Friday, April 25, 2008

Metaphysics and the Macchiato

If it weren’t for that double-shot caramel macchiato with extra whip I wouldn’t be in this mess.

Okay, let me start at the beginning. I was already late to the Philosophy Club meeting when I decided to stop off for a caramel macchiato. Heavy doses of sugar and caffeine were essential as I would be participating in lively discourse on Existentialism, Rationalism and “Which Came First – The Chicken Or The Egg?” It was going to be a long night.

Coffee and scone in hand, I jumped in the car and raced to the community center. I enjoy these weekly discussions with other armchair philosophers. We understand each other. No one even raised an eyebrow when I confessed that I own a full-color poster of Aristotle in a “beefcake” pose.

Reuben is the facilitator. Pompous, arrogant and anal retentive, he can be quite intimidating. You can’t really blame him. Despite a Ph.D. in philosophy and a Master’s degree in anthropology, the only job he could get in our small town was at Sears. Fortunately for Reuben, he works in “home electronics” where he can watch PBS to his heart’s content.

I was late to the meeting and tried to be inconspicuous as I took my seat in the semi-circle of folding chairs. Reuben despises tardiness, among other things. He glared at me and continued his opening remarks. I carefully placed my drink on the floor so I could take notes. And then it happened.

As Reuben expounded on Kant and the metaphysics of morals, I accidentally knocked over the macchiato with my foot. The pool of liquid oozed toward Reuben’s brown leather wing-tips. By the time he looked down, it was too late. He took a step forward and slipped, falling flat on his back.

No one moved. Time stood still. Reuben struggled to his feet, but slipped again, sloshing around like a harp seal among the coffee and whipped cream. He finally managed to stand up and, in a sinister voice, told everyone to go home. We were alone. The silence was deafening and the smell of caramel filled the room. I glanced at the door, wondering if I should make a run for it. He seemed to read my mind and walked to the door, locking it. I panicked. I had no idea what Reuben was capable of. Certainly not ending a sentence with a preposition.

My mind raced. Reuben was a philosopher. A man of reason and intellect. Surely he wouldn’t do anything rash simply because of embarrassment and ridicule. I was wrong.

And that’s how I ended up locked in a closet with a flashlight and Reuben’s dog-eared copy of “Philosophy for Dummies.”

Free Range by Bill Whitehead

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shakespeare's Birthday Tribute

In honor of the Bard, I pilfered some quotes from "Shakespeare's Insults" by Wayne F. Hill & Cynthia J. Ottchen:

(All quotes from The Merry Wives of Windsor)

How shall I be revenged on him? I think the best way were to entertain him with hope till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease.

What tempest threw this whale, with so many turns of oil in his belly, ashore?

He shall die a flea's death.

I'll provide you a chain, and I'll do what I can to get you a pair of horns.

If I be served such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year's gift.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The philosopher went out...

...on his first date with a woman and took her to a restaurant. They sat quietly for a while and he finally says, "Do you like philosophy?"

She says, "No."

He says, "Do you have a brother?"


He says, "If you had a brother, do you think he'd like philosophy?"

(from A Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

I Jog, Therefore I Am

I’m a jogger. I don’t consider myself a “runner,” though technically jogging and running are the same, the only difference being that runners are faster than joggers. I don’t know at what point a jog turns into a run. Maybe it’s when you realize that you’re actually faster than that 85-year-old lady walking her Pekinese.

Being a runner might have something to do with the clothes, too. Fashion attire for the runner includes spandex leggings, a skin-tight tank top and designer socks. The jogger, on the other hand, prefers sweat pants, a baseball cap and the “I’m The Jogger Your Mama Warned You About ” t-shirt. And while runners carry MP3 players or ipods for their favorite tunes, joggers enjoy vintage Sony Walkman cassette players and can be found bobbing along to “Help Me Rhonda.”

But there’s one thing runners and joggers have in common: shoes. When I first started jogging in the early 1980s, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was not a good idea to go on a three-mile run wearing my K-Mart “Dennis the Menace” canvas sneakers. Not only did they cause painful blisters, the soles were so thin that I could feel the cracks in the sidewalk. I still remember the shocked stares of passers-by as I found myself maneuvering down a gravel path, waving my arms and screaming in agony every step of the way. Children clung to their mothers in fear and loathing. Young lovers ran for their lives. Even stray dogs ran whimpering with their tails between their legs. Oh, the humanity!

Needless to say, I was forced to journey into a strange new world called “Shopping For Running Shoes.” I discovered that there are hundreds of brands, and each brand had hundreds of features. “Running Shoe” terminology was foreign to me: multi-piece heeling system, stability, pronation, lug patterns, gel pods, forward propulsion, shoestring theory. I needed a Ph.D. in physics to figure it out.

After finding the perfect shoe, I was ready to explore the training rituals of the die-hard runner. One of these is a delightful little secret called “carbo-loading.” This takes place the night before a marathon when a runner will feast on huge amounts of carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes to improve his performance. I won’t tell you what happened when I did this the night before my three-miler. Let’s just say between the stomach cramps and the feeling that I was wearing cement shoes, my typical 35-minute jog took four hours.

I’ve come to the realization that I will never be a “runner.” I have no interest in marathons, training journals and stopwatches. I’m happy to just jog down the road, smell the lilacs and try to outrun the lady with the Pekinese.