Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Will You React?

There is a split moment when you decide how you will react emotionally to any given situation.  Although fleeting, it's quite distinct, an all-but-instantaneous executive decision: how will I react to this experience?  In that moment, you decide whether to be angry or compassionate, grateful or entitled, engaged or apathetic.  

Once you've made the decision, it's nearly impossible to unmake.  You can calm your engine after pushing the gas pedal down on righteous anger, but it ain't easy.  If you've ever tried to stifle inappropriate laughter after deciding something was funny, you know how hard that is.  As we age, of course, we may have chosen the same response over and over again so many times, we forget it is a choice.  We think we have to be angry or frustrated or whatever.  We fail to consider the alternatives.

For example, suppose you were turned down for a promotion you richly deserved, a promotion which went, instead, to a colleague who was manifestly unfit, incompetent, and probably dishonest, not to mention, just plain ugly.  In this circumstance, you could throw a little pity party for yourself, and rage against your boss, your company, and the injustice of life.  Or... you could flap your arms and quack like a duck.

"What?" you say.  "That's absurd.  No one would do a thing like that."  Perhaps, but that doesn't mean it might not be the best response.  Flapping your arms and quacking is perfectly simple to do - try it for yourself right now - and has never been linked to high blood pressure or stomach ulcers.

Consider another situation.  You're in heavy traffic, and someone swerves in front of you without signaling, and compels you to stomp on the brakes, nearly causing an accident.  Perhaps it does cause an accident.  What will you do?  Will you curse and instruct the other driver to engage in impossible sexual acts?  Will you show him your middle finger?  Or will you flap your arms and quack like a duck?  In my experience, people in this situation who quack like ducks are treated with a degree of respect bordering on fear.

Now suppose you are in the doctor's office, and he gives you the news you have a medical condition for which there is no cure and the only outcome is death.  A typical response would be depression or denial; it is the rare person indeed who would muster the courage to flap his arms and quack like a duck.

The truth is, however, all of us have a medical condition and all of us will die.  We don't need a doctor to tell us that.  But how many of us ever consider flapping and quacking.

I do not hope to change the world.  I am only one person after all.  All I want to say is... give the duck a chance.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Elf on a Shelf Nightmare

Someone help me please.

I ordered one of those Elf-on-a-Shelf dolls to add a little magic and whimsy back into Christmas.  Every night after little Raylan and Winona were tucked in, I'd pose it in a different spot: on the mantle, over the entertainment center, peeking behind the bottle of Jack Daniels.  "That elf's been sent from the North Pole to keep an eye on you," I told them.  "Every night he reports back directly to Santa."

They loved it.  How they looked forward to spotting the Elf in his new hiding place.  And every night, I put him in another spot.
That was four years ago.

The second year was even better than the first.  That's when I began to get creative.  There's boocoos of websites showing creative ways to pose your Elf: lifting weights made of two marshmallows stuck on a straw, "watching" tv holding the remote, inside a box of cereal with his face peeking through where Captain Crunch should be.

The third year, frankly, I was worn out.  I began to get macabre.  Sexual positions with My Li'l Pony.  A crime scene investigation with a tiny chalk outline and Barbie's severed torso.  It got out of hand.

Now we're four years into this rat hole, and it's starting to get ugly.  Head first in the garbage disposal with a suicide note.  Soaked in gravy next to the dog's water dish.  Raylan and Winona go to bed crying every night.  They're terrified where they'll find the Elf's mutilated body next.  But the sucker won't die.  He's indestructible.  His little plastic face won't crack, he's too big to flush, the self-cleaning oven barely scorched him.

Someone, anyone, please, help me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Applying the Lessons of Christmas Decoration to Everyday Life

 Don't put the ornaments in isolated spots, but disperse evenly.

Turn bald spot to the wall to make less noticeable.

You're not fully dressed until you have an angel on top.

Everything looks more adorable with reindeer antlers.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A CIA Official Explains All

Some of our hi-jinks may have gotten out of hand
Okay, look, mistakes were made.  I'm the first to admit that.  For example, the number of actual detainees might have been under-reported.  The original report was "less than 100."  Now it turns out, there were 119 detainees.  Okay, so we miscounted.  So sue us.  Oh, wait a minute, you can't sue us.  We're the CIA.  The fact is, "less than 100" and "119" are very similar numbers.  Ask yourself: "Is 119 more or less than 100?"  You had to think about it, didn't you?  That's the whole point.

And then, admittedly, maybe a few of those were wrongfully detained.  Maybe as many as 26.  When you look at it mathematically, how many is 26 out of a hundred anyway?  Less than 10%.  That's not bad, really.  And if you subtract 26 from 119, you get - guess what?  81.  That's less than a hundred.  No one can argue with that.  That means we detained less than a hundred people rightfully.  So we were right all along.  But no one ever mentions that.

And yes, in some cases maybe we started enhancing the interrogation techniques before we saw if the detainee would cooperate.  But look, if you give detainees a chance to cooperate, then you may never get to use enhanced interrogation techniques at all.

And yes, some of the interrogation techniques might have been a little more enhanced than we let on.  For example, in addition to water-boarding, we may have threatened detainees' families and done some medically unnecessary rectal feeding.  Frankly, though, this has all been taken out of context.  First of all, threats to detainees' families.  Clearly, when interrogators said they would sexually abuse or cut the throat of a detainee's mother, we were only kidding.  Everyone in the room could tell it was a joke.  We felt it would be good to lighten the mood.  Admittedly, in retrospect, that particular joke may have been in poor taste.  As for medically unnecessary rectal feedings, here's the thing.  None of us are doctors or medical experts; how are we supposed to know if rectal feedings are medically necessary or not?  We weren't going to take any chances with the precious health of our detainees.

Perhaps some over-enthusiastic officials might have linked classified information and misled the public about the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation.  But you have to look at it from our point of view.  What if we'd told the truth?  You'd have stopped us.  You'd have called us names, like "torturers" or "brutal" or "war criminals."  That sort of thing hurts.  We try to pretend it doesn't hurt, but it does.  It hurts.

You have to try to see it from our side.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa Claus is Coming. And This Time He's Pissed.

You better watch out.  You better not cry.  Crying won't do any good.  Santa doesn't care about your sniveling.  Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping.  He knows when you're awake.  You can run but you can't hide from Santa Claus.  Don't even bother trying to be good.  It's too late for that.  Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making a list.  He's checking it twice.  He doesn't even need to check it once.  He's got it all right up here.  (Tapping forehead.)  He's gonna find out who's naughty.  And this time, they're gonna pay.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What is it with Americans and Liquid Nourishment

Who doesn't automatically think of Creme Brulee
every time you get Hawaiian BBQ Brisket?
This blog was inspired when I drove by an Arby's advertising a creme brulee milkshake.  What?  What?

I'm not saying it would taste bad, I'm sure it could be very tasty, but the whole point of a creme brulee is cracking your spoon through the sugar crust before the first bite.  After that, at least 60% of the pleasure is over.  Creme brulee is the bubble-wrap of desserts.  If you don't understand what I meant by that, I'm afraid I can't explain it to you.

This is only the latest episode of America's fascination with liquefied nourishment.  My own dear Nancy will go through phases when she decides to throw all our fruit into a blender and drink the result.  Nancy does not care to eat an apple, but she'll drink one.  To me, this does not make sense.  I love eating apples primarily for their crunch.  Take away the crunch, and what have you got?  Apple juice.


I drink smoothies myself: chocolate-flavored whey protein blended up with almond milk.  If hauled into court by the Anti-Smoothie Police, I would point out that this is the only way to consume this particular food unless I was willing to eat clumps of dry whey powder straight from the bag.  Others would have no such defense.  My daughter, Spencer, for example, puts a lump of peanut butter into her smoothies.  Why would you do such a thing?  Merely to demonstrate that even peanut butter can be so atomized that it dissolves thoroughly into a shake?  What's the fun of peanut butter without the cloying bolus in your mouth at once flavorful and mildly suffocating?

When I was a child, if served spinach and strawberries on one plate, the mere thought of the liquids from one contaminating the other was a horror unspeakable.  The strawberries had to be gobbled first, in a hurry, before the pale green spinach-water, ineluctably spreading over the plate, could touch them.  Now I could name any number of otherwise sensible people who throw spinach and strawberries into a blender deliberately and puree them until they have a sea-water concoction they aver is delicious.  It tastes just like strawberries, they say.  Strawberries also taste just like strawberries, I would point out, and are a good deal less trouble.  It seems more practical to enjoy the strawberries by themselves, while the spinach can be stored in a separate container so it can be thrown away later.

Imagine if Jesus had fed the multitude by throwing a couple of loaves and fishes into a blender and giving everyone a cupful to drink.  No one would have asked for seconds, I imagine, but the world would be much different today.