Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Openly Gray/Bi-Positional Candidate

Out of the Closet at last!

In a stunning public announcement made just yesterday,  all-but-assured Republican candidate for President of the United States Mitt Romney came out of the closet, declaring himself the first ever  "Openly Gray/Bi-Positional"  candidate for President in the history of the nation.

Speaking before an astonished crowd of supporters at the Fragrance Counter at Neiman Marcus in Greenwich Connecticut, Mr. Romney stated "I decided to come out as gray/bi-positional because I can no longer in good conscience deny my true nature.  After all, I didn't choose this lifestyle.  I was born this way."  

Mr. Romney explained that as an openly gray man,  he inevitably sees the "shades of gray" surrounding every political issue, constantly causing him to be "bi-positional," taking positions on both sides of each issue. 

Despite the shock waves set off from coast to coat, many seasoned observers said they had long suspected Mr. Romney of being gray and/or bi-positional. "I used to work Broadway, " remarked  political reporter Nels Noodleman, "and I can spot 'em a mile a way.  It's the dyed hair -  so delicately greased -  the effete manner;  why, just look at how he flip flops!"

Although Mr. Romney is the first ever openly gray/bi-positional  candidate for public office, he is the far from the first ever gray/bi-positional person in American politics.  Many experts conservatively estimate that among members of federal, state, and local government throughout the country, approximately 100% are gray and/or bi-positional, plus or minus  Ron Paul.

Four years ago, the citizens of the United States of America went to the polls and  elected the country's first black president. Are these same voters ready to this year return to the voting booths and  elect the nation's first openly gray/bi-positional president?

"I firmly believe so," said Mr. Romney.  "It's not as if I am asking for the right to marry another gray and/or bi-positional president or anything off the wall  extreme like that."

"I am proud to stand up today for the rights of the gray and bi-positional," added Mr. Romney.

"What happens tomorrow, well,  I'm gray and bi-positional.  We'll see."


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1984, Once More

A bold new retelling of the classic tale! 

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  

Winston Smith slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions and began to climb the seven flights of stairs that led to his flat, on each landing of which the same poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall.

Inside his flat at last, Winston heard the officious voice emanating from the oblong metal plaque on his right-hand wall.  The telescreen, as it was called, received and transmitted simultaneously and could be dimmed but never shut off. Any sound that Winston made could be picked up by it. Any movement that Winston made could be seen as well.

Winston looked out into the cold and empty street below at the posters that were plastered everywhere.


"Damn it!" Winston cried out in anguish. 

 "Who does Big Brother think I am --- Jay Leno?"

The sad fact:  Big Brother wasn't watching Winston!  Hadn't been for months. 

"What do you have to do to get ratings in this crazy dystopian world?"  shouted Winston, fists pounding on the walls.  

Winston had been checking the Nielsen's every week. He'd been doing pretty well overall, but in the all-important "27 to Supreme Eternal Life” Demographic," comprised solely of Big Brother, he'd been coming in at 0/0 since January!  

Winston had tried everything to get Big Brother to watch him.  He learned to juggle; Big Brother remained glued to ‘The Voice.’  He brought in cute puppies and kittens; Big Brother watched ‘SNL,’ even staying tuned during the boring last 45 minutes after Weekend Update. 

Finally, Winston staged a one person production of ‘HMS Pinafore’ in which he sang all the parts; Big Brother tuned in to Winston's neighbors, the Blitzsteins, for all eight nights of Hanukkah. 

Winston began using words like "shticklach and shmendrick,” making quips about Jewish American Princesses, and even added a laugh track.   

Still he remained a ratings pariah. 

Winston sat morosely at his job at the Ministry of Truth with Julia, the dark-haired young woman who had recently furtively passed him a note saying "I love you."

"Winston," murmured Julia, "why don't we go back to your flat and make mad, impetuous love?" 

"You think that might get him to watch?"

