Wednesday, December 1, 1999

WTO Sucks Before It Happens

I hate ongoing events.

Everyone’s been wanting to know what’s my take on the WTO conference.

How can I have a take on the WTO conference? I’m writing this before it has happened!

Therefore I present you with a dozen or so things that haven’t happened yet at the WTO conference, but that would have really sucked by the time you will have read this:

Mayor Schell created an international incident when he performed his Charlie Chong impersonation for the benefit of the Ambassador from the People’s Republic of China.

The bad news: with motorcades of officials criss-crossing Seattle for five days, traffic became a nonsense word. The good news: now everyone knows what life under I-5 is going to be like in years to come.

The worst traffic jams occurred in Redmond, of course, as thousands of rented Mercedes Benzes clogged the streets on their way to the seat of the local government, in the hopes of cashing in on some Free Trade chips.

For no apparent reason, WTO officials announced in the middle of the conference that the WTO’s official name would be changed to the “Windows 2000 World Trade Organization”, for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, during a vote-gathering tour of the city, unleashed Sandpoint dogs urinated on Al Gore, expecting that he would be environmentally friendly. Instead, he kicked them all in their tender spots, thus permanently losing the support of the SPCA, ALF, PAWS, and PETA.

In a surprise visit to the proceedings, Muamer Qadhafy got no further than 4th and Cherry. Awe-inspired by the depth of the brilliant ideas of Mark Sidran, amazed by Sidran’s keen analysis of the reactionary behavior of improperly-indoctrinated masses, Qadhafy rushed back to Libya to teach his people his new understanding of the value of civilty, “Starbuck’s style”.

The admiration apparently being mutual, Sidran surprised no-one by declaring, “to hell with Giuliani, from now on I want to be thought of as the Muamer Qadhafy of Seattle” and began appearing in public in high heels and long dresses and encouraging others to do so. “It’s just one more way we can instill a lady-like respect for public decency and decorum”.

President Clinton’s unscheduled meeting with the Pope next to Rachel the Pig in the market ended in disaster when the Pope was struck by a stray airborne salmon. Fortunately, the world’s free trade was not significantly harmed, as the volume of Pacific Northwest fish exports to the Vatican has been negligible up until now.

In a sharp moment of public empathy, Deputy Mayor Tom Byers recalled that he once wore purple bellbottoms and wide belts and got yelled at by his dad for growing his hair long. “Therefore”, he said, “I really understand the problems that you people face on the streets.” Then he said, “No, seriously, you can have your tent city during WTO-- NOT!!! Ha ha, ha!”

The WTO determined that, henceforth, Boeing could only sell as many 767’s per decade throughout the world as the number of Taiwanese suspenders that may be sold per century in Des Moines, Washington. Luckily, since no reporters were allowed to learn about the decision, no one got their shorts in a bunch about it.

Wasn’t that massive earthquake awful? 9.9 on the Richter scale, who would’ve expected that? I hate being dead don’t you? Thank God for tent city, otherwise nobody would have survived!

And who would’ve believed that the apocalypse would have waited for the WTO conference? Wow!! Well, hey, now that it’s happened, what do you, my readers, think? Was it worth waiting for? How ‘bout those locusts? And are you satisfied that the rough places have been made plain? I sure am!! But please, let’s not do it again!! My rough places are raw!!

Monday, November 1, 1999

All this talk by our city council people about giving the homeless identification numbers to keep track of them has me experiencing roaring mathematical flashbacks of the third kind. Assigning numbers to entities -- how functional! We may soon be able to establish a one-to-one correspondence between Seattle's homeless and an American ton of rubber chickens!

By further applying Pascal's triangle (in reverse!), we can stack both the homeless and the rubber chickens in two dimensional piles (provided we neglect their thicknesses), then stand back and watch them keel over! More fun than blowing up the King Dome! (Remember kids, don't try this at home.)

Speaking of dead French gamblers: when all the homeless in Seattle have their own personal numbers, just think how much easier it will be for them to play the lotto!

I'm hoping that the numbers passed out will include fractions. I don't think fractions get enough attention in our post-modernistic fast-paced internetted digital world. A lonely, neglected fraction is a vindictive fraction. You've all been warned.

But I know that won't happen, because everyone is so keen on the idea of using these numbers to count the homeless, and everyone knows you don't use fractions to count anything, right? You have to use counting numbers, right? That'd be 1, 2, 3, 4, and numbers like those, right?

Wrong. You don't need numbers at all. You need identifiers, and the means to know when to introduce new identifiers (when there is a new homeless person in the city) and the means to know when to retire old identifiers (when someone becomes formerly homeless).

The city of Seattle doesn't know that much. Our city officials can't tell when someone has become homeless, nor can they tell when someone has stopped being homeless. They don't have a clue.

So the "number" of homeless the city arrives at by passing numerical identifiers out is certain to be meaningless.

In our last issue our esteemed editor god, Timothy Harris, pointed out some immediate objections to what he refers to as Tag n' Trak. For example the fact that many will not want to cooperate with the system for fear that the police or the INS will be allowed access to the data.

So at the beginning it is certain that the city won't count everyone.

But then, after a year or two have passed, the count will become too large, as the city is unable to know when to retire numbers, because there will be no sure way of spotting those exiting the system.

As the false count piles up it will become blatantly bloated, & the city will have no choice but to resort to the obvious fix: anyone who doesn't try to use the city's services within a certain time period gets their number retired.

So people who have given up on the city will again go uncounted, and we will be back to where we started.

(Actually there are those in the city government, Tom Byers, Peter Steinbrueck, etc., who say that the purpose of all this is only to count the resources available to the homeless, rather than the homeless themselves. Why then they are not proposing just assigning the numbers to the resources, they don't say.)

At least the proposal only involves passing out finite numbers to the homeless. Because if they were going to pass out infinite numbers I would be really peeved, as the following recycled poem is meant to indicate.

A Finite Rant Against Infinity, in 23 Lines to Be Exact

1. Don't need no body telling me

2. 'bout the 'lleged beauties of infinity.

3. A concept invented for divinity

4. by people with neurotic affinity

5. for passive-aggressive duplicity.

6. Paradox pawned-off as lucidity

7. meeting challenges with contrived absurdity

8. exploiting riddles to extract complicity.

9. THEN there's mathematical infinity.

10. Borrowed tongue-in-cheek from theology

11. and harnessed to Fourier Anal-why-ticity.

12. Hey I got a goddamn math degree

13. so don't even think to try to impress me

14. with your grasp of Cantorian Mystery.

15. Mystery my ass! It's deliberate reductivity.

16. and the fact that infinity squared is infinity

17. has nothing to do with eternity.

18. It is a dodge, a sham, an escape from the complexity

19. engendered by the finite's quirky specificity -

20. a specificity that makes the finite number 23

21. an enigma all too often mistaken for simplicity

22. (and if you really want to make points with me,

23. let's hear you explain the number three).

Friday, October 1, 1999

Dear Copyright Doctor

Another satisfied reader writes:

Dear Copyright Doctor --

You know what's wrong with you poor people? You're poor!

