Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

The Second-Oldest Profession

by Terry Burlison

“Sit! Sit!” The Word-Man motioned to a spot across the campfire. His elderly visitor tucked his white robes under him and sat, crosslegged. “Okay, I’ve gone over your manuscript, Mr., uh . . .”


“Moses. You kinda threw me off, since you didn’t use a byline. Sure you don’t wanna use a byline?”

The elderly man shook his head gravely. “The words are God’s, not mine.”

“Uh, yeah. Okay, well it’s a decent story, requires a ton of suspension-of-disbelief, but I think it’ll sell. A bit wordy . . .”

Moses raised his bushy eyebrows.

“Don’t worry about it,” the Word-Man said, waving his hand. “That’s what you got me for, am I right? Lessee…it starts kinda weak, too. ‘Some fourteen billion years ago, God created the universe in a gigantic explosion–‘ Say, what’s a ‘billion’? Never heard the word.”

“A thousand thousand thousands.”

“Um, that’s three thousand.”

“No, a thousand thousands, a thousand times.”

“Whoa! Okay, people aren’t gonna get that. What say we shorten this to something they can grasp–maybe six days. A–whaddyacallit–metaphor. Now, all this ‘inflation’ and ‘fundamental particle’ stuff. Nuh-unh. K‑I-S-S.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Keep It Simple, Shlemiel. Remember, your average Israelite reads at a twelve-year-old level.”

“But this is what the Creator told me! In the beginning–”

“There! That’s great! ‘In the beginning.’ Brief, succinct, to-the-point. Killer hook!”

Moses shifted uncomfortably.

“Let’s see, expansion, cooling, coalescing–it’s all out.”

“No! The Creator said . . .”

“Yeah, well, the Creator ain’t paying a quarter-shekel a page. Six days. Now where were we? We got your light, we got your land, your sea, your animals, yada yada yada. Hmm, gonna need a protagonist. Something simple. ‘Adam.’ ”

“But God guided Man’s evolution gradually, until he developed intellect and reason–”

“Man from animal? Try selling that to the Levites! Nope, he’s gotta be created. Maybe from mud or dirt or something. We’re gonna need some conflict, some kind of antagonist. Hmm . . . fantasy’s hot right now–maybe we go with some kind of talking animal. And we gotta have a love interest. Let’s see . . . ‘Eve.’ Yeah, ‘Adam and Eve.’ It sings, it’s got legs.” His eyes lit. “Brainstorm! They haven’t invented clothes! They’re naked, but with a purity slant so as not to offend the Fundies. Besides: leave it to the imagination–‘world’s greatest aphrodisiac,’ am I right?”

Moses stood, robes a-flutter and eyes glinting. “ENOUGH! You dare despoil the true word of God? Infidel!” He turned and stomped off through the dust.

The Word-Man sighed. He started to toss the papyrus manuscript in the fire, then stopped and turned back to the first page. “Hmm, no byline. No legal copyright notice. Hey, if he doesn’t want the royalties . . .” Grinning, he slipped the manuscript into his robes.

And the rest is History.

Running Afoul–of Political Correctness

by Terry Burlison

Political Correctness has crossed the line. The starting line, to be exact–it’s infested fourth grade girls’ track.

I discovered this when my nine-year-old daughter, Emily, announced she was going out for the track team. I ran track back in Junior High School and figured that experience could be of some value. My team consisted of about two dozen adolescent boys ranging in body hair from Sasquatch to Naked Mole Rat. I learned to accelerate like a cheetah, run like a gazelle, and leap like a kangaroo, mostly in a shower room filled with burley upperclassmen snapping towels at us Mole Rats. If you couldn’t run or jump, the coach or natural selection removed you from the team.

At Emily’s first practice I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. “Going out” for the team is now taken literally: to make the team, one must qualify by going out and finding the track. Consequently, ninety-eight kids were proud members of the Mustang track team. That’s out of a school of 300–and the team is limited to fourth through sixth grades.

After two grueling practices of trotting in approximately counter-clockwise ovals then going out for ice cream, the kids had their first meet. In my day, a meet was usually between two schools. We each ran our events then sat on a wooden bench and pretended to pull for our teammates while actually watching cheerleading practice. Emily’s meet included a dozen schools–a thousand kids all wearing gray, blue, or red. Emily’s team wears gray with purple letters to distinguish them from the teams wearing gray with blue letters or gray with purplish-blue letters. I dropped her off, parked the car, and spent most of the meet trying to find her again.

I located a harried-looking woman with a clipboard barking out instructions to a swirling cloud of pre-teens. She pointed me to the start of the seventy-five yard dash, where Emily was waiting in a line longer than Space Mountain’s. After several dozen heats, she lined up for her very first race.

