Category Archives: Tears of a Clown

The Pencil Today:


“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” — Robert A. Heinlein


If I seem a little cynical today (okay, a lot cynical) don’t blame me. I’m only the messenger.


Make no mistake now. There is no longer any argument.

This holy land is not led by a president or a Senate or House. Nor is it run by Democrats or Republicans. Not even the combined forces of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines rival the most powerful entity in the United States today.

Kids Stuff

These Great United States, Inc. are ruled by the investment banking firm and criminal enterprise known as Goldman Sachs.

And that would make the emperor of this nominal democratic republic an unindicted hoodlum by the name of Lloyd Blankfein.

Dear Leader

The capo Blankfein and his underlings yesterday got a huge return on their investments in political bribery and economic blackmail when the Obama Justice Department announced it won’t be pursuing charges against them.

See, Goldman Sachs had been engaged in the selling of subprime mortgage securities for years, earnings ungodly amounts of money. Only Blankfein’s syndicate then went out and bet against the performance of those securities.

In other words, Goldman Sachs sold its clients — including retirement funds, states and municipalities, hospitals, and the like — a pile of shit and then went out and set up a sham insurance safety net protecting itself against the shit smears that would inevitably follow.

The original “Mob” used to have this scam down to an art. A couple of crooked-nosed Charlies would visit a restaurant owner and advise him he needed “insurance” should, god forbid, anything calamitous happen.

Aw, D’at’s Too Bad. Y’See What Can Happen?

The only flaw in the Mob’s plan was its inability to hold off the dogs of justice indefinitely. By and by, some squeaky clean prosecutor would slap the bracelets on the big boys and their underbosses.

But Lloyd Blankfein won’t be a guest of the state any time soon. In fact. the state is now his guest.

This is, after all, his country. Lock, stock, and barrel.


You know how Barack Obama is a socialist? And the Clintons before him?

Real red-underwear-wearing types, right?

At least that’s what the Right would have us believe.

So why is it that the number of people receiving cash assistance from government social welfare programs has fallen a full two-thirds since Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform? And the number of American families who get government subsidies for trivial things like food and heat has fallen by a half?

The answer, if you believe the Right, is they’ve all gone from the lazy poor to the self-sufficient middle class. Because, after all, it was their own fault they were poor.

The great thing about living in these United States is the fact that we don’t need complicated solutions to baffling problems. The answers, my fellow citizens, are simple.

Oops. I mean simplistic.


Everybody and anybody who had a hand in making this monstrosity a reality should have the living shit kicked out of them:

This is the brand spankin’ new high school football stadium in Allen, Texas.

You read right: High-freaking-school.

The new home of the Allen Eagles cost $60M. It seats 18,000. It has a 75×45-foot video screen scoreboard.

The story about this crime against humanity in Time magazine’s online newsfeed quotes some little bastard defensive back as saying, “We just have to [be] blessed and humble and not take it for granted.”

Go Eagles!

Yeah. Like the god that doesn’t exist gave it to you in lieu of doing anything about the flooding in India.

Texas, by the way, last year cut $5B from the state public schools budget..

Anyway, the best part of the story is the little teaser in red about halfway down: “MORE: Catastrophic Brian Injuries at All-Time High in High School Football.”

Nothin’ like seeing your boy’s cerebrum concussed into so much gray goo down on the field in a shiny new stadium, is there?


Yep. Football’s back.

Remember when Ma & Pa America were all aflutter over teenaged athletes using steroids and human growth hormones to build muscle mass?

The Horror

Heaven forbid our precious scions should risk the devastating side effects of performance enhancing drugs. Like acne.

No. It’s much better for them to suffer permanent disability due to head injuries suffered on the gridiron.

Oh, and thanks to our changing climate (which, I’d bet, plenty o’Texans think is the liberal bunk anyway) more and more high school football players are suffering serious injury and death from practicing in full pads through the August heat.


We don’t have cable anymore at Chez Big Mike but if we did, Animal Planet would be on all the time. The Loved One digs critters and I’m partial to two or three species myself.

The bad news is, Animal Planet is slipping and sliding away from real animals this coming season and becoming more about, well, bullshit.

Two of the cable networks big shows will be “Finding Bigfoot” and “Mermaid — The Body Found.”

According to the Washington Post’s TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, critics pounded Animal Planet reps when the network held its pre-season news conference. One asked if AP “had run out of real animals.”

When it comes to TV, though, no one can argue with the numbers. AP’s audiences love shows about creatures that don’t exist.


Great. As if I’m not discouraged enough by the direction in which this nation is headed, this poll comes out:

The site I Fucking Love Science opines: “Well, this is a little bit scary. Come on America, sort it out. You just landed on Mars!”

To borrow a term from the god-fetishists, Amen!

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

From I Love Charts

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present and CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Tiny, From The Daily Puppy

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsOpening reception: “Articulture” by Marco Zehrung; 6-8pm

Lake Monroe, Paynetown SRANational S’mores Day celebration, recipe competition and other activities; 6-10pm

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural CenterWorkshop: Depression and Buddhism, presented by Ani Choekye; 6:30pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet”; 7pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Mizfitz; 7-9pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “To Rome with Love”; 7pm

Bloomington SpeedwaySprint cars, UMP super stocks, UMP modifieds; 7pm

◗ IU Woodburn Hall Theater — Ryder Film Series: “The Pigeoneers”; 8pm

Cafe DjangoSad Sam Blues Jam; 8-10pm

The Comedy AtticTim Wilson; 8 & 10:30pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Polisse”; 8:30pm

Bear’s PlaceChris Wilson & Planet Earth, Charlie & the Groove Factory; 9pm

The Bluebird The Revivalists, Three Story Hill; 9pm

Max’s PlacePhoenix Down; 9pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Amanda Webb; 9:30pm

Max’s PlaceHead Bread; 10:30pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th
  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:


“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” — Peter Ustinov


Two years ago tomorrow, the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court turned the national electoral process into a plaything for the uber-rich.

George W. Bush Introduces His Nominee For Chief Justice, John Roberts

Yup. The Citizens United decision came down January 21, 2010, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Scalia affirming that the more money you’ve got, the more precious your voice is.

Super PACs, the natural malignant outgrowth of the decision, already have proven to be huge influences in the 2012 presidential race. Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have benefited mightily from TV ads placed by their respective super PACs. Of course, both Romney and Gingrich shrug and look innocent when asked about the inflammatory rhetoric of their wealthy cheerleaders.

And don’t think Barack Obama’s own super PACs won’t flood the airwaves come September and October.


Humor is tragedy plus time. Not enough time has passed, for instance, for 9/11 jokes. Nor for even JFK assassination jokes. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, on the other hand, has inspired the well-known “Otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” stand-alone punchline.

Some tragic events generated macabre jokes within minutes of their occurrence. In those pre-internet days of 1986, the Challenger space shuttle disaster was followed almost immediately by a rush of calls from office to office about Christa McAuliffe and colleagues, “vacationing all over the Atlantic.”

The Costa Concordia shipwreck story is hardly a week old. I haven’t heard any jokes about it yet. Still, the thing is rife with its own ghastly humor.

The Costa Concordia Before The Funny Business Started

I mean, honestly, have you read the transcripts of the ship-to-shore radio exchanges between Captain Schettino and onshore authorities as survivors still were being pulled out of the water? It reads like the script from a Marx Brothers movie, for pity’s sake.

When a port official first contacted an officer aboard the Concordia and asked if there was anything wrong, the officer replied only that there was a blackout on board. The port official seemed a tad skeptical considering he’d already been contacted by passengers on the ship who said they’d been ordered to don lifejackets.

Really, now. Wouldn’t Chico Marx, had he been the officer in question, have just as easily lied to the port official, saying the lights were merely out even as the big ship was sinking?

So the port official asked the officer if he should send help. The officer essentially said, Everything’s fine here (with the aside to the audience: As long as you ignore all those people jumping overboard).

Or Chico might have replied, You’d better or my career will be sunk.

But the real black humor came later after coastal guard Commander Di Falco got hold of Captain Schettino. He’d learned that Schettino (Groucho as Captain Spaulding) was safely esconsed in a lifeboat while passengers still were struggling to get off the ship.

Di Falco, naturally, must be played by Sig Ruman.

Sigfried Ruman As Commander Di Falco

Di Falco: Captain Spaulding!

Spaulding: How do you do, Di Falco? Not so hot, by the looks of you. (Real dialogue: “Yes. Good evening, Commander Di Falco.”)

Di Falco: Now you listen to me! Get back on that ship! (“Listen, Schettino. There are people trapped on board…. There is a pilot ladder. You will climb that ladder and go on board. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?”)

Spaulding: I don’t like the tone of your voice, Di Falco. (“… [L]et me tell you one thing….”)

Di Falco: “Speak up!”

Spaulding: Are you out of your mind? That ship is sinking! (“In this moment, the boat is tipping….”)

Di Falco: You idiot! Get up there now and save the women and children! I’ll have your hide for this, you dunderhead! (“… [L]isten, there are people coming down the ladder of the prow. You go up that pilot ladder, get on that ship and tell me how many people are still on board…. Listen, Schettino, you saved yourself from the sea, but I am going to really do something bad to you. I am going to make you pay for this. Get on board, [expletive]!”)

Spaulding: Let’s be reasonable, Di Falco. (“Commander, please….)

Di Falco: “No…. You now get up and go on board. They are telling me that on board there are still….”

Spaudling: Say, Di Falco. There’s no need to raise your voice to me. The rescue is over — I’m safe! (“I am here with the rescue boats. I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.”)

Di Falco: “What are you doing, Captain?”

Spaulding: Why, I’m in charge here! Why do you think they call me captain? (“I’m here to coordinate the rescue.”)

Di Falco: You’re now the captain of a rowboat, you hoodlum! (“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from the ship…! It is an order! Don’t make any more excuses…! My air rescue crew is there!”)

Spaulding: (Looking around.) No wonder I heard helicopters. (“Where are your rescuers?”)

Di Falco: “My air rescue is now on the prow. Go. There are already bodies….”

Spaulding: Bodies? What bodies? (“How many bodies are there?”)

Di Falco: You should be telling me! Great Caesar’s ghost! (“You are the one who has to tell me how many there are! Christ!”)

Spaulding: This is an outrage, Di Falco. You’re asking me to get my new uniform wet. Do you realize how much the dry cleaner charges these days? Besides, it’s cold and dark. (“Do you realize it is dark here and we can’t see anything?”)

Di Falco: Would you like me to bring you a cup of hot cocoa, Captain? (“And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on the prow of that boat…. Now!”)

Spaulding: What are you worried about, Di Falco? The other rescuers are here. [He puts his arms around two comely female passengers.] I like it fine right here in this lifeboat. (“Commander, I want to go on board but… there are other rescuers.”)

And so on.

Later news reports have revealed that Schettino steered the ship dangerously close to the rocks that eventually sank it as a way of “saluting” a friend on shore. Oh, and that he had been seen drinking and carousing with a beautiful blonde just before the ship started taking on water.

Man. This Schettino character is a bigger clown than Captain Spaulding, Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood, and Dr. Hackenbush put together.


“Now there’s some sad things known to man….”

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