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, April 29, 2009

Stooging - 2009

Submitted for your approval: a convention in progress on a sunny Saturday morning at a suburban hotel. People mill around the lobby, some by a registration table, others knotted by one of the two rooms being used for the event. One room, filled with merchandise and souvenirs, is crowded with buyers, browsers, and others queuing up to meet one of several special guests of the convention. Suddenly, two uniformed men run through the lobby and into the dealer room. No one can see who they are chasing, because they are chasing no one. Actually, the uniformed cops are the pursued, and the pursuer in this case happens to be a gorilla wielding a sub machine gun!

The crowd’s reaction to this scene is remarkable: some smile, some laugh and others take pictures of the chase. Otherwise, people go about their business as the two faux cops are chased back into the lobby. The attendees see nothing unusual about this mayhem, since the two “cops” resemble comic icons Moe Howard and Larry Fine. Yes, folks, the annual convention honoring the life and work of The Three Stooges has officially begun.

This convention — held every year in Fort Washington, PA - includes film screenings, guest speakers, memorabilia sales, a dinner, an auction, and an open house at the nearby Stoogeum ( Mostly, the convention gives Stooge fans from all over the country the chance to meet other Stooge fans and celebrate everything Stooge related.

The deal room intrigued me the most of all of the activities. There were Stooge books for sale from biographies to screenplays. The shorts were available on all formats (8mm silent, 8mm sound, 16mm, VHS, DVD), and anything with the Stooges likenesses from clothing to commemorative plates could be purchased. My favorite item this year, which unfortunately I didn’t buy, was a shirt featuring Shemp on the front with the caption “Legalize Shemp”!

One special guest this year worked with the team on one of their features, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. The film’s leading man, Quinn Redeker, told as much as he could remember about the filming, and apologized for not remembering more of the wonderful show business stories he heard from the Stooges. One stood out from the rest: once, Moe told him, their act was so bad that Ted Healy and the team had to hold back an audience in Texas with real guns, while the scenery was removed and transported to the railroad station. Ah, sweet vaudeville!

Redeker tried his best to stay on topic, even when someone asked him about his experiences co-writing the story for a film that is considered one of the top ten greatest films ever made. He explained that he wrote 21 versions of the story about a man who plays Russian roulette for a living. Other than this tidbit of information, he didn’t seem interested in discussing the film, The Deerhunter, any further, and quickly returned to the subject of the Stooges.

Another special guest was the other leading male from the cast of The Three Stooges Meet Hercules – Samson Burke. Once a professional wrestler who later ran a chain of gyms, Burke was overwhelmed by all of the adoration he received from the Stooge fans. He and Redeker shared a few memories about working on the film, but otherwise they both expressed their gratitude at all of the attention they were getting on this weekend.

Similar sentiments of awe were expressed by Curly Howard's grandsons, Darren and Bradley Server. Bradley became an actor, a career decision he claims he made after seeing Zero Mostel perform in Fiddler on the Roof. At the time he didn’t even know about his famous grandfather, but his grandmother gave him as many details about him as she could remember.

The grandsons announced that they would start a website for Stooge fans called “Grandstooges” ( As the applause of this news subsided, they asked for suggestions for website content, since at this point it was only two pages long.

As usual, a grand time was had by all — fans, guests, and gun-toting gorillas alike.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

While You Were Out, Mr. President

The following messages may or may not have been recorded at the White House since last weekend.

President Obama: “Hello, you have reached the Oval Office. I am out of the country right now. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message, and I will return your call when I get back.”


Raul Castro: “Hello, Mr. President! It was great seeing you last weekend. Just remember, I’ll talk to you about everything between our two countries. And I mean everything, every issue, every conflict between us. I want to work with you. Good bye.”


Fidel Castro: “Hey, Obama! This is Fidel! Don’t listen to my brother! He thinks he’s in charge, but he’s not. He doesn’t have my ear! God, little brothers are a pain in the ass...”


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Hello, Mr. President. I’m sorry you missed my great anti-Israel rant on Hitler’s birthday. I really wowed the crowd. Well, all right, I wowed the ones that didn’t walk out. Oh, and the protestors didn’t like me either, but hey, you can’t win everyone over. At least they didn’t throw their shoes at me. By the way, can you tell me what I can do with a couple hundred clown noses?”


Raul: “Hi, Mr. President! It’s Raul again. Listen, don’t worry about anything my brother says. All he can do anymore is lie around the house, complain about his bladder, and smoke his Cuban cigars. Now, I’ve got nothing against a good Cuban cigar, but they do stink up the house, if you know what I mean. Anyway, what I really want to say is come down anytime to talk. Mi casa est su long as you don’t mind the cigar odor.”


Fidel: “Hey, Obama! Don’t listen to Raul! He doesn’t speak for the Revolution! Hell, he isn’t really a Communist! I probably shouldn’t reveal this family secret, but Raul’s real father was a Democrat. Oh, wait! Aren’t you a Democrat, too? That just proves my point!”


Hugo Chavez: “Hello, Mr. Obama! It’s Hugo. It was great seeing you at the Conference last weekend! I hope you’re enjoying the book I gave to you. Listen, can you do me a favor? I’m sending you a package and I was wondering if you could pass it on to Ahmadinejad the next time you see him. I think he will get more out of it than I will. It’s my personal copy of Mein Kampf..."


Malia Obama: “Dad, can we sit in the Oval Office next week for ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’? Hold on! Bo! No, bad! Bad dog! Stop chewing on my Jonas Brothers poster...”


Fidel: “Give me the phone, Raul! You will ruin everything!”


Raul: “Me? It is you who are destroying us! Your antiquated Marxist ideals are forcing our people to drive American cars built in the last century!”


Fidel: "Oh and I suppose you’d rather have them drive those big gas guzzling Hummers from the 21st century? Give me the phone! I want to talk to that superficial imperialist!”


Raul: “Ow! Mother always did like you best!”



Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ironic Conference

This week, the United Nations is holding a conference on racism in Geneva, Switzerland. It is meeting to focus on one of the biggest issues facing the world today, and the United Nations are doing the right thing by devoting time to this issue. Unfortunately, it is a conference boiling over with controversy and irony.

The first point of irony is that the United States, probably the most influential country in the world today, is boycotting the meeting. In other words, we’re not going to be there. Our reasons for staying away are legitimate; it’s not like we missed a connection at Heathrow or anything like that. No, in fact we never bothered getting on the plane in the first place. It is a shame the US won’t participate in this conference, since racism has dogged our country throughout its history. In other words, we would have a lot to contribute to the meeting.

Our concern about the conference is that several nations may press the conference to denounce Israel as racist. Furthermore, we also fear that the Islamic countries will persuade the UN to ban anti-Islamic language. The problem with these two “solutions” is that the first will de-legitimize Israel as a country, and the second will infringe on the concept of free speech.

We value free speech very highly in the United States. Admittedly, it’s a thorny issue since it means we have to listen to the views of those with whom we disagree, such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Then again, they have to listen to our anti-racist views, so we feel that this balances out everything. It doesn’t necessarily get problems solved, but at least everyone can be heard.

The second point of irony with this conference is its timing. I guess the UN thought it would be making a major statement on the issue of racism by scheduling the start of the meeting on the 120th anniversary of the birth of the greatest racist of all time. Yes, boys and girls, today is Adolf Hitler’s birthday!

This day has become down through the years a day of celebration for racists all over the globe. Even more ironic is the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking at the conference today. Okay, what joker scheduled this speech for opening day of the conference and Hitler’s birthday to boot?

I’ll be very surprised if Ahmadinejad doesn’t take advantage of the occasion by giving a shoutout to the Nazi leader. Note to Ahmadinejad: the purpose of the conference is to highlight racism and ways to combat. You’re missing the point of the meeting if you use it to encourage racism.

Oh well, in the spirit of free speech, we must listen to his voice too. So his views will be duly noted and everyone will nod or nod off while he speaks. Then most of the leaders of the world will return home to their countries and it will be business as usual. Well, everyone will return home except for the United States, because we didn’t bother leaving home in the first place.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More “There Is No Truth to the Rumor”

Now it's time for another installment of There is no truth to the rumor that...

