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Authorization Request for New Treatment Approach

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Blog by Steve Sobel

Dear Health Insurance Bureaucrat:

Ms. Anne Derstoode has now failed several attempts to treat her mental illness.  As indicated in records we have previously submitted, her diagnosis is probably major depressive disorder with psychotic features. However, the differential diagnosis includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and possibly posttraumatic stress disorder as it is unclear if her paranoid thinking is genuinely psychotic in nature or more plausibly attributable to the horrific childhood abuse and later traumatic events she may have suffered. A case could also be made for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder or adjustment disorder (we try to avoid using that diagnosis as there are few approved reimbursable treatments for it) or perhaps a combination of all of the above. Of course, as we know, these labels have little meaning as we haven’t the foggiest idea of the underlying etiology or whether we are “carving nature at its joints.”  On top of that, what we label “schizophrenia” or “depression” is most likely a collection of diseases that we will someday, hopefully, better understand. That being said, one needs a working hypothesis, so let’s go with psychotic depression.

Esteemed bureaucrat, allow me to detail the treatments thus far provided to Ms. Anne Derstoode. As would be expected, we initially utilized a rather mild treatment, hoping to affect a cure without exacting a price of severe side effects. Thus, we initiated rotational therapy by spinning the patient in a chair with ropes attached to each leg. Clearly, this treatment is supported by expert opinion. Namely, the physician/scientist Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, developed the approach. Furthermore, Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry, author of the first major psychiatric textbook in the U.S., Surgeon General of the Continental Army, not to mention a cosigner of the Declaration of Independence and great humanitarian, espoused this technique as well (though of course he considered bleeding of patients and administering mercury to be still more  effective approaches). Improving brain circulation and reducing brain congestion with the aid of centrifugal force has face validity and makes eminent sense. Ms. Anne Derstoode did, in fact, appear somewhat less aggressive, but simultaneously developed an inexplicable fearfulness. In addition, she strenuously objected to the dizziness, vomiting and loss of bladder and bowel control encountered at therapeutic spin rates. Furthermore, most of her symptoms persisted despite an adequate therapeutic trial.

The treatment team next implemented a program of hydrotherapy, modeled on that employed by the London Asylum for the Insane. In collaboration with our local fire department (which allowed us to keep costs to a minimum) we strapped Ms. Anne Derstoode to a wall and blasted her with water from a fire hose. Unfortunately, this intervention appeared to exacerbate her level of agitation. We, therefore, switched to hydrotherapy in a steam cabinet with no better outcome. Next, we kept her body submerged in a warm bathtub overnight (allowing bathroom breaks, of course, as this is, after all, a fundamentally humane and gentle treatment). As best as we could ascertain, Ms. Anne Derstoode continued to meet full criteria for the diagnosis of psychotic depression. Persecutory delusions were manifested by ranting vitriol such as: “you’re trying to kill me” and “you’re not even real doctors.” Her very appearance transformed before our eyes, as her expression resembled that of a deer in headlights.

At this point in her illness, we realized heroic measures were required to deal with her level of desperation. We decided to turn to a tried-and-true method vetted by the experience of mental health providers throughout the ages—trepanation. By drilling a burr hole in our patient’s skull, it would logically follow that her brain circulation and overall well-being would improve. We, of course, reject earlier theories regarding the mechanism of action. Specifically, we considered it mere speculation that demons trapped in her brain could escape through these holes. That strikes us as patently unscientific. We are not sure if trepanation is a covered expense by your insurance plan, but, fortunately, the patient was willing to pay out of pocket. This empirical treatment is endorsed by colleagues worldwide e.g. Neolithic providers in France as well as pre-Inca and Inca mental health practitioners. We perused the specific instructions given by such experts as Hippocrates and Galen regarding the proper technique for trepanation. We did not feel it necessary to utilize the Incan ceremonial knife—the tumi, as we were able to create perfectly fine burr holes with our existing surgical tools. We concluded this would be preferable to the technique employed by the librarian Bart Hughes, who performed trepanation on himself using his Black and Decker power drill in 1965. Some of our local colleagues expressed skepticism about this treatment, but we ignored their obsession with evidence-based medicine and their therapeutic nihilism. Skepticism may be hazardous to the health of our patients.  True, there is scant support in the recent professional literature, but not everything can be gleaned from textbooks. We must also rely on our own experience and the practical wisdom of others, which sometimes outpace science. Practicing medicine is not as simple as following a recipe in a cookbook. Innovative approaches are demanded by our patients presenting in extremis. In this case, however, the procedure was complicated by a pesky infection. Thanks to the competence and professionalism of the treatment team, our patient did recover from the infection, but her psychiatric symptomatology had not abated.

At that point in her treatment, Ms. Anne Derstoode became rather oppositional and even more depressed.  Before we could propose the option of insulin shock therapy, as developed by Dr. Manfred Sakel in 1927 in that center of culture-Vienna, the patient actually self-administered a high dose of insulin which she obtained from the supply of her diabetic mother. She did so due to her disappointment about the unfulfilled promise of trepanation.  Ironically, she did not realize she was administering such an effective treatment. She did not die as she had hoped, but nor did her depressive symptoms show any sign of budging.

Lobotomy would have been the logical next step in our treatment algorithm. We discussed the potential benefits of this procedure and pointed out that Dr. Egas Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1949 in recognition of his development of this medical technological breakthrough (though presumably the patient who shot and paralyzed Dr. Moniz had been a nonresponder to prefrontal leucotomy).  We educated the patient about the prefrontal leucotomy technique. We explained that disconnecting her frontal lobe would free her of any disturbance in mood related to its malfunction. Once again, a simple yet elegant theory that makes intuitive sense. Regrettably, Dr. Walter Freeman’s lobotomobile is no longer in service, but his method of inserting a small ice pick through the eye socket and wiggling it to and fro seemed easy enough to replicate. Of course, we mentioned the possibility of becoming incapacitated due to cognitive impairment and the risks of cerebral hemorrhage and infection as well as the 15 % mortality rate. Ms. Anne Derstoode adamantly refused this high-tech medical treatment despite being informed that even the Kennedy family had thought it appropriate for Rosemary (though in her particular case it left her mentally incapacitated and unable to speak intelligibly).

As you know only too well, wise bureaucrat, we cannot expect our patients to always make rational decisions. Still we strive to avoid paternalistic approaches in medicine. Instead, we must try to formulate a collaborative treatment plan with our patients. Thus, we offered her another option from our armamentarium of effective treatments and sought to meet her where she was, so to speak. Namely, with your blessing and generous reimbursement, we prescribed psychotropic medications. Surely, the brain is an organ like the kidney or the heart and mental illness is a medical illness just as can be said of diabetes or hypertension. It is merely a chemical imbalance that can be corrected by chemical magic bullets. This is what we tell our patients, and quite, honestly, we’ve been saying it for so long that we almost believe it ourselves. True, Robert Whitaker, in The Anatomy of an Epidemic, presented substantive, persuasive evidence, based on long-term psychiatric studies, that these medications, though modestly helpful in the short-term, appear to worsen long-term prognosis.  The leaders of our field have roundly dismissed such conclusions as dangerous nonsense, although they have not yet found time to explain why this is so. Nonetheless, these key opinion leaders most assuredly have an astounding depth and breadth of psychopharmacological knowledge. How else could we explain the fact that they are in such high demand for consultations by Big Pharma?  In any case, such oddball concerns about medication efficacy and adverse effects haven’t caused us to modify our practice one whit as you continue to provide generous reimbursement as an incentive to medicate our patients. Presumably, this approach is less expensive than the alternatives.

Revered bureaucrat, as we know, medical practice is determined by who pays for what. We are not so naïve as to believe that the best treatments can always be implemented. We obviously need to focus on what is reimbursable.  In any case, we must remain on guard against rabid skepticism. After all, if we listened to the doubters, we would have to abandon such fine treatments as trepanation and insulin shock therapy. As it turned out, the combination of an antidepressant and an antipsychotic had an undeniable impact. Specifically, she gained 47 pounds and developed diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Her depression raged on so we bravely added another antidepressant, an additional antipsychotic, an antianxiety medication (clonazepam) and an anticonvulsant (mainly as it was one of the few remaining medications with which we were familiar). Although her speech was slurred and she was a bit disoriented, we did observe that her sleep improved to the point that she had to nap much of the day in addition to a healthy ten hours per night. On the debit side of the ledger, due to impaired balance, she did fall and fracture her hip. Once again, our integrity proved to be our downfall as Ms. Anne Derstoode became noncompliant after our thorough review of potential adverse effects including cerebral atrophy from the second generation antipsychotic medication.

Honorable bureaucrat, we humbly suggest that the time has come to think outside the box. For a moment, let us suspend our belief in the primacy of interventions based on our proven biological theories. In this vein, we propose that we attempt an unconventional, if not radical, approach: spend some time listening to our patient. Please indulge us the opportunity to plead the case for this most atypical treatment. If we were to listen to her and learn more about her problems, we might be able to help her address these. For example, we do know she is now unemployed and homeless. Perhaps she is feeling somewhat isolated and lonely since leaving her abusive husband several months ago and needs to share her story with someone. At this point, there seems to be little to lose in implementing such an unlikely approach.  Although, rarely utilized, there is some evidence that the technique of listening to our patients can be beneficial. For example,  rumor has it that Open Dialogue as implemented in Tornio, Finland  resulted in medication usage in only 20%  and employment rates of 80% of individuals who initially presented with a first episode of schizophrenia;  the inverse of our rates of medication and employment for this patient group. Of course this is not relevant for us as there is no insurance reimbursement for such an approach. We do, however, request permission simply to listen to our patient. Additionally, she may need to consider making some changes in her life. This technique bears some resemblance to the practice of some forms of psychotherapy which mental health clinicians of bygone days sometimes found useful. We recognize the need to be reasonable and to adhere to the community standard of practice so we would not exceed the usual eight allowed visits per annum for this rather bizarre treatment trial. We have not yet asked Ms. Anne Derstoode what she thinks of the idea that we listen to her, but will consider doing so once we receive your reply.

With deepest respect,

Dr. Burnerd Oute

THE END

Farce Humour Satire

UK PUBLIC HEALTH & POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HEARINGS

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

The setting is a barge at Docklands near Canary Wharf in London, rocking gently in the River Thames as it waits for a tug boat to be hooked up. Something like a worn, prefabricated structure sits on the barge, which was previously used as a venue for a small theatre company—SUMMER THEATRE ON THE THAMES. The structure is filled with about forty persons of various description, age and ethnicity, some looking serious and others agitated. Today hearings will be held on the subject of political correctness. There is a difference of opinion as to which committee of Parliament should receive the report of these hearings. The choices are: (1) The Committee on Public Health and Diseases, or (2) The Committee on Universities and Free Speech.

Persons in attendance include a student union representatives, one reporter, a few students and members of the public; they are seated in rows of wooden folding chairs from a previous era. At one end, the front for purposes of this temporary forum is a long table that resembles a slab of wood resting on two sawhorses. Behind it are two chairs for representatives of the Parliamentary Committees concerned and an empty chair in the centre for the Chairman. At one end is an additional chair for the Clerk. On the wall behind the table is a hastily attached portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in a gold frame. There is a loud clunk, accompanied by a jolt as the barge connects to the tug boat and starts moving slowly along the Thames. The Clerk enters, followed by the Chairman, who heads for the chair in the centre. They are both wearing black suits, the Chairman dressed for court except for his wig.

CLERK: All rise … except Jeremy Corbyn.

CHAIRMAN: I don’t think he is here.

(Everyone, except Jeremy Corbyn, who is not present anyway, stands)

CHAIRMAN: That’s not necessary. Please be seated.

