Super Bowl insanity

Ladies and gentlemen! Strap on your helmets, gobble down a bunch of steroids and gear up for America’s annual celebration of beer, trucks, sex, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and so much more. Welcome to this exclusive pre-game coverage of Super Bowl Forty-Something. I’ll be your host, Blitz Butkus. But before we begin, I don’t need to remind you that one of the major storylines for any Super Bowl is the commercials. Yes, as the Cavalcade of Concussions unfolds on the field, the super-hyped subplot is the annual avalanche of advertising excess. Only in America on Super Duper Sunday do companies with serious bucks to burn pony up $4 million (yes, 80 to 100 times the median salary of an NFL fan) to air a half-minute ad. (Keep an eye out for the one featuring a pint-sized Darth Vader, Arnold Schwarzenegger and animated polar bears frolicking with girls in bikinis and the legendary Clydesdales. So adorable.) Of course, the spotlight on Super Bowl messaging also extends to newspapers. And because this page features information about the Big Game, each of the advertisers below has paid upwards of $1 million to broadcast their message directly to you. (So please: Consider patronizing Optima Bank & Trust for all your Optima Banking and Trusting needs.) Meanwhile, back to our telecast — my time-honored blueprint for reporting on the Super Bowl goes something like this. Welcome, sports fans. TV officials say elevendy billion people will be tuning in today. Fox promises that the telecast (dubbed “American Gridiron Devils” for fans in Iran and North Korea) will feature several full minutes of action jam-packed into the evening-long commercial-thon. It will, as always, be close-captioned for the pigskin-impaired. So-called “Super Sunday” comes but once a year. That...

Voice of Dr. King continues to sing ‘Let freedom ring’...

Our topic today is dreams. (Also nightmares, but more on that in a minute.) Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day across America and in New Hampshire, which, for some reason, was the last state in our nation to adopt the holiday in the name of this transcendent civil and human rights leader. Dr. King’s famous dream — delivered to a divided nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just over half a century ago — was about America living up to her promise. And when I listened to that speech yesterday morning, I heard once again his eloquent, passionate plea for what America, at her best, can be. I heard once again the voice of a personal hero whose dream of America as a place united in brotherhood deeply moved me many decades ago — and whose electrifying expression of that dream has resonated in my ears, and in my heart, ever since. Flash forward 50 years from that dream and it is time to wake up — because we are in the middle of a nightmare. Perhaps nightmare is too strong a term. I’m sure there is a better word to describe an America in which the wheels of power in Washington are rigged to roll over the powerless. Placed in the context of the current political (sorry, I’m still calling it a …) nightmare, Dr. King’s plea that together we might “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” sounds almost naive. Sadly, the black preacher and his appeal for brotherly love also inspired considerable hatred. Sadly, today, America’s first non-white president seems to have inspired a similar hatred. I’m not saying the majority of Republicans have decided to block...

Jury duty

I definitely have the right to remain silent. But, shocker, as usual I am electing to waive that right — this time to bring you an important bulletin about our judicial system. However, anything I say can and may be used against me in a court of law. I, state my name, do solemnly swear that the following testimony is the truth, the partial truth and everything but the truth … What’s with all the legal mumbo jumbo, you ask? I just got called for jury duty. And now a preponderance of evidence suggests that I will be driving to the Warren B. Rudman Federal Courthouse in Concord at 6:30 a.m. this Wednesday — or else. (The “summons” doesn’t specify, but I suspect non-compliance is federally “frowned upon.”) So I have little choice but to throw myself on the mercy of the court. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing I’d love more than to take a couple weeks off from work, sifting through clues and dishing out a double-life sentence to some triple offender — all while dining on free meals from the Sequester Cafe and popping cannonballs in the heated, Olympic-sized jury pool. Judicial myth: The so-called “jury pool” is not a giant container of chlorinated water used for recreational purposes. It is, instead, a group (or “pool”) of citizens from which a “jury” may be selected. (So no running, no splashing, no mischief involving an inflatable dolphin.) While I am super curious about serving — claiming my front-row seat for this very special edition of “Justice: American Style” — I’m also feeling jittery about jury duty. For one thing, I work for a newspaper and we barely have enough bodies to put out the paper right now....

New Year’s cat resolutions...

