Welcome to Gravesend
You’ve just arrived at the Mark Drought website, home
to snide and biased commentary,
as well as links to many more-interesting sites. (In case you might be
wondering, Gravesend is
New Hampshire town in my
In continuous operation for more than 15
years, this site is written from
the point of view of a slightly left-of-center, agnostic libertarian with
faintly Buddhist tendencies.
editor/writer, op-ed columnist and a former adjunct English professor at the University of
Connecticut, from which I graduated way back in the
Coat of Arms
I’m a fan of T.S. Eliot,
Texas hold ’em, the Grateful Dead, Baroque choral music, South Park,
Eric Hoffer, Firesign Theater, Gore Vidal, Carl Sagan, chicken
scarpiello, 1950s bebop (Coltrane and Clifford Brown), W.B. Yeats,
Hacker Pschorr beer, rogan josh, John Irving, chipotle peppers,
basketball (pro and college), Yes, the Allman Brothers, George Carlin, chili with
shredded beef, Joni Mitchell, William Faulkner,
Monty Python, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W.H. Auden, Jack Daniels, Isaac
Asimov, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, the Miami Dolphins,
Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Chris Rock, Woody
Allen, the Los Angeles Lakers, thin-crust pizza, Arthur Clarke, vintage port, Stilton cheese and a decent cigar.
Just about my favorite fictional character is E.K. Hornbeck,
from Jerome Lawrence’s play Inherit
the Wind, which is also one of my favorite movies (the 1960 Spencer
Tracy/Fredric March version). Hornbeck (played by Gene Kelly) was
based on the great Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken
(click here for some of his best quotations), who was once America’s
foremost practitioner of
If some of your favorite people include Rush
Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, George W, Michele Bachmann, St. Paul, Sean Hannity, Pope Pius XII,
Randall Terry, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Santorum, Iranian Ayatollahs and American
Fundamentalists, Ann Coulter, Ken Ham, Dick Cheney, Dennis Miller, the
Fox News Channel, Mark Levin, William Donohue, the Ku Klux Klan, the
Southern Baptists or the 700
Club, you should probably exit for a more right-wing
region of the Web.
Two more of my favorite characters
(Toby and Tucker) are shown to the left. For a full gallery of family pet pictures,
you can click
My wife and I are childless (although we prefer the less
politically correct term “child-free”), so we take
many pictures of our pets, after forcing them to dress up in needlessly
cute and colorful outfits.
Click here to
go to the end of this page and comment on anything you’ve
read so far.
access one of the funniest site on the Web,
click here for
the satirical publication The Onion. If you like political
cartoons, you might enjoy the Jeff Danziger
website, which has some good ones
going back to 1998. And, if you’d like to laugh until you wet yourself, try
for a mock culinary website that’s indescribably funny ... just scroll down
under the heading “Steve,
Don’t Eat It! Vol. 1.”
As a regular columnist for several local
newspapers — including The Stamford Advocate
(Stamford, Connecticut), Greenwich Time
(Greenwich, CT), The
Connecticut Post (Bridgeport,
CT) and, occasionally, the The
Weekly (Fairfield, CT), The
Norwalk Hour (Norwalk, CT) and the Danbury
News Times (Danbury, CT) — I’ve found the worst thing about writing editorials
is that, no matter how controversial my rants might be on Monday, they’re lining
cats’ litter boxes (receiving the treatment many readers
felt they deserved in
the first place) by Wednesday. So, to make my musings more semipermanent, I’ve developed
Following are some of the more-recent articles currently
available (older material is archived farther down the page).
Health as a Metaphor for National Illness — Our country is starting to
take a beating from climate change, and will soon be taking a
beating from our profligate budgetary policies.
Freedom Should Not Mean Forcing Bigotry on Others —
Now that the conservatives have the
right-winger they prayed for on the Supreme Court, the prospects
for continued progress in civil rights seem to be dimming.
a Year, Our President Is Taking Us Down — Mr.
Trump is so much worse than I ever could have dreamt he would be.
He’s had a year now to
“grow into the job,” and he has grown more deranged and
disgusting with each passing week. And all of this makes him more
attractive to conservatives.
Immigrants Are Ruining Our ATMs — Americans’
laziness is one reason so many immigrants come to the U.S. Also, most of our presidents haven’t been xenophobic bigots ...
up until now.
Ironic End to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement —
The University of California at Berkeley was
once the hotbed of concept of free speech. Today, it seems like
they’ve chosen political correctness instead.
