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                Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress;

but I repeat myself.    

Mark Twain    


   

 

  These days, everyone wants to open their mouth about anything and everything. 

Nothing new about that. Criticism and commentary date back to the first cave

drawing and the first caveman skeptic who said, "you call that art!"

   Following in that grand Neanderthal tradition, here are my opinions. The most

recent essay appears on this page with space for you to comment below. Earlier

pieces can be found on the previously and less previously pages.   

 


            

           Is It Just Me?... A Rowzze by Any Other Name

 Google is not a real word.

 At one time, 1919 to be exact, it was the surname of a comic strip

character, Barney Google, and in 1923 inspired the lyric for the song

"Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes".  They don't write 'em like

that anymore and that works for me.  

 

 What Google is, is the name of an enormous, global enterprise. And, by

virtue of the world using it as search engine to find everything from recipes

for chicken paprikash to the spark plug timing mark on a 1976 Plymouth

Duster to penguin jokes to foot fetish videos it is now a verb as in, "I'm not

sure how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck

wood. Better google it." 

 

 Amazon is an actual  word and the name of arguably the most successful

business on Earth. It's also the name of  a  South America jungle, a 4,000

mile long river and an adjective used to describe a mythological race of

very  powerful warrior women. Although, more and more it's clear they

were anything but a fable and their ancestors are very much alive in our

society today and go by the name of 'women'.

 

 What the word Amazon means in the context of retailing merchandise is

anybody's guess but that's just it. It no longer matters. Company names

no longer have to make any sense.

 

 Casper is a mattress, Hubble is a contact lense and the dyslexic Zyppah,

Happy Z backwards,  a snore suppressor.  Reddit means nothing and yet

there it is. I'd get it if Bing was a tribute website to Bing Crosby or cherries

in general but it's not. Like so many of today's company names they are

just letterhead gibberish. In the words of Shakespeare, full of sound and

fury, signifying nothing.

 

 Welcome to the age of corporate nonsense names.  Bizarre linguistic

creations that insure no one takes themselves too seriously nor is too

transparent about what it is they do. Yandex. GoDaddy. Etsy. Zinga.

Twitter. Oculus Rift. Uber. None of them mean a thing... until they do.

 

 When companies with peculiar appellations do become successful, it's

often because they created a new brand by complete disassociation with

traditional product identity. Shoe manufacturers long used dignified names

-  Johnson & Murphy, Florsheim - evoking images of weathered artisans

handcrafting leather uppers at wooden benches so old and awl-scarred that

executives of Restoration Hardware would genuflect in their presence.

Apparently all you need now  is a Neanderthal name like UGGs.  Or, one

like Zappos, which I'm pretty sure is the sound of a Martian sneeze. 

 

 Unbeknownst to everyone under the age of thirty, Starbucks and Yahoo

derived their names from  literary roots.  Starbuck being  a sailor out of

Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" who, by the way, never drank so much as

one cup of coffee in the entire book. And, 'Yahoos' are a race of uncouth

creatures found in Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels". A totally

meaningless choice that only begins to take on a glimmer of sense when

you know Yahoo's parent company is inanely called, Oath.

 

 Back in the day - circa just yesterday - companies proudly chose names

that said who they were and what they did. If you bought something from

Sears and Roebuck there was no question who you were dealing with.

Saks 5th Avenue not only told you who owned the place but where to find

it. 

 

 You knew just what to expect from a company with  'econo' in their name.

They're cheap.  "You want a bargain, I'm your guy!" Much like using the

word 'masters'  after anything ... Plumbing Masters ... Kitchen Master's ...

Body Shop  Masters ... implied a level of pride in workmanship.  Or, if you

saw an "R Us" as in Toys R Us,  Lamps R Us, Babies R Us , there was no

question that was a company dedicated to one area of retail specialization.

Great. So, then companies like Bored Bug and Qwalp would be ...?     

 

 Back in January of 1892, Coca-Cola probably sounded as anomalous as

Spotify but at least the moniker spoke to it's elemental parts. It was a cola

and it was indeed laced with cocaine.  More to the point was International

Business Machines. Now there was a pretty self explanatory name. But a

rival with the concocted name of Xerox came along and scooped them in

the verb department. Which is why we 'xerox' things rather than IBM-ing

them.

  

 What about  a revered brand like the Stetson Hat Company? Like Cher or

Sting, it only needed one name, Stetson, to be famous for decades. Wear

one of those and you had the king of hats on your head.  What name

change would make that company competitive today? How about Brim

Boy?  Felt Craniology?  Heady Wobble?

 

 I like companies that go for the big picture.  Something inspiring like

Inter-Galactic Global. Now there's a take no prisoners name! Doesn't say

what it does but you know whatever it is, it's on a damn big scale! How is

that not a hundred times better than mousey DBA's like Alphabet and

Adobe?

 

 Personally, I think I'd be great at coming up with company names.

Snorgelhatch ...  BritzzleFritz ... FrogSquawk  ... And the great thing is

they can be any service or product you'd like because they're sounds not

ideas! 

  

 I learned that lesson Narita airport when I came upon twenty, Japanese

members of a ski club elaborately garbed in shocking pink outfits with the

name Tumble Bunny Ski Club emblazoned in English on the back of their

parkas. I asked what Tumble Bunny meant and, to my great surprise, they

said it meant absolutely nothing. They simply loved the sound of the words

'tumble' and 'bunny'. However, the name initially created some controversy

and ultimately had to be put to a vote.  I seems some members thought

Bunny Tumble sounded even better! 

  

Ian Seeberg

10/2017

       

                                 *****************

              Is It Just Me?...  Consecutive Translation 

 Yiddish theatre was the likely birthplace of Morris the Explainer, an actor

who came on stage to describe the storyline and lend insight into the

innermost thoughts of a play's characters. The idea of filling in the blanks

for an audience is a long used theatrical device. But until this year, I don't

recall it ever being part of a Presidential election.    

 Throughout the campaign, whenever Donald Trump spoke, a phalanx of

spokespersons and Republican strategists had the unenviable job of taking

to the airways to interpret their candidate's more disconcerting rhetoric.

For nearly two years, we listened to their efforts to walk back quasi-racist

remarks, Machiavellian innuendo and loopy conspiracy theories. One stand

out instance was the time he did a complete one-eighty on an issue,

creating a memorable moment of televised squirming when an advocate

pathetically offered that Mister Trump hadn't really changed positions, he

felt the same way but was simply 'using different words'.  

 It often became so ludicrous I half expected his team to swear "Mexicans

are rapists" was just Donald referring to our Southern brothers being

shrewd businessmen looking to 'screw us over' with inflated taco truck

prices.    

 My other issue with what Donald Trump said was, how he said it.

Granted, not every politician is a gifted orator but a supposedly well

educated, world traveled man should have a level of diction far

exceeding the fragmented elocution of a child. Linguistic experts credit

him with a vocabulary approximating that of a fifth grader which could

explain his near exclusive use of one syllable words, the inability to frame a

compound sentence and, his penchant for repeating the same sentence or

phrase back to back; a habit formed when one looks to emphasize a point

but has no synonyms to draw upon. He once bragged of having 'a lot of

great words'. Well, Almost Leader of the Free World, dust them off and get

them into the game.  Supposed 'straight talk' and 'telling it like it is' works

even better if there's more than 'I, 'me', 'huge', 'amazing' and 'disaster' in

the mix.   

