Friday, October 31, 2014

The Third Ass Clown of the Month Award for October, 2014

Today is not only Halloween, the day when we celebrate all things scary ... it's also the day to announce

Our Third Ass Clown of the Month Award for October!

And how appropriate is it that one of the scariest times of all - Election Day - is coming up in just a few days?

With that in mind, it seemed only logical to seek for our latest Ass Clown designee in the world of politics, and therefore it gives me great pleasure to announce that our final Ass Clown dishonoree for the month of October is an individual who is winning the award for the third time* ...

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Mr Boehner edged out many other worthy candidates for his third citation with this amazing comment he made earlier this week (you can watch it in context here):

"... does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No! Even Putin is smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds!"

Mr Boehner seems to be suffering from GOP historical amnesia, having conveniently forgotten that, on Mr Bush's watch, Vladimir Putin invaded the independent nation of Georgia without having his nose punched.

For his blatant ignorance of history and straight-faced peddling of political fantasy utterly disconnected from reality, John Boehner is named our third Ass Clown of the Month for October, 2014.

Remember things like this next week when you go to the polls.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for a special election edition of Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


* You can review his earlier awards here and here, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Your Voter Preparation Kit

Let it not be said that all I do is bitch and moan about the ridiculous conduct of our political parties and the lack of respect they show for the average voter. As a public service for you, Dear Readers, here is my free preparation kit to help you get ready to go to the polls ...

Yes, it's a grain of salt. Use it every time you listen to a stupid TV spot or robocall.

You're welcome.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ask Bilbo: The Answers, Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of the answers to "Ask Bilbo!" Yesterday I answered the questions posed by Brandi, Meredith, Heidi, and Linda Kay. Today, we turn to our final four respondents ...

5. Gonzo Dave asked: "What's your opinion on Congressional term limits?"

I used to believe that Congressional term limits weren't necessary because the voters would throw the bums out when they'd worn out their electoral welcome, but I don't think that any more. Voters are lazy and keep voting for the incumbent as long as he (or she) hasn't been convicted of a major felony, and the enormous amounts of money pumped into campaigns by special interests keeps the "right" people coming back election after election. The Constitution limits the President to two terms ... I think we should also put a two-term limit in place for our members of Congress to keep them fresh and honest. Or as honest as they're ever likely to get.

6. Elvis asked two questions:

a. Do you think the Washington Redskins should change their mascot? How about the Boston Red Sox?

Given the number of burning issues we need to address in this country, the name of the Washington Redskins is a small and silly one except to the people who care about it above all else. Go ahead and change the name; not all of our problems have such an easy fix. But good luck getting everyone to agree on a new name. As for the Boston Red Sox, they can change, too ... I suggest changing to "Rainbow Sox" as a nod to the LGBT community.

b. Should large states like California and Texas subdivide into smaller ones?

Heavens, no!! Texans are enough of a pain in the ass with one state, much less two. And there's no need to subdivide California - before long the Big One will hit and half the state will slide into the Pacific and solve the problem.

7. Angel asked three questions:

a. Do you think that we need a third political party?

If the two political parties we already have don't grow up and learn to cooperatively govern, yes. A solid centrist party, appealing to people in the range between conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, would be a good alternative to the stable of drooling horse's asses we have now. Of course, the monied special interests would never let it happen, but it's a nice fantasy*.

b. Is wearing crop tops and bikinis appropriate for women above age 25?

It depends upon the woman. There are some women under the age of 25 who have no business being seen in public in crop tops or bikinis, and other women in their 40s and 50s who can look smashing in them. It all depends on the lady and her body, and she should be smart enough to choose styles of clothing that flatter her. Wearing a crop top or a bikini because she thinks it makes her look younger and more attractive doesn't always work out ... and can seriously backfire**. And by the way, the same could be said for men who try to wear speedos and muscle shirts regardless of their build, thinking it makes them look studly. Anyone who's been to a beach or a public pool knows how well that works out for a lot of men.

c. Do you think that the quarantine measures being taken regarding Ebola are necessary or an overreaction?

Ebola is a terrible disease that definitely requires serious prophylactic measures including selective quarantines. But I also think that because ebola is so terrifying, because the news media has done such an irresponsible job of reporting the true danger, and because it's a convenient club for the GOP to use to beat the administration in an election year, many of the measures being taken - including imposing ill-targeted quarantines and calls for flight bans from specific countries - are an overreaction driven more by fear and politics than by medical necessity.

8. Peggy also asked multiple questions:

a. Do you think Virginia will split into North and South as the southern part of the state wishes?

No. I think the two parts of the commonwealth need each other and will grit their teeth and stay together. But if they did decide to split and things got edgy, it might be interesting to see how we'd go about recruiting the new Army of Northern Virginia from the crowds of yuppies sipping lattes at Starbucks or hanging out at the local malls.

b. Do you think that we will survive the political ads and ugliness that is going to be starting soon?

What do you mean, starting soon? At least here in NoVa, the ugliness has been with us for weeks. Will we survive? We've survived all the other ugly elections, so I guess we'll survive this one, too. It's just a shame we have to think of elections in terms of survival.

And there you are ... the second installment of "Ask Bilbo." I hope you enjoyed the answers you received as much as I enjoyed coming up with them for you. If not, well, I'll be glad to respond to your "Ask (Your Name Here)."

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Especially when compared to some of the other fantasies I might ... or might not ... have.

** As you know if you've ever spent any time in a Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ask Bilbo: The Answers, Part 1

Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!

The last time I tried the "Ask Bilbo" theme, it took a few days to get enough questions to run a post with the answers. As of right now, I have questions from eight of my Dear Readers (several with multiple questions). There are a lot of you out there who are starved for information!

So, what I'm going to do is respond in two separate posts: the first half today, and the rest tomorrow. If there are any more, we'll get to them later. Here we go ...

1. Meredith asked: "Do you think Andrew Cuomo should run for president?"

Based on what I know about him, I think he should probably run. He's certainly no worse than any other possible candidates, and in some ways I think he may be better. Most of what I know, I read on his official Governor of New York website, and on the source-of-all-knowledge Wikipedia page.

2. Big Sky Heidi asked: "What foreign language do you think it is especially beneficial to learn?"

I think it depends on what you want to do and where you want to travel. Spanish is the obvious choice for 21st century America ... after all, there are a lot of places in the US of A nowadays where English is close to being a second language, and Spanish is widely spoken in Central and South America. If you are more interested in international affairs or business, Mandarin Chinese may be a better choice. China is an up-and-coming world power, and a knowledge of Chinese may be increasingly important in the coming years. French is still useful, as it is spoken in much of the world, and remains a key language of diplomacy and culture, but it's less important than the French would like to believe. As much as I love German, I have to say that it's a somewhat less useful language nowadays.

3. Brandi asked: "Do you approve of boob jobs?"

It's not really my place to approve or disapprove. In general, I don't think they're necessarily a good idea, particularly if it's done simply to please a partner who thinks boob size is the most important measure of a lady. It is fairly serious surgery, after all. But ultimately it's the lady's decision, and if it makes her feel good, then she should go ahead and do it.

4. Linda Kay asked: "In reference to Brandi's question, is a face lift appropriate for someone who is 76? Have a friend going for one."

My comment to Meredith still applies. I think face lifts are fine for people who can afford them and want to maintain a youthful appearance, but they generally aren't necessary and just reflect a desire to ignore the fact that we all tend to get older. If it makes the person feel better, go ahead and do it. For myself, I subscribe to the philosophy laid out by the German entertainer Harald Juhnke in his song titled "Keine Falte tut mir leid" ("No Wrinkle Bothers Me"):

"Ich sag dir keine Falte tut mir leid,
Ich bin ein Mann mit viel Vergangenheit"

"I tell you, no wrinkle bothers me -
I'm a man with a lot of past."

I am, indeed, a fellow with a lot of past. And looking to the future, tomorrow I'll answer the questions from Angel and Gonzo Dave, More thoughts then ... be here!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Ask Bilbo

With all of the problems and issues going on in the world, and an election coming up next week in which all we know about the candidates is how bad each one says the other is, don't you wish you had a real source of information on which you could rely? Someone you could ask the tough questions and get straight (or at least, less crooked) answers?

Your wait is over!

A few months have gone by since the last time we tried this (you can read the last one here), so let's give it another go ... it's time to

Ask Bilbo!

Yes, Dear Readers - now's your chance. Leave a comment and ask any question (within the bounds of good taste, of course ... children read this blog), and the Fairfax County Curmudgeon-at-Large will answer it for you. You can also e-mail your questions to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com if you want a personal answer or you'd rather not advertise to all the other readers. As soon as I get enough questions to make a full post, I'll answer them, so submit yours today!

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Poetry Sunday

Halloween is coming up on Friday, and I was going to post Edgar Allan Poe's classic "The Raven" as today's poem ... but then I changed my mind. I first ran across this short, complex poem by Wallace Stevens when parts of it were quoted in Stephen King's novel Salem's Lot, and I didn't fully realize how quietly unsettling it was until I finally read the whole thing ...

The Emperor of Ice-Cream
by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

If you want to read a detailed analysis of the poem and its meaning, there's an excellent one at the Poetry Foundation's website - you can read it here.

Happy Halloween. Go ahead and leave the lights on ...

More thoughts coming.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cartoon Saturday: the Halloween Edition

The hits just keep on hitting us ...

A freshman at a high school in Washington state carried a gun into the school cafeteria and shot five fellow students, killing one, before turning the gun on himself; in New York City, a man who was evidently a self-radicalized convert to Islam attacked a group of police officers with a hatchet, critically injuring one before being shot and killed by other officers; the governor of the Mexican state of Guerrero has stepped down after being criticized for his poor handling of the mass kidnapping of 43 students; the television "reality show" Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo has been cancelled by the TLC network after allegations that the mother of the titular star is in a relationship with a convicted sex offender who served ten years in prison for child molestation; and a government report states that in January 1998, government agents and lawyers mistreated former White House intern Monica Lewinsky to get her to cooperate with an investigation into former President Bill Clinton.

Cheer up ... only a week to go and we've made it out of October. But then comes the election ... oy. Better get to the cartoons right away!

This week, we'll feature thirteen* Halloween-oriented, ghostly, monstrous cartoons ... bwa, ha, HAAAAAAAA!!! ...

The aftermath of the party is always rough, even if you're a jack-o-lantern ...

Even vampires are not free of political chicanery ...

Mummies have it tough, don't they? ...

I can't think of a much more terrifying Halloween costume than that ...

The day after can be a letdown, can't it? ...

Scared ... well ... you know ...

Yes, indeed, those are some seriously scary decorations ...

I feel that way watching all the stupid campaign ads, too ...

This was the sort of commentary my father always had about the horror movies we watched at home ...

Sometimes the mirrors just don't work for you ...

And neither does the camera in the phone ...

Colder than a witch's ... uh ... you know ...

And finally, even a spirit can get busted! ...

And that's it for this year's Cartoon Saturday Halloween edition. I hope my little bit of seasonal levity helped take the edge of the yucky week. It looks like it's going to be a nice weekend here in NoVa weather-wise ... which is good because later this morning we're going to a "Trunk or Treat" Halloween party in the parking lot of our granddaughter's school, after which my daughter has visions of me helping her move more dirt and rocks as she continues carrying out her landscaping plans.

These relaxing weekends will kill me yet.

Have a good day. Be here tomorrow for our special Halloween edition of Poetry Sunday ... I've scared up a timely poem for you.


* The usual Cartoon Saturday offering is ten cartoons, but thirteen just seemed like a better number for some reason ...

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Great Moments in Editing

Gonzo Dave called me out two weeks ago on some of my selections for Great Moments in Editing, suggesting that they were not so much editorial faux pas (fauxs pas? fauxes pas? faux passes? whatever) as intentional puns or bits of irony. No matter. They're funny, and that's what counts, eh? Here's our selection for this period ...

There's nothing like a little truth in advertising ...

Things seem to have changed a lot since I went to the prom ...

Aerosol? ...

Bankers' mathematics ... no wonder the economy is so screwed up ...

I wonder if they needed four people with different lengths of fingers to sign the performance ...

Yes, that's how he always sounded to me, too ...

It's what you need for cooking foreign cuisine ...

Or fixing your bilingual hedgehog ...

I've always hated those bones ...

And finally, you just know there's a great backstory here ...

There you have it - another collection of gems found in print and video. Do they reflect poor editing or were they deliberate? You decide. Just enjoy the ride.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the Halloween Edition of Cartoon Saturday.

More thoughts then.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Things That Piss Us Off at Chez Bilbo

Agnes and I are pretty easy-going folks most of the time. Nevertheless, there are some things that really irritate us. Here are a few of them:

- Television news programs that look like 1960's-era disco shows. When the screen is so full of crawlers, flashing lights, fancy animated graphics, and other distractions that you can't concentrate on the news*, how do you learn anything? When the graphics are more important than the news, it's no wonder that the average American is so woefully uninformed**.

