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Don’t Take Manhattan

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/12/2010

[NOTE: This is sort of a follow-up to “Unborn” Again. But I apologize in advance that you’ll have to read most of this post before you find the “stupid Kentucky” connection. Trust me, though … it’s here. ]

The New Yawk Background

Back on November 20th, I must have been lulled to sleep by the sun shining so bright and the people shining so dumb. Or, more likely, that was one of the many days when the only things I read in the newspaper were the Jumble and Zits.

So I was surprised to learn today that  nearly four months ago, a group of hate-mongers issued The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.  (Warning: Don’t click on the link if you have a sensitive stomach.)

Among the nearly 430,000 (!) signatories can be found the usual exemplars of loving kindness, people like Charles Colson, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and hundreds of other so-called leaders of Catholic, Evangelical, and Orthodox churches. The declaration’s “celebrity” supporters include Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, and other such conscience-driven types.

The Web site summarizes the Declaration this way:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

If the summary doesn’t get you gnashing your teeth sufficiently, go ahead and read the whole thing.  But do that only if you don’t want to keep your hair — because you’ll be tearing it out of your head in anger as you work your way through the document. (I’m  already balding, so losing a few more of my curly locks wasn’t such a tragedy.)

Obviously number (1) is about opposing abortion, although it’s dishonestly couched as protecting the lives of “the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly.” Besides abortion, the Declaration also singles out for God’s wrath “embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia.”

We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.

In other words, the Pro-Forced-Maternity forces will continue fighting for the souls of good, Christian blastocysts.

Number (2) expresses concern that “the institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted.” Watch out, you god-hating homos!

Number (3), though, is the slickest, slimiest, and most deceitful of all. Under the guise of promoting “religious liberty,” the Declaration urges civil disobedience among Christians if laws are not in keeping with numbers (1) and (2) — or, basically, anything else the churches dislike. That’s a pretty broad category, but it could well include a call to disobey environmental regulations, violate fiscal policy and controls, and teach whatever nonsense Christians choose to disseminate in publics schools. In its not-so-subtle wording, it could be used to justify clinic-bombing, gay-bashing, and the murder of science teachers who dare to inform their students about evolution. To put number (3) another way: if America refuses to become a theocracy, its laws are invalid.

The Eagerly Awaited “Stupid Kentucky” Connection

Thanks for your patience.

So yesterday, Kentucky’s House Resolution 232 was introduced and after what must have been whole seconds of debate it passed today by a voice vote on the floor. What is that resolution? Can you guess?

A RESOLUTION recognizing and honoring the efforts of those who have inspired thousands of Kentuckians with the Manhattan Declaration.

There’s a lot of pious blah-blah for a few paragraphs before the document actually states what those numnuts are seeking to resolve:

NOW, THEREFORE,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

  • Section 1. The House of Representatives recognizes and honors the efforts of those who have inspired thousands of Kentuckians with the Manhattan Declaration.
  • Section 2. The House of Representatives further wishes great success to those who are committed to the principles upon which our Commonwealth and indeed the nation at large were founded, and appreciates the heartfelt motivation of those whose calling it is to minister to others even as they declare and advocate for truth.

This resolution had 45 “yea” (or “yay”) votes— yup, you read that right: forty-five — from among the state’s 100 elected representatives. That’s nearly half of the chamber, all of whom were listed as sponsors, not merely supporters, of this drivel. And, amazingly, there’s not even a single reference to “hoops.” In case you’re wondering what happened to the other 55 members, they were recorded as “not voting.”

It’s now going to be really dangerous driving on Sunday mornings. Thousands of Kentucky Christians, hurrying to get to church, will feel obliged to disobey those ungodly traffic rules.

There oughta be a law against the legislature wasting time and money on nonsense like this. But, of course, good Christians would just continue to ignore it. Now that HR 232 has passed, they can even cite their own resolution as justification.

[Frivolous Appendix for Earworm fans:
Much to my chagrin, the Manhattan of the Declaration is not the one in Kansas. I was shocked to discover that Kentucky representatives would admit to loving anything that referred to New Yawk. But I guess I wouldn’t be surprised now if they select this as their theme song.]

[Addendum: 03/13/2010, 2:55 a.m.:
It appears that some of my facts about the “Stupid Kentucky” Connection were not correct as originally written. Apparently, everybody is stupid here, including me. I’ve edited the material to conform with the truth — which is still as scary as what I errroneously wrote.]

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Posted in Freedom from Faith, Music, New to Kentucky | 21 Comments »

But Will They Be Sane in April?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/06/2010

The U.K. Wildcats will be involved in “March Madness,” a yearly religious event in Kentucky. So today’s “Life + Faith” pages of our local rag asked the question: Is It OK to Pray to Win? Eight charlatans weighed in on this earth-shaking question.

Their answers are too stupid to dignify by quoting in full, but I’ll give you a quick summary.

Reverend Kory Wilcoxson says that praying for the Wildcats isn’t exactly wrong per se, obviously because it’s not covered in the Ten Commandments. But it’s one of those supplications that “God doesn’t like much.”

Reverend. Myron Williams disagrees. He’s content to pray for anything that will “bring honor to God through skills and sportsmanship.” Clearly, basketball is one of the primary ways to do that.

Reverend Bob Evely writes: “I do not think God takes sides. …I don’t believe he has preferences in our leisure activity.” That sounds reasonable in a Christian-y kind of way — until Evely expands on his thinking. He worries that Lexingtonians will make the team “our idol.” Hey, we all know how pissed off the Big Guy would get about that.

Reverend Joseph N. Greenfield starts off cutely. “Does God choose sides?” he asks, and answers “Absolutely.” Huh? But maybe, just maybe, he’s talking about whether or not humans are fer Jesus or agin’ him, not what their basketball preferences are. To be sure everybody understands this, Greenfield sprinkles in a few bible quotes, just so the reader will know he’s not making this shit up. However, he cleverly contrives to leave the question unanswered.

Reverend Roger Bruner, not to be outdone, also cites the good book, but he doesn’t approve of making book. He thinks the outcome of a basketball game is not God’s “business,” and he has the courage to tell March-Mad numnuts that “Prayer is not for this purpose.”

Sharon Donahue, a religious blogger who writes under the name Angela Merici O’Donoghue, compares the biblical story of Jericho’s fall to a college basketball tournament. “Joshua clinched a spot in the Final Four, defeating No. 1-ranked Jericho.” That’s either fucking brilliant or incredibly dumb, I haven’t decided. But the analogy provides enough razzle-dazzle for her to avoid answering the question.

Reverend Jim Sichko relates an entertaining story that allegedly occurred when he and his brother saw a prize-fighter praying before a match. (Will he win? Yes, if he can box.) We’ve all heard variants of this anecdote dozens of times, so it must be printed in the preacher’s handbook. The reverend adds: “God always answers my prayers, but sometimes, God’s answer will be ‘no.’” Nice! Although he ends his response by saying that “God has much larger issues to tackle than who wins,” Sichko makes sure to mention that he, himself, is a Wildcats fan. There’s no point in alienating the congregation, eh?

Reverend David Head assures readers that God is responsible for everything we enjoy in life, including, obviously, basketball. But “God does not take a side in athletic competition. He only has one side: his.” It’s not clear from the article whether Head actually wears a cheerleader outfit or not, but he can’t resist shaking those pom-poms as he mentions Jesus by name.

Augggh. What an incredibly stupid article, with “answers” that are even dumber than the premise. The Herald-Leader is beneath contempt for wasting valuable “newshole” on its ridiculous “Life + Faith” features, but this one really takes the (devil’s food) cake.

It’s no wonder that the very mention of Kentucky makes people in the rest of the country burst out laughing.

Posted in Freedom from Faith, New to Kentucky | 21 Comments »

Homesite Puzzler #3: Famous Kentuckians

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/05/2010

I complain a lot about my new home state, but we do have our share of famous folks. Why, just this morning, right under the banner on the local rag’s front page, was a boxed picture of an odd-looking movie character. In big letters were printed the words: Johnny in “Wonderland;” the caption below them read As the Mad Hatter, Kentucky native Depp goes the weird route again.

As far as I’m concerned, if he’d truly taken the “weird route,” he would have wound up back in Lexington. But perhaps there’s no room here.

In any case, that blatant example of boosterism got me thinking about other famous Kentuckians. And my love of Lewis Carroll got me thinking about puzzles. So what could be more natural than to combine those two ideas.

Therefore: Each item below is a clue to the identity of a famous person who lived in the Bluegrass State. When read as a sentence (or sentences), the words give a hint, although sometimes only a vague one. But each item also contains, in anagrammed form, the name of the person sought. The letters of the anagram always appear as consecutive complete words, although you may have to ignore some punctuation. Parenthetical information is included only to show each person’s Kentucky tie, and does not contain any anagrams.

