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..." " 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)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Danish and my leg, such as it is

My apologies for the prolonged absence, but I should report that I am feeling much better now, thank you for asking, and I am able to walk short distances without the cane, something for which I am almost inordinately proud of myself. Physical therapy continues as before and I spend much of my time smiling and agreeing with my therapist, an attractive young woman who combines the two traits I have found in almost all physical therapists I have ever dealt with: cheerful optimism and equally cheerful sadism. I certainly do not mind having an attractive young woman massage my right leg every other day; on the other hand, I do not understand why she does not simply haul off and pound on the leg with a baseball bat—the effect in either case is more or less the same.   

In my enforced state of stasis, I have learned that daytime television is a plot to deprive Americans of their liberties by depriving them of their ability to think critically about almost anything at all, and I have learned that Danish researchers have discovered that too much jogging is bad for you.  The two facts are not related in any way, as far as I can see, although an overconsumption of daytime television may cause the viewer not to see that a Danish researcher would say such a thing, there being an inherent conflict of interest between Danish researchers and jogging.  Time spent jogging is, by definition, time you will not use to have a Danish and maybe a nice cup of coffee while you chat with your friends. This is not a good thing, not at all, because jogging is a very antisocial activity, whether you do a lot of it or not.  You could jog with another person, of course, but you can’t really carry on an intelligent conversation with anyone when you’re blowing air out of your pie-hole like Moby Dick.  The only topic of conversation likely to interest any group of joggers is when the new guy at the back of the pack is going drop dead from a heart attack; joggers have a sick sense of humor, generally speaking. It's from spending all that time by themselves jogging. The stress makes strange things pop into their heads.

What Danish researchers ought to be researching is how come no deli in this our Great Republic can serve fresh Danish on a daily basis.  Here in our happy little burg, if you don’t get your Danish fresh on Monday, then you can forget about the rest of the week; after Monday the local consumer of Danish (i.e., me) will enjoy, if you can call it that, six degrees of ever greater staleness, until on Saturday the local consumer of Danish (i.e., me) is eating the baked equivalent of cardboard with some jam on it.  It is annoying, to say the least, and makes one question one’s commitment to the Danish as a NATO ally.  I mean, really, if the Danish cannot bother guaranteeing that the Danish is fresh, then why are we wasting the taxpayers’ money defending them from Dutch aggression? That’s what I want to know.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Academy Awards controversy

I feel that I should take this opportunity to protest the clear lack of diversity that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has demonstrated in its nominations in the acting categories this year.  I do not believe that I have to point out—indeed, tens of thousands of people have already pointed out—that of all the artists nominated in the acting categories only one is a French woman.  I find it hard to believe that the Academy could only find one French woman to nominate for anything when France invented cinema as an art form and has one of the oldest motion picture industries in the world, an industry that routinely produces hundreds of film annually. Such a brutal snub displays, I think, more than a little Francophobia and poses some very pointed questions about the Academy’s commitment to diversity.

As a corollary to the facts enumerated above, I should also point out that none of the nominees, even the French woman, is a member of a municipal fire department. In fact, I believe that I can say with a fair degree of certainty that none of the nominees is a member of a volunteer fire department, either. This, I think, is nothing short of despicable. I believe that all right-thinking people can agree that our nation’s fire departments, both career and volunteer, perform important, indeed vital, work in protecting the American movie-going public from danger every day and that the Academy’s refusal to nominate a fire fighter in any category is nothing short of churlish.

So, what are we to make of the Academy’s actions?  First, that the Academy is clearly biased against French women and fire departments is a fact so demonstrable in this year’s nominations as to be beyond the ability of any amount of face-saving p.r. to refute. Second, it is clear that the Academy will not reform its bigoted mindset unless compelled to do so. The many attempts by the French Embassy and the International Associations of Fire Chiefs to rectify the situation by behind the scenes persuasion have obviously been for naught. Therefore, I am calling on the Motion Picture Association of America, the body that rates the movies for language, violence, and sexual content, in begin issuing new ratings that will inform the public about the number of French women and fire fighters in any given motion picture and I am calling on the American public itself to boycott any motion picture in which an appropriate number of French women and fire fighters do not appear. In addition to these measures, the Academy should set aside a certain number of nominations every year for French women and fire fighters, in order to ensure fairness, and then set up a fund to encourage underprivileged French women and fire fighters to enter the motion picture field. In this way the American movie-going public can rest assured that a corrupt and venal Academy will not assault its sensibilities in such a brutal fashion and the sort of blatant bias we have all seen this year will not repeat itself.  Thank you and I will see you at the movies!

