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Drooling on the Pillow

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Family: Obautomated 





Go to Obamiconme. I did and I found $1.37 in my sofa! It was the change I was hoping for.
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Friday, January 09, 2009

I Just Had To Add . . . 

The Big Day, or rather the first Big Day when you adopt is when you get the referral. They send you a picture of the kid they've picked for you and you either say yes, I'm on my way or no, the rule in our family is one nose, one child.

When the agency called me at work and asked for our fax number as they had a picture of our kid to send me I calmly gave them the number, hung up and burst into tears. I mean snot bubble sobs and heaves. I don't know what the lawyers thought had happened, but there's nothing bad that could make me cry like that. What can I tell you; it was a long process.

Gracie's was a postage stamp sized representation of a kid with ears nearly the length of her head and a look of intelligent panic sliding off her face like sweat. That is to say it is intelligent for an orphaned girl-child to display high-intensity concern in the People's Republic of Gotchermoney. The Goddess had a few bad moments about the ears but I assured her it was an artifact of third world imaging. Which turned out to be the case: the ears were perfect as was the rest of her.

I should have seen this coming when the hand-holding thing was politely, but firmly put aside recently. I did not see it coming.

She goes to her first dance this evening.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Ave Atque, Wally. 

Been fun.
I'm done.

I've been doing this for almost three years, now. I'm in a kind of 'challenging' period at work and have started work on a new novel. You've heard all my stories, anyway, so I'm putting out the lights here at the Sluggoterium. Wouldn't be surprised if I started up again somewhere else next year.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by and to all my fellow bloggers, whether I've met you or not. I've learned a lot from you, my friends, and enjoyed your wisdom, warmth and kindness.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Slouching Towards Warrensburg 

Our neighbor, The Republican Actor, is off to Detroit to visit his sister, who is very active in the Sweet Adelines. I don't know if you've heard of them, but they're the female version of SPEBSQSA, which is the main barbershop quartet organization in the country and it's huge. People really get caught up in this and there are chapters everywhere. I like barbershop well enough, sort of like Sousa marches, klesmer and harpsichord. If I haven't heard it in a long time, an hour or two is very enjoyable. I wouldn't say a little goes a long way, but a lot definitely goes too far. Still, if you see an article on indigenous American music, barbershop will probably be left out, even though hundreds of thousands of people are devoted to it.

The only person I know personally who barbershops is the Goddess' best friend, who belongs to a chapter in San Francisco. Lisa's father was a movie actor and when she and Lane were kids she lived in the Dakota. In fact, the Goddess stayed with them for a few months just before Lisa's father leased the place to John Lennon.

* * * * *

I'm on a weeks vacation and it looks like I'll miss my goal, as usual, of putting aside two complete days with nothing to do. It's the single most difficult thing in the world for the Goddess to understand. She'll say 'What are you going to do today?' I'll say 'absolutely nothing' and she'll look at me for a moment and ask 'What are you going to do today?' Will not penetrate. Her head would explode fifteen minutes into my ideal day. This afternoon we're taking off for a long weekend in Lake George. I'm thinking Adirondack chair on the lawn, beer in my hand, watching the Hudson roll past. She's thinking -- I don't even want to think about what she's thinking, it'll wear me out.

Well, I know I'll have a nice time either way and I hope I come back in a more communicative mood than I have been the last few weeks.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

Power Corrupts, PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely 


Edward R. Tufte is professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale.

He sounds like just the guy to take on the PowerPointification of argument, which is designed to insulate positions from rebuttal by simulating consecutive thought and actually presenting discrete chunks of self-evident twaddle.

He's especially horrified by the inroads PowerPoint has made in schools, where instead of writing essays, "children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials".

The title of this post and the graphic are taken from his article in Wired.

H/T Alex Singleton, at Samizdata.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Jackie and Me 



I offer this picture as evidence (as if any were needed) of the antediluvian nature of the Slugster. Yes that's me, having gotten the walking thing down solid, strolling up and down the sidewalk outside my grandparents' house in suburban Philadelphia. I appear to be giving instructions to my Aunt Eve. I don't recall the specific occasion, but I'm sure she ignored my recommendations. She passed away a couple years ago, but she was strong minded to the end, was Aunt Eve.

The cars! They look like set dressing for a Harold Lloyd movie. I have another picture taken at almost the same spot of my sister communing with an ice wagon horse. The horse is wearing a straw hat. Oh, my stars and garters. If I dig around enough I may be able to find a shot of my mother and the butter churn. I kid, but barely.

I entered this tail spin of memories with a stray thought of my close personal friend, Jacqueline Kennedy. She was my best friend when I was about eight and scuffling around Tarentum, PA. Her name was unremarkable since the other Jackie Kennedy wasn't yet known outside the state of Massachusets. Undoubtedly there are many young adults today who don't know who she was, but at that time we didn't know who she would be.

Here's how we amused ourselves in that pre-Sponge Bob era. When the fire whistle went off I would get on my bike and Jackie would get on hers and we would meet at the fire house just as the volunteer firemen were arriving. When the trucks took off we were close behind and always had a front row seat for the fire. They were usually brush fires or shaft fires, but I do recall a small hill of old tires going up and the stunning image of one of our classmates being carried out of a burning house.

We became familiar with the firemen and one, in particular, with a hand in a cast would usually stand with us and chat about what was going on. It never occurred to us that he was assigned or took it upon himself to keep us out of trouble while his hand was healing. He was the one who one day at a store fire suddenly grabbed us by the arms threw us in a truck, threw our bikes in the back and drove us back to the firehouse. We were outraged, naturally, since we had the sense to know we were missing something, but looking back, I think I can trust his judgement.

We did that all summer long that year, two or three times a week, sometimes several times in a day. My family moved at the end of the summer and that was it for Jackie and me. I don't know if she remembers me -- it would have helped if I had a name like Lyndon Johnson. I don't hear fire whistles much any more, but when I do I still feel the urge to get up and go.
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Friday, April 28, 2006

Guitar Slingers 

Friday Nite Jukebox

Not long ago I put up a FNJ that featured the Bakersfield sound with cuts culled from an album called Swing West!: Bakersfield. The companion album, also difficult to find, is Swing West!: Guitar Slingers. It's not, strictly speaking, Western Swing, but a mostly instrumental collection of nimble fingered boys in hats playing whatever struck their fancy. These were mostly recorded in the '50s "when the south came west and went electric."

The most countryest cut is Tut Taylor and Clarence White's rendition of Fool Such as I.


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Then you get Ferlin Husky doing a Caravan that sounds like you might be transporting to the Rainbow Room.


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The only vocal belongs to Merle Travis in Merle's Boogie Woogie. "I got a little gal with great big legs, walks like she's walking on soft boiled eggs." Maybe the words are just there so Merle can rest his fingers.


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Even PBS snobs tipped their virtual Stetsons when Buck Owens passed away recently. Here's another reminder that the boys on Hee-Haw knew what they were doing. When Roy Clark really gets going on the second verse of Alabama Jubilee you 've heard a guitar being slung. If I could pick like this I'd be grinnin', too.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Asbury Park 

I've got nothing. Nada. Bip. Fehlerstelle. Not likely to for awhile, either. So, just to keep my bytes from locking up, here's Chapter 13 from Asbury Park. I hope to be back up and running scared in a week.


The night was cold and moonless. The year's first frost seemed imminent but as he passed the Toms River exit and felt the barrens gathering along the highway he sensed that the frost, were it to come, would rise up out of the dark sand rather than sweep in off the ocean. Although much of the barrens were genuine wilderness and as desolate as envy, there was also a lot of human history buried here. There once were bog iron pits and other small industries all through the area. When the iron gave out, though, the pines took over again and whole communities, whole industries, whole ways of life withered and shrank back into the scrub pine. There are towns on the map through this area that just aren't there anymore. They haven't been for a long time. Its the fact that sixty miles from New York, sixty miles from Philadelphia, people tried for two hundred years to settle the land and failed that made the barrens sinister to Loomis. You don't need old stories about the Jersey Devil or new stories about Russian mobsters to give you the creeps around here. Just turn the car off for a minute.

Normally, Loomis was no better at spotting a tail than he was at running one. He tried to stay alert on this trip, but found his mind wandering from Martha to Sandra to the Ciscones to why he hadn't called his mother all week. Just past the Toms River tollbooth he pulled into the lighted plaza for five minutes to force himself to concentrate and to watch the cars. No one showed any interest in him, no one pulled off after the tollbooth. He unclipped his pistol and laid it in his lap just to focus his mind.

He got off the Parkway at Double Trouble and headed up 530. The turnoff to Dover Forge was also called 530, at least on the map. Headlights followed him up the first 530, but continued on as he turned left onto the second 530. Without his highbeams he would not have noticed passing through Dover Forge, but just on the other side the Dairy Queen was still lit up. No customers, no cars, nothing at all but a tri-colored neon glow barely penetrating the gathering chilly mists. A minute later he found the bend and parked under the Briarcliffe Estates sign. He turned off the engine and started walking back towards Dover Forge. The only sounds were his footsteps and the low buzz of the power lines. There were no street lamps. To his left, inside the bend was a cranberry bog. To his right was a low wall of pines, gnarled and dense. He couldn't see more than twenty yards in any direction.

He walked down the center of the road and the further he went the colder and unhappier he became. For a person who hated violence, avoided pain and preferred a night light he was certainly putting himself into some vulnerable situations lately. The Tilt-a-whirl at Seaside Heights, the broom closet at the Mayflower and now this. Very uncharacteristic. It must be the money. Which was pathetic since, even though it was a big score to him, it wasn't really serious money. Not enough to pretend he wasn't fooling with people who could really hurt him. His mind was wandering again. Maybe it was the cold. People who freeze to death go through raptures. He'd heard that. He hadn't ever heard of anyone freezing to death in 40 degrees, though. Concentrate. Focus. He was reaching under his jacket for the bracing touch of his gun when the lights went on.

The vehicle was parked perpendicular to the road to his right and the headlights were no more than fifteen feet from him. He knew how a deer felt, stunned virtually to coma by fear and helplessness. He wondered if he was to suffer a similar fate. He heard the door open and someone step onto the sand but the whole northern half of the world was nothing but light.

"Don't. Fucking. Move."

"Keever?"

"What'chu got under there, Loomis? A candy bar?"

"Uh, no. Actually, no, its not a, uh, candy bar."

"What is it?"

"It's, you know, a gun."

"You mind pulling it out and putting it down?"

"Well, actually, Keever, I got a problem with that. You see, I didn't come here to use it. I mean, you don't have to worry. About me. You don't want to come in, you don't have to come in. I just feel . . ."

"Lemme 'splain something to you, Loomis. If they're going to get me for a murder I didn't commit, what the fuck's the difference if I do you? They'll never find the body, I guarantee you that."

"You see? That's just what I mean. That's what I'm . . ."

"Cut the bullshit, Loomis. Put it down, kick it over or I'll just kill you and get on with my business. Do it now."

Loomis did it. He heard the door slam and saw a figure that might have been Elroy Keever or might have been Conway Twitty walk towards him, blocking one of the headlights.

"Keep your hands down. I ain't going to tie you, but I'm going to blindfold you. You see, if I know you're unarmed and you don't know where the hell you are we got a situation that's controllable. The point is, I got to be comfortable with this or nothing happens. You, you just got to stay cool and not crap your pants. If you were going to get hurt you'd know it by now. Be cool."

Loomis was patted down lightly and blindfolded. He allowed himself to be led to the side of the vehicle which, as soon as he was seated, he knew to be a pickup. Keever, if it was Keever, then went around and got in the driver's side. They sat for a moment in silence.

"You want me to go over it?" asked Loomis.

"Not here. Anyone follow you?"

"Not . . . no."

"How do you know?"

"It's my business."

"So is following people. At that you suck."

"Yeah, well, I guess that was an off day."

"You better hope this isn't another one, 'cause if someone followed you you're dead."

"No one followed me."

"All right. Just think about this. I didn't kill nobody. I don't know what the fuck's going on. I have no idea. You understand me? We're going to go someplace nice and quiet to talk this over. If I like the deal, fine. If not, I'm going to tie you up in the woods and take off. Way, way off. I'll let someone know where you are, but you'll be there till the morning anyway. That's the way it's going to be. If you got a problem with that let me know now."

"I think you'll like what I got, Keever."

"All right," he said and he started the truck.

Loomis wondered what place could possibly be quieter than where they were, but had to concede that it was at least possible that someone might drive by and see them where they were. The blindfold proved pointless, though. The route they took was simple enough and Keever made no effort to disguise it. They turned back towards Dover Forge and drove about thirty to thirty-five miles an hour for no more than two minutes. They turned left onto a sand track. Keever drove no more than a hundred feet onto that before he stopped and turned off the engine. He twisted around and seemed to be watching the road behind him.

"How come you didn't run, Keever?"

"Hah," was all he said for a minute.

"You wanna know why? I came back that night and I could see the cop cars parked around my trailer from the highway. I'm thinking its the coke, right?"

"You were just holding it for Joey."

"Yeah. The important word is 'holding'. I walk into that, what am I gonna say?"

"So how come you didn't run?"

"I figure something can get worked out. I went to Joey. He shows me this place and says stay down until we can figure something out. Maybe his brother has someone he wouldn't mind throwing it on. Couple days later he comes by and goes 'bad news'. That's when I find out the Cap'n's dead and everybody thinks I did it. No only that, he tells me the dope I was holding for him he ripped off of his brothers. Jesus. What a scumbag. But what am I gonna do?"

"I got a suggestion."

"All right. Let's go."

He restarted the engine and drove slowly for another two or three minutes. The truck dipped and swayed in the sand like a rowboat in chop. Branches slapped at the sides and the smell of the pine barrens deepened. It was a dusty, metallic pine scent, like cheap room deodorizer. The truck stopped.

"Can I take off the blindfold?"

"Yeah. Wait a minute." After a few moments Keever told him to go ahead and when he took it off he looked over at Keever holding his own Colt on him.

"Look, Loomis, I'm not figuring on having to use this. But I will, you get me? I don't want to, I don't think I'll need to, but if something funny happens I won't wait a second."

"Fair enough. But be careful. There's one in the chamber."

They got out and started walking toward an unlit shack about twenty yards away.

"One thing I wanted to ask you, Keever. The gun. They found it in your trailer."

"So what? Sandra gave it to me. The night you took our picture."

"Joey told you that was me?"

"That's right."

Sorry about that."

"Yeah. I bet you are."

Which reminded Loomis of another question he had. Namely, what exactly was tattooed on Keever's ass. This was probably not the time or place, though. They stepped on a concrete slab that served as a porch.

"Did anyone else know it was there?"