"No, you idiot, because ...  Okay, yeah, that might get him to watch." 
Winston had an idea.  One last desperate idea.  One he dare not share even with Julia.

"Big Brother," he announced, back in his flat, staring directly into the telescreen. "I know you hear me!" 

The telescreen flashed briefly.

"Big Brother, I have had enough.  I am going to lead a rebellion to topple you from power and install a brutal, soulless, power-mad dictator who won't treat me like I'm the Oprah Winfrey Network!  One with a more dapper mustache too, more like John Waters." 

There was at once a pounding at the door. 

"Open up in there, you degenerate swine. Open this door!"

Winston could not help but smile. Ratings at last.

The door cracked in the middle, then broke off at the hinges.   Mr. and Mrs. Blitzstein, faces suffused with rage, had battered it down and were charging directly at Winston.

"You've come for me," Winston said serenely to Mr. Blitzstein.

"Come for you?"  snarled Mr. Blitzstein.  "Nah, we come for this."

Mrs. Blitzstein produced a long crowbar and pried the oblong metal plaque off the right-hand wall of Winston's flat.

"Next time, Smith," snarled Mr.  Blitzstein, "pay your telescreen bill! Then maybe Big Brother will watch you.”

In a moment the two were gone, the precious telescreen with them.  They left Winston a Statement of Back Charges in the amount of $428.25.

The clock struck eighteen.  But it was all right, the telescreen would be back by Thursday.

Winston had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.   

And with some new programming, Big Brother was about to be lovin' him back too!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why Can't He Be Seven?

                                                            Just look what I'm offering, kid!

My son Brandon will be 17 years old on Wednesday, April 25.  I'm proud that he is turning into a happy, healthy, and  intelligent young man with a wide variety of interests and a well-adjusted and positive outlook on life and the future.

Just one thing.

Why the hell can't he still be seven??!!!

Just yesterday I was staring at "a little kid picture" of Brandon I keep on the bureau. There were those rosy-red cheeks, that long dirty brown hair, and that sweet little smile that seemed just about to say:

"Daddy, you're my hero!"

"Daddy is the fun parent!"

"My Daddy is the bravest, handsomest, most dynamic ...

Now I didn't say he ever actually said any of these things,  only that the sweet little smile in the picture makes it seem like he might be just about to!

I walked the little kid picture over to Brandon and thrust it in his face. 

"Don't tell me, Dad.  I'm on This is Your Life with Ralph Edwards, that old TV show you're always talking about!"

"No, Brandon," I replied.  "I'd like to request you do a simple thing for me."

"Okay, Dad.  What is it?"

"Be HIM!"

"Excuse me?"

"Be HIM.  The Brandon in the picture.  You can do it."

"Dad,  if it were possible to spontaneously become younger,  I'm sure you'd have done it by now." 

"No, Boomers can't.   C'mon,  Bran, I'm  merely asking for a simple act of Age Regression on a temporary basis."

"Well, I don't know, Dad.  I've got a lot of biology homework ..."  

"All right, all right.  I'm offering you five dollars right now to Be HIM!"

I produced a crisp five dollar bill from my wallet and crinkled it temptingly in front of his face.

"Well,  that's not a lot of money for all the molecular structure transmutation I'd have to undergo, and ..."

"Okay, Brandon," I blurted out, "I'll  up the ante.  I'll  buy you a pony!"

Dad,  I haven't wanted or asked for a pony in over ten years." 

"That's just it!  Once you're seven,  you'll want one all over again!"

I could see I was getting nowhere with my simple reasonable request, so I moved on to another,  but related,  subject. 

"What would you like to do for your birthday, Brandon?" I asked.

"I think I'd like to have a party out back for all my friends."

"GREAT!"  I exclaimed.   I'll barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs, rent a moonbounce, maybe we can hire a clown, and ...."

"Dad," said Brandon, "I kind of meant just for my friends and me. Maybe you could ... umm ... go out for a while  during the party?" 

So!  There was to be no Age Regression.   No party, no moonbounce,  not even a damn clown. 

Know what I plan to do during Brandon's birthday party? Go to the movies to see The Lorax.

At least one of us is going to be seven.   


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Jew

(Dedicated to the science fiction classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man"  of which it is a total rip-off.)

At first I thought perhaps it was caused by the blast from a bizarre radioactive cloud  that I encountered while on a boat I was sailing off the coast of California. 

But that wasn't likely. I don't sail, I get nauseous on boats, and I live in Havertown PA which is 3,000 miles from California. 

And yet I seemed to be smaller in size. My shirt and my jeans were becoming too large for me. Damn that drier, it's supposed to shrink stuff, not make it bigger! 

I continued losing stature. Soon I was staring eye to eye with people who had always been shorter than I was and losing hundreds of dollars because in a staring contest I'm always the first one to giggle.
I went to see Dr. Simpkin.
“Perry,” he intoned  “you are shrinking. You are now 5'7'' tall."

"Dr. Simpkin, that means I've shrunk seven whole inches!"

"No, it means you've shrunk three inches. Stop trying to make a better story by inflating your original height."

"But what's causing it, Doctor? A radioactive cloud left over from 1950's nuclear testing?"

"Again with the making a better story? 
 No, you’re a 67 year old guy with a spine like a parabola.”

No one tops Dr. Simpkin for bedside manner. 

And so I became.

The devastating process continued.

I had to have my clothing altered every day. Three individual Jewish tailors suffered heart attacks from months of saying "So we'll take it in a little ... JESUS CHRIST!!!"

Now common everyday objects became gargantuan to me. I needed two hands to lift things like the television clicker, a spoon, and a toothpick - all items I could have readily lifted before with one hand, not to brag.

Danny DeVito movies played for me like Mothra.

I briefly had an affair with a circus midget. Then I had an affair with one of the Smurfs. Eventually I had an affair with a unicellular animal, but I broke it off because I couldn't handle the asexual reproduction.

One day a cat attacked me and I ran into an open door to the basement, tumbling down the steps into the primeval world of the hunter-gatherer! I thought I might have a shot at getting the hang of gathering as long as it didn’t involve matching socks. 

But hunting?

It’s not that I don’t like the Second Amendment. In fact, it’s my favorite misinterpreted amendment to the Constitution.

Then I saw it! The only thing with eight legs I fear more than the law firm of Mishkin, Mishkin, Rothman, & Butz! Frankly I'm terrified of spiders even when I have the height advantage, but now a monstrous beast loomed before me as huge and massive as Newt Gingrich's head!

I prayed for a gigantic can of Raid Ant and Roach Killer operated by an enormous hand to materialize and dispatch the behemoth, but there's never a gigantic can of Raid Ant and Roach Killer operated by an enormous hand around when you need one. What are all the enormous hands doing all the time, eating donuts with cops?

Then I spied my only salvation: there on the table with the dirty clothes was a pin! I hurled myself forward and grabbed the pin and thrust it into the creature just as it descended upon me.

"I've got you, you big disgusting, ugly, hairy monster!"

I couldn't believe a spider could be so insulting. Or talk, even.

Now I continued to get even smaller. I could no longer be seen by the naked eye, let alone a fully clothed and tastefully appointed eye. 

I walked through the basement and through the grates that led to the outside.
Suddenly I knew that the infinitesimal and the infinite were really two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet - and work hand-in-hand to screw me, as usual. 

I looked up at the firmament, the stars, and God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. Bad weather for golf tomorrow for sure, I’d have to remember to cancel my scheduled match with Daniel Radcliffe.

And I felt my body dwindling, melting, and becoming nothing. Wonder what those Jewish tailors would say now. And then I realized, it all had to mean something. And I meant something too. Yes, smaller than the smallest zero, I meant something too. To God, there is no zero.