There is no truth to the rumor that...the White House visit by the Philadelphia Phillies was really cancelled because the newest resident of the White House, a Portuguese water dog by the name of Bo, is a New York Mets fan.

There is no truth to the rumor that...the Taliban will stage their own version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with a hilarious twist ending in which the star crossed lovers are executed by a firing squad.

There is no truth to the rumor that...the Palin and Johnston families will be featured in the next big MTV reality series Real World: Wasilla!

There is no truth to the rumor that...the Taliban will stage their version of Bent with a surprise twist ending in which the entire cast is executed by a firing squad.

There is no truth to the rumor that...Octomom will build a reality television show around her newest litter. Oh, wait! That is true! Sorry...these rumors can be very tricky sometimes.

There is no truth to the rumor that...the Taliban will stage a cabaret version of La Cage Aux Folles on a Somalian pirate ship, and maybe a firing squad will be involved...or maybe not.

There is no truth to the rumor that...the liberal press has photographic evidence of President Obama walking on the waters of the Potomac. Sorry, but stay tuned.

There is no truth to the rumor that...the Taliban will (insert verb) the (insert an icon of decadent Western culture here) with a (insert adjective) ending in which (insert noun or nouns) will (insert another verb) due to intolerance for other cultures thinly disguised as religious zealotry.

There is no truth to the rumor that...Fox and Friends will demonstrate “tea bagging” on an upcoming episode. After all, it is the latest rage among conservative Republicans!

That’s all the rumors fit to print for now...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Harry Kalas

How many of us can honestly believe that we enjoy our careers? I’ll bet there’s not many of us out here in the working world that believe that about themselves. During the next few days, the family known as the City of Brotherly Love will celebrate the life of one such man. His name was Harry Kalas, and he was a broadcaster who loved the game of baseball, and loved the fans who supported it. More importantly, he shared that love with all who heard his wonderful voice during the 37 years he called games for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kalas, who collapsed and died as he prepared for a Phillies game in Washington DC yesterday, probably loved his work up to the very end. Again, not many of us will leave life doing something we enjoy, but there’s a lesson there for all of us - whether you’re a baseball fan or not. We should take as much joy from living this life as we can get, even while we give out as much joy and life as we can give. Harry Kalas’ life is a good example to follow.

Many of us will remember his smoky, sonorous voice, which reminded many of another Philadelphia broadcast icon, John Facenda. The comparison is appropriate, since Kalas followed in Facenda’s footsteps and became the voice of NFL Films for many years. An entire generation grew up hearing his calls of Struck him out! or his trademark That ball's outtttttta heeeeeere! every time a Phillie hit one over the fence. We older fans remember the glorious triumvirate of By Saam, Bill Campbell, and former Phillie Richie Ashburn.

Now there was a grand broadcasting partnership: Kalas and Whitey Ashburn! One giving play-by-play and the other a veritable fountain of statistics and anecdotes about the game. We Philadelphia fans were truly lucky to have these two gentlemen call our games for so many years.

We will miss you, Harry. Thank you for sharing your life and love of baseball with us here in Philadelphia. Our only consolation is that perhaps you and Whitey are together again, side-by-side, calling a game played by all of the other immortals of baseball.

I just hope you’re not stuck calling a Mets game...

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bored Easter Child

While we prepare to celebrate what many Christians consider to be the holiest observance on the calendar, we should think about a hitherto unknown concept of the Easter holiday. This is, after all, a celebration of life renewed and it is no accident that this event happens near the beginning of spring, when the earth is once again coming alive for the growing season. We see buds and shoots, then flowers and trees blossom, unfolding their green foliage as part of nature’s annual show of grandeur.

The main crux of the holiday itself is the miracle of resurrection as told in the story of Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent rise from the dead three days later. Many Christians over the years have used this event to justify their own prejudices and bigotry against the Jewish culture. The old belief that “the Jews killed Christ” has been a common thread in anti-Semitic thought for thousands of years. Make no mistake about this point: the “Christ killer” attitude is ugly and un-Christian-like.

These people are missing the point of the lesson; the bigger picture as it were. The crucifixion had to happen if the resurrection – as foretold in a prophecy — was to occur. The events were destined to happen as a demonstration for all Christians the meaning and value of everlasting life.

This lesson is now obscured by baskets and colored eggs and plastic grass and bunny facsimiles (edible and otherwise) and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. It is my theory — another one of my historical theories — that this part of the Easter holiday developed because a child somewhere long ago couldn’t grasp the idea of Christ’s resurrection. He and/or she, probably dragged out of a sound sleep to attend a pre-dawn religious service at some point in the past two millennia, rubbed their eyes and said, “I’m bored!”

In the years since this event, adults have tried to find ways to make the whole Easter idea more palatable for young minds. Child too noisy while mom and dad listen to the sermon? Here, give them some candy to chew on.

The sermon is too long for a figidity youngster? Here, give them a brightly colored egg to contemplate.

The child has too many quizzical looks on their face when confronted with such concepts as crucifixion and rising up from the dead? Here, concoct some story about a small furry animal that will bring them treats if they promise to stop fussing and be quiet. This is probably an over-simplification of what actually happened down through the generations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some truth to it.

I could also use the same argument for Christmas, but 'tis not the season, so I won’t go least for now.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Short Notes – April 2009

President Obama signs legislation to raise the federal tax on cigarettes, $.62. News reports claimed that this was the largest tax hike on cigarette sales ever.

This is definitely a win-win for America. Proceeds from the tax will fund medical insurance for uninsured children. On the other hand, the additional cost to the smoking habit may be too much for many smokers. In this respect, the tax could also be another incentive for smokers to quit.

Now here is an example of an authority figure approving restrictions that will also affect him. Obama is a smoker who has been trying to quit. It probably wasn’t very easy for him to sign this legislation knowing it would hit his wallet too. As another recent Democrat residing in the White House might have put it, “I feel your pain”. (You remember?)

Of course Obama might take advantage of a loophole. He could very easily pull rank on anyone on his White House staff and bum a cigarette off them. Think about it: would you say no to the President of the United States?

Naw, I don’t see this happening. Just by signing this legislation, Obama has shown he’s willing to do the right thing, even if it could hurt him personally. I wish him and all the other smokers in America luck with kicking this habit.

African court denies singing icon Madonna permission to adopt another child from Malawi. The celebrity wanted another child to keep her previous adopted offspring company. Unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of the country’s residency requirements.

Okay, Madge, here are some possible solutions to get around the court.

1. Move to Africa and satisfy their requirements so you can adopt free and clear. Unfortunately, you won’t be setting a trend of American singers moving to impoverished countries for one reason or another. That honor would probably go to Stevie Wonder.

2. If option one is too inconvenient, then how about offering the court the profits from your next tour. Okay, so this solution isn’t entirely ethical, but it would um...okay, I just realized that this solution is entirely indefensible. Just forget I mentioned it.

3. Offer to buy a baby from octomom, Nadia Suleman; I’ve heard that she has a few to spare. (Anyone want to take bets on how long until one of these kids shows up on E-bay? Oh, right. E-bay doesn’t sell people. Just forget I mentioned this one, too.)

4. Ask Demi Moore if her toddler, Ashton Kutcher, can come over to play. This way your new child could have a companion and, when he lays down to take a nap, then you could “play” with him too. Just don’t tell Demi...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Weekend of Anniversaries

This weekend marks several anniversaries. One of these marks the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is certainly a sad occasion, but it gives us another chance — besides his birthday celebration in January — to remember his sacrifice in the struggle for racial justice in America.

Many Americans were saddened by the King tragedy, but there were many others who were glad to see Dr. King die. Pathetic, but true. Just so no one feels left out, we could start a new national day of observance for narrow-minded zealots. It would be a cathartic and largely symbolic celebration in response to all of those people who do not mourn Dr. King’s loss. In the spirit of national and racial unity, I am suggesting we celebrate something I like to call, “Smash Walter Brennan in the Mouth Day.”

Why Walter Brennan? See my previous blog entry (Love Their Work, But...) Or look up Brennan’s biography on You’ll find some very interesting reading there regarding his political views.

Let’s put it this way: if Walter Brennan ruled the world, then Dr. King would still be riding in the back of the bus. This is the nicest way I could think to phrase it. Know what I mean...I think you do!

