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Sunday, February 14, 2016

307. Rules

It’s been cold here and C.W. doesn’t care much for cold weather. He often annoys me by appearing as Jimmy Buffett and singing “Wasting Away in a Drink Made With Tequilaville.” Yes, his Galactic Universal Translator is on the blink again. He attributes it to sunspots. I just don’t know.

Anyway, he was full of questions today. He was in my favorite recliner going through notes he had collected during the week. He studied a page and looked up. “What do they mean by this?”

I stopped my computer mouse. “By what?”

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.” he said.

“Fu … uh darned if I know.”

“Wait one,” he said. I could tell he was consulting his GUT. “Oh,” he said. “It be meaning ‘Don’t be dissin’ the stiff dudes or y’all be some sorry mother ….”

I interrupted. “Wait,” I said, “I think you need to adjust your GUT.”

“My GUT is fine,” he said. “I trust it as having all necessary parts or not lacking anything.”

“You may trust it completely,” I said, “but you may want to make a slight adjustment to its coordinates.”

“Wait one,” he said. I could almost hear him mentally punching in new numbers. Then he smiled—a crooked little smile that showed some missing teeth. “Hit means ‘Don’t chall go round pissin’ on the graves of the deceased.”

“I think a couple of clicks to the north,” I said.

“Oh,” he said. Another moment passed. “Here it is,” he said. “We should attempt, giving the constraints imposed upon us by a cruel and unsympathetic societal structure, to, if we are not otherwise genetically impaired in our self-control, to only speak, utter, communicate, or otherwise articulate good about the livingly impaired.”

I shook my head. “No,” I said, “I think you landed in the middle of a college campus.”

He shook his head. “Okay,” he said. “Respect the dead, unless, of course, they are women, spics, or n…”

“Stop it,” I yelled. He looked stunned. “You’re in the headquarters of some political candidate.”

“Well darn,” he said. His eyes crossed slightly when he adjusted this time. “I think I’ve got it,” he said. “Listen … anyone killed with a firearm of any sort, it’s their own damned fault. Otherwise, we are sorry for your loss.”

“Where in the galaxy did you find that?”

“Wait one,” he said, “Oops, sorry. I accidently opened something called the NRA manual.”

“I thought so,” I said. “Anyway, I think I get the picture now. I believe that is a Latin phrase translated as ‘Of the dead, nothing unless good,’ and goes back to writings by Diogenes LaĆ«rtius around AD 300.”

He was obviously impressed, but, then, he couldn’t see my computer screen. “And it means?”

“It means,” I said. “Don’t badmouth dead people.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

He ignored me. After a moment, he said, “Is there a time limit on it?”

I answered mischievously, “It depends on what political party you belonged to.”

“Be serious,” he said, a highly uncharacteristic statement, coming from him. “I need to know about this.”

“Okay,” I said. “There isn’t a strict time limit.”

“What else should I know about this system of symbols (as letters or numbers) used to represent assigned and often secret meanings.”

Of all your species, I think this group would
want to be on the right side of history. -  C.W.
 I couldn’t help myself. “This code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” I tried to stifle my laughs, but they made my stomach bounce.

“You are an ass,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be serious. What’s the big deal about not unloading on a corpse?”

“I have to file my weekly report of current events to the Falloonian Elders,” he said.

“I don’t understand.”

“Then you try to say something nice about a recently deceased person who once ruled that a corporation is a person.”


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Sunday, February 7, 2016

306. Confusion

"So explain something to me," C.W. said, as we enjoyed ourselves at a local Little Rock beer joint. I it was pleasant, with his taking, for once, the sensible shape of a good friend. I was having a beer and he a soda, his usual since the incident with the female police officer. Don't ask.

"Explain what?"

"This concept your species has called a 'love-hate' relationship."

"What do you mean?"

"It doesn't make sense," he said."Is it what you call a combination of contradictory word such as a 'definite maybe,' like Mrs. Big Dope says all the time?"

"You mean an oxymoron?"

"That's what I said. Your repeating of everything I say is becoming a periodic constancy."

It took a moment for that to register. "She doesn't say that all the time," I said. It's just a falsehood she uses to express the truth."

"You are confusing me with elucidation," he said.

"So what was it you want to know? Forgetting what you say is, for me, a cruel kindness."

He scowled at me from across the table. “Would you rather play our beer-drinking game?”

Oh no. We have this game we play called “Songs and songwriters I enjoy disliking.” The image of Tony Orlando popped into my head. I quickly changed the subject.

“So what was your question again? I’m drearily attentive.”

