ZIP Beep #45
A FIELD GUIDE TO FREEWAY FLORA AND FAUNA
by Don Fitzwater
Spring is here, and with it comes the awakening of the Freeway bioshpere. Glorius spring! Life renewed. The harsh remains of the winter are soon washed away and long dormant life returns to this urban biosphere.
Contrary to popular belief, this environment is a rich and varied ecological niche.
Perhaps the first harbingers of spring evident are the variety of unusual things growing out of the newly thawed ground. As the winter's snows retreat a wide spectrum of flora becomes visible. Let's take a brief look at a few of these --
The ROADSIDE SHOE (or more commonly - Unmatched Pair) - This very robust family of flora exhibits a wide range of variation among its members. From the diminutive Kid's Sneaker to the exotic Fashion Pump, the members of this species can be found growing along the roadside just about anywhere. Then there are the particularly hardy hybrids that can be found actually growing out of the very tarmac of the roadway - this makes other hardy species such as the Glacier Lilly look like real wimps.
Then there is the LOST SLEEPER (Mattress Abandonus) - Members of this family are often found in the median strips of freeways in large metropolitan areas. While relatively rare, the best chances for discovering members of this species in their natural habitat is near the end of any warm weather month (the closer to the first of the following month the better). This largest example of freeway flora is also the shortest lived. Sometimes they exist for only a matter of hours before disappearing with little or no trace of ever having been there.
Perhaps the hardiest of the freeway flora is the MUFFLER VINE (Droppus Exhaustus) - Creeper-like and tenacious this hardy weed is most often found around the freeway on and off ramps. Extremely ugly, it is also a serious hazard to drivers. Its tough skin has damaged tires and vehicle bodywork if the vehicle operator was foolish enough to attempt to drive over it.
Fascinating as the flora is, the fauna is even more varied and often bizarre. While almost everybody is familiar with the more common species like the ROAD HOG, DRUNKEN WEAVER and BEARS, we here at ZIP Beep thought we'd introduce you to a few of the more obscure inhabitants of this ecological niche.
RAMP BACKERS (Reversus Horriblius) - Once considered relatively rare, this organism has been making a comeback with the increased migration towards large metro areas by this otherwise usually rural species. There are some distinctive behavior patterns to help make a positive identification. Ramp Backers are most often found stopped dead center in either an entrance or exit ramp. BE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS as this condition is only temporary. Ramp Backers, true to their name, can start backing at any moment. Be prepared to take evasive action on a split second's notice.
SPEED SLOWED SLOTH (Lethargus Eternus) - This automotive varmit poses a serious threat to the overall safety of the automotive ecosphere. Inspite of its appearance as a fairly powerful being, the Speed Slowed Sloth insists on traveling at least 10 mph under the speed limit. This is particularly frustrating as they tend to travel in packs of 2 or 3 abreast (or however many lanes are available). Their numbers continue to increase inspite of being the main prey group for the next animal in our brief tour.
TAIL GATOR (Posterius Clingus) - Dangerous predatory species that tends to sneak up from behind its prey. While very swift in terms of speed, this critter is extremely slow in terms of thought. The best defense is to slow down so much that the beast is forced to either attack, or pass you by out of frustration at your slow rate of progress.
WHITELINE WOMBAT (Idiotus Sonambulus) - Predominantly nocturnal, this inhabitant can also be found during the daylight hours as well. While it thinks it can go for long periods without any rest, it is sadly mistaken and behaves erratically. It is not normally a dangerous creature but if it is near the end of one of these fatigue induced erratic periods, watch out! Whiteline Wombats can reverse direction, change lanes without signals, drift across the whiteline and travel on the wrong side of the road. Often, just as with Grizzly bears, you can avoid an attack by making loud continuous noises (honking horns, yelling, etc.) or flashing your brights.
These are just a few examples of the abundant lifeforms that exist on our nations' highways and freeways. New species are being discovered and studied every day. Science hopes that by tracking and observing these animals in their natural habitat, we can learn enough to either live peacefully with them, or accelerate their decline into extinction.
ZIP Beep #45
HIDDEN MESSAGES IN ROCK & ROLL LYRICS
by Tipper Gore, as told to Richard Dargis
Now that Al has finally given up his bit for the Presidency, I feel I can let loose and tell you all about the hidden lyrics our children are being subjected to.
The messages are insidious. No two ways about it. I'd tell a hundred Congressional subcommittees the same thing. Kids today are being brainwashed!
Okay, sure, my generation was not exactly tuned into Guy Lombardo. But at least we were exposed to horrible lyrics that weren't hidden. When Jim Morrison said, "Father...I want to kill you," there was only one way to take it.
And now......NOW, our children are subjected to pure headbashing bands with meaningless lyrics. Meaningless, that is, until you decode them. And all too often, the subject is suicide. Here's an actual transcript from track number 26 of a recent 32 track recording of The Cockney Bludgeons, a particularly vile group of rockers with an absolute penchant for menace.
Ooooo mama oooo ooo ooo. Skip through the woods wearing a brown suit and a white hanky in your back pocket on the first day of whitetail deer season.
Go go go. Fly to Teheran, Iran. Ask to see the Ayahtolla and insist that you must deliver a book signed by Ronald Reagan entitled "How to Earn Millions by Selling Arms for Many Times Their Value.
Ollie ollie ollie. Point a toy pistol at President Reagan.
Join a group of black teen-agers in the New York subway asking scared looking people for five dollar bills.
Go on your roof and adjust the TV antenna during a thunderstorm.
Roller-skate through Beirut wearing blue jeans and an Izod T-shirt with a boom box on your shoulder blaring "Living in America" by James Brown. Ooooo oooo mama.
Go to East L.A. and tell every young man on the street, "You're standing on my territory!" Hopper hopper hopper. Oooo oooo mama.
After a pro football team has lost a close game, heckle them as the players leave the stadium.
Shout "Ollie North is a crook" in a redneck bar.
Go to the middle of a large crowd of Hell's Angels and say, "I'm a narc and you're all under arrest."
Say "you're as ugly as your dog," to the owner of a pit bull.
Oooo ooooo mama. Da da da. Move to the Soviet Union. Make it your life's goal to test the limits of glasnost.
Tell Hulk Hogan you hate his thin, stringy, bleached-blond hair and that you hope the sides fall out to match the top.
Unh huh unh huh uhn huh. Pass out "Elvis was a jerk" buttons to everyone entering Graceland. Woo woo. Oooo oooo mama.
I think I make my point. Don't forget that you heard it first from the Tipper.
ZIP Beep #45
reviewed by Chuck Strinz
Add one more to the list of movies involving personality switches. Move over, George Burns. Take a back seat, Dudley Moore. Jodie Foster, you may have done more harm to the Presidency than you imagined.
Like the other entries in what is rapidly becoming a genre, TRICKY TUESDAY involves a transfer of consciousness from one body to another. In this case, all of the banalities made the switchover intact.
A certain President Harrigan, known primarily for his popularity despite some wildly inappropriate conduct on the part of his cabinet and staff, wakes up one Tuesday to find he has turned into a black minister/politician.
After some rather amusing attempts to prove to himself it isn't true, the President is forced to accept what he sees as a Kafkaesque nightmare. A period of adjustment is followed by an epiphanic revelation that "Kafkaesque nightmare" would have been a meaningless phrase to him before the metamorphis.
Despite the change, his aides recognize the President. In fact, they act as if nothing is amiss.
Slowly, the President begins to change his attitude on a number of issues. He spearheads an effort to create affordable housing for the poor. Finding success, he then drops his office's support of offensive weaponry, adopts a comprehensive daycare program, and launches a national health care plan with built-in mechanisms that separate the wanton indigent from the out-of-luck citizen so that both can be helped in ways appropriate to their situation.
It is a cardinal rule that a reviewer should never, ever give away the ending of a movie. But rules are made to be broken. The balance of TRICKY TUESDAY is spent in wild car chases, mistaken identity problems in the south Bronx, and the usual vairety of pathetic devices. At the end of the movie, the President wakes up to find, yes, it was only a dream. What could have been the '80's WATERMELLON MAN falls to the lowest of the low plot outs. The only interesting -- and perplexing -- aspect of the movie is the final scene, in which the President awakes because a Greek is knocking at his door.
