Sunday, February 24, 2008

Humans -- Chock Full of Vitamins and Other Essential Nutrients

Mack Hall

In Hawaii a tiger took a walk on the mild side last week, escaping its catdominium and strolling around the human parts of the zoo, checking out the sights, maybe taking a few snapshots, and looking for a snack.

This follows another escape by a tiger in a San Francisco zoo on Christmas Day, a back-to-nature event in which one man was killed near a snack bar. One imagines the survivors running and screaming in fear while text-messaging on their cell ‘phones and chugging bottled water.

And then the souvenirs: “I Survived the San Francisco Tiger Massacre” and “My Parents Watched a Guy Get Eaten by a Tiger and All I Got Was This Lousy tee-shirt.”

Many people question how big cats can escape their enclosure, but the real question should be why cats bother to do so. In the zoo tigers spend their days lying around in the sun while being given free medical care, free housing, and free food according to their dietary wants and needs, and occasionally eating some of their benefactors. Give them a holy book they can’t even read and their lives would be pretty much complete. The reader may now deconstruct the metaphor for himself.

Hundreds of television viewers hundred of miles from any zoo are probably filing disability claims, suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome involving nightcats, and thus unable to work. O Lord, send Thy grief counselors among us.

What, exactly, is a grief counselor? Is that what we used to call a busy-body?

The smart tiger will lurk at the updated watering hole, the bottled-water machine, waiting for its thirsty prey.

Unfortunately, PETA members are out of their cages too, terribly concerned lest Fluffy suffer from a human femur caught in his throat.

A house-cat is a tiger writ small, insolent and carnivorous, lounging on the windowsill and dreaming of killing mice and birds, and through its heavy-lidded eyes perhaps measuring its human companion and pondering the nutritive possibilities. To a pussycat the living room is the African veldt, and the cat’s pet human little more than a large, munchable monkey with opposable thumbs.

Sure your kitty purrs when you stroke his chin; he’s fantasizing about eating you.

Human – it’s what’s for dinner.

Even harmless-looking animals on the loose are dangerous; an innocent zoo visitor could be trampled to death by sheep stampeding to some presidential candidate’s rally.

And then the snakes – they might escape to become editors at The New York Times, swallowing whole the few remaining specimens of another endangered species, real reporters.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

House, Nursing Assistant

Mack Hall

House is a reasonably intelligent television show featuring the eponymous lead as a Byronic hero who is never sacked despite his drug abuse, ill manners, television watching, and video gaming, all on the job, because he develops brilliant solutions to apparently impossible medical problems.

Where House breaks down is its unreality, which is not a criticism because this is a television show. In House the few nurses do things on computer screens and are never seen giving patient care. Patients suffer seizures or coronary occlusions only when a team of physicians happens to be in the room. The hospital in which House works has no admissions staff, nursing assistants, cleaner-uppers, security guards, or bulletin boards. Each fictional doctor enjoys a spacious, glass-walled office which any real-life physician can only envy, and when said physician needs a crash cart, a suture tray, or a specific medicine it is immediately available.

What if House were more like a real hospital?

House, Nursing Assistant. House is fired for having a drug problem, even though he saves lives.

House, Pharmacist. House is fired for being rude, although he saves lives.

House, Cleaning Staff. House is fired for pausing thirty seconds to watch a bit of soap opera on a patient’s television while tidying his fiftieth or so room of his shift, even though skilled and science-based hygiene and maintenance save lives.

House, Hospital Security. House, after wrestling with drunks most of his shift, is fired for playing a video game on his watch at four in the morning although his presence in a creepy world saves lives.

House, R.N. House, after helping deliver a baby in E.R., giving resuscitation to a heart-attack victim, getting coughed on by ‘flu patients, barfed on by someone with food poisoning, and supervising the care of dozens of other patients, all without lunch or even a potty break, is fired for telling an career FEMA recipient complaining about the formaldehyde in his free trailer that he doesn’t even know what formaldehyde is and why doesn’t he just open the windows if he doesn’t like the new-car smell?

House, Admissions Clerk. House, after years of loyal service to the same hospital doing his part to help save lives, is fired for not learning Spanish rapidly enough.

Short season, huh? And now, back to Flipping Homezillas Off the Island.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jesus' Carbon Footprint

Mack Hall

The (Anglican) bishops of London and Liverpool want you to cut back on carbon for Lent.

Senator Obama’s supporters, shoaling from event to event, might chant “Yes, we can! Yes, we can!” over and over without thinking about it, while the more perceptive carbon-based life form, thinking for himself, might ask the Bishops of London and Liverpool “Why?”

Does Governor Huckabee give up squirrel for Lent? Just a thought.

The Bishops of London and Liverpool in holy conclave in Trafalgar Square, the heart of the Christian world, tell us that a carbon fast during these forty days of Lent will raise awareness (awareness has been raised constantly since 1968; it must be quite high by now) of global warming and how our energy-hungry lifestyles are hurting poor communities.

Yes, you, reading this column under a light bulb – that light bulb is starving a child somewhere. Have you no shame? Turn that light bulb off, sit in the dark, and meditate on how some kid now has a steak dinner because you are sitting in the dark.

Other forms of denial, according to the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Liverpool, include avoiding plastic bags.

Yes, the devout Christian has always associated self-indulgence with Demon Plastic Bags. Many a poor wife has had to force her way into a grimy East End pub with her starving children in order to shame her husband away from consuming freezer bags among bad companions.

One employee of Tearfund (wherever one finds a bishop, one finds a fund), of which the Bishop of Liverpool just happens to be vice-president, will camp outside the charity’s offices in Teddington (which is not Liverpool), in order to reduce his carbon footprint to that of “an average Malawian farmer.”

Carbon footprints are bad things, of course, soiling the rug and so on.

Just why this employee of Tearfund wants to reduce his carbon footprint probably eludes even the poor farmer in Malawi, who would probably like to expand his carbon footprint through ownership of a nice little tractor. Our hypothetical farmer, working hard to make a living as he observes his government officials zipping around in nice cars, must ask why his carbon footprint must be the standard for anything. The Bishop of London, who surely takes the tube, not his car, to his look-at-me events, called for individual and collective action.

One can only imagine that our farmer in Malawi is all giddy about the Bishop of London calling for things.

The Bishop of Liverpool didn’t call for anything, but said "It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change.”

Apparently the rich are exempt from, oh, volcanoes and earthquakes.

Lent, forty days of penance, prayer, and almsgiving (now known as “social justice”) in anticipation of Easter, is as old as the Church. The idea is not that penance, prayer, and almsgiving may then be ignored for the rest of the year, but are emphasized even more during this liturgical season.

And certainly much suffering is involved during this time of prayer and reflection. One must suffer, for instance, tiresome people asking others “What are you giving up for Lent?” The response ought to be “It’s none of your *&^%$# business,” but one must remember to be charitable.

Lent has unfortunately become part of the extended MySpace world, where the mythology of global warming replaces sin, and look-at-me-ness replaces the Gospel admonition against such things.

The Bishop of London and the Bishop of Liverpool do well to worry about a hypothetical farmer in Malawi, though perhaps the government of Malawi might do better in making sure the world’s largesse to Malawi actually gets to the farmer. Maybe the Bishop of London could also spare a thought to the poor sleeping under bridges only a few blocks away from Trafalgar Square, instead of MySpacing in the Square for the cameras.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Mugging in South Park

Mack Hall

Last week we learned that 21% of Lamar University students are working their way through school; the other 79% voted to spend someone else’s money for a football team.

The increase of eight dollars per credit hour works out to $120 extra each semester for a student taking a typical load of fifteen hours. That would buy maybe one textbook or part ownership in a cup of fashionable chain-store coffee.

This send-the-bill-to-my-mommy-and-daddy-fee comes one month after the State of Texas imposed another tax / fee / contribution / love offering of five dollars per consumer at strip clubs. The five dollars are to go to a fund – there’s always a fund – to assist women who are the victims of sexual abuse. The State of Texas bureaucrats who will administer this fund (solely out of the goodness of their pancreases) will determine who qualifies as a victim and will distribute the money (after expenses) to other State of Texas functionaries to counsel the officially approved victims.

If our elected State of Texas bureaucrats are indeed concerned about victims of sexual abuse, wouldn’t it save time and effort if the money went straight to the dancers at the club?

And does a girl working her way through college as a dancer at Les Clubbe Le Chat du Exotique catch a break on her tuition?

Following the logic of guilt-by-association, perhaps Lamar University donate the student football fee to the victims of violence. After all, one reads on the ‘net (and if it’s on the ‘net it must be true) that on Super Bowl Sunday normally mild-mannered men inspired by a good tackle or a blocked punt beat up women. Men are such beasts.

Lamar University could combine these ideas in order to fund a football team: have the players moonlight as topless dancers. Who wouldn’t pay extra to see a lineman in a thong bench-pressing a Volkswagen to a jazz-mix recording of Andy Williams singing “Moon River!”

For something more exciting the quarterback could do calisthenics on a pole while the theme from Hot Fuzz blares through the speakers.

This could give a new meaning to “tight end.”

To encourage the customers to buy more Saigon tea the coaches might wear cute little dresses and sit on dudes’ knees and coo sweet nothings in their ears.

The State taxes us for good things that are just not do-able in the private sector: roads, cops, courts, and pomade for Governor Perry’s helmet-hair. Beyond those needs, the State should exercise restraint in picking the pockets of people who work.

If someone wants to console unhappy strippers, great. If someone wants to play football, she should have at it. If someone wants to attend a football match, fine. While we’re at it, Lamar’s chess club should have cheerleaders, too. But just because someone in government has a good idea doesn’t mean the guy out in the weather switching rail cars across the road from Lamar should almost automatically be taxed for it.