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For the Sake of All Things Austin, Stop Operation Shade Elm!

12 May

by Roger White

 

Now, ye who know me understand that I’m not of the alarmist ilk; neither am I a hardline skeptic, a delusional “truther,” nor a conspiracy buff who spies shadowy figures behind every knoll, grassy or otherwise. But I have to admit, after observing all the brouhaha stirred up by our dear governor over the U.S. military’s lurking around our sovereign Lone Star lands (see Operation Jade Helm), my suddenly sensitive radar picked up on some very peculiar activities ’round these parts lately.

So I did some investigating, and I found that what’s taking place as we live and breathe is much more peculiar—and dastardly—than you could ever imagine.

At first, I began to notice an unusual proliferation of Williamson County Sheriff’s Department vehicles in and around Austin. Have you seen them, too? Then oneRepub Donuts day, I happened to be in the parking lot of one of our very own Austin Java coffee shops when I saw two rather rotund middle-aged white men in checkered polyester suits, white shoes, and black sunglasses, standing beside two nondescript black sedans. So what, you say? So this. They were munching on donuts—from a Round Rock Donuts box that was sitting on the hood of one of the mysterious sedans. Round Rock, mind you. Checkered polyester suits. White shoes. Middle-aged fat white guys. Don’t you see? They were not at all Austin-like. Blatantly so.

I sidled up, nonchalant, and overheard the following:

“Perfect spot, don’cha think?” said the more corpulent of the corpulent ones.

“Yup,” said the other, wiping his chin on a polyester coat sleeve. “Sheriff Wilson says the green light for Operation Shade Elm could come before the summer’s out.”

Operation Shade Elm? Sheriff Wilson? Round Rock Donuts? Polyester? Holy Conservative Coup!

On a hunch, I texted my hacker friend Eric and asked if he could do some digging—namely for anything named Shade Elm coming from Williamson County.

Eric called me two days later.

“You ready for this?” Eric said breathlessly. “I found one document, in a file folder marked for deletion. OSE. Operation Shade Elm. Williamson County is on the front line of something big. Something most of the rest of the state is on board with—especially Dallas and Lubbock.”

“What?!” I practically screamed into my phone.

“It’s a takeover. They’re gonna turn Austin red, little by little.”

“How? What? How can they do that?”

“Subtle things, man. First, they’re gonna close down all the Austin Java shops and reopen ’em as Round Rock Donuts. Then, get this, Magnolia Café…”

“No.”

Repub Barrel“Yeah, they’re gonna be Cracker Barrels.”

I shuddered.

“They’re gonna attack on the clothing front, too. Men’s shops first.”

“Not polyester.”

“Yup. All the name shops in Austin—Wally’s, Service Menswear, Stag. Gone. Gonna move in Dickies, Walmart Fashion Outlet, Porter Waggoner Line, that kinda stuff.”

“I’m gonna be sick.”

“That’s not the half of it,” Eric continued. “The Austin Car2Go program…”

“You mean all the little Smart Cars the city lets you use?”

“Yeah. They’ll be gone. Gonna replace ’em with Ford F-150 Super Cabs. With gun racks and naked lady mudflaps. And every month will be Truck Month.”

Repub Mudflap“O.M.G.”

“And Cesar Chavez. Once the takeover’s complete, they’ll rename it the Ronald Reagan Liberty Plus Freedom Memorial Drive.”

“We have to stop this,” I muttered.

“Yeah, I know. Look, you write a column. Get the word out, man.”

Sweet Ghost of Ann Richards, Eric’s right. We have to marshal resistance—before summer’s end. We MUST stop Operation Shade Elm. Mayor Adler, Councilman Renteria, City Manager Ott, Wastewater Commission Chair Gray, Sixth Street Dude Who Plays the Trash Cans—We Must Do Something! Call out the Travis County Guard! We must keep Austin weird. Or at least polyester-free. I see them coming! The brown Williamson County vehicles! Here they come! The white shoes! The Rush Limbaugh t-shirts!

Zzz. sssSSNORT. Whew. What a dream. That’s the last time I eat donuts before bed. ’specially Round Rock Donuts.

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

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Football Tonight: Ursine Mammals vs. Midpriced Sedans!

2 Apr

by Roger White

 

This here story, which you may have heard about already, falls squarely under the “you gotta be kiddin’ me” category, because when I read it, I said, “What the f— … er, you gotta be kiddin’ me.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Here ’tis, and I quote:

“A Utah school district has decided against using Cougars as a mascot for a new high school in part because of the negative connotation of the word in popular culture. Canyons School District Superintendent David S. Doty said the selection of Chargers as the school’s mascot was driven by the desire for originality, despite a poll of some future students that showed 26 percent in favor of using the Cougar mascot.

“Doty said that although Brigham Young University, as well as several Utah high schools (including one in a nearby district), use Cougars as a mascot, public comments they received reflect a desire to be different—and he noted that some see the word ‘cougar’ as carrying a ‘negative double entendre.’ Spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook said the power of social media has brought the district more attention than desired, referring to articles like this Huffington Post story, ‘Cougar Mascot Vetoed for Corner Canyon High School for Being Offensive toward Women,’ or this Yahoo sports story, ‘New School Can’t Be Cougars Because Middle-Aged Women Might Be Offended.'” Or this here social media story that I’m about to write. Har. Woah, hey, I’m actually writing it right now. AAH! One of those space-time continuum moments. How can I be writing it now if you’re already reading it? Hello! hello! Echo! echo! Scary.

So anyway, yeah, all ol’ Superintendent Doty had to say was that the school wanted to be different. By bringing up the negative double entendre thing, he opened himself up a big ol’ can o’ media worms. I like that. Media worms. Kinda fits.

This, of course, got me thinking about what other teams might have to re-ponder their mascot choices, given today’s milieu of ultra-hyper-crikey-sensitivity. Let us ponder. And re-ponder. Take the NFL (please):

Chicago Bears. Sorry, gay connotation. If you are unaware, a “bear” in the gay world, and I quote from a popular social media source, refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and often facial hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, lest we offend our hairy homosexual brethren, let’s change it to the Chicago Ursine Mammals.

Buffalo Bills. Mmm, negative emotional impact on the financially strapped in our society. Bills, bills, bills. We can’t have that. This needs to be something gentler, something along the lines of Buffalo Payment Restructuring Reminders.

New York Jets. Nope; this offends those of us who can’t afford to fly. From now on, you are the New York Midpriced Sedans.

New England Patriots. This is borderline, but I see possible political overtones here. Just to be on the safe side, let’s go with the New England Citizens of No Political Affiliation.

Washington Redskins. This one’s obvious. New name – Washington Human Race Members. (Same with the Kansas City Chiefs. Come on, fellahs, that’s just rude. From here on out, the Kansas City Regular Decent People of Vague Ethnic Persuasion.)

Tennessee Titans. Sorry, too reflective of the Titan Missiles, the Space Race, the Cold War, Kruschchev, shoe-pounding and all that. Your new name is the Tennessee World Peace Initiative.

 

Oakland Raiders. Please, this conjures up images of thieves and thugs and other ne’er-do-wells. Try on the Bay Area Working-Class Magnanimous Helper Types.

Cleveland Browns. This is downright color elitist. You will from here on take the field as the Cleveland All-Inclusive Hues. The helmet, of course, will be white but will change color depending on ambient temperature.

Philadelphia Eagles. Mmmm, too nationalistic. I like the Philadelphia Countries in Harmony.

New York Giants. Honestly, this is simply humiliating to short people. The Big Apple’s team should now and forever be the New York Average-Height Folks. And scratch the Big in front of Apple, while you’re at it. Let’s just say The Apple. Well, now, wait—that also discriminates, doesn’t it? The Fruit. There you go. New York the city its own self is now known as The Fruit.

New Orleans Saints. Really, way too pious and religiously selective. See if this fits: The New Orleans Non-Proselytizing Spiritually Uplifted Cadre.

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

Why Civility Matters

9 Mar

Editor’s Note: I rarely if ever post other authors’ material here. The many interesting voices in my head provide enough material to keep me sending missives to you, my demented following, for many years to come.

However, I couldn’t resist on this one. This is a topic vitally important, in my humble opinion. It’s quite serious, and I couldn’t have said it better than one Sara Hacala, so I sought her permission and the permission of AARP Bulletin to reprint it here.

It’s about how we have lost all sense of civility in public discourse today. I wholeheartedly agree, and I hope you’ll help me spread the word. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, Marxist, Atheist, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Jewish, Pagan, Tree-Hugger Party, Ted Nugent Bow-and-Arrow Party–whatever. We need to stop shouting at each other. When, for example, did it become OK to scream out “You lie!” to the president during his address? And remember when the word “sucks” was not an acceptable catch-all for something that is less than par? My eighth-grade teacher sent us to the principal’s office whenever she heard that vulgar word. (This was 1972, mind you.) But you get the idea. Today’s social milieu sucks! oop… well, here’s Sara’s column:

by Sara Hacala

“Whatever happened to civility?” is an oft-heard lament, particularly among those of us over 50 who recognize civility’s increasing absence in a world changing at warp speed. Technology has forever altered the style, speed, and reach of our decidedly less personal communication. Escalating vulgarity, lax standards, sensational media, and polarized politics reign. Society today is far different than it was when we were young.

While rudeness is pervasive and rising (one recent report concluded that bad behavior may be the “new normal”), the societal and financial costs of incivility are astronomical–impacting our homes and relationships, schools, economy, health care, and government.

Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respectfully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the difference between life and death–as, for example, when health care professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes, and create mistrust. It is an essential component of our human sustainability, enabling us not only to survive but thrive.

Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a rudeness vaccine is developed, we must dig into our civility tool kit. There are compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds that change the course of history. However, there is a “greatness” in treating others with respect, compassion, kindness, and generosity. With this, we can make a difference in the lives of many.

Here are five tools:

1. Regardless of your age, make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity, and gratitude. Substantial research shows that people who regularly engage in those acts live longer, healthier, and happier lives. It’s never too late to start.

2. Nurture your social relationships, which, scientists say, have the capacity to generate our greatest happiness. Enrich your connections by balancing Internet contact with phone calls and face-to-face visits, which are more personal forms of communication.

3. Establish meaningful dialogue with medical providers, asserting your right to respectful and compassionate treatment. As a patient, you have the opportunity to evaluate hospital care; hospitals with extensive negative evaluations can lose Medicare subsidies.

4. Seize “teachable moments” with your children and grandchildren if you love them but not their behavior. Child development experts say we’re no longer teaching our kids manners–or respect and empathy for others. By contrast, a major study reported that social skills are a more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. So step up your game with your children and grandchildren. Enlighten your progeny about the importance of developing interpersonal skills and relationships by engaging them in conversations without small screens and buttons. That may be your enduring legacy.

5. Promote decency and decorum among elected officials. Hold them accountable for behavior during campaigns and, more importantly, once they’re in office. Urge civil discourse and bipartisanship to avoid gridlock. You and your country’s livelihood are at stake.

Given our sheer numbers as older people, we can have an impact on transformation. At the very least, we can set an example. It may take a generation to create a positive cultural shift, but we have to start somewhere. These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time.

Reprinted with permission from the March 2012 AARP Bulletin. Copyright (c) 2012 AARP. All rights reserved. For more information, visit www.savingcivility.com.

 

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

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 been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

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, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

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.

It’s Not Just Me, Is It? It’s Too D@%* HOT!

19 Jun

by Roger White

I made the painful mistake of walking to the mailbox at mid-afternoon the other day. It was only about fifty feet, but it was June, it was Texas, and I was barefoot. What was I thinking?

At approximately ten feet from the mailbox, the soles of my feet on the sidewalk’s glowing surface began to feel like warm, spongy marshmallows, left in the Kraft bag in the sun during an ill-conceived summer campout. I might mention that my feet are as white and delicate as warm, spongy marshmallows left in the Kraft bag in the sun, also, but that’s beside the point.

By the time I opened the mailbox (only to find the usual, of course: a couple of bills; an obnoxious flier peppered with exclamation points informing me that I, yes, I, Mrs. Whites, had been selected as a guaranteed winner of either a Mediterranean vacation cruise, a 52-inch high-definition TV, or a back-scratcher provided I booked a weekend “get acquainted” stay at Lake Yerdozegawn Casino of Shreveport, Louisiana; and an official-looking letter from a Nigerian prince), my precious tootsies had gone from melting marshmallows to outright blackened s’mores. I tried to persevere—neighbors were about—but two steps from the mailbox and I started hightailing it back into the house, alternating between a dead run and a crab-stepping gait that would surely qualify for a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Sitting on the kitchen counter with my smoking dogs under the faucet, I pondered my predicament. This surely couldn’t be just a matter of advancing age and retreating tolerance, could it? Although I well remember running and biking and doing just about everything barefoot all summer long when I was a kid—and never really feeling that hot at all (jeez, did we even sweat then?)—I conclude that my burning bunions of late involve more than simple wrinkles-induced wimpiness.

It’s hot. Way. Too. Hot. I’m talking another planet hot. Though I noted at the beginning of this diatribe that it’s practically summer and I’m practically in Mexico, it’s never been this bad. When I look out my window and see the squirrels fighting the blue jays for bird bath privileges, I know something’s amiss. I never knew squirrels were such dead aims with acorns. I was also unaware that squirrels wore bathing suits. It’s just the cutest thing when they leave them to dry on the bird bath. And you should see their tiny little flip-flops.

Anyway, despite what noted scientists Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Ted Nugent (and their well-funded pals at Exxon and R.J. Reynolds) say, you can’t tell me our little globe is not heating up. As I write this, it’s still officially spring, but the thermometer on our back deck already passed away from heat exhaustion. Our front yard looks like beige shag from a ’70s bachelor pad, and our long-haired dachshund, Ralph, looks woefully at me and shakes his head when I tell him it’s time to go out and do his business. You ever try to make a dachshund wear a catheter? My wife gave him a serious summer haircut as incentive, but Ralph’s no dummy. He’s seen the squirrels.

Can’t you just envision the “deniers” in a few years, when the summer’s average daily high is 139 degrees? “Global warming’s a fraud. It’s been hot before. It’s been dry. I remember in 1977 during the ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ Tour, when mmmph…mlllmm” “Sorry, folks, that’s going to wrap up this press conference. Mr. Nugent’s microphone just melted.”

It’s bad, I’m telling ya. Unless there’s a swimming pool or slip ’n’ slide within arm’s reach, even the kids aren’t out. That right there should prove my theorem. If the kids aren’t playing, something’s really wrong. That’s the litmus test. Call it the kidmus test. It’s a deserted landscape out there. It looks like the Sahara Desert, or Mars, or even Cleveland.

Heck, if it weren’t for the invention of air-conditioned vehicles, we would all be stuck inside our homes and offices all day long, staring at computer screens and writing silly columns abou—. Never mind.

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.