Are You an Alien?

With the recent discovery of “building blocks of life” on Mars by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity (published in Science on June 7), the portal is once again open to speculation as to whether this possible “life” may have actually visited Earth in the past. Evidence of such visitations are found in the Pyramids of Egypt, Atlantis, Machu Picchu, Roswell, Stonehenge, the Creation Museum in Kentucky and Mar-a-Lago.

With all these excursions, jaunts, sprees and expeditions, the possibility arises of alien genetic interactions with humans. With this background, we present as a public service, the following assessment of your own likelihood of alien heritage.

This is a test of the Emergency Alien System. The podcasters of your area, in voluntary cooperation with ICE, EPA, Breitbart News, InfoWars, Coast to Coast AM, the National Park Service and other authorities, have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an Alien emergency. If this had been an actual emergency you would be instructed where to turn for news and official information. Don’t wait to find out the truth about yourself from some unsavory character on the street. Take the test below. Remember: this is only a test.

  1. Do you come from outer space? [YES] [NO]
  2. Are you radioactive? [YES] [NO]
  3. Are you televisionactive? [YES] [NO]
  4. Do you have a launching pad in your backyard? [YES] [NO]
  5. Are you allergic to Kryptonite? [YES] [NO]
  6. Do you have relatives in a parallel universe? [YES] [NO]
  7. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you know what someone is thinking before they speak? [YES] [NO]
  8. Are you required to report your current address to NASA every January? [YES] [NO]
  9. Have you ever fantasized that there may be someone named Max Planck? [YES] [NO]
  10. Did you mail in the warranty card on your orgone regenerator? [YES] [NO]
  11. Do you eat from squeeze tubes? [YES] [NO]
  12. Do you collect stamps? [YES] [NO]
  13. Do you qwertyuiop? [YES] [NO]
  14. Do you want to qwertyuiop with me? [YES] [NO]
  15. Do you you own a mylar dog? [YES] [NO]
  16. Do you wear bib overalls and you’re not a farmer? [YES] [NO]
  17. Do you wear sunglasses at night, indoors? [YES] [NO]
  18. Do you have an impending sense of oatmeal? [YES] [NO]
  19. Do you feel like you ought to turn yourself into the authorities? [YES] [NO]
  20. Did you ever forget to wear your glasses and discover that you can see just as well without them? [YES] [NO]
  21. I have an uncle who is a magician. The other day he was walking down the street and turned into a drugstore. How about you? [YES] [NO]
  22. Have you ever characterized Keanu Reeves as a “fine actor”? [YES] [NO]
  23. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re not in Kansas anymore? [YES] [NO]
  24. Where do a body meet a body?

         [a] on the sly

         [b] comin’ thro’ the rye

         [c] anywhere, just try

         [d] don’t ask I

         [e] in a Boston Cream Pie

  1. Did you ever get an urge to put your clothes on inside-out and flog yourself with a haddock? [YES] [NO]
  2. A Ritz cracker has two sides. The top is sort of moundy, has seven little holes, and is salted. The bottom is more level, and is unsalted. Which side do you like to put your cheese on? [Bottom] [Top]\

Alien spoor or scat along the Arizona Canal

If you answered “Yes”, “e”, or “Bottom” to one or more of the questions there is a strong likelihood that you are indeed an alien being. Do not be alarmed. Do not dematerialize. Do not eat any broccoli. You will be contacted by the Internal Revenue Service in the near future.

All photos except Mars rover ©James Veihdeffer.
From top to bottom: white mask found in alley attached to electrical fixture; irrigation control valve fixture at Glendale Community College; counter fixture at McDonald’s; abandoned bicycle frame on Arizona Canal; fire hydrant adorned with cowboy hat by anonymous passerby; APS electrical pole insulation patties along canal…or maybe alien poop.



Quirky Words You (May Not) Want to Know

I run across a lot of new words practically every day. Some of them are just “new to me” — many overheard from students (who try to persuade me not to use them), some from podcasts — and some that go back a-ways but that I’ve recently rediscovered.

Read on, MacDuff, at your own risk.

incel (n): an involuntary celibate. “A subset of straight men calling themselves “incels” have constructed a violent political ideology around the injustice of young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them. These men often subscribe to notions of white supremacy. They are, by their own judgment, mostly unattractive and socially inept. (They frequently call themselves “subhuman.”) They’re also diabolically misogynistic.” [The Rage of the Incels]

deep state (n): the so-called permanent power élite or “moneyed, cultured élite” —  the non-governmental insiders from banking, industry, and commerce” whose access to information allows them to rule in secret. (see John le Carré’s 2013 novel, A Delicate Truth). Also see this intriguing apocryphal account of Deep State Wine.

choad (n): <vulgar> A loser or undesirable person…and that’s just the nice version. Don’t write this where others can see it—like on a classroom whiteboard.

wratched (adj): <slang> in poor shape or bad taste, “ghetto.” As near as I can tell, it’s an urbanized form of “wretched” but always pronounced as one syllable with the last part sort of slurred, …tchd, that is, “ratcht.” My students have forbidden me to use this.

tag question (noun phrase): a grammatical structure in which a statement is turned into interrogative fragment, as though to ask for a tacit confirmation. “Y’know?” as in “Nice day, isn’t it?”; “You’re Samantha, right”?; In Sherlock Holmes-era novels, a character might end a sentence with “Eh wot?” but I’ve been instructed never to try that. In the British sitcom, The Office, Ricky Gervais would end many of his statements with “Yeah?” “That’ll save us money, will it, yeah.” (OK, I already knew this one, but it’s always fun to quote Ricky.)

And now, recently heard on The Daily Show:

sick burn (noun phrase): a clever and cutting remark that makes someone look silly or feel embarrassed. Shaping your hands like two guns and imitating blowing the smoke off them is a good way to tag the burn.

gobemouche (n): <GOB-moosh> a gullible or credulous person. From French gobe-mouche (flycatcher, sucker), from gober (to suck or swallow) + mouche (fly). Earliest documented use: 1818.*

…not be confused with a “goober”: A foolish, simple, or amusingly silly person.


[Insert political figure of your choice here]


pitchfork rebellion (noun phrase): When the peasants, or common folk, literally or figuratively fashion their farming tools into weapons of war — as in the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, or when villagers of South Stoke, outside Bath, recently saved their historic, 150-year-old Packhorse pub from being turned into an apartment complex.

duck or decorated shed? (nouns): from the 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Some buildings are like ducks—the exterior is perfectly suited to what’s inside and they can’t be anything but what they look like, as their shape clearly indicates.

A decorated shed, by contrast, is a generic structure with a purpose identifiable only by its signage. Is it a clothing store, a restaurant, or a hotel? Just check the sign.

“If one business decides to close its doors, we can remove the sign and add another. No additional construction necessary.” [The Architectural Mirror]. See also 99% Invisible (one of my favorite podcasts): “Lessons from Sin City”

(Photo: Center for Learning at Glendale Community College) **

dead cat bounce (noun phrase): A Wall St. phrase indicating a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock, derived from the idea that “even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height.” The phrase can also be applied to any instance of a brief resurgence following a severe decline.***

tent-pole movie (noun phrase): widely released initial offerings in a string of releases that are expected by movie studios to turn a quick profit, usually accompanied by big budgets and heavy promotion and expected to support a wide range of tie-in products such as toys and games. However, in the TV biz, there’s the concept of the hammock: If a network has two tent-pole series, it can boost the performance of a weak or emerging show by inserting it between the two tent-poles.

TCK – third culture kid (noun phrase): a child raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the country on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early years. They’re exposed to a greater (often dismaying) variety of cultural influences. TCKs move between cultures (and languages!) before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal cultural identity. The first culture of such individuals refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culWorld in Words logoture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. “You always feel out of place.” (The World in Words podcast, May 17, 2018)

Despoiling the Egyptians (phrase): Basically a sort of reverse “cultural appropriation” (the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). The phrase has come to mean any use of another culture’s art and ideas for purposes that may wholly contradict their original intention.

From St. Augustine: In the Hebrew scripture, Exodus 3:21, God tells the Israelites to “despoil the Egyptians” as they left their bondage by taking gold and silver statuary or other works that had been pagan or profane and use the metal for their own, finer purposes. [On Christian Doctrine, Ch. 40, section 60; cited in Hecht, Doubt, 201]

“The Israelites are promised that they will leave Egypt not just with their freedom but with great wealth. “You shall strip the Egyptians bare,” goes the promise, in colloquial English of today. Sure enough, this week the Israelites prepare to leave by “borrowing” objects of silver and gold from their neighbors. Borrowing? Not exactly. Everybody knows, that they are leaving Egypt for good with no intention of returning.” [“Despoiling the Egyptians”: An Exercise In Moral LogicRabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.]

Re: MacDuff — I know the actual Macbeth line is “Lay on, MacDuff,”(Act 5, Scene 8) meaning, roughly, “start the fight,” but “lead on” is just too common to not take advantage of.
From: A.Word.A.Day, with Anu Garg
** The Center for Learning (known among students as the “Fortress for Learning”) is practically the visual definition of a decorated shed…minus the decoration.
*** Re: “dead cat bounce” — also the name of a contra dance (a kind of energetic “called” couples folk dance, like a square dance). According to Kentucky contra dance enthusiast, Susan Vogt, “there’s a part in the dance where you go forward toward the people in the opposite line and push back on your partner’s hands like a bounce.”

Trump “Tells” All

(updated 17 Apr. 2018)

A “tell” in poker lingo is a revealing, unconscious characteristic, predicting what a player might do based on a brief sample of observation.

After careful analytic study into the nature of micro expressions and body communication, worthy of academic giants Ray Birdwhistell and Paul Ekman, we have positively identified 11, er, 12 verbal red flags, or “tells” to know when Donald Trump is lying.

  1. “Believe me…” (a red flag when anyone uses this phrase unless they’re trying to persuade you not to jump into a wild animal’s cage)
  2. “Trust me…”
  3. “Sad!”
  4. “!”
  5. “winning”
  6. “I heard…” (which seems to be 45’s main source of information, after Fox & Friends). DJT used this for the 9/11 Arab tailgate partying he thought he saw, the inauguration crowd, the margin of victory in electoral college votes, among others.
  7. David Dennison*
  8. Anything involving counting things
  9. “That, I can tell you…” (as in “You don’t learn that much from tax returns.” 26 Sept. 2016)
  10. “Just found out…” (e.g., that Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped.”
  11. “If you want to know the truth.” (a lame phrase under any circumstances, in this case, refers to Trump believing what Putin says about not interfering U.S. election results: “I think he is very insulted by it.” 11 Nov. 2017)
  12. “People don’t know this…” I just heard this one in an interview with linguistics professor John McWhorter, who points out that it really means “I just learned this thing myself.” In other words, if Trump just learned something, he believes that people in general never knew it.** Eg., “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” (27 Feb. 2017)

* Pseudonym for Trump in a 2016 non-disclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels
** MSNBC, 11th Hour: Brian Williams interview with John McWhorter, Columbia University linguistics professor and host of  Slate‘s Lexicon Valley podcast. You can listen to the full 7½-minute discussion here. I don’t entirely agree with some of McWhorter’s theories about Sapir-Whorf but this interview is a fascinating look at Trump’s “oddly adolescent” language style.
In poker, possible tells include leaning forward or back, placing chips with more or less force, fidgeting, doing chip tricks, displaying nervous tics or making any changes in one’s breathing, tone of voice, facial expressions, direction of gaze or in one’s actions with the cards, chips, cigarettes or drinks.
See also Herzenstein, Matthew. The Tell. Basic Books, 2013.

It is believed…CVS

I was browsing through my neighborhood CVS a few months ago waiting for a prescription and ran across this peculiar device. Interestingly, the display was situated directly across from the pharmacy windows.

Several aspects of this quackery can be unpacked.