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Saturday, January 17, 2015


The right hip was replaced on Monday and today I am in the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread, so I am assuming that all went well with the operation. I have nothing on the griddle at the moment, but I am thinking and I will have something for you sooner rather than later. Until then, enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

 This is not a new post; I originally posted this in February of 2006. I was going to write a new post after the murderous events in Paris, but it seems to me that what I said then remains relevant now, so I'm just going to post this piece again.  There are references to events then in the news other than the main topic; I have left them as is.--Akaky

This being a free country and all, I figure I’m as entitled to my opinion the same as the next guy, so I’m going to take this opportunity to bloviate a little, if you don’t mind. There’s a great fight going on these days and some of the people you’d expect to be in the forefront of this struggle are surprisingly AWOL. The question facing Western civilization these days goes beyond the multicultural let’s-be-inclusive politically correct pap we’ve all been listening to for I don’t know how many years now. It goes beyond whether or not you find those Danish cartoons funny or in poor taste. Muslims throughout the world have responded to the publication of those cartoons by boycotting Danish products, denouncing Denmark in the media, and demonstrating outside of Danish embassies and consulates. All of this is, to my mind, legitimate protest; one need only remember the reaction to Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ,' Martin Scorsese’s 'The Last Temptation of Christ,' and Chris Ofili’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ to know that the faithful of all religious persuasions dislike the idea of having their beliefs mocked or the idea that they should simply sit back and accept these insults without a fight. What any society, however, cannot accept is the threat and use of violence to enforce any one religion’s dogmas as civil law on those people who do not accept that religion’s doctrines. And yet, many of the people whom you would think would never under any circumstances accept a confessional exception for the tenets of Christianity or Judaism in the law seem fully willing to accept such an exception for Islam.

And why is that? There are many reasons, but the simplest one is the easiest to understand, and has the benefit of truth as well: they are frightened; they don’t want an Islamic rent—a—mob sacking their offices and harming their families, co-workers, and friends. Who are the they I am talking about here? The media, for one, which is censoring itself in a manner it would not dream of doing for Catholic or evangelical protestors, and seems more interested in playing gotcha with the Administration over the Vice-President's hunting accident that in showing the American people what the cause of all the rioting is. Not one major media outlet that I am aware of has actually published these cartoons, and I think it is a strange commentary on the American press that their main objection to this accident is that the White House did not stroke their outsized egos as much as they would have liked. The artists and Hollywood celebrities for another, who cannot wait to give us their opinions about everything under the sun whether we want to hear them or not, but who seem very quiet in the face of this blatant attempt to blackjack Danish press and artistic expression and leave it bleeding in the gutter. Where are the celebrators of transgressive art in this controversy? These are the same folks who can’t wait for some representative of the Catholic League to denounce their latest transgressive piece of dreck in order to gin up some interest in their work, but in this matter they find that there’s nothing to be said, nothing to be done, please go away and leave us alone; what you say may be true, but first we must cultivate our gardens.

This, I think, is not something I’m sure I believe: a few Danish cartoonists create the most brilliantly transgressive art of our young century, and the local purveyors of such art have nothing to say about it, preferring, no doubt, to find new ways of dipping crucifixes in bodily waste. This is all very far indeed from Voltaire’s cry of Ecrasez l’infame (Crush the infamy!) and Flaubert’s dictum that the job of the artist is to epater le bourgeois (shock the middle-classes). When Voltaire spoke of crushing the infamy of superstition, the Roman Catholic Church in France was as powerful in is way as the state itself, and equally interested in using the temporal power of the state to enforce Catholic religious teaching and dogma as the law of the land; the law forbade anyone from questioning the doctrines of the Church and blasphemy was as foul a crime as murder. And yet, Voltaire attacked the Church again and again, using his wit and invective to stir men’s minds against the dead weight of centuries of dogma and to get people to think for themselves.

