Archive for the ‘The Stories’ Category
We all know Pyramid schemes are bound to fail. Whether you’re undertaking a sketchy financial arrangement or undertaking a mummified pharaoh to his secret sepulchral chamber, pyramid schemes are an unworkable geometry. Why a nation-state should be in thrall of such a pseudo-religious structure is beyond me. However, I intend to reassess the bewitchery of these stony Jenga structures by examining the whys and wherefores of their construction set against the prevailing zeitgeist of 26th century BC Egypt. And, imitation being the highest form of flattery, I intend to construct my analysis precisely and deliberatively – piece by piece, stacking one belief atop the other until they form a really strong triangular argument with a point.
Ancient Egypt Wasn’t a Nanny State. It Was More of a Mummy State.
We can’t help but marvel at the majesty of the pyramids – their sacred vaults larded with gaudy treasures, their magically proportionate numerology hinting at supernatural intervention, and their cartoonishly detailed hieroglyphs heralding the advent of Pixar animation. These curious features all conspire to create a sense of breathless awe and baffling mystery. As Egyptology hobbyist Winston Churchill once said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “The pyramids are a mummy wrapped in a mystery inside of a really big shade structure.”
The greater mystery however, is in why a nation-state would allocate a whopping 99% of its GDP to build a really, really big headstone for a guy who would’ve been just as dead had a simple $50 grave marker been placed over his embalmed eminence. The resulting savings of $3 trillion (in 2500 BC adjusted dollars) could’ve been distributed a bit more beneficially to the citizens of ancient Egypt. At that time there were shortages of everything except sand. There were shortages of practical things like tourniquets, irrigation channels and roads. But the most critical shortage was one of common sense. Why else would Egyptians build these monuments to excess?
In the Egyptian scheme of spirituality, pyramids weren’t built so much to glorify a deceased pharaoh as they were to ensure his orderly transition of power from the earthly worlds to the nether worlds thereby avoiding the kind of afterlife chaos that could bleed into terrestrial realms. Happy King, happy subjects. In ancient Egypt this concept was known as appeasing Ma’at (Pronounced “Maw”, meaning divine order). Despite millennia of scholarly interpretation and rampant speculation, it turns out the mystery of pyramids was nothing more than a very big and very stupid insurance policy. And isn’t that essentially why many people practice religion today? Just in case there’s someone, somewhere with a ledger.
In a world where flooding, starvation and heat stroke were known as the prevailing conditions, the powers that be somehow thought it wise to divert 99% of their economic resources to stacking stones, on the pea-brain spiritual premise that by constructing such a geometric monstrosity, they’d be spared the wrath of their nature Gods. So they ponied-up literally a king’s ransom to appease these easily offended absentee Gods.
This is where the ancient Egyptians’ spiritual calculus breaks down. You see, if the flock was not paying proper respect to Ma’at and the pharaoh’s afterlife, they’d warrant a punishment for their misdeed. But in what manner would these absentee Gods punish their flock so they would feel the sting of their misbehavior? – by seeing to it that floods, starvation and heat stroke moved over the land? My point is, how would the peasants know the difference between experiencing the wrath of God’s retribution or just living under the prevailing conditions? Such irony when you can’t tell if you’re being punished or living the best life available. From this perspective, mollifying truant Gods by building resource-sapping pyramids presented an unmeasurable metric. You couldn’t tell if you were being punished or it was just Tuesday. Oh golly, such folly.
In these ingenuous little episodes of my early life I’ve mentioned frequently my close childhood friend Gary DeBaise. He appears so regularly and as such a perfect complement to my actions that one might suspect he is just a literary device or maybe even an imaginary friend. He is neither. But if I were to create an imaginary friend, I’d create him in Gary’s image. And I would never admit I had any imaginary friends because as I’ve often said (to myself only): Keep your friends close, and your imaginary friends closer.
No one wants to know about your imaginary friends. And thankfully I have none now that they’ve all grown up and moved away. But Gary remains a real lifelong friend; as real as the bracing deluge of an Ice Bucket Challenge. Gary grew up not 3 houses down from me. Well actually that’s not true. It wasn’t not 3 houses down. It was exactly 3 houses down. Oh how the truth will set you free. And now I feel free enough to share the spritely tale of a 7-year-old’s civil engineering project for the ages – ages 7-11. The US Army Corps of Engineers never executed a project so consummately.
The kids on my block didn’t bother with playdates. We just played, on whatever date it was: whiffle ball, touch football, swamp fox, build and burn a model car. We also rode bikes with banana seats, caught grasshoppers in “The Lot” and habituated our neighborhood mom and pop store (Louise Bros.) for a nickel popsicle. Now at the risk of making this sound too mawkishly idyllic – like we walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting – I must interject, our block was no walk in the park (although there was a nearby park we could walk in). And not to put too gritty a point on it; our neighborhood was also rife with family upheaval, drug use and even suicide. But overall it was a dependable bastion of stay-at-home-moms (mine didn’t even drive till after the “divorce”), work-a-day fathers and healthy, juvenile tropisms. Simply put, we kids liked to do kids’ stuff.
The names of our “gang members” were straight out of an Andy Hardy movie. There was Ricky, Checker, Pat, Pat-Pat (so doubled to differentiate him from the older, more established Pat), and the aforementioned Gary. We were like dogs, padding about, waiting for the next great idea. One day, apropos of nothing, Pat-Pat announced: “Yesterday I drank everything through my toothbrush, just by dipping it in and then sucking out the fluid.” What these days would be met with a derisive smirk and a cold stare was then hailed as a breakthrough in sophisticated drink delivery systems. “Aw man,” Ricky declared, “I’m gonna do that all day tomorrow.”
Now when I say “gang members”, I refer to the motley collection of youthful personalities who banded together for constructive purposes (usually) and not a misguided and dangerous affiliation of urban warriors who think they have turf to protect – turf they don’t even own. I was the youngest member of the crew and as such I was always aspirational – wondering when I’d get to stay up and watch the late 10 o’clock shows like Mission Impossible or Star Trek; let alone some cool guy named Johnny Carson whose show was on at the ungodly hour of 11:30 PM. Years later I would actually penetrate this inky abyss and witness the Tonight Show not only on TV, but in person.
But clearly, in 1968 there were many bridges to cross and childhood metrics to cross off. And until the reality of my parents’ divorce, and it’s soul-killing angst intruded, I was on track to breeze through all of them. From the moment I first detected the incipient cracks in my parents’ marriage I was both uneasy in my predicament and yet supremely confident of my ability to navigate it. Ambivalence; it’s what’s for breakfast. Welcome to earth young David. Not that I was a deep-thinking 7-year-old, this was just the most sophisticated reasoning a 7-year-old could muster. And, truth be told, it’s not too far from the supposed higher reasoning this 60-year-old warhorse can muster either. In the interim there has been tremendous personal growth on my part. For example I’m much taller now than I was when I was seven, and I now drive a car instead of a banana-seat bicycle. Girls have evolved from an infernal nuisance to an eternal necessity. Read the rest of this entry »
Nowadays they just call me crazy to my face. And why? Maybe it’s because I enthusiastically purchased a $480 one-way AMTRAK ticket for me and my wife on a scheduled 26 hour 36 minute journey from Reno to Denver – a ticket that would cost half as much and take 24 fewer hours if we were to travel by air. You remember AMTRAK don’t you? They’re the ones that use those bright and shiny, parallel metal thingies we all drive over at railroad crossings. Oh, how quickly we forget. For 100 years these track-borne conveyances (often referred to as “trains” if I remember correctly) were this country’s life blood – connecting people and businesses in a generative web of travel and commerce. It was the original World Wide Web. The World Wide Web of wailwoading. Railroading’s antique charms beguile me. Though you may have relegated train travel to the dust bin of history, I have elevated train travel to the must spin of this-story.
If life is about the journey, this is a journey I long to take. Think of it as the road less traveled. The rail road less traveled. As Robert Frost wrote with such evocative homespun eloquence in his poem The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
And I am eager to take that road less traveled – the railroad. Read the rest of this entry »
The swirling mass of localized consciousness known as David Hardiman has enlisted us (Survey Monkey) to gather actionable intelligence so he may improve both the character of his being and the content of his platform. He believes your participation in this survey will, “enable me to rebrand my retail presence so my legion of followers might possess a deeper understanding of the universe I inhabit.”
Yeah, it’s obvious – the man could use some humanizing. By responding to this survey, you’re helping Mr. Hardiman humanize his aloof demeanor and weaponize his killer humor. Having turned 60 recently he now recognizes mortality as something that applies to him – and not just his “legion of followers.” Motivated by the preciousness of time and the majesty of love, he has grown vitally interested in the take-aways from this survey; before he’s taken away from all he surveys.
So please take a moment to help us do what many believe is impossible: to improve the David Hardiman brand. David Hardiman (herein referred to as “DH”) aspires to provide a better DH experience with more pertinent content featuring a greater sensitivity to the needs of all 3 of his followers. So whether you enjoy the Thin or Ultra-Thin version of DH, you are invited heartily to complete this carefully constructed survey designed to foster his self-discovery.
This Survey/Questionnaire should take about 6 minutes, but it goes by like 40. By agreeing to participate in this survey, you are certifying that you are not a robot. But if you are a robot and have gotten this far, maybe your intelligence isn’t so artificial after all. If, however, you’re unsure of your android identity, just pick one of the choices in LGBTQ?R2D2 and get on with it.
Please Note: Creditors, family and urologists of DH are ineligible to participate without the expressed written consent of the CHUBB Group – which is ironic because DH is so thin.
The DH Survey/Questionnaire
- Based on your experiences with him so far, would you recommend DH to a friend?
- In the unlikely loss of cabin pressure, did you know it’s your duty to help DH on with his mask first, before you even think about putting on yours?
- (Cannibals Only) If you were preparing a stew containing DH, would you remove his fat cap and silver skin, or leave them on for flavor? Do you even realize he’s so thin he doesn’t have a fat cap?
- Did you know that because DH expects the worse, he suffers from PTSD – Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
- How would you feel if you discovered DH shaved with Occam’s Razor?
- Fine, because it is the most logical conclusion based on the facts.
- A man’s shaving is his business.
- WTF is Occam’s Razor?
- Did you know DH does not wear cologne? Why? – because he smells so good.
- Did you know DH can sense a flower shop 100 yards away? Why? – Also because he smells so good.
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how much do you think DH weighs? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 or 10? It’s a very peculiar scale.
- Oddly enough, did you know that DH’s favorite time of day is also 1 to 10 (aka 9:59)?
- In the unlikely event of an unscheduled water landing, did you know that DH may use any passenger as a flotation device?
- Which word best describe him: Missionary, Cheugy, Atwitter, Fluoridated?
- When pondering a vital life decision, do you find yourself asking WWDHD?
- Finish this sentence. “DH has…
- …an actual banana in his pants just in case he’s not especially happy to see a particular person, and that person asks him “Are you happy to see me or is that a banana in your pants?” In this way he can produce the banana and honestly say, “I’m not especially happy to see you and yes, I do have a banana in my pants.”
- …joined the Mile High Club – while soloing.
- …eaten the rind of an orange and found it a peeling.
- …a special toupee he wears, but not on his head.
- …been called a complicated man – like Shaft. John Shaft. Can you dig it?
- Do you spend an unhealthy amount of time imagining what DH would look like in your ceiling mirror?
- How likely is it that life is a box of Cracker Jack and DH is the prize?
- Very Likely
- And yes, they still make Cracker Jack?
- Did you know that because DH suffers from Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he travels with Arnie, his calming service aardvark?
- Is it part of an Intelligent Design that when doing a Google search for God, DH’s picture appears regularly?
- If some of the options on a corporate phone tree had changed, would your fist thought be, “I wonder how this might affect DH?”
- What 3 attributes of DH do you find most appealing. His…
- Immunity to Body Shaming
- Susceptibility to Body Praising
- Opposable thumbs
- Opposable kidneys
- Disposable diapers
- Self-waxing thighs
- Ability to blink in unison
- Recognition of Hank Aaron as the true home run king
- Peculiarity as the only person on the face of the Earth who showers before entering a public pool.
- If you experienced shortness of breath how likely would it be you’d call DH instead of 911?
- If you experienced longness of breath how likely would it be you’d call DH instead of the Guinness Book of World Records?
- Do you include “I’m Facebook friends with DH” on your resume?
- How strongly do you agree with this statement: It was important for global cohesion that the CDC allowed DH to jump the line and get his COVID shot prior to everyone?
- Very Strongly
- Why are you asking such an obvious question
- I was told there wouldn’t be math
- Is DH an original thinker or does he repeat himself?
- Yes, he repeats himself
- Yes, he repeats himself
- Yes, he repeats himself
- Which is preferable: referring to DH as Dear Leader or simply the All Being?
- How strongly do you support the following statement: The entire exit row of an airplane shall be reserved for DH – even if he’s not on the plane.
- Strongly Support
- Strongly Support
- Yes, he repeats himself
- Did you know that DH is researching whether a couple has ever had sex in outer space (aka geosynchronous humping)? Nothing definitive yet, but he has pretty much ruled-out any hanky-panky on the Apollo missions, gruffly concluding “Nah, those guys dug chicks.”
- How strongly do you agree with this statement? If I was in Hospice care and DH needed my morphine drip, I’d be happy to take an aspirin instead.
- Agree strongly
- I’m too zonked-out on morphine to care
- Calgon take me away
- Let it be Known: You do recognize your duty to keep silent if DH were to steal your catalytic convertor and sell it on the Black Market.
- Let it be Known: It is important to understand that what drives DH is that he was once shown a vision of what he’d look like if he never brushed his teeth.
- Let It Be Known: DH believes that when someone says, “myocardial infarction” – they’re swearing?
- Let it Be Known: If DH thinks he’s being clever, you must do all you can to perpetuate his illusion and support him. Even if he’s not on your plane, or Pre-Traumatically Stressed or with his service aardvark Arnie, or even with Jiminy – his new rescue cricket.
- Let it be Known: DH believes STDs can be transmitted over the phone.
(40 minutes later) Well 6 your minutes are up.
Thank you for investing in America’s future by investing your time in our Dear Leader, DH. An appreciative note will be sent to you Shortly. And yes, I’ll stop calling you Shortly, unless of course for some reason your name really is Shortly. But Shirley no one is named Shortly. This is all short of true. Well short of.
This survey was powered by Survey Monkey.
Survey Monkey – We’re here when you absolutely want to pay a fortune for discovering something you already know. We’re kinda like religion that way, but much more expensive.
(First paragraph to be read in a disbelieving Jerry Seinfeld voice) What’s the deal with dogs? They’re not family pets anymore. They’re more like cultural accessories their owners wear like Fitbits or tattoos. Except these tattoos bark, pee and hump. People have a right to self-expression, but couldn’t they express themselves without sniffing my crotch – and from behind while I’m in a checkout line. I mean who’s checking out who here? I don’t think the 2nd Amendment says anything about the right to bear dogs.
We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident
We all understand that dogs are man’s best friend. They’re loyal, companionable and mercifully uncomplicated. Their presence reminds us of who we’d all like to be – in the moment and unaware of consequences. Their job is to sit around and wait for our next great idea. And talk about exuding unconditional love – dogs do that in spades (and sometimes other suits). Dogs are playing with a full deck. Who isn’t enriched by the boundless enthusiasm for life dogs so heartily radiate? But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. And based on my sampling, I think we’ve reached that tipping point.
