Monday, April 30, 2018


In the wake of the awful vehicular attack in Toronto last week, I learned a word I'd never heard before: incel. It's an abbreviation for involuntarily celibate, used by a class of juvenile and frustrated men to refer to themselves and their inability to attract the attention of women.

Oh, for Pete's sake.

If you have to blame and hate women for your own inability to make yourself desirable, you're not an incel, you're an imbecile.

I was a shy and non-athletic textbook nerd for most of my young life* and yet managed to get my share of dates and eventually find and marry a supremely desirable lady. I think I managed it by trying to be a pleasant and interesting person who recognized his own strengths (and weaknesses) rather than bitching and complaining about how the deck was stacked against him. I worked within the rigid and often frustrating social order that exists at every grade school, high school, and college, and came out all right.

Don't be a whining incel. Don't blame women for your own inadequacy. Be a real man.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* This will no doubt come as a surprise to those of you who know me as the present-day manly stud and witty raconteur.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Musical Sunday

The singers of The Parody Project have churned out a long series of superb song parodies that lampoon those in positions of authority. This song, their take on the classic "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", is one of their best and most biting satires ...

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Well, it's been quite a week, hasn't it?

Donald Trump gave a bizarre and angry interview to his favorite sycophants on Fox and Friends, amazing even the program hosts; the leaders of North and South Korea met for their first-ever summit, and agreed to end the Korean War; police in California finally captured a serial killer and rapist who terrorized the state for 40 years - the suspect was a former police officer; the latest British royal baby, fifth in line to the throne, was born this week and named Prince Louis Arthur Charles; and comedian Bill Cosby was found guilty on all counts in a trial for sexual assault.

As last Wednesday, April 25th, was World Penguin Day, what would be a more appropriate topic for Cartoon Saturday than everyone's favorite flightless bird?

A common question, not just for penguins ...

I can see the problem ...

Poor fellow ...

Don't let the children see this one ...

It's an interesting way to cover a social faux pas ...

Well, where do you think they'd go? ...

Hope it works ...

When the shoe is on the other foot ...

It's a relatively simple crime sometimes ...

You saw it coming, didn't you? ...

And there you have it - a collection of cartoons to help you forget the agonies of the past week.

After yesterday's rain (good for the garden and for keeping the $%#@! pollen down), we should have a fairly sunny day here in NoVa, good for more gardening, long walks, and other outdoor stuff. I don't know about you, but I'm more than ready for spring and summer!

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, on Musical Sunday.


Friday, April 27, 2018

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2018

It's that time again!

Yes, Dear Readers, two weeks have passed since we last dishonored an Ass Clown awardee, and now it's time for the presentation of

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2018

And the award goes to a supremely qualified recipient,

Ms Jarrar, a tenured professor at Fresno State University in California, stirred a firestorm of outrage last week when she described late First Lady Barbara Bush as "an amazing racist" and gleefully tweeted, "I'm happy the witch is dead," but was not fired or disciplined by the university.

Fresno State president Joseph J. Castro described Ms Jarrar's remarks as "insensitive, inappropriate, and an embarrassment to the university," but declined to take any disciplinary action because "... (Jarrar spoke) about a public matter on her personal Twitter account. Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." 

While I reluctantly agree with Mr Castro's opinion about the protection of Ms Jarrar's comments under the First Amendment, I also agree that her comments were disgraceful and should be loudly repudiated by all persons of intelligence and goodwill. Hiding hateful and degrading speech behind the admirable cloak of freedom of speech is as foul and disgusting for the left as it is for the right, and deserves equal condemnation.

The Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech. Sadly, it does not guarantee freedom of intelligence and civility.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear Readers, for her disgusting assault on norms of behavior and respect*, Randa Jarrar is named as our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2018.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Much like a president I could name.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Legal Translation

As part of my continuing quest to share interesting stuff with you, I thought I'd riff on this recent article from Atlas Obscura: Istanbul Closes the Books on Its Public Scribes.

The Readers' Digest version of the article is this: the Turkish court system uses an archaic and complicated form of the Ottoman Turkish language for its deliberations and rulings. Because many people were illiterate, few were fluent in the legal dialect, and lawyers were (and remain) expensive, there arose a class of people known as public scribes (arzuhalci, in Turkish) who would, for a modest fee, assist people in drafting petitions and preparing other legal documents. The public scribes are still in business, although they are dying out, being relentlessly opposed by the lawyers from whom they siphon paying customers.

There's more to the story - and it's all fascinating - but what strikes me is how much it reflects our relationship to the law in this country.

The public scribes in Turkey help translate the language of the law, which is so archaic and convoluted that ordinary people can't understand it, into something they can understand. The same situation exists here in America, where we have a priesthood of hundreds of thousands of high-priced lawyers (for those who can afford them) and overworked, underpaid public defenders (for everyone else) whose sole function is to represent people facing laws written in a legalistic Sanskrit they cannot understand.

A friend of mine who's a lawyer once told me that our legal language had grown so convoluted because it needed to be - every twisted word and phrase of it was the way it was because it had been litigated over decades to the point where everyone understood exactly what it meant.

By "everyone" I'm sure he meant "every lawyer," because much of it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Perhaps we need public scribes instead. They'd certainly be cheaper.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Eric Hoffer and Donald Trump

As you know, if you've been with me for any length of time, I am a great fan of Eric Hoffer, the writer and thinker known as "The Longshoreman Philosopher." And my favorite of Hoffer's works is his marvelous short book The True Believer - a brief but insightful look at the nature of mass movements and fanaticism, and what stirs people to action.

I've thought more and more about Hoffer's ideas on mass movements as I watch the spectacle of Donald Trump's America and wonder why such an unqualified con artist has been able to attract so much support among people you'd think would know better, especially after a year of shining examples of his negative and dispiriting leadership. I think that some of Hoffer's thoughts in The True Believer may help to explain why so many people continue to support Trump. For instance, Hoffer writes:

"It is the true believer's ability to 'shut his eyes and stop his ears' to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence ... it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncertainties, surprises, and the unpleasant realities of the world around him."

Hoffer goes on to theorize that the doctrine which defines a mass movement (and Trumpism is nothing if not a mass movement) must not be understood, but simply believed in. It must be vague and unverifiable, to allow for maximum intellectual flexibility in the face of contrary information. Ask yourself: what does Donald Trump really stand for, other than being the polar opposite of everything Obama? What does he believe in, other than his own absolute superiority over all other humans? He can't be understood like most traditional political figures ... his followers simply and fervently believe in his pronouncements, no matter how bizarre and how often proven false.

A mass movement, in Hoffer's view, also uses what he calls "unifying agents" to bind its adherents together. Hoffer lists seven of these unifying agents, of which two are clearly present in those who follow Trump.

The first is hatred, which unifies the true believers against a despised other. For Nazi Germany, it was hatred of Jews. For Donald Trump and his followers, it's hatred of immigrants. In the minds of Trump's true believers, immigrants steal jobs from Americans, rape and murder innocent Americans with impunity, and soak up resources that could be used for the legitimate needs of American citizens. While illegal immigration is certainly a problem, focusing on immigrants as a class - not just illegals - demonstrates the unifying effect of hatred.

The second unifying agent is suspicion. As Hoffer writes,

"The awareness of their individual blemishes and shortcomings inclines the frustrated to detect ill will and meanness in their fellow men. Self-contempt, however vague, sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others."

Casting suspicion on enemies, real or imagined, strengthens the belief of true believers. You can't trust the mainstream media, because everything is fake news. The government doesn't serve the needs of real Americans because of the machinations of the deep state. The FBI and the Justice Department are corrupt. We need to drain the swamp to restore American greatness ... although whatever swamp existed before has demonstrably grown far larger under the Trump administration.

I encourage you to find a copy of The True Believer and read it carefully. It's a short read, but it's packed with powerful concepts and observations that will help you understand the forces that brought Donald Trump to office and keep him there.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Importance of Ritual

Last week there was a news item (and a blog post by Angel) about the demotion and forced retirement of a Tennessee Air National Guard colonel and the punishment of several senior enlisted people who participated in a reenlistment ceremony in which the reenlistee - a senior noncommissioned officer - took her oath of enlistment using a dinosaur hand puppet. As many people noted, this was gross disrespect of a serious military tradition which acknowledges the life-and-death consequences of military service. As an Air Force officer, I conducted many reenlistment, promotion, and retirement ceremonies over the years, including administering the commissioning oath to my own son, and I was greatly offended by these actions of people who should have known better.

