Dollar stores are not created equal. Family Dollar is okay, Dollar Tree is utterly worthless. A store called “Everything’s A $1.00 Dollar” (pronounced “everything’s a one dollar dollar”) used to have the best selection of colorful rubber frogs anywhere. Anyway, in the parking lot of the Dollar General a guy is getting out of his camouflage pickup. Big guy, camo pants, tall boots, camo cap. And he’s wearing an actual live baby strapped to his chest. And I want to tell him, “Pal, you’re living in a fool’s paradise if you think that little thing is gonna stop a bullet.”
Monday, December 22, 2014
Michael Pollan was just on the BBC explaining that the main way he makes ethical meat eating decisions is by spending more money. Which is a brave thing to admit, I think, that your claim to an ethical position is something you purchase, like a medieval church indulgence. Then there's those products you can get that promise to use some of your money to give the same stuff to poor folks. This buys you the luxury of charity without eye contact. The poor themselves, presumably, cannot afford to make the same choice. So ethics and morality are luxury items. Commodities.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Destron Fearing is not a George Lucas villain. It's a company that makes radio-frequency devices like the ID chips some people put in their dogs. This is important because dogs are notorious for forgetting their wallets when they leave the house and what if they want to stop for a beer on the way home? Actually, the point is moot since so few dogs make 21, unless we're talking dog years. Anyway, at last count 6 states have specific laws against forcing a human to undergo a microchip implant. That makes it tougher for lobbyists to track their pet legislators.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Disassociative Identity Disorder is the modern name for multiple personalities, a psychiatric condition disproportionately represented in bestsellers and made-for-TV movies as compared to other psychological diagnoses. DID was extremely fashionable in the '80s and early '90s; today it is much less trendy. There was professional rivalry to see who could diagnose the most “alters,” as the extra personalties were called. This resulted in incredible personality inflation, from the three faces of Eve to a chart-topping 4,500. I may very well have a few myself, but it's hard to tell since they seem to be absolutely identical in every way.
Monday, November 24, 2014
It was the dogs I noticed first. Fewer catahoula mutts, fewer pits, and more golden retrievers pulling scrubbed pink people pushing expensive perambulators containing The Heir. The humans avoid eye contact; if they do smile or nod it is with a tight opaque face. I'm seeing more Volvos, fewer clapped-out minivans with ladder racks. Fewer folks sitting on porches or stoops, in fact fewer porches and stoops and more blank tall gates. Every new house is like its own American compound. I feel so... colonized. I get it, though. They love the location, they're just not crazy about the neighborhood.
Monday, November 17, 2014
How can you have a fringe festival that's not on the fringes of anything? It's all fringe, I guess, like a whorehouse curtain. Let's go sit in a black box. There will be cuss words and exposed flesh, ironic use of clown white, and young performers wishing desperately to be misunderstood. We have gotten to the point where competence may be the only transgression left, rare as tits on a snake. Still, it's our culture, and this is its expression. You can't complain about art you don't like an more than about the proliferation of flies on a dung heap.
Monday, November 10, 2014
This thing used to could happen: A person would be typing and stop for a sip of coffee and set their cup down and type to the end of the line and the carriage went ding. You would slap the return lever to start the next line and damned if I hadn't set the cup down in exactly the wrong place because POW! Coffee everywhere. Also, the handset of older dial telephones was quite heavy and you could give yourself a concussion if you answered too enthusiastically. Otherwise, I can think of no way that technology has improved human life.
Monday, November 3, 2014
Back in May, Jimmy Page accepted an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music. (No word on whether he's willing to share academic credit with Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, and Randy California.) A lot of celebrities get honorary doctorates at graduation time; it's a way for schools to get name speakers to show up, and for Doctor Ralph Stanley to start his lucrative sideline in shade tree lobotomies. Usually, these degrees recognize a lifetime of valuable contributions to the culture. But what about people of more humble accomplishment? I'm lobbying here for an honorary associate degree from Cuyahoga Community College.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Reading Marshall McLuhan's ideas this late in the game, they can seem banal because they so accurately describe the way we live today. Like watching a D. W. Griffith movie and trying to get your head around a time when a close-up was a big deal. Two things to remember about him: First off, Canadian. Like Howie Mandel and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The second thing is he predicted the Internet and coined the term Global Village, which you should think about when you worry about online privacy because one thing about living in a village is everybody knows everybody else's business.
Monday, October 20, 2014
First off: There's not a thing wrong with Stevie Ray Vaughn or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, fine fine superfine pickers who've made scads of good music and who, for very different reasons, wouldn't care at all about my opinions even if they knew about them, which they don't. I wanted that straight right out front there. What rankles me and raises my hackles is when cats cite them as major influences and as some sort of wellspring of originality which sorry but they just ain't. To believe they are is like stepping in a bucket and thinking you found the ocean.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Apparently, they are putting something called GMO in our food, which I had previously heard was a miracle arthritis cure they didn't want us to know about. They've also started putting gluten into bread and cake and cookies, where it could be eaten by children. Also, do you realize that today's apple contains over twice as much fructose as glucose? I also heard they killed this one guy because he invented a simple attachment for your carburetor that would turn tap water into gasoline. I'm not sure who they are, but I'll say this for them: They stay incredibly busy.
Monday, October 6, 2014
I hate it when somebody says something clever and you go ha ha that's clever and they admit it's a quote from TV, sort of implying that you're kind of square for not knowing the reference. And you feel dopey for always making up your own funny things to say, which is old fashioned, like baking bread or wearing homemade socks. Statistically, every season brings us closer to total Quip Convergence, when the fact that the number of possible funny sentences in English is finite will make it mathematically impossible to make a joke that is not a Simpsons quote.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Here's what can happen: You find you know nothing about Brunei. You look it up; it's actually called “The Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace.” It is the only sovereign state located entirely on Borneo, of which it occupies about one percent. You find you know nothing about Borneo. Look it up. Third largest island in the world. 140 million year old rainforest rapidly being converted to plywood, threatening the habitats of many cool species, including the proboscis monkey. Look it up. Paydirt. You get the following exquisite construction: “Monkeys tend to sleep near rivers, if they are nearby.”
Monday, September 22, 2014
You know how you'll be reading and without quite knowing what's happened to you you'll be giggling all by yourself or worse in a public conveyance? Or crying? That's how good writing works. You don't go, “My, but that's well written.” It just sneaks up on you disguised as normal words. So what's terrible about a bad book from a good writer is it lets you in on all the tricks. It ruins everything. It's like a magic show. If you start off thinking “This is a guy with pigeons in his pockets,” the whole thing is kind of pathetic.
Monday, September 15, 2014
The big tech news is that Apple is including a free U2 album when you buy a new iPhone. For the youngsters. Like if Harman Kardon had offered teenaged me a Lawrence Welk tape with my new 8-track player. See, they’re staying relevant. Maybe they should throw in a Teddy Ruxpin. With this inspired marketing linkage, Apple cements its position as the hep technology brand of choice among middle-aged cube rats and soccer moms. Meanwhile, the Browns played the Saints yesterday. As a native Clevelander living in New Orleans, I was really torn about which team to be apathetic about.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Here's a sentence I just had occasion to read: "Hyenas do not take to eating jackal flesh readily; four hyenas were reported to take half an hour in eating one." Amazing. This answers a question I would never have thought to ask. But now I want to know more. Who reported this? To whom? Is half an hour an unusually long time to eat a jackal? Compared to normal hyena eating speed, or some control species' standard jackal consumption rate, divided by four? Anyway, half an hour doesn't seem all that slow to polish off a quarter of a jackal.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Here at 100 Word Rant we make sort of a big deal out of Utica, New York, mentioning it on average three times every eight years. Less often than Enormous Pencils -- we do have priorities. However, we have neglected another Utica, this one located in Mississippi. We wish to apologize. No disrespect was intended. Realistically, since Utica, Mississippi has a population of 966 and we have a total readership of maybe 150 out of a potential audience of seven billion, the odds that either our previous neglect or this apology will be noted within that municipality are vanishingly small.
Monday, August 25, 2014
I think we’ve all known that moment when we find ourselves asking our hiking companion, “What’s the best way to fight off a bear with a penknife and black birch walking stick?” I mean, maybe not that specific moment. But that sort of situation. Even if you’re like me, not a big risk-taker. Not like that guy I know who when asked how many bones he’s broken responds, “Not counting fingers?” Anyway, I’ve given very little thought to the afterlife, but I want nothing to do with reincarnation if it means coming back as a big pile of bear poop.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Somehow, Baruch Spinoza managed to get himself kicked out of Judaism in 17th century Amsterdam, where they probably didn't have a lot of Jews to spare. He said he was going to quit anyway, thus originating the Groucho Marx/Woody Allen line about not wanting to “belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” Solitary, frugal, and monastic, he will probably never be the subject of an action-packed biopic. Spinoza earned his living as a lens maker. However, there is no evidence that he died after falling into his own grinding apparatus, thereby making a spectacle of himself.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Suddenly it seems everybody I know is in a big hurry to achieve their unrealized life goals before they die. Exotic vacations, skydiving, stuff like that. Me, I only ever had two ambitions: to be a jockey, and to play the title role in a roadshow production of Annie. Thing is, whether you drag your sorry frame to the Taj Mahal or throw it out of a perfectly good airplane, at the end of the ride it's the same old you. I'm thinking the most transformative way to cross an item off your bucket list is to stop wanting it.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Life, friends, is boring. Lucky for you, I have some ideas about how to make the fact of existence a little less tedious. For instance, elevated trains tend to run on rather flat tracks. Let's make them more like roller coasters, swooping through our cities to make every commute a laff-a-minute thrill ride. Let's replace the nitrogen in our atmosphere with a blend of helium and nitrous oxide. Then we'll all talk like cartoons, and we'll all find it hilarious. Let's put all our pockets on the inside so whenever your phone rings you have to take your pants off.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Heraclitus is sometimes called The Obscure because he wrote in such a way as to make his ideas difficult to understand. That he was able to do this without the benefit of PowerPoint is evidence of his genius. He said the sun was about a foot across. He also said you can't step in the same river twice, because he never walked a dog along the Mississippi. When he got a bad case of dropsy, he slathered himself in cow dung, lay in the sun all day, and died. They also call him The Weeping Philosopher, and that's probably why.
Monday, July 14, 2014
I don't like grass. Not reefer, which I don't want any thanks for asking it gives me the fear but you go right ahead, I mean like grass out front of your house. It's just stupid. Before mowers, lawns were for grazing critters who produced delicious cheese and fuzzy sweaters. Totally cool. But growing a crop just to harvest and discard is so wasteful it's kind of obscene. Also, I read that about 40% of domestic water is using for flushing and another 40% for watering lawns and gardens. Really, the best thing to do is pee in the yard.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Timothy Wilson is a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He just did a study where, basically, subjects were given the choice between spending some time alone with their thoughts or voluntarily experiencing painful electric shocks. Most folks opted for a jolt of the juice in preference to a quiet ramble through their own heads. I can’t know what’s happened up in those noggins, but I’m figuring probably nothing good. Which might explain how come there’s so many sources selling ideas and opinions you can simply absorb and regurgitate instead of having to come up with your own.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Been driving for the past two days, basically coast to coast but vertically. Friends, there is a lot of corn and soybeans and precious little else to see between the Gulf of Mexico and the shores of Lake Michigan. We did notice again that many exit signs suggest names of imaginary silent film stars (Darien Whitewater) or riot grrl singers (Victoria Luxora). Then, I was in a men’s room having done what men do in those rooms, and at the sink I saw a sign that said WASH HANDS BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK. And I thought, “Hell, I’m on vacation.”
Monday, June 23, 2014
problem with stories, that they have a beginning a middle and an end which is not how memory works usually it is episodic rather than sequential so that you'll say “We used to go on picnics and my uncle would find coins in my ear” it's a cloud of impressions snapping in and out of focus making internal connections without the burden of narrative but of course book binding is a limiting factor and no paper mill can create a pandimensional interlocking infinite loop to contain rather than constrain the flow which would go a long way to solving the
Monday, June 16, 2014
So here’s 100 words about the peculiar and comfortable feeling of simply not having 100 words I need to say. My friends were telling me about their grandchild, who is a year old and has a vocabulary consisting mostly of "Mama," "Dada," and "Please." Which is nearly enough. By the time we’re two we find out about "No," and then we go on saying it over and over for the rest of our lives. It’s odd that it takes us only a year or so to learn how to talk, and then so many decades to learn to shut up.
Monday, June 9, 2014
I need to apologize for what you are about to read, both a dumb pun and shameless spoonerism. We were talking about Stephen Hawking, who has lived with ALS for about a half century with both cerebral and reproductive apparatus fully functional. Along with his other achievements, he has inspired all those movies with that brainy geek in a wheelchair who from his basement can break into the Pentagon's top-secret files with a Commodore 64 and a 300-baud modem. But what about the poor guy who lacks this intellectual acuity and fertility? What ails this sterile dullard? Neuter Moron Disease.
Monday, June 2, 2014
It's just sad sometimes when the old band gets back together for one more show, maybe to pay off some mortgages or help a grandchild through grad school. Various original members are dead or too demented to perform. The ones who do show up have to review recordings of the old material to relearn it. Really, it's like seeing a tribute band composed of retirees. Especially since, like infants, old people tend to look alike. Is that really Mick Jagger, or just Don Knotts in a Beatle wig? Of course, at a certain age Funny Walks are pretty much spontaneous.
Monday, May 26, 2014
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is shutting down. In case you are neither a communications researcher nor a tinfoil hatted nutcase; HAARP employed an antenna array in Alaska to bounce radio waves off of the upper atmosphere. This to either gather basic knowledge to facilitate improved global communication or to achieve other, darker, aims. We have been warned that these antennae can cause floods, droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorms, earthquakes, power outages, and chronic fatigue. And potentially a sudden reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles, which could cause all the crayon drawings to fly violently from your refrigerator door.
Monday, May 19, 2014
The other day I drove past a billboard with a picture of Jesus Christ on it. Nice looking fellow, sort of glowing. And what I thought was, boy, this guy must have really kind of stood out in first century Jerusalem. It makes you wonder why Judas would have to go through the whole kissing thing, instead of just saying, “He's the tall fair gangly blue-eyed goy.” Of course, maybe Judas just liked smooching blondes. Also, I wonder if a lot of people ever walked up to Jesus and told Him how much He looked like a young Gregg Allman.
Monday, May 12, 2014
If you turn 21 this year, first off I want to say don't blame me. It was already mostly like this when I got here. Now. They're calling you the digital generation, masters of 21st century technology. But seriously, that's like calling a Victorian gentleman a Master of Steam Power because he knew how to buy a railway ticket. Actually, the railroads are one candidate for most transformative innovation ever. Others include the backstrap loom, movable type, artificial fertilizer, antibiotics... Me, I say it's scissors. A decent pair of scissors makes the difference between a civilized human and a savage.
Monday, May 5, 2014
“Cottontail,” “Lester Leaps In,” “Salt Peanuts” are all written on top of the harmonic structure of “I Got Rhythm.” So is the Flintstones theme, and about a schmillion more. “Scrapple from the Apple” is the changes to “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Donna Lee” is “Indiana.” But wait. In 1928, Sigmund Romburg composed the operetta The New Moon which included the song “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.” In 1954, jazz guitarist Johnny Smith wrote a new tune on those changes. In 1960, some pickers in Tacoma cut a twangy version: The Ventures' “Walk, Don't Run,” courtesy of Siegmund Rosenberg from Kanizsa, Hungary.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Goat and chicken are somewhat anomalous words in our language; often we use separate terms for an animal and its edible flesh. Maybe because ground cow or thin-sliced salty pig abs sound a bit off-putting. Or maybe not. We eat fishes and usually call them by the right name, except Patagonian toothfish which sounds profoundly inedible. We eat duck and rabbit more often than sweetbreads or lights, no euphemisms required. This is all because yesterday I ate a mess of curried goat. Also jerk chicken, which, isn't it enough to dismember, cook, and devour the bird without the character assassination?
Monday, April 21, 2014
Name any food; somebody you know doesn't like it. Watermelon? I know these people. Lamb? Again, some close friends won't touch it. Eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, falafel, and chocolate. Brussels sprouts, catfish, cilantro, lentils, and spaghetti. Spaghetti! Seriously, how did these folks ever get born? What possible evolutionary scenario can explain the persistence of a tendency to be a picky eater? It's like deciding you don't want to look at anything red, or you'll listen only to music with all high notes. Me, I'll eat just about anything. Except mint ice cream. That's just gross, like a bowl of cold toothpaste.
Monday, April 14, 2014
They’re selling custom-made rubber mats to protect the carpet in your vehicle. Which, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t carpeting a special option not so long ago and rubber mats the default state? I’m going to make a mint selling expensive aftermarket manual window cranks. It’s like how the cheapest bread is the whitest bread, but then you have to pony up for the bran supplement. I know who’s buying those mats though- a generation ago they’d have put clear plastic over their cloth upholstered sofas. So much classier than just buying a plastic sofa in the first place.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Here's some disappointing news: You're never going to get an Asimov-style humanoid robot. They were only ever invented (by Karel Capek) as a way to talk about an awakening laboring class. There's no way anybody is going to ever build a truly autonomous C3PO type robot, because what could you possibly use it for that would justify the massive R&D investment? Maybe it could hand out brochures at tradeshows. More bad news. No time machines. Not ever. Because, look, no matter how far in the future it happened, if they were ever to be invented we'd have always had them.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Don't you wish you'd saved your old comic books? They'd be worth a fortune now. And that idea for a computerized map in the dashboard- why didn't you get on the stick and patent that sucker? Easy Street is where you'd be navigating now, pal. The fallacies here are multiple. For one thing, there's no way of knowing what to save ahead of time (National Geographic?) and your vague ideas aren't inventions (Flying Belt?). Still, in hindsight, now that all us boomers are turning into geezers, I'll bet GM wishes it had held onto the Oldsmobile badge a little longer.
Monday, March 24, 2014
I think we can all agree that the only important function of a Sunday newspaper is to convey color funny pages into the home. There are also sections where people with perfect houses sit proudly in rooms containing absolutely none of the normal detritus of human life. We see no midden heaps awaiting excavation. They do not have last week's Sunday paper scattered across every horizontal surface like I do. Which means these people won't suddenly have their attention transfixed in passing by a colorful insert announcing something called a “Furniture Event.” Maybe their lives are one long Furniture Event.
Monday, March 17, 2014
When someone suggested to Paul Desmond that he get contact lenses, he said no because he liked to “take off my glasses and enjoy the haze.” It's kind of like Superman. For 12 cents, printed on crumbly yellowing pulp, Superman is pretty enjoyable. Blow the story up onto the big screen and you suddenly focus on why the heck an immensely powerful flying space orphan would put on a suit and spend his days typing. He liked to take off his glasses, too, but that's not what I'm getting at here. It's that some stuff is better left lo-res.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Somebody just did a study of chickens by strapping tiny video cameras on them to watch them when they thought no one was looking. Non-dominant males were observed surreptitiously making gestures to hens, proffering choice bits of food, but without the accompanying squawk that might lead to the dominant cock noticing and handing out a chicken-style ass whooping. Eating them suddenly seems cannibalistic. Because, sure, chickens don't look much like us, and if their big cousins were still around they'd have no compunction about serving us up with a side of slaw. But they're sneaky. What's more human than that?
