Thursday, January 28, 2010

Smaht Kid (Part Two)

In Part One, I told you how smart I was. You no doubt decided whether or not to believe me, and I'm assuming you did since you returned for Part Two. Or maybe you just wanted to come back and see me make an ass of myself again. In any case, I left off with a promise to tell you about my adventures as a game show contestant, and so I will.

I've written about the game show, Think Twice, in passing, but never as a stand-alone. If you recognize some of this, it's because you're a long-time reader and you've seen bits and pieces of it in previous posts. I've collected those pieces for inclusion here, expanding upon them as I felt necessary. The sections concerning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Jeopardy were previously complete posts unto themselves, but here I've trimmed them. If you're some sort of insane Suldog completist, you can find the originals somewhere in my deep and distant archives, but undertaking the task of doing so will not give anyone an added appreciation concerning your reasoning skills.

(In the first sentence that follows, I believe I've made up a completely new word. There will be no added charge for your confusion. That's just the sort of nice guy I am, and you're welcome.)


My first foray into the world of game show contestantry, and the only one to thus far result in my actually appearing on TV, came via the defunct PBS show, Think Twice. Yes, it was a PBS game show. Considering the lack of success with which it met, it's not surprising that they haven't had another one in their lineup since. The show ran for thirteen weeks - that is, only thirteen episodes, since it was a once-weekly show - so you probably never heard of it. Most people didn't hear of it; that's why it ran only thirteen weeks. It aired about sixteen years ago.

My supervisor at the time was Kevin Fitzpatrick, a truly nice guy to whom I owe much of whatever success I've had in the voice-over field. He hired me for my first paying job when I was just about to hang it up and go flip burgers some 20 years ago. While we were working together, he came across a notice in a newspaper calling for contestant tryouts for a new game show being filmed in Boston. He was going to try out and he suggested that I might also. Long story short, I was asked to be a contestant and Kevin wasn't. I don't know why they liked me more than him. He's intelligent, personable, at least as handsome a pasty-skinned Irishman as I am, and certainly as much at ease with public speaking. Just luck of the draw, I suppose.

I showed up on the day of taping and was given the royal treatment - professional make-up, good food to eat while waiting, and my own personal balcony to go out on and have many cigarettes precipitated by nerves. A staffer trailed me everywhere, supposedly to keep me from being contaminated by inadvertently coming upon answers to the questions - that is, cheating - but it may have been because they didn't trust me to dispose of burning materials without setting their building on fire. In any case, it was very heady stuff to have my own version of the Secret Service, as well as to be prettied up. The make-up artist even painted realistic fake eyebrows onto me. My real ones aren't very visible, being blondish and sparse, so that was thoughtful, if a bit off-putting the first time I saw myself in a mirror afterward.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, all of the contestants were kept in a relatively small secured area. We were not to be talked to by anyone outside of the production crew. This was to make sure of no irregularities which could come back to haunt PBS. We waited for our various shows to be taped, spread out over a six or seven hour day. Mine was the third show to tape, and commenced three hours or so after I had arrived.

Since the game was played by teams, I was partnered with a pleasant and knowledgeable woman who had previously been a losing contestant on Jeopardy. We found out about our partnership only shortly before being led into the television studio to begin our taping. That was the general rule for all teams. You didn't know your partner for too long. I suppose this was a way of avoiding any sort of signaling or collusion.

I have a tape of the show, at home, but I can't bear to watch it. I don't like watching myself on film. I never look as good as I think I look in my mind. However, if I ever get it transferred to DVD, I might post it here for your enjoyment, such as it will be. I'll give you an example of how it worked, though.

The host, Monteria Ivey, would ask a question like "What two federal holidays occur during the month of January?" Then, the first person to ring in would answer, perhaps, "Martin Luther King Day". Since that was a correct component of the two-part answer, it would then be left to that person's partner to supply the second half of the answer; in this case, "New Years Day". If the partner could not supply the answer, or if the original answer had been wrong, the opposing team would get a chance to steal the points by answering correctly.

Now, that was pretty straightforward and fun, and I think if the show had ONLY done that, it might have been a success. However, for some ungodly reason, the producers decided to have three different formats of rounds in the show, and the other two rounds were much harder for the audience to grasp. I won't go into them here. If you want the convoluted particulars, click onto the link for the show given above.

My team led throughout the show. Then came the final question on the final round, concerning country music. I knew dick about country music at the time. I still don't know a heck of a lot about it. However, I now know who Kitty Wells was. I had never heard of her then. I'll never forget her now.

(MY WIFE was in the studio audience. When they announced the category as country music, she turned to her friend, with a crestfallen look, and said, "Jim doesn't know anything about country music...", and she was right.)

So, we finished second. The winning teammates each received a $2,500 investment portfolio, a home stereo, and a $500 shopping spree. I received a whole bunch of gift certificates, most of which we used to do our Christmas shopping that year. Those we didn't use - about half the total - were for computer software. Since I didn't even own a computer back then, I had no idea what software even was. I gave those prizes to my buddy, Kevin, for his help in getting me involved in the first place. Total winnings I actually received and then used? Perhaps $250.

It was a fun experience, even as the loser. Less fun was...


... which I was not on. I passed their test, but they decided not to use me.

Auditions were held in New York, so I traveled there at my own expense to compete. The audition itself was a simple process. We were checked in by staff and then handed a sealed envelope containing the written test. After being seated, we were given some instructions concerning the filling out of answers on a separate form, and then we were allowed to open the envelopes and begin the test.

The test consisted of thirty questions, multiple choice, and we were given ten minutes to complete it. If we passed, it was on to the personality interview, wherein someone would decide if I was personable enough to make a national television audience want to root for me. Or perhaps decide that I was a blowhard psychopath. In the interest of fairness to ABC, as well as future contestants, I won’t give you any of the actual questions. However, they were mostly of this caliber:

What do you use to drain your spaghetti after cooking?

A – A Colander

B – A Calendar

C – A Tennis Racket

D – Your Hands

Well, OK, it wasn’t quite that stupid, but it wasn’t MENSA stuff, either. A particularly bright ten-year-old would have had a decent shot at it. And – getting back to the personality thing - I didn’t stand up in the middle of the test and shout, "I came all the way to New York to take this fucking idiotic test? Why didn’t you just grab all the people off of the first short bus you saw passing by and save me the trouble?" I filled out the test paper as instructed and, in the approximately six minutes I had remaining after doing so, I re-checked my answers, making sure I hadn’t drooled on the form or anything else which might have been off-putting to the judges.

The tests were very quickly graded and then we were told which of us should stay for an interview and which should go home. We had been given numbers with our tests. I was number 12. They called out the numbers of those who passed the test:

"193... 137... 126... 12..."

Yes! I passed the written test!

After being informed that I'd passed – I’d estimate that 1 in 8 of those tested did so – I had my picture taken. I smiled nicely. I was very pleased with the photo, too. I don’t think I photograph particularly well, but this one came out well. I looked reasonably intelligent, somewhat friendly, and I had no hanging boogers in my nose. So far, so good.

Then it was on to the personality interview, wherein it appears they concluded I was a blowhard psychopath. I received this postcard from the production staff about two weeks after my trip to New York.

From the results, you might think I had answered the interviewer’s questions in the following manner:

Interviewer: Hi, Jim! I’m Debbie.

Me: Debbie? Hah! Are you the one who did Dallas? Hah-hah!

Interviewer: What do you do for a living, Jim?

Me: I disembowel rabid weasels.

Interviewer: That must be fun!

Me: Not if you’re the rabid weasel.

Interviewer: What’s the first thing you’ll do if you win a million dollars?

Me: Give it to Al-Qeada. Either that or I’ll rent out a roomful of whores and snort massive amounts of cocaine off of their asses until I die.

Interviewer: What sorts of hobbies do you enjoy, Jim?

Me: I thought I made that clear with my previous answer. Wow, you’re really thick!

Interviewer: Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Jim. We’ll let you know in a few weeks whether or not you’ll be placed in the contestant pool.

Me: Like I give a shit, sister. Hey, what are you doing later tonight? Would you mind if I snorted some cocaine off of your ass?

The interviewer’s questions really were like those above, but I didn’t give hideously inappropriate answers. I was nice. I wasn't threatening. I thought I was at least fairly humorous. Maybe the swastika I painted on my forehead was a bit too much. I thought it was a nice homey touch, but you never can tell what’s going to turn some people off these days.

Truthfully, I don’t know for sure what I did to turn them off. They don't tell you why they decided not to use you. Here's some conjecture.

Since the time of my testing, I’ve talked to a few other people who passed the written exam and who also were not invited to appear on the show. They are, without exception, nice people and possessed of a higher-than-average intelligence. And I hope this isn’t too self-serving, but I think that’s the problem. I think the producers weren’t looking for the highly intelligent. I have a feeling that what they really wanted were the reasonably intelligent – those who know how much two plus two is, but not necessarily what someone might do with that information - combined with the type of perky which I, unfortunately, never have been.

Hey, it’s a TV show. I know what they’re trying to do is appeal to the widest possible audience, and just because they decided not to use me, I don’t need to feel like it’s some sort of personal insult. Luckily for me, as a voice-over talent, I work in a subjective business. I know what it’s like to be rejected for reasons having nothing to do with intelligence, talent, or personality. Sometimes, what you’ve got simply is not what someone else needs or wants. I’ve had ample opportunity to get used to being passed over in a like fashion, and I know how to deal with it like an adult.

Stupid Poopy-Heads.


This is the show I've always really wanted to appear on as a contestant. Thus far, I've taken the tests three times. One was an in-person testing, while the other two have been on-line.

I know for sure that I didn't pass the test when I took it in-person. Under those circumstances, they let you know if you passed or failed. I didn't pass. I believe I was right on the borderline, though, and I'm pretty sure I blew my chance by thinking too much. I gave an answer to one of the questions which, looking back on it, was definitely wrong, and the reason I gave that answer, rather than the readily obvious correct answer, was precisely because the readily obvious correct answer was readily obvious. I thought it was too easy. I know better now, but I can't travel back in time, and that answer probably kept me from getting a crack at the personality interview.

The first time I took the on-line version, I'm reasonably sure that I did pass it. However, they don't tell you if you passed or failed when you take that version of the test. The only way you know for sure if you passed is if they call you and invite you to a further in-person testing. I never received a call. Not receiving the call does not mean you didn't pass, however, as they have a limited number of seats available for the further testing and if too many applicants pass the test, they enter all into a random drawing for the seats at the live testing.

And now, I've taken the test again, as I related in the first part of this story. I don't know for sure how I did. As I said, they don't let you know immediately if you passed or failed. I truthfully think I didn't do as well this time as I did on the previous on-line test. But, hope springs eternal and maybe I'm just being pessimistic. At any time during the following 365 days I might receive a call from the Jeopardy production crew, giving me congratulations and offering me another chance to prove that I am, indeed, a smaht kid. Only time will tell.

If I don't get that call, you can expect this entire two-part posting to be re-run the next time they hold the tests. I'm either going to get onto that show someday or go to my grave having tried every possible avenue to do so. If they take it off of the air before either of those things happens, I'll personally go to California and bomb Columbia Pictures Studios.

Oops! I probably shouldn't have said that. That's the sort of thing that will get you labeled a blowhard psychopath during your personality interview, and I wouldn't want that.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[The Jeopardy photo came from this site, where you can read the story of the man on the right, an actual contestant at one time, the lucky bastard.]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Smaht Kid

Writing as I’m about to do has the potential to set me up for a fall. Every grammatical error will seem an indictment, and God help me if I misspell anything. Should my memory be faulty, someone might jump on me with both feet. I also have to be careful to keep my sense of humor, not letting my ego overrun everything. I'll need to throw in a joke here or there to keep things light.

I’m going to write about my being intelligent.

(No, wise guy, that wasn’t the first joke.)

There has rarely been a time in my life when I haven't felt that I was more intelligent than most of the people with whom I’ve been involved. That isn’t to say I’ve always been THE most intelligent person in a particular group, nor does it mean that I'm one of the smartest people on the planet. One look at me standing in the rain without a jacket, on a 40 degree day, smoking a cigarette, would be enough to tell you I'm not Einstein's successor. It's just that, when all factors are taken into consideration, I don't usually feel a need to take a back seat to too many folks in any crowd of which I'm a part.

