Thursday, July 26, 2012



My wife surprised me for our anniversary with a day trip driving the back roads of western Illinois and eastern Iowa. While I generally hate to travel (See what is now regarded as perhaps the best post in the long history of the Pontificator, my more than seminal 7/11/11 piece ODYSSEUS, AENEAS, AND ME.), I love

• driving back roads anywhere

• western Illinois and especially eastern Iowa, and,

• even more than the prior two, spending time with my wife.

So it was a GREAT trip in every way. But I digress.

After visiting the last stop on our trip (The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa), we spent the night in LeClaire, Iowa, a Mississippi River town hard by the I-80 bridge over the River. We approached LeClaire, on this trip, from the north on a back road, which made it even more interesting. I highly recommend a stop, or even an overnight, in LeClaire, especially if you are interested in antiquing. We hate antiquing (Why buy somebody else’s throwaways? New is better. I’m serious.) but still had a great time exploring this intriguing town. LeClaire is also known as the home of Antique Archaeology, the store run by the now famous pickers on “American Pickers” on The History Channel. My wife is a big fan of the show, while I find it more than tolerable, which is saying a lot for me regarding any TV show. But enough of the advertisement for LeClaire and American Pickers.

Bed and Breakfasts are huge in LeClaire but are for too cutesy-pie for either my wife or me, so we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in LeClaire, since there is neither a Hampton Inn nor a Country Inn and Suites in LeClaire. In yet another digression, I would point out that, judging from our experience, Holiday Inn Express is acceptable but not up to the standards of either Country Inn and Suites or Hampton; this stay did nothing to alter that perception either way.

But, finally, enough about hotels and towns. Now for the meat of the post:

Holiday Inn Express offers a no extra charge (Nothing is free.) breakfast to its guests, and it was quite good. The room in which breakfast is served is, as is the custom in such places, bookended by two television sets. One had CNN on, the other one of the networks. I noticed on the network TV, for lack of a better term, that there was an obnoxious sounding, half-hindquartered band playing its, I’m supposing, usual aural assaults. I asked/observed to my wife something to the effect of “What the he(ck) is this garbage? Who needs such visual and verbal dissonance and displeasure while trying to eat?” She pointed out that this was “The Today Show” and that the “Today Show” from time to time features a band that is either hot at the moment or has somehow wormed its way into the good graces of the show’s producers. My reply was something to the effect of “Harrumph.”

But it got worse. That was apparently the tail end of “The Today Show.” After it was mercifully terminated, some very attractive young woman came on accompanied by a sort of male sidekick. These two excerebrosities yakked on and on about such vital issues as her kids’ ability to find a Lego Land on any trip they undertake. If I were given to the hip lingo of the social network, I would have said something like “OMG.” But I’m not, so, instead, I said “Who the he(ck) gives a rat’s (hindquarters) about this woman’s kids’ affinity for Lego Land?” My wife identified this particular helping of mental detritus as something to do with somebody named Kathy Lee or Kathie Lee or Cathie Lee or who knows or who cares how she spells her name (the latter words mine, not my wife’s). To say that this show was annoying would be such a monumental understatement that even yours truly cannot find the word to describe the enormity of its ability to inflict displeasure and dyspepticity on anyone of reasonable mental capacity within earshot of it. I suppose if one were to completely turn down the sound and merely take in the comeliness of its hostess, one might be somewhat salved, but certainly not sufficiently.

To further elaborate on my reaction to this piece of mental fluff, I have come up with three musings:

First, there are millions of people who fritter away valuable time watching such dreck. There are perhaps millions of those who consider this intellectual cotton candy a source, maybe their only source, of news. Such people are allowed to vote in this country and their vote is as good as yours or mine. No wonder that money, and the 30 minute dashes of saccharine laced bull excrement it can buy, is so influential in our nation’s politics! We are, ladies and gentlemen, doomed. Doomed.

Second, on sober reflection, and some counseling from my (for what should now be obvious, if they weren’t already, reasons) sainted wife, I considered that, yes, we had such silly shows back in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, the twilight years of American greatness. Think of such shows as “The Merv Griffin Show,” on which the host, despite his considerable financial acumen in real life, did little more than utter inanities like “Oohh, Zsa, Zsa” as part of a continuing effort to adulate not only to his most frequent guest but to others who matched her in worthiness for viewers’ favorable time. Think of “The Dinah Shore Show.” Or “Art Linkletter’s House Party.” Or even the earlier “The Today Show,” which I think goes back that far. “Face The Nation,” “Meet The Press,” “Firing Line,” “The World at War” (my two particular favorites in my high school and college years), or even “Jack Paar” or “Dick Cavett” these were not. And the Republic survived.

On the other hand, I have to think that, from my faint memories of those years and the few minutes of my early, somewhat but not overly precocious childhood I wasted on such shows, they couldn’t possibly be as silly as what I witnessed Wednesday morning on “Today” or on “Kathy Lee” or whatever she calls herself. And, even if they were, perhaps such mental novocain was indeed planting the seeds of our society’s self-destruction that are currently bearing abundant fruit. Perhaps the wanton self atrophication of our own brains that is tearing our nation asunder on such silliness as today’s popular talk shows started back then with Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore. Perhaps my mistake is being too easy, rather than too hard, on the ongoing intellectual and moral suicide our society continues to commit.

Third, people have asked me why I have the peculiar political views I have, views that I can’t even describe. As any hard core libertarian would be quick to point out, I am not a full blown libertarian. But I do have some very libertarian tendencies, and I explain that I have these views because what conventional political thinkers now derisively refer to as “libertarianism” once was the prevailing philosophy in this country back when it was great, what we are doing now clearly isn’t working, and I can’t come up with a better solution, at least one that I could get away with.

But maybe there is a better reason I am in favor of limiting the powers of government: I am what some, but not true believers, might call libertarian in my thinking because I know what I would do if I had anything approaching the total power that comes with supergovernment. Besides, among other things, deploying portable electric shock mechanisms, or worse, for those who text while driving or don’t use their turn signals, I would employ some kind of device that would monitor one’s television viewing. If one spent too much time watching things like “The Today Show,” such activity would be noted and the viewer’s ability to vote would be immediately, and perhaps irrevocably, revoked. (Of course, in my benevolent dictatorship, such votes would be largely meaningless and perfunctory exercises in rubber stamping the wise and insightful leadership of the supreme leader, but that is another issue.) Perhaps such stupefying, stultifying, and supercilious shows would be banned altogether and replaced by programs that actually would provide some nutrition, rather than parlous and purblind pabulum, for the mind and spirit.

So, yes, it is keen awareness of what a powerful regime, with the likes of yours truly in charge, would dictate that, at least partially, drives me toward a deep affinity for reining in the power of government. Perhaps I have, in the process of writing this particular piece, recruited a few of you to the virtues of limiting the purview of government.

For more of my thoughts on politics and the ironies that permeate life, along with a healthy dose of what some call cynicism but I call realism, see my other posts on The Insightful Pontificator.

For more of my thoughts on political issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Politics.

For some of my thoughts on financial issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Finance.


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