Sunday, September 16, 2018

Poetry Sunday

One of our favorite sports nowadays is taking down our previously-admired heroes, proving that they fall short of our praise and walk about on feet of the softest clay. It seems like not a day goes by on which some public figure or another is exposed and virtually pilloried for some offense, real or imagined, and one has to wonder why anyone would run for public office when every aspect of his or her life may become grist for the mill of public excoriation.

This week's poem by Rudyard Kipling looks at how the failings of a leader came to light - literally - on the Afghan frontier ...

A Code of Morals
by Rudyard Kipling

Now Jones had left his new-wed bride to keep his house in order,
And hied away to the Hurrum Hills above the Afghan border,
To sit on a rock with a heliograph; but ere he left he taught
His wife the working of the Code that sets the miles at naught.

And Love had made him very sage, as Nature made her fair;
So Cupid and Apollo linked, per heliograph, the pair.
At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise --
At e'en, the dying sunset bore her husband’s homilies.

He warned her 'gainst seductive youths in scarlet clad and gold,
As much as 'gainst the blandishments paternal of the old;
But kept his gravest warnings for (hereby the ditty hangs)
That snowy-haired Lothario, Lieutenant-General Bangs.

'Twas General Bangs, with Aide and Staff, who tittupped on the way,
When they beheld a heliograph tempestuously at play.
They thought of Border risings, and of stations sacked and burnt --
So stopped to take the message down -- and this is what they learnt --

"Dash dot dot, dot, dot dash, dot dash dot" twice. The General swore.
"Was ever General Officer addressed as 'dear' before?
"'My Love,' i' faith! 'My Duck,' Gadzooks! 'My darling popsy-wop!'
"Spirit of great Lord Wolseley, who is on that mountaintop?"

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute; the gilded Staff were still,
As, dumb with pent-up mirth, they booked that message from the hill;
For clear as summer lightning-flare, the husband's warning ran: --
"Don't dance or ride with General Bangs -- a most immoral man."

[At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise --
But, howsoever Love be blind, the world at large hath eyes.]
With damnatory dot and dash he heliographed his wife
Some interesting details of the General's private life.

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute, the shining Staff were still,
And red and ever redder grew the General's shaven gill.
And this is what he said at last (his feelings matter not): --
"I think we've tapped a private line. Hi! Threes about there! Trot!"

All honour unto Bangs, for ne'er did Jones thereafter know
By word or act official who read off that helio.
But the tale is on the Frontier, and from Michni to Mooltan
They know the worthy General as "that most immoral man."

Watch out for General Bangs ... there may soon be a need for a new Chief of Staff or National Security Advisor in the administration.

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. If you are in the path of Hurricane Florence, please stay safe ... I don't want to lose any of you.

More thoughts later.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Between a Category 1 hurricane and a Category 6 presidency, it's been a heck of a week ...

Hurricane Florence crawled ashore in North Carolina, bringing storm surge, winds, and the potential to dump ten trillion gallons of rain on the state, while on the other side of the world, typhoon Mangkhut has devastated parts of the Philippines; former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has entered a plea arrangement with the Justice Department in which he avoids further prosecution on federal crimes and agrees to cooperate with other investigations; thousands of people remain out of their homes near Boston after a series of devastating gas line explosions that killed at least one person and injured at least 23; and the temporary closure of an observatory in New Mexico has sparked wide-ranging speculation over its cause, especially after reports that the FBI was involved.

In the interest of being topical, I thought I'd offer some cartoons this week riffing on the subject of anonymity ... sadly, there aren't as many as I would have thought, so this week's selection is a bit shorter than usual.

That's not how this works, is it? ...

This is how it works ...

Anonymity is not always your friend ...

Everyone please take a seat ... or a creeper ...

Well, it would be, wouldn't it? ...

Who else do we know that will never admit to having any problems? ...

Hope that first guy doesn't stop suddenly ...

And that's it for this week. I thought I'd find a lot more cartoons on this topic in my collection than I did, but those I did find were, IMHO, pretty good. Hope you enjoyed them.

We are enjoying a relatively nice weekend here in NoVa, following our frantic preparations for the possible arrival of Hurricane Florence. I remember being here for Hurricane Isabel some years ago, which was bad enough, but nowhere near what we thought might happen this time. If you or your friends or loved ones are affected by Florence, I hope you are safe.

Have as good a weekend as you can, depending on where you live. See you tomorrow for more thoughts as Poetry Sunday returns.


Friday, September 14, 2018

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2018

It's a new month ... well, it's almost half over, but it's still "new" for our present purpose, which is the selection and announcement of

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2018

From the dishearteningly large pool of prospective awardees, I believe that one stands out for this period, and so I present the award to

An Anonymous Senior Official
in the
Trump Administration

Unless you have been living in a remote cave in the Gobi Desert for the last week or two, you know that the Trump administration has been thrown into a tizzy by the publication of a scathing op-ed article in the New York Times - attributed to "A Senior Official in the Trump Administration" - about resistance to Donald Trump by his own political appointees.

