A Maine Humor Column and Reliable Source of Tripe
dealing with ad-versity
By Gus Bouchard
The Maine Orifice of Tourism has the lamest ads on the Red Sox Radio network, and that is certainly saying something.
People who listen to baseball on the radio are nice, peaceful folk who love their kids and their communities. They don’t deserve to be subjected to inane sales efforts that would insult the intelligence of a brain-damaged chimpanzee.
You can barely get through an inning without one of the announcers telling you to call Giant Glass. “If you need auto glass replacement, don’t be outsourced,” they say.
How the hell does a cracked windshield leave me at risk for having my job shipped overseas? Am I the only baseball fan in New England who sees how this makes no sense?
The dictionary defines the verb “outsource” as follows: “to procure a good or service under contract from an outside supplier.”
So if I call 1-800-54-GIANT, apparently they’re going to tell me to replace my own damn windshield, because otherwise, the job would be outsourced. Or something.
Anyway, I always thought such commercial foolishness could not be topped on the radio, but as soon as I heard the first Maine Orifice of Tourism ad this season, I realized how wrong I was.
I thought I could expect someone working in the LePage administration to come up with a better marketing strategy than telling people in Massachusetts and Connecticut all about the various silly annual festivals and events they could enjoy if they are willing to drive whatever distance is necessary for them to get to Vacationland.
“This week, come to West Turdfield for the Annual Goat Milking Extravaganza and Pot-Belly-in-Tank-Top Fashion Show. For more information on how you can waste $100 worth of gas to see something the people who live here would never bother with, log on to visitmaine.com.”
I probably don’t need to explain how deeply flawed this is, but just for fun: all of the Maine events that have been featured on the Red Sox broadcast so far either have ridiculously narrow appeal or, most likely, have similar counterparts in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Other parts of the ads are more general. “Come to Maine. The ocean may be salty, but the people certainly aren’t. Welcomes don’t get much warmer.”
“Come to Maine for a dose of the spontaneous. Bring your hiking shoes and your flip-flops.”
Again, there are serious problems with this strategy. People who listen to baseball on the radio are, by definition, either A) sitting in rocking chairs on their front porches, wondering if they should go ahead and take their dentures out for the night; B) already living in Maine; or C) both of the above.
These are not spontaneous people.
And Maine is not a spontaneous place. It’s not like anyone’s going to start hiking the Appalachian Trail and then suddenly decide to go digging for clams that afternoon.
I don’t know what these ads cost, but they are so dumb the only thing they could possibly accomplish is driving tourists away from Maine.
Hey, wait a minute… Oh. My. God.
I just realized how brilliant this is. I’m going to have to vote for LePage in 2014 after all.
stupid things revisited
By Gus Bouchard
I spend $50 a month so my wife’s geriatric cat can pee in a box of fragrant sand. This goes against everything I believe in.
Where I come from, cats relieve themselves outdoors, ideally in the neighbor’s garden. But this cat is 112 years old and can no longer make it through the night.
Once we introduced her to the litter box, her little feeble mind decided she was living the good life of retirement, and now she spends most of her time in there.
What on earth are they putting in the Arm & Hammer cat litter to make it cost so much? Does it depress you that Dow Chemical Corporation or somebody is paying a team of chemists six-figure salaries to figure out how to make a substance that will more effectively absorb the odors of pet poop so we can be more lazy about scooping it into the garbage?
Seems like we have more important challenges to deal with, like figuring out a way to make the toppings on a frozen pizza stay evenly distributed during shipment, instead of all shifting over to one side.
(Seriously. If I wanted to stand around all day rearranging pizza toppings I would have made my own damn pizza.)
Well, this misappropriation of chemical industry intelligence is depressing, and I refuse to support it any longer. The next sunny day we get, I’m spreading the used cat litter all over the driveway so it will dry. Then I’ll sweep it up and use it again.
If the neighbor has a problem with that, maybe he can come over and change the diapers.
* * *
Even though I technically belong to “Generation X,” the fact that people insert the word “like” about twelve times in every sentence is starting to, like, get to me.
Along with the fact that 72% of the population can’t tell a story without raising their vocal pitch at the end, as if asking a question.
Remember on Mr. Rogers, when Mr. McFeely would bring over factory footage of old ladies making teddy bears or crayons or whatever?
And you would get all excited when ol’ Fred put the video in his “Picture-Picture” machine, as if he was activating some really cool piece of magical technology and not just a TV with a cheap plastic frame around it?
And do you remember how, after they finished watching it, Mr. McFeely would take the video with him when he left?
Well, what the hell kind of delivery service is that?
Just once, I wanted to see Mr. Rogers say, “Now wait a minute, delivery boy, we’re going to watch that s–t again tomorrow, ok? So just leave it here.”
* * *
I often use this space to try to make people laugh, but nothing I type will outdo the highly entertaining images you can find by typing “baffled boxer” into Google. Observe:
If all goes according to plan, that will be my dog in a few weeks.
Talking to the cat.
stay-at-home moms work hard… at least the rich ones, anyway
By Gus Bouchard
Sometimes, someone else explains something so well that it’s pointless for me to try to say it better.
Case in point:
“Now that Republicans have flip-flopped on their decades-long denigration of mothers and decided that staying at home to raise children is work—or at least, it’s work when Ann Romney does it; poor mothers, not so much—House Democrats are telling them to put their money where their mouth is.”
That was Daily Kos writer Kaili Joy Gray, who might have a shot at being taken seriously as a writer if she were to drop at least one of her first two names.
But her analysis is spot on regarding Republicans’ hypocrisy about welfare moms.
In case you weren’t paying attention, this whole flap started when a Democratic strategist said Ann Romney, wife of presumed G.O.P. humanoid Mitt Romney, had “never worked a day in her life,” and was therefore no authority on economic issues for working parents, blah, blah, blah.
Well, darned if all the right-wing pundits didn’t have a fit, pointing out — correctly, of course — that most stay-at-home moms actually work very hard, harder than most people in the workforce, in fact.
As Ann Romney said, “[It] is obviously an awesome responsibility, to raise children. It’s, to me, the most important thing we can do. I will tell you that Mitt said to me, more times than you would imagine, ‘Ann, your job is more important than mine.’”
True enough. But then why can’t mothering count as work toward welfare?
Under federal law, you have to be doing some “work activity” to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), but raising kids does not count as a “work activity.”
Democrats are planning to introduce a bill that would change that. It would be called the Woman’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) act, which would constitute the most brilliant use of an acronym in U.S. history if it weren’t so blatantly sexist.
“Under the WORK Act,” explains Gray, “mothers whose husbands don’t have profitable stock portfolios to support them, but who also think it’s important to ‘stay home with the children’ and would be delighted to do so, would have to return to the work force when their child turns four. Still, such legislation would be a much-needed step in the right direction. And it’s one Mitt Romney should be first in line to support.”
You see, Republicans, especially Tea Partiers, have this thing about Welfare. They believe that no one should live off other people’s tax dollars unless they are contributing to society in some way.
Staying home to raise children only counts as a contribution to society if we’re talking about wealthy white children who will attend college and learn how to buy companies and outsource their labor and stuff like that.
Of course, all of this would be moot if it were possible for a family of four to maintain a middle-class standard of living on one income.
But we can’t just start paying workers more money. That would be socialist.
In the Republican view – and by all means, please correct me if I’m wrong – a woman should have the choice to stay home with her kids only if she has earned it by managing to attract and marry a man with relatively high income.
And, in basically everyone’s view, a man should stay home with the kids only if he has some disease or something and can’t get a real job.
finish faster, Finnish Better
By Gus Bouchard
[WARNING: I’m going to start out this week writing about sex, but if you can bear with me for a few paragraphs I’ll transition to a much more interesting topic.]
America’s obsession with measuring things continues to grow.
Take premature ejaculation, for example.
You see, in the old days, lovemaking was an art, and the technique was perfected between couples.
This system served us perfectly well for centuries. No one needed a stopwatch.
