Ask Howard • 09-16-22 – Dallas Voice

Second Amendment

End times? Or just that kind of September?

Try to remember the kind of September …
Everyone keeps asking me if the world is ending. I’m no prophet; however, here’s a trio of new mind-puzzlers y’all are welcome to ponder: 1. Quiet quitting; 2. Zaporizhzhia; 3. Functional extinction. Imminently, in this unkind September of ours, these three stumpers shall soon become catchall, household phrases.

Quiet quitting: Like toadstools in autumn, this nimbus idiom suddenly seems to be popping up everywhere, overnight. For those of you coming up for a breath of air from Grindr, quiet quitting is our new world order’s new-age term for showing up to work physically, whilst being both emotionally and mentally clocked-out. It’s doing the bare, employee-minimum to preserve one’s paycheck from going pink-slip.
You know, zombie employees.

Consider Gen Z Zoomers’ distinctive hallmark traits: indifference, malaise and ennui. Quiet quitting, basically, is a metonymy maxim for post-COVID, workplace apathy — a powder keg of superfluous inertia fused with dingaling nihilism. All we’re waiting for is the inevitable explosion.

When grass was green and grain was yellow …

Zaporizhzhia: Anybody heard of it? You will. The Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power facility, is about to go Chernobyl — with a cherry on top. Now, whether or not its radioactive cloud of toxicity will waft all the way across the pond here to Freedom’s Land is anybody’s biohazardous guess. Meanwhile, whomever can even pronounce “Zaporizhzhia” correctly deserves congratulations.

Hey, Captain Tripps — Putin, I mean; excuse me — before you vaporize all of Europe, don’t forget to stockpile your new, secret escape superyacht with a lifetime supply of iodine tablets! (Where’s that rascal, Randall Flagg, when you need him?)

When you were a tender and callow fellow …

Functional extinction. Hello? So, you’ve not heard of this one, either, guys? It’s September, already! Summer has ended, vacation’s over … Come on now! “Functional extinction” refers to any diversified species whose individual numbers drop too small to maintain a viable population. In the wild, that point-of-no-return number is 200. For example, when the dodo bird — native only to the island of Mauritius — was gobbled down to its final remaining 199 survivors, even had the sailors’ gorge-fest stopped immediately, it would then still have been too late to save the poor, dumb, flightless creature. Victim already to a negative feedback loop, it was doomed to ultimate extinction; albeit, functionally visible in the wild for a few more defeated years until the very last living dodo, a female, died in 1693.

A modern-day parallel is China’s dugong “sea cow” — a saltwater cousin of the manatee (also functionally extinct) — which can no longer be found in large enough numbers off the coastal waters of China to reproduce faster than it’s disappearing. Having been around since the Eocene Epoch, 54 million years ago, it required mankind but a mere few decades of enthusiastic habitat degradation to take the dugong beyond the brink: “Apres mois, le deluge.”

Try to remember when life was so tender …

Cheer up, though, bois. You may not even live to see Armageddon. For the second straight year in a row now, according to the CDC, U.S. life expectancy has fallen, with men now expected to live, on average, a paltry 73.2 years (nearly six years fewer than women).

Only three years ago, in 2019, the average life expectancy of an American male was 78 years. Then, of course, in 2020, our real-life opening chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand began. By 2021, 460,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in the United States, alone. Shortly thereafter, came a million.

Altho’ you know that snow will follow …

Whoever knows, though, how one’s going to go? Or when? Hell, who’s to say you won’t just tumble out of a window today? Splat! Quick. Easy. No time for prolonged agony or regrets — as just happened only two weeks ago in Moscow to the chairman of Russia’s second largest oil producer, who was also a vocal critic of the Ukraine invasion. Poor thing, just toppled right out his hospital window, and on the very same day in fact when the President of Russia, himself just happened to have dropped by to offer his get-well-soon condolences. Indeed, a Purple Heart to the press, too, for so acidly noting that “faulty windows are extremely common in the vicinity of Putin critics.”

Without a hurt, the heart is hollow …

Dear Howard: My boyfriend bought another gun the other day to add to his bulging arsenal. He sees imaginary killers lurking everywhere in public and spouts the far right’s eternal mantra, “Biden wants to take away our right to bear arms!” I just throw up my arms, Howard. You got anything?”
— Win Chester

Dear W.C.: Nope. Sorry, dude. Got nothing. Here now, within our bumper-sticker/oxymoronic, Twilight Zone world we currently live in, where “Guns don’t kill people; only people with guns kill people,” it’s impossible to politely disagree rationally with “stooped,” considering the stupidly anachronistic NRA’s empowerment: Assault weapons and dumb citizenry evoking the Second Amendment will, forever, just be joined at the hip. Accept it. Look the other way. Take the high road. Dump the boyfriend. That’s the best I got.

Thus, children, concludes Dear Howard’s soapbox stance of the month; unfortunately, we’re plumb out of further page space for me to tackle more of your End Times’ queries, except to shake it back to you by asking, “Are we now all ‘woke’ yet?: In pithy closure, bois, I’ll leave y’all with these final words to chew on, courtesy writer Elizabeth Crane’s marvelous new memoir, This Story Will Change: “This story wants so much to have a happy ending, but it’s probably just going to have an ending.”

It’s nice to remember the fire of September/Our hearts should remember and follow, follow, follow.

— Howard Lewis Russell

Got a radioactive question for Howard, all hunkered down snugly there in your homemade bunker? Send your best doomsday specials to He may smugly answer you.


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