Author Archives: Me

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Ah, the 5th district. Why didn’t you say so?

After taking a job at the New Haven Register covering the Connecticut legislature, I have again shifted, or rather refined, my focus at the request of my bosses to cover the 5th Congressional district race, exclusively.

It’s been fun. After breaking several stories about John Rowland, (he’s working for Lisa Wilson-Foley but not getting paid; he worked for Wilson-Foley’s husband as recently as two weeks ago; he might have worked for Mark Greenberg, proposing to be paid through the candidate’s nonprofit animal shelter, but didn’t; plus all the ancillary coverage that went with it) I’m at a bit of a loss.

And in need of a vacation.

We’re also getting a Republican Congressional debate underway in Torrington, so that will be fun. Soon enough my focus will widen to include the Senate race, too, but for now, I’m enjoying owning the 5th district.


A shift in focus

I have decided to change the focus of this blog, from a compilation of my humor to a more traditional portfolio-type blog.

Why?

Because I have not been writing much humor these days. It’s not because I have grown less funny (impossible), it’s not because I have any less of a desire to write humor (again, impossible), I have just been so engrossed in Connecticut state politics and election coverage that my humor writing, probably always a career liability, has fallen by the wayside.

So, as I see fit and as time allows, I will be posting updates on my career and the development of my portfolio, should anyone care, which I doubt.

I may also post about a random idea or project that I am working on, or an opinion that I feel I need to share.


Imaginary lands, imaginary causes

OK, I’m going to get serious here for a moment. I apologize, but I promise it won’t last too long.
I am not a fan of Newt Gingrich. I don’t particularly agree with his policies, nor do I particularly like his persona. But I agree wholeheartedly with his recent statements concerning Palestine.
It is a historical fact that the nation of Palestine was the construct of a terrorist organization, the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat. And despite claims to the opposite, it is also a fact that Palestinian textbooks ignore the existence of Israel and teach Palestinian children to hate Jews. Hillary Clinton, too, has said vociferously that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian people change that practice.
Further, I am ever more appalled by the news media’s knee-jerk refutation of these facts, and automatic bias against Gingrich. It is clear that major news sources, for whatever reason, are in favor of the Palestinian “cause,” a cause célèbre that, itself, was an Arafat construct. The media’s continued overt support of the Palestinian “cause” and in particular its treatment of Gingrich’s historically accurate statements this weekend, serve to make me less proud to call myself a journalist, now more a pejorative term than ever before.
OK, seriousness over. Now, for the sake of comparison, I would like to present some media coverage of some other invented nations:

Committee to protect witches cries foul
Calling the recent murder of the “wicked” witch of the East “an example of the worst kind of stereotyping and bias crime,” the Oz-based Committee to Protect Witches is calling for an investigation into the death.

When this guy is your spokesperson, you know you've got problems.

“This was the crime of an undocumented immigrant,” Monkey F. Monkeyson, chairman of the committee, said. “Glinda the so-called ‘good’ witch is nothing more than a provocateur.”
Monkeyson went on to say that though the munchkins have presented themselves as an oppressed minority in Oz, though the truth is “quite different.”
“They pave their streets with gold,” he said. “The Lollipop Guild is one of the most powerful unions in Oz. They’re not oppressed at all.”

Orcs claim ‘Red Book’ masks genocide
The recent release of the “Red Book” by celebrity author Frodo Baggins is little more than an attempt to mask the coordinated genocide of the orcs of Middle Earth, so says Grinash, spokesman for advocacy group Orcs United.

"We're really just misunderstood. I, for example, am an award-winning poet."

“How long must we endure genocide at the hands of our neighbors,” Grinash said. “They lock us in caves, chop off our heads when we try to defend ourselves and then, to add insult to injury, call us monsters.”
During the recent conflict, millions of orcs were killed as King Aragorn ascended to the throne of Gondor and Anor. Grinash called the “Red Book,” released shortly after the conflict, an attempt to rewrite history.
Mr. Baggins was unavailable for comment.

Hyenas: We’re starving here
According to spokes-hyena Shenzi, King Simba’s much publicized “circle of life” includes everyone but the hyenas.
“We’re persecuted, forced to live in this land of bones, just so that the lions can have control of the pridelands,” Shenzi said. “They cast us as evil, teach their children to hate us, but it’s about resource control. The lions are controlling the marketplace by excluding us. That’s it.”

Raise your hand if you've been persecuted by the majority.

Shenzi went on to ask fair business practices on the pridelands, and that hyenas be given representation.
“We have no voice,” she said. “They see us as laughing scavengers, and it’s all a lie. We demand justice.”
A spokes-lion for King Simba roared, and chewed off the reporter’s legs.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.


State reapportionment for children

After a week of delving into the complex, convoluted, confusing and confounding world of state reapportionment, I found myself unable to think of much else. I caught myself reorganizing my dinner plate the other night — did the potatoes have enough room? Was there an equitable space for the Brussel sprouts?
Then, later, my daughter asked, as she often does, for me to make up a story on the spot.  Only one thing came to mind.
“Hmmm,” I said. “I could tell you the story of reapportionment in the state of Connecticut.”
She responded appropriately: “What’s reapportionment?” I tried to explain.
“Well, we have three kids and two parents in this family. Let’s say we had to decide what to have for dinner. The kids want hamburgers, but the adults want liver and onions. The kids have a better chance of getting what they want, because there are more of them, right?”
She looked incredulous. In reality, our family is not a democracy — you eat what’s on the table, and she knows it. She also knows that a meal of liver and onions would result in a coup to rival Cuba’s. But she humored me, good-natured and generous child that she is.
“So what we can do is invite two more adults to dinner. That way we have more adults at the table, and more people who want liver and onions.”
“But what if the two new adults don’t like liver?” she asked. My daughter is very reasonable (unlike her father).
“They’ll pretend they like it, if they want to sit at the table. But then, what you kids do is, you actually take a chair away from the table and hide it, so there’s no room for more adults. Then we have a chance to add a chair in 10 years. Now lie down and go to sleep.”
The explanation complete, I launched into my story. I knew that the more boring the story, the sooner the slumber, and I knew that this would not be a problem, considering the subject matter.
I have included my daughter’s questions and comments during the story in parenthesis:
Once upon a time there was a kingdom of two parties.
(Only two? I like parties. They should have more parties.)
No, not parties like with cake and presents, parties like groups. Let’s just call them two teams, a red team and a blue team. Each team wanted stuff in the kingdom: The red team wanted the ships and the castles and the trebuchet.
(What’s a trebu-shay?)

Who knew that Club Penguin was so political?

Forget the trebuchet. The red team wanted the ships and the castles and the people, while the blue team wanted the forests and the rivers and the people.
(I want to be on the red team. They have the castles. Who wants forests?)
Yes, but you can’t build houses if you don’t have wood, and wood comes from forests.
(Who cares? I would have a castle!)
Fine, fine, you’re on the red team. This situation was very difficult as you might have guessed. Nobody knew who was in charge. Nobody knew who to talk to if they had a problem. But instead of going to war to decide who gets what, the two teams sit at a gigantic round table and talk about it for months. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and still, nobody knew who was in charge. Nobody knew who owned the forests or the castles or the people.
(You can’t own people, daddy.)
Well, slavery still exists in a surprising number of countries around the world, and you’d be surprised how much slavery of different kinds goes on even in this country. But whatever. Because the two teams couldn’t agree, the king decided to call in a prince from a far-away land, to help them decide.
So back to the big round table they went, and days turned into weeks, weeks turned into days and, still, they couldn’t agree.
In the end, they had to send it to wise King Solomon to make the decision, who gave some of the fields, some of the forests, some of the rivers, some of the castles and some of the people to each team.
Nobody was really happy with the decision, but they had to live with it because that’s the way these things work. The end.
(That was a terrible story, daddy.)
Yes, honey. Yes it is.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.