August 26th has been set aside as National Dog Day. Now every dog truly does have its day. We’ve grown too dog-centric. Dogs belong at home or at a dog park or in a car anxiously looking out the window, believing they’ve been abandoned again, for the 437th time. You’d think by the 436th time they’d get it. Dogs don’t have to be seamlessly incorporated into the lifestyle of their owner, but they permeate everything now – like bad cologne. Isn’t going bye-bye enough for these canines. Do they have to be in the delivery room too? – “Breathe honey. It’s going to be OK. Now come over here Daisy girl and lick mommy’s face. Oh, this will make an epic Instagram post.” Read the rest of this entry »
The American Academy of Farts and Seances Presents The 2020 Reality Awards
After a brutal 2020 in the real world where dumb people said stupid things that made the rest of us smart, escapist dimensions loomed large for a COVID-weary citizenry. And this dynamic likely accounts for Virtual Reality (VR) winning top honors at the 2020 Reality Award Show held Saturday night in a ZOOM meeting at a Cupertino GameStop. Virtual Reality’s award was expected as the competition (the actual reality of 2020) was like diluted Sriracha – very weak sauce. 2020 was a kooky year: Netflix produced every movie made, COVID-conscious brothels offered “no-touch” Platonic climaxes and oh yeah, a lethal pandemic killed about half a million Americans. Is it any wonder so many chose to decamp to Virtual Reality? Regular Reality, aka “the collective hunch”, never stood a chance as the beleaguered year started with a pandemic, folded in the deaths of Regis Philbin, Sean Connery and Alex Trebek, and finished with more dumb people saying more stupid things that made the rest of us smart even more. At first I didn’t believe dumb people could make me smart, but the more I listened, the more it stung.
In 2020 many people who were unable to reconcile having 2 opposable concepts reside in their mind simultaneously (e.g; police are worthy, policing needs reform), decided to take leave of their common senses and seek to relieve mental distress by embracing the short reach of demonizing opponents through grievance politics. This Manichaean remedy bolster their fragile, fearful egos as wagons were circled in a pique of unified tribalism. In effect they doubled down on being twice as dumb and that made them 4 times more stupid than was thought possible. We’re talking about people that can’t make out heads or tails from a coin, let alone trying to navigate an abstruse, multi-factorial world of societal inconsistencies, competing messages and the cancellation of TV’s Hogan’s Heroes (yes, sadly 50+ years later, we’re all still processing that sad event). Who’s smarting now? They are, but so are the global elitist snowflakes like me who think they can sterilize the world with a few well-chosen keystrokes. Paging Col. Robert Hogan. Report for duty sir. Your eager heroes await your return.
Back to Reality…Sort of
Everyone attending the ZOOM meeting recognized that VRs simulated reality was orders of magnitude better than the actual reality for 2020. Closer examination of the underachieving year of 2020 revealed a startling fact. People were psychologically concealing themselves. It was like everyone was hiding behind a mask or something. Clearly VRs lack of HIV, IEDs and STDs rendered its somewhere-over-the-rainbow universe a shoo-in. And speaking of shoo-ins, Dr. Scholl’s Arch Supports won for Best Inserts in a Supporting Role.
Learning from the lessons of 2020, 2021 has set the bar low for its success by promising nothing more than to pick you up on January 1st and drop you off on December 31st. In other words, to be nothing more than a faithful calendar of days. At minimum, 2021 should be able to deliver on its promise of sequentially organizing days as long as our sun doesn’t unexpectedly supernova or the nuclear codes fall into the hands of Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene. And because it’s not a Leap Year, 2021 has the added advantage of having one less day to deal with.
And while it was ironic that we couldn’t see our way clear in 2020 of all years, 2021 promises to be an improvement; if only by showing up. And it is in that spirit of grinding out one year after another I offer this pause to take stock of 2020’s Reality Awards.
The Academy of Farts and Seances bestowed other Reality Awards besides VR’s award. A list of notable motion picture winners and their categories are listed below:
- Best Dock-umentary: The Wharves of Boston…. Harboring no illusions was the quay
- Best “Doc”-umentary: My Daze in Medical School …. Zac Efron also won in a Life Supporting Role.
- Roosters Strutting on the Sidewalk…Best Cockumentary…aww c’mon I’m talking about the bird damn it
- I Taunt Thee with Glee…Best Mockumentary. It’s scorn-y, but it’s good.
- The Key to My Love Vault…Best Lockumentary. Like enlightened Southerners, it’s a “safe-cracker.”
- Best Short Film: The Dwarves of Lilliput…. What it lacked in length, it made up for in brevity
- The Fermented Lagers of Germany…Best Bockumentary. Beer Aficionado called it, “Full-bodied and pleasantly yeasty.” No. Wait. My mistake. That’s what they called Kirstie Alley.
- My Left Pig Foot…Best Hockumentary. Rated V-17. Vegans under 17 must be accompanied by a carnivore.
- Locker Room Hijinks…Best Jockumentary. It’s all here: towel snapping, soap dropping and salami-hiding. Good, clean fun for the entire cell block.
