Monthly Archives: February 2022

§  She wasn’t faking her naiveté… she was a GENUINE INGENUE.

§  “I’ll show you that I can change my spots,” promised the PAROLED LEOPARD.

§  “My grandmother answered a phone call from ‘Microsoft’ and got scammed by some RUTHLESS HUSTLERS.”

§  “The very next day, my grandmother bought a million dollars worth of life insurance from some NAMELESS SALESMAN.”

§  Our friend Xander, the quantum physics major, was the dorm’s NERDIEST RESIDENT.

§  “Your leatherneck buddies have all gone home, but the AIRMEN REMAIN, MARINE!” taunted the drunken top-gun pilot.

§  The corner-cutting electrician often went shopping for DISCOUNT CONDUITS.

§  Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin apparently believe in AUCTIONED EDUCATION.

§  Cops say that nabbing the perpetrator at the scene of the crime is the RAREST ARREST.

§  If you don’t want your drinks to wobble, you have to sit at one of the STABLE TABLES.

§  In his Confessions, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) portrayed himself as a sinner but he was SAINTED INSTEAD.

And you thought you wouldn’t have to learn anything today.

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I was in sixth grade when I started writing my pass-around-the-classroom colored-pencil-and-crayon humor magazine — if we agree to call six or seven sheets of stapled-together notebook paper a magazine — titled Reader’s Disgust.  I took my inspiration (and much of my material, at least at first) from MAD magazine, from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, from The Saturday Evening Post, from the Steve Allen Show, and even from my mom’s trove of Better Homes & Gardens.  Hey, I had a grade-school imagination (and a like audience), so I did what I could with the materials at hand.

Mad Magazine #33 My homeroom teacher Mr. Smith also read my magazine, but he was more bemused than amused.  The most memorable thing Mr. Smith taught me in sixth grade was the meaning of the word plagiarism.  After his admonishment to me about copying other’s material and passing it off as my own, I did try to produce more original content — but the name of my magazine, lifted from MAD (right), stuck for its 16-year life.

Over the rest of my school-years, it became clear to me that the road to nerd-acceptance was paved with jokes, especially those at the expense of authority figures like teachers and principals or mocking the rust-belt city we lived in.  My magazine’s popularity was in no small part enhanced by the facts that (a) our small-town school was stiflingly boring and (b) the Reader’s Disgust was, by definition, contraband and thus carried an aura of taboo.  I did let a few trusted high-school teachers read the magazine, but I have no idea what was ever said about it in the teachers’ lounge.  That said, there was undoubtedly some talk.*

At any rate, when I retired from engineering and started writing this blog, I pretty much picked up where Reader’s Disgust left off in 1980.  (Lest you wonder, by then I had long given up crayons and had moved onto ink splats, pages with torn corners, and poems that did not rhyme, clear signals of my artistic maturity.)  Trouble is, The 100 Billionth Person did not start out with a captive, receptive audience of utterly bored high-school students; instead, my readership would comprise a handful or so of my and my spouse’s friends with, presumably, more refined tastes. 

Bear with me for this tangent:  I’ve always needed two reasons to be creative.  The first is to entertain myself while at the same time imagining the adulation I might get from those who grok (yes, I used that 60s word!) what I create as much as I do.  The second reason involves actually entertaining people without the ego-feeding element, i.e., creating good work for the sake and worth of doing so.  This aspect is always a lot harder, at least for me, as it usually feels like work.  But if I bear down, stick to business and do things carefully, the results are (well, sometimes, almost) as satisfying as raw adulation.

Often, my spouse (also my biggest fan) has encouraged me to do something to increase the size of my audience, because she apparently thinks I deserve a larger one.  I have no idea what the something I could do would be, as I have no connections… but more importantly, I’ve decided that I’m OK with the way things are.  A classroom-sized audience is probably best for me:  it keeps things personal, and I’m comfortable.  Why strive to be famous?

