Frankly, I’m beginning to think the very idea of awards is obsolete, what with climate change and the way the Nikkei’s been acting lately. But if massive, Maoist-prairie-fire-like grassroots movements should arise and demand I be recognized, who am I to demure? The awards for which I am this year eligible are:

  • “Best of Boston,” Sidewalk Busker Drumming On Plastic Bucket category
  • GG Allin Memorial Blood Poisoning Prize
  • 2019 Toledo, Ohio Reading Society “Keeping the ‘Lit’ in ‘Literary'” Award

And my eligible works are as follows:

  • Finnegan’s Wake ‘n Bake, Sty Books: The marriage between James Joyce and stoner humor that we all secretly craved.
  • “Like Tears Down One’s Face Flowed the Wadis On the Hillside,” The New Yorker, 4/35/19 issue: The tale of a rebellious young Somaliland woman who disdains the groom chosen by her father in favor of a qat grower from an enemy subclan. Wacky hijinks ensue in this lighthearted, life-affirming romantic comedy.
  • “(#&*@{,” Asimov’s Science Fiction, March issue. The first ever story in the magazine’s history to be composed entirely of punctuation marks

As Messrs. Bartles and Jaymes did in a previous era, I thank you for your support.

“Whenever I stand on the back porch and hear those ‘la-la-lala-la-la’s, I know we’re in for it again.”

Mrs. Hortense Milksnake is surveying the destruction of her Dead Bird, Iowa farm. For as far as the eyes can see, crops have been reduced to stubble.

“I used to think Smurfs were harmless. Not no more.”

First brought to the United States as toys during a brief craze in the Eighties, smurfs have become, in the words of one scientist, “a developing ecological catastrophe.” Damage from the creatures this year is expected to top $1 billion in Iowa alone.

In contrast to the image in comics drawn by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford—better known by his alias, “Peyo”–Smurfs are not cute, asexual little men. Experts say the female Smurf bears two litters a year of up to ten young each. Within a few generations, they form ravenous swarms.

“Don’t let their size fool you,” say local RV salesman Hal Spackle. “Being ‘three apples tall’ [six to eight inches] means they’re the perfect height to get under vehicles and burrow up through the floorboards. I’ve had customers open their camper doors and be engulfed in waves of the things.”

Smurf colonies have been detected across the Midwest and Northeast—anywhere they can find sufficient mushrooms. The creatures establish parasitic connections upon them, wiping out entire species.

“Smurfs destroy ecosystems at the base” said Tremontane University mycologist Andrea Hohenstaufen. “They are an abomination, ancient and cruel. How I long to annihilate them.”

In their native Belgium, Smurfs numbers are kept in check by predators such as the Great Pannonian Gargamel. Here in the United States, there are none. Attempts at aerial spraying have proved ineffective, though fun.

“My dog bit one and it done stuck in his teeth like kneaded eraser,” said Dead Bird retired logistics analyst Burt Mackinaw. “The vet had to carve him a set of dentures from an old PVC pipe.”

Perhaps the worst deception was in “Peyo”’s depiction of Smurfette. While there is indeed a single queen Smurf in every colony, they do not wear lace dresses and speak in high-pitched voices. In reality, Smurfettes have been described as “nature’s buzzsaw.” Reliable witnesses describe a Smurfette killing and gutting a full-grown steer in less than ten minutes.

“Imagine!” said Dr Hohenstaufen. “Rendering venomous dewlap spurs as a pair of high-heeled shoes!”

Attempts to secure Federal action have run into persistent notions of Smurf cuteness.

“A bunch of us went down to Washington to see Congress, and all they could talk about was “Oh, the Smurfs! I loved that cartoon!” said Mrs. Milksnake. “Well, what happened at Larry’s Bar & Grill was no cartoon. Some of those folks came out looking like fried dough at the fair.”

The outlook for the future remains grim.

“If those things come back to Dead Bird,” said Mrs. Milksnake, “I’m gonna smurf me a shotgun and smurf my smurfin’ head off.”

