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Tuesday, Aug 30th

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Fables for a Modern Age

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There came a sturm und drang-y time in the nation when the old myths, tales, and dreams no longer applied for 99 percent of the people.

And so, the great mass of people gnashed their remaining teeth and cried out for help, pleading and beseeching into all corners of the land, seeking a new champion to set things right -- to have new stories constructed, which would then help the People survive their overly restrained and heavily-regulated lives at the hands of a cruel and unjust emperor, called the President.

And so, the people went straight to the well which was poisoning them, which was Unrestrained, Celebratory, Cutthroat Capitalism, and drew from that well a well-dunked champion who had arcane knowledge of chants and spells, and who also had some tips on how best to drink from the well's wooden bucket without anyone catching on, or having to pay the evil emperor for the right to do so.

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Toward the New Neo-Con Con

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So far, the conversation about real extremism in America has been underwhelming, ranging on the low side of things, pinging in the ones and twos on the Overall Awareness Meter.

Such is the reward when focusing the energies and efforts of all hands, and all eyes, on the ugly, snarling surface issues espoused by extremists.  If you trick people into noticing only the incoherent policies and speeches made by your candidate right now, however crazed or crass they may be, you can get these same people to blow past the lowest-gravity spots where previously inconceivable thoughts and verbalizations really start to bubble and bake.

Such is the alluring quicksand of true lunacy.  Some practiced candidates are able to sound a bit whacky, and others even more than a smidge crazy -- but it takes clinically-approved sociopaths and psychotics to master the crowd-speak of madness, to pull off the snake-charmer act combining snake-charming, talking in tongues, and hypnotizing the masses.

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Oh, Goody: Oyyow.

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Wonderful.  We've managed to get through another set of political conventions.

Frankly, this is tantamount to celebrating a fleeting victory over jaundice,  a temporary flare-up of malaria, or an ongoing resurgence in hemorrhoids.

If I didn't know better -- and I'm not sure that I do, not anymore -- I'd say someone slipped some blotter-paper acid, or mind-warping alien spores, into my preventively-medicated, yeast-enhanced beverage.

Of course, it could also be that the candidates themselves have divvied up the hallucinatory goods, right before each one got off their respective Gravy Trains, for their respective stops at Podiumville.

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Can't Sleep? Me Too

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Newt Gingrich crawled onto Fox last Thursday evening and proclaimed to his boy-toy Sean Hannity that he had lost his fucking mind by saying, "Western civilization is in a war, We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Our forces should be used to systematically destroy every Internet based source, and frankly if we can't destroy them through the Internet, we should destroy them with kinetic power using various weapons starting with predators and frankly just killing them.”

Not to be out-crazied, Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump agreed that it's not just isolated ISIS attacks anymore because “we” are now in a World War.

I know … I know … Fox's overriding agenda is to scare the shit out of the old folks hooked on their cheap crank but c'mon … World War Three? Seriously?

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We Will Never Get What We Want or … The House Always Wins

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The saying, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is the condensed version of:

Every year people go to Las Vegas, and the billions of dollars they lose gambling … stays in Vegas.

The house has a built in advantage on all the games. The gambler who plays long enough … will lose. The Smart Gambler plays the games with the smallest House Edge like Baccarat or Craps. The Idiot Gambler goes straight to Keno or the slot machines. But lowering the odds doesn't mean you are going to win. It just means you might win some of the time, but overall you'll lose more slowly.

Commercial casinos gross about 34.6 billion yearly, Native American casinos rake in bout 18.5 billion, and state lotteries do a little better at 19.1 billion. Add it all up and you're looking at 72.2 billion dollars lost every year by people who don't seem to care that all the games are rigged in favor of The House.

The House Edge. Everyone knows about it. Everyone knows the rules. Gambling is a consensual act. If I gamble and lose … I have no one to blame but myself. Y'see I knew it was a rigged game before I bet my first dollar. And knowing the House Edge ... I would rather wager my life's savings in Las Vegas than vote in an American presidential election. At least I'd have a chance of winning in the casino.

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What's the Signpost Up Ahead?

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For anyone driving through the American countryside before 1963 there was a good chance they'd see a series of six signs spaced along the side of the road written to entertain and promote the sale of Burma Shave “brushless” shaving cream. Here's one of the last set of signs from 53 years ago:

We don't

Know how

To split an atom

But as to whiskers

Let us at 'em

Burma Shave

The Burma-Vita company's original product was a liniment made of ingredients described as having come from "The Malay Peninsula and Burma." Sales were poor until the company hit upon the road sign advertising gimmick, and at its peak, Burma-Shave was the second-highest-selling brushless shaving cream in the United States. But now those quaint little signs of Americana are as dead as Dodo Birds.

You can find examples of them by Googling around the web, and you can find pictures of Dodo birds too if you want. But you won't find either one of them in their “natural habitat.” They're gone. As Monty Python would say, they've kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible.” They are extinct.

But Burma Shave signs are culturally extinct. In 1963 the company was sold to cigarette king Phillip Morris, spun off to a Phillip Morris subsidiary, and now is owned by the Energizer Bunny. Energizer could bring Burma Shave signs back by kicking off a nostalgic retro roadside campaign, but nothing short of Jurassic Park technology will bring the Dodo Bird back. The Dodo is really really extinct. They've been gone since 1662 and they're never coming back. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote many times, “And So It Goes.”

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Symptomatic Nerve Gas

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One of the low-key lunatics who skulked around the Seattle's University District would set up shop on the corner of 47th and Brooklyn near the Safeway and rant to anyone within earshot about UFO’s and the CIA. He carried hand-lettered signs detailing in teeny tiny print exactly what the CIA and the UFOs were up to. Not a bad act compared to other street shouters I've seen. If you passed him on the street when he wasn't “performing” he'd mutter “Symptomatic Nerve Gas.” out of the corner of his mouth like a gangster from a 1930's Warner Brothers film.

I never stopped to ask him about Symptomatic Nerve Gas because I had learned years before to never engage with street corner crazies. They were on A Mission … while I was simply curious. Guys like that are searching for full-time converts … not dilettantes. They could get downright testy when they realized I didn't buy into their particular brand of crazy. Don't poke crazy bears with sticks I always say.

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