Month: January 2015

Book Review – The Paper Men by William Golding

I’ve been a huge fan of Mr. Golding’s work since I first read Lord of the Flies. It impressed me so much that, I’ve read everything by him that’s still in print. Why you may wonder? As I tell everyone who asks me that Golding is the one person I’ve come across who’s just as miserable and pessimistic as I am. Books like The Spire and Pincher Martin made my views on human nature seem upbeat. One can imagine my surprise when I opened the pages of The Paper Men. Golding did a complete about face and crafted a comedic piece. Based on my familiarity with his work, his skill in doing so didn’t surprise me.

Golding established the humorous tone of this work at the very beginning. A noise awakened the protagonist, Wilf Barclay. Suspecting a badger got into the garbage he grabbed his gun and went downstairs. To his astonishment the creature going through his trash turned out to be his house guest, a professor of English literature. “You must be very hungry, Tucker.” Barclay said. “I’m sorry we didn’t feed you better.” (Page 5) Shortly after this, Barclay’s pajama bottoms fell around his ankles. Definitely the most atypical opening I’ve ever read in a William Golding novel.

The story itself described the relationship between Wilf Barclay, a British author, and Rick Tucker, a college professor. The latter longed for the writer to appoint him as his official biographer. The author had no interest in doing so. In the scene I mentioned above, Tucker searched Barclay’s rubbish to locate writings the author may have discarded. While the two had a dysfunctional or series of antagonistic interactions throughout the book, I liked Golding’s continual use of humor. He even used a catchphrase popularized by contemporary comedian Jon Lovitz. “That’s—er, the ticket.” (Page 105) I’m not familiar with other instances of ‘serious’ writers quoting Saturday Night Live sketches.

Among all novelists awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, I believe Golding possessed the best overall writing ability. The Paper Men came out in 1985; two years after he received the honor. It provided a good example of why. Without giving away spoilers, the author showed a spectacular proficiency at foreshadowing. He repeatedly dropped hints by making references to a certain object. People who’ve read the book will understand. I’m not going to ruin the fun for readers interested in delving into it.

Golding’s unique gift for plot twists achieved its apex in this one. This book had the cleverest ending I’ve ever read. He crafted the narrative in a way any writing instructor would declare impossible. For that reason alone, I’d encourage people to read The Paper Men. Trust me. It will expand one’s view just how a writer can structure a novel.  I’m very surprised it’s not cited more often.

Expanding the epistemological scope of novel writing isn’t something any author can do. Even fewer can do so through a comedic work. This author achieved it. While The Paper Men may not be as famous as The Inheritors or To the Ends of the Earth, that’s more of a testament to the caliber of the writer than the quality of the work. That observation would make even William Golding smile.

Book Review – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers. (Page 313)

I never would’ve thought a young adult novel could be this heart-rending. Green crafted a beautiful love story around two teenagers; each suffering from different forms of cancer. It made the story that much more poignant and unforgettable. I had a new appreciation for the triumph of the human spirit after finishing it.

Green chose two exceptionally compelling characters to drive the narrative. He presented the story in Hazel’s point of view. In spite of the incurable cancer in her lungs, she persevered, I would say, heroically. At one point, she nearly succumbed to the disease. The author did a phenomenal job having her recount the scene as her anxious parents watched their only daughter almost die. While too sick to attend high school she received a GED and took college classes. A bit grudgingly, she attended a support group to help her cope with her disease.  That’s where she encountered her love interest, Augustus.

This former high school basketball player survived a bout with bone cancer that led to one of his legs being amputated. While cognizant of Hazel’s condition, he still pursued her. As if that didn’t demonstrate the strength of his character: his previous girlfriend passed away from a brain tumor. He recounted to Hazel the slow, difficult nature of her decline. The disease affected her mental state causing her to even poke fun at Augustus’ artificial leg. He still remained with her until the end. Keep in mind: he was only a teenager. That’s noble!

The author derived the title from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves.” (Page 111) Another great character, the quirky author Peter Van Houten, commented: “Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.”(Page 111)

Green used a wealth of outstanding lyrical flourishes in this book. The best included:

You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but it cannot resurrect. (Page 112)

You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are. (Page 123)

I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. (Page 125)

There are only two emotions, love and fear…(Page 188)

And the deepest line I’ve ever read:

Even cancer isn’t a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive. (Page 246)

The author weaved in an astonishing plot twist. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll refrain from telling readers what it is. I feel it would take away some of the book’s impact.

John Green crafted a powerful novel. The likability of both protagonists made it tough to read due to their medical conditions. Still, it was a rewarding experience to do so. I’d encourage others to read it as well. Just keep a box of tissues handy.

Theater Review – How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at Burlington County Footlighters

Some will wonder: why spend an evening watching people connive their way up the corporate ladder, cynically manipulate co-workers and eliminate any obstacle, both real and imagined, while doing so? Can’t one see that every day at the office? Perhaps, but Burlington County Footlighters made it an entertaining pleasure to witness such chicanery.

This cast, crew and orchestra got right down to business. Brenda Kelly Bacon directed and choreographed a phenomenal show. This performance showcased everything: singing, acting and elaborate choreography. It featured many memorable musical numbers. J. B. Biggley’s (played by Kevin Esmond) performance of his college fight song, “Grand Old Ivy” will stay with me for decades. The character showed more enthusiasm for his alma mater than I’m accustomed to seeing during March Madness. The musical also showcased some astonishing dance numbers. Several featured tap dancing. As I sat in the front row, my ears hurt a bit from the entire ensemble performing percussive tap. But as the members of Pink Floyd observed: “What price art, eh?”

All the actors turned in outstanding performances. Matt Becker displayed astonishing range in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch. He played a hyper-ambitious young man obsessed with ascending to the top of World Wide Wickets. Still, he did so in a way that made the character likeable and amusing. It’s a struggle to identify his core competency. He delivered comedic chops, sang and danced with equal dexterity.

Angela Longo (Rosemary) played an exceptional romantic distraction for Finch’s ambitions. She delivered a pining rendition of “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” about wanting to be a businessman’s wife. It added a humorous contrast to the following exchange with Smitty (Alexandra Haas).

Rosemary: “What do you call the opposite of a sex maniac?”

Smitty: “A businessman.”

I especially enjoyed watching Becker and Longo merge their skills and work together as a team. Both these thespians possessed very strong, clear voices. I relished the opportunity to hear them sing together. The two performed the ballad “Rosemary” brilliantly. I also enjoyed their rendition of the catchy tune “Been a Long Day” with the aid of Smitty. (Talk about an earworm. As I’m writing this, the song is running through my head again.)

Kaitlyn Delengowski turned in a memorable performance as the ditsy Hedy LaRue. It’s hard enough to speak in a squeaky voice let alone sing in one and stay in key. She played the role as a red-head as opposed to a stereotypical blonde. That added a more realistic touch to the character.

The show featured a litany of memorable musical numbers. I mentioned several already. Another one that I find myself humming from time to time is “The Company Way”.  (Al Krier, as Twimble, did a fantastic job taking the lead on this tune.) Some of the lyrics stuck with me.

I play it the company way

Wherever the company puts me, there I’ll stay.

And

Junior have no fear

Whoever the company fires

I will still be here.        

While listening to the song, I found the extent of its veracity on par with Biblical truth.

I also liked the “Coffee Break” number. The ensemble showed what that can happen in an office during a coffee shortage. Think One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While funny, I did detect a colonel of truth to it.

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying delivered a humorous send-up of one ambitious man’s rise to the top. Finch got ahead rather easily. The cast at Burlington County Footlighters succeeded in putting on a great show. I can’t say they succeeded as easily as Finch, though. The amount of time and effort they put into this production was evident in their performances. As always, I applaud and marvel at the passion I see in its thespians. The show runs through February 7th.

 

In the Hot Seat: Marie Gilbert

_MG_19971441369_10201895565463448_824479558_nCover for Roof Oasis

On January 23, 2015 the Critique Compendium’s editorial staff interviewed local South Jersey author, Marie Gilbert. I’m sure readers could discern Ms. Gilbert is an author: she answered all the questions in complete sentences. We conducted our discussion via e-mail.

Critique Compendium: They call you the “Steampunk Granny”. How did you get that nickname?

Ms. Gilbert: Everybody knows me as Steampunk Granny, but how I originally got the name will require a little trip back to the year 2008. I was working at the Academy of Natural Sciences and my eldest granddaughter, Allie Gilbert, was attending Moore College of Art and Design http://moore.edu/  which is right next door to the museum. Allie was also a part-time cashier in the Academy’s gift shop. One day, Allie stopped by the exhibit and invited me to accompany her to a Steampunk Event in Center City. I had no idea what steampunk was, but I would soon learn. Allie dressed me in one of her outfits and off we went to Dorian’s Parlor. As soon as I entered the ballroom, I was immediately hooked. I’ve been attending every event since. http://biffbampop.com/2013/01/01/enter-2013-with-biff-bam-pops-steampunk-granny/

Over time, I made many friends and because my granddaughter and I were always together at these events, her friends began to call me granny. It wasn’t until I was asked to take part in a Cabaret/Fashion Show hosted by the owners of Steampunk Works that I introduced as Steampunk Granny.

I have to give James Knipp, my friend and a fellow member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group the credit for officially naming me Steampunk Granny. Up until then, I was only using the title when attending Dorian’s Parlor, but James gave me the courage to use it all the time. Thank you, James.

Critique Compendium: What inspired you to start writing?

Ms. Gilbert: I grew up in a large Italian family and it was customary for adults and children alike to gather around the dinner table every Sunday at my Grandmother’s house. My siblings, cousins and me were entertained for hours with tales of our grandparent’s and parent’s childhood. The art of storytelling was introduced to me at a very young age. Although I wrote stories as a child, it wasn’t until I worked as the manager in the Academy’s Changing Exhibit Hall that I began to write seriously.

As part of my job, I was required to do extensive research for each new traveling exhibit that arrived at the hall, then I would write scripts for my staff and volunteers in order to help them explain the sometimes complicated material featured in these traveling exhibits to visitors of all ages. I was also in charge of the diorama carts, and again, had to prepare skits for my volunteers to educate the visitors. I received many awards and compliments on my skits and lesson plans.

I have always loved horror stories from when I was very young. I spent all my free time reading the works of Poe, Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein and H.G. Wells. When I retired from the Academy of Natural Sciences at the end of 2009, I finally had the time to take on two of my favorite passions; writing and ghost investigations. I am an Empath and I do professional investigations.

Critique Compendium: Could you tell me a little about your work?

Ms. Gilbert: A few months after retiring, I begun working on and completed a novel called Beware the Harvesters, but something happened on the way to getting this novel published. The secondary characters began to take over the story, fighting for their rightful place in my imagination and on the page. Roof Oasis was my way of satisfying one of my character’s demands to tell her story her way. Alas, this character still holds reign over my story. Book two of my apocalyptic series, Saving Solanda, will be out this summer, followed by two more books.

I love writing about zombies and even though they scare me to death, they are witness to what may come. Can a zombie apocalypse really happen? I feel we’re already there. We trudge through life in a daze, behaving like the shuffling dead, doing routine choirs or jobs that deaden our spirits and, we follow blindly instead thinking for ourselves. Scary right, now add to that scenario the long term effects of GMO’s on our health; physically and mentally. We are what we eat, and that, my little zombie snacks is the plot for Roof Oasis.

Critique Compendium: What’s next for Marie Gilbert?

Ms. Gilbert: What’s next for Marie Gilbert aka Steampunk Granny? I want to finish my apocalyptic series, then work on getting my Life with Fred and Lucy memoir published. I have a vampire story called New Home that will be published this year in the Bloody Kisses Press anthology Babes and Beasts and I was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Touched by an Angel with a true ghost story called Angel on the Footbridge. I’m still working on a science fiction story called Jack Sprat, the Amazing Adventures of a Slider and, I’m working on a book about a ghost investigation that I took part in last year. http://biffbampop.com/2013/08/08/gilbert-and-the-angry-ghost/

I was recently asked by Independent Director, Chris Eilenstine, to be a writer for his new horror film, Shadows of the Forest. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3264880/   This is my first venture into screenwriting and I’m both honored and very excited to be part of such an amazing team.

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Ms. Gilbert: The advice that I would give to aspiring authors is the same advice that I give to my nine grandchildren; think outside the box. Educate yourself by reading all types of books, even books that are outside of your comfort area. Think for yourself and don’t follow blindly. You can read all the advice columns ever written on how to write that perfect book, but in the end, you need to sit down and write the damn thing.

Make time for writing every day. Make it part of your daily routine. The more you write, the better you’ll get.  Start a blog and post a story at least once a week. You should blog about people, places and things that you find interesting. If it’s interesting to you, believe me, others will also find it interesting. Blogging will also help with your writing skills and, when you complete that best-selling novel, get a good editor. Most importantly, my little zombie snacks, write because you love it, because you can’t imagine your life without writing. Do this and the story will fall into place.