Again — Okay, I have to
concede that I once thought that President Trump might be okay. I
was dead wrong. He’s no patriot, no decent American ... and,
News, Bad News — After a transition period that made
me despair of the fate of democracy in America, we had the
Inauguration, which made me realize democracy is going to have a
bad time of it during the next four years.
Freedom of Speech:
Church and State:
Sharia Solution — According to
Republican genius Newt Gingrich, the way to stop terrorism is to
look into the minds of Muslims, find out what they believe and
then deport them for it, even if they haven’t committed any
crimes. Screw that pesky First Amendment ... you can’t let the
Constitution keep us from doing whatever the hell we (good, white,
righteous American Christians) want to.
Happens When the Bible and the Constitution Clash?
— According to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis,
you have an obligation to put your religion ahead of the law of
the land, especially when this provides you the opportunity to
deny equality to homosexuals.
Doesn’t Always Have to Be My Way or the Highway
— Religious fanatics who say that you
either believe like me or rot in hell are generally those on the
Right, who think any straying from absolute fundamentalism is
compromising with the Devil. It doesn’t have to be that way, and
surprisingly, one person saying so is televangelist Pat Robertson.
Is out of Place in a Democracy —
When free speech and freedom of religion clash, the devout are
generally willing to throw free speech under the bus.
Conservative Christians Scare the Rest of Us —
One of the bartenders at the Bruce Park Grill in Greenwich, Connecticut
(home of the best damn pizza in Fairfield County), asked me once
“Why are you so bothered by Christians?” Here’s my answer.
Mormons a Cult and Who Cares? —
How will right-wing Christians feel when they have to choose between Satan (AKA Barack Obama) and a
member of a non-Christian cult (Mitt Romney)? What would Jesus do
(WWJD)? And, more importantly, what would Ronald Reagan do (WWRD)?
Are Saying — There was always a kernel
of truth in Stephen Colbert’s routine about “truthiness.” It
has really come to life during the Trump administration, and now
that Bill Maher’s pitch-perfect HBO political talk show has also
picked up on it, why shouldn’t I?
in the Trump Era — It is going to be long time
before we are out from under our president, who seems to put the
POS in POTUS. It will be required that we learn a whole new
vocabulary to cover an administration that is now and will
continue to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before ... and not
in a good way.
and Lies — It would be nice if you
could just automatically tell when someone is lying. Maybe with
our current president, we can tell. All you really need to do when
Orange Mussolini is speaking is assume that, if sounds are coming
out of his mouth, he must be lying.
Loves a Martyr — We seem to live in a country
in which everyone tries to convince everyone else how much they
are being persecuted. This is especially true of our 45th
president, whom Bill Maher has labeled a "whiny little
bitch" for good reason.
Need a Relapse Into Vietnam Syndrome — For a few brief years, the
United States didn’t feel compelled to invade every foreign
country that annoyed us, but those days are gone.
Hypocrisy and Karma — Now that the long national
nightmare of Obama has ended for right-wing nuts, they expect that
we Democrats will now jump in and support their president with the
same patriotism with which they supported ours. I believe that is
exactly what is happening, and what should happen.
the Trivia — If you lived in the Weimar
Republic prior to the Nazi takeover, you should have had
more-important objections to Hitler than his mustache. With Trump
destroying the country, we need to obstruct every chance we get,
but we won’t get anywhere emphasizing the superfluous.
Step Forward and Two Steps Back — Old people love to
talk about the “Good Old Days.” Now that I’m an old person,
I have to say that, although youth is always better than old age,
it really wasn’t better overall “back in the day.”
Just Takes Tips — Circumcision is one of those issues
that some people get worked up about. Why they feel that way is a
mystery to me, but then I find it hard to understand why the same
God responsible for moving galaxies around gives a damn about my
Saucers: Real or Not — UFOs ... what do you think ...
real or not? I would say not, but I sure hope they turn out to be
real, and I also hope they are landing here constantly.
With Cultural Appropriation — Some aspects of liberal
guilt and go-gooderism just go too far. This is one of those cases
where it’s time to focus on what matters, rather than some
for the End Times — No ... I’m not talking about the
make-believe biblical End Times with the Rapture, archangels and
Clouds of Glory. I’m talking about the real ending, that we’re
all headed for, with
arthritis, gout, obesity, senility and liver spots.
Upside of Aging — So we’re all getting older, but not
everything about that is bad ... right?!
