Thursday, September 29, 2011

Save The Manatees

The following column was originally published in March of 2007. 
While editor of a news organization (sort of), we got lots of press releases from nearly every publicity-hungry collection of political zealots known to mankind.
But I remember one I received that really caught my eye.
It was from the “Save The Manatees” group.
At first, I thought it was somebody pulling my chain, because people who know me know that I’m the only guy on the planet who hates manatees.
Everyone loves them because they’re like Jessica Simpson:
Cute and stupid.
But for me, it’s a personal grudge that dates back to my time in Florida.
You see, the manatee is to Florida what the desert tortoise is to Nevada:
A slow, outdated, annoying critter that has outlived its evolutionary usefulness but is protected by Federal law the way we WISH we were protected against Muslim terrorists and Amway distributors.
In fact, I believe manatees and tortoises both continue to exist solely to spite Darwin.
Like the problems caused here by the desert tortoise, huge whacks of rivers and lakes in Florida have been designated off-limits because somebody spotted something playing in that section of water that could have either been a manatee or Rosie O’Donnell on vacation.
In those few remaining inland waterways where boats are still permitted, the speed limit is set at five miles per hour in order to protect these poor creatures known as “sea cows.”
“Sea possums” would be more accurate, since the darn things tend to wander out in front of speeding boats for no apparent reason.
As is indicative of these feel-good but brainless animal-rights zealots, apparently nobody at “Save The Manatee Central” bothered to notice that we don’t have a lot of manatees out here in the desert.
I stopped by the bridge on Riverside Road and peered into the Virgin River recently, just to make sure.
I could tell that there weren’t any manatees in the river, not because I didn’t see their lumbering brown backsides breaking the water’s surface, but because I didn’t see 47 signs saying “No Humans Allowed – Manatee Zone.”
This is good news, since it may be the last tributary in America where you can run your 42-foot cabin cruiser at 30 knots without getting a ticket from the “carp cops” (what we used to call the marine police).
If you’ve ever seen the Virgin River, you know that I’m joking.  Except for that brief period known as “the Floods of '05,” the river rarely gets deeper than 12 inches.
The press release went on to explain that a horror has befallen the poor manatees which needed to be exposed on the pages of our desert newspaper.
The manatees are being:
That’s right, those evil bipeds known as, ugh, humans (yuck!), have been filmed doing such terrible and degrading things as (please take the young children out of the room when you read this), TOUCHING the manatees!
Some have even been videotaped swimming with them and even RIDING them!
We must stop this insanity!
Um, yeah.
I saw the video.
Nobody was torturing, beating, or harming these lumbering creatures.
In fact, throughout the video, divers were petting the manatees and rubbing their bellies.
I wish someone would torture and harass ME like that after a big meal!
The captions on the video also referred to them as “cold and hungry manatees.”
If you’ve ever been to the Sunshine State, you know that there are hot tubs and spas in Beverly Hills that aren’t as warm as a Florida river.
Also, manatees feed on underwater vegetation.
Have you heard of any big seaweed shortages in the south lately?
The only reason I bring this up is that I wanted to show that we in the desert haven’t cornered the market on environmental lunacy.
There are human-haters all over the country.
Eventually, there will be a video on YouTube showing the horrors of someone trying to pet a desert tortoise.
You’ll know those petters immediately.
They’ll be the ones with three missing fingers, wearing a t-shirt that says “I love turtle stew.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reverse Bank Robbery

(Photo by Ambro)

The following column was originally published in January of 2007.

Back in the old West, it was pretty easy to spot the bank robbers.
They were the guys on horseback wearing bandanas to cover their faces, brandishing shiny six-shooters, and shouting “yeehaw” a lot as they raced out of town.
At least that’s what Hollywood has taught me.
Today, the robbers wear suits and ties or business skirts (the latter reserved mostly for females).
They also reside on the opposite side of the teller’s cage.
I’ve learned that today’s “bank robbers” are actually the banks themselves.
I recently began shopping for a new financial institution where I could deposit the huge profits earned by this newspaper over the last few months.
Okay, the battery-operated coin sorter we use for counting our profits broke after the 82nd roll of pennies.
In any event, I have been looking at the rates charged by some of our local banks, and I’m beginning to think that Jesse James wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
For example, I can almost understand banks wanting to pop their customers for taking money out of the bank.
Using per-check charges, they can make you think twice about whether you really needed to eat this week, since they’ll hammer you for up to 40 cents per check, plus the cost of printing the checks.
(I swear it costs less to print actual money than what they charge to print a book of checks!)
But again, they didn’t get to be suit-wearing cigar-smoking rich guys by letting people actually take money out of their bank, so it almost makes sense that they charge you to make a withdrawal.
However, most of the commercial banks in Mesquite charge businesses to put money INTO their banks!
That’s right, if you want to give money to a bank, you have to PAY them for the privilege!
Again, the fees range from 15 cents to 40 cents per check that you want to deposit.
Of course, if you’re willing to keep a minimum balance of up to $20,000, they’ll gladly waive that fee, which leads me to another gripe about these unmasked, unarmed highwaymen (and highwaywomen, which is different from a street walker, but we’ll talk about that at another time).
One of my biggest complaints about banks is that they practice discrimination and bigotry.
No, it has nothing to do with the color of your skin.
They only care about the color of your money.
They discriminate against the non-rich.
For example, and everyone knows this, the only way you can get the bank to give you money, called a loan, is if you already have money.
If you don’t have money, they won’t lend you money.
It gets worse.
If you deposit lots of money, they’ll give you more money, called “interest.”
If you only deposit little bits of money, you don’t get any interest.
Even worse, some of the banks will CHARGE you if you don’t have thousands of dollars in your savings account.
This is so different from the “good old days,” when poor folks could furnish half their houses with appliances such as free toasters, blenders, and calendars the bank would give you just for opening an account.
People would furnish the other half of their houses by making frequent trips to the gas station, where a full tank (which by the way cost less than $10 back then) would earn you a set of glasses or a transistor radio.
Now, you have to hock all those things just to pay the monthly bank fees, which can range from $10 to $20 a month for businesses.
So maybe Jesse James and his boys had the right idea.
It was probably the last time in the history of banking that someone could actually make a withdrawal without two forms of ID, a thumbprint, and a first-born child as collateral.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Slinkies And Other Alternative Fuels

The following column was originally published in May of 2006.

With gasoline approaching $3.50 a gallon, America has suddenly discovered the idea of “alternative fuels.”
News reports abound regarding the use of ethanol, hydrogen, and even used french fry grease as potential fuels for our vehicles.
However, I think the scientists charged with finding new go-juice have overlooked some important alternatives, and I’m not just talking about the same old joke sources like bean flatulence and the hot air from politicians.
For example, I believe the government needs to commission a study of “Slinky Locomotion.”
Have you ever watched a Slinky “Walk down stairs, alone or in pairs, and make a slinkity sound?”
Ever since I was about three, I’ve marveled at the perpetual motion possibilities of a Slinky and an “up” escalator.
Another idea would be to research the use of Sugar Frosted Flakes as an alternative fuel.
I’m not sure what they put in that stuff, but I’ve seen four-year-olds bounce off walls for extended periods fueled only by Tony the Tiger’s secret recipe.
As a kid, I also witnessed a form of propulsion every Saturday morning that warrants additional investigation.
For years, it was an impractical resource, but with the price of gas reaching the stratosphere, I think it’s time for us to consider “Y-shaped cactus with the large Acme rubber band” technology.
There might be some legal entanglements due to patents currently held by one Wile E. Coyote, but I’m confident something could be worked out.
You might laugh, but I consider the rubber band to be the most under-used energy resource in the country.
I’ve seen rubber bands provide the necessary propulsion to make a propeller-driven balsa-wood airplane fly.
I’m not admitting to anything, but I’ve personally witnessed rubber bands generating enough rock speed to break a decent sized picture window.
And when placed against the tip of your index finger, extended, aimed, and released, rubber bands have been known to exceed the speed of sound.
(I learned this in a Middle School science class, where a girl became the unfortunate victim of a drive-by rubber band incident.  They said you could hear her scream four classrooms away.  I base my “speed of sound” theory on the fact that it only took a split second for the rubber band to reach its target, but it took five minutes for the hollering to stop.)
Also, a member of my family once owned an old Fiat, and I recall that the piece of equipment under the hood wasn’t much more advanced than a rubber band stretched between two sticks, so someone is already looking at this idea.
I know that scientists have been working with ethanol and methanol, but they need to do more studies on alcohol.
I can envision Bourbon-fueled automobiles in the not so distant future.
I base this on my observations of usually-quiet men and women who suddenly become non-stop oratory machines after three shots of Jim Beam. 
I don’t think the Beam-powered cars would be very fast, but the miles-per-gallon possibilities are staggering.
And finally, the “domino” theory of propulsion has always fascinated me.
If we could figure a way to harness the energy of 20,000 dominoes knocking each other down using only the power of the initial falling domino (or an accidentally-bumped table), I believe we could put the Middle East out of business in about a week.
There are other technologies out there that need to be looked at, such as the energy generated by a screaming baby.
(The energy produced by the scream is exciting enough, but the ability of a shrill scream to bring three or four adults immediately to their feet is phenomenal).
We as a nation need to expand our research in order to find the energy source that will carry us through the next century.
The answer is out there.
And I suspect it will be found in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eunuch Union

