“Ashes To Ashes, Ashes To Bullets”

Ed Raymond

Would you put up a yard sign with the warning “Ready For Blast Rites? Please Make My Day—Even If I’m Dead”? In the constant battle to attempt to make an honest buck, a Stockton, Alabama company called Holy Smoke, LLC is prepared to provide your relatives ammunition in either cartridges or shotgun shells filled with the cremated ash of your body parts. I would assume that members of the National Rifle Association would be eligible for a good discount.
This is how the Holy Smoke plan works. First, you have to die. Then relatives must have your body cremated to specifications. Then you must identify the pistols, rifles, and shotguns by caliber and gauge you would like to provide ammunition for. To give you some idea of how many pounds of ash are needed for your special order, the company says one pound of ash will produce 250 shotgun shells. That seems a little weak to me. If a member of the family really wants to give a prowler or a window peeper the “ blast rites” while “standing his ground,” I would think the cremated load must be heavier. Besides, the heavier the load, the more personal the shot becomes.
   I think this small company could use some economic development funding or big tax cuts to create other “personal” products. These are really “job creators” in the truest sense. How about buckshot and birdshot made from a mixture of human bone and cremated remains? Entrepreneurs should immediately go to work on this idea. After all, our scientists have just determined there is a “God Particle” that ties our universe together. The particle, named the Higgs boson, is a very tiny subatomic particle that weighs about 130 times as much as an atom of hydrogen, the lightest gas discovered—so far. The Higgs boson could be a power in the universe that helps hold all matter together.
   At this point I give up and turn further explanations over to physicists who might know what they’re talking about. But it does bring up a cartoon about how science may change our lives. A man and his wife are evidently celebrating different things on their backyard deck. The subject of the cartoon is labeled “Perspective is Everything.” She is exclaiming to neighbors, “Physicists have just confirmed there’s a ‘God Particle’—the Higgs boson—that binds the universe together and makes all things possible!!” The husband is staring with an angry expression at a TV football game, surrounded by empty beer cans, saying, “We’re out of beer.”

“For This, For Everything
We Are Out Of Tune.....”

    English poet William Wordsworth said a mouthful in the 19th century when he came up with these lines:  
            “The world is too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending
            We lay waste our powers: Little we see in nature that is ours;
            We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
            The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; the winds that will be howling
            At all hours, and are upgathered now like sleeping flowers
            For this, for everything we are out of tune, It moves us not.”
   We are really out of tune. We have found the God particle, but have run out of beer. In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” in 632 A.F.(After Ford) we used the cremated bodies of the dead to pave the highways of the future. Now ashes are an element of revenge in the ammunition we use to protect ourselves and property. And so it goes.

Mitt Really Needs
A Major Tune-up

   Remember those days when you could have a tune-up on cars that were not computerized? A major tune-up meant replacing spark plugs and lots of other disposable parts to get the engine running “right.” A minor tune-up included “checking” the spark plugs. The Republican National Committee should schedule Mitt Romney for a major tune-up after his nomination, because he has a serious case of flesh-eating or foot-in-mouth disease that must be cleared up if they wish to elect him president. Evidently there is no “stupidity” antibiotic.
 Now poor Mitt is in the middle of a bizarre kerfuffle about “you didn’t (or did) build that” and another ridiculous statement: “When a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to school, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll.” Why does one have to explain to millionaires like Mitt that the kid got on the honor roll because taxpayers provided the buses, the streets and roads they traveled on, the snowplows that kept the roads clear in winter time, and the drivers who were role models for driving large vehicles safely? Are guys like Mitt missing the “community” DNA? Oh, yes, and those same taxpayers built the school where the honor roll plaque hangs on the wall. That bus driver is a representative of the community that built the infrastructure that enabled the kid to make the honor roll. The bus driver should take pride in his contribution made to the progress of one scholar.
 Let me use another example. My sophomore year in college I moved to Gwinner in the summer so I could pitch baseball for the Melroe boys, who were manufacturing and selling their father’s invention of the combine pickup all over the Midwest. In between baseball games, I worked in the paint spray booths and other parts of the assembly line. This was before Melroe Bobcat time. The Melroe plant used Gwinner water, sewer, and streets. Melroe trucks delivering the combine pickups used roads, bridges, and stop signs provided by numerous taxing agencies. Everybody in the area had built part of that success, not just one local farmer with an inventive, teeming brain.

The Role Of Aides, Secretaries, Janitors, Maintenance, Bus Drivers, Food Service Workers, Clerks, Nurses, Security Guards, Snowplow Drivers, Lifeguards—And Thousands Of Others

   Shakespeare was right when he said “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” We all have our roles to play during our lifetime. Without the man with the hoe, we wouldn’t eat. Workers who contribute more than what is necessary to the growth of someone else are absolutely invaluable. That’s why in the school business I was always opposed to those administrators who wanted to contract out maintenance and other routine services. As a principal of an elementary or high school, I wanted to pick my employees. A janitor keeps the place clean and is a role model for many children. Helping a kindergartner with a rambunctious coat, providing a tissue to wipe a tear, helping a student find a mic, assisting a non-English-speaking parent with finding the office, and a thousand other little things that make a school a community of helpers. Janitors and secretaries also enable students to make the honor roll.
 A bus driver who might give a child the first and last kindness of the day. A food service worker who supplies noon lunch with dignity and quiet competence. A nurse who counsels a homeless child and slips him a sandwich for the night. A teacher’s aide who really aids a child  with a relationship in school and out. A security guard who provides security with respect for all concerned. A secretary who always goes the extra mile to make the organization better.
Regardless of our position, we all matter. We can all influence and contribute to everyone and everything around us. We do have an absolute community need to recognize the efforts of everyone. How many organizations would exist without loyal, hard-working, and contributing employees? Mitt doesn’t seem to understand that about service to community or country—and it’s way too late.

   Mitt was 18 years old in 1965 and seemed to have a different idea about serving his country than he has today. He had five draft deferments between 1965 and 1970, tying the warmongering Dick Cheney for the lead in the elite draft-avoidance dance. In a 1994 interview with the Boston Herald, he said, “I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.” Engrave that on golden tablets, right? Not with Mitt, you don’t. Put it in disappearing stone. When running for president in 2007, Mitt voiced a different view: “I longed in many respects to be in Vietnam [!!] and representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting.” What can the Republicans do with Mitt? He seems to have an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) strapped to his tongue. Perhaps some of you will remember Professor Irwin Corey, a comedian who claimed he had earned a PhD in nonsense. He was often on the TV tube in the 1950s and ’60s, always dressed in string tie, black tails, sneakers, and a real weirdo hairdo. He was often billed as ”The World’s Foremost Authority.” On the comedy circuit he was known for “long, nonsensical, high-falutin’ doubletalk” always ending with “However...” Mitt reminds me of him.

Is It Possible For
Politicians To Catch
Up To The Rest Of Us?

   We live in a world where the average wedding in the United States now costs over $26,000. No wonder the middle class is shacking up at an unprecedented rate. We live in a world where you can get a $180 skin treatment using bird poop at your neighborhood spa. It is supplied daily by numerous Japanese nightingales perching on confining perches. This special poop contains guanine, which makes the skin shine. The enzymes in the poop breaks down dead skin cells.
A new product called Wrinkle Butter made of earthworm excrement is now on the market in 500 health food stores. Mel Gibson, the Opus Dei Catholic with the dirty mouth and a taste for booze, is using cow brains to cure his depression. He claims the ointment “cleans the neurotransmitters and sharpens mental focus” in a NY Times article by Alix Strauss. Bee venom masks are being sold to people who don’t want to use Botox shots to freeze muscles. Others are buying synthetic snake venom for the same purpose. I can’t wait for the next dermatology report.

We Are In A Race
Between Education
And Disaster

   It is shocking to see how easily we may be overcome by “The world that is too much with us.” We are rapidly exchanging paper books for e-books. Yes, I like to make notes in the margins. It is amazing how we can store a digital copy of the entire book collection of the Library of Congress, over 33 million copies, in a shoebox. We can make backup copies of any book that has ever been printed. According to the magazine Atlantic, the New York Public Library is presently working on a circulation system that will enable a New York City student to order a digital book and have it delivered to him in his school within 24 hours.
 We have work to do if we plan to have a national system of information distribution. Thirty percent of our homes do not have Internet access. Millions of people do not know how to download books or operate a computer. We are way behind the industrialized world when it comes to broadband and Internet service and use. However, the quality of reading screens is improving each month. Witness the economic battle among Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other “smart” devices. Perhaps soon even I will like to curl up with a Kindle instead of a book. Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are now selling e-books for less than paperback prices. I still think Kindles are masquerading as paperback books. They are ugly!
  Ninety percent of American households do have at least one cell phone, the communication device of the next couple of decades. A working American today without a cell phone might as well go back to slate and chalk or smoke signals.
   The Yale University Library recently had a big celebration when it filled several dumpsters with card catalog drawers filled with those little cards. Soon we will be filling landfills with old books discarded from libraries across the nation. How we handle all of these changes in technology may determine whether the world is overwhelming us.