Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Saving the World

We know that the world is a dangerous place. Just consider a few of the dangers we face every day:

- Mass Shootings. Of course, these are not as bad as we think, because we now know that guns have nothing at all to do with them ... the problem is drugged-up crazy people lured by the irresistible siren song of "gun-free zones" ... lock up the crazy people, eliminate gun-free zones, and get more guns into circulation and the problem will solve itself ...

- Environmental Catastrophe. When there's a vast floating island of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, when China's air quality is so terrible that the government deliberately understates the degree of pollution, and when even the Pope warns that you're wrecking the planet, it's probably time to worry.

- Economic Collapse. If you're part of the Great Unwashed, this should probably worry you more than it does.

- The 2016 Presidential Election. Donald Trump. Ben Carson. Ted Cruz. Need I say more?

- Gay Marriage. Oh, wait ... never mind that one. It's fixed.

Yes, we  have plenty of things to worry about, but although no useful action will ever be taken on gun violence, the garbage will continue to mount, the economy will lurch along from crisis to crisis, and we'll elect the windbag who tells us what we want to hear*, there are some terribly dangerous things that we actually are doing something about.

Well, not we as in the sense of all of us ... we in the sense of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). You may be murdered by someone exercising his Second Amendment rights, choke on polluted air, die from eating tainted meat, lose everything in the next stock market crash, or endure a hyperconservative GOP presidency, but NASA is working to protect you from a real and clear threat: Giant Killer Asteroids ...

Yes, Dear Readers, this recent CNN article describes how NASA is planning to protect us from the cataclysmic threat of Giant Killer Asteroids (or "GKAs," for short) by developing technologies to nudge them aside, causing them to change trajectory and miss the earth ... making it possible for us to destroy the planet on our own, without outside assistance.

Of course, there are other options for dealing with this cosmic threat. One would be to announce that the GKA is preparing to stake a claim in the Spratley Islands, whereupon the Chinese government would immediately mobilize its Navy and police forces to keep it away.

Another approach would be to announce that the GKA will pose a clear and present danger to ethnic Russians when it lands. Russian President Vladimir Putin would immediately take action - secretly, of course - to cause so much trouble for the asteroid that it would go someplace else**.

Yet another tactic might be to let it be known that there isn't a single Starbucks location on the asteroid. Starbucks would immediately build coffee bars every few hundred feet on the surface of the GKA creating enough change in its drag coefficient*** to divert its course away from the Earth.

NASA could drop a hint to the NRA that the GKA isn't real, but is actually a cynical distraction to divert attention from the Jack-Booted Government ThugsTM coming to confiscate everyone's guns. The enormous howls of anger and outrage would generate a vast pressure wave in the atmosphere that would easily shove the asteroid at least back out to the orbit of Neptune.

And if all else fails, we could always launch giant tubes of Preparation A to crash on the surface and shrink the asteroid to less painful dimensions.

Do you have any other ideas? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. If you see an enormous fireball coming out of the sky straight at you, duck. More thoughts tomorrow.

* Or what most lines up with our preconceived ideas.

** The CIA believes that the mess Putin has created in Ukraine is actually a field test of his Giant Killer Asteroid Protection Scheme.

*** The "drag coefficient" is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment, such as air or water; it does not refer to the appearance of an object inappropriately dressed in female clothing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sex, Marriage, and Hysteria

Since there obviously hasn't been enough written about the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v Hodges that marriage between same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states, I thought I'd weigh in with my two cents. Stop reading if you're sick of the whole thing ... I'll be off on another tangent tomorrow and you can come back then.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not gay. I'm as straight as they come, and I find the idea of sexual attraction between men or between women to be ... well ... unsettling, if not actually distasteful*. But I also understand that there are people in this world who, for whatever reason, are attracted to persons of the same sex. I don't know why this is so ... if the reason is chemical, psychological, or whatever. I accept that there are such people. I don't have to think or feel the same way, and it's certainly not my place to pass judgment on them when even the Pope says it's not his place to do so. As it happens, I have a great many friends who I know are gay or lesbian, and probably others who are, but haven't "come out." That's fine. If they don't make a fuss about my being straight, I won't make a fuss about them being gay. There are too many worse problems that divide us to waste time on this one.

However ...