The whole thing is pretty unbelievable. A black man as President? Solving national problems with reasoned compassion. Addressing the issues? Give me a break.
ZIP Beep #45
PREPARATIONS FOR CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
By Jeff Schneider
Elmwood, Wisconsin may soon give new meaning to the phrase, "another roadside attraction." The tiny rural hamlet plans to play host "of a third kind" with a landing pad designed especially to attract passing extraterrestrials.
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin is the home base for the U.F.O. Site Center Corporation. They chose the Elmwood area as the preferred site since the community readily relates to U.F.O. phenomena. In fact, some members of this community numbering less than 900 have been polishing their skills at late night U.F.O. spotting for more than a decade, looking for queer lights hovering in the sky. It's become a hobby to some of the folks living in this picturesque river valley.
U.F.O. sightings began in the area an 1975. A local school teacher reported the first encounter and the town police officer had two sightings during the following months.
While the officer has since died, the doctor that treated the agitated public servant remembers the incident vividly. "When he came in to see me the day after he had the sighting he looked at me in shock and said, 'they got me Doc,' repeated the physician as he broke out in laughter. Apologizing, he continued asserting that he thought the sheriff really believed he had seen what he described. The doctor just didn't think it was "what everybody else seems to think it was."
Sightings continued. There were 35 reported within a six year period during the peak activity of the mid and late seventies. Reports aren't coming in as fast these days but nevertheless the late night sightings crop up now and then. The latest was in March 1988.
Elmwood residents even started a U.F.O. Days celebration around the same time our country was celebrating its second century of independence. Here's a community that may have unwittingly been celebrating the recolonization of their entire planet during national festivities proclaiming sovereignty and freedom for all.
Site Center Corporation plans to construct this futuristic alien airport on a two-square-mile plot of Elmwood acreage. This fifty million dollar pad will come complete with giant light sculptures placed strategically in earnest hope of attracting some of the alien life forms so often seen buzzing elmwood's hillsides.
During presentation of the message offering the alien invitation, Site Center Treasurer Lee Horn summed up her feelings. "The aliens must be wondering,'when will these silly Earthlings invite us? When will they create a safe place for us to land?" Gesturing toward a large graphic depicting a tall Earthling and a short, big headed extraterrestrial about to have an encounter, the treasurer explained the giant light sculptures would blink and direct the alien spacecraft toward a specially designed landing pad. "I really feel that this message will get the extraterrestrials here," she announced.
U.F.O. SIte Center founder Tom Weber believes the effort will pay unbelievable dividends to mankind. It is his opinion that a secure place must be provided by mankind, complete with an appropriate invitation, as a prerequisite to a relationship with the alien life-forms he's certain have been visiting our planet for many years.
"After analyzing the available data, it is our opinion that advanced civilization(s) have no intention of forcing a relationship with themselves upon mankind. It is likely that they are concerned regarding mankind's apparent collective disinterest in themselves even though they have shown their presence and interest to us in so many ways."
"This landing site will have an international flavor," continued the U.F.O. Site Center Corporation President. "It is our intention to staff the site with professionals from the international scientific community. These professionals will conduct the dialogue and information exchange with the members of the advanced civilizations. Also, we hope to establish the proper relationship with world-wide television so that all events, from the first moment onwards, will be brought to the world on live television."
Mr. Weber added that as a non-profit charter, his group would solicit funds from the private sector on a worldwide basis. He was firm in his assurance that no government funds would be sought or accepted.
While discussing policy and philosophy, Weber assured listeners that the government would not be invited onsite during precontact or during initial contact. "We're very determined in this area. The government has got to stay out of this until such time as diplomatic individuals are required and requested. At that point those of us at the Site Center would be more than happy to step back and let it happen."
Elmwood, Wisconsin Mayor Larry Feiler thinks the scheme is a good one.
