Monday, November 3, 2008

SO LONG

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to let you know that I am giving up this blogging, this time for good. I am tired of paying attention to politics. I only started doing it because I, like many of you I'm sure, wanted to raise my tiny little voice against the fascism of the Bush/Cheney years. Hopefully, in the election tomorrow, things will change and the country and the world will recover and endure. This is my fervent wish.

But I am getting too old to waste my remaining time listening to the self-righteous blather of the 300 million egomaniacal yaketyyaks that make up this country. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I am entitled to put on my ear protectors, rev up the chainsaw and drown the bastards out. It's nothing but hatred and nonsense and I'm sick to death of it.

I've been spending most of my time "out in the nature" as they say around here and I much prefer it to politics and punditry. A week ago a friend helped me take down a 100-year-old ash tree in the back yard. Many, many years ago, at least back to the 70's, someone had girdled this tree with clothesline wire. The wire was embedded deep in the wood now, literally choking the tree and depriving it of it's needed water and nutrients. It was dying, so down it came.

I was out stacking the wood from this tree this afternoon. There were a dozen huge cross-sectional chunks, two-and-a-half to three feet in diameter. I couldn't lift them, but I managed to roll them to the spot where I was going to stack. It was a gentle downslope all the way and I rolled them with my foot. It was much fun, like playing. They smelled beautiful too. Then the dusk came on quickly and surprised me because of the return to "standard time". A beautiful waxing crescent of a moon grew brighter in the south as the light died and, above it, there was the evening star, which is not a star at all, of course, but a planet. The planet of love was trailing the liberal crescent. The air grew crisp and the moon was bathed in a misty aura. It was too cool for school.

I was tired and there were scratches all over my forearms from manhandling these beastly chunks of ash. I went into the house and got a beer and came back outside and sat on one of the chunks that was only there to sit on now because someone, back in the 70's, had washed their clothes and needed a place to hang them to dry and had no thoughts to what their clothesline would be doing to the tree. I sat and watched the sky in the south, gazing at the beautiful Moon and the beautiful Venus.

Perhaps there was hope yet for our own planet. After bailing out all of the incompetent, lying, usurious, greedy shitholes who have dishonored our world but don't have the grace to fall on their own swords maybe, just maybe, there is enough left of the shattered spirit of human decency and kindness to rebuild on.

There is an old willow here, below the line of oaks on the edge of the swampland, that looks like it was leftover from the set of "Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter". Three of its main branches had broken and fallen over so that their tips touch the ground and it is now supported at four points forming three triangles. The tree is, literally, rotten to the core. The base of the trunk is hollow, big enough to hold most of the seven dwarfs plus some rabbits, squirrels and woodchucks. It should be completely dead, this willow, but it's not. It has new shoots coming out of its rotting carcass everywhere, with leaves still on them due to the mild fall. Beautiful, delicate, yellow-green leaves that just won't give up, it seems. The same, I suppose, could be said of this nation.

Let's hope so.

So I am back to art and nature and I leave you with this little collage (which I've used here before) called "Fed Up Yet?"

My thanks and very best wishes to you all, and to this world we all share.

Sweet dreams.

Love, Neil

Sunday, October 19, 2008

SLEAZY STREET

"Country First".

This is the slogan, if I read their podiums correctly, of the Republican Party.

My question is: What Country?

I have a hard time remembering what country I belong to these days. Are we China now? Saudi Arabia? Qatar? Am I a Russian now? An Alaskan? A Swede?

Does "America" even exist anymore?

I don't think the Republicans know exactly who they've sold us out to either. That's why it says "Country First" on their podiums instead of "America First". They're playing it safe. If they should happen to win they'll tally up all our debts and find out who owns us. Then they can change the messages on their podiums from "Country First" to "China First", or "Russia First" or "Alaska First" or whatever. (Chances are it won't be "Iceland First" from what I've been hearing.)

Maybe the Republican podiums should read, "Usurious Credit Industry First". The Democrats should put that on their podiums too. Never have so few sold out so many so fast.

Still, this is MY country, whatever it is. This is "The Ownership Society", so they tell me. I own it. I now own all the banks and the insurance companies and the auto makers. I have yet to see a dime from my investment, but what's a dime? I'm holding out for a billion dollars. Then I'm going to bailout Tommy Chong and corner the bong market.

