Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Tax on Bovine Flatuses

Recently, the Environment Protection Agency identified animal flatuses as being a significant source of pollutants: approximately 18% of the global warming gases worldwide, including a staggering 37% of methane emissions and an enormous amount of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions.. After all, there are 1.5 billion cattle and 1.7 billion sheep worldwide to generate all of these scents! That governmental agency, like other government agencies tend to do, saw this as a main chance to levy another tax, using the provisions of the Clean Air Act.

So, we may someday see the taxation of cow farts. Yes, this will take care of those global warming gases. we'll tax 'em, and I'm sure the government will spend the money wisely afterwards, as it always does. But, isn't this short-sighted? After all, about 70% of the world's surface is grazing land, and most of this is not yet in places taxable by the EPA. So, this tax will have a limited effect on the total global warming gas emissions unless we also incorporate a series of military adventures to spread the Tax Love around.

There's another problem: whenever a government derives large amounts of tax money from any source, including from taxing substances which are not healthy for us, the government (in a sense) acquires a vested interest in maintaining that activity or product and thus keeping up the revenue stream. Take cigarette smoking and alcohol beverage drinking: these are significant sources of revenue for both federal and state governmental entities. If the smokers or the boozers were abruptly to smoke less or drink less due to costly taxation, then government would have to get its revenue elsewhere! That can be a serious concern for some people whose bacon might be now fried. And, specifically, our government would have a vested interest in the maintenance of cow fart emissions!

I can envision the federal government some day encouraging the development of Crude Cows, those that emit even more cow farts than usual, all the better to tax them more heavily. There is another concern we should take into account. This proposed tax stereotypes all Bovine Americans as coarse, unmannerly animals. But what about the well-bred cows of America? I can imagine the bovine members of the Junior League thinking the very possibility of a their passing a flatus with utter horror, certain to banish the her from beyond the pale of polite society and being disowned by her family!

No, I think we should categorically exclude all Montana cows, which are quite polite and well-bred. Therefore, I propose that these global warming gases from two alternative sources be taxes in lieu of cows: from teenaged boys, and from politicians! I'm sure that once those sources are curbed, then the global warming problem will be solved!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adaptation to Academic Life: The Grad Student Stage

The unwary aspirant of graduate studies enters a pitfall of semiotics that is hard to navigate. After all, academic life presents a facade of breeziness and nonconformity; but this covers like a doily the careerist conformity that is there like a bad cold or pizza boxes on the floor of a guy's apartment! The Sheep (the Academic Elect) and the Goats (not our type) differentiate themselves in varying ways.
The way that most outsiders is familiar with is politics. Be impeccably liberal in your overt stance: wear your affiliation on your sleeve, or at least on your auto bumper. Remember: MSNBC, not FOX News. Read the NY Times on weekends, not the Tennesseean. Vote in nonconforming ways secretly; if you must, be a closet Libertarian or Green Party member!

And speaking of autos, never, never drive a SUV or a Ford or Chevy. A Mini Cooper gets maximum points; but a Volvo or an Acura is okay if one can't avoid one's social background. Accords are too bourgeois, though Japanese. Guys owning a Corvette should expect comments about this being in response to certain, ah, anatomical inadequacies. Other grad students can be bitchy.

Get an accent. Something like received English or Bostonian, or middle European. Use tortured syntax like you were educated in Heidleberg. No drawls, twangs, and nothing that sounds like Sarah Palin or Jeff Foxworthy.

Furniture and decor: homemade bookcases, using boards and bricks, cast-off furniture. Nothing from Pottery Barn, except for in that room in which no one, even your closest friends, ventures. After all, loose tongues sink academic careers. Classical art deco posters: yes; Brad Pitt or Heath Ledger posters: no. Chuck Norris posters are triple no-no-nos!

Dress is a matter of importance: strive for functionality by wearing jeans and tops that are in natural colors. Watch Legally Blonde, and don't go there when it comes to fashion. Beware of t-shirts bearing ironic messages; they might be misconstrued as an expression of a non-academic disposition.

Footwear is especially important: sensible shoes should reign. No heels, please. And no bitch shoes! Keep thy bitchiness to your discourse.

Even lingerie is a criterion. Nothing colored, except maybe black. Think grannies, not bikinis or thongs. Reject sexy in favor of functional. Even though no one will see it, in your heart you know what you're wearing and it's not for you if you want to seem erudite.

Choose your music with care: Mozart is top of the line, but romantics such as Beethoven will also do, if not played too often. Progressive or retro jazz is in good taste. Blues is okay. Country music is OUT! Let not a Britney Spears CD be seen in your area.

The literature you won't ever get to read should be impressive: the kind that you would not mind people seeing that you were reading should you die when the book is only half-finished. Obviously, keep your bodice-rippers or fan mags under wraps. You want to seem literate. A book in an esoteric language would do it.

Religion: Presbyterianism or Episcopalianism or Unitariansim are all held in highest regard within academe. Or belong to to some fairly liberal Catholic or Methodist church. Attend irregularly. That's the key.

Then there's the matter of one's significant other. Generally, a live fiancee, boy friend, or lover is too high maintenance and requires too much time. It's better to have an absentee one. Someone at a med school or law school elsewhere, preferably a first-rung institution, like Harvard or Princeton. You don't get many points if he's at Alaska Polytechnic and Beauty School. If an absentee one is unavailable, then acquire a virtual one over the internet, being mindful never to meet said person.

Obviously, having an absentee Mr. Darcy or Indiana Jones would trump even those.

I hope this gives you some general notions as to fitting in academe. Remember: you can't ever be too pretentious!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let's Retire the Expression "Required Reading"

Not all writings are equal. Some necessarily have more merit than others; some are more edifying, well-written, accurate, entertaining, informative, or whatever is reflected in the original purpose of the writing. And some are better ways to spend your time with than others.

But there seems to be this overused expression that seems to have grown like kudzu all over the writing landscape: To often, if a book or article is judged favorably by someone and she or thinks other should read it, the lackidaisical line calling it "required reading" is used, as in, "This book should be required reading for all novice strippers" or "This article should be required reading for all high-minded, politically in-tune, progressive individuals who might otherwise be affected by the wrong thoughts or views that they might otherwise have come up with।"

I am not saying that it is wrong to like some writing, or to say that people might enjoy it. Saying "this should be required reading" makes the user of this expression into a demigod or some cheap autocrat as well as being an unwarranted grabbing at authority.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Tao of Bowling

Unless you are a habitual bowler, and have your own bowling ball and bowling shoes, you have to fall back on those rented from the bowling lanes. And what a horrid set of choices: typically red-and-green two-toned shoes, with the number sizes on the heels. Now the colors I can understand: it keeps them from being stolen by unscrupulous patrons desirous of a footwear upgrade. And the numbers too, I guess. But you have no secrets. The whole world (or so it seems) can see that you wear size 9 gunboats. It's like wearing a t-shirt proclaiming your bra size or GPA. Or having your Social Security number emblazoned on your butt! Or, most horrendous a disclosure! That you have a loser calling plan or you still use AOL. Bowling teaches you a lesson in humility, if you rent shoes. Everyone knows how big your feet are!