Friday, February 6, 2009

Young Enough -- Writer's Poke #176

Once you hit your mid-30s, it's probably common to wonder: "Where do I fit in? Am I young? Am I old? Most likely, I'm somewhere in between, but what does that mean?"

My daughter is still a toddler, but I have friends my age who have kids in high school. Are we really the same age? In all likelihood, they will be grandparents in just a few years. Can I really be the same age as potential grandparents?

Such thoughts make the mind shut down.

Just this morning someone my age said, "We're young enough," and the idea really struck me. There will come a point when I might not be able to say that. What age is that I wonder? When I reach that age, will I automatically know it?

One thing for certain: I plan to age the way nature intends. When I start to go bald, I will shave my head -- no comb-overs for me, thank you. No tummy-tucks, no face-lifts, no fancy hair dyes to cover the gray (sorry Emmit Smith).

No pretending that I'm not getting older, and that at some undefined and yet definite point, I will no longer be young enough.

How do you feel about being your current age?

"The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication." -- Aristotle

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nice -- Writer's Poke #175

If you ever watch House Hunters, you know that most people have very limited vocabularies.

Q: "So, John, what do you think of the kitchen?"

A: "It's nice."

Q: "And how did your lobotomy go?"

A: "It turned out very nicely."

Sure, it makes a great drinking game, but why can't the average person be more descriptive? Why is it that everything is "nice," or if we're even more jazzed by what we see, we think that "very nice" adequately expresses the idea? Doesn't that mean that there are various levels of "nice," and if so, why are we so opposed to using a more specific word to more vividly describe what we're seeing. And more importantly, what we're feeling.

In contrast, some MTV "reality shows," such as Parental Control and Next seem horribly scripted. While watching, you just know that the people involved in the shows would never talk that way or that they would even be capable of thinking up those lines on their own. But perhaps stilted language is preferable to stultified vocabularies?

How would you describe your vocabulary? Have you ever taken specific steps to improve it?

"How nice -- to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive." -- Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Skin on the Strip -- Writer's Poke #174

One of the little things I like to do when I stay in a hotel is check out the number of escort services listed in the town's yellow pages. Any city that's moderately big has at least a few, but probably no place has more than Las Vegas. Hell, if the phone company was smart, they'd create a whole separate directory -- maybe instead of the yellow pages they could call it the black book (or the red-light book?).

Las Vegas is one of the few places where such matters are not just hidden in phone books and industrial areas. Skin is advertised right on the Strip. Of course I've noticed that the farther north on the Strip you go, up around the Stratosphere, for example, the more likely you are to find Mexican-Americans handing out baseball-cards of Veronica and Amy, and maybe the twins -- Misty and Sarah. 

Most people tend to walk on by, ignoring the outstretched offerings of the smut peddlers. But the last time my wife and I hit the Strip, we collected all the cards we could. That's rather unusual for my wife to get excited about naked bimbos, but our plan was to put a bunch of the cards in an envelop and mail them anonymously to a friend, or maybe to a friend's wife. Imagine the joy of sharing Las Vegas with an unsuspecting loved one, or loved-one's wife.

That's who Linda and I are, really. Givers. And more than anything, that's what Las Vegas is, too. It's a town where a lot of people have a lot that their willing to give. To get an idea of what they're willing to give, just flip the cards over to their backs. There you will find a comprehensive list of services. 

Do your values change depending on your location, or who you're with?

"I just knew they should have made her naked." -- Mark Cuban

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Denny's-mania -- Writer's Poke #173

Denny's used its Super Bowl ad to invite America to a free Grand Slam breakfast, and families with litters of children responded.

The offer was good from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and when I headed to my local Denny's at 1 p.m., the parking lot was still completely full, and cars were parked down the street. Even the adjacent vacant lot was half-full. All this for a free Grand Slam that retails for four bucks on weekdays.

People were standing in a line that extended out the door, patiently waiting in 10 degree weather for up to half an hour. For Denny's. Was this an advertising stunt gone wrong?

"I'd hate to be a waitress working at Denny's today," I heard one Nascar-jacket wearing gentleman say and then spit three feet from me. At that point, I decided a free meal wasn't worth the hassle. After tax, a coke, and a tip, I was planning on it costing me at least five dollars anyway, and so I headed down the street to Culvers

Did Denny's really lose any money on this promotion? I rather doubt it. Two strips of bacon, two eggs, two sausage strips, and two pancakes probably runs them a dollar or so, and they surely made up the cost with all the overpriced cokes and OJ's they sold. In other words, any money they lost they made up in volume.

Maybe Denny's is on to something. Maybe they should give away their food for free all of the time.

What would you do for a free meal?

"There's no such thing as a free lunch." -- Milton Friedman

Monday, February 2, 2009

Three Wishes -- Writer's Poke #172

If I were somehow granted three wishes, my initial reaction would be to wish for health, wealth, and happiness.

But why wish for things that are within my power to control? That is, at least to some extent, I control the power to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. To "wish" for these things seems to indicate that they must be given to me by a power greater than myself. And I reject that.

So what's worth wishing for? What about something like World Peace? That's something that a lot of people would like to see happen, but is it worth wishing for?

What I'm working through in my own mind is: when does the wish eliminate a person's willingness to work for it? If we can work for world peace, then why sit around wishing for it?

Save the wishes for the impossible. If it's possible, you don't need a Genie. Just the willingness to believe and work hard.

So, if you had three wishes, what would you wish for? And more importantly, knowing there's no one around to grant you three wishes, how can you achieve the three things you've selected?

"Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes; lesser ones exist on wishes and inclinations." -- Kenneth Hilderbrand

Life Is a Flower -- Ace of Base

Steve Martin said that when you listen to banjo music, you can't be angry at the same time. The instrument's sound is just too upbeat.

Listening to Ace of Base works the same principle. Here's "Life Is a Flower," which is the same tune as "Whenever You're Near Me" with alternative lyrics.

Silly video, but you can't watch it and be angry at the same time. Or, if you are angry when you start watching it, you won't be by the end -- unless you're one of those few people that hates Ace of Base, which means you really hate life, and there's no cure for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why I Hate the Steelers -- Writer's Poke #171

The first Super Bowl I can remember watching was Super Bowl XV. The Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and it wasn't even close. After that game, I inexplicably became an Eagles fan.

I grew up in a small town in central Illinois, and all of my friends were Chicago Bears fans. But even in first grade, I didn't understand why people felt obligated to support the team in their region. Yes, I liked the Bears, but the Eagles were my team.

But why didn't I become a Raiders fan? And what explained the negative reaction I had to other teams? I hated the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the silliest of reasons -- I just didn't like their uniforms.

Other teams, though, I simply hated without cause. One of those teams was the Pittsburgh Steelers.

An Eagles fan might hate the Redskins or the Cowboys, and that is easy to explain as they all played in the same division. Explaining a hatred of the Steelers is not so easy. Not only did the Steelers play in a different division, but they played in a different conference, and it wasn't likely that they would even play the Eagles most years, unless both teams made it to the Super Bowl.

So why hate the Steelers? Perhaps I hated them for being such a dominate team in the 70s; I've always rooted for the underdog, and if a team is too good, a lot of fair-weather fans join the bandwagon. I've never liked that.

Is that really why I first started hating the Steelers? Probably not, and "hate" is probably too strong a word to use for disliking any sports team. Nevertheless, let's just say I strongly dislike the Steelers, and in the end, I don't need to rationalize the reason. It's part of the fun of being a fan.

What do you hate? Do you ever try to rationalize or justify why hating is okay?

"I hate quotations." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson