Government Will Soon Pay Bloggers Not To Write

Instant Universal Communication Has Made It Impossible

Long ridiculed as bureaucratic counter-intuition on steroids, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), which paid subsidies to farmers for not planting crops, met and exceeded its lofty goals. By reducing surpluses it arrested the rapid decline of produce prices, thereby raising crop value and enabling Depression-weary farmers to retain homesteads teetering on the brink of foreclosure.

Nearly a century later, this preemptive technique is being applied to the Internet. Nigel Rasmussen, Press Liaison for the Federal Communications Commission, recently made these comments on the Library of Congress steps.

“Reading and writing were once the exclusive province of an elite professional class. Today, technology has democratized the tools of communication, resulting in a tsunami even more cretinous and loathsome than anticipated. We must ask – at what point does communication become air pollution? Has instant, universal communication made it impossible to know if anyone is saying anything valuable? Are these rhetorical questions? Was that a rhetorical question?

“Today’s ubiquitous, incessant blather has rendered language virtually worthless. Only by reducing the amount of language produced, and elevating the quality, can we hope to return any semblance of meaning and utility – much less beauty – to our words. That is why I am pleased to introduce the new, “Silence is Golden” program.

“In a nutshell, this program pays bloggers not to write. Importantly, the more they don’t write the more they earn.

“You’ll learn more about this exciting program soon. Until then, remember, “Help eliminate communication pollution! If you have nothing of value to say, say it only as often as is absolutely necessary.”

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.

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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It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Indian colorful religious celebration

Americans have a provincial view of the world revolving around exploitation; that is to say, other countries exist only to the extent that we consider them useful.

Johnny and Ginny Lunchbucket think of China as the place that produces freighter loads of shabby merchandise we consume, India as the place to call if something breaks, the Middle East as a gas station with uppity attendants, Europe as the place with painting, sculpture, and whatnot, and South America (including central America) as our source for drugs and black market plastic surgery.

Johnny & Ginny Lunchbucket consider Canada the go-to place for criminals fleeing justice, while Australia, which was founded by convicts, is roughly equivalent to Cuba in terms of inability to hold interest. Africa, the very wellspring of humanity itself, has failed to capture the imagination of Mr. and Mrs. Lunchbucket at all – to them it is somewhere in-between an outsized petting zoo and a sweet background for Land Rover commercials.

Why review this discouraging self-portrait of complacency and dim-witted myopia? Simple, it helps us understand how much is to be gained by stretching outside of our collective comfort zone and looking at life through the eyes of our fellow global citizens. The potential for benefit is enormous, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of mental illness.

Mr. and Mrs. Lunchbucket would be surprised to know that mental illness is thought about, and spoken about, very differently throughout the world, and the accompanying insights can be instructive. For example:

The word for Paranoid Schizophrenic in Japanese is  ohayōgozaimasu – which literally translates – “more dinner guests than plates”.

The word for Bipolar Disorder in Chinese (Mandarin) is xuěbēng – which literally translates – “poo-flinging monkey living in dark cave”.

The word for Compulsive Gambler in Vietnamese is tôi bi lac – which literally translates – “fascinated by slow lizard”.

In India, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is known by the Hindi phrase subaha acchā – which literally translates “charming child enjoy chasing mouse under elephant”.

In Norway the term for Depressed is eg har sakna deg – which literally means “as special as a day-old herring” but here is synonymous with the word “normal”.

In Germany the idea of Morbid Obesity is expressed by the phrase kern en zee meer be hilf lixh ziyn – which literally translates “schnitzel enough to strain the stitching on a brand new pair of lederhosen” although the figurative meaning is “yaba-daba-doo!”

This is merely the tip of the iceberg – speaking of which – the Inuit culture – once called Eskimo – has over 200 words for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!

Perhaps by seeing how other cultures approach mental illness, we can gain some much-needed perspective on it. Sarong!

The Great Affirmation Quiz

Just say no to affirmations

The Internet seems to be surfing on an endless wave of affirmations. It’s as if everyone on the web is eager to tell everyone else how to achieve happiness, which, presumably, is a lot easier than finding it for themselves.

These uplifting sentiments are almost always retreads, snatched from questionable sources and presented so that others may pass them along yet again. But what’s so bad about affirmations? Well, passionately believing insane nonsense isn’t good for one’s mental health. When it comes time to separate gold from dross, unsentimental scrutiny and sound analysis are essential.

It is useful to consider the source; is the mind that spun this confection rational, reputable, and reliable? To help you sharpen your skills I’ve assembled 20 of the most compelling affirmations I could find on the Internet. For each I’ve listed 4 possible authors. Correct answers will be posted in tomorrow’s blog – good luck!

Who Really Originated These Popular Affirmations?

1. “Never underestimate your ability to underestimate others and overestimate your own capabilities.”
a.) Michele Bachmann
b.) Marcel Proust
c.) Lizzie Borden
d.) Taz Mopula

2. “Live as if you’ll be forgotten only for your deeds, not for your words.”
a.) Nikola Tesla
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Uri Geller
d.) George Ruth

3. “People are imperfect by nature; if a person you know and love doesn’t disappoint you, you have a right to feel let down.”
a.) Ayn Rand
b.) L. Ron Hubbard
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Martha Stewart

4. “Being average is a very special gift; find awesome in mediocrity. Do not let anyone talk you out of your right to be ordinary.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Pema Chödrön
c.) Ivan Pavlov
d.) Oprah Winfrey

5. “All emotional torment arises from the inability to extinguish hope.”
a.) Carl Jung
b.) Mary Shelley
c.) Blind Lemon Jefferson
d.) Taz Mopula

6. “Before you criticize a man, walk half a mile in his shoes, turn around, retrace your steps, and return them to him.”
a.) Mikhail Baryshnikov
b.) Cab Calloway
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Lance Armstrong

7. “Not all human sacrifice is equally noble; it depends a little on which human is being sacrificed.”
a.) Donald Trump
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Phil Spector
d.) Duane Chapman

8. “For the first time in history mankind has the technological ability to eliminate all human life; so what’s the hold up?”
a.) Richard Gatling
b.) Ferdinand von Zeppelin
c.) Wernher von Braun
d.) Taz Mopula

9. “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time; but why would you even try when they’re so eager to do the job for you?”
a.) Stacy London
b.) Dane Cook
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Jim Jarmusch

10. “Expect people to disappoint you. Then, when they don’t, you’ll really have something to be disappointed about.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Marilyn Monroe
c.) Wayne Dyer
d.) Andy Kaufman

11. “If you need both hands and both feet to count your dearest friends; don’t do it while you’re driving.”
a.) J.D. Salinger
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Tomás de Torquemada
d.) Dale Earnhardt

12. “Thinking you are better than other people simply because you are smarter than they are is proof that you aren’t.”
a.) Neil deGrasse Tyson
b.) Ann Coulter
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Christopher Hitchens

13. “The world is most certainly not a fair place, which, for the vast majority of us, is very fortunate indeed.”
a.) Ed Gein
b.) Barbra Streisand
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) David Berkowitz

14. “In the final analysis it’s important to remember that uniqueness is about the only thing we all have in common.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Idi Amin
c.) Che Guevara
d.) Kim Kardashian

15. “Everything happens for a reason; frequently it’s a very bad reason.”
a.) Isaac Newton
b.) Deepak Chopra
c.) Anna Nicole Smith
d.) Taz Mopula

16. “Independence is theoretically possible, provided you’ve got sufficient support.”
a.) Dalai Lama
b.) Tony Robbins
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Ethelred the Unready

17. “Uncertainty is all we can rely on.”
a.) Søren Kierkegaard
b.) Marcel Duchamp
c.) Ambrose Bierce
d.) Taz Mopula

18. “There is nothing to fear except you itself.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Virginia Woolf
c.) Nathaniel West
d.) Dorothy Parker

19. “If you want to find your bliss, get yourself some blisters.”
a.) Mark Twain
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Junior Walker
d.) Johnny Walker

20. “Think twice before burning bridges; you never know when you might want to jump off one of them.”
a.) Hannibal
b.) Spalding Gray
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) H. L. Mencken

See tomorrow’s blog for correct answers.

The Great Internet Quote Quiz – Redux

On The Internet All Statements True

The Internet is awash in quotations of debatable merit; some are attributed, some are unattributed, many are inaccurately attributed while others are obvious fabrications. I would like to help separate the flotsam from the jetsam. Below you will find 20 insightful Internet quotes. Can you identify who really said them? Good luck!

