Sunday, May 29, 2011

Human Fish. Yummy.

As a faux member of the Advisory Committee reporting to the FDA I felt it was my duty to inform them that, while genetically engineered salmon appears to be safe, more testing would be needed before I, in good conscience, could approve it.
     "When you're dealing with the public's safety it's better to err on the side of caution.  Do the math,"  I insisted.  "Do the math."
     AquaBounty Technologies, the developer of the country's first would-be genetically engineered food animal, made it clear to me that they were "unpleased" with my stipulation, and offered to give me a personal tour of their facilities.  When I declined, they also made it clear to me that I did not have a choice.
     I must admit, I was very impressed with what I saw when I got there.  The farm looked very clean and state-of-the-art.
     "See that," my guide pointed to a randomly selected room.  "We have computers."
     "And who's that?"  I asked, pointing past the computers to a man trying to stay hidden behind some poorly hung drapes.
     "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains," I was instructed.
     I noticed that the male workers were all tall, muscular, and very good-looking.  I also noticed that the women all had humongous breasts.  What were the odds of that?  I wanted to shake the hand of the Personnel Manager, but instead settled for shaking the hand of the employee who had come to welcome me to the facility.  He shook my hand, pinned an "I Eat Fish" button on my lapel, and still had one hand left over to point me in the direction he wanted us to go in.  Curiouser and curiouser.
     "What makes our salmon so safe is that they are farmed, not wild-caught."
     "Doesn't farmed salmon contain higher levels of PCBs, dioxins, and pesticide residues?  Aren't they also treated with antibiotics, fungicides, and parasiticides?"
     My guide blinked his one eye furiously.  "What's your point?"
     He led me to one of a dozen water tanks used to farm the fish.  As I passed a window I glanced outside and saw an employee walking a giant chicken on a leash.  It was the size of an elephant.
     "That's a big chicken," I said to myself.
     I looked over the side of the spawning-tank.  In it were hundreds, maybe thousands, of these genetically altered fish.  One of them made eye contact with me, and I was astonished by how human its eyes looked.  In the background, sounding somewhere far away, my guide was still talking.
     "...salmon DNA mixed with human DNA.  And not just any DNA, but baby DNA.  That's what makes them so delicious.  They've received the Dr. Mengele Seal of Approval.  Do the math," he kept insiting.  "Do the math."
     The fish that I had made eye contact with began to swim gingerly toward me.  What I remember most was how sad its eyes looked.  It poked its head out of the water, and maybe it was just the water it was swimming in, but it looked as if it were crying.  Then it mouthed the words:  "Help me.  Heelp meee."  I did the math.
     And then I ran.


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gene Weingarten (Part Two)

     Ring!  Ring!
     "Hello?"
     "Why, Mr. Weingarten, what a pleasure.  I was afraid you'd be on vacation."
     "I was.  I just got back.  Your timing is very fortunate.  You caught me just before I leave on my next one."
     "The reason I'm calling is because I found your latest column to be very funny.  You know, the one where you make fun of Republicans.  I know that doesn't narrow it down much, but just the same I found it very amusing.  If you'll indulge me I was hoping to ask you a few questions from a devil's advocate point of view."
     "Are you a Republican?"
     "I'm a conservative."
     "That's even worse, because a Republican can still be liberal--just look at John McCain--but a conservative is the proverbial tiger that won't change it's stripes.  But, sure, I'd be happy to answer a few questions.  Ask away."
     "You mentioned Barack Obama in your column.  I was just curious, are you for or against the President's Jobs Bill?"
     "I'm for it, of course."
     Of course.  And where's the government going to get the money to pay for it?"
     "Uh..."
     "Yeah, that's what I thought.  How about the President's almost 3,000 page Health Care Reform Bill that nobody's read or understands.  Are you for it or against it?"
     "I was proudly for it when it was first proposed by Hilary Clinton in the 90's during her husband's first term in office, and I'm proudly for it now."
     "And were you proudly for it when President Richard Nixon tried to pass a similar bill that--had it passed--would have guaranteed all Americans health insurance?"
     "Of course not.  Richard Nixon was a Republican."
     "And if Obama's Health Care Bill passes, where is the government going to get the trillions of dollars it will take to pay for it and for all the additional pork and beans that are attached to it?"
     "Uh..."
     "Yeah, that's what I thought.  Let me ask you a final question:  where does the government get the money to do anything?"
     "By raising taxes, of course."
     "That's right, by raising taxes.  In other words, it takes more and more money from more and more people, and it does less and less with it.  Kind of like my ex-wife.  Now what do you think higher taxes will do to an already ailing economy?"
     "Uh..."
     "Yeah, that's what I thought."

