Monthly Archives: October 2008

Halloween on wheels

It’s no wonder Americans are so fat. Southern states, of course, lead in the percentage of obesity. I don’t know the actual numbers, but you can quote me on that.

I’m amazed at the trend in trick-or-treating these days. Here’s the scenario:

Mom or Dad drive to a neighborhood (or pull out of their driveway and stay in their own neighborhood) and pull to a house appropriately lit up to indicate the inhabitants are participating in the festivities we call Halloween. The kids pile out of the car, run up to the door, say the expected ‘trick-or-treat,’ get candy…and then pile back into the car.

Huh?

When I was a kid, trick-or-treaters ruled the streets; there was rarely a car to be seen except those parked in the driveways. It would not surprise me if you told me that you counted more cars than kids on the streets this Halloween. Back then, we would circle ’round the neighborhood on foot, sweating under the makeup or costume (it was more often hot than not on Halloween in Mississippi), running from house to house, trampling bushes and flowers, and dashing across the street without looking both ways!

Admittedly, there are some good things that have happened to Halloween since I was a kid. Numerous communities, churches and other civic groups put on “fall festivals” that allows kids to dress up and get candy in a safe environment. I worked in the mall in the late 1980s and we would get a big stash of candy for kids to come to the mall. I always thought it was a good idea for those kids who lived in what might be a dangerous neighborhood or for those who lived so far out in the sticks that it would take an hour just to visit two or three neighbors. Some malls still do this, and I think it’s probably a pretty good idea.

But, you see the trend. It’s much easier to go from storefront to storefront and collect candy than it is to go from house to house.

The thing, I think, is that it probably doesn’t matter that much to the kids. I know mine would walk until their feet literally give out—which would be much later than mine!

What kind of message are these car creeping parents sending to their kids? Get in the car and slowly edge down the street—avoiding the oncoming traffic and the cars creeping equally slow just ahead—get out of the car and run to the house, get candy—which we all know will rot your teeth as well as make you fat (oh! Excuse me…weight challenged).

And there is no rhyme or reason to the way the cars act. Some use high beams and speed from one walkway to the next. Some use only parking lights and roll along at one mile an hour. Others pull up, shut the lights and engine off as if they were about to get out and visit, repeating the procedure at each house.

The funniest ones are those that run the air conditioner…with their windows down.

Maybe what we ought to consider putting on next year’s ballot is closing all neighborhood streets to cars during the hours of 6-9 on Halloween. The kids would certainly be much safer and we’d all be much healthier.

(a slightly different version of this—a one-kid version—ran in the Flo-Ala [Florence, Alabama] in 2001)

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Anatomy of a yawn

What is a yawn?

Probably, you’ve never given that question a second thought-and many of you may be thinking who cares? I know that I’d never considered it until recently. But if you’ll remember, I’ve mentioned before that my brain works far faster than my hands, this is probably not one of those times.

I’d bet there are a half dozen of you reading this who have already yawned by the time you’ve gotten this far. That’s either from the power of suggestion…or something else. I’ll opt for the power of suggestion.

Yawning is one of those things that everyone has done at some point in time (yeah, yeah, there’ll likely be some wise guy who’ll claim to have never yawned in his entire life!). We all know what it is when we see it—sometimes we can even hear them.

I’ve always found it funny that yawns are contagious. Why is that? (Not why do I find it funny, but why are they contagious) Oh, I’m sure the most brilliant doctors would tell us they aren’t really contagious, but we all know they are because we’ve all “caught” it at some point in time. Just further proof that doctors don’t know everything.

What is it that makes them contagious? I’ve often heard the old saying “he stole my air,” and that’s what caused the yawn. If we steal someone’s air, is it accidental? Should we apologize?

I’d bet at least a dozen more of you have yawned by now.

There are different sorts of yawns, too.

There’s the stifled yawns, y’know, when the yawner never even opens his mouth, but his face contorts in all sorts of odd expressions, some of them look quite painful.
Are stifled yawns like stifled sneezes? You can blow your brains out your nose with a stifled sneeze—heck, moms across the country are telling their kids even now that they can bust their eardrums if they hold a sneeze in.

So what do you bust with a stifled yawn? I’ve never heard, but I bet it’s still your eardrums because mine can “pop” when I yawn really big.

Moms need to get on top of that one—kids need to be warned not to hold in their yawns or they’ll pop their eardrums.

Speaking of the big ones…why is it that some of the big yawns need a wind up—y’know, three or four short, quick inhales before the big exhale? Is the size of the yawn dependent upon the number of inhalations?

Notice, too, that with the big ones there is a pause just between the last inhale and the big exhale…what is that called?

I’d bet a couple dozen more of you have yawned by now AND caused someone else to yawn.

What about the spitting yawns? They’re rare, but you know what I’m talking about—that tiny flow of saliva that shoots out across the room (maybe onto your computer monitor) and it comes from those two little yawn-shooters just under your tongue. Some can have great distance to them. Maybe we should have yawn-spitting contests the next time we have watermelon seed spitting contests.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d nearly be willing to bet two things: 1)you’ve now given yawns their fair consideration; 2)you’ve yawned.

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Hate speech laws are dangerous

Hate speech is a dangerous thing. And I don’t necessarily mean speaking it.

One of the issues our government (both state and federal) continues to debate is hate crime bills. Fortunately for us, most of the serious ones have been defeated. You can bet they’ll be back, though—bonehead legislators in Arkansas have tried to pass this sort of bill nine times. NINE TIMES! If Obama is elected, they may very well pass!

Am I the only one who thinks this is not only a waste of taxpayer money, but a very dangerous thing?

The first question to come to mind is why do we need to add the “hate” part onto our current body of laws? After all, a crime is a crime is a crime. If a guy shoots his next door neighbor, will the neighbor be less dead if the shooter was filled with hate? Is the neighbor more dead? Is the killer more murderer?

Hate and emotions cover such broad spectrum of judgmental issues, what is hatred for one is not for the other. How can you put that into a law? Orwell knew, of course.

What about all our other laws? Will we also add emotional aspects into law? “I’m sorry officer, I was so filled with hate that I was speeding.” Tack on an extra $50 for hate speeding. Or maybe get a deduction if we’re filled with happy thoughts.

Free speech is one of the biggest issues on which this country was founded (that and freedom of religions from governmental interference). And, the biggest fear surrounding these hate bills should be for Christians.

Canada has already tossed several preachers in jail for preaching a religious belief straight out of the Bible. The preachers in question were preaching what the Bible said on homosexuality and were tossed in jail under the accusation that they were spewing hate speech.

Already in the U.S., Catholics in Massachusetts have stopped their adoption operations because the state told them if they didn’t place kids in homosexual homes, they would not be allowed to receive a license.

“All that matters are the delicate feelings of members of federally protected groups,” said Michael Marcavage, director of RepentAmerica.com. Marcavage said that truth is tossed out the window in hate crime trials. “A homosexual can claim emotional damage from hearing Scripture that describes his lifestyle as an abomination.” Then, that person can press charges and the ‘hater’ can be fined thousands of dollars.

That could potentially make the Bible hate literature and then preaching from it would be hate speech.

One opponent said the bills “attempt to get into the mind of the offender and penalize him for his thoughts. Are the bill’s proponents going to now lobby for a Federal Department of Thought Enforcement?”

In fact, California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled not long ago in the matter of Good News Employees Association v. Hicks that the municipal employers can completely censor the terms “natural family,” “marriage” and “family values” as hate speech. The Court wrote, “the district court correctly held that [the City of Oakland] had a more substantial interest in maintaining the efficient operation of their office than appellants had in their speech, appellants cannot establish a viable free speech claim.” The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that an agency in Arkansas cannot ban gays from adopting, saying there is no proof of negative consequences when there are hundreds of studies showing there is.

The Wall Street Journal even weighed in on hate crime laws when they said, “Like all restrictions on free speech, bans of “racist” or “homophobic” expression rests on a slippery slope.  Some Christian denominations believe that homosexuality is a sin. … But when people can be given additional time in jail for what they were thinking while committing a crime, we are approaching rule by a thought police.”

We often read columnists who decry Orwell’s 1984, but this is getting far too close for comfort. The thing we have to realize is that this is happening here, in the United States, in our country, in our state. And it will only get worse if Obama is elected.

And that scares me.

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