A Fracking We Will Go

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard about fracking. It’s the process where a dentist drills into your tooth until the drill pokes out of the sole of one of your shoes, inserts a small IED and detonates it, thereby eliminating any dead tissue and, if you’re lucky, only one-third of your head. Wait. I’m confused. That’s an enema. Fracking is where a gas company drills down into shale in the Earth’s crust, blows it apart with, and these are actual figures, millions of gallons of water and thousands of gallons of 600 different toxic chemicals under high pressure, thereby forcing out natural gas. According to the company, this is perfectly safe and harmless. It’s been going on for some time in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country, more recently in Texas. Texans have begun experiencing earthquakes by the hundreds with large sinkholes opening up in various places, the scariest things they’ve ever experienced with the exception of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Could this be linked to fracking?

Anyone with the IQ of a lug nut, except for energy company executives on the quest for bigger bucks, Fox News anchors, who are trying to identify their various body parts, or others not high up on the food chain such as members of congress, who are busy learning to eat without jamming a fork into their foreheads, could figure out that in some remote way, the result of fracking might be cracks in the world, which could end life as we know it here on Earth, where a large number of people happen to live.

If you have some spare time, try this simple experiment. Fracture the foundation of your house, maybe with rap music played at 140 decibels, then go outside and shove a garden hose in the ground, down along the side. Turn the water on full blast. The water will first seep through the foundation cracks, then begin eroding the concrete, along with the other underground stuff outside, such as dirt, dog bones, and Jimmy Hoffa. Then one night while you’re asleep, you and your bed will end up down next to the furnace and hot water heater, along with the rest of your bedroom, all of which is now about two stories lower than when you went to sleep because the whole foundation has given way. So what do these industry people and politicians think will happen when you fracture the Earth’s rock foundation that holds up everything above it, such as you, me, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Chris Christie, who could, if he so desired, create a sink hole all by himself without any help from fracking? Duh.

Negativity and pessimism aside, a positive result of fracking is that, and this is true, some Pennsylvania residents have water that bursts into flame right out of their kitchen faucets. Texans could eliminate their monthly gas bill from Texas Natural Gas because the gas is coming in at no extra charge right along with their H2O. Touch a match to the faucet, put a skewer through a brat or longhorn steak and it’s a barbecue every night. Fracking could also be a boon to the gaming industry; gamblers could place bets as to where the next sink hole will occur, how many houses it’ll swallow up and how long it will take those houses end up in China.

When I heard that Illinois is considering fracking in the state, I called a downstate legislator’s office to ask if we were going to get fracked. His assistant answered the phone and she said if I was going to use that kind of language, the conversation was over and slammed down the receiver.

Intelligent Texans should seriously consider all the negatives that may outweigh the positives before their state has so many sinkholes it resembles a giant Whack-a-Mole game or toilets that, when flushed, can blow holes in ceilings. But realistically, how many of us, other than the Bush family and a bunch of armadillos, would care if the whole state disappeared into giant sinkhole anyway?

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Send in the Zombies

There’s something that ‘s been bothering me for a long time and since it’s bothering me, I suspect it may be bothering a great portion of the American population, as well as other so-called civilized populations around the: What’s happening to our monsters?

 Let me focus on zombies for a start, since I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the latest Dawn of the Dead awhile back. Look at any movie produced in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Zombies, brought back to “life” by some form of voodoo, were just big numb, lumbering, slack-jawed things with the intelligence of a lug nut, wandering mindlessly, often mistaken for members of Congress. Mostly they just galumphed through fog, scaring the beans and other food types out of Abbott and Costello or Bob Hope. They were so slow you could jump on a Segway and run circles around them without getting snared. In the ‘60s, Night of the Living Dead gave us a new zombie version, brought back to life by some alien virus and, though still lumbering, now needed to eat people, since a diet of embalming fluid is nutrient-deficient. These Bill Gates Windows 2.0 zombies could only be stopped by 160-decibel salsa music or a shot to the head from Dick Cheney. Since the ‘90s, with further upgrades, zombies no longer lumber.  Some have even produced their own Pilates and Tae Bo videos. But why should it be easier for these people to do those things now that they’re dead when alive some of them couldn’t even generate new skin cells without being short of breath?

