Families Want Perpetual Roadside Memorials for Accident Victims

Meanwhile, north of Milwaukee, families of car accident victims and their sympathizers have restored the spontaneous pile-up of crosses, flowers, and other memorabilia at the site of the accident that claimed their loved ones. The headline of the coverage says “Dispute over crosses for crash victims continues.” Dispute? Do litterbugs have disputes with the people on the people who adopt highways and impede the litterbugs’ rights to free expression of casting of the detritus of our consumer culture and metaphorically despoil the countryside as the fast food restaurants are culturally despoiling the nation?

The insensitive Department of Transportation gave these roadside memorials six months after the accident and then cleaned them up. The DOT argued, probably rightly, that these memorials provide a distraction to drivers. Undeterred, the crosses and whatnot have sprouted again like mushrooms after a cool spring.

I understand grieving for your loved ones, and I understand marking their passage, but is it really appropriate to stick a gaudy plastic cross on the expressway? Couldn’t you afford a real headstone where your family member is interred? Is that truly the sum of that person’s life, that he or she became a statistic, probably while driving sixty miles an hour while eating a McBreakfast and changing CDs in the fog? If so, I doubly pity you and your unimaginitive lifestyle, redeemed only in your public display of suffering.

I know, I know, I just don’t understand how you feel. Let’s just leave that sentiment in high school were it belongs, okay, and make that frightening journey from adolescence into adulthood, where we can grieve without gratuitous displays and without nailgunning ourselved to the gaudy vinyl cross of outrage that the cold government is infringing our rights to clutter the public square with bulletins of our passing.

What Did She Mean, Anyway?

Good day. I notice a lot of traffic dropping by from IMAO, and I wanted to clarify what my esteemed spouse said in the comment to Frank J’s props for Michael Moore.

Hey, I say The Big One when it ran at the artsy Tivoli theatre here in St. Louis back in the 1990s. I liked it well enough. After all, corporate power abusers are the same fun targets for drive-by rantings as governmental ones, ainna? So when I spent my four bucks to join the Quality Paperback Club, I selected Stupid White Men. I knew the basic plot, so it’s not like I was getting something I wasn’t expecting.

It became a boon that I bought it in paperback. I could more vigorously “dialog with the text” without damaging the furniture or walls of my home. Highlighting? Marginalia? How about a schnucking drop-kick when Moore pillories the new attorney general for disposing of gun background checks as the law says he should–which Moore calls ILLEGAL! How about a backhand expulsion of the tome the eighty-second time Moore describes Bush as illegitimate? I forget at what point I spiked the book to the floor and stomped on it, but I made it all the way through.

I’d recommend the practice of paperbacks when reading books with which you disagree. It’s not always the case that you’ll feel such vitriol that you’ll need to physically abuse a book, but when lies, quarter-truths, and whatnot cover most of the material between the title page and the “About the Author” section, it’s best to be safe from gouging drywall, concussing cats, or hurting yourself.

Thank you, that is all.

Anti-Stutter Bias at all Time Highs

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch loves its crusades, particularly its crusades for simplistic issues and individual concerns. This morning it reported a shocking case of PREJUDICE against a man with a disablility. A man with a stutter alleges that a nationally-syndicated radio show refused to play his request because he stutters. The Post-Dispatch, with its characteristic fervor, describes the travails of this guy who cannot get his bit on the air because of his disability.

The crusading story describes how the man tells them the producer or call screener slurred his stuttering nature and uses that allegation as its reason d’outrage. Of course, the article also mentions that the protagonist of the “story” has repeatedly called the program and has made on-air dedications before. Further, this dedication is another one for the man’s ex-wife and the man himself is a repeat criminal offender. In the Post-Dispatch’s eyes, he is the Little Man to cast against the Big Media Empire.

Now, I wasn’t there, and unless the gummint powers-that-record release the tapes of the conversation, we’ll never know whether the screener told the guy to buzz off because of his speech, or because he was a weepy repeat caller who wanted to send his estranged ex-wife a different song every hour. However, based on the information in the story, I cannot judge in favor of the alleged stutterer. As a matter of fact, I would have to trust someone who has a reputation and an audience to protect.

As a result of this micro-crusade, though, the local radio station that carried the national show has stopped carrying the show based on this outrage. Well, no, they were going to drop it next month (i.e., in seven days) anyway, but they’ll pay a DJ for a week to cover the extra week of dead air. Message: They care about their individual listeners.

Everyone wins! The stutterer gets his revenge, although I suspect the revenge he wanted remains to be decided by a civil court. The paper wins because its crusade on behalf of the little guy has gotten results. The radio station wins because it sacrifices little to Support the Wronged Little Man.

Of course, producers of the radio station and skeptical readers everywhere are saying “WTS (What the Schnuck)?” and wondering if something in the water stripped from the Missouri River and lightly chlorinated makes St. Louisians this whacky.

The secret’s in the psychadelic Iowan sewage. Who needs shrooms?

Paging Senator Proxmire

Forbes has coverage of an annual report by a group called Citizens Against Government Waste that outlines some of the more distinctively foolish government programs upon which the government lavishes money. The late Senator William Proxmire did a more limited run of this sort of thing with his Golden Fleece Award, but apparently takes more detailed view of the complete budget.

This sort of thing would make an excellent checklist for a line-item veto, ainna?

Think You’re Priceless? Think Again

A new ad campaign has been launched in seven states to “inform” public opinion on the pitfalls of capping malpractice lawsuit lottos.

Here’s a bit from the article describing the plight of one set of parents:

    One of the new ads features the mother and father of a 2-year-old boy who died
    of dehydration. The child is shown in an oversized cowboy hat, drinking from his
    baby bottle while his parents mourn their loss.

    “All he needed was an IV … It’s unheard of in the United States. You don’t lose
    children to dehydration,” says the child’s mother, Shawnna Gardner.

    “They lose one of their sons or daughters to medical malpractice, they won’t be
    concerned about putting caps on damages,” says the boy’s father, Vern Gardner,
    referring to the bill’s critics.

Message: Little Billy was priceless, but we’ll take two million for him.

Get a clue, people. Sometimes accidents and oversights happen, and money should not alleviate your suffering. An accident calls of this sort calls for a thorough inquiry and perhaps a warning to the attendants if they were not grossly derelict or malicious, but not a chingchingching payout for the bereaved at the expense of everyone else left paying into the system.

I mean, get a load of this ad:

    In the third commercial, a young boy buying a candy bar is told the cost is
    $14.03. “But it’s only a candy bar,” he says. “Yeah, but my investments lost a lot
    of money. So, I’m gouging my customers,” the store owner replies.

What the store owner needs to say is, “Yeah, but little schnucking Charlie on the next block put a whole schnucking chocolate bar into his mouth before riding his bike down the embankment from a freeway overpass and ramming head on into an electrical utility pole whereupon he choked on the candy bar. So now I have to pay malcandy insurance because I can’t be sure you’re not part of the same chocolate-choking death cult, kid, take it or leave it.”

But I guess that runs longer than thirty seconds.

St. Louis Is Now As Sensitive as Washington, D.C.

A St. Louis judge will be asked to resign for using a word that someone who heard it doesn’t understand. Because niggardly sounds like nigger, someone wants the skirt to resign.

So now in the game of Sensitivity Charades, even Sounds Like is thought to be grounds for an excommunication from public life, even when committed by another minority persecuted through the ages.

A wonderful addition to my quiver of insensitivity quarrels! So now phonetics, elision, and the book-learned-vocabulary mispronunciation that I call my “Wisconsin Accent” can now get me in trouble when the random collection of syllable tumblers click into a combination that sounds naughty to a random listener. I call that alignment of the forces against me a hostile universe environment, but nobody’s listening unless I howl, Lee.

I better be careful the next time the St. Louis Blues play the Nashville Predators. My position as Doc-U-Matic 3000 would be in jeopardy were I to appreciate the goalie’s play. Tom Vokoun is a twofer.

It’s A Good Law If It Doesn’t Affect Me

In Coral Gables, Florida, you cannot park your pick-up truck on the street or in your driveway between 7 pm and 7 am lest you be mistaken for someone who actually has to work for a living. The city enacted the law in the 1970s to preserve its sense of uniquely fake Mediterranean decorum, to keep property values and tax assessments suitably elevated, or simply to thrash property rights whereever it can, and most of Coral Gables was fine with it until recently.

The pick-up owners have rebelled. Now that pick-ups have evolved from utilitarian cargo haulers to 250 XXL Buses-With-Lidless-Trunks-For-Beds, the pick-up owners think their trucks are no different than SUVs, so the SUVs should be banned from driveways and streets at night. And the powers that fill the city’s coffers with ticket revenue agreed. Dadgum, SUVs are trucks!

