Sunday, 18 January 2015

#JeSuisCochon by Naomi Elana Zener

 Oxford, England, United Kingdom. An estimated 1.5 million swine have descended on the idyllic city of Oxford, England, to peacefully protest Oxford University Press’ ban on writing about or depicting any pig, or anything pork-related, in their children’s books. Even those who stand accused by the United Nations as the world’s worst swine slaughterers participated in the protest to uphold freedom of speech. As part of an ongoing policy to give their books a wider appeal for an international audience—namely one consisting of Jews and Muslims—in order to be considerate of cultural differences and sensitivities, Oxford has asked its authors not to portray the image of pigs, or make mention of them at all, in their work submitted for publication.  Pigs, feeling pilloried by Oxford’s attempt to prevent any rendering of their species in print, are refusing to take Oxford’s policy on all fours. “For centuries, pigs have shared literature’s pages with bunnies, foxes, mice, and other woodland, farm, and other housebroken animal pet-like creatures. They shouldn’t be classified as persona, rather pig, non grata for children’s picture books and tales,” Reverend Al Sharpton—enlisted by the pigs as their spokesperson—proclaimed to the media in attendance at the event. “Already relegated to second class citizenry status by human carnivores, labeled as the other white meat, our boar brothers and sow sisters will squeal against this swine sequestration!”

Hog representatives from nations across the globe flew in to attend the rally. Porky Pig, Olivia the Pig, Piglet, Squealer, Gub-Gub, Wilbur, were some of the more prominent snouts in the crowd, who linked their curlicue tails and strutted alongside the United Kingdom’s very own Peppa Pig, the bright star of Channel 5, who led the charge in the pigs’ march against Oxford’s boar embargo list. When asked for a direct quote on her thoughts concerning Oxford’s act of censorship, Peppa Pig simply “oinked.” Oink is no longer another four letter word—it’s now a rally cry.

North American publishers remained somewhat sympathetic to Oxford’s pig plight. Aware of the commercial limitations of some books, they noted that many European children’s publications don’t reach the bookstores and libraries on the other side of the pond due to their nudity and sexual content, which has been deemed too puritanically inappropriate for the young Canadian and American readers. However, the same North American publishers feel that Oxford’s publication ban on pigs could create a slippery slope affecting freedom of speech. “It seems ridiculous that little Johnny can’t be shown to be eating a bacon double cheeseburger in a picture book. As long as Oxford [University Press] doesn’t publish books of naked people having sex with pigs, I think that they should reverse their anti-pig policy,” said one prominent American editor from HarperCollins, who asked to remain nameless.

In an act of defiance, all pigs in attendance staged a mass dual conversion to both Judaism and Islam on the front steps of Oxford University Press’ offices. Standing in solidarity, Jews sent rabbis from all over—Israel, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, South Africa, and even the solitary one left in France—to preside over the conversion, given the unspoken Semitic sanctioning of the post-Sabbath Sunday brunch ritual indulgence that involves a few slices of crispy bacon. Famous Imams from the Middle East flew in to preside over the Testimony of Shahada. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Bahá'í, and Buddhists also showed their support by carrying signs and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “#JeSuisCochon” (or #IAmPig), as they participated in the march.

According to eye witness accounts, the million plus porker protest was a success making it clear that the world will ensure the preservation of the pretty pink cloven hooved animals in all forms of literature. Reverend Al Sharpton’s sentiments noted in his closing address to the protestors captured the spirit of the event: “If we remain silent, and allow Oxford University Press to sanitize its pages of swine, purify its publications of pigs, and bowdlerize its books of boars, who will be next on the chopping block?”

[Author’s Note: This piece was inspired by this article:]

© 2015. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

#JeSuisCharlie #DonMcLean #AmericanPieReboot

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how satire would make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
They’d laugh at my jokes with just one glance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

But today’s murders made me shiver
With news media continues to deliver
Terrorism on the doorstep
How do we take one more step?

I can remember that I cried
When I read about all those who died
And something touched me deep inside
Because free speech can never die.

So bye-bye, to the fear inside
Keep on writing and drawing ‘til your pen is dry
And them terrorist boys will rue the day they tried
To kill free speech by taking lives
To kill free speech by taking lives

(c) 2015. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Mail-Order Grooms by Naomi Elana Zener

The walls revealed the building’s geriatric age. When the winter wind howled, the drywall covered concrete blocks whistled—the cracks were almost too wide to continue to conceal the mice living inside of them—alerting the residents looking for an alternative way out that Mother Nature would soon offer a viable escape. Natural erosion was a prisoner’s best friend. Warden Polish sat in his office, surrounded by floor heaters, wearing a heavy Aran sweater atop his uniform, which was reinforced by his duffle coat to provide additional insulation. Despondent over the state of disrepair of his ward, known in the slammer business as the worst maintained penitentiary in the system, Polish reviewed the prison’s budget with his head guard, John.

“At this rate, with a crumbling infrastructure and overpopulation at an all-time high, the inmates are going to be running this place really soon,” John complained. “We’ll be lucky if we get out of here with our lives.”

Polish nodded his head. He couldn’t deny it any longer.  The cost of running the prison continued to skyrocket. Dollars disappeared at a fast clip. There were inmates seeking higher education funded on the taxpayers’ dime. Many had taken a page from Suze Orman—they kept more of the pin money they’d earned working in the laundry room or making license plates, instead of paying off the guards for greater protection in the yard. Then there were those who made demands of the prison librarian to acquire more up to date legal materials to be used for their self-written appeals. All of these additional strains made the anticipated government cuts, which threatened to lower the guard to inmate population ratio, that much worse. In a few months, the prisoners would be able to use their makeshift shivs to loosen the bars from the aging cement walls, finding themselves in no time at his office door ready to plant those shivs in his chest. Warden Polish was terrified.

“There’s just not enough money trickling in from the state legislature because they’re not getting enough from Washington. If the prison system doesn’t win the Powerball, the inmates are soon going to be out-mates,” Polish surmised. “I’m just not sure where I can find more money.”

Polish had exhausted every moneymaking avenue at his disposal to use the contingent of incarcerated men in his purview to help fill the prison’s dilapidated coffers. He’d even tried using inmates to meet the “offshore” staffing needs of call centres, especially those working for Air Duct cleaning services, to no avail. Unable to exercise any self-control upon being cursed at by the people they harassed with their spammy phone calls, the inmates started to threaten the lives of the targets of their peddled services. Polish had no choice but to tell the call centres to find better-behaved telemarketers in Bangalore, India. At the end of his quickly burning tether, Polish was open to any ideas, no matter how unconventional or from whom they came. John sat opposite to Polish, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for the right moment to pipe up.

“I’ve been toying with an idea. Before I share it with you, you have to promise not to say a word until I’m done. And, you can’t laugh at me,” John explained.

Polish smiled. “The floor is yours.”

“Well, as you know, I’m a single guy.  I’m in good shape and have average looks. I hold a job with decent pay. Own my own home. I have brunch with my mother every Sunday after church. And, I’ve never been charged with a crime. But, for the life of me, I’m still unmarried at 32, and Charles Manson has a hot chick on the outside dying to marry him. A mass murdered with whom she can never really play house with.”

Polish nodded. He, like every other law abiding male in North America—and perhaps elsewhere in the world—couldn’t for the life of him figure out how a woman would rather marry a murderer, behind bars for life, than a man like John.

“I’ve done it all: EHarmony,, Christian Mingle, Tinder, JDate, and even JSwipe—heck, Jesus was a Jew, too—but I’ve gotten nowhere. I even paid one of those fancy, big city matchmaking services a few thousand bucks out of my 401K to help me find the woman of my checklist dreams, but she came up with nothing. I even thought about ordering a wife out of one of those mail-order bride services, where you get a lady from Russia or Asia, but quickly dismissed the idea. Most are sold into sex slavery and I’m not one to exploit women—I like to think of myself as a feminist. So, one day when I was eating my lunch in the guards’ lounge, I saw an eye looking back at me through a sizeable hole in the walls. It was blind Big Eyed Pete—you know, the one in for the triple homicide, who blinded his victims so they couldn’t ID him in court if, on the off chance they survived. Suddenly, I realized that we are sitting on a goldmine.”

“How do you mean?” Polish interrupted.

“I told you to let me finish, boss. Like I was saying, we have the ability to make a shit ton of money using our inmate population. If a guy like me can’t find a woman, but women want the pieces of crap in our custody, we should take a page from the dating websites and profit off the bat-shit crazy chicks out there who want to marry an inmate.”

“Are you suggesting we create a Tinder-like app for dating the prisoners? Are you insane?”

“No, not Tinder. That’s a GPS-based app and it won’t work. Our prison is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town only has about 70 women in it, a third of whom are already inmates at our sister prison.”

“Then what are you proposing?”

John jumped out of his seat and joined Polish behind his desk, where he’d remained seated. Without asking permission, John went online to show his boss, who’d been happily married for thirty-eight year, how his concept would work.

“So, you see, what I’m saying we do is set up online profiles for all of the inmates who want to participate, and who haven’t lost their Internet privileges for bad behaviour, and we mash up the Christian Mingle/JDate-style sites with a mail-order bride concept. The women pay money to join and where a match is successful, they pay another fee to have us arrange their nuptial to the criminal of their choosing,” John advised.

“Let me see if I understand you correctly. You want us to create, in essence, a mail-order groom service offering our single inmates as grooms for sale to young women looking for husbands?” Polish asked. Sarcasm dripped from each syllable enunciated.

John nodded his head like an eager puppy. “Absolutely. And, only the single ones. We aren’t in Utah.”

“And, you actually think women are going to pay for messed up men?”

“That’s putting it mildly. I’m telling you that if Charles Manson can get married, so can any inmate. Chicks dig bad boys, and we are plum full of them. So long as we don’t have any law holding us back, and as long as we use the inmates who have email and Internet privileges, I think this is a brilliant idea. The money we’d charge the women is no different than if they paid it to EHarmony, with the exception of one additional fee to take care of the incidental costs associated with marrying the men off. And, it’s not like we’re tricking the women either—we’d be upfront about the mobility restraints on the men on offer.”

Polish, who’d been mildly amused by his deluded colleague’s imagination, flopped back into his chair. It was not a half-bad idea. There were no laws in place preventing the implementation of such a scheme. Polish knew he’d run out of options. He nodded his head at John.

“So, how do we do this?”

“We market it as a ‘last stop shopping before spinsterhood or perennial bachelorhood.’ With gay marriage now rapidly being legalized, we should showcase our male wares to both the female and male populations on the outside. Don’t you agree?”

Polish smiled. He was no bigot or homophobe. Hell, he ran a male prison and was a big fan of the cancelled TV series Oz.

“No inmate will be off limits…”John continued.

“Whoa, now! Given the nature of some of the crimes committed by these bad guys, I’m not so sure that…” Polished piped up.

“Hey, if Manson can marry, then why can’t any one of them?” John interrupted. “Well, not the ones who are already married.”

Polish knew John was right.

“Ok, so we slap on a ‘buyer beware’ disclaimer telling the women, and men, that they order and marry their selected groom at their own risk. No refunds. And, for the heterosexual unions, if they consummate their union and it bears children, we give no guarantees on the quality of sperm or that the inmate will pay any child support,” Polish prompted.

John agreed. “Makes sense.”

“One more thing, I think we put the unmarried inmates who’ve got a real shot at winning their appeal and being sprung from jail, on account of having been wrongly incarcerated, as our featured bachelors. After all, they truly deserve a chance at happiness.”

“Yeah. And, if they really didn’t commit the crimes of which they were accused, then once on the outside, their new wives really won’t have anything to worry about. No chance for reoffending.” John was pleased. He eagerly took notes as Polish laid out further ground rules for the new venture. Based on John’s estimates, the prison would be in the black a few short months after the program was off the ground. They’d be the most profitable prison in the system.

“There’s one hitch. How do we actually market these prisoners? Or, the platform in itself?” Polish pondered.

“I’ve thought about that, and I played around with a few ideas. Want me to read them to you?” John asked. Polish vigorously nodded his head.

“Ok. So, let’s say we have a death row inmate—the baddest of the bad asses around—like a Scott Peterson. I suggest something along the lines of Manson may be off the market, but Scott Peterson is still available. Sitting on death row, this is a limited time offer. Hurry ladies before he’s served his lethal cocktail and can’t go for drinks with you. And, if you do marry him, the Warden will personally oversee to it that you remain unharmed during your conjugal visits.’ What do you think?”

Polish remained mum. Colour drained from his face at the thought of chaperoning captives copulating. John recognized that his advertising copy needed some minor adjustments. John sensed that his dark humour was a bit much for his boss.

“Ok, how about if we have a white collar guy, like Bernie Madoff? We could say something like ‘he may have made off with people’s money, but he hasn’t yet made off with your heart. No ponzi scheme in this love match.  He’s looking for someone who can bear him children, but don’t expect them to inherit any of his money to when he dies. Everything’s been seized by the government to repay his victims and debt to society.’

Polish was speechless. Impressed with his guard’s creativity, although slightly disturbed by it too, Polish thought that John’s energy needed to be funnelled in another direction. Perhaps he just needed to get laid. Polish shook his head.

“Maybe we don’t even advertise the men, only the service?” John suggested, noting Polish’s discomfort with his copy.

“That may be the best idea you have yet. Hit me with your advertisement that will attract women and men to sign up and pay up to date a deviant.”

John knew that the future of his proposed mail-order groom service depended on his final elevator pitch. He stood up and smoothed out his uniform. He cleared his throat, ready to hit Polish with the jingle he’d devised—a little ditty he came up with when he’d been watching The Little Mermaid with his niece.

Look at our men.
Aren’t they neat?
Would you say our offering’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think we’re the prison,
The prison that’s got everything?
Look at our men.
Husbands unsold.
How many men can one prison hold?
Looking at their profiles you think,
Sure, they’ve got everything.
We’ve got rapists and kidnappers a plenty.
We’ve got robbers and murderers galore,
Want a serial killer? We’ve got twenty.
Sign up NOW. We’ll give you a deal, ‘cause we’ve got more…

John held up both of his hands. “I’ve heard enough!”

Polish stopped singing while he still had a job.

“I think I now know why you’re single, and it ain’t your singing voice,” Polish offered. “You may be as twisted as the people you guard.”

John paused. “That may be true.”

“But, your twisted idea is going to make the prison a fortune, and it will save our lives.”

“So, can I get a raise?”

Polish contemplated the question.

“No, but I’ll throw in a free profile for you as a featured groom. I won’t even charge the extra marriage fee should a woman pick you. Something tells me that the kind of woman you need is looking for a mail-order groom like you.”

© 2014. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.