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)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back from Dixie!!!

Yes, I am back from Old Virginny--I was on vacation--and I am even now thinking of things to put here. I have not, as yet, come up with anything profound, but I am still trying to get back into the groove after a very nice week away from the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread, our happy little burg, and almost everything else bearing any resemblance to my normal bland and unexciting life. So, back to the grind, and I will see you all again shortly.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Post # 1,000 (it's less than that if you exclude the apologies for not writing more)

First off, I want to point out that today is a sort of dual anniversary for me. This is my 1,000th post to The Passing Parade and today marks the 29th year I’ve been working here in the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread. I’ve been trying to process the idea that babies born on the day this dump hired me are now adults with children of their own. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but the time seems to have gone by without my noticing. Lots of things do that, but time is a biggie and something you’d think I wouldn’t miss at all. But I did. I should have realized that when I noticed my beard turning gray and white without my having to dye it, but like I just said, I fail to realize lots of things, especially when they’re right in front of me.
As to the 1,000th post, I’d like to thank Tat, Dick, Snoop, and everyone else that comes here looking for a new post, and usually not finding one.  It’s nice to know people will keep coming back even during my dry spells or during one of my many violent attacks of sloth. I do appreciate it.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Post 999 of 12

“I want a roast beef sandwich, but without the roast beef. I’m a vegetarian.”  I’ve heard my share of very odd requests at The Horny Toad, the bar where I spend many of my off the clock hours, but this one seemed odder than usual. There is, to my knowledge, no substitute for roast beef in a roast beef sandwich, the roast beef and the salt, pepper, and other sundry condiments being the whole point of the roast beef sandwich. There is a word for a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef, yes there is, and that word is bread.  I suppose that somewhere there may be an acceptable substitute for the roast beef in a roast beef sandwich, but I do not believe that any of these substitutes would be acceptable to a vegetarian.  Roast pork, roast goat, roast lamb, roast choose any four-legged protein source you want, no vegetarian will surrender the smug attitude of moral superiority that comes with saying, I don’t eat meat, just so that they can have a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef.  Our bovine craving veggie eater could use a nice bit of fried eggplant on her sandwich, but for your average vegetarian frying anything other than a Republican is a most evil and wicked practice, comparable to bashing cute little kitty cats over the head with a baseball bat and then drinking their blood, and therefore is not a practice that any decent person who believes in the sanctity of both the human body and cute little kitty cats would choose to engage in.  

And then there is tuna fish, although it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how anyone could mistake a tuna fish sandwich for a roast beef sandwich; doing so would truly be a victory of mind over matter. In addition, it is also difficult for me to see the moral difference between eating a cow and eating a fish, unless the genetic accident of having fins instead of feet permits the peckish plant enthusiast to indulge a perverse proclivity for protein while simultaneously salving a guilty conscience. I can see no moral reason why vegetarians should consider the footless and fancy free tuna to be a legitimate source of dinner, whereas they would protect the cow from the dinner plate with the religious intensity of Hindus. This hardly seems fair to the fish and privileges a terrestrial creature over a maritime one, which is the sort of rank specieist discrimination I think we can all agree has no place in modern American life. So the next time you feel like a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef, eat the bread instead. But make sure that it’s wheat bread and filled with gluten. You can hate gluten these days and I’m sure it has done something to deserve its fate.

PS This is my 999th post here. I kept trying to think of something outstanding for the post but nothing came, so you are stuck with this. Sorry.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

