Thursday, June 6, 2013

Resistance is futile . . .



This was originally published in April 2009.


Generally speaking, celebrities really don't have much impact on politics. And when they do, it's probably the opposite of what they had in mind.

In other words, if I was running for president, or even dogcatcher, I'd beg Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn to throw their support elsewhere.

Think about it.

Even good ol' Chuck Norris, who most people actually like, didn't really do much of anything for Mike Huckabee's campaign except generate a few chuckles.

But then there's Jeri Ryan.

The actress who played Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager (as well as roles on Boston Public and Shark) single handedly, if unintentionally, changed the course of American history. It's an interesting footnote that's been completely overlooked.
What the hell am I talking about?

Well, back in 1999, Jeri Ryan sought and obtained a divorce.

In sealed documents, she basically accused her husband of being a pervert. The actress claimed that he had asked her to perform sexual acts with him in public, and forced her to accompany him to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris, one of which she described as "a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling."

And...?

I mean, God knows that's what I would do if I was married to Jeri Ryan. But, I suppose that's beside the point.

Documents in the case were sealed for five years, but then opened in 2004. By then, Star Trek: Voyager had gone off the air and Jack Ryan (no relation to the fictional hero of the Tom Clancy novels) was running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. In fact, he was a cinch for the Republican nomination and almost certainly would have gone on to victory in the general election. Enough people still liked Republicans back in 2004.

The sex scandal destroyed Jack Ryan as a viable candidate. He dropped out and was replaced by volatile and unelectable Alan Keyes as the Republican nominee.

Keyes was easily defeated by the Democrat, a little known state legislator who -- as a direct result of this victory -- would go on to big things very, very quickly.

His name was Barack Obama.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Now, shut up.

The world didn't end.

Predictably.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Uhhh...

Harold Camping ruined Halloween.

Had there been a clue we'd still be here tonight, I'd have dressed up like the doctor who killed Michael Jackson -- although, granted, I'd probably have had to tell people I was dressed up like the doctor who killed Michael Jackson.

But when the Apocalypse didn't come on Oct. 21, as Camping predicted, I -- like so many others -- was in shock.

Shock, I tell you.

So, it's the end of the month... Camping, who is 90, still hasn't commented... and even those of us who are true believers are starting to, well, wonder.

Camping's media liaison, Tom Evans, hasn't had anything to say since the Sunday before the non-Rapture.  And if Tom isn't talking, you know its bad.

“He believes that unbelievers will simply become tired, fall asleep and never awake," Tom said on Oct. 16. "I want to believe this. I hope and pray that this is the case.”

Are you with me here, folks?  All kidding aside, this dork was praying for the end of the world.

Not just because he knew he was going to look like a big idiot.  And not just because he and an unbelievable number of other morons spent their life savings to pay for Rapture and Apocalypse advertising on billboards and park benches.

Tom Evans, who has known Camping for nearly three decades, actually hoped he'd be Trick or Treating in Heaven this year.

"For a long time, I’ve had expectation that Christ would come back in my life time. Now, within the last six years, since around 2005, 2011's become a very real year. Has become a very important year.”

Keyword: Real.

“So now, here we are," Tom continued. "The 10,000-pound elephant sitting right in the room. In less than five days from today, we’ll know whether we were right or wrong -- whether we understood the Scriptures correctly, whether the Spirit of God directed us, or whether we were deceived. That’s a big question.”

Not really.

“The other question I think that is huge, is whether or not any of us here will be left, will fall asleep and ever reawaken. That’s a question that’s between you and God. Only God can answer that, and only you can answer that.”

Wrong again, Tom, you stupid asshole.

God isn't the only one who can answer that.

I can.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"They grow 'em big..."


This great photo came to me via e-mail forwarded by a friend, under a subject line that says, "They grow 'em big in Georgia!"


According to the e-mail, this is a 9-foot, 1-inch Georgia rattle snake weighing 97-pounds and found in Bulloch County, just north of Savannah.

"Biggest rattler found since Ross Allen captured one in 1969, that measured 9 feet, 1 inch but only weighed 78 lbs.," the e-mail points out.


"This old guy was found inside a [sic] open water tank near an abandoned chicken house," the e-mail continues.

I'm not sure if the reference to "old guy" refers to the snake or the geezer with the pole -- but it really doesn't matter.

Either way, the whole thing is a lie.

Apparently, this same photo has been turning up all over the country.

In one instance, the snake is said to have been found in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. In another, it came from Amarillo, Texas.

And, regardless, it is undeserving of the praise it got in a Georgia website called Lowcountry Outdoors:

"Truly a magnificent specimen, a mature diamondback rattlesnake is a wonder of nature and he makes his home in parts of our coastal plain. These snakes are much more rare these days and most outdoorsmen have never seen a diamondback in person."

Another website, TruthorFiction.com, questions the snake's authenticity altogether.

"The picture itself is one of a rattlesnake that has been positioned well in front of the man holding it and close enough to the lens of the camera to make it appear larger than life," the website points out. "It's doubtful that a 97-pound rattlesnake could be held as effortlessly as depicted in the picture."

This is a prime example of why we really can't rely on the internet for news.

And, by the way,  here's a recent picture taken outside my house with a cellphone.  The snake and the children are real, and there's no Photoshop involved.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

...and I feel fine.


Someday, the American people will be expected to heed a warning from the Centers for Disease Control.

Forgive us if we assume it's just another joke. 

On its official website, this supposedly responsible government agency has posted precautionary guidelines for a "zombie apocalypse."  Here's a link, but in the event the page is removed (as I suspect will soon be the case), it's reprinted below, where you can click and magnify:




Your tax dollars at work, folks.

The genius behind this is Dr. Ali Khan, the assistant surgeon general of the United States, an expert on bioterrorism, global health, emerging infectious diseases and flesh eating zombies. 

"There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for," the wannabe comedian writes.  "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this..."

Unbelievable.

And, no, I'm not referring to the zombies. 

Oh, by the way, just in case there's an "idiot apocalypse," here's what you should look for:

Dr. Ali Khan, as portrayed by Eugene Levy

Entirely too enamored with his own cleverness, the smug Dr. Khan -- who has been hailed as a "public health hero," yet obviously doesn't have enough real work to keep him busy -- is dismissive of all complaints, and blithely says he was simply trying to come up with a new way to tell people how to prepare for hurricane season.

I'm sure the victims of Katrina and other killer storms are grateful.  Especially for the pictures of animated corpses drenched in blood.

 "Public health preparedness allows us to think about the unexpected and unpredictable events, and I guess you can include zombies in unexpected and unpredictable events," he said.

Don't guess, ok?  We already have Saturday Night Live.  We need the CDC to be the CDC.

Dr. Khan seems oblivious to the negative impact this kind of cavalier joking around could have, and does have, on the CDC's reputation.  It wasn't long ago that the possibility of a deadly swine flu pandemic was literally being mocked by the general public, despite an actual warning from the CDC.  Is nobody in that building on Clifton Road in Atlanta aware of how little confidence and trust you have in the first place?

Have none of you ever heard the story of Chicken Little?

Coverage of Dr. Khan's antics has been overwhelmingly favorable, and often tongue-in-cheek.  No surprise there.  Most so-called legitimate media outlets have lost all sense of responsibility, and, seemingly, the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction, or, at least, the ability to care.  They choose to entertain rather than to inform, and if people read or watch, that's all that matters.

No wonder Dr. Khan thinks it's ok to be an internet sensation at the cost of dignity, not to mention reality.

Even worse is his timing -- which, in all probability, is intentional.

In recent days, the geriatric prophet Harold Camping and his less-than-merry band of followers -- who were introduced to readers of Certain Speculation in a New Year's Day essay titled, "Torment of the Scorpion" -- suddenly have received an enormous amount of coverage, a further testament to the ongoing decline of "news" in this country.

Consequently, just about everybody in the U.S. is aware Camping predicted May 21 -- today -- would kick off the Rapture.

I'm willing to bet at least half the people on your "friends" list posted something about having survived the day.  A lot of comments on Facebook have been clever and quite humorous.  Entirely too many, however, put up links to the R.E.M. song, "It's The End of the World As We Know It."

Problem is, even by Biblical standards, the Rapture isn't the end of the world. 

The end of the world is the Apocalypse, and, according to Camping, it doesn't come around until Oct. 21.

Surveys indicate 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians -- yet, best I can tell, few know the difference between the Rapture and the Apocalypse.

Most of us can expect be cleaning up a lot of dead bodies, if Camping happens to be correct.  Those who are among the "saved," by contrast, should be slumping over any minute by the hundreds, as your souls are snatched out and taken directly into Heaven.

So far, no reports of that happening -- but, as of this writing, the day isn't over!

Why it takes five months to complete the Rapture, I really don't know.  Maybe it's like flying on a commercial airline.  You board by zone, on a delayed flight.

Obviously, Camping is deranged, but he seems to believe what he's saying is true -- unlike Dr. Khan, who merely is a misguided, irresponsible egomaniac.  And the folks bringing you both these "stories?"  They just don't care one way or the other.

Neither, it seems, do the most pious among us.

Details of the Rapture and Armageddon are set forth in Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, and are therefore basic tenets of Christianity, very few Christians seem to believe in them with any degree specificity.  In fact, the most religious people I know are enjoying a good laugh at Camping's expense -- albeit prematurely.

In October, you see, we'll be going through this all over again, when the Apocalypse doesn't come either.

Here's why:

For newspapers and television, the world really is coming to an end.

Unable to adapt or compete with the internet and personal communication devices,  they are like dinosaurs in aftermath of a catastrophic meteor crash.  Extinction is at hand, but their tiny brains are incapable of comprehending what has happened, so, as an enormous cloud of ash darkens the sky, they writhe and scream louder and louder as they are pulled slowly and painfully into bubbling tar.

Struggling to survice, they will do anything.

Anything.

Death throes are always ugly.
  
Throughout history, people have predicted the end of the world, and, throughout history, they've been wrong.  For the most part, we ignored these individuals, until and unless they and their followers committed suicide en masse -- which, to my way of thinking, is an example of Darwinism at its finest.

The difference between then and now is that fanaticism and mental illness is being presented as a form of entertainment, and we're not angry about it.

We're just laughing.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Torment of a Scorpion


The absolute best thing about 1/1/11?

Only two more years until the world doesn't come to an end.

I, for one, intend to ridicule conspiracy theorists the rest of their lives -- which, hopefully, will be short, because they should all commit suicide out of embarrassment. Or go on Thorazine. I don't really care which.

Ok, so the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. And...?

News Flash:

The Mayans don't need a calendar anymore, Sherlock.

Even if a Mayan happened to show up, I'm pretty sure he (or she) would shrug and say, "Oh. Well, just start over then."

The real problem is those darn 2012 people are such a distraction that people don't realize the world is, in fact, coming to an end on Oct. 21, 2011 -- exactly five months after The Rapture gets underway.

That's right, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the advertisements on billboards and benches.


And if you actually want to see Christ when he returns, click here.

To learn, at such a late date, that the world is going to end sooner than anticipated, is particularly disconcerting because it leaves me with considerably less time to get Scarlett Johansson into bed.

The belief that Jesus is returning to Earth to kick off The Rapture is based on the rather tortured mathematical calculations of Harold Egbert Camping, who owns about 150 small television and radio stations and who will turn 90 this year on July 19 -- assuming, of course, the Lord doesn't snatch his righteous soul out of his body during the first two months of The Rapture (or, more mundanely, that Camping doesn't have a heart attack or get hit by a bus or something between now and then).

At any rate, Camping explains the whole thing better than I can, in this religious tract -- and, if you can stop playing Farmville long enough to take a look, it makes for rather fascinating reading. Seriously.

Camping, unfortunately, doesn't fully grasp the concept of television. Most of the stations he owns broadcast only audio.

The guy is a total nutball, of course, but he has really given this whole thing a lot of thought. His research, although extensive, is based entirely on numerical clues "hidden" in the Bible -- and, of course, his own logic.

Creation, according to Camping, occurred in the year 11,013 BC.

And he can prove it!

Sort of.

Well, not really, no.

"Since this Bible calendar is given by God in His Word, it can be trusted wholeheartedly," the tract explains.

Not only do you have to have faith that every word in the Bible is true, but also faith that Camping has solved the puzzle and that his addition and subtraction are correct.

That's a lot of faith.

And, at the end of the day, faith still isn't proof.

The closest thing we have to actual evidence of an impending Apocalypse is the fact that Mobile, Alabama, welcomed the New Year by dropping a giant Moon Pie last night.


For those who don't have time to read Camping's important tract -- and you
may have less time than you realize -- the Reader's Digest version is that the Great Flood occurred in 4990 BC, and since 2011 is exactly 7000 years later, we've just welcomed in our last New Year.

The Rapture begins May 21, and lasts for five months, then, on Oct. 21, the world comes to an end. Which is really bad news for those of us who were hoping to get rid of the rest of all those leftover Scarrots this year.


(It's really too bad we've already had our last Halloween, because I bet you could scare the shit out of everybody with a Harold Camping costume -- although, on second thought, in order for that to work, they'd have to know who he is and you'd have to be able to figure out something to wear to make people realize you're supposed to look like him, and, well, that would probably be very hard to do -- even with the help of my mom, who once sewed a homemade Robocop costume. I guess, instead, you could dress up as Jesus, who, if you believe Camping, is going to be pretty scary himself this go 'round, and would be a much easier costume to make. Of course, this is all academic, because by Oct. 31, everyone on Earth will have been dead for 10 days.)

In reading (and enjoying) Camping's tract, I did come across a somewhat vexing Biblical passage:

"And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man."

The verse is Revelation 9:5, as translated in the King James version of the Bible -- which, as I recall, is The Right One.

(A copy of The King James Version of the Bible, with my name embossed on the cover in gold type, was presented to me in Sunday School at Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church in East Point, Georgia, in the early 1960s. I have it in a cedar chest that belonged to my grandmother when she was alive. Sometimes, I open it -- the cedar chest, not the Bible -- just to smell, because it reminds me of her. She kept albums full of old family photos in the cedar chest, certainly didn't own a Bible, and went out of her way to avoid anyone overly religious. But, as usual, I digress.)

As an English teacher, I'm trying to decide whether to subtract 10 points for bad grammar in Revelation 9:5. Having no particular desire to be sacrilegious, and conceding that God is perfect, I'm inclined to give the low grade to King James.

What is the antecedent of the word "torment" in the phrase, "their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man."

I know what God meant to say here, but the way the sentence is constructed, He's actually talking about the scorpion rather than the man.

As best I can tell, a scorpion is not particularly tormented when he striketh a man or anything else.

Scorpions do not lose their stingers, nor do they die, as a result of stinging something. In fact, they can and do use their stingers repeatedly, all their lives -- to kill prey and for defense.

(Unlikely as this seems, I suppose it's possible a scorpion experiences great pain each and every time it uses its stinger. And, of course, God would know. Also, in order for a scorpion to striketh a man, he'd have to be pretty damn frightened, which one also might interpret as torment, in the mind of a bug. So, unfortunately, I can't totally be sure we're not meant to ponder the torment of a scorpion. But, you know, that's really kind of stretch.)


I think what King James intended to say is something more along the lines of "their torment was as the torment of a man, when he is struketh by a scorpion."

Either way, the sentence could be clearer. If I was still a City Editor and King James was one of my reporters, I'd put him on the obit desk for awhile, and let him ponder Strunk & White.

A scorpion strucketh my grandfather once, by the way. Both of them lived. I believe there was some pain involved, but I don't recall that it rose to the level of being described as torment. However, that was a long time ago, and I was a child, so it's possible I've forgotten all the details.

My grandfather was born dirt poor in Macon, Georgia, in the late 1800s, the youngest of eight children, and he lied about his age in order to attend pharmacy school at 14. Consequently, he had a job throughout the Depression, and later opened his own drug store just north of Palm Beach, Florida -- the only one in the area for many, many years. If the phone rang in the middle of the night, it was because someone in Jupiter or Tequesta had an emergency. He would get up, get dressed, drive 1.6 miles, turn off the burglar alarm and unlock Jones Tequesta Pharmacy, then fill a prescription in the middle of the night. I would go with him whenever I was in Florida, and I can remember the gratitude of people with sick children at 2 or 3 in the morning.

Although he never attended high school, my grandfather was one of the smartest men I ever knew. He was interested in nature and history, loved trivia, and kept several different almanacs by his easy chair for quick reference. If he was still alive, and this conversation was going on in the room, he'd already have pulled out one of those thick books, and would be reading us some interesting facts about scorpions.

For instance, he's probably point out that scorpions have been around for at least 400 million years and then say, "I bet you didn't know that, did you?"

Obviously, Harold Camping doesn't know that. According to him, Earth was created 13,023 years ago.

But, hey, who are you gonna believe?

I'm sticking with my grandfather and his almanac. They always gave me good information, and I trust them.