My Boeing–McDonnell Douglas–Insitu Survey

August 28, 2017

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for purchasing a Boeing–McDonnell Douglas–Insitu aircraft. Please take a few moments to fill out our survey. Answering these questions is not required, but the information will help us to develop new products that best meet your needs and desires—and those of your followers.

  1. Appellation: [ ] Mr.  [ ] Mrs.  [ ] Ms.  [ ] Miss  [ ] HRH  [ ] Col.
    [ ] Gen.  
    [ ] Comrade  [ ] Classified  [ ] Other (e.g., Your Beatitude)
  2. First Name (As it appears on your birth certificate, or as you wish to be remembered): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  3. Initial(s) [Limit of 3, please]: ………………………
  4. Last Name (For surnames with 2 or more hyphens, use a separate sheet of paper; set off aliases in quotation marks): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
  5. Password (For your protection, clear text here is replaced with a mix of special characters and ASL—American Sign Language): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
  6. Your Code Name: …………………………………………………………………………
  7. Latitude-Longitude-Altitude: …………….. – …………… – ….………….
  8. Which aircraft did you purchase?
    a. [ ] F-14 Tomcat
    b. [ ] F-15 Eagle
    c. [ ] F-16 Falcon
    d. [ ] F-117A Stealth
    e. [ ] ScanEagle Drone
    f.  [ ] Pre-owned DC-10 (Refurbished)
    g. [ ] Pre-owned DC-10 (Crashed and Refurbished)
    h. [ ] Mitsubishi F1M (Received in a trade)
    i.  [ ] Classified
  9. Date of purchase (Use Julian Date only, please): ________.____
  10. Serial No. (For manned aircraft, see tag on pilot-side doorsill or bomb bay door; for drones, see plate behind inertial stabilized turret system): …….………………………………………..…..….……
  11. How was this Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product purchased?
    a. [ ] Received as a gift/humanitarian aid package
    b. [ ] Catalog showroom
    c. [ ] Independent arms broker
    d. [ ] Mail order
    e. [ ] Discount store
    f.  [ ] Government surplus
    g. [ ] Classified
  12. How did you became aware of the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product you have just purchased?
    a. [ ] Heard a loud noise and looked up
    b. [ ] Store window display
    c. [ ] Espionage
    d. [ ] Recommended by friend/relative/ally/Consumer Reports
    e. [ ] Was attacked by one
  13. Select 3 factors that most influenced your decision to purchase this product:
    a. [ ] Style/appearance
    b. [ ] Speed/maneuverability
    c. [ ] Price/value
    d. [ ] Conformed to local noise abatement laws
    e. [ ] Comfort/convenience
    f.  [ ] Kickback/bribe
    g. [ ] Recommended by the salesperson
    h. [ ] Backroom politics
    i.  [ ] Negative experience opposing one in combat
    j.  [ ] Gun held to my head
  14. To the best of your knowledge, check all locations where this Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product will be used:
    a. [ ] North America
    b. [ ] Iran
    c. [ ] Central/South America
    d. [ ] Philadelphia
    e. [ ] Iran
    f.  [ ] Europe
    g. [ ] Middle East (not Iran)
    h. [ ] Iran
    i.  [ ] Africa
    j.  [ ] Asia/Far East
    k. [ ] Iran
    l.  [ ] Misc. Third World Countries (excluding Iran)
    m.[ ] Classified
    n. [ ] Iran
  15. Of the products listed, which ones do you currently own or intend to purchase in the near future?
    a. [ ] Flat-Screen TV
    b. [ ] iPod
    c. [ ] ICBM
    d. [ ] Death-Ray Satellite
    e. [ ] DVD Player
    f.  [ ] Air-to-Air Missiles
    g. [ ] Space Shuttle (Used, Refurbished)
    h. [ ] Space Shuttle (Reassembled)
    i.  [ ] Home Computer
    j.  [ ] Nuclear Weapon
    k. [ ] Recovered Alien Spacecraft
  16. Describe yourself and/or your organization. (Check all that apply)
    a. [ ] Communist/Socialist
    b. [ ] Terrorist
    c. [ ] Vegan
    d. [ ] Republican
    e. [ ] Quaker
    f.  [ ] Cosmic Muffin
    g. [ ] Democrat
    h. [ ] Dictatorship
    i.  [ ] Corrupt
    j.  [ ] Primitive/Tribal/Tea Party
  17. How did you pay for your Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product?
    a. [ ] Under the table
    b. [ ] Money Order
    c. [ ] Payroll deduction
    d. [ ] Redeemed a coupon
    e. [ ] Deficit spending
    f.  [ ] Cash
    g. [ ] Suitcases of cocaine
    h. [ ] Oil revenues
    i.  [ ] Personal check
    j.  [ ] Prepaid debit card
    k. [ ] Ransom money
  18.  Your occupation:
    a. [ ] Homemaker
    b. [ ] Student
    c. [ ] Sales/Marketing
    d. [ ] Insurgent
    e. [ ] Clerical
    f.  [ ] Mercenary
    g. [ ] Tyrant
    h. [ ] Middle Management
    i.  [ ] Eccentric Billionaire
    j.  [ ] Defense Minister
    k. [ ] Retired
  19. Circle the highest level of education you have attained. (If completed by a proxy, please initial the selection.)
    a. [ ] Postgraduate
    b. [ ] Graduate
    c. [ ] Undergraduate
    d. [ ] High School/G.E.D.
    e. [ ] Elementary/Middle School
    f.  [ ] Other
  20. To help us better understand our customers’ lifestyles, please indicate the interests and activities in which you and your spouse/partner enjoy participating on a regular basis:
    a. [ ] Golf
    b. [ ] Boating/Sailing
    c. [ ] Sabotage
    d. [ ] Shaving the cat
    e. [ ] Walking/Running/Jogging
    f.  [ ] Propaganda/Disinformation
    g. [ ] Destabilization/Overthrow
    h. [ ] Defaulting on loans
    i.  [ ] Gardening
    j.  [ ] Arts and Crafts
    k. [ ] Black Marketeering/Smuggling
    l.  [ ] Collectibles
    m.[ ] Watching sports on TV
    n. [ ] Wine Tasting
    o. [ ] Interrogation/Torture
    p. [ ] Animal Adoptions
    q. [ ] Crushing Rebellions/Insurrections
    r.  [ ] Espionage/Reconnaissance
    s. [ ] Fashion Design
    t.  [ ] Border Disputes
    u. [ ] Mutually Assured Destruction
    v. [ ] Cooking

Thank you for participating in this survey. Your answers will be used in market studies that will help Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu serve you better in the future.

Your privacy is important to us. You have our assurance that your information will not be shared with other companies, governments, extremist groups, the FBI or their various international consortia.

As a bonus for responding to this survey, you will be registered to win a brand new Cuisinart Pressure Cooker in our Guns And Butter Sweepstakes!

Comments or suggestions about our aircraft? Please write to:

BOEING-MCDONNELL DOUGLAS-INSITU Corp.
Marketing Department
Military Aerospace Division
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

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When House Arrest Really Is House Arrest

August 28, 2017

A Right Turn Into The 4th Dimension

Not too long ago, if you ran afoul of the law, were arrested and deemed a flight risk, you were locked up in the pokey until your trial. Granted, even in the good ol’ days money talked, and your lawyer could probably persuade a judge lenient or dimwitted enough to place you under house arrest. Today, though, when the courts let freedom ring, house arrest means wearing judicial bling – an ankle bracelet – to keep you within police radar range while you hobnob around the neighborhood, visit old haunts and even older friends, and continue to engage in the same illicit behavior that got you arrested in the first place.

But what if house arrest meant you were truly unable to leave the friendly confines of your quaint little crib? Imagine every front, side and back door that once opened to the outside world now only leads you to some other room within your own home. And every window that once held vistas of the Manhattan skyline or the Bronx County courthouse now only lets you peek into some other room of your own home.

Well, all this and more could be yours, penal contestants, if your dream house were suddenly transported from the 3rd dimension into the 4th dimension.

Turn Right

Now, those of you who finished the third grade and are conversant in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity are no doubt saying, “What the hell are you talking about, you idiot? Time is the 4th dimension! How do you move a house into time?” To which I say, Hold on there, Baba Looie. Let’s think of the 4th dimension as the next logical, geometric construct from the 3rd dimension.

For argument’s sake – and I’m writing this, so it’s my argument – let’s define the first three dimensions geometrically by saying that each dimension exists at a 90˚or right angle to the other. Length is the 1st dimension and width is the 2nd dimension. Width exists at a 90˚ or right angle to length; in other words, if length runs east to west (or west to east for those of you in Los Angeles), then width runs north to south. The 3rd dimension is set at a 90˚ or right angle to both length and width – this is height. As an example, consider a flagpole standing at the corner where Broadway and 96th Street intersect; the neon lights are not as bright at this end of Broadway, so the flagpole should stand out. Broadway represents length, 96th Street represents width, and the flagpole represents height, as well as one more thing to walk into if you’re not paying attention. Where length, width and height all intersect at the same point, we have the three distinct dimensions that define our physical world.

Following this logic, then, the 4th dimension would have to be set at a 90˚ or right angle to all of these three dimensions – length, width and height – simultaneously. Huh?

Let’s go back to the first two dimensions for a moment, shall we? Length and width define a plane, which is a flat surface like, say, a sheet of paper (or, perhaps, the top of one’s head). On this sheet of paper we shall draw a three-dimensional object, such as this cube.

cube

Now, a cube is made up of six faces or squares, and a square, of course, has four equal sides. In this two-dimensional representation, however, we actually only see three sides – the front, the top and the right; we cannot see the side on which the cube sits, nor do we see its left side or its, ahem, back side.

In order to give the above cube the illusion of depth, three lines forming part of the top and right faces of the cube are shortened and set at acute angles to the front face of the cube. Thus, the top and right faces of the cube are not really squares (Got that, daddy-o?), they are trapezoids, i.e., only two of the four sides are parallel. What you are seeing is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional cube; your brain fleshes out the parts unseen. Thus, whenever you see this pancaked version of a cube, you are conditioned to accept it as a three-dimensional object. N’est-ce pas?

Your New Home, Minus The Ceiling

Let’s now imagine how a home would be constructed in the 4th dimension. For years builders have constructed typical (typical?) three-dimensional homes by referring to plans drawn on a two-dimensional plane: a blueprint. To imagine, then, how a fourth-dimensional house would be represented in the 3rd dimension, let’s look from our three-dimensional perspective at a house built in a two-dimensional world.

With grateful acknowledgment to Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926), let us take a look at a 6-room house in the town of Flatland somewhere in upstate New York, where everything, including the town’s residents, exists in only two dimensions. The house would look something like this:

North

untitled31

South

Clearly, the owner is colorblind or the hardware store had a closeout on paint. In any event, the house is laid out like a ranch house with every room on one level. The rooms are numbered 1 – 6. Each room has four walls, and every wall has a huge sliding glass door (Hey, the owner can do whatever he wants!). Each shared wall leads into an adjacent room; walls that are not shared lead outside the house. Thus, room #1 shares one wall, its south wall, with room #2; the west, north and east walls all lead outside the house. Room #2 is an interior room, sharing all four of its walls with the four adjacent rooms – the north wall is shared with room #1, the south wall is shared with room #3, the west wall is shared with room #5, and the east wall is shared with room #6. Room #3 shares two walls, its north wall with room #2 and its south wall with room #4. Room #4 shares only one wall, its north wall, with room #3. Room #5 shares only its east wall with room #2, and room #6 shares only its west wall with room #2. Everybody got that?

You can enter this house through any room that has a wall facing the outside except room #2, which is in the interior of the house. Rooms 1, 4, 5 and 6 have three walls with access into the house; room #3 has two such walls, the west and east walls. Thank goodness the house comes standard with indoor/outdoor carpeting.

Once inside the house, access to each room is somewhat limited. If you are in room #1, for example, the only way to get to rooms 5 or 6 is to pass through room #2; the same is true if you want to get to room #3. To get to room #4, you have to walk through room #2 and room #3, which at 3:00 AM is not likely to win you any brownie points from anyone who might be asleep there.

Well, We’re Movin’ On Up…

Now let’s “fold” this house into three-dimensional space. We do this by folding along each shared wall, just as you would fold a flat piece of paper with six connected squares into a cube. For those whose opposable thumbs leave them all thumbs, this house is in the shape of a cross, which makes this task rather easy.

First, fold room #4 up – i.e., into three-dimensional space – along its shared wall with room #3. Then fold all four sides of room #2 – i.e., along the walls it shares with rooms 1, 5, 6 and 3 – up into three-dimensional space. Finally, connect the south wall of room #4 with the north wall of room #1 and, voila, we have a cube–er, three-dimensional house.

Now, one way to represent our now three-dimensional house in two-dimensional space is to draw it as a cube, as we did above. If we wish to see all the rooms, though, a combination of trapezoids and rectangles is needed to give the impression that we are looking into a three-dimensional cube.

house1 frontback1

The figure on the left is a view of our house looking through room #1 back to room #3, the smaller rectangle; room #2 is the base of the cube; rooms 5 and 6 are the sides; and room #4 is the top.

The figure on the right is the house with the sides stretched to make the relationship of each room clearer, as well as more bizarre. In this figure, rooms 1 and 3 are highlighted, with room #1 in the front and room #3 in the back. Since every side of every face of the cube is actually a wall, every wall then is connected to a wall of another room. What this means is that no wall now leads outside the house. No matter what room you are in, regardless of which wall you punch, walking through its sliding glass door will always lead you into another room.

Stairway To Heaven?

Now let’s put our original two-dimensional owner-occupant in room #1. If he (yes, only a man would let someone fold his two-dimensional house into three-dimensional space) walks through the sliding glass door on the north wall, he now enters room #4. When the house existed in its original two-dimensional state – and the owner was somewhat shy about waking his crazed, knife-wielding cousin snoring away in room #3 – he would have decided to exit the house through the sliding glass door on the north wall, and trudge through the mud all the way to the other end of the house until he finally reached room #4. This could be very disconcerting, especially after a late-night burrito and mocha latte snack, as room #4 had the only bathroom.

When our Flatlander looks through a sliding glass door now, regardless of which wall he chooses, he always sees into the room adjacent to that wall. Remember, in the 2nd dimension there is no concept of up or down because those directions only exist in the 3rd dimension. In the 2nd dimension he reached every room of his house by simply walking – or perhaps gliding – straight ahead, or turning left or right. Now in three-dimensional space, however, every wall is connected to another room, and that other room may well be on another level – the second floor or the basement. But as far as our owner-occupant knows, he is still walking on one level as he had always done, albeit now confused as hell.

With his once two-dimensional house now folded into three-dimensional space, our owner-occupant is unable leave the house, as each wall is now connected to another wall, and there is no wall anywhere leading outside the house. His only escape from his house would be to have it “unfolded” in a lower dimension – in this case, back into two-dimensional space.

§§§§§§§§

Now imagine a three-dimensional house folded into fourth-dimensional space. We here in the 3rd dimension can no more point toward a direction that is at a right angle to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd dimensions than a two-dimensional Flatlander could point to the 3rd dimension, but in theory a dimension outside our world does exist. From our lofty three-dimensional perch we can look “down” and peer into the two-dimensional world of Flatland, just as someone – or some thing – from the 4th dimension can gaze down into our three-dimensional world.

If your gorgeous Park Avenue penthouse were suddenly folded into fourth dimensional space with you inside it, you would find yourself trapped forever within your apartment. Every wall, floor and ceiling would be connected to another wall or floor or ceiling. And if you think of each wall, floor and ceiling as simply another surface on a cube – i.e., the room in which you are sitting and sulking – then you may find that, unless your apartment was folded into the fourth dimension with care, you could exit the sliding glass door on the west wall of your bedroom and find yourself standing on the ceiling of your living room.

Needless to say, 24 hours in this funhouse might well punish you more cruelly and unusually than anything the Supreme Court could have imagined.


A Lesson From The Zen Master

February 17, 2017

A koan  (pronounced: /kuo-an/, Chinese; /mugwump/, French; /boring/, English) is a story, question, or statement etched in wet cement that is used in Zen-practice to test a student’s progress by provoking what Zen masters call the “great doubt” or “Big D.”

The word koan comes from the Japanese mispronounciation of an obscure Tibetan phrase, “Chap sang gawa yo rey?” – literally, “Where’s the bathroom?”

Koans and their study developed in China within the context of open questions posed by Emperor Yong-le (Ming Dynasty) to newly-weds who had forgotten to invite his majesty to the reception. In most instances, the emperor was appeased with a slice of wedding cake, his weight in silk pajamas, and a twirl around the rumpus room with the Missus.

Essence Of Enlightenment

The essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students, as opposed to an earlier practice, wherein a master spent hours yelling at his reflection in the mirror. Whatever insight this “Eureka!” moment might bring, its verification was always interpersonal – and very noisy. Thus, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting to get out of washing the dishes after dinner.

This mutual inquiry into the meaning of the encounters between masters and students gave rise to a paradigm: one now looked at the enlightened activities of one’s lineal forebears not only to understand one’s own spiritual identity, but to also understand why one looked so much like the milkman.

Literary Practice

Koan practice developed from crafting snippets of encounter-dialogue with the literati into well-edited stories. This interaction often resulted with the “educated class” being relieved of their wallets. Eventually though, the methodology was amended to affect a more literary approach: teachers whose vehicles were stolen found their books left behind on the curb.

There were other dangers posed by encounter-dialogue. An early poetry competition devolved into a free-for-all when a contestant was unable to rhyme “solipsism.”

The style of writing Zen texts has evolved over the years, from the use of exclamation points at the beginning of a sentence – indicating a master’s anger over a student’s temerity to even ask a question – to the excessive use of smiley faces and other emoticons.

Koan Practice, or What’s My Mantra?

A koan may serve as a point of concentration during meditation or other activities, such as pole dancing or dating a pigeon. During koan practice a teacher may probe a student’s ken using “checking” questions to validate an experience, or by surprising the student with an obscene phone call.

Koan practice is particularly important among the Rinzai sect. These practitioners concentrate on qi breathing and its effect on the body’s center of gravity – as opposed to, say, looking for oncoming traffic while crossing the street.

A qualified koan teacher provides instruction in koan practice in private, though some are known to allow viewing through peepholes. In one particular case involving a student named Hu, his teacher wrote:

“Concentrate yourself into this jar of pitted olives, Hu. Make your whole body one pickled inquiry. Day and night, work intently at it. Do not attempt nihilistic or dualistic interpretations.”

To which, it is recorded, Hu replied, “Are you nuts?!”

Historical Antecedents of Koan Practice

Before the tradition of meditating on koans, the renowned teacher Huangbo Xi (720–723 A.D.) was recorded to have said, “Yours is a clear-cut case, but I will spare you the thirty lashes.” This came as a relief to his students, who had no idea what their diapered master was talking about.

By the Sung Dynasty, the term koan had evolved to describe a teacher who, after advising a student over a cup of tea at a local restaurant, refused to pick up the check. The noted philosopher and teacher Wan-Yu is said to have instructed his students to contemplate the phrase, “Crime doesn’t pay, and neither do I,” while he slipped out the back door.

Modern Western Understanding

Today, English-speaking, non-Zen practitioners use koans to refer to universal truisms, such as, “A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the original word you thought of,” or ethereal, often unanswerable questions like, “Does being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, refer to Eastern or Pacific time?”

Although there may be traditional answers to many koans, these are only preserved as exemplary answers by masters who couldn’t come up with anything original themselves.

Appropriate answers to koans vary, since different teachers demand different answers. In most cases though, the master is not looking for a specific answer, but rather for evidence that the student can pay the tuition.


Chairman Mao — The Lost Interview

December 13, 2015

In late August of 1975, Mao Zedong, leader of China’s Cultural Revolution and fashion icon, sat down with this reporter at the Imperial Palace — one of his favorite restaurants — for an impromptu interview.

tony garcia:  I really appreciate this opportunity, sir.

Mao Zedong (through his interpreter): You should. So, what do you think of the suit?

tg:  Pardon me?

MZ: My suit. You like it? I designed it myself.

tg:  Oh, it’s very original.

MZ: How about the collar? I call it the Mao Collar.

tg:  Reminds me of a jacket from the sixties called the Nehru Jacket.

MZ: Don’t mention that running dog Nehru! Guy calls me up and reverses the charges. Says he’s dying to play mah-jongg. So I invite him over and what does he do? Steals my design and eats me out of house and home! I should have invited Gandi over; he eats a little popcorn and he’s full.

tg:  Um, to get back to the jacket, I thought it was created in India in the 1940s.

MZ: Hey, it’s has a mandarin collar, doesn’t it?

tg:  Yes…

MZ: So there!

tg:  Right. So how does one address you? As Chairman Mao? Mr. Chairman?

MZ: Either one is fine. Just don’t call me Bunkie.

tg:  Bunkie?

MZ: I told you not to call me that, you sycophantic toady who suckles at the teats of the bourgeoisie! Zhou EnLai used to call me that back in school. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

tg:  I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to offend you.

MZ: Yeah, yeah. So tell me, when was the last time you were in Belgium?

tg:  Last year.

MZ: I understand that in some towns there the women can become pregnant by staring at their shadows.

tg: That’s news to me.

MZ: Never happened, huh?

tg:  I don’t think so.

MZ: I knew it. Damn People Magazine.

tg:  Can we talk about your formative years.

MZ: Which ones were those?

tg:  At Peking University.

MZ: Okay, if you say so. It’s all a blur to me.

tg:  I understand in 1917 you moved to Beijing where you worked at the university library. And it was there that you were first introduced to the sociopolitical theory of Marxism.

MZ: Huh? Sorry, my mind was on lunch. You see the waiter around here anywhere?

tg:  No, I haven’t. Getting back to your introduction to Marxism…

MZ: Oh, good grief, not that nonsense.

tg:  Excuse me?

MZ: Come on — a communist society, free from central government, and based on voluntary associations between the workers? Please…

tg:  I’m stunned; I really am. I mean, you’re the architect of the Great Leap Forward, land reform, the Campaign to Suppress Counter-revolutionaries, the Chinese diaspora–

MZ: What was that last one?

tg:   The Chinese diaspora?

MZ: You’ve got a way with words, you know that?

tg:  Mr. Chairman, I’m asounded that you’re calling Marxist-communist ideology nonsense.

MZ: Hey, I’m 82; I get confused. So sue me already.

tg:  Fine. So how were you able to implement such sweeping reform throughout China?

MZ: One night I had this dream: China as the cultural and financial mecca of the world, with the U.S. as a bedroom community. So I initiated a series of open-air forums, brought my vision directly to our Great Mass of People, and they bought into it.

tg:  That’s amazing — winning over their hearts and minds.

MZ: Well, it didn’t hurt that I also had more guns than our Great Mass of People.

tg:  I’m sure it didn’t.

MZ: So tell me, you purveyor of creeping capitalism, what do you think of Barbra Streisand?

tg:  What?

MZ: Barbra Streisand. You know, “People… People who need people… ARE THE LUCKIEST–”

tg:  I got it; I got it.

MZ: Well I don’t get it. How could she have married that putz Elliott Gould? As an actor, the guy stinks.

tg:  He starred in MASH.

MZ: Well, stop the presses! Elliott Gould was in MASH!

tg:  Not one of your favorite movies, I take it.

MZ: You watch that movie you think the Korean War was all about golf and football, big nose.

tg:  I think Robert Altman, the director, might have been trying to illustrate the absurdity of war.

MZ: Absurdity? You want absurdity? I’ll give you absurdity: Peter Gunn, a great TV show and they take it off the air after 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Mr. Ed, a show about a talking horse — a talking horse! — runs for 8 years.

tg:  It was the kind of escapist entertainment popular back in the 50’s and 60’s.

MZ: Ah, bullshit!

tg:  Okay, let’s move on.

MZ: Hey, before we do, I gotta ask you a question. Is it true some Caucasians still tie themselves together to keep from being snatched away by eagles?

tg:  Not where I live.

MZ: Live in a restricted neighborhood, do you?

tg:  Something like that. Now, during China’s civil war, your forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who then retreated to Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, you founded the People’s Republic of China.

MZ: What are you — writing your history term paper? Get to the present, for chrissake!

tg:  Okay then, let’s talk about President Richard Nixon.

MZ: That guy had the worst Chinese accent I’ve ever heard. Bar none.

tg:  I didn’t know that. It’s my understanding that when Nixon told his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that he wanted to open relations with China, Kissinger told the National Security Council that Nixon had lost his mind, primarily because you yourself had referred to Nixon as a gangster.

MZ: No! I never called him a gangster! I was very sympathetic to Mr. Nixon’s travails. I called him a psychopathic thug. But you know how these things get lost in translation.

tg:  Of course. But it must have come as a shock to you when Mr. Nixon, this staunch anticommunist, sought to normalize relations between the two countries.

MZ: I just thought he needed a fourth for bridge. I heard the guy loved to play cards.

tg:  I see. As I understand it, the subject of detente was first broached at a fashion show in Warsaw, Poland where delegations from the U.S. and China were in attendance.

MZ: Now, that’s true. After the show the American ambassador came running after us shouting in Polish: “I’m from the American Embassy! I saw President Nixon in Washington! He wants to establish relations with China!”

tg:  And how did your people respond?

MZ: They ran.

tg:  They ran?

MZ: Who knew what the hell the guy was saying? We don’t speak Polish.

tg:  Oh. So what did your people do?

MZ: They grabbed this guy who was urinating on a building and asked him to translate. Luckily for them he happened to be the Polish Ambassador to China.

tg:  Okay, okay… In 1969 you declared that the Cultural Revolution was over.

MZ: Yeah. With the Beatles breaking up, I figured it was time.

tg:  Wait — are you serious?

MZ: You trying to start a fight?

tg:   No, it’s just that… The breakup of the Beatles?

MZ: Come on, you couldn’t see that coming? Yoko hanging out at the studio all the time like some nitwit groupie. You hear that album she put out — what was it called, Fly? Sounded like someone strangling a chicken. Speaking of which, here comes lunch! You don’t mind Bird’s Nest Soup, do you?

tg: No, not at all.

MZ: Good. I hope you don’t slurp your soup. I hate that sound. Hate it. Zhou Enlai used to slurp his soup. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.


The Last Word

February 11, 2014

The Last Word…

in the Old Testament of the Bible it’s the word “CURSE”

in the New Testament of the Bible it’s “AMEN”

in Webster’s dictionary it’s “ZULU”

in the Oxford English Dictionary it’s “ZYXT”

in a prepositional phrase it is always a noun

in Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States it’s “VIOLENCE”

uttered by rock iconoclast and classical music composer Frank Zappa in his last interview was “WONDERFUL”

uttered by President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth was “USELESS”

in movie star Steve McQueen’s final interview – for The Federalist, a high school newspaper – was “STUDENTS”

of pioneering union activist Joe Hill, having been convicted on a trumped-up charge of murder and facing death by firing squad, was “FIRE”

uttered on her deathbed by famously tempestuous actress Joan Crawford was “ME”

in the English version of The Koran it’s “MANKIND”

uttered by immensely overweight actor Marlon Brando as Captain Walter E. Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now was “HORROR”


How To Handle Reactions To Bad News

February 20, 2011

A self-help guide for developing strategies to deliver stuff nobody wants to hear.

Breaking Bad News

No one likes to break bad news, and though you may not be able to give the news gently, you can still be sensitive or, failing that, you can yuk it up. In any event, avoid euphemisms, such as “He’s past suffering now,” when you really mean, “About time he’s gone.” Remember that silence is a powerful tool, but long silences may cause the aggrieved party to start humming.

Now, let’s start by identifying the person who receives the bad news as the aggrieved party or aggrieved, for short, and the person who bears the bad news will be known as you. And while the one who delivers the bad news may well be viewed as bad news, it is important to remember that this is a normal reaction, and not an entirely accurate description of you.

When delivering bad news, give the information clearly, in manageable chunks and in response to the aggrieved’s questions. If the content is dire, make the seriousness of this clear by wearing all black and carrying a trident. Observe the aggrieved’s reactions – if he (yes, to include she) loses consciousness, this is an indication that the aggrieved has heard enough.

Before starting to communicate any bad news, plan what will be discussed.

• First, confirm that the news is indeed bad. No sense wasting effort on someone who’ll get over it by lunchtime.

• Try to create an environment in which the aggrieved is comfortable. Candles, incense and peppermint are a good start; sing-a-longs are generally discouraged.

• Ensure privacy and openness; keep a box of tissues handy. Consider that a desk between you and the aggrieved will only serve to act as a barrier – unless of course he has a knife, in which case those tissues will come in handy stemming the blood flow until an ambulance arrives.

• Negotiate the time you have for the aggrieved. It will help them to know that you are allowing adequate time, but check your watch frequently to remind them that they’re on the clock.

• Ask the aggrieved whom, if anyone, they would like to have with them. This need not be a next of kin, but you should stop short of allowing anyone who has recently passed on.

• If the aggrieved is under 16 years of age, keep the door open.

The Element Of Shock

Remember: Bad news will cause a shock reaction, even if it is expected. Before disclosing their reactions, fears and worries, the aggrieved should be allowed to sit quietly, preferably without any sharp objects nearby.

There is always an element of shock when bad news is put into words and reality sets in. During this time, the aggrieved is unlikely to retain any further information or even hear what is said. At times such as these, when words become meaningless, consider bringing in a mime.

In a busy environment, it may be difficult to give enough time to someone who seems unable to grasp the situation. Understand your limitations and suggest that the aggrieved sit outside and cool his heels until you can find someone dumb enough to take your place.

Sometimes it is difficult to gauge the aggrieved’s reactions. His words might indicate acceptance of a situation, but his body language may suggest something quite different. To assess the situation properly, it is useful to tell the aggrieved how you are interpreting his reaction. For instance, you might say, “You say that you understand, but you look a bit puzzled to me.” This allows the aggrieved time to reconsider the propriety of actually shooting the messenger, while affording you an extra moment or two to reflect on the fine art of groveling.

Keep in mind that the more information you give at any one time, the less will be remembered. Start with the salient facts, and only move on when the aggrieved has actually come back from the bathroom.

Learn to listen attentively and acknowledge the aggrieved’s reactions. For example, practice nodding in a mirror; keep a slice of onion in your shirt pocket – when an empathetic response is required, lean your head forward and inhale deeply. He will think you are sighing, and the resulting copious flow of tears will earn you much-needed brownie points.

Use open-ended questions and statements to encourage the aggrieved to disclose his feelings, worries and concerns. For example:

• This must be difficult for you; it certainly is for me.

• I can see that you are angry, and I guess I would be too in this situation, though I might not try to stomp on your neck.

• You seem frightened to me. Are you frightened? Are you really frightened? You want me to give you something to be frightened about?

• Hey, how about those Knicks?

When The Aggrieved Party Is A Patient

When bad news is due to a medical condition, most people will have some idea what their symptoms mean. Others may have received some previous information; it may even have been about you. If this is the case, and the possibility exists that there is damaging photographic evidence, it is important to establish exactly what the patient knows or suspects before dispensing any helpful advice.

Questions might include:

• How would you describe me to a sketch artist?

• Ever wonder what you’d look like on the side of a milk carton?

• You wouldn’t happen to know a good lawyer, would you?

• So, how about those Knicks?

Occasionally the recipient of bad news will fall silent and seem completely unprepared or unable to respond. It may be helpful here to acknowledge his silence with a response like, “Say something, for crying out loud!” Give the patient some time before speaking (or yelling) again, and if he still does not respond, offer to meet him again at Le Cirque or Peter Luger’s Steak House, with the provision that he pick up the check.