I mean, what do you think? That you don't deserve it? You're exactly where Jesus flang you! You reap what you sow, and you must have sewn nothing but [deleted]! Why should anybody care about any of you!?

Since I know you're an artsy freak, I wrote an artsy freak poem to explain it to you:

You're a loser and it ain't no accident--

All your karma has come, and it has went.

You had free will

but ignored the drill,

so don't cry for me to give you a cent!

signed Billy "Biff" Pill (an assumed name).

Thanks Biff! I really love to hear from my readers, and I can't get enough of your poetry! .

Your letter also touches on a subject that is near and dear to my heart -- to what extent am I responsible for all the stuff people pile on me? Did I really bring it on myself? If so, should I flog myself, or should I seek help? If so, who would I know that's good with a whip?

That brings to mind Mike Riley, Superintendent of Bellevue Public Schools. Not the whip part, the piling on part. As has been widely reported, Mr. Riley is an educator with a vision, and his vision has entailed doubling the book load on middle and high- schoolers in Bellevue. Come to think of it, that does call to mind whips too, doesn't it?

So my question is, did the middle-school kids have it coming?

That is not a rhetorical question! If it isn't the kids fault that they have received this fate, why would the Bellevue Schools have passed rules depriving those same students the means they have of coping? I'm referring, of course, to the banning of extra large backpacks at several middle schools.

Let me see if I can understand this in terms of the Billy "Biff" theory that seems to be operating here. The school administrators see the students coming in with giant backpacks. They even know why the students are using the big backpacks: the immediate reason is that they have more books. The administrators know that the students are just dealing with the situation.

But, in spite of knowing that, the administrators conclude that the students are doing something wrong! They define what that wrong is by passing rules against the use of extra large backpacks!

So the blame for carrying too many books around ends up heaped on the students. Why? Because the additional books prove they had evil thoughts when they were six? Because anyone unfortunate enough to grow up in a district where a Mike Riley is superintendent must be working off bad karma from their last life?

Absolutely. Biff says so. That's how Biff's theory works.

You may not even have a complaint. You may be, for example, homeless but happy, just pleased as a pet pig in a butcher shop to sleep on public dirt and get rained on every night. You may have never even asked Biff for that cent he was talking about.

But say the government passes a law that says that, whereas it is bad for your health to sleep on public dirt and get rained on every night, and besides it's public dirt and we don't want to see you sleeping on it, and besides we don't want you breathing our air anyway, therefore you're going to get a ticket every time you get caught, and eventually go to jail when you can't pay the tickets.

Biff's theory says that the mere fact that your means of coping has been ruled criminal proves that you had it coming.

People need to believe that sort of thing. Otherwise they couldn't possibly justify holding the homeless responsible for the natural consequences of their homelessness. They couldn't justify sending them to jail, just for doing what it takes to get by.

And you can see just how hard it is to stop people thinking that way, when

they apply the same kinds of arguments to innocent children.

Thanks for the illustration, Bellevue! And I hope you kids out there have all learned your lesson!

Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Cheesed Five-O

Well here we are again trying to make sense out of a world spinning into new-millenium madness, riding the grand ever-surprising baby boom crest on its way to that big Jimi Hendrix theme park in the sky that Paul Allen can only approximate here on Earth, in spite of all his riches.

That’s right. I hit the big Five-O this summer. I’m bummed. And that’s not a word I use lightly.

You want to know why I’m bummed? You want to know what’s really got me cheesed? Whatever that means? No? Well I’ll tell you then.

The library has got me down. The new librarian has a Vision of a homeless-free library. It seems that the homeless folks using the library are bad for the donation business, according to the new management, who just discovered that pretty people sell.

Now I could rant and rail about how unjust this is. I could point out that homeless people are citizens too, and have as much right to use the library as anyone else. I could note the absurdity of people saying all the time that homeless folks should apply themselves to improve themselves and their situations, and then try to discourage them from one of the best ways to do so.

But I won’t do that this time. Because what I’m bummed about is that I know that when they say they want to get rid of the homeless people, what they really mean is, they want to get rid of the people who look homeless, and that’s this old codger.

All those years of being homeless in the past have taken their toll.

We’ve already established the fact that the Seattle police cannot tell the difference between me, an old, currently housed, eccentric, impoverished nerd with a jones for old math books, from an actual homeless threat to the otherwise thriving, viable, Seattle downtown boom economy.

So what will happen to me when the Library Police start making their sweeps through the library rounding up the “transients” for deposit at the proposed Seattle Library Drop-in Center? What will happen to me is I’ll be swept into that bin with all the other housed and unhoused poor people who don’t look pretty enough to attract donations.

So maybe you’re thinking, how bad could that be? A nice newly built clean dry indoor day shelter, isn’t that what all you poor people want? A nice clean dry place to get in out of the rain, be with your own kind, maybe get to watch some TV, drink some coffee?

NO! If I wanted that I’d go to a damn day shelter! I want to be able to use the library!

OK, I didn’t want to be that recalcitrant without actually checking out a drop-in center. Maybe they’re great places. Maybe they have better math books than the Seattle Library. Sure, that’s possible, the Seattle Library sucks, almost anybody could have better math books than the Seattle Library.

So I looked around for an appropriate drop-in center to sample, and naturally picked the one closest to home. I checked out the Lazarus Center. Close and so appropriate, because it’s restricted to old geezers just like me. The age of eligibility is exactly Five-O.

Getting myself through the entrance was the hard part. I am, as I have tried repeatedly to convey here, depressed about being fifty. However, I am not depressed about being dead. Lazarus was dead. I am not dead. I do not feel the need to be revived from a state of dead-dom. I am not a Lazarus. I feel very strongly about that.

But I worked through those feelings, and achieved a level of resignation that permitted me to enter the place. Once inside I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean, dry, and out of the rain, of course.

There were not one but two TVs set to different channels. There were laundry facilities, coffee, a smoking room, a couple of computers that some guys were playing games on. I was surrounded by people who looked just like me.

And there was a “library” consisting of what looked like about a hundred Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

Can’t anyone out there feel my pain?

Sunday, August 1, 1999

The Cheap Alcohol Theory


© Dr. Wes Browning

Your head, an orange,

a pencil up my nose.

A lost weekend,

found in my pants.

Chocolate cake,

vanilla snake.

The passing fancy,

the staying plain.

X marks the spot.

Anybody got an eraser?

Speaking of lost weekends, the North American Street Newspaper Association had its annual conference in Cleveland two weeks ago, and Real Change was there. Four of us, anyway.

I bet a lot of you wonder what we homeless and formerly homeless representatives of street newspapers do at these long weekend conferences. Do we exchange train hopping techniques? Do we share pigeon recipes? Do we drink gallons of coffee? Do we use these conferences as an excuse to have loads of wild anonymous casual sex?

Sure, we're only human, but there's more to it than that. That other stuff only takes so long and then you find yourself in the odd workshop listening to an ACLU lawyer or a labor pool organizer, and then Anitra "on whose kitchen floor I have sometimes slept" Freeman suddenly gets up and foments revolution.

That's right. Our Anitra, urging us all to help establish an alternative economy. Down with capitalism! Up with some other thing!

All right, I'm exaggerating. The closest we all came to fomenting revolution was when, in one workshop, after trading horror stories about the treatment of the homeless in our respective cities, we all agreed that "it's bad everywhere" and "we should make a list of common demands."

So now the street newspaper movement has a list of demands and principles, which includes such things as "people have a right not to be homeless."

Some other things we decided included "people should not have to accept illegal work (like prostitution, running drugs, transporting illegal immigrants) in order to survive," and people should not have to breathe asbestos in order to get a paycheck."

Radical stuff, huh?

OK, it was as boring as a Republican caucus in Peoria. The high point, for me, of the whole conference came when one of the organizers told us that our conference site (Case Western Reserve University) was the cultural center of Ohio, prompting me to ask, "If this is such a hot-shot cultural center where are all the 7-11's?"

You see I have this theory, that poor people are so essential to every economy that everywhere you go in the US and Canada it must be possible to find cheap alcohol. Somebody has to do the grunt work. Somebody has to clean the toilets, mop the floors, wash the dishes. And there have to be affordable drugs to make that all possible.

I go so far as to say that in every city there must be, within walking distance from city center, 40-ouncers of beer or the equivalent for two dollars or less.

So far I've always been proved right. I never found the 7-11 I was looking for near the campus in Cleveland, but found instead, right in the middle of the school, a drugstore selling 40-ouncers of Schlitz Malt Liquor for $1.60 including tax – score!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against the poor drinking cheap booze.

On the contrary! My point is that the alcohol industry knows what it is doing. They know that poor people are a market. So they don't just sell expensive aged wine, they sell Thunderbird and Night Train.

So why can't we have the housing equivalent of Thunderbird? Why can't real estate developers see the market that is so plain and evident to Schlitz, and move in on it?

Your answers are anxiously awaited.

Tuesday, June 15, 1999

Bump In The Road

© Dr. Wes Browning

President Clinton says we did all right

To bomb Serbs eighty days and some nights

"We did it the right way," he says gleefully

"We'll finish the job! Take it from me!"

And you know there could be somethin' to that

We might have done right for an actual fact

I heard we bombed Serbians only with bombs

We didn't drop anything else on their lawns.

Sorry about that last rhyme. I meant it to be better but I came to a "bump in the road", such as the ones that slowed the Kosovo peace settlement and the end to our bombing. In my case the bump in the road was the English Language. In America's case it was real bumps in the road from the Macedonian coast to Belgrade.

Those damn bumps! Isn't that always the way it is when you're trying to bomb the bejeesus out of some people and forcing them to submit to your will? I know it is for me. People are always resisting. You're just trying to have a perfect little war with perfect airplanes where no one, absolutely no one, who was anyone important dies, is that asking too much?

But nooooo. There's got to be bumps in the road. I even heard some of the road was blown up! And even where it wasn't, there were actual enemy soldiers who didn't want us to march to Belgrade, and homes full of people lining the roads, that didn't want us to march to Belgrade.

And homes empty of people lining the roads, people who have already expressed their opinion about us marching to Belgrade in the most emphatic way imaginable, by laying their bodies down and dying, to be bumps in the road. It's just so very frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating bumps in the road, and aren't we always, you will find in this issue a story about how our city officials are looking into ways to improve services for the homeless, and incidently cut costs for those services, by tracking the homeless better.

The trouble with the way it is now, every time you turn a homeless person away from a shelter because there's no space left on the floor, you lose that person in the dark of the night, and wouldn't recognize her/him if you saw him again.

Why wouldn't you recognize her/him? Because there are thousands of her/him that's why, if there were only twenty or thirty, everybody could just remember what they looked like.

But I digress. The point is there are thousands of homeless not getting into shelters, and we all know that, but the funds needed to build more shelters are constantly being denied on the basis of the fact that no one knows who those people are.

I know who those people are, they are bumps in the road.

We will have shelters enough for everybody, trust us America, down the road, we are doing the right thing, we are doing it the right way, it'll be a little slower than expected, there are bumps in the road.

Well I got off on a tangent again. I meant to deliver a powerful polemic on the subject of software solutions to hardware problems and vice versa, but I got carried away by this whole road thing.

But what I really regret is that I have failed to make room for the deep sociological analysis that I was going to provide that was going to explain what the War in Kosovo and tagging homeless people in Seattle have each to do with what we all are really most interested in these days, the revelations in the press regarding Charles Kuralt's mistress.

Oh well. Meanwhile here's a poem I wrote in honor of dear Charles, may he rest in peace and good cheer, and may there be no more bumps in his road.

Late to the Wake

We've come too late t' the wake, I see,

The man's been dead two years or three!

His last word said upon his bed,

Was "Pat"! not "Rose Bud"! nor even "Dead"!

Who's Pat? all asked, around the room.

A long lost friend, they'd all assume.

But not so long lost as all that,

A fishing partner was fair Pat!

To be precise, Charles made the fish,

for Pat to catch and make a wish,

then put him back in his fish den

the Magic Fish to leap again

& again & again, for near thirty years,

for Fishing always gave Charles cheer.

Tuesday, June 1, 1999

Insert Column Here

Note to self: insert column below.

Dear Wes,

I won’t be around to help you with your column this time -- I am going to FolkLife instead. If you get stuck, why not write about the cat and bird? If that doesn’t work, you should try complaining about something again.

-- good luck, your muse, Cindy H.

ACK! Write about the cat and bird? I finally get on the cover after four years here and my own Muse says write about the cat and bird, like we’re running a cartoon series? This is my moment in the limelight, my four minutes and thirty-three seconds of fame, and I’m supposed to move over for a Siamese-Tabby with delusions of grandeur and an anti-social Green Singing Finch?

I’ll take complaining about something, thank you, it’s always let me remain closer to my favorite subject (ME!).

Now lets see what is there to complain about around here besides Musea who disappear into crowds of Hula spectators at deadline. Hmmm, hmmm, OH what is THAT I see on the horizon? Isn’t that a stadium that’s costing more than it was supposed to, and a baseball team that wants ME to pay for it?

That’s ME as in Wes Browning proud renter of a downtown subsidized apartment, who nevertheless pays rent, and rents pay property taxes.

That’s ME as in Wes Browning, who has to pay sales tax, because he just recently had to buy a pair of socks that weren’t covered by Food Stamps, and who very soon will also pay sales taxes buying a book, because he needs a book to stay sane?

Gee, when was the last time I or anyone else I know was on welfare,

and two and a half weeks into the month walked into the welfare office and said, “Hey pals, thanks a heap for that welfare check, it came in real handy the last two and a half weeks, but wouldn’t you know it? There’s been some cost overruns in the Wes (or insert name) upkeep department, so you guys will need to pay the extra.”

