Second adolescence

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Friday, Feb. 25, 2005. The local paper ran a feature photo this morning of an old man playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. I couldn’t tell what he thought of this; the blindfold covered most of his face. A photog grabbing this sort of shot is easy-pickin’s, just head to the community senior center. The wise editors ran it inside.

“Second childhood” is a shorthand, informal even anecdotal summary of various physical, mental and emotional deteriorations of some, not even most, old people. Second childhood is not a description of therapy, you moronic senior activity directors.

That man in healthier younger days may not have been an executive but he likely was not an imbecile. How embarrassed I would be if I was his child.

But what if that old man someday is me? Would I be parked in front of CNN maybe half-listening and half-comprehending and the home says, Pops, it’s game time! Would I play along for something to do or to just not appear anti-social?

Mom with all her faculties did go along to get along. She always insisted on doing things her way, until assisted living, where she knew in the first week that “not making waves” made life a lot easier all the way around. But she never did any of that foolish junk. (Her wonderful community avoids that sort of Easter-bonnet contest business.)

I see no point in living to be that old if pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is to be my life. But what if I was so far gone that I found it fun? Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. If second-grade party games are the best I could manage and it did brighten my day. …

Then again, what a waste of community funds, to entertain us old people. Why, that tax money used to lift my spirits at age 85 could be better put to house a murderer on death row another year, awaiting appeals.

My mom if she came out of her stroke would’ve lasted only weeks. That is no life.

The Schiavo woman in Florida, in a 15-year “persistent vegetative state.” If she came out, think of the physical pain she’d be in from muscle atrophy, and having at most moments not hours of reasoned consciousness day to day. That is no life.

The objections to some movie where someone pulls the plug on someone else in that bed. Those critics must have a looser definition of life. Oh, religion, too.

I can’t help but think how our hospital did the standard, pumping morphine into my mom for days until she weakened enough to die was far less efficient than the shot the vet used to put my old cat to sleep a few years ago. It took a minute. Less cruel, too.

But if there’s a chance to come out of it? Alas, that is the question for the family in the waiting room.

Our instinct is to live. The drive for food and warmth are just manifestations of that. Only a conscious person, maybe a crazy person, can commit suicide. Because once you’re unconscious, your instinct to live kicks in. Mom didn’t want four or five days of morphine-induced sleep. She signed all the directives and told family and doctors, do not resuscitate. Morphine is not resuscitating, it provides pain-free comfort. When the stroke rendered her unconscious, though, her instinct to live kicked in.

My wife asked if I knew why Hunter Thompson offed himself at age 67. I didn’t have an answer right away. This is my answer. As usual neither direct nor firm. -30-

Wascally wascals

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005: From Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal (while these quotes are complete, they are excerpts):

“Hoping to breathe new life into its animated Looney Tunes franchise and prop up the WB television network’s slumping Kids’ WB line-up, Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. is planning to launch a new cartoon series this fall based on “re-imagined” versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Lola Bunny, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

“Warner Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking versions of the classic Looney Tunes characters for its new series, dubbed “Loonatics” and set in the year 2772.

“The classic characters were wisecrackers who rode their irreverent humor to stardom in the 1940s. The challenge now for Warner Bros. is to find a fresh way to tap the funny bone of an audience raised on Bart Simpson and SpongeBob SquarePants.

“The new series will have the same classic wit and wisdom, but we have to do it more in line with what kids are talking about today,” says Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation. The plots are action-oriented, filled with chases and fights. Each character possesses a special crime-fighting power.”

This link has a photo of the new versions. The news in text is pathetic, but seeing the rabbit, duck, coyote etc. as redrawn — not updated — shows savagery.

There are many angles this opiner/whiner can take. There’s plenty so everyone can share.

I’ll put this one up (I wrote out another but it grew unmanageably complex): Humor scares the Suits more than ever, except the Fox Folks who have brought us The Simpsons for an incredible number of years.

It’s not so much “dumbing down,” either. First must be a fear that wiseacres might give offense, and the prospects must seem to be worse than letting wardrobes malfunction. The problem with wit is its unpredictability. Flash a breast and the various reactions can be predicted. Crack a joke and it might work, flop or raise pickets standing outside the corporate door.

The second is that what replaces multilevel humor (for both children and adults) is yet another set of basic superhero good vs. evil plotting and characters. Who needs contemporary mythology, and wouldn’t that be a contradiction?

Third is the presumption that all story lines for children must be parables. The real — not merely the original — Looney Tunes rarely concluded with morals. Nor do The Simpsons. Their tools have been parody and farce, which can be seen as providing lessons, though you have to think to find them.

SpongeBob concludes with a bit of education, as does the Rugrats series, favored by some parents I know. Yet both use insufficient characterization and animation. They all teach lessons.

We give children sugar everywhere else, why not give them pointless entertainment (which when exceptional does have the time-bomb effect of insight)? God knows that moral values fill all remaining space in children’s culture and education. That leads to considering the difference between sport and play. See how this can get unwieldy?

Perhaps The Simpsons’ Itchy & Scratchy could tie together the tails and tales of this alleged Loonatic cast then go to town on them. -30-

Multiple choice

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Friday, February 11, 2005: One from Column A and one from Column B. Let’s play!

ASSOCIATED PRESS — North Korea declared itself a de facto nuclear power Thursday, claiming in its strongest terms to date that it had “manufactured nuclear weapons” to defend itself from the United States.

ASSOCIATED PRESS — A Halliburton Co. shipment of radioactive material that landed in New York in October was lost in route to Texas and not found until Wednesday, when it turned up in Boston. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was not alerted until Tuesday.

Column C (isn’t this fun!)

AMALGAMATED PRESS — Halliburton Co. on Thursday declared itself a de facto nuclear power. …


Recipe for leadership

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005. News item: Walter Sheib, White House chef for over a decade, is resigning “to pursue other opportunities.”

At a period when departing Cabinet officials are being replaced, amid allegations about an administration cooking the books in intelligence and Social Security, now President Bush has to worry about booking a cook. -30-

Bowling in league

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Friday, Feb. 4, 2005. Where was I? Friendship, before I got so full of myself.

Friendship broadly and specifically. Now, as an adult, as a man, as an American. Marriage and. … Work and. … It’s a theme that could be developed in occasional Bricks.

I have no answers and not much in the way of conclusions. What I know is that friendship gets harder with age and with family. In the latter case, I mean a suburban American guy like myself has a harder time making friends, keeping friends and even defining friends once he is married. He can have “couples'” friends, and if a parent, there’s always the parents of children’s friends (though I understand when the children move on for whatever reasons, the friendships also dissipate). Yet women, even likewise “encumbered” by marriage, continue to have friends for lunches, for poker.

But we Suburban American Guys of the late 20th and early 21st century don’t even have weekly poker games or meet for beers after work. More urban, working guys do, along with bowling league. But we S.A.G.’s go home, have dinner and crash with the TV before going to bed on most nights of our week, with weekends spent with the spouse we don’t see nearly enough of. Not to mention chores, errands and projects.

(I don’t know about including golf in this equation.)

The age part: As bachelors, we guys got together to avoid night after night of TV, for movies and sports, either watching or playing. Those friendships fade quickly and slowly, depending on circumstances, upon marriage. Thankfully, I still see or e-mail or phone old buddies with reassuring if not frequent regularity. Not like before, though.

As a corollary to that is these bachelor friends often were work friends for us SAGs. We Sags build our careers city to city, and work mates are those whom we know best and quickest. And they understand when I — or they — move to another job.

I realize this book — “Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community” by Robert D. Putnam — covers this, and I do not want to replay its theme and arguments. Actually, I ought to find it and read it. Its theme probably is similar to this one.

So, I’ve been starting to work on this, building friendships. It’s slow. Confusing. You finally meet up at a coffee shop with somebody cool you’ve known for years yet it’s not been quite a friendship, and it’s in a way more awkward than a first date. With a date, you know precisely why you’re there (so don’t blush). Making a second such play-date is difficult, and often there’s not a third. (“Play-date,” like for a child, seems to fit this.)

Thank you, conscience, for reminding me about religious organizations and volunteer groups. Those are the groups from which I will draw for the play-date project. If folks in town take a call from me this year, having read this, they’ll see it as conniving? Maybe it’ll just be the first conversation topic. -30-

When it’s you, it’s still me

Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005. Friendship needs addressing, maybe tomorrow. It’s not a reaction to a news item, either, like most Bricks. But it is a reaction, to how this subject broadly came up in me, even though I don’t know.

With this as the latest example, all writing is reaction, reaction to stimuli. All action and all speech is reaction. So anyone who says my stuff is merely derivative should study that flying doughnut and aim to jump on it.

Of course writing’s derivative. Those who don’t care for these meanderings, well they’re reacting to me, no? Hah hah, got you.

My beloved sometimes feels self-conscious about my concern for her day-to-day goings-on. I try to divert that by saying that I’m being merely selfish, that when she’s unhappy she makes me miserable. Sure it’s true, but complicated by being in love and thus having concern altruistically.

Sure, it’s all about me. It’s all always been about me, just like what concerns you ultimately is always all about you. Does that mean even believing and acting on profound religious faith is a means to an end, one’s selfish end? In this context yes. But why be so petty? Just accept one’s ultimate, instinctive selfishness. Accept it … on faith. -30-