Mightier Than The Pen

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Archive for September 2012

Democracy Inaction

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Written by Thag

September 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

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ICBL: Not Enough Land Mine Deaths

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Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – The International Committee to Ban Landmines has released what it calls “disappointing” figures of civilian landmine deaths in the the last two years, and is calling for nations to step up their efforts to improve the devices’ effectiveness.

Exact statistics of civilian deaths by landmine are hard to come by, as many such deaths occur in countries or areas with nominal or unreliable reporting mechanisms, such as North Korea and Sudan. But through statistical analysis, the ICBL noted a 12% decline in the estimated landmine deaths from 2005 to 2011, and calls this development “worrisome.”

Clay Moore, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, one of the founding organizations of the ICBL coalition, said that the group had expected deaths from antipersonnel mines to increase during the period in question, since killing technology has continued to improve, and the level of political and military instability has remained more or less even worldwide during that time. “Unfortunately,” he said in a recent interview, “the mine-laying entities have failed to keep pace with developments in the affected populations, and the effectiveness of their techniques lags.”

One of the factors Moore cited in explaining the decline is that many of the long-lived minefields have gradually become less and less accessible to the local population, in some cases because they have all been killed off. In others, the local authorities have managed to restrict access to the minefields.

A sign in the Golan Heights warning white people to keep out of the minefield.

The latter case can be seen in the Golan Heights, currently held by Israel, but which the Syrian army strewed with minefields before the territory was captured in 1967. With barbed wire and warning signs, the minefields remain relatively off limits to humans, but occasionally an errant cow or sheep sets off a device.

“Instant roast beef,” recalled Colonel Yishai Grill, who heads the IDF’s minesweeping units, when asked about the last time he had to confront a landmine incident. A Hereford had wandered through a gap in the barbed wire fence and detonated two mines at once. He misses the thrill of possibly getting killed with every step.

The ICBL’s goal is to kill off unwanted segments of the human population, principally those living in squalid conditions in third-world economies who contribute little to the species other than appearing in heart-wrenching photos for National Geographic or Peace Corps promotional literature. Their main achievement has been the Otttawa Treaty, in which the signatory countries, mostly developed nations, agree not to use or manufacture antipersonnel mines.

“There are far more effective weapons for eliminating unwanted populations,” says Jenn O’Seid, an activist with Physicians for Human Rights, also a coalition member organization. “That’s why we only focus on antipersonnel mines. Antitank mines, Claymores and other high-explosive bombs are far more effective at killing, and that’s where the developed countries should be focusing their efforts,” she said.

Countries that have not signed the treaty include North Korea, Sudan, The Russian Federation, Pakistan, Iran and China, all of whom manufacture and use antipersonnel mines. Previous ICBL reports explain that these countries’ military technology lags behind their western rivals’, and they have little choice but to employ the less efficient killing technology of antipersonnel mines in ridding the world of unwanted civilians.

“It’s a shame, too,” says Ray Sist, ICBL coordinator for Human Rights Watch. “Perversely, many of the countries that have to rely on the older technology are overpopulated and non-white, so they actually have greater need for the technology they lack.”

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Written by Thag

September 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

God, Angels Laughing Riotously over Muhammad Cartoons

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The Heavens, September 23 (AP) – The LORD Almighty and His ministering angels are just tickled pink, as it were, by the hullabaloo surrounding the cartoons and film mocking Muhammad, heavenly sources say.

“Thus saith the LORD: Thou canst not make this stuff up,” reported the archangel Gabriel, his seraphic cheeks ruddy from peals of hysteria. “For lo, not since Martin Luther’s earnestness have I seen thee worked up as the Euphrates doth churn in spring,” he continued, before collapsing in another fit. “Oh, LORD, thank Thee for not creating me with actual lungs, for they be deprived now of air,” he managed to gasp.

Angels have noted the LORD’s mirth since trailers for The Innocence of Muslims were first released in July, as He anticipated the reaction of His more manipulable children. “By My sacred Name, I cannot wait for the feces to hit the fan,” the LORD is said to have uttered as He beheld the horribly acted, obviously overdubbed piece of cinematic trash.

Heavenly giddiness has occurred before, notably during periods when there was an antipope, and whenever large groups  of cult members immolate or otherwise kill themselves in anticipation of some apocalyptic or cataclysmic event. According to heavenly archives, the heavens shook with Godly laughter in 1997 when 39 adherents of the Heaven’s Gate movement committed mass suicide, expecting a spaceship to follow the approaching comet Hale-Bopp. “Oh Me, those idiots,” He said on that occasion, over and over again.

Similarly, The Creator finds continual amusement in the Raelians, a UFO cult that claimed in 2002 that it had cloned a human, and in fans of the Chicago Cubs, who clearly cannot take a hint.

Records were not kept before 200 BCE, but the earliest confirmed episode of Godly amusement at humanity’s foibles occurred as early Christians debated the question of celibacy. That joke has since grown old to God, says spokesangel St. Peter, but under the right circumstances it still elicits a divine chuckle. “Just last month [archangel] Michael was commenting on the soon-to-be-announced manuscript mentioning Jesus’s wife – he said, ‘Does this mean the LORD tells mother-in-law jokes?’ God smiled and gave Michael a satisfied whack on the back. Poor guy is still having his wings repaired.”

The second chapter of Psalms directly refers to the LORD as laughing at people who plan evil, but the dating of that passage in in dispute. Attributed to King David, the book was actually composed over several centuries, with some portions heavily edited. God Himself declared He does not much care when it was written; the dating is irrelevant to the psalm’s meaning.

Heavenly computer terminals have been busier than usual in recent weeks as angels and departed souls watch the streaming video trailers to discover what all the fuss is about, and to join God in bouts of laughter. “It’s been unusually jolly here,” said the patriarch Isaac, whose name means “He will laugh” in Hebrew, and who knows a thing or two about the divine sense of humor. “The LORD has taken to looking over the shoulders of anyone watching that piece of crap and sharing the laughter with them as the train wreck unfolds on the screen and on Earth below.”

“It’s really only the Jews who get it,” mused Isaac. “They continuously get shafted throughout history, and they keep disproportionately producing comedians. Why do you think God chose them?” He then shuffled away, the victim of yet another divine stealth wedgie.

“Now that doth not get old,” the LORD was heard to say.

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Written by Thag

September 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Report: Package of Cookies Still Unopened

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Concord, NH (AP) – Witnesses in the kitchen area report that the Pepperidge Farm Nantucket cookies in the pantry are not yet open as of this morning.

The cookies were first observed late last week after Mom and Dad returned from a late-night shopping trip. A reconnaissance mission undertaken by the eleven-year-old confirmed the existence and variety of the cookies, dark chocolate chunk. The scout was unable to locate other new sources of chocolate, but the children agreed not to rule out the possibility, as the scouting mission focused solely on the pantry, and not on the other three cabinets where junk food has been observed in the past.

A further reconnaissance mission took place Saturday morning, under the guise of checking to see whether there were enough Cheerios for all the kids. The eight-year-old determined that the Nantuckets were undisturbed, prompting the rumor that Mom and Dad had uncharacteristically forgotten about the cookies, and that it would be feasible to obtain them and repair to the kids’ bedroom for a binge. Discussion was terminated when Dad entered the dining room, and did not resume for the rest of the day.

The eleven-year-old performed further reconnoitering on Sunday, and informed his siblings that the package remained unopened.

Experts are divided on how to proceed, with the eleven-year-old advocating indirect interrogation of Mom and Dad to determine whether the cookies have, by some unprecedented miracle, disappeared from their consciousness. This conservative approach, says the eleven-year-old, would forestall any negative consequences of absconding with the Nantuckets and having the parents subsequently discover them missing.

On the other hand, the eight-year-old contends that the very persistence of the Nantuckets in the pantry for several days ipso facto demonstrates that Mom and Dad are unaware of them anymore, since there has not been a recorded case of Nantuckets lasting more than twenty minutes in the same house as the parents. The time to act is therefore immediately, lest by their overcautiousness the children allow Mom and Dad to rediscover the cookies and devour them before the children can do so.

A conference to develop an action plan came to halt earlier today when the three-year-old, hearing the discussion, made for the pantry and pulled a step stool over before a successful interception involving both older boys and a loud conversation about Grandma and Grampa visiting soon.

As of press time, the package of cookies was empty on Dad’s desk.

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Written by Thag

September 23, 2012 at 3:02 pm

If You Need a Job Not Done, I’m Your Man

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Look no further. You need something not done. I don’t do things. Perfect.

Some people spend countless hours looking for just the right person not to do work. I’ve seen it at company after company. The administration spends who knows how many days interviewing candidates, whittling down the list of potential employees and finally making an offer to one or two lucky ones. All to determine which candidate will not do the work.

But you’re fortunate to have found me here and now – I don’t do work, so if there’s a job you want not done, give it to me and it’s as good as not done.

I’ll roll down my sleeves and not get started right away. Need that deck not sanded? Got it covered. Your car not washed?  Exactly my cup of tea. Need someone not to watch your kids? Hey, I’ve done that hundreds of times. In fact, you name almost any job, and I can guarantee I’m tops at not doing it.

It takes a certain panache, a certain je ne travaille pas when it comes to not building up an extensive resume. In my case, my innate talent essentially paved my career path from a young age, when I discovered the pleasures of not working, way back in grade school. I’ve followed that dream ever since. Sure, I’ve had rough patches, but every career does. I recall being forced not to work as a garbage man, and at some point even volunteered not to work for pay at several NY City agencies. I was forced to doze in a city-provided car all day instead of not working behind a desk – but I was prepared to cope with what I knew would be temporary non-work.

And today, I have nearly thirty-five years of not working behind me. That may not sound like much, but if you ask around, you’ll discover pretty quickly it’s hard to find someone who has done no work for so long, or so often. Only politicians can claim numbers anywhere close to mine, and they have to do bona fide work when election time rolls around. I have no such handicap. I can do my not working anytime, anywhere, and regardless of the prevailing political situation.

What’s more, I can take non-payment in dollars, Euros, pounds sterling, yen, yuan, rupees – I’m flexible. I can do my not working overseas if necessary – in fact there’s a burgeoning not-working market in the Far East and Africa. They’re the up-and-not-coming labor markets. But it’s always best to hire your non-worker close to home, so here I am.

Best of all, you’ll never even notice I’m on vacation. The quality of my not working won’t diminish one iota when I’m not not on the job. Guaranteed.

