Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The year in review—in holiday rhyme"

'Twas the day we call Christmas, and all through the states
not a cit'zen was stirring, afraid of the Fates

"This year they took Bowie," one gentleman winced,
"Muhammad Ali, Nancy Reagan and Prince

"John Glenn and Gene Wilder, Flo Henderson too,
Alan Rickman and Shandling and Zsa Zsa, it's true"

The election sat smoking, a crater still deep,
and it left some Americans feeling like [bleep]

Still others exuded a newfound fresh aura,
their frustrations heard (there had been a plethora)

The children, oblivious to the whole trauma,
unwrapped their new toys, unaware of the drama

While grown-ups residing in states red and blue
agreed on the past year—it totally blew

We had floods, there was drought, and electoral doubt,
militia occupation, and Zika breakout

On the plus side, they tell us the pandas are good,
they're off the endangered list, safe in their 'hood

Numbers of tigers in India are higher,
pulled back from the brink to a spot not as dire

So thinking Big Picture, the year didn't suck
(Notwithstanding that new-minted cretin word, "cuck")

They beat HIV (sure, it's only a trial,
but I'll call it a "win" against something so vile)

Fidel Castro checked out, will it mean they're free?
"El Chapo" was captured (What is this? Strike three?)

DiCaprio's Oscar for chewing raw meat
along with the scenery's a dubious feat

In Syria humanity lost its soul
The world looked away, shrugged, and wrote off the whole

Scientists found goats are as smart as dogs (really!)
though teaching a goat to chase Frisbees seems silly

The Britons went "Brexit" and entertain regrets
When gambling with finance, you takes what you gets

Pokemon Go was a craze in the summer
How it sucked battery, though, was a bummer

Harriet Tubman got plenty of traction
her face on the twenty soon, bumping ol' Jackson

Juno reached Jupiter, flying there to explore
its gases, its origins, its secretive core

A coup failed in Turkey, some feathers were ruffled
"Dictator!" some cried, but their voices got muffled

Docs said coffee cuts cancer and suicide rates
(proves a theory once floated by old Hippocrates)

This year was a pain, really bad, on its face
In history, I hope it sinks without a trace

It did have one bright spot, this one saving grace
Look it up—they grew the first flower in space!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

We have reached civilization's pinnacle: self-tying shoes

No doubt about it; what happened last month was a clear sign of the End Times—they invented the self-tying shoe.

It is not something anybody on Earth needs, so naturally, much like the deep fried chocolate covered pickle, that made inventing it irresistible. You might not have heard the shoe hoopla over the crashing down of the hopes and dreams of two coasts of voters, but it happened. There was shoe hoopla.

Why did humans invent the self-tying shoe? Well, if Sir Edmund Hillary were here, I think he would probably say, "Heck if I know. Who needs that?"

It is not even a self-tying shoe, it is a self-inflating shoe, and we have had those for 25 years already. The Pump. Remember the Pump? You squeezed a little basketball on the tongue of your shoe and it tightened around your foot?

Ah, but this one is different, they say. They are right. This one costs $720.

Plus the electric bill. Yes, the 21st Century self-tying inflating shoe uses batteries, so you have to plug in your shoes at night. Ray Bradbury, even dead, is rolling his eyes.

The novelty is, when you step into them, they automatically tighten up, like a blood pressure cuff. There is no "tying," self or otherwise, but nobody in marketing is going to let you hype a "self-fluffing shoe."

Step in and the shoes whir with the faintly nostalgic sound of a VCR ejecting a tape. The underside glows a futuristic blue, as if you are jogging on a peaceful ocean of gullibility.

Like the Apple Watch, wearing these is a statement. It says about you, "I am on the forefront of the cutting edge, and out here on the cutting edge we pay $720 for what we used to call 'slip-ons.'"

The shoes do not come with a remote, which seems odd. How else do I loosen the shoes without bending over? Avoiding bending over is, I would think, the whole point. I guess if you can afford these shoes, you have people for bending over.

It is the 21st Century, and shoelaces are one more thing you can finally stop concerning yourself with. Add it to the list, along with truth, civility and the quaint notion that clothes make the man. A man makes himself. But if anybody wants to give a man novelty marshmallow shoes for Christmas, a man does not have a heart of stone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Beaver made famous in Maryland dollar store tells all

You may have seen the story last week of the beaver which supposedly entered a Maryland dollar store and wrought havoc on its artificial Christmas trees. Jonesing for the real thing, supposedly, and outraged at the deception. It smelled like fake news to me, so I got the beaver on the phone for an interview.

GW: Hi, are you the beaver from the dollar store?

Beaver: I'm from Schenectady, but, yes, that's me.

GW: What is your name?

Beaver: Bvvvphhht!

GW: Wow.

Bvvvphhht: It's a family name. I'm keeping it simple for you. There are chirps and stuff too, and several seconds of flatulence.

GW: Thank you then. Well, let's get to it. There were pictures of you in a lot of papers last week. As if a wild beaver just wandered into a dollar store, without fear, and let people walk up and take pictures. Level with me. You're tame, right?

Bvvvphhht: You mean married?

GW: I mean not wild. You live with people. You're a pet. This was a stunt.

Bvvvphhht: Tame is a strong word, bro. I admit I'm pretty chill, but I live in the woods. Dam. Lodge. The whole lifestyle.

GW: So you are asking me to believe you just happened into a dollar store and ended up near the fake Christmas trees.

Bvvvphhht: I thought it was a Hobby Lobby. I was looking for one of those three-wick scented candles.

GW: Um, why?

Bvvvphhht: Ever been in a beaver lodge?

GW: Ah.

Bvvvphhht: Smells like a muskrat exploded.

GW: How were you going to pay for the candle?

Bvvvphhht: Pay? How am I managing to use a phone and speak English?

GW: Good point.

Bvvvphhht: I wasn't looking for publicity. I got a little lost. Next thing I know, this guy has his phone out and he's laughing at me, but all I see is boxes with pictures of trees on them. The boxes smelled delicious. Cardboard you call it?

GW: Yes.

Bvvvphhht: I couldn't help myself. I sniffed them. They were like wood, but soft.

GW: I apologize. I thought it was all staged.

Bvvvphhht: No problem. I guess my mistake entertained some people.

GW: What's next for you?

Bvvvphhht: Me and Pizza Rat are shooting a remake of "The Odd Couple."

GW: Ha ha.

Bvvvphhht: It's a little obvious, but it's hard to push boundaries these days.

GW: Change the system from within, dude.

Bvvvphhht: I'm on it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - When the season goes right off the rails

 Because by today's exacting standards, THEY WEREN'T "PUMPKINY" ENOUGH.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

On this day in history, December 4th...

On this day in history, December 4th:

In the year 771, Charlemagne becomes king of the Frankish Kingdom. After years battling to create a Frank kingdom, he is forced to admit the closest he will ever get is Frank "ish."

In 1674, Father Jacques Marquette founds a mission near Lake Michigan to minister to local natives' religious needs. The settlement eventually expands to become Chicago, whereupon the "mission" changes dramatically to providing "Saturday Night Live" with sketch comedians.

In 1745, during the Second Jacobite Rising, Charles Stuart's army reaches Derby, whereupon Stuart joyfully cries, "Bulbous black hats all around!"

In 1786, Mission Santa Barbara is founded. Sadly, no sketch comedians are produced, and the wine sucks too.

In 1872, the ship Mary Celeste is discovered abandoned at sea, with no crew aboard. I don't have a joke here. It just really creeps me out.

In 1875, Boss Tweed escapes from a New York prison, but is eventually recaptured in Spain living under the alias "Jefe Tweed."

In 1909, the Montreal Canadiens hockey team is founded in an act of misspelling which quickly proves too costly to correct, on billboards, jerseys and promotional flyers, and so is grudgingly kept.

In 1954, the first Burger King restaurant is opened, creating a line of "American royalty" second only to the Kennedy family.

In 1998, the second module of the International Space Station, the Unity Module, is launched. It is greeted with disappointment by the astronauts, however, when a closer look at the advertisement for the module reveals, in tiny type, "beer not included."