I don't believe that a marriage between two adults of the same sex is the right environment in which to raise children. I believe that a child grows and benefits from having loving parents of both sexes, and while a same-sex couple can certainly love a child, they cannot give that child the lessons of life and the points of view that can be taught by a father and a mother. Same-sex marriage is wonderful for adults ... not so good for children.

That's all.

Have a good day. Grit your teeth and accept that not everybody thinks and acts the same way you do ... you'll be happier. More thoughts tomorrow, when we consider something we really ought to worry about.


* This has nothing at all to do with religious beliefs and everything to do with what I personally feel comfortable with. 

P.S. - I doubt that the issue of marriage - gay or straight - ever crossed anyone's mind while they were writing the Constitution.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poetry Sunday

Since the Supreme Court this week created mass hysteria  by declaring that marriage between same-sex couples is legal, I thought a poem about love might be appropriate ...

The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Love the one you want. Just don't expect everyone to understand or approve.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

It's the last Cartoon Saturday for June ... and you know you need it.

At least 27 people were murdered by gunmen, apparently representing the so-called "Islamic State," who stormed a hotel in Tunisia on Friday, while gunmen also attacked a gas plant in France, decapitating at least one person and injuring several others and blew up a Shiite mosque in Kuwait; the worst drought in 100 years is threatening a massive famine in North Korea; Bristol Palin, daughter of former Vice Presidential candidate and conservative gadfly Sarah Palin, announced that she is pregnant, not that anyone outside of her family really cares; convicted murderer Richard Matt, who escaped from Dannemora Prison several weeks ago and was being intensively hunted by police, was shot and killed on Friday, while fellow escapee David Sweat is still at large; and Patrick Macnee, star of the classic television adventure series "The Avengers," passed away at the age of 93.

At a time when we really need some genuine heroes*, this week's collection of theme cartoons features none other than the Caped Crusader, Batman ...

It took a while for Batman to get just the right costume for his sidekick ...

And the final design may have had some considerations other than striking fear into the hearts of the bad guys ... 

The famous Batman portrait ...

The Batsignal could come in handy in more ways than one ...

And it can appear at inconvenient times, too ...


Batman and Robin at the diner ...

The sidekicks always seem to get the scut jobs ...

And sometimes things aren't always what they seem ...

I have two more cartoons for this week not on the Batman theme, but too good to pass up. Some of you have already seen this on on my Facebook page ...

And, speaking of Donald Trump** ...

And that's it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. Agnes and I are dog-sitting again this weekend, and - of course - it's pouring down rain outside ... so I need to find an umbrella and coax Clara into going for a walk before we get the severe storms predicted for later in the day. Gotta take care of the grand-dog, you know.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* You can read some other thoughts on heroism in this post I wrote back in August of 2012.

** No, please don't. Really.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Great Moments in Editing

Yes, it's time to stop thinking about Ass Clown awardees until next week. Today, it's another group of great moments in editing ...

Well, I guess that would work ...

Speaking of flashers ...

Proper job scheduling is important to completion ...

Uh, no thanks ... I'll just stick with the traditional pink one ...

Editor seeks new position: call BR-549 ...

Good choice ...

There's nothing quite like giving your beloved the right gift ...

Are they easier to remove, or what ... ?

I think I'd want to be remembered for something else ...

And finally, from the Department of Mixed Messages ...

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


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bottoms Up!

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my old friend Dave, with whom I served in Berlin many years ago. He wrote to tell me of an interesting article he'd stumbled upon and thought I would enjoy as a topic for a blog post ... he sent a link to the article and went on to say, "If you've already written on this, please direct me to the post. If not, I'd love to read what you have to say on the subject."

Well, Dave, I haven't written on this particular subject before, so let's see what we can do with an article from US News and World Report titled "Stop Drinking Camel Urine, World Health Organization Says."

Chances are you haven't passed up a glass of iced tea in favor of a glass of camel urine for refreshment on a hot day, but it seems that some people in middle eastern countries do ... and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they probably shouldn't. It seems that camel urine, refreshing though it might be, can carry the virus which causes the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. According to an article on the WHO website titled Frequently Asked Questions on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus,

"Until more is understood about MERS, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons ... should avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked."

I find myself, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words, and I can't help but imagine what the camels think about this ...

And I have to wonder ... who collects that camel urine? What training is involved? Do they have a union? What sort of benefits package comes with a job collecting camel urine? And how does one describe that sort of expertise on one's resume?

I understand that people eat and drink some pretty strange things*, and I don't mind an occasional gastronomic adventure**, but I think I'd draw the line at drinking urine, camel ... or otherwise ...

Sorry, Dave - I think I'll stick with a nice, cold beer***. And by the way, I have written on the subject of urine (albeit human) before, most recently this past May ... you can read it here.

Have a good day. Enjoy a glass of cold, refreshing water, why dontcha, and then come back tomorrow for our latest collection of Great Moments in Editing.

More thoughts then.


* Such as haggis, yak butter tea, assorted insects, and fugu.

** Within limits.

*** Angel has a few suggestions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Naming Things

Those of us who live here in the National Capitol Region have grown used to some oddly-chosen names for places, buildings, and major highways.

For example, US Route 1 from Washington south to Richmond, Virginia, is known locally as "The Jefferson Davis Highway" ... making us one of the few nations that would name a major artery after a traitor (Jefferson Davis, for those of you reading this in other countries, was the president of the Southern states during the Civil War*). We also have Route 50 - the "Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway" - named for two famous Southern civil war generals, not to mention the Army's nearby Fort A.P. Hill, named for yet another Southern general.

We don't just name things after traitors, although if we did we might consider renaming DC's Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant in honor of Edward Snowdon. For instance, Interstate 95/395, the major north-south artery into Washington known as the "Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway," was named for a former Virginia Highway Commissioner, a major bridge over the Potomac River is named for President Woodrow Wilson, and a stretch of state route 234 in Prince William County is known as "The Ronald Wilson Reagan Memorial Highway." Former president Reagan's name also graces the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport**.

But if we were to do some appropriate naming, we might make other choices.

For instance, since Interstate 95/395 (north-south) and Interstate 66 (east-west) are traffic-choked nightmares on which one can sit for hours in miserable gridlock, why not name one "The US Senate Highway" and the other "The US House of Representatives Highway?"

And why not name more of our local landmarks in honor of their corporate owners, the way we name sports arenas ... like "The Koch Brothers Capitol Hill." We could also name them in honor of those who provide them with large amounts of business, like the National Rifle Association Emergency Room of the Washington Hospital.

Looking beyond Washington, why not rename Mount St Helens as "Mount Cruz," in honor of the large quantities of hot air and poisonous gas vented by the senator from Texas?

Any other ideas? Leave a comment. Inquiring minds want to know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Known in much of the South, where Confederate figures are still frequently revered as heroes, as "The War of Northern Aggression." 

** If they could figure out how to do it, the GOP would change the name of Washington, DC, to Reagan City ... or "Ciudad Reagan," in an attempt to cozy up to Hispanic voters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Arms We're Not Allowed to Bear

Most Americans don’t know much about the Constitution*, but they know the Second Amendment (the one that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms) by heart; and they probably at least recognize the Fifth Amendment (protection against self-incrimination**). Indeed, many people over the years have found the Fifth Amendment to be quite useful after they’ve gone overboard exercising their Second Amendment rights in a way that attracted the attention of the local coroner.

It seems to me that we’ve gone totally nuts over the last few years on the topic of guns and the Second Amendment, with common sense, practicality, courtesy, and simple decency taking a back seat to paranoid political agendas. Nowadays it’s not enough to just own a gun … you’ve got to have a bigger one than anyone you're likely to meet, and carry it everywhere you go, just in case someone else might try to shoot you … not an unreasonable fear when people are allowed to pack heat in places like bars, which do not encourage self-restraint and prudence.

I think we need to take another look at what the Second Amendment actually says. Forget the part about “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” … the Supreme Court has decided the founders weren't really talking about militias, anyhow. Let’s look at the most important, but least-considered word in the Second Amendment: the word arms.

If you look up arms in the American Heritage Dictionary***, you will find one of the definitions to read, “Weapons, especially firearms.”

The key word here is especially, which acknowledges the existence of other types of arms as well … and that leads us to my question: why does the Second Amendment not protect our right to bear arms other than firearms? Why can’t I take my battleaxe, war hammer, broadsword, mace, or dagger to the local supermarket? Why can’t I carry falchions or cutlasses on the street? If I can carry an AR-15 rifle with a 100-round drum magazine into the nation’s busiest airport, why can’t I carry a crossbow there? If I can have a gun rack in my truck, why can't I mount a lance on it? Are these not arms, my right to carry them duly protected by the Holy Second Amendment, let me hear you say hallelujah?

A few days ago the Arkansas Times published a satirical article titled “A Modest Proposal,” which suggested that since the open carry of firearms was legal in Arkansas “as long as the person doing the carrying doesn't intend to commit a crime,” the next step in personal protection should be to legitimize the open carry of “large butcher knives, rusty machetes or razor-sharp hatchets.”

Using the same arguments put forward by supporters of the open carry of firearms, the article presented a tongue-in-cheek advocacy for the legal open carry of arms other than guns, such as the aforementioned “large butcher knives, rusty machetes and razor-sharp hatchets.”

Now, the article was clearly satirical and sarcastic to the point of being over-the-top, but the online comments posted to it were truly instructive. The howls of rage from gun advocates were deafening, and every single one of them missed the point … that the open carry of weapons of any sort can be frightening to those of us who can’t distinguish the people who don’t intend to commit a crime from those who do (the “good guys with a gun” from the “bad guys with a gun,” as so memorably described by NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre). When I see someone packing major heat in a public place, my first thought isn't that he (or she) is a well-trained, civic-minded protector of the weak, ready to blast away heroically at evildoers who would use their firearms for nefarious purposes ... he (or she) doesn't have a glowing halo, or wear a sign prominently reading "NRA-Certified Good Guy with a Gun."


What I see is someone who is carrying a deadly weapon, whose state of mind is unknown, and whose intentions and motives I cannot judge. As far as I'm concerned, that person poses a definite and potentially life-threatening danger to me and others around me.

So ...

Those of you who absolutely insist beyond reason and discussion that you absolutely must be permitted to carry your firearm of choice+ any place you wish need to understand that your actions - which are generally legal - can be interpreted as highly threatening to those of us who don't know your intentions and your state of mind.

Of course, you don't care ... and looking threatening is probably what you wanted in the first place.

Which is why if you want to be able to carry a gun, I want to be able to carry a sword.

Have a good day. Be rational. More thoughts tomorrow.


* And what they know is largely inaccurate. 

** That would be the famous “taking the fifth” so beloved of police and lawyer shows.

*** And it should not surprise you that I have.

+ Don't bother telling me what the Second Amendment says ... I know what it says. Explain to me why you aren't willing to discuss it rationally. Refusing to discuss it is not an argument.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Poetry Sunday Monday

Since yesterday was Father's Day and I ran my traditional Father's Day post, I've had to bring you Poetry Sunday on the rather untraditional Monday*. It's okay, you'll survive the shock.

French film critics coined the term film noir to describe the dark look and bleak, sinister themes of many World War II era and postwar American movies. Classic noir films include The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity, as well as more modern films like Sin City and, perhaps, Seven. They reflected the tensions and insecurities of the time, and their themes featured fear, mistrust, bleakness, loss of innocence, despair and paranoia. The heroes (or anti-heroes) of noir films aren't always distinguishable from the criminals they fight, and most plots feature a sense of injustice not corrected. Films noir seldom have happy or optimistic endings.

You wouldn't think that the subject would necessarily lend itself to poetry, but it does in this poem by Nicholas Christopher, which weaves many of the stock images of film noir into a short, punchy picture ...

Film Noir
by Nicholas Christopher

The girl on the rooftop stares out
over the city and grips a cold revolver.
Laundry flaps around her in the hot night.
Each streetlight haloes a sinister act.
People are trapped in their beds, dreaming of
the A-bomb and hatching get-rich-quick schemes.
Pickpockets and grifters prowl the streets.
Hit-men stalk informers and crooked cops hide in churches.
Are there no more picket fences and tea parties
in America? Does no one have a birthday anymore?
Even the ballgames are fixed, and the quiz shows.
Airplanes full of widows circle the skyline.
Young couples elope in stolen cars.
All the prostitutes were wronged terribly in childhood.
They wear polka dot skirts, black gloves, and trenchcoats.
Men strut around in boxy suits, fedoras, and palm-tree ties.
They jam into nightclubs or brawl in hotel rooms
while saxophone music drowns out their cries.
The girl in the shadows drops the revolver
and pushes through the laundry to the edge of the roof.
Her eyes are glassy, her hair blows wild.
She looks down at her lover sprawled on the sidewalk
and she screams.
A crowd gathers in a pool of neon.
It starts to rain.

Have a good day. Enjoy a noir film today.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Or, as Mike would call it, Friday the 13th.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fathers' Day

If you were looking for Poetry Sunday, don’t despair – because it's Father's Day and I have my traditional (if updated) tribute to fathers today, your poetry fix for the week will appear in this space tomorrow. Come back then, but be sure to read on today as well ...

Today is Fathers’ Day, the day we honor the man who contributed half of our chromosomes and many of the life lessons that shaped us into who we are.

Fathers don’t always get the same degree of respect that mothers do. We work in design, rather than production, after all, and don’t earn the credit that mothers do for going through nine months of pregnancy followed by months of sleepless nights and years of worry. And truth be told, many fathers don’t earn that respect. For all too many men, fatherhood is an unfortunate side effect of good sex, and a child is an impediment to the enjoyment of life. For many men, fathering a lot of children by a lot of women is the imagined sign of a manly stud ... not of lives betrayed by a thoughtless ass who thinks with his man parts* instead of his brain and heart.

Luckily, though, there are many good men out there trying their best to be good fathers. It’s not an easy job, and not everyone does it successfully ... but fortunately, enough do.

I have often reflected back on the course of my life, and I've come to the conclusion I’ve been a much better grandfather than I was a father. This is probably normal. You’ve seen more of life, and had more experiences – good and bad – to share. If you’re the grandfather, you get to be the gentle, wise, let-‘em-do-what-they-want fellow the children love to see, rather than the grouchy, tired father who has to put bread on the table, crack the whip, and enforce the discipline. You get all the joy of holding and loving the children with none of the negatives ... when the baby needs changing, for instance, there's none of that messy fuss - you just give her back to her mother. What's not to like?

I think that, from the father's perspective, we have our children too early in life. We're still learning how to be adults, and all of a sudden we're fathers, responsible for teaching our children all the lessons of life that we haven't even learned yet. Our children grow up as much in spite of our mistakes as because of our excellence in parenting.

When you get to be a father, you look at your own father differently. It was Mark Twain who supposedly once said, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

It's true.

A good father, as I came in time to understand, is a gift beyond all price. The gold standard for fatherhood is, of course, my own father. He fought the Nazis** in the skies over World War II Europe, ran his own business, raised four children and buried one, and cared for mom through the long years of misery as Alzheimer's gradually destroyed the mind of the dynamic and witty woman he loved. Dad left us this past January and I no longer get to hear his jokes and stories and learn the lessons he still had to teach, yet he remains the man to whom I owe whatever shreds of honor, decency, and ... well ... manhood that I can claim.

This was the man who battled for our freedom in 1944 ...

Here he is at the Mount Vernon Wine Festival in 2002, surrounded by admiring ladies (from left to right: our friends Susan and Nadja, our daughter Yasmin, and Agnes) ...

Here he is with my brother Mark and I, on the occasion of Mark's retirement from the Navy (our brother Paul served in the Army, but wasn't able to be there) ...

And here he is in December of 2013 at his 90th birthday party in Pittsburgh, surrounded by the friends and family members who came out to honor him in spite of some really ghastly winter weather ...

I'd like to think I made him satisfied, if not proud.

If you’d like to know more about the life of this wonderful man, who left us this past January, you can read my remembrance here.

It's politically correct (bordering on mandatory) nowadays to say that a child can grow up just fine in a household with same-sex "parents," but you'll never be able to convince me that it's the same as being raised by a father and a mother who love each other, treat each other with dignity and respect, set a good example, teach their gender-specific life lessons, and subordinate their own dreams and desires to the momentous task of raising a brand new human being.

On Fathers' Day, this wonderful song by Dan Fogelberg sums it all up for me ...

Have a good day. Honor your father. And if you're a father, be a good one ... preferably a better one than I was. Your children ... and, indeed, the future ... are depending on you.

More thoughts later.


*  As Missandei would say. If you're into "Game of Thrones," you'll get it.

** The real ones, the ones that murdered millions of innocent people and destroyed most of Europe, not the imaginary ones to which stupid people in this country compare their political opponents.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

The hits just keep on coming ...

Nine people were murdered in a Charleston, South Carolina, church by a man who shot them while they attended a bible study class; The earthquake that rocked Nepal in April of this year was so powerful that it moved Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, about three centimeters to the southeast*; in California, six people were killed and seven seriously injured when a fourth-floor apartment balcony collapsed during a birthday party; tropical storm Bill brought torrential rain and wind to the Texas Gulf Coast, proving that Governor Rick Perry is not the only source of high wind in the area; and in New England, two prison escapees - both extremely dangerous convicted murderers - remained on the loose two weeks after they broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.

This week, in honor of the end of Season Five of the smash hit show Game of Thrones, our selection of theme cartoons features knights and dragons ...

Do you suppose there was an SPCD in Westeros? ...

Dragons recycle, too ...

And they worry about schedules ...

Dragon puns ...

High-tech dragons ...

I wonder if King Arthur worried about things like this ...

When warrior knights go shopping ...

Knights have to listen to their mothers, too ...

Okay, enough about knights and dragons and such ... we have room for two more cartoons this week. This one reminds me of Agnes and I ...

You can gain atomic weight by absorbing too many of the latter ...

And that's it for another edition of Cartoon Saturday. 

Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* The government of China noted the movement and claimed exclusive sovereignty over Mount Everest since it was now part of the Spratley Islands.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown Award for June, 2015

Time's flying, Dear Readers, and it's time to name our Left-Cheek Ass Clown of the Month for June ...

It's always a chore to pick out the most deserving recipient, but a prime candidate has floated to the top of the tank. The action for which our awardee is cited actually took place back in May, but there's such a backlog of candidates that it took until now to fit him into the queue. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for June ...

Jim Cooley

Many travelers were very concerned at the sight of an individual carrying such a fearsome weapon in a busy airport, and notified the police ... who could do nothing because, as it happens, it is perfectly legal under Georgia law* to carry a loaded weapon into an airport, as long as it is not carried into the secured areas under the control of the TSA.

When one of the responding police officers told Cooley that “You’ve got quite a few people afraid because calls are like just coming in left and right,” Mr Cooley haughtily replied that "People's fears are not my responsibility." He went on to tell the police that he was carrying the weapon for his personal safety**, reminded them that it was legal to do so, and threatened to sue the airport if he was "harassed." In a subsequent interview with a local television station, Mr Cooley stated that “It shouldn’t matter what I carry, just that I choose to carry ... you never know where something might happen.”

I wish to stress that Mr Cooley broke no laws and was exercising his legal rights under the US Constitution and Georgia law. I am presenting him the Left-Cheek Ass Clown Award not for the specific action, stupid as I believe it was, of carrying an automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine into the world's busiest airport, but for his brazen disregard of the legitimate concerns of other citizens. Mr Cooley may be a stand-up fellow, one of the "good guys with a gun" sanctified by the NRA as the front line of our defense against "bad guys with guns." Unfortunately, none of the rest of us is able to see the invisible halo that distinguishes him from a similarly armed bad guy.

For his selfish and ludicrously-justified action that caused significant distress to his fellow citizens, Mr Jim Cooley is named the Left-Cheek Ass Clown of the Month for June of 2015. If you come to the awards ceremony, be sure to wear your formal kevlar vest.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* You can read the Georgia law, HB 512, The Safe Carry Protection Act, here.

** He was clearly able to outgun anyone armed with a weapon carrying less than a hundred rounds.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Waterloo at 200

Today is June 18th, and for those of you who are historically-minded, it's the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, in which the resurgent French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by English and Prussian forces under the respective commands of the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal von Bluecher. Were it not for the outcome of this battle, I might be writing this blog in French.

I find military history to be fascinating, and the scope of my interest has been steadily moving backwards from my teenage interest in World War II, originally fueled by 1960's-vintage TV series like "Combat" and "The Gallant Men." The Second World War grew out of the First World War, which built on the earlier Balkans wars and the Franco-Prussian War, which led back to ... well ... the Napoleonic Wars.

I just finished reading a fascinating new book by Bernard CornwellWaterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.

