Monday, December 31, 2012

Ready to Pull the Handle on 2012?

I am.

But first, here are some of the good things that happened this year:

- Our sixth grandchild, Ava, was born in November. Her expression says it all.

- Agnes and I celebrated our 30th anniversary in September.

- We sailed through the Panama Canal.

- I am still alive and healthy and have lots of good friends.

- Agnes has not yet strangled me in my sleep*.

Here are some of the less-good things that happened this year:

- One of the most dispiriting and embarrassing presidential election campaigns ever.

- A Congress more intent on political posturing and ideological purity than on doing its job is poised as of this writing to drive the country back into recession ...

... and is doing nothing but accusing everyone else of being the problem.

- In spite of horrible mass murders committed by crazy people with guns, some people insist that the solution to the problem is ... more guns!**

- I discovered that Verizon will charge me $34.99 to buy a replacement Battery Back-Up Unit (BBU) for my Optical Network Terminal (ONT)***. OMG.

- Etc, etc, etc.

And so, Dear Readers, let us hope - against all indications to the contrary - that 2013 will be a better year. It will no doubt suck economically for most of us, thanks to our useless, gridlocked, head-up-the-wazoo Congress, although there may be a few bright spots if we look hard enough for them. I promise to try to look, but first things first ... so long, 2012!

Last, but not least ...

Don't forget that you have only a few hours left to cast your votes for the 2012 Ass Clown of the Year ... balloting closes at 11:59 tonight. You can vote (Chicago Rules****, remember!) by leaving a comment, or on Facebook (if you're one of my friends there), or by e-mail to der_blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com.  Don't delay - only 18 hours to go!

The Ass Clown of the Year for 2012 will be announced in this space tomorrow.

Have a good day. If you are going out to celebrate tonight, please do it safely.  Drink all you want (God knows 2012 has given you sufficient reason), but don't drink and drive. I want to see all of you back next year.

More thoughts tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. You've been warned.


* Although likely not for want of provocation.

** Does packing heat contribute to global warming? If so, so long to the ice caps.

*** While this does not rise to the level of yuckiness of the others, it still pisses me off.

**** Chicago Rules means that you can vote as many times as you like, for as many candidates as you like. You can also cast votes for your friends and family, living and dead, and for your pets, imaginary friends, and pretty much anyone else you like. Gerrymandering does not apply.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Picking the Word of the Year

There was an interesting story on NPR the other day - Let's Double Down On A Superstorm Of Malarkey: Picking 2012's Word Of The Year.

This is the time of year when the American Dialect Society selects and announces its Word of the Year - a word or phrase which achieved particular prominence during the past year, whether for positive or negative reasons. Previous winners of the Word of the Year title are occupy (2011), app (2010), and tweet (2009). The "Word of the Decade" for the first ten years of the 21st century was google.

Among the many words and phrases that are contending for the honor this year are:

Superstorm or Frankenstorm (designations attached to Hurricane Sandy, although Frankenstorm was considered by many to be overly kitschy for such a huge disaster);

Malarkey (memorably used by Vice President Biden in his debate with Paul Ryan; a more common but less gentlemanly synonym is bullshit);

Fiscal Cliff (you know, the one our brain-dead Congressional lemmings are racing stupidly toward); and,

47% (the imaginary figure cited by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney as the percentage of the US population dependent on government handouts).

I have my own nominee, of course ...

Ass Clown (I know that this is a term of several years standing, but so many individuals and groups are clamoring for designation as ass clowns that it seems reasonable to nominate it for Word of the Year).

What are your suggestions for Word of the Year, Dear Readers? Leave a comment, and be sure to explain why you think it is deserving of this prestigious honor.

And speaking of ass clowns, don't forget that tomorrow night at 11:59 PM the voting closes in our contest for Ass Clown of the Year. The balloting is starting to pick up as we approach the deadline, and some clear front-runners are emerging. The top three so far are:

NRA President Wayne LaPierre, who has taken a commanding lead;

The GOP, in a strong second place but still substantially trailing Mr LaPierre; and,

The Iowa Supreme Court, surging to an unexpectedly strong third place following its decision last week upholding the right of an employer to fire a worker for being "irresistible."

Be sure to cast your votes ... and your friends' votes ... and your pets', imaginary playmates', and deceased relatives' votes, too. Remember, Chicago Rules apply, so vote early and vote often to make sure your voice is heard amid the screaming and howling as we go over the fiscal cliff.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to the last Cartoon Saturday of 2012, the year nobody is likely to miss ...

A 23-year-old woman whose gang-rape aboard a bus in New Delhi spawned days of mass protests across India, has died; for the second time in a month, a man has been shoved to his death in front of a train on a New York City subway platform ... in a related story, NRA President Wayne LaPierre held a news conference at which he complained that nobody was suggesting outlawing trains, which can be used to kill people; General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf, who led allied forces to victory over the army of Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War, has died; former president George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized in intensive care for complications of bronchitis; and federal authorities have arrested a 37-year-old Bronx woman who posed as a relative of one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in order to scam charitable contributions.

And I haven't even mentioned Congress yet ...

Let's get right to the rest of the cartoons. I mean the real cartoons, not the ones we elected.

I thought this one was hysterically funny, but perhaps it loses something if you're not a history buff like me ...

Many years ago, my mother sent me an article she found about the techniques used by newly-minted British lawyers (or solicitors or barristers or whatever they're called, I'm sure Craziequeen can help straighten it out for us) to make their brand-new wigs look older, thereby making them look more experienced. Of course, they could have worse problems than just the apparent age of the wig ... 

Advancing technology has led to new ways of explaining the difficult parts of life to our children ...

From the Department of Marvelous Euphemisms comes this classic ...

Here are a few cartoons from my specialized collection dealing with letters, numbers, and symbols ... which offers more opportunities for humor than you might think ...

And ...

And ...

And ...

And last but not least for this week, in honor of the alleged winter storm we're supposed to be getting today* ...

And that's your final Cartoon Saturday for 2012 - a year unlikely to be remembered fondly other than in comparison to 2013, in which your feckless Congress is preparing to deliver a mighty shot to our economic feet. Be safe this holiday weekend, and remember the standard admonitions: don't drink and drive, don't believe everything you hear, and - it's Bilbo's First Law, remember - don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. Be sure to vote for Ass Clown of the Year ... time is running out, and there are a lot of deserving ass clowns out there campaigning strongly for your support. Don't let them down. The award will be presented here on New Year's Day.

Have a good day and a safe and happy holiday weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


* We were supposed to have some light snow starting around midnight last night, but there's not a single flake in evidence. Aside from members of Congress, that is.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The DUMBCON-1 Top Ten

The end of the year seems to be the season for compiling lists of things from the past 12 months, generally list of the best/worst variety - the best/worst movies, the best/worst songs, the best/worst news/sports/entertainment stories, the hottest male/female celebrities, etc, etc. Miss Cellania has, as she does each year, compiled a vast compendium of year-end lists over the last week or so, and link-surfing through all of them is a pleasant way to kill time ... assuming that you like it better dead.

And being a master of appropriating good ideas, here is Bilbo's List of the Top Ten News Stories of 2012 that have contributed to the designation of the past year as a 100% DUMBCON 1 year ...

10. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accuses GOP presidential wannabe Mitt Romney of not paying any income taxes for ten years.

9. Senator Mitch McConnell filibusters his own bill in the Senate when Democrats call his bluff.

8. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church announce plans to picket the funerals of children murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

7. Retired General and sitting CIA Director David Petraeus crashes in flames after exposure of his affair with his (very attractive) biographer.

6. Hurricane Sandy provides opportunities for politically expendient bloviation.

5. Congress tries to dodge its responsibilities by defaulting solution of its self-inflicted fiscal wounds to a "Supercommittee" ... which also dodges its responsibilities, leading to the looming end-of-year fiscal disaster.