MP BIDDLECOMBE:  It’s about time we got started. I was beginning to get seasick just sitting here, rocking back and forth. It doesn’t pay to be on time.

REPORTER (standing): I have a question.

CLERK:  Questions will be taken in due course, when permitted by the Chairman.

REPORTER:  I just want to know why this hearing is being held in the middle of the River Thames.

CLERK:  I am not privy to that information.

LORD STRONG:  We wanted to limit the number of persons in attendance to minimise costs.

REPORTER: Looks like you are trying to keep out demonstrators.

LORD STRONG:  Not at all.

CLERK:  Sounds like a good idea to me.

REPORTER:  I wasn’t addressing you.

(There is a murmur in the audience and the CHAIRMAN bangs a gavel several times)

REPORTER:  Another thing, these seats are uncomfortable.

LORD STRONG (to REPORTER): If you are unhappy, hard cheese—you are free to leave.

REPORTER:  How can I leave? We are in the middle of a river.

CLERK: What’s that got to do with it? You can walk the plank.

REPORTER: I have never been so insulted.

CLERK:  Hard to believe.

CHAIRMAN (to CLERK):  Kindly apologise to the REPORTER.

CLERK:  I apologise, as the barge has no plank, but we do have life vests and large inner tubes from lorries.

LORD STRONG (to REPORTER):  Well, are you staying or leaving?

(The REPORTER sits in his uncomfortable chair)

CHAIRMAN (to CLERK):  Proceed.

CLERK:  Today’s hearing is about whether political correctness unreasonably restricts free speech.

LORD STRONG:  You mean suffocating free speech.

CHAIRMAN:  You may express your viewpoint later.

MP BIDDLECOME:  Seems to me that the first order of business is which of two Committees of Parliament should receive our findings. One view is that political correctness is an infringement of free speech and stifles ideas so the Committee on Universities and Free Speech is the correct one. The other view is that political correctness is a rapidly spreading disease which should be regulated by the Public Health and Disease Services.

STUDENT (standing): I object because you failed to give a ‘trigger warning’.

MP BIDDLECOME: What are you talking about?

STUDENT (shaking nervously): You know, a trigger warning, that you are going to mention something that I might find offensive or make me feel uncomfortable.

LORD STRONG: What kind of codswallop is that?

MP BIDDLECOME: It’s some kind of political correctness twaddle from the States that unfortunately has been endorsed by a majority of universities in the UK.

CHAIRMAN (to STUDENT): What was said that upset you?

STUDENT: The word ‘disease.’

LORD STRONG (to STUDENT): Haven’t you ever been sick?

STUDENT: I am also sensitive to that word.

MP BIDDLECOME: The word disease is no doubt going to be repeated many times. As a matter of fact, we are going to discuss whether or not political correctness is a disease. Why don’t you just cover your ears?

STUDENT: If I cover both ears I cannot take notes.

MP BIDDLECOME: We all have problems, but they probably don’t teach you that at university nowadays—just about retreating to safe spaces—where you can cuddle-up far away from the big, bad world.

LORD STRONG: I read that these some of these safe spaces have cookies, stuffed animals, calming music, pillows, colouring books, games and toys—even Playdough.

MP BIDDLECOME: Another asinine idea that seems to have drifted over here from the States.

STUDENT: I again object to not being given a trigger warning.

CHAIRMAN: It’s a little too late for that, and we are not obligated to do so in any event.

STUDENT: Then, I insist on being provided with a safe space while the current topic is discussed.

MP BIDDLECOME: Your bargaining position is not very good – out in the middle of the river.

LORD STRONG (to STUDENT): I believe that is the only solution we can offer, unless you want to swim.

CHAIRMAN: I’m afraid that option is not available. It’s illegal for anyone to swim in the Thames without prior permission from the Port of London Authority, at least between Crossness in east London and Putney Bridge in south-west London.

LORD STRONG (to STUDENT): I assume that you have a mobile phone. Would you like to call the Port of London Authority for permission?

STUDENT: Of course not.

MP BIDDLECOME (to STUDENT): I think we may be able to accommodate you. Why don’t you wait in the men’s toilet until we finish. If you put the seat down it shouldn’t be any more uncomfortable than the chairs out here. The space is not very big, but there’s a small window you can open if the smell is too much for you.

LORD STRONG: Of course, if someone knocks on the door you will have to let them in to piss or take a crap, maybe for a minute or two, or possibly longer. You never know.

STUDENT: I am used to a much more comfortable safe space than you are offering me. I will definitely report this to the National Union of Students.

LORD STRONG: You can report it to the Sun or the Daily Express as far as I’m concerned.

STUDENT: Those are some of the newspapers banned at my university.

LORD STRONG: More evidence of political correctness stifling free speech. Universities are supposed to be about learning, free exchanges of ideas and debates. They are turning into day care centres.

MP BIDDLECOME: I am sure there are some other students in the audience. Do any of you have a teddy bear that you can loan the STUDENT to keep him company in the toilet and help relieve his emotional stress?

(A female GRADUATE STUDENT comes forward and hands her teddy bear to the STUDENT who holds it tightly)

GRADUATE STUDENT: I only have one more term to finish my PhD; I never would have made it this far without my Teddy.

(The GRADUATE STUDENT pats Teddy on the head, then the STUDENT, and returns to her seat in the back)

MP BIDDLECOME: Very nice gesture.

GRADUATE STUDENT (to STUDENT): Oh, don’t leave the window open all the way; I don’t want Teddy to come down with anything.

LORD STRONG: I don’t know if there is any toilet paper in the loo. Take your notepad with you, just in case.

(The STUDENT reluctantly walks over to the toilet, opens the door and pulls on the light switch string once, then again and again. After being advised of the problem, MP BIDDLECOME yells over to the STUDENT that the barge hasn’t been used for several months and no one remembered to replace the light bulbs. The STUDENT puts the seat down, opens the window and closes the door)

CHAIRMAN: Getting back to business, the choice of Committee will be deferred. I don’t think that we can properly decide the most appropriate Committee until all of the issues have been discussed.

MP BIDDLECOME: Agreed. May I make an opening statement?

CHAIRMAN: Proceed.

MP BIDDLECOME: Ladies and Gentlemen.

REPORTER (interrupting): You can’t say that any more.

MP BIDDLECOME: Why not?

REPORTER: The TfL has issued a new prohibition against saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ on public transport.

LORD STRONG: Bollocks. It reinforces the need to hold these hearings.

MP BIDDLECOME: In addition to being the dumbest thing I ever heard, we are not on public transport.

LORD STRONG: Furthermore, the TfL has no jurisdiction over these Parliamentary hearings.

CHAIRMAN: That is correct.

MP BIDDLECOME (to the CHAIRMAN): May I continue?

CHAIRMAN: Proceed.

MP BIDDLECOME: Ladies and gentlemen … excluding a certain member of the press … I wish to emphasise the importance of today’s hearings. Professors have been ostracised and speakers prohibited from appearing on university campuses in increasing numbers for trying to present points of view that do not agree with University officials or more often the objections of student unions. Newspapers, books, songs and words are banned and students are expelled based on mere allegations that their views are controversial. Emotion now governs over reason, with universities quickly caving into the latest moaning of ultra-liberal students coddled from birth. Maoist conformity is enforced with student codes of conduct and student unions dictate the establishment of safe spaces furnished with the most coddling amenities.

LORD STRONG: These restrictive policies and actions are not limited to on-campus activities or speech, but extend to extra-curricular student political and social activities. Students and university staff are encouraged to report what other students or professors say on Twitter. This is reminiscent of Nazi Germany where each block of apartments had a Block Warden whose duties included spying on fellow citizens and reporting them to the government about any unfavourable comments about the regime. Even friends, neighbours and family members reported each other to the Gestapo. If this trend continues, the only thing missing will be the brown shirts and jackboots.

MP BIDDLECOME: I have with me a copy of the 2017 Free Speech University Rankings, a spiked project that analysed campus censorship on 115 UK universities. It found that 63.5% of them actively censor speech and 30.5% stifle speech through excessive regulation, based on the policies of the universities and students’ unions.

CHAIRMAN: I can see that the Committee on Universities and Free Speech is the proper committee to receive our report of this hearing.

MP BIDDLECOME: Maybe so, but political correctness may also equally be viewed as a rapidly spreading disease, which unchecked will impede the minds of students and destroy their ability to think and reason. The well-known comedian George Carlin once said that political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners, but I prefer to say that political correctness is merely a euphemism for censorship. Some of the tactics and policies are nothing less that mind control. This is a matter to be regulated by the Public Health and Disease Services.

LORD STRONG: Another aspect concerning public health and the spread of disease recently occurred at Strathclyde University after cleaning staff complained about encountering poo in bins and showers, as well as finding used toilet paper where it shouldn’t be. A memo sent out to the University’s multicultural population stating that although different countries have different practices, the accepted practice in the UK was to use the WC, was disowned by the University after it received a substantial backlash from students who were offended.

MINORITY STUDENT (standing, in a loud voice): Damn right; it was insulting. I come from a country where several hundred million people take a shit outdoors everyday—helps fertilise the crops too.

MP BIDDLECOME: I think that you will find the UK quite green as a result of frequent rain, rather than people shitting outdoors everywhere.

MINORITY STUDENT: You won’t even find the words toilet paper in our language, or the dictionary for that matter.

MP BIDDLECOME: You might do your fellow students a favour by inventing such a translation in your country’s language.

LORD STRONG: Be that as it may, you have to make some adjustments to your lifestyle when you live in a foreign country. For example, you cannot graduate from a UK university if you cannot write or speak English. Furthermore, hygiene and sanitation are matters of public concern that prevent the spread of disease.

MP BIDDLECOME: I believe that Strathclyde University is in the process of reaching a compromise with its cleaning staff, which has resulted in the following proposed policy:

Effective immediately all staff and students are free to piss or take a crap anywhere on university premises. In order to respect certain cultures, men will be allowed to shit in the university swimming pool only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday—women may relieve themselves in the pool on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The pool will necessarily be closed on Sundays for extensive cleaning.

CHAIRMAN: I think our report is equally important to the Public Health and Disease Services, but because of the corrupting effect that political correctness has on poisoning the minds of students rather than poo at Strathclyde University, although that is a serious health matter.

LORD STRONG: There is a much bigger health problem than poo at Strathclyde University

CLERK: Especially if you step in it.

CHAIRMAN: You need not state the obvious.

CLERK: It’s even worse when you slip on it. You could end up stinking up the inside of an ambulance.

MP BIDDLECOME: You sound like you are speaking from personal experience.

CLERK: As a matter of fact ….

CHAIRMAN: I’m sure that it’s an interesting story, but some other time, if you please.

LORD STRONG: As I was about to say, we need to be concerned about the mental health of students. Apparently many of these mollycoddled students are truly distressed at hearing anything the least bit contrary to their views. This may result in psychological problems with long-term effects.

MP BIDDLECOME: That is certainly something for the Public Health and Disease Services to consider. Even the words free speech or democracy will throw some hypersensitive students into a tizzy.

CHAIRMAN: Another negative aspect of political correctness is rewriting history, something that authoritarian regimes the world over have done repeatedly.

LORD STRONG: Or erasing history, such as the protests to remove the statute of Cecil Rhodes at the entrance of the Rhodes Building at Oriel College, Oxford. Some African student started a big brouhaha to remove the statute after helping himself to the benefits of a Rhodes scholarship.

MP BIDDLECOME: Biting the hand that feeds you—kind of like modern day cannibalism.

LORD STRONG: Interesting analogy, but I wouldn’t go quite that far. It does seem quite hypocritical though.

MP BIDDLECOME: What is their point that the money to build Oriel College was stolen from Africa in the first place? Should we tear down the Rhodes Building and ship the stones and bricks to South Africa? They could build a mausoleum celebrating the death of free speech.

