Entry 636: What Does the Pope Know?

Mark’s Note: With leading biologists and ecologists gathering this week for a conference at The Vatican, President Trump asked Scott Pruitt, his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, to write a rebuttal to whatever scientific hokum comes out of Rome. This reporter has obtained an early draft of this document from a reliable source who thoroughly enjoyed the electric widow’s peak sharpener I got him as a “thank you.”

FROM THE DESK OF SCOTT PRUITTscott_pruitt_epa_official_portrait_cropped1
Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

To: President Donald J. Trump
Re: Vatican conference

First, let me take a moment to thank you again for choosing me to head up the EPA, a job I feel totally qualified for based on my years as president of the Republican Attorneys General Association. As you are aware, that organization has a very close relationship with the oil industry, so I was able to learn all I need to know about environmental issues.   I also meet the prerequisite for most of your appointees: I’m an old, rich, white guy.

The first claim that will emerge from the highly overrated “scientists” who are gathered in Rome is that about half the species currently on our planet could become extinct by the middle of this century.

Even if I was inclined to accept that at face value, which I’m not because I don’t want to, that assessment begs the question: Which half? I think you’ll agree, Mr. President, that if it’s the half that includes kale, Mexicans and those stupid bugs that show up every 17 years and make a racket, it’s nothing to worry about. And don’t worry, sir, I have it on good authority that meat loaf is not one of the species in danger.

We know that the conference in Rome will be as biased as CNN, since the Pope is a tree hugger from way back. He’s even on record as saying, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”

I’m gagging just typing that quote, sir.

Certainly we can not expect a gathering under the auspices of such a person to disclose the truth about the climate change hoax. Some of these liars are already saying that we’re facing a disaster even worse than Obamacare, an “extinction event” such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Perhaps, as a talking point, Kellyanne can refer to the dinosaur massacre.

These so-called scientists also talk about humans as an invasive species. Well, that’s exactly what you’ve been saying, Mr. President! It’s why we can’t let just anybody into the country!

Regardless of anything reported by the liberal Catholic press this week, I don’t see why we should pay any attention to it. I mean, what the hell is The Vatican anyway? It’s some kind of “independent state.” Is that the same thing as a country? I’ve been there, and it’s just a hundred or so acres in Rome guarded by a bunch of Swiss guys who couldn’t even keep terrorists out of their own country. No, wait, that was Sweden.

And everyone over there is always talking about the Holy Sea. Is that where holy water 15474767620_6139fd54b0_b1comes from? Are they worried it’s going to get polluted? I didn’t even see any oceans near The Vatican, although I did get some nice action figures for my kids.

In conclusion, sir, I don’t think we need to give much credence to fake news about fake science coming out of a fake country.

I’m off now to check on the progress of the Dakota pipeline. And, by the way, on that subject, we can have Sean Spicer tell the press that if we’re already going to lose half the species even before we build the pipeline, we might as well go ahead and build it. Let’s see Pope-what’s-his face argue with that logic!

Keep up the good work, Mr. President.

Yours,
Scott Pruitt

P.S. I just looked it up, and evidently it’s “The Holy See,” not “Sea.”  What the hell is a See?”

P.P.S. Saw your speech to Congress last night.  Amazing!  You are the best President ever.  BTW–There’s nothing to that rumor about you dissolving the EPA, right?

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Entry 635: Pluto Makes a Comeback

Well NASA has been in the news recently with its announcement about all the new planets it has found about 40 light years from Earth. This is very exciting, because at least three of these planets are in the “temperate zone,” which means they’re more hospitable to life than Ft. Lauderdale in July.

However, NASA hasn’t always been in the business of adding planets. It has also been pluto-01_stern_03_pluto_color_txtinvolved in subtracting them.

For instance, do you remember about a decade ago when residents of the then-planet Pluto received this disheartening message:

We regret to inform you that Earth no longer regards you as a full-fledged planet. You are now a dwarf planet, and we may even consider changing your name to Grumpy. Please do not react to this news in a violent fashion. Thank you.

Well, apparently NASA is having second thoughts about its anti-Plutonian bias. Because it has petitioned the International Astronomical Union to change the definition of what a planet is.

iau_bbI visited the International Astronomical Union website and was surprised to learn that it is not an organization that negotiates contracts on behalf of astronomers. This is a good thing, because it would be terribly inconvenient if all the astronomers went out on strike.

One of the IAU’s main functions seems to be holding contests to allow the public to name things in space. For instance, the winner of the “Name Minor Planet (6117) 1985 CZ1″ contest was the Brevard Astronomical Society from Florida, which submitted the name Brevardastro, which, I think, shows undue bravado for Brevard, an organization with “10-49 members.” My favorite contest winner was some student society at the Universidad exoComplutense de Madrid, which named minor planet (6138) 1991 JH1. They named it, I kid you not, “Miguelhernández.” This came as quite a shock to the residents of (6138) 1991 JH1, who had thought their planet’s name was Iraweinstein. And let me tell you, those Iraweinstinians were really pissed to learn they were suddenly Miguelhernándesians.

But I digress.

Evidently, the IAU has things to do other than forcing faraway planets to change their stationery. It is also in charge of classifying celestial objects. So it is the go-to organization when you want to bestow full planetdom on a previously de-planetized dwarf planet. Or bizarroworld1should that be “little planet?”

Anyway, NASA has proposed that the IAU change its definition of “planet” to “anything round that is smaller than a star.” I believe they’re going to have to refine that a bit, so that I don’t have to tell my dog to go fetch his planet. Also, NASA’s definition would spell trouble for Bizarros.

NASA made its suggestion, which would add 110 planets to our Solar System and really screw up “My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nachos,” because it thinks that the public views anything not labeled a planet as not interesting or not deserving of 2d4bbe0f8045113cf3eb4e5dd20a2975scientific research.

The public’s view, however, will probably change the next time an asteroid comes hurtling at Earth. We’ll see who’s interested in non-planetary objects then.

See you soon.

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Entry 634: High School Musical

My wife and I recently attended a performance of our daughter’s high school musical. You should infer nothing from the fact that our daughter is 30 years old.

I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I don’t remember my high school putting on any musical extravaganzas, at least nothing as elaborate as kids put on these days. Of course, there’s a lot I don’t remember from 45 years ago. But there are three theatrical experiences I do recall from my childhood.

When I was around eight or so, my mother decided I could sing. I do not know what gave314939_618207410356_647846365_n her that idea. She actually took me for lessons, There is a photo of me dressed in a vest, derby and fake mustache as I prepared to sing “Harrigan,” a song you’ve probably never heard of, possibly because it is from an obscure 1907 Broadway musical called Fifty Miles from Boston.* I assume I actually performed the song in front of people (why else would I have been in that costume), although I have no memory of actually doing so. (But I still know the tune and some of the lyrics, which are mostly spelling the name “Harrigan”–“H-A-Double R-I-G-A-N- spells Harrigan…”).

Why someone would pick that song for an eight year old is beyond me. But I’ll tell you this: if I could sing before that, I most likely didn’t want to afterwards.

In any case, I’m sure my mother’s ear for talent was amiss. That’s based on an elementary school (P.S. 232 in Queens, NY) salute to Lerner and Loewe, for which I was not chosen to sing “On the Street Where You Live” or “If Ever I Would Leave You” or “Almost Like Being in Love.” Instead, I appeared in the performance of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” One of the prettier girls (I think it was either Lisa Binderoff or Joy Sarfaty) sat in a high-backed chair singing the song while all the boys who had absolutely no musical talent and, thus, could not be used in any other way, swayed back and forth unrhythmically behind her.

I was one of them.

My only other appearance on stage was in the Stella Maris production of Annie Get Your o1Gun. Stella Maris** was an all-girls Catholic school in Far Rockaway, ugly and box-shaped (the building, not the girls). When they put on their spring musicals, they recruited male actors from the drama department at John Adams High School in Ozone Park. That was my school. I wasn’t in the drama department, but I had friends there.

A couple of them were chosen to participate in the show. A few more of us accompanied them to the rehearsals, because we wanted to support our pals’ thespian efforts.

Also, there were rumors about Catholic school girls.

Although none of the actresses or staff knew why the rest of us were there, they sort of grew accustomed to our faces (oh, wait, that’s Lerner and Loewe again), so that, during the last performance, it was no problem for our friends who were in the show to give us cowboy hats and sneak us out on stage for the finale. So, there I was, mouthing the words to “There’s No Business Like Show Business” inaccurately but enthusiastically while swaying back and forth (again!). Then I happened to glance toward the wings and saw a nun giving me the evil eye and motioning with a single accusatory finger for me to get the hell off the stage.

I don’t think she even knew I was Jewish.

So, anyway, that was the sum total of my theatrical career.

Our daughter Casey, however, loved the stage, even while she preferred to be off it. She did appear briefly as “The Red-Haired Girl” in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (she was born to play the role, or at least her hair was), but even though she actually can sing and has performed as a musician in front of people, I guess she doesn’t like memorizing lines or, what’s that word? Right–acting.

So all through high school, she worked on the tech crews, designing and making scenery and moving sets and props during performances. My wife and I dutifully attended these shows, often performed with rushed and barely audible dialog and sometimes painfully off-key singing, and we applauded when the tech crew came out, usually dressed entirely in black, to take their bows. We were probably the only people in the audience with no relatives in the show, as if we possessed a somewhat unsavory desire to watch teenagers impersonate grown-ups in How to Succeed in Business and Little Shop of Horrors.

But after four years, we sent Casey off to art college and figured we were finished.

And we were…until she got a job as a film teacher in a local private school. And, of course, she immediately volunteered to be involved in their productions, becoming the main costume designer. And, of course, we go to see the productions even though, once again, our daughter is never actually in the shows.

And that is why we recently attended our 30-year-old daughter’s high school musical. But at least now we know we’re not the only people in the audience without a performing relative.

That’s because we sit next to Casey’s husband Alex.

See you soon.hqdefault2

*Although James Cagney performed it in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, about its composer, George M. Cohan.

**Stella Maris closed in June, 2010, due either to low enrollment or incursions by an undesirable element from John Adams High School.

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BONUS President’s Day Post

It has just come to my attention via a video clip from The Rachael Ray Show that Teddy teddyRoosevelt once had a live badger thrown at him. Teddy Roosevelt then adopted the badger, and it spent the next four years angrily rambling about in the oval office.

Really.

These days, we already have somebody angrily rambling about in the oval office, and he seems to be spending much of his time badgering people, particularly the media. And it got me to thinking…

…what would President Trump do if somebody threw a badger at him?

Sure, the easy answer is “Deport the badger.” But he wouldn’t be able to do that if it was an American badger, which really is a kind of badger, as opposed to the Syrian badger, which would be on the next plane out of here.

groundhog29n-1-web1I’d like to think President Trump would give the badger to Kellyanne Conway, who would immediately have it arrested for its part in the Groundhog Day Massacre, even though there’s no reason why a badger would have anything to do with a Groundhog Day massacre if, in fact, there had ever been a Groundhog Day massacre, which, of course, there wasn’t, not even in Sweden. Except that I imagine President Trump might have vaguely remembered Groundhog Day-related bloodshed which, upon further review, turned out to be that time New York City Mayor DiBlasio was taking part in a Groundhog Day ceremony and dropped the groundhog on its head, which is something that really happened, as evidenced by the photo above.

So I’m thinking President Trump would have mentioned that to Kellyanne when he gave her the badger, promising her it was a really great badger, maybe the best ever, and Kellyanne would have gotten things mixed up a little.

badgerAnyway, you just know that poor badger would end up stuffed and mounted, possibly, if the President had his way, next to Chuck Todd.

And thus ends my President’s Day tale.

See you soon.todd

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Entry 633: My Condolences on Your Lottery Win

There’s just no pleasing some people.

Take Melania Trump for instance. According to numerous sources, she is not enjoying her stint as first lady. “Miserable,” is the word I keep seeing.obama-secretservice1

Most women, I think, wouldn’t mind being FLOTUS, at least for longer than a month. You’re surrounded by handsome Secret Service guys with coils coming out of their ears; you get to dress up for state dinners; you can escort Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife on a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (and wonder what Mrs. Netanyahu means when she says, “So this is a whole museum for schwartzes?”); and you can probably get on Ellen during the 12 days of Christmas when she gives things away. I bet you can even see Hamilton whenever you want, if you don’t mind having the cast give a speech to you after the show.

trump2020On the other hand, I’m not sure Melania enjoys moments like the one pictured at left: being among “the people” in Florida, apparently launching your husband’s premature reelection campaign by reciting the Lord’s prayer, which may not have been a great choice considering it includes the phrase “rescue us from the evil one.”

You also hate the White House because it’s white and not gold, so you have to live at Trump Tower, which is such a dump. And you have media outlets saying you were a prostitute, thus derailing your intentions of illegally using your position to start a business, possibly involving importing Russian caviar at suspiciously advantageous prices.

All in all, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Mel is miserable as first lady. After all, look who she’s married to.

In any case, FLOTUS’s dissatisfaction is nothing compared to that of one Jane Park, who is suing Great Britain’s National Lottery for allowing her to play when she was only 17. Actually, it wasn’t the playing that got Jane upset, it was the winning.

Her life, she says, was ruined when she suddenly gained over a million pounds, a statement which, by itself, should be enough to make the Brits want to switch over to some other currency. I mean, you’re less likely to think I’m talking about Kirstie Alley if I say she suddenly gained 1.25 million dollars.

It’s okay, though, because Jane had no trouble whatsoever shedding those extra pounds. janeShe bought a purple Range Rover and two residential properties, and has also used her winnings for “plastic surgery, designer shoes and extravagant nights clubbing.” Judging from her selfie at right, I think we can be fairly certain about which area her plastic surgeon was focused on.

But Jane is about as merry as Melania. She says, “People look at me and think, ‘I wish I had her lifestyle, I wish I had her money.’ But they don’t realize the extent of my stress. I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life?”

I read about Jane in the New York Post, which will extensively cover any story that can conceivably include breasts. But it’s unclear what exactly Jane is suing for. If she’s suing for money, I think her lawyers should be cautious. If they win the suit, they could be next.

But, you know what? This humble blogger doesn’t just report the news. He solves people’s problems. So here’s what I propose: I think Jane Park (below left) and Melania Trump (below right) should trade places. Melania is already used to having money to shop with, so she could live like a princess in Great Britain, which probably wouldn’t even notice one more princess. Meanwhile, Jane could live in style without stressing about money, because the First Lady doesn’t actually need cash; she just motions for one of the guys with the ear coils to pick up melania-trump-candy-apple-red1jane2the tab.

And judging from Jane’s photo, I don’t think President Trump would mind the switch.

He might not even notice the switch.  After all, both women would be immigrants.

See you soon.

P.S. If you like this post, please share it.  Trying to build a following here!

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Entry 632:…and an Evil-Looking Alien with Sharp Teeth Bursts from His Chest

Let me begin this post by saying that I am totally sympathetic to the challenges faced byalien physically disadvantaged people. I believe that society should do as much as is feasible to help these folks go about their days, whether that means handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, or those annoying voices in elevators that announce what floor you’re on.

But as it is wont to do, sometimes society goes overboard.

I bring this up because recently I became aware of something called “described (or descriptive) video.” What closed captioning does for the hearing-impaired, descriptive video attempts to do for the seeing-impaired. It recognizes that, while blind people have always been able to listen to TV and movies, they’ve never known what was happening onscreen unless someone was there to tell them. So descriptive video provides somebody to tell them.

Specifically, a voice-over is added to the sound track to describe the action. For example, at the opening of the descriptive video version of The Lion King, a calming female voice tells us that….

“Hundreds of animals gather at the bottom of pride rock, a tall, kingflat ledge that towers over the rest of the savannah. Zasu, a small blue bird with a large beak, flaps to the ledge. He bows to Mufasa, a powerful, dignified lion with a thick red mane…”

It goes on and on like that. Meanwhile, of course, the actual soundtrack has to be somewhat muted to make the description audible, so you end up hearing Elton John singing “Circle of Life” in the background as if it’s over the sound system in a noisy restaurant. The problem is that the song is really the whole point of the scene. So, in an effort convey the action of what’s going on, it has forced the “viewer” to miss the idea of what’s going on.

And how would you even do something like this for an action film?  The other night, I was watching Jason Bourne, which is essentially one movie-length chase scene, and I imagined a descriptive video narrator saying “And the motorcycle…wait, now the assassin is…while on the roof…oh, nevermind.”

I was going to end this post by saying that we should, perhaps, surrender to the idea that video is a visual medium, possibly not appropriate for the visually-impaired. By the same token, “radio for the deaf” is pretty much a non-starter.*

googleBut then I came across something really interesting (at least to me). One of the links returned during my Google search for “descriptive video” was this: “Pornhub’s newest offering is audio porn for the blind”

Being a dedicated journalist, I obviously had to continue my research, so I went to Pornhub, which was not bookmarked on my computer. Pornhub has its porn grouped by genre, and there are apparently many more genres of porn than I had thought possible. I didn’t even know what some of the genres were. But that may be a subject for another day.**

Anyway, there it was, between “Czech” and “Double Penetration”: “Described video.” I phclicked on one of the less disgusting-sounding entries, the classic “Sexy Threesome in the Office.“ Here’s what I heard over a black screen with nothing but a logo for something called Brazzers:

“This is Pornhub’s descriptive audio of the video ‘Sexy Threesome in the Office’ by Brazzers. It stars Ava Adams and Riley Gena and it is seven minutes and 32 seconds long.”

Other than informing the visually-impaired horndog exactly how much time he has to do whatever he’s going to do, I would say this introduction does nothing but give him about 12 seconds less in which to do it.

Then the video (with this description) actually begins:sexy

“The video opens with a white man in a dark suit in an office setting staring excitedly at a laptop computer…Two white women enter: a short brunette with giant tits and a tall, thin blonde.” (After some totally unnecessary dialogue)…”The blonde rips her shirt open and starts stroking her own silhouette, and at the same time, the brunette begins to caress her…”

I stopped the video there, certain that the plot held no surprises, especially since there were only about six and a half minutes remaining. I had a few questions about all this:

  1. If I was blind, how would I know how large the blonde’s breasts were?
  2. If I was blind, how would I have known to click on this video in the first place? I mean, it was right next to “Da Underground: A Gay XXX Parody.” That might have been quite a shock.
  3. How is “Czech” a category of porn? Do they do things differently over there?
  4. Since one of Pornhub’s categories is “Interracial,” I guess black lives do matter. But if you’re blind and listening to porn, would it really be more (or less) of a turn-on if it was a black man in an office setting. Or a black woman with giant breasts?
  5. In the scheme of things, is it really necessary to inform the viewer what color the guy’s suit is? He’ll be out of it soon enough. And the audio didn’t say anything about what the women were wearing.

In conclusion, isn’t this why there’s phone sex?

See you soon.captioning-device_sq-0de53a759995caaeb7ec3dd03621f29e1b91f125-s300-c851

*Although that hasn’t stopped NPR from trying it.  Hopefully, though, deaf people won’t listen to this radio programming while driving.

**Then again, maybe not.

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Entry 631: You Can Bet Your Asteroid

Wait until you hear what NASA is planning to do!

You may remember NASA from the movie Hidden Figures, but you may not know that the agency is still around and, um, doing stuff. For instance, as I’ve previously reported, they’ve found, like, a ton of planets such as Kepler-22c and WASP- 9b. And they’ve taken 150828092535-mars-wwi-helmet-super-169lots of cool photographs that certain Web-based scientists will swear show proof of intelligent life on Mars in the form of World War I infantry helmets.

And last month, NASA announced a future mission to an asteroid known as 16 Psyche.

You’re probably wondering if 16 Psyche is one of those asteroids that astronomers are always telling us will come “dangerously close” to Earth, if, by “dangerously close,” we mean 745,000 miles.* If you’re wondering that, you may also be wondering if this future willismission will involve Bruce Willis.

No need to worry, folks. 16 Psyche is not headed toward our planet, so the end of the world is not nigh, at least not because of asteroids.

The reason NASA wants to journey to 16 Psyche, which is about the size of the state of Massachusetts, is because it is potentially much more valuable than the state of Massachusetts. You see, 16 Psyche is thought to be the core of a long-dead planet (possibly one that had an asteroid crash into it), and, according to NASA, may be “comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core.”

This is in sharp contrast to many other asteroids, which are just masses of ice and don’t do anybody any good unless you have a really big scotch glass.

NASA thinks “the iron content alone of 16 Psyche could be worth more than $10,000 quadrillion.”

To put that in perspective, that’s a shitload of money. Our president doesn’t even have that much money. In fact, “quadrillionaire” isn’t even a word!

Or, to put it another way, according to AOL News, that amount of money could literally solve the world’s $60 trillion dollar debt. On the other hand, I think AOL might be underestimating things, just as it underestimates the interest I have in being able to pack a packsuitcase in 10 seconds. If my math is correct, that much money would not only wipe out the world’s debt, it would leave enough left over to give more than a million bucks to every man, Bed bath and beyond coupon 2015woman and child on Earth. And also some 20% off Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons.

A disclaimer, though: my math may not be correct because my head is not used to such large numbers.

In any case, I have a few comments about the finances here:

  1. How can the world have a $60 trillion dollar debt? Doesn’t the world as a whole have to be debt neutral?  I mean, for everybody who owes money, there has to be somebody else sending collection letters, right?  Otherwise, who do we owe that $60 trillion to, the First Planetary Bank of Mars?
  2. Surprisingly, the U.S. Department of the Treasury does not print any currency larger than the $100 bill. If NASA had $10,000 quadrillion in $100 bills and stacked them up, it would reach 6,786,616 miles into space, so someone could climb up there and get a closer look at that helmet thing on Mars.
  3. How much will it cost NASA to create a spacecraft to fly a seven year mission just to get to 16 Psyche and then get $10,000 quadrillion worth of iron back to Earth? I’m guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 quadrillion.
  4. Could the expense of the project be reduced if NASA launched its mission from the top of its stack of $100 bills? (I do realize that would be a kind of chicken-and-egg thing, but perhaps they could borrow the money from the First Planetary Bank of Mars using 16 Psyche as collateral.)

NASA is going to launch its 16 Psyche mission in October of 2023 and arrive at the psychelongshot0718b1asteroid in 2030. Being able to name a specific month over six years from now must have required a lot of precise calculations, which must have been difficult since those black women in Hidden Figures are retired.

But as long as we’re being exact, I’ll be looking forward to collecting exactly $1,328,108 in 13 years. You know, after we pay off that worldwide debt we owe to somebody.

See you soon.

*16 Psyche is also not the asteroid that some crazy people believe is going to crash into Earth this month, although, if it was, it would solve the problem of how to get all that iron back from space.

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