Monday, March 3, 2014
We think we're so cool, what with our ample free parking and choice of toppings. But look, really the only valid way to determine a species' dominance is to measure its biomass. How much would everyone weigh if we were mushed together and put on an extremely large bathroom scale? Sadly, we have to be content with informed estimates. Together, humans weigh in at about 350 million metric tons. Krill, termites, and cattle all have us beat. And cyanobacteria, those little dudes who triggered the greatest extinction event ever, outweigh us by a factor of three. We're not even contenders.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Several years ago I wrote the best 100 words I ever hope to write, about the enormous galvanized watering can of Utica, New York. Since then I have given that city very little thought. So let's revisit the Jewel of the Mohawk. Utica is named for, and essentially replaces, a city of the same name in Tunisia which no longer exists. In addition to the World's Largest Watering Can, Utica is also the birthplace of the Union Suit, the red butt-flap long johns worn to such great comic effect by bearded sidekicks in many Cowboy movies. Hats off to Utica!
Monday, February 17, 2014
Days, months, and years reflect immutable natural periodicities over which humans have no control. Weeks, on the other hand, are cultural artifacts and subject to change. So here's my idea: Eliminate Wednesdays. The resulting 6 day week would have many advantages. Obviously, you'd get a 4-day workweek, plus reduced unemployment to make up for those lost hours, plus every month could have exactly 5 weeks for a uniform 30 days. That's 360 days. Then the day after Mardi Gras, 5 Ash Wednesdays in a row The extra day every 4 years could be named Dave. Because I thought of it.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Because I like to think I write for the Ages (6 to 10), I usually avoid topical references in these little essays. But Holy Crap, did you see the Olympics opening show? If you missed it, I'll just mention that at one point, approximately 20,000 Young Pioneers danced the entire plot of War and Peace en pointe simply as an entre'acte between a couple of really big setpieces. You can only get that kind of precision from a mass of performers when they all know that a missed cue means your whole family will end up in a labor camp.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I'd like to believe in an afterlife. I'd like to, but I can't. It's like, where does a story go when they've burnt the book? Right. Memory. But it's a comfort to imagine our departed loved ones looking down at us at Costco and wondering what we think we're going to do with six LED flashlights. Nice to visualize Bukowski peeing over the railing. And I'd like to think that somewhere up there Pete Seeger, Yusef Lateef, and Phil Everly have quickly figured out they don't know any of the same songs and have decided to see what's on TV.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Zion, Illinois, was founded in 1901 by a faith healer named Dowie as a place for his followers to live. He ran the only church in town. After he died, a guy named Voliva took over as General Overseer. These guys taught that the Earth is flat, which if you think about it, it might as well be. Anyway, there's a bakery in Zion that makes delicious fig sandwich cookies, indistinguishable from the more well-known Newtons. And I thought maybe Newtons were so named to highlight how physics could prove the Earth was round. But that wasn't it at all.
Monday, January 20, 2014
There are only 478 people in Glendon, Alberta. Yet this tiny village is home to the world's largest pierogi, which for some reason they spell perogy. It was the brainchild of the local mayor/school bus driver. It's 27 feet tall, and next to the only restaurant in town, which serves pierogies. My point is, this is not a big community and their achievement is disproportionate with their population. The rest of us should feel humbled, chastened, and yes, inspired by this accomplishment. And I don't mean in some vague aspirational way. I mean big pierogies. Dubai, I'm talkin' to you.
Monday, January 13, 2014
They say you shouldn't judge a man till you've walked a mile in his shoes but don't say how you're supposed to get them. Certainly, I wouldn't give you mine; they are new chukka boots which I haven't had a pair of these since the seventies. When I look down at my feet I feel like I'm about to start 7th grade. My sense of myself hasn't changed all that much since then, just creakier and a little less hopeful. Also, the freckles on my cheeks seem to have slid all the way down to the backs of my hands.