I still exist. 

And you know what? It isn't so bad down here after all.

Believe it or not, there's women!  


For the ending to the original movie,  click here.  Sorry, it isn't a great copy, but did I charge you anything for any of this?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Step Right Up And Meet: Geoffrey Chaucer!

Is that goatee adorable or what?

Perhaps no other great work of fiction or art is more closely associated with the spiritual rebirth annually experienced in the month of April than the rollicking Canterbury Tales authored by the rollicking Geoffrey Chaucer

Okay, maybe also April Love, a 1957  film starring Pat Boone, but only the director's cut.

As we enter the early days of April, it is indeed apt for us to pay homage to the great Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400, so don't bother ringing him up).  Chaucer was a true Renaissance Man at a time before the Renaissance had taken place and therefore had to be referred to, according to the parlance of the times, as a true Taft Administration Man.  He was by turns  a poet, author, philosopher, astronomer, diplomat, raconteur, and crackerjack fast food waitress, and no other writer of the era could come close to matching him for tips.

Chaucer has often been called the Father of English Literature.  He has also been called the Mother of English literature, the Cousin of English Literature,  the Scheming Uncle of English Literature, and the Mean Little Kid of English Literature, so frankly there's no title open relative to English Literature worth applying for.  Don't waste your time.

In Chaucer's  day, the young English language was in the throes of Evolution, although Rick Santorum doesn't believe that.  Middle English was spoken but rarely written,  making it exceedingly tough to grab a couple of best sellers for the beach.   The Canterbury Tales  and other great works of Chaucer --- not to mention the half-dozen lousy ones ---  helped to standardize and popularize the new language so that today we may all enjoy Mario Lopez.

The predominant language in Britain at the time was more like French, heavily flavored with high-handed remarks about tourists and hundreds of words synonymous with retreat. French had filtered into Britain at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, and ever since then Norman had made sure every menu in the country boasted rich French foods for which there were no words in English other than "bigge hunkes of meate."  

To this Norman French was blended the indigenous Olde English spoken by the many tribes of pale-skinned natives with poor dental hygience of the isle itself.  This blending gradually resulted in the bold emergence of a new tongue known as Middle English which  nobody could read or write and was a bitch to get directions in.   

Into this scenario rode Geoffrey Chaucer on a very small horse.  Either that or the horse was normal size and Geoffrey Chaucer kind of a giant.  History does not say.

Chaucer decided that he would write exclusively in Middle English because he found Latin, the revered medieval  language of learning and culture,  to be mostly for "eggeheades who knotte coulde score hotte babes."  He had earlier attempted to write in other languages  such as Too Hot English and Too Cold English, but had found Middle English to be "Juste Wrighte."  He also tried writing in Too
Big English and Too Small English and again similarly found Middle English to be "Juste Wrighte."  

I'm not going make the obvious third joke here.  It wasn't that funny the first two times.

Thanks to Chaucer's immortal  poetry,  Middle English became more widely written and understood and gradually evolved into our own Modern English, although Rick Santorum doesn't believe that.   

The Canterbury Tales is Chaucer's most towering achievement,  especially if you stack all the copies read by college freshmen on top of one  another.  There's something for everyone in these tales of medieval pilgrims on their way to visit the shrine of St Thomas a Becket at Canterbury including quite a bit of hard-core sex, if only we could understand it. 

To share the greatness of Chaucer with you,  I've reprinted below the opening passages of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English.  I've also fully annotated the selection for your edification and ease of reading and also because I was stuck home last weekend. 

If only I knew what I was talking about, this would really be something!  

First, a few words to familiarize you with some of the aspects in which Middle English differs from Modern English: 

There were 87 consonants, several of which were poisonous.  A good half dozen of them eventually left the language over salary disputes, and Chaucer himself ousted the consonant flopkiss  from Middle English  when he surprised it one day sleeping with his wife. 