1. The packaging clearly indicates something about “magnetic” and “magnets” but it’s only in the smaller print that you actually learn what’s in the package. Maybe that’s obvious, but rather than label the package “Magnetic,” why not just say “Magic Magnets” or “The Power of Magnets” or “Here Be Magnets”?

2. The ad copy in the center says “Magnets” but only refers to them; that is, it only implies that that’s what’s in the package.

3. You have to actually look pretty close to see the contents: “4 magnets”

Of course that’s just quibbling about packaging.

4. So now, the coup de grâce: the ad copy only says that “it is believed” that magnets have certain healthful (but very vague) medical/physiological benefits.

Talk about your wishy-washy, FDA-skirting mumbo jumbo!

I was back in the CVS a couple days ago and tried hunting down the product display, but, to CVS’s credit, it was nowhere to be found. I actually asked the pharmacy folks about it but they just rolled their eyes and said they were unfamiliar with the product.

Kudos to CVS, not only for removing this ridiculous device but also for…drum roll...removing this celebrity quack from the magazine stand. (At least, I couldn’t find his mag, which is usually prominently placed on the stand.)

Or maybe he’s just between issues. Or getting ready for his next summoning before a Senate subcommittee.




Deep State Wine

A new wine purveyor seems to have entered the oenology scene recently. We say “seems” since it’s not entirely clear what the provenance of this “purveyor” is. And by provenance we don’t just mean “where” but “who” and “what” as well. In fact, “purveyor” is as close as we can come to describing the nature of this super-secret organization.

[click on photo to view]

The wine itself is simply labeled “DSW”—if you can find the marking at all. (Hint: you have to hold the bottle up to a light source to see the subtle engraving in the bottle.) In fact, it took sources deep inside the industry who spoke on condition of anonymity to find out that this apparently stands for something called “Deep State Wineries.”

From what we can discern, no one knows precisely who these winemakers are or where their vineyards are located. Some say that the vineyards actually are moved around the globe, season by season, possibly perched in corner acres of otherwise respectable terroirs. For this reason, these sources have dubbed the shadowy vintners “wine terroiristes,” though it’s not clear if this is simply an insider joke.

All that seems to be known is that the group is some kind alphabet organization — CIA? FBI? NATO? UNICEF? — much like the name of the wine itself.

As to what’s in the wine, we can only go to “memos” from admittedly shady sources:

“If you’re looking for bright, fruity and approachable acidity…keep looking,” said one aficionado.

“Hints of tobacco and damp oak,” said another.

“Complete absence of mango, lemon, buttery almond and Fuji apple,” yet another shadowy figure said.

“Definitely not gluten-free. Indeed, it seems like the vignerons have gone out of their way to add extra gluten!”

The bottle is notoriously stingy with details. The label appears to have been redacted of any useful information and the initials DSW, as noted, are visible only when the bottle is held at a certain angle under a black light.

One oddity about the distribution: for some reason the product, while not readily available in general, is specifically not available within the boundaries of the District of Columbia. As a result, a lively black market has arisen in Alexandria, Arlington and Bethesda, along with the inner sanctum of Great Falls National Park.

One “Deep Stater” sums up the tasting profile thus:

“It has a foresty mouthfeel…but not that amusing golf-course-kick-your-ball-back-onto-the-fairway-type woods. No, this is more of a dusky, heavy-timber woodland terroir where large-footed creatures dare their prey to show themselves and would be happy to have your eyeballs for breakfast. Salut!

It’s all about the angle

I was whiling away 20 minutes in McDonald’s the other night with an Americano caffé when I looked up and saw the most gruesome visage staring back. I wasn’t sure if it was some kind of McDonald’s whimsy or an alien that didn’t hide itself away quickly enough.  I checked my caffé in case it was drugged but it was still too hot to drink so I felt safe on that count.

Fortunately, it turned out to be an optical illusion (in the broadest sense): What you see depends on where you’re looking from–and maybe what you’re pre-disposed to see.

Here’s the scene that someone not hyped up on coffee and an impending tennis match might have readily seen.