So you know what to do. You have work not to do. I’m your man not to do it.

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Written by Thag

September 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Somebody Made an Awful Movie! Quick, Let’s Burn Down Some Buildings!

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Written by Thag

September 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

The Blogging Frustration Proficiency Quiz

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Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook. The valid reasons for not doing so are:
(a) You have already done so.
(b) You work for Google, and are required by company policy to believe that Google+ is so vastly superior to Facebook that even having a Facebook account for non-work purposes would be ridiculous. Of course that just means you have to share this stuff on Google+, which we don’t exactly see you doing.
(c) You have fewer Facebook friends than Bill Buckner, so what’s the point?
(d) You don’t like anything. Not even puppies, chocolate or music.

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September 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures Required to Use Iambic Pentameter

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Bronx, NY (AP) – In an attempt to temper the rowdiest fans, the management at Yankee Stadium has announced that it will now require any chanting from the bleachers to have a coherent rhyme scheme, a proper poetic meter and a recognizable melody, according to a Yankees corporation press release.

The Bleacher Creatures, as they are affectionately known by the news media, engage in the heckling of visiting players common in most Major League ballparks, a practice that sometimes crosses the line between good-natured fun and outright violence. They also customarily serenade the Yankees one at a time by name until the player whose name is chanted acknowledges the recognition. The bleachers, located in right-center field, offer less expensive seating than the rest of the stadium, and tend to attract a different class of fan.

In order to filter out some of the foul notes emanating from that section, the statement says, only attendees who cooperate in chanting in more civilized fashion will be allowed to remain. Initially, the meter will be restricted to rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter, most famously associated with Shakespeare.  Bleacher gates will open an hour earlier than before, according to the statement, to allow for rehearsal.

After a suitable trial period the permissible forms will expand to include hexameter verse, the form employed by the classical Greek works The Iliad and The Odyssey. The press release cited those examples as demonstrations that the Stadium continues to be a Homer-friendly park.

In an interview, Yankees spokesman Rhyme Sandberg noted that this is not the first attempt to fuse lyricism with professional sports. When the Cleveland Browns football franchise moved to Baltimore, the team was renamed the Ravens to honor that city’s most famous poet, Edgar Allen Poe. “We’re not going to do it all at once; that would be more than anyone could handle. We intend to build a crescendo of civilized cheering. The wine-dark sea that is the baseball world looks to New York for leadership, and this is a golden opportunity to trumpet both our athletic and cultural success,” Sandberg said.

Not everyone is so excited about the change. Chris Lewis, 44, of Jamaica, Queens, has been attending Yankees games for nearly thirty years, and nearly always sits in the bleachers. “This isn’t a group of people who like being told what to do. They conduct themselves a certain way, and you can’t orchestrate their behavior for them,” he warned.

Tom Cokely, 40, of Midwood, Brooklyn, disagrees. “I look forward to a different tone coming from the bleachers.” Cokely has attended games regularly since 1996. “But it all depends how they handle it. The notes have to come out properly right off the bat, or people will walk. It has to be the perfect pitch.”

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Written by Thag

September 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Republicans Deny Plan to Rename Washington ‘Romneyville’

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Washington, DC (Reuters) – The Republican National Committee found itself on the defensive today after an RNC document was leaked to the media, purportedly containing a proposal to rename the nation’s capital after the party’s Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, once he wins the presidency. The campaign issued a statement vehemently denying the existence of such a proposal, and the RNC accused its political rivals of manufacturing the document.

The leaked document mentions the proposal to rename Washington, along with a provision for doubling income tax for every citizen who voted for a Democratic candidate for national office in the last six years, and a call for branding all resident aliens, legal or not, with a hot iron on exposed flesh.

“This is clearly the work of our Democratic opponents,” said RNC spokesman Ken Starr in a press conference at the GOP headquarters in Washington. “No Republican in his right mind would dare suggest such a thing. If anything, it’s Obama and his supporters who keep claiming to be all about ‘change,’ for all they’ve accomplished in the last four years.”

Democratic representatives, for their part, dismiss allegations that they had anything to do with the release of the document, and took it at face value. “There’s only one party in this country that’s so out of touch with the experience of the average American that they would consider renaming our capital city,” said House speaker Nancy Pelosi. “What’s next – rechristening California as Reagania?” Republican Ronald Reagan served as governor of California before being elected to the Presidency in 1980.

Some Republicans also took the proposal at face value, but saw nothing wrong with it. “Mitt Romney is positioned as no other Presidential candidate in history to permanently change the fabric of our nation’s politics,” said Ralph Reed, a conservative lobbyist. “Since we’ve become a party increasingly dedicated to the welfare of the super-rich and almost-super-rich, Romney now has unprecedented leverage in engineering the disenfranchisement of huge swaths of Democratic voters with a few strokes of the pen. Renaming Washington would just be a symbol of that power. I, for one, relish the thought that it might happen soon.”

The Obama campaign has remained relatively silent on the matter. Avi Uss, a political analyst with WDUH news in Virginia, sees that as a deliberate decision, allowing Romney and his fellow Republicans to continually shoot themselves in the foot rhetorically, a strategy that has been paying dividends for Democratic candidates everywhere this year, and requires little to no investment.