 Number 45's command of the English language is anything but, so it's safe

to say he played little or no part in crafting the prepared teleprompter

speeches he parroted. I question whether he even bothered to read them

as his frequent asides commenting on the text --  "so important"..."so true,

folks" - sounded to my ear as if he too was hearing the speech for the first

time. Mispronunciations such as  "clande-stine" for clan-des-tine  and

"a-cu-men" for ac-umen were further giveaways he'd not practiced in

advance.

 None of this was surprising. We knew DJ Trump - his rave moniker -

much  preferred speaking off the cuff. What was surprising however, for all

his linguistic misdirection, half thought out utterances and circuitous

musings, we had no trouble whatsoever understanding every syllable when

our President To Be described walking uninvited into dressing rooms to

view young women naked. No translation needed there! Forcing himself on

women and grabbing their genitals as though they were just so much meat

on the hoof?  Clear as a bell!  Portraying his attempt to coax a married

woman into having sex with him while his new wife was home pregnant?

Got it! Nothing ambiguous about that. No vagaries surrounding deeds

documented by one's own admission.  

 Of course, our Commander in Waiting was not about to take the truth

lying down and revealed he had a few good old, political speaking tricks up

his sleeve.

 

 First, he  'pivoted' - the art of ignoring a question by hopping aboard a

verbal jet plane and flying around in circles until no one can remember the

question. When asked to comment on his admission of grabbing women's

nether regions and laying non-consensual lip locks on them, Trump replied

it was 'locker room talk, Isis was cutting off people's heads, drowning them

in cages and we need to talk about national security' so move on. Good

one! Kareem Abdul Jabbar would have killed for footwork like that!  And

really, outside of politics, in what other occupation could blatant

obfuscation ever be considered a useful skill? You certainly wouldn't want 

your doctor displaying that ability when asking about the outcome of your

test results.  

 Next, Pres To Be Trump defended his egregious behavior with a little

wordsmithing game I like to call, 'guilty by degree'. Wherein he argued,  "I

'said' nasty things but Bill Clinton 'did' nasty things." This bit of non-

sequitar reasoning is akin to saying, 'yes, the cigar I was smoking did burn

a hole in the new leather couch but, that Mrs. O'Leary and her cow torched

the whole damned city of Chicago!'  The logic is lost on me unless it's,

imagine how much worse this could have been had I been smoking a cow.

 In any case, the ugliest part of the Trumpian word salad that dominated

the election cycle is this: In these times, tossing around confusing claims,

unsubstantiated accusations and outright lies is extremely dangerous. And,

a 'win at any cost' mentality comes at an enormous cost.

 He Who Must Soon Be Obeyed doesn't know a lot of words but the ones he

does know landed like body blows to the very gut of this country. Harsh

language and murky insinuations that seriously undermined the most

bedrock institutions of our country. Weakened their authority. Eroded

public confidence in their ability to keep us safe. Tarnished the proud

democratic values they represent. Demeaned their once unassailable image

of fairness and justice. Denigrated their influence over the laws and sense

of order that maintain our country's civil obedience.  

 It was a sucker punch and we took it. Now, we get back up. And, for

however long Donald Trump is the President of the United States, we'll be

laser focused on every syllable that comes out of the man's mouth. Use our

Second Amendment right to rail against hate, lies and intolerance if that's

what we hear. Just as strongly, speak up in praise of progress, positive

accomplishment and good fellowship if that's what we perceive. Either way,

we'll be listening intently, vigilant to what is actually being said and raising

our voices, speaking out anytime and all the time.

 I'm well aware my sphere of influence extends about as far as my

neighbor's fence. And that's fine. If my thoughts and opinions fell only on

my own ears, I'd still continue to give voice to them. That's what feels right

to me, that's what I can do to show my concern and my love for this

country. Agree or disagree, one thing is certain, Morris the Explainer will

never have to come out and interpret the meaning of my words.    

 

     Ian Seeberg  11/2016

                                ******************

           Is It Just Me?...  Pharmaceuticals 

   Pharmaceuticals

Absent the oversight of a watchdog agency, unfettered by empirical

studies or testing, the pills and poultices crowding drugstore shelves of

yesteryear unabashedly claimed cures for anything and everything. 

Carter's Little Liver pills "cures sick headaches, constipation, dyspepsia

and biliousness." F. Newberry and Sons' effervescent Brain Salt did the

same for "brain troubles and sea sickness". Neither of those nostrums

approaching  the panache of Lydia E. Pinkham's  Vegetable Compound

which not only "entirely cures bloating and nervous prostration" it

miraculously "dissolves and expels tumors from the uterus." Now there

was an over the counter drug!   

 

  As for the active ingredients in these whimsical concoctions, many were

liberally laced with cocaine or hashish. "Contains coca"  on the label was

code for 'nose candy inside.' So, feeling happier and more energized was

probably not a false boast.  

 

 Additional quackery of the era came from our mothers who practiced their

own brand of medicine, happily administering remedies based on

superstitious wives' tales and homeopathic prescriptions handed down from

old Aunt Agatha.  I personally endured  years of the daily dose of cod liver

oil my mother shoved down my throat to prevent bowed legs. The mixture

was 7% alcohol. My legs are perfectly straight but I do drink heavily. 

 

 That wasn't all that long ago so it's remarkable how far medicine has

progressed in recent decades. Today's breakthrough drugs actually cure a

number of devastating conditions whose diagnoses regularly came with a

doctor's warning not to buy green bananas.  Of course, this form of better

living through chemistry comes at a cost. Not only the monetary aspects of

today's medicines -  astronomical as they often are - but the price we may

pay in the pain and discomfort of accompanying side effects as daunting as

what ailed us in the first place. We agree steroids are true wonder drugs

but, taken for a prolonged period of time, you can tether your face and

float it down the street in a Macy's Day Parade. Newer, 'flavor of the

month' drugs like Humira offer welcome relief for Crones sufferers but can

compromise the immune system, opening the door to tuberculoses whose

treatment then poses the potential for liver damage and so on. A health

issue house of cards.

 

 Drug companies minimize the more horrific aspects of side effects by

having radio and television announcers rattle them off at pace designed to

break the sound barrier... "Common side effects of Crapola may include

vomiting, diarrhea, nose bleeds, the urge to kick the dog, slap your boss

and kiss the neighbor's wife on the lips. If taking Crapola  causes you to

have suicidal thoughts; not waiting 30 minutes after eating to go

swimming, licking a public doorknob, working  for the Postal Service or,

dating a Kardashian, discontinue usage immediately and call your doctor."

  

 The idea of TV commercials advertising prescription drugs for serious or

life threatening conditions is relatively new. Where once only physicians

were aware of these medications, we, the public, now receive 30 second

tutorials on their efficacies and then are directed to act as our own drug

salesmen... "Ask your doctor if maximum strength Curealladem is right for

you. In rare instances Currealladem can lead to palpitations of the

sphincter  and swelling of the eyelashes followed by spontaneous

combustion. Clinical studies have proven Curealladem will not cause

your nose to run or your feet to smell. If you experience those symptoms,

you're built upside down and should seek theatrical representation

immediately."

 

 Is it worth it? Alleviating a chronic complaint if the medication produces

so much flatulence you sleep several feet above the bed? Or, causes you

to walk around with breath that curls wallpaper?  Or, comes with a warning

about putting your face anywhere near an open flame? 

 

 The better question is; Why are drugs allowed into the marketplace with

so many detrimental caveats?  Why tolerate a product that does one good

thing and four or five terrible ones?  You wouldn't buy a car that only

turned to the right.

 

 The answer is rather symbiotic.  Anxious to recoup research and

development expenditures, drug companies look to quickly turn new

treatments into profitable revenue streams. Just as impatient, we human

sufferers don't want to wait for perfection when some form of salvation

exists, albeit, even one with multiple draw backs.

 

 Well, when I run a drug company, things will be decidedly different.

 

 First, no corny TV spots with slo-mo games of Frisbee. No cartoony d

igestive tract  animations. No giggly, handholding couples riding merry-go-

rounds, ecstatic to not be wetting their pants. Drug ads will be cool  music

videos set to new versions of classic songs. Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to

Love Your Liver".  Joni Mitchell's classic, "Chelsea Morning" reborn as

"Woke up it was an Advil morning". And, who could resist stocking the

medicine cabinet with mucus munching Musinex once they hear Neil

Sedaka's oldie goldie,  "Breaking Up is Hard to Do". 

 

 Drugs also need friendlier more appealing names. No one would swallow a

Zithromycin tablet over the chocolaty, antibiotic treat Twinki-feron. Or,

take a synthetic hormone called  Levothyroxine when they could pop a

Toasted Oat-throid. How much better to cure nasty infections with a 4 day

course of delicious, fruit flavored, Papayamycin. And, bye bye Dulcolax and

your boring laxatives. Say 'buongiorno'  to the exciting European flair of

the all new 'Italian suppository', Innuendo.

 

 "Daily stress got you down? Ask your doctor if apathy producing

Screwitall  is right for you. Screwitall is not for everyone. Do not take

Screwitall if you walk upright or are carbon based. If your eyeballs loosen

and your hair aches, forget doctors, contact the Neptune Society."

 

 Future technologies will eliminate many side effects by customizing

medicines to match an individual's unique genome. Super charging the

immune system, turning leucocytes into cellular ninjas assassins.   

 

 Such breakthroughs may help Democrats grow a sturdier spine and

Republicans a functioning heart. Even provide Donald Trump with a much

needed personality altering drug with the warning "If you have an idea

lasting more than 4 hours, call the GOP immediately." 

 

 Until then, take your meds, go to bed and hope nothing falls off during the

night.


    Ian Seeberg   8/2016

 

                * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

           

        Is it Just Me...?    It's Official

 For whatever inexplicable reasons, cities and states can't seem to get

enough 'official' symbols; mottos, songs, flowers, crustaceans, insects,

rocks, vegetables. Never mind their utter irrelevance, you name it and

they'll pick an official one. The Official State Bird of New York State is the 

Eastern Bluebird and I'm pretty sure the official bird of my hometown,

Buffalo, NY, is the Spicy Chicken Wing. I don't recall an actual vote on that

but it would make sense. Surprising, because sense is something most

'official' designations don't make. 

 Not long ago, a ballot initiative asked the question, 'should English be the

official language of California'? That makes no sense. Could the official

language of any state of the union be something other than English? Are

there people speaking Wyomian or Missourian and we don't know about it?

Should 2 be the official number of sleeves in a shirt?  

 

 Some states take this superfluous undertaking more seriously or, perhaps

have more time on their hands. Alongside Tennessee's Official State

Amphibian, the salamander, state fish, the channel catfish, state beverage,

milk, are not one but 13 official state songs. Such memorable tunes as

"When it's Iris Time in Tennessee"... "Oh, Tennessee, My Tennessee" and

 "Fly, Eagle, Fly", which sounds like it was stolen directly from the Steve

Miller songbook.      

 The climate of Minnesota is not at all conducive to growing blueberries but

that didn't prove a deterrent for the state to select blueberry as it's Official

State Muffin. Yes, I said Official State Muffin. And, if you think that's

exciting, you obviously don't know your official state minerals!  Alaska

claims gold, Nevada silver but Colorado, unable to compete with that kind

of big league bling, cleverly opted for the most letters in a mineral and

chose rhodochrosite. Col-o-ra-do!...Col-o-ra-do! ...  I can feel the pride!

 Montana has the Duck-billed Dinosaur as its Official State Fossil. Arizona's

is John McCain. Oregon has an Official State Soil, dance and  microbe. Not

to be outdone by a hippie state whose un-official shoe is the Birkenstock,

North Dakota has an Official State Grass but slyly doesn't specify if it's for

walking on or smoking.

  In recent years the 'official' phenomenon stopped being the exclusive

baliwick of civic minded activists and found it's way into paid sponsorships

masquerading as bestowed titles of honor. "KIA, the official automotive

partner of the NBA."  It caused Los Angeles Clipper, Blake Griffith to

leap over a KIA during an All Star basketball game. That he could vault

one in a single bound tells you the cars are very small and any association

with gigantic athletes is very senseless. They give them out to players in

pairs so they can wear them as shoes. 

  There are official guitar strings and drum heads for celebrity musicians.

Official motor oils and tires for Indy 500 racers.  I once witnessed a

remarkable eating exhibition put on by that world class bon vivant, Orson

Wells. He sat on a massive, throne-sized chair in Wolfgang Puck's

restaurant, Ma Maison, grunting his way through the dozen or so dishes

spread before him. I remember thinking had he reached into this pocket

and pulled out an autographed, signature model knife, spoon and fork set it

wouldn't have surprised me in the least. "Khazer Silversmiths. Official

flatware manufacturer of master eater, Orson Welles."  ...  "Phizer. Official

pharmaceutical supplier to Keith Richards." ... "Secret Agent Orange. The

official bronzer of Donald Trump."    

 

 But leave it to the great State of Utah to ratchet up the meaningless but

good natured fun of 'official this and that' by naming the Browning M1911

automatic pistol its Official State Gun. Six other states got on board with

their official weapons of choice but the big winner with 13 theme

songs, Tennessee. Gosh, that darn state just can't get enough symbols!

 

 Their official state choice? A 30 pound, .50 caliber, semiautomatic, sniper

rifle that, at 57 inches in length, is 8 inches taller than Broadway diva,

Kristin Chenoweth. 

 The Barrett M82 can accurately reduce that Tennessee "Fly, Eagle, Fly" to

a handful of feathers at up to 4 miles, knock an airplane out of the sky and,

punch a hole through a steel wall from 50 football fields away.  As official

state symbols go, it's something of a surprise addition to the Eastern Box

Turtle and Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.   

 But all that symbolism is only state by state. Local kid stuff. The big story

is taking place on the Federal level with a national symbol as bold and soul

stirring as our beloved Uncle Sam, as majestic as the Bald Eagle, as

exalted as Mount Rushmore. That's right! The one, the only, the AR -15

assault rifle!

 Tada!

 If popularity is any yardstick, and clearly it is, this sleek, long barreled

beauty is truly the 'Official Rifle of the United States of America.' The

weapon of choice for mass murder from sea to shining sea. The one killing

machine discerning terrorists and lunatics everywhere can agree on.

 And why not? It's legal. Readily available - 3 million or more. So easy a

child can use it. Even easier, it can be used on a child. The good news is,

the AR-15 and similarly styled assault rifles are produced by a great many

companies so with prices ranging from $250 to $2000 there's a model to

fit any budget. Perfect for those who want to slaughter people but keep an

eye on the bottom line.

 And people say American manufacturing is dead!

 No. It isn't. We are. Our mindless reluctance to monitor or inhibit the

accessibility of these monstrous weapons is turning death into a growth

industry. I can't help but wonder if, Heaven forbid, an NRA event were to

become the target of an attack, what would that post mortem rhetoric

sound like? 

 The AR 15 represents lethal efficiency and  engineering sophistication at

it's very best. Or, if you have your wits about you, it's very worst. Designed

to spit out death at a rate of speed and precision that defies

comprehension.  To facilitate massacres which escalate the scale of

mortality to unimaginable proportions. Its horrifying record of technical

success is written in hundreds of spent bullet casings and rivers of blood

covering classroom floors  ... the acrid smell of cordite wafting over a

nightmarish tableau of movie theater seats draped with bodies ...

shattered corpses strewn akimbo across a concert hall ...  nightclub walls

spattered with the shards of human tissue.  

