Superman Dies

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Today the Man of Steel rallied, briefly. The Kryptonite drip to his arm numbed the pain and wracked his body, but for five seconds his x-ray vision worked. He scanned the indestructible prostate tumor that was killing him. Ugh. Not unlike Bizarro’s face. But why not, when he was 95? Today also he had misjudged his super strength and turned a bedpan into a pancake. The nurses’ buzzer he had mashed into molecules days earlier. The old super powers were erratic if they functioned at all. A stronger Kryptonite drip would kill him. He thought, come on, Kryptonite.

Over the last decade his super feats had not been well received. His construction of a fence along the Mexican border with 10 billion aluminum pop cans was called a silly stunt. His solving the global warming crisis by hauling glaciers from Neptune across space had only enraged the environmentalists. The administration said it didn’t need a senior citizen to hunt down terrorists, and the vice president said the Axis of Evil — Poison Ivy, Lex Luthor, and Mr. Freeze — had been brought to justice. If he wanted, the VP added, he could go after the Penguin, who was implicated in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, but why didn’t he just retire?

His prostate cried for attention when he hit 87. He was in the Fortress of Solitude working on his autobiography, the chapter on Ma Kent’s delicious homemade fruit pies. Suddenly he felt a stabbing pain in his gut and an attack of weakness, as if a lump of Kryptonite lay close by. The pain never went away and his powers started to fail. As a nonagenarian the Geezer of Steel could hardly fly, and banged about Metropolis like a large, drunken moth. Exhausted at the end of each day, he fell in bed in Kent’s apartment. Kent, a loner, was utterly isolated. Lois had died of breast cancer in 1988, Jimmy had overdosed a year later. Perry White had been entombed since 1977. No one cared about mild-mannered Kent. In fact, no one believed in him.

The day before his ninety-fifth birthday he finally discarded Kent. He donated the reporter’s wardrobe to AMVETS and went in to work the next morning as Superman. No one at the Daily Planet raised an eyebrow. He had blown his cover years ago in a pre-cancer series of senior moments. There was the time he came to the office with his shirt unbuttoned and his big red S showing. Another time he stepped out the fifteenth-floor office window to catch a cab. A few coworkers snickered at these faux pas, but they only confirmed what everyone already knew. Never a sick day in decades, come on. Turning down medical coverage until it was mandatory, uh huh. Kent had effectively died around 1965, and Superman might just as well have been himself beginning then. But he couldn’t erase Kent from his mind. Although he typed at his desk in full heroic spandex on his ninety-fifth birthday, he didn’t talk to anyone unless they called him Clark. Two weeks later he collapsed at the copier and rode an ambulance to the hospital.

Admirers came, and sometimes he was alert enough to speak with them. Batman stumbled in on a walker. The Caped Crusader told him Spiderman lay in a nursing home with bedsores from neglect, the Green Lantern wore Depends, and Wonder Woman’s closet was full of pointy bras she’d never need again. He enjoyed Batman’s visit, but it tired him. All the celebrities and fans tired him. When Obama arrived, he turned his face to the wall. Superman instructed the hospital to bar all further visits. Superman, he told them to say, was having a bad day.

At the end the Man of Steel found no peace. The Man of Tomorrow didn’t take ‘er easy. The Strange Visitor from Another Planet couldn’t chill. Thing was, he left no legacy. There were no super kids to follow in his footsteps, and he would shortly be forgotten. It wasn’t for want of trying. Lois the lesbian had checked his advances, and then for a brief time, without any protection, and only to perpetuate his name, he had been as Wilt Chamberlain to all comers. But that was years ago, and he had heard of no youths running 3-second miles or leaping over buildings. Had he shot blanks? Was his seed incompatible with the earthly egg? Were all these human hags barren?

Dozing, Superman felt an unfamiliar presence. Opening his eyes, he found a large youth standing in his semi-private room. Brown-skinned and badly overweight, he had that signature ringlet of hair hanging over his forehead. Could it be? He was saying something. Superman thought he heard “I flew here as soon as I got word, dad.” But was this really his offspring, or some con artist trying to get his hands on Kent’s pension and the royalties to I Am Superman?

He waved the young man to his bedside. The lad waddled over. Then the Patient of Steel, with his last strength, grabbed the four-foot, 75-pound green oxygen tank by his bedside and smacked the kid’s cranium with it like Bonds hitting a homer. The guy’s head came right off.

No son of mine, thought Superman, and died.

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Things Dead People Can Do

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As determined by a forensic medical examiner, golfer Ted Mintzer was struck on the head and killed instantly by a golf ball on the fifth green at Burrowing Owl Golf Course in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, but went on lining up his putt. He three-putted for a bogey, not bad for a stiff. After that he caught fire, playing the best round of his life, though dead. When friends in the clubhouse told him he’d set a new course record, the now still golfer got as excited as a block of clay.

*****

A woman passed away of natural causes just as she hit the snooze button on her alarm clock. The next buzz nine minutes later failed to rouse her, and finally, dead, she got up already half an hour late to work. Cursing, she dressed, went out to scrape the snow from her car, got in and tried to start it. When it wouldn’t start, she slumped forward in the driver’s seat, cold as a mound of slush.