“What does it mean to have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with something or someone?”

“Well,” I said, “it sort of means you love something— or maybe the concept of something— at one moment but then hate it at another. You know … possessing simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate.”

“Like in marriage,” he said, “when …”

I interrupted him. “It doesn’t have anything to do with sex,” I said.

“Hmm,” he said, and he took a small notebook and pen from his pocket and began to write.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh nothing,” he said, “just making a note to get a second opinion on something.”

“You leave her out of this,” I said. “Or I’ll catch you sleeping and play, ‘American Pie,’ as loud as I can.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he said. “I have ten Tom Waits discs just waiting for you.”

“Okay,” I said. “Truce.”

“Truce,” he said. “Peace through war.”

“You got it,” I said. “But why are you off on this love-hate kick?”

“Your species seems to live by it,” he said.

“Confound me with clarity,” I said.

“Look at your religions,” he said. “Between those urging love, and those urging hate, which are the fastest growing?”

I took a drink of beer and signaled the waitress for another, not from desire, but from a need for a second or two to think. She came and I stalled some more, asking about her family.

“Oh my granddaddy said the nicest thing to me the other day,” she said.

“Really?”

“Yes, he told me that he was so proud that I had five kids and that I knew who the daddy of each one was.” She took the empty bottle and wandered away.

C.W. stared at her. “How old do you think she is?”

“Nearly 30, I imagine.”

“What her grandfather said, isn’t that what you would call ‘praise damnation’ or something like that?”

“No,” I said. “I think that’s what we call redneck sophistication in the South. But back to your question …”

Something tells me that his man
is not reciting the Beatitudes. - C.W.
“Yes,” he said. “Now take a look at your current crop of political candidates.”

“What about them?”

“The ones who get all the attention, what are they whispering most loudly?”

“Uh,” I said, once more stalling for time.”

Let me answer with a hint,” he said. “It isn’t love.”

I nodded. “Just what are you trying to say?”

“Just that,” he said, “you species never seems to feel more correct than when they are wrong.”

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

305. Hereafter

“Hey, wait for me.” I had started on my daily walk when I heard  C.W. call. I turned to see him in one of his inquisitive teenager shapes. Oh no.

“I have a joke for you,” he said as he moved alongside me and matched my pace.

“A joke?” This stopped me. “You have a joke?”

“You betcha.”

“You are a joke,” I said. “But where did you learn one?”

“At the Dairy Bar,” he said. Sometime when I am busy and he is in this shape, he steals my car and goes to a local teen hangout. No doubt he had been there lately.

“You are going to get arrested for driving without a license.”

He ignored me. “So this boy says to his girlfriend while they were parked on a date. ‘Do you believe in the hereafter?’ She asks him what he means. He says, ‘If you’re not here after what I’m here after, you’re gonna be here after I’m gone.’ Funny eh?”

I groaned. “Want some advice?”

“No.”

“Don’t tell that to my wife.”

“We’re not speaking since I asked her if she was really made from one of your ribs.”

“Oh?”

“She said no, that women were created from three-quarters of man’s brain.”

“That sounds like her,” I said. “Did you believe her?”

“Have you ever disagreed with her?”

“A couple of times,” I said, then added, “years ago.”

“Well what I really want to know is about this concept your species has of the hereafter. What you call a place regarded in various religions as the abode of God (or the gods) and the angels, and of the good after death, often traditionally depicted as being above the sky.”

“You mean Heaven?”

“That’s what I just said.”

“What do you want to know? I’m hardly an expert.”

“How does one get there?”

“Like I said, I’m not an expert.”

“Will Mrs. Big Dope go there?”

“If there really is such a place,” I said, “I’m sure she will have a prominent position. Probably Commandant of Animal Angels.”

“Will Joel Osteen go there?”

“Not likely, they say it will be very hard for a rich man to enter.”

“Franklin Graham?”

“Uh, not likely. ‘Love one another’ and all that.”

“Rush Limbaugh?”

“Are you kidding? Three divorces?”

“Divorces?”

“A big no, no,” I said.

“Are there any other things that might keep people out?”

“Well,” I said, “as I say, I’m no expert, but as I understand it, there are a few specifics.”

“Such as?”

“Not taking care of the hungry.”

“Oh,” he said, “do your politicians know this?”

“Some of them.”

“Oh my,” he said. “What else?”

“Not taking care of the thirsty.”

“Like not maintaining a safe water supply?”

I thought. “Yeah, I guess you could put it that way.”

“Go on.”

“Not taking in strangers.”

“You must be kidding.”

“Not keeping poor people clothed.”

“Get out of town.”

“Neglecting prisoners.”

“Jeez.”

I tend to share your writer Mark Twain's confusion that
you would seek out a place to spend eternity doing the
things you hated to do on earth, like singing hymns, - C.W.
“Can we change the subject? I’m growing quite weary of all this,” I said.

“Just one thing more,” he said. “Children?”

“Oh,” I said, “I think there is a special corner of ‘the other place’ for people who mistreat or torture children.”

“Torture them how?”

“You know,” I said, “physically or mentally abusing them.”

“Like taking them, for example,” he said, “into a dark room and telling them that there is a man in the sky, in this place called Heaven, that will burn their little bodies forever if they don’t do what the grownups say?”

“Look,” I said, “there’s a red-winged blackbird.”


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Sunday, January 24, 2016

304: Truth

“It seems to me a person with an imagination could make a lot of money.”

“So,” I said, “you have an imagination?”

“Quite so.” C.W. was walking with me in the snow that had fallen overnight. He resembled the late actor and comedian Robin Williams as he stepped gingerly in the five-inch layer of white. “I can think things up with the best of them.”

“What sort of things?” We exited a wooded area and turned onto a country lane offering a pleasant vista of snow-covered branches arching over a straight path that seemed to lead somewhere peaceful.

“Things for the news to report.”

“Made up things?”

“Sure. That’s what sells,” he said, stepping over a fallen limb.

“Made up things sell?”

“Your media doesn’t seem that obsessed wth accuracy these days.”

“So you make things up, they report, and the people abide.”

“Pretty much so.”

“You will invent ‘facts’ and sell them to the press?”

“Ya got that right, Pilgrim,” he said, trying to mimic John Wayne.”

“Give me an example.”

“Let’s see,” he said. “Something really ridiculous. Hmmm. We could sell them a proven fact that every time taxes have been cut in your country, tax revenues have increased.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“What?”

“That’s been done. In fact, that fantasy news channel runs that almost every day.”

“Drats.”

We walked in silence for a while, enjoying the solitude. Then he broke in. “How’s this? I read where the taxes in your country rank 26th out of the 30 countries in the world-wide Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Let’s sell the fantasy that your taxes are the highest in the world.”

“You haven’t been paying attention, have you?”

“Been done already?”

“Every night on fantasy news.”

“Drats.” He brightened. “Iraq bombed the World Trade towers.”

“Done.”

“I know,” he said. “We’ll pick out a decorated war veteran and say he was a coward.”

“Have you ever heard of John Kerry?”

“Who?”

“Let’s just say that has been done already as well.”

“Drats.”

“Look,” I said. “I’m not sure this is a good idea. I don’t think you could get rich making things up for the news.”

“Bill O’Reilly has.”

He had me stumped there. I suggested we walk back to the farmhouse and that he let me offer him some proof. We chatted about other things. He was curious about the vast differences in the price of vodka in the U.S., given the fact that import standards require that it be pure, odorless, and tasteless. We were still discussing the field of marketing when we arrived home. “You mean,” he said, “that a chemical compound like bleach, that only exists in one form—a single, specific chemical compound—can be marketed for different prices?”
Words are like some of your politicians
and professionals I could name. For enough
money, they'll do anything you want. - C.W.

“Welcome to America,” I said.

“But if you alter the composition by one atom, it’s no longer bleach,” he said. “Everyone knows that.”

“Apparently we don’t” I said. “Check next time we go to the supermarket.”

“What do you have to show me?” he said, slumping in a chair.

I retrieved a stack on news clippings I had been saving and began showing them to him. I began with one claiming that residents of Colorado were buying marijuana with food stamps. Then one asserting that a U.S. Senator lost his family’s health insurance because of the Affordable Health Care Act. He read them carefully. Once, he looked up at me. “But the President of the United States was born in Hawaii,” he said. “Isn’t that one of your states?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “But who cares?” Then he saw a claim by a woman whose son had beat his wife and threatened her with a rifle.

“No,” he said. “She’s not claiming that the President made him do it?”

I said nothing. He handed the clipping back with a downcast look.

“You may be right,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t make up stuff like this.”


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Monday, January 18, 2016

Honor

Dear friends:
Perhaps someone can explain it to me. People in Big Dope's home state of Arkansas may choose to celebrate the birthday of either of two men today. One was known for honor, grace, poise, bravery,  daring, and love of his native land. The other was a general who went to war against his own country.
Odd
Your Friend,
C.W.