 No more talk, no more foolishness. It's officially time we call a halt to

wholesale killing and get out of the death business. If not, it won't be long

before we begin dedicating an Official State Cemetery.

 

Ian Seeberg 6/2016

         

                        *****************************

             Is it Just Me...?    "Blonde ... James Blonde."

 

 In my youth, cowboy movies were filled with Jewish and Italian actors

portraying American indians. I assume this was due to a shortage of actual

Apaches with headshots and resumes hanging around Central Casting.

Whatever, it was terrible not seeing true native Americans in the feathered

headdresses instead of guys in dark makeup and buckskins named Nuncio

and Irv. It's good that highly questionable practice of interchanging

ethnicities is not as commonplace in today's motion pictures. Imagine how

less magnificant Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" would have been

with Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken and James Gandolphini passing the

peace pipe as Lakota Sioux

 The only justification for those objectionable cultural switches was, years

ago the world was a considerably larger place and importing actors from

far flung countries wasn't always logistically or financially feasible for

filmmakers. Were that the case today, we'd likely not have seen Somali-

born actor, Barkhad Abdi, terrifyingly take over Tom Hank's ship in

"Captain Phillips" but rather, 'Peter Pan' pirate, Ashton Kutcher, pushing

fabulously floppy hair out of his eyes while giggling "I'm captain now!"

 

The budgetary limitations of the early film industry do somewhat excuse

indignities such as Mexican-born, Anthony Quinn popping up in over fifty

movies as Hawaiian tribal leaders, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese

guerrillas, a Greek named Zorba, Chief Crazy Horse and a Bedouin with an

enormous, prosthetic hooked-nose in "Lawrence of Arabia".  But then,

when it came time to cast a leading man to play the infamous Mexican

bandit in "Viva Zapata", that role was performed by the 20th Century Fox

makeup department, a sombrero and a guy from Omaha, Nebraska, Marlon

Brando.    

 

 That can probably be chalked up to the even less excusable film practice of

'stunt casting'; shoe-horning in well known actors specifically to generate

more media attention or increase financing. That particular concept led to

such disturbing visions as "Touch of Evil" featuring a bandito mustached,

Charlton Heston looking like an over-baked chocolate chip cookie as

Hispanic, Mike Vargas.  Occidentals, Sidney Toler and Warner Oland with

eyes pulled up to portray the fortune cookie spouting, Chinese detective,

Charley Chan. And taking that repugnant idea to Herculean heights, Mickey

Rooney with massive buck teeth and glasses as thick as Mason jars in a

spectacularly offensive turn as the Japanese neighbor, Yunioshi, in

"Breakfast at Tiffany's."

 Currently, there's a bit of a furor over Tilda Swinton in the male role of a

Tibetan mystic and, even greater outrage over a project hoping to cast

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downy Jr. as seminal figures out of Muslim

history. The equivalent of Russell Brand and Gerard Depardieu playing

Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.

 

 I bring this up because the likely departure of Daniel Craig as James Bond

is creating a great deal of speculation as to which actor will become the

next incarnation of 007. What caught my attention about some of the

suggestions was, rather than reflecting typical concerns associated with

success at the box office, these acting choices seemed based on a

mysterious need to cast the Bond role as a way of correcting a long

standing social injustice.

 

 There's something of  a groundswell of support for the exceptional English

actor, Indris Alba, to step in as the next James Bond.  Why not. He's a

great actor. What bothers me is, several times I heard his name put forth

 followed by "it's about time we had a black James Bond."  

 

 There's also a faction electioneering for the role to go to the former star of

the "X-Files". No, not David Duchovney, Gillian Anderson. As I understand

it, the sultry, red haired actress would be a perfect fit to order gin martinis

'stirred not shaken' and perform death defying stunts behind the wheel of

an Aston Martin because "it's about time we had a female James Bond." 

 

 No and no.        

 

 It was about time we elected a black president. It was about time we

nominated a woman for that office. Real issues worthy of fighting for in the

real world. It's not about time to  become so blinded by political

correctness, so caught up in the pursuit of racial and social equality that

something as unimportant as the role of a fictitious character in an

inconsequential spy movie needs to become a rallying cry .

 

 Bond films are mindless entertainment. Fantasy. Escapism. Let them be

what they are; fun action pictures not affirmative action pictures. Ian

Fleming's iconic creation should be cool, sexy, resourceful and occasionally

deadly. Not a cause célèbre. Not a reflection of minority or sexist issues.

Whomever the producers of the films hire to be James Bond is fine with

me; man, woman, black, white, Latin, Asian, extraterrestrial, schnauzer.

But I'd hate to think they'd change the character's ethnicity or gender as if

doing so was righting a cultural wrong.

 

 That kind of thinking isn't progressive, it's pointless. As lacking in

credibility as bringing back "Shaft" starring Seth Rogan as the suave, black

detective.

 

 But, hey, if we are going to think outside the box for Bond, why Gillian

Anderson and not, say, Chelsea Handler? She'd be better at delivering

those snappy Bondian one line rejoinders and more believable climbing on

top of a Bond girl .... Wait, what!? ... No, more Bond girls!....Bond boys!!!

Already this isn't working for me. But, if we're going to be politically

correct, let's not stop there! 

 

 It's also about time we see Betty White and Carl Reiner as Sherlock

Holmes and Doctor Watson and stop slighting nonagenarians. About time

for "The Smokey Robinson Story"; the soul man played by Seoul woman,

Margaret Cho.  Tyler Perry as Khaleesi, The Mother of Dragons, on "Game

of Thrones". Which visually would be amazing because the  dragons could

actually ride on him. And,  kidding aside, how fantastic to follow in the

footsteps of "The Wiz" and have an all-black cast version of "A Christmas

Carol" with Samuel L. Jackson as Scrooge and Kevin Hart as Tiny Tim!

 

 And my choice for 007? Like the quintessential Bond, Sean Connery, I'm

sticking with the Scottish; Ewan McGregor then, James McAvoy, who,

though even scrawnier than Pierce Brosnan, could bulk up with a steady

diet of Shepard's pies and Guinness until he looked strong enough to  

actually pull the trigger on a Walther PPK. If not, there's always Sheena

Easton.

 

Ian Seeberg   6/2016  

 

                           *******************

         Is it Just Me...? The Fine Print 

 

 I'd like it known that even when my lips are sealed my teeth are always smiling and

underneath my clothing I am stark naked. I offer up these revelations because we live

in an age of concealed information. What we see is not always what we get and I for

one refuse to contribute to that misleading duplicity.

 This transparency comes in defiance of the fact that today, the price of something is

seldom the price of something.  Stated charges are at best a starting point. Rough

estimate. The so called 'ball park figure' is nothing more than an omen foreshadowing

the budget of your kitchen remodel doubling or tripling and the quoted repairs on your

car skyrocketing out of sight.  Win a 'free' vacation,  'free' magazine subscription or

'free' trial sample of rejuvenating walrus liver oil and you quickly discover it comes with

enough hidden charges to warrant re-writing the tax codes. 

 I flew to San Jose on business and rented a car. The rental fee was quoted as $55 for

a sub compact the size of a dog house. A soup can with a horn. A 2015 Ford

Facockta, I believe.