*****

A male pedestrian died quickly when struck in the head by a brick tossed from a moving vehicle, but he gave chase to the car and screamed obscenities at the laughing teenage passengers for several blocks until all the blood drained from his body and he sat down on the curb a wasted husk, never more to move.

*****

Don, ticket taker at Lollapalooza 2007, accepted a pair of admission tickets from a teen couple dead for hours from drug overdose. “My suspicions were aroused when neither of them blinked after I told them Coldplay had cancelled,” he said. “In fact, they didn’t show any emotion at all. I had security follow them in.” The deceased teens boogied until late in the evening, then strolled into the shower tent. Rigor mortis hit them under the nozzles, and they fell out like two sacks of hardening concrete.

*****

A woman thrown through the windshield of her car lost her brain and was dead as a broom handle. Still she managed to accompany friends to cash in a lottery ticket worth five hundred dollars and shout “Yowsa!” before she collapsed like a rickety bridge.

*****

A man sliced in half by a rocket went to a movie (top half) and took a scenic hike (bottom half) before he finally keeled over (both halves).

*****

A man killed in a flash after driving a nail into a 100,000 volt wire near his home went to a bar and drank “one last cold one” before he sank to the barroom floor as rigid as a stuffed owl. He still owes the bartender for that beer.

*****

Vera Hatfield of Springfield, Illinois died of starvation after playing video games for 5 days straight without eating, but continued to work her X-Box for an additional 72 hours before she dropped to the floor with some body parts already starting to rot.

*****

A man trying to run across an expressway was struck by a semi as soon as he stepped off the shoulder. He died instantly but continued on, with several more vehicles buffeting him and rendering him almost unrecognizable, until at last he achieved the opposite side. There he gave a thumb’s up to no one in particular and fell over the guardrail into some tall weeds, where he slept the Big Sleep.

*****

An airline pilot died of heart failure after narrowly missing a control tower, but managed to land his craft safely and bed a stewardess in a hotel room — both on “autopilot” — before turning blue as the sky and blank as a sheet.

*****

A 65-year-old woman died of a stroke while bowling. She appeared to revive when a teammate administered smelling salts, but she was really dead, and she wouldn’t quit bowling until she achieved a new personal best score. “I knew I could do it!” she crowed when success came 30 minutes after her death. Then she crumpled over and lay face-up in the right-hand gutter, about as frisky as a broiled scrod.

*****

Flight 712 crashed into the sea and all 86 passengers were killed in the blink of an eye. Nonetheless they all escaped the wrecked plane and, in their various states of dismemberment and drowning, swam to a nearby tropical island. They were “rescued” by a US Navy vessel two weeks later in advanced states of decomposition, but not before sharks had eaten a dozen of them and natives speared ten more.

*****

30-year-old Todd Morse gave up the ghost choking on a hotdog at a Cincinnati Bengals game. But he refused to stop watching the game since the Bengals were actually leading at the half. When the team pulled further ahead in the second with no hope of being caught, he jumped into the aisle pumping his arms and sailed headfirst down a flight of concrete steps. The fall actually revived him somewhat, and he had a near death experience. He beheld soft white lights and heard a comforting voice urging him to rise up and savor his team’s victory. But he remained a goner and in two days was six feet under.

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Advice From A Lebanese Home Remodeler

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Q. I’m redoing my twin sons’ small (2x2x3 meters) bedroom to make it more livable for them. I’ve repainted and bought new wood furniture including bunk beds. My question is, what kind of rockets should I put in the room? The boys, aged 8, have fired off all their old Kassams, which they liken to flying car mufflers, and are begging for the powerful Raad missiles that they saw on Al-Manar, even though they understand Raads are hard to come by. The master bedroom and living room both contain Katyushas, and I’m wondering if I should stick with the Katyusha motif for the kids.

A. As a rule of thumb, the shorter-range armaments are the more practical and economical. If you already have Katyushas in your other rooms, you should stick with them. Tell your sons that they will be as the claws of a mighty lion with the tested and true Katyushas by their sides, and that the Raad is much too big to fit in their room. Katyushas come in several decorator colors, by the way, and fit in well with any motif.

Q. I’m building a garage for my old truck, clearing the ground of rocks and brush and gathering materials. Do you recommend a wooden or a stone structure?

A. It only matters that your garage is wide and tall enough to conceal a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher. The ten-barrel launcher for small rockets, a simple device that can be mounted on even the oldest truck, is a welcome addition to any garage.

Q. My basement takes in water after rains fall in the rocky slopes behind my house. It’s nothing serious, just a damp floor and some mildew, but my young daughter sleeps down there with our Fajr-3 mid-range missile. I’ve moved the Fajr-3 upstairs and covered it to look like a sofa to avoid water damage to its circuitry, but now my little girl can’t sleep without her beloved missile by her side and cries pitiably through the night. Any tips on waterproofing my basement so that I can give my baby back her missile?