World Naked Gardening, I am not kidding

I see that World Naked Gardening Day is upon us yet again (how the time does fly, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday that we were all talking about this and now here it is again). Now I understand that there are many events in this world where the reasoning behind the event is a bit obscure to anyone not actually involved in the event. Soccer games and Grateful Dead concerts come immediately to mind, and I know that there is an annual bathtub race in Nome, Alaska, for another example, and there is a Garlic Festival held every year about 45 miles up the river from our happy little burg, but the reasoning behind nude gardening in the first place and celebrating nude gardening in the second place is proving particularly elusive to me. I can see no advantages to gardening in the nude and there appears to be no end of disadvantages. Gardening in the nude increases the amount of skin affected by a chance encounter with poison ivy, an always unpleasant encounter leading to an even more unpleasant experience, and gives many insects--bees and wasps, for instance--a much broader area to make their displeasure with the gardener's disturbing their natural habitat known. And unless you are Daniel Craig or Kate Upton, your neighbors will use the opportunity presented by you puttering around in your garden in the altogether to mock you openly, mockery, if you will please forgive me for pointing this out, you will have earned. So please, on May 7th, do not garden in the nude. Pay no attention to the pleas of those who want you to do this and who will then laugh at you when you do. Just say no. Put on some old trousers and an old shirt and a straw hat and go forth to do battle with the weeds. The weeds will respect you more as well.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

More whiny excuses for not writing. You'd think I'd get tired of writing these things.

I should write more often, I suppose; I have plenty of time, in a sideways sort of fashion, and no real excuse not to write, so I should do it more than I do.  I can’t even use Dorothy Parker’s excuse for not writing: the pencil was broken. I have boxes of pencils in my desk and a new pencil sharpener (a manual) that I like very much, so the breaking of a pencil is a non-issue for me.  And I am sure that you’ve read some of my paeans to sloth and writer’s block and procrastination, none of which is really applicable in this particular case. So why am I not writing more? I don’t know. I don’t have too many ideas at the moment, but that’s never stopped me before, which is not really true but it does make me sound like the little red engine that could, a story I loved when I was a kid, With an election going on, one would think that there would be veritable scads of things to write about, given that the citizenry of this our Great Republic can choose this year between an unqualified carnival barker and a felonious oligarch whose main qualification for the highest office in the land appear to be her reproductive organs. In any normal society, the only job for which possession of reproductive organs are an absolute requirement is that of porn star, but we do not appear to be living in a normal society at the moment. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with reality anymore.

No, I’d say that the reason that I haven’t written anything in a while is that I just don’t want to write anything.  As an excuse, this smacks of a certain willfulness—it’s the sort of excuse that a child gives for not wanting to eat her Brussels sprouts and is usually the first stop on the way to a first class temper tantrum. But why should she eat her Brussels sprouts? Brussels sprouts are revolting; not as disgusting as Lima beans or asparagus or calf’s liver, mind you, but still pretty disgusting in their own right, and the parental pretext that Brussels sprouts are good for a growing child hardly seems an adequate reason to eat the damn things. Many things are good for you, like root canal work and colonoscopies, but no one recommends that children endure them on a regular basis. So let’s stop with the Brussels sprouts already, okay? As the prominent American social philosopher J. H. Marx once pointed out, the world would be a better place if the parents had to eat the broccoli.

And why should I write? A Sumerian tax collector invented writing so that he could remember how much he was gouging honest, hardworking Sumerian and Akkadian entrepreneurs. The abomination of taxation that began then has continued unto this very day. As I sit here in this dingy watering hole contemplating the unfairness of a world where that smug creep drinking whiskey sours down at the end of the bar has a chance with the hot blonde who just came in and I don’t, the tax code in this country is now just over seventy thousand pages long. Think about that for a minute: you could probably fit every book worth reading in the English language and throw in ten years’ worth of the Manhattan White Pages and maybe a copy of the Talmud as well inside of seventy thousand pages, and all of that stuff put together would have a more interesting plot than the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986. So why write? After seventy thousand pages, what more is there to say, assuming there was anything from the IRS worth saying in the first place? O, will this too too solid flesh melt and resolve itself into a dew, preferably the diet kind: the Dew with the sugar is too sweet for me, even if there’s enough caffeine in it to keep me awake for most of the day.

All right, I am drifting here; I know that when I am purposefully quoting Shakespeare. Quoting Shakespeare will let you get away with a lot of things, especially when you are whining and want to make the whine sound vaguely distinguished. This doesn’t really work, but I like to think that it does, so I keep doing it. This is better than beating up old people in the street, I think, or writing cookbooks for tarantulas, so I will keep at it.  And I won’t eat my Brussels sprouts or write until I feel like it. So there, take that.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

And Eliza says...

The[1] rain[2] in[3] Spain[4] stays[5] mainly[6] in[7] the[8] plain.[9]

[1]English’s definite article, the word that says that the word after it is the one you are talking about and not some other word that may or may not mean the same thing. The is in direct contrast with a or an, which are English’s indefinite articles, which do not describe specific things but rather members of a class of the same thing. For example, the rock refers to a specific rock that I may or may not throw at your front window as the fancy strikes me, and if the fancy does strikes me you can bet your bottom dollar that I will throw the rock—I am no turn the other cheek advocate, not by a long shot, guys, and if you think you can chuck a fancy at me without me chucking something right back at you then you are seriously deluding yourself. On the other hand, a rock refers to any rock that I may have at hand to accomplish this purpose. An is a’s little brother and is used in front of words that begin with a vowel. English objects to the idea of naked vowels at the beginning of a word for some reason and so insists that a consonant precedes them. This sort of Victorian prudery went out the door during the 1960’s, of course, and normal people don’t insist on this sort of rubbish anymore, but the grammar police still demand that words beginning in a vowel have a consonant chaperone, lest the neighbors start talking and give the word a bad reputation. All words would like to have a good reputation, except for the swear words, for obvious reasons, and ain’t, which has been disreputable for so long that it has a hard time imagining itself as a reputable member of lexicographical society. It keeps on trying, God love it, and who knows, maybe someday ain’t will be respectable. As Noah Cross says in Roman Polanski’s film, Chinatown, ‘politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.’ The same process might occur for ain’t; we can only hope. Ain’t deserves some respect, I think, if only for hanging on for so long against the power of the grammar Nazis.
       So to reiterate, the is the definite English article and a or an is the indefinite English article. Some languages, like Russian and Chinese, do not have articles at all and do not seem to care, whereas other languages, like French or German, can have three or more. This seems to be a matter of linguistic taste, along with anchovies on pizza or mayonnaise on French fries, both habits that are more than a little nauseating and which good parents should endeavor to discourage in their children.

[2] A natural phenomenon best known for its ability to ruin parades. I am not sure why rain hates parades so much; the frequency with which rain will go out of its way to ruin a parade suggests that the animosity is personal, which in turn suggests that this is some kind of childhood trauma or perhaps the result of a love affair gone horribly wrong, but science does know that parades invite rain the way a white shirt invites spatters of spaghetti sauce. Given these facts, one should always go to a parade with an umbrella and galoshes. Rain that does not fall on a parade or anywhere else is called virga. This really doesn’t have anything to do with anything we are discussing here, but it is the sort of meteorological fun fact that you can impress your friends with at the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show while you are waiting for the rain to end.

[3] An uninteresting word, well-known for its Bolshevistic tendencies. In its youth, in was a Trotskyite with Bukharinist overtones, but after the Moscow show trials began in began its full-throated support of Stalinism and demanded that the security organs destroy all kulaks, class enemies, and wreckers. A lot of this went on in those days and the people who had been Stalinists all along could not help but notice that in was a little late to the game. In noticed that the Stalinists noticed and, being a highly intelligent article as articles go, decided to get himself out of the worker’s paradise before the inevitable meeting with Vasili Blokhin occurred.  So in the summer of 1937, in had himself smuggled out of the Soviet Union disguised as a bottle of cheap vodka. After the tumult of the October Revolution and the Civil War and all the other crises that made early 20th century Russia a bad place to sell life insurance, in decided that he wanted a quiet, well-ordered existence where he would be safe from the Chekhists. He found this existence inside the Oxford English Dictionary, where in resides to this day. He is very old now, of course, but he is very happy that he outlived all the other Old Bolsheviks and everyone who remembered the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (for those of you interested in such things, the Cubs last won the Series in 1908).

[4] A place. It rains there, or so I’ve heard.

[5] What you can count on relatives to do whether you want them to or not.  Free room and board will attract lots of people that you only want to see on the Christmas holidays, and not even then, to be perfectly honest. They are very nice people in their native habitat, wherever that may be, and you wish they would go back there as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they are eating you out of house and home, and expect you to do their laundry and drive them to the mall whenever the urge to commit commerce strikes them. I understand that family feeling should count for something in this day and age, but frankly, I don’t remember when I started to think that opening  a not for profit hotel was a good idea and I wish to get out of the business as soon as possible.

[6] An adverb, which is just a verb without full time employment. Please don’t start on me; I know that the economy is hurting and that the competition for full-time employment is intense. No one wants to hire English verbs anymore, not when they can get a Mexican verb to do the same job for less than minimum wage, but most adverbs are just not trying hard enough. If they had stayed in school like their parents told them instead of hanging out in the boy’s bathroom smoking marijuana and listening to that damn heavy metal music, they’d all have good paying jobs now instead of living in their parents’ basement playing video games to all hours of the night.  Am I right or what? Adverbs today are just a generation of slackers that just don’t want to grow up. Annoying, and probably not politically correct to say so, but true is still true whether you like it or not.

[7] Cf. Note 3. Not going there again, folks. Been there, done that, got the revolutionary t-shirt to prove it.

[8] Cf. Note 1. Ditto.

[9] Yogurt without the stale fruit on the bottom. I am not sure why anyone eats yogurt in the first place. Eating something with the look and consistency of snot seems to be a complete repudiation of what our mothers told us not to do in kindergarten, but I seem to be alone in this opinion. Every year dairy farmers turn millions of gallons of milk into yogurt and someone must eat the stuff because it disappears off the store shelves with great regularity.  I can’t explain why anyone would want to eat yogurt, in much the same way I can’t explain why anyone would think voting for a Democrat is a good idea, but someone must want to; they keep turning up on the ballot like termites in an old house.  It’s just another of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Sunday school lessons...really

As I sat half-listening to the lector[1] at Mass on Sunday morning—my mother and the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church insist that I go to at least one Mass every year unrelated to someone getting married or dropping dead—it stuck me how much of the Christian Bible, that portion the bitter clingers refer to as the New Testament, is actually mail, twenty-one pieces of first class mail, in fact. I thought this a bit odd at the time. The Buddha found the path to enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, Moses got the Good Word from a bush that burned without burning, thereby causing and preventing forest fires in one fell swoop, and the archangel Gabriel had to tell Muhammad to recite three times before the Prophet finally got the point and started reciting. But Christianity? Christianity comes to us via the faith of the Apostles, the sacrifice of the martyrs, and the exertions of the Roman post office.

Such a reliance on the post office, however, creates a number of problems for the serious student of Christian theology and early church history. Take, for example, Saint Paul’s understanding of the Trinity. We would understand his view of this key Christian concept much better if the post office hadn’t delivered his umpteenth letter to the Ephesians to an Athenian potter named Aristophanes, who intended to return the letter to the post office, he really did, but he unintentionally dropped it on the floor of the Registry Room at Ellis Island while on his way to his uncle’s diner in Chicago and a new career in dish washing. Miss Bridget McGuire of Ballinalee, County Longford, Ireland, found the letter on the floor a few hours later next to an Armenian newspaper and a half eaten falafel and dropped the letter into the nearest mailbox. St. Paul’s umpteenth letter to the Ephesians wound up in the dead letter file at the James A. Farley Main Post Office in midtown Manhattan where it rests to this day next to the letters to Santa Claus. The poor service did not go unnoticed; St. Paul called the post office to complain as soon as he got to Corinth; the Corinthians had a working payphone in the agora; and the answering machine he got promptly put him on hold. He was the 117th caller in the queue, but prayer and divine intervention moved him up to third, behind a gladiator salesman and an actor phoning in his performance of Oedipus Rex. He finally got an operator, who took his complaint and, as soon as the call was over, threw the complaint into the wastepaper basket. Sometimes having the Almighty on your side just isn’t enough.

And then there is the question of what books did or did not make it into the New Testament. I speak here of the Gnostic Gospels, which may not have made into the biblical canon solely because someone thought that they were junk mail and threw them into the trash. There were few moments in ancient Roman life more annoying than going out to your mailbox in anticipation of seeing this month’s Playboy’s Girls of Pompeii issue with the Caledonian redhead with the admirable assets in the centerfold that you’ve heard so much about and coming away with a dense theological tract you didn’t ask for in the first place. The early Church Fathers, on the other hand, did not much care much for the Caledonian colleen or her assets, no matter how admirable they were, and the Fathers determined that, as soon as they had their doctrines worked out and ready to go, they would go forth in a spirit of love and charity and convert the Caledonians to the True Faith, the better to make sure that shameless tart put some clothes on.

The Gnostic Gospels were themselves a cause of many complaints; the Gnostics mailed so many Gospels that they were clogging landfills throughout the Middle East. People simply weren’t interested in what the Gnostics had to say and chucked out their gospels along with yesterday’s newspapers and the other junk mail. The officials at the recycling station at Nag Hammadi announced that they weren’t going to take the Gnostics’ gospels anymore; they didn’t have the room for them, and they asked the post office to stop delivering them. The post office agreed and the outraged Gnostics immediately sued, saying that the post office was infringing on their civil liberties. The Gnostics might have won the case–they had a strong case and a very good lawyer–if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen while they were waiting for the judge to set a court date. Timing, as they say, is all.

The barbarian hordes who replaced the Romans had no use for literacy or Christian theology and hence had no use for post offices, regarding all three things as vaguely effeminate Roman notions that no good barbarian would care to indulge in. When a barbarian wanted to send a message, he would go to the person he wanted to talk to and talk to them, or, if the message was sufficiently serious, he would cleave the other person’s skull open with an axe. Skull cleaving was a much more effective way of getting one’s point across than writing a letter and trying to remember if I and J were still the same letter or were they different now, and why hadn’t Thomas Edison invented the W yet? It didn’t really matter in the long run, as the barbarian hordes were, as mentioned, illiterate, and probably dyslexic as well, so the destruction of the Roman post office was a cost effective way to solve the problem: in a world where there is nothing to read, then the literate, the illiterate, and the dyslexic are all one and the same, and if they are all one and the same, then there’s no point having a post office to remind them that they aren’t. Barbarian hordes are more than vaguely socialistic that way, I think.

Of course, the end of the Roman post office was a boon for the Church. With no one to deliver their epistles denouncing each other as fools, louts, mountebanks, and ignorant calumniators stuffed with Irish porridge[2], the bishops had to hit the highways that still remained--not very many, all in all, as most good barbarians didn't believe in wasting good money on infrastructure--and go to ecclesiastical councils all over Europe in order to clarify what it was they believed. The people of the Mediterranean basin joked about the endless procession of bishops going hither and yon to councils, racking up frequent donkey miles at the Church’s expense in the process. The bishops would smile when they heard the joke, and they would bless the peasants telling it, before having them all flogged to within an inch of their lives for their insolence. Didn’t these poor schmoes understand that an unlimited expense account and the prospect of years and years of Club Med vacations was a powerful inducement for young men to enter the priesthood, especially those young men who found crusading in the Holy Land a bit of a chore? There’s only so much hacking and slashing of Saracens you can do before it all becomes routine and you want to do something more interesting with your free time. There were a lot of those guys back in the day; the lengths some people would take to stay away from Vietnam were truly astonishing.

[1] The lector, in case you’re interested in such mundane stuff, is the guy (or gal) who gives the first and second readings from the Bible during the Roman Catholic Mass. The order is: first reading from the Old Testament, then a Psalm, in which he (or she) reads a part of the Psalm of the day and the congregation answers with a line from the same Psalm, and then the second reading from any part of the New Testament that isn’t the Gospels. Only the priest reads from the Gospels, followed immediately by the priest’s homily for the day. Catholic homilies are usually much shorter than Protestant sermons, largely because the whole point of Mass is the stylized re-enactment of the Last Supper that follows the homily and is not, as it seems to be the case with our separated brethren, an opportunity to listen to some overweight man in an ill-fitting polyester suit giving you his opinion about what the day’s reading meant at the top of his lungs. Nobody is interested in what the priest thinks about the Gospel reading; we want him to get on with Mass so that we can beat the traffic to Wal-Mart.

[2] An actual quote from Saint Jerome about the heresiarch Pelagius, for whom Jerome clearly had no use.

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