Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Leaping Aphids Anticipate Conundrum

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm



Is anybody out there?

I borrow the above words from the close of Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” because they seem to fit my momentary position, I hope, of actually living a version of a Zen riddle, to wit:  if one writes a guest column and a blog update and nobody reads them, has one really written and published?  Not that I am particularly disturbed by having received no comment – not one! – on either the column or the blog entry.  To the contrary, I find it somewhat liberating.  To think that I can fly sufficiently below the radar and completely escape detection is like being given a literary license to steal (the verbal equivalent of heading a private equity firm).  I can write what I want and nobody cares.  I can devote a bit of time to some projects that have long been on my mind, one of  which is suggested by the title to this blog.

I have never really wanted to write the great American novel.  Most efforts in this direction seem to me to fall well short of their ambition and the writing of them tends to unhinge their authors.  See “A Confederacy of Dunces” and read about its author if you don’t believe me.  One thing I have wanted to do is write things that have never been written before – things that excite the imagination and stretch the boundaries of language, confound the intellect and amaze the faculties of eyes and common sense.  Hence the title.  I do not think anybody has ever written anything about leaping aphids before.

Following is a list, in no particular order, of ten additional things I do not think anybody has ever written before:

1..  Claustrophobic cranes sweep spent condoms across lunar linoleum.

2.  Buttery postage stamps vote negatively in Albania.

3.  Aboard an arquebus, General Lee nibbles caviar while watching “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

4.  Republican benevolence.

5.  Erudite pancakes flip over meteorites at Macchu Picchu.

6.  Don’t give up the boat!

7.  Awash in Spam, Methuselah begat a Leonard Cohen song.

8.  Silly rabbit, tricks just keep getting harder to find down on the corner, out in the street.

9.  Ask not what your country can do for you, just go ahead and take it!

10.   Polar poltroons pound porous ouzo and Greeks named Spiro.

Other than suffering through the above 30 minute bout of dementia, I been doing pretty good lately.  How about ya’ll?  Ya’ll!  Is anybody out there?



Dispatch Column, January 17, 2012

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Government’s next target should be spread of self-celebration

         Ben Philpott

Published: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 12:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 12:44 p.m.

Christmas TV was a bust a month ago. One night, the choices were “Country Sings Noel,” “Shrek Meets Frosty” and a Michael Buble holiday special featuring Justin Bieber. Rather than wear blinders and hacksaw my ears, I tuned in public affairs. That is how I saw the daytime lighting of the National Menorah, featuring music by the Marine Corps Band klezmer ensemble. That is how I learned the National Transportation Safety Board was recommending that both texting and cell phone use behind the wheel be banned.

NTSB studies show that for a driver to talk on a cell phone is like driving legally while impaired. To text is to drive like Charlie Sheen with Lindsay Lohan on his lap.

I have no problem with the NTSB’s proposal that texting be banned. The need for this measure is as obvious as the fact that one needs only to be able to write one’s name in big block letters in order to qualify as a Republican presidential candidate.

However, cell phone usage is different. If we are to ban cell phone use, then we need also to ban all things that are equally distracting: Big Macs and Whoppers, not to mention Wendy’s salads; billboards; children under the age of 5 riding with their parents; members of the opposite sex — or the same sex, if gay — of drivers between the ages of 15 and 32; pocketbooks and make-up; and DVD screens.

Some of these things are more distracting than cell phones. After all, you can drop a cell phone or end a Bluetooth connection when hitting bad traffic a lot easier than you can shush a crying child or a spouse pointing out that you just missed an off-ramp to a Subway.

Banning all automotive distractions, however, would be the dawn of a police state. There’d be swarms of patrolmen yanking sobbing babies from their mothers’ arms and bonfires of Revlon and Lancôme cosmetics. However much Dick Cheney might enjoy such a state of affairs, the rest of us would prefer the NTSB to develop a simpler alternative, such as testing for easily distractable drivers, who would be denied the privilege of driving. The benefits to society in terms of energy usage and independence from foreign oil, infrastructure maintenance and the development of public transportation should be obvious. And for those who retain their licenses to cruise on uncrowded roads — sheer bliss!

As a result of my inexplicable new interest in public health and safety, I have become aware of a problem that so far has escaped the notice of public health nannies but could easily explode into an epidemic. It derives from the culture of self-celebration, which among other things causes athletes, not only in the NFL and NBA but also collegiate sports, to juke, jive, bump chests and turn flips over everything they do. Announcers caught the bug when they lost the ability to speak in complimentary terms rather than superlatives — there are no “good” plays any more, only “great” ones. Now the bug has passed to other professions.

