Old  News

For  H.L.M.  and  G. & S.,  wherever you are

“Man usually believes, if only words he hears,
 That also with them goes material for thinking!”
  – Göthe, Faust


With the world-wide economic crisis most of us have no money left for entertainment. . . . 
Fortunately, our fellow citizens and our elected officials have stepped in to provide it for us.

hand_forwardspacerThe governor of South Carolina recently disclosed that he had been having an affair with a woman in Buenos Aires, joining a growing list of socially-conservative Republicans who, in the words of one wag, have apparently decided to destroy their own relationships before gay marriage can do it for them.

But the real issue is the tawdry way the whole affair has been managed — it shows no savoir-faire; it lacks class.  A “soul-mate in Buenos Aires”?  At the very least, it should have been a mistress in Rio. Indeed, if he hadn't botched it, he might have had a mad, passionate Carnivâl romance in Rio and sold the story to a movie studio. As it is, his chances of a Republican presidential nomination have dimmed, although the Democrats have not yet weighed in.
(Dedicated to the memory of Strom Thurmond.)

hand_forwardspacerAs part of the festivities on the Fourth of July, there will be an outdoor concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra at the National Mall culminating in the ever-popular 1812 Overature — a piece by Pëtr Ilitch Tchaikovsky celebrating the Russian triumph over the invading armies of Napoleon;
(Ahh ...cultchah)
and, in other holiday celebrations of the beaux-arts, in December the Rialto Theater in Tucson will be hosting film-maker John Waters'  live, one-man Christmas Show.
(Absolutely  NO comment.)

hand_forwardspacerIn a touching display of Valentine's Day sentiment, for a modest $10 donation the Bronx Zoo will name a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach after your belovèd: in their own words, “flowers wilt, chocolates melt, but roaches are forever.”
(Conspiracy theorists may detect a birth-control agenda here.)

hand_forwardspacerCapital One offered a $30,000 line of credit to an Ontario dog named Spark who was unable to take advantage of it because she had been dead for over a decade.
(But using “How does  your credit compare with a dead dog?” as a marketing slogan seems problematic, at best.)

hand_forwardspacerGoogle has publicly deprecated the Australian government's plan to censor the Internet by blocking access to porn sites, comparing the move to China's implementation of its notorious ‘Great Firewall.’  In response, the Australian Information Minister has attacked Google for the “worst invasion of privacy ever” over Google Street's nominally inadvertent capture of wireless information and described Google's CEO as “creepy;”
(“When dog eats dog and calls it wolf ” — another old saw with sharp teeth.)
and Facebook has reported over a billion users, which suggests that tens of millions of people around the world now have major multinational corporations as friends.
(For some reason I'm not getting a warm, fuzzy feeling.)

hand_forwardspacerWe note with sadness the passing of Reverend Ike, proponent of the Gospel of Prosperity, a straightforward Christian creed advocating achieving salvation by making money. Among his better known words on the subject were “There is no virtue in poverty.  Poverty has no class.
(With thanks to our American religion consultant, Father Simony.)
Also, just in from our Southeast Asia correspondent Baba Rhum Goh, news that the Reverend Sun Moon — self-proclaimed Messiah, head of the Unification Church, ex-con, and vendor of high-quality ammo — has died at the age of 92:  he will, no doubt, be sorely missed wherever cash-strapped militaries need reasonably-priced brass.

In other religious news, the Catholic church in Australia has banned the use of pop music at funerals. Among the tunes that (officially) fail to “emphasize the grandeur and solemnity of death” are football fight songs,  Sinatra's ‘My Way’,  Queen's ‘Another One Bites the Dust’,  AC/DC's ‘Highway to Hell’,  and  ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’  from The Wizard of Oz;
(Go ahead:  you explain the difference between sacrilege and bad taste to the Archbishop of Melbourne.)
and the Catholic Church in Germany has decided to deny Holy Communion to citizens who opt-out of the 9% religious income-tax surcharge, with some bishoprics also refusing to perform marriages, baptisms, and funerals.  While the Doctor takes no position on the Church's fee-for-service policy, as a consumer advocate he does feel obligated to point out that the Mormons offer free post-mortem baptism to members of all denominations, including (to their dismay) Jews.
(But you'd best sign up your departed soon, since loss-leader sales typically don't last long.)

And, true to millennia-old tradition, on 21 May of 2011 the world didn't end.

hand_forwardspacerWhen Goodwill discovered $15,000 dollars in a donation box, they contacted the news media to try and locate the owner. According to followup reports, at least 15 people have come forward in an attempt to reclaim their inadvertent gift.
(“Charity begins at home.”)

hand_forwardspacerRomanian witches and astrologers are planning to put a curse on their government for subjecting them to the national income tax; but, according to BBC reports, magicians have accepted the 16% tax without public protest.
(Another wanton exercise of governmental power adversely affecting the private sector — and, perhaps, vice versa.)

hand_forwardspacerEarlier last year the I.O.C. received a petition to add pole-dancing to the official list of Olympic sports. Unfortunately, although one of the primary criteria for inclusion is “commercial viability,” it was edged out by more popular spectator sports like squash and rugby;
(Sad...especially considering there might have been Olympic-level competition for referee positions, too.)
so London 2012 is proving Yet Another Boring Olympics, although Coke® is hotly contesting for gold in the consumer bloat division and Visa® has managed a shutout in the financial services competition.
(The Doctor is on record citing elimination of mud wrestling and the women's wet T-shirt events as definitive proof of the the decline of Western Civilization.)

The glittering world of sport also beguiles with a wealth of fascinating statistics. For example, in 2011 the Superbowl game ran for just short of four hours, of which a bit over 45 minutes was consumed in actual field play,
(A statistic that may play a role in upcoming labor negotiations.)
while over a fourth of the TV audience only tuned in to see the commercials;
(So I guess it all works out, although I don't particularly care to speculate how.)
and all of the World Series baseball games played since the contest first began have been won by a team from the United States.
(...which is probably the longest winning streak in any sport.)

hand_forwardspacerIn Alabama, a seventy-four year old evangelist was recently convicted of 10 counts of transporting minors across a state line for sexual purposes.  He was already in jail on other charges at the time sentence was passed.
(An amazing story, in several senses.)

hand_forwardspacerThe latest national census data has shown that the number of hogs exceeds the number of citizens in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota, but there is no truth to the rumor that State legislatures are fighting over how this will affect reapportionment.
(Probably because survey results on how the hogs voted in the last election are not yet in.)

hand_forwardspacerWhile discussing the behavior of male wasps that were ‘tricked’ into pollinating orchids by mating with them, a science reporter stated that, although on first blush the practice may not appear advantageous for the wasps, “…it seems on balance that having sex with anything that moves is a good strategy for males.”
(And some will find comfort in this.)

In other cutting-edge animal research, the French government has launched a major study of herpes in oysters;
(Cf.  The Walrus and the Carpenter” )
the Pentagon is funding a study of Asian flying snakes, athletic reptiles that can “jump up...leap off a branch...[and] glide up to 800 feet ;”
(Dedicated to Messrs. Bryan and Darrow )
an official E.U. commission has warned of threats to native habitats from invading alien organisms, among which are Japanese squirrels and predatory shrimp;
(Predatory  shrimp?)
a 1973 recording proves that turkeys can be taught to gobble on cue;
(You learn the damndest things from public radio.)
and an award-winning British study has demonstrated that snails have homing instincts, so “to get rid of them you have to take them at least 100 meters away and put them down somewhere they can live...where there's food for them to eat, of course.”
(100 meters equals 328 feet: someone should probably tell the nice lady that this, in most instances, puts them in someone else's garden.)
Meanwhile, reports have come in that jellyfish forced the shutdown of two Scottish nuclear power reactors;
(Spokespersons for the jellyfish could not be reached for comment, so their motives remain unclear. But, generally speaking, you know you're in trouble when the spineless rise up.)
and the Beijing city authorities have passed a law outlawing more than two flies in a public toilet at any one time.  Speaking anonymously and strictly off the record, one local fly declared the ordinance [freely translated ] “a load of crap”.
(And he should know.)