 Still, not a bad price and I had earned a $6.61 discount from a previous rental so,

even better. The paperwork indicated something called the FPO Accepted reflecting a

10% AAA discount of $29.15. Better still. Except, against all laws of logic and the

universally accepted definition of 'discount', I was being charged the $29.15. Me. Out

of my pocket. Hey, thanks for the discount! 

 

 There was an 11.11% charge - a totally made up number, right? -  of $8.73 for

Concession Fee Recovery... Concession Fee Recovery ... Concession Fee

Recovery... Nope. No matter how many times I say it, the words in combination still

make no sense. What concession and who made  it? Me? What did I concede? And,

what are we recovering from? What just happened?

                      

 I was surprised to see a 3.50% California Tourism Assessment equaling $1.70.  Even

though I disclosed on the nosy questionnaire I was traveling on business, I was still

charged for tourism. I think that covered any random glimpses of scenery I caught out

of the corner of my eye while staring at a sea of automobiles creeping up a freeway at

three miles an hour. 

 

 Next came a Transportation Fee of $7.50. Again, puzzling. If the car is the

transportation and I am the driver of said transportation, who's getting the fee and for

what? I suspect this may be blatant discrimination against cars, punishing them for

being cars and the ACLU needs to take a closer look.  

 

 I was charged a license fee of $1.02 per day. Per day! Each day that car displayed a

license plate, I paid for it! And yet, cheaper than getting arrested and going to jail for

driving an un-plated car.

 Something generically referred to as Tax 1 rang up another $5.09. And the discount

that cost me $29.50? Turns out there was a 3.500% tax on that for another $1.02.

Okay ... paying tax on money you make is one thing but paying tax on money you

were already penalized for? 

 

 With all the 'adjustments', as the rental company euphemistically calls them, the

estimated cost of my $55.05 rental car mushroomed to $102.65. Of course, that was

just an 'estimate'. Hedging their bets in case  a 'State Return and Repossession' tax

got passed before I brought the car back.

 

 If all that seems a bit fraudulent consider the recent advertised price for a deluxe hotel

room, king size bed, Jacuzzi bathtub, big screen TV and bathrobes for $110 a night. A

score, right? Nightly room tax, state and local tax, Wi-Fi and daily parking fees... $220

a night. That's assuming you don't want a view, a balcony or continental breakfast.

And while we're at it,  name one thing 'continental' about a cup of coffee, powered

creamer and a day old muffin.

 

 Check in time is 4 o'clock in the afternoon so the charge is for a full day but one

receives only 8 hours of room time. Although!...wait for it ... instead of you and your

bags hanging for hours in the lobby like an Ellis Island re-enactment, spend more

money, $20 or so, and get 'early check in'! Which means;  instead of waiting for a dirty

room to be cleaned, you pay a premium and get a room that's already been

cleaned .... I know, I had to read that sentence over again myself. The concept makes

absolutely no sense except to the person pocketing the twenty.   

 

 Above and beyond all that, I would greatly appreciate someone explaining a 'resort

fee' in a way that makes it seem acceptable to pay it. My contention is, it can't be done

because it's an absolutely unjustifiable rip off.  Complete extortion.

 

 Hotels don't charge additional  money for being called a hotel. But, put resort in your

name and you get to charge a separate tax. Had I known, I'd have changed my middle

name to Resort years ago. This is the equivalent of a restaurant with outdoor dining

charging a separate fee to eat on the patio. Landscaping costs. Outdoor electrical.

Paying for the food then renting the weatherproof table and silverware.   

 

 Even if you never use the facilities at a resort, you still pay up to $100 a day more for

everything on the property; spa,  swimming pools, golf course, fitness center, gym. If

you're not into massages or yoga classes, at least get your monies' worth and run wild

on the grounds! Play hide and seek among the potted palms! Wade in the fountains!

Climb the trees!  Roll on the lawns! Pick the flowers!

  

 Or, forget about hidden expenses and just stay home.  Your car's daily license plate

fee comes gratis, bedrooms are available whenever at no extra charge, the shower is

a freebie, the kitchen's open 24 hours a day,  and, best of all, property tax is only once

a year not nightly.   

 

Ian Seeberg 5/2016

 

                            ************************************

         Is it Just Me...?   Say What?

                        

 I'm not hard of hearing, I'm hard of listening. 

 My attention span, which had been drying up faster than the LA reservoir, evaporated altogether when I realized I'd started vanishing inside my own head. Disappearing inside it as if there was a cozy, wood-paneled den complete with crackling fire and leather armchair located on the mezzanine level of my medulla oblongata. Woolgathering? Daydreaming? Genteel moments of reverie? Not even close. This is stepping inside Gray Matter Mansion, locking the door and tossing away the key. Zoned out. Unresponsive. Completely lost in thought.

 "Did you hear what I just said?"    No, I did not, not paying any attention.  

 See, I can hear. I just don't seem to want to.

 That said, in the spirit of transparency I must admit a lifetime of recording studios and guitar amps cranking out earsplitting fuzz tones has removed my ability to hear certain frequencies. So, okay, maybe just a little bit hard of hearing but, selectively so. If I can discern a drummer's high hat on a music track it 's a high hat solo. I also find I have great difficulty hearing requests from telemarketers, anyone looking to borrow money and my naughty sweetie's voice when she admonishes me for doing something wrong. Like not paying attention.

 I became aware of this cerebral sanctuary first as a place to duck into while waiting in line, atrophying on airplanes or driving the freeways. It's since evolved into an autonomic response, a defense mechanism against the inane chatter of get togethers with relatives, business meetings, conference calls and other people's office parties. The first whiff of stories about precocious children, home remodels, celebrity divorces or cruise ship vacations? Neural man cave time!

 All of which is a direct correlation to the cold, hard truth that conversation, real conversation complete with engaging topics and the thrilling give and take of stimulating dialogue, is all but dead! On life support! Hanging by a thread!! Try finding one. It's as rare as locating a phone booth. Make that a phone booth with phone book intact. 

 We no longer converse or discuss. We make 'small' talk'. We chit chat. We're gabbers. Yakking at each other. Exchanging syllables not ideas. Even worse, we tiptoe around subjects like politics, climate, religion, race, birth control, vaccinations and transgender bathrooms for fear they'll lead to name calling, fisticuffs or, even worse, a political rally breaking out!

 This hideout in my head represents the realization that the majority of what people talk about - not counting my naughty sweetie, of course -  isn't worth paying much attention to and I've given up trying.

 I once thought it appalling people you'd meet could let an entire dinner pass by without so much as a basic conversation starter... "what do you do?" ... "where are you from originally? ..." do you speak English?" Now? I tune out. Mentally missing in action. Elvis has left the building. Or, should I inquire of them, receive an answer but find no reciprocal question coming back my way? Nothing? Not so much as a mumbled query to construct the most rudimentary of conversations?  I'll be up in the attic, call me for dessert.

 The storied Parisian salons famously delighted drawing room guests by inviting the brightest wits of the day to come and converse. Repartee was a rock concert. Banter savored like fine wine. Their droll exchanges, tasty as the foie gras, echoed for days throughout the cafes..

 To be fair, times change and we're not Paris. Our society defines cuisine as anything with melted cheese and dipping sauce, views the sophomoric affairs of drunken, twenty year old actresses as newsworthy headlines and, thinks Donald Trump has a secret presidential on/off switch. So, America can't rightly be criticized for not being a breeding ground for stimulating conversationalists.

 The internet, social media and texting further robbed us of the ability to speak coherently to each other. Before that, the blame for this glaring void in social discourse rests squarely on our educational system. From grammar school through college, never once do I recall anyone teaching the art of conversation, let alone describing what a good one entails. In my mind, it's this: A good conversation occurs when one person speaks on a subject, idea or concept.  The other person listens closely and responds, taking into account what the first person said while adding new dimensions, insights and opinions. Alternate and repeat.    

