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It Could Have Easily Been ‘The Old, Rugged Noose’

14 Dec

by Roger White

 

Leave it to the creative mind of Gene Roddenberry to send me into yet another mental wormhole. And I warn you from the outset, this particular “thought experiment” may be potentially upsetting to the less open-minded, strenuously dogmatic, sense-of-humor-challenged, and/or excessively pious of you. You’ve been warned.

Curled up on the comfy couch watching an episode of Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” series recently, I was thrown quite unceremoniously into a fit of conceptual conniptions by a particular scene from the 1968 episode entitled “Bread and Circuses.” My TV-watching fare of Shiner, Fritos, and . . . er, certain aromatic herbal nourishment may have contributed significantly to the wormhole process, but I digress.

This Trek episode, in which Captain Kirk and crew are forced to fight in gladiatorial games on a planet where a modern-day Roman Empire rules the land, juxtaposes the culture, garb, and traditions of ancient Rome with Caesar Packing Heatcontemporary technology. Hence, you have emperors, senators, and proconsul types handing down edicts over loudspeakers and gladiator contests broadcast over network television.

However, the scene that shoved me down my own little space-time porthole of pontification was the one in which Kirk and company are captured by Roman guards wielding submachine guns. Woah. (And this episode came out in ’68, mind you—two years before Andrew Lloyd Webber armed his Romans with automatic weapons in Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Anyway. That’s when it hit me: What if the Romans—our ancient Romans—had possessed such technology? Of course, the mind reels with infinite possibilities (like what if Spartacus had had access to F-14 Tomcat air cover). But what I became fixated on was the impact on Christianity—not the religion as a whole, mind you, but merely the symbolism involved.

You see, the universally recognized metaphor for the Christian faith is, of course, the cross. Why? Because that’s how Jesus was put to death; the sign of the cross symbolizes His victory over death. But what if crucifixion hadn’t been the means of execution for the Roman Empire? What if, for example, electrocution had da chairbeen the execution method du jour? Think about it. Gold necklaces worn by faithful folks around the globe would have little electric chairs dangling at the end.

Or what if execution of criminals had been accomplished by hanging, for instance? Nuns far and wide, instead of making the symbol of the cross when they prayed, would arch their necks at severe angles and pull on imaginary nooses to display their piety.

Or consider lethal injection. Churches from Brownsville to Bozeman, instead of featuring outsized crosses on their steeples, would display great hypodermic needles to call the faithful to worship.

OK, wait! Hold it. Wait a minute. Put the pitchforks down. Douse the torches. I’m not demeaning Christianity by any means. I’m not poking fun. I was raised Southern Baptist, for crying out loud, by a God-fearing momma in the heart of the Lone Star State, here in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. All I’m doing is saying “what if.” In an alternate universe somewhere just east of Andromeda, who’s to say one of these scenarios isn’t playing out this very microsecond?

Who’s to say that on an alternate Earth right this minute Alternate-Earth Christians aren’t gathered in their houses of worship singing their praises thusly: the noose“At the chair, at the chair, where I first saw the light…” Or maybe country-and-western singers on Ganymede are paying homage this very moment to “The Old, Rugged Noose.”

And consider traditional sayings and adages. “It’s not my cross to bear” on Europa might be more along the lines of “It’s not my chair to sit in”— or “It’s not my chamber to enter.” Whatev.

No! No, please, put the garden tools down! I’m just saying “what if,” that’s all! It’s just a thought bubble!

I gotta quit doing Shiner and Fritos with “Star Trek” so late at night.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

Clang the Clangers! It’s Contest Time Again!

23 Jun

by Roger White

 

Either I’m having a patella-buckling, spleen-expanding, koala-slapping case of déjà vu, or I’ve written all this before and am now simply too addled to recognize it, but here goes: You know how sometimes the gods smile upon you. Yah? True, sometnot sure what this isimes they do. This is when things somehow turn out OK despite your astounding lack of common sense. Sometimes, however, they just grin and chuckle, leaving you to fend for yourself. They are amused at your puny efforts.

And yet other times, the gods smirk or give you that blank stare like you really screwed things up.

My advice for these times is just to act like you truly intended the outcome, no matter how calamitous. This gives the gods pause, and that brief delay in the Great Spinning Wheel of Fate (GSWoF) often provides that slim window of time in GSWoFwhich you have a certain measure of self-determination. Like that time you were second string on the seventh-grade football team, and the coach was trying to decide whether to let you in the game just before halftime and in your excitement you simply ran out onto the field and got to play two whole plays before coach yelled at you to sit down and quit acting foolish.

Kinda like that.

This is to say that I believe the big guys are smiling at present, because just in time for the Third Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC) I have received another supply of premium glossy bumper stickers as prizes, you lucky ducks. That’s ducks, with a “d.”

For those too young, old, sensible, or hirsute to remember, the OFPhC involves a pile of phrases, quotes, movie lines, book titles, common sayings, utterances, and/or bodily function noises that I’ve rendered in a somewhat obscure manner. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with the more common version of said utterances. For example, say I give you “A Male Homosapiens For All Periods of the Year.” You say—… oh, come on. You say, “A Man For All Seasons.” Bingo! See how easy?

First three humans (I will accept cats, too) to respond at roger.white@tasb.org with the correct answers each wins a premium glossy bumper sticker (sorry, the “Ronald Reagan for Governor” ones are all gone—you get “Jesus is Coming. Hide the Bong”). And you get your name in the Gazette! Pseudonyms are fine.

Exciting, huh? OK, ready and. Go. What are the more well-known versions of these sayings:

  1. She steers me to imbibe.
  2. There is a lollipop spawned each 60-second interval.
  3. Expired males don’t do any storytelling.
  4. Feline Atop a Heated Metal Canopy.
  5. A Few Prefer It Scorching.
  6. Do not allow the insects in your bunk to munch on you.
  7. A countenance only one’s female parent would really like.
  8. Leave snoozing pups to recline.
  9. Chance, Manifest Yourself as a Woman This Evening.
  10. At the rear of each guy who’s accomplished something one will find a female.
  11. Idiot’s precious metal.
  12. Traversing the brook and through the forest, to my mother’s mother’s abode we travel.
  13. The Era of the Water-Bearer.
  14. A Story of a Couple of Towns.
  15. Mothers, do not allow your offspring to aspire to be ranch hands.
  16. Tammy WStay Upright Near Your Male.
  17. Lucifer persuaded me to act as I did.
  18. If I’ve informed you 16 divided by 16 times, I’ve informed you 250 times 4 times.
  19. This is the manner in which the small, rounded pastry disintegrates.
  20. The third planet from the sun is your bivalve mollusk.

 

Roger White is a freelance bivalve mollusk living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely female spouse, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

Sir Archie’s ‘Words for the Now’

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

All right, gang, I’m at a bit of a crossroads here. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a fan of poet Archie Ferndoodle as anyone, and I consider it an honor to present his unique musings in this forum. But ever since his mom passed away in February at the tender age of 109 (breast implant surgery complications, the poor dear), Sir Archie has taken it upon himself to live with me and my family. Mr. F has seven cats and a dyspeptic parrot that sings ’70s country songs in the dead middle of the night. If you’ve ever been awakened at 2 a.m. to the strangled strains of “Harper Valley PTA,” you may have an idea of the trauma. And that’s not the worst part. Apparently, Archie is on a strict diet consisting chiefly of pan-fried liver, steamed cabbage, large-curd cottage cheese, and Oreos (with double stuffing). The whole house smells like a marathon gastric bypass surgical procedure.

The wife and kids are calling for drastic action. But I can’t put the guy on the street, can I? He’s a living legend. In fact, just this morning as we were tidying up after Roscoe the Parrot’s . . . uh, indiscretions on my wife’s oriental rug, the Great One handed me his latest. Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has done it again. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get a coupon for 7 percent off of her patented orange-mint hair removal paste. It really works, too. Sue’s upper lip looks fantastic!)    

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “Lenticular Haiku,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

Sir Archie has decided of late that many of our old standards—proverbs, parables, fables, and the like—are in desperate need of updating to more accurately reflect our life and times today. So the Great One has blessed us with his latest work: “Words for the Now.”

So without further ado, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle:

 

            “Words for the Now”

            by Archie Ferndoodle

 

            If at first you don’t succeed,

            Apply for a government bailout.

 

            Slow and steady never goes viral.

 

            One bad apple lands a reality television show.

 

            Two wrongs make a nifty presidential debate.

 

            Early to bed and early to rise requires Ambien and amphetamines.

 

            A Rolling Stone gathers retirement benefits by now, surely.

 

            Neither a borrower nor a lender be; now, regulatory agent, that’s where the safe money is.

 

            This above all: of thine own self promote like crazy.

 

            All that glitters isn’t gold, but all that’s gold can be sold 24 hours a day at Achmed’s Gold Emporium & Pawn.

 

            A penny saved is a colossal waste of time.

 

            What’s good for the goose probably doesn’t contain enough artificial growth hormone.

 

            A bird in the hand is worth a couple rounds of Avian Flu H5N1 vaccinations.

 

            It’s always darkest before the energy companies invest in their infrastructure.

 

            A friend in need is everybody not in the “5 percent.”

 

            A man’s home is his castle until it becomes the bank’s castle.

 

            Speak softly and carry a stun gun.

 

            Practice makes perfect, but it still can’t beat steroids.

 

            Laughter is the best medicine unless you can afford real medicine.

 

            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll sue your butt for everything you’ve got, including mental distress and anguish.

 

            Sticks and stones may break my bones, but defriending me on Facebook? Now, that really hurts.

 

            Actions speak louder than words, but rumors are even louder.

 

            A stitch in time is not as easy as Velcro.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Ever Wonder What’s in Your Belly Button?

10 Jul

by Roger White

Writers spend a lot of their time sitting around trying to figure out ways to make money without really working at it. This is why they are writers in the first place. I’m not implying that writing isn’t work, but let’s just say that one doesn’t develop a chiseled physique by pounding a keyboard nine to five. An office full of women that goes quietly bananas when a fire truck crammed with firemen pulls up (I have witnessed this on more than one occasion) would certainly not react in the same schoolgirl fashion if a fire truck full of writers stopped in.

“Oooh, just look at that Norman Mailer. He composes the sexiest similes.”

“That’s nothing compared to Ginsberg’s hunky hyperbole. Is it hot in here?”

I can’t actually think of a circumstance in which any fire truck anywhere would be manned by writers, but just go with it. Imagine Truman Capote desperately steering the back end of a hook-and-ladder, and you’ll see my point, whatever that may be.

Ah, yes, my point. The reason I bring this somewhat unsettling vision to mind is that as I was wrangling with the notion of writers possibly being the laziest creatures on earth, I wondered what other professions go to absurd lengths to put hamburger helper on the table without actually doing any useful labor.

You know what I came up with? No, not politicians. Researchers. Let me qualify this conclusion by noting I’m not referring to real researchers, like those earnestly looking for cures for cancer, heart disease, and other true menaces to mankind (such as Glenn Beck). No, I’m aiming at the fringe element here.

And I do mean fringe. Are you aware of some of the “research projects” out there that are receiving perfectly good grant money? For example, serious cash is being spent as we breathe on an investigation into what is in the average person’s belly button. You read it right. There is a whole team of navel nabobs working on the Belly Button Biodiversity project, in which about 100 suckers, er, volunteers agreed to have their belly buttons swabbed. I’m serious here. Being paid to contemplate one’s navel.

“We’re probably the only ones studying human belly buttons on such a large scale,” Jiri Hulcr, the head navel guy, told msnbc recently.

I would wager they’re the only ones studying human belly buttons on any scale—except maybe a few creepy old men in North Dakota basements. Hulcr, a post-doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University, reported at least 1,400 different bacterial strains in the human navel so far. I’m sure the military will get hold of this and use it somehow. “Look out! He’s got a belly button!” Rumor has it this crack team will next focus its efforts on ear wax uses, toe jam flavors, and dandruff flake tensile strength.

You think that’s bad? Take a gander at these studies (say it with me now, I’m not making this up!):

Professor Bonnie Nardi of the University of California Irvine got a fat $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the difference between how Americans and Chinese play the World of Warcraft. I’m not even sure what the World of Warcraft is—surely a video game of some sort—but according to Nardi, the Chinese are more interested in the aesthetics of the game, such as background colors and schemes, while Americans are more concerned with body count and kill ratio. Sounds about right.

Researchers Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach collaborated on the following groundbreaking and crucial report: The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. Actually, I don’t see this one as that absurd. A bit on the obvious side, perhaps, but not absurd. Stack, by the way, who has authored 219 articles on suicide, said in an interview with the medical journal The Lancet that his biggest fear is death. His second biggest fear is Johnny Paycheck. Okay, I made up that part.

How about this one? Three French types spent much time and treasure comparing the jumping performances of dog fleas versus cat fleas. Yes, flea vaulting. For those sitting on the edge of their seats, the dog flea significantly outjumped the cat flea, in both length and height of said leap. I had my money on the cat fleas, all the way. I’ve been avoiding my bookie for weeks.

I’ve saved the best, however, for last. Three intrepid psychology fellows at the University of New Mexico traded in their lab coats for low-cut polyester shirts and gold chains, filled their pockets with dollar bills, and set out to determine the effects of lap dancers’ ovulatory cycles on their tip-earning ability.

Ready for this? And I quote: “A mixed-model analysis of 296 work shifts (representing about 5,300 lap dances) showed an interaction between cycle phase and hormonal contraception use. Normally cycling participants earned about $335 per five-hour shift during estrus, $260 per shift during the luteal phase, and $185 per shift during menstruation. By contrast, participants using contraceptive pills showed no estrus earnings peak.”

Now that, my friends, is putting your tax dollars to work. I hear an intensive, exhaustive follow-up study is in the works. I’ve written UNM for a press pass to cover this next key phase of research personally, but, alas, no response so far.

Ah, well, it would probably involve a lot of work.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.