All hail the Almighty Dollar

I am not a Communist. Hear that, Ghost of Joe McCarthy? Me, not, in any way, a Communist.
More to the point, I like a good sale same as the next guy. I have been known to cut coupons and pre-order, though I draw the line at waiting in one. My daughter tried to convince me once to get Miley Cyrus tickets — it required doing jumping jacks on a night with a full moon while holding a porcupine with my left hand. I said no.
Despite my lack of Commie sensibilities — my firm, true and honest lack of Communist sensibilities (ahem, un-American activities folks) — I am disgusted by the total and complete abandon with which our society has embraced the holiday shopping season.
I’m not one to say “Put the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas.” Heck, I’m a Jew and am, as such, not really concerned with Christmas. Not my beeswax.
But I understand the sentiment. I would prefer to say, “Put the ‘thanks’ back in Thanksgiving.” Every year it seems that the holiday means little more than the day before the holiday shopping season (which I will henceforth refer to as the HSS). I know that, in truth, the actual date of Thanksgiving was set to give shoppers more time to shop (look it up if you don’t believe me) but, really, enough’s enough.
This year, my wife dragged my family to a museum celebrating the life of Native Americans, she said, to start a conversation on what the holiday was all about.
I told her that the holiday was all about getting tipsy and telling off your brother-in-law. She didn’t like that very much, though it was accurate, at least in my case.
I told her that the holiday was all about eating until you get sick. She didn’t like that very much, though it was accurate, at least in my case.
She proceeded to tell our kids the old Thanksgiving line — that the generous Native Americans taught all the city-bred Pilgrims how to survive in Lorne Green’s Wild America and now we eat turkey and have a feast to say “thanks” for all that assistance.
I decided to scuttle her boat.
“Wait,” I said. “We have a feast while many descendants of those same Native Americans, at least the ones that didn’t get massacred or die off from diseases brought over by the Pilgrims, live below the poverty line?”
“Wait,” I said. “We offer our thanks by standing in line for hours to get a good deal on a big-screen TV?”
That being said, (and what’s not being said is my wife’s response, which I would describe as an overreaction, but she would describe as perfectly reasonable in the face of such unabashed obnoxious behaviour) I would like to propose that we substitute Thanksgiving for a different holiday.

Can we get somebody with the last name "Dollar" to be the high priest?

From now on, let’s just be honest. Let’s combine the HSS into one gigantic super-holiday and call it “Worship the Dollar Month.” That way, there’s no pretense — just a reason to buy stuff for ourselves (and others). No saying, “Thanks for the corn, guys, now go live on the res.” No saying, “Christ died for your ability to buy high-priced electronics.”
No suggestion that the miracle was in fact, that the sale lasted for eight whole days, when it was scheduled to only last for one.
Just a single, month-long orgy of consumption.
And, no, I am not a Communist.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.


A protest of my very own

I envy the Occupy protesters. I don’t necessarily agree with the Occupy protesters — and I don’t necessarily disagree with them, either. No, like Johnny Cash, I choose to walk the line, though my line doesn’t involve any cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates or rock music.
I envy the protesters’ strength of conviction. They Believe (with a capital B) that they are In The Right. They have Faith and Confidence that they will Make a Difference. The only strength of conviction I ever saw was the strength with which the judge pounded the gavel when the jury found me guilty.
Just kidding — I have beliefs. I believe in the doctrine of A Glass of Red Wine on Friday Nights. I have faith in the Power of Humor and I am confident that somewhere, out there, the perfect Chinese dumpling is being lovingly crafted, and will be set aside just for me.
Oh, yeah, and I believe in my kids and love and all that stuff, too.
Despite all of my firmly held beliefs, I have been positively green with envy. Not only do the Occupy protesters have strength of conviction, but they have jobs and families and lives that enable them to go camping for months on end. I want to do that. I want to quit my daily grind, stop taking care of my kids and practice some good, ol’ fashioned civil disobedience instead.
So this weekend, I started a movement of my own.
Taking a cue from the whole Occupy thing, I started a protest called Occupy My Couch. We were protesting getting off the couch. And you know what? We made some serious gains, effected some real change. My daughters and I made some popcorn, sat down on the couch and didn’t get up, all day. When my wife came by, to tell us to get off our lazy butts and go do something constructive, I told her we were protesting, and that she would have to remove us by force.
I started chanting, “Hell, no, we won’t go,” and then changed it to “heck” when my wife shot me meaningful glance number 3 — watch your language.
“You’re weird,” she said.
Flush from my first success, I decided to expand the protest. I live in Weston (don’t hold it against me), which, as you know, is one of the wealthier towns in the state. with all the stock brokers and hedge fund managers around, I realized that I, unlike the protesters in New York,  was in the minority. I am, after all, possibly the poorest person in town.
So, I put my chair down at the side of the semi-private road on which I live, I held up my sign — it read “I am the 1%.”
A few folks drove by and wondered, I think, if the market had recovered enough to sell their homes. But I wasn’t deterred by their contemptuous looks, as they drove by in gas-guzzling SUVs, probably heading to a meeting of the New World Order.
After a few hours, my wife brought me a turkey sandwich. It had far too much pepper, and I made a Youtube video of me eating it, but it didn’t go viral.
Eventually, the protest was broken up. Not by police in riot gear or 1920s union-busting gangs with baseball bats and fedoras, but by the simple fact of nature. I went inside and attempted to start a protest called “Occupy My Bathroom,” and it went pretty well until someone else knocked on the door.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.