 Of course, this seldom happens. While people absolutely delight in hearing their own thoughts, when it comes to yours, not so much. There's a general stoppage of listening to better think what they'd like to hear themselves say next. Although, if you're lucky, they might be polite enough to hold that new thought until you run out of air.   

 Maybe I'm crazy - which would explain a lot - but what goes on inside my noodle is pretty entertaining. Not on par with "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" but definitely it's own three ring circus, multimedia, Fellini-esque stream of consciousness extravaganza. A Technicolor cavalcade of random thoughts and images firing off with the machine gun intensity of a crowded Tokyo pachinko parlor on a Saturday night. That sentence alone should give you a fair idea of what fanciful nonsense goes on up there.

 Short of giving up talking, and in the face of ever increasing scowls from my naughty sweetie, I'm closing down the cortical clubhouse. I'm going to pay attention, stay in the moment and take conversation like a man! 

 Farewell, memory bank. Sayonara to sonic collages of musical motifs ... recalling  favorite lines from movies ... thinking up things I wish I'd said instead ...  musing over the evocative sound of ice tinkling in a glass of Maker's Mark ... remembering the sweet.....

 "You didn't hear a word I said! You're off in your head again." 

 Absolutely not! I was listening.

 "Well...?"

 Well ... damn it, I'm hard of hearing! 

      Ian Seeberg/ 4/2016

 

                       *************************

          Is it Just Me...?   Prestige  and the Presidency 

 Do you remember when Presidents were prestigious? When being in the White House meant the person in charge was a skilled statesman; steadfast, trustworthy, articulate? The most knowledgeable, cool-headed, keen-eyed leader we could find?

 Recall a time when we could believe in our Commander in Chief to be better than the rest of us? A clear, level headed thinker. Above pettiness. Not afflicted with narrow minded biases. Untouched by racism. A representative of the people -- all the people. And even if we didn't agree with every policy, we still showed reverence for the grandeur of the office and respect for the person who held it?

 Do you remember when President's were prestigious? I have to ask because it appears we're in an era where one can become the President without being the least bit presidential.

 The presidency automatically comes with an abundance of celebrity and influence, a good amount of stature but not one drop of prestige. Prestige isn't about politics, it's about personal comportment. Prestige is respect earned through admirable actions, even-tempered rhetoric and the quality of one's character. Traits sadly missing from many of our current presidential candidates.

  What happened? Did we set higher standards in years past or, have we devolved into lower forms of human beings content to settle for less?  

 When I was very young the concept of the President seemed bigger than life; bordering on superhero status. My first president of memory, Dwight D. Eisenhower, seemed a dignified, serious man with an aura of strength and gravitas. An image probably enhanced by only seeing him on television in black and white. Looking back, his calm, stately bearing shown through. The man had prestige.

 President Kennedy's prestige grew out of a lofty determination. Caring and congenial in a sun-kissed, tousled hair sort of way. His Vice President, Lyndon Johnson had his own kindly, avuncular version as well. But presidential prestige began eroding with Richard Nixon on "Laugh In" saying, "sock it to me!" Trying to look 'with it' rather than presidential came off as demeaning. Sad and pandering and a grotesque idea for the times. The president doesn't go on a slapstick show along with Goldie Hawn wiggling in a bikini. The President was the Great and Powerful Oz working the levers behind the White House curtain. Worldly. Wise. And above all, prestigious.

 Nixon also posed shaking hands with Elvis. Famous swivel hips aside, why someone wearing a tacky Vegas costume to the White House was worthy of shaking a President's hand eluded me? An honor clearly reserved for a person who discovered a cure for something. A visiting dignitary. Whomever won the World Series. You didn't just shake the hand of a President! A president was inaccessible. Secured, secreted and surrounded. Having an audience with one was as unlikely as shooting eight ball with the Dali Lama. High fiving Queen Elizabeth. Chest bumping the Pope. Although, if ever a Pope seemed up for chest bumping, I think Francis is the guy.

 Nixon truly kicked prestige to the curb when impeached for being a crook. His successors, a peanut farmer and a hack actor with a spendthrift wife, didn't do much to restore it either. Gerald Ford chipped away at it clumsily tripping his way into the history books and Poppy Bush lowered the prestige bar even more by barfing on the leader of Japan. None of which compared to Bill Clinton playing 'hide the Havana' in the Oval Office or George W. Bush, who all but drove the final nail into the prestige coffin with his arrested development persona and penchant for grammatical whack-a-mole.

 Judging from the demeanor of the candidates currently running for President, any vestigial remnants of prestige are disappearing faster than something left out on the curb with a 'free' sign on it.

 Stalwart Bernie Sanders is resolute and wonderfully earnest but as crabby as a toll booth attendant with bad arches. An explosion in a follicle factory. Nothing too prestigious about that.

 History will unquestionably frame Hillary Clinton as the most ground-breaking woman in all of American politics. No one has ever been more prepared to sit in the Oval Office but, the woman seems so desperate to be elected she's prepared to change policy positions, wrestle in Jell-O or drive in a monster truck demolition derby if it'll seal the deal. That's barely a blip on the prestige meter.

 As for the Republican candidates, the words 'Republican candidates' and 'prestige' can't sensibly appear in the same sentence. None of them brings to mind the Great and Powerful Oz although they do share a tie-in to "Alice in Wonderland"; Cruz needs a heart, Trump needs a brain and Kasich needs a better barber.

 Do you remember when President's were prestigious? I do. From 2008 to the present. President Barack Obama. A thoughtful man of reason who speaks with eloquence and passion. Displays great humor, warmth and genuine compassion. Cries real tears. Believes in fair play and equality. He's a gentleman who wears refinement as comfortably as most of us wear jeans. And, not only knows the words to Al Green songs but sings them.

 Disrespected and set upon at every turn by selfish, incompetent fools; challenged by conniving obstructionists defiantly taking the wrong side of every argument to thwart his attempts to better our lives, better our country, better our world. Yet this president stood tall. Spoke respectfully. Answered back with intellect not insults. A Commander in Chief who is better than us and did restore dignity and honor to the office of the President.

 Ronald Reagan's eyes welled up when he called America "a beacon", a "shining city on a hill". Mine well up when I think that beacon is also a 'black man on the hill', shining a light of civility and decorum upon a world that is all too rapidly falling into the shadow of hatred, distrust and discord.

 All that President Barack Obama brings to our country will soon be at an end. Look long and hard and remember his tenure well. That's what presidential looks like. That's what prestige looks like.

 

       Ian Seeberg 3/2016

         **************************************

          Is it Just Me...?   The Vocabulary of Politics 

 No matter the outcome of the presidential race, I will always be grateful to Donald J. Trump for inspiring the resurgence of flamboyant vocabulary in our country. His disturbing behavior and dangerous political notions have single-handedly been the catalyst behind the resuscitation of some of our language's most wonderfully descriptive words. Seldom used nouns and modifiers, heretofore gathering dust in dictionaries, are now springing freely from the lips of enraged citizens who find they can't satisfactorily express their frustration and rage at Trump's rise to political prominence through every day parlance.

 When we were first introduced to 'Trump the candidate', his off-putting comportment and slanderous comments led us to refer to him as 'rude' , 'impolite' , 'unqualified' and 'un-presidential'. Naively, we thought those mild verbal depictions would be enough to create a backlash and remove him from the competition in a civil manner. Nope.

 Then we assumed his campaign would self destruct when things turned to a more serious political nature; not knowing of course that the politics of his party were never going to get serious! So, nope.