Today is the birthday of American rapper "Big Pokey." Or it might be the birthday of pokey American "Big Rapper." I can never keep it straight.

On this day in 1131, Omar Khayyam dies, leaving behind his Rubaiyat to a feckless cousin who, disappointed because he was expecting a "ruby yacht," feeds it to his pigs. Thankfully there are copies.

In 1649, poet William Drummond of Hawthornden dies, proving that if you have to say where you are "of," you are not that famous a William Drummond.

Today is the feast day Ada, named for Saint Ada, the patron saint of palindromes. It is also the feast day of Osmund, who was apparently Bishop of Salisbury and, by extension, of fake steaks everywhere.

It is Navy Day in India, a day Indians set aside once a year to celebrate their ships and stuff.

 Bulbous. See?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - And instead of sit-ups, gelato!

 I don't know where in the world ice cream is a sport, but I want to live there.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Why California should secede and become its own attractive nation

The recent election has revived talk of California seceding from the union, taking its huge economy and supremely attractive people and going its own way. 

A sovereign country of California would have the sixth largest economy in the world but also the most kale-centric population. In fact, if we do secede, I'd like to suggest we call our country Kaleifornia. Foreign powers should know right up front who to bow down to when it comes to their roughage. 

Liberals like secession because it means no more pesky red states to fly over, just a big foreign country full of people they can't begin to understand, like Canada. 

It would be easier to handle, emotionally. Kaleifornia would have a lot going for it; the movie industry, the vegetable and nut production, and rumor has it that the porn industry is coming back. Talk about diversification of assets. We don't have all our eggs in one basket, nor do we require them to wear protection while canoodling. 

Our capitol would have to be moved, of course. Sacramento does not cut it for a country as elegant as Kaleifornia. I suggest Malibu. It would be hard to pass despicable legislation when you spent lunch sitting across a Whole Foods salad bar from a poorly disguised Barbra Streisand. 

I am joking. There IS no Whole Foods in Malibu, because the voters fought its construction off, considering chain stores to be a form of slumming. This kind of snobbery is exactly what one needs in the capitol of such an illustrious (insert nondenominational deity here)-blessed country.

Kaleifornia would not have elections; we would have awards. To keep the awards fair, there would be two political parties, the Dodgers and the Giants. Only season ticket holders would vote. The presidency and the vice presidency would be awarded in prime time by young actresses who have something coming out soon. All other offices, treasurer and so on, would be given out on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, as time permitted.

Yes, Kaleifornia would be a great country. Militarily, it would of the best-dressed. Our flag would have to be changed. I suggest two crossed leaves; kale and marijuana. I would be open to anything regarding the national motto, as long as it included the word "dude." Minorities, like Republicans, would be treated respectfully, and every schoolchild would be taught that Kaleifornia is "one nation, indivisible."

At least until the Big One hits. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - It's the new "dagnabbit"

 I like to exclaim the name of this cereal in the place of a profanity whenever I bang my shin or get cut off in traffic.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Writing about dog is safer than tackling politics

I have written a few political columns this year, but people are burned out on politics. So I have decided to write exclusively about my dog from now on. Dogs are safe. Dogs don't perform an upset. Dave Barry created this genre years ago, and it's gold. Even cat lovers like a dog column, because it will usually make a dog seem like what he is—kind of dumb but loving, like  Americans in general.

My dog cares nothing for politics. He did not symbolically poop more passionately than normal, in protest or celebration, on his morning walk the day after the election. He still treats finding a flavor-blasted Cheeto in the gutter as the best moment of November.

Skipper is not a discriminating eater, so we have to be careful what we leave within reach. Gesture with your sandwich to make a point, and he is on it. He is like Shamu leaping to tap that pole.

One time we left a half eaten pizza on the dining table and went off to our various books and computers. Dude jumped right up on the table, then made like pizza-rat down the hallway. I wish there were a way to convince him that the after-effects of pizza on an ex-wolf are not worth it. There isn't.

The next day on our walk as he is hunched on somebody's lawn, he will look up at me with desperate eyes that ask, "What in the name of the Great Dog God has happened to my pooter?" If you could teach a dog "cause and effect," the dog poop bag industry would collapse.

As the election results came in last week, Skipper was preoccupied with cocking his comically giant ears to detect people who might dare to deliver a package, or worse, walk past the house laughing. He was not inflamed by our political process, which is an enviable attitude.

Like me, he twitches when he dreams, but not about the well-being of his countrymen; rather, I imagine, about me tripping over a lamp cord and dropping an entire bucket of meatballs.

Sometimes, still asleep, Skipper will raise his head, eyes unseeing, and howl mournfully, as if protesting something cruelly unfair. He is hard to wake up in these moments, as if by clinging to the pain he proves something to himself. He has his pride, and his hunger. I will say this—he was certainly born in the right country.

. . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - And don't get me started about the nasty Chianti

 You've gotta respect a shop that believes in truth in advertising.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Leaking and dumping—a perplexing new trend

I wonder what I would have done if a time-traveler had sauntered up to me in high school in, say, 1978, and told me, "One day you will hear, comprehend, and not be grossed out by, the phrase 'WikiLeaks dump.'"

I probably would have said something like "What's that on your head? Are you an Aunt Bea impersonator?"

"It's a man-bun," the time-traveler would reply. "Where I come from, it is also ridiculed."

"Wait," I would say, "You're a time-traveler! I can tell. Your jeans have been completely shredded by the portal."

"No, that's just the way they come," he would say.

"Hold on. Before you go back, tell me. What stocks should I invest in?"

"I cannot be specific, but let's just say computers will be big."

"Got it! Thanks! Texas Instruments it is!"

So many leaks. So many dumps. How many dumps am I expected to endure before I suffer dump fatigue? I do not even click on those stories any more. Just because you dump something doesn't mean it has value. Look at Wells Fargo stock.

We have become a culture which likes to believe there is something fishy going on at all times, something which needs to be hacked and revealed. It makes us feel smart, special, and there is just enough actually fishy going on to feed the trend.

Conspiracy theories I wish would catch on:
  • Balding is experienced only by certain men who were taken as babies and inoculated with a serum which increased their intelligence, sexual magnetism and leadership abilities.
  • The reason the birds and the bees are dying off in such great numbers is because Internet porn has rendered their romantic symbolism irrelevant. 
  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both actually Ralph Nader in disguise, using advanced theatrical makeup and TV editing tricks. So is Anderson Cooper.
  • Julian Assange is, and always has been, Ralph Nader.
  • The "A" in Chick-Fil-A stands for Assange.
  • 9/11 was caused by conspiracy theorists.
  • The moon landing was not only faked but had subliminal images inserted into its TV coverage which gave the public a subconscious urge to buy MoonPies.
When I was a kid, leak and dump had very different meanings, and you got very little public praise for them. The only people getting hacked were extras in Bruce Lee movies. Times change. I am sure something fishy is going on; don't get me wrong. But sometimes I wonder if it all isn't just a clever piece of fishdirection.
. . .

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Theatrical signage

 It's nice to see that the Hollywood Bowl is unwilling to spell out obscenities on its signage. I bet those seats are more expensive too.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Famous poems parodied for this election year

This election cycle is almost over, and to celebrate I took several famous poems, pulled their pants around their ankles, and painted their hineys red, white and blue. I hope you will enjoy them with the laughter and relief which usually only comes at the end of a very long bout with the flu. Viva democracy!

"O Clinton! my Clinton!" (With a nod to Walt Whitman)

O Clinton! my Clinton! your fearful trip is done,
the campaign's survived all attacks, the White House almost won,
Some people jeer, some others sneer, the pillories insulting,
But despite calls for jail (or worse), ol' Hillary's exulting;
But O Bill! Bill! Bill!
O the email server woe,
Whitewater and Vince Foster, they
just won't let it go.

O Clinton! my Clinton! They say you have your foes
outfitted for new cement shoes, they drop like dominoes.
Is it not true you'll push right through a shift to Sharia Law?
Wasn't it you, back in the day, smuggled coke in Arkansas?
Troopergate, Benghazi!
Infractions e'en more dire!
Can you blame those who think
that where there's smoke, there's fire?

. . .

"Stopping by Showy Woods" (With a nod to Robert Frost)

Whose woods these are I think I know / His hotel sets the trees aglow / He'll surely see me stopping here, from a penthouse on the 100th flo'.

The woods are lovely, every tree / has his initials carved, you see / the bark embossed in letters, gold / Each one says "T-R-U-M-P."

For TV work he is hard-wired / He had more fun saying "You're fired" / Campaigning's thankless; TV pays / By April, Fox will have him hired.

"The polls are rigged, the pundits conned / Trump Nation surely will respond!" / But if he's wrong, his backup plan? Three words for you—Trump Walden Pond.

. . .

"Where the Polling Ends" (With a nod to Shel Silverstein)

There is a place where the polling ends, and before the vote begins,
And there the mood glows hot and white,
And there is fought the Facebook fight,
And there the nonsense claims take flight,
then pool where our brain cells have thinned.

Let us leave this place where the hucksters flack
and our dark mood costs us friends.
Past these fits where our fear and anger grows
we must walk our way back off the ledge on tiptoes
and try to have empathy for our "foes,"
to the place this insanity ends.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Masterpiece martial arts

 When you need to settle a beef over which is better, "Downton Abbey" or "Poldark."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Astronomers: 'Universe more politicized than previously thought'

A team of astronomers announced this week that the universe probably has 10 times more galaxies than previously thought, two trillion, or, in layman's terms, roughly the number of lies in your average nightly political TV ad. 

The Hubble space telescope in the 1990s led astronomers to believe there were 200 billion galaxies. Imagine if, at your job, your numbers were 1,800,000,000,000 off. Even if that were in inches, if you were building a library, the books would be in Azusa but you would have to go to the restroom in Redlands. 

It's not rocket science, but it's probably in the next building over at JPL. Along with JPL, the team which used computers to "infer" the far off, currently-invisible-to-view galaxies was at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. 

My guess at the top five classes at the University of Nottingham:

5. Stealing from the rich 101
4. Making those pointy felt hats
3. Archery
2. Tights mending
1. Giving to the poor 101

Of course, I also like to imagine the top class at UNLV is fan dancing. 

The number of galaxies in the new estimate is bound to go up as better and better telescopes come along. I would have thought 200 billion was enough until I heard two trillion. Now I won't be satisfied with fewer than two trillion. It's like how you think you know what a meal is, and then you go to Claim Jumper. From then on, whenever you see a baked potato that isn't bigger than your head, you think "loser."

It is a little silly to think we are the only habitable planet if there are two trillion galaxies inside which there could be thousands of garden spots just like ours. So many habitable planets. So many election cycles. Maybe right now, on Planet Xio, the backers of Zod are screeching about how Blorg's followers are knuckle-dragging hicks, and Blorg's people are firing back with how Zod is in the pocket of the special interests. 

Of course, if I understand this right, the night sky, even with super-powered telescopes, is just a vision of the past, since light takes so long to reach us. There may be chaos out there by now. Let's hope, for the sake of the universe, there was a massive write-in campaign, and some sterling but little-known third candidate, maybe Kalzam, slipped in under the wire for the win. 

. . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Unintentionally-Disturbing Signage edition

Although, if you are in this kind of trouble, you need to cut us some slack, O.K.?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bottle-flipping fad is latest tween obsession

As "Lord of the Flies" taught us, if tween boys are left to their own devices, they will come up with some pretty adorable pastimes. Like hunting and killing the less popular members of their group, or flipping a plastic bottle in the air in the hope that it lands standing up. Whatever helps to pass that grim, drafty gap between childhood and the rat race.

What, you haven't heard of the plastic bottle-flipping craze which has swept schools this year? It began with a video of a boy who, as his "talent" at an assembly, flipped a water bottle and landed it on a table standing up. From there, it was on, coast to coast; boys tossing bottles through basketball hoops, off trampolines, over their backs, trying to stick that landing. Why? Because it satisfies that part of the pre-adolescent male brain which glories in meaningless skills, a trait which will pop up again years later when he discovers golf.

It is driving teachers nuts, apparently, the pop-pop-popping sound of one-third-full plastic bottles hitting the ground in the quad, or even in the classroom. Some schools have banned flipping, which seems like the wrong reaction. I say monetize it. Charge a buck a day per flipper, give him a wristband, have tournaments and split the pot between the daily champion and the ASB. Whatever it takes so I can stop having to bake freakin' brownies.

I think part of flipping's appeal involves the four elements of the physics involved; the water, the gravity, the rotation and the showing off. YouTube has entire channels devoted to clips of amateur sports stunts. Any kid can come up with a plastic bottle, a few ounces of water, and the free time to film endless retakes.

Our grandfathers pitched pennies, but the winner got all the pennies tossed. Those guys grew up to be captains of industry. My generation streaked; a joke which today would get you on a permanent sex offender's list. This fad seems more suited to our times, a celebration of random odds, modest in its risks and its pleasures. Irritating to adults. Irresistible.

Nobody I asked has ever seen a girl flip a bottle. It makes sense. Girls' brains at that age are too busy building the psychological padding they will need to ignore the dumb junk males do, a vital neural development which is the only thing that allows the species to continue.

. . .

See the original flip clip which started it all. I think it went viral because of the crowd's outsized reaction even more than the act itself. Overreacting to this modest success seems to be part of the appeal.

Here are more examples (since, like these kids, you have a lot of time to kill) all together in a compilation of epic flipping for you (many of them clearly faked with camera tricks, but some real):

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - A little Star Wars humor

 The Kenobi family's favorite church.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Creepy Clownvasion debunked in candid interview

"Creepy" clowns have been in the news this week, probably because during an election like this, it's what we deserve. The rumor was, creepy clowns were coming to kill us, in our schools, in our homes, perhaps busloads but at least pickup-truckfuls, coming to slay us in really big shoes. As if every TV debate isn't a little death already. You'd be doing us a favor, Bozos. 

Last Monday I found the following ad in the Craigslist personals: "From Los Angeles to West Covina, I am comeing to kill u so be afraid. LOL." So I sat down with the creeper, who agreed to meet with me and chat about this whole clownvasion thing.

GW: Firstly, your name is Gat?

Gat: Yes, Gat. 

GW: Like slang for "gun"? Gat?

Gat: No, short for gato, like "cat." See [spreads his shirt collar] I have a tattoo of a kitty on my clavicle.
GW: Oh. That's...actually a tattoo of a clown eating a cat.

Gat: Yeah, I get a lot of compliments.

GW: You've, uh, never really...

Gat: Chowed down? [laughs] No, it's just to mess with people.

GW: So you consider yourself a creepy clown.

Gat: Not clown. I prefer "murder specialist."

GW: Fair enough. How did this rumor about killer clowns get started?

Gat: Some kids lied about seeing creepy clowns luring kids into the forest, and it took off. 

GW: How do you know it was a lie?

Gat: What kid over the age of one is gonna follow a clown into the forest, bro?

GW: But the idea was creepy enough, so other people spread it?

Gat: Yeah, suddenly it's nationwide clowns. It's dumb. Your bloodthirsty clowns, really, it's just me, and CrazyHair Bojangles, and Smiley Fofiley, and Ruffles. Just four of us.

GW: And your ad says you will terrorize everyone between...

Gat: L.A. and West Covina. It's limited, because we take the bus. 

GW: How many people have you murdered? 

Gat: Well, it's more of an intention thing, really. Like a to-do list.

GW: So you put on the frowny makeup and the angry eyebrows and pointy plastic teeth...

Gat: Yeah, and maybe stand on a street corner.

GW: And place ads online. 

Gat: Terror isn't gonna spread itself. 

GW: You're not really a murder specialist.

Gat: Well, when I'm not in makeup I'm actually a political consultant.

GW: Now that's scary.

Gat: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Put a ring on it, and then maybe some super glue

 That feeling when you want to know the story behind something, and then again ya kinda don't.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Think this election is nutty? History provides precedent

Whenever I start to think this political season has brought America to its lowest ebb, I like to remember the beat-down of 1856. In short, a relative of a pro-slavery Senator took a cane to the brain of another Senator who had given offense. On the Senate floor. When others tried to stop the assault, they were held at bay by another congressman with a gun. On the Senate floor. This was before metal detectors, and before credentials, and doors on the Senate chamber, apparently.

It makes the war-of-words of 2016, with its rhetoric about heating up gas chambers, "deplorables" and Mexican rapists charmingly nonviolent.

In the election of 1800, voting lasted from April to October. Not campaigning. Voting. President Adams was so unpopular, Thomas Jefferson and his VP pick, Aaron Burr, each individually got more electoral votes than Adams. It was a tie, in fact, the win going to Jefferson only by some back room wrangling. To avoid this in the future Congress passed the 12th amendment, which stipulated that the country would be divided in half once Facebook was invented.

In 1872, sitting president Ulysses S. Grant (were there really so many Grants named Ulysses he had to pop an "S" just to separate himself from the crowd?) coasted to reelection because his opponent died before election day. Horace Greeley is the only candidate to ever kack before an election was completed. Greeley is famous for founding the New York Tribune, and for saying "Go west, young man," even though he later swore he never said it. For his health, he might have been better off taking his own advice, which he never gave.

In 1920, Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs got 3% of the vote even though he was in prison. Without the V, he might have been confused with many other Eugene Debses who were not incarcerated, and only gotten 2%. America loves a bad boy.

In 1992, H. Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire businessman (who spared no expense to put the initial in front of his name) jumped into the race as an Independent. Some think he siphoned away enough votes from VP George H.W. Bush to cost him the election. Historians know, however, that Bush was undone by attempting the risky two-initials-in-the-middle gambit, which any pundit will tell you can only be pulled off if you are a fantasy/science fiction writer.

. . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Um, eww

When they get product naming exactly right. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The 'battle of the understudies' comes Tuesday evening

I am sure we are all excited about Tuesday night's upcoming vice presidential debate, hold on, let me go look it up. Ah, yes, between Pence and Kaine, who look for all the world like a traveling preacher and a riverboat gambler on one of those '60's TV westerns.

I do not know what items were high on the prospective-VP candidate checklist, but clearly "willing" was up near the top, right after "breathing."

It is not a job anyone has ever wanted. Like being the elephant poop scooper in a parade, or a contestant on "The Bachelor," it seems a job for people without self esteem. Your job is to break tie votes in Congress when they happen, which is about once a century. Your job is to go to the funerals of dead foreign leaders so that the guy with the real job doesn't have to.

VP Thomas Marshall famously said, “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.” The dude spent eight years a heartbeat away from the biggest job in the world, and that joke is what he is remembered for.

Will Rogers said, "The man with the best job in the country is the vice president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, 'How is the president?'”

Senator Daniel Webster, in rejecting an offer to be somebody's VP, once quipped, “I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead.”

But John Nance Garner, the 32nd vice president, had the best quote of all about the job, saying it wasn't "worth a bucket of warm p***." You know he was telling the truth, too, because he said it during the Depression, back when people really knew the value of both warm AND cold words with asterisks.

Here are some questions I wish they would ask the potential VPs Tuesday night:

• What's your golf handicap?

• Are you aware they have online Solitaire now?

• How do you think your wife is going to take to being referred to as the "Second Lady"?

• Are you aware that, in the event of a water landing, you are considered flotation?

A lot of people say they would rather the VPs were the ones running for president, but these people are definitely not cartoonists or humor columnists.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - For shirts, you gotta go uptown

Found in the dictionary under "extreme niche marketing."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Famous duos I'd like to see duke it out

I was a kid when the Adam West "Batman" was first on TV, and I "BIFF-POW"'d my way through recess in elementary school. To me, the darkness which has been foisted on the Batmen for the last two decades in film is a weak choice. Dude saw his parents murdered, grew up, realized he was rich and got over it. No brooding required.

