The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." "...it is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Whine, whine, whine, doesn't he ever shut up?



I dislike reading the mail. At work, I solve this problem by throwing all of it into the trash almost as soon as the clerks put the stuff on my desk, which is an excellent system and one that I commend to your attention but not one I can repeat at home, unfortunately. At home, I have to worry about throwing something important away; actually, I don’t worry about it at all, but people tell me I should and so for the sake of familial amity I let on that I am worried when in fact I don’t really give a rat’s patoot. So instead of throwing my mail away immediately, I avoid looking at it for as long as I can. I don’t know why I have an aversion to my mail; when I was a boy, getting a letter was a big deal, especially if the letter came sometime near my birthday; I knew that there’d be some money tucked in the card inside and then I’d get to spend more than my mother would allow me otherwise on candy. Nowadays, of course, the mail is full of people asking me for money that I don’t want to give them.  I usually get a refund on my income taxes, which is nice, but let’s face it, the IRS is not giving me free money, they’re sending my money back to me. There is a difference, you know. There are exceptions to my mail aversion, of course: I will happily crack open the National Geographic as soon as I can lay my hands on it and I will open anything that says statement enclosed on the front almost as soon as it arrives. However much I dislike reading my mail, I dislike owing money even more, so I want to get rid of the bills as fast as possible.  But the National Geographic came a couple of weeks ago and I’ve already paid the bills for this month, and therefore it was in a dispirited state of all right, let’s get this over with that I went through the mail this weekend and discovered something shocking.

As a person with more chronic diseases than I know what to do with, I get a lot of mail from medical supply companies and health insurance plans and all the attendant remora of that insatiable beast, the American health care system. Usually, I just look at this stuff and throw it into the trash; analog spam deserves nothing less, I think; and it was with that intention firmly in mind that I opened a letter from the company that supplies me with insulin and other diabetic supplies. After the usual corporate pleasantries, the letter said that after October 30, 2014, this company would no longer supply me with the very necessary supplies I mentioned in the previous sentence. Well, I was stunned and shocked and amazed, with a large dollop of fear and consternation thrown into the pot for extra flavoring. I have dealt with this same company for ten years and I could not believe that they were tossing me out on my metaphorical ear after all we didn’t mean to each other. What had gone wrong with our relationship?  What had I done to deserve this sort of treatment?

I went into work the next day fully intending to get to the bottom of the matter. I knew that I hadn’t done anything that warranted my getting the boot, so I was going to need names and phone numbers and web sites and the Lord only knows what else to reinstate myself in good standing with this flighty pharmaceutical. I was already certain that some sort of bureaucratic snafu had occurred, that some computer somewhere had had a glitch or a virus or a nervous breakdown and had completely wiped my medical record off the face of the earth and now some low-bore clerk was trying to cover the mistake up by dropping my coverage and hoping I didn’t notice.  Well, I was having none of that, no way no how. I was not going to take this lying down, standing up, or even sitting in a recliner drinking hot chocolate with the little marshmallows floating on top while watching Vanna light up the letters on Wheel of Fortune. No, I am an experienced bureaucratic warrior and these clowns would soon find out that they weren’t going to push me around and get away with it. They’d be sorry they ever tangled with me, yes they would, the scurvy louts.

Having girded my loins for battle, I entered the fray with equal parts of high hope and stern determination, convinced as I was of the righteousness of my cause, only to be gobsmacked by the mother of all gobsmackery at my first contact with the trolls of the corporate bureaucracy. It seems that yes, the company is dropping my account, and the reason why they are dropping my account is that the company is going bankrupt.  When I say they are going bankrupt, I do not mean that they are filing for Chapter 11 so that they can reorganize the company, restructure its debts, and then get back on its corporate feet leaner and meaner than before; I mean they are going into liquidation, as in they are soon to be one with the choir invisible, the silent majority, and the Norwegian blue parrot, a remarkable bird with lovely plumage that spends more time than it ought to pining for the fjords.  In short, this company is flat on its ass.  

I was stunned, first by its immediate implications—where do I get my supplies now—and then by a growing disquiet. We live in an age in which the media and the government describe diabetes as an epidemic, a condition affecting more and more people than ever before. How then, in a market where the supply of customers is growing ever larger, both individually and in the aggregate (yes, this is a fat joke, just in case you were wondering), and where said customers need their insulin and lancets and alcohol swabs and glucose meters, etc. in the same way that junkies need their daily fix, does a company with a captive and ever-growing market have so little business sense that circumstances force it into bankruptcy?  One need only look at the ever-expanding American waistline to know that there is gold in them there lardasses and only a fool could fail to profit from the wealth created by years of junk food and Coca-Cola. Apparently, this company found all the fools who could fail to profit from these circumstances and gave them positions of great corporate responsibility, which has led to the inevitable situation the company and all of its customers now find themselves. Well, character is destiny, the ancient Greeks believed, and I am sure that all of the aforementioned fools will find good government jobs where their foolishness will do as little harm as possible. They could, for example, go to work for the Vampire State’s health insurance plan, where those of us who need our diabetic supplies go to find out where we are going to get our supplies now that the old supplier has gone the way of all flesh, and where they could tell the people who run that plan that the company the plan's voice-mail keeps referring people to has gone out of business. Finding oneself trapped on a Mobius loop is a disagreeable experience, to say the least, and I do wish that if the state has to do business with pharmaceuticals that they do business with a Mexican drug cartel, an organization that clearly knows how to make money selling drugs, unlike the clods they're working with now.  But that would make sense and we can’t have any of that, can we? As Governor Lepetomane quite rightly pointed out, we have to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Apologies

Sorry about the lack of posts, folks, but I just had hip replacement surgery done and I haven't been at a computer until now. In current news, my backside looks like someone with a mean streak tried to slice through a boiled ham with an ice cream scoop; the result is gruesome looking, when it is not busy being disgusting. The rump is now all the colors of the rainbow, with that mimeograph purple we all remember from school predominating. I will forswear the politically incorrect observation about having a rainbow on my rump; I would prefer not to hear hysterical charges of homophobia thrown my way while I am in my current condition. In any case, I will have something up for your amusement as soon as I can. Really. I mean that.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Something there is about a wall, that wants it down, or not, as the case may be



I am perplexed, which should not come as a surprise to anyone, by a great many things these days. I suppose it’s because I’m getting older; I am 56 now and the world makes less sense to me now than it did when I was sixteen. Of course, for most sixteen year old males the world’s lack of sense is not perplexing; figuring out how to get laid is. I don’t imagine that the subject has gotten any simpler in the forty years since it was my primary obsession, but time has a way of giving you other things to think about, most of which revolve around paying bills you’d rather not pay.

I am perplexed, for example, by the Federal government’s curious inability to build a fence.  Since the beginnings of human civilization one of the few things that governments of all ideological bents have been good at is the building of walls, fences, moats, and various and sundry other ways of making getting from Point A to Point B as annoying and cumbersome as possible. In the Scriptures, for instance, we see the Children of Israel’s way into the Promised Land blocked by the towering walls of the city of Jericho and we rejoice a few verses later as those sonically challenged walls come a-tumbling down, although it is at times like this that one must wonder if issuing government contracts to the lowest bidder is such a good idea, especially as this lowest bidder’s next job was building the levees around New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Some things are just a dead giveaway, I think.

In another, perhaps more germane example, the first Qin emperor of China, the great and more than vaguely loony Qin Shi Huang, the man who united all the warring Chinese states into one great empire, decided that the people of the northern grasslands and the Gobi Desert were not worth the time and effort of conquering–that lot was simply too lumpen, don’t you know—and so to keep them at bay and off the freshly mown grass he decided to build a wall between his newly unified empire and the barbarians. And so it was that the Great Wall of China came to be. The Great Wall stretches for two thousand miles across northern China and for the most part it worked as advertised. Oh, on occasion a Mongol horde would get through and China would have to suffer through the hacking, slashing, raping, and pillaging that such breaches afforded, but in the main, the wall did its job and kept the barbarians out and the tourists and their money in.

