Tuesday, June 15

In Defense of King Kong Kapitalism

skepticFrom time to time, I break with my progressive sisters and brothers by publicly endorsing a position which they find anathema, or at least somewhat distasteful. This is one of those times. I therefore hereby declare that I find the capitalist system of running national economies … well … tolerable, if only in the same sense Winston Churchill said democracy was the best form of government: better than all the rest, which are worse. So … in the venerable “fair and balanced” tradition of Fox News (corporate motto: “No Multi-Billionaire Conservative / Reactionary Mega-Contributor Or Muslim / Kenyan Barack Obama Hater -- For Sincerely Held Religious Reasons -- Left Behind”), I present herewith four vignettes illustrating how good capitalist enterprises can be when they are managed competently. You would do well to put down your crust of weevil-infested, gluten-ridden GMO bread and your tin cup of irradiated and fracking-compound-polluted water, temporarily take the Bible out of your children's hands -- they can learn astronomy, ethics, American history, and evolutionary biology later -- and read the following …


Consider the case of the Suzuki Esteem, which Suzuki introduced in 1995. What is not generally known is that, beginning in 1997, the Esteem could also be bought in a version that was powered, not by gasoline, but … by the pressure of boiling water. The water-powered version of the Suzuki Esteem was christened the “Steam Esteem”. Furthermore, there were also two variants of both the Esteem and the Steam Esteem: either could be bought conventionally as an already-built vehicle, or, at a substantially discounted price, as build-it-yourself (BIY) kits which the owners would then assemble themselves. The BIY versions of the Esteem and the Steam Esteem were called, respectively, the Self Esteem and the Self Steam Esteem.

Suzuki Esteem

Now this is where things get unexpectedly interesting. One of the unanticipated and purely serendipitous side-effects of both the Self Esteem and the Self Steam Esteem was that Self Esteem and Self Steam Esteem owners – both groups – reported spectacular improvements in overall self-regard and almost euphoric levels of confidence in their own general competence as a result of successfully completing the building of their Self Esteem and their Self Steam Esteem. So marked was the increase in owners’ self-image that professional psychiatric, psychological, and counseling organizations even coined a term for the phenomenon: “Self Esteem Self-Esteem” and “Self Steam Esteem Self-Esteem”, respectively.


In fact, during the 2000 Winter Olympics, both groups of people – the ones experiencing Self Esteem Self-Esteem and Self Steam Esteem Self-Esteem – even went so far as to organize into two teams to compete in the Games. The two groups called themselves “Team Self Esteem Self-Esteem” and “Team Self Steam Esteem Self-Esteem”, respectively. They even designated a lemon-lime-flavored soft drink as the official beverage of the two teams: “Team Self Esteem Self-Esteem Teem” and “Team Self Steam Esteem Self-Esteem Teem”, respectively. Unfortunately, both teams’ Esteems broke down irreparably two days after their warranties expired. The cost of fixing their cars was so great that, to get passage money home, everyone in both groups had to borrow against their houses, debts which came to be known, respectively, as the “Team Self Esteem Self-Esteem Lien” and the “Team Self Steam Esteem Self-Esteem Lien”.


I have a friend, a fisherman, who owned three Kia Souls. One Soul belonged to him, and one to his wife. The third Soul he used separately to haul his catch to market to avoid getting the fish aroma in either his car or his wife’s. This third Soul he referred to as his “sole sole Soul,” since it was the only Soul of the three he used for this purpose. But he fell on hard times when fish prices collapsed, the price of fuel for his “sole sole Soul” and his boat went through the roof. He became desperate. He was in danger of losing his house. So he had to sell his “sole sole Soul”. But for the longest time, the sole sole Soul would not sell … because of the stench of sole.

Dover sole

Things were looking dark when, one evening, I got a phone call from him, sounding relieved and excited. “Jim!” he exclaimed joyously “My sole sole Soul sold!” That took enough of the financial pressure off that, between the proceeds of the sole sole Soul sale and his wife’s two new part-time jobs selling sole at Pike Place Market and Souls at a Kia dealership, they could just make ends meet. The relief unlocked great wellsprings of creative energy, and my friend began composing music: soul music, of course. In fact, he founded a whole new genre of soul music, which came to be known in the recording industry as “sole sole Soul sold soul”. So successful was the new genre that my friend formed a record company with its own label, which he sold … bless my soul! … for mega-billions of dollars. The trade papers all carried headlines the next day like “Sole Sole Soul Soul Sold”. I visited his and his wife’s mansion in Hunt’s Point recently. I asked him what he planned to do now that he was Romney-rich. “I’d like to buy a fishing fleet and return to fishing,” he replied. I wasn’t surprised. “What kind of fish will you go after and why?” I asked. He answered both questions at once by replying “Just for the halibut”. And so it continues.


Jane Eyre and Lord Rochester
Jane Eyre and Lord Rochester

In a parallel universe, Jane Eyre marries Lord Rochester and uses her vast new-found wealth to found an airline, which she names “Air Eyre”. Also, she and Lord Rochester have a son. They revise their will so that their newborn son will inherit the airline. So their son comes to be known as the “Air Eyre heir”. But as it turns out, their son is no trust-fund baby, content to live on riches passively inherited from his parents. He has a brilliant creative streak in his own right … in biology and genetic engineering. He has an idea to breed rabbits for their fur, to “harvest” the fur like wool from sheep, and to use the fur to create haute couture rabbit-fur cloaks, jackets, coats, etc. This new line of genetically engineered rabbit comes to be known as the “Air Eyre heir hare”. He takes meticulous care of his rabbits, which are now turning the fashion world upside down with garments made from Air Eyre heir hare fur – now known as “Air Eyre heir hare hair”. He builds a high-tech environment / habitat for his rabbits. Each Air Eyre heir hare has its own “apartment” with a specially formulated environment. The apartment is technically known as an “Air Eyre heir hare lair”. The special mixture of gases they breathe is known as “Air Eyre heir hare lair air”. This practice comes to be known as “Air Eyre heir hare lair air" conditioning. Of course, the Air Eyre heir hare, being a species of rabbit genetically engineered and therefore artificial and not adapted to ordinary environmental conditions, is very delicate -- in particular, exquisitely sensitive to population pressures.  Therefore, the population of Air Eyre heir hares must be carefully controlled, for even one single excess rabbit would be ... an Air Eyre heir hare too much.

No ... please don't thank me ... and stifle the wild cheering ... we're not done yet!



A little known and seldom acknowledged sidebar to the fabled story of King Kong is that, in an alternate parallel universe, King Kong, instead of dying by being shot down from the top of the Empire State Building, lives and is reconciled with his erstwhile antagonists and captors. The parallel-universe King Kong goes on to become a sports-equipment entrepreneur, specializing in building equipment for table tennis. He names his company “King Kong Ping Pong”, and in a couple of years opens up a manufacturing, research, and sales operation in Hong Kong: “King Kong Ping Pong Hong Kong”. So phenomenal is the success of both “King Kong Ping Pong” and “King Kong Ping Pong Hong Kong” that both are listed on the prestigious Hong Kong stock exchange, the Hang Seng. To celebrate this achievement, King Kong – now a Fortune 100 CEO of a multinational corporation – spends profligately on a mega-celebration commemorating the Hang Seng listing. This fabled celebration comes to be known as the “King Kong Ping Pong Hong Kong Hang Seng Wing Ding”. Chairman Kong even goes so far as to spend a piece of his vast wealth commissioning a dessert confection to be served at the lavish party. The dessert, to be served to each invited member of the King Kong Ping Pong Hong Kong Hang Seng Wing Ding, is basically a gourmet artisan cupcake that is designated the “King Kong Ping Pong Hong Kong Hang Seng Wing Ding Ding Dong”.

So long …

James R. Cowles



    • This was great fun to write! I’d had these pun stories circulating in my head for some time — multiple years — and one day had a brainstorm: collect them into a kind of anthology and publish them as a “Skeptics” post.

    • Would you believe I began gestating these pun stories sometime BEFORE I retired from Boeing, which would put it at 2009 at the latest? (I retired from Boeing in May of 2010.) The first was the “King Kong” one, and the others followed as I rang the changes on different words (“sole-soul-Sole”) over the intervening time til now. Then an idea struck me. I’d been so damn SERIOUS in “Skeptics” for so long that I needed a break, and so did my readers. So … why not collect all the pun stories into a mini-anthology and publish them here?

      • Unfortunately, I can’t do stuff like this on demand. If you want something on theology and the First Amendment, I can zorch that out in 15-20 minutes. Or the Problem of Evil. Or SETI & religion. But humor just sort of has to HAPPEN TO me … like “Jesus, Jefferson, and a Jingoism” or the post about the Hunger Games and the guy who knocked out his fiancée in the elevator. Humor, esp humor with a core of social / political commentary, has to be born spontaneously & full-grown … which is why I admire Dave Barry’s old humor column for the “Miami Herald”: bang-bang-bang, every week and it was HILARIOUS every time.

    • As I was telling Terri, I’d been pregnant with these vignettes for at least 6 years before I had the brainstorm to string them together & publish a “Skeptic” post. And the Fox News thing just wrote itself … completely unpremeditated.

Leave a Reply