Jan 31, 2014

Safety Fist

commentary by killre

This is the story of my latest brush with that widespread societal psychosis which manifests in stupefying incidents I'm going to start calling One Loud Bozo Proclaiming His Anecdotal Evidence That It's All A Fat Lot Of Hooey.  See if you commiserate.

It was Wednesday, which is my day to pick up my daughter from school.  I like it less than Friday, which is the day I pick her up from her after-school chess club.  That invariably involves arriving a few minutes before the meeting ends and standing in line in the hallway awaiting my turn to announce which sweet child is mine, only to watch three, four, sometimes five other legal guardians who --not to be xenophobic or anything-- apparently hail from cultures that have yet to recognize The Line as a concept, and instead push their way to the front and even stick their head into the classroom as if they aren't already acting like [sphincters].

Still, I like Wednesdays less than Fridays.  One reason is that whomever decided to put that school in that location gave very little thought to the traffic patterns created by hundreds of parents dropping their kids off or picking their kids up simultaneously.  Bussing is decidedly not big here.  Another reason is that what little thought was given to traffic is not fully understood by most of the parents in question.  It's a bit like standing in line... but while piloting big pieces of machinery, and multiplied by a factor of fifteen.

Rather than plunge into the depths of that maelstrom, I usually park about three blocks from the school and walk the rest of the way.  That's how I came to be sitting on an uncomfortable bench in front of the school, amidst a throng of several dozen other parents, grandparents, babysitters and such, waiting for the last bell to sound, when my wandering ears heard one loud bozo begin his proclamation...

"I don't know.  I realize I'm in the minority, but I think all this safety crap is..."

Ambient noise drowned the rest of his sentence, so I can't testify it ended with "a fat lot of hooey," but that's clearly the sentiment he was on his way to expressing.  He then outlined a scenario from his childhood involving bicycles, a homemade ramp, and a dearth of self-regard or safety equipment.  He ended the story with a slogan he would probably try to copyright if he knew how: "Kids bounce good."

Don't get me wrong: I don't even wholly disagree with him on this point.  I still ride a bike on occasion, and have never --not even once-- strapped one of those silly-looking plastic hats to my head.  I seldom do anything crazy, though.  I stick to bike trails, sidewalks, and seldom-used avenues whenever I can.  When I do have to deal with traffic I stay very conscious of the fact that I am an interloper, regardless of what the law says-- like a small dog running with a herd of elephants.  Most important, I am old enough to decide for myself whether or not to wear a helmet.  Kids, not so much.

The guy wasn't done pontificating.  I have been known to rant and rail from time to time on behalf of a losing cause... (For instance, I think most of the so-called writing flooding the screens of our computerized devices these days is, metaphorically, a bad batch of bebop to Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.  Sure, it has a catchy name and may be popular for five minutes, but that doesn't mean it isn't atonal caterwauling compared to the classics.) ...but this guy is so old-school he's still fighting the seat belt debate.  He did so on this occasion by singing a familiar refrain that has been used by half a dozen would-be comedians whose names you don't know --because being truly funny over the long term requires brain power-- and by a dozen or more other people you've no doubt encountered in your life who never bothered to actually think through the things they believe.

See if you recognize the refrain: it starts with the words "Why, I used to...," then describes a potentially dangerous activity (or an ordinary activity dangerously done), and ends with "...and I turned out fine."

Mentally, I rolled my eyes.  Physically, I rolled my eyes and turned my head a little to get a look at this prophet of the church of Survival of the Dumb-luckiest (copyright pending).  He looked like the person central casting would send if you asked them for someone who looks not only like a guy who would drive one of those really big pick-up trucks, but in fact like the guy who was driving one the other day and cut you off without signaling, then gave you the finger when you honked at him for doing it.  His flesh was hung on one of the more large-issue human frames, complete with an oversized head and beefy bare arms.  Basically, he was a left guard with mirrored sunglasses and a bushy beard.

He was standing, of course, because if one is going to proselytize, one should stand.  Moreover, he was bent forward slightly so as to tower over and talk down to the poor schlub who was on the receiving end of the discourse, because some dark, hairy part of the peanut brain inside the oversized head was grunting at him that the best way to win a war of words is to physically dominate an opponent who shows little interest in fighting back.

The poor schlub, for his part, was sitting on a bench in front of this discredible hulk, avoiding eye contact and visibly wondering what injustice he'd committed to cause the universe to pay him back in this way.  (My personal theory is that he chose to wear so much San Francisco Giants gear --in January, mind you-- that it really ought to be illegal.)

Part of me wanted to walk over there and say:

It's great that nothing bad has ever happened to you or anyone you know, but you do realize that stories that end with "and I turned out fine" are only told by the ones who turned out fine.  While they may be the majority, there are plenty of other people who can't tell stories like that because they're dead now.  And there are plenty more who could tell two-thirds of the same story, but instead of "I turned out fine" it would end with "that's why I'll be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life."  You do know that, right?

Several factors conspired to stop me.  One of the biggest was that I'd been nursing myself through some kind of low-grade, 48-hour flu bug that had left me so fatigued I was barely able to drive three miles and walk three blocks to make sure my own child got safely home, and I wasn't looking forward to the return trip.  I was in no mood for an argument, which surely would have ensued.

As the diatribe moved to how child safety seats are a bunch of bunk, the Giants fan tried what I call a glancing dissent.  Addressing a lamp post approximately forty degrees to his assailant's left, he said, "Oh, I don't know that I entirely agree with that."

The big guy volleyed by saying, "Hey, if a semi runs over you..." and opining that seat belts and safety seats aren't going to make much difference.

Had I been peeved by the way he phrased that, I might have spoken.  I might have ignored that seat belts and safety seats are designed for all sorts of accidents, not necessarily just those that turn cars into some sort of metal pancake that has been clumsily and prematurely flipped, and instead told him that slightly more than three out of every four accidents involving both a tractor-trailer and an automobile are the fault of the person driving the car.  That statistic comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and is compiled from official police accident reports nationwide.  I might have pointed out that not all such accidents result in fatalities (partly due to safety equipment), but of the ones that do the odds are 3-1 in favor of the amateur motorist having done something ignorant, arrogant, careless, downright stupid, or motivated by that combustible mixture of clinical depression and blaze-of-glory self-importance that seeks to somehow include others in suicide.  So, I might have concluded, a more accurate way of saying it would be, "If you manage to get yourself run over by a semi..."

I might have, if I'd been peeved.

P.S.... Dan "I'm Confused; I Thought 'Proselytize' Meant
'To Attach A Fake Limb'" Hicks must go.

Jan 29, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen... Our Three Stooges

Right back at you, Joker.

How can Bohner be darker than Mr. Obama? Might be time to lay off the tanning bed, John. And why so glum? Maybe he regrets that mint green tie.

Jan 28, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger

in memoriam

During one joint appearance, Arlo Guthrie made reference to his friend and fellow folk musician Pete Seeger's penchant for encouraging the audience to sing along by quickly supplying them with the words in the few fleeting beats between lyrics.  To paraphrase Guthrie: "Pete's the only guy I know who can sing a song twice the first time through."

Somehow, it seems appropriate to reproduce here the lyrics to my favorite Pete Seeger recording.  It is a new-twist rendering of "Old-time Religion," performed at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1980.

(It opens with the chorus, as follows)

Give me that old-time religion.  Give me that old-time religion.
Give me that old-time religion.  It's good enough for me.

We will pray with Aphrodite.  We will pray with Aphrodite.
She wears that see-through nightie and it's good enough for me.


We will pray with Zarathustra.  We'll pray just like we use-ta.
I'm a Zarathustra booster and it's good enough for me.


We will pray with those Egyptians, build pyramids to put our crypts in,
cover subways with inscriptions, and it's good enough for me.


We will pray with those old Druids.  They drink fermented fluids,
waltzing naked through the woo-ids, and it's good enough for me.


We'll do dances to bring water, sacrifice animals for slaughter,
sacrifice our sons and daughters, and that's good enough for me.


I'll arise at early morning, when my Lord gives me the warning
that the Solar Age is dawning, and that's good enough for me.

(chorus; chorus)

So long, Pete.

P.S.... Dan "To Everything There Is A Season: A Time To Be Hired,
A Time To Be Fired" Hicks must go.

Jan 27, 2014

Do You Like Your Bourbon Neat?

commentary by killre

It was like a scene from The West Wing.

Although she has yet to officially declare her intention for the presidency, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for said office is like that grainy footage of the far turn at the 1973 Belmont Stakes, with an agitated Chic Anderson hollering, "He's moving like a tremendous machine!  Secretariat by twelve!  Secretariat by fourteen lengths...!"  Regardless of how you feel about her, you have to recognize Clinton has certain political and logistical pluses.  She has some minuses, too.  I'll not be compiling a list of either here, partly because some items would involve a debate as to which category they belong.  I will say, though, that I find some cross-metaphorical irony in the biggest political move she has made since coming up short at the end of the long hot summer of 2008.  That move, of course, was accepting the job of Secretary of State.

The job itself comes with an inherent irony.  It is a major cabinet post --the nation's leading diplomat-- so it's important.  Nine days out of ten, though, cable news finds talking about a cabinet post --any cabinet post-- every bit as sexy as talking about a fence post, so there is a bubble of relative calm enveloping it.  Moreover, foreign policy tends to be the one area of our political landscape where both sides still strive to maintain some civility, lest the nation-states of the world smell weakness, so Secretary of State is usually further insulated.  That, uh, state of being plays a role in the specific irony of the case of Hillary Clinton.  Part of the job description, you see, is to fly all over the world, and part of the reason she took the job was to make us forget about all her baggage-- a significant portion of which bears the monogram WJC, as in William Jefferson Clinton.

One of Hillary Clinton's biggest advantages, should she run, is her classification as a female-type homo sapiens.  The Democratic party has been seeking, in part at least, to enhance this advantage by trying to convince us the Republicans are conducting a War on Women, which is less a war than it is the Mother of all Blind Spots-- like the time you overslept and it was a particularly frosty morning and you started driving to work having de-iced only the windshield, and not even all of that.  Particular to the presidential picking process, the Dems are trying to make the Reps leery of how, or even if, they should attack poor, poor, put-upon Hillary.  So, like the conservatives they are, the Republicans are reaching into an old bag of tricks: lobbing eggs and rotten fruit at ol' Bill, hoping some of the splash gets on Hillary while still being able to deny they were throwing at her.

The recent tribulations and possible impending trials of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have the presidential horse-race handicappers on the Republican side rejiggering the odds.  For the time being, many are provisionally picking as the front-runner that TEA-partyin' libertarian Republican Kentuckian whose last name is a first name (Paul) and whose first name is, well, for that I'd need another paragraph...

Rand [rand] can be defined three ways.  One: a strip of leather used in shoemaking.  Two: a border or margin (some will find that even more appropriate).  Three: a four-letter version of the nickname "Randy," which as a word means horny; probably preferred because the person in question would rather be thought of as either of the first two.

So it came to pass that Randal Howard "Rand" Paul met via satellite with David Gregory on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning, trying to sound more like an old strip of leather and less like someone on the margins.  It was a lengthy interview.  I'll not try to deal with most of it here, but there were a couple of items that caught my ear...

Gregory began by pointing out the junior senator from KY has some possible baggage of his own: his father, former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.  The senator handled that well enough; then Gregory followed by specifically addressing some of the heightened rhetoric used by many TEA-partyin' libertarian Republican types, including both Pauls, asking, "Is the Federal government guilty of tyranny?"

Paul began his response by referencing Charles Louis Secondat, the Baron de Montesquieu, a French-born political philosopher whose arrival in this world predated the framing of the U.S. Constitution by just shy of a century, and whose ideas on the separation of powers served as that document's foundation...

"Well, you know, Montesquieu talked about when the executive branch tries to assume the legislative powers that that's a form of tyranny.  So, yeah, there are times when we lose our checks and balances, when government grows, and when government's not obeying the rule of law, that that is a form of tyranny."

I would note that government simply growing is not necessarily tyrannical, but I don't have to.  Senator Paul quickly added this:

"Tyranny is a strong word, but it makes people sit up and-and-and-and take notice."

Oh.  So, in other words, just because I say "tyranny" doesn't mean it actually is tyranny... but I made you look!

Much later in the interview, Gregory brought forth a quote from Paul's wife, Kelley, reciting a passage written by Jason Horowitz and printed in Vogue magazine...

"While her husband jokes that his 'gut feeling' that Hillary Clinton will not run for president is a good thing since 'all the polls show her trouncing any opponents,' Kelley ... practically cuts him off to say Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky should complicate his return to the White House, even as First Spouse.  'I would say his behavior was predatory, offensive to women,' she tells me."

...and used it to contextualize the question, "Are these issues something that you r-really think will be fair game and an appropriate part of a campaign, should she [Clinton] be the nominee?"

Paul, in part:
"...I think really the media seems to ... have given President Clinton a pass on this.  He took advantage of a girl that was twenty years old and an intern in his office.  There is no excuse for that.  And that is predatory behavior... This isn't [about] having an affair...  Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office, I mean, really, and then they have the gall to stand up and say Republicans are having a war on women?  So, yes, I think it's a factor.  And that's not Hillary's fault..."

Gregory cut him off at that point to re-specify the question: "Is it something Hillary Clinton should be judged on, if she were a candidate in 2016?"

"Yeah, no, I-I-I'm not, I'm not saying that.  This was with regard to "The Clintons," and sometimes it's hard to separate one from the other, but I would say that, with regard to his place in history, that it certainly is a discussion..."

Translation: I have nothing against Hillary herself, but do we really want to elect someone who's married to that guy?

Neatly done, Senator.  Neatly done.

P.S.... Dan "You've Had Your Coffee Ration For This Week, Robespierre" Hicks must go.

Jan 21, 2014

Lucky 13 serial - Five

fiction by killre

From a column printed in the Kessington Herald on June 10th.  Credit is given to a "Lief Scrivner," who is bylined as a "Staff Writer."

I could be wrong, but I have never held with the common bandied notion that baseball bugs go to the field of a customary afternoon to see something they have never seen.  That is not to say they are not hoping, nor is it to deny they would rejoice if they did, but it is not their foremost reason.

The game is a venerable one.  It has been played for more years than anyone can remember.  It has been played in razed cornfields and on cobbled streets and on prime pieces of property so green your mind's eye has yet to dream of such a color.  It has been played with rounded rocks and broken broom sticks, with old rags tossed down as bases, and it has been played with stuffed, stitched, and stamped horsehide and masterpieces of ancient ash that have been machine turned and fire branded.  It has been played by boys of every stripe, more than a few of whom were otherwise full-grown, and it has even been played by the occasional rough and tumble girl who was not afraid to skin a knee testing the rightfielder's arm from first to third, or stand steady in the face of an inside pitch.  So the odds, if you will pardon the implicity, of seeing something true novel on any given day are as long as the foul lines at Kessington Field.

Those of you who read this Herald three days ago might remember I stated much the same thing.  My point then was that while the Knights have been hitting well, scoring in bunches, winning often, and have the whole town talking, they are not threatening as many league records as you might think, and the ones they seem like to threaten at season's end are still a long, hot summer away.  Pitching, I stated, is what will or will not keep this team in first place through the Fall Equinox.

My point today is a related one, and a bit more specific.  As I stated, I do not believe most bugs, of which I am one, go to the field to see the unexpected.  Rather, they go to see if their expectations, from one pitch to the next, one batter to the next, one game to the next, one series to the next, are right or wrong.  For example, long before the Knights roused themselves from their sleeper and stepped squinting in the sunlight on the siding at Kessington station, I knew who would pitch today's game.

If Silas Uebel had his way, it would be that soft tossing beanpole, Jupiter Black.  In a way, it makes sense.  Silas was a junkballer for most of his career.  So is Black.  Silas was a crafty magician of a junkballer, however, and Black is not.  Silas has taken a shine to the man child.  Dell Schmittinger has not, and he has the final say.

Schmittinger, like most managers, does not trust knuckleballers.  He has good reason.  Knuckleballers have the immoral habit of throwing the knuckleball, and managers do not trust the knuckleball.  It is a gimmick pitch, unreliable.

On top of that, Schmittinger has frank reason to trust this knuckleballer less than most.  Anyone who has ever met Jupiter Black can attest, he is an odd egg.  As scrutable as a totem pole, and half as affable.  He mixes the knuckler with a right handed screwball that serves better as a description of the man himself than as a means of inducing putouts, and a fastball that has all the zip and life of an eighteen year old dog.

By contrast, Randall Moran throws the hardest straight ball on the team, and backs it with a second fastball that sinks just enough on reaching the batter that somebody on the infield is sure to get a hopper.  He also has a hard curve that tends to slide sideways more than duck down.

To date, Schmittinger has given the third day starts to Black.  This is part because Uebel is whispering in his ear, and part because he knows Uebel is whispering in the beanpole's ear, and Uebel's whispers are thought to be like those of the Oracle at Delphi.  It is also part because keeping Moran in reserve, to come in late after any of the other three, usual has the effect of making the opponent look like a gaggle of schoolboys against men.

Some of the results are hard to argue against.  To his credit, and Uebel's, Black has managed to junkball his way to a record of three wins, no losses, and two no decisions.

Closer inspection, however, reveals a house built on sand.  Black has averaged more than five earned runs for every nine innings.  Not once this year has he retired more men on strikes than he has issued free passes.  Most of his starts have been against clubs that will struggle to secure winning ledgers.  He has benefitted from a lineup that has been knocking the horsehide every which way but into someone's glove.  The one decent opponent he faced, Gerryowen, knocked him out of the game before he could finish the first inning.

Now the Knights face the close of an important set with the Beardsley Eagles, a team they know well, a team that knows them, and Black, well, a team that looks to be their primary competitors for the pennant.

I could be wrong, but I think today's starter should be, will be, Randall Moran.


Records show Black started the game.  He pitched seven scoreless innings, walked one, struck out three.  Moran then held Beardsley scoreless for two innings.  Kessington won the game 1-0, completing a three-game sweep.  Black was credited with the win.  Shortstop J.P. Sinclair drove in the run.

A quirk in the schedule sent Kessington on a nine-game road trip after the Beardsley series.  They held a three-game lead over Gerryowen.

Jan 19, 2014

Call It an Experiment

fiction by killre

"Have you ever heard of a scappa flow?"


"What is it?"

Well, it's not a scappa flow.  It's just Scapa Flow.  It's the name of a British naval base on the North Sea.  Or it was, anyway.  I'm actually not sure they use it anymore.

"So it's a harbor."


"Why do they call it a flow and not a harbor?"

Um... the short answer is:  I don't know.

(pause)  "What's the long answer?"

The long answer isn't really an answer; it's a bunch of rhetorical questions.

(deep breath)  "Okay."

Okay?  Okay.  Why do some cultures have twenty-three different words for snow?  Why do others have nineteen different words for mud?  Why are some bays called bays and others are called sounds and still others are called inlets, or coves?  I think I know why some of them are called fjords, but what the hell is a lagoon?  Because I'm pretty sure it isn't what Gilligan's Island led me to believe.  That shouldn't surprise me, because the same show tried to convince me week after week after week that Ginger was, like, ten times hotter than Mary Ann.  I'm not trying to take anything at all away from Tina Louise, but she wasn't.  Okay?  She just wasn't.

Why are some storms called hurricanes and others are called typhoons?  Why are some monkeys called monkeys and others are known as lemurs?  At what point is a point big enough to be considered a peninsula?  How wide can isthmus be before it can no longer be called an isthmus?  Is there a mathematical formula for that?  Do you know how high a hill can be before you start calling it a mountain?  According to the trailer of an old Hugh Grant movie, a thousand feet.  Is that measured from sea level or from the valley floor?  I don't know: I didn't watch the movie.  Something tells me if I did, I still wouldn't know.

Why are some wetlands called an estuary and others are called a marsh and others a swamp?  When does a strait become a channel?  Where, and more importantly why, does the Blackwater River become the Blackwater Rush?

I mean, your question is largely a philosophical one.  Oh, I'm sure somewhere there's a very technical, very intricate answer, and I wouldn't doubt there's some expert who actually knows it, but for the rest of us it boils down to taste... or perception or... idiosyncrasies of dialect or... linguistic inertia or something.

(pause)  "No offense, but you think too much."

Or too little!  Who's to say?

Jan 18, 2014

Lucky 13 serial - Four

fiction by killre

From the journal of Elmer McIntyre.  Presented as one entry, dated June 6th.  Reproduced text is sic; ampersands [&] denote blotted original text.

Got back frm breakfst and showrd, Pack'd. Jupe hasn't. He'll smell up the sleep'r tonite most like. I'll have to open a window. Ask'd Silas who was start'g today, Jupe or Randal, me or cozzens. Said Prob'ly me, Prob'ly Jupe, but old Man hasn't decided for sure. Be ready. Silas reminded me we're Goin' straight to the station right after Game, so tell Jupe when we Got back to room to Pack and bring Grip to ballpark, case he forgets, but he won't. When I told Jupe, he said, "Yeah," and stuck his nose in a book. Didn't ask him what he's read'g. Have to remind him again in a spell.

Its real Quiet now, wait'g to go. Been Quiet all week really. Marsh and coach Pete told everybdy not to talk to &&&&& anybdy abt what happnd with the old Man. Seems all the boys took that to mean don't talk abt it at all. Its like everybdy wants to, but nobdy wants to be first or Jinx it.

Hope I start today. Should. Quick turn around, and a big series against Beardsley com'g up. they'll want to give cozzens a rest. Wish I knew who's start'g, but its either Jupe to Moran, or Moran to Jupe, so Guess it &&& doesn't matter.much. Have to be ready for both. catch'g the 2 is like nite and day. Rand'l throws hard, even when he &&& doesn't throw hard. His sinker dives Pretty Good most times, and he has a nice tight curver that comesin hard and then fades. Jupe's stuff is mostly soft, but all over the Place. Except his fast ball, which &&& isn't real fast, but sort of sneaky-fast cuz Silas don't call it much, but he can Put it where I ask him to Put it.

Silas Just stuck his head in. time to go. Jupe's up and pack'g. Won't take him long. We'll be the first 1's in the lobby, but its better than being last I s'pose.

on train now, wait'g to Get cut in to next south-bound. then can say so long to Wakelee for awhile. Noisy. Good Noisy. Everybdy happy, talk'g, laugh'g. We kill'd 'em today, and now we're head'g home. I start'd. Didn't Get no hits, but call'd a Good Game. Silas call'd pitchs, course, but he let me handle location Just like we talk'd abt. Jupe's fast ball was real Good. We shut 'em down for 7 inn'gs, while the boys k&ept bash'g the ball everywhere. Kieley hit one real deep in 1st and clean'd the bases. We scor'd 4 more in 3rd, Jupe even Got a hit, and we ne'r really worry'd after that, even when Jupe Got shaky in 8th. I was wait'g for old Man to Pull him, but we had a big lead so he let him twist. He did bring Moran in for 9th, tho.

Just 1 of their guy's I couldn't figure. thatcher, short-stop. Knew he was trubble first time he step'd in cuz I cooldn't Get a read on what he was aim'g to do. Balanced. Ready for anyth'g. He got 4 hits. I talk'd to Silas &&&& abt him before 8th and told him I thought we should &&&& && screw-ball him, even tho Jupe's screw was shaky. He look'd at me and Grin'd and said, "I was thinkin' the same thing." Didn't work, tho.

congrats'd Jupe on Get'g win. He said "thanks".

can hear Ray Kieley roar'n in his state-room. He Got a bottle of whisky and the boys are really start'g to whoop it up. Pretty soon, the cars Goin' to be rock'n even tho we're still sit'n still, and the old Man or nobdy's Goin' to say boo abt it 'til long after midnite most like, on account of we had a Great road trip.  Think I'll join 'em.


Jan 17, 2014

Greek Blasphemer Convicted for 10 Months

'Elder Pastitsios' blogger found guilty of 'insulting religion'

Filippos Loizos' ten months' jail sentence suspended for three years

Investigation against creator of satirical Facebook profile that ridiculed a well-known deceased Orthodox monk was sparked by a complaint from the neonazi Golden Dawn party.

Elder Pastitsios The blogger behind the satirical figure Elder Pastitsios, which was said to ridicule a well-known deceased Orthodox monk, has been sentenced to ten months' imprisonment – suspended for three years - for "insulting religion".

Filippos Loizos was arrested at his home in September 2012 by the police's electronic crimes unit, which claimed they had received thousands of complaints about the Facebook profile he had built around the fictitious Elder Pastitsios.

His arrest on charges of malicious blasphemy and offending religion generated worldwide interest in the case, setting a Twitter hashtag relating to the case – #FreeGeronPastitsios – trending.

The fictional character Loizos created was based on well-known deceased Orthodox monk Elder Paisios, venerated by many for his miracles and prophecies.

A screengrab from the now deleted Elder Pastitsios Facebook profile The satire took Paisios' name and image, substituting it with pastitsio - a Greek pasta and béchamel sauce dish - in a manner similar to Pastafarianism, an international satirical movement that promotes irreligion.

The authorities were alerted to the existence of the Elder Pastitsios page on Facebook by newly elected neonazi Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas, who tabled a question about it in parliament.

Pappas, now in jail facing charges of involvement in a criminal organisation, said the character "taunts, mocks and tries to humiliate a sacred figure of Greek Orthodoxy, Elder Paisios". He demanded that the education minister, who also has responsibility for religion, take action against the page.

Loizos was arrested four days later.

Move to action: Greek parliament: Free 'Geron Pastitsios' and abolish Greek anti-blasphemy laws!  

In solidarity, Cap'n has changed the banner to support your struggle, Loizos.

Greed, For Lack of a Better Word...

commentary by killre

One of the major pitfalls to having both a DVR and an on-again/off-again interest in politics, economics, demographics and a few other icky things I've suddenly lost the desire to list is that every now and now and then and then some item masquerading as news sits there slow-cooking in its glitchy stew of 1s and 0s long enough for the new to get old by the time my stomach is settled enough to consume it.  Such is the case with a recorded package aired Tuesday afternoon on the Fox News Channel.  Produced and edited, at least partly, by correspondent Doug McKelway, it was a brief breakdown of the issue of income inequality, which is set to become one of the planks you can expect politicians to use to give each other the Nancy Kerrigan treatment in this year's congressional races.

McKelway kicks off the package by saying, "Income inequality has been on President Obama's agenda ever since Joe the Plumber raised the issue in 2000 and 8."

Actually, Doug, the issue was on Barack Obama's agenda before then.  Its presence on his agenda, in fact, is precisely what prompted Samuel J. "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher to start asking what turned out to be --as much to his own surprise as anyone else's-- hypothetical questions.

The McKelway package then proceeded to pirate a cropped clip from a Fox Business News montage of an uncredited correspondent conducting man-on-the-street interviews-- always an easy way to fill a programming block without actually having to do one's job.  In it, as in all such pieces, the so-called reporter accosts unwitting citizens and slaps them in the face with a patently unnuanced question.  The answer then given has a 98.6% chance of being just as unnuanced, if not more so, which 98.6% of the time is the secondary goal of the operation.  Sometimes the clumsy response is because the person doesn't truly understand the topic; other times it is simply that they didn't have the benefit of knowing what the topic was before the bright lights were unleashed on them-- a benefit the reporter, cameraman, producer, director, anchor and you and I, the viewers, all have.  In this case the question was, "Does it bother you that some CEOs make millions, when their workers don't?"

Let me take a stab at this: No, it doesn't bother me that some CEOs make millions while their workers don't.  What bothers me is that some CEOs are making so many obscene millions, while their workers are barely making enough to scrape by.  If a company or a corporation has a particularly profitable fiscal year, and the CEO truly plays a role in that, then by all means he or she should get a bump or a bonus.  Virtually everybody in that company played some role in its success, however, and should reap some share of the windfall.  Instead, the people at the top get all the cream, and the people at the bottom are expected to keep plugging along on the same relative pittance as before-- that, you appliance salesman with a microphone, is what is meant by "income inequality."

Later in the package, McKelway steps out of his reporter's role to editorialize, "...that's how capitalism rewards and punishes: some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others."

Well, at least he included luck in the equation.  His implication, though, is that if luck [urinates] all over some people, the rest of us should [urinate] on them, too.  Hardly the foundation of a great society.

All this was leading to a number of quotes from Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute to whom McKelway was going to give the last word.  The Cato Institute is a libertarian think-tank originally founded by one of the Koch brothers, the modern-day, real-life answers to Scrooge and Marley without the benefits of either a paranormally prodded epiphany (I told you it was a word) or that great equalizer, death.

If you don't mind, I'll split the Tanner quotes so as to deal with each in turn.  First, Tanner opined, "Nobody in America is poor just because someone else is rich."

Technically, this statement is true... if only for its inclusion of two words.  The first word is just.  In this context, just is a qualifier-- a simplifier, if you will.  Simply, in fact, is one of the synonyms Tanner could have chosen.  Merely is another; or only.  "Nobody in America is poor only because someone else is rich."  In other words: There are many reasons why someone in America might be poor; the fact that someone else is rich is only one of those reasons.

Admittedly, this reworking doesn't quite get to the heart of the matter.  That's because of the inclusion of a second word: rich.  As I alluded above, rich misses the mark.  If this were a game of darts, rich would bypass the board and bury itself in the biceps of the bi-dimensional, beer-mongering, bikinied babe brightening the wall three feet to the left.  Instead of rich, the word should be greedy, as in: There are many reasons why someone in America might be poor, and one of those reasons is that someone else is insanely greedy.

Tanner then said, "In fact, consider: if you were to double everybody's income in America, you would do great things for the poor, but you would also increase inequality."

Huh?  Wait.  Maybe this happened while my news cravings were in one of their off-again phases, but when the hellfire did anyone propose doubling everybody's income?  For that matter, when did they propose doubling anybody's income?  Now we know why Tanner is referred to as a senior fellow and not an economist.  Can you say "inflation," boys and girls?

No, what causes consternation for capitalists and conservatives is that Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress would like --oh yes, I'll say it because they can't without being symbolically piked-- they would like to take some of the filthy lucre that some of the most obscenely greedy [obscenities] keep greedily giving themselves and award it instead to people who actually need it.  In thirteenth- or fourteenth-century Britain, this was called robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  It was a popular idea-- so popular, in fact, that in the intervening centuries millions of people from all over the world have flocked to America to... anyone? anyone?... to escape income inequality.  Your own political prejudices will determine whether you see Obama as a latter-day Robin Hood with a good jumpshot or as an updated Eugene V. Debs with a lot of political luck and an all-over tan, but that's his agenda: making America a society where more people can escape the worst of income inequality.

McKelway edited Tanner to conclude: "The academic literature is very solid on what it takes to stay out of poverty.  Number one: graduate [from] school.  Number two: if you're not married, don't have a baby.  Number three: get a job --even a minimum-wage, entry-level job-- and stick with it."

I guess it all depends somewhat on your definition of poverty, but sticking with a minimum-wage job is, by necessity, what many people are already doing... and the gap just keeps gettin' bigger.

P.S.... Dan "It Is Not My Fault That You Don't Know Who Eugene V. Debs Is" Hicks must go.

Jan 16, 2014

Lucky 13 serial - Three

fiction by killre

From a column written by David Ulysses Houghton and printed in the Brownsville Sentinel on June 6th.  All reproduced text is sic.

As I told you they would last week the Brownsville Bears Base Ball Club finished up there long stretch a home games aggenst the first place Kessingtons be for levin town to go an play a set in Beardsley.  The club that is nippin at Kessingtons heals as it were.  Kessingtons pitchin an cetchin well lets just say they cant darn sox with out a hole hand full a thimbels but they were shore ta bring plenty a hittin to the ball grounds.  So I hope as many a you base ball fanaticks as could get there got there.

For yous that diddint heres what happend.

Well Kessington come in ta toun a might short for starters.  Ha thats a pun I wuzzunt even triin ta make.  One a the men missin from the mornin train wuz Jupiter Black you see.  That tall lanky fella who looks like he could throwe hard but in sted tosses a nuckel ball up there about haff the time.  A nuther wuz his pitchin coach Silas Uebel.  That hill wizard that chucked the pill as they say for Gerryowen for so long his dennist won first prize at the county fare an ole Si made an ever luvvin livvin out a gettin evry boddy ta evry time ground out ta short stop seems like.

Moest notabul for his absense though wuz Manager Dell Schmittinger.

Pete Zborezny the Kessingtons hittin coach must be dooin sumpn rite cuz they are wompin the Devil rite out a the ball.  But one thing he wuzzent dooin when they come in wuz anserrin qwestchuns cuz he an they were all as tite lipt as a preacher thats ben caut doun a long Farmington Road late at nite an short on cabbage.  I tride like a judge ta get the story out a them but nun a them were talkin.  The three shode up for the first game though an all Uebel would say in three days a askin wuz they had bizness to attend to.

As for the games them selvs.

Stump started for the Bears aggenst Eckhardt for Kessington.  Stump did well in his first innin aggenst Kessington this year.  He only aloud three runs.  His seckind innin wuz his last as the vizzitters scored six more an went on to win 13-4.  Kessingtons big first base man Ray Kieley homerd twice.  Roger Hilyard wuz the Bears hittin star.  Doubeling in two in the sevvunth.

Game two featcherd Mummert aggenst Pfeifle.  Mummert did better than Stump.  Allowing for runs in the third but nothin more in sevvun innins a work.  The Bears ralleed for three runs in the nineth but came up short 4-3.  This time it was third base man Howard Tennie who drove in two for the Bears.

Brownsville finely broke through in game three which pitted Lowry aggenst Black.  Lowry shut them doun for ate innins while the Bears scored two in the fifth on the only hit Black aloud.  It wuz Hilyards.  Black walkt six batters in nine innins an there wuz an error by Kieley that aloud the Bears to score a nuther run in the sevvunth.  Kieley came back though an hit a three run homer to tie up the game in the nineth.  Edward Facey releved Lowry.  Moran would pitch for Kessington after Black wuz puled for a pinch hitter in the tenth.  John Tomlin delivverd the winnin hit in the 11th as Brownsville won 4-3.

When the Bears a rived in Beardsley they


Records show Brownsville split its first two games with Beardsley, who had themselves split their previous six.  As of the morning this column was published, Kessington had a lead of 1/2 game over Beardsley and 2 games over Gerryowen.

Jan 14, 2014

He's half Joe Camel and a third Fonzarelli!

On the left is Clark, the Chicago Cubs new mascot. On the right is Poochie, a Simpsons character from 17 years ago created to parody cartoons trying too hard to be cool.

Which old suit at the Cubs senior staff, 
desperately needing to justify their job, pulled rank on the creative team, taking a mascot that might have otherwise been fine -- into this walking abortion.

The dated bent backwards hat is a dead give away.

They're almost making it embarrassing to be a Cubs fan. Let that marinate for a while.

But hey, as with everything in life, it could have been worse...

Lucky 13 serial - Two

fiction by killre

A continuation of Mrs. Rebecca [redacted]'s letter to her cousin, dated May 29th:

I'd thought surely I should meet this Mr. Black shortly after the match was over, when Lucille led me to the place where the Kessington club exited the grounds. Silas was there, but he explained he had sent Jupiter back to the players' hotel to ready himself for dinner. It was to be an early meal, as the club was to leave town that very night. Begging our leave to ready himself, Silas left us to our own interests for the better part of an hour.

When I was finally introduced to Jupiter Black, I saw but little evidence of an effort to be anything more than passingly presentable. He had changed his clothes, of course, and his dark brown hair was still damp from washing. It was cut quite short, and stuck out in every direction, like a sunburst. He had not trimmed his beard, which lent to the image. He was tall, thin, square-shouldered, as I'd noted that afternoon. Rather than greet me with "A pleasure to make your acquaintance" or even a simple "Pleased to meet you," he said only "Hello."

At first I thought him merely quiet, shy, but his conduct over dinner soon intruded upon ill-mannered. Very curt, taciturn, he seldom spoke unless asked a direct question. Then he would often stare at his inquisitor several seconds before responding with as few words as could be managed. Silas ordered a bottle of wine, of which Lucille and I shared. Jupiter requested a large glass of milk. When asked if he wanted it now or with his food, he stared at the waiter so long I thought surely he meant to refuse giving answer.

Somehow, I had a strong sense his manner would have gone unremarked by Silas and Lucille but for my presence. After the waiter had gone, Lucille said to me, "Jupiter is very particular about what he eats and drinks - has to stay healthy and ready to pitch." Jupiter himself made no comment.

It occurred to me he may have been bothered by his short appearance in the day's sporting match. I ventured him the query. He turned his head and stared at me most unnervingly. "No," he said, and looked away. There was a finality to his tone, difficult to describe, as if the question were a live thing and he sought to smother it. I thought it best not to set another upon him.

Silas smiled at him and said something like "That's a good attitude to have, Jupe. Forget about today. It happens. Focus on Brownsville."

Lucille orchestrated most of the conversation we had over dinner, surely seeking to put me at ease as much as anything. Several times she tried to draw Jupiter into the discussion. Her efforts were met with a slightly less glacial stoniness, but he never quite melted.

We had almost finished our meal when the maître d'hôtel and a man with broad, muscular shoulders and jet-black hair quickly approached Silas. The broad man bent and whispered to him at length. I saw Silas give Lucille a look full of portent. He interrupted the man to ask "Where?" but the man shrugged and shook his head. Silas frowned and sat silently for three heartbeats, then said "Okay. Get back to the hotel. You and Pete make sure everybody makes the train. Don't wait for me." The man turned to go. Silas glanced around the table, then quickly turned and said "Marsh! Don't wait for Jupe, either. Have the hotel hold his room." He turned to Jupiter and said "Look at me." Jupiter snapped his unsettling gaze to Silas' face. Silas said "Pay the check. Leave a tip. Escort the ladies home. Meet me at the hotel. Got it?" Jupiter nodded once, a short, compact movement, and said "Right." Silas turned to Lucille and said "I'll fill you in later." He rose, threw his serviette onto the table and walked away, stopping briefly to speak with the maître d'hôtel before leaving.

My eyes fell on Lucille, who sensed and met them, but she had no answers to the mute questions she surely found there. She surveyed the table and said "Well..." then she turned and stopped the waiter when he was still five paces away with the words "The bill, please."

Outside, Lucille said "Jupiter, would you please see Rebecca home? I'm going to the hotel to wait for Silas. What's your room number?" He told her. She said good-night to me and departed.

Jupiter and I stood there a moment, neither speaking nor seeking the other's gaze. I asked "Do you mind if we walk? It isn't far." For once, he didn't stare while he pondered the question. Then, uncertainly, he said "Sure."

We walked in silence, each still avoiding the other's eyes. Butterflies chased each other in drunken loops inside my stomach, a sensation I'd not felt in years. Suddenly I realized I'd not been alone with a man, other than James of course, in... oh, too long to count. I was aware of him consciously slowing his long strides so as not to race ahead of me. As we approached the last block, I slowed my own gait, just a bit. We spoke no words until we reached my walkway and I said "This is mine." He stopped and turned to look at the house I had shared with James for so long - a big, empty house now. He looked a long time, but made no comment. I asked "Would you walk me to the door?" He thought it over and said "Sure."

We mounted the steps to the porch and stopped. I asked him if he would like to come in. This time, he answered almost immediately. "Uh, I'm... s'posed to get back to the hotel." I looked down at the threshold, just to be looking somewhere, and said "I don't think you or Silas are leaving tonight, to judge by what he said." I felt my heart beat quickly half a dozen times before he said "Really?" as if he'd not realized the implications of Silas' orders. Then he said "I... should still go back."

I raised my head, but even then my eyes avoided him. I asked "Do you mislike me?" He thought it over and said "No." I took a deep breath and said "If you'll stay a little while, you may have your way with me." He was silent for what seemed a very long time while I listened to the blood pounding my eardrums, then he said "Oh... kay." I unlocked the door and pushed it in. He followed.

I will of course spare you any more details of my fall, dear cousin. I may have acted the wanton then, but I still have some modesty. I know I need not repeat that what I've told you is to be held in the most strict confidence. Surely, I've shocked you. I hope with time you can recover and forgive and be happy for me - because, you see, I'm glad it happened.


Love Always,

[Note:  To date, no reciprocal correspondence to Mrs. Rebecca [redacted] has come to light.]

Jan 12, 2014

Lucky 13 serial - One

fiction by killre

The following is from a letter, dated May 29th, posted to a Mrs. [redacted] [redacted] of Webster from a Mrs. Rebecca [redacted] of Gerryowen:

My Dearest Cousin,

Surely, you will rejoice as much as I when I tell you I've finally found my way out of the forest of my despair, in which I wandered so long, and stepped out into the sun-lit lea of the poets' promise. You and [redacted] have both been so kind in shouldering what you could of the burden of my grief, and in offering to shoulder more. I cannot thank you enough. I almost feel I should apologize. You and I have been as sisters since we were so young the memories are but glimpses, and I know you love me truly, but surely even the strongest bonds must strain under the weight of prolonged melancholy.

To relieve that strain is part of the reason I am writing you, and to share with you some of the joy of my deliverance... but I also wish to confide in you. I do hope the love you bear me will temper the shock you will surely suffer.

Hindsight informs me I was already slowly finding my way back to the sunlight. In part, Time had surely been doing its work. I shall always love James in my heart, of course, and I still believe I shall always miss his presence, but, to the corruption of my thoughts, I have come of late to the realization it is his touch I miss most of all. So willful has my flesh become (and so conservative is James' pension) my mind has taken to abasing itself with thoughts of bartering my affections. Shameful, surely, but thoughts are not deeds.

Fortunately, I do have other things to occupy my mind. This is the second spring since my darling James was taken from me, and it has been a singularly beautiful one. How surely it would have brightened my mood without the efforts of my dear friend Lucille is a path I'll never stroll. She is married to a man named Silas, who was a base-ball player for many years, and who is still in the employ of one such club in some capacity, which keeps him away from home a great deal, so she understands a bit of the loneliness absence can foster.

Two days ago, Lucille invited me to attend a base-ball match with her. Silas' club, which hails from Kessington, was in town to play our local club. She insisted I go with her. I knew it was but a ploy to get me out into the big, warm world, with its scents and sounds, its jostles and jocularity. What I didn't know was she and Silas were planning to introduce me to someone.


The Kessingtons scored a point in their first turn "at-bat," which seemed to me to end rather abruptly.


Lucille gestured and said, "That's the gentleman we'll be going to dinner with later." Her eyes glinted at me above her smile. The man she indicated was turned partly away, his head bowed in that moment as he used his shoes to rake the dirt of the small hill which stands in the middle of the field. He seemed to me possessed of an uncommon diligence of task, a meticulousness that toiled in the shadow of obsession. When he finally turned to face the first Gerryowen "batter," he struck me as very thin, quite tall, with more than a week's worth of beard covering his jaw. Lucille said his name was Jupiter Black. I asked about the number on the back of his shirt - 13. She smiled and said, "He doesn't believe in luck. Good or bad."

From the little I understand of base-ball, he surely should have had more belief. Gerryowen's turn "at-bat" had not yet ended when they stopped the match to allow Silas to walk out to the little dirt hill and speak with this Mr. Black. Nor had it ended when they stopped again so a large, elderly, shambling man could take the ball from him and hand it to a Kessington man who had been "playing catch" in front of the grandstand. In the entire time Mr. Black was in the game, Lucille applauded but once, when he threw the ball toward a Gerryowen "batter" in a slow, floating arc and the Gerryowen man swung mightily at it and missed. There was a brief scuffle just then, as the man who was supposed to catch the ball didn't, but pounced on it like a cat with a ball of yarn and swatted the "batter" on the hip. I thought surely it was the beginning of a brawl, but the "batter" simply returned to his club's long, low shed, shaking his head all the while.

Note:  Records indicate Gerryowen scored six runs in that inning, all charged to Jupiter Black.  Kessington rallied to win the game 11-10.  Black received a no-decision.

[letter to be continued]

Jan 10, 2014

Bridge to Nowhere

Given all the flack that Christopher James "Chris" Christie - the 55th Governor of New Jersey and a (up until a few minutes ago) leading member of the Republican Party, believed to be the next primary winner for that party, has taken over a couple staffers allegedly closing a lane on the George Washington bridge is taking - it looks like his prospects are dimming as a growing threat in said primaries.