"This certainly has put Elmwood on the map," said the smiling mayor from the podium during his turn at addressing the 'Extraterrestrials in Wisconsin?' seminar audience. "Now when somebody asks where Saint Paul, Minnesota is located we answer,"about an hour drive west of Elmwood,Wisconsin.'
"I think for the most part the effect of the Site Center's U.F.O. landing pad will be positive. Are we going to continue to be a tiny, small town? No, we're not. It's going to be different.
"But, I still see the whole thing as very, very positive. We're not going to be polluting anything in the environment around us. I believe that's very important," concluded Elmwood's Mayor.
The Site Center Treasurer Lee Horn followed the Mayor's speech with a pep rally of a financial kind.
"We just feel, and we hope you all feel, that if our proposal is successful it will be the greatest news in the history of the Earth, I guess, since the coming of Jesus Christ.
"But it's not going to happen without your support and the media's support to let people know what is going on here.
"We need your contributions. We need you to spread the word to your friends. We do have our address up here. We also have a box down in front for contributions. If you didn't bring enough money today, we have self-addressed envelopes on the table here. Maybe you could take two and give one to a friend."
However, not all Elmwood's citizens harbor the Site Center's attitude. In one of the town's five taverns a customer gave another opinion. Here though, a brief footnote of knowledge might be offered. It is these very halls of strong drink that many of the town's unbelievers point toward when confronted with the undeniable fact that a lot of their citizens have seen unexplainable objects late at night.
"Well, I been driving around in these parts for many years. I worked a shift that ended around midnight. All that driving back and forth late at night and I never seen nothin'. I think that somebody sees a fast buck here, that's what I think."
Sending a mischievous glance toward his wife, then another toward his drinking buddy, he continued. "Hell, I've had to work for a living all of my life. Maybe you and me (looking at his buddy) should go out there and get jobs at this so-called landing pad."
He suggested that since the Site Center was planning to surround the entire project with lights his buddy should apply for the position of light bulb changer. That way he would be guaranteed a job for his whole life. The speaker, on the other hand, had seen enough days filled with work. He would apply for the position of flagman on the alien landing deck.
"That way I'll be just like the Maytag Repairman. I won't have a damn thing to do. Ever. It will be just great," he concluded.
His younger, more intense friend had been pondering the mere probability of advanced civilizations buzzing around in the airspace over his hometown. He wasn't particularly comfortable with the pictures his mind's eye had developed for him.
"Hey, what makes everybody think that inviting this highly superior race of extraterrestrials down here is such a good idea anyway? Who's to say that their own planet isn't running out of food. What if the aliens land, pick a few of us up to take home to fatten up for dinner some night. Think of being eaten by beings while they're watching three suns set in the north sky on some strange, far away planet.
"I ain't saying they do exist and I ain't saying that they don't either you understand," cautioned the young man as if someone in the tavern just could be an alien in disguise.
Shrugging off the question of existence or nonexistence, President Weber takes the probable worth question of the U.F.O. Site Center Corporation's effort one step further. "Let us say that you are a physicist and that you have an unlimited budget to pursue the frontier of knowledge. Let's say that you are ten thousand physicists with unlimited budgets and then allow , at least allow the possibility, that the Site Center can be successful with this project and that we can establish contact that will result in a relationship with an advanced society. And when our scientists sit down to talk to their equivalent of a physicist, who then do you think will make the greatest contribution to the discipline of physics? I think that the Site Center will have inadvertantly made a larger contribution than would ten thousand scientists with unlimited budgets.
"We can use the field of medicine as an example with the same rationale. Or we could take ten thousand humanitarians working for world peace. Is it not possible that this type of contact with an advanced society would be the catalyst that would cause us to stop fighting and cause an awareness that would achieve world peace? All these things are possible,' said the Chippewa Falls man. "Man can be moved tens of centuries ahead with a single event.
"These are some of the things that we considered when confronted with the decision whether or not to go ahead and build a landing field. Once you recognize that type of potential and when you weigh the negatives you seem to have no choice but to proceed.
"So this is part of our rationale leading up to the Site Center and why we want it."
