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Category: Culture

No Click for You
I don’t click on links to Sarah Palin stories anymore. If I see one online, I take a breath and move on. I’ll admit it’s hard sometimes. The links are often accompanied by an unflattering photo, and I have no doubt that if I clicked through, I’d find fresh reasons to justify my dislike of her.

I don’t need any more reasons, though. I’m up to here with reasons, and no, I don’t want to discuss them. Perhaps if she still had power and somehow constituted a real threat to the things I cherish, I might feel differently. But she doesn’t; she is now officially famous and nothing else. There is no payoff for me in hating on Sarah Palin, so why should I poison myself with all that bile?

There are some situations in which I could justify a little self-poisoning, I guess. Hating someone who is trying to kill me might actually help protect me from the killer. The hate might supply a heightened awareness and help keep me on my guard. This would be hatred as a self-preservation strategy. But if the hate object poses no threat, then why damage myself? Hate without a good rationale is hate for its own sake, and that will suck the humanity right out of you.

It’s much better to simply ignore such people. I will let Sarah Palin go on living her life, doing what she does, and just ignore her by not clicking on her links. Clicking would not only damage me by activating my own hate feedback loop, but it would directly benefit her. Somewhere, someone is counting those clicks, tallying reader interest in Dear Sarah. Each click gives her more of the very thing she thrives on: fame. It’s like a contribution to her campaign for Internet notoriety, and I refuse to take part in that.

I don’t click on links to Donald Trump stories, either. Nor on those beckoning me to some new outrage from Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. Their power is illusory, a product only of their ability to score attention for themselves, and I will not add my clicks to their balance sheets.

Politicians are another matter. Unlike the simply famous, they have pledged to uphold the public trust. As a member of the public, I take that pledge seriously, even if they don’t. If they welsh on it, then they deserve my attention. I feel righteous in granting them the full measure of my animus. I suspect that such an attitude is somehow self-defeating as well, but I can’t help myself. It’s part of my dues for living in a democracy.

Sarah Palin isn’t a politician anymore, of course. She was, and she was a lousy one, and now she’s become something like a zombie politician. She speaks to crowds, she travels around on her bus tour, and reporters faithfully record her pronouncements, but ultimately she’s no more consequential than the Octomom or Lindsay Lohan’s sideboob. She is the living dead. And she is completely dead to me.

When I do inadvertently click through to a Palin story, I am always sorry, as if the association, even by accident, has sullied me in some way. Valuable seconds are lost from my ever-shortening life. The brief rush of angry revulsion I feel is never worth its corrosive effect on my soul. I don’t want to hate her; I don’t even want to think about her. All I want is for her to go away. And that’s pretty easy, really. All I have to do is press “delete” and move on.
The Nine Billion Names of God
That’s the title of an old short story by Arthur C. Clarke. He assigns Tibetan monks the task of compiling and transcribing those nine billion names. At the time of the story, they’ve already been at it for thousands of years, and just as they’re finishing up…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

No matter; I have some questions for those monks. First, did you proofread the list for spelling? I’m guessing God will notice if even one of the nine bil is wrong. Second, did you use an appealing, easily readable font? You can’t go wrong with Times New Roman, I suppose, but how about Baskerville Old Face for a hint of understated omnipotence? And third, are you sure that your list includes every name ever assigned to God? I have no doubt that it includes Yahweh and Allah and Krishna and all of your top gods. You couldn’t have overlooked those.

But does it include, for instance, Jesus H. Christ? One might be tempted to dismiss this offering as nothing more than an oath of angry frustration, one that takes the Lord’s name in vain. But what does that mean exactly — take the Lord’s name in vain? That you gave him a shout out and he didn’t hear it? That he did hear it and ignored you? That’s what doing something “in vain” means, isn’t it? To try it and fail? I don’t get it.

Still, it must mean something. It’s one of the commandments, after all. Does it refer to cursing in which God is invoked, as most people would conclude? I don’t think so. Do you really think God is going to establish the Ten Most Important Rules Ever and waste one on outlawing “God damn it” or “Jesus H. Christ”? If he did, gosh, gee, golly, cripes, crackers, jeemineez, holy smoke, goldang it, dad gummit, and jumpin’ jehosaphat would also be proscribed. God would not be so stupid as to see these as anything other than poorly disguised curses. In fact, he might be even more offended at being taken for an easily duped deity.

So I’m saying add Jesus H. Christ to the list — right along with all those cute, fake-reverent euphemisms for God. Whatever that commandment means, it can’t possibly be about swearing, unless it’s swearing falsely, and Jesus H. Christ is nothing if not an honest expression of emotion.

By the same token, I’m not sure Christ on a crutch should be in there. It could be tagged as redundant, and we don’t want to be caught padding just to get to nine billion. The same goes for Kee-rist and hey, Zeus! Jiminy Crickets, moreover, should be disallowed simply to avoid confusion with the famous insect.

I don’t know what standards guided Arthur C. Clarke’s monks used in separating real names from pretenders, but I’m hoping they opted for a liberal, inclusive attitude. I think a genuine Supreme Being would be secure enough in his own identity that he wouldn’t mind a few nicknames or even a curse or two in his name. After all, any publicity is good publicity. Just be sure to spell all nine billion right…and steer clear of Comic Sans.
I have a memory of a video that depicted what happens to a brain during a concussion. I briefly tried to find it online but then thought better of it. The chilling memory is enough. The sight of that poor, defenseless organ sloshing violently around inside the skull (the result of, let’s say, a collision in football) was enough, back then, to make me want to curl up on the couch and never go outside again.

That’s because the slamming and buffeting is so extreme you’d conclude that even the slightest bump on the head could send you into a permanent vegetative state.

That would be an exaggeration, of course. Despite its squishiness, the brain has proven (over a hundred thousand years or so) to be pretty resilient. It’s floating in spinal fluid, and that goo is viscous enough to provide some cushioning at moments of impact. Still, it’s not as if the thing is tied down or anything. It bangs around in there like a clapper in a bell. What it really needs is some serious padding.

Well, not “need” so much, but if we want to keep watching football, something has to be done to stop all the concussions. Otherwise, I am convinced they’ll have to ban this ridiculously dangerous sport. I guess we could wait around until players with brain padding evolve naturally, but so far that process has been painfully slow.

If nature won’t do what needs to be done, then human science will have to step into the breach. I propose that in the summer between the senior year of high school and the beginning of the freshman year of college, potential pigskinners undergo brain surgery designed to lessen the effects of violent head trauma. I see a total removal of the skull, followed by the installation of a suitable padding material, then replacement of the cranium with any extensions that might be necessary.

For the padding, we might try latex foam. It certainly makes for a comfy bed. Bubble wrap could work too, especially if it were made from the finest of space-age plastics. And if we can’t afford space age, then why not use those Styrofoam packing peanuts? Whatever it takes to save our young people from crippling brain injury — while allowing us to watch them use their heads as battering rams.
I Don't Want a Smartphone
Hell, I don’t even want a cell phone. Oh, I admit that I sometimes use my wife’s. After all, if you want to talk to someone right now, it’s pretty hard to beat a cell phone. Assuming they pick up, that is. It could be made even better, I suppose, if I could somehow break into a person’s thoughts without permission and insert my message then and there. That’s not possible, but it’s coming — probably very soon.

Back to the smartphone: I really don’t want one, but now it appears that I need to get one. The only reason I now need something I didn’t need before is that so many other people wanted to get one. They didn’t need it the way they need food, or shelter, or love; they wanted it because it was more convenient than a cell phone and it was cool — the latest thing. There are now a hundred and fifty million people using these things in the U.S. Thanks to this proliferation, the technologies that smartphones usurp, including pay phones, are harder and harder to find. I have to get one, if only in self-defense. Other peoples' convenience has been turned into my necessity.

I am a little concerned that the more digital crap we have, the more we’re going to be offered, and the more we’re going to consume. That spiral will continue until the whole mess collapses, and we’re back to banging rocks together and living in caves. But that’s not my issue here. I’m a pawn in this technological takeover; I know I can’t stand against the tide. I am not, however, a totally helpless pawn. The one bit of defiance I allow myself is to make the takeover of my life by machines as inexpensive as possible.

My first rule is never to buy anything when it is the latest thing. My most notable success with this approach was to completely bypass the cart machine epoch. Cart machines, if you don’t know, were the music playback technology that existed between vinyl records and cassettes. I never bought one, I never had to “recycle” one, and I’m still feeling good about it. I have resolved to relive that gratifying experience over and over with each new gizmo that hits the market.

This approach does involve some patience, but I am fortified by my natural cheapness. If a product has any long-term usefulness at all, it will be costliest when it is the latest thing and cheapest when it’s been done to death. The wider the usage, the lower the price. If I had bought one of the first Macintoshes, for instance, I would no doubt have exchanged it for one or all of its other brief incarnations before things settled down with the iMac. As it is, I saved a lot of money, got a better computer, and never got left behind.

It appears that we have reached that moment with the smartphone. Everybody’s got one, the prices have come down, the quality has gone up, and those seeking the latest thing have moved on to iPads and their ilk. I guess I can find some satisfaction, at least, in having skipped the cell phone stage altogether, but I still don’t want a smartphone.

I’m getting one, though. The time is right. I have come to terms with the fact that I am participating in the annihilation of civilization. I know that some day the seeds I have sewn by caving into the short-term convenience offered by these technologies will sprout and devour us all. I take my share of the responsibility; like most of us, I have sold out my species and my planet. In my defense, let me just say that I got the lowest possible price.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon