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Category: Culture

Eat It and Like It
I see that two exciting new products have entered the sweepstakes for my nutrition dollar. They are enticingly named “Fruits” and “Veggies,” but the products themselves appear to be…just pills.

I am assured by the promotional materials for Fruits and Veggies that they are crafted entirely from actual fruits and vegetables. All of the benefits I might receive from consuming those plant materials are conveniently packed into tiny tablets of natural goodness. Actual chewing (which we know can be exhausting and even dangerous) is encouraged, but not necessary. Fruits, at least, are said to have a pleasant fruity taste. No such claim is made for Veggies.

The ads for Fruits (in the red bottle) and Veggies (in the green one) feature actual smiling nutritionists who speak in glowing terms of the wonders wrought by these easy-eatin’ quasi-foodstuffs. As I listen, I look for some kind of tell in their testimonials. A slight smirkyness in their smiles, perhaps, or some hint of goofiness in their deliveries.

Because I can’t help thinking that this whole charade is some kind of elaborate practical joke. Or perhaps a trailer for some bad straight-to-video science fiction movie. Food pills? It’s just too corny. Why stop with Fruits and Veggies? How about Steak and Potatoes gelcaps? And where’s my Lemon Meringue lozenge for dessert?

Okay, that’s just silly. Or maybe it isn’t. Fruits and Veggies would have seemed silly, too…until they started spending millions advertising them on TV. Maybe this is not bad science fiction, but our actual, real future rolling out. Maybe the future is going to be nothing more than a succession of rejected Twilight Zone scripts that were thought to be too lame — pointless, uninspired, and just plain stupid.

Or perhaps poorly written episodes of The West Wing, for that matter. Or even scorned plot lines from Game of Thrones ...without the dragons. Maybe that’s what reality is, in fact. Just a long, meandering succession of poorly plotted, half-baked stories without any resolution or even the hint of a moral lesson.

So stop complaining and just tough it out. And eat your Veggies.

(It wasn’t me, by the way. It was supernatural beings that caused the lapse in output last week. Khione, the Greek goddess of snow conspired with Nerdi, the non-gendered deity of wifi connectivity to stop my updates. And my prayers to them did not help. So much for religion.)
Twit Show
When Elon Musk finally took charge of Twitter, I felt the springs of schadenfreude bubbling up in my psyche. If the first few days of his reign there are any indication, there will be a long (and entertaining) festival of humiliation for The Richest Person in the World (TRPITW).

I have not always felt this way. When I first learned of the possibility that he might take control of this powerful communications pipeline, it gave me a chill. This guy? In control of Twitter? Trump unchained? No-o-o-o! It seemed like just another ominous sign among all the other disturbing news these days.

As I see the story unfold, though, I am less concerned. The TRPITW, I believe, may have bitten off more than he can chew. This deal, in fact, could well undermine his entire empire. It’s a money thing, as this article explains. Briefly put: the debt from this purchase, along with the declining revenues from a more vitriol-based product, may end up eating him alive.

But the mere sight of a rich guy losing gobs of money is not what really makes the schadenfreude flow. That will come from the day-to-day deflation of his planet-sized ego.

The drama will be enhanced by the fact that Elon is possessed of a very large set of rabbit ears. He is hypersensitive, in other words, to even the tiniest hint of criticism. His involvement with Twitter will call forth a torrent of abuse each time he or his team of content moderators makes a call — from both the right and the left. His history predicts that he will not be able to resist entering the fray.

I suppose he might figure out a way to avoid calamity (he did, after all, figure out how to make those big rockets land butt-first). This trick, however, would require a depth of interpersonal savvy that TRPITW does not seem to have.

It’s already started. Elon’s recent tweet about the Paul Pelosi attack is a precursor to the ugly silliness that is bound to follow. He’s taking a beating for it all over the internet, including on Twitter. And he is not handling it well. What’s more, advertisers are already balking at the prospect of a vicious, hateful Twitter.

Oh, I know that the general trend of distressing news is likely to continue. Signs of the apocalypse will abound. The shit-show will no doubt begin in earnest. But at least I can look forward to Elon Musk’s spiteful tweets. With each, I suspect, will come a surge of dark joy to float my boat on these troubled waters.
Strike Nowhere
There is a safeguard, under law, that is meant to protect us from crappy products. The Implied Warranty of Merchantability it’s called, and it holds that anything we buy in the course of normal commerce must be fit to use for the purposes it is intended.

If you buy a broom, it has to be good for sweeping. If you buy a house, it has to be habitable. And, I would say, that a box of “Strike Anywhere” matches would have to contain matchsticks that would ignite if scratched firmly against almost any surface. As to that last item, let me assert that the Diamond Match Co. has violated my warranty with their crappy matches.

There was a time when saying that a match could be struck anywhere could be relied upon. Oh, you couldn’t ever strike them on the leg of your magenta velvet bell bottoms, but on your dungarees? Oh yes. And plenty of other surfaces, too, including your thumbnail.

Sadly, those days are gone. No more Ohio Blue Tips, no more Diamond red and whites. Just these lame green and beige Strike Nowhere matches that won’t even light when you drag them across the sandpaper on the box.

What’s more, I’ve seen nothing about swat teams swooping in to close down any match factories. So much for my Implied Warranty of Merchantability. Maybe I can use it to start my wood stove.
Tennis, No One?
About three years ago, I started getting the Tennis Channel as part of my cable TV package. I had always yearned to have such access, but I had been too stingy to spring for the ten dollars a month they were asking.

But those days are gone now. Somehow, my prayers must have been heard by Comcast. I now enjoy 24/7 professional tennis on my big screen — at no extra charge. I would have thought that I’d eventually get bored with it, but that has not happened. For some reason, this particular sport has been endlessly fascinating in a way that no other, including baseball, has ever been. Even matches between second tier players — or even third tier, if the competition is fierce enough — are still drawing me in.

Nor am I differentiating on account of gender. I find that the offerings of the Women’s Tennis Association are no less interesting than those of the all-male Association of Tennis Professionals. If anything, the women’s game is more interesting. Men’s tennis (owing chiefly to advances in racket technology) is often reduced to one big serve, one big forehand, point over.

Moreover, tennis seems to be broadly enlightened as professional sports go. With a little pushing, of course. Billie Jean King and her cohort started the Virginia Slims tour back in 1973, and that effort has led to equal pay for women in the Grand Slams and some of the other big events, at least. Still not all the way there, but no other sport has done so well with pay equity.

Tennis has comported itself pretty well with racial equality, as well. Like soccer, it is a truly international sport, so you might expect that to be the case. The organizations around the sport, however — including the Tennis Channel itself — have made a credible effort to reach into minority communities to find talent at every level.

The players themselves, moreover, seem uniformly thoughtful, well-spoken, and bright. There are some boneheads, of course, but the two associations (which are largely controlled by the players themselves) have surprisingly good records for righteousness. As evidence of this claim, I point to the story of the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

Peng, who was once ranked by the WTA as the No. 1 women’s doubles tennis player in the world, recently posted online that she had been sexually assaulted by Chinese ex-vice premier Zhang Gaoli. The post quickly disappeared, and so did Peng. Everyone expressed “concern,” including the International Olympic Committee (the Winter Olympics will be held in China in a few months), but no one did anything.

Except, that is, for the WTA. They have now cancelled all of their upcoming tournaments in China. This action will cost the association hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a sacrifice with some hair on it. In doing so, they have made everyone who’s done less, especially the IOC, look like chumps. Also on the chump list, it should be mentioned, is the ATP. The men have so far declined to step up in solidarity with their sisters. Individual male players have come forward, but they just don’t pack the punch, financial and otherwise, that the entire official organization would. C’mon, guys.

I will probably continue to watch the Tennis Channel, even though there might be a big gap in their programming where WTA events in China used to be. Or maybe I’ll just skip over those gaps and not watch TV at all. Not much hair on that sacrifice, I’ll admit, but at least I’d be chumping out the ATP.
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz