POEM: Blake’s Virtue

by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807

box of virtue, or box of sin
which one does this act go in?
and why put each one in a box?
to sell the sins down by the docks?

Blake the madman, Blake the pious
the difference reflects your bias
wedging each act into a crate
dilutes the evil and the great
all so the vain can extricate
themselves above the ones they hate

5 People You Probably Didn’t Know Did Evil

This post was inspired in large part by a tidbit about whiskey heir James Jameson (#1, below) in a book that I’m reading called “Crossing the Heart of Africa” by Julian Smith. It may have also been influence by having recently seen the surprisingly awesome “Wonder Woman” film, in which a central theme is the notion that good and evil vie for each person’s soul. (Note: I say “surprisingly” only because the DC movie universe has mostly been floating stinkers in recent years.)

 

I should note that when I started researching, there were an astounding number of candidates for the slots on this list, and so you may have a favorite example that didn’t make the list (please feel free to comment on any prime examples that I missed below.) As for criteria, I tried to avoid including people who just said horrifying things, who acted in an irresponsible or nit-witted manner that didn’t rise to the level of evil, or who were forced to make “lesser of two evil” decisions during time of war or national emergency.

 

I also didn’t have the time or energy to get into the he-said-she-said of politicians, because in America ideological types accuse people from the other party all manner of evil, constantly. So I didn’t wade into whether George W Bush personally flew the planes into the Trade Center towers via drone-style cockpit override technology, or whether Barack Obama had all nuclear spent fuel jettisoned onto the Arctic Circle to manufacture a climate change crisis. (Note: neither of those is a real thing, please don’t quote.) But, beyond that, I tried to pick candidates that would come as a surprise, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone that a politician did evil. (Frankly, people would be more surprised if they didn’t.)

 

5.) Chuck Berry: He had secret tapes made of women doing their business in the toilets at his restaurant. I don’t want to be moralistic and get into people’s kinky proclivities with this list, but this breach of trust rises above and beyond.

 

4.) Alexander Graham Bell was a dick to deaf people. The inventor of the telephone advocated for eugenics, and, specifically, trying to breed the deaf out of existence. Sure, if you invent the phone, the people who can’t use it might not be your favorites, but trying to eliminate them… that’s just cold.

 

3.) Mohandas K. Gandhi: I said I wouldn’t pick on purely verbal hideous acts, of which Gandhi had a number from suggesting rape victims were responsible to supporting honor killings to racial slurs against Africans (quite a shocker for someone battling British racism so vehemently.) As far as actions, sleeping nude with his under-aged great-granddaughter is pretty vile behavior. It’s said that he was trying to challenge his celibacy, but you don’t need to bring kids into whatever oddities you need to prove to yourself. 

 

2.) Che Guevara: He had countless people executed without trials or due process. I included him because I assume that not all among the vast number of people who wear his face on their t-shirts are aware of this dimension of his character. Certainly, he was no worse than Lavrentiy Beria (Stalin’s Secret Police Chief), but I’m unaware of any idolization of Beria.

 

1.) James Jameson: The whiskey magnate bought an 11-year old girl so he could sketch her being victimized by cannibals in Africa. 

How to Kill a Rogue Yard Gnome, Part 1

Attribution: Colibri1968

Attribution: Colibri1968 (Is this gnome too sexy?)

Five nights ago, coming home at days end, nosing my car into the drive, I startled. Where my headlights should have roamed over a patch of bare grass, instead the light glared off of the white beard and ruddy cheeks of one of my three lawn gnomes. I braked and swung the wheel hard to avoid grazing the gnome with my bumper. I could have sworn that gnome was always much closer to the house.

Somebody must have moved it.

By the light of the next morning, a ring of flattened, brown grass confirmed my suspicions from the previous night. I had no time to consider who might have moved the gnome.

No harm, no foul.  

*

Four nights ago, coming home, the gnome was not at the edge of the drive where it had been. I assumed that whoever had moved it put it back where they found it. But it wasn’t there either.

Rummaging through a drawer of loose tools and hardware, I grabbed a flashlight. I went through the front yard, swinging the beam of light in wide arcs, intent on finding the missing gnome. It was then that I noticed that the others were missing. I was considering whether it was worth calling the cops for the theft of a few cheap yard gnomes when I turned and my light reflected off something white in the side yard.

I rounded the corner cautiously, not wanting to piss myself if some prankster youths jumped out from my shrubs. There were no youths, just the three errant gnomes. The trio faced into the center of a circle as if they were conversants at a cocktail party. I looked around, in case this prank was being caught on some sort of candid camera. Not that I would be able to see the conspirators in the darkness, for I didn’t want to go shining my light into the neighboring properties. So I shrugged and went back in the house leaving the gnomes to their silent cabal.

The next morning, the gnomes were back in what— as far as I could tell— were their original positions.

*

Three nights ago, I came home hoping the prankster had gotten it all out of his system. But when my headlights washed over the front lawn, I gulped. One of the gnomes lie on his back. The other two stood gazing into each other’s eyes, one at the downed gnome’s feet and one at his head.

This is getting to be enough already, I’d thought.

Given the ominous tone of the latest prank, I didn’t venture outside to reset the gnomes that night. I had a largely sleepless night, wondering if this was more than a prank, if it was some sort of dire message. I put my sleepless night to good use devising my plan.

In the morning I found that two of the gnomes were back in their original positions and the third was missing altogether. That sealed it. I would move forward with my plan.

*

Two nights ago, I came home later than usual, having stopped at an electronics store to buy a video camera with night vision and a tripod. You’ll not be surprised to learn that one of the two remaining gnomes was smashed to shards while the other stood casually at its feet.

Anger now trumped fear, and I was prepared to catch the culprit in the act. Without turning on the light in the front room in order to avoid alerting my tormentor, I set up the tripod. In my bedroom, where nobody could observe me, I made sure the camera worked. I recorded the cat yawning and played it back. I cut the lights and made sure the night vision worked. I confirmed that I had sufficient memory for the entire night. Returning to the front room, I trained the camera on the gnome and gnome remnants. I checked and double-checked the power, memory, and the settings. Confident that all was set to capture the ne’er-do-well, I retired to bed for a sound night’s rest.

The next morning, I strode into the front room. I could see through my front window that the gnomes, broken and whole, were both gone from where they had lain, and that the camera’s red light was still showing recording in progress. I stopped the camera, confident I had captured the scallywag on video. I would call the police, and I would have the evidence I needed.

I pressed “play” and watched the green grainy video. There was nothing but stillness and the occasional branch trembling in the wind. In the interest of getting to work on time, I fast forwarded. When I was at eight times (8X) speed, I noticed there was and impression of movement, an inexplicable gradual shift of the standing gnome. The gnome shards also seemed to become faint, as if they were dissolving. I thought my eyes were playing tricks. At 32X speed, the standing gnome migrated itself out of the frame while the shards seemed to dissolve into thin air. No person or animal — other than a common squirrel– ever entered the frame.

Leaving the house that morning, hoping that the evil was now at an end, I was shocked to see that the remaining gnome hadn’t liberated itself from my property. It was right where I had set it years before. Unsettled and convinced that something wicked had taken up residence in my front yard. I grabbed an aluminum baseball bat from my garage and I swung hard into the gnome’s ear. The head flew off, revealing its hollow core. I must have looked like a madman to my neighbors as they went to work, gawking at me as I smashed the gnome to shards and then the shards to dust.

So you must be wondering why this is Part 1 and why there is further writing below. I just told you how to kill a rogue yard gnome. Did I?

*

Last night I came home to find a gnome sitting indignantly in the place of the gnome I had smashed that morning. It looked very much like the one that I had dashed to smithereens eleven hours before; except that instead of a big, beaming smile, its face was a scowl.

TO BE CONTINUED