Raymond Lesser

The News Can Kill You

Is America the most dangerous place in the history of the world? It must be, if you believe the increasingly hysterical reports issued by our paranoid scientists, government officials, and big haired talking heads in the news media. On a typical day last month (Ozone Warning Level: Orange, Homeland Security Alert Code: Yellow) I tabulated news reports and updates about 137 things that can kill you, and that was all before eating red meat for dinner.

Besides the usual and obvious threat to life from things like rattlesnakes, cigarettes, and soldiers with guns, we were warned by the UCLA School of Dentistry that snoring can kill you. (The struggle for breath can result in soaring blood pressure which can damage the walls of the carotid arteries and increase the risk of a stroke. Persistent loud snoring may also cause your spouse to attempt to smother you with a pillow.) Light from the sun can kill you, so we have been trained to slather on SPF40 sunblock. Now it turns out that sunblock can kill you, too. And indoor light isn't any safer, because of the danger of foreign made lamps that can electrocute you.

Guns are incredibly dangerous, but doctors are 9000 times more likely to kill you than gun owners. (I don't even want to think about how deadly a gun-owning doctor might be.) We all know that fast food can kill you, but so can a low-fat diet, peanuts, wheat, or eggs. Too much alcohol can kill you, but so can too much water. Cannibalism can kill you whether you're the victim or the cannibal. Skyscrapers can be lethal, but so can the music you listen to while driving, bleeding gums, and salt substitute.

Even if you don't have a statistically dangerous job as a bodyguard, or bomb squad cop, you're still not safe at work, because even boring jobs can kill you, according to researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health. They found that workers who spent their lives in undemanding jobs with little control over their work were 35 percent more likely to die during a 10-year period than workers in challenging jobs with lots of decision-making responsibilities.

Divorce can kill you, due to stress and its effect on your immune system. In fact, just becoming single takes seven years off your life expectancy, although those would probably have been years spent arguing with your spouse about whose turn it is to cook and clean. (As Phyllis Diller said, "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance.")

Outdoors we face lethal dangers from lightning, small avalanches, jet blast, grain dust, airbags, and road stripes. But indoors you will run across the even scarier lethal dangers of root canals, amalgam fillings, ozone generators, vintage Barbie dolls, and showering (which "boosts concentrations of potentially hazardous trihalomethanes.")

Cancer can kill you, but what causes cancer? Better watch out for: hair dye, talcum powder, bacon, make-up, tanning parlors, cell phones, diet soda, estrogen, dry cleaning, second hand smoke, and horror of horrors... sexual intercourse! Is all this giving you heartburn? Uh-oh...heartburn can cause cancer! Maybe you need an anti-depressant? Guess what? Anti-depressants can cause cancer, too. But at least you won't be as depressed when you get it.

It's become increasingly obvious that fanatical religions can be hazardous to your health, but so can Gefilte fish, Mexican candies, perfume, and even deep breathing (by "leading to respiratory alkalosis, a condition which can be benign or potentially catastrophic.") Tongue piercing can be fatal, yet another reason to keep your unsupervised teenagers away from the mall. Getting hooked while fishing can be fatal. And sex can be fatal for men not up to it, which begs the question, if they're not up to it how can they have sex in the first place? Perhaps the answer is Viagra. Unfortunately researchers have already found that too much Viagra can kill you (though no researchers lived to tell about it.)

Mosquitoes are the most deadly animal known to man. Other things on the most deadly list include: black widow spiders, Pontiac Firebirds, Jacksonville roads, and painless heart attacks. Government scientists have even found that "water is the most deadly substance known to man."

The fat in your blood can kill you. Wearing a bra can kill you. Teen sex can kill you. Having kids can kill you faster.

An occasional cup of coffee is worse for the heart than drinking it every day. The internet can kill you in a short 48 hours, and so can your CD-ROM, practical jokes, too much sleep, too much studying, too many demos, being too smart, and too much of a good thing. The air you breathe can kill you. Deadly side effects can kill you. In fact, nearly anything can kill you, and scientists are working hard to prove it. But working too hard can also kill you, so if you're a scientist be careful about that.

Perhaps most frightening of all are ongoing studies, reported by New Scientist magazine, that fear can kill you. For example, Dr Robert Kloner, a California cardiologist, found that on the day of the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, the coroner recorded five times more sudden cardiac deaths than would ordinarily be expected. Dr Kloner said: "This was nothing to do with people physically exerting themselves as they dug themselves out of the rubble. The typical story was that a patient clutched his chest, described chest pain, and dropped over dead."

I wonder how many of these victims were watching or listening to the news?

A Crank Gives Thanks

I give thanks that every Monday is garbage day, when I get to go through the refrigerator and sniff all the uneaten, moldy, rotting leftovers before I throw them out.

I am grateful to find my missing hammer laying out in the corner of the backyard when I run it over with my lawnmower.

I am thrilled with the new Internet technology that allows for long lost friends to track me down and remind me that I still owe them $50 (plus interest) from college.

Every time I grab a hot frying pan without a potholder, I am grateful for that ornamental aloe cactus that Mom gave me.

I am so thankful that we finally figured out how to open the window in our bathroom, and so is everyone else in my family, particularly after I've just used the toilet.

I am thankful for our civil liberties, like freedom of speech, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, because if civil liberties were outlawed, only outlaws would have civil liberties.

I am grateful for wine, particularly the really cheap stuff that friends who don't know anything about wine bring when they come for dinner, because someday when all my good bottles of wine are gone, and I'm really desperate, a few bottles of that crappy wine will still be left down in the cellar to tide me over.

I give thanks for the ancient oak tree in the yard, and it's bumper crop of acorns which fall so far that they dent the roof of my car, and occasionally my head.

I am grateful for the neighbors' dogs which bark hysterically every time I walk by, protecting their owners' properties from strangers like me who hate hysterically barking dogs.

I give thanks for the telemarketers that regularly interrupt our family dinners, and make the children forget what they were arguing with each other about.

I am grateful to my hardworking neighbors, who make it their highest priority to wake me up by 8 a.m. Saturday mornings by mowing or blowing their yards, which forces me to go out to a park, where I can appreciate the peace and quiet of Saturday mornings.

I am grateful to Ben & Jerry's for creating Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, which has enabled me to buy an entirely new wardrobe of comfortable stretch pants.

I am thankful to Bill Gates for creating software with so many glitches and crashes, that I am never tempted to use the computer at home, as if it were actually something fun to do with my spare time.

I am grateful whenever I am up shit creek without a paddle, that at least I still have a canoe.

I am thankful whenever I staple my fingers that I decided not to buy the industrial sized stapler.

I give thanks for the earth, which is all over our new carpets since my son invited his soccer team in for a drink, after they practiced in the mud.

I give thanks for the rain, because my boss would never suspect I was silly enough to sneak out of work early to go golfing in a downpour like this.

I give thanks for the sun, because how else is my car ever going to dry out after I forget to close the sunroof.

I give thanks for all the annoying interruptions, embarrassments, stumbling blocks, blind alleys, ill winds, red herrings, dead weights, wet blankets, clogged pipes, overloaded circuits, monkey wrenches, foul-ups, cross-ups, screw-ups, growing pains, hornets nests, kettles of fish, cans of worms, messes, stews, pickles, and jams that I come across on a daily basis. All these problems just reassure me that the miracle of life goes on.

Corporate Graffiti

At Shaker Square, a newly revitalized shopping area in Cleveland, it looked like neighborhood vandals had scrawled graffiti on the display windows of the Gap clothing store. Spray-painted in huge black letters were the words "Freedom" and "Independence."

Disappointed merchants, who had worked for years to rehab the neighborhood, called the property manager to report the graffiti and have it removed. They were shocked to learn that the graffiti was part of a promotion by Gap "intended as a kicky, free-spirited approach to Independence Day." A spokesman for the San Francisco based company noted that although Gap had received some complaints from residents of the area, "it was doing fine in other stores across the country."

Meanwhile, in Chicago, where graffiti is considered such a widespread problem that it is illegal to sell cans of spray paint, city officials were amazed to discover that computer giant IBM was behind a campaign which spray-painted hundreds of penguins, hearts, and peace symbols on public sidewalks. Part of IBM's "Peace, Love, and Linux" marketing campaign to draw attention to its version of the Linux operating system, the graffiti was intended to help Big Blue shed its stuffy, corporate image. When an employee of IBM was arrested, the local newspaper headline read: "Big Blue has been caught red-handed." IBM was fined $18,000 by the city, and will also have to pay the costs of blasting away the pavement graffiti.

"We're rather surprised—it's such a reputable company," said a spokesman from Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department, which bears the ongoing burden of removing graffiti from city property.

What were these companies thinking? Did they really believe that, like anonymous graffiti artists, they could get away with tagging public property in major cities with their latest corporate insignias and trademarked slogans? They're just lucky that they're multinational conglomerates and not teenagers, or they could have really been spanked.

Because in 1996, the California State Assembly approved a bill to allow spankings for teens convicted of graffiti vandalism. Under the law a Juvenile Court judge can order a youth convicted of the crime to be paddled up to 10 times by his or her parents, in court, with a large wooden paddle. If the parents refuse or the judge thinks the parent didn't swing hard enough, the judge can order a bailiff to conduct the spanking.

Perhaps they do the same thing behind closed doors in corporate America. Maybe the marketing executives in charge of these graffiti campaigns have already been brought up to the CEO's penthouse and told to pull down their Armani suit pants and bend over for the VP in charge of corporate corporal punishment.

Graffiti has become such a huge law enforcement nuisance that Star Wars technology is now being deployed against it. The Lawrence Livermore Labs has developed a $250,000 anti-graffiti laser, which many experts consider to be the future of graffiti removal technology. While this may sound expensive, the cost of graffiti removal in the Los Angeles area alone is estimated at $100 million a year, and across the U.S. at more than $7 billion a year. Whether to trust a $250,000 laser to employees of the sanitation department is a separate question. Perhaps once they get good enough at zapping graffiti off freeway bridges, they can become our first line of defense against incoming ballistic missiles.

The debate about graffiti used to be, "Is it vandalism or is it art?" Now it's becoming, "Is it vandalism or is it advertising?" A San Francisco sanitation official who was responsible for cleaning up IBM's tagging campaign there said, "We can't have companies turning all the city's sidewalks into ads." Why not? If they're willing to pay for it, why not turn downtown sidewalks into a monopoly board for corporate capitalism, just as they've done with virtually every other surface on our urban and virtual landscape?

Businessmen used to be the most vocal opponents of urban graffiti. But now it appears that what they're really thinking is, "If a 16-year-old punk kid doesn't have to pay to deface public property, then why should we?" Likewise, graffiti upsets public officials not because it disturbs the visual landscape, but because they don't get a kickback from it. Graffiti artists don't make campaign contributions, unlike cigarette and beer companies. Consequently, abstract graffiti messages are a blight upon our neighborhoods, but giant billboards for the Marlboro Man or the Budweiser frog help promote free enterprise and build our tax base.

Is graffiti art? As part of their annual Folklife Festival, the Smithsonian Museum is displaying a graffiti covered New York City subway on the National Mall in Washington. While New York officials consider the graffiti to be a display of uncontrolled criminal activity, and hope that the perpetrators are apprehended, many admirers of art think graffiti is a glorious expression that gives the otherwise dank and sterile subways a character and beauty found nowhere else.

It is this anarchic, free-spirited expression that corporations are now trying to co-opt and turn into advertising campaigns. Anything that appeals to our sense of beauty or freedom, can and will, eventually be used to try to sell us more crap. But as long as we don't give our money to these graffiti makers, they will eventually disappear, except for the ones who make graffiti for graffiti's sake.

A Website for Every Occasion

Is there a heaven and hell? Where is paradise? Can we ever find love or truth or the perfect cheeseburger?

When my internet connection is working and my brain isn't, I sometimes play the Dot-Com game. This involves randomly trying out different names for websites that I think should exist, and then discovering what they're really up to.

Of course, my expectations for what a particular website will be are usually much more idealistic than what I find. For example, in a world run by philosopher-king webmasters, mermaid.com should not be the homepage of a boat cleaning service, and zeus.com ought to be doing something more spectacular than "providing easily configurable Web servers."

Here are some results from my most recent game:

Heaven.com does not exist but for $25 a year, you could receive your email as beelzebub@hell.com, "an email address that people will remember." On the other hand, if you're searching for god.com you will find that He/She doesn't exist.

Creation.com is the homepage of someone who is a "writer, editor, and rat collector." Adam.com is a syndicator of interactive health information, while eve.com is selling beauty products. Both eden.com and paradise.com have been taken over by developers of business software.

Moses.com offers "comfortable web-hosting," while his brother Aaron.com "has been teaching his true wealth principles in Canada for over two decades." Jesus.com "seeks loving women" and also offers the opportunity to "bathe with Jesus" and "date Jesus." The "bathe with Jesus" link features many photos of Jesus bathing alone, along with several photos of some poor woman who found Jesus through his website, and was somehow convinced to join him in his hot tub.

After this disturbing website I tried to seek the calming influence of buddha.com, only to discover that it "is undergoing further development."

Although art.com recently went bankrupt, the proprietor of badart.com is still successfully scouring the U.S. "seeking the most appallingly bad art I can find." He adds that he's purchased many pieces for $5-$10 "but will make them available to you, the collector, for much, much more."

Meanwhile philosophy.com is selling beauty and make-up products while the attempt to discover truth.com failed. Big.com is for sale, while small.com "has not set up their website yet." Bad.com is a porn site, and good.com sells MP3 music players. Optimist.com doesn't exist, but pessimist.com is the home of a heavy metal band whose album "Slaughtering the Faithful" will be released this fall.

Neither fact nor fiction.com exist. There is no hope or virtue, either. Dreams.com is a sex site. Sun sells microsystems, moon features travel handbooks, and stars.com is a "web developers virtual library." Infinity has changed its name to Sungard Trading and Risk Systems, and now specializes in "group-wide interest rate risk management software."

Love.com is the AOL personals page. At first I failed to make a connection to happiness.com but then I discovered it was the site for a magazine which features a "24-page EZ TV schedule." Joy.com is a mining machinery company. Bliss.com is "mid-America's largest real estate appraisal management company." Peace.com offers "advanced solutions for utility and retail energy companies."

The differences between men and women on the internet is perfectly illustrated by the fact that women.com has the goal "of providing women with information, expert advice, community, and shopping on the web," while men.com takes you to a directory of porn sites.

Lenin.com is the online source for the writings of Vladimir Lenin, but marx.com offers software security items. Mao.com must get a lot of dot-com game traffic because its homepage says that Mao "is registered to a small business. You have most likely arrived here in error." A cybersquatter has registered Ghandi.com and is actively trying to resell it.

King.com features photos from Peter and Lori King's beach vacation. Monarchy.com appears to have abdicated its homepage. Dictator.com is part of the German based Dictator Group, "for more than 60 years a well-known source for elevator, building, and machinery products." Monolith.com provides "business intelligence", while anarchy.com "is still very under construction."

Is their other intelligent life in the universe? Possibly. But on the internet, life.com was not found. However, death.com "is undergoing further development." We'll just have to wait to see what they come up with.

Stay Healthy By Wasting Your Time

A German scientist, Professor Peter Axt, believes he has discovered the antidote for stress and the secret to a long life: "Waste half your free time. Just enjoy lazing around."