"Yeah," said Keever. He opened a storm door and motioned with the gun for Loomis to proceed him. He shuffled into the rank smelling interior, inching ahead in the darkness. He heard the storm door swing shut behind him and in front of him, no more than three feet in front of him the blackness exploded into thundering light. For the smallest possible moment the outline of a person stood in front of him and was consumed in the flame that followed. A thousand tiny hot needles stung his face. He felt like he was wearing iron earmuffs, many sizes too small. They had something to do with the noise; a roaring, tumbling avalanche of sound that pushed him backwards two or three steps. He turned to find the door but saw only spots, heard only cacophony, felt only the descending consciousness of shock. He took one wild misstep forward and a tap on the back of his head sent him to his knees. It seemed an absurdly small thing under the circumstances, but it was enough. He swayed on his knees for a moment, groping with his arms, wanting to touch something, wanting to lie down, looking for something, anything that was still and quiet, but lacking the means even to cry out. He received a second blow, much more intelligible than the first. It lit the night again very briefly and as he pitched forward he found a still and quiet place just before his face hit the floor.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Scams 



I got scammed last week by a guy who claimed to have been a security guard in my building and dying of some unspecified liver disease. I realized as soon as the fiver left my hand that I'd never met this guy in my life and, of course, I felt foolish, but I told myself that the guy was a real artist. He was very good. And I'm an idiot.

I had a girlfriend once who fell for the old dropped wallet scam and lost a couple hundred and some jewelry.

My mother once got a call from 'bank security' asking her to come to the bank, withdraw $500 and pass it to one of their agents to test one of the tellers they suspected of passing phoney bills. She would have done it, too, if I hadn't been there.

There's a certain residual sheen of innocence on the most jaded of us that endows others, unless their hands are actually dripping with blood, with an initial deposit of plausibility. Always rejecting a stranger's presentation of himself as a matter of policy is no way to live and scammers make a living hopping over our suspicions and making common cause with our greed or fear.

The guy in the picture was going door-to-door in Florida with a black medical bag offering free breast exams. At least two women, ages 33 and 36 took him up on it. I know, your first thought is (smacking forehead) 'Why didn't I think of that?' Perhaps you're not quite as cheesy a douchbag as you've become accustom to believing. Or, you're not a 76 year old loser who just wants to remember one more time what they felt like. And, since there's no mention of money changing hands this may actually be less of a scam than a uniquely Floridian ritual. It definitely is a warning, though. Itinerant proctologists cannot be far, um, behind.

The Smoking Gun via Environmental Republican.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

But They Support The Troops 

Fausta has some comments and links on the Whitney Biennial. Always crass, crude and stupid, reflexively and thoughtlessly left-wing and guaranteed beauty-free, the Biennial has become a virtual power-point display of how the art world has parted ways with the rails. Please understand that I'm not questioning the artists' patriotism or talent, merely noting that they have none of either.

Another depressing yelp was issued by Nina Burleigh at Solon.com and brought our attention by Professor Reynolds. This one really has to be read to be believed. She bought a summer house in Narrowsburg, N.Y. and, through a series of misfortunes that will make you weep, had to actually live there and send their defenseless son to kindergarten in the heart of Red Country. Reminiscent of the enormities committed at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, the boy was forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She swallowed that, but when the kid came home with an invitation to a prayer meeting in his backpack she did what any concerned parent would do; she sicced the ACLU on the school. Way to build those bridges, Nina!

Throughout the article, Nina makes assumptions about the state of mind of her neighbors that are nothing more than her prejudices beating the weeds in front of her. It's anthropology for her and a cruder, more backwards tribe never threw a UN relief worker in the pot. She states her position very clearly: "I cringed as my young son recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But who was I to question his innocent trust in a nation I long ago lost faith in?"

At a veteran's day celebration she suffers through overt displays of patriotism until the principal asked the assembled veterans to identify themselves.
Finally, a burly, gray-bearded Vietnam veteran rose
and said what no one else dared. After identifying
himself, he choked out, "Kids, I just hope to God none
of you ever have to experience what we went through."
Then he sat down, leaving a small pocket of shocked
silence. No one applauded his effort at honesty. On
the contrary, the hot gym air thickened with a tension
that implicitly ostracized the man, and by extension --
because we agreed with him -- me and my husband.
That strikes me as a pretty unexceptional remark for a veteran of any war to make and its a good bet that Nina imagined the response as hostile. To then project herself as sharing the opprobrium displays a self-regard and moral arrogance that is just stupifying.

Go ahead and read it. But I warned you.
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Getting a 50kph Spinal Tap 

Here's a cautionary tale by way of Colby Cosh about a young Canadian metal-banger.
The 20-year-old man was walking beside railway
tracks on Sunday, the Norwegian heavy metal band
Gorgoroth cranked on his portable CD player,
Well, there's a check point right there. No blindfold?
when he was hit by a freight train.

Maggrah said he did hear the blast of the train horn
just before he was hit.

"I tried to jump out of the way, but I guess not in time,"
he said yesterday from his bed at Red Deer Regional
Hospital Centre.

"It was just instant. I was just walking and then I was on
the ground. I wasn't sure what happened. Then I saw
the train stopping up ahead. I thought, 'Holy crap dude,
you just got hit by a train.' "
He seems to be okay, except for a few busted ribs and a punctured lung. Fortunately, he learned a good lesson.
"Maybe the metal gods above were smiling on me and
they didn't want one of their true warriors to die on
them. Otherwise, I'd be up there in the kingdom of
steel."
Nigel Tufnel couldn't have put it better.
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Friday, April 14, 2006

God Or The Girl? 


Well, it kind of depends, doesn't it?

When I heard that A&E was putting out a 'reality' show with the title of this post which would follow four young men who are deciding between the priesthood and a secular life I was prepared to forever eschew the phrase "We're circling the bowl" because it was apparent to me that we had 'moved on' and taken up permanent residence in the septic tank.

My second thought was how real is this reality when four out of four of them are choosing between God and a girl? Just saying.

A&E is calling this a documentary, the Washington Post calls it a docu-soap. Most of the reviews and promotions refer to it as a reality show. I'm not a believer so I guess I really have no dog in this manger. But I wish I was and though I'm of Irish Protestant heritage and was brought up a juice drinking Presbyterian, the Catholic church has sheltered and comforted me in my worst days and I wouldn't mind it if the old girl were given just a little more respect in the public square. Just in case I get struck from my donkey one of these days.

Of course, it may be what A&E claims; a respectful and in-depth portrait of an important spiritual decision, but I think its unfortunate that they had to run it during Christiandom's sweeps week. Final episode is Sunday night.
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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bird Thou Never Wert 



This picture accompanied a short article in today's Metro section of the Times about Bethesda Fountain.

The Warrior Robin

I never knew a warrior,
However brave and strong,
Who dared to try his fortune with
A scimitar of song.

But once I heard a robin
Before the dark was gone,
Take three shrill notes and go against
The elemental dawn.

Hugh Robert Orr.

I was looking for a nice, uplifting robin poem to go with the picture, but the canon is packed with dark, ironic robin poems which express the poets wised-upness to the whole phoney, happy 'oh, here comes spring!' thing. This little trinket I found on something called Poetry of Kansas, which you're going to want to bookmark. Just shows you how far afield you have to go to to find verse that's not abusive to birds.

Another good, light piece concerned Norman Goodman, the County Clerk whose name is on the bottom of every jury summons sent out in Manhattan. I love jury duty, but the excuses people come up with are amazing.

Woody Allen sent a note, in cramped printing, protesting
that he had been so traumatized by his experience in
court during a child-custody dispute with Mia Farrow
that returning to sit on a jury was out of the question.
Mr. Goodman, a strong believer in equal treatment,
insisted that Mr. Allen show up, bad memories and all.
Mr. Allen arrived wearing what Mr. Goodman describes
as "army fatigues and a Fidel Castro cap," surrounded
by his lawyer, his agent and a bodyguard. Mr. Goodman
escorted him to the jury room, where Mr. Allen insisted
on standing, rather than sitting like everybody else.
The rest of the jurors gawked at him.

"We eventually offered him the opportunity to get out
of there," Mr. Goodman said. "Frankly, we were glad
to get rid of him."
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yammerings 

When you start geezering up after the age of forty you begin to adjust your memories of youth so that they're more serviceable for whatever you're feeling cranky about.

And I'll tell you this. We never got days off from school. We went all day every day and they stuck our heads out of the window for five minutes and called it summer vacation.

Different story these days. Teacher conferences, spring break, winter break, Croatian Trans-gender Appreciation Week break. I get a break on those rare occasions when they actually go to school.

Okay, oddly, that didn't make me feel any better. The truth is that Gracie works much harder in school than I ever did and her curriculum, although modern it its approach, is far more rigorous than I remember in grade school. Hell, in third grade they were just getting the last of the finger paints out of our ears. My only problem with her curriculum is that they don't memorize enough.

No, what's really bothering me is that when the school takes a week-long break the Goddess and the Child decamp for her mother's house in the city and I'm left to amuse myself in our suddenly very unamusing house.

Bah.

There's only one advantage to this arrangement that I can think of and that's getting Netflix to send me movies that the female element in the house is either ineligible or disinclined to watch. So tonight I'm going to have an adult beverage and watch 12 Monkeys.

Since I have absolutely nothing else, I'll let you in on the excitement for the past week. Grace is a wizard ball player, but in the Roberto Clemente league the boys can't play with the girls after the age of 9. Girls have to play softball. She's okay with that, but the problem is that there aren't enough girls so the age spread is too wide. She's nine playing with thirteen year olds, some of whom are bigger than me. If you've met me you know we're talking little Ted Kluzuskis. And they've been playing for four or five years and they can really hit. Despite being much the smallest kid on the team she's one of the two best fielders so she plays third.

So. Her first game last Thursday. Just after one of her opponents hit one out another one comes up and hits Grace right on the chin with a line drive. Tooth goes flying. Split lip, gallons of blood. The goddess comes completely unglued. I'm on my way home from work and I get a call that sounds like Gilbert Gottfried on crack. I get the gist, though, and I head for the hospital.

Here's the lucky part. The opposing coach was a dental technician and had the materials and expertise to preserve the tooth properly. The nearest trauma center was half a mile away and they had an oral surgeon on hand. The tooth was popped back in about forty-five minutes after it was dislodged. They think there is an excellent chance of preserving the (adult) tooth.

So she's on the DL for at least a month, and when she comes back she's going to second or even the outfield. She's going to be a terrific third baseman. Next year. This year she has a mouth full of metal wires and a nasty looking lip to show off to her classmates. Huge status lift. She's as pleased as punch.

Me, I'm just glad we weren't in Canada or England. We'd still be waiting.
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Monday, April 10, 2006

Happy Passover 


Another contribution from New Hampshire Nancy. JibJab's Matzah! Click on image.
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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Carnival of The New Jersey Bloggers, Number 47 


Roberto, at DynamoBuzz, comes back for a second slice of Carnival. He's one of the most reliable and relentless observers of the political culture in the Garden State and, once you've gotten the cotten candy off your fingers, you should do yourself a favor and read back through his posts. An excellent primer on the other Carnival: New Jersey politics from a center-right perspective.
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Friday, April 07, 2006

This Story Has Legs. No Story, Actually, But Great Legs 



James Lileks on Katie Couric taking on the Big Desk at CBS: "If you spot me a whoop, I could probably muster a de-do . . ."

She's hard working and smart, that's to the good. She's an idiot and a chipmunk, that's to the bad. The only important aspect is that she makes CBS News exactly what it deserves to be, in fact, what it aspires to be: a functioning irrelevancy.
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

When I Smell a Cigar, I Think of the St. Moritz 


As a young actor I did my share of waiting tables. You have to. The money's good, the hours are flexible and the labor pool is constantly churning.

Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at it. I wasn't a nightmare waiter. I didn't add unauthorized fluids to low tippers' coffee and I never (deliberately) humiliated anyone in front of their wives. (Both of these I've seen done numerous times. Just saying.) As long as things stayed fairly calm I was pleasant and nervously efficient. But you make your money when things get crazy and when three tables walked into my section at once, everything would go white. I just never learned to organize my brain to keep more than two or three balls in the air at once. Consequently, I never lasted too long anywhere.

That left two ways to make money: temping, which I hated, and desk clerking in hotels, which I loved.

I worked the midnight desk at a number of mid-town hotels, but my first job was my favorite -- midnight to eight at the St. Moritz on Central Park South.

The St. Moritz (now the Ritz-Carlton) was the "bargain" hotel on the street, but it was a very expensive street and we got quite a few of your scruffier celebrities. It wasn't a hard job. Check a few people in, check a few people out, call the engineers for minor problems, wake up the superintendent for major problems, sell a few souvenirs, set up the desk for the day shift, hand out keys and mail. I ran a switchboard that was very much like the one to the right, but everything that I had to do could be done in a couple hours. The rest of the time I listened to the brand new country station in New York, I studied my lines if I was in a show, I wrote, I read, I shot the shit with whoever wandered in off the street. I'd help myself to a Macanudo from the cigar vault every once in awhile. Pretty sweet. I was one of the first people in the world to read the New York papers and it was there that I saw on the front page of the Times that the girl from high school who took me all the way for the first time in the back seat of a Rambler had grown up to be a terrorist who had bombed the Bank of America. Who knew? The last I saw her she was heading off to Bennington.

All security matters were handled by the house dick, an ex-NYPD detective named Ruby. By which I mean that Ruby had understandings with the local entrepreneurs and girls could only go upstairs with his approval. He would sit in the coffee shop across the lobby and if a young woman came in saying she was here to see Mr. So-and-so, he would either fold his paper and slap his thigh or he wouldn't. How I dealt with disappointed applicants was up to me, but it was Ruby's responsibility to see to it that the St. Moritz didn't turn into the 9th Avenue Holiday Inn while not unreasonably inconveniencing the clientele.

The other two people working those hours were the night auditor and the cashier, a damp young man who kept showing me his wedding ring. I can't remember the night auditor's name, but he was a concentration camp survivor, very old, but funny, waspish. Not very forthcoming, though. If you asked him any question at all not directly related to work his answer was always the same: "My name is Rabbit. I know nothing."

Harry Helmsley lived upstairs and I gave him his mail every morning. Never saw Leona, though. Sam Levine, the original Nathan Detroit, lived there and would roll in around two most mornings and sit in the coffee shop with Ruby smoking cigars. They were sometimes joined by Erroll Garner, a regular.

Probably the most dramatic night was when I checked in Diana Ross and her husband, some guy named Silberstein who was a music producer, I think, in one suite and John Cassavetes with his whole posse in an adjoining suite. Things got pretty merry up there and I started getting complaints and had to call up several times to ask them to keep it down. Then Mr. Helmsley called down and I had to get more insistent. The next thing I know there's a very drunken Cassevetes downstairs waiving a cigar in my face and trying to climb over the desk at me. He's being held back by Peter Falk who eventually drags him back across the lobby to the elevator. Things apparently quiet down upstairs and half an hour later Falk calls down to apologize to me. I thought that was pretty nice. Years later The Goddess did a show with him and her opinion is that he's a very nice guy, but every bit as strange and wiley as he appeared in Columbo.

I left to do a show in Kentucky, came back for a couple months, but when I left to do another show in North Carolina they told me I wouldn't have a job when I got back. I wasn't too worried. There's never a shortage of hotels in New York and they're all open all night.
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Next: Autocolonoscopy 

Do it yourself Lasik eye surgery.

$99.95.

Don't blink.

From Warren Bell at NRO.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Warm Chin, Cold Heart 


Mr. Garth Trevethan, desert dweller, libertarian, notes the prevalence of vandykes on right-wing talk show hosts.

If he only knew.
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Boyle's Thirty Acres 


I enjoyed Cinderella Man a lot and didn't expect it to do much when Gong Season rolled around as 1) they only throw Ron Howard an award once a decade and Beautiful Mind was just five years ago, and 2) its about a principled and courageous man of unshakable red-state values. So 1947. So Capra.

The only thing that disappointed me was the lack of local color. So much of the story took place in my stomping grounds, but, except for the dock scenes and the New York scenes it all seemed like Generic Low-density Urban. The words said Jersey, but the backgrounds said Canada.

That's okay. I've been reading the book, by Jeremy Schaap and it has tons of local color, characters and facts about the North Jersey fight game in the '20s and '30s. The book was put together after the movie and there's a little bit of a slapped-together quality to the prose, but the character sketches are colorful and the scene setting is quite vibrant.

Among the many Chill Town references that were entirely new to me was a wooden sports arena that was built by Tex Rickard specifically for the Dempsey-Carpentier fight in 1921. It was called Boyle's Thirty Acres and was at the present site of the Hudson County Schools of Technology and the Montgomery Gardens Housing Project, just down the hill from the old Jersey City Medical Center which is metastasizing into condos. I pass it every day.

It was built to hold more than 91,000 and was jammed for the fight. The gate was an unheard of $1,789,238, which, in 1921, was more than enough to keep The Goddess in shoes.

Braddock fought twice at Boyle's Thirty Acres before it was torn down in 1927.
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Big Meshugener 


HBO seems to have a hook with my name on it, because eventually I almost always become addicted to every series they put out. I imagine such will be the case with Big Love, their new show about polygamy, staring Bill Paxton, even though I found the premier resistible and haven't seen it since.

You can't be fully conscious in 2006 and pretend to be shocked or offended by the subject matter, but I do confess to being a little creeped out by it.

Three wives! Or in the case of the picture above, five or six! It always gets a little fuzzy there with the mid-adolescent females. For Lizard-Sluggo it's an easy call. Stax o'chix. All good. Fortunately, I stopped listening to Lizard-Sluggo some time ago and the issue becomes a bit more nuanced.

First of all, there's The Goddess. They don't call her that just because of her benevolence and wisdom. There's a wrathful element there, too. Vengeance is mine, she always says. She's a jealous Goddess and right there you can forget about all of us sitting around playing Boggle and drinking cocoa. Not without blood on the wall, we don't.

Then there's me. Women have always been to me what VCR manuals and Ikea instructions are to the wife: fiendishly complicated, pointlessly obscure, and missing a part or two. Getting married is simply the mature way of saying 'Okay, I give up, I'll never get it.' Getting married again while the first one is still breathing and watching 'The View' is like saying 'Okay, I give up, I'll never get not getting it.' It's doubling down on fives.

Getting married the second time (sequentially) saved my life and I'm happy for anyone to know it. I'm as happily married as a shnook can be. I never understand players who win a jackpot and then go double or nothing.

More intelligent commentary may be obtained from Jonathan Rauch at Reason OnLine, who discusses the structural downsides to polygamy, even for libertarians.

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Volpone in Winter 

The Old Fox can't count, but he can write. Visit the latest Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers at his place.
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Hector and Maria 

Jim, at Parkway Rest Stop, makes the borders issue simple enough for an intellectual to get it. His piece, with the language cleaned up a little, would make a devastating TV commercial for any group with the rugalahs to take it on.

Fairness is what he's talking about: fairness to taxpayers and fairness to those who have waited and sacrificed to immigrate the right way.
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Let's Play 162! 

No, that's not me, third from the left. Uncanny, though.

I'm always grousing about baseball, true fan that I am, the drugs, the money, the Dammit to Hell rule. Always going on about the chunks baseball has taken out of my heart and the holes it has left in the walls of every place I've ever lived.

Here's the thing, though. I've been a Pirate fan since, well, since about when the above picture was taken and now that they are beginning what I'm quite sure will be their fourteenth consecutive losing season, I still feel a buzz this morning.
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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Try A Sliver Of Tongue 

My friend Nancy sent me a link to an ad for Kosher.com. I'm not sure why I like it. Maybe you can explain it to me.
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Friday, March 31, 2006

For That Terminal Geek In Your Life 



This may look like the dental impressions of my Uncle Bubba, but it's actually one of The Top 10 Weirdest Keyboards Ever according to fosfor gadgets.

Some of them are a good deal stranger.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Herbert Butterfield Took Me To The Dark Side 


I've mentioned before that my first presidential ballot was cast for George McGovern and my last two for George W. Bush. There are undoubtedly legions of events, realizations, people and turns of fate that contributed to my long trek across the political landscape, but two things come to mind that jarred me loose from my hardened assumptions and allowed me to begin the trip.

I was waiting tables in a trendy joint on the East Side in the early eighties and making a play for one of the chefs. I thought she was cute as hell and bright as a button. Someone ran into the kitchen and announced that Reagan had been shot. The object of my affections pumped her arm in the air like a hockey player and shouted "Yes!"

Well, I may have been a vaguely lefty layabout, but I knew that wasn't right and I actually felt myself shift in that moment. Not toward the right, but toward giving things a fresh look.

And I happened to come across a book around the same time called The Whig Interpretation of History, by Herbert Butterfield, which can be accessed in its entirety under the link. It's a short book (or long pamphlet) but dense, written in 1931. It's premise is that most of our influential historians have been Whigs or progressives and that there is a characteristic relationship between the Whig historians and their subjects. They tend to interpret the past through the eyes of the present and they understand the present to be the end of a long series of events leading from darkness into light, from reaction to Jacobinism to liberalism, from authority to liberty and from right to left. History, in this view, is a vast Powerpoint document demonstrating the triumph of the progressive point of view.

As with any post hoc, ergo prompter hoc argument, it's an easy fallacy to fall into. In broad strokes, we have moved, or, you could even say progressed fairly resolutely through the centuries towards more personal liberty and from at least an acceptance of the inevitability of central control. On the other hand, of course, during the incomprehensibly blood-soaked 20th Century, most of the power was centralized under, and most of the blood was spilt in service of, 'progressive' regimes.

To Butterfield, it is the role of the polemicist, not the historian to answer the question, 'how did we achieve religious liberty?' without first understanding the reasonableness of religious persecution from a 16th century point of view.
Real historical understanding is not achieved by the
subordination of the past to the present, but rather
by our making the past our present and attempting
to see life with the eyes of another century than our
own. It is not reached by assuming that our own age
is the absolute to which Luther and Calvin and their
generation are only relative; it is only reached by fully
accepting the fact that their generation was as valid as
our generation, their issues as momentous as our
issues and their day as full and vital to them as our
day is to us.
He makes the case that the interposition of an agenda, consciously or not, acknowledged or not, liberal or conservative, invalidates the narrative of history. He might not argue with the analogy of history as story-telling, but he is firm against the addition of a moral at the end of the story.
It seems to be assumed that in history we can have
something more than the private points of view of a
particular historian; that there are "verdicts of
history" and that history itself, considered
impersonally, has something to say to men.
There is a satisfaction in finding historical vindication for one's assumptions, but there is a thrill in being led, by examination and analysis to suddenly looking through the eyes of a 12th century crusader and realize he didn't do what he did simply because he was wicked.

We do tend to see analogs to our party or our convictions in earlier era, but it is a mistake to imagine they would be your allies were they to pop out of the Way-Back machine tomorrow morning. People and nations had particular reasons for what they did and those motives are entirely opaque to us without a close examination of the relationships, the personalities, the restrictions, resources and needs of the actors involved with absolutely no reference to what we would do if we were in their shoes. Once that's made as clear as possible, then you can proceed to look at the transitions and turning points.

The very act of drawing that line from Luther or whomever may represent the beginning of a liberal notion through today and stringing connecting events onto that line, deliberately excludes half of the story. Perhaps in retrospect the destruction of American Indian culture was inevitable once it clashed with the technologically superior Europeans, just as, in retrospect, the annihilation of the Republican Guard was inevitable once the Marines were given the go-ahead to proceed to Baghdad. But retrospect means looking backward from the perspective of the present and from the perspective of the 16th century and early 2003, neither event was inevitable. Of course, the closer one approaches the actual events, the more uncertain seems the outcome. The Whig interpretation is the abbreviation of history by selection.

This book didn't make me a right winger by any means but it was the first challenge to a way of looking at history that had become ingrained in me and it opened the door.
One may be forgiven for not being too happy
about any division of mankind into good and
evil, progressive and reactionary, black and
white; and it is not clear that moral indignation
is not a dispersion of one’s energies to the great
confusion of one’s judgement.
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I Could Eat A Knob At Night 

Been coming to work recently listening to the Ricky Gervais Show podcasts. They did twelve half hour shows for free and have just started the second season for which they're charging a couple bucks each. You can also get the whole first season for six or seven bucks. All over at iTunes.

I primarily use the music injection system to get to my Happy Place. By which I mean get away from my horrible Going To Work Place. I do love music, but the point here is to become distracted and insensate (or over-sensate, take your pick) enough to forget where I'm going and why. It works, more or less.

What's happening lately, though is that I'm laughing out loud from the moment I leave my house til the moment I get to the office. Street, bus stop, bus, terminal, train, street, elevator. People look, I become undistracted, and there I am in my tumbrel again. Overall, that's unsatisfactory, but, of course, I can't stop listening. I've got about four and a half more hours to listen to, which is about three days, then I can go back to zombieizing myself.

By the way, when did the Geico gecko start doing Ricky Gervais?
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Monday, March 27, 2006

What If You Get Hammered and Then Take a Nap? 

I'm pleased and proud to announce that Sluggo Needs A Nap is the number one choice of 430,886 hits when MSN Search looks for "bar to take a nap in". I just think it's curious that whoever needs this information took such a high tech route. I altered his search to 'bar to get hammered in' and was nowhere to be seen.
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Sandy Beach Towel and My Behind: Perfect Together 

Roberto at DynamoBuzz alerted me to a web site set up to promote the Jersey Shore. If you click on "Find a Play Therapy That's Right For You" they ask you a series of questions and then suggest some shore towns you might like. I got Cape May, Point Pleasant and Beach Haven. Being an old fart who would just as soon sit on the beach with a cold beer for two weeks, I'd say they hit my sweet spot. Probably my three favorite places in Jersey to spend more than a day.
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Buck Owens, R.I.P. 


I didn't know Buck Owens had passed away until I read about it at 2Blowhards. Michael Blowhard has a nice tribute to him over there.

My first date with the Goddess was a Dwight Yoakam comcert and Buck Owens showed up to do the Streets of Bakersfield duet.

That's Mr. Owens and the Buckaroos to the right.
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

First Jammer Out Of The Pack 



We arrived at the appointed hour and the clan was gathering. The clan being anyone with a soft spot for Sheilas on Wheelas.

Opening night for the Penn Jersey She Devils roller derby league. After reading the promotional material I was going back and forth on who to root for. The Sadistic Sisters were appealing in their fetching pink and black ensembles. I liked the Fallen Angel, too, in all black with with little wings affixed to their backs. After both teams had done their warm-ups, though, I settled on the Fallen Angles. Something about their fish-net stockings.

And it was an interesting crowd. I'm not sure I can think of another activity with the same mix: punk, post-punk, sporting, goth, nostalgia, working class, camp. There's a Sapphic element, of course, if only in the fevered brains of the many adolescent boys present who's only intimate contact with women thus far has taken the form of slick paper monthlies. There was also a beautiful little boy sitting on his dads shoulders who waved frantically to his mother every time she skated past. And Metal Momma would wave back and then drill her elbow into a Sadistic Sweetheart's hip.

The Goddess is a wreck-ghoul. I have to slow way down when we pass an accident, so the appeal to her is obvious. Grace loves women's athletics and she loves skating and she loves anything odd and different. And she also scored a t-shirt. For me there were the fish-net stockings.

Despite character names like Classy Chassis and Kandi KaBoom, this isn't pro wrestling, by the way. The competition was real and the one fight that broke out while I was there was real. If two large, attractive, booted, armored and sweating women grappling and punching each other five feet away from you doesn't stir you in a fundamental way, perhaps you should return to Hunter-Gatherer Tech. This was Robert Crumb heaven.

I met with Gregor of What A Sad Old Goth briefly before the event started. Gregor, along with his partner, Ken Sikes, is the proprietor of this wonderful circus, so he was in something of a daze handling the hundreds of details still dancing in the air. He's such a sweet guy and he looked very happy to be finally getting things off the ground. Here's hoping it won't be long before they get their own cable channel.

Picture stolen from Gregor's blog.
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Friday, March 24, 2006

Adoption 

Before we went to China to adopt Gracie we belonged to a newsgroup of people in our situation and people who had already come back, sharing information and advice. We did get some good advice about the trip and dealing with officials, but we wound up quitting the group long before we left for China.

For one thing, it was a creature of an organization formed for parents of adopted Chinese kids and like any organization, it had Policy. They believed that it is the responsibility of us, as parents, to maintain close cultural, intellectual and emotional ties with China and the Chinese community here. They had very clear ideas on how this was to be done and were quite stong in the opinion that if you did not do as they suggested, you were committing child abuse.

I do think you should make available to your adopted child any and all cultural resources that might help them find their place in the world. And I'm not opposed to pushing a kid toward something I believe he needs, but which he's resisting. Up to a point.

That point begins the instant someone presumes to dictate my parenting decisions and claims to know better than I what my girl needs. They don't.

What was, to me, even more irritating were the barrage of stories about the blatant racism encountered by these brave parents. They seemed to be in a constant state of outrage over remarks made, looks given, and subtexts read. I remember a woman describing an old woman cooing over her kid and then making the fatal remark, "She's just a little China doll." You could almost feel the spittle coming out of the monitor. The woman was angry and she wouldn't let it go. You only had to look at these ori/occidental families a moment too long to incur their wrath.

Bah. Let me tell you something. We've taken Grace for extended periods to South Carolina, upstate New York, the Poconos and central Pennsylvania. People do look. Grace notices them looking. It's an odd thing if you haven't encountered it before. And if you acknowledge their look and smile, nine times out of ten they're going to want to ask you questions. The questions aren't always artfully posed. But not once, not one single time in the thousands of people who have met us and the hundreds of people who have engaged us on the subject have I detected the smallest whiff of disapproval. They like it. People like the idea of a different kind of family. If I met someone who didn't like it, the hell with them. But it's been eight years and it hasn't happened yet.

There was an article on the bottom of the front page of the Times on Thursday about children from the first wave of Chinese adoptions in 1991 and their trip through adolescence. Adopted in China, Seeking Identity in America, by Lynette Clemetson (registration required) compares and contrasts these girls, in their middle teens. There is some interesting material there, along with some yammering from a social worker and other 'experts' but I think it misses an important point entirely.

All kids at this age are struggling with their identity. Being Asian with white parents is an aspect of these particular girls' struggle, but all kids face unique challenges as well as universal ones. There are only two things you can do to help them, really, whether they're Chinese-American or California-American. One is unconditional love and the other is a firm hand when they need it. All the Chinese dance classes in the world won't help once a kid is infected with teenitis.

The article does point out that some kids feel very connected to their birth culture and some kids never give it a thought. You only have to spend a little time around foreign adopted kids to know this is true. There is a school of thought that the second type of kid is displaying a social pathology. Well, people are entitled to think whatever they like. But they need to stay the hell away from my kid.
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Don't Be Too Kind to Our Web-Footed Friends 

I've been pretty calm about the danger of winding up in a mile-high stack of victims of bird flu, but I am aware of a chorus of voices saying I shouldn't be.

Sean Lynch, over at Catallarchy, links to an article in the Detroit Free Press about a new article in Nature magazine about why there have been so few bird to human transmissions and no known human to human transmissions. It turns out you almost have to get jiggy with a budgie to catch this bug and it will require several specific mutations before we can give it to each other.

So why all the noise? Lynch thinks he knows:

So we have the press on one side who know that
fear sells, and we have the scientists on the other
side who know that fear gets grants, and on the third
side we have our “fascism lite” governments who will
take any opportunity to acquire more power.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Westerners don’t
raise birds and therefore doesn’t need to hear
another f*cking peep about a disease that’s killed
on the order of 100 people in the entire world and
requires intimate contact with birds. Here, I’ll give
you all of the information you need to know: don’t
get intimate with birds. There. Done.
So there may be some few of us who will need lifestyle changes. You know who you are.
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Be There 



On Sunday, Gracie, The Goddess and the Slugster himself will be heading down to the wilds of South Jersey as the Penn Jersey She Devils have their opening Pandemonium. Our host, the proprietor of this bodacious, but nightmare-deadly group of Succubi will be our most excellent blog-brother, Gregor of What A Sad Old Goth.

I hope to see other bloggers there, especially of the South Jersey variety.

Grace has decided that she is going to root for the Sadistic Sweethearts, but I have given my allegience to the Fallen Angels.

HOLIDAY SKATING CENTER
1775 CREEK RD
DELANCO, NJ
(856) 461-3770

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Free-Market Education 

The New York Sun has been giving John Stossel plenty of space to smack around the softballs served up by the Educrats in response to his TV special "Stupid in America."

The show was an indictment of public education and a plea for school choice and by the reaction you'd think he advocated eliminating teacher lounges.

He points out in todays column (subscription required) that The National School Boards Association claims that "America's public schools outperform private schools when variables ... are controlled." He responds:

This must refer to the recent study done at the
University of Illinois, comparing fourth- and eighth-
grade math scores. That study actually showed that
public school students performed worse, but after
the researches used regression analysis to "control"
for race/ethnicity, gender, disability, limited English
proficiency and school location, they managed to
conclude that public school students outperform
private and charter school students.

Everyone knows you can get a massage or a "massage" and when the NSBA was finished with these statistics there was definitely a Happy Ending.

Chanice at New Jersey for Change administers a similar hiding today with regard to the Newark school system.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sonnetooning 

Uncertainty

If it was not your face I saw above
Me when I woke today, I'll never know
Whose breath that was; because it rose like love
Unprosecuted, shimmering like so
Many particles resolving into
Air. Then, spinning, turning, up and down,
Replaced themselves with you. It is a sin to
Wish them back, Ophelia can't undrown.
Or can she? Had I woke a moment sooner
Whose arms would fold around me now?
And, reassembled for a nooner,
Would I be dehors my wedding vow?
What I must know before I leave my bed;
Is that luckless cat alive or dead?
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Squibblings 

A Government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always
count on the support of Paul. George Bernard Shaw
Lord, the money we do spend on goverment, and it's
not a bit better than the government that we got for
one-third the money twenty years ago. Will Rogers

Taxation with representation ain't so hot either. Gerald
Barzan


Virtually everything is under federal control nowadays
except the federal budget. Herman Talmadge

Squibs in the New York Sun
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Monday, March 20, 2006

Headlight Parade 



I see from Fausta's Blog that Susan Sarandon is set to play Cindy Sheehan in a movie. And the Times informs me this morning that Adrianne Barbeau is doing Judy Garland in a play.

Oh, dear. Where to invest my entertainment dollar?

Ms. Barbeau isn't exactly who would come to mind for the role and, in her Judy get-up on the right looks eerily like Polly Bergen. Perhaps not uncoincidentally, her husband wrote the script.

On the other hand, while Ms. Sarandon, who did for lemons what Heinz did for pickles has spent the past few decades running around making a pest of herself, Ms. Barbeau appears to have been living a blameless family life.

Okay, here's the clincher. Ms. Barbeau's playwright husband is Billy Van Zandt, brother of Little Steven and he was born in Red Bank.

Sorry, Susan.
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Our American Cousins 

An old friend who had the good fortune to be educated in England and to live most of his life in the U.S.A. sent me the following email, which he claimed he clipped from John Cleese:

To the Citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and other territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America, without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium," and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in the words such as 'colour', 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise." You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra'; you may elect to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you find you simply can't cope with the correct pronunciation. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up "vocabulary"). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

2. There is no such thing as " US English." We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize."

3. You will re-learn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after carefully carrying out Task #1 (see above).

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but to be celebrated only in England. It will be called "Come-Uppance Day."

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking with a therapist, then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All intersections will be replaced by roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling "gasoline") - roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with mayonnaise, but with vinegar.

10. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." American brands will be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English Dialogue in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was an experience akin to have one's ear removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American "football." There is only one kind of proper football; you call it "soccer." Those of you brave enough will, in time, will be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due backdated to 1776.

I responded thusly:

I had to wait all weekend before my sides stopped aching. Laugh? I thought I'd plotz.

Of course, it's entirely unnecessary for us 'Mericans to revoke British sovereignty as y'all seem intent on giving it up to the frogs and huns anyway. Well, at least you're not our problem any more. If, at some point in the future you do decide to become an actual nation again I offer just a few pointers on how to stay that way.

Cars: My advice is to outlaw driving any vehicle smaller than a toaster. We'll send you a few reconditioned Hummers to practice on and you'll find, to your delight, that it no longer matters which side you drive on.

Pronunciation: you really should take into account that it is difficult to take seriously pronunciation guidelines from a people who speak essentially different languages on opposite sides of a room. One word: Llanfairpwllgwygyllgogerychwymdrobilllantysiliogogogoch.

Guns: Buy them and learn to use them. I think you'll thank us when you wake up with a French bureaucrat at the foot of your bed.

Sport: We would be happy to take your advice in regard to soccer once you learn to play the game. From my reading of the sports page the game is played in England on a level far below the rest of the world. Are you guys even trying to score? Until then, when we want to watch people in skimpy togs running around pointlessly, I think we'll stick with woman's beach vollyball.

Movies: If you want us to stop casting Brits as bad guys, I'm afraid you're going to have to kill Alan Rickman. Please wait until the last Harry Potter is done.

Beer: Try to think of the stuff as a light, refreshing quaff, not as a thick, mediciny sludge. Here's a tip: if you need a knife and fork, it's not beer.

Food: Mercifully, I'm going to let this slide.

One thing I'm afraid we're going to insist on, though. Your "Conservative" party is going to have to be renamed the Crepe-eating Girly-boys party. It looks like Tom Delay is going to have some time on his hands soon. We'd be delighted to send him over to put a little Texas in the Tories. No charge.

Lee Harvey Oswald. It was in all the papers.

Update: I have since learned from a commenter at Tinkerty Tonk who kindly linked to this posting that Snopes has debunked the Cleese connection. Which means that Ian, who sent me the email is buying the next jar of thick, medincy sludge we share
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Friday, March 17, 2006

Eating Our Old 

"Orphan brands" are famous or one-time famous brands that were gobbled up by conglomerates and then when their conglomerate was gobbled up by a bigger conglomerate, spit out as tired, worn-out, obsolete, old fashioned and not fit for the demographic du jour.

So sad.

But in this wonderful capitalistic snake pit of ours, there are conglomerates that specialize in snapping up expectorated old-fashioned brands and keeping them alive.

Colby Cosh links to a Telegraph story about British orphan brands. He calls them "objectively horrid and useless British groceries", but I prefer orphan brands. Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie isn't going to moisten many eyes on this side of the pond, but apparently it was once a big part the nutrition pyramid over there. Camp Coffee is mostly sugar and chicory, but in the post-war era it was all many people could afford. Now its sales are soaring and it costs more than most major brands.

And that's what this is all about: nostalgia eating. Nostalgiac unguents and potions are big, too, but, of course, the things we once put in our mouths are the things we're most attached to.

Anone who's ever gotten the Vermont Country Store catalog in the mail knows this. There's an on-line version, but I can't imagine surfing around looking for the kind of things they sell. But if you see Bit-O-Honeys sitting right there on the page you're much more likely to have to have one. What about Boston Fruit Slices? Those were pretty good. Quite tart, but coated in sugar chunks the size of your fingernail. And Necco Wafers. Now I think I've actually seen them in the movies recently, but not in this size.

There's two other candies on their list that have a kind of post-modern appeal. You may or may not remember eating them. I don't. I think they were before my time, or, possibly, like Malomars they were regional items. But Walnettos are more likely to be remembered as the basis of TV catch phrase from thirty years ago than as an actual treat and Squirrel Nut Zippers were actual candies, not just an idiosyncratic band.

They've also got some toys you haven't seen in awhile, antiquated underthings, little mechanical devises with which your grandmother manipulated various personal areas to remove unwanted items like hair and bunions and things humans don't even have anymore, like wens.

The Goddess uses the catalog to get her Bag Balm. It's an item farmers use on dairy cow's udders to prevent cracking. The Goddess uses it on her feet. At least that's what she tells me.

What happens usually with nostalgia is that the trip it takes you on quickly becomes labored and the delight becomes a joke and fondness veers off toward contempt. Now the Vermont Country Store catalog has been around for many years, but the signs were there, right on the front page of the internet version with this featured item: I don't think Grandma ever used Tired Old Ass Soak.

Could be wrong, but I think this is a faux Orphan Brand.

I had to add this one. It's Tetterine Ointment. "Tried-and-True Tetterine Relieves Men's Personal Discomforts" by which they mean athlete's foot, jock itch, and ring worm. Okay, but why make it green?

Finally, This stuff is great, So buy a case, It takes the hair, Right off your face. Burma-Shave.
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's For You 

So you had a bad day?

Around one thirty this afternoon the phone system at the main office downtown went down. Way down. And it stayed down.

International law firm, with more than 300 lawyers in the New York office, clients all over the world, and no phones. Safe to say heads were exploding.

So some soul-less horror throws a switch downtown and all their telecommunications get routed through my phone in midtown.

To review: 300 lawyers, thousands of clients, my phone.

Had an interesting hour before the Message department sent up a couple of people to handle the 'overflow'. Which is a really asinine way to put it, because when you're trying to answer 70 calls a minute, it's all overflow.

The phones were down around four hours, so if you're around Liberty Plaza tomorrow, try to avoid the rolling heads.

Me, I wasn't planning on getting hammered tonight, but it's moved up on my punch list.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Monumental Jersey 

Peter Applebome, who writes the Our Town column for the Times and stirred things up around here last year with his profile of New Jersey Bloggers has a good one on page two of the Metro section today.

I'm not linking to it because, probably as a result of his NJ Blogger piece, he's been elevated to the rarefied air behind the TimesSelect wall.

Get him.

Today he takes us on a tour of an exhibition called "Monumental: Imaginary Monuments to New Jersey", which whimsically asked for submissions for a monument to Da Garden State. It will be at the Jersey City Museum on Montgomery Street and Victory Hall a couple of blocks away, running from March 25 through April 23. It sounds like fun, though inevitably self-flagellating.

Here's Mr. Applebome's summary.
So what does this tell us about the lure of the
Jersey myth? What's the secret of Da Jersey
Code? Here's my take. New Jersey is America
at its most vulnerable, most human, least heroic,
least easily definable. It's the rest of us -- old
gangsters, old cities, old rockers, old suburbs, new
suburbs, too much traffic, too much pollution, too
many crooks. It's Abbott and Costello and Philip
Roth, Frank Sinatra and Ice-T, Allen Ginsberg
and Aaron Burr. Sometimes it seems like a rocky
romance that's seen better days, but at its best,
and in its dreams, it's still the Garden State.
Fair enough.
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Alive As You And Me 

I grew up, or at least older, in the '60s and did my share of strumming "Joe Hill" on the guitar. I lived until the age of 10 in coal mining territory and actually wrote my first play (a verse play - gad, I wish I still had a copy of that) about a miner strike. I've been a member of two different carpenter's unions, the UFCW (grocery workers), the Sheet Metal Workers International Association as well as Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. I was a Teamster, briefly, before I was kicked out for working non-union during summer vacation. I'm probably forgetting one or two.

I understand well how vital the labor movement has been in building the economic powerhouse we live in today by disciplining the labor market to account for fairness. It would be a very different and far worse world if those tough son-of-bitches hadn't fought for generations for a fair shake for the working man.

Why, then, has the labor movement dwindled in recent decades to a fraction of it's post-war membership and influence? Of course there has been push-back and management will always fight just as hard as the unions for a bigger wedge. But why, after a hundred years of concession, has management been successful?

The answer, I think, is that management has changed, while labor hasn't. Management has adapted to each change in the environment with entirely new paradigms while labor, having achieved a living wage, workplace safety regs, seniority rules, pensions and job protection, having taken the desperate, vulnerable working stiff and plunked him down in the middle class, still has a basically nineteenth century view of their role in the economy.

I'm not saying that there are no longer any issues where the labor voice needs to be heard, just that, generally, labor has achieved what it was invented for and where it does not reinvent itself for the changing world and enter into a symbiotic role with management, it generally assumes what Brandon Berg at Catallarchy calls a parasitic role. He notes the campaign by the Engineers, a New Zealand labor union to increase productivity and wonders if the labor movement is developing a labor market of its own and, if the Engineers are successful, if they will out-compete other, more traditional unions.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Love Songs 

Restraining Order Love


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More Than I Can Do, Steve Earle


Junky Love


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Essence, Lucinda Williams


Train Wreck Love


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The Streets of Baltimore, Nanci Griffith and John Prine
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