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Are We Not Men? We Are Creatures! (Of Habit)

12 Sep

by Roger White

 

I sometimes wonder when I’m in private places—like making my choice-of-urinal decision in the men’s room at work or standing buck nekkid in my closet pondering the day’s wardrobe selection—if I’m being secretly spied upon by sociologist types through two-way mirrors or microscopically sized drones or what have they. I sometimes wonder this not because I’m of the mind that sociologist types are pervs necessarily (though they very well may be), but because I believe sociologist types could glean much human behavior information from observing everyday folks in their solitary moments.

We are creatures of habit, and nowhere are these habits more noticeable than when no one is noticing. Wait. Did that make sense? (writer breathes into cupped hands here, smells no whisky, continues on)

Take, for example, the urinal selection process. At my workplace, there are three urinals in the bathroom. Whenever I heed nature’s call at work and I see that nobody else is in the can at the moment, I instinctively go for Urinal #1 or Urinal #3. Urinal #2—the one in the middle—is never an option, unless

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

urinals 1 and 3 are caked in hideousness and chewed gum and random bits of human effluence. This natural selection process takes place on a subconscious level, I believe, for 91.73 percent of males because the great majority of males do not prefer to stand directly next to other males when doing their business. It’s a personal space issue.

My theory on this matter seems to be verified whenever I am Guy #2 in the john because Guy #1 is almost always at Urinal #1 or Urinal #3, leaving the other end urinal open so his personal space is not violated, either. The 8.27 percent of males who blatantly flout this societal convention and unashamedly bare their wares at Urinal #2 are for the most part raging extroverts or adamant alternative lifestyle proponents. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I have a PowerPoint presentation on this theory available for viewing if you’re interested. I wonder if women experience a similar phenomenon with stall selection?

The buck-nekkid-in-my-closet-pondering-the-day’s-wardrobe procedure also bears out my creatures-of-habit theorem. Try as I might to vary up my workaday wardrobe, it’s always the same: Monday is my dour brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Tuesday is the infinitesimally cheerier light brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Wednesday is humpday blue and gray decisions-decisionswith the faux cashmere socks; and so on. It can’t be helped. And truth be told, there is a bit of comfort in the consistency. Somehow, I feel that all is right with the world when it’s Wednesday and I’m standing at Urinal #3 in my faux cashmere socks and Fred is at Urinal #1 intentionally avoiding eye contact with me and my wares, as I am with him and his boys.

Now, the problem arises when one is contentedly minding one’s business, following creature-of-habit protocol, and someone else—no matter how unintentionally—ignores or outright runs roughshod over one’s creature-of-habit comportment. Hall passings are a good example. At work, we have these inordinately long hallways. They’re a pain when trying to get from place to place—say, when you’re making your way urgently to what you hope is open Urinal #1—but in reality, these extraordinarily lengthy halls are conducive to maintaining creature-of-habit equilibrium. When all are cooperating, mind you. We all know that everyone walks on the right, with opposing traffic passing on the left. If, for some reason (e.g., texting one’s daughter to get the hell up and get to class; looking down to double-check proper fly closure; etc.), you find yourself walking on the left, these long, long hallways give you plenty of advance notice to get back to the right before oncoming traffic on-the-rightcreates confusion. The difficulty arises when an opposing hallwalker is not observing the stay-to-the-right covenant. When clearing of the throat or dropping one’s keys fails to alert this wrong-way yahoo, options immediately become either (a) zipping to the left, which usually causes the wrong-way walker to parry your move and results in an awkward dance; or (b) walking so far to the right in an attempt to protect your lane that you actually begin generating heat and friction against the wall.

My habit in this situation was almost always to hug the wall—until in one instance the terrible friction actually caused my faux cashmere socks to catch fire. What I do nowadays is pretend to forget something and beat an immediate retreat.

Is it just me, or are these things universal?

Oh, btw (which, for you dinosaurs unfamiliar with social media, doesn’t mean “bob tickles wimmen”—it means “by the way,” I think), grand prize winner in our semi-quarterly Quizzical Quotes contest last edition was Mr. Greer Tedford. Or maybe it was Ted Greerford. I forget. Congrats, anyway. Greer won some wonderful parting gifts and a lifetime supply of Aunt Mildred’s Dehydrated Water in Cans.

 

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

 

 

 

Think You’ve Seen It All? Well, You Haven’t.

19 Jan

by Roger White

 

Boy, it happens every time. Without fail, every time I throw my arms up in disgust and utter an exasperated “I’ve seen it all now,” something worse comes along to heave a brick upside the noggin of my jaded sensibilities and inform me that, no, I have not seen it all. Not. Even. Close.

