Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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A New Year's Confession

January 2, 2013
I can’t bear the weight of a certain secret anymore, a secret that’s been a monkey on my back for years. I can imagine you reading this and screaming at your monitors, “What a beast! I knew this fat guy wasn’t right in his head. Get him some help before he hurts himself!”

    

What better time to rid myself of this burden than the beginning of a new year. New Years are all about starting over, shedding the past the way a snake sheds its skin. But the prospect of revealing the darkness at the center of my soul fills me with dread. I’ve worked hard to cultivate a climate of culture and amusement here at Chubby Chatterbox and if I go off the reservation with this admission I’m bound to lose the respect of a few of you. Maybe more than a few. But I’ve come too far to turn back now. Here it is, and I can only pray that you forgive me this shortcoming:

 

I do not like panda bears and don’t find them to be particularly cute!

    

There…I’ve said it; I’ve released my burden. I expect some of your are spitting out your coffee over my admission. You’re shocked, right? After all, pandas are just so darn cuuuuute. You’ve assumed that as a bleeding heart liberal I was incapable of turning my back on anything warm and fuzzy. Well, you’re wrong.

 

    

 

First, experts can’t even agree as to whether or not pandas are bears. Many zoologists consider them big marsupials (giant opossums) or members of the raccoon family. Their daily food intake is nearly as much as their body weight and they pee on themselves constantly, yet they have the adoration of people around the world. Whenever a zoo acquires a new panda the event grabs headlines. And since pandas don’t like to breed in captivity (unlike married American males) pictures of baby zoo pandas circle the globe faster than images of Justin Bieber puking onstage.

    

If my daily food consumption equaled my weight and I peed on myself every day

(shame on what some of you are thinking!) I’d be shunned, or worse—end up on a reality TV show like The Biggest Loser. And what good are pandas? Has a panda ever alerted a sleeping family that the house was on fire? Has a panda ever dashed into town to announce that Timmy has fallen in a well? When was the last time you saw a service panda helping a blind person board a bus?

    

If you think about it you’ll agree with me that pandas are un-American, Communist spies planted in our country. What other excuse could there be for the tight control the Chinese government exerts over these creatures? It’s bad enough that the Chinese insist on complicated panda names like Xuinxorundong or Chuenluxinwang, but they require all pandas born in zoos around the world to be returned to China so they can keep a monopoly on them. These foreign born pandas are returned to China, force fed Chinese propaganda and sent back to mate with pandas on temporary loan to the West.

    

Zoos around the world comply with the restrictions because these creatures bring in hoards of clamoring panda enthusiasts, many of whom empty their wallets in gift shops, procuring stuffed pandas and pictures of the fuzzy rumped critters. Sure they’re appealing, but so are manatees, raccoons, beavers and other animals with true American pedigrees.   

    

I say ENOUGH! I’m hereby launching the first anti-panda movement. Pandas are vicious and don’t really like you unless you show up with a ton of fresh bamboo shoots in your pocket. I call on American advertisers to shift attention away from pandas to say…armadillos. Heck, armadillos roll up and you can play catch with them. Try doing that with a panda.

 

 

Submitted to the nice folks at yeah write and my buddies at Dude Write.



Comments

61 Comments
My sister loves pandas. I think they're idiots. A large part of the reason they're endangered is because they're too snobby and dumb to get around to mating--like my sister, which is why i think she likes them. I prefer raccoons. I mean I wouldn't want one as a pet but they're cute and they're geniuses from what I saw on a PBS documentary.
By: PT Dilloway on January 2, 2013
You Cad! Chunky Panda love to you for the new year.
By: CiCi Winningham on January 2, 2013
While I can't get on board with your budding anti-panda movement, I do understand in that there are other creatures many folks find "cute" that I just don't. Happy New Years~
By: Shelly on January 2, 2013
I don't think any less of you. In fact I think more of you for not going along with what everyone else thinks we should do or think. You just can't regulate that or make laws that make you think their way. I love it. Have a terrific day and I don't care for pandas either. So there. :)
By: Comedy Plus on January 2, 2013
Finally, a liberal who makes sence. Personally I like Pandas, but are you interested in hunting? Baby Harp Seal season is open soon, grab you a spiked stick, and lets go!
By: cranky on January 2, 2013
Ha ha ha ha ha. I must admit - that is definitely not the secret I thought you'd spill. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. :-) The communist panda comment was what made me laugh and agree with you though.
By: Becky on January 2, 2013
The only "Panda" I like is the fat kid from Venezuela who plays third base for the Giants.
By: IT (aka Ivan Toblog) on January 2, 2013
Koalas are even worse!
By: Brighton Pensioner on January 2, 2013
Weeellll, you may not like them, but everyone else does, so there.
By: Tabor on January 2, 2013
Oh well. I do like pandas. I hope that they don't go extinct.
By: Michael Offutt on January 2, 2013
You really like bursting people's balloons! People have their irrational views. Now how far can you go with this. What are other irrational icons that people worship?
By: Red on January 2, 2013
Well I like Panda Express if that means anything.
By: Jeff Laws on January 2, 2013
Married men breed in captivity? Therefore, married men are held captive by their wives? I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but I don't know why men get married. All they do is bitch about it for the rest of their lives. And I'm not shocked or upset that you aren't a panda man. They sometimes attack their keepers and are not as sweet and cuddly as some people think. Love, Janie P.S. Does Justin Bieber puke onstage? I don't want to see that anymore than I want to see men breeding in captivity.
By: Janie Junebug on January 2, 2013
I feel the same way about cats.
By: Brett Minor - Transformed Nonconformist on January 2, 2013
I'm sure there's a support group out there for you somewhere. Panda Dislikers (formerly)Anonymous.
By: Val on January 2, 2013
Incontinent panda bears? ewwww...not so cute! If we have to have a favorite marsupial I'll take the kangaroo or the koala bear! But my favorite classic black and white animal is the penguin! Observe how the male Emperor Penguin is miles ahead of most other male creatures when it comes to hatching his offspring? A true Renaissance male!
By: Kathe W. on January 2, 2013
Well, i can always count on you for something to smile about.
By: mimi on January 2, 2013
Now that I just looked at that picture, I think you're right. It looks filthy and disgusting!!!
By: Lady goo goo gaga on January 2, 2013
While I'm neutral on the subject of Pandas, and I'm certainly no bleeding heart liberal... I get you. Totally. Because I am grossed out by, mortified by, terrified of................squirrels! Nasty little fluffy-tailed RATS! Ewww!
By: Trish on January 2, 2013
how could you? are you insane in the membrane? wtf? pandas not cute? yeah right. i don't think so. and how do you know they pee on themselves? where is it written? i don't think we can be blog friends anymore. i'm too shocked and disappointed to continue. i thought i was getting to know you Stephen, but i was wrong.
By: Fran on January 2, 2013
judging from the color of their fur I'm guessing they have roughly equal amounts of white and dark meat underneath. I'm thinking next Thanksgiving we give turkeys a break and.... ;) S
By: scott park on January 2, 2013
Ha! I haven't ever given pandas a second thought. I am ambivalent on the subject. But watch out if you rant about the cuteness of otters...
By: IASoupMama on January 2, 2013
I haven't lost respect for you BUT I am sure you are misinformed as to both the potential of Pandas and the appeal of armadillos. Who's to say that Pandas wouldn't make excellent service animals and if given the chance I am sure they would warn you if your house caught fire. Armadillos pretty much are the same as a big possum with armour on. I will start a movement to send possums and armadillos to China in exchange for Pandas. THEN I will domesticate my new Panda herd and teach them to be service animals. You had better hope you never need one of my service Pandas.
By: Cheryl P. on January 2, 2013
I'm neutral on Pandas, but make sure you leave the penguins alone.
By: My Half Assed Life on January 2, 2013
I love pandas, but it's always been a reciprocal thing--they think I'm cute!!
By: fishducky on January 2, 2013
i can't say i love them or that i hate them. in the astute words of my eldest child, " i nothing them." they are just a creature i share the earth with. i had no idea they peed on themselves though. no wonder they have a hard time mating...i mean if they can't even operate the necessary equipment for the sake of peeing it seems like asking a lot for them to figure out the other uses of said equipment.
By: lime on January 2, 2013
I forgive you. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on January 2, 2013
Please reconsider your attitude about pandas. They are very important in teaching people correct comma placement. A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go. "Hey!" shouts the manager. "Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!" The panda yells back at the manager, "Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!" The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: "A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves."
By: Pixel Peeper on January 2, 2013
I almost had to click away. I respectfully disagree with you sir. Pandas, are delightful and adorable and nothing you can say with your propaganda ways will change my mind. I say "Good Day!" (I'm not really mad, but how can you not like pandas???)
By: TriGirl on January 2, 2013
Ling Ling, Ping Pong, Ding Dong, whatever.... I much prefer my animals to be called "Rover," "Spot," or even "Miss Puss Puss." And to NOT be giant frikkin' raccoons.
By: Al Penwasser on January 2, 2013
I'm curious what triggered this anti-panda tirade. I don't love or hate pandas. I just don't think about them in general.
By: Azara on January 2, 2013
I'm a big armadillo fan. Count me in.
By: Kathleen on January 2, 2013
Oh no! How could you pick on those cutesy wootsie panda marsupials?? I think we need to do a panda intervention!
By: Kianwi on January 2, 2013
Thinking of them as giant marsupials chills the cuddly affect. Big and lumbering too. I think you've begun the assault well!
By: Tom Cochun on January 2, 2013
My word, what's next? An admission that you wear toe socks, or fail to floss twice a day, or steal your child's Hallowe'en candy? Tsk :)
By: jenny_o on January 2, 2013
Environmentalist and TV presenter Chris Packham got himself in trouble a while ago by effectively saying that we should just let Panda's die out - arguing that it was pointless trying to save every creature They eat their own body weight because the nutritional value of bamboo is so low - risking being rude here another creature i can think of that eats its own body weight is Americans (sorry) One interesting thing about Pandas is that they climb trees backwards to do handstands and then pee on the trees - the higher they whizz, the more dominant they are - something that i can only assume the blokes in our local pub are trying to emulate. Also its a lot easier to get them to breed than previously thought - you swap around their bedding so they get each others scent for a while But where would the news presenters of the world be without the Panda Disfunctional Erection Moment? IE that bit after the wars, hurricanes and financial melt-down where they turn to the camera and put on a smile and say "finally, in a British Zoo FiFi the giant Panda finally got his end away"
By: Don\'t Feed The Pixies on January 3, 2013
But...but what about panda bear babies?! They're cute, right??
By: Mayor Gia on January 3, 2013
My husband says our black-and-white cat reminds him of a panda. But at least Thugdoll, big as he is, doesn't eat his own body weight or -- fortunately -- pee on himself!
By: Bee on January 3, 2013
After that tirade I'll never see a panda in the same light again! Happy blogging in 2013.
By: Bryan Jones on January 3, 2013
I like pandas, sorry :)
By: Stacie on January 3, 2013
You don't dislike koala bears, do you? If so, I'd have to take a stance. Happy New Year, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on January 3, 2013
awwww, Stephen. Babies pee on themselves and they're pretty cute too. It's ok. I still like you anyway even if you don't like pandas.
By: Kerry on January 3, 2013
I prefer badgers. They look pretty similar to me and are smaller and less trouble.
By: Jenny Woolf on January 4, 2013
Look what you've started. It's sheer pandamonium in here!
By: Hilary on January 4, 2013
Honey, you're positively unamerican.....or anti chinese.....You can't be well. Lay down. I'm bringing you a nice steaming bowl of creamy soup.
By: lotta joy on January 4, 2013
Where to start? "Is that a bamboo shoot in your pants or are you just happy to see me?" "I Dis-Like Pandas and I cannot lie, All you other animals can't deny When panda walks by with an uber large waist and a pee stain on his leg, you get stung...." Funny piece here Chubs! WG
By: WilyGuy on January 5, 2013
Ya know, if you punch a panda in the eye, people may not know. It's not like it would get a black eye... http://www.hoohaablog.com
By: P.J. on January 5, 2013
PEE is an acronym for Panda Enthusiasts Everywhere. Love your post! I admire your courage, recognizing the problem is the first step to healing. Keep up the good work in your campaign against Pan-duhs! :)
By: Venita Louise on January 6, 2013
People say that the real foxes are those in sheep's clothing. Maybe you're right about pandas, I don't know. But I never really cared much about them anyway...
By: Anne on January 7, 2013
I don't know about this? I think I sort of feel sorry for Panda Bears. (if that's in fact what they are?) I mean, it's pretty tough to look all fierce and intimidating like your Grizzly Bear cousins when you have the cute and cuddly thing happening? I would imagine that they take a good deal of ridicule when all of the bears get together?
By: Ken on January 7, 2013
Yes, yes, yes! I couldn't agree with you more. I saw a video of a Panda mauling a person, and from that point forward, I have been terrified of them. Well, not terrified, but let's just say that I'm always watching my back if I'm carrying any bamboo around with me.
By: Youngman Brown on January 7, 2013
Wow....I like the new look .You really don't like Pandas....hhhhmmm! Well, they are cute, at a distance . I like seeing pictures of them, Never really saw a live one......
By: Jenny on January 8, 2013
Also, they kill their own babies by rolling over on top of them unti they're dead. Not the brightest bulbs in the box. I took my kids to see the baby pandas at the National Zoo in DC. Right after that? Yep, that's right. His mom killed him.
By: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick on January 8, 2013
Hmm... this is a ruse, you're hiding something even worse. The Panda Bear is merely a diversion. In all your skillfully written prose you buried clues. At first I didn't see it. I did however, see some evidence and only recently saw your true colours. You are an ex-Hell Angels member, and you still wear your patch when it's dark. LOL
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 8, 2013
I recommend intense therapy and membership to PHA (panda haters anonymous)!
By: Eva Gallant on January 9, 2013
your photo kind of reminded me of a panda...just kidding!!!!
By: momto8blog on January 9, 2013
I have always had my suspicions about pandas. It's like their a little too cute.
By: workingdan on January 10, 2013
I have always had my suspicions about pandas. It's like their a little too cute.
By: workingdan on January 10, 2013
I have to agree with you on the Pandas not being cute and I can see their family resemblance to the opossum, which are nasty little critters. While the toy stuffed bears can be cute and cuddly, the real version of any bear is actually a bit scary and intimidating. They are wild animals and can be very dangerous. I remember taking my son to the zoo when he was young and while visiting the polar bear exhibit, my son couldn't see in the exhibit so his dad picked him up and held him near the top of the fence around the exhibit. The bears came closer as if waiting to be fed. I have been a bit leery of bears since then.
By: Lighthousegal on January 14, 2013
I like how you stuck to the bear facts....
By: John on January 15, 2013
It's snakes that I don't particularly care for...
By: Michael Manning on January 15, 2013

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