lobsterchick's Diaryland Diary

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Fade Out

A news anchor is not just the guy who sits behind the desk at 6 pm (CT) every evening, prompting us to wonder if he is, indeed, wearing pants. We do not see a new face and instantly decree whether or not we trust that person to deliver our news fully and accurately. That happens over time.

Peter Jennings was the background music of my entire life, occasionally growing in volume so much so that I, the protagonist, had to be quiet to listen, lest the audience grow disinterested. There was never a time he wasn't there, just doing his job (as much as you can call such a great, exciting line of work a "job").

When I found out he was Canadian, I was shocked. Shocked. Why, I still don't know. It's like finding out someone's gay: It's not bad, it's just different, sometimes it's surprising, and it forever changes the way you look at them.

But even though he was Canadian (shocking!), he still went on in my background, creating the mood, swelling with emotion or dipping to sinister lows to set the tone. He helped bring the entire world into my living room, and he helped teach me about that world.

And then, he wasn't, and he didn't. The music faded to an imperceptible hum as he battled, along with his family, that most unforgiving and indiscriminate of killers, the disease that killed my father, and maybe your father, and millions upon millions of other people back since before time began. When you find out you have it you can either surrender, refusing treatment, or you can mark it with a shrewd eye and fight, though it may be a losing battle.

So, Peter Jennings fought, as we all like to think we would, in the face of an unknowable and powerful, so powerful, enemy. And he lost. As many have before him, and as at least one person reading this entry will, unless a miracle light shines into a darkness we don't understand.

The music stopped completely, and a light went out somewhere. A pair of eyes closed for the last time, and many more pairs of eyes grew damp with the news. A man lived, and we were all better for having visited with him nightly. That man died, and we will hear about it on the news, the same news he gave us for so many years.

12:44 PM - 08 August 2005

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The Culture of Me

I stole this from Galaxy, who stole it from here.

If you're Sandy...

