Category Archives: humor

Sunday Photo Fiction – July 30th 2017- Talking Heads

A response to the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for July 30th 2017– two hundred words based on this image–

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© A Mixed Bag 2009

Copyright 2017 Douglas Daniel

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“It is poorly preserved,” Dr. Angg said.  “The slackness of the jaw, the orange tinge of the skin— you’d think even a hundred years ago the curators could have done better.”

I said nothing.  Angg was the Imperium’s leading expert in xenobiology and off-world artifacts.  We had found the alien head in among old displays in the museum’s archive.  There were many relics of humanity’s early, freebooting days in interstellar space in the vaults.  There were alien weapons, and strange religious artifacts, and more than a few trophies of the vicious wars of that era.  Angg and I had already examined a collection of Te’measkini scalps, gathered by the members of the Fifth Punitive Expedition.  It was gruesome stuff, and offensive to modern sensibilities.  Inclusion of multitudinous species was now Imperial policy, and we had been charged with cleaning out the collection.

“How do you think it died?” I asked Angg.

“Probably a victim of the Rilhalan War,” Angg said.  “The species looks correct.  Huge beings, they were—doubtless the head was taken as a trophy, and the body left to rot.”

“A lot you know, buddy,” the head said, as it sprouted spidery legs and scuttled off.

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Once more, thank you, Jon Stewart

Once more, Jon Stewart has a clear-eyed perspective on all the craziness that’s going down right now in our national political space.  This is an extended discussion with Dave Axelrod at the University of Chicago on May 9th.  The whole conversation is worth listening to, but the first thirteen or so minutes are particularly on point, and are excerpted here.

Stewart connects the rise of Trump to the increasingly vitriolic and even apocalyptic narrative that has for years been the daily meat-and-potatoes of right-wing talk radio in particular, and the conservative mindset in general.  He’s not the first commentator to link Republican exploitation of white and particularly male anger at the social changes of the last two generations (aka “the Southern Strategy”) to the rise of a nasty, know-nothing populism (see Sarah Palin as a Trump forerunner), but he does so here in terms that make it hard to argue with his premise. Trump is, quite simply, a monster created by the Republican Party that is now running amok, out of their control, tearing through the heart of our body-politic like Godzilla with bad hair.

Frankly, this is how democracies die.  People get afraid or angry and disgusted with the existing political process– and it’s simply a non-partisan truth that at the moment there’s plenty to be disgusted with about how our government is working, or not working– a figure on a white horse appears who promises to make the bad stuff go away, while spouting slogans such as “make the nation great again” or “regain our national honor”, and the people hand the government over to the horseman.  These strongmen are frequently strong only in their rhetoric, and absolute disasters as heads of state.  Trump shows every sign of having just such feet of political clay.

We cannot, cannot, cannot allow this man even close to the levers of power in this country.  The stakes are just too high.

 

 

 

An American Horror Story– The Blackberry Bramble

One the great dangers of unemployment (aside from lack of income, imminent foreclosure, over-dosing on Youtube, etc.) is that you’re available for special projects around the house. And that includes the two most dreaded words in the English language– “yard-work”.

I hate yard-work. Now, all of my ancestors were farmers (except for a few cowboys and indentured servants), so you might therefore think that I would have an affinity for the soil and growing things. Nah-ah. I hate having to grub out weeds, mow the lawn, or prune bushes. Soil, you know, is where bugs live. Every minute tending the lawn is a minute when I am not writing, reading, or playing World of Tanks. In other words, time lost forever.

So, when my wife told me we needed to cut back the blackberry bramble overrunning the bottom of the yard, I contemplated flight, perhaps to Afghanistan or King George Island. In the end, though, I knew it was no good. There’s no place in this universe I can hide where she can’t find me. I resigned myself to my fate and trooped down to the back corner of our lot.

If you have never done battle with a Northwest blackberry bramble, know that they are meaner than a Triffid and a good deal smarter. They appear to be making a bid to become the dominant species in this part of the world, so suppressing them might be seen as a duty to the human race. Having never been terribly enamored of the human race, I would have preferred to live and let live, but my wife is implacable, so I girded up my loins….

As weapons I had an electric hedge trimmer, a hand hedge clipper, a hoe and a pruning saw– and I can tell you, brothers and sisters, it wasn’t enough. Properly I needed a flame-thrower and, perhaps, a tactical nuke. There is something profoundly sinister about the density of a blackberry bramble– you half-expect to find a pulsing alien pod at its core. And the thorns– did I mention the thorns? All wickedly sharp, and some so long that they laugh even heavy gloves to scorn. Even in death the bramble exacts its vengeance.

You might think that the blackberries themselves would be some compensation for this misery, and usually there are few things I like better than some good blackberries straight off the vine. Unfortunately, this summer has been unholy hot and dry in Seattle, which left most of the berries small and sour, and not worth the picking. Otherwise, I might have found an excuse to more merciful. Instead, it was war to the knife-hilt.

For more than two hours my wife and I fought with the bramble, and there were times when it wasn’t at all clear who was going to win. We faced a vicious and cunning foe. I mean, really, there is something more than elastic recoil going on when you cut through a vine and the other end comes loose from the fence and wraps itself around your neck. Forget Triffids– try The Thing.

Oh, and one piece of advice– never, ever, cut back a bramble while wearing shorts. Like I did. The price of hydrogen peroxide in the Western US is going to spike over the next few days. Sorry.

In the end, scratched and bleeding, covered in sweat, berry juice and plant sap, we succeeded. The bramble was cut back, and we filled two large yard-waste barrels with the sliced-up remains of our enemy. We had the satisfaction being able to see our back fence once more.

Our sense of triumph, however, was restrained. Because there’s another truth about blackberry brambles–

They always come back.

King George Island is looking better and better….

Jon Stewart gives us the straight scoop

Jon Stewart, as usual, perfectly frames both the Mohammed Cartoon shooting and the “invasion of Texas”–

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/c54ewk/to-shoot-or-not-to-shoot—fear-and-absent-danger

I’m gonna miss this guy when he’s gone.

I’ll make one personal comment on the invasion of Texas conspiracy theory– what have we come to when fringe-conspiracy paranoia has become the default world-view for even a noticeable fraction of Americans? And how do we claw our way back to rationality?

Beats me. But I won’t be too worried as long as we can laugh about it.

A review of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

My wife is a big fan of this writer named Jane Austen. I mean, she has all the movies they’ve made out of her books, and she watches one of them about every other weekend. Me, I just go play Halo until she’s done. It’s gotten to be an issue in our marriage, though, and she finally made me read this book, threatening to cut off my supply of Cheetos.

So I read it.

I have to tell you, this novel has some serious problems.

First off, this has got to be the biggest chick-book in the whole world. It’s about nothing but these women trying to get married. Or they’re trying not to get married, just because they don’t like the guy. Or at first they don’t like the guy, then they do. I mean, come on, make up your minds.

Second, there isn’t a decent space battle or alien invasion in the whole story. I kept waiting for that shoe to drop, but it never did. There are no vampires, zombies, or werewolves, either. There’s no post-apocalyptic oppressive government making these women battle for the right to marry. None of them discover they have special powers, unless you count dancing, sipping tea and talking. The author just ignores all modern conventions of good literature. For pity’s sake, nobody even gets tied up in this novel! I mean, how is it supposed to hold the reader’s interest?

It would have helped if the author hadn’t set the story in Regency England. She does a pretty good job with the period lingo, but it gets convoluted at times, and it’s not really very realistic. I mean, there are several points at which it would have made a lot more sense for Lizzy Bennet to just say, “Hey, f*** off, Darcy!” A lot more to the point, too.

The two emotional high points of the novel are Darcy’s proposal to Lizzy and Lydia’s elopement with George Wickham. Lizzy rejects Darcy’s proposal because she doesn’t like him and because she’s pissed that Darcy kept her sister Jane from marrying Chuck Bingley. Ok, that’s good, except that the two of them go on for pages about it. This is where a good f*** off would have come in handy. That, and a sudden eruption of extra-dimensional demons. Would have moved the action along better.

The other high point, Lydia’s elopement, just puzzles the crap out of me. I mean, Lizzy and her family go on and on about Lydia running off with Wickham, like it’s some sort of family catastrophe. What’s the big deal? I mean, my sister Sissy ran off with the drummer of a rock band when she was sixteen, and nobody noticed for eight weeks. Just meant more gravy to go around at dinner.

How this novel is supposed to be a major piece of literature just escapes me. Austen just doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the modern publishing world. She’s not completely hopeless, but I would recommend she read up on what’s hot right now, like Hunger Games, Divergent, and Fifty Shades. Maybe throw in some time watching Transformers.

As it is now, though, she just can’t compete.

Sunday Photo Fiction: February 15th 2014- The Raven’s Duty

Sunday Photo Fiction– up to 200 words based on a photo.

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http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/sunday-photo-fiction-february-15th-2014/

Note: my apologies for the attempt at a London accent– doubtless I am way off.

“The wogs begin at Calais” I think sums up this bird’s attitude….

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…Read the sign, fool…that’s right, keep off the grass…betcha he can’t even read English, the frog…them French is the worst, unless’n you count the Germans…bloody daft buggers, just cause they make cars that never break down, think they own the bleedin’ world, they do…Hey! Can’tcha read, sweetheart? Yeah, that’s it, back on the walk, Jesu, the people they let in this place… Tower used to mean something, by God, used to strike fear in a bugger’s guts to be dragged in here. Execution Block, right over there, that’s where that prissy Annie Bullen got hers, by the Rood….OFF THE GRASS! Jesu, that one’s old enough to bloody well know better, with his stupid walker…if they started up chopping people again, maybe with the odd drawin’ an’ quarterin’ thrown in, then you’d see the buggers toe the line… IT SAYS KEEP OFF THE GRASS! Whaddah I have to do, caw right in your stupid hearing aid? Standards have gone downhill, and no mistake…getting so a raven can’t just uphold the sanctity of ole England, we gotta put up with this lot…no standards at all…OFF…THE…GRASS!!!! Oh, an American, doesn’t that make bloody sense, should have never granted them independence….