If I were famous, things would be a lot different around here:

  I would have to hire an agent to find lucrative opportunities.  My agent would insist on being paid.  To pay the agent, I would have to run ads on this site and pay Google to invade your privacy.  Then, bingo, you would be stalked everywhere you went on the internet.  But I wouldn’t care, because I was famous.  So that would sort of be bad.

  I would have to be careful what I say.  If I were famous and I inevitably said something the wrong way (and as we know, the definition of wrong is always evolving), I could get canceled.  I would get hate mail.  I would lose subscribers and advertisers.  In other words, it would be just like now, except I would be famous and hated.  That would be bad too.

  Everything I ever said or did in the past would also be scrutinized.  All those salacious details of my school years and professional career would be unearthed.  (Plagiarism, you say?  Aha!)  While I would lose my core subscribers – sorry to see you go, dear friends! — the notoriety and unjustice of my situation would no doubt attract an anti-PC following, likely the very libertarians I now deride.  I would get a call from Joe Rogan asking me to be on his show, or maybe just get together for an energy drink.  I’d have to think about that.

  I would have to develop my own line of luxe products and promote them on the blog.  CHColors — designer crayons in trendy fashion shades.  (Hot Dog Pink is the new black.)  Flames ReLit — scented candles that automatically regift themselves as thank-you items.  The 100 Billionth Bar — a chocolate bar sort of like the 100 Grand bar, only it would be a million times better, and much more expensive, because I was famous.  All these items would feature the now-heavily-marketed logo of this blog along with a highly flattering near-likeness of me painted by a celebrity-turned-artist (Tony Bennett?  George W. Bush?) done for me as a personal favor.  I would return his favor by giving him a Flames ReLit.

  If I were famous, only my closest friends would know my phone number; no one could just email me.  (You kidding?  Me read emails?  That’s what an agent is for.)  My network would be the people I meet at parties or promotional tours (boring!) or awards ceremonies (also boring but a great opportunity to virtue-signal) but that’s the way it is when you’re famous.  Once you have a million followers, who cares about the 1,000,001st — as long as you all keep checking my Twitter feed and buying my stuff.  That’s what friends are for.

When I add it all up, it’s much easier just being a legend in one’s own mind.  I’m glad I’m not famous.  Thank you for helping me stay that way.

______________

* Now, the mandatory footnote to the story.  The events took place in our high-school newspaper room in the Springtime of Eleventh Grade (wasn’t that a Schubert sonata?) as the latest issue of Reader’s Disgust was being circulated.  The magazine had landed in the hands of our Clubs Editor, Saundra Chiarini, when the newspaper’s teacher-advisor Patrick J. Panella suddenly swooped in, snatched the magazine from her and headed out the door.  Uh-oh, thought I, witnessing the Great Confiscation from just a few feet away. 
I can’t remember whether it was that day or the next when I was called into to see Miss Jessica Jenkins, our high-school Guidance Counselor (who, as far as I recall, neither guided or counseled).  Jenkins had obviously been assigned the task to (a) lecture me along the lines of, do you think this is funny? (uh, yes) and (b) inform me that I was fired from the newspaper staff.  I remember having the temerity to ask her to return the confiscated magazine to me.  I was denied.  So someone out there has a valuable memento.
In retrospect, it seems Panella must have been tipped off, maybe by someone in the teacher’s lounge, but we will never know.  What I do know is that my subversive activities cost me the National Honor Society Award that year (true), the stain of which darkened the rest of my life.  Hey, I might have been famous.

The Jackson Pollock Cover - Reader's DisgustThe Black Squares Cover - Reader's DisgustThe Magical Mystery Cover - Reader's Disgust

 

 

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  We’re back!  It’s Love Month.  So much more romantic than Save Your Tooth Month, Refrigerator Month, Quilting Month, American Cheese Month or Anti-Boredom Month.  Lots of love from this writer to all you readers.  This month, anyway.

  I love the software that helps me create songs out of thin air.  I love the press-to-open, press-to-close trunk lid on my SUV.  I love the warmth and comfort that my gas furnace provides in the winter, not to mention the days when it just feels a little cold in the house and I bump it up a degree.  I love Santa Rosa plums, on the rare occasion I can find them.  I love typing two spaces after a period even though modern style guides insist I must only use one.  I love my mom’s recipe for beef chili with macaroni which my spouse (whom I dearly love) lovingly and patiently agrees to re-create for me.  I love being helpful.  I love being acknowledged as if what I do matters.

  I also love fresh berries on my cereal.  My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and their idea of what was and wasn’t affordable determined what fruit topped my cereal. In other words, sliced bananas — I don’t think blueberries, raspberries or blackberries  ever made one appearance in our house.  Strawberries were a once-a-year thing, always reserved for strawberry shortcake, too special to put on cereal.  As for cherries — I know, not a berry — let’s just say I was good friends with the Thank You brand of glop-in-a-can.  So in retirement, I’m doing my best to compensate for all my young berry-less years.

Buncombe County Omicron Wave Graph  I’m not really retired — my full-time job these days is avoiding covid.  I’ve had this job nearly two years, with no vacation time,  and the pay has not been that great either: $3200 in total, or 28 cents per waking hour.  Hey, I’d like to quit this job, like everyone else in the Great Resignation, but I’m afraid the next job I get might really suck.

  Just because those close to you accept you the way you are and show appreciation for things you do doesn’t mean you have a free pass from doing more and better.  The Land of Missed Opportunities is the vastest, least-explored expanse on Planet Humanity.

  Studies show that people who eat vegetarian chili live, on average, 140 days longer than those who eat meat-based chili.  Other studies find that those who eat chicken/turkey chili live 19 days longer than we Neanderthals who plunge our hairy hands into the real thing, i.e., beef chili.  If nothing else, beef chili people will die happy knowing we will have more attendees at our funerals than those of alt-chili persuasions.  So do us beefy-types a favor, look beyond our taste in chili and pick us out some nice flowers.

  Eulogy at my funeral:  “He was, by some accounts, a fine man.  Yes, he ate beef chili and relished it.  But how shall we judge this man?  By how he ate or how he orated?

  I have been spending hours upon hours the past few months date-sorting and scanning our old family snapshots from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  It has been impossible for me not to notice, in these micro-captures of our lives, how the subjects always seem to be beaming, if not downright vivacious.  Which brought to mind the current-day criticisms of sites like Facebook and Instagram, namely, how shared images unrealistically over-depict good times and good looks and so generate feelings of envy and inadequacy in viewers.  The fact is, Americans have been curating their lives (we called them “Kodak Moments” back then) long before Instagram arrived and we still do.  Snapshooters, myself included, create selectively-good, real yet unrealistic, memories the instant we press the button.

  Among the 20th-century traditions I miss, and they are many, is how your average-to-nice restaurant would offer you a treat as you left the establishment. My favorite such confection was the Ice Cube, a refreshing mint-chocolate morsel.  I can’t recall the last time I saw an Ice Cube, but I do remember the creamy mouth sensations I would enjoy the first few minutes on the car ride home.  Ice Cubes were not just treats but post-dinner memory-implanters.

  Democratic politicians are being criticized in the media for not listening and responding to the needs and desires of “ordinary” Americans.  The narrative is that Democrats unduly focus on minorities and the disadvantaged — as if they are not also “ordinary” Americans.  What Big-D Democrats have been reluctant to accept, and so have struggled to respond to, is the fact that most “ordinary” Americans are on-the-whole more concerned about what is in their wallets than what is in their hearts.

  Forgiveness.  Such a familiar word, yet one with many and diverse opinions about what it means.  Operationally, I think it’s pretty simple: forgiveness is one’s declared promise to the Other that the Other’s hurtful act will no longer be a factor between them.  Ironic then, how the burden of forgiveness falls upon the Wronged.  Funny how that works.

Funny how love is.

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