Spontaneous Combustion and you (& me)

I have never seen anyone spontaneously combust, even though when I was a child they seemed to talk about this on TV regularly. I’ve never even walked into a room and had people say “You just missed it. There was a spontaneous combustion. Say, Clark, you’re never here when spontaneous combustions happen. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect you were Superman.”

I hear spontaneous combustions used to be so common that Reader’s Digest used to run a popular monthly feature titled “The Lighter Side of Spontaneous Combustion.” It was a different age. Now we know that spontaneous combustion is not funny; and encouraging the average person to come up with a supposedly amusing anecdote about it is simply encouraging them to light someone aflame for fifty dollars and a national byline. And what publication would pay fifty dollars for an amusing anecdote these days? Perhaps combustion is on the wane because the death of print has taken the profit out of it. For exposure, of course, someone may do it for free. But print is dead. And in a visual medium people would suspect special effects, that is, foul play.

In addition, society has lost its spontaneity. All combustion must now be planned. There are city and county-wide burn bans. Burning requires a permit. Smoking is frowned upon. There are issues of air quality and global warming. Clothing is fire retardant, and so is the blood of the average person, through chemical absorption.

Today if you see someone burst into flames you can be confident someone started that fire, rather than standing there wondering whether that’s the sort of thing that “just happens” and then talking about your concerns to a documentary crew.

It is, I suppose, possible that these things do happen spontaneously and there is now a government coverup regarding them. It’s one thing to believe in spontaneous combustion, but quite another thing to believe in the government coverup of the same. If anything the authorities would rather you believe fires just happen than that someone is starting them. Especially if people are being burnt up by large corporations. Yes, sometimes fire just happens.

You and me
and a fire set by thee
and I’ll see you on the news tomorrow
Me and you
and a stormy hullabaloo
that’s one hot story to follow.



Insult to Injury

The US medical system has long claimed to be exceptional.

For example, every medical billing department has a team on staff to add insult to injury. They wanted to know if they could keep them under the new law.

And the answer was, “Yes, if you like them.”


Postage past due

I received an Xmas card saying, “Don’t get trapped in a snow globe.” Now I am trapped in a snow globe. I have almost no one to blame but mysel…
After all, this was a trap.
The mathematics of culpability, squared.

Years ago postage stamps were bothersome. With the advent of self-adhesion, we finally licked that sticky little problem. Progress, but at great price.


The pudding of Xmas past, the gruel of Xmas present

The most famous reindeer of all was Charles Dickens. What a Dickens!
He invented Xmas pudding. Which hardly anybody eats anymore. He started the tradition of orphans eating thin gruel. Now nobody eats gruel. Except orphans. Xmas morning: “Hello gruel world.”
(Gruel world is a future theme park for orphans.)
The Dickens, you say!

(This festive octopus painting by Richard F. Yates.)

The stuff of monsters and love stories

Every good long-term relationship is built on one of the participants not being eaten by a monster. This is my writing tip for the day.

One of the participants in a love story being eaten by a monster, of course, is the stuff of tragedy.
Unless it’s a comedy.

Whenever I have a character be eaten by a monster I don’t plot it out. Because that’s not the way it happens in the real world.

Remember that a tragic love story is still a love story. This may be viewed as a flaw in the categorization of stories.