Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Cultural News from 2004 

If Sluggo is known for anything, it's for finding the cutting edge of the cultural wave and then waiting an average of six months to do anything about it. The wife persuaded me to watch the evisceration, er, remake of The Manchurian Candidate tonight On Demand. I'll be brief.

It's a shameful cartoon of remarkable movie. The original ran like clockwork, with a number of stunning performances. It was written tighter than a tick and directed cleanly, with a starkness that got creepier and colder as the story unwound. In this version there are some good performances (Jon Voigt is given the opportunity to embarrass himself and calmly declines) but in order to update the villains from Commies to global corporations they simply abandon plot and jump the action forward occasionally and just hope you don't notice. The original story was extravagant, but they connected all the dots. This one makes no sense whatsoever except as an in-kind contribution.

The frame is packed, stuffed with cultural memes from the left. A guy can't open a newspaper without a prominent story of Muslims being murdered by Yankee yahoos being displayed.

Similarly, the movie is full of big name actors in teeny-tiny parts. It's like a Hollywood "We're Sorry" convention. Everybody wanted in on this.

It would be foolish to think that it was an accident that this movie came out in 2004. Perhaps they felt they were striking a blow for the good guys.

What they did was give us $50 million worth of sophomoric foolishness with this plot: A son of privilege goes to war and comes back a hero. He's kind of a boring guy, but he keeps moving up. Eventually he runs for national office. Later there are questions concerning the legitimacy of his medals and where he was, exactly, at key moments of his wartime narrative. Turns out he's nuts.

Just a little ironic.

Friday, March 11, 2005

My Word Is My Bond 

I said I would have no more to say about Dan Rather and, by God, I meant it. On the other hand, IowaHawk . . .

Peanut Butter and Hitchhiking 

Have you ever known anybody with a peanut allergy? I never did. I don't deny that such a thing exists and that it can be a serious problem. But if it's such a danger how did I get through twelve years of public education without ever seeing anyone keel over into their PP&J? I mean they shovelled that stuff at us like it was nandrolone decanoate and we played the outfield for the Giants. Today, if you send peanut butter crackers in for a class snack expect a SWAT team and decontamination unit to show up at your house.

I guess the proper response is to shrug your shoulders and say 'different world.'

No more so than on the issue of hitchhiking. Ten years from now if I catch my daughter hitchhiking I'll take her home and staple her to a post in the basement. And feed her peanut butter crackers.

When I was growing up it was a big part of cutting loose. Growing up in Brick Township (not a dense urban environment) a pre-automotive kid has few options if he wants to see a piece of the world. We started when we were about thirteen. By the time I was sixteen I was hitchhiking into the city and occasionally hopping a freight, just to see where it went and hitchhiking back. Most of the time people would pick you up just to have someone to talk to and the code of the hitchhiker decreed you had to be interested in whatever nonsense they wanted to talk about. Sometimes they were crackpots, but usually more funny than scary. Most guys had stories about being picked up by lonely housewives with predictable results. Never happened to me, but I did get picked up occasionally by young men who had the same scenario in mind. I can't remember being discommoded by them, though. I probably would if I had been.

Only three unhappy hitchhiking experiences stick in my mind. Two were hitchiking in Europe during my college years. I was hitching from Paris to Rome with two girls and a guy picked us up in Switzerland. We didn't have much gear, but it was a small car and it was taking us some time to stow it when I noticed a tram coming around the corner and noticed further that the car was stopped very close to the tracks and that the door was, if fact, hanging over them. One of the girls was stuck halfway in and I couldn't shut the door without breaking her leg. I started screaming every word in French, German and Italian I knew, none of which was "Move the farking car off the tracks!" I tried to push the girl in, but I didn't make it. The tram slammed to a stop right beside us, pinning me up against the car and clipping the door neatly off. The girls were in Paris studying languages, but I didn't really speak anything but New Jersey, so I stood there for two hours while a lot of angry and excited people, some with uniforms, chattered angrily while pointing their fingers at me. The funny thing was, when everybody was done, the guy with the car told us to get in and took us into Italy anyway. I had shotgun, of course, next to the missing door. It was an interesting trip through the Alps.

The other European mishap was just a few days later when we got picked up by four or five guys in a van heading for Naples. They started getting a little pawy on one of the girls and I actually had to start smacking the driver before he'd stop and let us out. I thought that one was going to end a lot worse than it did.

A few years after that I was at Washington State University (a moocher, not a student). I had a girlfriend in Lewiston, Idaho and my car had died so I was doing a lot of hitchhiking back and forth. It's only 32 miles, but the last five or six are called the Lewiston Grade. Standing on the top of it you're in the Palouse. Looking south and east the entire earth just drops about a thousand feet. The road twists and turns and travels six miles to go half a mile north. You can't stop, you can't turn around. Coming back from Idaho one day I was picked up by a skanky looking guy in a pickup with a couple girls and a Tex Watson-looking customer in the back. I wanted to hop in the back but he was very firm about me getting in the cab. I wondered if I was in the beginning of a farmer's daughter joke.

If only. We got about two miles up the grade, he stops the truck and goes "Have you met Jesus?"

Believe me, I've got nothing against born-agains. Some of the people I love most in the world are born-agains. But these characters were something else. Nothing I said could get him to move the truck. I couldn't well get out since my door was pretty much flush with the edge of the cliff. I yelled and argued and threatened and the guy took it all much, much too calmly. He just kept telling me about this farm they had in the Palouse and how happy I'd be there. The girls agreed. Tex didn't say anything. After what seemed to be about a half an hour he said a long, angry prayer, drove to the top of the grade and told me I'd have to get out.

Now back to peanut butter.

In the interest of avoiding sick kids and lawsuits, schools ban peanut butter. It's what they call a priviliged allergy. You can be allergic to anything, what makes peanuts such a killer that it has to be singled out?

In the interest of forstalling reality from resembling my worst fears I would forbit my daughter to hitchhike. There are many other, more likely ways for a kid to get killed.

Is hitchhiking really more dangerous now than when I was young? One would assume so, but I'd like to see some numbers. I have a feeling that, even if it is, most of the reason why it's disappeared is that we're just not as comfortable with the decisions of fortune today as we once were. Of course bad things happened to hitchhikers back then and I was fortunate than nothing worse happened to me. I'm as much a person of my time as anyone,though, and, like I say, I will have nothing to do with my daughter sticking her thumb out there. That simply won't happen. That's a shame, in a way, because hitchhiking was very, very good to me. The places I got to, the stories I collected, learning to deal with difficult people and calculating risks. She'll have to get all these somewhere else.

At least she can get peanut butter at home.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Lucky Guy 

Apparently, the fact that I've been up to my eyeballs in actual work all day meant that I missed a partial Blogger melt-down.

You know you're with the right software when it goes pear-shaped on a day when you've got nothing to say.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry? 

I've read some fairly sick-making encomniums following Dan Rather out the door. Just in the interest of fairness and balance, Media Research has a list of Ratherisms. Not the corn-pone ones, just a list of knuckleheaded and biased remarks he's made through the years.

Here's my favorite:

“I read the book [My Life by Bill Clinton] completely.
and I think it compares very favorably with Ulysses S.
Grant’s gold standard of presidential autobiographies.”
— Dan Rather on CNN’s Larry King Live, June 18, 2004

True, Grant was a president and he did write a great autobiography. But of course it contained not a word concerning Grant's tumultuous time in office. It ends with Appomattox and Grant died within days of finishing it. Not only was it great literature it was a remarkable act of courage. I think it's stretching it a bit, though, to call it a presidential autobiography.

But if Mr. Rather did indeed read every page of My Life, I've said my last word on the subject. He's suffered enough.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Anti-anti Slavery at Columbia 

Mary, at Exit Zero has brought back some amazing reports from such exotic locales as the United Nations. Yesterday she ventured into the wilds of Columbia University for a conference on academic integrity and lived to tell the tale. There was good, there was bad, there was ugly.

An illustration of the latter was a student response to an address by feminist Phyllis Chesler who was making the unremarkable point that anti-semitism has no place in the university.
When Chesler pointed out that Israel was not an apartheid
state, and that IDF soldiers were not Nazis, a small group of
students "spontaneously" disagreed. Their voices were loud
enough to silence Chesler for a moment. The moderator told
the group that if they were going to cause a disturbance, they
would have to leave. The students then pasted pre-printed
Kinko’s-quality packing stickers over their mouths, on which
"Silenced by the David Project." was printed.
Students also were organized against the anti-slavery movement.

Read it all.

We're Number Two 

Sluggo Needs a Nap is the second entry in the UK/Ireland Yahoo search of 'chinese people with three nipples'.

And daddy thought I wouldn't amount to anything.

Giuliana Sgrena 

Via Mick Hartley:
Dutch blogger Zacht Ei translates part of an article from
Nederlands Dagblad by veteran war reporter Harald Doornbos:

'Be careful not to get kidnapped,' I told the female Italian
journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed
for Baghdad. 'Oh no,' she said. 'That won't happen. We are siding
with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.'

It doesn't sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But
Sgrena's attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn't she tell me
back in the plane that 'common journalists such as yourself' simply
do not support the Iraqi people? 'The Americans are the biggest
enemies of mankind,' the three women behind me had told me,
for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated
the Americans as well.
Ei concludes:

With her bias Sgrena did not only jeopardize herself, but due to
her behavior a security officer is now dead, and the Italian
government (prime minister Berlusconi included) has had to spend
millions of euros to save her life. It is to be hoped that Sgrena will
decide to have a career change. Propagandist or MP perhaps.
But she should give up journalism immediately.

It's hard to imagine a better outcome for Sgrena. Millions to buy munitions for her pet terrorists, a dead security officer to attract the maximum press exposure, minor wounds to justify her 'heroine' status and a black eye for American liberators. She could not have scripted it better.

What I Like About Joe 

Steve Kornacki at PoliticsNJ presents us with the ultimate nightmare scenario: Joe Piscopo for Governor!

Before you dismiss the notion out of hand, consider that the guy behind this bizarre notion is the guy that put Jesse Ventura in office. Okay, now you can dismiss the notion out of hand.

This is from Mr. Piscopo's web site, referencing the last time this idea came up in the wake of McGreevey's resignation.
August 20, 2004: Joe Piscopo, New Jersey governor?
(CNN) -- He played a number of notables -- David Letterman,
Frank Sinatra -- on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1980s, but
Joe Piscopo is now thinking of a completely different kind of role:
governor. The actor and comedian has been asked by some
people to consider a run in his home state, New Jersey.
CNN "American Morning" anchor Bill Hemmer talked
to Piscopo about the possibilities.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: He considers himself
a lifelong Democrat, self-described Jersey guy, but is
comedian Joe Piscopo serious about trying to replace
Jim McGreevey as governor in that state? He often paid
homage to the Garden State while on "Saturday Night
Live" back in the 1980s. And Jersey Joe our guest today
not in New Jersey, but in Orlando, Florida, to talk about
the "Draft Piscopo" movement. And, Joe, good morning
to you, and thanks for your time. Is this serious, by the way?

I had some serious people talk to me, Bill. We're very
concerned about the state, and the -- you know, I wrote
the jokes 20 years ago, but now it's almost not funny the
way Jersey's getting hit. I'm reading The Wall Street
Journal and ... these national publications, USA Today,
saying the problems we have in Jersey. So the people
that came to me and asked me to run, they're serious.

HEMMER: Joe, what can you tell us about the people
that approached you? Who are they? How strong backing
do they have?

PISCOPO: You know what, [they're] young businessmen,
and I talked to them yesterday. It was so funny, I said,
come on, guys, you got to let everybody know who you
are. And they say, like, no, we stay in the background,
Joe, you know, we believe in you, and we're friends
enough where I'm not beholden to anybody. So they're
like young, very concerned New Jersey citizens.
Because, see, in Jersey, we are so proud of the state. I've
got to tell you, not just because the great Bruce Springsteen
is from there, and Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Willis, and
Jack Nicholson, and Danny DeVito, and Shaquille O'Neal
born in Newark. I mean, we have so much to offer in this
state, that as we're citizens and we go through our
everyday lives back in Jersey, and then we see this ...
stuff that's happening now. These guys [who] came to me,
they really want to make a change.

Mr. Kornacki's article is mostly about Doug Friedline, the man floating the idea, who sounds like an interesting character.

It's not hard to imagine the demographic that would vote for him. It's just hard to imagine them putting down their canolis, getting off the couch and doing it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Something in the Water 

Sorry, I can't stay away.

The Times is still printing Larry Summers gaffe-related letters like the following:
To the Editor:

In trying to refute one of the arguments of Lawrence H.
Summers, Harvard's president, for the paucity of women
in the higher echelons of mathematics and engineering
departments, W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm
apparently commit their own Summers-like gaffe.

They wrote that "athletic talent or musical genius may
be gifts of the gods (or genes)." I thought that athletic
excellence and virtuosity in performance required years
of intense, dedicated practice, just as scientific knowledge
requires years of college and beyond. The genes or the
gods alone are hardly sufficient.

Frank Brady
Brookville, N.Y., March 1, 2005
The writer is an associate professor of
education, Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus

I thought being even an associate professor of education means that you know how to read a simple sentence. Talent is to excellence as genius is to virtuosity, but the regimen Mr. Brady describes defines the difference between them. They're not really the same things.

For those with high school seniors in the house I need to point out that this is the second letter from the faculty of the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University we've needed to deal with in the past week.


Squared Away Group 

I wish I had a camera at work. This morning our tiny office hosted a gathering for 65 cadets of the USMA, Class of 2005. I have no idea what it was about since we were giving out space to a firm a few floors below who helped us out when we were bombed out of our offices on 9/11. But what a great looking bunch of kids. I didn't even mind that they all called me 'Sir.'

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Crabby Old Guy is Back 

Grace's eighth birthday is next weekend so we had to go to something called a 'Party Store' to get things for the 'goody bags.' If somebody knows when birthday parties got completely out of control, let me know. There's an unusually wide gap between when I was a kid and when I had a kid. The way I remember it, if, you had a party it involved a few kids coming over for cake and ice cream. Perhaps funny hats, perhaps some games. I don't remember giving my folks reproachful looks because there wasn't going to be a bouncy room or clowns parachuting in.

Perhaps I was deprived. Maybe I should sue.
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