Month: March 2016

The Cactus Affair

Cactus

Murphy Zephrengle had seen that little potted cactus in the bedroom a thousand times without really noticing it. But something caught his eye. It looked like maybe a bloom on the side, catching and reflecting light. Strange. He picked up the pot from the shelf and inspected it closely. It wasn’t a bloom, it was a camera lens. And the cactus wasn’t real, it was plastic.

Someone was spying on him. His wife.

He’d never cheated on her, nor given her any reason to believe he’d cheated. And yet she was possessed by a demon of insecurity. She watched Murphy’s eyes whenever he talked to any woman, making sure his gaze never wandered below the neck. She interrogated him after every phone call. And she asked him where he was going or where he had been whenever he left the house or returned home.

Murphy figured out that the camera sent a wireless signal to her computer, where it recorded images at one frame per second. And there in the archives were thousands of images of him at various times of the day, doing various things, whenever he was in the bedroom. Mostly he was napping.

He thought he could have some fun with this, so he ordered a life-size doll from a sex toy website. It cost him over a thousand bucks, but he got his money’s worth. She looked very real. Murphy named her Sophia, because she felt so soft. And the velvety texture of her silicone skin actually turned him on a little when he stroked it.

The stage was set. He carried Sophia, reclining in his arms, into the bedroom, and gently laid her upon the bed in full view of the cactus camera. He kissed her and slowly undressed her as the camera silently clicked away. She was anatomically correct, even down to her orifices, and I’ll allow your imagination to figure out what he did next.

The following morning Murphy’s wife was seated at her computer when he heard a loud shriek. He rushed over and saw her fall upon the floor, curl into the fetal position, and begin weeping hysterically. There on her computer monitor were the pictures of he and Sophia.

When she recovered enough to talk, he let her dig the deepest hole she’d ever dug for herself, with every accusation of adultery and threat of divorce that emerged from her lips. He just sat there smugly and waited for her to finish. And then came the line, “I TRUSTED you until now!” And that’s when Murphy Zephrengle let her have it.

It’s been six months since this incident. The Zephrengles are still together, and I think everything will work out. That’s because they’ve both been receiving very wise counsel from competent professionals. Yes, they’re both in therapy. She’s being treated for her insecurity issues. And he’s being treated for a serious problem too, although it was kind of embarrassing for Murphy to admit it.

He’s fallen in love with Sophia.

Kill or be Killed

It started with a meal. We were over at my in-laws, and wanted to cook some dead bird, or pig, or cow, or some other poor critter that had been killed in a slaughterhouse. But hey we all have to eat. It’s kill or be killed in this world.

We used their oven in the back patio, because it was big enough to toast this feast. My wife set it to preheat. About ten minutes later a rank smell invaded our osmic senses. Smoke curled out of the oven. My wife killed the flame just in time, to prevent a fire that might have killed everyone in the house.

Field mice were scattering everywhere. They had ripped and torn all the insulation from the oven, and made a huge nest inside, where they could live cozy and warm. Now they were trying to save themselves from being killed by this very same, very warm home. Meanwhile, my senile mother-in-law cursed these mice that killed her “brand-new” oven. After all, she’d only bought it 20 years ago.

My father-in-law disconnected the oven and had it hauled off. But he too is getting forgetful in his old age. He neglected to completely shut off the gas. If my wife hadn’t noticed, we all would have been killed.

But my father-in-law still has most of his marbles. And he knows how to set traps for mice. My mother-in-law wanted him to use poison. They argued about it into the night, and almost reached the point of killing each other. But traps won and they both lived. However dozens of mice would soon be killed.

Then they decided we could get them a cat. The cat would kill a few mice, but that would scare away the rest, sparing their lives.

"Killer Sam"

“Killer Sam”

We went down to the animal shelter and selected a ball-bearing mousetrap. A six-month old male kitten, to be exact. But it won’t bear balls much longer, as it’s the policy of the town to fix the felines they adopt out. It’s their way of killing future kittens before they’re conceived, to save them from having to kill them after they’re born.

So now, to save the next brand-new oven from being killed, we’ve saved a kitten from euthanasia at the animal shelter (well, we saved everything but its balls). The kitten will kill some mice, but will save the rest from being killed by traps. But cats also predate upon birds, snakes, gophers, and anything else that moves. So there will be a general slaughter of wildlife, in my in-laws’ backyard.

No matter how hard we try, there’s no escape from bloodshed and death in this kill-or-be-killed world.

Brownshirts

A petition has been signed by more than 33,000 people, demanding that guns be allowed into the Republican National Convention this summer in Ohio. Donald Trump is considering whether or not to support it.

Perhaps it’s time to remember a lesson from Adolf Hitler.

Hitler and Hermann Goring at a Nazi rally in 1928. That's a Brownshirt on the right.

Hitler and Hermann Goring at a Nazi rally in 1928. That’s a Brownshirt on the right.

Hitler could attribute much of his rise in power to a paramilitary organization called the Nazi SA. SA members were often called Brownshirts. The Brownshirts initially provided protection at Nazi rallies. They were kind of like security guards, only much meaner. They wouldn’t just 86 you. They would kill you.

Shortly after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he called the German Reichstag into a special session to consider passing the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act would give Hitler dictatorial powers. Hitler made sure his gun-toting Brownshirts were present at this session, to threaten and intimidate members of the Reichstag. It worked. The Enabling Act passed overwhelmingly.

Today, there’s a campaign underway by GOP leaders to stop Donald Trump at the convention. If they can keep him from getting enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, then they can propose an alternative candidate for nomination on the second and subsequent ballots. Donald Trump has implicitly threatened riots if this should occur.

Suppose that convention hall was filled with gun-toting Trump supporters? Who would try to stop Trump then? And if Trump won the nomination under that kind of circumstance, perhaps he’d feel obligated to all those gun-toters. Who knows, maybe he’d be in favor of organizing them into some sort of security force.

When I consider the lengths some second amendment supporters are willing to go, I feel a frisson of fear. I love living in a free and democratic country. I want them to back down on this issue.

If the first amendment has the limitation of not allowing us to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, then why can’t the second amendment have the limitation of not allowing us to bring firearms to a crowded political venue?

People often speak forcefully and without compromise in support of the second amendment. When they do, I sometimes wonder just who or what they might be enabling.

Rave Reviews

SpamReviews

I think I’ve finally caught a unicorn! I’ve discovered that this blog has received rave reviews. Now, fame seems to be just around the corner. I found these reviews by going through a maze of clicks. For some reason, WordPress has been hiding them from my view, on an obscure page called Spam. But that’s the way unicorns are. They’re very elusive.

Here are some of the outstanding reviews my sensational, superlative blog has received:

“Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too fantastic.” – silvanomorandi.

“I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also.” – diadelcazador.

“I am just commenting to make you understand of the helpful discovery my cousin’s princess found reading through the blog. She picked up a good number of pieces, which included what it is like to have a marvelous helping character to have many others completely learn several specialized matters.” – dyrlaegevagten.

“楼主,请原谅我的自私!我知道无论用多么华丽的辞藻来形容楼主您帖子的精彩程度都是不够的,都是虚伪的,所以我只想说” – sesexy.

“Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you really know what you’re talking approximately!” – aeiautomocion.

“This video post is actually enormous, the sound feature and the picture quality of this tape post is in fact awesome.” – thomasbiler. (I don’t do video or tape posts, but thanks for the rave review, Thomas.)

Who knows, you may have rave reviews hidden on your blog, also. To find them, hover over My Sites, then click on WP Admin. Then click on Comments. Finally, click on the Spam menu, under the Comments heading. That’s a long information scent to follow, but no one ever said catching a unicorn was easy.

Bad Rad

Radovan Karadzic had a bad day this Thursday. On 3/24/16, he was convicted of ten war crimes, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Let’s just call him Rad. Back in the 1990’s, Rad ordered the killing of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebinica, during the Bosnian war. He was also responsible for the Siege of Sarajevo, which killed over 5,000 civilians. Many of these civilian casualties in Sarajevo were cut down by relentless sniper fire from the surrounding hillsides.

Rad is a former Yugoslavian psychiatrist. In the 1980s he used his credentials to issue fake psychological evaluations, which helped healthcare workers secure early retirements. Later, he and a friend obtained an agricultural loan, which they used to build houses for themselves. He was arrested and convicted of fraud, and served a year in jail.

Bad Rad's mug shot from his arrest for fraud in 1984.

Bad Rad’s mugshot from his arrest for fraud in 1984.

When Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s, Rad entered politics – the perfect job for a con-man. He became the President of the Republic of Srpska, and Supreme Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army. I won’t get into the weeds concerning all the bad Rad was convicted of. He wasn’t the only one to commit war crimes in the Balkans. Genocide was committed by both Christians and Muslims, on many different fronts. But Christians were behind about 90% of it.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the United Nations in 1991 to address these war crimes. Since that time, ICTY has indicted 161 people, from lowly soldiers to high-ranking politicians such as Rad. 74 have been sentenced, 18 have been acquitted, and most of the remainder have had their cases transferred to sovereign nations, or withdrawn.

Two trials remain: that of former military leader Ratko Mladic, and former Serbian president Goran Hadzic. I love the name Ratko. Doesn’t it befit one who is accused of a war crime?

Rad hid from authorities and disguised himself for more than 11 years, before his arrest in 2008. I think it’s fitting that he had to spend time on the run and in hiding. Many accused war criminals are never caught. But I like knowing they have to spend time and energy looking over their shoulders and perhaps holing up in uncomfortable quarters.

Times seem to have changed. Political and military leaders must be more careful when considering whether or not to murder innocent people. And soldiers must think twice about which orders to obey.

War crimes continue to occur in places like Africa and the Middle East. But hopefully Rad’s conviction will sober up some of the bloodthirsty despots running around our world. Maybe we’ll have a few less disappearances of innocent civilians, over the coming years.

There have been attempts to bring war crime charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. And there have also been attempts to charge former President George W. Bush, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and other former members of the Bush Administration. I doubt we’ll ever see these people arrested, but if they were, I wonder how it would affect our political rhetoric.

Perhaps candidates like Donald Trump wouldn’t be so quick to advocate torture or the killing of terrorists’ family members. Maybe there’d be less Bad Rads running for President.

An Atheist’s View of Christianity

ChristInGlassCrypt

This is Good Friday, which commemorates the day Jesus Christ was tortured and killed. I’m an atheist. This is an atheist’s point of view, concerning what true Christianity is all about.

Before Jesus Christ came along and upset the apple cart, the Jewish religion was plugging along as best it could. But it was laden with all kinds of rules and punishments, many of which could never pass muster under the U.S. Constitution. I mean, in those days women were put to death on their wedding night if they were found not to be virgins. You could be stoned for breaking the Sabbath. Disobeying a parent could warrant death. And you’d better not take the Lord’s name in vain.

Anyway, Jesus said to hell with all those silly rules, and all that cruel and unusual punishment. He made just one rule, which is considered to be golden. The King James version of the Bible, at Matthew 7:12, quotes Jesus as saying, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Just like that, this diktat from Christ wiped away all the rules the Jews were following, and replaced them with the very simple Golden Rule. Christianity is centered around it. There is nothing more or less to true Christianity than the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule is based upon empathy. Empathy is what we ultimately need from others. We need our feelings to be understood and our needs to be appreciated. We need our pleasures to be celebrated and our pains to be commiserated. And we need to empathize with others, as we would have others empathize with us.

Empathy dissolves hatred and bridges communication gaps between the estranged. Empathy establishes trust, and makes human relationships manageable and enjoyable. And empathy has been found to be the only psychology that truly reforms criminals.

Those who wrote the gospel did a masterful job of portraying the Golden Rule, and empathy, at play between God and humans. The authors realized that if you follow the Golden Rule completely, you must be willing to experience pain and death for the benefit of others. Because after all, wouldn’t you want others to be willing to do the same for you?

And even if others are unwilling to die for you, you must be willing to die for them. After all, if your empathy was underdeveloped, wouldn’t you still want others to have more empathy for you than you could dredge up for them?

So Jesus told Peter at the Last Supper that he would deny him three times. Ah yes, he knew in advance that his most devoted disciple still had not developed enough empathy to die for him. And yet he was still willing to die for Peter. This was the point the Gospel authors were trying to make.

Peter did go on to deny him three times. Had he not, he too would have been tortured and killed. He knew how to save his own skin, even if that meant turning his back on his best friend. The lesson here is that a good Christian has developed so much empathy for Jesus, that he would be willing to sacrifice his life for Jesus. Peter was not quite yet a good Christian.

But Peter redeemed himself. About 30 years later Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome and had Peter crucified. At last, in his old age, he was finally willing to give up his ghost for the Lord.

