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In an unexpected development, The News from Gridleyville has been named an official outlet for TrikiLeaks, the supernal hacker group. We are greatly honored by this distinction, and we promise to exercise our responsibilities responsibly.

As you may know, TrikiLeaks specializes in secret documents involving Higher Powers, in particular communications sent through s-mail, the spiritual equivalent of e-mail. The instance presented here is a recent message between foreign ministers of the eternal kingdoms: Beelzebub, the secretary of state for The Depths, writing to Archangel Michael, his counterpart in The Lofts. The two grew up together before Bubbie, as he was known in his youth, joined the Dark One in rebellion against the Universal Authority. Their long friendship presumably accounts for the chummy tone of the missive.

We publish this now, not in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election, but as a possible means of allaying the world’s heartburn.

To: His Lightness Arch. Michael

From: His Darkness Beelzebub

Subject: A Little Favor?

Yo, Mikey,

It’s been ages, I know, I been meaning to write, but we been awful busy down here. The crowds you send us get kind of rambunctious sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining, it’s so much fun torturing these ass-monkeys it don’t hardly seem like a job, but it’s an organizational nightmare, if you get my drift. Gotta keep track of who’s been waterboarded, who’s been burned on the eyeball with the Boss’s cigars, who’s had fingernails or toenails yanked, etc. etc. We’re still using these old Power Macs that’ve never been upgraded. When I heard that Steve Jobs geek was comin’, I thought he’d bring some newer gizmos, but your boys in the Property Department musta stripped him on the way. You better check for sticky fingers up there. Just sayin’.

Anyways, geeks like Jobs ain’t the problem, they just walk around twiddling with their thumbs. It’s the other types of sinners that get bored and restless. See, the whole principle of torture—I figure you’re too high-minded to think about this stuff, so I’ll explain it to you—is you gotta give the bums a break between times. If it’s all pain all the time, they get burnt out, their minds blown, their ghostbodies wasted, so when you give ’em another, say, electric zap to the privates, they hardly notice. Which is no fun for us. So the point is, let ’em have a decent life when we aren’t working ’em over, enough that when we grab ’em up for the next session, they get the shakes and the terrors and start pissin’ their ghostpants all over again.

Now, them Lethe waters are a big help, making them forget what they been through. In fact, we’ve been mixing Lethe drops into the waterboarding, so every round’s like a fresh torture ’cause the poor suckers don’t remember what’s coming.

Still, when it’s time for their R&R, we gotta keep ’em amused. Which is hard because they ain’t allowed their former enjoyments like murder, embezzlement, fornication or political campaigns. So what do we have for their entertainment? Mostly old TV shows—and your Big Guy won’t let us have the good ones, will He? No, we gotta make do with trash like Jerry Springer, Jay Leno and Hee Haw Honeys. The ladies down here, even lots of the guys, would kill for one episode of Mary Tyler Moore. True, our audience is pretty cynical, so they get into the so-bad-it’s-hilarious shtick, but that wears thin after a while. They get mopey and grouchy, which is not the right buildup for their next turn in the Iron Maiden. As I said, they should be happy, at least content, before we work ’em over again.

So what I’m writin’ to ask, and I know you’ll wanta help me with this, pal, is maybe havin’ a top entertainer come down to us a little early. No, I don’t mean Madonna, I know the Big Guy’s got a crush on her. (Which I don’t understand. I mean, really?)

What I’m talkin’ about is that Trump dude. You know we’re gettin’ him sooner or later, and if you can make it a little sooner, I’d really appreciate it, ’cause we’ve made some great plans for him.

It’s a show called Devil’s Apprentice. He’s gonna be the host, see, along with one of my cute little acolytes—you know, the one with the honkers? He’ll love her.

Here’s the bit: Contestants will think they’re competing for a full-time job managing the Grue Crew, our pitchfork guys that stab unsuspecting people in the ass and toss ’em in the pit for their next torment. Our huge TV audience will see the apprentices run around like crazy and bust their tails to please The Donald and then get fired anyway. But then the kicker is, at the end of the show, all the ones he’s fired will get to use their pitchforks on The Donald himself.

They’ll plunk him in the pit for a special persecution—watching hours and hours of documentaries—of Hillary’s whole career!

We’ll televise that too, to show him making faces and spitting insults at the screen. Then we’ll give everybody some Lethe drops and start over with a new season.

Ain’t that genius? Talk about entertainment—our restless masses will love it!

So think about it, will you Mikey? I mean, Trump’s already old and fat, it’s not like I’m askin’ for a major speedup. Just a little before his time, so to speak.

If you need to clear this with the Big Guy, give him my best, wouldya? Him and my Boss really oughta get together sometime, clear the air, y’know, discuss new ways to cooperate in this business of processing souls.

Okay, Mikey, gotta sign off now and go sharpen my pitchfork, heh-heh.

Keep that flaming sword of yours polished, boyo.

Yours 4ever & ever & ever,

Your pal,

Bubbie

American public, pay attention! The media have misled you about the Trump-Putin Partnership (#therealTPP).

The reason for Donald Trump’s peculiar affinity for Vladimir Putin is not:
(a) his admiration for bullies like himself;
(b) his dependence on Putin’s oligarch pals as investors;
(c) his prurient craving for Hillary’s emails; or
(d) his belief that minor countries, such as Ukraine and Estonia, do not deserve to exist.

No, Mr. Trump’s rapport with the Russian leader stems from their shared devotion to the Art of the Deal.

As a Gridleyville exclusive, we can now report that the two leaders have negotiated a remarkable bargain to profit both the United States and Russia. This dispatch relies on numerous sources, including our trusty underground informant in Moscow, Deepska Throatsky.

The groundbreaking agreement, dubbed the Stolichnaya Accord after the four bottles of vodka consumed during the talks, is based on the irrefutable fact that Putin has already snatched large portions of Ukraine, is likely to take more, and will not be deterred by the United States, NATO, the EU, or the weird spellings of Ukrainian place names. Why not, reasoned Mr. Trump, give Putin our blessing to proceed in that region, but extract an equally valuable commodity as a quid pro quo? Isn’t that what the Art of the Deal is about?

Thus the terms of this historic covenant:

  • The United States agrees to make only faint grumbling noises as Russian “aid workers” overrun Kiev in unmarked trucks.
  • In return, Russia agrees to make only faint sniffing noises while the United States annexes Mexico.

The net result: Russia gains 233,000 square miles and a few good basketball players. The United States gains 760,000 square miles and the beautiful blood sport of bullfighting.

No doubt you are STUNNED by the audacity of the pact! Your first reaction may be: “But Trump hates Mexicans. Why would he want to seize their country?”

As The Donald himself has told us, his policy statements—in fact, his innermost beliefs and values—are mere negotiating positions. He does not, in reality, hate Mexico or its citizens. His only true problem with Mexicans is that they come here to mow lawns and wash dishes without the permission of affluent white men.

So look at the bold logic of the arrangement: Mexicans will no longer be illegal immigrants in the United States because they will be part of us. Officially, they will become American second-class citizens, much like Puerto Ricans and coal miners.

And the famous wall that Mr. Trump has promised? It will indeed be built—along our new border with Guatemala! This boundary is much shorter and easier to defend than the nearly 2,000 miles of desert between Matamoros and Tijuana. Although the Guatemalans cannot afford to pay for such a wall, we will use our new Mexican-American citizens to do the work at $1.25 per hour.

Unfortunately, the Stolichnaya Accord cannot be officially acknowledged until after the election and inauguration, when Mr. Putin will be invited to the White House for a dinner of gourmet tacos and calabacitas con elote. In the meantime, we can have faith that all of Mr. Trump’s secret deals will live up to this very, very high standard.

The Border Question, Part II

February 20, 2016

In the current atmosphere of polarization and vitriol, my important suggestions for resolving the U.S. immigration crisis (“Tzapping the Borders,” August 31, 2015) have been ignored. I take no personal offense. My wife generally ignores me too.

Perhaps, in fact, one fear I expressed in that essay—that mutant penguins might swarm our beaches—was overblown. As yet, I haven’t seen reports of any such invaders, though I doubt Governor Christie has been patrolling the Jersey coast as vigorously as he ought.

In any event, I realize it takes repeated iterations to make a truth sink in, as our presidential candidates demonstrate by uttering the same phrases a dozen times each day. In this post, though, I’m not going to replay my arguments from last August. Instead, to keep up with the evolving debate, I’ll offer a modified proposal.

Our composite Republican candidate for president, Dred Crumpio, insists on building a wall along the Mexican border, and reiterates the plan so often that we have to take it seriously. All right, then, let’s say we agree to it. Let’s look at the practical implications.

The expense of a wall will be enormous, and asserting that the Mexican government will have to pay for it is ludicrous. Mexico City doesn’t have bags of cash lying around, and any Mexican politician who agreed to such payments without getting, say, Texas in trade would be hounded out of office. (And you wouldn’t really trade Texas back to Mexico, would you? The Alamo, Davy Crockett and all that? Wait, you would?)

But there are nongovernmental entities in Mexico that could pay for a wall. Think a moment. Do you see where I’m going?

The drug syndicates! The Sinaloa Cartel! Los Zetas! Cártel del Golfo! Et al., al., al., al. They’re the ones with cash and valuables spilling out of every pocket, not to mention other orifices. But what would induce them to put up funds for a border wall?

A rational businessman

Well, it’s obvious: We install a few gates in the wall, which only the cartels can access. Then they’ll be able to bring in drugs without hassle, saving the ongoing costs of recruiting and compensating smugglers and bribing law enforcement. Those costs must be considerable, after all. Consider how difficult it must be to convince potential mules to carry bags of cocaine in their rectums, even if you threaten to slaughter their parents and torture their children. Besides, such threats are abhorrent to successful businessmen. It would make much more sense for the Cartel Lords to help us build a wall through which they, and only they, could export goods safely. And being eminently rational, undeterred by sentiment or idealism, the Lords will agree.

Naturally the gates’ existence must be kept secret. If we the public knew, we’d want to use them for importing other stuff, such as cheap pottery and tequila and underpaid labor. Therefore, for this plan to work, we need to elect a president who is adept at concealing the truth and lying to the American public.

Dred Crumpio, the new face of America

Dred Crumpio, the new face of America

Luckily, we have just such a candidate. Dred Crumpio is our man! Can we all get together and support him now?

The Composite Candidate

February 5, 2016

Crumpio

Dred Crumpio

Now that the presidential campaign season is truly underway, the composite candidates have begun to emerge.

Back in 2012, the composite Republican contender, whom I named Mick Somnorich, was kind of feckless, hard to take seriously. He was, in fact, boring, and everyone’s already forgotten him.

This year’s version is truculent and malevolent, much more exciting to watch in the present and likely more memorable in the long term. For those who haven’t tuned in yet, here is his message in a poetic nutshell:

Ready for a New American Century?
Calling the enemy by its name,
I’m the conservative who Democrats
fear most. I won’t let them take away
our giveaway to the corporate patrons.
They’re rapists on the lookout!
It is our job to kill terrorists. Weakness is
provocative. I would bomb the shit out of them.
And believe me, my temperament is very good,
very calm, I’m proud to have an “A” rating
from the American Rifle Association.
We stop bad guys by using our guns!
If I become president, Americans can work
together to revive Merry Christmas
and infringe on the rights of good, law-abiding
citizens. The whole world is on fire!
Look at that face! Pathological,
there’s no cure for that.

This composite’s name is Dred Crumpio, and he believes everything he says, even if he knows it’s a lie. Because talk is just talk, after all. It’s another thing entirely to whomp the bad guys, and believe you me, Americans don’t care about the actual score as long as we can pretend we’re winning.

The Resilience of Evil

December 7, 2015

Whac-A-MoleIn the wake of the most recent mass killings on U.S. soil, and the various posturings and evasions of our politicians, it’s time for another political column. However, in contrast to my usual rant, I’ll endeavor to make this post well-reasoned and scholarly. In the style of a philosophical treatise, the separate arguments will be enumerated, and footnotes will document the sources.

I. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”1

I.a. Syed Farook, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.b. Dylann Roof, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.c. Adam Lanza, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.d. James Holmes, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.e. Eric Harris, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.f. Dylan Klebold, a U.S. citizen, born and raised here.

I.g.–I.z. Et al., et al., et al.

II. Evil cannot be eliminated from the world.

II.a. Evil has been with us since the first human beings.2

II.b. Evil will not succumb to bombs, ground troops, atomic weapons or—except in fantasy movies—magic light sabers.

II.c. Indeed, the resilient, slippery and protean nature of evil—its ability to pop up in new forms in new places—suggests a popular game whose name now connotes a repetitive and impossible task.3

II.d. As point I above indicates, evil lives in all of us, not in any particular place.

II.d.1. Hence there is no one place to attack it.

III. Nor can the enticement of evil be eliminated.

III.a. Some types of evil will always look prettier or sound more convincing than good.4

III.b. In the basic sense, each person is tempted not by outsiders, but by his or her own desire.5

So, if we can’t get rid of evil, what might we do as a society? No easy solution exists. But we could try to make the good—that is, sane, peaceful, life-respecting behavior—more attractive. For instance, we could work to reduce poverty and the huge gap between the privileged and underprivileged. By doing so, we would boost the sense that everyone has something to live for rather than commit murder-mayhem-suicide for. Instead of empty patriotism, we Americans could then speak with a justified pride in our country, as one wild-eyed Revolutionary-era radical suggested:

When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government.6

Notes
  1. Pogo the Possum, 1971; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogo_(comic_strip).
  2. Genesis, 300 B.C.E. or earlier.
  3. Whac-A-Mole; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whac-A-Mole.
  4. John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667.
  5. James 1:14, c. 100 C.E.
  6. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791.

Guns and Cheesesteaks

November 22, 2015

s[r]headlineI have a new guest post on the “s [r] blog” from Superstition Review. Here’s the link.

The post is titled “Guns and Cheesesteaks,” and it’s probably not quite as silly as the title suggests. In fact, I believe it’s as meaningful as any recent utterances by Donald Trump.

This past weekend, my neighborhood in Philadelphia had the privilege of hosting Pope Francis. The Pope’s outdoor mass took place roughly two city blocks from my house. What a momentous celebration!

Reporters and bloggers have already published hundreds of commentaries and thousands of pictures about his visit (see, for instance, this post by the inimitable Liz Spikol), so I won’t attempt to talk about the religious, social or political aspects. This essay offers a micro view, focusing on snapshots taken within one block of my house—some within a dozen steps of my front door—to show how we readied the place for the pontiff. I hope our way of honoring a great dignitary will become a model for other localities.

Because this was the largest National Special Security Event (NSSE) ever, we took extra care to make our little community safe and appropriate for the Pope and his million-odd admirers. To begin, we closed the streets to traffic and towed away any parked cars left behind:

Before

Above: Before the preparations began. Below: Afterward.

After

We installed extra trash cans, and they were prettier than our usual ones:

Trash cans

We removed the mailbox, which might conceal bombs, weaponized hoagies or other dangerous objects:

Before: "this collection box will be removed.... This is Due to the Papal visit."

The sign says: “Please be advised that this collection box will be removed on Thursday, September 24th, 2015 and will be reinstalled on Monday, September 28th, 2015. This is Due to the Papal visit to Philadelphia.”

We blocked access from side streets:

25thSt

PAave

We also blocked the sidewalks of intersecting streets, leaving just enough room for pedestrians to squeeze through. This was to prevent terrorists from swooping in on golf carts or riding mowers:

SidewalkBlocked

We installed air-quality monitors to warn of chemical and radiation attacks (though some residents who tend to be gaseous worried about setting them off accidentally):

AirMonitor

We set up checkpoints:

Checkpoint2

We placed sharpshooters on rooftops. (Sorry, no picture. You know what guys with high-powered rifles look like.)

We brought in large groups of friendly young men in camouflage uniforms:

NationalGuard

We conducted constant surveillance from helicopters:

Helicopter

Looks like a spider up there, but it was much louder.

A little farther from our house, I spotted one low-flying Osprey, barely a hundred yards over the rooftops. This is an aircraft used only by the Marines and Air Force. Even the National Guard guys stared up at it in wonder, perhaps worried about its notorious crash record.

Of course we closed our schools and most of our small businesses. We detoured or stopped buses. To make room for the faithful, about half of our residents left town. Restaurants, if they stayed open, were empty.

Even the multigenerational Catholic family next door—a family that’s lived in the neighborhood for more than half a century—departed when they were unable to get tickets to the event. They planned to watch on TV from the Jersey shore.

So our neighborhood was all prepared to welcome Pope Francis. Proud of our efforts, we were ready to celebrate with him.

The only problem?

Our neighborhood wasn’t here anymore.

Our very empty block

Our thriving city block