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A Gander Ahead at 2019, the Year of the Goiter

5 Jan

by Roger White

 

Ah, my catatonic cohort, as we stagger forward into 2019, which I believe is the Chinese Year of the Goiter, allow me to gaze into my patented (Patent #4,448,923.e-7) Oldspouse Ball of Crystal-like Substance and render forth an inkling of what is on the horizon in the delirious days to come.

 

goiter dude

Right off the bat, as the mist clears in my little pearl of prognostication, I see, wait, there it is, I see the late Walter Matthau at a podium. No, wait, my bad, that’s White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She is announcing that there will no longer be an annual State of the Union address. This, she says, will be replaced by the president’s hourly Tweet of the Union, in which actual verbs and coherent spelling will be optional. But there’s more. Here we go, read along, if you will:

 

In the World of Business. In late April, in violence-ridden Chicago, two enterprising entrepreneurs come up with a safety-conscious version of the Uber ride-sharing initiative—this one utilizing surplus US Army tanks to ferry passengers from point A to point B. Tuber, the company is called, allows up to four people to ride in a WWII-vintage M4 Sherman tank to their desired destinations. For an extra charge, passengers may fire the Sherman’s 75-mm cannon at a Starbucks of their choice (although the cannon is armed only with yellow house paint and fifty-gallon canisters of glitter). The White House responds to this development by promising to build 20-foot-high walls made of baked knishes around every Starbucks franchise in the greater Chicago area. Press Secretary Sanders notes that the president will make the US military, primarily former US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, pay for the $250-million knish construction.

 

In Weather. In late August, following a record 147 days of 115-degree temperatures, the town of Lovelock, Nevada, spontaneously combusts, incinerating every building in a two-square-mile radius of downtown Lovelock. Fortunately, only three people are killed, as almost every citizen of the town of approximately 2,000 people departed to stay with poor lovelockrelatives until the unprecedented heat wave subsided. In response to the vast majority of world scientists explaining that the disaster was a direct result of drastic global warming, the White House imposes a national ban on world scientists and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of anthracite coal around the headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 

In Social Developments. The #MeToo Movement retakes the national spotlight in September, as no less than 25 prominent women in areas of endeavor from politics to show business, from sports to finance and industry come forward with personal accounts of harassment and inappropriate behavior leveled against mainly white men in positions of great power. In response, the White House announces a national ban on Gwyneth Paltrow and begins plans to engineer a 20-foot-high wall of ribbed latex around every white male American CEO, Congressman, movie producer, and member of the Catholic Church.

 

In Sports. In October, the surprising Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball’s American League Central Division complete their amazing 2019 season by sweeping the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals, four games to none, to claim the World Series trophy. After hearing that Tigers’ Venezuelan first baseman Miguel Cabrera earned the series Most Valuable Player award—and discovering that the Tigers lead the majors in Hispanic players on the roster—the White House proposes to end all shipments of bats, balls, gloves, and other baseball equipment to all Latin American countries and begins formulating plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of hot dog buns around Detroit’s Comerica Park.

 

In Trends. In mid-November, the makers of the plant-based meat substitute Beyond Meat announce the development of three more innovative concepts: Beyond Clothes (in which slacks, shirts, and dresses are replaced by edible dashikis made of tofu and soy pulp), Beyond Food (in which users’ desires to actually consume food are tempered by scented holograms of rotting whale carcasses), and Beyond Sex (in which users’ sexual urges are dampened by audio recordings of Gilbert Gottfried describing his genitalia in gilbertminute detail). In response, the White House declares an immediate national ban on all plants and vegetables and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of dried beef jerky around every Golden Corral and Bonanza steakhouse in the country.

 

And in Political News. By December, the political stalemate in Washington, D.C., finally ends as Congress announces it has quashed efforts to construct a gigantic wall along the wallnation’s southern border. This lifts the 352-day-long partial government shutdown, during which 4,500 federal employees perished from lack of food and medical care. The White House responds with a total national ban on federal employees and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall around the partially constructed 20-foot-high wall currently in place on the nation’s southern border.

 

Roger White is a 20-foot-high freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely 20-foot-high spouse, a gas-powered dachshund, and a cat recovering from Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit www.oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Are We Fiddling Around Like Nero?

25 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

“Why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex”

—CNN web site headline dated September 19, 2012

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. Most Americans don’t do much physical labor on a daily basis anymore. We are at our most overweight and short of breath than 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, film and television—are in a state of upheaval as publishers, producers, and purveyors of entertainment chart confused courses in their attempts to grasp new media, often leading to drastic actions such bookstore and music outlet closings, the demise of longtime news and publishing houses, and frustration and despair for many promising 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. With an unlimited number of outlets, through practically boundless 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 nab the precious advertising dollars. Hence, you have an intrepid reporter telling you why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex.

Last but least, our self-seeking politicians have abandoned any semblance of civil discourse to rabidly defend their respective party lines to the complete detriment of any action toward the advance of our society. They 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 very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

An Insider’s Peek at Hollywood, Part II

26 Mar

by Roger White

I suppose I had my one real insider’s look at how Hollywood works some years ago, when I attended a screenwriters’ session on how to “pitch ideas” to producers during an Austin Film Festival annual gathering of would-be writers.

A panel of so-called idea people (a Hollywood oxymoron if I ever heard one) sat at a table and critiqued writers’ script ideas, based on approximately 30 seconds of monologue. If writers didn’t have what the idea people called a high-concept proposal, if writers paused for a breath, if writers tried to explain a complex plot turn, they were toast.

The guy who won the pitch contest did so with the following idea, I kid you not:

“So you’re walking along the street, a nice sunny day, and suddenly everything goes blank. Then you’re like HOLY F@#K!! WHERE AM I?!”

“Ooh,” said the idea people. “Nice.”

Cursing and yelling seemed to be high on their list. “High concept,” to these folks, who I must say all looked to be about 25 to 28 years old, meant explosions, gruesome terror, betrayal, deadly animals, killer robots, slasher horror, or Brad Pitt. This particular pitch session occurred as the movie “Snakes on a Plane” was in production. One of the idea people could hardly contain himself as he explained what a fantastic high-concept film this was going to be—a classic in the making.

“Imagine it,” he gushed. “Snakes set loose on a plane! Don’t you see? There’s no way off of a plane. And all these snakes are slithering all over the place!”

I sat and wondered how this expert panel would have rated the opening scene to the 1951 epic “A Place in the Sun,” in which Montgomery Clift is quietly thumbing for a ride along a lonely stretch of road. It was then and there I realized I would never be a Hollywood screenwriter. No, not sour grapes. I’m just not young and stupid enough.

Am I alone here? With very few notable exceptions, this is the state of film-making today. If it bites, blows up, bleeds, beheads people, or is Brad, it’s got a green light. If we run out of ideas, we do it all over again as a sequel.

Even my kids, teenage movie buffs both of them, understand by now the banal, bottom-line instincts of your basic Hollywood producer. Both my daughters are big “Twilight Saga” fans, but even they balked at the notion of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Wind—Part II.”

Did I say “Wind”? I meant “Dawn,” of course. This latest gem, which opens in November, is a part two within a multi-part series of movies, mind you, all of which are looking more and more like the same vampire movie with simply fresh blood and longer fangs.

This got me thinking again. What if the great citizenry—that’s us—rose up and dictated to Hollywood: No More Sequels! I know, I know what you’re going to say, what about “Godfather II”? Simple, this is the exception that proves the rule. Just about every other sequel I can think of never should have seen the light of day. Here are just a few: “Basic Instinct 2,” “Caddyshack II,” “Grease 2,” “Jaws: The Revenge,” “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” “Dumb and Dumberer,” “Blues Brothers 2000.” The list is damn near eternal.

I shudder to think of the results if such movie-making titans as director Stuart Rosenberg (“Cool Hand Luke”) or Robert Mulligan (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) had been under similar pressure to squeeze out sequels. Oh, the horror.

Come to think of it, there’s no time limit on butchering classics. They have a new “Three Stooges” now, for crying out loud. So, as much as it strikes terror in my heart, you might look for these titles soon at a theater near you:

• “Cooler Hand Luke: Revenge of Them Damned Eggs”

• “To Sir With Even More Love”

• “Citizen Kane II: Rosebud Returns”

• “The Ten Commandments II: God’s Revisions”

• “Real Gone with the Wind”

• “Bonnie and Clyde Part 2: They Were Only Flesh Wounds”

• “The Post-Graduate: Revenge of the Robinsons”

• “Mockingbird II: Rise of Boo Radley”

• “Dueling Wizards of Oz: I’ll Witch-Slap You”

 

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.