Judas was a different story. He never developed any empathy at all, and went on to betray his best friend for the monetary gain of 30 pieces of silver. And yet Jesus was still willing to die for him. Now that’s empathy. That’s following the Golden Rule to the hilt.

I believe the story of the life and death of Christ is one of the most beautiful didactic tales of love and sacrifice that has ever been told. I also strongly suspect it’s a myth.

But suppose it’s actually true. In that case, I hope Jesus Christ would understand how hard it is for me to believe it. Walking on water? Feeding thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish? Raising the dead? Being resurrected, himself?

Yes, I doubt. And I wonder just how wise it would be to sacrifice your life for those who would abandon you or kill you for their own gain. I do try to practice empathy, but I also try to practice the Middle Way that the Buddha taught. Therefore, I try to avoid taking anything to an extreme, including empathy. I don’t practice empathy in the true, extreme Christian way.

So if the Gospel is true, I hope Jesus Christ would understand and forgive me for my dubiety. I hope he would appreciate why I did not bet on him, or go all-in with his Golden Rule. And I hope he would intercede on my behalf when a judgmental God would try to hurl me into the fiery pit of Hell.

After all, I would do the same for him.

Sarah Shistfleck’s All-Natural Apple Pies

Adversetisement

Adversetisement

I highly recommend Sarah Shistfleck’s All-Natural Apple Pies. No refined sugars are added. These pies are naturally sweet, from the sugars produced by the apples themselves. Sarah waits for the apples to produce the maximum amount of sweetness by allowing them to mature until they drop from the tree and lie upon the ground for several weeks. She harvests them only after the apples have entered a fermentation process, and have metamorphosed into pure globs of savory-sweet sugar.

The worms are separated from the pulp by centrifuge and of course, discarded. The pulp is then mashed and mixed into a puree, which Sarah herself bathes in. Yes, Sarah perfuses the apple-pie filling with her own naturally sweet and tart essences, adding a hint of heaven to the flavor of her special pies.

The crust of her pies is derived from organic flour, that is naturally milled from sweetgrass seed. This seed is always freshly threshed from the blades of her own son’s lawnmowing service. Isn’t it refreshing how Sarah operates a family business, producing her pies in the old-fashioned independent spirit of the American way?

The pie dough is kneaded by the delicate, innocent fingers of small children in Sarah’s wholesome, all-American suburban neighborhood. And these children are recompensed for their loving labor through the old-fashioned barter system, where they are allowed to eat all the delicious pie dough they can stuff into their tiny little cherubic mouths. It’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

So fill your pie-hole with the original, organic, old-fashioned, all-American Sarah Shistfleck’s All-Natural Apple Pies. I guarantee that after you try just one slice, you’ll never want any other pie again.

Does God Owe You a Refund?

Colonial Church of San Sebastian, Mazatlan, Mexico.

Colonial Church of San Sebastian, Mazatlan, Mexico.

It’s Sunday, so it’s time for a parable:

Winston Bloot was a pious man, who also had a sharp business acumen. One Sunday after church services, his minister took him aside for a heart-to-heart.

“Winston, I’ve been examining the records, and it appears you haven’t tithed at all since the first of the year. Has there been some sort of mistake?” inquired Reverend Nosyparker.

“Perhaps on your part, because indeed, I have been tithing.” Winston growled passionately, piercing the reverend’s skull with a gimlet eye. “However, it is true I’ve left no envelopes in the collection plate since the first of the year.”

The reverend scratched his head, cuing further explanation.

“You see, Reverend, I’ve been calculating my taxes. Last year I paid an effective tax rate of 29% of my total income. That comes to roughly $29,000, because my total income last year was about $100,000. This includes self-employment tax and everything.

“Over the prior year I also donated 10% of my income to this church, which worked out to about $10,000. Thus, the total amount I paid out to the causes of church and state last year was $39,000, or 39% of my income. However according to the Bible and all the fine sermons you deliver, the tithing rate is only 10%. Thus I over-tithed by 29%, or $29,000, last year.

“My conclusion, Reverend, is that God owes me a refund of $29,000.”

The reverend shook his head vigorously. “No, no, that’s not true. In the Bible, Jesus said, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ The state tax and God’s tax are two different things.”

“But don’t all people, including Caesar, belong to God? So if I render to Caesar, or in these days, Obama, haven’t I rendered to God?”