And in the interests of fairness I should point out that the Romans built not one, but two walls across Great Britain to separate Scotland from England. Large sections of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall still exist and you can go see them, if you care to see that sort of thing. The Romans built the walls to keep the Scots and Picts from raiding what was then the Roman province of Britannia, a fact that I am sure boosted the ego of many a Scottish and Pictish war chief until someone explained to them that the Romans regarded Caledonia—the Latin name of Scotland—as a great festering pile of pig manure no one in their right mind would want in the first place.

For even more Roman fence-type fun, we have the Limes Germanicus and the Limes Moesiae, which the Romans built to keep the Germans out of the Empire, the Limes Arabicus, which kept the Arabs out of the Empire, and the limes at the edge of the glass, which keep the margaritas out of me. To go a bit further afield, the British built the Lines of Torres Vedras, which successfully kept the French out of Portugal, and the French built the Maginot Line to keep the Germans out of France, which was somewhat less successful. The Russians built the Iron Curtain; its most visible manifestation, the Berlin Wall, was pretty effective until the East Germans got tired of looking at in 1989. The Iron Curtain’s less visible manifestations were the heavily defended borders between members of the Warsaw Pact, a harder to understand phenomenon given that no Bulgarian was going to risk his life and already limited freedom to defect to Romania.

Most recently, of course, we have the Israelis and their antiterrorist fence or wall or whatever the correct word for the thing is. The Israelis erected the whatever it is after waves of suicide bombers began striking inside Israel after 2000 in the wake of the second Palestinian intifada, the Israelis working on the entirely reasonable assumption that if the bombers couldn’t get into Israel they couldn’t kill anyone with a bomb. The dramatic drop in the rate of suicide bombings in Israel would seem to bear out this assumption, but the critics remain, of course; empiricism has never been popular amongst the chattering classes. There’s just something about facts and figures that makes your average idealist’s skin crawl.

All of which leads us back to the question of why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a fence along the country’s southern border. I have heard all sorts of reasons for this peculiar handicap. Building such a fence is technically impossible is one reason I’ve heard, as well as that fence-building is a racist macroaggression, and the one I like the most, building the fence would cost too much. First, as to the questions of costs and possibility, it seems to me that if the first emperor of China can build a gigantic wall that you can’t see from outer space two thousand years ago then there is no reason why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a chain link fence that you can see from Mexico with the naked eye.  Chain link fencing is a much easier material to work with than truly humongous blocks of stone and we could probably put a chain link fence up in much less time than it took the Chinese to build the Great Wall. The fence will have to come with all the electronic doodads beloved of the surveillance state these days, which will cause all of the usual cost overruns that we must expect whenever the government tries to do anything. But what of it? This country, after all, has spent trillions of dollars over the past fifty years trying to eliminate poverty and the poverty rate hasn’t budged an inch, and yet we continue to spend money on trying to eliminate poverty. If we can spend trillions of dollars on something we know isn’t going to work, we can certainly spend a few million on something that might; you never know, after all. Milton might be alive, he said, making an allusion so obscure that not even the guys on The Big Bang Theory can figure it out. Well, maybe Sheldon would catch it.

As for the racism of it all, well, I don’t know about that. Every country has immigration laws and I’ve always had the idea that if everyone else has immigration laws we should have them too. It’s only fair, you know. And we should get to enforce them like everyone else. After all, Mexico has no qualms about shipping Hondurans back to Honduras if they catch them working in Mexico so why should we debate sending Mexicans back home? And if sending people back where they came from is racist, does this make the Mexican government racist as well? If this is the case, then this country should be doing everything in its power to stop the hordes of racist Mexicans from coming into our country, lest they infect our unsuspecting citizenry with their low, vile, and altogether contemptible racism. I hear, though, that this is not going to happen, as our Illinois Incitatus will be declaring shortly that the immigration laws are whatever He says they are on any given day, and that it will please His Elective Majesty to let these poor benighted wretches into this country. I suspect, however, that the poor benighted wretches will have to wait for November for the good news. The former junior senator from Illinois will not want to rile up the bitter clingers until after the midterm elections.  In a world filled with much confusion and perplexity, our prairie solon’s need to pander for votes is the one thing we can all count on. In this He is as true as the North Star, a mother’s love, and my dentist finding something expensive to fix at every checkup. Thus it ever was, saith the sages, and thus it ever shall be.




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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

News flash!

Okay, kids, there's something on the griddle. Just a little bit longer. And thank you for your patience.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Apologies

My apologies for not posting, folks, but I've been fighting off a variety of health problems this past month and I had to put writing on the back burner for a while. I wish I could say that I had something on the stove ready to go, but I don't have anything in the pot as yet, but when I do, you guys will be the first to know. I trust you are all enjoying the nice weather, assuming, of course, you're having nice weather.
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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Storms



And so the monsoon came to town yesterday, complete with intense flashes of lightning and downpours so tremendous that one could forgive an impartial observer for wondering if Noah and the Ark would be floating down Main Street any time soon, and, if so, would they stop at Subway’s to pick up some sandwiches for the wife and the kids and the two of every sort of creature that walketh or creepeth upon the face of the Earth as they headed off towards the mountains of Ararat?  The wind howled in a suitably gruesome manner and the sky turned black in the middle of the day and all the denizens of our happy little burg trembled under the fury of the storm.  And then, of course, there were the people who braved the wrath of nature and went forth into the storm in order to get a gallon of milk or a pound of ground chuck at the supermarket, brave men and women who refused to bow down before dictates of nature but who wandered out, umbrellas in hand, leaving this observer to wonder just how much of a dumbass do you have to be to go outside in a thunderstorm holding a metal spike in the air?  First, when the winds are lashing around at about sixty miles an hour your umbrella is not going to help you; it will not even make an adequate sail, should you find yourself in a situation where you need an adequate sail.  I’m not saying that will ever happen in real life, you understand, but it might, and an umbrella that the wind has turned inside out is worse than useless.  It won’t keep the rain out of your face and it certainly won’t help shield you from the rest of the elements, which, I have noticed, tend to be fairly nasty during these meteorological temper tantrums.  Sec0nd, during the aforementioned meteorological temper tantrums the abundant lightning whips about striking both willy and nilly, deep frying them to a golden toasty brown. Given this, I repeat my previous question: why are these dolts going outside holding a metal spike in the air?  To me, this appears to be almost suicidal behavior, almost as if these poor saps were volunteering to have Nature in all her mystery and majesty remove their clearly bargain basement chromosomes from the gene pool in as expeditious a manner as possible.   While I am all for improving humanity and its morals, this appears to me to be a very short-sighted, if not more than vaguely painful way of accomplishing this altogether laudatory goal.  Wouldn’t all of these people be much better off if they simply stayed indoors until the storm blows by and then go out for a gallon of milk?

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Monday, June 09, 2014

Disinvitation and the expanding intestine



Yes, it is that time of the year again and hence something of a silly season here in this our Great Republic, where the lengthening days and abundant sunshine turn many a soon to graduate college senior’s mind to thoughts of how they’re going to pay off the mountain of debt they’ve managed to wrack up with a bachelor’s degree in Queer Vegan Studies.  It’s a puzzlement to me too, to paraphrase Yul Brynner in The King and I, but one that will not prevent our graduate to be one last radical hurrah before they go out into the workaday world and sell out to The Man. So, yes, it is that time of year again, the time wherein the disgruntled, the disaffected, and the more than usually dysfunctional student and all of his or her ilk goes forth and denounces the commencement speaker and demands that he, she, it, or they slink away in shame.

The commencement speaker, for those of you have managed to skip the whole college experience, is a distinguished person brought in by the college to give a speech to the assembled graduates. The speech is usually long and tedious and often tendentious as well, and as filled with untruths as a politician’s campaign speech. Knowing this, I skipped the speech and the graduation itself when I got my bachelor’s; I went to see Field of Dreams instead. But when I got my master’s I had to go; my mother made me. She wanted to be proud of her oldest boy and she wanted to see me get the piece of paper that would entitle me to a permanent position in the civil service, so I had to go. It was, as I anticipated, a fairly gruesome experience, although not as bad as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. The dean of the college gave the commencement, and while the speech was too damn long, he did end it with some pithy remarks and a good joke, so all was not lost. My brother, on the other hand, spent much of the speech slouching lower and lower in his chair, the better to see the valedictorian’s legs, which were, I have to admit, very nice, but there is a time and a place for everything and that was neither the time or the place.

