Monday, June 27, 2022

An argument for hybrid vigor

I was looking at some historic pictures of different dog breeds, from late in the 19th century, and you know what? The characteristics that make those different kinds of dogs look like they do are much less pronounced than today’s examples of the same breeds. Today’s wrinkly dogs are wrinklier, the dwarfy ones are dwarfier, and so forth. And of course, they also tend to suffer all the sequelae of inbreeding: tumors and bad hips and respiratory difficulties and also sometimes bad brains. It’s a cruel experiment in eugenics and enforced racial purity, and nothing to be proud of, boys.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Compared To What

Right now the best we can hope for is terrible. Awful people are getting exactly what they want at the expense of perfectly decent folks who are getting screwed in ways that range from mildly annoying to absolutely horrific. Seems like everybody I know is stressing out like never before because of what feels like a gathering confluence of nightmare scenarios coming home to roost in a shitstorm of tortured similes and mixed metaphors. But I say don’t panic. And I say that not because things ain’t so bad but because they were never all that good to begin with.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Jung America

Did you used to read comic books? Remember Bizarro? He was like the shadow version of Superman; everything about him was the opposite of the Man of Steel. It was played for laughs and eventually they dreamed up a whole Bizarro World, where everything was a parody of mid-century middle-class American life. Like, the Bizarro dad would wear a frilly apron and wash dishes. Hilarious! Anyway, I’ve decided that this right here is Bizarro World, with everything backwards. In this world, the same government that can’t tell anyone to wear a face mask can force them to have a baby.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Life is like a metaphor

When you think about it, life is like a new pair of shoes. They’re uncomfortable at first and need breaking in. It’s an awkward phase. But after a while they both feel good and look good. You strut around looking snappy. Inevitably, after a time they start to become scuffed and worn, but at the same time they’re actually getting more comfortable. This is the best part, so you find yourself putting some effort into keeping them going. Early repairs yield promising results, but subsequent fixes are tenuous, transitory, and ultimately unsatisfactory. Finally they fall apart completely and that’s it.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Lives of the Philosophers, Pt. 9

Bertrand Russell looked exactly like you might imagine an English philosopher looking. No. Wait. I’ll go so far as to say that he looked exactly like a casting director might want a character actor to look as he cast about for someone to portray an English philosopher. I’ll even specify  a lazy and unimaginative casting director, unless that’s redundant. We are told that Bertrand Russell was extremely intelligent, yet he was married four times to four different people. On the other hand, he wrote “Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him,” which is pretty dang brilliant.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Caste mark

When I read a crossword clue that said “Napa excursion” for eight letters, I immediately thought “parts run.” The correct answer was “wine tour.” I should have known; this was in the New York Times, which is not generally considered the news source of record for America’s grease monkeys and shade-tree mechanics, especially since the demise of the Saab, which company I believe made it a policy to exclusively employ philosophy PhDs or published poets in their service departments. Plus, their three-cylinder engine would actually run backwards if you hooked up the wires wrong. And adjusting the valves was challenging.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Well, duh

Here’s a science headline I just read: “Prehistoric people created art by firelight, new research reveals.” On reflection (teehee) I do not find this particularly illuminating (harhar). Our prehistoric Paleolithic ancestors created their cave art in caves, places which are notoriously dark. And although your average Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon had a lot of the same stuff as us (opposable thumbs, big brain case), they didn’t have light bulbs. In fact, when people needed light, something (wood, tallow, oil, paraffin, gas) had to be on fire right up until around the time my great-grandparents were born. (Unless they used their cellphones.)

Monday, May 2, 2022

With age comes wisdom.

You know how sometimes you and some running buddies would get into maybe a little too much Everclear and non-prescription pharmaceuticals and get it into your heads that it would be a lot of fun to go joy riding in a vehicle that didn’t belong to you? And if you were ever young you’ll recall the exhilaration of evading the pursuing law enforcement officers before bailing out and heading home to sleep it off. It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, the authorities seem to anticipate your every move, always one step ahead. It’s hard to steal a streetcar.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Or Pigskin Blucher?

Does everything have to be about something? Can’t a work of art stand as a thing unto itself, without reference to any external touchpoint? Shouldn’t it be possible to create a brave new oeuvre of pure prose, unsullied by topic or intention, free from the limitations imposed by any perceived imperative to communicate an idea or transmit information? Must all human endeavor be shoehorned into the narrow confines of pure utilitarian functionality like a great big monkey foot jammed into a narrow and inflexible cordovan wingtip? I hope not. Because I’ve not got the vaguest idea what to write today.

Monday, April 18, 2022

I can only hope.

I found out on NPR, which has never lied to me, that the common word beginning with “G” that we have customarily used when referring to Romani people is a hurtful racial slur. Bad news for Django Reinhardt emulators the world over who may need to change the name of an entire musical sub-genre. Ditto for a cool Curtis Mayfield song and a certain industrial vacuum cleaner. And possibly my opera “Meredith, or How The Elephant Lost Her Stripes” will, on the basis of a single scene, be subject to widespread protests and calls for its withdrawal. Assuming anyone notices.

Monday, April 11, 2022


Okay. Bear with me. Ithaca, New York, is named after the Greek island where Odysseus, alongside his son Telemachus, killed a whole houseful of suitors who were sniffing around his wife Penelope while he was away. Ithaca, New York, is not home to the world’s largest watering can. That’s in Utica. Ithaca, Michigan, is named after Ithaca, New York, and it’s where you’ll find Pencil Craft LLC, providers of high-quality giant pencils. Pencil Craft owner Vic Flegel offers several sizes, all of them featuring real wood, real graphite, real pink rubber erasers, and genuine copper ferrules. They are surprisingly affordable.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Let's all know more knowledge!

It turns out that you contain more than 50 glands. And some of them have extremely funny names. Like Meibomian gland, Ebner's glands, and the unforgettable Glands of Zeis. Research has revealed that each gland produces its own specialized goop that does something vitally important, at least for the tissues and organs in its immediate vicinity. As an example, if you didn’t have saliva glands you’d have nothing to spit. As it is, they are so active that the average human swallows between 1 and 1.5 liters of saliva every day. Fortunately, not all at once, from a big mug.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Some grosser than others

Probably as you begin a new week there’s a bunch of stuff you want to get done, like transcending your gross physical form and becoming a spotless being of pure light and energy. It’s a tall order, but here’s a great way to start! Invite some Black Angus cattle into your home; treat them like family. Encourage them to share your simple vegan diet and to participate in ongoing discussions around how best to create a humane, ethical, sustainable future for the planet we all share. Then, when you have bored them to death, chop them up and eat them.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Like Clockwork

Did you know that when they first instituted time zones (so trains could keep schedules as they crossed longitudes) some people objected because as far as they were concerned their actual local solar noon defined “God’s time?” But to no avail; where I live, it won’t actually be noon today until about 13:08. And they’re seriously talking about making daylight saving time a year-round thing and my question is why not leave it alone and just start work and school earlier? Because at my age, springing forward is unappealing. I may not have an hour and eight minutes to spare.

Monday, March 14, 2022

I'm Gonna Be Strong

Call me squeamish, but simply hearing certain words spoken aloud can make me queasy. Oddly enough, among those words are “squeamish” and “queasy.” Nearly as bad: Gene Pitney’s voice, mayonnaise on corned beef, and the taste of strawberry Quik. Also among the things that make me squirm, that I find embarrassing and cringe-inducing, is when people say “out of” when they mean “from.” Unless you’re William S. Burroughs or a character in Guys and Dolls, it’s dumb. “They’re a small marketing consultancy out of Des Moines,” just sounds silly –unless by “small marketing consultancy” you mean “murder for hire operation.”

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Old Reliables

When I write this stuff, I try to avoid being too topical in my choice of subject matter because I want to leave a deathless legacy of universal human truths. I want the readers of the fall-flung future, resplendent in their gossamer tunics, to remark to one another (whether in Esperanto or through telepathy) that this particular long-dead scribe (me) had an astonishing grasp of the human condition and it just goes to show that the more things change the more they stay the same. That’s why my rants emphasize misery, cruelty, greed, and stupidity. They’ll never let you down.

Monday, February 28, 2022


My dog picks up a lot of Stickywilly during our perambulations, during the Stickywilly season. This weed is also known as Goosegrass, Cleavers, Clivers, Bedstraw, Barweed, Hedgeheriff, Hayriffe, Eriffe, Grip Grass, Hayruff, Catchweed, Scratweed, Mutton Chops, Robin-run-in-the-Grass, Loveman, Tongue Bleed, Goosebill, and Everlasting Friendship. But me, I like to call it Stickywilly. Reportedly it is edible and after you’ve tried it you should get back to me on that. Not much of a rant today I guess. I’m a little distracted. You know what Vladimir Nabokov said? He said, “Unfortunately, Russians today have completely lost their ability to kill tyrants.”

Monday, February 21, 2022

I suggest a dark gritty reboot

If you think about it, it’s pretty incredible that I’ve been writing and posting these things pretty much weekly since January 2007 without once mentioning Mr. Magoo. Well, dammit, that stops as of right now. Because I just learned that in 1997 there was a quickly forgotten live action Mr. Magoo movie starring Leslie Nielsen. A little follow-up reading reveals that it was an unfunny piece of crap. Of course it was. Leslie Nielsen? What were they thinking? There is only one living actor capable of taking on this iconic role and doing it justice. That man is Malcolm McDowell.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Stuff envelopes at home!

It’s like playing Russian Roulette without spinning the cylinder. Like playing catch with a hand grenade. The way a financial bubble works is that each successive buyer has to be stupider than the one before them. This is why I’m not getting involved in this whole crypto thing. Who could I sell to? The only people I know who are dumber than I am have already bought in. I’m going to put my money into something with a proven track record, like Beanie Babies or chinchillas. Or I’ll just sit tight till that Nigerian prince comes through with my dough.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Cosmo Allegretti was Mister Moose


Bet you didn’t know that Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, who played Mister Green Jeans on Captain Kangaroo, was at one point the bassist for Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, and that the Waring Blender was named for that selfsame bandleader. Why do I mention this? Well, I read a witty quote from JBS Haldane (“Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”) and then I googled him and noticed that he looked remarkably like Captain Kangaroo. So, like all great discoveries, there was an element of chance involved.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Science serving humanity

Scientists collaborating at Tufts and Harvard have made an amazing medical advance. I quote: “On adult frogs, which are naturally unable to regenerate limbs, the researchers were able to trigger regrowth of a lost leg using a five-drug cocktail applied in a silicone wearable bioreactor dome that seals in the elixir over the stump for just 24 hours. That brief treatment sets in motion an 18-month period of regrowth that restores a functional leg.” Sure, it’s a limited study, and still in trial stages. But for those of us who enjoy frogs’ legs, this could be very big news indeed.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Spicy Stories

I rang the doorbell, didn’t I? Because he can. I never had five dollars before. I just wanted to tell you your sign fell down. You’re gonna hate Wednesdays. Got singles for a ten? Scream all you want, I’m keeping the umbrella. Paint my house. Go ahead, it’s your cow. Now we’re banned from Ikea. I don’t know, I never looked. Dang, my watch is an hour fast. You don’t come here just for the hunting, do you? Well, son, your mother is spoiled. Twenty dollars, same as in town. It’ll keep the sheet off your legs. I’m telling everybody!

Monday, January 17, 2022

Check the couch cushions

So I was reading about mammals – actually most everything you’ll ever read, from the New York Times to Great Expectations, is about mammals – but I mean I was reading about mammals as critters, when I came across this sentence: “This group of vertebrates ranges in size from tiny shrews or small bats weighing only a few grams to the largest known animals, the whales.” And I see where they’re going here, wonders of nature and all, but do they really have to specify that whales are the largest known animals? Are there possibly larger, unknown ones? Where are they hiding?

Monday, January 10, 2022

Lower your expectations... more.

So, I went to a wedding the weekend before last and one of the folks there tested positive so I hunkered down and then got a drive-through test and felt kinda crappy so I cancelled my dental appointment for this morning but then the test came back negative so I guess I just had some generalized crud and the dentist it turns out hadn’t filled my slot so I’m headed over there in a couple minutes which is why I don’t have time to write a rant, just this lame excuse. Maybe I should re-christen these the “100 word alibis.”

Monday, January 3, 2022

This will have to do

Wow. I almost forgot to write the first rant of this new year. I mean, usually I write one first thing but somehow I spaced out and it didn’t occur to me till moments ago that was in fact Monday and that it frickin’ behooved me like a goldurn banshee to get on the stick and get to rantin’. Let’s see. There’s nothing to report on the usually reliable Big Pencil front, so that’s out. It looks like I’ll have to fall back on how little I really have to rant about. It’s an inauspicious beginning to our 15th season.