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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Duelists

I know there’s a variety of other issues to talk about, but the most interesting drawing my attention is the “he said this/he said that” conflict among the Republicans presidential wannabees. In the last few weeks, the combatants’ tones make the debates look like re-enactments of the Alexander Hamilton – Aaron Burr duel of 1804. (For those of you unfamiliar with American history, I will issue this spoiler: Hamilton came in second that day.) In these recent re-enactments, the main duelists would appear to be Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, with Rick Santorum calling “Ready, aim, fire” and Ron Paul standing off to the side just watching. To this end, we continue what is becoming a weekly running commentary on the shape of Republican hopefuls to come.

All of the ongoing verbal fireworks have been emanating from an unmerciful number of political debates in this latest nominating season. I highlighted the word political because I believe the original intention of these events was to highlight the candidate’s positions on political issues. Unfortunately, Romney and Gingrich have seen fit to make the last few debates sound like the old radio show “The Bickersons”. For those of you unfamiliar with American pop culture, "The Bickersons" was a radio situation comedy from the 1940’s depicting a married couple constantly fighting. Spoiler alert: Alexander Hamilton never appeared on "The Bickersons".

In any case, the Republican front runners have been sniping at each other about how much money they made while other people suffered, or how much jewelry they bought to placate the spouses who don’t want them running for office in the first place, or their dubious ethics records. Even fellow candidate Rick Santorum has complained that Romney and Gingrich have made their comments too personal, and not addressed the actual issues. In this regard, I have to agree with Santorum.

I repeat this shocking revelation: in this regard I have to agree with Santorum. Please forgive me, readers.

This week’s debate was the 18th in a series that threatens to last as long as the television coverage of the O.J Simpson trial. Eighteenth? Do we really need this many events? Hell, Kennedy and Nixon were satisfied with just four. That’s four, as in all the fingers on one hand! Pundits, please have mercy on the American voter!

I’ll go lightly on Rick Santorum this week, since he is currently in Philadelphia while his youngest child is hospitalized at CHOP. However, I will note how his comment that equality is uniquely a “Christian-Judeo concept” has managed to outrage the other religions that haven’t been outraged lately. Way to go, Rick! Now everyone can be pissed off at the Christians!

Leading representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths have registered their complaints at Santorum’s pronouncement. One Muslim leader has offered to send Santorum a copy of the Quran so he can read for himself Islam’s position on equality. Good luck with that! Santorum may not block out time to read the Quran, if he has to keep up to date on his schedule of debates. Also, there’s no guarantee that he’ll read it at all. After all, as the old adage goes (which I just made up), you can lead the ignorant to a book, but you can’t make them read.

I predict that this week Mitt Romney will have this to say about Newt: “He had to pay a fine for ethics violations. He resigned from the only leadership position he ever held.” I can predict this with full confidence because these are the same things he has said about Gingrich for the last three weeks! He hasn’t even changed the sentence order around for variety! Please, Romney, have mercy on us!

Romney has yet to address questions about his earnings. Has he paid the legal tax rate on all his earnings? Is he really worth more than the last eight presidents combined? Are some of his investments hidden offshore, or are they all grouped together in a blind trust? He certainly can’t deny his wealth. Indeed, he should probably just cement his one-percenter creds once for all by shouting from the debate podium, “I’ve got more money than God!” Admittedly, this might go against the humble teachings of his Mormon beliefs, but it’ll give Gingrich that much less to talk about.

Which brings us to the winner of the South Caroline primary, Newt Gingrich. To this development, I must say: “Dear South Carolina, Newt Gingrich? Really? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

Newt was just endorsed by former nominee runner Herman Cain yesterday. Last week, if you recall, Comedy Central show host Steven Colbert proclaimed that a vote for Cain would actually be a vote for Colbert. Does this mean — horrors — that Colbert is now also endorsing Gingrich? This week’s episodes of The Colbert Report should be verrrrrrrry interesting, to paraphrase Arte Johnson. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Arte Johnson...oh, never mind.

Last and least is the fourth player in the debate cycle: Ron Paul. He has not made any comments so outrageous that they are newsworthy enough to outdo Romney or Gingrich. At this point, Paul appears to be just watching. Either that, or he has fallen asleep...

The only other person doing less than Paul is our special guest star today, Alexander Hamilton! He is not running for nomination, and not participating in any of the debates. This is due to the fact that he did poorly in a debate with Aaron Burr in 1804. (See results above.) Perhaps my repeated references to Hamilton today may be puzzling, but I will insist that, all things considered with this current crop of candidates, America could really use a man like Hamilton now.

This week, the primary race moves to Florida, and with it the circus that has the duelists in the center ring. It does not appear that we will be spared any vitriol – personal or political — for some time to come. I dare say that we, the American voters, will embrace the coming of November 6, with utter gratitude that the races will finally be over.

(Thank you for reading.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I don’t follow football with any regularity, professional or otherwise, but any resident of Pennsylvania this week can’t escape the outpouring of emotions at the passing of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. The coach died with his family at his side and vast throngs of well-wishers from the college community gathered on the campus. It seemed to be a complete nearly happily-ever-after conclusion to a long, productive life, but everything isn’t always what it seems to be.

Paterno was the winningest college football coach in history with over 400 victories. He accomplished this in a career that lasted over 62 years! Many professional careers peak at 35 years max! Many people don’t live that long, yet he held onto to one job for over half a century! That is an accomplishment itself, when one considers the regularity with which companies toss workers aside in these economic times.

Had the last few months been different, the reverence for JoePa would be universal. Unfortunately, this was not to be. The sex scandal involving his long time defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky broke in mid-season, and Paterno’s role was scrutinized and criticized. In the end, many people determined – without the convenience of a trial by jury — that he did not do enough to report the incidents to his superiors. The university found their scapegoat and fired Paterno, effectively ending the only life he ever knew.

In the days since his dismissal, Paterno suffered the accumulating affects of old age. At one point, he fell and injured his hip. A bronchial infection was found to be lung cancer. It was treatable, we were told at the time, which was fine with everyone. His fans could look forward to the day when he could recover from his illness and face down his accusers much like his players faced down their opponents on the gridiron for over sixty years.

Again, this was not to be.

Paterno did speak once about the scandal that abruptly ended his career. In a Washington Post article published last month, Paterno admitted that he could have done more, but overall the concept of a man sexually assaulting a boy was beyond his understanding. Actually, I believe this is a very plausible explanation coming from JoePa.

How could Paterno not know about such things as pedophilia? Simple; in his day, it was not discussed in public. You might overhear about such things as a whisper, but seldom was it heard out loud as a matter of discourse.

People from Paterno’s generation didn’t talk about such things as Uncle Jim’s alcoholism, Cousin Suzie’s heroin addiction, or brother Michael preferring to spend more time with other men than women. Venereal disease wasn’t considered worthy of discussion until the public schools launched a major education effort in the 1970s. Similarly, grandma didn’t die from cancer; she had a “problem”. I have problems to deal with every day of my life, yet my heart is still ticking!

So how did people deal with real big problems like, say World War II? My answer: hell if I know! The war was certainly unpleasant and therefore not worthy of discussion at the dinner table. It was in all of the newspapers; surprise, it made the history books! It affected millions of lives from the common folk who had to do without eating meat certain days of the week and were only able to purchase gasoline for their cars with the aid of stamps; many others went off to fight the war and never returned. Certainly it was a major disruption for many lives, yet somebody must have talked about it!

That was the world in which Joe Paterno grew up. So, in the end, he could be accused of being naïve and blinded to many of the “problems” mankind deals with in the modern world. In this respect, he was no better or worse than the other survivors of his generation.

Will his legacy suffer? Certainly there will be a little tarnish on it, but ultimately he will be remembered for his victories on and off the field. Legacies can be fluid; they reach new heights or lows like the tides on a beach as additional information about the person is found year after year.

Consider Ben Franklin for a moment. In his lifetime, he was widely recognized for his scientific and diplomatic achievements. Since his death, historians have pondered — or salivated — over the many stories of Franklin’s romantic liaisons. Okay, so he took the role of Founding Father a little too seriously, yet his legacy endures. The same will undoubtedly be true for Joe Paterno.

This week, many will mourn his passing, while many others will mourn the fact that he escaped justice. We’ll forever be left to speculate what would have happened if he had lived, or if indeed his life was shortened when society took the ball out of his hands and told him, “Go home! You can’t play here anymore.” So much for outliving the naïve world he grew up in and cherished. Actually, the whole episode has been a rude awakening for everyone concerned.

Rest in Peace, JoePa.

(Thank you for reading.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snort Notes: January 2012

Various events on the campaign trail compel me to devote this edition of snort notes to the ongoing circus, aka the Republican Presidential Nomination. This past week...


Sensing that he didn’t have tumbleweed’s chance in hell of winning the South Carolina primary, the former governor of Texas ended his quest for his party’s nomination. Perry — who was only slightly ahead of Costa Concordia cruise ship Captain Francesco Schettino in the polls — threw his support to Newt Gingrich.



Ah, Gingrich throws another cranky tantrum in public. Now my week is complete.

How dare the media focus on his past and not on his loopy views of taking America forward? What could they possibly be thinking? Perhaps that the tawdry details of this sensational story is too much to resist, not to mention the ad revenue generated by your second wife’s nationally televised interview.

Ah-ha! Sensational story equals bigger profits! It’s those damn capitalists again, Newt! The same ones you were railing against two weeks ago! They’re out to get you!

Ah, I have fueled Gingrich’s paranoia! Now my week is really complete!

On a related note...


Really? While I believe in the concept of redemption and forgiveness, I can’t help noting the possibility that her analysis is not shared by other female voters. Hey, lady, listen! Can you hear that? That sound is the sound of millions of your sisters in the other 49 states smirking!



Okay, so Santorum still has a viable campaign — at least for another 24 hours.

Speaking of Mr. Frothy Mix, I find it curious that his comments about Gingrich’s open marriage request (it’s all about Newt today) focused more on his character, and not how the concept of open marriage was a threat to his marriage. I would have thought that Ricky would have been all over this accusation. Frankly, his reaction is underwhelming. Of course, he might just be overlooking the larger implications of open marriage as much as he’s overlooked renewing his membership in the Pennsylvania bar since...1994!


Let me be the first to thank Ron Paul for showing up. Now move along! If you hurry, you might be able to catch up to Rick Perry. (I'm a poet and I don't know it!)


In an odd demonstration of sensational satire, Cain (remember him?) has teamed up with the Comedy Central show host to expose the shortcomings of the influential superpacs. In a strange twist of timing and ballot printing deadlines, Cain is still on the ballot — and could conceivably make a respectable showing in the primary — even though he dropped out the race weeks ago. Enter Colbert, who isn’t on the ballot, but who has gathered monetary donations for his superpac, which (he hastens to point out) is entirely legal!

There’s no punch line here, not because the issue of campaign financing isn’t a serious one, but because Colbert has already used all of the good ones! All I can add is God bless you Stephen Colbert! Good luck to you and your running mate!


Nice, but he didn’t do anything noteworthy this week except fend off attacks from Gingrich (there he is again) during their debate. Ho-hum! Suddenly this nominating race is boring me to death!


I realized I made an error in my first note when I wrote that Rick Perry was the former governor of Texas. I apologize for my inaccurate reporting. This news may also come as a shock to the people of Texas, who may or may not have noticed Perry’s absence during the last six months or so.

Texas, you have your governor back. With that I want to express my deepest sympathies.

(Thank you for reading.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Shrinking Party

Has anyone noticed how the ongoing campaigns for the Republican nomination to make Obama a one-term president has deteriorated into a dogfight? At one point, it was a series of civilized debates among candidates who held opposing points of view of how to get America moving again. They expressed their ideas, thrusted and parried the gentle admonishments from their opponents, smiled and waved, and treated each other with a thin veil of respect. Oh, and by dogfights I’m not talking about the seemingly graceful choreographed biplane duels to the death from World War I. By dogfights, I mean a mean, vicious, snarling, teeth-baring, bone-crunching, bloodied fur and limbs competition among a pack of mongrels.

But more about Newt Gingrich later. Perhaps we should note the latest triumphs and faux pas of each candidate on their respective trails. Okay, since this IS a liberal leaning blog, we will focus on their faux pas, and boy are they faux!


Remember him? This week the former governor of Utah, and Obama’s lead man in China, saw his dream of a campaign conducted with civility vanish in a Newt Gingrich minute. A no show in Iowa, and a less than commanding show in New Hampshire has forced him to drop his bid and throw his support behind Mitt Romney before the South Carolina primary.


Who? I know she dropped out weeks ago, but I miss seeing her on the trail and making those wonderful, wild and wacky statements about American history with her patented deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. Do not fret, fellow Americans! Michele still has her day job in Congress, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she accepts a position as curator of American History at the Smithsonian. (Personal note to the regents of the Smithsonian Institution: don’t get excited! I’m just kidding.)


Seriously, who?


The libertarian choice in the Republican Party. Okay, has anyone questioned why this guy is even in the Republican Party? Some of his ideas are not compatible with the legacy of the original Republican, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, I dare say that if Lincoln were alive today, he might be so terrified by Paul’s ideas that he might register as a Democrat! Paul may or may not have approved of the racist statements made on a newsletter named after him years ago, but the writer’s association with a few groups that catch the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center is good enough for me. Good enough for me, that is, to discount Paul as a viable candidate for president.


His poll numbers are in the single digits since Iowa, but he can’t take a hint! Even Huntsman wasn’t this thick-headed.

Perry continues to demonstrate that he is not electable. This week’s Perry faux pas? Defending US Marines who were videotaped urinating on the bodies of Taliban rebels. Their actions, while worthy of punishment, do not rise to the level of war crimes, or so he says. Of course, it’s just a case of good ole boys being good ole boys! Unfortunately, many people in the Muslim world — even the ones we’re not fighting - might not see it your way, Rick.

Anyway, thanks for playing. Now if you don’t mind, please leave. If you hurry, you might catch up to Huntsman.


As I predicted, Santorum ruled at the top for a month just before the holidays. His surge ended when people beyond Iowa tired of Santorum being the flavor of the month. (That’s right! I put the words Santorum and flavor in the same sentence! Enjoy!)

He has been touting himself as the true conservative defender of American ideals, even though one Huffington blog poster outed his Italian ancestors as diehard Communists. Oh well, that was then, when women were expected to stay at home, do all the household chores, and bear endless children for the one man they married; and this is now when Rick wants women to stay at home, do all the household chores, and bear endless children for the one man they married. Santorum himself has been married to only one woman, and has a large family. Yet he firmly believes that same-sex marriage threatens his heterosexual union.

What a wuss!


Like Santorum, Gingrich is also trying to pass himself off as the defender of conservative values. Yet I dare say that Gingrich’s marital adventures (note that the word “adventure” is plural) are more of a threat to Santorum’s connubial bliss than a couple of guys having lived together in a loving relationship for decades! Go figure!

On the economic side, Gingrich has been riding hard on Romney’s past life as a — I hope you’re sitting down, dear readers — capitalist! Newt hopes that the Republican leading Romney won’t be able to duck stories of his old job as a businessman who bought old companies, downsized the work force, and turned the company’s fortunes around. Yes, the downsizing part won’t play well with unemployment still hovering above 8 percent. Granted, Romney shouldn’t expect Newt to hoist him on his shoulders and cheer, “Yay! He killed jobs and fattened investors’ portfolios!” If Newt is so upset about Romney’s past predatory successes, then maybe he should just whip out a copy of “Das Kapital” and start proselytizing about the wonderful world of Communism. That would make Santorum’s ancestors applaud!

Oh wait, I forgot! Obama is the big bad socialist! Silly me! How could I have forgotten this tidbit of Republican sound bite dogma!


Currently the man on top; it certainly appears that the former governor of Massachusetts has the nomination in the bag. He has been quoted as saying Obama doesn’t know how to run the economy, but Romney is boasting that he has the skills that Obama lacks. Okay, let’s humor him for a moment and see how he would preside over the American brand of democracy. How would he run the country as a businessman with experience in turning corporate entities around?

Well, I’m guessing that he would first drastically downsize the federal workforce, streamline operations and make America as a whole look attractive to outside investors. Or he might sell the whole country lock stock and barrel to...China? I hope to God there is something in the Constitution that would prevent him from doing that!

(Thank you for reading.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

...Or So My Friends Tell Me

One of arteejee’s most loyal readers has issued a challenge. A few months ago, I was still in medical coding mode, which led me to describe the most mundane aspects of everyday life — as in waking up, brewing coffee, and getting the morning paper – into medical terms. My challenge now is to describe a college party, which the reader swears he and I attended in the late 70s-early 80s. Naturally, I have no memory of ever attending such a party, and as such I had to do extensive research in order to recreate the scene that my reader swears I should remember.

The description of the events of a party from my college years will be written in medical terms first, followed by a translation in everyday English.

The guests were ushered into the apartment and prepped for a procedure of hedonistic abandon. A large metal bladder was produced and found to be swollen, necessitating a tap and catherization procedure for its contents. Legal and controlled substances were administered orally and via inhalation therapy. Clothes were removed and exchanged for other garments that were normally alien to one’s everyday orientation. Aural stimulation was produced and amplified utilizing fine needles running through grooves on a vinyl platter. Several participants removed other participants off the ground for the purpose of performing rapid physical therapy in rhythm with the amplified sounds emanating from the platters.

Two participants engaged in intensive cardio workout therapy in the middle of the room. One dressed in pink chiffon was spun around by his knees by another participant disguised as an altar boy. The procedure was completed, and the participants adjusted their heart rate with rest and replenished their fluids through oral consumption of legal substances.

A small stuffed animal was found to be anatomically incorrect; an exploratory procedure was immediately performed. The tail of the animal was reshaped and inserted through the animal’s legs. The surgeons, satisfied with their work, delivered the patient from the operating theater through a passage above the doorway into the recovery room. The stuffed animal tolerated the procedure well.

Now in English:

Guests entered the apartment where their coats were collected and piled onto the nearest bed. The keg was opened and pumped. Beer was drunk and doobies were smoked. (Confidential to Mom: if you don’t know what a doobie is, then please ask your grandchildren.) Clothes were removed and exchanged (remainder of this description redacted under legal advice). The stereo was turned on and turned up loud. A dance broke out.

Two participants danced suggestively (remainder of this description redacted in the name of everything that is holy and pure). The dancers left the floor at the end of the song and drank more beer.

A Pink Panther doll was found to be lacking a penis and was taken into the bathroom (remainder of this description redacted us, you really don’t want to know!) The now very well endowed Pink Panther doll was pushed through the transom to the hoots, taunts, and lewd suggestions of the partiers still in the bathroom. Otherwise, the Pink Panther tolerated the procedure well.

This description has been verified as actually happening at one point or another in my collegiate career...or so my friends tell me!

(Thank you for reading. Confidential to Janey: be careful what you wish for!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Endangered Anthem

Apparently, the country is 100% all right again. There must be full employment, everyone has health security, and no one is in fear from where their next meal is coming. This is fantastic news and even more fantastic knowing that it happened on Obama’s watch. Unemployment has dipped below 9%! It took awhile, but the FDR Commemorative New Deal Wand finally worked its magic on our stumbling economy.

Naturally, this is a massive assumption on my part, because how else can one explain why one Indiana legislator believes that the gravest crisis facing our nation today is how the National Anthem is performed in public. Acting on one constituent (one as in uno, single, solitary, less than two, or even less than everyone else) complaint that he was disgusted at how the Star Spangled Banner has been performed by some celebrities, Indiana State Senator Vaneta Baker has introduced legislation that would impose a $25 fine if performers intentionally alter the National Anthem. Of course, this legislator is a member of that party (Republican) who abhors excessive government control in our lives, yet can’t resist proposing more government control in our lives. Go figure!

So would this law really rein in the free-spirited, hedonistic temptation to ad-lib a performance of one of our national treasures, or would this be the beginning of a long slide down the slippery slope to censorship? Would we really stop enforcement at the performers onstage or on a sporting field? Or would we have deputized musicologists strategically situated in the stands, listening for errant singing and taking names down on a clipboard?

I can’t get behind this proposal at all, but it does give me the opportunity to point something out to my fellow citizens about their mangling of the National Anthem. I can’t ever recall hearing a performance of the anthem in my lifetime that didn’t end with the final words heard loudly and clearly. It always dissolves into a cacophony of raucous primal screaming which, no doubt, the likes of Joseph McCarthy would have labeled as (shudder) un-American.

My fellow Americans, it pains me to point out to you that the end of our national anthem ends with the words, “…home of the brave!” and not, “…home of the

Otherwise I respectfully request that the good lady from Indiana, oh, how would the French put it, get a life!

I wonder if this legislator realizes the origins of the anthem’s melody is a British drinking song! Perhaps it’s time that we consider other ways to express our patriotic fervor at the beginning of public events. Maybe we should think about adopting other drinking songs to fit our puerile patriotic pleasures. Let’s take, for example, the jingle for Schaefer beer. Look it up on YouTube to get an idea of the melody, for those of you under 40. For those over 40, you’ll remember the original lyrics go something like this: Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one...

We could tweak the concept just slightly — to satisfy the swearing of allegiance to just one country - so the new words could go something like this:

Is the
One country to have
When you can’t have more than one!
The most rewarding life
In this frightening world
Is American life for people yearning to be free!
Is the
Greatest place to live
When you’re having so much...

Okay, obviously I am not Francis Scott Key; clearly this is a work in progress. So far this would appeal to the most xenophobic tea party Republicans, but not to anyone else. Once again, I caution the good lady from Indiana: be careful what you wish for!

By the way, in the first paragraph, I alluded to how great the economy is. Actually I was, oh, what do the French call it, kidding. The economy is slowing recovering, but we’re not out of the toilet yet!

(Thank you for reading. FDR New Deal Commemorative Magic Wand requires two AAA batteries – sold separately.)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Cinematic Titanic at the Keswick – 12/30/2011

Like the faithful going to places of worship on Sundays, we fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 flocked to a performance of its latest incarnation in Glenside, Pennsylvania just as 2011 came to a close. The live riffing shows are a nostalgic tonic for many of us who are still mourning the passing of MST3K over a decade ago. Some may cry out, “Get over it,” but I remind those that many people are still bemoaning the break-up of the Beatles, and that happened over 40 years ago!

Cinematic Titanic continues the MST tradition of having the cojones of showing really, really bad movies in public, then sitting in front of the audience — who pay for the privilege of seeing really, really bad movies in public — and riffing the hell out of it. For those not familiar with the idea, think of it as you watching a bad film with — as one critic once put it — a roomful of drunken frat boys. In this case, you are in a room with one thousand or so other people (not all of them sober) and a select few (five, actually) designated to shout out outrageous, side-splitting comments at the screen. Those five — Joel Hodgson, J. Elvis Weinstein, Trace Beaulieu, Mary Jo Pehl, and Frank Conniff — are recognized as either founding members or original cast members of MST.

This show at the Keswick was a double feature: the Titanic premiere of The Astral Factor and Titanic oldie Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks. Both deserve their place in bad cheesy moviedom. Factor may or may not have been a made-for-tv-movie which may or may not have been made in 1976 and shelved (if IMDB is correct) until 1985. Frankenstein is just another foreign, mediocre dubbed 1973 entry of the Frankenstein cinema legend.

Ah, but the evening is not all about movies. Each cast member gets a chance to show off their particular talents. Titanic MC, Dave (Gruber) Allen, started the evening with his interpretation of Dan Fogelberg’s Another Auld Lang Syne, with an assist from J. Elvis Weinstein. Native New Yorker Frank Conniff had a variety of comments on the roundness of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, which begs the question: if Christie’s profile is high enough to get the attention of an LA based stand-up comedian, then my God how calculated are his actions beyond the state of New Jersey? Conniff also did an imaginative comic exercise in writing letters to his younger self (the alcoholic Frank) and response back from that younger self to today’s Frank.

Trace Beaulieu — Crow T. Robot and Dr. Clayton Forrester on MST — graciously gave us in the audience a moment to shout out our favorite MST lines just to get it out of our system. A short warning to us that riffing should be left to the (paid) professionals led to his reading of a selection from his book Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children. Mary Jo Pehl continued the book tour portion of the show with reading chapter titles — not selections, not essays, just chapter headings — from her book Employee of the Month.

Joel Hodgson and J. Elvis Weinstein didn’t have books to sell or readings. Weinstein — resembling a rumpled version of another Elvis (Costello) — ably accompanied several of his colleagues on bass guitar. Hodgson had a few words about the first film on the program and tried to explain why it exists at all. No matter, it obviously exists now for our unbridled amusement.

Astral Factor, about an escaped psycho who has developed his ESP (remember that concept, boys and girls?) to the point of making himself invisible so he can snuff out has-been Hollywood starlets, would probably never have seen the light of day if not for one of its stars, Stefanie Powers. Her rise to television stardom in Hart to Hart may explain why the film has an official release date of 1985; indeed, her image is featured prominently on the video release packaging, even though she was not the main character in the film. That honor belongs to Robert Foxworth (who?), who plays the detective tracking down the psycho. Somehow, Hollywood has been forgiving enough to allow Foxworth to work steady to this day. The other big name in the film is Swedish beauty Elke Sommer, playing a spoiled, alcoholic film has-been prone to tantrums as she becomes a prisoner inside her beachside Southern California mansion.

Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks, a cliché ridden plate of horror stereotypes, is ripe for riffing, and the paid professionals did not disappoint. Of course, there were a few clunkers, but all the better as the Titanic gang improvised various ways to get back into the audience’s good graces. Conniff uses the most blatant excuse (“Oh come on! It’s late!”) when one of his lines didn’t get the desired guffaw. Or sometime they’ll riff on each other, e.g., Pehl’s declaration about a female character: “She’s putting out the pink welcome mat”. Many in the audience “oohed” (not booed), and Hodgson felt compelled to add the line, “Weeknights with Mary Jo!”

My only complaint is not with any of the performance, but the scheduling of a 15 minute intermission. Maybe 15 minutes is long enough for the performers to regroup, but not long enough for a theater full of people to take their place in Disneyworld-amusement-ride-length waiting lines to use the 1928 era facilities which can only accommodate five people at a time. (I assume the women’s room is similarly arranged.) I had just enough time to relieve myself, grab a quick bite of pizza in the lobby (scalding the roof of my mouth in the process), and get back to my seat just as the second feature began. Performances either need longer intermissions, or the Keswick needs to install more toilets, which isn’t likely given the theater's placement on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Otherwise, an enjoyable evening was had by many. I only hope the Titanics don’t take another two years to come around again.

(Thank you for reading. It’s now time to say, “Push the button, Frank!”)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Resolutions For 2012

It is time once again to contemplate how I can improve my life and take positive steps to make the world around me a better place to live. Therefore, I make the following resolutions for this year.

1. Lose weight. Yes, this is the traditional resolution for millions of people this time of year, but for once in my life this could actually be doable. I’ve been attending Weight Watchers meetings at my job site, and the sessions have given me some good ideas on how I can accomplish my goal. Besides, the instructor asked for a commitment at the last meeting for the next six weeks. I played along and pledged six pounds or a pound a week. So...we shall see!

2. Resolve not to write about any Republican Presidential hopefuls for a full month. After all, these people come from all walks of American life with experience, expertise, and, most importantly, the desire to solve America’s problems. They deserve our respect and better treatment from all bloggers. As such, I will not write about their campaigning in a demeaning fashion while claiming it is my right as a satirist to do so. I will not question their intellect or grasp of policy matters while they work hard to convince voters everywhere that they are worthy to lead this country.

3. Snort! Yeah, right! Who the eff am I kidding? If I stopped writing about the Republican race, I might as well put this blog back on sabbatical. If I did that, I might have to lay off our interns, Steven and Meredith. Perhaps I should amend New Years Resolution #2.

4. Resolve not to write about any Republican Presidential hopefuls for a full month...and that month will begin February 1, 2013. That’s more like it! I honestly think I can live with this one.

5. Resolve not to make up faux resolutions (such as #4 above) in the guise of padding out my list of New Years resolutions.

6. Read more books. Now that my life is not in the state of unemployment turmoil that it was this time last year, I should be able to catch up on my reading. There are at least a dozen or so volumes of the American Presidents series which I have bought and are now collecting dust on my shelf, and currently I am making my way through a biography of Marlene Dietrich. There are also at least five other books that I started reading in the last few years, which I need to pick up and finish. This is a realistic goal; I just need to block out time before the end of the day to read a little bit.

7. Resolve to be more vigilant about my cardio rehab therapy and other physical exercise opportunities. If my back problems cease, I could do my therapy three times a week and do my stationary bicycle the other days of the week. Also, my job site has opened its own mini-gym which I could use at least one day out of the work week. All this exercising should dovetail nicely with my desire to lose weight.

8. Resolve to finally establish myself as an independent contractor for my voice over career. No punch line here.

9. Resolve to devote my days to gorging myself on potato chips and French onion dip and peel ’n’ eat shrimp, all the while watching every episode of Archer until I commit each one to memory or my brains bleed out through my ears, whichever comes first.

10. Scratch resolution #9. My executive editor has reminded me that the activities explained in #9 are okay for leisure time, but they will not be sustainable every day for the rest of my life. I didn’t quite understand what she was telling me until she used words like “gainful employment”, “job”, “mortgage”, “food”, “utilities”, “insurance”, and “taxes”. Then I understood.

So much for improving the world around me!

(Thank you for reading.)