Friday, August 24, 2012

Eggheads (Part 1: "Cambwidge")

In the late 1990s, when I was developing software for Bank of Absurdity, a co-worker, whom I'll call "Mr. Ed," like to challenge his colleagues with trivia questions.  He was a devoted fan of the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and felt a tinge of intellectual superiority whenever he stumped someone.
But over the months, I never game him a wrong answer, and he became frustrated with me. Finally, one morning he pointed his finger at me and said "I am going to stump you right now !"
I replied "O.K."
"What is the deepest lake in the world?"
"That would be Lake Baikal in Siberia"  I retorted, without hesitation.
"You bastard!  What, do you go home and read encyclopedias at night?"
(Reader, it was perfectly acceptable to use foul language at BofA, because the managers did so with gusto as they pissed their ways to the tops of piles of cash)

Mr. Ed never asked me any silly questions again.
13 years later, my wife and I were watching the trivia quiz show Cash Cab on television. The show's driver / host proffered the following question, which I now paraphrase:
"Author Salman Rushdie won what famous literary prize available only to citizens of the United Kingdom?"
"How is anybody supposed to know that?" my wife complained.
"That would be the Man Booker Prize" I snapped.
"Hah! What an egghead!" she exclaimed. (This reminded me of a comment that Sarah Palin had made  in a speech condemning the "liberal elites").
"No, you should know that" I  tweeted in snark.
"NOT!"..."I dub thee Lord Booker !"  she proclaimed in a royal tone.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit with the exiled Argentine poet and raconteur Juan Barrí.  We were having a pleasant discussion until I used the word "neologism" in conversation. I did not pronounce it to Juan's liking:  I put the accent on the third syllable:  NeoLOgism.
It's pronounced "NeOlogism"  he insisted, and then fetched a dictionary.
"Right here -- you see -- "NeOlogism."
In my defense, I asserted that I had heard the word pronounced by an esteemed intellectual from Cambridge University who had appeared on CSPAN.  "So there!"
Juan paused, and then presented me with the following gem:
"If we all spoke as they do at Cambridge University, we'd all be fucked.  There wouldn't even be a United States!"
Even Lord Booker of Scottsdale can't win them all.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I keep a keen receiver out for bold new cognition.  I call my blessing "Seinfeld Syndrome." I like listening to free thinkers.  I think it's one of the national endowments that the 1st amendment has given us.

And in Arizona, there are lots of free thinkers.  So much so, it took until 1912 to organize as a state.

From local television news:

An anarchist / alleged murderer stand before a state criminal court judge.

Judge:  "I understand your right to be your own counsel, but here in my jurisdiction, there is a process I must follow to determine if you are competent to do so."

Defendant:  "You ain't go no jurisdiction.  I'm a flesh and blood man!"

I think this protest derives from the scene in "Planet of the Apes" where Charlton Heston objects to a certain species difference regarding jurisprudence.

Judge: "You have just helped me greatly in making a decision."

At an office:

"What Hussein Obama is trying to do with this Fast and Furious thing is trace guns back to the U.S. so he can make us register all our weapons."

From an ex-neighbor's teenage son:

"I think everybody should be forced to carry a gun, so that if anybody tries to shoot you, you can shoot them, too."

I asked the lad if he had heard of Somalia, and he replied "What?"

Again, at an office:

"Did you hear that thing on KXYY radio about birth certificates in Hawaii?  They just gave 'em out to rural farm workers because they didn't know where they came from, and the company wanted them to work there, and they wanted to stay in Hawaii."

Again and again, at an office:

"You know them digital meters that the electric company is putting on everybody's home?  I thought you had to take 'em, but then this one woman came out with a shotgun and told the guy 'No sir, you ain't puttin' that on my house' and so I'm gonna refuse it, too.  I'm just gonna tell 'em you're not puttin' it on my property!"

Just for fun, I made up my own !

"Michelle Obama and Dr. Oz are secretly working to devise a 66.6% tax on the sale of red meat in order to fund Obamacare.  They are plotting this in a secured basement of a building at the University of California, Berkeley." 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Javelina Javelina

A song parody by my friend, John Barry


Javelina, javelina, men can’t tame you—
you’re unlike Tramp’s Lady: sweet, domestic style.
You are loathsome, so we go gunning to game you—
so it’s javelina hunting. . .a “pig pile.”

You’re so wild—that’s why we hunt you, javelina.
But near we sashay, you ghostily depart.
You outscheme pursuers by one more schlep,
so they cry there; you don’t lie there
dead. A war whoop you squeal, javelina.
You are a bloated, grotesque, ugly scourge upstart.

You’re so wild—that’s why we hunt you, javelina.
But then on some days, you slyly go and start
to tag-team dog-walkers in a gore prep
and apply there tusks that pry, pare.
It’s a war cry they’ll squeal, javelina,
then run toward home, while flummoxed you watch them depart.

Original lyrics:

Mona lisa, mona lisa, men have named you
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you?
For that mona lisa strangeness in your smile?
Do you smile to tempt a lover, mona lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, mona lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?

Do you smile to tempt a lover, mona lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, mona lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back In The Day

Back in the day, The First Lady, looped on designer drugs developed at an U.S. Army Lab in Utah, toured the country disguised as a Stepford Wife, robotically urging school children to “Just Say No.” Back in the same day, executive secretaries (not "administrative assistants") with big hair tapped on IBM Selectrics and offered you only two types of coffee: Regular and Sanka.

One Saturday afternoon I received a call from a postal worker friend of mine, Vincenzo. He was someone I often found him to be torn between serious literary intellection and the oblivion provided by psychotropic substances. Not a unique personal pattern, if one reads about the short-lived Romantic Era. So I was on guard for the most ridiculous of proposals.
"You have to come over here" he cackled, like a Dostoevskian madman. I asked why, but he was refused to answer my question, only cackling more until he sounded like pack of Camels. "You have to come over here!" I thought about it for a moment, and agreed. I only lived a mile away, and was a writer myself (that's code for "looking for new lurid material"). So off I went.

When I arrived at Vincenzo's apartment, he led me with great haste to his study. There, on a small wooden coffee table, was a baseball of Lebanese blond hashish. He picked it up with a juvenile fascination: "Vic just left...and look what we brought me !" More cackling. Then Vincenzo went into the kitchen to fetch us two bottles of his favorite beer: Mickey's Big Mouth Malt Liquor.
Reader, there comes a time when, for reasons of propriety, I can only describe the next two hours of my interview with Vincenzo in the most opaque of terms. Indeed, the ambiance grew opaque, and it fused itself to my consciousness, and I realized that many Godheads were present, past and future.

Vincenzo's friend Vic(torino) was a businessman who lived large, residing in the luxurious Watergate towers in Emeryville with a young blond rent-a-girl. Every time that Vincenzo received mail from Wilmington, Delaware, he would fill out the form, and the card would arrive in the mail a month later. For only a 29.9 % APR, compounded monthly, he could withdraw hundreds in cash advances at once. Then, a quick call to Victorino's firm would merit a visit from the man himself.
Victorino grew up in Florida, and served in the U.S. Army, guarding the Berlin Wall against a Warsaw Pact Invasion. "I was stoned drunk everyday on that wall, but they never came." It wasn't clear how he had progressed from a mere soldier to an international businessman, but somehow there was a connection. Every time I saw Victorino, he was wearing his army jacket, and his right hand always seemed to be near his pocket, as if an important tool was there.

A few years passed, and Vincenzo was struggling with his debts. He had downsized from a nice apartment in a Victorian-era building to a converted tool shed in some one's back yard. It was there, on a Thanksgiving afternoon, that I last saw Victorino. The rent-a-girl was gone. He was still wearing his army jacket. His right hand was holding his right side. He groaned "My liver's crampin' up again." His left hand grasped a Mickey's Big Mouth.

I've since lost track of them both. I don't think they did very well in life. It's the ones in Wilmington, Delaware who did.