Umbrellas in Sunshine

I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer. I don’t come from a long line of them, or maybe I do. I’m adopted so what do I know? Well, I know that I’m a do-it-yourselfer. Anyway, after my diagnosis and the subsequent chemo my doctors inflicted on me, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands to do things myself. However, the chemo sort of screwed up everything what with neuropathy and nausea and exhaustion –so I wasn’t real anxious to actually do anything. This resulted in my watching television and reading. Some of the TV I watched were do-it-yourself programs, mostly home improvement, but it wasn’t very interesting. It was a bunch of obviously inept television  talent*  throwing around a lot of building terms like ‘joist’ and ‘king molding’ and ‘sub-contractor.’

*talent: people who are alive, have all of their teeth, and can read a teleprompter.

Online though, I found this nifty website called It featured nothing but do-it-yourself projects with step by step instructions that let people make their own version of whatever. I was fascinated by just how creative people were and how so many thing could be done with normal tools found in most households and common  and easily accessible materials. There were some more advanced projects as well, using things like the tiny Arduino microcontrollers I employed in many of my little robotic creations. Still, the projects were useful, easy to do, and well documented. I immediately coughed up the $25 per year fee to get a “Pro” account, which stripped all of the banner advertising away and permitted downloading of PDF files containing project instructions I was interested in. So cool, in fact, I bought a membership for my daughter to use with my grandson so they could make interesting projects together. Then I happened to send in a project of my own. A simple electrical circuit that flashed tiny neon bulbs to create what I named Fireflies in a Jar. I was thrilled to discover it was elected project of the month and further, they said it so epitomised the types of projects they wanted submitted, that they gave me an extra year of Pro subscription.

Well, my two years is almost up and I have no intention of resubscribing. The projects they feature have become so lame and stupid, or require tremendously expensive tools that I can’t see them appealing to very many people. Like so much else these days, they rendered themselves mediocre. To show you just how bad they’ve become, this weeks projects included a sandwich (I swear to God) and how to turn a shopping cart into a firepit. (Put wood in it and burn it.)  Then there were the projects that required a $3,500 3D printer to create your own plastic figures, the same ones you can get in a bag of 100 for a buck at the grocery store toy aisle. I mean, come on.

Why is it that everywhere I look, I see a decline in sanity? It’s as though we just can’t bear to see something good last. When eBay started it was a great place to find excellent deals on used items or wholesale new products. Now it’s like a satellite for Neiman Marcus, with expensive retail outlets underselling the auction site. The discount website Woot! used to have some really great deals, but these days you can find similar prices from at least one of the higher volume sales sites like, Best Buy or Amazon.

When it comes to television, some of the reality shows were garbage from day one, but now they all compete to see who can produce the worst programming. Programs like American Pickers has everyone convinced that their trash is ultra valuable because for “program drama” they inflated pricing by a few thousand percent. We’ve got shows about pawn shops, the most exploitive monetary sharks in the world trying to pass themselves off as purveyors of history in Las Vegas while in Detroit they’re longsuffering rejects from Jerry Springer to the point it’s destroyed they’re dubious family values. Speaking of family values, Deadliest Catch, which used to educate us on the trials of crab fishing the Bering Sea now spends its time trying to justify the erratic and repulsive actions of lunatic captains. If life on the sea was really that way, there’d be stacks of Coast Guard reports saying “Dunno, he just fell overboard.”

It’s like every attempt at improvement makes things worse in a kind of graveyard spiral of lemming oriented brain cells. A look at politics makes it absolutely clear that people with advanced degrees and all of the advantages in the world can be incredibly ignorant and uneducated in spite of it all. Those shouting about freedom the loudest clearly demonstrating they not once looked the word up in a dictionary. Those claiming to want to return us to the values of the founding fathers prove unequivocally they have no idea of early American history. I mean, Sarah Palin thought that Paul Revere’s ride was about gun control before there was a constitution to be amended a second time. I don’t weep for the future, I view it in the stunned shock of someone witnessing a massacre. Of babies. Holding teddy bears. And kittens.

Our religions have become politicized to the point we have notable leaders explaining that God has nothing to do with the occurrance of rape but everything to do with the outcome. Or Gabby Gifford, still not recovered from being shot in the head in a Burger King parking lot stands at a press conference with her husband holding aloft the AK-47 assault rifle they just purchased. Or candidates for office telling us that a college education is an insult to hard working Americans. Doesn’t that give you the same feeling you get sitting down in the subway and feeling wetness soaking through your rear end as you realize the drunk in the next seat just threw up?

There’s a fly in the ointment here. A ghost in the machine. It’s like we have disavowed the laws of nature to bow to the God of Murphy’s Law. We are the epitome of the Peter Principle on steroids, and as Christine Aguilera sang, “It just keeps gettin’ better.”

And folks wonder why there are misanthropes.