Does that sound amazingly egotistical? I suppose it might. It’s true, though. I’ve always been in possession of more brainpower than most of those with whom I’ve associated.

(If you're a long-time friend or business associate, and you're wondering if I'm saying that I'm smarter than you, the answer is no. I'm talking about all of my other friends and business associates, not you. You're a genius!)

I suppose now would be a good time for me to trot out the proofs, if I had any. However, my best pieces of evidence aren’t available for scrutiny. You’ll have to take my word concerning them (and I'd say that your doing so would say a lot about your own innate intelligence and character, but that would be too blatant an attempt at flattery to sway someone of your obvious discernment.)

When I was an infant, my mother kept a bit of a journal about me. It was within the pages of a how-not-to-kill-your-baby book published by Good Housekeeping. There was a section in the back for recording your child’s height, weight, accomplishments (reaching for things was one, so the bar wasn’t set very high), and so forth. There was also a section reserved for recording the diagnoses and/or pronouncements of doctors and other health professionals. My Mom recorded, in one of those sections, that some pediatrician had proclaimed me "... slightly more intelligent than most other children" after he had me perform some tests. Perhaps I was having a particularly good day reaching for things. Well, I've always been pissed about the "slightly" part of that statement, but I'll take the rest of it.

As I grew up, I found myself in situations that offered further proof concerning my general mental superiority. For instance, in grade school, I was always the best reader in my class. When the teacher called upon us to read aloud, I knew I could do it more easily, and with fewer stumbles (that is to say, none), than all of my classmates. I was good at it because of help from my mother, father, and other relatives. My mother taught me the basics of reading before I entered kindergarten. My other relatives - somewhat to my outer embarrassment, but very much to my inner pride – would have me read aloud from newspapers, almanacs, magazines, encyclopedias, and so on, every time I visited them. They always heaped inordinate amounts of praise upon me for being able to get through all passages of whatever difficulty smoothly. I owe my current job of voice-over professional to them (and you probably owe them your difficulty in plowing through some of my more painful constructions, as well, since I glide through most anything and thus don't edit as neatly as I probably should.) Back in grade school, however, I was so much better at reading than any of my classmates, I would actually stumble ON PURPOSE once in a while. I was so self-conscious of my superiority that I didn’t want the other kids to be mad at me for making them look bad.

I was a voracious reader as I grew up. I read newspapers cover-to-cover; every bit of magazines, even the publisher's statement and copyright notices; encyclopedias were a constant source of amusement; and nothing could keep me so thoroughly entertained, for as long and with as much joy, as an almanac (but, you knew this already.)

As good parents would, My Mom and Dad fed this desire to learn. Whenever we went on a shopping trip to a department store, they'd allow me to roam off on my own to the book section. There, I'd pick one and they'd buy it for me. My Mom would often come home from work with some sort of interesting science or history book she had purchased for me. I was a frequent patron of our local public library, and I belonged to various book-buying clubs sponsored by the Gilbert Stuart, my elementary school.

For the fourth grade, when I was 8, I was taken from that elementary school and assigned to an advanced school in another neighborhood in Boston. Being smart doesn't always equate to emotional maturity, though, and I cried and wailed and made a general nuisance of myself for the two weeks or so I was there. I wanted to be back in my own neighborhood school with all of my friends. So, my parents being good folks who valued their child's happiness over some abstract future earning potential, they re-enrolled me in the Gilbert Stuart. I was happy as a clam when they did so. However, being assigned to the advanced classes was an ego boost even if I hated being at that school. I was now even more firmly convinced that I was a 'smaht kid', as we'd say in Dorchester.

While in the 6th grade, I took the test for admittance to Boston Latin, the only 6-year high school in Boston. It was (and arguably is) the most prestigious secondary school in the country. It was founded a year before Harvard, and Benjamin Franklin was a dropout from the place. Imagine the graduates! Well, I passed the exam and entered the school for the 7th grade.

And now comes the moment when I humble myself. I flunked, miserably. Whereas I had been a straight A student in my neighborhood school, I was straining to attain passing grades at Latin. The main problem was that everything had always come easily to me before, but now I was being asked to apply myself. I did only as much work as I thought I needed to do to keep my parents and teachers off of my back. Because my travel time to and from Latin was 60 to 90 minutes each way, I was constantly more tired than I had ever previously been in school. And being an 11-year-old in a school with kids as big and old as 18 or 19 was not much fun; it was standard for the upper classmen to pick on the "sixies" as were known. I truly hated most of my time in that school.

It appeared I might have to repeat the 7th grade. Talk about having your illusions concerning your intelligence smashed to rubble!

I was saved from being kept back by dint of the fact that Latin was such an amazingly hard school. Had I stayed there, I would have had to repeat the year. However, if I transferred back to my local junior high school for the next year, I would still be promoted. Although there was some argument between Mom and Dad concerning which course of action to take, I was finally transferred, much to my relief, and I was promoted to the 8th grade.

My parents and I didn't necessarily learn a lesson from my first stint at Latin. I once again took the entrance examination for 9th grade (as well as being a 6-year school, students could enter for a more-usual 4-year high school course.) This time around, I lasted half as long as I had the first time. I did so miserably in my classes that I transferred back to my local school midway through the year. Once back at 'The Woody' (Woodrow Wilson Junior High, the neighborhood school) I resumed my coasting in the relatively relaxed atmosphere and graduated easily.

I took another entrance exam, this time for the second-best high school in the city, Boston Technical. I passed it. And I graduated from there, too, although it was a closer call than it ever should have been. By the time I got there, I detested going to school. Whereas before, during my pre-teen years, I found school an alright place to be with my friends - not that I was overjoyed, but I didn't dread it - now all I wanted to get out of school was me. I was high half the time, didn't care at all, and I passed barely enough classes to graduate - after I made up one class in summer school.

Heck of a way for a kid who tested out at a 136 IQ to finish his schooling.

The shame of it is that I loved learning. It was school that I hated. I used to play hooky from high school because I abhorred being in those buildings and being graded, but do you know where I went when I played hooky? Most guys went to a ballpark or to a movie or did something normal. I went to the Boston Public Library and spent my day reading.

And from that reading, and from my devouring of encyclopedias and almanacs and dictionaries when I was a kid, I've acquired great storehouses of haphazard knowledge, most of it useless except for my own entertainment and with just enough unfilled gaps to get me into trouble. Which brings us to the present time and my third attempt to get onto the television show Jeopardy. As I write this, it is now 7:47pm here on the East Coast. In 13 minutes, I will be attempting to qualify for the show via an on-line test. I'll let you know how it turned out, of course.

After I tell you about my previous game show adventures...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We Need To Be Stupider

I’ve finally figured it out. It’s taken me close to 35 years to find the answer. If you stick with me here, it will only take you about 10 minutes.

I first heard of the Libertarian Party shortly after my graduation from high school. It was 1976 and I was on my way home from work. Someone handed me a pamphlet in the subway. I looked at it and fell in love. There was no doubt in my mind; this was the political organization for me.

(Aside: I almost always take pamphlets, tracts, fliers, and anything else someone tries to hand me. I figure I'm doing a tiny service for the poor suckers doing the handouts. People who give out such things are always being sworn at, spat upon, passed by with a sneer, and otherwise treated as though they were stricken with a hideous and loathsome contagious disease. They’re God’s creatures, same as me, so I do what I can. And, when I actually smile at them and ask for whatever information they’re trying to impart, it totally makes their day.

If you're a really mean bastard, however, and you want to have some fun, ask them to give you their fliers MORE THAN ONCE, at one-minute intervals. It may take them three or four times to figure out that it’s the same person asking, so be patient. Once they do figure it out, the looks you’ll receive will be well worth the time invested. Keep on doing it until the world turns upside down and they refuse to give you the tract they were so desperately trying to give away only moments ago. Great fun, if you have no conscience.)

Anyway, a reasonably bright-eyed hippie handed me a pamphlet, and the pamphlet told me that somebody named Roger MacBride was running for President.

There was a photo of this character MacBride. He looked no more radical than your average shoe salesman, but the words inside the pamphlet contradicted his looks. He was in favor of completely abolishing all sorts of federal programs, the first politician I had ever encountered who seemed to be promising less than his predecessors. That was certainly intriguing. Better still, he wanted to legalize marijuana.

I‘ve gone on, at length, concerning my drug usage, drug dealing, and other things that have helped to form my political views on drugs. I have no desire to rehash (Hash! Hah!) those things again. Short version: I knew marijuana was relatively harmless. Putting people in jail for smoking it was (and is) one of the most idiotic things happening in a fairly idiotic world. MacBride was the first politician I had ever encountered with guts enough to say so.

I devoured every word of the pamphlet. And, while finding someone for whom I actually wanted to cast a vote was nice, a further revelation awaited me. It turned out he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He was some sort of previously unheard of animal called a Libertarian.

Well, I was so taken with MacBride’s pamphlet that I wrote to the address on the back and requested more different pamphlets. I told them to send me everything they had. And so they did. About a week later, I received six or seven other pamphlets in the mail, all of them detailing some aspect of political philosophy that I had never before considered but with which I immediately agreed. I was hooked. I was a Libertarian for life.

And, since that was the first Presidential election I was eligible to vote in, I have never voted for a winning Presidential candidate to this day, nor have I ever supported a winner in a senatorial race. My gubernatorial record is spotty, at best, and my success rate concerning representatives, mayors, councilors, aldermen, library trustees, and dogcatchers ain’t so hot, either. I have cast hundreds of principled votes. I have elected very few principled people.

Libertarianism, while as logical a political philosophy as one is ever likely to encounter, has had little success in gaining votes in the real world. For the longest time, I assumed – as most within the party have – that the problem was one of getting our message out to the voters. More money would solve the problem. Or maybe money isn’t the answer, but free exposure via TV, radio, or perhaps this newfangled thing called the Internet. Oh, wait! Newspapers ignore us, so that must be the problem. Or maybe it’s the unfair election laws, or campaign finance regulations, or... or...

Or maybe it’s none of those things.

I’ve been a Libertarian for over three decades, and I've also had some 10 or 12 years of official involvement within the party hierarchy. I was, for a short while, State Chair of the Massachusetts branch of the party. I’ve run for office as a Libertarian, and I’ve managed Libertarian political campaigns for other candidates. I served a few terms on state and local committees. During those times, I’ve met a wide variety of Libertarian Party members and activists. And I can tell you, truthfully, that I have never – not even once – encountered a stupid Libertarian.

And that, my friends, is the problem.

Until the Libertarian Party appeals to as many stupid people as the Democrats and Republicans appeal to, they will never win as many political contests, nor will they win any of true importance. Intelligence does not a successful political party make – or, at least, appeals that are aimed to connect with intelligent voters won’t put you over the top. It’s only when you can connect with the hoi polloi that you stand more than a snowball’s chance in hell.

(By the way, if you know what ‘hoi polloi’ means, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. Congratulations! If you further know that my use of the word ‘the’ in front of it was grammatically incorrect, and you felt an overwhelming need to tell me so, then you will never win an election and shouldn’t even consider running.)

I don’t mean to brag, but I may well be the only Libertarian in the country whose highest educational achievement is graduating high school with a C+ average. I haven’t made it a habit to ask every party member I meet, but those who come readily to mind are, so far as I know, all college graduates. And many of those people not only graduated college, but also graduated from some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning imaginable. The list of Libertarians with degrees from M.I.T., Cal Tech, and the like, is formidable; far higher in percentage than the national average. Party leadership is festooned with well-meaning and likable professors who have as little real-world political knowledge as a Catholic priest has concerning sex.

(MY WIFE, who is politically astute but not a Libertarian, just arrived home from work. She asked me what I was writing about. I gave her a truncated version of what I had written thus far. She said that the real problem – although she didn’t call it a problem – was that most people have a desire to be stripped of responsibility. The majority of people, she says, are quite comfortable believing that the government will take care of them. I agreed with her on that, but then opined that this meant that they were stupid. She disagreed with that assessment, but I suspect she did so because she feels comfortable being stripped of responsibility herself and she probably felt I was calling her stupid by extension. I wasn’t. I was just... well, I didn't mean to call her stupid, but I suppose I was, unintentionally, and that’s part of the problem. We Libertarians are very bad at explaining what we believe in without inadvertently insulting those we love and need. And that’s my entire point in a nutshell, I think, so I’ll end this digression and get back to beating on that dead horse.)

I was reading my World Almanac...

(Well, that’s a problem right there, of course.)

I was reading my World Almanac and there’s a section on education. Less than 28% of the American populace has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Well, it doesn’t take a degree in mathematics to understand that, in order to garner a majority of the votes, you have to appeal to at least some of the people who haven’t graduated college. You can’t get to above 50% without them.

If the Libertarian Party is ever going to be a successful player in American politics, it needs to stop being so damned smart. I mean, look at this thing, which is the sort of stuff Libertarians come up with all the time:

Is it intelligent? Sure. Will it appeal to more than a few hundred people across the entire continent? Not a chance. Supersedure? What in the fuck is that?

We don't need to appeal to the intelligentsia. We need to appeal to the majority of American voters. We need to reach out to the imbeciles, nincompoops, dolts, featherheads, skilletbrains, idiots, and morons. Until we dumb down, we're as dead as a dodo and only slightly more relevant.

It’s all well and good to point out the problem – and one hell of a lot of fun, too – but do I have a ready solution? Nope. I’m working on it, though. For the next two months, I’m going to do nothing but eat fast food, watch reality TV and cop shows, read nothing more challenging than People, make it a point to see at least one Will Ferrell movie a week, listen only to gangsta rap, and otherwise attempt to lower my IQ. If I come up with the answer, I’ll be back – if I’ve retained the ability to articulate it.

Soon, with less political stuff.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Election Analysis

Scott Brown (Republican)

1,168,107 votes

Martha Coakley (Democrat)

1,058,682 votes

Joseph Kennedy (Libertarian)

22,237 votes

[Just something I dashed off not too long after the results were final. There are many Democratic analysts and Republican analysts spouting off about the special election in Massachusetts, won by Scott Brown, a Republican. I figure why not some Libertarian analysis?]

The Boston Globe gave Libertarian candidate, Joe "No Relation" Kennedy, almost no coverage at all. For instance, when he took part in a televised debate involving all three candidates, he received a one-line mention the next day. It was the same with many news sources and media outlets in Massachusetts. While it was not unanimous dismissal, it was widespread.

If the same outlets that ignored him so mightily had, instead, built him up as even marginally viable, he might have drawn enough votes from Brown to have given Coakley a fighting chance. Instead, he was treated as though he didn't exist, and this cost the liberals.

The one truly masterful stroke in Coakley's campaign came via her making sure that Kennedy was involved in all debates. Coakley reasoned - and rightly so - that a strong Kennedy showing would hurt Brown more than it would hurt her. The reason? While libertarians (and the libertarian-leaning) will be concerned with issues dear to the right at some times and dear to the left at other times, the issues on the right appear more pressing at the moment. Tax hikes are an immediate threat to them, as is the gigantic bureaucracy looming from enactment of health care legislation. There are no similar issues on the left, at least which Coakley came out in favor of, that currently resonate as strongly with most libertarians.

Coakley insisted Kennedy be included. She played it correctly. The problem is that "her" media didn't play it right. Rather than building up Kennedy and giving those on the right an opportunity to divide their voting strength, they ignored Kennedy from the get-go (aside from a few snickers concerning his name) and those whose main concern was preserving their monetary freedom lined up almost exclusively with Brown since Kennedy was seen as trivial. Those voters who barely knew him - folks who might have given him actual consideration had they been made to think he was serious - instead were told that he didn't have anything substantive to say and that they'd be wasting their votes if they cast one for him. And rather than drawing any votes from Brown, Kennedy garnered a bit more than 22,000 votes; what amounted to the former enrollment numbers when the Libertarian Party had state major party status. The hard core voted for him, but nobody else was drawn from Brown.

Had the issues been different - for instance, if Coakley had painted herself as an anti-war candidate - then inclusion and subsequent build up of Kennedy might have eaten into her support. However, Kennedy and Brown were in some agreement on enough of the issues to have made Kennedy a spoiler of Brown's campaign, not Coakley's. That he didn't become one was strictly a fault of the more liberal-leaning media. They could have made him one via the expedient of just doing the morally right thing and mentioning he and his views as often as they did Brown's and Coakley's. They didn't, and their candidate lost a valuable resource.

If you believe that Brown had much stronger core support, and that Kennedy couldn't have made a difference, consider that if Kennedy had been played up earlier on, while Coakley still held a substantial lead in most polls, then the upsurge in optimism and gung-ho get-out-the-vote fervor for Brown, which occurred during the final two weeks, would probably not have materialized to the extent it did. If the Globe and others had given Kennedy some major play, to the point where he was showing even a solid 5% or 6% in polls, then many voters who came out for Brown would likely not have been energized to do so. Those committed to Kennedy would not have shifted, and those not seeing a chance for Brown to win would have stayed home. In later polls, Brown would likely never have shown a lead, and Coakley might still have pulled out a squeaker despite the other horrible mismanagement of her campaign.

As a Libertarian who has seen the Globe (and others) ignore Libertarian candidates with impunity for decades, seeing Brown win was sweet. Not that I find him any more palatable than Coakley, but just knowing that the Globe and others blew it, when all they had to do was treat Kennedy as an equal to affect the outcome in their favor, is priceless.

(I know. I told you not too long ago that I wouldn't be writing much until next week. I lied. It comes with the political territory, so I'm sure you'll forgive me.)

Soon (more or less), with more better stuff.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some Asshat (me) Is GIVING OUT Awards

This entire post falls under the category Hypocrisy Of Such A Stupendous Nature It Deserves To End In A Whipping. I am doing that for which I have excoriated others. I am giving out awards.

I know, I know. But, before you march en masse to Massachusetts (with torches in hand, and with cries of "Kill the monster!") I hope you'll give me a chance to defend my indefensible actions.

You see, during the most recent insult-fest, I received some comments to the effect of "Gee! I'd sure like to get an award! I never get one..." So, being a nice guy underneath it all - rude is only bile deep, after all - I felt bad for these folks. They all seem like nice people. I've visited their places and I haven't come up with any good reasons for them NOT to have received any of the thousands of ridiculous virtual trophies cluttering up Teh Intertubes.

And, verily, I thought unto myself, "Self, why not give these poor slugs the awards for which they so deeply crave?" And, since I am omnipotent lord and master of all I survey on this page, it shall be so.

Before the actual handing out of the baubles, though, I have to confess to a couple of previous indiscretions. A few of my good long-time readers with good long-term memories will remember my having given the following as a "Thank You!" to some folks. It is called The Suldog Award.

I offered this to a handful of very kind people who actually did me some favor or another. Being the sort of thoughtless and inconsiderate bastard I am, I've entirely forgotten what the favor was. However, examples of the award are still extant on a few sidebars, so it would be useless for me to deny it's existence.

On another occasion, I was goaded into giving out an award. The entire incident is probably best left in the dustbin of history, but (as Mr. Laurel once opined to Mr. Hardy) honesty is the best politics. I've always felt that I'd rather out myself than be outed by someone else. So, rather than have some smartass point this out in the comments, I'll direct you to it myself, with the wholly-honest warning that the entire post may be stunningly unsafe for work.

(Here's a good set of guidelines: If you work in a church, most definitely do not hit the link. If you work in a sausage plant, it all depends upon your boss's sense of humor. If you work in a Chinese dildo factory, you're safe.)

Anyway, without any further ado (since no amount of ado can undo what has been done), The Gaffy.

OK, now that we have the shameful confessions out of the way, let's get down to the shameful business at hand. The new award - and it's rather spiffy, too; wait until you see it! - is called The Sully.

Before we go on - and I most surely do - a good question to ask might be...

What, exactly, does someone have to do to receive this extremely uncoveted award?

Well, I'll tell you. You have to ask for it. That's about it. The reason for even including that little bit of a proviso is because, in some jurisdictions, giving someone a Sully without them having asked for it could probably result in charges being filed and I'm not taking any chances.

The first recipient of The Sully is Quirkyloon.

How could I refuse to give an award to a face like that? She looks as though she just discovered there's a wombat in her panties. Her stuff is most certainly quirky and loony, so truth in advertising applies. All in all, why not? She asked for it, so she gets it.

Next up to the podium is Mariann Simms of Blogged Down At The Moment. I only recently discovered this woman via Knucklehead's Blog-Off 2010 competition. I think she's sort of a female version of me!

Well, OK, she's a heck of a lot prettier than I am, but that's not what I meant. She seems to have a fondness for writing about the same sort of stuff I do. She reminisces about things that almost nobody remembers. She complains in an amusing way (and I say that even though I actually LIKE what she's complaining about. And, if she's puzzled concerning that, I have to think it's a guy thing. The people I have seen most foaming-at-the-mouth concerning this are usually women.) She notices weird stuff. And she does all of this in very entertaining and humorous ways. And, as with Quirkyloon, she asked for it. Since she's prettier than me, I'm more than happy to give it to her.

Finally, I'm also giving the award to i beati.

The lack of capitalization is hers. I'd never disrespect someone by not giving them their capitals. Besides being one of my most prolific commentators, she's just plain nice. A visit to her place affords you the opportunity to grab a clean laugh, perhaps ponder the blessings you've received, and then leave none the worse for wear. Works for me! Once again, she asked for it. And (as Mr. Christ once promised Mr. Which Means Rock) ask and ye shall receive.

(That is such a rotten joke on so many different levels. First, Jesus didn't say it to Peter directly; it was about 5,000 hungry guys sitting on a hillside. Second, most of you have probably already forgotten the throwaway reference to Laurel and Hardy from the sixth paragraph, which you had to remember to really get this. In addition, the people most likely to understand the joke [without explanation] are Christians, but they're also the people most likely to be mortally offended by it, too, so my expectations of drawing a laugh were fairly much nil going in. I'm a Christian myself, so I feel I have some right to leave it in, but I wanted you all to know that I do actually feel some level of guilt concerning it.)

Enough folderol. Let's get to the damned award. Here it is!

Display it with pride, ladies! It's not everybody who gets Sullied - you actually have to ask for it! You did, and more's the pity, but so am I.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some Asshat Gave Me An Award

In case you're new around here, I have to explain about me and awards. When someone gives me one, I accept it by saying all sorts of mean things about the person giving it to me, and I usually throw in a few unkind words about the award itself, too. Why? I'm not quite sure anymore. I suppose it's kind of like Britney Spears flashing her vajayjay. You just have to accept it as a fact of life.

Anyway, get a load of this...

That ridiculous bit of flummery was foisted upon me by Ivan Toblog.


Let me tell you something about my morning thus far. When I woke up, it was Bob Cousy outside, with a wind chill factor below Leon Powe. If you aren't a Celtics fan (Heathen!) that means 14 and 0, respectively. And that's Fahrenheit, pal, not the entirely less-accurate Centigrade scale some European weenies use. As a favor, I'll do the conversion for you:

0 Fahrenheit = Colder Than A Polar Bear's Ass Centigrade.

So, I put on my very warm winter jacket. Except, when I went to zip it up, I found out that the little thing you pull on to do up the zipper (what is that thing called?) had broken off and gone missing, so I had to insert a paper clip into the mechanism to make it work. The paper clip will remain there for the foreseeable future because I refuse to go into a coat repair shop and look like an idiot by asking them to fix it and having to refer to it as "that little dangly thing" because God only knows what they'll think I'm talking about. Instead, I'll look like an idiot who has a paper clip where his little dangly thing should be.

So, Ivan Toblog, you have given me an award. And, believe me, I'm as much in the mood to tear you a new one as I've ever been, even more so than THIS TIME, THIS TIME, THIS TIME, THIS TIME, THIS TIME, and possibly even THIS TIME. However, I'll have to tear you a limited one, Ivan, the reason being...

Well, here's the problem. He (I assume 'he', but he could be a she; who the hell knows on the intertubes?) has given me none of my usual targets. By using a pseudonym, he/she has given me no idea what nationality she/he might be, so I can't start throwing out random ethnic slurs. Too bad. I've got a whole bunch of good French ones left over from other times, so if he/it/she could have been be verified as a frog, that would have made it easy. He/she/it uses an avatar, rather than an actual photograph, so no material there. Yeah, I could say that the avatar looks as though its trying to pass an especially large and glass-strewn bowel movement, but it's too easy to pick on cartoons. Of course, I could just rag on the pen name itself. Ivan Toblog? Saint Francis on a unicycle! If I had made a joke that pitiful, I'd be ashamed to show my real face, too.

Anyway, it/she/he/they decided to get on the free links gravy train by awarding me an entirely bogus award. At least, that's the only possible reason I can come up with for it. Or maybe he/it/she/they just really like me a whole lot and felt like acknowledging me somehow? Nah, couldn't be that! Anyway, it's called the "One Of A Kind Award". I suppose they/her/he/it/y'all meant it as a compliment of some sort, but DUH! Everybody is one of a kind, even identical quadruplets. Don't believe me? Check out this rather sad story I'm using as my punch line just because I'm feeling mean enough today to do so. See? One of a kind!

Well, the bogus award worked for him/it/her/them/legion because I did give a link to Ivana Fahgyoo or whatever its/his/her/that millipede's actual name might be. It appears all you have to do to get a link from me is hand me some hideous little gimcrack gewgaw. Don't tell all the folks on my sidebar who paid me actual cash money to advertise, though. Shhhhhhhh!

And that's about all I've got for you today - a bit of a rant, a link to a sad oddity, and some entirely unnecessary denigration of a person who seems to like me. And I've given you all of this for no apparent reason. If you've come to expect more from your visits here, that's your problem. I'm not responsible for your orgasms (especially since my little dangly thing broke off.)

Soon, with mere bitter stuff.

Monday, January 11, 2010


One of the gifts I received for Christmas was The World Almanac for 2010. This made me very happy. Until I opened that present, the most recent almanac I had in my possession was the 1999 edition. The world has changed a bit since then. If you’re as given to bloviating as I am, it helps to have up-to-date sources.

I can sit down with an almanac and be entertained for hours at a time. No matter where you open the thing, you’re bound to find something interesting. For instance, I just now flipped the thing open to page 450 and I see that members of the General Court (the state legislature) in Massachusetts are paid $61,440 a year, plus travel expenses. On the same page are the statistics for the New Hampshire legislature. Members of that body receive $200, biannually. You can make a career out of being a legislator in Massachusetts, but it’s pretty much a hobby in New Hampshire.

(It’s funny how different people interpret such information. I quoted those statistics to MY WIFE and opined that was why so much corruption and graft exists in Massachusetts politics. She countered by saying that the only New Hampshire residents who could afford to be legislators were those who were already wealthy. I suppose we’re both partly right.)

I now turned to page 344, and… well, you all remember Pluto, right? It used to be a planet (as well as Mickey Mouse’s dog, which is the standard joke – and a good one - and has to be included in all references per the Susan Harris Act of 1982.) Turns out it was only demoted! It is now classified as a "dwarf planet", which I suppose means it needs a stepstool to reach that can of beans on the top shelf in the pantry. I can’t find any other explanation that makes sense. The almanac says to turn to page 340 for a definition of a dwarf planet, which I did, and the definitions given for "Classical Planets" (well, La-Di-Dah!) and "Dwarf Planets" are identical. Now, granted, Pluto is about half the size of Mercury, the smallest of the eight classical planets, but it’s also at least twice the size of three out of the four other dwarf planets, which by the way are called Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake. Who names these things? Eris is the one that’s bigger than Pluto, so I guess maybe they decided it was better to diss Pluto than to insult Eris. Eris takes 560 years to go around the Sun, which is about twice as long as Pluto. I don’t see why we had to denigrate such a fine upstanding member of our solar system as Pluto in order to kowtow to such a lazy planet, but I don’t decide these things. In all probability, legislators on Pluto get paid $200 biannually, while legislators on Eris get the $61,440 plus travel expenses.

On page 258, I found out that the highest-rated TV program of 1963 was The Beverly Hillbillies, while for this past year it was American Idol. I’m still trying to decide if that constitutes progress of any sort.

If you turn to page 682, you find a list of all the rulers of France from the year 843 to the present. They include – and I’m not making this up (Dave Barry Act of 1993) – Charles The Bald, Charles The Fat, Charles The Simple, Charles The Fair, Charles The Beloved, Charles The Wise, Charles The Victorious, and Charles The Affable (who was great company at cocktail parties.) Then you have Louis The Stammerer, who was the son of Charles The Bald, as well as the grandfather of Charles The Fat. Surprisingly, Charles The Affable was the son of Louis The Cruel. It should surprise no one that Louis The Sluggard left no heirs. Then, of course, there was Phillip The Tall, who succeeded his brother, Louis The Headstrong. Having some French ancestry myself, and knowing my capacity for hyperbole, Phillip was probably 5'11", while Louis The Headstrong most likely suggested that it was OK to drink white wine with a steak.

On page 763, I found out that Canada has 709 television sets per 1,000 people. I immediately turned to page 852 to find out how The United States compared with their neighbors to the north. We have 844 television sets per 1,000 people. I also see that Canadian life expectancy is close to three years higher, so those people currently without a set have more time to get one and catch the re-runs. There were no statistics concerning how many Canadians had ever seen The Beverly Hillbillies, so that may figure into it, too.

Turning to page 102, we see that production of corn in America is up approximately 9% since 2005. That’s the year I started blogging. Ex post facto, raison d’etre, so mea culpa (page 716.)

Inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame are listed on page 948. These include "Toe" Blake, "Shorty" Green, "Tiny" Thompson, "Gump" Worsley, and "Phat" Wilson, all of whom would have made wonderful kings of France.

Finally, my favorite statistic of all-time is found on page 295. There’s a listing of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities, 1990-2007. One of the activities listed is "Enteric Fermentation." When I consulted a footnote, to find out exactly what enteric fermentation was, they used some pretty lofty language to describe it, but when you boil it down to its simplest form, it’s cow farts. Between 2000 and 2007, cow farts have increased 3.4%. I don’t know who has the job of measuring such things, but I’m glad it’s not me. I hope he’s being paid more than the New Hampshire legislature. In any case, this increase in bovine flatulence is more than 150% of what we gained via reduced use of coal as an energy source. So, the next time some PETA member accosts you on the street, tell him he’s the cause of the hole in the ozone layer, then go do your part for the environment by having a big porterhouse steak.

By the way, the largest selling beer in the United States (page 77) is Bud Light. It has a 19.3% market share. American Idol has a rating of 15.1, which was the percentage of households tuned in to the program. Taken together, that probably explains the success of both, as well as the higher life expectancy for Canadians (unless it’s all those farting cows we’ve got.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Little Christmas Story

[If you actually take the time to read every word of this, there might be prizes.]

