* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of well considered jurisprudence. And also pieces like this one from James Warner. Mr. Warner last appeared here in 2005. Good to have you back, sir!

Final Scathing Dissenting Opinions From Antonin Scalia

By: James Warner

We were saddened to hear of the passing of fiery conservative icon and originalist judge Antonin Scalia. Fortunately for those who enjoyed his cantankerous prose, it turns out the justice liked to write dissenting opinions even when on vacation. The following arguments, found in the late Justice’s game bag by a fellow hunter who prefers to remain anonymous, are full of significance for the ongoing Presidential election cycle.


“All you need is love.” — The Beatles

Far from reflecting American majority values, this is the subjective view of four foreign hippies who do not come close to presenting any legal arguments to justify their claim. All you need is a faithful interpretation of the Constitution, reasonably construed and consistently applied would be closer to the truth, and I must confess to also finding it catchier. I respectfully dissent.

“Weird is a side effect of awesome.” — T-shirt

My copy of Noah Webster’s dictionary tells me that in the time of the Founders, “awesome” meant “inspiring solemn and reverential wonder, tinged with fear of the Divine or of natural sublimity,” whereas “weird” simply meant “wayward.” So this statement is best interpreted as meaning that awe will lead us astray. Whether true or not, this maxim has no foundation in American constitutional law, leaving me no choice but to dissent.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” — The Lorax

Whether things get “better” is not my concern. What we have here is a straightforward case of the Once-ler Corporation’s liberty to respond as seen fit to the truffula tree menace. To hold otherwise is to indulge in standardless and usurpatious judicial meddling, adding unnecessarily to the unfair burden already borne by the much-beleaguered thneed industry, and eroding the foundations of our democracy. I dissent.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Bumper sticker

Such vapid and sententious gobbledygook is merely a smokescreen for the aggrandizement of judicial power, warping of our Constitution, and further advancement of the homosexual agenda. The unmeasured and misdirected arrogance of such an assumption of power, designed to subject our people to the out-of-control hegemony of activist mullah-judges, takes the breath away and boils the blood. I dissent.

“You gotta fight for your right to party.” — The Beastie Boys

This so-called right, unsupported in reason and ludicrous in application, is to be found neither in the longstanding traditions of our great Republic, nor in the text of the divinely inspired Second Amendment. At the risk of repeating myself, such wholesale invention of rights undermines the already embarrassingly enfeebled credibility of our judges, committed as these over-reaching obfuscators from second-tier colleges have become to the coarsening of our polity and imposition of minoritarian tyranny. I disrespectfully dissent.

“Rap is not pop. If you call it that, then stop.” — A Tribe Called Quest

My dictionary defines “rap” as a lay or skein containing a hundred and twenty yards of yarn, and “pop” as a brief explosive sound. Although there may be disagreement as to whether these two words are interchangeable, the only issue with any pertinence is whether the statement is supportable as an interpretation of our immutable and holy Constitution. You would have to be a jackass to think that it is, hence I angrily dissent.

“Don’t be evil.” — Google motto

I find this to be erroneous on numerous grounds, objecting among other things to the formulation of a standard so vague that it produces rather than eliminates uncertainty under most imaginable circumstances. It takes more than woo-woo aspirations of indeterminate content, pronounced with outrageous smugness and bereft of any reference to case law, to produce desirable concrete results, hence I furiously dissent.

“#TypeOneDirectionWithYourNose” — Hashtag

This is a strange jurisprudence indeed. We have traveled far from the sober and subtly cadenced arguments of Justice John Marshall and are lurching instead towards the naked imposition of homosexuality by willful, superannuated courts that sap the vitality of our traditions and insult our democratic process. I have never typed anything with my nose, and have no intention of starting now, hence I passionately dissent.

“You’ve eaten all the toothpaste again.” — Sext

If this suggestion isn’t what the kids today refer to as gammon and tilly-tally, I’ll eat my bonnet. Not only does it lack any substantive dimension, but I find it imponderable in its application to real-world events, an invitation to unprincipled experiment that flies in the face of righteousness, encouraging sandal-wearing apostates to wage a Kulturkampf against the proud traditions of our Holy Catholic Church. I devoutly dissent.

“Being gay is like glitter, it never goes away.” — Lady Gaga

My dictionary defines “gay” as “happy,” and “glitter” as those shiny mica flakes once commonly used in cave paintings. One can only wish that the state of happiness were indeed as permanent as a Paleolithic mural, but since extravagance of thought and expression are no substitute for the rigorous analysis of legally operative texts, I find this disedifying argument to be as mistaken as it is theologically unprecedented. I hereby denounce its author as a heretic and consign her to eternal hellfire.

“You only regret the things you didn’t do.” — Fridge magnet

This insinuation boils down to little more than praise of novelty as an end in itself. It is a maxim as indefensible in theory as it is unworkable in practice, and acting on it would risk a massive disruption of the social order. And yet the main reason I have decided utterly to repudiate it is that I myself have no regrets, being infallible. Although it is a little poignant to reflect that I never sang in Der Rosenkavalier, and perhaps I could also have eaten more broccoli.




Mickey Mouse Fights Bugs Bunny In Vegas, As Reported On By Norman Mailer

By: James Warner

The likelihood was that no city but Vegas could have contained a spiritual conflict of these dimensions.

Which was why your correspondent, let’s call him Mailer, was in Vegas. When Mailer took his seat, Bugs was already inhabiting the ring, shadowboxing, winning some cheers from the crowd. Vegas is Bunny territory, except of course that the Mob were for Mickey. But the existential money, hot diggity damn, was on Bugs.

Donald and Daffy, the trainers, were both ducks, which must have portended something, Mailer thought, in these apocalyptic times, but now Mickey was strutting into his corner and opening combat, with a psychological gambit. He blew a raspberry.

Bugs just smiled, like the outlaw he is. There is something mythical, even apocryphal about him.

While what spoke loudest about Mickey was his blackness. Mickey sold out to the corporate execs long ago, but here we enter the terrain of high contradictions, because Mickey still has enough fighting instinct that he would sooner succumb to a knockout blow than to a suburban plastic smear campaign, our more usual, deadening, American fate.

It was Mailer’s theory that Americans no longer punched each other enough. He blamed the feminists.

Now the bell rang for the first round, and while Mickey charged into the center of the ring, Bugs slipped away to the other corner. Mickey followed him and, in the biggest surprise of the first round, smacked Bugs with a baseball bat.

Crazy. No-one expected this super-octane style of attack from Mickey, but then, Mickey can wear opponents out by the ease with which he reinvents himself. He’s been a write-in candidate in the last dozen Presidential elections, as have I. To the opponents he vanquishes, Mickey must resemble the Angel of Death, all whipcord and Teflon. Mickey can come close to awing you by his very virility, not to mention his beauty, a beauty that comes close to being a major political fact of our times.

Mickey understands power, and he has more rage in him than Bugs, but Bugs knows in his entrails things that Mickey may have forgotten, that the magical world intrudes on our reality when the stakes are high enough, that to win you must have angels on your side as well as devils. And as the first round ended, Mailer was granted this further nugget of insight, undeniably a subterranean one, that Mickey’s great fault is that he accepts technology.

If so, he was paying a price for it. For it was Bugs who now appeared in charge. The corporations keep recordings of Mickey’s past fights out of circulation, which could have been a problem for Bugs in training, except that Bugs has never relied on technology. Bugs will steal your style and make it your own. He’s a fakir messing with your psychic circuits. He’ll turn your moves inside out for you, and hand them back to you in the form of a revelation. Mailer would have developed this thought further, but the bell had rung for the second round.

Right off, Mickey got Bugs with a left jab, and for a moment Bugs was down. There is an art to watching Bugs fall down. He seems to pull the ground up to meet him. Pound Bugs into submission, and you can still feel him looking over your shoulder, saying, hey, I’m taking some punishment, aren’t I? On his feet again, Bugs pushed Mickey back into the corner, Mickey full of violence now, Bugs looking abstracted, a little grayer than usual. Mickey threw some hard punches but Bugs weaved out of his way, and counter-punched, and Mickey fell back into the ropes, disheartened.

Daffy and Donald were fighting now, and Bugs and Mickey sat down to watch them.

“There was confusion among the crowd.” — Las Vegas Sun

Yup, because what happened next would defy the descriptive power of any genius but myself. Bugs was graceful but Micky was an explosion. Every punch conveyed an epiphany. Bugs was an Indian magician, burning with schizophrenia, but Mickey was a Negro artist, athrob with jungle cat intuition and trailing glory. Circling, they were equal to two great lovers or double-agents making inroads into each other’s psyches. The fight began to remind Mailer of his third marriage.

After Bugs clapped Mickey on the head with a pair of cymbals, little vultures flew around his head. Then Mickey pulled a lever, and oh crap, an anvil almost landed on top of Bugs. It was a brilliant move, but Bugs dodged it and slugged Mickey so tenderly it was equal to a sermon dating from the moment of creation.

“Knockout!” — Las Vegas Sun

The crowd cried insanity. Who knew what, when the corporation lawyers were through with it all, would be the official result of this match? But for now everyone was cheering Bugs, bearing him aloft, and Mailer climbed into the ring and made a speech which went to the root of America. Mickey is America, but Bugs is what America should be, was the gist of Mailer’s speech. It was his way of saying that Mickey had class, but Bugs could hustle, that Mickey was Chuck Lindbergh, but Bugs was the Risen Christ.

You’ll never see Bugs do a double-take. It is no small part of his strength that there is no way to humiliate him. Not even when Donald turned out to be the referee, an arrangement Mailer considered a clear violation of the divine economy. But God has been on the defensive since the millennium turned, so it should have surprised nobody when Donald declared Mickey the prizewinner. That’s all folks.

Daffy was heard to utter the word “despicable.”

Mailer, heading for the bar to make more speeches, could detect the seed of an idea germinating, this idea being that it is the logic of pain that, by some telepathic communion, forces the direction of the Universe.

Eat or be eaten. It was getting colder, do not doubt it, and if it was a sign of Mailer’s deep cosmic pessimism that he let Daffy order him a Bourbon, it was a sign of his bravery that he put together the feat of drinking it.


Inside Blurb For The Forthcoming Short Story Collection What Was What, What Wasn’t By Jonas Ribb, Acclaimed Master Of The Form

By: James Warner

What Was What, What Wasn’t by Jonas Ribb contains thirteen startling stories that bear witness to the lives of Americans in our time.

In “Indecision,” a tale that reflects Ribb’s profound understanding of contemporary reality, an adulterous chiropodist realizes that the Midwestern college town in which he has lived all his life is in fact made out of marzipan.

“A Story of Domestic Life” has basically the same plot, except that this time the town turns out to be made of chocolate malt.

In “Oklahoma Dreaming,” nothing happens at all.

“Marzipan Aardvark” shows the unexpected gift of a marzipan aardvark forcing a New York couple to confront their incompatibility. The wife claims to be allergic to marzipan, while the husband, refusing to believe her, drags her to the Spanish hill city of Toledo, famous for its marzipan and its swords, and beheads her. These events are memorably portrayed through the eyes of some Cuban adolescents who are discovering their burgeoning sexuality.

In the widely anthologized “Who Will Navigate?” a man who may or may not be in Utah agonizes over his inability to forget the past.

“Stuck in Traffic,” short-listed for Best American Stories Ending With Unexpected Poolside Epiphanies 2004, is a marvel of nuance in which a man becomes aware that his dog is involved with a cat. The story ends with an unexpected poolside epiphany.

In “Losing My Car Keys,” a frustrated librarian who harbors an unspeakable secret makes a date with a cop who harbors a different secret, or perhaps the same one, we never find out, because instead of showing up they both stay home and watch “Desperate Housewives.”

“Maybe You Had To Be There” describes a man crossing a Midwestern street who sees a woman coming towards him and briefly thinks he recognizes her.

In “In The Oven,” a depressed woman tries to cheer herself up by baking some cookies.

As “What I Knew About the Hudsons” unfolds, the problems in the Hudsons’ marriage are deftly symbolized by a succession of aardvarks fired into their house by the couple’s neighbor Hank, a plain-spoken taxidermist who at the story’s beautifully wrought conclusion states his hard-won wisdom, “Some people just plain needs aardvarks thrown at ’em.”

With his next story, Ribb changes the tone of the whole collection. Controlled in its narration, spare and almost brutal in its honesty, encompassing within the perfection of its form the death and resurrection of a Siamese kitten, “Messiah Kitty” is not a story to read late at night if you’ve ever crucified a cat.

The remaining stories in the collection, penned in the last stages of Ribb’s long personal battle with alcoholism and published here for the first time, show us characters living with the aftereffects of war and repression. For example, in “Mrs. Slocum’s Pussy” a baffled undercover al Qaeda operative struggles to comprehend endless reruns of Are You Being Served?

And resolutely examined in the unnerving title novella “What Was What, Was Wasn’t” is the gradual disintegration of a marriage while both spouses are stuck in traffic someplace else. There’s also an adolescent in the mix, whose sexuality seems about to burgeon until Hank deep-sixes him with a frozen pangolin.

Piecing apart his characters’ pretensions with affection and frankness, in prose that is both luminescent and lush, Ribb is the writer to turn to any time you feel the need to wrestle with a sense of inconsolable loss. Obscure without ever being abstruse, Ribb transports us to a world peopled with normal men and women who’re struggling to understand what’s going on…or, as in the case of “Oklahoma Dreaming,” what’s not going on.


Some Haiku By Elmer Fudd

By: James Warner

The publication of this Acme Press chapbook establishes Elmer Fudd as a compelling practitioner of the American haiku. His most celebrated lines record a timeless moment in the forest.

Buds form in the woods

Be vewwy vewwy quiet

I’m hunting wabbits

The vivid image of the buds connects us to the wide panorama of the wooded mountainside and the wonder of spring, which is melting the snow.

American poets tend to discover haiku by way of Ezra Pound and the beatniks. Since Fudd is by temperament less a scholar than an outdoorsman, his ready identification with the hunter’s perspective may suggest a debt to Gary Snyder, whom Fudd seems to follow in seeing the stalking of wildlife as a form of meditation. Like the haiku writer, the hunter must walk with his eyes open and his senses alert to the reality of the world. Yet Fudd avoids solemnity, never letting us forget that the Japanese originally considered the haiku a comic form, as in the following lines, where the hunter becomes the hunted.

Oh boy, wabbit twacks

Whaddya know? No more bullets

Summer mosquitoes

Fudd’s haiku are arranged in four sections, covering the four seasons. Some critics have complained of Fudd’s excessive focus on the hunting of rabbits, but Fudd seldom actually catches any. The emptiness of his hunting basket teaches him the value of nonattachment, helping him better to experience the gift of the present moment.

Wild ducks migwating

There’s something scwewy wound here

Locking and loading

Fudd has known his share of misfortunes. The first time I met him, he had recently been evicted from his home and was living in the woods. I was struck by how at home he seemed in nature, by his soft-spoken determination in the face of obstacles, by his plangent laugh, and by his casual way with high explosives.

A vegetarian who hunts only for sport, he talked rather obsessively about a “cwazy wabbit,” as if to remind me that animals have Zen nature too, although Fudd has famously denied that haiku have anything to do with Buddhism. Until I’d read his work, I was unsure whether I’d met a master or a maniac.

Fudd’s winter haiku are, for me, the most powerful of all his oeuvre. The following evocation of spiritual transcendence detonated in my mind with the force of an exploding stick of TNT.

Knocked down on fwesh snow

That wabbit must have twicked me


What else can we do but laugh, when we perceive the incongruity between our theories of life and what we feel intuitively to be true on the nonverbal plane?

Things had improved for Fudd by the next time I visited him. He was living in a small cabin in New Hampshire, had stopped drinking, and had just been named Haiku Poet of the Year by the North American Haiku Association for Cartoon Characters. After we’d commented on how quickly time had gone by since our previous meeting, I asked Elmer where he got his ideas for his haiku.

“In the woods,” he said. “I go there evewy day to hunt. Whatever exists, exists in the pwesent moment.”

Not that this excuses the chapbook’s shoddy construction. The binding on my copy has already started to come loose, a problem I have noticed in the past with other Acme Press titles like “1000 Ways to Cook A Duck,” “How To Be A Hypnotist,” and “How To Photograph Wildlife.” Publishing haiku, come to think of it, is something of a new venture for Acme. I hope they follow through with it, because it’s at times like these we need writers such as Fudd, to teach us that through multiple frustrations we can find our way to a place of serenity.

Duck season? Wabbit season?

Stumbling into a cold lake

Invigowates me