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gene Weingarten (Part One)

The following is a faux conversation I had with Gene Weingarten whose original columns appear weekly in the El Paso Times.  That is, when he's not on vacation.
     "Mr. Weingarten--if that really is your name--what a nice little scam you have."
     "What do you mean?"
     "I couldn't help but notice that when you're on vacation the American public has to endure regurgitations of your old columns.  Pardon me, but isn't it your job to write a single column just once a week?"
     "Why, yes it is."
     "In that case, do you really find it necessary to take a vacation when, in fact, your whole life's a vacation?"
     "Well, that's not really fair, Mr. Duchene.  I mean, I do a lot of other stuff besides write one column a week."
     "Judging by your picture, Mr. Weingarten--if that really is your name--I would guess that getting a haircut and going on a diet is not on the list of 'stuff' that you do."
     "Hey, now that really isn't fair.  The camera adds five pounds."
     "And just how many cameras were pointing at you when that picture was taken?"
     "I'll ignore that.  Let me educate you, Mr. Duchene, writing a column is hard work.  There are telephone calls I have to make.  People I have to interview.  Individual letters that have to be typed out on my keyboard one by one.  Papers I have to pick up.  Papers I have to put back down.  Trust me, it's hard, hard work."
     "C'mon, Mr. Weingarten--if that really is your name--you can lie to your readers, but don't lie to me.  I've only been in front of my typewriter now for five minutes and I've easily churned out over 300 words, and the columns you write aren't very different than what I'm doing now.  I just string a few words together, throw in a little dialogue from a telephone interview I supposedly made, and there you have it:  a column."
     "It's not the quantity of the words you write, sir.  It's the quality of the words."
     "I'd say it's not the quality of the words, since I've yet to find any, but it's actually the quantity of the columns that you consistantly fail to produce.  Come on now, once or twice a year you can't sit an extra twenty minutes in front of your computer and squeeze out an additional column or two, so that when you go on vacation we don't have to dine on last year's holiday turkey?  It's not like you have a real job."
     "That's it.  I don't have to take this from you.  I'm leaving."
     "On another vacation?"
     "Well... now that you mention it."


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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Animal House Revisited (2010 Elections)

To say the least, I was a bit surprised when the El Paso Times' editor, Chris Lopez, greeted me wearing a toga, a tie, and a corona civica.  It was November 2nd, and he had invited me to join the staff in their coverage of the election.
     The newsroom was filled with men and women all dressed in togas and dancing wildly.  I ducked as a bottle of beer flew past my head and shattered against the door behind me.  I felt like I was in college again.  I looked over at the band.  Ramon Renteria was standing next to them with a shot of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a rolled taco from Chico's in the other.  He was singing into the taco as if it was a micro-phone.  Sunny Ozuna and his band were playing a corrida-influenced version of the classic Isley Brothers' song Shout.  37 minutes later they were still playing it.  A mountain of empty kegs filled one corner.  Old bathroom records were undoubtedly being broken.
     I heard an engine roar in the distance.  It grew louder.  Charles Edgrun came bursting through the front door in his Harley-Davidson.  His hair was greased back into a ducktail, Fonzie-style.  He had his dog Mikey on his lap.  Mikey had on a pair of Ray-Bans and was busy licking his paws, oblivious to the shenanigans around him, as if this was an everyday occurance.  Maybe it was.  Edgren grabbed a long-neck from a barrel filled with ice and beer.  He broke off the neck against the edge of a desk, and poured the frothy liquid down his throat.  With a rebel yell he aimed his hog out the door and was never heard from again.
     I walked over to the stairwell where I saw a group of mature ladies surrounding Mayor John Cook.  He was sitting on the forth step and playing his guitar. 
     "I gave my love a cherry, it had no stone..." he sang.  The women all swooned, and looked at him adoringly.  Joe Muench, not so much.  He happened to be walking down the stairs right then.  He sniffed the air as if he had stepped in something, grabbed the guitar out of the Mayor's hands, and smashed it against the wall.  It splintered into a thousand pieces.  Everybody looked at Joe in shock.
     "Sorry," Joe said, sheepishly, and continued down the stairs.
     Chris Lopez got on the make-shift stage.  The band had just begun playing Louie, Louie.  Chris held up his hands, and the room quieted down.
     "It's official, guys," he announced.  "The Democrats have lost so bad even the Dallas Cowboys are laughing at them.  You know what that means, don't you?"
     Everybody yelled at once.
     "ROAD TRIP!"
   
   
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

El Paso's Identity Crisis

I've been thinking about our city's identity crisis recently, and--like everyone who lives here--I can tell you why something's wrong, but I can't tell you how to make it right.
     It's always easy to criticize someone else's hard work, so that's exactly what I'll do.  What am I talking about?  I'm talking about El Paso's failure to find a decent slogan.
     I can't say that I love our city's current slogan.  I can't even say that I like it.  What I can say with any certainty is that I hate it.  Yes, I do.  I hate it.
     Not because it isn't a good slogan, but because we paid such good money for such bad results.  I took a poll, and the only person who liked our slogan was the person who wrote it. 
     Could I do a better job?
     Probably not, but I'd like to try.
 

     El Paso!  Better Than A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick!  I think this slogan has something positive to say about our city.  Just what, I'm not sure, but at least it's coming out on top in some sort of comparison.
 

     El Paso!  You Don't Know, You Don't Wanna Know!  This slogan gives our city a sense of mystery and intrigue.  What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but here in El Paso you'd better mind your P's and Q's.
 

     El Paso!  You'll Look Thin By Comparison!  A certain men's health magazine called us the fattest city in the nation.  That's not insulting, that's a marketing opportunity.
 

     El Paso!  Anywhere But Here!  I got the idea for this slogan by talking with all my friends and relatives who've moved to California.  They seem to think that being stuck in traffic for hours on your way to an over-priced amusement park so you can wait in line for half a day to ride one over-rated ride is some sort of promise land.  I beg to differ.
     (No, really.  I'm begging you.  Please let me differ.)
 

     El Paso!  Wait 'Till Your Dad Gets Home!  I don't know if this qualifies as a slogan.  I just know that me and my friends heard a lot of it growing up.
 

     El Paso!  It's On Your Way To Somewhere Else!  Just leave your money, and get the heck out of our town.
 

     El Paso!  If You Pick It, It'll Never Heal!  While this may fail as a slogan, it certainly is good advice.
 

     El Paso!  The Best Elected Officials Money Can Buy!  This really isn't true or fair, but I couldn't resist.
 

     El Paso!  The City With An Exclamation Point At The End Of Its Name!  I think this is pretty much self-explanatory.
 

     Now that I know how hard it is to come up with a good slogan, I guess El Paso's current one doesn't seem so bad after all.
 
 


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Monday, May 16, 2011

Osama, Obama, & Me

On the day after Osama bin Laden was brought to justice I ran into Vince McMahon, the Head Hookah of the WWE, at Tommy Burgers.  It's my favorite place to eat in Washington DC.  I was there being debriefed by the CIA.  It went quickly.  Pakistan.  "I wasn't there."  Bin Laden.  "Never heard of him."
     Vince was in Viet Nam with me, but he was there as a conscientious objector.  Why wasn't he conscientiously objecting from the United States?
     "Because," he once explained to me, "who's gonna notice one more conscientious objector in a country filled with conscientious objectors?"
     Even back then McMahon knew how to shine the spotlight on himself.  What I remember most about Vince was that he couldn't wait to get out of Viet Nam.
     "Vince, I haven't seen you since the fall of Saigon."
     "Yeah, I couldn't wait to get outta 'Nam."  See?  I told you.
     "So what brings you to Washington?"
     He chuckled.  I knew I was going to get an honest answer from him, because McMahon's an honest man.  He'll cheat you out of millions, but he'll be upfront about it.
     "I'm here to write the script for the killing of bin Laden," he said, simply.
     "Is that a fact?" I answered, not quite meeting his eyes.  It was more a statement than a question.
     "What, did you think our government was going to release the true story?  Do we even know what the true story is?  No, the story is gonna be so fake even Hulk Hogan will be laughing at it.  Just like the budget negotiations.  One hundred billion in cuts?  Please, there was no way that was gonna happen.  Defunding Planned Parenthood?  What, and offend half the voters?"
     "The women?"
     "No, the men!  Can you imagine the cost in child support payments without Planned Parenthood?  Why, in Congress alone..."  He paused, and then got back on track.  "The outcome of the budget negotiations couldn't have been more predetermined than if it had been foretold by Nostradumas."
     "So what's the story on bin Laden?"
     "Nobody can make up their minds.  He's killed in a firefight.  He's not killed in a firefight.  He uses his wife as a shield.  He doesn't use his wife as a shield.  He dies from a bullet to the head.  He dies choking on a ham sandwich while singing California Dreaming.  We're all over the place." 
     His cell phone went off. 
     "Oh, oh," he said, reading his text message.
     "What's up?"
     "I've gotta go.  It's from Obama.  He wants me to help him explain how higher taxes and six dollar a gallon gasoline will be good for the economy."
     He looked at me and I could almost swear he was sincere.
     "Sometimes," he said, wistfully, "I wish I was back in 'Nam."
 