Cornwell is, of course, the author of the popular series of novels and short stories featuring the character of Richard Sharpe*, the British soldier who rose through the ranks and fought in every single battle of the Napoleonic wars, culminating in his participation at Waterloo as a lieutenant colonel.

Mr Cornwell has written a very detailed, but very readable and exciting history of the three battles of the Waterloo campaign - Ligny, Quatre Bras, and Waterloo, bringing the noise, smell, and fury of the battle to life as perhaps no other current author can. He draws on previous historical research and writings, and on primary sources such as diaries and letters to present the battle from perspectives ranging from those of Napoleon, Bluecher, and the Duke of Wellington to those of private soldiers of the three competing armies (French, Prussian, and English). After reading this book, you'll be glad you weren't there.

The 200th anniversary of Waterloo also led to a recent flap between the Belgian and French governments when Belgium announced plans to issue a 2.5 Euro coin commemorating the battle.

This, as you might imagine, irritated the ever-prickly French, whose government huffed that the coin threatened to undermine European unity and "spur an 'unfavorable reaction in France.'" The French, of course, have never quite accepted that Napoleon didn't work out well for them in the long run.

And if you are not especially interested in European military history, you can still celebrate the legacy of Waterloo in this song by the Swedish quartet Abba ...

Get your ration of history - read this fine book by Bernard Cornwell.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow, when we'll reveal the Left Cheek Ass Clown for the month of June. More thoughts then.


* Sharpe was played by actor Sean Bean in the BBC series based on the Cornwell stories. Mr Bean also played the character of Eddard Stark in the HBO series "Game of Thrones," and of Boromir in "The Lord of the Rings."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Bureau of Communication

As you know, Dear Readers (and as I'm sure you're tired of me reminding you), I enjoy writing. The sort of professional, quasi-technical/instructional/doctrinal writing I do at work, and especially the writing of personal letters. This is a dying art, to be sure, squeezed out by the lack of time, the lack of facility with cursive writing, and the growth of phone calls, e-mail and text messaging as the preferred mode of communication. I've written to some of you, and almost all of you have written back (I won't mention the lone holdout, but his name rhymes with Mike), making for a trip to the mailbox that is more entertaining than simply riffling through the piles of bills, political detritus, and assorted advertisements that have replaced the traditional ink-on-paper letter.

For those of you who would like to write, but lack the time, energy, vocabulary, or legible handwriting to do so, there is an option available to you: The Bureau of Communication. This is a wonderful website that provides fill-in-the-blank stationery for everyday correspondence. Need to send a complaint? Offer unsolicited feedback to someone? Deliver bad news? Offer congratulations on an event? Reply to an invitation or, conversely, invite someone to an event? Air a grievance or offer an apology? Look no further! The Bureau of Communication has a form letter waiting for you, and all you need to do is print it out, fill in the blanks, and drop it in the mail. What could be easier?

Amaze your friends ... confound your enemies ... send your thoughts! Visit the Bureau of Communication today!

Have a good day. Write to someone today ... they'll thank you for it.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Crepitation Contest

Last Friday, fellow blogger and pleasantly-twisted commentator Angel published a post titled "Humor About Flatulence." Yes, strange as it may seem to those of you who live in other parts of the world, we Americans are fond of making jokes about flatulence or, to use the more polite and precise medical term, farting. You can even find lots of apps for your smart phone that will produce the degree of flatulent noise desired: here are some for your iPhone or your Android device. And if you're a fan of the smash hit television series NCIS, you are familiar with the doll owned by goth forensic scientist Abby Scuitto - Bert the Farting Hippo.

But all other commentary about flatulence aside, if you have not heard the famous Crepitation Contest, you don't know fart-all about the topic ...

My father told us about this for years, and we never believed it actually existed until, many years ago, I found it on a CD advertised in a catalog called "Things You Never Knew Existed." Today, you can find it on YouTube and, as a CD or downloadable mp3, at Amazon.com. 

Go ahead and break that wind, cut that cheese, airbrush those boxers, and play the o-ring oboe*. Just do it somewhere else.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* You can find anything on the Internet ... including this exhaustive list of euphemisms for farting.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bring Back the Cone of Silence!

