part twenty-nine


Let me see if I understand the premise of this "reality" TV show. A middle aged, obviously educated, man shows up to take an entry level job. He's being followed around by a camera crew, and everybody just accepts that at face value. Nobody suspects this might be the boss or an investigation of some kind.

This is the phoniest show since "Man v. Wild." The boss might be fooled, but all the other participants are in on the joke, even if they're not saying anything.

RTJ 9/9/2010


Phthalate esters have been much in the news lately. They're used in plastics to keep the materials from getting brittle. These chemicals are suspected as contributing to higher incidences of all kinds of conditions from autism to aches and pains. Phthalate esters consist of a molecule of phthalic acid off of which dangle two small miscellaneous hydrocarbons connected to the phthalate by ester bonds.

It's those two darned ester bonds that are suspected to be the problem. There are a lot of electrons floating like mouse ears over that oxygen atom and they're not held very tightly in this configuration. So those ester bonds are assumed to be reactive sites, not as reactive as free radicals, but troublesome. Cause for concern.

Well, if you think phthate esters are cause for concern for that reason, then you should be twice as concerned about boric acid. Boric acid has FOUR, count 'em FOUR ester bonds.

Not that you should panic over anything with an ester bond. Lots of natural fruit and flower fragrances and flavors have ester bonds. However, usually just one, and remember that we evolved to tolerate those natural fragrances and flavors.

Okay, so that's one more thing to alert you to the possible dangers of boric acid.

RTJ -- 9/23/2010


The Helena Blues Festival, formerly the King Biscuit Blues Festival and formally known as the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival, is coming up this weekend. It's always a great party.

Here's something to notice, a show within a show. Circulating among the crowd is a subgroup of city people wearing earth shoes or birkenstocks and khaki vests with lots of pockets and carrying big expensive cameras. They'll be wearing new hats that they can't quite look natural in, either wide-brimmed safari hats or baseball caps worn backwards. If you spot one wearing a tarpon fishing hat, savor the moment. You've just spotted a level six dweeb with a plus four to defend against what cool people think. That's nerd royalty, my friend.

If it's sunny, they'll be wearing bug-eye sunglasses and smelling of spf-liquid-shirt. If it's warm, they'll be smelling of deet. They can't snap a photo without doing a bit of tai chi, and they seem to think they've come from a more civilized place to document some exotic, primitive culture. Maybe they have. Who's to say? But they don't blend, that's for sure. They look like they've been cast as a photojournalsit in a community theatre production. If there were just one or two of them, you wouldn't notice; but the Helena Blues Festival attracts every Nat Geo wannabe within a hundred miles. While you're there having some beers and filling your ears, watch these people going through their paces and try to imagine the movie playing in their heads.

Ask yourself this. Why do they have to dress up like this to take pictures?

RTJ -- 10/03/2010


Lately I've seen TV opinionators saying that what the Tea Party needs is a strong leader to unify their message.

This is baloney. What the MEDIA wants is for the Tea Party to select a leader. That way they can make news stories about the personality of that leader, his foibles, whether or not he hired an illegal alien, etc. They'll go through his every public utterance and find something to construe as dangerous or embarassing or racist or sexist or crazy or something. Look what they did with that woman in Delaware. As it is, they have to talk about the Tea Party issues of government profligacy. Once a leader emerges, the media can report it like a pro wrestling event and the central issue will get lost, which is what the media wants.

RTJ -- 10/06/2010


The recent bird die-off in Beebe and die-off of drum in the Arkansas River at Ozark both took place along the southern reaches of the Fayetteville shale formation, which has only recently been exploited as a new source of natural gas. The same area has also logged an increase in the frequency of earthquakes.

I'm going to guess that the bird die-off is the result of a release of natural gas into the air, either through the release of a safety valve at a well or drilling site; or perhaps through a crack in the earth opened by one of our recent earthquakes. If a flock of birds flies through a giant cloud of invisible, odorless methane, they could suffocate and drop right out of the sky after panicking for a few seconds. The amount of gas required would be huge. If a bird flies 20 miles an hour and it takes 30 seconds to suffocate, he'd have to enter a cloud 900 feet across in order to suffocate before he reached the other side.

I'd look for a nat-gas storage tank in the area that is listed in the inventory as being full, but is actually empty. Then I'd check the safety valve to see if it's been released. If you find such a thing, you've got your culprit.

The drum carp die-off could be the result of anything from fracking compounds to the release of oils and minerals from wells and cracks from fracking and earthquakes. Some of those shales do contain mercury.

I'd get a few test drum carp and expose them to mercury and to fracking compounds to see if they have any special sensitivity to those chemicals that other fish don't have. I'd also check with AGFC to see if waterways known to contain mercury are known to have low drum populations.

RTJ -- 1/4/2011

BRAD MELTZER'S decoded and STAN LEE'S superhumans.

In these two shows the namesake personality makes no contribution to the show other than to read text on camera, lend a famous name for marketing and take credit for the content. It's not literally "phoning it in," but it's the next thing to it.

I've noticed also that the lawyer researcher on Decoded says this a lot, "I've done some research on the internet, and...." Seriously? You've read some internet articles? That must have taken about ten minutes. And the internet is usually the best place to get accurate information, right? And the other guy, Buddy, is kind of a lump, too. His observations usually consist of paraphrases of observations the other researchers have already said.

Even though the shows are silly, overwritten, and filmed with that shaky self-counscious camera work that film schools are teaching these days, I do admit to seeing every episode. Guilty pleasure.

RTJ -- 2/4/2011

Matters Literary | Arkansas Travelogue home page | Short Rants Page One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen | Fourteen | Fifteen | Sixteen | Seventeen | Eighteen | Ninteteen | Twenty | Twenty-One | Twenty-Two| Twenty-Three | Twenty-Four | Twenty-Five | Twenty-Six | Twenty-Seven | Twenty-Eight