Friday, January 22, 2010

How Dumb Can People Get?

The whole family has been sick for the last two weeks. MB took BB to the doctor in a blizzard because he has asthma, and was having chest pain and difficulty breathing. We couldn't see his regular doctor on short notice, so we settled for a sub. He said, "It's just a cold." and sent him home. Two weeks later, none of us were showing any signs of getting any better, and BB had been running a 101-102 fever most of that time. So we called and made another appointment. We waited an extra day so his regular doctor could see him. She diagnosed sinus infections in both boys, and put them on antibiotics. MB was already on antibiotics for a sinus infection.

So I took the boys home and left them with MB while I went to get their prescriptions filled, and pick up a few things from Piggly Wiggly. I groaned inwardly when I saw the newspaper guy in the entry. Several times a year, they send him around to each grocery store in the area to give out free papers and try to get people to subscribe. Now, the Universal Amalgamated Journal Sentinel Tribune Post Dispatch News-Free Press Sun Chronicle Daily Planet Democrat Observer is no worse than most city newspapers, but it's no better. Its main advantage over the nothing-but-advertising paper (that's free at every grocery store and delivered to every residence in town whether you want it or not, and continues coming even if you call the secret number and ask them to stop--even death will not end your subscription) is that it's thicker. Of course, it costs money, and if you have a lot of packing or painting to do, you can just pick up more copies of the free paper.

I don't buy the paper, and I don't even read it when it's free, but GL is like a pack rat on steroids. He doesn't read it either, but he collects every scrap of newsprint that makes it through the door, and reacts violently to the merest suggestion of thinning his collection by even the smallest slip of cellulose. The only way to keep the house from exploding is by occasionally sneaking small quantities out in the dead of night. The following morning, he'll have a screaming fit that we are "throwing away all his stuff."

I resolved not to take a free paper from the man because then I would feel obligated to listen to his sales pitch, wasting his time and mine. Of course, he asked some sneaky question, masqueraded as small talk (which I also despise, but politeness obliges me to answer) and before I knew it, I'd accepted the paper, and felt obligated to let him finish his pitch before saying, "No, thank you." There must be a genetic defect that keeps certain people from refusing anything, no matter how much they don't want it, so long as it's free. I think that trait runs in my family. I brought the paper home (my second mistake) and handed it to MB with instructions not to let GL have it. She of course immediately turned to the Funnies. When she finished, I took a quick look. (my third mistake)

It was pretty much what I expected. Mindless cheerleading for Obama, without even the pretense of neutrality. Hand-wringing that, now that a new Republican senator has been elected, the Democrats may actually have to negotiate with the Republicans when selling out the Constitution, the Treasury, and the People of the United States. Of course now that they can negotiate better terms (better for their own selfish interests, that is) the Republicans will be happy to make the sale. I can get the same sad stories on Yahoo for free. Off-the-wall recipes from over-priced restaurants and bars. I'm not a vodka drinker, but as beverages go, I hate tomato juice even more. Even if I did like Bloody Marys, I fail to see how piling a chef's salad on top of one could improve the drink or the salad. Maybe MB had the right idea. I turned to the Comics.

I think the Comics peaked as an art form when I was about ten, if not before. You may speculate that this observation has more to do with a juvenile sense of humor than with changes in the Comics, but I still have a juvenile sense of humor--just ask Mama Bear. The Funnies used to be funny, but the good comics either turned serious, and lost the ability to tell a good story OR be funny, or were dropped one by one, and replaced by comics that are supposed to be funny and aren't. With the notable exception of Calvin and Hobbes, which Bill Watterson chose to end, most comics introduced in the last thirty years stink, or faded from their early glory, and the older comics are just shadows of their former selves. I found myself laughing at the comics today. More amazingly, I found myself laughing at more strips than not. My fever must be higher than I thought.

Besides the colossal daily failure of the Funnies, there is another reason not to look at the Funny Pages. A deep, dark, secret reason. A temptation to indulge a scandalous weakness. My eyes are drawn to Dear Abby like a forty-car pileup. I know I won't see anything edifying--all the most interesting bits are covered or quickly removed, and seeing them would only disgust me anyway, and yet, I can't look away. I know why they continue to run the column. Everyone, from the smartest person you ever met to the dumbest, likes seeing an even dumber person demonstrate his or her stupidity. Although most of us give the appearance of feeling secure in our intelligence, the mind has at least one screen devoted to replaying our dumbest moments continuously, and seeing someone do something even dumber makes us feel, illogically, a little smarter than we did before. I don't know if there ever was a Dear Abby with a shred of common sense, but the last two Dear Abbys have filled the "someone dumber" role admirably. And it gets better. Like Ask Laskas, (Reader's Digest, once a great magazine, has proceded down the alimentary canal since Chris Wilcox took over. The current editors have continued the process of digestion far enough that it's time to flush.) Dear Abby usually takes only the easiest questions, and usually gets even those embarrassingly wrong. But--and here's the juicy part--people are dumb enough to continue to ask her for advice! Today's column included a letter from a couple who had an argument over whether lightbulbs screw in clockwise or counterclockwise. Rather than try it and find out, Ms. Counter-Clockwise wrote to Dear Abby to see who was correct! I'm surprised anyone that dumb can even read or write!

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Blogger Arby said...

Every once in a while the guy from the Kansas City Star comes around and tries the same type of sales pitch. I dislike the Kansas City Star. I have no time for the lopsided coverage. So, when the man from the Star tried to give me a free copy of their paper, I told him, ā€œIā€™d take this paper to line the bottom of my bird cage, but that would be an insult to perfectly good bird s*&^.ā€

January 24, 2010 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Bob Wingate said...

Seems like people in every town have a better nickname for their paper than the official name. The Kansas City Star = The Kansas City Scar (or The Kansas City Star - Pravda). My home town's Independence Examiner = The Independence Exaggerator. And my favorite, from roughly 150 miles east of here, The Moberly Monitor - Index = The Moberly Monster Insects.

As for the comics, if you don't mind "edgy" humor that can get mean at times, Pearls Before Swine can be downright funny. I still check B.C. and Dilbert from time to time, but I do that online. Another online comic I sometimes enjoy is Monty (used to be called Robotman some years ago).

My favorite these days is Ballard Street, by Jerry Van Amerongen. It may not "work" for everyone's sense of humor, and sometimes a few days go by and it's not that impressive. But I stay with it, and one day I'll find one that hits me just right, and I'll laugh 'til I hurt.

January 29, 2010 at 7:47 AM  

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