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..." " 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)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

And so it goes

The thing of it is, of course, that I keep intending to get back to the writing desk and do something new. Yes, I do. Now I understand that some of you are snickering right now, that you have heard me sing this song before and that you are thinking to yourselves that he’ll never get back to it unless someone with a gun makes him sit down and write, but you would be wrong—I have every intention to sit down and write some more for the blog, just as I have every intention of losing thirty of forty pounds; I just haven’t decided when I am going to do this. But I am writing for the blog, I am, I really am,
and I don't care how much you say otherwise. I have my pencils out and the paper (I use yellow legal paper, just in case such things interest you. I can’t imagine why this would interest you, but there are people in this world who collect sports memorabilia even though they know that most sports collectibles are fakes and there are others who think that having the world’s greatest collection of fifteenth century Moldovan bathroom fixtures is an actual accomplishment as opposed to being a sign that these people have way too much time on their hands).  And there is actual writing on that legal pad! Yes, there is. I am writing something right now despite what the cynics and the backbiters and the faultfinders say behind my back and to my face.  So take that, smart guys! 

In other news, my mother has the flu. I realize that my mother having the flu is not really a big deal; lots of people have the flu at this time of the year—it is flu season, after all—but she was one of the first people to get her flu shot this past year and finding out that the twenty-five dollars she shelled out for the shot was for naught did not make her happy, as if the coughing, sneezing, fever, and all the other foulness that accompany the flu were not enough to make her unhappy. What is really rankling her, however, is that she could not go to church today.  If you live in a place where there are a decent number of Roman Catholics, you will have noticed today that many of them are wandering the highways and byways with dirt on their foreheads.  The Papists are doing this on purpose (they’re like Commies that way, you know). Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, and on this day Roman Catholics have their foreheads marked by a priest who intones, remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return—like so many things, this sounds much more impressive in Latin: Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris.  This is to remind us all of our shared mortality. Well, my mother has had a priest slather dirt on her forehead every year since 1934 and is deeply annoyed that she could not go to church today to keep the streak going. What makes the end of the streak even worse is that she is blaming me for this. 

I am not sure how this is my fault: I did not give her the flu, I did not plan for her to get the flu, I did not enter into a grand conspiracy with the forces of secularism and British imperialism to give her the flu, and I did not deliberately expose her to people with the flu. I did not do any of these things, but her having the flu is my fault, just as it is my fault that the deer chow down on her azaleas and hedges. In short, logic and rational argument are not going to work in this case. Like original sin, the fault is mine whether I want it or not, and despite the fact that I haven’t done anything to deserve the opprobrium. And so it goes, as a wise man once said.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Last post of the year, I think

Hi there. I trust that you are all enjoying the holiday of your choice here in the holiday season and that all is going well for you and yours at this wonderful time of the year. I will spare everyone the yearly retrospective that seems to be the fashion at this time; yearly retrospectives in December privilege the papal imperialist sexist racist Gregorian calendar over other calendars and I see no reason why I should be a party to such an attack on diversity merely because the Gregorian calendar deviates from the solar year by one day every 3,326 years. So I am not going there at all. 

I am just here to say that it seems to me that I have neglected this place for quite a while and that I really should make an effort to write some new material for you to read. That is always easier to honor in the breach than in the observance, but it seems to me that I have been overdoing the reasons not to write these past few months and that I really should get snapping and cracking here.  I thought about simply giving up The Passing Parade, just write a short note saying I wasn’t coming back and thanking everyone for their support, sort of like one of those old Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler commercials, and if you know what I am referring to then you are a lot older than you say you are. But jumping ship after all this while didn’t seem right, so I will keep at it for the time being, if you can call my slothful desultoriness keeping at it; I know I don’t and I don’t think you should, either. Otherwise, you are simply enabling my laziness and you would not want to do that, would you? I didn’t think so. It is important for all of us to support the American work ethic, especially those of us, like me, who wouldn’t know what the American work ethic was if it stood up and bit us on the rump.

In any case, I shall get at this soon, as my mind is already not teeming with brilliant ideas to write about and I cannot wait to sit down and put all of this not teeming stuff down on paper. Until then, enjoy a politically correct New Year!!!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Results and how to deal with them

It is wintertime, and the fish are not jumping—fish being entirely too sensible to that sort of thing at this time of year—the cotton is not high, although I am sure there are many who would disagree with me; there is a certain countercultural quality to cotton that one does not associate with such bourgeois fabrics as nylon or burlap; and Hillary Clinton is not the President-elect of this our Great Republic, which has the snowflakes in a bit of a tizzy.  They are blocking the streets, as snowflakes are wont to do, and they are refusing to acknowledge the results of the late election and demanding that the Electoral College refuse to elect Mr. Trump. The snowflakes are quite vociferous with their demands and have even taken to smashing windows in Oregon and playing with Play-Doh and petting therapy dogs to get their way. Now, I believe that there is nothing wrong with refusing to acknowledge reality; I have done it myself on more than one occasion. I remember the 2004 American League Championship Series, for example, where I could not make myself believe that the Yankees had blown a three game lead to the Red Sox and then spent much of 2005 refusing to believe that such a thing had actually occurred (I’m still not sure I believe it entirely, but I have stopped screaming at people who tell me that Boston won that year. Time heals all wounds…almost).  And I have spent the better part of forty years refusing to acknowledge that I could really stand to lose about thirty pounds, and I will thank you not to remind me of the fact, but the thing of it is this: I haven’t rioted in the streets because I didn’t get my way. I didn’t break any windows, I didn’t set fire to anything, I understood that life would go on.
I understood this in 2004, and I understand this now, because I know that there is something called objective reality. Objective reality, for the vast numbers of people who have apparently never heard of it, is that which exists independent of oneself.  There is such a thing, despite the best efforts of French philosophers to convince us all otherwise. Asia, for example, is there whether or not I have ever seen it myself or been there to affirm its existence. Asia does not need my affirmation in order to exist and the billions of people who live there do not care whether or not I accept the concept of Asia at all. Asia just is and my refusal to accept Asia’s existence does not change the fact that Asia is still there. 

Similarly, in the United States there is an institution called the Electoral College. It is an excellent institution—the menu could use some updating, though—and as venerable as few things are in this country that worships change, and it exists to elect the President of the United States and to give local political hacks a chance to go up to the state capitol for a couple of days and chase girls and get drunk on the taxpayer’s dime.  Recently, however, Mrs. Clinton failed to matriculate at this august institution and Mr. Trump did. That is a fact. That is objective reality, which is not wildly popular with snowflakes this year. For the snowflakes, this reality must, absolutely must, change. For them, the idea that Hillary Clinton is not going to be the next President of the United States is too horrible to contemplate and therefore this must change…because they said so.  That their ideas for how this happy outcome should occur are whimsical to the point of tweeness does not seem to bother the snowflakes, for no one has ever refused them before and they have no intention of permitting a precedent to start now. The snowflakes suggest, for example, that the electors of the Electoral College not vote for Mr. Trump, and have begun a campaign of pleading and only vaguely disguised arm-twisting to get the electors to change their votes. Yet others are suggesting that the voting machines in at least three states were in some way interfered with and that the results should be thrown out. I am sure that there are probably even more fanciful notions abounding in the dim alleyways of the East and West Coasts, but all of these notions have one problem: objective reality.  Did Mrs. Clinton win the popular vote? She probably did, and what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? The Electoral College elects American presidents and has ever since the first presidential election in 1788. Having the popular majority is nice, but it is not the point of the exercise. I would venture to say that if Mrs. Clinton had the electoral votes and Mr. Trump had the popular vote, these very same snowflakes would be singing the praises of the Framers and how wonderfully clever they were, even if they were dead white misogynistic racist bastards.  History records any number of faithless electors; there was once a mass defection of twenty-three, I think it was, from the Virginia delegation, said electors objecting to the Vice President-elect’s public relationship with a slave mistress.  This only happened once and I do not believe it will happen again, slavery having gone the way of all flesh.  As for the claims that someone interfered with the voting in three states, Carl Sagan once pointed out that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and I do not believe, based on what we know now, that such proof is forthcoming. No, I think that the snowflakes will have to live with a President Trump, although I will admit that maybe something will come of this faithless elector thing; it is 2016, after all, and the Chicago Cubs did win the World Series, so maybe the impossible can happen here.  One never knows, do one, as Fats Waller used to say.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

A Pulitzer for Putin

The Pulitzer Prize Committee will announce the 2016 prizes this coming April and I am wondering if it is possible for me to nominate Vladimir Putin for one.  I realize that nominating a world leader for a Pulitzer Prize is a bit strange, but it is certainly no stranger than the Nobel Committee giving the Peace Prize to the former junior Senator from Illinois, an alleged world leader who had done nothing to deserve the award at all at the time he received it and has done precious little since he got the prize to justify his having gotten it in the first place. Mr. Putin, on the other hand, will have actually done something to earn the Pulitzer Prize. I am referring, of course, to Mr. Putin’s foray into investigative journalism, which is a style of journalism that has gone out of fashion over the past eight years. One would think that the President of the Russian Federation would have something better to do with his spare time than investigative journalism, but when one bears the heavy responsibility of public office one needs a hobby that will take one’s mind off the day’s problems and restores one’s equilibrium.

