Category Archives: Dr. Babooner

A Dust Up Over Dust

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I get all my information about the world through YouTube.

Yesterday, I watched with great interest as a video explained how dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa nourishes the rain forest in South America.

These NASA researchers are doing wonderful things to demonstrate to a selfish and xenophobic public how our small world is truly interconnected. And it got me thinking how unfortunate it is that our culture does not respect the immense value of dust, which is something people love to complain about when they find it in their homes, or when they dress up like cowboys and go out for an evening’s entertainment.

Thanks to these two videos, I had a revelation!

Dust isn’t a problem – it’s a great boon! Phosphorus is only one part of the Gift Of Dust (G.O.D.) bestows on the world. Dust is what we eventually become, so some of the dust blowing across the ocean (and even collecting on my coffee table) is connected directly to my ancestors.

This is something that should humble us and make us grateful!

For this reason, I just told my wife I will no longer try to remove dust from our home, but rather, I will worship it from here on out and leave it untouched.

But instead of honoring my spiritual epiphany, she handed me a rag and some Lemon Pledge, and told me to get to work.

Dr. Babooner, please say I am right so I can show your answer to my wife and prove that she is in the wrong.

Sincerely,
Dusty Hubby

I told Dusty Hubby that Dr. Babooner does not like to be used to settle domestic arguments although she realizes this is sometimes the unavoidable fallout that comes with living in the world. In the very same way, dust is unavoidable fallout that apparently does some good in the rainforest, but that does not mean it’s equally useful when it collects on your coffee table. Even if it contains a tiny bit of great grandpa, worshipping the dust in your house is just another way to say you’re devoted to leisure, and your G.O.D. is actually the Lay Z Boy.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

In A Tale Spin

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m a professional storyteller with an unusual specialty for a tale-spinner. I built a career on the notion that every word I speak is absolutely true.

As a result I became very popular and trusted.

But then a funny thing happened – I discovered that a bit of exaggeration can turn a merely good story a really great one!

Like the yarn I used to tell about standing in the open door of a military helicopter while it was preparing to land. As the aircraft neared the ground, the wind grabbed my hat and blew it off my head. The hat was mercilessly chopped up by the helicopter’s rotors.

I was surprised and saddened by this because I loved that hat! But when I told this story at parties, people yawned. I realized that they did not find the fate of my hat very compelling.

So then I started to tell the story a little differently, saying that the wind picked up and I was blown out the door of the helicopter – all of me, not just my hat. Fortunately, we were only about 30 feet above the ground and I fell in a haystack and was unhurt. But for a little added color, I threw in the detail that my hat blew off and was chopped up by the rotors on the way down.

At least that part was still true.

People liked this version of the story a lot better! It was so much better, they actually stopped talking to each other and listened while I told it!

Dr. Babooner, you can understand why I used this version of the story at parties and gatherings of all sorts, right up to the day I told it at a county fair and a haberdasher and a farmer challenged me on it. The hat maker said any wind strong enough to blow a man out the door of a helicopter would have separated him from his headgear long before he took flight.

And the farmer simply pointed out that hay isn’t as soft as it looks.

Overnight my fortunes changed. Although I had been one of the most trusted people in the world the day before, I suddenly became just another liar.

Critics said I betrayed the people’s trust. But the way I look at it, “trust” is what you have when you believe someone in spite of evidence to the contrary. How could people “trust” me one day and not the next? It seems to me their “trust” doesn’t mean much if it can be totally reversed in so short a time. I may have enhanced the truth a tad to make it a better story, but does that make me worse than a fickle truster?  I don’t think so.

My lawyer advised me not to say any of this out loud or it would just make things worse. He’s a jerk and I don’t any faith in him, but my family says I should do as he says because he always wins.

But I think hay is pretty cushy no matter what some dumb farmer says. I’m betting everything I have on getting a soft landing now! Should I?

Sincerely,
Hatless in Manhattan

I told H.I.M. to put more faith in his family and his lawyer, and less in his questionable memory. Challenging the people who used to trust you but don’t any longer because you were caught in a lie is not a strategy to regain their confidence, it’s confirmation that they were wrong about you all along. The best course is to ask for forgiveness and devote yourself to fiction from this day forward, because people will never accept the truth from you now unless it is carefully hidden inside a lie.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m an ordinary non-scientific American who doesn’t quite agree with what the brainiacs in lab coats have to say about science-y things evolution, climate change and Frankenfoods.

The harder they argue that their research contradicts what I feel is true, the less likely I am to accept it.

The media talking heads think this disconnect provides clear evidence that I’m a great big dummy, but actually I’m a normal sized person. And I’m just like a lot of other very normal people in one key area – I get stubborn and resentful when another person tells me they know what’s going on and I don’t.

I find it exasperating that scientists, who seem to be so intelligent in other areas, don’t get this basic human truth – nobody likes a smarty pants. And here’s the tricky part – I actually respect science and I want to believe what they’re saying, but I feel like they won’t let me because of the way they deliver information.

So I’m sure you’re wondering why somebody as defensive as me would ask you for advice. The fact is, I’m only doing it because you’re an animal, Dr. Babooner.

A lot of people like me feel more comfortable talking to hairy beasts than we do to other humans. For instance I’ve noticed that the only authority figure in a lab coat who doesn’t make me instantly angry is Mr. Peabody, and he’s a dog.

So, given that they desperately need better PR, why do scientists insist on issuing their learned proclamations from ivory towers rather than explaining important issues like global warming and GMO’s in a more palatable way. Like maybe through the lips of cartoon animals?

Quizzically,
John Q. Public

Dear Mr. Public,

I’m flattered that you think I’m somehow more approachable than a scientist because I am hairy. But I have to point out that the only reason my hair looks the way it does – is science. A wild baboon would never have the time or the chemicals to make it do this.

Scientists issuing their major reports through the lips of cartoon animals might indeed make the information more palatable for resentful Americans like yourself, but you’re forgetting that intelligent people do like to receive credit for their knowledge, even if they are, technically, a “smarty pants.”

Maybe your uninformed stubbornness would be easier to take if you denounced careful scientific research through the furry lips of a very cute big-eyed kitten.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m disturbed by a new wave of thinking in business circles that accepts a pack of troubling conclusions about the “speaking-up” styles of men vs. women in the workplace. The gist of it is that men who speak up frequently in office meetings are rewarded for their ideas more than women are for offering the same or equally good ideas.

Supporting all this is the notion that men are good at projecting confidence even when (especially when) they don’t know anything, whereas women are merely competent in all the areas that matter most. But in spite of their abilities, the women tend to remain quiet in meetings because they’re tired of having supremely confident men walk all over them and steal their ideas.

Dr. Babooner, I’m a man who has worked collaboratively with women throughout my career so I can honestly say it sounds like nonsense to me. I’ve always been supportive of my female colleagues. I remember about ten years ago I was in a meeting to talk about a problem getting the product out of our glass fruit warehouse when Heather suggested we speed up the conveyor belts by 1/5th of a mile per hour. She thought a small adjustment like that would reverberate all through the system and marginally improve our delivery times.

I got so excited by her good idea I jumped in before she was even done talking and said we should increase speeds by 5 miles per hour to make the product fly off our shelves! And because I so quickly and enthusiastically endorsed and improved the concept, they put me in charge of the project!

But I never missed an opportunity to let people know it was HER idea, not mine!

Sadly, Heather left the company the following year after refusing to take responsibility for all the product breakage we were seeing in the warehouse. I think that’s the real problem with women in the corporate workplace – they aren’t willing to accept the consequences of their high level decisions.

Dr. Babooner, your picture makes it look like you’re a woman so you’re probably not going to agree with me, but I’m absolutely certain I’ve got this one right. But how can I overcome this new prevailing assumption that my confidence is just testosterone-induced blustering?

With Supreme Assurance,
Mr. Positive

I told Mr. P that a smart office player always works WITH prevailing assumptions, not against them. Since the latest scholarship has already concluded his approach is complete BS, he should wait for a female co-worker to point it out and then endorse her criticism with all the manly force he uses for his other positions. By selling his colleagues on the effectiveness of his false certainty, he can still dominate the decision making.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I believe in setting goals and taking positive action to achieve them, so I have great ambitions for 2015. I want this to be the year I learn to crochet and finally finish my Master’s Degree in Applied Physics.

And I also want to walk a tightrope across a narrow part of the Grand Canyon.

I’m very linear, so I’m going to get to work on the crocheting first. Once I’ve perfected that, I’ll brush up on my math, and after I’ve got that Master’s Degree in hand I’ll start with my balancing practice.

But I’ve also realized that achieving new things feels pointless unless you can share them with the world, so I’m wondering if having a camera crew follow me around might be a good idea.

Having a production crew to document your activities just seems to make sense in the age of digital media. Me reaching my tightrope goal will be a dramatic video event all by itself, but I’m thinking it will be great to have some martial music playing in the background while people watch me work on my math and crocheting.

Something like the music Kim Jong Un uses in this new video about him flying a plane is exactly the thing I have in mind.

The subtitles help too! I’ll add subtitles to my crocheting video for sure, since they speak a special language in that field that only a few people know. We’ll probably be fine without subtitles for my other achievements, since everybody pretty much gets it about Applied Physics and gravity.

Dr. Babooner, I’m excited about my 2015 goals but I’m not sure I should reveal them to the world right now. Declaring my intentions will force me into action because avoiding embarrassment means there can be no turning back. But I know it would be much less stressful for me if I set my goals quietly and announced my magnificent achievements only AFTER they were actually achieved.

What would you do?
Excited But Already Exhausted

I told E.B.A.E. that quiet goal setting is much less stressful, but often it ends right there. If you really want to reach a difficult goal, you have to corner yourself into doing it by declaring your intentions to the world, or at least to the people whose approval you crave. That said, I think documenting your life with a video crew, martial music and subtitles is a great idea even if you don’t achieve remarkable things.

ESPECIALLY if you don’t achieve remarkable things.

 

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m a huge fan of birds – and I love them all equally with just a few exceptions. And even though I won’t speak ill of any feathered creature, it’s clear to me that just like humans, some birds are able to get by solely on their looks.

The Bald Eagle, for example. It has a striking profile but really, just about any other bird would have been a better national emblem. I’d wager the titmouse would be on our money instead of that self-important white-headed slob if not for the unfortunate setback of an unusually meek-sounding name.

Good looks do not always (or ever!) translate into good personal qualities. But if you have to judge on looks alone, it’s the minor details that make the greatest difference. Nice hair and an impressive physique don’t say as much as the simple sincerity of a smile. Though they are all reprobates, one bald eagle might be slightly nicer than another, but how can we tell? That’s why I have often said that birds would be better off if they had lips and teeth, rather than those non-expressive beaks!

People tell me this is a weird thought.

But now it turns out scientists have been able to identify the moment in evolution when birds got stuck with beaks instead of teeth. Yes, it was that close – in the fundamental make-up of some ancestor a handful of genes were misplaced and suddenly it’s goodbye molars – put it on my bill!

This has made me keenly aware of the importance of hanging on to all my most inconsequential parts and finding a daily use for everything I was born with, lest those features be lost forever. And I admit it has required some gymnastics on my part and my wife insists that I wait until she is out of the house before I do the exercises that utilize my coccyx and my (male) nipples, but I think I’m serving mankind by trying to keep these endangered features in the DNA mix.

Dr. Babooner, people say I’m daft but I hope to have the last laugh. If laughing survives that long!

Sincerely,
Trait Protector

I told T.P. it’s pointless to fight evolution and the thought of birds with lips and teeth is not only weird, it’s creepy. His obsession with all this is admirable, but ultimately in a multi-tasking world such one-mindedness is yet another trait we will eventually learn to do without.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Love Storm, Revisited

This morning at 9am, my good friend Mike Pengra will re-air the final broadcast of MPR’s Morning Show on Radio Heartland, recorded 6 years ago today.

Such a kind gesture from a true gentleman!

Since it’s only good manners to bring a gift of some sort to a party, I’ll offer this – a post from the old “Trail Balloon” blog that immediately followed the event itself:

Our final Morning Show broadcast was an immense hug and a truly beautiful thing thanks to the waves of faithful listeners who flowed to and through the Fitzgerald Theater and St. Paul’s Central Presbyterian Church. The size of the crowd went well beyond our expectations (I wagered 1500) and their warmth was off the charts.

As a lifelong radio guy, I am naturally timid at the thought of facing a live audience, but this group was as comfort-inducing as any collection of 2000 souls can be. What’s the opposite of an unruly mob? A ruly mob, I guess. That’s what we had.

All the heartfelt words of praise for our Morning Show were oh so welcome, but after awhile I did begin to feel a bit guilty. Let’s face it, everybody works hard and the stress of day-to-day living takes a toll. Who wouldn’t get a boost from having a gaggle of admiring people asking for your autograph? I confess I enjoyed it tremendously, but I recognize that most people deserve a kind word and a pat on the back for the good things they do every day, and do they get it? You know the answer. Sorry Jim Ed and I hogged the love storm, but what could we do? It blew down the doors.

The Morning Show is done. It was a long-running and sometimes confounding radio gymnastics routine with plenty of twists and flourishes and it looked like we would come crashing down a couple of times, but our spotters were there for us and gravity gave us some lucky breaks, and the dismount was incredible.

When have you finished well?