4. The derecho windstorm of late June generates more, but less damaging, wind than Congress.

3. Lindsay Lohan. What more needs to be said?

2. The National Rifle Association insists that the only way to protect children is to station armed guards in schools.

1. The GOP blames everything but its tone-deaf policies for losing the presidential election.

And what do you think are the DUMBCON-1 level news stories of 2012? Leave a comment. There's plenty of stupidity out there to share.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Odds and Ends

We're running out of 2012, not that we're likely to miss it when it's gone. As years go, this one has been pretty much a loser. Of course, Agnes and I had a nice vacation and celebrated our 30th anniversary, and we celebrated the birthday of our sixth grandchild, but the year didn't have much else to recommend it. From Congressional obstinance and stupidity to mass murders not committed with guns*, to an insulting and seemingly endless election season, it's been a bust and Father Time can have it back.

Okay, I've gotten that rant out of my system. Let's just pick up on a few odds and ends today, eh?

Balloting for Ass Clown of the Year is slowly picking up, but still running behind the fervor of last year's voting. In the lead at the moment is NRA president and mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre, who has forged ahead on the strength of his social and political tone-deafness. The GOP, the Democratic Party, and Congress as a whole are in a virtual three-way tie for second place, with a long list of single-vote candidates bringing up the rear (the list includes Grover Norquist**, Donald Trump**, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell**, people who don't vote, and opponents of responsible gun control). Voting ends this coming Monday night, December 31st, at 11:59PM, so let your voice be heard! Chicago Rules voting applies - vote early, vote often, vote for as many candidates as you wish, as often as you like, and encourage your friends and relatives (dead and alive), your imaginary friends, and your pets to vote, too. The 2012 Ass Clown of the Year will be revealed in this space on January 1st, 2013.

Happy New Year - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is warning that the country will hit its latest debt ceiling limit on December 31st.

It wasn't a white Christmas, but it's a pretty darned white almost-new-year across much of the country. Only Congress has generated a bigger snow job this year.

A woman in Iowa, reportedly fired because she was "irresistible" to her boss, has lost her case in the Iowa Supreme Court. Oy. You can read the court's decision here.

And that's it for today. Drive safely in the snow and ice, don't forget to vote for Ass Clown of the Year, and refrain from hiring anyone who is irresistible. Oh, and watch out for that debt ceiling.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Because they don't kill people ... people kill people, dontcha know.

** Previous monthly winners.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flirting Advice for Men

I can't remember if I've done this post before or not*, but I was going through the Blog Fodder file and found the link to this article at (where else - - Men: Five Little-Known Ways to Flirt. It'll be my late Christmas gift to all my male readers, and a heads-up for all you wary ladies out there.

Here are the five little-known ways for men to flirt (with my commentary, of course):

1. Wear red. Red is a traditional "power color" for both sexes. I've shared some thoughts on the color red in other posts, most notably this R-rated one from last April. As it happens, I have four different red shirts I often wear to go dancing.

2. Eat celery. According to the article, the cytoplasm found in celery contains the same chemicals as those found in the sweat that’s responsible for a subtly masculine scent, and contains the steroid Androstenone, which makes men more attractive to women. It may also be that the loud crunching sound as you eat it makes you easier for a woman to find in a crowd.

3. Play romantic music. Well, duh ... why wouldn't you want to set a romantic mood with the right music? Shelve the Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and grunting, misogynistic rap and hip-hop and go for some soft vocal or orchestral background music. A study cited in the article found that women who were exposed to romantic music before interacting with eligible males were more likely to give a prospective date their contact information than ladies who were exposed to “neutral” music in the same scenario.

4. Order a chocolate dessert.

Eating chocolate increases levels of serotonin in the body, and serotonin can improve your mood by inducing feelings of euphoria. The article notes that “By being around a woman while she’s eating chocolate, you get this sort of ‘halo effect’…she likes the chocolate you ordered her, therefore she likes you.” Better loving through chemistry, as it were.

And finally,

5. Learn some dance moves. Trust me on this one - women love a man who can dance. And by "dance," I mean hold the lady properly, keep to the rhythm, know a few moves (but know them cold), and have good, strong posture. Had I but known all this back in high school and college ...

And really finally, here's one of my own ...

6. Be funny. Not funny as in "odd" (although I'm right there, thank you very much**), but funny as in "gently amusing." Know a few good (clean!!) jokes*** or have a few funny stories about yourself that show you're not a self-absorbed egotist.

Okay, men, now it's up to you. If you have any other flirting hints, go ahead and leave a comment. And ladies, what works for you?

Have a good day. Flirt safely and well ... you don't need mistletoe. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Give me a break here ... this is my 2,263rd post, and my memory isn't what it used to be.

** I prefer the term "eccentric."

** Agnes would tell you that I don't have any, but that's only because she's been hearing the same ones for more than 30 years.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, 2012

It's foggy and rainy rather than white, but it is Christmas - the "hap-happiest season of all," according to one of the holiday songs. In the words of another song, "it's a time for kids/to flip their lids/while their papa goes in hock."

At our house, we do most of our celebrating on Christmas Eve in the European style. Two of our grandchildren (oh, and their parents, too) were here for dinner and to open gifts yesterday evening, and we managed to get in a picture with Elise, Leya, and our daughter Yasmin before the traditional frantic shredding of the gift wrapping ...

And because Agnes is intent on making sure that the girls grow up with good manners and social skills, she risked her treasured "Twelve Days of Christmas" Waterford champagne flutes for a holiday toast of sparkling cider ...

But that was yesterday, and today is Christmas Day. It's the magical day when everyone is filled with love and goodwill and generosity and the cookies and milk left out for Santa, so that the trusting children won't get wise to the deception for a few more years.

Unfortunately, the love, goodwill, and generosity part isn't as much in evidence this year as it was in the past. A useless, do-nothing Congress divided by a wall of up-yours attitude toward the political opposition has gone home without doing its job, putting millions of families at economic risk in the coming year. The nation is divided over gun rights, the "right to life," and the "right to work." This year, Santa's bag probably contains a powerful weapon for which he has a concealed carry permit.

There was a time when the traditional Christmas story from the second chapter of Matthew was the norm ...

2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Along with the timeless lyrics of Irving Berlin ...

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Christmases be white."

This year, the Christmas isn't white (at least here in Northern Virginia), and the peace on earth, goodwill toward men thing isn't all that much in evidence.

But for my part, I'll try to keep the joy in my heart and pretend that I'm still the same wide-eyed boy that enjoyed the white Christmases and family love of middle-class western Pennsylvania so many years ago. And I'll wish all of you all the very best of the season and my hopes for a happy, healthy, prosperous*, and safe new year.

And as a gift to you, here's one of my very favorite Christmas songs to enjoy - Marty Robbins' One of You in Every Size ...

God bless us, every one!

Have a merry Christmas! More thoughts tomorrow.


* Yes, that one's a stretch as long as we're stuck with the Congress we have, but a guy can dream.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Language of Happiness

Today is Christmas Eve, the day that seems 72 hours long to children awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and 90 minutes long to parents struggling with gifts for which "some assembly (is) required." It's the culmination of the Christmas Season, the week in which most people* are filled with good cheer and love of their fellow man, whom they despise the other 51 weeks of the year.

This year's Christmas Eve is a melancholy one. We're still mourning the children murdered in Connecticut and shaking our heads at the moral and political cowardice of our elected officials and die-hard single-interest groups. "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men" has been replaced by "Buy more guns because your fellow man may be a monster."

But it is, nevertheless, Christmas Eve, and so here at Bilbo's place we will endeavor to be happy in whichever ways large and small we are able. Like using happy language.

This article appeared in Mental Floss magazine on December 18th: 25 of the Happiest Words in English.  It discusses the results of a 2011 scholarly paper titled Positivity of the English Language. The Mental Floss article is better, because it saves you from wading through 21 pages of incomprehensible statistical analysis and confusing graphs, and because it reduces the list of 10,000 most frequently used words to a list of the top 19 "happy" words**. They are:















Won (the past tense of win, not the Korean currency***);



Rainbows; and,


You may note that the list is somewhat shorter if we combine various forms of some of the words (smile and smiled; win, won, and winning; laughter, laughed, laugh, laughing, and laughs; rainbow and rainbows; and happy and happiness). 

