Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rest in Peace, Omsin

Omsin, the nickname for a green sea turtle living in Thailand that recently garnered international sympathy after it became sick from eating coins people tossed into its pool has died. This came as a surprise to me but apparently in Thailand it is believed feeding coins to animals is supposed to bring some form of good luck. As someone who has seen and read numerous examples of human stupidity this Thai belief isn't quite the worst, that would go to all the unthinking morons who litter beaches and the ocean with plastic trash. I've walked the shores of Hilton Head Island many times watching the sunrise while on vacation and ended up filling several trash cans with garbage casually left behind by people who should know better.

For that reason I'll cut the Thai some slack because the overly educated and wealthy professional types that frequent Hilton Head don't have to struggle with life like many in that Southeast Asian nation. But on the other hand for poor Omsin, the weight of all those coins cracked its shell and the nickel in some of the coins damaged its immune system beyond the point it could be saved.

Being a sorry-ass liberal tree hugger, it's not hard for me to make a connection between the life of a green sea turtle and us humans who seem hell bent on destroying ourselves and just about all life on the planet. It's almost as if our species has a strange desire to see how the surviving roaches, assorted slime, and bacteria might evolve.

The human inability to think beyond moment goes beyond destroying the ocean and the life that resides there. Unlike poor Omsin, an instinctual creature who should have been cared for better, we humans—especially Americans—knowingly stuff ourselves with crap that seems designed to bring on heart disease and cancer. Making matters worse, when the previous First Lady Michelle Obama made her cause getting kids to eat healthier food all the partisan fools started acting as if she was leading some nefarious evil crusade to bring down the Republic. Her cause was never to permanently band fast food and force everyone to become vegans, but many conservatives went all irrational claiming it was their God given right to engorge themselves with as much fat and calories as they can before falling over from a massive coronary.

One of the darkest comedic sights I ever saw was the former Alaskan Governor and one-time Republican Vice President nominee Sarah Palin stand up on stage and equate American freedom with the ability to chug down and extra-large soda from a fast food joint specializing in chicken sandwiches. Omsin didn't have a real choice in either her environment nor the bite-sized bits seemingly friendly people kept throwing her. While I am in no way a culinary saint nor health nut I am at least aware enough to know my rights will not be infringed if I occasionally chose a salad or the baked salmon instead of the gooey cheeseburger or pizza. Contrary to the belief held by many the thing called “commonsense” is severely lacking in both those who carelessly litter the environment while claiming to love the planet and those who guard their artery-clogging delicacies as much as their precious firearms.

From NPR:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Idle Thoughts While Sitting in a Parking Lot

The first car I could technically call my own was an austere Gremlin produced by the now defunct America Motors Corporation. For those too young the Gremlin was an American subcompact-sized economy car produced during the 1970's whose visual appearance was unlike any other vehicles made during that era, in other words most people considered the model quite ugly. Despite its odd appearance, its chief attributes was that it was a cheap, dependable car that got exceedingly good gas mileage, even by today's standards. I got my Gremlin from my grandfather, it was the car he drove to work and when he retired it was passed to me. I don't remember what year the car was made but by the time I began driving it back and forth to school the blue color of the paint job had long since faded to the point it actually had more of a gray tint.

I can't say for sure but I believe the color change was the result of exposure to the chemicals in the air near the paper mill my grandfather worked. Yes I've asked the same question you might now be thinking, if these diluted chemicals had such an effect on the paint job of a car it's an open question as to what they might do to living things. All I can say is that it's a longstanding joke that the paper mill allows my hometown to be smelled long before you actually saw the sign indicating the city limit. At least the color change allowed the outside body to match the interior which was either plastic, in the case of the dashboard, and the vinyl seats.

My Gremlin was about as basic a model as it could come since it didn't have air conditioning and the radio was only able to pick up the AM dial, drawbacks that completely stupefied my son to the point that he once told me he would have rather gone without driving to school. Such were the times because I remember my little car was not the only basic and ramshackle model parked around the high school. The vehicles of the student body consisted of numerous beat up trucks and dilapidated cars that collectively rattled and coughed something akin to a mechanical symphony in the afternoon as we all left for the day.

Sure, there were a few exception like the kids whose parents were wealthy enough to buy them one of the flashy sports cars like the Pontiac Trans Am or Chevy Camaro. And yes, such individuals seemed genetically programmed for the need to make an overt displays of their expensive transportation by either rattling any nearby windows with the sound from their amplified car stereo or producing as large a cloud of dust as possible as they peeled out of the gravel parking lot. On a side note, several years after I graduated from high school, I bought Jane Goodall's first book on her experience observing the behavior of chimpanzees in the wild and was stunned at how similar human behavior could be compared to our hairier and supposedly less evolved cousins.

Years later after finishing up my army enlistment I enrolled in the local community college and quickly noticed that car ownership standards among the students had gone up considerably. For those newly graduated high school students almost all of them drove cars that at best were just a few years old and in great condition. There was also a higher percentage of rich obnoxious a-holes who regularly showed off the perks of being born into a family where daddy, and maybe mom was well, was a doctor, lawyer, or some other high-salary type. The sad fact was that if there was a beat economy car in the college parking lot it probably driven by one of the single moms desperately trying to hold together her sanity while pursuing an education and take care of her kids. Playing the full disclosure card here, my Gremlin had long since passed on while I drove a 1984 Chevy Camaro. Its purchase, made after graduation but before going in the army was severely problematic but, like they say, that is water that had long since passed under the bridge and made it to the ocean.

The funny thing about all those bright and shiny expensive cars rich mommies and daddies had bought their newly minted high school graduates was that as the days and weeks passed after the start of a new semester, they not so slowly disappeared from the college parking lot. About the same time it was not uncommon to see one of these privileged offspring working the counter at one of the numerous fast food places or retail shops in the general area. In fact early one semester a young girl fresh out of high school began asking me about questions about our community college before class. She wanted to know simple things like which instructors were hard and which were the ones that would grade on a curb.

At the time I was around twenty-five years old and found her rather annoying since she was at best eighteen. During her questions she made the statement that her dad had given her choice of returning to school or getting a job. Not an unreasonable demand from her dad, but when she said that if things didn't go well in college her other option was just to get married. It was then that I suddenly remembered I desperately had to go to the restroom and didn't return until after class had started. Thankfully, my seat next the young girl had long since been taken my another person. Several months later, I saw that same girl pregnant and working one of those sunglasses stands inside the old Myrtle Beach mall.

Luckily for me my quota of common sense, or stupid luck, was rather high during that period of my life and I never did get entangled with any young nymphets looking for a meal ticket and a baby daddy.

Maybe it's just late middle age screwing with the wiring in my brain but those memories and many others came flooding back to me recently as I waited in the my daughter's high school parking lot. It seems suburban affluence has spread its decadent tendrils down to that level now. The vehicles in the student body parking lot are a remarkable collection expensive cars with at least a dozen redneck super trucks that belch enough black smoke when running to kill any nearby lifeforms. These trucks, with an suspension that raises them so high it takes a step ladder to reach up and open the door, are literal “screw the planet” statements every time those drivers cause thick plums of black smoke to come out of the exhausts. Then there are about the same number of sports cars, including several BMW's, Audi's, and more than a few Toyota Priuses complete with ecologically minded bumper stickers. The most outrageous car though has to go to the kid driving a Chevy Corvette. He comes out of the school everyday with an entourage of male and female admirers swarming around him like joyous flies. Given his swagger and overall good looks it seems a good bet someone like him will drift towards politics.

I've looked for someone driving a modern version of my old Gremlin at my daughter's high school. I have to admit to a certain amount of melancholy to the fact that I really don't see anyone that even comes close to fitting that niche. The unbridled affluence shown by these kids is nauseating in a subtle way. It makes me feel like a bit of a dinosaur surrounded by swift and more intelligent mammals.

About the only solace I can find in this situation is the belief that events far larger than the petty wants of American teenagers will forcefully insert a degree of reason into what cars parents can afford for their driving age kids. Yes, I know I'm just becoming a curmudgeon but in all honesty there is no teenager in the United States that needs to drive a damn Corvette to school. The little spoiled twits need something to aspire to that will force them to get a real education and then a job.