John Kennedy calls me fat

It occurred to me recently how pointless arguments are. Nobody ever wins an argument, except by interjecting an indisputable fact and, even then, it’s not certain. People have a wonderful talent at ignoring reality. I should know — it’s a particular talent of mine.

I wish I had his hair.

No, arguments are useless, frustrating, Ferris wheels of pain. This is a problem, because I enjoy having them so much. I can be baited into losing my temper and responding with a self-conscious tirade, mitigated by constant attempts at seeing the other person’s side (aren’t I a saint?) but lately I have been more apt to just take it and smile. No, ladies, sorry, I am not available.
But I NEED to argue. It’s part of my essential makeup, like that pesky desire for oxygen that won’t go away, and the love of Chinese food. A good argument can be better than good sex, and somewhat more satisfying. An argument is to me what turning around three times before lying down is to a dog: Not quite essential but not a behavior that is easily curtailed.
So, in order to get those arguments out of my system, I have decided to have a series of theoretical argument with famous people. You may see these pop up on occasion — when there’s a genuine reason or connection with the week’s news, or when I just can’t think of anything better.
Because this is Election Day, I decided to pick a fight with John F. Kennedy, considered one of the most popular U.S. presidents of all time, and one generally well thought of. And, of course, he can’t fight back because he’s dead.

Hi, John. I can call you John, right?
“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.”

You’re also the man who accompanied Marylin Monroe to the White House’s secret boom-boom-room, right? I bet you also enjoyed that a bit.
“I’m an idealist without illusions.”

John, I have to say, with much of Connecticut still without power after a little snow fell in October, I’m wondering why we all pay so much in taxes every year.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

That’s kind of a cop-out, don’t you think? I mean, shouldn’t the government have done something before the storm, instead of blaming it all on the power companies?
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.“

I’m not sure of that, buddy boy. If the rain is falling through a hole in the roof, it might be a good idea to fix it, whatever the weather.
“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”

Now that’s just silliness. Are you seriously suggesting that we should give the power companies more time and more of our patience?
“Now we have a problem in making our power credible.”

Credible? I don’t care if people believe in electricity or not. Most people just want their toilets to work. I think you’re being a bit sanctimonious here. Typical, golden-tongued politician.
“Politics is like football; if you see daylight, go through the hole.”

Um, yeah. Again with the daylight and sunshine bit. Sports metaphors do nothing for me.
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. “

Are you calling me fat?
“The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.”

And now you’re calling me stupid. You know, if you weren’t a former president, I’d come over there and…
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

Great. Whatever. You know, I think Lincoln was the best president anyway.
Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/NHRegBuzz or find us at Facebook.com/NHRegBuzz. Text NHNEWS to 22700 to get news alerts directly to your cell phone. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


An argument with Mark Twain about the weather

One of my favorite authors, and one to which Connecticut lays partial claim, is Sam Clemens. I call him Sam, his right and true name, in the assured confidence that, had we been born in the same time period and had occasion to meet, we would have been fast friends. Not because I am in any way on par with his ability or intelligence but because he’s dead, and so I can believe what I want without fear of being proven wrong.

Someday the worms will call me dinner and I may meet Clemens in the afterlife. If, at that point, it turns out that we have a terrible disdain for each other, I will be sure to write a retraction. As Mark Twain and I are — or would have been — such great friends, I have decided to devote this bit of literary spittle to him.

This is a very friendly person. Just oozes friendliness. Has "happiness" written all over his moustache.

We got through the October snowstorm with power and heat, only to lose it Monday morning. Here, sitting in my cold house, I am warming myself with some Clemens weather wisdom, a subject on which Twain wrote quite a bit. So I will offer, for your enjoyment, a few of his musings on the subject, followed by my own responses, should they have been said in conversation over a gimlet or whisky sour.

 

“I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how.”

Yeah, OK, Sam. Whatever you say. You don’t like it? Move to southern California, where the weather-clerk must be on the take. Snow on our jack-o-lanterns seems a bit wrong somehow, but do you think complaining about it will make it any better?

 

“A great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done.”

Exactly what do you want us to do, Mr. Know-It-All? Oh, wait, I’ll go get my Cesna and we can sprinkle some good-weather-juice in the upper atmosphere. Or, I suppose we could just compose pithy and piquant sayings in the hope it makes people feel better. Your choice, Sam.

 

“Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It blew part of the hair off the dog yesterday and got the rest this morning.”

Are you saying that cold weather is a hangover cure, Clemens? Or maybe you just couldn’t think of an appropriate folksy metaphor so just through in a cliche and hoped for the best. How about, “Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It snowed.” But, no. That’s not good enough. Nobody would quote that in 100 years, would they?

 

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

OK, now you’re just talking crazy-talk. Of course he learns something — he learns not to abuse cats. And what the heck does that have to do with the weather? Nothing, that’s what. Well, I’ll tell you what, a man who carries a fish by the ear learns something, too — that fish don’t have ears (though I admit there were other ways he could have learned that lesson).

 

“I like criticism, but it must be my way.”

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it, huh? Some humorist you are. Can’t take a joke. I say we settle this the old fashioned way. Let’s step outside and I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp, and I’m not talking about a Bloody Mary with the tomato pulp left in it, either.

 

“If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet retired spot and kill him.”

Is that a threat?

 

“Forget and forgive. This is not difficult, when properly understood.”

Oh, alright. I never could stay mad at you. It’s the white hair and mustache. And I always was a sucker for a well-turned phrase.

 

“We are all erring creatures, and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticise.”

You said it.

Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/NHRegBuzz or find us at Facebook.com/NHRegBuzz. Text NHNEWS to 22700 to get news alerts directly to your cell phone. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


Politicians and livestock, or, the Will to vote

Since when have election cycles been as long as the actual term in office? I mean, these election cycles, they’re long. (Now you say, “How long are they?”)
Election cycles nowadays are so long the dinosaurs are jealous. Election cycles are so long we could talk about them in half-lives, like some something off the Periodic Table of Elements. Election cycles are so long my wife actually nags me to take out the garbage for a shorter amount of time.
Hey, I get no respect. No respect at all.
People from both major parties have been decrying the length of time a candidate must run for office, and I see their point. The moment a president sits down in the Oval Office, he’s gotta stand right back up again and hit the campaign trail. There’s no actual governance going on anymore, just campaign after campaign.
Reminds me of Shakespeare: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from campaign to campaign. Candidates are poor players who strut and fret their hours upon the stage and then are heard no more. Politics is a tale told by an idiot, full of false hope and unfulfilled promises, signifying nothing.
What, too erudite?

Shakespeare, like the personalities of most political candidates, probably never really existed.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have the solution (I can solve most problems, so long as they don’t involve 7th grade math) and it’s not what everybody thinks. Don’t make election cycles shorter, make them longer — much longer.
I call it the Olympic Committee Plan.
Think about it. We know where the Olympics are going to be held years in advance. This allows a city to get ready — build infrastructure, start to advertise — and gives all us viewers a chance to buy tickets to Russia in 2014, or Rio in 2016 (only 1,746 days to go).
Under my Olympic Committee Plan (Patent pend.) candidates for national office would be elected at least a full term ahead of time. This would give a soon-to-be-candidate a chance to get the whole election thing over and done long before they actually took office. It would give them a chance to learn the ins and outs (and upside-downs) of government, and it would give us voters a chance to really see what these folks are like in the field.
Think about it: Let’s say the nation elected John Doe to be president of the United States for two terms, starting in 2020. But in 2017, Mr. Doe is caught in a hotel room with an underage prostitute and a few questionable stock tips on his Blackberry.
He could be impeached before he ever took office. This would save a lot of trouble.
Trust me.
I think we should actually go further (there’s a surprise), and treat politicians like livestock. We could breed them for the qualities the nation desires — honesty, blood-lust, chastity, whatever — and elect the candidate with the best genetic profile BEFORE HE (or she) IS EVEN BORN.
Take a bit of Reagan, some Clinton, a smidge of Obama, a heaping of FDR and a just a dash of Carter (not too much, wouldn’t want to spoil our genetic soup) and … poof! You’ve got the perfect candidate for election in 2064.

The blood-lust gene is that pink one, right in the middle.

That nascent world leader would get the best in-vitro care. No doctor would ever drop that baby on its head (as some of our presidents seem to have been). Top-flight schooling, training in diplomacy — just take away all the guesswork and get down to brass tacks.
“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me,” Shakepeare said.
Bring it on, Will. Bring it on.
Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/NHRegBuzz or find us at Facebook.com/NHRegBuzz. Text NHNEWS to 22700 to get news alerts directly to your cell phone. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.