Monthly Archives: March 2012

Onions! And Other Musings on the Madness of March…

Most of us who work in an office love this time of year. Even if we didn’t attend a college with a competing interest in the NCAA tournament, we all have a favorite or two. And gambling makes sure this is true. Hard core fans (read: gamblers) suddenly come down with some rare strain of influenza or Montezuma’s revenge or laryngitis that renders them incapable of making it into the office for the first Thursday and Friday of the big dance, and they sit on their couches or head out to the local sports bar and medicate their “ailments” with beer and chips and wings as they devour twelve hours of hoops each day in absolute heaven.

OR, for those less fortunate (read: those who have too much responsibility to bail on work, those who frivolously used up their personal/vacation days in the first two months of the year, or those who fear getting fired in such a bad economy), millions of other fans of college hoops sit in their cubicles or offices, glued to their computer screens, toggling between their work and every sporting website their office firewall allows them to open, following the action as best they can, counting down the hours till five, when they too can join the throngs in front of the boob tube.

That time of year has arrived when productivity hits a wall, where focus is completely lost and a lack of effort likely erases whatever progress or momentum had been achieved in January and February. Even the most anti-sports and/or unknowledgeable or ambivalent about anything sports related has a fighting chance, or more accurately, is among the favorites to win their respective office pools. They pick based on uniform colors or school mascots, or let their six year old children fill out their brackets…and invariably, much to the testosterone-fueled sports nuts’ chagrin in every office across the USA, they win the pool. (Read this recent article about How to Intelligently Talk About March Madness – Even If You Sort of Don’t Care)

I remember during my time in a past life, working in a Wall Street office that loved to gamble on anything and everything. We had a pool for every sporting event, including golf. We had pools for office eating contests, including one horrific Friday where the brass bought like a thousand White Castle sliders and the winner of the bacchanalia (whoever ate the most) took half of the pot…the other half went to those who bet on the correct “victor.” We even had pools within pools, or allegorical pools as I fondly recall christening them.

One day, one of the elevators in our building got stuck during lunch time. Two of our staff were on board during the mishap. This was before cell phones, mind you. We got a call from the lobby that an elevator lost power between the 15th and 16th floors, and that they believed two of our employees were among the stranded (they got a call from the elevator phone relaying the info). Anyway, of course this bit of bad luck for the two on the elevator quickly morphed into opportunity for the rest of us. We started a pool for picking the precise time the elevator would be fixed and our colleagues would make it back into the office…Price Is Right rules, closest to the time either of our men stepped into the office without going over would win the pot. I did not win. They finally emerged, together, three hours and 23 minutes later, at 3:36pm. I had wagered on 2:50. Oh well.

(This article highlights some other humorous office pools some have participated in over the years)

But I digress. I love March Madness. It’s a great sporting event that truly mimics the entropy of real life. Anything can and does happen. Every year, millions root for one of many underdogs, and we all get rewarded. And every year we get amazing match ups with heart-stopping finishes. And we get to gamble…and lose…to a person we know in our office that has no business winning.

So, in honor of March Madness, please find my unofficial list of all things that evoke images of Madness from the annals (two “n”s for the sick-minded) of pop culture, sports, politics and general trivia. I wanted to make a bracket so you all could pick match ups and crown an eventual winner, but alas, I am a simple blogger with very little technical know-how. So I give you a list, ranked from least madness inspiring to most. Feel free to make your own brackets. Or print it out and use it as kindling. Or completely ignore it. As usual, the order of our entries is debatable, and I welcome friendly discourse:

26) Mad Cow Disease – A horrifying scourge worthy of the most pessimistic writers of Hollywood and fiction novels alike, it gave us quite a scare back in 2001 and still lurks in the darkest corners of civilization as some of the best fodder for the anti-carnivorous set and even companies like Chick-Fil-A.  So awful, in fact, that it couldn’t make the top 25 of this list;

25) Mad Dog – that awful vomit-inducing budget pseudo liquor some of us were unfortunately introduced to in our college days, and a staple of many a homeless drunk;

24) Reefer Madness – 1936 film which dramatized the evils of Mary Jane. But what about the evils of this film, or those hypocritical politicians who continue to hide behind the Constitution when it comes to guns, but fail to recognize that our forefathers, the same brilliant men who wrote and fought for that very document, also grew and smoked chronic themselves?

23) This blog article called Lent Madness from 2010 (you need to scroll down a little);

22) Or this one about My Little Pony Madness  – actually, some of the inventions captured here are pretty cool;

21) It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – 1963 star-studded comedy not unlike the Cannonball Run/Gumball Rally movies about a race for a large sum of money – in this case, stolen money.  It features Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Buster Keaton, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, and many more;

20) Space Madness;

19) Mad Love – 1995 film starring Chris O’Donnell (fresh off his Scent of a Woman acclaim) and Drew Barrymore. Not a bad account of mental illness wrapped up in a love story if you are into that sort of thing.

18) Mad Dog and Glory – 1993 film starring Bill Murray, Robert DeNiro and Uma Thurman. Underrated, in my opinion, but still, not in the respective top five films of any of the principles.

17) Mad Money, now in its eighth season, is a finance television program featuring the frenetic histrionics of Jim Cramer. I am not a big fan, but realize some of you might be and thus this ranking is up for debate;

16) Madmortigan – Val Kilmer’s warrior in the notable George Lucas semi-flop Willow. Love hearing the eponymous dwarf’s genuine awestruck giddiness as he says, “Madmortigan, you are great!”

15) Mad About You – One of very few successful tunes a drugged out Belinda Carlisle was able to muster without her other Go-Go girls (from her first solo album, Belinda, released in 1986, and topping out at #3 on the Billboard charts).

Also, a moderately successful if over-hyped sit-com featuring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. I prefer Carlisle’s tune to this schlock, but judging from its 7-year run during NBC’s glory years, millions would probably disagree.

Finally, Mad About You is a lesser known track off of Sting’s album, The Soul Cages;

14) This blog entry on top movie descents into madness, even though it fails to mention Apocalypse Now, Barton Fink and Falling Down….so wrong. It’s a good list, but greatness eludes it for what it fails to recognize. Omitting those three films on a list of descents into madness is the very definition of madness;

13) Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John song from 1972 Honky Chateau, in which Bernie Taupin lyrically recalls his first visit to New York City, during which he hears a gun go off near his hotel window, and responds to a Ben E. King song called “Spanish Harlem” with a negative bent;

12) The oddity that is the Mad Martian Museum of Modern Madness;

11) Madness, the 1980s British band that brought us “Our House” (and fittingly, also had an album named Mad Not Mad);

10) This collection of journal entries, “March Mad-NESS,” from Funny or Die;

9) The Madness of King George, another of 1994’s incredibly rich stable of films, starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film also won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay;

8) M.A.D.D. – Big ups for mothers who care. Hard not to side with moms on this one. As a one-time member of S.A.D.D. myself, I debated putting this one higher on this list. So yes, this was a hard-eight;

7) Mad Max – Mel Gibson is a douche. But in 1979 we didn’t know that. So if you can take yourself back to that simpler time, pre-anti-Semitic meltdown, and marvel at the genius of the character, you have to admit Mad Max was a post-apocalyptic bad-ass;

6) Mad World – Perhaps my favorite Tears for Fears song, chillingly remade by Gary Jules for the movie Donny Darko, and also covered most recently by surprise phenomenon Susan Boyle;

5) Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Joe Cocker’s 1970 live album of mostly cover songs, including The Rolling Stones (Honky Tonk Women), Traffic (Feelin’ Alright), The Beatles (She Came in Through the Bathroom Window), Leonard Cohen, Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding;

4) Mad scientists: Portrayed in hundreds of books, movies and television shows, from Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Jekyll to Dr. Moreau to Jeff Goldblum’s Brundle in The Fly (check out this link…and this one);

3) Mad Men;

2) The Mad Hatter – One of Lewis Carroll’s most frighteningly awesome characters, Carroll never actually dubs The Hatter with the crazy modifier. Rather, both the Hatter and March Hare are referred to as “both mad” by the Cheshire Cat. Both characters first appear in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled “A Mad Tea Party.” The phrase “mad as a hatter” pre-dates Carroll’s works; and,

1) MAD Magazine – Always a reminder of my care-free youth, this ad-free humor mag featuring Alfred E. Newman, Spy vs. Spy, celebrity lampooning at its infantile best AND…my first foray into centerfolds, takes me back to days at summer camp, when a care package filled with candy and a few issues of MAD proved just how lucky I was to have the best parents ever.

See you in April,

IDROS

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Was Darwin Wrong?

I know it is said that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen, and to a large extent, I agree. So I am not sure where to file this:

Charles Darwin was a great man, and I am a firm believer that he pretty much nailed it with most of his theories and rhetoric.

Two of my favorite quotes of his follow:

The issue I have, however, is that by everything I see in our world, Darwin’s logic above, and pretty much throughout his oeuvre, seems ironic at best, and flat wrong in our worst case scenario.

My logic, if you will permit me to ascribe it with such a flattering term, is rather simple.

Our world is flooded with intolerance, prejudice, violence and ignorance. Those who hold dear to any and all four of those horrific schools are not a waning minority by any means, but rather a growing scourge on society.

Please consider the following examples of my troubling hypothesis below, and these are all symptomatic of the American populace:

A large and vociferous population refuses to believe in evolution, does not want it taught in public schools and feels that the bible trumps all in terms of the law and basic human rights;

Many continue to subrogate females in our society for no apparent reason other than archaic behavior patterns that evolved in a world that admittedly was once dominated by men, and refuse to wake up to the misogynistic and ludicrous reasoning that continues to cast an ugly pall on society. This manifests itself most egregiously in: a government of men continually trying to stick their hands, minds and influence into the bodies of women; a refusal to enact serious legislation and better educational programs for the far-too rampant plague that is the assault, battery and abuse (physical, mental and sexual) of women; and double standards that still find women earning considerably less than men in most industries, with far fewer women in positions of power than men.

The absolutely mind-boggling fact that homosexuals are treated as second-class citizens in a nation that boasts liberty and justice for all, not some, or most.

That someone with views like Rick Santorum (see all of the above points) can actually get as close as he is to a nomination by arguably the most powerful political party in our nation, and that Sarah Palin did get the nod by the same party, albeit as a running-mate add-on;

The tragedy that is Traymon Martin, and the countless other racially charged senseless murders and crimes that continue to occur way too frequently.

And America is far more tolerant, just and educated than the rest of the world…by leaps and bounds (maybe Americans aren’t more “evolved” than every single nation and society around the globe, but we are among the crème de la crème, overwhelmingly).  Unfortunately, the goal is not to be less awful than everyone else. A child whose hands and face are covered in dog shit still smells, even if less so than a child covered in feces from head to toe.  America still has a long way to go, even if it is mere miles compared to the light-years the disgraceful global populace must journey toward enlightenment.

So what does all of that have to do with Darwin?

Glad you asked.

From my vantage point, the populations increasing most rapidly in our country, and throughout the world, are the ignorant and the religious zealots, many of which, unsurprisingly, overlap.

I realize Darwin’s theory that the fittest will survive rings true in the near term as the poorest people, who tend to dominate the ignorant and zealous populations, do have the shortest life expectancies.

But long-term, these ignorant and zealous peoples will continue to multiply and thrive, further eroding the evolution of our society as a whole as backward ideas become or continue on as consensus by the growing masses. And unlike in prehistoric times or even a few hundred years ago, mankind has made such incredible technological and medical advances (whether the ignorant and the faithful choose to believe it or not), that even the poorest, most ignorant and most fearful of science benefit.

As a believer in democracy, I can’t help but see stormy weather up ahead for those who cling to the hopes that tolerance, justice and enlightenment will eventually win out over ignorance, prejudice, violence and intolerance. As our global population continues to grow, unfortunately, it is the intolerant, ignorant and overly faithful that are multiplying at exponentially faster rates than the rest of us.

And so, the reason I fear Darwin may have been mistaken, at least in terms of our own human society, is that I am not sure the most responsive to change will survive. And it does not seem likely that those who have learned to collaborate or improvise will continue to prevail, either. In fact, our fastest growing populations seem to be those who refuse to change at all and are completely anti-collaboration and/or improvisation. Ignorance, bliss or not, is multiplying like Danny Zuko’s chills.

I am not sure our society will ever evolve in a positive direction toward enlightenment, but rather it seems far more likely to devolve into darkness and anarchy. Or perhaps humanity was never poised to survive long-term in the first place. And if things don’t change on a grand scale, we probably won’t.

I apologize for being so bleak. I really am a cheerful person with a positive outlook on life. Just trying to stir the giant pot of crap that is simmering on the back burner.

Hope you are all well.

Thanks for reading. I promise more upbeat, positive, and likely trivial entries to come.

IDROS

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