I see it on my TV, it’s everywhere online,
When I’m drinking morning coffee or sipping evening wine.
Infected numbers rising, the death toll’s rising, too.
I have to say
As of today
I’ve got the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
It started in December, in China so they say,
No one here was worried, cause China’s far away.
But then it started spreading, and heading our way, too.
And came the day
We’re on our way
To the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
Can’t find those precious facemasks, or ventilators? No way.
Our doctors and our nurses are in danger every day.
The Dow is in the toilet, the economy’s headed there, too.
There is no doubt
We’re all about
The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
Can’t go to school, can’t go to work, can’t even see our friends,
We’re all just staying home these days, who knows how this will end?
Social distancing’s become the norm, and washing our hands, too.
As the USA
Leads the way
In the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
So, I’m turning off my TV, I’ll skip that stuff online,
I’ll drink a lot less coffee and drink a lot more wine.
I’m scared that I might have it, and give to others, too.
Can’t get a test
I need a rest
From the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
It’s been a while since I featured Numbnuts in the News, but my newspaper had such a collection that I had to share them.
Let’s start with Ian Simmons and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34. Last month they were pulled over on I-10 in Florida after a trooper clocked them going 95 mph:
The trooper determined that Reinhardt was the subject of an active felony warrant for violation of probation, so driving that fast and attracting attention to yourselves probably wasn’t their best idea.
No, this was their best idea:
They had a stash in two bags marked “Bag Full of Drugs.”
What a good idea! If Simmons (above, bottom image) and Reinhardt had forgotten where they’d put approximately 75 grams of methamphetamine, 1.36 kilograms of the date-rape drug GHB, 1 gram of cocaine, 3.6 grams of fentanyl, 15 MDMA tablets and drug paraphernalia…
All they had to do was look around and say, “Oh, thank goodness! There’s our stash, in those bags marked ‘Bag Full of Drugs!’”
A bit of research and I learned that Simmons and Reinhardt bought the bags here:
But as you can read in the small print, the point of the “Bag Full of Drugs” is to have fun fooling people into thinking you’re walking around with some “amazing swag.”
Not with controlled substances that can get you 30 in a Florida slammer.
Last fall a guy walked into a bank in Dunfernline, Scotland. He was carrying a pillowcase with something bulky in it.
The bulky item was a meat cleaver, and he was there to rob the bank.
Before he announced his intention, however, he removed the cleaver and put the pillowcase over his head – a clever disguise.
Except for one thing:
He’d forgotten to cut eye holes in the pillowcase.
This was Matthew Davies, 47, and unfortunately, no image of him appears to be available, so I’ve improvised (left). Just pretend the eyeholes aren’t there, OK?
When Davies realized he couldn’t see anything, he removed the pillowcase from his head, made a lot of noise and threatening gestures with the meat cleaver, and got away with almost £2,000.
He then strolled out of the bank and headed home, and a brave bank customer followed, then alerted the police. Davis was arrested at home, where police found cash, a pillowcase and a stun gun in Davies’ house.
In late February Davies was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Some stories reported that as Davis was heading home, he stopped to pet a dog.
The dog had no comment.
And finally, this guy:
Also last month, Adrian Afriyie Ansah-Asante, 23, was driving around Waterford Twp., MI when he was pulled over by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.
“Oh, no,” you’re thinking. “Not another guy going 95 mph with Bags Full of Drugs!”
Asante was pulled over because Sheriff Bouchard noticed that Asante’s SUV was fitted out with “big police-style bumpers, an array of lights on the back and a decal that read ‘Emergency Response.’”
The car also featured a radar-type thing on the dashboard and a police-style computer.
The problem? The police car was a fake, and Asante was a fake – not a cop or a member of any Emergency Response unit.
Clearly, Asante had gone shopping at Fake Police Stuff R Us.
His shopping included a loaded gun and a large knife.
Asante’s sentencing included a felony concealed weapons charge and misdemeanor possession of flashing lights, a $50,000 bond and GPS tether.
Review, short version: Thumbs up for the movie, thumbs down for the ending.
Review, long version:
I’m not sure why I wanted to see Puzzle.
I’d barely heard about it when it was released, and I’d never heard of the people in it: Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan and David Denman.
It must have been one of the trailers leading into a DVD I was about to watch, and when I saw that jigsaw puzzles were what the title was referring to…
And jigsaw puzzle contests were an important element of the film?
