Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (8/18/05)


Facts I never knew 'til now. The natural world is full of oddities. Here are a few:
+ Many butterflies and most flies taste with their feet. When a fly walks across your food, he's tasting it.
+ Birds have far better sight than most other animals. The giant condor can see small rodents on the ground from as high as 15,000 feet.
+ Humans are not particularly good at seeing in poor light. Animals that see well in poor light are most active at twilight.
+ Color blindness is present in 5 to 8 percent of males (depending on race) but only in 0.45 percent of females--a distribution that proves the deficiency is sex-linked.
+ Humans are better at seeing color than most other animals. Cats, cows, dogs, pigs and sheep do not see colors. A red cloth is of no interest to a bull. On the whole, animals that are themselves brightly colored are able to see color.
+ Humans have stereoscopic vision for the same reason tree-dwelling animals have it is needed for leaping from branch to branch.
+ Snakes do not hear the music played to them by snake charmers.
+ Humans are not particularly good at hearing as compared with many other animals. Horse, rats, mice, cats and dogs can all hear higher pitched sounds than man can.
+ Bees are able to hear by feeling vibrations in solids. Their buzzing is something they do not hear--they feel it.
+ It is no mere figure of speech to say that we are "weak from laughing." Laughter brings the flexor muscles of our lower limbs into activity.
+ Humans spend a fifth of each night's sleep dreaming.
+ The size of the human brain is not related to intelligence. Very intelligent people have had smaller brains than some retarded persons.
+ The bee and the ant have minute brains. Tests show that they are almost incapable of learning.
+ Chimpanzees have learned to work for token rewards--poker chips--which they trade for food. They acquired great confidence in the power of this "currency" and would work on problems for chips as readily as for food directly.
+ One reason foreign languages cannot be learned perfectly after the age of eight is that subtle differences in sounds are no longer heard.
+ In humans there are only four primary tastes: sweet, bitter, sour or acid, and salty.
+ All breeds of dog, from the tiny Mexican Chihuahua to the giant St. Bernard, scratch at the same rate--about four scratches per second.

Ricochet words. You use them all the time, but did you know what they are called? Echoic or duplicative words, called ricochet words, are often used for humorous effect. The mere repetition of a sound tends to intensify the meaning of the root word. A good example is "hugger-mugger," meaning "skullduggery." It is thought to be a variant of "hoker-moker," from the Middle English mokeren (to hoard or conceal). Thus the meaning of secrecy or underhandedness inherent in the root word is strengthened by repetition.

Other examples of ricochet words are boob tube, chitchat, fiddle-faddle, harum-scarum, hoity-toity, hodge-podge, hot shot, namby-pamby, Ping-Pong, and super-duper.

News junkie no more. I don't know about you, but I've lost interest in what purports to be news, particularly as purveyed by 24-hour news networks determined to fill each day's 1,440 minutes with endless repetitions of the latest manufactured scandale du jour. The public has been complicit in this, allowing itself to be hooked on the new narcotic of so-called "breaking news" dangled before viewers. The problem is that these programs have ceased to be about news--the important events that are happening in the world--and have become fixated on what is little more than lurid gossip. The private misfortunes of individuals are caught in the media's relentless spotlight and exposed for the delectation of the masses. Ironically, the ancient Romans' fascination with agony in the public arena is now replicated on our television screens and also in some irresponsible newspapers.

Terri Schiavo's cruel starvation became a media football; we free our pets of incurable health conditions more humanely. The death agony of Pope John Paul II was covered by reporters and commentators like circling vultures. Similar hordes waited to bring the world the verdict in the Michael Jackson trial. Runaway brides, shark attacks and a missing teenage visitor to the tropical island of Aruba--the networks force-feed us more manufactured news than anyone could humanly want to know.

The common denominator is the desperate search for items that can be reworked, massaged, bent, twisted, analyzed and argued over so as to yield enough variants of the same story to fill the void left by the failure to pursue genuine news. What should be a few minutes of solid information is made to yield endless repetitions of essentially the same information by highly paid card-readers and talking heads posturing as experts.

We are being fed so much deceptive pap masquerading as news by our docilely submissive media, this indigestible mass may soon rise in our collective gorge and choke us. Their excuse is this is what the public wants. I may only be an army of one, but I hope that others will register their displeasure and boycott this drivel by using the on-off button on their remote controls.

Changing a brand name. George W. Bush coined the phrase "war on terror," and he is fond of reminding us that he is "a wartime president." Administration spinmeisters, sensing the unfavorable overtones of words like "war" and "wartime," have minted a new name for the war on terror. It's now the high-sounding "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism." Nevertheless, the President is stubbornly clinging to his characterization of it as a war on terror. Perhaps he fears that use of the word "struggle" will make him "a struggling president."

Only Madison Avenue could think that substituting the word "struggle" for "war" would change anything. When President Gerald Ford was faced with staggering 20 percent interest rates, these same people sold him on the idea of getting everyone to wear a large button reading WIN, standing for the slogan "Whip Inflation Now." Fat chance. It never happened.

No matter what they try to call it, don't let anybody kid you. It's a bitterly fought fourth-generation war, plain and simple--one we were poorly equipped to fight. Witness the recent decision to equip the entire U.S. occupying force in Iraq with new, improved body armor.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments: Post a Comment | Postscripts Homepage

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?