Archive for February, 2017

  • Blog
  • February 25th, 2017


I may have posted this blog before but, what the heck, it’s funny, especially if these things don’t happen to you. And I figure a little dose of humor is a whole lot better than the political rants I’ve been posting. There’s not much to laugh about these days, so enjoy and buy my books–they’re even funnier than this blog.

by Joel M. Vance

Ben Franklin said that death and taxes are the only inevitabilities, but I’d add the inevitability of being asked to perform in public. Sooner or later someone will ask you to give a program, make a presentation, accept an award or otherwise put yourself at risk of humiliation.
“Imagine they all are naked,” is the advice often given to those with flop sweat.
As rampant as my imagination is (I can, for example, imagine Angelina Jolie naked with no problem whatever), I could not mentally disrobe an audience. Rather I imagine them as Goths, armed with studded clubs, dressed in animal skins and with eyes as red as those of a hungry jaguar.
Death, taxes, public performance–of the three, the latter is the most terrifying. You don’t have to think about dying. You just do it and no one will be critical of the way you did it. Taxes are only criticized when you don’t pay them. But an audience is chock-full of critics, just waiting for you to fart loudly or succumb to projectile vomiting right in the middle of your slide show.
A few folks have managed to combine death and performance. The great Metropolitan Opera baritone Leonard Warren died onstage, ironically during a performance of Verdi’s “The Force of Destiny.” And Brooklyn Dodger mogul Branch Rickey suffered a fatal heart attack while speaking at his induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Most people faced with their first public performance (or, for some, every performance) would welcome death rather than the terror of getting up in front of an audience. My first encounter with public performance was enough to keep me from public exposure the rest of my life, and I’ve often wished it had. I was 15 years old and my mother talked me into singing “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” for the Methodist Church congregation.
Aside from a geriatric lady who fell asleep in a front pew, punctuating my quavering song with syncopated snoring, it was a sympathetic audience—it was the Christian thing to do. Then a somnolent wasp lost its balance and fell on my neck. Apparently it blamed me for its clumsiness for it stung me and I exclaimed “God damn!” which was both appropriate and inappropriate, given the setting.
I didn’t face an audience of more than two or three people for many years after that, but part of my job for the Missouri Department of Conservation was to make public appearances and once again I was forced into the lion’s den.
One outing was at a turkey calling contest in Hermann, a German town fond of its beer. And there was an open bar during the contest, after which I gave a stirring address on conservation. The crowd, those who weren’t looking at their watches, applauded (possibly the brevity of the talk) and everyone milled around in the crowded high school gymnasium.
A fellow who had spent most of the evening sampling the lager, weaved over to me and slurred, “You Joel Vance?” I modestly admitted that I was. “You the guy that writes that bullshit for the conservation magazine?” he challenged.
Now that is the kind of question for which there is no saving answer. You admit you write bullshit or you say that you’re not the guy who writes it, an obvious lie, making you both a liar and a purveyor of bullshit. “Hey, Charlie!” he shouted at a fellow halfway across the gym. Heads turned. “You know who this is!” he bellowed, indicating me as if calling attention to a noxious bug. “This is the guy that writes that bullshit for the conservation magazine!”
My late boss Jim Keefe was a self-destructive type, his own worst enemy (he once walked into a parking meter while ogling a pretty girl and broke three ribs). Once he was making a talk from a stage below which loomed an orchestra pit.
Carried away by his rhetoric, he gestured dramatically, lost his balance and fell with a thunderous crash into the orchestra pit. There was stunned silence. Then he rose from the darkness, clambered back on the stage, faced the crowd and said, “Don’t tell me I don’t know how to grab an audience!”
Rodney Green, an education consultant, now retired, from the Missouri Conservation Department, was giving a talk to perhaps 100 Girl Scouts and their mothers and leaders. He chose to talk about snakes and had a couple of non-venomous snakes in a cotton sack.
One was a kingsnake which he had not gentled. As he held the snake in one hand, he carelessly passed his other hand by the snake’s mouth and the kingsnake obligingly bit him and held on. Blood began to stream down his hand and wrist. The snake was firmly fastened and Rod, thinking to make the best of a bad situation, said, “See how the snake’s fangs are recurved so it can hang on? And it has an anti-coagulant in its saliva so that’s why I’m bleeding. Does anyone have a spoon or something to pry the son of a….the snake’s jaws open?”
With help Rod got the snake loose and silently congratulated himself on handling an embarrassing situation not only well, but educationally. But he wasn’t done with snakes for the day.
He also had a black rat snake and, believing it was somewhat more docile than the kingsnake, he hauled its three-foot length out of his sack. While demonstrating something he passed the snake in front of him and it leaned over and grabbed the crotch of his britches, fortunately not all the way through to the tender bits inside.
But it startled him and he let go the snake which dangled, swinging to and fro, from his crotch at which the 100 Girl Scouts broke into giggles and shrieks and the adults turned crimson. Rodney, who knows a good story when he creates one, has refined and expanded the story into epic proportions over the years, but for most folks an experience like that would lead to an intense desire to crawl under a rock.
The perils of performance got summed up for me graphically when I was invited to speak to an evening meeting of a local fraternal club. Usually there are 30-40 members who manage to stay quiet for 20 minutes after the tail twister has done his inane job and they’ve inhaled a gob of roast beef and mashed potatoes and, in some cases, knocked back a couple of stiff drinks.
Then they return to talking to each other about things they’re really interested in (stocks, land development, golf, the weather, etc.) and I go home.
But I expected at the very least a free meal. There were two men at the restaurant when I arrived. Three more showed up close to meeting time. That seemed to be the peak attendance. “We usually have more…” the club president said, leaving unsaid what I assumed he was thinking “…but they heard you were speaking.”
There were no plates on the table and no one appeared bearing steaming platters heaped with delectable food items. We made small talk until I realized the five of them were waiting for me to do something. “Is this a dinner meeting?” I asked finally—hell, we were in a restaurant for God’s sake.
“Oh…well, we all ate before we came,” the president said. “But you go ahead. We’ll wait.” My stomach growled and I was miffed enough to take him up on it. So I ordered a cheeseburger and we waited for a while until it came, then they all watched me eat it.
Suppressing a belch, I got up to make my talk after which the president approached me with a paper sack. “We have a little something by way of thanks,” he said and I hoped it was a fifth of Jim Beam, even a bottle of 75-cent Sweet Lucy wine. God knows, I needed a stiff belt.
He withdrew a framed certificate from the sack and said, “Here,” thrusting it at me. I started to take it and he jerked it back. “Wait a minute!” he said. He began to scrub at the glass with his thumbnail and I realized the price sticker still was on it. It was a flimsy $.98 frame from Woolworth’s.
“That’s okay,” I said, half-jokingly. “Leave it on—then I’ll know how much you thought of me.”
“Yeah, I know,” he muttered, continuing to scrape furiously.

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  • Blog
  • February 15th, 2017


By Joel M. Vance
Once there was a little girl named Dorothy who lived in Kansas, a state where voters would open carry their weapons to the polls every election day and routinely shoot themselves in the foot.
“Oh!” Cried Dorothy. “If only I could find a mythical land where people have common sense and do the right thing.” One day while Dorothy was singing about this mythical land somewhere over a rainbow, an evil woman named Kelly Anne rode by on her bicycle and threatened to do away with Dorothy’s little dog and send Dorothy to a charter school.
Suddenly a whirlwind of ignorant voters swirled out of nowhere and lifted Dorothy and Toto far away and they landed in a mythical land called Trumpistan, one of many Stans owned by an evil genius named Vladimir Pootin. The tumultuous whirlwind dropped Dorothy and her house on top of the Wicked Witch of the White House, a scraggly blonde also named Kelly Anne, who, while trying to crawl out from under the house, screamed “I’ll sue you! You ruined my chance to make money from my job! Buy Ivanka’s clothes!” After which incomprehensible comment she appeared to expire.
Dorothy said to her dog, “Toto, we’re sure as hell not in Kansas anymore, although it’s just as Nutsville. Maybe a good witch will come along and help me out of this mess.” But there are no good witches in Trumpistan. Instead she was joined by three congressmen all of whom lacked both courage and a brain. None of them needed oiling because they all were supported by the oil industry and had plenty of monetary lubricants to keep them in office.
They decided to follow a yellow brick road which at first they thought was gold, but which proved to be only cheap Walmart paint that rubbed off on their feet and ruined their clothes. “Not to worry!”cried one of the Congressman. “Ivanka has plenty of clothing to replace ours. All we have to do is kiss her daddy’s saggy butt and we’ll get whatever we want.”
“As long as we don’t shop at Sears and Roebuck,” he added.
Soon they came to a cutover forest, once thick with menacing trees, now only a wasteland of stumps and brushpiles. One rotting tree trunk with sagging limbs sighed heavily and said “once I scared the crap out of everybody, but then the wizard deregulated all environmental regulations and the next thing I knew, all my friends and I were chainsawed logs, turned into lumber, bound for China.”
“Are you sure it’s such a good idea to go and see the wizard?” Dorothy asked.
“Oh, the wizard can fix anything— he told me so himself. He’s really smart. He told me so himself,” said one of the Congressmen named Chinless Mitch. “If I only had courage,” he kept muttering to himself until the other two told him to shut up and be a typical Republican.
As they continued down the yellow brick road the wicked witch of the White House, Kelly Anne, who had crawled out from underneath Dorothy’s house, flew overhead on her broom surrounded by flying monkeys. “Are those flying monkeys?” asked Dorothy.
“Those are alternative facts, flying in the face of reason,” said Chinless Mitch, dressed as a cowardly lion. “Pay no attention to them— they are meaningless.”
Presently they came to a vast gold castle built with borrowed money by the wizard. In front was a large sign reading, “for rent—open to any despotic regime. Cheap. Inquire within– or by email to national security advisor.”
Inside they were met by yet another vacant faced blonde who said, “my name is Betsy and I’m supposed to be your tour guide but I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m doing so you just go right ahead and find your own way.”
In another room they were surrounded by a crowd of little people one of whom said, “we used to be normal human beings but then we got elected to Congress, and shrunk into moral midgets.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Dorothy, echoing another little girl who had gotten trapped in a weird world. Finally they entered a large chamber dominated by a huge screen on which appeared a storm cloud which gradually devolved into a face— the face of the wizard himself.
The wizard’s face frightened the quartet of cowering visitors. Dorothy looked at the glowering visage and exclaimed, “why he looks exactly like Alec Baldwin. I saw him on Saturday Night Live advertising his schweatty balls. I laughed so hard I peed my pants.” The enormous face that glowered down at them from the screen had an unearthly orange cast to it as if the wizard had brushed his face with Cheetos dust rather than talcum powder. Dorothy shuddered at the smirking visage which looked as if the wizard were planning to reach out from the screen and grope her inappropriately. The face was topped by a mop of weirdly colored hair that looked as if it might have squirrels nesting in it. The gigantic image caused Dorothy’s stomach to clinch spasmodically. “But Alec Baldwin is nice,” she said. “This weirdo is creepy. He looks like a Shar-Pei with stomach gas.”
In truth the wizard did look more like Alec Baldwin than a wizard. In fact the wizard looked more confused than wizardly. And then Dorothy noticed a curtain to one side of the large screen that was billowing as if something were behind it. Suspicious, she got up went to the curtain and jerked it aside and inside was a large glowering man manipulating levers and strings as if operating a puppet show. He wore a shirt, sweaty from his exertions, with an inscription that read, “make America mine. The hell with great!”
“Why, you are not the wizard!” Dorothy exclaimed. “You’re nothing but a fake! What’s your name?” She demanded. The man jerked a few strings and the visage on the large screen jumped and dangled like Howdy Doody on speed.
“My name is Steve Schweatty,” said the man, “formerly of the website known as Bright Bart, sometimes confused with Bart Simpson. And I’m the man behind the wizard, pulling the strings, and don’t you forget it. We’re going to grate on America again.”
Whereupon Dorothy kicked him right in his schweatty balls with the pointed toe of her ruby slippers and as he doubled over in pain, she turned to the trio of Congressmen and said to Chinless Mitch, “I’m going back to Kansas. Bad as it is, it can’t be any worse than this dump.” So she clicked her ruby slippers together three times and in a trice (actually in a balloon) she was back in Kansas where men are men and sheep are nervous.
The moral of this story is that in Trumpistan there are no morals and you’d better get used to it.

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  • Blog
  • February 7th, 2017


By Joel M.Vance,

Donald Trump, the Twitter Critter in the White House, is trying to ban immigrants from seven largely Muslim countries, probably with more to come, except those Muslim countries where he has business interests. Wouldn’t want to interfere with Trump’s business empire.

But among the countries from which immigrants are banned, I don’t see Berengia listed. What an oversight! What, you never heard of Berengia? Not surprising. That’s the archaeological name of the land bridge between Siberia and what now is Alaska that allowed passage of human beings into North America. That 600 mile passage was dry land during the last ice age and gradually was covered by water as the ice melted. But by then, the continent we now call North America had been colonized by, oh! horrors! Immigrants, every single one of them undocumented. And not a damn one of them was Christian.

We all, every single one of us, is, even separated by many generations, a child of immigrants. I am a mongrel mix of Scot/Irish, English and German. My mother was an English Soper, my father’s mother was a German Warhurst. The Vance name originally was Vaux, got changed to Vans after the Norman invasion of Scotland and Ireland and gradually became Vance. There was a time not so long ago when the Irish were considered lowlifes hardly fit to be admitted to our new country. Before that we fought a couple of wars with those Limey bastards to gain and retain our independence. And then of course there were those two world wars to end all wars against the Germans.

None of us can claim racial or ethnic purity and to do so is to deny the fact that we are a country of immigrants, and to do, as Donald Trump is trying to do, establish barriers to bar further immigrants into our country is as un-American to anything that we aspire to be. Trump has a history of not listening to good advice from anyone, and I hope that holds true when it comes to Steve Bannon, supposedly his closest advisor, who reportedly is a student and advocate of war in all its gory glory. From reports, he is obsessed with war and anyone next to the man with his finger on the button who is obsessed by war is someone to be scared of.

Trump already has threatened to send troops into Mexico to take care of, as he termed it “those bad hombres” and maybe he was kidding, but with Bannon hovering in the background, who knows?
It would be instructive for someone to row the wannabe fuhrer across the bay to Liberty Island where he can read the inscription on the base of the Statue of “Liberty: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Then row him back to the White House and have him write at least 1,000 times on Twitter those same words. Maybe it would displace all the crazy thoughts that now occupy that muddled space between his ears.

Those few words summarize all that this country aspires to be, even if through our history we sometimes have failed to live up to those inspirational words. Think back to the internment camps of World War II which displaced Japanese-American citizens and robbed them of everything, including their freedom. Think of our historic treatment of those same Native Americans who crossed the land bridge so many thousand years ago and were the rightful First People of the continent. Think of our discrimination against Jews, Italians, Irish, Polish, and many other ethnic and religious minorities since Europeans invaded the continent centuries ago. Think of the continuing discrimination against black people, not to mention the abomination of slavery. We have much to apologize for over the course of our history and building a wall to keep people out is not exactly a step in the right direction.

The clown president wants to build the wall to keep out huddled masses south of our southern border, making a mockery of Ms. Lazarus’s inspirational words. It’s not surprising that Fox News the lapdog mouthpiece of the Trump administration, forced a construction company, 84 Lumber, to alter a Super Bowl ad featuring a wall which blocked people looking for work in the United States, preventing immigrants from crossing the border.

On the other hand, and surprisingly, Bill O’Reilly the attack dog of Fox News, bluntly asked Trump why he is so butt buddy friendly with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s murderous dictator. Trump’s defense of the Russian dictator seemed to be that, hey, we’re all killers in this game, and Vladimir is just a good old boy who deserves my undying admiration. To his credit O’Reilly is one of the very few media types who has had the courage to confront Trump and put him on the spot. Daily, I am ashamed of the profession that I signed up for more than 60 years ago— it gave Trump a free pass all through his campaign and continues to do so as he pretends to be presidential. There is an inability in the media to call Trump a liar when he stands in front of them and makes statements that are demonstrably false. Lies are lies, not alternative facts, and let’s hope the media gathers enough courage to call Trump’s falsehoods what they are— damn lies.

Sean Spicer the president’s press secretary, reminds me of a ferret, cornered with bared fangs, all snarls and anger. He parrots Trump’s lies or if you prefer the term used by the wicked witch of the White House, Kellyanne Conway, “alternative facts” and the press seems to accept these blatant lies as truth. Let’s call them what they are— bald-faced lies. And then there is Steve Bannon, the Herman Goering of the Trump administration, a malign presence who has Trump’s ear like an abusive parent dragging a misbehaving kid around by the earlobe, the only difference being which one is misbehaving more.

Michael Brunner the chairman and CEO of 84 Lumber said of his company’s Super Bowl spot, “simply put, that was a spot that they didn’t think they would be willing to run during the Super Bowl.” Respected economist, and former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, is calling for a boycott of Trump products. I don’t know that I would ever need to buy anything that 84 Lumber makes but would be proud to do so and will be equally proud to boycott any product that bears the Trump name. The thanks of anyone who values liberty, free speech, and the ideals that we all say we believe in should thank 84 lumber for having the guts to stand up to an administration that in every way, every day trashes the meaning of the moving inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

Most people know at least part of the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty but if you know that it is part of a poem written by Emma Lazarus to raise money for the pedestal on which the statue stands, it’s worthwhile reading the entire poem. But here’s the best part:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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