A. An outside retaining wall with a row of drainage tile along the base may solve the moisture problem, but you may still be leaving your loved ones exposed to Daisy Cutters. With simple but clever construction, you can easily turn your basement into a rock-solid bunker that’s also waterproof. Iranian stonemasons are particularly ingenious at this type of work, and I’m sure there are many in your town whom you may contact.

Q. I’m thinking of redoing the interior of my study. The faux oak fiberboard I have in place now doesn’t do justice to my hanging portraits of Khalil Gibran and won’t even stop a tank shell. Any suggestions?

A. I’d go with interlocking concrete bricks reinforced by 10 cm-thick sheets of solid steel. These are wonderful backdrops for Gibran and will block penetration by either tank or jet-launched projectile.

Q. My entire home was flattened recently during a bombardment, and I’d like to prevent this from happening again. My wives have picked out a Cali Bamboo privacy fence, but I’m thinking I need something more. I mean, our problem is not that we’re on a Pacific island and beset by Peeping Toms. We’re getting bombs dropped on our heads. Can you recommend anything that will keep us concealed while we dig ourselves out of the rubble and rebuild?

A. The safest thing is to wear blue UN helmets while you work. But nothing is foolproof except G-d.

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Problems in Evolutionary Theory

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Before I tackle the tough questions on evolution sent in to me here at Lonesome Pine Science Review Online, let me remind my readers that there are essentially two evolutionary problems. I call them the hard problem and the soft problem. The hard problem is how life got started at all. The soft problem is how it kept going after that. I have given endless thought and work to the hard problem in particular. Every morning I wake up and confront the hard problem. Let’s ignore the obvious joke coming up here, if it’s not too late, and jump straight to your questions.

A talented young lady writes us: What good is an appendix?

Not much these days, dear, but in the Pleistocene Era when Nixon was president, the organ actually hung outside the stomach like a lizard’s tail, and could be broken off and devoured as a delicious, quick protein pick-me-up. Usually you broke off and devoured your own appendix, but it was perfectly acceptable for a family member or close friend to reach over and snap off your appendix and devour it, too. After all, they were with you in the hard game of survival, and a timely appendix treat during a dangerous hunt or exhausting berry roundup provided a real boost. Modern man has lost this characteristic due to the advent of convenience stores, and the appendix has retreated into the interior of the abdomen, out of reach. Man still hungers for appendix but now can only get it on Thursdays at Ponderosa.

An immature boy writes: Why do men have nipples?

Same reason women do, son. Sure, it’s a thin, tasteless gruel that dad produces, and prehistoric fathers nursed only in the most hardscrabble times, but male breasts can come through in a draught or if mom goes hysterical and dries up. Even today, in the library or supermarket, I’ve seen mateless male parents pull out their flat chests and, by squeezing and grunting, produce a dusty, weak meal for junior to suck down. It isn’t clear if the law in all states permits nursing pops to do so in public, but I was in Ohio, a hotbed of decency, and it’s OK there. Tell you what, though. After seeing what dribbled out of an hombre’s teat one day last week in an Ohio Target store, if I were a kid I’d prefer a woman every time.

A conscientious objector writes: We humans only use around 10 to 15 percent of our brains. On the job I have — recycling discount coupons for a grocery store chain — I use maybe only 2 to 3 percent of that. So that’s about three or four pounds of useless gray matter I’m carrying around in my oversized skull, and the same goes for everybody. What’s the point, according to evolutionary theory? Why lug excess brain and head around, when we only need brains the size of tater tots and heads not much bigger? Without all that extra brain and bone, we might be able to jump farther or dive better or something else useful.

No mystery here, guy. Man needs a good-sized head to keep his eyes apart. Next question.

A free spirit writes: What’s the point in being conscious? It seems to me that I do most of my worrying and fretting conscious, and most of the pain and nausea I feel is a result of my being conscious, so why did nature do this to me?

You’ve put your finger on it, friend. The main function of the brain is to turn all sensory input of any kind into shocking, revolting fear. Fear so bad you shake all over and sweat at night. All visual, auditory, and tactile sensations — raw feels, as we scientists call them — are but the beginnings of outlandish, unavoidable, irreducible terror and fear. Fear of everything, terror at all! Once you understand that, you can begin to relax.

Now, it is true that a very, very small part of our brains gives rise to the incredibly profound and abstract thoughts that separate us from the beasts. I mean such deep ratiocinations as “Electric fences make good neighbors,” and “What’s Jennifer Aniston up to right now?” Yet even these profundities cause suffering. In fact, I’m just about worried to death over Jennifer, and if I don’t see her in ten movies and on six magazine covers a week, I can’t hold down my food.

An uncut cowboy writes: How did language evolve, and why?

Well, pard, consider a guy I know named Ralph. Ralph uses language every time he opens his mouth, unless he’s chewing his cud. Roughly, this is what goes on with Ralph. There are two areas in Ralph’s brain, Broca’s area and Werneicke’s area, both named after Swiss physiologists who meant it when they said “Let me pick your brain.” In effect, Wernneicke’s area goes first, offering up a rough draft of what Ralph wants to say, and then Broca’s rewrites it and hands a polished version to Ralph to read out loud. The two areas split the joint fee that Ralph pays them fifty-fifty.

