Sunday, December 31, 2017

Senator Kreek Changes Parties


All right now, Sonny, I'm here. Stop foolin' with my collar, and let's get this damn thing over with.

What? It's alive, Mike? Who's Mike? This?! It's alive? Ewww! Get it off me!

Oh, all right. Why didn't you just say so? Don't know why it'd be turned on, but to each its own. As long as it doesn't bite, I don't care about its personal preferences. So ... start holdin' up the cards, and let's see if we can get this done in one fake. Take, I mean.

I have had a long and successful career representing the interests of my constituency ... anybody ask them about this? ... constituency, as a member of the Democratic Loon Party. I became a loon early in my life, and as long as I paid any attention to politics, it seemed to me that the DLP and I were made for each other. But now, in this here crisis of coincidence ... what? ... confidence, I feel that my efforts to uphold the principles of whatever it is my voters want upheld would be best served if I were to shift my allegiance into drive and ... I don't have an Allegiance, it's a Peugeot. Oh. Shift my allegiance TO a new alliance ... are you sure we're not talking about cars, here? ... to a new alliance of common interests, and they don't get any more common, I assure you, which we have decided to call the Injured Party.

Now I know some of you out there are asking yourselves, "I thought I googled panda porn. How did I get this nonsense?", and you might be right. Quite a few of you seem to be, lately. But I assure you there's a clear, logical, and compelling explanation for the change, and when we figure it out, we'll let you know. For now, let me just say that we hope we'll garner sympathy votes with this name.

Having thought of the name, incidentally, while reading a couple of fascinating subpoenas sent to one of my colleagues in the Senate, it occurred to us ... I say us, because my assistants usually read things to me while I take copious notes ... that our press releases and bar tabs would be much more appealing to the general public ... especially over at the Pentagon where they're all generals, more or less .. if they were to start out "The Injured Party testified ..."

Incidentally, in case any of you are concerned over the state of my health, physical or mental, preposterous as that may be. let me assure you that I've never been any more robust, healthy, wealthy, and wise ... healthy and committed ... to the institutions of our great system ... nation than I am today. In other words, there's no change. Spare or otherwise, climate or ... primate.

Sorry, lost the thread there. The bubble, as they say. But still, I'm sure that you, the proud members of the National Association of Rutabagel Producers, will agree that a vote for me or my opponent either, for that matter, is a vote for something. And that's easy for me to say, especially since I just thought of it now. My old mother always used to tell us "A new thought is a blue thought," and while no one knew what she meant by that, we all agreed that she was deeply whatever it was that she was. And you better believe it.

So in collusion ... conclusion ... I want to assure you that regardless of name, those of me who make up the core of the corps of the Injured Party will do our downleft best to include you in the growing conglomeration of those who are deeply injured. Thank you, and have a hippy ... harpy halidays.

J. F. McLuggage, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From Driven by the Trades, Now Available on Kindle

The Trade Winds

"21, go ahead." The older officer responded to the radio. There'd been nothing for him or his trainee for almost an hour. The joint city/county dispatcher was going back and forth with a sheriff's deputy about a robbery out in the Township, but Ann Arbor was being law-abiding or at least getting away with its crimes unnoticed.

"21, suspicious person, walking south on State, 2000 block, up near the buildings. Male, possibly black. East side of the street."

"Good example of the crap we get this time of the morning," the officer said, speaking to the young man next to him. It was 4:49 AM, according to the dashboard clock. "A guy's walking along in the rain, and somebody calls it in."

"Let's go see him." The patrol SUV turned south off the residential street where they'd been waiting for the morning's traffic accidents to start.

Along the west side, there was no way for a pedestrian to walk suspiciously. The university's athletic buildings and fields and golf course were more than adequately secured, and they butted right up to the sidewalk. The light at the railroad crossing was green, and they went on past Stimson Street on the east, then past the Produce Station and a sausage shop. A vacant lot followed, then a body shop, and finally, back from the street, a small office building.

"There we go," said the driver. There was a man walking along the front of the building, partly shadowed from the street lights by the second floor overhang. There was a driveway just beyond it, and they pulled in, effectively blocking the man's path.

They got out. The older officer, Kurt, greeted their subject. "Good morning, sir. You're getting kind of wet, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir," said the man. He was, in fact, African-American, and he looked old, almost elderly. "Naturally, it'd start rainin' now."

"We just wondered if you were all right. Someone saw you, thought maybe you might need some help."

"No, sir, no. I'm just walkin' home."

"Home? Where's that?"

"Why, up there, off Ellsworth. In the apartments."

"That's a long way."

"Yes, sir. It is. But I'm used to it. I work for the university."

"Okay. Any reason why you'd be walking up close to these buildings? Not out on the sidewalk?"

The man smiled. "Oh, yes, sir. Plenty of reason." He held out his hand, palm up, and the rain splashed on it. "Keepin' out of the rain."

"I see. Do you have some ID I could look at?"

"Oh, sure." His coat came about to mid-thigh, and instead of hiking it up in back, he unzipped it and pulled it open. "I'm just reachin' for my wallet, now. All right?"

The younger officer had stepped slightly sideways, and he could see where the man's hand was going. He said, "Yes, go ahead."

The driver's license the man produced was current, and the address was a street Kurt knew, lined with townhouses. Across from the city's main landfill, in fact. "That's what, two miles or something?"

"Well, more like a mile and a half, sir. I cut over on Eisenhower, go down to Stone School and get over the highway there. I do it every day."

"Okay. Well ... it's just going to keep on raining, apparently. Can we give you a ride?"

"Oh. Well, that would be very nice of you, sir. Very nice. I'd appreciate it."

The man got in the back of the SUV, and they took him home, going the formal, right-angle way, crossing the freeway on State, then around the traffic circle and east on Ellsworth. They dropped him off, watched as he went up to a door and opened it with a key.

"You know, Mike," the older cop said as they turned the vehicle around, "he had a UM facilities uniform, ID, and everything. Walking two miles home in the dark, ducking under awnings to stay dry. And somebody called him in as 'suspicious'. What if he'd been white? Think we'd have ever heard of him, let alone stopped him?"

"If he'd been a deer, we'd have had SWAT out here." The city had just gone through a nasty period of shaming and counter-shaming among citizens and council members over a project to reduce the whitetail deer population.

"Oh, well. At least we could give him a lift home." They turned right out of the complex, headed back west toward State. The radio woke up again.

In the next few seconds, the early morning collapsed away on each side, tunneling into a narrow path, smoothing and streaking and blurring at the edges. The important features were lights falling away behind them as they sped up, rain hitting the windshield with increasing force, drops smearing with the wind and smearing the world. Things became more of a shooting script than a narrative.

The view shifted to a higher point, looking downward at the SUV as it slid out its rear wheels going around the traffic circle. North on State, with the flashers making the Quick Lube a surreal red and blue work of public art. No traffic on the other side of the boulevard, ominously empty. They went through the light at Research Park, a car braking hard to let them by. A glimpse of the driver's startled face, tinted blue. The radio still babbling. A U Haul office snapping by on the right. Ahead, the road going up to cross the freeway. Cresting the overpass. "Holy shit!"

To the left, at the westbound entrance ramp, two cars upside down. A third visible down the ramp, burning hellishly. A Pittsfield Township patrol car, sideways across the southbound lanes of State, both officers out with long guns. Fire trucks coming in from both directions. State police coming from the east on the freeway, bouncing over the shoulder and getting jammed up in the ditch. Our two officers out of their car, running in, side-arms drawn. A man weaving toward them, on foot, with his clothes on fire. In close-up, a woman standing in the rain, her arms over her head, and her face twisted into a grimace of sheer horror. Shouting. Sirens. And above all of it, rain, dark clouds, and a flash of lightening.

Two and a half hours later, Mac MacArthur set down his plate of toast and the first cup of coffee. He perched on a kitchen stool, got his phone out, and unlocked it. As he usually did, he opened the Detroit Free Press news site first. "Jesus H. Christ!" he said, aloud. His dogs looked up, surprised at his tone. Colleen MacArthur looked up, too. "What now?" she asked him.