But…there was something about that woman that tugged at my heart, just in that brief trailer.
She continued to tug at my heart all the way through the movie.
“She” was Agnes, played by Kelly MacDonald.
Agnes, wife of Louie and mother of almost-grown sons Ziggy and Gabe, has no life outside taking care of Louie, Ziggy and Gabe. Housework, laundry, making meals, followed by more housework, laundry and making meals.
In other words, she has no life.
Agnes doesn’t complain. In fact, she doesn’t express much emotion at all.
We come to Agnes’ birthday, and one of the gifts is a jigsaw puzzle. The gift is completely out of the context of Agnes’ life, and she puts away somewhere.
But one day, something prompts Agnes to open the jigsaw puzzle. She spreads its 1,000 pieces onto a table, and starts fitting it together.
Agnes completes the puzzle.
She discovers she enjoyed completing the puzzle.
She discovers something she enjoys, for herself, that has nothing to do with anything except her.
And she discovers – she good at jigsaw puzzles.
Agnes is about to go on a journey that will change her life.
One scene that particularly touched me takes place as Easter approaches. Agnes is at home, sitting at the table, dyeing Easter eggs, and crying.
And I thought, “She’s dying and crying.”
And she was – weary of her monotonous life in which she’s totally taken for granted. She’s the meal maker and the housekeeper and the errand doer, a fixture like the fridge and the TV and the toilet.
Agnes allows the satisfaction she gets from mastering jigsaw puzzles to take her on that journey, and it will include deception, jubilation, and – horrors! – forgetting to make dinner because she’s engrossed in a puzzle.
Or rather – two puzzles…
One is the jigsaw in front of her.
And one is – where her journey will take her.
So – thumbs up for Puzzle, except…
Thumbs down for the ending, because it’s ambiguous.
And I like stories that are neatly resolved and wrapped up, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.
But life isn’t like that, and neither is Puzzle.
Or, as the reviewer at rogerebert.com put it,
“Puzzle wisely doesn’t complete the whole picture in easy or obvious ways, but rather gives us the space to consider the solutions for ourselves.”
Unlike myself, my beloved husband, bless his heart, is not one for bad-mouthing people.
So this past Thursday, when I heard him exclaim, “He’s despicable!” I rushed to his side to see who he was talking about.
He was reading this story:
What? I thought. But why?
I read more articles, trying to understand, like this one…
And this one…
And they all said basically the same thing – even though Trump has repeatedly insisted states get their own supplies of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus, the federal government is outbidding states on orders.
But none of them explained why.
Why would Trump tell governors to buy their own critical medical equipment, then allow the government to outbid states trying to do that very thing?
Was it for the sake of that smug, self-satisfied look he gets when he’s thinking, “I won, and you lost”?
Was it Trump’s self-gratification from making this (he thinks witty) remark:
“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”
Review, short version: Four roses out of four for both.
Review, long version:
I recently had the good fortune of learning that books by two of my favorite authors were being released at around the same time.
That meant hours of great reading straight ahead!
But, to clarify: “Books by two of my favorite authors” is a bit of a misnomer. Those authors, Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker, are, sadly, deceased – Parker in January 2010 and Francis in February 2010.
But – happily – their quality books are still being written, Francis’ by his son Felix, and Parker’s by novelist Ace Atkins.
Prior to their deaths, Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis were prolific writers – Parker had several series with different lead characters, but I’m focusing on his Boston detective who goes by one name: “Spenser.” This list includes the recent additions by Ace Atkins:
Here are the books Francis wrote solo, wrote with his son Felix, and that Felix has written solo:
Both series are mysteries, Parker with his detective, Spenser, and Francis mostly with a different lead character in each book. Parker’s Spenser series is sequential, and I recommend reading them starting with his earliest, The Godwulf Manuscript, published in 1973. It’s the best way to see Spenser evolve, and keep track of other characters who appear, and then reappear in later books.
The Francis books don’t have to be read in sequence, though several of his lead characters do make later appearances so I’ll recommend reading those in order as well, starting with Dead Cert in 1962.
While both authors’ lead character is a first-person narrator, their approach is very different. Spenser is a delightful wise ass; the Francis lead characters tend to have more gravitas. Spenser lives in Boston and many books are set there, with some elsewhere. The common thread in the Francis books is the connection to horse racing, though I’ll emphasize that these are not horse racing books.
For instance, in Francis’ most recent, Guilty Not Guilty, the lead character is a volunteer steward at a racetrack but with a full-time job in insurance. What all of Francis’ lead characters do have in common is a common-man-gets-into-big-trouble theme – and how will he get himself out of it?
Parker’s detective Spenser usually gets hired by a client who may or may not have something to hide. Spenser is sometimes the hardboiled private investigator, sometimes the compassionate hero, and always the smart mouth. In Ace Atkins’ latest, Angel Eyes, Spenser has a mystery to solve and lives to save – including his own.
When Francis and Parker died barely a month apart in 2010, I was sincerely sad.
And when I learned that Ace Atkins would continue the Spenser series, and Felix Francis would continue in his father’s tradition – I was skeptical. I felt there was no way their books would be anything but poor substitutes, would fade, and be forgotten.
I’m delighted to say that both Ace Atkins and Felix Francis are doing a wonderful job, staying true to their predecessors’ “voices,” and delivering highly readable, entertaining and satisfying stories.
I’ve read all of Parker’s Spenser series, and all the Francis books, and enjoyed every one of them. I’m hopeful that a new book from each will be out next year.
In early February the San Diego Zoo celebrated the birth of a hippo, the ninth calf born at the zoo.
The baby, named Amahle – which means “beautiful one” is Zulu – is indeed a beauty:
She weighs about 100 pounds and as you can see, is dwarfed by her mother, Funani. According to the Zoo’s website, adult female hippos have an average weight of 3,000 pounds, grow to 11 feet in length and are five feet tall at the shoulder.
Amahle is especially precious because the hippopotamus is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species:
The primary threats the animals face are illegal and unregulated hunting for meat, and habitat loss.
And according to my research, a more recent threat is poaching hippos for their teeth. As elephant ivory and rhino horns become increasingly more expensive and policed in Asia, poachers and wildlife sellers have started replacing them with hippo’s teeth, which are made from a material similar to ivory and which can also be used in traditional Chinese medicine, and carved into art objects…
Stories are emerging of pods of hippos being machine-gunned down and all their teeth removed and sent to Asia.
So Amahle – every hippo – is precious.
Except for these:
Perhaps it’s not fair to say these hippos aren’t precious, but they definitely aren’t welcome:
Instead of living in Africa, their native habitat, these hippos are in Columbia, in South America:
How did they get there?
According to a 2019 story from CBS News,
“The story of Colombia’s hippos starts in Villa Napoles, the former estate of Pablo Escobar, who in his heyday had four hippos smuggled there for his private zoo.
“By the 1980s, his cocaine empire made him the wealthiest and most feared drug lord in the world. For Colombia, it was a reign of terror. He’s said to be responsible for some 7,000 deaths.
“Around the time Escobar met his death [in a police shootout] in the early 90s, the government relocated most of the animals to zoos, but not the hippos which were basically allowed to roam free.”
“Roam free” – because hippos are extremely difficult to catch, and it was deemed too dangerous and impractical to move them from the ranch.
“Roam free” – in a place with no natural predators and plenty of food and water.
The article estimated the hippo population at higher than 50.
That number was updated in this more recent article:
“The four hippos living there remained and multiplied over the subsequent years. The population has now expanded to around 80 individuals and spread beyond the confines of Escobar’s estate into the small lakes dotted around the surrounding areas.”
And that’s the problem.
More hippos mean more interactions with people. In Africa, hippos cause more human deaths than any other large animal. So far, there are no known attacks in Colombia.
As for the environment, scientists analyzed water quality and other environmental factors in the areas where the hippos roamed over a period of two years. They found that the animals were altering the chemistry and biology of local lakes:
“At night they feed on land, where they become covered in nutrients and organic material. Then in the daytime they move to the water, taking these materials with them. This can have negative consequences for the aquatic ecosystem.”
“Negative consequences” like their waste impacting the area’s water system, causing excess algae production that can lead to harmful algal blooms similar to red tides. This can harm both humans and animals, including the lakes’ native species.
“Negative consequences” like the concern that hippos are displacing native wildlife, like manatees and giant river turtles:
As the hippo population in Columbia continues to expand, scientists are at a loss for safe and humane solutions.
Killing the animals has proven highly unpopular with the Columbian people, so “We can’t just kill the hippos,” said biologist David Echeverri in the CBS News article. He works with CORNARE, the environmental agency in charge of tracking and managing the hippos in the region. “And the other solution is relocating hippos or sterilizing hippos,” acknowledging that would be an expensive and dangerous process.
And this more recently, from Gina Serna, also with CORNARE:
“It’s urgent. We already have a report of a family of hippopotamuses in the Magdalena river. The Magdalena connects almost all of Colombia, so they could move into any part of the country.”
And from the Newsweek article,
“On one hand, they’re a local tourist attraction and curiosity,” said Jonathan Shurin, an ecology professor at UCSD. “On the other, they pose a real risk to the public and the environment. There’s real public resistance, in Colombia and elsewhere, to removing them by lethal means, but no resources to capture or sterilize them.”
For now, signs warning “Danger, Hippos Present” are posted:
And the Columbian hippo population just keeps growing.
Africa: The continent where hippos belong, and are vulnerable.
Columbia: The country where they don’t belong, and are a threat to people and the environment.
And Amahle, our baby hippo at the San Diego Zoo?
I wish her a long and safe life, despite the havoc we’re wreaking on our planet.
In the very early hours of Saturday, March 14, CNN announced:
This bill, H.R. 6201, is the Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, a multibillion-dollar stimulus package aimed at assisting millions of Americans directly hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.
What only a select few know is that’s there’s a provision buried in the bill that reads, in part:
“To ensure that the President is receiving the most up-to-date information on the well-being of the American people, we require that he be the first of the American people to experience the hardships they, too, will be experiencing.”
As a result of this provision, my hope is that in the very near future, when Trump ducks out of an Oval Office meeting into his Executive Bathroom, he’ll experience this:
He’ll yell out and several of his toadies will rush to the door:
Toady #1: Yes, sir?
Trump: I’m out of toilet paper! How the #!*$!%*#!! can my bathroom be out of #!*$!%*#!!ing toilet paper?
Toady #2: Well, you see, sir, the store shelves are empty and –
Trump: I don’t care about that! Just get me some #!*$%!%*#!!ing toilet paper!
Toady #3: Yes, sir!
(A few minutes pass)
Toady #1: Sir? Sir, are you there?
Trump: OF COURSE I’M STILL HERE, YOU #!*$!%*#!!ing IDIOT!
Toady #1: Sir, we have everyone out checking the other bathrooms and the supply cabinets, we haven’t found any toilet paper so far but we’re moving as expeditiously as we can, and…
Trump: Are you wearing a tie?
Toady #1: A tie, sir?
Trump: YES! A #!*$!%*#!!ing TIE! ARE YOU WEARING ONE?
Toady #1: Well, yes sir, but…?
Trump: Crack open the door and toss me your tie.
Toady #1: Yes, sir! Right away, sir! (Pause, then door opens slightly) Here you go, sir.
Trump: Close the #!*$!&*#!!ing door! (Short pause) Why the #!*$!%*#!! do I have to solve all these big problems myself?
(Sound of flushing, and more swearing)
Of course, to fully ensure that Trump is experiencing what we’re experiencing, in addition to the toilet paper shortage, let’s include supermarket shelves empty of paper towels, baby wipes, hand sanitizers, bottled water, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soap, peanut butter, pasta, rice, beans, canned goods and many other food items…
And of course, Trump can’t be tested for coronavirus because we can’t, and we can’t be tested because…
Oh, wait. It appears that most of us 331,000,000 U.S. residents can’t get tested, but somehow, Trump did:
But most of all, let us remember the people who are losing their jobs and incomes.
Trump claims he doesn’t take a presidential salary, so instead we’ll deprive him of the income from his businesses, which is substantial, according to this article:
I remember as a kid repeating something I’d heard somewhere:
“Catherine the Great of Russia died after she had sex with a horse!”
At the time I thought this sounded very adult, and daring, though I didn’t have the slightest understanding of sex, of women having sex, or of the mechanics involved in a woman having sex with a horse.
And I barely knew what Russia was; I certainly didn’t know who Catherine the Great was.
But I’d heard it, and it was fun to say it for shock value, and being the bearer of such an adult, probably dirty, and maybe true event made me – momentarily – feel like the Queen of the Playground.
This is why propaganda thrives.
Ignorant people – like me – hear it and repeat it.
The story about Catherine the Great having sex with a horse was propaganda, and it wasn’t the first time the spin masters who manufactured it had turned their attention to her.
And why the propaganda campaign against her? According to PBS’ excellent documentary, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia:
“France and England, fearful of Catherine’s success in southern Europe, began a propaganda war, concentrating on her sexuality with cartoons, portraying her as a nymphomaniac to subvert her reputation for success.”