Now, one day Ralph’s Werneicke’s area wanted to say “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” It also wanted to say “Pairs figure skating is between a man and a woman,” since it knew Ralph was running for office, and it wanted to help Ralph poll well. But Ralph’s Broca’s area refused to go along with these statements, since it secretly supported a gay rights amendment to the Constitution. In fact, the two areas of Ralph’s brain belonged to different political parties. The areas exchanged words, and then things got ugly. Broca’s area enlisted Ralph’s right arm to sock Ralph right in the Wernicke’s area, and Wernicke’s area persuaded Ralph’s left arm to slug Ralph right in the Broca’s area. The US Supreme Court is now hearing the case, the areas having decided to sue each other over assault and marriage issues. It’s impossible to say how the court will rule, due to Kennedy’s swing vote and Roberts’s recusal.

To generalize, Werneicke’s area allows you to shoot off your mouth with your foot in it, and Broca’s area allows you to shoot yourself in the foot every time you open your mouth. Thanks to this, man has survived as a species.

That’s all I have space for today. Be sure to email me your questions for next week’s topic: Hearsay on the Heuristics of Hermeneutics.

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If We Laughed At Brilliance The Way We Laugh At Idiocy

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Franklin did the trick with his hands where his thumb appeared to separate at the joint.

“Pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw!” laughed Jefferson, slapping his thigh and then wiping spittle from his grinning mouth. “That’s as funny a sight as a mule wearing slippers, Ben.”

As usual, the two philosophers were the center of attention at the Peacock and Hen.

Now it was Jefferson’s turn to crack wise. “Do you know, Ben, that I hold certain truths to be self-evident, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”

“Har har har har har har har! Oh har har har-dy har har!” laughed Franklin, as ale shot ballistically from his nose. “What a poke at the Tories, Tom!”

*****

Lincoln picked up an apple from the table before him, removed a large knife from the table drawer, and in under a minute had peeled the skin from the apple in a continuous spiral.

“Ta ta ta ta ta ta tee tee tee tee ta ta ta tah!” laughed his somewhat demented wife Mary Todd, who never failed to be amused by this. “Oh Abe, you’re funnier than a bad haircut.”

“Now listen to this,” Lincoln told her. “Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta tee tee tee ta tah!” Merriment filled Mrs. Lincoln’s crossed eyes with tears. “Four score? Criminy, Abe. Who’d you get that from, Artemus Ward?”

*****

Lighting a fresh Blackstone panatela in his Schenectady lab, Steinmetz displayed his latest invention to Edison. “This will alter civilization, Tom.” Reaching into a desk drawer, the German-born engineer pulled out a metal coil that he set at the top of some steps. He tipped it over, and an amazed Edison watched it cascade down the flight a step at a time.

“He he he he he woo woo woo woo ha ha ha!” laughed Edison, delighted by the toy.

“Here’s another,” said Steinmetz. Throwing a switch, he stunned and blinded his co-inventor with a flash of artificial lightning.

“Ho ho ho ho he he he he woo woo woo ha!” the reeling but tickled Edison burst out once more. “Lordy, Charles, I haven’t laughed so hard since my aunt Gertie scorched her hand on one of my white-hot tungsten filaments.”

*****

Fermi finished telling a joke to Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. “…and so the priest said to the rabbi, ‘How did I know pork had a half-life of ten years?'”

Oppie removed the cigarette from his mouth. “Haw haw haw haw ho ho ho he he he!” he snickered. “You slay me, Enrico.”

“And get this,” said Fermi. “Back at my Chicago lab, I’ve created the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reactor.”

“Haw haw haw haw haw haw! Ah ah he he he hoo!” Oppie chuckled until he started coughing. “That one nearly did kill me,” he said, lighting another cigarette. “Listen, the other day I came across something really hilarious in the Bhagavadgita…”

*****

After the war FDR, Churchill, and Stalin swapped yarns at Yalta. “I have one!” said the Soviet Supreme Leader, who liked a joke as much as the next tyrant. “Guess what is this.” Pulling up his jacket and shirt, he placed his hands on either side of his deep navel and made it open and close rhythmically by squeezing and then releasing the surrounding plump flesh. To the stumped expressions of the two democratic world leaders he then cried out, “It’s a female hurdler seen from below, comrades!”

FDR cracked a smile, removed the cigarette holder from between his lips, and began laughing. “Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut tut tut!” He was so contorted by mirth that he almost stood up from his wheelchair.

Churchill, catching the mood, also laughed freely. “A-ha ha ha, a-ha ha ha, a-ha ha ha.” Then, it being the Prime Minister’s turn to amuse, he said with a serious expression, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Stalin’s face froze. FDR relit his cigarette. Had Churchill gone too far? But then the Man of Steel’s face split into a huge grin and he shook like a bear. “Wa wa ha ha wa wa ha ha wa wa ha ha wa wa ha! That’s good, Winston! Hey, vodka!”

*****

Plath sat on the arm of the sofa upon which Hughes reclined. When he looked up at her over the edge of his book, he saw that she had suspended a teaspoon from the end of her nose.

