Archive | Gossip RSS feed for this section

On America and Rome–and Dr. Pimple Popper

13 Sep

by Roger White

“The decline . . . was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. . . .”
—Historian Edward Gibbon on the decay and fall of Rome

“Dr. Pimple Popper Pops ‘Mushy Peas’ Cyst in New Instagram Video”
—Women’s Health Magazine, August 2019

At first blush it may appear that these two quotes have about as much to do with each other as atomic theory and bacon grease, but to the keen observer inhabiting the proper frame of mind and sipping the necessary amount of espresso, the connection is readily apparent. The former is an explanation of one of an interconnected tangle of reasons for the decline of a great civilization. The latter is a symptom of same.

Ancient Rome didn’t have the internet, but you can be sure that at the height of the empire’s power, with little to challenge Romans but their own idleness, the scuttlebutt among the average corpulent, indolent citizens lounging about their atriums had much to do with which senator’s wife had been seen with a certain centurion after hours near the Pantheon. Or perhaps who would be featured next weekend at the Colosseum in “Gladiating with the Stars.”

Throughout America’s rise to power, particularly after World War II and again with the fall of the Soviet Union, many casual historians likened the U.S. to ancient Rome, both as a comparative study and a cautionary tale. From many of these same armchair history buffs came the postulate-cum-warning that Rome fell from within. Both statements are greatly oversimplified—America is certainly not the Roman Empire; and the decline of Rome occurred for many complex reasons—however, the tantalizing prospect of a circumstantial connection between the two is too intriguing to ignore.

By the time the Huns and Vandals were threatening the very walls of Rome herself in the 5th century A.D., the empire had been degraded through years and years of decay, corruption, internal strife, and general malaise. The culture that had built the world’s mightiest civilization had stagnated. In other words, Rome had grown lazy and fat. Its armies were so far-flung across the known globe that the once invincible legions could not defend even the capital city.

I’m not holding forth that the descendants of Attila will come rampaging up Pennsylvania Avenue anytime soon, but you must admit that events and trends from within and without our great country give any thinking person pause. We, as a nation, are fat and lazy. And stupid. Most Americans don’t do much physical labor on a daily basis anymore. We are at our most overweight and short of breath that we’ve ever been. We don’t save anymore; the average American family carries about $5,000 in credit card debt—at a time when job security is at its worst in decades. We used to buy only when we had the money. Our national economy, anchored by financial institutions with questionable lending practices and regulated by insiders with personal interests at stake, teeters like a house of cards. Our arts—literature, music, journalism, film and television—are in a state of upheaval as publishers, producers, and purveyors of news and entertainment chart confused courses in their attempts to grasp new media, often leading to drastic actions such as bookstore and music outlet closings, the demise of longtime news and publishing houses, and frustration and despair for many artists and writers. With more channels to choose from than ever before, TV now offers arguably the worst product in its history. Ironically, the great many cable choices chopped up major advertising dollars, which has prompted producers to grind out lower- and lower-budget shows in a pathetic race to the bottom. And perhaps most telling, news isn’t news anymore. It’s gossip. Or thinly disguised opinion, acid rhetoric, and vitriol aimed solely at toeing the party line.

And with an unlimited number of outlets, through practically unlimited media technology, the goal is not to inform anymore—the bottom line is to attract the most viewers with the most lurid headlines, thus, to attract the precious advertising dollars. Hence, you have an intrepid reporter filling you in on the wonderfully graphic details of Dr. Pimple Popper’s latest triumph.

Last but obviously least, our self-seeking politicians have abandoned any semblance of civil discourse to rabidly defend their respective party planks to the complete detriment of any action toward the advance of our society. There is no middle ground anymore. Compromise—what should be the very bedrock of governing a nation—has become a dirty word. The men and women in Washington should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, yet no one among them stands to say so. And nothing gets done.

There are those historians who argue that Rome never really fell. It simply degenerated into irrelevance. Sure sounds like a cautionary tale to me.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a gas-powered dachshund, and a sleep-deprived cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Prine Was Right: Blow Up Your TV

4 Jan

by Roger White

 

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper,

Go to the country, build you a home…”

—from “Spanish Pipedream,” by John Prine

 

I work for an education association, whose ebb and flow of timelines, lull seasons, and get-it-done-yesterday crunch times generally follows the public schools calendar. This does not mean I get the whole summer off or that I have to take some sort of final exams every semester. But it does mean I get a nice chunk of time off during the Christmas break. Or should I say Holiday Break, or Winter Break, to be properly PC. But if I say “Winter Break,” then I’m accused of waging war on Christmas—whatever that is—by the anti-war-on-Christmas people, whoever they are. Seems there are an inordinate number of highly sensitive, easily offended, extremely angry subgroups of people out there these days, and almost any topic—from eating a hamburger to wearing a headscarf to saying “bless you” when somebody sneezes—is now an emotional mine field of potential hurt feelings and mob-mentality retribution.

reallyFor example, overheard at a local Wal-Mart recently:

“Dammit, Zebulon, these friggin’ Moslems is takin’ over the place. Look over thar, in home improvement. Dang scarf-wearin’ terrurist jee-haddys…”

“Yeah, I here ya, Jebediah. Hey, Zeke! Lee Roy! We got us a … wait, that’s my mom in the scarf. She didn’t want nobody to see her curlers.”

“Oh. Well. That’s awright, I guess.”

But while we’re on the subject, wouldn’t the term “Winter Break” be considered offensive to those folks who deem autumn as their favorite season? We have Spring Break; we have Summer Break; and now with the newly christened “Winter Break” we are kicking poor, unloved autumn to the curb, aren’t we? We have no “Fall Break.” I’m pissed off! This is War on Fall! Anti-Autumn Armageddon! I’m organizing a protest! Where’s Fox News?

OK, wait. Once again, I digress. Anyway, yes, so this lovely fortnight of vacation I get every, uh, late December allows me the blessed opportunity to back away from the grind. To sit in the backyard with a fire in the fire pit, a warm drink in hand, and nothing on my mind but determining how to get the (insert your preferred holiday here) boxes down from the attic without upsetting the raccoon family that has taken up permanent residence up there.

I have found that during this heavenly lull I tend to watch less news on TV and scarcely come near the computer, which is where I usually receive my daily dose of terror, misery, innuendo, and fear-mongering via CNN and other websites.

And despite the season’s family dramas, gift-hunting mayhem, and traffic gridlock gnashing of teeth—not to mention the annual overdose of turkey, libations, and too much party silliness—I find that my anxiety level and blood pressure go way down. Two weeks without Trump, Cruz, Clinton, terrorist plots for world overthrow, Planned Parenthood bombings, Dow Jones doom and gloom, the affluenza teen, Bill Cosby revelations, and viral cat-in-the-microwave stories tend to hit me like a soft pillow in the face. The crap the media spews at us 24/7 isn’t our world.

And all you have to do is turn it off. You can blow it up, if you’ve a mind, but just hitting the “off” button will suffice. Aaah. That’s nice.

So why take only a (insert your preferred holiday here) break from the muck and the madness? I was never much on New Year’s resolutions, but I believe I have one for 2016: Less CNN, Trump, Hannity, msnbc, Fox, and all those “World’s Most Extreme Terrible Things” shows—and more backyard reflection. More walks, more friends, more board games. If you still have the old Aggravation board game gathering cobwebs in the closet, pull it out, dust it off, and get the kids around. It’s fun.

Don’t have Aggravation? OK, Monopoly then. Just try to ignore the fact that Monopoly is based on properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a town practically owned by…you know who. I’m tellin’ ya, if that candy-haired blowhard gets anywhere near the White House, I’m moving the family to…

Time out. Breathe. Forget Monopoly. Stick with Aggravation. Or the backyard fire pit. Aaah, there we go.

aggravation

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.

 

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

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.

143a.

 

Keep Your Head Down During the BFF Wars

13 Feb

by Roger White

 

So I stepped out onto my front porch the other day into a pile of brightly colored bikini tops. There were at least six or eight of these sexy swimwear items crowding my front door. My first thought: “Well, it’s finally happened. The neighborhood womenfolk have been spying me working out through my bedroom window for so long now that they just can’t take it anymore. My guns, my six-pack, my dimpled charm—they were simply too much to resist. So the wives and moms of Travis Country collectively lost it and decided to pay homage, Tom Jones style. With the lines to the man“What’s New, Pussycat?” sauntering through my mind, I reached down to take the offerings, half expecting names and phone numbers to be hidden among the intimate apparel.

 

“Oh.” Then it hit me—these were return items in my younger daughter’s ongoing BFF wars.

 

 Let me attempt an explanation. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, well, then, lucky you. Let me start over. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, you may not understand that drama runs extremely high in this species. In fact, if Mr. Maslow had been raising a teenage daughter when he was developing his “hierarchy of needs” philosophy, then his list of basic human necessities would be ranked something like this: 5. Shelter; 4. Food; 3. Water; 2. Oxygen; 1. Drama. Like so.

 

It seems, if I’ve interpreted correctly what little I could catch of my daughter’s version gossip girlsof recent events, that a certain group of friends are, like, so jealous of a certain person’s ongoing, like, relationship, with a certain boy, so, like, this certain group of friends are giving the cold shoulder to this person until she, like, shows them more attention. As if. Duh.

 

Aha, pals versus passion. The crew versus the crush. I vaguely remember similar situations back in my high school days, and I must say that we handled things very differently. Of course, this was a bygone era, and I was a guy. I recall that if one of our group was lucky enough to actually find a girl who could tolerate him for more than a week, we simply wished him well—and hated him behind his back. Then we followed the unfortunate couple around the school halls making lewd, disgusting noises, and we occasionally hunted down their makeout spot to shine flashlights and blast airhorns. Yeah, we were much more mature about these things.

 

Of course, none of this even remotely applies to me today. These days, as married as long as we’ve been, the wife looks at me after I come home from hanging with my crew (Steve) and sighs, “Oh, you back again already?” Yeah.

 

So anyway, that’s the reason for all the bikini tops on my doorstep. The BFFs are saying to my young one, “Here are your things back. Clothes and makeup trading is, like, off until you come to your senses.”

deardad 

My delicate job in all of this, I’ve found from experience, is to nod or shrug as appropriate and say absolutely nothing. I learned that if I agree too readily with my daughter’s harsh appraisal of Heather, Ashley, and/or Brittanie Anne while the wars are in progress that this always comes back to bite me. Hard. “Yes, you’re right,” I made the mistake of saying one time trying to soothe dear daughter’s hurt feelings. “Brittanie Anne can be pretty snotty.” Of course, during the ensuing BFF truce, I heard my daughter proclaim to Brittanie Anne, “My dad thinks you’re snotty.”

 

Lord help me.

 

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.