Making shopping decisions can be tough, but this holiday we’ve come to the rescue! Take a listen to our latest Arts Express Playhouse sketch, written and produced by your correspondent, and featuring the brilliant talent and skill of Mary Murphy and Lucy McMichael.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the piece as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI-FM NY and Pacifica affiliates across the country
Here’s a story by Mark Twain that was never published until after his death.
“The War Prayer” was written in 1905, in response to both the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American Wars, but even Mark Twain didn’t have the courage to publish it in his lifetime. It was left unpublished at his death in April 1910. Twain said about it, “I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead.”
Click on the triangle to hear the story as broadcast today on the Art Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Shalblog® Industries recently acquired from a deep source, a document which purports to be from an upcoming New York Crimes Sunday Magazine issue. The manuscript pages seem to be an impending edition of the popular Dear Ethicist column, wherein theaward-winning NY Crimes ethics columnist answers his readers’ knotty moral dilemmas.
I recently evicted a score of tenants from a building I own. It is obviously unfortunate, but do you think that as a homeowner I am ethically obligated to file a change of address form with the Postal Service for each former tenant?
The Ethicist replies: You’re under no obligation to fill out the postal forms yourself; however, if some of the tenants were disabled, or became disabled as a result of the eviction proceedings, then it would be a gracious gesture, though not a legal one, to perhaps provide the forms and pens to those still camped out on your doorsteps.
A colleague recently uncovered massive fraud and deception at work while updating the department’s computer operating system. Should I report my colleague directly to my boss, or would it be better simply to send an anonymous letter so that no one’s feelings are hurt?
The Ethicist replies: It’s certainly thoughtful of you not to want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it may be the situation calls for honesty among friends. Your co-worker deserves to know of your loyalty to your company, so that after his release from prison he might model himself on someone who gives 100% to the job. As they say, a good example is the best teacher.
Last week, while at my home computer supervising the remote drone bombing of a Syrian village, a friendly colleague who I hadn’t seen in a number of months came by to help me out. My wife says that after such a long absence the colleague should have brought over a little gift of some kind to acknowledge the long absence. I feel if we’re friends, then we shouldn’t have to rest on formality. Who is right?
The Ethicist replies: Unannounced visits can be startling to one’s partner, even if you yourself welcome the visit. Perhaps your wife felt that she should be compensated in some way for the inconvenience a sudden “drop-in” might cause. Or, and this is something you might take up with your spouse privately at a quiet time, perhaps your loved one feels shut out when you and your colleague conduct bombing raids and leave her out. Nobody likes feeling left out, and in the future, you might invite her to try her hand at the controls, even if it’s just a small hut or two and not a major population center.
My grandmother, whose Medicare does not pay for dental care, has taken to losing teeth whenever she eats her favorite apple crumb pie. We hate to ban the pie from her diet, but we never know whether a tooth should go into the compost heap, the plastics and metals, or just the regular trash, so now they are just piling up. Which would be the more environmentally correct way to dispose of them?
The Ethicist replies: It’s one of the truisms of modern life that as we try to treat the planet better, things can get more confusing. It depends whether Granny’s teeth are her own or some kind of replacement. If they were her own, they are organic and should go in the compost heap; if they are replacements, then they are probably an amalgam of plastic and metal and should go in the re-cycling bin, assuming your town or city has separate streams for such. The good news is that even under the worst possible scenario, you will only have to make the decision 32 times, since Grandma has no insurance to replace the teeth.
As head of a medical supply company, in a recent merger, I acquired the patent of a new life-saving drug. Based on supply and demand and what the market will bear, I tripled the consumer price. My investors have congratulated me over how the company’s stock price has soared. However, some patients can no longer afford the medication. Would it be all right to organize a picnic for those poorer patients in order to make their final days more pleasant? And do you think it should be on a weekday or on a weekend? And would it be okay to institute a no pets policy for those who may be allergic?
The Ethicist replies: When I last taught my Ethics 101 class at Harvard University, we had a similar situation come up in the very classroom itself. There was one student who could no longer pay tuition after the most recent tuition hike, and though we didn’t arrange a picnic as you are considering, we did take up a collection to present the student with a 10% off coupon for the Red Lobster restaurant of his choice. It turned out the boy was an observant Jew, and so couldn’t use the coupons, but it’s always important to remember that it is the gesture that is remembered. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I am in a rather powerful political position. It is not easy, especially as a woman, to handle the volume of complaints I must deal with. The number of emails in my inbox from constituents who carp about not having enough bread to eat has gotten to the point where I spend more time answering their emails than all my other work combined. Should I just direct their complaints to the SPAM folder, or would it be more efficient to remind them through autoreply that in a pinch they could just eat cake? I don’t want to impugn the intelligence of my unimaginative constituents, but it’s not rocket science.
