Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Adios, 2014 - No Need to Leave a Forwarding Address

Today, Dear Readers, is December 31st ... the last day of The Year of Our Lord 2014, or 2014 C.E. if you prefer. Maybe it's just me, but I thought 2014 was an uncommonly yucky year. It was the year that:

Russia came back with a vengeance, going from prickly quasi-ally to an aggressive, bullying reincarnation of Stalin's Soviet Union.

We learned about the beastly religious bigotry and violent perversions of the so-called "Islamic State."

A person I once trusted and loved as part of the family turned out to be a greedy, self-centered bully.

Members of Congress of both parties ... but mostly Republicans ... acted like spoiled children and made our once-respected government the laughingstock of much of the world. When the performance of your government compares unfavorably to that of Italy, there's a problem.

American voters threw their support behind a political party that demonstrably does not care about their issues and concerns.


The Supreme Court improved the ability of big business and the wealthy to purchase government services and support by continuing to remove limits on the size and transparency of their donations to political parties and individual candidates.

There were a few plusses in the past year, though ... it was also the year in which:

Agnes and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary, making me thankful that, despite all temptation, she hasn't killed me yet.

Our beloved oldest grandchild, Marcy, turned into a beautiful and talented 14 year-old lady, our equally-beloved youngest grandchild, Ava, turned a delightful two, and the other four grandchildren sandwiched in between continued to grow and develop into wonderful young people.

At work, I actually managed to get three Air Force Instructions finally coordinated and published*.

My blog went over the quarter-million hits mark ... proving that (a) I have a significant number of online friends; and (b) there's no accounting for taste.

I enjoyed good health and the love of a wonderful extended family.

And finally,

I enjoyed the company of old and the pleasure of making new friends.

So, I guess that - on balance - it was an average year in which the good things balanced out the bad. Now we get to see what 2015 has in store.

I'm crossing my fingers, and so should you.

Have a good day. Party down tonight, but do it safely ... I need you all back tomorrow for the announcement of the 2014 Ass Clown of the Year, and you won't want to miss it!

More thoughts in the coming year.


* Trust me, it's a big deal ... it took five years to get to this point.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Not Just Splitting Hairs ...

I never cease to be amazed at the sorts of things some people will do, like get ugly and inappropriate tattoos or vote Republican. But I think I have finally found one of the most amazingly bizarre fashion trends to come down the pike since ... well ... the piercing of sensitive body parts.

I refer, of course, to the new fashion trend of women allowing their armpit hair to grow, then dyeing it in various colors.

Yes, Dear Readers, according to this article from the United Kingdom's Daily, the latest beauty trend is for women to let their underarm hair grow long, then dye it and post the results on Instagram, where there is now a hashtag devoted to the activity (#dyedpits).

Now, I am personally agnostic on the topic of whether or not women should shave their legs and underarms. Living in Europe in the late 70's and early 80's, before the American concept of shaving caught on with continental women, I got used to the sight of unshaven legs and underarms and decided it really didn't matter - and could be quite sexy - as long as proper hygiene was otherwise observed. It often occurred to me that an otherwise attractive lady who didn't shave tended to be far more attractive than a man with an unkempt beard. I even discussed the subject of the underappreciated armpit in this space a few years ago (you can read that post here).

That said, however, I think that the idea of dying one's underarm hair may be going just a wee bit too far in search of high fashion. You can judge for yourself by viewing the pictures of various ladies showing off their dyed armpits at the Daily Mail article linked above, and at the similar article in the New York Post. Here are two representative samples, in which the ladies have apparently color-coordinated their armpit hair with their clothing*:

I'd write more on this topic, but it's really the pits.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for some thoughts on the end of the 2014.


* One wonders if their handbags and shoes match as well.

P.S. - Time is running out to cast your votes for the Ass Clown of the Year. Act now!! Vote by leaving a comment here, leaving a comment on my Facebook page (if you're one of my FB friends), or e-mailing your desires to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com. Voting ends at midnight tomorrow (December 31st) and the award will be presented in this space on January 1st.