"Country First!" You betcha. And I am super patriotic too! I love being Chinese! I have pictures of Chairman George all over the house. I plaster them over the chinks in the siding to keep out the cold winter winds. My motto is "Buy Chinese!" I check every label and if it doesn't say "Made in China" I don't buy it. That's how patriotic I am! Luckily, I don't run across too many labels saying "Made in America". I don't think they make anything in America anymore. Except for bullshit. And that's only for domestic consumption. The rest of the world won't buy it.

*Neil Shakespeare has recovered from his migraine problems, having spent the summer clearing brush in an attempt to become as "crisp" as his hero, George W. Bush. He cleared the brush from the west side of the house completely, exposing the trunks of the oaks. His reward was to roll out of bed the other morning and look out the window and see four young deer munching on the acorns carpeting the new grass. Hard physical work has its drawbacks, however, and Neil has torn the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, which is why he is not pitching in the World Series this year.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

LAST TRAIN TO KOOKSVILLE

"The president squinched his face and bit his lip and seemed too antsy to stand still. As he searched for the name of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (“the king, uh, the king of Saudi”) and made guy-fun of one of the questioners (“Who picked Gigot?”), you had to wonder what the international financial community makes of a country whose president could show up to talk economics in the middle of a liquidity crisis and kind of flop around the stage as if he was emcee at the Iowa Republican Pig Roast." -Gail Collins, NYT

Nero reportedly fiddled while Rome burned. But George isn't much of a violinist, so he has taken to tapdancing on the steps of the White House, doing his best Gene Kelly impression...

"...I'm singin' in the pain/I'm singin' in the pain/What a glorious feeling/I'm craaaaaazy again!

...and serenading the press corps with an extraordinary rendition of "The Brown Brown Grass of Home" (which most closely resembles that of a stone-drunk Japanese businessman during last call at Karaoke Night at the Kooksville Bar & Grill) all while the United States of America goes down in gas fumes, which is all we can afford anymore.

Pity the poor bastard who has to clean up when the fool finally falls off the stage. He has clearly cracked up, and I, for one, am seriously wondering if he can make it to the end of his term.

There must be concerned whispering going on at the cocktail parties of mental health care professionals in this country. Those folks are trained to see the signs. And yet no one has stepped up to help. No one has done a thing.

Doesn't he have doctors? Doesn't the president's annual physical include a mental health check-up? Or is the psychiatric staff at Walter Reed too busy with the PTSDs and the young men and women with the sides of their heads blown off from - as George in another recent verbal proof of his insanity described them - their "romantic" tours of duty in Iraq?

Isn't there ANYONE in this country concerned about our poor, pathetic idiot of a president?

I guess not. That's why I have decided, even if I am the only one, to hold a fundraising event for President Bush to buy him that much-needed ticket on the Last Train to Kooksville and offset the costs of his long upcoming stay in the Crawford Institute for the Criminally Insane.

I, along with the children from our local elementary school (who, in their innocence and wisdom, can see the signs clearly and feel sorry for the nitwitted narrator of "My Pet Goat") am organizing "Bowling for Nitwits" to be held here at the "Lutheran Lanes" the day after tomorrow.

It's short notice, I know, but we're going to try to squeeze it in before Doomsday.

APOLOGY: Once again I apologize for my long absence to the few friends who still check in here from time to time. The one thing that seems to help these recent headaches of mine is to avoid staring at this computer screen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

SUPERBAMA

Ole talked me into going mountain climbing with him again, but I might have overdone it this time. I've had these blazing headaches ever since my return. Snowblindness. So I've been in the dark, sleeping as much as I can, and I've missed most of this Obama crush that's been going on. I see he's now the frontrunner.

I was at my stockbroker friend's for supper the other night. You might remember him. He's one of those "Independents" who has never voted Democratic in his life but that's just because he hasn't found one worth voting for. So I was surprised to hear, from his own lips, that he is for Barack Obama.

"What?" a crumb of meatball slid out the side of my mouth.

"Yup," he nods, head down, forking his mashed potatoes. "I think I'm gonna finally vote for a Democrat.

I was stunned. I set down my fork and dabbed the corner of my mouth with my napkin. I didn't know what to say. I was in shock. He continued:

"I suppose you're wondering why.

I nodded. This was big. This was very big. Him even thinking about voting Democratic would be like...would be like...

"It's the fundrasing. The organization. The organization and the fundraising. I mean look at the guy! He starts with nothing, pitting himself against the most formidable political machine ever assembled: the Clintons! The Clintons, for goddsakes! And somehow, some way, he has assembled a machine that is light years ahead of the Clintons! He's putting them to shame! He's leavin' 'em in the dust! He's so far ahead that Hillary has to borrow money from herself! How did he do that? Any business person, Republican or Democrat, looks at that and they say, 'That's genius!'

"Genius?" I mumbled. "Not a word you hear too much when discussing politicians.

"So," my friend said, leaning over his peas, "if he can do THAT,...," he tapped his head with his fork, "...if he can do that...", he shook his fork at me, "...if he can do that, well,...," he shoved a forkful of potatoes and peas in his mouth and nodded and chewed, as if I could finish his sentence myself.

"So," he said with food in his mouth. "Who you fo'?

That was easy. "Well, ever since I heard he got the endorsement of Scarlett Johannson I've been for Obama.

"Oprah not good enough for you? I mean, that's like getting the endorsement from God.

"God is one thing. I'm talkin' about Scarlett Johannson.

"Ah! Well, it's nice to see you're still as stupid as you used to be, Neil.

"I try not to change. It confuses people.

Friday, January 11, 2008

MR. CRISP GOES TO BETHLEHEM

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Passing through a tiny "Door of Humility", U.S. President George W. Bush made a pilgrimage to the traditional birthplace of Jesus on Thursday in the occupied West Bank.
"Door of Humility", huh? Geez, that must have been a bit of a stretch for Mr. Crisp.

I hadn't heard much about my hero of late. I guess I assumed he must be out mountain biking or cutting brush or masturbating in the Lincoln bedroom to naked pictures of Karl, but here he was showing up in Bethlehem to visit the Baby Jesus. Alas, the Baby Jesus wasn't there. I happen to know where the Baby Jesus is. He's hanging out with Roger Clemens in an undisclosed location until this steroid thing blows over. He is unequivocally denying everything, hoping to buy time so those needle marks in his ass have time to heal.

But Mr. Crisp didn't know that, of course. Too bad. I could have saved him a trip.

Then again maybe it's good for Mr. Crisp that he didn't know. Maybe it's good for him to get out for awhile, to get away, to try to put a shine on that badly tarnished legacy. Nixon did the same thing and look what it did for his.

And Mr. Crisp had arrived in The Holy Land just in time, just when Iran was attacking our mighty warships with speedboats. It gave Mr. Crisp an opportunity to hammer home his point of what a danger Iran posed to world security, what with all those powerful speedboats of theirs.

Next summer I think I'm going to buy a couple of speedboats and take over the Great Lakes. I probably won't even have to fire a shot.

The U.S. Coast Guard, I'm sure, will cower in my wake, afraid of all those "Born to be Crisp" bumper stickers plastered all over my stern.

But wait! I'm letting my pride get carried away with me. No, that sounds like something Mr. Crisp would say, like that time he was campaigning in Wisconsin and he said, "Wisconsin: Where Wings Take Dream!". I like that one. That's always been one of my favorites from "Little Visits With Mr. Crisp". That and the time he was disparaging the laziness of the French and said, "The French have no word for entrepreneur."

True, "I'm letting my pride get carried away with me" isn't nearly as crisp as the wise and pithy sayings of Mr. Crisp, but at least I'm starting to get a bit of a crackle going. And I'm starting to have some good, crisp ideas, like that conquering the Great Lakes with a few speedboats thing.

Other crisp ideas I've had lately are 1) PICTURELESS POSTCARDS (I think they'll be a big hit), and 2) CHILDPROOF SANDWICHES.

Ah, but it's good to hear some news about Mr. Crisp again!

He so inspires me.

I am so inspired right now, in fact, that I can't wait for the sun to come up so I can go out and buy a new door, a "Door of Humility", so I can go through it, just like Mr. Crisp.

Do they carry those at Home Depot, do you suppose?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NEIL SHAKESPEARE Cosmic Eye


Six months ago the media Nostradamii were predicting it was all but over. It was going to be Rudy vs. Hillary. Book it, Danno.

Last week, after Iowa, the all-seeing, all-knowing David Brooks opined in The New York Times that it was all but over. It was going to be Barack vs. Huck. Cue the Fat Lady.

