Sock garters sold separately

The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant finished up all the taxes and felt in need of one of these:

This set The Rant to wondering how the barrel fashion statement came to be viewed as an image of poverty. Our story begins around 400 BCE with the philosopher Diogenes. You might remember Diogenes as the guy that wandered around with a lamp searching for an honest person. How cynical. Exactly (philosophy joke).

When Diogenes moved to Athens, he took up residence in a barrel, or tub, to demonstrate his adaptability and rejection of accumulating material comforts. Diogenes’s name translates loosely to “He that Rants,” (Very loosely, as in not really. The Rant has little Greek and less Latin) which makes him our Rant Pappy. When Plato defined a human as a featherless biped, Diogenes plucked a chicken and introduced it around town as his fellow human. The Rant wonders if this might be a solution to our geese situation. Enjoying a sunny day, Diogenes found himself in the presence of Alexander the Great, who came to pay his respects. Alexander offered to grant him any request. “Stand out of my light,” said Diogenes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, European countries sometimes forced drunkards to wear barrels as a form of humiliation. The Rant would rather stagger around in a barrel than spend time in the stocks any day. Not that The Rant has ever been inebriated. We drink purely for medicinal purposes. Perhaps requiring bars to keep a supply of barrels on hand would reduce the occurrence of DWIs. That’s it buddy; into the barrel. Someone give this guy a roll home.

In the 1920s the cartoonist Will B. Johnstone created a character called The Taxpayer, always portrayed as broke and wearing a barrel. Johnstone had a fascinating career. He also wrote for the Marx Brothers with S.J. Perelman while composing songs and musicals with his brothers.

As the depression took hold in America, The Taxpayer seems to have been transformed into anyone that lost everything. The garb even came to be known as a bankruptcy barrel. The Rant remembers seeing the image often growing up, in cartoons and on television, although its prevalence declined markedly, except for that Denver Broncos fan, Barrel Man. Tim McKernan wore his orange barrel, cowboy hat and boots to Broncos home games for thirty years. He died in 2009. The Rant admires his tenacity, and we also admire the man that purchased the barrel, Mike Fruitman, for in his words, thoroughly Febreezing the barrel before allowing his son to wear it. We probably would have given The Wolf a call, but to each his own.

All this barrel talk allows The Rant a distraction from those taxes we pay while Congress works diligently to continue summoning loopholes for the precious One Percent, we’re sorry, Job Creators, that need every penny to pay their undocumented workers less than the minimum wage. Lately John Tanning Bed Boehner and the gang have been laboring to relieve the overburdened wealthy of the estate tax so can they transfer their appreciated assets to the next generation without even having to pay the ridiculously low capital gains tax. Forget the One Percent: the top 0.1% of rich Americans control as much wealth as the bottom 90%. But heaven forefend they contribute anything to the common good.

Meanwhile in the corporate world, Apple currently has $158 billion in cash overseas to avoid paying taxes on it, while Google has parked around $39 billion offshore. While some members of Congress go on and on about the scourge of food stamps and other safety net programs, they happily fight for tax incentives and subsidies for corporations that are, what’s the word? Oh yeah, welfare payments.

The Rant would just appreciate a day where we could take comfort in the fact that while we pay our fair share billionaires and Fortune 500 companies are doing the same. Perhaps we’ll get a lamp and search for one honest tax system. The Rant needs a drink. Better keep a barrel handy.




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