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Wednesday, Jun 29th

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Editorial

Phil's Fillips

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It's easy for a little guy to get lost in a crazed crowd.

No, not Rand "Really, it's Randal, not like Ayn" Paul, or Donald "Stop Calling Me Rumpo" Trump,  or even Rick "Don't Ask Anything or Look Me Up Anywhere" Santorum.  No, we're talking about Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil here, whose annual foray into the spotlight got overrun by a stampede of frothy-mouthed Iowa mammals, mostly baboons escaping their GOP handlers.

While portents of the American future were being expounded upon in definitive, if overly waffling, back-and-fill, sunny-then-wintry descriptive terms by politcos, high atop their own self-made gabbling pedestals and berms, Phil drew his own single-minded throng at Gobbler's Knob, awaiting his forecasted divinations of the nation's weather, and the possibility of any ray of positiveness, or, at the least, Spring.

Phil, unlike the gathered hopeful stumpers in Iowa, had the unexcelled good sense in his appearance to simply blink sensibly and keep his snout shut.  Phil showed even higher intelligence by attempting to make a break for it, and leave the crowd far, far behind, rather than hang around, pander to it endlessly, try to round all the bases, and generally exasperate everyone while actually wearing out his welcome.

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Yawning Fury

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The good news is that Trump failed to win over Iowans.  The bad news is that the GOP is not likely to run out of trumped-up, self-important ignoramuses and egomaniacal know-it-alls anytime soon.

If there is a third wheel to this standardized joke format, it is that Iowans have only a 50-50 success rate in predicting party nominees, which is some relief.

(Now, let the debate begin about probability trees!  At least, we will have something like facts to endlessly analyze, explore, question, and poke about with sharpened, fire-blackened sticks, and not just gut instincts, chicken bones, and leaden hunches to nudge around in the dirt.)

So, with that thrilling outcome in Iowa:  Welcome back to Square One, where the Dems have so far appeared to split both hairs and candidates, and Repubs have gushed glory upon their top three choices, separating each one by a paltry -- I mean, significantly meaningful -- point.

For these clear-as-mud verdicts, we've been hauled to the woodshed in chains and been beaten to a pulp in the media anytime we've dared venture a news outlet of any sort, or by merely walking outside, and watching neighbors and strangers go at each other with conversational hammers and tongs!

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Mulling Day

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Welcome to your Day of Rest, aka A Brief Opportunity to Catch Your Breath Before You Have to Jump Back On the Hampster Wheel.  Me, I prefer to call this Mulling Day -- the only 24-hour period in which the long list of Haftas takes a breaks, and something from the Wanna pile gets to slip into the mix.

The trick in life, of course, is to minimize your Haftas and maximize your Wannas -- a truth known by the ancients, which is to say, known by Trump, by Clinton, and by your boss, for example, and by any hyper-hormonal teenage spawn in your roaring, throbbing, pulsating vicinity.

Meanwhile:  Here, as for you, most likely, the Wannas are always quite modest, and in the same general way the Haftas are not, and are instead brazenly, openly immodest:  the demand for food, water, shelter, medical care, and basic creature comforts (think heat during winter, clean clothes, and a shower once in a while) perpetually hog the first five slots,  never sleeping, always alert for openings in which to pounce and capture,  while niceties such as entertainments, visits with family and friends, and maybe a movie or a nap, are always at the opposite pole of those activity lists.

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Hopalong Banshee

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It's the Age of Superheroes, among other burdensome identifiers of today.

(Such titles are the darlings of media and marketing, and are among the clusters and clutter of many clumsy, clunky ways of trying to figure out What On Earth is Happening Right Now, I realize, but it's better than the Age of Ignorance and Arrogance, as titles go -- GOP- and Trumpian-fandom and other related Fox-like IQ-slides aside.)

Perhaps superhero-dom is all the rage because all our problems seem so big, so unresolvable, so permanent, and so unyielding to our constant, hapless tinkering. Maybe it's just the mathematical result and automatic fun which comes from unchecked population increase where, thanks to sheer body-count growth, we still have the same basic percentage of lunatics, fools, morons, and village idiots, but -- Hey! -- where did all YOU yahoos come from? we say.

(Happened quickly, didn't it?  Yeah, it always does, when you're not paying attention, otherwise it wouldn't be very sneaky or stealthy, so says one of my new superheroes, Major Oblivion -- a longtime chum of Captain Obvious and General Mayhem.)

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Following in the Footsteps of Victor Frankenstein

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James Whale's 1931 classic film, Frankenstein spawned six direct sequels. In The Bride of Frankenstein, The Monster learned to speak. In the next film, The Son of Frankenstein, the screenwriters dropped the idea of a talking Monster, and invented the character of Ygor, the doctor's assistant. In The Ghost of Frankenstein Ygor's brain is transplanted into The Monster, and after the operation The Monster speaks … with Ygor's voice. And then, because brain transplants can be tricky, The Monster went blind.

And now a little backstory …

After the success of Dracula, Bela Lugosi was offered the role of The Monster in Frankenstein. Lugosi considered the part to be beneath his talents, said he was a star in his own country, and did not come to America "to be a scarecrow." William Henry Pratt, a struggling British actor, took the part, changed his name to Boris Karloff, and became a movie star.

Karloff played The Monster in the first three Frankenstein films. Bela Lugosi played Ygor in The Son of Frankenstein and in The Ghost of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney Jr. assumed The Monster's role in The Ghost of Frankenstein.

At the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein, the laboratory is in flames, Lon Chaney Jr. is stumbling around as the blind Monster speaking in Ygor's (Bela Lugosi's) voice, and finally the roof caves in trapping The Monster in a white hot inferno.

The Monster Movie
was the cash cow that kept money rolling in to Universal Studios throughout the Great Depression and beyond. But by 1942, Frankenstein's Monster wasn't the impressive draw it once was. It was time to rejuvenate the franchise by adding another monster into the mix. It was time for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. But there was a problem.

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... And Now, th' Snooze

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Thinking can be dangerous -- thoughts can go anywhere.  Maybe that is why so little thinking is done any longer by the masses.

This is especially true, given the vast array of predigested information sources available to the various publics which still clot and cling together, despite our vast differences, as we start to exit our country's Terrible Twos, as the perspective of world history goes.

Our brains now scurry and scramble for their allotment of junk-food information, whether fresh or stale, direct from the squeeze-tubes of right wing think tanks, from the boiling vats of corporately-cooked fodder, from the overstuffed pork barrels of stout political earmarks.

The watchdog press has been harnessed, debarked, un-fanged, and reduced to handout journalism, repeating whatever overly-massaged, HD-digitized, pre-uploaded 3D press release kits are available for filing fresh, authentic -- and most of all, entertaining -- reporting.

Truth is what you make it, my friends, depending on what you want to hear, depending on which of the many propaganda channels most draws your self-identification, your perceived alliance, calls to your peer group, educational base, patience threshold, ignorance quotient, income cluster, and relaxation rating.

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Survivor's Gilt

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It's a wonderful thing, when stuff normally taken for granted goes missing for a bit, then pops back up, reasserts itself, and gets appreciation flowing in your veins again.

Like gravity.

Toward the end of the end of my month-long experimentation with colds, flus, and pneumonia-wannabes, I was thrilled when all those sumpy pockets and pools of rippling gravity faded from the swooping and swerving, eerily unfamiliarly, looking-through-binoculars-backwards, miles-long hallway between bed and bath -- into the Great Beyond, where all the cold and flu products danced in a long conga line, like a 1950s theater intermission moment, when all the popcorn, drinks, and candy bars danced themselves out into the lobby for your happy, refreshing treat.

Those transparent pockets of flexible gravity would ripple like rings in pools of water, but only at the perfect bodily temperature pushing into triple digits -- just as snow will only squeak underfoot at just the right temp,  no warmer and no cooler.  Those patches of sneering hallway gravity were unpredictable, alternating between slick and snide.

Now that I am back in The Tricky World of the Vertical, it's nice to know there's no need to be on lookout for malleable wells and sprouting fluctuations of variable gravity, ready to make you involuntarily lurch and sway.

(Here, I am tempted to ponder the delightfully high value a tavern named The Lurch & Sway might bring in general terms, located anywhere at all, let alone if established in Iowa and New Hampshire, where such unplanned banana-split ballet motions, come balloting time, are painfully traditional.)

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