So now the fifty percent of the city who violate the new interpretation of the law decide they want the law changed, or at least clarified so only the minority who own unsightly, disgraceful pick-up trucks are punished for their combined choice of vehicle and residence. After all, the obvious intent of the law was not to infringe upon their property rights, but upon the property rights of others. So until the law was interpreted to affect them, it was okay.

All righty, then. They used to call this sort of thing fascism before they devalued the word.

A Protest Song 30 Years Too Late

In the song “Big Yellow Taxi”, the Counting Crows and Adam Duritz take on the burning issue of DDT usage in agriculture with the following verse, delivered as usual in Duritz’s thoughtful soul-voice:

    Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT
    I don’t care about spots on my apples,
    Leave me the birds and the bees
    Please

Wow. Talk about a timely protest lyric. About thirty years late since the EPA banned DDT for most uses in 1972.

So the fact that you cannot find spots on your apples, Adam, represents the fact that the apples in the produce section of the grocery store are sorted by their physical appeal, and the spotted apples end up in your canned apples and applesauce.

As a side benefit of your happy spotted apples, the world’s population explosion is being alleviated as malaria enjoys a resurgence.

In other news, I too will take a courageous stand. I am working on my protest song that tackles the controversial matter of burning witches at stake.

Se Habla Un Poquito Del Espanol

I took four years of El Espanol en la….I mean, in high school, and then a year and a half in college. I got to use the language in a real world situation this weekend when I scrawled a “Felices Cumpleanos” on a birthday card for a friend whose party was at a Mexican restaurant. It’s a good thing that the party wasn’t held in Mexico proper; “Felices Cumpleanos” is about the extent of the extant vocabulary within my Spanish repertoire. But although the Spanish vocabulary and much of the advance conjugation and syntax have passed into the memory cells waiting to be recycled for Pink lyrics, I still retain some of what I picked up in Spanish classes. No, I met the lovely and talented Heather elsewhere. I meant I learned something in Spanish class.

Of course, early in my educational career I knew I was an English Nerd (Geek would have paid better). After all, I graduated from high school with ten credits of English, the equivalent of ten years of English classes, and I accumulated almost enough English credits in college to render me ineligible for an English degree. Although the typical high school grammar-indoctrination courses were geared to beat the rules of English grammar and syntax into my head, I didn’t really grok the point until I started fumbling phonics in another language.

Trying to speak another language helped to abstract the principles of written, and to a lesser extent oral, communication. For example, take the simple question “Could you run to the store?” Although common enough in the common vernacular, the content of this simple sentence relies upon a number of peculiarites of the idiom. To whit:

  • “Could” represents the conditional tense, which means that a condition must be satisfied for the statement, much like in computer programming. I could, if that damn pit bull hadn’t gnawed my leg of at the shin–bad Otis!
  • “run” is the English equivalent of “go” and can stand in for run, walk, drive, or whatever means of locomotion is appropriate.

The roles of the different parts of speech, and the different verb tenses (past or subjunctive? conditional or future?), stopped being the goofy impositions of the great grammarian overlords, the honorable William Safire presiding. Instead, they became the Legos brand toy building blocks used to build sentences, paragraphs, and communication between two or more people. Not immutable laws, but they’ve got their uses.

Of course, I came away with this insight only because my natural predilections normally predilecked toward the uses of languages. I’m not so sure the others who similar classes came away with a similar appreciation for the subtle art of speaking and writing clearly. Most of them still like to mix the red blocks with the blue blocks when making a tree, but they’ve had every opportunity to know which pieces are green.

Consume What You Harvest

In line at the hardware store with the artist formerly known as hli, I saw the most saddening thing I have seen in some time: a tennis racket that’s electrically configured to zap bugs. Although the thing says it’s not a toy, it’s designed and packaged to be used as a tennis racket with insects as the ball, and their deaths as the result.

That’s right, boys and girls, it’s specifically a toy to kill insects. This is ohsovery wrong.

Swatting bugs inside the house or upon you when you’re outside is necessity in preventing parasites from using you for lunch or preventing insects from consuming your grain. However, to simply go out of your way to kill them is kind of sick. They used to perjoratively say that a bad seed was the kind of kid to “pull the wings off of flies.” Now some bunch of yippie skippy Ron Zapeils come along to make it fun for the whole family.

Some PETA gum flapper might come along and say it’s just like huntung, but it’s not. Responsible hunters consume what they harvest. I assume these wannabe bug batters are not. If they do, and they’re putting moths, beetles, and bumblebees on the table for dinner, I don’t have a problem with it. But you’re not going to see Ted Nugent kill it and grill it (in one convenient step!) any time soon.

Fortunately, there’s not been a craze or anything, which proves either we’re in a recession and people cannot afford the finer things in life like a battery-operated taser-set-on-kill toy, or that America’s not slid so far into irreverant decadence that mainstream people want to kill something anything, other than virtually through video games, for fun. When I get a warm fuzzy glow after a pitcher of margaritas, I can convince myself it’s the latter.

A Guaranteed Business Plan

At the local Casinoport grocery store we attend, a giant green monstrosity sits just beyond the cash register. A Coinstar machine. A machine designed to count coins and dispense almost as much in dollars as you put in in cents.

There’s a business plan for you. To build a machine that counts coins for Americans who are too lazy or who cannot count their own coins and takes a 7% vig right off the top.

When I tried the old, “Do you have a quarter for two dimes” trick in elementary school, I couldn’t find any takers. I should have, instead of using the “human touch” factor, just built a cold machine to do the same thing. People pay for that sort of convenience.

Survivors Will Be Prosecuted

Authorities in Tennessee have arrested a conflagrant lawbreaker for going into his burning building apartment building to save his dog. 26-year-old Jarrod Martin was led away in shackles after retrieving his year-old pit bull named Bishop from certain doom.

Authorities have charge him with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct for his heroism. They say he put his life at risk, and potentially put at risk the lives of firemen who would have had to drag him out if he were injured in the blaze.

About as funny, and tragically so, as the laws against suicide. The various governments will now tell you what you can or cannot value to the risk of your own life. After all, if you sacrifice or take your life, they only get your death tax, if any, not the recurrent revenue of your income, sales, and excise taxes. You’re worth more alive than dead, so you really should only risk your life to save one or more other taxpayers or future taxpayers. Ogre, it should be illegal to charge into a burning building to save a pet or dive into a raging river to try to retrieve a lucky fishing hat that was a gift from your father.

And make no mistake about it, survivors will be prosecuted.

Quick! Name Three Countries Beginning with P!

My wife asked me this question, minus the additional pressure of the “Quick!”, earlier this week. I know she works with shipping software, so I didn’t know if she knew and was testing my comprehensive knowledge of trivia, or if she had a point.

“Uh,” I said, buying time for the beginning of the tour of the mental globe I could conjure. “Papua New Guinea, the Phillipines, Paraguay….” I didn’t know if the world only contained three P countries. I knew I couldn’t depict Africa in my mind with any accuracy, or the South Pacific, but I thought the three I named were countries, for sure.

She wasn’t testing me; she needed the information for her blog. But she piqued my curiosity, and I knew where to go to quickly uncover an alphabetical list of countries. As an IT professional, albeit a technical writer hanger-on, I might be expected to go to Google or some other Internet source to isolate the information I need. Oh, but no.

I have a World Almanac. A micro-Internet on my bookshelf, and its response does not depend upon the traffic between me and my ISP. My World Almanac indicated I had forgotten such obvious selections as Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Portugal, as well as Palua. In addition to the names, my World Almanac provides me detailed information about population, currency, land mass, and other trivia too trivial to mention.

Since they continue to print almanacs, I assume I am not the only one who still gets them (albeit this one was a gift from my lovely wife, who must have thought my trivial overload in any conversation was somewhat lacking in diversity and scope). Before people could wander the Internet to use portals and search engines to pique their interests in new subjects to explore, they had encyclopedias and almanacs. Whereas the World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica have pretty much fallen by the wayside, and their online counterparts struggle to keep an online public informed, some hardy publishers keep printing and binding almanacs.

I’d like to take a moment to thank them for the effort, and for the eventual Trivia Night supremacy they’re provoking. Although the Internet remains directively informative–you have to really have to make some effort to find factual material–almanacs let you recline in a chair and browse them while a fire hisses from the gas fireplace and swing music whispers from the digital cable stream.

All right, I guess I am in the middle of a shift from the traditional to the digital, but I have the best of both worlds. When almanacs are gone, we’ll have one less world of which we can enjoy the best.