Friday, July 2, 2010


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:   
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Quisquiliarum in, quisquiliarum sicco. ("Garbage in, garbage out.")
  • Do people still hang wallpaper?  Do they still make it?
  • Ever been to a ghoti boil?
  • Sure you have. George Bernard Shaw is said to have joked that the word "fish" could legitimately be spelled "ghoti," by using the "gh" sound from "enough," the "o" sound from "women" and the "ti" sound from "action.”  (Sounds pretty ghotiy to me!)
  • Our increasingly insane universe:  An expert in cheerleading (and how, one wonders, is such eminence achieved?) says cheerleading should not be a competitive sport.
  • How this trifling matter made it all the way to a federal court (in Bridgeport, Conn.) is beyond me. But a federal judge is being asked in part to decide whether cheerleading can be counted as a sport by schools trying to meet gender-equity requirements. 
  • (That's like arguing that reading Stop signs on the way to school helps satisfy your English reading requirements!) 
  • Headline of the week: "Scientists build a rat lung" (Wall Street Journal, June 25.)
  • Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz on the "retirement" of Larry King: "King may not have lost his fastball, since that pitch was never in his repertoire."  Ouch.
  • Next to more dire news about the oil spill, nothing depresses me more than reports of another clergyman accused of child sexual abuse.
  • One of the food selections at Summerfest in Milwaukee--German nachos! Said to be "homemade chips topped with corn beef, white cheese sauce, scallions, tomatoes and jalapenos."  (What's next?  Mexican sauerbraten?)
  • Speaking of food, one of the most under-reported stories of the day is the overfishing of tuna and salmon. As the New York Times recently reported: "On the high seas, the bluefin is being hunted into extinction. Will we ever be able to think about seafood the same way?" (And that was long before the oil spill and its seafood-related ramifications.)
  • If you flush out your water heater annually or vacuum behind your refrigerator, you are either super-efficient or have way too much time on your hands.
  • People always say “bad news (or deaths) come in threes," but they never define the time limit.  If two celebrities die tomorrow, and the next one six weeks from now, does that count as the third?  Personally, I prefer to take my bad news one at a time.
  • Memo to TV news producers:  We don’t need footage of people puffing away or of fat-bellied people walking down the street when you’re doing stories on smoking or dieting.  We get it; we’ve seen it; no visual aids needed.  It's entirely superfluous footage.
  • And while you’re at it, let’s end the Happy Talk era once and for all and dispense with the lame, gratuitous chitchat on the set.  If there are any David Lettermans or Noel Cowards in your ranks, they’ve escaped my attention.  (And you don’t have to smile all the time, either, especially after you’ve read a “Parent kills family of 5” story or something similarly depressing.  Appropriate facial expressions would seem to be in order, and yet . . . .)
  • Forensic science doesn’t look like a fun job.  In a recent documentary I saw a guy in a white lab coat going through a vacuum cleaner bag with a tweezers looking for a rapist’s pubic hair. Some fun.  (The guy’s probably saying:  “I did five years of college for this?  My idiot brother-in-law is making more money than I am driving a damn beer truck!)
  • And there are, of course, other CSI-type specialists.  (Partygoer:  "And what do you do for a living?"  Forensics guy: "Oh, I'm a blood-spatter expert." "Oh . . . really . . . .")
  • Mind and body: If something can "boggle your mind," can it boggle your body as well?  And what does boggle mean, anyway?    ("To shy away or be overcome with fright or astonishment," according to
  • Sad fact:  Fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million Americans who are legally blind can read Braille, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. (Among the reasons:  A shortage of Braille teachers and a so-called "spiral of misunderstanding" that the system is slow and difficult to learn.)
  • Book title espied at the local library:  "Stem Cells for Dummies."
  • Commercial language nonsense, vis a vis Apple products, Harry Potter books, etc., that you "pre-order."  An order is an order; the correct term for products not yet available is "pre-launch order."  Are you pre-ordering a steak just because it hasn't been cooked yet? No, you're ordering it! 
  • Redundancy patrol:  "Sudden urge,'' "soothing balm," "specific example."
  • Today's cheery thought: "Even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself."-- 19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
  • To get a handle on the cause of global warming, on a hot day stand barefoot on your lawn . . . and then stand barefoot on your asphalt or concrete driveway.  Will your feet tell you something?
  • Is there anything more comical (or sadder) than Civil War re-enactors?  ("I've got it!  Even though its mid-July, let's put on some heavy, scratchy old wool uniforms and run around pretending we're killing one another.")
  • A recent news item out of Victorville, Calif., reported a brawl between parents at a kindergarten graduation. Kindergarten graduation?  Was there a valedictorian?  A celebrity guest speaker?  (When I was a kid, you didn't graduate kindergarten, you tolerated kindergarten.)
  • Remember, I don't always agree with everything I say.