O For a Muse of Pretzel Nuggets!

"Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports," said our president yesterday of American military might during the American Revolution (or the War of 1812, it's not quite clear).But in praising eighteenth-century American air power he does a disservice to the long history of military aircraft. Remember how the English took the airports at Agincourt?Soldiers who may or may not have flown business classWe few, we happy few, we band of standbys;For he to-day that checks his carryon with meShall be my brother; be he center seat or nay,Upgrades shall gentle his condition:And gentlemen in exit rows now relaxedShall think themselves accursed they did not recline,And hold their weird little graham cookies cheap whiles any speaksThat fought with us upon Cinnabon's day. 

"Moby Dick" Scribbler Herman Melville Spotted Working as a Deputy Customs Inspector in New York

melvilleNovelist Herman Melville, who wrote "Moby Dick" and "Omoo," was spotted by a merchant working as a district inspector in the Custom House Service, standing behind a desk and wearing a rumpled uniform with a name tag that read, "Herman."The merchant who spotted the fabulist told the Fox Evening Dispatch that he was visiting the docks on business around 10 a.m. on Wednesday when he recognized Melville."I was just there doing stuff and I said to my buddy, I said, 'Hey, wait a minute, that's the whale guy.' My buddy was like 'What whale guy?' And I said 'You know the guy I mean, the guy from 'Benito Cereno.' And my buddy was like 'Oh, that Bartleby guy?' And I was like 'Yeah.' And when the guy wasn't looking I took a quick daguerrotype.""I've never noticed him there before," the merchant continued. "Like I says, I was there on business, and he was busy inspecting cargo, but he did say 'Have a nice day.'"The merchant shook his head. "Guess writing doesn't pay like I thought it did," he said. "There was a time, this guy probably thought everyone would remember him. Now, I guess not."  The gentleman then excused himself and stepped into his time machine by means of which he traveled into the future to make light of a Russian doctor's plays and a Bohemian insurance officer's weird bug story.

Woody's Nightmare

While condemning Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen said, "You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself."  Hackers have obtained and leaked one of Woody Allen's actual nightmares to see what this world looks like to him.SCENE: The vestry room of the Meeting House somewhere in Hollywood, 2017.GOVERNOR McGOWAN: Now, Woody Allen, there is abundant evidence in our hands to show that you are a witch and that you perform the most perfidious kind of witchcraft and horndoggery. Do you deny it?WOODY ALLEN: Uch, oh, now, see, see, this is -- what I was afraid of, this, this, this witch hunt -- I mean, I'm from Brooklyn, what do I know from witches? If, I mean, I could do magic, I'd have made the girl at the dry cleaners give me her number.JUDGE PALTROW: Contemptuous disrespect! Your very words condemn you with their wicked microaggressions!WOODY: Microaggressions, I, see, that, that just makes me feel inadequate. L-like, "Why can't you be more like Tony, his aggressions are, hm, tchk, so, so sexy and, y'know, medium-sized?"SalemREVEREND JOLIE: The Devil drives you to wickedness.CLERIC TAMBLYN: (And for purposes of these proceedings, every time we say "the Devil" we're referring to "your penis.")WOODY: That's, yeah, that's fair.REVEREND JOLIE: The Devil makes you treat every woman like an object.WOODY: I, is that so bad?  What I wouldn't give to be, uh, y'know, objectified, y'know, for just ten or fifteen minutes even.NURSE MILANO: I saw Goody Woody with Bill Cosby! I saw Goody Woody with Polanski! Arrest him!WOODY: See, tch, I knew this would happen, this hostile climate to innocent winkings and grabbings, ehrm, I knew it was a bad idea to represent myself, I don't even, y'know, enjoy representational art.JUDGE TEIGEN: Your lies would have materialized in any event. We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.WOODY: I'm no good with fire. When I was young I, I, ehm, tried to be an arsonist, but I had y'know no follow-through. The police were called in to, ech, investigate a rampant rash of mad charrings.DEPUTY GOVERNOR GRAHAM: The court acknowledges the defendant's attempts at deflectionary cuteness, but we are discussing actual crimes here. Your shtick won't save you now.WOODY: Uch, you're all so humorless and, and, and female. Is there any provision for being judged by a jury of my, y'know, my, my bros?SHERIFF JUDD: The Devil makes you -- and by "you" I mean "dudes" -- makes you think you can be funny and cute and transgressive and flawed and complicated and with slightly more progressive friends who congratulate themselves on mildly encouraging you to behave, while women get to be scolding harridans -- does that seem fair?WOODY: I -- at least it's a job?JUDGE THOMPSON: There lurks in your heart an evil.WOODY: It's true, y'know, but my doctor put me on Lipitor. I told him all I wanted was to just, ahm, outlive my enemies. Speaking of which, based on how things are going here I, I wonder if I can get a refund on that co-pay.REVEREND BANKS: Take him to the dunking-stool!WOODY: Oh, geez, eh, does it, y'know, have to be the dunking-stool? I mean 'cause, y'know, do you sanitize it after each dunking, 'cause I'm a germaphobe. Also a thanatophobe. I'm, let's cut to the chase, I'm basically a phobe. Do you provide an alternative punishment for, um, eh, people who are allergic to punishment?PASTOR LAWRENCE: Nope, nope, for harassers and rapists and assaulters and poor innocent winkers it's pretty much all just drownings and dunkings...JUDGE STREEP: Except for that one guy. Who became president.PASTOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, what happened there?CONSTABLE RODRIGUEZ: Just take him away.WOODY: Now, see, you wouldn't know this because you're, y'know, younger than most of my moles, but -- there was a time when a guy could, uch, uh, live his life, y'know. Make his movies. Women could help out or stay out of the way, either was fine. I mean maybe he makes a few mistakes. Winks at the wrong girl. Marries the wrong stepdaughter. B-but people would, y'know, let him be, as long as he was a, a, an acknowledged genius and y'know had testicles. They were simpler times. And, and by "simpler" I mean uh, er, tchk, ah, um, ehm, erk, "very convenient for me."GOVERNOR McGOWAN: Go! You are condemned!WOODY: Where's, y'know, Marshall McLuhan when you, ah, y'know, need him?Exeunt. 

Make Rhymed Couplets Great Again

trumpSomeone wrote a poem celebrating today's inauguration. Literary research and Wikileaks have uncovered, however, that -- as with any great work of art -- this opus wasn't the first draft. Below are some early lines that didn't make it into the final version:   The mane ‘top his heed all flaxen and bushy,He squares off ‘gainst history an’ grabs a’ its pussy,He’ll tackle the future with ebullient puerility;He mocks danger (if danger has a disability);He crushes PC (and all other ills)But kindly ask not that he pay off his bills.If a reporter displeases he’ll blitz and bombard,And don’t bruise his ego or he’ll tweet you so hard.His taste will enshrine his executive powers –Everything’s golden: his sink and his showers.Behold his fine cabinet: it’s where Goldman-Sachs is.He’s a wild man of mystery, at least re: his taxes.He seizes the mike and lets catchphrases flowAs befits the ex-host of a reality show.Others be smarter but none e’er so loud,As th’ bellowing Donald, wi’ wee hawns endowed.

Bartleby the Religioner

The nature of my avocations has brought me into more than ordinary contact with a singular set of people – I speak of county clerks. One such registrar was a certain Bartleby.It is, of course, an indispensable part of a clerk’s business to issue licenses to citizens who, for whatever reason, wish to marry. One day we had several such petitioners; this was following the notorious court case expanding marriage privileges to adult twosomes of every gender permutation, and business was brisk.  I called to Bartleby, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do – namely, issue a marriage license to this couple, incidentally similarly-sexed. Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when, without stirring from his privacy, Bartleby, in a mild, firm, yet aggravating voice, declared, “I would prefer not to.”I lingered awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Nothing surprising had happened in the county clerk’s office in a hundred and thirty years, if records were to be trusted, and records are kind of what we do. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could muster. But in quite as clear a one came the reply, “I would prefer not to.”I rose in high dudgeon and fairly leapt across the room (we are not a large county and it is not a capacious room). “Prefer not to,” said I. “What, um, what do you mean?”He looked at me and shrugged. “’S kind of a God thing,” he said.I let it go on that occasion, as the day’s end approached and also I’m not big on confrontation. But imagine my dismay, nay, my discombobulation, a few days hence when a situation somewhat similar to the previous situation arose. Indeed it was a situation very like the previous situation. Okay, it was the exact same situation, repeated. This is a county clerk’s office and there are only so many things that we do; variety is not in our wheelhouse.  “Bartleby!” I shouted. “We are waiting."“God would prefer me not to,” he said, and gently disappeared, sinking stubbornly behind the barrier of his cubicle wall.“Bartleby!” I yelped. “Why do you refuse?”clerkHis voice hissed forth from behind the upholstered shield secured one day many years ago from Bemco Office Solutions by a long-forgotten office manager who had no idea the irritating ends to which it would one day be put: “Uhhhh, read the Bible. 'S in there.”“You are decided, then, not to comply with my request – a request made according to common usage and common sense and a common understanding of what it means to, y’know, do one’s job?”“The Bible would prefer me not to,” came the reply from within the pebbly fabric of the modular enclosure.I pressed on. “So I am to do your job instead?”“Uhhh, sure, if you wanna go to hell and stuff.”I consulted with my fellows in the office, who all agreed that Bartleby’s responses were inappropriate and hostile to the operations of a civil society and could we revisit the idea of casual Friday.“Bartleby,” said I, turning towards the gray fabric screen, “come forth and do your duty.”But he vouchsafed no reply. I suspected he had maybe fallen asleep. But a guileful glance over the top of his quadrangle revealed that he was merely playing Hoot Hoot Owl on his phone.I felt strangely goaded to confront him. “Can you show me where in your Bible it instructs you not to do the job you have previously committed here to do?”“I would prefer not to show you that.”“You acknowledge, however, that your professional role here is not to sanctify or bless or even to express personal approval of the behavior of any of the citizens to whom you issue licenses, but merely to issue the licenses? You acknowledge this, yes?”“I would prefer not to.”“You’ll confirm that you know you’re not a priest, or a Pope?”“I would prefer not to.”“And you’re not actually participating in anyone’s wedding by issuing these licenses? You admit that nobody leaves this office thinking ‘That was so nice of Bartleby to be in our wedding like that; we should get him a small gift of some kind?’”“I would prefer not to.”“I’d like a small gift,” piped up one of my fellows.“Shut up, fellow,” I said, maintaining my focus on Bartleby.  “Will you at last acknowledge that there are others in your business, also self-described Christians, who consider the task of doing their jobs to be not at all in conflict with their professed beliefs?”“They should prefer not to,” Bartleby intoned.“So they are wrong?”“Their preferences are wrong,” Bartleby said. “They should reset their preferences.”“And how do I know that God would prefer you not to do your job?” I asked.“Because I said so?”“Could I ask God myself?”“Oh, absolutely,” Bartleby said. “You can ask Him.  He likes that kind of thing, in fact.”“But can I expect an intelligible response of any kind?”“Oh, no.”“I thought not.”“That’s not really His thing,” Bartleby said. “I mean, He could respond, of course; He can do anything. But –““Let me guess,” I said. “He prefers not to.”“You’re catching on,” Bartleby said with a big grin.  “But you should definitely ask Him, couldn’t hurt. Maybe He’ll burn a bush for you or something, you might get lucky.”“But if I may sum up,” I said, “I’m expected to accept without argument your assertion that God would prefer you not to do your job, and to conclude that the appropriate response to these circumstances is not for you to resign from your job but rather for you to remain employed here, not doing the job in question.”Devoid of agitation and impertinence, Bartleby finally smiled – a smile of such placid serenity that I just wanted to sock him in the face.In the weeks following, coincidentally, the rest of the fellows in the county clerk’s office all found religion, fostering rapid and fervent beliefs in heretofore undiscovered faiths with very specific strictures against coming in on time and answering phone calls and filing papers and working Friday afternoons and wearing non-drawstringed pants. The ensuing months have been trying ones for me, as I am indifferent to matters spiritual and thus my workload seems ever to expand – however I do take comfort in the assumption that there must be some intangible benefit to working in what must surely be the most devout cubicle cluster in all of county governance.Ah Bartleby! Ah bullshit!