Pondering the privilege of eating other sentient beings…

This morning while I was out and about I smelled the aroma of bacon in the air and my first thought after the immediate Pavlovian salivation response was to wonder if somewhere nearby a vegan was fuming because of the aroma.

So, I wrote my observation and posted it to Facebook and waited for the responses—hoping my intention wouldn’t be misconstrued or that I wouldn’t offend any of my vegan and vegetarian friends. I truly was wondering if merely the odor of bacon in the air would trigger a negative response from people that choose to not eat meat for ethical reasons.

Fortunately, I have friends that are capable and willing to give me thoughtful and eloquent responses.

One friend, Laurel, said, “We don’t fume because bacon is eaten—we fume because animal agriculture is taking us all down. We don’t realize that we have fucked ourselves out of the privilege of eating other sentient beings. With that said, some fume. Some just have a moment of reflection and a reminder of what we give up in the name of saving a shred of anything beautiful here.”

That’s a powerful and passionate response that I respect. I’ve attempted to go full vegetarian—I’m at around 75% now—but there are still things I crave so I backslide: Eggs, half and half for my coffee, real butter, sushi, and bacon are my holdouts.

Another friend, Adrienne, tells me she would have similar holdouts if it were not for the cardiac benefits. “Nothing like a massive heart attack in someone you love to put things in perspective. I’m vegan. I love the smell of bacon. Don’t love killing and eating sensitive intelligent beings. Don’t love what animal fats do to human arteries. But yeah, it smells smoky and wonderful.”

My intention of writing this essay is to address the public narrative that vegans are extremists that don’t understand their carnivorous fellow humans and demonstrate that the vegan experience is more complex and their feelings are more nuanced.

2.

Jeanie’s biological dad was a butcher by trade and she was raised with the belief that she hadn’t eaten a meal if meat wasn’t a part of it. Jeanie, and her husband Joel, currently reside in a small Midwestern town with limited dining options—but something happened a few years ago that prompted her to consider a plant-based lifestyle.

In August 2015, Jeanie’s father-in-law had a stroke.

“Joel’s dad was a fantastic guy, a larger than life personality, and loved by all. We watched him die and it tore me up. Plus, I work for a dialysis company and see really sick people every day.”

Watching Joel’s father die “really made me think about myself and my own health.” Jeanie felt like she owed her family more. “The thought of my kids watching me like that got me. If a stroke or cancer can be prevented I needed to do whatever I could to be healthy.”

So, she made the decision to be healthier, lose weight, and exercise more. Looking into healthy recipes, Jeanie learned about meatless Mondays, which led to the discovery of Forks over Knives—a 2011 documentary film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases.

“The transition was easy for me,” Jeanie says. “I was repulsed by the thought of an animal dying for me. I don’t believe there’s a humane way to kill an animal—they feel pain and they feel fear.”

Jeanie has been vegan for nearly two years now and chose the lifestyle because of the environmental impact, health benefits, and because she cannot abide cruelty of any kind.

When the subject of the aroma of roasting flesh in the air comes up she says, “I hate to admit this, but yes, the smell of meat bothers me; frankly it smells like shit, literally it smells like feces to me. If you’re a non-smoker and the smell of smoke bothers you, it’s similar.”

3.

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” ~Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably recognize that quote as a line spoken by Anthony Hopkins portraying a serial killer with highbrow cannibalistic proclivities. Lecter is described as “a monster” and a “pure psychopath” who prepares gourmet meals from the flesh of his victims, so his inclusion in this essay may seem bizarre.

However, it isn’t strange at all when you read what my friend, Sean—a “hardcore” vegan—thinks about people that eat meat. Sean said he appreciated my reaching out to him but he just didn’t have the energy to speak deeply about how he feels on the subject of eating animals with people that say they like animals “but continue to perpetuate their murder for zero reason other than their personal pleasure.”

Sean has discussed the ethical reasons to not eat animals with his carnivorous friends so often he’s given up trying to convince them that they’re basically accomplices to murder when they eat animals slaughtered for food.

He admits that it’s painful for him, because there are many people he likes, and when he starts talking about it with them “it widens the gap I have between my meat eating friends to the point where it makes me question how I could continue those very friendships.”

Sean has made a conscious decision to be part of society and live among meat eaters when doing so breaks his heart every day.

If it seems extreme that Sean contemplates ending his friendships with people, based on what some consider a dietary habit, you have to realize that in Sean’s estimation meat eaters are “on the same ethical playing field as Jeffrey Dahmer.”

And he’s not the only person I’ve spoken to that feels this way.

Imagine looking at the majority of the human population and seeing a cannibalistic mob of Jeffrey Dahmer’s and Chianti swilling Hannibal Lecter’s leering back at you.

***

To be continued…

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The Rupert Pupkin Quartet Rides Again

I’m remembering a time at Lenny’s Nosh Bar when Madjym hosted a Sunday night jazz show with his band, The Rupert Pupkin Quartet (Minus One, Plus Some). The name of the band was a mischievous homage to Robert DeNiro’s character in Martin Scorsese’s film The King of Comedy.

And fortunately, my memory is assisted by Erich Boekelheide’s recording of the scene with a video camera—making it possible for me to accurately write about the people there and break it down as a back-up of my time traveler’s recollection.

Watching this video brings it all back.

There’s Louie Ledbetter on stand-up bass, Eric Moore on harmonica, and Brooks Brown on saxophone—guys I’ve known since high school. Madjym Wyant, of course, is the emcee and lead singer, as usual. Man, that cat could scat like a pro.

The last three guys in the group are Jerry Glisan on guitar, Glen Bonney on trombone, and Dennis Caffey on drums. I don’t remember Jerry and Glen very well but I remember chats with Dennis. His sister, Charlotte, was the guitarist in The Go-Gos and We Got The Beat and Can’t Stop The World were in the jukebox.

I get a tribal kinship rush whenever the lens of the camera sweeps across the room and I see all these people from my youth—some of whom I still see occasionally, others I’ve not seen for decades, and some I will never see again because they are gone forever.

Oh, what a joy it is to see Jamie Hosler again, rocking that massive Afro he once had. Jean Costello, looking pensive as usual in a close up. Paul Golden laughing. Scott Taylor and Sulwyn Sparks hunched over in a booth. Lawrence Cain. Joe Brooks. Hershel Bloom.

And seeing myself briefly—as a broadly smiling blur clapping after Hershel’s performance of his spoken word song, Loose Change—damn…just like it was yesterday.

And, Lenny Nathan himself—looking a bit spaced out as he checks out the crowd…

***

Postscript:

This is a 336 word one-page piece and will connect to a series of pieces about Lenny’s Nosh Bar—some of which I’ve already written and others I’m still tinkering with. I may expand on this one, but probably not. It seems complete to me, especially after watching the video. ~RLR

Annual New Year Report: Read This Before You Download yOS 2.018

According to consensus reality, yOS 2.017—the current year running in the chronometer of your biological operating system—will be updated to yOS 2.018 at precisely midnight this Sunday, installed at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, and promises to replace the old year with a new year.

However, previous yearly updates have proven the premise that promises can be broken—so be prepared for possible glitches, crashes, energy drains, overheating, application instability, and problems connecting.

Users should also be aware that downloading and installing yOS 2.018 may not result in a better or more efficient operating system, especially for those that have experienced major technical difficulties with yOS 2.017.

In fact, it’s possible the yOS 2.018 update will be incompatible with the chronological operating systems of many people, such as those that frequently tell others to live in the present moment. These people may be resistant to the new update as they are running presentism software and function in a world wherein neither the future nor the past exist.

Likewise, persons running eternalism software, which allows them to experience time simultaneously and operate in a reality wherein all points in time are equally real, will likely have issues with the update.

These potential issues have prompted some people to suggest that, if time is a construct humans invented to prevent everything from happening all at once, the words Happy New Year should come with a trigger warning—like the words: Merry Christmas and Make America Great Again.

Those critics claim that calling out Happy New Year to someone is a vocal form of chrono-harassment and adds insult to injury to all self-proclaimed slaves of time that have been subjected to cultural conditioning to perceive time in a linear fashion.

In conclusion…

This update is not a restart, a reset, or a reboot.

The “new” year will not contain any anthropomorphic features—despite reports of a decrepit man passing a figurative torch to a cherubic baby.

May you experience the continuance of a year.

The Laddie Doth Protest Too Much: A 1583 Rant on the Depravity of Playgoers

Do they not maintain bawdry,

insinuate foolery,

and renew the remembrance of heathen idolatry?

Do they not induce whoredom and uncleanness?

Nay, are they not rather plain devourers of maidenly virginity and chastity?

For proof whereof but mark the flocking and running to Theaters and Curtains,

daily and hourly, night and day, time and tide,

to see plays and interludes where such wanton gestures,

such bawdy speeches,

laughing

fleering,

kissing

bussing,

clipping

culling,

winking, and

glancing

of wanton eyes,

is wonderful to behold.

Then these goodly pageants being ended,

every mate sorts to his mate,

brings another homeward of their way very friendly,

and in their secret conclaves (covertly)

they play the sodomites, or worse.

And these be the fruits of plays and interludes.

And whereas, you say, there are good examples to be learnt in them:

Truly, so there are;

if you will learn falsehood and cozenage,

to deceive; to play the hypocrite,

to cog, to lie and falsify;

if you will learn to jest, laugh and fleer,

to grin, to nod and mow;

if you will learn to play the Vice,

to swear, tear and blaspheme both heaven and earth;

if you will learn to become a bawd, unclean,

and to devirginate maids, to deflower honest wives;

if you will learn to murder, flay, kill, pick, steal, rob and rove;

if you will learn to rebel against princes,

to commit treasons,

to consume treasures,

to practice idleness,

to sing and talk of bawdy love and venery;

if you will learn to deride, scoff, mock and flout,

to flatter and smooth;

if you will learn to play the whoremaster,

the glutton, drunkard, or incestuous person;

if you will learn to become proud, haughty and arrogant;

if you will learn to condemn God and all His laws,

to care neither for Heaven nor Hell,

and to commit all kinds of sin and mischief,

you need go to no other school,

for all these good examples may you see painted before your eyes in interludes and plays.

~ Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses (1583).

Paris through the Window in Three Variations…

A Drabble is a vignette of precisely 100 words in length and the term—described as a word game for 2 to 4 players wherein the first player to write a novel is the winner—was coined in Monty Python’s Big Red Book, first published in 1971.

Since this word game in print isn’t practical to play in the real world within a short period of time, it was determined that a Drabble would have to be a very short novel indeed, in order to play the game in real time. And, it was furthermore agreed that a hundred words would suffice; and that the first rule of writing a Drabble is adhering to the precise word-count of a hundred.

Hyphenated-words-are-argued-about—but not by me, so have at it—with fifteen additional words permitted for a title.

Now, in my daily practice of writing a single page of concise compositions of polished prose using exactly 336 words, I’m accustomed to working within a structure of limitation when I write an essay or a piece of fiction or satire.

However, my practice also includes building on a 336-word piece by writing additional pages, if necessary. Some of my pieces are complete as one-off single-page pieces, but some are not. And all of my pieces can be expanded if I wish—with the highest page limit set at six pages.

Writing a Drabble is a particular kind of challenge for me because it forces me to be even more concise and specific with my writing and requires a very precise collaboration with my internal editor.

The most satisfiying writing exercise I play with is crafting a Drabble inspired by a work of art.

And my favorite is the following piece of short fiction I wrote, inspired by Marc Chagall’s 1913 painting, Paris par la fenêtre, and published here in three variations revised three times over six years.

I’m offering these variations as examples of different ways to tell the same story with slightly and vastly different outcomes and moods.

1.

Paris Through The Window (2012)

by Richard La Rosa

The room is littered with hundreds of paintings yet one instantly catches my eye—Chagall’s, Paris Through The Window.

My brother knew it was my favorite (as I had given it to him fifty years ago). Yes, it’s the original, created with an extraordinary oil paint made by a Russian gypsy in 1909. The one in the Guggenheim is a fake.

Placing my hands on the painting, I concentrate as only my brother the art forger and I, the art thief, know how.

The room dissolves as I step into the Paris of 1913—and the past becomes my present.

2.

Paris Through The Window (2015)

by Richard La Rosa

The flat is cluttered with a hundred paintings, but one against the wall catches my attention: Marc Chagall’s, Paris Through The Window.

It’s the original, created with an extraordinary oil paint made in 1909 by a Russian gypsy. The painting in the Guggenheim is a fake—expertly copied by my brother, using the paints that our great-grandfather made a century ago.

Placing my hands on the painting, I concentrate as only my brother the art forger and I, the art thief, know how.

The room dissolves and I step into the Paris of 1913 just before the world ends.

3.

Paris Through The Window (2017)

by Richard La Rosa

I stride over to a painting by Marc Chagall hanging over a bricked-up window inside a Paris flat that is filled with a hundred masterpieces acquired over a hundred years.

A copy of the divine work of Cubism—created with oil paints made in 1909 by an artist whose genetic imprint is stamped in my own art-thief eyes—was made by my deceased art-forger brother and switched, like all the others, for the original.

Closing my eyes, I reach out to the painting, and I’m a hundred years in the past where my brother takes my hand.

***

Author’s Note:

This piece is precisely 672 words in length (2×336) and I expect I will likely expand it with an additional 336 words (probably on the subject of Chagall’s painting and some of the themes that inspired it—as well as the connection those themes have to my story). ~R.L.R.

On the hypocrisy of corporal punishment for children…

Imagine you’re at your job and your boss confronts you and demands to know why you didn’t get your work done on time. You begin explaining your reasons but your words are cut short—the boss yells at you, berating you for making the same old excuses. You try to continue speaking when suddenly your boss slaps you across the face and says, “Don’t talk back to me!”

Or imagine you’re that boss or manager or supervisor and your employee screws up on the job—or simply refuses to acquiesce to your demands. Do you believe, since they’re under your management, that you have the right to demand that they drop their pants and bend over your lap so you can spank their bare ass with your hand or with a belt?

What if that scenario was an acceptable dynamic in the relationship between employer and employee and that your boss or manager or supervisor was permitted to beat you as a form of discipline if you did some something they thought was bad or wrong?

Now, let’s switch out the word “boss” for “parent” and the word “employee” for “child” and imagine the same scenario.

Welcome to the double standard of corporal punishment for children—brought to you by a tone deaf society that has socially conditioned you to accept it’s justifiable to beat a child if they do something you don’t like.

Well, I call bullshit on the concept of acceptable violence against children under any circumstances. To hit a child, while harboring a belief that hitting others is wrong, is some kind of twisted hypocrisy. It’s one of the most baffling mixed messages we receive when we are children; the assertion that hitting people is wrong.

And the assertion that “you shouldn’t hit others” typically comes with extenuating circumstances like “it’s sometimes necessary to hit a person in self-defense” and “sometimes it’s okay to hit someone if you’re protecting someone else.”

This nefarious double standard creates cognitive dissonance in a developing brain.

~ Part 2 ~

When I was fifteen years old I made a vow to myself that I would never use corporal punishment or the threat of physical violence as a form of discipline or corrective behavioral therapy with my own child. This was a non-negotiable promise to my future daughter to ensure that she would never have cause to fear me or to feel humiliated or defenseless in my presence. It was a vow guaranteed to secure our bond of love and trust.

As I grew older I would periodically bring up the subject of corporal punishment in conversations with people and I was continually appalled by the casual acceptance of spanking as a legitimate method of disciplining children. And when I protested the practice as being psychologically harmful to children my opinion was dismissed.

The claim that mild punishment (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effect is still widespread because we received this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children’s pain. The result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless “correction”. Many parents still think: What didn’t hurt me can’t hurt my child. They don’t realize that their conclusion is wrong because they never challenged their assumption.

That’s Alice Miller, calling bullshit on the assertion that hitting children doesn’t have a lasting effect on their psyche, in an excerpt from Every Smack is a Humiliation – A Manifesto.

And here’s Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Geneva, proposing the revolutionary idea that children should never receive less protection than adults and that we must put an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as ‘tradition’ or disguised as ‘discipline.’

~ Part 3 ~

Accepted as tradition…

Okay, now we come to the part of my essay where I really start calling bullshit in earnest and I’m going to list some of the pervasive justifications I’ve heard supporting violence against children.

Tradition seems to be the default justification for hitting kids. It’s the reason the majority of people I’ve spoken with hit a wall in conversations about corporal punishment. And, while it’s true that tradition is a major roadblock to get past, it’s only one barrier that prevents me from breaking on through to the other side when trying to promote the revolutionary concept that hitting a child as a punitive measure is a really bad disciplinary strategy and just bad human behavior.

But most people are going to defend their convictions to the death and the people I’ve observed with the most certitude are the older generations that think tradition is as necessary as breathing.

It’s like this…

“Back in my day we didn’t coddle children the way some of you youngsters do with your time-outs and your calm reasoning. Corporal punishment has been an acceptable practice for thousands of years in civilized society—people didn’t have a problem with spanking in olden times.”

Well, I’m sorry-not-sorry to break it to you, old timer, but you’re dead wrong. It’s actually not difficult at all to find someone from “back in the day” that has a problem with spanking.

Like this fellow that says,“Children ought to be led to honorable practices by means of encouragement and reasoning, and most certainly not by blows and ill treatment.”

That would be Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist, calling bullshit on punitive violence against children almost two thousand years ago.

And, to illustrate the illustrious nature of Plutarch as a personage of respect with regard to his opinions, I will add that Plutarch was also the fellow that wrote many stories that would be mined by William Shakespeare for the plots to a dozen or more of his plays.

~ Part 4 ~

Speaking of Shakespeare…

There was school teacher in England by the name of Roger Ascham who wrote a book called The Scholemaster which was published in 1570 when William was a boy of six. And while it’s true that it was a common practice to beat a child as a form of disciplinary punishment at school in England in the 16th century, not all teachers did it—and especially not one of England’s most famous teachers of the day.

So, if people still believe that children were better off when teachers were stern disciplinarians and lament that teachers in most schools are no longer permitted to mete out physical punishment they are believing a fiction and lamenting the demise of a barbaric practice.

I’m old enough to have been at school when corporal punishment was still permitted in some areas of my country in the early seventies and, though it wasn’t practiced at my elementary school in Berkeley, California, it was used aggressively at a school I went to in central Florida. Those were the worst teachers.

The best teachers—those that teach from a place of love and empathy for their students—already know the following:

“Chide not the pupil hastily, for that will both dull his wit and discourage his diligence, but admonish him gently, which shall make him both willing to amend and glad to go forward in love and hope of learning. Let the master say, ‘Here ye do well.’ For, I assure you, there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit and encourage a love of learning as his praise.”

And that’s Roger Ascham, who was also tutor to Queen Elizabeth when she was a girl, promoting a gentle and encouraging approach to educating children and calling bullshit on being a dick to kids in school.

Furthermore, in saying, “In mine opinion, love is fitter than fear, gentleness better than beating, to bring up a child rightly in learning,” he’s also calling bullshit on using punitive violence against children.

~ Part 5 ~

And then there is the religious justification regarding violence against children…

This justification is perhaps the trickiest one to unravel because it is tightly bound by fervent belief and faith and unquestioning obedience to the ultimate authority figure: Almighty God.

God told me to hit my children.”

But, really…did He?

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)

Spare the rod and spoil the child is that old biblical chestnut that proposes it’s better to beat a child than not beat a child and that version comes from the King James Bible published in 1611.

Most religions are steeped in judgment and extremely high expectations and children raised in religious families are hardwired to resonate with a structure that has a clearly defined family hierarchy with adults as the authority figures at the top and children at the bottom; expected to be subservient to the wishes and whims and expectations of their parents.

No child can meet those expectations. Ever.

So when those wishes become demands that cannot be met and punitive measures are measured out in blows…

Bottom line here:

Adults are larger and much more powerful than children. Therefore, hitting children is a flagrant abuse of power that can cause physical and emotional damage that may last a lifetime.

Here’s this from Ashley Montagu, a 20th century humanist and anthropologist that popularized the study of race and gender:

“Any form of corporal punishment or ‘spanking’ is a violent attack upon another human being’s integrity.”

Montagu believed the effect of that attack:

Remains with the victim forever and becomes an unforgiving part of his or her personality—a massive frustration resulting in a hostility which will seek expression in later life in violent acts towards others.

The sooner we understand that love and gentleness are the only kinds of called-for behavior towards children, the better. The child, especially, learns to become the kind of human being that he or she has experienced.”

***

Postscript: This essay is divided into five parts with each part containing 336 words. I intend on writing a sixth part, eventually, when I’m ready to come back to the piece with something new. ~RLR

Image Credit: Child Abuse by Mauro Fermariello

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336 Journal Website Is Back Online

336 Journal is delighted to announce that we are back online after many months of technical difficulties and relentless pestering from Russian spambots. There are still some glitches in the system but there is hope that things will go back to normal soon. All content from 1 January 2017 was mysteriously erased—so all links to old stories are irrevocably broken—but most content will be restored eventually. Stay tuned and thanks for your support…

336 Journal

M Train

Patti Smith has conversations with inanimate objects.

She has a daily routine of going to Café ‘Ino—a regular spot in her Greenwich Village neighborhood—where she sits at the same table and orders a proletariat breakfast of brown toast, a small dish of olive oil, and black coffee. Smith writes of this after waking from dreams of a laconic cowpoke—an imaginary muse I picture in the likeness of her long-time friend, Sam Shepard—who tells her it’s not so easy to write about nothing.

Smith is a poetic tour guide in New York City, stopping to chat with a bust of Nicola Tesla that loiters like a lone sentinel outside the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. She’s having trouble writing, off balance, moving back and forth from lethargy to agitation. Tesla, a statuary catalyst that coaxes rumination into words, tells her she’s “misplaced joy and without joy we are as dead.”

The café in New York is home base but she’s not always bound there. Her memories take her to French Guiana and the ruins of the Saint-Laurent prison—which she photographs with a Polaroid camera—and to Hermann Hesse’s house in Montagnola, Switzerland, and wherever else she wishes.

Her rambling memoir contains Polaroid photographs she’s taken over the years during her travels: Snapshots of Frida Kahlo’s crutches leaning against a wall in Casa Azul; the Arcade Bar in Detroit, Michigan; an incense burner resting atop the gravestone of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa in Japan. And always there are stories that go along with the photographs.

One of my favorite tales tells of a time she is sent on a clandestine midnight mission to Reykjavík to meet with the elusive Grand Master of chess, Bobby Fischer—who greets her with paranoid conspiracy rants that morph into a duet of singing Buddy Holly songs.

M Train is just the sort of book I like to savor slowly…while dipping biscotti in coffee and taking periodic breaks to delve into my own journal in my own favorite café.

Martians Unprepared For Trump Mars Mission

When American President Donald Trump of Earth signed a bill in March of 2017 authorizing $19.5 billion in funding for NASA he announced plans for a Mars mission during his first term. Some citizens of our nearby planetary neighbor expressed skepticism and alarm.

“We weren’t expecting Earthers to visit for at least fifteen years,” Dr. Kelvin Klaatu—a Martian professor of human anthropology currently orbiting Earth in a flying saucer with two grad students—tells me in an interplanetary Skype chat.

“We’re not ready,” he says. “We’re still trying to figure out how to protect ourselves from human viruses and microorganisms. Plus, our minister of human affairs hasn’t received the funds promised for the construction of Trump’s hotel and golf course in our capital city. And frankly, we feel that Earth people are presently too xenophobic for a successful first contact.”

I ask Dr. Klaatu if he had been monitoring the conversation between President Trump and astronaut Peggy Whitson, while she was aboard the International Space Station.

“Actually, we heard about Trump’s plan while listening to NPR over the radio,” Klaatu says.

His grad students, Barada and Nickto, appear next to him on screen and perform what can be best described as a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch.

“Tell me, Mars…” Barada says in a perfect imitation of Trump’s voice. “What do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?”

“You already approved a timeline for the mission to launch in 2033 when you funded NASA, you ridiculous human meat-suit,” Nickto replies in Whitson’s voice.

“Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term,” Barada says. “So we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?”

“Yeah, well, you better cancel the construction of your golf course on the sun,” Nickto sneers.

“But I already borrowed the money,” says Barada.

The two grad students high-six each other and laugh hysterically.

Charlie Chaplin Crashes My Interview With Pola Negri

I’m at the café with Pola Negri, the femme fatale from the Kingdom of Poland who appeared in German films such as Die Augen der Mumie (1918) and Mad Love (1921) before she made her first Hollywood film in 1922. Charlie Chaplin joins us at the table.

“I met Charlie at the Palais Heinroth,” Pola tells me.

I know the place well as it’s the swankiest hot spot in Berlin. Pola says that Charlie entered unrecognized, conspicuously underdressed among all the swells in evening dress.

Charlie remembers it like this:

“I was guided by the Palais Heinroth manager to a table located at the most obscure part of the room and I’m surprised by a slap on the back and a voice calling out my name.”

It’s Al Kaufman of the Lansky Corporation.

“Come over to our table,” says the manager of the Famous Players studio in Berlin. “Pola Negri wants to meet you.”

Negri laughs at the memory.

“A little man with a sad sensitive face fought his way up to our table. Were it not for his odd appearance, so dapper and so pathetic. He had such a strange physiognomy, with tiny feet and an enormous head that made him seem top-heavy. The only physically attractive thing about him were his hands, which were never without a cigarette.”

“Pola was so beautiful,” Charlie remembers. “Beautiful jet-black hair, white, even teeth and wonderful coloring. She was the centre of attraction.”

The silent screen star blushes.

“What a voice she has,” he says, traveling back in time to the moment. “Her mouth speaks so prettily the German language. Her voice has a soft, mellow quality, with charming inflections. Offered a drink, she clinks my glass and offers her only English words, ‘Jazz boy, Charlie.’”

On Christmas Eve of 1922, Charlie gave Pola a large diamond that he intended to set within an engagement ring. However, in March, he announced to the papers he was too poor to marry her and she ended their engagement.

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