My old school track was composed of black cinders glittering with razor sharp edges that weeded out the fallers. Running on it conjured race-memories of our ancestors fleeing over the earth’s freshly cooled magma pursued by giant dinosaurs. Emily’s race was run on grass with pastel lines. Not even real grass: we’re talking the green plastic stuff that comes in Easter baskets.

The kids lined up and the Starter explained the complex rules to them (“Go when I say, ‘Go!'”). Our starters used miniature pistols; they fired blanks that made a crisp crack everyone in the stadium could hear. In today’s gun-phobic world, people fear the Starter might load it with tiny bullets and gun down kids for false starts. Consequently, today’s Starter uses a device that looks like a Star Trek prop. Rather than a politically incorrect bang, it emits a trilling, musical chirp. It’s designed to provide a relaxing, yet self-empowering signal for the runners to embark on their journey.

Emily and her competitors lined up. The Starter yelled, “On your marks, set–” at which point a third of the group raced off in the general direction of the finish line. The Starter, to avoid a lawsuit from parents of the “rules-impaired,” let them go. Emily thought she had missed the starting chirp and took off in pursuit. Realizing her mistake, she was returning to the starting line just as the Starter yelled “Go!” and triggered his device, prompting half the remaining kids to check their waists to see if their cell phones had rung. Eventually they realized what had happened and raced off after the others, who by now were eating sno-cones in the parking lot.

When I finally found Emily again, she was in good spirits, not the least bothered by the cheating little bastards that had beaten her. She was happy and the other kids were happy, so maybe all this touchy-feely new age stuff is okay. It’s not like people have to obey rules, improve their skills, or learn discipline to function in today’s society.

Okay, maybe they do–for now. But by the time Emily is an adult perhaps Political Correctness will have taken care of that, too.

To Snaggletooth, Wherever You Are

by Terry Burlison

My introduction to public transportation came in kindergarten, when I first climbed aboard Bus 13 to Eugene Field elementary school. A glance at our bus driver proved this was before background checks and violent criminal registries. He was a mean, lean, leathery man, his front teeth broken into yellow shards–most likely from bar fights or gnawing the bones of misbehaving riders.

Snaggletooth brooked no nonsense from us kids. He whipped Bus 13 across the Indiana countryside with all the joy of man on work-release, one eye on the road (if we were lucky), the other peering into his wide, all-seeing rearview mirror. No Stalag inmate feared the watchful gaze of a Nazi guard more than we feared Snaggletooth.

Snag had inflexible rules for riding his bus: no running, playing, smiling, thinking happy thoughts, or breathing too loudly. And most of all, no toys. He was not above pat-down searches if he suspected us of smuggling contraband. I don’t recall the penalty if someone got caught; most likely I’d need regression hypnosis to uncover those memories. But he never caught me, because I had a secret weapon: I was poor.

On those frigid Indiana winter mornings, my mom sent me to school wearing an old hand-me-down winter coat. This was a huge, bulky thing, a mattress with sleeves. I don’t recall where we found it; probably abandoned on the roadside by some train-riding hobo who got tired of being ridiculed by the other hobos. It was worn. It was threadbare. The pockets had eroded completely through on the inside. The lining was not attached to the shell anywhere except at the zipper and along the bottom. This meant anything I put in my pocket would fall into the lining and eventually work its way around to my back, where I had to dislocate my shoulders to retrieve it.

But then I realized this could work to my advantage.

In what was probably my first act of civil disobedience, I snuck a couple of toy cowboy revolvers into the lining and clambered aboard Ol’ Number 13. No FBI informant was more nervous smuggling a wire into a mafia den. Snaggletooth patted me down, checked my pockets–and waved me in.

Dawn rose on a world of possibilities. Soon, I was smuggling every toy I owned onto the bus. Had Snag ever looked at me from behind, he would have thought Quasimodo had moved into the Muncie school district.

One day, I took my usual seat near the back of the bus and deployed my green plastic army. A chubby kid with a buzz-cut was sitting in front of me. He heard the carnage and turned around to see, as he later put it, “The entire invasion of Anzio” spread out on my seat. (That’s ridiculous, of course. It was the invasion of Sicily.)

“How did you get those on the bus?” he whispered, glancing fearfully at Snag’s omniscient mirror.

I showed him my “undergarment railroad.”

“Wow! Hey, my name’s Phil. Can I play, too?”

“Sure,” I said–and a lifelong friendship was formed.

Over the years, Phil and I saved Hoosierland from numerous German invasions. We stoutly protected hearth and home from Japanese and Koreans, rescued the earth from Martians, Klingons, and other aliens too horrible to describe. We built elaborate settlements in corn and wheat fields, erected fortresses from logs, snow, or just our imaginations. In later years we graduated to cars, girls, careers, and the Senior discount at Dennys. Through eleven presidents, four marriages, and thousands of miles of separation we have endured. It has been a friendship for the ages. And we owe it all to one mean man with bad dental work.

Snag disappeared the next year, never to be heard from again. We had many other bus drivers over the years, all of them nicer but none as memorable–and none who left me such a legacy. So thank-you, Snaggletooth, wherever you’re incarcerated. I hope they’re treating you well. And if you ever need anything, let me know. You see, I have this coat . . .

The Newbie’s Guide to Hoops

by T-Bone “Sky” Burlison

I grew up in the Indiana countryside, where playing basketball was far more important than other activities, such as voting or attending college. It’s a land of the pick-and-roll, the back screen, the give-and-go; where defense and rebounding are as important as hitting the open man. To Hoosiers, basketball is art.

Then I moved out of state and to the Big City. The first Saturday morning, I tucked my ball under my arm and headed for the nearest court to find some fresh blood. I followed the sound of a bouncing basketball to a chain-link fence, where I stood slack-jawed, a single thought rebounding through my mind: What the hell are these people doing?

I was entering the world of hoops.

Hoops (or b-ball or just “ball”) is related to basketball in the same way 50 Cent is related to Mozart–that is, they originated on the same planet. This guide can save you embarrassment (and worse). Because if you wanna be ballin’, you gotta know the score.


Hoops is best played on an inner city playground, although any black-topped surface will suffice. Gravel and broken concrete surfaces are marginally acceptable–even hardwood (if nothing else is available).

The game may be played either “half-court” or “full-court.” In either case, the court can measure anywhere between ten and one hundred feet in width. In half-court, the court length is unimportant, since only the first fifteen feet is typically used. For full-court games, the length is best kept under forty feet so less time is wasted in transition and more time can be spent shooting.

The rim is a standard, eighteen-inch diameter basketball rim secured on a metal, fan-shaped backboard loosely mounted to its pole by two or three rusted bolts. The rim should sit no more than eight feet above the court, as higher rims require actual jumping ability to dunk. The rim will most likely slope downward at an angle of at least forty degrees (see “Bad-ass Moves,” below).

No net is used in hoops, as this not only slows the pace of the game, but also makes it more difficult to convince an opponent that his perfect shot was, in fact, an airball. (NOTE: A stylish fragment of chain is sometimes permitted to dangle from one edge of the rim.)

The ball may be any regulation-sized basketball, once it has been properly broken in, i.e., used until all the nubs are worn down and the ball looks like a black striped, orange bowling ball. Women’s regulation basketballs are especially appreciated, as it enables more players to palm the ball (again, see “Bad-ass Moves”).


First impressions are important in a job interview or a Presidential primary; in hoops, they are critical.

An official NBA basketball jersey with a player’s name on the back is de rigueur when playing hoops. Currently, the following jerseys are acceptable: Shaquille O’Neal (Celtics), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), LeBron James (Heat), and the perennial Michael Jordan (Bulls). Showing up with a Jason Kidd or Steve Nash jersey will likely cause confusion among the other players, or–in the unlikely event someone recognizes the name–could result in bodily harm to the wearer.

(Keep in mind that NBA players have far less loyalty than a cat in heat or the French, so teams names have probably changed by the time you read this.)

Shorts must have legs that fall to a point at least midway between the knee and the ankle. Ideally, the crotch should hang halfway to the thighs. If you have no such garment in your wardrobe, and cannot afford to buy one, ask your mother if she has something called “coulottes” from when she was younger.

Socks are legal, but frowned upon, as that money could have been better spent elsewhere (see “Air Jordans,” below).

Shoes must be Nikes. Period. Preferably all-black, and should be “Air Jordans” if you are to be taken seriously, although any Nike basketball shoe costing over one hundred dollars (U.S.) is acceptable.

Jewelry is not only allowed, but mandatory on many courts. Do not be deceived into thinking that wearing earrings, gold necklaces, and lots of rings makes you any less masculine.


No surviving hoops player is named Larry or Ed. Your nickname should be one that produces terror (“Icepick,” “Chainsaw,” “Glock”), admiration (“Air,” “Slam,” “Dr.”), or something wintery (“Chill,” “Ice,” “Freeze”). Feel free to incorporate elements or initials from your birth certificate. For instance, if your given name is Duane Lambert Pickford, you could go with “D-Dog,” “Cool-L” or “Ice-Pick.” Avoid “Du,” “Lamb” or “Picky.”


Hoops is played loosely along the same rules as standard basketball, but with a number of modifications. (WARNING: Actual modifications vary from court to court and even game to game, so be sure to observe for a while before venturing onto the court.)

Scoring: Each basket is worth a single point, unless one can inflate his own score (or reduce his opponent’s) without getting caught. Typically, games run to fifteen.

Make-it-take-it: Unlike basketball, hoops requires that whichever person scores a basket maintains possession of the ball. This keeps the emphasis of the game on individual scoring, where it belongs.

Loser’s Outs: Whoever loses a game typically gets the ball to start the next game. This helps to alleviate the need to play something known as “defense,” since you will eventually get the ball back in any case.

Traveling: This sissy call is unknown on hoops courts.

Palming the ball (or double dribble): See “Traveling” (above).

Three seconds: Attempting this call will get you severely beaten up, even if the man you’re guarding has grown visible roots in the lane and is unable to move without the help of construction equipment.

Goal-tending: You have got to be kidding.

Fouling: If the shooter is behind in the score, a foul is committed on every missed shot, even if said shot was a missed breakaway one-on-zero lay-up. Prior to the shot, however, leaning one’s entire body weight on an opponent, rendering him paralyzed below the shoulders due to fractured vertebrae, is legal.

Out-of-bounds: A moot rule, since stepping or dribbling the ball out-of-bounds has never happened in the history of hoops.

GAME STRATEGIES (with the ball)

Take the ball to the basket. Ideally, you should first stand outside the free throw line for at least ten seconds, dribbling the ball back and forth between your legs. This particular move has absolutely no value in basketball, but in hoops can score you serious “style points” with your bros, which is far more important than the actual score.

Once you have completed the above move, consider laughing at the man “guarding” you, and saying something like: “Shee, man, don’t know what th’ fug you lookin’ at, you ’bout to be used, mutha!” Combined with the between-the-legs move, this should convince your opponent he has no chance of stopping you, and is about to be “faced.” (See “Dictionary of Terms,” below.)

At this point, “juke” toward the basket, jump as high as you can, and hurl the ball in the general vicinity of the rim, much as you’ve seen NBA players do, only without any of the skill. This offensive strategy remains exactly the same whether playing one-on-one, five-on-five, or warming up.

In the unlikely event the ball goes through the basket, stare at your opponent in pity and say something like, “Cain’t stop me, cain’t nobody stop me, foo’!” Saunter (do NOT walk) back to the top of the key and wait for your crestfallen opponent to return the ball to you.

(LINGUISTIC NOTE: Mastering the dialect of hoops is important as the tomahawk dunk, regardless of your race, creed, or color. It doesn’t matter if you’re a six-foot-four dude from Watts or a five-five kid from Hong Kong: don’t step up if you ain’t got the word.)

Hitting two or more consecutive shots will usually convince your opponent to save “face” by giving up, and you can drive unimpeded for lay-ups for the remainder of the game, after which he will get a chance to play.

If your shot misses, and you are behind in the score, immediately yell, “Foul!” or “I got it!” or “Shee, man, why don’t you break my fuggin’ arm next time?” This will stop play immediately while you and your opponent discuss the incident for the next fifteen or twenty minutes, by which time no one will remember the score or, possibly, who had the ball in the first place. At this point, start a new game (see “I Got Next Game” in the Dictionary of Terms).

If you are in the lead when you miss the shot, it is considered good form to let the foul go, just to show what a good sport you are. This is optional, however.

(NOTE: Never, ever, say to your teammates “Sorry, bad shot,” even if your attempt flew over the backboard like a point after touchdown. Remember, it cannot have been a “bad” shot: you took it.)

If you decide to shoot from closer to the basket, for example after having missed twenty-five or thirty consecutive shots, you may use two techniques:

Technique One: Back slowly toward the basket while dribbling. If you lack actual ball-handling skills you can use the Magic Johnson method to protect the ball, i.e., use your free hand to slap away any arms that reach toward it. If you’re a big guy, use the Shaquille O’Neal method of slamming backwards into your opponent like an M1 Abrams tank stuck in reverse until you’re close enough to dunk.

Technique Two: This is for quicker players. Cut towards the basket, juking as much as possible without incurring spinal injury, and dunk if your man lets you get past him. If he doesn’t, hurl yourself into the air flinging the ball wildly in the general compass direction as the basket (see “Foul”).

Whenever possible, impress your opponents–and any onlookers–by peppering your offense with the following:


  • Dribbling the ball between your legs without ever advancing it.
  • Palming the ball (easier with women’s–or under-inflated–basketballs) while standing still, twenty feet from the basket, legs splayed, head weaving hypnotically left and right like a cobra’s.
  • Jumping up, grabbing the front of the rim and hanging from it, to show off your “air” (vertical leap). This is easiest on elementary school courts. (NOTE: If the rim is roughly horizontal, this is your chance to correct it.)
  • Dunking the ball then acting like you just won the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk competition, even if the rim is so low you have to duck to walk under it.

Work on these moves mentally, as any form of physical “practice” is fodder for ridicule.

GAME STRATEGIES (without the ball)

If your teammate has the ball, stay away from the lane so he can drive. Stand off to the side and listen to the banter between him and the man “guarding” him. If you pick up some good jargon, your time isn’t completely wasted.

If you are guarding the man with the ball, stand a few feet away from him so he doesn’t accidentally hit you with the ball while dribbling it between his legs. Grin at him and ridicule his skill, his hair (assuming he has any), his jersey, his shoes, his mama, or just yell out unintelligible jibberish to distract him: “Fug, man, whazzat? Whazzat ‘sposed be, ain’ got shee, man, ain’ got nuthin’ I ain’ seen, c’mon, lessee whachu got, ain’ got nuthin'” or other sounds to that effect.

When your man drives on you, back up until he gets within ten feet of the basket. He should have shot by then; if not, you now have the right to lean your entire upper body over his back, drape your arms around him like a mating orangutan, and grab him bodily when he tries to shoot.

If by random chance his shot goes in, shake your head as though you had just witnessed a Biblical miracle, slump your shoulders, close your ears to your opponent’s ranting, and gather your wits to assail him with another round of ridicule once he regains the ball (see “Make-it-take-it,” above). It might be worth trying the “airball” gambit here, if your opponent’s shot went in clean, without hitting the rim or backboard.

After your opponent hits his first shot, it is acceptable to try much harder on the next possession by using harsher language, ridiculing things you let pass last time, hanging onto him more fiercely, or even (if you can’t think of anything else) raising your arms from your sides. Should he score again he has earned the right to play out that game unimpeded, so stand aside when he drives to the basket. Odds are he’ll miss a lay-up at some point anyway, and you can go for the rebound and turn the tables.

Once a player scores and yells out, “That’s GAME!” (meaning he believes–or wishes you to believe–that he now has enough points to win), all play ceases until the ensuing argument concludes. Your correct response would be something along the lines of, “Game? Boo-shee, ain’ no fuggin’ game, whatth’ fug you talkin’ ’bout, you rollin’ or wha’, it’s twelve-ten OURS!”

If both opponents are equally devastating arguers, this debate could rage until dark. It might well be the most exciting–and most skilled–competition of the day, so watch closely.





You’re now prepared to step onto any playground and announce you “got game.” Drain a few three-pointers while the argument from the previous game winds down, slam some reverse dunks, then wait until you decipher which team you’re on. Once the game starts, you can now play with the best of them–as soon as someone passes you the ball.

Don’t hold your breath.

Airball: A shot that hits neither the rim nor the backboard. In hoops, this may include shots that go through the basket, depending on the arguing skills of the defender.
Blocked shot: To swat the ball away after it leaves an opponent’s fingers and before the ball goes through the basket and hits the ground. This is one of the key reasons to play on seven-foot rims. Try to spike the shot at least fifty feet off the court; simply deflecting the ball to a teammate is pointless, as that teammate most likely will not pass it back to you anyway.
Conscience: A troubled feeling some inferior players get after missing a couple dozen shots in a row.
Defense: Say what?
Faced: To have your shot blocked, be scored upon by an opponent when you actually guarded him, or have the ball stolen from you while executing your Michael-Jordan-crossover-dribble-reverse-spin move. “Facing” someone is unofficially worth approximately one thousand points.
Foul: The third-most common four-letter word used in hoops. More likely to have influenced your missed shot than gravity.
Guard (n): Whichever player happens to have the ball in his possession, as long as that player is between four feet and seven feet in height.
Guard (v): To stand somewhere on the same half of the court as your man.
Juking: A useless maneuver in which you thrash your head and shoulders in directions utterly unrelated to your direction of motion, usually employed while driving toward the basket. If you are guarding the juker, it is considered good form to pretend to be fooled by the juke.
I Got Next Game!: A pointless exclamation one makes while waiting for a game to conclude. In theory, the first person to call it gets to play in the subsequent game. In practice, the current players may well decide they don’t really know who won that game and start over.
Pass: A mythical technique where one voluntarily gives the ball to a teammate without shooting. Reportedly used mostly by white guys who shouldn’t have gotten the ball in the first place.
Practice: See “Defense.”
Shoot: The reason God put you on this planet.

There are an infinite number of variations on hoops. Some are minor; for example, how long one should hang from the rim after a dunk (hit or missed). Others are more significant, involving completely different rules. Here are a couple of major variations you might find on the court:
Scramble: This is known by many names: Scramble, Suicide, Two-on-One, etc. All of them are forms of hoops for three people. Since the laws of physics prevent anyone from sitting out while the others play one-on-one, Scramble was created for games of three. In this game, one person “jukes” to the basket while the other two stand under the rim waiting for the rebound. If the shooter manages to score, he gets to shoot something called a “free throw” until he misses. Usually this doesn’t take long. In the unlikely event the shooter hits two consecutive free throws, opponents are permitted to distract him by standing in the lane, waving their hands, or holding the shooter’s arms to his sides.
Horse: This is the classic game of skill whereby players demonstrate their superiority by hitting shots previously thought impossible, and that their opponents must then match. Good shots to use are the double-reverse fall-away three-sixty over-the-head reverse dunk, and passing the ball to oneself off the “glass” (backboard) and executing an alley-oop one-handed tomahawk slam dunk. Don’t worry if you cannot actually hit any of these shots; taking shots you’re likely to hit is for pussies.
If the laws of probability ever do enable a participant to hit a shot, his opponent must then do the same; if he misses he gets a letter. Resorting to tactics such as free throws, jump-shots, or left-handed layups will terminate the game immediately via the unspoken “ass-whuppin'” clause. The first player to get all the letters (HORSE) loses. Since several hours can elapse before anyone manages to hit five shots, it is acceptable to shorten the game to “HO.”

Feds Smash Pokemon Fighting Ring

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Monday, agents from the FBI and BATF raided nationwide fighting rings that a spokesperson described as “a brutal, horrific sport that makes [Michael] Vick’s dog ring look like a puppy daycare.”

So-called “pokemon” rings pit rare, exotic animals against each other. At the behest of their owner/trainers, these animals then fight until one is beaten unconscious.

“You can’t fathom the brutality,” said FBI spokesperson Meredith Baker. “Imagine someone putting a small, fluffy kitten up against, say, a fire-breathing metallic dragon.”

Pokemon rings have been operating in the U.S. since the mid-90s. No one knows exactly how lucrative the sport has become, but some estimate the total income from the sport at $15 billion.

“Probably the most disturbing element of these rings is how they are marketed to children,” said Baker. “We’ve heard of kids as young as six getting involved.”

Participants can buy their animals, or “pokemon,” from other owners or capture them in the wild. Biologist William Hightower at the Brookings Institute specializes in exotic animals. “The government has long turned a blind eye to these activities,” Hightower claims. “Trainers often capture these animals when they are young. They keep them caged in tiny ‘pokeballs,’ isolated, without light, and usually with no water or sanitary facilities. They may keep them captive for years, training them in all manner of fighting.”

Videos of the battles have filtered throughout the world, furthering the demand for these creatures. No one is certain where the animals originate or, more worrisome, where they end up.

“Even as we speak, new species are being bred in special labs, probably in Japan,” said Ms. Baker. “Then they are released into the wild for capture.” The number of species is uncertain but now numbers “in the hundreds” according to Dr. Hightower.

And once their “trainers” are finished with them? “Sometimes, they get traded to others, often as a means to introduce children into this horrific sport. Other times, well, we think they’re just abandoned. Many have been spotted lurking in landfills around the country.”

Parents are especially concerned. “Ever since my daughter, Kaitlyn, got involved, it’s all she thinks about,” laments Sherry Greenburg of Seattle. “I don’t know what happens to her allowance; we’re afraid it all goes into pokemon,” she added, breaking into tears.

Kaitlyn is nine.

Does this latest sting mean the end of the pokemon fighting rings? “Sadly, not at all,” says Baker. “It’s like the war on drugs; as long as a demand exists, people will find a way to acquire pokemon.”


The annual Bulwer-Lytton contest challenges writers to come up with worse opening lines than nineteenth-century writer, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who opened his novel Paul Clifford with the famous words:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

The contest has grown in popularity and now receives over 10,000 entries in many different categories. Here are my own entries over the years:


  • Sister Mary Theresa went to Mexico to clothe the needy, cure the sick, and feed the starving, but it wasn’t until after her first native meal that she truly became a woman with emission.
  • It didn’t take Inspector Watkins long to realize the Case of the Confectioner’s Daughter was going to bring him nothing but truffles.
  • Filbert P. Pistachio and his wife Macadamia considered themselves eccentric, but to their friends they were just nuts.
  • To an orchard magnate like Jean-Claude, Sofia was the perfect woman:  eyes like two blueberries, cheeks as red as two apples, lips like two cherries, breasts as round as two perfect cantaloupes–to him, she was a portrait in pears.
  • The nomads of the French countryside were famous for their corn and fruit, and were thrilled when they heard Marc Antony was arriving to show them how to grow more crops, but to their shock and dismay Antony’s troops immediately confiscated their harvest and Antony himself proclaimed: “French roamin’ country men, send me your ears; I come to seize your berries, not to raise them!”


  • Star Command Captain Jock Steele stared at his new First Officer, Desiree Smithington, her blue eyes twinkling like the stars outside their spaceship did not, because they were in space where there is no air, unlike in the ship, except for in Steele’s lungs from which Desiree had taken his breath.
  • Revulath decided to keep his day job, which, since he lived on the side of Antares V that always faced the sun, wasn’t that surprising.
  • Lucifer sweltered on his throne, mopping his horned forehead with a sweat-soaked rag and thinking yet again, “Man, it’s hot as hell in here.”


  • On stakeout with his young, brand-new partner, Detective Johnson quickly realized that “the lights were on, but nobody was home”–which was not surprising since criminals never worry about saving energy.
  • The case ate at Detective John Martin’s gut like the week-old lasagna he had for yesterday’s dinner and which still lay in his stomach like an unemployed brother-in-law, causing him to chew laxative tablets like Pez and wash them down with shots of Milk of Magnesia, waiting for it to work its lumbering way through his intestines like a pasta and cheese spelunker–ah, but I digest.


  • It was a dark and romantic night, and John stared into Monica’s moonlit eyes, which glowed like a pair of 500,000-candlepower searchlights, but without all the bugs.
  • Marguerite strode into the room, tall, elegant, and a real head-turner, now that she’d finally passed her chiropractic exam.


  • Beth was a hearty woman who laced her speech with more curses than a longshoreman, though a longshoreman would probably use a word like “peppered” since “laced” sounds kinda gay.
  • Slim pulled his horse to a halt, his throat as dry as the desert sand around him which seemed to be mostly in his mouth.

Gun Nuts

by Terry Burlison

I rarely spend my mornings running half-naked through our neighborhood, waving a handgun over my head.

Only once, in fact.

I was lying in bed, blissfully snoring my way to my nine o’clock alarm when Linda, my wife, burst into our bedroom. “Someone’s trying to break in our house! I think they’re already inside!”

I blinked awake, considered her words, then rolled over to go back to sleep. She seemed insistent on the point, however, so I reached into the headboard and took out my Ruger .22 target pistol. Frankly, I wasn’t concerned; women are always going on about something mythical: relationships, PMS, the G-spot. She probably mistook some mushroom-hunting kid prowling our lawn for Osama Bin Laden.

I yawned and half-heartedly racked the bolt on the pistol, expertly jamming a bullet sideways somewhere inside it. I meandered downstairs, still working the bolt in an effort to clear the jam.

We lived in a tri-level house. The bedrooms were on the top floor, the central level included the kitchen and living room, and the bottom level houses the recreation room, laundry room, and garage. I descended into the middle level and looked around. Nothing.

“He’s downstairs,” my wife whispered.

“Yeah, I’m sure he is.” Frustrated with the gun, I finally took the magazine completely out of the pistol and cleared the jam, ejecting a single round that skittered across the linoleum like a brass insect. I reinserted the magazine and authoritatively chambered a round. I was ready.

Well, not quite.

“Do you remember how this safety works?” I asked. Holding the gun close to my eyes, I peered presbyopically at the safety, trying to discern if the little etched letter was an ‘S’ or an ‘F.’ I finally figured it out and clicked it off. I was now “loaded for bear.” Well, maybe for chipmunk.

I turned the corner and peered down the remaining stairwell. At the bottom, a small landing led to three doors, all open. To the left, our recreation room; to the right, the garage; straight ahead was the laundry room, where our back door stood wide open, a wound hemorrhaging daylight into our home.

“Uh, have you been outside this morning?” I asked.

I’ll say this for my wife: she could have cocked her head at me and said, “Oh yeah, I jumped out of bed and decided to clean the gutters. Sorry I forgot to close the door.” But she simply said, “No. Should I call 9-1-1?”

“Hell, yes!” I mean, really, women can be so dense.

I took up station behind the wall, my target pistol aimed down the stairwell. The perp would have to come from my left or my right and make a decision: turn one way and exit the house, or turn the other and ascend the stairs.

This he would not do. Behind me stood my wife; behind her, up the stairs, our year-old daughter lay asleep in her crib. Between them and this unknown criminal stood only me and my little gun. It might only be a .22, but I wouldn’t have traded it for Bill Gates’s entire fortune.

Waiting for the bad guy, I chanted to myself, “Five shots, center body, five shots, center body.” I had ten rounds in the magazine. Five shots, even .22s, should go a long way toward getting him to see my point of view.

From my left, some big guy dressed in blue flashed past, turned and raced out the laundry room door. In one hand he carried something. Something of mine!

Up to that point, I had been calm, neither scared nor angry. The sight of this intruder, however, detonated a fireball of rage inside me. Screaming, “Get out of my house, you son of a bitch!” I raced down the stairs and outside, hot on the trail of our burglar.

I did not even stop to consider that I slept in only a t-shirt. Barefooted and bare-assed, I raced into the neighborhood. At least the shirt was long-sleeved.

The bad guy glanced over his shoulder to see this half-naked, wild-eyed, handgun-waving suburbanite chasing him. Up to that point, he had been loping along at sixty or seventy miles per hour, but now he decided to put on some speed. Cutting across my neighbor’s front yard, he eschewed the easy route–the sidewalk or street–and instead opted for the greenbelt: a downhill morass of blackberries, stinging nettles, and, for all I know, those man-eating plants from The Little Shop of Horrors. In moments, he was slowed almost to a halt, struggling through this waist-high, middle-class jungle.

I stopped at the edge of the woods, no more than twenty feet from him. Raising my gun, I centered the sights on his back, rested my finger on the trigger.

“I’ve got a handgun, and I’ll shoot you where you stand, you son of a bitch!” I announced. “Now drop it and crawl your ass back up here!”

Verbatim. Standing in that t-shirt, I may not have looked like John Wayne, but, by God, I sounded like him.

I really thought my macho shtick would convince this guy to surrender peacefully. But I guess any crook that would break into an occupied home in daylight is one chopstick short of a pair. He decided to push his luck. He continued down the hill.

Damn, now my only option was to shoot. Not him, perhaps, but at least a warning shot. I wasn’t about to fire in the air: thanks to my college education, I knew the bullet would come down somewhere, most likely through the window of a Mercedes. I considered shooting into the ground, but with my luck, the bullet would ricochet off a rock, travel through the greenbelt, go through someone’s window, and strike a trial lawyer in the ass.

I could live with that. I aimed a few feet to the guy’s left and fired.

Anyone familiar with guns will describe a .22 as little more than a popgun. Fired on a dead-still morning, in a quiet, early dawn neighborhood, however, it sounds like a howitzer. The blast echoed through the housing addition, coming back to me from a half dozen different directions. The tangy scent of gunpowder filled the air.

That stopped him. Slowly, he bent at the waist–sideways.

Oh, my Lord, I’ve shot him! I thought. How could I have hit him? I mean, I knew I was no Harry Calahan, but c’mon!

He wasn’t hit; he just dropped whatever it was he had stolen then straightened. Raising his hands, he continued his trek down the greenbelt. I wasn’t going to chase him, and I wasn’t going to shoot him in the back. I just followed him in my sights. He reached the path at the bottom of the hill, turned and quickened his pace, heading out of sight. Before he disappeared, he called out, “You’re one brave S.O.B.”

I think he said “brave,” but frankly, he might have said “stupid.”

Once he was gone, I lowered my gun and stomped into the woods. I found his loot buried in the blackberries: my video bag, complete with video camera and tapes of my daughter’s first year of life. Not worth killing over, and sure as hell not worth dying over.

I pushed my way back uphill and home. (Only much later did I notice, with wide-eyed horror, the condition of my legs and feet.) Linda met me at the door, still on the phone with 9-1-1. I think she was listening to hold music. Fortunately for her sanity, she hadn’t heard the gunshot. Equally fortunately, I made it back inside just as the elementary school kids came trudging up our street on their way to school, moments too late for an impromptu anatomy lesson.

Eventually, the police meandered into our driveway and I gave them the whole story, somehow forgetting the part about the warning shot. (Discharging a gun in our neighborhood is probably against the law, bleeding heart liberal place that it is.) The cops were very helpful. They “dusted for prints,” put out an “APB,” and comforted us by saying that rarely do the perps return to the scene of the crime and brutally murder everyone in the house. After a while, the guy still hadn’t returned to surrender himself, so they left.

Later that day, my neighbor, a terminally polite lady named Phyllis, came by to ask about the “all the hubbub.” She had been lying in bed when she heard me shouting. Since I have a home business writing software, she was convinced I had gotten into some kind of red-hot computer argument with a fellow nerd, probably over the Windows operating system. “I was just lying there, trying to make out what you were saying, when I heard a gunshot! ‘Oh my god,’ I thought, ‘Terry’s killed someone!’ ”

It’s at times of crises that we find out what people really think of us.

I checked with the police a few weeks later, just in case they accidentally caught the guy in the act of robbing a doughnut shop. Not to worry; their brand-new, multi-million dollar, high-speed computer hadn’t had time even to process the fingerprints yet. The police are probably too busy using it to download porn from the Internet.

This rapid and effective police work convinced my wife it was time to learn how to shoot, so we took a gun safety class. When asked why we were there, my wife told the instructor what had happened. “So my husband thinks we need a bigger gun,” she concluded. The instructor rolled her eyes and asked me what kind of gun I had.

“A Ruger Mark II,” I answered.

She blinked at me then turned back to my wife. “He’s right: you do need a bigger gun.”

So, we upgraded our arsenal (including buying a gun safe), and we try to make it to the gun range on a regular basis. Linda turned out to be a better shot than I, and this is one time when my manly competitiveness has no problem taking a back seat to my survival instinct.

We have a 24-hour monitored alarm system; we also upgraded the locks on our doors. In the wild, wooly world of middle class neighborhoods, we’ve learned that one can never be too prepared. Should this ever happen again, we’ll be ready.

I’ve even taken to sleeping in shorts.