Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Posts Tagged ‘Cynicism

Charles Manson vs. Peter Cottontail

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After reading this, please don’t form an angry mob outside my house brandishing pitchforks, torches, sickles, and lanterns. There’s no right or wrong position being espoused here. I’m just sayin’ . . . .

Charles Manson is well known for his cult following of marauding murderers and sadistic killers. He had a way of convincing some folks to snuff-out lives indiscriminately, without conscience. Fortunately, he hasn’t been executed, otherwise for some sickos a martyr would be born.

Don’t you think it’s strange we have a goofy rabbit, sometimes referred to as Peter Cottontail, who (as the folklore goes) carries a basket filled with colored eggs, chocolate images of himself and jelly beans (shaped like eggs) and delivers them to children on a day that celebrates the resurrection from the dead of the executed savior, Jesus Christ? I don’t quite understand the correlation of the two, but I assume when the Easter Bunny was conceived, some thought went into associating his origin with the death of the Messiah.

In its infancy Christianity was considered a personality cult. Throughout history, many people were killed by the followers of Jesus. The difference is it was not at his bidding; where as, Charlie Manson commanded his people to rain mayhem down upon unsuspecting souls. Christ couldn’t know what was going on (as he was dead), even though those doing the killing and torturing declared they were doing so “in his name.” Was Peter (the rabbit) created as a sort of soothing distraction? Who could blame a cute little bunny, giving away treats, for any indiscretions of the past? I’m sure anyone being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition did not have furry little critters dancing in their heads. They were just a little busy croaking.

There were several phases of inquisitive behavior (1184 – 1860); however, the Spanish_Inquisition (1478 – 1834) is considered by historians the most notorious of them all;  quite a blemish on the permanent record of influential distributors of The Word. There is not much mention of it during contemporary sermons. It’s better to forget and let bygones be bygones. After all, those who were involved are no longer available for interviews, and descendants can’t change whatever an ancestor considered appropriate.

Although the episode was referenced by many at the time as a “cleansing of souls,” it is argued to have been an economic grab bag, “unofficially” endorsed by the Spanish Monarchy to beef-up a depleted Treasury, whose bills were coming due. The Horror Show began as a campaign to rid the land of non-believers and establish the Catholic Church as the one true religion.

But, a big factor in its intensified purpose was the King of Spain owed lots of coin to Jewish merchants and money lenders, who helped finance overseas exploration and military campaigns (the Crusades), expecting to eventually be repaid. Because the King’s cupboard was bare, the best way to avoid paying back the loans was to force the Jews to become Christians, and if they refused (which most did) they would be killed under torture and their estates surrendered to the Churchstate. It was a win/win. If the Jews converted, they would donate a hefty portion of their funds to the Churchstate and if they didn’t, the money became Churchstate property upon their expiration.

Apparently, the fun part for the Inquisitors was the torture. They developed  Torture Devices that no Confessor could ever withstand. Anyone subjected to these confession-letting tools eventually agreed they were heretics or would become Conversos, or died before they could. It’s interesting to note that several of the torturous contraptions had some underlying sexual perversion (hmmmm) associated with them. Some were attached to genitalia or inserted in orifices normally used for sexual activity or expulsion of bodily fluids and waste. I can picture in my mind a Church official wringing his hands, while slobbering on his bib during the confessional ceremonies, enjoying the suffering of the soon-to-be convert or corpse (maybe that’s why they wore the long robes). Once they were done with Jews and heretics, the Inquisitors turned to witches, which gave them even more opportunity to indulge their sexual repression.

As a youngster, Easter meant coloring eggs, eating chocolate, a new suit from either Robert Hall in Suitland or Hecht’s Bargain Basement in Marlow Heights, those colored chicks from the 5 & 10 in Capitol Heights that always died within a week, and pancake breakfast at the First Baptist Church on 57th Avenue. Then there was fidgeting through the preacher’s talk about Christ and why we celebrate Easter, but all that went over my head because I couldn’t wait to get home to find the hidden eggs. I bet more children overdosed on hard-boiled eggs during that time of year than any other. The eventual flatulence was cause for celebration as each kid tried to out-toot the other. It was a grand time, followed by several days out of school. So, what about Jesus? Lost in the childish celebration of Easter is the reason for the holiday.

I’m sure Chuckie Manson is not praying in his cell. Most likely, he’s performing some sort of Pagan ritual, the meaning of which is known only to him, while he spits at the guards as they walk by (probably flinging stuff, too). His cruelty is ingrained and his followers were led by the nose to believe his word was god-like. They killed for him and are paying their debt to society.

The Spanish Inquisition was evil, regardless of how it was perceived while taking place. Hindsight and our evolving mores tell us that something like that should not have happened. But, it did. The views of torture and execution change with the times. Anyone subjected to the Inquisitors, would think Abu Ghraib was like summer camp.

It’s over and done with and we just have to live with the fact it ever occurred. Fanatic following of any personality can lead to evil and multiple deaths of innocents. It just has to be kept in check. We can declare all the holidays we want to make it seem better, but it can’t erase the past. Charles Manson should never be forgiven. My hope is he dies a slow and excruciating death. His victims can’t speak out for themselves. Neither can those who suffered during the Inquisition.

I’m just sayin’ . . . .

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Peanuts, Pinball and Pool

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Take a gander at the picture of the pinball machine. I loved Eight Ball Deluxe. Walking into a bar, ordering a beer and cashing a few dollars for quarters was a thrill that is now just a memory. You can still play pool in a tavern, but very few have pinball.

I was good, shaking the machine just enough to keep the ball alive and avoid tilting. Sure, there were other people who played better, but on any given night I could rattle the machine, while my beer sat on the little table or nearby shelf waiting for me to lose the ball so it could resume it’s intended duty.

One of my favorite watering holes was Town Hall, just outside the University of Maryland campus. I worked at the school, and after my shift was over, a few of us would stop at the bar, walk though the smashed peanut shells on the floor, scuttle up to the bartender, order a beer, purchase quarters and begin the journey into Pinball Heaven.

Town Hall has been open since 1960; soon to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. That’s quite an accomplishment for a drinking spot. Those that come and go are usually “theme” bars catering to whatever fad or style is temporarily occupying the minds of its semi-loyal patrons. Dance clubs seem to last the least amount of time, usually laid waste by fights, drug busts, marriage, and the quick aging and waning interest of its clients. But, Town Hall has lasted through student migrations, sporting event-driven traffic, all the recessions and economically-challenging occurrences during the five decades of its life, and the probable deaths of several of its clientele who just didn’t outlive the joint.

I don’t imagine there was a secret plan scripted by the owners. They just offered cheap beer, a liquor store next door, free peanuts, pinball, pool, Slim Jims, pickled eggs, bags of chips and party mix, standard bar food, those red sausages in the big jar that I only had the nerve to eat once, and an unpretentious atmosphere. It worked, and my guess is they are not even paying attention to the Golden Anniversary approaching. It’s doubtful the customers care one way or the other.

Despite being within 200 yards of University of Maryland’s main entrance, Town Hall caters to locals. Students really only go there after a football game, basketball game or any other event that brings with it doting parents and seekers of learning, spilling out to quench their thirst after a couple of hours of cheering and jeering; much to the chagrin of the regulars who adjust to the noise, silliness and immature behavior of the privileged bunch who have just invaded their space. It only lasts a short while until the nerds and their entourage decide to shove off for haute cuisine, laced with over-priced, but oh-so-pretty beverages. Once the children are gone, the Slim Jims and suds taste better.

People reading this outside the College Park area most likely are unaware of Town Hall. Some may have stopped by when following their team to Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium (god, that sounds awful), Cole Field House or Comcast Center. If so, you probably didn’t even notice the regulars smoking their butts (when it was legal) and drinking their draft, while arguing Redskins football or some other non-college thing. Don’t worry, they ignored you, too.

For me, it’s now nostalgia. Occasionally I am in the neighborhood on business, but beer, pool and peanuts are not on the agenda. When home, I play pinball on my computer, shaking the machine with key strokes. Diet soda in a can or plastic bottle is my “draft.”

*Sigh*

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Shoe Fly, Don’t Bother Me

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George Bush was recently involved in a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” during a news conference held in Iraq. One of the members of the Iraqi media (a mini van, with three reporters and two digital cameras) took off his shoes (size 10) and hurled them at the President in an effort to insult him. I am not up on Shoe Insult Theory, but apparently the thinking is if you show a person the bottom of your shoe, they are forever scorned. When the shoe thrown at the person being assaulted conks them in the head, the bruise or lump might be a pretty good reminder they have just been dissed.

I was a salesman at Bakers Shoes in Iverson Mall in 1967. Our patrons were only female and so many times when I was dying fabric pumps in the back room or bringing them to the women, I saw the soles. Not once did I shake or feel insulted. Maybe it was because they were new and had not yet traveled the road of dirty sidewalks or stepped in gum or anything that might make them filthy. My guess is the soiling of the soles of worn shoes is what adds to the insult of showing them to someone. It seems the indignity can only come from a man, since the theory appears to have originated among the not-so-tolerant-of-females men of the Middle East. That’s probably why I never shivered at Bakers. When Dwight Eisenhower was President, I wonder if Buster Brown’s were used for the gesture or would it have been Kinney’s or Chucks (possibly the beginning of the term “chucking” shoes)?

Perhaps that explains why some men cross their legs like a girl and some like a man. Typically men wear pants and have no need to hide their privates. The feminish crosser is most likely just being polite, attempting to avoid showing the sole to innocent observers. It seems to me displaying the bottom of dirty bare feet would be more of a disgusting gesture, but like I said earlier, I’m not a student of the theory. Restaurants do not ban soiled shoe soles, only bare feet. So, the owners of eating establishments must not understand the Shoe Insult Theory, either.

Does the term “shooing” someone or something away have anything to do with the insult? Usually the “shooing” away of them/it is for safety purposes or because of annoyance. When someone says “shoo” are they saying “shoo” or “shoe?” If a salesman gets a “shoe in the door” is the person whose door was entered insulted? A political candidate who is a “shoo-in” could be less than flattering to the “shoo-out.” Is it “shoo-in” or “shoe-in?” And what about Shoo-fly Pie? The name is thought to have originated from shooing flies away while it was cooling. Is it possible it was derived from shoes being used in the baking process to knead the dough, or is there a subtle insult being extended by the pie? Only the Amish know for sure (but they’re not reading this).

I’m too fat to cross my legs like a girl, so I’ll have to continue the man cross. I never could accomplish the feminine cross, even in my early years, when thin. It was just too uncomfortable and seemed a little sissy-like to me. If someone is insulted by the sole of my shoe as a result of my inability or lack of desire to perform the girly cross, let me apologize in advance for my unintended rudeness.

Shoes should be worn, not thrown.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by Bake My Fish

December 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

1968 – Forty Years Ago; 20 Per Eye

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In 1968 I was a skinny, pimple-faced High School Senior. My biggest challenges were refraining from squeezing my zits and soiling my undies in my sleep. Worrying about economics, paying bills, who was in charge of the world, or any of those things took a back seat to fantasizing about my Business teacher, Miss Hopkins, and her Tabu perfume, and selling shoes at Bakers in Iverson Mall. But, the whole country was going crazy; I just didn’t think about it.

It has been argued that 1968 was the year that changed everything. Lyndon Johnson grew frustrated with the war in Vietnam and decided not to seek reelection. He had become President upon the death of John Kennedy, and then won election by beating a lame opponent, Barry Goldwater. But, now he wanted out. The country was being torn apart by opposition to a war that was none of our business. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. After the death of MLK, the cities erupted in riots. Whole city blocks were burned to the ground.  Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President, only to resign the office amid scandal five years later.  O. J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy.

It’s easy to say today that everyone was just out of their minds back then, but unless you were there you can’t know. I was there, but oblivious, so how can anyone not subjected to it really understand? There are news accounts and historical records, but the atmosphere is not in the records. It was surreal. I remember my mother waking me by yelling upstairs to my attic apartment that Bobby Kennedy had been killed. All that went through my mind was that one day five years before, where the only thing on television was the funeral of John Kennedy. Was I going to miss Mayberry R.F.D.? Seriously though, it was shocking. How could I understand what was happening? My graduation was in just a couple of days, and that was heavy on my mind.

The Tet Offensive had just taken place in January. We watched the television reports, while my parents worried I would be drafted. I worried, too. Everyone was expected to wave a flag and declare love for America, but the young people could not figure out why we were in Souteast Asia. We were being thrown to the dogs for the sake of stopping Communist aggression. Or, so the story went. No one wanted to call it a Civil War.

But, that’s all in the past. We made a mistake and lost a lot of lives as a result. I just didn’t want to be one of them. John Prine wrote a great song, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” It was written in 1971, but I always loved the picture it painted. Honestly, I don’t really care what your feeling may be for that period of time, but while I was there, that’s how I felt. When the media was hammering Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for avoiding the draft, I sat back and held my tongue, because I understood. No one really wanted to go.

It’s easy to go to war when you can do it by proxy. Your life is safe if someone else is doing the fighting. Soldiers lose an arm, a leg, an eye, a life, a family, but it’s all OK, if it is them and not us. Politicians wave their arms high and scream “bloody murder,” but it is not them who are suffering. They don’t walk around with a limp, or an eye patch, or scooting around in a wheel chair. Yeah, they send their kids, but they send their kids. Not them. They’re safe. You can label me Liberal or whatever, but the fact of the matter is, war kills. It isn’t good for anyone. Everyone suffers.

As a society, we have to find a way to avoid war. If we are attacked, we have to react. Afghanistan made sense because that was the haven of Al-Qaeda, and they struck first. Iraq was vengeance; getting even for the past. We are there now, and have to tough it out. In the future we have to think a little more about jumping in the fray.

If forty years of history taught us anything, I would be surprised. We never seem to learn. When it comes to economic gains over death, we accept death as a consequence. As long as it’s not our death. Throw a soldier into the heat, and he’ll take it. But, we’re running out of soldiers. In 1968 we had the draft, which meant the soldier had no choice. He had to go. Today, there is no draft, and with what is occurring at the present time, fewer men and women are opting to join. They don’t want to die any more than the politicians who have chosen their fate.

With that being said (ha ha), we need to change the future.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

P.S. Check out the videos for 1968

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Written by Bake My Fish

November 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Today’s Gladiators – Professional Football Players

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I love the NFL. There’s nothing more exciting to me. After the Super Bowl, I count the days until the Draft, followed by off-season training sessions, then pre-season and the new season. I fear dying before I get enough. It is the coolest and most anticipated thing in my life. When the season starts I am in 7th Heaven. “Lord, I thank you for the NFL.” Give me football on my death bed.

Millions of Americans and people all over the world love the sport. Players sacrifice their bodies and minds for our enjoyment. Billions of dollars are at stake. Players undergo sugeries we have to research on the Internet to understand. A lateral this and a medial lateral that is music to our ears. Living beyond fifty-years-old for an offensive lineman is a luxury, but who cares? We have our sport. Today’s Gladiators provide our entertainment and milk our weaknesses by proxy.

The NFL is a mutli-billion dollar industry. Our stadiums are like the Roman Coliseums. The players are shoved out on the field and we hope to catch a violent hit or two. We are just missing the lions and other beasts tearing flesh from the fighters. If it wasn’t moralistically-challenged, the creatures would play a part. Like the Gladiators, football players are shown the exit door once they have suffered enough injuries or grown too old to be of use to a team (although a Gladiator’s death ended their careers). Winning is everything, and job security is short-lived.

In virtually every sport there is the hope of tragedy. With Nascar, we are waiting for the fiery crash. In hockey we love the fight, where a couple of teeth are knocked out. A knockout in boxing brings with it a cheer from the fans, and tears from the loser’s family. Baseball brawls, with the dugouts emptying on the field are particularly exciting; the more players involved, the more newsworthy the event. An NBA player entering the stands to punch a fan in the mouth gives us goose bumps. Soccer hooligans are damned-near idols in some countries; tearing down fences and trampling spectators. A near-death collision in the NFL is spectacular. We thrive on the violence. Am I wrong?

Every year the NFL winner comes down to which team is the healthiest. When key players are hurt, the whole complexion of a team changes. How many of you relish the thought of your team’s biggest rival losing a player who makes a difference? I’m happy that Tony Romo is hurt, or T. O. is going through a meltdown. It helps the Redskins’ chances. And you are thinking the same thing with regard to the opponent of whichever team you cherish. The most anticipated statistics on Friday are the injury reports.

I’m not apologizing. At times I feel sort of bad hearing the news someone has broken a limb or suffered a season-ending injury that can help my team. But, I don’t feel that bad. If they don’t die, my conscience is off the hook.

We are already finished with half of the season. It will be over soon, and I have to begin the cycle again. Drool is running out the side of my mouth. I only have a couple of months left apologizing to my wife for ignoring her and letting the grass grow too long because it rained on Saturday. Sunday is my domain.

I always justify my love of the NFL by narrowing it down to the fact it is only 16 games, 3 hours each, which really only involves 48 hours. Two days out of 365; unless the Redskins make the playoffs. The math is what it is. Some wives don’t really get it, unless they are into the sport, too. I guess it’s because I watch the other games that can affect the Redskins’ season; crossing my fingers with the hope someone gets hurt.

Hail to the Redskins!!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

If You Met God, What Would You Say?

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I’m not a particularly devout person. I do believe there is a purity everyone seeks in whatever religious vehicle they may travel. All beliefs seem to have a “Golden Rule” which basically states the same thing in their language, and it always seems to come down to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” translated for convenience.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume everyone reading has a belief in a supreme being of your choosing, and that deity determines how you will spend the after-life. The fantasy of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates will be used as the scenario for entry into the everlasting existence.

So, you have died, and are waiting outside the gates wanting to meet with God, and the Doorman, St. Peter, encounters you to show your identity to check against the guest list and his/her question is, “Tell me why you deserve an audience with God?” How would you answer? What qualifies us to be considered pure? Wars are fought in the name of promoting religion, which seems to me hypocritical. I would think that someone leading a good pious life is honest, peaceful, caring, sharing, etc. Not destroying people so they can convince them to go in the right direction. Once “sinners” have been eliminated, how can they learn? They’re dead.

I’m not trying to pick on any one religion for using violence to push their views. Throughout history every organized belief has been guilty. The social mores of the era dictated what was acceptable punishment. How many people were killed because they did not believe a particular teaching? It’s not just war (The Crusades and 9-11), but torture (The Inquisition or Salem Witch Trials) and the Spanish Conquest of the New World (aka the American Holocaust), which probably qualifies as both war and torture in the cruelest demonstration of soul saving. I’m not sure anyone can give the right answer at the Pearly Gates. It depends on the interpretation of what is good.

Your answer to St. Peter the Bouncer could be, “I’ve been good.” That might allow you to cross the rope. Then you meet God and he/she looks you in the eye and asks, “What is good?” You stumble for an answer and mutter something like, “I’ve done unto others as I would have them do unto me.”

