Editor's Note: Nobody likes to read anything too heavy in the hot weather. So I put together a collection of little things I thought were interesting in the summer of 2004. I looked at this as a brief respite from the election season, and the dirtiest presidential campaign I’ve ever seen. When draft dodgers hire veterans to smear a war hero who received both wounds and medals for a war they wanted no part of, doesn’t that say something about the kind of men we elect president? But enough of that ... there are more-important things to talk about, like designer ice cream, poker and cellular phones.

Summer Stock in the Theater of the Absurd


Maybe it’s just that it’s an election year, but more than usual, this summer’s events seem to affirm that this is a great country, but one weird culture.

Is the “F-word” now so mainstream that we’ll soon be hearing it during vice-presidential debates? In response to a question about the corruption at Halliburton, Dick Cheney — the personification of a knee to the groin — told dignified Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to “f*** off,” then refused to apologize. Was that his vision of civility and family values? The next time a fourth grader tells her teacher to “f*** off,” she can use the excuse that her vice president approved that message.

Ironically, the same people who cheered Cheney’s feisty patriotism were scandalized by Whoopi Goldberg’s lewd jokes about President Bush. And when Teresa Heinz Kerry told a right-wing reporter to “shove it,” GOP-TV (Fox) had one more reason to deem her husband unfit to be president.

But maybe it takes a “wacky liberal” like Kerry to run a country that compels tobacco companies to air TV ads informing smokers that their products are so addictive and so dangerous that consumers shouldn’t use them, while the taxpayers have to cough up $10 billion in 2004 agricultural subsidies to enable these same companies to profit from all this illness and death. Meanwhile, we outlaw medical marijuana for cancer patients … because they might become addicted. Go figure.

Speaking of addicts, Rush Limbaugh just cleared the way for wife No. 4 by divorcing wife No. 3. Mr. Family Values loves marriage so much he feels the need to protect the institution from gay people, who are trying to destroy it by asking for permission to get married too.

But has anyone ever logically explained exactly how gay unions threaten heterosexual marriage? Jennifer Lopez just kicked off her third marriage (she’s finally caught up with the one-time conscience of the Congress, Newt Gingrich), and Britney Spears is planning her second wedding this year, following a Vegas marriage that lasted just a few hours, but Rush isn’t touting a constitutional amendment to keep Britney, Newt and J.Lo from cheapening holy matrimony.

Speaking of holy, worshippers of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” couldn’t understand how anyone could hate the film, especially those heathens who refused to watch it. But now, many of these same moviegoers have pilloried Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” while claiming they’ll never see it. Shouldn’t all such amateur movie critics at least own a ticket stub? And, by the way, why does Moore’s criticism of President Bush automatically mean the filmmaker hates America … because only right-wing Republicans are good Americans?

… then what makes a good Iraqi? Confronted with the possibility that Iraq, a majority Shi’ite country, might choose a fundamentalist ayatollah in its first free election, Don Rumsfeld assured reporters it “isn’t going to happen.” Evidently, it’s fine for America to be run by religious fundamentalists, but not Iraq. We believe in democracy, as long as everyone’s voting correctly.

No surprise there: In 1951, Iran voted in Mohammed Mossadegh. We didn’t like him, so the CIA helped topple the freely elected government and installed the Shah in his place. In 1970, Chile elected a Communist, Salvador Allende. We helped overthrow him (he ended up dead) by supporting Augusto Pinochet, a right-wing dictator later indicted for human rights crimes. And then we wonder why they hate us. Does recounting history make me a bad American?

And why would a good American like Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ban poker games in local bars? Besides licensing the biggest casinos in New England, Connecticut runs its own lotteries, but, apparently, a Texas Hold ’em tournament at Bobby Valentine’s pub is just too much. Is gambling illegal or not? I can’t bet $20 on three kings, but poor people are encouraged by state-funded advertising to throw away the kids’ milk money on fistfuls of Lotto tickets.

On a lighter note, as the last person in Fairfield County without a cell phone, I don’t get it. Ninety percent of the communications I’m forced to overhear involve narrations of whatever the callers happen to be doing at that moment. Do we really need such constant electronic contact? I once saw a couple in a romantic restaurant, both on their cells. I kept wondering if they were talking to each other … maybe conversing digitally makes it seem more intimate.

And, on an even lighter note, what’s the deal with hand-packed ice cream? I know it must be better than store-bought, because it costs so much more. At a factory, ice cream is packed into the small containers that you buy at the StopRite. Meanwhile, some ice cream is packed into larger containers and sold to overpriced ice cream boutiques, where teenagers then hand-pack it into smaller containers, so I can eat it with a plastic spoon. I’d rather spend less buying it at the supermarket, then cut out the middleman by hand-packing it directly into my mouth.

… but what do I know? I still think rap music is crap.

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