Mad Hatters' Review
Columns - Issue 5
Sir Castor Bayley's
Carol Novack's
Crazy Jane's Advice
Elizabeth Smith's
The Modern Buckaroos' Guide column
Liesl Jobson's
Mad Hatters'
Tamisue Jones's
Rich Andrews's
Helen Ruggieri's
From Under the Slush Pilecolumn
Pete Dolack's
East of East column
Archived Columns - Issue 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 12
'Goatbreath Babble' by Sir Castor Bayley
Goatbreath Babble

Installing the Fan


One ceiling fan, pivoting

4 2 1/2 inch wood screws

2 ornamental screws

25 ft Romex

Screwdrivers, Ladder, etc.

1 Husband, butt surgically removed from couch

1 Bottle of Beer, forcibly removed from said husband’s hand

1 Remote Control, hidden








The fact that it was a weekend, that the entire day prior and part of the evening before had been spent attending to various tasks around the house, tasks devised by the well intentioned (I’m sure) wifey to afford hubby a sense of “pride filled accomplishment” at weekend’s conclusion, was no reason that this day should not also be spent in tireless motion.

I suppose sitting there on the couch, watching the NASCAR races, was asking for trouble. Perhaps if I had been hiding, out of sight as I do most other times, the temptation would have been easier to resist. But instead, there I sat, in full view of God and country, and the ever-vigilant eyes of wifey, thoroughly enjoying my day off, the last one remaining for the weekend.

It had begun when wifey announced to me, that in spite of my choice to “lay about” for the day, she nonetheless had a different agenda that included some long overdue cleaning in the baby’s room. I listened with one ear as she laid out her ambitious plans; with the other I was attuned to the race.

“Oh, man!! Did you see that? Near wreck there. Too bad if old Gordon gets knocked out, don’t you think?”

Looking to my right, where she once stood, was an empty space; she had evaporated. Evidently the task at hand was so demanding that it must be tended to immediately.

Some things happen quickly, like a glass dropping to the floor or a brick falling from the chimney. If you witness either of these events, your attention is instantly commanded. Other things, like the subtleties of “task negotiation” happen quietly, almost imperceptibly. So naturally, because of my involvement elsewhere, specifically the single-minded pursuit of leisure, I did not at first notice the initial sign that I was being summoned. To my perception, it was as if it appeared out of thin air, but nonetheless there it was. Where there was once nothing but a chair and carpet; the ceiling fan. I tried to ignore it when I first caught sight of it out the corner of my eye. But it would not be silent. It kept assuming the face and voice of my wife, calling to me, pouting, “Please come help me honey, please come help!” I was outnumbered.

By race end, Gordon had come back from a certain loss to command the finishing position. The children had caught the ice cream man, and managed to get the most disgusting, color saturated treats available. Wifey sat in the dining room, enjoying the cool breeze and added light of the ceiling fan. Me? I grabbed a doubly bubbly hubby beer and headed for the garage, locking the door behind me.

Readers may write to C.B. Smith c/o Place "Jabberwocky Webb" in the subject line of your email.

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Crazy Jane's Advice to the Lorn of Love
Image © 2006 Tony Juliano
Crazy Jane's Advice to the Lorn of Love

Dear Crazy Jane,

I have a problem. Well, actually, I think it's my husband with the problem, but since he's adamant it's me, we agreed to write our favourite columnist, you. We've agreed to abide by your determination.

Here goes… My husband thinks it's weird that we only have sex once a year. I think after being married for as long as we have been (forever) that once a year is adequate. We have a good time when we do it. I mean, I'm not uptight or anything. I get into it. And then I'm good for another year. My husband, on the other hand, is getting tired of doing himself, he says. (I wish he wouldn't tell me those things. Yuck.) Anyway, he whines and pouts and follows me around like a horny mutt. Honestly, he's humped my leg! He thinks I'm being unreasonable. I'm at a loss here. What's "normal"? I mean, I'm certain my parents never engaged in any sex whatsoever after the last child, I, was born, so I feel my husband should be grateful that we indulge as often as we do.

Please help settle this once and for all. We (me with utter calm, knowing you will side with sisterhood! and him, nervously toying with his bottom lip – so infantile – saliva – god I hope that's saliva? – drooling down his fingers.) await your reply.



