Thursday, September 25, 2008

West Virginia Man Charged With Farting on Cop

West Virginia Man Charged With Farting on Cop

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk
Copyright 2008

As a typical Guy, I've complained loudly about the deadliness of another Guy's gas. Or joked about whether he would have to register an impact statement with the Environmental Protection Agency. Whether his butt should be registered as a lethal weapon. Whether the smeller is truly the feller. About whether – you get the picture.

What we never realized is that passing gas can be bad enough you can be charged with criminal battery. It's right up there with belting someone across the face or stabbing them.

That's what Jose Antonio Cruz of Clarksburg, West By God Virginia, found out this past week.

According to a story in the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail, Cruz "loudly" passed gas at Charleston patrolman T.E. Parsons during his arrest, so Parsons charged Cruz with battery.

There are times in a humorist's life that God smiles down on us, where the heavenly lights break through the gray clouds of the mundane, and a choir of angels sings and serenely flap their wings. I don't get many moments like this. Moments where funny meets absurdity and hilarity ensues. Moments like when a guy is arrested for farting at a cop. A million jokes raced through my head, and I tried to capture them all.

"Ooh, how about 'a fart and battery,'" I cackled, scribbling in my notebook. "Assault and butt-ery? Maybe he'll get the gas chamber." I scribbled a few more thoughts, and finally slumped in my chair, exhausted from the effort.

It all started when Cruz was pulled over this past Tuesday for driving without headlights. When police asked him to step out of the car, they said Cruz was unsteady and smelled of alcohol, so they took him to headquarters.

The Daily Mail said Cruz was being fingerprinted while Parsons was preparing the Breathalyzer machine. That's when Cruz scooted his chair toward Parsons, lifted his leg and "passed gas 'loudly'" at Parsons. Then – and you really can't expect any less – Cruz waved the contaminated air in Parson's direction.

"The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons," wrote the insulted and provoked Patrolman Parsons.

According to the official report, Cruz's breath sample wasn't enough to register on the machine, because he was suffering an asthma attack. So he asked to be taken to the hospital, but police say he resisted when the EMTs arrived, so they had to struggle to handcuff him.

All in all, Cruz was charged with a DUI, battery on an officer, and obstruction. (Although, if you think about it, "obstruction" really wasn't the problem.)

Cruz admitted his heinous crime, but said he never moved his chair toward Parsons or aimed at him. Instead, he claimed he had an upset stomach, but that he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom. That must be an awful feeling, not being able to breathe in one end, but having too much breath in the other.

"I couldn't hold it no more," he told the Daily Mail on Wednesday. He also said the other officers thought the whole thing was funny at the time, and laughed about it with him. So he was naturally a little worried when the charges were filed.

"This is ridiculous," he said. "I could be facing time."

Cruz (to his new cellmate): So what are you in for?

Prisoner: I killed a man in a bar fight and used his skull as a pretzel dish. What'd you do?

Cruz: I farted on a cop.

Cruz doesn't need to worry about it though. The next day, Kanawha County Prosecutors asked the fart charge to be dropped, either because they didn't want the media attention, or because the charges were just a bunch of hot air.

However, Cruz maintains that he was not drunk or uncooperative. He also says he is angry that the police were preparing him for a breathalyzer test while he was suffering an asthma attack.

Which makes me wonder, how was Cruz able to laugh with the cops about farting at Parsons, but wasn't able to produce enough of a breath for the Breathalyzer test?

But in the end, you know Parsons will earn a couple of great nicknames out of all of this. Which makes me wonder what the men and women of the Kanawha County police department will come up with for him. Smelly Harry? Farts Mulder? Or Fin Toot-tuola, Ice-T's character from Law & Order: SVU. Or maybe they'll use my personal favorite, Magnum P.U.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unveil or Fail? The new Erik Deckers logo

I was so impressed by Intellagirl's logo that I decided to create my own. I didn't realize how impressed I was by it until I looked at it again and saw that I had borrowed the same concept. (To be fair, Intellagirl doesn't have a beard.)

So I'd like a little feedback. What do you think? Can it be improved, or is it good enough as it is? Or am I going to anger Intellagirl so much that she's going to pummel me the next time she sees me?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mon Dieu! French Ban Internet Alcohol Advertising

Those crazy French.

According to a recent article in the London Times, France’s pre-Internet ban on alcohol advertising means they can’t link to anything alcoholic online.

That means that if I were in France, I couldn’t link to Borgognes-Faively or Vins du Beaujolais (Beaujolais Wines) or even Domaine St├ęphane Aladame, let alone visit them. (Holland's Heineken Beer website was forced to block access from all French computers.)

Good God, I’m violating French alcohol laws! Won’t somebody stop me?!?!

(So is it a violation of those laws to ask one of those wineries to send me a couple bottles for pimping their website?) (Wine photo from London Telegraph.)

(Wine photo from London Telegraph.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

I am vindicated -- Grimace DID used to have four arms

Several years ago, I got into a slight argument with some family members about whether McDonald's Grimace used to have four arms or not. They were sure he didn't, and I was positive he did.

Not being the kind of person to let these things go easily, I now proudly -- and somewhat smugly -- offer video proof that Grimace did, in fact, have four arms. He was also evil and stole things.

(Evil Grimace steals cups, Ronald disguises himself as a mailman.)

(Evil Grimace steals shakes and Cokes. Ronald disguises himself as a movie director.)

I feel vindicated now, after all these years.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Politics Makes Loud Bedfellows

Politics Makes Loud Bedfellows

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

A conversation with a friend this week got me to thinking about politics. Specifically, why do people turn into jerks when it comes to talking about politics? More specifically, why are people I don't agree with really big jerks?

We all rant and rave and scream until we're purple about the one thing we have absolutely no control over. We argue with friends, family, and strangers about our point of view, and consider committing cartoon levels of violence on those who fail to agree with us. Yet we don’t get that passionate about our work or our families.

“Hey, my kid is smarter than your kid.”

“Oh yeah?! Well, my kid can throw a baseball farther than your kid!”

“But what does your kid know about foreign affairs? My kid was an exchange student in France for a year.”

"So? My kid believes current government bailouts are only a stopgap measure for what is actually a bigger international economic crisis."

“Well, you suck and your kid has a stupid haircut!”

My friend and I had a short conversation with a guy in an elevator that ended up just like this. We had just left an event where the discussion focused on the Governor's race and that night's gubernatorial debate. The guy said, "Jill Long Thompson shouldn't even be on the same podium as the Governor, especially with that haircut."

"Really?" I thought. "You're college educated and presumably informed about state politics, and all you got is 'haircuts?' What's next, a shot about her shoes?"

After the guy left, we tried to figure out what kind of person becomes a campaign professional or political pundit. What are they like at home? What are their relationships like? How do they act toward their family?

"They’re probably one of two people," I said. "One type are characters playing a part, like Sam and Ralph, the sheep dog and coyote from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. They’re friends before work, but once they clock in, they beat the bejeezus out of each other. Once the whistle blows, they’re friends again.

"The other type are always this loud and obnoxious to everyone, including their families. Their only friends are in their own party. They have an occasional cease-fire lunch with someone from the other side, but they argue politics the entire time."

So I posted the question some online friends to gauge their reaction. One of them wondered if it was a feeling of helplessness that drove people to these levels of anger.

There is a line from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: "You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow."

Is doubt what really drives the anger and bitterness? The Hillary Clinton supporters who were so upset when she lost the primary, they said they would vote for McCain? The people Photoshopping Sarah Palin's head onto bikini-clad women holding semi-automatic rifles? Do they truly – deep down in the places no one talks about at political rallies – doubt their own choice, and wonder if they’re backing the wrong horse? Are they worried their candidate will fail, and they’ll look foolish for backing them? Is that what all the screaming is about?

During the 2004 election, several of us at my old job would argue via email about our choice for president. We forwarded articles about some subtle nuance of a comment the other guy made 30 years ago, and electronically shout, “See? SEE?!” Your guy is EVIL.” And we would sit back triumphantly, convinced that our know-nothing colleagues on the other side would crumble in a heap of logic, weeping that they never knew their guy was so wrong for America, they’re so sorry, and could we ever forgive them? Those weepy moments never came. Instead, they rifled back their own articles, waiting for our weepy moments. And it kept going until a couple weeks after the election.

It's all so tiring and annoying. It wastes time and energy I don't have. So I have bowed out this year. I’ve already decided who I’ll vote for, and I refuse to participate in the debate. I don’t keep up with who’s saying what, what their hot button issues are, or why they did or did not vote for the war. No one is going to convince me to switch, to cross parties, or to consider another point of view. I’m smugly close-minded on the election, and secure in my choices.

But it's not apathy on my part. Far from it. I’ll be done voting by 6:15 a.m., and spend the rest of the day waiting for my party to prevail. I just refuse to waste anyone’s time, especially mine, getting drawn into a subject that’s only going to raise my blood pressure.

Especially since the people on the other side of the debate stupidly refuse to recognize the superiority of my candidate's views.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Good Scissors: Bane of Childhood

The Good Scissors: Bane of Childhood
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2008

Don't use the Good Scissors!

Anyone with a mother grew up hearing that. Every household had a pair of Good Scissors, and they were not to be touched. Not by children. Not by anyone under 18, in fact. Basically, not by anyone who wasn't your mother. The Good Scissors were so good that they – and anything related to them – were Capitalized.

The Good Scissors weren't just any crappy pair of scissors. They were Good and Righteous, forged at the foot of Mount Athos by a Holy Blacksmith, blessed by the Pope himself, and carried on a Velvet Pillow to our Sacred Junk Drawer of Flotsam, where they lay untouched for years.

At least until you needed to cut a picture from a magazine. So you opened the junk drawer, and it made that little squeak.

"You're not using the Good Scissors, are you?!" boomed a voice from the other room.

" I need to cut this picture of Superman out of this magazine."

"Then use the everyday scissors."

The everyday scissors sucked. For one thing, they weren't even capitalized. They couldn't cut through air without a running start. They were the cutting implements no one wanted, the rented mule of scissors. You would get a more accurate cut, and were less likely to lop off a finger, if you used a wheat thresher.

The problem with the everyday scissors is that our mothers seemed to think they were an acceptable substitute to the laser-like precision of the Good Scissors, which were made out of high-impact titanium and could cut through the fabric of space and time. The everyday scissors were made out of two sharpened pieces of flint, held together with a rusty nail and a rubber band.

We even have a pair of Good Scissors in our house, used mostly for kitchen cutting. My wife has decreed that no one should use them, because she uses them for certain food items. Which means I would never, ever consider using them to open up potato chip bags, small boxes, or a bag of gummi bears I ate in bed when she went away for a girls' weekend away a few weeks ago.

Besides, our everyday scissors are fairly decent. They're leftover office scissors from an old employer, and I've got four or five pair stashed around the house, so they're still sharp. There may be more though; I think they're actually multiplying.

I was never quite sure what my mom used our Good Scissors for. I don't think anyone actually ever saw her use them. There were whispers among the family that she used them when she was sewing or wrapping gifts, but I never saw it. I used to think she just took them out late at night and admired the way they gleamed in the moonlight, making sword noises as she slashed through the air like one of the Three Musketeers.

One would think that she would have used them for cutting our hair., but when I was a kid, she used a HairWiz, a sort of plastic razor-in-a-comb that was supposedly used for thinning out hair. When I was a kid, it was an implement of torture that she used to keep me in line.

"Why can't you use the Good Scissors?" I asked during one scalp torture session.

"Because we have this thing," she said. It didn't quite answer my question, but since she was combing my hair with a sharpened garden rake, I knew better than to argue.

I entered the summer after second grade with mixed emotions, because my mom gave me a crew cut. On the one hand, no more HairWiz torture sessions. On the other, I looked like a complete goober. Relief finally came when the HairWiz broke or got lost – I can't remember what I told her after it came up "missing" – so she started using a new pair of hair scissors.

I think I'm safe in saying this now, 35 years later, but my dad used the Good Scissors more than a few times. He would wait until my mom went out for the evening, raid the Sacred Junk Drawer of Flotsam, disable the alarm, and use the Good Scissors to cut out paper doll chains and snowflakes out of the newspaper to his heart's content.

In all that time, he never got caught. He always planned his clandestine cutting when he knew my mom would be gone for several hours, and he bribed me into silence.

But most importantly, he always burned the evidence with the Good Lighter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sign Maker Fail

I took this photo on a trip to the Oregon coast several years ago (and submitted it to This was either a case of Unclear on the Concept or the shoemaker's children having no shoes. Either way, it was hysterical.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Rainbow Conspiracy Lady

There are days when people just make me feel smarter. Today was one of those days. I found the Rainbow Conspiracy Lady's video on YouTube. As far as I can tell, this is a real video from a real person who believes that the government is behind all the ground-level rainbows in the past 20 years.

The video is of a rainbow created in the fine mist of a lawn sprinkler, and she's convinced that there's something unnatural in the water -- something sinister and evil placed there by the government -- that is causing this. I wish I was making this up. I hope she made it up and is having a good laugh at people like me who perpetuate the hoax.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can You Copyright a Toilet Flush?

Can You Copyright a Toilet Flush?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from July 2002.

I thought I had heard it all. Or I guess it’s what I DIDN’T hear. Some news from the British music industry may have some copyright lawyers wringing their hands and cackling with glee. More than usual.

Apparently, silence can be copyrighted.

I’ll bet you’re gaping open-mouthed in stunned silence at this news. And by gaping silently, you’re probably violating that copyright right now.

At least, creating a silent track on your own CD can actually land you in some legal hot water, as Mike Batt, former member of the UK band The Wombles, found out. He’s facing a potential lawsuit for copying silence from avant-garde composer John Cage (“avant-garde,”from the French meaning “No one cares except a bunch of black turtleneck-and-beret-wearing-ramble-on-about-existentialism coffee house barflies.”)

While Cage is known for a wide variety of crap songs, I mean avant-garde music, it's his musical masterpiece, "4:33" that he's known for. He named it "4:33," because it's exactly four minutes and 33 seconds of dead silence (this link goes to a YouTube performance). Cage, being the clever avant-garde artist, named the piece to match its length. It should have been sub-titled “Truly Pointless and Stupid” so it could have matched the concept as well.

Of course, Cage didn't just intend for the piece to be four-and-a-half minutes of nothing. The listener is supposed to take in the environmental sounds too, like someone scratching their head in puzzlement, the gentle snoring of the guy in front of you, or the murmurs of "can you believe we paid ten bucks for this?"

According to a story in the July 2002 London Independent (official motto: “You’re Not the Boss of Me!”), Batt received a letter from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, the British organization charged with collecting royalties for composers and publishers.

The MCPS sent him a standard license form for his post-modern composition, “A One Minute Silence,” because he listed Cage as a composer, and supposedly demanded royalty payments for his own 60 seconds of non-sound.

(“Post-modern” is another word for “avant-garde.”)

The MCPS claims Batt used a quotation from "4;33," but Batt says this isn’t true. “My silence is original silence,” he told the Independent, “not a quotation from his silence.” And as he said on National Public Radio this week, the composition is also original, “. . . because it’s digital.”

Oh well, if it’s digital, then what’s all the fuss?

The problem started when Batt gave credit to “Batt/Cage” on the composition (he said he did it “for a laugh”). But according to Andante Magazine, Gene Caprioglio, a representative of Cage's American publisher, says that Batt listed Cage on the credits for “obvious reasons. . . to evoke Cage’s provocative 1952 composition.”

Provocative? What’s so provocative about four minutes and 33 seconds of dead silence? Playing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” on a xylophone made of herring tins is provocative. Being as silent as church on Monday morning is just, well, boring.

But Caprioglio was steadfast. “If Mr. Batt wants to produce a minute of silence under his own name, we would obviously have no right to the royalties.” Frankly, if he produced 4:33 of silence under his own name, you would have no right to the royalties either. It's freaking silence. It existed before John Cage ever forgot to hit Record on the tape deck. If anything, it's public domain.

Cage, overly paranoid that his “masterpiece” might be copied by musical ne’er-do-wells, left strict instructions that allowed “4:33” to actually be any length. However, there was no word as to whether the title of the song would change as well, to say, “2:18,” “17:00,” or “Dear Lord, Will This Thing Never End?!”

Cage’s publishers, in an allegedly greedy attempt to get the tens of pennies earned from Batt’s composition, are arguing that Batt actually copied “4:33,” but since his song was 3:33 shorter, he only copied part of it.

“As my mother said when I told her, ‘which part of the silence are they claiming you nicked?’” Batt told the Independent.

All this leads to the question, what about those little 4 second gaps between songs on CDs? Who owns that copyrights? Does Cage, since he wrote the original recorded silence? Or would Batt have a shot at them, since he was the first one to record silence digitally, and CDs are a digital medium? And since they’re only 12% as long as Cage’s original “masterpiece,” will the royalties be prorated?

One could conceivably argue that silence existed long before there was life on this planet, and therefore silence is actually public domain, just like “Jingle Bells.”

But this gives me an idea for a song I call “3:57.” It’ll be an extended cover remix of Mike Batt’s “A One Minute Silence” interspersed with the “Can You Hear Me Now?” phrase every nine seconds. I’ll call it “Avant-Garde People Will Buy Anything.”