Thursday, February 27, 2014


Dear Friends and Followers:

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. an Earthling author, is a folk hero among the Falloonians, having spent some time on our planet during your country’s turbulent times of the 1960s. So, today allow me to include a quote in his memory and hope that it strikes a harmonic set of two or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously in you. (Editor’s note: he means “chord.”)

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
True terror is to wake up one
 morning and discover that
 your high school class
is running the country. - KV


 "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

May the peace and tranquility of the Galaxy shine upon you today.

Your friend C.W.
and ...
Check out Jimmie von Tungeln's
new book, "The Charmed Time" on Amazon or

Sunday, February 23, 2014

190. Perspectives

He was an elderly African-American man who appeared to be in need of a meal. He wore faded overalls, a khaki shirt, and ragged work shoes that had lost their form decades ago. His hands were calloused and a stubble of white beard covered his face. He was sitting in my favorite chair watching television.

“C.W.,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Politics,” he said. “Why are people so worked up?”

“About what?”

“Things,” he said.

“What things?”

“Say … income inequality.”

“It’s complicated,” I said. “But some people feel that we are headed for a French Revolution-type revolt if the working class lives on starvation wages while the ruling class owns practically all of the wealth.”

He nodded. “What about wage discrimination?”

“Well there again,” I said. “There is a significant difference between what a man and a woman earn for doing the same job.”

“I see.”

“Anything else?”

“They seem to be upset about voting rights’”

“Oh yes,” I said. “Some want to make it harder for certain groups, say students, to vote.”

“I can see how that would upset people,” He said. Then he changed the subject. “What is this thing called ‘zoning’ all about?”


“Yes. What cities do.”

“It is about the control of land use,” I said. “It covers things from building heights to what types of uses are allowed in a certain location.”

“And it upsets folks?”

“Sometimes,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“Was watching the news about some wild meeting a city near here. Neighbors were upset that a development designed for the elderly was to be built next to them.”

“Oh,” I said. “Some folks can get upset about anything, even the type of people living near them. Certain people don't like the elderly, it would appear.”

“It would appear," he said. "Now the government in some place called Arizona wants to allow business owners to refuse service to groups they don’t like.”

“Quite so,” I said.

“And it has people agitated.”

“Some people, yes.”

He exhaled, expanding his cheeks as he did. Then he bit his lower lip as he lost himself in thought. After a moment, he looked toward me. “Folks are getting pretty angry.” He said it partly in question and partly as a statement of fact.

“Pretty angry,” I said.

“More so than usual.”

“That seems to be the case,” I said.

He said. “Want to know what I think?”

“About what?”

“About why these things are upsetting folks more than usual.” He rubbed the stubble on his face with a huge black hand.

Sometimes it seems to me that life in America
just depends on what side on the river you are
born on. - C.W.
“Enlighten me,” I said.




I waited.

He looked off and then back at me. “It all sounds familiar to someone like me,” he said.

I thought. “I suppose it does.”

“Know what is different this time?”


“This time they are doing it to white folks.”

Sunday, February 16, 2014

189. Athletes

C.W. is fascinated by the Olympics. He stays glued to the tube watching them, except when “Big Bang” theory runs. (Nothing gets between him and Penny).

Timed events intrigue him. “Your species surely places a lot of importance on who skis down a hill a portion of a second faster than anyone else.”

“That’s where true honor resides,” I said. “in that blessed millisecond.”

“You forget how many light-years I traveled to get here,” he said. “So a portion of a second is lost on me.”

“It’s all relative,” I said.

He looked to see if I was making fun of him. “Your wife says that sometimes she thinks you are an idiot,” he said.

“Besides,” I said. "Some competitions aren’t based on timing. They are judged.”

“That’s another thing,” he said. “How does one judge another person’s ability to play on a snowboard?”

He had me there.

He said. “How did these so-called ‘games’ start, and when?”

“They started in ancient Greece, a few hundred years before the Common Era,” I said. “It is my understanding that the Greeks intended them to show the physical qualities and evolution of the performances accomplished by young people. They also encouraged good relations between the cities of Greece.”

“Ancient Greece?”

“Ancient Greece.”

“They had snowboards?”

“Uh no,” I said. “Olympic officials add new types of competition from time to time.”

“They can do that?”


“So, maybe banjo playing is on the horizon?”

“Perhaps,” I said. “But not likely.”

“So the Greeks didn’t shoot rifles as an Olympic sport?”

“Uh, no.”

“What did they do?”

“Oh,” I said. “Manly things like wrestling and boxing.”

“Wrestling?” he said. “Did they wear those stupid getups like they wear now?”

“No,” I said. “they had a different kind of wrestling. It was done in the nude, I think.”

His head snapped around. “The nude? Men and women wrestled in the nude?”

“Just men,” I said. “Women weren’t allowed to participate.”

He pondered this. “Strange,” he said. “I guess boxing was manlier. Probably a little bloody too.”

“Oddly, no,” I said. I once read where Melankomas of Caria, crowned Olympic boxing champion in 49 B.C., went down in history for the way in which he fought. His movements were light, simple and fascinating. He would defeat his opponents without ever being hit himself, or ever dealing a blow.”

“You are confusing me,” He said. “This doesn’t sound like the sort of entertainment that Joe Half-dozen Carton would enjoy.”

“Joe Six-Pack would not want to watch naked men wrestling,” I said. Then I thought. “Or would he? Let me think about that.”

If I can only determine how your species
got from here to "Ski-and-Shoot" competition,
I will have made some progress in figuring
you out. - C.W.
“So did the old Greeks give the winners a big reward?”

“No,” I said. “they tied ribbons around their brows, placed garlands of flowers on their heads, and had them run around stadium”

“Still naked?”

I shrugged. “One can only imagine.”

He was quiet for a moment. “That explains a lot,” he said, slumping in his chair. Then he bolted upright. “Got to go,” he said as he jumped up. “Figure skating is about to start.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

188. Debates

Oh no, C.W. has another of his “get-rich” schemes incubating and it is a doozy. He told me about it yesterday while we were housebound by bad weather. He charged in as a thin, energetic man wearing a blue-blazer and a sporty bow tie, his face beaming.

“It’s official,” he said. “I’m going to be rich.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “Legally, I presume.”

“All atop a plank.”

I thought. “Above board,” you mean.

“Exactly. Why must I repeat everything for you?”

“Never mind,” I said. “What is your scheme this time?”

“I’m going to be the Great Debater.”

“Say again?”

“Debates. I’m going to stage debates.” He smiled. “The ‘net’ is buzzing about a so-called debate last week as to whether your world is 6,000 years old or five billion.” He broke into laughter.

I said. “What’s so funny?”

“Your species,” he said.

“We’re funny?”

“Oh, hilarious.”

“You find us funny?”

“Of course,” He said. “Why do you ask?”

“Just how do you mean, ‘funny?’”

He checked to see if I looked serious, then laughed again. “We started watching your planet—we the Falloonians—when the last big asteroid hit it 60 million years ago. It was pretty boring except for the last couple of hundred thousand.”

“And now?”

“We show clips of you for entertainment … like the show last week.” He started laughing again. This time it was at least a minute before he could control himself. I waited while he regained his composure. He wiped an eye and looked at me. “Six thousand years.” Then he broke up again.

“Are you hinting that we are the laughing stock of the Galaxy?”

“Not all of you,” he said. “We take accountants pretty seriously… and railroad engineers, cowboys, music teachers, sailors, and a few others.”

I wanted to re-direct the conversation. “So what will you debate?”

“Correction,” he said. “You and I. What will we debate?”


“You will be my thin layer of aluminum used for temporary food preservation.”

“No,” I said with a huff, “I will not be anyone’s foil.”

“Oh,” he said. “Think of the fun.”


“Can’t you see us on TV debating whether or not we breathe air?”


“How about this one?” he said, pulling a notepad from his jacket pocket. “The Theory of Sexual Insemination—If Mother Mary didn’t need it, why should we?”

“Don’t you have something to do?”

“Wait,” He said. “You’ll like this.” He read from his notes. “Disease—From Science or From God?”

You know ... I'm not sure I could make the
trip from Earth to Falloonia using
Biblical physics. - C.W.
“I need to take care of some things.”

“Okay,” he said. “You won’t be able to resist this one. “Sunrise—fact or optical illusion?”

I started to leave.

“Newton’s Theory of Motion?” he said. “Let’s ask Joshua.”

By this time I was out the door. The last thing I heard him yell after me was, “The Theory of Pi—If it is true, it would be in the Bible.”

Does anyone want to keep him for a while?

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Dear Friends and Followers:

Big Dope made me sit through a political speech recently in which a candidate hinted that, if elected, he would work to eliminate any regulation of the environment. Today I ran across this photo of the public drinking water in Charleston, West Virginia—a result of what you call “unfettered capitalism,” in which those of the libertarian faith so strongly believe.

I was confused.

So, I sought out the advice of some of your great thinkers (and some not so great, perhaps). Anyway, a sampling:

“I certainly have some very strong libertarian leanings, yes.” – Clarence Thomas

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” – James Madison

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” ―Theodore Roosevelt

"… if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." – Albert Einstein

“Capitalism actually encourages morality because capitalism can't function well if people can't trust each other and people aren't honest, if a deal isn't a deal.” - Rick Santorum

“This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.” – Al Capone

I am more confused than ever. Can someone help?

Your friend,


Don't forget to check out Big Dope's book, The Charmed Time.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Dear Friends and Followers:
I found this on Big Dope's computer and couldn't resist sharing.

There was news this week about a school in Utah where the officials took an unusual step in dealing with school lunch payments in arrears. After dispensing meals one noontime, officials went around and seized the trays of the kids whose lunches hadn’t been paid for and threw them in the trash. Problem solved.

Now these were not kids on the “Free Lunch Program” but simply were those whose parents had not paid for the lunches in a timely fashion.

Still, it made me think of the Free Lunch Program, a friend I had while serving in the United States Navy, and a former professional football player. Let’s see if I can connect the dots.

I teach a course at a local university. The course is “Intro to Public Administration” and the class members are juniors and seniors taking it as an elective. So, it is not “their first rodeo” and we have some wonderful and spirited discussions.

Each time I teach it, the subject of the free lunch program seems to arise. It is simply heartbreaking to hear a young woman talk of the shame associated with being identified, before her classmates, as one on the Free Lunch Program. It is evidently a mark of shame she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Now, to my “beloved” USN. While waiting for deployment to Vietnam, I shared a temporary posting in Monterey, California with a troubled man named Bob. We were both beset by unhappiness. Mine was from a temporary habit but his was deeply rooted. He owned a car and we would go for long rides along the coastal highway and bemoan our fates. We once drove to the gates of a compound owned by Joan Baez where, it was rumored, one could gain passage to Canada. I don’t know. We “chickened out” at the last moment.

Anyway, Bob had a favorite allegory. “Jimmie,” he would say, “when a child is born into this world, they give him a bucket. As he goes through life, they keep adding s**t into that bucket until someday, he won’t be able to move ‘cause it is so heavy.”

It was not the most positive personal philosophy I have ever heard, but it was entertaining, the way he would rant on about it.

I don’t know what happened to him eventually. He disappeared one day and I didn’t hear from him until just before I shipped out. I was called to “The Deck” and told, by a frowning Officer-in-Charge, that I had a call and to make it quick. So I will.

It was Bob calling from the “nut-ward” at the Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco Bay. “What are you doing there?” I said.

“I just gave my bucket of s**t away,” he yelled. Then they took the phone from him and, I suppose, led him away.

Aren't there some things that your species
believes young kids shouldn't have to
worry about? - C.W.
Now the football player: I read this week where a former pro football player, now an exec with the NFL, said he didn’t believe in social “safety nets,” which was why he voted conservative.

I just couldn’t help thinking about a young child standing to be identified forever as a burden to society and what it must mean to carry that through life.

And then, I thought of buckets of s**t. Well, I also thought about pieces of s**t.

See his latest book at Wattensaw Press.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Dear Friends and Followers:

Big Dope took me to shopping with him yesterday and I came back more confused about your species than ever, to wit:

1. Every Falloonian teenager knows that bleach is one of those unique substances that cannot be altered. The compound is either bleach or it isn’t bleach. Any attempt at altering it results in a compound that is no longer bleach. So why, I ask, are there multiple brands with a great range of prices?

2. I have read where the standards for importing or producing vodka in the United States are simple and straightforward. It must be colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Someone please explain to me why there are so many offerings and why some are so much more expensive than others.

3. Isn’t a person with access to a public and regulated water system who buys bottled water a bit like a person with a sexy and willing spouse who goes to a brothel?

Your Friend C.W.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

187. Obsessions

Since conversations between two entities from different galaxies are unusual, one can easily imagine the meanderings that can occur when C.W. and I discuss current events. An interesting example arose this morning before I had even enjoyed breakfast.

I was “surfing the net” and finding little discussion that didn’t focus on two of America’s large cities. It is, of course, the Sunday that so many of our citizens, as well as a few around the world, become fixated. So I wasn’t surprised when C.W. showed up as a young man of, maybe, 25 with a football jersey sporting a large “S” on the front. He plopped down in a chair and waited until he had my attention.

“Need some help,” he said.


“Yep. Today’s a big day.”

“It is,” I said, “And just how may I help you?”

“I’m late with a report to the Falloonian Elders and they are getting formacidy.”

“Uh, formacidy?”

“Yeah. You know, like nervous.”

“Could you mean “antsy?”

“Exactly. Isn’t that what I said?”

I seemed then to recall, from my aged databank, reading about the species Formicidae and decided to let it rest. “So what’s the report about?”

“The tendency of your species to become obsessed beyond any measure of rationality.”


“To the extent that you evade the very basics of logical behavior.”

I suddenly understood.

“Oh,” I said. “it is perfectly natural—a part of life. It renews some of us.”

“But it creates an unnatural degree of passion, all concentrated on one object.”

“The object,” I said, assuming my most pedantic tone, “is simply a necessary element that allows a physical phenomenon to proceed. And yes, it generates passion, or else we wouldn’t be able to cope with the basic illogic of the whole affair.”

He thought about this. “So this one object,” he said, “so occupies your species that all other important issues are discarded into the junk heap of history.” He smiled, “The junk heap of history. I like that. Maybe I could become a writer.”

“Let’s get back to the topic,” I said. “First of all, this,” I struggled for words, “this ‘object’ as you call it, only obsesses a portion of our species.”

“So it is okay if, while the ownership of this object is being contested, a portion of your species becomes obsessed and ignores everything else?”

“Look,” I said. “This obsession only lasts for a short while.”

“But it will be repeated, time and again, and it will become symbolic.”

“Well, yes,” I said. “But so much joy is associated with the concentration on this object and besides …”

“Besides, what?” he said.

“It allows the game to be played.”

If you only respected the peacemakers as much
as you respect the football players, the rest of
the Galaxy wouldn't worry so much. - C.W.
“You call this weird obsession a game?”

“Why certainly,” I said. “And the game provides satisfaction to a segment of society that has few other interests.”

“A game?”

“Yes,” I said. “And that’s why they call it the Super Bowl and the football is the single most important element of the whole thing.”

“Football? You’re talking about a stupid football?”

“But of course,” I said. “Aren’t you?”

“No,” he said and he slumped in his chair. “I’m talking about a vagina.”