I should also note that one of the comments on the Mental Floss article suggested that the word poop be included on the list, because 

"... the word's got it all...palindrome, onomatopoeia, and its mirror image upside down spells boob, another happy word."

So ...

For one day ... just one day ... let's smile and laugh with pleasure as we have an excellent day full of joy and happy rainbows.

Okay, forget it. Even on Christmas Eve I can't get that sappy. How about good old peace on earth, goodwill toward men****? I don't think we can get happier and more hopeful***** than that.

 Have a good day. More seasonal thoughts tomorrow.


* Not, unfortunately, Congress.

** The article calls the list the top "20," but there are really only 19. The editor must have been on holiday.

*** Unless you are a member of the Korean top 1%.

**** Yes, it says "men," but it includes women, too. Gimme a linguistic break here.

***** "Hopeful" does not apply to Congress, which has proven itself to be beyond all hope.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Great Moments in Editing

We're coming down to the Christmas wire ... tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Tuesday is the Big Day! And on Wednesday we go back to work ... #$%!@ no-show Mayan apocalypse.

Well, I have a lot of gifts to wrap and things to do, so how about a pretty low-energy post today - your final edition for 2012 of Great Moments in Editing! Here we go ...

I think I want a second opinion before we go ahead ...

I think the person who wrote this crawler may be looking for other employment opportunities ...

Speaking of human remains, from the Department of Well, Duh! come these two items ...

and ...

I've always found this to work well for me ...

Could this have been the result of a pub crawl gone wrong? ...

Or perhaps too many of those free pictures might have been the culprit ...

'Tis the season to be too quick to call the authorities ...

Perhaps the NRA could ask them nicely not to shoot any of the rest of us, either ...

And finally, no matter how you spell it, Congress could use the treatment ...

And that's it for this day before the day before Christmas. If you're going out shopping today, you're completely nuts. Be careful ... this is the time of year when people brimming with holiday spirit and armed to the teeth with concealed weapons* have been known to shoot other people over possession of a parking space or the last toy on the shelf. The weather isn't the only thing outside that's frightful any more.

If you are on the road this holiday season, drive carefully and - to paraphrase my high-school driving instructor's admonition - always expect a reindeer to jump out in front of the car. If you are flying, good luck ... bring lots of money**.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Thanks, NRA!

** Hope you're enjoying that middle seat you got because you didn't want to pay extra for a "premium" aisle or window seat after paying $750 extra for your luggage. I predict that the next extra fee the airlines will be either a "Personal Space Surcharge" for the privilege of making sure the people on either side of your middle seat are not hugely overweight and occupying half of your seat, too, or a "Guaranteed Seatmate Hygiene Fee" for the privilege of making sure those same people took showers before the flight.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cartoon Saturday - The Christmas Edition

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men* ...

The NRA has proposed placing an armed guard in each of the nation's 140,000 schools in order to protect children against "monsters;" House Speaker John Boehner walked out of negotiations aimed at forestalling the so-called "fiscal cliff," placing all the blame on the White House for not caving in to GOP demands; the Mayans pulled a fast one on the world, which did not come to an end on Friday as predicted; one of two convicted bank robbers who escaped from prison by rappelling 20 stories on a rope made of bedsheets has been recaptured; and prickly basket case North Korea has arrested an American citizen for committing unspecified crimes against the Hermit Kingdom.

Aren't you glad this year is almost over? Let's get to the Christmas Edition of Cartoon Saturday right away ... heaven knows we need it.

How about leading off with a terrible Christmas pun ...

Or two ...

You can sometimes be too literal ...

And it's never nice to get caught being naughty ...

Of course, that's where Santa might have learned some nontraditional Christmas dances ...

I'm really surprised that the extreme right, so very focused on defense of its rights (if not its responsibilities) hasn't gotten worried about the 24/7/365 surveillance conducted by Santa without a court order ...

We all know that Santa doesn't really employ flying reindeer ...

There's the Tea Party spin on Christmas ...

And there are also the incidents that don't make it into the history books ...

