Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.

network solutions made me a child pornographer!
The sordid details...


Requiem for a fictional Scotsman

Oh my God! They killed Library!! Those bastards!!!

Elegy to a Mostly Maine Coon

It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day

A Pittsburgher in the Really Big City

Da Burg Annat

I Have Issues

Yeah, yeah, I'm inspired

At least the rivers freeze in Pittsburgh

He knows if yinz is a jagoff

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Saturday, November 30, 2002

Speak Softly But Carry a Big Schtick

The George Bush/Condoleezza Rice "Hu's on First" routine that's circulating the Internet owes much to Abbott and Costello, but even more to Johnny Carson.

On May 7, 1982, Carson portrayed then-President Ronald Reagan and actor Fred Holliday played his chief of staff Jim Baker in a four minute Tonight Show sketch. The routine became a legend; many rank it second only to the hilarious "Dragnet" parody that featured Carson and Jack Webb.

The Reagan sketch was performed live in front of a studio audience, with no editing or "sweetening." It was flawless. Carson had no problem imitating fellow midwesterner Reagan's voice. He also mastered Reagan's well-known mannerisms, and the illusion was heightened with superb makeup.

The transcript below and this short, low-quality audio excerpt really don't do justice to the routine. Carson's delivery, like that of Jack Benny and Bob Newhart, relies heavily on exquisitely timed pauses and deadpan expressions. You really need to see the video to fully appreciate it.

The sketch also shows what made Carson's humor so distinctive. Today's comics get their laughs by eviscerating their targets. Carson gently nudges them and gives them a wink.

Ed McMahon: In President Reagan's last three or four press conferences, there has been criticism that the President was a little off in his facts. Some have suggested that the problem was due to inadequate briefing of the President by his staff members. To see whether this is true, let's go to the Oval Office and listen in on one of these briefing sessions.

President Reagan: Well, now, would you send in Jim Baker, please?

James Baker: Good morning, Mr. President.

Reagan:Well, good morning, Jim, just sit down there.

Baker: Yes, sir. Mr. President, your press conference is scheduled to begin in an hour, so we only have a short time for me to brief you on the kind of subjects that the press may throw at you.

Reagan: Well, now, the environment is on their minds, and I'm, well, I'm sure they'll ask me about my Secretary of the Interior.

Baker: Watt.

Reagan: I said I'm sure they'll ask me about my Secretary of the Interior.

Baker: Watt.

Reagan: Jim, I just told you I think they'll ask about my Secretary of the Interior.

Baker: James Watt. You're scheduled to go swimming with him tomorrow morning at the Y.

Reagan: Where?

Baker: Y.

Reagan: Why?

Baker: That's right. With Watt.

Reagan: With what, I don't even know with who, Jim.

Baker: Not who, Watt.

Reagan: Well, now Jim, let's get this straight, I'm going swimming tomorrow with who?

Baker: Watt.

Reagan: Where?

Baker: Y.

Reagan: Jim, let's go on to the middle east. Now, I'll need the first name of the head of the PLO, that, uh, that Arafat guy.

Baker: Yassir.

Reagan: I said I'll need the first name of the head of the PLO.

Baker: Yassir.

Reagan: Jim, it's nice of you to be polite, but what is his name?

Baker: No sir. Yassir.

Reagan: Well, now, you're giving me two different answers Jim, now what is his name?

Baker: No sir, Yassir.

Reagan: Well now, I asked you what is the first name of the head of the PLO and you tell me no sir...

Baker: That's right.

Reagan: Then you tell me yes sir.

Baker: Absolutely. You got it.

Reagan: I got what?

Baker: He's the Secretary of the Interior.

Reagan: Jim, I don't understand why you're doing this to me.

(The phone rings. Reagan is distracted, shuffling papers. Baker picks up the receiver.)

Baker: Oval Office, Baker. Yes? You have the head of the Republic of China calling for the President. Premier Chung Dung Hu. Hold on.

Baker: Mr. President, Hu's on the phone.

Reagan: Well now Jim, I don't know, who's on the phone?

Baker: That is correct.

Reagan: What's correct?

Baker: No, he's your Secretary of the Interior.

Reagan: Now Jim, let's start all over here very quietly, just tell me, Jim, who is on the phone?

Baker: Hu is on the phone.

Reagan: Who?

Baker: Yes, sir.

Reagan: That Arafat guy is on the phone, Jim?

Baker: No, sir. Hu is.

Reagan: What?

Baker: Swimming.

Both, in unison: Tomorrow morning at the Y.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Pre-Holiday Clearance

Lots of pre-Thanksiving chaos going on around here, plus lots of work. ("I don't need this until next Monday." Swell. How many days are you working between now and then?)


Jesus Revisited. "Back in Jesus' time, he rode an ass. These days, the asses are driving SUVs." (thanks to The Sanity Inspector on alt.quotations.)


The fox in the henhouse. The guvmint's new Information Awareness Office is researching methods of storing and accessing every bit of information on as many people as possible. Because this operation treads dangerously close to violating Constitutional privacy rights, it's important that the person in charge be above reproach, right?

So it comes as no surprise the head honcho is John Poindexter. If the name sounds familiar, it should. He's the former vice admiral of Iran-Contra fame, the fellow who helped channel money to Nicaraguan rebels. He got the money by illegally selling arms to our good buddies in Iran.

Although he hit the felony trifecta- conspiracy, perjuring himself before Congress, and obstructing Congressional inquiries- his convictions were overturned on appeal. Not because he was innocent, but because too much of the information used to nail him came from testimony to Congress provided under immunity. So here we have a guy who's managed to circumvent the intent of the law and subvert the Constitution, making judgment calls about our inalienable rights. As Art Buchwald once noted, "You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."

I have enough faith to believe this will all work out in the end. Sanity will be restored and our rights will remain intact; but it's going to take a while, it's not going to be pretty, and a lot of lives are going to be irrevocably damaged. That's the problem with constitutional republics. They eventually reach equilibrium, but the swings from far left to far right will make you nauseous.


More airlinespeak. Robert Roth of Kingston, NY says he's irked by "We'll be on the ground shortly." He notes "Someone went out of their way to change the more obvious "we'll be landing shortly" to that legalism, but anyone in a position to call them on it will be too flat to care."

This is similar to George Carlin's observation about non-stop flights: "I like my flights to stop. Preferably at the end."


We had a couple of inches of snow last night, which means two things: car juggling in the driveway, and insane dogs in the back yard.

I think the blanket of snow covering the ground eliminates a lot of the scents, so the beagle, whose daily routine consists of smelling every square inch of the property every morning, figures he has a day off.

Which he enjoys immensely.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Surviving the Test of Time

Over the past five decades, there has been only one publication that has consistently and effectively covered the complex world of politics and current events.

That publication is, of course, Mad Magazine.

Consider one of this month's exceptional pieces:

Thank goodness for freedom of speech.

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Sunday, November 24, 2002

Redundant Airlines

George Carlin has a wonderful comedy routine that riotously deals with the twisted english used by the airline industry ("I've never de-bused, I've never de-boated, but, by God, I've de-planed.).

Airline-isms which irritate the hell out of me:

Incontinent Air is proud to announce the arrival... I guess their pilots have difficulty finding the airport, so when one actually does show up, it's a noteworthy occasion.

Please return back to the ticket counter. Return back? Airlines love redundancy. Good idea for hydraulic systems but deadly in the hands of gate agents. Even more egregious:

This is the last and final boarding opportunity. "last and final?" I don't like the sound of this. What are they going to do, shoot me if I don't get on the plane? I much prefer the direct approach used by the Chicago Transit Authority's trains: "Doors are closing." Three words, four syllables, no confusion.

Calling passenger so-and-so. Your flight is ready to depart. You must be on board at this time. If he must be on board, why are you paging him?

We'd like to welcome you to Pittsburgh. We'd like to, but we have doubts about some of you, especially you with the funny hat in seat D12. I'm sure if we took a vote, not only would you not be welcomed, you'd be forced to stay on the plane until we landed in Harrisburg, where the entry requirements are less stringent.

That's all for now. I'm back in Pittsburgh for the week and have lots of household chores to do. My wife wants me to move the treadmill from the garage to the family room. I'm trying to convince her the walk downstairs will do her good. The very concept of moving a treadmill so you don't have to walk as far to reach it is one of those delicious ironies that makes marriage such an interesting institution.

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So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


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Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

I am a professional. Do not try this at home.

I canna change the laws of physics

As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)

Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Left wing liberal nut job

Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.

Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.

If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.

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