But the new version of the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of disorders, due out in 2013, defines premature ejaculation as “within one minute of the beginning of sexual activity.”
No idea how they arrived at the 60-second benchmark. It most likely lets a large number of guys off the hook, including, I’d wager, a room full of psychiatrists responsible for revising a certain chapter of a certain manual.
Whew, 70 seconds! Stop complaining, honey, I’m normal!
Numerical insecurity also fuels current trends in education. Education is evidently going Down the Tubes, and only more competition and accountability can save us.
Meanwhile, while no one was paying attention, Finland, of all places, came out of nowhere in the last 3 decades to build one of the top three education systems in the world.
The funny thing about Finland is that they went most of that time without even participating in international education testing. They rejected competition and instead structured their national school system on equality of opportunity.
No competition? Seriously?
They eliminated early childhood education. No one goes to school in Finland until age 7.
What? They must all be derelict, illiterate criminals! Oh, the humanity!
They boosted teacher pay and prestige. You have to have a Master’s degree to teach in Finland. It’s harder to become a teacher there than it is to become a doctor or a lawyer.
“Bad” teachers are rooted out by… get this… principals. No other system of accountability is necessary.
Students are encouraged to explore their interests and set their own goals rather than cram for tests.
Most importantly, Finland developed a national curriculum that individual schools and teachers are free to implement as they choose, with no national or statewide assessments. Teachers keep track of student progress and arrange extra help for those who fall behind.
In other words, Finland treats education as an art, not a science, thereby taking the exact opposite route that education policy makers here insist is our only hope.
Well, when Finland finally agreed to participate in an international study in 2001, not expecting much since they don’t care about competing, they ranked number 1 in the world.
And they’ve continued to rank in the top three every year since.
That’s right – this cold, rural area of mostly white people (sound familiar?), using a relaxed approach built on the ideal of equality, inadvertently goes toe-to-toe with Singapore, where kids start school in the womb and spend 18 hours a day drowning in textbooks and their own sweat.
In the U.S., we have the worst of both worlds. We don’t expect as much from our kids, but we don’t give them any academic freedom, either.
If you’re hoping we can adopt a Finnish-style system here, don’t hold your breath. Meaningful reforms take decades to bear fruit, but we cycle through new “leaders” and trends with every political season.
We can’t emulate the Finnish because we finish too quickly. Just when we get a good rhythm going, it’s all over, and we move on to something else.
Uh, we’re still talking about education, right?
maher of the same
By Gus Bouchard
Part of what makes America great is that some of us are obnoxious, provocative attention whores, while others get their underwear in a twist and demand apologies. It’s like one huge, collective marriage.
In a March 21 op-ed in the New York Times, Bill Maher, the host of “Real Time” on HBO, demonstrated the rare ability to do both.
No matter what you think of Maher, you have to appreciate the fact that he might be the only genuine and honest television personality in the Milky Way Galaxy.
He says what he thinks and has fun doing it, even if is not in his financial best interests.
Maher’s show got booted off network television because he kept irritating advertisers. Knowing ABC executives didn’t want him trashing the dairy industry, he kept doing it anyway. Rush Limbaugh can only dream of such backbone.
In his editorial, Maher pleaded with the American public to stop being so sensitive. “I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada,” he quipped. “That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes… In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.”
His solution is simple. “If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life…. When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.”
Paradoxically, Maher rejects his own advice. He finds it outrageous that outrage is all the rage, but his own outrage at everyone else’s outrage is totally acceptable.
Another odd thing about this argument is that it was made by someone who has made a career out of getting under people’s skin with controversial, albeit hilarious, comments. Outrage generates publicity for him. Sans outrage, Bill Maher would be telling knock-knock jokes Friday nights at the local seniors center.
Does he really want us to let stupid and insensitive comments by the likes of Don Imus or Hank Williams, Jr. just roll off our backs like they don’t matter?
The proposition, even if it were realistic, would be misguided and harmful to a democratic society.
One purpose of allowing Freedom of Speech is to get reactions out of people. That’s what generates dialogue. If you don’t I should have been offended at ESPN’s “Chink in the Armor” headline about New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, then fine, let’s talk about that. Maybe we’ll learn something. But don’t tell me to shut up about it.
Interestingly, Maher reveals that he does not think all this outrage is genuine. He writes, “Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.”
Here we have a man who believes words should not or do not have any real emotional impact on people, other than to make them laugh.
Not surprisingly, he’s never been married.
By Gus Bouchard
We live in a world where people are willing to pay more than $8,000 for a Chicken McNugget that looks like George Washington.
Rebekah Speight of Dakota City, Nebraska found such a McNugget while cleaning up after lunch one day. She put it in her freezer.
After three years, she put the commander-in-chief chicken chunk on ebay, and bids exceeded $8,000.
In this economy.
There is enough stupidity in the above three paragraphs to last the Red Sox pitching staff an entire season.
This is one reason why it is sometimes hard for me to agree with conservatives on at least one key point: things really have gotten worse, not better.
The Case of the George Washington McNugget is, regrettably, a sign of the times.
The Republicans are right. Our values and priorities are deteriorating. As a society, we waste so much money on pointless trivialities when we know full well how many needy mutual funds there are out there.
Or, if you really can’t help yourself, you can give to charity.
One cause I’m surprised more Republicans don’t support is public radio. They hate the allegedly liberal bias in NPR’s news reporting, but that’s not what I hear when I tune in. What I hear is stuffy classical music and dorky melodies from eons ago.
This music hearkens back to a time of purity, when values were strong, and the music industry had not yet discovered that graphic sexualization of women had more commercial value than puppy love.
For example, take these lyrics from a Doris Day tune from the 1940s I heard on MPBN’s “Down Memory Lane” last week:
“I walked to my house like a good girl should / He followed me to my house like I knew he would
/ He asked me for a good-night kiss / I said, “It’s still good day” / I would have told him more except / His lips got in the way / So I talked to my ma like a good girl should /And Ma talked to Pa like I knew she would /And they all agreed on a married life for me / The guy is my guy wherever he may be / And now you’ve heard the story of what someone did to me.”
Ah, the good ol’ days. Really, where have all the sexual assault and forced marriage songs gone? What happened to our collective innocence, anyway?
America also used to be the land of innovation, where market-driven ideas and free enterprise made us great and powerful.
Now look at us. Despite the obvious commercial and societal benefit, no one has figured out how to make George Washington McNuggets on purpose.
Back in the day, good ol’ American ingenuity would have been all over this. Someone would be getting right making celebrity look-alike foods.
Think of the possibilities! Justin Bieber burritos. John Lennon lemons. Halle Berry berries.
Kevin Bacon bacon. Mmmmm.
But no. We are forced to continue obtaining our celebrity look-alike foods by pure chance on the black market, like we live in some third-world nation or something.
The solution to our decline, of course, is to go around acting like it’s still 1953.
That’s what the Republican-controlled legislature in Utah is doing. They just passed a bill making it illegal for schools to teach anything related to sex, or to even answer student questions about sex or venereal disease.
Utah schools were already required to have parents opt in or out of sex ed. Now, they can’t even acknowledge the existence of sex.
Maybe they’ll all become Doris Day fans.
Introverts of the World (Reluctantly) Unite!
By Gus Bouchard
I have good news for the many people who thought they would never find any grounds to sue for discrimination.
In her new book “Quiet: The Secret Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain suggests that our society discriminates against introverts.
I’m guilty of it, too. Whenever I invite someone to play Scrabble on Facebook, it’s always an extrovert. They are on there all the time, posting stupid, obvious graphics that say things like “share this if you appreciate your gall bladder,” but introverts lurk quietly, barely leaving any indication that they’ve even logged in.
But the problem goes well beyond social gaming prejudice. Cain says those who are reserved and thoughtful by nature will be the next group ready to step forward and claim their civil rights.
“We live in a culture that is biased against a series of traits, namely, shyness [and] seriousness,” said Cover in an interview with Forbes Magazine. “The place of introverts in our culture today is very similar to where women were around the 1950s and early ‘60s. It was part of the population that was discounted for who they were, but were on the verge of coming into their own.”
Yes, because shy people are just clamoring to get out into the streets with picket signs, burning their underwear and shouting at TV cameras, demanding constitutional amendments or whatever..
According to Cain, introverts are born with (not trained into) a preference for less-stimulating environments. They are not anti-social, but simply feel more comfortable interacting with one or two close friends rather than going to a huge, noisy party. They are highly observant and may have brilliantly creative ideas, but rarely feel compelled to share them.
They are often portrayed in the media as creepy sex perverts, but in reality this is only true about 40% of the time.
Just kidding. Good thing all you reclusive weirdos out there have such a good sense of humor.
Seriously, though, Cain’s argument does have some merit. Research indicates that one’s degree of introversion and extroversion is — like race or gender or ability to appreciate Monty Python — largely determined by genetics.
But rather than honoring and using the strengths that come with being introverted, “we encourage introverts to act like extroverts,” says Cain.
Introverted children are pressured into large-group situations (like classrooms and sports teams), picked up by strangers against their will (where else in life is it acceptable for someone you barely know to randomly throw their arms around you and expect enthusiastic affection in return?) and forced to give presentations as if public speaking was as necessary to life functioning as knowing how to operate a remote control.
Introverted adults are less likely to attain leadership positions because society prefers the gregarious, entertaining personality. Those who have charisma and can connect easily with others tend to rise to the top, regardless of their wisdom or thinking skills or tendency to start wars and have extramarital affairs.
Self-promotion is essential in the business world, particularly for entrepreneurs. Even when introverts do wind up in leadership positions, they tend to use a “hands off” approach, less frequently feeling the need to put their own stamp on things or take credit for their underlings’ accomplishments.
In short, discrimination against quiet people is rampant, because they are easy to overlook or misunderstand.
So I think it’s time we all started treating introverts with more respect. I’m running out of people who will play Scrabble with me.
wait a minute… corporations really are people!
By Gus Bouchard
My six-year-old daughter asked me that question yesterday. The one that makes every parent cringe with awkward uncertainty:
“Daddy, where do corporations come from?”
I always try to be honest. “Well, when two or more people truly love money very much, they engage in a special kind of hug, only it’s not so much a hug as it is a signing of papers in a lawyer’s office. But it probably feels like a hug to them.”
“Daddy, I’m confused.”
“Me, too. Go ask your mother.”
Since the 2008 Supreme Court decision Rich Guys In Suits v. Incompetent Federal Bureaucracy declared that corporations can spend money on politics with impunity, the national debate over whether corporations should have the same constitutional rights as “natural persons” rages on.
As the increasingly-popular bumper sticker says, “I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.”
Grassroots momentum is building for a constitutional amendment that would restrict constitutional rights to “natural persons;” i.e. individual human beings.
Now I’m all for heaping pitchforks full of hate onto money-grubbing, soulless entities like Wal-Mart or Apple or Bank of America or Mitt Romney — faceless monsters that exist only on paper, governed by grim men in grim suits driven only by profit, with no sense of social accountability.
But we need a little good ol’ fashioned context before we go around demanding constitutional amendments up in here.
The fact is, corporations have always had Constitutional rights, as Huffington Post legal columnist Kent Greenfield points out.
That’s why the FBI can’t seize Google’s servers without a warrant.
It’s why Barack Obama can’t shut down Fox News, or why a private university can’t be forced to start its classes with (or without) a prayer.
From a legal perspective, a corporation is just a group of people – no different from a church, a labor union, or the ACLU.
As Greenfield says, “If the New York Times had no constitutional rights of its own, it could be prohibited from printing or distributing its newspapers. Its website could be shut off. Its printing presses could be seized…. The fact that individual reporters would still have rights to distribute homemade handbills or orate from a soapbox would mean little.”
So the question is not whether or not corporations are people.
The question is: if corporations are people, why don’t they have to wait until they turn 18 to get all their rights?
Individual human citizens have limited constitutional protections of their own until they reach adulthood. In the meantime, we go through a rigorous government training program (school) that attempts to indoctrinate us with all the appropriate beliefs and behaviors of good citizenship and productivity.