And finally, does everything - in fact - now come from China? ...

And that's it for the Christmas 2012 edition of Cartoon Saturday. Enjoy the holiday season, be safe, love each other, and don't forget to vote for your candidate(s) for Ass Clown of the Year. In a strong surge driven by his insane performance in yesterday's "news conference," NRA president Wayne LaPierre has taken a commanding lead - five votes - compared to the nearest challengers: a three-way tie for second place among the GOP, the Democratic Party, and Congress as a whole, with two votes each. This year's balloting is all over the map, with 12 nominees so far ... a situation which dilutes the individual scores. So don't forget to vote, and remember that Chicago Rules apply ...

Vote early, vote often, cast as many votes for as many "deserving" candidates as you wish, and encourage your pets and dead relatives to vote, too.

So many Ass Clowns, so little time ... balloting ends at 11:59PM on January 31st. Let your voice(s) be heard! Vote now!!

Have a good day and a safe, happy, and glorious Christmas holiday.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Offer not valid in Congress or in NRA-controlled territories. Sorry for the redundancy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Still at DUMBCON 1, with No Reduction in View

We're at DUMBCON 1.

For those of you new to my blog, the DUMBCON structure is my invention for identifying the level of national stupidity existing at any given time. It parallels the increasing scale of the military's Defense Condition (or DEFCON) concept, with DUMBCON 5 representing the routine, day-to-day background noise of ordinary stupidity and DUMBCON 1 representing stupidity beyond your wildest imagination (like people being convinced that the world will end today). You can read the full explanation of the DUMBCON structure in my original 2009 post here.

There are any number of reasons I might have set today's DUMBCON level at 1 - Congressional inactivity in the face of fiscal conditions potentially ruinous to the nation and the popularity of the Kardashian family to name two - but the real reason for my imposition of DUMBCON 1 is the ass clownery of both sides of the debate on "gun control."

I thought about this earlier this week when we had a discussion in the office of the pros and cons of various things that might be done to minimize the carnage caused by high-powered weapons in the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

We were a group of well-educated, politically aware people who spent the better part of an hour talking right past each other ... the real problem was that while each of us could marshal good arguments in favor of his position, the others could marshal equally passionate arguments to refute them. And this is why we have not seen ... and will probably never see ... meaningful limits on gun design and ownership in this country - neither side can accept, or even understand, the positions of the other.

So I'm not going to rehash all the old arguments here. There's no point. I'll just set DUMBCON 1 and shake my head. But what I am going to do is encourage you to bitch-slap anyone who invokes one or both of these utterly stupid arguments:

"Tens of thousands of people die in car accidents every year, but you're not trying to outlaw cars!"; or,

"Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City with a bomb made out of fertilizer, but you're not trying to outlaw fertilizer."

If you hear anyone utter these words, revoke their brain card immediately.

First of all, a car is designed and built for one purpose: to move people and things from Point A to Point B. Yes, it can be used by a crazy person to kill people, but that's not what it's designed for. And virtually every aspect of its design is regulated to improve its safe operation.

Second, fertilizer is used to improve the fertility of soil. It is an unhappy accident of chemistry that the chemical components of fertilizer can be used to make explosives, but fertilizer is not manufactured for making bombs ... it's manufactured to make good things (like brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and acorn squash - yum!) grow better.

Guns, and particularly handguns, on the other hand, are designed and manufactured for only one purpose - to kill. You cannot use a gun for any other purpose. Well, you could reverse your grip and use it for a hammer, but few people are quite stupid enough to do this*.

So ...

If you're going to make an argument, make an argument that makes sense. And because the NRA has promised a news conference for today at which it will make "meaningful contributions" to helping the problem, I am proactively extending DUMBCON 1 for another six months to cover the ways they'll work to undermine whatever "meaningful contributions" they recommend today.

Congress and the President may push us over the fiscal cliff, but we'll be by gawd armed to the teeth as we go.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Except in old Westerns, where the sheriff uses his six-gun to nail wanted posters to trees.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gifts That Keep on Giving

Continuing with the general topic of All Things Christmas ...

We're all familiar with the concept of regifting ... the passing on to another of a gift someone has already given to you, generally a hideous white elephant that you didn't like or want in the first place. Think of it as a sort of recycling, while pondering the linguistic oddity that the word Gift in German means poison*.

Which brings me to today's topic, a poem by Marge Piercy titled "Gifts That Keep on Giving" ...

You know when you unwrap them:
fruitcake is notorious. There were only
51 of them baked in 1917 by the
personal chef of Rasputin. The mad monk
ate one. That was what finally killed him

But there are many more bouncers:
bowls green and purple spotted like lepers.
Vases of inept majolica in the shape
of wheezing frogs or overweight lilies.
Sweaters sized for Notre Dame's hunchback.

Hourglasses of no use humans
can devise. Gloves to fit three-toed sloths.
Mufflers of screaming plaid acrylic.
Necklaces and pins that transform
any outfit to a thrift shop reject.

Boxes of candy so stale and sticky
the bonbons pull teeth faster than
your dentist. Weird sauces bought
at warehouse sales no one will ever
taste unless suicidal or blind.

Immortal as vampires, these gifts
circulate from birthdays to Christmas,
from weddings to anniversaries.
Even if you send them to the dump,
they resurface, bobbing up on the third

day like the corpses they call floaters.
After all living have turned to dust
and ashes, in the ruins of cities
alien archeologists will judge our
civilization by these monstrous relics.

You can chew on that one ... so to speak ... when you open that fruitcake or abominable hand-knitted sweater with arms of unequal length on Christmas morning.

And speaking of monstrous relics, there's still time to cast your vote(s) for the Ass Clown of the Year award. Balloting so far is all over the place ... we have ten nominees at this point, with none of them having received more than two votes. The two-vote nominees leading the pack are The GOP, The Democratic Party, and Congress. Vote now, vote early, vote often.

Are you ready for the apocalypse? The world is ending tomorrow, so be sure your affairs are in order. If you aren't having an affair, this would be a good time to go out and start one**.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, assuming the Mayans were wrong.


* This is good to know if you're married to a German.

** If you're stupid.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is Santa Really a Man?

First things first: the NRA has finally come up voice on the horrible murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. A statement posted on their website says in part, "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

You'll pardon me if, based on the NRA's past behavior, I take that with ...

But we need some humor to help get through this terrible time ... so here it is, courtesy of my friend Bob:

Is Santa Really a Man?

I think Santa Claus is a woman. I hate to be the one to defy sacred myth, but I believe he is actually a she

Think about it ... Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal, and I have a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off.

For starters, the vast majority of men don't even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrench sets and mood rings left on the shelves. On this count alone, I'm convinced Santa is a woman.

Surely if Santa were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to find a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.

Another problem for a he-Santa would be getting there. First of all, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted and strapped on to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen's rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist.

Even if the male Santa did have reindeer, he'd still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds and then refuse to stop and ask for directions.

Other reasons Santa can't possibly be a man:

Men can't pack a bag.

Men would rather be dead than caught wearing red velvet.

Men would feel their masculinity is threatened by being seen with all those elves.

Men don't answer their mail.

Men would refuse to allow their physique to be described, even in jest, as anything remotely resembling "a bowlful of jelly."

Men aren't interested in stockings unless a woman is wearing them.

Having to do the "Ho, Ho, Ho" thing would seriously inhibit their ability to pick up women.

Milk and cookies left out by the fireplace? A man would demand beer and beef jerky.

Finally, being responsible for Christmas would require a commitment.

Now, I can believe that some other mythical holiday characters are men ...

Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous. Clearly a guy.

Cupid flies around carrying weapons.

And Uncle Sam is a politician who likes to point fingers ...

Any one of these individuals could get a man card. But not St. Nick. Not a chance.

So ...

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it looks true to me. What do you think? Leave a comment.

Less than a week until Christmas - better get moving on those cards and decorations.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Eye of the Beholder, Revisited

What makes a woman beautiful? The answer to that question varies with the man (or lady) who answers ... hence the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I've written on this topic, which I find fascinating, at least three times ... if you want to go back and check them out, here are the links: "The Eye of the Beholder ... and the Beholdee;"  "The Eye of the Beholder;" and "Sonntagsgesicht."

I thought about the whole eye of the beholder thing again yesterday when I followed a link trail to this article in Men's Health magazine: 11 Qualities of the Perfect Woman. According to the article, the eleven qualities that combine to make up the perfect woman are (I'm paraphrasing just a bit and - of course - adding my comments):

1. Laughs at your jokes (or in Agnes's case, groans at my jokes);

2. Is two to four years younger than you are (Mrs Robinson was evidently not typical);

3. A nice smile (yes!!);

4. Big breasts (now that's a shocking revelation, isn't it?);

5. Long legs (tall ladies are sexy, even if sometimes a challenge to dance with);

6. Her own career and money (although the stereotype is of the gold-digger on the lookout for a sugar daddy, the evidence seems to indicate that many men like a woman who can contribute financially to the long-term relationship);

7. Small feet (considered to be more feminine and attractive);

8. Well-educated (contrary to popular stereotype, men generally don't prefer dumb ladies);

9. Wears red (much research shows that men are attracted to the color red ... which is why red clothing, lipstick, nail polish, etc, tend to be big sellers. I read somewhere that this is because of a fixation on the color of healthy female ... uh ... nether parts ... for a longer discussion of this point, see my post from April 18th of this year: The Eye - and Nose - of the Beholder);

10. Narrow hips (oddly enough, in many cultures men seem to prefer broad hips because they supposedly indicate good child-bearing potential);

11. Brown hair (I was always partial to women with dark hair ... black especially, but also shades of brown ... which is, of course, why I married a redhead. Go figure).

So, Dear Readers, what do you think contributes to the ideal member of the opposite sex? Inquiring minds want to know, so leave a comment.

And ladies, I love you all, no matter how many of the eleven qualities you have (or don't). As Jean Kerr once said, "I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being skin deep. That's deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?"

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Not Much More to Say

The horrendous tragedy of the massacre of innocent children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week has generated the usual outpouring of horror and outrage over the availability of high-powered military grade weapons with high-capacity magazines to ordinary citizens. Everywhere except at the National Rifle Association, of course, where the NRA website features only a Wayne LaPierre editorial from November 27th crowing that more guns have led to less crime in Virginia.

Too bad about Connecticut.

And, of course, a tragedy like this brings out the despicable morons of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have announced plans to picket the funerals of the Sandy Hook victims.

People more passionate and erudite than I have already written more - and better - about this ghastly event than I can. Duckbutt had a marvelous post on his blog last Friday, and commentator Petula Dvorak published an excellent opinion piece in the Washington Post, in which she wrote,

The 20 young children gunned down inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday were swaddled in federally regulated, fire-retardant blankets, rode in elaborate car seats plastered with safety stickers, and learned to ride bikes with elbow pads, knee guards and safety helmets. Some of them may never have had a Twinkie pass their lips. Cribs, bouncy seats, cough medicine, scooters, sugary snacks — we have no problem regulating the life out of those. But how do we keep our children safe in their kindergarten classrooms when we live in a culture that has persuaded itself to accept guns?

There are also the usual editorial cartoons, some of them banal and many of them devastatingly ... if I can be forgiven for using the expression ... on target. This was one of the best ...

And this one goes back a few years to yet another mass murder, but is still every bit as accurate as when Tom Toles first drew it ...

Despite all the horror and outrage, nothing will happen. Public figures will give pious speeches, memorials will be held, editorials will be written, the Westboro Baptist Church will act stupidly intolerant, and the dedicated partisans of the gun lobby will continue to chant their mantra that guns don't kill people, people kill people ... neglecting to mention that people can kill far more people, faster and more efficiently, with guns.

I can't really say anything else about this, but others will.

And nothing will be done, which is the real tragedy.

My heart goes out to the families of the murdered children and their teachers. My complete and utter contempt goes out to those who willfully ignore the lessons of this terrible event.

Have a good day. Love each other. More thoughts tomorrow.