According to Professor Axt, "people who would rather laze in a hammock instead of running a marathon or who take a midday nap instead of playing squash have a better chance of living into old age." In fact he believes that too much exercise is actually detrimental to health. "People who run long distances are using up energy they need for other purposes. They suffer memory loss. They risk premature senility." Suffice it to say that I have an incredibly sharp memory. I can remember obscure facts like the name of my 4th grade class's pet snake and the exact words shrieked by Claudia Pace when she opened her desktop and found him sitting on top of her spelling book. Professor Axt and I are on the same page when it comes to the best way to stay healthy, or at least we were on the same page until his book fell out of my hand when I dozed off.

I don't think there's anything better for a person than having enough free time to do nothing. In fact, I take my health so seriously, that I also waste half of my time at work lazing around. For example, right now I'm supposed to be writing this column. But after a few minutes I find my mind drifting to thoughts of a summer vacation on the beach, and the advantages of chicken versus tuna salad for lunch. A look at the clock brings me back to the present serious task at hand and I type furiously for another ten or fifteen minutes until I realize I haven't checked my email today.

This leads me to the incredible hammock ride of the internet, where I can rock back and forth through beach vacation sites, or daydream about making millions with the click of a mouse. My aimless linking stops when I discover research which indicates that the U.S. is suffering from an epidemic of sleepiness. Nearly two-thirds of American adults do not get the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended for good health and optimum performance, according to an annual poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. "Sleep is a health, safety and performance necessity, not a luxury and Americans are not getting enough of it," said Ronald Krall, the foundation's president. "Well, I couldn't agree more," I mumble, as I go to lie down on my office couch and contemplate the impact of this study, and the possibility of getting a full-time job doing Sleep Foundation research. My contemplation is only disturbed when my snoring startles me. Feeling increasingly healthy, and in tune with the latest trends, I head to the break room for a snack.

Fortunately, I work for myself, or I probably would have lost my job a long time ago. As it is I've been forced to threaten myself with dismissal on several occasions. But Corporate America is creating a culture of stressed out, overworked, unhappy people who are afraid that taking time to smell the flowers will mess up their chance to get promoted to senior Vice President in charge of putting customers on hold. Work is the only activity that people say they are devoting longer hours to than they did five years ago. Four in ten people now say they work at least a 50-hour week. And all the things that people love best about life, they report doing less. Less time for sleep. Less time for play. Less time for sex.

Maybe this is natural selection at work. The people who are habitually overworked and stressed out will gradually stop breeding until their genes disappear, and the world is overrun by those of us who like to go home early to play Frisbee with our dogs and take naps with our spouses.

I had something else I was going to say before I noticed that I've been sitting here playing with a rubber band for the last five minutes. I suppose that I should instead look at the ten page list of things I have to do and get cracking on them. I have deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, and pet lizards who are depending on me to buy them live crickets to eat. The children have to be driven to their multitude of scheduled activities, and then they need haircuts, new clothes, help with homework, and enlightened instruction on how to live their lives.

Well, the best I can say to them is this: Enjoy your moments. Every day is filled to the brim with commitments and work, but in the end, the only important thing is to enjoy what you do, while you do it. Enjoy running to catch the bus. Enjoy the ride to school. Enjoy complaining about the crappy food in the cafeteria. Every moment presents an opportunity. Fill your day with opportunities you enjoy.

So go ahead and daydream. Sharpen your pencil for five minutes. Doodle. Dawdle. Brush your hair again and stick your tongue out at yourself in the mirror. Don't spend all your time doing what everyone keeps telling you has to get done. If you really want to lead a great life, try to spend the best part of it doing the most important thing of all: nothing!

A Negative Approach to Positive Thinking

Not everyone is able to make lemonade out of all the lemons life has dumped in their Cuisinart. Some of us were born looking for silver linings, while others trudge through the world perpetually shrouded in a dark cloud. Though science has shown that optimists live longer than pessimists, research has also proven that DNA predetermines whether you are more susceptible to chronic worry and gloom, or whether you flit about like Suzy Sunshine, bringing blue sky cheerfulness to every situation.

