You need to be punished

July 25, 2016


Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
H.L. Mencken

You need to be punished
For thoughts in your head
Don’t act on your hunger
You’d be better off dead

You need to be punished
It’s your filthy stinking sin
Heaven’s not a promise
And you ain’t getting in

You need to be punished
I know who you are
You spoke with that guy
And got inside his car

You need to be punished
You’ll feel much better
I got a strap that cleanses
As your cheecks get redder

I need to punish
And make the world right
It’s my duty to destroy
Every hint of appetite

by Richard W. Bray

The Little Toil

July 23, 2016


If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,

Emily Dickinson

Some folks hide their hurt
Under a carapace of cruel
They’d rather be an asshole
Than be anybody’s fool

It’s easy to give up
It’s easy to despair
It’s easy to bamboozle
And pretend you just don’t care

It’s scary to acknowledge
We’ll never find a cure
It’s daunting to consider
All the hurt in the world

Focus on the little toil—
Cool one pain
It’s all that I know
To keep one sane

by Richard W. Bray

It Ain’t Me, Bro

July 18, 2016


I cannot be
Your fantasy
I won’t make
Your life complete
I cannot fix the world
I’m not your
Pixie Dream Girl

I’m not a maid
I’m not a saint
I’m not a shrine
Where you can pray
I’m not your mommy
Put on earth
To make the ouchie
Go away

We can walk
For a while
We can talk and
We can nuzzle
Don’t forget that
I’m a person
Not a piece
Of you puzzle

I’m not a maid
I’m not a saint
I’m not a shrine
Where you can pray
I’m not your mommy
Put on earth
To make the ouchie
Go away

by Richard W. Bray

Your Sorry Soul

July 16, 2016


She’s a vision, she’s an angel
she’s a goddess, she’s a queen
She is natural, she is perfect
She is pure and she is clean

Love can be incredible
But love won’t make you whole
If you’re looking for a woman
To perfect your sorry soul

Everything I want and need
A perfect combination
Every other woman is
A phony imitation

If you’re looking for a partner
To play a hopeless role
You won’t find a woman
To perfect your sorry soul

Transport constant misery
To eternal bliss
She’s the only woman
Who could possibly do this

Replacing God with Romance
Is an idiotic goal
You won’t find a woman
To perfect your sorry soul

by Richard W. Bray

The Voice of Sanity

July 11, 2016


The shapes a bright container can contain!
Theodore Roethke, I Knew a Woman

The shapes and colors you contain
Paralyze my lonesome brain

It did not lessen your appeal
When you suggested I get real

Who I am and who you are
Mean I must love you from afar

I hear the voice of sanity
Saying how it’s gotta be:

“Forget her smile, her voice, her hair
Cry a lot and look elsewhere”

I should just give up on love
My hopeless heart has had enough

by Richard W. Bray

Defy this Dreary Life

July 9, 2016


Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Miles and miles of empty
Surround our lovely Earth
Human beings are blessed to share
The planet of our birth

We devastate and plunder
And treat it like a sewer
With rapacity to horrify
An interstellar viewer

We’re stupid and we’re greedy
And violent and cruel
Who came up with such a lot
Of self-destructive fools?

Everything that we create
Will decompose and rust
All of our accomplishments
Will tumble down to dust

Existence is a gift
Don’t misuse your ration
You must defy this dreary life
With kindness and compassion

by Richard W. Bray

Dr. Pill

July 4, 2016


Studied half my life
To be a healer
Ended up just as bad
As the neighborhood dealer

I thought I’d be dashing
I thought I’d be rich
Didn’t expect to be
Big Pharma’s little bitch

I got pills for the kids
I got pills for their mamas
If I push enough product
It’s a week in the Bahamas

I don’t care about your body
I don’t care about your bones
Just need to make money
To pay off my loans

I don’t care what you eat
I don’t care if you work out
Pushing my prescriptions
Is what I’m about

I don’t care how you feel
So don’t waste my time
Your words don’t contribute
To my bottom line

by Richard W. Bray

A Few Notes on Teaching Logical Fallacies

July 3, 2016
Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard


Have you ever been arguing with someone and you felt that there was something wrong with her argument, but you couldn’t figure out what it as? Perhaps she was utilizing some form of logical fallacy. A fallacy is an unsound argument based on faulty reasoning. Logicians have identified scores of fallacies.

Here are some examples of common logical fallicies:

Appeal to fear

Are you sure you want to give me a ticket, officer? I play golf with the chief of police.”

Things could get pretty ugly around here if I don’t get what I want.

Appeal to pity

You should go out with me because forty-three women have already turned me down and I can’t take much more rejection.

Circular Reasoning (A=B because B=A)

Lebron James is the greatest basketball player of his generation because nobody else is as good as he is.

My mom is terrific because she is wonderful.

Appeal to Common Practice

It’s no big deal to leave trash on the ground in a parking lot. A lot of people do it.

But Mom, all the other parents let their kids stay out until dawn, so you should too.

Post hoc (causal) fallacy

When the rooster crows, the sun rises. Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.

The Lakers won last night because I wore my lucky sweater.

False Dilemma (or False Alternatives)

It will either be hot or cold tomorrow.

You must be a Lakers fan or a Clippers fan.

Slippery Slope

If we allow gay marriage, people will start marrying their dogs.

If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment, eventually the government will ban all cars.

Non Sequitur (“It does not follow”)

That man is an awful person because he is wearing a blue sweater.

I cannot eat a cupcake because it is Tuesday.

Loaded question

Have you stopped wetting your bed yet?

Do you still have a Spongebob lunch pail?

Distinction without a Difference

I’m against capital punishment, but I believe we should execute serial killers.

I don’t have a sweet tooth; I just love to eat candy.

One of the most common fallacies is ad hominem, which means attacking a person instead of addressing her arguments.

Here are two examples of irrelevant ad hominem argument which have nothing to do with the legitimacy of a person’s arguments:


Dave: I think the death penalty is a good idea.
Larry: Who cares what you think? You are a stupid, pathetic loser and your mother dresses you funny.


I’m not going to listen to any of your arguments because you wear Member’s Only jackets and you sleep with a Teddy Bear.

An Ad hominem argument is a great way to avoid the merits of another person’s arguments? Many English teachers say that it is never appropriate to engage in ad hominem arguments.  But is it legitimate to attack a person for being hypocritical? My answer is: Sometimes.

Here is an example of a situation where an ad hominem argument is clearly inappropriate:

Let’s say my doctor tells me after a checkup that my blood pressure is too high and I need to lose weight and I should quit drinking and smoking.   I respond: “What are you talking about, Dude? I see you drinking and smoking at my bar every night and you are seriously overweight.

My ad hominem is illegitimate in this case because my doctor is giving me medically viable advice even though he doesn’t practice what he preaches. He went to medical school and he knows what he’s talking about.

Here is an example of a situation where an ad hominem argument is appropriate:

Speaking of practicing what we preach, what about someone like megachurch preacher Ted Haggard who righteously espouses clean living and family values—until he gets caught in a hotel room with a male masseur and a bunch of meth? Does Haggard’s behavior render his message any less legitimate?  Yes, because he is bolstering his argument by holding himself up of as a paragon of someone who is living a righteous lifestyle.

by Richard W. Bray

sooner or later

July 2, 2016

VVVVsooner or later

sooner or later it all gets real
Neil Young, Walk On

I can find you a bed
I can fix you a meal
You can cry on my shoulder
When the shit gets real

I can offer my friendship
I can lead you to the well
We can talk and we can laugh
And we can sit for a spell

Gotta haggle with the world
And hold on to your soul
Sometimes you gotta fight
And sometimes you better roll

I can point you to the people
Who are fighting for peace
But the torments of this world
Ain’t never gonna cease

I’ll treat you like a guest
But I cannot live your quest
You’re ready for the world
And you’re fully grown
Just try and do your best
I think you’re ready for the test
Some things you gotta
Face on your own

by Richard W. Bray

The Funny Men of My Youth

June 27, 2016
Jan Murray

Jan Murray

Sometimes I like to do the Grumpy Old Man routine with my students: “When I was your age, Sonny, I had to walk barefoot to school in the snow, and the long, arduous journey was uphill—both ways.”

None of this is true, of course. My parents always provided me with good shoes and it’s only snowed once in Claremont in the last fifty years. I stole that joke from one of my childhood heroes, Bill Cosby. I still love to tell that joke, but I no longer attribute it to Cosby.  Once the most avuncular man in America, Cosby is now, allegedly, nothing but a sick old creep.

Bill Cosby’s fall pains me; I spent so much time with his comedy LPs as a kid, and it really felt like I knew him. One of my favorite Cosby albums was called I Started Out as a Child. It took me over a decade to get the joke in the title. Another Cosby album title was also quite funny: To my brother Russell, Whom I Slept With (but I still haven’t completely worked out its implications).

The comedy albums of Cosby and The Smothers Brothers were a big part of my childhood.   (For you younger readers, albums, also called records, were large flat black petroleum-based disks that created marvelous sounds when played on something called a turntable.  Albums were very fragile, which may have accentuated the reverence we had for them).   In junior high school I discovered the more “mature” comedy records of George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Cheech and Chong.

When I was a kid, back in the dark ages before VCRs, HBO, and Comedy Central, in order to see the great comedians, you had to watch the three major talk show hosts: Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Johnny Carson. I would rush home to see Mike Douglas in the afternoons and Merv was on in the evening, but Carson, the King of Comedy, was on after my bedtime, so I would listen to The Tonight Show through the slats in the hall door while my parents thought I was asleep.  If I laughed too loud my mom would shout, “Go to bed.”

The old-timer comedians like Buddy Hackett, Jack Benny, and Henny Youngman that I loved to watch on tv when I was a kid frequently spoke about something called “working the Catskills.” Since there was no google back then, I asked my dad what the Catskills were. He said that they were mountains in upstate New York (hills really, by California standards) where people from New York City used to go on vacation.

Decades later I was watching a PBS documentary on the history of Jewish Comedy in America which went into great detail about the Catskills (also known as the Borsch Belt). One of the people featured in the documentary was Jan Murray. I thought, “Jan Murray is Jewish. Who knew?” Then it dawned on me–the overwhelming majority of the comedians I revered as a kid were Jewish. And as I think about it now, the non-Jewish comedians from my youth like Cosby, Bob Hope, George Carlin, Red Skelton, Flip Wilson, Danny Thomas, and Johnny Carson are really the exceptions.


by Richard W. Bray


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