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)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Is you is or is you ain't my banana?

Okay, let’s see if I have this right: the mandate that absolutely, positively no two ways about it was not a tax is in reality a tax whether it wants to be or not,  and Congress cannot fine me for not doing something but it can tax me for not doing anything. Have I got that right?  This is an interesting proposition, although John Roberts is not as entertaining as economist Alfred Kahn was during the Carter Administration, when he banned the word depression from his vocabulary and decided to call any severe economic downturn that might occur as the result of runaway inflation a banana.  Well, I see no reason why I can’t do this too; if it’s good enough for John Roberts and Alfred Kahn and Humpty-Dumpty as well, it’s good enough for me. So the government can’t rutabaga me for not eating broccoli, but I will have to pay a banana for not eating broccoli.  It makes scents in a feculently noisome sort of way, but only if you don’t think about it too much.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reform, or can I have another cookie, please?

First, let me say that I have nothing against the idea of the government trying to reform the ills of society. I am not so Panglossian as to believe that this is the best of all possible worlds. Sometimes, whether we want to admit it or not, reform is necessary. No one, for example, quibbles today about whether or not Red Sox fans should have the right to vote, even if buying season’s tickets to see this Satanic horde and their grotesque rituals ought to be prima facie evidence that you are an imminent threat to the moral fiber of this our Great Republic. This will not happen, unfortunately; the nation as a whole accepts, however strange the concept may be, the idea that the Red Sox and their acolytes deserve the same right to choose their elected representatives as ordinary, decent Americans.

But I digress. Reform is not necessarily a bad thing, unless the reformers allow the idea of reform to carry them away. The problem with reformers, however, is that the idea of reform does carry them away and usually not far enough away so that the rest of us do not have to live with them. Reformers can’t help themselves. The desire to do good coupled with the power to do good is a heady brew, a very heady brew, and sometimes it goes to a reformer’s head, especially if they’re not used to it and most of them aren’t. Drunkenness besets our great nation as a veritable plague? Well, ban alcohol, the reformers cried, and that will end that problem. So, they did…and it didn’t, not by a long shot.

I bring this all of this up because the reforming urge has reached us here in our happy little burg, where the solons who govern the town took time from their usual peculations this past week to consider whether they ought to ban bake sales within the city limits. There are fashions in reform, just as there are fashions in women’s clothing, or so people keep telling me—the finer points of women’s fashion elude me to the point where the only dresses I can identify with any degree of confidence are miniskirts and wedding gowns—and the fashion in reform this year is fat. Yes, America, the land of the free and the home of the brave is rapidly becoming America, the land of the lardass and the home of the humongous. Here in this brave new world that has such people in it, reformers at every level of government are taking it upon themselves to nag, to cajole, and finally to compel the rest of their fellow countrymen to eat our vegetables whether we want to or not, or there will be consequences more dire for us than simply being sent to our rooms without our suppers. Just as an aside here, I want to say that while I do not wish to disparage those people who like asparagus—there is no accounting for tastes, after all—or those who grow asparagus for a living—if what you do is legal, then how you make your money is your own business, I think—I will eat asparagus only when some jackbooted secret food policeman rams the nauseating stuff down my cold dead throat and nor before. That’s just my opinion, you understand.

Why, you may ask, and if you don’t I’ll ask for you, are the local solons even considering this idea? Because baked goods are a threat to the health and safety of every citizen of our community and we must take every step necessary to prevent the scourge of obesity from taking root in our homes and robbing our children of their long-term health. Thus spake Dr. Hieronymus Jackson, MD, in tones both ominous and portentous at the city council meeting this past Wednesday night. Dr. Jackson is the leader of the reform faction of the city council and a man I find personally annoying in the extreme, but that’s probably just me. A good many people must like him or he wouldn’t have gotten a seat on the city council last November. On the other hand, the fact that his opponent dropped dead from a heart attack two days before the election probably didn’t hurt the good doctor’s electoral chances any, either. Having gotten his current job through the Will of the People and an Act of God, Dr. Jackson and his cohorts on the city council are out to make sure that we all live as long and healthily as possible, which is all very well and good, I suppose, but I already have a mother who will do this sort of thing for me without costing the taxpayers a nickel, thank you very much.

Why baked goods? Baked goods are made from flour, which rapidly turns to sugar in the bloodstream, and eggs, which are little balls of cholesterol just waiting for the chance to find an artery wall to spackle, and sugar, which rots your teeth and turns into…itself in your bloodstream and leads to diabetes and heart disease and tooth decay and probably cancer too, since everything anyone does these days seems to cause cancer in laboratory rats. And since parents these days do not want to turn off their kids’ computers and tell them to go outside and play, then government must step in and tell these juvenile sumo wannabes and their parents what to eat and when to eat it and, I presume, whether they can watch television while they are eating their vegetables. We don’t like having to do this, Dr. Jackson and all his ilk will tell you, but it’s for their own good, you know, which leads me to believe that Dr. Jackson and his ilk do like having to do this and that they intend to do even more before they’re through.

It may be for the kids’ own good, but Dr. Jackson unleashed a backlash of epic proportions, or as epic a proportion as we ever see here in our happy little burg. Badmouthing baked goods in the purely abstract is one thing, and a thing many people will agree with, but banning bake sales within the city limits strikes at local philanthropy with a meat ax and no one will tolerate that, not while there’s a breath in anyone’s body. No bake sales? No sales to raise money for the Little Leagues or the drama club at the high school? No bake sales for the Girl Scouts or for the churches or for the animal rescue shelter on Schuyler Street? No chocolate chip cookies and pineapple upside down cake from the fire department's Ladies’ Auxiliary in their annual fund drive? And don’t let anyone kid you, the Ladies’ Auxiliary’s pineapple upside down cake is great pineapple upside down cake and I don’t care how bad it is for me, I want a piece or maybe two or three.

The climax to this drama came this past Wednesday night, when the city council met to vote on the issue and found the council chambers packed with clergy and grandmothers and kids dragged there by their parents, most of whom were out for Dr. Jackson’s blood. As the teenagers texted and tweeted and communicated with each other in the usual adolescent amalgam of shrugs and grunts, their elders had at the doctor and his minions, bitterly denouncing him and them. Dr. Jackson was a charlatan, and a quack, and a doofus as well, in no particular order, and his first name was stupid; only a scholar of the early Church would know that Hieronymus is none other than Saint Jerome, so if he wanted to be Jerry Jackson why didn’t he just call himself that? This was manifestly unfair to the doctor, who clearly had no choice in what his parents chose to name him and the mayor said as much, but the angry crowd was having none of the mayor's spineless mealy-mouthedness. Dr. Jackson tried to explain why he wanted to ban bake sales, using the previously mentioned ominous and portentous tones to tell us all about what was going to happen to us if we didn’t stop stuffing our pie holes with cookies and potato chips and all the rest of the American cornucopia of junk food, but no one wanted to hear that we could not partake of our nation's great bounty of salt, sugar, and saturated fat during the Super Bowl, the World Series, or March Madness, and we sure as hell did not want to listen to him telling us that we could all stand to lose a few pounds. After almost an hour of increasingly shrill denunciations, the city council voted to table the proposed ban and worry about the evil effects of baked goods on the health of the citizenry on some other day. Dr. Jackson was visibly upset, but in this matter, even his fellow reformers abandoned him. He left the chamber in a huff, muttering something under his breath, and I like to imagine that he is in his office right now, plotting and planning on how to get even with the ungrateful wretches he wanted to help so badly. Reformers are like that, you know; they don’t ever really go away. They just sit around and wait for another chance to mind your own business for you. I think it goes with the territory. Right makes might, as Mr. Lincoln said, and all reformers think they’re right all of the time. This is not always true, of course, but reformers are optimists; you’ll see things their way in the end. They’re sure of it.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Still vaguely paranoid after all these years...

The thing of it is, of course, that if you’d told me in 1987 that I would still be working in this dump in 2012 I would have laughed my ass off and then told you, in a completely impolite tone of voice, that you were out of your damn mind.  Yes sir, that’s what I would have done.  None of that civil service baloney for me, are you nuts, no way, Jose! Of course, this being twenty-five years later and here I am, still toiling away in the egregious mold pit like some proletarian drudge out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, well, that’s more than a little embarrassing, I have to say.  Laughing in someone’s face when they’re right and you’re wrong is always discomfiting in retrospect. Even in currentspect, which I’m fairly certain isn’t even a word, it’s discomfiting.

Actually, I’m still wondering how I’ve managed to hang onto this job, given my absolute lack of qualifications and basic unsuitability for it. I have a degree in the basic subject matter, but I got it back in the early 1990’s when all the information I needed was in books and it was just a matter of finding the right bit of information in the right book. But at about the same time I was getting my masters degree Tim Berners-Lee was inventing the World Wide Web, thereby rendering everything I’d learned obsolete. This is annoying in and of itself, you know, because no matter how you look at it, the time and money I spent getting that damn degree is now time and money flushed down the rat hole.  And all I learned in graduate school was theory, and while in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice theory is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Nothing I learned in graduate school prepared me for how to deal with exploding toilets, leaky roofs, crazy people defecating in the main room, adults aggrieved that they have to obey our rules, horny teenagers going at it amidst the flower pots, kids setting off fire alarms, oil burners glowing in the dark, and the dead guy in the men’s room.  I don’t remember any of that coming up at all in school, not even once.  I wonder why I’m still here sometimes. I think it’s just a lack of imagination on my part, but I could be wrong about that.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

More lame excuses

Well, my pencil broke, which was one of Dorothy Parker's favorite excuses for not writing, and if it's good enough for Dottie then it's good enough for me. On the other hand, she was better at writing than I am, so I guess I should either come up with an excuse of my own or think of a much better one than the pencil broke. It's been a slow month, folks, and I do have something on the griddle; it's just taking much longer than I thought to finish the damn thing. Life, as it is wont to do, tends to get in the way.  But something is in the works, that I promise. I just can't promise when it'll get here.