Wing Nut or Phony?

Mannequin Chair Sidewalk

In a culture as deeply superficial as ours it is often difficult to tell the authentic from the false.

It is easy to sympathize with the phonies, poseurs, affected wannabe’s and disingenuous empty vessels passing off pilfered ideas as original, skating past any serious analysis or criticism by others as an ant might slide across a non-stick sauce pan slathered with extra virgin olive oil.

Their dilemma is not unfamiliar. How does one stand out in an atmosphere of mass homogenization where, thanks to the constant recycling of mediocre ideas discarded by others, we are reduced to virtual clones, unable to generate anything original or even recognize originality in others?

With apps ever ready to do the work and thinking for us, today’s Johnny & Jane Lunchbucket simply don’t have the energy or ability to develop attributes sufficient to earn the name “personality”. So what’s a faker to do?

Simple – steal one! This is not as odd as it sounds, indeed, throughout history residents of society’s inner circle – where tedium is sought out and bland banality honored as a virtue – have looked beyond the castle walls for character, creativity, flair, vision and style. Shamelessly pillaging the campsites of society’s least loved minority groups they returned home with loot enough to pretend they were interesting.

And thus, gentle reader, do we arrive at the crux of this tale. You see, crazy is the new cool – and so – these days there are a lot of creeps passing themselves off as wing nuts when in fact they’re square bears in chicken outfits. This leaves the average citizen with the challenge of separating the honest to goodness wing nuts from the phonies.

Keep an ear out for these phrases; they will help you differentiate.

“I’m crazy, man, I’m dangerous, man. I could snap just like that.” Phony

“I am perfectly sane, no need to worry about me!” The Real Thing

“When I walk down the street, children run and hide.” Phony

“I stepped onto a Moebius strip to get to the same side.” The Real Thing

“My thoughts are too advanced for society.” Phony

“Wearing my underwear outside my clothes makes laundry day easier.” The Real Thing

“I hear voices and they all sound like Oprah Winfrey.” Phony

“I hear voices arguing with each other and ignoring me altogether.” The Real Thing

“I drink to forget something I’ve forgotten because I’ve been drinking.” Phony

“The more you drink the more talented I become.” The Real Thing

Hope these help! Be on the lookout, poseurs are everywhere!

Crossing The Stream Of Consciousness

Ferry Small

For all of us, and when I say “us” I refer, of course, to those who society might describe in terms less than entirely flattering, for example, “laughing academy graduates”, “strange rangers”, “those who dance to the beat of a different marsupial”, and of course, “Followers of Lord Whackadoomious”, to cite only the most widely circulated, familiar to schoolchild and senior citizen alike, there comes a time and, speaking from experience I assure you it is a time one remembers as vividly as one’s first blackout, if that’s not oxymoronic, when one realizes with clarity, certainty, brevity, and afternoon tea that what is commonly referred to as “mental illness” is no mere passing fancy, no hobby or experiment, no entertaining divertissement or amble through a funhouse gallery of distortion mirrors but, rather a way of being, not a lifestyle per se but merely a life or, more properly, truly a life, a complete life, which is to say, one will be doing all the things of life, the stuff, the occupations, the challenges, yes, the disappointments and frustrations as well, as a mentally ill person quite distinct from people who, through no fault of their own, are not mentally ill and must raise families, force themselves through meaningless occupations which they call jobs, without even the slightest smidgen of mental illness to make them interesting, and when one has this epiphany, if I may use such a highfalutin word, when a word as unassuming as “realization” would have served just as handily, there is that sinking feeling one experiences upon dropping car keys down a storm drain, that frozen moment of heightened awareness, like the instant before two steam locomotives, accidentally guided onto the same track, collide, colors are more vivid, sounds more intense, even one’s sense of smell is heightened, those keys, frozen in mid-air, no way to reach them, all is gone, all is certain, the die is cast, the cast has dyed, and as the keys descend through the cast iron grill, smiling a mocking, toothy smile broad as the face of a 58 Buick, the knowledge settles in the pit of your pendulum and you make peace, sweet peace, you let go, sweet release, embracing your reality with a brave little smile as you step off the ferry to tread on terra incognito.

Insanity An Unaffordable Luxury

Rochester Psychiatric FacilityV2

According to a study released recently by the American Association of Associated Americans (AAAA), insanity may soon be out of reach for all but the super-rich, if current trends continue.

Chumley Throckmorton, PR Liaison for AAAA, explained the findings at a recent press event.

“America was founded on democratic values,” he began, “our constitution guarantees specific freedoms like speech, religion, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness means different things to different people but one thing is certain, for many of us it means embracing our inner whackadoomian and smiling shamelessly as the cheese drifts slowly off the cracker.

“If one quality has helped to shape this nation more than any other it is the enthusiastic celebration of personal insanity,” he smiled.

“Madness was no mere colorful side road of the American experience, oh no, looneytude carved Main Street out of a hostile wilderness, tied the sky with wire, clogged the air with carbon monoxide and made the racing rivers glisten with mercury. Toxic levels of greed, ambition, and aggression drove a long parade of pathologically disturbed explorers, industrialists, bankers, bookies, assassins and interior decorators to ravage a utopia of incalculable natural wealth and beauty.

“That didn’t just happen,” Throckmorton continued, hammering the podium as the word “happen” arrived, “it took vision, the vision of men and women not afraid to make their demented dreams a reality.

But today,” he looked down, removed his glasses, cleaned them on his assistant’s tie, put them back on his face, and proceeded, “all that is in jeopardy.

“The ever-widening gulf between them what got and them what got not is having a chilling effect on insanity which, in the vast majority of cases, has simply become unaffordable. The result is that our once marvelously wild and obstreperous nation of misfits, malcontents, rabble-rousers, gangsters, and entrepreneurs is becoming whitebread, drab, listless, and dull. If this continues at its current pace it won’t be long before we’re indistinguishable from Belgium…or even Switzerland.

“Nationwide, those who do choose to experiment with insanity today are opting out of the glamour, high-maintenance diseases with force enough to bend rivers and level mountains for disorders that are more annoying than truly pathological. Complaints like triskaidekaphobia, arachnophobia, and phobophobia may qualify as maladies of the mind, but we are kidding ourselves if we think we can build the nation’s future on a foundation of triviality.”

Throckmorton summed up thusly. “If America hopes to be the nation it was once and frequently claims to be now it must first find a way to make insanity universally affordable. The painful irony here is that now it is only the rich that can afford insanity and, typically, they have absolutely no idea what to do with it.”

Searching for Extraterrestrial, Mentally Ill Life

Demented Space Alien

Since slightly before the dawn of time, man has set his gaze on the immensity of space and wondered this – given the billions and billions of tiny dots out there, which are probably quite similar to the thing upon which I reside, circling the sun, or other large objects – and knowing what I do of statistical relationships and relationships of probability, which is to say, the likelihood of events – how could I possibly be alone in this universe?

When you really stop and think, isn’t it far more likely that somewhere, somehow, on one of these lonesome magma clumps there is a form of life – however humble – striving ever upwards along its agonizingly slow evolutionary rise which, ultimately, will lead, over endless millennia of failed experiments, to something resembling me, and when I say me I do so because we must take as our starting point the assumption that humanity is what they refer to as The Crown of Creation and as such is the standard by which all others are measured, assuming there are others to measure, which we are, because frankly that is the point of this exercise.

So let us argue that, given an infinite amount of time to do so, and an infinite amount of government funding to squander, not to mention a rugged little spaceship able to withstand asteroid collisions, exploration would inevitably discover life of one sort or another. According to the legions of marginally employed scientists who have time to untangle these hypothetical quandaries, this is a given. Given, perhaps, but their belief sheds no light whatsoever on the presence, or lack, of mental illness among intelligent aliens.

Since roughly one in ten Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness, it is reasonable to assume that at least one out of every ten extraterrestrials would suffer from some sort of mental health issue, which in itself would not be bad, after all, we cannot allow ourselves to be prejudiced against extraterrestrials any more than we should allow ourselves to be prejudiced against mental illness at home – however, in the interests of practicality, and practicality must be our watchword here, it is necessary to realize that not every extraterrestrial intelligent life form in the entire universe is likely to adhere to the blissfully benign standards of peace, dignity, respect, love, understanding, compassion, tolerance, fairness, and justice we subscribe to here on earth.

This is significant since, in a culture with technology more advanced than ours, the behavior of a mentally ill populace, not to mention its leaders, could be catastrophic. So, if we consider space travel at all, we must be prepared for close encounters with alien civilizations in evolutionary stages of development far different than ours, with tastes and belief systems differing drastically from those we hold dear. Consequently, it behooves us to diagnose and understand alien mental illnesses before we encounter them.

Scientists will quickly point out that it is difficult to study the unknown, which is why we will be forced to take the unpopular option of relying on psychics, faith healers, and social media experts. The time to act is now; before we first encounter mentally ill aliens and wonder what sort of treatment might help them; or protect us from them.

So, as you gaze out upon the limitless pinpoints of light strewn zig zaggedly across the squid ink dark expanse of night, consider this; someone who is not all here may not be all there, either.

Soup To Nuts

Siamese Twins At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time when family members, spread far and wide across this great land of ours, unite under one roof to dine, catch up, and recall exactly why it is they are so careful to avoid one another the rest of the year.

Those of us strangely blessed with mental illnesses of various descriptions are especially vulnerable, since these allegedly cheerful events feel more like crime scene reconstructions where the horrors that sent us running down the path to Cookoopantsatopolis are revisited endlessly.

Seated at the table, any progress made in therapy over the past year seems to magically melt away. Before long we find ourselves reclaiming emotional baggage we’re desperate to abandon. No matter how far we’ve progressed in life, there, seated in front of that defenseless avian carcass, we’re seven again; and it ain’t pretty.

Small wonder so many of us cringe as we witness the approach of Thanksgiving, contemplating the event with a dread one might reserve for dentistry without anesthesia.

If you are faced yet again with this psycho-emotional Armageddon, take heart!

Turn your Thanksgiving dinner table into a payback battlefield with you commanding the tanks! As soon as trouble approaches, apply one of these brass-knuckle gambits certain to turn the tide!

Take Charge Of Thanksgiving Dinner With These Psychological Grenades!

Insist on saying grace before anyone can start eating. Launch into a rambling, incoherent list of wonders that inspire you with a sense of gratitude, including, but not limited to, salt & pepper shakers, lamps, lint removers, self-winding watches and anchovy paste. Do not stop until you can see the vein in your dad’s forehead protruding.

Instead of asking your mom, dad, or sibling to pass the potatoes, say, “Please pass the resentments.”

As your sibling drones on about a recent social triumph, raise your wine glass in their direction and say, “You know, the more I drink the more interesting you become.”

Just when things are settling down, deliver a long, impassioned toast dedicated to, and describing in detail, the imaginary family you wish you’d had. Do not refer to your actual family at all.

Share odd details about turkeys. Say things like, “The fleshy growth from the base of the beak, which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over it, is called the snood. Sometimes I wish I had a snood.”

As you listen to family members converse, randomly say “Hmmm” and scribble feverishly in a tiny notepad. When one of them asks what you’re doing, patiently explain that you’re observing them and will be reporting back to the authorities soon. If pressed simply say “Hmmmm” a lot.

Bear in mind that these techniques will not heal psychic traumas of youth, nor will they help you outgrow any damage done to you by your family. However, they will provide you with a lot of laughs at your family’s expense, and that’s got to count for something.

Sick Girls Await Mentally Ill Barbie

Barbie - The Tragic End

Since her 1959 debut, Barbie has attracted controversy the way bloated state senators attract illegal campaign contributions. Little girls admire her for what she is, but whiners, complainers, gadflies, malcontents, rabble-rousers, muckrakers, agents provocateurs, professional cynics, babies, wimps, liberals, thought policemen, and college professors are more interested in what she is not.

These self-appointed custodians of political correctness, who live to improve the human character against its will right up to the point where it ceases to exist at all, consider Barbie to be the sharp edge of the social engineering ax, mercilessly slicing through the hapless human outliers whose creation, causation, and construction do not coincide with qualities and criteria considered desirable by society.

These TED Talk habitués condemn Barbie with sweeping statements steeped in supercilious sanctimony, Barbie, they say, is not morbidly obese enough; she is too Christian, not gay-enough, ethnic enough, or undocumented enough. To them, Barbie is the hood ornament of an exclusionary, self-satisfied society built upon deeply disturbed values, racism, and questionable fashion choices.

Mattel, makers of Barbie, has been slow to respond to what they refer to, with characteristic insouciance, as, “the cacophonous blather of tweed-clad Prius drivers.” But a storied track record of insensitivity and arrogance will soon be coming to an end as Mattel courts disturbed Americans with “Mentally Ill Barbie”, which it intends to roll out in time for Christmas.

Marketing of Mentally Ill Barbie shows, yet again, why Mattel continues to be an industry juggernaut. You and I have been taught that judging mental illness by physical appearance is highly inappropriate, inaccurate, and mean-spirited. But Mattel, determined to honor the complete palette of emotional and psychological maladies without the added expense inherent in producing multiple molds landed on a brilliant solution as plain as the nose-ring on your face; madness in fashion!

That’s right! With Mentally Ill Barbie, madness is always in fashion and can be easily modified simply by changing outfit and setting! How does it work? – you ask – in that cooperative way of yours. It’s easy; let’s meet a few right now.

