A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Passionate Hisses

I gave my wife the wonderful news that my second cousin, Luke, just became a grandfather. She replied with a skeptical, “But he’s only six years old!” I was a little surprised at her reaction, given the fact that she has heard weirder news from my side of the family recently. Then I explained to her that his garter snakes had babies.

When Luke gave me the news he told me that the parents had only been together one day. Luke now knows snakes work fast when it comes to reproduction. He seems very interested in having more snakes eventually. I can see him becoming a future herputol...herpatulo...damn, I don’t why I can’t spell herpetologist. You know, people who study snakes.

This whole episode got me thinking about the courtship rituals about the common garter snake. I mean, what does the male snake do to attract the female’s attention. Does he use pick up lines like, “Hey baby, I like the way you slither!” Or, “Ooh la, la! The stripes on your back are so sleek! You can wrap yourself around my tree branch anytime!”

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the female members of my audience have heard these lines at least once in a singles bar. If you have heard these lines, ladies, then allow me to offer my sincerest apologies from all the males in then world that are not jerks. Granted, that’s not many men, but hey, an apology from a tiny minority of people is a good start. Of course, if you have fallen for such lines, then may I suggest professional help...immediately!

I’m happy to see that Luke has an interest in snakes, because these animals have historically gotten a bum rap. They are universally reviled, even though they are an important part of the global ecosystem, or another link in the food chain, if you will. Snakes need all the friends – like Luke – that they can get.

This might be a good opportunity to review some basic misconceptions about our friend the snake. For example, it’s not true that they can grasp their tail by the mouth and roll themselves like a hoop to escape their enemies. This is false, although several snakes did carve out a lucrative career as moving targets in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Rodeo.

It’s also not true that snakes will swallow their young; in actuality, they prefer to barbecue them first, and then chow down. No, sorry, that’s not true either! Really, a snake barbecuing the children is so ludicrous. The snake has no hands; how would it hold the spatula to flip them over?

Then there is the oft-told story that snakes will “talk” to humans to do evil things and then lie to Congress about it. It’s very surprising how many people believe this to be 100% true and not see it as an allegory of the human condition. Naturally, we should all allow people to believe what they want to believe, except the part about lying to Congress. That part is totally 100% true.

Good luck to Luke and his new pets. I hope he takes good care of them and learns a lot about these reptiles in the meantime. I also hope he doesn’t teach them those ridiculous pick up lines. They really are an embarrassment to the male of every species.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Runaway Robins

Recently, I had another childhood myth shattered. At least once in our lives, we are told not to touch a bird’s egg or go near a bird's nest if we find it on the ground. We were given the reason that the mother bird would not return to the nest if she sensed that another animal had been near it. This is not true, since most birds cannot detect a human scent due to a limited sense of smell.

This begs the question then, why do female adult birds abandon their nests? There are probably several theories to explain this, but allow me to propose a few of my own. My theories may or may not stand up to the more accepted laws of the natural sciences discipline, but they should prove once again why the world should be grateful that I majored in history and not ornithology.

My first theory is relatively simple: mama bird goes out to search for food and falls victim to other predators. She becomes another sad statistic in the wildlife food chain. These other predators could include — but not limited to — cats, man, squirrels who are tired of eating nuts, and/or psychotic deer. I like to call this the Woobie Effect, after our late neighborhood cat, who was a very skillful hunter.

Of course, there are other events which could prevent our bird from returning to the nest. Mama could become the victim of an “accident”, such as flying into windows or into the path of an oncoming car. The term accident here should mean just that – an unforeseen event which causes trauma to one or more individuals. It should not be used if she becomes the victim of fowl play. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) She could meet up with of a couple of tough-looking blue jays from the wrong side of the woods. They would explain her disappearance afterward as, “Yeah, well you know, Mrs. Robin had an ‘accident’.” No, this is not what we mean by accident.

Then perhaps Mrs. Robin may find her role of motherhood unfulfilling. Let’s say for argument's sake that one day Mrs. Robin is sitting on her eggs eagerly anticipating the first chirping of her young ones. During the course of this day, let’s further say that she happens to look through the window of a human’s house nearby and sees one of those afternoon television shows (say Oprah) that is forever exploring women’s issues.

Our mama bird may reason, “Hmm, I’m suddenly not into this nurturing thing anymore. I sit here, fending off enemies, until these eggs hatch, and for what? I’ll have to listen to their incessant cheeping all day and night, I’ll have to go and find food for them, like some dirty, disgusting, squiggly worm. Then I’ll have to chew it up for them and spit into their bottomless mouths because the little buggers can’t even chew their own food! What’s in this for me? That’s it, I’m out of here!” Then, after making a mental note to look up a couple of tough-looking blue jay friends of hers, she flies off, never to return.

Please keep in mind this is all theory. If you are still at a loss to tell children that they shouldn’t disturb an abandoned bird’s nest, then tell them the truth. Tell them that touching the nest will transfer harmful bacteria to their skin which will make their arms fall off. Also, tell them if they do it too much, they’ll go blind.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"It’s All ________ Fault"

There is an erroneous assumption applied to whomever occupies the Oval Office. The assumption is that the President will be allowed to take credit when times are good. Conversely, the President is the one who gets dumped on when times are bad. I’ve alluded to this ridiculous idea before. Allow me to demonstrate...

Let’s just take one area in which the President is involved: the economy. There are many factors at work influencing our money: supply, demand, and all the sub-factors that support supply or demand, valuation of our currency, monetary policies set by the government, and so on. The President has a very small part in the economy. Granted, it is an influential part through his choices of Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Chairman, and any policies he will propose to Congress regarding our economy. Even though the President is just a small cog in a very large machine, he will take credit when the whole machine is running smoothly. It’s not a fair attitude, and everyone knows it. Yet everyone uses it to their advantage depending on who is in office at the time.

This all came to mind when I saw the latest John McCain smear, I mean commercial. It shows a gas pump in the middle of a pristine wilderness. The voiceover asks, “Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?” At this point, a crowd starts chanting, “Obama, Obama, Obama” and soon an image of Barack Obama appears on the screen. The voiceover continues that Senator Obama has voted against offshore drilling.

So, now we know! It’s all Obama’s fault! Wow, I’m glad Senator McCain told us this because it sure took a load off my mind. McCain has all the answers; he knows what and who is right and what and who is wrong.

Okay, let’s spin this sucker around 180 degrees...

The fact that McCain is solely blaming Obama for our gasoline woes is an admission that he knows who will win the election in November — and it won’t be him! Poor Obama is taking the heat already, and he hasn’t even been elected yet. Also, if the fairness doctrine applies, then we should see a counter-commercial on our television screens. I believe an image of a moose standing nonchalantly at your local Wawa will fill the bill nicely...I don’t know what it would mean, but I digress.

I remember a few months ago when people objected to Obama’s candidacy due to his inexperience. After all, he has only served one term in the Senate, they reasoned, and therefore he wouldn’t make a good President. We can turn this to his advantage when we note that McCain has been serving as a Senator much longer. He’s had more time to get an offshore drilling moratorium lifted, yet he has been unable to do it. It appears that McCain has been ineffective in convincing his colleagues that more domestic drilling is good for the country. So much for inexperience!

Hey, wait a minute, McCain served in Vietnam! We lost in Vietnam! Does this mean that our loss was all McCain’s fault? Using the logic he used on Obama and gasoline prices, we can answer, "Hell, yes!" Why not?

Why not...because it’s a silly notion, that’s why not. Yet my saying so won’t stop any of us from holding one man to this standard. After all, if we elect someone President of the United States, we don’t expect them to be a chief executive. We expect them to be God!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Quantum of Bond

James Bond fans all over the world are eagerly waiting the release of the next film of the Bond franchise, “A Quantum of Solace”. I am looking forward to it since I have heard some tidbits about the film itself. It is being prepared as a sequel to the last Bond cinematic adventure, “Casino Royale”. Also, I am curious how they will wring an entire adventure from it given the source material.

“A Quantum of Solace” is an Ian Fleming short story, in which our hero is fighting off boredom at a dinner party given by the governor of Bermuda. After the last guests have departed, the governor relates a story about a career diplomat who had served Her Majesty’s government on the island some years before. During the course of his tenure on the island, the diplomat fell in love, married, and saw his love repaid when she openly had an affair with a younger man. When the affair ended and the young wife sought to return to the diplomat, she got a very cold reception. Her husband had fallen so out of love with her that he could not be civil to her while the marriage was dissolved in the courts. They lived under the same roof, but he would have nothing to do with her; hence the title of the story.

There is a twist at the end, but that sums up the story. Yes, that’s it! No chases, no intrigue, no explosions, no madman holed up on some God-forsaken rock in the middle of the ocean...nothing! Yet this will be our next James Bond film!

I suppose Fleming intended this story to be more about Bond’s misogynistic attitude than any conflict he had to resolve. From Bond’s point of view, I can see where he might use the lesson of the story to confirm his bachelor lifestyle. There, see what happens when you have a romantic entanglement with a woman! Who needs it, he might have reasoned. Otherwise, I am at a lose as to this short story’s place in the Bond canon.

As for the producers of the film franchise, it is business as usual: they have been performing sleight of hand tricks with the Bond stories for decades. The first few films were very faithful to the novels (more or less): "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love", and "Goldfinger". Then, beginning with "Diamonds Are Forever", the films began a slow journey away from the original stories and gradually added new elements as each new adventure made it to the big screen. Films like "Moonraker" and "The Spy Who Loved Me" took only the story titles and built entire new plots on top of them. These didn’t resemble the Fleming stories at all.

The same could be said for "The Man with The Golden Gun", "For Your Eyes Only" fact, all of the Roger Moore Bond films. Don’t get me wrong, all of these films were exciting adventures, but Fleming would never have recognized them if he had lived. "Octopussy" is truly bizarre. It uses the short story of the same name as a back story in the film, then borrows a plot device (counterfeit Faberge eggs) from the short story “Property of a Lady”. The Timothy Dalton/Pierce Brosnan Bonds are all good, but they all have new, original plots that bore no relation to the stories written by Fleming, John Gardner, or Raymond Benson.

Some enterprising college student could write an entire masters thesis on how all of the literary Bond stories were transferred to celluloid. I could go on, but the story cannot be fully explained without an intricate flow chart and lots of patience. Unfortunately, I have neither. So I will leave this task to a masters candidate somewhere to tell the tale. In the meantime, we will have a new Bond film to see soon. While it is unfortunate that we may run out of the original Bond source material soon, it is fortunate that the producers are imaginative enough to keep the franchise going for years to come. And I’m okay with that!

Monday, July 14, 2008

When Satire Turns Bad

The New Yorker magazine is kicking up some controversy – not to mention lots of free publicity – this week with the cover of their newest issue. The cover is a drawing portraying the Obamas in the Oval Office. Michele Obama is pictured wearing militant garb with an automatic machine gun slung over her shoulder, and Barack himself is clothed in traditional Muslim dress. They are shown smiling as they give each other the “terrorist knuckle bump”. An American flag is shown burning in the fireplace behind them, and a portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs over the fireplace.

Gee, Mr. Wizard! When did the Fox News Network take over The New Yorker?

Obama supporters are outraged. The magazine is claiming that it is a satirical drawing directed at Obama’s critics. Satire maybe, but I’m a bit skeptical about the direction that their politically incorrect arrow is pointing.

I don’t know how this will play out – magazines pulled, editors hung in Rockefeller Center would be too much to hope for – but this should be a lesson to all of us about the trickiness of satire. It is meant to be an exaggeration of real situations that thinly cover a grain of truth. Unfortunately, the cover can be breeched very easily. Many people may see this drawing as a realistic depiction of Barack Obama’s attitudes.

However, I’m not discussing Rush Limbaugh’s core audience, but rather the dangers of satire being misinterpreted. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I have used it quite a bit in my blog entries on the Bush administration. I have reread many of these entries and still feel that my words are potent without being fatal. Then again, there are other entries which even make me wonder what the hell got up my cranky butt!

My aim has always been to make comments about certain topics that will, I hope, make people think about the subject. I never intend to harm anyone’s life or reputation, but I can see where my writings could be taken the wrong way. This is always the risk of such pointed humor, and the burden of interpretation is always on the side of the reader, not the author.

Having said this, I feel compelled to offer my cheap shot idea to The New Yorker for future covers. Hey editors, how about a caricature of George W. wearing shorts and a beanie cap, hunched over his toy soldiers and oil wells on the floor of a typical Norman Rockwell-type American living room. Meanwhile, a beaming Dick Cheney, grasping a Wall Street Journal in his pudgy paws, watches him from his easy chair in front of a roaring fire that is burning the last remnants of the U.S. Constitution. There, that’s satire!

Or how about these statements: classic screen comedies like “Duck Soup” and “MASH” show the idiocy of war. Actually, they were just kidding, for we all know that in many cultures war is a cherished institution that can be used to acquire territory and wealth, satisfy long term goals of power and glory for many, and trim the world’s population. Okay, I’ll lay a challenge to you, my dear readers. One of those first two sentences in this paragraph is a statement, and the other is a very tongue-in-cheek, extremely politically incorrect attempt at satire. Can you interpret these sentences correctly? Please leave your comment at the sound of the beep. <beep>

Good luck, and I know you will choose wisely and not even think about purchasing The New Yorker.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Layman’s Explanation of the Second Amendment

The Supreme Court recently struck down the Washington DC ban on handgun ownership. It was a law in place for many years and it’s a small miracle that it lasted this long. The Court used the age-old reasoning that the law was unconstitutional; or, in other words, something in the Constitution didn’t agree with the law itself.

That something that disagreed with the law is known as the Second Amendment, which officially reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

However most Americans would quote it like this:

Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah a blah blah, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

That part about a well regulated militia – forget about it! All people know is that they can arm themselves, use their weapons to sustain this right, and use said weapons on anyone or anything that they perceive to be a threat. The problem is too many people let their imaginations run away with them and use their weapons indiscriminately. Oh yeah, there are also laws against murder and homicide, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet.

People are very passionate about their gun ownership – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the understatement of the year. If you don’t believe me, just try to take someone’s gun away from them. I’ll be more than happy to notify your next of kin.

Many Americans believe that gun ownership is a God-given right. Well, sit down American gun owners, because I’ve got some bad news. I have yet to see any documentation that God appeared before the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and, with a dramatic flair of a bolt of lightning that would have made Cecil B. DeMille proud, personally wrote this amendment into the document.

This amendment is not written in stone, unlike the Ten Commandments. The amendment can be – and here many will accuse me of heresy – repealed. The framers of the Constitution placed a mechanism in the document to allow us to get rid of laws that may be determined inapplicable, inappropriate, obsolete, or just plain bad for the republic. We have already repealed at least one law in our nation’s history, and we can all drink to that! Chances are we may do it again. However, given the strong emotions that the Second Amendment inspires, I doubt that it will be repealed anytime soon. I’m just saying that it can be done.

As Americans, we cherry pick what laws we want to follow and what we don’t. If you ask us we’ll say, “Yes, the laws are meant for everyone,” but in private we might answer differently. In the case of the Second Amendment, we have a strict interpretation of the gun ownership part and ignore the militia part. Taken together, the amendment might actually have been intended as a directive not to disarm state sponsored military groups (i.e., The National Guard).

We may never know if this was the Founding Fathers intention. Our collective interpretation won’t allow it. In this environment of picking and choosing bits and pieces of information to suit our wants, then it’s no wonder the Bush administration has behaved the way it has during the last seven years. In this respect, the American people got the government that they deserved.

Please bear in mind that my interpretation is not based on any legal arguments; I’ve never studied law. I am basing my observations solely on the merits of the amendment's semantics. Many people may feel that this does not qualify me to offer an opinion. Well, excuse me, but as an American citizen I am qualified to say something about it. That right was covered in the First Amendment. Thank God the Founding Fathers settled on that one before they began handing out guns to everyone.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Short Notes – July 2008


The idea of a four day work week is slowly being adopted throughout the country, mainly by local and a few state governments. The thinking is that closing down the office one day a week will conserve the energy required to run the office. This would be a good savings for tax strapped municipalities. Theoretically, it should also save employees fuel expenses that they would spend on their commute for that fifth day.

I see this working for the governments, but not necessarily the individual employees. I believe that, despite their best intentions, employees will use the extra time off for activities that won’t save energy. Yes, sir, Dad will come home and proclaim, “Hey kids! I have a three day weekend! Let’s gas up and go on a looooong road trip!”

If Dad really wanted to save energy, he would come home, shut off all of the electricity for the duration, and treat the entire family to a camping trip inside the house. Meals would be raw fruits and vegetables, dry cereal, and possibly trail mix, thus conserving any gas or electricity that would be used to cook the meals. Allowances could be made for anyone who chooses to use charcoal for cooking, but it doesn’t matter. I really don’t anticipate any family resorting to these measures in the name of conservation...not yet anyway.


A recent Congressional investigation concluded that the Department of Justice has denied employment to otherwise qualified candidates for the last seven years on the basis of political philosophy. This is extremely ironic, considering this is the department that would investigate any claims an average American might bring against an employer who may have denied them employment for any reason other than “not qualified for the job.” This is truly weird, but considering this is alleged to have happened during the crony-saturated Bush administration, I’m not surprised.

I wonder what tipped off the investigators? Was it the absence of the letters EOE (Equal Opportunity Employer) at the end of any want ads published by the Justice Department? Or were there incriminating questions in the application, such as: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Democratic Party?” or “Do you consider yourself a godless left leaning liberal?” or “If hired by the Justice Department, are you prepared to swear total, unconditional allegiance to Herr Cheney?” Okay, I doubt that the Bushies would have stooped to anything this blatant...but then again, who knows?


Ordinarily, I would keep the wisdom of my father’s words in mind when he told me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” but this is not an ordinary event. If I pursued this angle on writing about the death of Jesse Helms, then I could just leave a blank space and end my blog entry here. Yet I don’t think silence says enough about Helms’ passing.

Conservatives have noted that Helms' death on the Fourth should be seen as a sign that he was a patriot. Even President Bush called Helms a true patriot. Actually, I see the timing of his death as a declaration of independence from hatred and intolerance. (Sorry, Dad, it’s a tough room today!)

So that’s the definition of a patriot now: a stubborn, old, bigoted individual who doesn’t compromise on anything. I can appreciate some people wanting to flex their political muscle at their colleagues across the aisle, but the art of compromise is essential in the game of politics. No compromise means never having to say you’re a productive member of the U.S. Congress.

The gay community will not miss Helms, nor will many feminists. (Yes, he was even against the Equal Rights Amendment!) At this point, I’m reminded that Ringo Starr wanted everyone to flash the peace sign and say “Peace and love everyone!” on his birthday July 7. A wonderful sentiment but, sadly, Mr. Helms seems to have never grasped this concept.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth of July 2008

Today we mark another anniversary of this continuing experiment in democracy called the United States of America. It is an anniversary celebrated with parades, fireworks, backyard barbecues, and lots of pats on the back about what a great country this is. We should all agree on this point: America is a great country, but we must nevertheless acknowledge that we as human beings fall short of its ideals on many occasions.

Chris Satullo, a newspaper columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, recently suggested that we put our fireworks away and forego all the picnics for a moment of atonement.* He reminded his readers about all the less-than-ideal incidences that have occurred in America’s name in recent years. Satullo mentioned the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib and the detainees at Guantanamo held without due process as two examples for which we should be ashamed.

Naturally, readers exercised their First Amendment rights and responded quickly. The Inquirer only printed two letters – one pro and one con – but I imagine they received many more than this, and I’ll bet more than a few of those called Satullo every un-American name in the book. I feel sorry for these people who feel that America is great, but also believe it is not strong enough to withstand constructive criticism.

