The Verminator

Among the plethora of lessons to learn from this current pandemic: we’re reeling in real time from horrifying discoveries about political leadership; the role of science; heroism in unlikely places; our own mortality; the world’s fragile interdependent economy. Etc., the list goes on. Personally, I learned that it’s easier to train a dog to sit and stay than it is a science-denying Republican or evangelical pastor.

But there’s less obvious lessons as well, as I discover when I visit the message board at The Verminator, an on-line trade magazine aimed at working pests such as rats, cockroaches, bedbugs, maggots, mosquitoes, etc. Did you realize that these critters are in panic mode because of COVID19?

Why? With bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, airplanes, parks, beaches, etc. either inoperative or working reduced hours, the food supply for vermin that infest these establishments is drastically reduced. And with fewer people out on the streets, inside offices scarfing down lunch at their desks, or shopping, another source of the nutritional supply chain is sharply diminished.

Some of the stories of rats unable to gather sufficient food for their families are heart-breaking. One relayed her tail (see what I did there?)  of trying to get help from a Salvation Army food kitchen, but was actually refused! By the Salvation Army! Something about her being a rat.

In south Florida, whole nests of roaches at our ubiquitous Chinese buffets have been abandoned, the occupants taking to the streets and back alleys where they’re prey to lizards, frogs, iguanas, and scorpions. It’s a jungle out there! One roach reported losing his entire family (“I’ll make more, of course!”) to a crazed, violent home owner with a rolled-up newspaper who attacked them mercilessly just for wanting to crawl under his refrigerator to scrounge some crumbs!

In an amusing sidebar, a mosquito posted her story of raising wrigglers in a permanent puddle created by the AC unit on the roof of a Truly Nolen storefront. Irony abounds. I suspect Truly Nolen itself is seeing some significant downturn in business as a result of all these food establishment closings. Maybe some of their more ambitious agents will hire out as hit men – is the extinction of 4- and 6-legged critters substantially separate from 2-legged? The Mob is always hiring, although I understand the retirement plan isn’t super generous.

I suppose with everything else in the world so topsy-turvy, this is just something else to (wait for it) bug us. Or is that a bugus consideration?

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | Leave a comment

New Jork Pest

In part because I’m an old fart (that rhymes!) who harbors this comedically outdated notion that high-quality, professional journalism plays an essential role in the functioning of a successful democracy, I’m a 30-year subscriber to the NY Times. Underpaid substance abusers with drivers’ licenses toss one on (or close to) my lawn every morning, along with a Miami Hurled (mostly for the comics).

Understandably, once in a while they screw it up. One day this week, instead of a NY Times, I get a NY Post, a truly ghastly specimen of tabloid. But I do give them credit for their occasionally brilliant and entertaining headlines. E.g., “Nopening Day” on the sports page.

I pick through the paper anyway. I’m a big fan of newspapers, so even a bad one is worth a critical look.

I encounter a truly upsetting column – I won’t mention the hack’s name or provide a link – that suggests Noo Yawkers are suffering from a tsunami of negative social media aimed at enforcing the statewide policy to “socially distance” with fear, despair, and terror. He characterizes this as “horror mongering” for attention, and wants it toned down, if not shut it off. And he finds it especially irking that the perpetrators cloak their motives by claiming they’re performing a public service.

Perhaps he’s just a sensitive soul – lotta those on the NY Post, right?  —  or as dense a Covidiot as President Pinocchio – but how is it even possible to condemn tweeters for harping about a plague that’s slaying citizens by the thousands, in a city where medical staff at hospitals is reduced to wearing makeshift trash bags because there aren’t enough HazMat suits or masks to go around? Stay off the streets, they’re saying, echoing the Ongoing Official Message. Stay inside and help us all stay alive! How is this a bad thing?

He condemns their attitude, because he has deduced they’re getting a thrill out of scaring people. How he comes to his conclusion is unclear. But his motive is obvious: with every tweet and call-out, he’s reminded how inept, wrong-headed, and lethally dangerous the Trumpf administration’s approach has been and continues to be. While we already know that Trumpanzees can’t handle the truth, ever, he reminds us they don’t like to hear that we know they can’t.

There’s no question this country has been terribly managed throughout this pandemic. Leadership played it down, wingnut media spewed misinformation and outright lies, and official efforts squandered precious time that is costing us lives and liberty. Unqualified, uninformed, and incompetent people abound in positions of authority, threatening entire lives. Of course people are outraged, helpless, and terrified, and need to vent. We don’t need patronizing crap that dismisses our fury at this administration’s gross incompetence and the horrors that result. Stick your politics back up your ass where you hatched them.

Sure hope I get a NY Times tomorrow.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 6 Comments

Sex in the Shadow of COVID-19

In fact, this brief post has NOTHING TO DO with sex, but I figured putting that in the title might generate a few hits. Expecially considering this blog has been silent for about a year.

But with the entire world (exception: moronic Trumpanzees still in denial) hunkering down, maybe this is the moment to resurrect, even if only temporarily.  Your thoughts?

Meanwhile, Corona spotting! — a 1957 Dodge Corona!Dodge

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 9 Comments

He Said It Out Loud

bathroom bottles

The bottles of these 3 discontinued brands were much better than their contents. In fact, the plant water they contain now is better. Scene is from my bathroom.

Yes, this is about beer. Yes, again.  Yes, I will reiterate my frustration over “craft beers” that taste like cake topping or citrus punch – on purpose. Brewers carefully mix in everything from pigeon pee to craisenette squeezings in search of flavors traditional brewers would have been skinned alive for concocting.

“Just because you’re an old fart that resists change doesn’t mean everybody else is,” (I get sniffed at, dismissively). “Not all beer has to taste the same.

Yeah, fine. I agree. Nobody with functioning taste buds would confuse a Guinness Stout with a Grolsch Lager. But they both taste like beer, don’t they? And evidently, this isn’t important anymore, at least to this local brewer:

“I want to make beer for people who don’t drink craft beer, but also beer that enthusiasts will love,” Artanis says. “My wife doesn’t drink craft beer, so I try to make beer that doesn’t taste like beer.”  — Corey Artanis, owner and head brewer, 3 Sons’ Brewery in Dania Beach.  Sun-Sentinel

I’ve not sampled his wares yet, but there’s no doubt he successfully achieved his objective of cooking up beer that doesn’t taste like beer. Look what’s out there already: Mango chocolate. Bacon cranapple. Daffodil teriyaki. Sarsaparilla smegma.

It makes a certain degree of sense, I suppose. For decades, fast food franchises have been making hamburgers that don’t taste like hamburgers. Good Humor makes ice cream that doesn’t taste like ice cream. All over Florida, bakers bake bread that doesn’t taste like bread. Ever tried those hydroponic water bags that pass themselves off as tomatoes? So why not beer that doesn’t taste like beer?

How quaint: all us decaying fossils who want food that tastes like food, and beer that tastes like beer. And get off my lawn!

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 8 Comments

Monk Business

monkWhenever April Fool’s Day comes around, I remember an incident briefly caused a stir some years ago, then abruptly vanished. But as you’ll see, it has relevance all over again today.

In the late 19th Century, a Belgian monk was dispatched to the United States with the idea that the nation’s population was ripe for a spiritual renaissance. Disembarking on the east coast, the young Religious dutifully made his way across the entire continent, sampling the customs and cultures of the budding population and rocking his faith, but, as he wrote later, his heart wasn’t in it. Turns out he was stunned by the rawness and beauty of the country, and felt a powerful spirituality that rendered his own beliefs dusty and trite.

Upon his return to the monastery, the report he delivered to his Superiors was nothing they wanted to hear. The monk prepared himself for a sacking. But the Abbot had other ideas. Knowing the younger man’s artistic skills, he encouraged him to commit his spiritual transformation to graphic arts: paint, charcoal, ink, etc., whatever moved him most. “Stay among us for another year,” he suggested, “after which we’ll look at your work and decide what comes next.’

Long story short: the young monk produced prodigiously that year, and his finished products enthralled the Abbot beyond his fondest hopes. An exhibition was arranged first for the resident brothers, and then for the families in the region who supported the Order. The young monk proved to be a low-key but extremely compelling presenter as well, whose plain, pure speech complemented his extraordinary drawings and paintings, and quite soon the exhibition went national, then global, drawing audiences all through Europe.

Over the next few years, the artist supplemented his work with a book of essays based on both his artwork and his observations as he traveled through America. He became a much-demanded speaker at conventions, salons, and even at the Courts of European Royalty.

Not bad for a doubting Religious in sandals and a burlap sack, innit.

But the story began unravelling in Paris, when a journalist, who had attended these exhibitions elsewhere, noticed that the monk at the podium wasn’t the same one he’d seen a few months prior. When he confidentially confronted the speaker, the replacement Religious admitted the switch, explaining that the original artist has taken ill, and it seemed less problematic simply to make the substitution, especially insofar as he’d been part of the entire process from the outset and was well-versed in the art, essays, and entire experience.

The journalist wasn’t having any of this and probed deeper. He learned that there was a virtual team of speakers, each claiming the identity of the original monk. He also discovered there was no record of the original monk’s travels to America! And ultimately, he couldn’t find any proof of the very existence of the monk at all.