It’s still a bit eerie…

But obvious non-alien…

…at least that’s what they want you to think.

Pranks of the Apostles

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear as those whacky Apostles show us a fresh side to their personalities.

Many folks who read my previous post about “The Acts of the Apostles” (Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons) think that the Apostles were all serious and, well, apostolic as they went around raising people from the dead, healing cripples, filibustering, getting stoned, escaping from prison and spreading the Word. As we know, the Acts is a sequel to the Gospel attributed to Luke, written sometime around 80-90 C.E. (possibly a bit later) — well after the fall of Jerusalem.

But newly discovered parchments from Nag Sunnislope offer a completely different view of these lovable “merry pranksters”! The scrolls, discovered near the Dead Salt River in the desert of the Phoenicians, show a heartwarming other side to the disciples of the first century.

Here’s a list of some of the shenanigans, mischief and tomfoolery that was going on in Galilee.

  • Substituting red-colored vinegar for actual wine at seders and marriage fests. Imagine the fun of sitting a new convert down for a Passover dinner and as he lifts up his cup for the first of the four seder toasts you watch him do an involuntary spit take: “Ewwww… This mother hath definitely turned! Get thee down to Joseph the Trader for something drinkable.”


  • Short sheeting each others’ tunics. This never gets old.


  • Cursing fig trees…just for the heck of it. [see Mark 11, Matt 21]

  • Pretending to speak in tongues to strangers…but actually just spewing gibberish. This is strictly a tag team prank since you need a confederate you can talk to who pretends to understand as you spew out “Alacka kalamino aminoacido etgay the eckhay ehindbay emay.” [see Acts 2:4]


  • Making up goofy nicknames and catchphrases for the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Poltergeist,” “Casperius,” “WhoYaGonnaCall.” It is written that the Blessed Mary was particularly fond of walking into a wedding feast and cheerfully calling out, “Where’s that darn Casperius when a virgin needs him?”

Of course, not all the mischief was totally lighthearted:

  • Giving hot foots to gentiles, apostates and synagogue-avoiders: “We’re making it hot for you, sinner!”


  • Pranking local herdsmen by pretending to send demons into their pigs and then spooking the critters into jumping off a cliff. Be prepared for a quick getaway, though, when the pig herdsman or shepherd gets wise to your monkeyshines. [See Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39]


  • Setting up the “Holy Dunk Tank” and telling a prospective convert that this is an “initiation” to see if they’re really prepared for a proper baptism.*


  • The classic “lower him through the tile roof” skit. This takes some teamwork, along with a paralyzed person, but it’s worth all the production when you hear the appreciative giggles from your audience. [see Luke 5:17]

What you do is tell a suffering soul that the healer is inside the house but, unfortunately, the crowd is too thick to take him through the front door. “So we’ll just take you up to the roof and lower you through the tiles, Ok?” But guess what? Turns out the roofs in this province are all thatched/mud construction. Of course the author of Luke, probably from Antioch, may not have known diddly about the architecture of Capernaum, but it’s fun to think that he didn’t mind some high jinks when comic relief from Roman oppressors and laugh-deprived Temple high-priest killjoys was needed.


  • Circumcision. No! just kidding. This is not one of the pranks.


+ FYI: the scroll is actually a faux document that I ginned up using Word’s “greek letter” function. The English text is “Chain Letter to the Corinthians” memorializing Paul’s invention of the chain letter concept.
+ Adapted from photo: Four seder wine cups
+Tunics (adapted from Roman Life/Women’s Hairstyles)
+ Fig tree (adapted from The Cursing of the Fig Tree – Father Melvin)
+ Hot foot photo illustration (adapted from photo at The Health Site)
+ Happy pigs (adapted from cartoon by David Hayward)
+ Dunk tank  (from “Dodgers and Dips – the Dark History of the Dunk Tank”)
*Meanwhile, those irrepressible medieval apostles liked to get into the fun too! (Elizabethan cucking stool)

+ Rooftop gang illustration (from “Assembly – The Paralysed Man” by Paul Hitchcock; illustration by Brian Chalmers).