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Science of Junk Mail

I am in the process of cleaning out and rearranging my study, something I do when I'm feeling particularly masochistic and/or can't find anything any more. I'm also trying to organize it so that I can make room for my unused (and very comfy) easy chair which now occupies an awkward position in the rec room, where it has no view of the TV and is usually used only as a staging area for clean wash waiting to be folded. I advertised for an archaeologist, a geologist, or a paleontologist to help dig down through the layers of debris, but so far no one has answered yet*.

One necessary part of cleaning out the study is shredding Mount Junk Mail - the huge pile of unwanted credit card come-ons, charity solicitations, "Congratulations, You Have Won ..." letters, and advertisements for retirement communities and cemetery plots**. These need to be shredded, of course, to prevent dumpster-diving dirtbags from stealing my identity and doing nefarious things in my name. And the process of excavating my way through that mountain gave me a new appreciation for the science that goes into the creation of junk mail.

First of all, there are the ways in which junk mail is disguised in an attempt to get you to open it. There are several ways this is done:

- By using a script typeface and colored ink on the envelope to make it look like it was hand-addressed ... clearly an attempt to make you think it's a personal letter***.

- Making the letter look like a check, by making words like "pay to the order of" appear on check-style paper above your name in the window on the envelope.

- Making the letter look like an official notice from a government agency.

- Stamping official-looking, demanding language on the envelope: "personal and confidential;" "to be opened only by the addressee;" and "Postmaster: handle in accordance with postal regulation 187.74.29 (or something similar)+."

There are also measures that junk mailers take to ensure that you don't just tear up their missives and throw them away. One way is by enclosing some part of the letter in plastic so that it can't be torn up. Another that I've seen more often lately (usually in credit card offerings) is to print the letter on heavy cardstock that can't be easily torn or fed into a home shredder++.

Once you open the envelope, they try all sorts of psychological tricks to actually make you read the contents.

- Charities usually ensure that the first thing you see when you pull out the letter is a heart-rending photo of a starving child/abused animal/devastated landscape/etc.

- Various services (cable TV, and cell phones, for example) include an actual check for some modest amount on which is printed (usually in .008 pitch font) the message that "endorsing and cashing this check will automatically transfer my cable TV/cell phone/trash pickup/etc service to Company X."

- Using apocalyptic language designed to make you nervous enough to respond as they wish, such as: "Our analysis shows that you may be paying thousands of dollars more than necessary for your mortgage," or "Thousands of people will die this year of (insert dreaded disease here)."

Food for thought as you deal with your own accumulation of junk mail. I'd write more, but Mount Junk Mail is only about half gone, and I only have one more day of vacation to get rid of it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* And won't those paleontologists be kicking themselves when I find a complete T-Rex skeleton under all the mouldering old photographs, eh?

** When you get to be my age, the last two start appearing with dismaying frequency.

*** But you're smarter than that ... you know that nobody but Bilbo would send you a handwritten letter, right?

+ Which probably tells the letter carrier to either deliver the damn letter or throw it away if you've moved. 

++ Some of you may remember the old gambit - I think it was the subscription offer from Time Magazine - that included a little pencil for you to fill in the form. A variation of this is the one that includes a stamp to put on your reply, a self-addressed, stamped envelope (often abbreviated SASE), or a dime to pay for your phone call to subscribe (and doesn't that date me?).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Poetry Sunday

I still remember the feeling of overwhelming shock when I suddenly realized that, for the first time, I was a father. All of a sudden, I was the one responsible for so many things, not the least of which was preparing a new human being to take his place in the world. This poem by David Ignatow captures some of that feeling that I still feel, even now that I'm a grandfather ...

Lost Childhood
by David Ignatow

How was it possible, I a father
yet a child of my father? I
grew panicky and thought
of running away but knew
I would be scorned for it
by my father. I stood
and listened to myself
being called Dad.

How ridiculous it sounded,
but in front of me, asking
for attention—how could I,
a child, ignore this child's plea?
I lifted him into my arms
and hugged him as I would have
wanted my father to hug me,
and it was as though satisfying
my own lost childhood.

Being a parent is an awesome responsibility. I like to flatter myself that I did the best I could in a job that comes without any instructions other than the example set by my own parents. You'll have to ask the children how well I did.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Here's your update on the balloting for Ass Clown of the Year:

In first place with 34 votes - ISIS/"The Islamic State;"

Moving up to second place with 34 votes - The Republican Congressional Leadership;

Dropping to third place with 31 votes - former vice president Dick Cheney;

In fourth place with 14 votes - The Taliban; and,

Advancing to fifth place with 13 votes - The Democratic Congressional Leadership.

Other nominees who have received at least one vote are:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz - 8 (dropped from fifth place as of this morning);
The News Media - 4;
Vladimir Putin - 3;
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell - 2
The Supreme Court - 2;
and, with one vote each:
The American Voter; California Representative Nancy Pelosi"Sluggo" (perhaps Heidi can explain this one); Hillary Clinton; and, The Murderer of the New York Police Officers.

You still have four more days to cast your votes, but don't wait until the last minute! Your voice may be drowned out in most elections by the tsunami of money from the rich, the powerful, and their PACs and Super Pacs, but this election is slanted in your favor - Chicago Rules voting applies, so hurry up and cast as many votes as you wish, as often as you like, for the Ass Clown(s) of your choice. The polls close at midnight on New Year's Eve, so vote early and vote often - the results will be announced in this blog on January 1st.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cartoon Saturday

Christmas is over, and now it's time to head back to the malls to exchange all those unwanted/wrong-sized/inoperative/duplicative gifts. It's also time for the last Cartoon Saturday of 2014 ...

An 11-year-old Israeli girl received severe burns after the car in which she was riding in the West Bank was hit by a Molotov cocktail; a Jordanian pilot was taken hostage by ISIS fighters after his warplane crashed in Syria; gaming networks of Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox Live were crippled by hackers on Christmas Day; two men were arrested in Hong Kong after police said they stole some of nearly 15.23 million Hong Kong dollars that spilled from a money transport van onto a street on Christmas Eve; and in Russia, president Vladimir Putin announced the cancellation of holiday vacations for government ministers as a result of the deteriorating condition of the economy.

After all this, 2015 just has to be better. Doesn't it?

For our final Cartoon Saturday of 2014, in honor of the complete lack of effective ... not to mention civil ... communication between our major political parties, our selection of theme cartoons deals with language ...

I wonder about this sometimes when I read e-mails that I've received ...

Sadly, nowadays not many people need the training this place provides ..

All those linguistic history courses I took while in college could have been made a great deal simpler ...

Why lawyers need to be very careful with jury selection (this one's for you, Kathy and Melissa) ...

It probably took less than a day for prehistoric politicians to master this linguistic skill ...

We all know that men and women don't always speak the same language ...

 Moving on to other cartoon topics, I think I'm going to try this approach to financial well-being in 2015 ...

I really think that this is how weather forecasters in NoVa work ... 

A clever sight gag that riffs on veterinary tools ...

And finally, a cartoon that's really for the birds ...

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Things at Chez Bilbo were relatively quiet, as we had no visitors or guests for the holiday ... with the exception of our daughter and her dog Clara, a pit bull who is very cuddly and very, very exuberant. Clara spent Christmas Eve night with us and surprised the hell out of me when she came rocketing into our bedroom in the middle of the night and took a flying leap onto our bed, landing right on my crotch before running in circles around the bed in search of someone to play with. I can tell you now from personal experience that a pit bull - which is simply a single huge muscle disguised as a dog - can cause major distress when it hits you at speed in a sensitive location.

Thank goodness I'm still a baritone ... I was afraid I'd end up a soprano.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your long holiday weekend, if you are fortunate enough to have one. I'll see you back here tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.

More thoughts then.