My cat presented me with a set of New Year’s resolutions this year. I was pretty impressed when he nudged the mouse to activate his professional-looking paw-point presentation. Twelve years old, and this is the first time Elwood has put together anything more complex than a meow-based plea for affection or a brief YouTube documentary on the relative merits of wet vs. dry kibble. Some of these seem a little ambitious, but he is a formidable creature: — Try harder to get at least 19 hours sleep each day. — Commit random acts of nonchalance. — Catch more mice. — Nurture my inner kitten. — Pay more attention to grooming those “hard to reach” areas. — Use digestive system to communicate distaste with present living conditions. — Implement Phase 3 of plot to seize control of household finances. — Purr more. — Take time to make sure key humans know just how much you … don’t care. — Avoid the vet. — Obtain catnip. I had the sense that part of him wanted to resolve something more daring — say, “Risk one of your nine lives” — but I think he got skittish at the last minute. After all, he’s not even allowed outside. But I salute him for taking the initiative. I was also very pleased that his list did not include any action items like: “Destroy some upholstery” or “acquaint yourself with the taste of human flesh.” Now, as for human New Year’s resolutions, these can be a little more complicated. Too bad we can’t collectively — as Americans or as human beings — make some resolutions and stick to them. Because here are a few things we might resolve to avoid in the coming year: hateful...

Ask Professor Christmas

Due to some recent confusion about the true meaning of this week’s important holiday, today we check in with noted yuletide advice columnist Professor Christmas. The professor — whose credentials include a Ph.D. in Christmasology from North Pole University and a master’s in Manger Studies from Bethlehem State — has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. * * * Dear Professor Christmas — I’ve spent a bundle on toys and presents in hopes of giving my kids the best Christmas ever. Should I be worried about the Grinch? — Felix Navidad, Epping Dear Felix — Fear not, for the Grinch — though undeniably a mean one with garlic in his soul, his heart an empty hole — is “fictional,” or “not real.” Unlike Santa Claus, who is not only very real, I had lunch with him just last week. No, my research suggests this so-called Grinch is nothing more than an urban myth created from the imagination of some obscure children’s book writer. * * * Dear Professor Christmas — Could you please share one of your favorite Christmas memories? — Joy from Stratham Dear Joy — OK, and here is a clue: It involves a very special calendar. A tale of young ones finding joy in simple things and the power of imagination. When they were little, each year my children would peek out the window — their presence rapt — watching for the postman, awaiting the arrival of …; the Emergency Calender from the Seabrook nuclear power plant. Oh, the historic pictures, the evacuation maps, the safety tips. (March: “Have you changed your smoke/carbon monoxide detector batteries?” Priceless!) ‘Twas truly magical for the children. How they loved to picture what we’d do in the...

Christmas fun ‘facts’...

Well, it’s official. Pope Francis has been named the Time magazine Person of the Year, narrowly beating out the president of Iran, Miley Cyrus and Santa Claus. Congratulations and Merry Christmas to the pope, but this month is really all about Santa. And his heavenly pal Jesus, of course. They team up together each December to turn out the hottest holiday on the cold-weather calendar — Christmas. Amid all the excitement, this can be a confusing time of year even for veteran Christmas kringlers like us. So it’s always good to have a little refresher on some of the highlights of the holiday. We’ll brush up on some Christmas do’s and don’ts, share tannenbaum trivia and review fun “facts” about Jesus, trees and mistletoe. Christmas No-No No. 1: Martha Stewart and other leading domestic experts agree that a host/hostess should never serve reindeer steaks at any Christmas gathering (not even if lovingly seasoned with Rudolph’s Meat Tenderizer). Of course, one of the most important holiday symbols — right up there with inflatable snowmen and ridiculously garish Christmas sweaters — is the Christmas tree (also known as a fir, spruce or evergreen, or sometimes a tannenbaum). Christmas No-No No. 2: Do not (repeat, DO NOT), when waiting in the security line at the airport, make any jokes about your awesome “tannenbaum.” Acceptable decorations for a traditional Christmas tree include white or colored lights, tinsel, paper chains, bulb-type ornaments, novelty ornaments ranging from elves to Elvis, strings of popcorn, candy canes, little bells, angels and stars, pretend icicles (and pickles), make-believe snow, miscellaneous shiny baubles and tiny saviors in mini nativity scenes. Also considered perfectly fine to spruce up the pine: a plastic Jesus, metal Jesus or wooden Jesus, along with...

Sprucing up Market Sq. for Christmas...

A 40-foot tree sprouted outside my window in downtown Portsmouth this week. Couple million pine needles hitched together by some branches and a trunk — soon it will glow with twinkling white lights, projecting goodwill and warmth onto raw winter nights. Yes, the massive pine is an unmistakable sign that the Christmas and/or holiday season is officially under way. Black Friday is now behind us, along with Small Business Saturday. Ahead: Cyber Monday and several more weeks of Tannenbaum Tuesdays, Wisemen Wednesdays and Myrrh’s Day Thursdays. (Christmas newsflash: If you were thinking about picking up some Christmas myrrh for the infant who has everything, word to the wise — a report in this month’s Bethlehem Journal of Medicine reveals that myrrh may be hazardous to your health.) Confession: Yes, I am old and cynical. And yes, some years I can be kind of a grinch. But I love Christmastime here in Market Square. The downtown illuminated — decked out in red and green. Pine boughs and bells. Brick walkways bustling with bundled shoppers bearing bundles of gifts — puffy clouds of white breath whispering from their lips. Hey, the trolley just rolled through the Square with costumed characters caroling “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” We know the forecast calls for snow (but only the decorative, fluffy kind; not the heavy, nasty stuff that makes cars crash and people throw out their backs). And while it’s true that the commercialization can get a little out of hand, veteran Christmas players know the holiday is plenty big enough to love both bargains and Jesus. Experts say the economic impact of the holiday season — when combined with the estimated spiritual impact — can reach as high as elevendy trillion. (Christmas newsflash:...

Palin Christmas book

Now that we are rolling into November, with Thanksgiving and Christmas just weeks away, I thought I’d wish everybody a warm and heartfelt “Happy Holidays!” Wait sorry, hope I didn’t offend you with that statement. I just remembered that when it gets cold outside, that’s when America’s annual War on Christmas heats up. And War on Christmas lovers have much to rejoice this holiday, I mean Christmas, season. That’s because Sarah Palin’s got a new book in which she blasts away at the godless “Happy Holidays” crowd and urges us to “ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas.” So rest easy, Jesus, Sarah’s got your back. Her new book — hailed by some as “the Bible of all War on Christmas manuals” — is titled “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.” Living up there near the North Pole, the former Alaska governor knows how much Santa hates it when people say “Happy Holidays.” It’s like he dies a little bit inside every time. Interesting that she also laments the commercialized aspects of Christmas in a book intended to get those cash register bells jingling this holiday, I mean Christmas, shopping season. But, hey, the manger is in danger and Sarah is sounding the alarm. For, as I reported last year at this time, the Christmas haters are surely stocking their arsenals with crude homemade tannen-bombs and Intercontinental Ballistic Mistletoe. And Sarah is boldly drawing a line in the snow. If you detect a pinch of mockery in the words above, congratulations! You’re now in the running for a chance to win an all-expenses-paid reindeer sleigh ride from Wasilla, Alaska, to Vladimir Putin’s house just across the Bering Strait. Really...

Haunted House of Representatives...

It is fiendish, blood-curdling and utterly macabre. It’s ghoulish, creepy and deeply disturbing. The most horrifying haunted house America has ever seen is located smack dab in the middle of Washington, D.C. It is (insert spine-chilling sound effects here) the Haunted House of Representatives. The place is festering with brain-eating mutants so horrifying that it only takes a couple dozen of them to nearly destroy the U.S. economy. They’ve already finished devouring each other’s brains, and they hunger to sink their hideous, rotting teeth into yours. They especially love gnawing on the part of the brain where most people believe in science — climate change, evolution, stuff like that. Then they move on to the part that believes in economic policy that benefits regular folks instead of the wealthiest among us, followed by the succulent gray matter that supports equality for gays and minorities. And they absolutely delight in gobbling up chunks of brain that believe in helping those less fortunate. Cleverly disguised in suits and ties to create the illusion that they are serving the public as congressmen — a role that has traditionally involved working collectively to craft legislation that helps America — they instead stagger around, arms outstretched as if entranced, muttering “Must kill Obamacare.” And, oh how they howl and shriek about smothering your federal government — strangling and dismembering it, cutting out its heart with a rusty chainsaw. Their anti-American skullduggery takes many forms. But it all comes down to one subversive, some say treasonous, obsession — and they have to keep it simple because there’s considerable evidence to suggest most of them are not too bright. Their mission: Make sure nothing good happens in America because their sworn enemy — that illegitimate, foreign-born,...

Forever (Cy) Young

A century and a decade ago last Sunday, Boston defeated Pittsburgh 3-0 to win the very first World Series championship. That’s 110 years ago. In 1903. Man, those were the days. The team then went by the patriotic name of the Boston Americans, a nod to the newly formed American League (est. 1901). We had the Cy Young. Then 34, Young was getting older when we nabbed him from Cleveland in 1901. But the 19th-century superstar didn’t disappoint, racking up 93 victories in his first three years sporting the B. He was pulling down big money — $3,500 (or a little under a hundred grand in today’s money). And looking at his stats, Cy Young would have easily won about 10 Cy Young Awards. His first two seasons in Boston he busted out monster numbers (32-11, 2.15 and 33-10, 1.62), then took a 28-9, 2.08 record into that first World Series. Boston also had Long Tom Hughes (20-7, 2.57) and Big Bill Dinneen (21-13, 2.26) on the mound. This was the Dead Ball Era, folks, and our biggest slugger was rightfielder Buck Freeman, who led the league with 13 home runs and 104 RBI, along with 20 triples. We also had leftfielder Patsy Dougherty (.331 and a league-leading 107 runs) and future Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins at third. (Note: It’s legit — and fun — to say “we” about one’s favorite team when referencing events that occurred six decades before one’s birth.) The deal back in ’03 was first team to win five, and Cy got knocked around a little in a 7-3 Game 1 loss. But after pitching seven innings of stellar relief in a Game 3 defeat, he came back to win Games 5 and 7...

Lights, camera, film fest!...

Life, death and everything in between is the theme of the much-anticipated New Hampshire Film Festival this weekend — featuring dozens of entries in genres ranging from cerebral slapstick art house film noir to post-apocalyptic spaghetti western thrillers. And — spoiler alert! — the program looks like it is more about humanity than jamming car chases and explosions all up in your face while you stuff your mug with that $9 triple-jumbo soda and a $12 industrial child-size popcorn. Based on titles alone, I’m stoked to see “Bicycle Hooker,” “Death of a Shadow” and “Patti and Me Minus Patti.” Also: “If We Were Adults,” “Mud Lotus,” “Alive, Feeling Like A Buck Seventy-Five” and many more. Just my luck that this blockbuster cultural event comes the same weekend as my first annual Unreel Film Festival. Mine also features dozens of entries in genres ranging from pre-Cambrian silent movie biopics to minimalist B movie sci-fi slasher “talkies.” And — spoiler alert! — not everyone lives happily ever after. (In fact, wait’ll you see how the protagonist whacks the bad guy in “Revenge of the Vengeance-Seeking Avengers”!) Unlike the N.H. Film Festival with its fancy movie screens and indoor venues, my film fest features raw, stripped-down cinema as it was meant to be enjoyed — on white and off-white sheets draped from walls, trees and poles at top-secret locations near you. Ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime to the macabre and back again, my selections tend to reflect the insanity of life in 21st century America. For example, nowhere else will you see Coco Flambizzington’s X-rated expose of rampant exhibitionism in the fashion industry, “The Devil Wears Nada.” I am also privileged to host the East Coast premiere of a genre-bending...

Shutdown showdown causes cerebral gridlock...

Gripped in an epic showdown between right and left! This just in: Congressional Republicans have closed the United States government — throwing a couple million workers off the job and freezing programs that help veterans and keep children fed. But that’s not the only collateral damage wreaked by the GOP’s decision to stick it to America by boarding up the government and threatening to default on the nation’s debts. Leading experts say the shutdown may put millions of innocent Americans at risk of suffering from confusion, bewilderment, revulsion, gloom and third-degree scorn. Also: bitterness, indignation, alienation, exasperation and moderate to severe umbrage. But what happened to me came completely without warning. After weeks of watching TV news coverage about the Republicans’ swell plan to use their power to abuse America, my right brain and left brain were at complete loggerheads and I appeared to be careening toward a complete physical, mental and emotional shutdown. Total cognitive gridlock. You see, my right brain believes that my left brain lacks financial discipline. So to try to force myself to spend less cash, my right brain threatened to shut down my body’s digestive system to save money on food. My left brain argued that such an action could severely harm both sides of the brain and perhaps even destroy the host organism (i.e., me). As talks continued, my left brain was unable to convince its esteemed colleague from across the cerebral aisle that its next move — shutting down my circulatory system — would halt the flow of blood and thus oxygen to the right brain as well the left. Unmoved, my right brain ordered my hands and arms to brew up another cup of tea as it explained that — rather...

Questions on Obamacare? Ask Prof. Pillsworth...

Better grab a fistful of aspirin, cause it’s headache time. Republicans are extremely concerned because America is suffering from a wicked case of Obamacare. It’s only known cause is Obama. And there is no known cure. Obamacare. A thing so evil it makes key Republicans want to shut down the entire government to try to kill it. Obamacare. A new study shows it can paralyze central government functions and cause otherwise marginally sane human beings to completely lose their minds. Obamacare. The Republicans tried to save us — heroically voting 41 times to repeal it. And they’ve worked extra, extra hard to make sure nothing good happens in America until Obamacare is eradicated once and for all. Nevertheless, Obamacare digs its toxic tentacles in deeper this week as its dreaded online health care marketplaces go live on Tuesday. This means millions of people who previously had no health insurance will be able to purchase policies, often with federal subsidies depending on their income. So you can see why it is vitally important for right-wing media and politicians to spread misinformation about Obamacare to poison public opinion against this malignant blotch on the American scene. However, there is at least one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. Obamacare does raise a bundle of questions. For example, what is the estimated subsidy for a family of 18 making less than 11 percent of the federal poverty level? And what will the Bronze Plan charge me for that combination sex change, double bypass, hip replacement I’m gonna need next month? Yes, health care in America can be a complex and confounding topic (X-rays reveal countless gray areas). But today we are fortunate to tap the expertise of the noted health care...

Cornpone plus: Ye Olde Farmer’s Almanac...

Summer’s over. The calendar says fall. But people are already talking about winter — that magical time of year in New England that starts any day now and overstays its welcome by a fistful of calendar pages. Fortunately, the new Old Farmer’s Almanac is here! Chock full of can’t-miss long-range forecasts, Yankee wisdom and timely tips on how to grow a prize-winning, 600-pound radish, this old-timey little tome with the busy, pale yellow cover has everything we need to endure, persevere, even thrive right through the winter and on into spring. A marvel of modern publishing, the almanac offers very specific information (P. 248) on the “Best Days for 2014” to: “quit smoking,” “cut hay,” “have dental care” or “castrate animals.” The sheer variety of information is staggering. From the tides and the terra firma to the stars — to the winners of the 2013 Beet Recipe Contest. The Husbandry section dishes out info on “gestation and mating habits” of a menagerie of farm animals. Vegetable gardeners learn the three most important words are: Rotation. Rotation. Rotation. Some farming folklore anyone? I quote: To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it. Sleet in February portends a good apple crop. Plant corn after the first woodpecker appears. This year’s edition even offers the helpful feature “How to Get Bitten by a Pet.” Trends for 2014 include the rise of robotic farming equipment and “vibrating forks that tell us to eat more slowly.” Even the ads are priceless. “RINGING in the EARS? GREAT NEWS For You!” Another one — for Athena Pheromones that boost your attractiveness to the opposite sex — is deceptively honest (“Not guaranteed to work for everyone”). This must-have booklet has been...

Curious about world affairs? Ask Prof. Nollege...

As the plot thickens from Syria to Russia to North Korea to tiny Portsmouth, my crack Triple Action News team brings you exclusive, up-to-the-minute satiric analysis of the major issues of our time. Today we are fortunate to tap the expertise of the widely non-syndicated geopolitical advice columnist Professor Nollege, who has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. * * * Dear Professor Nollege — Like many Americans, I am extremely concerned about the ongoing strife in the Middle East. The real question is this: How will the crisis in Syria affect the price of Syrian bread, also widely known as pita bread? — Pete, Main Street Dear Pete — Civil war has thrown the world Syrian bread market into a state of upheaval not seen since the olive oil embargo of the early 1970s. Syrian bread prices have climbed sharply for the third straight day amid heightening tension between Washington and Damascus and international calls for a boost in output from OPEC (the Organization of Pita Exporting Countries). Bashar al-Assad — an amateur ophthalmology known for his love of crispy brick-oven pita and his hatred of the Syrian people — inherited the presidency from his father Bashar H.W. al-Assad and now controls as much as 83 percent of the world supply of Syrian bread. CNN Middle East correspondent Baba Ghanouj characterized U.S.-Syrian relations as “falafel.” * * * Dear Professor Nollege — Hey, I thought Reagan crushed the Russians like 20-some years ago. What’s that Vladimir Putin doing on the news this week? — Mike, East Kingston Dear Mike — He’s just trying to feel important. Just a pathetic, puny little man craving some attention while he pretends to try to make his little buddy...

Back to school: No reader left behind...