And that success was extensive. One of the commentators in the film spoke of Catherine’s “Massive status as a statesman and as a woman,” and called her the “greatest of Russia’s rulers, including all the great empire builders.”
But guys in power didn’t like her, as illustrated in this 1791 political cartoon. A colossal figure of Catherine steps from “Russia,” a rocky mound on the extreme left, to “Constantinople,” her toe resting on the horn of a crescent which surmounts a spire on a group of buildings, with a dome and a minaret. Her head is turned in profile to the right; in her left hand is an orb, in her right she holds out a scepter over Constantinople, at which she looks with a determined frown:
Beneath Catherine’s petticoats, and strung out between “Russia” and “Constantinople,” are the heads and shoulders of seven sovereigns, gazing up at her. On the extreme left is a man wearing the cap of the Doge of Venice, saying, “To what a length Power may be carried.” Next is the Pope wearing his triple crown, saying, “I shall never forget it.”
Next is the King of Spain saying, “By Saint Jago, I’ll strip her of her Fur!” Louis XVI says, “Never saw anything like it.” George III says “What! What! What! What a prodigious expansion!” The Emperor says, “Wonderful elevation.” The Sultan says, “The whole Turkish Army wouldn’t satisfy her.” Below the design is inscribed “European Powers.”
These guys really didn’t like her.
Jealous, perhaps? Afraid, perhaps?
Catherine the Great lived from 1729 to 1796, and she reigned as Empress from 1762 until her death. She’s been the subject of numerous books, both non-fiction and novels, as well as feature films and TV miniseries.
So this film’s two hours couldn’t begin to cover all the highlights of Catherine’s life, but it does a great job with her overall story, beginning with her arrival in Russia as an obscure, young German princess who transformed herself into an Empress, and reigned for 34 years.
You’ll see how Catherine strengthened Russia’s standing in Europe; how she sought to modernize Russia’s culture through progressive views on arts and education; that she had an astute intellect; and was able to survive dozens of uprisings and court intrigues to keep her crown.
Catherine also chose her lovers, and there were many. And she decided the hows and wheres, and when it was time to move on.
I can assure you that none of those lovers was a horse.
But that didn’t stop the propagandists from perpetuating lies, even after her death.
I recently read, “When myths and stereotypes predominate, facts, logic and evidence lose out.” That’s why the myth of Catherine and the horse survived all those years to reach my ears. And just like the fools who believed and spread the lie back in the 1700s, I believed and spread it, too.
And that story is still out there. A google search brought me 84,000,000 results.
I recommend skipping the lies and propaganda and watching Catherine the Great. It’s informative and entertaining, and made me want to learn more about her.
And it’s a great film about the “greatest of Russia’s rulers.”
When I read the book section of the Sunday newspaper – yes, I’m a dinosaur, I still read and enjoy the daily newspaper – I always look at The New York Times hardcover fiction and non-fiction best seller lists.
This section is usually followed by a list of top sellers from a local bookstore, and on a recent Sunday that store was Warwick’s, which proudly states it’s “The oldest continuously family-owned and operated bookstore in the United States…since 1896.”
So I’d say Warwick’s has some credibility.
Or it did.
Until I saw this:
That’s right – coming in at #6 on Warwick’s top sellers: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump.
Now, Trump has been in the White House for a nightmarish what-seems-like forever, and while I have many words to associate with him, “beautiful” and “poetry” are not two of them.
Never once has it occurred to me to put “beautiful” and “Trump” in the same thought, nor “poetry” and “Trump.” Never until this very repulsive moment.
Is this a joke?
Well, the book is on Amazon, hardcover, in stock, with 105 customer ratings, published by Canongate Books. With this description:
Does a poet’s heart beat under Donald Trump’s brash exterior?
Experience his best quotes and tweets, rearranged into poems and haikus.
It’s a new word order.
This called for:
Anti-nausea pills, followed by
Looking at the cover above, in very small print we see that Trump is not the author of the book – on the cover it says, “Created by Rob Sears.”
It’s also immediately apparent that the creator(s) put Trump’s head on someone else’s body. Seriously – Trump, in a cravat?
And look at the hands on the cover – compare those graceful, slender fingers to Trump’s, which are stubby and thick:
So far we’ve established that Trump neither wrote the poetry, nor posed for its cover.
