Monday, July 4, 2011

Dealing With Felons, British Style

I have been reading Jeffrey Archer’s book Prison Diary. Archer is a convicted felon who nonetheless sits in the upper house of the British legislature. On p. 128n he says:

“[In Britain] convicted prisoners, members of the House of Lords, and certified lunatics are ineligible to vote. I now qualify in two of the three categories.”

Well, Jeff, two out of three ain’t bad. I can’t help thinking what a waste, though. In this country we keep felons in the Congress with high salaries and loads of self-conferred perks until they get caught. Then we throw them away and get a new batch of felons in there. It all seems so inefficient. The British put their felons in the House of Lords, convicted or not. If they get sent to prison while members of the House of Lords, not to worry. Their seats are waiting for them when they get out of prison. Instead of tsk tsking about how businesses won’t hire former jailbirds, why don’t we do what the British do?

Dick Cheney can’t hire all of them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

On Painters and Painting

I was having lunch in a very crowded cafeteria yesterday. There were no unused tables, and a stranger walked up and nodded. He looked weird to me. So naturally I invited him to sit down. It was what I call a weird day. Everybody looks weird to me on weird days, but there is weird and then there is weird weird. This guy was weird weird.

He sat down and started right off. “Are you a painter?” he asked.

“I painted my living room,” I said.

“No, I mean art. Like Andy Warhol.”

“Why would you use the words ‘Warhol’ and ‘art’ in the same sentence?” I asked.

“That is a strange combination, isn’t it?” he asked.

“It’s bewildering is what it is.”

“OK, how about Cezanne.”

“You’re getting closer. Try Matisse. I may have painted like Matisse. Ask me if I ever painted anything like Matisse. Just go ahead and ask if I ever painted anything like Matisse and see what it gets you.”

“OK, did you ever paint anything like Matisse?” he asked.

“No, of course not.” I made a face to show him what an absurd question that was.

“Why did I ask?”

“Because I invited you to,” I said.

“Well, I do paint,” he said. “I started a paint by the numbers set. When I get through it’s supposed to look exactly like Rembrandt’s Chalice in the Light. They say even art experts will not be able to tell the difference. Even though it is just paint by the numbers it may be worth millions at Sotheby’s auction house.”

“Chalice in the Light? I never heard of it.”

“That’s because it doesn’t exist. Rembrandt never painted it.”

“So that’s why art experts can’t tell the difference?”

“That’s right. They don’t have an original to compare it to.”

“That makes sense. So how did it come out?”

“It doesn’t look like Rembrandt at all. It looks like a picture of Godzilla. I may have to throw it away.”


“Well, because Godzilla is copyrighted of course. You can’t paint Godzilla without permission.”

“Not even if you paint by the number?”

“Regrettably,” he said.

I said nothing. The answer seemed so obvious I wondered that I had to ask.

“Now I’ve wasted a perfectly good piece of canvas,” he continued. “I painted on it.”

“Don’t feel bad,” I said. “People ruin perfectly good pieces of canvas all the time. It’s what artists do. At least you know enough to feel bad about it. A lot of artists think they have done good messing up perfectly useful pieces of canvas. There are whole buildings wasted because they are filled with wasted pieces of canvas that someone painted on.”

“That’s right. They are called museums, aren’t they?”

“Some of them are called galleries,” I said. “Just think of what someone could do with that space.”

“If they were not filled with perfectly useful pieces of canvas messed up by somebody painting on them?”


“It is no comfort. I am disconsolate.”

“I have this friend who can help. He runs a restoration company. He restores art works”

“How would that help me?”

“It’s restoration. When an artist messes up a perfectly good piece of canvas by painting on it, he strips the paint off and turns it into a perfectly good piece of canvas again.”

“Holy moly. An art restoration company.”

“Yes. He’s negotiating with the pope to get all that paint off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”

“I heard about that. Michelangelo made a real mess there, didn’t he?”

I nodded my head. “He painted all over it. They’ve been trying to get rid of that mess for five hundred years. All those pictures of God and all that. Some people like it but-”

‘There’s no accounting for taste,” he said, shaking his head. “I hope your friend can strip that crap off. So have you ever painted anything? Aside from your living room, I mean.”

“I painted myself one time.”


“Yes. I got it all over me. All over my arms. Fortunately it was water color. It washed right off.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ali’s Special Style of Political Action

It is in the news that Lindsay Lohan got released from the hoosegow today after completing a mere two weeks of a ninety-day sentence. That does not surprise anyone, of course, because when you’re a celebrity ninety days means tomorrow afternoon some time. In the law enforcement business they compress time for the rich and famous. They have to. Celebs are constantly breaking the law and ending up in the slammer. If they did any real time the crime rate in Los Angeles would go way down.

Lindsay’s case was especially interesting because when she went in her younger sister Ali decided to spring her using a rather creative strategy. Ali, you see, announced that she would protest Lindsay’s imprisonment by going commando – at least where her tits were concerned. Put in more blunt language, Ali promised to put severe pressure on the judicial system by leaving her bra at home until her sister was freed. According to the web page that broke the news (and a good deal else besides), Ali said:

“When times are tough, we Lohan girls remove our bras and flash our double fun bags of determination. Our braless tatas tell the world we will never surrender.”

You go, Ali. She still wore tops, let it be said. Just no underwear underneath. I wondered if this would make the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sweat. Now we know. Lindsay is free.

Nobody I asked at the L.A. Sheriff’s Department would comment on the relationship between Ali’s retro seventies look and Lindsay’s swift passage to freedom. So I asked my friend Scrub. Scrub doesn’t know anything, but he is willing to comment, which is better in my opinion than sheriff’s deputies knowing and not commenting. In honor of Hunter S. Thompson call it gonzo journalism.

“Did L.A.’s sweating judges relent on Lindsay’s sentence so Ali would put on some underwear?” I asked him.

“It was tough,” Scrub said. “By jiggling in public, Ali put some real pressure on L.A. County’s judiciary.”

“She made a tough job tougher,” I said.

“Yes, she did. Frankly nobody in the sheriff’s department was sure how long the judges could hold out.”

“Now we know,” I said.

“There is no question about it,” Scrub said. “All a woman with a friend in nick has to do is take off her bra nowadays. Don’t even get me started on knickers.”

“Lindsay Lohan has been known to do that,” I said.

“Yes, and Britney Spears. Just look at all the crooks we turned loose after Britney stepped out of that limousine with no underpants on.”

“Shocking,” I said. “Really shocking. Well what happens now that Ali won?”

“Are you kidding? Every woman who is connected with anyone who is in jail in L.A. County will start going commando, just like Ali. Some of them will probably stop wearing socks.”

“Oh, my God,” I said. “And if every gun moll in L.A. shucks her shorts-“

“The jails will be empty. L.A. will be awash in crime.”

“L.A. is already awash in crime,” I said.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he said. “People are likely to figure out we law enforcement people are not accomplishing anything around here.”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

When they try to control my toilet, they’re going too far

The following statement was recently published on the web site

“In recent weeks, conservative media have been … accusing President Obama of being insane, of colluding with Russian spies, of trying to create a civil war and implement one world government, among other things, while also claiming that his administration is trying to control everything under the sun, including the Internet and, inexplicably, your toilet.”

I noticed the person who wrote the piece did not sign his name, presumably to keep from being arrested by United Nations troops swooping down in black helicopters. I have always liked the conservative media. If Barack Obama wants to control your toilet, you would never find hard news like that in the mainstream press. You have to turn to the real reporters like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

I wanted to confirm, though, so I called a top secret telephone number at the White House. As every salesman knows, the way to get top secret telephone numbers is to start with the main number, add five or ten to it, and then act as if you knew whose number it was to begin with. Works every time.

I dialed.

A man’s voice answered.

“Is this Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel?” I asked.

“No, it’s not.”

“But it is the White House?”

“Yes. May I ask how you got this number?”

I was not about to tell the truth and say it was an old salesman’s trick. So I lied. I said I worked for the KGB.

“KGB? I thought you guys went out of business when the Cold War ended.”

“Shows how much you know,” I said. “If you talked to guys like me more often you’d have the scoop.”

“Well, I’ll be.” The voice said. “The KGB. I guess you got the number from Anna Chapman.”

He was referring to the alleged Russian spy picked up by the FBI a few days ago.

“That’s right,” I said. “You can’t conceal anything from us here at the KGB. You might as well tell me stuff and confirm what we already know anyway.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said the voice at the other end. “It seems sometimes like everybody has our number nowadays. Not my telephone number, mind you, but the Administration’s number. The conservative media definitely have our number. What do you want me to tell you that you already know anyway so it is not any kind of a secret from anyone except the American public but you would like to have it confirmed by an anonymous inside source?”

Whew! “We hear that President Obama is insane,” I replied.


That he colludes with Russian spies.”

“I’m talking to the KGB, aren’t I?”

“That he wants to create a one world government.”

“The United Nations.”

“And that he wants to start a civil war.”

“His hero is Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln came from Illinois the same as he did, and Lincoln had a civil war.”

“So Obama wants one, too.”

“Of course. He even wants a penny struck with his head on it.”

“You mean his image.”

“Well, yes, of course. I did not mean that he wanted his head literally struck by a coin mint machine.”

“I should say,” I said.

“That would be painful. He calls the new penny the Barack Tetradrachm. We don’t know if we will go through with it or not. The Republicans will be making jokes about it not being worth a dime, you know.”

“They’ll be right.”

“Yes. Sarah Palin would probably start it off.”

“We have also heard that ‘his administration is trying to control everything under the sun, including the Internet and, inexplicably, your toilet.’”

“True on every score.”

“Including our toilets?”

“Especially your toilets. He’s going to have the United Nations black helicopters come to your place and install an electronic device on your pot.”

“To what end?”

“Electronic surveillance. Governments everywhere want to know when their citizens come and go. Well, Barry mainly wants to know when you go.”

“Ewww, that’s gross.”

“Aren’t you glad you Russians did not vote for him?”

I ignored the question. “Speaking of which, when is Barry going to go?”

“Don’t be too eager. The next guy will be worse.”

“If that’s possible,” I said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Divine Intervention Saves the Ohio Landscape

A few days ago an appalling statue of Jesus that some idiot church in Monroe, Ohio set up was struck by lightning and completely destroyed. It was the worst eyesore in the state, and, considering the state is Ohio, being the worst eyesore in the state is a hard distinction to achieve. The whole state is an eyesore. But with that statue gone, Ohio’s aesthetic appeal has been raised to a whole new plane.

Before Benjamin Franklin came along, people would have seen this as an instance of Divine Intervention. Franklin convinced people lightning is just a random electrical phenomenon, like old reruns of Seinfeld. But they are wrong. I was driving along I-75 when the statue was struck and I know.

Ohio is such a boring place that it is normal for people there to hear voices, but I am from Texas. I never heard any voices until that day. Then I heard the Voice of God.

“God here,” the Voice said.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “Nice to hear from you. My life has been so sucky lately I started wondering if You really existed.”

“Yes, I’m still here. The world disgusts me so much I just turn my back on it from time to time. Speaking of which, have you seen that statue in Ohio?”

There was only one He could be referring to. Ohio is not noted for art, unless you consider rusting factories and shuttered buildings where people used to work “art.”

“Are You referring to that thing on I-75 just north of Cincinnati where I happen to be driving, God?” I asked.

“I am. What do you think of it?”

I thought it was the most distasteful thing I had ever seen, and I had been all over Ohio, so that was going some. As a matter of fact, I was driving right past it at that moment as I said. But I was not about to second guess God.

“You first, God,” I said.

“I think it is the most distasteful thing I have ever seen,” said God.

I felt vindicated when I heard that.

“And I see everything. I am God, after all.”


“It’s the ugliest thing I have seen in a hundred million years.”

“That long?” I asked. I did not want to be impertinent but I was surprised. “I thought the world was only five or six thousand years old,” I said.

“You don’t believe that Young Earth garbage, do you?”

“Well, I-“

“The Earth alone is five billion years old. I know. I created it.”

“Thank You for the correction.” I had always wondered about that. Now I know.

“And that statue is the ugliest thing I have seen in all that time.”

“It is supposed to be a statue of Jesus.” I said.

“It does not look anything like Him. It has a beard and two arms. That’s the only part they got right.”

I started to say something but I was intimidated. God spoke first.

“Whaddya say I zap the thing? Then I won’t have to look at it anymore.”

“I say go for it. I wish I could do it myself.”

“I really don’t need your permission,” said God. “I am God, you know.”

“I’m just saying we’re all behind you, God. Everybody will be happy to see it go except the idiots who put it up in the first place.”

“That’s it, then. That does it. Stand back.”

“Stand back?” I said. I did not know what He meant.

“WAY back,” said God.

I hammered down in my truck and got as far away from that statue as I could. Then ZAP! When one lightning bolt did not do the trick there was another. And another. It looked like the fourth of July and it was only June.

“Good God!” I said softly. The statue was no more. “Could you take out the church that offended us with that thing while You are at it?” I said. I could hope, after all.

No response. The audience was over. The church is still there. Whether anyone has nerve enough to go there after what happened is another question. But it is still there. At least the statue is gone. And that answers the question we have all been wondering about. Yes, there is a God after all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Slimy Limey

I had a horrible dream last night. I dreamed I had gone to hell and my punishment was to watch Katie Couric read the news. Man, was I relieved to wake up. I mean, I could probably handle devils with pitch forks. But watching Katie Couric? No way, Jose! And what sin could I commit to justify such a miserable fate anyway?

So in my nightmare Couric comes on my TV and flashes that I’m-A-Cougar-and-I-Know-Something-You-Don’t-Know grin she always seems to have on her face. A Cougar is a woman who only goes out with men half her age. Katie Couric is a Cougar. And she flashes that Cougar grin and says: “Guess what I’m going to rant about tonight, folks?”

Well, I knew what it was going to be. It was my dream, after all. That damn oil spill again. That’s how I knew I was in hell. Katie Couric was bad enough, but Katie Couric mumbling about that oil spill – well, just that had to be hell. So I talked back to the TV: “It’s going to be BP again.”

“That’s right,” Couric said. “Bull Poop! Bull Poop! Bull Poop!” The I’m-A-Cougar grin got even wider.

Bull Poop? I thought to myself. They’re calling BP “Bull Poop”? Now this could be interesting. Maybe this dream is not a nightmare after all. Maybe I am really not in hell, even though Couric is on my TV. I fought the urge to change channels.

“BP stock has gone down 40% in value,” Couric said. “Bull Poop stock is schlock.”

This is obviously not hell, I said to myself. Bull Poop’s stock going to hell is my idea of heaven.

Couric continued: “The British are experiencing a wave of anti-American sentiment because of that. And here to talk about it, I have the man who presides over Bull Poop all over the world – Mr. Tony Wayward.”

Tony Wayward is just a Mr.? I thought to myself. I thought when the British screwed up they got knighted or something. It seemed to me anyone who screwed up as royally as Wayward does should be made a member of the royal family. I yelled at the TV screen. Couric ignored me.

“I want my life back, Katie,” Wayward said. There was a pleading tone in his voice as he said it. I thought I saw a tear of self-pity form under his left eye. Somehow I did not feel the same pity.

“I’ll bet you do, Mr. Wayward,” Couric said. “We all here are just shocked that Americans have inconvenienced you because of this little incident.”

“Inconvenienced?” Wayward said. “I’ve hardly been to the pub for a pint more than three times a week since this started.”

Only three times a week?” Couric asked.

“Well, OK, maybe four,” Wayward said. “But it’s still tough. I want my life back.”

“I hope it has not turned you against Americans,” Couric said. “We know you British are a drinking lot.”

“Gotta have me pints, Katie,” said Wayward. “Hardly have enough time to throw as many darts as I would like to as well with this little annoyance distracting me the way it is. But no, I’m not sore at the American public. In fact, I’m glad to be here. I want to tell the American public that the explosion in Beaumont or wherever it is should never have happened.”


“Yes, you know. In Texas. The BP refinery that blew up because of gross incompetence on my part and negligence on my part and gross mismanagement on my part, killing a bunch of our employees that we don’t give a rat’s ass about anyway.”

“That’s the wrong disaster, Mr. Wayward.”


“Yes. That’s the wrong disaster altogether. Our viewers are not interested in that BP oil refinery in Texas blowing up and killing a lot of people anymore and BP responding with arrogant indifference the way you did. We’re talking about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You’re not Bull Pooping me, are you?”

“No, Katie, no, indeed. BP is a company. BP is not something we do to people. We never BP anybody.”

“Well, I’d say,” Couric said. “To listen to the governor of Louisiana, you’d think you BP everybody. He calls you ‘The Slimy Limey.’”

“It’s just hard to keep all the disasters BP is responsible for straight when you’re the VP of BP. BP has been responsible for so many disasters, you know.”

“But I thought you were the BP of BP.”

“I like the way VP of BP rolls of my tongue better.”

“I see. Well, Mr. Wayward, while we are on the subject of disasters, I did a show on abortions the other night. Your mother was my guest. She said you were a disaster.”

In my dream I jumped up and started talking to the TV again. “Now that’s a show I would like to see.” But apparently I missed that dream. Nightmares are that way, you know. The nightmare I really wanted to see was always the night before and I slept right through it. Of course I was sleeping through this nightmare also, so, as Ross Perot would say, "What the hey?" Anyway, Couric ignored me. She does that even when I am dreaming.

“Katie, I want to tell the American people I am deeply sorry.”

Well, now, I thought to myself, that makes up for millions of gallons of krud pouring into the Gulf of Mexico while BP’s executives count their gold doubloons. All is forgiven if he is deeply sorry. But what was that I heard coming from the TV when he said that? Was that a laugh track?

“You’re not laughing at me, are you, Katie?” Wayward said. He must have heard it, too.

“No, Lord Wayward.” Apparently Katie canonized him herself. “That was supposed to be on our comedy show. I don’t know how it got on the news. We use laugh tracks to fool people into thinking comedies we show on our network are funny.”

“When they’re not funny at all.”

“Of course not. Have you seen the crap CBS plays in prime time? I’d rather be chugging pints of bitters in the local pub than watching that shit.”

“So would I. I want my life back. People holding my company responsible for all the disasters we cause are interfering with my life. Anyway, I am deeply sorry that I am responsible for spilling millions of gallons of krud into the Gulf of Mexico.”

(Laugh track distinctly heard playing again.)

“And … and I want to say I won’t do it again. I did it this time and I did it the last time but I won’t do it again.”

“You bet your smelly ass you won’t do it again, you limey rotter,” I said to the TV. But I could not hear myself. They played that laugh track again and it drowned me out. Dreams are like that, you know.

“So what happened, Lord Wayward?” Couric asked.

“Well, when you do something like deepwater drilling you know an accident is going to happen. That is just the nature of things. It’s just a matter of time.”


“So it is just good engineering practice to have a contingency plan for when the accident does happen. Then your response team can swing into action and control the damage.”

“So that‘s what BP did, right?”

“No, of course not. I said that’s good engineering practice. I didn’t say it is what BP does. BP does not use good engineering practices. If we did we would not have refineries blowing up, drilling platforms blowing up, people getting killed needlessly, environmental disasters in the Gulf, and so forth the way we do.”

“I see.”

“Here at BP, that is.”


“We don’t even pay attention to government mandated safety practices. That’s the reason all those bureaucrats had to resign. We have a cozy relationship with the government regulatory agencies. Good thing we don’t have a cozy relationship with our employees or we would never get anything done.”


“So when anything does happen, we have no contingency plan, no idea in hell what to do or who to assign to the job, and all we do is run around like headless chickens. That is how I got to be the top dog in the company.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

“It’s the BP way. Whenever anyone asks me what I am doing, I just shrug my shoulders, French style” He demonstrated how he did it. Then he demonstrated it again.

“That must be why you seem to have stooped shoulders, Lord Wayward.”

“It is. I have been shrugging my shoulders so much I seem to have developed a permanent stoop. I am thinking about going on medical disability.”

“I notice President Obama seems to have developed that same stoop,” Couric said.

“He does. He has mastered the BP style. We’re thinking about offering him a seat on the Board.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tales From the Upper Atmosphere

Well, it’s official. Al and Tipper Gore are separating. The news media say it was a surprise. But I knew it was coming when I saw them kissing and hugging and just making asses of themselves at the Democratic Convention. The way I see it, people who make asses of themselves kissing and hugging in public at Democratic Conventions are just guaranteed to separate. It is just a matter of when.

Big Al did not give any details except to say it was cordial. But I don’t buy it. Someone saying “I don’t want anything to do with you, get out of my life” is cordial? I don’t think so. Here is what I think really happened. (Once again this is a reconstruction.)

Tipper Gore is speaking: “Al? Al?”

“I’m up here in the ozone, Tipper. They don’t call me ‘The Ozone Man’ for nothing, you know.”

At that moment Al Gore descends from the ozone like Mary Poppins. Only he is not British, so he does not use an umbrella.

“Here I am, Tipper.”

(Tipper clears throat.) “Al, you know I’ve had a lot of hot flashes lately.”

“Boy, do I know it. I couldn’t miss that, even living up there in the ozone where I do.”

“Well, here is a hot flash for you. I want out.”

“Out? Out of what? Out of the ozone?”

“Especially the ozone, Al. I want out of the whole thing. I’ve had enough of this ozone crap for ten lifetimes. It’s all owls and glaciers. Come on!”

“Well, golllll-ee. I guess I’d have been better off if I had not spent so much time in the ozone these past twenty years.”

“You bet you would. And here’s something else. I am secretly glad George W. Bush was the president instead of you. So ha!”


“Yes. I admire his speaking ability.”

“You think George W. Bush can speak? And you’re accusing me of being in the ozone?”

“I don’t see how you could have run against him. And worse yet, you beat him. If it hadn’t been for the supreme court overturning the election we might not have got to listen to eight years of him, stammering and spluttering through badly written speeches.”

“That would be terrible, I know.”

“And he wouldn’t have started those wars of his.”

“Terrible, just terrible.”

“Or racked up all those deficits.”

Gore says nothing, but just shakes his head remorsefully.

“What were you thinking Al, running against him?”

“I dunno, Tipper. I must have had a brain fart.”

“And think of how bad it must have been for George, going on TV for years and years, pretending to be president, when everyone knows he lost the election.”

“Because I beat him.”

“Yes, because you beat him. Think of how that made him feel, having to turn to the supreme court the way he did.”

“Oh, I don’t think so, Tipper. George has no shame.”

“You don’t think it bothered him, being the First Pretender?”

“No. I think he slept like a baby through the whole thing.”

“I do, too. I think he slept through all the cabinet meetings.”