World Is Flat — No, this is not a review of the Tom
Friedman book. It’s my take on the gullibility and
superstitiousness of Americans. Nothing illustrates the fact that
we’re just as dumb as a box of rocks than the fact that Donald
J. Trump is our president, and we freely elected him.
Words — This story doesn’t readily fit into any
particular category. I wanted to try writing something sentimental, but not sappy.
It’s a fine line to walk,
especially for me, as it’s not really my style. In 2006,
this story was published in a book that briefly made it onto the New York
Times best-seller list. It’s available on Amazon.com.
For more information, you can also click here.
of Enemies — Take two intellectuals from opposite ends
of the political spectrum who absolutely loathe each other, and
stick them together night after night in a debate setting, and
what do you get? A documentary about 1968, starring William F.
Buckley and Gore Vidal, that’s a whole lot more fun than it
ought to be.
Shut Up and
Deal — A
heartwarming story about Friday night poker
games. A reader from Australia
e-mailed some nice things about this
story, so I’ve included a link to his
homepage — like many good Australian sites, it deals with beer and poker.
I’ve also linked to the Octoroon
Poker Club, which meets in
neighboring Westchester County. Members of this group — like
its leader, Tom Tringali, who sounds like a kindred spirit — have sent several friendly e-mails.
Cards — A list of popular and not-so-popular games,
with rules and commentary, as well as a
link to the Bylaws of the Southwestern Connecticut Poker
which has conducted Friday night poker games for more than 30 years. Another Australian reader sent me a URL for his site, which involves, in his words,
music and sport,” so I’m including a link
to it here. (Evidently, Gravesend is popular
the responses I’ve gotten regarding the poker sections of this site have
come from Australia, including one from Cathy Jenkins, a Web
designer from Canberra — click
here — and the first female to show an interest in anything
poker-related at Gravesend.)
For an extensive
poker site full of helpful
information, as well as links to other poker-related
sites, try Online
Poker Tools, based in Manasquan, NJ, and managed by
of a Superstar
— Sports are fun and games, so they’re seldom truly
“important.” And the people who play them are generally
entertainers, who don’t
warrant any more attention than your average singer or actor.
However, there are always exceptions.
Sainthood — Once Michael
Vick became a better quarterback, the ex-con seemed to become a better
person, at least in the eyes of the jocks and sportscasters who
covered his career. Sports fans are so eager to see their heroes
as saints, they’re willing to give them a free pass for almost any
crime, no matter how disgusting.
Role Model — This short op-ed piece deals with sports and politics.
If, like me, you love sports, but find athletes more than a little
bit sickening, you might enjoy
The first three items below were
published “Letters to the Editor” (The Stamford Advocate); the last two were articles written for The
Quayle Quarterly, a now-defunct magazine that
once made fun of a now-forgotten former vice president.
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**From the Archives —
Oldies From the Dim Past**
Return to top.
The black-and white pinhole
camera photo to the left was supplied by Paul Jones, professional
photographer, ex-carpenter and drinking buddy, as well as amateur poker player (the best kind
player, good loser, always brings plenty of cash). He’s finally gotten
around to putting up some of his pictures on a site, which you can access by
clicking on his head, which is right below the Bass Ale tap. You can also find a
different collection of pinhole pictures by clicking here.
(Unfortunately, he was too cheap to spring for color film.) And you can
find another cache of pinhole pictures right
Paul is also
responsible for the commercial photo below ... that’s
his hand expertly pouring the beer into the mug.
have to confess that Bud is far from my favorite brand of
beer, even the least-tasty lager has it all over most other
beverages. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that — just as there’s no
truly bad lamb
vindaloo, bad Shakespeare or bad sex — there’s no truly “bad beer” ... only
varying degrees of good.
To turn the Bud into something better, point to
the head on the glass. Then click on the resultant Hindu brewski to view a
list of beer- and
alcohol-related quotations I’ve compiled. Beer lovers who want to
read reviews of many popular brands should click
The picture to the left was
done by Steve MacLeod, a commercial artist from Southbury, Connecticut. We worked together
during the 1980s and early 1990s, and these days, he’s on his own. To take a look at another of his drawings,
drag your mouse over the bird.
To view a gallery of Steve’s work, click on his logo:
|Junk text as a divider — and some
more junk text as a divider
Many of Linda Champanier’s paintings are
oriented toward a sci-fi/fantasy audience, including some beautiful
pictures like the wolf to the left. In my psychedelic days, I was a fan of
such as Roger Dean (who did many of the Yes album covers). Linda’s
paintings remind me of some of Dean’s artwork, as well as the illustrations you see on the covers of books by
people such as Anne McCaffrey (“Dragonriders of Pern”) and C.S. Lewis.
has written some well-loved fantasies,
including “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Dark Tower”
and “Mere Christianity.”)
For more of Linda’s work, click
on the wolf’s snout.
Linda is also quite adept at portraiture,
for which she is paid quite handsomely. To the left is her portrait of my
oldest friend Joe, who is a degenerate pervert (and I mean that in the
nicest possible way), a great drinking buddy and someone who’s like a member of my own family.
He’s also one of the finest sailors in the area. Here’s a painting of
him at the helm of
his gorgeous 31-foot, gaff-rigged Friendship sloop Natanya, on which I’ve spent
many a happy hour on Long Island Sound.
One of the best things about
having a website is that I become acquainted with people I wouldn’t
otherwise have gotten to know. For example, I’ve acquired a pen pal from Gravesend, England,
Claire Bellot, who
upon my site while looking for information about her hometown. I’m
hoping to announce her upcoming wedding in this space shortly.
I’ve also gotten
to know author Lawrence
McAuliffe, which has been an interesting experience. He’s a disabled
Vietnam War veteran and former chaplain, who’s written a well-received novel
Sun. To read my review, as well as other readers’ critiques, click on
the book jacket to go to Amazon.com, which enables readers to write book reviews on its site.
For an environmentally friendly
take a look at
August Pacific Publishing. It includes an alternative transportation
newsletter, Fleets and Fuels, owned by crazy bastard Rich
Piellisch, an aviation journalist and world traveler whom I met while
covering air shows in places like Paris and Singapore for Aviation
Week magazine. His site also includes a memorial
page for poet Mark Leigh Gibbons, a onetime English professor at Rich’s
alma mater, Boston College. Dr. Gibbons is honored by former students with
a Pub Crawl
of bars through the length of Manhattan, held
annually on the first Saturday in May. I’ve found this event to be collegial, congenial and drunken. Rich is also a blues musician, so his
site features links to the
San Francisco blues scene.
To go to his homepage, click on his ugly polka-dot tie or his even-uglier mug.
Here’s a book by a friend
and co-worker — a fine poet named Sherry Fairchok. A graduate of
Syracuse University, as well as Sarah Lawrence College’s master of fine
arts program, she’s translated a blue-collar background of coal miners and
immigrants into a powerful
collection of heartfelt verse. She’s currently working on her first novel,
which I’m also looking forward to reading.
Sherry’s poetry is the kind of stuff I always
wished I could write. Unfortunately, in my youth, what I did
write was the sort of pretentious stuff graduate students with overly inflated vocabularies think is monumentally important and
That’s why, if you’re lucky, you’ll never see any of
it posted here. Click here
or on the book jacket to buy Sherry’s book on Amazon.com.
Also located on
Amazon.com is this book by an old friend, Penny Van Horn, who lives in
Austin, Texas, with her daughter Ava, and has carved out a career in cartooning. Her stuff is
rather dark ... along the lines of Harvey Pekar, about whom the disturbing
movie “American Splendor” was made in 2003. Take a look at her
or on the book jacket to the right. You can also go to her website by
To the left is the home of high school
pal Rolf Olsen, of Lebanon, New Hampshire. This is a beautiful part of New England, but
I’ve only visited him there in the
summer; I’m guessing it might be somewhat less hospitable in mid-February.
To visit Rolf’s website, click on his massive forehead, which will soon
reach back to his shoulder blades.
You’ve pretty much reached the end of
the line here (and by now, you’re probably thinking, “Christ, it’s about
time”). At this point, I’ll come clean and admit a shameful fact:
Although I now consider myself a “recovering Christian,” in my
misspent youth, I was a Baptist. I’m not doing any bragging about this, but at
least I wasn’t a Southern Baptist, which ranks just below Wahhabi Islam
and just slightly above Scientology on my list of “The World’s 10
If, like me, you take a jaundiced view
of religion in general, and fundamentalist Protestantism in particular, you might
enjoy an amusing website that
purports to be
the homepage of a church somewhere in the Bible Belt: Landover Baptist. Southern Baptists
generally have their sense of humor washed away, along with their sins,
when they’re immersed, which makes this site a real hoot. For a different take on a similar subject, click here
for a wacky site that was nice enough to include a link to mine.
And, finally, one last link you might want to take a look at. For those
who view the occupation of editor as a superfluous waste of time, click here
for some amusing photos that illustrate just how important this underpaid and
underappreciated job can be.
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