One of the most annoying things ever invented is the cellular telephone. Oh, I'll grant you that it has its uses ... it's superb for sending text messages, surfing the web, making videos of police activity, shooting selfies, and tracking your workout. It's even useful for making telephone calls, often without regard for the unintended audience of the call.

We've all had the wonderful experience of sitting in a restaurant or an airport waiting area or some other public space and being treated to the loud and often highly personal conversations being carried on by some clueless twits on their cell phones. I believe I've written here before about the very loud and angry conversation I overheard while waiting for a flight at Washington National Airport* ... in which the furious caller was berating the person on the other end for not getting him his desired appointment with his urologist. I have often overheard highly personal calls between lovers emanating from stalls in Pentagon rest rooms. And fellow blogger Kathy ranted on Facebook the other day about an ass clown at Houston Airport who had been talking loudly on his phone for about 30 minutes about his cousin whom he was visiting who was "nuts" and needed immediate commitment as the caller "fear(ed) for his life."**

What is it about cell phones that encourages people to share their most intimate and distressing affairs in public? More importantly, how can we make them stop?

I say we bring back the Cone of Silence.

Some of you may remember the 1960's vintage TV comedy "Get Smart," in which Don Adams played bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in a Mel Brooks parody of the secret agent films and TV shows popular at the time. Agent Smart was famous for the telephone hidden in his shoe, and for the famous security device known as the "Cone of Silence." When Smart was meeting with his boss ("The Chief," played by Edward Pratt), he would often call for employment of the Cone of Silence to ensure that their conversation would remain private ...

The problem was that while the Cone of Silence prevented people outside from listening in on the conversation, the people inside couldn't understand each other because of the tremendous echo. There was also a portable version of the Cone of Silence for use outside the headquarters (which suffered from the same problem) ...

I'm thinking that a portable Cone of Silence would be a great thing for people addicted to their cell phones. We could create a special device with a built-in cell phone that people could simply wear when they wanted to make a personal call in public. It might look something like this ...

I'll be the first one to volunteer to bolt it on the head of some publicly-nattering ass clown.

Have a good day. Keep your private calls private.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Sorry, but I refuse to call it "Reagan National" airport. The GOP has already named enough things in the greater DC area after Saint Ronald.

** Adapted from Kathy's somewhat longer and pithier description of the call.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Poetry Sunday

Today is Sunday, June 14th, and it's Flag Day - the day on which we honor Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of the nation.

What could be more appropriate for the day than this classic poem by Henry Holcomb Bennett? ...

The Flag is Passing By
by Henry Holcomb Bennett

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A dash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land's swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor,--all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Have a good day. And if you have a chance, salute the flag, which stands for all the freedoms you enjoy.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

Halfway through June, and it feels like it ought to be almost Christmas ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin kept Pope Francis waiting for an hour for their meeting last Wednesday, proving that he can stiff the world's leading religious figure while undermining peace on earth; the French government is incensed over plans by the government of Belgium to issue a 2.5 Euro coin commemorating the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo; actor Christopher Lee, famous for his portrayals of Count Dracula and evil wizard Saruman from The Lord of the Rings died at the age of 93; as difficult as it is to believe in gun-crazy America, iconic American gun manufacturer Colt is on the verge of bankruptcy; a pair of convicted murderers escaped from a maximum security prison in upstate New York by using power tools to cut through a steel wall; and in West Africa, the deadly Ebola virus, which had seemed to be on the wane, has roared back with dozens of new cases reported in the last month.

Since we're probably going to be doing a lot of praying as we get deeper into the election season, I thought I'd use a collection of religious-themed cartoons for this week's theme selections ...

Faith is good. Being an ass clown about it is not.

Boxing preachers? ...

That would be the plus-sized lady, nowadays ... 

Obvious ...

I think this one is spot-on ...

If Michelangelo were painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling today ...

If I were still on the market, I'd probably have a similar problem ...

Been there, fallen into that trap ...

It is known, as the Dothraki say ...

Probably true ...

And there we are: this week's collection of cartoons to help you over the misery of the news. I'm happy to help.

Agnes and I are spending the weekend at our daughter's house, dog- and cat-sitting with Clara and Lucy. Not bad duty, and it does give me an excuse for not doing things like cleaning out the garage and mowing the lawn.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we come back with Poetry Sunday.