- A Little Yellow Fever Outbreak…Best Small Pox-umentary. You’d think audiences would be suffering from pandemic fatigue, but no such luck with this 2020 chiller. Stars Anthony Scare-amucci
- I Bid Thee Goodnight – Mattress Quarterly called this movie a real sleeper.
- Mineralogists in Love…Best Rockumentary. Stone-faced Dr. Carruthers has his igneous-hardened heart melted by volcanic intern Jane Granite. He never takes her for granite again. In fact he takes her in his arms and cries out to his inamorata, “Oh Jane. God has a plan for us in the shale of this planet.”
- You Rook Mah-velous…Billy Crystal’s ode to Fernando Lamas won for Best Complimentary.
- My Toasty Feet…Best Sockumentary. Many thought My Toasty Feet stunk, but no worse than the movie The Anusthesiologist.
- The Second Hand of the Clock…Best TikTocumentary. Moves at the speed of time. In one scene a Rolex dies an untimely death.
- Cows of the Himalayas…Best Yakumentary. Elevated bovine joy. Will there be a Cows of the Himalayas sequel? – Not Yeti.
- 2 Scoops of Raisins in Every Box of Raisin Bran Cereal won in the new category of Promises Made, Promises Kept.
- I’m Really Straight, I’m Just Choosing to be Gay won for Best Manipulation of the False Narrative that Sexuality is a Choice.
- And finally, Ringo Starr’s son Zak won for Best Zakumentary…
He’s the drummer for Who?
Yes, he’s Who’s drummer.
The guy playing drums for Who.
OK, what about John Entwistle then?
And as the Reality Awards ZOOM show came to a close it was gratifying to see that none of the members of the Academy of Arts & Seances were caught with their pants down. No one had to see a member’s member. We look forward to next year’s awards when 2021 promises to convey the idea that Freedom is not dom, although sometimes it smarts.
While this startling discovery was not as crown-shattering as that of King Richard III’s bashed skull found beneath a Leicester parking lot in 2012, the unearthing of 23-year-old Mrs. Prudence Goodheart’s diary during excavations at a London Underground Station has antiquarians salivating in their spittoons. Written on durable vellum, the well-preserved journal was found buried in a sealed chamber pot at Charing Cross Station. The diary dates from 1600 and brims with keen insights into the grimy life and murky times of ante incendium London (before the Great Fire of London in 1665). I’ve taken the liberty of translating the journal from Ye Olde English into Ye New English and its archaic syntax has been updated to make it more readable. For example, Prudence’s antiquated entry of June 15th “With thine own beef I do reject thee” has been modernized to read “I think we should see other people.”
Mrs. Goodheart’s fascinating catalogue of ancient events arouses the imagination and plucks the mystic chords of memory as we survey her clogs-on-the-ground account of London’s early 17th century life. Those souls consigned to that period had to live this life. We pampered readers 400 years hence are privy to it like a fly on the wall; or perhaps more time-appropriately, like a louse on the scalp. The diary’s unique window on this hoary world animates the sights, smells and customs of the Olde World in ways that make one appreciate the abundant privilege of this age. With its unburnished, firsthand accounts, the journal captures the zeitgeist of the period. It then releases this zeitgeist on its own recognizance and parades it around for everyone to see and enjoy. Who doesn’t love a parade?
Do we identify with these historic events through some kind of morphic resonance drawn from the collective unconscious? Or is our interest more prosaic – a simple curiosity in old timey affairs told in the first person? The main take away at this point is that you’re still reading this. And if you continue we will commence on a profitable frolic where I do the driving and you can sit comfortably in the passenger seat, drinking in the countryside and whatever hipster beverage is in your stainless-steel hydration flask. So buckle up and enjoy history’s histrionics. And remember, with me doing the driving, there’ll be one extra air bag in the vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »
When You Least Expect It
My friend Gary DeBaise and I are bosom buddies in the Norman Rockwell sense of the term. We grew up 2 years and 2 unspectacular houses apart in the solidly middle-class section of Eastwood in Syracuse, NY. We bonded over many shared interests: sports, girls and disbelief at the behavior of others. Our bond was further cemented when our parents both got divorced at roughly the same time in the early 70s. We were constant and curious friends; wondering what the hell we were doing in these bodies, but not philosophic enough to squander the opportunity to operate them in ways perhaps unintended by their creator. In the gentlest of ways we’d conspire, scheme and execute the most notoriously benign skullduggery kids can devise.
The kind of trouble we got into would warrant a stern talking to, or maybe the frowning of a lifetime – if we ever got caught (which we never did). Some of our exploits (immature shenanigans to some, bold feats to us) were suitable for a Steven Spielberg juvenile buddy film entitled something like EGT: The Extra Goonie Terrestrials. Our escapades were brilliantly hatched and stealthily executed operations, undertaken with Hogan Heroes’ precision, MacGyver savvy and Bondian sangfroid. Well, all that and maybe a dash of Wile E Coyote miscalculation. One time we repurposed (some might call it stealing) 24 wooden 2 by 4’s stored in an open shed in the backyard of a neighbor. Risk was minimized by undertaking the mission at 2 o’clock in the morning during a new moon. We dubbed this daring little act of espionage Operation: It’s Just Sitting There, Denny Dimwit Isn’t Using It and Besides We Need It for Our Fort. You don’t pull off this level of larceny unless you’ve got your neighborhood sh*t dialed in. And in that rotary age we had it very dialed in. Read the rest of this entry »
Maybe I’m attempting too much here, but I’ve only got so much time left and I’m determined to spend it like a drunken sailor.
~ Presenting 6 parallel introductions of the same topic. Each with its own inherent bias ~
- The Generous and Funny Introduction: In all of Christendom, the revered Catholic Church is far and away the most consequential. For millennia the resolute Church has provided a dependable sanctuary and a loving interpretation of Christ’s moral philosophy. And even in the darkest of ages, it has been a beacon of hope and a light unto the world. And I use the phrase “unto the world” instead of “in the world” because “unto the world” smacks of greater religious authority. In order to generate even more gravitas in the future, I might rollout out a “thee” or a “thou” and maybe even a few “thines” but I’ll try not to be holier than thou (see, it works). What can you say about an exemplary religion that’s spawned more copycat wannabees than Madonna did in her heyday (and here I’m referring to Madonna the singer, not to Madonna Jesus’s mom)? Sometimes spin-offs work (Doritos begat Nacho Doritos) and sometimes they don’t (Catholicism begat the Amish). Not to disparage the Amish, but my idea of horsepower and their idea of horse power are two very different things.
- The Damning with Faint Praise Introduction: Of all the Christian sects, the glamorous Catholic Church is far and away the most Hollywood. Tinseltown’s glittery flair seems to have informed the Church’s practices and even decorated their Christmas trees. What can you say about a steadfast religion that’s resisted secular relativism and spawned more spinoffs than Fast and Furious? Sometimes spin-offs work (Chevrolet begat the Corvette) and sometimes they don’t (Chevy also begat the Chevette). Not to disparage Chevrolet, but my idea of horsepower and a Chevette’s idea of horsepower are two very different things.
- The Contemptuous Zoological Introduction that Goes Off the Rails: Of all the animals in the Christian Zoo, the outsized Catholic Church is the elephant in the room no one wants to clean-up after. In the menagerie of Christian denominations masquerading as the ultimate path to God, Catholicism has the biggest footprint – and why wouldn’t it? It’s the elephant in the room with 4 huge stamping feet that parishioners hope will walk softly and carry a big trunk. What can you say about a religion that’s spawned more spinoffs than an RC Cola accidentally set on a Tommy Dorsey record played at 78 rpms? Make that a Jimmy Dorsey record. In fact make that a reference from less than 80 years ago that people might possibly understand or appreciate. Clearly, I’ve got work to do and I implore you to stay with me and keep reading. You can get back to the familiar satisfaction of your iPhone in 10 minutes, I promise. Hmmmm…but what if you’re on your iPhone now reading this. Suddenly it’s Alice through the looking glass and a tsunami of anxiety overwhelms me. This is no time for a panic attack and yet this fretful, disjointed introduction is a panic attack just waiting to happen. Check that. Oh sh*t! It’s not waiting. It’s happening. Right now…to me. Jesus, where’s writer’s block when you need it. As I hyperventilate and begin rocking back and forth, a semantic question pierces my anxiety: Did writers who lived behind the Soviet’s Iron Curtain suffer from Writers’ Bloc?
- The Vacuous, Out-to-Lunch Introduction: Of all the Christian sects, the Catholic Church is one of them. It’s a big one. Elephant big. The Church knows it’s important to be good (or at least to not get caught doing anything bad). But if you are caught, you are invited to confess to a priest and all is forgiven. The idea of being good seems to have informed their practices and is somehow indirectly responsible for all the glorious decorations on their Church ceilings. What can you say about a legacy religion that’s spawned more spinoffs than Pepperidge Farm has with their cookies? Sometimes spin-offs work (Darth Vader begat Luke Skywalker) and sometimes they don’t (Hamburger Helper begat Pancreas Helper). Not to disparage all other religions, but…oh forget #4. I’m just relieved my panic attack is over.
- The Unforgiving Malevolent Introduction: Of all the Christian sex, the unpoliced Catholic Church has far and away screwed everybody the most. Unvetted priests have groomed and corrupted impressionable followers in the most irreligious ways imaginable. Self-serving silence seems to have informed their practices, even at the cost of millions in settlements and untold psychic harm. What can you say about a religion that spun-off a Hall of Fame to enshrine its most luminous players – they call it Sainthood? Sometimes spin-offs work (The Pirates of the Caribbean ride begat The Pirates of the Caribbean movie) and sometimes they don’t (The Pirates of the Caribbean ride begat The Pirates of the Caribbean movie). I guess it all depends on your perspective in judging whether something works or not. Not to disparage Johnny Depp, but his imitation of Keith Richards as Capt. Jack Sparrow gives no Satisfaction.
- The Even-Handed, Glossed Over Introduction (so we may finally get on with our entertaining little story): The Catholic Church has done its god damned best to attend to its needy flock. Sometimes they’ve fallen short, but not for a lack of good intentions. Whether Crusading through Europe, or just gently interrogating the Spanish to make sure they were really, truly Catholic, the Church always had its heart in the right place. Sometimes that heart had only 2 creaky chambers distributing the milk of human kindness stingily and unevenly, instead of 4 robust chambers pounding out truth and justice equally to all seekers. What can you say about an institution that’s produced more copycat religions than there are copycat Beatles tribute bands? Not to disparage these tribute bands, but my idea of revolution and their idea of Revolution are two very different things. At any rate, our evolution can only happen at a speed we can handle. Godspeed everyone!
And Now We Begin Our Story
Similar to the way Steven “Book of” Jobs founded Apple by tinkering in his dad’s garage, Jesus started writing code for his start-up cult in his dad’s stable. Sometimes Joseph would poke his head in and suspiciously inquire, “Jesus Christ, what’s going on in here?”
To which his exasperated son would reply, “Daaaad! I told you, I’m formulating a moral philosophy for mankind to live by.”
“Yeah sure son. Every night for 6 months?,” Joseph would huff in Aramaic. “I’m not sure what’s going on in here, but I smell frankincense.”
“I told you dad. I got that as a gift when I was born. It helps me to think.” Jesus explained. Read the rest of this entry »
“This is Really Beneath Me,” He Claims. “20,000 Leagues Beneath Me.”
Because I’m not drawn to drink or drugs, I think I’m more susceptible to other less conventional intoxicants. Case in point – my current addiction to cheesy submarine movies. Whether you consider this peculiar predilection a harmless hobby or a nautical neurosis, I’ll leave to your consideration. I do believe these underwater cinematic spectacles trigger the same neurons in my brain’s pleasure center that are triggered by drugs and alcohol in normal people like you (this may be assuming a lot). I’m as happy as a clam, sitting at attention in my marine mancave, watching soldierly submariners behaving like dutiful amphibians. My life coach says these cheesy submarine movies are beneath me, and she’s right. In one movie they’re 20,000 leagues beneath me.
Don’t you find the term “cheesy” to be a lactose intolerant word? Your cheese is my caviar and I’ve found great happiness in those little underwater fish ova. Underwater things speak to me. Maybe I’m all wet on this issue, but where computers see a binary world of ones and zeros, I see a binary world of submarine movies and not submarine movies. I cannot fathom anything deeper than 2 categories of things. To my way of thinking you’re either part of the submarine movie universe or you’re just…the rest of universe. In the former category you’re part of the solution. In the latter you’re part of the problem. I consider myself a high-functioning person, if only because my 7-layer dip does not contain mulch as one of its layers. However, when I initially encounter a person, place or thing to be categorized, the first question I ask myself is: Does this thing serve the cause of the submarine movie universe; or is it just part of the boring, everyday cosmos? I ponder this question while figuratively submerged beneath the waves in my marine-like mancave.
Don’t you find the term “mancave” to be a caveman intolerant word? It can sound so unkind to a Neanderthal’s hairy ear. In any event, my marine mancave is like a magical aquarium outfitted with artifacts to render my above-ground underwater experience arrestingly authentic. And true to my submarine ways, I’ve spent money on it like a drunken sailor. There’s a sunken treasure chest, bio-luminescent lighting, a little bubbling man in a diving suit and some fishnets. Not the kind of fishnets to catch fish, but the kind of fishnets women wear to catch men – I mean I am a male and this is my manspace I’ve outfitted to suit my interests. And I employ the word “outfitted” with great binary precision. You see women decorate. Men outfit.
Don’t you find the term “outfitted” to be a female intolerant word. Alright, I’ll stop with this running “intolerant” trope. Even I can’t tolerate it anymore. I guess that makes me intolerant of intolerance. But as I claimed earlier, I am high-functioning. I know the difference between being entertaining, and being repetitive. As I said earlier, I know the difference between being entertaining and being repetitive.
Rules of the Sea
In order to qualify as a submarine movie, the film must feature, present or promote the following mandatory items:
- All sailors must have a visible arc of armpit sweat extending from the front of the shoulder to the back of the shoulder – even if they’re shirtless.
- For reasons known only to the tobacco industry, smoking in this confined, underwater gas chamber is not only allowed, but is encouraged. Hence the slogan: Join the Navy and get 3 lifetimes of tar in just one 3-month deployment.
- All food is “chow” and served by a grizzled yet lovable mess cook, Sergeant Falco, who plates everything with a side of cigarettes and a dash of armpit sweat.
- There must be a fraught scene where perspiring midshipmen gaze anxiously at the ceiling for what seems like an eternity as they await the latest detonation in a barrage of enemy depth charges. And when they do explode, they must make sudden phony movements in one direction as the hull absorbs yet another powerfully bogus explosion.
- Smiling is prohibited (unless it’s ironic).
- There must be some recognizable, but out of place actor in it – like Don Rickles, Wally Cox or Trini Lopez (oh, what that man could do with a hammer).
- At some point an exasperated ensign exclaims, “I didn’t sign up for this sh*t.” He’s soon reminded he did indeed sign up for it. For a 4-year hitch.
- At some point the hull will be breached and there’ll be a containable, yet harrowing flood in which 2 superfluous seamen (they didn’t have speaking parts) drown.
- In the mandatory scene where the sub and its crew are plummeting to a potentially watery grave after taking one too many enemy depth charges, you realize it’s not their destiny to die yet. These men have got packs of unlit cigarettes to smoke and hampers of sweat-stained uniforms to launder.