 Trump continued alienating one and all with escalating antics and shocking statements that left us struggling to find words strong enough to stop the madness. Looking to repel this interloper, we intensified our tone and context. He became a 'jerk' , 'crass' , an 'egomaniac', 'narcissist'. None of which even made a dent. Fell on deaf ears. Champagne off an elitist's tuchus.

 But now! The terrifying possibility of Trump in the Oval Office, leader of the free world, finally provided the inspiration that carried us to new linguistic heights! Filled our political conversations with highfalutin invectives! Drove journalists and newspaper columnists, long recognized as the Generals in command of English language usage, to crack open thesauruses, all the better to frame the disgust they too were experiencing.

 Go figure! A renaissance of vocabulary motivated by deplorable conduct! Rhetoric to the rescue! A deployment of samurai semantics! Forget rebuilding the military, we're stockpiling arsenals of word power to battle the great 'orange menace'! Unleashing the mother tongue on that mother!

 We've raised the bar on our choice of words. No, wait...we've ameliorated our choice of words! Trump's no longer a 'jerk' or a 'blowhard'. The days of wimpy insults are over, people! The guy's nothing less than an uncouth lout! An unprincipled ruffian who's ascended to the ranks of scoundrel An unredeemable miscreant! In other words, an unconscionably loathsome, unscrupulous reprobate!

 'Loudmouth'? 'Braggart'? Knock off the kid stuff, sissy Mary! Trump is an unrelenting purveyor of stentorian bluster! That and a first class bloviator! That's right, you heard me! BLOVIATOR! The pinnacle of braggadocio! Not just a bad guy but, downright nefarious! Iniquitous! Egregious! Heinous, even!

 Man, that felt good! ! Erudite... Empowering... And at the same time, so much better than calling him a boorish, big mouthed, doody head!

 The only vote we owe Donald J. Trump is one of thanks for reawakening our languishing verbal skills. His efforts alone caused the comeback of such classics as bombast which so beautifully describes his meaningless tirades calculated only for their visceral effect. The re-emergence of pomposity. Capturing not only the utter arrogance of his spurious aristocratic demeanor but cleverly referencing the bizarre, gravity defying pompadour enshrouding his gourd. And a big welcome back to buffoon! A clownish figure; a fool; an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Not to be confused with a bassoon which is an ill woodwind that nobody blows good.

 Trump's vicious, nay, defamatory attacks on rival candidates, women, Mexicans, immigrants, popes and anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with him, have vaulted him from being disrespectful to downright scurrilous! A venomous misogynist! A reprehensible xenophobe! Just calling them as I see them, Goldilocks!

 Never again will we categorize his smug manner as obnoxious but resoundingly abhorrent! Uh huh! Abhorrent! Not to mention being so deeply creepy - the suggestion of dating his own daughter, really? - has leapfrogged him from being thoroughly unacceptable to ineradicably repugnant. Whoo hoo! Go, language!

 Yes, we started out characterizing him as a little 'nasty', a bit 'crude', occasionally 'offensive' but thanks to Webster's Unabridged he's been upgraded to odious, vile, contemptible, detestable, despicable and, a personal favorite, abominable ... again, not to be confused with mythical snowmen or stomachs.

 Great stuff, right! Our country hasn't enjoyed such scholarly cursing since the last remake of "Pride and Prejudice." Not since Gore Vidal and William Buckley knocked each other silly on TV with multisyllabic haymakers! It's like Shakespeare talking smack!

T he English language has about 1,025,109.8 words in it. Not sure what the point eight means unless there's an actual word 'pointeight'. Of those, some 20,000 are actively familiar words and out of those, the average person uses about 10,000. Trump displays a rather narrow vocabulary consisting mainly of four-letter expletives along with 'I', 'me', 'amazing', 'fantastic', 'rich', 'beautiful' and 'yuge'. A total which manages to surpass many of his supporters - the " poor uneducated" ones he professes to love so dearly - who use even less words with most relating to saviors, guns and beef jerky.  

But as long as Trump is in the race it's imperative we keep hunting for that magical combination of words which will finally derail the vainglorious aspirations of this imperious autocrat! A phrase that resonates deeply enough to wake up those among us who have been mesmerized by the flash and sizzle of his empty-headed theatricality! And once we uncover that brilliant rejoinder, wouldn't it be great if that coup de gras was delivered by MSNBC's master, political analyst, Chris Matthews. I can see it now. Chris seated across a desk from Trump. Leaning forward, fixing him with that deadly, all knowing, squinty-eyed stare. He takes a long pause ... takes aim ... and says, "It's over, Donald. Go back to the gilded, Drumpf dome and never again dare to besmirch the escutcheon of our nation's dignity!...ya doody- head!"

Ian Seeberg 3/2016

                         *************************

       Is it Just Me...?  A College Education

 Exorbitant fees and tuitions saddling millions with decades of student loan payments are the catalyst behind today's big idea ... free college for everyone! A new, political spin on 'a chicken in every pot', a 'mortarboard on every head' will offer the financial freedom for everyone to attend an institute of higher learning. As concepts go, it's a great one. In reality, I don't think everyone should go to college.

 I had no choice. My generation was ordered to go. Not a debate, a mandate. Conscription really. Our only hope for ever having a nice house, a nice car and a nice wife and kids hung squarely on acquiring a college degree. Minus that signed and sealed slip of sheepskin, I was doomed to a cursed existence as a "garbage man". This was thinking that clearly pre-dated unions because diploma-less sanitation workers have little trouble getting nice houses, nice cars and nice wives and kids.  

 College then was something special. Privileged access to vast sources of knowledge. Entree to information and inspiration largely unavailable to the masses, i.e.; garbage men. Today, all that and more is available on your Droid Turbo. Your cell phone is college without a football team to root for.

 True, there will always be some employers who insist on a college education for hiring. Never mind you're applying to work as an insurance adjuster and your degree is in Hatha Yoga. But before we throw open the floodgates on higher education, we need to establish a few rules to define who goes and who doesn't.

 Rule number one: If you don't know what you want to study, you don't go to college. That's walking into a restaurant when you're not particularly hungry and reading through the menu in hopes something makes your mouth water. Nearly a third of all graduates never work within their degree field. Worse, a good number don't want to work in their major even while they're studying it. Now there's a game plan! I can name a psych major who's a rock drummer, a Masters Degree in Ancient History who sells real estate and a CPA who's a masseuse. Not to mention success story after success story about kids just out of their teens launching multi-billion dollar tech businesses from their dorm rooms. Their college experience wasn't about classes and exams, it was a lesson in office space.

 So, rule number two: If you have a multi- billion dollar idea, you don't go to college.

 Rule number three. If you want to study something you can't make a living at, you don't go to college. Anthropology, Comparative Religion, Marine biology, Latin American studies? Recruiters will not be breaking down your door after graduation. Put Economist on a business card and see how many calls you get. No college for you. The next time someone tells you they have a degree in 17th Century poetry ask them to recite some. If they can - and that's doubtful - inquire how much they earn doing it. College - no.

 Number four. If you're not studying medicine, engineering, science or teaching, you don't go to college. That's because colleges should only exist to teach those four subjects. Those and nothing else, period. Everything else is a cottage industry. An apprenticeship. A skill that can be acquired by looking over someone's shoulder, reading a book or watching a You Tube video. Which, if you cared enough, you could do on your own.

 If you want to be an English major you don't go to college. What you do is talk a lot. In English. Speak to everyone who will listen and do it in English. Read a lot of books as well - in English.