I bring this largely unnecessary family history up because the august institution that granted me my master’s degree has succumbed to the madness of campus commencement disinvitation syndrome.  A former student of said august institution—not me, unfortunately, because I’d give the grads an earful—is returning to deliver the commencement address and the campus radicals are already busy at work trying to get the man disinvited. The would-be speaker, an immigrant from a war-torn Third World country where large numbers of the populace believe that sheep are an acceptable alternative to having a date on Saturday night, made a fortune selling yogurt through hard work, living right, and sheer business acumen. This in itself would render the man unacceptable to the fevered minions of the neo-Marxist anti-capitalist left, who infest the groves of American academia like Dutch elm disease, as well as to the more radical African-American activist groups, who consider all such tales of immigrant success as examples of racial oppression and a testament to the power of whiteness in a Jim Crow society. But the loudest shrieks against our prospective speaker came from the radically lactose intolerant, who have made it clear to anyone who will listen that they regard our speaker as a vicious poisoner on a par with Lucrezia Borgia in the bad old days before she became a feminist icon.

Now, you must understand that when I first heard this I thought it was a joke. I have seen a lot of peculiar things in my life, from the re-election of the former junior senator from Illinois to learning that there may be as many different genders in this world as Heinz has varieties of ketchup, but I must admit that the idea of a genetic inability to digest dairy products could be the basis of a political movement had never occurred to me. Peculiar or not, however, it is so, and therefore the television stations here in the Vampire State are showing the demonstrations against our commencement speaker on almost every broadcast.

From a purely objective point of view, I will grant that there may be something to the complaints of the lactose intolerant community. Seeing your alma mater honor a man you regard as hateful does not do much to improve the climate of inclusion that all institutions of higher learning here in this our Great Republic do their utmost to foster nowadays. That being said, there is a point when the propaganda of the deed makes the propagandist look foolish, as when the lactose intolerant threaten to go to the commencement speech after eating the speaker’s product and turn the venue into a vile and noisome hellhole of reeking flatulence. Lactose intolerance does reduce the quality of one’s life, I’m sure; it can’t be easy growing up and having Mom tell you that you can’t have the ice cream the rest of the kids are eating because it will give you a bad tummy ache, but these dolts are now making themselves look ridiculous. I realize that they will call me insensitive, which I can live with—my mother calls me worse things every time I see her—but they will always call anyone they disagree with something.  This is one of the reasons that our campus comrades love speech codes so much—Alinsky was right: ridicule is a powerful weapon, but only if you’re not the target. If you are the target, if you can tell the people telling you that you’re dumber than a box of rocks to shut up, then by definition you can’t be ridiculous.  Remember, Winston, two and two are five, if the Party says so.

Of course, all of this controversy has horrified and appalled our commencement speaker, as well as the president of the university, who thought that he’s hit the jackpot with our speaker; after all, is there a less controversial subject in this world than yogurt?  Who could object to yogurt?  Now that he’s knows, the papers say that he may disinvite the speaker, since there are rumors floating around that the lactose intolerant activists may occupy the main administration building and burn it down if the president doesn’t meet their demands.  As a concerned alumnus, I think I should offer what seems to me a perfectly workable solution to the problem: let the speaker speak and tell the lactose intolerant to avoid his product. Eating the man’s yogurt is not a requirement for graduation nor is it a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights.  He’s not making the stuff to damage anyone’s sense of self-esteem nor is the dairy industry engaged in a vast conspiracy to make the lactose intolerant feel bad about themselves.  Commencement is about finally leaving school and entering the adult world. It is not nor has it ever been about anyone’s gastrointestinal problems.  As this is a practical solution to this alleged problem, I fear, it will not happen and I suspect that those lactose intolerant radicals who like to foam at the mouth about their genetic oppression will have none of it.  My second suggestion is to call in the state police and have them teargas the campus thoroughly and then crack some skulls. Frankly, I don’t think that’s not going too happen either.  Universities don’t do that sort of thing anymore, which is a pity, I think. Sometimes you really do have to pound some common sense into some people.

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