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
and Greenwich Time
(Greenwich, CT), The
Connecticut Post (Bridgeport,
CT) and, occasionally, the The
Weekly (Fairfield, 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).
Confusing and Violent 2015 Raises a Lot of Questions for 2016
— Some of the questions raised by the
disturbing events of 2016 don’t seem to have good answers, and
many of them are things we don’t
really even want to think about.
and Islamophobia: Not Quite the Same Thing — With more and more Americans
outraged by the Islamic State (ISIS), there’s a danger we could
be putting “boots on the ground” again in the Mideast. It
might be a good idea to take our time this time around; the last
go-round in Iraq continues to be the worst mistake of the new
century thus far, and it’s getting worse all the time.
Tolerance for the ‘But Squads’ — Isn’t is about time we
stopped making excuses for outrageous criminal behavior,
especially in the area of terrorism, and stopped blaming the
victims for “bringing it on themselves.”
History Honest — If it comes down to a choice
between looking at things as we’d like them to be and how they
are, it’s probably better to go with what’s realistic. We
Americans too often choose hypocrisy over honesty ... it’s what
we like to think of as American exceptionalism.
Time Around, It’s ISIS — I’m not saying we should
just sit back and do nothing about the threat of ISIS; however,
given our past fiascos and failures in the Middle East, I think we
should at least consider sitting back and doing nothing, before we
start the invasion.
Questions for Lefties — I wish that I could say that
the conservatives are always full of crap, and the liberals are
always the voice of reason. If only that were true. Sometimes the
people on my side of the political spectrum don’t make any sense
to me at all.
the Ukraine — I’m hearing a lot of talk
from Republicans about how Obama lost the Crimea, and soon
Vladimir Putin will be seizing all of the Ukraine because Obama is
so weak. What I’m not hearing is what he should do
to prevent this, or even what some mythical, godlike Republican
president (think Saint Reagan) would have done differently or
could have done differently.
Colonialism — When people contribute money
to send missionaries overseas to “save souls,” I’m not sure
they realize some of the ways that money is put to use ... or
maybe they do.
Not to Get Elected in 2014 — I don’t think I could be
elected dog catcher, so I have no advice for those who want to
hold public office, other than to emulate our esteemed
representatives in Congress (who have about a 9% approval rating
at this point). However, I do know how not to get
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)?
Protectors Circle the Wagons —
Eight years after my last article
on this controversial subject, the Catholic church is still
playing a public relations game with its “parade of
vs. Creationism: A Guide for the Nonscientist
— When scientists debate
creationists, they invariably crush them like grapes. But how can
the rest of us nonscientific types cope with the fundamentalist
wackos all around us who want religion taught in our public school
the Constitution in the Name of God —
Should public office be limited only to those who profess a belief
in god? You might be
surprised to hear that (1) the Constitution’s Article VI says
“no,” and (2) many Southern social conservatives say “yes”
... i.e., the Constitution should be ignored when it’s
Between Two Unsavory Alternatives — The lesser of two evils
doesn’t sound much like an inspiring campaign slogan, but we
live in the real world. With the GOP running the worst candidate
in its history, and the Democrats not all that far behind in the
race to the bottom, you have to do the best you can.
in an Election Year — Every
now and then, politicians stumble into the truth. They hate
that, and they usually try to get away from it as quickly as possible.
And this applies even to the most unconventional and supposedly
Trump: Get Used to That Phrase — There’s
a horrible, sexist and tasteless saying, which I won’t repeat
here. However, there’s a horrible, sexist and tasteless
candidate heading toward the position of leader of the Free World.
In his honor, let me just repeat the punch line of that awful
saying: “If there’s nothing else you can do, sometimes you all
you can do is just lay back and enjoy it.”
and the 2015 Primaries — This
election should be narrated by George Costanza, whose best line
ever was, “It’s not a lie ... if you believe it.” The
American people will believe almost anything this year.
Is the Year of the Amateur and the Extreme Partisan in Electoral
Politics — The 2015–2016
presidential campaign season is highly partisan, and it features
the idea that, because the professionals have made a mess in
Washington, we should elect someone totally unqualified.
for the 2015/2016 Election Extravaganza — Yes ... that’s right, it
now takes two years to fit in all the wacky crap we need for an
American presidential election. Thank the election gods for Trump
... if only Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann would throw their
crazy into the ring.
Is Much Rarer Than You Think — Conservatives like to
pretend they’re libertarians, because the concept has a certain
cachet during periods of time when politicians are held in low
esteem. Of course, it’s crap, and conservatives, like the Tea
Party, are one of the reasons we dislike politics so much.
Like Most Things, It’s Not All Black and White — Issues are not always one
way or the other. Alternatives that seem opposite are sometimes
simultaneously true. Accepting this takes a certain amount of
nuanced thinking, which Americans aren’t always comfortable
with. (Notice how I ended that sentence with a preposition ...
that’s right, like Sarah Palin, I’m a maverick.)
and Self-Interest — There’s a fine line
between healthy self-interest and amorality. Usually, you can find
where that line has been crossed by watching big business and the
modern Republican party.
Our Lesson — Did we
actually learn anything from Vietnam? It didn’t keep us out of
Iraq or Afghanistan. Let’s hope that Iraq and Afghanistan keep
us out of Syria.
Conservatives: A Strange Concept — Why would a
terrorist attack make a person who’s liberal-minded across a
broad spectrum of issues suddenly
become a conservative? It makes no sense to me, but then maybe I
didn’t drink a big enough glass of the right-wing Kool-Aid after
Are Welcome, Millennials — It has come to my attention
that some members of the younger generation are not as grateful to
us Baby Boomers for the great legacy we are leaving them as one
might expect them to be. That’s a damn shame.
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.
Fermi Paradox — What do you suppose an alien race
exploring our solar system will find if they show up on Earth in
the year 2115? There’s a distinct possibility that they’ll
find nothing more than the remains of a once-thriving
civilization, because it’s not too far-fetched to hypothesize
that mankind may just be “too stupid to live.”
Blues — Maybe we could start thinking about being
practical when it comes to the problems of the inner city, rather
than coming at it from the extremes of right and left.
I Won’t Miss — The older you get the more you lose out
on; however, being a glass-half-full optimist, I’ve decided to
someone ought to write an article about the stuff you lose out on
to which you can honestly say, “Good riddance.”
a Racket! — If, like me, you made some bad career
choices along the way, like majoring in some liberal arts area
that doesn’t provide you with any marketable job skills, you
might enjoy this article. I’m an English major, and I should
have looked for something more lucrative ... like televangelist or
snake handler ... or snake oil salesman.
Should Live So Long — As I reach my “Golden Years,”
I sometimes marvel at the stuff I’ve seen come to pass. And
there are still some things I’d like to see happen before I go
to the big dirt nap.
We Should Continue to Fund SETI — The hope that we’re
not alone in the universe seems to a universal human aspiration.
Unfortunately, we’ve stopped looking for intelligence beyond the
Earth, which is a sign of a lack of intelligence on the Earth.
Death of Science — Throughout history, there have been
groups (Muslim fundamentalists and Catholics are two that come to
mine) that oppose progress in science. These days, the Catholics
have mostly stopped doing that in this country, and the
evangelical Protestants have taken their place.
Half-Centuries of Our Lives — Recently, I was asked whom
I thought was the greatest figure of my lifetime. If one of my
parents had been asked this question, they would have had plenty
of people to choose from, having lived through what they lived
through. For me, it wasn’t such an easy question.
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.
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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