The following column was originally published in May of 2006. 
It seems that everyone wants to be a eunuch in India these days.
I know, it sounds a little far fetched, but according to a story from the AFP news service, legitimate eunuchs in India are being forced to issue their own photo ID cards as proof of their, um, legitimacy.
I can’t imagine that anyone would want to pretend that they have had their, er, “dangling participles” removed as a social statement.
Heck, for that matter, I can’t imagine that anyone would want to ACTUALLY have these parts removed.
However, according to the story, nearly one million men in India have opted for this procedure.
The story doesn’t say why.
And my imagination isn’t good enough to come up with a convincing reason.
I can certainly understand eunuchs who were forced into the club by someone else.
I’m married to a woman who believes Lorena Bobbitt has done more for marital fidelity than Dr. Phil and Dr. Ruth combined, so I recognize how a transgression could lead to gender neutrality.
But to choose such a lifestyle is beyond my powers of comprehension.
When the article started talking about how they achieve that particular state in a ritual that begins with tying off the testicles using a strand of horse hair, I had to change the cerebral channel.
The funny thing is that the idea of removing your own private parts wasn’t really the thrust of the story.
The real issue was a group of posers which have been horning in on the eunuchs’ territory.
Apparently, eunuchs are often the target of scorn, ridicule and embarrassment by those with their parts intact.
(Not a surprising fact.  I wouldn’t want to be around someone crazy enough to choose neutering as a fashion statement myself.)
Since they have trouble finding a job (insert vulgar doughtnut factory remarks here), eunuchs often pick up pocket change by crashing weddings and birthday parties.
In India, it is traditional for the party hosts to pay the unwelcome unencumbered guests to leave in order to avoid embarrassment.
Now, a small band of faux-eunuchs have taken to crashing parties and demanding outrageous sums to leave, creating even more headaches for the legitimate geldings.
So they have begun issuing ID cards as proof of their legitimacy.
The article didn’t indicate which government organization is responsible for confirming the lack of male equipment.
(In the United States, I suspect that duty would fall to the IRS, an agency which has perfected the art of emasculation).
While I still don’t understand why any man would choose this procedure, it at least answers some other questions I’ve had about the country but was too afraid to ask for fear of being labeled racist or politically insensitive.
For example, it explains why some men in India wear nightgowns as part of their everyday attire.  (Can you imagine the pain involved in wearing a tight pair of jeans for a newly-minted eunuch?)
And it certainly explains that eardrum-bursting practice of ululating which is deeply entrenched in the culture.
(I can imagine the scream “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi” coming from my own lips at just the thought of having those particular jewels heisted.)
In any event, the eunuchs in India have chosen to issue photo ID cards to those who truly qualify as members of that union.
While the story doesn’t say what the photo is of, we can be pretty sure of what is NOT in the picture.
And just imagining what is NOT in the picture is enough to make me ululate all over again.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to call the fabricator about my new stainless steel truss.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seven Stroke Sermon

The following column was originally published in June of 2004. 

To some people, golf isn't a game.  It isn't a sport.  It's something much more important.  To them, golf is a religion.
Just as in discussions about religion, people basically fall into one of three categories: non-believers (folks who don’t golf), followers (players who manage to find the links once a month), and zealots (people who believe Jack Nicklaus’s  birthday should be a national holiday).
It’s easy to distinguish between the zealots and the non-believers.
Non-believers bravely denigrate the sport with remarks about a “dumb game where guys in funny pants chase a dumb little white ball with a dumb crooked stick,” or refer to it as “cow pasture pool.”
Of course, like an atheist at a Southern Baptist revival, you won’t hear them say it out loud at the country club.
Zealots are even easier to recognize.
Your average Christian probably has at least one cross necklace or a “What Would Jesus Do” wristband.
LDS brethren can be distinguished by their “Choose The Right” rings.
Our Jewish friends wear the Star of David.
Golfing zealots wear anything that reeks of golf.
It’s the only time you will find grown men who think black and white saddle shoes are stylish.
They usually have at least one car with “I’d Rather Be Golfing” on the license plate holder.
Twice a day, they try to pay for a soda with the ball markers they carry in their pants pockets.
If they’re good golfers, their den is decorated with golf trophies and plaques.
If they’re bad golfers (bad golfers rarely admit they’re bad golfers, you have to ferret it out), their den is decorated with pictures of good golfers.
They may have trouble finding their way from Walmart to the post office, but can navigate their way around 18 holes at the CasaBlanca.  Blindfolded.  Stuffed in a golf bag.  In the middle of a sandstorm.
They will ignore weeds in their front lawn and pretend they don’t know how to use a vacuum cleaner at home, but will spend twenty minutes repairing fairway divots or lifting ball marks on a public course.
Golfing zealots usually offer a blank stare when you ask them the date of their wedding anniversary, but can give you the exact date, time, and wind direction when they eagled the fourth hole at The Palms.
When singing the praises of “BoBo,” chances are good that they’re not talking about their pre-teen son or family dog, but their favorite Callaway club.
(If you don’t know what a Callaway club is, see “non-believer” above.)
The Vatican serves as the headquarters for Catholics.
Our Jewish friends have Israel.
Muslims have Mecca.
Golfers have Mesquite.
This land is blessed above all others, with seven beautiful golf courses and a climate that allows pilgrimages even in the dead of winter.
People come from all over the country to walk the hallowed ground blessed by a Messiah named Palmer.
Seven days a week you can find people worshipping at the tee-box altar.
And when they die, all golf zealots share the same hope:
That God will greet them at the pearly gates wearing black and white saddle shoes, carrying a large golden book that confirms they have an 8 a.m. tee time, before being led off to eternity in a pristine white golf cart that says “I’d Rather Be Golfing” on the license plate holder.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brain Implants A Better Bet

                                        (Photo by Roland Darby)
The following column was originally published in April of 2006. 

While attending a recent function at a libations facility (what we used to call in the old days “a bar”), I noticed a young woman who wanted to be noticed.
It’s just one more indication that I’m getting old, because instead of taking notice because of her large breasts and thinking “Wow, those are large breasts,” I noticed and thought “You know, she could have put that $5,000 to much better use.”
I’m sure you’ve encountered these women before; the kind that somehow managed to get their hands on five grand and decided that stocks and bonds weren’t nearly as valuable an investment as a good set of implants.
Usually, as in this case, it’s someone who was already attractive but felt that God’s handiwork just wasn’t quite good enough.
Like Dennis Miller, I’m always amused when someone has this procedure done, then gets that surprised look on their face when the Surgeon General suggests that maybe filling an important body part with the same substance used to grout the tile in your bathroom isn’t such a great idea.
Some of the more sophisticated women with money to burn and time on their hands often purchase that particular procedure the way some people buy new cars. 
They don’t really need it, but they have to keep up with the Joneses.  Or the Spearses.  Or the Kardashians.
Then you have those like the one in question, who make the purchase then want to drive around town with their new "Corvettes" so everyone will notice them.
I began to think about all the things this individual could have put that money toward which would have given her better dividends.
For example, the money could have been better spent on an English language tutor.
With just a few short lessons, “Iuntnuthrbeeeer” could actually sound like “I want another beer.”
(Did you ever notice that the people who use the word “Iuntnuthrbeeeer” are usually the ones who need another beer the least?)
Wardrobe would have been another more reasonable expenditure.
The woman in question could have bought a couple dozen t-shirts that said “Look at me!” in 24-inch letters and still had enough left over for those English lessons while producing the same result as the implant option.
Speaking of lessons, dance lessons might have come in handy.
One of the unfortunate by-products of this particular body enhancement is that it makes it nearly impossible to slow-dance with someone without looking like you’ve invoked the “book rule.”
The “book rule” is one that used to be imposed at school and church dances, where proctors who felt boys and girls were dancing too close would take a thick-tomed book and place it between the couple with the admonition “no closer than this.”
The difference is that in this case, the book is replaced by silicone.
Then of course is the alternative of taking those five g’s and putting them toward a college degree.  Not a four-year university diploma, mind you, but five thou can get you a pretty decent AA degree from a community college.  Unless your name is “Bambi” or “Blaze,” a certificate in dental hygiene is probably going to earn you more money than some new appendages that will soon have their own nicknames.
Fewer dates, maybe, but more cash.
Personally, my favorite nickname for fake bazoombas is “fire hydrants.”
There is an obvious similarity in shape.
But more importantly, like real fire hydrants, their biggest attribute is the number of dogs that inevitably will come sniffing around.
You would think that a man my age would have an appreciation for artificial breasts.
But like I said, I’m getting old.  Staring down the barrel of a future that will probably involve an artificial hip, artificial knees, and artificial heart valves somehow makes the idea of one more artificial body part much less appealing.
Yes, even that one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Is A Sport?

 (Photo by Grant Cochrane)
This column was originally published in June of 2004.

What is a sport?
According to the American Heritage dictionary, sport is defined as “physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.”
Another entry in the Websters Revised Unabridged dictionary says “that which diverts, and makes mirth; pastime; amusement.”
Some people believe an activity must involve a ball in order to qualify as a sport.
Others with a more liberal viewpoint would argue that any competitive event can be counted.
Some folks insist that NASCAR is a sport. 
If that’s true, then I become an athlete every Thursday when I make 400 left turns around the Virgin River parking lot looking for a place to hang my station wagon race car, prior to making a few victory laps around Victoria’s Buffet.
Is poker a sport? 
ESPN, the arbiter of all things deemed sport, says it is.
I must admit, it’s one of the few sports which feature athletes surrounded by cigarette butts and half-empty glasses of Jack Daniels, but I understand Babe Ruth managed a few home run records in such surroundings.
Since there is a “World Series of Poker,” I think we would have to mark “yes” by that one.
Does the cloak of athletics extend beyond the poker table to the blackjack table?  How about craps?  Is that a sport?
And if those games of chance qualify, then slot machines must be included as well.
Actually, I’d like to see the slot machine event added to the 2012 Summer Olympics. 
Face it, the American team has a better shot at winning gold in the “White Diamond” three reel event than they do in men’s soccer.
If you are a traditionalist that insists an activity must involve a ball to qualify as a sport, then I guess roulette would have to count.  Since the game also involves a wheel, I think NASCAR fans will back me on this one.
If you buy into the Websters definition of “that which diverts, and makes mirth; pastime; amusement,” then newspaper sports sections are wide open for just about anything, including next summer’s Republican and Democratic conventions.
For those partial to high-scoring competitions, a couple of lines can be added to local sports coverage for the “Battle of the Convenience Store Gas Pump Prices,” where the numbers climb faster than a Lakers-Timberwolves basketball game.
There are purists who support anything which involves whacking something with a stick, like baseball or hockey or cricket.
Does that mean sportswriters should report on every kid’s birthday party which involves a piƱata?
And if so, should they use the American scoring system where points are based on the number of candy items that hit the ground, the Argentine scoring system that grades on distance, or the Blue Cross scoring system that counts the number of post-party children visiting the emergency room with missed-pinata-whacking injuries?
Many sports involve uniforms with numbers on the back, so I guess sports writers should be busy the next time a crew from the state prison drops by to pick up roadside litter.
If a sport must involve a “score,” like figure skating, then sports fans should start visiting some of the local bars around two a.m.
Unfortunately, I suspect the place will be full of Canadian Olympic skating judges, meaning lonely guys awarding “tens” to girls that the rest of the world would only consider a three.
I’d like to hear from you.  Do you think poker counts as a sport?  What other sports do you think do or don't qualify for this label?
Send your opinions and suggestions to me at
And of course, I’ll be counting your replies.