“Howl, howl, howl, howl!”

15 December 2010: What Makes You Cry?

We’re all familiar with Sarah Palin’s mantra that leaders in Washington need to “man-up.”  I wonder what the swaggering gun-toting ex-governor of Alaska thinks of all the press and television coverage that GOP Weeper of the House John Boehner has been getting by precisely ignoring her dick-tum, and daring to open up the floodgates of his emotions.

Since it’s okay now for men to cry in public, I’d like to admit that I sob every time I hear “Drive” by The Cars, and Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold” by Sting.  I’m also an absolute wreck, a total babbling incoherent mess, even just thinking about the last scene of Robert Bresson’s 1966 film, Au Hasard Balthazar.  But, most embarrassing of all, is how I start crying these days when I see pictures of John Boehner with Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor , and they are all smiling, not crying.

That said, what makes you cry?

7 December 2010: Oprah Opts for Dickens!

Oprah Winfrey says she has never read A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations, so she decided to select them for the Oprah Book Club, and viewers have until the end of January before she begins discussing the two novels by Charles Dickens on her television show.

The selection of these two novels seems particularly apt for this period in American history, economics, and politics.  Given the extension of the Bush tax cuts, “it’s the best of times” for Americans making over $250,000 annually, and “it’s the worst of times” for the 9.8% of Americans who are currently unemployed, and who are in desperate need of “anonymous benefactors” to tide them over the Yuletide.  Great expectations, indeed, as the wealthy splurge on gifts for each other at Neiman Marcus, while the poor hunt for treasures in Goodwill and Salvation Army stores all over America.

As for Oprah herself, I don’t know about you, but I find it truly grotesque and pathetic, how the needy people in her studio audience shriek and scream and cry and jump up for joy when she plays Santa and “shares the wealth” by handing out luxury cars and dream houses to people who probably cannot even afford health insurance.  Great expectations, indeed.  It looks more like Oliver Twist to me.  “Please, ma’m, can I have more?”

5 November 2010: The Human Centipede

At the grocery store yesterday, in the aisle where I was examining the red, green and golden delicious apples, I was approached by an attractive woman, perhaps in her late 30s or early 40s, who said excitedly, “I just want you to know, I had you in English years ago.   You were such a hard grader.  You made me do more than I thought I could.  I loved you, and I hated you.”

I wasn’t sure if she was going to pick up an apple and present it to me as an offering, or maybe throw a rotten one at me, so I quickly told her that I’ve just retired, and that I now have more time to pursue other interests.  She noticed the Redbox movie I was clutching like a protective shield.  “What movie did you rent?” she asked eagerly, waiting for further enlightenment outside the classroom.

“A guilty pleasure,” I replied.

“Shakespeare or Dickens?  Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams?  You see?  I remember.”

I showed her the box.

The Human Centipede,” she read the title, slowly.  Then looked at me again, her eyebrows arched, “The Human Centipede?”

“As I said, a guilty pleasure.”

“Oh, God.  And I was going to make meatloaf for dinner.”

“I’m sure it’s good.”

“My meatloaf?”

“No, The Human Centipede.  Your meatloaf too, I’m sure. ”

“I hope you enjoy your retirement,” she said hastily, starting to retreat.  “I just wanted you to know.  I loved you, and I hated you.” And with that, she disappeared into the meat section.

Well, I’ve now seen the movie.  It’s about a mad German scientist who lives near (I’m guessing) the Bavarian Forest. He traps unsuspecting American and Japanese tourists in his basement, cuts open their various orifices and joins them end to end, oral to anal, just like the title promises, into a human centipede.  The whole surgical procedure looked rather unhygienic, and the movie left me hungry for more.

A meatloaf sandwich would have been nice.

4 November 2010: Me-sogynist?

I’ve always admired Hillary Clinton, but there’s no denying that, once the Republicans saw the handwriting on the wall and the glass ceiling breaking, our Hillary gave birth to their Sarah Palin, who then spawned such shrews as Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, Christine O’Donnell and Meg Whitman.

I don’t want to sound misogynistic, but if Louisa May Alcott were writing Little Women today, Sarah Palin would be the new Marmee Grizzly trying to raise her unruly cubs.  And in this new reality show, Marmee will eat her own young as she turns into Lady Macbeth. Barack Obama could stop all these weird sisters in their tracks by running with Hillary Clinton as his vice-president in 2012.

3 November 2010: Voted and Still Devoted

Okay, I voted and lost in every single category, but I’m still devoted.  All my “R” friends and colleagues in Kansas will now accuse me of “grade inflation” for giving an “A” to all the “D” candidates.  But, hey, it cheers me up that Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, Christine O’Donnell and Meg Whitman got the “F” they deserved.  Goes to show that money can’t buy everything.  As for the dubious Blanche Lincoln, like another Blanche, from now on she can just depend on the kindness of strangers.

24 October 2010: Going Into A Coma About Commas

According to Oxford University English professor Kathryn Sutherland, who examined 1,100 handwritten pages of unpublished work by Jane Austen, the much-celebrated novelist actually relied heavily on editor William Gifford to correct her grammar, spelling and punctuation. I don’t mean to go into a coma about commas, but this news gives me pause.

Back in the unruly 1970s, when I first began teaching Freshman-Sophomore English at the University of Kansas, much to the chagrin of my students, I was a stickler for proper punctuation, especially commas, semi-colons and apostrophes.  I remember how, in anger and frustration, one of my students nearly came to blows with me when, during a scheduled conference in my office, I pointed out all the punctuation errors in just the opening paragraph of his latest essay.  He snatched the offending magnum opus from me, looked me contemptuously in the eye, and shrieked, “When I’m your age, I’ll have secretaries who can correct my punctuation, and where will you be?  Be sure to look me up if you’re still teaching English in this dump.”

I have no idea what happened to this particular student, but if he’s now married and owns his own business, I hope his wife is happy with all his secretaries, and that he hasn’t been responsible for any of them missing their periods.

It’s one thing when under-achieving freshman or sophomore err in their punctuation, and quite another when creative writing students make the same mistakes.  Worse, if these creative writers are would-be playwrights, because the way dialogue is punctuated is exactly the way actors will say their lines.  Here’s me talking to one of my playwriting students.

“No one wants you to be comma happy, but you need to use commas before and after forms of address, and also before and after sentence modifiers.  Unless you do so properly, I’m not going to read your plays.”

“Well I’ll be…!”

“That’s exactly what I mean.”


“You aren’t well.”

“I feel perfectly fine.”

“Well I tried, but I can see this isn’t working.  Oh, well.”

“What the f— are you talking about?”

Even if there are some, or maybe even many, among us who haven’t read her books, if we at least go to the movies, we should all know who Jane Austen is, thanks to people who churn out chick-flicks based on her novels; but, sad to say, until today, I, for one, knew nothing about some obscure 19th-century English editor named William Gifford, who was a stickler for grammar, spelling and punctuation.

5 October 2010: Christine O’Donnell Is Fu Manchu!

In her new television campaign commercial, Republican senate nominee Christine O’Donnell claims that she’s me.  So the cat’s out of the bag. Voters in Delaware now have proof that this ex-witch is really a 66-year-old Asian-American male who believes in evolution and masturbation because even chimps in zoos do it.  What’s worse, Christine O’Donnel’s remaining relatives in China are all secretly planning to invade the United States of America.  Christine O’Donnell is Fu Manchu!  Who knew?

26 September 2010: Pumping Iron, Pressing Flesh

That Bishop Eddie L. Long’s exclusive group of handpicked teenage boys within his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is called the LongFellows Youth Academy should have been warning enough as to what the famously homophobic bishop was really up to.  Four of these eponymous LongFellows have now revealed that the bishop not only provided housing for them, he also frequently visited them for sessions of kissing, oral sex or masturbation.

According to The New York Times, in addition to his church, which has a swelling membership of 25,000, the affluent bishop also owns “a private school and the Samson’s Health and Fitness Center, where he holds court and pumps iron with young people.”  I guess that’s where, when the opportunity arises, pumping iron and pressing flesh all go into a good workout. I bet the sybaritic bishop was probably against the Stimulus Act, too.

23 September 2010: Wanking with Onan O’Donnell

All this wanky talk about Republican senate nominee Christine O’Donnell’s hands-off approach to masturbation reminds me of the famous story about Dorothy Parker naming her parrot Onan because “it was always spilling its seed on the ground.” Except that, in O’Donnell’s case, all she’s spilling is garbage, especially when she parrots everything Sarah Palin says.