LORD STRONG: Maybe the scholarship money should be repaid to Oriel College by the offended recipients and then sent on to South Africa.

CHAIRMAN: Let’s move on. In this age of conformity and snowflake insanity another danger is the well-entrenched practice to dis-invite or prohibit speakers from appearing on university campuses, including men and women who are well-respected in their profession, if any overly sensitive student or group of campus censors protests that they would be uncomfortable, although speakers promoting anarchy are not. Others who do make it on campus are shouted down at the slightest improper comment.

LORD STRONG: As political correctness sweeps across university campuses in the States and the UK, students are constantly being brainwashed and bullied. It’s not only speech but behaviour that is being regulated by the political correctness brigade. Professors are being bullied online by students who are easily offended by opposing views. This is criminal but you are not going to get any convictions.

CHAIRMAN: I think we have finished talking about disease and sickness. Maybe we should advise the snowflake that he can come back now.

(The CLERK, after being directed by the CHAIRMAN, goes over to the men’s toilet and knocks on the door. The door opens and the STUDENT comes out holding his notebook in one hand and the Teddy Bear in the other. The GRADUATE STUDENT rushes over to reclaim Teddy. She wrinkles her nose, sniffs Teddy)

STUDENT: I’m sorry but we had an accident. When I reached up to close the window I slipped and Teddy fell into the toilet. There wasn’t any water in it but it does stink a bit.

(The GRADUATE STUDENT, wearing a T-shirt which says ‘Peace & Love’ slapped the STUDENT in the face and returned to her seat. The shocked STUDENT turns to go back inside the toilet, reconsiders and takes a different seat on the end of a row of mostly empty chairs)

MP BIDDLECOME: We should discuss is the obsession with ‘cultural appropriation’ by students and capitulating universities.

LORD STRONG: What the bloody hell is that?

MP BIDDLECOME: In a nutshell it’s moaners from other countries who complain that food served by UK colleges misrepresents their culture. Pembroke College, Cambridge recently came under attack by students complaining that it was serving culturally insensitive food.

LORD STRONG: No doubt started in the States.

MP BIDDLECOME: Yes, started by the student Stasi in the States condemning the action of someone from one culture who borrows from the culture of another.

CARIBBEAN STUDENT: This is a serious problem—serving a fake dish called Jamaican Stew. It doesn’t even have the right ingredients-beef and mangos.

UNIVERSITY COOK (to CARIBBEAN STUDENT): Can you list the ingredients in my Jamaican Stew or give me a complete recipe of an authentic Jamaican Stew?

CARIBBEAN STUDENT: Not off of the top of my head, but I know when it tastes right.

UNIVERSITY COOK: Have you ever spent more than ten minutes in a kitchen or cooked any Jamaican food of any kind?

CARIBBEAN STUDENT: Course not, my Mom does the cooking.

UNIVERSITY COOK: So you have no clue how to make Jamaican Stew. Let me tell you something, there is not one official recipe for it. When you go back to Jamaica, visit ten different restaurants or ten different family homes and you will find that each one makes Jamaican Stew a bit differently even though most of the ingredients are the same.

CARIBBEAN STUDENT: Who says I’m going back?

CLERK: Sounds like a good idea to me.

UNIVERSITY COOK: I got online to search for recipes for Jamaican Stew and found dozens of recipes for ‘authentic Jamaican Stew’ and the one that I selected just happened to use beef and mangos. We try to make food for students more interesting by providing a variety of dishes from around the world.

CARIBBEAN STUDENT: That’s not the way I see it.

UNIVERSITY COOK: You don’t have to eat what we serve. You could bring your own sandwiches, but you probably don’t even know how to make one. Many students ate our Jamaican Stew and everyone seemed to like it, except for a few moaners who are too lazy to furnish us with a more authentic recipe.

LORD STRONG: It’s about bringing cultures together, not appropriating cultures. Only a fool would think that all of these recipes from around the world were 100% authentic in all cases, especially in a university café or food hall.

CHAIRMAN: In a way it’s like puffery—making things sound better by using fancy words to sell real property, used automobiles or vacations—such as the best pizza in Shoreditch. Most consumers do not take these exaggerated statements seriously.

MP BIDDLECOME: There was an article recently in one of the liberal newspapers by some bore claiming that barbeque is a form of cultural power and that by eating it you are insulting Africans.

LORD STRONG: Bollocks. What does this clown want the government to do—close down all restaurants serving foods from other countries? No more Chinese, French, Italian, Greek, Japanese or Indian restaurants or pizza parlours? In addition to the stupidity of so-called cultural appropriation, look how many jobs would be lost and small businesses closed down because of a few easily offended bozos.

MP BIDDLECOME: There is at least one Chinese restaurant in almost every city in the world. Should all of them be closed down except for the ones in China? They are run by Chinese owners, and many of the dishes have been westernised to suit customer taste.

LORD STRONG: I would be hard pressed to find that cultural appropriation, and certainly not racist.

CHAIRMAN: This cultural appropriation nonsense extends to much more than food. One student union at the University of East Anglia stopped a restaurant from handing out Sombreros to students. A university in Canada even banned yoga classes because it considered them cultural appropriation.

LORD STRONG: Looks like it is better to be politically correct than healthy in Canada, not that I would ever go there.

MP BIDDLECOME: Racism is used blatantly as justification for political correctness. The latest example of this insanity comes from Oxford University. The university’s Equality and Diversity Unit recently lectured students in a newsletter that if they avoided eye contact when speaking to another person they were guilty of the crimes of subtle racism and racial micro-aggression, no doubt felonies worthy of incarceration in the Tower of London.

STUDENT UNION REP: You are not taking cultural appropriation seriously, especially as it concerns food, which affects minority students more than other types of appropriation.

MP BIDDLECOME: What university does your student union represent?

STUDENT UNION REP: I’m not required to answer that.

LORD STRONG: Afraid of your own shadow are you?

(Suddenly there was a commotion in the back of the room. A young GIRL WITH GLASSES screamed as something jumped out of her backpack, which had been sitting on the floor beside her chair. It was a small white rabbit intent on not being caught and returned to the backpack. The rabbit ran back and forth, then up to the front and was cornered under the table)

MP BIDDLECOME: This is outrageous. What is a rabbit doing here?

GIRL WITH GLASSES: It’s my comfort animal. I take him everywhere.

(She finally scooped up the rabbit and held it close to her body)

LORD STRONG: I hope your rabbit is not going to poop on the floor. We have to return the barge in the same condition. Did you bring a plastic bag—just in case?

(The GIRL WITH GLASSES did not answer, just spoke quietly to her rabbit and returned to her seat, still holding the rabbit instead of returning it to the backpack. A few of those nearby went over to see the cute little rabbit. The CHAIRMAN banged his gavel several times)

CHAIRMAN: Please return to your seats. We have serious matters to discuss.

MP BIDDLECOME: I believe the STUDENT UNION REP was about to say something.

STUDENT UNION REP: Definitely. You need to take cultural appropriation more seriously because many students are truly offended, especially about misrepresenting their native food.

LORD STRONG: Do you have any suggestions as to what we should do, or just complaints?

STUDENT UNION REP: You could start by banning culturally offensive food from university cafés and food halls.

LORD STRONG: How should we define culturally offensive food?

STUDENT UNION REP: Food from other cultures that isn’t authentic.

LORD STRONG: How should authentic be defined—recipes with 100% proper ingredients or 90% or 85%? How low should the bar be?

STUDENT UNION REP: You’re making this complicated.

LORD STRONG: Not at all. It was your idea, but it cannot be enforced without basic definitions. This requires thinking and making decisions, something you may not be familiar with. Food can’t be outlawed merely because of a few complaints.

MP BIDDLECOME: The university cooks also have rights. They are entitled to know with certainty what the rules are. Recipes would have to be compiled, probably from online searches, ingredients listed and compared to come up with an acceptable percentage.

LORD STRONG (to STUDENT UNION REP): I know that you have a problem with answering questions, but I will ask one anyway. Do you only care about the ingredients if food is identified as being from a particular culture?

STUDENT UNION REP: I don’t understand the question.

LORD STRONG: To make things as easy as humanly possible, let’s try some examples. Would you object if Jamaican Stew based on your Mom’s recipe were merely described as ‘Today’s Special’ without disclosing the country of origin. Try to focus on the question. It is not based on failing to give your Mom credit, but on the question of cultural appropriation.

STUDENT UNION REP: I’m not sure; that’s a tough one.

LORD STRONG: Let’s try another one. How about pizza not made the way it is made in Italy being described as ‘Italian Pizza?’

STUDENT UNION REP: Not acceptable.

LORD STRONG: What about a westernized version of ‘Chop Suey’ prepared by a Chinese chef with his own recipe?

STUDENT UNION REP: That doesn’t make it authentic Chinese food.

LORD STRONG: Fair enough.

MP BIDDLECOME: I don’t know that I agree. If the Chop Suey is not described as an authentic Chinese dish, how is it cultural appropriation?

CHAIRMAN: I find it hard to call a westernized version of Chop Suey cultural appropriation if it is served in a restaurant in Chinatown that serves mostly authentic Chinese food.

MP BIDDLECOME: Seems to me that any determination of culturally insensitive food, if we were to agree to such a classification, should be based on the particular name used to describe the dish and the percentage of authentic ingredients, irrespective of the nationality of the cook.

STUDENT UNION REP: So, are you actually going to do something?

CHAIRMAN: The hearings will adjourn for fifteen minutes while the Committee decides what recommendations to include in its report.

(The three Committee members step outside for a breath of fresh air and a smoke, deliberate for several minutes, and return to their seats)

CHAIRMAN: The Committee has decided what to include in its report. There are many issues about free speech, censorship, mental health, and the primary purposes of universities that must seriously be considered. Because the issues cannot be totally isolated from each other, our report will be submitted to both committees of Parliament—the Committee on Universities and Free Speech and the Public Health and Disease Services.

STUDENT UNION REP: What about cultural appropriation.

LORD STRONG: It will be discussed in general with reference to food, conduct and other aspects. There will be no specific recommendations except with respect to so-called cultural appropriation of foods from other cultures. In addition to the perceived complaints from sensitive students, this raises the issue of possible false labelling or advertising under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

MP BIDDLECOME: Those regulations apply to business-to-consumer transactions. I’m not sure they apply to universities or colleges.

LORD STRONG: Even so, who owns or manages cafés or food halls on or near campuses might be relevant.

CHAIRMAN: Our report will also be sent to the Office of Fair Trade. They can decide who their regulations apply to and if there are any violations.

CLERK: Your report should also recommend prohibiting any of those crazy recipes from California.

MP BIDDLECOME: Thank you for your input, but are you again speaking from personal experience?

CHAIRMAN: Let’s move on and finish this hearing.

STUDENT UNION REP: I didn’t hear anything about what specific actions you are going to take to prevent cultural misappropriation of food from other cultures.

LORD STRONG: If you would be more patient, probably not your greatest strength, you will find out. The only action that we are going to take is to report the issues discussed here today and our recommendations, which will be forwarded to the appropriate Committees of Parliament and government authorities for consideration.

STUDENT UNION REP: So, when will your new rules to prohibit cultural appropriation take effect?

LORD STRONG (to MP BIDDLECOME): Did I say anything about this Committee issuing any rules?

MP BIDDLECOME: No—only recommendations, not rules.

CLERK: I didn’t hear anything about rules either—only recommendations.

LORD STRONG: Thank you once again for your input.

STUDENT UNION REP: I’m still waiting for details.

MP BIDDLECOME: Wait no longer. The following is a tentative list of our recommendations, subject to review before we submit our written report. The proposed restrictions are to apply to cafés, restaurants, food halls, pizza parlours and takeaway establishments that are located on any accredited university or college or within ten kilometres, whether or not owned or leased by them or others and irrespective of the nationality of the cook.

LORD STRONG (to STUDENT UNION REP): I’m sure that we can count on you to measure distances for compliance.

CLERK: I assume that distance would be as the crow flies.

LORD STRONG: You assume correctly.

MP BIDDLECOME: If I may continue, preferably without further interruption, I will list a few foods that we recommend as possible prohibited foods, those not likely to be considered culturally authentic – Belgian waffles, Chop Suey, French toast, Greek salad, Hungarian goulash, Irish stew, Pizza, Schnitzel, Swedish meatballs, Swiss steak and Tandoori chicken.

CHINESE STUDENT: You can’t do that. My parents own a small Chinese restaurant bordering my college and I work there part-time to help pay off my tuition loans.

STUDENT UNION REP: You didn’t list BBQ.

GRADUATE STUDENT: You can’t prohibit my favourite food.

STUDENT UNION REP: The student union will decide for you which foods should be banned as culturally insensitive.

GRADUATE STUDENT: You are an arrogant jackass as well as a fascist.

STUDENT: How am I going to stay alive without hot pizza in the afternoon and cold pizza leftovers in the morning? I’m feeling insecure already.

MP BIDDLECOME (to LORD STRONG): Sounds like some backlash to political correctness and Maoist conformity.

LORD STRONG: A nice sound indeed.

MP BIDDLECOME: And about time.

CHAIRMAN (banging his gavel): This hearing is adjourned.

(Everyone is jolted as the barge bumps into the dock from where the journey started. The rabbit jumps from the arms of the GIRL WITH GLASSES and the chase begins anew)

THE END

Satire

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS – Sellout to China

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy 

The scene is the four-storey building which houses the almost 500-year old Cambridge University Press, the building itself not being anywhere near that old. Two middle-aged gentlemen are engaged in a serious discussion as to whether or not the Press should publish a recently submitted manuscript. The older gentleman has the look of a worn out professor with his out-of-date suit (frayed at the elbows), red bow tie and rows of wrinkles above his thick framed glasses. He speaks with authority and conviction. His associate, a few years younger, is more casually dressed and has been with the Press almost as long. They have learned long ago to roll with the punches and adjust to changing times in the world and at the Press. Their names were Mr Kow and Mr Tow, respectively. Mr Kow and Mr Tow were both distantly related to former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, although they did not advertise the fact.

“I say, Tow”, what do you think of this book”? Kow said.

“Well, the Press has never published that type of book before”, Tow said.

“Can’t be too careful”, Kow said. “Taking chances is not the motto of the Press”.

“Not at all”, Tow said.

“Nor the way to keep one’s job”, Kow said.

“Wouldn’t be easy to find other employment at our age”, Tow said. “Not that it’s easy for anyone these days”.

Kow looked at his pocket watch, then at Tow, about to suggest that they go to lunch, but was interrupted by a loud rap on the door. “Enter,” he said, instead of come in—something he had picked up from a play in the West End Theatre District of London decades ago.

A deliveryman in a UPS uniform came in and handed a package to Tow, who was closer to the door. “It’s not addressed to me”, Tow said.

“Nobody here except you guys”, said the UPS driver. “I just need a signature so I can get rid of this package and go on my way. I got a schedule to keep. Don’t matter to me who signs”.

While Tow was thinking over the responsibility involved, Kow said, “I’ll sign for it”, and Tow expressed a sign of relief. Making decisions was not his first love.

Tow quickly handed the package to Kow, who said, “It’s from Beijing”. Tow looked puzzled and Kow said, “That’s in China”.

“I know Beijing is in China”, Tow said, “but we don’t know anyone in China and the package is not addressed to either of us”.

“I think we’re stuck with it”, Kow said. He held the package to his ear and shook it gently.

“Be careful, it might be a bomb”, Tow said as he backed away.

“Nonsense”, said Kow. “The package is very light and I don’t hear anything moving around inside.  I’m going to open it right now or else we will be staring at a Chinese puzzle all day”.

The package was wrapped in brown paper, sealed with brown mailing tape and was securely tied with string. It appeared to be from some official Chinese government agency. Kow found a pair of scissors and cut the string, then peeled off the outer brown wrapping and opened the box. Under the cushioning material he found a much smaller box, bright red in colour and made of sturdy material.

“Anything inside explaining what this is all about”? Tow asked.

Kow rummaged through the cushioning material before shaking his head no.

“That’s a beautiful box”, Tow said. “It would be a shame to rip it apart just to find out what’s inside”.

“You do want to know what’s inside, don’t you”.  Kow asked.

“Yes, and then we need to get back to work”, Tow said.

“You mean after lunch”, Kow said, as he pulled the top off the small red box to find its contents wrapped in tissue paper.  Kow unwrapped the tissue paper very carefully and found a Chinese fortune cookie.

“Is this a joke”, Tow asked.

“If it is, it’s a very expense one”, Kow said, looking at his watch. “If we want lunch, we had better hurry before they stop serving”.

“Bring the fortune cookie along. Today is Thursday so they should have Chinese food, but they never have fortune cookies”, Tow said. “How fortuitous that is”.

“Are you trying to impress me with fancy sounding words”, Kow asked.

“Just a bad habit from University to make my essays longer and sound more academic”, Tow said.

***

Kow and Tow rushed to order their food and then ate at a leisurely pace. They ordered sandwiches as no Chinese food was available. They pushed their empty plates aside and pulled their cups of tea closer. Kow placed the red box on the table, removed the fortune cookie and placed it on a paper napkin.

“They only sent one”, Kow said. “Do you want to toss a shilling for it or split it in two”?

“It’s kind of small to share”, said Tow. “Why don’t you eat it and give me the fortune inside”?

“You’re not allowed to bring your own food”, said the voice of a passing student who was obviously not familiar with the word diet.

The student took a few steps, then turned and stared at Kow and Tow, so they took the fortune cookie back to their office.

***

Back in the office, Kow removed the fortune cookie from the red box, broke it in half and handed the fortune to Tow, who unravelled it—an extremely long, narrow piece of paper.

“I’ve never seen one that long”, Kow said. “Read it to me”.

“One side merely says ‘A SUGGESTION’ and the other side is quite lengthy”, Tow said, who then read it aloud.

IT WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT IDEA AS A FRIEND OF CHINA TO BLOCK ACCESS ON THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS WEBSITE TO OBJECTIONABLE ARTICLES FROM THE CHINA QUARTERLY. ENCLOSED IS A LIST OF APPROXIMATELY 300 SUCH ARTICLES.

Kow looked puzzled; then took a closer look inside the small red box.  With the help of a letter opener he scraped a piece of paper from the bottom of the box and unfolded it over and over until it became the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Printed on both sides, it no doubt contained the names of over 300 articles.

“What do we do now”? Tow asked. “It said it was only a suggestion”.

“Bollocks. It did not say it was only a suggestion; it said it was a suggestion”, Kow said. “The meaning is rather obvious and we want continued access to the internet in China. Either we comply or suffer the consequences”.

“We’ll get a backlash from the academic community and be accused of enforcing censorship on behalf of Communist China if we agree to this,” Tow said.

“Look, Apple, Bloomberg and Facebook are accommodating China in order to maintain access to the Chinese market,” Kow said.

“Yes, but that’s all about money,” Tow said. “Who is responsible for making such an important decision anyway”?

“Unfortunately, we are,” Kow said, “or rather, I am.”

“I suppose you are right,” Tow said, “but I am going to protest in my own small way”.

“What are you going to do?” asked Kow.

“I am going to stop eating General Tso’s chicken and egg foo young for one month,” Tow said.

“Those are not really authentic Chinese dishes,” Kow said.

“Doesn’t matter,” said Tow. “One month”.

“Call the IT Department and have them send someone over straightaway to start removing access to the objectionable articles”.

THE END

Satire

BEWARE the REVERSE MORTGAGE

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

The elderly couple lived on a tree-lined street close to the downtown area of a small town that had seen better times, much better times. Unemployment had contributed to the decline, but did not directly affect the retired couple. Then that controversial word “gentrification” reared its ugly head. As often happens, gentrification starts off slowly and suddenly accelerates. Neighbouring houses were torn down and replaced at great expense by much larger homes. The spread between the fixed income of the retired couple and the cost of living kept increasing, primarily because of big property taxe increases on their home due to its location. Many others affected by this situation had moved out, but not them. It would never happen, not after fifty plus years in this cosy home. Still, something had to be done.

Walter and Grace were watching one of their favourite TV programs, actually Grace’s favourite, when it was interrupted by the advertisement about reverse mortgages for the second time. They had been thinking about it for some time. It all seemed so simple. That nice looking actor on the TV told them that he used to think there might be a catch to reverse mortgages, but not so he assured them repeatedly. You could use the money for whatever you wanted—payment of medical bills, home improvements, new car, maybe a boat or a vacation in Las Vegas or Italy. The best thing was that you didn’t have to pay the loan back. Just spend the money.

Grace turned down the volume on the TV, picked up her cell phone and started punching in the numbers on the TV screen.

“What are you doing?” Walter asked.

“Calling the 800 number”, Grace said. “It’s time we did something”.

“Let me have the phone”, Walter said, as he reached for it.

Grace handed the phone to him and said, “I thought you were never going to call”.

“I will”, said Walter, cutting off the call, “but not them. I don’t like their advertising; it irritates me”.

“I think you are jealous of that good looking actor”, Grace said.

“Actors don’t know anything about business”, Walter said. “They are paid to say that the sponsor has a wonderful product—probably hasn’t even used it himself”.

“He doesn’t look old enough to need a reverse mortgage.” Grace said.

“Don’t let the heavy makeup fool you,” Walter said.

“I thought we agreed to get a reverse mortgage, or at least look into it”, Grace said.

“Absolutely”, Walter said. “I’m going to look on the internet for companies that offer reverse mortgages and do a comparison”.

“Next week, or next month?”  Grace asked.

“Right now”, said Walter, who went over to a small desk and turned on his computer and began a search. Finally satisfied, Walter made an appointment with a mortgage broker for the next day and gave him driving instructions to the house.

***

Mr Huff drove up to the residence that was seeking a reverse mortgage the following morning, parked in the driveway and rang the doorbell at exactly 11 a.m. Walter opened the door and said, “Right on time”.

Walter looked outside toward the driveway at a used Chevrolet with a dented front left fender. Mr. Huff quickly said, “That’s a loaner; the only one they had available. I had to leave my Jaguar at the dealer for maintenance again. Jaguars are wonderful cars, but they do require a bit of maintenance. You know how it is”.

Walter didn’t know how it is, or was. He invited Mr. Huff inside and introduced him to Grace.

“Have a seat on the rocker, Mr. Huff”, said Grace. “It’s really quite relaxing”. Across the room, directly opposite the rocker, the TV was on with the volume turned down.

“Actually, it’s Captain Huff, but you can call me Charlie”, he responded.

“What branch of the services were you in”? Walter asked.

“Special Services”, said Huff, immediately regretting his choice as that was the entertainment branch of the military. Actually his only service as a Captain had been with the Salvation Army two years ago.

“I suppose you can’t talk about it or you’d have to kill us”, Walter said with a serious look, before his face relaxed into a grin.

“Let’s get down to business”, said Grace.

“Of course”, said Huff. He opened his briefcase and handed them each a glossy folder with photos and charts, then explained the reverse mortgage program as they reviewed the materials.

The TV had switched to a commercial—about reverse mortgages. “Oh, look”, said Grace, pointing to the TV.

Huff jumped up to turn off the TV, but instead turned the volume up for all to hear “until the last one leaves the home”, then turned it off and returned to the rocking chair.

“I suppose you both know what that means—the last one to leave the home”?

