Feds install ‘Fever Canon’ on White House roof

Washington, D. C., February 24, 2022, Star-Gazer News Service–The Federal Government has borrowed a Civil War era canon from the Smithsonian and installed if on the White House roof as part of the new multi-part protocol for ending the pandemic.

Based on theories that circulated during Yellow Fever epidemics that posited that the fever was caused by a miasma in the air, the canon will fire hourly during the nighttime hours (from the twilight’s last gleaming to the dawn’s early light) to disrupt the dangerous miasma and render it inert.

According to informed sources, the Alternate Center for Disease Control ACDC) hadn’t thought about using a fever canon until a janitor read the January 21 edition of the Malcolm’s Round Table blog which mentioned thge use of such canons.

Presidential aide Sue Smith said in this morning’s news conference that the Washington Monument will be closed until further notice due to damages caused by canon balls.

“We just assumed the canon had to be loaded,” she said. “After destroying a section of the monument and taking out several tourist buses, we were informed that the sound of the canon was enough to put a dent in the miasma throughout the city.”

Smith also acknowledged that the President has moved to an undiscloed location, probably the Day’s Inn at 4400 Connecticut Avenue, since the canon made sleep inpossible.

The ACDC is recommending that fever canons be installed in all major cities until the pandemic “cries uncle.” While some experts have suggested burning tar in barrels on major street corners to further disperse the miasma, their ideas have been dimissed as “pretty damn stupid.”

Smith cautioned that fever canons have not been approved for home use though Second Amendment scholars believe every American has a right to a front yard canon.


Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter


How will people 50 years from now view our approach to COVID?

My favorite Bette Davis movie is “Jezebel” made in 1938. It’s a love story set in New Orleans during one of the city’s horrible yellow fever epidemics.

The movie is set in a time when people thought yellow fever was caused by “miasma” in the air. To disrupt this miasma, people burnt tar in barrels and fired off a fever canon.

Even now there is no cure for yellow fever, though there is a vaccine that helps prevent it but doesn’t seem to impact people who already have it.

I’ve thought of this fever canon approach during the COVID epidemic because the whole miasma idea showed a lack of knowledge about diseases and how they were spread. Yellow fever is spread by mosqitoes.

The movie shows the fear the populace had of yellow fever, of those who got it, of how to combat it, and the need to isolate the victims. While we’re a bit more civilized now, we still have many of the same fears and we’ve been addressing them in multiple ways across the country.

As I think about that fever canon on the movie, I wonder which of our approaches is similar to that: i.e., totally wrong headed and ineffective. Perhaps one day we’ll know the answer to that. Or perhaps, as some say, we’ll never get rid of COVID altogether but will learn how to prevent most of it and treat it more effectively.

I think we’d all feel better about our chances of success if our approach nationally was more cohesive. As it is, mandates and mask ideas and vaccine notions come and go weekly. Those of us who were around during the polio epidemic saw some of the same kinds of fears and confusion until the Salk and Sabin vaccines became available.

I’m a cynic, so I can’t help but wonder which of the things we’re doing is really just a fever canon. I do think I’m more hopeful about a COVID solution than the residents of New Orleans were about yellow fever in 1905. Time will tell–perhaps.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy and magical realism novels and short stories. To learn more, click here

I had a little bird, its name was Enza, I opened up the window and in flew Enza.

Most of us weren’t around during the influenza epidemic of 1918 when the nursery rhyme in the header of this post was well known, though I hestitate to call it popular. We also weren’t here when the stock market crashed in 1929 or when the dustbowl ravaged the southern plains of the 1930s. The people of my generation often said our parents and others of their generation acted a certain way or had an indentifiable world view because they suffered through one of these upheavals.

Fphar-11-00937-g001.jpgIn the future, people will look back on the western wildfires and, perhaps, speak of them in the way we refer to the dustbowl now. And perhaps analysts of the future will find parallels between our current pandamic and the dark times of 1918. People are already writing books and essays about their experiences that may form the foundation for how people in 75-100 years believe we’ve handled these crises.

In the middle of this dandemic, what I see is confusion, most often described as science vs. personal opinion. The arguments fill the days’ news. In some ways, the arguments boil down to an us-v-them clash, on hand that nobody should be able to force us to get vaccinated or take other precautions, and on the other hand, those who won’t get vaccinated are threatening the lives of everyone else.

As often happens, the Democrats are arguing with the Republicans about every thing from vaccines to masks to lockdowns to re-opening businesses and schools and travel. Why, I wonder, must politics even rear its ugly head in these discussions? The parties should be working together rather that fomenting a fragmentation of views and policies.

In the future, I suspect people will marvel at how quickly vaccines were developed and how people who grew up in a “vaccinated society” came to shun them. When we look back at the pandemic of 1918, we cannot really fault people for what science didn’t yet know. I think, though, that we will be faulted for what we do know and what we said it was our right to ignore.

So far, it looks like those whom the future will award the highest marks are the swamped first responders and the hospital workers. Next, perhaps, those who created vaccines in record time. Last will be the politicians and those who believe their personal “rights” supercede the needs of the nation and their neighborhood.

All of this frustrates me. How about you?


Comfort food

Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture. – Wikipedia

The pandemic sent many of us in search of comfort food. Some of it was actual food, a plate of French fries, a banana split. Some of it was food for the mind, a favorite movie or book, or good a conversation. Some of it was food for the spirit, a walk in the woods, swimming in saltwater at a forgotten beach.

The social media were filled with conversations about comfort food, edible and otherwise. People compared notes, despaired over what wasn’t available (restaurants, pubs, movies). Described what worked for them, complimented others who confessed their new guilty pleasures. And generally found ways to be together while they were physically far apart.

As a typical introverted writer, the seclusion didn’t bother me. Send me a bottle of Zinfandel and a good book, and I have all the “comfort food” I need. Our cats provided comfort–whenever they felt like it. And my wife and I had fun ending our evenings with a YouTube episode of the show “What’s My Line?” We saw many of those growing up and though they’re very dated compared with, say, Rob Low’s “Mental Samurai,” they met our definition of comfort food.

Through poetry, essays, and first-person stories, pandemic people often spoke of the power they discovered (or re-discovered) of solitary pursuits. They found they could be alone without being lonely and saw that there was a great power in that. Sitting on a front porch beneath a sparkling night sky. Walking–anywhere–but nowhere in particular. Listening to music after shutting off their cellphones. Meditating one way or another. For some, the beauty of this was a revelation; for others, it was a return to the less-hectic days before they were ensnared by the commuting/9-5 job where the office was often more home than home.

As people become vaccinated and various restrictions are relaxed and the trappings of our pre-COVID lives are available again, I hope we will remember what we discovered about alone time, how freeing and renewing it can be. The pandemic has taught us many lessons. The power of being alone is one of them.


My comfort food.

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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We used to say, ‘well, there’s a war on’

In the so-called old days, people often explained daily inconveniences as well as impulsive decisions with the phrase, “well, there’s a war on.” That excused everything from getting pregnant to getting drunk to getting married to singing the night away at a club you’d never go to if there wasn’t a war on.

I’m not sure we’ve come up with a gallows’ humor catchphrase to succinctly remind ourselves how much COVID impacts our lives on multiple levels. Perhaps “Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months” or “The Days of Wine and Masks.” World Wars I and II brought almost every normal thing to an abrupt halt. In a different way, so has the pandemic. Either way, the deaths and the wounded are real.

Some people ask “when will things get back to normal” while others say, “normal wasn’t all that good.” My feeling is that as bad as “normal” was, it was better than Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months. Those who want to pretend they are Nostradamus sagely predict things will never be the same even after COVID’s gone. I think they will because we have short memories.

Plus, I’ve never seen the point in being a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. I’d rather say that in spite of all the political wrangling, naysayers, false starts, and fearmongering that when we finally kick COVID in the ass, that we will have a feeling of accomplishment and survivorship. I want to say, “We beat the pandemic” rather than catalogue all the ways society will end up worse than it was.

In the meantime, I’m okay with Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months because, after all, there’s a pandemic on.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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Ready to be kicked by a mule?

“Side effects (such as fever, chills, tiredness, and headache) throughout the body were more common after the second dose of the vaccine. Most side effects were mild to moderate. However, a small number of people had severe side effects that affected their ability to do daily activities.”CDC

Since my wife and I are reporting to the county health department tomorrow afternoon for our second Moderna shot, I browsed through the side effects and didn’t find “feels like being kicked by a mule.” What a relief. Yet, there’s been talk. Others have dropped dead, possibly, and this seems to be better than being kicked by a mule. Or, maybe these are just myths and legends and the shot feels like a scoop of rocky road ice cream.

I got lots of shots when I reported to the navy. Most of them were given by things that looked like nail guns. But I was younger then and figured I’d probably die in the war anyway, so no big deal. I’m older now, obviously, and it takes me longer to recover when I’m kicked by a mule or shot with a .50 caliber machine gun round.

Some people won’t even get the first shot because they don’t know what’s in it. If they did, would they know enough about the ingredients to make a YES/NO decision? Somebody on Facebook said we don’t know what’s in hotdogs and that doesn’t stop us from getting two or three at the ball game.  Whenever anybody asks what’s in a hotdog, the answer is, “You don’t really want to know.” The response is usually laughter and another order of hotdogs–or the notorious slaw dog.

Every once in a while hotdogs are recalled after some glitch resulted in a whole town being wiped out. We haven’t heard anything that bad about our COVID vaccines. So, what can possibly go wrong?

You don’t want to know.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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The first shot

The online application for finding the nearest COVID vaccination station kept directing us to places that were at least 100 miles away. Yesterday, my wife got fed up when we were told to drive to someplace halfway between Atlanta and Birmingham, AL. Not convenient.

So, she called the county health department and they said, “Can you and your husband come in tomorrow morning at 10:45?” “Sure.”

We expected an overflowing parking lot and a long line inside the building. The parking lot looked suspiciously normal. Inside, there was a short line. Had to present our driver’s licenses and fill out an information sheet. We got our Moderna vaccinations within about ten minutes and then spent another fifteen minutes waiting to make sure we had no side effects. We didn’t.

They will call us when it’s time for the second shot. I’m impressed: the whole operation was friendly and efficient. We left with a comprehensive information sheet about COVID and about the vaccine. Kudos to Floyd County, Georgia. Now we can really feel there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.


spoilt hope

The 1969 feature film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (directed by Sidney Pollack with an Oscar-winning supporting actor performance by Gig Young) has, to my mind, been one of the best illustrations of desperate people giving their last best effort to catch a financial break. The movie focuses on a depression-era dance marathon that purportedly will award a prize for the pair of dancers that stays on their feet the longest. It turns out to be something of a scam.

I think of this movie often when I think of people hoping against hope that they’ll find ways to support themselves and their families through troubled times only to find out again and again that the cards are apparently stacked against them. The recent Booker Prize Winning novel Shuggie Bain is, perhaps, a more current example.

During the pandemic, more people than usual have been looking for the smallest shred of hope that they will survive this, all of this from COVID itself, to the bankruptcies and lost jobs caused by lockdowns and other restrictions, to seeing hospitalized and nursing home separated loved ones again.

It takes grit and courage to keep trying, doesn’t it? To keep scanning the news for stories that say things are getting better. For most of the pandemic, the news has been bad and that as bad as the news is now, we can expect it to get worse. Now we hear that the vaccines seem to be helping while simultaneously hearing that a lot of people are still waiting for their turn for a shot. 

I am surprised at how quickly a handful of companies have created viable vaccines and equally surprised at how inept society has become that these vaccines haven’t been available in a fraction of the time it’s taking. Today’s news informs us that the U.S. is about to reach 500,000 deaths. Yet solutions continue to appear at a snail’s pace. The availability of vaccines that most of us still cannot get is an example of spoilt hope. These are the times of government negligence and felt-serving partisan “solutions” that show dereliction of duty at both the state and federal level

The U. S. could have done better. Meanwhile, our world is collapsing around us while red tape ensures quick solutions are unimportant. One can understand why dance marathon entrant Jane Fonda would tell another character to shoot her at the end of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?


Happy VD. Come on, people, stop saying that

Several days after my ship was in port, hundreds of sailors ended up in what was referred to as the VD line. People thought maybe they caught something at a sailor bar in town and wanted to get some penicillin from the doc at sickbay.

So, I tend to do a double-take when people shorten Valentine’s Day to VD. Were these people born yesterday or did they grow up clueless? But, as usual, I digress.

My wife and I had talked about celebrating Valentine’s Day by getting COVID shots. However, though the news mentions yet another new vaccine gaining FDA approval almost every week, there don’t seem to be any doses available.

Odd, do you think?

One sees various articles about how screwed up the United States’ vaccination program is. Some say the rich are first in line. Some say, no, it’s hookers who are first in line. My comment is this: I have yet to see any lines, VD or otherwise. Meanwhile, others are saying they won’t get the shots because they don’t know what’s in them, to which a Facebook joker said, “Well, you eat Chicken nuggets and hotdogs without a clue what’s in them.”

So, it appears that my wife and I will kiss each other, get some pretty flowers, and say, “COVID be damned.” The sucking-up-politicians group said people as ancient as we are should have gotten our COVID shots already. Since we haven’t gotten them, we’re being offered free penicillin shots in case we “caught something in town.”


Malcolm R. Cambell is the author of the comedy/satire novel Special Investigative Reporter. When one reviewer said it was an excuse for wine and sex, he nailed it.

FEDs retire ‘2020’ from use on future calendars

Washington, D. C., December 30, 2020, Star-Gazer News Service The U. S. Calendar Control Commission announced here this morning that it has banned the year 2020 from usage on future calendars.

Commission Chairperson Julian Gregorian explained to reporters that bad years are retired in the same manner that the names of bad hurricanes are retired.

“Eighty-two hurricane names have been retired,” Gregorian said. “You’ll never see another Carol, Donna, Hugo, or Katrina because those storms were so badass that we’re too superstitious to use their names again.”

According to CCC scientists, if Pope Georgory XIII had deigned to use Tarot Cards in 1582 when he introduced our current calendar system, he would have omitted years that were designated as controlled by demons, and the world would have avoided multiple plagues, wars, and bad luck.

“There never would have been a 1918 influenza outbreak, a 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, no 9/11 attacks, and no 20202 COVID-19 pandemic,” Gregory said.

A CCC backgrounder for reporters explained that even if the United States implemented a new calendar system, today’s action guarantees that ill years will never appear on it.

Calendar expert, Joseph Lunisolar told reporters that bad times could also be avoided by employing government astrologers.

“Until that happens,” he said, “we’ll continue to pay the price for thumbing our noses at the fates.”


Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter