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>Out of Many, One

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Disappointing Dreams.

As a child, I was convinced of this sort of cliche image of the gates of Heaven, where your entire body is admitted to the Big Party or sent to eternal torture based on your status on an ambiguous list somewhere. The overall principle was that my passage beyond the ultimate velvet rope had nothing to do with how bad or good I was, as long as I believed in Jesus and asked forgiveness before I died. But when they weren’t promoting that simple formula, which was most of the time, they were convincing me of how important it was to be good everyday or I wouldn’t get into Heaven. It was confusing, but then all effective systems of mind control have an element of confusion involved, so the subject never knows exactly where they stand and never feels completely comfortable.

So if you believe in this kind of Heaven and manage to pass the ambiguous criteria, you may well run into a person missing a major organ, having received a transplant from an unbeliever.

Before the theologians among you start bombarding me with doctrine, I’m kidding. I know the basic tenets of most of the major religions and none of them include provisions for organ donor recipients or creatures pieced together from various dead bodies by mad scientists. I’m sure whoever you are and whatever you believe, it will all turn out just as you suppose once you’re dead.

>Jihads and Indians

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Tortelli High Speed Piano Company.

I find our nation’s relationship with American Indians (Native Americans, First Peoples, etc.) interesting. Before we open up the floor for discussion, here is a quick synopsis of my limited knowledge in this area:
1. Europeans steal continent and attempt to annihilate its inhabitants
2. The ones that escape death are driven into poverty
3. The descendants of these Europeans feel guilty
4. They give the descendants of these original inhabitants from whom the land was stolen the right to do something that is illegal for the rest of the population.

Step four is where it gets a bit strange. I’m not passing judgment on it, I just think it odd.

Moving on, I am all for legalizing gambling, prostitution and recreational drugs. Even though I’m not a fan of any of these leisure time activities, I think consenting adults should be allowed to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Which means you don’t outlaw drinking, you outlaw drinking and driving. You don’t outlaw drugs, you outlaw driving while tripping. You don’t outlaw prostitution, you outlaw selling your wares without regular medical checkups, and leaving the house in hotpants that are clearly too small for your ample booty.

That being said, I don’t much understand the fun of either gambling or prostitution. With gambling, I can’t help seeing it as a hole in the ground that you throw your money into on the slim chance that the hole is not only not too deep to reach into and get your money back, but that there might be more money already down there. I’ve generally found money hard to come by in my life and giving it to someone else without much hope of any return doesn’t seem fun.

Regarding prostitution, I don’t understand having relations with someone who is only pretending to want to have relations with me. It makes me feel impolite, like I am inconveniencing someone else for my own selfish needs. To my mind, much of the fun of coital activity is that the other person is having a good time, too. I felt this same sort of shame when I took tennis lessons years ago – I loved playing tennis with friends, but hated hitting with a pro because I knew she was only doing it for the money and wasn’t having any fun. A wealthy friend of mine once said of my views on this that I “just don’t understand the master/slave relationship.” Creepy. Maybe that’s why he’s wealthy and I’m not.

Still, I can’t help but feel these things are illegal purely because of a combination of fear and religious notions. When communities do legalize these activities, they don’t go up in flames any faster than the ones ruled by churchy notions. And when societies let religion dominate law, eventually all hell breaks loose.

I’d choose casinos over jihads any day. But then I’m just a fringe liberal.

(NOTE: These comments are not meant as a condemnation of personal faith but rather the practice of using religious ideas to govern.)

>Shouting Pick Up

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Acme Hazardous Materials Storage Company.

This cartoon is a direct product of my venomous hatred of loud bars. Before you write me off as a person who is too old to appreciate loud music (602 months old next week), I felt just as strongly about this when I was 21 as I do now.

I can only think of two reasons for going to a bar: to meet friends and enjoy their company, or because you are out of booze at home, liquor stores are closed, and you need a drink so badly that you don’t mind paying 300% of its retail value.

In the second case, it doesn’t matter how loud the music is, the hooch is your main concern and you’ll likely put up with anything to get it, even absurd prices and dangerous decibels. But if you’re wanting to get together with friends, how does high-volume music help? If you’re there primarily to dance, that’s perfectly reasonable, but I’ve seen very little dancing in the bars I’ve visited. Most bars are places where people are jammed together screaming at each other, attempting conversation. This is difficult enough with someone you know, but meeting and getting to know a new person at the top of your lungs is comically difficult. Yet millions of people all across the world do this every weekend.

On the other hand, a quiet bar with reasonable prices is a rare and wonderful thing. Whether I’m playing pool or darts or just sitting at a table with friends, I almost always have a good time. On the other hand, I can count the number of times I’ve had a good time screaming over music at my friends on no hands. Give me a quiet, neighborhood pub any time.

Of course, my favorite place to drink is at home, alone in the dark, weeping in private.

>Naked Feet and Uncaged Liquids

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Sultry Carnivores.

I’m really sick of that ad campaign about “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but it gave me an idea for a cartoon so I can’t complain. To me, the funny thing about this cartoon is not the punch line, but the scalpel in the TSA agent’s hand.

I travel a lot by aeroplane and, like many people with a reasonable I.Q. and a modicum of logic, I find the TSA folks to be exasperating. I’ve had harmless things taken away from me at security, the most notable of which was a plastic, space-age-looking child’s raygun I had bought as a gift for a kid. The reason given was that the flight crew wouldn’t have time to ascertain it was a toy if I tried to use it as a weapon. I’m not kidding.

The requirement of taking one’s shoes off, even if they are flip-flops that could not conceal anything larger than a sewing needle, is another point of contention with me, along with the rule about liquids being in a plastic bag.

The concept of the bag rule is obviously to restrict the amount of liquids any one person can bring onto a plane; if you have more than can fit into a plastic bag of a certain size, you might have enough explosives to cause trouble. The logic of this is obviously flawed, five passengers could bring the legal limit and combine them on board, but more annoying than this blatent loophole is when you have only one tiny container and they insist you put it into a plastic bag. I’ve seen this on more than one occasion.

A friend of mine is married to an airline pilot and she says they say TSA stands for “Thousands Standing Around.”

If they were actually making the industry safer, I’d be more tolerant of this kind of time-wasting nonsense, but studies continue to show it is just as easy to slip weapons past security as it was before 9/11.

I don’t have an answer for this dilemma, of course, I just wanted to complain.

>Sick as a Dog

>Bizarro is brought to you today by The Association for People With Ugly Children.

I’ve often thought it overkill the way we ban non-human animals from places that serve food, when we are much more likely to get sick from contact with other humans than any other species. I would still eat in a restaurant if dogs were allowed, especially knowing that there are any number of insects and rodents living in the nooks and crannies. Regarding my health, I’m much more concerned about the cook in the kitchen than the Beagle in the booth.

In New York there are lots of sidewalk cafes that allow dogs and it’s always fun to see them hanging out with their parents. CHNW cannot pass a dog without chatting, and NYC has lots of dogs so it takes us quite a while to get through the city on foot. For occasions when we are in a hurry, I distract her by pointing out fine architectural details at the tops of buildings when a dog is passing so we don’t lose too much time.

Most people are amazed at the intelligence of dogs on certain occasions, but I have come to believe that all species of animals have impressive intelligence, each in their own way. Not surprisingly, we tend to judge intelligence by how much like our own it is, but evolutionarily this is a poor standard. I think if you consider that other species have different types of intelligence that we do not necessarily relate to, and in some cases cannot even perceive, it changes your understanding of them. It also makes you feel less of a sense of entitlement over them.

>Rhyming Toast

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Greeting Card Hell.

Many years ago, I gave up obligatory holidays and their mandatory cards and gift giving. I haven’t given a Xmas or birthday gift nor sent a greeting card since the early 90s sometime. I still occasionally give people gifts or cards when I feel like it, I’m not a cold-hearted bastard, I just resented the social pressure to conform to a scheme designed by department stores and card companies and opted out.

It was fairly simple, really: I told my friends and family that I would no longer be giving gifts or cards for any advertised occasion and that I didn’t expect to receive gifts or cards, either. If they still wanted to give me something, I would accept it and be appreciative, of course. I wasn’t trying to be mean or stubborn, I just didn’t want to play along with Macy’s and Hallmark anymore. Many understood, some thought I was being a creep, some probably pretended to understand and called me a creep behind my back.

But the subsequent freedom has been wonderful and I have never regretted the decision. I no longer have to worry what to get people, rush around town looking for something I’m not sure they’ll like anyway, pretend to be excited about a gift that I do not wish to own, or end up with a yard sale’s worth of gewgaws to dispose of every spring. I’m sure the gifts I was giving others were just as likely to find their way to the sidewalk, so I’ve saved many other folks the same pointless worry and expense.

My mother-in-law is the only person who still gives me gifts regularly. Happily, she has terrific taste and gives me cool and unusual things that I really like. My wife didn’t become the unusual person she is entirely by accident, of course.

>Class Actions

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Class Warfare.
I’m always suspicious of these stories that all politicians tell that start with, “I remember the single mother of three in Detroit who told me…” I’m guessing the vast majority of those instances are made up.

Especially when the candidate telling the story is the lying, evil one, as opposed to the one I support.

I’m as cynical about politicians as the next guy, but I honestly think Obama is one of those extremely rare politicians who is in the game to actually help people rather than to feed his own ego and pocketbook.

Let’s hope I’m right.

One final note: I hate the drawing of the guy on the couch in this cartoon. It’s more-or-less supposed to be me and is probably the worst self-caricature I’ve ever done. The proportions are all wrong, I must have been in a hurry to make a deadline. Below is a quick sketch of what I wish it had looked more like. The proportions are a little funnier and much more accurate. Luckily, I look like a cartoon character, so drawing myself is usually no challenge.

>Are You Saved?

>Bizarro is brought to you today by People Who Want To Save You.

Who doesn’t want to be saved? Life is hard. Bad things happen to us, we get ourselves into jams we wish we hadn’t and can’t see the way out. Wouldn’t it be great if someone or something could come along and snatch you up out of the poo pit you’ve fallen into and make everything all better? (Answer on page 372)

For those of you without a page 372 on your computer, the answer is, “yes.” That’s why humans have always been in love with saviors. What’s not to love?

The downside is that some people will try to save you against your will, with the savior of their choice. This can be anything from uncomfortable to annoying to dangerous.

I wish being saved were simpler. I wish my life, like my computer, would kick into a screensaver mode after I’ve left it unattended for five minutes. Just put everything on hold and make sure nothing gets changed or damaged while I’m not looking.

I don’t, however, want to have to replace my life with a new one every four years so it will work with new applications. There are too many humans as it is.

>Understanding Marriage

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Dual Purpose Household Appliances Corporation.
This cartoon is a personal favorite of mine of late. It’s simple, it’s a new twist on a cartoon cliche, and it makes me smile.

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Way WAY more than I’ve wanted to, actually. CHNW and I had a very rough year which required a good deal of counseling and self-help-book reading to survive. (Avid readers might notice I haven’t mentioned her here in many months.)

We’ve finally turned the corner and are doing fine now, thanks, but in the process of dancing on the edge of the precipice of divorce I learned a lot more about relationships than I previously knew. Having been through a divorce in the nineties, and many subsequent months of counseling, support groups and self-help books, I thought I knew a lot. But there’s always more. (For instance, I learned that modern wallboard does not stand up very well to heavy objects thrown with fair velocity from across the room.)

I’ve long believed that the only path to a healthy relationship is to be healthy yourself. If you’re screwy in the head, you attract (and are attracted to) screwy people, and there go your chances for a sane relationship. Emotional health isn’t easy to achieve, of course, it takes a lot of work on an ongoing basis and because no one is perfect (especially if you were raised by humans), mistakes will inevitably be made. Our couples counselor calls those mistakes “AFGOs”. (Another F*cking Growth Opportunity)

We’ve all had the experience of watching friends and acquaintances struggling with their relationships. One hard and fast rule of romance that I’ve seen over and over again is that if the person you are in a relationship with is an irredeemable jerk that your friends can’t stand, you’re probably not going to succeed. At this point you should give up, do a lot of work on yourself, and head into the marketplace again with a renewed self image. I know I’ve said this of some of my own friends, so now that CHNW and I were the couple under the microscope, I can’t help but wonder if any of our friends or acquaintances have said similar things about us.

“I always thought he was a dick, she’s well rid of him.”

“I’ve never liked the way she laughs, I don’t know how he lasted this long.”

“What’s with that stupid hat and cigar? Does he think he’s Jimmy Durante? Who is she kidding with that phony smile? It’s obvious she’s miserable inside. I hate both of them and hope they perish in a fight to the death.” (Okay, that last set of comments came from one of her ex-boyfriends who never got over her.)

Sorry to those of you who think I’m a dick, she’s not rid of me yet. And sorry to you laugh-hating hypocrites who pretended all these years to accept us as we are, you’ll have to deal with it or get lost. And sorry bitter ex-boyfriend who needs to admit that he’s got a serious drinking problem and is very likely bisexual, you need to put down the bottle, come out of the closet, and get on with your life.

(The “friends” mentioned in this email are fictional and are in no way meant to represent anyone that CHNW and I actually know or have dated. Any similarity between the descriptions and comments in this posting and our actual friends and acquaintances and the things they might have said, are strictly coincidental.)

>Discriminating Readers

>Bizarro is brought to you today by the Chihuahuaitis Awareness Foundation.

Far too few Americans know anything about the heartbreaking syndrome called “Chihuahuaitis.” Perhaps it is because Elephantitis grabs the lion’s share of the headlines when it comes to deformities named for animals.

Some common misconceptions about those suffering from Chihuahuaitis:
1. Because their head is so small, many people assume they have a diminished intellect. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, because their brains are concentrated in a smaller area they work faster and more efficiently, like with concentrated cleaners and juices, and most score higher on standardized I.Q. tests than their “normal-headed” counterparts.
2. Because some or all of their “parts” are smaller than average, people often assume they have physical limitations. While this is occassionally true (a tiny Chihuahua-sized body with normal-sized feet can limit one’s mobility, for instance), for the most part they are able to participate normally in all of the activities that anyone else can. Sometimes their small size can even be a benefit. Spelunking is one example – a person with Chihuahuaitis can explore parts of a cave that average-sized people can not fit into.

The squeaky quality of their voices can also be a problem for them. Many people report being annoyed by their so-called “barking” and have difficulty understanding what the person is saying. With a little patience you can discern their words, however, and if all else fails, just give them a treat. That’s more than likely what they were yapping about anyway.

I hope that cartoons like this will urge readers to consider the feelings and needs of those with Chihuahuaitis more carefully and help to make strides toward integrating them more fully into society.

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