Sunday, September 28, 2014

219. Transgressions

“You use a mug instead of a cup and saucer for your coffee.”

“Say what?”

“A cup and saucer is more appropriate. Someone who is supposed to be the head of the household should maintain decorum and you don’t.”

“C.W.,” I said, “don’t f … mess with me in the morning before I have had said coffee. And why do you look like that O'Reilly guy on TV, what’s his name?”

“Why do you call people by their last name only? Doesn’t that show disrespect? You certainly don’t act like a leader to me.”

It was hopeless. I drank my coffee in silence. He had started in early this morning for some reason. Anything I did, even the slightest gesture was grounds for disapprobation. It was annoying, even by C.W.’s standards.

“The fact that you didn’t answer me means you agree,” he said.

“Don’t you have a report to work on or something?”

“I suppose you are going to wear that awful cap today.” He was relentless.

“What cap?”

“The one that has ‘Vietnam Veteran” on the front.”

“I may. Why?”

“It’s old and dirty and it brands you.”

“Brands me as what?”

“A loser. Your kind lost that war. A leader wouldn’t advertise that he was part of it.”

“You are beginning to annoy me.”

“Ronald Reagan never got annoyed at anything.”

“Except the Constitution.”

“There you go again. Disrespecting those past middle age or characteristic of later life.”

“You may never reach the status of ‘elderly’ if you keep it up.”

He didn’t miss a beat, just said, “I suppose you want to take the day off.”

“If it pleases you.”

“With so much to be done, you want to take the day off? That is unmanly.”

“Have you been analyzing the liquor cabinet again?”

“So what do you intend to do?”

I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and said, “If it is any of your business, I thought I might read.”

“George W. Bush didn’t waste his time reading.”

Oh, the temptation was there, but I took another breath. “Mind telling me what you are planning now?”

He seemed pleased with the question. “A job.”

“With whom? What kind of job?”

“In comedy, on this TV network, named after a small wild animal that is related to dogs and that has a long pointed nose and a bushy tail.”

“Fox ‘News,’ I said.

“That’s what I said.”

I ignored him. And what exactly will be your title?”



“Yes. They have several openings. My job is to monitor every move, even the slightest, that the President makes.”

The light began to shine. “And turn each slightest move into a …”

“Transgression,” he said. “The people have a right to know. Isn’t that great?” He actually saluted.

“I think I’ll have another cup of coffee.”

He beamed. “Too much coffee causes a leader to make snap decisions from a part of the alimentary canal, you know?”

“And speaking of the ‘gut,’ your Galactic Universal Translator …”

Wear a brown suit? Why a man might as well
invade the wrong country to start a war. - C.W.
“I know,” he said, “you think it needs adjusting. But I trust my GUT and besides.”

“Besides what?”

“It reflects poorly on a leader to demean a simple investigative reporter.”

Coffee. That was my only hope, more coffee.

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And check out  - C.W.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

218. Reactions

“Know what I would do if I wanted to destroy your country?” It was a strange question, even from C.W. who had assumed the form of Edward R.Murrow as we walked the park together. I laughed watching him try to smoke a cigarette. I don’t think they do that on the planet of Falloonia. He finished one and flipped the butt at a passing bicyclist.

“Don’t do that,” I said. “And how would you destroy us?”

“Just think,” he said. “What is your greatest natural tendency?”

“Loving our neighbors?”

He laughed. “Try telling that to them.” He gestured toward two men ahead of us, holding hands and enjoying a walk in the park.”

“So,” I said, “what do you think is our greatest natural tendency?”

Wanerwopsoomasoon,” he said, lapsing into Falloonian.”

“Translation, please.”

He placed a hand on his stomach and waited for his Galactic Universal Translator to respond.”

“Your tendency to react with unnecessary or inappropriate force, emotional display, or violence.”



I said, “You must be kidding me. We don’t overreact.”

“Yes you do,” he said. “Our whole galaxy has observed the phenomenon.”

“You are crazy,” I said. “Crazy.”

“Didn’t you observe, back in what you call the 1960s, how those in the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in provoking repressive law enforcement members into violence that then appeared on national TV?”

“That was different,” I said.

“How?” He lit another cigarette.

I fumed. “Just different.”

“What about the reaction resulting in your invasion of the wrong country when a group of Saudi Arabians attacked yours?”

“That was stupidity,” I yelled. “Not overreaction.”

“A fine point to those in Baghdad that were dodging the bombs that awful morning.” He took a long drag, coughed, and exhaled. “To them it was overreaction, whether you like it or not.” He raised the cigarette again.

“Bullshit,” I screamed and I knocked the cigarette from his mouth. It skidded on the sidewalk as the couple ahead of us turned to observe the commotion. He just smiled as realization must have settled upon me.

“Exactly,” was all he said.

I changed the subject. “So what would you do to destroy us?”

“First,” he said, “I would invent an imaginary insult that some small country has leveled against you.”

“A small country?”

“Yes. It would be much more profitable to attack a small country, but it would be a small country that had many powerful friends.”

“But it would be a lie.”

He looked at me as if I had just said I didn’t believe in the Theory of Gravity. “We would create our own truth.”

“And how exactly,” I said, “would you do that?”

“Oh I would get a couple of wealthy foreigners who hated your country for some real or imagined sin.”

“What?” I said. “Who?”

“Oh, maybe an Australian or a Saudi Arabian. There are plenty.”

“And then what?”

“Go into the information manipulation business.”

“The what?”

“TV, radio, newspapers, magazines.

“Wait a moment,” I said.

He ignored me. “It wouldn’t take long to work your people into overreaction. They are a passionate race, mostly undereducated, and largely uniformed.”

“Would you wait a moment?” I said.

The bombing of a city shows
 so well on TV. - C.W.
“And then I imagine we would hire voices that had never been to war that would start clamoring for one.”

“Please stop,” I said.

“I know,” he said, reaching for a cigarette. “It is a frightful fantasy.” He began to cough.

I couldn’t think of anything to say. I looked and saw the couple ahead was coming to see about us.
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 - C.W.

Friday, September 19, 2014

First lines

Friends, I hacked into Big Dope’s computer again and found where he is trying to start a new novel. I suspect it is somewhat autobiographical. He has made notes of some of his favorite opening lines, to wit:

“Call me Ishmael”

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own

“I am an invisible man.”

“You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.”

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía
was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to
discover ice.”

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without
having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.”

“Mother died today.”

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to
know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how
my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David
Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to
know the truth.”

“Elmer Gantry was drunk.”

You better not never tell nobody but God.

“‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens,
‘first you have to die.’"

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some
advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.”

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he
had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

“Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.”

“For a long time, I went to bed early.”

“All this happened, more or less.”

“I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.”

“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that
station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow
coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along
the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

 Pretty nice, eh? Well get a load of some that Big Dope is considering:

 “There are some things, like a long, nasty Southern Comfort puke on a hot summer night, that can change a person’s life forever.”

“The first time she ever said ‘I love you,’ was one minute to the second after he went down on her and many years later he realized she might have been unduly influenced.”

“‘Heilige Scheiße,’ the Commandant yelled as he grasped the arms of his chair, adding in English, “maybe you are the master race.”

Personally, I think J.J. (I call him "J.J." and he calls me "The
thing we fear") would find it appalling, simply appalling. - C.W.
I don’t know, friends. What do you think?
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

217: Baseball

I took C.W. to his first baseball game this week. Big mistake.

First thing he said after the top half of the first inning: “Man, this is boring.”

Shrinking down in my seat, I tried to ignore him. He was in his form of the innocent twelve-year old, in his “ten-fidgets-a-minute” mode.

“Not as boring as what you call ‘sock-her’ though,” he said.

“It’s ‘soccer,’” I said, “and people all over the world don’t find it boring.”

“People all over your world think war is heroic,” he said. “That’s why we find you so fascinating.”
He finished his hot dog. “May I have another?”

“They cost a lot,” I said. “Just sit back and enjoy the game.”

“Why do they get so many chances to hit that spherical object? The game would go faster if they just had one shot at it.”

“Tradition,” I said.

“Can I have a beer?”

“No. You’re underage and they cost nearly ten dollars apiece.”

“I’m 218 years-old as your species keeps time.”

“Watch the game.”

“Why does that man throwing the spherical object keep shaking his head?”

“He’s getting signals.”

“Yes, signals.”

“From where?”

“From the catcher. He uses his fingers to signal.”

“Why doesn’t he use a radio transmitter?”

“Tradition.” I said.

“Is this a game of tradition?”

I felt mischievous. “No,” I said, “it’s a game of balls and strikes.”

I can’t best him at being obnoxious.

“Oh,” he said. “So that couple over there is playing baseball when he kisses her on the strikes, and …”

“C.W.” I yelled as the family in front of us turned around and glared.

“Tradition, probably,” he said.

Oh my. Eight more innings to go.

Just then, a left handed batter fouled one straight toward a spot about four rows in front of us. A young boy with a baseball glove stood to catch it but C.W. rose, extended an arm forward, and snatched the ball just before it entered the kid’s glove. Half the crowd around us stared in amazement. The other half booed. Before anyone could take action, C.W. leaped over the seats, ran down the aisle, and started yelling “Mister, mister,” at the third base coach. When the fellow looked over, C.W. tossed the ball to him and said, “Here’s your spherical object back.”

Best I can tell. the fellow in front is there to retrieve
the spherical objects. It's a strange game. - C.W.
Amazed, the man caught the ball and pitched it toward the dugout.

I looked down and straightened my shirt. The crowd stared in anger and amazement. As he walked back toward me, C.W. announced to everyone watching, “I’ll bet there are some people who would want to steal those.”

From the corner of my eye, I could see it all being replayed on the jumbotron.
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

216. Opposition

“There is this one thing you do, your species and your country, that I find most admirable.”

That was C.W. speaking. We were having a pleasant walk in Little Rock’s riverside park, he as a middle-age professor type and I as, … well, as myself—can’t do much about that. I was on our outboard side because he tends to want to trip bicyclists when they play their little game of whizzing by pedestrians close enough to brush their clothing. Since the incident in which he sent one arching off into the river, I’ve had to watch him around them. They don’t seem to grasp the fact that he has a 360 degree span of vision.

Anyway, I asked what he found so admirable about our country today.

“This political concept of ‘the loyal opposition’ I find simply remarkable,” he said.

“Say again?”

“This practice you have in which the political party not in power retains its basic beliefs but is loyal to the party in power as regards your country’s well-being.”

“Uh, C.W.”

He continued. “It is a well-established Galactic truth that optimum outcomes in any endeavor occur when polar opposites each contribute to a solution somewhere in between their opposing approaches.”

“Uh, C.W.”

“That’s how I got here,” he said. “We Falloonians developed our abilities in space travel through a long process of sharing of ideas among differing approaches to time-space reality. Your species is to be commended. You may get there someday.”

“Uh, C.W.”

“I mean, could you imagine a country ruled by the polar extremes of a political belief?”

“Uh, C.W.”

“To think you can set aside your political differences when threatened is a sublime thought in anyone’s book.” He stopped. “Asshole!” he shouted at a cyclist. Then he continued. “Simply sublime.”

“Uh, C.W.”

“Such loyalty to the overriding concept of national and worldwide security will see you through. That’s my guess,” he said.

“Uh, C.W.”

“The Falloonian Elders tell us that it took our species over a billion years to develop such an enlightened philosophy of behavior and your species has accomplished it in, what, a couple of hundred thousand years? Truly remarkable.”

“Uh, C.W.”

“What was it your comedian Woody Allen said? ‘To you I am an atheist, but to God I’m the loyal opposition,’ or something like that.”  He smiled.

“Uh,  C.W.”

“Yes,” he said. “When I write the final report on my stay among you Americans, I’ll speak highly of your belief in the loyal opposition.”

“Uh, C.W.,” I said.

“Are you trying to tell me something?”
Please don't tell me that your children understand
 Galactic truths better than your politicians. - C.W.

“Well just interrupt me, why don’t you? I’m only talking about one of the few things I find comprehensible about the way your countrymen behave. I’m serious about this loyal opposition thing. It’s impressive.” He paused and looked at me. “So… what?”

“We don’t practice it anymore.”

His head snapped toward me. “Ridiculous.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but true.”

“Why? When? Where. What on earth?”

“Why don’t you ask Newt Gingrich,” I said.
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