OK, everybody. Summer’s over. Back to school. That’s it. Single file. No pushing. Get rid of that gum. What’s that, Johnny? Do you have something you want to share with the class? Let’s pay attention now. My name is Mr. Breneman … … and we’re going to be covering a lot of material today so I am going to need your undivided attention. And stop slouching. Let’s start with a list of spelling words. Ha, just kidding! Nobody “spells” anymore. LMFAO! In fact, the most popular form of communication — texting — is all about misspelling everything. Accidentally spelling a word correctly in a text message is apparently for squares, or whatever the young people call “nerds” these days. Next up, math. Hey, I thought math was about numbers. So what are all those letters for? You want me to calculate the value of x? y? OK, science. Little-known fact: Man’s activities impact the earth. Kids tend to understand this; conservative politicians tend to deny it. This is why most third-graders possess a more accurate understanding of climate issues than the average Republican member of Congress. English. Ever feel like you’re getting a little rusty? Me too. I find myself regularly in need of remedial work. It’s not that I necessarily want to know how to use the word “twerking” in a sentence. I’ve just always believed that I must stay on top of the ever-evolving English language to maintain my ability to write at a second-grade level. There, now that we’ve touched on the core topics, let’s move on to some cutting-edge education information revealed in my groundbreaking study of the American educational system, “Learn, Baby, Learn.” First, some true or false. 1. Any child who works really...

Lobster clause: Pinchy saves the world...

The world is full of surprises, yes? My friend Mark Sewall has been trapping lobsters for more than 40 years — his father and grandfather before him — but he never caught a four-clawed lobster. Until now. Yanked it right out of the frosty Atlantic just like any other scrappy, indigenous Maine lobster. But this one was different. Special. The little guy was packing one regular claw on his left. But halfway up his right claw, there was another claw sprouting out — and that one had two pinchers. That’s right, four pinchers. Helluva tale. Mark — who has hauled up seahorses, a tiny octopus and rare blue lobsters in his gear — figured the local science center would be a better destination for this cutting-edge lobster than somebody’s pot of boiling water. That much is true. The rest? Best take it with a pinch of salt. And maybe a dab of drawn butter. Cause there’s nothing like a four-clawed lobster to make the imagination run wild. Why, it could be a sign that the world just got a little more wonderful, or that the apocalypse is coming on Thursday. It could be a sign that lobsters are rejecting societal expectations that they conform to the traditional two-claw paradigm. Or it could be a mutant, freak, atomic, zombie lobster — brought to you by the Seabrook nuclear power plant and our friends in Fukushima. It could be a sign that pigs will soon fly or that swine will produce pearls. But I doubt it. And I could find no evidence that our friend the four-clawed lobster has any connection whatsoever to rising sea levels, the decline of the American dream or the serious situation in Syria. More likely it’s...

Single orange female: Sex, love and personal ads...

Aaahh, Portsmouth. It’s summertime and the streets are buzzing with what old-timers used to call the birds and the bees — young people of all ages out looking for fun, flirtation, maybe even a hint of romance. This spirited sea of humanity ebbs and flows over our fine restaurants and riverfront watering holes, where savory five-star aromas mingle with the salty sea air to create an atmospheric aphrodisiac. Add generous portions of alcohol — swirl in hormones, pheromones, cellphones — and you have the recipe for a potent cocktail. Yes, I am joking around here. But now that I’m single, I enjoy dabbling in the downtown nightlife. Opening myself to a broad spectrum of human experience — from optimism and excitement, surprise and enchantment, to exhilaration, fear of rejection and, of course, actual rejection. Caution: Like the swift river currents in the mighty Piscataqua, navigating these waters can also be challenging. So I also took the liberty of starting an imaginary new project that is part dating service, part personal ads. And already the online profiles and personals are pouring in. Here are just a few: * * * Single white single guy, seeking any single girl who will talk to me for more than 3.7 minutes. Wish I could tell you how pretty your eyes are but I’ve only had seven vodka tonics. OK, bye. Turn-ons: Nice smiles. Turn-offs: Awkward grimaces. * * * Sincere single girl seeking mature, compassionate young man who truly understands how to treat a woman. Just kidding! How about an emotionally stunted man-boy who can’t stop talking about his Jet-Ski? Turn-ons: Unicorns. Turn-offs: Corn-cob pipes. * * * Divorced male, 14 kids, unemployed, bad back, on probation, seeking buxom hellcat to help polish...

