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Taxation Nation
The poor Danes. Year in, year out, they remain one of the Most Taxed People in the World. They were number one again last year, with an average income tax rate of 60.2% per person. In the U.S., the rate is about 44%.

Before you start to feel too sorry for them, though, consider this: when measured by such standards as sense of well-being, mental health, opportunity, freedom, and general life-satisfaction, the Danish are also the Happiest People in the World.

Please feel free to draw whatever conclusions you like.
Got Junk?
There was a time when I did not need a Junk file. I looked at every piece of email that came to me, if only for a moment. There was a little spam, but one click, and it was gone. In those heady early days of the internet, all I needed was an Inbox and a Trash file. Oh, brave new digital age!

That was a time of innocence, when there were no earnest Nigerian princes or nefarious scammers masquerading as members of my family. If I was concerned then that the World Wide Web might somehow become an annoyance, those fears were laid to rest by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Thanks to this prompt action by my elected leaders —making junk mail illegal — I knew that I would be spam-free forever.

The world has changed in the ten years since then, and I have become more jaded. I see that the state (though all-seeing) is not necessarily all-powerful. I’m on my own now, it seems, against a rising tide of messages from every corner of the globe. Even though each of those messages claims to carry important news that could very easily change my life, I’m not really that interested. I’m pretty happy, you see, with the way my life is already.

Like most people, I have enlisted the help of filters, but that delegation of responsibility has left me uneasy. Those filters are brutal; if an email fails to meet their hard-eyed standards, it is banished to Junk, no matter how urgent it may be. I probably wouldn’t mind looking at some of them, but who has the time to sort through five hundred emails that have already been rejected by my gatekeepers? It is possible that I’ve been sent a message by on old friend, been remembered in someone’s will, or am finally ready to go for that enlargement. Heck, I may already be a winner, but since my email has been corrupted by commerce, I will never know.

I might even have wanted to respond to one of those cries for help from some prince in a pinch. His desperate pleas, however, have been shunted to my Junk file, like rusty old toasters. Since I no longer even look at my Junk file, its contents are destined to go next to Trash, where they will be commingled with my unrecyclable plastic and rotting meat, until finally being deleted for good.

I can’t help but feel a sadness about those lost dispatches…as if an opportunity to connect has been lost, consigned to oblivion by my robot guardians. The mission of those messages — to seek me out and engage with me — was doomed from the beginning, and now they rest, unfulfilled, in a graveyard of digital dead letters. Sure, most of them are intrusive offers of money or sex or “once-in-a-lifetime” deals by the truckload. But one, just one, could be the good news that would change my life for the good.

Let me reach out now to that lone sender with my own fervent communication: so write me a letter already!
Loopholes
Black holes! They are among the scariest things in the universe, but as long as you don’t get your spacesuited butt on the wrong side of their event horizon, there’s no reason to let their presence in our galaxy upset your day-to-day life. You will probably not be stretched into a pink string then slammed into a space (approximately) eight billion times too small for you to fit in. So please, stop worrying.

Instead, why not think about white holes? Yes, white holes — with this crazy universe, it’s always something.

Readers of this blog will know that I am something of an expert when it comes to subatomic physics. And by “something of an expert” I mean that I have only the loosest grasp of its basic principles. Fortunately, it’s a free country, so let’s talk loops. These teeny-tiny things are at the very center of this business about white holes. We have Dr. Carlo Rovelli of Aix-Marseille University and his theory of loop quantum gravity to thank for that. He says that the plucky unsquashability of these loops (which are a lot like the memory foam in your Serta Perfect Sleeper) keeps a black hole from collapsing beyond a certain point. Not only that, they would provide a “quantum bounce” that would fling the matter back the way it came — out the black hole and into open space.

Since the effect is roughly the opposite of a black hole, they’re calling this explosive event a “white hole.” (I would have preferred “the universe yodeling groceries,” but the scientific community is notoriously prissy in their naming practices.) It has even been suggested that our Big Bang could have been a mega white hole that spewed the contents of a black hole so big that it had swallowed Everything That There Was.

I find this theory, despite its reliance on cosmic regurgitation, to be very comforting. For one thing, it tends to confirm my own Pulsating Nodes Theory of time and space and everything else (which has never received the attention it deserves). But more importantly, the loop quantum gravity construct seems to indicate that there are limits to how small things can be. Those little sub-subatomic loops are as teensy as it gets, and still they’re resilient enough to repel the impossibly huge weight of a collapsing star — or even of an entire universe! Kinda gives you hope, you know?

Of course, the theory also says that time is an illusion and death can be cheated, even if you’ve somehow gotten yourself stretched into that piece of pink string. That’s a little hard to swallow, even if you’re a black hole.
A Toast to Harshmellows
When was the last time you heard someone seriously say, “Hey, man…you’re harshing my mellow.” It makes me smile to think of some tie-dyed dude drawling his complaint over having his serenity spoiled.

I calculate that the hippie in this reverie is now in his late 60s or 70s, and I’ll bet he’s long since stopped protesting his lost mellowness with that nice phrase. It is now an antiquated expression, after all, like “What’s buzzin’, cousin?” or “Ducky shincracker.” You don’t hear it anymore, and that’s sad because it leaves a hole in our slang vocabulary that cannot easily be filled.

You might suggest that “You’re bumming me out” or “You’re bringing me down” would suit, but those terms don’t have the poetic power of a mellow turned acrid. They communicate the same thought, but they are pedestrian phrases, and we should be looking for something with the same flair as the original.

“Don’t rain on my parade” might be offered as a substitute, or “Don’t burst my bubble,” but neither of these conveys the same sense of an organically-attained high laid waste. A parade, for example, is a product of planning and precise timing; its fun is fully orchestrated. A bubble may be a pretty thing, but its enjoyment is by nature fleeting and insubstantial. A good mellow, conversely, is a slow, natural groove — a feeling that might well persist indefinitely if not interrupted by some negative force.

“Pissing on my bonfire” is not quite right either. It implies malice on the part of the pissor, while the harshing of a mellow could simply be the product of clueless inadvertence. The same goes for “Breaking my crayons” or “Pooping on my cake.” The expression we are looking for is not about being mean; it’s about making someone feel crummy through simple thoughtlessness.

In short, there is no good alternative for harshing my mellow, though a few possibilities come to mind: Don’t choke my flow, diss my bliss, dim my bulb, eclipse my moon, soil my linen, despoil my wilderness, ignite my Hindenburg, interdict my shipment, or pack my parachute backwards.

You can see I’m having trouble with this, but let me try a few more: stunt my growth, empty my calories, fog my solar panels, lower my dividends, or overheat my antioxidants. Okay, that’s all I’ve got, but I welcome your suggestions for a replacement of this lost, lamented idiom. Please share your thoughts with this blog about any potential new version of “Harsh my mellow.”

No, this is not a contest. No, there will be no prizes awarded. No, your nominations will not be published. So stop with the questions, please. You’re precipitating a synesthesia in my aura, man.

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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon