Friday, July 29, 2016

List-O-Mania

                 
by Vol-E

I.
How many people make a daily to-do list? And breaking down that question, when we say "people," do we mean Americans? Residents of first-world countries? Do Nepalese water-carriers make to-do lists? I sometimes wonder about things like that. People for whom writing and reading are not part and parcel of ordinary life -- how do they organize their time? I'm inclined to think that in many cases, there are few "optional" activities. You either get up and carry the water, or you die. No need for "reminders." That's something to think about.

I suppose that people for whom life is slightly more complicated but does not include literacy, the lists are kept in one's head.  Or social structures make it possible to check in with the family or the village so that everyone is coordinated and everyone's role is clear. People for whom writing things down is second nature, is this really an advantage? Does the ability to make lists encourage mental laziness? It's a matter of concern that for many societies, the old story-keepers are dying, and none of the history that they remember is being written down. When they're gone, it's gone. And we know what happens to civilizations that lose track of their history. For too many Americans, despite access to books and archives, it's happening anyway.  ...But no, today is not for political musings.

II.
From time to time, I've run across books and websites that encourage the following exercises:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saturday Night Fever

                 
photo: https://www.spreadshirt.net

by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Once upon a time, Tony Manero was the disco dance king of Brooklyn.  He was not always so.  At one time, he always came in second to someone better at Club 2001 Odyssey’s monthly disco dance competition.  Tony desperately wanted to be the best dancer in Brooklyn.

To improve and to win, Tony would visit other dance clubs to see what other dancers were doing and what exciting choreography he could pick up from them.  Once, he made the effort to go into Manhattan to the famed Studio 54 club.  He did not learn any new moves from there but he did catch a quick glimpse of the infamous owner, Steve Rubell. 

He worked at his dancing every spare minute he had yet he could not win the competition.   Sure Tony got better but just not enough.  You see, Tony's competition was not sitting still either.  They too wanted to become better and they too practiced every day.  As Tony got better, they got better.  Tony's relative position remained second place.

In desperation, Tony would to go into black dance clubs.  It was a risky adventure as white Italian boys were not so welcomed by the Black patrons.  He did understand their animosity towards him as a stranger, an intruder, and as a white man among them.  This was their refuge from the travails of the world and here he was, a white man, invading it and bringing all the reminders of a harsher reality into their fantasy room.  Tony wanted to win his dance competition and if that meant taking a risk, braving their hostility, the assault of looks, words, or fists, then so be it.

Tony did learn from his excursion into the black clubs how skilled and creative the black dancers were.  He hurried home to practice and the next day, rushed to the Phillips Dance Studio to continue his workout.  Despite the hours and all the effort, Tony could not emulate the black dancers.

One evening while practicing in his room, Tony cried out in frustration, “I can’t, I can’t.  I wish I could but I can't.  I wish I could dance like a black man.”

Suddenly, in a bright light, clouded with smoke, appeared a black man.  He was dressed in an outlandish outfit, a rose colored leisure suit, a light red Hawaiian shirt with large white flowers imprinted all over, and red platform shoes only to be outdone by the blood red top hat perched on his head.

"Who are you?" asked a surprised Tony.

"Tony, my darling boy, I am called Baron Samedi," said the black man, as he, top hat now in hand, swung his arms out in an welcoming manner and bowed.  "I am here to help you with your dancing."

It may seem strange that an African prince of voodoo would appear to help an Italian kid from Brooklyn.  But, this is New York City, the great melting pot of the world and that also applies to mystical and magical creatures. They could not be so selective in the New World.  In three generations hence, Tony's family will have many non-Italians members - Irish, Jewish, and yes, a black woman or two.  Mystical and magical creatures had to keep up.

"How can you help me?" asked Tony

"I can grant you dance skills beyond any you have seen.  You will have moves that astonish and amaze.  You will win your contest, become the king of your club, and if you want, greater fame."

"And the catch is?"

"No catch just a straight forward bargain.  One year of service to me and you get your championship."

"Service?"

"Oh nothing illegal or difficult.  Mostly delivering packages to my clients for me.  I make and sell magical charms.  They are very valuable so I need people whom I can trust to deliver them for me."

"OK, I can do that.  It's a deal," said Tony.

There is no need to go into the dramatics of the next disco dance contest for there were none.  Tony won easily.  His choreography was beautiful, complex, and a grade better than his competition.  It was obvious to all that there was a new disco dance king.  Tony paraded around the dance floor with his trophy held high to the praise and accolades of the audience.  As he sat at his table with his friends, Tony received his competitors like the king he now was and they bowed to him and express their admiration of his dancing prowess.  If he did not think it profane – for it was a papal gesture of respect - Tony would have made his competitors kiss his ring in supplication.


Throughout the night as The Hustle or one of Donna Summer's songs played, Tony leaped onto the dance floor and commenced to dance his signature move of the night, known today as The Manero.  He would swing his arms across his torso with his index finger pointing at the rotating disco ball glittering in the club's ceiling then swing his arm again across his torso to point at the floor flashing with strobe lights.  The move was accompanied with wild erotic gyrations of his hips, the heat of which could be felt by the women present as well as the men, who of course interpreted the feeling as hero worship.

In the early morning as Club 2001 Odyssey was winding to a close, Tony and his friends were leaving for their customary and now celebratory trip to the  Verrazano Bridge, when Baron Samedi appeared.

Tony greeted him,  "I won, I won, thanks to you.  You kept your part of the agreement.  It was better than I imagined."

"Congratulations and you are welcome," said the smiling Baron Samedi.  "I still have to fulfill the second part of your wish."

"The second part? What second part?" asked Tony.

"You wished that you could dance like a black man.  So, tomorrow morning, you will awaken as a black man."     


Friday, July 15, 2016

Wontcha let me treatcha?

                     
by Vol-E

Getting right to the point: I'm tired of people doing for me. Yes, you read that right. I want to pick up the tab for a change.  I just spent about a week with friends, and didn't get to contribute anything. These are people I've known forever, and about 15 years ago, when my finances were about as low as they were going to get (and stayed that way for a LONG time), every time I was with them, they paid my way. And that's fine, because if they hadn't, there would have been no visits, no dinners, no sightseeing, no entertainment, no nothin'. I was the original Brokey McBrokeface. These friends bought me a VCR. Which, in those days, was kind of a big deal. DVD players were barely becoming popular, but we had no DVDs, just plenty of tapes and nothing to play them on.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have nothing to fear from me -- and if The Urban Blabbermouth can persuade Mr. Gates to adopt his giveaway plan and put me on that list of 80,000, I will take it without a syllable of protest. I'm still paying taxes I owe from about 8 years ago; I still budget very tightly, and I still only go to the movies 2-3 times a year. But having been "there" for so many years, I'm in an excellent position to know that things have improved. 

I can pay my own way. I'm tired of pulling out my wallet, only to have the friend, the cousin, the person who goes "way back" with me give me that look and ask "Are you sure?"

Yes, dammit. I am NOT a charity case.

I was playing around with Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago, and learned that you can send people money with it. I got hold of my buddy (she of the VCR) and decided to test out the app. I sent her a dollar. Or, as we used to say when we were growing up in NY together, a dolla. 

She sent it back. 

*#@&!

If I'm out with someone and have a reasonable expectation that they're going to pick up the tab (people who are traveling on business and have an allowance, let us say), I find the cheapest thing on the menu with no add-ons. But if you see me ordering the Delmonico ribeye and a mixed drink or two, would you PLEASE  assume we're going "Dutch" at the very least? I might not be able to pay for you, but will be very insulted if you presume to pay for me. I am not a moocher. I felt like one for too many years to ever go back.

And, as an aside to The Urban Blabbermouth: Thank you very much for the pizza and ice cream last October. Next time, it's on me.


Monday, July 11, 2016

How to give away a billion dollars



by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Bill Gates is the world's richest man with a net worth of eighty billion dollars.  He has set up a foundation to use his money to help humanity.  The Gates Foundation sponsors things like medical research, education scholarships, public schools, and mosquito nets in Africa.

I have an idea for another way for Mr. Gates to use his money.  I confess that I like my idea much better than his.  What if one morning Bill Gates got up and decided to give away one million dollars to every person in the world until his money ran out?  That would be EIGHTY THOUSAND new millionaires.

I don't think Bill Gates knows eight thousand people so how could he do this?   Since it is my idea, I pick the time tested and honored con man trick, a Ponzi Pyramid scheme, but in reverse of course.  You can appreciate this method for its irony as Ponzi Pyramids are used to cheat people of their money and not enrich them as Mr. Gates hopes to do.

This is how the Reverse Ponzi Pyramid will work:  Bill Gates, at the top of the pyramid, would start things off by picking out all the people he knows and writing their name into the second level down of the pyramid.  He would then divide his money into equal shares to each person.  Those lucky people on the second level now get to choose the people for the third level down.  The people on the second level will keep one million dollars and then pass the rest to money to the people on the third level. 

The lucky third level people would choose the people for the fourth level down and again all the money but one million for each person on the third level would go down to the fourth level.  The pyramid scheme would continue this way as the money trickles down the levels, until at the very bottom; the last of the eighty billion dollars becomes one million dollars to each person.  In the end, there will be a total of eighty thousand new millionaires in the pyramid scheme.  How many levels is that anyway?

To forestall the greedy people who would not give any money to the lower levers of the pyramid, the Gates Foundation can act as the Keeper Of The Money -- we know them as banks -- and write checks to the lucky folks in the pyramid.

Now I just have to work out how to become one of the lucky eighty thousand in the pyramid.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bathroom Paradise





by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
I hate the bathroom at work.  Most of the time, it stinks.  I realize that's just how bathrooms are and the building's vents clear the air fairly quickly.  But in the few minutes that it takes to clear the air, I am in there and it stinks.

There is more to my distaste for the bathroom than this.  My colleagues are a mess.  They leave newspapers in the stalls, are sloppy about insuring complete flush, and are far too careless about placing the hand wipes in the waste basket.  Can these folks be this dirty and so unsanitary in their home?  I suspect not.  Senior management also uses the same bathroom.  Maybe my colleagues are angry at the company for something or other and try to take it out on the company in this way.  Maybe that works for them but it's a terrible annoyance to the rest of us.

Using the same bathroom must be horrific for senior management.  Imagine that you are the all-powerful boss and you have to use the same bathroom as the lowest employee in the company hierarchy.  I imagine that as the supreme boss, you cannot go into a stall and commence to loudly pass gas, grunt as you poop, and to stink up the place.  Then you have to go outside and become once again, the supreme boss.  How humiliating.  I suppose that bosses everywhere have to do their business in the quietest way possible or hold it until they get home.  Hmm, explains some things.

At one time we had just the urinals on the wall.  No problem there.  We would use it and respect each others' privacy.  Well, one day, barriers appeared separating the urinals.  We speculated that one of the bosses must have peeked and noticed that some of us lowly employees are quite gifted in the manhood department and that no doubt stirred up huge amounts of envy.  Well, that's a boss for you, always measuring something – productivity, performance, and … 

   
And what of women’s bathrooms?  I have never been in there but Urban Legend is that women have a lounge in there --  sofas and coffee tables; vanities with lights and mirrors for applying make-up; flat screen TVs with surround sound in the stalls; and best of all, automatic air fresheners.
       

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mrs. Schrager's Excellent Advice

                     
                       

by Vol-E

I had a pretty mixed assortment of friends in my childhood. While I'm delighted to have successfully reconnected with several classmates since the advent of Facebook, there are still some people who, when I think back to the way they treated me, I can't help but ask myself  "What was I thinking??"

Diane was one of those people -- but this story is not about her. She moved clear across the country after 8th grade, and I never heard from her again. Zero loss. No, this story is about Diane's mom.

First thing you need to know about Diane's family is, her parents took child-rearing VERY seriously. I'm sure that if Microsoft had invented Excel back in the 1960s, Nat and Gene would have kept detailed spreadsheets, tracking every move made by Diane and her older sister. They were the sort of people who, if they made a joke, would look at each other worriedly, as if to say "Was that on today's schedule?" They had all sorts of maxims for Diane and her sister, including "Culture is wisdom," and "Be a leader, not a follower."  There were lots and lots of rules. On the few occasions when I visited Diane's home, they were very free with their philosophy. It was as if two kids weren't enough -- they wanted to raise me, too.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cinderella, a Fractured Fairy Tale




                 
As told by The Urban Blabbermouth
~

Act I
One fine sunny day.
A herald tacks a proclamation of the King’s Ball on a tree by the forest road.
The tree was a sweet Honeysuckle named Cinderella
Cinderella was unhappy
Her family tormented her
Her evil step-mother and her wicked step-sisters were stinky Gingko trees
Who spread their branches wide to spitefully block the sun
Cinderella begins to weaken and wither in the shade
And pines for a nicer life.

Act II
A Tree Fairy passing by stops to read the proclamation.
Talks to Cinderella as tree fairies do
Learns of her torments
takes pity and grants a wish
Cinderella wishes to go to the King’s Ball
The Tree Fairy God-Mother transforms Cinderella into a human girl
And her brown rough bark into a glittery golden gown
Warning, be back by midnight or else.


Act III
Cinderella goes to the ball.
She happily dances and dances with the Prince
The Prince starts to fall in love
He wants to escort her home
She lets him take her to the forest’s edge
He begs to kiss her good-night
They kiss sweetly and softly
Her evil step-mother and her wicked step-sisters watch in jealousy
The Prince departs happily smiling all the way home
At midnight, Cinderella turns into a tree.


Act IV
The Prince wants to ask Cinderella to marry him.
He goes to the forest’s edge and cannot find her
He finds her glass slipper on a Honeysuckle branch
And searches all the Kingdom for a matching foot
The Prince does not ever find Cinderella
Because trees have roots not feet.

The End.