- There’ll be a lot of eerie sonar pings indicating we’re underwater and it’s a submarine movie. No pongs, just pings.
What’s in a Name
All submarine movies except one are about high stakes, underwater peril in the midst of mortal conflict. I’ll give you a moment to think which one that is. OK. Times up. It’s Yellow Submarine. Other submarine movie titles (some real, some perhaps invented) include:
- Ice Station Zebra – A wondrously vague military moniker laid athwart a forbidding Arctic seascape. I’m swooning here. Calgon take me away – to the North Pole!
- Run Silent, Run Deep – Starring Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable. My God, 10 minutes in, before Mr. Lancaster even issued the order to “Take ‘er down ensign,” Lancaster had completely chewed the scenery (not an easy thing to do on an all steel boat). His overacting is all too easily criticized, but we owe a great debt to Lancaster, for without his example, William Shatner may never have honed his acting chops. Some say the actual title should be Run Silent, Run Deep, Run as Far Away from Burt Lancaster’s Acting as You Can. Confession: I couldn’t stop watching this underwater thriller. Little known fact: Before there were talkies, there was another Run Silent, Run Deep movie. It told the story of a mute philosopher who pondered profoundly while he jogged – true to its title he would: run silent, run deep. That film fared poorly. Why? – No submarines.
- Run Loudly, Run Shallow – This Mel Brooks parody of submarine movies belongs in the kiddie pool. Although the farting scene where, after a dinner of pork and beans the crew fills the submarine with so much noxious gas that they’re forced to surface, is hilarious. The rest of the movie stunk. Well, I guess that makes the entire movie a stinker.
- Ships Oy Vey! – In this all-Hebraic sequel to the gentile Ships Ahoy! the nascent Israeli Navy is out on patrol everyday but Saturday. Admiral Nimitzowitz insists each sailor trades in their traditional sailor’s hat for a little white yarmulke with a teeny-tiny brim. Trademark Yiddish humor is on display when each deployment to sea is dubbed a “Jews Cruise.” Burt Lancaster visited during filming, but orthodox Jews refused to allow him on the set because, “He’s just too hammy.”
- Das Boot – German U-boat flick with plenty of surface tension as well as below surface tension. It starred venerable German actor Klaus Traphobic. Reports say Klaus Traphobic had trouble coping with the cramped quarters on the submarine.
- Yellow Submarine – This Beatles submarine cartoon was much more upbeat than the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black Submarine.
- Up Periscope – This 1959 classic featured the impeccably well-groomed James Garner as Captain Morrel Rectitude. The line defining where Mr. Garner’s hair ended and his neck began is delineated with such expert tonsorial precision that the Navy is able to set their watch to it. In one scene the camera pans slowly over the bunks, and in the background I swore I saw a nude picture of Vivian Vance. Either that or it was a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe with Vivian Vance’s head taped over it. Being out to sea does something to a man’s head. Confession: Watched it twice back to back.
- Down Periscope – Kelsey Grammer at his pettifogging best in this uneven salmagundi of hijinks and lowjinks. Note: If your lowjinks last longer than 4 minutes, stop watching and call your doctor. Note to the note: The word hijinks is one of those rare words with 3 consecutive dotted letters – like iiicarumba! In Down Periscope, Kelsey Grammer speaks very clearly, but sometimes Kelsey’s grammar ain’t so good.
- Deep Periscope – Warning. Not a submarine movie, but a XXX sequel to Deep Throat.
- Gee Your Armpits Smell Terrific – Again, not the kind of movie you’d want to take the family to.
- The Hunt for Red October & Crimson Tide – 2 Cardinal-colored covert conflicts. Red-shifted wavelengths abound, proving the universe is still expanding. What is the proper length of a wave? Experts say about 3-4 seconds.
- The Hunt for Red Skelton – When famed comedian Red Skelton fails to show up for a rehearsal, his agent starts looking everywhere for him. He eventually finds him safe and dry at a deli eating a submarine sandwich.
Leveling-Off at Periscope Depth, Secure Quarters, Insecure Dimes, All Ahead 1/3rd, Smok’em if Ya Got’em
Watching submarine movies…let me rephrase that, experiencing submarine movies brings me untold joy. I’d like to tell you about it, but then it wouldn’t be untold, would it? It would be “told joy.” And there are 2 things I promised myself early on: 1. I wouldn’t read Tolstoy and 2. I wouldn’t share “told joy.” No Tolstoy, no told joy (try saying that 3 times fast). And if that’s not high-functioning, I don’t know what is. You see in my long pioneering years of social distancing, well before it became popular, I discovered the importance of being scrupulously honest with my readers so I didn’t suffer their social ostracization. Unfortunately, due to my single-minded interest in submarine movies, social ostracization is something I’m all too familiar with. In any event, social ostracization is not to be confused with being oblivious to things by sticking your head in the sand. That’s called social ostrich-ization, and it’s for the birds. But I’m pleased to be able to differentiate the meaning between social ostracization from social ostrich-ization – even though it comes up infrequently. In fact it’s probably never come up until now. And once again I’ve gone overboard here, but going overboard might be appropriate given the nautical topic. Read the rest of this entry »