Only when we graduate from high school are we given the ability to participate fully in our democracy.
The fact that corporations do not have to go through this is a clear example of biological discrimination.
I say let’s put every corporation through 18 years of school. Make them participate in sports to get them ready for real-world competition.
Make them go on awkward dates with other adolescent corporations so they can learn how to do a merger without regretting it later.
Condition them to expect punishment for cheating. Have them dissect lesser organisms so they gain an appreciation for how they work.
Make them prove that they can be responsible citizens before you allow them to influence the democratic process.
Only then will we live in a world where all people, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, or literal existence, will enjoy peace and equality.
special treatment makes me sick
Mr. MacPherson didn’t bother, so his tap continued to run as he lay dead on the floor.
For three weeks.
The resulting water bill was nearly $600. And the city, quite naturally, wanted his family to pay up.
Now, the way I was raised, the proper thing to do is to shut up and pay the bill. The rules are the rules, after all, and if the guy didn’t want his family to pay for all that water he should have made more friends so it might take less than three weeks for someone to notice him missing.
But I guess that’s not how things work in Port Colborne, Ontario.
The dead guy’s family whined to the media, and an outpouring of bleeding-heart hysteria against city employees resulted in the city council agreeing to reduce the bill to around $130, which reflected MacPherson’s average water usage for the last three years.
But the waiver did not come without controversy. “If there isn’t already a precedent, this may set it and open the floodgates,” said City Councilor Dave Elliot, who, no matter what you think of him, damn sure knows how to pick an appropriate metaphor for any situation.
And he’s right. By agreeing to reduce MacPherson’s water bill, Port Colburne now has to worry about geriatric ne’er-do-wells leaving their water on all the time, hoping to keel over and remain undiscovered long enough to screw the city out of some serious cash.
I know that’s how I’d like to go out. Wouldn’t you?
Believe it or not, it does not take much effort to see how this situation parallels current events in Augusta.
Gov. Paul Lepage’s proposed $200 million in MaineCare cuts are illegal. No problem, says LePage; we’ll just apply for a temporary waiver from the feds. But the legislature has to approve the cuts first.
Way to leave the faucet turned on and hope someone else pays the bill, Governor.
News flash: we have virtually no chance of becoming the first state to actually get one of these waivers, even if our chief executive had enough common sense not to tell the President he could “go to hell.”
This is not the Paul LePage a dwindling number of us will admit to having voted for. When he took office, the last thing we thought we were getting was some supplicating freeloader who would beg Obama for permission to break the rules.
Where I come from, if you foul up your finances, you don’t go applying for some band-aid waiver. You eat your humble pie, get a second job at a topless gas station, and work harder.
No excuses, and no special treatment. Play by the rules, like everyone else.
And if this faucet so much harder to shut off than the one at Marden’s, then bring in someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.
pbs warps kids’ minds
By Gus Bouchard
They say if your children are watching TV, you’d better be watching with them.
Ain’t that the truth.
Yesterday I sat down with my six-year-old for an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” on PBS. Wow. Not since Wile E. Coyote was able to pull articulate signage out from behind his back during free-falls (but not a parachute, for some reason) have I seen more psychologically damaging animation broadcast for children.
“Sid” is an intellectually curious child with supportive parents. He is always asking questions about the world. I have no problem with that. All kids do that, especially when they’re young. It’s healthy.
But in the show, the adults around Sid actually take his questions seriously and try to help him discover the answers. This bizarre development I feared would give my daughter a warped sense of reality, so I had to pause the show and help her to understand that is not how the world really works.
It got worse.
Sid’s mom drops him off at school. He immediately meets his friends and they sing and dance around the playground. No bullying, no wedgies, no fights.
Then they go inside and Sid’s class has four students in it. It’s not a special ed room, either, because all the kids are high-functioning, able to synthesize diverse facts and experiences into independent insights better than most college freshmen. And the room is the size of an Olympic hockey rink.
The teacher, far from being stressed out and overwhelmed by the various needs of her many students, orients the days activities — including a hands-on lab, readings, and music — around the children’s curiosities. I again had to pause the video and explain to my daughter that this is not how real classrooms work, and that is why she is home-schooled.
But she loved the show, anyway, so she talked me into watching another episode. This time, Sid and his best friend go camping in the backyard with their dad, who wears suspenders and flannel but, strangely, does not drink beer.
The dad, rather than being wrapped up in some football game on the radio the whole time, prepares a journaling and wildlife activity for the boys, and keeps them inspired and fed the whole time without needing help from Sid’s mom.
I kept waiting for Sid’s dad to set the tent on fire or make some boneheaded insensitive remark, but it never happened. I don’t know what kind of bizarre Twilight Zone alternate reality PBS is trying to push on our kids, but I don’t like it one bit.
This time, I didn’t have to tell my daughter anything. She knows that in real life, dads are basically helpless when it comes to kids, and on the rare occasions when they must assume responsibility for their care, their humorous incompetence can carry nearly half the plot of your average 30-minute family sitcom.
That’s what makes a show like “Modern Family” so good. It is a rare program that actually includes kids as an integral part of the comedy. I used to love “Everybody Loves Raymond,” except that they apparently had three kids who slept 22 hours a day, because you never saw them on screen.
I would let my kid watch “Modern Family” before “Sid the Science Kid” any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Everybody on that show has issues, and there are no phony happy endings – people have crazy dysfunctional conflicts with no closure, and they still love each other.
That’s social training we can believe in.
Gerrymandering: it’s perfectly natural, everybody does it
By Gus Bouchard
On August 17, the Bangor Daily News asked, “Is Michaud the Target of GOP’s Redistricting Plan?”
Uhm, I’ll go out on a limb and say… DUH.
Next investigative report: “Does Sunshine Warm the Earth,” followed by: “Is Journalism Failing the Public?”
Of course, both parties will deny that their prime objective in redistricting is to gain or keep a political advantage, just like your 15-year-old son will deny masturbating in the shower after he’s been in there 30 minutes.
They can deny it all day long, but we all know what’s really going on.
(Gee, sport, judging from your room, I supposed you weren’t much into cleanliness, but I guess I pegged you wrong!)
Let’s see… The Republican plan moves Lewiston over to the First District. Lewiston is heavily Democratic. The GOP is punting the First District.
And with good reason. The average Republican stands a better chance of reading this entire column without throwing the newspaper down in disgust than of winning an election in the First District.
But subtracting something like 12,000 liberal voters from the second district means suddenly all the tractor-drivin’ folks can sway an election to the right.
This is called “gerrymandering,” which really is a rather inappropriate-sounding word, if you stop and think about it.
“Junior, what the hell is taking so long in there? You’re gonna use all the hot water!”
“Sorry, mom, I was just… uh… trying to fix up this map so the two districts had exactly the same population. Really.”
“Are you sure you weren’t gerrymandering in there?”
“Ew, mom, that’s gross. Can you just leave me alone? I’ll be out in a sec.”
With our Puritan heritage here in New England, we are pretty reserved about this sort of lewd behavior. For example, observe Vermont’s method of congressional districting:
Now that’s modesty, for you.
In other parts of the country, however, people have no shame. Every census brings a veritable orgy of unabashed gerrymandering.
Exhibit A is the 4th congressional district in Illinois (in black):
That’s right: the black part is the district.
And here’s North Carolina’s 12th district:
These are not isolated cases. There are districts like this all over the country. Serpentine districts. Amoeba districts. Districts shaped like some intern’s acid-trip vision of alien genitalia.
This isn’t such a bad thing. As a voter, isn’t it natural to want to be represented by someone who shares your views? Isn’t this more likely if you are grouped in a district with others who share your views, regardless of where they live?
We could save a lot of time by skipping the geography. Just let every 500,000 Democrats and 500,000 Republicans in each state vote for their own representative to Congress.
The end result would be the same as what we have now, except a few cartographers would lose their jobs.
And the nation’s showers would be made safe for democracy.