Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jeeves and Hitler

Mack Hall

P. G. Wodehouse wrote ten or so novels and perhaps fifty short stories about his two most famous fictional creations, Jeeves and Wooster. As Jeeves would say, "they make light, attractive reading" about the wealthy and rather dim Bertie Wooster and his brilliant valet, Jeeves. Although the stories were written over six decades, Bertie and Jeeves are forever young, living in an innocent England that never was. Like the white-telephone movies of the 1930s, the Jeeves and Wooster yarns are comic treats with no message, no edge, and no heavy breathing, and with only the most harmless of Roadrunner car crashes and explosions.

That exposition established, I relate to you, gentle reader, the recent communication I had from a bookseller:

Dear Customer,

As someone who has purchased or rated Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by P. G. Wodehouse, you might like to know that With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler’s Valet will be released on September 1, 2009. You can pre-order yours…

The educated reader will agree that one cannot pre-order anything, just as one cannot pre-plan, pre-pay, or pre-position; one can only order, plan, pay, or position. My, my, my, what do they teach them in the schools these days?

But to the point: one can only marvel at’s intellectual and ideological contortions in connecting mild fictional amusement with very real genocide.

Heinz Linge was Hitler’s valet, and after his release from ten years of Soviet imprisonment wrote his memoirs, to be published this fall. Linge-Jeeves won’t receive any royalties, though, since he died in 1980.

Do you suppose that when Linge was born his parents said "Oh, what a fine-looking baby! I hope he grows up to be a servant to a mass-murderer!"

One wonders what a typical day in Linge’s life was like, imagining him quietly taking in the morning cup of tea to The One’s bedroom and parting the curtains:

"’Morning, Linge," yawns Dear Leader. "What sort of day is it?"

"Good morning, Dear Leader. Extremely clement, sir," says Linge. "Shall I lay out our hound’s-tooth check? We have an informal execution in the garden at two."

"Linge, one doesn’t like to complain, but you’ve served me the lapsang instead of the Irish breakfast tea!"

"I am terribly sorry, sir. I’ll have the kitchen maid who fills the tea canisters shot at once."

"Oh, that won’t be necessary; just send her to Dachau for end-of-life counseling. Never let it be said that the Fuhrer hasn’t a heart of gold as well as a will of iron, eh, what?"

"That is very kind of you, sir. I’ll draw your bath now, sir, if that is satisfactory."

Jeeves is always rescuing Bertie Wooster from jams into which the young master has gotten himself, often accidental engagements. Linge could have tried harder with his own master:

"So, Linge, you think I shouldn’t have gotten involved with Russia, eh? Pray tell why."

"Well, sir, Russia is an amusing and, shall we say, vivacious country, but for a man of your, er, quiet, retiring habits of drugs, the occult, and the occasional betrayal of old comrades…"

"Explain yourself, Linge."

"Ahem. While Russia is well-noted for Tchaikovsky, Chekhov, vodka, beefy farm girls with large forearms, and mass executions…"

"Aha! You see, Linge – mass executions. I like mass executions. The Soviets like mass executions. This is a marriage made in He…well, you know."

"Indeed, sir."

"So let’s have no more blithering rot about my incursion into the Soviet Union."

"Just as you say, sir."

What did Heinz Linge do for a living later in life? Was there much of a market for gentlemen’s gentlemen in Berlin in 1955?

"Well, Mr. Linge," says the employment counselor, "we seem to have a problem with your references. You say they all died in 1945? understand that there's not much call for valets for genocidal maniacs just now. Perhaps as a greeter at a big-box are you at working with the public? Maybe a position as a market analyst for a bookstore chain?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Waiter! This Coffee Does NOT Taste Like (poop)!"

Mack Hall

Each generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.

-- Henry David Thoreau

If you take a cow-floppy and roast it in the oven, what you pull out of the oven is a very hot cow-floppy.

Re-naming a cow-floppy something vaguely exotic sounding, such as Impedimenta-Et-Malbowel-Fleur-de-Loo, won’t change the reality of what a cow-floppy is.

If you do the same things with cat-(poop), it’s still cat-(poop). And you don’t put (poop) in your mouth.

Well, maybe you do.

A recent fashion among imbibers of exotic coffees is something called Kopi Luwak, which is a Sumatran phrase meaning "Those stupid Americans will pay ten dollars a cup for brewed cat-(poop)."

In Sumatra lives a cat called a luwaks…but let me tell you a story about a couple of hunters lost in the woods. Hey, it worked as an opening for Brigadoon, eh?