NOBODY does that! Even though they run out of money (AND Food Stamps) every single month before the month is up, people on welfare almost never have the bloated gonads to expect extra assistance on top of what’s already been arranged after usually weeks of dragged out applications and supplications.

Because that is what is going on here, in case anyone hasn’t noticed.

We issue welfare to people in need who supplicate before us for precisely the same reason that we publicly fund baseball stadiums when there clubs ask us to. We have reason to believe in the long-term benefits for the rest of us. Give them money now, so they can get on their feet, and we will gain down the road in increased revenues.

Isn’t that a compelling moral argument?

Come to think of it though, the cat and bird do have a certain charm that endears us all to them. Indeed they have a sort of an anti-Paul Allen appeal working for them that could make them even attractive to the Major League-oriented. Yeah, I could allow a brief discussion of their merits.

Firstly, it is impossible to be a member of the Real Change Board of Directors, and not to be made comfortable by Sid “the Real Director” Vicious. And, lets face it, that’s what being on a Board (any Board!) is all about, namely one’s comfort. “Should we do X, Y and Z?” “Well,” says the seasoned Board member, “I’m comfortable with us doing X and Y, but I just don’t feel comfortable with Z.” And, what do you know, but after the debate, if the average Board member isn’t comfortable with Z, and so Z doesn’t happen! HA! I love it!

But I digress. Sid makes us comfortable because he’s a furry beast. And who wouldn’t be comfortable while having a furry beast mark them as his exclusive property?

Saturday, May 15, 1999

My Name Is Wes & I Lick Ducks

I might as well come right out and confess the ugly truth. I am still a duck-licker.

I thought I had the problem... uh, beat: It was almost two years ago, but it seems more like it was just yesterday, when I went on my last duck-licking binge and was even erroneously reported dead by our local Real Change Editor Deity, who was sure that I looked green enough to be dead -- BUT I WASN’T, and I’ll have more to say about that in a minute or two, thankyouverymuch -- it has seemed almost yesterday for all these nearly two years, and I was sure the immediacy of the painful memory would keep it from happening again.

But no, and I am so very ashamed. I awoke this morning in a pile of duck feathers, still wet with slobber, a fierce headache, my column still unwritten, and the deadline for this column waiting for me at the Real Change office.

There was absolutely no way that I could have a column written. So I have not written one, and I hope that you can all forgive me.

Ah, it feels so good to have that out of the way, I should do that more often. So, then, I was thinking well what should we do with all this space on this page, now that the column isn’t done? And I was making my way to the RC office to tell Timothy “Editor God” Harris the bad news, when a parade of loud unruly Column Ideas marched down Third Avenue, right at me.

It was like they were taunting me. Isn’t that the way it always is, I thought. You don’t see a Column Idea for a week, you break down and spend a night licking ducks, and then, when it’s too late to possibly write a column, three of the nasty buggers march up and down the street right in front of you, making rude faces and calling you names. Of course they also made me angry, but I’ll have more to say about that momentarily.

Well I suppose I can at least use the space I have remaining to describe the hideous things. They were, all three of them, different sized, different colored, and different shaped. The one in front was the one that was the most different sized, colored, and shaped of the three so I’ll describe him first.

He was, as best as I could make out (he only walked back and forth in front of me jeering at me fifteen or twenty times), Our American Repression of Death. He was ugly and greenish ONLY IN THE WAY REAL DEAD PEOPLE SOMETIMES ARE (Tim? Hear that?) and not in the way duck-lickers get. But nobody on the street noticed or paid any mind but me, because Americans don’t know what death looks like anymore. At all, no matter WHAT the color.

He was so ugly that at first I didn’t see that he was walking two dogs with him, one sleek young purebred Colorado Violent Video Gamer and one old and decrepit Kosovo Hill Cruise-Bomber.

While the Repression of Death was insulting me obnoxiously, a passing Armchair Liberal stopped to make uncharitable remarks about the dogs, going so far as to scapegoat Video Game Makers for the one and Our Violent Nature for the other. But the truth was plain to me, it was their owner who raised them to be so mean and ugly, pure and simple.

I said to the Armchair Liberal: “You hide death from your children, you even fear the sight of it so much you can only kill people you want dead from miles away, where you can’t see what you did to them. You already decided years ago that you would set aside those people who have seen death up close, treat them as tainted, you don’t want to see their faces on the streets now that they have been reduced to begging from you. You don’t want that to happen again, so even though you want to still have wars, you refuse to have soldiers.”

“Then, you hide death from your children”, I repeated myself rhetorically. “You hide death from your children”, I did it again, “so that they do not live real lives, because a real life requires a real perspective on life, which requires seeing and relating to death, something you have already refused to do yourself, that’s why you’re the Armchair Liberal, and now you would deny it to your children.

You are in fact by now so out of touch with the needs of your own children, that you can’t see that their need to know and relate to death is exactly what drives their interest in those Video Games in the first place.”

Well that just made the Armchair Liberal stomp away angry, without being able to express his/her anger, because the Armchair Liberal is also very Whitebread, and, well, there you go.

Which brings up what I promised I would say more about, namely the other two Column Ideas that were taunting me and making me very angry, the two less different ones. One of them in fact was a Red-faceless white-breasted spineless Liberal Denial of Anger, who was grabbing passers-by by the shoulders, viciously shaking them and then declaring that it was all done in the name of “process”.

The other one was the perennial World of Unspeakable Stupidity. The less said about that the better, you are probably thinking, but I will have another column to write in two weeks, so no one gets off that easily.

Saturday, May 1, 1999

Happy Pills Are Here Today

Well! Good news, the med train’s moving again and this time we're riding first class. This new stuff is great. I can't stop telling people everywhere I go about ***** (brand name) pills. Hint: if it were Prozac, it wouldn't work for me. If it were Valium it wouldn't work for me. This is not your Grandmother's pill. This pill works for me!

No, it’s not Viagra.

Not that it can't work for anyone else. Just after two weeks of running around telling everyone about my wonderful new tablets, I found that two of my face-to-face friends were also taking them. We are pill buddies! We started talking about forming a *****-User's Society, where we could congregate without being transgregated by Non-*****-User's.

For isn't transgregation the greatest evil that humans are capable of? For doesn't it say in Barnabas 6: 6: 6: "O Lord forgive us our trespasses, but forgive us not our transgregations (if any) for if we are so totally lame, we deserveth no breaks?"

Yes, we don't need no transgregators. We don’t need no transgregators today. I mean if you aren't In you're Out, get used to it and stay there, right?

That was Irony, #11, combined with Obfuscation, #15. I'm actually compiling a little list of humor techniques. In reality transgregating is NOT wrong, hahaha , I only said that it is wrong in order to be "satirical" (#11b.) I used Obfuscation (#15) partly because it’s a hoot and partly because if I told you what I was REALLY talking about some of you might have been bummed out, and we can't have that in a humor column.

Speaking of bummers, how about those social workers who don't know the difference between anxiety and fear? Don't they just burn you up?

I'm sure you've all had this happen to you: you've gotten off the streets, into low-income housing. You've gotten Food Stamps. You've noticed that, due to an inability to concentrate on anything but the derangement of your own twisted mind for more than an hour at a time, your rent is due. And you don't have it. So you apply for uh, um, shame on you, so they assign you to a social worker. And you spend the first fifteen minutes with her/him convincing your new social worker that you are NOT there due to being psychotic, you have a good solid grip on reality, really...

And THEN you say to the social worker, who has a degree in this sort of thing, and is paid to use it, that you think maybe your problem is in part an anxiety disorder. And after you say that she/he says "Are you feeling anxious now" and you say "Yes" and she/he says “what is it you are afraid of?"

AAAAARRRRGGGHH!!!! Don't you just hate it when they do that? Well I do, & do you want to know what I want to say when I hear that question? Well, I’ll tell you what I want to say!

I want to say: "It's anxiety dammit! I'm not afraid of anything! You should see me drive! You should be sitting in the passenger seat up front! I'd be willing to pay the laundry bill just to have the fun of watching the look on your face as we rocket down Queen Anne Ave (20% grade, 25MPH limit) at 70-100 miles per hour and me saying what YOU are NOW experiencing is fear, this is NOT what I am experiencing when I talk about anxiety I know the difference why don't you it's your job look it up in a dictionary you ignorant &*^$#@*!" and then I would just barely come to a controlled stop at the busy intersection at the bottom of the hill and peel the dampened/soiled social worker out of the car, hose the seat down etc.

But I just want to do that. I don't do it because I am not psychotic.*

If you enjoyed that, thank #9 and #2’.

Now let’s try to use ‘Juxtaposition in Concept’ #4b. We have discussed and . We’ve backed ourselves into a corner this time, Cindy, haven’t we? Guess we’ll have to dance our way out of here...

Juxtaposition in Concept #4b

Or, Opus 4b, I’d Rather Not Have to Say So

“I’d rather not have to say so...

BUT it’s all about what we should know, y’know?”

Said the Grasshopper to the Ant.

“It takes a teacher able to show! Not tell! To show!

But don’t take my word for it! Ant!”

Said the Grasshopper, closing a stupid book.

Y’know? Education isn’t all talk... (Think about it. Sorry for the lousy rhyme.)

* Important: No social workers were harmed during the conception or execution of this column. Any resemblances between described social workers and actual social workers, living or dead, are purely coincidental and unintended.

Thursday, April 15, 1999

Egg Salad

One of the things that I do to help up-and-coming writers, even those who just want to write One Great Novel & take the money and retire to Fiji never to write another word again, is urge them to try to become a Master Poet like me. I tell them that when you see the world through the eyes of a poet you'll be that much more grateful for the eyes you have, not least because yours are still in their sockets and not being passed around for people to look through.

Just last night for example, someone mentioned flowers. I was immediately overcome by my Muse. In fact Cindy (ancient Muse of Other) went stark raving wild, she tried to sit on my face, I said no, please no, you're a muse, it wouldn't be right, it's like a cross-species thing, but she's a powerful Muse, she works out with weights. Finally I burbled out, "I saw a pretty little rose! / It was a sight to see! / I bent to smell it with my nose, / and it did puncture me!"

If you can write like that you are ready to write just about anything. Now all you need is something to write about. This is the second thing I always tell up-and-coming writers. I say, always have something to write about. I know that's sounds a little abstract to a lot of you, and some of you may be thinking to yourselves, "Dr. Wes is getting too abstract for me again, I just wanted to read more about Cindy sitting on his face, while I finished my egg salad sandwich."

I say in that case you have something to write about, you've got your egg salad sandwich, you've got your dreams. Now let's work on the rest of you people.

To begin with, what do you have to say for yourselves? Huh? “Egg salad?”

See how easy that was?

OK, I know some of you missed that. Tell you what, we'll try a little role playing. Pretend I have an MSW, and you are in a program I'm running. Let's say the state put you here and if you don't do everything I tell you to do I will report your non-compliance to the state and you won't get any money on the 1st and you won't be able to pay your rent.

So by the 15th, while everyone else is celebrating the fact that they make enough money to pay income taxes, you'll be sharing a piece of egg salad sandwich with your new room-mate, a large hungry rodent named Chuck who will live with you by a dumpster that you would have wanted to call Ulan Bator, by and by, but Chuck would have fought & defeated you in committee, so even that dream will have been dashed.

So you decide to comply after all, and now that we've got that little lame rebellion out of the way, I tell you I want you to try a little role playing. So I give you a hypothetical situation. I say, let's say you're oh I don't know a mathematician doing advanced mathematics research at an advanced mathematics research place, say, in Zürich Switzerland, and let's say you have spent the last few hours talking with some really old guys who actually knew Albert Einstein when he went to school there, and Carl Gustav Jung when he taught across the street, and that James Joyce guy back when he had an apartment in the neighborhood.

And these old guys, let's say, tell you all about these dead people and you soak it all up, it's stuff that's never been written down before. And while you're all talking it gets to be tea time, and Fräulein Hilda Denklosigkeit brings in tea and teacups and a platter of weird looking pastries, or cookies or something, you can't tell what they are, except that they were definitely NOT made in America.

OK? Got all that? NOW what do think you should write about? Do you hang with these old guys, take more notes, and write the definitive biographies of Einstein, Jung, and Joyce? Or do you write your own personal memoirs, reminiscing about your glory days in Zürich? Or should you write that long extended fantasy that was inspired by the time the cleaning woman came into the men's room while you were "busy" and your eyes met, and you thought, "Oh, if only she were Hilda Denklosigkeit, and not just the cleaning woman, here to scrub the urinals..."

Or do you write about your craving for egg salad sandwiches?

Answer: None of the above! What you do instead is forget all about it, come back to the US, torture college freshpeople by making them pay attention to algebra for fifty total hours of their lives, then wake up to your evil ways, spend the next twelve years of your life in therapy, live on the streets for four of them, drive a cab for five of them, lose your mind, work in a work shelter program for two years, spend six years working nights as a janitor, lose your job, take up art.

THEN you wake up one day, and say, I got to talk to people about this. There you go, you've got something to say! Just don't ever forget the part about the egg salad sandwich, you'll find a way to work it in eventually.

Next I want to see you all break up into small groups and role play amongst yourselves, taking turns as the social worker, if you all can handle that (But I don’t want you to think you’re being pressured in any way...)

Thursday, April 1, 1999

Your Post-Meds Trans-Galactic News Roundup

Some of you may have noticed that last issue I took a tiny "vacation". I know what you think. You think all us folks at the Real Change are getting rich off the homeless, living in mansions in Medina, and vacationing in the Bahamas, because the officials there look the other way when rich folks like us "light up", if you know what I mean.

HA! You DON'T know what I mean! I don't get paid squat for these so-called columns, and my vacation was in fact a med-induced nightmare!

Yep. I'm on the med-train. I'm on meds. Or am I in-between my meds? Only my state authorized psychiatrist knows for sure, assuming she catches me when I'm in-between symptoms. But others of you may be wanting to know – hey Wes, since when you talk to aliens?

Good question! It all has to do with the internet! A few weeks ago my state authorized psychiatrist ordered me to take new meds that make me drowsy, and drowsy. Instantly, give or take a few weeks, the following message appeared on the internet in front of my face:

The Big Bang is often described as a big bang. After a bang every thing should be moving away from every other thing. But my high school physics teacher told us collisions happen. How could that be?

From pity I responded as follows:

Let me try to penetrate your thick cranium. First there was nothing. Then there was 2.356x10 to the who knows-how-much kilograms of stuff. According to the (known to be false in this context) theory of Albert "Bertle" Einstein: when stuff appears out of nowhere, space comes with it. At first the space is all curled up in a little ball. But then it spreads out really fast. But some of it, near the really BIG chunks of stuff, doesn't spread out so much. That's where stuff gets stuck in the corners of space and bumps together.

Some little time later I noted the following note from Anitra (On whose kitchen floor I have sometimes slept) Freeman:

To summarize Dr. Browning, the galaxies are running away from each other, but some of them don't run fast enough.

"Since when do galaxies run?" I thought. "Galaxies have no legs, they can't run!" I thought. No sooner did I think that, then I received the following in my "in" box:

This is your Universal Internet news update of the day.

Number of hits to our site yesterday: 235,696,777.

Breakdown: 235,696,767 hits estimated to have been due to electromagnetic fluctuations resulting from a gravitational wave disturbance propagated by a minor spiral galaxy which two days ago inexplicably sprouted tiny little legs and began running around aimlessly.

10 hits from a planet called "Earth".

There were also ten messages recorded on our office voicemail. Nine said "How in hell do I get off this galaxy?"

One message said "Mrs. Elroy P. Feelgood, widow of the late Mr. Elroy P. Feelgood, formerly of Pissatchoo, WA, and now living in Miami Beach, Florida, wishes to announce that she will be one hundred years young tomorrow, God willing. Otherwise she will be survived by her good-for-nothing lazy bum son, John.

Our message to Mrs. Feelgood: "Get a life!" As for the rest of you, "the trick is to rub two sticks together," and "How many times must we have to repeat that?"

In other news, there were 953,465,368 supernovas yesterday, killing roughly 10 to the 25 sentient lifeforms. Traffic was light, weather moderate, visibility 11 billion light-years in most directions.

Sports news: The much ballyhoo-ed Universal Reverse Time Travel Races were called off today owing to the failure of the participants to comply with known physical laws. A committee was formed to investigate. We have however learned that ticketholders who had been planning to watch the races from the finish line were reimbursed approximately one million years ago.

Our happy news of the day: You can still read this!

There you go… I hope that clarifies matters…

Monday, March 1, 1999

Pooky For President

People often wonder how I can be so cheerful all the time. After all, they observe, I am dirt poor. Also I don’t have any compensating assets. Also Dan Quayle is running for president. Then there are the things that they don’t mention, like my brain-implant, remote controlled by Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, or the fact that David McCallum hated being thought of as Ilya Kuryakin.

Well! What keeps me going is my friends — especially my extraterrestrial friends, whom I know will some day, soon, come in force to vanquish my enemies and create an all Man from U.N.C.L.E. channel.

Meanwhile: Dan Quayle’s candidacy has motivated one of my best friends to enter the presidential race himself, so that there can be a “clear alternative” to Quayle.

I’m not an alien at all,” Pooky Glax is quick to point out, “as much as fifteen percent of my birth probably occurred in Idaho, New Mexico, and Disneyland.”

In fact, Mr. Glax, or Pooky, as he prefers that I call him, is proud to call himself an Extraterrestrial-American. He is a sentient life-form of the quantum-disturbance type. He is over forty, at least fifty percent of the time, but don’t try to pin him to an age or he just might lurch through a wall!

I met Pooky Glax a few years ago when we were both homeless in the University District. Even back then I was deeply impressed not only by the depth of his ideas but by his deep compassion for his fellow sentient beings. Such as, when he dumpster-dove for transistors Pooky always saved out dill pickles and donuts for me, even though he had only half a pocket to put them in. That’s noble!

It’s probably not surprising that, given his background, Pooky assigns such a high priority to making housing more generally available in this country. (He favors a rotation plan.)

Though Pooky may not technically be an alien, he must constantly feel marginalized in a world that will always have far more certainty than even his own boundaries. Or at least parts of him must feel that way at different times and places. Thus, much of his platform naturally expresses his own personal struggle against that certainty of our world that so violates Pooky’s diffuse sense of being.

Take for example his call for universal bagpipes. If you ask him for clarification, Pooky chitters, and forms what passes for a grin on his presenting surfaces. Then he says it louder, “UNIVERSAL! BAGPIPES! [Chitter! - Chitter! - Chitter!]” Clearly he does not intend to be clear on this plank.

Then there is his interest in seeing that Tahiti is eventually selected as the site of a future Winter Olympics. On the face of it, this would seem to be a quite definite goal, although one that certainly should not concern the President of the United States of America. But then Pooky talks about where Tahiti might be towed, once they have learned to really trust us, and all sorts of possibilities emerge.

What would be the consequences of a national licensing of ducks? Who knows? And that puts Pooky firmly in his element.

Pooky Glax’s most radical proposal: a random national wage, so that everyone who works can, as he says, know from time to time what it means to have their work undervalued. Characteristically, Pooky declines to say how a random national wage would be implemented.

“Chitter!” is his only comment, but the impression I get from talking to him about it is that the implementation would be very confusing to everyone, in somewhat the same way that our current system now is so confusing to janitors and others like them who have to clean up after it every day.

Pooky says to me, “people think they need more certainty in their lives,” as a large fraction of his right side flickers and momentarily tunnels to Prague and back, “but actually they need less. I hope that during the course of the coming campaign I will be able to convince them of this: that in our time, the less sure we are, the better.” And he continues, “If we go where we are sure, at best it will be like a life in line at Disneyland, never getting on a ride. Is that what you want? Just to be sure that Mickey will say Hiya, Hiya, and shake your hand, before you die?”

I suppose I should mention that Pooky is not always so predictably in support of uncertainty. He is definite in his insistence that the Food Stamp Program be expanded to cover glass, transistors, computer chips and other silicon products, every third Thursday, in prime numbered years.

And of course, as you could have predicted, Pooky promises that if elected he will seek federal funding to bring about an all Man from U.N.C.L.E. channel. So he has my vote... as we knew he would!

Monday, February 15, 1999

Get The Lead Out

This issue I want to talk about plumbinglessness.

I don’t want to talk about individual plumbinglessness but since I can’t spend an entire “column” talking about collective plumbinglessness, because I don’t know that much about it, I will talk about something closely related to individual plumbinglessness. Namely, the subject of Mark Sidran having relieved himself inappropriately.

Now I don’t really want to single Sidran out for this sort of discussion. I want to include prosecutors, and lawyers who have been prosecutors, like oh, I don’t know, maybe Henry Hyde, Asa Hutchinson, or that Hamilton Ham-Burger creep that was always sneering at Perry Mason. But on my way to including them I’d like to make an example of Sidran, in obedience to the Silver Rule (Do Unto Others As They Do.)

Let’s look at the record. Mark Sidran is a lawyer. Therefore he has a college degree. Therefore the facts indicate that Mark Sidran has been a college freshperson.

At this point, Mr. Sidran might, if he were honorable, immediately confess that he has relieved himself inappropriately.

Or, he might not. But I ask you, the reader, to use your common sense!

Not only are we talking here about a lawyer who has been a college freshman, but one who has a clear motivation to lie, until now, about having relieved himself inappropriately, because he prosecutes other people for doing so.

But let me suppose that you are not ready yet to accept that Mr. Sidran relieved himself inappropriately during the time that he was a college freshman, in spite of the overwhelming proof based on circumstantial evidence, guilt by association, logical surmise, and the fact that over and over again I have been talking about Sidran relieving himself inappropriately.

In that case, let me remind you that we do not have to establish any one instance of inappropriate relief on Sidran’s part in order to prove our case. It is enough to convince you that he has committed this act on at least one occasion, without actually having to specify that occasion.

I’d like to continue this discussion until you have all agreed with me in order to make me stop, but my space is up. Therefore I simply will remind you, my reader, of your wisdom, and encourage you to look deeply into this matter as you have always done in the past. And having looked deeply, come to know, deep in your hearts, that Mr. Sidran has relieved himself inappropriately.

So let’s talk about collective plumbinglessness. The first thing that I learned about this when I started studying it last night is that at one time all of Peoplekind were plumbingless.

In fact, the word ‘plumbing’ is Latin for ‘Lead-Pipes-R-Us’, and there was no plumbing at all until the Dawn of the Lead Age, which in turn had to wait until about twelve hours after the Twilight of the Get the Lead Out Age. So there was a long time, before that, that people had to relieve themselves inappropriately, for eons.

Even after there was plumbing it might have been better if there weren’t. Science now knows that the widespread use of lead pipes causes guys to wear dresses, have sex with their sisters, sleep with horses, and , eventually, to allow their cities to be overrun by Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Canadians. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact Swedes and Norwegians did overrun the main city of the Latins whom I mentioned above, but unlike certain patronymic precursors of Henry Hyde, who had previously overrun it, they stayed (and he has had the gaul to complain about that?)

Well, anyway, one thing lead to another (Get it? Ha, ha: ‘lead to’!) and pretty soon no-one trusted plumbing anymore. So even though there was still plenty of lead to go around, everybody went back to doing it in the river for about a thousand years.

Why did they stop? Was it because some prosecutor stepped in and said, look here, these Dark Ages must end or you are all going to jail!? Or was it because people started to get the idea that plumbing was a good public investment after all?

Yes, it was. And there are still other good public investments that may yet be made.

Monday, February 1, 1999

Atomic Duck Is Here

Last time I promised that I would nag Mayor Paul Schell in this issue. But as I think of how to begin nagging our Mayor, images of cartoon characters fly around and about my psyche. I find myself thinking especially of Atomic Mouse, dispatching mobs of zoot-suited wolves. This is not because I believe that Mayor Schell in any way resembles Atomic Mouse dispatching mobs of zoot-suited wolves. Actually, having seen him and heard him speak, I would picture him more as an Atomic Duck dispatching mobs of publicly inebriated squirrels.

But I don't want to have to justify that statement. Instead I would like to ramble incoherently all over the page, until I can figure out what I am talking about.

Don't you all miss the good old days when we could solve all of the world's problems with a great big heaping helping of atomic power? Remember when Mr. Atom was your friend? I sure do, and I loved my friend Mr. Atom.

Oh, sure there were problems with atomic power, but they were minor compared to the benefits. How did we know? Because really, really smart people worked it all out for us on their sliderules and their computers, that's how!

Thanks to Mr. Atom our electric bills would drop to almost zero. We would have so much cheap electricity that we would never have to dig up coal or drill for oil again. Guys wouldn't have to wear hardhats anymore. Eventually every house would have its own supply of plutonium running its furnaces, ovens, TVs, radios, hair dryers, washing machines, refrigerators, and charging the electric flying cars that would take us to our vast atomic powered and fully automated amusement parks, that we would spend all our lives in, now that labor would be unnecessary.

Even our farms would be operated by atomic powered robots, and we wouldn't even have to bother to pasteurize our milk anymore. We could irradiate it, and get rid of nasty germs once and for all!

When everything is new nothing can be imagined to stand in the way of the march of progress. Yesterday it was Mr. Atom, today it's Ms. DNA and her little sister Ms. Clone. Whole armies of genetically engineered cloned pigs, each patented and owned by the latest incarnation of the spirit if not the flesh of Dow Chemical, are going to grow on their backs human livers, kidneys, hearts, eyeballs, hips, lungs, assorted glands, limbs and appendages. Every conceivable beneficial drug, including miracle drugs not yet discovered, will be harvested from bacteria cleverly engineered to eat only stuff that we have no use for, such as torn nylons, used styrofoam, and Brussels Sprouts.

And again, how do we know all that's right? Because people who are really really smart, smarter than we are, tell us all this is so. Nothing serious can go wrong with the invention of these pigs and those bacteria. Oh sure there will be some minor problems but nothing that these really really smart people (smarter than we are) won't be able to fix on our ignorant behalves.

But I shouldn't be letting myself stray so far from home. None of this could possibly have anything to do with our Mayor, who doesn't have to solve all the problems of the world, who only has a rather medium sized city to look after. Given how much smaller the arena of his problems, and how much simpler those problems are, he is perfectly capable of having all the answers. He is an authority after all: he is a certified urban developer!

Take those public inebriates for example. Now you might think that the problem with public inebriates, particularly in the wintertime, originates not in the fact of inebriation, which goes on behind doors also, but with publicness. I.e. you might think that no one who had a choice would choose to drink outdoors, in the cold, if they had warm places indoors in which to drink. And that the solution to the problem of public inebriation might lie in attacking that fundamental cause.

But no. You would be wrong. The problem, according to Paul Schell, is that these people can buy 40-ouncers of malt liquor at Korean grocery stores in the neighborhoods in which they hang out. So all we have to do is identify those neighborhoods, and pass special laws for just those neighborhoods, restricting what can be sold there.

And which neighborhoods would those be? That's easy! They are just the same neighborhoods that decades of city policies have driven Seattle's homeless. The same neighborhoods in which most of the shelters and social services are concentrated.

Neighborhoods of a kind that in another age and another country were eventually called ghettoes after enough special laws were passed applying just to them.

So I guess what I'm saying is this: Hooray, Atomic Duck is here to save the day, he'll put our public inebriates away, then ghetto-ize them into sobriety, because he knows best, he's the authority!

Friday, January 15, 1999

Count Thy Days

Lately I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions. Questions that go to the heart of what will have to happen before we humans and quasi-humans can really claim success in this grand experiment we call “life in the big city.”

Where does hypocrisy come from? Is intelligence an actual measurable quality, or is it, as the Jesuits might say, merely the absence of stupidity? And if you lack stupidity, can you be said to suffer a deficiency? Were Einstein, Feynman, and Mr. Wizard stupidity-impaired?

But above all, where does this authoritarian business come from? I don’t just mean politicians. I mean control freaks in general.

Even poetry isn’t free from these incredible control freaks! Only two days ago I was shocked to receive the following unsolicited “poem” by “email”:

Q. Oh what saith the Lord(ess)? What might a poem be?

Might it be prose yet sweeter, with rhyme and strict meter?

Might it be words upon paper, shaped like a tree?

Might it alliterate like maybe pickles 'n peter?

Might it assonate like bats and classy cravats?

Might she personify and curts-eye and bow and say "Hi?"

Oh Lord(ess)! Please hear our pleas for clarity!

We can't stand all of this mystery!

A. Oh, stop it. And your rhythm's off anyway, you twit.

This message has been brought to you by the Evangelical Church of Non-Rhyming Poets of America, Reformed.

Can you see what’s happening here? And it doesn’t end with rhyme!

It doesn’t end anywhere!

Being a scientific sort, when faced with a puzzle such as this I immediately think of experiment. In this case, dealing with a serious psychosocial problem, serious psychosocial methodology is called for. But you can’t get those kind of drugs anymore, so my next idea was that I should voluntarily become an authoritarian. Then I will be able to report to an amazed and astonished world my findings as to where my head has gotten to.

So. I have become a rabid proponent of the Julian Day Calendar. You may not have ever heard of the Julian Day Calendar, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the Julian Year Calendar -- the one that preceded the Gregorian Year Calendar which we’ve been using lately.

Well, the Julian Day Calendar is a Day Calendar, not a Year Calendar. You count days. Doesn’t that make more sense? Don’t answer that, I don’t care what you think, because I am being an authoritarian, and I have just decided for you that counting days makes more sense.

Want to know how you’ll figure out when years start and end? Why should you care? What, are you raising pigs? Don’t you know pig-farming is a waste of time, you should be in the slaughtering business, that’s where all the money is now? What, do I have to explain everything to you?! Look, how do you know now when it’s high tide? You look it up in a chart, that’s how. YOU LOOK IT UP. You don’t make the rest of the world calculate time based on the number of tides that have elapsed since the Red Sea parted, just so you don’t have to keep a tide chart handy!

So let’s see, what have we learned by being authoritarians? Well we have learned that we are over 18,000 days old (18K in the metric system). We have learned that when we rant on and on about Julian Days, nobody cares. In fact we have learned that we are not legislators or executives or police so therefore we can’t make anyone care. We have learned that authoritarians use the editorial “we” way too much.

But most importantly, we have learned that authoritarians think that they are right. Therefore they do not know they are being authoritarians. They think they are pointing out truths. So it doesn’t do any good to tell a control freak to stop it.

Next issue: We nag Paul Schell anyway! Just because we can!

Friday, January 1, 1999

Smells Like Your Uncle

OK, it's winter, I expected to be cold and miserable. But La Niña? What!? As I swear on an oath to the Almighty Butterfly Effect, they must now be making this nonsense up as they go along. Next year -- LOOK OUT! It's El Tío! Escape the planet at any cost! (The weather's not too hot or too cold, it just smells like your Uncle Joe smells after two six-packs on top of Mama's "Last Days" Burrito and Nuclear Beef Enchilada Plate, with extra guacamole.)

But that was just the start of it. Now look at us. The tabloids can't even keep up. The impeachment resolution having just been passed as I write this, what do I see in the Enquirer but "Hillary Goes On Rampage in the White House." So they've completely given up telling us unbelievable stuff, you can get that in the mainstream papers. Now the tabloids are trying to shock us with "Fight Breaks Out on Jerry Springer Set", "Madonna Reportedly Had Sex Last Night", "Scientists Don't Believe in Sasquatch", "Seattle, Boston Joined by Highway" and "Monkeys No Longer Thought to Fly."

Meanwhile, the mainstream papers have gone off the edge. Last month we only had to pick up one of Seattle's highly respected dailies (I won't say which one, who cares, they're both full of it) -- NOT an irresponsible tabloid, to read that a "homeless" man shot and killed a Metro bus driver. A "homeless" man that, it turned out, has LIVED IN THE SAME APARTMENT FOR THIRTEEN YEARS.

Next, thanks to that little senseless bout of SCAPEGOATING, there came a call for the downtown Free Ride Zone to be discontinued, so that what hadn't happened the day after last Thanksgiving on the Aurora Bridge might never not not happen ever again. Are you following me?

OK keep hangin' on: most homeless people in this city who avail themselves of the Free Ride Zone would be inconvenienced by having to hike around that one and a half mile long area all the time, but that's nothing that most of them aren't prepared to do if they must.

Therefore they could all bring themselves to say to Seattle and especially to downtown's retail businesses, go ahead. Go ahead and kill the program that has done more than any other to turn around the consumer exodus to the suburban malls. Do it just to spite us, even though we are just as peaceful as the rest of you are, and had nothing to do with the tragedy of the 359 Express. We'll live.

Meanwhile, the gutsy Democrat that I didn't actually favor in the 1992 primary (I voted for the poet) is now at risk of being replaced by an android from the moons of Uranus?? An android who only got elected at all because he was a running mate, because ever since that Jefferson/Hamilton screw-up that's just the way we do things? Or was it Adams/Jefferson? Don't any history teachers email! Just let me tell you what I'm talking about here.

OK let's say I'm getting a little cous-cous (a grain) on the side. But my wife is known to have the meanest right in the Free World, you can read about it in the tabloids. And say some pip-squeak of a latter-day Torquemada asks me if I ever had that particular grain, and I say yeah but it wasn't any big deal, and I don't tell him anything more.

And let's not forget to mention that by this time it is all too evident that Nuevo Torko will bend every rule in the modern inquisitorial handbook.

So now I'm supposed to resign, so that an android from outer space should replace me? Whose wife is even weirder than mine??

Well, enough of my bad mood. Allow me to greet the New Year with a song.

A Bratty Annoying Song For This New Year

[To maximize annoyance, repeat each line just

until threatened with a massive air strike!]

by © Dr. Wes, me

Let's all sing a bratty song, song song song

How could such a thing be wrong? wrong wrong wrong

See the ugly Ne-eww Year, Year Year Year

We'll kick it in it's silly rear, rear rear rear

Poke it in its stupid side, side side side

Then we'll all go run and hide, hide hide hide

While were hid we shouldn't squeak, squeak squeak squeak

The better that we all can peek! Peek! Peek! Peek!

Peek at a politi-ician, shun shun shun!

Engaged in fornication! Fun fun fun!

Make the scoundrel RE-zign, 'zign 'zign 'zign

Never let 'em 'cross that bratty line!

-- Line line line! --