Archive for the ‘The Stories’ Category

Bonkers in the Bunker: Hitler’s Final Days

Young Adolf, seen here in happier times. Note absence of malice.

With the recent discovery of Adolf Hitler’s Berlin bunker diary, scholars and skinheads alike have been combing the pages for insights into why the charismatic German Chancellor and spawn of Satan unleashed such evil. His diary was unearthed quite inadvertently when Disney broke ground for a new theme park in Berlin called “Maus Haus”. The handwritten journal catalogues how Hitler’s formerly unshakable belief in Aryan supremacy, miraculously transforms itself into a muddle of anxiety, so that ironically, by the end of the diary he sounds less like the ruler of the Master Race and more like a kvetching Jew. The same accounting firm that supervised the Oscar voting process (PricewaterhouseCooper) authenticated the diary, so we know it’s legit. Of course verification was made easier because of Hitler’s telltale handwriting – he dotted all his i’s with little swastikas.

Historians wonder what motivated Hitler. They speculate on Hitler this, and Hitler that. What I wonder is why Hitler is always referred to simply as “Hitler” and never as “Mr. Hitler”, as in, “Mr. Hitler then decided to invade his neighbor Poland.” Wait! Oh I see why. Mr. Hitler humanizes Hitler. Historians want to eliminate the possibility of a buoyant and fatherly “Mr. Hitler” rallying his nation to find their greatness after the humiliation of WWI. But one can easily imagine a title-less “Hitler” fanatically leading Germany down an inglorious path of self-destruction. Maybe that’s why there’s no Mr. Genghis Khan or Mr. Vlad the Impaler. Read the rest of this entry »

John Jacob Astor: America’s First Tycoon

John Jacob Astor was one of the 5 richest Americans ever.

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) was America’s first multimillionaire. He made his fortune in the fur business, which at that time, was an honorable and necessary profession. In those mean, frigid times before the invention of Gore-Tex and Holofill, fur didn’t mean murder; it meant survival. Astor was a renowned furrier and his witty wife Sarah would often quip, “Oh you’re a furrier alright. In fact you’re furrier than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Astor was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States after the Revolutionary War. He settled in New-York City, which at the time was just Manhattan and not yet the 5 boroughs we’re so familiar with today. Astor’s monopolistic fur trading empire stretched from the Great Lakes into Canada and all the way to the West Coast, which at that time was not yet part of the United States. That concludes the book report aspect of his life, which at this point has not yet become interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

 Lightning Strikes…Twice

Fellow Romantics and Normal People,

11th President James Knox Polk rocks my world and not because I’m stoned.

In life there are happy little things that appeal universally to everyone – like getting the crunchy, brown corner piece of macaroni & cheese or firing-up your Netflix cue on a rainy day. And then there are more esoteric things that appeal to a small clutch of peculiarly curated humans (yours truly among them) that make our hearts soar and our dreams toggle from wishful thinking to sweet reality. The experience I’m about to describe definitely falls into the latter category. It was my “macaroni & cheese moment” for the eccentrically endowed.

I have an extravagant interest in presidential history, so you’d not find it surprising I’ve grown especially enamored of the few extant presidential daguerreotypes taken at the dawn of photography (1839-1849). I’ve breathlessly examined these precious early daguerreotypes like a sculptor minutely studies the contours of his model to understand the interior superstructure supporting the external surface. I’ve pored over these images with wistful reverence, ardently projecting myself into the static black and white scenes to animate and colorize them while dreaming of meeting the personalities and experiencing the tenor of their times. And in all the time I’ve been doing this there has only been a finite number of images to enliven because (to paraphrase Will Rogers reason on why it’s a good bet to buy land) “They ain’t makin’ anymore.” Read the rest of this entry »

Discovery of “God Particle” Prompts Equal and Opposite Reaction

So What Else is New?

Dateline: 4 July 2012, Geneva, Switzerland at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research)

Dispiriting news from the world of Quantum Physics. Shortly after CERN research scientists confirmed the existence of the so-called “God particle” (aka the Higgs boson), a group of contrarian nuclear physicists calling themselves Doctor’s Without Scruples denounced the finding and proclaimed the so-called “God particle” to be nothing more than Cosmological Dandruff. Although there were many competing theories explaining the particle’s composition, Doctor’s Without Scruples believe their Cosmological Dandruff theory was Head & Shoulders above the rest.

As far as atoms go, this facility is absolutely smashing. As far as atoms go, the CERN facility is absolutely smashing.

What scale! What scale! A 17-mile loop.

Lead ion collision debris field - like you didn't know. Lead ion collision debris field – like you didn’t know. 

To everything CERN, CERN, CERN. To everything CERN, CERN, CERN.

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Cavemen Complain: Not Enough Cave Time

A Spoof on Stone Age Living – by Rock O’Fages

Early photo of cavemen taken with stone iTablet. Man at center is an ancestor of Ringo. Early photo of cavemen taken with stone iTablet. Man at center may be an ancestor of Beatle drummer.

Disclaimer: In the world of comedy writing, spoof is a cringe-worthy word on par with yuckfest or laugh-o-rama. I would not be guardedly optimistic about reading a spoof on cavemen. Quite the opposite. I’d be carelessly pessimistic about reading a spoof on cavemen. “Spoof” is a comedic red flag and as unfunny as seeing the word hijinks in the description of a caveman spoof: as in “Ogg takes a wife and hijinks ensue.” Can’t wait to read that – not. I must disclose I have a steamy wordmance and a mad nouncrush on the word hijinks. Hijinks has beauty marks only a literary cosmetologist could love – 3 consecutive dotted letters (iji). The only other words that come close are ḋu̇ṁb and ḍụṃber, and you won’t find me taking them out for dinner and a movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Shakespeare in Love…Yes, Again

Oh sure he could write the most influential and popular plays in history, but try getting him to write a coherent love letter to his mistress - forget it! Oh sure he could write the most influential and popular plays in history, but try getting him to write a coherent love letter to his mistress – forget it!

A recently discovered love letter from William Shakespeare to Gwendolyn Fairskin, the nanny of his children, has or “hath” (as we slide down the slippery slope of Olde English) sparked great controversy and set Shakespearian scholars scurrying to verify its authorship. Did the venerable Bard of Avon write this revealing mash note to Ms. Fairskin? Moreover, did he author any of the magnificent plays attributed to him? I leave that question to the Bureau of Weights and Measures or whoever authenticates these things. All I know is; me thinks tis true – that this steamy epistle is the work of Shakespeare in love.


And if its discovery wasn’t startling enough, manuscript antiquarians have discerned a note scrawled on the outside of the folded parchment believed to read: “Alloweth not David Hardiman of Reno-upon-Truckee any view upon this missive.” Well tough luck Willie. Your prescience will go unrewarded as I dutifully present your heartfelt spasms to an adoring audience of enthusiastic Shake-o-philes.


Posing as a calibration technician for the Bureau of Weights and Measures I’ve gained access to the randy letter and carefully translated it from its original Pig Latin (he wrote it in code in case it was intercepted) to the more familiar Olde English, thereby allowing it to exhibit the expected Shakespearian rhythm we’re all comfortable with. T’would be imprudent to translateth otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Scenes in the Font of Life

Scenes from the Font of Life: A play in 15½ scenes and 0 acts. There are no acts because it's all real. Scenes from the Font of Life: A play in 15½ scenes and 0 acts.

The following is a compendium of unrelated scenes and observations demonstrating why this world is the kind of place you’d like to settle down and raise your cholesterol. Think of these scenes as thin slices of life served up on a bed of roses, or on a bed of nails; depending on how rose-tinted your glasses are. This anthology (now upgraded from a mere compendium) is formulated with your privacy choices in mind. Should you wish to opt out and decide not to read them, I will not share your personal information with any of my subsidiaries, affiliates or nephews. However I do maintain certain files that include pictures of you smelling something really funky when you thought no one else was watching. It may be the only leverage I have to persuade you to read this appetizer-sized literary snack. I’m not blackmailing you. It’s called scent-shaming and I’m not afraid to use it. By the way, do you prefer your scent-shaming in Pumpkin Spice or Stinky Pinky?