1. “Being average is a very special gift; find awesome in mediocrity. Do not let anyone talk you out of your right to be ordinary.”
a.) Pema Chödrön
b.) Zig Zigler
c.) Anthony “Tony” Robbins
d.) Taz Mopula

2. “Why is it called the age of communication when nobody listens?”
a.) Roman Polanski
b.) Werner Herzog
c.) Lina Wertmüller
d.) Taz Mopula

3. “At what point does communication become air pollution?”
a.) Lady Gaga
b.) John Tesh
c.) Britney Spears
d.) Taz Mopula

4. “In the future, everyone will be obscure for 15 minutes.”
a.) Gallagher
b.) Judy Tenuta
c.) Barry Sobel
d.) Taz Mopula

5. “Getting noticed is not the same thing as doing something noteworthy.”
a.) Charlie Sheen
b.) Glenn Beck
c.) Stephenie Meyer
d.) Taz Mopula

6. “TV was once exciting. Every new technology shows promise before plummeting to meet the level of its user.”
a.) Donald James Reum
b.) Chauncy Entwhistle
c.) Lance Incubator Smythe
d.) Taz Mopula

7. “How can you cut through the clutter when the clutter goes all the way through?”
a.) Jeff Beck
b.) John Cage
c.) Terence Trent D’arby
d.) Taz Mopula

8. “Click here if you are gullible enough to believe that clicking here will actually make a difference.”
a.) Deepak Chopra
b.) Oprah Winfrey
c.) Dr. Wayne Dyer
d.) Taz Mopula

9. “Humans can repair mechanical problems; but machines cannot repair human problems, only manifest them in new forms.”
a.) Felix Wankel
b.) Dean Kamen
c.) Ron Popeil
d.) Taz Mopula

10. “New app enables users to bravely condemn global injustice and insult authority figures without budging from Barcalounger!”
a.) Rhonda Byrne
b.) Mark Zuckerberg
c.) Ellen DeGeneres
d.) Taz Mopula

11. “Instant, universal communication has made it impossible to know if anyone is saying anything valuable.”
a.) Howard Stern
b.) Rush Limbaugh
c.) David Letterman
d.) Taz Mopula

12. “Never confuse fame with artistic quality, or wealth with value. Society gets what it wants, not what it needs.”
a.) Kanye West
b.) Heavy D
c.) Wu-Tang Clan
d.) Taz Mopula

13. “The only thing worse than obsessing over your press clippings is believing the ones you wrote yourself.”
a.) Nicholas Cage
b.) Lisa Lampanelli
c.) Al Pacino
d.) Taz Mopula

14. “Is the Internet merely a mechanism by which alien life forms can quantify human gullibility and fatuousness?”
a.) Elmo
b.) Kermit
c.) Cookie Monster
d.) Taz Mopula

15. “Technology has democratized the tools of creativity, resulting in a tsunami even more cretinous and loathsome than anticipated.”
a.) Gene Simmons
b.) Criss Angel
c.) Ozzy Osbourne
d.) Taz Mopula

16. “Artificial intelligence will soon be the only kind remaining; thus conclusively proving the failure of human intelligence.”
a.) Ray Bradbury
b.) Stephen Hawking
c.) Douglas Adams
d.) Taz Mopula

17. “If technology makes our lives any more convenient, even breathing will become too much of an effort.”
a.) Steven Jobs
b.) Don Cornelius
c.) Bill Gates
d.) Taz Mopula

18. “Our ability to broadcast the wretched detritus of daily life is no argument for doing so; restraint is increasingly precious.”
a.) Paris Hilton
b.) Rupert Murdoch
c.) Anna Nicole Smith
d.) Taz Mopula

19. “The Constitution has been amended. It now only guarantees your right to pretend that privacy actually exists.”
a.) Duane “Dog” Chapman
b.) Julian Assange
c.) Rose Mary Woods
d.) Taz Mopula

20. “Is a reality small enough to fit conveniently into the palm of your hand even worth having at all?”
a.) Leonard Hofstadter
b.) Howard Wolowitz
c.) Sheldon Cooper
d.) Taz Mopula

(Answer key will appear in tomorrow’s blog.)

1-Sentence Stories – Redux

Write First Decide Not To Later Edit Later Still

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

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

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

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

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

6. Despite assembling a stable of star performers, William Burroughs eventually abandoned his cockroach racetrack.

7. Laughter ensued when the actual Rolling Stones were accidentally enshrined in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and nobody knew the difference.

8. 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.

9. Elton John purchases movie rights to 50 Shades Of Gray for 20 million dollars before realizing he has misread the title.

10. Charlie Sheen becomes stuck entering a revolving door when the other Charlie Sheen chooses that precise moment to exit; firemen are summoned.