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, 2006

The Rodent Forecaster

Sometime later this week, an animal with little intelligence and desperate to be left alone to work out its own agenda will look around and claim that a great future is ahead for all Americans. No, I’m not referring to the President’s State of the Union address, but rather to Groundhog Day (although the similarities are striking). Many know this as the day that sounds like a paid holiday, but isn’t. It doesn’t even come up for negotiations as a paid holiday in union contract talks. For all intents and purposes, the whole point of the day is celebrated and done with before most people begin the morning rush to work. So we need a paid day off for that? Yeah, right!

We’re all familiar with the legend of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil: that he emerges from his hole on February 2, and if he sees his shadow then there will be six more weeks of winter. Okay. Let’s compare the legend to reality.

First of all, the poor critter doesn’t so much emerge as is PULLED forcibly from his den. Then he is held aloft for the world to see and, presumably at this point, Phil sees or doesn’t see his shadow. Of course it would be hard for him not to see his shadow since his appearance is a media event and there are dozens of television lights pointed at him. The only way that he could not see his shadow is if he did the old Larry Fine routine, "I can’t see, I can’t see...I got my eyes closed!" As far as I know, no groundhog has pulled this joke yet.

I can’t help wondering about the disconnect between the legend of Punxsutawney Phil and how it is played out in public. For one thing, how do they pick the groundhog that is willing to wake up early and go through with this ritual. Do they audition for the chance to be "Phil"? Is there a talent competition ("Ladies and gentlemen, today I would like to do a reading from Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth.)? I believe the swimsuit competition was discontinued some years ago (don’t ask!).

And what does the winner get besides having his winter nap interrupted? Do they get an all expenses paid vacation to a warmer climate where the ground is softer? And what are the groundhog's qualifications to forecast OUR weather? Does he have a degree in meteorology? Is he certified to predict what we will or will not have to put up with for the rest of the season?

What if he cheats? What’s stopping Phil from glancing at the calendar as he is hoisted out of his hole and, seeing that it is February 2nd, realizes that according to his calendar, winter will not end for another six weeks? To us he’s chattering happily on, but he could be saying, "Idiots! I left a wake up call for late March! You do this to me every year, and you never learn! You wake me up in the middle of my winter nap just to check the weather! What, is your fantastic doppler four million or whatever on the fritz again? Ouch! Turn down those television lights! Okay, okay, I’ll fix ya. Just for this it’s six more weeks of freezing cold air, bone-chilling winds, ice on everything, and inches upon inches of snow, snow, snow. There! Are you happy now? Now let me get back to sleep!"

Strangely, many people on site witnessing the event will cheer this news. There could be two explanations for this merriment: they work for a very good union that got them a paid holiday for Groundhog Day, or they realized that they won’t have to witness the groundhog swimsuit competition.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lights! Organ! Eagle!

Generations of Philadelphians have traveled to the old John Wanamaker department store in Center City Philadelphia during the Christmas season to watch the holiday light show. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a lighting display on a wall five stories high above the store's center court. The show has Christmas trees and balls, snowflakes, sugar plum fairies, tin soldiers, a grandfather clock, a Christmas train, and Santa Claus. All these lights move in coordination with a pre-recorded narrated story. The finale is a dazzling water fountain display at the base of the wall. Philadelphians would cheer the show, vacate the center court, and, presumably, buy something on the way out of the store.

In recent years, however, the show has grown smaller and smaller under the current management, Lord and Taylor. Store management has reasoned that it has become necessary to curtail the show because the display is old (1955). First, they shut off the fountain, then various parts of the display, then limiting show times to every two hours instead of every hour. The Philadelphia Inquirer alluded to conspiracy theories for the gradual closing, but did not or could not elaborate. Most likely, they fear the loss of Lord and Taylor advertising revenue.

So be it! We have no such fear (or revenue) on this blog. Let's explore the theories...

Store management tells the public that the parts are old and can't be repaired... This could be true, so how about replacing the display rather than restoring it. After all, we have new technology; Hollywood can send an invasion of Martians to the earth, destroy cities with creatures as tall as skyscrapers, and create whole new worlds with just the click and drag of a computer mouse. Meanwhile, here in Philadelphia, we can't put two wires together to light up Santa! What is the problem here? Can't we find a five-story stepladder somewhere so that we can replace the old parts?

Or is Have the Lord and Taylor number crunchers determined that the shows don't really bring in enough residual business to justify the cost of repairs/replacement?

Or is it...the national landmark designation given to the old Wanamaker site? Could it be that the designation that protects the Wanamaker Organ and the Wanamaker Eagle (in the center court where generations of Philadelphians would meet each other when they rendezvoused in Center City) is also preventing management from repairing/replacing this cherished holiday institution?

Perhaps it's time for some well-connected and well-heeled citizens to step forward to save the lights. After all, the Wanamaker Organ has the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ (www. to look after its restoration and maintenance. Certainly a similar community action group could be organized to save the Lord and Taylor light show (even if it means saving it from Lord and Taylor). We should act before we are left with nothing more than two light bulbs - one red, one green - that flash intermittently in erratic, but festive, holiday patterns. Oooo...I can hear the excited voices of future generations of Philadelphians now!

(Thank you for coming to our Christmas light show. Now buy something!)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Proposed Softball Questions for the President

Presenting the first of an open-ended series of "soft" questions that the White House Press Corps would never think to ask the President.

1. Doesn't Paul Wolfowitz gross you out when he wets his comb?

2. Have you ever noticed that not many Democrats show up for your "town meetings"?

3. Truth or dare: wouldn't you rather lie about having sex with an intern, then whether or not so-and-so had nuclear weapons?

4. Speaking of which, could you try to say "nuclear" again, just for old time's sake? We need a good laugh.

5. Have you made sure Karl Rove is up-to-date with his rabies shots? How about distemper?

6. Given that North Korea is showing defiance about their nuclear capability, and now Iran is also flexing its nuclear muscle coupled with the anti-Semitic rhetoric of its leader, do you still believe that the battle for terrorists can still be fought...oh, never mind all that, just tell me how many fingers am I holding up?

7. Senator Clinton recently criticized your administration by suggesting that Congress is just one large "plantation". Do you believe this is true, and if so, can we expect to see "Gone With The Wind" broadcast on C-SPAN soon?

8. Does Dick Cheney bite?

9. If a train leaves Chicago for New York at 10:15 and another train leaves...sorry, did I lose you already?

10. Do you still insist that there is not enough data to support the concept of global warming when we're here in Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts and sandals in January?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

My musings will not always be humorous. There are some things which beg to be said in a serious vein. My comments today are serious in nature.

Yesterday, America celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Many people used the day off as an excuse to shop at the mall. Thousands of others used the day to provide various services to their communities. Since I was otherwise engaged on this day, I will commemorate Dr King’s life with a larger than usual contribution to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC).

The SLPC dedicates its resources to promoting the ideology of tolerance in America. It does this on three fronts:

It battles racial hatred and inequality head on in America's courts.

The Center also gathers information about the more prominent hate groups - the
Klan, Nazis, neo-Nazis, Skinheads, among too many others - and provides this
information to interested parties and law enforcement officials throughout the

Most importantly, the SPLC makes available to schools various resources
teaching the importance of tolerance. These resources come in the way of
booklets, films and videotapes. These materials counteract the vile and
poisonous ideology that hate groups ply in the nation’s schoolyards and
on the web.

Shockingly, these groups and their actions get very little attention in the mainstream media, at least until one of them burns a cross somewhere. Then, when the shock wears off, everyone goes about his/her business until the next racial incident. The SPLC never goes away.

The simple answer would be to shut them up, but our Constitution won’t allow that (God bless the pesky First Amendment!). Fortunately, the same amendment that allows them to spew their hatred also allows the rest of us to tell them "Shut Up!" If we have to hear them, then they will certainly have to hear those of us who disavow and disagree with their actions.

Once in a while a voice of reason rises above this din. One such voice was stilled one night in Memphis in 1968. Dr. King left us then, but his words and ideals live on in the deeds done by the thousands of volunteers on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. They also live on in the work of the SPLC.

For more information, contact the SPLC at

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Smarty Jones' Retirement

A news item came across our Internet screens today that amazed both me and my wife. It concerned Smarty Jones, the nearly Triple Crown winner, and his days now spent in retirement. The report detailed how Smarty has (so far) sired one foal, and gotten 92 other mares pregnant.

Ninety-two! My initial reaction was, I believe, a typical male one: "Go Smarty! You got to do it with 92 chicks! Wooooo-hooooo!" It got me thinking on a few fronts.

First, what a monotonous retirement he must be having. I can only imagine his typical day: sleep, eat, do it, sleep, eat, do it, sleep, eat, do it, repeat as necessary. The poor fellow probably needs a vacation.

Second, I thought that it's about time that we raised a champion race horse. I said, "Kelly, today I want to start training you to become a champion race horse. Now, I realize that this is a formidable challenge, but this is no time to think small. It's time to rise above your limitations, to soar with the eagles (no, wait, bad metaphor in this town), to run with the thoroughbreds. I know you can do it, Kelly. I can't do it myself; I only have two legs, but you have four legs, and I'm sure that the National Horse Racing Association, or whoever governs this sport, requires (darn them) that their competitors all have four legs. So, Kelly, what do you say?"

Kelly gave me one of his stern looks and simply said "Meow!"

Translation: "You silly man, no, you very very silly man. It has obviously escaped your attention that I am a CAT. True, I have the right number of legs, but I am the wrong species. Besides, I can see through your real reason to race me. You just want to sell my services for stud, but we're screwed there too. You forgot that I am fixed!"

Kelly, being a cat of few words, turned and walked off, tail held high, to the first of numerous daily cat naps.

Oh well! Congratulations, Smarty Jones, on your, um, productive reproductive retirement!

Monday, January 09, 2006


TODAY'S QUOTE: "Recalcitrance: an American tradition since 1776!"

Hello! Welcome to my blog!

I thought it would be nice if I explained the whys and wherefores of my writings before we get down to business. As you may surmise from my blog description, most of my writing will try to be humorous. I don't believe I will always fail in making the reader laugh - or at least crack a smile - but sometimes things may happen in the world which will set me off on a serious tangent. I will try to keep those tangents to a minimum.

Why a blog? I have things to say, and I need an outlet, a venue to state my ideas! These ideas may be short essays or very short stories. I hope to use my blogging experience as a springboard to longer, more rewarding pieces of fiction. In short, my hope is that this blog will be an audition. It is my way of putting on a very tight sweater (probably knitted by my wife) and sitting on a stool at the Schwabs drugstore lunch counter waiting to be discovered.
Those of you who know me personally know that this image I've just planted in your brain is not a pretty sight. Let's face it: I'm no Lana Turner.

So much for content; now a little bit about me. I am short, middle-aged male with most of the attending neuroses you would expect to find in a short male. As a Libra, I am verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry sensitive. I make up for this with a biting sense of humor. I never intend to use my humor to inflict pain, but there will be times when I might come off as sarcastic. Once again, those close to me will snicker at this last comment.

I live somewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania with my wife and two cats. They allow me to live here just for laughs. I hope you will agree with them that I am at least good for laughs. goes nothing....