Narcissistic Barbie – Executives at Mattel have explained that every Barbie made from 1959 on is Narcissistic Barbie.

Anorexic Barbie – Executives at Mattel have explained that every Barbie made from 1959 on is also Anorexic Barbie.

Compulsive Shopper Barbie – Executives at Mattel have explained that every Barbie made from 1959 on is also Compulsive Shopper Barbie.

Bipolar Barbie – Alternate between tying her to the blade of a ceiling fan and stuffing her under the cushions of a couch and, voila!

Munchausen By Proxy Barbie – Even though Munchausen by Proxy Barbie is very similar to Narcissistic Barbie, she is sold separately.

And that’s just the beginning! This Christmas season, keep an eye out for:

Alcoholic Barbie
Compulsive Gambler Barbie
Tourette’s Syndrome Barbie
Trskaidekaphobia Barbie 
Sex Addict Barbie

And so, gentle reader, the walls of stigma gradually erode as even Barbie admits, “Madness is always in fashion.”

Mass Communication: Pox or Apocalypse?

Help Eliminate Communication Pollution

According to a recent survey, 90% of surveys referenced on the Internet are fictitious.

According to an entirely different, completely credible, survey, 87% of all information posted on the Internet is “useless, stupid, false, and/or toxic.”

Survey author, Chumley Entwhistle, Dean Of Psychology at Basingstoke University, expanded. When he was finished expanding, he explained.

“All of us remember the first time our parents caught us shooting heroin. We said, ‘But all the kids are doing it.’ To which our parents replied, ‘If all the kids were setting fire to Archbishops, would you do that too?’ After a considerable amount of soul searching we realized that we would.

“Human interaction has grown increasingly inane through the centuries,” Entwhistle stated, “but until the communication age this posed no problem. Today, however, everyone can communicate with everyone all the time; we’ve inadvertently loosed a tsunami of litter, twaddle, and dreck upon the land.”

A recent study, released by The National Association of Releasing Studies, shows that information is more addictive than crack cocaine.

(NARS officials revealed that the value of the communication makes no difference whatsoever, indeed, anecdotal data suggests that useless information is actually somewhat more addictive than valuable information.)

“It’s a perfect storm of intellectual and cultural devolution,” continued Entwhistle flatly. “Our addiction to sharing the hideous minutia of mundane lives has had catastrophic sociological effects.

“For example: A – We can no longer discriminate between treasure and trash. 2 – We have lost the ability to listen, thereby completely undermining the learning process. Next – since we are lulled into the myth of believing we are interesting, we no longer go to any trouble to be interesting.

“All addictions lead to the same place, as we know,” Entwhistle, now oozing disingenuous gravitas, brushed back a tear with his assistant’s sleeve, “one plummets into degradation like a hanged man drops through a trap door. Our cultural consciousness has already fallen to shocking depths.

“For example, Internet users seem to be amazed that bacon is delicious, coffee is stimulating, and cats are adorable – so much so that they repeat these observations endlessly as though they’d just thought of them.

“Heartbreaking,” sighed Entwhistle, “just short years ago everyone understood these rudimentary concepts.

“The first step in recovering from addiction is admitting the problem, and our society must confront its dependence on low-quality information from disreputable sources,” Entwhistle cautioned.

“In the words of Taz Mopula,” he smiled, “Our ability to broadcast the wretched detritus of daily life is no argument for doing so; restraint is increasingly precious.”

One-Sentence Stories

Good Editing Almost As Good As Being More Talented

Despite a manly thrashing from Ernest Hemingway, meted out with pugilistic zeal, the mime refused to speak.

Garrison Keillor inhaled deeply during a monologue; passed out, and awoke hours later in a pool of his own gravitas.

Charles Bukowski stared at the woozy red label and understood at last that Blatz Beer was both a product name and a promise.

It had become impossible for Gertrude Stein to pretend she didn’t enjoy rebuilding automatic transmissions.

Despite assembling a stable of star performers, William Burroughs eventually abandoned his dreams of building a world-class cockroach racetrack.

In an Entertainment Tonight exclusive interview, Satan reveals the key to Oprah Winfrey’s success and adds that her soul was so small; within days of making the deal, he misplaced it.

Laughter ensued when the actual Rolling Stones were accidentally enshrined in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and no one knew the difference.

In the course of attacking and robbing Brad Pitt, hardened New York City gang members observed that, even with a gun to his head, the tabloid staple was unable to act scared.

Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp, and René Magritte either did or did not walk into a bar holding a box marked “Schrödinger’s Cat”.

Robin Williams discovered he was unable to stop talking about Tourette’s Syndrome.

