Archive for September, 2006


Immolatus est, a poem

The last poem was pretty well received, so I decided to inflict another one on you. As some of you already know, my son is in Iraq with the Army. This poem is for all those who have, or have lost, someone in that conflict.

Your room is as you left it.
The football jerseys of your heroes,
a tapestry of red, white, and blue
hang in your closet mutely awaiting your return.
As the hour moves to vespers,
the dying light stains the glass,
the room glows red and gold.

In a land where the cross is kept always well hidden
you march the sand, while ever silently behind
Mohammed walks arm in arm with the black robed reaper,
carrying your blood in a grail of iron they balance between them,
waiting to cross your path and claim you for their own
as Mohammed pours your blood upon the sand.

The dying light illuminates the rosary and Bible you left behind,
not permitted in the land of Mohammed,
the land of wailing sand and wailing prayers
where you have gone to fight for someone else’s cause.
For it has always been and ever shall be
the body and blood of the Young that are sacrificed
to the hatred of the Old.

–Stephen P. Smith


Busting the second hand smoke myth

Unfortunately I don’t have time to post a serious rant on this, but luckily there’s a man named Dave Hitt who does it better than anyone. And not just a rant, but serious facts and statistics to back himself up with. Click the link in the upper right hand corner and read this guy’s blog! And remember: if today they can take away my freedoms, tomorrow yours will be next. My own rant on this subject will follow in the very near future. Stay tuned.


Banning the Breast

Shocked to see a topless woman on my otherwise, staid, stodgy blog? Well, racy as the above picture might be, it is not considered obscene, although you can see virtually all of this rather attractive young lady’s breasts. Why not? Read on…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some articles in the newpaper concerning some folks, usually, though not always, teenagers, who have decided to get back to nature and share the beauty of the human body (theirs) with their fellow human beings. This does not usually end well for the afore mentioned naturist. The phrase “indecent exposure” springs to mind here

I’m not going to get into just how and why the human body came to be thought of as indecent, (at least not in this post), but the incidents of the past few weeks has reminded me of an incident that happened here in Massachusetts last summer, where several hundred women protested on the steps of the State House demanding the right to go topless in public, and, just to make sure that no one was missing the point, very obligingly demonstrated the body parts in question.

What made me think of this? Well, working as I do in a tobacco shop that is within walking distance of several colleges, I am, on a daily basis, brought into contact with dozens of young ladies who are not shy about exposing substantial amounts of cleavage in this balmy September weather, so I suppose the subject is on my mind rather a lot lately.

But it’s also fair to say that the more I think about it, the more the absurdity of forcing women to cover up their chests while their male counterparts are free to walk around bare chested becomes apparent. Now before you dismiss me as either a perv or a radical feminist, I want you to think with me on this for a second:

Suppose for a moment that a woman goes to the beach and removes her bikini top. What happens? She’ll probably be arrested, or at the very least, told to either cover up or face a ride in a police car. So what can we conclude from this? That a woman’s breasts are obscene?

Not necessarily, as I will now demonstrate.

Suppose instead that this same woman had kept her bikini top on, but it was one of these really, really, tiny bikini tops that really didn’t cover anything except her nipple and areola. What happens to her then?

Nothing that’s what. She is free to show as much breast as she wants to, but as long as she keep her nipples covered, she’s ok. Conversely, if she were to wear one of those strange bras that covers up the entire breast while only allowing her nipple to show, she would also find herself breaking the law.

So apparently the only thing we can conclude here is that it’s not really a woman’s breasts that are obscene, but rather her nipples which are so lewd and offensive that they must be covered at all times.

What makes this even more absurd of course is that a woman’s nipples- unlike a man’s-actually have a valid biological function. But if my wife exposes her nipples for any reason, even for the afore mentioned valid biological function, she becomes a criminal in the eyes of the law, whereas if I expose my nipples I’m guilty of nothing more than extremely poor taste (and believe me, the sight of me without my shirt on really is obscene).

Now the arguement against this does merit some attention. While I realize that topless beaches are commonplace in Europe, they would, at least for a while, certainly be a novelty here. And let’s be realistic here: the sight of a woman’s breast arouses desires in the typical male in a way that the sight of her elbows simply does not (with all due respect to any elbow fetishists out there). So it occurs to me that, should women ever win this right, they should probably exercise some caution in actually exercising it, at least until such time as the sight of woman’s chest becomes as commonplace here in America as it has become in Europe.

But all in all, women will not truly have achieved equality with men until they can show their nipples in the bright noonday sun along with the men.


The resurrection of Alfred Dunhill


This was something I wrote a few years ago and posted on a Usenet group known as alt.smokers.pipes (yes, I am an ardent pipe smoker, have I mentioned that yet?) The idea was to lampoon the Dunhill brand, whose adherents border on the fanatical in their loyalty to this brand.

Nowadays Dunhill is more well known to the general public for its lines clothing and fashion accessories, so that many people don’t realize that Dunhill was begun as a tobacconist (what most people nowadays call a “smokeshop”) back in 1910 by a man named Alfred Dunhill. Their pipes were for many years considered the standard against which all others were judged, and even today, while some argue that the quality is not as good as before, their pipes are still eagerly sought after by collectors.

But as I said, some Dunhill aficionados are quite fanatical about this brand, and can get rather obnoxious if someone dares to impugn the reputation of their beloved Alfred, especially on a Newsgroup such as A.S.P. And so I wrote a fictional “news” post about how Alfred Dunhill had been exhumed and put on display in the shop. A lot of people liked it. The Dunhill fanatics hated it.

They would.

Dunhill Displays Alfred’s Remains

The remarkably well preserved remains of Alfred Dunhill were recently exhumed and put on display at the Dunhill Shop in Duke St, London, as part of a publicity stunt aimed at increasing foot traffic into the store. The company claimed that Alfred had actually come back to life and was ready, willing, and eager to once again serve his customers “after the time honored Dunhill traditions of superior products and really, really, extravagant pricing structures”.

At first, this seemingly misbegotten scheme worked astonishingly well. Dunhill’s customers were amazed and delighted at the idea of old Alfred come back to life, and engaged him in several fascinating conversation on such diverse topics as the afterlife, the Conservative Party, and just what the hell was he thinking when he created Royal Yacht. The manager, smelling a marketing coup in the making, even hinted that it was the wonderful restorative properties of Dunhill tobaccos that had something to do with Alfred’s sudden miraculous resurrection.

By tea time, however, customers began to be suspicious of Alfred’s return from the hereafter on account of two rather inconvenient and difficult to explain facts:

1. Alfred would become strangely uncommunicative, downright sullen really, whenever the manager nipped out to the water closet or took a sip of his tea. People were at first inclined to attribute this to his being unused to the company of the living after having been dead for so long, until the next inconvenient fact manifested itself:2. A rather peculiar smell began to emanate from Alfie’s corner of the room that could not be attributed to anything else in the store, not even the open tin of Royal Yacht.

Smelling a rat, among other things, customers loudly insisted on more solid proof of Alfred’s rejuvenation, perhaps answer some questions while the manager drank a whole cup of tea.

The ensuing row was overheard by none other than Graham Chapman, the pipe smoking member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, who happened to be in the shop that day, and who immortalized it in his “Dead Dunhill” sketch. Sadly, Dunhill got wind of this, and to avoid a lawsuit, Chapman, while leaving the dialogue almost entirely intact, changed a few minor details to hide the true inspiration for the sketch, and so the the “Dead Parrot” sketch was born.

The “Dead Parrot” sketch, of course, went on to become one of the troops most famous bits of lunacy. Most people are naturally unaware that the shopkeeper’s famous line, “He’s not dead, he’s stunned” was actually taken verbatim from the ensuing argument Chapman had with the Dunhill manager after Chapman blew a cloud of Royal Yacht smoke directly into Alfred’s face in an attempt to provoke some reaction from the supposedly resurrected founder.


Lacrimosa, a poem…

Occasionally I am guilty of a little poetry. This is one of those times….

I wreath the night in spectral latakia smoke
And bury the days.
Like nameless, forgotten children,
They lie in countless unmarked graves,
Entombed in unquiet slumber
Beside the words never spoken,
Kindnesses never given,
Thoughts never shared,
Where none mourn and none grieve
And only the shadows remember.

I wander the labyrinth of
Faceless statues and granite sepulchres
In the sunless graveyard of my memory
With no companion save the shades who stalk behind
Sighing, calling, beseeching,
“We lived, we lived, we lived.
Who will enshrine us? Who will remember us?”

And I reflect on the terrible briefness of all things.

I wreath the night in spectral latakia smoke.
The embers die, and all is dark.

– Stephen P. Smith


The Evolution of Political Systems

I wish I could say I wrote this, but I didn’t.  This was something that I dowloaded about eight years ago and  found in my computer when I was looking for something else.  I hope you get a chuckle out of it.