ZIP Beep # 45
MORE STUFF ABOUT FOOD
by Dennis Wallaker
Watch out for guys who volunteer the information that they've eaten dog and it really wasn't that bad. They're the same guys who grow beards for a purpose, wear these perennial sweaters and belch after eating just about anything and then tell you it would be considered a compliment in Greece or the Sudan.
Food is a necessity. Therefore, mastication is necessary; but I don't care about all the other glitz concerning the trip from point A to point B.
Maybe it's because of the variety we've afforded ourselves; a lot of people were horrified by the sci-fi movie "Soylent Green" starring Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson and a couple of other Quinn Martin types.
I thought it was because of the acting. Actually, it was the plot that got them in the grotto. Some citizens felt a little uncomfortable with a story about an overpopulated Earth of the future where they take the recently dead and dying and recycle them into a protein supplement called "Soylent Green."
I don't mind this idea and I don't think my Grandpa John would have either. We get pretty damn cute about what we will or will not consume.
I used to watch him fillet freshly caught Northern Pike behind his outhouse. He was as good at it as any man I've ever seen and, as he'd throw the guts/entrails into a pit about five feet behind him (so the racoons out there could get some), he'd often say, "How much food value do you think we're losing right there?"
Then I was shorter than I am now and I often fell down in other peoples' driveways because my Red Ball Keds weren't aware that I had still another year before I'd grow into them proper. But there was enough there to understand what Grandpa John was getting at.
"Dennis," he said, "there's a use for every part in all God's creatures, living or dead!"
"Then why," I asked, "don't we bring some of the yucky stuff inside and eat it?"
"'Cause your Grandma would kick our butts."
About a week before this, she'd been sitting in the kitchen making sausage out of pig blood (a German delicacy known as "Blud Klub"). And yet, me and Grandpa had to leave some pretty sharp looking stuff in the woods. Now, if we were a Malaysian family living on the islands, we'd throw out the pig's blood, probably the whole pig, collect all the fish guts that'd been laying on the floor, pickle them and sell them to American suburbanites who've opened small shops. They, in turn, could sell them at inflated prices to college kids.
It's a pretty thwarted thing -- peoples' sensibilities versus their taste buds.
At a high school football game, my history teacher asked me and another guy to go get him a cup of coffee.
No big deal. We got it, spat in it and brought it back. He said it was good -- not too hot, not too cold.
Later, I found out that he'd worn women's underwear ever since he retired from the Corps and moved in with his mother, which only goes to show you that there are certain tastes you don't acquire until you are well into your 30's.
I often lapse into vegetarianism because I'm not sure where certain meat comes from. You read the ingredients on a package of head cheese or watch "60 Minutes" talking about USDA regulations concerning chicken production and you're pretty much inclined to grab a bunch of grapes and call it Jake.
Ain't nothing wrong with the grapes or the rice, etc. As a nation, we spend a lot of time shoving all these well-balanced meals down our gullets; and yet, as a nation, we always seem to be exercising for our health or getting bypasses due to our diet. I'm not pointing the finger, I'm just saying something's screwy with our values and perceptions.
Let's take another look at this same bit, but minus the edibles until later.
My loft in this town is considered to be in a seedy place in a seedy environment. Yet, in New York or London, it would be a Bohemian centerpiece, a bargain at four times the price, and that in a far worse neighborhood. Do we see another form of floating logic?
It's like when your grandparents wax about how long they had to save up to buy watches and ink pens and black and white TV's with five inch screens. It seems meaningless now, but then, maybe it always was. The best stuff is free or at least relatively inexpensive.
Dennis - Story #1
I can remember one night I was waiting for a bus in the middle of a blizzard on a deserted highway. I sometimes did this when I felt like being alone; but I usually did it 'cause I needed to go somewhere.
This time I was in over my head, snow-wise. The bus was late and if it didn't get there in another half an hour, I'd be frozen to death. I hadn't made out a will so my soon to be ex-wife would get all my possessions, get what money she could for them and use part of it to put my dog to sleep.