What does that mean? Did you give a dollar to a beggar? Did you help an old lady across the street? Did you give honest answers on your tax return with regard to charitable giving? Did you wave with a kind, rather than obscene, gesture at a person in a vehicle who cut you off? Did you give back the $5.00 the bank teller accidentally gave you over what you requested? Did you alert the clerk at the grocery store you had a twelve pack of sodas in the under bottom of the cart he/she overlooked? What is good? I’m asking you because I don’t know.

Is the answer in the “Good Book?” Which book is the “Good Book?” Every religion has one, and they all consider theirs to be the right one. I have never met a Gideon, but they have been to every hotel in the USA. You would think I would have met a Gideon at some point. Maybe they’re like the Tooth Fairy, sneaking into hotel rooms just before or after the cleaning people to stick the “Good Book” in a drawer.

Is being “good” going to your House of Worship on a regular basis? Is it confessing your sins? Michael Corleone in Godfather 3 confessed to having his brother killed, but it seems to me confessing did not make the act a “good” thing. I just don’t think professional Hit Men get through the gates just because they “got it out of their system” by telling the Priest. Maybe it is OK if it’s just one or two killings, as long as there is a long period of time between the deaths and the killer’s demise, but I can’t be sure because I’m not up on the rules. My guess is God would be somewhat less forgiving for such a blatant violation of one of the Commandments.

It’s puzzling because so many people have been killed in the name of religion that perhaps it is alright, if done properly. If the killing is organized and sanctioned, then it must be “good.” The “eye for an eye” thing seems reasonable to me. I support the death penalty. Am I wrong for doing so?

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of “What is good?” I’m sure God has a chart of correct responses that allow us to pass into eternity. My concern is under pressure I may not give the right one.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

October 20, 2008 at 10:14 pm

With That Being Said . . . .

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OK, I have a bone to pick with a current trend in the English language. When did “That being said,” “With that said,” “Having said that,” “That said,” “With that being said,” and so on become so common? I don’t remember them being used several years ago. Now everyone is saying them, writing them, belching them, rapping them, and pissing me off by using them (but, not quite as much as Grief Counselors). Maybe they’re proper, but I don‘t care. They don’t really mean anything. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey moron, did you get that? I said it, and I’ll tell you I said it just in case you don’t know I said it. So, listen up and let me tell you I said it because I like to repeat myself.”

On ESPN Sean Salisbury used them about every third sentence. Fortunately he’s no longer working on ESPN. He stunk, anyway. All of his time was spent screaming at John Clayton and calling him a Nerd in thirty different ways (I think he had a problem with the idea John didn’t play football). Another abuser is Stephen A. Smith, whose ridiculous rants are particularly annoying, with or without “That being said.” He still does some discussion of the NBA, but I don’t care about the NBA, and can avoid his nonsense. Every time I watch a FOX NFL game, featuring Troy Aikman, I notice he uses “Having said that” quite a lot. I like Troy, but the use of the phrase has to go. He always gets the NFC Game of the Week, so it’s hard to avoid Troy if you like football.

Perhaps it is correct English; I’m really not sure. What bothers me is how they have become so vogue. They are certainly overused by the media. Enough that it really gets on my nerves. The use of “For sure” was the same way a couple of decades ago. Eventually it went away. I’m concerned “With that being said” is so ingrained it may take a century or two to become archaic.

If you use “That being said” quite a lot, all I can say is you are a follower. You’ve heard it so much you are regurgitating it without even knowing. I forgive you, because society has pummeled you so much “With that being said,” you probably don’t even realize you’re a phrase junkie. Maybe there is something in our drinking water forcing our lemming behavior.

I like the evolution of language. The writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare seem very strange to us today. We need an interpreter to understand the English that was contemporary during their time. College courses and entire curriculums are devoted to studying their words, with ongoing debates about their meaning. At the time those words were written they were understood by the lowliest of peasants as well as the upper crust of society. The Intelligentsia of today cannot come to terms with what exactly was meant back then. When was the last time you watched a Shakespeare movie or play and did not scratch your head just a few times during the performance?

I watch a lot of movies; history, action, drama, comedy, westerns, sci-fi, whatever. I don’t recall in any of them, regardless of the time period being depicted, “With that being said,” “That said,” “Having said that,” “With that said,” or “That being said,” ever uttered by any of the characters. It seems writers of dialogue don’t feel a need for the meaningless words among the thousands in their screenplays (they’re just a little busy picking the proper profanities for the scenes). The overuse seems to be a staple of today’s media, commentators and politicians.

Yeah, I like the evolution of our language. But, the ride on the “With that being said,” train is becoming a bit much. Eventually the phrase will grow old and lose its glamour. Society will replace it with something else that will be spewed over and over and over to ad nauseum. That’s what we do. We run things into the ground, causing idiots like me to moan and groan about it. I just hope it goes away before I die. It will probably take too long, so my gravestone will convey my displeasure.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

 

Written by Bake My Fish

October 4, 2008 at 7:11 am

O Phineas, Phineas, Wherefore Art Thou Phineas?

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I’m probably going to Hell, be struck by lightning, or meet a horrible end for this post, but the subject is too freakish for me to avoid. I just can’t help myself.

It would have been interesting to know Phineas Taylor Barnum. Probably every birthday party he gave for his kids included clowns, dwarf piñatas, lots of celebration, and just a damned good time. He was involved in a few nefarious activities, including running numbers, hoaxes and displaying odd humans, referred to as “Freaks, ” and he was considered by many people of his time to be a scoundrel. If you’ve ever attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, you are guilty of being an enabler. Phineas started it, and you bought tickets. I took my kids when they were young, but they spent the whole show counting the number of times the elephants pooped. We didn’t have a chance to see Freaks.

Some of you may be thinking you are “Holier than Thou” and that you look the other way when you see an unusually-figured person (mimes don’t count), but don’t kid yourself and don’t kid me. We all like to see strange things. We pretend not to notice, but the corner of our eye gets stretched as far as possible and at any opportunity, we peek. When was the last time you were stuck in traffic, and the only reason for the delay was rubber-necking? I know you looked. Don’t be ashamed. It’s acceptable to gaze. That’s how Barnum grew rich. He was the first Millionaire Showman. And if it makes you feel any better, the people who were displaying their oddities and/or deformities referred to themselves as “Freaks.” So, you’re off the hook for the curiosity or use of the word.

When I was a kid, my favorite school field trip was to the Medical Museum where we saw fetuses in jars, photos of disfigurements, skeletons, and the Elephantiasis leg (there was a rumor about John Dillinger’s wee wee, but I never saw it). Little did I know at the time that Elephantiasis is caused by a parasitic worm (again with the parasites, Bake) and it demonstrates how vulnerable we are to nature’s invasive activities that cause unwarranted agony.

I recently became aware of the Treeman of Indonesia, aka Dede. This story has been circulating for some time, but it just caught my attention about a month ago (maybe I’ve been “living in a tree or under a log”). Wow! This guy is messed up. And from a human papillomavirus (HPV). He grows these wood-like warts all over his body. His hands and feet resemble tree branches and he has a morbid fear of termites, beavers, woodpeckers and squirrels. The sad thing is his wife left him and he was fired from his job. I assume he was sacked because he couldn’t use his hands or feet and it was impossible to perform any normal task (I suppose they don’t have ADA protection in Indonesia). His wife was probably worried about splinters. Yet, he likes to smoke cigarettes. If I were him, no open flames would get anywhere near me.

There is a fellow in Indonesia, Hani Suwanto (their P. T. Barnum), who along with his assistant, Boy, display Dede and several other people with physical deformities known as the Sadaluk Clan. The Clan includes Dede, Bubble Man and Nose Man as featured performers. Hani thinks of himself more as Walt Disney, with a goal of 100 of these people under one roof. In his mind he is providing a social service for the “performers” who have no other opportunity for income. Before you feel aghast at the exploitation, be aware Dede is OK with it. It’s the only way he can make a living. The Welfare System in Indonesia is not quite as generous as here, so Dede has to work somehow to feed himself and his children, and the circus is the only willing employer. If Barnum was alive today, Dede would be his featured act and he would probably have Huang Chuancai open the show for him.

Alright, I’ve gotten my cheap laughs and perhaps freaked you out just a bit with the pictures displayed here. Click on some of the links (especially Freaks) and feed your amazement. But, the purpose is not really for amusement. I’m fascinated by how unforgiving nature can be. The more we mess around with it the nastier it can get.

The next time you see an abnormal human, think about the suffering they must be experiencing and how fortunate you are to be spared the misery. Working in a circus might pay the bills, but I’m sure it’s not the occupation they had in mind.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

I Went to the Animal Fair; the Germs and the Microbes Were There

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Many of you reading this probably attended the Maryland State Fair, or a fair or festival of some sort this summer; especially if you have children. Ours ran from August 22 through September 1st. It’s always the same number of days ending on Labor Day. My wife and I hadn’t been for several years. This year we were given free tickets from the car dealer where she purchased her auto. Oh boy, free! Gotta go, right? It’s free!!

The Sunday morning before Labor Day we went for a walk to get a little exercise. I enjoy our walks. It gives us some time to talk without interruption, and to share each other’s company. As we strolled I was trying to avoid the subject of the fair, because I really didn’t want to go, initiating conversation about anything I could think of just to keep the chatter going and suppress the thought of the fair. Even though I had agreed to go earlier in the week, it was not an enthusiastic endorsement. Then it came up. “What time do you want to leave for the fair?” she asked. “Do we really have to go?” I whined. “It’s kind of hot now, and later on, it’ll be too hot.” “You don’t want to go?” she asked, in that sort of wife way that tells you she’s annoyed, but not angry. “We don’t do much on the weekend,” she continued. The guilt honed-in and my love of hanging out at home was challenged. As a society we spend about a third of our life sleeping. Another third working. We spend a substantial amount of our income buying a home and equipping it with entertainment and furnishings so we can enjoy our stay. Personally, I want to hang out at my abode. But, I don’t want to be a creep and sloth of a husband, so I agreed to attend the fair. Fun, fun, fun. After all, the tickets are eight dollars each, and we have two, so we’re saving $16.

We left our home about 1:30 to drive the half-hour or so from Eldersburg to Timonium. In my mind I was singing “Our State Fair is a Great State Fair, it’s the Greatest Fair in our State.” It sounds hokey, but I really was (I bet you are right now, too). I’m just glad it wasn’t out loud, because that would be just too corny. Our drive was unimpeded and we made it with ease. The bowling alley across from the Fairgrounds was offering parking for $5.00. Another bargain. We pulled in and parked, and thus far our afternoon was thrifty.

If you are young or have children, the fair can be a grand time. There are rides, treats, animals to pet, things to see, and you can act silly, unencumbered by embarrassment. When you are older, without children, it’s hot, noisy, dirty, stanky, boring, expensive, and the food really isn’t that good. But, the tickets are free, so we become two Old Coots walking around the grounds hoping for some excitement. They don’t even have bumper cars, so what the hell was I supposed to do? “I know, let’s get some bad food.” And the fair has the baddest. Deep fried Twinkies and Oreos? You mean they are not artery-clogging enough, that they have to be dipped in batter, and fried in the grease pit called a fryer? Those cookers have never contained zero-trans fat anything, and I doubt the grease has been cleaned during the entire event, and we were there the next-to-last day. No, thanks. I’ll pass on the “treats.” My mind was tuned to the thought of some lamb. Mmmmm. I like lamb.

The adult food is stationed next to the petting zoo. Nice and sanitary. That’s where you’ll find the pit beef, pork stuff, burgers, turkey legs, chicken parts, and the lamb. There are sanitation stations nearby, and there is the assumption the “chefs” are keeping their appendages clean. One would hope. The food is cooked, even though there’s no guarantee once it’s in the “keep it hot” containers the temperature is high enough to prevent illness. The servers are using utensils, and some are wearing plastic gloves, in compliance with the lenient Board of Health rules. But, the tongs and gloves are used over and over, without cleaning or changing, so we have to trust the heat is high enough to kill anything living within the grub.

My desire for lamb got the best of me. I cozied up to the stall, paid my $6.50 for a lamb wrap (a Gyro in a spinach wrap, rather than a pita, with less sauce) and devoured it standing, while my wife joined the pit beef line. She did have a bite of my wrap to taste it, but apparently missed the bad part. I inhaled my wrap, because it was falling apart and I was concerned about losing it. She brought her $6.00 pit beef sandwich, along with her $2.00 coke over to a table (she’s more sophisticated than me) and we sat down for a short time. Next to us a couple planted their lard asses, violently shaking the table, and began eating a pile of deep fried Oreos. They were both wearing fanny packs, no doubt stuffed with goodies of some type. The wife used a napkin to sop up the food-lube, and I thought, “To what food group does that belong?

We left the fair after a couple of hours playing Hop Scotch with critter feces, and seeing most of the livestock. I have to admit the babies are adorable, when there are a few. I see cows when passing a Chick-fil-A, pigs in any Walmart, chickens in the supermarket, and sheep when trying to go to sleep, so I don’t need to go to the fair. But, the tickets were free. Fun, fun, fun.