I have decided to present the award to this anonymous official because he (or she) has taken the coward's way out. It is one thing to oppose the actions of the administration on principle, but it is quite another to throw out accusations and hide behind a cloak of anonymity while still maintaining that "many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous." 

A senior administration official who sincerely believed that Donald Trump is an unfit president would have better served the nation and the presidency by standing up, making his (or her) accusations clearly, and resigning. By hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the individual simply gives Donald Trump a golden opportunity to rail about the "deep state," enrage his base, and deflect attention away from his actions which are damaging the long-term interests of the United States and its standing in the world. 

The identity of the anonymous writer will eventually be revealed. Unfortunately, the disastrous Trump presidency will go on, brushing aside the writer's concerns - and those of everyone else - like so many annoying gnats.

Have a good day. Expect better from the administration, but don't get your hopes too high.

More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday returns.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Debate by Meme

There was a time, not so long ago, when we read widely, thought deeply, and debated serious issues with each other. Unfortunately, that time is past. Nowadays, instead of mustering facts upon which we can all agree and using them to determine the best course of action to resolve issues, we trade memes.

I first read about the concept of a meme in 1995 in Howard Bloom's wonderful book The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History*. The meme of which Bloom writes is not the meme we understand today, and indeed the word has two distinct meanings. In the original context, a meme is "an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation." The present-day definition with which most of us are familiar is a bit different - "a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users."

In its original meaning, a meme represents a major idea or concept that spreads among populations - a religion like Catholicism or Islam or a political belief like Communism, for instance. Such a meme spreads by taking root in the minds of a target audience and changing their beliefs or behavior.

The memes swirling around the Internet today are vastly different. They attempt to use a humorous or sarcastic image to promote a bumper-sticker of an idea that appeals to those unable or unwilling to invest the time in carefully examining the issue in detail. Here's an example of a recent meme that showed up in my Facebook feed:

This is actually a double meme. The original one, on the top, was an attempt to push back against the tendency on the part of many politicians to insist on a leading role for Christian beliefs as a basis for the government. The second one, on the bottom, modifies the first to push back against a simplistic version of progressive ideas and a bastardized definition of socialism.

Reading through the comments posted to the original posting of the meme was more interesting and enlightening than the meme itself. For one thing, it showed that many commenters did not understand the difference between the Declaration of Independence (which spoke of inalienable rights endowed to man by a Creator**) and the Constitution (which makes no mention of religion other than to guarantee its free exercise*** and to proscribe the use of any religious test for public office). For another, it revealed the shallowness of understanding that comes with relying on simplistic memes rather than study and reasoned debate to advance ideas.

Memes can be funny. They cannot substitute for thought and for debate based on facts.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we name the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September. Be here.


* I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this book.

** Not a specifically Christian god.

*** Again, the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not limit such exercise to any specific religious belief, as much as many sincere believers would have you believe.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Musical Sunday

I realize that I've already used this wonderful song by Kid Creole and the Coconuts as a Musical Sunday offering (back on August 12th, not so long ago), but given the publication of Bob Woodward's new book about the internal chaos of the Trump White House, and the publication in the New York Times of the anonymous op-ed by a "senior administration official" on the same topic, I felt like it was a good time to bring it back. And anyway, who doesn't love the Coconuts? Here's my reprise of "Stool Pigeon" ...

Have a good day, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and consider that there are only two more days until the publication of Bob Woodward's book, of which you've already heard much, anyhow. I'm #115 on the waiting list for it at my local library.

More thoughts coming.


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Even by current standards, it's been a helluva week ...

The White House went into a finger-pointing uproar following publication of an anonymous op-ed article by a "senior administration official" expressing concern over Donald Trump's fitness to be president; Brazil's national museum was totally destroyed by a huge fire, with the loss of countless irreplaceable artifacts and files; hearings on the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court descended into partisan rancor and stonewalling, offering little insight into the nominee's judicial philosophy, and judge Kavanaugh declined to criticize Donald Trump's attacks on the independent judiciary; and good-ol'-boy actor Burt Reynolds passed away at the age of 82.

This week, let's look at cartoons about cavepersons, because why not? ...

Yes, deflection of responsibility is a longstanding practice ...

How evolution works ...

Caveat emptor ...

Teenagers never change ...

We're still worried about arms races ...

One bitrock = 100 pebbles ...

Wow ... something in common! ...

The dawn of legal specialization ...

Oh, oh ... hope he doesn't come home with mammoth instead of aurochs ...

Good question ...

And there you are - a collection of prehistoric humor to help you get over the prehistoric nature of Congressional activity. I hope it worked.

Here in NoVa, it looks as if our heat wave has broken, at least for a few days, as temperatures drop into the low-to-mid 70's and rain returns. Not like my garden needs it. Plus, I can perhaps get in a nice power walk or two or three! Life's good.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns. See you then.


Friday, September 07, 2018

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Our first collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage for September ...

How can I possibly pass up such a deal? ...

Where gourmet cannibals eat, no doubt ...

Best name for a furniture store, ever!

It must have been modeled on a pretty small cathedral ...

I wonder if they're lawyers or financial advisors ...

You probably could use it to store your life savings ...

Now that's a really good advertising point ...

Well, how would you treat it? ...

I think this real estate agent needs to work a little harder on effective advertising ...

Yes, if you go to this store, you do need help making the right choice ...

And that's it for the first collection of the month ... at least as funny as the latest tell-all from the White House, and more enjoyable.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. After a week like this one, you know you need it. More thoughts then.


Sunday, September 02, 2018

Poetry Sunday

Ah, September - the month of transition between summer and autumn ... at least, it used to be, before the climate started going berserk, and September (at least here in NoVa) is predicted to be miserably hot and humid. Poet Mary Jo Salter welcomes us to the new month and season ...

Absolute September
by Mary Jo Salter

How hard it is to take September
straight—not as a harbinger
of something harder.

Merely like suds in the air, cool scent
scrubbed clean of meaning—or innocent
of the cold thing coldly meant.

How hard the heart tugs at the end
of summer, and longs to haul it in
when it flies out of hand

at the prompting of the first mild breeze.
It leaves us by degrees
only, but for one who sees

summer as an absolute,
Pure State of Light and Heat, the height
to which one cannot raise a doubt,

as soon as one leaf's off the tree
no day following can fall free
of the drift of melancholy.

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your end-of-summer holiday weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, September 01, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to the new month of September ... which, one fervently hopes, will be less crazy than August.

The administration has reportedly denied passports to (and seized the existing passports of) some - mainly Hispanic - Americans living along the border with Mexico because of questions about the legality of their birth certificates, while the State Department has pushed back at the allegations; at least seven people were killed in a horrific accident in New Mexico in which a passenger bus and a tractor-trailer crashed head-on; despite loudly proclaiming that the nation's economy has never been better, Donald Trump cancelled a planned salary increase for Federal employees, citing ... economic problems; the president has threatened to pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization, claiming that it has to "shape up" and treat the US more fairly ... despite the fact that some analyses show that the WTO rules in favor of the United States in about 90% of the issues raised by the US; and fury over the latest clergy sex abuse scandal has led to calls for Pope Francis to resign for not taking appropriate action sooner.

With news this bizarre, you know you need a good collection of cartoons to help you cope. Here's a new collection, featuring piñatas ... because you probably feel beaten up by the prevailing news.

Sometimes, the piñata just gets fed up with the whole thing and snaps ...

And sometimes it takes a little longer ...

An understandable error ...

I'm glad my HMO goes a little farther than this ...

Oops ...

When the necktie party precedes the birthday party ...

We all have our problems ...

This ought to be interesting ...

I'd watch out for Susie ...

"What could go wrong?" is a very useful question in present-day politics, too ...

And there you go - a batch of ... uh ... hard-hitting cartoons to help you get over a miserable week.

The weekend looks to be a bit unsettled weather-wise, and so today is probably a good day for our periodic lunch with fellow blogger Kathy and her husband. We meet several times a year to see how many restaurants we can be thrown out of.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday greets September with poet Mary Jo Salter. See you then.


Friday, August 31, 2018

The On-Crack Ass Clown for August, 2018

Well, we've come to the end of another month, and it's been a doozie. Today is the last day of August, the fifth Friday of the month, and the third opportunity to name another dishonoree in our long series of cringeworthy ass clowns.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, it is time to name

The On-Crack Ass Clown for August, 2018

and the award goes to

Margaret Hunter

Representative Hunter and his wife Margaret were charged in a 47-page indictment with more than 200 separate instances of using more than $250,000 of campaign funds for their personal benefit*. This alone is enough to earn Representative Hunter - as an elected official in a position of public trust - an Ass Clown Award, but what really cemented his victory this month was his shameless attempt to shift the blame to his wife.

At a time when our elected representatives of all parties are held in the lowest of esteem by the citizens they are supposed to represent, the blatant misuse of campaign funds by Mr Hunter and his wife further undermines public confidence in the honesty and integrity of members of Congress. 

Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife Margaret are designated as our On-Crack Ass Clowns for August, 2018. Remember such behavior when you cast your votes in the November elections.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


* Including, according to the indictment: "Hotel rooms, airline tickets and upgrades, meals and food, and entertainment expenses for vacations for themselves and their friends and family...;" and, "On or about July 9, 2014, the Hunters spent $250 in campaign funds at United Airlines to fly a family pet to Washington, DC. for a family vacation."