Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Day the Attack of the Killer Dachshunds Didn't Stand Still

Mack Hall

The Day the Attack of the Killer Dachshunds Didn’t Stand Still

“I perceive that you do not own an Afghan hound but rather a dachshund,” Holmes remarked to Doctor Watson.

“Remarkable!” exclaimed Watson. “How did you know?”

“Elementary,” replied Holmes. “I observe that your fashionable and understated Cole-Hahn loafers are missing their tassels.”

Okay, Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t really begin A Study in Scarlet quite like that, but he missed a chance to write Die Dackel von Baskervilles.

Dachshunds make a career out of chewing their humans’ possessions, eating the debris, and then throwing up all that and more on the floor: shoes, plastic water bowls, rugs, their own collars, the cat’s toys, and things that we don’t even want to think about.

What if a dachshund were to be exposed to fast-food, global-warming, and a near-fatal overdose of Glenn Beck, and transformed into something out of an old American-International film? The result could be The Day the Attack of the Killer Dachshund Piranhas Didn’t Stand Still. I am sending the first treatment to Martin Scorsese:

Mild-mannered reporter Cliff Hangar comes home after a long day at The Trout Creek World News and Empire Defender and decides to take a dip in the pool. While sloshing in the cool water he notices that the head of his dachshund Thunderbolt rises out of the water, eyes glowing an eerie green, baring his fangs. As the camera fades out we see Cliff’s horrified and distorted face as he cries “No, Thunderbolt, no! I promise – I’ll get you the really good doggie treats instead of the dollar-store brand…noooooooo…!” Later that same day, Cliff’s wife arrives home to wonder where Cliff is. Thunderbolt sits innocently on the doormat wagging his tail.

The next afternoon, Girl Scout Priscilla Ponsonby arrives at the Hangar house selling Girl Scout Hungarian Shortbread cookies. Unknown to Priscilla, Mrs. Hangar is at the police station reporting the disappearance of Mr. Hangar, and the only being to observe poor, doomed Priscilla (cue the grim harpsichord music) is Thunderbolt, his eyes beginning to glow a mysterious green.

When Mrs. Hangar arrives home with Deputy Cuffenstuff, certified peace officer and defrocked computer guru, they observe on the lawn a fragment of Girl Scout uniform and a broken box of Hungarian Shortbread Cookies. Deputy Cuffenstuff whips out a magnifying glass and a diagnostic CD. After evaluating the scene carefully he holds up the box and says “Hmmm…I think your cookies are disabled.”

“Oh, no!” exclaims Mrs. Hangar. “What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to call in Scotland Yard.”

“Scotland Yard? But they’re in England.”

“Yes, but they now have a branch office in Buna. They specialize in cereal killers.”

“But Deputy Cuffenstuff, a box of cookies isn’t cereal.”

“Cookies contain wheat, and Girl Scout extremists are pushing whole grains on unsuspecting citizens. And notice this stray dog hair – dog fur. That’s why we need to call in a furrin detective force.”

“Oh, no!” exclaims Mrs. Hangar. “I’ve had occasion to paws – paws, get it? – lately. Something, some mysterious force, has been dogging my dreams.”

“Ma’am, you’ve got to know – I feel something terrible has been unleashed, and I’m going to sniff it out.”

“Is there a catastrophe looming?”

“No cats, but there’s a strophe here somewhere. I feel it in my Milkbones.”

“Is there anything I can do to make the fur fly?”

“Yes, if you would, please keep your ears to the ground.”

Note from Martin Scorsese: “Thanks, but I’m booked up with dog stories, so stop hounding me. But now if you could come up with a piranha barking in the nighttime, you might have something.”


Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Martin Luther King Moment

Mack Hall

Rioting in the Streets

Any civilized man must grieve to see benighted peoples, deprived of culture and literacy, rioting in the streets and the souks of their primitive cities. Yes, one hopes that perhaps soon Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Lebanon can somehow inspire the sectarian rivals in backwards Wisconsin to see the light of a new day of peace.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who never saw a camera with which he did not fall in love, has declared the instability in Madison as “a Martin Luther King moment.”

Well, no, it isn’t. After all, where are the Madison city police with their attack dogs and fire hoses and clubs? They seem to be home relaxing in front of the widescreen, and any dogs, hoses, and clubs they might possess appear to be of the dachshund, garden, and golf variety. Fifty years ago Martin Luther King and his friends were beaten, hosed, and jailed for asking folks to recognize that all people are equal before God. The worst risk the protesters in Wisconsin seem to be running is a shortage of Starbuck’s coffee.

The Wisconsin malcontents have occupied the state house, sitting in the legislature’s comfortable chairs, holding up signs, posing for photographs, calling people Hitler, and checking out the legislative restrooms: “Excuse me…excuse me…we’re out of toilet paper in here. Do you have any free trade, organically-grown, recycled, green-aware TP for my delicate skin? I have a college degree, you know, and not just any old toilet paper will do.”

Before this onslaught of barbarism Wisconsin’s Democrats have abandoned their duties and their people, and fled the state in terror, perhaps taking refuge with Hosni Mubarak in Sharm-El-Sheik in Egypt. Martin Luther King, by contrast, didn’t take a limousine ride to safety; he got the snot beat out of him and was locked away in the Birmingham jail. He didn’t face a security guard named Tiffany; he faced Bull Conner. Bit of a difference there.

And Martin Luther King had a real cause – human freedom and dignity, enjoying the God-given rights to live free from fear, to live free to work and save and vote and walk with pride. That’s just a teensy bit more of an issue than forging a doctor’s note and skipping a work day to complain about a 4% difference in retirement contributions.

There’s a little rioting going on in my yard during this false spring: the really fat raccoon does not want to share with the rabbits and squirrels the bit of dog food I put out every evening. A tough gang of cardinals has marked the birdseed feeder out on the oak tree as their turf, and with their little Marlboro cigarette packets rolled up in their little sleeves they bully all the other birds and even the local squirrels who, between the raccoon and the cardinals, are having a rough time. I’m calling my front yard Madison for now.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mucus on Call

Mack Hall

Mucus on Call

My mother’s last words to me were not “I love you,” but rather “Now you know I like lots of ice in my ice water” (I obeyed, and found the ice machine near the nurses’ station). If in the last hours of her life a trio of unemployed musicians had intruded with their own unique stylings of “Lady of Spain” or “Harbor Lights” she would have firmly pointed them to the door.

A singularly annoying radio commercial has recently been blighting the aether with advertisements for an organization tooting itself Musicians on Call. The theme of this organization is that if you will give them money then they will send teams of musicians to hospital bedsides so that patients might die cute.

The geriatric Hallmarxism of the ads is as unrealistic as it is patronizing – to Musicians on Call the patient is always elderly, and the intrusive melodists play sentimental music which provokes everyone present to hug each other and have a good cry.

I think I’d preferred being gnawed to death by blood-crazed, tone-deaf hamsters in a post-apocalyptic desolation.

My mother despised being baby-talked as “sweetie” or “honey” or “darling” by complete strangers, and certainly no one who knew her would have dared do so. As she often said, “I’m old; I’m not stupid.” Musicians on Call, through their ads, suggest that they wish to make dying as insipid as the baby-talk, a made-for-television movieness that focuses on the preciousness of the musicians and not on the needs of one of God’s children making the transition to another world.

Someone who is dying might want lots of people on call: physicians, nurses, the nice aide who brings lunch and helps with a bath, a priest, and a friend, all those people who bring comfort and dignity. Elvis impersonators – maybe not.

“Code Blues…Code Blues…we need a jazz trombonist in Room 304 stat!”

“Nurse, I’ll need some nylon sutures, a dressing tray, and a harmonica.”

“There was a fire and explosion at the plant, and we expect mass casualties – send all the flutists to the triage area.”

“I’m sorry but your father is not doing well. Do you want us to call his priest or minister, or maybe a high school marching band?”

What if the patient wants German opera, not just another look-alike, tee-shirted, unshaven thirty-something with a guitar?

Do our soldiers and Marines in combat call out “Corpsman! I need a Corpsman over here! And a pianist who specializes in post-war Italian cinema soundtracks!”

What next? Klowns on Kall? Jugglers on Call?

Okay, so maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe Musicians on Call is a good thing. I dunno. It’s a big non-profit (alarm bells ring) and raises money for itself all over America. But whatever its virtues, M on C is not well served by its annoying radio ads.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Discount Dictator

Mack Hall

The Discount Dictator

His Excellency the President
Presidential Palace

Alternative address:

The Kloisters Ski Resort and EuroHooters

Dear President (or ex-president) Mubarak:

I understand that you are considering a career change. I wish you to know that I look forward to following your future endeavors with great interest.

In the meantime, I beg of you a favor. Since my Social Security has already been looted and the other retirement plan to which I have contributed for over thirty years is in trouble, I am looking for secure employment. Therefore, old pal, I wonder if you would give me a job reference so that I too could be one of the many inept dictators subsidized by the American taxpayer. Perhaps I could get back some of the Social Security and retirement I paid in.

My fitness for the job of dictator is demonstrated by my love of indolence and luxury. If the State Department hires me I promise that I will detail all the work to my pals regardless of their fitness for any sort of honest work, and will give them maximum freedom to accomplish their own personal and career goals by frequently absenting myself to London to be fitted for Bond Street suits. I will also ski in Switzerland (where you and I can get together and share laughs about the hard working Americans and Egyptians we’ve swindled), vacation in Viet-Nam’s expensive new coastal resorts, buy a new yacht in Hong Kong, grouse-shoot in Scotland, and hunt for other game with the prime minister of Italy.

At no time will I do anything for the Americans who will support me in the grand style to which I wish to be accustomed. Indeed, I will always criticize America, trash democracy, and blame everything on Israel.

I realize that, partly because America has exhausted its national wealth in supporting thugs…um…statesmen like you, the nation is broke. Thus, I will practice economy as a discount dictator for the 21st century. I will make do with being given only one international bank to use as my personal account. Further, the local airstrip next to the county maintenance barn is quite small, so the only airplane I will require will be a neat little DeHavilland Twin Otter from Canada, eh. Naturally I will require three full crews and a complete ground staff on duty at all times. They will have rather more training in actually landing aircraft safely than some of your co-religionists. I won’t need one of those new Euro Airbuses of my own, but I will expect one to be provided on standby at Houston within 24 hours’ notice.

Now for my personal household I will require a butler, chef (hey, Mayor Bloomberg of New York has three), manservant, housekeeper, and any number of housemaids, drivers, and groundskeepers. This might seem excessive, but as you well know, to us dictators humans come cheap. My security staff need be only a division or so of former SAS and French Legionnaires, fitted with a few of those new English tanks, a squadron or so of Harriers, and whatever other equipage you might recommend.

Well, Mubby old boy, I hope you don’t end with your head being cut off when the Peace-Loving Brotherhood take over Egypt, but, hey, that’s a chance we all take, right? When you’re in that great Kaaba in the sky with your 72 vermins you can look down on the masses of Egyptians being oppressed by sorrier and meaner wretches…um…democratically-elected leaders than you ever were and have the last laugh.

Your loyal and loving bff until and unless it becomes necessary to sacrifice you to a mob,

Maximus I, Comrade and Eternal President and Beloved of the Workers and Peasants, and, Like, Y’know, Stuff. His Mark: X