This was the beginning of a truly horrifying experience that was developing in my innards unbeknown to me. I’ve written posts about Parasitic Friends and pandemics One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the two guys being given birth, although not considered the source of a pandemic, definitely are not friends. They were intent on mischief and evil.

That evening everything seemed fine. No problems. The next morning (Labor Day) my wife fixed a nice breakfast, which I enjoyed with a few cups of coffee. Still going well. Then around noon I started feeling a bit queasy as the incubation was beginning. I laid down for a nap, skipped lunch and reluctantly anticipated the rib steaks we were to have for dinner. I lounged around on the couch, dozing off occasionally, while trying to watch TV. Eventually dinner was ready, I had a few bites of the steak, wrapped it up as leftovers and went to bed. This was about 7:00; very early to retire for me.

Tuesday morning appeared to be a normal beginning. I felt a little under the weather, but not enough to stay home from work, so I got ready, had some breakfast, packed a lunch and headed to the office. There were a couple of bouts in the mid-morning with bathroom visits, but not an unusual number of sittings for me. Things seemed on par with daily life. At noon I had my sandwich at my desk, all the while feeling a bit groggy, attributing it more to age than illness. Around 2:00, the “boys” took over as I rushed to the latrine, in a state of emergency. I was feeling downright funky. After returning to my office, I packed up my things and left without saying anything to anyone, because I was feeling putrid. I drove home, clenching all the way, and made it to the potty (think Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber). My dog was sitting outside the door because I had not properly greeted her upon my entrance. Little did I know at the time, she was in for a lengthy stay with Daddy. I changed into my home clothes and laid on the couch for a nap, and Holly joined me.

The “boys” made it impossible to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time without a bathroom rush. I was popping generic Imodium like mints, but no relief was given. Eventually I read the label and realized the limit is four per day. Eight had already been consumed on Tuesday. The pill popping had to stop. It wasn’t working, anyway. I was drinking G2, Powerade Zero and water in “beer bong-style” gulps, hoping not to become too dehydrated, but it seemed nothing could stop the assault on my body. The exhaustion was overwhelming and frankly I thought I was dying. It continued into Wednesday.

Wednesday morning the first thing on my mind was Gene Upshaw (not to mention the wallpaper in the bathroom), who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sunday, August 17th and died on Wednesday, August 20th. He was only five years older than me, so I was worried I might be next. The difficulty I was experiencing was worse than any other episode in the past. What little time I could muster to stay awake was used to delete files on my computer and organize my passwords for my survivors. The same routine (by now it was routine) from the previous day continued into Thursday.

Thursday morning I called my doctor’s office and they were able to fit me in at 4:00. By the time I arrived for the appointment, I was sweating profusely. The intervals were now about every hour, so I didn’t have an emergency situation in her office. While I was signing in, practically laying my head on the counter, the receptionist made sure I had my $10 co-pay. “No problem, I’ll give you my house for a cure.” After examination, “Doc” surmised it was something I ate, and she gave me a lab form to get the vials for samples. On the form she wrote the word Giardia, which at the time made no sense to me. I asked if there was anything she could give me to halt the deluge, but she said not until it is determined what was attacking me. So, I obediently went to the lab, got the necessary equipment (eight vials) and returned home to continue my suffering.

About 3:00 AM Friday morning I collected the samples, and started searching on the Internet for Giardia. It is such a common parasite, I’m surprised I had escaped its wrath until now. Based on my symptoms I self-diagnosed that my doctor’s suspicion was correct. Since she couldn’t prescribe anything, the Imodium wasn’t doing the trick, and a large cork was out of the question, I searched for natural remedies. Goldenseal Root and Garlic were mentioned in several different articles. After making my lab delivery around 10:00 AM, I mosied on over to GNC and bought a bottle of Goldenseal Root for $15.99 and Odorless Garlic for $12.99. And guess what? By Saturday morning, I started feeling better. Now, many of you may think it just ran its course. Everything I read indicates Giardiasis untreated lasts about two – three weeks. I’m convinced I “nipped it in the butt” with a natural remedy.

Here‘s the best part. My doctor called me on Wednesday — which was five days after dropping off the samples — to give me the results. “Which do you want first, the good news, or the bad news.” she joked. “I guess the bad news,” I replied. “Well, you have two things, Giardia and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).” I knew about Giardia because I had just researched it, but the other condition was puzzling. “So, what’s the good news?” I asked. “We have one pill that can get rid of them both,” she said. “If you were older the C. diff could have been an even more serious problem. And you must have gotten both from the State Fair.” C. diff is sometimes rampant in hospitals among older patients. I guess I was lucky. Now, I’m taking Metronidazole three times a day for ten days.

The next time you want to attend a fair to see cute and cuddly animals, keep in mind the possibility of illness. I probably won’t go again, but if we are fortunate enough to get free tickets, I’m going shopping for a new outfit. Since this fair cost me $42.48 net (plus time off from work), I’ll have to factor in the cost of the new clothes for the next event.

I should’ve had baked fish.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Written by Bake My Fish

September 13, 2008 at 6:32 am

Sputnik or Спутник? In Either Language It Spells Cold War

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“To escape the wrath of a mushroom cloud, you should hide under your desk.” That was what we were told when practicing our nuclear attack preparedness at elementary schools during the late 1950s. Especially after the USSR launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957. How out-of-tune is that kind of thinking? Wooden desks will stop Gamma Rays, X-Rays, Sugar Ray, Ray Charles, or any rays whatsoever. Today, anyone working in a Nuclear Power Plant wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a wooden suit for protection (or maybe they wood).

Look at that desk. Do you think it’s going to stop atomic radiation or falling debris? We did as kids. Just scrunch under it and nothing will hurt you. Not even the invisible stuff. My guess is during the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of those primary school students were thinking about hovering under furniture for protection. Tatami mats and bamboo were about the best shields in those days. We got them good. Then again, they didn’t know it was coming. At Bradbury Heights Elementary School in Coral Hills, MD we were preparing. The drills were fun because it broke up the monotony of lessons. Still, it was a little scary.

Click on the picture to the left, and you’ll see one of the few structures standing after the Hiroshima bombing was a desk. I bought four for my bomb shelter. One for me, one for my wife, one for our dog and one for Nicky (the Love Bird). I know it’s silly now, but in the 50s we thought it was real. The whole country went nuts after Sputnik flew.

I liked the Cold War. Khrushchev was funny looking and sort of Grandfatherish. I bet he did the “pull my finger” joke often. He made me laugh, and was probably more like the Uncle at Thanksgiving dinner seated next to the kids table, telling Knock Knock jokes, who had too much to drink and belched as if it were expected, rather than the cold-hearted killer we thought. These days, the people in power in threatening countries around the world, are spooky. I would rather laugh than cringe. Give me a Nikita over an Osama any day.

The Space Race really took off after Sputnik embarrassed us. Our childhood was devoted to beating the Russians, conveyed in our toys, media and even our lunch boxes. Eventually we landed on the moon, and now satellites are so prevalent there is no room for Superman. I do enjoy the 200+ TV channels we have today, so thank you, Nikita and the Boys, for forcing our hand.

There was a Russian movie spoof of the Three Stooges starring Joe Stalin as Moe, Nick Khrushchev as Curly and Al Einstein as Larry. Einstein was too bright to play Larry, challenging the credibility of the production and the Russians didn’t take to the use of a Foreigner in their film. Plus, there was an issue about the pay scale. As smart as he was, Al just couldn’t figure out the conversion of Rubles to Dollars, so the project was scrapped. His response was, “I am a Scientist not an Economist, so take your money and shove it!”

We continued on through the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, challenging the Soviet Union at every turn. The Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1978 – 1989 ruined their economy and eventually caused the downfall of Russia. It is generally accepted the Cold War ended on Christmas of 1991 when the USSR was officially dissolved. So, it wasn’t our doing, it was those dang Muslims.

“Let that be a lesson to you, Commies!”

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by Bake My Fish

July 16, 2008 at 9:16 pm

How Not To Sell Virtual Cookware

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The last time we got together I mentioned something about trying to sell Ecko Hope Chests on the streets of Washington, DC. Don’t try it, it doesn’t work. It didn’t work in 1973, and it won’t work in 2008.

My first job after being discharged from the service was selling pots and pans. Our “product” included glassware, china and silverware, but the meat of the sale was Ecko waterless cookware. The ensemble was touted as the answer to the dreams of all “single working girls,” and the job was to essentially accost young females on the streets of Washington during their hurried lunch break, and convince them to allow me to bring a free gift (plastic “rain bonnet”) to their premises some evening, to hear my pitch about what they might need for their future domestication. If you are following me, you know this won’t work.

My “supervisor” was a really cool fellow. He was charged with training me to get the necessary number of appointments to make a living. His name escapes me (since I knew him all of 15 business days, 35 years ago), but I do recall he was cool. I’ll give him the name Freeburg, not for any particular reason, but it’s silly, and that’s my purpose in life.

Freeburg had long blonde hair, a hip mustache (not necessarily a Fu Manchu, but long) and he wore sunglasses. He was a Hippie in a suit. Now, my interest was in providing for my family, but Freeburg was there to get lucky. And he did. Quite a few times (it was the era of free love). The ladies of the time liked the look, he was intelligent and spoke very well, and he was always stoned, so his mellowness apparently was a draw.

I wanted to learn my trade, and quite honestly I really sucked at it. Freeburg often disappeared into the nearby alley to toke on a small pipe. Once he was sufficiently high, he would direct me how to talk, but somehow it wasn’t particularly intelligible. My animated, freakish mumbling at the women who walked by seemed more like Quasimodo communicating with Esmeralda.

Picture this. It’s 1973, and everyone had long hair. I, on the other hand, had short, closely cropped bangs (think Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber); being out of the military for just over three weeks. Combine that sight with my pencil-thin mustache, which looked more like groomed nostril hairs and you have a pretty good idea of my handicap. Take your pick; the contemporary, handsome, long blonde-haired guy, stoned and mellow, with sunglasses and a cool mustache, or the jittery dork, with the sneaky-looking nose hairs, wearing a polyester suit and platform shoes, desperately seeking a dollar, who looks like he just fell off the lettuce truck. As you can guess, there weren’t many appointments in my future.

I did get one. She probably felt sorry for me. Either that, or she really needed a rain hat. That evening, I went to Debbie’s (I remembered her name) apartment in Wheaton and knocked on the door. During my last few months in Taiwan, I had several suits tailored (very cheaply) in the finest polyester double-knit fabric available. My duds were proudly displayed on my slim body. That particular day, I was wearing my rust-colored, maxi-patterned, plaid suit (similar to the picture). The shirt was beige; accented with a fine, matching non-silk tie. In my left hand dangled the handle of my sample case. One of her roommates came to the door and fingered my lapel and said, “Really nice,” in as sarcastic a way as he could. But, he invited me in. This was the opening scene in Death of a Salesman.

He immediately and proudly showed me the marijuana plant growing in the hall closet. “I suspect you don’t know the purpose of my visit,” I thought. So I nodded and said, “It looks very healthy (as if I knew).” But, I was thinking, “I need a sale.” Debbie walked out of the kitchen to greet me, and two other female roommates came out of the bedroom to say hello. The Botanist was the only male living with three women, all very cute. Then they asked if I wanted to party. Tempting as it was, I had to leave. There was no way a sale would be made among this group, and it didn’t really matter why my prospect agreed to allow me to come by (even though it was intriguing). I pulled the packaged rain hat out of my suit pocket and gave it to Debbie, but Botany Man grabbed it, peeled off the wrapper, and put it on his head. “Really nice,” I said in as sarcastic a way as I could, politely thanked everyone for their time, and left.

That was my first and last appointment. As ridiculous as it was, I had fun in a weird sort of way; however, that was not the job for me.

Still, I always wondered if the waterless cookware really worked.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Signing For Dollars

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During a drive from Baltimore to Florida in late April, I was assaulted by South of the Border billboards beginning about 175 miles before the camp. After entering South Carolina on 95, I passed the official, government-sponsored Rest Area and while crossing over the short bridge that followed, I thought, “If I just had a can of green paint and silver reflective tape, I could change the D to a P, and cause a few travelers to giggle.” In my mind, a short distance after, a sign would be erected that reads, “Welcome to South Carolina, Tiny.” The females would probably get a better laugh than the males.

The inundation of road signs, billboards and markers along every highway fascinates me. I want to be a Signage Mogul in my next life. There are signs selling food, reminding you to rest, warning to watch for the next sign that warns to watch for the next sign and giving distance in fractions of miles. In one section of Virgina, there are mileage markers every 1/10th of a mile. One tenth! That’s like the distance from my house to my neighbor’s. Or from the parking lot of Walmart to the store. Do they need to remind us every tenth of a mile we have driven 1/10th of a mile? Those who order the signs for whichever governmental office appropriates that sort of thing, must be getting good seats at some sporting event.