The reverend was defeated. He could continue to sermonize, argle-bargle, shame, and make many different cases and points. But his experience with other non-tithing parishioners told him that he wouldn’t be able to convince brother Bloot of the error of his ways. They all stood firmly by their casuist rationalizations. This is why men and women of the cloth usually struggle to make ends meet. It’s very hard to compete with government taxation.

The best he could do was continue to get up every Sunday morning and deliver sermons about the evils of liberalism, and promote conservative candidates who promised to shrink the size of government.

Small government means more money available for tithing. And it means less money going toward government programs that confute the teachings of the Bible. Such as scientific research.

Small government means the needy would have to turn to religious organizations for their charity. This would increase the membership and power of the church.

Reverend Nosyparker seems to be part of a sunset industry, valiantly but vainly struggling against the government. Tithing has decreased to historic lows in America. Church attendance has declined precipitously. The common charity these days is government, and the prevalent religion is science. This can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

But if you’re paying at least 10% of your income in taxes, and tithing above that, perhaps you’re over-tithing.

And perhaps God owes you a refund.

Toilet Fight

My wife and I have been fighting over the toilet. It developed a hard-water ring around the bowl. One of my jobs in the house is to keep the bathroom clean, so I took on the job of ridding our toilet from this unsightly ring.

I told my wife not to use the toilet for the next eight hours. I was going to drain the bowl, then place a vinegar-soaked towel over the ring, and allow it to baste overnight. Vinegar dissolves hard-water deposits, so I thought this ingenious plan would make me the Bathroom Employee of the Year.

She seemed irritated. “All you have to do is scrub that ring with a pumice stone. That’s the proper way to clean a toilet.”

What the hell is a pumice stone? I wondered. “That sounds like it would scratch the toilet. No, vinegar is a non-abrasive method. Just let me do it my way. If you have to pee, just go in the backyard.”

“What if I have to poop?” she shot back.

“We have a pooper scooper,” I pointed out.

She was not happy, and I learned decades ago that happy wife equals happy life. But there’s my pride, you see. I’m the bathroom expert. The bathroom is my bailiwick. Nobody tells me how to clean the bathroom. And I’m certainly not going to scratch up the surface of our shiny porcelain shitter with a damned rock.

So at bedtime I proceeded with the plan. I drained the bowl. I carefully placed a vinegar-soaked towel over that unsightly hard-water ring. And then I shut out the lights and allowed chemistry to take its course.

In the morning I got up first. I watered the backyard tree, due to the toilet being out-of-commission. Then I got to work quickly, before Mrs. Pumice Stone woke up. I figured it would be no fun being around her, if she had to water the tree also.

My elbow grease.

The Mighty Drillbrush

I wiped it with the vinegar towel. The ring remained. I wiped again while rubbing harder. But the bowl still had that old familiar ring to it. So for some real scrubbing power, I deployed my mighty Drillbrush. Did the ring fade a little? I think so, but maybe that was my hopeful imagination.

I finally gave up.

My wife told me she was buying a pumice stone. She also said that she would clean the ring herself. She had little confidence that I could operate a pumice stone without scratching the porcelain.

Remember that story about Tom Sawyer painting a fence? I didn’t argue with her. I let her scrub the damned toilet herself.

And now the ring is gone. I knew vinegar would eventually do the trick.

Failsafe Felony

FailsafeFelony

(Adversetisement)

Melvin is a savvy burglar. He watches plenty of TV. So when he stepped onto the porch of Mrs. Wifty’s home, he instantly recognized the Ding doorbell. He knew it like instinct, from all the TV ads that had been saturating his subconscious.

“Ding!” he rang the doorbell.

“Hello? How may I help you?” a lady’s voice crackled on the dinky speaker.

Wait a second, wasn’t that an engine revving in the background? “Hi, I’m going around trimming trees. Wanna free estimate?” Melvin inquired.

“No, I’m sorry. I’m bathing my children right now.” the slightly desperate-sounding voice came back. A car honked its horn.

“Okay,” said Melvin. He walked around to the backyard, wondering if she was lying, or bathing her children in the middle of a traffic jam.

No, he knew. She was lying. Melvin was no idiot, and neither are you. He got away with a really cool haul from Mrs. Wifty’s house. He even took the Ding doorbell.

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