NSA surveillance linked to paranoia...

Leaks are all the rage in America right now. The strange case of Edward Snowden revealed that our government is scooping up data we once thought was private as part of its effort to protect us from terrorist jerkwads — like the ones we learned this week, through a leak, are looking to blow up something somewhere in the near and/or distant future. Now, in a controversial new surveillance program to protect us from various unspecified threats to our quality of life here on the Seacoast, I have obtained heretofore unseen communications from a variety of local agencies and entities. You know what they say: One cannot be too paranoid these days. (Note: certain passages have been redacted in the interest of national, regional and local security.) The following excerpts are from an internal memo from the highest echelons of Portsmouth city government — specifically, from the City Council’s clandestine Top-Secret Subcommittee on Parking. Subject: Prescott Parking Lot Despite the widespread belief and a growing body of evidence that Portsmouth suffers a parking shortage that greatly impact’s the local economy, efforts to take action on this critical local issue have become mired in controversy, with all possible sites for a second parking structure deemed unsuitable by one or more local interest groups. However, one swath of open area that has not yet even been the subject of a feasibility study is the expansive riverfront open space known as Prescott Park. A quick fiduciary analysis reveals this lucrative, centrally located downtown real estate generates no direct tax revenue for the city. Though in the summer months the site hosts cultural events that place added pressure on city emergency preparedness, throughout the late fall and winter the property in question lies...

Gun satire triggers verbal fire...

I wrote a column about guns last Sunday, and came away feeling like I stepped on a land mine. (No offense intended to the pro-land mine people.) The piece of satire that made a lot of people furious was titled “Questions about firearms? Ask Professor Gunn.” I concocted an imaginary, inflammatory Professor Gunn (a “noted firearms advice columnist”) to respond to imaginary questions about the role of firearms in our society. It was some dark, in-your-face satire — borne out of frustration. Frustration that, as seen recently in Florida, it is apparently legal for an armed man to track an unarmed man (or teenager) and then, when the confrontation he initiated turns against him, to kill the man (or teenager) he was pursuing without any courtroom consequences. Frustration that, after Newtown, an overwhelming percentage of Americans favored expanded background checks for handgun purchases, but — shock — Congress sided with the multibillion-dollar gun industry over the people. And frustration that debate on the issue is pretty much dead in the water. The column triggered plenty of heat, and hate, along with some intelligent, thoughtful responses. The criticism I found most reasonable and honest was that — by attempting to deploy humor in the context of such a deadly serious issue — I was guilty of being insensitive and unnecessarily divisive. Others suggested I had done a disservice to the vast majority of conscientious, law-abiding firearms owners by implying, as one writer put it, that all gun advocates are “bloodthirsty hate mongers.” That’s absolutely the opposite of what I believe. But I think the attacks would have come even if I’d found a way to convey that I do support our Second Amendment right to own firearms for hunting and...

Ask Professor Gunn: Firearms advice columnist...

Due to some recent confusion about when it is OK to shoot someone, today we check in with noted firearms advice columnist Professor Gunn, who generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. Dear Professor Gunn, For a good while now I’ve been itching to shoot a fellow human being, but I’m a little worried that our judicial system might send me to jail. What should I do? — George Z., Main Street Dear George, Fortunately, the law is on your side. Especially if the person you shoot has dark skin or is wearing a spooky-looking hooded sweatshirt. So go ahead and blast away. Doesn’t even matter if your victim is unarmed — the key is to make sure you say the person scared you. If your victim is carrying, say, a bag of Skittles candy, you can say you thought there was a rattlesnake. Stuff like that. Remember, nowadays, it’s more important than ever to stand your ground when you’re chasing down your prey. * * * Dear Professor Gunn, I’m kind of a ticking time bomb. I’ve got more guns than I know what to do with. I’m super anti-social, and I often feel confused and depressed. Plus, I keep hearing about these party poopers who want to limit the number of bullets I can fire without reloading my so-called assault rifles. That sure would stink for a guy like me. Thank goodness the NRA has got my back. How come they get such a bad rap in the media? — A.K. Dear A.K., Don’t despair. If there’s one thing you can count on in this crazy, mixed-up, bullet-riddled country, it is that the NRA will always have your back. You see, the gun-hating liberal media...

Port City Mongoplex: A modest proposal...