Joy L. Essex

Joy L. Essex


Dear Joy:

You've posed a not uncommon problem, as it were and as it is in many a marriage or common law alliance, alas. Tis a matter of libido drive incompatibilities. Your husband's hard drive runs like a maniac in the fast lane, whilst your drive, such as it is, is perpetually stuck in traffic in the slow lane. Or if you will, your husband's libido takes the high road while yours takes the low road and of course, you can't possibly intersect under such circumstances. Or to state things another way, you may not have a driving license to begin with. That's tough, but repairable, with effort and motivation, which you don't seem to have. At this rate, your husband's stress could induce a sudden heart attack. Not to mention the danger of stroke you confront. A life without sex leads to coagulated veins and death by stroke.

A famous love mediator whose name I've forgotten once said that in such circumstances it is best to make a potion out of Trojan horse radish, Siberian oysters, Tanzanian burdock root and Cretan honey and drink a gallon of the mixture four minutes before retiring. Sometimes it is said that will balance the extremes between the yin and yang after four months. On the other hand, it is rumored that Socrates advised women with low libidos to divorce their husbands and seek the companionship of women, if you know what I mean. However, that option may not appeal to you, as you appear to be well … how can I put it delicately? Ah yes … cerebral is the word I was groping for.

Have you considered inviting an aardvark into your home, a common love object likely to bring you and your husband together? (Well, okay, I do realize the obvious drawbacks.) How about playing the overture to Tristan und Isolde as you're retiring? Other known cures include a drastic change in diet (only red meat for you, and artichokes in vinegar for him), a honeymoon style voyage to Tuvalu in a tugboat, and the installation of a duck pond in your backyard, if you have one. There's something about ducks, it has been said. On the other hand, you seem to have a revulsion for dogs. Aardvarks and ducks may not be appropriate.

Of course, the crotch of the matter could well be that your husband is ignorant of the role of the pituitary gland as a sexual stimulant. There are several manuals about somewhere. It's alarming how many men - even when apprised of its special function - are totally incapable of locating the gland and even when they manage to find it, they don't seem to know what to do with it. My Jack was like that at first blush, but I soon directed him to the right spot. This is definitely a subject that should be taught in primary school. But perhaps you are ignorant of the location of this gland as well. A survey by The Institute of Sexual Deviations recently determined that 89% of women in the Midwest can't find it, while 99% of women who live in New York City have known about it since they could walk. Some women complain that the gland doesn't stay put. That can also be aggrevating to one's partner.

While I sympathize with you, Joy, marriage and similar contractions are two-way streets. While normalcy is a myth, marriage without sex is like a bicycle without a fish. You must change your attitude and learn to view sexual frivolity as a welcome addition to your marital conjugations. While your husband should not be humping your legs, you should at least allow him free rein to hump himself while the two of you confront this major crisis in a mature fashion (one would hope). Believe me, your disgust at his efforts to satiate himself only serve to exacerbate the situation If all else fails, you should definitely consider counseling by a certified sex therapist. My cousin Alicia Dimpledorf may be able to save your marriage. Her website is


Verily yours,



Crazy Jane thanks Shirley Harshenin (aka Joy L. Essex) for contributing the letter in this season's column. Readers may write to Crazy Jane c/o Place "Ask Crazy Jane" in the subject line of your email.


The Modern Buckaroos' Guide to the Western World, Graphic by Shirley Harshenin
The Modern Buckaroos' Guide to the Western World


Dear Buckaroos and Buckarettes,

Cowboy-speak isn’t just for Texans anymore. Yes, once again, tuning in to the Cowboy Way has helped me figure out What the Hell Is Going On.

Bonanza, baby! Sunday, April 9th, and Senator John Kerry’s on NBC’s Meet the Press. He glibly characterizes George W. Bush’s administration’s contingency plan for Iran as “another example of the move from the hip, shoot from the hip, cowboy diplomacy of this administration.” Notwithstanding the poetry slam-stutter of the comment—say it to yourself, go ahead and say it with a snap of the fingers—this is exactly the kind of oft-repeated statement that makes me strap on my vintage Hubleys. What is up with this? Is it time to stop describing every gung-ho politician as a gunslinger, or should we vote this “Best Use of Cliché 2006?” Do we or do we not have a leader who has the cajones to pull off a good old-fashioned showdown between democracy and the forces of darkness (what used to be Communism and is now fundamentalism of the non-Christian kind)?

