To visit Martin's writing website, press here.

April 23, 2011

Mother Earth’s Say Hey Day

“Hey Old Man, do you really remember the first Earth Day?”
“‘Course, I was in high school. Most people thought it was stupid, we didn’t have ‘days’ for just about everything back then—mother’s day, father’s day and groundhog’s day, that’s about it. And when the whackos who proposed it said it was to help the ecology, we had no clue what that was. Our biology teacher said that  meant nature. Okay, you mean like farms? Like not using pesticides. I read Rachel Carson. And John Muir and Aldo Leopold and Thoreau and Heyerdahl. I joined the WWF. Later I read Edward Abbey and E.F. Schumacher, Whole Earth Catalog and Ralph Nader. I joined Greenpeace. Then I fought the nukes and the nukes won (but I’ve already told that one).”

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Hole in the Ozone Layer (which, they say, is coming back). Global Warming, Ice-cap Melting. Fossil fuels, Greenhouse gases, Endangered species and extinction, Biodiversity, Renewable energy, Habitat destruction, Overfishing, Deforestation, Air & Water quality, Genetic pollution, Desertification, Overpopulation, Urban sprawl, Soil loss and contamination, Noise pollution, Light pollution, Nuclear waste management, Water and food shortages, Acid rain, Oil spills, Dead fish & birds, Smog, Over-consumption, Mining, Nuclear accidents, Human-provoked natural disasters, Toxins, Garbage management, and now, in Japan, traces of iodine in mother's milk. HAVEN’T WE DONE ENOUGH DAMAGE ALREADY???

But if our brilliant technology is responsible for this mess, it can also get us out of it, right? Green living in a green world (isn’t that a Tepco slogan?). Well, whatever faith I had in the science of solutions went up in radioactive clouds from Fukushima Dai-ichi. Plus, we’re never going to solve the above problems (think decades or centuries of global effort to reverse negative trends) if we’re busy auto-eroticizing with our hand-held devises. Heads in the sand, wake me when it’s over, overwhelmed by our own self-destruction, "is Dancing with the Stars on yet?"

“So Ma, got any suggestions?”
“Yeah, I desperately need a break. Remember the lemmings? If you all made that small step for a man (off the cliff), I could make a giant leap back to natural balance. I know it’s a final solution, but what’s hurting me is you, my child. Either quit right now or get lost!”

We humans are the new kids on the block. Gotta show some r.e.s.p.e.c.t. for everyone and thing that was here before us. Instead, we’re just wrecking, plundering, raping. We’re killing our mother (and feeling surprisingly little guilt). And we have the gall to celebrate Earth Day one day a year. She spits on our rock concerts and pamphleting.

“You mean we have to radically change our lives and our entire world? Rebuild our societies and minds? Isn’t changing light bulbs enough? I don’t wanna go back to the Stone Age. Mommy! Help me!”
“No kid, I’m tired. You help me for a change.”

That photo above is the Pedersen Glacier near Seward Alaska, named after my great-grandfather Louis. He took the picture on the bottom in 1920. When my namesake is gone, what will I lose?

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: The usual loose-screw extremist.
Jeff: Is he dangerous?
Mutt: Nah, nobody ever listens to him anyway.
Jeff: Oh good. I was worried.
Mutt: Did you hear about Tom Finn, the scientist?
Jeff: No. Enlighten me.
Mutt: Well, Mr. Finn, a noted biologist, was stumped. He had spent months studying the little green frogs in the Keefo swamp. Despite all efforts at predator control, the population was declining at an alarming rate. Finn finally went to the chemistry department at his college to see if anyone there might be able to help. They looked into the problem and came up with a solution. The little frogs had succumbed to a chemical change in the swamp's water and simply couldn't stay coupled long enough to reproduce. The chemists brewed up a new adhesive, made from a dash of this, a zoss of that and, most critically, one part sodium.
Jeff: You mean...?
Mutt: Yes. The frogs needed a mono-sodium glue to mate!

April 17, 2011

Neal’s Orange Juice Splash

Neal sat in economy class, in the very last row, on the left aisle, flying to South Africa. It was a long tiring trip with several connections and hours of waiting around. The extremely friendly African stewardesses made Neal fall in love over and over. He asked them unnecessary questions, grinned a lot, and probably made them roll their eyes. Eventually, he collapsed over Tanzania.

Neal snores very loudly, which normally is not a problem since he lives alone. But on board the SAA jet his snoring could be heard by all 157 passengers, the crew and the pilots. Each time he sputtered or whistled or roared through the nose, someone cracked up. It was a source of constant delight for all. People would walk to the back of the plane just to marvel at the hi-fi snoring machine. Neal, of course, knew nothing of his fame.

The small black man next to Neal practiced Zen patience; the little old lady sitting in front of him focused on her novel. When the stewardess decided it was time to serve a drink, Neal’s fellow passengers were thankful that Neal would be awakened and quieted down.

The airlines in Africa are very elegant. They serve drinks in nice wine glasses, real glass. They give you real silverware with your food (well, not real silver). Excellent fresh food, I might add. The women and men are dressed more fashionably than in Europe or North America. They seem much more pleased with their jobs too. You’d almost want to spend your life flying over the Motherland.

Neal was dreaming. In his dream, he was thirsty. He dreamed of a lovely woman offering him a drink. Ahhh.

So when the cutest stewardess on the flight, Amara, came to Neal and said, “Sir, excuse me, sir, would you like a drink, would you like to wake up? We have orange juice.” Neal confused his blissful reverie with what was happening in the eyes-open world. The passengers only knew they were grateful the noise machine was turned off.

“Would you like some orange juice, sir?”
“Sir, would you like some fresh orange juice?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, sure. Uh, what? Oh, orange juice. Yeah, my favorite.”

Amara leaned the clear glass tray with the nice tall glasses of orange juice over Neal’s lap about chest high. She was leaning forward and smiling. Neal was still half-asleep but also smiling. His brain was cob-webby, not quite connecting yet. You know, when you’re in a deep overdue traveling sleep and someone wakes you and offers you something, it’s weird, you know?

So Neal looked at the twenty tall glasses full of orange juice near his nose on the clear-glass tray, and looked at Amara, grinned, and reached up from his lap … and tried to grab a glass from under the tray! This was a violation of all the laws of physics.

Neal’s hand pushed the entire tray up and up and higher into the air over his head as he jerked his arm upwards, and the whole array of glasses and juice went flying. Flying, splashing all over Amara, all over the little old lady and her book in the seat in front, all over the guy in the seat in front of her, all over Neal and his seatmate, in the aisle, on everyone’s shoes. Glasses broke, people screamed, Neal jumped a couple feet and cried out like a girl. It was a mess; it took to Johannesburg just to clean it all up.

Neal’s mouth started saying: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to do it!”

Amara would not let Neal help to clean up or wash off the little old lady whose hair was ruined by orange juice shampoo, and she was visibly angry with him, as were all the other passengers and crew. One big African steward came back as if to beat someone up, but Neal just repeated: “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.”

Of course, in reality, it was all the stewardess’s fault for holding a glass-bottomed tray of thin-stemmed top-heavy glasses in front of the nose of a sleeping man, waking him with a jolt (from or to a sweet dream), and challenging him to grab a glass without spilling a drop, much less sending all twenty glasses flying several rows forward. Her fault. I could testify to that in court.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: You know, Jeffery, my first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn't concentrate.
Jeff: Oowah. You don’t say. My first job was in a gym. I tried to make the plump ladies see the error of their weighs.
Mutt: Later, I thought of becoming a candle maker, but I wasn't sure wick end was up.
Jeff: I’m sorry to hear that. You know, doctors tell us there are over seven million people who are overweight. These, of course, are only round figures.
Mutt: You’re a mint of information, my friend. Like a boiled egg in the morning.
Jeff: Come again?
Mutt: Hard to beat.
Jeff: Can I tell you a musical story?
Mutt: For the love of Mike, YES!
Jeff: Many years ago there was a small town that had several bakeries. One of these was run by the aunts of a man named Penn. He and his aunts baked the best pies in the state. Not only that, but they were also the least expensive. Now the other bakers could make equally delicious pies, but Penn always sold more, for no one could beat ... the 'pie rates of Penn's aunts'.
Mutt: Y'know, Sullivan, that may be the worst story I’ve ever heard. No, I take that back. I’ve heard worse.
Jeff: You’ve told worse, Gilbert.
Mutt: G’night, David.
Jeff: G’night, Chet.

April 9, 2011

Point of Deja View

This post is about the current Italian political situation.

In the summer of 1973, I applied for a job at Yosemite National Park, where my mother had worked many years as a young woman, but they didn’t take me. Too late to find another job, I stayed home with my little brothers and started my first novel (since burned).

I also watched television obsessively, like most of the rest of the country. The Watergate hearings were broadcast every day. My mother and I discussed them at supper. My grandfather (a Nixon supporter) and I discussed them every Sunday. History was being made, and we knew it.

Nixon was the enemy when I was young. He represented the Establishment, the War, repressive conservatism of adults against youth, the cops busting heads at peace demonstrations, Evil. When four students were killed at Kent State, Richard Nixon pulled the trigger. And lots of other bad stuff. He didn’t like our rock music; we didn’t like his greasy short hair.

When Nixon abused his power to halt the investigations, lied about everything, fired anyone who tried to get in his way, thought he was invincible, above the law, then he was finished. The wounded beast is the most dangerous, however; it’ll hurt you as it lies dying, if you get too close. Nixon was soundly re-elected while the Watergate break-in investigations were beginning. The beginning of the end.

Everyone knew Tricky Dick was rotten, and we were merely curious to see when and how he’d fall from grace. There’d always been something sleazy about him; from back in the Eisenhower days he had trouble seeming honest. You wouldn’t buy a used car from that man. When my grandfather heard Nixon’s bitter cussing on the tapes, he turned on him too. “I never expected him to be like that.” We saw behind the mask. And it was all over.

But we had the process to respect. The steps to follow included daily special news broadcasts all summer long. The independent counsel investigations and Senate questioning of witnesses with the threat of perjury charges, the Washington Post articles of Woodward and Bernstein. Deep Throat, Expletive Deleted, and the Smoking Gun.

After Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, I was infuriated by the next development. Ford’s first act was to pardon Nixon so that he would never do prison time. That didn’t apply to his associates, his co-conspirators, his thugs (see famous poster), most of whom spent months or years in the joint. Strange perhaps, given that they all worked for the man who gave the orders. In the following years, people have said that what Nixon did was not so bad, but he was guilty of 1) obstruction of justice, 2) abuse of power, 3) contempt of Congress. That sounds pretty serious to me. Plus so much more that was never proven because he never went to trial.

There’s a saying written on the wall of every courtroom in Italy: The Law Applies Equally to All. Period.

When Richard Nixon was running for president in 1968, he made a pathetic cameo on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, by saying the famous catch phrase: “Sock it to me!” Six years later, we did.

Here’s a popular expression in the United States: The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

And here’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln: You can fool some of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Or a newer one: Regime change starts at home.

See? Told you this was a post about Berlusconi.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: What do you get when you drop boiling water down a rabbit hole? Hot cross bunnies.
Jeff: Oh we’re doing the fast ones today?
Mutt: Right. What do you get when you pour cement on a burglar? A hardened criminal.
Jeff: What do you get when you put the pictures of the Kings of Russia on a flag? The Tsar-Spangled Banner.
Mutt: What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.
Jeff: What do you call a man who drinks and falls off his horse? The wine-stoned cowboy.
Mutt: What do you call a rabbit with fleas? Bugs Bunny.
Jeff: What do you call a veterinarian with laryngitis? A hoarse doctor.
Mutt: What do you call it when a walrus eats 1000 clams? A calamity.
Jeff: What do you give a person with water on the brain? A tap on the head.
Mutt: What does a spy do when he gets cold? He goes undercover.
Jeff: What goes "Ha, ha, ha, plop"? A man laughing his head off.
Mutt: What grows up while growing down? A goose.
Jeff: What happened to the lawyer who was thrown out of a saloon? He was disbarred.
Mutt: What happens to deposed kings? They get throne away.
Jeff: What happens to illegally parked frogs? They get toad away.
Mutt: We got a million of ‘em.
Jeff: And not a single one funny.
Mutt: You groan today and tell ‘em tomorrow.
Jeff: Sock it to me!