Awkward Greeting Cards

The telephone has been cited recently in some high profile voice and text communications that, on second thought, were artless and probably should have been withheld by the senders. Such is the hazard of impulsive communication.

Unfortunately, in the case of Virginia Thomas calling Anita Hill, Brett Favre sending texts and photos to Jenn Sterger, and Juan Williams losing his radio gig over comments made on TV, there was no flowery, sing-songy greeting card designed to do the same, difficult job … until now.

No artwork yet, but writing the dopey poem inside is the hardest part.

Anita,

Just a card to say hello
And also, dear, to let you know
We’re gracious, tolerant and wise.
And now you may apologize!

How lovely it would surely be
To see you fall on bended knee.
We’re waiting, feeling slightly slighted.
Apologize! You’ve been invited.

Take this offer ‘fore it closes.
Ignore what it presupposes.
Show remorse! If you don’t need to,
Still, you must! You’ve been decreed to!

Sincerely,
Ginni (and Clarence)

Jenn,

Wishing we could get together
You have not responded.
Don’t you understand, dear?
With my heart you have absconded!

All my parts have shaken loose
I’m grizzled and decrepit.
I’ve put them in a box for you
But no one here will schlep it.

I’m in pieces, that is clear.
A lovelorn southern chap.
Can I change your feelings
With this photo of my lap?

Uh, Brett.

Juan,

We’re saddened
By the thought you had
That we could not endorse.

It made us
So uncomfortable
We’re firing you, of course.

Life’s a highway
Fast and cruel
Quick exits are unfair lanes.

When harshly judged
For what we said or
What we wear on airplanes.

Sorry,
Your Former Employer

How do you find the perfect greeting card?

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Picking Through the Detritus

Yesterday’s trashcan mystery started out as a strange curiosity, but as is often the case when babooners take over, it went to unpredictable places.

I gave you toy pirate ships in a city park garbage can alongside a child’s private “Do Not Read!” notebook. In response you delivered sibling rivalry, homeless people, overflowing shopping carts, reality TV, Candid Camera, dumpster diving gourmets, exasperated parents, a possum rug, Buddy Holly 45’s , a heartbroken Russian double agent, marooned space aliens, curfew breaking park rats, an infuriated older sister, a naked lake swimmer in a fishing cap and two goggle eyed anglers, and goats (from space) of course.

And that was all before it got dark. Really dark.

I’m sorry to say I don’t know the true answer to the mystery. I do know that less than an hour after I notified police that there were possessions abandoned in the park, the boxes were picked up. There was identifying information in those boxes, so it’s possible the situation that led to the dumping, whether it was innocent or sinister, has been resolved. Well, if it was sinister, it’s probably not “resolved”, but it might be exposed.

I only wish, after reading your comments, that tim’s 10,000 precious baseball cards had been part of the thrown away bounty. Those, I might have picked up.

I am planning another blog holiday to concentrate on a different project for a few days in early November, and I would be delighted to welcome more guest bloggers to the fold. All you have to do is write a main post on a topic that interests you, and then watch the fun happen as inventive readers spin your inspiration off into all directions.

Former guest bloggers are encouraged to step forward, including those who wrote a few weeks ago. You do not need to be a regular commenter to apply. In fact, all you need is to know that the opportunity exists.

Have you ever had your idea taken to a new place by other people?

Trashcan Mystery

While walking through a local park yesterday I noticed a plastic tub overflowing with colorful artifacts sitting beside a municipal trashcan. A couple of boxes sat beside it. My first thought was someone decided to ditch their refuse here to save the cost of having it picked up at home.

I’m actively looking for work and sorting through dumpsters has emerged as one of my leading career options, so I casually walked over and discovered the following items:

- A school backpack
- A book bag full of books
- A pouch overflowing with paper scraps
- Folders full of fifth grade assignments
- A pair of yellow plastic airplanes about two feet long
- Two rather large toy pirate ships

All the discarded stuff seemed to belong to the same child, or at least the same name appeared on many of the items and on several sheets of return address labels – the kind that come at Christmastime, unsolicited, from organizations seeking a donation. One notebook had emphatic, but smiley “keep out” warnings scrawled across the front.

Normally a “keep out” sign on a child’s notebook is something to be taken seriously, but it was in the garbage so I thought I could get away with a peek. I saw nothing too remarkable inside – mostly scraps of paper stuffed in the vinyl pouches. The real juicy stuff may have been taken out before disposal, but I didn’t spend too much time with it. Believe it or not, there is a limit to how long a you can comfortably sort through trash alongside a public walking path without feeling conspicuous. I did call the local police to report abandoned property in the park. My thought was that maybe the stuff had been stolen and rifled through for valuables before being dumped, and its owner might be hoping to get some things back.

But why would any thief make off with a child’s possessions? What’s the point of taking two plastic pirate ships? And why were there two ships and two planes? Wouldn’t one be enough to own or to steal? Who benefits from theft of the private “do not look” papers of a fifth grader? Unless the burglar is also a child!

Or perhaps the child, now grown, was cleaning the attic and wanted to be rid of some unhappy fifth grade memories. Getting these mementos out and away from the house as soon as possible may have been the goal.

Maybe a brother or sister was playing an unfortunate prank.

Or an estranged and/or grieving parent may have wanted to put some distance between him or herself and these cheerful, colorful, quirky reminders of happier times.

Or …?

What combination of circumstances could have led to the dumping of these items?

Dramatic Campaign

It was sad to hear of the death, from cancer, of beloved actor Tom Bosley. Bosley was famous for appearing as the dad in the long-running TV series “Happy Days”, but his reputation as a stage actor on Broadway was sealed by his portrayal of New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the Pulitzer Prize winning 1960 musical, “Fiorello”.

“Fiorello” is one of 8 musicals to win the Pulitzer for drama. (The others are “Of Thee I Sing”, “South Pacific”, “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, “A Chorus Line”, “Sunday in the Park With George”, “Rent” and “Next To Normal”. Only two of these are about politics – “Fiorello” and “Of Thee I Sing.” That got me thinking about our discussion yesterday on politics and cynicism.

“Of Thee I Sing” debuted in 1932, written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind with music and lyrics from George and Ira Gershwin. Act one describes a political campaign where the candidate runs on the “love” platform, promising voters that if they elect him, he’ll marry the woman of his dreams, thereby making the biggest campaign issue whether or not people want a happy ending to a romantic story. No need to hire a pollster to figure how that one will turn out.

That’s what you get when you let politics and musical theater collide.

“Fiorello” has a similar romantic storyline, but for lovers of musical cynicism the standouts are two songs sung by corrupt politicians – “Politics and Poker” and “Little Tin Box”. Bosley didn’t appear in either one of these songs – he was the hero and these are numbers for the villains – but they represent America’s best effort at distilling political corruption into a cheerful little ditty.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t offer videos of the original Broadway cast doing these songs (I’m shocked, scandalized), but Farmingdale High School on Long Island did a nice job with “Little Tin Box”. Kudos to the guy in the greenish vest.

It’s hard to imagine what sort of musical would reflect the political times we live in today, or if such a show could even exist. After all, you have to have a sympathetic protagonist, and as soon as you put someone from our current cast of characters up on a pedestal, half the audience will write you off as partisan. You could try to go entirely in the other direction and built the show around an anti-hero (Michele Bachmann, the Musical) with the same disappointing result.

Maybe the political musical for our times is really about our concurrent but weirdly separate realities. Act one tells the story from a red politics perspective. Act two brings in the same characters and re-tells the same tale, blue. But where does that leave us at the end? Ready to run from the theater and go have a drink somewhere.

What’s your favorite political drama on stage or screen?

Put Up the Barn!

A message from our favorite public servant.

Greetings Constituents!

Election day is two weeks from today! Regardless of your political tendencies I hope you’ll get out and vote, especially if you live in my district and are inclined to vote for ME!

I still don’t have an “official” opponent in Minnesota’s 9th (all the water surface area in the state), but I know that a submerged wave of support for a write-in candidate can easily tip over an electoral kayak if the guy with the paddle is not paying attention. That’s why I thought I’d better hurry up and make some last-minute promises.

I promise to hate the government as much as anyone.

Anti-incumbent cynicism is high this year, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a rougish outsider like me. But some casual observers have been known to mistake me for an establishment politician just because I’ve been around a long, long while. That’s totally unfair. Believe me, nobody is more opposed to the government than I am!

Our government is too invasive, too intrusive, too insular, and a lot of other in- words I don’t have the space to write down here, including inward. I want to keep government from interfering in your life when the reason for doing so doesn’t interest me. And if I we don’t get enough government haters in the government to accomplish that in this election cycle, I promise that at least I’ll continue my already successful efforts to keep the government inept at everything it does.

I also promise to change the tone.

Yesterday, an unnamed group of online conversationalists offered up as a joke that our current congressional leaders would be unable to complete an old-fashioned Amish barn raising because our political culture is too toxic to permit cooperation. That may be true but there’s no way we can know for sure until we try.

That’s why, as soon as I get back to Washington, I plan to introduce the National Political Reconciliation Amish Barn Construction Fellowship Bill of 2010! Under the provisions of the bill, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will be required to start the 2011 session by building a big red barn on the national mall at the foot of the Washington monument, using only horse power, hand tools and brute strength.

I know we can do it, but to make sure, one of the requirements is that both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate will have to move their offices into the hayloft. Trust me, it will be a very nice barn, and it will set the stage for another initiative I have in mind – the Washington Monument Green Energy Generator Bill of 2012.
Think GIANT WINDMILL!

I know what you’re wondering – “Why would any one of the Congressional Fat Cats will vote for this?” Well, I’m certain that in the weeks following this election everyone who remains in Congress will be eager to bolster their wholesome, hardworking Common American Person credentials. How can any Common American Person say “No” to building a barn? It speaks to our values and shared aspirations, even though most Common American People have no idea how to build a barn.

Plus, it will provide great, positive publicity for our political leaders. I expect my bi-partisan barn raising to get 24/7 coverage from CNN, and I’m sure my colleagues will be out there working hard, maybe even shirtless, because the only kind of bad exposure in Washington, D.C. is the kind that’s not enough. And that’s true even when the exposure looks flabby and old and horrible.

Do us all a favor and return me to Congress so I can get down to business, force this community-building bill down the throats of my fellow public servants, and then take my shirt off in the January sunshine to show the world how very much of an American I am!

Sincerely your very best friend in our nation’s capitol,

Congressman Loomis Beechly

Have you ever organized a large group to accomplish something together?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m a political candidate for a major state office and I’m so excited about Election Day I can hardly wait! After months and months of trying to connect with the voters they will finally decide and even if I lose I won’t be mad because the end of the campaign means I can stop hanging out with my opponents. I don’t think the three guys who went to the moon were together as much as we’ve been in the last few weeks. Honestly, I see them more than the people in my family. If it’s Tuesday, this must be the breakfast forum at the League of Earnest Accountants.

It has come to the point where I know the other side’s arguments as well as my own. I never expected to memorize so many reasons why I’m inadequate, but I guess that’s what a career in politics does for you. Don’t get me wrong. They’re nice enough people, but there are limits to togetherness, or there should be. Even with people you sort of like you can know too much, and right now I feel like I know WAY too much about me and him and him. And confidentially, Dr. Babooner, I’m starting to think none of us would be a very good choice. Hope the voters don’t find out!

But that’s not my question. My problem has to do with etiquette, and this is it – even after all the struggling and maneuvering for an advantage, when we have our final debate I suspect I’ll be saying goodbye to these guys for quite a while, maybe forever. I think I’m going to miss them. Should I bring parting gifts, and if so, what?

Sincerely,
One of Three

I told One of Three it would be a very nice gesture to bring gifts for his political opponents on the occasion of their final debate, and by now he should know enough about them to buy just the right thing.

The hard part is how to bestow these gifts, since he will probably have to do it when they are all standing there together. It would be tacky to get each one the same item, like, say, a fruit basket. But he would want to be sure to spend roughly the same amount – it’s embarrassing to have a huge disparity in gift value, especially if one of the recipients is wealthy and the other is not.

And although they’ve spent a lot of time talking about it, cash is probably not a good choice as a parting gift for one’s political opponents.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Underground Week Wrap-up!

The re-surfacing of trapped Chilean miners has set an upbeat tone for underground adventure this week.

Yesterday, tim described his childhood escapade using storm sewers to go to the store for cigarettes. Need I say it? Kids, don’t try this, really. Flash flooding and lung cancer are the very first things that come to my risk-averse mind, followed closely by enormous spiders and sudden earthquakes. Here’s an excerpt:

it was winter out so the underground route was warm (good news) but we all had our winter coats and boots so we were kind of klunky . the master map charter got messed up and we had to double back a couple times. in a few places the drain pipe got small and we had to take off jackets and shinney through. in other places the pipe was short and instead of walking a little hunched over you had to go for long distances with kness bent doing the duck walk and scraping your back on the concrete pipe above.

A vivid account of a bit of scary risk-taking, tim. But it does remind me that some people seem to enjoy navigating tight underground spaces. A family trip to Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park ten years ago opened my eyes to the caver culture. The area is shot through with subterranean passages, and on a tour of one less-than-mammoth cave a young guide described how she and her friends still spent their after hours squeezing through uncharted tunnels, just for the fun of it. Not for me, thanks.

If I’m going to go underground at all, it has to be with a jumpsuit, a hardhat and 10 billion dollars worth of burrowing and air handling equipment so I can stand tall, stay clean, and completely obliterate all icky worms and any other obstacles that might block my way.

That’s how they do it in Switzerland.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel will be the longest railway tunnel in the world when it is completed, 35.5 miles from end to end. The Swiss have been working on this one for 20 years – imagine having the political will to continue on such an expensive project for two decades! Given the same task, I’m afraid we would have abandoned it for political reasons at the first change of administrations. On Friday the Swiss had a long-awaited breakthrough.

Staged for the media? Of course. But if you’re going to spend that much time and money burrowing, shouldn’t there be someone there to marvel and applaud when you get to the end?

“Hey Ma! See what I did!”

“Nice, honey. But look at all the mud on your pants!”

What is the most impressive thing you’ve ever done with a shovel?