But this tawdry incident brings me to an interesting related topic: the role of rituals in our lives. For this, I call your attention to this 2013 article by Donna Henes, in which she notes that

"Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama and distinction — to our lives, making the ordinary seem special, and the special, extraordinary."

There's a reason we have rituals for important events in our lives, such as marriages, funerals, military commissioning and enlistments, and school graduations - they provide a solemnity and an opportunity for reflection that underscores the seriousness of significant events. Religions rely on various rituals, of course, as a way of connecting with the power of the unknown and the Almighty, but there are many important secular rituals as well - such as presidential inaugurations, graduations, military parades, the awarding of a driver's license, selection for promotion at work, and so on. The rituals surrounding such events are intended to emphasize their importance.

Of course, there are rituals and there are rituals. Sir Stephen, the amoral libertine who abused the title character in Story of O, noted that "I have a fondness for habits and ritual" ... ritual, of course, of a more carnal nature than those with which most of us are familiar. And ritual plays a central part in the Sherlock Holmes mystery "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual."

And, of course, in today's America, if you're ritual have a much better chance of being elected to office.

Sorry about that.

Have a good day, and observe all necessary rituals. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Noise Pollution

There are lots of different types of pollution that foul our poor old world, not only the obvious ones that the current leadership of the Environmental Protection Administration wants to ignore in the interest of protecting businesses. Light pollution is one, although most people other than astronomers don't recognize or care about it ... who needs to see the stars at night, after all?

Another important type of pollution is noise pollution - the ceaseless din that surrounds us every day.  Traffic noise, aircraft noise, painfully loud rock music, Faux News, Donald Trump ... loud, discordant noise envelops us every day, everywhere. One example of the daily decibel assault is addressed in this interesting recent article: Why Restaurants Became So Loud — and How to Fight Back.

One of our favorite local restaurants has great food, excellent service, and reasonable (for NoVa) prices*. We love going there except for one thing: you can't hear yourself think. There three primary reasons for the tremendous noise level, and the Vox article addresses all of them:

Open, industrial-like space, which can make it seem like you're sitting inside a drum.

Minimalist decor, which removes the sorts of things - like curtains, carpeting, tablecloths, and plush cushions - that used to dampen the noise in older restaurants, but which are incompatible with the current trend toward informality.

Lots of people, which is the curse of wanting to go to a place to which lots of people want to go.

Oh, and there's one more reason that restaurants are noisy - we Americans are loud. Not much we can do about this one.

What can you do to protect yourself from restaurant noise? The article suggests four things you can try:

Dine Early: Most of us prefer a later dinner, but there are fewer people, which means less noise,  before 7 o’clock.

Ask for a Quiet Table: If you’re seated in a spot that's particularly loud, ask to move to a quieter location. If you make a reservation, ask to be assigned a table in a quiet area.

Ask Your Server to Turn Down the Music: If it's too loud for you, it's probably too loud for other diners, too, but nobody has said anything. Ask your server, or a manager, if necessary, to turn it down.

Complain: If enough customers complain, the managers may understand that they’re doing something wrong. Lodge a respectful complaint with a manager before you leave the restaurant, or note the noise level in an online review.

That helps with restaurants. Unfortunately, it doesn't help with the thunderous din coming from Faux News, Donald Trump, or Congress. I'm afraid you're on your own there.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* In case you're in the area, I'm talking about Mike's American Grill in Springfield. I also love their motto - "Be Nice or Get Out."

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poetry Sunday

I went looking in my collection for a cartoon about the month of April, but ended up finding this gem by April Lindner. I think it was a fortuitous find - a poem that features wonderful imagery ...

by April Lindner

Turn the knob. The burner ticks
then exhales flame in a swift up burst,
its dim roar like the surf. Your kitchen burns white,
lamplight on enamel, warm with the promise
of bread and soup. Outside the night rains ink.
To a stranger bracing his umbrella,
think how your lit window must seem
both warm and cold, a kiss withheld,
lights strung above a distant patio.
Think how your bare arm, glimpsed
as you chop celery or grate a carrot
glows like one link in a necklace.
How the clink of silverware on porcelain
carries to the street. As you unfold your napkin,
book spread beside your plate, consider
the ticking of rain against pavement,
the stoplight red and steady as a flame.

I hope the rest of April (the month) is good to you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

What else could possibly go crazy, you ask? Please don't.

In a courtroom surprise, Faux News shouting head Sean Hannity was revealed as the secret client of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen; the Democratic National Committee is suing the Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and several associates of President Donald Trump alleging a racketeering, hacking and fraudulent conspiracy to harm Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign; a Southwest Airlines aircraft was landed safely by its pilot after one of its engines exploded in midair; two federal regulators are fining Wells Fargo $1 billion for forcing customers to buy car insurance and charging unfair fees to mortgage borrowers, this after the Federal Reserve fined the company last February for "widespread consumer abuses," including creating as many as 3.5 million fake customer accounts; and a series of memos by former FBI Director James Comey documenting his meetings with Donald Trump was released by the Justice Department in response to demands by Congressional Republicans.

Today, in honor of inspired by Russian hackers, let's look at cartoons featuring Trojan Horses ...

Now with direct download!

An idea whose time has not yet come: the Tröjän Hörsë ...

A perfectly good question ...

 Send in the clowns, too ...

When puns attack ...

I agree ...

A perfect subterfuge ...

Well, obviously ...

Now, that's an evil plan ...

When GPS targeting goes bad ...

And there you have it - this week's clever approach to sneaking a collection of good cartoons into your day!

It looks as if it's going to be a nice weekend here in NoVa, even though it's still not nice enough to get my garden planted. Sigh. Well, at least it'll be nice enough to take some power walks in the fresh air and sunlight, and maybe get the lawn mowed for the first time this year ... I need to get rid of that winter pallor.

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


Friday, April 20, 2018

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

After a week like this one, we all need a little taste of the innocently bizarre ...

In case you need affordable supplies for your pet termites ...

Um ... I think I'll skip this event down at the elementary school ...

Well, I can understand the "less sex" part ...

Now accepting recommendations for a change of name ... 

And there's whipped cream on sale as a garnish for the main dishes!

Somehow, I'm not surprised ...

Well, he got what he deserved ...

Gives new meaning to the term "a real steal" ...

Part of the witness preparation for the next round of indictments from the Mueller probe ...

I think I'll stick with Lucy, thanks ...

There you go ... another batch of great moments in editing for you. If nothing else, it'll get you into the mood for Cartoon Saturday.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Assessing the Odds

So, here's something interesting I found online a few days ago - click to embiggen it or, if that doesn't work, click here to see the original ...

It's a chart from a UK Accident Claims Advice website that gives your general odds of suffering a fatal injury in various situations. There are a few interesting points that arise from a brief look at the various categories of fatal situations.

For instance, you have a 1 in 358 chance of being killed by firearms in the United States, but only a 1 in 1,018,182 chance in the UK. The odds of death by self-inflicted gunshot are 1 in 399.

Other interesting odds include:

Your chance of being killed by "Unintentional Poisoning by Exposure to Noxious Substances*" is 1 in 96. 

The odds of death by "Accidental Strangulation in Bed" are 1 in 5,730 ... probably less if you choose your partners carefully.

And, your chances of death from a dog bite are 1 in 16,448, while death from bites by a different animal** are 1 in 3,839,216. 

Not listed under the "Self-Harming" category is death by choking on bizarre pronouncements made by the White House Press Office.

Be careful out there ... it's a dangerous world, and I need all of you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Fox News is not listed as one of the "noxious substances" to which one can be fatally exposed, but perhaps it should be.

** The type of animal is not specified, so there is conceivably a statistically measurable chance of death from an alpaca bite. Stay away from them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Balanced Budget Amendments and Other Fantasies

On April 12th the House of Representatives voted down House Joint Resolution 2, a proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would have "prohibit(ed) total outlays for a fiscal year from exceeding total receipts for that fiscal year unless Congress authorizes the excess by a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber," required a three-fifths vote in both chambers to increase the debt limit, required a majority vote to raise taxes, and required the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress each year. All of those requirements would have been waived if a declaration of war was in effect.

Speaking as a middle-class retired guy living on a fixed income, I understand fiscal responsibility. I understand that I need to balance my budget. After all, Real People go to jail over indebtedness, and cannot avoid their obligations by waiving them in the event war has been declared. And when was the last time you saw a corporation or member of Congress go to jail because of poor budgeting?

Riddle me this, Batman ... why do we need to amend the Constitution to force Congress to do its job? Hint: it's because they want cover to protect them from the fury they'll face from voters who don't want to face the pain of running the country properly. And what's the point of amending the Constitution when the amendment provides ample escape clauses?

Politicians, Republicans in particular, are always demanding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. It's a safe public relations ploy. Amendments and laws are only words, after all, unless there's the will and the willingness to obey them. And it's clear that if Congress can enact one law, it can pass another to undo or avoid it.

Forget balanced budget amendments. Pass real budgets, based on sound and thoughtful national priorities, for a change.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tax Day, 2018

Today is the last day to file your Federal income tax return for 2017 and render unto Trump what is Trump's. You'd better do it quickly, because the combination of the administration's recent huge tax cut* and its enormous budget, means Uncle Sam needs your largess as soon as possible.

Here are a few cartoons that deal with the sheer, unutterable joy of calculating your taxes ...

Good luck.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Hope you're enjoying the few dollars it got you. Of course, if you're a corporate titan or other part of the 1%, it probably looks better.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sadly Useful Synonyms

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary published a timely article in its "Words at Play" series yesterday: Seven Words for Lying. This is not only timely but very useful, given Donald Trump's at-best nodding acquaintance with the truth, as these seven synonyms can be useful to keep all the news reports from sounding the same:

Prevaricate - (verb) to avoid telling the truth by not directly answering a question. Prevarication is the noun.

Palter - (verb) to act insincerely or deceitfully.

Mendacious - (adjective) likely to tell lies. Mendacity is the noun.

Dissemble - (verb) to hide under a false appearance.

Fib - (noun and verb) a trivial or childish lie.

Equivocate - (verb) to use unclear language especially to deceive or mislead someone. Equivocation is the noun.

Perjure - (verb) to tell a lie under oath*.  The noun form is perjury.

Don't thank me. Be sorry we need so many different ways to say it, when God Almighty only needed one commandment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Musical Sunday


Tom Lehrer, whose birthday we celebrated last Monday, was one of the funniest satirical musicians ever, although his peak fame lasted only a few years through the 1960s. This week, in honor of the upcoming premiere of season 2 of the HBO hit series Westworld, how about this classic from Tom Lehrer - "The Wild West Is Where I Want to Be" ...

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of the weekend! More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cartoon Saturday

Quite a week we've had, eh?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill answering (and often dodging) lawmakers' questions about Facebook's data collection and sharing practices; Washington is tied in knots once again as leaked passages from the memoir of former FBI director James Comey (described by Donald Trump as an "untruthful slimeball," spun up both allies and enemies of the chief executive; House Speaker Paul Ryan became the latest GOP member of Congress to decide it's time to spend more time with his family, announcing that he will not run for reelection; after Russia threatened to shoot down aircraft or missiles targeting its Syrian allies, Donald Trump trolled on Twitter that the Russians should get ready for "nice, new, and 'smart'" missiles; and federal agents raided the home and office of Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, apparently in response to tips provided by the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

This week, in honor of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's grilling by legions of holier-than-thou (and utterly clueless about social media) members of Congress, our theme is - what else? - social media ...

It's all in how you look at it ...

I think this is how it works in the White House, too ...

Why you need to check Facebook often ...

Specialized online sites ...

A new twist on an old staple of the movies ...

High Noon, 3.0 ...

21st century menus ...

Dealing with the Trump Organization ...

TMI ...

Being careful what you post is a good idea ...

And there you have it - your social media edition of Cartoon Saturday!

It looks as if it's finally going to be a beautiful weekend here in NoVa - bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s. Naturally, I'll be spending it outside in an attempt to get rid of the winter pallor.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow on Musical Sunday.