Recently the self-help community has begun to recognize that the fear and overwhelming hopelessness that many people feel can be used in a positive way. "There is a huge untapped market out there that we will never be able to transform with big smiley faces," says Rudolph Schlepp, counselor at the Highpeak Institute for Mental Miracles. "The access to transformation must begin with what is already available. Chance must come from fat chance. Doing can evolve from nothing doing. A negative approach to positive thinking may offer the best access to success to natural born cynics."

Norman Vincent Peale's treatise on optimism, The Power of Positive Thinking launched the multi-billion dollar self-help industry in 1952. His ideas are still at the core of self-improvement, with it's affirmation tapes, actualization videos, and success seminars.

Here are some quotes from The Power of Positive Thinking, along with the negative approaches to success now being espoused for the many of us who are genetically predisposed to chronic worry, dark moods, and ribald comedy.

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success." People also become quite remarkable when they start believing they can't do things. When their goals are impossible people become free to pursue them with unabashed glee, because they have no hope of success. The Little Engine That Could kept repeating, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," until it finally got over the mountain and was able to coast down to deliver hard candy and vegetables to the good little boys and girls on the other side. Big deal. What if, instead, your impossible goal is to seduce Sarah Jessica Parker. You think you can? You really are living in a dream world, buddy. But so what. Feel free to dream on. You can try to do almost anything you put your mind to. You may never attain your goal, but you can have a heck of a lot of fun never getting there.

"It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship."

Maybe it's not such a great idea to like yourself too much. People who are overly fond of themselves tend not to get out a lot. They're so satisfied with their primary relationship, that, like Snow White's stepmother, they spend most of their free time in front of a mirror asking it questions. If you cultivate a little bit of self-doubt it might encourage you to go out into the world and talk to other people for positive re-enforcement. Even negative feedback is better than spending another night writing self-absorbed thoughts in your diary and surfing the Internet to buy more visualization tapes. Study this sample conversation:

A: I can really be a jerk sometime, don't you think?

B: Yea, I agree, you're really stuck up.

A: And when I act like I'm perfect, I may not always be a joy to be around.

B: Whatever gave you that idea, there's nothing I like better than being around someone who never makes a mistake.

A: Arguing with you really makes me appreciate what a great person I am!

B: Yes, I agree, you are a great person to argue with.

"If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up."

Not necessarily. How often do you really know where you want to go? When you go shopping do you know exactly which store you're going to, and what you're going to buy, and which shelf it'll be on, and how much you're going to pay for it? No. You go to the mall and wander around looking at stuff until something jumps out at you, and then you try it on, and then you try it on in a different color, and then maybe with some matching accessories and eventually you go home with a bag full of goodies. The next morning you realize what a huge mistake you made and you wind up taking everything back to the store except for one pair of socks. But they turn out to be the best socks you've ever owned. How would you have found them if you'd already known what you were looking for? What you really want to do is get some half-baked notion in your head, and then pursue it, and then change your mind, and pursue some other half-baked notion, and so on and so forth until it's time for bed.

"Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds."

Wrong. If you don't have any problems it means you don't have any solution seeds. But you'll still have lots of problem seeds. The question is, do you want to plant a bunch of these seeds? If you had a bag full of weed seeds, would you be anxious to scatter them in your garden? Don't you have enough to do in life without planting a bunch of noxious weeds, in order to have the opportunity to come up with new ways to get rid of them? Do you really want to spend your life developing and testing weed killers or would you rather lay in your backyard getting a tan and reading the latest bestseller? If you don't have any problems, you can save yourself a lot of money on self-help books, and Human Alchemy training seminars

Cigarette Butt Redemption Center?

A Maine legislator has come up with a radical new proposal to help clean up the environment: a 5¢ deposit on cigarette butts. Under his proposed law, modeled after the state's successful bottle and can deposit law, smokers would pay an additional $1 for a pack of smokes, which they could only get back by returning their cigarette butts to a redemption center.

Rep. Joseph Brooks, the creator of the so-called "Returnable Butt Bill," believes that the law would greatly reduce the number of ugly butts littering the state's beaches and parks. And anyone who's visited Maine knows there are a lot of ugly butts in open view on its beaches. Even if Maine smokers don't pick up their butts the state stands to benefit from additional revenue generated by unredeemed deposits, probably in the neighborhood of $50 million a year. As Rep. Brooks says, "If it works, great, everything will be a little cleaner. If not, we'll be able to fund anti-smoking programs in Maine schools."