“When I kick the bucket”, said Walter.

“I’d rather not think about it”, said Grace, “but I get the idea”.

“Never mind that”, Walter said. “How much can we get”?

“Let me run some numbers”, Huff said. He pulled out a notepad and calculator and asked, “Are there any loans against the property”?

“About $40,000”, said Walter.

“That will have to be paid off out of the reverse mortgage proceeds”, said Huff.

Walter and Grace looked at each other. “Wait”, said Grace. “I have an idea. Why can’t we just leave the existing mortgage in place and continue making the payments ourselves”?

“That’s a good one,” said Huff.

“Thank you”, said Grace, not understanding Huff’s meaning.

“That’s not the way it works’, said Huff. The new lender wants title to the property to be clear of any liens or other mortgage loans”.

“I suppose that you are going to deduct other expenses”, said Walter.

“A few”, said Huff.

“Could you be more specific”, said Walter.

Huff hesitated before he said, “Costs would include a title search, appraisal fees, recording fees, taxes, postage, termite inspection, preparation of legal documents, etc., etc.”.

“Any your commission,” said Grace.

“Well, yes”, said Huff. “I do have to do quite a bit of work, seeking a loan with the best rates for your reverse mortgage, seeing that all of the paperwork gets done on time, etc., etc.”.

“After all of those etceteras, how much will we get”? Walter asked.

Huff made a few notations on his notepad and used the calculator to come up with the net amount—$63,200.

Walter and Grace looked at each other and agreed that it would have to do. Walter said, “We were hoping to take a vacation in a few weeks if we can get this reverse mortgage done in time”.

“No problem,” said Huff. “We can start right now. I have the preliminary paperwork here, but there will be a few more documents to sign after the loan is approved”. He took out an eleven page contract, filled in several blanks and handed it to Walter. “You both should read it over before you sign”.

“You read it, Walter. I get vertigo every time I try to read anything”, said Grace.

Walter started to read, and then stopped. “I need to find a magnifying glass,” he said. He looked in the desk, went into the kitchen and returned with an opened box of Crackerjack in his hand. He poured some into his hand, offered it to Huff, who declined, and popped it into his own mouth.

“What are you doing, Walter”? Grace asked.

“I am looking for my magnifying glass”. Walter shook out another handful of Crackerjack, retrieved something with his other hand and held up a tiny magnifying glass for the others to see, then ate the handful of Crackerjack. “I usually throw away the toys in Crackerjack boxes but I saved this one”.

Walter sat and resumed reading the eleven page document, occasionally pausing to use the tiny magnifying glass, and then started skimming over the remaining pages rapidly.

“Did you read over the whole document carefully”? Hull asked Walter.

“Yes,” said Walter. “I’m a speed reader”, a phrase Walter had heard somewhere, though it did not accurately describe his reading habits.

“Any questions, either of you?” said Hull. “If not let’s get this document signed”.

***

The reverse mortgage loan had been approved and all that was needed was to wire the money to the borrowers’ account and get a receipt signed. Hull had not slept well the night before, woke up with a headache and realised that he was going to be late for his appointment. He jumped in his car, the so-called loaner, and stopped at a Starbucks drive-through window on the way. They had bananas at the payment window so Hull decided to add a banana to his small black coffee. He finished his coffee by the time he drove up to the driveway, peeled back the banana and started eating it as he walked toward the front door. Hull looked rather silly—briefcase in one hand and banana peel in the other—so he tossed the banana peel over his shoulder.

Once inside, Hull removed a computer from his briefcase, got online and transferred the funds to the borrowers’ bank account. They signed a receipt, thanked Hull and he left. Walter put the receipt in his desk and they sat at the kitchen table for a late breakfast.

“Where’s my morning paper”? Walter asked.

“I though you got it earlier”, said Grace. “It must still be outside. Do you want me to get it”?

“No, I’ll go”. Walter walked to the front door, opened it and saw the newspaper lying in the driveway. What he did not see was the banana peel that Hull had tossed over his shoulder. Walter slipped and fell, hitting his head against a solid ceramic pot that housed a geranium bush. If he were not unconscious, Walter would have said that he had always hated geraniums, as well as a few choice words.

***

Even during bad times Walter always said that they could get better or they could get worse. This time they got worse and worse. First was the hospital, where Walter stayed for several weeks. Grace decided to rent a room across from the hospital so that she could be near Walter, and during the last week of her absence decided to have the house painted as a surprise for Walter when he came home. However, Walter’s condition deteriorated so much that he had to move into a nursing home—directly from the hospital. Fortunately there was enough money left over from the reverse mortgage financing to make the large deposit that the nursing home required. After Walter was settled in, Grace went to their freshly painted home. She fixed herself a drink, a good stiff one, and sat in the rocking chair. She had another one and sat rocking until she fell asleep. Sometime later she awoke to the sound of a loud noise outside the front door.

She opened the door and saw a workman pounding a wooden sign into the ground. “What are you doing”, she yelled as she went round to read the sign, which said FOR SALE. The workman finished planting the sign and looked at his watch just as a tired looking blue Chevrolet drove up. Out stepped HULL, who thanked the workman and handed him a twenty dollar bill.

Grace approached Hull as another car drove up—a Mercedes—and parked next to the Chevrolet.

Grace started yelling at Hull saying repeatedly, “What’s going on”.  The chunky man from the Mercedes joined them and was introduced as Mr Slick, the lawyer for the mortgage company, who would explain everything if Grace would just calm down.

They went into the living room and Hull gave Grace another glass of whiskey. Slick handed Grace the loan document and asked if the signature was hers. Of course it was. Next, Slick asked Grace if she had read the document before signing it.

“No”, Grace said. “Walter read it”.

“Just above the signature lines it says that you and your husband acknowledge that you have read it,” said Slick.

“I don’t understand what’s going on”, said Grace. “Why is there a FOR SALE sign in front of my house”?

“Unfortunately it’s no longer your home,” said Slick. He had used the word home instead of house, but neither Grace nor Hull had noticed. “The lender foreclosed and you didn’t redeem within 6 weeks”.

Grace looked puzzled and said, “I don’t understand why you foreclosed, but we have 6 months to redeem the house”.

“No”, said Slick, “some lenders give you 6 months, but we only allow 6 weeks. You should have read the contract”.

“You can only foreclose when the last one has left the home”, said Grace. “Walter is still alive”.

“Ah”, said Slick, “that is a misunderstanding that many—I mean a few—persons have. If a home owner permanently moves in with a relative or is permanently confined to a nursing home, that person has left the home”.

“What about me”? said Grace. “I am still alive and I am still here”.

“Unfortunately, you do not qualify as a home owner”, said Slick.

“I don’t understand”, said Grace.

“Have you read the deed to the property”? Slick asked Grace.

“Here, take a look”, Slick said as he handed a copy of the deed to her. “The sole legal owner is your husband. Your name is not on it”.

“Walter bought the house before we got married”, Grace said. “I guess he never put my name on the deed”.

“Unfortunate, but everyone has problems”, said Slick, “which reminds me that I am going to be late for golf”.

Hull walked to the TV, turned it on and suggested that Grace just relax for a bit. He and Slick got up to leave and Slick said that Grace could stay overnight and move out in the morning.

Grace had not been paying any attention to the TV or the advertisement then playing, but when she focused on the TV she heard “until the last one leaves the home”.  She finished her drink and threw the glass at the TV, aiming it at the head of that good looking son-of-a bitch she had listened to all these month.

THE END

Farce Humour Satire

PIG SHIT and MOONSHINE – an Alternative Fuel?

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

SCENE: United States Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., office of Rick Perry, Energy Secretary.

(The telephone rings and PERRY answers)

CALLER: Rick Perry?

PERRY: Yeah.

CALLER: This is Al.

PERRY: Al who?

CALLER: Al Gore.

PERRY: I’ve heard the name somewhere.

GORE: Former Vice President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize winner, as well as a Grammy Award and an Academy Award.

PERRY: I was just kidding.

GORE: I recently saw your interview online with the Prime Minister of the Ukraine.

PERRY: Rather embarrassing.

GORE: The most interesting part was making fuel with a mix of home-brewed alcohol and pig manure based on an invention by the Ukrainian President.

PERRY: You don’t have to remind me. I wish people would forget about it.

GORE: Well, you’re lucky that there’s one person who did not forget.

PERRY: Who is that?

GORE: A pig farmer in Tennessee.

PERRY: Are you sure you are Al Gore?

GORE: Absolutely. Ask me anything about climate change and global warming.

PERRY (to himself): Oh God, if I let him start on global warming I’ll be on the phone for hours.

(PERRY looks at his watch)

PERRY (to GORE): That’s OK. I believe you. You said something about a pig farmer.

GORE: Yes. He has a son at MIT.

PERRY: Good for him.

GORE: That’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PERRY: I know that.

GORE: You’ll never guess what his major is.

PERRY: Probably not.

GORE: Chemistry.

PERRY: That’s a great story – Son of an American pig farmer gets a degree in chemistry at MIT.

GORE: That’s not the story.

PERRY: What is it, then?

GORE: The son came home for summer vacation and of course had to help out on the pig farm. The rest of the time he was on the internet or his smart phone. He saw your interview with the Prime Minister of the Ukraine and showed it to his father.

PERRY: You mean the interview with the fake Prime Minister of the Ukraine.

GORE: Of course, but the farmer asked his son if it was possible to make fuel out of moonshine and pig shit.

PERRY: Obviously not.

GORE: Wrong.

PERRY: Wrong?

GORE: The farmer has a cabin in the mountains in Tennessee and outside is an old-fashioned still where he makes moonshine.

PERRY: Is that legal?

GORE: Only if you have the right licenses.

PERRY: I take it that he doesn’t.

GORE: We’ll skip over that for now.

PERRY: Where is this going?

GORE: It’s going to help the environment and make somebody rich.

PERRY: You mean the pig farmer?

GORE: No, his son the inventor.

PERRY: Don’t tell me that he can produce fuel by mixing moonshine with pig shit.

GORE: He’s done it.

PERRY: Then I guess anybody can do it.

GORE: Not at all. He tested mixing different kinds of moonshine from all over Tennessee with pig shit from his father’s farm, but nothing worked except when he used the moonshine from his father’s still. The local water has something to do with it.

PERRY: How much has he produced?

GORE: Not that much. He needs a grant of about $250,000 to produce more fuel and do proper testing, enlarge the still and get the proper licenses.

PERRY: You mean a grant from the Department of Energy.

GORE: That’s why I’m calling.

PERRY: Thanks to the President, our research grant programs have been suspended and may be terminated.

GORE: All of them?

PERRY: I’m not sure.

GORE: Just think; if this is a success it will make monkeys out of all those people who laughed at you because of the fake telephone interview.

PERRY: That would be nice, very nice.

GORE: $250,000 is not that much when you think about the overall benefits to the world.

PERRY: That’s true. Maybe I could squeeze the money from somewhere in the budget, but I need to see some evidence that this is a viable project and inspect the still and understand the process.

GORE: The still has to be expanded but you can see it in operation, and meet the farmer and his son.

PERRY: What are the names of the farmer and his son?

GORE: Not over the phone, with the number of leaks in Washington these days.

PERRY: Of course not. What was I thinking?

GORE: I don’t want to mention the name of the area or the airport so I will have tickets delivered to your office, for your signature only. Will Saturday work?

PERRY: Absolutely.

(On Saturday morning PERRY takes an early flight on a propeller airplane to a small town in Tennessee, where he is met by the FARMER in a pickup truck. They drive for a half hour or so until they arrive at the farm, located at the end of a dirt road in a wooded area with rolling hills)

PERRY: Where’s GORE?

FARMER: He’s inside.

(Once inside PERRY meets the FARMER’s son, the CHEMIST, and they find GORE in the kitchen)

GORE: Glad you could make it. I see you have already met the CHEMIST.

PERRY: You look a bit different from the last time I saw your photos. Your beard and mustache are a little longer but it looks like you lost some weight.

GORE: Yes, but not easy.

FARMER: Shall we take a look around the farm? You might want to take off your shoes first and wear some boots.

(Now wearing boots, they tour the farm, see pigs foraging in the woods, and learn how pig shit is collected)

CHEMIST: I guess you would like to view the still now?

PERRY: Yes, I want to take a look.

(They hike through the woods, with the trees getting closer together, until they come to a run-down looking log cabin. The still is outside, behind the log cabin and the CHEMIST demonstrates how it works; then they go inside the log cabin)

PERRY (to CHEMIST): I want to understand how this conversion process works.

CHEMIST (to PERRY): Taste this.

(The CHEMIST hands PERRY a Mason jar of moonshine. PERRY tastes it and reacts)

PERRY: Quite strong.

CHEMIST (to PERRY): Take a whiff of this.

(The CHEMIST holds a small container of pig shit up to PERRY’s nose, and PERRY jumps back. The CHEMIST mixes some moonshine with pig shit and places it into a strange looking machine, which begins to turn inside and emit strange noises)

FARMER: This takes a while. Why don’t you city folks sit down and we’ll have something to eat.

(They sit on benches at a wooden table as the FARMER prepares and serves breakfast—eggs over easy, grits with gravy, hash-browns and Spam. The CHEMIST offers GORE and PERRY a glass of moonshine, but PERRY politely refuses)

PERRY: Thanks, but I’ve got to keep a clear head to verify this process. Black coffee would be good, though.

(They take their time eating and finish just as the machine makes a loud noise and shuts off. The CHEMIST then extracts a strange looking liquid—the fuel—and places it into a small air compressor to demonstrate that the fuel works)

CHEMIST: Satisfied?

PERRY: Seems like it works, but obviously it needs to be tested on a larger scale.

CHEMIST: We’ll start immediately when we get the Department of Energy’s grant.

(The CHEMIST gives PERRY instructions on where to send the funds, c/o the FARMER, addressed to general delivery at the nearest post office. Later, the CHEMIST drives GORE and PERRY to the airport in the FARMER’s truck. PERRY departs for Washington and GORE excuses himself as he has a later flight to a different location)

GORE: That went rather well.

CHEMIST: Yes. You did a fine job impersonating Al Gore.

GORE: Well, I have been acting for many years and I do bear a resemblance to Al Gore.

CHEMIST: Please thank the casting agency.

GORE: Are you really majoring in chemistry major at MIT?

CHEMIST: Chemistry was my high school major. Now I am working as a magician.

GORE: You certainly did a fine job with the demonstration.

CHEMIST: We’ll split the money three ways when it arrives.

(PERRY thankfully gets off the shaky prop airplane and walks through the terminal in Washington. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and a tall clean-shaven man bumps into him)

PERRY: You look kind of like Al Gore, without the beard and mustache.

GENTLEMAN: I am Al Gore.

PERRY (slapping his forehead): Oh shit.

GENTLEMAN: Excuse me?

THE END

Humour Legal Satire

MONKEY SELFIE UPDATE – Naruto v. Slater

Published by:

Updated Blog by Richard Heagy

Naruto: I want my royalties!

Naruto v. David Slater, the topic and inspiration for the original December 2016 blog “ENOUGH ABOUT MONKEY SELFIES”, has recently come back to life as the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by PETA as “Next Friend” of Naruto, so says PETA, has just been heard by a panel of three appellate court judges. For those interested, the hearing may be viewed online at [https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000011923]. As previously reported Dr. Antje Engelhardt dropped out as one of Naruto’s Next Friends on May 4, 2016, leaving only PETA listed as Next Friend on appeal, the status of which was questioned during the hearing.

By now, everyone who doesn’t live in a cave must have heard of the famous monkey selfie lawsuit – Naruto v. Slater. For those who do live in a cave here is a very brief summary. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in 2015 for copyright violation against British photographer David Slater et. al. for damages on behalf of a monkey dubbed ‘Naruto’, claiming that Slater does not own the copyright to Naruto’s photo as it is a selfie taken by the monkey. The case was dismissed by the District Court in 2016 and appealed by PETA. The appeal was finally heard by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit last week (July 12, 2017) and copyright lawyers around the world are sitting on the edge of their chairs awaiting the decision.

In the meantime other strange things have happened. On May 30, 2017 a Request FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE was filed with the Court of Appeals in which EXHIBIT A included a copy of a COMPLAINT-SUMMONS for criminal trespass in the state of New Jersey stating that one Antje Engelhardt on 4/22/2017 had rung the doorbell of the residence of PETA attorney Jeffrey Kerr, who told her to leave the premises, after which she walked into the backyard of the residence. Perhaps she has spent too much time walking wherever she wants in the jungles of Indonesia in the company of monkeys, or maybe Jeffrey Kerr has spent too much time representing monkeys and doesn’t want to talk about them. The COMPLAINT-SUMMONS ironically refers to an intent to harass another or cause annoyance or alarm, something that PETA would never do, aside from suing a British photographer in a court almost half way around the world (San Francisco) in what appears to be an attempt to gain publicity with a ridiculous theory that animals can own copyrights.

BREAKING NEWS!

MONKEY’S PETITION BEFORE the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

In an unusual move the 9th Circuit has allowed a last minute petition to be heard in-camera prior to rendering its judgment. The proceeding is not available online as it was held in-camera with members of the public and press barred. Don’t ask how we got it.

***

Three serious looking appellate judges for the 9th Circuit sit behind a long bench in a small courtroom in the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco, California, all dressed in black and looking perplexed. At a table nearby are seated the petitioner and the petitioner’s representative.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: May it please the court…

CHIEF JUDGE: You haven’t introduced yourself.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I’m sorry Your Honor. My name is Raja.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Are you authorized to practice law before this court?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: No, Your Honor but I came a long way just to be here and it looks like I got here just in time. It took three months.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Three months?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. NARUTO and I live in Indonesia.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Why didn’t you fly?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: They wouldn’t let us through airport security, so we took a banana boat. The ride was not very smooth and they ran out of bananas two days before we arrived.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: While I appreciate that you had a long journey, you are not authorized to practice law in the United States.

VISITING JUDGE: This appeal involves an unusual application of copyright law and I think we should make an exception in this case. I myself did travel across the country to be here so I can appreciate what the PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE and the PETITIONER must have endured.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE (to PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE): Are you a lawyer in Indonesia?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Not at present.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: You mean that you are a retired lawyer?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: No.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Then you must be licensed to practice law in some other country.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I’m afraid not.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Then what makes you qualified to represent the PETITIONER?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I’m a mahout.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: What’s that?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: A trainer of elephants. I worked in Thailand for many years training elephants to perform in an elephant orchestra, but had to take early retirement because of disability when one of the elephants stepped on my foot. Then I moved back to Indonesia and began helping with monkeys. That’s how I got to know NARUTO, even better than Dr. Antje Engelhardt.

VISITING JUDGE: Are you able to communicate with NARUTO?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Definitely.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: I suppose that you and NARUTO are on a first-named basis.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Don’t be ridiculous.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: This whole lawsuit has been ridiculous from the start.

CHIEF JUDGE: Be that as it may, we may as well proceed.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I would like to present NARUTO’s objections to the way the case has been handled.

VISITING JUDGE: You mean the objections that you have on NARUTO’s behalf.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Not at all. NARUTO has made his objections known to me.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: This, I gotta see.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: You will, but first I wish to demonstrate that NARUTO is capable of manipulating a camera and taking his own selfies unassisted by anyone.

(PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE motions to NARUTO, who stands and moves several feet away. PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE reaches into his briefcase and pulls out a digital camera; then tosses the camera into the air for NARUTO to catch. NARUTO starts playing with the camera and pushes the shutter every so often, alternating between smiles and frowns)

CHIEF JUDGE (to PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE): Our time is limited, so please proceed.

(PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE unsuccessfully tries to take the camera away from NARUTO. He then pulls a banana from his briefcase and tosses it into the air. NARUTO drops the camera in favor of the banana)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I would like each of you to look at the photos stored in the camera.

(PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE hands the camera to the Judge on the left who takes a look and passes the camera along to the other Judges)

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: I don’t see any selfies? These are just poor shots, mostly out of focus.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Of course. Most of the selfies shot on David Slater’s camera were not worthy of publication, but I have just demonstrated that NARUTO is capable of using a camera to take selfies. If enough photos are taken eventually a good one will result as in the case at hand.

CHIEF JUDGE: Assuming that NARUTO took the selfie that is the subject of this case, what is it that you are seeking?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I would like to present NARUTO’s objections to PETA’s representation as his NEXT FRIEND.

CHIEF JUDGE: What are they?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I would like to question NARUTO.

(The Judges look at each other and shake their heads. PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE takes NARUTO by the hand and leads him to a seat up front)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: NARUTO, I would like to ask you a few questions.

(NARUTO jumps up and down in the chair and makes faces at the Judges. PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE hands NARUTO another banana to calm him down)

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Am I dreaming?

VISITING JUDGE: No, but this is not any more ridiculous than the copyright issue involved.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: NARUTO, do you wish to have PETA represent you as NEXT FRIEND?

(NARUTO responds with a negative answer by shaking his head back and forth)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Why is that?

(NARUTO makes a face and tosses the banana peel across the room. PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE picks it up and tosses it into a nearby wastebasket. He then opens his wallet and extracts a ten dollar bill, which he hands to NARUTO, who examines it closely)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: It’s about the money, isn’t it?

(NARUTO nods his head to indicate ‘yes’)

VISITING JUDGE (to PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE): You are leading the witness.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: In addition, the witness is merely shaking his head in response to your questions, not actually answering them.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: That is no problem. NARUTO, please answer my questions instead of just shaking your head, okay?

(NARUTO nods his head in agreement)

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: I suppose NARUTO speaks both Indonesian and English.

(The ASSOCIATE JUDGE, amused, hits the table with his fist so hard that his coffee cup spills over)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Only English.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: Did he learn English in high school in Indonesia?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Of course not. NARUTO learned English during his three month voyage on the banana boat. One of the crew was a former teacher of English as a second language.

CHIEF JUDGE (to PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE): Let’s stop wasting time. Proceed with your questions.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE (to NARUTO): NARUTO, do you wish to have PETA represent you as NEXT FRIEND?

NARUTO (speaking English with an unusual accent): Where is Dr. Engelhardt?

(The three Judges react with astonishment)

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I am sorry to tell you that Dr. Engelhardt is no longer participating as a NEXT FRIEND in this appeal.

NARUTO: Bollocks.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Please, NARUTO, you must be more respectful in Court.

NARUTO: Sorry.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: I ask you again, do you wish to have PETA represent you as NEXT FRIEND?

NARUTO: No.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: Why is that?

NARUTO: They plan to spend my royalties on me and my relatives and other macaques in the community and their habitat.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: What’s wrong with that?

NARUTO: It’s my money, mine, only mine.

VISITING JUDGE: That’s a valid point, assuming that NARUTO owns the copyright to his selfie. If PETA, or anyone, were to be appointed by the Court to collect NARUTO’s royalties, it would create a fiduciary relationship and the money would have to be held in trust strictly for the benefit of NARUTO.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: I agree, purely from a theoretical viewpoint. Spending trust funds on other monkeys would be a violation of fiduciary duty.

CHIEF JUDGE: That certainly is a valid concern and will be taken into account.

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE (to NARUTO): Do you have any more objections?