Of course, traffic signs are a necessity. Otherwise, how could we locate the nearest fast food establishment and get a full tank of golden liquid for our vehicles, so we can drive to our next quick cuisine joint four hours later? When I’m on a road trip, there better be some indication of the nearest restroom, because I drink a lot of liquids; so “thank you” Sign Procurement Officer. Without you, I wouldn’t know where to stop.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents drove a few times from Maryland to Indiana to see my Grandmother. I loved the trip because it gave me the chance to be on Burma Alert. Some of the best commercial poetry of the time was the series of signs made famous by Burma Shave and I couldn’t wait to read the next group. They were fun because I was a kid who didn’t shave and didn’t pay taxes. Burma Shave wasn’t using my dollars to test my roadway literacy. They were footing the bill.

Even though most traffic signs are necessary, there’s one that pisses me off every time I pass it. Now, I don’t mean to be a whiny, “I’m always over-taxed, government sucks” nuisance. My complaints about wasteful spending are kept to a minimum. Salaries of governcove-f-ortment workers have to be paid, trash has to be collected, schools need money, streets need mending and the homeless need to eat (unless we can find a use for the cadavers ;-)). I know all that, and acquiesce to the assumed worthiness. Road signage falls within the aura of government responsibility. Then every time I take Exit 16-A off Baltimore’s Beltway on to I-70 toward Frederick, there is this huge Green Monster informing me how far it is from that point to Cove Fort. 2200 miles. Who is driving to Cove Fort from Baltimore? Who’s even thinking of it? Maybe the idea comes to mind after you see the sign, but the message is a waste. I don’t think anyone is really driving that far, and the bus station doesn’t have a long line of people purchasing tickets to Cove Fort. Anyone flying there doesn’t care the distance from I-70 is 2,200 miles. And, where the hell is it, anyway?

Somebody got paid for that sign. I wish it were me.

Signing off,

Weird Geezer
Guest Contributor

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I’ve Always Thought it was Neanderthal, But Apparently it is Neandertal

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I was on Chicken Foot Road, in St. Paul’s, North Carolina this past Mother’s Day, sitting around the kitchen table with my Mom, younger sister and her daughter (she calls me Uncle Baggo). We were enjoying strawberry-covered angel food cake. The small TV in the corner was tuned to Clash of the Cavemen on the History Channel. In the beginning I was the only one watching, but after a short time my sister started commenting, then my niece, and finally my Mother.

It wasn’t so much the content of the show that caught their attention; it was the Narrator’s pronunciation of Neanderthal. The premise of the episode was how Mr. & Mrs. Neanderthal’s contact with Homo sapiens (Cro-Magnon Person) about 27,000 years ago, because of the necessary migration forced by Global Cooling (better known as the Ice Age), caused their eventual extinction.

When I was young, the only pronunciation for Neanderthal was Neanderthal. But apparently the hoity-toity, high-brow Anthropologists prefer to use the proper German Neandertal. So what if Neanderthal was discovered in Neander Valley? I want to say it the way I know. Although I heard the “correct” pronunciation a few months before my family on a different “educational” show, at the time I didn’t pay it much mind. Now it kind of ticks me off. How dare them change it? Bastages. All of them!

Then the Narrator started pronouncing Cro-Magnon as Cro-Magnyon, in some sort of French, Sissy way. Where will it end? I always knew Cro-Magnon as Cro-Magnon. Now, I have to picture Peppy Le Pew walking around saying, “Theese eeze Cro-Magnyon Pairson” as he points to the picture on the left.

Homo sapiens were much less mentally-challenged than Neanderthal (tal). Anytime a more advanced brain subjects an inferior brain to The Ways of the World, the superior mind wins.

I think I’ll have another donut. Pass the pizza.

With Love,

Bag O’ Donuts
Guest Contributor

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Written by Bake My Fish

May 14, 2008 at 11:50 pm

One Flu Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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My wife and I were sitting on the couch the other evening watching TV. When I got up to get a soda, she noticed what appeared to be a blister on my butt. Immediately I screamed, “Oh no!! It’s Smallpox! It’s Bubonic Plague! I’m gonna die!!!” It turned out to be just a contact lens we thought was lost forever.

My panic attack was probably caused by just having watched Episode 6 of Season I of Deadwood, which was dedicated to the Smallpox epidemic that swept through the town during its infancy, not to mention a general fear of dying from one of the Pandemics we seem to hear so much about these days.

My intention is not to ridicule the seriousness of various ailments in our history. The Black Death killed more than 25,000,000 human beings throughout Europe from 1347 – 1352; an average of 5,000,000 a year, which was 1/3 of the population. One of every three people someone knew at the time keeled over. That’s kind of scary, and kept the Cadaver Patrol quite busy. It is estimated that worldwide up to 50,000,000 people expired from the Spanish Flu of 1918. Probably more people died from that outbreak than smoking. The Asian Flu of 1957-58 caused the death of more than 70,000 in the US. Asian Flu is still around, but hasn’t circulated in humans since 1968. That means if it reels it’s ugly head again, no one under 40 is immune. Pandemics are devastating. Many people die, and many more become seriously ill.

What should we do? Wash our hands more often? Kill our neighbors if they seem ill (or are mowing on our side)? Wear a surgical mask 24 hours a day? What? My suggestion is just “Go with the flow.”

I’m not picking up any dead birds on the street. And, I’m not planning to pal around with any sick chickens (we still don’t know why they cross the road). Avian Flu is real and the most troubling strains start within fowl. My precautions are warranted, because our feathered friends are here on earth to kill us all. Influenza A viruses use wild birds as their host. Unless the virus undergoes Antigenic Shift it is harmless to humans. When it mutates we are at risk.

How many of you get a flu shot every year? And how many of you who felt immune got sick, anyway? I’d venture to guess more than should, considering we tend to believe the inoculation is the shield. Is it really? The immunization contains three strains of flu to protect you. Influenza genes are composed of RNA, rather than DNA, and are more prone to mutation than DNA. When Antigenic Drift occurs after the vaccination, it is ineffective.

Personally, I don’t trust science over viruses. Germs, squiggly things and potentially deadly microorganisms have been around longer than humans, and their ability to adapt to hostile threats is far more superior than our own. Birds evolved from dinosaurs; they were here first. We can’t win.

I just hope Home Depot carries plastic bubbles big enough to cover my house.

With Love,

Bake My Fish