"Look at this," was all he said, passing her the phone.

From Driven by the Trades Copyright by 2017 Joseph McConnell

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Politics: Sen. Elijah Kreek's Healthcare Bill
Ann Arbor, June 3, 1915 (WCNS) US Senator Elijah Kreek (L, Michigan), spoke at a press conference this morning in Washington, held to announce his plans to introduce a completely new national healthcare bill. Senator Kreek's address is reproduced here.

Hello? Is this thing Ron? I mean, Ron, is this on thing? The thing, you know, is it on? Okay. Good. Don't want to waste anybody's time, talking to some off thing.

Now, about that word, off. I've been usin' it for years, off and on, and you know, I wonder why I haven't ever stopped. Stopped to wonder, that is. Wait. Who wrote this foolishness? I stop to wonder all the time! Oh, about the word off, eh? Well, why didn't you say so? I did. Just then.

Anyway, what do we mean off? I tried to giggle it on the Internet, but all I got was some nonsense about bug repellent. I've known plenty of bugs in my time, and most of 'em were repellent enough without having some goop sprayed on 'em. And lizards? Don't get me started.

Healthcare. That's what it says on the card that young fella's holdin' up. No, wait. There's more. It says Healthcare Bill. I don't know anybody by that name, though. Used to hang around the Orgone Box with old Wilhelm Reich. Some people called him Healthcare Bill because they thought he needed some. The Orgone Box was a cafe' and hookah bar in North Lansing, by the way. I always thought those DEA fellas were too hard on 'em. The owners.

Now he's gone and written something on the card. Your Healthcare Bill it says now. Oh, My healthcare bill? He's nodding his head. Up and down. You oughta get that looked at, Son. You're too young to have your head flopping around like that.

I recall once, up in Ishpeming or somewhere like that, I went to a doctor. A veteran, he was. Said so right on his sign. Spelled it wrong, but I won't hold that against him. Anyway, I wanted him to do something about my rheumatiz. "Where is he?" the doc says. Well, the conversation went downhill from there. He ended up putting a big cone-shaped thing around my neck. I wore it for a while, but it was hard to see where I was goin'. Still have it, though. I wear it instead of a necktie when I go to embassy dinners. Helps me understand what the foreigners are sayin'.

But when I got the bill for all that, I said to myself and three or four other people, "This here healthcare bill is incomprehensible!" And they couldn't understand it. Incomprehensible. They didn't know what it meant. Means stupid, by the way, if you don't know what it means, either. And that got me all up on my high horse about it.

After I fell off, as I usually do, I got up on my short horse and rode over to the Senate. The Senate was another hookah bar, you understand. And we talked about it, healthcare, that is. The bartender and I. And he said, "You oughta do something about it." And so I did. I am. Now, finally.

What's that? Oh, he's pointin' at the card again. Now it says Explain it. What? I was explaining something, there, but you made me lose my thread. Now he's back to Healthcare Bill, again. You know, I'm not sure I recognize him. I usually do, those kids who hang around and sort of give me a shove in one direction or another. But this one ... I don't know, he might be a demonstrator or a perpetrator or one of those "ator" types. There's usually a lot of 'em around, holdin' up signs, I notice. In fact, I was coming through the airport just yesterday, and there was a guy protesting something called the "Kardashian Party". I don't really know any of those Russian types, but a party is a party so I said ...

What? Oh, good. Time's up. Anyway, vote for me or even this Healthcare Bill fella, whoever he is. I'll see you all back at the Senate, those of you who are old enough, anyway.
 Copyright 2015, ProcArch Press, Sen. Elijah Kreek
Politics:  Senator Kreek Addressed the Ann Arbor City Council
There are a lot of people wanderin' around my office these days. Some of 'em, I even recognize. This one young gal, for example, is the one who's always giving me pieces of paper. I keep tryin' to tell her I have plenty of paper, thanks, you keep it. But she doesn't. She makes me keep it. It's gettin' hard to see around the stacks of it. But it dawned on me, maybe it's a security measure. Givin' me something to hide behind, you know. In case that Trump fella busts in or maybe one of my constituents.

Anyway, this morning she handed me another piece of paper. She wanted to know what I thought of it. "Well," I said, "it's flat. And sort of white. Got nice black ink on it, too."
That wouldn't do, though. She said she meant the content of it. What it said, you know. Why didn't she say so in the first place, is my question. But so, I read it.

Turns out, it was all about these guys in Ann Arbor and how they're all worked up over managin' deer. With my eyesight bein' what it is, I read it as "beer management" at first, but the young lady straightened me out on that. And she said it'd be a good idea if I could address the issue. So, here goes.

First of all, I hear that they got some kind of college there in that town, and that a lot of people hang around it, talkin' about management. Now, I didn't know that managin' deer was that much of a problem, with regard to the nation's economy, but I can't see, if it is, why it's any more difficult than managin' anything else. As my old pal, Walt Kelly, suggested, time was when a worker'd be happy if you gave him fifty cents and a pat on the back with a shovel. But I guess with deer, it'd be a little ambiguous just where to deliver the feedback. They're pretty fast, too.

Another thing I noted is that somebody in that town don't know how to spell. I had to read that word, "cull", five or six times before I got it. For your future guidance (as they say to me a lot around the Senate), that's spelled with a "K" and an "I". I looked it up. College town like that, you'd think they wouldn't make that kind o' mistake.

But then, I got to the real crucks of the matter. That's "crucks". A cross between "crocks" and that Ted Crux fella. Throw in "crooks", too, while you're at it. Perfectly good word.
Anyway, the crucks of it is in the details, as it usually is. Details without a crucks is like a candidate without voters. Like Rick Perry. Or Millard Fillmore. Yeah, I know he's dead. So's Rick Perry. But my point is, they're gonna have these sharkshooters, runnin' around after dark, with silenced gums, trying to cull things. Now, that may sound sensible to you. It did to me, for a while. But then I looked up Ann Arbor on a map, and dang if it ain't a long way from anywhere you'd expect to find sharks. Twenty, thirty miles, at least. So I went back to the woman who brought this up, and I said, "This here is incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. And where we gonna find one o' them?"

"Sharp," she said. "Sharp shooters." So I went back and re-read it with my glasses on. But I still couldn't make head nor tail of it. If you can, well, I suppose you could talk to the lady in my office. I'd give you her phone number, but I can't remember her name. Or if she has one. A phone, I mean. So probably the best thing is just to hope it goes away. I know I do.
 Copyright 2016, ProcArch Press, Sen. Elijah Kreek

Science: Previously Undescribed 

At one point, a collective of academic figures and literary luminaries discussed the creation of a journal dedicated exclusively to brief notices of new findings in the humanities. The project was abandoned due to a crippling preposition shortage in the Midwest, but the following four short pieces exemplify the style and subject matter that was in contemplation.  

Worminster's Monkey
First reported in 1879 by the Reverend Thomas St. Jude Worminster, this small creature was thought to be extinct, primarily because no one but Worminster ever subsequently claimed to see one; some reservations were expressed by others on the grounds that, as far as can be determined, Worminster himself never left England. However, recent extensive surveys of remote Sumatran forests have produced one blurry trail camera picture, backed up by numerous cell phone shots taken by students on holiday, of a small monkey that clearly matches Worminster's description: an animal with four legs, two ears, and a coat of brown fur. (This is Worminster's description of the monkey, not a description of Worminster - Ed.)

Worminster's notes on the animal's call -- something like a first-year Divinity student, reading Milton aloud -- could not be confirmed. On the strength of the photos, though, Worminster's Monkey, Cercopithecus Miltoni Worminsterii, was immediately given IUCN's Critically Silly status.

Bishop's Lacklustre, Warwickshire, UK
Bishop's Lacklustre is a small port on the Yangtze River, thirty versts below Copenhagen. In 1809, Viscount Nelson turned a blond eye to his orders from Neville Chamberlain and burnt the town, along with its copra-processing facilities. In the mid-nineteenth century, the eponymous Bishop attempted to undercut Canadian fur prices by establishing huge beaver farms in the vicinity, located along the plashy verges of the Nile tributaries, resulting in municipal, Episcopal, and moral bankruptcy. Bombed by both sides in the Second World War in an effort to destroy the Voysey Wallpaper Works, the town no longer exists. In 2003, a paper published by Lars-Erik Flendt of the Max Planck Institute seriously questioned whether it ever had.

Girl with a Chip on Her Shoulder, by Vincent van Gogh
While the light and the rustic scenes of Arles may have driven Van Gogh's high period, there is a body of documentary evidence that the local people had their effects as well, perhaps in a less positive fashion, on the output of his last years. The somewhat sardonic expression of Madame Ginoux in 1890's L'Arlésienne is explained by a newly-authenticated letter from the artist to his brother, Theo, in which he describes a cousin (or perhaps housemaid?) of Ginoux as being "... très difficile ..." and " ... toujours se plaignant au sujet des tripes ... " (always complaining about the tripe.) The girl in question is thus almost certainly the one depicted in his last portrait from Arles, showing a young woman of about 30, standing, dressed in a blue gown, and threatening the viewer with a broom. A dog, prefiguring in many ways Matisse's much later Interior with Dog, is scrambling, with a greater sense of motion and urgency than we often see in Van Gogh's work, to get under the couch.

The Battle of Old Sodbury
For many years, the battle of Old Sodbury was considered to have been a skirmish between mounted elements of the Scots and English armies, maneuvering in the week prior to the more conclusive fight at Flodden. Only one contemporary chronicler, Auld Wattie's Daub (the Bard of the Bog) provided any details. However, nothing loathe, a number of recent historians have used differential analysis and applied numeric norms to arrive at estimates of the forces engaged. By working from the typical composition of early sixteenth century armies, both Parker and his Netherlandish colleague, Henri-Joost Wafle, estimated that 150 to 200 Scots light cavalry or “prickers” rode south toward Old Sodbury on the morning of September 1st, 1513, where they discovered a slightly smaller force of English scouts, numbering around 130. A short engagement resulted, with both sides falling back toward their respective main forces.

On the strength of these analyses, the Town Council of Old Sodbury erected in 1972 a stone cross on the high street, giving the date, a brief description, and the names (somewhat speculatively) of the commanders of each party. Unfortunately, more recent scholarship, involving a better translation of Daub's Scots/Flemish manuscript, has revealed that in fact, the forces engaged on each side numbered exactly one each; the battle consisted of a disagreement between a Scotsman and an Englishmen who were drinking together in a public house and who fell out over the attentions of a bar maid. Neither was killed, since they set upon each other not with sword and lance but with ale flagon and bar stool, and when last seen, the combatants were walking away, arm in arm with the bar maid, in a generally easterly direction. Furthermore, the fight took place not at Old Sodbury, nor further south at Market Sodbury, nor even as has been suggested, a bit farther toward London at the hamlet of Miserable Old Sodbury, but somewhere along Jamaica Street in Glasgow, some 96 miles to the Northwest. The town council has so far taken no action to revise or remove the monument.

The Diet of Bad Wissenschaft

Held in 1560 to reconsider the wisdom of conclusions arrived at the previous year in the Diet of Bad Entscheidungen. Topics included the previous year's proclamation of Empire-wide religious tolerance on the basis of Cujus Bovio Eius Religio. Essentially, it established Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism in any given governmental unit based on who had the best cow.

Other contentious issues included the Papal assertion of the divine right of things and the lengthy and inconclusive war between the Markgrave of Saxe-Phonendorf and the Elector of OstWestland. This conflict was prolonged because neither the latter person nor place could be located.

The assembled nobility and clergy were initially inclined to make substantial changes in these and other, prior measures, but in the event, no conclusions were reached. This was primarily due to the proximity of another, more attractive hot-springs town, Bad Mädchenplatz, to which the delegates essentially transferred the proceedings. No record was filed of transactions thereafter.

To be reported In next month's issue:
  • The Late Woodland Bark Biter Culture of Central Ohio
  • Stocking Sorter's Syndrome
J. F. McLuggage

Politics: Senator Kreek Takes a Phone Call


So I was sittin' around, like I usually do, pondering the future of the universe and man's place in it. Woman's place, too, for that matter. There was a woman's place, I recall, up in Ishpeming, that we used to visit ... but I grow prolix.

Then this young woman came in, and she said "Senator, you have a phone call." I said, "Why, thanks. I will. Have one, yourself." She went back out, and by coincidence, my phone rang. It does that now and then. So I picked it up, like I usually do, and set it back down. It kept ringing, though, so I picked up the other part of it – the part that comes off, you know – and somebody said "Hello, Senator."

"Where?", I said. But that didn't stop him, and he started in on the dire state of things, both at home and abroad. So I got up and put the phone in the sink, like I usually do, and I went back to pondering. Got to get my pondering done, you know. But it got me thinking, thinking how that word abroad is inherently funny. There are words like that, you know. Words that get a smile, at least. Monkey, for example. And spelt. I knew a guy up in Michigan, he couldn't hear about spelt but what he'd start to go on about somebody who was Miss Spelt of 1989 or something. Claimed his mother was Miss Construed. I used to know some folks named Construed, but they didn't have any daughters, so it couldn't have been one of them.

Anyway, that same person came back into the office and said Mister Johnson wanted to know why I hung up on him. I said I wasn't hung up on him, didn't even know him, but she fished the phone out of the water and handed it to me. It wasn't any Johnson at all, just some feller named Boris. I tried to tell him he wanted the State Department, not me. Funny accent, too, for a Russian. But it turned out, he was looking for a job. Had a long rigmarole about why he was at liberty. I didn't get it, frankly. I was still pondering. But he was going on about breakfast or something. Hash breakfast, I thought he said. Exit was mixed up in it, too. He sounded like a Brit, and that reminded me that they don't have normal "EXIT" signs over there. They all say "Way Out". That would never go, here in the US. Too Carnaby Street for us children of the Sixties.

Now, those of you who are payin' attention will remember that I used the word "prolix" back about four paragraphs ago. One of the things we do down here at the headwaters is to grow prolix. Got a whole planter of it out back. There's a few who grind it up and have it with their granoley in the morning – Paul Ryan, for example – but most of us just smoke it. Keeps you awake through the filibusters and committee meetings. I tried to explain to Ivan or Yuri or whoever it was on the phone that I had to go water the prolix, and that if he wanted a job over here, he ought to quit fooling around and go see the Bush family. See if they needed any spare sons-in-law. They're running out of gubernatorial fodder over there, I hear. Goobers as we call 'em in the Senate lounge. Or with that accent, the CIA could probably use him as deep cover, spying on the British or the English or whatever they're calling themselves these days. He said no, he'd rather not show his face in London, right now. I said grow a mustache, but that didn't seem to suit.

I finally got him to hang up by giving him Michael Moore's phone number. Told him to play up his acting experience, see if he could get a part in one of those comedies Moore's always producing. I hear he's got one in the works, a remake of that Brando thing, Hypotenuse Now or whatever it was, where a guy goes up a creek. Told Vladimir he could play the Governor if he didn't mind drinking funny-looking water. So we parted on a positive note, B flat, I think it was. I told the woman who hangs around my office that I was going to an agriculture department meeting. Went out the back door, picked a couple of ounces of prolix, and left for the day.
J. F. McLuggage

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Mac MacArthur novels by Joseph McConnell

Mac MacArthur is a retired, disabled detective in Michigan's city of Ann Arbor. In Joseph McConnell's series of novels, Mac is drawn back into crimes high and low, gradually working his way out of one mentor role and into another. The cast includes two women, one who is becoming an old hand herself and gaining an executive position in the process, one who is casting around, looking for a rebellion to support. And alongside the humans, there are always the dogs, typically German Shepherds, lending their support and abilities.

All the books are available on Amazon Kindle or as print on demand paperbacks. McConnell's author page is here.