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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, January 29, 2010


On this date in 1880, William Claude Dukenfield was born in what is now extreme southwest Philadelphia (so extreme in fact that the event actually happened in the borough of Darby). With juggling skills he learned and perfected as a child, he set out to entertain the masses. Along the way, he acquired a pool table as part of his act and developed a sharp wit which he delivered with a nasally drawl. The character that he created under the nom de plume of W.C. Fields endures today as one of the classic caricatures of American humor.

There are several ways we could celebrate this occasion. Two obvious events – kicking dogs and boiling children – should be discounted at once. Not only are these illegal and immoral (although not necessarily fattening), but they are in direct conflict with the man’s true beliefs. His character would have no problem with such goings on, but that was the politically incorrect genius of Field’s creation.

Likewise, an event which would test a person’s dexterity by balancing a full martini glass while falling down a flight of stairs did not pass muster with the legal department here at arteejee. Which is a shame, because we were fully prepared to award additional points if the person broke a collarbone, yet managed to spill nary a drop of their drink. No matter, this tribute will play just as well without it. Instead, we will note a few of the more memorable moments from his comedy career.

His character was prone to using the fifty-cent words which are not commonly used by the general population. He could convey the simplest of ideas with a jumbled, confusing array of doubletalk I will call Fields-speak. In actuality, Fields used such moments to belittle the pompous attitudes of society, particularly those in the world of politics who rely on this language every day to hide their true agenda.

So when Fields cursed Drat, we could translate it as $%@#! Godfrey Daniels was his way of saying God damn, as suggested by the late Fields fan Ed McMahon in an essay on Fields career.

He referred to a barbershop as a tonsorial parlor (My Little Chickadee). When he wanted to give a weather report of blizzard like conditions, sub-freezing temperatures and occasional fistfuls of snow hitting him in the face, he would declare, It ain’t a fit night out for man nor beast. This line is actually a running gag from what I believe to be the funniest American short ever produced, The Fatal Glass of Beer. (Laurel and Hardy’s Big Business, and Chaplin’s Easy Street are a very close second in my humble opinion.)

Fields eventually toured the world and entertained millions of people in his lifetime. His comedic skills and inventions — particularly that of the conniving curmudgeon who hated dogs and children — continues to make his fans laugh today over 100 years since his birth. This, as he might say, is a most audacious achievement in the annals of mankind.

(Thank you for reading. Please try The Great McGonigle’s Yach’wee Indian Elixir! It cures hoarseness!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Career Check

It’s time we surveyed the current employment status of some of the celebrities who catch our attention from time to time and entertain us intentionally or not. Without them, we would have nothing to take our minds off the day-to-day drudgery that many of us call our lives.

Career in rehab: Tiger Woods

Career over: John Edwards, for finally admitting the baby is his!

Career on hiatus: Conan O’Brien

Career poised for a comeback: Jay Leno

Career just content to sit on the sidelines and make wise ass comments at the expense of Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, and NBC: David Letterman

Career down in flames: Martha Coakley, for not getting that very important promotion to the US Senate

Career dead and buried: Michael Jackson, although his demise won’t prevent him from making millions of dollars this year anyway

Career which should be ended with extreme prejudice at the hands of an angry mob of enraged liberals marching by torchlight: Rush Limbaugh, for telling his beloved “dittoheads” not to send aid to Haiti

Career which should be ended with extreme prejudice at the hands of an angry mob, etc, etc: Pat Robertson (Honorable Mention)

Career plagued by delusions of grandeur: Sarah Palin. Who else?

(Thank you for reading! Please consider a career in public service...after all, someone is sure to find it amusing!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Devil and Pat Robertson

The recent earthquake in Haiti has had a number of repercussions throughout the world. First, in Haiti itself, there has been horrendous loss of life and destruction; the latest estimates are that over 100,000 are dead. Many nations are preparing to help with any rescue efforts which will alleviate the suffering.

Many experts see this disaster as an opportunity for Haiti to rebuild its infrastructure and prevent massive destruction from happening in the future. Then there is the case of one American commentator whose statements on the disaster could — and should — embarrass anyone who considers themselves a Christian.

On his 700 Club television show, televangelist Pat Robertson noted the earthquake before giving a short history of how Haiti gained its independence from the French in the 1790s. It was an interesting historical footnote which involved — in his telling of it — voodoo and Satan. He finished his little anecdote with the words, “True story,” and many who heard it insisted that he implied that there was connection between Haiti’s deal with the devil and the earthquake.

Maybe he did or did not mean to imply that the earthquake was God’s way of punishing the people of Haiti. Perhaps he just recounted the history lesson to fill some time on his show. In any event, the placement of this historical tale in the context of the earthquake story did not seem appropriate.

Let’s get this straight: the people of Haiti are suffering the worst in a long running series of natural disasters; thousands are dead, many more will probably die, and thousands are still buried in the debris. Then some wise guy Christian leader throws the devil in their face? Way to kick the people when they’re down and out, rev! Shouldn’t you as a Christian be comforting them in their time of need? You may think you have a valid point of view, but your timing sucks!

Furthermore, we should differentiate between Robertson’s concept of the truth and historical accuracy in his “true story”. As a religious scholar and leader, Robertson believes every word of scripture as fact. That is his right and prerogative. On the other hand, historians need solid proof of an event happening before they will agree that it actually did happen. In their research, historians will deal with primary sources and secondary sources.

In this case, a primary source could include, among other things, the actual paper contract between the Haitian leaders of the revolt against France and Satan, signed by Beelzebub himself. Oh, let’s not forget: this would have to be a wet signature. No photocopies or faxes are acceptable as a primary source. Historians work under very strict rules.

A secondary source could include, among other things, a newspaper account of the deal or even a story about the signing ceremony itself. I haven’t researched this incident extensively, but I believe that neither a contract nor any journalistic pieces have yet surfaced. With this in mind, I’m inclined to see the Haiti/Satan story as a legend and chalk up Haiti’s troubles to extremely bad luck, terrible government, and location, location, location.

In any case, relief is pouring into Haiti and Robertson has crawled back into the woodwork of his own media empire. Still, there is a silver lining to this whole episode which has restored my faith in the existence of a superior being. Someone has offered a voodoo doll version of Pat Robertson for sale on Ebay.

Yes, there is a God after all!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember to help the people of Haiti wherever and whenever you can.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Elephant in the Room Squirms

Within the last week, a new book about the 2008 Presidential election, Game Changes, caused quite a stir among the policy wonks inside the Beltway. The book sounds like it is an exhaustive survey of both parties quest for the White House. There’s plenty of dirt to dish around here!

Among the highlights: more than one point of misunderstanding between Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden; John McCain’s misgivings about the direction of his campaign; potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton suspecting Obama of cheating to get the nomination; Bill Clinton acting like a plantation owner in the antebellum South; and McCain running mate Sarah Palin giving everyone the impression that she was a political idiot.

Well, it’s two years later and my, how times have changed! Obama is President and getting along with Biden. McCain has abandoned his pledge to support Obama in the spirit of bipartisanship and resembles the back bench bomb thrower that Newt Gingrich used to be. Hillary is cementing her legacy as Secretary of State, while husband Bill is helping with the Haitian earthquake disaster. And, of course, Sarah Palin is still giving everyone the impression that she is a political idiot.

The most startling revelation from the book involved Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid's assertion that Obama could win because he is a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The quote set off a firestorm of protest from Republicans who cried for his resignation, and a round of apologies from Reid to Obama and to every major African American leader within shouting distance. Strangely, everyone who could have been offended by the remark accepted his apology, and Republicans were robbed of gaining political points from a poorly worded assessment about Obama’s chances.

Unfortunately Reid’s sentiment points to a still ugly truth about race relations in the United States. This is indeed the elephant in the room that we try to ignore but can’t. The elephant was with the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia and it’s alive and well today in so-called post racial America.

Reid’s comments are — dare I say it — accepted as political common sense that could be supported by reams of empirical data in countless exit voter polls. It’s sad, but most likely true characteristic of human nature: an articulate light skinned African American would be more readily acceptable to voters than a darker skinned African American.

Let’s be very honest with each other here. Prejudice between members of the same race can and does exist. News flash, people: not all white people like all other white people just because they are white! We can’t solve our race problem until we acknowledge how widespread and insidious bigotry really is.

Words can hurt, but words can also heal. Actions are the greatest remedy for all of human nature’s follies and foibles. Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicated his life through words and actions to lift up the African American community so that American society as a whole could move forward.

Now, having written all this, I hope I don’t have the same trouble that Senator Reid had with his comments. I hope the elephant in the room doesn’t squirm and roll over on top of m-...ow! Ow! OW! It’s on my foot! Get it off! GET IT OFF!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember to do the right thing today...and always!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Last Christmas Gift

At my house, we normally exchange three to four gifts. That’s one gift between each of us, one gift from each of the cats, and one from me and the cats to Anne Marie and vice versa. This year I did receive three gifts, but one had to be returned. So technically Santa still owes me a gift...until this week. I consider the announcement that Sarah Palin has joined Faux News as a commentator my final Christmas gift for the season.

I don’t consider this a gift just to me, but also to the entire liberal blogosphere! Think of it! She’ll appear on national television with her “you-betcha-by-golly-wink-wink” maverick analysis of news events, and we in the blog world will (rip her to) offer a series of thoughtful insights to her (whack job) vision for this great nation of ours!

Of course this will give everyone — conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, Tiger and Mrs. Woods — the chance to engage in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue on issues that confront all of us everyday. This is the opportunity that America has been waiting for, nay, lamenting for during the last few election cycles. We shall finally have the civil discourse that is the cornerstone of any evolving, practicing democracy.

Ha, ha, ha! Who the hell am I kidding? We liberals will eat her alive!

This makes me feel so giddy inside. The prospect of writing (vicious personal attacks) carefully crafted counterpoints to her plans for this country is just wonderful beyond words. This reminds me of that scene in Animal House when a young boy suddenly finds a college coed dressed as a Playboy bunny in his bed. It makes me want to show my gratitude to the Almighty and shout out, “Thank you, God!”

I must confess something now to the entire World Wide Web...I love Sarah Palin! Let me make this point very clear: I love her and I love her for all the wrong reasons! Yay, Sarah! Wheeeeeeeee...

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We must suspend the remainder of Mr. Gunther’s blog entry for today. It was at this point that Mr. Gunther got so exuberant at the prospect of Sarah Palin appearing regularly on national television that he lost all control of himself. Specifically, he began giggling hysterically, stripped off all his clothes, ran out his back door, and cavorted in the neighbor’s field behind his house.

Our initial attempts to subdue him failed, but finally we convinced him to come back in the house. We did this by reminding him that Palin's appearance on Faux News could conceivably widen her appeal, and establish a platform from which she will realize her ultimate goal: occupying the White House in 2012.

At this point, Mr. Gunther became morose, returned to the house, and was back to his normal moody self in no time at all. We realize that this action was a bit drastic, but we believe it was better to do this than expose the neighbors to the sight of Mr. Gunther’s chubby, naked physique.)

I wonder if I could talk Sarah Palin into a threesome with me and Ann Coulter? Hmmm...

(Thank you for reading. Please remember editors always know best!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Banking Industry Suicide

Has anyone noticed that the American banking industry is slowly committing suicide? Seriously, that is the only common sense explanation I can fathom for their recent raising of interest rates on any and all credit cards. The American consumer should not stand for this type of behavior.

It almost seems that they gathered together in some board room high above Wall Street and reasoned, “Well, we have record unemployment, people are not buying and borrowing as much as we like, and foreclosures are still a problem. How can we drive the final nail into this sucker? Of course! We can raise our interest rates and discourage people from borrowing even more. Then, when we get bored with this idea, we could all take a flying leap out our office windows!”

