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Commence Ye Festivities, Followers: It’s Find the Fib

15 Aug

by Roger White

 

Ah, yes. It’s just about that time again, my anthrax-addled adherents. No, I’m not referring to Be An Angel Day—although August 22 is official Be An Angel Day. If you’re unfamiliar with BAAD, it was created by Jayne Howard Feldman, author of Driving Under the Influence of Angels, who insists that she was inspired by said angels to devise this special day to encourage being kind to others and participating in all-around do-goodery. This is not to bidareyae confused with BAHAD—Bean A Hell’s Angels Day—which involves smacking a motorcycle gang member upside the head and then running like hell.

 

Anyway, that isn’t what I’m talking about, so just leave it alone.

 

No, troops, it’s time once again to play Find the Fib. Yes, I know that NPR Radio has its backward version of this shtick, but as I said before, I’ve been doing it for 33 years now, so if anyone has a case against anybody, it’s me. Against them. About this. But I love NPR, and only lawyers win when you sue, and who needs wealthier lawyers?

 

Which reminds me of another lawyer joke:

Q: Why is attending a bar association meeting like going into a bait shop?

A: Because of the abundance of suckers, leeches, maggots, and nightcrawlers.

 

God, I love that. Anyway, faithful gawkers of my quasi-regular epistles know that every 18 years, rain or shine, I present Find the Fib. How it works is this: I give you, dear readers, several news reports from around the globe. However, one of them is total bunk. Sheer hokum. Your job is to determine which one. First one to e-mail me the correct answer at roger.white@tasb.org wins three real U.S. dollars. No pennies, real bills. Second place wins two bucks; third place, one genuine American dollar. Fourth through sixth place wins a nifty “Jesus Is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker; seventh through ninth earns a hearty “Thanks for Playing Our Stupid Game!” e-mail from yours truly. Taxes on winnings are sole responsibility of individual winners. Void where prohibited. Prohibit where voided. Violators will be prosecuted. Prosecutors will be etc. etc.

 

If you don’t want to play this time around, worry not. You’ll get another opportunity in August of 2032. So here goes. Find the Fib:

ohboy

Story No. 1: Overly germaphobic types in South Korea have invented something they call the Finger Nap. Finger Naps are tiny plastic sanitary gloves that fit over one’s digits—basically finger condoms—to be used by over-the-wall neat freaks to eat pizza, hamburgers, donuts, and such. Some restaurants in South Korea have caught on to the trend by installing Finger Nap dispensaries. Now if they could only invent Nose Naps for eating kimchi.

 

Story No. 2: Boeing is teaming up with South African Airways to develop jet fuel made from tobacco. The fuel, concocted from a hybrid tobacco plant, is part of an effort to cut carbon emissions and promote green energy in South Africa. Test-farming of the plants is under way, with biofuel output expected in the “next few years,” a company spokesperson said. The spokesperson did not say whether fuels would be available in menthol and ultra-light.

 

Story No. 3: Authorities in New Jersey are investigating the explosion of a giant vat of eggnog, which damaged a pharmaceutical plant and caused minor injuries to two workers. Employees were mixing artificial eggnog flavorings in a laboratory in Totowo, New Jersey, when the explosion occurred, the town’s fire marshal told local news reporters. The company was trying out a new eggnog recipe, the marshal said, adding that the cause of the blast was undetermined. There’s been no word from officials about why a giant vat of whiskey was parked next to the giant vat of eggnog.

 

Story No. 4: In a tragic twist, a Wisconsin man was killed accidentally by an invention he envisioned to save lives. The inventor was wearing his “para-shirt” invention, created weeeto be worn as a dress shirt that could be used as a parachute in the event of a high-rise office fire, when the parachute deployed while the man was driving on a Madison freeway. With his view obstructed, the man drove off a downtown overpass, dropping thirty feet to his demise. Now if he’d only invented the “car-a-chute.”