The Ethicist replies: The stresses of a responsible job can make us all a little bit cranky at times, it comes with the territory. While it was considerate of you to offer an alternative to bread, it may be wise to remember that not everybody can digest gluten-based products. There are some cake mixes on the market today that offer a healthier choice. Perhaps replying with a photo or two of some oat-based or quinoa-based bakery goods might stimulate the imaginations—and palates!—of your more idea-challenged constituents.
Is it ethical to write a column that focuses on everyday trivial matters of etiquette and ethics while ignoring and thus implicitly excusing the larger breaches of ethics and morality that your newspaper supports every single day?
(Unfortunately, the document ends here. You will have to supply your own answers.)
And here’s Part Two of our interview with singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman. Last week in Part One we talked with Roy primarily about his more comical satirical songs. This week, in the final part, the conversation takes a turn as Roy talks about how he writes a song with heavier political content–maybe songs that can change some minds.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part Two of my interview with Roy as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Roy Zimmerman has been described as “Lenny Bruce meets Stephen Sondheim meets Phil Ochs in Brian Wilson’s living room.” He’s a master of satirical political songwriting, the lyrical heir to Tom Lehrer, as well as a damned fine musician. I’ve been listening and laughing at his sharp wit for years, and I was very happy to do an extended interview with him.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part One of my interview with Roy as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
The delightful Mary Murphy as interviewer Merri Boast grills The Devil, played by me, in our original “Sympathy For The Devil” radio satire, broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program over WBAI 99.5FM, WBAI.org ,and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Click on the triangle or the mp3 file link above to listen.
Merri: “The Good die young, But evil is forever.” –John Donne. Hello this is Stale Air, and I’m Merri Boast. Today I’m interviewing our special guest, in this time of coronavirus, an expert in all things diseased and evil, The Devil. Welcome to Stale Air.
Devil: Hi, thank you Merri. Love listening to your show. Big fan of the station. Learned the name of so many different kinds of cheeses from it. And I just never get tired of those Car Talk reruns.
M: Thank you, but before we begin, how are you doing? Is the shelter in place affecting you?
D: Oh, thanks for asking, Merri. It’s tough being confined to the nether realms, 24/7, but I think we’re making do. Can’t complain. Keeping warm. Super busy. I’m very proud of this coronavirus project we’ve been working on. If you don’t mind me tooting my own horn, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve come up with in a long time. People understand now that the world is no longer in a state of limbo, but actually it’s Permanent Hell. And down here we’re pleased as punch to parade our brand–so to speak–parade our brand in front of the population as much as we can. And Oh and speaking of Hell—I want to thank Jeff Bezos , a real buddy, at Amazon for continuing to crack the whip.
M: Good to hear that you are doing well. I’m—I’m not quite sure how to address you. Is Prince of Darkness or Mephistopheles all right?
D: Well, we don’t like to use those names anymore, Merri. They’re kind of stuffy and old-school, and frankly just a wee bit pejorative. Prince of Darkness, really? To tell you the truth, Merri, I prefer Beel-ze-bub. Or for short, just plain Bill is fine. That’s a good Christian name…if you’ll pardon the expression.
M: Bill it is, then. Bill , we all recognize that this has been an unprecedented time—
D: –Thank you–
M: and most of us are wondering if the rest of us are going to make it through this coronavirus epidemic. Do you have any insight into this?
D: Well that’s a great question, Merri. It’s not as simple as it might first appear. Now some may say, what’s the problem, just spread the virus and kill as many people as you can. Clear win for our side. But actually I feel that’s short-sighted. It’s totally forgetting one of the tenets of our side, which is to maximize the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for the greatest length of time. I’ve brought along a little graph here, cooked up by our art department—thank you Jared and Ivanka—and you’d see on the graph, if my ZOOM connection were better, how the line spikes upwardly very quickly over just a few days. Seems like a clear touchdown, but really, just about anyone can do that. I mean, any of your minor demons could probably have accomplished that. It’s not rocket science. We felt though, that we wanted to go the extra mile to extend the weeping and wailing and particularly the gnashing of teeth as much as possible. And that’s where really we needed to call in our staff, our entire team.
