A bubo on the groin

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

And so, Rubber Ducky, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Penguin have recently been inducted into Monopoly’s family of tokens.

As luck would have it–and it often does–Harry, Janet and Becky decided to play Monopoly, and from this unlikely ménage à trois came this story, as rapidly as sputum is ejected from the back of an inflamed throat.

There were the usual pregame festivities, some of which involved a bowl of chip dip and a Victorian corset, but the place for such tittle-tattle is not in an article such as this (try subscribing to Netflix).

After the preliminaries, Janet hurriedly jumped on the chance to be Rubber Ducky (team Government); Harry greedily grabbed Tyrannosaurus Rex (The People), and Becky, a fiery redhead, who desperately wanted to be represented by an hourglass-shaped cerise blob of industrial plastic (she’s team History) had to settle for Penguin–and evidently there was no time to consider the allegorical ramifications afoot.

And, to make matters worse for the reader, Janet is a Democrat, Harry a Republican and Becky an independent. Now that your head is swirling (or feeling as though it has been suddenly pressed in a waffle iron), I endeavor to continue the story.

As with all board games, some board-side banter is inevitable. For example, Harry threw the dice with such vigor that the chaotic cubes ricocheted off the board, knocking over T-Rex in the process, one ending up secreted inside a Ming vase (which was on loan from a local museum–please don’t ask ) and the other in the unlaced corset. And as the search for the dice was underway, the conversation somehow drifted to the news and how the ideal newscaster ought to be a eunuch. But then Harry, soon cashing in on his string of casinos on Park Avenue, exclaimed, in a rather brusque tone, that mainstream news is fake. Strangely though, he believes his lies have the imprimatur of authenticity. Where I come from there’s another term for this assault on reason, but propaganda is such an ugly word.

Granted, some journalism misses the mark. More and more it’s news as told by the Radio City Rockettes or by some peeping Tom in a nice suit. But the choice is between propaganda and ineptitude. I know where I stand.

History suddenly piped up: “Hey, look at me. My truth, sandwiched between two slices of morocco leather, is sacrosanct.”

“Get down from your high horse, corn beef and rye” retorted Janet. “History is viciously penned by the victors. And, by the way, you owe me rent for one mole-infested hotel. Whine about it later, in chapter fifteen, if you still have an agent by then.” Becky ( she’s so sharp) bowed her head in mock-shame.

Between Government’s lies and History ‘s quavering truth, between Scylla and Charybdis, the People must decide. At this point Janet landed on the dreaded GO TO JAIL square. Then, drawing inspiration from Godfather III (available on Netflix), a swat team crashed through the ceiling, but that’s fake news, as this sort of thing only happens in the dodgy realm of fiction.

Janet, it needs be said, was an inveterate smoker and terrible at board games–and notably unlucky with IT: Some time ago the server in her basement contracted a pneumonia, coughed cacophonously, and died in agony shortly thereafter. And even though she’d been designated as banker for the game (must have occurred in the pregame shenanigans), her own wad of Monopoly money was in rapid retreat.

Now GO TO JAIL screamed for Harry, who felt sure he had rolled his last double. His face turned a pale shade of black: “This is such a pain in the aspic, a bubo on the groin.”

A five-alarm fire ended the game abruptly (errant matches and corsets do not make such good partners).

Will the Phoenix rise from the ashes?

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My button is bigger than your button

There’s nothing wrong with an America First policy. America can, and should, put America first. By the same token, other nations must necessarily put their interests above others. Canada, it would seem, needs to be given latitude to put Canada first. In fact, all governments look out for number one (pabulum alert, the dominant ideology today is that of corporate fascism ,where the state’s flesh and bones are torn asunder by the vultures of powerful corporations ) and so this is a tempest in a teapot. Why burn bridges between neighbors for nothing, Larry Kudlow? There used to be a time when reasonable countries resolved their differences without resulting to ad hominem attacks. But this is  ‘Button’ diplomacy and all is permitted (till something breaks).

I have a feeling there’s more ranting to come on this inauspicious day. (Rest assured, I have taken my medications, a few dollops of this–a few dollops of that, and sharp objects have been relocated to the shed).

Why social media is like a bucket of vomit

You love your Triumph Spitfire. You love going down the freeway in top-down weather. You love the sound of the stinging breeze wrapping itself round your German Luftwaffe Helmet. Oh, the looks you get. They, courageous car buffs, stand in awe; then they forcibly wipe the mud from their shoes and their bandy legs, wishing now they had stood a little further back from that pretty café au lait puddle. Still a madman cutting athwart a thin sheet of muddy water is something to behold. You look back, feeling great. And aside from the motion sickness, you’re on top of the world.

But then the proverbial merry-go-round sputters and stops. Your coveted sports car, in truth a sardine can with wheels and a nice paint job, breaks down. Then you learn the ugly truth. The only parts available for the car are stored in a locker somewhere in Asia minor, in the bowels of a godforsaken train station, and the only way to access the stash of now obsolete auto parts is to participate in a religious ceremony involving a small herd of yaks and bitcoin.

All this to say that there are some good things about owing a Spitfire and some not so good. It’s like that with social media too: some good, some bad.

Twitter, for instance, should be for journalists only. What’s the point of laypeople trumpeting (should this now be capitalized?) the first thing that pops into their swollen heads. And so, with the character limitation imposed by Twitter you get–well, you get concise garbage (or pick your own oxy, moron). Tweeting is to blurt out something you’ll regret later. Don’t do it. Attempting to raise the bar, Roseanne did it. Now she’s selling pencils.

There’s another problem with social media. Lone voices get drowned out. There’s bullying; you’ve seen it. Group think shows up to the party, wearing a flashy suit, and so we are left with one opinion, one revolution (now choose a color). Foot-soldier, like me, like some of you, get drowned out. Probably a good thing.

Nevertheless, the game is stacked against you–face it, you’re going to hear disproportionally from celebs. If celebrity X gets several million views for some vapid offering and lone-she-wolf gets single digit views (and the one from her mother hardly counts), is it reasonable to conclude that the celebrity’s contribution is a million times more thoughtful? Could be. If not, there’s room for improvement with this whole social media experiment. Sadly, the bullhorn of celebrity is loudest heard in a celebrity culture.

We seem to have the need to hand the podium to golf pros, to those famous at being famous, to porn stars known for hornswoggling real estate moguls, and don’t seem to notice that we get vomitus in return.

I hear the gentleman from the third row saying it’s sour grapes. The Kardashians are gifted at using social media and need props for that. Okay, I stand rebuked, though their good fortune at having such talents is indubitably my loss.

And here we have a couple sitting at the dinner table. There’s Frank, a vintner, fat-witted, occasionally violent, and then there’s Lucida, as readable as a good font. Cutting to the chase: Frank and Lucida had the common sense to instigate what they called the dinner rule: no mobile devices at the dinner table and no more takeout from Game King–there’s a fetid odor to llama meat that just doesn’t seem to want to let go.

Consequently, they dine in complete silence. And as soon as they leave the table, clean the dishes, wipe the counters, scrape spaghetti from the walls, they go off in separate directions. Only then, when no longer in each other’s company, do they rediscover the lost art of conversation, and text each other frantically till midnight: so long as they do not see each other, and so long as they can communicate electronically, all is well. Then, buoyed by hours of texting, they facebook (is this a verb yet?). Yikes, 143 likes. Goodnight all.

And there’s the typical comment section on UTube:

Your a retard. Eat my vomit. And if you have a moment, go f*ck yourself.

What’s happened to civility, to grammar, to the letter u?

Some are concerned about time management. If you’d spent all your waking hours on that Clementi piano sonata instead of on social media, you’d soon be performing at Carnegie Hall.

We have been entertained (by design) into a coma, and meanwhile we lose track of true friendship, fall into the hands of charlatans, stumble into the wading pool of disinformation, and mayhaps fatally slide into the penumbra of totalitarianism–all without notice or care.

A few weeks ago, I leaned that the developers of Facebook were B.F. Skinner fans and that their chef-d’oeuvre (evil mousetrap) was built upon variable schedules of reinforcement, which result in behavior resistant to extinction. All this to say that posting and waiting for ‘likes’ is addictive (that is, highly resistant to extinction).

When a rat (Burrhus Frederic loved rats) hits a lever and is only rewarded occasionally by a delicious pellet (delicious for rodents), said rat will compulsively keep hitting the lever. Most rats, being unlettered, haven’t heard of slot machines, but you have–you’ve seen the overturned pupils of a gambler stuffing coins into the maw of a heartless box. But, funny thing, when a rat has had too many food pellets, it vomits.

34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant

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I was going to tell the story of an erudite fellow, formerly a grammatician, formerly a bovine grief counselor at an abattoir, who, at some prepubescent soccer game, where the word incompetence passed involuntarily from parent to parent, was regrettably caught streaking: he stood in the middle of the field, dangling his modifier.

Instead, I have returned to my favorite subject, ecclesiastical studies. But since developments in that sphere have been slow in the last several months, I have sought green pastures.

The 34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant

Early in the process of writing this article, I made the strategic decision to skip the first 33 steps, as the handling of catarrh and buffalo faeces is not everyone’s cup of tea. Incidentally, buffalo dung tea is excellent with manuka honey–make sure to have handy a fly swatter though.

The legal maneuvers to procure carnivorous plant seed and import them to this island (which is by all measures much nicer than the Galapagos) make the bureaucracy of Jarndyce v Jarndyce look feeble in comparison.

I am a great admirer of CD (not Dickens, the other CD), even though some of his conclusions strike me as absurd, as we surely did not evolve from primates. This stupefyingly dumb theory is so typical of 19th century thinking–or rather, 19th century fantasizing–fostered in part by the infamous lingerie catalogues of the day, mostly originating from Paris, where bipedal fashion is made scintillating–and at times positively chimpanzeesque, if I can coin a term. Nevertheless, Darwin’s Origin of the Stiletto Heel is incomparable. But the more cogent theory that the whole shebang we call life was willed, is far more likely to find favor in the minds of so-called Millennials, including those perplexed by the notion of gender and who have difficulty making binary choices. What goes around, comes around. Incidentally, I once knew a man who thought himself a woman, only to later think himself a man. Please note that this is a far different person that the one who thought himself to be a man without ever revisiting the subject.

Clearly, I do not wish to split porcupine quills over the issue of gender. What is self-evident to me may not wash on Main Street, O.W.G (One-World Government).

Fright in the depths of a burgeoning kakistocracy

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Eerily, while taking my tripos paper at the University of Lake Erie, I was mistily reminded of an incident which happened to a colleague of mine whilst trying to commit hari-kari with a mint-flavored toothpick. Naturally, he was unable to draw a single gout of blood, but the experience was, in his words, transformative, so much so that it leapfrogged the sum-total of the miasmic flashpoints in his nearly pointless life, till, sadly to report, on a day of obnoxiously pristine clarity, he was hit by a city bus, broke several latin-sounding bones, dented the bus’ fine armature, and died agape of fright, starting in motion the cloak and dagger machinations of competing insurance companies and several legal challenges, proving once again that Lady Luck, that star-eyed trollop (sorry Anthony, not a Trollopean allusion) beclad in a tantalizingly tawdry tunic, still roams around, picking flowers willy-nilly from unguarded gardens or hopscotching through city traffic.

 

 

 

 

Another swift though modest proposal

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Another swift though modest proposal.

I, political commentator that I am, was re-reading King Lear, the part when Gonorrhea said to Regan, “Oh, you’re such a ho,” and it occurred to me that there is something wrong in America.