I’d sympathize with the old zombies, especially when they showed up at someone’s door selling Amway. But this new generation of zombies can run, jump and almost fly at you like smart phone contract salespeople at the mall. Some can even remember the words to “Disco Duck.” And what about Social Security? It wasn’t around when the old-type zombies were out networking. Many of these new zombies were already collecting it. Can they collect now that they’re active again or are they still considered dead? Is their state of decomposition taken into account? Could active decomposition be considered self-employment and subject to the tax? These people were supposed to be dead and buried. Do undertakers offer a money-back guarantee since technically they’re not because they’re obviously running around eating people’s faces? Is cannibalism considered a hobby or employment? If they were employed, are they entitled to get their old jobs back now that they’re up and about? What about life insurance? Are they obligated to get the payout from their greedy relatives and return it? If it’s already spent can they just eat the relatives and the insurance agent and be done with it? If prosecuted, are zombies entitled to legal representation? If so, would they be better off eating their lawyers and representing themselves?

I could go on with other monsters—the Mummy, Frankenstein, Ann Coulter—but my head is spinning and I’m sober, so I’ll save them for another time. Give us back the non-CGI monsters we knew and loved, the way we loved them. And if it’s not too late, let’s keep zombies out of elected office.

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We’re All in the Same Boat

I’d like to discuss the benefits of aging, but since I can’t think of any, that’s all for this post.

Surely, I jest. Of course there are innumerable benefits to getting older. The problem is that trying to come up with them is like trying to get a truthful statement about the Gulf of Mexico from bp. But since you could have been doing something valuable such as purging your lunch instead of reading this piece, I should endeavor to list some.

Maybe one comes to mind: If you’re aging, you’re not dead. I suppose that would be the biggest benefit. In an overwhelming majority of cases, death has proven to be highly detrimental to aging.

Maybe another one: Provided you are not dead or a member of Congress, you can impart valuable advice in life matters, based on wisdom gained through years of experience, to your children who will promptly disregard it and take the advice of their friends, who don’t know any more than they do, and make stupid mistakes all over again, ones they could have avoided if they’d only listened to you. For instance, don’t gargle bowling balls. Bocce balls are smaller and a better fit, but there is an increased risk of accidentally swallowing one. This will be soundly ignored by your children, leading to major tooth loss and cracked bathroom sinks. Hopefully by now they will have moved out of your home for the last time so you and your spouse can enjoy the winter years of your life in a nursing home, wiping the drool off each other’s chin as you sit in front of a television watching reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show.

Yet another: You get to have as many colonoscopies as you’d like, which is usually none. Being sentient life forms for the most part, we humans have an aversion to swallowing a 50 gallon drum of prep fluid and then having a scope the size of a dryer hose shoved into a place where things are only supposed to come out of. Fortunately, you’re asleep for this procedure, so you miss thrill of feeling that a horde of rabid weasels in track shoes is performing Riverdance in your intestines.

A final one: You’ll be eligible to collect Social Security, though collecting it will be purely fantasy since Congress will have us living out the self-fulfilling prophecy they created by reporting that the system will be broke by 2030 and doing their best to fulfill that prophecy for everyone but them. You’ll then be able to move to the Loop and into that refrigerator carton on Lower Michigan Avenue you’ve been eyeing for years.

One benefit of aging for me personally, even without a Social Security check, is that I no longer stick my fork into my forehead when I eat. I’ve learned how to easily find my mouth. This is especially true with the uncapped end of a beer bottle.

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Movie Millions

I just read that the cost of the new Lone Ranger movie was $225 million. Based on my past experience as a high-paid major motion picture star (Translation: Extra, “Atmosphere,” or A Person We’d Rather Not Be Forced to Deal With But Must to Make Our Celluloid Fantasies Appear Real), I figure that 3% goes directly into what you actually see on the screen, 2% goes into retakes and 95% goes into food for the actors.

     One typical day, I worked on Home Alone at producer John Hughes’ studio in the former New Trier West High School. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. and, with three changes of clothes draped over my shoulder, sauntered into a lounge with about two-dozen other extras. Twelve or so were selected and the rest were released with a day’s pay. There went a bunch of dollars. Cha-ching!

No nudity in this scene, so we dressed appropriately and went into the old gym, where the First Class section of a 737 had been constructed. After being seated (the only time I’ll ever be in First Class), the set decorators placed a breakfast of eggs, toast, and a glass of champagne (ginger ale) before us. When filming began, we started to eat. Cut! Do it again. A new plate of food. Eat. Shoot. Cut. Do it again. After Take 3, the set people said to take small bites because they were running out of eggs and toast.

The fifth take was good, so we had a break while the crew removed some seats for the next shots. Being a small puff of atmosphere, we got to eat with the big-time actors—-unusual because extras were accustomed to standing in line getting fed weasel meat with a slingshot. In the vestibule, tables were set with baskets of fruit, a squeezing machine to make fresh orange juice, all types of coffees, teas, bagels, cream cheeses, donuts, sweet rolls, a toaster, a chef making omelets to order, a cooler with milk and yogurt and another filled with various bottled liquids. Around 10:00, food service people morphed foodstuffs on the tables into brunch fare. We went back to the set. Cha-ching! Millions spent.

At lunchtime, a cook wagon in the courtyard supplied char-boiled half-pound burgers and thick-cut fries, with ice cream sundaes for dessert. Lunch over, back to work. Meanwhile, the food tables inside were restocked for afternoon snacks, including a frozen custard machine. By now I was so full I thought I would retch into my airsickness bag.

I’d been seated on the aisle just across from Dad, John Heard, and Mom, Catherine O’Hara. Director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter, etc.) decided I should be reading a Wall Street Journal instead of just sitting there blowing up my barf bag and trying to grab the stewardess. There was no overhead light, so the techs had to install one. We cleared the set and went outside. I flipped a Frisbee with John Heard, a couple of the sound techs, and Joe Pesci’s stunt double. An hour later I was back in my seat, reading. After reviewing the film, director Columbus decided I was too distracting, so he had me sleep instead. Dinner buffet time. Cha-ching! Millions gone.

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After dinner, some more no-longer-needed atmosphere was sent packing, leaving only three of us. I plucked a Dove Bar out of the gym freezer, strolled to the camera, and peered into the monitor over the director’s shoulder. He was shooting the scene where Mom suddenly realizes she forgot a kid at home. After “Cut!” Chris turned to me and said, “What do you think?”

Did you think I’d tell him it was the most hackneyed bit of doo-doo I’d ever seen? No. With drippy ice cream bar and bare face hanging out, my educated, professional response was, “Uhhh…Looks good to me.”

Around 11:00 p.m., we last three expendables were released. I stopped by the midnight snack tables, said goodnight to John Heard who was hanging there, and loaded my pockets with rations for the road.

There you have it. Mass quantities of food and exorbitant pay for my fourteen-and-a-half hours, plus millions of other dollars spent for ninety seconds of useable film. Cha-ching!

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The Rockets’ Red Glare

Now that the Fourth of July, 2013 is history and pet dogs have entered another round of therapy for PTSD, I wondered where the tradition of igniting loud explosive pyrotechnic devices to celebrate the day actually began. After extensive and exhaustive research and a large quantity of grain alcohol, I learned that the widely accepted story wasn’t true—the one stating George Washington started it all when his father discovered that young George had chopped down his favorite cherry tree and George told him it was to make cherry bombs. George couldn’t tell a lie, so he was forced to invent a cherry bomb and his father, now convinced George had told the truth, didn’t beat him. Later, George blew up the family’s mailbox, and his father did beat him. Hard to believe, but none of that is true.

No, the pyrotechnics were actually to commemorate an eighteenth-century Valentine Day incident when four of Al Capone’s men, disguised as tubes of moisturizer and armed with 155mm Roman candles, blew away a handful of Mary Kay million-dollar sales ladies at their private sales meeting. The location was discovered when Capone saw the pink Mary Kay horses parked out in the street.

February was too cold to commemorate anything, so festivities were moved to July 4th in the middle of summer when it was hot, a much better time to have parades, shoot the exploding things into the sky, drink beer, slather on Mary Kay Sunscreen and sign national historical documents. Much to the consternation of pets everywhere, a tradition was established.

When I was growing up you could get fireworks anywhere. You could even find Flaming Death Pinwheels and Skyrockets of Armageddon in boxes of Cracker Jack or purchase Roman candles from the Girl Scouts in lieu of cookies and have great Roman candle fights—the 1950s version of laser tag. For you younger readers, Roman candles were longish cardboard tubes with a fuse, which when lit, shot out eight or more balls of colored fire preferably at another kid who, if he was smart, had already lit his own Roman candle and was ready to fire back before he was turned into an overly-toasted S’more. The evening was considered a success if there were at least a half dozen flaming children running through the yards. We knew how to have a good time!

These days, you can’t even strike a match if you’re under 12 without having a fire truck, rescue wagon and two squad cars screeching up to your front door to hose you down, haul you to the emergency room and cite you for attempted manslaughter. We still have wimpy sparklers that are no fun. For us kids, the only use for sparklers was to light the fuses of more lethal, colorful, detonations that, according to our parents, were sure to lead to our eventual, unavoidable demise.

Because of current laws, the 4th is much tamer, regardless of what your dog may tell you. Why don’t we all forget about what the Consumer Product Safety (“We Take the Joy Out of Everything”) Commission says and contact our representatives in Congress to see if we can’t get these anti-fireworks laws repealed and put fun back in the 4th? And be sure to let them know that the Fourth of July is not in February.

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Spring Has Sprung

Beautiful spring weather has finally arrived signaling the emergence of the Illinois State Flower: Dandelonicum paininthenecksicus—the Dandelion.

As any history buff can tell you, modern dandelions have been remained virtually unchanged since the earliest versions crawled out of Paleozoic slime and, before the great continental shifts, established themselves in an area which came to be known to modern archaeologists as: My Yard.

Dandelions are virtually indestructible, with a half-life approaching that of uranium-235, McDonalds’ hamburgers, and Mick Jagger. The one treatment that has been moderately effective in halting their spread has been salsa music played at 140 decibels or higher. The only adverse side effect is mortar crumbling out of brick buildings within a half-mile radius of the sounds. Dandelions are unaffected by radiation and have thrived at Chernobyl where they glow beautifully at night. A Russian Big Mac was also discovered in the vicinity, looking as good as the day it was purchased, except for some of the rodent parts inside that, due to the intense level of radiation, had mutated and reconstituted themselves into giant rats that eventually opened a gift shop, selling dandelion wine and Stuckey’s glow-in-the-dark pecan logs to the Pripyat ghost town tourists.

Depictions of dandelions were discovered in prehistoric cave paintings. Neanderthals can be seen clubbing them outside the entrances to their caves. Discovered at a later date, more sinister cave paintings depict Neanderthals being clubbed by large sabre-toothed dandelions, which fortunately, have been extinct for thousands of years. Egyptian archaeologist Zakaria Goneim found tiny mummies at the oldest tomb at Umm el-Qa’ab in Upper Egypt. Under the crumbling gauze bandages he was surprised to find intact and well-preserved dandelions.

Since dandelions will most likely be with us ad infinitum, instead of treating them as weeds, why not be the first in your neighborhood to have a dandelion garden? They’re truly maintenance-free. They don’t need anything! You don’t even have to plant them. Just clear an area in your yard where you’d like to establish the garden, step aside, and in about six hours where you once had a patch of ugly brown dirt or ugly green grass, you now have a beautiful yellow, edible carpet. That’s right! You can eat them. They’re good for your liver. Just make sure your liver doesn’t know ahead of time that you’ll be eating dandelions. When the flowers reach the parachute seed ball stage, the fuzz can be collected and used to stuff pillows, quilted comforters, and pork chops. Or just leave the fuzzy seeds to be picked up by a gentle breeze and deposited around the neighborhood. This is also a good way to make new friends or meet neighbors with clubs.

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Respect Your Spleen—Or Else

After spending a good part of my life feeling sorry for hagfish because they lacked a spleen, I began to wonder if I’d been wasting my time. What is a spleen actually good for? I heard they can become enlarged and cause problems. If my fist-sized spleen becomes enlarged to the size of Rush Limbaugh can it be removed as an outpatient using a piece of chrome trim from a pre-1980 Chevrolet? Could it then be replaced by a hockey puck?

After a recent evening out at a local pub, I realized the spleen really doesn’t do a whole lot compared to, say, an organ like the stomach. The stomach has the good sense to throw up when you’ve ingested mass quantities of beer and Cheez Whiz or other foodstuffs created in test tubes, making you feel much better and vowing that you’ll never do that again. Although the spleen is protected by the rib cage, it constantly tries to escape from the cage, hopping from rib to rib and hanging around the helpful stomach as a non-vital organ where it taunts the liver.

The word spleen comes from the Greek ovioupousx7nzqolivesxe#nos, which is the idiomatic equivalent of a severely ingrown toenail and not much else. I discovered this when I went to my doctor and told him I thought my spleen had an ingrown toenail. He asked my why I suspected that and I told him I thought I felt it limping as it hopped on one of my ribs. The doctor told me this was impossible since he’d never heard of a spleen that could understand Greek other than the occasional word in the Alexandrian dialect and it obviously would have no understanding of ingrown toenails. But just to be safe, he said he’d give me the once-over.

After a thorough examination, which consisted of tapping on my knee with a small, hammer and having me try to tie on a hospital gown without dislocating my shoulder, he asked me if I’d ever played mumbley-peg with ferrets. I told him I generally played mumbley-peg with pocketknives, so he sent me for some tests which all came back negative except for one that indicated I didn’t have enough life insurance.

Taking everything onto consideration, I gained a certain respect for my spleen after learning that it’s actually responsible for many critical functions in the body and a hockey puck would perform fewer than half of those functions. The spleen helps the lymphatic system drain out extremely harmful, disgusting and potentially fatal infection-causing bodies, such as Dick Chaney.

Looking back, I figure that I did waste a good part of my life feeling sorry for hagfish. Why did I bother? I’m certain they never worried about the ingrown toenails on my spleen.

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