Archive for February, 2012


I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.- Douglas Adams

View of Knicks game at Madison Square GardenThe dogs and I were watching TV the other night and ended up on ESPN while looking for the Knicks game– so much fun now that Linn has arrived — but couldn’t find it so settled in to enjoy some major testosterone spectating. But first a commercial…and what a commercial. No it wasn’t one of those asinine GoDaddy ads that are such an enlightened delight during the Super Bowl. Rather it  looked like a schlock UHF TV spot from back in the 70s. Where did it come from?

Did a solar flare cause some wires to get crossed and I ended up in a TV wormhole?

I actually backed the TV programming up a few times to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Well, that and the fact that I was laughing so hard the first time around I missed hearing every bit of the ad’s razor-sharp wit. Not since the ad for Shake Weight have I laughed like that at a commercial.

It was a spot for lifts, gel cushioned heel lifts to give you that essential extra inch or two or three. Not only was the ad sexist and biased but the whole thing was just jaw-droppingly stupid. The voice over guy talked statistics: about how it has been proven that taller people are liked more, get hired more often and make more money…uh huh. From the way he talked it sounded like he was suggesting that anyone at average height or below should just hang it up, find a nice ice floe and drift out to sea.

Floe ice (js)

Full disclosure here, I am on the short side, barely 5 foot 4. Okay, really I’m 5 foot .75 inches, but for pretty much my whole life I rounded that figure up. Hey, I wanted to be taller, I really did. At the doctor’s office a few weeks ago they used a digital device to measure my height and it came out to 5 foot 3. Ouch! I wanted a rematch but the nurse refused.

Anyway, back to the ad. At one point they had this guy, I’ll call him Chuck, illustrate the amazing power of a few extra inches…Chuck apparently wasn’t able to attract the girl of his dreams because of his alleged lacking in the stature department. The girl (alleged) stood aloof from him in the first scene. Now that could either be due to his height or the fact that she looked remarkably like a hooker and she was trolling  for a Saturday night date. Poor Chuck. He just didn’t measure up. Until he got these miracle-working heel lifts. Voila! Ohh boy, With his new height in his favor, the girl (or hooker) of his dreams quickly turned her sights on him, looking remarkably like a hungry cheetah eyeing some very slow-moving prey. Chuck did look happy there for a moment or two. And isn’t that what we all seek? To be happy for a moment or two. And if some gel cushioned heel lifts can do that, can change someone’s life around, who am I to begrudge that moment of happiness to anyone, even Chuck.

Ode to Old Seagrass

A friend dropped a pop quiz on me the other day. “What’s the oldest living thing on the planet?” she asked. First I guessed ‘Blue Whale,’ but that’s the biggest not the oldest. So then I went with ‘trees,’ (a bit generic) for my next guess. No to both. Amazingly the answer which you already know by reading my

headline for this blog post is seagrass. Specifically seagrass that grows on the sea floor between Spain and Cyprus. DNA tests indicate this section of

English: Floridian seagrass bed

Image via Wikipedia

seagrass could be thousands or even tens of thousands of years old. One 15 km swath of grass was estimated to be an amazing 200,000 years old. That’s a hell of a lot of candles. Also, it’s big time proof that a Mediterranean Diet really does promote longevity.

I have stood next to trees gnarled by time, hundreds of years old, gazing up into the branches and imagining what the tree had witnessed in its long life. Yet that is only a fraction of the life span of seagrass. If I impose my perspective on why the seagrass is so effective a survivor, I would probably point to its flexible nature, its ability to bend under pressure and then spring back unbroken. Strength without forcefulness. Sounds a bit like the Buddhist way.

Scientists on the other hand would suggest that the seagrass’ ability to reproduce asexually for as long as…well, I guess we are still finding out how long seagrasses can survive, is a fundamental factor in its longevity. I can’t imagine any man or woman choosing to go that route, even it was possible, no matter how enamored they are of the possibility of triple-digit birthdays.

The other aspect to this whole seagrass thing is that it received so little airplay. I didn’t see it at all on TV news. Nor did I read it in my daily paper. Though that is not a big surprise. With all its cost-cutting measures of the past decade, our once great city paper is now a shell of what it was. Many of the top writers have retired or gone on to teach at local universities. Printing costs have cut the paper’s size down tremendously, its dimensions seem to shrink almost weekly. Worse still it has been going through a series of owners, each of who come in with great fanfare, spewing promises that go unfulfilled. The paper’s focus has become narrower, global issues have been marginalized, long-form investigations relegated to the past. I grew up reading newspapers and for most of my life considered my breakfast incomplete without a newspaper propped up against the cereal box. That has changed dramatically now. Although I use the Internet to check on breaking news and sports scores, I also liked to read the paper for commentary and analysis. But primarily because of the changes I mentioned, with a outllook that seems to indicate the newsworthy world ends at the city limits, I have gotten away from reading the paper on a daily basis. All those years of dire predictions from the newspaper industry itself about its imminent demise seems to have come true. But is it the result of changing technology or a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you tell people for long enough that you are struggling, can’t compete and are  being outpaced by other technology, at what point does that negative thinking tip over into reality?

