July 23, 2014

American Buffoons on Parade


For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico , where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for year 2013:


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son. SIXTH PLACE

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps. FIFTH PLACE

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. FOURTH PLACE

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stellas when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle, even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

SECOND PLACE Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000, plus dental expenses.


Ms. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly went to sleep in the driver's seat while the cruisecontrol was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her$1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Ms. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

These people are your neighbors!

July 10, 2014

225: The Greatest Blog on Earth

Dear Wafers (and Waferettes):

Can anyone doubt it? There are millions of blogs out there, but only one worth reading: Us! The Waferblog is the creme de la creme; what more is there to say?

Anyway, now that we've beaten the subject of GMOs into the ground, until all of us are ready to scream with boredom, I figured it was time to move on. As I write, the U.S. continues to crumble, and the president, a colossal horse's ass, continues to look more and more like the utter nonentity that he is. He tours the country, breaking wind through his mouth, as Umberto Eco said in another context. Meanwhile, the 'progressives', with their heads wedged firmly in their rear ends, are excited about Hillary and how she's going to change everything as of 2017; or else they are excited about how they are going to change everything, preferably starting tomorrow. I tell you, if you are into humor, it's a great time to be alive.

O&D, amigos; O&D.


July 01, 2014


Dear Wafers:

Time to start a new post, I guess. We need to leave discussions of a future Mittney presidency, the pros and cons of marriage, and the Hedges-Ketcham flap, behind us, and move on to greener pastures; unless, of course, you guys wanna continue discussing those things. Personally, I'm hoping that comments for this particular post will focus on a possible Lorenzo Riggins/Latreasa Goodman candidacy in 2016. If such a campaign materializes, I want to declare right now that I shall work relentlessly to get these cutting-edge intellects installed in the White House. Our country deserves nothing less.

Anyway, let me talk about upcoming events. Well, there really aren't too many, and my mind is as vacuous as an empty washing machine. In a month I turn 70, so there's no denying it any longer: I'm old, and as the army of critics I have out there have repeatedly insisted, completely senile. At this point I can do little more than drool and grunt. Which means you guys need to take everything I say, as of a month from now, with 6 pounds of salt. Dementia is not a pretty thing.

Despite my severe mental incapacity, the Universidad de La Salle in Costa Rica invited me to do a public lecture and give a 3-day workshop there during Sept. 25-27. So all you hispanohablantes who are into punishing yourselves for 3 days, feel free to come down. (Actually, the workshop is only for doctoral candidates at the university, so you would only be able to attend the public lecture. No vale la pena, clearly.) But if any of this gets recorded, I'll post the links on this blog. (Angloparlantes might wanna use these to practice your Spanish, though I'm obviously not the best source for this.)

On other fronts, work on the Japan book progresses slowly, as I devote myself to shepherding it through the publication process. The book has more than 20 illustrations, so you have to crop these, get the right resolution, obtain permissions to reproduce, etc. etc. Fun stuff. Hopefully, the book will see the light of day before Xmas rolls around. Stay tuned.

As spring turns into summer, I want to remind all Wafers that an important part of the Wafer code is to have fun. I mean fun beyond watching the US slide into increasing violence and stupidity. So I hope you all are taking time to smell the roses, and devour corned beef sandwiches with cole slaw and Russian dressing. Finally, keep in mind that the world is divided into Wafers--the best people on earth--and everyone else. We are Wafers, amigos; nothing can stop us now. Let us continue to celebrate Waferdom, the only true spirituality left on the planet today.


June 19, 2014

Our Exciting Future: 2016

Dear Wafers:

It's kind of fun, watching the American media getting all worked up about the 2016 presidential election, 2+ years in advance. As if it mattered, who was in the White House. As if the important national decisions emerged from a mouthpiece of the corporations, the banks, and the military, as opposed to originating with the corporations, the banks, and the military, themselves. And if the media are clueless, so are the American people, of course, who get very exercised over the differences between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. (One party is insane, and the other is full of shit.) Well, as I keep telling you guys, the American people aren't exactly a collection of Einsteins.

Nevertheless, I confess that I got all hot and bothered myself over the following article that just appeared on cnn: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/19/poll-romney-the-frontrunner-in-2016/?hpt=hp_bn3

The fact is, I was brokenhearted, two years ago, when Mittney lost. He is my kinda guy, really: a walking haircut with nothing underneath it. America deserves no less, imo. And what's the alternative, really? Hillary, a major yawn. What is she? A lackey of the imperial state, who knows who her friends are (the corporations, the banks, and the military). All we can expect--and she's likely to win, sad to say--is an extension of the Obama presidency; which is to say, ad hoc crisis management, to no purpose at all. She's a tedious person; every time I see that depressed, pasty face in the news, I think of 3-day-old cottage cheese.

The tragedy of Mittney is that no one really understood that he stood for absolutely nothing at all, and at this juncture in American history, when decline is the inevitable order of the day, that's a good thing. Who better to lead us into the American "future," namely nowhere, than a Nowhere Man? He keeps saying he's not a candidate anymore, but if polls have him as the GOP "frontrunner," maybe he'll reconsider. Yes, he's a moron; but Hillary is a douche bag. I know whom I'd rather have leading us into the abyss. And so it is with some fervor, I hope not entirely futile, that I feel compelled to cry out:



June 05, 2014

The Empty American

Dear Wafers (and Waferettes):

In 1955, we had The Quiet American (Greene). Then in 1958, The Ugly American (Lederer). I think it may be time for The Empty American, by yours truly. Basic argument: We have no moral center, and believe in nothing except 'progress' and making $, so we fuck over other countries that have genuine spiritual content, out of an unconscious frustration that our way of 'life' doesn't really work. Honestly, it's like a cosmic joke, conceived by an evil god.

On the other hand, I just may run off to Pakistan and become a dervish. That book would be called: Give It a Whirl.


May 19, 2014

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

Who are we, really? Does anyone really know him- or herself? Buddhists say that personality is a ghost, that the self is an illusion, but it strikes me as being a pretty real illusion (whatever that means).

Here's an odd story. When I was in elementary school, I had a friend named David, and this friendship lasted from ages 5 to 16, when his parents moved away and David wound up at a different high school. The next time I saw him was in 2000. Apparently, I did some TV show (c-span, maybe) about the Twilight book, and David caught the show, contacted me, and we got together in Upstate NY, where he was then living. He had become a physician, had been a rebel, attacking the whole corrupt system of insurance and HMOs. Not popular with his colleagues, as you might imagine. He was also an early champion of the MRI, when there was a lot of doubt about introducing it. Anyway, he made a dinner reservation for us just down the street from our old elementary school (which had burned down years ago; this was its replacement), and after dinner we walked around the small building, smoking cigars despite the light drizzle that had started to come down.

Now you have to understand that from my own perspective of myself—from elementary school running through college (but not in grad school, which was a whole different ball of wax)—I was a nerd. I was heavily nerdile, with interests that were not 'cool'. I was not ironic or hip, in the accepted American style; girls had no interest in me, for the most part, and I had very few friends. This left me a stranger in a strange land; and from a fairly early age I had a hard time identifying with America, or relating to Americans, most of whom struck me as obtuse. Conversations with them were boring, at least for me; who cared about the new Mustang, or the World Series (they did, obviously)? (Revenge of the Nerds is one of my favorite movies, as you might expect.) But given the social context, and the fact that children and teenagers are in the process of developing their identities (and even their frontal lobes), I was very much conflicted by the reality that I didn't fit in: simultaneously wanting, and not wanting, to be part of the mainstream. As Goethe once observed, adolescence is funny only in retrospect.

Anyway, there we were, David and I, walking around our old elementary school, when he suddenly said to me, completely out of the blue, and apropos of nothing: "You know, when we were kids, you were my hero." "Yeah, right," I replied. What kind of crap was this? "No," he said, "I'm serious. The fact is that you made knowledge, and learning, cool. At age 7 you were reading poetry and playing chess. Who does that, at age 7?"

I was literally thunderstruck. How was this possible? I mean, I'm sure most of the kids around me regarded me as completely square, someone you don’t bother giving the time of day to. And here's this old pal telling me that I was a role model for him! He obviously knew me, or saw me, in a way that was very different from the way I saw myself. I stood there, in the rain, trying to rethink my childhood, which had suddenly taken on a whole new dimension.

Just so you know, before I go on with this story: a year later David got cancer, and took a room at the NIH in Bethesda. I was working in DC during those years, so every Friday after work I would drive up to the hospital in Maryland and sit with him, talk with him for a few hours. I thought he would make it, pull through, but he didn't: he died in 2002, and then, with a heavy heart, I drove 12 hours through a blinding snowstorm to Upstate NY for his funeral. My real sadness, however, was rather selfish: here I get reunited with an old friend, after all those years, and after only one year of renewed friendship the Universe takes him away. Shit.

Anyway, fast-forward now from age 7 to my early 20s, when the Vietnam war was in full swing. Once again, I was aware of my own strangeness, in America. Sure, many Americans demonstrated against the war, but percentage-wise it didn't amount to much: most were for it, until we were clearly losing the battle. Very few saw through it, realized it was a neo-colonial war in which we were using our sophisticated military technology to pound a peasant people, who had no beef with us and certainly did not constitute a threat, into the dirt. But it went beyond that. Ho Chi Minh was a Gandhi-type figure, a great statesman and intellect who wrote poetry. America has no comparable figure—George Washington is not really in the Ho/Gandhi category, it seems to me. And America’s contemporary leaders, like LBJ and Nixon, were gross, vulgar, and violent. Can anyone imagine them writing poetry? I realized I felt a closer bond to Vietnamese peasants (who do read poetry, in fact) than to the folks around me, with whom I was supposed to feel connected, but didn't. And what I found during my recent trip to Vietnam was just that: a very gentle, very gracious people, with (amazingly enough) no bitterness toward the US, although we murdered 3 million of them and tortured tens of thousands. As a people, they are about as far apart from Americans as one might imagine. Now back home, I've been reading Neil Jamieson's book, Understanding Vietnam, and here's what he says:

"It is very difficult for Westerners, especially Americans, to apprehend how significant poetry can be as an expressive mechanism in society. For many of us poetry has connotations of elitism, obscurity, impracticality. Few of us read poetry, and fewer still have a real appreciation of it. But in Vietnam this is not the case. Many Vietnamese read poetry with enjoyment, commit it to memory, and recite poems to each other with unfeigned enthusiasm. Everyday speech is liberally sprinkled with poetic allusions. Even the poor and the illiterate imbibe deeply of a rich oral tradition that has incorporated much that originated in the written literature of the educated elite. Poetry has been and remains much more popular and important in Vietnam than in the United States."

As an example, Jamieson cites the immensely popular poem by Phan Khoi, "Old Love" (1932). The author tells how he was not able to marry his true love because of restrictive social mores, which required both of them to agree to the marriages that their respective parents had arranged. In a very real sense, their lives were destroyed. And then, 24 years later, quite by accident, they run into each other. The poem concludes:

"Twenty four years later... A chance encounter far away... Both heads had turned to silver; Had they not known each other well, Might they not have passed unknown? An old affair was recalled, no more. It was just a glance in passing!

...There still are corners to the eyes."

And this is the real truth of our lives, what shimmers for us at the deepest level of our being. The real revenge of the nerds is the life that goes its own way, that is not hip, one that the mainstream—at least in America—will never understand. A peripheral vision, if you will. Yes, my friends, there are still corners to the eyes.

©Morris Berman, 2014