I realize that it has not been an easy time the last few years for American banks. First there were a record number of housing foreclosures, which in turn caused several of the larger banks (example, Lehman Brothers) to fail. The federal government (i.e., the Bush administration) started the trend - against its better judgment - of bailing out the banking industry. The Obama administration has signaled that it is willing to extend another round of stimulus money to the industry.There are several problems with this proposal.

One is that the first round of stimulus money has not affected the economy in a positive way, which the opponents of the original stimulus are more than happy to point out to anyone who will listen on Faux News. Never mind that not all of the original stimulus package has been used yet; as far as they are concerned, it is a failure, period.

The stimulus also came with conditions. It could not be used to restore the outrageous executive bonuses that had to be slashed due to the recession. It was also understood that the stimulus money would be used on small businesses, encouraging their ventures to grow and stimulate the local economies. So guess what happened? Executive bonuses returned, and requirements for lending have led banks to become stingier than Scrooge.

The Obama administration also enacted regulations which would make it more difficult for credit card lenders to raise their interest rates on a customer's existing balance. These laws take effect in a few months and — obviously sensing that their party is nearly over — the banks are raising their rates now ahead of the new regulations. They do this despite the fact that recent reports show that consumers have already been borrowing less during the last ten months. Economists fear that if this trend continues, the economy will not rebound as quickly as they hoped.

My message to economists: be afraid, be very afraid. The unemployed cannot hope to keep up with the higher interest rates. Even working people will not be able to meet their monthly minimums unless they sacrifice other areas of their lives. Many may have to choose between buying food, clothing or other necessities, making their mortgage payments, and preserving their good credit by meeting the demands of the credit card issuers.

It is not a pretty choice. I’m afraid many people will have to resort to drastic measures to keep from declaring bankruptcy or defaulting on their home loans. The easiest answer would be to pay off the credit cards and tell them all “Go to hell!” but not everyone will have the resources to exercise that option.

I’ve never taken an economics class and I hope my common sense is wrong, but it appears that the other shoe has yet to drop in this recession. Everyone is looking for a sign, any sign at all, that the current economic nightmare will end soon. The American banking industry seems content to maintain the same old self-destructive attitudes that got the country into a recession in the first place. It seems that their philosophy is, “Look out for number one!”

In the meantime, for any ladies and gentlemen still cocooned in the board rooms of corporate America, I have just one wish: Happy Landings!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember very little is actually free in a free society.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

R.I.P. (Restaurants in Passing)

On this site, 4 years and 429 entries ago, we established a blog dedicated to commenting on nothing in particular, everything imaginable, and all points in between. It has noted, and will continue to note for the foreseeable future, any and all peculiarities of human nature, political chicanery and hypocrisy (especially the Republican ones), and any fad or foible that doesn’t escape my intellectual radar.

Now let us leave what is undoubtedly the most pretentious introduction ever attempted on this blog and move on to a subject near and dear to my heart: food!

Today, we gather here to mourn the passing — in the course of the last few years — a few eating establishments wiped out by the recession. In my neighborhood, we saw the closing of a Mexican restaurant and two local outposts of national chains offering Italian cuisine: The Macaroni Grill and Bucca di Beppo. Locally, we have also seen two Chinese buffets shut their doors. In Philadelphia itself, the legendary seafood eatery, Old Original Bookbinders, now sleeps with the fishes after a drastic reduction in its serving area brought on by a downturn in tourist business after 9/11. (A pox on you, Osama bin Laden!)

More recently, there was news that the legendary New York restaurant, Tavern on the Green, closed. This fabled landmark dated back to 1870, and was frequented by a celebrated clientele during its history. John Lennon was a regular customer. Many of us who never got the pleasure to dine there will remember it featured in the comedy Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, the Tavern had to close due to bankruptcy and licensing difficulties with the city of New York.

Just recently, we learned that one of our favorite restaurants in Washington DC went out of business around this time last year. The Market Inn was a hole-in-the-wall that was literally tucked into a corner of E Street SE in the shadows of a railroad line shared by Amtrak and Virginia Rail Express. Its outward appearance was deceiving. Inside there were dark wood paneled dining rooms, live jazz music for Sunday brunch, and the most sumptuous seafood ever cooked.

We discovered the wonders of the Market Inn at an annual street festival called Taste of DC. On our last trip to Market Inn (July 2008), we learned that Taste of DC was discontinued in the wake of 9/11. (Which reminds me: #@%& you, Osama bin Laden!)

There was one dish in particular that kept us coming back to the Market Inn, even after we moved out of the area: the she-crab bisque. It was a creamy concoction much like New England clam chowder, but it was not complete without a dollop of whipped cream on top. This was mandatory. Once mixed together with the cream, the soup became a sinfully rich gastronomical experience. We mere mortals are certainly not worthy enough to partake in its delights.

I wonder if someone has posted the recipe on the Internet? No matter, it is better to have had she-crab bisque once and always remember its sweet goodness, than never to have sipped it at all.

Despite these passings, there are a few bright lights on the horizon. One of the local Chinese buffets I mentioned earlier is being replaced by (drum roll please)...another Chinese buffet! There is also news that a fast food hamburger chain which disappeared about 25 years ago will be resurrected. Before McDonald’s made its way east in the 1960s, the Philadelphia area had Gino’s hamburgers to scarf. Gino’s also offered Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken in those days. Now the burgers will be back and I can hardly wait.

There is a God after all!

(Thank you for reading. Please keep the she-crab bisque in your thoughts always.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Snort Notes – January 2010


This news reminds me of something my father once said, “Everything has a purpose.” The medicinal benefits of marijuana have been widely touted for years, particularly for those suffering the ill effects of chemotherapy. I would never advocate smoking anything for any reason — which is something else I’ll blame on my dad’s cigarette smoking — but if there is truly a medical need to alleviate pain and suffering, then by all means: smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Now by pain and suffering, I’m not talking about the trauma of doing poorly on a pop history quiz in college. I realize that 1.3 billion (very crude estimate) college students since 1970 who have smoked marijuana can’t be wrong, but recreational use doesn’t count. Sorry, this trauma just can’t compare to those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting — usually — from acts of warfare.


Okay, here are a few words which I never thought I would ever write on this blog: I agree with Rush Limbaugh. Now before you ask me to turn in my liberal card, or nominate me for membership to the Senator Joseph Lieberman Fan Club, let me explain. As a heart surgery survivor, I can attest that the American health care system is indeed wonderful. I agree with him on this point, but with the caveat that I know where he will take his argument, and that is one journey from which I will gladly disembark. Limbaugh will undoubtedly use his experience to argue against the health care reform, which is now coming closer to reality in the US Congress.

Limbaugh was hospitalized with chest pains over the Christmas holidays. Medical tests proved that he did not suffer a heart attack. He issued a statement after the episode was over that American health care is the greatest in the world. Of course it is, Rush, because you and I have jobs which offer us medical insurance!

As for the millions of Americans who have jobs with no medical benefits, or their wages are so low that they can’t afford to buy health insurance on their own, or are unable to be employed due to lack of opportunity or illness or personal circumstances and therefore do not have access to health insurance...then for all these people I will venture to say that American health care truly sucks! It’s all a matter of perspective, Rush. This is one reason why I suggested that Congressional Republicans work at Wal-Mart for awhile, so that they could experience working with minimal or no benefits at all.


Here is an example of why the US Presidency is a thankless job. Obama could have declared war on Christmas (a nice gift for the military-industrial complex) on Yemen where the bomber originated his flight, rounded up all the extremists in this country into a concentration camp (like we did to Japanese-Americans in World War II) and suspended the civil rights of everyone else. Would that have made his critics — columnist Charles Krauthammer in particular — happy? Probably not.

Sorry, Charlie, but you may have heard that there’s a new sheriff in town. He hasn’t adopted the old “bring it on” attitude of Black Bart Bush. Obama is trying to reestablish America as a beacon of tolerance to the rest of the world, and especially to the Muslim world. Marching into Iraq with delusional fantasies of hearing rose petals crunching under the feet of American soldiers was not a show of tolerance.

It seems to me that the President wants to restore faith in America and head off any movement which will turn law-abiding people into extremists bent on destroying America. I realize that you will see this as a naïve position, and perhaps it’s not as satisfying as seeing John Wayne mow down America’s enemies with automatic machine gun fire.

I’ll admit Obama’s approach may take longer — perhaps generations — to achieve. On the other hand, it’s so crazy it just might work. So, Krauthammer, just suck it up and bend over for your cavity search the next time you fly.

(Thank you for reading. Remember to extinguish all joints when the flight attendant instructs you to do so.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bad Movie Hangover: A Night with "Cinematic Titanic"

The evening started with a bang, or actually, film footage of a nuclear bomb detonating and mushrooming into the atmosphere. A voice from one side of the theater shouted, “Sarah Palin’s first day in office!” And we all laughed from that moment on and all through the mini movie marathon presented by the original cast and crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, now - 20 years later - they operate under the name Cinematic Titanic.

Briefly, MST3K and its current incarnation presents a small group of film fans watching a film and slinging the most brutal — but hilariously funny — verbal arrows ever slung at a movie screen. A live audience watches the movie and them sitting on either side of the screen. You really have to be up on your cinema history to get many of their jokes.

However, it’s not just any film that is deserving of the Titans treatment. You’ll never find Casablanca or Citizen Kane unspooling in front of them. True to the old MST tradition, Cinematic Titanic goes after the worst, cheapest, and cheesiest movies ever made. For example, at our New Year’s Eve marathon, we saw The War of the Insects, a Japanese produced sci-fi flick without any of the giant lizards so common to Japanese sci-fi at the time (pity); and Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World, which was actually an Italian produced epic showcasing former Tarzan Gordon Scott as a muscular hero taking on the Khans in China. (There was also a third film, Legacy of Blood, but we left before it began owing to a bad head cold I have.)

Do these sound bad? Good, because they were very, very bad. However, as Titan J. Elvis Weinstein observed, “It’s nothing that 500 jokes won’t cure.”

Weinstein was one the of three original cast members on MST3K; series creator Joel Hodgson and comedy writer Trace Beaulieu completed the trio. Hodgson’s idea was partly interactive, and yet a joke on the interactive media that was promised to us when the internet debuted a few decades ago. In an MST documentary interview produced years ago by Comedy Central, Hodgson noted several Warner Brothers cartoons that inspired him. The cartoons shattered the imaginary “fourth wall” between artist and audience when it showed the silhouette of the movie audience for a few jokes. Hodgson based an entire comedy series on this premise which lasted for ten years on cable television.

Those were good years, the 1990’s. MST3K thrived and accumulated a devoted cult following. The economy was great, children played all day in the sun, and bad movies were mercilessly skewered. That ended with the show's cancellation in 1999, and with that came the Dark Ages. The Bush Administration was in power, the economy foundered, no opposing point of view was tolerated, and bad movies were released unencumbered by rhetorical ribbing. Now the Dark Ages are over and Cinematic Titanic is ready to take us forward again into the wonderful world of cure-alls for bad movie hangovers.

The current Titan line-up is completed and complimented immensely by former MST writers/cast members Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl. Their commentary, along with Hodgson, Beaulieu, and Weinstein is fresh, relevant and many times irreverent. True, once in a great while a gag can be recycled — the opening shot at Sarah Palin originally targeted Dan Quayle at a live MST show in Minneapolis years ago — but this only proves that good gags are timeless.

The live shows are as wonderful and unique as all live shows can be. Scripted lines can be flubbed, improvised and roundly called on by other cast members. Some jokes fall with a thud, but those too are redeemed by a cast member's ad-lib to the audience. All in all, the entire cast had fun with the script and themselves to the delight of the sold-out house.

Unlike MST, the Cinematic Titanic films are not available for television, but can be ordered directly from their website ( There are seven episodes produced so far, and more to come in the future. In the meantime, watch for Cinematic Titanic to come to a venue near you soon.

(Thank you for reading! Please remember to turn down your lights where applicable.)