Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Words! Words! Words!

All right, once again I'm copping out... er, passing along this amusing list for today's blog entry, courtesy of one of my favorite readers. Enjoy! I'm now off to start today's decafelon...

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered to form a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts ntil you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the lot:

17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be lawyers...

I don't have much use for the alumni publications I get from Syracuse.

One, I don't go there any more, and know no one who does, so I have no stake in the new building they're constructing on their Disney-fied version of a college campus, no interest in the programs sending freshmen overseas, don't care who is now a sitting professor in the College of Take-Your-Money-And-Give-You-Kids-Who-Don't-Know-Shit. (which is not how it used to be, so Mom, Dad, no, I did find my four years there a valuable and educational experience...)

Two, I resent the fact that if I DID send in any alumni contributions (come on, what do you think they use them for?), they'd mostly go toward producing the several slick, oversized, five color extravaganzas I receive in the mail every quarter or so. Plus all of the salaries of everyone on the masthead.

What I am interested in is that section in the back where alum can write in little blurbs about what they're doing now, that they've married Buffy or Biff or finally learned to read. Along with a little photo, that, while there are some that are really creatively shot, most are the standard top-of-the-balding-head-to-the-bottom-of-the-necktie bio shots.

Come on. Don't tell me you don't go there, too. It's like watching NASCAR for the accidents or Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan for, well, any move they might make.

Yes, it's potentially destructive and definitely cynical (there is a study going that says that people who are cynical die earlier than their more positive-minded counterparts, but, hey, if you're cynical, you already knew that, didn't you?) but I often compare people's bios to where I am in my own life. And the women - well, I just have to see if they're aging faster than I am.

And no, it's not fair that I graduated with Vanessa Williams. And it's definitely not fair that I torment my poor husband about it when we're watching Ugly Betty:

Me: We're the same age, you know. She was in my Art History class.
Him: Yeah, you tell me all the time.
Me: I don't look older than she does, do I?
Him: (silence)

Which is probably the smartest thing he could have said.

But anyway, I opened my latest "How are we spending your alumni contributions now" publication, flipped to the back and BAM! There's a blurb (with photo!) of the first guy I kissed at SU. We met at a party. He was adorable, with curly hair and eyes like Bambi. Picture that guy from Scrubs with a faux 'fro (hey, it was the late 70s). We met at one of those spontaneous dorm parties that spread like mold during that first week or so of school. He tried to get me drunk on Pink Champale. One kiss was as far as we got and I never hung out with him again, as we both quickly discovered that we had nothing in common except being away from home for the first time. We greeted each other with embarrassed grunts whenever we passed in the halls, which gradually petered out to no contact whatsoever.

But oh, my god, this picture! He's a lawyer (which I never would have predicted - CPA, maybe, but not a lawyer), just joined some new firm in New Jersey. I tried reading between the lines...hmm, simply joining a new firm, not a partner, what happened at the old firm...(it's a joy to be a writer sometimes...) Perhaps he tried to get some intern drunk on Pink Champale...and then the photo! I'm sorry to say the years have not been kind. I looked for the adorable eighteen year old in there and...nope. Couldn't see a whit of it. This guy looked like a shoe salesman from Long Island. (not meaning, of course, to disparage the shoe salesmen from Long Island)

I'm hoping it was a bad photo.

Or a misprint.

I just don't like knowing that the first guy I kissed when I was away from home for the first time became a lawyer.

It could have been worse, I suppose.

We could have missed each other entirely at that party. Then I wouldn't have the memory at all of this pure moment, the sweet deliriousness of being partially tipsy at my first college party and the cutest guy in the room kisses me, not some mega-babe, which of course meant that life was perfect and I belonged.

Even if he did turn out to be a lawyer with an overbite.

And I DO think that I don't look any older than Vanessa Williams.

No matter what my husband doesn't say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Do The "Seven Dirty Words" Still Matter?

Words have always fascinated me. Particularly the contexts in which you can say certain words and can't say others. This started in childhood, with some very interesting discrepancies on my parents' part (remind me to tell you that story later.) But I really got hooked into it when I swiped my father's copy (or was of my brothers?) of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television."

And with that, a writer was born. At least one who appreciates the power and hidden meanings behind words. I learned that if the context was correct, you could get away with practically anything. Even on television.

But lately, it's getting ridiculous. Like the little man at the bleeper switch has fallen asleep. Or, wakes up and shaking himself into consciousness, realizes he better start making an example of somebody so he can justify his existence. (or make up for the ones that got away)

Will the FCC get its act in gear already? We seem to have a consistency problem. I'm no prude, and by now I've heard every single word there is to say and then some, including some very creative combinations.

But what they allow to be said on TV makes no sense whatsoever.

I think it all started with "NYPD Blue," with David Caruso's bare buttocks. It proved that not only could you say "ass" on network television after a certain time, you could even show them. (As long it was a was a tasteful glimpse - and believe me, even a tasteful glimpse of Caruso's hindquarters is nowhere near my list of the "thousand things I want to see before I die.")

Then the boundaries began to blur. I've seen some shows lately where you could say the word "penis," but couldn't say (except you could imply, by careful use of euphemisms) its function. But I've yet to see a TV program where you could say the word "vagina," except in the context of the play, "The Vagina Monologues." (an interesting aside: my text-to-speech program recognized "penis" immediately but I had to teach it how to say "vagina." Twice, in fact)

And there are some words - those that describe the scatological functions - that, although they may not be uttered, can be creatively described or inferred by their euphemisms. Everybody knows what you're talking about although the actual word cannot be said. So what's the big deal about saying the actual word? Would it kill anyone? Would any child actually be scarred for life? Many years ago, you couldn't say "pregnant" on television. You could say, "expecting." You could say "with child." For Christ’s sake. TV couples slept in separate beds. Which made me wonder how the wife got to be "expecting" at all.

It's just stupid, and an insult to our intelligence.

An argument may be that it lowers the level of the conversation. Have these people actually watched television lately? Could the level of the conversation get any lower?

Some of the more inane examples I've heard lately:

--You can say boobs, knockers, headlights, any number of clever euphemisms for the female mammary glands, but you still can't say "tits." But isn't that just another euphemism? Why is this one forbidden? Also, you can say "breast," but only in the context of their biological function or if it relates to cancer.

--You can say any number of the thousands of euphemisms for the procreative act. You can even show it, after a certain hour. Yet the "f" bomb is just that - something that will bring the censors down on you like it's the Blitz and you're London. Yet everyone over the age of, say eleven or so, knows exactly what you're referring to.

Yet avoiding these certain words does allow for a vast world of creativity. I’m willing to bet that the English language has just as many expressions for the procreative act than Yiddish has for lack of intelligence or that Inuit has for snow.

Which proves what is most important around here.

If it’s that important, why can’t we just call it what it is, and get over ourselves already?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Can You Put A Price On Integrity?

I know I'm late to weigh in on this, but I'm still rankled by the September 14th scandal in which the New England Patriots" Bill Belichick was found to be spying on his opponents defensive signals using video tape from the sidelines.

So much for "America's Team." So much for Tom Brady as "America's Quarterback." The supposed "best" team in football has to cheat in order to win against... the JETS?

Come on. The lowliest ranked NCAA team could probably stomp the Jets into the sod and Belichick needs to cheat against them?

OK. They didn't get off completely scot-free (or, as will probably wind up in the American lexicon "O. J.'d it). They were fined $750,000 ($500,000 was to come from Belichick personally) and they lost a draft pick for next season. And they got the mildest slap on the wrist (it was more like a disappointed eye-roll) from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," Goodell said in a letter to the Patriots.

He said he considered suspending Belichick but didn't "largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension."

Who says? A guy whose interest it's in NOT to sideline the winningest coach of the winningest team that gives the NFL the most winningest pile of green?

It's not good enough. A token suspension at least, at the very very least, they should have had to forfeit the game to the Jets.

Anything to cut "Mean Green" a break.

I've seen a few peevish editorials, a few letters from a few angry fans, but the following Sunday, it was back to business as usual. Tom Brady looked tall in the saddle and the Patriots went on winning and nothing more was said.

So is this the way it's going to work, now? If you put asses in the seats, if you throw enough money at the problem, it simply goes away? If Pete Rose coughs up enough to build a Cal Ripkin wing onto the Cooperstown museum, will he be allowed into the Hall of Fame? If Michael Vick makes a 750G donation to the ASPCA will he be back in the pocket the following Sunday?

It's wrong. All of it's wrong. Apparently we're going down a cash-laden path that tells kids that it's OK to lie, cheat, steal, and make animals fight each other as long as you were previously almost a living legend. Then you can just write a check and look appropriately ashamed for as long as it takes to get a few sound bites out for ESPN.

Now the Pats are cracking down on scalpers who use StubHub to get money for their tickets. Probably most of these scalpers are season-ticket holders trying to unload seats they won't be using. Way to go, Pats. Take it out on the fans who help pay your inflated salaries.

But damned sure that if any of them are caught, they won't be able to simply write a check and walk away smiling

They might have to actually (gulp) suffer lasting consequences of their actions.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Oh, Brave New World..."

Just for fun, I've been rereading the classics that I was made to study in school. Hopefully now, without having to write essays about metaphors and such, I can simply sit back and enjoy them.

First up is "Brave New World." And it is sending chills up my spine. Almost seventy years later, the book not only still holds up, but is creepily prescient. The world that Huxley imagined is upon us. The cult of the automobile. Promiscuity. In-vitro fertilization. Genetic Engineering. Aromatherapy. There is even a drug named "Soma," (which muffles signals from the central nervous system) but it might as well have been reality shows. Or Starbucks. Or all the ways that society has engineered to keep us distracted and happy.

It's a vision of the future that, while arguably has come as true as 1984, is a little more spot on.

I'll let you know what's on the table next.

While not a classic, I just finished reading a little book titled "Conservatize Me," By John Moe. It's a bit of a spoof on the documentary from a few years ago, "Super Size Me," but in this version, Mr. Moe crafts his 30-day experiment as follows: a self-described liberal democrat who works for a public radio station in Seattle immerses himself into the "conservative" world, to see if he can make himself become conservative by osmosis. It's a bit stereotypical - meaning that in choosing his influences he shops at Wal-Mart, listens to Country/Western music, learns to shoot a gun, and changes his brand of beer, just for starters.

If you care to read it, I won't spoil the ending. But as he went upon his journey, actually talking to conservatives, reading their books, and living (his version) of their lives, he actually ended up in a less stereotypical place then I thought he would.

Overall, this was an amusing journey.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Grandmother

I didn't want to go another day without mentioning my grandmother, who passed away last week at the age of 96, mercifully after a brief illness. She managed to evade the two things she feared most about getting old: going senile and being put in a nursing home (she only had to go as far as moving into an assisted living facililty.) She had all her marbles, up until the end. Just two weeks ago, at my mother's wedding, we passed the phone around, and she was wisecracking with Husband:

"So, Grandma, when are you getting remarried?" he asked.
"Hah," she said. "You should see what's here."

On Sunday, she was laid to rest in Miami, next to her husband, Phil, who died when I was five and predeceased her by over 40 years. What a long time to be away from someone you love. I can only imagine the conversations they are having now (if such things happen).

Him, smirking, taking the cigar from his mouth: "So, Yetta, what took you so long?"
Her, giving him a playful smack: "It's your fault for leaving so soon?"
Him: "Did you have a nice life, a good life?"
Her, smiling: "Yes. A lovely life."
Him: "You'll show me the pictures. But not just yet. Come on. We need a fourth for bridge."

I wasn't at the service, although I sent along something for my brother to read. But there will never be enough words to tell what she meant to me and how she influenced my life and how much I loved her. Words are weak conductors of feelings, but sometimes they are all we have, and sometimes there are no words at all.

This is what I offered:

I have so many memories of the ways that Grandma Yetta enriched my life that it’s hard to choose which ones to share.

She expanded my cooking repertoire. She made me beautiful scarves and sweaters (and one my favorite dresses), taught me how to knit and crochet (even though I promptly forgot how), but mostly what I remember is her wonderful sense of humor.

When I was a child, and Grandma came to visit, my younger brother and I loved to play tricks on her. During the 60s and early 70s, family cars had back seats with humps in the middle, which, if you had more than the standard 2.4 children, started many an argument about who got stuck sitting on that seat. My brother and I had a little routine that we used on Grandma on trips when my older brother didn’t come with us. We’d make a big show of letting her get in first to the backseat, then I would get it after her, but my brother would run around to the other side of the car and get in, leaving her to sit on the hump, and she would laugh and laugh with that wonderful cackle of hers, yet she kept letting us do that to her each time we got in the car.

But my favorite story, and one that I might have told some of you already, was one summer when Grandma was visiting. We were walking along the streets of Poughkeepsie to meet my mother after work. I was about 16 or so, and one of the fashions of the time was Danskin wrap skirts. I was wearing mine and it was a rather windy day. So I discretely held the flap in place so I wouldn’t expose myself.

Grandma turned to me and said, “Honey, if I was your age, I’d wear red panties and let the wind blow.”

If nothing else, at least I got someone to say "panties" at a funeral.

I think Grandma would have gotten a good laugh out of that.