 

Story No. 5: A South African animal rights group is planning to sue those responsible for the death of a giraffe that smashed its head on a bridge as it was transported in a trailer on one of the country’s busiest freeways. Eyewitnesses reported seeing two giraffes in an open trailer being driven along Johannesburg’s N1 motorway before one hit its head on the bridge. “Look how low that bridge is and how tall the giraffes are,” one witness cried. “Who thought this one through?” South Africa’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SANSPCA) said they would be seeking to prosecute the giraffe relocators. Meanwhile, SASORSP—the South African Society Of Really Stupid People—is also seeking the drivers to award them the organization’s highest honor.

 

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.

 

Keep Oak Hill Odd (and Full of Oaks, Please)

7 Oct

by Roger White

 

Funny thing how towns, neighborhoods, and areas get their names—you know, like Oak Hill. This southwest Austin community we call home contains oak trees aplenty, as does a tiny parcel within the Oak Hill area known as Oak Acres. Now, to get to the lovely oak-lined circle of homes called Oak Acres, you go south on the Highway 290 service road just past Industrial Oaks and turn right onto, you guessed it, Oak Boulevard.

 

Stay with me, because there’s a very good reason the word “oak” is mentioned more than just a few times here. This cool little collection of homes is an agrarian alcove of green land, lush dollops of wildflowers, and—here it comes—lots of grand oak trees. This may not be for long, however, if developers have their way. Spurred on by deep-pocketed builders, the city of Home in Oak AcresAustin is considering a zoning change that would allow for the construction of 80+ condominiums in the small tract of gorgeous land behind Oak Acres. Where now one views a blanket of blue larkspur and evening primrose, wild rabbits, a copse of graceful trees, and glorious, expansive sunsets, one may soon see only the bedroom windows of two-story condominiums and lots of industrial-grade siding.

 

Yes, Oak Acres may soon become Condo Corner.

 

What’s happening, you see, is a sad refrain of what happens to so many treasured places these days. Big-money developers see unused virgin land; virgin land owners see dollar signs; city officials look the other way; and area homeowners see their precious community turned into Cleveland. You hear these woeful stories all the time.

 

In this particular case, the area known as the Harper Park Tract, which butts up against tiny Oak Acres, was recently coveted by a megalithic homebuilder who will remain unnamed. The builder sidled up to the owner of this rural acreage, flashed some impressive dollar figures, you get the ideaand you can guess the rest. The homeowners’ group in Oak Acres has tried to negotiate with the developer (this should be read as “the developers’ high-priced lawyer team”)—but after mutually agreed-upon concessions were ignored or completely changed by the developer’s legal beagles when ink was put to paper, the Oak Acres homeowners decided to fight.

 

Understand, good people, that there are fewer than 40 homes in this charming little neighborhood. This means there aren’t too many folks going to bat for the Oak Acres team. If you’re getting a David-and-Goliath sort of image in your mind’s eye about now, then you are getting the picture. If you’ve never been to Oak Acres, you should go. It’s just a simple circle—one way in, one way out. The homes are unpretentious and appealing; the properties are well-maintained and full of bicycles and toys, front-porch swings and gardens—the pleasant trappings of family life on the rural edge. The lots are about a half-acre or more each, with room to breathe and play. However, if the condos clamber in, at an average of about five of them an acre, the folks here can kiss this quality of life goodbye.

 

yer typical lawyerAs it stands now, the little guys have a petition in place; the Oak Acres folks need at least two city council members to vote with them to oppose the zoning change, effectively blocking a super-majority required to override the petition. What this would mean, of course, is that a city official would have to side with homeowners, not big-money business. That’s always a tough one, it seems. Last I heard was that the city council was planning on meeting October 17 to consider the matter.

 

Who’s willing to go to bat for David? Wouldn’t it be something for the little guys—the homeowners—to win one?

 

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.

 

Let’s Play the Blame Game

11 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Did you ever notice how a lot of bloggers and columnists these days start their blogs and columns with “Did you ever notice…”? Uh oh.

Actually, in all the 2,103 columns I’ve written over the past (censored) years, I don’t believe I’ve ever kicked off an installment with those four Seinfeldian words. So allow me this one:

Did you ever notice how there is always someone or something to blame for every cotton pickin’ thing these days? In this age of victims, nothing just happens by chance or circumstance anymore—someone must be blamed. Fault must be found. Perpetrators must be punished. And surely somewhere down the line, lawyers must be compensated.

