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Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London: A Review   Leave a comment

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By C. Michael Forsyth

Years ago, in college, I was midway through the book Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, when I enthusiastically told my roommate I was reading a novel about the pair butting heads.

“So am I,” he marveled, holding up his dog-eared paperback copy of The Holmes-Dracula Files by Fred Saberhagen. Two books on the same theme, by authors who took the premise in entirely different directions. It turns out the great detective has had multiple literary run-ins with the Lord of Darkness over the years. A clash of the contemporaries was inevitable. They are the two most enduring characters in fiction – one the epitome of Victorian rationality, the other the embodiment of its dark, sensual counterpart.

Purists object to any Holmes tale involving the supernatural, but the possibility of the hero venturing off his usual turf appeals to me. And the more, the merrier. I’d love to see a three-way mashup, where Sherlock and Tarzan team up to battle Dracula in Africa!

Dracula does not make an appearance in the entertaining graphic novel Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London, but the sleuth does face some equally implacable foes, principally the aristocratic vampire Lord Selymes.

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UPPERCRUST VAMPIRE Lord Selymes is the perfect host.

 

The story is set in 1891, during Sherlock’s hiatus after his supposed death fighting Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. A rogue vampire has been viciously murdering prominent Englishman, for reasons unknown. Selymes, with the help of his legion of bloodsucking minions, coerces a reluctant Holmes into tracking the fiend down. The “stakes” are high. If the killing spree doesn’t stop, Queen Victoria – who tolerates vampires in her realm – will have no choice but to order their extermination.

The writer Sylvain Cordurie is faithful to Conan Doyle, when it comes to Holmes’ personality and methods. The detective relies on his powerful intellect to defeat his undead foes. In one clever move, he imbibes holy water to dispatch a vampire who makes the mistake of biting him. The detective’s expertise in chemistry also plays a critical role in the story.

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BOTTOMS UP: Holmes uses his brain to get the better of a bloodsucker.

 

Watson, as yet unaware that Holmes is alive, is not aboard for this adventure. The story is told as a memoir Holmes writes to his friend. The doctor’s absence is sorely felt; now I understand why Conan Doyle gave his cerebral hero a companion to begin with. Holmes, true to form, is emotionally detached throughout, whereas Watson’s reactions – terror, revulsion, disbelief – would have added another dimension to the tale. As it is, the book has a somewhat dispassionate tone. In fact, the writer doesn’t even include a moment in which the logical Holmes is shocked to learn of the existence of vampires. He’s pretty “sanguine” about the blood-drinkers, pardon the pun.

Irene Adler, the woman Sherlock became smitten with in A Scandal in Bohemia, does appear in vampire form – or rather her lookalike appears. You see, the real Irene apparently died two years earlier. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. SPOILER ALERT: The vampire is not Irene. The writer missed a golden opportunity here to offer Holmes an irresistible temptation.

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Sherlock’s only love interest IRENE ADLER is back — or is she?

 

The artist Laci does a crackerjack job depicting fog-enshrouded 19th century London, with attention to details of architecture and costume. Colorist Alex Gonzalbo’s use of a limited palette contributes to the grim atmosphere. I wasn’t crazy about how Holmes was drawn, however. His facial expression rarely changes, and while we know he is coldly logical, we want human reactions at critical points. I was also disappointed that Irene’s double is not more alluring. Irene had sex appeal to spare – shouldn’t a vampire version be more vampy?

I also have a beef with the dimensions. The book was originally published in France at 12.5 x 9 inches, but the  U.S. version put out by Dark Horse is reduced to a stingy 10 ½ x 7 inches. The panels look cramped, and some of the drama and beauty of the art is lost. I would have enjoyed the reading experience more in a larger format.

If you like stories that blend Conan Doyle and the paranormal, you might enjoy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House, by C. Michael Forsyth.

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Houdini and Conan Doyle investigate a bizarre disappearance in new book.

SNAPPY COMEBACKS TO STUPID MICROAGGRESSIONS   Leave a comment

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COLLEGE students have been posting microaggressions that offend them online.

By C. Michael Forsyth

College students and office workers get hit with irritating microaggressions every day. But they can put the boneheads who utter them in their place by using the snappy comebacks in this article.

Microaggressions are minor insults, usually spoken by well-meaning persons, that unintentionally communicate hostility toward people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many colleges and businesses are so concerned about the problem that they hand out lists of microaggressions to students and employees. But there’s been a lot of pushback against the trend, principally from conservatives who grumble that it’s “political correctness run amok.” I think what actually irks people is the pseudoscientific term microaggression. If you just said, “dumbass comments made by people who just don’t know any better,” there wouldn’t be much debate. Hell, who hasn’t unwittingly said something that made the listener steaming mad for the rest of the day? Just ask any husband!

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Many well-educated black people get asked this boneheaded question.

 

For example, a work friend thought he was paying the highest imaginable compliment when he told me, “Mike, you’re the least black person I know.” My comeback: “Thanks, Alan. You totally don’t seem Jewish to me at all.” But I, too, have put my foot in my mouth and been on the receiving end of a cutting reply. I once asked my gay niece, “So you and your girlfriend… who’s the man in the relationship?” Her comeback: “There IS no man in the relationship. That’s the point.” Ouch!

With the help of my boyhood chum Jordan Auslander, one of the wittiest guys I know, I’ve put together this handy list of 27 common microaggressions and snappy comebacks you can use:

“You’re so exotic!”
YOU MEAN LIKE KURU DISEASE?

(To a gay woman) “Have you ever had REAL sex?”
DOES YOUR MOTHER COUNT?

“No, I mean where are you REALLY from?”
MARS, BUT SHH! IT’S A SECRET. MY PEOPLE ARE EVALUATING YOUR PLANET TO SEE IF YOU’RE WORTH SPARING.

“Can I touch your hair?”
MY ARMPIT HAIR OR MY PUBIC HAIR?

“You know, I bet I could turn you straight!”
I BET IF I TURNED STRAIGHT AND YOU FUCKED ME, I’D TURN GAY AGAIN!

“So, how do Muslims feel about this situation?”
SORRY, MY TERM AS OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN FOR ALL MUSLIMS EXPIRED LAST WEEK.

“How come you don’t speak Spanish?”
I’M SECOND GENERATION. SAME REASON YOU DON’T SPEAK TROLL.

“How could I be anti-Semitic? I grew up around a lot of Jews.”
SO DID HITLER.

“How come you sound so white?”
MY SLAVE MASTER TAUGHT ME.

(To an Asian) “Can you see as much as white people?”
WELL, TEST ME. DO YOU HAVE YELLOW STAINS ON YOUR TEETH AND SIX GRAY NOSTRIL HAIRS?

(To a butch-looking gay woman) “Do you ever get mistaken for a man?”
NO, DO YOU? *

“Do you think maybe this gay thing is a phase?”
YES, PROBABLY. BUT UNFORTUNATELY FOR YOU, STUPID LASTS FOREVER.

“Hey, your English is quite good!”
SO IS YOUR HUMAN.

(To an Asian) “Sir, can you help me with this math problem?”
OH, OH! IT’S NOT THAT COUNTING STUFF IS IT?

(To an Asian) “You ‘re actually driving quite well.”
OH, THAT’S NOTHING. WATCH ME DO IT WITH MY EYES CLOSED!

“You’re very attractive for a dark-skinned girl.”
AND YOU’RE VERY INTELLIGENT FOR A CRETIN.

“You are so articulate!”
NOT USUALLY, BUT I HAVE TO BE TO GET THROUGH TO YOU.”

“You know, for a transgender girl, you look don’t look bad.”
THANKS, I THINK YOU COULD PASS TOO.

“Say, what ARE you, anyway?”
JUST TIRED, THAT’S ALL – OF DUMBASS QUESTIONS.

“Excuse me miss, were you born male?”
I WAS BORN WITHOUT MANNERS, BUT I LEARNED THEM.

“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
YOU MIGHT WANT TO GET THAT CHECKED.

“Would like to play Dora the Explorer in the school play?”
NO, I’D LIKE TO PLAY SCARFACE AND INTRODUCE YOU TO “MY LEETLE FRIEND.”

“I’m not racist. I have a black friend.”
LET ME GUESS: BEN CARSON.

“You don’t lisp or anything. You do a good job of hiding that you’re gay.”
SO DO YOU.

“You’re very pretty for a transgender woman.”
AND YOU’RE NOT UGLY FOR AN OGRE.

“I hear that Asian women are more passive than Western women.”
FUCK YOU! IS THAT AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH?

“Hey, can you also talk like a regular black person?
SURE I CAN. LISTEN CLOSELY: Yebo ngiyakwazi ukukhuluma like umuntu omnyama ejwayelekile, isilima. Kukhona izindlela ezehlukene ezingamakhulu umuntu omnyama kungaba ukukhuluma. Abanye abantu abamnyama ukuxoxa entshonalanga nanendlela indian, abanye abantu bekhuluma nge accent i-Afrika. Abanye abantu bakhulume njengabantu cockney like Idris Elba, owakhuliswa eNgilandi. Umuntu ababefunde bagogoda like Angela Bassett, ababeyile Yale, ngokwemvelo likhuluma kahle-kunawe. Ngenxa nje yokuthi umuntu omnyama okhuluma isiNgisi efanele akusho ezingaphansi evumelana black. Ngale kwalokho, lokho kwakuyosho Malcom X awuzange evumelana black. Just kungaze uke wambona movie Tyler Perry asipheli ube igunya phezu oNsundu waseMelika amaphethini inkulumo, isilima. Lwesigodi ungase ucabange njengoba real inkulumo elimnyama owehla endleleni okhuluma crackers oseningizimu bafundisa abantu bami uma abenziwe izigqila ngabaseGibithe kithi. Ngakho Ngithemba ngeke abe nandaba uma mina ungayisebenzisi.**

** Roughly translated from Zulu: “Of course I can speak like a ‘regular’ black person, half-wit. There are hundreds of different ways a black person can talk. Some black people talk with a West Indian accent, some people speak with the accent of an African country. Some people speak with a cockney accent like Idris Elba, who was raised in England. A highly educated person like Angela Bassett, who went to Yale, naturally speaks more properly than you. Just because a black person speaks proper English doesn’t mean they are less than authentically black. Otherwise that would mean Malcom X wasn’t authentically black. Just because you might have seen a Tyler Perry movie doesn’t make you an authority on African-American speech patterns, idiot. The dialect you may think of as ‘real’ black speech descends from the way of speaking southern crackers taught my people when they enslaved us. So I hope you won’t mind if I don’t use it.”

* Courtesy of Aliens.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

If this made you laugh, check out the author’s collection of news satire, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

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Spike, Captain Kirk & Me at Dragon Con!   Leave a comment

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James Marsters, best known as Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, still has plenty of attitude.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

For the first time, last weekend I attended Dragon Con, the nation’s premier science fiction and fantasy convention, in costume – decked out in a Zorro outfit. Posing with other attendees in wild getups was fun, but the highlight was getting to see two of my favorite genre stars in the flesh.

I never  before paid for a photo with the former star of a TV series. Not only did it seem like clingy celebrity worship — plus a waste of money — I always felt embarrassed for fading screen idols reduced to scraping by on $20 a pop. But when I spotted James Marsters, who played bleached blond cockney vampire Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I couldn’t resist. Not because I especially wanted a memento, but just for the opportunity to tell him face-to-face what a smashing job he did on the show. As I told the actor, he took viewers on a wonderful journey, deftly pulling off comedy, drama – even singing in the famous musical episode.

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Marsters gave my Zorro costume a thumbs up.

Marsters modestly responded that the writers “gave me such wonderful stuff to work with.” Which is certainly true. The arc of the character, who goes from villainous Billy Idol from hell to love-struck romantic hero, was one of the best ever written for the tube. Still a consummate actor, Marsters managed to make every fan on line feel like they shared a “moment” with him. (He complimented me on my “cool costume.”) Some of his legion of female admirers may have been a bit disappointed, though. A card on the table politely informed them that there should be no requests for “kissing, hugging or biting.”