Next research: “Creator” Rob Sears, who proved easy to find.
Sears has a page on the publisher’s website, where I learned that Canongate Books is in the United Kingdom, and Sears lives in Finsbury Park, a bit north of London.
In 2017 – the year the book was published – Sears was also featured in this September article in the UK’s Guardian:
From the article:
“‘He [Trump] does speak in very compact, distilled phrases that tell you a lot about who he is, in a small number of words. So it’s not that far away from poetry,” says Sears. “Lots of declarative sentences, a staccato rhythm. There is no complexity to anything he says. People have said he writes like a third grader with a limited vocabulary. I’ve read so many of his words and there really are no exceptions.’
And of the book, the article says:
“More than 30 years of Trump’s misogyny, xenophobia and taste for vengeance are on display – all fastidiously footnoted.”
OK, I get it.
The book is a joke. If I’d scrolled a bit further down the Amazon page, I would have seen the category “Satire.”
Apparently Sears was motivated to – and found a publisher for – a collection of Trump’s tweets and other statements which Sears cut up, reordered, and pasted together.
Without further ado, but with the anti-nausea pills, here’s an excerpt:
Here’s another about – of all things – Trump’s hands:
And here’s the one on the back of the book, in case you couldn’t read it in the top image:
I knew those anti-nausea pills would come in handy.
So of course, I get it – the Warwick top seller list is serious, but the book is a joke.
What I don’t get was how the book ended up on Warwick’s top seller list – who was buying it? Were they people who thought Trump actually wrote poetry?
Based on some of the Amazon reviews, it appears so:
“I was expecting poetry from Donald Trump!”
“This book is not Trump’s poetry…written to put the President in a negative light, probably penned by a Democrat. It should not have been allowed to be published.”
“This book is horrible and is an attempt to make President Trump look stupid? The book is not what I thought it was going to be…”
“They are poking fun at the WONDERFUL INTELLIGENT president of the U.S.A. in this waste of paper. He is a genius, and the reason this book only has two or three words per page to attempt to insult him is because the TRUTH is – they could fill volumes with his meaning and wit.”
“More liberal hate and attacks on the greatest president since Lincoln!”
Or did they buy it thinking they’d have a good laugh?
Because…I’m not laughing.
I’m not laughing because what Trump says isn’t a joke.
Trump, and what he says, are a tragedy:
Update, March 9: And now, from a different author, these more recent examples of Trump’s poetry:
In mid-December 2019 there was a lot going on in the news, like this:
And, oh yeah – the House voted to impeach what’s-his-name.
There was that, too.
So it’s no wonder that I – and perhaps you – missed this mid-December story:
It appears that Boeing – yes, the folks that brought us the 737 Max airplanes that have been grounded for…let’s see…coming up on a year now, isn’t it?
Even though last October, Boeing’s CEO said this:
Clearly, the Boeing higher-ups are rocket scientists, and I mean that literally, since they decided, “Hey, we built the 737 Max – let build rocket ships, too!”
So they built this thing called “Starliner,”
With the goal of taking astronauts to the International Space Station.
But…after lifting off on its first test flight December 18, Starliner ended up in the wrong orbit:
There were no astronauts on board this test flight, so instead I’ll imagine the conversation by whoever was in charge at Mission Control Center:
Rocket Scientist #1: Wait a minute – isn’t the Space Station in the other direction?
Rocket Scientist #2: Make it turn right! No, your OTHER right, you dummy!
I don’t know what orbit Starliner ended up in, but somebody hit the brakes and Starliner made what one article called “a hastier-than-planned return to Earth.”
What brought this background information to my attention was this recent update:
According to the article,
“A software error left the Starliner capsule in the wrong orbit in December and precluded a docking with the International Space Station. Another software flaw could have ended up destroying the capsule, if not fixed right before reentry.
“A Boeing vice president, John Mulholland, said both mistakes would have been caught if complete, end-to-end testing had been conducted in advance and actual flight equipment used instead of substitutes.”
So when testing a space capsule that was intended to carry humans to the Space Station, Boeing skipped thorough testing?
And used substitute instead of actual flight equipment?
Substitutes like…an old blender they had sitting around? An out-of-date throwaway camera? A computer from the 1981 space shuttle?
I wondered, was Boeing trying to cut corners?
Not so, according to the article,
“Mulholland stressed that the situation had nothing to do with saving money.”
Wow! Finally, someone at Boeing is telling the truth!
After all, it’s not their money Boeing is spending.
And take a guess how much the government – meaning we taxpayers – have thus far spent on the Starliner debacle:
Taxpayers have given $5 billion to Boeing to develop Starliner.
Clearly, “saving money” is not on Boeing’s priority list.
But the real bummer was that Starliner – this was back in December – carried taxpayer-paid-for “Christmas treats and presents for the six space station residents.”
Those treats and presents never arrived.
And neither did this:
Meet Rosie the Rocketeer.
In this photo provided by Boeing, the space test dummy that would be aboard the Starliner was “named after the iconic WWII character, Rosie the Riveter, and is headed to space decked out in her famous red bandana and a Boeing blue space suit.”
Boeing got the red bandana right, but not the Starliner.
I’d say Rose the Rocketeer isn’t the only dummy at Boeing.
Fifty-some years ago someone I suppose we’d call an “artist” wrote something I suppose we’d call a “song.”
It became fairly popular among rock ‘n’ rollers, and actually rose to the height of anthem among a certain segment of popular culture.
It was 1967, the song was “White Rabbit,” and it’s all about drugs – ingesting them and tripping out on them, with lyrics that made no sense until you were, indeed, ingesting and tripping.
Here are the lyrics:
One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.
Go ask Alice, when she’s 10 feet tall.
And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall
Tell ‘em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call.
And call Alice, when she was just small.
When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said:
Feed your head, feed your head.
No sense at all.
Unless you’re stoned.
Fast forward to 2020.
A cruise ship line – for reasons that also make no sense at all – has incorporated these 50+-year-old lyrics and the music into their commercials.
Well, it makes no sense to me, so I took to the Internet and found plenty of explanations from back when the commercials came out, on websites including AdWeek, the bible of the advertising industry:
And Travel Weekly, which bills itself as “The Travel Industry’s Trusted Voice”:
From JeffersonAirplane.com, or “JA,” Jefferson Airplane being the band that recorded “White Rabbit” in 1967.
The articles state that the commercials are for Celebrity Cruises and their newest ship, Celebrity Edge:
Which, according to the Celebrity Cruises website is “A ship designed to leave the future behind.”
Which also makes no sense at all.
So, let’s hear from the experts, as quoted in Travel Weekly:
Celebrity Cruises said:
“The ad ‘follows a female protagonist on a voyage of discovery through a dream-like wonderland of world-class cuisine, cocktails, Eden-istic experiences and alluring accommodations, all on the brand’s newest ship, Celebrity Edge.
“Eden-istic experiences.” Uh-huh.
‘…bringing the experience of cruising with Celebrity to life in a dramatic, beautiful way. We wanted to show how unexpected moments, impeccable service and stunning design create a trip that is truly wonderful, and provides our guests with a break from reality, even just for an instant.’”
“Create a trip.” Well, the “trip” part sounds right.
And this, from the ad agency that did the airplane-cruise ship mix:
“We want viewers to see Celebrity the way we see Celebrity, as a modern and progressive brand with an incredible and unique product. We hope to convey the same feelings of wonder and intrigue you get from being on a Celebrity cruise, in a fresh way.”
To think that Melania Trump – busy as she is, picking out clothes and shoes and accessories, getting her hair and makeup done, and following behind Trump like in this famous image, where Trump is bounding up the White House steps, Melania apparently forgotten…
That she would take the time to find MY name, MY address, write to me AND send me a check?
And not only that, but to write a two-page letter, personally addressed to me?
Just a cursory glance at the letter showed me it was filled with her own personal words of wisdom, like these…
WOW, again! Melania is going to tell Trump – about me?
And she personally signed it with an authentic Trump-style Sharpie?
Seriously, all I can say is…
So there I was, basking in the glow of Melania’s personal attention, picking up the check again to admire her other authentic Trump-style Sharpie signature, when…
The check isn’t made out to me.
It’s made out to “Republican National Committee.”
Did Melania mail me the wrong check?
I went back and this time I read the letter closely, and…
This wasn’t a personal-from-Melania-let’s-be-BFFs missive at all.
It was a pitch for money!
For the Republican National Committee!
And here I’d had visions dancing through my head of us shopping together, and finding these Jimmy Choo Metallic Avril 100 Crystal Pumps – a steal at $4,215…
If you see Melania (look for her following behind Trump – he’s the one with the umbrella) …
Well, if Melania wants to write to me again, please tell her my new address…