P.S. - Don't forget to cast your votes for the Ass Clown of the Year - voting closes at midnight on New Year's Eve, and the results will be announced on January 1st! We'll recap the current standings tomorrow after Poetry Sunday.


Friday, December 26, 2014

The Final Ass Clown of the Month for 2014!

Well, Dear Readers, Christmas has come and gone and it's now time to heave a sigh of exasperation and knuckle down to those most American of post-Christmas activities: paying for the Christmas gifts, and getting ready to prepare our 2015 tax returns.


It's also time to name our final bi-weekly Ass Clown awardee.

While voting for the 2014 Ass Clown of the Year is still going on (and is summarized below), we still have one last awardee to name for the current year. And therefore, it is my honor and privilege* to name 2014's final biweekly Ass Clown ...

Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Amid the furor that arose over the release of a Congressional report detailing the use of torture on terrorism suspects, Mr Cheney strongly defended the controversial program, saying that he has "no regrets" and "would do it again in a minute."

While many argue that the torture of individuals responsible for the despicable murder of innocents simply shows that they are reaping what they've sown, America has always stood for the rule of law and justice - even when it's hard, and even when such rules have been mocked and ignored by other nations and groups. By resorting to the terrible actions for which we have so often condemned other regimes, we have lowered ourselves to their level and have forfeited the moral high ground. Mr Cheney's defense of such actions is unworthy of a former Vice President ... and, indeed, of anyone who holds American values dear.

The final Ass Clown of the Month for 2014 is Mr Dick Cheney. He can reflect on the award the next time news reports show Americans being tortured by those who share his the-end-justifies-the-means values.

The balloting for Ass Clown of the Year continues in full swing, so keep up the voting for your favorite candidates! Here are the top five vote-getters on the leaderboard as of today:

ISIS/"The Islamic State" - 22 votes;
The Republican Congressional Leadership - 20 votes;
The Taliban - 14 votes;
Dick Cheney - 10 votes; and,
The Democratic Congressional Leadership - 9 votes.

If your preferred candidate is lagging in the voting, don't delay! Start voting now, and encourage your relatives, friends, and acquaintances (living or dead), co-workers, pets, imaginary childhood friends, and everyone else to vote. The time is now - let your voice be heard without fear of being drowned out by purchased votes! Vote by leaving comments on the blog or e-mailing your choices to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com. Voting ends at midnight on New Year's Eve, and the annual winner will be announced in this blog on January 1st, 2015.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for our final Cartoon Saturday of 2014.

More thoughts then.


* And I use the term loosely.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas, 2014

Today is Christmas Day, on which Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose lessons and example many of them decline to follow. Beyond the Christian world, it is a season for general good cheer, the exchange of gifts, and two weeks of uplifting and sentimental television shows which temporarily replace the sex, violence, and cynicism of the remaining 50 weeks of the year.

We’ve long bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas, in which the purchase and exchange of gifts has replaced thoughtful contemplation and love of family. But now, Christmas has been politicized as well. Conservative shouting heads complain about a “war on Christmas.” Non-Christians complain about discrimination because they don’t want to be exposed to religious ideas and traditions which are not their own. Angry Scrooges object to hearing “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Solstice,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or a plain-and-simple “Happy Holidays.” Nuisance lawsuits force towns and cities to remove nativity displays from public places. Scrooge lives on, and we’ve exorcised the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future from our holiday.

The traditional Christmas story that most of us recognize is told in the Bible in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

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.

Whatever happened to the part about “peace on earth and goodwill toward men*?” … It seems to have been replaced by “peace on earth, goodwill only to those who agree with me, and the rest of you can go to Hell.” It’s been replaced by rigid intolerance and stiff-necked self-righteousness that belie both the spirit of the season and the values and teachings of the person whose birth is being celebrated.

Nevertheless, for those willing to put aside their cultural tunnel vision and their petty carping and hatreds, the Christmas season offers a time for joy and renewal, regardless of the religious tradition they profess to follow. It’s a season in which men (okay, persons) of goodwill can come together and treat each other like real human beings rather than like despised “others” … if, of course, they’re willing to bend enough to do so.

And it is, above all, a season for children, who have not yet been spoiled by the cynicism and hatred they’ll learn all too soon. The look on a child’s face on Christmas morning is a wonderful thing, and it reminds us that there is still joy to be found in life, if only we can get past the greed, selfishness, and political chicanery.

And so, Dear Readers, Agnes and I and our extended family wish all of you a very joyous Christmas and a safe, happy, and healthy new year. Blog on!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Okay, “persons.” Don’t get your holiday knickers in a twist.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Today is the day of Christmas Eve, when millions of people across the nation and the world make their annual pilgrimage to the mall in search of the gifts they haven't yet purchased. Tonight, children will set out milk and cookies for Santa and desperately try to stay up late in hopes of seeing him, parents will use salty language as they try to deal with the toy for which "some assembly (is) required," and stores will sell out of the batteries you didn't realize you needed for that toy for which "some assembly (is) required."

Here's an appropriate quote from comic author Dave Barry:

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space."

Ah, the holidays!

Tomorrow, I'll put up my annual Christmas post ... for now, here's a brief message for the clueless shouting heads that are trying to spin the idiotic "war on Christmas" ...

May the spirit of the holidays be with you, even if The Force isn't.

Have a good day as you get ready for Christmas Morning. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our German Pre-Christmas Adventure

As you will recall, Dear Readers, Agnes and I spent two weeks in Germany earlier this month, visiting her father and cousins and our son and his family. You probably saw my two earlier posts that I published from Germany here and here, so I won’t bore you by recapping anything I already mentioned in those posts … I’ll just provide some pictures and a few additional vignettes to round out the story. Sadly, I didn't get that many good outdoor pictures because the weather was so awful the entire time we were there, but these are the best I have to share with you ...

Our first stop was in Singen am Hohentwiel, where Agnes's father lives. As it happens, Singen was holding its first-ever Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) this year, right on the Rathausplatz in front of our hotel. One of the things not associated with the Weihnachtsmarkt, but still interesting, was this statue in front of the Rathaus (City Hall) - the Concrete Porsche*. It's ugly, has a very hard ride, and doesn't go anyplace fast, but gets great gas mileage ...

There were the official greeters at the entrance to the Weihnachtsmarkt ...

My iPhone didn't take great nighttime pictures, but this one of the main entrance to the Weihnachtsmarkt was not too bad ...

While in Singen, we also joined up with Agnes's cousin Bernadette for a trip to a somewhat larger and fancier Weihnachtsmarkt in the border city of Konstanz. In this picture, a few enterprising Santas demonstrate how they cope with too-small chimneys ...

We stopped at a stand Agnes remembered from her previous visit, where they prove that Germans can make wonderful schnapps from just about anything that grows ... and which makes for a colorful picture ...

There were also many gaily-decorated kiosks and stalls that helped make the otherwise gray, dull day a little warmer and more festive ...

Konstanz is located on the border between Germany and Switzerland (the border runs right through town), and on the shores of the Bodensee (otherwise known as Lake Constance). Part of the Weihnachtsmarkt was actually located on board a cruise ship docked at the harbor ...

That was probably my least-favorite part of the Weihnachtsmarkt, because there was so much crammed into the very tight confines of the ship.

From Singen, we went on to the little town of Schwedelbach, where we spent a few days with our son and his family, which includes four of our six grandchildren. We managed a nice group picture with the Munchkins, which is a feat similar to herding cats, but harder ...

Marcy, at 14, is our oldest grandchild, and a beautiful young lady. She's also a great Big Sister ... here she is in her ballet costume (for the recital we sadly weren't able to stay long enough to see) dancing with our youngest grandchild, Ava (age 2) ...

 Ava also loves to get her nails done, and Marcy was happy to oblige ...

Ava and I got along quite well. I got used to hearing her tell me to "read," "come," and "play," and she has wonderful manners for a two year-old ... she always says "peez," "tanku," and "wekkum."

The boys got their own picture - here, our son Jason and grandsons Joe and Noah demonstrate how much respect one gets around here ...

After reluctantly leaving Schwedelbach we took the train to the city of Reutlingen to visit Agnes's cousin Anna and her husband Volker. Reutlingen has its own Weihnachtsmarkt, which we visited (of course ... someone has to help drink all that Gluehwein and eat all those Wursts and Schupfnudeln and such). Again, the nasty weather kept me from getting many decent photos, but I did like this one. Those of you who are Facebook friends with me will recognize this as my new cover photo ...

I have lots more pictures, and may go ahead and post a few more in the coming days, but these will have to do for now. In spite of the crummy weather, we had a wonderful time with family and friends, and would go back again in a New York minute.

That's all for now ... time to get ready for work. Come back tomorrow for more thoughts and an update on the voting for Ass Clown of the Year.

Have a good day. Stay dry.


* You may recall some of my older posts, in which I shared photos of some of the hideously awful statues dotted around Singen. I can't believe someone paid money for some of them.

Monday, December 22, 2014


I apologize to those of you who came here expecting to find the report on our trip to Germany that I promised you. I'll run that post tomorrow. Today, I want to talk about a more important topic that arose over the weekend.

You have probably seen the news reports from New York City about two NYPD police officers who were murdered last Saturday afternoon as they sat in their patrol car. The killer ... who apparently committed suicide rather than face arrest ... had posted numerous online messages threatening to kill police officers in retaliation for the deaths earlier in the year of two black men who had been killed by police in Ferguson, MO and New York City. I find this justification a bit shaky, as he had apparently also shot his girlfriend in Baltimore (who likely didn't have anything to do with the other incidents) before traveling to New York to murder random police officers, but I'm sure he'll have his apologists.

One aspect of this terrible crime that no one has commented on is one that struck me right away: the names of the murdered police officers - Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Think about that for a minute.

I think it says something about America that police officers of Chinese and Hispanic descent were on patrol together. America has traditionally been a country that welcomed people from everywhere, and although we've gone through cycles of discrimination based on racial, national, religious and other factors, we are still the refuge of choice for those fleeing bad conditions in their home countries. The phone book of any town in America is a compilation of names reflecting virtually every race, color, religion, and ethnic origin in the world.

I remember a cartoon from Mad Magazine many years ago that lampooned movie stereotypes with an imagined scene from a World War II film in which the unit sergeant was selecting men for a patrol ... "Okay, listen up! Jones, Perez, Chan, Goldberg, Pulaski, Schmidt, Yokuda, Giordano, and Wegryzynowicz, come with me! Oh, yeah, I almost forgot ... Olafsson, you, too!" The point, of course, was that America's army was supposed to be made up of people from everywhere, brought together by the common ideal that allegiance was owed to an idea - the principles of the Constitution - not to a king or an emperor or a dictator. No matter where you or your parents were from, if you embraced those ideas, you were an American.

Nowadays, of course, the idea is wearing a little thin. Conservatives worry that all immigrants (not just the illegal ones) are ruining the country and need to be kept out at all cost. And some immigrants, to be fair, don't come here because they believe in American ideals ... they arrive here and want to retain (and impose upon others) the very hatreds, customs, and beliefs that created the conditions from which they fled. "Honor killings" and the desire to implement Sharia law come to mind.

I don't have the answer to the problem. I wish I did. But one thing I do know is that we need to stop viewing each other with hatred and suspicion and start working together to build the better future the Founders imagined.

Much like officers Ramos and Liu were trying, in their own small way, to secure.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poetry Sunday

Today, December 21st, is the Winter Solstice - the first day of winter, the shortest day and longest night of the year. And, as you might suspect, there has been a poem written about it ...

Toward the Winter Solstice
by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the rope of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch's crown;
A dowel into which I've screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree's elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn't suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUV's.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It's comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing's lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

Have a good day, and enjoy that longest night of sleep. Christmas is almost here.

More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Ass Clown of the Year Voting Update: the votes are coming in regularly, now, and so if you don't want to miss the chance to vote for the year's most despicable Ass Clown (or even if you've already voted and want to vote some more ... Chicago Rules, remember?), get your votes in soon! Remember, voting closes at midnight on December 31st, and we'll announce the winner on January 1st. Here are the top vote-getters thus far:

ISIS/"The Islamic State" is in the lead with 17 votes;

Dick Cheney and the Republican Congressional Leadership are tied for second place with 10 votes each; and,

The Taliban is making a strong third place showing with nine votes.

Let your voice be heard! Vote now. Heck, vote tomorrow, too. Rules and a recap of the start of the competition are here. And don't forget that we still have one more biweekly Ass Clown to be named on December 26th, in case you want to hold a few votes back.

Go for it.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cartoon Saturday

Less than a week until Christmas, and somehow that thing about peace on earth and goodwill toward men seems to have been stuck in Congress ...

North Korea has been identified by the FBI as the perpetrator of the massive computer hack and political blackmail that targeted the Sony Corporation; the mother of eight children murdered in Australia has been arrested for the crime; a family has sued the Bob Evans restaurant chain, accusing it of killing their parents by serving tainted meat loaf; at least four people have died and 28 others in ten states have become infected after eating caramel apples that may have been infected with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria; and President Obama is being both hailed and condemned (oddly enough) for his decision to reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Since Christmas is coming on Thursday, what could be more appropriate than cartoons dedicated to the magical season? ...

The version of the visitation of the magi that didn't make it into Bible ...

When myths collide ...

That Rudolph is one sly reindeer ...

Even Santa finds it necessary to lawyer up nowadays ...

Wrapping Christmas gifts can be a pain, but there are some creative ways to get around it that don't involve the old gift-bag copout ...

Wall Street wishes you a Merry Christmas ...

They could probably just get a copy from the NSA ...

You can't be too careful when reading the fine print ...

Remember those reindeer games we talked about before? ...

No Euros? ...

And that's how it is for your next-to-last Cartoon Saturday of 2014. I hope you've finished your Christmas shopping, because if you go to a shopping center any time in the next few days, you need your head examined. And I have extra coal and sawdust if you were wondering what gift to give your Congressional reprehensives.

Before we go, don't forget to cast your votes for the 2014 Ass Clown of the Year. I announced the opening of the balloting last Wednesday, and so far we have votes cast for:

The Republican Congressional Leadership - 15 votes each for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell
ISIS/"The Islamic State" - 11 votes
The Taliban - 5 votes
The Democratic Congressional Leadership - 3 votes each for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi
Vladimir Putin - 1 vote
Texas Senator Ted Cruz - 1 vote
The American Voter - 1 vote

Don't miss out ... cast your votes now! In case you need to review the rules (which are simple) and the biweekly winners for 2014 who have already been announced, go here.

Have a good day and a great weekend. See you back here again tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.

More thoughts then.


Friday, December 19, 2014

More Great Moments in Editing

I was going to start the recap of our vacation adventures today, but I haven't gotten finished sorting out the pictures yet. Actually, I haven't even started sorting out the pictures yet. Thus, you'll have to settle for the usual alternate Friday offering of editorial gems, and I'll plan on doing the vacation report on Monday. Maybe earlier as a special if I can get my act together over the weekend. Who knows? In the meantime ...

The perils of having an unusual name ...

This wasn't the church I used to attend ...

"It's kind of ironic," the chief said ...

It probably shares office space with the local Faux News bureau ...

I guess you'd use them to make ... hamlets ...

I was going to show this to Agnes, but I enjoy life too much ...

This would be on the menu at the very sub-est of Subways ...

Everyone's getting into the holiday season ...

I'm not showing this one to Agnes, either ...

There are some very odd occupational hazards out there ...

There you are ... proof positive that not everything you see in print is worth seeing. I'll be back tomorrow with Cartoon Saturday, and will be working hard in the background to get our vacation report together. Really.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.