Saturday, April 8, 2006

Life's rich pageant

One of the ancillary effects of my trips to the world's greatest city is the opportunity to not only feel good about my own life, but to remember how fortunate I am to be where I am and not someplace else. A simple visit to a fast food restaurant can provide much more than calories, cholesterol and saturated fat.
If I sit there long enough, one of the less fortunate creatures among us will wander in, and seeing me alone with a bag of food, approach me for a handout. If you are the heartless type, you would be likely to tell them to get lost or get a job, but the part of me that believes "there but for the grace of God" always reaches into my pocket.
When I see them walking out with their own bag of food I know that for at least a little while, there is a person who isn't hungry. Their hunger returns though, and their fate is not always in my hands, so it is likely that their needs are not always being met.
What I think about as they are walking out is that the world is a diverse mix of people. Our needs are many but greatly different. A few blocks away there is a kid who wants a new iPod, and next to me is a grown man in need of a hot meal. How strange and sad that we have been made so differently, and that the world has been created so differently for some.
On my way home I passed a subdivision of new homes that cost $400,000. There will be no problem selling them. I also passed a man sleeping on a steam grate, wrapped in a blanket that is older than me. As far as he is concerned, those homes may as well be built on Mars.
Perspective is a fascinating thing, and if we lose it we lose something within ourselves.
I need to make more trips into the city.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Junk on Television

There is a lot of junk on television.

I'm not talking about the programs, although there are enough of them to qualify. The junk is the stuff going on around the programs - icons, crawls, shrunken screens - all sorts of things designed to distract us from the program and make us pay attention to what else is on, rather than what is on now.

Several years ago, I purchased a 32-inch television to replace the 21-inch one that I had. Partly out of rebellion to a failed marriage, and partly because I wanted a bigger TV. (OK, mostly because I wanted a bigger TV) I could do what I wanted, and I wanted a big TV. Sure, it's not big by today's standards, but it was big then.

Little did I know that the 32-inch screen would soon become 21 inches, with the advent of modern technology that does little but make me yearn for the good old days - not the married part - just the TV part.

I'm trying to watch the news on CNN Headline News (the middle 'N' stands for News) but what I get is a screen full of so much junk that I can't concentrate on the news. Maybe that's the plan, I don't know, but whatever it is I don't like it.

There's a story about a movie, I guess, but I'm confused by another story about McDonald's, the weather in Dallas and a baseball score. I don't live in Dallas, so I don't care what the weather is, and I suspect that if I lived there, I'd already know what the weather was.

It's not like CNN is the only offender. Turn to any channel and there are spinning icons, crawls across the bottom of the screen and stuff that slides from one side to another telling me what is on after the show is over. It's distracting to the point that watching TV is a chore, and it shouldn't be a chore. It's bad enough sometimes, without making it a challenge to pay attention.

I wonder if the evolutionary process will bring about people with eyes that move independently, and are slightly more vertical than they are now, so that we can follow everything that's going on.

Or, maybe we'll end up like this guy?

The Perfect Food

Imagine two of the four basic food groups in one fantastic product. Beer and ice cream - well, not real beer, but the next best thing - beer flavored Black & Tan ice cream.

The mad scientists in Waterbury, Vermont have done it again! They have combined two of the greatest treats into one compact container. So, grab a pint of ice cream and a pint of Yuengling and get fat and happy at the same time.

While it sounds too good to be true, it is available at fine food stores nationwide.

Go Here:

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

High School, Schmi School

While I was watching the LPGA tournament last Sunday (yes, I know - geek) one of the announcers mentioned that Michelle Wie was still only 16, and a junior in high school, although it seems as though she has been around the game forever. Meanwhile, she was carrying around schoolwork and struggling with some novel or another.
My first thought was, if I was "Mr. Wie," I'd be writing an excuse note to whatever school (or tutor) she was attending that said something like:

Dear School,
Michelle cannot attend today. She is busy working on her golf game, which will earn her much more than any silly high school diploma. Any worldly knowledge she wishes to absorb will be done while touring the world playing golf. Did I mention that she is a professional golfer?
So, while you may miss her and her witty remarks, I assure you that the world is better off having her persue her professional golfing career than it is having her persue her high school diploma. Here's a wake-up call for you - she made $108,000 last week - and she didn't even win.
See you in the Sports section.
Mr. Wie

While it may sound crass or heartless - hey, it's My Sick Mind, right - if my career path was mapped out so clearly at the age of 16 as is hers, I wouldn't have wasted five seconds in high school - tutor or no tutor, and I sure as Hell wouldn't struggle with a novel that I didn't care to read to begin with.

Remember the words of Lone Starr, who told Barf: "We're not just doing this for money... We're doing it for a shitload of money!"

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Quiet, please!

Solitude is getting harder to come by. Our lives are so complicated that we have less time for quiet contemplation than we used to have. The major culprit in our noise-invaded lives is the cellular phone.
No doubt it is one of the greatest innovations in the last 20 years, but can't we live without it for five minutes? I see more people doing mindless babbling than anything, and I wonder how empty our lives were before we had such a thing? We seem to be so attached to these devices that they are invading activities that used to be done in peaceful silence.

I see cell phones at the gym, the library, movies, concerts and of course, the automobile. Do we really need to be constantly talking to someone? The thing I hear from most people is a kind of babbling nonsense. One end of the conversation would go like this: "really ... yeah ... uh-huh ... sure ... OK ... OK ... well ... see ya." Boy, it doesn't get much more stimulating that that, does it? Mostly it seems like people are using the phone for the sake of using it.

Don't you just want to be alone with your thoughts for five minutes, or is that too frightening a concept to imagine?

Whatever did we do before these things existed? Does anyone remember long lines at pay phones full of people just dying to talk to someone? I don't, and I suspect that if we didn't have cell phones the world would not necessarily be worse than it is now.

Trash or treasure?

Now that I've unburdened myself with a rant against storage bins, let's take on trash. What doesn't go in the storage bin goes in the trash can. We live in a disposable society, and it is likely that we throw away more than we actually use.
Bath soap, for instance. It comes in a package - a box sometimes, or a plastic wrapper. The container gets thrown away and eventually the soap goes down the drain. It's an extreme example, but it is odd to me that we have to wrap soap in a container. It's soap, what are we afraid of ... that it's going to get dirty?

Tons of disposable packaging, most of which has little or no use other than providing business for the Waste Management Corporation. It seems to have gotten worse, since the mysterious Tylenol cyanide poisionings in 1982. Since then, products have an inordinate amount of packaging. Pill bottles come sealed in a box, and the bottle has a plastic ring with a paper seal inside and a child-proof cap that only children are strong enough to open.
We throw away huge amounts of junk every day. Trips to the trash can for everything from disposable diapers to batteries and the packaging for everything that we bring home.

I think that's why I appreciate homeless people. They don't throw anything away, and whatever they use, they carry around in a little cart. Strange, but efficient in their own way. No storage bin, no trash dumpsters - just their own stuff carted around with them.