In Salmonella, Ark., Bobellen Furtz, pleased with having SMART-Boarded particularly appealing equations for her second-grade class, attempted a cart-wheel, crashed into a Halloween display and cracked a vertebrae.

In Wingo, Minn., Dr. Orman Dingo, having executed a precise gut slice in an appendectomy, gave the scalpel a baton twirl and accidentally cut off the patient’s left unmentionable.

In Berlin, Ga., attorney Dalton Saloman, having had his objection sustained in a drug trafficking trial, did a Michael Jackson moon-walk across the courtroom floor into the arms of a bailiff, commencing a seven-day sentence for contempt.

Lest you think such shenanigans are confined to criminal courtrooms, San Francisco attorney Blackstone Fuer, having prevailed after a three-day hearing on a motion to suppress evidence in a product liability case, attempted a Green Bay Packer leap onto a window ledge as though he were in Lambeau Field rather that an 80-year-old courtroom with windows that had not been reinforced. He fell 11 stories to his death.

As far as I can tell, Fuer is the epidemic’s first casualty, but I expect others will soon follow. What really concerns me is perhaps best illustrated by an unrelated but illuminating episode that occurred in Compton, Calif. A tour bus accidentally offloaded a group of elderly Italians at an intersection hotly contested by at least three gangs. The tourists were quickly herded away to safety but not before their shouting and gesturing were witnessed by gang-bangers. Assuming they had been “dissed,” they rioted and caused over a million dollars in property damage.

Putting two and three together, I can imagine a press conference called to announce a new peace concord brokered by the U.S. in the Middle East. Off to the side of the podium, a junior diplomat cannot restrain from a self-celebratory gesture that would be totally innocuous in Moline, Ill. In the Arab world, however, the gesture is a virulent insult, meaning something akin to “your grandmother takes tea with missionaries,” whereas in Jerusalem, it’s simply obscene, along the lines of “Sarah Palinesque.” Holocaust ensues.

It might not happen, but it could. It gives you something to think about, if only a little while.

Ben Philpott, an involuntary retiree, has too much time on his hands. Readers are invited to comment at

Updates on Life

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Greetings Grims and Grimaldis!  Beno here, logging in from the Funkysphere, letting you know all is fab and groovy with the lad.

Following this post will be another post of my latest guest column in the Dispatch.  Let it be immediately known that I am not responsible for the ghastly, unforgivable title given to my mishmash: “Government’s next target should be spread of self-celebration.”  The editorial staff at the paper is responsible for this abomination.  The title as submitted was”  “Cerebrations on Cell Phones and Celebrations.”  Not great, I admit, but at least it has some life.  Also, apparently the Dispatch spellchecker couldn’t deal with the well-known line of Lancome cosmetics, with a peculiar result indeed!  One defect affecting the whole “self-celebration” section of the column is that I could not put a finger on the proper term for the behavior I was writing about.  I could not consult with Harry, who had returned to Chapel Hill.  Not until after the deadline arrived and the column was already submitted did I endure the “Voila!”  moment reminding me that the youth of our day call this sort of conduct “swag” – short for “swagger.”  I could not unwrap my brain from a term I knew was incorrect, which was “swash” – short for “swashbuckle.”  This gives you a pretty good idea of the cultural, not to mention the weird mental differences that exist between me and not only the young, but also my own generation.

I had another PET scan a few weeks ago and it shows that I am still clean.  My new lease on life has again been indefinitely extended. My pain seems at last to be under control with the switch of one of my pills to another, which besides being effective, is the first advertised pill I have taken.  You know what I mean by advertised – handsome people wearing loose clothing picnicking in a meadow, and the announcer says, “Don’t let earache ruin your life, try Anvilssimo, but be sure to tell your doctor about high blood pressure, sleep disorders, anal warts, hairy scrota, mismatched breasts, and a general listing to the left as you walk.  Possible side effects include heart attack, stroke, aneurysms, Republicanism, sudden lust for kumquats and shrubbery, lapsing into Dutch as you talk even though you cannot speak Dutch, the desire to run for elective office, and sudden and uncontrolled shaking and slobbering at the mention of Neil Patrick Harris.”  With my medication, however, the only weird side effect has been that I seem to spend more and more time searching UTube for life performances by Senor Wencas and Vic Damone.  I guess this is a side effect.  If not, I think it may be time to start therapy.

Well, I guess it’s time to sign off and watch some political coverage of the South Carolina primary.  So far, I’d say the nominating process for the Republicans has been a case of arming fish in a barrel and watching them shoot each other.  After this year, they might want to reconfigure things.  Any process that for all practical intents and purposes results in a nominee in a national election being chosen by folks in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is a process that needs deep revision.

Hugs and Hickies,