I particularly like the last one.


Pure democracy is when you have two cows. Your
neighbors decide who gets the milk.

Representative democracy is when you have two cows.
Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the

Pure socialism is when you have two cows and the
government takes them and puts them in a barn with
everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows.
The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Bureaucratic socialism is when you have two cows and the
government takes them and puts them in barn with
everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken
farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the
government took from the chicken farmers. The
government gives you as much milk and eggs as the
regulations say you should need.

Pure communism is when you have two cows. Your
neighbors help you take care of them and you all share the

Russian communism is when you have two cows. You
have to take care of them, but the government takes all the

Cambodian communism is when you have two cows. The
government takes both and shoots you.

Dictatorship is when you have two cows. The government
takes both and drafts you.

Bureaucracy is when you have two cows. At first the
government regulates what you can feed them and when
you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them.
Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours
the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out
forms accounting for the missing cows.

Surrealism is when you have two giraffes. The
government requires you to take harmonica lessons.


Running out of tomorrows

Next Monday will be the fifth anniversary of the national calamity that is nowadays simply known as 9/11. On that day the blogosphere will not doubt be saturated with posts about that day. So I’m going to get a jump on the crowd.

Every generation experiences a few particular moments that define themselves as pivotal to that generation because everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when they occurred. For my grandparents it was Pearl Harbor, for my parents it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and for me it was 9/11. The very fact that I don’t even have to explain what I mean by “9/11” proves my point.

What is strange to remember is how, when the news first broke that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, there was, of course, some shock, but business in the office carried on as usual. Sadly, disasters like hurricanes and plane crashes have become part of the daily fabric of our lives; we are desensitized. We feel a sense of shock, perhaps even sorrow, which is usually followed by a guilty sense of gratitude that it didn’t happen to us, and we move on to the next Sales Report.

Then the second plane hit the second tower. Only then we began to understand that one of the most tragic pieces of our nation’s history was at that very moment unfolding before our disbelieving eyes. Someone conjured a TV from out of nowhere, and by a common yet wordless consensus it was understood that no more work was to be done that day. We all stood around that TV, as it became horribly, grotesquely apparent that we were not, as it was first believed, witnessing a tragic accident, but rather a calculated terrorist attack on Americans on American soil by a group of religious fanatics who had somehow convinced themselves that God would be pleased with them for having carried out the murder of almost 3,000 innocent people.

Most of us pretty much take it for granted as we walk out the door in the morning that we will be going home at the end of the workday. Many of those victims were office workers, just like me, (which is what I was at the time). Like myself, they awoke in the morning, reluctantly dragged themselves out of bed, and tried to wake up in the shower. No doubt they then spent a bit of time in the closet pondering which suit to wear that day–important decision, that–before they once again subjected themselves to the daily, soul destroying grind of life in Cubicle-Land.

Some kissed their spouses and children goodbye. Some, no doubt, didn’t. I’m sure there were some who might have been fighting with their spouses at the time, or perhaps had reneged on a promise to their children to take them out for ice cream the night before. Like all of us, they believed in the power of Tomorrow. Tomorrow to make up with the spouse, tomorrow to take the kids out for ice cream, tomorrow to make right the wrongs of today. And so they went to work for what would be the very last time, not knowing that they had run out of tomorrows.

9/11 changed everything, from worldwide interests all the way down to the individual concerns of us all. In this country, patriotism once again became fashionable in way that it hadn’t been in fifty years. Two governments were toppled as a direct result, resulting in yet more loss of life beyond the 2,996 lives lost that day. An embattled President became, for a moment, popular.

While I was one of the fortunate ones who did not lose anyone that day, my life has not escaped its effect. My 18 year old son decided that he wanted to serve his country in this volatile time, and is now stationed in Iraq. I keep thinking that perhaps with the passage of time I will simply grow numb to this and stop worrying about him, but I never do.

And on a (perhaps) more mundane note, from that day onward I have been forced to come to terms with the fact that I could be taken from my loved ones at any time, or they from me. Yes, I suppose I still take tomorrow for granted, but not quite so much as before. For I do not want to part company from my wife in anger, and run the risk of never being able to tell her that I love her, and that whatever it was we were fighting about is unimportant compared to the life we share together. If I am taken from her, or she from me, I want her to know that she was loved and cherished. I do not want either of us to have to go through whatever tomorrows we have left wishing that we had said “I love you” one last time.


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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