Middle English featured all the standard vowels we know and love today (well, I'm not that fond of u, but that's me) and one additional vowel known as cropman.  Thus  the lineup of vowels was:  a, e, i, cropman, o,  u.  Why cropman was dropped from what was to become Modern English remains a mystery to this day.

What's ahead, my friends,  is prologue.  Enjoy!


When that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendered is the flour.

"Droghte of March?"   Like it doesn't rain "shoures soote" all  year long  in England, including March?   Did Chaucer work for the Chamber of Commerce or was he dipping into the "swich licour" a bit much?  

When Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the younge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

 "Sweete breeth?" He can't be talking about the Zephyrus I know.  It's a wonder the"tendre croppes" weren't set on fire!  

And smale foweles makes melodye
That slepen all the nyght with open ye
So priketh them Nature in hir corages

"Priketh" them, eh?  Told you this would get dirty.  I'd probably "slepen" with "open ye" too, whoever she is,  if I weren't worried about Nature trying to climb up into my "corages!"

Thanne longen folk to go on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken  straunge stondes 
To ferne halvwes, kouthe in sondry londes

Pilgrimages were so popular that "longen folk" (and "shorten folk" too!) and even professional golfers ("palmeres")  all lined up for them.   Unfortunately from what I've heard, they were more "unkouthe" than "kouthe" in "sondry londes," especially after tapping that "swich licour!"

And specially from every shire's ende
Of Engelond to Cauntebury they wende

"Wending," especially fantasy wending,  was even bigger than golf. 

The holy blisful martyr to to seke
That them hath holpen when they were seeke.

All of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales  were traveling to Canterbury to worship and thank St. Thomas a Becket for curing them when they previously had been sick.  There you go, folks:  the first recorded instance of an effective, workable single-payer health care system in the world!

Of course, Rick Santorum doesn't believe that!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lust For Bananas

Bite Me!

Has anybody under age 50 ever gotten worked up over the simple banana? It’s not juicy like an orange or a grapefruit. It’s not sweet like a plum or a peach. And it's certainly not flamboyant like a pineapple or a watermelon.

Peel off the protective coating and what you’ve got is a boring chalky conical stalk. Bite it and you experience a taste that's so understated you probably can't describe it to me right now even if you've already had one today.

Even its color is insipid. Not Green as in Go! Not Red as in Stop!

It’s Yellow as in Hang Around and Wait for Stuff.

But as the years roll on, Nature has a change planned for us all. It begins the first time you hear those five simple words from your doctor:

 “Bananas are rich in potassium.”  

Frankly, I had never realized potassium was something anyone needed unless they were making fertilizer. But apparently as we age we need potassium every bit as much as we need friends who will lie to us about how good we look. And so I came to wonder if it might be possible to actually eat of these dullards of the fruit family rather than just carve it up into my Cheerios.

So that’s what I did.

And Lust for Bananas became my life!

Lust for Bananas is marked by the sudden passion to consume a fruit that throughout most of our lives has served as little more than set decoration.

It’s hardly ambrosia. The wonder of the banana lies in its very blandness.  A banana is the ultimate multi-purpose food, just right for every oldster occasion. 

Steak and potatoes a bit too heavy? Have a nice banana! 

Ice cream too cold and sweet? A banana’s just right!

Vodka? Even better with a banana chaser!

Nowadays I always keep a supply on hand, shopping for bananas even when I have nothing else to shop for. My kitchen contains so many of them they could have supplied Carmen Miranda with fruit for her headdress for the whole of her iconic career.

If Lust for Bananas makes no sense to you, you clearly aren’t a Boomer.

But if you get it, why not stop over?

We’ll open up a couple bananas, put on Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song,” and talk potassium levels.

Even I'm not old enough to see bananas this way yet!

(And for some actual factual about bananas, please check out the words of Real Food for Life experts Randy Fritz and Diana Herrington, at