 

Despite how ridiculously vile and frighteningly xenophobic as the foul-smelling arena of politics has become, no, I’m not talking about that. Politics parodies its own self so well these days that no comment is required. Except God help us all. No, what sparked yet another ISIAN (I’ve Seen It All Now) self-rebuke of late came from the one field of human endeavor that manages to run a close second to politics in its ability to horrify and nauseate: advertising.

 

Let me take you back. It wasn’t long ago, a matter of weeks perhaps, and the weather was rotten. So was my health. I had a stubborn chest cold. I’d settled myself down in front of the TV with a meal of my favorite comfort food: a hot bowl of split-pea soup, saltines, and iced tea. With a side of crispy baby gherkins. Awaiting me was an afternoon of recuperation with nourishing reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Twilight Zone.” It was just the therapeutic Mukyprescription I needed. Suddenly, there on the screen, rudely interrupting my sick-day fare of Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou and Rod Serling, was a commercial for some cough medicine featuring an anthropomorphic glob of mucus. That’s right. A walking, talking sickly-green lump of phlegm with stumpy, phlegmy arms and legs.

 

I don’t have to tell you that half of my bowl of hot split-pea soup with saltines went cold and uneaten. The gherkins didn’t go down so well, either.

 

If you watch any television, you, too, have probably seen this chubby little humanoid snotball (no, not Trump—this is about advertising, remember?). Are they serious? These cough medicine moguls are hawking their health-restoring elixir with a revolting ball of human effluence, presumably nicknamed Muky the Mucus Man?

 

Can you just picture these marketing geniuses at deadline time?

“Joe, you got anything?”

“No. I’m empty.”

“Bob? Anything?”

“I dunno. How ’bout a talking loogie?”

“Okay, that’s good. We’re just about out of time. Let’s go with it.”

 

And yeah, when I saw this slimy, gloppy bit of Madison Avenue creativity, my arms reached skyward, and I uttered forth: “I’ve seen it all now.”

 

And yet again, it wasn’t long after that that my latest ISIAN declaration was roundly rejected. Just when I thought that advertising types could sink no lower, the next week I was introduced to a pink little anthropomorphic bladder. It was gotta peean ad for bladder control medicine, and in it this adorable roundish little bladder walks along holding hands with its owner, constantly reminding her that she has to pee. Wait, there’s more. On the same day, on the same channel, came an ad featuring an adorable pink little walking knot of intestines. Really. This creepy duodenum dude, who I can only guess is called Barry Bowels or something, is the mascot for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome medication. Yes, Intestine Man is the best they could conjure.

 

Never in my most delirious fever dreams have I ever envisioned my bowels as a funny-faced little pink dude—and in all candor, I shudder to imagine what my lower innards would look like with a face and limbs. Especially my innards.

Inty

Gak. What’s next? A cutesy brown cartoon poop named Danny Doody concocted as a stool softener mascot? A cuddly little mouth ulcer called Herpey Harry designed to sell cold sore cream? An anthropomorphic little mascot called Limpy the Member used to sell erectile dysfunction pills?

 

Boy, I’ve seen it all. No, wait. I’m quite certain that I haven’t.

 

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

 

A Cautionary Tale from the Planet Retha

27 Jul

by Regor White

 

Sit down, kids, and I’ll share a tale. Mikey, don’t sit so close to the fire. Your Keds are starting to melt. That’s it. OK, good.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (turn right at Andromeda, second star cluster on your left), there was a planet called Retha. The dominant species on the planet Retha were beings known as Nahums. Now, to energize their transport Planet Rethapods and to heat their dwelling units, for many years the Nahums of the good planet Retha used a substance known as ilo—a gooey byproduct of gigantic decayed creatures (called oarsiduns) that lived long before the Nahums.

As time went on, technology developed rapidly—as did the burgeoning population of Retha. The great thinkers and scientists of the planet began to wonder and worry about the safety and the continued availability of the resource ilo. They found, you see, that ilo gave off foul emissions when consumed for energy—and common sense told the thinkers that only so much ilo could be used before it was all gone. Furthermore, the thinkers had found wondrous ways to harness Retha’s natural, reusable energy—such as her great winds and the heat from her nearest star—to fulfill all of the planet’s power needs.

Alas, the influential and powerful Nahums who owned the ilo reserves resisted violently any consideration of these new energy discoveries. They intimidated the thinkers, employed their own so-called scientists to refute and discredit the thinkers, and they paid great sums to Retha’s lawgivers—an unscrupulous class Lopiticiansknown as Lopiticians—to ensure that laws and edicts quashed any and all acceptance of this upstart “renewable energy.”

Disaster followed disaster regarding use and transport of the volatile substance ilo—such as the great ilo spills in the waters of Oximec and Askala that killed all manner of creatures and fouled the once-healthy waters.

The strained rationalizations and twisted logic of the ilo elite reached the pinnacle of absurdity, however, when a process known as farcking became widespread in the Retha region known as North Aricema. Farcking was a procedure invented by the ilo industry to reach deep into Retha’s crust and force out pockets of ilo and its sister substance (called natural sag) by injecting great quantities of high-pressure liquid. This farcking process and the resultant injection of the mass quantities of farcking waste into Retha caused violent tremors—planet rumbles known as rethaquakes—where there had seldom ever been such tremors before.

In the North Aricema provinces of Sexta and Olkamoha, for example, where there had been an average of only one measurable rethaquake per year for decades, they began experiencing an average of 100 of these tremors per year since widespread farcking began there. Yet the pawns of the very wealthy ilo industry quakes!claimed there was no connection—no “concrete proof” of what was patently obvious.

Even after scientific journals all across Retha proved a definite link between the flurry of rethaquakes and the farcking procedures, the province of Sexta went so far as to forbid the governments of its very own villages to ban these rethaquake-inducing processes.

Under the guise of scholarship, ilo industry propagandists, such as the Institute for Policy Doublespeak in the village of Sallad (an ilo stronghold of the Sexta provincmr merrille) produced stories blaming geology itself for the uptick in rethaqakes. A Nahum named Merrill Swetmath, a “resident scholar” of the Doublespeak Institute, even wrote that the high-pressure injection of farcking wastes might be to blame, not the farcking itself. The ridiculous premise of this argument, of course, was that the waste-water injection WAS a basic component of the farcking process! Astounding, no?

Well, you probably know the outcome here, kids. The Lopiticians refused to listen to the scientists and true thinkers who were looking out for the future of Retha. The great and powerful ilo industry reigned supreme over the land—until, that is, swarms of rethaquakes ruined the landscape, and the ilo reserves eventually ran out, throwing an unprepared population into a new Dark Age. Poor Retha.

Thank goodness Earth is no Retha. Eh, kids?

 

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

Of OCD and Toilet Paper and Rubber Donkeys. Nik Nik.

30 Jan

by Roger White

 

How does one know if one’s quirks and little idiosyncrasies are just mildly neurotic tendencies or behaviors that qualify as borderline OCD leanings—or perhaps even activities that could be viewed as sliding down the scale to full-blown dementia? Nik nik nik nik nik.

ocd me

I understand that we are all creatures of habit and that regular routines and daily patterns bring a sense of structure and comfort into our lives. Nik. But taking a half-hour every morning before I can begin work to make sure that my original redline Hot Wheels on my desk are all facing the same direction, at precisely the same angle, and in the same order (by date of manufacture, beginning with the earliest first—from my aqua Beatnik Bandit on down the line) may be a bit excessive, I’m beginning to think. Nik nik nik.

 

Around the house, I find that the needle on my anxiety meter begins to bounce if I don’t adhere stringently to certain customs, such as the following:

 

  • Folding the dishtowel that hangs on the oven handle just right so that one side of the towel hangs precisely even with the other.
  • sil vous plaitTurning the little ceramic French waiter who stands on our stove to the wall so he can’t beseech me with his little ceramic eyes to glue his lost, broken hand back on.
  • Religiously rescrewing the cap on the toothpaste tube in my daughter’s bathroom every time I’m in there. Little slob.
  • Making sure when I refill the TP rollers throughout the casa that the paper flows under the roll and not over. It’s an aesthetic thing. I’ve always been an under man, even though I know that hotels prefer the over position so they can make those fanciful folds in the paper. Pshaw. That’s just pretentious snobbery. It’s gotta be under. Nik.
  • Or zealously remembering every time that I pet either Ralph the dog or Max the cat to immediately seek out the other, un-petted pet if he’s in the room to give him the exact same amount of strokes so that neither of them feel inferior or somehow less loved.

 

Is this behavior normal, a tad askew, or downright wack?

 

There’s a little green, guitar-playing rubber turtle I keep next to my computer, the turtlesand he tells me, in his sing-song voice, that this is all quite ordinary and that I should remain calm. This turtle, Larry, is the sole surviving member of The Animals. This may be changing subjects in the middle of a column—or it may not, considering the topic at hand—but here is the story of Larry the turtle:

 

When I was a kid, I created a tiny rock and roll band out of my gumball-toy animals. I called them The Animals. I fashioned tiny, little instruments—guitars, a standup bass, a full drum kit, piano, and amplifiers—out of index card paper for them to play. I even made tiny, little cardstock albums with sleeves. Their manager, Irving, was a tiny gray plastic gorilla, and he drove them all around to their gigs in a little blue plastic VW bus. Nik nik. Their opening song for every gig was “Get Ready” by Rare Earth because that was my favorite 45-rpm record at the time. My friend Gary and I would set them on their shoebox stage, I’d put on the Rare Earth record and hit the black light, and the crowd (my stuffed animals and other toy creatures) would go wild. The Animals were big. They even had a yacht—a red plastic boat I’d float them around in during my nightly bath.

 

Now, at the time our family had an actual boat—a small, used four-seat outboard we would take to Lake Benbrook on the weekends. On one outing I decided to take The Animals to the lake for a high-seas adventure. For the trip home, I left them in their little craft in a seat of our family boat. When we got back home, they were gone. Somewhere along the way, they’d blown out—a tiny, little gumball-animal version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was inconsolable. So distraught was I that my dad actually drove me all the way to the lake, and we slowly retraced our path from the water onto the road back home. Can you believe we the survivorsactually found their little red boat in the grass on the side of the road? Nik. I recovered a few of the boys, but the rest were hopelessly lost. The band gamely tried to go on, but it was never the same. Some retired or went on to everyday gumball-animal life with the other toys. Some descended into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse. The little rubber donkeys were the worst. Little rubber donkeys cannot handle their toy liquor.

 

My counselor says I have to stop now. I feel better. Thanks for listening. Wait, where is everybody? Nik. Nik nik.

 

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

 

Radicals (like Jefferson) Have No Place in School Lessons

20 Jan

by Roger White

 

Editor’s note: The following is an explanatory letter to Texas public school students from the State Board of Education regarding recent changes the board wants to see made to textbooks that will be on the state-approved list of instructional materials used by school districts all across our fair state.

 

Dear Students:

 

As you may or may not know, there has been a bit of controversy regarding what should and should not be included in the educational primers you young’uns read in school. As of late, we have even noticed that some radical critics (mainly outside liberal elite agitators from the North and tree-hugging limpy wrists from California) have poked fun at the values we seek to impart in your lesson books.

 

For example, espresso-sippin’ instigators such as the National Center for Science Education claim that the global-warming lie is real and that the science textbooks we propose are not presenting fair evidence. We don’t care that 97 percent of climatologists (whatever they are) say that humans are responsible warming schmarmingfor global warming, we see no such facts to put in your books. Besides, you know who says that global warming is real, don’t you? Scientists. Commie, God-hating scientists—the same ones who say the Earth is billions of years old and that we descended from flea-ridden monkeys. All true Texans understand that the Earth is no older than 5,000 years because that’s when God made it. Evolution theories and global-warming conspiracy rumors come from the same dangerous secular humanists who planted those “dinosaur bones” all over the place just to confuse everyone.

 

And just because this so-called expert egghead group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there is global warming, don’t you believe it. Our own panel, the Heartland Institute, has proven otherwise. You don’t need a Ph.D. to know that global warming isn’t real—just look at all the snowstorms and ice up north, like in Oklahoma.

 

Here are some other changes—corrections, we like to call them—you may notice in your lesson books:

 

* Students will learn the historical importance of such stalwart political and spirituajeffersonl forces for liberty and justice such as Barry Goldwater, Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, and Phyllis Schlafly. Less emphasis will be placed on minor, more radical figures, such as left-leaning Thomas Jefferson.

 

* Knowing that this preoccupation with the separation of church and state is the handiwork of radicals and socialist activists, the State Board of Education has blocked a proposal that students learn why the Founding Fathers opposed the establishment of a state religion in the Bill of Rights. We feel the Founding Fathers may have had a bit to drink when they were working on that part of the Bill.

 

* The Board has required more emphasis in high school government class on the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. The Board also feels that this Amendment should be moved up a notch to become the First Amendment and that the term “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” be amended to read “A well-armed Texan, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

 

* Now that history has vindicated Joe McCarthy and his love of the American ol joeway, the Board insists that students learn of his patriotic efforts to cleanse the country of any communist infiltration and other dangerous thoughts. Also, any reference from here on to the term “McCarthyism” should be revised to “red-blooded American McCarthyism.”

 

* Understanding that slavery was really a long time ago and that the country should just move forward and get over it, the Board has decided to remove the word “slavery” from any mention of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and instead refer to it in textbooks as the “Atlantic triangular trade.”

 

These recommended corrections should guide textbook purchases and classroom instruction over the next decade, and not just in Texas. The State Board proudly understands that textbook publishers all across America usually bow to our wishes because, as we all know, Texas purchases almost 50 million textbooks every year, more than any other state. Yee haw!

 

Now, learn good, li’l pardners.

 

Sincerely,

The Texas State Board of Education

 

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.