Archive for June, 2007

A BRIDGE TOO NEAR

June 30, 2007

There is a worldwide poll being conducted by some organization–I’m not sure which, it could be anybody from the UN to National Geographic to Google–to name the Ten Modern Wonders of the World. The only existing item remaining from the original Wonders is the great pyramid of Egypt. The list of Modern Wonders candidates, 25 or so, include all the usual suspects: the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and so forth.

Until the other day, my vote probably would have gone to Mount Rushmore, not only because it strikes me as the most improbable and herculean achievement, but because it has absolutely no utilitarian purpose. Even the Eiffel Tower has a restaurant. But I’m changing my vote. That now goes, for whatever it’s worth, to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Why? Because I have a birthday coming up, and some people like to make a point of doing something they’ve never before done on their birthday. I am not one of those people. But on a few birthdays I have acted like one. I jogged around AT&T park several years ago on my birthday, for example. But as a rule, for me it’s just another day except there’s a card or two and usually cake.

This year, however, I decided I’d observe it by doing something I’ve been meaning to do almost since I moved to the Bay Area in the early 60s. I would jog, or maybe walk/jog, I don’t know, across the Golden Gate Bridge. In 40 (mumble) years, I’ve yet to do that. I can see the damn thing if I walk one block from my front door, and have driven across it times beyond counting. But I’ve never set foot on it.

This is nothing flukey or eccentric on my part. There are thousands of us living here who’ve never walked the Bridge, or toured Alcatraz, or ballooned in Napa, and so forth, the same way there are people who pass the Taj Mahal every day on their way to work but have never been inside it, and Parisians who’ve never blah blah blah.

So we were making arrangements for the three of us (me, wife Gloria, dog Scout) to set this up–making reservations in San Francisco for the night before the morning Bridge stroll, finding out where to park the car, and so forth–and in the process, Gloria pulled up three websites with information about the Bridge. Two of them said that pets were not allowed on the Bridge. Without going into logistical details, this would really screw up, if not completely kill, our plans. A third site said dogs were fine on a leash, but it was a Places You Can Go With Your Dog website, and obviously had a vested interest to look on the positive side.

What to do? Well, the Dog Places site listed a phone number for the Golden Gate Bridge. I called it, and in three rings, a real live lady answered, and said “Golden Gate Bridge.” I asked her if I could walk my dog on the bridge and she said yes, on a leash. She was surprised but not particularly upset when I mentioned the two “no pets” websites. “Well, they’re wrong,” she said. “Have a good time.”

So the Golden Gate Bridge gets my vote for the Modern Wonder of the World. Not because I find it truly wondrous. If that were so, I would have walked on it years ago, wouldn’t I? And not even because they let you walk your dog on it, although that does count for a lot. But because it is one of the most famous tourist attractions on earth and run by a government agency and yet…and yet… you can call it up on the phone and an actual living person will promptly answer and supply you with requested information.

Will Wonders never cease?

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10 POSSIBLY GOOD THINGS ABOUT A TAKEOVER OF THE UNITED STATES BY THE TALIBAN. OKAY, 9. ALRIGHT! 7! JEEZ! CUT ALLAH SOME SLACK, WILL YOU?

June 25, 2007

1. The Taliban would promptly, and with exuberant delight, publicly hang Dick Cheney, Ann Coulter, and Pat Robertson. I like to think that they have a subtle but real sense of humor, and would merely put Dubya on exhibit .
2. Paris Hilton would be required to wear burqa and facially concealing veil in public at all times. The same for Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and…well, you get the idea. The basic idea: any female that People or Us magazine has any interest in photographing would by law be for all practical purposes invisible. Ha!
3. Almost all rap music would be outlawed, and those violating the law would be subject to summary execution. Okay, this is my little personal lapse into vindictive unreality, but come on. You’ve been trapped at a stoplight next to one of these assholes driving their six-passenger-boombox more than once. Sure, they’ll ultimately go deaf…but that’s not enough, damn it.
4. Their prohibition of the sale or preparation of bacon cheeseburgers, while admittedly a blow against our most fundamental values, would probably save something on the order of 60,000 lives of potential heart attack victims each year. I’m ambivalent, but am coming down on the side of this being overall a good thing.
5. A considerable number of religious fanatics, sociopaths, obsessive ideologues, and simple loonies would be removed from the gene pool by virtue of the large and ongoing number of same who would enter the government’s official suicide-martyrdom self-elimination program.
6. The entire executive and on-air staffs of Fox News would be put to death by public stoning, the right to cast the stones having been auctioned off beforehand. (Trivia note: the single top bid, $244,600, would be made by Hillary Clinton, for the right to drop a two-ton wrecking ball onto Bill O’Reilly.)
7. Two days after the Taliban takeover, Mitt Romney would make a humiliatingly preposterous public declaration (which he would later attempt to retract) that he “Fully, but privately, has embraced fundamentalist Islam for oh, just ever so many years.”

THOUGHTS THAT ONLY SOMEONE WITH AS LITTLE TO DO AS ME WOULD BOTHER THINKING

June 21, 2007

I read today still another news item about a U.S. military translator specializing in Arabic who had been forced out of the service for being gay. The translator was suing the Army, for exactly what I’m not sure, although raging idiocy would make sense if you could sue for it, as would, come to think of it, criminal incompetence or even treason.

But what caught my eye was a number I’ve seen in other, similar news stories. The number is 59, and it’s the number of Arab language specialists who have been run out of the armed forces since 9/11 because they are homosexual. Or even, in the case of the person above, bisexual. It occurred to me that the military didn’t have a great number of Arab language specialists to begin with, and that the number 59 probably represented a large percentage of the total. Maybe as many as half. What are the odds against that? With only some ten percent of the general population being gay, and all.

And then I had the really fun lightbulb go off. What if the same gene that is responsible for homosexual inclination happens also to be the gene responsible for a natural predisposition–and extraordinary innate ability–to learn and master the Arabic language? God, that would be great. But only if it could be definitely established, of course. The upshot would be that the armed forces would not only be obliged to retain Arabic-fluent homosexuals, but to treat them with some deference and appreciation.

The punchline image in my mind is of some straight, tight-sphinctered Second Lieutenant ordering an obviously sashaying enlisted man to “remove those damn earrings” and being told in reply, “Fuck yourself blind, Mary, I can recite the Koran in my sleep.”

Excess Bloggage, Vol. 128, No. 36

June 19, 2007

As I wander the WWWeb I run across curious bits of data and information that I like to file where I can visit them when I wish my own personal life to seem more rational and reasonable than it actually is. Here are a few. They are all for real, legitimate, and taken from reliable and genuine news sources. Enjoy.

DYING TO RE-ENLIST
The number of U.S. Army officers who, after being killed in action, were sent letters posthumously by the Army in December, 2006 urging them to sign up for another tour of duty: approximately 75.

CAREER GOALS
In a poll of American middle school students asking whether they would rather be (A) a U.S. senator, (B) president of Harvard or Yale, (C) the CEO of a major corporation, (D) a Navy SEAL, or (E) personal assistant to a “very famous” singer or film star, 43.4 percent picked (E).

SELF-LIMITING CRIME WAVE
The official cause of death listed for almost one-third of the 122 pedestrians killed on South Carolina highways last year was “lying illegally in road.”

BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
Perhaps indicating that you can have too much freedom, prison inmates, during the first two weeks after their release, die at a rate 13 times greater than the general U.S. population.

AND SO ON…
Roughly one-quarter of all the 383 bills passed by the 109th (2005-06) Congress merely legislated the naming of various federal properties, such as post offices, after American celebrities, including Ray Charles and Ava Gardner.

It takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year’s supply of footballs.

Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married.

The percentage of Africa officially classified as wilderness: 28. The percentage of North America officially classified as wilderness: 38.

Una Musings

June 12, 2007

Saw a blurb in a Chronicle ad for the movie “Delta Farce” that called it “a zany, whacked-out take on the Iraq war.” Umm–and exactly how does this differentiate it from a Bush press conference?

Item in the press yesterday about two drug-sniffing dogs at the Chiang Rai Airport in Thailand who were relieved from duty because they developed a habit of peeing on peoples’ luggage and humping women’s legs, which is really no worse than–and in fact pretty much the same as–things I used to do after sniffing drugs. Come to think of it, they used to whack me with the paper and yell “Bad boy!” as well.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. “Seinfeld” ended its run with the entire little “family” behind bars, and “The Sopranos” ended its with the entire little family hanging out together in a coffee shop. The first was the brainchild of Larry DAVID, and the latter that of DAVID Chase. The George Costanza and Big Pussy Bompasera characters have never been seen at the same time and place. For the love of God, people, do I have to spell it out for you?

And speaking of Br’er Chase, in line with the principle that when you hear hoofbeats, it is probably horses and not zebras or hartebeests or unicorns, maybe the poor bastard just couldn’t think of a good ending.

“MISTER BIG” — TWO DIVERSE SLANTS

June 6, 2007

The following is an absolutely straight, legitimate news item taken off the Net today (June 6):

“New York, NY (AP)–A man has sued the maker of the health drink Boost Plus, claiming the vitamin-enriched beverage gave him an erection that would not subside and caused him to be hospitalized.
“The lawsuit filed by Christopher Woods of New York said he bought the nutrition beverage made by the pharmaceutical company Novartis AG at a drugstore on June 5, 2004, and drank it.
“Woods’ court papers say he woke up the next morning ‘with an erection that would not subside’ …
“Woods’ lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, names Novartis Consumer Health Inc. as a defendant. A spokeswoman for the company, Brandi Robinson, said Tuesday the company was aware of the lawsuit but does not comment on pending litigation.
“Novartis’ Boost Plus Web site describes the drink as ‘a great tasting, high calorie, nutritionally complete oral supplement for people who require extra energy and protein in a limited volume,’ in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.”

I ran across this item at 10:15 this morning. By 10:17 I had thought up a cheap Paris Hilton one-liner. (“Naturally, the one time she’d come in handy, she’s unavailable.”)

By 10:30 I was arranging to mortgage my home and put the entire proceeds into Novartis stock. Look: this Boost Plus is “nutritionally complete” Viagra, for God’s sake! It will fly off the shelves like, well, nutritionally complete Viagra. It gives you a hardon AND extra energy. If that’s not the definition of a wonder drug, I am at a loss. (Now that I think of it, the protein probably comes in pretty handy, too.)

Even better, it’s an “oral supplement.” I think we can all agree that those are the best kind.

If I were the Novartis people, I would not only settle with this guy immediately, I would try to hire him for a speaking tour. But that’s just me.

On a completely unrelated front, Michael Robertson in his blog “Darwin’s Cat” [ http://jmichaelrobertson.blogspot.com/ ] speculates on the fate of Tony Soprano next Sunday in the series’ climactic episode. By coincidence, my lovely wife Gloria also offered a possible scenario just before I logged onto Robo’s blog. Her take: the shrink’s rejection of Tony was so glaringly unprofessional that she has second thoughts, asks him to come in to accept her apology, a hit team arrives while he is there and, in Glo’s words, “He takes a bullet for her.”

I think that’s somewhat farfetched, which is probably in its favor as a possibility. My take, however, is that Tony reflects on the shrink’s abandonment of him, and on the utter wussie uselessness of his son, and his own murder of his spiritual “son,” Christopher, and other elements of wreckage in his life, and leaves his safe house to return to the Bada Bing where, when the assassins arrive, he does nothing to defend himself, in effect committing suicide by hitman.

Either than, or he wakes up in bed with Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette.