The Here and Now

Week of June 13

The Official Summer (accept no substitutes!) is still a week away, but Ma Nature missed that memo. We went directly from jacket weather to hot and sticky, with pop-up thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening.

In these parts, it's the last week of school (your parts may vary). In a couple of weeks the little kiddies will be packing up their book bags and getting ready to go back to school. For some kids, that will be the first time this year they'll be back in the building. In the summer. A fitting conclusion to the school year and the year, indeed.

Today's scare (according to the 6:00 news): ticks! That's right, friends, millions of those nasty, disease-ridden vermin are in your back yard even as we speak, waiting for you and your pets to emerge with exposed skin so they can bite you and kill you! There is absolutely nothing you can do, friends, except huddle in terror indoors, and watch TV.

Some days, it's like that for all of us.

'They're the chosen ones,' [Jacquie] Joseph said, referring to the women's basketball teams, 'and they're treated like afterthoughts. What's lower than an afterthought? That's us.'

Whatever happened to...

  • The pandemic crisis in India? And Brazil? And all the other countries currently seeing significant upticks in coronavirus cases? They were soooo important last month. Or last week.
  • Vaccination testing for children?
  • NFT (non-fungible tokens)?
  • Adam Rippon?
  • Amanda Gorman?
  • Pharma Bro?


To: Avian QC.

From: John

Re: Recent windshield event.

I recently had cause to use my vehicle, which was parked outside. While I was getting in, I observed a recently placed gift of guano from one of your operatives. It checked all the boxes for volume, opacity, and distribution. In fact, the deposit was almost a perfect circle, an impressive feat when conducting a mid-air delivery. When I tried to clean it, the wipers left a sticky smear across the entire driver's side of the windshield.

However, while otherwise impressive, the offering was not placed on or near the spot on the windshield where it would most interfere with my (the driver's) line of sight, and in fact I was able to drive the car without having to stop and remove the blob.

This lack of attention to detail has been noted. I expect you will address this matter so that the next time I am in a hurry to get somewhere, I will be suitably delayed by a perfect deposit.

Money, money, money.

PBS is raising money this month, and in typical PBS fashion, they abandon their regular schedule and viewers in favor of shows they think will bring in more donations. So there are a lot of shows about health and aging, financial planning, and musical events featuring singers from the 50s and 60s (the years they were popular, not their ages), with equally dubious provenance (the Tina Turner special, for example, is from 2000, but you have to look quick to see the date), but, now that I think about it, that's true for a lot of the comedies PBS imports from England–they're at least that old.

Every now and again, they broadvast a program that shows promise, but through the magic of earnest documentary/tribute show, manage to suck any life out of it. So it was with Monty Python: A Celebration. The only good thing was the clips from movies and shows, which were not shown in their entirety. The clips were surrounded by very good comedians who weren't funny, as they bore the ponderous weight of enshrining the troupe in the comedic pantheon. Translation: they were all as funny as a heart attack, especially when talking about how Python had influenced them. Only Paula Poundstone and Stephen Wright were able to say something resembling funny, but they couldn't save the show, which could have replaced the Liberty Bell March with Song of the Volga Boatmen, it was so pretentious. This whole mess was of course wrapped in fundraising led by enthusiastically unfunny spokespuppets who claimed only to have watched Python, but didn't necessarily get the joke. And they sure weren't spreading them. For them it was all they could do to say nod, nod, wink, wink every couple of minutes to make them Python experts and keep the comedy flowing.

Insert fart noise here.


Hydrangea is a very silly word, but fun to say. It was a good year especially for hydrangeas, the flower. The flowers are big, beautiful, and bluer than the sky. Here are a couple of plants in the back yard.


For those of you who are about to launch into an incredibly boring explanation of how minerals in the soil are responsible for the colors, kindly zip it and just stare at the flowers in awe.

money money money money.

The good news: To Kill A Mockingbird will reopen on Broadway on Oct. 5. The bad news: the New York Times felt it necessary to tell us how long it took for the play to recoup its original investment when it announced the reopening.


Yes, I know survivalists have mostly gone underground (pun intended) from their heyday in the late '00s, and could easily be added to any 'whatever happened to' list, but I just had a wandering thought about them. Survivalists put all these food and medical supplies in the bunker, but what do they do if someone gets sick? I mean, what happens if someone's jaw just freezes up one day? Or an appendix bursts? Or they get an abscessed tooth? Or toenail fungus?

Things you don't want to know how they found out.

The Atlantic offers up this headline: Cicadas Are Fine Until One Explodes in Your Mouth.

Boy howdy, but ain't that the truth! I remember one invasion–not the last one but the one 'fore that, the monster invasion of '87. I was in Ohio, outside of Cincinnati, visiting my uncle Gary. The cicadas chose exactly that time to pop out of the ground and start singing their little songs. At least they were in tune. One would start, a couple more joined in, and pretty soon they all felt a compulsion to harmonize. It was so loud, dogs and cats were trying to chew their ears off or took to hiding in libraries. Anyways, the noise was enough to drive a person crazy, but I figured if that was the worst of it, well, bring it on. But then, a couple days later, darned if one of them vermin didn't up and hop right in my mouth, and then jes' go and explode for no good reason. It was like a pop rock grew legs. Right you are to say 'eew!' It was really a two eew! moment. In case you were wondering, it tasted exactly like you would expect a cicada to taste–kinda like chicken. I figured that was it, that the little varmints had done their worst, but it wasn't a day later that another one of those critters did it again, just jumped into my mouth and exploded, like they was Juliet and Romeo and my mouth was their crypt. Well, I figured I better get this checked out and it was a good thing I did 'cuz the doc extracted a couple of legs that had poked into the roof of my mouth. The doc said they could have caused an infection, and seemed sympathetic, but he kept muttering 'damn mouth breathers' while he was working on me. Charged $40, too, which seemed a little excessive–the legs weren't all that long. Anyway, the pestilence subsided, but even to this day, I think Hollywood is missing out on some great horror film opportunities, like Invasion of the Exploding 17 year Cicadas and Exploding Cicadas vs. the Mouth-breathers. Sure fire hits, both of 'em.

And that's why I've lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line to this day.

American politics.

Headline from Politico: Republicans, Democrats battle for high ground after McGahn testimony.

On a flat, featureless desert, two groups are seen approaching an ant hill. A few are trying to scale it, some others are trying to keep the other guys from the top, but mostly, they try to keep everybody from the top.

My sense of humor (con't.).

Prepare for rimshots ahead.

People who know me and my family think I got my sense of humor from my father. Actually, I got it from my mother–she wasn't using it and wouldn't miss it.

My humor is a combination of quick, sharp wit and remembered jokes and humorous stories. Even when I was a child (i.e., in my thirties) I would tell jokes and stories, and people would say you should write jokes for Johnny Carson. They meant it as a compliment.

Now I'm not so sure. At this distance, Carson doesn't hold up well. Jokes are tired, with celebrity cardboard cutouts for targets, and obscure insider or L.A. references that people didn't get even then. Sometimes the jokes seemed unnecessarily mean. I mean, other comedians who also fell back on a weak schtick have held up well over the years, like George Burns, Groucho Marx and Jack Benny. Who woulda thunk it? Comedy goes through fashions, just like clothes. It's interesting to watch the evolution of George Carlin, for example.


Bad news for Kardashian fans. The final episode of KUWTK (as it's known to the cognoscenti) aired on June 10. But not to worry, stout-hearted fans. BBC News reveals there will be a two-part reunion special shown later this month.

More Prose and Stories-->

Fred the Flower

fred the flower

Click on cartoon for more Fred


The Same River

I defy the old saying,

and step in the same river

I stepped in when I was eight,

the river of my youth,

skipping rocks along its surface,

tutored in the art by Billy,

my best 3rd grade friend.

He showed me the best rocks to throw,

and the motion.

Throw like Don Drysdale, he said.

Seven skips, a personal best.

In the afternoon, we'd

launch the small rowboat.

If I rowed, we were a Viking longboat,

Billy rowed a Roman trireme.

Sometimes my dad would take us fishing,

out in the middle of the stream.

We would bait the hooks

and dangle them in front

of disinterested perch.

On warm afternoons we would swim,

with a fretful mom

standing on the screened porch,

asking, did you wait an hour?

and beseeching us not to swim too far

to where the strong currents

were waiting to sweep us away.

This is the river I step into,

with its different water, different plants,

different fish, and rocks that have begun

their long migration back to shore

to be skipped again

into the middle of the stream.

The rowboat is gone, the dock gone,

the cottage repainted,

but I am ankle-deep in the same river.

I look at my shoes and socks

neatly placed on the shore,

and at my pants rolled to the knee.

I feel the water between my toes

and the sharp rocks that shift underfoot.

It is not the same me

that stands ankle deep,

worried that the pants might get wet,

wondering how I will dry my feet

before putting on my socks.

The me that first walked into the river

did not worry about these things.

But here I am, standing in the same river,

starting a journey again.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Click here for more Poetry.

Apt 123

Apt 123

Click the cartoon for more Apt 123

They Said It

Amanda is talking about running a restaurant in NYC, but you can replace food city in North America with anything.

There’s nothing wrong with making money, but if that becomes the sole metric of success, then we’re doomed to lose what made us the greatest food city in North America.

Amanda Cohen

Rear View Mirror

June 6

Now that we are officially into June, we have been getting all the rain we were supposed to be getting in May. April is not our rainiest month–May is. All the flowers came and went in April. That's not the only backwards thing around here. I've been trying to tweak the website to be prettier and more efficient, a process I've been doing almost since I started the website mumble-something years ago. Well, this time around, nothing is working, even the stuff I've done before. You know that old build on experience and what you've already done? Study, work hard, execute, and you will succeed. Well. there's a word that sounds like the name of a Russian ballet troupe. I'm applying it liberally. On the plus side, frustration has driven me back to working on new cartoons. Expect those in a little bit.

Earworm of the day (only, I hope).

I was playing one of those stupid, time-wasting, all-empty-calorie 50s TV trivia games (I scored 100%, which tells you I misspent my youth as well as my elderliness, as well as all the time between), when one of the questions asked about Perry Mason. Immediately, the opening theme jumped into my head. I don't know when it'll go away.

Oh, doctor!

As things get older, they're more prone to breaking. People are like that, too. Every morning, it takes a little bit longer to get the knee joints to respond and the eyes to focus. I'm not complaining–I've led a blessed (or charmed, depending upon your belief system, or had a good run, if you want to get all casual about it.) life with good health. It's bound to change. My friend Fran is a case in point. She's spent her life as a productive, contributing member of society, while pursuing world travel and giving expression to her artistic side as a painter, author and preacher, all with limited health issues.

A month or so ago, she ended up in the hospital for a week, and two weeks ago, she was sidelined by a different ailment.

She's fine now, I'm happy to report. But my question–:Was there a connection?–will go unasked, because I'm afraid she may not be able to answer it. Why? Medical specialization.

Now, don't get me wrong. America has a fine health system. My own primary physician is excellent, and I trust him. As much as possible, I keep him in the loop on outside procedures (I'm always surprised by those ads that warn you to tell your doctor about all the medications you're taking. My doctor prescribes everything I take.). Some one person besides me should know what's going on. Preferably, besides me. I don't know what's going on, or how to fix it.

But even my doctor is part of an elaborate system built on referrals. So when the doctor notices something going on, he will almost invariably suggest follow-on with a specialist, unless, of course, he dips into the comedy classics vault:

Man (sitting on examination table, raises arm): Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

Doctor: Then don't do that.

The problem is there are so many specializations. We're constantly spinning off new subcategories. I'm expecting any day now that the man in the doctor's office will raise his arm, and the doctor will say, I'm sorry, I only do right arms.

Here are a few of the more common medical specializations where people consult the practitioners. (there are a lot of others who are on the scientific or laboratory end of things.):

Allergy and immunology




Cosmetic and reconstructive surgery





Internal medicine

Medical genetics

Neurology and neurophysiology

Nuclear medicine

Obstetrics and gynecology






Physical medicine and rehabilitation



Radiation oncology

Respiratory medicine




Vascular surgery


I'm always tempted to say collect them all! when I see the list.

Now, I don't know how to fix the entire system, starting with the doctors who have worse bedside manners than a bedpan, the factory model used in some medical practices, the do what I say and don't ask questions school of doctor-patient interactions, and so on.

Understanding politics.

Republicans in the Senate have effectively blocked setting up an independent commission to study events at the Capitol on January 6. I can understand this–it would mean taking time and resources away from investigating what happened at Benghazi.

I wonder if they treated Machiavelli that way.

OurTopNews lets us know Principal Escorted Off School Premises After Graduation Speech: ‘Effective Individuals Stomp On Each Other’.

I forget was that the third or fourth habit in Stephen Covey's book?



For some reason, I found this headline from Inc. magazine really annoying: This Co-Founder Hates Wasting Time. Here Are His 3 Pandemic Productivity Hacks to Beat Burnout.

First, there's that whole hack thing. It's so 2017, Inc. You might want to trade it in on a newer model cliche. Second, what exactly does wasting time mean? Right now, I'm sitting on the porch with a cat in my lap, trying desperately to figure out how I'm going to get someplace near a thousand words or so this week. As far as the cat is concerned, I am fully occupied fulfilling my primary purpose. The part of me not supporting the cat is either typing or thinking about things to type. This last is something that creative types do a lot of so they have something to share.

Unfortunately, lots of people think that just because I'm staring into space I am wasting time, when in reality they aren't seeing the gears turning in the background. Well. mostly. Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.

Oh, yeah, productivity. If you aren't being productive, you're wasting time. We're supposed to be productive, productive, productive. Uh, not really. We're designed to be non-productive for large chunks of time. We sleep (on average) eight hours a day. Even when we're awake, we build in slack or down time. And when we're productive, what are we doing? Right now, Virginia schools are going through the annual paroxysm of SOL (Standards of Learning) tests, during which time teachers stare at students to make sure they don't cheat. So all across the state, you've got thousands of highly educated, talented people staring at other people. I'm sure there are definitions of productive that would include this sort of behavior, but I'm going to have to sleep on it. In the meanwhile, don't judge if I'm being productive. I'm sure there would be some kind of measurement, and if so, don't be surprised if the measuring device ends ups being placed someplace uncomfortable.


I'm sure there's somebody who will chide me for not putting the correct accent mark (the aigu) on the e in cliche. It's French, they'll sniff, expecting me to be all apologetic or something, and rush off to fix it, or at least commend them for their attention to detail, and wide breadth of knowledge about language.

Well, I'm not apologizing or fixing, cuz:

  1. English is a thief, and appropriates words as it needs them.
  2. There are no accent marks in English. Like in the Wild West, when someone rustled cattle, they often put their own brand on the cattle, so too words taken from other languages often have identifying marks removed, like accent marks.
  3. I'm writing in English (you may dispute the quality of the content, or the loosey-goosey style, but it's English). (:aside: There was a character called Goosey-Loosey in Disney's Chicken Little film.)
  4. Even in French, accent aigu (or acute) is used only on e. Makes it kind of useless. IMHO, as the kids like to say.
  5. So anyway, if you want an accent aigu, feel free to draw one on. Me, I'm going to sit and think some more.

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T-shirts money can't buy.

TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that skew absurd. It's funny, or at least I think so. © 2003-2021, John McCarthy

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