Thursday, September 30, 2010

Calling All Geniuses

October 16 is National Testing Day for Mensa, the society of geniuses.

For a mere $40, you can take the test and find out whether you qualify to hang out with all the other self-important types who think they are smarter than other people.

I know this because I saw it on a banner ad at a web site I was visiting. The hook was that if you are smart enough to be here you might, therefore, be smart enough for Mensa membership. I don’t remember the site but know for sure it wasn’t or Ron Paul for President.

I have often thought that I might be a genius. I know what you are thinking: “If you are a genius, you wouldn’t be writing this crap.” Touché, but I am not basing my suspicion on my paltry life achievements, but rather on the size of my cranium.

Headwise, I am a XXL in a one size fits most world. I just put a tape measure around my noggin, and that puppy measures 25” inches around. (It’s a rainy day and there’s not much else to do, so give it a try yourself.) This is an approximation because I couldn’t find the cloth tape, so had to use my metal carpenters tape. That equals two linear feet of noodle! That must count for something. I would compute the cubic volume, but I am not smart enough to do that.

Scientists tell us, however, that there is no correlation between head size and intelligence. Really. Go ahead and name one pin-headed genius. I think they call that an oxymoron.

Being the callow, superficial type, I checked the benefits of Mensa membership and the kinds of goodies you can buy. Basically, you get to hang out with other smarty pants and purchase lots of stuff that proclaims your braininess: tee shirts, tote bags, bumper stickers and the like.

You would think that, instead of putting on a $12.95 tee shirt, winning the Nobel Prize would be a better way to declare your genius.

I wanted to see if they had hats; convinced that Mensa, of all people, would offer a XXL lid. No hats. I think they are missing the boat. I’m sure that a cap with a light bulb on top that went off whenever the wearer had a Big Idea would be a winner for them.

Just picture hundreds of Mensians (?) seated in a darkened auditorium listening to a lecture on the beauty of Euclidian geometry with their headlights twinkling like camera flashes at a Bon Jovi concert…..a stirring sight indeed!

Still, I decided against taking the test. While not unexpected, I would still be disappointed to learn I am not a genius. Also, you have to be a joiner to join.

Some people are joiners and others are the sorts who sit around measuring their heads on a rainy day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicken Coup

A chicken controversy has hatched in Califon.

Some residents have taken to keeping chickens in their yards, and their neighbors are getting their feathers ruffled about it.

It seems that one family blew the whistle on their chicken keeping neighbors. Both parties and their supporters showed up at a town council meeting to make their cases. The anti-poultry crowd pointed out that the borough has an ordinance against keeping farm animals on town-size lots.

The pro-poultry group countered that the chickens were pets, not farm animals, and held that the ordinance should be changed, since many people in town keep chickens. The difference between a farm animal and a pet is that one you get to kill and eat, and the other you get to spend a fortune on at the vet to keep alive.

We had a rabbit once, which I guess counts as a pet farm animal. I hated the damn thing. All it did was eat and shit, which, come to think of it, is pretty much the story of me since retirement.

The mayor, upon advice from the borough attorney, had to recuse himself from the discussion because, lo and behold, he also keeps chickens. The council passed the matter along to the Planning Board to consider changing the ordinance.

At the Planning Board meeting the pro-poultry group presented a petition signed by 83 residents in favor of revising the ordinances to permit chickens. One proponent said that backyard egg farming was “sweeping the nation.” Kathie and I missed this memo. We are still working on the one that said eggs are bad for you.

They came armed with facts, such as the sound of chickens does not travel beyond ten feet, and backyard chicken keeping doesn’t affect property values. One supporter quoted a study, probably funded by the Economic Recovery Act, that found that five chickens generate less waste in a day than one medium sized dog. Our rabbit, on the other hand, could shit like a damned St. Bernard.

Another pro-position is that chicken keeping is a “great way to teach children to grow something and get something back from it.” I think a tomato plant would accomplish the same thing, but agree that it puts the young ones closer to the food chain: “Hey kids,chicken for dinner! Go throttle Cluckie!”

I like chickens and do think they teach valuable life lessons like don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If the boys at Lehman Brothers had learned that one, my IRA wouldn’t look like a plucked hen.

The anti-position is pretty much the old slippery slope argument: If you allow chickens, what next? …oxen? Another concern is that if people are allowed to break the farm animal ordinance and are then rewarded by having the ordinance changed, that would set a precedent and encourage residents to break any borough law they disliked, something Califon citizens have been happily doing for over 100 years.

According to the antis, chickens also attract predators. I know this is true because a friend of mine once saw a German porno film of a man having non-consensual sex with a chicken.

All hands, however, agree that the number of chickens should be limited and that roosters should not be permitted.

If the chickens get too numerous they can always hold an event like the one we had some years back. The mayor at the time decided there were too many ducks on the river and scheduled a Duck Round-Up; for one day anyone who wanted a duck could come and get one. The actual event proved disturbing to some residents as many of the participants seemed to be Chinese restaurant owners.

The chairman of the Planning Board said that he would have a few chicken experts on hand for the next meeting. In order to qualify, I have been doing some boning up on the topic and have come up with some very relevant chicken facts.

In a group of chickens with no rooster, female members will assume the role and even start crowing. Sort of like “The View.”

It also seems that chickens are not as harmless as we thought in that they are the closest living relative to a tyrannosaurus rex. It would be just like some wise-acre in Califon to reverse engineer a chicken to get a dinosaur. Just watch your property values tank when old T-rex goes pecking at a school bus for his lunch.

I plan to start a petition to allow pigs. I always wanted to have a pig farm. What the hell, I already have the wardrobe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Slum Dog on My Counter

“Slum Dog Millionaire” has been sitting on our kitchen counter for three months.

It was next up on our NetFlix queue, and duly arrived after we sent back our last viewed flick, “The Pink Panther, II.” I think we watched that one, but I can’t say for sure since I have no recollection of anything that happened in the film. The only thing I recall for certain is that I was disappointed to see that Peter Sellers was not in it.

Many of our NetFlix selections go unviewed because we have lost interest in them by the time they arrive, or we can’t recall why we selected them in the first place, or which of us was the guilty party. “Did you request ‘Charlie Chan in Honolulu’?” Kathie asked with the same expression she wears when I have whipped up something unsavory in the kitchen. I take ownership of that one because I thought it would be an interesting period piece with pre-war glimpses of old Oahu. Of course, it never occurred to me that such a low budget flick would be filmed on some dismal sound stage on the outskirts of LA.

However, I take no responsibility for ordering up “Hobson’s Choice” a 1940s British comedy starring Charles Laughton about an alcoholic shoe store owner and his family. Some fun, huh?

We watched both of those, but Slum Dog lingers. I think it is because we have achieved some kind of cosmic balance: we don’t want to see the movie badly enough to actually put it in the DVD; and we don’t NOT want to see it enough to actually send it back.

Appropriately, the envelope is starting to look a little slummish as it lies on the counter gathering a patina of spaghetti sauce and coffee. At $9 per month, “Slum Dog” has cost us 27 bucks to not watch. I have begun referring to it as my “rent-a-coaster.”

It isn’t an incentive either that the next movie in our queue is “Land of the Lost” starring Will Ferrell which carries a hefty one and a half star rating. This was also my pick. I don’t know what I was thinking but the combination of Will Ferrell and dinosaurs seemed like a good idea at the time.

With like 60,000 movies to choose from why would two relatively intelligent people wind up with “Charlie Chan in Honolulu”, “Land of the Lost” and “Moon Over Miami”? That’s a good question.