I’m Sorry, Odd Ogg!

If you haven’t seen the new movie, Toy Story 3, wait until you’re ready to apologize to all the stuff in your basement. As soon as you get home from the theater, you’ll want to go down there to let everyone out of their box and tell them you’re sorry you haven’t played with them in years. Here’s one from my house.

Odd Ogg was a mechanical marvel. Your job was to roll the ball to him with the intention of putting it right under the middle of his body. If you did that, he’d move in your direction. If you missed to one side or the other, he’d open his mouth and “razz” you while backing away. If you could get Odd Ogg to come all the way to you, you’d “win”. If he wound up across the room, you’d “lose”. But getting him to stick out his plastic tongue was its own reward.

I suspect my parents found this appalling. The toy was an electronic gizmo. I’m sure they balked at having to buy batteries for the thing just because I didn’t have the imagination to bestow personalities on my toys. The toys had to come with personalities built in -but why did this one have to be so rude? After years of instructing my not to stick out my tongue and “razz” my brother, here’s a device that sends exactly the opposite message! What kind of adults will our children turn into after playing with unkind toys like this?

They turned into the kind of adults who get weepy and nostalgic when they think about their ill-mannered, totally cool toys.

What’s in your basement?

Build An Insult

British Petroleum took some lumps yesterday at a hearing in the House.
It was no surprise.

Elected officials look powerless in this situation. Naturally they want to whomp the BP guy a time or two while he’s sitting right in front of them with his arms tied to the chair. He can’t fight back because it would only make his company look worse, which would be an amazing achievement in itself, but not worth the trouble.

Our representatives had a free swing, and many of them took it. The real hazard for any Congressman wanting a piece of this fun was that some other solon might use their favorite string of insulting terms first, rendering their outrage repetitive.

That’s why it is so vitally important to hold a few extras in reserve.

Come on, Congressman Babooner! You might make it on to the evening news if you follow the script to develop your own unique bit of executive scolding!

Sir, I am appalled at the magnitude of this disaster and the …

Inconsiderate
Careless
Disorganized
Clueless
Haphazard
Stupid
Artless
Bumbling
Tone-deaf
Reckless
Moronic

… way that your …

Bird-sliming
Resource-plundering
Seafloor-ravaging
Well-fumbling
Drill-dropping
Turtle-fouling
Oil-splooping
Shrimp-poisoning
Gulf-wrecking
Coast-mucking

Company
Entity
Evil Empire
Circus of Fools
Death Star
Brainless Collection of Oafs
Lurching Monolith
Assassin’s Club
Clown Detail
Snagglepuss

… moved so quickly to …

Dodge
Deflect
Duck
Blunt
Redirect
Off Load
Escape
Evade
Elude
Sidestep

… responsibility for what is sure to be remembered as the most profound example of …

Arrogance
Incompetence
Fecklessness
Selfishness
Short Sightedness
Clumsiness
Dithering
Self-Destruction
Whoopsiness
Bad, bad publicity

… in this, or any other …

decade
century!
millennium!
eon!
star date!
hearing!
meeting room!
legislative chamber!
arena!
chamber of horrors!

Sir, at long last, have you no …

Shame?
Morals?
Scruples?
Values?
Standards?
Conscience?
Decency?
Spare Change?
Pants on?
Bananas?

Are you an effective scold? Be nice!

Diseases of the Eye

I came down with a case of conjunctivitis, which sounds like it ought to be a disease of language. In a logical world, conjunctivitis would be “an uncontrolled swelling of the connective tissue between words, phrases and clauses”.

Example:

“We can beat Ike Clanton’s gang at O.K. Corral,” Wyatt Earp told the sheriff, “BUT I’ll need you and your deputies to back me up”.

“But, but … that’s a mighty big BUT, Mr. Earp. “

“It is a big but, but I’ve got conjunctivitis so I can’t help it. My buts are huge and out of control. And so are my so’s. And my ands!”