When you read “shoot from the hip,” picture a trio of gunfighters made popular by the almighty American moviegoer: Gary Cooper’s smooth draw in High Noon, the gracefully lethal Jack Palance in Shane, the in-your-face triple menace of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’s Eli Wallach, Lee van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood. Whoa, Nellie—we have something here. Kerry is clearly accusing Bush of channeling one or more of these avatars. But which one? Is George W. Bush most like:


• Cooper’s common man, made deeply ambivalent by the conflict between his wish for peace and his sense of global responsibility?
• Palance’s apocalyptic evil, harnessed by opportunistic businessmen?
• The hard-eyed spaghetti western mercenary, whose motivations are rooted in base greed?

I’ll leave that choice to you, dear Western viewer….

Calling a person’s actions “shoot-from-the-hip” can either be a gunslinger slap-down or high praise. Pejoratively, it describes someone who recklessly or impulsively acts or speaks, without thought for consequences. Yet it also means to speak bluntly and directly, or to deal with someone assertively. Does the use of this phrase praise or condemn the consideration of a contingency plan that gives diplomacy short shrift and allows the use of nuclear bunker-busting bombs in Iran?

GW, given his appropriated cowboy-roots, would definitely take it as a compliment. The image of the cool gunfighter who keeps his guns in his holster, armed and ready for a 23/100 of a second fast draw, portrays a Master who has control, inner strength, power, and confidence in his skill. Granted, the skill displayed by the Awesome Gunfighter was not for the common man. Only those who undertook journeys of initiation that entailed punishing physical and mental training, and great personal sacrifice would be able to master the art. It’s no wonder that in Westerns, the common townspeople are lesser beings who have to beg or bribe the Gunfighter for his services.

But nowadays, the tight draw-cock-and-fire of gunfighters from Deadwood Dick to James Bond is for anyone. “Point shooting,” refers to the kind of aiming that relies more on the shooter’s natural reaction to stress (a charging bad man) than using the sights of a gun. Shooting from the hip was very hip in the days of the G-Men of the mid-20th century, and it meant anything from shooting with the gun down by your pelvis to holding the gun at or near your range of sight, with your eye on the target. Even “bronco-busting”—whoops! I mean “bunker-busting”—bombs, whose weight and size ratio are designed for deep penetration into soil or concrete, are point shootists to the nth degree. A spotter on the ground or in the bomber laser-guides these nuclear buckos to their targets.

The argument for point shooting is that it takes too long for a person to focus on the sight on the gun; in times of attack, better to hold the gun instinctively at the right angle and in the right direction--no blowing off toes or sides of barns allowed--than to be fussy about getting the target in the sights. However, the farther you are from your target, the more necessary it is to use a visual index, such a sight. As the distance grows, the shooter must use more discernment and care in lining up the sight with the target to achieve effective results. So this raises a question in my mind: if point shooting is most effective for short range under stressful situations, is it the best choice for long-range international and domestic planning?

If GW really has to channel a gunfighter, let’s hope we don’t see him take his position for his showdown, holsters at his hips and highly polished Christian five-pointed star shining on his manly breast. He may just be a straight-shooting kind of guy, but my guess is that he prefers the dazzling fanning technique, a hotdog approach that requires a smooth draw of the gun with one hand while the palm of the other cocks and releases the hammer of the gun repeatedly, in a fast fanning motion. It looks damn cool, but it throws off the aim so that the shooter hits everything around him indiscriminately. Let’s hope that despite Kerry’s “Best Use of Cliché 2006,” Mr. Bush will know what real gunfighters know: A fast draw takes second place to a calm mind.

Yours in Western Wear,

E. “Bucko” Smith

E. “Bucko” Smith


Is someone you know appropriating or channeling the Cowboy (or girl) Way? Do you suspect “It” at work within political stratagems, workplace intrigues, fashion statements, or advertising? Readers may send Cowboy Way sightings, requests for investigations, or comments to, subject line: Freezebucko. These may be published, but definitely the best sighting will receive an official “Freeze, Bucko!” sheriff’s badge.


Mad Hatters' Indaba
Mad Hatters' Indaba

MHR's South African editor Liesl Jobson is a former police officer in Johannesburg, South Africa.


My editor sister, who also lives in Johannesburg, goes to lots of book launches. She emails me the invitations. For her it is work. For me it's fun. Today's invitation is to Penguin's launch of 'Number Four'. It's the story of how the Old Fort, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated during the Rivonia trial, was transformed into the new Constitutional Court. Three judges will talk at the launch. I should go. I don't know enough about my country's history.

She emails me half an hour later to say that her boss is sending her to a talk at Wits University, but the food is usually decent at these launches and I won't have to cook for myself. The music might be good too – African Jazz probably – although at the last function I attended, the guitar was out of tune. I couldn't leave because I was stuck in the middle of the row, next to Fr. Michael Lapsley, who had both hands blown off in a letter bomb. He held his teacup with a metal clasp that extended from below his shirt cuffs.

As I get in my car it starts raining. I receive a text message. I check it while I'm stopped at a traffic light: Traffic a living hell. stay at home. took 40 min to reach Wits.

I'm already on the road and hungry. I take a different route. My glasses have a raindrop on the lens. I wipe it with the sleeve of my jacket, but the synthetic fleece just smears it around. At the Constitutional Court, the weather is wild.

The wind blows me up the 45 steps from the parking lot to the table outside the Court. The first table has wine and juice, but I've quit alcohol and it's too cold for juice. There's hardly any food left. I grab a cold mielie but it's been cooked on an open flame and burned. The corn pits stick in my teeth. I'm too hungry to put it down.

There are half eaten remnants of bread, but I don't take any, because I'm afraid of contracting hepatitis. There are peanuts and pumpkin seeds roasted without salt. The man beside me slurps from his wine glass and goes for a refill. In the dark I can't really tell what is in the big pot. I am given an enamel mug of what I hope is soup. I'm disappointed not to get a dumpling from the bottom of the pot.

I pass through a security arch. The enamel mug sets off the alarm. I have to go back through the arch without the mug. I give it to the security guard, feeling stupid, imagining he thinks I'm drunk. Once inside, I realise the mug contains gluwein. The dumplings I thought I saw in the pot must have been oranges. I really want to get tanked, but I'm too scared to drive drunk in the rain. Besides, I've made this resolution. There is no music. I wish my sister were here. I dump the gluwein.

I head for one of the few gaps on a low wooden bench. All the comfortable armchairs have been taken. My back is sore from where the physiotherapist mashed me this morning. I can't possibly stand all night. As I sit I'm hit by the smell of unwashed humanity. I look around, spot a balding youth with long straight hair, down to his shoulders. One of the regulars. He has big brown eyes, like Osama Bin Laden's, and a haunted look. The venue fills up quickly. There are no seats anywhere else. Three elderly black women perched on the bench behind him look like queens in their traditional dress and turbans. They complain about the smell, tell him to move. He says nothing, looks frightened, but stays put.

I put my cell phone on silent and return my sisters' message: Too late. Am seated too close to homeless man who smells bad. Food not up to much. Talk starting late. Hall cold. Hungry & cranky.

I wonder why I came. I hope the judges are worth listening to. My sister sends another back to me: The pungent indigent w soulful eyes steals. watch your stuff. 16 car pile up on M1. speaker 30 min late.

I can't stop giggling. People sit on the steps, on the floor. I wonder if they think I'm peculiar too. A row of kids on the bench do not give up their seats to adults. I am uncomfortable about sitting on the bench when old people are sitting on the cold concrete steps, but my back hurts too much for me to consider relinquishing my seat. I'm out of painkillers.

Justice Albie Sachs talks first. Security agents put a bomb in his car in 1988 which ripped off one of his arms. He gestures with both arms when he talks about the American who advised the building committee – an advisor to the Capitol Hill monument. The judge's stump waggles in his cut-off sleeve. My mind wanders and I wonder what happened to the discarded cloth from his suit. Where is the rest of his arm?

The next speaker is called to the podium. The elderly man sitting on the step next to me stands up. It is Justice Johann Kriegler. I am deeply embarrassed. He talks about the ghosts that haunt the place. He says the weather is a suitable reminder of those who died here. The Constitution has changed. The 'little people' have protection now. I look at the homeless man who has not been chased off by the intimidating grannies. I should have offered the judge my seat. He pauses, looks at the children who have begun to yawn and tells them what an important night this is, and how pleased he is that they are there. This place, he says, is for your future. You will look after it when I am gone?

The last speaker is Justice Yvonne Makgoro, who was a political prisoner in the Women's Jail. She wears a vivid green dress and turban. She reminds us that women were imprisoned for Pass Law violations, and for having sex across the colour line in the days of the Immorality Act. She talks about how painful it was for her to return to this place. The women who were imprisoned with her stand and sing. It is a sweet sad song and I wish I understood the words.

