Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for May 2011

Serve More Junk Food or the Bunny Gets It

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We, the undersigned, children of the household, hereby declare our dissatisfaction with the parental policy regarding the category of comestibles commonly referred to as “junk food.” The delineation of our grievances in this matter follows.

1. A detailed survey of our peers reveals that our household policy of only one (1) junky snack per week falls far below the average for each of our peer groups. Our observations and inquiries point to a median daily junky snack provision of two (2) such snacks per child.

2. The parental definition of “junky” is at odds with the sensibilities of our peer groups and their parents. While in this family the prevailing categorization refers to anything containing disproportionate quantities of sugar, fat or salt, society at large holds to a significantly narrower definition. As evidence, we adduce the practice of many classmates who bring chocolate spread sandwiches to school for lunch, and countless families who habitually consume burgers, hot dogs and fries for dinner.

3. There has yet to be a single provable instance in which the consumption of junk food immediately before a meal has affected the appetite of the eater to a substantial degree.

4. The practice of allowing dessert only on weekends leaves the children of this family egregiously under-supplied in comparison with their peers, many of whom even bring dessert to school to eat with their lunches.

5. The parental idea that fruit can somehow serve as dessert flies in the face of societal sensibilities, according to which the “dessert” label can only apply to substances with added sugar and/or fat.

6. The instances in which the parents of the family have neglected to prepare dessert to the liking of every single child are too numerous to catalog. In each case, the child with unfulfilled wishes is left to ponder why his parents seem not to love him as much as they do his siblings, who for some ungodly reason seem to like oatmeal cookies.

7. The serving size of junky snacks and desserts in this household falls far short of the typical serving sizes by which our peers and their parents abide.

In light of the above, we the children petition the authorities to prevail upon the parental units of this household to adhere to more widely accepted standards regarding junk food and desserts.

Respectfully yours,

The children of Thag and Miggtha

Written by Thag

May 31, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I Solemnly Swear to Abuse My Electoral Office

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Hi, we’re your local government, and we’re here to make your life difficult.

Nothing too objectionable, you understand; no long-lasting violations of your civil rights. Just some major inconveniences, such as shutting down all the local streets for a parade of dubious value. Because that’s how we engage your civic pride: making it exceedingly difficult for you to get around and get things done in this city.

That birthday party on the other side of town your son wants to attend? Well, we’re sorry you baked those brownies, but they’re not going to be necessary now that you can’t get him there. The nice family dinner with grandma you had planned? It’ll have to be some other time, when she’s not available. What did you expect, that we would just lie down and let you live your lives when we have to justify our taxation of you by getting your attention the only way we know how? Please.

It’s not as if we don’t have lives of our own and families to support. We don’t just mean the relatives we place in cushy municipal jobs; we mean actual children and stuff. Those private schools aren’t exactly free, you know, and drawing a salary from your tax dollars is the only way we can make those diamond-studded ends meet. That means generating enough activity around town to make the citizenry think we’re accomplishing things left and right. It doesn’t matter whether we do anything constructive; we doubt you’d be able to tell the difference. Those road work projects that close off a lane of traffic along a major artery? That’s just drilling, leaving it open for a month and sealing it up again. We don’t know a thing about actually fixing stuff, but we have to pretend we do, or we’re out of a job. We’re sure you understand.

You do understand; there’s no other logical explanation for your continued tolerance – and, dare we say, continued reelection – of us and our policies, if an incoherent bunch of civic kludges can be called policy. So we thank you for your generosity from the bottom of our swelling checking accounts and municipal pension funds.

Now don’t forget to pay your parking tickets. Daddy needs a new plasma TV.

Written by Thag

May 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

If You Wish to Read This Post, Fill Out Form N-102

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I wanted to submit the proper forms to the municipal offices so that we would be eligible for a discount on tuition for our four-year-old. So I went with all the relevant documents I could muster, plus a few irrelevant ones just in case, and registered her for the upcoming academic year. When asked to produce evidence regarding my declared low income, I showed the one measly freelance contract that accounted for all my taxable income in 2010. They had me sign a declaration that I earned some pitifully small amount, and am therefore applying for a major discount. All was hunky dory.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when the municipality sent us a letter saying, “If you don’t send us Form X for 2008, Form Y for 2009 or Form Z for 2010 by date Q, you will not be eligible for the discount.” This perplexed me, as I was not in possession of Form X, Form Y or Form Z for any of those years, and was not quite sure how to obtain them.

Fortunately, I knew where the tax authority offices were (Location F), and hopped over there to find out whether they could provide me with them. I dutifully took a number and waited the requisite time it takes the clerks in Department G  to polish their nails before deigning to see us members of the public, and showed Clerk A the letter delineating what I needed. She said she couldn’t help me; her department could only issue Form W, which of course would not help. She recommended that I go downstairs to Clerk B in Department H to get Form V, which, although it does not declare an amount of income or of taxes paid, does certify that I do not have a file with the tax authority as an independent contractor or freelancer.

I had no idea how that would help, but I figured if I got my hands on that form and came back for further advice, they might offer some. So I descended into the bowels of the building and found Department H, only Clerk B was unwilling to see me, referring me instead to Clerk C in the next room, only Clerk C was in fact in a different room at the time, putting boxes of archival material in random stacks. In fact it only became clear that she was Clerk C when she entered Clerk C’s cubicle and sat at the desk. Whereupon she gave me the obligatory “What the hell are you doing here?” look that must be part of the training program (Course P).

I presented the letter again and explained my situation: I can’t get Forms X, Y or Z because my situation does not fit any of those forms, but the municipality will only accept X, Y or Z. Clerk C informs me that she can only give me Form V, but there’s no way I can get anything like what I’m after. I thanked her and returned to Department G, where I waited another half hour while the clerks took turns going on coffee break – Procedure O dictates that the break room be staffed at all times, and with only three clerks on duty, this proved quite a challenge. But eventually, they broke down and started handling visitors again. I prayed I would not have to deal with Clerk A again, lest she yell at me for misunderstanding that I could not accomplish what I wished, and was grateful to have my number called by Clerk D, who informed me that she could not issue anything like what I needed.

But I had considered that already, and countered with a request for Form U, which the same office had issued for me each year, in advance of my signing the contract, so could I just have a copy printed out? She shrugged and said OK, but it wouldn’t help; Form U, it seems, is pro forma, not the official numbers. Then she noticed that in 2008 I had processed the form at Location J, not Location F, so she could not print it out. Impossible, I replied; I was in the adjacent cubicle with Clerk E when I filed that form. She checked again and realized she was looking at the wrong entry, printed out the right form for me and sent me on my way. Time to find a fax machine.

The fax machine, however, was out of order, because the people in Department G had failed to complete Requisition K, so I went to a friend’s office across the street and sent along the documents, praying that they might do the job.

But of course I soon got a call from the municipality, in which Municipal Clerk L wondered aloud what the hell I was sending her, and didn’t I realize I was supposed to send Form X, Form Y or Form Z? Well, yes, I replied, I realized that quite clearly, only my status does not permit me to have any of those forms; nevertheless, my low income justifies the discount, and could you please just use whatever information I’ve sent you? After some talking past each other some more, we agreed that I should send her the pages of the freelance contract that specified the maximum amount I was to be paid in the contract year.

Except by now I was home, and nowhere near a fax machine. Time to start calling friends. Here’s how it went, and I swear I am not making any of this up:

Friend (actually relative) A: Uh, yeah, we have one, I think, but my husband’s out of town and I have no idea how to connect it.
Friend B: Sorry, the machine at our office was never connected.
Friend C: No, but you might try (completely random, ridiculous suggestion, i.e. Friend G)
Friend D: Receptionist said she’s in a meeting.
Friend E: No, sorry, we don’t have one, we’re staying with (Friend F, in a different part of town). Yes, they probably have one, but I’m not there right now, I’m actually at home, but we have no electricity for the last week and a half, so even if we did have one, you couldn’t use it now.
Friend H: Yes, I had one for about half an hour a few days ago, but I connected it to the wrong kind of transformer and fried it.

Desperate, I went out to the office of Friend D in case she could tolerate my walking in on her meeting, only she wasn’t there. So I wandered toward the house of Friend H, and along the way passed the house of Friend G, the one suggested by Friend C in a fit of insanity, and chanced it. Of course he had a fax, and one that worked just fine, thank you very much.

Municipal Clerk L called again, wondering why I’d sent those pages; didn’t I have something with more relevant information? We rehashed the situation several times more until she realized we were at an impasse: either the bureaucracy would have to yield, or I would. And I can be a pain to bureaucrats. Clerk L said she would work with what she had, and hope for the best.

I asked if she knew what forms to fill out to authorize hoping. She didn’t understand. I guess that wasn’t part of the training.