 Creative Writing? Forget college. Get something that writes - typewriter, computer, ballpoint pen, box of yellow pencils with erasers on the end - sit down and write. Start with sentences, group them into paragraphs and before you know it, you'll have chapters. Who knows, after a couple years some of it might even make sense. Although that's not a pre-requisite as evidenced by John Barth's "Giles Goat-boy".

 Aspire to be an historian? You don't go to college. Watch the History Channel five days a week from 8 to 5 and direct all follow up questions to Wikipedia.

 You don't need college If philosophy is your field of interest. Hang out in a barbershop in a black neighborhood. For the price of a haircut you'll learn more about life and common sense in two hours than you would in two semesters. For post doctoral studies, go to a Tyler Perry movie and listen to the running commentary from the audience.

 Advertising and marketing? Don't waste one minute in college. Pick a product or service. Imagine all the things you'd like it to do and tell everyone that's what it does.

 Sociology? Forget college. Sit in a DMV for 8 hours a day for a month. It's also totally free and you'll learn everything you'll ever need to know about our culture.

 Is psychology your goal? No ivy-covered walls for you. Pick the nearest little league game and take a seat in the stands. Forget the game, watch the parents and be prepared to take notes. Textbook examples of aberrational human behavior abound.

 Dietician? Go to a McDonalds, Popeye's Chicken or Krispy Kreme. Everything you see going on in there, tell people not to do. Kinesiology? Really? Isn't it time to get past that A you once got in High School gym class?

 What's that? You aspire to be a politician? Maybe even the leader of the free world? Well... if you're convinced you're the one to return civility to a society filled with bigotry, hate and mistrust. And, you can overcome the political slings and arrows of obstructionism and special interests to restore balanced prosperity to our widely divided culture of haves and have nots. And, you're capable of reuniting our struggling nation through harmonious discourse, common sense and non-partisan goals. You don't go to college. You don't run for office either! You seek immediate counseling from someone in the bleachers of a little league game!

  

Ian Seeberg  1/2016

 


     Is it Just Me...?  Online Dating

 It's no longer a big deal. Three decades later not worth talking about unless you're actually doing it yourself. A giant whatever, so what, who cares. But, in case you've forgotten, people still date online. Computer coupling rages on unabated. Keyboard love, alive and well in the Twenty-first Century. But, the differences from when it began to where it is today? As they say on J Date...Oy!

 I'm long removed from the market so it was purely a writer's curiosity that led me to check out Tinder, the millennial's dating site of choice. I looked at the profile pictures. Read what people had to say about themselves. And when I regained consciousness, realized my experience with online canoodling had occurred during it's Victorian Age. Comparatively, we digital dating pioneers were nothing but a bunch of goody two shoes! Milquetoasts with modems! Cyber sissies!

 A computer age phenomenon when first introduced, online dating didn't come across as a boomer concocted 'kid in a candy store' sex scheme. More daring, social experiment than website for whoopee. More about finding a connection.

 Tinder is clicking for coitus. Not inappropriate given the explicit era we live in. But, a stunning turnaround from the days when any woman who put herself out there for the choosing was viewed as a hopeless wallflower or slut or insane. Every man, without exception, an axe murderer looking for his next victim.

 Privacy protocols and a prevailing wariness of responding to a stranger's email overtures made connecting with someone as arduous as getting accepted into Harvard. The majority of women, fearing friends would discover their shame of falling so low on the attract-o-meter as to advertize for companionship, refrained from posting pictures. Which became a nightmare for men - visually oriented creatures that we are - by making potential relationships a completely blind leap of faith.

 "Hi. My name is, Janice. I'm 35, I'm smart, in great shape and all my friends tell me I'm so beautiful I could be a movie star. You won't be disappointed!"

 Uh huh ... Turned out it was the Age of Disappointment! Disappointment reigned supreme! 35 years old was often a typo for 53. Sorry, what movie star was that exactly? Bride of Frankenstein?

 Contrast that to a profile on Tinder under a wildly lascivious, half-naked selfie ... "Hi, I'm Barbi. 40DD. Like what you see? Duh!"

 While women had photographic concerns, guys loved posting pictures of themselves! Couldn't post enough! The blurrier and more horribly lit the better! A sea of banlon shirts, bad haircuts and beer bellies. Between no pictures and bad ones, the boys needed an enormous belief system and the girls required a tremendous sense of humor.

 In order to get anywhere one had to master the art of writing an alluring profile. Prose rivaling Baudelaire. Mini autobiographies as lyrical tone poems. Innermost thoughts phrased with the semantic ability to leap off computer screens, straight into a stranger's heart!

 And while, "Ryan here. Porsche Turbo S... Parking spot on the lot .. Weekends in Cabo ...'Nuff said", is probably 'nuff' to seal the deal these days, back in the demure, Mary Poppins electronic era, that arrogant swagger would have led to instant death by delete key.

 Women often began profiles with "I've never done anything like this before" which took obviousness to extraordinary heights seeing as no one had ever done anything like this before. Others wrote they "loved to take long walks". I'd think, join the post office. All claimed to be exceptional cooks who wanted to have romantic, candle lit dinners. I figured if their cooking was all that wonderful they wouldn't be on their own in the first place and I'd end up eating the damn candles.

 The Tinder version of self description? More along the lines of '...and love hanging by my heels in the doorway.'

 To be fair, critiquing one's self is problematic because it's impossible to be objective. We all believe we're younger, thinner, smarter and sexier than we actual are. Your bad stuff isn't bad, it's interesting. Your loud, braying laugh isn't annoying, it's personality. That overlapped front tooth isn't a flaw that needs orthodontry, it's character. So from there it's an easy stretch to believe the weird elongated toe that overhangs your flip flops isn't a genetic, gecko throwback, it's a charming family trait.

 From what I saw, Tinder folk don't care much about those things, charming or otherwise. I say that citing a spray-tanned, young woman in a bikini made out of dental floss who shared that her best feature was " a controllable gag reflex."

 While we expressed intimate desires cloaking them in layers of nuanced romantic imagery...'holding you close'...'feeling you next to me...'looking down into your eyes.' Tinder versions skew more towards, '...and bring some batteries with you.'

 We were genteelly feeling our way. They're feeling everything!

 Tinder-ites seem less interested in relationships than in hooking up but, we had our carnal moments as well. We never 'hooked up' but we 'got it on'. We 'did it'. 'Did the deed.' 'Knocked boots'. Performed the 'horizontal mambo'. 'Jumped each other's bones'! We got to a hooking up part, it just took us a hell of a lot longer to get there. Especially compared to the speed banging aspect of Tinder. See picture ... text ... score!

 Hey, you're hot!

 U 2!

 Awesome! Bono, huh?

 What?

 What?

 Dude, you coming over?

 Totally! Can't stay the whole night.   

 Awesome. I like you already!

 Back in the day, attracting someone's interest meant weeks of grueling email correspondence then weeks of phone conversations during which you tried convincing someone of your lack of axe murderering-ness while absorbing more obscure minutia about that person than if you'd been stranded together in a lifeboat. Cheerleader sophomore year ... shoe size ... collection of ceramic bunny rabbits ... smooth not chunky ... uncle Bob's psoriasis.

 You felt yourself falling in love if for no other reason than the mind numbing commitment of time. After all that, it had to be the real thing! Then the big day! You'd meet in person! Look into each other eyes and share that explosive split second moment of realization that - smooth not chunky aside - the two of you had less chemistry going on then inside an amoeba!

 Maybe Tinder has it right. Hook up, have fun, figure it out later. If it's all too much, too soon, pick up a good book instead. Or, pick up the good book and join Christian Mingle.

  Ian Seeberg  11/2015