Interview with Reduced Shakespeare Company

May 18, 2017 — I probably didn’t post this link last year, when the event happened. I was pretty out-to-lunch last year for a lot of reasons, and many simple things and deadlines fell through the cracks.

Anyway, below is the link to a very good conversation I had with my friend Austin Tichenor, one of the brains behind the Reduced Shakespeare Company. We touch on political correctness, of course, and comedy and codpieces and everything that makes life worthwhile. Enjoy!

Episode 499. On Political Correctness

Acknowledging Historic Milestones

April 18, 2017 — Over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox manned an outfield with three players named Garcia. They aren’t related, nor even from the same country,  but they have broken through the invisible barrier that kept guys with the same name from filling a complete outfield. Our hats are off to them. From Bardball, of course:

Three Matching Sox

The game’s been built of 3s
Since, like, eternity.
3 outs, 3 strikes,
3 bases and the like

Now add to these trios
Garcias who with brio
Manned the grass for the Hose.
Unlike the real bros

Matty, Felipe and Jesus–
The splendid Alous–
These Garcias don’t own
Similar chromosomes

But never in history
Has an outfield had 3
Confused when they hear
“Hey! Garcia! Get over here!”

 

Bob Dylan and Bardball, Part 2

April 15, 2017 — Our favorite Nobel Laureate is back with another touching ode on Bardball.  Maybe he should hang out with the guys in the Baseball Project and get some recording done! (This one was written with my friend, Jim Siergey.)

Bob Dylan’s 2017 Forecast: “I Shall Be Released”

They say ev’ryone can be replaced
Yet every lefty is still here
So I try to play second base
Or third or short or anywhere

. I only bat .190
. So my chances do decrease
. Any day now, any day now
. I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection
They say you keep your eyes on that ball
The marketing guys aren’t my rooting section
My agent won’t return my calls

. I’m in the B-game lineup
. Starting to feel it’s just a tease
. Any day now, any day now,
. I shall be released

Standing next to me around the cage
Is a stud too young to buy a beer
He wants to gain the wisdom that comes with age
But I just want to play another year

. I see the rookies rise up
. Big potential, play for cheap
. Any day now, any day now,
. I shall be released

 

Bob Dylan and Bardball

March 27, 2017–All through spring training, it’s a Dylan Festival at Bardball. If you didn’t know the Nobel Laureate is a baseball fan — and I have no idea myself — you can believe it now, because how else could he have written so many songs that can be turned into forecasts for the upcoming season?

Bob Dylan’s 2017 Forecast: “Sucking in the Wind”

How many innings must Verlander pitch
to have them destroyed by the pen?
How many times must Miggy get on
to be left on the base by Upton?
How many weeks before Ausmus is canned–
that’s not an “if”, that’s a “when”

The answer, my friend, is 2017
When the Tigers will be sucking in the wind

How many balls will Martinez misjudge
and watch as they roll to the wall?
How many years will poor V-Mart DH
as his trot slows down to a crawl?
How many years must fans grumble and wince
before this team wins in the fall?

The answer, my friend, is 2017
When the Tigers will be sucking in the wind

 

Sammy Sosa, Chicago and Bardball

February 26, 2017–The reclusive, petulant, intermittently-English-speaking Sammy Sosa gave an interview recently, lamenting that his crappy attitude with fans and teammates has made him a pariah in the Cubs organization. In addition to comparing himself (of course!) to a suffering Jesus, he also bragged that he put Chicago “on the map”. Which was news to a lot of us.

So when I get a fat slow pitch like that, I have to pen a reaction to it for Bardball:

Sammy Sosa, the Founder of Chicago

Leave aside the famed DuSable
Who thought he wore this feather in his cap.
We’ll forgive you this historical bobble,
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Forget Jim Thompson and Hinky Dink Kenna
Who lay the town in corruption’s lap.
They came and went, but at the center,
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Dion O’Banion and Al Capone
Made sure the suds were e’er on tap.
Those slobs can’t call this town their own–
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Sure, Sandburg, Bellow, Studs could write,
Curtis Mayfield was a soulful chap,
Muddy Waters was a man, all right,
But Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

I’ll admit MJ could play some hoops.
Hack, Ernie, Big Hurt and Pudge could slap
A few hits around, but no big whoops–
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

 

2015 Baseball Predictions from Sgt. Pepper, Part 2

Sgt. Pepper’s 2015 Forecast: “Being for the Benefit of Mister I”

For the benefit of Mister I
The Tiges will give another try
At a Series ring
In the race four times before
Then they’re always shown the door
Damn, it stings
.
.   But with Cabrera and two Martinez
.   The hits should still be raining in Motown
.   If God wills, Alex Avila doesn’t get hurt
.
Yeah, Max Scherzer hit the road
The Nationals can bear that load
(He will be missed)
David Price might have the stuff
But does the bullpen have enough?
Let’s check the list:
.
.   Phil Coke is gone, and Rick Porcello,
.   Which leaves Soria, Albuquerque and Nathan
.   Climbing higher? Dumpster fire? Who the hell knows?
.
Castellanos will be there
We’ll marvel at Cespedes’ flair
In center field
Ian Kinsler leaps and spins
Let’s hope Iglesias’ pins
Have really healed
.
.   Twisting the government ’round his fingers
.   Is not enough for Detroit’s pizza king
.   Which is why Mister I keeps spending his dough….

2015 Baseball Predictions from Sgt. Pepper

A little twist on stale prognostication, from Bardball:

Sgt. Pepper’s 2015 Forecast: “When I’m .204”

For the Yankees:
.
When I get older, losing my speed,
Not so long from now,
Will you still be batting me at DH,
Late-game left field, riding the bench?
When the Yanks are down 17 to 3,
Count on me to score.
Will you still play me,
Will you still pay me,
When I’m .204?
.
Every contract season there’s a vet’ran on the trading block that could fill a need
. . . CC, Gardner, A-Rod, Beltran . . .
Then in March he wrecks his knees,
Hank, is this your plan?
.
Farm system looks like a north Texas ranch
In 1933.
By August we’ll be chasing after Tampa Bay
All our prospects traded away.
Reflexes wane and muscles are sore
“On deck: Dumbledore!”
Will you still play me,
Will you still pay me,
When I’m .204?

CIA Torture Memo and the Holidays!

nosenseofshameI read this piece last week at The Paper Machete, my favorite reading series in Chicago (weekly and free!). They gave me the option to tackle something a little more light-hearted than CIA torture and cover-up, like the war in Nigeria, but I said no way. If I don’t have the chops to find something funny in a horrendous scandal and terrible abrogation of American (not to mention human) values, then I should just hang up my quill, pour my vitriol down the sink, and start writing greeting cards.

This was greeted alternately with big laffs and stunned silence, so I think I hit my mark. Please read it all the way through.

Liberty Baptisms! Rectal feeding! Cheers!

————————————————————————————————————————-

MEMO:

To: all active and inactive field operatives in Southern Asia

FROM: District Director Colin Braidlowe

RE: Guidelines and suggestions for addressing recent allegations during the holidays

Hello to all you men and women on the hidden front lines of freedom. As the winter holidays begin, many of you will be taking time off and mingling with your family, friends and assorted civilians. The holidays are a welcome break from the daily grind, a time for merrymaking and random surveilling, and as I’m sure you all know from experience, denying to everyone you work for the CIA. (If you need new ideas explaining to prying busybodies what you do for a living, please download the informative PDF, “Tinker, Tailor, Import/Export Systems Engineer, Spy: A Guide to Undercover Professions.”)

When mingling with civilians, the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on our work in Afghanistan is likely to come up. When it does, please do not overreact and call the office to arrange an extradition. These are your fellow countrymen we’re talking about! Besides, just like every other office in the country, we will be short-handed around Langley! Take the time to make this an opportunity for covert education.

LEGALITY

Some civilians will inaccurately claim the Senate Committee report describes activities that are illegal. This is an unveracity. Remember, every activity in the report was deemed legal by the DOJ of President Bush. Therefore, each activity was legal in a strictly legal sense. More importantly — and some civilians might not grasp this quickly — each complied with the law as we see it! If we are to have a government of laws, this is an important distinction. If the CIA followed every legal interpretation from every Dept. of Justice from every administration that happened along, we’d be running around with hoods over our heads, with our hands tied behind our backs in our tighty whiteys. This would distract the CIA from its mission, whatever it happens to be at the time. The law is important, certainly, but it is only one tool in freedom’s toolbox. And it doesn’t even plug in.

TERMINOLOGY

The following are potentially explosive words to avoid in conversation, with their recommended replacements:

The T word. Under no circumstances do agency personnel use the T word. If the NY Times can avoid using the T-word for 13 years, so can you. Our official term for these activities is enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs. Other substitutions include Truth or Dare, innocent chinwag, Hell’s 20 questions, or the power powwow.

Extended sleep deprivation, can be referred to as non-slumber parties, cramming for finals, and Rockin’ in the Free World.

Extended enforced Isolation: can be referred to as a chance to reflect, a Calgon moment, or a little “me” time.

Waterboarding. Alternative terms include hydro-aversion therapy, Liberty baptisms, and the Neti pot. This is a very emotional subject. Try and deflect discussion of liberty baptisms by talking about old family vacations on the beach. If this doesn’t work, appeal to their sense of nostalgia. Remind everyone that the US Army waterboarded prisoners during the Spanish-American War and the US occupation of the Philippines. To really take control of things, stand up and emotionally declare, “If it’s good enough for Teddy Roosevelt, it’s good enough for me.”

Rectal feeding. This practice has attracted much sensational and unfortunate attention, and will continue to do so unless we reverse the flow immediately. The agency’s new narrative is easy to swallow, and we must feed it to the public in any way we can imagine. If our official narrative has cracks that are not plugged, the constant drip-drip-drip of bad news will foul the air, sap our strength and leave us with a red eye …. A black eye.

Avoid the topic of rectal feeding whenever possible. When helping in the kitchen for the big holiday meal, be careful not to bring it up. Likewise, when the turkey is being stuffed, it is not recommended that you comment, “That’s not how we did it at Baghram,” even as a joke, or that you start screaming at the turkey that you are going to kill his whole brood if he doesn’t spill everything he knows.

Actionable intelligence. You may meet critics who assert that none of the agency’s “innocent chinwags” produced any useful intelligence. These critics unfortunately do not understand the intelligence business. We firmly believe our chinwags do uncover information that is otherwise unobtainable, whether evidence for this exists or not. As CIA Director Brennan told Congress Thursday, “the cause and effect relationship between the application of those EITs and the ultimate provision of the information is unknown and unknowable.”

So turn the tables on critics and ask them why get so angry about something that is unknowable? If we cannot prove our chinwags result in reliable information, doesn’t it follow that we cannot prove other techniques provide good intelligence? What is the nature of knowledge anyway? What proof can be relied on in this imperfect world? This should get some of the philosophy majors off your back. Also, bring up Schrödinger’s cat, firmly locked in a coffin-like box.

Often you can turn accusations into a chance for humor. When someone says, “This brutality in Afghanistan makes us no better than the Nazis,” you can say, “No, it doesn’t. Heh heh. The Nazis kept better records.”

As a final reminder, the Agency is always on the lookout for bright, patriotic individuals to help protect our freedoms, as well as America’s. This latest PR problem will frankly hinder our recruiting efforts for the next several years. So when you are hanging out with your unemployed cousin, or shooting pool in your hometown tavern with your dead-end high school classmates, casually discuss the many job opportunities now available (without mentioning us by name, of course). Remember, not only were many of our Afghan interrogators completely untrained in police tactics, questioning, and even the local languages, but the designers of the interrogation program themselves also had zero experience in the basics of the field. These are the kind of success stories that should excite anyone interested in working for the agency.

Happy holidays to all. Please eat this memo.

 

For Fans of Baseball Poetry, Bardball

I’ve been too busy with speeches and the latest Rex Koko novel (COMING VERY SOON!) to come over here to the blog and talk about the latest in baseball doggerel. For those of you who miss it, here’s my latest piece of hackery from over there, about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour.

Remember, if you like your baseball poetry fast, loose and unsentimental, check out Bardball daily during the season, and tell your friends about it.

The Captain’s Yard Sale

A dining set of broken bats
A navy pinstripe yoga mat

A year’s supply of Genny Cream
A keg signed by the vending team

A “2″ carved out of northern granite
A solar-cell vibrating hammock

A zircon-slathered Yankee topper
A 2,000-gallon popcorn popper

Another ugly pair of boots
A vid lip-synching with the Roots

“2s” in crystal, onyx, steel,
Beer cans, tree trunks and fresh veal

A wondrous Joe-Girardi-shaped ‘tater
A Japanese robot fellater

It’s not a hoarder’s dream or last mirage –
Just what’s stuffed in Jeet’s garage.

Rick Monday

Rick Monday
Born on Tuesday
Homered off Seaver Wednesday
Traded on Thursday
Saved the flag Friday
Broke Canada’s heart Saturday
Retired on Sunday
And that’s why people still talk about Rick Monday.

The New Cubs Mascot is Probably Sorry He Showed up in Chicago

The Chicago Cubs have lost nearly 300 games in the past three years. They fired their manager at the end of last season. Any new tyro who might be in the farm system is at least two seasons away from helping the team in the big leagues. And the team is arguing with the city and all their neighbors about expanding Wrigley Field and the surrounding area into something that looks a whole lot like Disney World.

So what’s the best thing to do in this hot stove season? Introduce a fuzzy cub mascot, of course!

By now, everyone who’s the least bit interested has heard about Clark the Cub, so I won’t rehash it here. He’s not popular with the adults, who are staring to act a little juvenile in their objections. I’m no exception. Below you can find the link to an article I wrote for ChicagoSideSports, on how ol’ Clark can ingratiate himself with the fans, at least the young and female portion of that group.

Top 10 Pickup Lines for Clark the Cub

Season’s Greetings on DITKA DAY!

Yesterday was Mike Ditka Day in Illinois, on which the former player/coach’s number 89 was retired by the Chicago Bears. It was an honor long overdue, not to mention a reconciliation between the hard-headed Ditka and the petty and long-memoried Bears. But he’s the only player to return and coach his team to a Super Bowl, so whatever you want to say about him, he was at the helm at the right time. And those of use who watched the 1985 Bears roll to the Super Bowl will remember what a magnificent season it was. While the youngsters might get sick of us reminiscing about it, it was what made me a Bears fan.

So after watching the Bears in the unlikely situation of shellacking their opponent during the game last night, my doggerel muse was tickled a little. I wrote some lines before I went to bed, then finished them up this morning. The good people over at ChicagoSide printed it this noon, and now you can enjoy it here. Go Bears!

Here’s a little taste to get you started:

TWAS THE NIGHT OF DITKA
….
Then at halftime they rolled out a giant red carpet
And displayed all his trophies like goods at the market.

Us fans held our breath, even though it was froze.
Twas like the coming of Santa, Jesus and D. Rose.

Da Coach came into view, all pink in the face,
In a dapper top coat, not a hair out of place.

He strode tall and erect, like a much younger man,
A youth-giving sight to most of the fans.

And at midfield, what wondrous sight do we see
But Ditka standing next to McCaskey!

This wasn’t the one who fired him, still
Ditka Day is a time for peace and goodwill.

Read the rest of it at ChicagoSide!

It’s Christmas Again in Top Town

Hello, dear friends. With the Yuletide season upon us once again, I’d like to give you all a little stocking stuffer for your ears. I know it’s also last year’s present, but it’s the thought that counts.

“Have Yourself a Monkey Little Christmas” is a heartwarming Top Town tale, starring Rex Koko, private clown. When Rex is doing his stint ringing a bell on the corner for charity, someone manages to cloat his little red kettle. But who? The answer to that question sends Rex on an adventure involving a sick friend, 20 or so uncontrollable monkeys, and a miserly landlord who needs a lesson in Christmas charity. Brought to you by Ludwig Coal Company, “the kind Mother used to burn.”

I’ve also reposted the special edition e-book of the story at Amazon. It’s only 99c, and ALL the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross. You KNOW you want it, just to complete your whole Rex Koko set.

For the electronic story from Amazon, click here.

New Podcast Episode!

Thanks for being patient out there, all you kinkers and kinkettes. I’ve finally finished recording and mixing the latest chapter in the Honk Honk, My Darling podcast. This is Chapter 17, “Betting Against the House”, which involves a dangerous, high-stakes poker game that our hero foolheartedly decides to bust into. (Fight scenes take a long time to mix, you know, and I had seven different characters to record. Not that I want to make excuses, but I’m also busy writing a real, all-new Rex book right now.)

So in your travels this holiday, skip the light classical or Michael Bolton tunes on your iPod. They won’t calm you down anyway. Curl up with some Top Town adventures with Rex Koko! Subscribe to the whole she-bang at iTunes if you haven’t already. Just six more episodes to go!

This episode is brought to you by SINK BOMB! Blasting kitchen germs and odor to KINGDOM COME!

“John McAfee” Testifies Before Congress for THE PAPER MACHETE

Last week I had the distinct honor and pleasure to perform again at THE PAPER MACHETE, which has become my favorite reading series/cabaret in Chicago. It takes place every Saturday afternoon at 3 at the legendary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Uptown. Christopher Piatt has been setting up some amazing shows this year — with Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Al Madrigal, and Nora Dunn, to name a few of the bigwigs — but every week, he presents wonderful music and hilarious/scintillating readings from performers all over Chicago. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

In his “Salon in a saloon”, Christopher is interested in exploring the events of the week. You pitch him some ideas by Wednesday, he expects something killer on Saturday. The week of my appearance, the inadequacies of the ACA website was big in the news, and word had leaked that House GOP leaders had wanted to meet with software pioneer and not-at-all-a-fugitive-from-Belize John McAfee. That meeting never took place, in part because Congress wouldn’t spring for the guy’s airfare, but I decided to write what I thought would be his public testimony before the committee. I have an audio file from it, but can’t figure out how to change its format.

So, to clarify, here’s me acting like him. Enjoy.

The following is a transcript of the remarks made by John McAfee to the House Committee, if they had paid his airfare to go to DC.

Hi There. I’d like to thank the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for inviting me to speak here today. Thank you, Congressman Upton, and the other people on the committee, their security detail, their staff members, and that cute little intern hiding back there next to the flagpole. Yes, you. How old are you, dear? What? 21?

I’m tech guru John McAfee, founder of McAfee Anti-Virus software, thrill seeker, life liver. I’ve been asked for my opinion on the Obamacare website because of my name recognition. Congressman Upton tells me he sees my name every time he switches on his computer. I’ll keep my comments brief to make way for his other invited speakers, Mr. Java, Mr. Adobe, and from France, Mr. Google.

In my life I’ve started and then sold 15 different companies. It’s not easy being a tech visionary, though the drugs do help. The Obamacare website is Without a doubt the worst designed project I’ve seen since my failed online venture, Lunchmeat.com.

I won’t bullshit you, congressman. That’s not what I do. I’m a straight shooter and a maverick. You know I’m a maverick because I’ll say bullshit in a committee hearing, especially in front of reporters. I’m also a trickster. A Gazillionaire. A voodoo priest. A joker, a smoker….Did I say Maverick yet?

People always ask me, Did you really sleep with 10 17-year-old girls? At 67 years old? And I have to say, Yep, Yep I did.

A child can can see the Obamacare website is an unuseable mess. I know how government contracts work. I realize most of the programming was subscontracted to Canada. I have two big problems with Canada: A small tech community, and very sticky extradition laws. Believe me.

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