Is It Just Me?... On Presidential Candidates
When it comes to electing a President, we have to admit to ourselves that
along with policy positions, views on Foreign Affairs and the potency of
their rhetoric, our votes are largely influenced by the physical attributes of
the candidates. Shallow though it may be, this is an undeniable truth and
we need to own up to it.
To win votes in this country, politicians have to have more than a great
economic platform, they need curb appeal. Good looks, sharp grooming,
smart attire; all these play a part in determining our electoral selections.
That said, with such a remarkably diverse field of Democratic candidates
running for the presidency, I believe we now have to rethink the criteria by
which we judge those physical merits.
For instance, there's long been a rule of thumb that the tallest candidate
has an advantage with voters over shorter competitors. Surely this
Paleolithic idea dates back to the days when, by default, the biggest
hunter/gatherer was considered the most qualified to lead. But with six
women currently in the race, does their stature now become a
psychological influencer as well? How would we even assess it? If height
translates as more viral and macho for a man, what is the equivalent
altitudinal advantage for a woman?
At 5'8" Elisabeth Warren wins the distinction of being the Kareem Abdul
Jabbar of the female candidates. Standing side by side on a stage, does
that disparity sub-consciously project an advantage over 5'2" and 5'3"
Kammala Harris and Kristen Gillibrand? Clearly, she could dunk over them
in a game of hoops but, does that visual edge lend subliminal credence to
Warren's policies? Does it unconsciously draw us to her like little chicks
seeking the protection of an imposing mother hen? Could be. But I will say,
I do find those black leotards she wears under everything a bit confusing. I
feel like at any moment she's going to explain the Constitution through
Along with height, hair is another visual persuader. When only men ran
for the White House the issue of hair was simply 'who had it, who didn't?'
Trump disrupted that equation in 2016 by adding 'what is it'? And in the
upcoming election, the clean shaven head of Cory Booker adds yet another
category, 'never mind'.
Joe Biden says his campaign is about transparency. I believe him because
his scalp is becoming more visible every day. Bernie Sanders doesn't
qualify in any hairstyle category by virtue of having his cut with a weed
whacker. And, far and away, the most relatable hairstyle in the upcoming
elections belongs to Mayor Pete Buttigieg because every man in America
had that exact same haircut at the age of 7.
Again, the follicular question mark in 2020 is, how do we judge and, how
are we effected by the tonsorial choices of the female candidates?
Essentially, men change hairstyles when it falls out, women change theirs
anytime and all the time. It's up for events, down for business, back for
sports. Even when the devotedly, pant-suited Hillary ran, she changed her
signature look by alternating between aggressive 'helmet hair' and less
aggressive 'helmet hair'.
I know a full head of hair on a man, especially a man of a certain age,
speaks to enviable levels of testosterone. While he was hardly old, JFK's
moppy, windswept hairstyle - evoking images of piloting sailboats and
tennis matches followed by pitchers of fresh-squeezed lemonade - made
him appear even more youthful, vibrant and current. Arguably, he and his
barber won the election. The female Presidential contenders - four
brunettes and two blondes - all have plenty of hair but I have absolutely no
idea what that signifies about their hormonal levels. All of which leaves me
wondering; is my vote going to be subconsciously stolen by the shimmer
of chestnut highlights? Co-opted by the captivating femininity of a bouncy
pageboy? Or, am I to be suckered into voting by a pair of winsome eyes
framed by fringy bangs?
Marianne WIlliamson, Tulsi Gabbard, Gillibrad and Harris are coifed
similarly with flowing locks that, with a toss of the head, can go from
briefing room fierce to state dinner fetching and play well on the world
stage. When it comes to the 'mane event', I think the subconscious
coiffure vote among these four candidates becomes something of wash.
Meanwhile, in age appropriate fashion, Senators Amy Klobuchar and
Elisabeth Warren, have opted for shorter, quasi 'gramma' cuts. They traded
flirty for flinty, sexy for sensible. Strategic snipping that makes me think
these are two, no-nonsense women, neither of which would let any grass
grow on the Resolute desk. And confidence?! They take official
photographs with their glasses on! Wait a minute.... am I being
subconsciously overtaken by sweet smiles, glasses and gramma hair?!
Last, and most certainly least, consider the hidden value inherent in a
candidate's name. For me, there's nothing quite like a good catchy phrase
during an administration to make one feel they voted for the right person.
"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" had to make voters and lovers of alliteration
very proud. 'No Drama Obama', That worked great. "No Fret-o With Beto".
Would be not so much-o.
In that regard, the list of 2020 candidates is a bit lacking. Buttigieg
rhymes with nothing in any known language. 'Mayor Pete' is a cute
soubriquet but as President, "Pres Pete" wouldn't cut it. Sounds too much
like a maraca player in an Afro-Cuban band.
"Stand With Gillibrand" ... "Go Far With Klobuchar" ... "Don't be a
Pooper, Vote for Hickenlooper". These would be okay as nominee campaign
slogans but down the line, their names don't have the rhyming potential to
define much in the way of actual presidential accomplishments.
Maybe, just for the heck of it, I'll listen to what each candidate has to say,
and decide who to vote for based on that. Can't hurt to try something
Is It Just Me?... Astrology
I'm one of those people who believes a horoscope if it says something
I like and, disbelieves it if it doesn't.
My zodiacal sign is Aquarius. The water bearer. I have no idea what that
means but, as unlikely as it sounds, it's an 'air sign'. Again, no idea.
Logically, the words water bearer would lead one to think it's a water
sign. But no. That honor belongs to Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
Just checked Wikipedia. It seems air signs are ruled by the 3rd, 7th and
11th House. ... so ... again ... no clue. But it did say Aquarians are
"intellectuals with great vision." I like that so I'm going to believe it.
Charles Dickens, Abraham Lincoln and FDR were Aquarians which does
lends the notion some additional credence.
Turns out there are many different interpretations as to what these signs
mean. Some say a true Aquarian is the "perfect representation of the Age
of Aquarius"... What? The musical?
According to one source, Aquarians have " the social conscience needed to
carry us into the new millennium. Humanitarian, philanthropic and keenly
interested in making the world a better place."
That's all good stuff. Doesn't sound much like me. But good stuff. Maybe a
better fit for fellow Aquarians, Paul Newman and Oprah.
Supposedly Aquarians have "broad-minded beliefs and logical minds."
That's closer to me. "Artistic and inventive." Okay, now we're getting
somewhere. "With a personality that is independent, offbeat, free-spirited
and eccentric." Bingo! Hello, James Dean, Nick Nolte, Alice Cooper and
One reader of the stars said "baseball and tennis are fun for Aquarians"
but "they should watch out for weak ankles." Nothing wrong with Michael
Jordan's ankles - or Shakira's either for that matter. I'm not buying into
Aquarians "like a daily swim." Check. Are "often playful and flirtatious."
It's been know to happen. And, are "the opposite of jealous." Guilty. As
for "trailblazers of the zodiac." Well...not so much. Although, Darwin,
Galileo and Volta certainly qualify.
One astrologer took it even farther listing Aquarian charismatic marks;
"good looks, beautiful eyes, angular faces, thin build." Jennifer Anniston,
yes. Sheryl Crow, yes. Baryshnikov, yes. Me? I vote yes, yes, yes and ...
there was a time. Still 3 out of 4....
Of course, up there in the star-filled galaxy it's not all good news for
Aquarians, according to some, are "unpredictable, detached and aloof.
They often run from emotional expression, can't tolerate broken promises
and can be uncompromising and temperamental." Well sure. But isn't that
the daily pressure of having good looks, beautiful eyes and an angular
"Lost daydreamers with their heads stuck in the clouds." Okay, that may
be true but, I know lots of non-Aquarians whose heads are stuck in much
It surprised me to find one bold, celestial prognosticator who went so
far as to detail the Aquarian-ism of people specifically named Ian. He saw
Ians as "generally mentally gifted people " who were also "silly, quiet guys
who can be very funny when they talk." I hope that applies to writing as
In his words Ians are "easy going pacifists who set high goals and try to
achieve them." One can only hope. And that " Ians don't mind awkward
silences if you are with them so, even if you aren't talking with him and it
is quiet, don't take it uncomfortably."
That one rings pretty true. Some of my very favorite people are skilled
practitioners in the fine art of shutting up.
But, I have to admit, I was truly stunned to see this same star gazer offer
up cosmic insights on the, shall we say, size and scope of Ian-centric
naughty bits. Not sure how the stars have to align to reveal such
anatomical information but modesty -- and humiliation - keep me from
Anyway, ever since I decided to work less and enjoy life more, I find my
daily astrological forecasts in the morning paper don't make any sense at
all. They're still going on about how smart I'll be at the office and here
comes that big promotion. No mention at all of crossword puzzles or hourly
trips to the hardware store.
It's as if my personal stars - you know, the ones in the 3rd, 7th and 11th
House - have no idea I'm evolving. Look, it's one thing if I don't have a
clue about my astrological stars but, how can they guide me if they don't
have a clue about me?!
I wonder if my fellow Aquarians share any of my concerns? I'm looking at
you Justin Timberlake, Benecio Del Toro, Christian Bale, Phil Collins.
Of course, there's no real answer or certainty to any of this zodiac
business. So, I plan to continue to believe what sounds good and refute
what I don't like. I did read where "Aquarians can see a world of
possibilities even when there appears to be none."
I not only like that one, I hope it's true.
Is It Just Me?... ...Acquisition
Recently, I discovered some disturbing things about myself. I have 54
watches and don’t care what time it is. Possess 41 pairs of shoes, live in
L.A. and don’t walk anywhere. And, own 3 cars and a motorcycle and have
nowhere in particular I need to go.
What’s going on with me?! What kind of spoiled, over blown consumerism
I was set to sit down and give myself a stern talking to for such
materialistic behavior but then thought it better to do a bit of soul
searching instead. Try to understand how and why I'd become such an
Well ... imagine my surprise!
I was only halfway through my second Maker's Mark when I realized none
of this worldly goods gluttony was my fault at all. I'd simply become a
casualty of economics. To whit; I didn't have kids so, year after year, all
the money I never spent for braces on teeth, text books, scout uniforms,
school clothes, sports equipment, music lessons, summer camps, tux
rentals, prom gowns, limos and college tuitions became more disposable
income for you know who. And ... well ... I had to do something with it,
Okay. But why all the watches?
On the surface I thought maybe that was me just being a show off.
Purchasing power and all that. But, no. Continued applications of Maker's
Mark led me to the true cause which lay buried deep within my psyche. It
pains me to say it but the sad truth is ... I suffer from WGC. I'm a
textbook example of the 'wristwatch generation child'. It's a genetic
predisposition. I had no choice. Imprinted right into the old DNA.
When I was growing up, a watch heralded a momentous occasion in one's
life. A graduation or auspicious birthday. A timepiece wasn’t a gift, it was a
reward. A rite of passage. A boy becoming a young man. Someone you
could now rely on to have the correct answer should the question ‘hey,
what time is it?’ ever arise.
I'll never forget my first watch. A shiny, silver-plated Timex with a
revolutionary spandex band. My gateway drug to horology. Which, by the
way, isn’t as racy as it sounds.
And, hey! Is it my fault that humble Timex was followed by decades of
irresistibly slim dress watches and tough looking sport watches and sexy,
deep sea divers, classic stem and self winders, lithium powered, glow in
the dark radium dials, chronometers, phase of the moon, digital, dual time
zone, pulse taking, computerized, performance back, tourbillion, eco drive
watches available in gold, silver, steel, titanium and platinum?
Hell, no! I'm the victim here!
As for all the shoes....
I did have to admit I'm no centipede and only have two feet and yet, two
feet that never know what bi-pedal situation they may find themselves in.
It's true I'm not a hiker, I don't jog and I'm not all that partial to standing.
But even being a confirmed sitter, feet still need to be ... you know ...
In my defense, a good many of those shoes are manufactured by Tom's.
You buy a pair and the company donates a pair to a less fortunate person.
So, really all those unconstructed, waxy, corduroy, slip-ons lining my closet
floor are not so much about personal adornment as a well-intentioned
As for the myriad pairs of sandals and cowboy boots, it occurred to me
they represented various incarnations in my life; country western bands,
rock bands and those halcyon hippie days of yore. In other words, they
have great historical value. Not so much for the sneakers, espadrilles,
topsiders, loafers, moccasins, brogues, wing tips, Uggs and Reef flip flops .
However, those are de riguer for residing in sun-filled, beachy Southern
California and I can't very well castigate myself for stocking up on basic
Lastly, I absolutely require the dozen or so pairs of Sketchers because my
feet hurt like hell from wearing all the others shoes. So, medical reasons.
The car situation? Don't look at me, Southern California is the root cause
of my vehicular redundancy.
Living in L.A. one spends two thirds of their life in a car. You don't think
for a minute one vehicle can handle that pressure, do you? No, the more I
thought about it, the more having 4 vehicles made perfect sense.
First, there's the Corvette.
I bought it in 1999. I fell in love with it because it was silver and a t-top
and a Corvette. The perfect car for cruising the coastline. It's soon to be
20 years old and only has 35,000 miles on it. Yes, it's very cool but it's also
very small. Not at all practical because you can't put anything in it except
two people. And, when you drive it the way it was built to be driven, you
pretty much have to stop for gas every 2 hours. But did I mention, it's a
Anyway, being nearly a classic I couldn't justify putting on a lot of miles
so, to protect my investment, I've always had to have a more practical
second car - a 'daily driver'. For the last few years it's been a Jeep Liberty.
It's more truck than car with good cargo space. Perfect for trips to the
lumber yard or the nursery --- should such a need ever occur.
The only problem is, while the Jeep has enough room to play badminton in
the back, it weighs tons and is actually worse on gas than the sport's car.
Which happens to be a Corvette.
So, being economically minded, I recently decided to get a more fuel
efficient car and opted for a Mini Cooper Clubman. The car is terrific. It has
three driving modes, one of which is so economically lean, the engine is all
but sucking gas through a straw. Unfortunately, overall it's not much
bigger than my two-seater which, by the way, is a Corvette. So I had no
choice but to keep the Jeep to still have a big vehicle for those ... uh ... big
Then there's the motorcycle which really doesn't count because it's smaller
than the aforementioned Corvette and turns into a death machine if you
ride it in the rain or at night or on a freeway or a bumpy road or anyway at
All that said, the combination of bourbon and self analysis has happily
opened my eyes to the real me. I'm thrilled to say, I'm not an obnoxious
spendthrift nor a compulsive shopper at all. I'm a collector!
Ian Seeberg 6/2018
Is It Just Me?... A Rowzze by Any Other Name
Google is not a real word.
At one time, 1919 to be exact, it was the surname of a comic strip
character, Barney Google, and in 1923 inspired the lyric for the song
"Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes". They don't write 'em like
that anymore and that works for me.
What Google is, is the name of an enormous, global enterprise. And, by
virtue of the world using it as search engine to find everything from recipes
for chicken paprikash to the spark plug timing mark on a 1976 Plymouth
Duster to penguin jokes to foot fetish videos, it is now a verb as in, "I'm
not sure how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could
chuck wood. Better google it."
Amazon is an actual word and the name of arguably the most successful
business on Earth. It's also the name of a South America jungle, a 4,000
mile long river and an adjective used to describe a mythological race of
very powerful warrior women. Although, more and more it's clear they
were anything but a fable and their ancestors are very much alive in our
society today and go by the name of 'women'.
What the word Amazon means in the context of retailing merchandise is
anybody's guess but that's just it. It no longer matters. Company names
no longer have to make any sense.
Casper is a mattress, Hubble is a contact lens and Zyppah is a snore
suppressor. Reddit means nothing and yet there it is. I'd get it if Bing was
a tribute website to Bing Crosby or cherries in general but it's not. Like so
many of today's company names they are just letterhead gibberish. In the
words of Shakespeare, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Welcome to the age of corporate nonsense names. Bizarre linguistic
creations that insure no one takes themselves too seriously nor is too
transparent about what it is they do. Yandex. GoDaddy. Etsy. Zinga.
Twitter. Oculus Rift. Uber. None of them mean a thing... until they do.
When companies with peculiar appellations do become successful, it's
often because they've created a new brand by complete disassociation with
traditional product identity. Shoe manufacturers long used dignified names
- Johnson & Murphy, Florsheim - evoking images of weathered artisans
handcrafting leather uppers at wooden benches so old and awl-scarred that
executives of Restoration Hardware would genuflect in their presence.
Apparently all you need now is a Neanderthal name like UGGs. Or, one
like Zappos, which I'm pretty sure is the sound of a Martian sneeze.
Unbeknownst to everyone under the age of thirty, Starbucks and Yahoo
derived their names from literary roots. Starbuck being a sailor out of
Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" who, by the way, never drank so much as
one cup of coffee in the entire book. And, 'Yahoos' are a race of uncouth
creatures found in Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels". A totally
meaningless choice that only begins to take on a glimmer of sense when
you know Yahoo's parent company is inanely called, Oath.
Back in the day - circa just yesterday - companies proudly chose names
that said who they were and what they did. If you bought something from
Sears and Roebuck there was no question who you were dealing with.
Saks 5th Avenue not only told you who owned the place but where to find
You knew just what to expect from a company with 'econo' in their name.
They're cheap. "You want a bargain, I'm your guy!" Much like using the
word 'masters' after anything ... Plumbing Masters ... Kitchen Master's ...
Body Shop Masters ... implied a level of pride in workmanship. Or, if you
saw an "R Us" as in Toys R Us, Lamps R Us, Babies R Us , there was no
question that was a company dedicated to one area of retail specialization.
Great. So, then companies like Bored Bug and Qwalp would be ...?
Back in January of 1892, Coca-Cola probably sounded as anomalous as
Spotify but at least the moniker spoke to it's elemental parts. It was a cola
and it was indeed laced with cocaine. More to the point was International
Business Machines. Now there was a pretty self explanatory name. But a
rival with the concocted name of Xerox came along and scooped them in
the verb department. Which is why we 'xerox' things rather than IBM-ing
What about a revered brand like the Stetson Hat Company? Like Cher or
Sting, it only needed one name, Stetson, to be famous for decades. Wear
one of those and you had the king of hats on your head. What name
change would make that company competitive today? How about Brim
Boy? Felt Craniology? Heady Wobble?
I like companies that go for the big picture. Something inspiring like
Inter-Galactic Global. Now there's a take no prisoners name! Doesn't say
what it does but you know whatever it is, it's on a damn big scale! How is
that not a hundred times better than mousey DBA's like Alphabet and
Personally, I think I'd be great at coming up with company names.
Snorgelhatch ... BritzzleFritz ... FrogSquawk ... And the great thing is
they can be any service or product you'd like because they're sounds not
I learned that lesson at Narita airport when I came upon twenty, Japanese
members of a ski club elaborately garbed in shocking pink outfits with the
name Tumble Bunny Ski Club emblazoned in English on the back of their
parkas. I asked what Tumble Bunny meant and, to my great surprise, they
said it meant absolutely nothing. They simply loved the sound of the
English words 'tumble' and 'bunny'. However, the name initially created
some controversy and ultimately had to be put to a vote. I seems some
members thought Bunny Tumble sounded even better!
Is It Just Me?... Consecutive Translation
Yiddish theatre was the likely birthplace of Morris the Explainer, an actor
who came on stage to describe the storyline and lend insight into the
innermost thoughts of a play's characters. The idea of filling in the blanks
for an audience is a long used theatrical device. But until this year, I don't
recall it ever being part of a Presidential election.
Throughout the campaign, whenever Donald Trump spoke, a phalanx of
spokespersons and Republican strategists had the unenviable job of taking
to the airways to interpret their candidate's more disconcerting rhetoric.
For nearly two years, we listened to their efforts to walk back quasi-racist
remarks, Machiavellian innuendo and loopy conspiracy theories. One stand
out instance was the time he did a complete one-eighty on an issue,
creating a memorable moment of televised squirming when an advocate
pathetically offered that Mister Trump hadn't really changed positions, he
felt the same way but was simply 'using different words'.
It often became so ludicrous I half expected his team to swear "Mexicans
are rapists" was just Donald referring to our Southern brothers being
shrewd businessmen looking to 'screw us over' with inflated taco truck
My other issue with what Donald Trump said was, how he said it.
Granted, not every politician is a gifted orator but a supposedly well
educated, world traveled man should have a level of diction far
exceeding the fragmented elocution of a child. Linguistic experts credit
him with a vocabulary approximating that of a fifth grader which could
explain his near exclusive use of one syllable words, the inability to frame a
compound sentence and, his penchant for repeating the same sentence or
phrase back to back; a habit formed when one looks to emphasize a point
but has no synonyms to draw upon. He once bragged of having 'a lot of
great words'. Well, Almost Leader of the Free World, dust them off and get
them into the game. Supposed 'straight talk' and 'telling it like it is' works
even better if there's more than 'I, 'me', 'huge', 'amazing' and 'disaster' in
Number 45's command of the English language is anything but, so it's safe
to say he played little or no part in crafting the prepared teleprompter
speeches he parroted. I question whether he even bothered to read them
as his frequent asides commenting on the text -- "so important"..."so true,
folks" - sounded to my ear as if he too was hearing the speech for the first
time. Mispronunciations such as "clande-stine" for clan-des-tine and
"a-cu-men" for ac-umen were further giveaways he'd not practiced in
None of this was surprising. We knew DJ Trump - his rave moniker -
much preferred speaking off the cuff. What was surprising however, for all
his linguistic misdirection, half thought out utterances and circuitous
musings, we had no trouble whatsoever understanding every syllable when
our President To Be described walking uninvited into dressing rooms to
view young women naked. No translation needed there! Forcing himself on
women and grabbing their genitals as though they were just so much meat
on the hoof? Clear as a bell! Portraying his attempt to coax a married
woman into having sex with him while his new wife was home pregnant?
Got it! Nothing ambiguous about that. No vagaries surrounding deeds
documented by one's own admission.
Of course, our Commander in Waiting was not about to take the truth
lying down and revealed he had a few good old, political speaking tricks up
First, he 'pivoted' - the art of ignoring a question by hopping aboard a
verbal jet plane and flying around in circles until no one can remember the
question. When asked to comment on his admission of grabbing women's
nether regions and laying non-consensual lip locks on them, Trump replied
it was 'locker room talk, Isis was cutting off people's heads, drowning them
in cages and we need to talk about national security' so move on. Good
one! Kareem Abdul Jabbar would have killed for footwork like that! And
really, outside of politics, in what other occupation could blatant
obfuscation ever be considered a useful skill? You certainly wouldn't want
your doctor displaying that ability when asking about the outcome of your
Next, Pres To Be Trump defended his egregious behavior with a little
wordsmithing game I like to call, 'guilty by degree'. Wherein he argued, "I
'said' nasty things but Bill Clinton 'did' nasty things." This bit of non-
sequitar reasoning is akin to saying, 'yes, the cigar I was smoking did burn
a hole in the new leather couch but, that Mrs. O'Leary and her cow torched
the whole damned city of Chicago!' The logic is lost on me unless it's,
imagine how much worse this could have been had I been smoking a cow.
In any case, the ugliest part of the Trumpian word salad that dominated
the election cycle is this: In these times, tossing around confusing claims,
unsubstantiated accusations and outright lies is extremely dangerous. And,
a 'win at any cost' mentality comes at an enormous cost.
He Who Must Soon Be Obeyed doesn't know a lot of words but the ones he
does know landed like body blows to the very gut of this country. Harsh
language and murky insinuations that seriously undermined the most
bedrock institutions of our country. Weakened their authority. Eroded
public confidence in their ability to keep us safe. Tarnished the proud
democratic values they represent. Demeaned their once unassailable image
of fairness and justice. Denigrated their influence over the laws and sense
of order that maintain our country's civil obedience.
It was a sucker punch and we took it. Now, we get back up. And, for
however long Donald Trump is the President of the United States, we'll be
laser focused on every syllable that comes out of the man's mouth. Use our
Second Amendment right to rail against hate, lies and intolerance if that's
what we hear. Just as strongly, speak up in praise of progress, positive
accomplishment and good fellowship if that's what we perceive. Either way,
we'll be listening intently, vigilant to what is actually being said and raising
our voices, speaking out anytime and all the time.
I'm well aware my sphere of influence extends about as far as my
neighbor's fence. And that's fine. If my thoughts and opinions fell only on
my own ears, I'd still continue to give voice to them. That's what feels right
to me, that's what I can do to show my concern and my love for this
country. Agree or disagree, one thing is certain, Morris the Explainer will
never have to come out and interpret the meaning of my words.
Ian Seeberg 11/2016
Is It Just Me?... Pharmaceuticals
Absent the oversight of a watchdog agency, unfettered by empirical
studies or testing, the pills and poultices crowding drugstore shelves of
yesteryear unabashedly claimed cures for anything and everything.
Carter's Little Liver pills "cures sick headaches, constipation, dyspepsia
and biliousness." F. Newberry and Sons' effervescent Brain Salt did the
same for "brain troubles and sea sickness". Neither of those nostrums
approaching the panache of Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound
which not only "entirely cures bloating and nervous prostration" it
miraculously "dissolves and expels tumors from the uterus." Now there
was an over the counter drug!
As for the active ingredients in these whimsical concoctions, many were
liberally laced with cocaine or hashish. "Contains coca" on the label was
code for 'nose candy inside.' So, feeling happier and more energized was
probably not a false boast.
Additional quackery of the era came from our mothers who practiced their
own brand of medicine, happily administering remedies based on
superstitious wives' tales and homeopathic prescriptions handed down from
old Aunt Agatha. I personally endured years of the daily dose of cod liver
oil my mother shoved down my throat to prevent bowed legs. The mixture
was 7% alcohol. My legs are perfectly straight but I do drink heavily.
That wasn't all that long ago so it's remarkable how far medicine has
progressed in recent decades. Today's breakthrough drugs actually cure a
number of devastating conditions whose diagnoses regularly came with a
doctor's warning not to buy green bananas. Of course, this form of better
living through chemistry comes at a cost. Not only the monetary aspects of
today's medicines - astronomical as they often are - but the price we may
pay in the pain and discomfort of accompanying side effects as daunting as
what ailed us in the first place. We agree steroids are true wonder drugs
but, taken for a prolonged period of time, you can tether your face and
float it down the street in a Macy's Day Parade. Newer, 'flavor of the
month' drugs like Humira offer welcome relief for Crones sufferers but can
compromise the immune system, opening the door to tuberculoses whose
treatment then poses the potential for liver damage and so on. A health
issue house of cards.
Drug companies minimize the more horrific aspects of side effects by
having radio and television announcers rattle them off at pace designed to
break the sound barrier... "Common side effects of Crapola may include
vomiting, diarrhea, nose bleeds, the urge to kick the dog, slap your boss
and kiss the neighbor's wife on the lips. If taking Crapola causes you to
have suicidal thoughts; not wait 30 minutes after eating to go
swimming, lick a public doorknob, work for the Postal Service or,
date a Kardashian, discontinue usage immediately and call your doctor."
The idea of TV commercials advertising prescription drugs for serious or
life threatening conditions is relatively new. Where once only physicians
were aware of these medications, we, the public, now receive 30 second
tutorials on their efficacies and then are directed to act as our own drug
salesmen... "Ask your doctor if maximum strength Curealladem is right for
you. In rare instances Currealladem can lead to palpitations of the
sphincter and swelling of the eyelashes followed by spontaneous
combustion. Clinical studies have proven Curealladem will not cause
your nose to run or your feet to smell. If you experience those symptoms,
you're built upside down and should seek theatrical representation
Is it worth it? Alleviating a chronic complaint if the medication produces
so much flatulence you sleep several feet above the bed? Or, causes you
to walk around with breath that curls wallpaper? Or, comes with a warning
about putting your face anywhere near an open flame?
The better question is; Why are drugs allowed into the marketplace with
so many detrimental caveats? Why tolerate a product that does one good
thing and four or five terrible ones? You wouldn't buy a car that only
turned to the right.
The answer is rather symbiotic. Anxious to recoup research and
development expenditures, drug companies look to quickly turn new
treatments into profitable revenue streams. Just as impatient, we human
sufferers don't want to wait for perfection when some form of salvation
exists, albeit, even one with multiple draw backs.
Well, when I run a drug company, things will be decidedly different.
First, no corny TV spots with slo-mo games of Frisbee. No cartoony
digestive tract animations. No giggly, handholding couples riding merry-
go-rounds, ecstatic to not be wetting their pants. Drug ads will be cool
music videos set to new versions of classic songs. Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways
to Love Your Liver". Joni Mitchell's classic, "Chelsea Morning" reborn as
"Woke up it was an Advil morning". And, who could resist stocking the
medicine cabinet with mucus munching Musinex once they hear Neil
Sedaka's oldie goldie, "Breaking Up is Hard to Do".
Drugs also need friendlier more appealing names. No one would swallow a
Zithromycin tablet over the chocolaty, antibiotic treat Twinki-feron. Or,
take a synthetic hormone called Levothyroxine when they could pop a
Toasted Oat-throid. How much better to cure nasty infections with a 4 day
course of delicious, fruit flavored, Papayamycin. And, bye bye Dulcolax and
your boring laxatives. Say 'buongiorno' to the exciting European flair of
the all new 'Italian suppository', Innuendo.
"Daily stress got you down? Ask your doctor if apathy producing
Screwitall is right for you. Screwitall is not for everyone. Do not take
Screwitall if you walk upright or are carbon based. If your eyeballs loosen
and your hair aches, forget doctors, contact the Neptune Society."
Future technologies will eliminate many side effects by customizing
medicines to match an individual's unique genome. Super charging the
immune system, turning leucocytes into cellular ninjas assassins.
Such breakthroughs may help Democrats grow a sturdier spine and
Republicans a functioning heart. Even provide Donald Trump with a much
needed personality altering drug with the warning "If you have an idea
lasting more than 4 hours, call the GOP immediately."
Until then, take your meds, go to bed and hope nothing falls off during the
Ian Seeberg 8/2016
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Is it Just Me...? It's Official
For whatever inexplicable reasons, cities and states can't seem to get
enough 'official' symbols; mottos, songs, flowers, crustaceans, insects,
rocks, vegetables. Never mind their utter irrelevance, you name it and
they'll pick an official one. The Official State Bird of New York State is the
Eastern Bluebird and I'm pretty sure the official bird of my hometown,
Buffalo, NY, is the Spicy Chicken Wing. I don't recall an actual vote on that
but it would make sense. Surprising, because sense is something most
'official' designations don't make.
Not long ago, a ballot initiative asked the question, 'should English be the
official language of California'? That makes no sense. Could the official
language of any state of the union be something other than English? Are
there people speaking Wyomian or Missourian and we don't know about it?
Should 2 be the official number of sleeves in a shirt?
Some states take this superfluous undertaking more seriously or, perhaps
have more time on their hands. Alongside Tennessee's Official State
Amphibian, the salamander, state fish, the channel catfish, state beverage,
milk, are not one but 13 official state songs. Such memorable tunes as
"When it's Iris Time in Tennessee"... "Oh, Tennessee, My Tennessee" and
"Fly, Eagle, Fly", which sounds like it was stolen directly from the Steve
The climate of Minnesota is not at all conducive to growing blueberries but
that didn't prove a deterrent for the state to select blueberry as it's Official
State Muffin. Yes, I said Official State Muffin. And, if you think that's
exciting, you obviously don't know your official state minerals! Alaska
claims gold, Nevada silver but Colorado, unable to compete with that kind
of big league bling, cleverly opted for the most letters in a mineral and
chose rhodochrosite. Col-o-ra-do!...Col-o-ra-do! ... I can feel the pride!
Montana has the Duck-billed Dinosaur as its Official State Fossil. Arizona's
is John McCain. Oregon has an Official State Soil, dance and microbe. Not
to be outdone by a hippie state whose un-official shoe is the Birkenstock,
North Dakota has an Official State Grass but slyly doesn't specify if it's for
walking on or smoking.
In recent years the 'official' phenomenon stopped being the exclusive
baliwick of civic minded activists and found it's way into paid sponsorships
masquerading as bestowed titles of honor. "KIA, the official automotive
partner of the NBA." It caused Los Angeles Clipper, Blake Griffith to
leap over a KIA during an All Star basketball game. That he could vault
one in a single bound tells you the cars are very small and any association
with gigantic athletes is very senseless. They give them out to players in
pairs so they can wear them as shoes.
There are official guitar strings and drum heads for celebrity musicians.
Official motor oils and tires for Indy 500 racers. I once witnessed a
remarkable eating exhibition put on by that world class bon vivant, Orson
Wells. He sat on a massive, throne-sized chair in Wolfgang Puck's
restaurant, Ma Maison, grunting his way through the dozen or so dishes
spread before him. I remember thinking had he reached into this pocket
and pulled out an autographed, signature model knife, spoon and fork set it
wouldn't have surprised me in the least. "Khazer Silversmiths. Official
flatware manufacturer of master eater, Orson Welles." ... "Phizer. Official
pharmaceutical supplier to Keith Richards." ... "Secret Agent Orange. The
official bronzer of Donald Trump."
But leave it to the great State of Utah to ratchet up the meaningless but
good natured fun of 'official this and that' by naming the Browning M1911
automatic pistol its Official State Gun. Six other states got on board with
their official weapons of choice but the big winner with 13 theme
songs, Tennessee. Gosh, that darn state just can't get enough symbols!
Their official state choice? A 30 pound, .50 caliber, semiautomatic, sniper
rifle that, at 57 inches in length, is 8 inches taller than Broadway diva,
The Barrett M82 can accurately reduce that Tennessee "Fly, Eagle, Fly" to
a handful of feathers at up to 4 miles, knock an airplane out of the sky and,
punch a hole through a steel wall from 50 football fields away. As official
state symbols go, it's something of a surprise addition to the Eastern Box
Turtle and Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.
But all that symbolism is only state by state. Local kid stuff. The big story
is taking place on the Federal level with a national symbol as bold and soul
stirring as our beloved Uncle Sam, as majestic as the Bald Eagle, as
exalted as Mount Rushmore. That's right! The one, the only, the AR -15
If popularity is any yardstick, and clearly it is, this sleek, long barreled
beauty is truly the 'Official Rifle of the United States of America.' The
weapon of choice for mass murder from sea to shining sea. The one killing
machine discerning terrorists and lunatics everywhere can agree on.
And why not? It's legal. Readily available - 3 million or more. So easy a
child can use it. Even easier, it can be used on a child. The good news is,
the AR-15 and similarly styled assault rifles are produced by a great many
companies so with prices ranging from $250 to $2000 there's a model to
fit any budget. Perfect for those who want to slaughter people but keep an
eye on the bottom line.
And people say American manufacturing is dead!
No. It isn't. We are. Our mindless reluctance to monitor or inhibit the
accessibility of these monstrous weapons is turning death into a growth
industry. I can't help but wonder if, Heaven forbid, an NRA event were to
become the target of an attack, what would that post mortem rhetoric
The AR 15 represents lethal efficiency and engineering sophistication at
it's very best. Or, if you have your wits about you, it's very worst. Designed
to spit out death at a rate of speed and precision that defies
comprehension. To facilitate massacres which escalate the scale of
mortality to unimaginable proportions. Its horrifying record of technical
success is written in hundreds of spent bullet casings and rivers of blood
covering classroom floors ... the acrid smell of cordite wafting over a
nightmarish tableau of movie theater seats draped with bodies ...
shattered corpses strewn akimbo across a concert hall ... nightclub walls
spattered with the shards of human tissue.
No more talk, no more foolishness. It's officially time we call a halt to
wholesale killing and get out of the death business. If not, it won't be long
before we begin dedicating an Official State Cemetery.
Ian Seeberg 6/2016
Is it Just Me...? "Blonde ... James Blonde."
In my youth, cowboy movies were filled with Jewish and Italian actors
portraying American indians. I assume this was due to a shortage of actual
Apaches with headshots and resumes hanging around Central Casting.
Whatever, it was terrible not seeing true native Americans in the feathered
headdresses instead of guys in dark makeup and buckskins named Nuncio
and Irv. It's good that highly questionable practice of interchanging
ethnicities is not as commonplace in today's motion pictures. Imagine how
less magnificant Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" would have been
with Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken and James Gandolphini passing the
peace pipe as Lakota Sioux.
The only justification for those objectionable cultural switches was, years
ago the world was a considerably larger place and importing actors from
far flung countries wasn't always logistically or financially feasible for
filmmakers. Were that the case today, we'd likely not have seen Somali-
born actor, Barkhad Abdi, terrifyingly take over Tom Hank's ship in
"Captain Phillips" but rather, 'Peter Pan' pirate, Ashton Kutcher, pushing
fabulously floppy hair out of his eyes while giggling "I'm captain now!"
The budgetary limitations of the early film industry do somewhat excuse
indignities such as Mexican-born, Anthony Quinn popping up in over fifty
movies as Hawaiian tribal leaders, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese
guerrillas, a Greek named Zorba, Chief Crazy Horse and a Bedouin with an
enormous, prosthetic hooked-nose in "Lawrence of Arabia". But then,
when it came time to cast a leading man to play the infamous Mexican
bandit in "Viva Zapata", that role was performed by the 20th Century Fox
makeup department, a sombrero and a guy from Omaha, Nebraska, Marlon
That can probably be chalked up to the even less excusable film practice of
'stunt casting'; shoe-horning in well known actors specifically to generate
more media attention or increase financing. That particular concept led to
such disturbing visions as "Touch of Evil" featuring a bandito mustached,
Charlton Heston looking like an over-baked chocolate chip cookie as
Hispanic, Mike Vargas. Occidentals, Sidney Toler and Warner Oland with
eyes pulled up to portray the fortune cookie spouting, Chinese detective,
Charley Chan. And taking that repugnant idea to Herculean heights, Mickey
Rooney with massive buck teeth and glasses as thick as Mason jars in a
spectacularly offensive turn as the Japanese neighbor, Yunioshi, in
"Breakfast at Tiffany's."
Currently, there's a bit of a furor over Tilda Swinton in the male role of a
Tibetan mystic and, even greater outrage over a project hoping to cast
Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downy Jr. as seminal figures out of Muslim
history. The equivalent of Russell Brand and Gerard Depardieu playing
Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.
I bring this up because the likely departure of Daniel Craig as James Bond
is creating a great deal of speculation as to which actor will become the
next incarnation of 007. What caught my attention about some of the
suggestions was, rather than reflecting typical concerns associated with
success at the box office, these acting choices seemed based on a
mysterious need to cast the Bond role as a way of correcting a long
standing social injustice.
There's something of a groundswell of support for the exceptional English
actor, Indris Alba, to step in as the next James Bond. Why not. He's a
great actor. What bothers me is, several times I heard his name put forth
followed by "it's about time we had a black James Bond."
There's also a faction electioneering for the role to go to the former star of
the "X-Files". No, not David Duchovney, Gillian Anderson. As I understand
it, the sultry, red haired actress would be a perfect fit to order gin martinis
'stirred not shaken' and perform death defying stunts behind the wheel of
an Aston Martin because "it's about time we had a female James Bond."
No and no.
It was about time we elected a black president. It was about time we
nominated a woman for that office. Real issues worthy of fighting for in the
real world. It's not about time to become so blinded by political
correctness, so caught up in the pursuit of racial and social equality that
something as unimportant as the role of a fictitious character in an
inconsequential spy movie needs to become a rallying cry .
Bond films are mindless entertainment. Fantasy. Escapism. Let them be
what they are; fun action pictures not affirmative action pictures. Ian
Fleming's iconic creation should be cool, sexy, resourceful and occasionally
deadly. Not a cause célèbre. Not a reflection of minority or sexist issues.
Whomever the producers of the films hire to be James Bond is fine with
me; man, woman, black, white, Latin, Asian, extraterrestrial, schnauzer.
But I'd hate to think they'd change the character's ethnicity or gender as if
doing so was righting a cultural wrong.
That kind of thinking isn't progressive, it's pointless. As lacking in
credibility as bringing back "Shaft" starring Seth Rogan as the suave, black
But, hey, if we are going to think outside the box for Bond, why Gillian
Anderson and not, say, Chelsea Handler? She'd be better at delivering
those snappy Bondian one line rejoinders and more believable climbing on
top of a Bond girl .... Wait, what!? ... No, more Bond girls!....Bond boys!!!
Already this isn't working for me. But, if we're going to be politically
correct, let's not stop there!
It's also about time we see Betty White and Carl Reiner as Sherlock
Holmes and Doctor Watson and stop slighting nonagenarians. About time
for "The Smokey Robinson Story"; the soul man played by Seoul woman,
Margaret Cho. Tyler Perry as Khaleesi, The Mother of Dragons, on "Game
of Thrones". Which visually would be amazing because the dragons could
actually ride on him. And, kidding aside, how fantastic to follow in the
footsteps of "The Wiz" and have an all-black cast version of "A Christmas
Carol" with Samuel L. Jackson as Scrooge and Kevin Hart as Tiny Tim!
And my choice for 007? Like the quintessential Bond, Sean Connery, I'm
sticking with the Scottish; Ewan McGregor then, James McAvoy, who,
though even scrawnier than Pierce Brosnan, could bulk up with a steady
diet of Shepard's pies and Guinness until he looked strong enough to
actually pull the trigger on a Walther PPK. If not, there's always Sheena
Ian Seeberg 6/2016
Is it Just Me...? The Fine Print
I'd like it known that even when my lips are sealed my teeth are always smiling and
underneath my clothing I am stark naked. I offer up these revelations because we live
in an age of concealed information. What we see is not always what we get and I for
one refuse to contribute to that misleading duplicity.
This transparency comes in defiance of the fact that today, the price of something is
seldom the price of something. Stated charges are at best a starting point. Rough
estimate. The so called 'ball park figure' is nothing more than an omen foreshadowing
the budget of your kitchen remodel doubling or tripling and the quoted repairs on your
car skyrocketing out of sight. Win a 'free' vacation, 'free' magazine subscription or
'free' trial sample of rejuvenating walrus liver oil and you quickly discover it comes with
enough hidden charges to warrant re-writing the tax codes.
I flew to San Jose on business and rented a car. The rental fee was quoted as $55 for
a sub compact the size of a dog house. A soup can with a horn. A 2015 Ford
Facockta, I believe.
Still, not a bad price and I had earned a $6.61 discount from a previous rental so,
even better. The paperwork indicated something called the FPO Accepted reflecting a
10% AAA discount of $29.15. Better still. Except, against all laws of logic and the
universally accepted definition of 'discount', I was being charged the $29.15. Me. Out
of my pocket. Hey, thanks for the discount!
There was an 11.11% charge - a totally made up number, right? - of $8.73 for
Concession Fee Recovery... Concession Fee Recovery ... Concession Fee
Recovery... Nope. No matter how many times I say it, the words in combination still
make no sense. What concession and who made it? Me? What did I concede? And,
what are we recovering from? What just happened?
I was surprised to see a 3.50% California Tourism Assessment equaling $1.70. Even
though I disclosed on the nosy questionnaire I was traveling on business, I was still
charged for tourism. I think that covered any random glimpses of scenery I caught out
of the corner of my eye while staring at a sea of automobiles creeping up a freeway at
three miles an hour.
Next came a Transportation Fee of $7.50. Again, puzzling. If the car is the
transportation and I am the driver of said transportation, who's getting the fee and for
what? I suspect this may be blatant discrimination against cars, punishing them for
being cars and the ACLU needs to take a closer look.
I was charged a license fee of $1.02 per day. Per day! Each day that car displayed a
license plate, I paid for it! And yet, cheaper than getting arrested and going to jail for
driving an un-plated car.
Something generically referred to as Tax 1 rang up another $5.09. And the discount
that cost me $29.50? Turns out there was a 3.500% tax on that for another $1.02.
Okay ... paying tax on money you make is one thing but paying tax on money you
were already penalized for?
With all the 'adjustments', as the rental company euphemistically calls them, the
estimated cost of my $55.05 rental car mushroomed to $102.65. Of course, that was
just an 'estimate'. Hedging their bets in case a 'State Return and Repossession' tax
got passed before I brought the car back.
If all that seems a bit fraudulent consider the recent advertised price for a deluxe hotel
room, king size bed, Jacuzzi bathtub, big screen TV and bathrobes for $110 a night. A
score, right? Nightly room tax, state and local tax, Wi-Fi and daily parking fees... $220
a night. That's assuming you don't want a view, a balcony or continental breakfast.
And while we're at it, name one thing 'continental' about a cup of coffee, powered
creamer and a day old muffin.
Check in time is 4 o'clock in the afternoon so the charge is for a full day but one
receives only 8 hours of room time. Although!...wait for it ... instead of you and your
bags hanging for hours in the lobby like an Ellis Island re-enactment, spend more
money, $20 or so, and get 'early check in'! Which means; instead of waiting for a dirty
room to be cleaned, you pay a premium and get a room that's already been
cleaned .... I know, I had to read that sentence over again myself. The concept makes
absolutely no sense except to the person pocketing the twenty.
Above and beyond all that, I would greatly appreciate someone explaining a 'resort
fee' in a way that makes it seem acceptable to pay it. My contention is, it can't be done
because it's an absolutely unjustifiable rip off. Complete extortion.
Hotels don't charge additional money for being called a hotel. But, put resort in your
name and you get to charge a separate tax. Had I known, I'd have changed my middle
name to Resort years ago. This is the equivalent of a restaurant with outdoor dining
charging a separate fee to eat on the patio. Landscaping costs. Outdoor electrical.
Paying for the food then renting the weatherproof table and silverware.
Even if you never use the facilities at a resort, you still pay up to $100 a day more for
everything on the property; spa, swimming pools, golf course, fitness center, gym. If
you're not into massages or yoga classes, at least get your monies' worth and run wild
on the grounds! Play hide and seek among the potted palms! Wade in the fountains!
Climb the trees! Roll on the lawns! Pick the flowers!
Or, forget about hidden expenses and just stay home. Your car's daily license plate
fee comes gratis, bedrooms are available whenever at no extra charge, the shower is
a freebie, the kitchen's open 24 hours a day, and, best of all, property tax is only once
a year not nightly.
Ian Seeberg 5/2016
Is it Just Me...? Say What?
I'm not hard of hearing, I'm hard of listening.
My attention span, which had been drying up faster than the LA reservoir, evaporated altogether when I realized I'd started vanishing inside my own head. Disappearing inside it as if there was a cozy, wood-paneled den complete with crackling fire and leather armchair located on the mezzanine level of my medulla oblongata. Woolgathering? Daydreaming? Genteel moments of reverie? Not even close. This is stepping inside Gray Matter Mansion, locking the door and tossing away the key. Zoned out. Unresponsive. Completely lost in thought.
"Did you hear what I just said?" No, I did not, not paying any attention.
See, I can hear. I just don't seem to want to.
That said, in the spirit of transparency I must admit a lifetime of recording studios and guitar amps cranking out earsplitting fuzz tones has removed my ability to hear certain frequencies. So, okay, maybe just a little bit hard of hearing but, selectively so. If I can discern a drummer's high hat on a music track it 's a high hat solo. I also find I have great difficulty hearing requests from telemarketers, anyone looking to borrow money and my naughty sweetie's voice when she admonishes me for doing something wrong. Like not paying attention.
I became aware of this cerebral sanctuary first as a place to duck into while waiting in line, atrophying on airplanes or driving the freeways. It's since evolved into an autonomic response, a defense mechanism against the inane chatter of get togethers with relatives, business meetings, conference calls and other people's office parties. The first whiff of stories about precocious children, home remodels, celebrity divorces or cruise ship vacations? Neural man cave time!
All of which is a direct correlation to the cold, hard truth that conversation, real conversation complete with engaging topics and the thrilling give and take of stimulating dialogue, is all but dead! On life support! Hanging by a thread!! Try finding one. It's as rare as locating a phone booth. Make that a phone booth with phone book intact.
We no longer converse or discuss. We make 'small' talk'. We chit chat. We're gabbers. Yakking at each other. Exchanging syllables not ideas. Even worse, we tiptoe around subjects like politics, climate, religion, race, birth control, vaccinations and transgender bathrooms for fear they'll lead to name calling, fisticuffs or, even worse, a political rally breaking out!
This hideout in my head represents the realization that the majority of what people talk about - not counting my naughty sweetie, of course - isn't worth paying much attention to and I've given up trying.
I once thought it appalling people you'd meet could let an entire dinner pass by without so much as a basic conversation starter... "what do you do?" ... "where are you from originally? ..." do you speak English?" Now? I tune out. Mentally missing in action. Elvis has left the building. Or, should I inquire of them, receive an answer but find no reciprocal question coming back my way? Nothing? Not so much as a mumbled query to construct the most rudimentary of conversations? I'll be up in the attic, call me for dessert.
The storied Parisian salons famously delighted drawing room guests by inviting the brightest wits of the day to come and converse. Repartee was a rock concert. Banter savored like fine wine. Their droll exchanges, tasty as the foie gras, echoed for days throughout the cafes..
To be fair, times change and we're not Paris. Our society defines cuisine as anything with melted cheese and dipping sauce, views the sophomoric affairs of drunken, twenty year old actresses as newsworthy headlines and, thinks Donald Trump has a secret presidential on/off switch. So, America can't rightly be criticized for not being a breeding ground for stimulating conversationalists.
The internet, social media and texting further robbed us of the ability to speak coherently to each other. Before that, the blame for this glaring void in social discourse rests squarely on our educational system. From grammar school through college, never once do I recall anyone teaching the art of conversation, let alone describing what a good one entails. In my mind, it's this: A good conversation occurs when one person speaks on a subject, idea or concept. The other person listens closely and responds, taking into account what the first person said while adding new dimensions, insights and opinions. Alternate and repeat.
Of course, this seldom happens. While people absolutely delight in hearing their own thoughts, when it comes to yours, not so much. There's a general stoppage of listening to better think what they'd like to hear themselves say next. Although, if you're lucky, they might be polite enough to hold that new thought until you run out of air.
Maybe I'm crazy - which would explain a lot - but what goes on inside my noodle is pretty entertaining. Not on par with "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" but definitely it's own three ring circus, multimedia, Fellini-esque stream of consciousness extravaganza. A Technicolor cavalcade of random thoughts and images firing off with the machine gun intensity of a crowded Tokyo pachinko parlor on a Saturday night. That sentence alone should give you a fair idea of what fanciful nonsense goes on up there.
Short of giving up talking, and in the face of ever increasing scowls from my naughty sweetie, I'm closing down the cortical clubhouse. I'm going to pay attention, stay in the moment and take conversation like a man!
Farewell, memory bank. Sayonara to sonic collages of musical motifs ... recalling favorite lines from movies ... thinking up things I wish I'd said instead ... musing over the evocative sound of ice tinkling in a glass of Maker's Mark ... remembering the sweet.....
"You didn't hear a word I said! You're off in your head again."
Absolutely not! I was listening.
Well ... damn it, I'm hard of hearing!
Ian Seeberg/ 4/2016
Is it Just Me...? Prestige and the Presidency
Do you remember when Presidents were prestigious? When being in the White House meant the person in charge was a skilled statesman; steadfast, trustworthy, articulate? The most knowledgeable, cool-headed, keen-eyed leader we could find?
Recall a time when we could believe in our Commander in Chief to be better than the rest of us? A clear, level headed thinker. Above pettiness. Not afflicted with narrow minded biases. Untouched by racism. A representative of the people -- all the people. And even if we didn't agree with every policy, we still showed reverence for the grandeur of the office and respect for the person who held it?
Do you remember when President's were prestigious? I have to ask because it appears we're in an era where one can become the President without being the least bit presidential.
The presidency automatically comes with an abundance of celebrity and influence, a good amount of stature but not one drop of prestige. Prestige isn't about politics, it's about personal comportment. Prestige is respect earned through admirable actions, even-tempered rhetoric and the quality of one's character. Traits sadly missing from many of our current presidential candidates.
What happened? Did we set higher standards in years past or, have we devolved into lower forms of human beings content to settle for less?
When I was very young the concept of the President seemed bigger than life; bordering on superhero status. My first president of memory, Dwight D. Eisenhower, seemed a dignified, serious man with an aura of strength and gravitas. An image probably enhanced by only seeing him on television in black and white. Looking back, his calm, stately bearing shown through. The man had prestige.
President Kennedy's prestige grew out of a lofty determination. Caring and congenial in a sun-kissed, tousled hair sort of way. His Vice President, Lyndon Johnson had his own kindly, avuncular version as well. But presidential prestige began eroding with Richard Nixon on "Laugh In" saying, "sock it to me!" Trying to look 'with it' rather than presidential came off as demeaning. Sad and pandering and a grotesque idea for the times. The president doesn't go on a slapstick show along with Goldie Hawn wiggling in a bikini. The President was the Great and Powerful Oz working the levers behind the White House curtain. Worldly. Wise. And above all, prestigious.
Nixon also posed shaking hands with Elvis. Famous swivel hips aside, why someone wearing a tacky Vegas costume to the White House was worthy of shaking a President's hand eluded me? An honor clearly reserved for a person who discovered a cure for something. A visiting dignitary. Whomever won the World Series. You didn't just shake the hand of a President! A president was inaccessible. Secured, secreted and surrounded. Having an audience with one was as unlikely as shooting eight ball with the Dali Lama. High fiving Queen Elizabeth. Chest bumping the Pope. Although, if ever a Pope seemed up for chest bumping, I think Francis is the guy.
Nixon truly kicked prestige to the curb when impeached for being a crook. His successors, a peanut farmer and a hack actor with a spendthrift wife, didn't do much to restore it either. Gerald Ford chipped away at it clumsily tripping his way into the history books and Poppy Bush lowered the prestige bar even more by barfing on the leader of Japan. None of which compared to Bill Clinton playing 'hide the Havana' in the Oval Office or George W. Bush, who all but drove the final nail into the prestige coffin with his arrested development persona and penchant for grammatical whack-a-mole.
Judging from the demeanor of the candidates currently running for President, any vestigial remnants of prestige are disappearing faster than something left out on the curb with a 'free' sign on it.
Stalwart Bernie Sanders is resolute and wonderfully earnest but as crabby as a toll booth attendant with bad arches. An explosion in a follicle factory. Nothing too prestigious about that.
History will unquestionably frame Hillary Clinton as the most ground-breaking woman in all of American politics. No one has ever been more prepared to sit in the Oval Office but, the woman seems so desperate to be elected she's prepared to change policy positions, wrestle in Jell-O or drive in a monster truck demolition derby if it'll seal the deal. That's barely a blip on the prestige meter.
As for the Republican candidates, the words 'Republican candidates' and 'prestige' can't sensibly appear in the same sentence. None of them brings to mind the Great and Powerful Oz although they do share a tie-in to "Alice in Wonderland"; Cruz needs a heart, Trump needs a brain and Kasich needs a better barber.
Do you remember when President's were prestigious? I do. From 2008 to the present. President Barack Obama. A thoughtful man of reason who speaks with eloquence and passion. Displays great humor, warmth and genuine compassion. Cries real tears. Believes in fair play and equality. He's a gentleman who wears refinement as comfortably as most of us wear jeans. And, not only knows the words to Al Green songs but sings them.
Disrespected and set upon at every turn by selfish, incompetent fools; challenged by conniving obstructionists defiantly taking the wrong side of every argument to thwart his attempts to better our lives, better our country, better our world. Yet this president stood tall. Spoke respectfully. Answered back with intellect not insults. A Commander in Chief who is better than us and did restore dignity and honor to the office of the President.
Ronald Reagan's eyes welled up when he called America "a beacon", a "shining city on a hill". Mine well up when I think that beacon is also a 'black man on the hill', shining a light of civility and decorum upon a world that is all too rapidly falling into the shadow of hatred, distrust and discord.
All that President Barack Obama brings to our country will soon be at an end. Look long and hard and remember his tenure well. That's what presidential looks like. That's what prestige looks like.
Ian Seeberg 3/2016
Is it Just Me...? The Vocabulary of Politics
No matter the outcome of the presidential race, I will always be grateful to Donald J. Trump for inspiring the resurgence of flamboyant vocabulary in our country. His disturbing behavior and dangerous political notions have single-handedly been the catalyst behind the resuscitation of some of our language's most wonderfully descriptive words. Seldom used nouns and modifiers, heretofore gathering dust in dictionaries, are now springing freely from the lips of enraged citizens who find they can't satisfactorily express their frustration and rage at Trump's rise to political prominence through every day parlance.
When we were first introduced to 'Trump the candidate', his off-putting comportment and slanderous comments led us to refer to him as 'rude' , 'impolite' , 'unqualified' and 'un-presidential'. Naively, we thought those mild verbal depictions would be enough to create a backlash and remove him from the competition in a civil manner. Nope.
Then we assumed his campaign would self destruct when things turned to a more serious political nature; not knowing of course that the politics of his party were never going to get serious! So, nope.
Trump continued alienating one and all with escalating antics and shocking statements that left us struggling to find words strong enough to stop the madness. Looking to repel this interloper, we intensified our tone and context. He became a 'jerk' , 'crass' , an 'egomaniac', 'narcissist'. None of which even made a dent. Fell on deaf ears. Champagne off an elitist's tuchus.
But now! The terrifying possibility of Trump in the Oval Office, leader of the free world, finally provided the inspiration that carried us to new linguistic heights! Filled our political conversations with highfalutin invectives! Drove journalists and newspaper columnists, long recognized as the Generals in command of English language usage, to crack open thesauruses, all the better to frame the disgust they too were experiencing.
Go figure! A renaissance of vocabulary motivated by deplorable conduct! Rhetoric to the rescue! A deployment of samurai semantics! Forget rebuilding the military, we're stockpiling arsenals of word power to battle the great 'orange menace'! Unleashing the mother tongue on that mother!
We've raised the bar on our choice of words. No, wait...we've ameliorated our choice of words! Trump's no longer a 'jerk' or a 'blowhard'. The days of wimpy insults are over, people! The guy's nothing less than an uncouth lout! An unprincipled ruffian who's ascended to the ranks of scoundrel An unredeemable miscreant! In other words, an unconscionably loathsome, unscrupulous reprobate!
'Loudmouth'? 'Braggart'? Knock off the kid stuff, sissy Mary! Trump is an unrelenting purveyor of stentorian bluster! That and a first class bloviator! That's right, you heard me! BLOVIATOR! The pinnacle of braggadocio! Not just a bad guy but, downright nefarious! Iniquitous! Egregious! Heinous, even!
Man, that felt good! ! Erudite... Empowering... And at the same time, so much better than calling him a boorish, big mouthed, doody head!
The only vote we owe Donald J. Trump is one of thanks for reawakening our languishing verbal skills. His efforts alone caused the comeback of such classics as bombast which so beautifully describes his meaningless tirades calculated only for their visceral effect. The re-emergence of pomposity. Capturing not only the utter arrogance of his spurious aristocratic demeanor but cleverly referencing the bizarre, gravity defying pompadour enshrouding his gourd. And a big welcome back to buffoon! A clownish figure; a fool; an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Not to be confused with a bassoon which is an ill woodwind that nobody blows good.
Trump's vicious, nay, defamatory attacks on rival candidates, women, Mexicans, immigrants, popes and anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with him, have vaulted him from being disrespectful to downright scurrilous! A venomous misogynist! A reprehensible xenophobe! Just calling them as I see them, Goldilocks!
Never again will we categorize his smug manner as obnoxious but resoundingly abhorrent! Uh huh! Abhorrent! Not to mention being so deeply creepy - the suggestion of dating his own daughter, really? - has leapfrogged him from being thoroughly unacceptable to ineradicably repugnant. Whoo hoo! Go, language!
Yes, we started out characterizing him as a little 'nasty', a bit 'crude', occasionally 'offensive' but thanks to Webster's Unabridged he's been upgraded to odious, vile, contemptible, detestable, despicable and, a personal favorite, abominable ... again, not to be confused with mythical snowmen or stomachs.
Great stuff, right! Our country hasn't enjoyed such scholarly cursing since the last remake of "Pride and Prejudice." Not since Gore Vidal and William Buckley knocked each other silly on TV with multisyllabic haymakers! It's like Shakespeare talking smack!
T he English language has about 1,025,109.8 words in it. Not sure what the point eight means unless there's an actual word 'pointeight'. Of those, some 20,000 are actively familiar words and out of those, the average person uses about 10,000. Trump displays a rather narrow vocabulary consisting mainly of four-letter expletives along with 'I', 'me', 'amazing', 'fantastic', 'rich', 'beautiful' and 'yuge'. A total which manages to surpass many of his supporters - the " poor uneducated" ones he professes to love so dearly - who use even less words with most relating to saviors, guns and beef jerky.
But as long as Trump is in the race it's imperative we keep hunting for that magical combination of words which will finally derail the vainglorious aspirations of this imperious autocrat! A phrase that resonates deeply enough to wake up those among us who have been mesmerized by the flash and sizzle of his empty-headed theatricality! And once we uncover that brilliant rejoinder, wouldn't it be great if that coup de gras was delivered by MSNBC's master, political analyst, Chris Matthews. I can see it now. Chris seated across a desk from Trump. Leaning forward, fixing him with that deadly, all knowing, squinty-eyed stare. He takes a long pause ... takes aim ... and says, "It's over, Donald. Go back to the gilded, Drumpf dome and never again dare to besmirch the escutcheon of our nation's dignity!...ya doody- head!"
Ian Seeberg 3/2016
Is it Just Me...? A College Education
Exorbitant fees and tuitions saddling millions with decades of student loan payments are the catalyst behind today's big idea ... free college for everyone! A new, political spin on 'a chicken in every pot', a 'mortarboard on every head' will offer the financial freedom for everyone to attend an institute of higher learning. As concepts go, it's a great one. In reality, I don't think everyone should go to college.
I had no choice. My generation was ordered to go. Not a debate, a mandate. Conscription really. Our only hope for ever having a nice house, a nice car and a nice wife and kids hung squarely on acquiring a college degree. Minus that signed and sealed slip of sheepskin, I was doomed to a cursed existence as a "garbage man". This was thinking that clearly pre-dated unions because diploma-less sanitation workers have little trouble getting nice houses, nice cars and nice wives and kids.
College then was something special. Privileged access to vast sources of knowledge. Entree to information and inspiration largely unavailable to the masses, i.e.; garbage men. Today, all that and more is available on your Droid Turbo. Your cell phone is college without a football team to root for.
True, there will always be some employers who insist on a college education for hiring. Never mind you're applying to work as an insurance adjuster and your degree is in Hatha Yoga. But before we throw open the floodgates on higher education, we need to establish a few rules to define who goes and who doesn't.
Rule number one: If you don't know what you want to study, you don't go to college. That's walking into a restaurant when you're not particularly hungry and reading through the menu in hopes something makes your mouth water. Nearly a third of all graduates never work within their degree field. Worse, a good number don't want to work in their major even while they're studying it. Now there's a game plan! I can name a psych major who's a rock drummer, a Masters Degree in Ancient History who sells real estate and a CPA who's a masseuse. Not to mention success story after success story about kids just out of their teens launching multi-billion dollar tech businesses from their dorm rooms. Their college experience wasn't about classes and exams, it was a lesson in office space.
So, rule number two: If you have a multi- billion dollar idea, you don't go to college.
Rule number three. If you want to study something you can't make a living at, you don't go to college. Anthropology, Comparative Religion, Marine biology, Latin American studies? Recruiters will not be breaking down your door after graduation. Put Economist on a business card and see how many calls you get. No college for you. The next time someone tells you they have a degree in 17th Century poetry ask them to recite some. If they can - and that's doubtful - inquire how much they earn doing it. College - no.
Number four. If you're not studying medicine, engineering, science or teaching, you don't go to college. That's because colleges should only exist to teach those four subjects. Those and nothing else, period. Everything else is a cottage industry. An apprenticeship. A skill that can be acquired by looking over someone's shoulder, reading a book or watching a You Tube video. Which, if you cared enough, you could do on your own.
If you want to be an English major you don't go to college. What you do is talk a lot. In English. Speak to everyone who will listen and do it in English. Read a lot of books as well - in English.
Creative Writing? Forget college. Get something that writes - typewriter, computer, ballpoint pen, box of yellow pencils with erasers on the end - sit down and write. Start with sentences, group them into paragraphs and before you know it, you'll have chapters. Who knows, after a couple years some of it might even make sense. Although that's not a pre-requisite as evidenced by John Barth's "Giles Goat-boy".
Aspire to be an historian? You don't go to college. Watch the History Channel five days a week from 8 to 5 and direct all follow up questions to Wikipedia.
You don't need college If philosophy is your field of interest. Hang out in a barbershop in a black neighborhood. For the price of a haircut you'll learn more about life and common sense in two hours than you would in two semesters. For post doctoral studies, go to a Tyler Perry movie and listen to the running commentary from the audience.
Advertising and marketing? Don't waste one minute in college. Pick a product or service. Imagine all the things you'd like it to do and tell everyone that's what it does.
Sociology? Forget college. Sit in a DMV for 8 hours a day for a month. It's also totally free and you'll learn everything you'll ever need to know about our culture.
Is psychology your goal? No ivy-covered walls for you. Pick the nearest little league game and take a seat in the stands. Forget the game, watch the parents and be prepared to take notes. Textbook examples of aberrational human behavior abound.
Dietician? Go to a McDonalds, Popeye's Chicken or Krispy Kreme. Everything you see going on in there, tell people not to do. Kinesiology? Really? Isn't it time to get past that A you once got in High School gym class?
What's that? You aspire to be a politician? Maybe even the leader of the free world? Well... if you're convinced you're the one to return civility to a society filled with bigotry, hate and mistrust. And, you can overcome the political slings and arrows of obstructionism and special interests to restore balanced prosperity to our widely divided culture of haves and have nots. And, you're capable of reuniting our struggling nation through harmonious discourse, common sense and non-partisan goals. You don't go to college. You don't run for office either! You seek immediate counseling from someone in the bleachers of a little league game!
Ian Seeberg 1/2016