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Thousands packed a ballroom to hear TV legend William Shatner.

Later, in a giant ballroom filled to capacity, I got to see my boyhood hero Captain Kirk himself speak. Bouncing around the stage buoyantly, the actor’s energy and mental agility belied his 85 years. It was a striking – and welcome – contrast to the classic Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years,” in which a mysterious disease causes Kirk to age rapidly, and he goes senile!

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Aging decades in just hours, Kirk shows signs of dementia.

A voracious reader, who chatted excitedly about the latest book he’d read on the intelligence of birds, Shatner proved himself far from the vapid egotist some see him as (an image spoofed hilariously by Tim Allen in the movie Galaxy Quest.) Shatner got deep as he recounted his discussion with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking for a science documentary. Surprisingly, when given an opportunity to ask Shatner a question, the genius posed the same superficial one any elementary school kid would: What was your favorite episode? The truth, the actor admitted, was that he recalls few details from the show in which he appeared 50 years ago.

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In an episode titled “Let That Be Your Last Battleground,” race hatred destroys a civilization — and even Kirk can’t fix it.

“I barely remember what hotel I woke up in this morning,” he joked. The star did say that in general what intrigued him were the episodes built around “big ideas.” In particular, he cited the one featuring a pair of aliens from the same planet, who hate each other because one is white on the right side and black on the left, the other just the reverse. Even when I watched it as a kid, the message about racial tolerance seemed heavy handed. The duo hail from “the southern part of the galaxy,” Spock informed the captain. But I guess in the 1960s, when TV’s first interracial kiss was shocking to viewers, you had to pound people over the head.

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Playing a young Army officer, Shatner helps Spencer Tracy prosecute Nazi leaders in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Asked about his experience as a young actor in Judgment in Nuremberg (1961), he recalled how the director sat the cast down and screened for them death camp footage of corpses being mowed into a trench by a bulldozer. He still wonders how humans can be capable of such bestial behavior, yet also incredible nobility and self-sacrifice. (That duality was, of course, the subject of another memorable episode, in which Kirk is split into a good half and evil half, due to a transporter malfunction.)

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Bill played a master of disguise on TV’s short-lived Barbary Coast.

But the former starship skipper was mostly funny. Asked about the short-lived 1975 series The Barbary Coast, in which he played a master of disguise, he reenacted the grueling experience of being made up as three different characters every day, often with elaborate prosthetics. It was such a pain in the butt that even though it was his first gig on the air since Star Trek ended nearly a decade earlier, “When it was cancelled after 13 weeks, I was glad!”

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“Stewardess!” Bill finds the skies not so friendly in this classic Twilight Zone episode.

In a famous Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” Shatner played an airline passenger recovering from a nervous breakdown, who keeps spotting a gremlin on the wing. He frantically tries to alert the flight crew, but naturally no one believes him. The TV legend revealed that when he flew with his children, they invariably made him prank stewardesses. They’d buzz for one, and when she came over, he’d turn from the window, making “the face.”

Mock Shatner for “overacting,” all you want. I maintain he’s way underrated. As is often the case with good performances, it seems like the actor is simply playing himself. But before being cast as the swaggering, self-assured, macho Kirk, he was best known for portraying weak or neurotic characters like the one described above. He wasn’t typecast.  What holds up best, as you watch the original series today, are those mind-blowing ideas, and Shatner’s performance. As he once said in an interview, he’s always been a storyteller, and you can see him reinforce the plot, note by note in each scene, with his acting choices. Experiencing what a splendid raconteur he is was a great reminder of this.

Still, I’m not above poking fun at Shatner’s acting style, as anyone knows who’s seen my impression.

Below are some more of my favorite Dragon Con moments:

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Plenty of time to clown around at the convention.

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Cute and creepy, you’ve got to hand it to her.

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The convention was heavily populated by Harley Quinns, like this one in the parade.

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This Harley didn’t really put much effort into makeup — but who cares?

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Not every female attendee at Dragon Con found me irresistible.

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The highlight of the convention for my son was this brawl between Godzilla and a T-rex, cheered on by Star Wars bounty hunters.

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As usual, oodles of scantily clad ladies roamed the convention.

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Bright idea for costumes: Uncle Fester and Wednesday.

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A formidable alien warrior — except maybe for his weapon.

UNIVERSITY SCIENTISTS CONFIRM EXISTENCE OF SUB-MICROAGGRESSIONS.   Leave a comment

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SOUNDWAVES DON’T LIE: Computer program pinpoints hidden sarcasm, insincerity or hostility.

 

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — University researchers have identified “sub-microaggressions” — insults so infinitesimal that they are beneath the level of conscious awareness of the person being snubbed, and can be detected only with highly sophisticated new voice analysis software.

“This astonishing scientific breakthrough is on a par with the discovery of the God Particle,” declares science writer Gordon K. Jowski. “Until now, the existence of sub-microaggressions, also known as nanoaggressions, was purely theoretical. Now we have proof.”

Under laboratory conditions, using highly sensitive microphones, a subject was recorded making the statement, “I totally support marriage equality.”

“Advanced software picked up micro-tremors indicating that the speaker was insincere,” reveals Jowski. “The system can also identify sarcasm too subtle for a victim to recognize.”

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MICROAGRESSION: Lesbians may take offense at an innocent question like this.

Ordinary microaggressions, first identified by Harvard and MIT experts in the early 1970s, are minor slights, usually uttered by well-meaning persons, that unintentionally communicate hostility toward people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

For example, telling a female colleague, “I love your shoes,” sends the message that you value her appearance more than her intellect. Saying, “I’m totally OCD about my desk,” trivializes the life experience of people who genuinely suffer from mental illness. Asking an Asian coworker after lunch, “Can you figure out the tip?” perpetuates the stereotype that all Asians are good at math. “Stand and be recognized” marginalizes people who are physically challenged.

“With microaggressions, the listener takes some degree of offense,” explains Jowski. “Sub-microaggression theory holds that sometimes the victim doesn’t pick up on a shift of tone or emphasis that communicates hostility – although he or she might subconsciously suffer psychological harm.”

The software analyzes soundwaves using psychoacoustic modeling, the science behind how humans distinguish and understand the meaning of sounds. Underlying emotions such as fear or resentment are revealed in a printout.

“It’s similar to Voice Stress Analysis (VSA), in how it measures psychophysiological responses, but far more advanced,” according to Jowski. “It’s based on technology originally developed by the NSA to scour overseas communications for possible terrorist threats. Now it can be adapted to help make America’s college campuses and office buildings safe spaces.”

The research team, from four top universities, made no specific recommendations for making practical use of the discovery, but some experts in the field believe microphones and computers equipped with the software should be installed in workplaces and colleges  across the country.

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“Microaggressions require a macro response,” declares Lauryn Coltbloom, a diversity consultant. “They are actually more damaging than overt expressions of bigotry precisely because they are small and therefore often downplayed, leading the victim to feel self-doubt rather than respond. Obviously, since nanoaggressions are 10 times more insignificant, society must put 10 times the effort into stamping them out.”

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

If you enjoyed this news satire by C. Michael Forsyth check out his collection of bizarre news stories, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

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Activists Set to Trim L from LGBTQ   Leave a comment

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By C. Michael Forsyth

SAN FRANCISCO — Activists are struggling to whittle down the unwieldy acronym LGBTQ – and surprisingly, the letter L is most likely to get the ax!

“All lesbians are gay, so the L is redundant,” explains linguist Newton Brishol, who is advising activists. “It’s why we don’t need an H for homosexual. G covers both male and female gay people quite neatly.”

The long and cumbersome acronym is a source of confusion for many Americans. Some, for example, believe the Q stands for “queer,” while others insist it stands for “questioning.”

“It’s obvious the acronym needs to be shortened for clarity’s sake, but it’s hard to get a consensus on where to trim,” says one top leader. “We’re bending over backward to please everyone.”

Some gay women are furious that the L in L word could be headed for the chopping block.

“If any letter is going to get the boot, it should be Q,” fumes feminist author and activist Kandella Fornqusit. “People who are just ‘questioning’ don’t deserve their own letter, I’m sorry. You’re basically handing out a letter that says, ‘Might actually be straight.’”

While most leaders agree the acronym needs pruning, others contend it should actually be lengthened to be more inclusive. Possible additions that have been run up the flagpole include:

A = Asexual — Attracted to neither sex
C = Closeted — Refuses to admit being gay
D = Drunken — Has gay sex after multiple beers
E = Experimented — Had brief gay stint at college
F = Faux Lesbian — Makes out with other girls at clubs to attract attention
G = Genderless — Does not identify with either gender
H = Hustler — Will have gay sex, but only for money. (Others say H should be for Hermaphrodite).
I = Intersex — Born with both male and female genitalia
M = Mistaken for gay — Man who is “too good looking,” hates sports, or speaks with an English accent. (Alternatively, M for Ménage – Wife who will go bi for a three-way on husband’s birthday)
N = Narcissist — Only attracted to self
O = One timer — Tried gay sex once and hated it, like Hugh Hefner
P = Prisoner — Resorts to homosexuality while serving time, AKA “gay for the stay”
R = Really thinks being bisexual sounds cool.
S = Star struck — would engage in same-sex relations with just one celebrity, such as Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt
U = Ugly — Too unattractive to get the chance to sleep with anyone, male or female.
V = Vulnerable — Gay, but could easily be flipped
W = Would make a great lesbian. Shorthaired, athletic, tomboyish, but straight
X = X-rated — Turned on by gay porn but won’t try it

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

If you enjoyed this news satire by C. Michael Forsyth check out his collection of bizarre news stories, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

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NEW SENSITIVITY CLASSES TEACH HOW TO AVOID OFFENDING BIGOTS   Leave a comment

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Archie Bunker of TV’S “All in the Family” was America’s most beloved bigot.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

CHARLESTON — Across America, corporations are now bringing in consultants to teach “sensitivity classes” that train liberals to be more tolerant of bigots.

“When a left-leaning employee calls a coworker ‘racist’ or ‘sexist,’ that’s incredibly hurtful,” explains Cindy Haltcress, whose firm conducts Political Diversity Training seminars throughout the southeast. “You risk creating a hostile work environment, something our clients naturally want to avoid. You should never use the term bigoted, for example. The preferred term is ‘tolerance challenged.’

“Or course, we’re not saying you have to laugh when someone tells an anti-Muslim joke, but certainly you should smile. You never want a coworker to feel judged or marginalized.”

Companies typically shell out between $1,500 and $3,500 for half-day sessions, but weekend retreats can set them back as much as $26,000.

Here, from the expert, are eight terms to steer clear of, and less-offensive alternatives:

Racist = “Not really into the whole multicultural thing”
Sexist = “Sees gender roles traditionally”
Homophobic = “Likes a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman”
Anti-Muslim = “Pro-Christian”
Anti-semitic = “Not fond of those New Yorker types.”
Xenophobic = “Puts America first”
Prejudiced = “Has an old-fashioned world view”
Transphobic = “Doesn’t get that Bruce Jenner stuff”

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

If you enjoyed this news satire by C. Michael Forsyth check out his collection of bizarre news stories, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

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New Conan Doyle/Houdini Audiobook   Leave a comment

Arthur AudiobookThe audiobook edition of my novel Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House is now on sale on Amazon and iTunes. Narrating the book was a delightful experience, but extraordinarily challenging. I had to draw upon my gift for mimicry to pull of Conan Doyle’s Scottish brogue, as well as Cockney and Southern accents.

It helped that I’ve been imitating Sean Connery for years, and can nail him pretty well, as I do in this James Bond spoof. If you check it out, don’t laugh so hard you forget to return to this page and follow the link to the free sample of the audiobook.

In the novel, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the world’s greatest escape artist team up to solve a paranormal mystery.The Sherlock Holmes Society of London hails it as “an adventure story with depth, full of atmosphere, suspense, ingenuity.”

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