A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I have become somewhat germ-phobic. Part of this of course is the relentless media messaging about the swine flu. I am by no means obsessive compulsive about this ( I knew someone who was-his hands were the color of a cooked lobster’s shell and the texture of roofing shingles.) but I have become acutely aware of the dancing microbes among us. Most places I go I don't touch anybody or anything except what I absolutely have to. If I use the men’s room I use a paper towel on everything from the handles on the sink to the doorknob. I will even use my elbows to open doors if I can. This is because of an old joke. Did you hear about the constipated mathematician? He worked it out with a pencil. My version is-did you hear about the constipated finger painter? I need go no further. I don’t partake of buffets because I am not too sure about the personal hygiene of those in close proximity with my chow. But modern science has found a solution-or have they? By now just about everywhere I go there is a squirt bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers-how did we ever get along without the ubiquitous little bottles everywhere? A quick pump and a splash in my hand and I am safe, right? But I have a sneaking suspicion that they actually make the spread of infectious disease worse. Let's think about this for a minute. How many others have touched that same little spigot, some with far worse than just DIRTY fingers? And to make things worse research shows that hand sanitizers do not significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the hand and in some cases may potentially increase it. Even the Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of good old fashioned soap and water. By the way, the ingredients in hand sanitizer include water, isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, carbomer, fragrance, aminomethyl propinol, propylene glycol, isopropylmyristate, and tocotheryl acetate. Holy smokes! But of course I have a simple, cheap and effective solution. Literally. Hydrogen peroxide. Chemical formula H2O2. Right. One little molecule different than water. Comes in a brown bottle and costs half as much as hand sanitizer. This stuff has been used since the 1800’s for everything from mouthwash to disinfecting cuts and wounds. It can be used to treat acne and bleach hair (peroxide blonde). It’s only ingredients are hydrogen and oxygen. Get a small, cheap spray bottle and fill it up with the stuff and just spritz yourself when you feel less than fresh and it will actually do some good. And it makes a dandy rocket fuel. I could be wrong.

Must be Santa

I am not a particularly religious person. In the last few decades the times I have been in a church have involved either one person lying down or two standing up. Sometimes I not sure which one had the happier ending. I have faith of a sort that there must be a greater power than I, either hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin. But the idea of organized religion and all its attendant quirks and foibles (See: Catholic Priests and child molestation) for me-not so much. So knowing this you may find this little screed somewhat odd-a little out of place. But nonetheless I will let you in on something that I find very distasteful if not downright obscene. And that is the replacement of Christ in Christmas with an “X”. If there is a judgment day, and I do believe there will be, the people who put up signs and place ads in the newspapers eschewing the Christ for the X will be, in my humble opinion, hauled around by the short hairs and end up in the place run by the fellow with horns and a long tail. I can see St. Peter at the Pearly Gates quizzing them.
“You did what?”
“I wrote ad copy.”
“And at Christmas you used an X instead of the Bossman’s name?”
“Well, it took up less space.”
“You go to hell!”
But less space truly can’t be the sole reason why these heretics truncate the Hap Hap Happiest time of the year, can it? Think about it. C H R I S T M A S. Nine letters. T H A N K S G I V I N G. Twelve letters. You don’t see people writing Xgiving. Or Xster for Easter. Or Xanukkah for Hanukkah for that matter even if that wouldn’t exactly save any space. In point of fact the highest arbitrator of written style that I can think of, none other than the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times, is said to forbid the abbreviation. But a WIKI entry (And we can TRUST Wikipedia, right?) states: “Xmas comes to us from the Greek Xristos.-Christ. The X is standard usage in church symbology.” It goes on to state that X as an abbreviation for Christ has been in use since AD 1021. Well shut my mouth and call me Xim I still don’t like it, nor do I see the need. To me even the fact that John and Yoko wrote a song entitled “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” doesn’t give any one permission to be a copy cat. John Winston and Ms. Ono SANG Christmas in its entirety. I suspect the evil record company edited the title. I could be wrong.

Bad Timing

They say “timing is everything” and if they (whoever they are) mean bad timing I go to the head of the class. I have been cursed for my entire life with being just a minute too late, arriving right after the good part or worse yet, being right on time for the bad part. Mostly the latter. Let me give you some examples. I am driving along, making good time, digging on the radio and loving life. I hit a stop light. I am the first person at the light. Now comes the bad timing part. Turning onto the highway in front of me just as the light changes is a WIDE LOAD. It looks like a bulldozer with a gland problem on a flatbed truck the size of the Market Street Bridge. It is moving fast, for a glacier. There is no chance of passing. I am stuck behind this behemoth for the foreseeable future. But wait. It’s turning! It runs a red light but makes a turn off the highway. I am free, free at last. But no. To my richest horror an even larger WIDE LOAD turns onto the highway and I am once more traveling at a snails pace. If I didn’t think I would be found terminally paranoid (you know, you aren’t paranoid if people are REALLY out to get you) I would say that the operators of this heavy equipment slow motion parade are in cahoots with each other. That they communicate with each other to make sure they are in MY way. Nah. Couldn’t be. Right? But back to my bad timing. How about the time I asked for a raise and my boss just looked at me and said, “I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow.” Of course that would be the day I got fired. Or the many times I choose the shortest line at the bank only to have the person in front of me do a transaction that would confuse Einstein. Slowly. Or when I am grocery shopping and the item I want is behind a sumo wrestler sized person who apparently is really into reading labels. Slowly. If there are two waitresses in a crowded restaurant one will be Mother Teresa. I will get the other one. The one who is manic depressive, off her meds and hates men. Fortune cookies? You pick one and I will get the one that says: “You will inherit a large sum of money at the moment of your death” or worse. Late for work? That’s when the battery goes dead. If it wasn’t for bad timing, I wouldn’t have any timing at all. I could be wrong.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clint Had It Right!

Sometimes I think I am developing “Clint Eastwood” Disease. More on that in a moment. It’s not that I mind kids. In fact I adore my grandchild. But he’s mine and in any case when he gets cranky and needs a retread I hand him to my son. Some kind of poetic justice there. But other peoples kids in public. Now that’s a different kettle of tantrums. Because that’s what they have. These little rug rats are having loud disagreements in grocery stores, parking lots and even restaurants with their keepers. And it’s spilling over onto me. I just want to do my thing and go home to the relative peace and quiet at the Rising ranch (quiet except for the goofy neighbor and his band of idiots but that is for another time) but these little ankle biters will have none of it. They scream they want this, or don’t want to do that. They tumble to the floor and kick and howl like they were being eviscerated, which doesn’t seem like too bad an idea. Now I understand the underlying psychology here. I remember enough of my Sigmund Freud to know that the insufferable brats are merely asserting their independence from their parents. Well here’s a news flash for you. Siggy was on COCAINE when he figured this stuff out. So how much stock can we put in what a 18th century blow snorting, cigar puffing named Schlomo (His middle name. Look it up.) had to say? Was Sigmund ever trying to buy a shirt at K-Mart with a small child screaming at the sound level of an AC/DC concert? I think not. Did Freud have to contend with a three year old throwing food at a restaurant like he was Tug Mcgraw? And where are the parents? They seem blissfully unaware, except that occasionally they will swat little Janey or Johnny and pump up the volume even more. Obviously they are so used to it that they probably don’t even hear it. Or they are just plain dumb. Choose one. “Clint Eastwood” syndrome? No not “Make my day.” I refer to Clint’s excellent flick “Grand Torino” where he tells the world but mostly kids to “GET OFF MY LAWN!” in his trademark menacing growl. I feel the same way about my personal space. As far as I am concerned we all have a bubble area around us that is ours. Don’t come into mine and I won’t get in yours. But these future generational misfits don’t know this and their useless parents don’t seem to be teaching it. What we need is an island for all kids between 2 and, oh I don’t know…22? I could be wrong.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Happened To Summer?

It was early in the morning one day last week. I fumbled and stumbled from bed, did the bare necessary things to make myself presentable in only the most fundamental sense of that word and headed for the torture chamber some call the gym. As I was on my hind legs and not crawling on all fours as sometimes happens on these early morning outings I stopped to give the long suffering wife a kiss on my way out the door. A brief digression. In these doses of breathless prose and in my book “But Then Again I Could Be Wrong: The Book of Rants” (humorous tales from Scranton Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania writer for The Weekender) available for $9.95 at amazon.com makes a great Christmas gift buy several for friends and family- I refer to her in that fashion. Some reviewers question just what exactly she suffers from. The answer is Me. Anyone who knows Me knows why. End of digression. As I weaved down the path I noticed some spots on the wooden steps. A few more on the stone path. And as I waited for the garage door to creak its way up I saw a few more on the driveway. What the…my finely tuned mind thought. Birds? Fungus? Then it hit me. WHERE DID SUMMER GO? This was the summer that never was. The pool developed a motor problem that prevented its opening till late July. It never did get the cover removed. The window air conditioner never budged from the attic storage space. The little convertible car’s odometer barely turned any digits. The bottles of sunscreen are still tamper proof sealed. The swimsuits never got moist. Hell I never even broke a sweat. In other words the few brief moments that spell s u m m e r in NEPA have gone by the boards and I missed it. Maybe summer happened for you, but from my perspective yesterday was June and now it’s-how could it possibly be-November? The World Series- over? The leaves - down? Thanksgiving? Christmas stuff in stores? Storm windows are up? The furnace is burning dollar bills at a furious rate? Who hit the fast forward button? I don’t even think we had Indian Summer, whatever that is. And as I pondered all this stuff it began to dawn on my semi-conscious brain. The little spots were not bird droppings. The fungus among us that I suspected was no more than the first little hard pellets of the winter to come. Soon enough the shovel and plow. Soon enough the salt and cinders on the road. Soon enough the four wheel adventures on the icy streets. I kicked the first snow and thought dark thoughts.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Babel Fish

A couple weeks ago one of the biggest changes to how the World Wide Web is used was made and not many took notice. The guys who make such lofty decisions, the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (ICANN) have decided for us that starting this Monday, November 16th, domain names will be available using non Latin characters. In layman’s terms what this means is that the part of an internet address that is after the dot has up until this point been limited to the letters A-Z. Now the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world will be available online for domain names. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not. First of all I don’t know about you but I get more than enough spam that is in characters other than A-Z already. A page full of something in the Cyrillic alphabet does nothing for me. I am fairly certain that I am being informed that I have won the Russian lottery or that I could share in a ten million dollar bank account if I will just provide my bank account number to deposit the loot into. But now, according to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's President and CEO, this move could bring billions of more people online - people who have never used Roman characters in their daily lives. Great. Billions MORE filling the bandwidth of what I call the “World Wide Wait.” Here is the real issue. Short of buying a Farsi to English dictionary and a keyboard that has Farsi characters ($19.99 at http://ikbs-usa.com) how in the world will I communicate with these billion new users? I can’t even surf their websites because I don’t have the Hindi keyboard. I’ll never know if my Google search returns one of these non Latin sites if it’s germane ( Or even German, heh) to my search. In the bible book of Genesis there is a reference to a city and a tower built to reach heaven. The tower was miles high and was efficiently built because everyone spoke the same language. This evidently pissed off God who “confound (sic) their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The construction of the tower which most know as the “Tower of Babel” was halted because the builders were no longer speaking the same language. The parallel to the change just made to the World Wide Web to me is obvious. And the president of ICANN, Rod rhymes with God. I rest my case.

450 words!

Many people ask me how I get the ideas for these alleged columns. The other question I sometimes get is how I manage to write one every week. At the risk of exposing how the sausage is made I will give you a peek into the exciting world of big time tabloid newspaper column writing. This week, like so many weeks, I have no firm idea of what I am going to do until I sit down at the computer. I will bang out a few sentences to get warmed up. Then I will check the most important device in column writing. The word count. One hundred and five. Goal is four hundred and fifty. Hmmm…what now? Beverage break. Now with a cup steaming beside me ideas will surely come, right? Nope. I know. I’ll surf the internet for inspiration. Why do we call it surfing, anyway? I’ll google that. Back in a minute. Well the short answer seems to be that someone called changing the TV channels with a remote “Channel Surfing” and the term was sort of borrowed for the internet. I found ten people who take credit for this. One hundred ninety five words in case you are wondering. This week is the one where we set the clocks back an hour. I could write something about that. Nah. Been there done that. Bitch about having to rake my leaves? Well, truth be told I haven’t raked them this year. The excuse being that I am waiting for all of them to leave the tree. Waiting for the leaves to leave. Get it? Heh. I love the English language. I mean how you can use a word to mean different things. I am not a mean man but the end justifies the means. And the mean count is three hundred and four. Home stretch. Speaking of home stretch I could write about the World Series. I suggested as much to the long suffering wife. “Shouldn’t you wait until it’s over next week?” she asked. But I could write it like I did for the election, where I was so vague that either side could have been the winner. I got the patent pending “look.” No sale. Sometimes I just sit and think. Other times I just sit. Sometimes the columns just write themselves. Then there are times like this where they have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of wherever they come from. Four hundred and thirty nine. If I was a horse I could smell the barn. Sprint for the finish line. Last lap. Checkered flag. Victory lane. Four hundred and thirty eight. Close enough for government work. But then again… I could be wrong.