Ihara Saikaku’s This Scheming World is a classic of Edojidai Japanese literature. The book is a series of vignettes, all centered around New Year’s Day. In Tokugawa-era Japan, New Year’s Day was the major occasion for settling debts, much as Michaelmas traditionally was in England. Every story shows chonin, the urban merchant class, scrimping for money, begging for money, scamming for money. In story after story, Saikaku lightly shows how the need for cash overcomes all else, twists every aspect of human life, causes people to lie to themselves and each other.

Wait a second-a witty, urbane voice with a decidedly cynical viewpoint? That reminds me of a band!

This Scheming World
(to the tune of The Smiths’s ‘This Charming Man‘)

Empty moneysleeve
And my future’s desolate
Will fortune make me beg for rice yet?

Poor in this scheming world
This scheming world

How can I thrive
When silk costs so much per half

I would go out tonight
but I haven’t got a
mon to spare
My landlord
is outside
He’s intent on getting his share

A broke-ass chonin boy
With a valuable
He says “I’ll hock the strings”
It costs too much to buy my things
It costs too much to buy my things

My paternal grandfather insisted that the reason Massachusetts drivers were so terrible was that Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to require liability auto insurance. Grandpa said deep in the heart of every Massachusetts driver is the ancestral urge that, having been forced to pay for this insurance, they’re damn well going to use it.

It seems like I need to post something funny on this blog, to balance out certain recent posts. So I share this joke I heard from my oldest child recently. She got it from the Internet someplace. And it is:

“Welcome to this meeting of Plastic Surgery Anonymous! I am happy to see so many new faces.”

(I chuckled.)

There was a time in this country, not so long ago, when the structure of generations made sense. To wit:

Elderly people were veterans of the Second World War, and their wives. From the tumult of their youth and the prosperity of their prime, they enjoyed the serenity of the golden Autumn of their years.

Middle-aged people had made the Nineteen-Sixties. Grappling with consequences of that era’s hedonism, they at the same time attempted to uphold its ideals while raising families and coming to responsibility.

Young people were those who grew up in the shadow of the Sixties, dealing with the wreckage of the new freedoms yet attempting to live out the promise that went before them.

This was a most vibrant arrangement, rich in sociological and narrative promise, and it bore much fruit for the republic. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the television program “Twin Peaks”, to give two examples.

But recently, it has come to my attention that the situation has changed.

Now, increasingly, Elderly people are those of Sixties, leading to, for instance, the spectacle of septuagenarian rock stars shuffling on stage in a grotesque parody of their salad days. Meanwhile their children have been forced into Middle Age, burdening them with responsibilities for which they were in no way adequately prepared.

Whereas the World War II generation is, by and large, deceased.

I don’t know when this change occurred. I don’t know who authorized it. I certainly wasn’t consulted. nor was anyone I know. Frankly, the entire situation is a disgrace, and it has gone on long enough. I intend to lodge a complaint. Manifestos and petitions must be pursued. I demand redress of grievance. Let no mistake be made: the country will be restored to the state it should be, and all made well again.

Quite a long time ago, I did my senior thesis on the era of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In the thick of it, I would find myself making up little songs, such as this one, about the first of Japan’s unifiers Oda Nobunaga, to the tune of Phish’s “Golgi Apparatus.”

I look into the Sansom book
just to check my saga (saga!)
I look into Azuchi times,
I see Oda Nobunaga

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa

They call him daimyo-man
’cause he told them to
If you served the Oda clan,
you’d do it too

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa

With the shogun’s head in your lap
With the shoguns’s head in your lap!

Run through Japan,
Get to the can,
Couldn’t get it wrong,
So I’ll have to-

Look into the Sansom book
just to check my saga
I look into Azuchi times,
I see Oda Nobunaga

But Oda, oh, woe to you
You can’t even rule Honshu
Oda, Oda, Oda, Oda, Odaaaaaaaaa