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Road Ramblings, Part 1

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Longtime readers of this blog know that when I go on the road, my mind wanders, both while driving and while hanging out in a Florida condo.  I can't really (perhaps by choice) focus on big ideas very well, so I take more of a scattershot approach, spending a little bit of time on whatever strikes my fancy, and then moving on.  Today is no different, and tomorrow most likely won't be either.  So, here's what's on my mind:

1.  Jesus most likely doesn't need a billboard to deliver the news.  There's nothing worse than having a PR team you didn't ask for, and so the lame, super-conservative billboards that catch one's eye while driving through Florida would seem to cheapen the messages that Jesus wanted the world to hear.  Encountering billboard after billboard urging me that "Jesus Is Still In Control," I tend to be reminded of the famous line from Hamlet: "methinks the lady doth protest too much," which tells us that making a point more strongly than it needs to be made tends to undermine that point.  And so, with Easter fast approaching, I can't help but wonder if Jesus really is in control, given the world we live in.  It feels more like things are spiraling out of control, that nothing is in control, and that our chances of triumphing depend to a large extent on randomness.  I don't really like to think that way, and I wouldn't, if some idiot with enough money to buy a bunch of billboards, hadn't made a claim that didn't need to be made.

2.  Can food combinations get any more disgusting?  When I was younger and less aware, I had the mistaken notion that fast food joints and (bottom of the) food chains were somehow cutting edge. Because a teenager doesn't/didn't eat all that many places that weren't fast food or national chains, I thought the McRib was cool, admired "innovations" in French fries or milk shakes or burger types or, Wow!, the introduction of a chicken sandwich.  I knew nothing of food trends.  Now, of course, is different, and I am nonplussed at the ubiquity of chipotle (which was a pretty cool flavor) or guacamole, which if it isn't freshly-made needs to be flushed down the toilet.  And I am repulsed by chain restaurant's attempts to bring wonderful regional food into their menu mix.  Case in point: IHOP's new pancakes that have New York cheesecake in the middle of the pancakes!  Who in the world, what misguided chemical genius thought that I/we wanted cheesecake in the middle of our pancakes?  Food is becoming Frankenstein, a blend of parts that, if it has a life, is concluded to have worked.

3.  Die Hard in the White House.  I haven't read any reviews yet, but I'd be shocked if the observation is unique to me that the new thriller, Olympus Has Fallen, has drawn pretty heavily from the first movie in the Bruce Willis action series.  Terrorists take over? Check.  Lone rogue lawman is secretly inside the building and the only hope? Check. No one else can get I side the building to help?  Check.  Brutal murder of hostages? Check.  Foolish air assault? Check.  Multiple decoys by the bad guys?  check.  Lone lawman encounters friend who is really an enemy? Check.  Except that Willis is better at this kind of thing than Gerard Butler, that Willis had a better script that made him a richer, more vulnerable character, and that, even though Butler is in position to save the entire free world, Willis' quest seems to have more depth.  That being said, I love this kind of movie, and so I felt some suspense, was completely sucked in to the extent that I ignored all of the plot implausibilities, and would, against all odds, recommend this as a serviceable thriller.  Sometimes, that's all you need.

4.  Pizza is a barometer.  I mean, really, how hard is it to make a decent pizza?  I've even convinced myself that I can do it.  I'm not talking about a great pizza, just one that rises above the mediocrity of life.  Because I believe that pizza is like Lake Woebegone these days: all pizza should be above average.  The basic requirements of the species are just not that complicated--basic dough, simple sauce, cheese, a few toppings, and a decently-high temperature.  So why is it so hard?  Why are there entire cities that can't produce a decent pie?  I blame hubris, I blame tradition, I blame lack of initiative.  Luckily, I reside for the next few days in a city that can offer a variety of New York-style or New England-style pizzas, all executed at a pretty high level of pizza.  And, the city I live in, while without the roots of Venice, Florida, is working hard all the time to improve its pizza standing.  And I salute that.  But if you can't produce a decent pizza in your city, as is true just up the road from here, then I question your civic responsibility,  people eat too much pizza to not offer them a few decent options.

5.  Here's how to save the planet.  It came to me in a Chik-Fil-A in Georgia.  Or else, in my car, when I had quickly worked through a combo #1 of classic sandwich, waffle fries, and drink on my way southward.  And it was this: if fast food restaurants would embrace recycling, then recycling could really mean something.  Because, when you think about it, most of the trash that you see comes from fast food restaurants, a reminder that they are generating tons and tons of paper and plastic.  But when did you see a recycle bin in a fast food place?  How many of these chains are continuing to use styrofoam, a man made abomination that we all know does not biodegrade?  Instead, all of them are content to let us dump their waste in store, in gas station gas bins, and, apparently, alongside the highways of America.  Reverse the course on that, fast-foodies, and you are doing something that matters.

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