I’m Famous!

So back on November 12, I wrote a letter to the Newark Star-Ledger, pointing out Chris Christie’s utter idiocy when it came to the science of climate change.

They printed it, or at least ran it in their online edition.

What should appear in my mailbox a few days later but the following postcard:

I looked at the address side first, thinking, “WTF? I don’t know anyone in Dunellen, New Jersey, let alone someone named J. Alexander.” Then I turned it over.

My first hatemail.

Or is it?

As with POEs (Parodies of Evangelism), any sufficiently effective parody of hate mail will be indistinguishable from the real thing. What do you think? Is “Right-Wing Jim” spoofing Tea-party talk, or is he serious? I can’t decide.

True Tale Of A Tortoise (NSFW)

The following is a true story. I first posted it in a discussion on the USENET group alt.callahans; about six or seven years later it appeared under my name (WarrenS) at Daily Kos. Now I’m finally bringing it home, as it were.

It was in the mid-70s, and I was young and foolish, in the middle of what turned out to be a two-year gap between high school and college. I’d moved out of my mother’s house, and set up an apartment with two other friends whom I’ll call Simon and John. This joint was in a run-down section of Somerville, Massachusetts, and the three of us devoted as little time as possible to mundane activities like making the absurdly low rent, and as much time as possible to music-making and freelance botanical research, if you get my drift.

It was, after all, the 70s, and we were all a little too late for the 60s — so we put in quite a bit of time playing catch-up. The locality was very tough indeed. One day I accepted a ride home from a guy I met in Harvard Square, who wanted to tell me about his ‘philosophy.’ Turned out he was a Satanist — and as we peaked the hill and drove down to my street, I saw my entire neighborhood enveloped in dense, choking black smoke…turned out the *tire warehouse* next door had caught fire. *That* was interesting — sitting at home with an Alistair Crowley follower while inhaling sulfur and brimstone.

But I digress. Simon was a pet person, and had a couple of cats whom I recall only dimly. But it was the other pet which lingers yet in my memory.

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A Message From Tricky Dick

As far as I can figure out, my maternal grandparents must have written to Nixon, telling him they supported the war. He sent back this postcard, which they kept. At some point it fell into my hands, whereupon it disappeared for decades. A recent digitization push has brought it to light again…and now it’s readily available on the Intertubes.

The Great Vowel Shift

The Best Typographical Error in the World

…is on page 111 of Najma Perveen Ahmed’s book, “Hindustani Music.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you:

A Few Words About Hippies and India

Anyone who’s spent time in India knows the phenomenon of the hippie.  Hippie participation in Indian music started thanks to George Harrison and Ravi Shankar; while many professional Hindustani musicians earn healthy teaching fees from these questing souls, most of them regard “hippies” with a justifiably skeptical eye.

About ten years ago, members of the USENET newsgroup for Indian classical music (rec.music.indian.classical) engaged in a lengthy and vociferous discussion of “hippies in ICM.”  As a former hippie and a full-time professional Hindustani musician, I was in a unique position to clarify matters, and I assembled a post which, it was agreed, shed some light on the matter.  I thought I’d share it with you, only slightly revised.

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Fifi? Fifi? Oh, my god, Fifi!

My mother gets the Amherst Bulletin every week, and when we go to visit her, I always turn eagerly to the police report section. Not because there are interesting crimes, but because I might get to read stuff like this:

Tom Lehrer is 27.7777…. today

The greatest satirical songwriter ever to grace the planet prefers to count his age in Centigrade. In Farenheit, he’s 82.

On April 9, 1928, little Thomas Lehrer was born in Manhattan, and…

…began studying classical piano music at the age of seven, but was more interested in the popular music of the age. Eventually, his mother also sent him to a popular-music piano teacher. At this early age, he began writing his own show tunes, which eventually would help him in his future adventures as a satirical composer and writer in his years at lecturing at Harvard University and later at other universities.


I was privileged to see and hear the Master in a living room concert in the early part of 1968. I was nine, and it was a fundraiser for Eugene McCarthy. He sang and played all of his best-known material, and delivered “Whatever Became of You, Hubert?” with an air of great mockery. As a special part of the fundraising, a bottle of French wine labeled “Chateau Maccarthy” and autographed by Lehrer was auctioned off; my father bought it. I wonder where that bottle is now.

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My Belly Is Too Much Swelling With Jackfruit

Apropos of nothing, I remembered reading this marvelous letter which had been reprinted in the Times of India many many years ago. It made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now.

Beloved Sir,
I am arrive by passenger train at Ahmedpore Station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore sent to privy. Just as I am doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lota in one hand and dhoti in the next when I fall over and expose all my shockings to many female women on the platform. I got leaved on Ahmedpore Station.
This is too much bad if passengers go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray otherwise I am making big report to papers.

Pray your honour to make big fine on that dam guard for public sake otherwise I am making big report to papers.

Yours faithfully,
(Sd/- Okhit Chandra Sen)

Googling select phrases from the letter yielded a number of hits. Perhaps the best of the lot was an article on railroads in India in the Baltimore Sun.

Smoking Ganesh Bidis Isn’t Blasphemous, Is It?

This news item is fascinating.

The government in the Indian state of Meghalaya has confiscated textbooks showing pictures of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a can of beer.

Presumably someone just grabbed a Jesus picture off the web and stuck it in the textbook without noticing that He was holding a cigarette and a can of beer.

This is excellent news, because it provides me with an opportunity to tell my Smoking Jesus joke, which I learned from Dee Wood about twenty-nine years ago.

Jesus is walking down the road, carrying his cross. It’s a hot day and he’s thirsty.

He walks by a Hovel.

Guy standing in front of the Hovel: “Hey, man, ain’t you Jesus Christ?”

Jesus: “Yeah, that’s me, man.”

Guy: “Hey, that cross looks real heavy.”

Jesus: “Yeah, man, it’s a real pain in the ass. Hey, you got some water?”

Guy: “Sure,” (gets a dipperful of water and hands it to Jesus)

Jesus: (leans his cross against the wall of the hovel, drinks the water) “Thanks, man.”

Guy: “No problem, Jesus. Hey, you want a cigarette?”

Jesus: “Sure, man, a cigarette would hit the spot right about now.”

Guy: (pulls out a packet of Raleighs, takes two out, hands one to Jesus, puts the other in his mouth. Strikes a match, lights Jesus up, then himself. They smoke for a minute.)

Jesus: “Yeaaaaah, man. That’s a good smoke. Love that wonderful Raleigh taste. Say, man, do you save the coupons?”

Guy: “You want the coupon? Sure, Jesus, that’s cool.” (Takes the coupon out of the pack, hands it to Jesus, who puts it in his pocket)

Guy: “Say, Jesus, I didn’t know you saved Raleigh coupons.”

Jesus: “Of course I save the coupons! How the hell do you think I got the cross?

This joke only makes sense if you remember this: