The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." "...it is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Staff meetings, or shootout at Durango Gulch



The monthly staff meeting was today precisely at noon, as it always is, and I was there on time, just as I always am, and just as always I spent much of the time during this monthly staff meeting sitting in my uncomfortable chair wondering what it is about monthly staff meetings that make me wish I were dead. I can’t say for certain why this is my inevitable reaction to monthly staff meetings, but I strongly suspect that the reason I feel this way is that, as the late and much lamented dearly departed Akaky Bashmachkin, no one could require me to go to monthly staff meetings, and if, like the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who attends all staff meetings held at the University College London despite his having died in 1832, my presence was a requirement no matter what my state of temporal being, I would not care one way or the other, apathy being one of the salient characteristics of those who are blind, deaf, dumb, and dead.  Unfortunate, I fear, but all too true; the dead are the very embodiment of the low information voter whose lack of historical knowledge and pride in our civic institutions are the bane of our modern political discourse. It is no wonder then, I think, that most of the dead vote for Democrats. 

The interested observer can usually distinguish monthly staff meetings from other congregations of like-minded people by the monotonous drone. In this monthly staff meetings differ from baseball games, for example, where the crowd noises are generally happy, especially if the home team is winning, horse races, where the crowd noises are imploring, particularly if the horse you’ve just bet the ranch on is starting to fade coming into the home stretch, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, where the crowd’s noise is generally both loud and peristaltic; green beer will do that to you.  Monthly staff meetings, on the other hand, drone on and on and on like a set of out of tune bagpipes, although that in itself poses the question: if the bagpipes you are listening to were out of tune, how would you know?  Yes, the drone, like the beat, goes on, its monotony enhanced with subtle undertones of minutiae and spiced every so often with fresh organic ennui just brought in from the garden, where even the woodchucks wouldn’t eat the stuff. Woodchucks have standards, after all, unlike your average organic vegan locavore, for whom the taste of dirt is the imprimatur of their moral and cultural superiority over the unwashed and unenlightened masses of their countrymen, who delight in stuffing their pie holes with hamburgers, French fries, and other such disgusting rot.

And what do we discuss at the monthly staff meeting?  Nothing of any consequence. Directives will be promulgated, policies will be implemented, staff inputs will be sought, actions will be discussed, it is all very passive voice, as if the directives and the policies and the staff inputs will pop up all by themselves like poison ivy or a long lost relative at the reading of your rich aunt’s will.  And what are staff inputs, anyway? I have been on the staff of the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread for longer than I care to think about and in all of that time no one has ever asked me for an input. People have asked me for help, people have asked me for money, and one guy asked me to stop banging on the men’s room door until he was done banging his girlfriend—yes, that was embarrassing, thank you for asking—but no one’s ever asked for an input. So I have no clue what a staff input is, except that the people who run this place think so much of them that they call monthly staff meetings in order to bore the staff to tears talking about them. Perhaps they do it because they can.  In The Rebel, Albert Camus wrote, “tyrants conduct monologues above a million solitudes.”  Well, there’s not quite a million of us—we wouldn’t all fit in the building if there were—but we do have some people who like to talk whether or not they have anything to say and some other people who like to talk when they know that the people they are talking to have to sit there and listen.

The interesting thing about monthly staff meetings, perhaps the only interesting thing from a purely scientific point of view, is how the monthly staff meeting refutes key aspects of Einstein’s theory of special relativity.  Einstein postulated that as a physical object grows nearer and nearer to the speed of light, time itself would start to slow down, until a few seconds at near light speed for that object could see the passing of years, decades, centuries in normal time. And yet this mycological cesspit moves no faster than the rest of the planet, and despite this, time slows down to an unendurable crawl during the monthly staff meetings just as surely as it does at near light speed. Why time would make an exception to the physical rules of the universe for a monthly staff meeting is not known, but as someone who has to endure these temporal slowdowns twice a month (once for the entire staff and another for department heads) I cannot discount the possibility that time does this because time is a big jerk.  This makes as much sense as any other reason that is out there, I think, and frankly, the idea appeals to the broad streak of rampant paranoia that makes up a good part of my personality.






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Monday, August 10, 2015

Just my opinion, you understand, your mileage may vary



Many years ago,[1] I watched the Oprah Winfrey Show[2] and there I saw Oprah dressed in her pajamas along with the late Maya Angelou. They were discussing relationships and in the usual chit and chat that goes on about this sort of thing, Ms. Angelou said something that has stuck with me ever since.  She told Oprah that when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.  If a man tells you that he is cruel or mean or incapable of loyalty, then believe him, Ms. Angelou said; they know themselves better than you ever will. It seems to me that this is a wonderful piece of advice, not merely for dealing with interpersonal relationships, but for international relationships as well.  Today, the former junior Senator from Illinois is proposing a treaty with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will give that nation, assuming they do not cheat, the ability to construct a nuclear weapon in ten years’ time.  The former junior Senator from Illinois is throwing considerable amounts of political capital into pushing this treaty through Congress, although he himself will not call it a treaty, as doing so would require a two-thirds vote from the Senate, and he doesn’t have the votes to do this. Should it pass, however, he will act as though it were a treaty, so I suppose the difference between the two words is trifling.  We are already getting a foretaste of what will happen if it does not; not since St. John Chrysostom’s homilies in the fourth century has Jew-baiting been so eloquent.  When people who support him and his treaty think that his recent speeches on the subject sound remarkably like something one might hear at a white power rally, then the former junior Senator from Illinois has passed a red line that he should not pass.

And what is the object of all of this hubbub? A deal with a regime that predicates its existence on its hatred for the United States and Israel in particular and the West in general, that has committed numerous acts of terrorism, that seized an American embassy and held (and still holds) American citizens hostage, a regime that the State Department calls the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world today; these are the people we are dealing with.  And why?  Because the Iranians are going nuclear and this administration does not want to stop them.  They do not want to stop the Iranians because the only real way to stop them is by force or by regime change through covert action, and this administration does not want to use force or covert action. Having removed the only two real ways to prevent this disaster, the administration must pin its hopes on a piece of paper and convince as many people as possible that this piece of paper has some actual merit.  

 In reality, the only thing this agreement does is guarantee that when Iran does go nuclear, our Illinois Incitatus will no longer be in office and then can blame its failure on almost everyone except himself. I strongly suspect that our fearless leader will be as ungracious with his successors as he was with his predecessor.  Again, and why is that?  Because nothing is ever his fault, because something being his fault would disturb his self-image, and nothing and no one will ever be allowed to disturb his self-image.  Therefore, he makes deals with people who mock him even as he gets ready to do their bidding and insults those who are trying to save him from committing a massive mistake. In short, his ego is getting in the way of what Ms. Angelou pointed out back in the 1990’s.  The Iranians are showing everyone who and what they are and anyone with any sense believes them when they spew their hatred at us.  Only the former junior Senator from Illinois and his true believers do not, but then, they are not the ones who will have to deal with the consequences of this agreement, are they?


[1] Well, maybe not that many years ago, as years go. When you get to my age, years seem to zoom by.
[2] I think I was sick that day.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Excuses, excuses

Yes, you think, excuses, excuses, and more excuses for not writing, Akaky has a million and one excuses for not parking his fat backside down and getting to work. Well, you'll be happy to know that there is something on the griddle and that I anticipate that it will be done shortly. At least, I hope it is done shortly, because, as you know, things come up suddenly, the lawn has to be mowed, and the Commies are coming out of the woodwork. But I will, as the Chief says in The Outlaw Josey Wales, endeavor to perservere and have this new bit out here just as soon as I can, And thank you again for your continued support!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Golf: Game of the Plutocracy or Sign of the Apocalypse? We report, you decide



I do not play golf. I also do not play pinochle, but that is neither here nor there. Many people do not play pinochle and no one thinks any the less of them or that they are racists because they do not. I have heard that playing canasta is a good sign of latent homophobia, but I have never seen any credible evidence of this and so the next time you hear this, you may want to ask the person making this statement where they got their information.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, as the late Carl Sagan used to say, and linking canasta playing and homophobia strikes me as a very extraordinary claim indeed.  In any case, I still do not play golf.

I bring the subject up because here in our happy little burg signs are going up everywhere that the fire department will have its annual charity gold tournament at the end of the month and they are charging golfers $125 to participate. The signs do not indicate if this fee includes lunch and a free beer, although it should, as this seems like an awful lot of money to ask for the privilege of tapping a small ball into a small cup.  Now, I understand that there are people who enjoy this sort of thing—I have two brothers who follow golf religiously, for example—but I should point out that golf is a Scottish invention, like the steam engine and the telephone, and nothing good can come from a people who think haggis is an actual foodstuff or that bagpipes are, in some vague way, a musical instrument (they aren’t, not really, and neither is the pot of boiling water you drop your cat into to get rid of its fleas, which is the bagpipes’ closest sonic equivalent.)

Of course, for the privilege of playing this odd game—an activity played largely by men who appear to be bulking up for a sumo competition hardly qualifies as a sport—the true addict will shell out truly ridiculous sums of money and gets very little in return for that money. Given that I do not play golf, a fact I mentioned earlier, I believe, I would ordinarily not care one way or the other about how much otherwise normal human beings will pay to knock a small ball into a small cup after hours of wandering around a faux Scottish bucolic setting. It is, however, in the nature of obsessives to want to spread their obsession to the non-obsessed and this, as it always does, becomes a matter of some contention between them and the people that they are annoying the hell out of (yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. Go stuff it.)

All of which complaining leads me to this conclusion: if you, the you in this case being my golf mad brothers and their equally golf mad friends, want me to take an interest in your little ball fetish then certain changes must take place, changes that are not in any way negotiable. First, we stop playing this idiotic game on golf courses and start playing it in war zones. The never terribly interesting question of whether or not a player will make par or a birdie or an eagle or whatever the hell it is they do out there with their little balls and cups will be much more interesting if everyone involved has to pass through a minefield and/or a barrage of incoming artillery fire in order to get to the ball. Another possibility is that we replace the sand traps and the water obstacles with striking Teamsters. Players who drive their balls into the Teamsters’ picket lines will have to devise new strategies to get the ball into the cup while at the same time keeping the Teamsters from a.] beating the ever living crap out of them for crossing a picket line, you dirty little scab, or 2.] beating the ever living crap out of them for hitting one of the union brothers on the head with your ball, you stupid jerk. I think that would be much more interesting to everyone involved than the game everyone plays today. I think I’d even pay $125 to see, and maybe try my hand at the game a little, provided, of course, that the lunch and the beer were free. Hey, if I’m going to take a chance with an artillery barrage then the least the sponsors can do is pay for lunch and beer. It’s only fair, you know.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

I hate America and other adventures in the rag trade



I know that Ariana Grande's declaration that she hates America should offend me greatly, but since I'd never heard of her before she said that she hated America I would say that she has accomplished the purpose of her saying she hated America in the first place: I have now heard of her. I still have no idea what she does, but then I don’t get out much. I gather that she is some kind of entertainer, which actually covers a lot of ground—entertainers these days run the gamut from opera singers to baseball players to presidential candidates to porn stars, that she is fairly young, and that I am probably not her target demographic. She may even, for all I know, stand nude on her head atop the Army—Navy recruiting station in Times Square and spit nickels at the gawking crowds of tourists in the street below. Nickel spitting was very big in the 1920’s, but fashions come and go, and so nickel spitting went the way of Prohibition, the Charleston, and the bee’s knees.  This is unfortunate, I think; when I was a boy, you could still see nickel spitters from the Twenties plying their art at street fairs and carnivals, but they had no followers, no novices eager to learn the arcane intricacies of the art, and so nickel spitting had died out by the end of the first Bush presidency. I wish it hadn’t; nickel spitting was fun to watch. There are few arts that provide as much artistic fulfillment to the artist and financial rewards to the audience as nickel spitting does. But I digress.

In any case, the fact that Ariana Grande hates America is, for me, one of life's great irrelevancies, right up there with knowing that aglets are those plastic tips at the end of your shoelaces. The word may or may not have something to do with Texas A&M and that university’s football team, the Aggies, but probably does not; cowboy boots do not have shoelaces so the connection to Texas seems tenuous at best, and it does not seem likely that the university would name a girl’s team the Aglets. That sort of name smacks of sexism and there is nothing that a modern American university wants to avoid more than anything else nowadays than someone accusing it of an –ism.  –Isms are very bad, you see, and lead to upset stomachs and probably gas as well and therefore best avoided in the first place, if at all possible.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blast from the past



So there I was, sitting on my fat patoot and not really working while I thought about how hard it is to write satire anymore, what with the times getting too weird for any one person to keep up with, when I heard Rick Springfield singing Jesse’s Girl on a kid’s radio or phone or whatever it is kids use to listen to music these days. The song first came out, if I remember this correctly, when Ronald Reagan was getting out of the hospital after the assassination attempt back in 1981 and I am pretty sure that I haven’t heard it since then. Listening to it now, however, gave me the same sense of profound creepiness that hearing it in 1981 did. It didn’t occur to me in 1981 that there was such a musical genre as stalker rock—I was much younger then, of course, and so I didn’t know any better—and in those halcyon days we all knew less about the strange drives that motivated Australian obsessives to lust for the girl friends of their best buddies, even with the best efforts of Phil Donahue to keep us all up to date with the latest fashions in neuroticism. But stalker rock it is, along with that song about Jenny and her phone number and an entry from the 1960’s, the Vogues’ Turn around, look at me, and it does make me wonder if any of these guys ever got over getting not dumped by their not girl friends. I never heard any of these songs without wanting to slap these guys and say, snap out of it, as Cher so correctly advised in Moonstruck. I mean, really, guy, Jesse’s girl is probably a grandmother by now; get over it.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The newest excuse for not writing is...

I went on vacation. Really. The first real vacation I've had since 2001. I had a nice time and now I am back to the grind of finding excuses for not writing. Nice to be home.
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