As I’ve mentioned here before, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment - seeing relatives and giving gifts during the ‘normal’ December 25th holiday - we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.

You may be wondering why we do this. Too bad. What, we owe YOU an explanation?

(Sorry. I sometimes get tired of explaining it all to the yahoos and nincompoops of this world. You, of course, don’t fit neatly into either of those categories. You’re special! You deserve better. If you had had sense enough to go to someplace that could have given it to you, I wouldn’t have complained.)

(Really? Best explanation I can offer is HERE.)

January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as they’re concerned, Christmas is over come midnight on December 25th. Then there’s that New Year’s thing to deal with, but since the main components of that are gulping down as much alcohol as possible and then having drunken sex with strangers, it sells itself. The next things that need an actual advertising campaign are Valentine’s Day and getting folks revved up to spend their big bucks on President’s Day car sales (although many women are more than happy to shove Valentine’s Day down mens throats without aid of the candy and jewelry manufacturers, some even giving it the entirely hideous nickname of 'Womens Christmas', and if you know anyone like that, I’ll be happy to shoot them for you. That’ll be gift enough for me.)

(Someday, in the not-too-distant future, you can expect to hear an announcer saying something like…

Free at last! Thank God almighty, free at last!

Well, OK, we’re not giving away our cars, but it’s as close as we can get! It’s our Martin Luther King Day sale! Our sales staff has a dream – of putting YOU in the driver’s seat of a brand new Toyota! You won’t have to march all the way to Selma for Crazy Ed to notice you! Just come on down, between now and January 20th, and he’ll ensure your civil right to a deal based on the content of your wallet, not the color of your skin!

Financial experts might even take into account the failure of some merchants to break even over the Christmas season and start calling it Black Monday.

You might not think that anyone would have the balls, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Give it a few years. Do you think folks back at the beginning of the previous century would have thought Abraham Lincoln might someday co-star with a beaver in ads for sleeping pills?)

Where was I? Oh, yes, The Feast of the Epiphany. In secular terms, it is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi, the 'Three Kings' of Christmas carol fame. It is the date some suppose as that when they visited the infant Jesus and bestowed upon him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

The day is also remembered, although obliquely, in the song 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas'. Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in that song? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some Western European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th.

In any case, it can be argued reasonably that the 6th of January is a more correct time than December 25th to exchange gifts in honor of The Lord’s nativity.

MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own exchange of presents until the 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 11 days following.

(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off at the folks who want to start the Christmas season some time in October. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November], but it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of celebration that occur in December and January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75 day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)

Since we celebrate on the 6th, I won’t be at work then. I’ll be taking off the 7th and 8th as well. It’s my own personal Christmas vacation. And, since my only internet connection is at work, there will be nothing new in this space. I won't be spending any of my time during our holidays writing. Aside from my general tendency towards sloth, I'd consider it slightly sacrilegious to do so. Therefore, you might get new writing on the 11th, but only if I've got something inside of me itching to burst through my fingers much as the alien burst through John Hurt's stomach.

That IS pretty much what it feels like to me when I have an actual original idea. It's very painful. That's why I recycle stuff so often. Less agony.

In other words, this may be the last new entry you'll see until the 12th, and I wouldn’t put it past me to foist re-runs on you for most of the remainder of the month after that. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s taking an excuse and running with it.

Ah! I see the river of tears coursing down your collective faces. Just so you truly know that I do care about you, here’s a story that is not about Little Christmas specifically, but IS about Christmas and is also little.


First things first: This is a story about an Irish family. While my name is Jim, and I’m an uncle, I also have an Uncle Jim of my own. There is an Uncle Jim mentioned in this story, but he’s not THAT Uncle Jim. Actually, he’s Uncle Jim’s Uncle Jim, making him my granduncle (although some folks prefer the title 'great uncle', but let’s not open that can of worms.) It’s all very confusing to the uninitiated. If it will keep you from getting a headache, feel free to call him Aloysius.

When my father was very young – let’s say six - his Uncle Jim taught him a very valuable lesson.

My father had hung his stocking on Christmas Eve, as did all of the family. This included the older relatives, and that group included Uncle Jim. Come Christmas morning, everybody took down their stockings and looked inside to see what Santa Claus had brought them.

The usual things were found inside the stockings - little toys, tasty candies, and so forth. Nice, but nothing unusual. That is, until Uncle Jim inspected the contents of his stocking. He turned it upside down, and out rolled a lump of coal and an onion.

While good little boys and girls receive toys and candies, a lump of coal and an onion are, by tradition, what bad boys and girls receive. Seeing those things come from Uncle Jim’s stocking, my father laughed and laughed. Uncle Jim was a bad boy! He got a lump of coal and an onion!

While my father was laughing, Uncle Jim said, "Oh! This is wonderful! A lump of coal and an onion? These are just what I needed!"

My father thought his Uncle Jim had gone round the bend. How could someone be happy to have received a lump of coal and an onion in his Christmas stocking?

Uncle Jim picked up the lump of coal, then took my father’s hand and led him to the basement. They stopped at the furnace. Uncle Jim said, "It’s so cold today! This lump of coal is the perfect gift! I can put it in the furnace and we’ll be nice and warm all day!"

Uncle Jim then led my amazed father back upstairs. They went back into the family parlor, where Uncle Jim now picked up his Christmas onion. He led my father into the kitchen. Uncle Jim chopped the onion, and then mixed it with celery, bread, and spices. During all of this, he went on rapturously about how his stuffing for the turkey would have been no good whatsoever without an onion.

Later on, as my father sat in a warm house eating delicious stuffing with his Christmas dinner, the lesson was permanently burned into his memory: It doesn’t matter what you’re given. It’s what you do with it that matters.

I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that in mind when you see the parade of re-runs.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(A few of the more perspicacious among you might have recognized that a fair amount of this entry, itself, was a re-run. I appreciate your loyalty, though, as well as your persistence in having reached this final parenthetical without bailing. At the beginning, I said there might be prizes. Well, I only said there ‘might’ be prizes. In reality, there aren’t any, but it’s too late now. You already read every word. Of course, some folk might consider that reward enough. That, and the fact that I offered to assassinate someone for you earlier on.)