These are probably the same people that believe wearing a flag pin makes a person patriotic. If only patriotism were that easy. They forget patriotism is not a show, but is a deep-felt faith in their country’s ideals. America has wonderful ideals to uphold: liberty, justice for all, and peace and tranquility in an environment in which each of us can pursue our own happiness, among others.

Some Americans see that these ideals have been soiled by the current administration's actions during the last seven years. Other Americans would say that that last sentence is heresy and that I am un-American for even doubting our government’s wisdom. So be it. I would argue that Americans can criticize their country and still love it in the same way that an adult can love their own children and correct them to be better human beings. Yet we should denounce these adults as anti-children? I don’t follow this logic at all.

Once again, we must separate criticism of the government's policies from the cherished virtues of the country. Many people don’t want to do this and use their patriotism as a blindfold to the acts committed in our name. It’s as if we capitulate our rights to question our own leaders and say, “Go ahead, do what you want to do to other people. Just leave us get our morning coffee, fight the traffic to our jobs, and let us get home in time to see the latest reality show on television.” Our leaders count on this apathy to justify their own selfish policies, even as they tell us they’re doing it for our own good.

I would not go as far as Satullo suggested as to give up our celebrations, but I do agree that we could take a moment to reflect on what our country has done and which direction it should take next. This is our think, to criticize, and to act. We are, after all, Americans engaged in this great experiment of democracy, working “to form a more perfect union.”

*”A not-so-glorious Fourth”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 2008.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Thank You Note

Anne Marie and I received our economic stimulus check a few weeks ago and we immediately deposited it in the savings account. This is the tax rebate authorized by the Bush administration to jump start the economy. The theory was that Americans would spend their check on big ticket items and the American economy would recover from its seemingly interminable slump.

I would love nothing better than to spoil the administration's plans and just let the money sit in my savings account for awhile. Alas, things have happened this year that will force me to spend the money sooner than I would like. To be precise, things have broken down and needed to be replaced. Our refrigerator was one item and the tires on my car were another. Our computer slowed down in its old age, and when a visiting tech person pronounced it obsolete, it gave up the ghost altogether. Then again, I could use my portion towards our vacation expenses this year.

Anne Marie, on the other hand, has definite plans for her half of the payment. When I showed it to her, she smiled and laughed diabolically. She murmured something to the effect that “wine will be drunk and men will be used like Kleenex”. Only then did I realize that she will use her part for a massive blowout on a party for her knitting group.

However, I want to get away from thinking about ourselves and focus on those who we should thank for the windfall. No, no, not the President; all he did was whip out the charge card and borrow it against America’s future generations. It is this next generation, and more specifically my niece and nephews, who will get stuck with this bill.

So I offer my heartfelt gratitude to you who will work so hard in the future and pay higher taxes to return this money to the US Treasury. I would like to say that your sacrifice will be remembered by all of us, but I can’t say that because most likely all of us in today’s generation will be dead and gone by the time you pay this money back. At that point, we just won’t give a damn about your sacrifice.

I realize this was very selfish of us adults to accept this money, and we did resist taking it, truly we did. Okay, so we only held off taking it for a millisecond or so, but honestly we did think about returning the money so you wouldn’t have this burden on your shoulders. Okay, so I’m a terrible liar...

Let me offer you this consolation: there is a good chance you may not have to pay it back at all. Gasoline prices will be so high in the future that you won’t be able to afford a way to get to your job. No job, no money to pay back to the government. Then of course there is the ecological argument, namely that my generation will leave the world so environmentally screwed up that you won’t be able to breathe, let alone hold onto a job.

All this is just one more example of the carpe diem mindset of the Bush administration. Of course, you know that carpe diem translates very freely from the Latin as “daily carp.” No, no actually it means seize the day, or live for the moment and to hell with the future! Boy, have we given you young people a hell of a future! Thank you again Class of 2015 and all future classes that will repay our debts.