Saturday's child

"We really need it."

This is what everyone was saying about the rain before we were actually getting it and it's now referred to as, "All this damned rain."

Recently a lot of people got way more rain than they needed, including 22 people who died as a result of tropical storm Allison. One of them was a 42-year-old woman in Houston who drowned in an elevator. She was in the elevator and the elevator was in the basement when the building flooded.

Think about that. This woman didn't get to live to be 42 by being stupid. She probably followed the same advice for a safe and happy life we all do: "Wear sunscreen," "Exercise regularly" and "Don't drive like an idiot," only to drown in an elevator. This is why it doesn't pay to make any plans. You imagine that life has structure, that you're on some kind of track, rambling though it may be, and the next thing you know you're up to your ankles in water in some elevator in Houston and the only thing left on your "to-do" list is, "Meet maker. Give him/her piece of my mind."

Fate writes stuff in your Palm Pilot sometimes that no human imagination could dream up. It sounds grim, but think about all those people who never thought they'd win the lottery and fainted on the living room floor when it actually happened.

Animated response

The Fickle Finger of Fate is a good reason not to take plans too seriously, or at least it sounds like a good reason to those of us who are bad at making them. As adults we are already supposed to have looked into things like buying a house and saving up for our future plastic surgeries, but a lot of us just can't seem to buy into the fact that time is passing. My friend Chas recently offered the perfect explanation for why some of us turned out as haphazard as we did.

"This is a direct result of the Saturday morning cartoons we watched as kids," he said. "On cartoons the only one who ever had a life plan was the villain. The villain always had a scheme." And, as we all know, it was always thwarted, thwarted by those meddling kids who were just sort of drifting around randomly in the Mystery Machine. The villain would spend years believing his life would have some kind of structure, reward and meaning, only to have it all foiled by a dog with a speech impediment.

The heroes, on the other hand, never had a plan. Batman never had a plan. He just lived his ordinary millionaire/superhero double life, took calls from the Bat phone as they came, stopped crime and moved along, living in the moment. Bugs Bunny never had a plan, except to get to Pismo Beach, a plan which was always thwarted. But, like Batman, he spent his days going with the flow and making idiots out of the villains and their elaborate plots, eventually becoming a hero and a legend. Subconsciously, those of us who drift around in this way probably think this will happen to us, too.

The Singing Frog is another great example of what cartoons have to teach us about life. My friend Theresa believes the Warner Brothers singing frog to be a veritable masterpiece and a great metaphor for how things really are. An ordinary joe finds the singing frog and has designs on it making him rich (plan for future). But when he shows him off to bigwigs, the frog merely croaks (thwarted). This, Theresa says, is an example of how life will give you something amazing, only to snatch it away, like a trick handshake. It will come back, but never when you're looking for it to do so. The stuff of life is not like pay-per-view; you cannot get it on demand. Yours is but to accept stuff as it comes for what it is. You cannot make the frog sing. You can just be happy when it does.

Shark bait

Shark bait

Cartoons can teach you a great deal, and I could probably write about them all day, but even I could never rhapsodize about TV as much as the people at

Jump The Shark is a website passed on to me by the Weekly's Steve Schneider. It refers to an episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzi was going to jump his motorcycle over a shark tank, at which point the show became stupid to the point of unwatchability. With the possible exception of The Simpsons, all shows that run for a while seem to Jump the Shark, and the site lists them, along with reader input as to when, if ever, various programs J'd the S. It's a really fun site, plus it's comforting to know that there are a lot of people who have strong opinions about "Family Ties" and you aren't one of them.

And here again, TV analysis can teach us something valuable. If your own life is not going the way you want it to, look back, see where it jumped the shark, and try to think of some plot twists to see if you can't make the next episode better.

Just don't go trying to put a shark into an elevator. That's a story no one would believe.

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