The strategy was first in evidence when Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin declared that women’s bodies could automatically detect whether a pregnancy resulted from rape or legitimate intercourse, and abort unwanted fetuses unless it wasn’t really rape. Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill specifically avoided exploiting Akin’s stupidity, preferring to let it speak for itself.

This week, Mitt Romney characterized nearly half the nation’s citizenry as freeloaders, making any specific campaign moves all but irrelevant for Obama, as more and more voters become convinced on their own that a Romney presidency would spell disaster at worst, and farce at best.

“It’s too bad they’re denying the renaming proposal,” said Sarah Castic, 33, of Racine, Wisconsin. “This would have been a great opportunity for the Republican party to showcase its honesty. That would have been a breath of fresh air. The American people could vote for a candidate who will initiate the deliberate collapse of economic security for the vast majority of us, and for once it won’t come as a surprise, because we basically voted for it.”

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Written by Thag

September 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

Abraham Arrested after Nearly Sacrificing Son

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Abraham, in an undated portrait.

Beersheba, Holy Land (AP) – Canaanite authorities have placed Abraham under arrest, alleging that he recklessly endangered the life of his son by almost sacrificing the child to the LORD.

Abraham, a father of two from the town of Hebron, was taken into custody yesterday afternoon by the Negev Division of the Canaanite Police Department, after his description was given to police in the Moriah District, where the incident is said to have occurred. He is scheduled to be arraigned later today, under a charge of reckless endangerment. The child’s age is unclear, and his identity is being withheld until the legality of releasing it can be clarified. He has been placed in protective custody by Jebusite welfare authorities.

The preliminary allegations place Abraham atop Mount Moriah in the area of Salem yesterday morning; witnesses say he bound his son hand and foot, placed him upon an altar, and brought a sacrificial knife to the boy’s neck. In the end Abraham did not harm the child physically, and the father instead slaughtered a ram he found nearby, but police and child welfare authorities are concerned that his episode reflects an unhealthy environment.

Abraham did not resist arrest, and is cooperating with police. He reportedly told them that he had acted on direct orders from the LORD. This and other aspects of Abraham’s behavior led police to place him under psychiatric evaluation.

Ishmael, a member of Abraham’s household, told police he was unaware of the goings-on atop Mt. Moriah. “We took a family trip, basically, and yesterday morning, my Dad and brother took a walk up the mountain. They took some of the firewood, but Dad said they’d be right back.” He said he was shocked by the accusations and refused to believe them. “I know I’m not exactly the favorite, so if Dad wanted to get rid of any of his kids, I’d be first on the list. No way he’d do anything crazy like that to my little brother.”

Ishmael was questioned briefly by police, then released. Police spokesman Hiw declined to give specifics, but other sources within the department, speaking anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations, indicated that the police and child welfare agencies will focus on earlier events in Abraham’s domestic history, including an episode a number of years ago in which he had all the males in his household circumcised.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife and the mother of the child in question, was unavailable for comment.

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Written by Thag

September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

Your Life as Directed by Ed Wood

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Originally posted October 3, 2011


Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, he wrote, as Tricia’s hands tenderly massaged his shoulders. He preferred blogging without his shirt, and in the light of the monitor his sculpted torso took on an otherworldly glow, Tricia thought.

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September 16, 2012 at 1:41 am

Education Dept. Sets Minimum of Four Weirdo Teachers per School

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Washington, DC (Reuters) – The Department of Education announced today that it has issued new rules regarding the hiring of teachers, mainly the requirement that each school with more than seventy pupils must have at least four weirdos on its teaching staff.

The move comes in response to census data indicating that children in some areas of the country are exposed to vastly different levels of weirdness from their teachers, and the numbers are critically low in such straight-laced portions of the country as Iowa, Idaho and Kansas. The new rules also address the difficulty of children being exposed only to weird teachers, which occurs primarily in California, though that has not had an appreciable effect on the state’s weirdness quotient in the last two decades.

Educators and education officials alike have long noted the importance of zany, absent-minded or just plain creepy teachers in children’s development, especially between the ages of ten and sixteen. Repeated studies have shown that exposure to comical faculty attire, unkempt hair, unsettling mannerisms, cutesy lingo and inexplicable ignorance of pop culture mainstays are a critical component of a healthy outlook and ability to learn. In China, where weirdness is currently outlawed, standardized tests consistently demonstrate the youths’ difficulty in understanding the centrality of such crucial issues as reality TV, the popularity of The Big Lebowski and why it is simply not cool to actually complete one’s schoolwork properly.

Weirdness has also been shown to play a role in electoral decisions, notably whether a voter will actually decide to submit an absentee ballot if necessary. Approximately 95% of absentee ballots are submitted by weirdos, many of whom are passionate about local politics and run for positions such as village alderman and the local school district board.

“America didn’t get where it is today by ignoring the importance of people like Doc Brown in Back to the Future,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “In fact a large number of the greatest minds in history were those of eccentric – no, we’ll say it plainly – weirdos.” He cited pioneering geologist Charles Lyell, who adopted excruciating positions in his chair when engaged in deep thought, and Isaac Newton, who had no romantic relationships in his life, as prominent examples.

“There’s quite a correlation between genius and social awkwardness,” said Abby Slightlyoff, a lecturer on cultural anthropology at the University of North Carolina, as she hunched over, twisted her body to the left and twisted some of her hair between her fingers as she spoke. “Anthropologists have known for years that the pervasive influence of weirdos during childhood makes it all the more likely that a person will grow up with at least a modicum of obliviousness to social conventions.”

The new regulations specifically exempt home-schooling families from any specific requirement, noting that home schooling is inherently weird enough to guarantee at least six times the minimum recommended weirdness.

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Written by Thag

September 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Patron Saint of Music Refuses to Help Avant-Garde Composers

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The saint, rolling her eyes heavenward at a reporter’s mention of Paul Hindemith.

Rome, (AP) – In an unprecedented step, St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, has announced that she does not consider avant-garde compositions music, and will therefore not extend help to its composers or performers.

Cecilia, martyred in the second century, is said to have “sung to God” as she died, and was later declared music’s patron saint. Numerous composers and songwriters have dedicated works to her, which was all well and good, she said at a press conference, but “at some point about a hundred years ago it ceased to be ‘music’ and just became ‘random noises that happen to come from musical instruments,'” she explained.

“I mean, Ravel? Debussy? Schoenberg? For crying out loud, crying out loud would be more musical that that garbage,” she continued.

In a statement released to the media at the press conference, the saint, one of only seven women – aside from the Blessed Virgin – to be mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, wrote that she has for many generations been of two minds about her musical status, considering how obliquely she was originally associated with the art. But through nearly two millenniums, she became accustomed, even enamored, of the connection to such glorious composers as Hildegaard von Bingen, Monteverdi, Purcell, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert. Eventually, however, the statement says, just after the turn of the twentieth century, so-called “composers” started messing with the very definition of music, disregarding it as a vehicle for spiritual and emotional elevation, and turning it into a technical, intellectual exercise. St. Cecilia finally decided she could take it no more.

“I do not know whether to attribute the change to the First World War or other factors,” she said in response to a reporter’s question, “but I do know that one Elliot Carter is going to get no help from yours truly when he stands before the Lord on Judgment Day.”

When asked whether there were any modern composers whose work she finds acceptable, she answered, “Some of Bernstein, Copland and even Gershwin can be absolutely beautiful. And I particularly enjoy many of John Williams’s film scores. I just wish he’d stick to that and forget about that Tree Music drivel,” referring to an early-twenty-first century series of compositions that departed from his dramatic, orchestral bread-and-butter.

St. Cecilia ended the conference to a chorus singing portions of Haydn’s The Creation oratorio, after which several ministering angels distributed a list of composers doomed to a special new section of Hell to be constructed especially for offenses to the ear. The list is provisional for living composers, who still have an opportunity to repent of their unpleasant ways and return to the path of the tonal. The list includes such personalities as Pierre Boulez, Hans Eisler, Alban Berg, and every single hip-hop artist ever.

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Written by Thag

September 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Republican Party Diagnosed with Deficit Attention Disorder

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Washington, DC (Reuters) – The Republican Party suffers from Deficit Attention Disorder, the party’s physician, Dr. Hugh Briss, announced this morning. The condition causes a narrow focus on fiscal prudence, often at the expense of greater values. Deficit Attention Disorder affects approximately four of every ten American voters, depending on which political party currently has ascendancy.

Although any healthy political party concerns itself with government fiscal discipline to some degree, the Deficit Attention Disorder-afflicted party assigns it undue importance, explains Dr. N. L. Retentive, a New York political psychiatrist. “A party ends up focusing so much on the Holy Grail of a balanced budget, of cutting expenses wherever possible, that it ceases to be able to promote the values it truly holds dear,” she said in a recent interview.

The diagnosis, however, is not without controversy. Some political psychiatrists warn of the social stigma the party may suffer as a result of the diagnosis being made public. “It would have been better to keep this a private matter between the Republican Party and its doctor,” lamented Pete O’fender, a former Republican National Committee member and now a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. He allowed, however, that such a prominent figure as the GOP being so forthright about its condition might help others muster the courage to step forward, which would be a boon to the makers of drugs to treat Deficit Attention Disorder.

A number of treatment options are available to the GOP, including medication, Democrat-bashing therapy and dissing so-called “welfare moms,” but history indicates the party will most likely opt for whichever treatment rewards its contributors most richly. Already, teams of rival consultants are preparing proposals on how best to parlay this diagnosis into a conquest of the White House this November.

“It’s about time the American people had a President with the common touch,” said political analyst Donald Trump, long an advocate of candidates with less-than-wealthy origins. “Romney can really use this to his advantage, because the guy in office now certainly has little in common with most Americans.” Census data indicate that nearly half of all American births take place outside of marriage, and that nonwhites will be a majority in the US by 2050. President Obama was raised primarily by his single mother.

Trump, in particular, advocates treating Deficit Attention Disorder with Cranial-Rectal Inversion Therapy. That course of treatment has known side effects such as hair that resembles roadkill, and a near-complete loss of ability to differentiate between reality and ego-generated delusions. Some political psychologists note that Romney himself displays the latter symptom to some degree, and surmise that he is leading the GOP in the direction of the treatment Trump recommends.

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Written by Thag

September 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

NY Times to Go Tabloid

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(Originally posted April 2011)

By Jay Walker

ImageNEW YORK, September 10 – Responding to a decades-long trend in newspaper marketing, the New York Times announced today that as of June 30 it would change its classic broadsheet layout to tabloid format. The decision follows months of studies commissioned by the Times management and comparisons with the fates of other newspapers in both the broadsheet and tabloid formats.