Before I leave, I try to buy a postcard to send to my sister in Manchester, UK. On the carousel are tourist brochures – the National Botanical Gardens, the Hector Pietersen Memorial, Tour Soweto pamphlets. The cashier is talking on her cellphone, disinterested. I point to the carousel. "Postcards?" I ask. She shrugs.

I turn on the car radio as I head home. The trial of Jacob Zuma is winding to an inevitable conclusion. A date has been set for the judgement of the former deputy-president who has conceded that he had unprotected sex with an Hiv-positive woman. The following report is of a four-year-old girl from Daveyton who has been raped. It will later transpire that she was kept waiting at the Far East Rand Hospital for 24 hours before receiving medical treatment. I hope one of the good judges will be there for her.

It's impossible to describe what I heard tonight. A hundred postcards wouldn't be enough.

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: Mad Hatters' Indaba. Comments may be published.


Eavesdropper Jones

Eavesdropper Jones

An Eavesdropper’s Unfortunate Circumstance upon the Internal Monologue of an Anal-Retentive, Obsessive Compulsive, Procrastinating Workaholic.


Well, isn’t that an overblown title for something that has driven me to distraction? And actually, I’m not obsessive compulsive; I do own up to the rest, though. I’d like to think that I’m a breathing contradiction, but that’s a bit glamorous for this rural swamp area that I live in. The general term around here is "fucked up." Then I’m advised to just drink and smoke like so many around me, to loosen up because life is not meant to be serious. It is meant to be enjoyed, the opportunity to dream and realize.

A day in the life can indeed be humorous, but it can also be neurotic feast for a bulimic sanity. I personally love my neuroses. They are like a family to me: Mother Common Sense has a full day’s battle with Sister Dreamer and Sister Procrastinate (the twins conceived during a carefree youth), Cousin Worry Wart and her mother, Aunt Panic (who moved in during a 20-something crisis), and lastly, the neighbor kid, Anxiety, who tends to visit when Worry’s medication wears off. Rumor has it that Anxiety is Panic’s illegitimate child conceived during a bender in Tijuana.

They live together in my brain, never revealed before now. But in this age of reality programming, I might as well put them on display, get them drunk, and invite college guys over to earn a buck by going wild. Or maybe not. I forgot that Aunt Prude was visiting. She’s always got her granny panties in a bunch about being anything but a proper young lady.

It is a daily battle, though, and Mother tries to keep them all in line to make it through another day. Dreamer and Procrastinate always wake up late. Then Panic starts to crack the whip, which puts Prude into a sweltering dizzy spell over the skintight leather and stiletto heels. Panic swears it is a Halloween costume, but the twins get to hopping, evidence that Panic is indeed a sadist to a happy-go-lucky life.

On the road, Worry frets about traffic holding them up, Dreamer works on stories as they pass flat farms just plowed, landscape of no distinction. Procrastinate calculates whether the amount of gas left in the tank is enough to last until tomorrow. Prude says it's not polite or safe to prop a leg up on the armrest while driving. Mother just listens to NPR and minds the speedometer so that the speed limit is not exceeded, which would impede optimum gas mileage. The twins tell Mother that she's anal-retentive; Mother just concentrates on the morning news and sips her herbal tea as grannies driving school buses go past.

At the office, each does her best to give the others space, yet work in harmony to get the job done. Panic tends to rear her head too often, though, if the bosses are in town and Mother says it's probably time to buy a paper for the measly want ads before Panic earns them a Zoloft prescription. Worry becomes obsessed with details, dotting the i's and crossing the t's, afraid that just one missed would result in a lecture from the bosses. Dreamer and Procrastinate are usually napping until after lunch, and after then, the whip-cracking keeps them in line until the ride home.

Back at home, Dreamer and Procrastinate take over while Mother brews more tea to share with Panic and Worry. Sometimes, the twins slip a shot into it just so they can play in peace. Housework is forgotten, video victory is sought, and dinner is cooked if Mother is not too far gone. If she is, there's always chocolate lying around to ease all wounds.

Then one day, a visitor arrived. Mother was disappointed it was not Ed McMahon with a big cardboard check. Instead, it was Ambition. Turns out that Dreamer, tired of Worry, Panic and Anxiety, wrote to the Mitty Agency, looking for a personal motivator. Ambition was the best. She was a superhero rock star celebrity. She was smarter and more shapely than a million-dollar stick on a Hilton lawn.