I have resisted this mindset as long as I can, dragged my feet against the rushing tide of the times until my heels are raw. So I give in. I will now add my voice to the din; therefore, I give you my “blame” list for some of the odd quirks and tendencies that are endemic to li’l old me.

Scapegoat No. 1—Doorways. Ya know the age-old question of “what did I come in here for” that hits you when you walk into a room and then draw a complete blank? Well, at my age this happens just about every hour on the hour. I thought I was getting old and feeble-minded, but as it turns out, my door is to blame. Yep, psychologist types at the University duhhhhof Notre Dame have determined that walking through a doorway triggers something called an event boundary in your noggin. In other words, what you were thinking of in one room goes flying away when you go to another room, especially when the TV is on and the Cowboys have the ball. Okay, I made up that last part. But isn’t this great? I have a lawsuit in the works against Pella Doors and Windows. If you want to join me in a class action suit, dial 1-800-DUM-DOOR.

Scapegoat No. 2—Apple Maps. I get lost a lot; now, I’ve someone to blame. Did you hear about this? Seems that Apple Maps, in its rush to compete against Google and other major online map companies, goofed big time, putting many cities and landmarks in the wrong places.

In one grievous instance, Apple plopped some town called Mildura, Australia, more than 40 miles away from where it really is, and—believe it or not—some drivers actually ended up stuck in the rugged Australian outback and had to be rescued by police.

Can you picture this? The road sign reads “Mildura Straight Ahead” but the car’s Apple Map says “No, Ron, turn left.”

you are here, no here“Crikey!” says Ron and turns left against his better judgment. Ten hours later, as Ron scorches in the 110-degree heat of the outback, he decides to leave.

“NO!” orders Apple Map. “You are here. This is Mildura.”

“But…I’m thirsty.”

“I’m sorry, Ron, but I have shut off your motor.”

This is ripe for another juicy legal action, no?

“Uh, yeah, hello? Is this Apple Maps?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, I have Apple Maps on my iPhone, and it told me that to get to Dallas I had to drive straight ahead off the Galveston Sea Wall, and my car is now in 15 feet of water. Can I speak to your legal department?”

Scapegoat No. 3—Kitty litter. One of my duties around the homestead is waste management—and this includes changing that most toxic of entities, the kitty litter box. I have always thought that this lovely, touchy-feely euphemism—kitty litter—is one of the cruelest of domestic ironies. The term “kitty litter” sounds cute, harmless, even cuddly somehow. Have you ever changed a kitty litter box that hasn’t been touched by human hands in over a week? This is one of the foulest, nastiest, zombie apocalyptic-type things you’ll ever come in contact with. I honestly believe that you could arm the U.S. Marines meowuhohwith cats, turned back end toward the enemy, and you could send any opposing force running faster than Iraq’s elite Republican Guards.

Anyway, it turns out that, now stay with me here, some suicide attempts have actually been linked to kitty litter. I believe it. A study by a guy named Teodor Postolache (really, that’s his name) claims there’s a link between an infection called Toxoplasma gondii, which you get from handling kitty litter, and suicide attempts.

So there you have it, honey. I would change the box, but, man, I’m so down. What’s the use in living?

Side note to self: File suit against the Fresh Step company.

Now, this last part has nothing to do with anything, but I believe it carries a strong message for you and me. Seems that a Florida man remains in the hospital with severe injuries after the cops stopped him for DWHATSIYS.

What’s DWHATSIYS, you ask? That’s police lingo for Driving While Having A Traffic Sign In Your Skull. Duh. The Florida Highway Patrol pulled over one L.R. Newton after he smashed into a road sign and then kept on going. When they stopped the guy, they found that a big chunk of the traffic sign was sticking out of his headbone. Newton’s in stable condition, but the sign didn’t make it.

Stupid sign. I’d sue the sign makers.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

The Jury’s Still Out on This Column. Way, Way Out.

