Just Like Missionaries

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kids! Here's something you should know when you go trick-or-treating (or whatever you kids call it these days) tonight. If you knock on any doors and are greeted with full- (or even king-) sized candy bars, instead of the "fun-size" standard fare for Halloween, chances are, you're dealing with an atheist. Atheists are required by their faith to give generously on Halloween because it is their only way to atone for the sins of man.

Catholic children should also be aware that the Pope has forbidden you from accepting candy from atheists. The Church believes that doing so will leave you open to demonic possession. I certainly don't endorse this claim, but I'm not here to criticize anyone's whacky beliefs and, hey, it doesn't hurt to play it safe.

Finally a tip for children living in my neighborhood: I'll be turning trick-or-treaters dressed as vampires away empty-handed. It's nothing personal, but unpleasant memories of my recent dealings on Vampire Island are fresh in my mind, and I don't need you reopening the wound.

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Big Shoes to Fill

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In the old days, accidental fires were a much bigger problem than they are today, but there was an upside that we lack today: they provided excellent entertainment before the advent of TV. In those days, the U.S. had no publicly funded fire departments, and the public relied on loosely organized troupes of firefighters who were forced to depend on other means to keep their business afloat. Given the crowds that the spectacle of a raging fire tended to draw, simply "passing the hat" was enough to fund these bohemian bands of bravadiers - at first.

It wasn't long before the old invisible hand of the market began to put the pressure on our heroes, and as demand steadily increased for spectacular feats of extinguishment, showmanship became as big a part of the job as saving lives. An entire brigade would often emerge at the scene of a blaze from a single tiny truck, sometimes conquering the inferno exclusively by stomping it out with oversized shoes. They would pull off daring feats, performing acrobatic stunts in the midst of the fire while scattering fire-retardant powder, simultaneously wowing the crowd and dousing the flame.

The public called these hero-entertainers "clowns" - a reference to the clownfish-esque coloring of their faces due the oxidation of the white fire-retardant makeup caused by the heat of the blaze - and for a time they enjoyed almost universal admiration. Keen observers noticed, however, that although fire-prevention measures continued to improve, house fires seemed only to increase in both number and intensity. As public record keeping became more organized, it became apparent that the majority of these fires were, in fact, started by the clowns themselves.

The backlash was immediate, and Congress rushed to push through new legislation outlawing fireclowning and establishing the socialized firefighting system that we enjoy today.

The suddenly jobless clowns, who were not as frugal with money as they were cunning, desperately tried to hold onto their way of life by staging performances in old, condemned buildings, but without the heroic appeal, the public quickly lost interest. They might have died out altogether had it not been for former clown and shrewd businessman P. T. Barnum. Barnum's invention, the traveling circus, gave the clowns only a shadow of their former success, but at least it was honest work.

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Leap of Faith

Friday, October 19, 2007

You may have heard that fleas can jump, relative to their length, further than any other animal. In fact this is not the case: the gentle seagull bests the flea with a mighty 200 meter leap. You'll probably never witness this, however, as they vastly prefer flying.

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