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On flags, funerals, Shakespeare & sex . . .

I recently spent some time online seeking information for the proper way to dispose of an American flag, for whatever reason—tattered, torn, soiled, etc. At the risk of being called un-American, I will say without reservation that the information given ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. The most acceptable method of destroying an American flag that is not longer serviceable is by burning, but first its composition must be determined.

Is it cloth? If cloth, it may be burned but under tightly controlled supervision, with close attention paid to local burning restrictions and most important, the flag must be completely consumed by fire, with none of the fragments allowed to float away on prevailing winds.

Is it plastic? If it is made of plastic, burning may well release chemicals that will pollute the air and pose a danger to humans and animals, so clearance must be obtained from our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency—good luck with that!

In lieu of burning, a flag may be buried but it must be buried in a non-degradable container to ensure that it will never again see the light of day nor be exposed to the elements of nature, and the drivel goes on and on—click here to read the do’s and don’ts as promulgated by the United States Flag Code.

A flag is a flag is a flag, etc., or as William Shakespeare might say, “That which we call a flag, regardless of its composition, whether constructed of plastic, silk, nylon, 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton or a combination of all the above, would have streamed just as gallantly o’er the ramparts we watched as did the original that was flown over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1914 in the War of 1912 and is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.”

Yep, I believe that’s what the bard might say. Any item, regardless of its composition, that features the proper colors and the requisite numbers of “broad stripes and bright stars,” all arranged in the manner of those of the real flag—the one periodically displayed at the Smithsonian—is a representation of that flag and therefore warrants the same attention to usage and storage and final disposition.

Each year without fail, a local realtor places a small American flag on a stick in the front yard of every home in my neighborhood—the flags number in the hundreds at least, and perhaps in the thousands, and I’m reasonably sure that the process is repeated in other neighborhoods all across our nation. The flags are not marked with the country of origin, but I’ll bet a half-barrel of pickled a-holes that they’re made in China. The staff is some sort of white wood, and the material is some kind of fabric, either a natural fabric or synthetic material—who knows which?

Our flag code requires flags to be of certain proportions, regardless of their intended use, whether flying over the White House or sticking in my front lawn. Overall size is a matter of choice, but the star field, the stripe widths, the size of the stars relative to the overall size, etc., are specified by the Code and any lop-sided construction of the flag, regardless of size, is a violation of the US Flag Code, and any disposition other than specified in the Code is a violation.

I haven’t measured the specifics of the flags that proliferate in our neighborhood each year on Flag Day, beautifying or polluting, take your pick. Given the ability and the proclivity of the Chinese to excel in mathematics, I suspect that they are right on the money—so to speak—in the dimensions of the untold tons of flags they ship to the United States each year.

Are you, dear reader, beginning to see what I mean when I say that flag instructions and its procotol range from the ridiculous to the sublime? In our devotion to our flag and our need to protect it, we have given it properties that more properly pertain to living, breathing life forms, whether human or animal. When we die we are subjected to specific methods of disposition—what, when, where and how, and to a lesser extent for the so-called lower order of animals.

The Star Spangled Banner

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the national anthem of the United States of America. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories. Click here for the flag’s history.

If the real flag should ever be subjected to destruction—let’s say, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands should the District of Columbia be overrun, whether by the extreme left or by the extreme right, we should consider a Viking funeral for the flag on the Potomac river–what a riveting spectacle that would be! Click here to read up on Viking funerals—it’s worth the read—hey, those Norse ceremonies involved a lot of people other than the diseased in order to comply with all the requirements that had be met.

Timing of the ceremony would be critical, of course, to ensure that the burning Viking ship would sink before ramming one of the Potomac’s bridges. The current is fairly swift in that area—the ship should probably be anchored before being torched, and the usual sacrifice of a slave girl should be omitted. I’m not aware of any available slave girls, at least none that would be willing to volunteer to accompany the flag on its final voyage. Although that would guarantee throngs of spectators and television saturation—all the bridges on the Potomac would be packed with spectators—such an event could possibly produce political complications. I worked and lived in the DC area for three years, and I’ll admit that one of the girls that entertain nightly on Fourteenth Street in downtown DC might be persuaded, especially one filled with the intoxicating drink mentioned by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the tenth century—then again, perhaps not—who knows? The following video will introduce you to 14th St—if you need and want an introduction. If not, just skip over it, but if you do shun it you’ll miss out on a nightly spectacle, the pulchritudinous parade of practicing purveyors of es e ex.

I conducted all the research above with the serious intention to present it, with all seriousness aside, in an effort to educate and entertain those that follow my blog and those that simply stumble onto it. I mean no disrespect to our flag, although I detest the placement of that tacky little flag on a stick that mysteriously appears on my lawn each year on Flag Day. I love Old Glory and I dedicated more than 22 years of military service to it, years in which I proudly assisted our nation in losing two wars, with combat tours in Korea, 1950-1952 and Viet Nam, 1969-1970.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in education, Humor, law enforcement

 

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Alabama sans bathrooms . . .

I lived with my family in several houses before we moved from Alabama to Mississippi. Our first home in that city was on Fifth Street South. Click here for a sordid but hilarious tale of the itch, and of two naked kids undergoing treatment for their supposed infection of scabies.

The images shown at right show outhouses ranging from the most basic to the most outlandish. Note the brick outhouse in the center—is there anyone, anywhere, that has not heard this remark? Boy, she’s built like a brick—uh, like a brick—well, you know, like a brick outhouse! The last privy pictured is perhaps the ultimate outhouse, a two-story number with a ground entrance and a sky walk for the upper floors.

The house on Fifth Street was my first exposure to running water in the house and its accompanying refinement, a bathroom equipped with a bathtub and a commode. My prior residences in Alabama had neither, nor did the homes of our relatives in Alabama. Water was hauled in from the well or pumped from an underground source and hauled in, and baths were taken in a #2 wash tub or via a wash pan and a wash cloth. We mostly didn’t call them wash cloths—we called them wash rags because that’s what they were, squares of cloth taken from ragged sheets or towels or other cloth items that were no longer used for their original purposes. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were way ahead of the current recycling craze now sweeping the country!

In lieu of an inside toilet, our necessaries were outside and away from our domiciles, usually placed but not always, downwind from the house, depending on the direction of prevailing breezes, and at some locations the necessary was in any location at a distance from the house that provided a modicum of privacy, regardless of the prevailing breezes—get the picture? When a man-made structure existed, it was called privy, toilet, outhouse, the little house behind the big house and numerous other names, mostly vulgar terms. Regardless of its name, location or composition each adhered to this corruption of Shakespeare’s immortal line, namely That which we call a toilet, by any other name, would smell the same—hey, I said the line was corrupted, didn’t I? And it rhymes!

Now for the gist of this posting—it relates to personal cleansing, or bathing. I hesitate to use this term for an early Alabama bathing facility, but I don’t know how to get around using it, so I’ll borrow a truism from one of our former presidents—it is what it is, and it was what it was, so I’ll call it a wash hole and continue from that point.

A wash hole in my childhood days was any declivity in a stream that held enough water to enable one to get wet all over, and through the use of soap cleanse oneself—take a bath. As a child I was exposed—literally—to bathing in wash holes, usually on a Saturday afternoon. Farming in my early childhood days, in my area and my era, was a full time job from daylight till dark beginning with Monday’s daylight  and ending at Saturday’s noontime—from that point farm work ceased. Menfolks would leave their toils at noon, eat a hearty dinner, nap for awhile in the shade, usually on the front porch and then head for the wash hole for their weekly overall bath—seriously!

That Saturday afternoon bath held good through Saturday night and all the way to the next week on the following Saturday afternoon, and then the process would be repeated. In that interim period of one week, ablutions were restricted to face and neck and hands and arms and feet—unless one were caught in the rain, nothing else got wet until wash hole time came around again. I cannot speak for womenfolks and their bathing habits. At my tender age I was never privy—pardon the pun—to their bathroom habits or their methods or frequency of ablutions. Whatever methods were involved, the women always managed to appear and smell much better than their male counterparts.

Armed with soap, towels, clean shirts and overalls or trousers following Saturday’s dinner and brief siesta, the men and boys, regardless of their ages—even the little ones such as I—would head for the wash hole and once there, strip and wade in or dive in if the depth of the wash hole allowed it. It could be a small pond, a deep spot in a creek or a gravel pit filled with spring water. Diving required a working knowledge of the wash hole’s depth—click here for a tragic tale of a wash hole’s depth overestimated.

The hours from noon on Saturday until Monday’s return to the fields provided a respite from toil and worry, and virtually everyone–men, women and children headed for town. In my case the nearest town was five miles distant—as a child I have covered that distance in conveyances ranging from a mule-drawn wagon to a Ford Model A to an interstate bus. The trip in a wagon brings up more pleasant memories. The men sat on the wagon seat and in the wagon bed—upright cane-bottom chairs were placed for the womenfolk, and the kids were left to hang on anywhere they could find room. Depending on the length of the wagon tongue, one or two kids could sit on the rear portion for a really rocky ride. For most of the five miles we ranged ahead of the wagon chasing rabbits, picking blackberries along the roadside, throwing rocks at flying birds—we never hit one—and luxuriating in all the pleasures of childhood. Once into town with the mules tied up at the courthouse square and munching on hay, we were pretty much on our own.

The two things I remember best about the town square were Wimpy’s Hamburgers—a name taken from the Popeye comic strip featured in most newspapers—and the movie house, placed on opposite sides of the square. Movies were shown only on Friday and Saturday nights, the same films on both nights, and they usually ran for several weeks. The fare usually consisted of two feature-length films, termed a double feature, one a cowboy show and the other a detective or love story, supplemented by newsreels, cartoons and previews of coming attractions, all presented in black-and-white—-color was still in the future.

But I digress—back to the wash hole. I learned to swim in various wash holes by lying in shallow water and propelling myself along by my fingertips along the bottom, and graduated from that to pulling myself along in deep water with the same motion—the only difference was that my hands were pulling water towards me instead of pulling me along the pool’s bottom. From that point I mastered virtually every one of the dozens of swimming strokes—nah, not really—I still use my hands to propel myself along to keep my head above water to avoid drowning, a simple act that would eliminate drowning as a cause of death if learned and practiced by everyone.

The unvarnished truth is that I really learned to swim when my brother-in-law Elmer tossed me off a bluff into Pearl River, a stream that runs through the Hobolochitto Swamp in south Mississippi. In those years the swamp included alligators of all sizes, and I could feel teeth nipping at my toes from the time I hit the water. Knowing that I couldn’t climb the bluff, I thrashed and splashed my way successfully to the opposite side of the stream. I was reasonably sure that Elmer would rescue me if I foundered, but I decided not to risk sinking to the bottom in order to be rescued. No, I didn’t use the crawl I learned in wash holes. I combined the overhand front crawl with some stupendous flutter kicking—any alligator would have avoided the area on the belief that it was occupied by a monstrous specimen of its own species or perhaps of an unknown species.

My tale of being tossed into an alligator-infested river is true—I know—I was there! Sometimes, depending on my audience, I tell the story differently. I claim that I survived by swimming faster than the alligator that came after me, a Herculean feat made possible by the fact that I was swimming in clear water, as opposed to what the alligator faced.

That’s my story of bathrooms, outhouses, swimming and alligators and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in Humor, sports, swimming

 

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Second letter to Larry, my brother (1919-1983) . . .

Dear Larry,

Next month will mark the twenty-seventh year that has passed since that October day in 1983 when you, as Shakespeare has so poignantly observed, “shuffled off this mortal coil.” As you probably are aware, I did not attend your funeral, but I can make no apology for that—when the call came with the news, I was en route to Washington’s National Airport to take a flight to Miami for an assignment that was critical to my job with the U.S. Customs Service.

I had prepared for the flight for several weeks and could not afford to miss it. I’m sure you understand—the bills were still arriving with monotonous regularity—I know it’s trite to say, but I needed to be able to “put food on the table and shoes on the baby’s feet.” Please know that I was there with you in spirit—I thought of little else on the flight to Florida.

I’ve written letters to two of our sisters, Hattie and Jessie, and I plan to write to Dot and Lorene, our other two sisters, and possibly in the future to our mother, our father and even to the stepfather our mother unwisely allowed into the family in 1942. All are gone now, but I trust and would like to believe that you are in communication with them. I have serious doubts that the stepfather is available—he may be somewhat lower on the metaphysical level of existence than the others.

I would like to couch this letter in terms of us remembering certain times when we were together. My memories are still just as fresh as they ever were, and I hope yours are also—I would not want to talk about happenings that you may not remember.

I remember vividly the fishing trip you took me on when I was about four, perhaps five years old. We lived at the old Box place in Vernon, Alabama, and we went fishing in Yellow Creek near the house. My float went under and I snatched the hook out of the water and snagged it on an overhead branch. I thought I had a really big fish until you reached up to remove the hook—I was really disappointed, but at least you had a good laugh.

You were at home on leave from President Roosevelt’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—a respite from helping build in Utah what you described as“ roads that started nowhere and ended nowhere.” The family had a homecoming party that included a washtub filled with ice and beer. Someone left a partially filled can on an inside table and I drank some of it, and a short while later I stood on the top step of our front porch and barfed it up in view of the entire family. Shades of child abuse!

Do you remember taking me on a rabbit hunt on a snow-covered day just a year two later when I was in the first grade? We were living on Eleventh Street South in Columbus, Mississippi and you were home, once again, from Roosevelt’s CCC. We only found one rabbit that day, but that one generated memories that are burned into my psyche—memories of the rabbit, a nylon stocking and a bedpost that will always be there. A click here will refresh your memory and will create a memory for any potential viewer of this letter.

Do you remember when I was living with you and your wife Toni and your two boys in Suitland, Maryland and I broke my right leg sliding in to home plate in a ball game? I had a full cast from my toes to mid-thigh, with a forty-five degree angle at the knee, and you bought a set of crutches for my use. Long before the cast came off, I used one of the crutches in an attempt to kill a pesky bee and broke it—the crutch, not the bee—the bee escaped unharmed. In spite of my pleas, you refused to replace the crutch, saying that what I did was dumb, that it’s impossible to buy just one crutch and you told me to manage with the remaining crutch—I managed.

I wrote a long-winded story, more than a bit fictional, of that broken leg, a tale that was told and can be found here. The tale tells how I and my Little League team won the national and international championship that year.

You bought me my first bicycle, a beautiful item that needed only the pedals, seat and handlebars installed to make it complete, but you made me disassemble it right down to the wheel bearings which I cleaned and repacked with the special grease you used on your fleet of trucks. I followed orders with some resentment, but I realize now that your method contributed to the bike’s longevity and to my safety. Click here for the full story of my first bike, first kiss and first train ride.

You may have put this memory aside, but I remember coming home late one evening and you were seated in the living room with a half-full pint of whiskey, and Toni was crawling around on her hands and knees on the floor, groaning and moaning and mumbling. You explained that you had caught her at a place where she should not have been, with a person she should not have been with. You said she had swallowed a lot of sleeping pills and that you would take her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped out after she went to sleep. Toni was mumbling something over and over that sounded suspiciously like he hit me, but I couldn’t be sure—it could have been my imagination.

Being a young fellow of at least average intelligence, I took my leave and returned to the apartment in Suitland that our mother and our sister Dot were renting from month-to-month, and stayed there until things quieted down. We never discussed the incident after that evening—I don’t know whether you took her to the hospital or to a doctor. I’m guessing that she did the same thing with the pills that I did with the beer I drank at that party some ten years earlier. That would probably have rendered a trip to the hospital or to a doctor unnecessary.

The outcome of that incident was a temporary breakup of your family. Toni and the boys went to her mother’s place in New York City, and you and I returned to Mississippi. I have no knowledge of your activities or whereabouts for several years, and just four years later in 1948 I was reunited with you and your family in El Paso, Texas as the result of our stepfather casting me, our mother and our sister Dot aside in Midland, Texas and we managed to negotiate the 300 miles to El Paso on a Greyhound bus.

That refuge was broken up a short while later—our mother and sister returned to Mississippi, your wife and sons took a plane to New York City, and you and I pursued her—our pursuit first took us to Dallas where we met the Greyhound bus you thought she may have taken from El Paso. You said she may have taken the train and we could meet the train in St. Louis. We failed to meet the train in St. Louis because we spent the night in jail in Valley Park, a suburb some 20 miles west of St. Louis. We continued on to New York City and stayed with Toni and the children in her mother’s apartment in Greenwich Village for several weeks, and finally from there back to Mississippi. If your memory is faulty in this instance and you have access to the Internet, click here for the full story of our trip across the continent to New York.

Do you remember the sleeping arrangements in your mother-in-law’s apartment? It was a two-room affair with a tiny bathroom, and we slept, cooked and dined in one large room—pretty crowded but far better than our room in the Valley Park jail. I was accustomed to such luxurious surroundings from years spent in places that either had no bathroom or the bathroom was somewhere down the hall and shared with others.

As for our sleeping arrangements, I remember that the two boys shared a baby bed, and each night we placed the top mattress of the only bed on the floor for you and Toni, and I slept on the bottom mattress on the bed near the window.

I’m sure you remember the night when an intruder threw a leg over the sill of the apartment’s only window! Although we were on the second floor of the building, someone managed to climb up and enter through the open window. The shade was pulled down—yes, windows had shades in those days—and when the intruder straddled the window sill the shade rustled and you awoke and shouted and threw a shoe at the window. One loud curse and the burglar was gone. We never knew exactly how the person climbed up to the window. Evidently the intruder survived the drop, because there was nobody in sight when we finally got up enough nerve to raise the shade and take a look outside.

We finished the night with the window closed, and without the occasional breezes that slipped into the apartment. We had a really uncomfortable night. Nope, no air conditioning in those days, and no fan. I hadn’t slept well before the incident, and it certainly didn’t reduce my insomnia for the remaining nights in that apartment.

I remember you and Toni arguing one morning and you telling her that we were leaving and that you were taking the two children with you. I will never forget Toni running downstairs to the sidewalk, screaming for the police, and returning with two of New York’s finest. The officers said that you and I could leave and take our personal things with us, but nothing else—you were ordered, under the threat of arrest, to not attempt to take the children away from their mother.

You left the apartment before I did, and as I was leaving Toni told me that if I ever needed anything to call her. I never saw her or talked to her again—I know that she remarried, but I never knew her married name or her whereabouts, and to this day I do not know whether she has also shuffled off this mortal coil—if still alive today she would be about 86 years old. I would like to believe that she is alive and well—I have never wished her anything other than well, and whatever the event, I still wish her well.

I doubt that you ever saw the picture I’ve included in this letter. It’s from a 35-millimeter slide, probably taken in the mid-1970s—I’m guessing 1975 because there were some other slides that showed our 1975 Oldsmobile 98—it looks new, and we bought it in that year. The slide was scanned in and printed by Cindy, your niece that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia. Unless my memory fails me, the black-and-tan hound was named Bugler, and the little Cocker Spaniel in the lower right corner was named Useless.

Larry, there are many things I would like to discuss with you, but this letter seems to have legs. Let me chop them off for now, with the promise of returning soon with a whole new set of reminisces. I trust that you and any potential viewers of this letter will understand my feelings and my reasons for taking them back in time. Some of my memories are pleasant, and I enjoy speaking of them. Not all are pleasant, of course, but in this world of Yen and Yang we must take the good with the bad, and learn to smile with the one and frown with the other.

From your only brother, the only member of our family still standing—all the others are gone.

Mike

Postscript: Regarding the names of the two dogs in the image above, my memory did indeed fail me. My niece in Arkansas, my brother’s daughter, e-mailed me on 9-5-10 to say that the black-and-tan-hound was named Sam and Bugler was his pup, and the Cocker Spaniel I presented as Useless was named Puny. Thanks, Deanna, for straightening the names out for me.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Re: Your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe . . .

In February of this year a special friend died, a lady that I first met back in the mid–1960s after her husband was assigned to my office at Kelley Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. A Great Britain transplant and the mother of five children, her first words to me were—and I kid you not: “So you’re the guy that wants to f-word me.”

Her memorable greeting was prompted by the fact that, although the family’s recently acquired phone number was unlisted, she was receiving frequent obscene phone calls directed specifically to her. Because regulations required that the number be on file at her husband’s duty station and available to all assigned personnel, she believed that someone in his office was making the calls.

She hoped to startle me into an admission of guilt, a plan that she shared with her husband and one to which he had agreed. Believe me, I was really startled, but not enough to cause me to admit to making the calls, especially since I was not the culprit. Had I been guilty I probably would have been startled into a confession. I will reserve a detailed explanation of that situation for a future posting aptly entitled Obscene phone calls. Stay tuned!

Yesterday in a family fit of spring cleaning in the middle of summer, a copy of an e-mail I sent to my friend was rescued from a catch–all box in a closet. The e-mail, dated August 17, 1999 was my response to my friend’s request for my wife’s King Ranch Casserole recipe. That e-mail is reproduced here exactly as transmitted and received. Sadly, it does not include the recipe—a separate and later e-mail served that purpose, and did not survive the passage of time, electronically or otherwise—at least not in my household, but perhaps in hers.

The complete e-mail follows:

Re: Your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe:

Thank you for your e-mail dated August 16, 1999 subject: Something for Janie to read. We are always pleased to receive praise concerning the gustatory delights of Janie Mae’s culinary combinations, and we also appreciate your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe. Before we give you a definitive answer to that request, we feel the need to apprise you of the nature of the aforementioned recipe, to wit:

In the entire world there remain only four recipes that have been handed down through generations and remain unknown to the general public. The ingredients of all four recipes are still jealously guarded by the descendants of the originators. Three involve products that are very familiar to everyone—Coca Cola, Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisiana’s Tabasco Sauce.

The fourth recipe is slightly less well known, but just as jealously guarded by its owner. I refer, of course, to Janie Mae’s King Ranch Casserole. To give you some idea of its importance and its history, I will tell you that the name is derived from a combination of two family names.

The first name, King, refers to one of Janie’s many royal ancestors, namely Edward, Prince of Wales who, as you will remember from your school days, abdicated the throne of England in favor of marrying a widow—which proves that even kings aren’t always first!

The second name, Ranch, was derived from my own ancestral lineage. Ranch was originally spelled Raunchy, but the name was corrupted by several generations of goodie-goodies besmirching our family reputation by insisting on being—well, they insisted on being goodie-goodies! They felt that the name Raunchy evoked visions of emotions and activities they felt were unbecoming to the family name, and for that reason the U and the Y were deleted—the second word of the recipe thus changed from King Raunchy to King Ranch.

The third name, Casserole, is also derived directly from my ancestral lineage and was also spelled differently in the beginning. In the modern version, as you know it, letters have been both added and deleted. To recreate the original word, delete the C, the first E and change the R to an H and the word becomes Asshole. The name of the recipe was thus corrupted—it was changed from King Raunchy Asshole to King Ranch Casserole.

I have striven mightily to restore the proper spelling and title to the recipe, but with very limited success, and I’m at a loss to understand why so many insist on the new spelling rather than retaining the original words—after all, as Shakespeare would say, that which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. One can readily see why that phrase would apply to the name of a recipe, especially for a recipe such as this one.

Having briefed you on the history of the recipe I will now apprise la cocinera Juanita—Janie, the cook— of your request. You may be assured that she will give the proper orders and provide the supervision necessary for me to be able to convey the recipe to you in the manner in which you requested it be conveyed. Please note that I have adopted the historical name of the recipe, the original name minus the King part, as my official signature.

Yr. Obedient and Loyal Servant,

Raunchy Asshole

Postcript: Being the highly principled blogger that I am, I was somewhat wary of using the a-word. However, I used the Search Word Press.com Blogs feature and got 98, 936 hits—with that in mind,  I am far less wary of using it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!




 
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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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32 Czars & counting—we need one more . . .

Our government now has 32 czars, each charged with oversight of a different segment of life in the United States. These positions are filled by people selected by unknown means, but some of whom admittedly know nothing about the segment over which they hold sway.

I suggest that President Obama appoint a Phart Czar. Were I the president, my selection would be a former vice-president—Al Gore.

Al Gore is one of the major causes of global warning. He is consistently, in the words of the bard, “hoist with his own petar.” Some of the bard’s analysts suggest that the phrase is a play on words and refers to the fact that the persons mentioned are lifted aloft by their own flatulence (see explanation below). In Al’s case, he is lifted by his own hot air, primarily generated by his pompous proclamations concerning global warming.

For now, the former vice-president seems to be a necessary evil, about which little can be done—it’s just something we will have to tolerate. Perhaps his appointment to the position of Phart Czar will add a bit of weight to a couple of his lightweight awards—the Oscar awarded by Hollywood and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here I must digress for a moment and offer my thanks for a site that is a great source for writer’s tips—check it out at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/hoist-with-his-own-petard/.

The information that follows was gleaned from that site:

Here is how the expression is used in Hamlet (III, iv, 206-208):

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.

A “petar” was an explosive device. It got its name from the French verb pêter, which means “to break wind.” The Old French noun pet means “fart.” Shakespeare was making one of his earthy puns here.

Another major cause of global warning, other than Al Gore—one that can be addressed and perhaps eliminated, or at least reduced—is the methane gas emitted by animals. This is the vast amount of flatulence produced by livestock, primarily cattle (cows). In 2005 the United State’s livestock population, including cattle, was almost 96 million—this would include horses, mules, sheep, swine and other lesser animals (lesser in size, not necessarily in the amount of methane expelled into the atmosphere). Of all the animals, those in the know tell us that cows are the worst offenders (I don’t know how that was determined, and I’m not sure that I want to know).

Our country needs a Phart Czar, one who can evaluate the situation, determine methods of controlling such emissions, and exercise control over such emissions by implementing those methods. The Czar’s duties would include intensive measurements of emissions collected from various breeds of cattle. It could be that Jerseys (cows, not people) emit more methane than the Holstein breed, for example. Armed with that knowledge, the Phart Czar could concentrate on reducing the Jersey population (cows, not people), or perhaps if deemed necessary, eliminating the breed through attrition (of Jersey cows, not people).

However, I believe that our major problem is not necessarily with the lower order (so-called) of animals. A corollary problem is methane—flatulence—produced by the higher order (so-called) of animals. That order is the human race, and that problem should be addressed immediately.

To my knowledge no effort has been made to measure the contribution to the atmosphere of methane generated by the herds of humans in our country—in concentrating on animal production we may have completely overlooked our own contributions. The estimated population for the United States in 2008 was almost 304 million human pharters, more than triple the number of livestock in the nation.

Who knows? Our collective contributions to global warming may approach, equal or even surpass that of livestock.

This should be the Phart Czar’s immediate concern—to determine the depth of the problem and make recommendations to reduce the output of something which, apparently, is detrimental to our health and to our future.

Who would have thought that such a normal function of our bodies could be harmful? Certainly not I. In fact, there is a little ditty that many of my generation learned at our mother’s knee and frequently recited over the years. It’s one that the U. S. Air Force officer who established the Wellness Clinic at Wilford Hall Hospital used as the opener in all his speeches promoting the program.

It goes like this:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,

The more you eat, the more you phart,

The more you phart, the better you feel,

So let’s eat beans every meal.

This would be the most sensitive part of the Phart Czar’s job:

Any analysis of the problem must—I repeat, must—include race. The amount of flatulence, as well as its olfactory and auditory effects, is in large part influenced by diet. Some foods promote the production of methane—examples are beans, onions, diary products (especially milk) and let’s not forget one of the worst culprits—broccoli. There are those among us who eat far more beans, broccoli, dairy, etc., than do other segments of the population and therefore should be so judged and subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation, and corrective action taken as deemed necessary.

Of course, over time through on-hands management, diligent investigation, development of corrective measures and prompt application of those measures, the Phart Czar may find that other foods and other segments of the population may generate as much, or even more, methane gas. No one, including vegetarians, pescotarians, etc., can be exempted—all must be scrutinized and evaluated.

I also suggest that significant stimulus money be provided to persons and companies involved in the study of enzymes (some of which may reduce unwanted digestive issues). In theory at least, new enzymes could be developed that would significantly reduce or even eliminate flatulence, both in humans and in the so-called lower classes of animals. As we all know, flatulence is involuntary and therefore not the fault of the animal, whether human or otherwise—it’s the bacteria in the animal’s colon—they are the culprits—perhaps under the direction of the Phart Czar, a new strain of bacteria could be developed, one which could continue to make its necessary contributions to life without producing methane gas.

One can only hope and dream.

There is, of course, a downside to the complete elimination of methane emitted by living beings—some of us, and perhaps some of the animals, are not strongly disinclined with the conditions which presently exist.

And finally, this is why we need another czar—a Phart Czar:

According to Al Gore, time is of the essence.

As an aside, I recommend that those who invest in the stock market take a careful look at Beano, a product that is said to counter, or at least reduce, the effect of beans in the production of methane in humans. It may be found that by the simple introduction of Beano into beans and other foods, either in the growth process by injecting Beano into the seeds or in the preparation of beans for retail to the public, both uncooked and cooked—a good place to start would be in the vast numbers of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants—that feature beans in virtually every dish offered to the public. One of the bean side dishes offered with many entrees is an ultra-delicious culinary delight—it’s called re-fried beans, an item that should be considered particularly suspect for its contributions to the cumulative deleterious effect of flatulence discharged into our atmosphere.

The makers of Beano claim that it counteracts the adverse effects of beans on the human digestive system (for some of us but not all), and offer compelling testimonials to its favorable action. I predict that Beano will in the future change the lifestyle of many people, perhaps propelling (so to speak) some into the rarified air of millionaires, provided that investors get in at the bottom (so to speak) and invest in the product. However, I must in the interest of full disclosure reveal that the product does not work for me.

It makes me phart.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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To pay or not to pay: that is the question . . .

The above title is based on one of the most famous quotations in world literature. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act three, scene one, Hamlet’s soliloquy begins thusly:

To be, or not to be: that is the question . . .

Before I begin this posting, my nature demands that I recite a really bad parody, one that I have unluckily remembered for more years than I like to think about. I plead for forgiveness in advance, and I would gladly attribute the quote had its origin not been lost in the dim and dusty antiquity of my memories.

Beware, reader . . .

Brace yourself . . .

Here it comes . . .

TB or not TB: that is congestion:
Consumption be done about it?
Of corpse, of corpse.

On with the posting:

The following e-mail is my response to one from my friend Sue. We were discussing income tax and why it is labeled “voluntary.” She had received an e-mail from someone who was recruiting people to NOT pay their taxes based on that voluntary label.

Sue,

Thanks for the e-mail—it has prompted me to do some very basic research on the author’s premise that the income tax laws are unconstitutional, and because of their unconstitutionality, they are laws with which we should not comply. Based on my prolonged and exhaustive research (at least 20 minutes), my conclusions (which took a bit more than 20 minutes) are as follows:

The author of the e-mail is “tilting at windmills,” a modern-day Don Quixote. Those who choose to follow him have accepted his thesis as fact (that the Sixteenth Amendment has never been properly ratified). His followers are modern-day Sanchos (from Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s somewhat dull-witted squire). That some are found guilty and others are deemed not guilty when cornered, charged, indicted and tried by the IRS is a non-factor—note the blindfold covering the eyes of Lady Justice—also remember OJ and the trial of the century—stuff (?) happens.

The author has taken leave of his sanity, as did Don Quixote. I predict that the author will one day regain his sanity, as did Don Quixote, and then become so melancholy that he will, for the rest of his life, remain sane and broken—as did Don Quixote, a man who was never able to regain his insanity and who died sane and broken—this in spite of all efforts by others to resurrect his alter-ego in order to save his life.

The Sixteenth Amendment was properly ratified by the required number, 36 of the 48 states which existed at the time, in full accordance with the Constitution which required ratification by three-fourths (36) of the existing 48 states. On February 3, 1913 New Mexico became the thirty-sixth state to ratify, and on March 7, 1913 New Hampshire became the final state to ratify, bringing the total to 42 of the 48 states (of the remaining six states, four rejected it and two never considered it).

Incidentally, March 7 was the day I enlisted in the U. S. military (no, that was not March 7, 1913), and for 22 years lived on a rather paltry salary. I began my military career with a whopping total of $72.50 per month (three months later it was increased to a mind-boggling total of $75.00).  Following retirement from the military for length of service (zero disability) with a  pension also paltry ($412 monthly after serving for 22 years), I began a new career (from necessity, not by choice) with the U. S. Treasury Department that, coincidentally, is the branch of government that includes the Internal Revenue Service.

That second career lasted 26 years, and I am now retired from both jobs, with a non-paltry pension based on the 48-year total—which, of course, makes me a double-dipper. But wait, there’s more—considering my Social Security benefits I’m a triple-dipper—oops, I’m really a quadruple-dipper because my wife draws a pension based on my Social Security earnings—-and if I am ever presented with the opportunity I will cheerfully become a quintuple-dipper.

I feel completely justified with all those “dippings” because I earned them. I have always complied with our tax laws and will continue to comply with them—not cheerfully, of course, but always knowing that IRS is looking over my shoulder—that’s their job.

I realize that you are familiar with the above capsule of my working years, and I mention them only to reinforce my belief that the income tax is constitutional. I will refrain from declaring it either fair or unfair, other than pointing out that it is both, depending on who, what, when and where. You’ll note that I do not mention why, because the why should be obvious.

Oh, well, I’ll mention it anyway. We pay taxes on our earned income and just about everything else because, just as we cannot exist without income, neither can our country, and without our country neither can we.

So there!

PeeEss: Feel free to disseminate (spread, disperse, scatter—whatever) this e-mail in any way you like. I am not ashamed of the fact that I pay my taxes—nay, I’m even proud that I pay them. There is a possibility, very remote, that I may, from to time, make one or more errors in my calculations, but just as in the case of our newly appointed Secretary of the Treasury, my mistakes always fall into the honest category.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2009 in Humor, law enforcement, Military, taxes

 

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Brown University and Columbus Day . . .

Today I learned that the faculty of Brown University, that  prestigious Ivy League university which sits atop College Hill overlooking the city of Providence, Rhode Island—yes, that university—has capitulated under pressure from some of its students—the “learned” members of the faculty have “killed” Columbus Day.

From FOX NEWS: Wednesday, April 09, 2009

“Fall Weekend” will be taking the place of the holiday formerly known as “Columbus Day” at Brown University this fall.

The faculty of the Ivy League university voted at a meeting Tuesday to establish a new academic and administrative holiday in October called “Fall Weekend” that coincides with Columbus Day, but that doesn’t bear the name of the explorer.

Hundreds of Brown students had asked the Providence, R.I. school to stop observing Columbus Day, saying Christopher Columbus’s violent treatment of Native Americans he encountered was inconsistent with Brown’s values.

“I’m very pleased,” Reiko Koyama, a sophomore who led the effort, told the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The change will take effect this fall.

Although the students had asked the school to take another day off instead, Brown will remain closed on Columbus Day, in part to avoid inconveniencing staff whose children might have the holiday off, the Daily Herald reported.

Many other colleges are open on Columbus Day but give students short breaks later in the semester.

Last month a Brown Daily Herald poll found two-thirds of the students supported changing the holiday’s name to Fall Weekend, the newspaper reported.

MY THOUGHTS ON BROWN UNIVERSITY’S ACTION:

I have a serious problem with the faculty buckling under to the students’ request. No, more than serious, I have some major heartburn, and as a result I have taken steps to revise my will.

I have directed my attorney to immediately prepare a revised will for my signature. Instead of Brown University profiting by my demise when I have “shuffled off this mortal coil,” the bulk of my assets will now, instead of going to Brown University to bolster its efforts to achieve PPC (Perfect Political Correctness) it will, following my departure, go to a far more worthy cause—it will go to NATBUF (National Association To Benefit Unwed Fathers), with the how-and-when to use those assets to be determined by the “learned” members of the NATBUF faculty. At this point I direct attention to the name of my blog (thekingoftexas), and stress that unless my fortunes take a turn for the worse, my final assets will not be unsubstantial (particularly when one considers the generous federal government stimulus payments enroute to my state).

As everyone knows, the expression “shuffled off this mortal coil” is borrowed from Shakespeare’s works, and now I must borrow another of his expressions: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” To apply this to the actions of Brown University’s faculty members, this coming October 14 will still be a holiday for the school although the students “. . . had asked the school to take another day off.” However, the faculty refused the request—the school will be closed, ostensibly “. . . to avoid inconveniencing staff whose children might have the holiday off.”

Kudos to Brown University’s faculty members! Columbus Day will continue to be observed at Brown, but will simply be observed under a different name. The result is the same—students who wish to use the day for remembering, contemplating and honoring the achievements of Christopher Columbus can do so without restraint or criticism, and the day off “will smell as sweet” as Shakespeare’s rose.

In view of the faculty’s decision to deny the students’ request to choose a day off other than the second Monday in October, I will consider reversing the revision to my will. I’ll mull it over and get back to you with more details. The revision will definitely not be reversed if Brown University is closed on the second Monday in October this year—Columbus Day.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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