There’s been a poopular trend since the emergence of the cellphone. It occurs, like rodent infestations, in any public place where humans congregate. Restaurants, airports, city buses, beaches, lobbies, ski gondolas, coffee shops, train cars, checkout lines, and general waiting areas are all potential problem spots. I like to call it the “grenade boast.” It happens when the voluble sap on his or her cellphone shouts some tedious nugget of personal pride into the device only to inform the rest of the people within earshot about it. Idiotic, transparent, uncomfortable, it’s like someone forcing proximate strangers to wear their cold, wet bathing suit for ten or fifteen minutes. I actually heard this dim bulb next to me on a conference call apologize for not being able to discuss certain sensitive areas of a business deal because he was on a public bus, on his way to Snowmass for some skiing. He was encouraged, at that point, to get off as soon as possible by a couple of teeth grinders ready to commit a very justifiable homicide, tired as they were of listening to him drone on. After it was all over someone even suggested going back in time to kill Alexander Graham Bell. Things have gotten serious when otherwise reasonable people are considering an anachronistic murder rampage to change the course of history, and not even for the vilified leaders that probably deserve it like Hitler and Stalin and such, but for a mild, thoughtful Scottish inventor who only wanted to be able to have pizza delivered or make late night drunken phone calls to his friends.

Jesus Horatio Christ, did I write poopular in my opening line? Hang on, let me reread that. Looks like it. I’m usually pretty good about typos, but there it is. Poopular. I’m forced to consider, now, that maybe this is not an error. This word is meant to be there. Poopular. Let me think a minute, hang on, again. [Time elapse.] I’m back. I’ve decided the word connotes a new fad or craze that is complete and total crap. That being said, it is extremely poopular to bluster in public on a cellphone, with the ready-made excuse that the person on the phone is just exercising their first amendment right to shout their achievements, real or imagined, into a state-of-the-art communication device and that it is the casual bystander who is at fault for not being able to resist being impressed by the long list of accomplishments, real or imagined. 

There’s so much poopular stuff out there these days like selfie-sticks, the shake weight, slut-shamed Barbie, male-pattern-baldness Ken, and those travel pillows that make it look like the person has their head stuck in a giant marshmallow. There are also poopular people, people who are well-known for being self absorbed wastes, like Martin Shkreli, that “affluenza” kid from Texas, the spawn of Robert Kardashian, and any talentless kid with famous parents, or talentless parents with famous kids, for that matter. Bad taste creates a lot more millionaires than good taste, as the saying goes, and so the word poopular is tailor-made for current trends.  As H.L. Mencken put it, “No one in this world, as far as I know, has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people.” He is also the coiner of the term “Booboisie” in reference to that same great mass of plain people. I’m sure one day he just mistyped bourgeoisie and became keenly happy about his accident. Right on, Mr. Mencken.

Once while drinking, (go figure), I tangled up the words “conversationalist” and “conservationist,” saying that I was a “conservationalist” only because I never wasted scotch, instead tending to drink it all, all of it, every drop. Someone pointed out my word mashup and we had a good laugh. We then decided, since the scotch was still flowing, that the fake word, “conservationalist,” was actually a real one, and it meant “person who thinks they are environmentally conscious because they buy stuff that says “organic” on it and use tote bags at the supermarket but really aren’t because they run their electricity nonstop and have huge cars and take hour-long showers and throw away tons of food.”   


One of the great voices of American law passed away this week. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. I was always fond of reading Scalia, even though I didn’t much agree with his Manichean worldview. He was at his best when penning his dissenting opinions, where the minority gets to tell the majority that they have royally screwed the pooch. His essays always had a certain street verve to them while still based on a meticulous interpretation of the Constitution. He rivaled the great writers Lewis Carroll and James Joyce for floral prose. In fact I have woven together some of Scalia’s best bon mots with the other two titans of literature. See if you can spot who is who.

“Go in for scribenery with the satiety of arthurs and inform to the old sniggering publicking press and its nation of sheepcopers about the whole plighty troth between them, ma’ lady of milady made melodi of malodi. And, as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came. To be engaged in argle-bargle, is to swallow the lexicon and gargle. To shred  the Constitution, as one may leave a trail of crumbs through the dark woods, is to invite the glistening tongue of cannibalistic witches, where all the jiggery-pokery won’t save you from the heated cauldron, and the evil ditches. You ivory tower, liberal pricks.”

More Alembics to come.

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