Elitist Proverbs

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As you sow, so shall you reap. Then shall you pick up my dry cleaning.

Beggars can’t be choosers, or much of anything, really.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Or, in your case, money doesn’t rent happiness. Anyhow, I was only joking. It does. Buy it, that is.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is why you’re still single at forty.

The meek shall inherit the earth, and in doing so, shall become the unmeek, whilst the previously unmeek shall momentarily become the meek and inherit the earth right back and that will be the end of it. You see, the earth is only allowed to change hands twice. Unfair? Well, that’s the way we wrote it. You may return to your plots now.

An in-home gym, eight-figure inheritance, and Ivy League education make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise (and enable him to sleep until noon every day).

He who knows contentment is rich — rich in a very stupid, very meaningless sense of the word.

People who live in glass houses in the Hamptons every summer should throw whatever they wish, including small dogs and midgets.

Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and I will eat the $65 sturgeon at Gary Danko tomorrow night. Ahem, without a reservation.

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold…wait a sec…why the heck am I asking you?

Never judge a book by its cover, unless it happens to be covered with a paper bag from the Grocery Outlet Discount Superstore. In that case, feel free to judge liberally both the book and its carrier.

Nobodys perfect. (Just kidding.)

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Problems in Evolutionary Theory

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Before I tackle the tough questions on evolution sent in to me here at Lonesome Pine Science Review Online, let me remind my readers that there are essentially two evolutionary problems. I call them the hard problem and the soft problem. The hard problem is how life got started at all. The soft problem is how it kept going after that. I have given endless thought and work to the hard problem in particular. Every morning I wake up and confront the hard problem. Let’s ignore the obvious joke coming up here, if it’s not too late, and jump straight to your questions.

A talented young lady writes us: What good is an appendix?

Not much these days, dear, but in the Pleistocene Era when Nixon was president, the organ actually hung outside the stomach like a lizard’s tail, and could be broken off and devoured as a delicious, quick protein pick-me-up. Usually you broke off and devoured your own appendix, but it was perfectly acceptable for a family member or close friend to reach over and snap off your appendix and devour it, too. After all, they were with you in the hard game of survival, and a timely appendix treat during a dangerous hunt or exhausting berry roundup provided a real boost. Modern man has lost this characteristic due to the advent of convenience stores, and the appendix has retreated into the interior of the abdomen, out of reach. Man still hungers for appendix but now can only get it on Thursdays at Ponderosa.

An immature boy writes: Why do men have nipples?

Same reason women do, son. Sure, it’s a thin, tasteless gruel that dad produces, and prehistoric fathers nursed only in the most hardscrabble times, but male breasts can come through in a draught or if mom goes hysterical and dries up. Even today, in the library or supermarket, I’ve seen mateless male parents pull out their flat chests and, by squeezing and grunting, produce a dusty, weak meal for junior to suck down. It isn’t clear if the law in all states permits nursing pops to do so in public, but I was in Ohio, a hotbed of decency, and it’s OK there. Tell you what, though. After seeing what dribbled out of an hombre’s teat one day last week in an Ohio Target store, if I were a kid I’d prefer a woman every time.

A conscientious objector writes: We humans only use around 10 to 15 percent of our brains. On the job I have — recycling discount coupons for a grocery store chain — I use maybe only 2 to 3 percent of that. So that’s about three or four pounds of useless gray matter I’m carrying around in my oversized skull, and the same goes for everybody. What’s the point, according to evolutionary theory? Why lug excess brain and head around, when we only need brains the size of tater tots and heads not much bigger? Without all that extra brain and bone, we might be able to jump farther or dive better or something else useful.

No mystery here, guy. Man needs a good-sized head to keep his eyes apart. Next question.

A free spirit writes: What’s the point in being conscious? It seems to me that I do most of my worrying and fretting conscious, and most of the pain and nausea I feel is a result of my being conscious, so why did nature do this to me?

You’ve put your finger on it, friend. The main function of the brain is to turn all sensory input of any kind into shocking, revolting fear. Fear so bad you shake all over and sweat at night. All visual, auditory, and tactile sensations — raw feels, as we scientists call them — are but the beginnings of outlandish, unavoidable, irreducible terror and fear. Fear of everything, terror at all! Once you understand that, you can begin to relax.

Now, it is true that a very, very small part of our brains gives rise to the incredibly profound and abstract thoughts that separate us from the beasts. I mean such deep ratiocinations as “Electric fences make good neighbors,” and “What’s Jennifer Aniston up to right now?” Yet even these profundities cause suffering. In fact, I’m just about worried to death over Jennifer, and if I don’t see her in ten movies and on six magazine covers a week, I can’t hold down my food.

An uncut cowboy writes: How did language evolve, and why?

Well, pard, consider a guy I know named Ralph. Ralph uses language every time he opens his mouth, unless he’s chewing his cud. Roughly, this is what goes on with Ralph. There are two areas in Ralph’s brain, Broca’s area and Werneicke’s area, both named after Swiss physiologists who meant it when they said “Let me pick your brain.” In effect, Wernneicke’s area goes first, offering up a rough draft of what Ralph wants to say, and then Broca’s rewrites it and hands a polished version to Ralph to read out loud. The two areas split the joint fee that Ralph pays them fifty-fifty.

Now, one day Ralph’s Werneicke’s area wanted to say “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” It also wanted to say “Pairs figure skating is between a man and a woman,” since it knew Ralph was running for office, and it wanted to help Ralph poll well. But Ralph’s Broca’s area refused to go along with these statements, since it secretly supported a gay rights amendment to the Constitution. In fact, the two areas of Ralph’s brain belonged to different political parties. The areas exchanged words, and then things got ugly. Broca’s area enlisted Ralph’s right arm to sock Ralph right in the Wernicke’s area, and Wernicke’s area persuaded Ralph’s left arm to slug Ralph right in the Broca’s area. The US Supreme Court is now hearing the case, the areas having decided to sue each other over assault and marriage issues. It’s impossible to say how the court will rule, due to Kennedy’s swing vote and Roberts’s recusal.

To generalize, Werneicke’s area allows you to shoot off your mouth with your foot in it, and Broca’s area allows you to shoot yourself in the foot every time you open your mouth. Thanks to this, man has survived as a species.

That’s all I have space for today. Be sure to email me your questions for next week’s topic: Hearsay on the Heuristics of Hermeneutics.

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How To Make Soup

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Recipes are for crybabies who play by the rules. That’s the principal thing you need to understand.

I will not care where it came from or what ancestral monkey handed it down the branches of your family tree — if I catch you trying to use a recipe to make soup after I’ve made it perfectly clear that recipes are for crybabies, you’d better watch out.

One of us is not playing around here.

I will knock your beloved recipe book or index card or newspaper clipping to the cold, hard floor without a moment’s thought or remorse. If you accidentally get knocked to the floor, too, so be it.

Even more painful for you than that accidental tumble will be the fact that I’ll no longer consider you among my culinary protégés.

It’s true.

That’s how I deal with crybabies who play by the rules.

You will be exiled from my kitchen. From your own kitchen, too. I can arrange that.

Soup is not some terribly complicated scientific experiment that requires exact measurements of volatile substances in order to achieve your intended results. It’s just soup. Often, it’s little more than an unremarkable diversion snuck between the salad and main courses of a meal to assuage uncomfortable conversation.

In other words, it’s just soup.

Perhaps you’re still intimidated by the idea of coming out of your kitchen with a soupy something that could embarrass you in front of your clueless friends and family. Don’t be. If they knew anything about anything, they would have invited you out for a restaurant meal.

Perhaps you believe all the ridiculous myths about food preparation that make it onto cable TV. I suppose you also believe in the Easter Bunny and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Perhaps you should relax.

I’m about to tell you how to make soup.

How difficult can it be? It’s eaten with a spoon.

You start by making the wet part of your soup that writers of crybaby recipes like to call the broth. That’s done by pouring cold, warm or hot water into a cylindrical metal container called a soup pot. You’ll often find a soup pot on top of your cooking range or in a cabinet stacked among other dusty pots.

Feel free to check in your kitchen now.

Once your soup pot is half-full, give or take what appears half-full to you, stop pouring in water. Your broth is finished.

If you don’t believe me, dip in a spoon and give it a taste. It should taste wet. Broth is, after all, the wet part of your soup. But do be careful! If you used hot water to make your broth, it might be hot. Or if you used cold water to you make your broth, it could be cold — possibly cold enough to make your teeth ache.

When you’re satisfied that your broth is wet, begin stirring in your soup’s solid bits.

Meats and vegetables make tasty solid bits for a soup, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the taste of meats and vegetables or is interested in trying them.

Some meats and vegetables make better soup than others. Pimento loaf, for instance, is a delicious choice for soup, because it has some kind of vegetable in it as well as some kind of meat.

Beef jerky and dandelions, on the other hand, do not make a very good soup. No one knows why.

If you’re scared of putting meats and vegetables in your soup, stir in anything that you’ve always been curious to eat — or just put in your mouth. But take note: soup is typically more enjoyable and easier to make when what you’ve always been curious about ingesting is already in some solid form about the size of a bit, whatever that means to you.

Once you’ve thoroughly stirred your meat and vegetables or other solid bits into the wet part of your soup, you’re almost done. Simply turn on the cooking range burner beneath your soup pot. Twist the knob to its highest, hottest setting and walk away.

Run if you smelled leaking natural gas before you turned on your cooking range burner.

In just moments, a few hours or days that turn into weeks that turn into months, your soup will boil. Cook it at a steady, rolling boil until your birthday. (Groundhog Day if you’re cooking in a high altitude setting.)

When your soup no longer looks like something a person should eat, turn it down and let it simmer until you suspect you’re on the verge of dying from starvation. You’ll likely be hallucinating and feeling your stomach start to digest itself.

As you contemplate the life that you lived, in and out of the kitchen, think about how foolish you would have felt using a recipe to make something as effortless as soup.

Really ponder it.

Then call me and thank me for the many times I tried to help you over the years. Tell me something along the lines of, “Brian, I realize now that all those horrible things you said about Rachael Ray were for my own protection. I only wish I’d been listening when you explained so beautifully how to toast bread in a toaster. I’m sorry that I failed you.”

If you want your soup to taste like anything, your apology to me will be your dying words.

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Inventory Of The Vaguely Remembered

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Desiree McAllister

Grade 9

Desiree was at Roy Emery Middle School for only one year. She managed to get into that gang with Marjorie Thomson and Felicity Wells, inasmuch that she helped pad that little clique so it could legitimately be called “a gang.” She was the one with the bangs hanging over her eyes and who tried (unsuccessfully) to give herself the nickname “Dizzy.” Not to be confused with Darlene Mickelson. She moved during the summer.

George Masters

Senior high

Remember that time we all managed to siphon off some rum from our parents’ bottles and we hid out at the gravel pit and got so wasted? And John Arthur and Debbie Laurence started making out, and Dean Matheson got all pissed off because he liked Debbie and he took off and we had to find him? And Buddy Roy showed up with his truck and we built a fire and played tunes on his tape deck? And I think it was, like, 4 a.m. when the cops came and we all took off? And Dean ended up doing it with Marie Johnson somewhere in the gravel pit, even though she really liked David Petrie? George was there that night. He was the one who kept yelling “Skynard!”

Mr. Drummond

Grade 8 English teacher (substitute)

When Mrs. Orlean had to leave before the end of the year for her operation, Mr. Drummond came in for the last month of school. He made us read Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and we were like, “What the hell is this?” Had a ponytail. On the last day of school when we were all saying our goodbyes and everyone was kind of weepy, he stood off to the side with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face like he was “observing” us, even though if you looked closely you could tell he wanted someone to go over and say, “Thank you. I’ll never forget you.” No one did.

Darren something

Neighbor five houses down

His house was the one Mom said we weren’t supposed to go to. I remember it: there were cement blocks all over the front yard for reasons that still aren’t clear. In the back yard was a big shed filled with empty beer cases. I was maybe eight. There was Darren and his little sister. Darren always had a dirty face that even then I knew couldn’t have been healthy. We played Hot Wheels a couple of times in his back yard, which was good for that because it was all dirt. I don’t remember them moving away. I’d forgotten about him until recently when he popped up in a dream.

???

Temporary nanny

Babysat when Mom and Dad went away for a weekend when I was five. Had an accent. Smelled sour.

Gina the telemarketer

Summer job after first year of university

She worked about seven cubicles over and had the troll dolls on her desk. If I recall, she was sort of good looking in a squashed-face kind of way. We may have spoken once about “Bloom County.” The other day I ran into someone who worked there that summer. He told me that apparently Gina had a crush on me. Now he tells me!

Mrs. Baxter

Church member

Sometimes sang in the choir at my parents’ church and supposedly taught me Sunday School. I get her and Mrs. Cochrane mixed up. Over the years, she occasionally asked my parents what I was up to. I feel guilty that I can’t remember her better. Mom phoned recently to tell me she died. I feigned sympathy.

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