Enlisting the assistance of a Parisian gallery manager, the journalist determined that the exhibited art was created by no fewer than six separate artists, possibly as many as a dozen. As for the essays, a closer review turned up passages and expressions found elsewhere, including among the writing of de Tocqueville, who had made his own memorable American journey decades before.

Not so much shocked as disgusted – fraud among the Creative Class and their fawning socialite patrons had been de rigueur for centuries – he wrote to the Abbot demanding an explanation, saying he would withhold the sordid tale’s exposure pending a response.  Unfortunately, that response is lost to history. But the exhibitions and presentations abruptly stopped, and the story exposing the fraud never made the newspapers. The account finally came out years after the journalist’s death, when a descendant discovered the tale among his private papers, and publicized it (on April Fool’s Day, perhaps coincidentally.)

I omit all proper names here – the young (nonexistent?) Religious, the Abbot, the Order, the journalist —  and I’ve never seen anything on-line about this scandal. Maybe it’s available in French, German or Dutch: my skills aren’t sufficient to search.

But the parallels to today’s world of social media – fake news, fraud, gullibility, greed – it’s all here, plus one ingredient that doesn’t seem to have survived: shame. And that’s a shame in and of itself.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 11 Comments

Honest Abe

lincoln-bdayBefore “Presidents’ Day” was concocted, the February birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (12th  and 22nd  respectively) were celebrated separately. That meant TWO days off from school, which in the dead of winter was a most welcome hiatus.

The big joke back then was, “Did you know Abe Lincoln was Jewish? Yeah – he was shot in the temple!” Just as funny today, innit.

Arguably, Lincoln was America’s greatest president, but he was no saint. Saints don’t get to be president. But like many saints, he was a tragic figure who endured crueltyand suffering tossed his way by forces beyond his control, many of them human (technical term: “assholes”).

When I think of Lincoln, for some reason I flash back to this corny 60-second spot for CLEP (College Level Examination Program), where his character’s basic decency and intelligence is simultaneously acknowledged and disparaged as inadequate (I know you’re a smart guy. You know you’re a smart guy. But without the sheepskin, you ain’t goin’ anywhere….”). Defeated, downcast, dismissed, he departs, despondent.

Too bad there wasn’t Trump University back then.

Happy Birthday, Mister President!

 

Posted in People Who Died, Died | 5 Comments

Fruitless

moonscape lot

The Florida Department of Agriculture’s vision for the ideal homeowners’ lawn.

Right around 18 years ago, state-sanctioned thugs removed three citrus trees from my yard and trucked them away, leaving me paperwork I refused to sign. This, you may remember, was part of the state’s ill-conceived plan to if not eradicate citrus canker, at least prevent it from infecting commercial groves to the north.

It was bad science and worse policy accessorized with Florida’s unique incompetence. Workers (not bothering with hazmat suits or cleaning up afterwards) chain-sawed the trees, scattering (infected) debris through the air, then loaded them on open-back flatbed trucks which they drove to wherever they were disposing of them, further distributing whatever canker was on them over every street they covered.

If you wanted to spread citrus canker around, could you concoct a better system than this?

And by the way, the trees weren’t necessarily infected to begin with. The imbecilic theory was that any healthy tree within 1,900 feet of an infected one had to be removed, too. This strains credibility, of course, but if this was the pseudoscience to justify their arboreal assassination, why not cut a 1,900 foot margin around the commercial groves they want to protect, and leave everybody else’s trees alone? Why are we paying for the citrus industry’s problems?

It didn’t work, of course: with help from a few hurricanes, nature took its course, and canker spread throughout the state like gossip in a church of crones. But with the damage already done, attorneys eagerly filed class action suits that eventually produced judgments against the state, which led to appeals and more filings, then more appeals and stalling. Year after year the state refused to appropriate money to pay…. just your government doing its best to protect the wealthy and powerful and screw everybody else.

Then in May, 2017, the state Lege finally approved payouts, and last week I received a check for $318.24. After 18 years. Imagine my joy. Picture all the tangerines I can now afford.

The best joke is, they did such a poor job of removing one of my trees (the grapefruit) that it actually grew back from the root stock, which was a very durable sour orange. We had hundreds of them each season for a while, but they’re not much use for peeling-and-eating like grapefruit. Guido used them for sauces and marinades, and we gave them away by the dozen.  That tree eventually perished on its own. Last winter I replaced it with a young ruby red.

So soon, when anybody asks me why I despise government so much, I can spit a grapefruit seed in their eye.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 7 Comments