The Onion editor calls J. K. Rowling “a billionaire with a penchant for spreading misery”

The irony runs deep and voluminous when The Onion senior managing editor Jordan LaFlure sits down for a chat with Buzzfeed.  In the interview, LaFlure describes widely beloved and massively successful author J.K. Rowling as “a billionaire with a penchant for spreading misery.”  It is quick-witted comments like these that cause Onion readers to nearly fall out of their chairs laughing.  Having sold more than 600 million books worldwide, the sheer scale of misery J.K. Rowling has inflicted on the planet boggles the mind, and is worthy of a hearty chortle.  LMFAO at the notion of all the suffering souls plunking down $7.7 billion at the box office to enthusiastically endure the senseless agony of sitting through Harry Potter on the big screen.  Oh, all the humanity!  Why just last year, Harry Potter books had sales of 123 million British pounds in the first six months alone.  I don’t know how much misery that equates to in American dollars, but it sounds like an awful lot.  By the way, that’s 22 percent more misery than the previous year. 

The Onion is seeking to mine comedy gold by portraying J.K. Rowling as a transphobe.  LaFlure is onto something there as the possibilities for irony seem nearly limitless.  Portraying J.K. Rowling as a transphobe would be like depicting Mr. Rogers as a neonazi.  A recent example of this new approach features a mock interview between The Onion editors and Rowling.  Because Rowling has never made an anti-trans comment in her life, The Onion satirically depicts her saying of trans-folk, “I was advocating for their total annihilation.”  Boundless hilarity erupts on the pages of The Onion as it attempts to portray a woman who escaped an abusive marriage and went on to become one of the most successful authors in history, a woman who has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity and earned the adoration of a billion fans as a merchant of misery.

Indeed, LaFlure and his colleagues at The Onion appear to be ushering in a new knee-slapping, golden age of comedy satire.  Attacking a much beloved children’s author with egregious and untrue accusations shielded in satire is just the sort of side-splitting comedy relief the world has been clamoring for. 

Meanwhile in the analog zone

Driving around after work last Friday, jamming to Nebula on my factory installed Camry car stereo, I experienced a momentary time slip back to the analog era that existed before we gave ourselves over entirely to the digital dystopia we currently inhabit.  With Nebula’s nineties-flavored hard-rock psychedelia filling the cabin of my Camry, the world outside took on the chill analog aspect of days gone by.  Some reading this might deduce, “this guy’s grooving on stoner rock and flashing back to the nineties, he’s probably puffing on some powerful mary-jane.”  Negative, amigo, this was a totally sober analog flashback.  

As I cruise through dense Friday afternoon traffic, a dude up ahead tries to navigate his way across a busy six-lane on his bicycle.  He’s playing a dangerous game of Frogger as he swerves unsteadily between passing vehicles.  Nearby, a girl walks along the sidewalk still dressed in her KFC uniform.  Looking a little dazed and weary from her fast food shift, she carries with her a bag of chicken and fixins, and, presumably, the closely guarded secret of Colonel Sanders 11 herbs and spices.  

The package store parking lot buzzes with blue-collar dudes clutching frosty cold cases of beer.  In a bygone era, their mulleted manes would have blown majestically in the spring breeze.  Today, it’s their prodigious beards flapping furiously in their faces.  A girl perched in a colossal hemi-powered pickup truck rumbles passed in the lane next to me.  The extended cab, dually monstrosity is made all the more massive-looking contrasted with her petite appearance inside the cab.

I’m stopped for a red light at a busy intersection.  I resist the temptation to roll down my window and flood the street with the sonic ferocity of Transmission From Mothership Earth.  This is one of those intersections where the signal only allows one action at a time.  Northbound can make a left, then southbound can go left, northbound can go straight, then southbound can go straight, eastbound left turn lane go fuck yourself, westbound go straight, etc.  

The time finally arrives for the cross traffic to go left.  However, a young couple’s motorcycle does not appear to be cooperating.  The young gentleman furiously tries to start the stalled machine while his girlfriend holds on tight.  Sensing he’s about to run out of left turn signal, the young man makes a ballsy move. The motorcycle is small enough that his feet easily rest on the ground on both sides.  With just seconds of left turn arrow remaining, the young man starts pumping his legs and runs the motorcycle through the massive intersection a la Fred Flintstone.  The girl is hanging on tight and they’re both laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the scene.  Horns honk and drivers cheer as the young gentlemen, his girl and the bike clear the intersection just before the light changes. 

Streaming for your approval in the analog zone, one of those mundane everyday moments that overwhelms you because its flooded with meaning.  You have the quick-thinking, heroic actions of stalled motorcycle guy as he whisks his girl away from danger.  There is the spectre of life’s struggles popping up at the most inopportune time, and the indominitable will and determination to overcome said struggle.  There is optimism and joy that laughs in the face of said struggle and young love that remains hopeful throughout.  All the while, onlookers root for a triumphal outcome.  

Of course, it’s entirely possible I read too much into the scene.  Maybe the pair later cursed their misfortune, got into a big row and she dumped him over some perceived public embarrassment and shame to which he subjected her.  But I’d like to think not.  I’d like to think that years from now, when the couple have kids who are old enough to appreciate a good story, the pair will regale them with this analog tale and they will all have a good laugh.

Rolling Stone rebel rushes to defend Big Pharma from Woody Harrelson SNL monologue

After Woody Harrelson joked about an imaginary script he turned down because it portrayed politicians and the media as in the pocket of Big Pharma, rebel journalist for Rolling Stone, Marlow Stern, wasted no time rushing to the defense of the unfairly maligned big drug companies.  The publication that once featured the work of Hunter S. Thompson and P. J. O’Rourke had a reputation to uphold and could not allow a big shot, pro-pot Hollywood celebrity to get away with mocking the defenseless pharmaceutical industry.  A grave injustice of irresponsible stand-up comedy had been committed and Marlow Stern rushed to set the record straight.  “Woody Harrelson went full anti-vax conspiracy theorist during his SNL Monologue tonight,” the intrepid journalist wrote just hours after the actor delivered his dangerous rant.  I’ve only seen a short clip that features just a few of Harreson’s remarks, but I expect to catch the entire “full anti-vax,” misinfo monologue once it’s posted.  According to Stern, Harrelson has a history of not sticking to “the science” when he delivers his stand-up routines.  One can only assume the actor must have been high and mistakenly strayed away from the thoroughly fact-checked comedy routine he was supposed to deliver.  Anyway, the damage was done.  It’s been less than 24 hours, but it may take weeks or months to fully understand the harm Harrelson has inflicted on the pharmaceutical companies.  A lie travels halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on.  Where does Big Pharma go to get its reputation back?  Thankfully, the industry has Marlow Stern and Rolling Stone magazine to defend it against these falsehoods and mischaracterizations.  Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, and Huffpost should be praised for exposing the big conspiracy lie that Big Pharma buys influence with Washington and spends millions to promote its products in the media.

Canadian hybrid super pigs invading northern United States

Last week it was spy balloons and unexplained aerial phenomena crossing into US airspace from Canada.  This week brings reports of Canadian hybrid super pigs making incursions from Canada into the northern United States.  It is not yet known if Sidewinder missiles are being deployed to take out the cunning and elusive beasts. 

The super pigs are reported to be a highly intelligent cross between domestic pigs and wild boars.  They are larger than normal pigs and more tolerant of cold temperatures.  The super pigs will eat almost anything, including deer and elk, but are especially fond of waterfowl.  

In addition to brutalizing native species, the super pigs have proven quite difficult to eradicate through hunting.  Sportsmen report the devious swine do not conform to normal rules of the hunt, often engaging in evasive maneuvers like going nocturnal.  When pursued, they frequently split up their packs and change their routines, rendering their habits and movements less predictable.

No one knows yet what the super pigs want, but it seems clear they have their sights set on the United States.  They’re expected to make appearances in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota very soon.  Given the recent assault on our northern border by hostile foreign powers, it is clear that America cannot allow this aggression by hordes of clever and duplicitous hybrid super pigs to stand.  Like the Gangsta’s Fairytale says, “Time for the pigs to get turned to bacon.”

Strange scenes in the alley 2

A couple of nights ago, there was a car parked in front of my garage containing a young couple engaged in amorous relations.  My garage doors open almost directly into the alley, leaving not so much a driveway, but a small, car-width sliver of space between the garage and the alley.  Of all the thousands of discreet places in the city, it was in this space that the pair of youngsters, overcome by passion and desire, decided to dock their mid-size sedan to permit the male occupant the opportunity to dock something else.  

Inside the house, I was totally oblivious to the strange vehicle and the illicit love making going on outside.  That is until my wife came home and asked who was parked back by the garage.  Needing to take out the trash anyway, I decided to walk back there and investigate.  As I drew closer to the garage, I could tell that the car was running.  Although it was dark, I figured the driver would see me approaching and tear off into the night.  I rattled the trash cans a bit, hoping to get the driver’s attention, but still there was no discernible activity coming from the car.  In retrospect, if the car had been rockin, I might not have bothered knockin.  But I couldn’t see anyone sitting in the front seat, so I moved in closer to take a look.  It was dark, but I could just make out a figure laying down in the backseat.  I wondered if perhaps this was some homeless person who had pulled into this spot to take a nap.  Almost every conceivable explanation flashed through my brain as I knocked on the window. But it never occurred to me that the car’s occupants were making the beast with two backs until two figures popped up, startled at my tap, tap, tapping on their Chevy Malibu door.  The young man hurriedly hopped out the door on the opposite side of the car, struggling to pull up his pants.  

For my part, I was a little shocked at the scene I had stumbled upon and immediately began to flip out.  “What the fuck are you doing!?  This is private fucking parking!  You can’t do that shit here!  We run a clean damn family neighborhood around here!”  My wife later told me that from inside the house she could hear every word I shouted, which means my daughter and most of the neighbors could probably hear me as well.  Listening to myself cursing at this young man, I paused, collected my thoughts and began to calm down.  “Listen, son,” I said.  “We’ve all been in your situation before, but parking in someone’s drive is a real amateur move.  Any homeowner that sees a strange vehicle parked on their property is going to investigate.  You’re lucky it’s me and that I’m cool.  My wife wanted to call the cops.  Just go find a deserted parking lot, or park behind one of the bars downtown.  Nobody down there will give a second glance to a couple of lovebirds copulating in the backseat of a car.  Probably happens every night.  Now scram, you horny devil.”

As I stood there, proud of myself for reining in my irritation and using the situation as a teachable moment to impart some of my accumulated wisdom on the younger generation, the impassioned couple tore off down the alley and into the night, flipping me the bird and yelling “Fuck you old man” as their taillights disappeared into the darkness.  I just shook my head and smiled.  They may not realize it yet, but one day when they’re coupling in solitude, they’ll appreciate the wise advice that grouchy old man gave them.

Sam Harris can’t stop talking about his ex

Sam Harris devoted his latest podcast to airing some unresolved feelings toward his old flame, Twitter.  Remarking that leaving Twitter is like leaving a bad relationship, Harris again rehashed the issues and circumstances that led to their break up, and also added some thoughts about his ex’s recent behavior.  For a man who claims his personal well-being has benefited from cutting ties with the social media platform, he still seems to spend a fair amount of time thinking about it.

That said, there was little to disagree with for the first ten minutes of his rant.  Everything he said about Trump’s behavior as president, Republican capture by the cult of Trump and the Democrat’s bewildering devotion to identitarianism seems pretty spot on.  However, he can’t resist picking up a stick and beating that old dead horse that was at least partially responsible for his Twitter break up.  Once again he defends Twitter’s suppression of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, even going so far as to point out how much Twitter executives agonized over censoring the story.  Golly, we should all thank our lucky stars we’re never confronted with making such a difficult decision.

Sam Harris claims to care about free speech.  He also claims to care about the integrity of this country’s institutions.  No one’s saying we should just let Twitter become 4-chan.  But social media companies censoring mainstream media institutions is an attack on those institutions and an attack on free speech.  Whatever you think about the New York Post, it’s been around doing journalism for a long time.  Twitter executives and content moderators in the Philippines have no business second guessing the work of a mainstream media outlet.  This should not be controversial.  This isn’t a matter of hindsight.  The New York Post did its homework on the story and any other media outlet could have as well.  Let the Post live or die by its reporting.  Twitter and Facebook should be under no obligation to censor mainstream reporting.  They should, in fact, have an obligation to let it circulate, if they respect our country’s journalistic institutions and care at all about free speech or public debate.

Moreover, suppressing or censoring the contributions of Stanford and Harvard professors to the public debate over health policy is hugely scandalous and constitutes an attack on their profession and the institutions they represent.  When did content moderators become the ultimate arbiters of what is acceptable public discourse in health policy debate?  What expertise do they possess over doctors who represent America’s leading educational institutions?  How are social media companies not undermining these institutions by pursuing censorship policies?  Let these doctors face the criticism of their peers, but the Twitter execs should stay out of it.

It is bewildering that Sam Harris, who claims to be a man of rationality and reason, would defend these censorship policies on his “Making Sense” podcast.  In both of the previously cited examples, the suppressed and censored turned out to be largely correct in their assertions.  Additionally, they were making these assertions from a position of knowledge and expertise, not in an environment where nothing was known.  By not respecting experts, their professions and their institutions, Twitter, Facebook  and defenders of their reckless decisions, like Sam Harris, do harm to our institutions and undermine their own credibility in the process.

Congress passes $817 billion relief package for struggling Pentagon

Fresh off the Defense Department’s fifth failed audit, Congress came to the rescue Friday authorizing $817 billion to be pumped into the gaping black hole that is the Pentagon’s gargantuan budget.  Congressional leaders hope the massive appropriation is enough to temporarily satiate the Pentagon beast and satisfy its ravenous appetite.  Citing inflation concerns, officials say this year’s budget represents a nearly ten percent increase over the previous year.  

“Inflation being what it is, we expect our capability and readiness to mismanage a shit ton of funding to increase as well,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.  “Projections indicate losses due to waste, fraud, abuse and criminality to grow dramatically in fiscal year 2023.”

Austin’s comments appear to align with the results of the most recent defense department audit where 1,600 auditors failed to account for 61 percent of the Pentagon’s assets.  Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord described the failed audit as a “teachable moment.”

“I would not say that we flunked. The process is important for us to do, and it is making us get better. It is not making us get better as fast as we want,” McCord said. 

Despite the waste, fraud and abuse, lawmakers cite the need to outpace foreign rivals as the driving force behind the increased funding. 

“Month after month, year after year, competitors such as China are methodically pouring money and planning into upgrading and modernizing their own militaries,” croaked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “They are constantly probing new ways to expand their military, intelligence, economic, and political reach — indirectly or directly threatening American forces and our allies’ and partners’ forces.”

Indeed, China spent a whopping $230 billion last year on its defense.  The figure marked a seven percent increase in probing new ways to threaten the United States over the previous year.  

Additionally, the mainstream media’s favorite bogeyman and number one threat to American democracy Russia has announced it will spend $84 billion on defense in 2023, a 40 percent increase over its previously allocated amount.  At its present pace, Russia could overtake what the United States spends on Ukrainian defense as early as 2024.

To be sure, with all the perceived threats looming out there, Congress can’t shovel money fast enough into the bottomless abyss that is the United States Defense budget.  Additionally, members of both parties and the media are having none of this talk of budget oversight or negotiated solutions to ongoing conflicts.  “Don’t speak of diplomacy and things that don’t explode, you Russian stooge,” warn the paid experts and former intelligence officials on MSNBC and at the Washington Post.

Cash strapped dad tells daughter no American Girl Doll this Christmas. Suggests Hoosier Sally Doll instead.

This Christmas season, inflationary pressures have forced dads like me to have difficult conversations with their offspring.  A recent comment from my daughter asserting that one could buy almost anything for a hundred dollars prompted an overdue conversation about the value of money.  Putting on my wise old dad hat, I informed her that there are actually a lot of things you can’t buy for a hundred dollars.  She promptly came back at me with the American Girl Doll.  At this suggestion, I confidently assured her that a hundred dollars could easily cover the cost of a silly little doll, only to start hyperventilating when I discovered that American Girl Dolls start at around $119 retail. 

Immediately I pivoted to other options, hoping to get her interested in something a little less expensive.  “Hey, how about we check out some of these other dolls?” I suggested, frantically scrolling as American Girl Doll prices escalated to levels rivaling the price of an ounce of gold.  After a while, I came across some more reasonably priced knockoffs that, while cheaper, were also a bit strange and disconcerting.  I quickly moved past the Downtown Lisa doll, trying to momentarily divert my daughter’s attention until we found something a little more wholesome.  

Next we stumbled upon Patriot Girl Doll.  “Look at this one, sweetie.  Patriot Girl comes with a cute red, white and blue camouflage outfit, an adorable little tactical vest and an AR-15.  Okay, maybe that one’s not for us.  Hey, check out Moscow Maria.  She’s a hard bitten Muscovite who dreams of marrying an oligarch when she grows up.”  Neither of these options seemed to deliver quite the same magic and fascination as the American Girl Doll.  

Sensing a vibe of rapidly growing disappointment coming from my daughter, I hurriedly searched until I came across a doll that I hoped would be the clincher.  “Look, sweetie, here’s one that’s right up our alley.  This little darling goes by the name Hoosier Sally.  She lives in a late model luxury trailer home just like we do!  Sally lives there with her mother, her brother and 14 cats.  Oh, and here’s the best part, Hoosier Sally Dolls retail for a very reasonable $39.99.” 

Once again, dad’s pragmatism failed to glide in for a successful landing and a hint of disappointment began to reveal itself on my daughter’s face.  To her credit, she shook it off and sauntered away to watch some cartoons.  Looks like Santa’s going to save the day again and come through with that American Girl Doll this Christmas.

Slow explosions

I’m standing in my backyard while a torrent of orange and yellow leaves drift down all around me and pile up at my feet.  The scene is reminiscent of that moment at the end of a political convention when the nominee accepts their party’s nomination and a gusher of confetti and balloons is loosed from the hall’s rafters while the crowd goes nuts and Fleetwood Mac sings “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”  Only no one’s cheering and I’m not pretending to point at people in the crowd and act surprised to see them.  Actually, I do point at a squirrel and give him a thumbs up.  

A wise man named Tomberg once described an acorn as a “constructive atomic bomb.”  The oak itself is “the result of the slow explosion or the blossoming out of this ‘bomb.’”  If that’s the case, then I’m standing beneath a mushroom cloud.  This particular explosion came not from an acorn, but one of those helicopter seedlings that flew its mission generations ago, and detonated in this spot where the “slow explosion” of this mighty maple tree has been ongoing for, most likely, in excess of a century.  

The fallout continues.  Orange and yellow splotches combine with red from another explosion nearby to overwhelm the gray sky.  These are creative explosions.  Through the years, the maple I’m standing beneath has been home to quite a number of squirrels and a few woodpeckers.  It’s like a multi-family high rise.  Earlier this year, I discovered dozens of small bundles of twigs and leaves scattered about beneath the tree.  These were not dead parts that had broken away and fallen to the ground.  Some creature, undoubtedly engaged in a major renovation project, had cut away these leafy twigs to make room high in the canopy for its expanding living space.

Despite the hours of work ahead of me, for which at this moment Fleetwood Mac should be erupting in song and my family should be rhythmically clapping along in appreciation, it’s hard not to become disoriented in the brilliant twisting colors and the gentle murmuring of the wind.  When the moment pulls you away from yourself and surrounds you with its grace and beauty, everything’s ecstatic.  In this instant, I am a slow, silent explosion, imperceptibly unfolding. 

And then the mournful wail of a distant leaf blower breaks in and obliterates the moment.  Cursed leaf blower!  Then it’s just me, my rake, my tarp and quite a mess to clean up.

New glasses, new problems

Lately, I’ve been receiving signals that I ought to do something about my eyesight.  The menu board at an unfamiliar takeout restaurant can be confusing enough, but if you can’t read the selections, then you’re pretty screwed.  I tried just making up menu items for a while.  I would say, “Just give me a club sandwich, or something.”  Then the order taker would politely inform me of their choices that most closely resemble a club sandwich, which often just included the addition of avocado, and I’d say, “That would be fine,” and we’d go from there.  But, lately, they’ve begun to treat me like I’m illiterate or something, speaking to me slowly and patiently like I’m a child.  Even my own daughter began to shoot me looks that seemed to doubt my literacy.

So, at the urging of my better half, I decided to get new glasses.  Several hundred dollars later, these cheap plastic spectacles seem to have brought about an entirely new set of challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve also opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  Before, I mostly stuck to driving familiar routes because I had difficulty reading signs and recognizing landmarks.  But now that I can read highway signs, I’m exploring entirely new realms and unfamiliar territory.  Also, it came as a pleasant surprise to see that the speed limit on most highways has been raised from 55 to 70.  This explains why I’d been the recipient of so much hostility from other drivers in recent years.

The challenges invariably arise when I’m indoors.  I seem to have difficulty and lack confidence knowing where to place my feet.  This has caused me to stumble around and bump into doorways at work.  My boss has been looking askance at me like I’m intoxicated or something.  But I assured her I haven’t been drunk or stoned at work for pretty close to ten years now.  Also, going down stairs is like descending into a murky abyss.  Sometimes I just close my eyes and hope for the best.

However, an incident this morning might be the final straw as far as these new glasses are concerned.  I had just gotten a cup of coffee at Starbucks from the friendliest group of young people you’d ever want to meet, when I merrily strode out to the parking lot to get in my car and head to work.  For some reason, however, I had a difficult time unlocking the car door.  The key fob didn’t seem to work and when I tried to manually unlock the door, the key wouldn’t fit in the lock.  After a few moments, a woman came running out of the Starbucks with one of the larger male employees shouting at me to get away from her car and that she’s calling the cops.  Mortified, I noticed that my car was in the next space over, so I hurriedly jumped in it and sped out of there like Vin Diesel.  I made it to work without incident, not knowing whether an a.p.b. had been issued for my capture.  At any rate, I’m probably going to ditch these glasses, but I may wear them for another week as an aid to eluding authorities, or at least until the heat has died down.