Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Whew! I just made it back from my off-the-record meeting with Vlad Putin in time to get Cartoon Saturday ready! 

GOP efforts to pass their Obamacare replacement collapsed this week amid internal Republican chaos, attempts to blame the failure on Senate Democrats, and threats from Donald Trump to at least one Republican senator; in Oregon, a multiple-car pileup occurred when thirteen containers of slime eels, weighing 7,500 pounds, spilled from a truck onto the highway; Donald Trump's "election integrity" commission held its first meeting this week, bravely trying to prove Trump's contention that vast voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote in the 2016 election, even though he won in the Electoral College; reactions from fans were mixed as the BBC announced that the new Doctor in the hugely popular "Doctor Who" series will be played by a woman, noted actor Jodie Whittaker; and GOP Senator and respected war hero John McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Congress may be unable to balance the nation's books, but fortunately there are other books we can look to for better entertainment. This week, our cartoons deal with the ups and downs of electronic books ...

No ... no outtakes ...

How to describe it? ...

It was the butler who ran it down ...

Advantages of traditional books ...

What'll they think of next? ...

So, what's on your bookshelves? ...

Bookworms* don't like e-readers, either ...

Updated bookmobiles ...

Epic sagas may be easier to handle on an e-reader ...

And there are other uses for an e-reader, too (I've often used my iPad as a flashlight to find my way to bed when Agnes is already asleep) ...

That's all, folks! You can go back to your Kindle, iPad, Nook, or other e-reader now ... just don't drop it or forget to keep it charged.

It's going to be another scorching weekend here in NoVa ... making us wonder why we spent all that money on new bicycles when it's so hot outside you can't ride up the hill without succumbing to heatstroke. Oy.

Have a good day and a great weekend. See you tomorrow for a Musical Sunday tribute to the Trump family ... more thoughts then.


* If you've never read Clifton Fadiman's Wally the Wordworm to your children, you should.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Yes, Dear Readers, it's time once again to bring out a new collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage! And best of all, the GOP can't repeal it! Read on ...

Something our old dog Sidney could have used, if not on the course ...

I think someone is taking the concept of "smoked meat" to an unfortunate level ...

Just the right place to park the kids while you enjoy that home-cooked food ...

How come they never had children's specials like this when I was a kid? ...

Why don't we try next door, instead? ...

I think this was part of the GOP version of health care ...

Well, sure ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

Um ...

It's always good to have household help with varied talents ...

And there you have it - the last collection of editorial and signage gems for July. I hope you enjoyed them, and that you'll be back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Face Off

The seventh season of "Game of Thrones" premiered last Sunday night, and it was as awesome as we fans had expected. It has become one of my all-time favorite shows, and I own the first six seasons on Blu-Ray discs, which I watch frequently to take my mind off the news.

Another of my favorite television shows is the original (pre-Tom Cruise) "Mission: Impossible," in which Impossible Missions Force leader Dan Briggs (and later, Jim Phelps) assembled teams of unusual specialists to carry out ... well ... impossible assignments. I loved the show because the villains were always really bad, and they always ended up totally screwed in the end as the IM Force's complex plans came together and left the bad guys wondering which truck had hit them.

Now, you might think that Mission: Impossible and Game of Thrones don't have much in common, but they do, as I was reminded with the passing earlier this week of veteran actor Martin Landau. Landau played the character of Rollin Hand, "The Man of a Million Faces" on the show, and many episodes climaxed with a character peeling away a false face to reveal a grinning Rollin Hand (or, later in the series and in the movies, one of the other IM Force agents) ...

On "Game of Thrones," the character of Arya Stark (brilliantly played by Maisie Williams) ends up in the city of Braavos where she trains to be one of the "Faceless Men" - assassins who take on various identities, murder their targets, and vanish without a trace. Several key scenes in the show reveal a character peeling away a false face to reveal a vengeful Arya Stark, much as Rollin Hand helped bring justice to the bad guys through his disguises ...

It's been said that we each have three faces: the first is the one you show to the world; the second is the one you show to your family and closest friends; and the third is the one you never show to anyone, because it is the truest reflection of who you are.

It's what makes us ... appealing.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Great Moments in Editing and Signage returns.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It May Be "Legal," but Is It Right?

This is a question posed by Asha Rangappa, an associate dean at the Yale Law School and a former FBI agent, in a recent op-ed article in the Washington Post. In order to answer that question, Ms Rangappa turned to an individual with whom FBI agents are familiar.

Carla F. Bad isn't a real lady, but a mnemonic device to help FBI agents remember the elements they use to assess the suitability of persons for positions of public trust: Character, Associates, Reputation, Loyalty, Ability, Finances, Bias, Alcohol, and Drugs.

As Ms Rangappa writes about the technical question of whether or not Donald Trump and his associates have broken the law,

"... focusing on bright-line rules of criminality misses the point. The deeper question is whether members of Trump’s administration can uphold the trust that has been placed in them as stewards of the government they have been chosen to lead. On this front, the criminal code shouldn’t be the only yardstick. Even if Trump’s aides and family members have managed to toe the line of the law, the news out of the Russia investigation so far leaves little reason to have faith in their judgment."

Let's see how Ms Bad would assess Donald Trump ...

Character: The man is a congenital and unrepentant liar who doubles down on his untruths in the face of evidence to the contrary. His ability to evade censure for the most blatant lies is amazing.

Associates: Vladimir Putin. 'Nuf said.

Reputation: Golden with about 39% of the electorate; in the toilet with the other 61%. And he's not particularly well thought of in financial circles, either.

Loyalty: Demands it of subordinates, but isn't known for returning it.

Ability: During the presidential campaign, he memorably said that the United States was in terrible shape and "I alone can fix it." So far, I haven't seen anything fixed, Congress is a laughable circus bereft of presidential leadership and direction, and the international leadership of the United States has vanished.

Finances: Mr Trump has filed for bankruptcy six times, although in fairness, most involved his casino properties and happened during a period when the casino industry overall was struggling. He has been sued at least 60 times by individuals and businesses seeking payment for services provided to Trump and his properties, and has bragged that not paying taxes means he's "smart." Don't hold your breath waiting for his tax returns.

Bias: Mr Trump does not care for Mexicans or for men who have been prisoners of war*. He also does not want to have any "poor" people in positions of economic responsibility in his administration. In general, he is biased against "losers."

Alcohol: No problems - Mr Trump is reported to be a teetotaler.

Drugs: No reported problems. Although there have been unproven rumors of past drug use, the only drug Mr Trump is reported to be taking is finasteride, which is used to combat male-pattern baldness.

So, how do Mr Trump and Ms Bad get along?

Giving points for a lack of problems with alcohol or drugs, Mr Trump scores only Carla's first name and middle and last initials ... but given the evidence for them, it's bad enough.

Mr Trump may skate at the very edge of what's legal, but if he were a young person trying to get a security clearance, Ms Bad would probably argue against him on seven out of nine grounds.

And we've elected him president. What does that say about us?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Although he never ran the risk of becoming one, never having served in the armed forces.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Betteridge's Law of Headlines

I ran across an interesting item the other day in an article from Mental Floss titled, Ten Rules, Laws, and Theorems You Should Know. I'd already heard of some of the listed rules/laws/theorems, particularly Godwin's Law*, about which I've written before, but one of them was particularly appropriate to our current obsession with news, both real and "fake"**.

Betteridge's Law of Headlines simply states that, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no," and the article goes on to explain that,

"If the answer is yes, then the headline would simply make that declaration. A question in a headline implies that either (1) The writer doesn't have enough facts to be sure of the answer, (2) The question makes the available information more sensational, or (3) The writer is honestly just asking for the reader’s input."

I think that Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies directly to our overwrought 24-hour news cycle, and the need to draw in readers/listeners/watchers by any means necessary so that advertising revenues can be kept up. A headline framed as a question implies that there is more to the story, and that tantalizing details are coming if one reads on ... which is almost never the case***.

There is also an academic version of Betteridge's Law of Headlines which applies to scholarly articles. It's called Hinchcliffe's Law (more properly, perhaps, Hinchcliffe's Paradox), and you can read all about it here.

Don't thank me for bringing this to your attention ... it's all part of my ongoing effort to help you cope with the bizarre world of alternative facts and blissful ignorance.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

** For purposes of discussion, "fake news" can be defined as "news reporting that contradicts what the reader or listener is convinced is true."

*** In current slang, a "nothingburger."

† No, "paradox" does not mean "two waterfowl."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fixing What's Broken

The other day my friend Ed posted a commentary on Facebook in which he discussed reactions to a story about a woman who, after the death of her husband, relied on Medicaid to provide medical care for her children. The story generated an ever-downward-spiraling swell of anger and vituperation, accusing the woman of being lazy, demanding she get a job, accusing her of living large at the expense of others, and worse. Ed's commentary on the story and the online reactions to it ended with this paragraph:

"At one point in the discussion, someone asked, how did we get here? That's what I am wondering about. What has gone wrong in our culture that so many people are filled with this anger, looking for something to be offended at, and so bereft of the simple human virtues of kindness, civility, and empathy? How did rage and contempt become successful marketing tools, while compassion and kindness are looked on as weakness? What got broken with us, and how do we fix it?"

How, indeed? There are a lot of reasons our society has become more coarse and uncivil.

One of them is the lack of good examples set by parents. When I was growing up in the 50s and early 60s, my parents were loving, but strict. We were expected to be polite and courteous, and to reserve anger for the few times it was the only reasonable response to a bad situation. Nowadays, it seems that parents ignore foul language and bad behavior on the part of their children, whether because they're too busy with work and their own recreation to pay attention to it, or because of a misguided belief that their children should "express themselves honestly," even at the expense of common courtesy and civility.

The comforting anonymity of the Internet is another, allowing despicable trolls to spew hatred and propagate the most ridiculous lies, wrapped in the warm blanket of anonymity provided by a screen name and an opaque IP address. It's much easier to act badly when you don't have to face the target of your bad behavior.

Yet another is the belief of many present-day Americans in the absolute primacy of individual freedom over responsibility to others. When the individual is considered supreme, it isn't much of a stretch to believe that one has not only the right, but the obligation to say and do whatever one wants, without regard to the rights and feelings of others. It represents the erosion of empathy and compassion - two things that once were hallmarks of America and its people.

An outgrowth of this attitude is the belief that if another person has fallen on hard times, it is their fault for not accepting personal responsibility for their own lives. If a person loses his or her job as a result of economic decisions made by their employer, is it their fault? If they try to find a new job and discover that all the jobs for which they're qualified have been sent to India and China where workers are cheap, is it their fault? If they try to get the training and education that will qualify them for other jobs, only to find that it's priced beyond their reach, and their governments - in the sacred interest of cutting spending - have eliminated the assistance that might have helped them, is that their fault, too? Yes, we each have an obligation to be responsible for ourselves and our well-being ... but we also have an obligation to understand that sometimes there really are circumstances beyond our control.

Finally (for now, at least), we have elected to the presidency a boorish and utterly unqualified individual whose personal behavior is in many ways the opposite of what we once found admirable in our leaders. His total lack of gravitas, crass behavior toward women, proud ignorance of public policy, jingoistic attitudes, cavalier jettisoning of decades of international agreements and norms, and crude, 140-character Twitter attacks on those who disagree with him demonstrate the sort of person many of us were ready to put in the chair once occupied by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Our children look at his execrable behavior and assume it must be okay because, hey, he's the president ... and why should they be expected to act any differently? And why did we decide things were so terrible that a person like this seemed like a good option to so many people?

What got broken with us?

How do we fix it?

They're excellent questions. I think the first one is easy enough to answer; the second, much harder. We can fix it only by returning to the qualities that really did make America great: not just individual determination and self-reliance, but on a sense of community and a shared understanding that we all have a role to play in making the country great by working together and helping each other.

Unfortunately, I don't see that realization dawning on much of America any time soon.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poetry Sunday

This diagnosis applies to me, too ... although some days it's harder to live with than others.

by Sharon Olds 

By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

Have a good day, and try to laugh at something besides the government.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Before we begin, let me state definitively that I did not collude with any foreign power or entity on the selection of these cartoons. Now that that's out of the way ...