29 Nov

by Roger White

You’ll pardon me if I flex my whack-a-lawyer muscles again, but it’s not my fault this time. It’s true that I swore to my friends of the barrister bent that I would lay off for a while since my last acerbic attorney attack, in which I believe I opined something to the effect of the following:

“Q: So you’re stuck on a desert island with Hitler, a 100-pound rabid wolf, and a lawyer, and you have a gun with only two bullets in it. What do you do?

A: Shoot the lawyer twice.”

And, indeed, I had no intention of even intimating in this column the notion that fifteen minutes in a steamroom full of lawyers is guaranteed to produce results as mucilaginous as a great pot of stewed okra. Ick.

No, I was going to pen a nice, droll little piece about the agonies of Christmas shopping, mainly pointing out all the unfathomably extraneous must-purchase gift doodads at places like Brookstone—such as those internet-linked patty thermometers that you can insert into your burgers as you grill them to determine not only the very millisecond that the epicenter of your ground beef mound hits optimum ingesting temperature but also to pinpoint and track the temperature of each patty morsel as it works its way through your backyard barbecue guests’ digestive systems, just for fun.  This is what I was going to write about. How thoughtless gifts have come a long, mysterious way since the era of maritime-themed tie tacks and microphone-shaped soap on a rope.

Alas, that column was not to be, for again I have been sidetracked, this time by that little letter we all receive from the county clerk now and again that makes us all earnestly yearn for a hefty dose of the chicken pox: the dreaded jury summons.

Yes. So the very day I had set aside to congeal all of my yuletide shopping horror stories into a bouncy little missive for your wonder and amusement was spent instead deep in the bowels of the Travis County Courthouse listening to defense and plaintiff legal beagles grill me and approximately 50 other total strangers on whether or not we could be fair and impartial in this really twisted case of . . . ooh, sorry, I can’t divulge that information. Judge’s orders, ya know. All I can say about the case is ew, yuck, OMG, and I didn’t know such a thing was anatomically possible with a regulation-size bowling pin.

As prospective jurors, we all had to sit through five grueling hours of voir dire, which is Latin for “your embarrassing past is now on display to determine if your biased, bigoted, and emotionally disturbed personality precludes you from jury service.” The lengths some folks go to avoid their civic duty, I must say, never ceases to amaze. One lady, I kid you not, interrupted the judge no fewer than nine times with such questions as “Is the prosecutor the same thing as the attorney?” By the time this old gal was hustled away, the rest of us weren’t sure if it was an act or not, but she was unceremoniously handed a “get out of jury service free” card and awarded six free DVDs of Judge Judy Season One. One large man in front of me claimed post-traumatic stress disorder from grievous wounds received during his military service as a means of skipping out, but when pressed by one of the attorneys on the specifics of his war injuries he ’fessed up that he was beaned in the back of the head by a car part in his motorpool job. Yeah, right. Keep your seat, Mr. Purple Heart. I was Prospective Juror #18, and by the time the lawyers took turns whittling away all their undesirables, it appeared that I was seriously headed for ye olde jury box. However, a late question by the defense team saved the day. They asked me what my wife did for a living, and I proudly proclaimed that dear Sue works for, you guessed it, a downtown law firm. “You mean she works with lawyers? Like us?” “Yup.” “Do you believe this fact might hinder your ability to render a fair and impartial verdict in this case?” “Uh, probably not. Giggle. Fry ’em.” “What did you say?” “Nothing.” Then both legal teams hustled to the bench to whisper things back and forth to the judge, and the next thing I knew I was on the street.

Hoohah! I mean, darn. Oh, well. I had fully intended to serve if called upon. Heck, Twelve Angry Men is one of my favorite movies. It may have been a real kick to be Henry Fonda, or Lee J. Cobb, or Jack Klugman even. “Of course, the kid did it! They’re all alike! Hang ’em all! AHAHHA!!!” Whew. Sorry. Got carried away there. 

However, I did not emerge unscathed from my brush with our cantankerous court system. When I finally got to my car, I found my windshield papered with a nice collection of parking tickets, courtesy of Austin’s finest. Now, that’s a good scam. Where’s my lawyer?

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.