Is Y2K keeping you up at night? A British Medical Journal editorial
discusses the phenomenon of Y2K
from a
psychiatric and epidemiological perspective. Apparently its peculiar
sour flavor derives from the combination of unlimited ambiguity (we
don’t really know what will happen or how bad it will be) with a
concrete deadline (we do know when). BMJ alerted me to
1-800-THERAPIST, a
therapist-referral website that has instituted a special page devoted to
ways of managing Y2K
anxiety. A visit to the site yielded the further, rather pause-giving,
information that “Y2K Anxiety Day” has been scheduled for Dec. 1. That
day, therapists with special expertise in the area will be donating
their time through the site. You can reach one via email, in online
chat, or by calling 1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274).

I can’t help feeling this is all a bit silly, but then I’m fairly
resistant to the whole idea of psychotherapy. It’s not that I think it’s
invalid, it’s just that I can’t seem to take it seriously in practice.
Pay a stranger $150 every week to sit in a comfortable chair for 50
minutes and listen to me describe myself and my oh-so-tortured little
past, ad nauseam? I don’t think so. If you need to “manage” your Y2K
anxiety, I suggest a good corn muffin: there’s nothing like a
mid-afternoon carbohydrate bonanza for a natural Valium-like effect. A
basement well stocked with a couple of weeks’ worth of bottled water,
candles, batteries, tampons (sorry, but you or your female household
members will thank me later) and the obligatory canned goods couldn’t
hurt either.

Phonics as a right-wing plot

In the whole-language
controversy in reading education, which I touched upon briefly last
week, a helpful reader wrote in to recommend a recent Phyllis Schlafly
essay on the subject. It seems that a major education textbook has
declared phonics to be part of the vast right-wing
stands accused of — horrors! — wanting children to be able to get all
of the words in a sentence right so that they can read the Bible more
accurately. Yes, you did read that sentence correctly. I realize that,
as a columnist, I’m not supposed to be speechless, I’m supposed to come
up with a terribly trenchant response to whatever presents itself, but
I’m afraid I’ve met my match with this one. Let
handle it. I’ve never been a really tremendous fan of hers, but at least
she can articulate more than my own semi-hysterical, choking splutters
regarding this lunacy.

Got milk?

Remember Woody Allen’s priceless retelling of the story of Job? It
started like this: “And the Lord slew a tenth part of Job’s kine, and
Job cried out: ‘Why dost Thou slay my kine? Kine are hard to come by.
Now I am short kine and I’m not even sure what kine are.'” If you, like
Job, are short kine, come to Chicago, which has a plethora of them just
now. There’s an exhibition all over the city involving life-sized
painted by various local artists,
and if you can’t make plane fare to the Windy City this month, you can
still get a really good tour of it online. You can also
download something
called a “digital cow form” to decorate on your own and (if you wish)
e-mail back to the site, where it will be posted in all its glory.

Follow the yellow brick road

The McDonald’s Trip Planner

offers much the same service as ordinary route-mapping sites like
MapBlast and
MapQuest — in fact, I believe it’s
powered by MapBlast — but adds a dab of special sauce: it’ll also give
you the location of all the McDonald’s restaurants along your route.
Cheesy, I know, but road-trippers with small children may find this a
legitimately useful service.

Incidentally, you can purchase an exorbitantly priced cookie jar
shaped like Grimace, the McDonald’s-shake-lover of indeterminate species
who looks like a blunt, purple Hershey’s Kiss,
I am told that, way back in the 1970s, Grimace used to be a “baddie”
character who stole shakes and had four arms. (I put credence in this
because it could, sort of, explain his being named “Grimace,” which is a
mite peculiar as a moniker for a cuddly children’s character, no? I
mean, what marketing genius came up with that one?) Any reader who can
direct me to an image, icon, or representation of the Evil Grimace will
experience my undying gratitude and, if desired, free publicity in this
space. I’ve been looking for one for about four years with no luck.

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