Long associated with higher-quality journalism, the broadsheet format has fallen out of favor with purchasers of newspapers over the last thirty years. Although tabloid newspapers have suffered declining sales during the same period, the tabloid format has proved somewhat more resilient, as it remains more conducive to compelling or dramatic photos and headlines that help attract readers.

Although the impending switch took some industry analysts by surprise, many print media experts saw the newsprint on the walls ages ago, says Harold Perlmutter, Associate Professor of Media at George Mason University. “The Times took the revolutionary step – at least by its own conservative standards – and introduced color photography to its front page in the 1990′s,” he said, “but in recent years even the stodgy folks at the Times realized that they needed a wholesale makeover, not some cosmetic touch-ups here and there.”

ImageThe announcement garnered mixed reactions among media consumers. According to a CBS poll, 48% of respondents expected the change not to affect sales to any significant degree, while 38% expressed excitement at seeing the paper of record feature front-page headlines such as, “Guv: Feds Too Nosy” and “Cops Nab Pair in Mob Hit”. The other 14% expressed no opinion on the matter. The poll’s margin of error was four percentage points.

Alison Morgan, 38, of New Hyde Park, NY, has had a subscription to the NY Times for seven years, and welcomes the change. “I know it’s supposed to be the best paper and all, but I just can’t wade through everything I need to in the little time I have. It’s great to know the Times will now be on the same level as the Daily News and the New York Post.”

Others are not so keen on the switch. Maureen Baker, 52, of Brooklyn Heights, plans to cancel her subscription once the change takes effect. “I can’t believe they’re selling out,” she said.

Beyond the announcement itself in a press release today, the Times has remained unusually silent on the matter. The press release said, in its entirety, “As of June 30, 2011, The New York Times will switch from broadsheet to tabloid format, in keeping with worldwide trends in print journalism. We anticipate that the change will attract new readers, and we will work to retain our current demanding readership by demonstrating that the format of the paper will not affect the kwality of the publication they have come to expect.”

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Written by Thag

September 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm

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Chicago Trades Cubs to Seattle for Mariners

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Chicago, IL (AP) – Almost six months into yet another failed season for both baseball franchises, the cities of Chicago and Seattle have agreed to trade their baseball teams, pending approval from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig is expected to approve the move.

With the brief exception of the mid-to-late nineties and the early part of the last decade, the professional sports teams of Seattle have consistently underachieved. The Seattle Supersonics NBA team gave the city its only real bright spot in 1979 with an NBA championship, but that glow turned into a sense of betrayal when the franchise packed up and moved to Oklahoma City in 2009. They join the short-lived Metropolitans as the only two championships for Seattle teams in prominent professional sports, both of whom either ceased to exist or took their talents elsewhere. The Metropolitans became the first American team to win hockey’s Stanley Cup, in 1917, but folded in 1924.

The football franchise Seahawks have perpetually been the laughingstock of the National Football Conference, second perhaps only to the New York Jets in comical ineptitude, though some experts point to the Detroit Lions as the embodiment of epic football futility.

The Cubs, infamously, last gave Chicago a baseball championship in 1908, representing the longest championship drought in North American professional sports. Although they briefly flirted with further success about ten years ago, the cellar of the National League has been familiar territory for much of the last century.

Adding to their collective frustration, the Cubs and Mariners already have in common the record for the most wins during a regular season, at 116; the Cubs accomplished that in their last championship season, while the Mariners did so in 2001, only to lose to the hated New York Yankees in the playoffs; the Mariners remain one of only two teams in all of baseball without a championship. The other such team is the expansion Washington Nationals.

But the setting for each team differs markedly, and that is precisely the point, says Dan O’Shaughnessy, a Boston Globe baseball columnist. “The Cubs, the Lovable Losers, for all their futility, inhabit Chicago, where the White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears have more than made up for the North Sider’s shameful history in the city’s psyche. But the Cubs felt overshadowed by their crosstown and cross-sports rivals, and the city agreed to let them try their luck elsewhere. Chicago isn’t losing much,” he wrote in his Sunday column,.

“But the Mariners have the opposite problem, and they hope that the winning ways of the Chicago region’s professional teams might prove contagious, an experience they’ve never had,” O’Shaughnessy concluded.

The Cubs are not the first baseball team to consider a move to Seattle. In the early sixties the Cleveland Indians considered such a relocation, and their achievements, or lack thereof, in the ensuing years have some baseball historians saying it might as well have happened – to the point that many Cleveland football fans blame the Indians’ flirting with Seattle for the Browns’ continued on-field failures, though they reserve most of their recriminations for Browns owner Art Modell, who shipped the team off to Baltimore and rechristened them the Ravens. In Baltimore the team actually won a championship, adding to Midwestern sports fan bitterness.

In 1969 the Pilots began playing in Seattle, but moved to Milwaukee the following year to become the Brewers.

Also on Sunday, New York Mets announced that they will be transforming their organization into a retirement center for aged Yankees castoffs, starting in 1962.

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Written by Thag

September 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Children Cooperate at Bedtime; Pigs Sprout Wings

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Charlotte, NC (AP) – This Southern city has been abuzz in the week since the four children of Harriet and Glen Walden went to bed last Sunday night without making a fuss or offering resistance. The children, ages three through eleven, simply got into pajamas when their parents instructed them to, brushed their teeth and climbed into bed, where they remained silent until waking up the net morning for school.

The Waldens have become accustomed to a nightly routine of argument, disobedience, distraction and fighting, and this instance of comprehensive cooperation caught them, and city officials, by surprise. The last time children anywhere in the U.S. went straight to bed without fighting was when all three Whitaker children of Sarasota, FL, were stricken with fever in December 2008.

“We’re just not sure what’s going on,” said Patty Bouvier, Deputy Chief of Child Welfare in the Charlotte municipality. “There’s been nothing to indicate any controlled substance in effect, but Charlotte has never seen a case like this before.” In response to reporters’ questions, Bouvier requested that a staff member track down the last known case of unopposed bedtime routine in the state; it was in 1996, when a family of five from Raleigh-Durham had just completed a long drive home from the grandparents’ house, and the parents managed to transfer their one-year-old, three-year-old and five-year-old from the car to their beds without waking them in the process. For that achievement, Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., awarded Phyllis and Richard Rose a citation, and they were invited to a private dinner at the Executive Mansion.

In a related development, swine farmers in Vinton, Iowa, are reporting that the pigs in their care have begun to sprout wings. On Tuesday, reports began reaching Des Moines and the regional Department of Agriculture offices that large numbers of boars throughout the state suddenly had wings, though none had yet been observed using them for flying. Unconfirmed sightings of flying pigs occurred in Dubuque and Mason City, but may have been misidentified balloons or blimps.

A Des Moines newspaper was the first to explicitly make the connection between the miraculous bedtime incident in Charlotte and the winged pigs in Iowa. In an Op-Ed piece in the Des Moines Register on Thursday, Dr. Alan Blum, an epidemiologist, noted the timing of the two events and the infinitesimal chance that it was mere coincidence. His conclusion was seconded by scientists from Harvard, MIT and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as an internal Department of Health and Human Services memo on Friday.

Officials in Iowa and neighboring states expressed concern that flying pigs would pose a danger to air traffic, while the Indiana Air National Guard announced plans to research possible military applications of airborne swine units. In a press release, the Gary-based 526th Regiment of the Air National Guard noted the possible advantages flying swine might offer the U.S. military for ongoing conflicts in predominantly Muslim areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq, with an eye toward possible hostilities with Iran in the coming years. Muslims view pigs as unclean creatures, and the psychological impact of porcular weapons forms a major portion of the rationale for the project, the release said.

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Written by Thag

September 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Airline Accidentally Replaces Food with Plastic; Passengers Hail Improvement

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Above, the plastic meal. Below, the less appetizing original items.

Jamaica, NY (AP) – The 12:40 PM American Airlines flight 440 to Houston began uneventfully enough. Passengers settled into their crowded seats and began the familiar drudgery of safety presentations, beverage carts and in-flight entertainment.

But when the cabin crew began heating up and preparing the in-flight meals, they discovered the food had been accidentally replaced with plastic replicas. A mix-up had occurred with a training seminar taking place at the same time in Pittsburgh, and the supply shipments had crisscrossed. Fearing an immediate passenger revolt, the crew decided to proceed with the meal service, and let the passengers decide for themselves not to eat the unpleasant offerings.

To their surprise, the passengers ate their meals with unusual gusto. Claire Emmer, a flight attendant with eight years of experience, says she had never seen so many economy-class passengers eat so much so happily. “We had people asking if there were any extra meals,” she recalled, still sounding bewildered. There were only seconds available for about twenty people, she said.

“I don’t know what they’ve changed, but I like it,” said Patrick Arnold, a passenger on the flight who managed to get one of the precious second helpings. “I took the same flight four months ago, and the food was just terrible. But American Airlines did something right here, because this stuff was actually edible.”

This is not the first time a logistical foul-up has had unexpected culinary impact on a flight. In January, the on-board kitchen system malfunctioned on a Los-Angeles-bound United Airlines flight, resulting in food poisoning of many passengers and the flight crew. A former pilot named Ted Striker was able to take control of the plane and land it safely, but his actions during that time generated controversy.

In March 2008 an Alitalia flight had to turn around over the Atlantic when the crew discovered it had neglected to stock any red wine. The plane replenished its stock in Barcelona, Spain, and then proceeded to New York once again.

Pam Anne, an aviation industry analyst, does not believe the American Airlines incident will have broad repercussions in the industry. “It’s not really cheaper to use plastic food, so I can’t see airlines rushing to implement a new in-flight meal paradigm,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Airlines in the U.S. have to answer to all manner of regulatory institutions, and it would be costly in itself just to submit that change for approval. They might want to make a goodwill gesture to improve the food if it doesn’t cost them much, but plastic actually costs more than the industrial waste they currently use, so there’s no point.”

“It’s not like the customer has a choice in the matter,” she continued. “Really, who cares about that idiot in 13B?”

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Written by Thag

September 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Inventor of Mosquitoes ‘Very Pleased’ with Results

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Dr. Vlad Drake seems to be a mild-mannered, almost absent-minded man, exchanging pleasantries and technical errata with colleagues and underlings at his lab in Oak Park, Michigan. Simply looking at him, the casual observer could never know that this man practically invented what we know as the modern mosquito.

In ancient times, midges and biting flies did a decent job of spreading blood-borne diseases, but in the industrial age and the  humanity boom that the world has seen in the last several centuries, new methods of human population control became necessary.

Governments tried two world wars and several worldwide epidemics of disease – notably the cataclysmic influenza outbreak in the teens and twenties of the last century – with only mixed success. It reached the point that only the Soviet Union under Stalin and Cambodia under Pol Pot seemed to be the only post-WWII societies actively trying to kill off large sectors of its human population in any systematic way.

Clearly, a new approach was needed, and, bizarrely, Dr. Drake was the one to provide it. At first he didn’t intend to invent a flying insect that transmits malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus and many other pathogens – he was simply trying to develop a toy for his pet frog. But when the potential for disease transmission became clear, Drake shifted gears and began taking out patent after patent. Today there are 41 different genera of mosquito that account for about 3,500 different species.

That may sound like a lot, but the vast majority of them do not actually transmit disease. Those reflect the experimental prototypes that eventually led to the two flagship groups on Drake’s resume, the Anopheles genus and the Aedes Aegypti species, which together menace humanity with dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever, contributing to millions of deaths each year, mostly in African and Southeast Asia, where human population control is most crucial.

“Nazi Germany killed about thirty million people in six years, but it brought complete destruction to Germany as a result,” noted Saul Honigman, an epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “But Drake has enabled the use of a tiny fraction of those resources, and, with just a little patience and intelligent placement, has given us a ridiculously cheap method for efficiently ridding the world of millions upon millions of unnecessary people.”

The genius of Drake’s invention, said Hugh Jass, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lies in its self-sufficiency. Mosquitoes do not need to be rearmed or recharged, and move under their own power. They feed on readily available plant nectar from flowers. A second element of genius, Jass noted, lies in “the mosquitoes’ ability to move vast distances while expending minimal amounts of energy, because they weigh so little.”

Drake himself deflects much of the credit, though he does revel in recounting many details of his pursuits, such as naming so many of his creations after his ex-wife, Marcia Anopheles. “As pleased as I am with my mosquitoes – and I am very pleased – I only developed a delivery system for diseases that have always been around,” he said, noting that the pathogens themselves took much more time and effort to create than his whining, flying pest. “When [David] Livingstone created AIDS in the African jungle more than a hundred years ago, that was a stroke of genius. Everyone else was trying to attack the human body directly, but he realized all you had to do was weaken its defenses and let nature take its course.” He further noted that AIDS in effect redeemed a slew of previously failed attempts at creating disease, destroying human immunity enough to allow those erstwhile failures to overcome the weakened defenses and kill the victim. “That guy really should have been awarded a Nobel” Prize for Medicine, contends Drake.

Drake is still working on developing newer versions of the mosquito, including one that can make its high-pitched whine audible from up to a hundred feet away. He foresees it being especially useful in helping landlords get rid of squatting humans.

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Written by Thag

September 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

The Resistentialist Toys Are Out to Get My Son

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September 4, 2012 at 10:11 am

Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker Deny They Are Gay

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Despite being discovered in a bath together, the three men of the Rub-A-Dub-Dub nursery rhyme dismiss allegations that they are homosexuals.

Steve Adams, the butcher, was photographed with Adam Stevens, the baker, and with Richard Liss, the candlestick maker, in the bathtub last Saturday evening. Although this is not the first time the trio has been seen together in the soapy basin – reports of their bathtub meetings go back at least a hundred fifty years – only recently has there been such public discussion of their sexual orientation.

“It’s basically a sign of the times,” says May Koaver, a lecturer on gender issues at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Unconventional Families: Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog. “Twenty years ago, it was a taboo issue, along with scuttlebutt about the cat and the fiddle and the dish and spoon – but now that the stigma of non-“standard” couples and families has lessened, people are willing to discuss the issue without all that baggage.”

Koaver is inclined to believe the trio’s denials, since nursery rhyme characters tend to be relatively open about their sexual predilections and characteristics. The man from St. Ives, for example, was not married to any of the seven wives – it was in France, after all – and expressed no shame whatsoever, even though the rhyme developed in an era not known for its tolerance of deviant public behavior.

Another example is Wee Willie Winky, who proudly adopted as his name the very characteristic that would send stereotypical males underground. And Jack Sprat, famously, adhered to the very eating habits so often associated with gay men, attempting to maintain his slim figure while not objecting to his wife’s slovenly appearance, since he was not attracted to women anyway.

Not all literary scholars are so convinced. “There’s still plenty at stake in today’s world when a character comes out of the  bookshelf,” noted Ben Dover, Professor of English Literature at Bob Jones University, and author of Mary’s Lamb and Other Risky Liaisons. “Jack B. Nimble was driven to extremely risky behavior, overcompensating for his perceived lack of masculinity,” Dover wrote in an e-mail. “Who do you think made that candlestick – and what else but a potent phallic symbol could it be, a representation of a ‘flaming’ homosexual? It can’t be coincidence that Candlestick Park is in San Francisco.”

At press time, no comment was available from the Three Men in a Tub, who had invited Jack and Jill over for consultations on unexpected complications surrounding encounters with water.

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September 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Instructions: Step 1: Avoid This Assignment

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September 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm