Welcome to Gravesend



Greetings. 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 a fictional New Hampshire town in my favorite novel.)

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. I’m an editor/writer, op-ed columnist and a former adjunct English professor at the University of Connecticut, from which I graduated way back in the 20th Century.

The Drought Family
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 that craft. 

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 here.

My wife and I are childless (although we prefer the less politically correct term “child-free”), so we take far too 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.

To 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 clicking here 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 Fairfield 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 this site.

Following are some of the more-recent articles currently available (older material is archived farther down the page).

  • Current Events:

    • Is Paris Burning?As the Trump administration draws to a close, the United States is resembling Germany at the close of World War II, when the Fuhrer decided that he had been rejected by disloyal Germans, and if he couldn’t have the country, then nobody could.

    • Taking Down the StatuesWhy are conservatives so attached to statues of generals who betrayed our country, like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson? Could it be they think the wrong side won the Civil War? Could it be that they wish it were the 50s, either the 1950s, when minorities knew their place, or perhaps, the 1850s, when the minorities were in the cotton fields?

    • Groundhog Day ... AgainThis pandemic lockdown has turned into an exercise in boredom and monotony. It’s not unlike a movie that starred Bill Murray several years back, and a more recent movie (“Palm Springs”) I’d recommend for this year.

    • 20-20 PredictionsOnce a decade, I like to don sackcloth and ashes, and prophesy about the upcoming 10 years. Woe be to us!

    • Health as a Metaphor for a National SicknessOur country is already taking a beating from climate change, and we’ll soon be taking a beating from our profligate budgetary policies.

  • Freedom of Speech:

  • Church and State:

    • There’s Always Room for Another Religion — In this case, it’s Trumpianity, which is the worship by evangelicals of any candidate who is willing to make poor women give birth to children they can’t afford to feed, and a Messiah who wants to see more money in the hands of millionaires like himself.

    • Religious Freedom Should Not Mean Forcing Bigotry on OthersNow that conservatives have the right-winger they prayed for on the Supreme Court, the prospects for continued progress in civil rights seem to be dimming.

    • The 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.

    • What 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.

    • It 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.

    • Blasphemy 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.

  • Politics:

    • Filled With Fear Republicans win elections by scaring their sheep, and filling them will anxiety about what will happen if the big, bad Democrats win an election. When they’re not working hard to suppress the vote, they’re lying about why the rest of us should vote for conservatives and Trumpists.

    • Lost Causes —  If you believe something strongly enough, it can be hard to let go, even when you’re so wrong you stop making sense. In the Era of Trumpiness, that’s apparently no longer embarrassing,

    • Cognitive Dissonance Some people will believe almost anything, and won’t even believe their own eyes and ears. Often the hardest thing is holding two conflicting beliefs in your mind at the same time.

    • Election Day 2020 This may be the last free election we ever have in this country, so savor it.

    • Who’s the Craziest of Them All — Bill Maher said it best (he usually does) — maybe all we need this time around is to nominate a candidate who’s a little less nuts than Donald J. Trump. You wouldn’t think that would be all that difficult.

    • In the Year of the Donald — As we approach the next election, we better give some thought to what America is becoming, and what it could become with so many more years of a fascist pig as president.

    • A More Perfect Union — Americans love the idea of perfection. These days, we don’t get anything anywhere near that in the Oval Office; however, with our current president, anything different would be a major improvement.

    • Amend the ConstitutionMost proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution are inane suggestions that go nowhere, which is why the document has been amended only 27 times in more than 200 years. However, I've got one, a 28th Amendment, that sounds like a good idea to me, and it’s one that should appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike.

    • Socialism: It’s as American as Apple PieOur country is a mix of capitalism and socialism, yet we’re proud to call ourselves “capitalists,” and ashamed to admit to our own socialism. It’s as if Americans believe the Constitution established the U.S. as a capitalist nation, following the command of Jesus and St. Paul in the New Testament.

  • Popular Culture:

    • Bad Science Is Sinking Us — From creationism to climate change denial to anti-vaxxers, the Republican party is drowning us in their anti-scientific superstition. In the long run, it will not be a good deal for the country,

    • Rein in the Cancel Culture — We Democrats need to stop eating our own. The Republicans will do it for us, so it’s not necessary that we help them by joining in.

    • On the Great Mandala — The essence of existence is change; hence, the essence of all things is impermanence ... or so the Buddha said, and I’m going to take his word for it. A mandala is a circular piece of artwork, sometimes created by placing grains of colored sand into a frame.

    • Living With the Corona Virus — Living through the worst disaster to befall our country in a long, long time has been a difficult slog. And we’re only a few weeks into it ... if feels like it’s always been like this, and it will never end.

    • I’m Even More Too Old for This Stuff Than I Used to Be — All things are relative, but I’m no longer as patient as I once was. In fact, I’m becoming downright curmudgeonly.

    • Give and Take — You never get something that you don’t have to give up something in return. It seems to be an immutable law of physics, at least for most people I know.

    • Half-Century High School Reunion — You want an event in your future that makes you feel really old? Try having your 50-year high school reunion in your immediate future. It seems like those five decades just sped by before I knew what hit me.

    • Wishful Thinking — There is always a gap between what we wish or hope were true, and what actually is. Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, there’s always going to stuff that’s out of touch with reality.

    • Modern Mythologies — We believe all kinds of things we probably shouldn’t, but if anyone thinks humans will suddenly get smarter, well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

  • A True-Life Personal Anecdotes:

    • Father’s Day — This short piece was written for Father’s Day 2020. No politics, and hopefully this treads the line between sentimentality and sappiness.

    • Unspoken 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.

  • Movie Review:

    • Best 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.

  • Technology:

  • Poker:  

    • 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.

    • House of 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 Association (SWCPA), 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, “beer, music and sport,” so I’m including a link to it here. (Evidently, Gravesend is popular “Down Under.” Many of 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 Chris Sorensen.

  • Sports:

    • Death 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.

    • Too-Easy 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.

    • I’m No 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 this one.

    • Game of the Decade — A longer article turned down by sports magazines nationwide. (Actually, I think it works quite well as a nostalgia piece.)

  • Science Fiction:

    • Critical Mass — A rather longish short story rejected by science-fiction magazines all over the country. (Read it yourself to find out why.)

Political Satire:

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**

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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 — bad 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 here.

Paul is also responsible for the commercial photo below ... that’s his hand expertly pouring the beer into the mug.

Although I 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 here.

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 artists 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. (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 came 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 called Purple 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 website, 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 “artistic.” 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 book by clicking here, or on the book jacket to the right. You can also go to her website by clicking here.

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 Most-Distasteful Cults.”

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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