Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy Birthday, Scott!

This is a day late (and a dollar short), but I think that Scott will still accept our wishes for his happiness for the upcoming year, and our expressions of pleasure about him being born.  So, let me start by saying that I wish him a great 32nd year on this planet (or whatever year it will actually be), and that I will always be grateful that his parents not only produced him, but also sent him to Earth in a rocket, and that the mild-mannered Clevengers found him and raised him as their own.

Anyway, the formatting is being weird, so let me just invite you to Scott's birthday party, and open up the floor to toasts.  
Scott's fete is being sponsored by Mor, the thrifty meat that causes Jimmy to later get cancer, per WHO.  Or maybe little Mary Jane stabbed him, because she would NOT be ignored.  In any case, party on, Mor!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

State of the Blog

They've been testing the fire alarms all day. There's a speaker in every apartment, and they produce a noise so abusively shrill that it feels like the business end of some sonic weapon designed by the DoD to dislodge Manuel Noriega from the Vatican embassy in Panama, and it's made Moondoggie and me as nervous as cats. This is, of course, a first for him, but a fairly accurate snapshot of my daily demeanor, so I figured I'd just sit here and try to block it out, while I catch everybody up on what's been happening. Or not happening. seems like only part of this post (roughly the first paragraph) is appearing. Oh well...From a storytelling perspective it's always better to show than to tell, so I guess we'll let that be the overture to this symphonic bitchfest: massive computer problems! Pardon me while I see if I can find where the rest of my post went...
Please Stand By...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

2nd Amendment For 2nd Class Citizens!

As a fan of Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theater 3000, I obviously have no problems with a sleepy-eyed protagonist, but even I have to wonder if Ben Carson's evident narcolepsy might not disqualify him from the presidency. (Why worry about that "3 AM phone call" if the leader of the Free World is just as likely to be snoozing face-down in his morning bowl of Maypo?)

But then I read about how, as a young resident at Johns Hopkins, he foiled the armed robbery of a Popeyes Chicken franchise, just like Clint Eastwood did in the 1983 Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact.  The two events are so eerily similar, in fact, that I suspect Carson's heroics may have inspired the scene in the movie, although they obviously spiced it up a bit for the screen (in the picture, Clint blows away most of the criminals, then challenges the last one to, "Go ahead...Make my day," while Carson helpfully pointed out the cashier to the gunman, then breezed out, whistling perhaps, or munching on a biscuit [had to be one or the other, since I know from personal experience that you can't do both simultaneously; especially not at the dinner table when your dad's sitting within back-of-the-head-smacking distance].)

Ben wasn't bragging, by the way; he only pulled out this artifact of badassery to prove he wasn't blaming the victims of the Umpqua shooting when he panned their response by saying, "Not only would I probably not cooperate with [the killer], I would not just stand there and let him shoot me, I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him.'" Then, based on past performance, Ben would gesture at his fellow victims and advise the killer, "Shoot them! THEM!", and then probably go out to Popeyes for a Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Box™ ("8 butterfly shrimp, fries, biscuit & cocktail sauce". Granted, that may seem like a lot for one person, but take it from Ben, cheating Death works up an appetite; plus, as the sole survivor he's now eating for eight.)
Why tackle a gunman when you can Tackle The Shrimp!

Dr. Carson found himself on slightly less firm footing when he suggested that victims of the Holocaust could have nipped that whole thing in the bud by packing heat, but couldn't back it up by recollecting that one time in Baltimore when Nazis tried to ship him off to Treblinka, but he distracted them by pointing out the nearest Jew.

A lot of people suggested that outnumbered amateurs with hunting rifles wouldn't be likely to fare well against stormtroopers (the Nazi kind, not the Star Wars kind, because those guys can't shoot for crap), and since European Jews (and others marked as sub-human by the Third Reich) didn't know they were being removed to death camps (they were being "resettled"), they had little incentive to stage suicidal, Ruby Ridge-style last stands on their doorsteps. And of course, when armed resistance was eventually offered -- in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising -- it was rather quickly put down by an enemy equipped with artillery, mortars, machine guns, and all the other military-grade arms that -- even today -- only a select few of our bat-shittiest sovereign citizens have managed to stockpile.

Nevertheless, Dr. Carson remains committed to his Second Amendment As a Cure for the Common Shoah theory, and if anything, he seems inclined to double down on it. So rather than arguing with him, I'd just like to ask a follow-up question. Or rather, I'd like some journalist to ask it for me, since I'll never be in the same room with the guy.

1.  Should Japanese-Americans have refused to surrender their guns to U.S. authorities in World War II?  Please note, Dr. Carson, I'm not asking if the government had the right to confiscate their weapons, because as American citizens they were certainly entitled to the same Constitutional protections as their neighbors; my question is, should they have refused to give up their guns?

2.  When the government forced Japanese-Americans to abandon their homes and property, should they have violently resisted relocation, as you say Europeans Jews were morally obliged to do? In other words, would they have been justified in shooting any Sheriff's Deputies or doughboys who showed up at their doors, ready to hustle them into a bus? After all, they knew they were being sent to concentration camps (what we'd call "FEMA Camps" today) so could they, and should they, have stopped this historic injustice by taking up arms and fighting their oppressors, just as you retroactively counseled the Jews to do?

And if not, why not?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Farewell, Smudge

Smudge avec Gargoyle

By Hank Parmer

Smudge, unlike the rest of our feline overlords, wasn't so much a foundling as a visitor who never left: There was a really bad cold snap that winter, fifteen years ago, and the guy who lived in the little house behind us at the time needed to bring his dogs inside. They were large dogs, not used to cats, so he was worried they might kill this kitten which, if I recall correctly, he was (sort of) looking after. He asked us to keep her for a few days, until the dogs could stay outside again.

I think he was probably well aware what he was doing: He knew we already had one cat -- Puck, the Van cat -- and really, as if anyone could have a devastatingly cute, feisty and affectionate two-month-old salt-and-pepper calico kitten with the most amazing green eyes around for a few days and not fall head-over-heels in love with it. He certainly didn't object to our keeping her. Somewhere among all the photos I haven't gotten around to scanning yet there's one of her comfortably perched on my shoulder, while I'm sitting at the computer. (I am fairly broad-shouldered, but this should still give you an idea how tiny a thing she was.)

Puck, who was well into his middle years by then, accepted her immediately. But of course, he was the friendliest, sweetest-natured feline I've ever known, incredibly tolerant of this manic ball of fur who would come streaking out of hiding with such gleeful ferocity she'd bowl him right over. Until he pinned her down with a foreleg and started grooming her, while she wriggled and protested. Yeah, I know: too damn cute for their own good. If I could have caught them on video, it probably would have garnered millions of hits on YouTube by now.

Smudge wasn't a big cat; she never weighed more than 8 or 9 pounds. In contrast to her outgoing kitten personality, as an adult she was occasionally affectionate, but mostly rather aloof and self-contained, with a real knack for finding the most unlikely places to take a nap, often way up on top of something. (Or, if she wasn't in a mood to cooperate, in some inaccessible corner of our cluttered house.) Many's the time I would be in a room, thinking I was alone, and then slowly come to realize I was being scrutinized from some high vantage by a pair of cool green eyes. Every cat knows it's the center of the universe, but I've never met another who exuded so much quiet confidence in the fact. She was the Empress of all she surveyed, far too dignified to wish to amuse her humans with cute cat tricks.

She was also the stubbornest cat of my acquaintance. When Fred, the big Maine Coon, joined our household, once again Puck was happy to have a new friend, and they got along famously. Smudge, however, instantly decided he was the essence of evil. For the rest of her life, she bullied him mercilessly.

If you ever met Fred, you'd know as well as I he could have done nothing to directly provoke this; as far as I could ever determine, she simply resented the fact of his existence. Sometimes she would pause while crossing the room, then with no warning at all dart over to the poor guy where he was curled up deep in slumber, and hiss and smack him on the nose. I guess she felt he deserved a whack, just on general principles. All he'd do is blink at her sleepily, with this "What'd I do?" expression. In fact, never once did I see this low-slung bruiser of a cat -- who weighed nearly twice as much as his tormentor -- retaliate against the little termagant. She had him completely buffaloed, .

And it really was personal; when several years later two more half-grown kittens found a home with us, about a year apart, Smudge just ignored them so long as they didn't pester her. She even allowed them to sleep with her on the waterbed -- if they maintained a respectful distance -- which was something she never permitted Fred.

For a frail, diabetic 15-year-old cat who had to have insulin twice a day -- that is, if she deigned to appear at injection time -- she was in fairly good health up until the last. I won't go into the details of what forced us to have her put to sleep, just that the onset was shockingly sudden, and we were there with her when what had to be done was done.

Like all her clan, she was a unique, often endearing and at times frustrating creature. Things just aren't the same, without this cantankerous gremlin who I suspect was a grande dame in some former life, as well as this one.