Friday, February 27, 2009

You Can't Choose Your Own Science

Joel Stein is a Los Angeles Times columnist whose links I usually avoid while reading the paper online (yes, that is where I do 99% of my newspaper reading). His columns contain an especially annoying blend of snark and fluff (snarff? flurk?). I prefer to read columns about issues that matter to the world and me.

Today, Stein wrote a column that does matter. Science is not a friendly subject, writes Stein, especially for conservatives:

People on the far right don't believe in evolution, global warming or doing stem cell research. Most of their opposition is rooted in the fact that these ideas challenge the Bible, which is the oldest book they know. I'm guessing Greek conservatives are OK with killing your dad and making love to your mom.

It's terribly easy to snicker at right-wingers who fear the fossil. On the other hand, scientific illiteracy rears its silly head in lefty-land, too:

Liberals have an irrational fear of inoculation and genetically engineered food, no matter how conclusive the science is on these topics. They believe that the body needs to be detoxified with foot pads, colonics, mud wraps and maple-syrup-and-cayenne-pepper fasts. They take echinacea and Emergen-C, heal themselves with crystals and magnets, and believe that energy flows through different "centers" of their bodies. They practice, I swear, a form of healing massage called reiki in which the masseuse usually doesn't even touch you. I believe my wife and I have a reiki marriage.

How easy it is to watch other people, and how hard it is to watch ourselves.

We lefties must see bullshit clearly. If we don't, and then open our mouths and our laptops to pass it on to others, we become so much low-hanging fruit for the conservatives to munch on.

Truth is not your sociopolitical ally. Truth is just truth. Our first allegiance should be to truth, even when, as in what family compostion is best for children or how to be a loving spouse, the truth is that there is no one, indisputable truth. Free your mind -- but keep your filter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy (?) Ash Wednesday

I was listening to the Ron Reagan show on KTLK-AM yesterday, and he interviewed CNET writer Lindsey Turrentine, who asked whether people should give up their social media for Lent. Today, February 25, is Ash Wednesday.

I am an atheist, and of course I do not do things to please an imaginary god. But I did ask myself what would motivate me to give up a little joy (like chocolate, tea, soda, or wine -- writing, reading, art, photography and Two Dogs are BIG joys and are off the table) for forty days.

If it was a matter of life and death, I would. Good old cash would do the trick, too -- oh, say, a million dollars (I might settle for $100,000).

Seriously, I wonder if I am missing something by not making a personal sacrifice. It makes me question my resolve and self-discipline. But that is a common criticism from those who believe to those who don't -- "Your life isn't as meaningful."

If you live your life doing no harm -- or as little harm as possible in the act of surviving -- I feel you have fulfilled your obligations to humanity. Everything else -- charity, heroism, good works -- is gravy. The hermit hiding at the top of the hill does more for the common good than the guy next to you in traffic who makes his vehicle (and yours) vibrate with the latest from Jay Dogg or 50-Z or the rapper du jour. (Strangely enough, you never hear Glenn Gould on the street.)

Today is the also second anniversary of the day Two Dogs and I met, at Felix Continental Cafe in Orange (go there, if you're close, for fine Cuban and Mediterranean specialties at a good price!) He is a gift in my life, a gift to cherish and think of always with gratitude and love. Love is the real miracle in life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Degrossing the Gross

Have you heard the buzz about women writers and bloggers becoming more open about their bodily functions -- as in waaaay open, like a lidless garbage can during a trash collectors' strike?

Maybe I am just too dainty for this brave new world. These are subjects I would find hard to bring up with my doctor, much less my friends. And I (shhh) still won't shave or spit out mouthwash in front of my husband.

Here is one of the most notorious examples. This story is indelicate like Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Show is sick and twisted. (When Spike and Mike say Sick and Twisted, it's not in the ironic sense, people.)

And yet...can we tell it another way?

"Every three weeks or so comes a time in a woman's life which calls for the application of a cotton apparatus that has the shape of a little white mouse. This Moe, after the ingestion of certain memory and judgment-altering substances plus intimate unfiltered congress with several males, left the mouse-shaped apparatus in its place a little longer than was necessary, causing an unfortunate effluvium."

Hey -- I just told a gross story without being gross! I may be on to something here. Let's do it again.

Ever go into a toilet stall and notice that the previous occupant has neglected to use the flush lever? (I am sorry to say that this happened with alarming frequency when I was at college.)

What do you do in this situation? Do you reach out to flush the toilet? I do, and I've found that 99% of the time, there is no mechancial problem with the toilet.

Why won't people flush a perfectly working toilet? Why not follow the old but true campground rule: Leave no trace. Like this.

That means looking into the bowl after flushing to make sure nothing is left behind. Don't be afraid. You will forget any untoward sights sooner than you think.

That's a nice way of being open while keeping kind of shut at the same time, isn't it?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sick Days, Bed Days

Spending the whole day in bed -- snuggling under the covers with a pile of good books at my side, only getting up for drinks and food and other necessary things -- is one of my perennial fantasies.

Unfortunately, the only time I come close to this ideal is when I am too sniffly, coughy and/or achy to really enjoy it.

Only in sickness, only when the body finally says "enough", do we give ourselves permission to take to the bed. Health insists on activity; the to-do list has an end which is nowhere in sight. Staying in bed while healthy -- even on an overcast or rainy day -- feels so wrong. Even though we know in our heads it isn't.

If we all took a few "bed hours" each week -- even if it means taking to the bed an hour earlier than the normal sleep time -- I wonder how it would affect our well-being? I don't think it would hurt.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thinning of the Herd

Suppose you are ready to make a major electronic purchase…like, say, a 52” flat-screen television.

Which store would you go to?

A.) The store that is going out of business, or
B.) The store that is staying in business?

If you buy from Store A, you may get a discount up to 30%, but your payment will be divided between the creditors and the liquidation company.

If you buy from Store B, you may pay more but you will contribute to a company that is still viable and keeping people employed.

Which way would you go?

For us, the question is purely hypothetical, but I would buy from Store B. Two Dogs would pick Store A. But I can’t say I am that sad that Store A is closing.

I feel for anyone who is losing a job, but I also feel that this is a necessary thinning of the herd of retail stores. We have too many kinds of nearly identical big-box stores. Could anyone really tell the difference between Linens N’ Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond? Why go to Mervyn’s when you could get the same quality at Kohl’s?

I sense a long-term, and perhaps permanent, shift in consumption in America. We will always want to buy electronics and clothes and books and music and beautiful objects. But we will buy fewer things that are totally unnecessary.

One afternoon in Office Max, I saw a display of tiny plastic trophies, about six inches high, next to the cash register. These little trophies were meant to be awarded to the “Ultimate Slackers” in the office. This is the kind of unnecessary object I’m writing about. It’s not useful, it’s not beautiful, and it’s going to end up in the landfill because it will not grow in value and no one wants to pass it on.

This trophy costs $7.99. Better to buy a good pen with that money. Or a couple of boxes of tea bags. Either one of those would motivate me out of slackiness.

Consumption is an unavoidable part of living. But before you buy, for yourself and for others, ask yourself how much happiness the new object will really bring.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

OK, February is making me feel icky already... I'm going to cheer us all up with some inspirational sounds from You Tube!

Who remembers the soul-stirring NBA on CBS theme song from the 1980s? Doesn't it bring back memories of Kurt Rambis and Kevin McHale and all those nail-biting Lakers-Celtics battles?

I think the theme goes best with the graphic of the basketball arena forming, as shown above, but here's the theme on its own:

Now I feel like going out and battling some little green bastards...

Going further back in the wayback machine:

I barely remember this show, but never forgot the theme. FYI, the Banana Splits are Fleegle, the bouncy beagle; Bingo, the groovy gorilla; Drooper, the laid-back lion, and Snorky, the not-so-conservative elephant. The amusement park you see in the beginning is Six Flags Over Texas. (I love those miniature freeway rides -- so much better than riding on a real one!)

If you allow yourself, you can find all sorts of precious memories on YouTube and miss your bathtime and bedtime. I think I will stop now. I'm cheered up already!