And it may not be just that his staff was caught. Nor was it that they were manipulating a system under their control for supposed political payback. Was is ordered, or were his minions acting independently. How about catcalls for a Federal investigation. No. Not one of these conspiracy licking issues are hurting his political prospects. It was that Mr. Christie gave a 90 minute presser on the event and apologized for everything, including the chopping down of Mr. Washington's cherry tree.

In politics, damage control is the part and parcel of the Game. And he's just shown the nation how bad he is at it. Kind of like the Bears: all offense, no defense. And no. I also never thought I'd see that sentence in my lifetime.

Think about all the scandals and half truths that Mr. Obama is facing. From Fast and Furious to NSA wire tapping, well, everyone, to using the IRS as a retribution force to strike down the Tea Party, the GSA bender in Las Vegas, to the still unknown events surrounding the Benghazi terrorist attack - with a dead Ambassador, five retired/fired generals and doubts and questions still swirling around the toilet of misinformation and political fog - not one of those, not even the complete and utter failure of the ObamaCare roll out has really stuck on Mr. Obama's suit.

How come.

Is it because the Obama Administration doesn't have knowledge of these events. Or worse, knows exactly what he's doing and has a tight lid on all of it.

I don't know.

And why wouldn't I know? Because the same press corps that's mounted 3 armored divisions of satellite trucks to hound Mr. Christie haven't spent 1/1000th of the effort they're giving Bridge-Gate... yes, (sigh) they gave it a "gate" already...

Frankly, even if they dig through every e-mail, text, IM, back room napkin notes -- and they do find out that it does go back to Christie giving the order - he should stand up at the mic, let some two bit reporter with a brand new note pad ask him, "Governor, did you order the lane closed?"

And he should let all of the New Jersey narcissist volatility spit back on her, "You're damn right I did!" and he should walk off the stage.

People might go out and vote for that guy.

And will you look at that, not one single fat joke.

I think we should hire this guy

My only problem with this argument - is that Dylan Ratigan makes the a false assumption that the President hasn't been bought and paid for by the same people who bought and paid for Congress...

And, sadly, facing no more elections doesn't help or solve anything. The President knows exactly who is funding his future book deals and future $500K speaking engagements. By the way, this is from 2011...

In case you're wondering, he left MSNBC to start an hydroponics farm.

Jan 7, 2014

Science vs Religion

SCIENCE: Always doubt / Always question / When challenged Replies with evidence
RELIGION: NO doubt / NO question / When challenged Becomes hostile

Okay, sure, there' s evidence against such a blanket statement found on the internet. I've known quite a few scientists and academics who are curmudgeons. They get openly hostile when their opinions are challenged; some have even developed a reputation for doing so.

I've also known plenty of religious folk with significant doubts and lots of good questions. Anyone can be skeptical or dogmatic about their beliefs.

However, after sitting here and contemplating it for more than a few moments, I don't think I've ever had one of my scientist buddies threaten to blow up the building or toss acid on my face when I showed my impetuousness.

Jan 6, 2014

The How and Why of Blasphemes

history by killer

Before I do anything else, let me encourage you, dear reader, to always continue scrolling down the page when you reach the end of any posts, the better to ensure you don't miss anything new.  By my count, we have seven contributors now.  While some of them are more active than others, any of them might post at any time, which occasionally means a fairly new and juicy entry might be buried several feet down.  For instance, a podcast featuring all seven of us in one room can right now be found somewhere far below.

Now then...
If the title of this post hints at some grandiose, abstract, ideological thrust or mission statement, the byline should quickly clue you that it is really little more than an unveiling of past events.

Today is January 6th, 2014.  It was eight years ago today that this site officially launched.  Eight, of course, is not widely thought of as a milestone number.  No matter.  In the generic spirit of the big word at the top of the page, let us poo-poo the convention of waiting two more years and answer now the questions of how this site got started and why that big word up there is Blasphemes.

I'll tickle you with an obvious tease: The story of the second question begins in a bathroom stall in Ogallala, Nebraska.  For now, that's all you get.

The story of the first question is pretty straight-forward.  For several years prior to 2006, I'd been inflicting upon some of my friends and relatives a weekly or biweekly email blast that was usually centered on my frequent travels around North America.  This was back before Facebook exploded, leaving its neutral-blue-tinged innards spattered over the screens of millions of computerized devices, but what feedback I received from the targets of these missives was entirely predictable: about 98.6% positive.  I tried to take these compliments with a proverbial grain of salt... but, pathetically, I also kept asking.

One night in the fall of 2005, the three likely souls who would become the site's first three contributors gathered at Holly Would's apartment in La-la Land to drink, smoke, play cards, and discuss the mysteries of both the universe in general and our little corner of it.  Soon after a lengthy pontification on my part about the Christian calendar, One F told me: "You should start a blog."

My answer: "I don't know how to start a blog."  Laugh if you must, but it was the truth.

That initial discussion ended quickly, as I remember.  We soon moved on to other topics, like whether or not Holly really had the hand he was betting (he didn't) and was there anything to my theory that habitually spinning a 1998 half-dollar with an almost imperceptibly raised ridge on one side was lucky (it wasn't).

One F, however, mentally tabled the idea.  Several weeks later, he contacted me with a re-proposition: He would start a blog and magically engineer the parameters of it so that I, too, could make my musings public.  Since it involved little more than typing and green-lighting, I agreed.  He declared that our launch date would be January 6th, 2006.  The date was selected because of our earlier discussion about the Christian calendar.

In the unlikely event that you ever find yourself in, or even near, a bar trivia contest about such things, and you desperately want to win it, here's the info...

The twelve days of Christmas are December 25th through January 5th.  Christmas Eve is not one of the twelve days of Christmas-- it is the last day of the previous religious season, Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas.  The thirteenth day after Christmas, January 6th, is called Epiphany.  Aside from its theological overtones, the word epiphany can be defined as "a revelation; a sudden understanding or realization of truth."

Whether or not this definition played a role in One F's selection of the date is a question I've never asked and he's never answered.  Most likely, he just knew I had some weird affinity for it.

The next order of business he put to me was the two-pronged question of what would appear on the site's banner.  We both made several suggestions.  At one point, I think we were at least nominally considering more than a dozen possibilities.  "Blasphemes" was one of mine.  Graciously, he chose it.  The scripted legend "Impious since 2006" was his idea.  Nowhere near as gracious as he, I suggested something else-- partly because the discussion was taking place in 2005.  For the first few weeks, then, our legend directed visitors to "Read it twice and don't call us in the morning" or some such nonsense.  The novelty wore away quickly, and I sheepishly asked him to replace it with what is there now.

The story of why I nominated "Blasphemes" begins, as I stated earlier, in a bathroom stall in a truckstop located just outside of Ogallala, Nebraska.  Some assistant-manager type, realizing the truth that a certain segment of the population is simply incapable of waiting for the laxative properties of some of their ingestions to win out over the constipative properties of their other ingestions without leaving some sort of inscription, sagely decided to provide that subculture with a way to express themselves that wouldn't leave the partitions of the defecatus cubicus permanently defaced.  In other words, he had big blank pieces of cardboard duct-taped to the inner walls.

Some gear-jamming Bible-thumper had shown his appreciation for this cultural compromise by taking a big, bold, black marker and writing: "Know The Truth! John 10:10".

Some other rider of the porcelain pony, displaying an above-average helping of clever, had used a red Sharpie to rejoin: "Know the Truth!  Mad Dog 20/20."

This, of course, was ready fodder for one of the last massive missives I mailed before I switched to spitting pixels against the wall you now see before you.  Adding my own twist, I researched the Bible verse in question.  What follows is a close approximation of what I then wrote...

"...It is a quote, attributed to Jesus of Nazareth:  'A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.'

Translation:  'I am not a crook.'"

It was that comment, putting the words of Richard Nixon into the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth, that was on my mind when I suggested "Blasphemes."  Now you know.  Remember to scroll.

P.S.... Dan "From The What I Understand It, They Also Considered 'Digressions,' Too" Hicks must go.

Jan 5, 2014

Chicago Winter Scenes 2014

I'm kind of proud of these. I made them myself. Not found on the interwebs -- these are mine. Maybe they'll catch on with the Facebook or Reddit crowd.

Lunch Hour 04

The fourth exciting episode of the Lunch Hour with special guest stars: OneF, Loud Jeff, Cap'n and Cap'n Ron, Holywould and of course Killre! Taped... Live at Ten Cat Lounge in Chicago, Illinois. NSFW or your chance to impress the ladies, since you mentioned it.

Jan 2, 2014

Sparty Can Quit [Female-doggin']

sports by killre

Mind you, I was rooting for Michigan State to win the Rose Bowl.

When they took the field against the Stanford Cardinal on New Year's Day, the Spartans sported a spiffy ledger of twelve wins against just one loss.  That lone blemish came September 21st at Notre Dame by a final score of 17-13.  To hear them tell it, they'd have won that game too but for a pass-interference penalty they felt was undeserved.  I think it worth noting that whenever schools from different leagues or conferences play a college football game, the visiting team's conference provides the on-field officiating crew.  In other words, if Michigan State did get jobbed that day, it wasn't by a home-town ref.

I watched every second of that game (rooting for Notre Dame) and can't remember the play in question.  That's the thing about objectively poor on-field calls in sports: subjectively, they're an heinous miscarriage of justice only when they go against your team.  Even if you're dispassionate enough to recognize a call that favors your team as an objectively bad one, you tend to suddenly get vacuously philosophical about it: "Hey, bad calls are part of the game" or "these sorts of things even out eventually."  Well, if Michigan State's claims are true that their defensive unit legally mugged a Notre Dame pass receiver that day --right in front of Touchdown Jesus and everybody-- and the Spartans were cheated out of a victory by the same zebra-striped police squad they brought with them, then in my opinion things have indeed evened out...

Late in the fourth quarter of the 2014 Rose Bowl Game, Michigan State held a 24-17 lead over Stanford.  The Cardinal had the ball, however, and they were driving it deep into Spartan territory-- helped, in part, by one very generous spot awarded them by the Big 12 crew who was officiating the game.  Eventually, with little more than five minutes to play, Stanford faced a fourth down and four yards-to-gain situation at the Michigan State 17 yard line.  Cardinal head coach David Shaw sent the field-goal unit into the game.  A successful kick would trim the Spartans' lead to four points.

When the casual football fan sees a field-goal formation, they likely see three things: the kicker, the holder, and a bunch of guys forming a beefy blunted wedge at the line of scrimmage.  While the field-goal unit is known as a "special team," a textbook on the sport would tell you they are an offensive unit.  As such, their formation must conform to a number of simple but rigid rules.  There are seven men on the line of scrimmage.  The book would call them the left end, left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle, and right end.  Two more hefty specimens take their stance roughly a yard back from the line, flanking either end.  The book would tell you they are wingbacks.  It would also tell you that the field-goal unit is not obligated to attempt a field goal.  The holder, who is the de facto quarterback of the unit, can run a different type of play.  If said play is a forward pass, there are five men on his squad who are eligible to catch it: the kicker, the two ends, and the two wingbacks.  The other five men on the line aren't even allowed to go more than three yards down-field, let alone touch the ball.

Stanford never intended to fake the kick.  When holder Ben Rhyne received the ball from center, he caught it cleanly and planted the point in the turf without incident.  Holders, however, like to rotate the ball so its seams face away from the kicker, believing this results in a truer salvo.  When Rhyne tried to rotate the ball, he knocked it off its axis.  Realizing his kicker's attempt was disrupted, Rhyne quickly grabbed the ball with both hands, stood, and scrambled to his right looking for someone to whom he could throw.  Fortunately, three of his receivers (the right end and both wingbacks) realized what was happening and lumbered rightward, too, on a divergent angle that would take them past the first-down marker.  With three Spartan defenders bearing down on him, Rhyne lofted a toss down-field that looked a bit like a bloated badminton birdie.  It was pulled in by Trent Murphy, the left wingback.  Unbelievably, Stanford no longer had to settle for just 3 points.  Now, with a first down and goal at the Michigan State 8, they would have three or four chances to tie the game.

Then a penalty flag came sailing in from the... I don't know, side judge or back judge or line judge or some other mush-mouthed Great Plains justiciar whose brain had suddenly farted away the rules of football.  Exactly who dropped their hankie doesn't matter, because a quorum of the officiating crew held an impromptu committee meeting and decided collectively that since all the guys who had rumbled down-field were bulging behemoths, one of them must have been an ineligible lineman.  They never actually said which one-- probably because they didn't know.  All the Stanford players were wearing big, bright red numbers on big, bright white jerseys, but the refs weren't able to say which big red number was supposedly at fault.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit made the same mistake.  Herbstreit, who is one of the best analysts in the business despite the fact that he still hasn't completely overcome a minor speech impediment which causes him to want to add an L to any syllable with an "awe" sound (you have to listen carefully to realized he actually is saying "AWE-fence" rather than "ALL-fence"), would eventually stick both feet in his mouth supporting the call.  One minute after the play happened, he singled out Luke Kaumatule as the illegal receiver.  Kaumatule, however, was lined up at right end-- which means he was eligible.  Less than two minutes later, Herbstreit revised his theory and named center Joshua Garnett the guilty party.  While it's true that Garnett would have been in violation of the rules if he'd been more than three yards down-field when the pass was thrown, the replay shows him at the 15 yard line when Rhyne releases the ball.  The line of scrimmage was the 17.  That's two yards, not three.

ESPN brought Walt Anderson, the head of all Big 12 officials, into the booth for an "explanation."  Play-by-play man Brent Musburger asked, "Was that a good call, ineligible receiver down-field?"

Anderson gave the question an Heisman-esque stiff-arm, neither saying yes nor throwing his boys on the field under the proverbial bus.  He opted instead to recite a bunch of things that you, because you are clever enough to peruse this site, already know:

"Right, the, the, uh, player who's lined up on the end of the line and the up-back are both eligible receivers, but once the other linemen go more than three yards down-field, then that would be an ineligible down-field."

Notice: He says go and would be, rather than went and was.

Stanford --for whom I suddenly found myself rooting-- was assessed a five-yard penalty and a replay of the down.  They used it to execute a flawless field-goal kick, making the score 24-20 in Michigan State's favor.  They then kicked the ball deep, figuring the Spartans would run the ball to burn time off the game clock.  They figured right.  State eventually punted the ball back to the Cardinal with just over three minutes to play, then stopped them on a fourth-and-one with under ninety ticks to go and that was the ballgame.

P.S.... Dan "I Did That Game Where Notre Dame Beat Michigan State.  It Was Just After I'd Been Reminded For Like The Fourteenth Time --Quote-- 'Read The Card Word For Word, Stupid!'" Hicks must go.