So imagine my surprise when I woke this morning to find that, after consulting the Oracle of New Hampshire, the press had now divined that it shall be Mama Hillary vs. Grandpa John. Slam dunk.

Youth and Change, the two goddesses that had so fired the imaginations of Americans a scant five days previously, had been replaced by Same Old and Same Even Older.

I predict a furious battle. Ah, what a race it shall be, she with her cane and he with his walker, she in tears and he grumbling about his arthritic war wounds, leading us all hobbling towards the nursing home of democracy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Saturday, January 5, 2008

PROFILES IN SEWAGE: William Kristol

No sooner had I landed in Hell on my shopping expedition to choose a destination for the afterlife than I heard a small, distant voice crying out:

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Now what? I wondered. Curiously, there was a newsboy hawking his wares under a stoplight frozen eternally on 'caution'. I turned away. I hadn't even had time to properly assess my surroundings. It was a bleak place, stark even, but that I had expected. The fact that there was water here was a surprise. Then again, without water I suppose you couldn't have golf courses.

"Extra! Extra!

Well, at least they had newspapers here. That would give me something to do on Sunday mornings, since I assumed there were no church services. Then again, maybe there were. Also, if I was going to spend the afterlife here I'd have to check out the real estate section.

"I'll take one, young fellow," I cried. He handed me the top rag on his stack. "Oh God no," I said, "not the Wall Street Journal! I can't read that crap. 'All The S**t That Fits': that's their motto. What else you got?

"We have The Weekly Standard, sir," he replied. Polite young fellow. I liked him.

"The Weekly Standard? That's another Rupert Murdoch paper! He set that up just so that neocon boob, Bill Kristol, could have some place to blather other than on FOX News. Don't you have anything else?

"No, sir. I'm sorry, sir.

"Lemme guess: I bet the only TV station you got down here is FOX, right? Murdoch owns Hell, doesn't he?

"Yes, sir. But I do have some good news for you, sir. Starting Monday I'll be carrying The New York Times.

"The New York Times? Ah, now yer talkin', kid! But wait a minute! I don't get it. Why The New York Times?

"Because starting Monday The New York Times introduces its new op-ed contributor, Mr. William Kristol.

"What?!" I was in shock. "Jesus! Did Rupert buy The New York Times, too? God, kid! Bill Kristol is the second or third biggest idiot on the planet, if he's not number one! Remember his 'Project for the New American Century', a century that lasted all of six years?

"Oh yes, sir. All of us here in Hell are big fans of Mr. Kristol. We love 'Dan Quayles' Brain' down here.

"That's right! Among all his other idiocies I forgot all about that. He was Dan Quayles' Brain! He gave poor Dan his spelling lessons.

"Yes, sir. He was Dan Quayle's Brain just like Karl Rove was 'Bush's Brain'. Are you starting to notice a trend amongst Republican leaders, sir?

"That they don't have brains? That's old news, kid. I couldn't believe they could out-dumb Bush, but you should see the crop they got up there now. I still don't get it, though. Why would The New York Times hire Kristol? They already have that boob Brooks who thinks they have earthquakes in Iowa. Didn't they learn their lesson when they helped Kristol & Company sell the Iraq War? Now they're going to help him sell the Iran War?

"The truth is, sir...and I shouldn't be telling you this...The New York Times is having revenue problems. Their ads aren't selling, especially the luxury goods ads which make up half of their advertising income. They need money, and since the poor are no help in that area they need someone to help them drag the rich neocons back into the fold by presenting themselves as fair and balanced, just like FOX News.

"They're selling out!

"Yes, sir. But this should come as no surprise. As you say, sir, they've done it before.

I was stunned. Hell was falling quickly to the bottom of the list as my chosen destination for the afterlife.

"OK, kid. Gimme one of those WSJ's. Might as well check out the real estate market while I'm here, just to be thorough." I reached into my pocket. "How much you need?

"Ten dollars, sir.

"Ten dollars?! For The Wall Street Journal?! That damn rag ain't worth ten cents!

"Delivery costs are high, sir. The price of gas and so on.

"Gas? You want gas? Why don't you get Bill Kristol to open his mouth, that'll give you plenty of gas. Better yet, you could take it out of his a....