Is it really necessary to have already harassed smokers suffer yet one more humiliation, and force them to carry around used butts all day in their pockets and pocketbooks? And what about the poor clerks who'll have the nasty job of counting up the hacked on butts to make sure each one has a Maine tax stamp, and was not illicitly smuggled in from Massachusetts or New Hampshire?

Well, as one proponent of the Returnable Butt Bill said, "In many places people are required to clean up their dogs crap, aren't they? This law certainly isn't any worse than that." Other proponents note that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide each year, and since cigarette filters are not biodegradable, they'll continue to accumulate until someone cleans them up.

Maine and other states have proven with their bottle deposit laws that placing a returnable deposit value on bottles and cans helps insure they get picked up. Maybe this idea really can work for cigarettes and other things that we'd like to see cleaned up. For instance, how about laundry? At my house my kids leave their clothes lying around everywhere. Shirts are tossed behind the couch, socks under the kitchen table, sweatshirts are left lying in the front hallway to be used as a welcome mat for visitors. I wind up either angrily picking up the clothes myself, or yelling at the kids to. What if I were to make them pay a deposit for each article of clean clothes when they got it from the laundry? If dirty clothes were left laying around the house, anybody could pick them up and receive a nickel per item. I think at least one of them would see this as a business opportunity, and the house would soon be spotless. I'd probably have to start monitoring that they weren't stealing clothes out of each other's drawers to claim the deposit money.

I'd also like to put a deposit on the TV remote before I give it to my kids. That way when I come down to watch TV after I've put them to bed, I wouldn't have to spend the next fifteen minutes turning over all the cushions of the couches, wading through old popcorn and cracker crumbs looking for the damn thing, and then winding up on the floor, an arm's length away from the big screen, manually surfing through 150 channels to find my program.

I'd also like it if there were a deposit on toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. Because my wife is always saving them for some unknown "craft project" that she expects the children to create someday. If they ever started charging a deposit for these things I could carry in the ten boxes full that we have stored down in the basement, and make some money out of them. There are many other clean up possibilities. A 27-year-old MIT graduate student recently won the Lemelson inventors prize for his idea of making cheap computer memory chips from a plastic potato chip bag. It's possible that in the future we'll be able to recycle our junk food garbage and make computers out of it. First you eat the chips and then you make the chips.

And how about politicians? Lobbyists should be required to put down a deposit on every politician they buy. Let's say they had to put down $50,000 on each politician. This would insure that when their particular special interest vote was over, the lobbyist would return the politician to his loyal constituents to get his deposit back. If some special interest lobbyist got careless and tossed a politician out their car window on to the side of the road, the voters would at least have $50,000 to use for some worthwhile project, such as fixing up potholes or putting on a nice fourth of July fireworks display. And wouldn't it be nice if there were deposits on other things besides cigarettes that are going to kill us? If they made buyers pay an extra deposit to drive around in a fast sports car, motorcycle, snow-mobile, or ski-board, then the next of kin would have a built-in insurance policy. They could gather up the debris from the wreck, and turn them back in for a nice deposit.

The same thing for guns. People should pay a deposit when they buy a gun. Then when the user was done killing someone with it they wouldn't be as tempted to throw it away in some perfectly clean river or lake. Instead they'd want to bring it back to get their refund.

And a big deposit should be required for drums. Because although a set of drums won't kill you, your next door neighbor will, if you don't stop practicing the drums.

I also suggest that you should be required to put down a five cent deposit on CDs by the latest music industry created hit group, like The Backstreet Boys, or Eminem. That way, when your kids get sick of listening to this inane music, and it becomes worthless, because all their friends feel the same way, they won't just throw it into the trash to clutter up overcrowded landfills. Instead they will return it to the store they bought it from to get back their nickel.


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