Ms. Gilbert blogs at: gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com

For additional interviews with Ms.Gilbert, please visit the following sites.

lorettasisco.com

dawnbyrne.blogspot.com

Book Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Ms. Flynn hooked me with the first line and kept my attention riveted until the very end. I write without reservation that the author crafted the most suspenseful novel I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I found myself clasping my e-reader tighter and tighter as I transitioned from screen to screen. Gone Girl impressed me on every conceivable level.

While it’s difficult to select one just one aspect the author excelled at, I found the character development Ms. Flynn’s strongest skill. The narrative alternated between Nick Dunne and his missing wife Amy; the latter in the form of diary entries. I found neither one of these characters likeable, but that led me to enjoy the book even more. Stories that feature a saintly protagonist battling a demoniacal antagonist bore me. Both of the main characters in Gone Girl had deep psychological flaws, which made the story much more engaging. Presenting the story in their own words made me upset when bad things happened to them. And these characters deserved their misfortunes.

I found Flynn’s deft use of foreshadowing without peer. With that acknowledgement, I don’t want to give away spoilers. The mystery of Amy’s disappearance captivated me so much that I wouldn’t want to deny other readers the same experience. What I can do is suggest that those planning on reading Gone Girl keep the following passages in mind as they progress through the narrative. To be fair, I picked-up on them when I perused the book.

Amy wrote in her diary, “Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)” (Page 29)

After meeting with police after his wife’s disappearance, Nick wrote, “It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting.” (Page 37)

During an interview with a television host, Nick mentioned that he wanted his wife back so he could treat her “how she deserves.” In an inner monologue he added, “Oh, I’d definitely like to treat her how she deserves.” (Page 333)

With such complexity around the clues to Amy’s disappearance, I thought the author did a great job staying on-topic. That’s not easy to do with two unreliable narrators. Amy, who disappeared on her fifth wedding anniversary, left a series of cryptic clues to her disappearance that Nick and the police unraveled. Many of them had multiple explanations and led to different interpretations by the characters viewing them. Due to Ms. Flynn’s lucid style, I could follow them without any trouble.

And for the benefit of those who’ve already perused Gone Girl, I’ll address the 900 pound gorilla in the room: the controversial ending. Admittedly, when I first read it, I felt disappointed. I thought such a gripping story deserved a climactic ending that would correspond to the tension and anxiety in the narrative. The more I reflected on it, though, I had to acknowledge that the author made the proper artistic call with the conclusion.

Once again, I don’t want to give away spoilers. As a generalization, I will comment that based on Nick’s character and Amy’s personality, the conclusion perfectly suited their relationship. The author made it perfectly consistent with their interaction throughout the story. While I can understand why readers would not like the way the novel ended, the author wrapped it up properly. She also brilliantly laid the background for a sequel should she choose to write one. (I’m hoping she does.)

Gillian Flynn did an exceptional job crafting Gone Girl. I wanted to learn more about the characters in spite of my not liking them. I wanted to find out what happened next in the story, but felt nervous about finding out. It takes a gifted author to do all this while crafting a mystery this complex. I liked the writer much more than I liked her characters.

Music Review – Pink Floyd The Endless River

Appropriately enough, I purchased The Endless River on a rainy day. As I drove around through the flooding rain storm, it put me in the right frame of mind to absorb this album. David Gilmour and Nick Mason decided to release it as a tribute to fallen band mate Richard Wright.

David Gilmour has proven repeatedly that he’s one of the greatest rock guitarists who ever took up the instrument. It delighted me to discover he felt the need to prove it once again. Every track except for one on The Endless River was an instrumental. Gilmour showcased his dexterity on the acoustic, electric and slide guitars. Let this be a lesson to all those great guitarists out there with aspirations of becoming ‘singer/songwriters’: stay focused on what you do well.

While Dark Side of the Moon came closest to a ‘definitive’ Pink Floyd album, everyone was original in its own way. Endless River continued this tradition. Only one of the eighteen songs featured a lead vocal. The band originally recorded these fragmentary tracks during jam sessions for the Division Bell sessions. Still, the Floyd and their team of producers did an outstanding job of melding them into a finished album. Endless River sounds like a new age album recorded by Pink Floyd. The arrangement allowed each tracks to segue into the next one a la Echoes. The overall whole reminded me of such progressive rock masterpieces as “A Passion Play” and “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull as well as “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis; all this without the prattle of inane vocals.

This album pleasantly surprised me. At first I anticipated a loose compilation of out-takes from Division Bell. Some of the tracks did exhibit the germination of songs explored more deeply on the album. Gilmour used the guitar synthesizer from “Take It Back” liberally on these tracks. “Talkin’ Hawkin’” featured voice overs by Dr. Steven Hawking. His observation that, “All we need to do is keep talking”, later appeared in the eponymous song. Most of the song titles related to the theme of communication. A concept later explored lyrically on the completed album.

The album also included some pieces that harkened back to ‘vintage Floyd’. I heard shades of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in the piece “It’s What We Do.” While Roger Waters didn’t join the band for this outing, Gilmour’s bass work on this track sounded just like him. I also enjoyed his addition of an acoustic guitar to the mix.

“Anisina” served as the true highlight of the album for me. In the beginning I thought Wright borrowed his piano part from “Us and Them”. Upon reading the liner notes, I realized that Gilmour played it! He did an outstanding job paying tribute to Wright. Fans will also recognize the synthesizer riff from “Comfortably Numb” on this track. This song also called to mind the instrumental piece “Terminal Frost” from Momentary Lapse of Reason. The guitar orchestration on “Anisina” was much better, though. I really enjoyed Gilmour’s addition of a slide guitar to this song.

I can’t leave out Nick Mason’s contributions. His drumming on “Skins” showed that age hasn’t dulled his skills since his tour-de-force performance on Live at Pompeii.

As with any Floyd offering, the album featured phenomenal artwork. The front cover showed a young man on a boat in the clouds rowing towards the sunset. The back cover displayed the same picture only with an empty boat. I interpreted that to mean that while the band itself may be headed into the sunset, the music would remain.

The late Richard Wright’s keyboards sounded absolutely ethereal on The Endless River. While listening to the album, I recalled a line from Miles Davis’ drummer Jimmy Cobb. He remarked that Kind of Blue, “sounded like it was recorded in heaven.” The same could be said of The Endless River. It served as a fitting encomium to an outstanding musician.

Restaurant Review – Il Villaggio in Cherry Hill, NJ

I felt leery dining at Il Villaggio. As the name included a homonym of the word ill, I didn’t enter the building with high hopes. The again, with the advent of Obamacare in America, I thought I’d give it a try. Who knows? The way things are going maybe I could even get taxpayers to pick-up the bill. Upon looking at the prices, I realized the impossibility of this. As the Federal Budget is a paltry 14 billion dollars, the government wouldn’t be able to afford it. While pricey, Il Villaggio delivered a decent dining experience.

I found the ambiance inviting. Upon entering, the site of an elegant chandelier and spacious gilded dining area greeted me. Then the hostess led my group into a more ‘cozy’ setting. This room had three long tables. They seated my party (of 26) at two of them. Another group came in later and sat at the third. With the frigid January temperatures outside, all the people crammed together did help to warm things up.

I opted to take the vegetarian route once again. As readers of this column will no doubt recall, I did this once before at another restaurant I reviewed. As they will also remember, the results didn’t please me. I’m not one to ever give up on a bad idea, so I went for a vegetarian evening again.

On the occasion I dined at Il Villaggio, they offered Cream of Asparagus as one of the soups of the day. I like soup, I like vegetables and I like asparagus. What could go wrong? What they served didn’t quite meet my definition of soup. Asparagus Gespacho may have been a more fitting appellation for this appetizer. It was rather tepid, even cool. Due to the cramped quarters, the temperature of the room exceeded that of the soup. It’s never good when that happens. I discerned a sweetness to the broth. It also lacked a certain ingredient. Unfortunately, its namesake turned to be the missing element. I found very few stalks in the broth, though. They also tasted very crunchy. I’m not used to crispy vegetables. Maybe it’s an Italian thing.

As I resolved to lose weight for the new year, I ordered another vegetable based dish for my main course. I went for the Zucchini Parmesan. I’ve had Eggplant Parmesan many times, but I’ve never heard of this meal. The menu described it as, “lightly fried layers of zucchini topped with melted mozzarella cheese, over rigatoni pasta marinara sauce.” I liked it, but I can understand it isn’t for everybody. The texture reminded me of a cross somewhere between eggplant and mushrooms; both of which I’m fond. I did enjoy it and thought the portion proportional to the price. The chef got all the spices right to make it a good quality Italian meal. I can’t recollect dining at a place that offered rigatoni as a choice of pasta. It made the meal unique and complimented the main course well.

In spite of liking the entrée, I didn’t think the cost justified, though. As I mentioned before, I went with a group. The organizer informed us how much we owed at the end of the evening. I don’t know what the soup cost, but the entrée came in at $16.00. For comparison’s sake, the Veal Parmesan cost $19.00. They priced the Chicken Parm at $17.00. While the Zucchini Parm was rightly cheaper than the meats, I still thought the price high. After all, the main ingredient was only a vegetable.

I need to go off for a moment. I’ve encountered this before in the form of an $11.00 can of spinach at a restaurant. What’s with the high cost of vegetables these days? Does their cost vary inversely with fuel prices? I’m just wondering. This seems silly to me.

I didn’t partake in desert. While no one in my group complained about the quality, this time I really thought the prices ridiculously high. Everything on the desert menu cost somewhere in the seven dollar range. The gentleman seated next to me ordered a bowl of berries with two scoops of pistachio ice cream. I could’ve gone to Yogurtland and had a larger portion of Pistachio Yogurt with some fruit toppings for less money than that.

The staff conducted themselves extremely well. Our main server did an outstanding job of presenting all the specials. The speed with which they delivered our dinner impressed me. I also applaud their professionalism in serving everyone in our large party at the same time.

Some people say that eating a high quality meal is the purpose of fine dining: not receiving large portions. After all, not every establishment can be The Pub (in Pennsauken) where one receives enough food that obviates the need to grocery shop for a week. I understand and respect their point. I do think that Il Villaggio’s prices a bit out of the norm even for quality dining. For readers okay with that, I think Il Villaggio definitely worth a visit.

It’s Official

America is in crisis. We need a leader. One who will once again make our country a shining city on a hill. While speculation abounds as to who will run and who won’t, I’m getting in early. That is why today I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

No one who aspired to our nation’s highest office could boast of humbler roots. I was born in a log cabin that I built with my own two hands. My father worked 15, 20 sometimes 25 hour days just to put arugula on the table.

We were poor. We lacked the amenities so many Americans take for granted. In our house one wouldn’t find computers, cable television or air. While a millionaire like Al Gore was inventing the internet and John McCain was inventing the blackberry, I invented photosynthesis just so my family could breathe.

Like many Americans I am devoted to my faith. It sickens and appalls me that my opponents have resorted to religious bigotry in an effort to scare the American people. Some of them have labelled me a “fundamentalist” others refer to me as an “extremist”. Like most Americans I am devoted to my faith. I’ve spent years upon years studying it; sometimes for days without end. I can assure the American people that the only “extreme” amount of hedonism is none.

Some of my detractors even claim that hedonism isn’t really a religion. To those critics I say: it is the way I practice it.

I will make America strong again. Under my predecessors, we’ve fought a war on poverty and failed. We’ve waged war on illiteracy and failed. We declared war on pornography…well, I don’t know that we need to win the war on pornography, but you get my point.

I will be tough on crime and even tougher on the causes of crime. But this isn’t about racial profiling. Read my lips: my administration will win the War on Drugs. Just like Alexander the Great led from the front, I will do so in this battle. If need be I will personally go to every cannabis field, set fire to every plant and stand there personally until every last leaf is consumed. Just like George Bush vowed to “smoke evildoers out of their holes” I will smoke the drug dealers out of their drugs.

My foreign policy will be tough, yet sensitive. I’ve learned from the mistakes of other world leaders. Many Japanese Prime Ministers have offended their neighbors by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. As it commemorates 14 Class A War Criminals, I’m sympathetic to the international community’s objections. That is why I assure the American people that I will not do anything that raises a similar outcry. Read my lips: I will not visit the Yasukuni Shrine. Again. This week.

I support a robust economy. Many politicians talk about “stimulus methods” to ensure economic growth. They don’t go far enough. I will not hesitate to use “harsh” stimulus methods. If the economy doesn’t grow by 10% a year, I will empower the Treasury to have it water boarded. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll sign the Executive Order to marry it off to a professional football player.

This campaign will be dirty. My opponents will resort to vile methods to impugn my good name. Expect to hear lies, calumny and rumors. Some of these rumors will, no doubt, be accompanied by incontrovertible video and audio evidence. I’ve been very candid with the American people about some of my youthful indiscretions. I’m not the same person I was ten years ago, or two weeks ago, or just prior to making this announcement.

My friends, as you know, I’ve often been compared to Abraham Lincoln. It’s not because we’ve both enjoyed dating insane women. It’s not because we’ve both practiced law without a license. It’s because I understand the awesome power of the American presidency. And doggone it: I want in. I thank you for your time, I need your support and Intelligent Design bless America!