Today’s Quote

June 12, 2017

“Orwell would have despised Trump as a kind of fat, dumb, uneducated oligarch,” Ricks said last month in a podcast produced by the magazine Foreign Policy. “Churchill would  see America as somewhat childish. We occasionally stumble and elect a childish president, and that’s what we’ve done here, but Churchill would also appreciate how robust the American government is. Basically, we’ve had a decapitation strike that we executed ourselves. We no longer have a working presidency. There’s nobody at home, mentally, running the U.S. government. And guess what? It runs pretty well by itself. Probably better. If President Trump were competent, he’d be much more dangerous.”

Thomas E. Ricks, N.Y.T. Book Review, June 11, 2017


Today’s Gag

April 30, 2016

CEO9907:Zaz-BlogClick image to enlarge. To buy reprint and/or other rights for this cartoon, visit my archives at cartoonstock.com, and jantoo.com. You may also have this cartoon reproduced on mugs, t-shirts and other products. Here’s the link for that service: zazzle.com/mugtoons/products

Copyright © 2016 Jim Sizemore.

Three-Minute Memoir

April 3, 2016

-2 Revelation

By Florence Newman

It had been a mistake to go to the Safeway, even though the snowstorm wasn’t due to arrive for another two days. The aisles were already crowded with shoppers stocking up on bread, milk, and toilet paper–the Holy Trinity of disaster preparation everywhere. The stereotype of Baltimoreans is that they panic and rush out to the stores at the first threat of a snowflake, but this time their anxiety was justified: forecasts called for 18-24” of snow over the course of the weekend, with blizzard conditions possible. Still, you’d think that hitting the grocery mid-day, well in advance of the storm, I wouldn’t have had to contend with frantic survivalists. No such luck. My usual route through the store—a pass around the healthy perimeter, with brief forays into the shelves of preservative- and sugar-laden cereals, crackers, packaged dinners, and canned goods—was now an obstacle course of bodies and shopping carts. I navigated my own cart, part stealth bomber, part battering ram, among the rest, collecting provisions, then headed for the self checkout machines, which I use almost exclusively these days because 1) I usually don’t have to wait in line and 2) I like the autonomy of ringing up my own purchases, being in full control of the process (until, of course, the scanner goes out of whack). It never occurred to me that I might have another reason for preferring the machines to human cashiers.

The throng at the front of the store was so thick that it took me a moment to realize, in astonishment, that the two self-checkout lines snaked as far back as the lines for regular checkout. I almost abandoned my errand right there. But I hadn’t invested all that time and effort just to go home empty-handed. I decided to try the “15 items or fewer” lanes: those lines had to be shorter, or at least moving more quickly. Unfortunately, they were also at the opposite side of the store. “Pardon me.” “Excuse me.” “May I cut through?” Finally I reached the express lanes and positioned myself at the end of one of the lines. A woman nearby tapped me on the shoulder and pointed behind her: the line actually ended seven or eight carts back, midway down the aisle. One look at the impenetrable mass of folks waiting single file and folks milling around the aisle shopping and I resigned myself to wheeling my way down the next aisle over, rounding the bend, and joining the queue from behind.

I didn’t remain the last in line for long: a grandmotherly type looking particularly glum took the spot at my back. For a while, we made small talk about the weather. Then she mentioned that her bank had closed early because it had been robbed, leaving her without cash for groceries. The conversation sort of trailed off after that. I turned to face forward again. The young man immediately in front of me had his foot propped on the base of his cart and his head bent over the glowing screen of a smart phone. Every so often, without taking his gaze off the screen, he would give the cart a shove with his forearms, and grandmother and I would shuffle forward a few inches.

Suddenly I noticed a burst of color. It was a bouquet of bright flowers wrapped in cellophane in the child’s seat portion of the cart two spots ahead. The possessor of the cart was a tall woman with a dancer’s posture, graceful and erect, and gold-silver hair that swept up to show a bit of neck above her scarf. (I only saw her from the back, so I can’t describe her face—though I’ll bet it was beautiful.) She wore a dark wool coat, which stood out among the puffy jackets that made the rest of us look like a flock of Pillsbury Dough Boys. Still, I could hardly take my eyes off the bouquet. There’s a blizzard coming, for God’s sake, and this lady is buying flowers! I took in the other contents of her cart—two small whole chickens (or perhaps they were guinea hens), a bag of brown rice, some fresh vegetables. Then I looked down into my own cart: a four-pack of vanilla Frappucinos, two Fuji apples, a box of low fat Triscuits, a jumbo chocolate chunk cookie, and a packet of sugar-free gum (tropical fruit flavor). The necessities of life.

In my imagination, the tall woman sits at a linen-covered table, the flowers tastefully arranged in a vase at its center. Candlelight flickers over the silverware flanking a china plate full of fragrant slices of fowl, steaming brown rice, and roasted vegetables, as outside the frosted window the winter storm rages.

I glanced again at my own cart: what a pathetic scenario it brought to mind. I realized at that moment that the self checkout lane appealed to me not just because it improved my efficiency, not just because it enhanced my autonomy, but also because it shrouded my purchases in privacy. Ahead, the colorful bouquet drifted down the conveyer belt and disappeared into a bag. The clerk rang up the rest of the elegant lady’s elegant items, and soon she too had vanished. The young man in front of me, having pocketed his cell phone, began placing his stuff on the counter. Before long, it would be my turn. I had waited impatiently for a good half hour to reach the head of the line, and now I dreaded the prospect. There was nothing for it but to follow through. The gum, the jumbo cookie, the vanilla Frappucinos went up on the belt to be lifted and swiped over the scanner by the clerk’s beefy hands. “Busy day, huh?” I said. “Everybody’s getting ready for the snow,” I said. I was babbling, trying to distract the clerk from the hodgepodge of barely-comestibles I’d offered up for inspection. It turned out that my subterfuge was unnecessary: the clerk hardly glanced at what he was ringing up. Although his apron-clad torso remained turned toward me, he was looking over his shoulder at the other lanes teaming with other customers. I decided to take a risk: “Funny the kinds of things people buy during an emergency.” For a few seconds, the clerk faced my way, then his attention was again elsewhere. “We see it all,” he murmured. “Believe me, we see it all.”

FloHdshot2Florence Newman is professor emerita at Towson University, where she taught in the English Department for 27 years.  A specialist in Middle English literature, she has published and delivered conference papers on Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and medieval women writers.  She grew up in Blacksburg, Va., reading books in her parents’ library and eating strawberries from her grandfather’s garden.  She currently lives with her husband in Towson, Md., escapes occasionally to their farm on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and travels farther afield when time, energy, and finances permit.

Copyright © 2016, Florence Newman

Today’s Gag

January 29, 2016

1601:Water-BlogTo buy reprint and/or other rights for this cartoon, visit my archives at cartoonstock.com, and jantoo.com. You may also have this cartoon reproduced on mugs, t-shirts and other products. Here’s the link: zazzle.com/mugtoons/products

Copyright © 2016 Jim Sizemore.
Thanks to Florence Newman for this cartoon idea.

Today’s Poem

December 26, 2015

Bonfire-2:b&w

Solstice

By Florence Newman

All year we’ve banked the embers of our rage

and gathered brittle bitterness and grief,

stacked cords of hardened sorrows high to feed

the bonfire built against the darkening days.

Tonight a fiery feast at last repays

our abstinence; upon the pyre we heave

our heartache, the sacrifice we bleed,

bottomless libation, offering to the blaze.

Cast in the broken hopes, the stifled sighs,

recriminations, doubts, defeat, despair,

the fruit of many seasons, grimly grown.

Fill up the void with self-deceit and lies,

with unshed tears, unspoken pain and care,

and beat the drum until the very depths resound.

Copyright © 2015 Florence Newman.

Today’s Gag

December 20, 2015

Jolly:Blog

To buy reprint and/or other rights for this cartoon, visit my archives at cartoonstock.com, and jantoo.com. You may also have this cartoon reproduced on mugs, t-shirts and other products. Here’s the link: zazzle.com/mugtoons/products

Copyright © 2015 Jim Sizemore.

Today’s Quotes

October 5, 2015

BookCover220From note 16, Chapter III: American Scripture, Making the Declaration of Independence, by Pauline Maier

“With regard to the values and educational methods of the eighteenth century, note that Jefferson himself kept a ‘Commonplace Book.’ Its pedagogical purpose was suggested by Jefferson’s teacher, the Rev. James Maury, who instructed his own son to ‘reflect, and remark on, and digest what you read,’ and to dwell on any remarkable beauties of diction, justness or sublimity of sentiment, or masterly strokes of true wit which may occur in the course of your reading.”

From note 97, Chapter IV: American Scripture, Making the Declaration of Independence, by Pauline Maier

“At Chicago, Lincoln . . . said that the argument that the principles of the Declaration of Independence do not apply to blacks was identical to ‘the pauline-maierarguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class.’ Douglas’s argument was like that of ‘the same old serpent’ who says ‘you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn it whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it all the same old serpent . . . .”