- Political robocalls. When the Caller ID says "Not Available" or "Blocked," and when you answer and hear a few seconds of silence before the recording kicks in, you know it's another useless political attack ad that tells you nothing except how stupid and lacking in original thought the sponsors are ... and how little they respect your intelligence.

- Charity solicitations by phone, especially when the local police association calls for donations, The person who calls is usually a police officer who booms out at you with his intimidating command voice: CAN WE COUNT ON YOU TO HELP THE BOYS OUT??

- Door-to-door political flacks who can't answer questions about their candidate's or party's positions and don't know anything that isn't on their script or list of talking points. Before the last presidential election, two ladies showed up at my door to drum up votes for the McCain/Palin ticket ... and couldn't answer a single policy or issue-related question I asked. All they could do was tell me (in so many words) that I was stupid and un-American for not enthusing over the GOP ticket, and for implying that the Democrats might have some ideas worth listening to. Don't tell me what a scum-sucking, bottom-feeding, ethically-challenged dirtbag the other guy is ... tell me - specifically - what your guy (or gal) will do if elected and why I should invest my vote.

- Hard-sell salesmen. And if you think that I hate hard-sell salesmen, you ought to see Agnes. Many years ago, we were shopping for a car for her, and went to a local dealership to see what was available. Within seconds, a salesman attached himself to us like a barnacle to a ship's hull. We told him very clearly that we were only looking and were not going to buy. He proceeded to follow us all over the lot at a distance of about six inches, and every time we stopped to look at a car, he launched into a rapid-fire hard sell routine ("what's it going to take to put you good folks in this car today?"). Within ten minutes, he'd pissed Agnes off so badly that she stormed off the lot ... at that point, he could have given her the car, thrown in free service, gas, and insurance for life, hired a chauffeur, and given her a perpetually paid-up E-Z Pass transponder, and she'd have still told him to go to hell and close the door behind him.

Trust me ... you do not want to see this side of my Very Best Beloved.

Okay, these are a few of the things that piss us off. How about you, Dear Reader ... what are the things that irritate you? Leave a comment and share the grouchiness.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Which, given the news nowadays, may not be a bad thing after all.

** One might say, "stupid."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rules for the Modern Man

You may well be tired of reading about various rules in this blog lately. After all, within the last month I offered some commentary on updated rules of chivalry, followed by rules to live by (Part 1 and Part 2). But at the risk of boring you with more rules than the US Code, I thought I'd share yet another set: rules for the modern man.

I first ran across an excerpt of the list on the website of James Michael Sama, the leader of the New Chivalry Movement, and then read the full list - The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Man - here. Both lists are way too long ... here are a few items that caught my attention, with my commentary (of course):

1. If riding the bus doesn't incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will. I can't agree with this one. We have a nice car, but I ride the bus to work every day, and find it a great stress reliever to leave the driving in #%$@! DC traffic to someone else. Plus it gives me time to read (see #6 below) or catch a quick nap on the way to work. Trust me ... you are not too good to ride a bus.

2. You probably use your cell phone too often and at the wrong moments.
 No question about this one. There are a lot of eejits out there who would probably go into screaming withdrawal if they didn't have their phones.

3. Ask for a salad instead of fries. I should have done this years ago. Sigh.

4. Do not use an electric razor. I have yet to find an electric razor that will give a clean, close shave that lasts more than a few hours. If you just need to touch up in the evening or before a big meeting, it's probably okay ... but in general, I think electric razors are a waste of money.

5. Staying angry is a waste of energy. In general, I agree with this one. But sometimes there's a source of anger that just begs to be kept stoked. I have one of those, and he knows who he is.

6. Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party – provided that you don’t initiate conversation with, “So, who are you reading …” This is a no-brainer. And if you want to be a no-brainer, don't read.

And finally ...

7. #StopItWithTheHashtags. Oh, heavens yes! It would be hard to tell you how sick I am of seeing a hashtag on everything. Let's go back to a simpler time, when the hashtag just told you how much the hash cost down at the local diner.

Do you have any rules you follow for modern living? Leave a comment and let us know.

Have a good day. Remember that "rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

More thoughts tomorrow.