Monday, May 25, 2015

Where Do Stools Come From?

eHemco Hardwood Footstool in  Espresso Finish-12"
You can talk nostalgically about a child’s first  words, whether it’s  “mama” or “cookie,” but BM is one of the first acronyms many people will ever remember hearing. BMs are a source of curiosity and pride and undoubtedly some of the interest may derive from the way in which they mimic the birthing process. Many children might even regard a BM as a form of reincarnation or wish in which a hated or feared older sibling comes back to life in another form. But there's another life passage and that's the change that comes when we start to call bowel movements, stools. Stool is the way that BM’s are referred to on TV ads for laxatives and it’s the word that you use when you discuss your digestive system with a gastroenterologist or proctologist, depending on your symptoms. Few adults would report having trouble eliminating a BM to their GI person. Stool is the euphemism. Stool is even a word that can be used at a dinner party since it may be mistaken for a piece of furniture by the person sitting next to you who can’t believe that you’re talking about BMs at dinner. But where does stool come from? Merriam-Webster simply defines it as “a discharge of fecal matter,” “or a piece of solid waster that is released from the body," but unlike the other definitions of stool offered, it is strangely withheld when it comes to amplifying a potentially colorful word; the dictionary is queasy when it comes doody. But there's one clue. One definition of stool is “a seat used while defecating or urinating.” And it's probably safe to assume that stool comes from the place that stools were taken back when people spoke Middle English. A toilet is after all a stool with a hole and those people who like to read on the loo are obviously using a toilet as a piece of furniture. If we were a more liberated society there would be whole rooms in libraries filled with toilets where people could read and defecate at the same time, but alas that's not the way of the world. There are few people who feel liberated enough to take their bowel movements in public even if given the chance to get ahead on their reading while they're ridding themselves of other forms of matter. But the next time someone looks cross-eyed at you when you attempt to talk publically about your stool, you can remind them that everyone is eventually going to meet their maker and sometimes you have to shit or get off the pot.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Age of Euphemism

Amongst the many indignities of modern life is the ever increasing demand to mince words. We live in the age of euphemism and you are always forced to look over your shoulder to make sure there isn’t someone about to flunk you for language failure.  In France, you’d cry out “garcon” when you wanted an espresso in a café. That was the only way to get it, but now nobody calls out “waiter,” an appellation that probably is against the law in California, where sex on a college campus currently requires “affirmative consent.” You have a “server,” who you have to wait for. California might be voted the most politically correct state in the nation and one wonders how for instance “affirmative consent,” affects sales of Victorian pornography like Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870), whose characters openly violate the statute and exhibit the kind of “triggering” behavior that violates social norms in the state. “Blacks" replaced “negroes" and then gave way to "people of color," but why is that last expression less offensive than "colored people"? There are many theories, but a racist can easily use all the right words and still be talking through his ass. Once upon a time there were men who referred to their women as hogs and who referred to mentally ill people as psychos. Carroll O’Connor played a character called Archie Bunker who parodied such thuggish behavior, but satire by way of hyperbole would  probably not succeed in running the gauntlet of today’s Newspeak. The intent of all this policing is the idea that language affects action. Haven’t any of these protectors of the common good realized that  "as if" behavior can lead to the creation of a false self. When human beings are corralled into expressing themselves in certain ways in public, they depend on secret societies where they are able to speak their minds. Steven Marcus wrote about book called The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England which dealt with the cultural schizophrenia that developed in another age in which behavior was famously regulated. And then there’s the improv group, The Upright Citizens Brigade which is an equal opportunity offender, trashing all the good intentions of our current iterations of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Anchored to Their Looks

Michelle Kosinski
CNN’s Michelle Kosinski is an uncommonly good looking correspondent in an arena where photogenic appearance means a lot. Lonnie Quinn who does the weather for WCBS in New York is also an example of a reporter with exceptional looks; in his case he’s almost a character out of a book like Bonfire of the Vanities, someone who one imagines being there to record a hurricane creating havoc—in a novel. But as any good looking person will tell you looks, like wealth, can be a bane as well as a boon. It's often hard to get past the good looks of a person. If you were a producer, how would you judge whether you wanted to choose Michelle Kosinski as your White House correspondent, if you couldn’t get your eyes off of those gorgeous glossed lips? On the other side of the fence, the good looking person who has so many opportunities, due to his or her appearance, can’t choose what he or she wants in work or love. Do I want to be an anchor for CNN, which is a serious news station, if I can be paid more saying less on Fox. And how do you make a choice in love? Most of us don’t face these kinds of problems, but really good looking people should be pitied for the possibilities that are constantly placed before them. No sooner do you fall in love, then another petitioner comes along who is not only more brilliant and better looking than the present candidate for your affections, but also a better source, providing you happen to be in the news business. But is it really true that good looking reporters regularly scoop their less attractive counterparts? And who ever said that life is fair?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Retake Ramadi?

Get the C-5M Super Galaxy, that’s the largest plane in the Air Force’s arsenal and load it up with the two rival motorcycle gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks. Their recent flare up in a Waco  shopping mall, The Central Texas Marketplace, at a restaurant recalling the David Lynch TV series, Twin Peaks not far from a Men’s Warehouse, Best Buy and Kohl’s resulted in 9 deaths (“170 Bikers Charged in Waco, in a Rivalry Rooted in the l960’s," NYT, 5/18/15) The C5M will easily accommodate their Harleys, even the choppers with the extended front ends. These gangs undoubtedly  frighten even the fearsome Texas Rangers and according to news reports are  highly organized paramilitary organizations that have their own pecking order and even surveillance capacities (“Bandidos vs. Cossacks:Was the Texas biker shootout over territory, “ CNN, 5/19/15) Let’s see how they do against ISIS. From the news footage, these guys appear to have thick necks. Their heads are not likely to roll. As backup we should load another plane up with the most dangerous prisoners, the kind of guys who have been doing solitary in notorious maximum security prisons like the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola—whose methods of rehabilitation resemble the raising of fighting dogs. Put ISIS up against the Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips and the Bloods, an alliance we might call today’s Axis powers to the extent that they’re off their rockers. You won’t have to worry about outfitting this new battalion of bikers. Due to our current gun laws, they’re all well taken care of. They’ll be a whole new set of execution videos coming out of the Caliphate, only the new executioners are likely to look like ZZ Top, though CNN and Fox will still likely be arguing over the propriety of showing the footage.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Nudging Your Way to Oblivion

What to do about those unanswered e mails? Listening to speakers like Deepak Chopra or TED talks and believing in the beneficence and generosity of the universe, you decide one bright spring morning to come out of your cocoon and reveal your desires. You’re going to go after it. You think about all the people who you have been afraid to engage, those who have something you want or who you think would want something you have and make a list. You then start to send missives. If you’re a writer, you may decide that this right time to send that poem or short story to The New Yorker, Tin House or The Paris Review. If you’re a painter you start thinking about Larry Gagosian or Mary Boone. If your a gadget maker you remember the George Foreman ad for InventHelp. The roulette wheel is spinning. Maybe it will be your lucky day. Before the advent of the internet, the manila envelope with its SASE was the proxy for your hopes. Now everything is faster. You hit a button and your attachment is released into posterity. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was the name of a famous war film. It takes less than a second to release your precious cargo, but days, weeks, months pass without so much as a response. You may even have had a distant connection to the editor or art dealer who is a college buddy of your internist. The least you expect is a cordial rejection. It doesn’t take much to thank you and wish you luck in placing your work elsewhere. Yet nothing arrives. Talk about justifiable anger. You try to think up the exact right follow up. If you act like the editor doesn’t remember your original e mail and your shared acquaintance, you're being insulting, Yet there’s a distinct possibility he or she doesn’t know you from Adam. And what to say? Of course you realize that the person you're writing to is beleaguered by petitioners. You understand their predicament and don’t want to rush them. Just get back to me within my lifetime is the kind of thing you want to say, but you realize that you may be regarded like Uriah Heep, with your unctuousness only covering up your obvious rage at being dismissed or forgotten. You decide to be as matter-of-fact as possible. You send an e mail which just asks about the status of the short story, poem, art work or invention. You wait one, two, three days, one, two, three weeks and still no response. Maybe now it’s time to copy and sent the same e mail as if it weren’t sent before. You think of a cluster bomb in which you will mail the same e mail every day for a month. But then you realize you will be regarded as a total nut case, a stalker who may be feared but whose work will not be taken seriously. You will have blown your opportunity entirely. There are only two things left to do 1) pray 2) look on the whole experience as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Rather than feeling despondent at having all your hopes dashed, begin to look at it as a privilege which will open up new worlds of ego-deflation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Who Wants to Play Second Fiddle?

                      United States Department of State
Bank of New York Mellon has produced a laugh out loud funny commercial. Audience members are waiting to hear Itzhak Perlman begin a concert. You can see the look of anticipation on their faces and then all of a sudden, it’s announced the comedian Rhea Perlman will be sitting in for him. A few bars of cacophonic violin playing follow. The idea is that you don’t want surrogates handing your money. Rhea is, of course, the wife of Danny DeVito and not  the famed musician. However what is most interesting is the shared name and the not so subtle implication infusing the comedy and relating to marriage. However, glamorous it is to be married to a successful person, no one likes to play second fiddle. But, let’s imagine if Bank New York Mellon’s advertising agency had chosen the Clintons for their  commercial. This scenario might be slightly reversed in terms of the sexes. The audience is waiting for Hillary to appear, but at the last moment it’s announced that Bill will be taking her place. What would the equivalent of the out of tune violin in the context of a political campaign. Remember Monty Python’s, “Nudge nudge. Wink wink. Say no more.” But that’s too obvious. What could really happen would be something even more discordant with Bill, as he has on some previous occasions, acting like a runaway horse. For instance here is a Times report “Now on the Campaign Trail, a Reined in Bill Clinton,” (NYT, 2/27/08) dealing with how Clinton botched up Hillary’s earlier campaign for president. No one wants him to play that tune again.