Burt Prelutsky

It was bad enough seeing those folks at the game in San Francisco giving Barry Bonds a standing ovation, but I really could have done without George Bush calling to congratulate him. What sort of message does that send to the youth of America? The one I read into it is that the ends justify the means, and that lying, cheating and stealing, are all quite acceptable in the pursuit of glory and riches. Thank you, Mr. President, for making things just a little bit tougher for parents, teachers and society in general.

I realize that there are those who still contend that Bonds hasn’t been proven guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs, people who choose to ignore such things as the weird increase in the man’s hat size, along with the ridiculous surge in home run production at the very age when non-cheaters begin to trail off.

But it isn’t only the steroids which gave Bonds an unfair advantage. In a recent article, Michael Witte, an expert when it comes to mechanics, wrote the following: “Amid the press frenzy over Bonds’ unnatural bulk, the true role of the object on his right arm has simply gone unnoticed. The apparatus is hinged at the elbow. It is a literal ‘hitting machine’ that allows Bonds to release his front arm on the same plane during every swing. As a result, when Bonds swings, the weight of the apparatus helps to seal his inner upper arm to his torso at impact. Thus ‘connected,’ he automatically hits the ball with the weight of his entire body -- not just his arms -- as other hitters tend to do.”

Speaking of machines, I just heard about a battery-operated device that’s recently been installed on a street corner in Washington, D.C. It is simply called the Compliment Machine. Created by Tom Greaves, a 46-year-old artist, it’s programmed with a hundred recorded compliments that play at random.

One can only imagine how this thing has caught on in our nation’s capitol. I’d be very surprised if people such as John Edwards and Ron Paul don’t line up to hear, “You are awesome;” Robert Byrd to be told, “You smell good;” and Ted Kennedy to be assured, “You are a great driver.”

There are times when the stock market reminds me of a dotty old hypochondriac. If someone sneezes in Tokyo, the New York Stock Exchange is certain it’s coming down with pneumonia. If someone in London gets a headache, the Exchange is convinced it has a brain tumor. It’s scary that something so loony could be regarded as the barometer of our nation’s economic health. Next time around, perhaps we could adopt a more scientific measure; say, tea leaves or sheep entrails.