The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

KARMA CHAMELEONS: I can’t prove this with facts and figures, unfortunately, but just from my own experience, I’d say that there is few groups more heartily despised here in this our Great Republic than AM radio disk jockeys. Now, I know that some of you are wondering about that; disk jockeys are, on the whole, a fairly innocuous group when compared to such bottom feeders as lawyers, pimps, life insurance salesmen, and politicians, all of whom would seem to have a better claim to the public’s loathing than disk jockeys. You would be right, of course, all of these groups have a more deleterious effect on society than disk jockeys do, and yet I think that the disk jockeys are simply more annoying than any of these other groups. I’m not sure why that is; it may have something to do with their perpetually upbeat personalities or the constant lighthearted on air banter with their co-hosts and guests or maybe it’s just the time of day. I am not really a morning person, all in all, and I am just not ready to deal with that much cheerfulness at such an early hour. It makes me want to hurt something.

So to avoid the perkiness infesting the airwaves at that time of the morning, I generally listen to the classical music radio station on my way into work. I prefer the music of the Baroque; I like the greatest hits of 1717 (hey, after this word from our sponsor, check out Vivaldi’s latest monster hit, The Four Seasons, all you with it guys and gals, it’s #1 on the Billboard charts with a musket ball!), but I’ll listen to almost anything written before Puccini died in 1924. Almost everything written after that is crap, so when the 20th century comes on I generally turn the radio off and imagine the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah played on chainsaws, kazoos, and empty Coke bottles, with a chorus of drowning cats and flatulent clams providing the vocals all the way into work. It’s very soothing, for reasons I’m not sure I fathom; as a rule, I dislike seafood.

I also dislike the semiannual pledge drive. The pledge drive, for those of you unaware of such a thing, is that time of year wherein the management of your local public broadcasting station breaks into your favorite programs on a more or less constant basis and asks you for money. They do this, the management says, in order to keep providing you, the American television viewer, with an advertisement free alternative to the commercial broadcast and cable networks, which is something I’d be more inclined to believe if the opening and closing moments of nearly every program on this advertisement free network wasn’t packed to the gunwales with advertisements. Of course, the management of these stations do not choose to call these fifteen to thirty second spots advertisements. No indeed, these are messages from our corporate sponsors, along with some charitable foundations, and the contributions of viewers like you. Thank you, viewers.

At which point, it being clear that I am going to have to listen to the spiel all the way into work, I decide to turn off the radio, at which point some dummy in a greater rush than I am comes barreling around the bend, most of his car being on my side of the road. This is one of those situations guaranteed to raise anyone’s blood pressure, even mine, and as I simultaneously tried to turn the radio off, swing out of this moron’s way, and question both his sanity and his parentage (if you are this numbnut’s mother, I apologize for what I said about you. The fact that your son is a jackass is not your fault and I do not believe that you are now or ever were the sort of woman who would do such a thing with a mentally deficient baboon) I managed only to two of these tasks successfully; I did not turn the radio off. I just changed the radio from FM to AM.

But all was not lost here. I do listen to AM radio from time to time, and I always have the station set to the local oldies channel, largely because l like that old time rock and roll. This time, however, the music was not Chuck Berry or Little Richard or even the Platters, although the Platters were more of a standards group than a rock and roll band. No, the band was Culture Club, and Boy George was singing Karma Chameleon. At first, I thought I’d managed to change the channel somehow, but I hadn’t; the dashboard display showed my usual oldies station. At that point, I experienced a wave of horror hitherto unknown in my neck of our happy little burg; how, I asked myself, could anyone regard Karma Chameleon an oldie? I mean, weren’t the kids watching this thing on MTV not that long ago? The wave of horror became a tsunami as the day wore on, as I realized that this insidious ditty had now taken up residence in my mind and was now busily looping away at a furious pace and that I had no way of turning Boy George off short of shooting myself in the head, an idea that did not appeal to me at first, but whose merits became more attractive the more I had to listen to the song. Even if you like the song, you must admit that listening to it fifty times in five minutes is apt to get more than a little annoying.

At length, Karma Chameleon faded away, Culture Club losing it psychic space in my skull to Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra playing Aquarela do Brasil. I like this old Ary Barroso tune, and as it started to loop through my mind, I started to think about how much better all of our lives would be if we all had a karma chameleon in our homes. I know that many of you are skeptical about this idea; what, after all, can a karma chameleon provide that a mood ring can’t, and remember, you don’t have to clean up after a mood ring. This comparison makes some superficial sense, but falls apart when you give it some thought.

A mood is a transitory flicker in a person’s emotional state; karma, on the other hand, is different, very different indeed. Karma is the residue of your soul’s actions in a past life; the karma of an evil man causes the soul’s rebirth in a lower caste, or if you are a Buddhist, condemns you to ever more rebirths before you finally reach Nirvana, where Kurt Cobain will make every gig and the weed is truly righteous, dude. Karma, therefore, is something altogether more important than a mood and is something that any sane person should worry about, lest you find yourself trapped in endless reincarnations as a Red Sox fan.

But how to know if you are acquiring good karma? There’s no way to know for sure, unless, of course, you have a karma chameleon. The karma chameleon knows the answers. When you think of cheating on your wife or on your income taxes, the chameleon will change color, the better to match the décor just in case a lightning bolt from on high comes bursting through your roof and kills you for even thinking of such a thing. With a karma chameleon in the house you’d always know how your karma was doing, and best of all, karma chameleons are easy to housetrain and you don’t have to spend a lot of money feeding them. They’ll eat flies, spiders, ants, just about any creepy crawly slimy thing that finds its way into your home during the summer months, with the exception of your brother in law; during the winter months a nice tuna casserole will keep it happy for months at a time.

Frankly, the benefits of owning such a useful pet far outweigh the occasional disadvantages, such as confusion and incontinence in certain situations, like Christmas parties, for example, where the good karma of the Christmas spirit and the bad karma of your plans for that nice blonde from the accounting department causes the chameleon no end of karmic deadlock and can cause the creature to turn a bright green and black plaid. But all in all, karma chameleons make excellent pets; they get on well with children, are not at all territorial, and are very clean animals overall. Karma chameleons, however, do object to you flushing them down the toilet after they die, so you might want to bury the deceased chameleon out in the back yard next to your first dog instead. Remember, in your next life, that chameleon could be your employer, and may well object to your treating him like crap now. It’s something to think about.

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