[NOTE: Since I’d like to give a chance to as many readers as possible, I’m asking solvers not to include your answers in your comments. Instead, email your solutions to elwallberg@gmail.com. I’ll list the names of all those who get any of the anagrams right, along with the number of correct answers they’ve sent. The reader with the highest number wins a lovely photograph of Johnny Depp, cut from today’s LHL, and personally autographed (by me, not him). In case of a tie, each winner will receive a piece of the picture. (Hey, I’ve only got one).]

1. Did his farmer folks predict that this kid would grow up to espouse such a cagy creed?
(Born in Beverly, raised in Hopkinsville)

2. Was he a rabbi, priest, lama, imam? Duh! Although not a religious leader , he was very active in the Boxer Rebellion.
(Born in Louisville)

3. Yes, he might archly yen to reside in the White House, but he claimed he didn’t want to be president.
(Lived in Lexington)

4. Although she may look like the lamest hen, oh! she’s the only one with her own roost among the chickens.
(Born in Winchester)

5. His legends don’t mention whether he wore any robe in Vinegaroon.
(Born in Mason County)

6. If ye’re gay movie fans, does his “cool” engorge ye?
(Born in Lexington)

7. My dearie yawns when watching the news.
(Born in Glasgow, raised in Louisville)

8. The good ol’ boy in redneck jeans drives off with this guy’s flag.
(Born in Christian County)

9. Even the loudest drunk cannot air ire the way she did.
(Born in Garrard County)

10. This rare bird was bound on “a hajj,” muse-inspired, all over America.
(Ran a business in Louisville)

11. Some people thought he could even track ions!
(Born in Madison County)

12. He gave carefully selected information to a nosy town.
(Born in Berea)

13. Do your eardrums get tonally rent when you listen to her?
(Born near Paintsville)

14. Us Brooklyn boys can cut down doze giants even wit’out a sabre or an epee. See, we’re winning!
(Born in Meade County)

15. Many writers whose talents were barrener went porn, but this guy wrote a novel fit for a king.
(Born in Guthrie)

Solvers (with number correct):
The Chaplain (9)
Yunshui (1)
Srsny (7)
DJ Spin Dragon (15)
The winner, obviously, is DJ Spin Dragon.
[If you’d like to know the solutions, send me an email and I’ll respond with a list of correct answers.]

Posted in New to Kentucky, Puzzles and Games | 15 Comments »

News from Mayberry

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/03/2010

Sometimes, when I read my local newspaper, I have to remind myself that I haven’t moved to a sitcom town. Here are a few stories from the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Web site today. I’ve taken the liberty of changing a few names and adding some minor unverified details. But the major facts are basically true.

1) A deputy sheriff has got hisself in trouble again.

It seems that a brand new judicial center, which cost the taxpayers about twelve-and-a-half million bucks to build, was opened in Columbia, Kentucky on Monday. The poor ol’ deputy, takin’ hisself on a walkin’ tour of the premises, no doubt, accidentally locked his sorry ass in a jail cell. That ain’t the best thing to do if you’re claustrophobic, which the deputy is.

So he done the only thing a sane person woulda. He tried to shoot his way out.

The deputy was fired and ast to pay for the damage. There’s no mention of whether or not he ran to Aunt Bee’s for comfort and pie.

When reached for a comment, Opie Taylor said, “Gosh. Paw sure musta been mad to of fahrd good ol’ Barn.”

______________________________________________________________________

2) A shrink from Covington was arrested las’ month after one a his patients was stabbed with a sword. He prolly did it hisself, since he was seen holdin’ the dang thing in both his hands and she was all bloody-like. Luckily, the doc got distracted for God-knows-why, and some folks was able to rassle that blade away from him.

Anyways, the guy was took to jail. That inconvienced some a his patients, who needed their p’scriptions. So, natchally, they been tryin’ to see him while he’s behime bars. The jail authorities have had to explain to folks that no pris’ner in no cell’s allowed to practice no trade a his.

Gomer Pyle, who needs them pills to deepen his voice for when he sings and suchlike, tole reporters, “Gol-lee.”

______________________________________________________________________

3) Yesterday, before Jim Bunning wussed out on his attempt to keep all those low-lifes from gettin’ their unemployment and other freebies they don’ deserve from the gummint, there were lotsa commie, homo, god-hatin’, baby-killin’, Obama-lovers rallyin’ against him. But some good citizens came out to take his side. One savvy woman who musta been empowered to speak for the whole state put it best when she said, “Thank you, Jim Bunning, I am sooooo proud of you. Kentucky is proud of you.”

Town drunk Otis Campbell was briefly seen at the pro-Bunning rally, but he left early to check hisself into jail.

______________________________________________________________________

4) All Lexington is het up with excitement cause George W. Bush is gonna be the guest of honor at a banquet in these parts. The ex-president will receive the “Distinguished Little League Ambassador Award,” just like his daddy got in 1995.

The Herald-Leader don’t say whether it’s the Little League, the Ambassador, or the Award itself that’s distinguished. But that don’t matter, cause prolly the word fits all three.

Barber Floyd Lawson has offered a free haircut to his hero, and schoolteacher Helen Crump has promised to help Mr. Bush with his elocutin’.

Posted in New to Kentucky | 24 Comments »

Earworm Saturday #2

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/20/2010

Be careful how you choose your adjectives. If you’re unthinking, as I was a few days ago, you can wind up with an earworm.

Here’s the story in brief: Because the citizens of Kentucky (an aggregate that now includes me) are constantly besieged by god-pushers, I found myself doing something that’s antithetical to my nature. Looking for like-minded people who are as fed up with our would-be theocracy as I am, I recently attended a few meetings of freethinkers’ organizations. At the last one I went to, the subject of a stupidly innocuous Humanist billboard (e.g., “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are.”) came up. A coalition of Lexington skeptics is planning to erect such a sign, ostensibly to energize the ungodly community in a nice way. I suggested that, if we had to put up a touchy-feely message at all, we should do everything we could to make the unveiling a big media event: knock on doors to collect friends and acquaintances for a gigantic photo op or even a parade, light a fire under the media’s collective ass to get them to show up, and make sure that everyone who attends is prepared to answer questions if a microphone is shoved under his or her nose. The only problem is: some of the people involved in Lexington’s so-called freethinking community are closet atheists, afraid to be seen on TV without their metaphorical crucifixes. Naturally, the expression of that fear sent me into a diatribe about how useless a dumb sign is when there are self-defined atheists who are unwilling to identify themselves as being among the millions referred to on the billboard. I guess that here in the Bluegrass state, it’s bad luck to come out openly against superstition.

One of the sharpest members of the group responded with a resigned smile: “This is not New York; it’s Kentucky.” Most of the others agreed that “we have to go slowly.” And maybe they’re right, assuming that the total of recorded time so far hasn’t been long enough. Perhaps if we freethinkers are patient and accommodating, we’ll have to wait only two or three measly millenia more before we can have a small say in public policy.

Later that night, when my wife asked me how the meeting was, I said — without pausing to notice any warning lights — “It was a little too Kumbaya-ish for my taste.”

Augggggh. The word was scarcely out before that goddamned tune was urging the various parts of my brain to form a circle and hold hands. Talk about a headache.

But why should I reserve this experience strictly for myself. “Kumbaya” must be shared, because it’s the godmother of all earworms, the sine qua non of gaggiosity.

If you don’t know what I mean, check out the song’s true essence, flawlessly captured here.

In this peppy version, the mere singing of the song by a Great White Father magically creates peace and dancing — and the sudden appearance of bikini-clad women — among warring African tribes.

Who could resist a bunch of Polish women in funny hats? Not me! The group doesn’t seem to have learned the exact tune, but it’s close enough to still be annoying.

Christians can co-opt anything and make it specifically about Jesus. This video takes the song, usually interpreted as a plea for universal unity, and turns it into an evangelical message: In the beginning was the word, and the word was “Kumbaya.”

At about this point, you’re probably asking yourself: “Hey, how would that flatulent ditty sound as an instrumental?”

Yes, that shitty song is heard everywhere.

All that Kumbaya-ing may make you worried about having nightmares. Perhaps you’re afraid that the minute you get into bed, the monsters under your mattress will get all New-Agey on you. But that could happen anyplace you try to relax, as this poor victim found out.

Still, I’m not the only person who finds the number offensive. The German chick in this extravaganza definitely has the right idea.

I wish happy psycho-listening to all my readers. But don’t forget: Someone’s retching, my Lord.

Posted in Earworms, Freedom from Faith, Music, New to Kentucky | 31 Comments »

You Call It an Angel, but It Looks Like a Chip to Me

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/18/2010

Nine days ago, I wrote about an education bill proposed by three Kentucky theocrats who think that a Biblical Literacy elective should be offered in Kentucky’s schools.

Today, that bill came up for a vote by the Senate Diseducation Committee, and was approved unanimously.

One of the twelve committee members voted “amen,” before adding a quick “yea.” Another complimented the bill’s sponsors, telling them that they must have been inspired when “an angel was sent down to your shoulders.” Still another senator cheered that “preaching” might help public schools.

Senator Julian Carroll, one of the three god-pushers who cobbled the bill from what must have been the true cross, noticed that his colleagues were going too far over the top even for him. Calmly, he pointed out that the bill would not stand up to constitutional challenges unless it makes clear that the bible would be taught as a “historical document” and not as a “faith-based document.” But then, swept up in the revival-meeting fervor, he complained that current problems in the public schools —like shootings — occur because the bible has been taken out of the classroom, and “nothing” put back in.

Here’s what else Carroll said. “When we took the Bible out of the school, we also unfortunately took out that portion of the Bible which relates to life skills and value systems. Our students these days do not have the full opportunity, in my judgment, to be taught those life skills that keep them out of our penitentiaries and make them a productive citizen.”

Tim Shaughnessy, a savvy senator from Louisville, grew nervous because of the repeated hosannas. He warned that it might be difficult for the bill to be perceived as anything other than an attempt to ram religion down the throats of all Kentucky students; “we couldn’t even get it out of committee without the preaching.” Shaughnessy then pointed out that the bible contains some life skills — becoming “ruthless warriors” and having “multiple wives,” for instance — that might not yield such terrific lessons for our young people. Still, he voted to approve.

Now that the bill has made it out of committee, I assume it will soon go to the full Kentucky Synod for a vote. No elected official would confirm or deny the rumor that if the bill passes, some real literature and history books will be burned at the capitol building to release a cloud of white smoke.

[If you care to read further, you can find different versions of the full story here and here.]

Posted in First Amendment, Freedom from Faith, New to Kentucky | 11 Comments »

Three Videos

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/15/2010

My friend Srsny told me that Channel 13, the PBS station in New York City, gives viewers an opportunity each week to vote for the short film they’d like to see broadcast on Saturday night.

Since I’m still a New Yawker at heart, I thought I would check out this week’s choices. Obviously, none of the offerings have anything to do with basketball, religion, bourbon, coal-mining, and/or horse-breeding, so I’m fairly certain that a concept like this would not work in Kentucky. But, jaded New Yawker that I still am, I enjoyed all three of these little gems, even though they seemed irrelevant to my new life in Lexington.

Surprisingly, each selection reflects, in some way, my feelings about music-as-life. I won’t reveal which one I voted for, or write anything further about my reactions — right now. Instead, I’m hoping that you’ll leave comments saying which short you would have picked, and why.

Here are the videos, in order from shortest to longest. Have fun watching them.

1) El Pianógrafo

2) Be Like a Duck

3) Comme Un Air

If you’d like to  influence what New Yawkers get to see on their TVs, you can vote here.

Posted in Music, New to Kentucky | 20 Comments »

In Gobbledygook We Trust

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/02/2010

So I opened my local rag this morning, and found a short paragraph on this minor story: “In God We Trust plate advances.” It turns out that the license slogan was approved in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 93-1. (The lone dissenter was a brave Louisville Democrat named Mary Lou Marzian.)

Obviously, if the license were produced on the recommendation of legislators, acting in their legislative capacity, it would violate both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 5 of the Kentucky Constitution. And I’m told by some new atheist friends that this is not the House’s first attempt to advocate moving violations of the Establishment Clause.

However, in this post I’m not going to discuss the legal issues. I’ll leave that conversation to folks who have been formally educated in the subtleties and nuances of Constitutional Law. (I’m referring, of course, to TV pundits.)

Instead, because I’m new here and haven’t yet fathomed the Kentucky mentality, I’m going to pose a few simple questions to those who support the official enshrinement of the above-mentioned motto. I’d appreciate some answers, since I find it hard to understand exactly what the license plate is intended to mean.

1. If you actually do trust in a god, why do you need to emblazon that fact on your license plate? I trust my wife, but I don’t feel compelled to cart that message all over town. Does your god require you to make public affirmations of your trust in him/her/it? Shouldn’t your license say:
In God We Trust (Did You Read That, Lord?)

And then how does your god decide whether your trust is sincere or just something you tow around as a way to amass eternal brownie points? Shouldn’t your license say:
We Swear to God in God We Trust
Or perhaps:
In God We Trust (The People in this Vehicle Really Mean It!)

2. Is there a difference between trusting “in” your god and just plain trusting your god. If not, why don’t you suggest the more straightforward:
We Trust God
If there is a difference, how about:
In God We Trust, although we Don’t Necessarily Actually Trust Him/Her/It

3. If someone were to add a picture of, say, Thor or Bacchus, would that be OK? If so, the plate ought to make that clear:
In All Gods We Trust
On the other hand, if there is some specific god or gods you folks have in mind, the license should broadcast:
In Our Own Specific God (or Gods) We Trust

4. What, exactly, do you mean by “trust.” Do you mean that you’ll never have any accidents, or flat tires, or dings because your god is going to prevent them from happening? If so, shouldn’t you just come out and say it:
In God We Trust to Keep This Automobile Out of Accidents, and Supported by Good Tires, and Free of Dings
Or does your “trust” mean something else? For example, might the license read:
In God We Trust to Make Sure Our Kids Aren’t Grotesquely Ugly
Or how about:
In God We Trust to Cure Grandma’s Hemorrhoids

5. Who is this “we” that’s doing the trusting? Surely it’s not every single person in Kentucky. So can I opt out? Can I insist that the words on the license plate reflect my position:
In God We – Except Larry Wallberg – Trust
If the “we” is not all the people of Kentucky, why wouldn’t you change the words to state the truth:
In God We (Who Trust in God) Trust

Thanks (in advance) for your responses.

Posted in Driving in Lexington, First Amendment, Freedom from Faith, New to Kentucky | 18 Comments »

We’re Number One!

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/24/2010

Do you love – to the exclusion of all other interests – college basketball, horse-breeding, bourbon, and coal-mining (not necessarily in that order)? If you said yes, you should definitely consider a move to Lexington.

But if you said no, and if you already happen to live in Lexington, you should get the fuck out. That’s what three letter writers advise on the opinion page of today’s Herald-Leader.

If you don’t like the Wildcats or discussing their success, you should leave on the next bus out.

If he doesn’t love the Horse Capital of the World, please, he should feel free to leave.

I know a great moving company that could aid in putting you out of your misery. It may not be for everyone, but I and a whole lot of other people think “this town” is just fantastic.

A great way to keep a “town” (why the quotation marks?), or a state, or a country, or a religious community, or a political party ignorant and unproductive is to invite its critics to leave. In the old days, they were run out on a rail. That’s illegal now, so the next best thing is to insist that everyone indulge in unquestioning boosterism.

On yesterday’s late-night news, in the lead story, some old biddy sports fan exulted that the Wildcats were, for the time being, at the top of the standings. “We’re number one!” she cried. “We’re number one!” How she became part of “we” went unanswered.

It should be obvious to everyone but a Lexingtonian that the victory of a mere basketball team is no substitute for working towards a society that respects education and culture, where political corruption doesn’t hold sway over progress, where the majority religion doesn’t ram its agenda down the throats of the entire populace, and where the coal industry doesn’t hold the citizens in an ecological deathgrip.

But who am I to judge? That woman was number one! Even though Kentucky’s percentage of persons with a bachelor’s (or higher) degree is 46th in the nation. Even though we’re only 29th (30th if you count D.C.) in expenditures per public school pupil. Even though Kentucky’s Personal Income Per Capita is 46th. Even though we’re 7th in the United States (6th if you don’t count D.C.) in percentage of citizens living below the poverty line, and 14th in Unemployment.

She’s number one! This boast from a woman whose local newspaper, on a recent January 26th, ran the brilliant headline:

Free Advice: Bundle Up When Out In The Cold.

So: If the people here can’t take the winter without throwing on a bunch of sissy clothes, if they can’t abide being undereducated, underemployed, and poor, then they should leave on the next bus out.

Because we’re number one! A whole lot of people think that’s just fantastic.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Random Rants | 8 Comments »

The Mom Will See You Now

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/20/2010

Today, I went for a routine yearly checkup, my first with my new Lexington doctor.  I also asked him about a slight cough I have.

The doctor seemed like an able physician, a good and patient communicator, and a likeable guy. But my yardstick for the medical profession is Mom. Nobody is ever as thorough as she was.

Mom had studied medicine attentively. During the ’30s and the ’40s, she’d never missed a Dr. Kildare movie.  In the mid-‘50s, when I was well into my single-digits, she kept up-to-date with the latest breakthroughs in pathology by watching Medic every week.  She also had subscriptions to five or six different women’s magazines. Even though she religiously skipped the recipes and the household tips and the fashion spreads, she memorized every health article they published. Mom could rattle off ten things everyone needed to know about psoriasis, and five danger signals that your child was reading too many comic books. She also regularly thumbed through her much dog-eared paperback copy of Dr. Spock, in the hopes of being on guard against diseases  she’d never heard of.

I was her star patient, a weeny who was always “coming down” with something, or “just getting over” something, or actually being sick with something.  In our house, we were never just sick; we were always sick with something.  Something specific, something that had a name.  These titles were very important to Mom because in order to know the proper treatment, it was crucial that she correctly identify the illness.

“Mom, what do I have?”

Mom could distinguish between a bug and a virus, the grippe and the flu, “mostly allergies” and “a touch of the croup.”  Her distinctions weren’t scientific; they were based on how often, how hard, and how far I sneezed.  When she was really ensconced in Doctor Mode, we might even discuss the color and consistency of my phlegm.

A stuffed nose was usually the first signal that my body was under siege.  I’d sit sniffling and snuffling at the dinner table, trying to reclaim my dripping mucus.  Mom would scream at me, “Stop shnoobling it in.”  I always thought “shnooble” was a Yiddish word.  It wasn’t until I was eleven that I finally learned the truth: it was just an onomatopoeic nonsense term that Mom made up.  It finally dawned on me that whenever I used “shnooble” in a sentence, nobody but my immediate family understood what I was talking about.

Dad would finally bang his coffee cup down and glare at me.  With disgust in his voice, he’d yell, “F’Chrissake, where’s your handkerchief?  Blow that damn thing, already, willya? ”

“I’m sick!” I’d answer.  “Don’t holler.”

That was Mom’s cue to spring into action.  She’d scrunch up her eyebrows, purse her lips, and rub her chin the way bad actors do to show they’re thinking. Then she’d ask me a battery of diagnostic questions.

“Do you have a sore throat?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?  Does it hurt when you swallow? Even a teensy little bit?”

“No, it doesn’t hurt at all.  You wanna see me swallow?  I can swallow all day if you want and it won’t hurt.”

“Lemme see if it’s red.  Come over here in the light.”

I hated coming over here in the light.  That meant tilting my head back at a torturous angle and opening my mouth wide enough for Mom to wheel a gurney down my throat.

“Do I have to?  Can’t you just look from there?”

Dad usually jumped to my defense. I was fooled into thinking he did it because he was my pal.  In reality, he just couldn’t deal with Mom’s professionalism.

“What are you, Honey?” he’d ask.  “Dr. Jekyll?  Just give him an aspirin and a handkerchief, f’cryinoutloud.”

But Mom had taken the Hippocratic oath, or, to be more precise, the “Good Housekeeping” pledge.  As she grabbed me by the arms and pulled me under the light, she’d answer Dad.  “Can’t you see I’m working here?  Butt out.”

Then to me: “Your throat’s a little red.  How do your ears feel?”

“OK.”

“Do you have an earache?”

“No.”

Mom would jerk her jaw back and forth. “Are you sure?  It doesn’t hurt when you go like this?”

“I told you it doesn’t hurt.”

“You’re not going like this.  Go like this and then tell me.”

I’d give a couple of half-hearted yawns.

“So?  Do your ears hurt?”

“Now my jaw hurts.”

“Well, that’s natural when you go like that.  How about your ears?  We’re talking about them.”

“They don’t hurt.  They feel perfect.”

“Is your hearing stopped up?”

“What?”

“IS YOUR HEARING STOPPED UP?”

“I was only kidding.  I heard you the first time.”

“Lemme look in your ears.  Come back here in the light.”

Mom would have eagerly eyeballed every orifice I had if Dad didn’t say, “Oh, leave him alone, f’Chrissake.  He’s just a snotnosed kid with a cold. ” Dad was jealous of Medic.

“Honey, you’re not the doctor here.  Go watch Million Dollar Movie, ’cause you’re not helping anything.”

One of the reasons that my parents had an effective relationship was that Dad always recognized a Mom order when he heard it.  The next thing he was supposed to do was rise obediently, shake his head at both mother and son, mumble “it’s like a skit on Milton Berle,” and lumber toward the living-room couch.  Which is exactly what he always did, even years after Milton Berle had gone off the air.

When he was safely out of the room, Mom resumed. “Your ears look waxy to me. When’s the last time you washed them?”

“Yesterday.” (Lie.)

“Did you wrap your finger in a washcloth and go inside?”

“Yeah.” (Lie)

“Which finger did you use? Not your thumb, right? And not your pinky?”

“No, just one of my regular fingers.”

“OK. Do you have a headache? Even a small pain above your eyes could be sinus.”

“No.”

“Are you sure?  You don’t have any pressure around your temples?”

“I have no pains anywhere, Mom.  I feel great. ”

“Don’t tell me how you feel. Just answer my questions, because there’s a whole procedure. Lemme see your eyeballs.  Look up at the light.”

“Do I have to?  That really hurts my eyes.”

“A-ha!”

Mom was no ordinary medical wannabe; she was a specialist, a frustrated epidemiologist.  Her next task was to make me tell her the names of every kid I had played with at any time during the entire preceding month.  She’d order me to stay at the table, while she hit the telephone, calling around to all their mothers.  It was critically important to her that she track down the culprit who had infected me.

“Hi, Rachel.  How’s Shelley?”  If Mom looked disappointed, I knew the other kid was fine.  If Mom frowned somberly, but with a gloat underneath, I knew the other kid had something wrong with him, probably a fatal disease that I had caught. “Oh, that’s too bad.  I think Larry’s got it, too.  But we don’t seem to have any bowel problems here so far.  Hold on.”

She’d cup the receiver in her hand, and ask me detailed questions about my trips to the bathroom.  Mom made me describe my droppings as if I were an art critic; she was a master of fecal nuance.  She never trusted my reports, though.  Was I absolutely, a hundred percent certain that I didn’t have diarrhea?  Was I positively sure that I wasn’t constipated, even a little bit?  She always seemed to doubt my answers, as if I were trying to hide some fantastic secret up my rectum.

“Are you nauseous?  Shelley’s nauseous.”

“I’m not nauseous.”

“Don’t tell me you’re not nauseous and then the next thing we know you’ll be throwing up.  If you’re nauseous, admit it.”

“I’m not nauseous.”

“Does your stomach hurt?”

“No.”

“Show me where it doesn’t hurt.”

“It doesn’t hurt anywhere.”

“And you’re sure you’re not nauseous?”

“I thought we already did ‘nauseous.'”

“I’m just making sure.”

Then she’d start rubbing her hand back and forth across my forehead as if she were trying to build up enough static electricity to balance a balloon there.

“You feel warm to me.  I think you might have fever.  Go pull your pants down and lay on your bed.”

Being medically evacuated from the kitchen was serious business, a sign that you were too sick to be cured by just an office visit.

In the time it took me to follow her instructions, Mom was able to find the thermometer, douse it with about half a bottle of alcohol, and glob it with enough Vaseline to grease all my internal organs.  Then she’d take careful aim and shove it up my ass with such force that I’d imagine I could feel it coming out the other side.

“That’s not so bad, is it?”

“Ow.”

“What hurts?  Your head?  Your ears?  Your stomach?”

“My tush.”

“Sorry,” Mom would answer, not lifting her eyes from her watch.  The instrument had to be in for exactly three minutes, no more, no less.  A few seconds either way could lead to a mis-diagnosis.

Whenever we played this scene, Mom wound up making the same amazing discovery: I had a whopping fever of half a degree above normal.  She’d check Doctor Spock for corroboration on her evaluation.

“Am I sick?” I’d ask.

“Just a little cold,” she’d say. “We’ll rub you in with Vicks, and give you a spoon of Rem.”

My doctor today did his routine exam, then listened briefly to my chest. Unlike Mom’s inquisition, it took less than three hours. Although he didn’t suggest Vick’s, he did send me to the pharmacy to buy some recommended cough medicine.

“Is that it? We’re done?” I asked.

“Well, what else did you have in mind?” he countered.

I guess he didn’t need to know who I’d played with.

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