THE SPORT OF KINGS
I just plain don't understand the popularity of casino gambling, or of the lottery for that matter. If a game is crooked, I don't want to play; and if the game is straight I still don't want to play. Where is the fun of watching the inevitability of statistics slowly leeching your money out of your pocket? In the long term, a straight game is utterly predictable. The games have complicated rules that cause the players to make decisions, none of which affect the long term outcome. And losing combinations are usually just one element from a winning combination in order to create the false impression that you were thiiiiiiiiiis close.
Elite level sports really don't hold my interest either. I didn't go to the University of Arkansas (I went to Ole Miss. Don't tell anybody.), and I've got nothing in common with any of the players. I can't even afford to buy season tickets outside the end zone; but I'm supposed to be happy when they win and sad when they lose. Professional sports are even farther removed. It's a mercenary system. They'll move to any town that'll build them a new stadium. How a fan can so quickly embrace the Tennessee Titans is beyond me. Come on, Jethro. They ain't your team. They was trucked in.
There is one kind of gambling that I do enjoy. Thoroughbred racing. Here's why.
All the stuff that's illegal in every other sport is part of the game in horse racing. You can bet on your own horse. You can bet on an opponent's horse. A jockey can place a bet on a race that he's in.
In every other elite sport, it's assumed that every participant is trying his best to win every time he plays. Any other intent would be unethical. Not so in horse racing. You don't have to try to win. You might enter your horse in a race just to work it out at an unfamilar distance. In some fragment every race is thus fixed, but since that's part of the game and everybody understands that this is part of the game, the challenge revolves around second-guessing the strategies of the parties that can influence the outcome of the race and picking the best horse from among the entries that are actually trying to win.
This isn't really a complaint about Mr. Woods. I've never heard anybody say he's anything but a class act. It's about the new fans he's attracting to the game.
If you watched the Buick open, you noticed the fans gathered around the 18th hole hooted and hollered like a Fox Network studio audience. I guess they stayed near the 18th because the clubhouse was serving beer.
Every other big money sport has turned into a tap-dance-in-the-end-zone, flying-through-the-air-with-your-war-face-on-slam-dunk-hang-on-the-basket showboat. Can't we just have one sport where the players and the fans are gracious winners and equally gracious losers?
CHAP STICK AND NAIL CLIPPERS
All my life I've lost chap stick and nail clippers, necessitating a lot of special trips to the store. I'd probably lose one of each every couple of months, and when you need them you just need them and that's that. Finally in 1994 I went down to Sam's Club and bought a carton of each. I got them home, put them in a drawer where they are yet today. I still have in my pocket as I write this the chap stick and nail clippers I had then.
PIT BULLS, BLACK PEOPLE, WHITE PEOPLE AND TELEVISION
I used to think Louis Farrakan was a paranoid, the way he percieved all kinds of subtle cultural subterfuge calculated to disadvantage blacks. Lately, though, I've noticed something about the way pit bulls are portrayed on television.
Whenever you see a white guy on TV with a pit bull, it's always an ignorant, toothless cracker with a fat, sloppy, drunk wife. There's also likely to be a cop shining a flashlight in his face. Message to white kids, "Don't be like this guy."
Whenever you see a black guy on TV with a pit bull for a pet, it's always a respected and feared gangsta hip hop artist bedecked in expensive jewelry, flashing a wad of currency, surrounded by slutty young melon-breasted women. Message to black kids, "The pit bull is part of the status package."
Let's deconstruct a bit and peel the image away from the reality. How does a pit bull affect a household economy? If you get one of these dogs, you are going to have expenses the collie owner will not have. You're going to have to spend a hundred bucks or so on a special enclosure, a fenced-in area within your back yard. A lot of cities require this. You're going to miss a few days of work every year to appear in court when your badass pooch gets out of his special enclosure and mauls some toy poodle. Then there's the expense of getting your dog out of the pound and the vet bills for the poodle.
So these music videos are sales pitches contrived to trick black teenagers into making financial decisions which make them economically, and therefore politically, less potent through nuisance drain on their families' finances. In our society, money translates into social prerogative. What you buy today determines what gets manufactured tomorrow. If you've spent all your money cleaning up after your gangsta dog, nobody cares what you'd like to buy.
Giving the commercial media the benefit of the doubt, maybe I'm imagining the intelligence behind this disparity. Maybe outlaw personalities tend to buy outlaw dogs and outlaw white guys show up on "Cops" while outlaw black guys show up on MTV. I say it doesn't matter. Whether by accident or design, the effect is the same: Television encourages young black men to buy pit bulls and discourages white ownership of pit bulls; and pit bull ownership is a financial liability due to the extra precautions that the owner has to take.
In hopes of making myself seem like less of a paranoid radical, I point out in closing that a bigger shoe is on the other foot. There is no bigger drain on a household economy than an SUV, and SUV's are marketed to a white demographic.
GEEZERS AND POLITICS
Politicians love geezers. They're a huge constituency, they vote in every election, and politicians think they can be bought off on the basis of a couple of government entitlement issues, namely medicare and social security. That's why medicare keeps getting bigger and bigger. No politician can hope to be elected without promising to cover more and more drugs and procedures.
The best thing about buying geezer votes with medicare money is that the geezers don't get the money. They get doped up with all the newest medications. The money goes to doctors, hospitals, HMO's, drug companies and insurance companies, all of whom contribute enthusiastically to political campaigns. On top of all this good news, the newest and least understood drugs get their first broad based use on old folks who are already on lots of other medications.
The geezers fought World War II, which was so unquestionably a righteous cause that they can not concieve of a war which we should not be in. It was a time when the whole country was in uniform, so they equate patriotic duty with military service. Nothing else counts. In addition to being proudly patriotic they are also proudly protestant. A little bible thumping and a little flag waving and they'll think you're on their side. They place a high value on obedience and a low value on dissidence.
DOUBLE THE VALUE OF YOUR INVESTMENT IN TWENTY SHORT WEEKS
It sounds too good to be true, but it's something I do every year and it's worked every time. Anyone can do it starting with as little as a few bucks or as much as a few hundred. But when I tell you the trick, you're going to be disappointed and you're going to think I'm lecturing you on morals and home economics instead of giving you one of the keys to financial freedom, you ingrate.
Here's the secret trick:
About the first week of July every year, the price of sweetcorn drops and the quality increases as the new crop comes in. For a couple of weeks you can buy fresh, locally grown sweet corn eight ears for a dollar.
At around Christmas time, you can buy frozen sweet corn for about forty cents an ear. If you can freeze and store your own sweet corn at a processing cost of eight cents an ear, you've doubled your money.
Trouble is, the task of processing fresh corn into frozen corn is expensive, complex, and technically demanding. Here's how: You shuck it. You boil it for eight minutes. You cool it in a sinkful of ice water. You let it drip dry on a towel. You put it in a plastic bag. You put it in the freezer. It's good for six months that way, but still edible after eight or nine. Even then it's better than commercially prepared frozen corn.
So a family of four, each member eating three ears of corn a week saves $120 a year and eats better corn than the family that spends hard-earned money on frozen corn at the store. So to break even, the family of four has to process 600 ears for an input of $120 in energy, materials, equipment and labor, right?
Don't forget there's a difference between what your boss tells you you're being paid and what you actually get home with. In order to save your labor and spend that extra $120 on preprocessed corn, you'll have to earn $200. Eighty dollars will be withheld, diverted to a 401k or otherwise FICA'd. By the way, if your 401k is not doubling your money every year, maybe you should consider diverting a couple hundred bucks from it into a chest freezer.
So you're saying to yourself, "Six hundred ears! That's a big project. That's like a weekend. I'd need a giant cauldron to boil it. I'd need a pickup truck to haul that many ears. At two a minute notstop, it'll take five hours just to shuck and silk that load. That's a big-ass freezer, too. At 25 ears per cubic foot, I'll need 24 cubic feet of freezer. A 25 cu-ft unit will cost about five hundred dollars. That's a fourth of my garage. I'll have to park outside."
The actual fact of skinning hundreds of ears of corn lies at some variance to the concept. The first discovery that you'll make is that if you want to silk the cobs in any meaningful way, you can't do two a minute by hand, so you're going to finish up much later in the day than you thought. Then you'll notice all the help you recruited is going to start thinking of other places they absolutely have to be. Next you'll notice that the shucks take up about the same space whether they're full or empty, so if you needed a half-ton pickup to bring them in, you'll need a half-ton pickup to take them out. So there you are finishing up in the middle of the night next to sugary, starch-caked corn shucks piled as high as your head and you'll suddenly think of the flies and ants that this will attract. Then once you've made that investment in gear and created this nasty mess for the sake of a savings of $200 a year, maybe you decide that you just plain hate practicing the art of food preservation and you'd prefer to economize elsewhere. With all those big expenditures the spouse would never let you forget a sudden change of heart. It'd be worse than that boat.
So let's start small. Just to prove that the concept works.
There you are in the produce market and some farmer brings in a load of corn. Your freezer unit over your fridge holds a little over 3 cubic feet, so you buy 40 ears to freeze.
You get home. You get out that 3-gallon kettle you never use. Now you're going to use it. Put in 2 gallons of water and turn the stove on high. Fill the sink with ice water. Shuck the corn by hand and silk it by floating the cobs in the sink. By the time the water boils the corn will be ready to go in, four batches of ten each at eight minutes per makes 32 minutes. There's cooldown time in the ice bath. There's drip dry time. There's time to bag and wrap. The whole thing's over in 60 minutes.
And then, bingo. You have done something there, mister. The guy with the MBA says that you have created eight dollars worth of added value. What I say is that you have freed yourself from the need to bring home eight more dollars. What I say is that your labor and your planning and your creativity and your organization has bought you eight dollars worth of financial liberty.
When was the last time you saw an ad for a movie that did not have a frenetic drum solo pounding away on your eardrums?
FAMILIAR GAME SHOW QUESTION
If the question contains the word "mongoose," the answer will be "Riki Tiki Tavi."
OUR CIVILIZATION INTENTIONALLY PLANTS ANOTHER WEAKNESS IN YOUR BRAIN
"Look me in the eye and say that." You've heard it a thousand times, and you probably still believe that a liar will be unable to speak the lie while staring you in the eye. Surely he will flinch or blink or turn away in shame.
Liars, like rattlesnakes, practice staring their quarry in the eye because it gives them an advantage. They're aware that you hold this false belief. Tradition has planted this button in your brain and the liar knows it's there. The more intensely he glares, the more surely he is lying.
DON'T TELL ANYBODY YOUR DREAMS
I'm talking about REM sleep dreams, not hopes and dreams, although I'd keep those tightly held as well. If somebody knows you desperately want something, they'll use it against you.
As for sleepy time dreams, don't share them because the person you tell them to will interpret them, and never to your advantage. Nobody describing the surreal imagery of a dream is going to sound well-adjusted. It's an invitation for an armchair psychologist to tag you with an unfavorable diagnosis. The more people you tell, the wider the variety of harsh judgements you tempt.
Another danger is that the person will think you're inventing the dream in order to illustrate some point or prey on the superstitions of the listner (as in the Frumisara dream in "Fiddler on the Roof"), in which case you're assumed to be a liar. That's an undesirable result.
Here's a big cosmic secret. Dreams don't mean anything. If you have a dream that's gruesome or disturbing, it's no more meaningful than a horror movie. When the lights come on, it goes away. The Freudians and the fortune-tellers will try to use your dreams to upset you. They believe that life actually ends at about the time you graduate from high school and everything that happens (including dreams) after that is merely a symbolic reiteration of something that happened before that.
Horse apples. Dreams are like cloud formations or fireworks. Shapes and colors. Sometimes they remind us of stuff. Dreams are like boogers. They come out of your head. They don't mean anything; and you have nothing to gain by sharing them.
RTJ--11/15/2002Arkansas Travelogue home page | Matters Literary | Short Rants I | Short Rants II | Short Rants III