“Help yourself,” urged Wayne Dyer, Zig Zigler and Tony Robbins; then they did.

Universally admired and ridiculously rich, Eric Clapton realized he no longer had the blues and abandoned his musical career to operate a barbeque shack in Lubbock.

As George W. Bush awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found that he had not been transformed in his bed, he was still a gigantic insect.

After weeks of trying, Charlie Sheen realized that it is practically impossible to perform brain surgery on yourself, even with a really good mirror.

In the midst of an ether-induced hallucination, Hunter Thompson lapsed into sincerity and was inconsolable for weeks.

No Man Is A Hero To His Valet

butlers and valets portrait

Long ago I was employed by a massive corporation in the business of manufacturing fabulously expensive, mediocre products that were virtually obsolete before installation had been finalized. Within this corporation was a department, enigmatically referred to as Human Resources, consisting exclusively of individuals thoroughly unqualified for meaningful employment.

One day, desperately casting about for ways to justify its existence, the HR Department announced Bring Your Daughter To Work Day. With uncharacteristic esprit de corps I chose to participate in this disingenuous exercise. My daughter, let’s call her Guadalupe, was eight at the time, and very like me.

At one point my manager; let’s call him Chumley Throckmorton, called her into his office. Chumley was a lovely man, painfully sincere, unassuming, and a subscriber to that delicious myth that it is possible, even desirable, to please everyone.

He told her to sit down in his visitor’s chair. She did. Looking at her and exuding all the gravitas he could muster Chumley said, “Guadalupe, I just want to tell you that your father is the funniest man I have ever met.”

My daughter’s legs did not reach the industrial grade carpeting on the floor of his cramped office and she swung her feet back and forth thoughtlessly, contemplating the ubiquitous baseball memorabilia.

Finally she looked Chumley square in the eye and, with a deadpan expression worthy of Buster Keaton asked, “Get out much?”

Earth Day

Alan Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg – Beat Poet

When I think about Philadelphia’s Belmont Plateau on April 22, 1970, I don’t think about thousands of stoned out hippies basking in the sun, reveling in the nation’s first Earth Day. I don’t think about Ralph Nader, Dune author Frank Herbert, Nobel Prize winning Harvard Biochemist, George Wald, or Senator Ed Muskie.

What I do recall is an enthusiastic set by Native American rock group, Redbone; a bizarre, almost disturbing appearance by Beat Poet legend, Allen Ginsberg; and a characteristically inflammatory performance by my father, Ian McHarg. My dad, let it be said, cut a dashing figure and was at the very zenith of his popularity at the time. Ginsberg listened to every word like a man entranced. As my father stepped away from the podium, Ginsberg leaped from his chair, wrapped him in a bear hug and planted an enthusiastic, heartfelt kiss of appreciation right on his lips.

There, before God and thousands of witnesses, my father lived his worst nightmare. On the one hand, he was receiving adulation from a bona fide legend, and my dad was impressed by celebrity in a way that is, perhaps, unique to celebrities; people who dearly believe in the idea that being known has intrinsic value. So, feigning happiness was mandatory. On the other hand, he was a fearsome individual with a passion for intimidation – war hero, bully, tough guy – homophobia was woven into his tweed. Indeed, he once admitted that, if he had to choose, he would prefer a mentally retarded child to a gay one.

It would be many years before I came to understand that we hate what we fear and we build castles of rationalization around our fears to justify the hate. I can only speculate what there was lurking deep in my father’s subconscious that nurtured this very particular dread. He was not, as a rule, given to xenophobia; in general the rich contempt he felt for all humanity was spread equally across its sub-categories. I have also learned, painfully, that such disdain is always predicated on self-hatred.

My father’s shock was, at least, not incomprehensible. Ginsberg was almost certainly tripping on LSD that day, his eyes were the size of pie plates and I did not see him blink. Never a handsome man, Mr. Beat Poet was in the full-bearded phase of his career, an entire family of red-winged blackbirds might have broken it up into condos. He resembled nothing more closely than a wretched alcoholic living beneath a bridge.

Unlike the other speakers who, for the most part, were painfully cerebral and sincere to the point of tedium – even for hippies – Ginsberg was whacked. I have never been a fan of the Beats, who damaged American poetry so badly that its battered remains went to die on the lips of rappers; but even a tepid rendition of Howl would have been preferable to twenty minutes of chanting, harmonium squeezing and staring into the audience. I don’t think there was any part of my dad’s consciousness that could find common ground with that.

At his funeral I made the observation, “Wherever he is, he’s probably still trying to wipe that kiss off.”

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