I finally watched "Batman v Superman," and I do not think I have ever seen anything so dark and incomprehensible except maybe this election cycle. But it got me thinking—what other famous pairs would I like to see take each other on? The list is long.

  • Han Solo v Chewbacca. When Chewie spoils one too many of Han's blind dates by stinking up the apartment with a burned skillet of bandaras, it's ON. Projected winner of the fight: Han. He's totally willing to go dirty. Plus, with that bandolier across his chest, Chewie's got no reach.
  • Macaroni v cheese. Cheese always gets the credit. It's the Jerry Lewis to macaroni's Dean Martin, but somebody's got to provide a base. Macaroni on its own is bland, but without it, what have you got? Cheese. Are you French or something? Projected winner: macaroni, because it's got backup in the neighborhood (fuggetabouddit.)
  • Chip v Dale. A cage. Two chipmunks enter, one chipmunk leaves. Projected winner: Dale. Decades of second-billing have fostered a resentment with teeth in it. Chip has always been portrayed as the clever one, but as reality TV has taught us, bitter beats clever every day.
  • Simon v Garfunkel. I would pay so much to see this. I picture the rabbit punches and the rolling around the floor and the "You'd be nobody without me!" Projected winner: too close to call. It might just come down to each individual pacemaker manufacturer.
  • Fish v chips. Like Simon and Garfunkel, the qualities of the two are so evenly matched it is hard to appreciate them separately. I give the edge to fish, because it was at least, at one time, sentient.
  • Lady v Tramp. I know you wanted a happy ending, but real life rarely obliges. When Lady catches Tramp sucking spaghetti with Perdita from "101 Dalmations," alert Elton John because the bitch is back. Projected winner: Disney, with its first animated film rated R for violence, "Tramp Stamp."

On the undercard: Chips v salsa, Thelma v Louise, Snoopy v Woodstock. The edge: salsa, Louise, Snoopy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - If you have to ask, it's too late

If I were in charge of every museum display everywhere.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Substitute teaching, bored kids, and a nervous disposition

I was recently transported back in time by finding some old notes I made during a brief stint as a substitute teacher 15 years ago. Once I had given a class its task, I stood at the podium and pretended to write important teachery things, when in fact I was just capturing, for my entertainment, the flavor of the room.

I was not what they call, in teaching circles, a "natural."

Since it is back-to-school season, I thought I'd share some of these anecdotes with you. I only taught high school. My first morning of subbing ever, I was apparently not that stoked. I wrote: "Kids are flowing toward the school entrance like dirt down a drain." And this:

"Oh. The nervous sweaty butt. This morning I had the nervous sweaty butt in spades. My father always complained of sweaty hands when he got nervous. Me, my butt sweats. Sweats right through pants. I wonder for a moment if I can manage to teach three classes today, for four and a half hours, without ever turning my back on the students."

"It's dark so that the overhead projection can be seen better, and it seems like a cave. A cave full of unruly and disinterested bears."

"I make my 40 copies and head back to the classroom. I wonder if there is a way I can rub my butt to test for soak-through without calling attention to myself."

"They break into 'motif groups' to answer five questions, one of which is 'What is the function of the mule in Chapter Six?'"

"I collect whatever they have deigned to write a little before the period ends. Groups of them gather at the door like parole is finally coming after 10 years."

"These kids were born around 1987. Perhaps their mothers were pregnant during 'Hands Across America.' These are Cyndi Lauper babies, born during the Great Reagan, back when September 11th was still just a lot of kids' birthdays."

"I must seem like an idiot to these kids. I wonder if they are looking at my butt."

"I feel woozy, like I have lost blood, like I have had hundreds of little bites taken out of me."

"Five minutes before class ends, the 'VROOP' of the fire alarm goes off. I dismiss the class early by saying, 'Go check if there's a fire.'"

Taxpayers may rest easy knowing I did not make teaching my career.

. . .

So tell me...what makes YOU nervous? And where do you sweat when it does? Leave a comment below.