hand_forwardspacerA scam by cemetary employees to resell gravesites by exhuming and discarding the previous occupants was recently in the news. It was a deplorable mess: at the time of this writing, not all bodies have been located or identified, although investigators will presumably continue digging.  Unfortunately, no major news organization used the only appropriate headline:   CEMETARY  PLOT  UNCOVERED’.
(R.I.P. is now ‘Rest In Pieces’ )
In a similar vein, the island nation of Palau recently passed a law protecting sharks in its territorial waters. Unfortunately, the government only has one enforcement vessel, while aerial surveillance photos show up to 70 fishing boats in the area — most of them illegal; so, the story headline would have to be   PALAU'S  SHARK  PARK  TOOTHLESS’.
And, of course, reports concerning the demise of Korea's Communist god-king might well have been headed   N. KOREAN  DEAR  LEADER  NOW  DEAD  LEADER’.
(Although the BBC does get honourable mention for ‘Korean Successor Next of Kim’.)
But, demonstrating the old truth that reality always trumps fiction, what may well be the best headline ever written is   Man Who Used To Be A Woman And Woman Who Used To Be A Man Support Daughter Who Used To Be Son’.
(Rendering the rest of the article moot and confusing genealogists no end...)

hand_forwardspacerClassified ads taken from the Garberville CA  Redwood Times  of June 19, 2012 :

Recruiting for  an AFACTR AmeriCorpse member position at the  _____ Center... . Benefits include a monthly living allowance, ... educational award, basic health insurance, possible childcare benefits, student loan forbearance . . .
(. . .which sounds pretty good for an energetic young grad student.
Except for the being dead part, of course.

Sport Utility
04  Polara  4whdr, wench  &  trailer  &  hitch.  Good cond.
(The Doctor started thinking about  SUV wenches and had to go for a bit of a lie-down.  K.P.)

hand_forwardspacerA recent NPR report on the Obama stimulus opened with “How many police officers can one billion dollars buy?” Although inarguably arresting, the Doctor suggests this may have been an unfortunate choice of words, arousing painful memories in places like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montgomery, and Boston.
(And in places like Mexico, Russia, Liberia, China and Sudan, it may have been misinterpreted as an economic statistic.)

hand_forwardspacerBorder cameras spotted drug smugglers launching pot into Arizona using a nine-foot catapult mounted in the back of an SUV.
(Classic.  Absolutely Classic.)

hand_forwardspacerSpeaking from Toyota City today, the reigning Toyoda of Toyota* apologized (again) for product defects leading to the world-wide recall of over 8 million vehicles, but there is no truth to online rumors that “three senior managers have been offered the honourable sword of their ancestors.”
 *[The consonant was changed in the brand name because 't' was considered to be luckier, a decision that is now under review.]
Dismayed Toyota owners have discovered that their vehicles may suddenly run out of control, the brakes may not work, and they may have difficulties steering — all of which suggest that the design engineering was outsourced to Congress.
(The Doctor suggests removing the gas pedals, effectively remediating all three problems.)

hand_forwardspacerConfronted with an enormous budget deficit, Republican legislators in the State of Arizona refused to raise taxes, the Governor vetoed the budget, and the legislature was called back into special session. At present — over three months into the new fiscal year — the legislature has not been able to pass a budget, and the State Treasury is almost empty.  As a California expatriot, this feels nostalgically like home.    [More . . .]
(Memo to the Treasurer: you may be able to save some money by getting I.O.U. forms from California.)

hand_forwardspacerMirriam-Webster's online dictionary reports that the most frequently looked-up word in 2011 was ‘pragmatic’ — although obviously not  by Congressional political operatives.
(And it's probably wishful thinking to hope that some of the hits were voters.)

hand_forwardspacerThe proud State of New York has again led the nation, this time in partisan legislative dysfunction. In one skirmish, the Democrats arrived at dawn and (quite literally) seized the gavel; however, when the Republicans arrived a bit later — also well before the appointed time — they brought their own.
But perhaps the finest moment came after the Republicans walked out, effectively blocking Democratic legislation: when one of them inadvertently crossed the Chamber en route  to the toilets, the Democratic chair declared the member present, and — with the resulting quorum — proceeded to a vote, providing some choice material for night-club comedians.
( I'm not making this up”   I wouldn't dare.)

hand_forwardspacerThe BP oil spill has been a black comedy, with spokesmen for several major multinational corporations behaving like teenagers who miscalculated how difficult it would be to clean up the house before their parents got back. The Governor of Louisiana — in the role of irate father — has been publicly raging in all directions, but there is no truth to the Internet rumor that he has called on King Canute for help.
(Actually, Canute has been advising the Governor on global warming issues.)

hand_forwardspacerInsurance giant A.I.G. has been in the news again: for the second time, it is planning to give taxpayer-funded bonuses to top executives — including some in its Financial Products division. According to spokesmen, the controversial bonus payments are required to retain top managerial talent, since there is evidently great market demand for people whose skills include crashing world-wide capitalism.
(It also avoids a real challenge to resumè writers. )

hand_forwardspacerAn AARP publication recently gave Tucson, Arizona its highest rating as a place for seniors to spend their golden years. Among recommended leisure-time activities is “enjoying the cool afternoon breezes while hiking in the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains.”

It is July: afternoon temperatures in the Santa Ritas are 101 – 107°.  For many seniors, this does not immediately suggest hiking weather.
(I suspect this story was planted by an embittered GenX'er.)

hand_forwardspacerThe Wonderful? ’60's   (nostalgia for Boomers )

hand_forwardspacerThose of us who are acccustomed to describing the government in Washington as a ‘circus ’ have been officially reprimanded by circus owners, who point out that circuses are among the most efficiently run businesses in the world. Fall-back terms may also be threatened if animal-rights lawyers elect to sue for slander over ‘jackasses ’ or lawyers representing either homeless advocates or New York sports commentators over ‘buncha  bums.’
(In some jurisdictions forward-looking thinkers are already regarding sarcastic tones of voice with profound wariness.)
And spokesmen for the clowns have insisted that — unlike their Congressional counterparts — circus clowns “are supposed to make people happy,” a point sadly underscored by the recent food fight debate over the debt ceiling, which resulted in Congressional approval ratings dropping to 9 percent — a number many suspect includes members' children and dogs.
(. . . leaving some of us wondering if Congressional salaries can be considered ‘waste, fraud, and abuse.’ )

hand_forwardspacerThe ‘failed state’ of Somalia has been causing world-wide concern again — this time for piracy. While the Doctor acknowledges that hijacking ships is certainly more sporting than hijacking airliners, this behavior is disrupting global commerce; and, since international efforts have failed to effectively address the issues, he suggests that the country be sold on eBay: the auction proceeds would be paid to the national treasury and, should problems continue, the newly-solvent country could be sued for damages.
(Cato Institute, please note.)

hand_forwardspacerThe airline industry was not the only business adversely affected by the Icelandic volcano: the news media have also quite obviously been wishing the damn thing would just go away.
(The rather lame joke going around Heathrow is that the Brits asked Iceland to send cash, not ash.)

The more meticulous news services waited for three days before bowing to the inevitable, hiring a consultant, and learning how to pronounce the volcano's name; while others — after five days of air travel flight shutdowns — are still coyly referring to “the Icelandic volcano.”  But there is good and bad news for all concerned: there is a second, nearby volcano that usually erupts not long after this one. . .  A much BIGGER volcano.  But it has a simple name, shorter and falling more easily from non-native tongues — which will, at least according to historic records, be very handy indeed.
(Also, the online print media have already found the escape codes for characters like Å and Ø.)

hand_forwardspacerThe president of Honduras was recently ousted in a military coup: armed soldiers broke into his bedroom, hustled him off to the airport, loaded him onto a plane, and dumped him off on the tarmac in Costa Rica — still in his pyjamas, and without his trademark white Stetson hat.

The OAS threatened to expel Honduras unless the deposed President was restored to office; the de facto  government of Honduras attempted to withdraw from the OAS before the expulsion could take effect, but the OAS refused to accept its withdrawal so it could be expelled, instead; and, with both Presidentes  claiming office, the former making public plans to return to his country and his successor threatening to have him arrested if he does, the President of Costa Rica offered to mediate the dispute. It was the Doctor's prediction (since borne out) that these negotiations were doomed by the sartorial conflict between pj's and Latin machismo.

Most military coups are rather dour affairs, at best; so, as this may well be the first such displaying a broad sense of humor in its execution, the Doctor wishes to commend it to the attention of the good people at the Guinness Book of World Records.
(It may make more sense after a couple of pints, too.)

hand_forwardspacerDespite extensive U.S. hype and supposedly careful U.N. monitoring, the long-anticipated Afghan presidential elections turned into an embarassing and scandalous farce: there was such widespread fraud that the only unsettled question is whether there were enough valid votes to certify any election results at all; and, despite a local cultural tradition of sectarian governance by force of arms, the United States, as an occupying power, must shoulder some of the blame.  Accordingly, the Doctor suggests dispatching a cadre of Chicago ward-heelers to teach the Afghanis how to correctly  rig an election.
(A classic example of a ‘win-win’ solution.)
And in a recent news release, a spokesman for the State Department has expressed “hope that the upcoming Parliamentary elections will go smoothly,” although in many provinces it is too dangerous for candidates to appear at rallies and some have already been killed.
(The hope that springs external.)

hand_forwardspacerAs a prominent scientist, scholar and AIRhead, the Doctor wishes to acknowledge recent scientific contributions to the sum of human knowledge.

A university physicist has demonstrated that a grape — carefully cut almost (but not completely) in half — will create a Jacob's Ladder when placed on the floor of a microwave oven. He was, however, unable to correctly identify the effect, referring instead to ‘those things in old Frankenstein movies.’
(Sad evidence of the decline in academic standards. )
Those attempting to replicate his results are advised that they must try the grape in different locations to find the one that works best.
( Perseverance furthers.” )

Surgeons have successfully transplanted penile erectile tissue into rabbits, which is, without doubt, good news for aging male rabbits with trophy wives.  Meanwhile, we are awaiting a response from the scientific community in Australia.
(Coals to Newcastle.)

Researchers have conclusively demonstrated that crows can recognize individual human faces because, if affronted, the birds have been shown to hold grudges against particular individuals. This comes as no surprise to Alfred Hitchcock fans.
(Who  funds these studies? )

hand_forwardspacerIn this time of economic crisis, we are told, we cannot look to the major multinational corporations to drive the recovery — especially if they are crippled by intrusive governmental regulation; so, it is is only fitting that we should honor the achievements of those small mom-and-pop entrepreneurs whose innovative local businesses are, at the very least, an inspiration to us all.

A few years ago the once-famous Lizzie Borden house was purchased by a young couple who carefully restored and refitted the old manse as a bed-and-breakfast.
We wish them well.
(The Doctor suggests an embroidered sampler with the old "Lizzie Borden took an axe" poem as appropriate period decór for the master bedroom.)

When its founder's health failed, diners at the Rabbit Hutch were forced to seek elsewhere for fried rabbit, barbecued rabbit, Hasepfeffer, and other especialte de maison.  Regulars also fondly remember the efforts of his wife who would provide entertainment at the organ, including the house theme song, Here Comes Peter Cottontail.
(In memory of Mr. Z__ who, asked to suggest a name for the family rabbit, replied ‘Sunday Dinner.’ )

Go-getters in New Jersey managed to create a diversified business enterprise that was, reportedly, thriving — at least until the FBI arrested its owner-operators on charges of bribery, conspiracy, money laundering, and trafficking in human organs.
(Along with other raw materials, it seems we are now outsourcing kidneys. )
However, since the accused include three city mayors, two state legislators, five rabbis, and 34 other people, this may not qualify as ‘small business.’
(And despite the expert advice, it may not be kosher, either.)

animated propeller-head copied from www.grc.com


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