M: So you don’t work alone?
D: Oh, good Lord, no. There’s just too much to be done. I’m basically a hands on guy, and while I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, I can’t do it all alone. I can’t be everywhere at once. I’m not a miracle worker. It takes a village.
M: I’m wondering, where do you find your staff? Aren’t people horrified when you call on them?
D: Oh no, not at all. We offer a very nice benefits package, 12 vacation days a year, 401K. Cafeteria with a hot foods buffet. Healthcare plan if you choose to buy into it. So we’re very competitive with most non-European enterprises. It’s true, though, that there have been some periods in history, I’ll admit, where it was hard to find people willing to come over to the Dark Side. It was touch and go there for a while during the Garden of Eden thing—and I want to give a shout out to The Snake: Thank you Snake, never gets old. Big Hugs. Now the 60s were tough, finding assistants to insert ourselves into the whole peace, love and anti-war movement was challenging, but we managed, and of course the whole post 9/11 era. Actually, I have to give you guys credit. We borrowed the embedded propaganda approach from you. So well done. And the mass illegal warrantless wiretaps?—really a stroke of genius on the part of your government. We couldn’t have come up with that one ourselves. It’s great to see stuff like that crowd-sourced.
M: This is Merri Boast for Stale Air and I’m talking with Beel-Zee-Bub, Master of Chaos. We’re discussing his plans to cause the maximum of pain and suffering for the greatest length of time. Bill, I was wondering if there was anything in your childhood that might have influenced your present life’s work? Were you an odd child?
D: Ha. Well Merri, that’s funny you should ask that. I was talking with some friends about that the other day, and they were making fun of me because as a child, believe it or not, I didn’t lie. I mean I just could not lie. Every time I thought about lying, I would just get this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach and I would just clam up.
M: Well you certainly seemed to have gotten over that.
D: Thanks, Merri. I say immodestly perhaps, we feel we’ve come a long way. Interning for Mark Zuckerberg did wonders for us. And I want to acknowledge, too, the great work you folks at your station have been doing. We’re just so darn proud of the lies your station has spread. The whole lead up to the Iraq war, the consistent demonizing of the Venezuelan socialists, and the ongoing excuses for the worst depredations of capitalism, all coated with a veneer of hip humanity, really brings joy to my heart. It makes me feel appreciated, and like our work has not been in vain. So kudos to you.
M: Thank you. I’d like, if you don’t mind, to get back to this coronavirus situation. You spoke about maximizing the pain and suffering. Could you tell us a little more about that?
D: Sure. Our team felt that we didn’t want it over in a day or two. So we tossed around the fireball a bit to brainstorm how we could draw this thing out. And I don’t remember who it was, but one of the team members—might have been Mnuchin or Miller, I forget right now—suggested that we have an out. In other words, don’t let people die right away, but hold out the possibility of some hope to extend the timeline.
M: And that’s where you got the idea of social distancing.
D: Exactly, Merri. It is a genius plan, but you see there’s the danger you can go too much the other way, too.
M: Meaning what exactly?
D: Well, meaning our plan to offer up hope might work out too well. What if social distancing actually worked and the virus was completely wiped out?
M: That wouldn’t fit into your plans would it?
D: It certainly wouldn’t, Merri. So we had to figure out a way to provide mitigating circumstances and yet make sure they were not too mitigating.
M: And that’s where the President came in.
D: Yes thank God for him. He really did such yeoman work in sending out mixed messages as to whether social distancing really worked. He made sure that some of the population would quarantine and some wouldn’t. Really perfect to extend things. Oh, and the masks! I don’t mind telling you I LOL’d when I heard him say that he personally would not be wearing a mask. Genius. Keep the people in a state of total confusion as to what works and what doesn’t, and this thing can extend out to the Second Coming.
M: The Second Coming?
D: Slouching towards Bethlehem, Baby, Slouching towards Bethlehem.
M: Thank you, Bill.
D: Thank you, Merri. I’ll be seeing you real soon, okay?
M: I’ve been speaking with Beel-ze-bub, co creator of the coronavirus, The Macarena, and The Ellen Show. Next week we’ll be talking with Vice President Joe Biden about his no-malarkey recipes for grilled cheese. This is Merry Boast …for Stale Air.
(And in a bit, I’ll have the Arts Express audio production posted.)