Is Osama bin Laden Really Dead?  Find Out In El Paso!
 
 
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wit & Wisdom of Adolph Hitler* (Part One)

*Sorry.  I've got nothing.


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President Obama's El Paso Visit

I must admit it was very thoughtful of President Barack Obama--the man who once saved my life in 'Nam--to fly all the way to El Paso, Texas just to wish me a Happy Birthday.  The original plan was to sneak off and spend a few days gambling at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, but, with the recent criticism of him taking too many vacations and flying to too many fund-raisers, he had to make it look like he was in town for a legitimate reason.
     He came to town as part of his "I Killed bin Laden" tour, and brought Little Joe Y la Familia as his opening act. 
     "Just make sure you don't bring the wife and kids," I told him.
     So, while the President said his speeches, shook his hands, and kissed his babies, I was led aboard Air Force One.  The plan was to play a game or two of one-on-one on the full-sized basketball court on the plane, and, after that, we were going to take a dip in the Olympic-sized swimming pool.
     "Maybe next time we can play tennis or some golf," Obama suggested.
     That Air Force One.  It's bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, and it looks huge on the outside.  When I asked him how they were able to fit it all in, Obama admitted that they used the alien technology they found in the crashed spacecrafts in Roswell. 
     "Just don't tell anyone," he cautioned me.  This was during his first year in office when we took Air Force One out for a victory spin.
     "Honey, I'm going out for a pack of cigarettes," he yelled upstairs to his wife, and we were gone before she could stop yelling at the help.  We ended up at Chico's Tacos for a double order and some fries.  Obama laughed at the way they used hamburger buns for their hot dogs.
     "But it's a good idea," he admitted.
     When his presidential duties were over, and he finally made it back to Air Force One, I couldn't help but notice that he looked older.  Tired.  His hair noticeably grayer.  Veins bulging in his temples.  A few stray hairs poking out of his ears.
     "You look worse than the economy," I joked.
     "It's this constant criticism of everything I do.  It's really wearing on me."
     "How so?" I asked.  I wasn't particularly interested, but the sooner he vented the sooner we'd get to the fun stuff.
     "It's just that I get blamed for everything!  Doesn't everybody know that all this bad news began with George Bush?  The economy?  George Bush.  The wars in the Middle East?  George Bush.  3D movies?  That was George Bush, too, but it's all sticking to me like death on bin Laden."
     "George Bush?"
     "Nah, that one was strickly me, baby!"  He pasued, and grew thoughtful again.  "George Bush had it easy compared to me.  No one ever criticized him for anything."  He looked at his watch.  "I hate to cut our visit short, but I've got to go."
     "Why's that?"
     "It's that George Bush, man.  It's all George Bush."
 


El Paso!  The Barack Obama Of Cities!
 
 
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Suing McDonald's

Whatever happened to frivolous lawsuits?
     One day, they were all over the news, and the next they were gone faster than my ex-wife at a Motley Crew concert.
     I have a theory. Do you want to hear what it is? Of course you do. That’s because you show such good judgement. My theory is this: it’s the Democrats.
     After being in power for so long, they’ve pretty much given the kind of people who like to sue everything they’ve asked for and more. It will be different by the time this is published, but right now Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting over who can hand out freebies the fastest.
     This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m at an age where I’m tired of working and am looking forward to the government supporting me for a change.
     I remember when, just a few years back, a California mother of two and the Center for Absconding with Public Funds were suing McDonald's Corp. claiming that the fast-food chain deliberately used toys to turn innocent children into brainwashed junk-food junkies.
     "It's all a part of a sophisticated, high-tech marketing scheme that's designed to put McDonald's between me and my daughters," the California mother of two said at a news conference I just happened to be at.
     I saw her youngest daughter, clearly touched, raise her arms for a hug.
     "I love you, mommy," she said.
     "Shaddup!" the mother of two yelled at her one, and then turned her attention back to the reporters. She batted her eyes coyly. "Besides, I could really use the money."
     While McDonald's was facing intense scrutiny for including toys with certain purchases, they were quick to point out that it was possible to order their Happy Meals with healthier selections, such as apple slices generously slathered with tasty preservatives instead of their delicious fries, or a synthetic milk-like substance instead of a sweet soda.
     "Our employees are only too happy to accommodate our valued customers if they specifically request the healthier foods," the founder of McDonald's, Ray Kroc, said. He clearly felt this matter was important enough to come back from the dead for.
     I could see that this only made the California mother of two angrier.
     "You mean now I have to 'specifically request' healthier food items? That's just too much of a bother. Why can't the McDonald's employees be trained to already know what I want? And what I want is for McDonald's to stop coming between me and my family."
     "I love you, mommy!"
     "Shaddup!" the California mother of two shrieked lovingly at her most precious of possessions. Realizing what she had done, she quickly turned her head to smile demurely at the reporters. "Besides,” she cooed, “I could really use the money."
     Her lawyers, who filed the lawsuit in San Francisco's state court (which, incidentally, is an excellent city for the southwest's poor, homeless, and mentally ill to move to due to the generosity of their welfare system and the accessibility of their free health care), said: "We ask the court to bar McDonald's from enticing children like fast-food pedophiles with their toys. We do not seek damages.  Not even in the amount of a single dollar."
     "What?!" The California mother of two jumped up furiously, her eyes wide with rage. "No money? But you told me..."
     "Relax,” one of her attorneys cautioned her. “We don't have a Big Mac’s chance on Rosie O’Donnell’s dinner table of winning this lawsuit, but ever since that woman won over three million dollars from them for being served the hot coffee she ordered and then having the good sense to spill it on herself, we're certain McDonald's will settle out of court and that's where you'll get your money."
     "Well… I could always use the money,” the California mother confirmed. “After all, I’m only doing it for my children."
     “You’re the best mommy in the whole world,” her little girl said, proudly.
     “Now, honey,” the mother said, gently, “didn’t I already tell you to shut up?”
   
                                          Frivolous Lawsuits?  Not In El Paso, Baby!
 
   
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Death Of Osama bin Laden

I've been listening to a lot of this "ding-dong bin Laden's dead!" news coverage because, well, what choice do I have?  The news is like a pit bull.  When it gets its teeth into the neck of a news story it doesn't let go until the story's as cold and dead as Charton Heston's gun-holding hands.
     Conservative pundits, such as Rush Limbo and Bill O'Really, grudgingly gave President Barack Obama, the man who once saved my life in 'Nam, credit, but with a "but" so big it could be one of the Kardashian sisters.
     "Obama gave the okay," to paraphrase one, "BUT the machine was already in place to take bin Laden down."
     "It happened on Obama's watch," to paraphrase another, "BUT he's only benefiting from what President Bush had already done."
     However, the point of view I found most amusing was the one that speculated that bin Laden had already been dead for several years, and had been kept in cold storage until the time he could be brought out to score political brownie points.
     Alex Jones, best known for being the only man more paranoid than Art Bell, presented this grand conspiracy on his radio program, and supported it by quoting people so obscure that when you google them, even Google replies:  "Who the heck is that?"
     Personally, I believe that bin Laden was taken alive.  I called up FBI special agent Fox Mulder to get his take on my theory.
     "Fox?  What kind of a name is that?"  I asked him.
     "It's my given name," he answered.
     "Give it back."
     I have to laugh at all the various sordid conspiracies.  The same shadow government that successfully assassinated JFK couldn't "take care of" the one minimum wage security guard at the Watergate Hotel who started the falling dominoes that ended with the resignation of President Nixon?
     President Clinton had a lot of suspicious "suicides" tied to his political career, but he couldn't shut the pie-hole of the chubby intern in the dirty blue dress who almost brought down his presidency?
     Conspiracy theorists always bring up why neither black box in either hi-jacked plane on 9-1-1 was ever found.  My argument would be that if The Illuminati could bring down the Twin Towers in New York, couldn't they have easily fabricated a counterfeit black box that would confirm their "official" story?  Also, if President Bush or our own Government was behind this, then don't you think they could have "arranged" to have Weapons of Mass Destruction "found" in Iraq?  And what's with all these "quotation" marks?
     So, if Osama bin Laden was indeed frozen somewhere with Ted Williams and Walt Disney, why didn't Bush use it to his own advantage?  He could have ended his presidency on a high note.  No, my friends, there are no conspiracies.
     And I'm not just saying that because there's a gun pointed at my head.
 


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