leave a whole dollar."
This gives Europeans an excuse for tipping poorly: No one told them that here in the United States and Canada, you tip servers 15 – 20 percent of your pre-tax bill. They weren't aware of the custom, because that's not how they do it at home.
So what's your excuse?
Some people, even though they supposedly know better, just won't tip anyone, because they don't want to. They disagree with tipping as a rule, or they don't like to give away their money, or they can't afford to part with it. Never mind that it has been an accepted part of the dining experience for many decades, there are people who withhold a tip because they're stingy and selfish.
I'll admit, tipping is a voluntary practice, and you can choose to tip people or not. But it's so ingrained in this country that if you don't do it, you just look miserly.
A recent article in Eater magazine looked "inside the minds of deliberately bad tippers" One tightwad they interviewed said, "I’m not going to be rude and say I don’t care, but I actually really don’t care. That’s not my concern. I don’t know you. You chose that profession."
Which is pretty heartless. It doesn't matter why they chose that profession, you don't get to judge them for their career choice and refuse to tip them because of it. Saying, "that's not my concern, you chose that profession" is like telling your kid, "I don't care about your pain, you chose to touch that stove."
Like it or not, this is of our social contract when it comes to a service economy. Call it a thank you, call it a reward, call it a fringe benefit, call it a boon. Whatever you call it, this is something you should do.
If a bellhop brings your bags up to your room, you tip them. If a delivery driver brings pizza to your house, you tip them. If you ride in a taxi, you tip the them.
And if you go to a restaurant where a server brings you drinks, takes your order, brings your food, and clears your plates, you tip them. This is how the entire North American restaurant industry operates, and if you can't accept that, you need to make other plans. Like ordering food from a clown's mouth, or going to places where they hand it to you through a drive-up window.
But maybe you don't want to do that. You feel you deserve a nice experience once in a while — just like your server feels they deserve to pay rent and buy groceries — so you decide to go to a nice restaurant.
Let's try something: If you don't plan on tipping your server, inform them beforehand.
Come on, don't be shy! You need to speak up and not lead them on. If you want to take a principled stand on the issue, let them know your intention before you even ask for a glass of water.
"Excuse me, before we begin tonight's transaction, I need to tell you, I don't believe in tipping. And although it's a long-accepted practice in this society, it's not one I plan to support. I understand this is how you earn your living, but I actually don't care about you as a person, so I will not leave you anything, except maybe a few coins."
You can put this into your own words, but the gist of it should be, "I know we tip in this country, but I'm not going to, because I don't care about you."
Then you can order your meal, secure in the knowledge that you and your server have reached an understanding. Be confident that their professionalism will still compel them to provide you with a basic level of service.
What's that? You don't want to do that? You're worried that your food is being prepared out of sight, behind closed doors, somewhere in the back?
I'm sure it's not filled with boogers at all. But you know what? I actually really don’t care. That's not my concern. I don't know you. You chose that attitude.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 03 Aug 2018 12:00:00 +0000
When I was a kid, my family took a car trip through Arizona, where we briefly visited the Grand Canyon. My dad asked my mom to take a photo of him standing at the edge of the canyon and he leaned backward a bit, pretending to wave his arms like he was losing his balance.
I was 10, so I thought this was hysterical. I still do, in fact which shows I get my odd sense of humor from my dad.
But people have actually died in similar situations, so anytime I strike that pose myself, I always make sure I'm nowhere near the 200-foot drop.
I've never been a fan of selfies though. My kids take them constantly, I have friends who love them, including one friend who once took a photo of a roomful of people using the pole from a swimming pool net as a selfie stick.
I've seen selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids of Giza, and other important world landmarks.
Why can't you just take a photo of the actual landmark? Why do you have to be in it? Just take the photo of the place so you can appreciate your experience years from now, not regret taking the same "Look, I'm pushing the Tower of Pisa" photo as thousands of other tourists.
I understand why people like to take them. It's a way to say, "Look at me, world. Here I am, doing a thing I like." But it's a little self-centered when your entire Instagram feed is photos of you blocking the Eiffel Tower, blocking a beautiful sunrise at the beach, and blocking the Royal Wedding.
I don't mind it when people take pictures of me, but I hate to snap my own photos so I rarely do it.
It's like taking photos of your food, another annoying habit and a practice that I have always found to be dishonest. The person is saying, "look, I'm about to eat this," but you don't know. You have no idea if the person ate it, if a bird stole it, or if they fell off a cliff. Plus it strikes me as the epitome of narcissism. At least when you take pictures of yourself, your friends get to see how you're doing. No one cares what you're about to eat.
As a protest against food photos, I only take photos after I've eaten. I'll take a picture of an empty plate and tell people what I just ate. I have to take your word for it that you ate that entire meal, so you can just believe that I ate mine.
But selfies aren't just self-indulgent, they're dangerous. Between December 2013 and January 2017, as many as 159 people have died in some sort of mishap taking a selfie.
According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website, Turkish researchers have tallied up selfie-related accidents and found that the leading cause of death was not falling as you might expect. That was the second leading cause; the leading cause was drowning.
The findings were reported in the Turkish Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. The researchers examined 159 stories of selfie-related deaths and came up with the various methods people accidentally died.
However, there's a bit of confusion about the most accurate numbers: there's a list on Wikipedia of people who have died or been injured from selfie-related accidents, including where and how they did it.
Meanwhile, another news story said Russian police have reported 100 selfie-related deaths in their own country, although that could be a cover for what happened to people who spoke out against Vladimir Putin.
According to the Turkish study, 57 people have drowned, 27 people have fallen to their deaths, and 18 people were crushed by a train.
For example, in June 2016, a 51-year-old German tourist died at Machu Picchu while trying to take a "flying selfie." That is, jumping in the air as he snapped a picture. He lost his footing and fell 130 feet. More recently, an 18-year-old American died after slipping off a cliff as he was taking a selfie at a whale-watching site in Sydney, Australia.
Eight people have died by gunshots, seven by electrocution, and six by truck collision. One story, while not specifically a truck collision, happened when two girls in Mexico stood on the roof of their parked pickup truck to take selfies when the wing of an airplane collided with them.
The Turkish study said only four people died from animal injuries, but Wikipedia listed at least six people, four of whom were trampled by wild elephants, a man who was drowned by a walrus, and one who was mauled to death by a wounded bear.
Wild elephants apparently hate having their pictures taken, like that one aunt who refuses to let anyone take pictures of her at family gatherings, and they will not hesitate to trample anyone who does it.
The elephants, I mean. The aunt just locks herself in the bathroom. It's the same damn fight we have every year, Karen. The kids just want one picture of you where you don't have your hands in front of your face. You're not going to be around forever!
If you're going to take a selfie, don't put yourself at risk to get the picture. Take care of yourself first, stay safe, and get someone else to take the photo. Better yet, if you're going to do something dangerous, shoot a video instead. At least I can sell that to the tabloids.
There's an old saying that if you try to be something for everybody, you won't be anything to anybody.
In trying to create a safe haven for people to express their viewpoints, Facebook has managed to create inconsistent and contradictory community standards that have upset plenty of people, even as Facebook executives give barely-understood explanations of how it's all supposed to work.
Lately, Facebook has been on the hot seat for having overly strict rules about decency and art in their ads. This comes after being called out for allowing Holocaust deniers and alt-right racists to post their hateful garbage, but banning advertisements that contain paintings with nudity.
Today's boneheaded decision hits Flanders, Belgium and The Flanders Tourist Board (also called "Toerisme Vlaanderen" in Dutch, or as Simpsons fans say, "Visit Stupid Flanders").
The Tourist Board recently complained to Facebook about their "cultural censorship" of advertisements with paintings by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. The ads then explained that no, Peter Paul Rubens was not the guy who played Pee Wee Herman. He's the artist whose paintings of curvy, fleshy women inspired the term "Rubenesque."
The latest painting to turn Facebook's cheeks red was Rubens' "The Descent from the Cross," which shows Jesus being lowered from the cross with only a conveniently-placed sheet to cover his unmentionables. It's an important painting in Rubens' history, and it's considered a classic of Flemish Baroque art. There's no actual nudity unless you consider a man's bare chest scandalous.
But despite Rubens' established history and a general understanding of Western classical art, Facebook banned the ads because Jesus wasn't wearing a shirt.
Keep in mind that the Flanders Tourist Board could have posted Facebook updates with any of Rubens' paintings and probably not run afoul of Facebook's decency rules until some pearl-clutching reactionary found them offensive.
Which given people's hypersensitivity and faux outrage these days, is not entirely unexpected. People got upset when Michelle Obama wore a dress that showed her bare arms, so somebody's surely going to have a fit about 400-year-old art boobs.
When you make anything for everybody, somebody will always complain about something.
While people can post art in their status updates, Facebook has stricter rules about advertisements that contain nudity or implied nudity, "even if artistic or educational in nature, except for statues."
What makes statues so special? Why do they get a special pass? Worried that one of Manet's nude paintings is going to turn someone into a sex pervert? Afraid that Salvador Dali is going to make your precious Tristan or Ainsley grow up too fast?
How is a painting less scandalous than the topless (and armless) Venus de Milo? Or the statue of David? That guy's just parading his junk around Florence, Italy, waving it at a million tourists a year, but we could post ads about him every day.
This past March, Facebook had to apologize for rejecting Eugene Delacroix's 1830 painting, "Liberty Leading the People," the woman whose dress has been torn and her breasts exposed, as she waves the French tricolor flag and carries a musket. Again, it wasn't a statue of boobs, just a painting of boobs, so it was rejected by still other boobs. But after being exposed as artistic troglodytes, Facebook relented and let the ad run.
You only have to glance at an ad to see if the nudity is truly artistic or if it's just an ad for Art's Nude Revue, but Facebook doesn't seem to get that.
"We have noticed that Facebook consistently rejects works of art by our beloved Peter Paul Rubens," the Tourism Board wrote in an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg. "Indecent. That is the word used to describe the breasts, buttocks, and cherubs of Peter Paul Rubens. Not by us, but by you. Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us."
The Tourism Board also created a satirical YouTube video of social media inspectors patrolling the Rubens House in Antwerp, asking if visitors had a social media account. Anyone who did was ushered away from any paintings that featured ". . . nudity, even if artistic in nature. This includes paintings focused on individual body parts such as abs, buttocks, or cleavage."
Having been shamed yet again for not understanding the difference between art and porn (if it's made before 1950, it's art), Facebook invited members of the Flanders Tourism Board to a meeting, after the board suggested they meet over some Belgian beer, which is the best in the world. And while I applaud the sentiment, it seems a little backward.
Here's a tiny organization that only wants to increase tourism to their small region by giving money to a multi-billion dollar company, even though the multi-billion dollar company mistakenly rejected well-known classical paintings. And yet Flanders has to travel to Facebook?
That's just the embodiment of haughtiness and does not bode well for anyone who wants to display anything more immodest than a bodice to a bunch of busybodies.
If anybody is going anywhere, somebody from Facebook needs to fly to Belgium so everybody can talk, otherwise, nobody is going to get anything done.
Photo credit: Descent From The Cross, Peter Paul Rubens (between 1612 and 1614)
The political correctness of the 1990s is nothing like it is today. I was in graduate school when political correctness first appeared on college campuses, and it was a free-for-all of oversensitivity and manufactured outrage.
Today, it has settled down quite a bit. People just want to be called by their preferred racial, national, or gender identity. They don't want to be called by outdated terms or words that are no longer acceptable. They don't want to be treated poorly, harassed, insulted, groped, or abused.
Of course, some people whine that they hate "all this PC bullsh*t" and complain about precious snowflakes not letting them use the language they prefer.
But call them a racist Nazi scumbag, and suddenly they're all concerned about civility and name calling. Tell them their favorite flag is deplorable and racist, from that time when their part of the country wanted to leave the rest of the country, and they're all "honor my heritage." They clutch their memorial statues like 2nd place participation trophies and demand we respect their feelings.
It's really simple:: call people by the terms they prefer, not an insulting, offensive term. That's not political correctness, that's just being a decent human being.
Unless someone actually is a racist Nazi scumbag. They deserve to be called that.
But back in 1990, people were hyper-sensitive about everything. There were certain words you just couldn't use, no matter what, and it got a little silly at times.
I have a friend who told me about the time he was a contractor for a large telecommunications company that spells its name with three letters. But I won't attempt to name them so I don't attract any attention from their attaché-wielding attack attorneys.
The guy was writing a technical document involving the use of several different colored wires — red, blue, green, yellow, and black — when he got into a little bit of trouble.
"You can't say 'black,' you have to say 'African-American,'" an HR rep told him after he was called down to discuss his "racist language." "We're no longer allowed to use that word at all in the company," he was told.
"But it's the color of the wire coating," he said. "That's literally its scientific name."
"You can't use that term at all in any documentation," said the HR representative, not understanding how people are different from wires. "If you don't change it, we'll terminate your contract."
So the guy had to change every instance of the word "black" to "African-American," even though the wire in question was not concerned about its identity politics. Throughout the document, he had to write things like "Connect the African-American wire to terminal B."
There was an awful lot of behalfism going on in those days too. Behalfism is when you try to speak on behalf of someone else, even when they don't want you to.
It hasn't gone away either. In fact, it's alive and well in Bath University, in Somerset, England.
In order to protect their students, Bath University has asked their faculty to stop using the phrase "As you know" to their undergraduates. They're worried that the words can make certain students feel stupid if they don't understand what their professor is talking about. They call these little words and phrases "micro-aggressions," which is French for "Sweet Jebus, that's so stupid."
According to the London Daily Mail, Berenice Dalyrmple, co-chair of the university's student union race equality group, told a faculty meeting, "Some lecturers used commonly known references stating 'as you know,' which could make students feel at fault for not knowing and make it difficult to engage with the course content."
Similar phrases like "Know what I mean?" and "Do you understand?" will no doubt face similar bans until they no longer give students exams because they foster a sense of judgment and criticism of students' knowledge.
If their feelings can be thrown into a tizzy with "as you know," then imagine how much damage could be done with an "as any fool knows" or "unless you've been living under a rock."
According to Australia's News.Com, Oxford University's vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said at a higher education summit last year that universities need to stand up for free speech., and that "snowflake" students need to toughen up.
She said, "I'm sorry, but my job is not to make you feel comfortable. Education is not about being comfortable. In fact, I'm interested in making you uncomfortable. We must be robust in defending free speech against those who wish to constrain it, whether that be a government in a well-intentioned effort to prevent radicalization, or students claiming a right not to be offended. There should be no such right in universities."
College students don't need to be coddled. The real world doesn't coddle people, it smashes them down with a wooden rifle butt. And that's on a good day. So if you're going to have your confidence shattered because someone said "as you know," then move back in with your parents. Otherwise, get tough and educate yourself. Don't take it as a personal attack, take it as a challenge to be better and learn more.
"Hey Kid, how is toilet paper unrolled?" Karl had returned from the bathroom and resumed his perch on his favorite bar stool.
Karl, I already said that wasn't me, it was those stupid teenagers next door. I told you not to start an argument with them.
"Hey, it was 8:00 on a Friday night. If I want to hear Rage Against The Machine while I sit outside, that's my right."
They were hosting a Bible study!
"Not my problem. And that's not what I was asking about. I was wondering where you stand on the way toilet paper should be hung on the dispenser."
The right way: So it rolls over the top.
"Er, no. It should roll under, from the back."
Well, that's completely wrong, but why are you even asking? We were sitting in First Editions, our favorite literary bar, watching a slam poetry competition. Or as Karl liked to call them, The Sons and Daughters of Paul Neil Milne Johnstone. (Google it.)
"Because Kurt refilled it wrong in the bathroom."
Uh, you washed your hands first, right? I gestured to Kurt the bartender for two more beers. One of the slam poets was sob-shouting a poem about some painful indignity they had suffered when they were younger.
"Relax, Kid, it's fine." He reached for the new basket of popcorn Kurt had just placed there; I pulled it away.
What do you mean, 'it's fine?'
"I didn't actually have to, you know, 'make.'" I put the popcorn back. "I just had to pee." I yanked it away again.
You went to the bathroom and didn't wash your hands? Do you know how gross that is?
That's disgusting! It's one of the most unsanitary things you can do, and now you want to root around in a basket of popcorn? No one wants to eat this after you shoved your pee hands in it!
Would you eat something after you rubbed your junk on it? Because that's what you're doing when you don't wash your hands: rubbing your junk all over your food. Think about that the next time you pick up a hamburger.
Karl thought about this for a minute, made a disgusted face, and then went to wash his hands — 20 seconds with soap and warm water, I called after him. When he returned, he said, "So about the toilet paper."
I said, there's two types of people in this world, Karl. People who unroll over the top and terrorists.
"Aw, you're full of it," said Karl.
Look, everyone knows you're supposed to roll the toilet paper over the top.
"What do you mean, everybody? Clearly a lot of people think that's wrong, or else there wouldn't be such a controversy."
There's no controversy, I said. Most people are right, and the rest are wrong. That's not a controversy. If you miss an answer on a test, it's not a controversy, you're just wrong.
Karl rolled his eyes and asked Kurt for two more beers. Another poet was whingeing on about some childhood inconvenience or other.
There's even a copy of the original toilet paper roll patent floating around the Internet, I said, and it shows the paper rolling over the top. That makes it official; you can't argue with that.
"What if you have cats? Or little kids?" asked Karl. "If you roll it under, they can't unroll it."
