Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How I'm Like Woody Allen

"Has anyone ever told you that you remind them of Woody Allen?"

This is a question I've gotten a lot in my life.  The answer is yes.  Plenty of people have told me that. 

It isn't that I look like Woody Allen.  I don't.  In fact, people have often told me that I look a lot like the notoriously handsome Irish actor Colin Farrell.  So much so, in fact, that I apparently make a lot of the same facial expressions as Colin Farrell.  Could be we're related.  We come from the same gene pool, and there's only so much genetic material to go around.  

This is a facial expression I make a lot.  Normally, it has to do with gas pains from eating too much roughage.

Less often, but still enough to be worth mentioning, people have mentioned that I bear more than a passing resemblance to that other notoriously handsome actor of Irish descent, George Clooney.  Depends if you catch me on my good side.

Hooray for me.  A few acting classes, a trip to Hollywood, and I should be all set.

In the meantime, how am I like Woody Allen?  Here's how: I often think that I'm dying.  Or rather, I often think that I have a dangerous or potentially life-threatening disease.  This can be funny.  For a while.  Then it's not funny.  In my case, it stopped being funny a long time ago.  It's much funnier when Woody Allen does it in the movies.   

I've believed, at one time or another, that I've had about a dozen different serious illnesses.  They include diabetes, melanoma, colon cancer, prostate cancer, brain tumors, and heart disease, to name a few.  In many cases, I've gone through more than one episode per disease.  For example, I've been convinced I had diabetes on at least four separate occasions.  I went to the doctor in each case, and got checked for diabetes, and in each case didn't have it, not even close.

The odd thing is I've almost never actually been physically sick in my life.  I've had strep throat twice.  I can remember a pretty gnarly bronchitis I had back in my 20s, when I needed an antibiotic.  And I had chicken pox when I was in high school.  And that's about it.

The amazing thing is I get the symptoms, right up until they tell me I don't have the disease.  Then I go home, some time passes, and I get the symptoms of something else.  And I get the fear, of course.  And in my quieter moments, I grow reflective, and I sit on the patio and watch the sky, and the water, and I reflect about God and about what a beautiful life it's been.                     

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Petraeus Ain't My Hero

"About this big, Senator."

So we've got one of these spectacular flameouts that happen from time to time.  Four star general with a Roman Legion sounding name, moves from big post to bigger post to head of the CIA.  There's talk that he might consider a run for President one day.  Suddenly he resigns, caught up in a sex scandal where he was cheating on his dowdy, grandmotherly wife with a sexy, chiseled newcomer 20 years his junior.  Every ambition he had is toast in one nanosecond. 

The thing that I don't really grasp about this whole event is the thing that remains unsaid.  What did we ever like about this guy?  In any coverage I've seen, it's just assumed that Petraeus is an American hero, a great man brought low by something that eventually brings many a great man low.  Yeah, but why is he a great man?

Until a minute ago, he was head of the CIA.  I don't know about you, but I don't like the CIA.  I'm afraid of the CIA.  The very idea of the CIA used to keep me awake at night.  The CIA does bad things, often enough to good people.  In fact, that's what they do for a living.  The CIA is exactly the type of agency that Darth Vader would run, if he were to live here on earth rather than wherever Star Wars happened.

Before the CIA, Petraeus was in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Personally, I was against these wars.  I protested against these very same wars, which I saw as colonial dirty wars.  I know that millions of people did the same, and felt the same way.  The fact of these wars also used to keep me awake at night.  Of course, nowadays I rarely think about them, but I'll just weigh in here and note that I'm still against them.

It says a lot about the USA that the news coverage of Petraeus is generally so positive.  I'd like to see a headline that says, "Creepy Warmonger and Spymaster Caught With His Pants Down."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Need a Murder Weapon? Try Rice.

"Yummy rice!"
So rice is in the news, and for all the wrong reasons.  Come to find out, rice is loaded with arsenic.  This according to a new study released by Consumer Reports.

Arsenic, as you may know, is a heavy metal with many uses, not least of which is murder through poisoning.  Arsenic intake at high doses causes diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and convulsions.  It shuts down the lungs, kidneys and liver.  Eventually, it results in coma and death.

Now, no one is saying that there's a lot of arsenic in rice.  There's just a little arsenic.  Chronic exposure to arsenic in low doses over time is associated with heart disease, stroke, bladder cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, and diabetes.  These are things that won't kill you today, but you still might prefer not to have.

