Monday, March 20, 2023

Crystal Ball For Sale

Just eight days ago the 2023 motion picture Oscars were awarded. (That I have no idea who won what is irrelevant here.) Apparently, the Dodo was not the judge of the awards, as not everyone received a prize. (Actually, everything written so far is irrelevant to the point that I hope to make shortly.)

What did spur me into writing this was an article in the Guardian on the Wednesday after the Sunday awards ceremony, the headline of which was:

Oscars 2024: who might be in the running for next year’s awards?(1)

Was I wrong in thinking that with over 360 days to go a prognostication about next year’s Oscar race was just a wee bit premature?

Then again, it just might have been that I was worn down by the aftereffects of the run-up to the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, which was Friday, Mar 3, 2023 3:00 PM ET. For weeks—nay, months—before the deadline, sports sites specializing in hockey news were filled with hints, rumors, and speculations about which teams would trade which players to whichever other teams. I’m sorry now that I didn’t catalogue some of the actual ruminations, but many went like this:

Which 12 teams should look to acquire player X?

6 players that team Y might acquire.

I was eagerly waiting for a headline that read:


The speculations about individual players were interesting—and almost totally wrong. Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes was, everybody knew (as the team made clear), going somewhere. Prognosticators at one point had him just inches away from becoming a member of the Los Angeles Kings. When that fever broke, thoughts turned to his joining the Edmonton Oilers (if the Oilers couldn’t pry Erik Karlsson loose from the San Jose Sharks and his big contract). 

And how did things end up? The Oilers traded for Mattias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators, and Chychrun amazingly landed in Ottawa. (Karlsson remained in California.)

I could go on and on about what the hockey experts got wrong or didn’t see coming (Vladimir Tarasenko to the Rangers, anyone? James van Riemsdyk not getting traded by Philadelphia, leading to the general manager's getting fired?).

But the real nuttiness in the fruitcake baked by the experts was how—after it all played out—the speculators wrote columns or aired podcasts on why things didn’t happen. They strutted around as mavens of after-the-fact facts. 


Op-ed columnists and TV’s talking heads build followings by making bold, confident predictions about politics and the economy. But rarely are their predictions analyzed for accuracy.

Now, five Hamilton College seniors led by public policy professor P. Gary Wyckoff have analyzed the predictions of 26 prognosticators between September 2007 and December 2008. Their findings? Anyone can make as accurate a prediction as most of them if just by flipping a coin.(3)

Actually, I have seen other studies that have come to the same conclusion: Experts are really dumbasses who should have the decency to shut up. 

Just this afternoon I read in the Atlantic the following:

Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, when the GOP nominee, John McCain, forgot how many houses he owned, the pundit Mark Halperin became infamous for a prediction: “My hunch is this is going to end up being one of the worst moments in the entire campaign for one of the candidates, but it’s Barack Obama.”(4)

Writer David A. Graham goes on:

That became a notoriously bad take, but Halperin is unchastened. “You are about to increase the odds that Donald Trump will win another four years in the White House,” he wrote in italics on his Substack [about Trump’s impending indictment]. “You could in fact be increasing his chances of winning dramatically, maybe even decisively.

To sum up the smarts of the experts, there was the quick take on the present economic scene offered in a recent New York Times newsletter:

Economists expected inflation and rates to stay low for years. They were wrong.


Okay—time to confess. How good am I as a prognosticator? Years ago, had a readers’ forum (they called it an “affray”) on “The Sopranos.” I was an active participant (before a friend advised me to stop, as I was getting too worked up about the wrongheadedness of others). But before leaving, I posted a list of ten crazy off-the-wall predictions about the characters. And lo and behold, one of them actually came true: Paulie Walnuts would find out he’s adopted (Season 6, Episode 4).

So, there it is—on the record. I am a 10% believable prognosticator. Take the other 90% of what I say with a grain of salt.  



(2)  The NHL has 32 teams.



Friday, March 10, 2023

"Munich" 2023

This has been a blue-ribbon week in exposing the hypocrisy mill known formally as Fox News. E-mails released prior to the soon-to-be-tried Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News Networks and its parent company, Fox Corp, reveal that in private Fox on-air personalities disparaged the false voting fraud claims that they pushed on their shows. Perhaps the most outrageous dichotomy between private and public proclamations about the election was evidenced by the network’s biggest star, Tucker Carlson. As the New York Times pointed out, 

Mr. Carlson — who ridiculed claims about a plot to steal the election as “shockingly reckless” and “absurd” in his November 2020 text messages — also continued to give credence to lies about widespread voter fraud this week.(1)

In fact, Carlson in an e-mail has stated, “I hate [Trump] passionately.”

But that was in private. In public, the following picture seems to be more in character.

Why did Fox News, despite acknowledging behind the scenes the falsity of its claims, pivot to support of Trump’s stolen election fantasies on its shows? As News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch said about allowing Mike Lindell, an avid conspiracy theorist, to run MyPillow ads on the network, it was purely a purely financial decision. “It is not red or blue, it is green.”(2) 

After the network correctly called Joe Biden the victor in the voting in the state of Arizona, thereby putting up enough electoral votes for the Democrat’s victory, hordes of rabid MAGAs defected to (fake) news outlets even crazier than Fox, leaving the latter to worry about falling profits.

Sean Hannity, in an exchange with fellow hosts Carlson and Laura Ingraham, fretted about the “incalculable” damage the Arizona projection did to the Fox News brand and worried about a competitor emerging: “Serious $$ with serious distribution could be a real problem.”(3)

Thus the decision to appease the MAGA faithful—to promote false narratives that would keep the pointy-headed rabble tuned to Fox and their $$ on the company’s balance sheet.


Trump, himself, the other day paused long enough from crying into his Diet Coke about the “stolen election” to claim that he could end the Russian-Ukraine war by practically snapping his fingers. According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, “Donald Trump indicated that he may have ‘made a deal’” with Vladimir Putin “if he were president at the time of the invasion.”(4)

The great master of “The Art of the Deal” claimed, admittedly in his usual inarticulate manner:

I could have negotiated. At worst, I could have made a deal to take over something, you know, there are certain areas that are Russian speaking areas, right, like, but you could have worked a deal.”

Now that “deal” sounds just like Trump, a man who gives nothing of his own to charity; he asserts the right to steal from others (the Ukrainians, who obviously would have no voice in this) and hand their land over to a beady-eyed tyrant. 

Does this remind you of anything? Hint: I used the verb form above. That’s right: Appeasement —The Munich Agreement, (September 30, 1938), the settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland, in western Czechoslovakia.(5)

Of course, we all know how that deal worked out. 








Sunday, March 5, 2023

Is Everybody Happy?

`The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?'

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’

Alice In Wonderland


I recently wandered into a new supermarket in my area. Along the wall over the dairy section was a sign that asserted that the store had an award-winning assortment. Although the store was nice enough and the prices were generally fair, I questioned the variety on display. But who was I to argue with the granting of an award? 

Since that day I have became aware of award-bragging by all sorts of companies about their products and services. Why just an hour or so ago I learned of the “Most Awarded” Natural Smoked Salmon Nova on Amazon—only $107 for 0.5 Pound (Pack of 3). 

In a very short time, I have also found cell phone, airline business class, and on-line casino award-winners. Here are some other claims:

“Watches with award-winning designs and handpicked materials”;

award-winning independent journalism.”

Oh, and here’s an academic braggart:

“I have also written 2 award winning books.”

My greatest wonderment when faced with all this award-winning is trying to figure out who exactly is giving out the awards and what the criteria are. I mean, who goes around sniffing lox to see if a particular slice is hall-of-fame-ish or proletarian riff-raff?

But let me not carp that something might be fishy about all those claims of awards. Let me don the Dodo’s feathers and grant everyone a prize. 

To quote the old-time bandleader Ted Lewis:

“Is everybody happy?” 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Language Follies 3

We start off today with a major award: the George Orwell Euphemism Prize.

It goes to the university where I spent a third of the 20th century teaching: New Jersey City University.

Although I’m sure that cause-and-effect is not at play here, the fact remains that in the two decades since I retired, the school has plunged into massive debt (even taking into account that my monstrous salary was taken off the books). So, the school has announced that action will be taken to stabilize the ship: it will be “rightsizing.” 

That is, NJCU will be firing staff. 

And what can be wrong when you are doing “right”?

Now for some food shopping.

Can you imagine a more delicious way to expire than to munch some Tombstone Pizza?

Want some deli? Super Fresh supermarket offers this MOTO (Master of the Obvious) aviso in its weekly circular:


Are you “everybody”? Don’t you just love those ads that claim that “everybody” is buying this or that? Here’s a variation:

The Canned Tuna Every Family Is Switching To

Now, if ever I was blessed (or is it cursed?) to be a member of the management team for the advancement of this particular brand of canned tuna, I would raise my hand at the next meeting and venture to suggest that the company could save money by not advertising the product. After all, if “Every Family” is switching to our fish, all we’d have to do is wait and we’d have the market to ourselves without the need to spend even a dime more. History is on our side! 


What’s in your mailbox? Mine is filled six days a week with appeals from charitable organizations for some of my hoard of gelt. What most of the envelopes contain is something like this:

An offer for a “free gift.” Which qualifies as this post’s Tautology Award.

Aren't gifts by definition “free”? Would you spring for an "unfree gift"?

Anyway, I am a sucker for good deeds and have responded with a check to many of the appeals: environmental, medical, humanitarian. And as a result, I have accumulated a load of “free gifts.”

                                             Don't forget the hats!

Amazing, though, how many hundreds of dollars these “free gifts” have cost me.


Friday, February 10, 2023

Smoke Dreams

I went to pick up my laundry at the laundromat this afternoon. A scrawny personage in a red t-shirt that referenced Florida and US troops was delivering an oration on how Joe Biden would pardon Hunter Biden before the former leaves office. 

I—in my most statesman-like manner—exclaimed, “You're full of shit.”

Mr. Scrawny muttered something about Hunter Biden’s being tried and found guilty. To which I responded that before anyone is tried they must be accused of a crime. “What crime did Hunter Biden commit?”

Scrawny began to claim a collaboration between H. Biden and Russia. “Russia?” I asked. “I thought it was Ukraine.”

His answer was “Russia and Ukraine.”

At which point I turned off the discussion and said, “You are smoking some weird stuff.”

And as I departed through the door with my laundry bag over my shoulder, I exclaimed, “I have to get me some of that weed!”

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

No Controversy Here

Ron I-am-not-a-racist DeSantis, Governor of Florida, has been carrying on about the content of the high school Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. He claimed that the original program “pushed an agenda” and was particularly concerned about topics like Black queer studies and movements for Black lives.*

And the College Board, which oversees the AP program, has just announced changes—a new course framework that eliminates some of DeSantis' concerns.

Unfortunately for the College Board, the State of Florida has pre-empted the CB’s move and developed its own AP examination in African American Studies. We here at drmormalvision with our secret spies have obtained an advanced copy of the examination.




Circle only one answer for each question


1)  Clarence Thomas is most famous for

A—Dancing with Shirley Temple

B—Breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record

C—Serving for a long, long time on the Supreme Court

D—Having a great Afro

2)  Herschel Walker is famous for

A—Trombone solo on “Take the A Train”

B—Losing a Senate race

C—Writing songs for Motown

D—Having a great Afro 

3)  Michael Jordan did all but one of these:

A—Sold sneakers to Republicans

B—Dunked a basketball

C—Starred in "Mutiny on the Bounty"

D—Hawked underwear

4)  Diamond and Silk were

A—Brilliant political commentators

B—Excellent tap dancers

C—Antifa agitators

D—On sale at Macy’s

5)  Donald Trump did more for Black people than

A—Martin Luther King, Jr

B—Abraham Lincoln

C—Lyndon B. Johnson

D—All of the Above

6)  Black History Month celebrates

A—Boston Blackie

B—Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

C—The Black and White Minstrels 

D—None of the Above


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Language Follies 2

So here I am scratching my head. Pepperoni “Italian Style.” What other styles can there be? “Polish Style” maybe? That would be like finding Kielbasa “Italian Style” at your local supermarket. 


Yes, it’s Language Follies time again.


I should have started here: pre-pepperoni.

What is it with “pre-“? 

Here am I “pre-approved.” In other mailings I have been “pre-qualified,” “pre-selected” (or “preselected,” depending on the sender’s hyphenation quirks). 

“Pre-“ is the most redundant of redundancies. To be approved before I have even lifted a finger is already “pre.” 

I can only attribute this usage to the inexorable march of intensification by the insecure.


And what if we’re not “pre-selected,” but only just “selected”?

By what right have these guys selected me to represent Fords, New Jersey? Is it like tapping someone in a game of tag, and making them “it”? At least in tag there are rules about how one is caught. 

I am the captain of my soul—so get your hand off my back. I’m not “it” on your say-so.


I have previously written about the World Cup in the desert, but I neglected to point out the mind-numbing sentiments offered by advertisers on the billboards of the Qatari stadia. Try these on for size:

“Pause is Power”;

“Believing is Magic”;

“Impossible is Nothing.”

Is there a grain of sense in any of that? Is there any indication that the ones responsible understand how English works?


Speaking of not understanding how English works, take a look at this:

“Accidentally ate three bites of vegan pizza as it was not well marked. Whomever came up with vegan cheese really hates vegans.”

“Whomever” is the most useless word in the English language. There is seldom a need for it. Here, extraordinarily, it is actually useful: “The next year, he started going to meet with whomever he could about the possibility . . .” The word "whomever" is the object of the preposition “with.” But note that “he could . . .” is a dependent clause modifying “whomever.”

Now compare the above with these abominations:

“Still, the F.B.I. has been unable to identify whomever was responsible.”

“‘No, you listen!’ he yelled at whomever was on the other end of the call.”

“‘Honestly whomever is running this twitter account can go to hell.’”

"Depending on whom is asked . . .” 

“. . . kudos to whomever thought Reza Aslan would have chemistry with Miss Piggy.

In all these examples, the writer/speaker does not recognize that the following clause (not the single word "whomever" or "whom") is the direct object of a verb or an indirect object of a preposition. And a clause needs a subject in the nominative case.


Follow the ball:

Give the ball to John. (Noun as object)

Give the ball to the man in the corner. (Phrase as object)

Give the ball to whoever is in the corner. (Clause as object)


Now, of course, you would never write:

“Whomever thought . . .”;

“Whom is asked . . .”;

“Whomever is running . . .”

“Whomever was . . . .”


(Or would you write, “Whomever came up with vegan cheese . . .”?)

Nah. I think better of you.