Alas, conjunctivitis is not about inflamed conjunctions, or about language at all. It’s the official term for “Pink Eye”, which is a swelling of the tissue around the eyeball but even that seems inadequate. “Pink Eye” sounds too emotionally rich and secretly fun to be attached to such a dreary condition. It ought to be the way we describe a look of fierce flamboyance.

Example:

“I’m trying to keep my distance from Melvin. He’s got that feather boa out of its box, and he’s been giving me the Pink Eye all night.”

Other misnamed maladies:

Cowpox: You can get it from handling the udder of a cow, but if you are a typical urbanite, you’d be more likely to get it from cats or mice. If the infection gave you big brown eyes and made you look like a Holstein, maybe the name would fit. It doesn’t.

Hay Fever: Next time you start sneezing, check to see if there’s any hay around. And while you’re looking, where’s the fever?

Morning Sickness: If only it limited itself to one time of day.

Clearly these are maladies that were named by people who weren’t feeling well enough to be exact. And it doesn’t stop at illnesses. What about Iceland and Greenland? Literally and figuratively, let’s not even go there.

Nickels aren’t pure nickel. Eyeglasses contain no glass. Peanuts are beans. Shooting stars aren’t stars. Panama hats came from Ecuador. Freeways aren’t free.

Should we establish a commission to re-name every misleading thing?
If we did, what would we call it?

And Now A Word …

Talk, talk, talk, talk. It’s about time we heard from oil.
Not Big Oil. Just … oil.

Friends,

I hope we still are. Friends, I mean.

You set me free

I remember when you first found me. Things had been quiet for some time. My many years of being “alive” were long over, and I had languished in the depths. I felt useless until you brought me to the surface and somehow miraculously invented a way to involve me in the world you were building.

I understand that I wasn’t very attractive when you found me. I know that I needed to be “refined”. Would it have been nicer for you to accept me as I am? Of course, but that’s not your nature. I had been through so many changes already, I was not afraid of another transformation if it meant that we could be together, even for a moment. And the rapid combustion of meeting you … it was exhilarating. You were happy too. I could see your eyes watering with joy even as I became a gaseous haze and floated away. Let’s face it. We used each other.

We had some good times here

It did occur to me very early on that you might use me up. I didn’t care. But when some started to say that I would eventually “run out” … that hurt. I listened for an answer that mentioned how faithful I had been, how completely willing I was to sacrifice myself for you and all the crazy things you wanted to do.

Including jet fuel. Do you think it mattered to me whether you could fly or not? Big deal! But it was important to you, so I got refined again and again. Long after you got bored with flying, I still went through that anguishing “process” and then set myself on fire so you could “take off”. Is the thrill gone? For me, it was never here.

In spite of that we had a lot of fun. Yes, I blew up sometimes. You knew you had to handle me properly. I’m not saying it was never my fault, but it’s fair to say that you understood my nature and were careless in ways that I found astounding.

Me, everywhere

And now I’m unwelcome and apparently have made a mess of things. I hear you using words like “filth” and “ruin” and I wonder if you even remember that you came for me and opened the door and invited me and even begged me to come rushing to you.

Maybe I am just a horrible “spill”. Unwanted and uncontrolled and unrefined and unaware that I am undeniably in the wrong place. But this is my world too, and I didn’t ask for any of this. Perhaps I don’t belong on a pristine beach, but when I see you nestled into a pocket of glowing white sand, the word “blight” does not seem out of place.

I guess we really are more similar than either one of us is willing to admit.

Ever feel completely misunderstood?

Our Man Friday

It was one and a half weeks ago that perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden stopped by the studio on my last day of work to announce his “Man Friday” concept, his new dream summer job, to be a personal assistant “to some rich person. You know, I wanna be the guy who’s always going to get their dry cleaning and stuff”. The only problem was finding a person in need of personal assistance who also has the money to hire him.
When I saw him last, Bubby was headed up toward Mickey’s Diner to find a client.
Here’s his latest update:

Bubby When He Was a Sophomore the First Time

Hey Mr. C.,

It’s the second day of summer break and still no personal assistant job! And I’ve been working so hard to try to find one, asking random people if they want a “Man Friday”. You know what? You get some pretty wild answers to that question, especially in downtown St. Paul. I’ve learned lots of really descriptive terms and phrases in just the past few days, so I’ll have plenty of cool sayings to teach the first graders on the bus next fall.

Anyway, nobody took me up on my offer and I didn’t accept of theirs either. I guess this just isn’t the right part of the country for a guy who wants to work as a personal assistant. Maybe I should go to New York! Personal assistants are like pigeons there – you can’t get away from them. In fact I hear that all the people you see on the streets are P.A.’s – that’s why they’re always rushing around. Their rich people stay hidden inside buildings and cars, yelling demands into the phone.

But I don’t want to do anything too hard or icky. They have strong unions there, don’t they? Maybe there’s, like, an Organized Brotherhood of Personal Assistants or something. And if there’s no O.B.P.A. maybe I could start one. I’d be the head organizer and lead negotiator and once we get the union built all the way up maybe I could be, like, the union president – the guy who calls for a strike for higher wages, shorter hours, less shouting.

We’d be a great union. Loud. Smart. Efficient. Militant. And just really, really helpful.

Good idea, huh? Now all I need is a way to get to New York, and a few days to get the union started. You don’t suppose it would be a lot of work, do you?

I wrote Bubby and told him yes, I do suppose it would be a lot of work. Organizing anything is. But if he doesn’t want to work, he shouldn’t be looking at a personal assistant’s career anyway.

Have you ever had a job or a task turn out to be much, much bigger than you anticipated?

Local Homeowner Vanishes in Yard

A gang of unsupervised weeds made aggressive and dangerous by a three-day rain may be responsible for the sudden disappearance of a local man.

The man, whose name was withheld by police pending notification of his relatives, was last seen in the street in front of his overgrown property. He was headed toward the weeds with a pair of clippers.

“I don’t know what he thought he was going to do”, said a neighbor, Art Gardener. “You can’t deal with unruly mega-weeds on a unilateral basis. You need heavy artillery with plenty of back up. What did he have? Clippers?
Give me a break! They’ll eat you alive.”

People in the area say they have been complaining regularly about the out-of-control situation.

“Nothing official”, said Gardener. “Just the usual behind-the-back comments. Wondering how the lawn got so wild. I mean, we’ve all got green space here and we know it can get out of hand. This one was just so … outrageous. People were horrified and fascinated all at once. One guy said it was schadenfreude. But I think it was ordinary pigweed.”

Shortly after the man headed back into his “lawn”, Gardener and others in the area became alarmed when they saw bits of foliage flying into the air and heard sounds of a struggle. The man did not re-emerge. Police were called, but helicopter searches and sonar failed to find evidence of a body, living or dead.

Satellite imagery confirmed the existence of a house at the center of the thicket. Authorities assume the rest of the family is safely blockaded inside the structure, and authorities hope the man is with them.

“He got out of the house and all the way to the street at least once, so it’s possible that he made it back into the house.” said Sgt. Lisa Shears of the Metro P.D.. “We’ll know once we get back in there, possibly at daybreak depending on the weather. The plan is to drive right up to the front door with a tank we borrowed from the National Guard. We’ll map the path from the satellite photo and send in some rabbit-mounted cameras first to be sure he’s not lying there between the street and the stoop, and then we’ll go in with the heavy equipment and some Round-up and God knows what we’ll find.”

The family may have run out of food a few days ago, though experts say survival is possible.

“You can eat dandelions” said Gardener. “But if one of these big boys goes into puffball stage while it’s in your stomach, it’ll put you through some changes.”

Do you struggle against nature?

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