Under Ambition’s care, Dreamer decided that writing a memoir would help to relieve stress. She pondered a title to fit with her life and thought that Pennsylvania Yankee in Big Bubba’s Swamp would probably tinge on plagiarism. Since the literature news of the day was fraught with lies and stealing, Dreamer sought another. She rolled several off the tip of her tongue; Mother, after a sip of sarcasm-blend tea, wondered if they could land an invitation to the Oprah show.

Dreamer kept at it, though, writing when Procrastinate was sleeping, which wasn’t often since she had a coffee habit that would get a top model fired. She learned to write in her own head, which ironically, was tethered psychically to Dionne Warwick, at least when the network wasn’t down. She was linked long enough, though, that the other Friends shared ideas and before she knew it, Dreamer lived a paranoia that made Panic, Worry and Anxiety look sane. Pressured to produce, though, she completed a book and sold it. Things were fine until Ambition starting doing the talk show circuit and pings rode in off the network, accusing theft and treachery.

Dreamer was thrown into chaos. Panic and her children had to be hospitalized; Mother started packing. As the door slammed behind her, all that was heard – “Hot, damn, we’re goin’ to Chicago!”

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: Eavesdropper Jones. Comments may be published.

'Step to the Rear' by Rich Andrews Step to the Rear: Tales from a Lapsed New York City Bus Driver
by Rich Andrews

Semi-true stories from your NYC bus drivers.



I expect my 42Ds, bulging in a man's uniform above an oversized steering wheel, to warp a guy's little brain but sometimes I just don't wanna hear the bullshit. One day, a Russian gent boards my bus and says, "Missus, I vant to go down on you."

Retirement Gift - Signed Picture
click to view full

He hadn't even inserted his token and already wanted to go down on me? I'm ready to get up and swat him with a book of transfers but he isn't bad looking. Still, it was a pretty heavy-handed flirt so I ignore him. He apparently thought I was playing hard to get.

"Ven I go down on you, you give me transfer?" That's it, I've had enough.

"Yeah, I'll transfer your ass to Albany with my foot," I say. He doesn't understand my words but catches their intent just fine. A Russian woman taps him on the shoulder and they start yammering away. Finally the woman turns to me and says, "He vants you should let him go down on you. I also go down on you, so I, ummm, show him."

Now there are hippies, kinky sex fiends and a few eccentric rich folk who go in for this kind of thing but I'm none of these. In fact, the thought of being in bed with these two gorillas is enough to make me toss my cookies.

"Why don't you two get together and leave me out of it?" I reply. I pull into the next stop and watch the pair go down the steps onto Avenue U. Down on U... Oh. The person coming up the stairs asks me, "Are you going to P?"

"Not til I'm off the bus," I reply, "Then I'm going to L." I gotta get off this route.

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: Step to the Rear. Comments may be published.

'From Under the Slush Pile' by Helen Ruggieri

From Under the Slush Pile
by Helen Ruggieri



Anthology seeks

submissions of 17 syllables from gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer who rollerblade for a discursive look at gender as it rolls on by. Please send a $300 reading fee and a return envelope for your submission.

Politically correct anthology

will accept poems from anyone who is literate and those who are illiterate as well. If there is a disability involved, so much the better. All submissions and nonsubmissions will be considered. Preference will not be given unless it is. Thank you for your helping hand.

The second annual Janice T. Bowen

Brown Burgart short story contest. The first prize winning short story will be published on our web site. Please send a fifty dollar reading fee to be eligible for our fifty dollar prize. The entries will be judged by last year's winner J. T. B. Brown Burgart.

Scumbag, a new

literary journal seeking high quality prose, poetry and creative nonfiction. The journal appears quadri-annualy and includes an array of work from many styles and schools. Our only standard for selection is the quality of the work and our own refined aesthetic sensibilities. We have a fondness for foreplay. For guidelines please download a submission sheet (8 pages long) available at our web site. We will accept personal checks but prefer cash.

Chapbook for ladies of the night

only. Please submit a manuscript of up to 16 pages of which one will be the cover, one the inside cover, one the permissions, one the dedication and one the contents (if any). If you desire a photo and bio, please include this data as well. We ask that you include a hundred dollars as a deposit . The deposit will be returned if you are the winner. Thank you ladies for your insights. We look forward to
receiving your fine checks.

Nightmares International

is looking for top quality poetry for a special issue on top quality poetry. Please mention where you read this notice and you will receive our special issue for only 11.00 plus postage and handling which will top out at $15.00.

You may purchase a special issue as long as you don't submit for $3.98 and we will personally deliver it to your home. We also feel compelled to write our high opinion of ourselves all over your submission. Thank you for thinking of Nightmares International.

The Tennessee Valley Alliance

announces the creation of the TVA creative fiction award for a short work (no more than 325 words) about dams. In case of a tie there will be a sudden death read off. The finalist will receive a weeks vacation in the Tennessee Valley and access to a rowboat with two oars.

The state poetry society of Delaware

is sponsoring a contest for work by society members which will be published in the society newsletter (circulation 28). Please submit anonymously enclosing a ten dollar reading fee to be eligible for a ten dollar first place prize. Sam's grandmother will select the winners and as you know, she has standards that won't quit though she tends toward those who are regular (in attendance, that is).

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: From Under the Slush Pile. Comments may be published.

'East of East' by Pete Dolack
East of East


Joining the Coalition of the Able

If I were religious, which fortunately I am not, I might be tempted to see the beautiful spring day New York City enjoyed for the latest anti-war demonstration as a sign of higher approval. Or maybe Pat Robertson’s hotline to God is temporarily out of service as no hurricanes, tornadoes or other examples of divine retribution struck at the 300,000 who walked Manhattan’s streets in a colorful, lively procession on April 29.

Whatever, as kids say today, and I also say when I forget I’m now 45. More worrisome than Robertson, who is, after all, merely a convenient floater of trial balloons for the Bush administration, is that George W. Bush seems to believe he too has a direct line from God, and nobody on his staff will tell him otherwise, not even the “independent” new press secretary, Tony Snow, who arrives straight from the White House’s hometown team, Fox News. Somehow I feel less than reassured when the corporate media informs me that Snow is independent because he has on occasion criticized Bush — from Bush’s right! We therefore do not go out on a limb by believing the latest demonstration is no more likely to change the minds of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. than were the giant marches of the past three years.

But to point out the immutability of long-closed minds does not equate to a lack of effect. The marches before the U.S. invasion of Iraq didn’t stop the war, and a certain level of malaise seemed to have set in, but the movement did alter the beginning of the war. The Pentagon did not implement its “shock and awe” plans of dropping 3,000 bombs in the first 48 hours of war. The bombing waves were highly destructive, but not nearly as devastating as the “shock and awe” tactic would have been, and worldwide opinion forced the pace of the invasion, both in cutting short the duration of the bombing prior to troops pouring across the border and in the length of time taken to advance across Iraq. There is no denying that the refusal of most of the Iraqi military to defend against the invasion was the most significant factor for the casualties of the invasion being far less than it could have been, but the anti-war movement objectively saved tens of thousands of lives. In a certain sense, the movement has already come full circle, as the Bush administration seems to be seriously contemplating an invasion of, or at least a bombing campaign in, Iran, a development on the minds of the April 29 demonstrators.

There is the hope that even the militaristic unilateralists who create the Bush administration’s foreign policy aren’t reckless enough to seriously believe they can invade Iran easily and the latest sabre-rattling is merely a bluff using a “madman” ruse, but that seems a very slim reed to cling to. Massive demonstrations provide pressure from below, and that pressure can have a significant effect in conditions such as today, with presidential approval ratings at historic lows; Bush’s unstable coalition of religious fundamentalists, pro-military social conservatives and big business showing signs of splintering under its contradictions; early signs of consumerist discontent resulting from record high gasoline prices; and an unusually deep divide among the corporate elite and the right-wing intellectuals who serve them. Throw in the declining rate of young men and women signing up for the military and the increasing discontent among military personnel — veterans made up a very large and vocal segment of the April 29 demonstration — and a military adventure against Iran has to be seen as a fiasco in the making even by some Pentagon planners.

Given the level of opposition an invasion of Iran would engender, might extraconstitutional measures be contemplated? In my more pessimistic moments, I wonder if the Bush gang are really going to relinquish power in January 2009, assuming that Democrats don’t regain control of Congress in this year’s elections and impeach Bush, a microscopically thin reed to cling to considering the Democratic Party’s embrace of Bush policies. Even many of my Leftist friends think this sort of thinking is a bit of a stretch, but the messianic zeal of the Bush gang is something beyond the usual right-wing lust for control; witness the devastatingly vicious attacks on John McCain in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries — McCain is one of the most conservative senators despite his undeserved reputation as an “independent” “straight talker” and a “moderate.”

The recent political stalemate in Italy, where the outgoing prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s morbid combination of George W. Bush, Ross Perot and Rupert Murdoch, had refused to leave office despite the small complication of his coalition losing the April national election, might provide a bit of inspiration. (One can imagine the sorts of conversations going on in the White House. “Tell me again, Karl, about how my friend Benito is making himself prime minister for life?” “Um, that’s Silvio, Mr. President.”)

On the other hand, Richard Nixon, who had as much contempt for democracy as Bush and Dick Cheney, did not succeed in making himself dictator; Nixon is said to have asked his joint chiefs of staff if they would support him in a coup but was turned down cold. Nixon resigned shortly thereafter as even his fellow Republicans began deserting him; there was a large majority for impeachment in the House of Representatives that included Republicans. Given the more intensely partisan nature of today’s Republicans — Bush is far from alone in believing the White House is GOP property — and the control of the party in Congress by the extreme-right likes of Bill Frist, Trent Lott and Tom DeLay’s lieutenants, it is not realistic to see Bush losing support among the congressional leadership, although the rank and file has already begun to show signs of panic. For example, earlier this year there was a fundraiser for Tom Kean Jr., the Republican candidate for senator in New Jersey whose only qualification is that he has the same name as his well-known father, for which Kean conveniently was “stuck in traffic,” thereby arriving after Cheney had given a speech and left.

Given Bush’s mounting unpopularity and the giant egos in his party, any decision by Bush and Cheney to refuse to leave office would have to be a nearly unilateral decision, with little consultation. Frist is already maneuvering for the 2008 presidential campaign and McCain has scrapped his tiresome pretense of moderation by embracing Christian fundamentalists in what appears to be an attempt to be anointed as Bush’s successor. Although such a strategy may be completely unprincipled, it does have a political logic as Republican Party national leaders traditionally anoint a candidate and expect its primary voters to dutifully rubber stamp the selection, which is what happens. (This is how an unappealing dinosaur like Bob Dole could be nominated without a fuss in 1996.) McCain transgressed against the anointment of Bush, so Karl Rove’s scorched-earth campaign against him in the 2000 primaries would have been to some degree a punishment; that McCain is now appealing directly to Bush’s social base might be seen by some of that base as a redemption. At any rate, that McCain is doing this is not merely a sign of his utter lack of scruples, but also a belief that Christian fundamentalists will tip the balance in 2008.

And here is where the anti-war movement can play a role. Any reduction in Christian fundamentalists going to the polls spells trouble for the Republican Party, because even with them coming out in large numbers for Bush, cheating and vote suppression was still needed to get Bush half of the vote. One reason for ebbs in the movement was that the liberal anti-war coalition, United For Peace and Justice, decided to channel the anti-war movement into becoming a wing of the campaign of a pro-war candidate, John Kerry. This discouraged the millions who wanted a genuinely anti-war candidate, and allowed the Democrats to move even further to the right since liberals had given them a free pass. And in the present times, moves to the right means playing footsie with Christian fundamentalists, which in turn strengthens them.

If the anti-war movement instead puts pressure on the Democratic Party, and makes clear there will be a withholding of support without moves toward the left and a clear anti-war stance, the political ground will start shifting. Firmer political opposition will make it harder for Christian fundamentalists to achieve the goals they expect the Bush administration will deliver to them, and if enough become discouraged, some will withdraw from active political participation, shattering the Bush coalition. (Of course, to return to power, Democrats also need to actually stand for something other than “Vote for us, we’re not the Republicans.”)

For the anti-war movement to be really effective, however, it needs to broaden. It might take a lesson from France, where widespread street demonstrations and student occupations led to a complete defeat of the conservative government’s attempt to introduce American-style “reforms” for workers in their 20s. Instead of hoping the Socialist Party (France’s equivalent of the U.S. Democratic Party; there is nothing socialist about it) would save them from the governing conservatives, people took a more direct form of action. As another example, a 1998 general strike in Denmark sought a reduction in the workweek and, as its key demand, a sixth week of paid vacation.

If you want something, you have ask for it. The militancy of the immigration movement that has sprung up this year — mass demonstrations in cities across the United States and a reasonably successful general strike on May 1 — has already managed to put Congress on the defensive; it seems very unlikely the Senate will approve anything resembling the draconian Sensenbrenner bill that passed the House. Don’t want any more war? Make the war-makers pay a price. We haven’t, so far.

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