“Woo woo woo woo woo woo wah wah wah!” came Ted’s peculiar English laugh, his body shaking.

“Is there no way out of the mind?” Sylvia posed.

“Woo woo woo woo woo woo wha wha woo!” Ted helplessly sprayed saliva onto his book and began pounding the sofa cushions with his fist. For all her manic depression Sylvia sure had a socko delivery.

*****

“Who am I?” said John Watson to Francis Crick, putting on a fake nose and bushy eyebrows mask.

“La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la!” giggled Crick, dropping a test tube. “By the way,” he said, calming a bit, “have you seen Rosalind’s X-rays? It’s a double helix.” He burst anew into giggles.

“A double helix! A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho ha ha ha ho!” Watson doubled over, laughing. “Oh Francis, working with you here at the Cavendish lab is like sharing the stage with Jack Benny.”

*****

Dewey, Garry, and Dan, having just formed the rock trio America, were in the studio composing songs.

Dewey, smiling, strummed his guitar and sang, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no mane…”

“A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho hoo hoo hoo!” laughed Gerry. “A bald horse!”

His face straight, Dewey said, “A horse with no name?”

“A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho hoo hoo hoo ha!” laughed Dan. “An anonymous horse! That’s even stupider!”

“A-ho ho ho ho ha ha ha ho ho ho haha ho ha! That’s a take!” said the producer, convulsed.

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Why I Like Illegal Aliens

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It isn’t just that illegal aliens will do jobs Americans won’t do. But of course they will. They will pick fruit, wash cars, wait tables, perform colonoscopies, design computers and test weapons systems, sometimes for hours on end in the brutal heat of a hospital examination room or the hurtling, pressurized cockpit of a jet fighter. You and I couldn’t do that, my friend. Don’t even say you could.

But illegals also read the books Americans won’t read: Orwell’s 1984, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Beckett’s Trilogy, even the works of snarky French postmodern novelist Robert Pinget. You won’t find any Americans willing to put up the endless effort involved in wading through these fiendishly difficult tomes from cover-to-cover. Real Americans read Grisham and Steele and other page-turning lightweights. Only our Hispanic brethren are willing to submerge themselves in the murky, Rio Grande-like depths of governmental theory and experimental fiction, and come up smiling. And they do it, for the most part, with less than a high school education and no fluency in English, and often right after scaling fences in Texas and Arizona and running from border guards and vigilante groups. That’s determination, paisano. You don’t have that fund of determination, and neither do I.

And illegals from across our southern border also watch the TV reruns Americans won’t watch. Reruns of Leave It to Beaver, reruns of Ozzie and Harriet, reruns also of Fury, the Story of a Horse, and of The Phil Silvers Show, and musty old footage of Mr. Peepers, The Danny Kaye Show, and Chico and the Man. No American will watch tripe like that. No American is that desperate for a good time, or that hard and tough. I know personally a Mexican immigrant of questionable legal status who watched bad American TV shows all day long without complaint: Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, even My Little Margie, in black and white no less. Never did he once change the channel until he found out he could. After that he tuned in Everybody Loves Raymond right away, just like an American, but I still give him unlimited credit for viewing an entire season of Burke’s Law without once griping or becoming ill. And a man who can watch Burke’s Law can also watch Mod Squad without breaking his back or bleeding to death. What’s more, he’ll get up the next day and do it all over again, and then write his family in Guatemala about it. I’ve seen it done, citizen, but not by you or me.

I could go on and on about the unpleasant things that illegals do for you and me in America, and for which we should be truly grateful: illegals drive the cars that Americans will not drive, wear the shoes that Americans will not wear, vote for the politicians that Americans will not vote for, obey the laws that Americans will not obey, and inhale the marijuana that Americans will not inhale. Illegals speak the languages Americans will not speak, attend the schools that Americans will not attend, join the armed forces that Americans will not join, drop the nukes that Americans will not drop, drink the water that American citizens will not touch a drop of, and use the public restrooms that the American public will not go near. And for this they deserve our thanks. We really could use millions more of them.

But perhaps nothing is more praiseworthy than the undocumented impressionists in our comedy clubs who do impressions of ancient Aztecs and Old World Spanish explorers that American impressionists will not even begin to impersonate. They’ll do archaic Mayans too, on request. I’ve seen aliens right here at the Go Bananas nightclub in Cincinnati, Ohio, smack dab in the American Midwest, take the stage at night and do a flawless Montezuma. In practically the same breath, they’ll turn right around and do a perfect Cortez. If the applause is right, they’ll throw in a passable King Quetzalcoatl from Chichen Itza. These are guys whose day job is picking apples in an orchard or teaching calculus at a two-year college, my friend. I couldn’t do it, and neither could you. Not even if we were comedians. I wouldn’t even try. I get torn ligaments and a sore throat just thinking about it.

For these reasons I propose the following immigration measure: after they have lived in our country and used our worst products and done our most unpopular jobs for 75 years, all the illegal aliens, most of whom I have met and like, must return home to touch base. They must then turn around and come right back, if they’re not too old. Anything more is xenophobia, anything less is amnesty.

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The Harder the Better

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I resolved that instead of making something easier, I would make something harder. — Soren Kierkegaard.

Tried putting on my pants two legs at a time, holding them by the waist and then jumping into them. Ruined three pairs and then gave up, fearing I would soon have nothing to wear to church except my Bermuda shorts.

Wrote through the night with a pen that has a split nib. Ink flowed everywhere, and I had to dip the pen in the well after each word. By morning I was a mass of blue stains and couldn’t read one word of my scribbling. It was great.

Meeting Martensen on the square, I fell in with him, walking backwards as he continued frontwards, so that we proceeded together while facing in opposite directions. My stepping thus appeared to disconcert Martensen, who, however, mentioned only that I was barefoot on the coldest day of the year. Did the icy flagstones not sting my feet? he wished to know. Did they ever! But I said nothing. When we finished our conversation, which concerned Hegel’s use of adverbs, I hopped home on one leg for the heck of it.

Shaved with my left hand this morning. What does the loss of a piece of one’s nose amount to, sub specie aeternitatis?

Forced myself to sing all the hymns at church today in falsetto. This proved painful to my throat, and caused many to fix on me an uncomprehending gaze. But it was more than worth it in soul points.

Read The Phenomenology in my study by propping up the opened book on the windowsill while I sat in a chair twenty feet away. Besides having to squint at the text for all I was worth, I had to cross the room every time I wanted to turn the page. After an hour, I increased the difficulty by placing the book upside down. Hallelujah!

Played two-handed gin with Bishop Mynster at his home this evening. After losing the first five games, the good Bishop took exception to my dealing the cards with my chin, saying it took too long and possibly was cheating. I explained that I did it only to develop my spirit, and he seemed satisfied, but he insisted anyway on looking down my collar for hidden cards. Praise the Lord, none were there tonight.

Paid a prostitute to spread the word that she had lain with me, though she had not. With luck, the story will make it into society, ruin my reputation, and turn my engagement into a long, dismal affair. Indeed, Regine may have to slap me in public to save her good name. Here’s hoping!

In a restaurant, I showed my waitress those items on the menu that I did not want, rather than those I did. She lost patience and left me, sending over a just-hired girl. In future I must remember to pain only myself, and not others. Still, I left no tip.

Took a good, strong laxative before heading out to the theater to see a comedy. Once there, I sat in several wrong seats before an usher finally escorted me to mine. I heard some gratifying tittering at my expense, no doubt about the “disoriented drunken party.” By the middle of the first act I sat folded over in cramp and broke a steady wind. If those around me put it down to merriment, so much the better.

Spent all day Saturday without once opening my eyes. What an unfamiliar place one’s own home becomes when one cannot see! Sustained quite a nasty cut inserting my hand into what I thought was my desk, but was instead my knife drawer. Then I went headlong against some stairs, thinking they should have descended when in fact they ascended. Most embarrassing of all, as I returned from a blind walk, I entered not my home but my neighbor’s, who raised a fuss when I interrupted her bath.

I resolved to raise all my own vegetables, hunt down my own meat, and manufacture my own wine. I decided on venison steak with boiled potatoes for supper, with a nice bottle of chardonnay. I then calculated that by the time I planted, harvested and cooked the potatoes, hunted, killed, cut, seasoned and fried the deer, raised, cultivated, and pressed my grapes, allowed them to ferment into wine, and then bottled the result, it would be six to eight weeks before I had dinner on the table, given luck on the hunt and a good growing season with plenty of sunshine and rain. By then I would most likely have a massive headache from not eating. I gave up in despair and told my manservant to bring me some of last night’s leg of lamb warmed up and a chilled bottle of 1847 Lafitte. Tomorrow I’ll try to forge myself some garden tools.

Swallowed my communion wafer whole without moistening it in my mouth first, then turned blue with choking. Hope you enjoyed it, God.

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Bobby’s Next Move

By:

I, Robert James “Bobby” Fischer, undefeated Chess Champion of the World, issue the following statement to chess match organizers and chess fans the world over, to the World Chess Federation (FIDE), and to all interested media.

Last Tuesday, while shopping at my local Mandarake’s in Tokyo for a pair of mentalist-proof sunglasses, I found a hand-held chess computer in the toy aisle. Labeled in English as the “Saitek Chess Samurai, Ages 7-12, 2 C-cells not included, 130 yen,” it impressed me at once as a powerful opponent worthy of my skills. I therefore propose to come out of seclusion and play a match against this fighting chess machine, provided the following conditions are met:

The Japanese release me from the holding cell where they put me last Friday due to my expired passport, and stop threatening to deport me to the U.S.

The match will be billed as the Fischer-Saitek Chess Samurai Match to Determine Once and for All: Who is Smarter, Man or Computer?

It will not be a title match. I, Robert Fischer, Chess Champion of the World, retain this title regardless of the outcome of the match. Nor does the match have anything to do with my being without a country or having no money at this time.

The winner of the match receives 10 million U.S. dollars and political asylum in the Philippines. The loser gets some replacement batteries and a carrying case with a strap.