I imagine a couple of fellows hunting those weird cats in the forests of Sumatra a few years ago, observing the cat-(poop) on the ground much as we note the rabbit-(poop) as we walk our woods.

"Wayne," said Arthur (Wayne and Arthur being traditional Sumatran names), "I’ll bet ya lunch we can persuade those stupid Americans to consume this cat-(poop) and pay for it, too."
"No way," said Wayne. "Americans aren’t that dumb. The Irish, maybe, but not the Americans."

"Yes, they are," replied Arthur. "We merchants persuaded them to wear knee-pants, didn’t we? And backwards baseball caps. And leather holsters for cell ‘phones. All at wildly inflated prices. I tell ya, Americans have no critical thinking skills whatsoever. Tell ‘em over and over that something really dumb is now cool, and they’ll line up obediently to buy it. They’ll buy cat-(poop), all right, if we can only figure out an angle to make it cool."

"You’ve got a point. Hey, we could make this cat-(poop) into coffee, advertise it with a lot of high-falutin’ adjectives, and charge big bucks for it!"

And so it came to pass that cat-(poop) was harvested from the jungle floors of the Far East by barefoot women singing their quaint native songs, such as "Catanooga Chew-Chew," "The Camptown Outhouse," "Splish-Splash, I Was Takin’ a Dump," and "One Ton o’ Guano." It was then carried to well-lit and well-ventilated (no doubt) factories to be ground and packaged. The cat-(poop) coffee was then exported to the USA, where a cuppa cost more than the workers made in a day.

Cat-(poop) coffee was given the Imprimutter and Nihil Thermostat by the talk shows, and the American people obeyed and bought, leading to new forms of discourse in the coffee shops of this great land:

"Is this cat-(poop) fair-trade?"

"Waiter, my coffee doesn’t taste like (poop)."

"Today’s Senior Special is one egg, one sausage, toast, and coffee with cat-(poop)."

The chalk-boards in coffee kiosks in all the college towns will soon feature expensive (poop)y coffees from all over the globe:

Jamaican Blue Mountain Cat Diarrhea
Australian Dingo Dooky
Tim Horton’s Canadian Loon Plop
French Roast DeCaf DeCatte La Belle Stool Specimen
All-American Cuppa Yankee Doo-Doo
Brazilian Number Two
Danish Defacatte
Portuguese Potty
English Royal Flush
X-treem Norwegian Fecal Impaction Action
Colombian Colo-rectal Mocha

I sure hope FEMA lays in a supply before the next hurricane.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fidel Castro and The People's Toilet Paper

Mack Hall

"Your attitude’s been noticed, comrade, oh, yes, it has!
Your attitude’s been noticed, you know!"
-- Block warden to Yuri in Doctor Zhivago

Cuba, which in 1959 was violently changed from an oppressive thug-ocracy into, well, another oppressive thug-ocracy, only with longer speeches and more efficient firing-squads, is currently suffering from a shortage of toilet paper.

The shortage of premium wipe might be explained by the publication of Fidel Castro’s latest book, a 339-page Fidel Castro dictionary from which scholars may choose Fidel Castro’s favorite words and Fidel Castro’s favorite phrases in order to think and write the way Fidel Castro and the Fidel Castro government want them to.

No word yet on whether the phrase "died of a heart attack while trying to escape an end-of-life counseling center" is in Fidel Castro’s latest gift to civilization and scholarship.

Considering that no one has actually seen El Comandante in some three years, "ghost-written" might be an entry.

When Samuel Johnson wrote and published his dictionary in the 18th century he had to find and court subscribers to fund it. Dictators suffer no such problems; they simply wave a clean, work-free, manicured finger and say something like "So let it be written. So let it be done."

While there is enough paper to print El Comandante’s All-About-Me dictionary (it’s going to be a best seller – or else), there isn’t enough paper for certain delicate biological purposes.

According to the Communist government, Cuba’s economic problems are not due to central planning but because of three hurricanes. And, as we know, that evil, evil fiend President Bush and his minion Dick Cheney, who rips the wings off garden fairies, generated hurricanes that wiped out (so to speak) Cuba’s supplies of toilet paper. Bwahahahahaha!

According to a Fidel Castro official on Fidel Castro radio, "…at the end of the year there will be an important importation of toilet paper."

And your grandparents were excited about finding oranges and bananas in their Christmas stockings during the Great Depression. Imagine little Carmen or little Juan on (The Working People’s Inclusive and Sensitive Winter Festival) morning this year: "Mama! Papa! Look! Santa Claus left me a roll of toilet paper! I am so happy!"

"Yes, little Juan," papa will say, "Give thanks for the brilliant economic leadership of our beloved El Comandante Fidel Castro that our poor but proud toiling Socialist workers’ and peasants’ family has a roll of toilet paper for (The Working People’s Inclusive and Sensitive Winter Festival)."

Cuba, rich in arable land, imports 60% of its food thanks to the agricultural expertise of El Comandante and his mini-me, Raul. However, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and canned squid have been reduced in price. Hmmmm, boy, there’s nothing that says Christmas dinner like canned squid. Stock up, everyone!

As for that toilet paper shortage, I have a suggestion: the thoughts of Marx, Mao, Lenin, and Engels. All over Fidel Castro’s Cuba there are Fidel Castro schools and Fidel Castro libraries containing the collected works of the propagators of one of the 19th century’s more cockroachy ideas, Communism. Millions and millions of people have died because of the evils dreamed up and then published by Marx, Mao, Lenin, Engels, and other scribbling vermin. A fitting conclusion to this macabre experiment in human extermination would be to let the survivors wipe away (ahem) the horrors with the mad ravings of the mass murderers. One of Fidel’s printed speeches alone ought to last through a bad run of diarrhea. Gotta watch that canned squid, eh?

Aren’t you glad that you live in a free country where there is plenty of good food and toilet paper, and where informants and block wardens don’t report you to Dear Leader for thoughts and speech not approved of

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cash for Concrete Slabs

Mack Hall

The president takes a lot of metaphorical flak (and should) for his successful seizure of two large automobile manufacturers and hundreds of banks, but we can’t blame Amtrak on him. Amtrak has been the government rail passenger non-system for over a generation.

And you know how successful the government takeover of passenger trains has been. Whenever anyone plans a business trip or a vacation, Amtrak is the first mode of transportation that comes to mind. Why be enviro-insensitive and drive your own gas-guzzling car to drive to the beach or the Alamo on your own selfish schedule when diesel-guzzling Amtrak can dump you among the wreckage of decaying cities in the middle of the night? Do it for the whales. And the dolphins. And global warming. And, like, y’know, stuff.

The administration has budgeted some stimulus money (get excited; it used to be your money) to help build an Amtrak railway station in Beaumont.

Once upon a time Beaumont featured stations built and run by the Santa Fe, the Southern Pacific, and the Missouri Pacific and Kansas City Southern (shared). With the seizure…um…federalization…of railway service in the 1970s all passenger service was transferred to a single Amtrak shack out in some Bermuda Triangle at the end of a shell road. Then the station was abandoned and destroyed, and ticket service was transferred to a 1-800-like-we’ll-answer-the-‘phone number. All that is left is a concrete slab in a Night of the Living Dead darkness.

The city of Beaumont and Amtrak want to build a new Amtrak station more convenient to humans than to ghosts, snakes, and mosquitoes. That better site, though, is owned by a private railway company which would prefer that passenger trains not block their trackage, even if those stops are only about six times a week.

And fair enough. If you run a business you don’t want the government mandating that a government-subsidized business completely take over your store and parking lot even for fifteen minutes every other day.

I say this calls for another beer summit. This time, though, we call in the cameras and jazz it up a bit with geezer wrestling to determine the outcome. While the president and his Chicago pals pose with stage-prop beers they won’t drink, T. Boone Pickens, Al Franken, and Ted Kennedy will wrestle in their underwear to determine the outcome. Pickens will represent the private railway company, Franken will give his muscle and sinew for Amtrak, and Kennedy will show a little skin (okay, a lot of skin) for Beaumont.

The public and ESPN will pay to watch and broadcast these three aspects (aspects with one ‘s’, if you please) of the American character rasselin’ for rails – let us call the event Cash for Clunkers, or perhaps A Teachable Moment.

Given his rotundity, Senator Kennedy might have to pay a carbon footprint penalty to donate to the Mary Jo Kopechne Memorial Swimming Scholarship.

T. Boone Pickens (what were his parents thinking?), given his wind-power scheme for which he wanted, yes, your money, could blow away the competition.

Al Franken hasn’t got a chance, for no one wants to touch a fellow who looks like the strange little man who hangs around a mall parking lot in an out-of-season raincoat.

The winner decides where the new Amtrak station is to be built. PETA and the EPA must give clearance, and the proposals must all be certified organic. The contractors, sub-contractors, and construction workers must be certified as multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-sex (with transgender issues addressed in a sensitive manner), and vegan. Any passenger trains that stop in Beaumont must be green hybrids and the engineers must be able to provide original birth certificates.

Given the history of Amtrak and other conflicting government entities, we can expect to book a ticket through Beaumont’s new Amtrak station in, oh, twenty years or so.