It is important to give information at the patient’s pace; this may mean that he will not receive all the information at the same time. He is more likely to accurately absorb the message if it is given in manageable chunks. You will know when the patient has heard enough when he either changes the subject or falls asleep. He may ask you not to go on, giving reasons such as “I don’t understand all this,” or “All I’m interested in is the money; read the will.”

Only give information to someone other than the patient when:

a) the patient cannot pay,

or

b) the patient can pay but needs a translator.

If the bad news is about diagnosis and treatment, there is generally time to prepare in advance. Further questions from the patient, however, may contain the propensity for more bad news, for which you have had no time to prepare. In such a situation where you do not know the answer, make it up, or offer to refer the question to someone more appropriate, preferably someone more adept at lying.

Addressing The Future

Lastly, when you are sure that the bad news has been absorbed and first reactions have been addressed, it is important to consider the future.

If the bad news has been broken in public, it is important that neither of you be standing near a major body of water, as some aggrieved who consider shedding this mortal coil often look to take a buddy with them. If the aggrieved appears very distressed, it could help for you to run, as being chased is likely to call the attention of the proper authorities to your plight.

Remember, if the aggrieved is also a patient, he may ask questions about treatment, prognosis and other aspects of his future. If the diagnosis is terminal, this could mean more bad news, especially for you. Offer him inappropriate reassurance in order to maintain hope, both his and yours. Encourage him to set unrealistic goals for the future, but avoid expressions such as “What you need to do is…” and instead, offer to finish his dessert for him.

Finally, you may want to address specific issues with the aggrieved, such as not extending his cellphone contract. Remember, what’s left of his future is in your hands.


The Handwriting Is On The Wall

January 29, 2009

Some folks just don’t know when to quit. Disgraced former head of the New Life Church Ted Haggard is resurfacing in a forthcoming HBO documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” that recounts, among his other exploits, Mr. Haggard’s dalliance with self-satisfaction and self-flagellation while in the company of Grant Haas.

Mr. Haggard, you may remember, admitted meeting with Mr. Haas, a young volunteer at Mr. Haggard’s Colorado church, in a hotel room where he received drugs, which he claims he threw away, and a massage from Mr. Haas but claims he did not engage in any sexual activity with the young man.

Mr. Haggard is not without his coterie of true believers. They are convinced he discarded the drugs without consuming any, though had he presence of mind he would have sold the drugs, and thus recouped the price he paid for the hotel room. These same folk are willing to accept that he took it upon himself to act solely upon himself — with an audience, mind you. But stopping short at a massage?

Now, no one blames Mr. Haggard for not turning down a massage. Is it really that odd to occasionally succumb to the vicissitudes of life and retreat from church dogma into that exquisitely physical pleasure that may well enervate the soul? I would argue that any elevated sense of disbelief stems from Mr. Haggard’s own stated invocation of will power, a force truly unlike anything mere mortals possess. I mean, who among us can say that we, too, would have stopped just short?

Then again, perhaps Mr. Haggard the evangelical was unable to sublimate Mr. Haggard the corporeal habitué, otherwise he might have remembered a passage from the Bible, John 8:32, also found etched into the marble wall in the main lobby of CIA’s Langley, Virginia headquarters — “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I often wish, though, that the sentence started with “You” instead of “Ye,” as I have a friend named Ye and I don’t want him to think I’m picking on him.

§§§§§§§§

Speaking of writing on the wall, when is that impeachable rogue, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich going to see an optometrist? Even while the wheels of jurisprudence are leaving their tire tracks up his back, he blithely makes the rounds of popular talk shows, like The View, and claims to have gained some perspective on his plight by channeling the likes of such key luminaries of color as Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, whose only apparent relevance to Mr. Blagojevich stems from their having spent some time in the slammer.

I have apparently misread their chapters in history, as I am unable to recall either of these three ever casting themselves as endearing media darlings.

§§§§§§§§

One of my favorite things Russian, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was in the news recently when he ordered natural gas shut off to the Ukraine, in the process cutting supplies to Europe and leaving hundreds of thousands of shivering gas customers in the Balkans and Eastern Europe with an unmistakable message, one loudly heard throughout the 1970’s spate of blaxploitation films: We’re here and we’re badder than ever.

By the way, does the Continent — Europe, like Madonna and Bozo, is an unmistakable single-named icon — really need to be reminded that their cold war is but a refurbished Cold War?

§§§§§§§§

According to a story in the January 29, 2009, edition of the New York Times, bonuses paid to Wall Street workers totaled $18.4 billion for 2008, the sixth-highest payout ever, according to the New York State comptroller. I am sure that this sum was well earned, but considering that brokerage firms alone lost more than $35 billion, I wonder exactly what these workers were being compensated for? It couldn’t have been for their temerity to woo an initial, opaque $300 billion bailout, could it?


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