All games must end prior to 3:00 p.m. (Japanese time), so that Robert Fischer may watch his favorite TV show, Hal & Bons. The World Champion refuses to miss an episode of these two amazing clay dogs talking to a rice cake.

Neither player will make whirring, clicking, or humming noises during a game. If this occurs, the Referee will warn the offending player. If the player ignores the Referee’s first warning, that player forfeits the game. Note: A player may use the optional plug-in power adapter (not included) and plug himself into a wall outlet instead of using batteries. However, the same warning rule applies if the plugged-in player then issues smoke or bursts into flames.

In the event that either player becomes ill, the match is postponed until both players are in good health. However, if World Champion Fischer drops the hand-held Samurai chess computer, and the flimsy machine breaks, the match continues without pause. If the broken Samurai is unable to play on, it forfeits all scheduled games until it is repaired. Note: Only the original chess-playing toy may continue the match. At no stage of the match may a new toy take the place of a broken toy. World Champion Fischer promises to do his best to hold the Chess Samurai tightly during play.

It would disrupt World Champion Fischer’s concentration if the Samurai’s batteries were replaced during the course of a game. Therefore, in the event that the Samurai’s batteries wear down or die during a game, these are not to be replaced and the power-depleted computer must finish the game in progress without batteries as best it can.

There will be no TV cameras and no spectators in the playing area. I, Robert Fischer, Chess Champion of the World, will describe every move and every psychological ploy via live satellite hookup, so there is no need of other witnesses. I will also function as Referee, since I’m human, and the Referee should probably be human.

The winner of the match will be the first player to achieve two wins. Draws will not count, and since World Champion Fischer has not played in a while and needs to warm up, neither will the first 10 games count.

For the duration of the match, Gary Kasparov is not allowed to play Deep Blue, Deep Junior, X3D Fritz or any other chess-playing program to divert the world’s attention away from the Fischer-Saitek Chess Samurai Match.

To ensure quiet and privacy, the match will take place in an orbiting space station. There must be plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit aboard the station, as well as chilled Evian bottled water. Also, send sandwiches. I’m hungry.

With these rules in place the match should be a chess event to remember. Those interested in sponsoring such a match may reply to:

Bobby Fischer

c/o Department of Immigration, Holding Area

Tokyo, Japan

P.S. You’re next, X-Box Tournament Paintball.

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Great Writers, Too Much Coffee

By:

Kafka

It was late evening when K. arrived. The village lay under deep snow. There was no sign of his hotel, fog and darkness surrounded everything, not even the faintest gleam of light suggested the adjoining tavern that was supposed to stay open all night. Suddenly a door opened before K. and in the light a busty ski bunny appeared, beckoning to him with a foaming stein. “Excuse, me, sir,” she said. “We’re having a wet dirndl contest and need a judge, can you help us?” “I can do this,” K. thought with relief, hastening to follow her in.

Nabokov

Lo-lee-ta. The tip of the tongue shoots out beyond the lips, touches the tip of the nose and then the end of the chin, and snaps back with a wet smacking sound beneath crossed eyes.

Mary Shelley

A flash of lightning illuminated the object and discovered its shape plainly to me: the pate bald but for a single tuft of hair that stuck straight up, the white complexion, the huge lips of red greasepaint, the round putty nose. Then as I watched, the creature began to juggle three oranges.

Poe

The thousand injuries of Fortunado I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. Cornering him in my wine cellar on the pretense of showing him a rare bottle of Amontillado, I waved my hand in his face in such fashion that his eyes fluttered to follow its birdlike movements. Then I slapped him upon one cheek, with such force that he turned to me the other, which I then slapped likewise, and so on again and again, so that his head twisted from side to side with my slaps. Tiring of that, I popped him on the sconce, this causing his head to retract and his round belly to come forward. Then I popped him on the belly, so that this rotundity withdrew and the head came forward once more, whereupon I continued to pop him head and belly in alternation so that he bent to and fro as if bowing to me. Finally, for good measure, I poked him in the eyes with my index and middle fingers simultaneously.

Melville

Captain Ahab stood erect upon his barbaric white leg, looking straight out beyond the ship’s ever-pitching prow. For a long while he spoke not, but seemed to contemplate the grim plight of mankind. Then suddenly he broke into a dazzling smile and called out to all on board, “Welcome, shipmates, to your Cancun cruise! Let’s get the party rolling with some grog!”

Tennessee Williams

GENTLEMAN CALLER: So, what do you do for fun?

LAURA: Let me show you my collection of glass animals.

(Laura stands, trips over the pillow she has been sitting on, and sails across the dining room and down the cellar steps, bumping thunderously against each one. She is followed in her descent by the entire glass menagerie that she has upset, the animals raining down upon her and breaking one by one over her head as, wincing with each blow, she sits on the cellar floor where she came to rest.)

Hemingway

Of all the ways to be wounded. I suppose it was funny. One leg permanently hung up in the air like a Rockette executing a high kick. What’s worse, it was inoperable. Brett said she understood that this affected my performance, but what did she know of how a man felt?

Proust

Once I tasted the crumbs of my cookie soaked in tea, a shudder ran through my whole body. Immediately I was in my childhood dentist’s office again, suffering the artless and medieval techniques of the senile and probably self-taught Dr. Borer. As a child with plenty of tooth decay, I used to brush my teeth in a mixture of cookies and tea given to me by my aunt Leonie. No doubt the old bat was unaware that the concoction gave me hundreds of cavities, but damn, what was she thinking? Dr. Borer used to grow white-hot and swear at me, and cuff me in lieu of anesthetic. Tell you one thing: I sure wasn’t going to drink this swill anymore, not when it made me hallucinate like that.

Salinger

I saw myself living by a cliff near a field of rye that kids played in. When the kids ran for the cliff, I’d jump out to save them and they’d die laughing when they saw my big yellow jack-o’-lantern teeth and pointy hump, for I’d be rather eccentric-looking. I’d hand the kids small prizes and run after them honking a horn. Some of them would fall off the cliff anyway, terrified, but they wouldn’t be hurt. I’d be this crazy clown in the rye who the kids called Retardo.

Conan Doyle

I came face to face with Moriarty on the narrow path atop Reichenbach Falls, Watson. I meant to give up my life to stop him, and he was prepared to risk his for revenge. I rushed at him and gripped him, then fell back in amazement when his whole arm came away in my hands. I soon saw that the detached limb was a wooden counterfeit, perfect down to the carved and painted hand, and I noticed too that the professor, his sleeve now empty, was convulsed in laughter.

Austen

“For my own part,” said Miss Bingley, “I must confess that I could never see any beauty in Elizabeth Bennet. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; her nose has no character. And what’s with the fake buck teeth?”

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Quiet, Please!

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Cat’s Club. I’d like to introduce our band, we’re Rick Soloway on bass, Kit Richter on drums, and myself Mike Blaine on piano. Before we get started I’d like to go over a simple ground rule we have for playing out. We ask that you observe a strict silence during our performance. I don’t want to hear anybody ordering food or drink, or any talking or laughing, or any cell phones ringing, or any ice cubes clinking in glasses. It’s time to pay respect to this great music we call jazz. The least disturbance may interfere with our concentration and make it impossible for us to play. Up front in the red jacket, what is your name, sir? Are you the performer here tonight? Then why are you talking so much? You haven’t stopped talking since we came out on stage. Listen up, people. If the band doesn’t get a respectful silence, we ain’t going to play a note. It’s that simple. You want to talk or order food, go elsewhere. All right. Umm, hmm, piano seems to be in tune. We’d like to kick off the set with a Monk number, one of several of Monk’s we plan to play this evening. It’s called ‘Ruby, My Dear.’ Gentlemen, one, two…who is strangling? I think a man whose breathing is that labored should go to the hospital right now. He may require medical treatment that is not available here at Cat’s where a world-class jazz trio is trying to perform. You were just clearing your throat, sir? I see. And are you finished now? Right, then let’s take it again. One, two…yeah, this time we’re into it. It’s smooth, isn’t it? I like to make the high notes twinkle like stars in the night sky. And so far you’re silent, which is good. I myself talk over the band, as you can see, but then it’s my gig. Okay, everyone stop playing. Who’s snapping their fingers? Oh you’re just “getting into” the music, ma’am? Have you joined our band as our new timekeeper? No? Okay then, knock it off. That is a total distraction. How would you like it if I went to your job or to your house and snapped my fingers in front of your coworkers or your guests without the least inhibition and all out of sync? I’m thinking you wouldn’t like it very much. We’re going to pick it up at the drum solo, and I don’t want to hear anyone so much as sniff. One, two…yeah, that’s got it. Digging it there, digging it. Get in on that cymbal. All right, stop right there. You, at the table by the steps. Did you toss a Styrofoam cup down those steps? Did you or did you not, is what I’m asking. You did drop a Styrofoam cup down the steps, but it was an accident? Man, with the acoustics in this place, that cup was audible next door. I could hear a “pock!” each time it bounced off a step. Each one of those “pocks!” cut into my brain like a gunshot. People, you simply have no idea what damage you’re inflicting on my nervous system. I get a distinct pang when I play before people who have no self-control, who are ill-mannered as children, who have no regard for the majesty and sanctity of the music we bring to them, and no respect for the musicians who, often at great personal sacrifice, dedicate their lives to bringing forth the finest jazz sounds of which a musical conglomerate is capable. We’re going to try this one more time, but let me remind you that we’re under no obligation to perform for ingrates and savages. Thank you, I appreciate your consideration this evening. One, two…yeah, okay we’re cookin’. We’re swingin’. This is my favorite part here. This is my favorite part that you, lady back there, just ruined by calling for your check. Everybody stop. I would gladly have paid for the cocktails and dinner of everyone here if only I could have been assured that no one would ruin our performance by calling for their check. Oh you thought you did it as quietly as possible? It sounded to me like you were screaming for you life. Do you know what? We’re leaving now. You save your “aw’s” and “come on’s” for someone else. This ain’t no James Brown act, we’re finished, there’s no coming back. Goodnight. And hold your applause. Nothing upsets me more than applause.

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