Here in quaint little Portsmouth (motto: “Tourist Magnet by the Sea”), the pressures of development are causing seismic disruptions in both the city’s visual landscape and the public dialogue. Construction is booming and critics are barking. But, predictably, the debate too often pits the Build, Baby, Builders vs. the Cease and Desisters. Into this volatile mix, I feel obliged to introduce a modest proposal for a historic, futuristic project that everyone can get behind. Heritage, haute cuisine, commerce and the arts would all converge in the ground-breaking, sky-scraping Port City Mongoplex. (For those not familiar with the term “mongoplex,” it is a concept I coined back in 2000 when I proposed that rustic, yet rusty Fenway Park be replaced by a 10-story multipurpose supertower topped by a glistening Neo-Fenway with luxury Green Monster seats offering spectacular views of both the game and the island of Nantucket.) Savvy urban planners understand that the revenue you can suck in with a colossal custom-designed Port City Mongoplex is astronomical. Picture, if you will, a squat, brick version of Boston’s Prudential Tower on steroids — with a vertigo-inducing array of retail, entertainment and investment opportunities. Here’s an example of the offerings on a hypothetical Saturday night in July 2015, if we get this thing on the fast track: First floor: An authentic, old-timey five-and-dime store called, yes, J.J. Newberry’s — complete with a nostalgic (circa 1972) lunch counter serving grilled cheeses for $1.99. Before this one-time Congress Street treasure closed its doors back in the late 20th century, I wrote a eulogy reflecting on those halcyon days of yore when a senior citizen could still purchase a tub of Vicks VapoRub, or a young boy some Sea-Monkeys, for under a dollar. Second floor:...

Going for the record

The record-setting “performance” by Joey “Jaws” Chestnut’s in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island — he downed 69 dogs in 10 minutes to defeat Hampton Beach summer resident Matt Stonie — got me thinking about Guinness. Not a tall, smooth Guinness Stout, though that would help wash down a plump juicy hot dog (or 60) on a sweltering summer day. I’m talking about Guinness the keeper and chronicler of amazing world records. Little-known fact: The fastest 100-meter dash is not Jamaican super-sprinter Usain Bolt’s extraordinary time of 9.58 seconds. The 100m record is actually held by a female — a Cincinnati cheetah named Sarah who covered the distance in 5.95 seconds, topping out at 61 miles per hour. (I’m guessing there was something enticing at the finish line, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a hot dog.) Whether you’re the tallest man alive (8-foot, 3-inch Sultan Kosen of Turkey), the shortest guy on the globe (1-foot, 9.5-inch Chandra Bahadur Dangi of Nepal) or just an Ordinary Joe, we humans have always been fascinated by world records. When we were kids, my brother and I found an early-edition green hardcover Guinness book in the family archives, and our imaginations took off. We thought it would be the coolest thing ever to get our names into that book. The fact that we were not particularly good at anything did little to dampen our enthusiasm for being the best at something. Unfortunately, we stunk at Duncan Yo-Yo tricks and there was no official record for most consecutive hours spent playing Hot Wheels with periodic five-minute breaks for Cap’n Crunch cereal. Years later, I would come up two feet short in my quest to set the high...

What would Founding Fathers say?...

The Fourth of July isn’t till Thursday, but there sure were some fireworks this week illuminating vital American issues of immigration, the right to vote and the ability to pursue happiness by marrying the person you love. The Supreme Court fires a rocket into the Voting Rights Act. Ooh! Then sparks celebrations, and tantrums, with its vote on gay marriage. Aah! The Senate blazes forward on immigration reform, igniting opponents in our horribly dysfunctional House. Ooh! Aah! I’m hoping these political pyrotechnics provide a high-voltage jolt to a democracy badly in need of one — as well as to we the citizens who supposedly run the show. We are a people suffering a blinding hangover from out-of-control parties — and I don’t mean the fun kind. I’m talking about parties hell-bent on making it harder for certain people to vote. Parties that, in state legislatures across the nation, are obsessed with exerting control over women’s bodies — and I don’t mean in a fun consensual way. I’m talking about two parties — run by rich men on the take from even richer men — whose votes are often motivated more by political self-preservation than actually helping our nation. After the Great Financial Meltdown of 2008 gutted retirement accounts and crashed the economy, we wished Washington would take action to protect us from the inevitable next disaster. Sadly, our fortunes rest in the hands of a Congress that refuses to lift a finger to regulate the big banks. After Newtown, an overwhelming majority of we the people favored expanded background checks for those buying guns. But the crew we elected to represent us just keeps shooting blanks. Why, it’s enough to make Joe Citizen want to knock back more than...