MUNCIE, Indiana – Experts have issued a call for scientists to establish a clear definition of “habitable planets” to make the search easier. They recommend researchers to take a conservative approach when looking for these planets.
“We want to clearly define what we are wasting our time looking for,” said one of the experts referenced above.
In related news,/after 10 years and at a cost of six million dollars, NASA scientists have finally completed the menu that will regulate what astronauts eat during a space voyage from earth to Mars that will never happen.
It is that time of year again. I post this story every November as we North Americans get closer to our Thanksgiving feast – which invariably features a big roasted turkey.
My friends, I give you…
The Somber Turkey
Once upon a time, outside of the Kingdom of Woodland, east of Winters, in the Land of California, there lived a happy turkey farmer named Hannigan. He loved raising turkeys, killing them, and selling them – in part or in whole – to clients all over California – where turkey eating was a big thing, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
On Hannigan’s turkey farm lived a happy turkey named Norman. Norman was the happiest and most contented turkey the world had ever known because he was the biggest turkey anyone had ever seen. Farmer Hannigan often brought other humans to marvel at Norman’s size and physical beauty.
“That’s gonna be some big turkey,” the human visitors would always say.
“Yep,” Farmer Hannigan would always reply.
Farmer Hannigan was happy, which made Norman happy. Norman was proud of the fact that he was so big and fat with lots of white meat, whatever that was.
The other turkeys knew how Norman felt, because he was always bragging about himself.
“I’m gonna be some big turkey!” he would say.
The other turkeys got fed up with Norman’s bragging. One day Leonardo decided to do something about it.
Leonardo was not an especially big or happy turkey. Not being big didn’t make Leonardo unhappy. He could give a rat’s ass about how big he was. He didn’t buy into that neo-fascist farmcentric value system. Leonardo was a fiery-eyed revolutionary with a strong interest in pragmatic Marxism.
“You are one fine, big turkey,” Leonardo said to Norman one day.
“Yes, I am,” Norman preened.
“You know what they’re going to do to you because you’re so big?” Leonardo asked.
“Admire me,” Norman said, meaning it.
“Sure they are. They’re going to admire how good you taste,” Leonardo said.
“I beg your pardon?” Norman asked.
“They’re going to eat you, buddy. In a couple of months they’re going to catch you, kill you, cut off your head, pull out all of your feathers and your internal organs, cook you and eat you, and they’re going to pick you first because you’re so big. Lots of white meat.”
“Oh, my god!” Norman said. “They’re going to eat me!”
“You mean you didn’t know?”
“Everyone else knows. Why do you think that so many turkeys die while they’re drinking water?”
“Because they forget to breath?” Norman suggested.
Leonardo laughed. “You believe that? It’s a lie invented by the Man. Have you ever forgotten to breath?”
“Of course not. You got to be really stupid to forget to breath.”
“But we are pretty stupid.”
“No we’re not. That’s just a lie to keep us down, to ruin our self esteem so we will be easy to exploit and so we won’t cause any trouble. I’ll tell you why some turkeys die drinking water. Depression. They’re depressed. Why else do you think those other “stupid” things happen? Why do you think some turkeys kill themselves by opening their throats in the rain and drowning? Why do you think hens sit on their eggs so hard they break the eggs?”
“Oh my god, they’re killing their babies,” Norman said, in horror.
“Right. They know what’s in store and they can’t take it. Would you want someone to eat your babies?”
“No,” Norman said. “What can I do?” he asked, whispering in abject terror.
“Maybe I can get you out of here,” Leonardo said. “On the outside there is an underground network of birds and humans who can take you to a place where you will be free.”
“Okay I’ll see what I can do.”
Time went by. Leonardo often spoke with Norman, teaching the bigger bird the truth about the world, teaching him hatred for the seemingly unbreakable power structure that doomed him and his race to be imprisoned, enslaved, slaughtered and devoured by killer apes.
“But remember,” Leonardo cautioned one night. “Not all humans are ravenous cannibals. Some are good, and eat only plants and bugs. These are the ones that help some of us get away.”
“How?” Norman asked in the star lit darkness.
“Every now and then there is a condition called Dark of the Moon, when there is no moon out and the darkness is as total as it can be. During this time, a human jumps the fence and opens a big box. As many of us run in as we can. We call it the Box of Freedom.”
“Just one box?”
“Yes, one box, but it is a big box, and it is better that some of us escape to keep the flames of hope burning.”
“I hope we both make it, brother,” Norman said.
“Me too, brother. Me too.”
Then came the Dark of the Moon. The turkeys were all quiet, making sure that there was no reason for Farmer Hannigan to investigate.
Suddenly the man with the box appeared. He placed a big box on the ground and opened the side.
“This is it, brother!” Leonardo said, running. Norman followed.
Leonardo made it into the box. Norman didn’t get in before the man closed the box.
“Don’t worry, brother!” Leonardo cried from inside the box. “I’ll be waiting for you in paradise!”
But it didn’t happen. The friendly human with the big box didn’t come back. And Thanksgiving approached. Leonardo was right – they came for Norman first.
Farmer Hannigan and his employees placed Norman in a big wooden crate built out of slats so that Norman could see and breathe. Then Norman was carried to a truck, to an airport, into the belly of a jet, into another truck, and onto a large lawn next to a big white house. Eventually, humans came to set up a lectern, chairs and cameras. More humans came. Some talked at the lectern in front of the crowd.
And then Norman’s cage was opened and gentle hands removed him from the crate.
“My god,” one human said. “This had got to be the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s why the President is getting it,” another human said, not trying to make a joke.
Norman was brought to the front of the crowd. One human in a black suit made a short speech to another man, also standing in front of the crowd. Humans in the audience took pictures with still and video cameras.
And then Norman did it. He thrust out his neck and tried to bite the man who wasn’t giving the speech. Norman knew that he just couldn’t go gently into that good night.
The man giving the speech reached out, grabbed Norman’s long neck and choked Norman. Other humans helped stuff Norman back into the crate.
“That is one feisty bird,” the President quipped, and the reporters laughed.
In those days it was customary for the President to display generosity, and pardon the White House Thanksgiving turkey. So Norman was taken to a farm in Virginia, where he lived for the rest of his natural days.
Leonardo was not so lucky. He ended up as dinner for the man with the big box, who was nothing more than a thief who just couldn’t get over how stupid those turkeys were and how they would be so quite and just waddle into the box, as if they wanted to be eaten.
Which was, from the thief’s point of view, always possible. After all, turkeys are so stupid.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
MUNCIE, Indiana – Officials at Scotland Yard revealed that the two men who allegedly “enslaved” three women were from India and Tanzania and that the incident is the result of a cultural misunderstanding.
“They thought they had legally purchased these women,” explained Sgt. Nigel Himpple of Scotland Yard.
“We were cheated. We want our money back.” said one of the suspects identified currently as “Bruce” due to privacy considerations. “How were we to know women cannot be bought and sold freely? What kind of madhouse is this, where women are treated like men? Do you also give rights to your goats? Do you let them vote? Do you actually pay them for their labor?” Bruce asked in disgust.
“It is very common in many parts of the world for men to acquire women through marriage or direct purchase – there really is very little difference – and put them to work,” said Professor Rhappee Kanasta, an expert in cultural differences. ”In exchange for their honest labor they are clothed, fed and they are not beaten. It is a win-win arrangement.”
Yesterday I flew to Los Angeles for a hearing downtown. After that, I met my nephew, Patrick, at Chaya on Flower Street for an early dinner. I spent the night in a hotel, and now I am killing time waiting for my flight back home.
When I kill time in Los Angeles, I do it driving, and when that happens I inevitably end up in Santa Monica.
This morning I stopped at Fromin’s Deli on Wilshire, my favorite deli in Los Angeles (sorry Canter’s and Art’s) for a smoked whitefish and lox bagel and a cup of good coffee.
I felt at home and at peace, foregoing my cell phone to look at the people around me. Very old people, meeting in groups of friends, sitting with family. Very young children, filling the air with high-pitched staccato sounds that only very young children can make, totally ignored by the other customers and lost in the white noise murmur of many people talking. I watched the staff greeting regular patrons and leading them to the table or booth of their choice. I sat for a very long time watching and listening, with no one rushing me or bothering me other than to quietly refill my coffee cup. I breathed a deep, deep sigh and left.
I drove west on Wilshire with no destination in mind. On impulse I turned left on 26th Street, driving north, turning left on Montana Avenue to drive west down the hill. I drove slowly, no one around me in a hurry, every driver polite, stopping so old people, young people, new families with their infants, couples and singles out for a stroll, could cross the street in safety.
I looked for places familiar to me, most of which were gone, replaced by a sparkling explosion of shops, restaurants and cafe’s, all crowded, with those waiting outside for a table talking and laughing, often with paper cups of coffee in hand. Not the same as it was, but not bad either. Not bad at all.
And around it all, on every corner, along every street, in front of every apartment complex and every home I saw plants and trees, as if the entire city was an enormous garden. I suddenly remembered walking those same streets as a teenager intoxicated from the scent of night blooming flowers, of jasmine and natal plum.
Montana ends at Ocean Avenue. I turned left, traveling south along Palisades Park, a long, thin, beautiful place at the edge of the sudden bluff overlooking the Pacific.
I saw people, so many people, running, strolling, jogging, lifting weights, performing group exercises. Old people, young people, black people, white people, Latino people, asian people, gay people, rich people, poor people – all enjoying a beautiful, beautiful early Saturday afternoon. Together.
I turned left on Santa Monica Blvd., driving up to 20th, turning left, then up to Montana again. And here I sit in the quite of the Santa Monica Library, Montana Branch, typing this. Because I had to.
This is my home. This is my America. Not the America of racism and hate. Not the America that wants to preserve the right of employers and landlords to openly discriminate against LGBT people. Not the America that is certain our President was born in Kenya. Not the America that wants everyone armed, even crazy people.
I know that America. I’ve been there. I’ve witnessed the dark madness that is spreading outward from the American Heartland. I’ve seen the anger and fear. I’ve seen the itchy trigger fingers waiting for an excuse to use a high powered automatic weapon to kill someone, not for protection – which is a legitimate concern – but for sport, disguised as the desire to live free.
To them – those lost Christians who have forgotten the love, acceptance and nonjudgmental forgiveness that Jesus taught, replacing it with hate, fear and mindless dogma that they can barely understand but wrap themselves within nevertheless – the happiness and peace I see here in Santa Monica is wrong, is evil, and must be replaced with inequality, racial segregation, legal discrimination, social stratification that engenders a desperate labor pool, sickness and ignorance (in Texas, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was booed when he told an audience that the moon didn’t make any light, that all of the light we see from the moon is reflected sunlight. They booed him for disagreeing with their ignorant fantasy and for telling them a truth they didn’t want to hear. If you understand why they didn’t want to hear it you will understand the dark madness that is eating away at the heart and soul of my country).
But this is my home. This is my America. That other America is a foreign, ugly nightmare I will not accept. All around me, right here, is the America I am fighting for. It is the America I want everyone to join. Everyone. I want an America where more and more – not less and less – people can enjoy what I see around me in good health and long life with the goal of having everyone join. Everyone. I realize it is probably impossible to achieve, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?
Well, that’t it. Time to pack up my little office, give my table space to some retired old man and his wife so they can read the newspaper together.
I’ve got a couple more hours to kill. Maybe I’ll drive up Pico to the Apple Pan for a hickory burger and a piece of pie.
Yep. That is exactly what I am going to do.
I love LA.
. . . .