Friday, February 24, 2017

Desperately Seeking Humor

It gets harder and harder to find anything humorous to write about in the events of the day. Irony, on the other hand, is ubiquitous. For example, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has worked for years to increase the numbers of guns in the hands of everyone including the mentally ill and terror suspects on FBI no-fly lists, in schools, in shopping malls and movie theaters, in churches, now refuses to hold town hall meetings with his constituents for fear of being shot. The layers of irony are deep. * * * * * * * * * *Another example of irony I saw was that J. Lord Dampnut, who campaigned on rebuilding infrastructure cancelled federal grant money for a high speed train project in California. * * * * * * * * * There is irony in "fake news." The term itself is subversive and destabilizing. Undermining the "not fake news" media is the strategy of authoritarianism. Engendering distrust of "news" bolsters the propagandist's goal of promulgating helpful "fake news." One result is a population more afraid of fake threats than real threats. Anti-muslim, anti-semitic sentiments are being promoted and inflamed and stochastic terrorism is occuring on a regular basis. The murder of Indian-Americans in Kansas City this week is an example. Threats directed towards Jewish Community Centers and Muslim mosques are on the increase. The president's executive order on banning Muslim immigration targeted seven countries who never sponsored or launched a terrorist attack on America. A citizen in the United States is more likely to be shot by a toddler than a terrorist. * * * * * * * * * ** The issue of "fake news" is of such magnitude that colleges and universities are including the issue in teaching circle discussions and developing resources for teachers. My own school, Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, recently sponsored such a teaching circle discussion. The use of social media for promulgating "fake news" is now ubiquitous. J. Lord Dampnut's use of Twitter to dispatch his mendacity is well noted. From the size of his rallies to the size of his hands (and other anatomical features), J. Lord tweets prolifically, and faster than fact-checkers can respond. And most of his supporters ignore the fact-checking. * * * * * * * * * My use of the anagram, J. Lord Dampnut, is subversive, in a small way. I do not recognize him as the legitimate president of the United States. He conspired with Russia and the FBI to interfere in the election, spreading misinformation, suppressing facts, on a magnitude heretofore unseen, and won the election with a minority of the popular vote, after which he proclaimed a huge victory and a mandate to deconstruct the US government. The Orwellian, Hellerian, Vonnegut-esque, Kafkaesque world of current truth-denial is breathtaking. President Obama was a good-hearted, self deprecating man with a sense of humor. J. Lord Dampnut is mean-spirited, arrogant, prick whose idea of a joke is mocking a handicapped reporter at a campaign rally. * * * * * * * * * * * I like to watch VEEP reruns on my netflix account at the end of the day. It is an Emmy winning HBO comedy that's been around since 2012. Set in the Vice-presidential offices, it combines wacky, bumbling characters doing wacky, bumbling stuff day after day, and is usually worth a good-for-the-soul belly laugh or two at the end of the day. * * * * * * * * But back to my mundane, circumscribed world. Yesterday, I went for a walk just as the weather was changing. From a light rain at the start, it turned to large frozen wind-driven pellets one of which struck the top of my right ear. My ears were quite cold and had that extreme sensitivity that comes from being that cold. Not yet cold enough to be numb, but rather that sweet-spot of pain sensitivity. That stung for several minutes. * * * * * * * * We had thunder and lightning last night in Papillion, Ne ---- in February. That's pretty rare. The cold front has finally moved a bit south and now we are having snow, much to the relief, I imagine, to all the Omaha area public school officials who cancelled classes today.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Too Many Frogs and The Politics of the Absurd

So J. Lord Dampnut conspired with Russia and the FBI to smear Hillary Clinton and get his sorry ass elected as President of the United States. J. Lord Dampnut owes perhaps billions to the Russian mob and the entire administration is vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Other than that, things are looking up. Back in the good old days, a foreign country and the FBI conspiring with a presidential candidate to steal an election was a bad the current Republican Congress, not so much now. * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut vowed this week to ferret out White House staffers who are leaking evidence of Russian influence in the administration. * * * * * * * * * Trying to make sense of absurdity was a growth industry in the 20th century. That literature has warned us of J. Lord Dampnut: Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," Heller's "Catch-22," Kafka's "The Trial," Orwell's "1984," Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the works of Vonnegut, Camus, Beckett, Ginsberg.........The literature of the absurd now has become the politics of the absurd with "fake news" being generated by a president who claims it is others who are creating fake news. My rule of thumb is if this president accuses someone of something, he is doing it ten times over himself...... This rule has stood the test of time. * * * * * * * * * * The Russian connection continues to manifest itself: both oil pipelines profit Russian steel, the Secretary of Exxon State has a several $ billion dollar oil drilling deal with Russia once the sanctions are lifted. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor for several weeks before getting fired, is heavily invested in removing the sanctions of said oil deal.* * * * * * * * * A Russian naval cruiser is moving up and down the Atlantic Coast just outside US waters -- my theory is that they are preparing to evacuate the White House just in case. * * * * * * * *It is worth noting that Vice-Admiral Robert Harward, J. Lord Dampnut's choice to replace fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn turned down the job offer and said something about a "shit sandwich." * * * * * * * * * In a cost-savings move today, J. Lord Dampnut proposed eliminating the entire US Intelligence apparatus. "I already get most of my information from Russian Secret Police anyway, so why all the duplication? We can save tremendously if we outsource. We'll save billions," Dampnut said. * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * In other news this week: Saying there are just too damn many species, J. Lord Dampnut wants to change the name of the Endangered Species Act to The Elimination of Redundant Species Act. "There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of species we haven't even discovered yet, so what's the big deal? Nobody will miss some frog somewhere -- there are like 5,000 species of frogs. We're going to do the same thing I'm doing with government regulations: for every new species discovered, we are going to eliminate two. It's like government -- some downsizing is in order." * * * * * * * * * *As a rule, the person who tells you they are the least racist person you will ever meet, isn't. * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut claimed he "inherited a mess" from President Obama at yesterday's press conference of the absurd. As Colbert pointed out, the only thing J. Lord Dampnut "inherited" was a $100,000,000 fortune. J. Lord Dampnut releases statement regarding his third weekend in a row at his Florida golf resort: "It's party time!"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Yes We Toucan

I like sitting in my living room surrounded by my books and my art and my various knick knacks. Feels like home....... Wait, I am home............. I did a small painting of a toucan yesterday (you can see it in the upper left of the photo). They are such colorful birds and a remarkable destination point for evolution and adaptation. Although the beak is the largest feature of the bird, it is very light and made up of bony struts filled with soft tissue and keratin and serves a thermoregulation function as well as enabling the bird to reach into holes in trees to find food. My five minutes of research did not find an explanation of the coloration of the beaks, but I'm guessing it might be related to diet, or mating behavior, or camouflage adaptations. Toucans "are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. The Ramphastidae family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often-colorful bills. The family includes five genera and over forty different species," according to an on-line encyclopedia. Toucans inhabit tropical and sub-tropical areas and are also the official mascot of the Brazilian Social Democrat Party. I'm telling you all this because, well, I have to write about something when I send out these blogs. * * * * * * * * * * * On the political front, J. Lord Dampnut lost another court battle over the Ban Muslims executive order when the 9th Circuit Federal Court upheld an injunction against the ban. Showing his extreme displeasure with that ruling, J. Lord Dampnut tweeted in ALL CAPS. * * * * * * * Canada threatened to go to war with the United States if J. Lord Dampnut appoints Sarah Palin as Ambassador to Canada. "We would consider that an act of war," said a member of Quebec's parliament. "We have tanks. Not that many, but we have tanks. Vive Canada," said Canada's Prime Minister. * * * * * * * Kellyanne Conway, White House Propaganda Minister, got a slap on the wrist for pushing Invanka Trump's clothing line on Fox News. I can't help but point out that her father, J. Lord Dampnut, has not put his businesses in a blind trust, is profiting from his world wide empire, and is in constant and direct violation of the Constitution's emolument clause. * * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut apparently left a national security briefing early in order to tweet against Nordstrum for dropping the clothing line of Ivanka Trump. * * * * * * * * *Turns out J. Lord Dampnut accidentally appointed Steve Bannon, apocalyptist, to his National Security Council.* * * * * * * * * During a call in which Putin from Russia offered to extend the 2010 Start Treaty in which the two countries agree to limit nuclear weapons, J. Lord had to interrup the call and ask his aides just what that was. Maybe a little prep before phone calls would be a good idea. * * * * * * ** * Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education who knows nothing about education, started her tenure with a tweet in which she joked about not being able to find the pencils. Tweeterdom responded with stories from all over the country about teachers having to purchase pencils, paper, and other supplies for their classrooms. * * * * * * * *Republicans holding town halls meetings in their districts are being shocked to discover that people who finally have affordable health insurance are not so crazy about having it taken away. * * * * * * * * And from France came one of the most bizarre and frightening headlines I've seen lately: Investigators Say French Police Who Sodomized Black Man With A Baton Did So By Accident. * * * * * * * * * By the way, the Toucan painting is for sale. $50.

Friday, February 03, 2017

J. Lord Dampnut

I can never remember if it's six more weeks of winter or not when the groundhog sees or does not see its shadow. * * * * * * * * * * * I woke up in the morning on Tuesday and unpresident J. Lord Dampnut had threatened to invade Mexico, fight a war with China, and had insulted Austrailia * * * * * * * * The only good news reported last week was that an anagram for Donald J. Trump is J. Lord Dampnut. That lets me never say his name again. * * * * * * * * * * * The unpresident, J. Lord Dampnut, it appears, conspired with the FBI and Russia to steal the election and has appointed apocalpytic neo-nazis in the White House trying to provoke an attack on Americans in order to start a "final solution" world war with all of Islam . Even so, it's still a bad idea to appoint a Secretary of Education who plagiarized her testimony and wants to dismantle public schools. Even, it's still a bad idea to appoint a Secretary of Labor who cheated his workers and opposes unions and a federal minimum wage. * * * * ** * * * * In other news this week, J. Lord Dampnut turned of the tape recorder in the oval office, had a secret conversation with Russian President Putin, didn't say a word when Putin started lobbing bombs on Ukraine, and lifted sanctions for certain electronic spy stuff for the Russian Spy Agency. America can now sell spy stuff to the new Russian KGB. This might have been a big thank-you to Putin, who apparently had the former Russian agent who let British Intelligence know about the sex tapes of Dampnut watching Russian prostitutes wee-wee on each other killed. * * * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut started his address to the National Prayer Breakfast with a brag about his TV ratings on The Apprentice. And said Frederick Douglass was having a great year at an event celebrating Black History Month. Dampnut may have thought Douglass was a new rap star. * * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut overturned a regulation which prohibited the dumping of coal mining waste into local streams in coal country. If there's anything that will boost the economy of those areas, it's polluted water. * * * * * * * * *He made it easier for severely mentally ill recipients of Social Security Disability payments to purchase military style assault weapons. We'll see how that plays out when he tries to cut their disability payments. * * * * * * * * * * In regard to public television and radio budgets, pundits have pointed out that providing security for Melania Trump in New York costs twice as much as the total funding for NPR and PBS. * * * * * * * * * Remember all those times unpresident J. Lord Dampnut said those low unemployment percentages during President Obama's last years in office were fake and undercounted? The December numbers came out t and were good. 4.8% unemployment and 227,000 new jobs. Now J. Lord Dampnut likes them........and claims responsibility........And finally, I am reprinting in its entirety all the remarks from J. Lord Dampnut this week regarding the Canadian Trump supporter who murdered six worshipers at a Canadian mosque:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Doomsday Clock

About two years after President Obama was elected in 2008 he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. History will judge how he lived up to that prize. In the fifth day of the Donald Trump presidency, the Doomsday clock was advanced 30 seconds to midnight. “Never before has the Bulletin [of Atomic Scientists] decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” they wrote. “When that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.” History will also judge how he lives up to that. I fear he will. * * * * * * * * * The "How to Radicalize more Disaffected Muslims and Others" preliminary findings were leaked today to the Huffington Post. "For those Muslims already in the US, we will register them, spy on them, make them feel unwelcome. For foreign Muslins, we will single them out and deny them entry to the United States," a source said. "This should pretty much guarantee a whole new generation of people who are angry at the US. If we continue to bomb them, herd them into camps, deny fleeing civilians entry to our country, they, their children, and their children's children will hate us forever. The upside of all this is that we can then steal their oil, too." Well played, sir. * * * * * * * * * * * President Big Hair Small Hands today issued an Executive Order that supermarkets from this day forward would sell only American cheese as part of his America first campaign. "Swiss, Cheddar, Muenster -- you can kiss them goodbye," a spokesperson said. "And we will be reinstating G W Bush's Freedom Fries designation as well." * * * * * * * * The odds in Las Vegas, by the way, are 7 to 4 that Trump lasts less than an year in office. * * * * * * * * * Foreign translators are having difficulty translating Trump's statements. Said one, "Trump gives me outbreaks of sweat", his German translator says. "He is so contradictory that people think the translator talks rubbish." Said another: “It is evident that his limited vocabulary reflects a narrow thought....” * * * * * * * President Big Hair Small Hands said today that only 35 women showed up in Washington DC to protest over the weekend. Sad. * * * * * * * * * I really think young Barron Trump should be off limits for commentary though I can't help but think, given his surely bizarre, and probably dysfunctional family life and his narcissist father, that he's a prospect to be one of those kids who end up setting cats on fire. Pray for him that he is not destroyed. * * * * * * * * * * Mexico's President cancelled his scheduled meeting with Trump. Something to do with a wall, apparently.

Friday, January 20, 2017

It's a Gold-Plated Day for America!

It's a gold-plated day for America. We, as a nation, are replacing class with crass, measured with impulsive, thinking with reacting, kindness with mean-spirited, intellect with libido, confidence with arrogance, vision with petulance, wisdom with ignorance and bluster, grace with boorish, hope with fear, caution with recklessness, humility with vanity, science with ideology, and care for others and our planet with greed. * ** * * * ** * * * * * Donald Trump has the intellectual curiosity of a box of corn flakes. The man has the nuanced critical thinking ability a hammer and the moral compass of a grapefruit. The only other country celebrating the inauguration of Trump is Russia. In fact, given the scale of the protests here, Russia seems happier than the US. * * * * * * * * * * * I have this nagging feeling we are about to swear in a Russian agent. * * * * * * * * * ** Apparently, Trump wanted a parade of tanks and missile launchers at his inauguration. Be afraid. Be very afraid. * * * * * * * * The man who wondered why we can't use nuclear weapons now has the black box codes. Be afraid. Be very afraid. * * * * * * * * * Possibly the worst government in US history is taking shape.....Three headlines from last week: Tom Price Just Contradicted Trump Team’s Defense Of His Questionable Stock Trades. Trump’s Commerce Pick Fired Undocumented Household Worker Before Confirmation Hearing. Trump Budget Nominee Admits Skipping Taxes For Employee. * * * * * * * * * I would say Jesus help us, but there are no Hispanics in the cabinet.* * * * * * * * ** Rick Perry will be in charge of safeguarding our nuclear weapons. Be afraid. Be very afraid. * * * * * * * * * * In other news, I saw this headline the other day: "George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized." So my question is why would they hospitalize his remains? He's not dead yet. But seriously, get well soon, Mr. President. * * * * * * * * On a lighter note, I bet you didn't know this: the Wikipedia article for sentence spacing, that is one space or two spaces after a period, has 150 sources in its bibliography. It's actually an interesting read. The impact of technology on typology - moveable print, the typewriter, microsoft word - all played a role. And from what I can see, one space is preferred by most, including the Modern Language Association, but there are two space holdouts. I tell my students one space although my right thumb, often by instinct and years of typewriting, automatically hits the space bar twice, as it did in this note. I once wrote a blog about semi-colons and found that duel had been fought over the issue of a semi-colon v. a colon. Passions can run high among us punctuation police.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Metaphors - Spice for Wordmeat in the Face of Impending Doom

As Asteroid Donald Trump careens toward America, threatening to destroy all that is good and right in our country, I'm taking a break from my constant nagging sorrow and trepidation about the future, to talk about metaphor and simile. "Asteroid Donald Trump" is a metaphor. It will crash into our country destroying the lives of millions of Americans, polluting the air and water for decades, hastening the warming of the planet causing sea levels to rise and crops to fail, installing an authoritarian government of billionaires for billionaires. Okay, okay, that's the metaphor. Metaphor is a figure of speech which makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristics. In other words, a resemblance of two contradictory or different objects is made based on a single or some common characteristics. A simile makes a comparison using the words like or as. So if I say Donald Trump is a lump of cow manure - that's a metaphor. If I say Donald Trump is like a lump of cow manure -- that's a simile. Or turd blossom which has more flowery aspects. Both make comparisons between Donald Trump and a lump of manure. * * * * * * * * * * * But enough about Trump.......there'll be plenty of time to revisit the asteroid metaphor and lump of manure metaphor in the weeks and months ahead, assuming, of course, that he doesn't quit or is convicted of the many crimes I'm fairly certain he has committed. So for now, let's focus on metaphor and simile. "Her eyes were deep green pools of mystery" is a metaphor for all that is hidden behind those eyes you love to gaze into that you can never fully see and that is only revealed carefully and gradually as trust develops between two lovers. On the other hand, Raymond Chandler wrote this in The Man Who Liked Dogs: "His smile was as stiff as a frozen fish." There's something about that smile - not sincere, not warm, not even human. * * * * * * * * * * * I recently tried to write bad metaphors and similes: metaphors are spice for word meat. You've got to admit that ranks right down there with the worst. Pun intended, btw. She had eyes like big round hub caps from an old Buick. Her lips were like pieces of cow liver stacked one on the other. Romance is like two magnets that can attract and repel depending upon which pole is which. Without you I am a dog barking in the back yard at the neighbor's cat. The sliver of the moon was like a sliver of a piece of moon shaped silver paper pasted upon the sky if the sky were something you could paste a moon shaped sliver of silver paper upon. The words flowed from my head like urine flows in the middle of the night from an old guy with prostate issues. Bad writing is like sweat drops on paper. Images swirled in left side of my head in the same way that water goes down a toilet when you flush it in the northern hemisphere -- clockwise. Bad metaphors are the irritating screech of chalk on a blackboard and then you have to get the chalk dust off your fingers. I think I have discovered that I am a pretty good bad writer and hope to work on that.......see my Ch. 1 thru Ch. 5 Has Anybody Seen My Picasso, in several earlier blogs. Here's the first paragraph of Ch. 1: "It was 10 am and I’d just gotten to my office. I was on the third floor of a five story. I walked up the stairs because the elevator still didn’t work even though the super had promised me he’d have it fixed by now. He’d promised me he’d have the cracked window pane in my office window fixed by now as well, but that was still cracked. The crack meandered across the lower left corner of the window like the drunk on the sidewalk below outside the bar with the red neon sign in the window that said “bar.” The crack had no real destination like many of those people I could see on the street below. I hadn’t really laid into the super because he rented me this dump cheap and I had been doing some private dick work for him in exchange for the last several months’ rent." The "crack meandered" is a metaphor and "like the drunk on the sidewalk below outside the bar with the red neon sign in the window that said 'bar'" is a simile. Later I wrote a character "wore lipstick like a Ritz cracker wears cheez whiz." I think that is pretty good bad writing. I was aiming for a blend of Dashiel Hammett and Bulwar Lytton. A friend of mine said is was like a combination of Joe Friday and Garrison Keillor. * * * * * * * * ** * Zane Grey used this wonderful description in riders of the Purple Sage: “The glorious sunlight filled the valley with purple fire. Before him, to left, to right, waving, rolling, sinking, rising, like low swells of a purple sea, stretched the sage.” Nebraska poet Ted Kooser said this of trees: "the trees like gnarled magicians/produce handkerchiefs/of leaves out of empty branches." Roy Batty, android nemisis of Bladerunner Harrison Ford, said this at the end of his four year life span atop the drizzled, bleak, Ray Bradbury Hotel, "All these moments are lost in time, like tears in the rain." Such wonderful metaphors and similes capturing scenery, and the magic of trees, and the transience of life. Robert Ludlum in one of his spy/action thrillers described a hilly, craggy landscape as "the fingerprints of God." Wow. Raymond Chandler wrote: "She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight" – Little Sister. A bit of a synaesthetic metaphor, mixing the senses, but nicely done. And lastly, my friend Greg Kosmicki wrote one of my favorites of all time: "After supper, washed the dishes/saw rain push down a leaf/here and there/ as if typing out a message. I'm sure it was./It's a language we can't live long enough to learn." from - "Message" in It's as Good Here as it Gets Anywhere. I hope that some of us live long enough and wisely enough to learn a word or two of that language.