 This is especially true in times of great historical stress. During the Second World War, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt collected stamps and naval prints, Winston Churchill painted landscapes and laid bricks at his estate in Kent, and Josef Stalin had people shot in the back of the head. Adolf Hitler, by contrast, had no hobbies. He was fond of walking his dog, which more exercise than it is a hobby and so does not really count. Similarly, General Tojo liked to sing dirty songs in karaoke bars after a long day of committing aggression against the Chinese and other people he did not like. Singing karaoke, however, is not a hobby; it is an activity and an exceptionally loathsome activity at that; if there is anything that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that Japan deserved to lose the war, it is karaoke. Just my personal opinion there; you can take it or leave it if you want. In any case, the fact that both men did not have any hobbies to speak of goes a long way towards explaining why they lost the war, and it also clearly indicates to me that a hobby is a good thing for a world leader to have. A real hobby provides a sense of intellectual accomplishment, relaxes the mind, and promotes a sense of perspective about the day’s troubles. Hobbies are a good thing, no two ways about it.

And today Mr. Putin indulges in a passion for investigative journalism, even if indulging this passion appears to cause a great deal of resentment amongst professional journalists. From what I understand, the source of the resentment is Mr. Putin’s using the Russian Federation’s Special Communications Service to gain access to information that professional journalists cannot access. The mainstream media, Mr. Putin’s detractors point out, cannot possibly compete with the resources that the SCS can bring to bear or its capabilities in signals intelligence and that therefore it is unfair to expect the media to do so.  I, for one, do not accept this argument.  For one thing, this argument, which does have a certain at first glance verisimilitude to it, leaves out an important part of the equation and then proceeds in the hope that the reader will not notice the absence. The missing condition is this: the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States is a corrupt, two-faced, incompetent hypocrite and that to facilitate this individual’s election the American media will ignore any and all evidence of malfeasance, peculation, illegality, and wrongdoing. No one, the press reasons, should confuse the great unwashed out there in flyover country with the facts, so no one will publish them. Having determined ahead of time that no amount of evidence will cause them to abandon their candidate, the American press should not complain when someone else steps in and does their job for them. The American press should not complain, but they are anyway.  No one likes looking foolish and the American press is looking very foolish these days. And so my suggestion: since the American press is not willing to commit journalism this year, why not give the Pulitzer to the one man who is willing to go boldly where no journolist has gone before?  The 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Journalism should go to the one man who is doing actual journalism: Vladimir Putin. 

 And why not?  It’s not the first time the prize has gone to someone who worked for the Kremlin—Messrs. Duranty and Matthews come immediately to mind—and I think it is good that the Russians will finally step out of the shadows and claim the award for themselves and not allow their contribution to American journalism to go unheralded. Get rid of the middleman, I say, and let the plaudits go to those who have truly earned them.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fads and such

Fads come and go, of course; that is the nature of fads, after all—they are as temporary as Japanese cherry blossoms; and so long as the fad does no real harm to life, limb, or property I see no reason why we should not ignore the uproar until the fad disappears on its own. How many people today remember that the Pet Rock, leisure suits, and lava lights were once things no respectable household could do without or that millions of people once did the Macarena without once realizing that they were making complete asses of themselves?  Fads come and fads go almost as quickly, leaving us all more than a little embarrassed that we had gotten so caught up in something so fundamentally silly. On occasion, however, a fad comes along that is so clearly a threat to the public order that decent people must band together and put a stop to it before someone gets hurt, and I think I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that the current practice of dropping catfish on the heads of innocent passersby is such a fad.  Someone has to stop this now before a kid gets hurt. The catfish could put someone’s eye out, you know. It could happen.

I do not know why dropping catfish on unsuspecting passersby had become the thing to do these days, nor can I explain why this fad requires using a catfish instead of a cod, a flounder, or a box of frozen fish sticks. I assume that on some deeper, more profound level of existence being hit on the head with a catfish is funnier than being hit on the head with a smelt, a pike, or a humpback whale and a potted plant thinking, oh no, not again. Fads invariably have rules that are as ironclad as they are evanescent. For example, no one who wanted a Pet Rock could simply go outside, pick up a rock, and declare that said rock was a Pet Rock. Nor would taking said rock to a church and having it baptized Roscoe Le Rock, which is by no stretch of the imagination a French name. No, to own a real Pet Rock a petrophile had to go to a department store and shell out four dollars for the thing. And, in an early example of the evils of globalization, the rocks that all here in this our Great Republic fell in love with were all, and I mean every last one of them, Mexican rocks. It seems that there were no American rocks available; being a pet rock was apparently one of those jobs that Mexican rocks would do and American rocks would not. I hope that the people behind the catfish-dropping craze would have the common decency to use American catfish for these ichthyologic bomb runs, but it would not surprise me if they did not. The lure of cheap goods will trump the patriotism of many a good man, I fear.

And no, I will not bring up the silly season, which you may think I am going to because I used the word trump. Too many people have said too much about it and I see no need to add to an already vast sea of verbiage that is now threatening to swamp this our Great Republic’s amber waves of grain and get our feet wet. I think that we should all simply admit to ourselves that we have reached the final years of the American experiment and we may as well just kick back and enjoy the transition to a decadent monarchy as best we can. Waiter, I will have a Harvey Wallbanger with my bread and circuses, thank you very much.

P.S. My apologies for the prolonged hiatus; I had stuff to do and it needed to get done, so I had to take a break. Sorry.

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