A sinkhole in Florida* that swallowed two houses appears to have stopped expanding, having reached a size of about 250 by 225 feet and 50 feet deep, and appears to be full of chemicals and septic tank fluid; the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr, and Russians who offered to give the Trump campaign information damaging to Hillary Clinton's candidacy last year is being called a "Democratic plot" by the wildly-spinning pro-Trump media; during his visit to France for Bastille Day celebrations, Donald Trump again demonstrated his remarkable command of diplomacy by telling the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, "You're in such good shape. She's in such good physical shape. Beautiful" ... what a charmer; and at least three people have been killed in a huge fire in a high-rise Honolulu apartment building.

Enough with the bad news ... on to the cartoons! Agnes and I love to cook, and so it seems appropriate to share a collection of cartoons about food and drink ...

Oui! ...

One drawback of GMOs ...

I think I'll have something else, thank you ...

Speaking of backhanded compliments ...

How mom cooks ... 

I'm looking for this food truck ...

Well, yes, it would be ...

When the eggs really, really need to be poached ...

I make substitutions like this, too ...

I think we have some things like this in the back of our refrigerator, too ...

And that's it for this edition of Cartoon Saturday. It's being published over a data connection with my cell phone because we returned yesterday from our trip to Chincoteague Island to find out that we have no land-line telephone, television, or internet service ... and our provider can't have anyone out to fix the problem until this afternoon. Oy.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


* No, not Mar-a-Lago, a different sinkhole.


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for July, 2017

It's a new month, and that means it's time to select two new prime examples of supreme ass-clownery ... a tough job, but one you've come to expect me to take on. The challenge gets harder all the time, particularly given the exceptionally strong showing by the political class, where ass-clownery is fast becoming an art form.

After much consideration and fortified by the consumption of a great deal of medicinal alcohol, I have decided on

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown
July, 2017

and the award goes to

The Trump Family

Before I get into the citation, I just want to point out a few things. First of all, this award does not apply to the entire Trump family - just to Donald Trump, his three business- and politically-active children (Donald Junior, Eric, and Ivanka), and his son-in-law and chief advisor Jared Kushner (not pictured above). Son Baron Trump is still too young and innocent, and wife Melania Trump is ... well ... not active enough to be considered for the award.

Although Donald Trump has received the Ass Clown Award a staggering seven times over the years, most of them presented before he entered politics, I've decided to present him and selected family members with the award yet again, primarily because of the towering ethical swamp they have brought to Washington*, shamelessly using the presidency to boost their business and augment their personal fortunes. In addition, the Trump administration has run the White House in a nepotistic fashion unseen since John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert as his Attorney General in the 1960s, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump occupying very senior advisory positions despite a complete lack of experience in public policy. I was appalled when, at the G 20 summit last week, Mr Trump's seat at the table of world leaders was temporarily occupied not by an official government minister (such as the Secretary of State or the Secretary of the Treasury) but by his daughter, who does not occupy an official position which required Senate confirmation. Say what you will, I think** that was a major signpost on the road to the United States' loss of power, influence, and leadership in the world.

The Trump Family is turning the United States Government into a branch of the Trump Organization ... and no one seems to care.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for July, 2017, is The Trump Family. And we've got another three and a half years to go.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts then.


* One of his campaign slogans may have been "Drain the Swamp," but he's brought an enormous swamp of his own with him. The sad part is that so few people seem to care.

** And I'm not alone.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Temporarily Closed

Well, hello! Nice to see you, as always.

I'm taking a break from posting today, as Agnes and I are enjoying the sand, sea, broiling sun, and legions of tiny insects at Chincoteague Island, and I have other things to do than post the blog. You know I love you, Dear Readers, but time spent with the grandchildren will always take priority over you*.

But don't despair! Tomorrow's post, in which the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for this month will be announced, has already been written and will appear in this space on schedule tomorrow morning. Be sure to come by and be either entertained or enraged, depending on your political persuasion.

Have a good day. Regular posts will resume tomorrow.

More thoughts then.


* I originally wrote "...will always trump you," but couldn't bear to write that word unnecessarily.