I am often asked (all right, twice) where my ideas come from. Much more frequently the question is why I still write for the HLP despite living two thousand miles west of Hennepin Avenue. It is a valid point, given the preponderance of young hipsters who could do a much more ironic job. Let me somewhat answer the former question and totally ignore the latter.
An event will trigger an idea, or a random thought will occur to me, and rather than trumble, flashstrip, or instasnap it to everyone I know (“Just had pancakes, yum!”), I will write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in my shirt pocket. When my column is due I need only go through my clothes and see if I am able to decipher what “people not a cucumber” means. Laundry day often wipes out much of my best stuff, but here are a few unrelated snippets that escaped the washing machine.
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Many political progressives of both genders use the term grandfathered (an action exempting a person or law from a new regulation). When I asked a PC friend why the gender specific word was still accepted, they stammered and finally said it must have been grandfathered in.
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The phrase “I am/am not a(n)___________________person.” The fill-in could be animal, goat cheese, cucumber, or ragtime. It is very British, tweedy, snippy, and fussy. I do not miss it. “No worries,” which has a Jamaican, Rastafarian, island, Bobby McFerrin feel, is probably on the way out. My accountant used it when I forgot to provide a 1099 form.
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The last remaining group we are permitted to make fun of is the people of Appalachia. Within ten years the term “hillbilly” will not be acceptable. I won’t say the Beverly Hillbillies were Amos and Andy, but the still syndicated show from my childhood is embarrassing. Comedians and film makers still feast on the fodder of lower intelligence, inbreeding and promiscuity with resultant large families for cheap laughs. It must be tough for young people in that region to live down the media image. Isn’t it nice that we are running out of groups to stereotype and scapegoat.
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Every time there is a mass shooting we wring our hands and ask why it continues to happen. Even the hint of gun control legislation sends weapon sales sky rocketing. After each tragedy we shuffle into religious services, hat in hand, for the eulogies, sitting passively, mumbling platitudes, alone in our private thoughts. Along with the moment of silence to remember the fallen, why not an expression of rage at everything the victims lost and was senselessly taken from us all? This is not a call for vigilante justice or an Orwellian hate week, but a way to share our hurt. Rather than feeling like victims in our Sunday best, let us have a cathartic scream at the injustice and rail at the insanity the second amendment has wrought. I picture Howard Beale in Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more!” The uproar will go viral.
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The massive denial of humanity’s role in climate change. Cigarette smoking and the link to cancer. Football on all levels and the increased risk of traumatic brain injury and resulting memory loss, depression, dementia, and death. In all three cases there has been an orchestrated cover-up to preserve company profits and our own naivete. We have made science the villain, proving what we already deeply suspected. The arguments of the “deniers” on all three causes are uncannily similar. Rooted in denial and nostalgia, we do not want to know the consequences of our actions. We cry out for our loss, curse the messenger and whoever changed the rules mid-game. Enjoying a Sunday drive with the whole family in the gas hog, relaxing with a cigarette (and a drink) while watching the Packers and Vikings knock each other silly seems like solace, and a well earned reward for raising a family, sacrificing, and working way more than 9 to 5. “Can’t I just watch the game?” I no longer can.
Tom H. Cook does not understand why his phone is more interested in his exact location than his wife is. He wishes all a happy and safe holiday season.