I mention this because I eat a lot of rice.  Or did until yesterday.  Rice is (was) a staple of my diet.  For example, I've often eaten rice cakes as snacks.  Rice cakes make good snacks because 1) they taste like cardboard and 2) within 15 minutes of eating one, you become much hungrier than before, so ravenously hungry in fact, that you feel sick and your body starts to shake with hunger sickness.  The combination of 1) and 2) tends to discourage you from snacking between meals.  This keeps you thin.

Mostly, I have eaten a lot of chicken and rice.  I do (did) this because, eaten along with a vegetable like broccoli, chicken and rice is (was) a very healthy meal.  To be clear, the chickens I eat are not your typical factory-farmed chickens, who are basically victims of a chicken holocaust, living and dying in mini-chicken-Auschwitzes across this great land of ours.  No.  The chickens I eat are the very most organic happy chickens, who are treated much like guests of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, and who are priced accordingly.  These are healthy chickens.

But we were talking about rice, weren't we?  Yes.  Very bad.  The rice is poisoned with arsenic.  Arsenic is a toxic chemical.  For those of you that enjoy irony, the good healthy brown rice has higher levels of arsenic than the vitamin-denuded and much-maligned white rice.  Also, the rice you buy at fancypants Whole Foods tends to have more arsenic than the rice you buy at regular po' people supermarkets.

Thankfully, we have the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is tasked with making sure that our food supply and the prescription drugs we take are safe.  The FDA has weighed in on this rice issue, saying, "Based on the currently available data and scientific literature the FDA does not have an adequate scientific basis to recommend changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products."

I've worked in government and feel qualified to translate gov-speak into a language everyone can understand.  It goes a little something like this: "Rice growers are a powerful lobby.  It's better that we don't annoy them.  So keep eating rice, you dummies!  It probably won't kill you.  Today."


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stop Making Sense

Mitt Romney had a dad who also wanted to be President.  Dad's name was George Romney, and George, oddly enough, was born outside the United States (in Mexico) to Mormon separatists from Utah.  They had left the country because they were against the idea that marriage should be between one man and one woman.  Naturally, they felt it should be between one man and several women. 

George Romney had a tendency to say things he later regretted.  The most famous of these described his interaction with American generals while on a fact-finding trip he had taken to Vietnam in 1965: "When I came back from Vietnam, I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get."   

The public, perhaps rightly so, felt that someone who wanted to be President shouldn't be so easily led.  They also wanted someone who had better control over his own mouth - in George's case, someone who could lie a little more.

In a lot of ways, George and Mitt couldn't be more different.  George Romney was by many accounts a decent man.  He was an early supporter of Civil Rights.  When he decided to run for office, he immediately released ten years' worth of his tax returns.  They showed that he was wealthy, but that he also gave large sums of money to charity and to the Mormon Church.  George was the CEO of a company, American Motors, that actually made something: cars.  Not very good cars, but cars nonetheless.   

Mitt, as we know, made his living by borrowing huge amounts of money to buy, and then gut, formerly productive companies.  By his own account, Mitt likes to fire people.  He ties dogs to the tops of cars.  He steals money from working people, then hides that money in anonymous accounts on Grand Cayman.  He buggers small children.  He eats the flesh of the living to satisfy his inhuman appetites.

With all these differences in mind, I find it interesting that one trait Mitt did inherit from his father is George's gift for saying the wrong thing.  And in all likelihood, for not becoming President of the United States.      

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Neat Ivory Trinkets Made from Dead Elephants (WARNING: Graphic image ahead. Read at your own risk.)

Oooh...  Lovely ivory figurines.

Ivory is so nice.  People - artists, you might even call them - make really nice little carvings out of it.  It's all so nice, in fact, that it's quite expensive.  Check out this ivory Buddha statue: 

Neat, right?  I spotted this bad boy for sale on a Hong Kong based website.  It's the "Ivory Happy Money Buddha with Children and Money Bag."  It's two inches tall, an inch and a half wide, and will run you $669.95, plus shipping.  I bet you'll feel good about having that on your coffee table.  Show it to your friends.  It'll bring you peace and prosperity.  It's a conversation starter, at the very least.

Here's where it came from:

They kill the elephant first.  As you can imagine, it would be time-consuming and problematic to remove the tusks from a live elephant.  Then they cut the elephant's face off.  The reason they do this is 25% of the ivory is actually embedded in the face. 

Elephants are smart.  No one really argues against this anymore.  Like apes, whales and dolphins, they have huge brains.  They have highly organized social structures.  They express grief.  They have death rituals.  They play.  They use tools.  They solve problems.  Apparently, they even play music.

In fact, killing elephants is a lot like killing people.  And we'd never allow people to die just so we could get our hands on some overpriced baubles, would we?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sex Among the Mainers

Recently, a man from New York City moved to rural Maine.

His first afternoon there, as he was just settling in, his next door neighbor, a long-time farmer in the area, came to his door.

"I'm having a little party tonight, and seeing how you're new and all, I thought I should invite you," the farmer said.

The man from New York was pleased.  Clearly, people in Maine were friendlier than outsiders supposed.

"I'd love to come," the New Yorker said.

The Mainer held up a big hand.  "I just gotta warn you, there's gonna be some drinking."

The New Yorker smiled.  "I like to drink."

"And there's gonna be some fighting," the Mainer said.

The New Yorker was undeterred.  "That's okay.  I'm from New York.  I've been in lots of fights."

"Well," the Mainer said.  "There's gonna be some sex."

"Are you kidding me?" the newcomer said.  "This sounds like a great party!  What should I wear?"

"Don't matter," the Mainer said.  "It's just gonna be you and me."  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Quick Fix for Global Warming #1 - Blank White Canvas

Surprise!  There's more bad news on the Global Warming front.

I know: Global Warming.  That's so, like, Al Gore, 2004.  Nobody cares about that anymore.  In any event, this summer the Arctic Ocean ice cover reached its lowest level since they started watching it with satellites over 30 years ago.  It's less than half as much ice cover, and about a quarter as thick as it used to be.  It'll be totally gone by 2030, or sooner.

Why is this a problem?  Apparently, the whiteness of the sea ice reflects heat from the sun back into outer space, where it melts the blast shields on passing alien star cruisers.  This is a good thing.

But when the sea ice is gone, the dark water absorbs more heat, which intensifies and accelerates the whole warming process.  This makes climate scientists nervous because they don't believe in God, and are afraid of dying.     

Now, I've spent some time mulling this over, and I think I've hit upon a relatively easy, low-tech solution to the Arctic Ice dilemma.  Blank white canvas.  See?  You probably already get where I'm going with this.  The most elegant solutions are often like that - they're self-explanatory. 

In case you don't get it, what I'm saying is let's just make a gigantic white canvas, and stretch it over the entire, what used to be ice-covered, surface of the Arctic.

I know what you're thinking.  What about price?  Well, you can get a 5 foot by 3 foot canvas tarp online for about $6.  So that's 15 square feet right there.  The Arctic Ocean is about 5,400,000 square miles.  You'll have to finish the math on that one. 

Listen, pass this beauty on.  Let's get it to Obama.  And don't worry about copyright or anything like that.  I don't feel like I need to take the credit for it.  I'm just glad to have a hand in saving the human race.           

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Might Have Killed This Person

Toina Hanson
If so, it was an accident. 
Sometime last fall, I was driving in the jalopy with Susie Sue.  We were coming into downtown Portland, along a strip where homeless people often stand by the road, "signing."  Signing means standing where people stop for a red light, holding up a sign asking for money.  "Hungry.  Please help."  That sort of thing. 
The woman you see here, named Toina Hanson, was there, holding a sign.  I must have barely noticed her (there are a lot of homeless people in Portland, Maine), because I barely remember the incident.  But Susie Sue remembers.  She nudged me as we stopped at the light, and I took this to mean: "Give the woman something."
The smallest thing I had was a $20.  So I opened the window and gave it to Toina.  She was excited.  Said: "God bless you!"  Something like that.  I guess you don't get a lot of twenties while out panhandling. 
Susie Sue said: "Did you give her a twenty?"
I said: "Yeah."
"Jesus, Patrick.  She's a junkie.  That's way too much money.  You probably just killed her."
Toina's body turned up recently in a wooded area on the edge of town, a couple of miles from that stoplight.  A hiker out picking wild blueberries found her skeletal remains.  The cops estimate she was laying there in the woods since last fall, right around the time I gave her all that money.  They say there were no signs of foul play.
If she were alive, Toina would now be 31 years old.  She doesn't look anywhere near that young in her photo.  I know people her age who still look like teenagers.  Toina had no home.  I'd guess she weighed about 70 pounds.   
We've got a machine here, and it grinds people right up.  Disappears them.  Leaves them for dead.  Nobody misses them.  Nobody notices.  The wheels roll on.  Some random nature lover finds the body almost a year later.