Today, however, we have artists who want to be transgressive, but only if that gets them a show in a expensive gallery in SoHo, or, barring that, in some hot new edgy place like Beacon, and afterwards a nice wine and cheese party and then a good review in the New York Times’ Sunday Arts & Leisure section. Today, we have artists who want to crush the infamy, but only if the infamy provides some buzz for their work; today, we have artists who want to shock the bourgeoisie as much as Flaubert did, but not if the bourgeoisie close their checkbooks first and go home. No one wants to deal with maniacal critics willing to use riot and intimidation in order to protect what they deem holy. Today, we seem to have a media and an arts establishment utterly unwilling to show the American people what the fuss is all about and equally unwilling to say anything in defense of the very freedoms that make their livelihoods possible. It was easy for the media and the artists and the limousine liberals to criticize the Catholic Church’s objections to a painting of the Blessed Virgin that came complete with a lump of elephant dung and photographs of female pudenda cut from porno magazines, and talk about what a brave thing this was for the artist and the Brooklyn Art Museum to do in the face of Rudy Giuliani’s threats to cut the museum’s tax support, but in the face of Islamic mob violence these same people are saying nothing, doing nothing.

I wonder if this apathy in the face of real danger is because we are a softer people than we once were. Once upon a time, people knew that taking a moral stand meant taking a risk. In the past few months, the nation has lost Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, both of whom knew that tyranny does not crumble easily and that bringing down such tyranny may cost you everything and everyone you love. In the past few months, Jack Anderson passed away, a man who dedicated his life to uncovering what actually went on in Washington, D.C. and bringing the secret into the public light, so that the American people could judge for themselves what their representatives were doing in their names, despite the pressure from the politically powerful to keep what he knew to himself. None of these people thought that what they were trying to accomplish would be risk free, or that those who stood to lose the most if the old dispensation were to join Marxism in the dustbin of history would go quietly into that good night. But they stayed in the fight, they stayed and fought for what they believed in. We don’t seem to do this anymore, we seem to say, as we often do about marriage, that this is for better or forget it, forgetting, as we make light of ourselves, that there are others watching.

Yes, there are others watching, for whom freedom of expression is a blasphemy, who believe, as St. Augustine did, that error has no rights, and everything not found in an ancient Arabic text is unworthy of existence. Perhaps the Caliph Omar did not order the destruction of the great library at Alexandria in the seventh century by saying that if the books in the library agreed with the Koran then they were superfluous, and therefore not necessary and could be destroyed, and if they disagreed with the Koran they were heresy, and therefore harmful and should be destroyed forthwith, but his co-religionists of today deeply believe that this is nothing more or less than the truth, and that even unbelievers must accept the dictates of the Prophet and the ummah, if they know what is good for them. These people will do everything in their power to reduce the corrupt and decadent West, the Dar al-Harb, the House of War, and its will to resist the coming of the True Faith, and there are more than a few of those people Lenin once called useful idiots willing to help them along. We see this in the anxious kowtowing to the notion that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance when we see every day that it is not; we see this in the twisting of news and language so as to avoid offending always sensitive Muslim sensibilities, and we see this in the playing up of Western mistakes and the playing down of Muslim ones. Robert Frost once famously defined a liberal as a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. We, it seems to me, no longer want to take our own side in this argument, that we are content to let the Danes fight the good fight for freedom of expression. And if they fail, if they buckle under to the threats of mob violence, then what of it? What is Denmark to us, or we to Denmark, that we should trouble ourselves for them?

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

...and a very Happy New Year to you all!  Best wishes for all of you in 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Benchley Memorandum, not by Robert Ludlum

For reasons I am not sure I fathom, the following thought popped into my mind last night. Maybe it was the asparagus that caused the popping; I dislike asparagus intensely and I only ate the slimy things last night because my mother cooked them. I should point out that my mother refuses to believe that the usual regimen of Honey Nut Cheerios, sausage pizza, and sugar-free orange Jello constitutes a healthy diet and routinely demands that I eat something green, if only to demonstrate some ethnic pride every so often.  As I prefer my meals without the slightly bile flavor of maternal nagging, I gave in and ate some of Mom’s asparagus. It being late, I promptly went to bed.

This was not such a good idea; sleeping with the asparagus working its way through the old organism caused no end of restlessness and bad dreams, and as I awoke this morning the following thought popped into my still exhausted brain: the former junior senator from Illinois is the Robert Benchley of American politics, sideways, sort of. The thought seemed strange at the time; I usually think of Himself as the Jackson Pollock of American politics, which is to say, a man utterly untalented at his chosen profession whose stellar reputation large numbers of people support because admitting that He is utterly untalented at His chosen profession makes them look very stupid.  After all, what is the difference between Lavender Mist and the drop cloth Joe the Painter puts down on the floor when he paints your kitchen that stupid shade of lavender your significant other insists upon because lavender is so restful? Not much really, other than the large pile of filthy lucre it takes to buy Lavender Mist. And once you’ve parted with that much loot for a painting, then the artist is going to be the greatest thing since beer in a can. He (or she; let’s not be sexist here) just is. Absolutely no two ways about it. 

But how is our Illinois Incitatus the second coming of Robert Benchley? Benchley seems to be an unlikely candidate for a solonic avatar. Benchley was a real mensch, whereas Himself is many things, but a mensch is not one of them. Benchley was funny and self-deprecating, whereas Himself is not funny without His teleprompter (most of the time, anyway) and wouldn’t know what self-deprecation was if it bit Him on the backside. Benchley was famously at war with the technology of the Industrial Age, while our prairie solon wields the new digital technology in the same way that Merlin the Wizard wielded his magic wand.

So how is He like Robert Benchley, sideways, sort of? “It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous,” said Mr. Benchley (maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t; all funny remarks whose provenance are not completely clear are, in the United States, attributed to Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, or Anonymous, in that order).  The former junior senator from Illinois deeply resembles that remark, I think, in that by the time the rest of us discovered he had no real capacity for governance, He was already President. Of course, the point of the quip is that Benchley discovers after fifteen years of working the writer’s trade that he has no talent for writing, which realization depends on a certain amount of self-knowledge, whereas I am certain that the occupant or current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thinks He’s doing a wonderful job doing whatever it is He thinks He’s doing these days and no one around Him is going to tell Him any different.  In any case, I think I will stop eating the damn asparagus after eight o’clock at night; it clearly doesn’t agree with me.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Snakes and other adventures in media

I may be horribly old-fashioned, and I do realize that there are good many people who will roll their eyes at the idea that I might be old-fashioned and say, no, you are not old-fashioned, stupid, you are completely behind the times and would you please hurry up and catch up with the Zeitgeist before you embarrass yourself completely, but I cannot fathom why anyone would think that watching an anaconda swallow a grown man is in any way entertaining.  But it seems that someone does, because I have seen a commercial for this…actually, I am not sure what to call it.  I do not know if this qualifies as a reality show, a wildlife documentary, or a cooking show. I realize that the advent of cable and satellite television, and the subsequent need for ever more content to fill the hours, has led inevitably to a diminution in the quality of the programming available for broadcast, but frankly, watching a giant snake swallow a grown man is more than a little ridiculous.  This is not entertainment; it barely qualifies as bread and circuses.

First, a spoiler alert: our intrepid hero, who has gone boldly where no man has gone before, survives his encounter with the anaconda. I know this because our intrepid hero is in all the ads for this program and appears to narrate the program as well, two bits of showmanship that more or less preclude the snake’s having digested him. That’s a dead giveaway there, if you ask me. There is no suspense involved in watching a snake swallow a man if you already know that the man survives the encounter, only a vaguely annoyed feeling with yourself for watching such rubbish in the first place. If you must feel annoyed with yourself, you may as well watch the further adventures of the Kardashian sisters; whatever else you can say about them, they are certainly better looking than a giant anaconda.

Second, what is the point of this particular exercise, other than to deny a snake its dinner?  If we must learn about the digestive processes of snakes, wouldn’t it be easier to have the snake swallow a camera the same way I do when my GI guy insists that I have a colonoscopy. Snakes have no trouble swallowing anything; their jaws uncouple, as we all learned in eighth grade biology, so that they can swallow animals bigger than their own heads.  It’s what they do.  Therefore, it should not be wildly difficult to induce an anaconda to gulp down a camera, even if there isn’t a grown man attached to it.  But why do it in the first place?  I am clearly missing something here.

Finally, swallowing is not interesting. Everyone does it every day. Our intrepid hero would be better off if he skipped being an appetizer and did something constructive like campaigning to end such violent spectacles as bullfighting, high school football, and the Miss America pageant, and replacing them with wholesome entertainment like giraffe swatting, wherein teams of drunken dwarves armed with fly swatters and equipped with pogo sticks try to swat the most flies away from the heads of giraffes running around a track before the time clock or the whiskey run out. Now, that is something I would pay good money to see and I would pay it knowing that no one was about to offend my sensibilities.

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