"Be careful there, sir!" the newsboy cautioned me, pointing at my feet. I noticed now that the rock I had landed on was covered with sewing needles. "The permanent residents here keep trying to squeeze through those things...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

SHOPPING THE AFTERLIFE

Today I mounted the new calendar. I got it free at the bank. Each month has a pithy saying. January's words of wisdom are from that ancient Greek philosopher, Andrew Carnegie:

"Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success."

Nice thought, Andrew. Thank you very much. Is that what you told all your steel mill workers as they entered the blast furnace each morning?

Ancient Andrew is not the only one who can dispense great wisdom. My neighbor lady does the same thing. I ran into her the other day and she says:

"So, Neil, what church do you belong to?

"Mabel," I replied. "You know I don't belong to any church.

"Well, I thought maybe you'd changed your mind. It's getting closer every day, you know.

"My mind?

"No! Death, silly!

"Oh, that. I don't worry about that too much, Mabel, because I am on the threshold of unparalleled success!

"Are you now? What idiot told you that? Say, I'd like to introduce you to our new pastor. He's a girl pastor.

"He is?

"Well, SHE is a girl pastor.

"Are you sure?

"Oh, stop!" she said, whacking me over the head with her Lutheran Hymnal. "I'm worried that you're going to Hell!

It got me thinking. Perhaps I should be thinking more about my destination in the afterlife. Maybe I should, like, check it out beforehand. You know, like, do some afterlife shopping or something. Coincidentally, I needed a good New Year's Resolution. And the thing about any good New Year's Resolution is that you have to start right away, at the stroke of midnight.

I figured I'd start with the least popular afterlife destination. I called up my travel agent.

"Round trip to Hell!" I demanded.

"Sorry, we have only one-way tickets to Hell. The closest thing we have would be Iowa. You'll need a major credit card...

"Iowa? I've been to Iowa. Didn't seem like such a bad place to me.

"You obviously haven't been there during Caucus Season.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

SATELLITE DISH

Hello again, everyone, and here's hoping you're having a happy holiday season and best to you and yours.

Sorry I've been out of touch. Two minutes after my last post there was a knock on my door and it was Ole, wanting to go mountain climbing. I never could refuse Ole anything, because it was he who raised me, more than any single person, and so off we went and I forgot to bring my satellite dish. (Luckily, she was still here when I got home.)

Then when I got back the dog was pregnant and I've spent the last two weeks getting the nursery ready. Painting, decorating, hanging appropriate puppy pictures, and reading "Puppy Midwifery" and "Puppies Take Precedent Over Everything" and "Puppies Make The World Go Round" and similar heavy tomes. You know the routine.

And there was a wedding reception somewhere in there too, on the dark side of St. Paul. There were pictures on the walls, I remember, and the bride wore white. There was a full moon, and a car pulled up across the street and a bunch of drunken animals jumped out and started howling.

Also, I bought an old "rusty but trusty" pickup truck to haul brush around the farm, but the right front tire blew moments after I arrived home. I drove around on the rim for a few days but then it snowed, and thank God for that! Now I won't have to deal with that flat tire till next spring.

So now I'm home for the next eight weeks at least, midwifing puppies.

I don't know what kind of puppies they will be. The mother will once again be a "Heinz 57", and the father? Who knows. Maybe a "Baskin-Robbins". But I'm sure they'll be...

"One of a Kind!!! MUST SEE!!! God only made ONE of these!!!! L@@K!!!! L@@K!!!!!"

...which is how I'll advertise them on eBay.

PICTURE: Satellite Dish from the series The Golden Age of the Brassiere Collage 2007 Neil Shakespeare

Thursday, November 1, 2007

KEEPING TABS ON THE SLAVEGIRLS

Here's another picture of me from my youth, hard at work at my first job. The day after I graduated from Harvard Business School my father put me to work on his plantation in France. My job was to keep tabs on the slavegirls and make sure that not a single kernel of grain was lost.

It was hard work, but I was good at it, and it signaled my rapid rise in the corporate world. Here I learned all about the value of margins, and I have been living in the margins ever since.

After several decades of such work I have, in fact, become an extremely marginal fellow.

Monday, October 29, 2007

NAPPING IN A MONET

Here's a picture of me in my youth, napping in a Monet landscape. The older I get the more I realize that I've never really awakened. I used to feel guilty about napping. You know, wasting time and all that. Now I love napping. I look forward to it.

Isn't it strange how the less time you have left the more you want to nap off the remainder?