Here I was freezing to death, trying to catch a bus so I could get home to this wretched bitch who was bound and determined to kill my dog. Damn straight I'm going to divorce her. And then, the bus lights appeared in the distance, or at least a little past where the A & W used to be.
As I fell up the bus stairs, the fat lady bus driver informed me that the fare had increased another 55 cents. I didn't complain. It was tawny, I was in my "Tahiti" and it was worth the extra 55 cents. I imagined me and my frozen parka laying on the sand with a native girl, or even a native boy if the moonlight was right. Besides that, it was a 45 minute ride -- 45 minutes of guaranteed warmth (even though the bus had been an hour late). That was history.
Okay. We all can see I'm making a rather naive point about essentials versus puffery. I just want you to understand why I get so bent when I see some "person" send their salad back to the kitchen (the dressing was too tart) where it gets thrown out and somebody has to pick it out of the garbage. At least they could package it in different containers so the people in the alley don't have to pick out the cigarette butts.
Wallaker's Guide to Mainstream Eating (If you need to Eat Out...)
They used to say eat where the truckdrivers eat. And I did, more from the mystique than the food. I watched the last vestiges of what true truckers are all about disappear. So now I don't have to eat there anymore.
Next Trend: go where the Senior Citizens go. The food is mostly good and always cheap. The atmosphere is usually nice because there is very little smoking, no swearing and no jukebox. Occasionally the Muzak can get to you, but not as much as hearing the same T.G. Shepard tune three times in a row. More often than not, it's the TV set quietly presenting news and weather, or the hum of a real low key soap opera.
Grandpa John and I used to go over to the buffet at the V.F.W. It was run by 2 or 3 old ladies who kind of hovered over you like fleshy Hindenburgs, guiding you towards the right dishes and away from the ones that might disagree with you. This is how I found out about me and pickled beets without ever having to eat one.
This is what nourishment means. Don't matter whether it's French, Chinese, Cajun, American, etc. It should be something good that nobody makes that big a deal about.
My Ma makes a carrot cake that I could eat everyday but I sure don't want to bottle and franchise it. It's for us and people we like.
That's why it should be fun to go over to other peoples' houses to eat. You can eat something you can't necessarily get anywhere else. And with none of the pretense. "Boeuf Bourginon. I love Boeuf Bourginon! Have you ever had the Boeuf Bourginon at Chez Toilette?" Ugh.
Maybe it's, again, because of my Lutheran upbringing. As a boy I was often told to sit down, be quiet and stare at my shoes and this was as a reward for being good. I'll be the first to admit there's certain parts of me that ain't right. I don't have an axe to grind with anybody or anything other than the attitude towards food as an entire culture and our responsibilities therein, albeit and heretofore. How's that for starting out small? You want smaller? O.K., I'll tell you about how I learned to cook.
Dennis Story #2 (Even Sadder)
Back when I was married, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen 'cause it was the only room in the place my wife wouldn't go into. Not even for a cup of coffee; she used to whimper, "Honey, could you please bring me a cup of coffee and the rest of the Doritos," only in a voice reminiscent of Goebbels in the glory days.
After a while, I said to myself, "Hey, I'm holed up here all the time anyway.
We've got some of that food junk in the cupboards. We got a case of beer and some cookbooks. Let's learn how to use this place."
It was hard at first, since I didn't have a lot of ingredients; but soon, I learned how to improvise: like when it's Raisin Nut Bread and you don't have raisins, you can just use salmon.
I learned how to save my chicken livers and giblets for later, and to freeze my fish heads so I could use them in fish stock. I was getting good and having fun, thinking maybe one day I'd have my own cooking show except I like to lay down a lot.
After a while, my wife started peeking around the corner. She was hungry and wanted something to eat. Against my better judgement, I started feeding her. It soon became a joy to cook for two people.
Then we were divorced, which I didn't mind, but I couldn't go back to cooking for one person again. I tried other relationships but they'd break up, then I'd be back to ground zero. So I basically don't cook at all anymore.
There are a couple of different lessons to be learned here, but the main one is if you run into a guy who says he's eaten dog, ask him if he has any left.
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