Okay, so my suggestion is a work in progress. Ironically, I doubt that Dr. King would approve of my idea. Peaceful civil disobedience was more his bag than violent confrontation. Also, it is a bit difficult to literally carry out the spirit of the holiday since Brennan died in 1974. Perhaps a virtual punching bag on a website somewhere could be rigged up for this purpose. My idea definitely needs more thought.

More importantly for me, though, this weekend marks my 20th anniversary working in the health insurance industry. Yes, 20 years on my Don Quixotic quest to bring logic and common sense to America’s health insurance. Twenty years of tilting at the windmills of pre-existing conditions. Twenty years of vanquishing nonsensical inequities (birth control – not covered; Viagra - covered; WTF?). Twenty years of battling any policy clause that defies logic (well office visit for women – covered in full; well office visit for men – sorry, guys, we’re on our own).

For those of you keeping score at home, I should reveal this: the health insurance industry has been winning these battles.

No matter, because I will fight on, confident that I will eventually persevere. In all honesty, the industry as a whole has been very, very good to me. I look forward to many more years of serving the clients, while striving to make the industry more responsive to their needs without jeopardizing profit.

Hey, how about “Smash David Duke in the Mouth Day”? This might be more practical...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Love Their Work, But…

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has made some noise this week about his future movie going habits. In a widely publicized radio interview, he made it known that he won’t be going to any Sean Penn movies anytime soon. Does he hate Penn’s acting abilities? No, on the contrary. He praises Penn’s skills, but it’s the actor’s politics he can’t stand.

This incident brought to my mind my own personal list of Hollywood thespians who — while I love their work — I can’t abide their political leanings. This could be the start of an ongoing series here on arteejee (our motto: Outing the right wing since 2006!). I only publish these facts — verifiable on unless otherwise noted — for general information. These facts make these stars more interesting and more human to me.


The genius behind the Abbott and Costello team will always make me laugh, but according to his daughter’s biography, Lou’s On First, he was a staunch anti-Communist. He was in particular a big supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy (who got a smear political –ism named after him) and the extremely un-Constitutional Loyalty Oath.


Famed Hollywood director who brought many Biblical epics to the big screen, thus influencing many movie goers acceptance of stories they first heard in church. Another big supporter of the Loyalty Oath, he had a total disregard for the lives of his human actors on the set. His strong religious beliefs are evident in The Ten Commandments (the 1956 version), in which he acknowledged screenwriting with the Holy Scripture. Officially, God remains uncredited for his work on the film.


No star could swash a buckle like this Tasmanian born actor, but his career was overshadowed by his questionable sexual exploits, and later his drug and alcohol addictions. Long rumored to be a spy for the Nazis, while other stories claim he was extremely left-wing and an admirer of Fidel Castro. Something tells me that he and Lou Costello would have hit it off very well at a cocktail party. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall to hear that conversation! Personal tidbit: Flynn suffered a fatal heart attack the day before I was born.


Iconic actor of the American western genre; his performance in The Searchers is one of my all time favorites. On the other hand, I can’t stand The Green Berets. This latter film is an example of his super-patriot, super conservative viewpoint. By the time I came of age, he was being attacked for his pro-Vietnam stance. I think he might have been motivated more by guilt about his 4-F deferment during World War II, rather than any posturing in keeping with his on screen persona.


One of the greatest character actors of all time, but let’s face facts: if Brennan were alive today, the Southern Poverty Law Center would label him as his own hate group. offers a few hair raising examples of his extremely right wing, and yes, racist, views. One tale for here: he “cackled with delight” upon hearing the news of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Yes, I enjoy his work, but don’t get me started talking about his beliefs.

I wish Bill O’Reilly luck in his new offshoot career of outing liberals. I’ll continue my similar campaign against the right wing here. Between the two of us, we should have both extremes covered.

I won’t do this to ruin careers or discourage people from watching these great performers on the late show. They were, after all, merely human beings who exercised their American freedom to voice their opinions. We may disagree with them, and this doesn’t necessarily make them bad. These facts just add another intriguing level to their personalities. Their beliefs influenced their stature in life and all of our beliefs – conservative and liberal — add to the freedoms we enjoy in America today.