In any event, please place your tray table in the upright and locked position. Put your head in airplane mode and enjoy these complimentary in-flight observations. Remember: life is about the journey so whether you paid full retail for your seat or used your Frequent Fretters’ miles, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Caution: These observations were produced on equipment used in processing peanuts, tree nuts and dairy products. Consume them judiciously. Read the rest of this entry »

Token White: I Knew it Would Pay Off

Spike Lee to make an all-Black version of Hogan’s Heroes,” trumpeted the headline in Variety.  

Hogan and his heroes throttling the Nazi war machine. Sgt. Kinchloe on the left. Hogan and his heroes throttling the Nazi war machine. Sgt. Kinchloe on the left.

As I breathlessly absorbed those sweet words that I’d waited almost 50 years to read, a lump the size of a Sherman Tank began to grow in my throat. Could this really be happening? I mean it wasn’t the Beatles getting back together, but it was close. One of my fondest boyhood memories was cozying up to the TV on Friday night at 8:30 to watch experience Hogan’s Heroes. The show had everything the pure heart of a 6 year old boy yearned for: good army men outsmarting bad army men, a bunch of secret agent GI Joes camping out in a barrack, and plenty of pretty frauliens inexplicably parading about in a backwater POW camp – who cared if it didn’t make sense? It made me happy. Still does. This new Spike Lee Hogan’s Heroes would make me even happier.  

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The Wildly Tame, Semi-Authorized Biography of Christopher Michael Gage

Rare cartoon hand with 4 instead of 3 fingers. An analogy for my stalwart friend Chris who is playing with more than a full deck. Rare cartoon hand with 4 instead of 3 fingers. An analogy for my stalwart friend Chris who is playing with more than a full deck.

What better way to begin someone’s biography than for its author to prattle on about himself. I mean it’s important to break some literary rules, but to do it so shoddily seems rather unseemly and I don’t want to seem unseemly. I’d prefer to seem seemly. I’m stalling because I can’t possibly capture the multi-dimensionality of my dear friend Chris Gage’s human experience, so rather than attempting to paint a rich portrait of a man in full, I’m going to paint a diluted snapshot of a man in 1/16th. I believe by setting the bar this low (capturing 6.25% of Chris) I set a metric (we don’t set goals anymore – we meet metrics) suitable to my talents. Besides, if this mini-bio flies off the shelves or, more likely, is digitally uploaded into people’s Kindles, I can follow it up with 15 more volumes at 6.25% each. With great swagger I might pause here and state, “You do the math,” but as you can see, I’ve already done it. Why do I undermine myself and then advertise it? Well at least you know what you’re dealing with here. Read the rest of this entry »

Astronomers Now Believe There Are 2 Trillion Galaxies – 10 Times the Previous Estimate

(A husband overheard speaking to his wife Grace) Wow. Will you look at that. It's just Amazing Grace. I mean amazing, Grace. (A husband overheard speaking to his wife Grace) Wow. Will you look at that. It’s just Amazing Grace. I mean amazing, Grace.

Thanks Ass-tronomers – could you make a guy feel any more insignificant? Just when I was getting comfortable with my place in the 200 billion galaxy cosmos, suddenly it’s 10 times larger thereby making me 10 times smaller. Although we live in an expanding universe, I prefer the tidiness of a static universe. A reliable place with a finite number of galaxies operating with exacting Newtonian mechanics. A place where video solitaire can tranquilize an entire nation and live streaming can mean different things; depending on if you’re watching Netflix or recently drank 2 cups of coffee. 

We are born purposely unaware of the universe’s enormity. That’s just the way it is. And it is that way so we’re better able to focus on the tasks at hand. For example, one time I had to return a substandard chicken pot pie I’d purchased at Costco. They have a very generous return policy – too generous. In fact I had already eaten it and I returned it in its digested form – and they still took it back. And if you think that’s bad, the lady in front of me returned a 7-layer guacamole dip – also eaten. The Costco Scatological Return Specialist could only identify 5 of the layers, so instead of a full refund, they issued her a store credit for 5/7ths of the price – unbelievable. My point is, if I was overly aware of the goings-on in the Magellanic Cloud Galaxy, I might’ve been completely unaware of Costco’s generous return policy and I would’ve missed out on a good deal, and an even greater story. So we come to understand how it pays to not have our head in the clouds – particularly if they’re Magellanic Clouds.

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