Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Musing on mortality

So you're running pretty good all in all, but one day something's not quite working right. You've got a drip, or a squeak, or a pinch. Something's bent. Front end out of line, or you're not hitting on all cylinders. You take yourself into the shop and the doctor seems a little too serious for your comfort. You get to take some unpleasant tests, and you worry that you're getting worried over nothing, but then the other shoe drops - you've got it bad, and that ain't good.

Here's the big question - what would you do with yourself and your little life if you knew you were a short timer? Say they tell you you've got six months or a year to go - would you live your life differently if you knew you didn't have much of it left to live?

It's a little like pondering what you would do if you won the lottery. (Granted scenario 1 is a little less joyful than scenario 2.) If you won the lottery, you'd have sudden wealth and you'd live a different life, right? You'd run with a faster crowd, jet off to Monaco to play roulette, dinner at Maxim's in Paris, caviar for breakfast, custom Italian suits, big, fat diamond rings. And that would make you happy, right?

Or would it? What if you're a Fritos and bean dip guy and you just want to get the lawn mowed and watch Nascar.

There's a fundamental flaw with the fantasy that if you were suddenly rich or suddenly terminal you would do everything differently from what you're doing now.That means you are subsisting from day to day but you're living some other life than the one you want, doesn't it? Maybe that's why some lottery winners have such a freakout. They try to live like rich people. But what they really want is to be slobs.

Be careful what you hope for.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

50 is 50, get used to it


Nominee for the biggest lie of the modern era: "50 is the new 30." This whopper is right up there with "I am not a crook," "I did not have sex with that woman," and "Mission accomplished."

I think there may be whole legions of writers working for fashion and lifestyle magazines who sit around all day coming up with "blank is the new blank" comparisons. They are the Typhoid Marys who spread the "is the new" virus. It may have all started when one of these savants came up with "pink is the new black." This appears to have been spawned in the 1980s, and ever since, we can't get enough of it.
  • "Iraq is the new Vietnam" is an easy one.
  • "Small is the new big" was a line to sell little cell phones.
  • From Wikipedia, we get: Carson Kressley from Queer Eye once declared, "Gay is the new black."
There's an entire chart of "is the new"-isms here. It includes even the painfully obvious statements like "Slovenia is the new Switzerland." Well, duh. Everybody knows that about Slovenia.

Once you start down this path, it may be inevitable that someone comes out with "50 is the new 30." Oh yeah? Tell it to my liver. Tell it to my sacroiliac. Tell it to the supersized bottle of ibuprofen that's never out of reach. Falser words were never spoken.

But this seductive lie we're trying to tell ourselves fits right in with the basic boomer attitude - never grow up. And to admit that 50 is, well, 50, is to admit you're more than likely past the halfway point to a dirt nap, the big sleep. Not a cheerful awareness, so better to say "50 is the new 30." Yeah, sure, the check is in the mail, right? I will accept that 50 is the new 30 in terms of milligrams of blood pressure medicine needed, or number of minutes to complete a 3 mile run, or inches around my waist if I'm not careful. And, oh, yeah - 30 is the age when you start getting mail from AARP, right?

Pull the other one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Slap leather, sidewinder

For a short time yesterday I became part of the holstered set. I have been issued a Blackberry at my work, and tried out the nifty clip on holster. Not wanting to look like yet another guy with Batman utility belt fantasies, I have heretofore resisted hanging anything from my belt, and have generally resisted using the word "heretofore," but hey, things change. (Future iconic image of the earlier 2000s: guy with two or three gadgets clipped on his belt and a headset permanently plugged into his ear. That look will be like dresses with big shoulder pads or parachute pants when we look back on it some day. Oh, how we will laugh. By that time we will all have something the size of a button that does everything with voice command, or some gizmo surgically implanted in our brains that just knows what we want and need and produces it. Like, I could use an order of chili cheese fries right now, and I would like that to just appear before me, but the technology isn't ready yet. Sure hope I live long enough. I reallt like chili cheese fries.) The BB is a little large for the pocket, so I took the leap and latched on the holster. It lasted a full 2 hours or so, and then I broke the holster getting out of the car. Apparently I use that part of my hip pretty aggressively to leverage this sad old meat sack out of my overly low-slung and suspiciously mid-life-crisis-indicating wheels.

So I see it as a sign - don't wear the fricking holster. Down deep in my soul I knew it was wrong in the first place. Now, since the Blackberry is part of me, I am torn between just shoving it in my pocket or starting a new trend of wearing it on a lanyard around my neck. People just don't wear lanyards like they used to.

But the larger point here - I now have the Blackberry and the Blackberry has me. Like the vampire bitten, I am now doomed to slowly degrade to a semi-human form, a devolution noted by the shuffling gait with the hands held low, an almost prayerful aspect with the head bowed to receive instructions from the unblinking eye of the All Powerful One. I am resolved to a fate where I can no longer give even partial attention to the actual humans in the room with me once the buzzing and the beeping begins. I must slavishly attend to the screen. I will wantonly disengage from a crucial meeting at just the most important moment, wasting the time of everyone else in the room, while I focus on a random message from a stranger. This is my fate.

Hey, who cares about civility anyway? Human interaction? Old school. Pointless. Better to just fling pixels on the wall and see what sticks. Scattershot messaging, quantity over quality - that's the ticket. I will Twitter you later. Pull my chain and I will respond. At least until I am overwhelmed with messages, and then I will ignore them all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The birds and the bees

Atticus Finch taught his children well, that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mocking bird."
One thing I can't stand it's birds nesting in my corncrib.

I have always been impressed by mockingbirds. They've got so much to say all the time, and they say it over and over in so many ways, and with such enthusiasm, even though it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. It's kind of like listening to sports talk radio.

We have a fairly regular mockingbird presence in our neighborhood. Some mornings it's that mockingbird talk that wakes me before the alarm. Not bad to lie there and listen to what the mockingbird has to say, knowing there's no chance he will go off on how Obama's middle name is Hussein, or that Bush lied about the WMD, or offer any opinion whatsoever on gay marriage. Then again, since I don't speak mockingbird, maybe that's exactly what he's talking about. Maybe that's why all the other birds get quiet when the mockingbird gets rolling - they're all thinking "Here he goes again..."

In any case I will take the mockingbird over the crows. They like some tall redwoods nearby, and they like to sit on the telephone pole right outside the bedroom window and play their one note symphony. Seems to be a pack of three of them, and one has a voice that's sort of a cross between crow and duck. Maybe got something stuck in his craw. Or he could be some kind of bird impersonator. Either way, he's extra annoying and loud. Atticus Finch made no defense of crows, you know, and if I had a gun I might prop it on my pillow and try to eliminate some evildoers, all in the interest of a few more minutes sleep. I'm sure the neighbors would thank me, as long as I managed to hit the crow and not the electrical transformer he sits next to.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence around this neck of the woods suggests the bees continue to decline. (Faithful readers will recall this post from last summer about the bee problem. I was bitching about the crows back then, too.) I'm not the type to get all Chicken Little about the crisis of the week, but this bee failure thing is a little eerie. Last year, about a third of all the bee colonies died off - and this year, a third of the remaining ones died off. These are huge losses. As it was described in this news story, wouldn't people be up in arms if a third of all cows just dropped over? I don't think most people have any idea it's happening, or what impact it would have, but I don't think they will like it when a jar of honey or a carton of strawberries costs as much as a tank of gas.

Maybe the mockingbird and the crows are trying to get me to wake up and do something about the bees.