Monday, July 25, 2016

For the discerning dipsomaniac

Oh for Pete’s sake. “Gluten free vodka.” Listen. Gluten is a bunch of proteins that occur naturally in grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats. They are not particularly volatile, so if you cook up a mash of cereal grain, ferment it so that the tiny funguses called yeast poop out a bunch of ethanol, then heat up the resulting glop so that the alcohol flashes off to be condensed into an intoxicating beverage, the distillate will be gluten-free. It’s like saying sugar is fat-free. It’s true, but it’s dumb. Or, more correctly, it’s counting on you to be dumb.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I couldn't have said it better myself

Right now, I got nothing. The creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, once wrote: “A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business." This is some valuable advice from a fellow writer. Of course, Rollo May said, "If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." But then, as Dorothy L. Sayers said: “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought,” and that is exactly what I’m looking for this morning.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Southern Illinois is corn and soybeans. Miles and miles of them. And it occurs to me that they’re holding up the entire global economy. Not all by themselves, but having factory farms churning out acres of commodities is what frees up all the time people spend sitting in cubicles or flying to meetings or walking to class. Commodities by definition are generic, like money. They’re not good or bad; they’re units of exchange. So whatever you choose to eat, at the end of the food chain you’re being nourished by bushels of GMO corn, washed down with barrels of petroleum.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The flea bible says different

Toxic giant hogweed is invading the state of Wisconsin. This plant gets to be 20 feet tall; it looks like a preposterously big Queen Anne’s lace. Just touching it can give you terrible blisters or make you blind. The question, if you’re being anthropocentric, is why? Why was it part of Creation – an herb yielding seed of his kind? Well, probably everything should be given its own creation myth, with itself the center of the narrative. You could think of humanity as a race of tame primates, domesticated by dogs to serve their purposes. That’s a valid perspective, I think.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Unforgettable, that's what you are

Remember being five? Can you remember being excited about getting permanent teeth? Well, they’re not. They’re not permanent. Even if you keep them in your head for your whole life, those few decades hardly qualify as any paragon of permanence. All tattoos are temporary. Eventually, even diamonds aren’t forever. That’s fine with me; I’m cool with our perishability. And considering how little time we actually spend here, I believe short-term fixes are the best. I live that conviction. Like, I have a shed out back that at this point consists almost entirely of that canned foam from the hardware store.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Obligatory what’s-his-name reference

The man says "believe me" a lot. You only say that when you're lying. Everybody knows that. The embarrassing thing is not just that he's (insert invective here), but that he's not very good at it. Seriously, the guy couldn’t sell me aluminum siding. I'm ashamed of my racist, xenophobic, angry, disappointed, confused and spiteful fellow citizens, not because they are racist, xenophobic, angry, disappointed, confused and spiteful (hey, nobody's perfect) but because they are such poor shoppers in the marketplace of ideas. Is this the best rabid hate-spewing fear monger the greatest nation on Earth can produce? I weep.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Drawing a Blanc

This one time we were listening to the car radio and a bluegrass song started with a mandolin pickup and I said, “That’s Ricky Skaggs.” And it was; I had got it right in the beat and a half before the downbeat. I’ve heard that old-time telegraphers could identify who was tapping out Morse code, they said they recognized the sender’s “hand,” as distinctive as a voice. Or more so. The other day, the kitchen radio was playing and I said, “Is that Elmer Fudd singing ‘Skylark?’” And she listened for a moment and said, “I think it’s Bob Dylan.”