Sunday, April 30, 2006

Live long and prosper... but why?

In the latest Esquire, the focus of the issue is improving one’s health, which apparently boils down to improving one’s immune system and keeping one’s arteries clear (eating better, exercise), not inhaling too many pollutants, and getting more rest. Yowza. We’ve never heard those recommended before. In the same article about rest, it notes that men who have more sex live longer. (Couples who don’t have a TV in the bedroom have sex, on average, twice as much as those who do.) It also suggests that maintaining close familial relationships has been attributed to living longer. Something about people where generations spend more time together have dramatically longer life expectancy.

Apparently these people have families who don’t want to kill each other half the time.

So not only do Americans eat too much, and make poor choices in what we eat, and not rest enough, but apparently we’re killing ourselves because we don’t keep in touch with our parents enough—and then pass that habit along to our children.

Having a government that starts unadvisable wars in the Middle East probably isn’t helping the averages. However, that’s not something a change in lifestyle will address.

I’d argue that those who started this country were adventurous in spirit, and that has permeated our culture ever since. The adventurous are, by their nature, somewhat nihilistic; to be adventurous involves taking risks, and generally speaking, taking risks often runs contrary to one’s survival. Ergo, we are a nation of people who seek our own destruction because the thrill of not getting destroyed is too engrained in our social fabric.

The reason we don’t exercise more and we eat super-sized fast food is not merely because we are lazy and enjoy convenience; we are staring death square in the face with every French fry we put in our mouths while sitting on the couch, taunting the Grim Reaper with every bite, saying “Come get me, you son of a bitch.” Every moment we don’t die is an act on par with a firefighter running into a burning building, or with the most daring thing Evil Kenevil ever attempted. We have cheated death without having to climb into a cramped rocket and fly over a canyon.

The problem is not that we don’t live long enough; we are not in danger of becoming extinct as a species and need to encourage lengthening lifespans to allow more breeding. (We are in much greater danger of wiping ourselves out due to overpopulation.) We have more than enough people clogging up the 405 at rush hour. Were it not categorically un-American to restrict reproductive rights, one could envision a time when we’d need to limit people to one child per family like China.

The problem is that we aren’t that happy while we are alive. Why bother living longer and prolonging the agony? Curl up with a Double Quarter Pounder while watching TV in the bedroom, and enjoy the succulent artery-hardening adventure. This is why our founding fathers broke away from the English. It certainly wasn’t to live past the century mark by eating nothing but vegetables.

If only Esquire devoted an issue to determining how to be happy it would sell out the day it hit the stands. Of course, it’s hard to drag out drink heavily for roughly 120 pages, although it would be the easiest advertising sell in history.

I need to stop giving away these brilliant ideas for free.

(Yes, it's entirely possible some of this is ironic in tone.)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Aphorisms for a new age

Nothing ventured, no time wasted in futile pursuit of what wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

It’s difficult for such twists to seem the least bit original in this sardonic age. Okay, in this post-sardonic age. (Yes, we must forsake use of “post-ironic”—it’s gone that far.) Of course, what must really be forsaken is the notion of any originality at all; the standard for judging that must instead fall to what seems the least obviously derivative. It’s all with the implicit wink in acknowledgement of how everything has been done and the best we can do these days is approximate originality.

All the more reason for humanity to relinquish its position as the dominant species and allow—what? the mice?—another breed of beast to ascend to the top of the chain. Perhaps in those creatures’ language not every conceivable witticism has been overdone.

We can only hope.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I said, "Old man, don't bother me... poppies... poppies..."

Last Sunday my girlfriend and I headed all the way out to the high desert community of Lancaster in search of the state flower of California, the Golden Poppy. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is just outside of town, and typically at this time of year the fields are supposed to be a sea of vibrant orange blooms, but this is what we saw when we got there:

Pretty in a way, but not poppies.

However, if one looked closely, they could be found:

The wind was, as promised, wicked strong. Poppies have the good sense to close up their petals in such weather. We humans... not so much.

[Bonus points if you can identify from where the line I used as the title comes.]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

An open letter to the people who sent me that email purporting to be Chase Bank

To whom it may concern,

As Chase has bought out pretty much all the other credit card companies, it is not difficult to find people who have their cards. I am one. However, while I think the reason my spam filter keeps catching your attempts to alert me to possible fraudulent activity with my account is because you send the same message to so many others, I know the reason I think it's a hoax is I have to suspect someone at that organization would know that it's not spelled posible.

I believe you are nefarious little bastards who should suffer immeasurably, but if you must attempt to perform identity theft, at least take the extra ten seconds and run spell check. Give us some challenge.

The only thing worse than criminals is stupid criminals. And no, not speaking English is not an excuse.

Incredulously yours,

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sunset over the wetlands

Here's the view from the back porch at my Dad and Step-Mom's retirement house, overlooking the dunes near Pismo Beach.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stark, blatant honesty

Thanks for dropping by. Surely you have something more important to do. Please attend to that. (And don't call me Shirley.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Standing in the shadow of giants

Wells Fargo and KPMG buildings, with the shadow of the US Bank Tower (a.k.a., the Library Tower), the tallest structure between Chicago and Hong Kong (the signs in downtown are remarkably informative).

Oh, and hey, a bunch of bare trees in front of the Y.

Of course, this shot was taken last month, when it was still winter, so by now they probably have more leaves on them.

(If you want more timely posts, people, you're going to have to figure out some way for me to get paid to do this.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Something for the literary types

"When I examine my ultimate aim it shows that I do not actually strive to be good, to answer to a supreme tribunal. Very much the opposite. I strive to know the entire human and animal community, to recognize their fundamental preferences, desires, and moral ideals, to reduce them to simple rules, and as quickly as possible to adopt these rules so as to be pleasing to everyone, indeed (and here is the twist) to become so pleasing that in the end I might openly act out my inherent baseness before the eyes of the world without forfeiting its love--the only sinner not to be roasted. In short, my only concern is with the human tribunal, and I would like to deceive even this, and what's more without actual deception."

- Franz Kafka, from his diary (and a letter to his fiancee), 1912

(from an article about the fascination with Kafka, in the March '06 issue of the Believer)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Riding off away from the sunset

Sunset from the back of a dual-hull whale-watching boat, off the coast of Santa Barbara. (We were there last month for their whale festival.) Yep, the captain had this baby at full throttle, as you can see from the violent wake. (Apparently, once they've given up on trying to find more whales, they haul ass back to the dock.)

Interestingly, it proves easier to capture this than it is to get a shot of actual whales.

Okay, here you go:
(Take 70 pictures, get one "fluting" shot. There's a reason I don't attempt photography professionally.)

(Okay, it's because I'm not that good, percentages aside.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

A very merry unbirthday to you

In case you ever wondered what it would look like if one attempted to take a picture while riding in the spinning teacups of the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland (at night, with all the overhead lanterns alight), it would be something like this.

I understand if you need to run to the restroom...