Allow me then to propose a tiny amendment to the constitution:

From this day forth, all presidential candidates shall poll no higher than one percent on name recognition.

The implication is clear: any candidate who is known to the public is immediately disqualified from sitting in a curule chair on the White House lawn.

This is, I think, a small price to pay for living in a vibrant democracy (well, pseudodemocracy–it’s as good as it gets).

I’d also like to propose another tweak (distant pun intended): elections shall take no longer than six weeks after the pistol at the starting gate has been discharged and no campaign donations shall be solicited; rather there shall be five televised debates (instantly available on social media) and one arm wrestling contest.

If you find merit in these ideas, you may circulate them and later congratulate yourself for being a fine, empowered citizen.

The book review that never was…

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Wow them with unexpected flora to suck them in. Anonymous.

 

I thought I’d review Pride and Prejudice, but after a thorough search of the internet–and later the pockets of every venerable vagabond in the vicinity, which yielded several condoms, a crumpled picture of Chairman Mao, and a stack of tiny plastic zip bags–I have concluded that it’s been sufficiently reviewed by my peers, and I don’t want to crowd the field with another essay, which would nevertheless have been received with great éclat, as the work of literary Bolsheviks is always in demand. Luckily and vibrantly, her next novel, Prick Me With a Fork to See If I’m Done, will be out soon and I’ll review that one instead. I’m drooling already.

Jane Austen is an author worth sleeping out in a van for–on a frosty night, without anything that might reasonably pass for a blanket or, alas, without a half-empty (or half-full depending on your general outlook on life) case of cooking sherry procured from a one-armed vivandière and sure to take the bite off the cryogenic chill.

And it must be said that Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s defining work to date, apart from story, setting, and character, is fairly good. My major quibble with Miss Austen is that she’s an unapologetic technophobe. I mean just look at the opening scene. Why not fax the news about Mr. Bingley (Mr. Big) to the Bennet family? In a modern context, what could be more natural than for the Bennet gathering to learn by facsimile that Mr. Bingley is gay and that he’ll soon be moving to Netherfield Park? The fax is a small detail, but it’s symptomatic of Austen’s inability to grasp the import of modern telecommunication devices.

And to add to her modern-day gadget gaucheries, she uses quaint anachronisms in the transport realm as well: no bullet trains or supersonic jets for Austen.  It’s a sort of parallel structure, office equipment and handheld devices on the one hand and monster cars and trucks on the other, that doesn’t quite seem to work. Jane Austin’s Audi never gets into the fast lane, if you’ll pardon the grotesque though totally apt and refreshingly wrought metaphor.

I can’t tell you, for example, how many times Austen mentions horses. Private cars, buses—even unicycles would have been better, grittier. See for yourself:

Your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure.

An author with an ear to the ground would have written something such as–

Your father cannot spare the jetskis, I am sure.

And this business with Kitty and Wickham. Couldn’t flower-sweet Wickham, somewhere in the misty dawn of his tawdry affair, have texted the doe-eyed girl with the news that he was transitioning? Why leave poor, flirty Kitty in the dark for so long? Text the girl, Wiki—you know she always has her phone with her.

Somehow Austen’s work seems stuck in another age. And for this reason her opus stops at the door of greatness (as the security cameras deem the small stack of books to be just about the size of a I.E.D and shoo it away indecorously).

 

Anyway, it’s still a pretty (in)decent book and I look forward to reviewing her next novel, which is, as far as I can tell, a space opera that takes place on the rugged mountains of Mercury, amid hordes of belching sasquatches, under an incandescent sun that is as close to the bald pate of Jason, a convivial moneylender, as Obama is ideologically to Hillary.

And just as Pride and Prejudice before it, Prick Me is essentially a thriller, so you can look forward to some pretty villainous shenanigans—the type of thing you might expect from, let’s say, twin political conventions.

 

Don’t forget to read this or my royalty checks no longer clog up my red mailbox.

 

K & B Get Married