Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Pamphlet on Gay Marriage

Who are the Gays?

The gays are a sea-dwelling people. They look just like you and me except for their pointy, elongated ears and the tiny wings sprouting from their ankles. While they may not be exactly human, they are human enough to fall under certain aspects of the Geneva Conventions. Not even recognized in the first convention of 1864, the Gays first won recognition in 1906, and are protected "for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of the Armed Forces at Sea."

When did we go to War with the Gays?

It is open to interpretation. Some say the first salvo was fired (metaphorically speaking) in 1804, when a lover's spat that began off the Jersey coast exacerbated tensions between the Gays and residents of Wildwood, who frequently complained about the volume of the Gays' music and the tenor of their aggressive dancing. In the ensuing conflagration, Delaware was destroyed. Hundreds of children disappeared and were never heard from again. We can safely assume they were kidnapped and converted by the Gays. Things were quiet for another thirty years after until Andrew Jackson ordered his fool-hardy "March Into the Sea." We lost an entire battalion in under twenty minutes, and Jackson was rebuked by both houses of congress. Jackson was chastened, our armed forces soundly defeated by the tides. The Gays' martial dance music would go unheard until the early 1970s.

What is a 'Boston Marriage'?

It is a Gay term for a (possibly apocryphal) torture technique still unknown to us "corn eaters." It is said that once the process is started, it cannot be reversed, and that only half-breeds have been known to survive it.

Is the LGBT recognized as an official government?

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of less-significant principalities have given the LGBT government official status. The splinter GLBT group, however, is recognized by the United States, France, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia as a terrorist organization.

Who was responsible for the GLBT attack in Mexico City in 1986?

While it is widely assumed a group of mutant Gay landwalkers conceived of and executed the infamous "Semana Santa Bombings," no one has come forward to claim responsibility. One cattle farmer lost up to 70% of his livestock in the blasts.

Why should I oppose Gay marriage?

While Gay marriage has little nominal effect on your day to day life, the fear is that recognizing the relationships of a group of people different from us will embolden them, leading them to storm our shores at once and subject us to their whims, for having us mate with cattle is as foreign a concept to them as their freakish, egalitarian mating ritual is to us.

What can I do to oppose Gay marriage?

There really is no "wrong" answer to this question. Most important is to keep an eye out for landwalkers and half-breeds. You may notice that their pupils do not dilate in the dark, or that their finger nails grow at a slower pace than ours. Remember, landwalkers and half-breeds have all the strengths of Gays and none of their weaknesses, so they do not to rub salt on their skin in order to survive out of water and have strength of seven men. If you spot a landwalker or half-breed, DO NOT CONFRONT HIM. Rather, report him to the proper authorities and know you did a good and patriotic thing today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Formal Introduction and Biography of Ashby

Ashby has joined the blog. You can find him at various coffee shops in St. Louis, eternally writing his screenplay (an unauthorized live action version of Duck Tales), frequently laughing aloud at his own ideas. Say hi to him. But do not trust him: His is a blighted smile that betrays the many horrible things he has visited upon others. Also - keep a lead plate under your shirt. He can see right through your skin, and he sells information of your vitals to road agents.

Giving the economy a handy

I'm tired of the phrase "stimulating the economy" for a couple of reasons. 1) It's almost always ensconced in a larger conversation between douchebag pundits who are determined to disagree with one another in totally bloodless and uninteresting ways (seriously, let's introduce a "sharp knives" segment on Face The Nation). 2) It is perhaps the vaguest and most useless of phrases since gems like "Re-living the past," "You get what you pay for," and my personal favorite, "Ashby, you'd better not come home drunk and reeking of cigarettes again."

I'll admit, that last one is a little more open to interpretation than the others.

Two media outlets in England (home of the language that launched a million utterly useless graduate degrees) recently compiled lists of cliches that irk people most. While neither included the post-game interview staples "taking it one game at a time" or "just execute our game plan" that we see all the time here in the colonies, the list was mostly similar kinds of phrases - verbal shorthand for "I don't know exactly what to say here, so I will insert this combination of words that will deflect further interrogation."

I propose that we do more than merely make a list of these phrases than annoy us. I mean, seriously, what's more pathetic than simply identiifyng aspects of language and culture you find particularly irksome and then raving on about them as if anyone cared about your opinion? You know, like some people do with their "weblogs." And since I know that the use of cliches is probably unavoidable, I propose that we simply invent some new ones that are at least a little more evocative and...um...visual.

For starters, I nominate "Rubbing out the economic downturn with scrambled porn and 'jobs' programs."

Friday, November 21, 2008

President's Friday: (Mostly) Arcane Methods of Naming Cabinet Officials

With all of the tempest surrounding the Obama administration's cabinet deliberation process, I thought it would be instructive to look back and note some of the more peculiar and (mostly) arcane methods that our Presidents have used.

George Washington: Many of our presidents made the cabinet-picking process a competitive endeavor (see Abraham Lincoln for a particularly novel approach), and most historians agree that they wanted to follow what they felt was a precedent set by George Washington. Rather than having his potential cabinet members submit to the then-popular sport of hoop-rolling, Washington ingeniously tested his men at fox-hunting. Those who fared best were summarily executed, because fox-hunting was a British passtime. Only four men out of seventy remained: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph. They were quickly named, respectively, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, and Attorney General. Due to personnel restrictions and then budgetary concerns, the office of Secretary of Homeland Security would remain unfilled for over two hundred years.

Andrew Jackson: "Old Hickory" simply asked his potential cabinet members to outrun a bullet, fired by him. Consequently, Hamilton did not have a cabinet and thus simulataneously served as President, Vice President, Secretary of War, Indian-tamer, and man about town. He is said to be the first president to order an invasion of Florida in the morning and cut the ribbon at a Woolworth's in the afternoon.

Abraham Lincoln: Infamous among his peers as a bellicose, lusty figure, Lincoln submitted his candidates to five-minute rounds of grease-wrestling. Those to best him won a cabinet position and his unending respect. Contrary to the popular notion, Lincoln's wasn't a team of rivals so much as a team-of-those-who-beat-Lincoln-at-grease-wrestling.

Grover Cleveland: The immortal Phoenix, blazing red and gold in the afternoon sun, landed in Washington D.C. to witness Grover Cleveland's inauguration. It remains the last time the mythical bird was spotted in America. It flapped its monstrous wings and loosed a barrage of man-sized eggs from a pouch on its underside. Those hatchlings that the Phoenix didn't eat were named to Cleveland's cabinet.

Theodore Roosevelt: Having inherited a cabinet from the assassinated President McKinley, Roosevelt was stuck. Daily he was plagued by drunken roustabouts clamoring to make currency out of spoken words and war with Missouri. He was lucky, then, to find that McKinley wagered and lost his entire cabinet in a game of poker to a mustache-twirling railroad tycoon. With McKinley's former cabinet now serving Wilmington Snarkworth Snedley and his dastardly sons, Roosevelt was free to name his own cabinet. Summarily, the starting lineup of the St. Louis Browns was named, collectively, Secretary of Labor.

Jimmy Carter: Rendered insane by syphillis and lead poisoning, Carter named the most virile hogs from his pigfarm to cabinet. Snuffles, Carter's foul-tempered Tamworth swine (a trusted confidant from the early days), continued after Carter's ouster to serve as Secretary of the Interior, with distinction, under Ronald Reagan.

George H.W. Bush (shadow government cabinet): Not much is known of Bush's shadow cabinet save codenames salvaged from a pile of cryptic letters meant to be burnt in 1989, but we think that Squarepusher was Secretary of 3rd World Insurgencies. Recent scholarship suggests that Squarepusher was indeed Chiquita Brands International CEO Carl Lindner, Jr.

So what might we expect from an Obama cabinet? I'll leave it to fate's machinations. But let's not be surprised if his decisions are ruled by paranoia and jealousy, and if few of his cabinet members outlive the administration!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gifts for Friends

If you have a friend who is sad about the course of his life, consider giving him some fresh cut flowers. Fragrant flowers work best.


Hortense bravely wages his battle with diabetes. Noble.

Petunia eats a chicken foot she found in the drainage ditch. Yum!

And what is this kitty up to??? Adorable.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Formal Introduction and Biography of Tyler

As I wrote before, Tyler is writing for the blog now, under the monikor "Tyles". For those who don't know, Tyler was a diver at Phillips Exeter in prep school and played water polo collegiately as well. He suffers from claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces. He has a nearly eidetic memory and phenomenal problem-solving talents.

As an expert in religious iconology and symbology, Tyler was once invited to give a lecture in Paris, where he made an appointment to meet with Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre. Before he could go to the meeting, he was startled to find the Paris police at his hotel room door. They informed that, unfortunately, Sauniere had been murdered. Tyler's expertise was requested at the scene of the crime, but unknown to him, he was a prime suspect.

While he was in the Louvre, Tyler met Sophie, a young Cryptologist from the DCPJ. When he and Sophie got the chance to talk in private, he found out that Jacques Saunière was her grandfather. Saunière instructed Sophie to 'Find Tyles', according to the message he left for her in the floor, therefore, Sophie believed (correctly, it turns out) that Tyler was innocent of her grandfather's murder.

He spent the better part of a month dodging the police and his traitorous friend, Leigh Teabing (played by Sir Ian MacKellan), trying to solve the mystery of a secret ancient society which was led by Leonardo da Vinci himself, the Priory of Sion. In the end, Tyler uncovered the mystery behind Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail. Fortuitously, he discovered he'd been in love with Sophie all along.

You can uncover more of Tyler's cryptological exploits

A Great Winter Treat

For those of you out there looking for something to warm up the soul, try sprinkling a little bit of freshly ground cinnamon on to your hot apple cider. It's great to share with friends, too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Civil War Generals Whose Ghosts Have Visited Me At Night

It has been my privilege to entertain the ghosts of various Civil War generals late at night. William Tecumseh Sherman asks for loose change and becomes frustrated when it drops through his transluscent hand. George B. McClellan has the face of a great grizzly bear and is as equally ill-spirited. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard speaks in an unintelligible dialect that sounds just like English spoken backwards. Robert E. Lee is over seven feet tall and has well over eighty fingers, which he likes to silently count when he's not engaged in conversation. George Edward Pickett's favorite movie is the Anthony Hopkins-Alec Baldwin wilderness thriller "The Edge". Leonidas Polk greatly resents being killed in Sherman's March. It's literally all he talks about. Joseph Hooker sobs uncontrollably, terrified of returning to the enveloping blackness when he takes his leave from me, but is no less thankful to exist on some kind of plane even if I'm the only one who can see him.

Granted, this is an incomplete list. My mind weighs heavy these days, and I don't have all day to fill you in on all of the ghosts of Civil War generals who visit me late at night. You should be quite thankful that I gave you a list as complete as the one here.

Until next time...

The Beatings That Made You The Person You Are Today

I have invited my friend and colleague Tyler to publish posts here. Tyler is a fellow writer here at the school, and is as humane as he is unflappable. To welcome him, I'm publishing a list of the beatings that made me the person I am today.

1) August 7, 1997.

They had knives, but I had my wits. I'd been living a lazy existence that summer, idling in the air conditioning, avoiding the southern Illinois humidity. While my body atrophied and slackened, my mind was sharpening. I watched television twelve hours a day, and instead of turning my brain to mush, it gave me a superhuman ability to analyze narrative. This also gave me a piercing insight into the various discourses of the working man, a functional familiarity with Spanish, and an unambiguous desire to be taken seriously. I do believe my more powerful brain waves actively sterilized me for at least four years (at least this is what I felt my body, particularly my testicles, telling me). The point is, there is no way I should have been able to fend off a travelling band of violent ragtime pianists - as dangerous as they were senile. The sun was low, the neighborhood abandoned. Was that Scott Joplin I heard? I do believe it was. Was it eight rickety pianists playing eight syncopated versions of the Beltnoose Rag on eight rickety pianos? Amazing to say, possibly more amazing to hear, yes. Were they all wearing patchy, worn jackets, peering out of sunken eyes that seemed unaccustomed to daylight? I don't have to tell you that they were. And the second they noticed me, out came the knives. First, they dashed me. Bloodied but undaunted, I commenced to battle their wits - you may well know that with the elderly, the ability to produce and respond to music can blossom in the right circumstances, but the ability to reason devolves to the level of a four year old. I told them that if they let me go on my way, I'd buy them candies. They requested Werther's Originals. Luckily, I always carried a bag of Werther's on my person. I fed them and left. From this ordeal, I learned that I was right to always carry Werther's Originals on my person.

2) January 21, 1998: I am beaten by a priest for polishing my shoes on a Wednesday, after lunch. The rules at SLUH were as arbitrary as they were ingenious. The Jesuits believed that in order to build a man, you must first destroy him with maddeningly inconstant rules. Their motto was (and is!) "First: The Neversame Rules, Then: Religion." It was well known to us Sophomores that Sophomores with last names J-through-S must polish their shoes any time from ten to noon on Wednesdays and that it is a venal (though no less serious) sin to polish their shoes at any other time, particularly in the afternoon. I had a particularly rebellious streak that Sophomore year, and sought to test these inconsistent rules (if you were an altar boy, you had to follow even more arbitrary rules, but only for the first two months of the school year) by challenging the one no one had dared to before: The shoe-polishing rules. I don't have to tell you that I was found out almost immediately and severely caned by Father Von Nida so that I had to spend a week in the infirmary. Obviously, the lesson I learned is to polish my shoes when I'm told it is acceptable to polish my shoes!

3) October 31, 2002. I am challenged to a fight by an invisible man. It's quite simple: I stepped on his invisible shoes. He shoved me with some force, and I was carried a fifth of the way across the room (the room was the size of your typical workplace bathroom). This must have looked amusing to those gathered at the party, but it was certainly terrifying to me. I swung a lamp around aimlessly, targetless, and managed to connect, bloodying his nose. He began to cry and I set down the lamp. But the invisible are a wily lot (I'd been told, but had obviously forgotten, that the invisible are not to be trusted. EVER.), and he surprised me with a sucker punch and bit me on the arms and kicked me in the ribs. It should go without saying that the lesson from this severe beating was to not trust the invisible, ever. And to avoid costume parties that have a lot of alcohol on the premisis, because the invisible say they can handle their liquor but they really can't, and seem to be emboldened by their invisible pirate costumes.

4) May 14, 2006. Lady Bird Johnson shatters my front teeth. This one is pretty straight forward, and the moral can serve as the story: Do not trespass in Texas.

5) November 4, 2008. I am attacked by a man I mistake for Barack Obama on the streets of Wyoming. I'd been following him for days, wondering why he wasn't campaigning in Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or Florida (remember: the pundits all said these states would be key), or why he was traveling without the secret service, or why no one else noticed him. For weeks, I built up the courage to ask about any of these things, or, in a quivering voice, tell him he had my vote. Of course, he approached me first, to ask me why I had followed him from Safeway to the dry cleaners to the Thai restaurant we found ourselves in. I told him, "Mr. Obama, it is now election Tuesday, shouldn't you be preparing a victory or concession speech, depending on your campaign's internal numbers and the exit polls coming in from all of our fine states?" He took this as an insult, and severely beat me. The life lesson I learned here is that Barack Obama is not a three hundred-sixty pound diabetic black man.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


As an unpublished writer (the saddest, most self-implicating phrase in the world), I question the validity of what I'm doing often. I wonder, if I'm ever to amount to something as a writer, if greater skill shouldn't have manifested earlier. There's a great egotism to the kind of ambition I'm familiar with - even if the ambition itself is modest.

Guys I went to high school and college with are marrying, they're starting to get paid pretty serious sums of money for jobs I possibly could have done without this kind of foolish ambition. It's a meandering ambition, too - what is my aim, really? I'm overwhelming my future self with loan repayments and a lack of requisite job skills. I blanche at doing any kind of waged work - it's the manifestation of an ugly sense of entitlement.

There's a certain amount of self-insulating you have to do so that you're not overcome with self-doubt. This self-insulation, if you're a self-indulgent person, can ruin your relationships, can make your relationship with reality rather tenuous. There's a lot that has been written about Joyce's lifelong battle with reality.

Your disappointments are crushing. Your failed relationships become referenda on your status as a person. You remember back to high school, when your theology teacher said, "Let's be honest, all of you could make obscene amounts of money if you choose to." This made a great deal of sense at the time. It bled into a full accounting of your abilities, and was far more pernicious than the self-esteem building exercises in grade school, the "you can do anything you want!" assemblies you sat through - because you had a little bit more ability than other people, and a few more contacts.

What it leads to, again if you're a self-indulgent person, is a lot of self-pity. It tempts you to create a mythology around the choices you made; that they weren't choices at all, but pre-ordained things that happen to you. But if you're mature at all, you realize none of this has bearing on what you write, and if you can be an adult about it, it doesn't have much bearing on how you treat everyone else.

Or you get a therapist.