The New York Times is one of the few great city papers still pumping out worthwhile news coverage. I confess though that the quality and quantity of the cultural attractions in NYC are compelling enough to make me swoon. I definitely have Arts Envy.

Okay, I got way off track there…back to seagrass, the senior citizen of the sea.

Amazing to think while great civilizations rose and fell, wars raged and history was made, seagrass was a constant. Being able to adapt to change, learning how to bend, not break, with all that life throws at us are powerful qualities to nurture. Grace under pressure is an old standard but one that still resonates and is all the more needed in today’s stress-filled world.

This discovery should prompt a new birthday greeting…

May you live as long as seagrass and dance among the waves.

 

 

Related articles

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

C. S. Lewis
English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 – 1963)

Petticoat Junction

Image via Wikipedia

That’s one of those words (picked up from my New England friends) that perfectly fits today’s weather. Not a lot of snow but man is that cold wind wicked. You think you are prepared, parka – check, boots- check, gloves – check, and hat -check. Then you step outside and the wind zeroes right in on you. It howls around the corner, on the hunt for any exposed skin.

Eyes watering and cheeks burning I head to the barn for more firewood.  Along the way, I start singing  ‘Beast of Burden‘. Frozen puffs of breath puncuate the beat.  I’m counting on the cold keeping people inside, otherwise I would be a little more sotto voce in my vocalizations especially since I only know a few lines of the song. Okay, not even a few, just one, really. That is pretty much the case with my entire repertoire. I know one or two lines, at most. I try to make up for that deficiency with volume and enthusiasm. The real kicker is, the songs I do manage to remember, and remember fully are all those damn jingles from childhood and adolescence. More than a few of my brain cells are crammed full of that kind of dreck. Not Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, not the unedited works of Shakespeare…no, instead I am able to pull up the themes to ‘Petticoat Junction,’ ‘Green Acres,’ ‘The Patty Duke Show‘ and of course, ‘Mr. Ed.’

On my way back, wheelbarrow crammed full of stove wood, I check on the bird feeder. I have a battle raging with a neighborhood squirrel who has recently discovered the feeder. He has managed to figure out how to open the top where I pour in the seed and just sits there, gorging himself. Nearby an audience of seriously pissed off birds keep watch. I have countered each of his moves with my own devious ones, usually revolving around the use of duct tape. So now the once relatively attractive bird feeder is festooned with slabs of grey tape, in the faint hope it will keep the squirrel out.

 

photo by amjwrit

It has been a weird winter with precious little snow and warm temperatures. Having a few days of real winter weather now is refreshing and thhe snow is oh so  beautiful. There is something exhilarating about  the crisp clarity of really cold air. Even as it flash freezes my sinuses, it also seems to crystallize my thinking, sharpen my wits. Of course I am writing all this knowing full well there is little actual snow to shovel, and I  can retreat inside when I grow weary of being exhilarated. Then I can sit by the fire, mug of hot tea in hand and listen to the howling wind as my dog snores fitfully by my feet.

 

 

Cover of "Psycho (Collector's Edition)"

Cover of Psycho (Collector's Edition)

English: High-speed photograph of a showerhead...
Image via Wikipedia

God, I hate this stuff. Clamshell packaging. Whoever came up with this concept should be stuffed in a human-size clamshell package with 15 minutes of air and  a pair of dull scissors. I just spent over a half-hour trying to break into a package containing a Waterpik shower head. That’s a half-hour of my life I will never get back.

Some companies have gotten smart and at least inserted a kind of trap door thingy to give you a head start. You find a tab or perforated section, grab hold, brace yourself  and pull. Of course it still takes all your strength, but hey, at least no heavy-duty knifeware or hacksaw is involved.

What is it about a shower head that is so fragile or valuable it needs to be protected like Fort Knox? Scissors barely make a dent, box cutters bounce off. Using a screwdriver to stab at it makes me feel like I’m reenacting the shower scene from ‘Psycho.’ Frustration mounts and I think about just returning the thing. But my old shower head developed a leak a few weeks ago. A crack in the stem allows a lazer-sharp stream of cold water to escape and hunt me down with pinpoint accuracy.

Off to Target for a replacement.

You know, it is not only trying to somehow hack your way into clamshell packaging, it is also about avoiding slashing yourself with the jagged edges of plastic. It’s amazingly sharp. Out of frustration I grab two edges of the package and try to just rip it apart. No go. What the hell is this thing sealed with? Does the military know about this stuff?

So I sit here defeated, tired out. The shower head, bright and shiny, winks evilly at me from behind its plastic shell. Very tempted to just boot it out into the snow, but I know that plastic has a half-life that far exceeds my own. I wouldn’t do that to the planet.