Written by Thag

May 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I’m Even Scummier than I Look. Say, Is That Beer?

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You’ll have to pardon the broad brush with which I spread this tar: guys are scum. I realize that exceptions exist, but fifty-thousand non-scum males in a sea of nearly three-and-a-half billion scumbags does not a refutation make. So the assertion stands erect, if you catch my drift.

I do not exclude myself from this characterization. My publicly pristine behavior stems mainly from fear of exposure as a slime bucket, not from any inherent revulsion for scummitude. I empathize with the poor dirtbags who get carried away pursuing the scumbag lifestyle, even as I castigate them for it.

This realization hit me for the umpteenth time last night as my wife and I were sitting around with a couple of female friends, discussing the case of one of the latter: she, about thirty years old, was informed by a thirty-three-year-old male that he found her too old for his liking – he was looking for someone about eight years younger. I had three simultaneous reactions: (1) My God, that guy is such a scumbag; (2) This poor woman was probably disgusted, confused and furious; and (3) I see where he’s coming from – if I could get away with such a policy, wouldn’t I give it a shot?

The problem is that it seems to work, if only based on the observation that women tolerate a heck of a lot more crap than guys do in their potential (or actual) partners. Most women know that Mr. Perfect does not exist, and came to that realization at a young enough age, enabling them to consider potential mates outside the perfect range, whether that refers to age, weight, quantity of hair, annual income or some combination thereof. Guys, on the other hand, are always looking for something “better” to come along, and thus keep channel surfing through life, always looking for what else is on. It takes a particular set of circumstances to make a guy realize he’s not going to find anyone better than a particular woman, and put down the remote control.

On rare occasions, those circumstances are maturity and a firm grip of reality. In many others, it involves a shotgun. In others still, it involves money. Often, however, it involves a sensible third party who hits the guy over the head with the revelation that he’s never going to find someone like this again, usually following an evening of intense guy behavior, i.e. something involving beer.

In my case, there was no beer involved, but there was a sensible friend who made me realize how crazy I was not to jump at the opportunity sitting before me for months already – a fait so accompli that within days of our first meeting people were asking my future wife and me whether we were dating each other. We barely knew each other and wouldn’t start dating for half a year yet, but all around us were people seeing the manifest rightness of the match. My inner guy, however, took a while to come around (it should be noted that inner guys, as a rule, don’t live all that far inside, if you know what I mean).

We’re not going to cure guys of scumminess; it’s hard-wired into the Y chromosome, and it served its purpose in the days of the mastodon and saber-tooth tiger. But can we keep enlightened society going for long enough that eventually, Darwinian processes will cause scumosity to evolve into a survival disadvantage?

I’m not holding my breath. You can’t drink beer that way.

Written by Thag

May 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

War Crimes? More Like Prime Times!

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It’s shaping up to be a great summer for a war.

All the pieces – and I don’t just mean artillery pieces – are coming into place: military buildup, militant rhetoric, crescendoing tensions between longtime foes. It doesn’t get any better than this. The pundits will pontificate; the analysts will anal; and the media will frenz. Some people might also die, and that will make for excellent human interest stories during lulls in the fighting, to help keep everyone interested.

There’s a good reason to wait for the late spring or early summer to start an offensive: the spring thaw often makes transportation of heavy equipment difficult, so this time of year has historically been the best season for mounting a campaign. And with clear weather on the horizon for the next several months, you can anticipate massing troops and armaments in numbers that would make Napoleon drool. No wonder there’s so much excitement in the air – people are anxious for the adventure to begin already!

Napoleon, after all, learned a hard lesson about fighting in the winter, and would approve of this timing. He would also salivate, as I’m sure you all do, at the sophisticated weapons systems of which he  could never dream: fighter jets; cluster bombs; cruise missiles; main battle tanks. Even the lowly (har!) antipersonnel land mine would give Clausewitz the jollies.

But it’s not just the technology that gets people excited: nowadays people are consumed by the thought of collateral damage, which means that the soldiers are not the only ones involved in the action. Not so long ago, before air power and rockets, only the combatants at the front came into contact with danger or got a chance to kill and maim. A civilian with ambitions to do the same had to get trapped in the thick of the battle, or at least to be caught by the pillaging enemy in its aftermath. Not anymore: a modern stray projectile can destroy homes and lives hundreds of miles from any battlefield – or better yet, make the entire home front a theater of operations in itself. And even those civilians ensconced far away can monitor the proceedings in real time, thanks to the internet and social media.

Let us celebrate, then, that the world can soon become a global pillage.

Written by Thag

May 27, 2011 at 9:21 am

You Exist Only to Serve Me. Right, Mom?

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I believe you misunderstand, madam: my not getting the biggest piece of cake actually is the end of the world.

As you know, after all, this is my favorite kind of cake: rich chocolate cake with smooth mocha frosting. If I do not end up with the lion’s share of its chocolaty goodness, I simply cannot go on – and nor can the universe, the persistence of which depends on me. I cannot recall the universe existing without me; therefore my continued wish to exist ipso facto determines whether the universe continues to function. QED.

I cannot fault you completely for not immediately grasping the importance of giving me exactly what I want lest existence itself cease; you might not have noticed, as you seem to be operating under the assumption that the other children in this household deserve some of your attention. So allow me to enlighten you in that respect: life itself, not to mention the movements of the heavenly bodies and interstellar dust, possess meaning only insofar as my desires are fulfilled. This serves to explain the vehemence with which I protest your refusal to allot the largest portion of cake to me. Consider what is at stake, madam.

Your continued attempts to discuss such concepts as “compromise” and “sharing” demonstrate that you have not absorbed the thrust of my remarks. The fact that Tommy has not yet received a single serving yet I demand a third might appeal to some puny or marginally noteworthy sense of justice, but in the grand scheme of things – which is to say, my agenda – it remains of negligible importance. As we established in the preceding two paragraphs, whether or not Bridget receives any cake at all, let alone a piece approaching mine in volume, means exactly nothing.

What’s more, your mention of my recent rejection – just last week, you assert – of the selfsame cake to justify serving me less than I wish entirely misses the point. My desires, as fickle as you may find them, nevertheless give your existence purpose. It matters not whether you find them in any way consistent. Make me happy, and life fulfills its purpose; deny me, and everything you see around you might as well disappear, for it has betrayed its existential objective.

A wise move, madam, placating Bridget with a variety of sweet for which I do not care. You seem to be gaining awareness of the way things are meant to operate in this world. Let us hope you internalize the lesson by the time I turn six, and life shall run smoothly.

Written by Thag

May 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Are You (a) Wealthy or (b) *Really* Wealthy?

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Thank you for completing this Golf Digest survey. We appreciate your time and effort. The information you provide will help us gain a better picture of our readership, and enable us to tailor our content more closely to your preferences.

1. Age:
(a) 40-44
(b) 45-49
(c) 50-54
(d) 55-dead

2. Sex:
(a) Male

3. Annual income:
(a) $999,999 or less
(b) $1,000,000-$9,999,999
(c) $10,000,000-$49,999,999
(d) $50,000,000 or more

4. Occupation:
(a) Business Executive
(b) Attorney
(c) Professional athlete/entertainer

5.  Skin tone:
(a) White

6. How many cars do you own?
(a)  3-5
(b) 6-25
(c) 25-99
(d) The entire UPS trucking fleet

7. How many acres does your primary residence occupy?
(a) 350-999
(b) 1,000-9,999
(c) 10,000-99,999
(d) My last name is Trump.

8. What is your preferred pastime?
(a) Golf
(b) Squash
(c) Tennis
(d) Options trading

9.  Number of homes you currently own:
(a) 5-10
(b) 10-20
(c) 20-30
(d) When I stay at a hotel, I purchase it for the duration of my stay.

10. Number of children:
(a) None
(b) 1

11. Religion:
(a) Protestant

12. Favorite charitable cause:
(a) The Republican National Committee
(b) Forest Lake Country Club
(c) The American Petroleum Institute
(d) The Betty Ford Clinic

13. Of what achievement are you most proud?
(a) Leveraging debentures
(b) Negotiating the purchase of a major work of Impressionist art
(c) Marrying the daughter of a prominent financier
(d) Running a major sports franchise into the ground

14. Which of the following phrases generates the most excitement for you?
(a) Cultural attaché
(b) Made in China
(c) Trickle-down
(d) Ronald Reagan

15. What is the most offensive term in the English language?
(a) Labor Union
(b) Affirmative Action
(c) Democratic Party
(d) President Obama

16.  Which undergraduate university did you attend?
(a) Harvard
(b) Yale
(c) Princeton
(d) Dartmouth

17. What is your ancestry?
(a) Mayflower arrivals

Thank you for taking this survey.

Written by Thag

May 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm