Best of Random Shots

— R.F. Kampfer

[In our previous issue we sadly reported the death of Neil Chacker, whose Random Shots column appeared in this magazine from its inception under the byline R.F. Kampfer. As a farewell to the column I have selected some of Kampfer’s best representative items from “randomly” chosen back issues. — David Finkel]

DURING THE EXCAVATION of Pompeii, archaeologists found the body of a young Roman soldier who had been standing guard duty when Vesuvius erupted. He had remained at his post while being covered with molten lava. That’s the kind of discipline we need!

A survey taken by a Budapest radio station found that very few Hungarians could identify Marx and Engels. One woman thought that Marx had translated Lenin’s works into Hungarian. Another man said he must have been absent from school that day. This is called “Preserving the Gains of the October Revolution.” (Both from May-June 1986)

During the Spanish Civil War, one correspondent told of visiting a sector held by the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. They had been in the trenches for months, and were ragged, filthy, lousy, exhausted and half-starved. The first thing they said was: Did you bring anything to read?” (Sept.-Oct. 1986)

Ever since the class system began, the procedure has been that we would push the rocks or pick the cotton and management would walk behind with a whip to keep us at it. Now, with the new Team Concept developed by the UAW for Jefferson Assembly, we get to work with one hand and flog ourselves with the other. (Nov.-Dec. 1986)

20/20 Foresight

THE U.S. NATIONAL leadership seems to contemplate the approach of war and depression with the same apathetic resignation as a tribe of neanderthals regarding the approaching glaciers of the last Ice Age. (January-February 1991)

Blame for the World Trade Center bombing will ultimately be assigned to whichever country is least able to respond to the retaliation. (July-August 1993)

Haiti might have avoided a great deal of suffering if Aristide had undertaken to wipe out his irreconcilable enemies while he had the chance. (November-December 1994)

Life Styles

KAMPFER GOT A deer this year. Note will be taken of whomever fails to taste it. (Jan.-Feb. 1998)

A new and improved version of Viagra is being developed that comes in the form of a wafer. Only a total degenerate would think of the fun to be had by substituting these for communion wafers before Sunday Mass. (July-August 1998)

Possums are not what you call fussy eaters, but they never touch the zucchini in the garden. (Jan.-Feb. 2003)

Cultural Critique

THE RECENT DOCUMENTARY about the controversial (cartoonist R.) Crumb makes one wonder if he would have produced anything had he come from a healthier family. Of course, there are lots of dysfunctional families and very few artists. The movie, incidentally, features a cameo appearance by the immortal Spain Rodriguez, the only known underground cartoonist to be both an outlaw biker and a member of the Socialist Labor Party. (Jan.-Feb. 1996)

An item censored by the editor from my previous column, on the usual grounds of grotesque bad taste, suggested that Disney would be selling Quasimodo back-packs. Well, now they really are. (Nov.-Dec.1996)

Hollywood predicts the future:
Lou Costello: “I’m a union man. I only work sixteen hours a day.”
Irate customer: “A union man only works an eight-hour day.”
Costello: “I belong to two unions.” (May-June 1997)

Change of the Century

AT THE NATO summit, it was decided that the organization would not tolerate genocide if practiced by non-members who did not possess nuclear weapons and were within artillery range of Europe. (July-Aug. 1999)

George Orwell, in 1945, wrote to deplore the fact that the number of daily newspapers published in London had been reduced to twelve. (March-April 2000)

It’s significant that a high-tech ship like the USS Cole was sunk by the aquatic equivalent of a Ryder truck. (Jan.-Feb. 2001)

The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice sounds like something Ashcroft would dream up, but it was actually a Taliban agency. (May-June 2002)

Funny how there were no troops available to guard the hospitals and museums, but plenty for the oil ministry. (May-June 2003)

It seems hard to imagine that in 1969, Kampfer could board a plane with a samurai sword tucked under his arm, and nobody said a word. (July-August 2004)

Closing Thought

ONE COMMON FEATURE of all reactionary movements is an orientation toward the past, seeking a return to some mythical golden age when the world was a better place. The socialist movement began with its eyes on the future, but it too has proven vulnerable to nostalgia. Whatever shape the coming revolution takes, it will not be a rerun of the seizure of the Winter palace, the Flint sitdown strike or the Spring of ‘68. The future belongs to those who are able to imagine something new. (May-June 1992)

ATC 114, January-February 2005