I used to have a beagle years ago, I said. When she was a puppy, she grabbed the end of the roll and ran out to the kitchen with it, and unrolled the entire roll. It was so cute, I couldn't get mad.
"See?" said Karl.
My daughter also did it when she was two.
"That just proves my point," said Karl, plonking his beer mug on the bar in an unearned sense of victory.
Not really, I said. After that, we just left the roll on the sink next to the toilet until they both outgrew that kind of thing.
"So you let your puppy and child dictate how you lived your life?"
Did you forget you have kids? They dictate your entire life from the moment they're born. Yours are still dictating your life even now. Is she still living at home with you?
'She' was Karl's youngest daughter, Alexis, the organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist whose Gender Studies degree from her liberal arts college still wasn't helping advance her career. For the last five years, she had been the assistant manager at the Pay-What-The-Universe-Invites coffee co-op, but was thinking about going back to school for her MBA.
"Yeah," said Karl, hanging his head. "She insists we have to roll it over the top, too."
Smart kid, I said.
"I was just hoping you'd give me some ammunition I could use to make her put my rolls back the way they're supposed to."
Why don't you help her go back to grad school? Then you'll have the whole house to yourself and you can do whatever you want.
Karl thought about that for a minute. "Wow, Kid, that's pretty smart. No flies on you, huh?"
My most favorite Christmastime moment, the thing I love to do most, is to sit in a coffee shop for a few hours a couple days before Christmas. It's cold outside, but I'm cozy. Most of my client work is done, so I'm just noodling around on the computer, finishing some last minute projects and tweeting jokes about Christmas songs.
No one is there, like they closed up early, but let me stay behind. Someone pops in and orders a drink once in a while, but they leave again in a mad rush to finish their holiday shopping. Everyone's racing around trying to finish their last minute errands, which is why the place is empty in the first place.
The shop is normally full to overflowing with people meeting, working, drinking coffee, and chattering. But not today, not two days before Christmas. Now the place is all mine. That moment, that feeling of relaxed contentment tinged with a splash of Schadenfreude, is my favorite Christmas moment. And my entire holiday is incomplete if I can't spend those few hours enjoying it.
According to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, that feeling is called Kenopsia. It's defined as "the eerie, forlorn atmosphere for a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet — a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds — an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs."
But I wouldn't call it a sorrow. That time of emptiness is my favorite time in any place or event — everyone is gone and you feel like you're not supposed to be there.
Like when you went back to school at night for a school concert or parent-teacher conference. Then it wasn't a school, it was a whole different place with a different purpose. It didn't feel like the same place you had just spent eight hours, even though you were going to be back after your parents yelled at you for the long list of things you did since the last parent-teacher conference.
And it was such a long list too. Did that happen to anyone else? No? Just me?
That happened to me a lot. I was always in trouble when I was a kid, and I could never seem to avoid it. Have you ever had the feeling where you're just doing everything wrong?
That's called Pâro (like "CAR-o"), and the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrow says it's the "feeling that no matter what you do is always somehow wrong — as if there’s some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you, each of them leaning back in their chair and calling out helpfully, 'colder, colder, colder…'"
Or as I like to call it, "being a teenager."
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrow was started by a guy named John Koenig who creates words to describe unusual feelings that many of us have, but don't quite know how to explain. People email him and describe a particular feeling for a particular instance, and he comes up with a word that helps us put a linguistic finger on it.
Feelings like Nighthawk, which is the recurring thought that only strikes late at night, like an overdue task or nagging guilt. It's that realization that sits you bolt upright in bed wondering, "Did I pay the cable bill?" And you can't go back to sleep because the thought won't leave your head, but you don't want to get up and check because that will wake you up completely.
It's sort of like that feeling of "Did I unplug the iron?" when you're two hours into a six-hour car trip and there's no one at home to check it for you.
Or it's that cringe-worthy moment of your life, where you did something so embarrassing that remembering actually makes you writhe in existential agony, but you only remember it when you're about to fall asleep.
So instead you construct an argument in your head that you'll never actually have with the person who caused you the pain, but it's the one you wish you had. We've all had that moment, where we were tongue-tied in a conversation and never got to say exactly what we thought, or thought of it a couple hours after the argument ended. So you replay that moment over and over in your mind, thinking of what you could have said.
That's called a Jouska, and it's a hypothetical conversation that "you compulsively play out in your head — a crisp analysis, a cathartic dialogue, a devastating comeback." That's when you come up with that particularly withering insult that will cause the other person to question their life choices, and fall to their knees, wracked with repentant sobs. But your life goes unfulfilled, because you'll never be able to deliver it. That moment is lost forever.
Instead, you'll live in The Meantime. That's "the realization that your quintessential future self isn’t ever going to show up, which forces the role to fall upon the understudy, the gawky kid for whom nothing is easy, who spent years mouthing their lines in the wings before being shoved into the glare of your life, which is already well into its second act."
In other words, look in the mirror. That's who showed up.
If that doesn't depress you, then can you refer me to your pharmacist? Because that's the saddest damn thing I've ever heard.
Now maybe the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows can come up with a word for that. But if he names it after me, he's going to need another word for that emotion.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 29 Jun 2018 12:00:00 +0000
My birthdate kind of sucks.
Not my actual birthday, because that's awesome. I always take some time to myself to read a book in a coffee shop before my family treats me to a great dinner.
It helps that we make a big deal about birthdays in my family. In fact, we'll take an entire week to celebrate someone's birthday. My birthday week starts on my actual day, June 27th, and we have a week-long festival that ends with a national fireworks celebration for all of America to enjoy.
But other than ushering in my very existence on this planet, June 27th makes an unremarkable splash on the pages of world history. No one really cool and famous was born on the 27th, and there aren't any significant world events that happened then either.
For example, John Lennon's birthday is October 9, and Paul McCartney's is June 18. George Washington's is February 22, Prince's is June 7, and Princess Diana's is July 1.
Who do we have on June 27? Well, J.J. Abrams was born the year before me, and Tobey Maguire was born eight years after me, and right there, we've hit Peak Fame for this day. A movie director who can't look in the bathroom mirror without lens flare, and a guy whose most famous contribution to cinema history is that constipated-crying "Tobey Face."
Canadian Olympic swimmer Sylvie Fréchette and I are birthday twins, having been born on the same day and year. We sent each other happy birthday tweets last week, which now makes her my most favorite Canadian, after Justin Trudeau, and anyone who overnights me a box of Tim Horton's donuts.
Helen Keller was born in 1880, which is great, and I'm proud to share my birthday with someone who fought for the rights of people with disabilities, but she's no Mick Jagger (July 26) or Thomas Jefferson (April 13).
Meanwhile one celebrity website said there are 11 YouTube Stars who share my birthday, but the fact that there's such a thing as "YouTube Stars," and a website keeps track of their birthdays makes me weep for humanity.
And we all share a birthday with reality star Khloe Kardashian, the answer to the question, "Who?"
The most notable thing people can say about Khloe Kardashian is "Is that Kim Kardashian's sister?"
Famous people won't even die on June 27. The most famous person I could find? Jack Lemmon. I mean, I loved him in "The Odd Couple" and "Grumpy Old Men," but seriously, that's all we could get?
To be fair, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire died on this day in 1839. After Singh died, four of his wives, and seven concubines threw themselves on his funeral pyre. Meanwhile, I can't ask my wife to bring me a beer while she's already in the kitchen without her giving me the stink-eye.
Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich of Russia died on this day in 1831. He was apparently the Emperor of Russia for 25 days in 1825, but had secretly given up his throne. He was also the Governor of Poland for a number of years, where he was a tyrant and hated by the military and citizens. And then he died of cholera.
Thanks, Universe, 187 years ago one of the most hated men in Poland shit himself to death on my birthday.
Even June 28 has more notable deaths than my date.
Famous Detroit Tigers catcher Mickey Cochrane died on June 28, as did President James Madison and TV pitchman Billy Mays.
Meanwhile, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, which kicked off World War I, which as I think about it, I don't want on my birthdate. You can have that one, June 28.
History just sucks in general for June 27.
A quick Google search shows that Russian sailors mutinied aboard the battleship Potemkin on this day in 1905, which is about as exciting Fort Yukon, Alaska reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Doesn't that sound exciting? Because that's what happened in 1915. How is that for notable? The most notable thing to happen on June 27, 1915 was that Alaska got hot. You know what? Florida gets hot every damn day, and no one's shooting off fireworks about it.
But wait! History repeated itself 70 years later, when Lakewood, New Mexico reached 118 degrees. Look out, world. June 27 is a banner day for cities being hot!
And in 1963, President John F. Kennedy spent his first full day in Ireland. How exciting! The President flew to Ireland on June 26 and spent part of that day there. But this day — THIS DAY! — is a special one because it was his first full day in Ireland. That was enough to get a mention on June27thSucks.com.
But that's not the only exciting historical trip. According to some Beatles history blog, in 1969, Ringo and Maureen Starr went on vacation to the south of France, where I'm sure they enjoyed a bottle of wine and a nice croissant.
That's the best thing to happen to the Beatles on June 27th ever? Ringo and Maureen Starr took a vacation? What else happened? In 1974, John Lennon ate some fish and chips that he said was quite nice?
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:00:00 +0000
"Nothing good ever happened after midnight."
I've heard that more than once from people who say it with tight-lipped disapproval. People who clutch their pearls whenever someone has fun after dark. People who still don't do things "on a school night," even after their own kids have grown up and moved out.
Except after midnight is when all the best stuff happens.
It was the best, most important secret I learned in college: All the great conversations happened after midnight, the good parties went on way after midnight, and all the good stories take place after midnight.
After midnight was so cool, Eric Clapton recorded a song about it. He said he was gonna let it all hang down. "We gonna get some satisfaction, We gonna find out what it is all about."
There was even some talk of tambourine shaking, although I still don't know if that's a euphemism.
As great as midnight is, the best stuff happens much later.
"We talked until two, And then she said, 'It's time for bed,'" sang The Beatles in Norwegian Wood.
The Dropkick Murphys said in Famous For Nothing, "The barrel fire's fading, My pals are disappearing, another night is passing but I won't go, It's 2AM at townie, and things are going my way."
Mötörhead sang in Fast and Loose, "Two o' clock in the morning baby, I know it's late, I know it's late, I'm dark and I like the night, And I can make you feel alright."
But it wasn't just the rockers who were causing trouble in the wee small hours. Glenn Miller's In The Mood was all about late nights: "I said 'Hey, baby, it's a quarter to three There's a mess of moonlight, won't-cha share it with me.'"
Even the Andrews Sisters were a naughty bunch. They sang in Three O'clock in the Morning: "It's three o'clock in the morning, We danced the whole night through, And daylight will soon be dawning, Just one more waltz with you."
Midnight isn't the problem, it's 9:00 PM. Nothing good ever happened before 9:00 PM. No good song ever said, "I watched a little television, and then turned in at 9:00."
Billy Joel's regular crowd started shuffling in at 9:00 on a Saturday. And Chuck Berry said in Reelin' and Rockin', "Well I looked at my watch, it was 9:32. There's nothing I would rather do than dance with you."
But I have yet to hear about cool stuff happening in the morning. I mean actual cool stuff, not the stuff the Type A overachievers like to talk about.
I can't stand Type A overachievers in the morning. Don't get me wrong, they're wonderful people, but only after 10:00 AM.
They're ones whose eyes pop open 30 seconds before the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM, excited to face the day. They're excited to go for a run. They're excited for their breakfast kale smoothie. And they're excited to listen to their new Tony Robbins audiobook, "I Don't Actually Need The Money."
They post Instagram pictures of themselves achieving, achieving, achieving ("#SmugLife"), just a little achievement factory chugging along, popping out accomplishments like rabbit pellets.
In my family, 5:00 AM is a monster story we tell our kids so they'll go to bed by 1:00. As in "If you don't go to bed, I'm going to set my phone alarm for 5:00 AM and hide it in your room."
That's the great thing about a family full of creatives. My wife is a singer and actor, I'm a writer, and my kids are all home schooled. That means none of us ever goes to bed before midnight, and we typically don't get out of bed until 9:00 the next morning.
It doesn't hurt that most of our friends are writers and entertainers. We all have that shifted schedule of working late, going to bed late, and getting up late. When we hang out with friends, it's not uncommon to be out at 12:00. On a school night, no less. No one looks at their watch and shrieks, "12:00? I should have been in bed three hours ago!"
No, our friends look at their watches and say, "12:00? I got a few more hours."
Wilson Pickett waited for the midnight hour before his love came tumbling down. KISS said at 12 o'clock, they gotta rock. Journey's small town girl took the midnight train going anywhere. And Patsy Cline said "I go out walking after midnight, there in the moonlight, That's the place I want to be."
There's nothing wrong with being a night owl. If you like working late at night, don't let those Type A overachiever business articles shame you into getting up early. Just like they're more productive when they get up in the morning, some of us do our best work when the rest of the city sleeps. You're not missing out just because you didn't get up early enough to sit in rush hour traffic for an actual hour. For some of us, 6:00 AM is still three hours before we wake up.
Or as Sir Paul McCartney wrote and Ringo Starr sang, "Six o'clock in the morning, you've just gone to sleep."
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:00:00 +0000
I was a pretty good speller when I was a kid. I always won my class spelling bee, and was the runner-up in the school's spelling bee twice, but I never got to the big show.
My spelling skills always made me a little impatient with the kids who couldn't however, especially when they asked the teacher how to spell a word. He or she would say, "Check the dictionary," and they would say "I can't look it up if I don't know how to spell it."
I hated that excuse. They could mostly spell the word but just had problems with a couple of letters. How hard was it to figure out the rest?
Take the word "dictionary." Right off the bat, you know how to start. It starts with a D. It's not a tricky word like "mnemonic" or "wrinkle." Dictionary doesn't start with a silent P.
And the letter that makes the short 'I' sound? Again, no problem. Now it's just a matter of phonetically spelling the rest of the word and narrowing down your search within said dictionary. What was so hard about that?
Nowadays, we not only have spellcheck on our computers, we have autocorrect on our phones. Our phones literally fix our spelling errors as we text our friends and family, whether we want them to or not.
Of course, this leads to some hilarious errors, like when you tell your friends that you're "ducking tired of all this shirt."
Despite this technology, many of us have words we have trouble spelling. No matter how often we try, we always spell it wrong the first time, and then have to look it up.
My problem word is "embarrassed." I'm never quite sure whenever I write it. Embarassed? Embarrased? The little red underlines on my word processor tell me those are wrong, but I only ever get it right a third of the time.
To celebrate the recent Scripps National Spelling Bee, For example, North Dakota has trouble spelling the word "yacht," Florida has trouble with "hors d'oeuvres," and New Hampshire can't spell "subtle." That's because they're too close to Boston, which is about as subtle as a drunken toddler in a fancy restaurant.
That's better than last year though, when New Hampshire couldn't spell "diarrhea," which is one thing you absolutely want to be subtle about.
Nevada had trouble with the word "probably," as in "you're probably going to lose all your money gambling." It's such an optimistic word, but the odds always favor the house, so I can see how you'd get confused right before you lose the mortgage payment.
"Beautiful" was the hardest word for 11 states, including Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, Indiana, and Illinois. That seems weird since many of these states have some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Or you can easily get to them from Illinois. (If you've been to Springfield, you know what I'm talking about.)
Massachusetts also had trouble with the word "beautiful," but that's actually an improvement. In 2016, Massachusetts couldn't spell its own name. That's right, the word people from Massachusetts had trouble spelling the most was the place where they lived.
It's a tough word to spell though. Not like Wisconsin. In 2017, Wisconsin didn't know how to spell Wisconsin. This year, they were one of the other 11 states that couldn't spell "beautiful."
"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was a bit of a pickle for six states: Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia. While this is a complicated word that I have never been able to spell, I have a tough time believing that Texas, Michigan, and Ohio had more people who wanted to spell that word over others, like "canceled," which gave Oklahoma and Maryland fits.
I'm going to have to call B.S. on "canceled" with one L though, because two years ago, Google spelled "cancelled" with two L's, and said it caused problems for Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Virginia. So now I'm thinking Google needs to make a decision about which spelling they prefer, except Delaware can't spell "decision."
Meanwhile, Alabama had trouble with "cousin." I'll let you think about that one a little more.
The state of Kansas had trouble with the word "consequences." As in, there are consequences for state Republicans underfunding your schools by $2 billion. One of them is not knowing how to spell the word that means "payback is coming in November."
I "sincerely" mean that, although Missouri and Connecticut can't spell that word. I don't blame them though, because I couldn't spell Connecticut for the longest time.
And this year, neither can Maine.
People are always going to have problems spelling certain words. Whether it's because we're learning it as a new language, because people weren't big readers in school, or maybe even because they just made a simple typo. Or because their state cut funding to their schools so badly, they may shut down in five years. (Lookin' at you, Kansas.)
I'd like to say that it will "definitely" get better, except Kentucky can't spell that either. How embarassing. No, wait, embarrasing. No, no, embarrassing!
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 01 Jun 2018 12:00:00 +0000
It's been said, "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time."
And there are some people you can never please at any time. Never, ever, at all.
We all know people who gripe and complain about everything. Nothing pleases them. Someone could get nearly everything on their Christmas list, and they would still whine and moan that they didn't get that one gift they really wanted.
And I just know someone is going to whine that I said Christmas and not "the holidays." Then someone else will gripe about the war on Christmas, and someone else will say #AllHolidaysMatter, and then people will shriek and point fingers and call each other Nazis.
Don't believe me? Just look at your Facebook page. You'll quickly spot the perpetually unhappy, the ones who are simply never pleased with anything.
If you can't find that person, then it's probably you.
They complain about the government, no matter who's in charge. They complain about tax breaks for businesses, and then complain about tax breaks for citizens, and then complain that either tax break wasn't big enough, or that it was too big.
I saw a guy grouse about all the violence in the "Deadpool" movie, despite all the media coverage about the shocking amounts of graphic violence. He and his wife went to an 'R' rated movie about a rampaging killer on a vengeance-fueled murder fest, but they left halfway through because they didn't like the violence.
It's a movie based on a comic book about a guy who delights in killing people. What did you think it was going to be? A light-hearted farce about the British aristocracy? It's like complaining about all the pepperoni on a pepperoni pizza.
The problem in our society is not that people are easily offended, it's that they just want something — anything — to complain about.
There's a YouTube channel called CinemaSins that's just some guy griping about nitpicky details in movies. I assume he makes them when he's not shouting upstairs to his mom that he wants another grilled cheese sandwich.
I recently watched a CinemaSin video with my son called "Everything Wrong With Guardians of the Galaxy." One of the so-called movie sins? Peter Quill (Star-Lord) still had a working Sony Walkman 26 years after he was taken from Earth.
This is a movie with a green alien that speaks English, a tree that walks like a man, and a talking raccoon with a gun fetish. But magical space batteries is the hill you want to die on?
These are advanced alien species with faster-than-light interstellar travel, and you can't believe that someone probably created a multi-year power source that's the size of a AA battery?
Can't you just suspend disbelief for two hours? Shut up and enjoy the movie. Nobody needs that kind of negativity in their lives.
Except they do, because 10.6 million people watched Francis Ford Crabs-a-lot blather on for nearly 16 minutes about everything wrong in a movie with laser guns and space aliens.
We live in a world of Debbie Downers, people who have something negative to say about everything.
Did you get your seasonal flu shot?
"A lot of time vaccine manufacturers are just guessing at which flu strains will be active this year, which means there's a good chance it won't work," groans Debbie.
Are you excited about buying your first new car in 12 years?
"Too bad it lost a third of its value as soon as you drove it off the lot," moans Debbie.
These people cannot only not be happy, they get joy from sucking the happiness from everyone else in the room. They're happiness vampires who are not truly content until they've sunk their fangs into your happy little neck.
Years ago, I was telling some friends about how my then-three-year-old daughter unplugged our Christmas tree lights as we were leaving the house. One guy said she probably did it wrong and could have started a fire.
"That's not the point," I said. "The point is, my three-year-old knew we had to unplug the Christmas lights when we left the house, so she did it on her own without being asked. It's not about fire safety or whether she can pull a plug out correctly."
Because nothing warms a proud dad's heart more than being told his kid nearly burned the house down.
In his speech, Citizenship In a Republic, President Teddy Roosevelt said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. . . who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Even back in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt was standing up for the creators and the doers who dare mighty things, and he delivered the world's greatest smackdown of complainers. He basically told the world's critics to put up or shut up. And he did it in just 73 words.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 25 May 2018 12:00:00 +0000
The time has arrived, the time it is now. I don't care where, I don't care how.
Michael J. Rotondo, will you please go now?
Seriously, Michael? This is a first. You sound like a bum, you sound like the worst.
You're 30 years old, the papers report. You were told to move out by a judge and the court.
You've mooched off your parents, eight years rent-free. They just want you out, they want you to leave, so they filed a suit and entered a plea.
But you argued your case in front of a judge. You refused to go away, you just will not budge.
You're a worldwide story, you got lots of press, 'cause you're a 30-year-old man-child whose life is a mess.
So just pack up and go, I don't care how. Michael J. Rotondo, will you please go now?
All Dr. Seussing aside, Michael, I'm stunned at your life choices. Where is your self-respect? Where is your pride? You refuse to leave a place where the people who should love you the most don't want you around at all. And instead of saving your last shred of dignity, or seeing a therapist, you're fighting them in court over it.
Think about what you're doing. Your parents filed a lawsuit because you've been squatting in their house in Camillus, New York without paying rent, buying groceries, or even helping around the house for the last 96 months. They've tried to kick you out since February, and you ignored them and instead did legal research about how you could force them to keep you.
It's one thing when someone has a major life crisis, and the only alternative to being homeless is to move back in with family. Sometimes that can't be helped, and it's understandable. But those people will contribute to the household. They pay rent and help with utilities. They buy groceries, cook, and do laundry.
But according to the court proceedings — you know, from when your parents sued you to move out — you have done none of these things. They gave you eviction letters, offered to pay for car repairs, and even gave you $1,100 (which you spent). They asked you to get a job and to sell things to pay rent, like your stereo and "any weapons you may have."
You live in upstate suburban New York, what do you need weapons for? Bear attacks? And am I correct in thinking your weapons are just a bunch of ninja stars and a pair of nunchucks?
And so, last week, you represented yourself in court and argued that you should be given an additional six months of free rent and food.
Why? You had eight years to get it right. Now you're going to turn things around? The last eight years were a bit of a dry spell, but things are finally looking up?
It's clear you don't actually care about anyone but yourself, Michael. Not only are you putting your parents through agony, you lost custody of your son late last year because you can't get your life together. I mean, people don't just lose custody of their kids unless they really screwed up. Even drug-addicted parents get a second chance if they turn things around.
Instead, you blame everyone else for your problems. Everything bad that's happened to you is because of someone else. You tried to get an adjournment from this case because the wrong room was listed on a public notice. You accused the judge — you know, the one from your parents' lawsuit — of not reading the case thoroughly. And now you're going to appeal his decision because things didn't go your way.
This is just one more instance in a long line of you blaming others for your problems. When is it your fault, Michael? When will they be a result of the things you did? A real man would take responsibility for his problems and solve them, not have pretend nunchuck fights in his bedroom.
What do you even do all day, Michael? Because it doesn't sound like you actually do much of anything. You supposedly own a business, but when you were asked about it in court — you know, where a judge had to tell you to move out — you said, "My business is my business."
What business is that? Are you selling nunchucks on eBay? Or ninja star polish? Are you a life coach to other grown men who won't leave home? Whatever it is, you don't seem to be very good at it.
And when you were asked to get a job, you said you were too busy. Look, you're a grown man with part of a college education. There are plenty of places that will hire someone with your background And you've got a good shot if you just remember "ninja star throwing" is not an applicable skill.
Frankly, if I were your father, I'd have thrown your stuff out in the street, changed the locks, and hired Stone Cold Steve Austin to guard the door. He'd rip those nunchucks out of your hand and shove them where your head has been.
Michael J. Rotondo, you need to just leave. No appeals or delays, no six month reprieve.
You're being a nuisance, you're being a boor. Act like a man and walk out that door.
You need to grow up now, of that there's no doubt. Michael J. Rotondo, just get the hell out.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 18 May 2018 12:00:00 +0000
When my son, Ben, was 11 years old, we were visiting EPCOT in Disney World, walking toward the Canadian pavilion. My son mentioned the word "Canada," and in that split second, I decided to have a little fun.
"What did you say?" I asked him.
"Canada," he said.
"You're not saying it right," I said.
"Yeah, that's not right."
"How do you say it?" he asked.
"Canada," I said, just like he had been saying it.
"That doesn't sound any different."
"Yeah, but you're not saying it right." Ben tried it a couple more times, and I would say it the same way, but tell him he wasn't doing it right.
"Are you messing with me?" he asked.
"Why would I do that?" I said, not actually answering the question. "Let's ask that guy." I pointed at a Disney employee working at the Canadian souvenir cart. His name tag said he was actually from Canada, which was even better.
"My son is not saying the name of your country correctly," I said, winking over Ben's head. "Can you help him out?"
"Sure," said the guy, catching my wink. "Canada."
"Canada," said Ben.
"No, like this: Canada,"said the guy.
"Canada," said Ben.
"Here, listen," said the guy, really getting into it. "Ca-na-da." They went back and forth several times, including making Ben repeat each syllable with him.
Finally, when he looked thoroughly confused, I said, "Ben, we were just messing with you. You were saying it right the whole time."
Ben looked relieved. "Oh good. I was worried something was wrong with my brain and that I wasn't actually hearing what I was doing wrong."
I remembered this story after the Internet erupted over the whole Laurel/Yanny argument.
The argument is based on an audio file of a voice that repeats a word a few times, and you had to post which word you heard, #Yanny or #Laurel. If you didn't, that dead girl from The Ring would crawl out of your laptop and try to kill you.
Of course, different people heard different things, and they would swear up and down that they heard the right word, and everyone else was just wrong.
It was like The Dress controversy from 2015, when people were yelling and screaming about whether a photo of a particular dress was blue and black or white and gold. (White and gold! It was clearly white and gold!)
With the Laurel/Yanny test, everyone started posting what they had heard, and people accused each other of being argumentative, mentally deficient, or deliberately obtuse. It was the 2016 presidential campaign all over again, complete with chants of #LaurelUp and accusations of #FakeNoise.
Even New Age musician Yanni weighed in: "I don't hear anything except Yanni," he tweeted, which was a good joke, except no one under 30 has ever heard Yanni.
The survey was originally sent out by a Georgia high school student over Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and other sites, asking people which word they heard. The original word actually was "Laurel," and it was something she had looked up on Vocabulary.com, but based on her own audio equipment, she said she could only hear "Yanny." So she recorded the sound, asked her friends what they heard, and that's when everything exploded.
Several theories were offered — the #Laurel people were addle-minded; the #Yanni people had been kicked in the head — but no one could figure out the right answer to the test.
It didn't help that the student had recorded the audio to her phone, so it was a recording of a recording, and a low-quality one at that. That factored into what people heard.
The New York Times published an article that explained the back story of the sonic squabble, and even created a tool that would let you adjust the frequency of the recording, which would change which word you actually heard.
There are a number of different factors that determine which word you actually hear, based on the quality of your computer or phone speakers, your headphones or earbuds, and even your age and your ability to hear higher frequencies.
Laurel is stronger when played in lower frequencies, while Yanny is stronger in the higher frequencies. That means, if you have a decent set of headphones or speakers with subwoofers, you'll hear the word Laurel every time. But if you have a small set of speakers that don't carry a lot of bass, you're going to hear Yanny.
Similarly, if you're older, you can't hear higher frequencies, which means you're more likely to hear Laurel; younger people who can still hear higher frequencies are more likely to hear Yanny. They also have more hair, their knees don't hurt, and they don't grunt when they sit down, so we hate them.
There are plenty of optical and sonic illusions out there to vex everyone, no matter how well your eyes, ears, and brain work. It's important to remember that these are only for fun and entertainment, and shouldn't divide us as a nation. We've already got enough to be divided over, and we don't need something as silly as the Laurel/Yanny controversy.
But I'll tell you now, if anyone gets a hat that says "Make Yanny Great Again," I'm setting fire to it.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 11 May 2018 12:00:00 +0000
Nearly 41% of all Americans don't have enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency. We're one car breakdown, ER visit, or broken appliance away from serious financial troubles, and many of us don't have any way to dig ourselves out of that kind of deep hole.
Enter GoFundMe the crowd-sourced fundraising website that lets you ask people for money to cover expenses, raise capital for a worthy cause, or even to help cover an artistic project or new invention.
For example, a nonprofit that wants to raise $20,000 to build a park playground could use GoFundMe to ask people to donate and help them reach their goal. A musician who needs $5,000 to produce a new album could ask her fans to help cover the necessary costs.
And just like everything else that's good and wonderful in this world, there are plenty of people who are spoiled and entitled, or make bad decisions, and expect the world to bail them out.
I knew a couple who started a GoFundMe campaign to help them adopt a child, which is an admirable goal. Adoption isn't cheap, and you have to come up with your own money, which is what these people were doing. So they posted their campaign on Facebook. Just a couple short weeks after they had returned from their annual week-long Disney World vacation.
Rule #1 in asking for help? Make sure you cut frivolous spending down to a bare minimum before asking for help. If you're drinking Starbucks every day, and can't figure out why you're $200 short at the end of each month, maybe GoFundMe isn't for you.
But they're not the only ones. There are plenty of people who launched GoFundMe campaigns to cover some pretty harebrained schemes.
For example, rapper B.o.B. wants to prove the world is flat, so he's asking the Internet to help him raise $1 million. He plans to send satellites and weather balloons into space to "find the curve," which he thinks is the only real proof that the world is actually a sphere. He actually believes NASA employees are guarding the edge of the Earth to keep people from flying over it, and this is his way of finding proof.
Never mind that 1) there have been dozens of satellites and space missions that have accomplished the same thing, complete with photos, and 2) they all cost way more than $200,000.
B.o.B. has even been in the news trying to raise his money, but hasn't found much success. He started last September, but has only raised $7,000. If he were smart, he'd just buy a plane ticket and use it to fly to the edge of the world so he can take some pictures.
Or maybe he could ask for help from Rebecca G. who is asking for a mere $10,000 to take a "Soul Journey."
That's mystic hippy talk for a round-the-world trip — see, she gets it — that will allow her to "advance in her spiritual journey."
That's mystic hippy talk for "free vacation."
Rebecca calls herself a spiritual teacher, life coach, traveler, artist, writer, and crystal healer — which is not a real thing. She says she likes sharing these gifts and would like to give them freely.
That's mystic hippy talk for "I'm not actually sure this is worth paying attention to."
Therein lies the problem. I know plenty of teachers, life coaches, and writers who actually make enough at to support themselves like adults. These aren't gifts from rainbow-farting unicorns, to be scattered like magical fairy dust. If you want to travel as a teacher, coach, or writer, then charge people to be a teacher, coach, or writer.
Rebecca's wants us to give her $10,000 so she can help people "see the beautiful potential within themselves" and to "empower people to follow their dreams." Except she has only raised $1,200 people in 14 months, which tells me she's not very good at it.
Hey, you there. Yes, you, the one reading this column. You have beautiful potential within yourself and you have the universe's permission to follow your dreams. Go forth and be awesome.
See, I did that for free, and thanks to the Internet, I didn't have to even leave my house, let alone travel around the world for it.
One guy was so disgusted by Rebecca's mystic hippy entitlement that he wrote on her GoFundMe page: "Handouts are for those who cannot help themselves, not for privileged and able people like yourself. Hard work, independence and perseverance are virtues - learn them on your journey."
He donated $5 just so he could write that, and it may be the best $5 anyone ever spent.
I'm not saying people don't make mistakes or that we don't need help from time to time. Things go wrong, and sometimes we just need a little boost to get back on track. That way, when we're doing well, and someone else has a problem, we pay it forward and give them a little boost.
But that doesn't mean we have to support someone's idiotic decision, or when they're looking for a free ride because they're too delicate and entitled to go actually work hard at an actual job to achieve their goals.
There are people who work for dozens of years just to save up for retirement, or for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they toil and sacrifice until they achieve it. They scrimp, save, and sacrifice until they earned what they needed to make their dream happen for themselves.
It's certainly a lot better than asking a bunch of strangers to chip in so you can take a soul journey around this flat disc we call Earth.
laughing-stalk.blogspot.com | Fri, 04 May 2018 12:00:00 +0000
This week's column was inspired by an article by Eric Weiskott, William spoke up: "Aye, and a good caretaker he makes too."
"Stop saying 'aye,'" said Thomas. "It makes you sound like a pirate."
William ignored him. "Teenagers are ruining language, twisting it around to mean something new. For example, now they're using the word 'nervous' to mean agitated and afraid. In my day, it meant that you were sinewy and strong."
"We're still in your day," said Thomas.
"Yes, but I'm 27, and here in 1388, that's practically middle age. My own father never lived a day past 33, so I've only got six years by my reckoning."
"I thought your father was kicked in the head by a horse," said Geoffrey.
"Yes, but only because that witch caused the horse to become spooked when Father dropped his bucket."
"There's something else these young people don't respect: superstition," said Thomas. "They're always blathering on about science and 'proof.' It used to be a story told from one friend to another friend to a third was enough to have a witch burned. Now young people are spouting off about laws and justice. What kind of world is it when the word of Blind Harry the Beggar isn't good enough for an angry mob?"
"Not only that, they're reading books. 'Sblood, books," said Geoffrey. "No one is happy with just sitting around the hearth and telling tales of woe and sorrow?"
"Ever since that damn German built his movable type machine, all the monks are out of work copying documents," said William.
"And the music these days," groused Thomas, finally getting into the spirit of things. "It used to be a good song would be about courtly love and romance and tales of knights doing great deeds to win a simple kiss from their fair ladies. Now we have bawdy tales of people having sex out of wedlock or taking several lovers."
"Sorry, that one's on me," said Geoffrey. "My 'Wife of Bath' tale became popular with many ladies of London after it was on 'Top Of The Pops.'"
"Why can't young people just be satisfied with their lot in life?" said Thomas. "My daughter was telling me the other day that with these modern improvements to hygiene, like bathing once a week or rubbing our teeth with a rag, we could live to our 50s. That's practically ancient!"
"My grandfather lived to 51," said Geoffrey. "He was stooped over and broken from a life of toil. He finally died when the physician over bled him with leeches."
"Sounds like a blessing in disguise," said Thomas.
"Agreed. He said he wasn't dead when we loaded him on the cart," said Geoffrey, "but he was well-known for his lies and fairy stories. He's the reason I became a writer, in fact."
"And what's with all this taking to the streets and protesting? Now they're on about the Peasant's Revolt or some such nonsense. I can't even walk down the street without being yelled at by a bunch of young people in skinny leggings, big bushy beards, and flannel shirts," said William.
"What's flannel?" asked Geoffrey.
"It's like a Scotsman's tartan, but more pretentious," said Thomas. "It's what city dwellers wear when they want to look like woodsmen, although they've never lifted an axe in their lives."
"Aye, these young city dwellers have the softest of hands," said William. "I haven't felt skin that soft since my own son was born."
"How is your son these days?" asked Geoffrey.
"Oh, he's doing well. The lad finally got married and settled down. I was worried that he was going to live with us forever, but we managed to get him married off before he turned 16. Now he's apprenticing with John the Smith. Another two years, and my Evan will have his own smithy, unless John the Smith's physician can cure his scurvy."
"Leeches!" said Geoffrey.
"Leeches!" said Thomas.
"That's what I said," said William. "He said John the Smith's doctor was one of these modern new doctors who went to Cambridge. He recommends fresh fruit."
"Young people," scoffed Geoffrey.
"Young people," said Thomas.
"Aye, they're ruining everything," said William, and the three men toasted with their mugs and drank deep.
I mean, I cry at sad movies, sad stories, or stirred up memories brought on by watching Mister Rogers reruns on YouTube.
It's a big joke in my family about how much I cry during movies. Field of Dreams and Rudy are absolutely devastating, and I won't watch them with anyone else, because I just sit on the couch, bawling like a baby, while my family stares and wonders, "what the hell is wrong with him?"
This is unusual, since guys my age grew up in the '70s and '80s, when men were tough and macho. Our role models were Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and we learned how to be "real men" by watching the their movies.
These were guys who could get kicked in the goolies and only have to clear their throat a little. They would get shot and complain about getting blood on their favorite shirt. They would clench their jaw and stare off into the distance when a loved one died. But they would never, ever cry.
If you cried, you would be teased about being a sissy, so we grew up believing crying is for girls and sissies. We learned never to do it because otherwise you weren't a "real man."
But I decided to embrace my inner crier in my mid-20s, when I realized the so-called tough guys were really just cowards who were too afraid to show their emotions.
That's right, tough guys. I'm calling you out as a bunch of sissies. You're the ones who are afraid to cry in public. You're too scared about what other people might think to even let a single tear leak from your eye that time when Mister Rogers talked to that little boy in the wheelchair about what it was like being different and how he was still special and dammit now I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.
But while I might have a good cry now and then, I don't like to do it in in public because people are such an emotional buzzkill. They ruin the moment, like an unrealized sneeze. Or when you're yawning and stretching, and someone pokes you in the ribs.
If only there were a special room where criers could go so they could be alone while they pour out their emotions, and emerge refreshed and ready to face the world.
Like a public bathroom, or your own bathroom at home, or at home alone in your tiny apartment with a chicken pot pie on your lap while you watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. That could be their new motto, Netflix and Sob Uncontrollably.
Or maybe if you created a special cry closet that allowed you to cry in peace and solitude, like a certain western university has done.
Worried that people aren't making fun of Generation Z enough, the University of Utah has installed a cry closet in their library as a place for students to de-stress during finals week.
According to a USA Today story, the closet is actually an art installation created by Utah senior, Nemo Miller, as part of his senior art project. And yes, Miller did it with a sense of humor knowing how ludicrous it sounds. Still, he sounds kind of serious when he talks about it.
"The space is meant to provide a place for students studying for finals to take a short 10-minute break," says a placard on front of the closet. Artists always talk about "space," and never a "room" or a "building" or a "vertical emotion coffin.
There are even rules about using the cry closet. First, you must knock before you enter, which not only calls for some careful planning and patience so you can release your emotions at a designated time. But knocking will totally kill the mood of the closet crier, like getting poked in the ribs when you're stretching.
You're also only given a 10 minute time limit inside, so no crying yourself to sleep. That also means your existential crisis can't take too long because there's a long line of other stressed out students holding in their emotions like a sports bar men's room at halftime.
Finally, because we are dealing with college students, only one person is allowed into the crying closet at any one time. I don't know who's going to enforce that, but I'll bet $130,000 it will be rechristened the "coitus closet" before the semester ends.
The closet is lined with a black interior and there are several stuffed animals inside as well, but I'm not sure if it's actually soundproofed. It could be that everyone within a 20 foot radius can still hear you wailing over your Chem 210 final, so you may as well just cry in the bathroom like everyone else has done for the last 10,000 years.
Miller said in an interview, "One aspect of humanity that I am currently exploring is connections and missed connections through communication."
Which makes no sense. If you want to explore communication, shutting people in a closet so they can process their emotions in complete solitude is not it. Scratching out that "only one person in the cry closet" rule is a better way to study communication. More fun too.
Still, while Miller's art project may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, I still worry that we're going to start seeing actual cry closets in other universities, which will only create a false expectation in college students that this is what real life is like.
I hate to disappoint you. There are no cry closets in real life, there are no safe spaces other than the ones you make, and when life is hard, you've just got to sob in a bathroom stall by yourself until the feeling goes away.
At least that's how Clint Eastwood did it. Only don't tell anyone, because he's kind of sensitive about it.
"Hey, Kid, do you ever use your phone on the toilet?" I coughed and sputtered into my beer.
I'm sorry? I said. That's a rather personal question, don't you think? I've known you for 12 years and this is the first time you've ever asked me about my bathroom habits. I could go another 12 years without you ever bringing it up again.
"Oh, don't get your bowels in an uproar," said Karl."I was asking about your reading habits, not your bathroom habits." Karl is a friend and fellow writer, and we often meet to discuss any pressing social issues over a drink. Like reading on the toilet, apparently.
How is that different? I asked. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, watching an open mic reading. Some guy from Texas was reading about playing baseball in Houston when he was a kid.
"I was just reading an article in Time magazine that said 90 percent of cell phone owners look at their phones while they're on the can."
On the can? What are you, a 1940s gangster movie? What's next, calling women 'dames?'
"You dirty rat," Karl said in his best James Cagney imitation. He continued: "Anyway, this psychology professor from Australia wondered whether we should read on the toilet, or give it up in the name of decency and hygiene. He said most Americans read on their mobile phones or play games or watch videos while they're camping on the toilet."
Can't you get hemorrhoids if you sit on the toilet too long? I asked.
"Not according to this guy," said Karl. "He said there's no scientific connection between toilet reading and hemorrhoids. In fact, he mentioned a study that showed toilet readers were less constipated than non-readers."
Yeah, but he's only a psychologist. He does business at the other end.
"Unless you've got your head lodged up your backside," Karl laughed and choked on his beer. I slapped him on the back until he waved me off. "My point is, I don't think anybody needs to read in the bathroom. It's disgusting and unhygienic."
Only if you don't clean it regularly. How filthy is your bathroom?
"Hey, I clean it," said Karl. "Besides, the typical kitchen is much dirtier. With all the gunk and bacteria on the counters, and in the sinks and coffee maker, And on those disgusting dish sponges. Kitchens are way more contaminated than the average bathroom."
Ew, gross. Now I don't want to read in my kitchen either.
Karl stared at me for a few seconds. "You read in your kitchen?"
Well, not reading so much as watching Netflix over breakfast.
Karl stared for a few seconds more. "Do you just blur all the boundaries in your life?"
What, you keep yours entirely compartmentalized? You don't drink a beer in the shower? You never read a cheap paperback in the tub, or ate dinner in front of the TV during a baseball game?
"Well, the ball game thing, sure. Who hasn't? But no, my life is tidy and organized. I read in my living room easy chair, I eat at the table in my kitchen, I write on my laptop in my office, and I use the bathroom to, well, go to the bathroom."
You're just the life of the party, huh?
"That's not the point," said Karl. "The point is, it's just disgusting. I would never take something into the bathroom that I'd put next to my face."
Also, you still flip your phone open to use it, so there's nothing to read. I asked Kurt the bartender to bring us a couple of Lone Star beers and put it on the Texas baseball guy's tab.
"Smartphones are worse," said Karl. "You've got your grubby fingers all over the screen, and the bacteria gets warmed up from the battery or being in your pocket, then you're sticking it on your face to make a phone call. Supposedly one in six smartphones have some kind of fecal contamination on them, so think about that the next time your wife calls you."
I made a mental note to boil my phone when I got home. Sure, but they're no worse than anything else we possess. Think about what your keyboard must be like, especially after you've jammed your fingers up your nose.
And do you wash your hands every time you cook? And then again before you eat, since you prepared it in your bacteria cesspool?
"Er, that is—"
Do you ever pretend the Five Second Rule is real and eat food you dropped on the floor?
"But that's not—"
Uh-huh, that's what I thought. You need to come down off your porcelain throne with the rest of us grubby mortals and accept the fact that if 90 percent of us are using our mobile phones 'on the can,' we're either horrible people or maybe there's nothing wrong that a little ammonia-based cleaner can't fix.
"Oh there's plenty wrong with you toilet readers. Henry Miller said reading on the toilet was a sign of spiritual emptiness."
Then I'm in luck, I said. Because if I need spiritual fulfillment, I can just read the Bible app on my phone.
I'm not a fan of big cities. I don't mean cities with one or two million people in them. I mean the New York/Los Angeles/Chicago sprawling metropolis with more people than Indiana.
I prefer smaller cities, or even a small town out in the country, where it's quieter with less traffic and fewer people shouting at that traffic.
A few years ago, I was in New York City for a conference, and I guess my nerves were showing, because a friend called me a country mouse. Specifically, I was nervous about riding a strange shuttle bus to go to an after-hours event at another hotel across Manhattan. You would've thought some sketchy guy in a raincoat was offering me candy to ride in his van.
"How do I know it's the right bus?" I asked my friend, Paige. "Is it even going to the right place?"
"Oh, my little country mouse," she said, and she accompanied me to the event so I could get there without being accosted by street toughs, ruffians, and ne'er-do-wells.
Paige had lived in New York City for a year, which as far as I'm concerned, makes her an expert, so I was glad for the help. At that moment, I would have followed anyone shouting "I'm walkin' here!" at passing cars.
I'll admit to being a small town boy, even if I never grew up in one. I grew up in Muncie, Indiana, which had around 75,000 people at the time. Then I spent 12 years in Syracuse, Indiana, which had 5,000 people, before finally spending the last 12 years in Indianapolis (1 million people) and Orlando (2 million).
But I'm still a country mouse at heart.
At least until I got to Florida. Now I'm strictly a city mouse, and I avoid the country and nature at all costs, because tiny dinosaurs live in my bushes.
The dinosaurs in question are little brown or green lizards between three and six inches long. They're called anoles, and depending on who you ask, it's either pronounced "uh-NOLE" or "uh-NOLE-ee." I prefer the latter pronunciation, because whenever my younger daughter catches them, I always name them My Juan.
As in My Juan Anole.
(If you're new here, it's not going to get much better.)
In fact, when it comes to nature, I have one simple rule here in Central Florida, or as I call it, The Reptile House.
Do not stray from the pavement. Do not stray from the pavement. Do not stray from the pavement!
Other than taking the dog out to the front yard, I will not stray from a paved over path, because it's dangerous.
Not like the "Floor Is Hot Lava" game we all played when we were kids. Rather, I play the "Nature Contains Icky Things" game. That includes my back yard and the bushes outside my house.
I'm not as bad as I used to be. After nearly two-and-a-half years, I no longer jump when I see little skittering movements out of the corner of my eye, or encounter an anole on the sidewalk.
But I've spotted garter snakes in my yard, which is why I no longer mow my lawn, my son does. He's not afraid of them.
Also, that whole "they're more afraid of you than you are of them" is complete BS. You don't know me!
I'm convinced that the little anoles are all going to realize they're descended from dinosaurs. One day, they're going to decide, "Hey, we're sick of this s---" and get organized.
Remember what happened to Peter Stormare in Jurassic Park 2? Like that.
But just because I don't like nature doesn't mean I don't know what it looks like. Not like those city mouse New Yorkers who can't tell a hedgehog from a pig.
According to a story on NBC New York, the New York Police Department received a report of a tiger wandering the streets of Manhattan this past Thursday. The station immediately dispatched a news crew and started searching for the big cat so they could warn people to stay away from the area. After all, it's not every day you see a tiger at all, let alone one wandering the city.
Except it wasn't a tiger, the police later confirmed. It was a raccoon.
That's right, someone spotted an animal with black markings and vague feline features, and instead of thinking, "Oh look, a kitty," they said, "OH MY GOD, IT'S A LARGE JUNGLE CAT!"
Seriously? I may only be a country mouse, but at least I can tell the difference between a tiger and a trash panda. For one thing, the tiger is orange. And weighs 650 pounds. And will eat your face off.
So I'm happy to be a little country mouse in my small cities and small-town worries. And you big city mice can keep your honking traffic, loud people, and sewer-based wildlife. You've got nothing on Florida.
Because when it comes to actual wildlife, we've got things that will eat you, including alligators, panthers, and actual bears.
Not New York bears, which eat cheese and go "squeak squeak squeak."
Remember a few weeks ago, when I said teenagers were dumb for doing the Tide Pod Challenge? That's where teenagers would record themselves eating a Tide Pod and then trying to upload the video before they were rushed to the hospital. Everyone thought, "Surely we can't get any dumber as a nation."
Then our nation said, "Hold my beer, I got this."
Enter the condom snorting challenge. I first thought it was an April Fool's news story, but there are several videos of teens snorting a condom through their nose and pulling it out of their mouth.
To be clear, each video contains one teenager. It's not like there's a group of them and they're passing the condom around or anything. That would be gross.
Except the videos are mostly from 2013, and none from 2018, meaning the craze was over five years ago. But that hasn't stopped the media from whipping people into a panicked frenzy.
What if they choke? What if they have a latex allergy? Where did teenagers get condoms?
Citizens have been so outraged, some of them organized a town hall meeting to air their grievances over this latest self-destructive challenge. I decided to attend and write this story.
There were statements from civic leaders, as well as a pre-recorded video by the executive director of the American Condom Association, the professional trade group for condom makers.
Afterward, people were invited to share their concerns and comments at a microphone. Prudence Dalrymple nearly knocked over area pharmacist Edgar Longenecker trying to get there.
"This wouldn't have happened under abstinence-only education for. . . you know, 'S-E-X," spelled Prudence, getting red in the face. Several people in the crowd applauded and cheered.
The Vatican has not issued any statement on the practice, but local Catholic church secretary Bridget McCarthy was understandably shocked. "The Catholic Church takes a very strong stance against the use of birth control in any form," she said. "I suppose these teenagers will be wearing IUDs as hats next."
"It's the liberals and Planned Parenthood," shouted George Tucker, not even going to the microphone. "They're brainwashing our kids and turning them into deviants and perverts."
"I read on Facebook that a girl died from snorting a condom," said Dalrymple. "She got it in school, no doubt!"
"We should ban all condoms in our city," said McCarthy. "They're killing our children!"
"No more condoms!" shouted Tucker, and the crowd began to chant: "No more condoms! No more condoms!"
Town council president Steve Keaton banged his gavel and brought the room to order. "Let's not lose our heads over this." He banged the gavel again to quiet the final murmurs. "We can't ban condoms because of a story on Facebook. We don't even know if it's true or not."
"But there was a photo of the dead girl, and she was tearing a condom wrapper," said McCarthy, still gripping the microphone.
"That doesn't mean anything," said Keaton. "We can't ban them because of one death."
"I can't believe you would put access to birth control ahead of the lives of our children," said McCarthy, jabbing her finger in Keaton's direction. "What about the children? How many more must die before you take action?"
"If we can save even one life by banning condoms, isn't it worth it?" said Dalrymple.
"Are you people serious?" said César Stryver. "Condoms aren't deadly unless they're used incorrectly. In fact, they help protect us from unwanted pregnancy and disease."
"But they make kids want to have sex," shouted Tucker.
"We already have a city law that says they can't be sold to anyone under 18," said Stryver. "We just need to enforce the laws we have on the books. Do a basic ID check and only sell them to people who pass."
"Yes, but the laws aren't stopping the teenagers," said McCarthy. "We need to ban them outright. That's the only way to stop people from getting them at all."
"When you criminalize condoms, only criminals will use condoms," said Daisy Miller. "Just because you don't like what young people are doing doesn't mean no one else should have them."
Stryver raised his fist in the air and said, "You can have my condoms when you pry them from my—" Keaton banged his gavel into his microphone.
"They banned condoms over in Cedar Ridge, and they still have the lowest teen pregnancy rate in the entire state," said Tucker.
"That's because everyone's bringing condoms in from Illinois," said Gary Merrill. "You may not be able to buy condoms in Cedar Ridge, but people are buying them out of town and selling them to the teenagers there."
"I don't even know what's going on in our society anymore," fretted Dalrymple. "First they're snorting condoms, and then what? What are a bunch of teenagers left on their own for several hours going to do with a bunch of condoms? Does anyone really need that many condoms?"
"No," shouted people in the crowd. "No one should have that many!"
"You can't ban condoms," said Hank Chinaski. "It's in the Declaration of Independence."
"No it isn't," said Tucker.
"Sure it is," said Chinaski. "Under 'Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'" He ducked under a hail of wadded up programs.
In the end, there were only hurt feelings and things that could not be unsaid. The town council promised to examine the issue more clearly and tabled it until a later date, although that solution satisfied no one. Afterward, everyone went home and made sure their own condoms were safely locked away. Then they hugged their kids a little tighter and slept uneasily that night.