An Indifferent Irishman Signs My Petition

I ask if he can spare a minute and he says yes.
This is about your ancestors and mine, I say,
how, forced off the land, they sailed west
to Boston where, if they didn’t die on the way,
they and their faith were scorned in the schools.

He listens, a bit distracted I can see.
He has work he’d rather do
than listen to a lurid history
told by a man too full of rue.
He lumps me with the zealots and other fools

who have yet to learn that the fight is done;
they won, but so did we, and a truce was called.
We have the jobs they kept us from
if we want them; why should history be recalled
when there is now a fair if tenuous set of rules?

He hears me out and signs the sheet;
it costs him nothing but a moment’s scribbling.
He hands it back, I sense his need to be discreet
with one who holds a grudge–there’s no use quibbling.
What would his forefathers say, the fierce O’Tooles?

Volunteers Raise Like Millions for Liberal Arts Major Disease

LAS VEGAS, Nevada.  It is Sunday morning in this desert city and the streets are quiet.  Inside the casinos, where there are no clocks, gamblers who have played through the night order breakfast at blackjack and craps tables.

At the edge of town in the studio of channel KQJA (for “King-Queen-Jack-Ace”), a small crew of technicians is working as comedian Sheldon “Shecky” Felton begins the final day of his national telethon to raise funds for his signature charity, which doesn’t have enough clout to pay for air time on Labor Day weekend.

“Ladies and gentlemen out there in the television land–I’m begging you,” he says, exhausted from two straight days of singing, cracking jokes and talking to guests.  “Liberal Arts Major Disease cuts down our kids in the prime of their youth, just as they’re about to begin their journey into adulthood.  It’s the saddest thing in the world.  So please-give and give generously.  Now we have two little girls who’ve come all the way from Calumet City, Illinois to dance for us–please welcome–The Tapping Twitchells!”

Liberal Arts Major Disease–the delusion that all big numbers are essentially the same–is an affliction that affects more than 80 million Americans.  Its onset can be traced to the realization among high school upperclassmen that they have completed the minimum number of math classes required in order to graduate.

“A lot of kids basically shut down the left side of their brains as soon as they finish Algebra II or Geometry,” says Dr. Philip Heyman of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.  “The degenerative process begins the moment they know they’ll never have to take another math class.”

Experts say that Liberal Arts Major Disease, or “LAMD,” effects America’s productivity as well as its long-term future.  “You look at China and India, they are cranking out more engineers and obtaining many more patents,” says Erskine Hollins of the Council on Economic Progress, a business-government group.  “Of course those kids have been chained to their desks for two decades, but we should be able to overcome that competitive advantage with a little more discipline.”

Back in Las Vegas, a contingent from the National Council of Plumbers and Pipefitters makes their appearance on the KQJA set to present an oversized check in the amount of $125,000, which Shecky Felton, who himself suffers from LAMD, graciously accepts.  “Guys–this is just fantastic.  A hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars!  Wow!  Let’s see-we had a million nine hundred thirty-thousand before so now we’ve got, let’s see . . .”  His voice trails off and the producer, sensing trouble, cuts to a commercial.

Meanwhile, across the country in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a stream of volunteers is holding a walk-a-thon along the 26.2 mile route of the Boston Marathon to raise money for LAMD.  “Hey look, everybody,” says Meghan Morrissey, a first-year student at Wellesley College from Saratoga, New York.  “The sign says its 13.5 miles from here to Hopkinton,” the walk’s starting point.  “That means we’ve only got like-uh-15 more miles to go!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Spirit of Giving.”

Competition Rough as Cats Fight to Keep Control of Internet

SOMEWHERE NEAR BOSTON.  It’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but you wouldn’t know it from the hum of activity here in the basement of an undisclosed location in the western suburbs of Boston.

cat2
“Damn corgis!”

In front of computer terminals sit two night owls who will only allow themselves to be referred to by their first names–Rocco and Chester–if this reporter is to be permitted a look at the fascinating and frightening world of an internet “bucket shop,” a generator of memes and videos that captivate lonely people around the world whose “eyeballs” on their screens translate into big advertising dollars.

cat3
“You humans are so naïve!”

 

Those illicit revenues in turn fuel a world-wide ring of drug “buys” that keep the masterminds behind this unnerving look at the seamy underside of the world wide web fat, happy–and high as kites.

“C’mere,” Rocco says to his partner in crime, a scruffy-looking creature whose orange exterior makes him look like a fugitive from a tanning parlor, or a President of the United States.

“What is it?” Chester says, slowly raising himself up from his keyboard.

“It’s those damn Corgis again!” Rocco hisses, and indeed when Chester looks over his partner’s shoulder he sees a pair of the adorable dwarf Welsh herding dogs that have lately soared in popularity due to widespread exposure in videos and photographs on the internet.

corgi
Corgi:  Oh, put a sock in it.

 

“We’re going to have to do something,” Rocco says, and it is apparent that his partner not only shares his concern, but feels he’s understating the problem.

“That’s nothing,” he says.  “Google ‘cute sea otter’ and see what you get.”

corgi1
“2,946,328 pages views–and it’s still early!”

 

The two anonymous monitors of web traffic are members of the species Felis catus, the common housecat, who until recently have had little competition for the hearts and minds of bored web browsers of the human variety.  “The internet grew out of the Arpanet, which was designed solely for military uses,” says technology historian Milo Iyakaris.  “If it hadn’t been for pornography and cat videos, the internet would today be as useless as a fax machine, as Paul Krugman once memorably predicted.”

krugman

At stake are the millions of “clicks” each day that advertisers pay for in order to promote their products in banner ads to unsuspecting consumers, who associate the pleasure they derive from cute animals to the merit of a particular brand.  “I saw the cutest video of cats jumping on Christmas trees the other day,” says Myrna Lynn Goshke of Glasgow, Missouri.  “I rushed out and bought three boxes of Triscuits, the delicious and surprisingly wholesome snack cracker, I felt so bad about getting to see it for free.”

cat4
“Bears in swimming pools are killing us.”

The virtual lock that cats have had on the adorable critter market for the past two decades seems likely to hold for at least the near future, but cats like Rocco and Chester are taking no chances that the revenue stream that keeps them in catnip will continue to flow.  “Oh my God,” Rocco exclaims as he scrolls down his “wall” on Facebook.

“What now?” Chester asks, his shaking voice revealing his concern.

“What kind of sick individual would give a prairie dog a vanilla wafer?”

 

 

 

Koga the Gorilla Takes a Break

Koga, a 24-year-old male gorilla, escaped from his cage at the Buffalo zoo and was captured in the staff lounge.

Associated Press

Koga
“How come stupid humans get lounge Koga no can go in lounge?”

 

Cold cold cold cold cold.  Why does anyone live in this godforsaken place, it’s cold ALLA TIME!  If stupid humans had more highly-developed brains they never would have left Africa for upstate New York.

How do they freaking stand it?  You’ve got winds howling off the lake, nothing but hockey to watch all winter long.  I wonder if they’re hiring at the St. Louis Zoo?

Koga2
“Excuse me–is there a Starbucks around here?”

I’m busting outta this joint–gotta find someplace warm.  Maybe giraffes are stuck here, but I’m a goddamn great ape–I can climb!  Do they really think a little thing like a ten-foot high metal fence is gonna stop me?

There we go.  MUCH better!  No barriers between me and zoo-goers now.  Breaking down curatorial walls between the spectator and the exhibit–hey, where’s everybody going?  Used to be they all took my picture, now they run away.  Gotta check mirror–maybe that candy bar the kid threw me made me break out.

Hmm–zookeepers running to building.  Wonder what in there.  Huh–staff lounge.  Hey, how come animals don’t get lounge, gotta be exposed to elements all day long.  No fair!

zoo staff
“Hey–where’s everybody going?”

 

Oh well, I’m part of the staff here at the Buffalo Zoo, might as well take a load off my feet, get a cup of that black stuff the humans drink, schmooze a bit.  Only way to effect change in an organization is to make it happen yourself.  “Management by walking around,” blah blah blah.

Hey Nate–how they hangin’ buddy?  Nate–it’s Koga.  You know me.  What’s the matter?  You still sore about the time I grabbed you at feeding time?  And kept you hostage overnight?  C’mon, lighten up.  You probably went through something tougher to get into your college fraternity.

All right, fine–be that way.  I’ll just s-t-r-e-t-c-h out on this luxurious burnt siena sofa and de-frag the old simian brain.  Man, these guys don’t know how tough I’ve got it.  They sit in their warm little offices all day, pushing paper around.  Me, I’m ON all the time; monkey see, monkey do, gotta do monkey stuff all day long for the paying customers.  And when the trustees come out for the annual meeting?  Man, I gotta whoop it up, do the whole Tarzan thing–it’s embarrassing.

Might as well catch up on my reading.  Hm, what we got here.  Buffalo Bills 2016 Yearbook, Marie Claire–ah, here we go, People!  The magazine that’s just right for frazzled ape brain looking for a little mind candy.

People

Best & Worst Dressed issue always fun.  Can’t believe some of these outfits!

I mean, I hate to be anti-science, but how you expect me to believe in evolution after reading this?

For Some Clowns, Scaring the Crap Out of Sick Kids is No Laughing Matter

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.  Bobby Florin will be released from St. Zepherin’s Hospital here tomorrow, but for a long time it was unclear whether he’d reach his seventh birthday.  “He was born a month premature,” says his father, Nestor Florin.  “We had just about given up on him,” he adds, after steroids and sophisticated machinery failed to strengthen the boy’s underdeveloped lungs.

zepherin
St. Zepherin, attending toga party at college fraternity.

