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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.

Meet Richard Gregory Fump–Futurist, Inventor, Humanist Extraordinaire

23 Aug

by Roger White

 

Wow, gang. I just came back from a futurist conference in San Diego, California, and I am energized—full of hope (for the first time in months) for what lies ahead for humanity and this little blue marble we call home.

 

I was invited to this gathering of futurists as a reporter, and I figured in my duties as an editor of an education magazine, I might collect some tidbits of information on trends, technology, and innovative ways of thinking that may have an impact on the education world.

 

What I found was a mind-blowing cadre of forward-thinking folks with combined, sometimes disparate-seeming interests who bring together concepts from all areas of life to forge novel, astoundingly fresh approaches to transform how we live.

 

First off, let me dispel any misconceptions. Believe me, going in I had this vague notion of just what “futurists” are and what they do. And for those of you who think like me, no, a futurist is not a guy in a Comic-Con Star Trek uniform who sits around thinking about wormholes and hoverboards. Futurists, I discovered, are people who explore possibilities and practical predictions for tomorrow based on where we are today. Sounds simple enough, but some of these folks are on to groundbreaking ideas and inventions that can be put into motion almost immediately—literally tomorrow!

 

Let me give you one amazing example. At the futurist conference, I met an inventor by the name of Richard Gregory Fump—an odd name with an even more bizarre amalgam of interests. Mr. Fump, by his own admission, is a human rights activist/automotive designer. This inspired inventor astonished conference-goers by displaying a state-of-the-art vehicle he created that can be used to defend and protect basic human rights. Sound outrageous? Read on.

 

From a distance, this thought-provoking vehicle looks like an ordinary truck. In fact, Mr. Fump proudly calls his brainchild Truck Fump. But this is no ordinary, everyday dirt hauler. Truck Fump is loaded with a cornucopia of devices, gadgets, and pioneering programs designed to keep even the most ardent civil rights activist safe and sound.

 

Just a few of Truck Fump’s features include:

 

• An automated driving system with built-in GPS and navigation, which is programmed to seek out such events as neo-Nazi/white supremacist rallies. Truck Fump, specially equipped with bulletproof glass and armored side panels, automatically positions itself between rabid neo-Nazis and those protesting against them. Truck Fump effectively thwarts neo-Nazi attempts to run down, shoot, or otherwise harm protesters observing their free-speech rights. Truck Fump is also armed with five 50-gallon canisters of Silly String, which can be fired to hold off and humiliate onrushing neo-Nazis.

 

• The bed of Truck Fump has a hidden canopy that, with a flick of a switch, can envelop the entire bed, concealing immigrants and refugees from war-torn countries attempting to escape the persecution of zealous white supremacists toting automatic weapons.

 

• The front bumper of Truck Fump, constructed of a hardened steel alloy, is shaped like a sharpened bulldozer blade, capable of punching holes in any ridiculous border walls erected by paranoid, delusional political leaders.

 

• The cab of Truck Fump is stocked with the latest in radar, shortwave, internet, and mobile communications devices, designed to pick up and record any covert communications between hostile foreign powers and those same paranoid, delusional political leaders.

 

So, my caring cohort of cosmic cadets, you can see the reasons for my guarded optimism for the times ahead. Thanks to marvelous creations like Truck Fump, progressive, thoughtful people have hope for safer, more peaceful ways to voice their opposition to the idiocy on display before us.

 

Viva Truck Fump! Say it with me, TRUCK FUMP!!

 

Roger White is a peaceful progressive freelance writer who remains flabbergasted that words such as “progressive” and “intellectual” have become dirty words in the vocabulary of today’s paranoid, delusional political leadership. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

That’s It. We’re Toast. Finito. Game Over. Unless…

21 Nov

by Roger White

 

I knew it. I just knew it. We’re doomed. No, I’m not referring to the results of some recent political goings-on you may have heard about (electoral college be forever damned). Although if you want to infer that’s what I’m talking about, go right ahead. I didn’t imply; you inferred. Your bad. No, what I’m yammering about is the impending end of all life on this planet. Some would say that the events of this second Tuesday of November have pretty much opened the gates for such an apocalyptic consequence, but far be it from me to lay blame for the extinction of mankind on the Great Orange Combover. If that’s what it sounds like I’m saying, again, you’re making assumptions.

 

Sigh. Let’s start again. So I read in one of those scientific, researchy-type magazines recently that, according to a prediction by no less than the renowned theoretical physicist, astronomer, and all-around alien-like brainiac Stephen Hawking, we oxygen-breathers don’t have long before it’s lights-out on this big, blue marble. Yeah, bummer, dude.

 

o-godAccording to Dr. H, unless we can figure out a way to colonize other planets and soon, we’re cosmic toast. Yep, unless we can, say, gentrify the Tharsis Upland Region of Mars (by developing high-rise biodome condos and thereby scooting all the tiny, little ethnic Martian micro-organisms off to the lower-rent Hellas Impact Basin—ain’t that the human way?), then our galactic gooses—sorry, geeses—are cooked. It may be nukes; could be climate catastrophe; maybe an asteroid; might even be a violent overthrow by nasty self-aware robots who finally get fed up with having to scrub our sewage-treatment plants, but one way or another, if you pay heed to the Hawkman, the species Humanus Textus While Drivus is a goner. The rolling Hawking-genius-bot gives us 1,000 years, tops.

 

Now, I know that 1,000 years seems like a long time. And, well, it is. But I got lots to do, and I’m just not sure if a millennium is enough time for me to check off every item on my bucket list. So just in case I don’t make it to Thanksgiving of 3016, I’ll need some of you to finish out my to-do things.

 

i-r-writerHigh on my list is (4) become a published novelist. I had this one scratched out several times, thanks to a string of smarmy suck-up literary agents who were so convinced I was on the fast track to the bestseller list that I had a Central Park brownstone all picked out and even had a pen-name to go by in case I got too famous for my own good. One guy even hooked me up with an LA screenwriter who was also quite confident I was the second coming of J.D. Salinger. Nothing ever came of any of it. Four novels, gathering dust in the closet, and a pile of rejection letters from every publishing house from Nantucket to New Zealand stacked high enough to be a fire hazard. Oh, my pen name. Was going to be D.J. Slingerland. I dunno, just sounded good. So there it is. I have four perfectly good mediocre novels waiting for some intrepid soul to champion. One is horror genre; the other three are historical fiction, science fiction, and a heartwarming coming-of-age memoir. You could even mash them all together, if you like. Call it a very long heartwarming historical sci-fi coming-of-age horror memoir. Or something.

 

wtf-circleThe other top-three items on my finish-by-3016 list? They are, in order: (3) learn how to navigate a traffic circle without having to contact my insurance guy; (2) finish the chicken fried steak at Hill Country Cupboard in one sitting (damn near impossible; it feeds a platoon); and (1) talk to someone live and in person who has actually been hospitalized for having an erection that lasts for more than four hours. I mean, is that even a thing? I can’t even.

 

Hey, look! I made it through this whole mess without uttering the word “Trump” once. Aw, dammit.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer/would-be novelist living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, an obese but mannered 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.

Just What IS The Oklo Device?

13 Sep

Dear This Old Spouse Followers, Friends, and Faithful,

 

Join me on an adventure, if you would. Do you want to read something truly terrifying? I’m serious here—for once. I have a startling, unsettling story for you.

 

It’s called The Oklo Device.

 

The earth’s mysteries have always intrigued me. Despite all of our scientific and technological advances, there are still phenomena on this planet that remain unknown. Unexplainable. This one, in particular—the mystery of the Oklo mines—has fascinated and vexed me for so long that I finally sat down and wrote a book about it.

 

Oklo_Cover_hi-resThis much is fact—you can look it up. In the spring of 1972, nuclear scientists at a uranium enrichment plant in southeastern France made a shocking discovery. While studying samples from a uranium mine at a place called Oklo in the central African country of Gabon, French researchers found that the atomic energy was all but depleted from uranium mined at Oklo. Uranium can be altered in this way by only two means—through either an atomic explosion or in a nuclear reactor. These samples, mind you, were proven to be hundreds of millions of years old. It was clear from their evidence that these ancient uranium samples had undergone some type of nuclear reaction eons before man ever walked the earth. After considerable consternation and debate, researchers theorized that this must have been an absolutely unique but natural process. Although the Oklo site is the only known location on Earth where such a reaction has occurred, this sole explanation for a prehistoric nuclear event has been accepted as fact for more than 40 years. What is baffling to me is how this potentially shattering discovery has received such little notice in the media.

 

There have been alternative theories, but no one has seriously challenged this fantastic truth—until now. Go here, if you would:

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354657

 

At the bottom of this web site’s page, you’ll see a link labeled “View” under a headline that says available reading formats. Click on it, and you’ll have access to this astonishing chronicle.

 

If you remain intrigued after the first 50 pages, e-mail me at roger.white@tasb.org, and I’ll give you the rest of the story. Tell me what you think of it—what you think is true. Please share this story if it took hold of you. There is more out there than most of us know.

 

In the Beginning Was the Couch. And the Couch Was Good.

31 May

by Roger White

Ah, my dyspeptic disciples, sometimes you get a sign from the Guy in the Big Comfy Chair in the Sky. Ya know what I mean? Here’s a for instance: I’ve been recently wrestling with the idea of introducing to you, my ferromagnetic followers, the tenets of the nonsectarian sect I’ve founded to provide guidance and succor in this chaotic, troubling day and age. We all could do with a hefty dose of succor, don’t you think? (It’s a noun, not a verb—get yer minds out of the gutter, people.) I worried whether the time was right, however. It can be a bit of a touchy subject, forming a new religion, so I’ve been waiting for a sign—an epistle from the ether, as it were. And, lo, I received it just last weekend.

My lawnmower died.

Understand that mowing and edging and weedeating and trimming and all that lawn-related labor is one of my top-five most feared and loathed things I must do on a Suburban Sisyphusquasi-regular basis. I hate my yard, and my yard hates me. It’s mangy, weedy, and irregular, and a great swath of it is at such an angle that I feel like Sisyphus with a side-bag Snapper. That’s right. Suburban Sisyphus. Good name for a garage band, eh? Anyway, I swear I can hear the dandelions cursing quietly at me whenever I go to the mailbox. So when my trusty 4.5-horsepower bit the dust, sputtering to its smoky demise that cloud-covered Saturday, I realized it was a sign. A sign from Yawn-weh to now spread the word.

You read it right. He is Yawn-weh, second cousin on his mother’s side to the mighty Yahweh. I was shown the light and way of Yawn-weh one weekend afternoon as I napped on my couch long ago. Yawn-weh, the Great and Relaxed One, revealed unto me the one true path: Sedentarianism. It is only through this slow, steady course of life that we are able to throw off the onerous burdens of today’s world. Brother, are you weary of hurrying through your day, of tweet-text-iPodding every nanosecond, of rushing from chore to chore, of manically attending spin classes at Planet Fitness? Then I offer you the sanctuary of Sedentarianism.

Yes, my apoplectic adherents, the supreme Recumbent One can bestow upon you the peace of mind you once had—like that summer when you were 11 and you had just eaten three bowls of Trix and you had a whole Saturday morning full of cartoons waiting for you and you had nothing else to do that day but make water balloons. You can have that feeling now, if you join me. Sedentarianism has but one true tenet, and it is this: Doth it really need to be accomplisheth? If it can be done tomorrow, then tomorrow it shall be. And, my brethren (and sistren), since tomorrow never kinda like thisreally comes, then whatever does it really matter? Why not forget it and taketh a nap? I liken this unto Occam’s Razor. It is the mysterious principle known as Yawn-weh’s Barber.

The way is not for everyone, my friends. But if the path of Sedentarianism appeals to you, I can send you a pamphlet. For now, just let me leave you with this. As I fell from my couch, roused from my vision that special day, I spied what appeared to be a stone tablet on the coffee table near my head. It was round; I realized it was one of my drink coasters. Something had been inscribed on it, and it read thusly:

The Six Suggestions of Sedentarianism

  1. Thou shalt not spill thine beer.
  2. Thou shalt not hasten.
  3. Remember the Weekend, to keep it slowly.
  4. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s remote.
  5. Thou shalt honor thy sofa and thy pillow.
  6. Thou shalt not bear false tweetness.

I’m still working on deciphering the meaning of VI, but the first V are the words I now live by. In fact, I’m planning a June 21 visit to the holy city of Toledo, Ohio, to mark the first true pilgrimage of Sedentarianism. June 21, as you know, is the first official day of summer. And Toledo, Ohio, is named after Toledo in Spain, I think, Devout Sedentarianwhich is where historians believe the first official use of the word siesta came into being around 1655. With summer being the holy season of Sedentarianism and siesta being the most revered of Sedentarianistic activities, what more glorious way to honor his Horizontal Holiness than to nap the afternoon away in a Toledo city park? Later we may get ice cream. Write me if you want to join the flock.

Oh, and my name is now Rog-reesh Metta Whittite. Roj for short. Peace. Love. Rem.

Roger White Rog-reesh Metta Whittite 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.

‘Stepped on a Pop Top, Cut my…’ Stepped on a What?

28 Feb

by Roger White

 

There is a narrow greenbelt that runs behind our back yard, and in my meager efforts to keep fit—which involve a weekly tennis match followed immediately by heavy beer intake—I must cross this swath of forest to gain access to our neighborhood tennis courts. In one of my recent forays into the foliage I kicked over a large rock by accident and promptly fell on my keister. Whilst sitting upon my keister there in the wilds, I noticed something shiny and silver glinting from where the rock had been stealthily perched. Ho, I thought, buried treasure perhaps. Have I oafishly unearthed ancient coinage, precious metals, or long-lost jewelry? No? Yes? No?

No. No such luck. It was a pop top.

ye olde poppe toppeBut as I sat there, still on my ample keister, I contemplated this little doohickey. I realized this was buried treasure, in a demented time-capsule sort of way. A pop top! When was the last time you saw a genuine, throw-away pop top? In fact, I’ll bet you that 99.34 percent of the people born after 1980 don’t even know what a pop top is.

Called a “pull tab” by the beverage can industry, the pop top, for you whippersnappers, was how we opened our cans in ye olden days. You pulled the ring, the pop top opened the top of the can, and you promptly tossed the pop top on the ground. I don’t think that’s what the inventor had in mind, but we all did it. Did you know that if you google “beverage can history,” you’ll find that one Ermal Fraze invented the pop top in 1959? You can google just about anything, I believe. Anyway, I should sue Mr. Fraze for damage to my foot—and mental anguish.

Yep, just like the pirate himself sings, “stepped on a pop top, cut my heel etc. etc.,” I did the same as Jimmy Buffet out at Lake Benbrook when I was a teenager in the ’70s. Those little damn things were everywhere, and, yes, if you stepped on one just the right way, it would slice through your bare foot like an angry weasel. Had to have stitches and everything.

Now, it is at this point in my musings that I must make a choice. Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics? Or do I abandon this train of thought altogether and snag a cold Shiner?

Decisions. Let’s go with lyrics that don’t make much sense these days. We’ll liken it unto a symposium for the youngsters who actually enjoy old songs but don’t always understand them. Here’s one, for example:

In the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles, they opine, “If I should call you up, invest a dime…” Yes, kids, it’s true. There used to be things such as pay phones, and they did, long ago, cost only a dime to use. Jim Croce also attests to this in “Operator,” a song whose title also harkens to the ancient past, when actual, real-live people, called “operators,” helped you—in English—to place your call. Anyhow, Jim tells the operator, “you can keep the dime” in his tale of unrequited love. Similarly, Joan Jett belts out, “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby” in “I Love Rock and Roll,” reminding us that you once could use dimes for many purposes other than collecting them in old mayonnaise jars.

ye olde pinne balleThen there’s this from The Who: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Plays a mean what? Pinball! “Pinball Wizard!” The Dairy Twin in Burleson had a great pinball game, Bobby Bewley was killer at it, and we were in middle school. It didn’t involve a video screen, or blasting mutant zombies—the entire game revolved around keeping a very cool, very real metal ball from rolling past your flippers. There was much tilting, and there was much being yelled at by the Dairy Twin manager.

In “Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hightails it out of town because “the rabbit done died.” Yes, it did. Ya see, they didn’t have reliable EPT tests then. A poor widdle wabbit had to give his life to see if your girl had a bun in the oven. So to speak.

How ’bout this: Do you remember the Five Americans? “Western Union”? Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah…. No? They complained about having to fork over “fifteen cents a word to read a telegram I didn’t need…” Man, I loved that song. Still do. See, the guy in the song ye olde telegrammejust received a telegram (again, a communications method from the dark ages) informing him that his girl has dumped him. Again, a dumping song. It was a double whammy because not only did he get bum news, he had to pay the guy who delivered it.

And, of course, you have Paul Simon noting how “Kodachrome gives the night bright colors…” Ya see, kids, cameras used to have what we call “film.” And this film had to be (air quotes here) “de-vel-oped.” Digital cameras were not built into our foreheads then.

There’s plenty more, I’m sure. If you can think of any, write me at rogdude@mail.com , and I’ll send you a pop top. Or maybe a Mercury dime.

 

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.

 

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.

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.