  • You believe deep down in the First Amendment, guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • You're familiar with David Letterman, Mary Tyler Moore, Saturday Night Live, Bewitched, the Flintstones, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Donald Duck, the Fonz, Archie Bunker, Star Trek, the Honeymooners, the Addams Family, the Three Stooges, and Beetle Bailey. You also have a recently-developed affinity for politically-motivated Brit rock, a lŗ Elvis Costello's "Oliver's Army" and The Kinks' "Victoria."
  • You know how baseball, volleyball, basketball, and Monopoly are played. The only one off that list that you know the whole rulebook of and can quote rules of on a whim is Monopoly.
  • You count yourself fortunate that you now get two weeks of vacation a year, along with the shittiest health insurance plan too much money can buy.
  • If you died tonight you don't believe you'd go to heaven, or anywhere except into another new body.
  • You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as the bane of American existence and are working very hard to overcome your own dependence on it.
  • You cell phone and a small TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its a bathroom and a half. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
  • You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food, but chickens were meant for nothing except to be eaten.
  • A bathroom may not have a bathtub in it, but it certainly has a toilet.
  • You find it interesting that most other countries have government-run utilities and transportation, and you wonder if that would somehow get you a better deal on a flight to Boston, were the U.S. to adopt a similar system.
  • You work in a building where the phones are hit-or-miss. It's big excitement if you can dial the New Jersey office without a rigamarole.
  • The train system sucks and you might as well take a plane; it's faster, easier, and usually cheaper.
  • You find a two-party system abhorrent and are incensed that most Americans vote the way they do as a knee-jerk reaction to one single issue. You think America would benefit from several more major parties.
  • You don't expect to hear socialism seriously defended outside the U. City Loop.
  • You do the same thing all other white Americans do, and that is overcompensate for 400 years of racial intolerance. If a black person cut you off in traffic and cause an accident, you would probably apologize.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people weren't idiots and assholes.
  • You think the court system is a joke. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court, but that it would cost you more money than it would probably be worth.
  • You speak enough Spanish, French, and Russian to be able to find a bathroom, get a hotel, and order dinner in countries that speak those languages. You think Americans should be required to learn Spanish, and you think it's a shame that immigrants here often abandon their cultures.
  • It's not all that necessary to learn foreign languages anyway, but Jesus, it's fun. You can travel the continent using nothing but English-- and get by pretty well in the rest of the world, too. But who wants to be the ugly American who can't be bothered?
  • You think a tax level of 30% is scandalously high because the money isn't being put to good use. If there were a national health-care plan and every child went to school through a basic-four year degree, all funded by tax money, then sure, here's my 30%.
  • College is something you hated every minute of and even though you sometimes get a hankering to go back and study design, you don't.
  • Mustard comes in plastic squeeze bottles. Shaving cream comes in aerosol cans that are usually pink. Milk comes in plastic bottles.
  • You tried dating your journal entries European-style in high school, when you realized that it made more sense. Looking back now, you think "I wrote this on the 12th of Janvember?"
  • The decimal point signifies that math is about to happen. You run.
  • A billion is more than you could ever count to.
  • World War II was a miserable time in the history of the world, and the U.S. took too long in getting involved. Our men liberated a lot of people, but if we'd gone in 6 years earlier, the Cold War would never have happened, and millions of lives would have been saved.
  • Marriage is for people braver than you. You doubt you will ever find the man for whom you are willing to work hard enough to keep a marriage alive.
  • If a man has sex with another man, he's getting more action than you are.
  • Once you're introduced to someone (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you will remember their name, what they look like, and what they were wearing when you met them.
  • You don't go anywhere topless, and beaches require diligent covering up.
  • A hotel room has a private bath, and hopefully will have a free real breakfast, not a Contin-apple, since hotels are the only place you eat breakfast.
  • You don't like foreign films because film was not meant to be read. You don't know enough of any other language to watch them without subtitles.
  • You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes, but if bribes will get you out of a speeding ticket, well, you might try.
  • If a politician has been caught cheating on his wife, you don't care. You choose your mates by their ability to stay faithful, not your presidents. You would rather have a cheating president who can lead the country through eight straight years of unparalleled prosperity than one who is supposedly faithful but kills his people in a ridiculous war.
  • Just about any store will take your credit card, but you don't use them, since about 5 years ago, any store would take your credit card, and did.
  • A company can fire you for doing the right thing, and it will turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to you.
  • You don't eat bacon because you don't like breakfast meat.
  • You are excited because this is the first Labor Day you will ever be paid to not work on.
  • You've seen Star Wars, ET, Home Alone, Snow White, Gone with the Wind, and Psycho. Your favorite movie is an obscure 1989 film about Myrtle Beach dancing called Shag.
  • You know the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, and Kate Smith.
  • You count on medical treatment being ridiculously expensive. While you know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases, you expect to pay through the nose for that privelege. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. Since your father died at 49, you think dying at 65 wouldn't be so bad.
  • You went over US, Canadia, Latin America, European, African, and Asian history in school. Yet you still couldn't name ten US interventions in Latin America.
  • You expect to be constantly instructed to "support our troops" in times of war, since people are terrified of another Viet Nam. You can support your troops till they come hom, but that won't change the fact that this is another Viet Nam.
  • Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation, but probably ought to be, to take it down a peg or two.
  • You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy. Because of this, supermarkets freak you out a little. The inventory of your local Shop 'N' Save could probably feed a third-world country for a year.
  • You still measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons.
  • You are not a farmer, and would hate it if you were.
  • Comic books are so far off your radar that when you read this and it said "comics," you assumed they meant of the stand-up variety.
  • Talk shows are uselsss, except for Ellen Degeneres, Letterman, and Conan. Anything else is just noise.
  • You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around, but you have recently received a ticket from the Webster Groves Police Department for running the stop sign at East Watson and Elm.
  • You think of Canada as a source of great entertainment, national health-care, and your friendly Neighbor to the North. You couldn't explain why the Canadians didn't join the other British colonies in rebelling against King George.
  • You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be an adorable car.
  • The police are armed, but they also stand around in the lobby of the Fox Theatre, stealing cranberry and orange juice from the bartenders.
  • Guys who like fat girls are called chubby chasers. Whoever coined that needs to be tracked and shot down.
  • Dinner is an option, not a necessity.
  • The race you most make jokes about is Asians, but it's all in good fun. You can't help it if they're good at math.
  • You want to avoid going out of your house at night to go anywhere, because dude, it's dark. It's bedtime.
  • You feel that you aren't being listened to enough in Washington.
  • You don't understand inflation, but you don't expect unemployment to be very high (say, over 15%).
  • You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
  • The normal thing is for paranoid old people to put everything they own into living trusts so their children don't have to go through what they perceive as the hell of probate.
  • You think of opera and ballet as boring boring boring. You don't see many plays because after you work in a theater, you never want to see another one.
  • Christmas is in the winter. Even though you are an atheist, you spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree.
  • You think the church (and in fact, any religion) causes more problems than it solves, and needs to keep its nosey nose out of the government.
  • You'd still be able to name all the capitals of the European nations, thanks to Mr. Seitz's 6th grade history class.
  • You aren't familiar with Mafalda, Lucky Luke, Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, Guido Crepax, or Gotlib.
  • You've left more messages at more beeps than a person ought to have.
  • Taxis are generally patronized by low-income people. You know that this is peculiar to St. Louis, but that's the way it is.
  • You think welfare and unemployment are important parts of a functioning free-market economy, as well as Social Security and Medicare, and you know that people abuse it, but there are people who abuse everything, including children, and that's a bigger problem.
  • If you want to be a doctor, someone should check your head.
  • There sure are a lot of lawyers.
  • If you have an appointment, you will always be ten minutes early. Always. Except for work every day, where you'll always be from five to fifteen minutes late.
  • If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about two feet.
  • You will bargain for anything, including the floor model microwave at Sears. You know from having worked at Target that if something is damaged, most employees, even those low on the totem pole, are authorized to give up to 30% off. 30% is worth asking for.
  • Once you're past college, you will wonder how it happened. You never just show up at someone's place, because that's rude.
  • You have never participated in a business negotiation in your life, but you have a feeling you're about to start. Foreigners are sometimes hard to understand.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour or so.

    5:45 PM - 06 August 2005

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    Matt C.

    You guys should be proud of me. I went to dinner with my sister, her daughter, and my mom tonight, and the waiter was flirt flirt flirt, as all good waiters are.

    But then he was like, flirt flirt flirt flirt, and he started pretty much abandoning the other side of the table in favor of me. And when he said "I hope I see you guys again," (which is kinda weird, no?) he looked down and like, looked at me.

    So I left him my number.

    He probably won't call and that's okay, I'm just proud of myself for leaving it. I'm usually too chicken-shit for that sort of thing. But, as all things, it was a big ordeal.

    We were paying with cash, so I had to make sure we could just leave the money and run, and not linger. With my sister Kathy, any delicate situation is a ticking time bomb, waiting for her to yell "HERE'S YOUR MONEY, MATT C.!" and wave the little book with the check and my card around in the air.

    I may have grabbed Jamie's hand and run out of the restaurant, but at least I left the number.

    We went shopping after that, and as we were waiting for an elevator, my phone rang. We all started screaming, but it was just a friend from work, drunk as a skunk.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    10:56 PM - 05 August 2005

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    Just So's You Know

    Green poop at night,
    Sailor's delight.
    Green poop at morning,
    You may have eaten the blue corn tortilla nachos from Buffalo Wild Wings the day before.

    12:47 AM - 04 August 2005

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    Don't Walk Away

    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    This is the long distance call
    The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
    The way we look to us all
    The way we look to a distant constellation
    Thatís dying in a corner of the sky
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    And donít cry baby donít cry
    Donít cry

    --Paul Simon

    So goes the chorus of one of my favorite songs of all time, The Boy in the Bubble. Because, these are the days of miracle and wonder, and have become even more so since Paul Simon wrote those lyrics in 1986. Every day we wake up and get out of bed, new things are being created, and even more that already exist are being discovered. But at what price?

    In Ursula K. LeGuin's short story, "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas", the people of a town live a Utopian life. There is no disease, no fighting, no unhappiness. But the cost of this happiness is the suffering of one person in that town. That person is kept in a cellar, and is essentially stripped of all human dignity. Unless the sacrifice of that one person is made, the idyll that is Omelas will collapse. They will live in a world just like the rest of us. The ones who walk away are the few who cannot bear the thought of their happiness being delivered by the torment of another human being. When this story is taught in high school and college-level English classes, the student is encouraged to answer this question: "Would you walk away from Omelas?" Followed, of course, by the obligatory "Why or why not?"

    We live in a world where, instead of fixing our eye on a star and wondering if a person a half a world away might be looking at that same star at that same moment (they're not; it's daytime there), we can, at the click of a button, listen to a radio station and know, for a fact, that someone on the other side of the world is listening to that same broadcast. Isn't that mind-boggling?

    Many of our miracles are trivial, and minute against the field of the bigger miracles: The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, gel pens, the dipping sauce DS got with his Cuban sandwich yesterday at the diner. We marvel at them for a while, then incorporate them into our daily lives as if there was never a lack.

    But what if I told you that that Magic Eraser was made of babies? Not so scrubby now, are you?

    I asked DS that same question yesterday, about that sauce. "What if you found out it was made of babies?"

    His response? "Babies make a delicious sauce. I love baby sauce!"

    Your answer might be different.

    But what if the miracle we're afforded isn't sauce, or a sponge, or even happiness? What if it's life? Crazy, unpredictable, sometimes boring, often so so hard? Would we sacrifice a couple of babies to add a year? Ten? Twenty?

    Your answer might be different, but I'm betting it's an uncomfortable "no" instead of the incredulous why-are-you-asking-me-this "no" of before. I bet this "no" was informed by personal experience. The "no" of a person who has recently lost someone so close to her that her heart breaks a little with every beat will be a little more reluctant than that of someone who has somehow dodged that rite of passage. Would she kill a baby to get back one more hour with that person? "...no."

    Okay, then. We can all agree. Baby-killing is bad.

    But what if I'm holding in my hand a bowl. In it, I have eggs, flour, water, baking powder, and cocoa. I am never going to make a cake with it. Ever. Not today, not tomorrow, not in thirty years. This bowl of ingredients will never ever, in the possible millions of years of human history down the line, be a cake. I won't make it, and you won't make it, because their my ingredients, and I choose not to give them to you. I choose to give them to scientists who can study the cake ingredients and from their studies extract a certain ingredient that will make all cakes made henceforth more delicious. I might as well give the bowl to the scientists, right? I'm not using this stuff. It's just a bowl of raw eggs, and flour, and besides, it's starting to get kind of gloopy.

    Embryos are no more babies than that bowl of ingredients is a cake. The embryos people want to use to save lives (saving lives here, folks, not cleaning crayon off the wall or making a delicious sauce) will never be babies. No more than those eggs and that flour will ever be a cake.

    We're not killing babies, and we dont want to kill babies. We're not torturing someone so we can go through our day without traffic jams. We just want to use some raw materials that are available to us to potentially eradicate every degenerative disease known to Man.

    And you want to walk away from that?

    11:05 PM - 01 August 2005

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