 

But then, according to those familiar with the family’s plight, a miracle occurred.  A troupe of volunteer clowns making the rounds of the children’s ward in this hospital named after the patron saint of vacuum cleaner salesman happened to poke their heads in the curtains surrounding Bobby’s bed, scaring the beejeezus out of the boy and kick-starting his vital signs.  “Some kids like clowns, others don’t,” says Dr. Norman Higgins, head of pediatrics here.  “Bobby crapped his bed, but all of a sudden he could breathe freely.”

clown2
Well, can you blame the kid?

 

And thus was born a new mission for the Six Silly Guys ‘n Gals, an allegedly comedic group whose frequent failures to amuse youngsters serve as a kind of shock treatment for young bodies too frail to withstand the rigors of electroconvulsive therapy.

clown4
“We’ll have these children walking in no time!”

 

“Sure, it’s tough on some kids,” says Ed Troner, a semi-retired accountant and a member of the group who dreamed of becoming a clown since he first went to the circus as a boy.  “We may lose a few, but the ones we save, I tell ya, they are so grateful.”

clown5
“Please go away!”

 

Tonight the clowns are making the rounds looking for a young boy or girl turning into death’s driveway, not so far gone that they can’t help but also sufficiently sick to make the effort worth their while.  “We don’t get paid, you know,” says Elisha Patrick, who decided to branch out into clowning because birthday party gigs for her offensive confrontational performance art are scarce.  “I’m not going to waste my time on some punk who’s in here for an ear infection.”

They peek into the room of 5-year-old Lauren Higgins, who suffers from pediatric hypoglycemia and must be fed Lik-M-Aid fun dip candy intravenously.  The clowns shush each other, crouch, and then spring into the room yelling “Surprise!” and blowing noisemakers loudly.

likmaid

“Wah!” Lauren screams as the clowns gather round her for a session of intense tickling.  “C’mon, you lazy stick-in-the-mud, let’s get busy!” Patrick says as she reaches under the girl’s pajamas.  The child begins to hyperventilate and, with insufficient nurse coverage on the floor, she expires before an oxygen tank can be wheeled down the corridor.

“Oh well,” Troner says, “you win some, you lose some,” and the group gathers in a circle to recite the Scary Clown’s Prayer:

Never let me forget, they begin,
that my mission is to make people laugh and,
if I don’t succeed, to make them forget
their troubles by turning their last
moments on earth into a total nightmare.

A Poem to St. Gertrude, Patron Saint of Cats

(Upon the poet learning that his cats had chased off a pack of coyotes)

You wish for assistance?
No, my cousin Okie.
If we die, it is our master’s loss,
But if we live, the fewer cats,
The greater share of honor.
With God as my witness,
I wish not one cat more.

I am not covetous for catnip,
Nor care where I sleep at night.
It irks me not who takes my
Favorite chair, or swats me off a table
That I have leapt upon.

Such things get not my dander up.
But if it be a sin to covet honor
On the field of battle,
I am the most offending cat alive.

No, coz, wish not a cat from Wayland
Over yon stone wall to climb and save us.
I would not lose so great an honor
As one cat more would share with me.

O, do not wish one more.
Rather proclaim it presently
To the host of coyotes before us
That we’ve the stomach for this fight.
Let them depart. Dry catfood pellets shall
Be put in their purse to ease their convoy
Back to the hills from whence they came.

This day is called the feast of St. Gertrude
The patron saint of cats.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home
Will stand on hind legs when the day is named
And rouse himself at the name of St. Gertrude.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his fellow-cats
And say “To-morrow is Saint Gertrude’s Day.”
Then will he part his fur and show his scars
And say “These wounds I had on St. Gertrude’s Day.”

Old cats forget, yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: Then shall our names
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Okie the King, Rocco the Prince,
Spooks, Chewie and Chester–
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good cat teach his kit,
And St. Gertrude’s Day shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlecats in Weston now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their cathoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Gertrude’s Day.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Telling Colleen the Truth

Walt Whitman reserved particular scorn
for the members of that accursed race,
the Irish-born.

“A filthy rabble” he asserted,
he who celebrated all races and kinds
couldn’t find it in his heart to tolerate thine.

He envisioned America as a great big goulash
into which all should be mixed
except me and you, lass.

I can’t imagine what we did or said to merit
his antipathy; we apparently gave him
a case of sympathetic paralysis.

And then there’s Freud, who said the Irish were
the only people unsusceptible of psychoanalysis.
Maybe we just don’t like nosy questions.

Perhaps some drink and talk or, for the writers,
some solitary gloom is all it takes to chase
away the blues, or get them down on paper.

It seems self-pity and truculence are our lot,
my dear, and we’ll just have to stand apart
from the world.   Sing a too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra

for your old Irish great-grandmother, who
would have told you “Don’t break your arm
patting yourself on the back.”

The O’Keefes who you come from also said
if they’re going to call you a horse thief
you might as well steal some.

And we might as well love
each other if they won’t.