NARUTO: I don’t want to pay some agent 10% to collect my royalties or 33% to any lawyers.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE (to NARUTO): That may be of concern to you, but it is not relevant to whether or not PETA should continue to represent you as NEXT FRIEND in this appeal.

(The ASSOCIATE JUDGE slaps himself on the forehead)

ASSOCIATE JUDGE: I don’t believe this. I am talking to a monkey.

NARUTO: I’m a macaque, not a monkey.

CHIEF JUDGE (to PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE): Any more questions?

PETITIONER’s REPRESENTATIVE: No, that is all.

ASSOCIATE JUDGE (to CHIEF JUDGE): I hope the record of this hearing will be sealed.

CHIEF JUDGE: We will take into account today’s testimony in reaching a decision, but the record of this hearing will definitely be sealed.

VISITING JUDGE: Thank God. If this ever got out.…

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other

A Fan for All Seasons

Published by:

Blog by Edward Sherman

A wise man once asked the rhetorical question, “Why are sports so important?” And his answer: “Because they are so unimportant”. Never were truer words spoken. It is why so many find the escape into the world of sports to be such a comfort – a time to leave behind the worries and stresses of the real world, of the things that can truly affect us.

I’m a lucky guy, lucky enough to live in a city that has a team for each of the major sports: Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey. (My apologies to Soccer or “Futbol”. A fine sport, probably the most popular in the world, but this is America we’re talking about). *And currently, as I am writing, it’s hockey that consumes me; a beautiful game full of grace, speed and power; a fluid ballet of men in constant motion, bonded together as one unit with a single goal (pun intended) in mind. And last night was no exception, a thoroughly enjoyable affair, a tight back and forth contest, typical of the National Hockey League. It was a great way to cap off my evening – even though a late missed call by an official probably cost us the win (and me a friendly side wager). That aside, the point is how much pleasure I derived from watching the game itself – though, to be honest, I did have a little trouble sleeping afterwards (I tried Melatonin to no avail). And, as for the officials, that “human element” can actually add to the game, giving it a certain dramatic uncertainty – a kind of courtroom drama element that keeps one emotionally engaged, especially when the games have playoff implications (or monetary ones). And those verdicts can bring great releases of those emotions. (I need to explain that to my neighbor, who left a note under my door to please keep the noise down – I did feel bad about that as they have children… And apparently, I yelled some rather unflattering things about Canadians, which I also feel bad about). But the human element is part of the game – Of course, we lost in the playoffs last year because of the “human element” and then the so-called “experts” went on to claim my team choked. Because of that, I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. But I digress…

I am fortunate; when one season ends (no matter how or why) I am able to move on to the next which, after hockey, is baseball, our national pastime. I like the pastoral pace. It may seem slow to the kids today but, once you’re plugged into the nuances of the game and can appreciate the game within the game, it allows you to see the strategy involved, and you find yourself managing along with the team’s real manager, like playing chess alongside a master. Very cerebral. For instance, one fateful October we were up, 1-0, in a must win playoff game, needing only one more out, but our pitcher was tiring. He walked the next batter, the potential tying run. Our manager was left with a big decision, leave him in or take him out? Personally I thought, “LEAVE HIM IN! FOR GOD’S SAKE, LEAVE HIM IN!” Of course, no one really cared what I thought. The question was, what would the real manager do, a baseball “lifer”, the years in the sport chiseled into his stoic, sun-baked face? The baseball world awaited his decision (As did a few people I knew outside the baseball world who also used bats on occasion in their line of work). And..? He decided to take him out. And..? The other team came back, tied the game, and won it in extra innings. Of course, in no way am I suggesting I could have done a better job, and that his move was what the less enlightened fan might call, “boneheaded”. No, the point was how much fun I had playing along. You can get very involved. (That was what I wrote by way of apology to my neighbor who, it was becoming increasingly clear, was not a sports fan… Also, I apparently yelled some rather unflattering things about Mexicans, which I regret). It was an exciting game nonetheless, although I recall having a little trouble sleeping that night (I tried Ambien to no avail). We went on to lose the series and I had to hear how my team choked. I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. But, again, I digress…

When the baseball season comes to a close football is already in full swing. And in America football is king. Each game is an event, each team plays only once a week, and each regular season has only sixteen games – as opposed to the one hundred and sixty-two of baseball and the eighty-two of both basketball and hockey. The math alone tells you that each football game has the impact of ten baseball games or five basketball or hockey games. So you listen to sports talk radio all week, especially if you’re playing a rival, and plan your Sunday around the game – or if it’s a really big game it might take place on a Sunday, Monday or even Thursday night. It’s even more exciting when that happens. Of course, the last time we were on at night we got knocked out of playoff contention – an easy field goal was somehow shanked. (Frankly, I thought the official froze our kicker by not putting down the ball in a timely manner. Hmmm…?). Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night – a mixture of Melatonin and Ambien was of no help. And of course, I had to hear how my team choked and then I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. Anywho…

Finally, there’s basketball. The speed and athleticism are almost otherworldly; the dunks are spectacular; the passing can be Globetrotter-like, and the shooting is better than it’s ever been. And with the advent of the three-point shot no lead is safe… as I learned during the playoffs. Frankly, I didn’t understand some of the moves our coach made (Was he trying to lose the game? Hmmm..?) And as for the officiating… I guess the less said the better (But I could swear I saw one of them look in the stands and touch the side of his nose after a particularly bad call). On a whim, I decided to watch some of last season’s playoffs at a local Tavern while wearing a fake beard and moustache. Sometimes one just wants to be alone amongst a crowd, especially when that crowd contains someone with a heavy Russian accent that keeps asking about you. But that’s neither here nor there…

The point is how much sports can enrich one’s life (maybe not monetarily). They can make us better people. It is a fact that during especially big games crime is at a low in the participating towns or cities. People volunteer more; getting through to the suicide hotline is never easier. And despite our differences, even my neighbors showed great compassion when they thought they heard weeping after my team was recently eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. I assured them that it was my dog baying at the moon and not me. True, I didn’t have a dog at the time. But I didn’t want to concern them. So, out of consideration, I bought one the next day and taught him how to bay at the moon. But most of all, sports are important because they are so unimportant. I doubt there are many other events that can unite a city more. It can bring people closer – sometimes within the reach of one another’s fists. And that’s the point. We rant, we cheer, and we get frustrated and exhilarated. And the next morning the sun still rises. Nothing has really changed. Nothing ever changes. Goddamn it! I watch, we lose, I can’t sleep. My teams choke and I can’t watch the goddamn sports channel for weeks. And now I find myself being evicted, wearing a wire and sleeping with a gun under my pillow (which has actually helped). But I do love my sports. God help me I love them so. I am a fan for all seasons.

THE END

*Written during the brutal end of the hockey season

Humour Satire

EU SUPER-STATE – EVER CLOSER UNION

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

PROPOSED REGULATIONS

 

Too many politicians are listening to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans.  – Jean-Clod Junker, President of the European Commission

PREAMBLE:

In order to preserve unity, accelerate EU integration and eliminate national identity, the following regulations will be proposed for individuals and companies in the EU.

WORDS AND PHRASES CONSIDERED UNPATRIOTIC TO THE EU, THOUGH NOT ILLEGAL:

Borders

Individuality

Nationalism

National governments

Populism

Public opinion

Sovereignty

COMMON LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS:

German will be the official language of the ever closer European Union.

Newspapers, magazines, TV commercials and outdoor signs must be only in German.

National languages of member states may not be spoken in public from January 1st.

The same rules apply to live or recorded music in public places.

CAUTION: Languages other than German may NOT be spoken in private homes if the windows are open as the prohibited languages may be heard outside; no exceptions will be made in hot weather when air conditioning is not working.

ANOTHER CAUTION: This applies to music played in your home, so keep the volume down.

LABELLING OF PRODUCTS:

All products produced or manufactured in the European Union must state their origin as the EU, not the country or region where produced or manufactured.

RENAMING OF NATIONAL FOOD DISHES:

The following are examples that must be renamed to remove national or regional identity on labels, menus, recipes, etc. The list of examples will be expanded from time to time, as is our custom.

Belgian Waffles

Chicken Milano

Dutch Chocolate

Greek Lemon Chicken

Hungarian Goulash

Irish stew

Italian Spaghetti Sauce

Norwegian Salmon

Spanish omelette

Swedish Meatballs

EXCEPTIONS: Brussels sprouts

REPORTING VIOLATIONS:

We expect everyone to be a good EU citizen and follow the regulations once implemented. Further regulations are under consideration for reporting violations by friends, neighbors or family members.

END

Editor’s Note: Any misspelling of names is purely intentional.

Humour

Potholes

Published by:

Blog by Steve Sobel

To the Editor:

The potholes are unbelievable this spring. I didn’t fully appreciate how unbelievable until my most recent encounter with one. I’m aware that our town Selectboard plans to propose a budget item to fund a new road repair technique promising definitive elimination of these scourges of our vehicles’ wheels and axles. The recently developed technique would be incomparably more permanent than the taconite-related methods developed in Minnesota. However I’d like to plead the case for avoiding any improvement to our current practice of pothole repair.

Cruising down the road in our town, several miles from home (as you’ll soon understand, I prefer not to identify the precise location), a route I know so well that I can drive it while pleasantly daydreaming, I was mildly annoyed by the frequent, but irregular, jarring sensations of my tires traversing medium-sized potholes. Suddenly, I was jolted out of my half-reverie by the terrifying realization that I was about to plunge into a pothole that might more appropriately be termed an abyss. Desperately slamming the brakes had about as much impact as that of a floating speck of dust in blocking a charging bull. I expected my life to flash before my eyes as I careened into this opening in the earth’s crust, but, instead, time seemed to slow down such that I observed each centimeter of my descent with an eerie awareness as I anticipated the inevitable crash.

Instead, I seemed to tumble onto a bed of welcoming pillows, inexplicably bouncing gently back upward. Dazed, I felt relief and terror wash over me simultaneously. Does an afterlife exist? Had I gone directly to Hell or purgatory? Why was I still seemingly conscious?

An angel reached toward my door handle, though she appeared more like a homely human than a celestial being.

“Don’t worry; you’ve only fallen down the rabbit hole, kind of like Alice,” she explained in a softly reassuring voice, though I remained just as shocked and confused.

I noticed a motley bunch surrounding my vehicle—a bizarre, underworld welcoming committee.

“You’ll love it here! It’s really groovy” blurted a rotund, smiling fellow with beaming eyes.

“Don’t mind him, he dropped down here in the 60s,” a tall, lanky man advised me as he chuckled contentedly.

The tall man introduced himself as Gary, a former high school history teacher, and proceeded to describe this most peculiar community which exists unbeknownst to us under the ground of our own little town. They have created several entryways connected to potholes which they can open or seal shut almost instantaneously via a Rube Goldberg contraption involving a myriad of levers, pulleys and springs. The landing spot had indeed been padded with thousands of pillows they’d imported to their subterranean abode. The inhabitants take turns standing guard as part of a scouting committee, observing people who show signs of wishing to drop out of the rat race. The sigh, the extended glance at clouds or trees…driving the beat-up car, the wrinkled shirt, driving unnecessarily slowly to work with a kayak on the roof, singing along oblivious to the world, always being late to work, early to go home and so on. They had developed an exceedingly reliable algorithm for spotting suitable candidates.

I had been making an awkward effort to avoid glancing at breasts and genitalia after noticing they were all naked. They were covered with mud so initially, it escaped my notice that they were, in fact, stark naked. But they were so natural about it, and at-ease, that my own awkwardness soon dissipated. I inquired of Gary why they wore no clothes.

“We don’t age, but our clothes do. Our bodies are impervious to the passage of time, but the fanciest dress becomes threadbare and disintegrates, elegant shoes turn to dust.”

“Wait a minute, so you’re telling me you’re immortal down here?” I asked.

“More or less. But immortality isn’t for everyone you know. Only a miniscule percentage of ‘drop-ins’ choose to stay.”

Another denizen of this netherworld, an eccentric-looking, middle-aged woman with piercing, blue eyes, Beth, expounded upon this topic: “Gravity behaves in ways Einstein never predicted when one resides underground for prolonged periods of time;  apparently the earth’s centrifugal force is impeded by infrared heat emanating from its molten core which, in turn, emits non-Newtonian waves that interact with living cells via synthesis of mitochondrial DNA and induce a hibernation-like state of entropy.”

“As a physician, your theory makes no sense whatsoever to me,” I impulsively retorted.

“Well, I’m no scientist-I used to be a librarian, but that’s how it was explained to me. It’s probably a load of bull, but it’s fun to speculate. And we have no dearth of potential explanations. Meditating is popular down here and we have an abundance of time to practice it. When the entire community meditates at once, we’re probably able to slow time to a near standstill,” opined Beth. “We like to propose outlandish theories to explain the halting of the aging process. That’s one of the favorite pastimes in the community. Some believe we’ve achieved an ability to influence the mind/body connection such that we can even extend our chromosomes’ telomeres. That might be why it seems to take some time for people’s aging process to come to a halt after they arrive here. Personally, I don’t know telomere from a telephone, but, whatever the real explanation, the fact remains, we don’t age down here.”

“Why don’t you choose to completely reverse the process and return to your youth? “

“Don’t be absurd! How could we reverse the aging process? You’re being silly now or incredibly naïve. And of course, the moment one of us goes up, their body undergoes an instantaneous aging process like The Picture of Dorian Gray, making up for all the lost time. It’s like muscle memory that gets restored.”

“What kind of nonsense are you speaking?” I exclaimed.

“Like I said, I’m not a doctor or a scientist. I just collect theories. The stranger the better as far as I’m concerned. I don’t claim it’s the truth. I accept that I only know that I know nothing. But, there’s no denying that biology behaves in ways that would be considered science fiction on the earth’s surface. For example, there are some birds that have flown down here over the years. Interestingly, shortly after they arrive here, they start flying upside down.

Beginning to wonder if I was being used as the butt of some elaborate joke, I decided to change the topic. Perhaps I’d catch them off guard with a different question, causing someone to stumble, and thus expose their discourse as nothing other than an improv theater performance.

“How do you survive down here? Like what do you eat?”

A previously reserved, contemplative fellow with an unkempt beard, named Joe Mansfield piped up. “We don’t exactly look malnourished, do we? It’s a different ecosystem down here, but a perfectly satisfactory one. We breed earthworms as a primary protein source. Think of it as miniature hotdogs but far healthier. We’ve also found some underground ponds and rivers which are well-stocked with fish. We’re not sure of the fish species, but it sure ain’t trout,” he laughed. As it turned out, his expertise, as a former Fish and Wildlife Department employee, had been invaluable in developing these food sources.

“So you live here forever, eating earthworms,” I stated dubiously. What do you with your eternity of free time?”

This query seemed to stir up some excitement in the group. Various members of the community described their passions and pursuits. Some focused on improving the design of the entryways. Others spend time on singing and creating new musical instruments for their daily concerts. It was a thriving art colony. Clay had been found in one of the underground river banks and they pointed out beautiful sculptures arranged on shelves dug into the walls of this cavern. There were frequent presentations and other teaching opportunities. They enjoyed putting on plays—sometimes comedies and sometimes exploring the meaning of existence. Indeed, philosophizing appeared to be the one endeavor they all had in common. Religion was a nonissue, but spirituality was not neglected. They had built a community temple of mud, a fantastical, inspiring structure with a cathedral ceiling and multiple reflecting pools.

“We like community but we’re actually mostly extreme introverts, believe it or not,” ventured Beth. “So we have dug passageways to isolated caves, and nooks and crannies, for solitary contemplation time. Most of our best plays have been written by members who spend a lot of time alone there. They’re among our most valued members.”

As for leadership, they seemed to have a well-functioning anarchy along with an eclectic mix of Buddhism, communism, Stoicism, and their own assorted ideals suitable for a relatively spartan lifestyle. All property was shared.

“You’ve established a utopia here,” I blurted out. “Does anyone ever leave?” I was wondering if I should consider myself a captive or an incredibly fortunate discoverer.

“It’s a good gig for the right person,” Gary stated with humility. “There are lots of reasons for returning to the above ground world. Of course, the main one is people want to be with their families. We don’t open the entryway to children, but we’ve had a few surprises—children sleeping in the backseat of the car and so forth. It wouldn’t be ethical to make the decision for them to stay here so we send them back. We find that couples don’t mesh well with the community structure. Sometimes couples form down here, but they’ve always opted to return to the surface world. Those who are goal-oriented and super-ambitious seldom choose to stay. Overall, 95% of drop-ins go back up, but swear to secrecy. Most don’t want to acquire a reputation of being crackpots. Look what happens to people who claim to have seen aliens. Then again, those folks are crackpots or maybe just really good at dissociating. Most of us who’ve stayed had lost our loved ones through tragedies or were just solitary figures for one reason or another.” He leaned closer, whispering in my ear, “Beth’s entire family died in a house fire for example.”

Over decades, this group of underground survivors had grown to 36 souls. Some had stayed even though they knew they’d been reported as missing persons to the police. A few went so far as to stage their own deaths if they were determined to never resurface. Several undergrounders who’d been here when young and chosen to go above ground, returned after losing all their loved ones. They came back here opting for immortality, but immortality as a primary motivation for choosing this life was surprisingly rare. A few coped by leading a dual life—telling family they’d moved to a foreign country or across the country and visiting often, though difficulties arose in responding to family members’ requests  to visit them in turn. These double-lifers were the ones who brought back news-not to mention special desserts for which some still craved. Others gave them letters to send to their families when they visited the above ground. Clearly only certain types were suited for the long haul.

“We knew you’d be intrigued, and appreciate this place, but, ultimately, would choose to continue your above ground life. It’s obvious you love your life above ground. We had another purpose in bringing you here. We’ve gotten word of the town’s plan for the extraordinary pothole repair method. Our entryways would no longer function if this transpires. The pothole repair program would pose an existential threat to this unique community. We’re hoping you’ll speak out against it. We figure you’re a respected member of your community so people might listen.”

So I too have sworn secrecy regarding the exact location of the pothole entryway to the underground community. However, the community has voted to allow me to share the fact of its existence given its dire situation. This advanced pothole repair method would seal off the underground community from the world forever and ensure their demise. Let progress wait a bit so that habitats can be preserved and life can continue to thrive in surprising ways.

I request that the honorable Selectboard members of our town refrain from definitively resolving the pothole problem. Who knows what other utopian worlds might be forever sealed off if we were to employ this new technology?

River Styx, M.D.

THE END

 

Satire Sketch

British Airways – Check-in Counter

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

(The scene is a British Airways (BA) terminal on a Bank Holiday weekend during which BA has suffered another disruption of its IT system, this time a complete meltdown of its worldwide system. Lines snake back and forth in the departure hall and outside as far as the eye can see. A disgruntled male passenger finally reaches the front of the line and confronts the female agent behind the counter at one of the few check-in positions that is open. He is dressed casually, wearing a short-sleeved shirt that reveals a large bruise on his left arm and a broken wristwatch)

BA AGENT:  May I help you?

PASSENGER: I doubt it?

BA AGENT:  We are doing the best we can, Sir.

PASSENGER:  Do you know how long I have been waiting in line?

BA AGENT:  I have no idea, but if you like I can make a guess.

PASSENGER:  Never mind.

(The PASSENGER looks at the broken watch on his left wrist and places his hand on the counter with a thump)

PASSENGER (continuing):  What time is it? As you can see my watch is broken and my arm is bruised.

BA AGENT:  Sorry about that.

PASSENGER:  Would you like to hear how it happened?

BA AGENT: Not really, Sir. Right now we are very busy.

PASSENGER:  I will tell you anyway, since it is BA’s fault.

(The BA AGENT drums her fingers on the counter impatiently)

PASSENGER:  After queueing for several hours I finally made it inside the terminal and eventually found a place to lie down alongside several other passengers in close quarters where we were furnished with yoga mats. I must have dozed off for a bit, but woke up suddenly with a lot of pain in my arm. One of the passengers was trying to step over me, but ended up stepping on my arm and breaking my watch.

BA AGENT: That’s unfortunate, but all of the passengers are suffering some kind of inconvenience because of the delays.

PASSENGER:  I expect the airline to reimburse me.

BA AGENT:  You will have to file your claim for compensation online.

PASSENGER:  How can I do that when your IT system is dead?

BA AGENT:  I really don’t know, Sir. It’s not my department. You might phone customer service for information. They may be able to help.

PASSENGER: When pigs fly.

BA AGENT:  Excuse me?

PASSENGER: As I said, we were furnished with yoga mats but after a while I started getting a stiff neck. When I asked one of your staff about pillows, he said it would cost £7.

BA AGENT:  That’s not right, Sir.

PASSENGER: Probably wanted to take advantage of the situation and make a little money on the side.

BA AGENT:  Not at all, Sir. Our new CEO raised the price to £12 for pillows.

PASSENGER: You got to be kidding.

BA AGENT: No, Sir. We at BA take our pricing very seriously.

PASSENGER: Pretty soon you will probably cut out all amenities on board.

BA AGENT:  There are no plans for that. Instead, we will charge for everything, no matter how small. Everything is being phased in, as you can see from the notice behind me.

(The PASSENGER looks up and reads the notice out loud)

PASSENGER: Peanuts, 5 p each; paper napkin, 10 p; recycled water, £1.50; plastic cup to hold the water, 75p; key to unlock and lower tray table, £1; toilet paper, £3; use of toilet (3 minute limit), £5.

BA AGENT:  You will need to have exact change as no change will be given on board.

PASSENGER:  You will probably start charging for a cushion on the seats inside the plane next.

BA AGENT:  What an excellent idea. If I submit that as an employee suggestion I may get an award.

PASSENGER:  What about the air outside the terminal while queueing for a delayed flight?

(The BA AGENT looks at the line behind the PASSENGER)

BA AGENT:  Is there anything else I can help you with?

PASSENGER:  Yes, I need a new boarding pass since my flight was changed.

BA AGENT:  I’m sorry but the printer is not working.

PASSENGER:  Maybe you can just write one out by hand.

BA AGENT: Even if I could do that, I don’t have any paper.

PASSENGER:  Use this. Be careful; it’s the only one I have.

(The PASSENGER places a paper napkin of the counter. The BA AGENT looks at the napkin; then at her watch)

BA AGENT:  Oh, look what time it is. My shift is over. Good luck and thank you for choosing BA.

(The BA AGENT walks off and is soon replaced with a new agent)

PASSENGER:  I would like …

NEW AGENT:  Sorry, but my shift doesn’t start for five more minutes.

(The NEW AGENT takes a bottle of nail polish from her purse and places it on the counter)

NEW AGENT (continuing):  I know you have been waiting for quite some time, so a few more minutes should not matter.

ANNOUNCEMENT (over loudspeaker):  We at British Airways are truly sorry for the delays that you have experienced and are doing everything possible to remedy the situation and get you to your destinations. You will hear a personal message from our CEO just as soon as he has finished his afternoon tea.

PASSENGER: Cobblers.

NEW AGENT: What did you say?

(The NEW AGENT starts polishing her nails, spills a few drops of polish on the counter and picks up the napkin to wipe it up)

PASSENGER:  I mean to say bollocks.

(The PASSENGER slams his right fist of the counter and the bottle of nail polish spills all over)

NEW AGENT:  Well, really. There is no need to get upset over a delay; it happens all the time.

 THE END