Oct 122015

Sometimes, an act of satire is the only recourse.

Special to Chicago Inter Ocean by Special Correspondent Igor Feldman

Dateline, Chicago, Columbus Day 2015

Special Report – Skulduggery in Ann Arbor

In the wake of Saturday’s unexpected drubbing of Northwestern University’s football squad by the University of Michigan, the Inter-Ocean can reveal shenanigans of unprecedented variety. Your correspondent met with Northwestern’s newly hired Head of Security, Plinkem Wooldridge, who explained the circumstances around his hiring, and the strange events that made it necessary.

“It was the strangest dad-gummed thing,” Wooldridge said, wiping the foam from his mustache. “Both of their coordinators, you know, the guys who run the offense and the defense, seemed confused and disoriented after the game. Neither was able to recall the events of the game, or in fact anything at all from late Friday night. That’s when they called me in. I’d seen cases like this before, and immediately got in touch with a forensic hypnotist, Babs Tinfoil.  I’ve worked with her before, and she’s amazing.  She was able to recover some memories, and then we looked at the hotel security footage. I had to get pretty loud about that, but they finally coughed it up. We saw folks in blue sneaking around the floor where the coordinators had their rooms. One of them disabled the security camera, but not before we got a look at his face. This is where my years of experience paid off. Knew him right away. Bunny Cheesepot is a well known criminal hypnotist, wanted in 17 nations and by Interpol. He’s a master of disguise, with the power to cloud men’s minds. Tell your readers not to try to apprehend him; just call 911 and follow him at a safe distance.

“Babs’ forensic reconstruction concludes that Cheesepot successfully hypnotized both coordinators into using the game plan for Eastern Illinois, instead of the carefully conceived and I must say elegant plan they had formulated for Michigan.

“I’ll say this, the NU administration is furious. Coach Fitz blew his stack. Measures will be taken. I’m not at liberty to discuss this, of course.”

There you have it, folks. Skulduggery worthy of a Belichick. How will Conference respond? Not at all, I fear. Conference Grand Moff Jim Delany, wakened from his Sunday afternoon nap, said only, “What? Michigan is good again? That’s great. Plans working. What? Hypnotize? I don’t know anything about that. Probably not against the rules.”

How will Northwestern respond? Following up a hint from Chief Wooldridge, I contacted Gennady Zarkov, head of NU’s new Patrick Ryan Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He said, “Sure, the Ditkabot. Easy. Maybe 8 feet tall. Doesn’t have to be very mobile, but the language is a problem. We are working on directional speakers. It’ll have facial recognition so it can identify this Harbaugh character, and project an audio stream that only Harbaugh can hear. It’ll probably start with ‘Harbaugh, get over here. What are you doing? You throw like a girl,’ and get nastier from there. We figure it’ll trigger post traumatic stress from Harbaugh’s Chicago Bears years. But mostly the Ditkabot will be a test bed for more commercial applications.  I can’t talk about those.”

There you have it, friends. Next years’ game should be a donnybrook.

 Posted by at 4:58 am  Tagged with:
Sep 022015

At this point in the presidential round, one listens to what they say, not that they’ll do stuff, but that you hope to get a hint of the character they might bring to the job. I’ve never understood Hillary’s assumption of entitlement, but that’s ok. Bernie reminds us that the problem with Socialism is Socialism. Isn’t there some obscure ex-gov running around on the Donk side? That’s it? Pending Handsy Joe Biden’s entrance, of course.

It’s hard to keep track of all the Heffalumps. Most of them might be ok in the job, especially for folks like me who would like to see a government of more modest scope. Do we actually need Rabbit Inspectors? I like Ben Carson; he’s a decent man. I think we may need someone with more skill in the foreign and military areas. I enjoy listening to Carly talk; she knows how to turn her interviewer’s attempted trap questions inside out. She’s well prepared, and that’s different. And I enjoy the spectacle of the dominant media trying to turn Scott Walker’s reasonable answers to loaded questions inside out. They’re worried about him. Fun. Rubio is likeable and works hard, Kasich decent and sensible (if dull. But a dull president has a place, too. Maybe dull would be good), and Cruz is smart and interesting, but he might have too much fun in the job.

But Trump worries me. He has no visible character, no policies that are not of the moment, and his public presentation reminds me far too much of bygone, strutting European politicians. I’ll refer you to the first chapter of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.  His hyper-masculinity, rudeness, and brazen manipulation of media and public worries are too familiar; he turns his ignorance into an asset, too. “See? I’m not like those guys, those politicians.” These are a bundle of traits that are often appealing in overstressed democracies. He’d be a disastrously bad president.

Trump-Wedding-Yay-Clintons-998x646The speculation that he was planted by the Clintons – they were at his most recent wedding, remember – as a sort of disruptive clown has some plausibility. Trump has been an expert manipulator of crony capitalism, a deal maker but not a producer, a skillful user of media. And completely without any trace of character or principle. He’s pretty much the epitome of the RINO. He’s running against the Republicans: compare him with Carly, he’s made herself sort of a Hillary-seeking missle. Jeb Bush, to his credit (and no, we don’t need dynasties), seems to be taking on the task of going toe-to-toe with Trump. Good for him.

 Posted by at 9:50 am
Aug 242015

Were it discovered that cats or dogs, lions or horses, rhinos or tigers, were bred so their offspring could be extracted and their component parts harvested, celebrities would trample one another in their rush to the microphone, and PETA would be in the streets.  How is it that we have come to this point?

Aug 192015

Take a little time to get the granddaughter set up for kindergarten, and all Arkham breaks loose, doesn’t it?

This summer became an inadvertent Gene Wolfe/Tim Powers immersion event, which is another story and another discussion.  I promised myself a C. S. Lewis immersion in turn. I’ll begin that in earnest as soon as I find all my books WHICH SOMEONE HAS MOVED AROUND.  Hmph.  I have begun with The Abolition of Man, which I DID MANAGE TO FIND UNDER A PILE OF OTHER STUFF (ahem) and found this gem of a footnote (from chapter 2)

It will be seen that comfort and security, as known to a suburban street in peace-time, are the ultimate values; those things which can alone produce or spiritualize comfort and security are mocked.  Man lives by bread alone, and the ultimate source of bread is the baker’s van:  peace matters more than honour and can be preserved by jeering at colonels and reading newspapers.

A great load of acute observation lies within this. CSL was a perceptive social observer and critic.


Aug 052015

I went to a mall yesterday.  I get to malls maybe 6 times a year.  Saw a movie, in Grandpa role.  It’s one that has drawn lots of oohs and ahhs but I didn’t like it that much, for myself or for the Grandcutie.  Not bad, just over-advocated.  But that’s not the curiousity.  Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Cabinet of Curiosities.  Is anyone using that?

The curiosity was in the car I was parked next to.  Someone loved the presidential incumbent enough to change the license plate to BHO with a number.  Hope & Change stickers on it.  And now, this.


 Posted by at 5:54 am
Jul 102015

Jimmy Carter opened his mouth and some words fell out. Nothing unusual about that – he is a politician. We haven’t had a politician who understands reticence since Coolidge*.  To give Jimbo credit, he summarizes the sentimental case for same-sex marriages beautifully:

“I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in scripture. … I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” he said

Ouch. Talk about a rich target environment.  First, and first of all, as David Ould so capably explains, there’s Just One Question to ask:  have you read Matthew 19:4?  After that, about the only thing to say is that from this argument you can talk yourself in just about anything at all.  The standard, “not damaging to anyone else” is, shall we say, flexible.


* If you haven’t, read Amity Schlaes biography, Coolidge.  It’s a glimpse into a vanished world.

Jul 092015

I’m in the midst of a kind of disorderly Gene Wolfe and Tim Powers immersion.  In the case of Gene Wolfe, I’m going through his more recent novels for a second, sometimes third time.  Wolfe’s novels are infinite puzzle boxes, exhausting and exhilarating to read.

An Evil Guest  (2009) is set in the relatively near future: we have a “warp drive” enabling interstellar exploration, but the culture hasn’t changed a lot (or has it – Wolfe is rarely explicit).  I found this little bit in a scene in which the narrator is trying to get news about an attack on another character:

In an unrelated story, the Supreme Court has extended the period for post-parturition terminations to one year.  Civil rights organizations continue to press for five for defectives.

Mayor Houlihan has declared the city’s streets safer than ever as a result of the previously announced decline in police violence.  Many citizens seem to agree.”

And one of those citizens is described:

A young man with acne and a nascent beard shrugged. “I go out whenever.  Everything’s chief.” His shirt, open to the waist, revealed an obscene symbol worked in gold and suspended from his neck by a heavy gold chain.

The Land Across and Home Fires contain similar, side-eye glances at the path we may be on; but Wolfe never clobbers you over the head.  He’s sly, sardonic, and elusive.

Jul 082015

The radically cynical understanding is that the ravenous Leviathan-state is offering the illusion of complete sexual freedom (“oh! yummy”) as a narcotic to distract us while it consumes more important freedoms.  Or, that all this is just another part of the prolonged adolescence that our consumer-entertainment culture desires to impose.