Thursday, June 30

Wish I'd Thought Of That

"Gwen Stefani is whiter than Snow"


Slogging, Day Three

Wednesday: VH1's Top Twenty Video Countdown

NOTE: The following refers to a tape of Tuesday's Top Twenty Countdown. Please do not use this information as the basis of any bar bets.

In the role of Josh: Bradford How
Fashion statements: sideburns; lime green transparent short sleeved shirt with epaulets.
Other Than That: Competent, in a nondescript way. Didn't try to get cute.

Me: I'm barely competent in pop music, because I've been avoiding the radio since 1973, and because I figure most of it is going to forcibly inject itself into my consciousness at some point. My ears aren't closed. I do search around for the new and exciting, and by ignoring the charts I'm able to overcome any concerns about what constitutes commercial pandering. If I like a song, I like it.

No way I was watching all two hours of this thing, so our tape begins with:

11 Foo Fighters, "Best of You"

This is fine. I mean, sick. These guys tap what's exciting about rock and roll, something which seems to come more often from trends than actual bands these days. They don't send me, exactly, and I don't own any of their stuff, but I might buy this one. Pretty straightforward performance video lets the song stand out. Radical concept.

10 Shakira f/ Alejandro Sanz, "La Tortura"

Seen this one? She's, like, smeared with used motor oil and doing some weird chest bumps. This does not make me want to possess her. It makes me want to get her off the carpet before she drips. Her voice is forgettable, assuming that is her voice in there. But anything over Latin polyrhythms at least wouldn't drive you crazy in an elevator unless both it and the tape got stuck. One note: do not seat yourself on a cutting board in semi-lotus position while chopping onions with a large knife.

9 Backstreet Boys, "Incomplete"

They played only about fifteen seconds of this going into commercial, unless it really is incomplete. Worrying one way or another about boy bands is like getting into an argument over which Star Trek series was the best.

8 Green Day, "Holiday"

In the history of rock and roll, only Indiana's own Johnny Cougar and Green Day have made the transition from totally dismissible to must be regarded. These guys started out as tenth-rate poseurs being sold to people who might have read about punk in a magazine, but evidently hadn't heard any of the stuff they were ripping off. Now they're damned good, and the video's a kind of funny throwback thing. Plus you always get extra points in my book for working in the obligatory video sluts in a reasonably humorous way.

7 Rob Thomas, "Lonely No More"

Another one they cut short for commercial. And don't think I didn't appreciate it. Why is there a Rob Thomas anyway?

6 Coldplay, "Speed of Sound"

Eh. Pass the Radiohead. I've got nothing in particular against these guys, except a little musical frisson might be nice once in a while. If I listened to an entire album I'd either want to seek them out and kill them, or accept them as background music. I'm just not curious to find out which. Incredible lighting rig in the video, though. I'm gonna save the tape for mushroom season.

5 Will Smith, "Switch"

Y'know, there are several good reasons to hate Will Smith, but I can't. He occupies musical territory which would best be left vacant, and he doesn't even seem to be trying here. Still, it's kind of touching that he's still willing to turn out stuff that's so out of it.

4 Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl"

What I like about Gwen Stefani: she was never a Mousketeer. What I don't like about Gwen Stefani: if you didn't know that already, you'd never believe it.

3 Kelly Clarkson, "Behind These Hazel Eyes"

Okay, if Kelly Clarkson joins Mellencamp and Green Day on that list I'll buy every one of her CDs. And eat them. Is the interest here supposed to be seeing how they'll package her next? Because for part of this video she's dressed as some sort of bondage pirate. And not a real bondage pirate. A Sears bondage pirate. That has to tell you all you need to know.

Her pipes aren't bad; she can actually handle the transition from syrupy schlock to competent, anonymous rock, if we need that. So, okay, her handlers are willing to take chances. That doesn't make me want to dance. It might make me want to invest. And if they're really savvy, they'll make sure every copy of this video is burned before people get a chance to see that outfit eight years from now.

2 Mariah Carey, "We Belong Together"

The fact that this freakshow caravan is still on the road has got to be one of the Signs of the Apocalypse. Really, she must cause lexicographers to revise the definition of "overwrought" every time they release a new dictionary. She manages to keep the melismata under a couple dozen on this one (I'm guessing this is a record for her, and also that it's the result of a conscious "artistic" decision, as in, "Honey, why don't you try singing this one with only three notes per syllable?") Still, there's a couple of obligatory shrieks designed to remind you of her six-octive range, in case you'd forgotten. And if she's forced to sing below a belt she goes all breathy. Eric Clapton is reported to have said of Eddie Van Halen, "That's not guitar playing, that's gymnastics." As for the video, she shows a lot of cleavage in this one.

1 Black Eyed Peas, "Don't Phunk With My Heart"

One simple rule: if you're going to steal, do not steal from a genius unless you're another genius. "Hey Ya" is genius. "Hey Ya" recast as "The Price Is Right" is not.

Granted, you're #1 and I'm a middle-aged schlub. As things stand now, your decision to become a backup band looks like a good one. Just get the woman to try some shampoo, willya?

Wednesday, June 29

Funny How Things Work

Despite crawling through the vile putresence that is Who Wants To Be A Hilton? last night, including, I neglected to mention, the first time I ever had to watch Paris Hilton, Zombie Queen of Weimar America, I feel strangely...energized this AM. I'm sorta fleshing out a new reality-show concept, tentatively entitled Don't Bogart Me, in which groups of stoners would continually pass a bong, eat Pringles, and keep up a running commentary on whatever was on teevee or the stereo. Whoever falls asleep last comes back next week. There'd be a lot fewer histrionic spit fits. I see Cheech Marin as host, or Woody Harrelson if he needs work. Suggestions welcome.

We Were Both Wrong

Via Daily Pepper, which I couldn't get to open all morning yesterday or I would have left this as a comment, the Washington Post seems to have taken enough notice of the Downing Street memos that it's required to offer up some faux balance:

"Supporters of the administration contend, by contrast, that the memos add little or nothing to what is already publicly known about the run-up to the war and even help show that the British officials genuinely believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."

I have a couple of problems with the ol' "everybody thought there were WMDs" routine. Namely:

1) I also believed, prior to the war, that the US government was supposed to know fucking more than I do about such matters.

2) With the keen insight of the military history dilettante, I also supposed that an Iraq which possessed enough WMDs to pose a credible threat might have thought open knowledge of the fact to be a greater security measure than keeping it a secret.

3) Again, in my wholly unlettered way it seemed likely that an Iraq which had a small, hidden nuke stockpile somewhere might be, I dunno, more likely to use it in the case of invasion than, say, in the face of international pressure.

4) In either case, this winds up like the Cuban Missile Crisis, where said nukes cannot be fired without giving up the game, which would be madness. But then:

5) They kept telling me Saddam was a madman.

6) Finally, the thing that's bothered me all along is, I could, until recently, pop over to MapQuest and view a satellite photo of my own backyard, which showed the big trees, the roof of the house and garage, and a chunk of lawn. My suspicion is that US spy satellites are actually a bit more powerful than what MapQuest was putting out. And I'm not real strong on geography, but it seems to me there aren't many trees to get in the way of the snapshots of every square foot of Iraq we've no doubt been taking for the past fifteen years or more.

So the whole idea that everybody just guessed wrong on nukes, which was the only argument we could make that justified an offensive war leaves me a tad unconvinced. But I'm sure WaPo knows best.

Sloggin' and Bloggin', Day Two

Tuesday: NBC's "Who Wants To Be A Hilton?"

One day several years ago I decided to do the Clark State Forest trail, a twenty-mile loop around the perimeter of the area. But when I got there it turned out that the trail, though listed in the current DNR guide, had not existed for several years. The helpful rangerette suggested the Knobstone Trail, a mere ten miles away. My alternative was driving back home, so I bought a trail map from her and drove to Henryville.

It was early, but the day was already sweltering. The trail, naturally, is a straight line, not a loop, so I'd have to double back. My options were north to the next trailhead (12 miles one way) or south (5 miles). I came to do twenty, so north it was. Now, for someone who has to cross three states just to glimpse a mountain, the knobs can be pretty impressive. They can rise abruptly out of low-lying farmland and can be pretty steep. But as it turned out most of my chosen path ran through bottom land between ridges. Which turned out to be worse. (I don't mind climbing, and my knees were younger in those days.) It was stifling down there, without a breath of wind, but the real treat was that the place was lined with spider webs for a solid six miles. Take a step, get a spider web in the face. Brush it off, take two more, get another. I was breaking the trail with my staff the whole way, and I had my wide-brimmed hat on, but I was still constantly covered in dead things, and sometimes in fairly large and fairly active live ones. I began getting slap happy about mile two. (I did the full 24, in case you're wondering.)

Well, that experience had nothing on watching "Who Wants To Be A Hilton?" It was just sitting there coyly in the middle of the teevee schedule, and I thought, what the hell? It should have occurred to me that you cannot perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

I knew I was in deep shit from the opening theme song, with a godawful cut-rate Tony Bennett singing words he apparently made up on the spot. Then the narrator comes on to explain the concept in a clipped American accent. Swear to God. It's the only thing that could possibly be worse than using a British upper-class accent to signify capital-c Class: a British accent without the British. The set-up is, the contestants are divided into two teams, named "Madison" and "Park", which work together to compete in some enterprise which spells High Culture to the Low Culture boobs watching the show. I was sorry to learn I'd missed the program where they had to eat and drink, though I was relieved to see soon after that none of them had taken the lessons so seriously as to cease holding a glass, or a coffee cup for that matter, the way one picks up a softball. This week's endeavor was that favorite of the nouveau riche, the charity auction scam. But first, it was off to watch some polo. Polo.

Okay, you're way ahead of me. I suppose every so-called reality show is like this, like watching a group of junior high students who have suddenly been thrust into adult bodies without any noticeable increase in intelligence, wisdom, or awareness of the larger world outside. And it's so damned manipulative I'm not going to bother mentioning that these people behaved at the polo match (where they got to meet David Lee Roth, just so we all know this is The Toppermost) like they were at a monster truck rally, or that they've been carefully screened for the appropriate mix of psychoses, megalomania, and irritating voices. The wonder, to me, was that the teevee audience apparently eats this stuff on a regular basis.

It goes without saying that anyone who actually would Want To Be A Hilton has no interest in being cultured, or they'd want to Be Something Else. This tends to militate against the show's concept. Yes, these people are, in varying degrees, clueless and boorish, but so are the people they're aspiring to be. There may be some comedy value in listening to people say, "I need you to understand where I'm coming from," or ooh and ahh over some gaudy bauble (purple alligator-skin watch, sequined Union Jack dress), but if so I can pop over to the local mall, where the parade of soul-dead, brain-dead, compulsive consumers is thankfully leavened with real people who don't ask you, "Are you lovin' this?" There is, simply, nothing redeeming in watching a group of people gawk at a stretch Humvee before, inevitably, Paris Hilton and her sister, NotJenna, slink out like extras in a music video.

About our hostess Kathy Hilton, trophy wife, former actress, and self-debasing poultry, the less said the better. I wish she'd take the advice. She told the gang, as they left in the Hummer to "network" at some nightclub, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." She scolded one member of the losing team for hanging back by saying, "The back seat is never where the driver sits." Sadly, I was already aware by that time that he didn't have the wit to say, "So, is that why you have a driver?"

Someone once said of the Eighties that where, in the Fifties, the smart set aspired to be witty and urbane, by the blighted Reagan Decade they aspired to own real estate. I never imagined that by the Naughts they'd aspire to own real estate and be stupid. I realize there's no way anyone with real culture would sink to these depths, but that's the only way this tripe could be made entertaining. And my dream is that sometime before this contagion of reality programs is replaced by whatever is worse there'll be a show where one of those snippy makeover twits is put in a room full of scholars who make fun of his intellect. Fair's fair. Besides, I know it'll get at least one viewer.

Tuesday, June 28

Tip O' The Hat

To the Jewish-controlled media for fluffing Billy Graham all weekend, in spite of it all.

Slog Week

Wherein one intrepid blogger subjects himself to stuff he wouldn't be caught dead looking at otherwise, an idea he realized only later a) was stolen from Joe Queenan's book Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, and b) came to him after he'd been out in the sun in 94º heat without any head covering.

Monday: TLC's 10 Years Younger.

If you've never seen 10 Years Younger, as I know I hadn't, it's a program where they try to make people look roughly ten years younger. Willing participants, as it turns out. They are actually put in a big glass case on a public street, and the sort of people who are willing to stop and talk to anyone with a microphone are invited to critique the subject's looks (and, naturally, to guess her age). Then they set a team of skilled and semi-skilled experts--The Glam Squad--at her, repeat the process, and gauge the results.

The show is hosted by the requisite Guy Named Josh, who has the requisite I Just Got Out Of Bed And Only Had Time To Button Half The Buttons On This Shirt look. Right off, I don't get this. This look may be (in fact it must be) the acme of style for Joshes who host makeover shows, but if for whatever reason I wanted a makeover I would not want it supervised by someone who just happens to fit the style of the next three months. This, it seems to me, is akin to being the fan club president for a specific member of Menudo. Plus, within the first thirty seconds of the program, Josh had used "jonesin'" as a verb.

After the opening humiliation, our plucky makeoveree had a heart-to-heart with Josh. Wait, I got ahead of myself. The woman was imagined by the public to be 53. Not surprisingly, the public seems to consist entirely of people between 18-26, some of whom seemed to divine her age by appraising her hairdo. The reason all the people interviewed were young, of course, is that anyone older might have been exposed to Dignity back before they had a vaccine for it. So Josh sits down with this woman, and talks about achievement and boosting confidence, since everyone who earns a paycheck as a teevee performer is now not only an "achiever" but capable of dispensing nuggets of wisdom about the process of becoming one, and they're all confident the way a shark is a carnivore. And Josh says, "The question that's on my mind, and I'm sure on everybody's mind old are you?"

The answer was 43, but to be honest that wasn't the question that was on my mind, which was more along the lines of, "What the fuck are you doing?" The woman was appraised of the various construction work the Glam Squad would be performing (starting with a dermatologist, who may not actually be an official Squad member). But the catch was, as Josh explained, she had "to bring something to the table." And that something was she had to overcome her fear of flying. Not metaphorical flying, but real flying. Apparently, having an exploitable yet photogenic phobia is an important part of making the cut, contestant-wise. This gave Josh a chance to ask, "Do you think that your fear of flying is a signal of some of the other fears you have in your life?" Yes, he said "signal". I rewound the tape twice to make sure.

I was hoping against hope for redemption. I knew there was little chance she was going to shout, "Listen, you shiny-shirted twit, I'm 43 years old and I don't have to be listening to some happy-talk psychobabble from a pup who can't even get the words right and whose great accomplishment seems to be overcoming his fear of looking at himself in the mirror constantly," while clawing at his sideburns. No such luck. "I'm totally ready," was her pluck-filled reply. We rushed through the makeover segments, which included a belly dancing lesson from Nina and Vina, the belly-dancing twins. Then our subject got her hair styled by a woman with blue hair and a bright green teeshirt. Wow, blue hair, what a brave fashion decision. I'll bet she really stands out at the Iconoclast's Club. Next came a woman to help pick out clothes. She seemed helpful and informative, and her hair was a color found in nature. Then came the unveiling before the whole Squad, minus the MD and the belly dancers, before our subject was hauled back out on the street for some more sidewalk appraisals. This time the public voted 39, four years younger her chronological age but a full fourteen off her earlier estimates. Though I'm not convinced it's a scientific poll, exactly.

"I want to encourage you to keep pursuing the boundaries for yourself," was Josh's parting advice. Prostitution, maybe. Or work up the confidence to try out for Dr. Phil.

Monday, June 27

Happy Birthday

Helen Adams Keller, June 27, 1880-June 1, 1968

Absent from the spunky-girl-overcomes-tremendous-disabilities movie and the feel-good memorials is the real Helen Keller: socialist, suffragist, pacifist, supporter of birth control, the Wobblies, and the NAACP, co-founder of the ACLU. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, back when that meant something.

Friday, June 24


• Had to drive to the Trans-Global Multi Megamall this afternoon to get color cartridges for my wife's printer, because she made the pouty mouth last night when she told me "I'll go tomorrow after class if you can't." It's ninety-two degrees and there's an ozone alert, and I had to go the long way because the first place I went was out of cyan. How do you run out of one color before the others?

• This is why monogamy is a threat to the environment.

• I don't mind traffic, though. Gives you a chance to listen to other people's music. And read up on their political opinions.

• It's genetic with her. Her whole family is repeatedly shocked to learn you might have made plans to do something more than fifteen minutes in advance. "Shirley's getting married again at 2pm. The usual church. What? You have surgery scheduled? Well, is it elective?"

• One other problem with going the long way is that it passes through what was, as recently as fifteen years ago, nothing but wilderness and abandoned farmland and an excellent location for sodomy al fresco.

• I decided I had earned the right to at least consider buying a new CD, so I stopped in Best Buy #229. I'd been there about twenty seconds, had picked up the new John Hiatt and was reading the back cover when a kid walked up and asked if I needed any help. I considered:

a) "Yes, I was wondering what these song titles would sound like if someone your age read them in a fake British accent."

b) "I noticed you stock these things in alphabetical order. Is that all of them, or just the aitches? Do spaces count? Is there a numerical section, or do I have to spell the numbers out? And what's that letter with, like, the straight line and the two feet going off at an angle?"

c) "Where are your .78s?" (Alternately: "What the fuck, am I too old to be in the fuckin' CD section unassisted, dickweed?")

• Via Kathy via Fussy comes
Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing which is probably the funniest thing I've read on the internets since Henry Raddick's Amazon reviews. I'm only about one quarter through so far, because I keep spitting insert choice of beverage on my insert choice of peripheral.

• There. I finally wrote a sentence with as many links as Michelle Malkin averages.

Bobo In Denial-land

Others will say we shouldn't be there in the first place. You may be right. Time will tell. But right now, this isn't about your personal vindication.

David Brooks, June 23, 2005

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat of American forces at the Kasserine Pass in February, 1942, Eisenhower made sweeping changes. The American commander, General Lloyd Fredendall, was sacked. American troops were placed under British command until George Patton could take over. Line officers were cut "cold bloodedly" at Eisenhower's direction.

That was a different American army. It was not the equal in the field of its opponents nor its allies. It did not have the option of endlessly wasting its resources. It did not have the hellish "luxury" of wasting American lives, or the comfortable certainty that as the world's great military power it could defeat any opponent by the application of simple massed strength. This was an American army with full support of the public and the press, and yet Eisenhower knew that if he did not succeed he would be replaced, and quickly. There was no appeal to turning corners or last throes or broken backs. We were at war, and wars are to be won.

But following WWII came the idea of American invincibility, which continues despite the fact that the three major conflicts we've engaged in since then have done nothing to support the notion. The idea was so ingrained that even the defeat of US forces in Vietnam was wished away. There was created a fantasyland of excuses and distortions, which at first served merely to buttress the failed ideal, but would come to be lifted whole and dropped onto any future conflict the Right thought to entertain. The anti-anti-war rhetoric was already in full swing by the time the war began. (Let's remember, Andrew Sullivan was talking about "fifth columnists" on September 12, 2001.)

To a large segment of the public it was simply inconceivable that we could be defeated in Iraq, even if defeat was defined as "not achieving our every last goal", because defeat was only possible if we "weren't allowed to win". And of course this time the traitorous liberal attacks would find no traction; we were united in our new post-9/11 war on terra reality, and our reporters were properly inbeded, Kevlared, and had pom-poms at the ready.

The obfuscation of the real history of the Vietnam war had done its job, and the collapse of the Soviet Union had removed the fetters from the craziest of the crazed. This time Dr. Strangelove imagined he could walk at the start of the movie. The early portents of bad news to come were simply dismissed. The actual bad news was simply denied, in much the same way that Brooks now denies that 60% of his fellow citizens want to withdraw our troops.

Personal vindication? It's beneath contempt, of course, but so much that comes from the right-wing Echo Chamber is that it's now like taking offense at something a three-year-old blurts out. It was clear from the beginning they'd be eating a big shit sandwich on all this someday, though I can't say I realized it would be quite so big. Being saddled with the multiple disasters which are the Bush administration is not revenge on Mr. Brooks, it's merely justice, and justice too long delayed and as yet incomplete. I can tell you he does not want to experience what it would take for me to feel totally vindicated. And the very idea of schadenfreude is erased by the realization of the bad news yet to come, what's going to be visited upon the next generation and maybe the next, when I'm beyond caring, all as a result of the hubristic petty thugs and criminals he told us were saving the world.

No, it's far too late to worry about personal vindication. But it's long past time to be worrying about the fate of the phony excuses that got us in this mess and the hollow platitudes the likes of Brooks trot out now in its defense. It's time now to do what should have been done when it could have made a difference, to act the way Eisenhower did when defeat showed the wrong people were in charge. The Commander-in-Chief needs to cashier those responsible. The guy in the mirror among them.

Thursday, June 23

And The Majority Give Tom And Katie "Two Years, Tops"

Thanks for coming:

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) - There is a 70-percent risk of an attack somewhere in the world with a weapon of mass destruction in the next decade, arms experts predicted in a survey released on Tuesday.

Okay, will all of you who predicted in August 2001 that there was a 100% chance of planes being flown into the World Trade Center take one step forward?

The survey, conducted by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, describes a threat that is "real and increasing over time" and endorses vastly increased funding for non-proliferation programs.

What's the point? We're doomed. I say, sit back and enjoy the ride. Margarita?

"Even if we succeed spectacularly at building democracy around the world, bringing stability to failed states and spreading economic opportunity broadly, we will not be secure from the actions of small, disaffected groups that acquire weapons of mass destruction," the Indiana Republican said in a preface to the survey.

Seriously, I've been listening to Dick Lugar for forty years now, and if he's ever delivered a political pronouncement that wasn't caged for the crackpot wing of his party it slipped past me in the night. Where was this speech when we were voting on the Iraq War Resolution, Mr. Chairman? Where was the strong voice for counterinsurgency then, instead of the easy $300 billion "and increasing over time" handed over in the hopes of succeeding spectacularly at not making ourselves secure?

The survey records the views of 85, mostly U.S., experts, including the Bush administration's top non-proliferation official, Robert Joseph, and such former Republican and Democratic officials as John Wolf, James Woolsey, William Burns, Donald Gregg, Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn.

Wow. And they all agree that nuclear proliferation is worrisome. What are the odds? And speaking of odds:

The experts estimated the risk of a nuclear attack to be 16.4 percent over the next five years and 29.2 percent over the next decade.

Sixteen-point-four. Twenty-nine-point-two. That's impressive pinpoint accuracy there, especially considering that it doesn't mean a goddam thing.

Asked to consider the possibility of a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological (dirty bomb) attack on any nation, they concluded the chance of one of the four to be 50 percent over five years and 70 percent over 10 years.

A Lugar aide who oversaw the survey told Reuters 70 percent is "a very conservative estimate."

Because nine out of ten doctors agree, when pulling numbers out of your ass it's best to be conservative. Wear gloves, preferably, and don't use oil-based lubes with latex.

An attack with a dirty bomb, combining a conventional explosive like dynamite with radioactive material, is seen as most likely, with a risk of 40 percent over the next decade.

Am I missing something here? If the most likely scenario is put at 40%, then aren't those the odds? We're not adding percentages to increase the scare factor here, are we?

Oh, look, here's the answer man from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Let's see if he can set us straight:

In most cases, any immediate deaths or serious injuries would likely result from the explosion itself, rather than from radiation exposure. It is unlikely that the radioactive material contained in a dirty bomb would kill anyone.

Thanks, Mr. NRC. I feel better already, except for a touch of vertigo. Say, isn't that your friend from the Mayo Clinic?

Experts say biological and chemical agents are used more as a threat against small groups than as actual weapons aimed at large populations. This may be in part because they're difficult to deploy.

A controlled release of anthrax spores, for instance, can be tricky because of shifting winds. Tularemia-causing bacteria could be destroyed by the very bomb set to unleash the disease over a community by exploding. And nerve gases eventually dissipate once released into the air.

The expertise needed in handling and producing the various viruses and chemicals also makes them difficult to use as weapons in war or terrorism. Although bacteria, viruses and chemicals can be produced in a laboratory, the actual release of these agents requires technical skill and special equipment. Those who try to create or use these agents place themselves at great risk.

Hey, do any of you experts happen to have a couple aspirin on you? I feel 70% of a headache coming on.

By the way, if we're all destroyed in a nuclear holocaust you can blame me for scoffing.

Wednesday, June 22

If The Networks Are Checking In, I'm Willing To Talk Series

Inspired by Kathy's new place it's...the contents of my kitchen junk drawer, laid out for display because, well, imagine a picture of this in a 1x2 foot box.


• I thought organizing the rubber bands by color would add a nice graphical element, but they're more or less lost.

• I can actually identify every item (larding needle! butter wheel!) except one. The gizmo at the farthest right, which you can't see very well and which looks like a fleur-de-lis on a stick.

• The baggie at upper left holds poultry needles. We keep the dope upstairs.

• The skewers (bottom right) have little animals on top: pig, dog, rooster, kangaroo, lamb, falcon). I love 'em. I've had them for thirty years. And I've never used them once.

• I had no idea I had seven corkscrews. I've never used the French Zig-Zag model to open a bottle, but it's trés cool.

• That's a cold food thermometer stuck in the kitchen twine at top right. Goes from -20 to 140º F. I have no idea why I have one.

• Over by the melon baller is one of those elastic hair things. I think that's my wife's doing.

• The two loose razor blades are from my earlier, Romantic period.

• This is far from my entire collection of miniature batterie de cuisine. In fact the stuff I use regularly, like the real meat thermometer, is in another drawer. And I was surprised there were but two pastry tips and no bags. I think the rest are in a drawer in the basement.

Lest You Think We Ran Out Of Idiots With Dan Burton

You may have heard that Gun Totin' Representative John Hostettler, (Baptist Wingnut-Ind) managed to halt House business for forty-five minutes before being forced to withdraw the following statement:

Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.

While the forty-five minute halt was the finest legislative achievement in the six-term Congressman's career (unless you want to count his brave, almost lone stand against funding child abuse prevention), it did fall short of his daily goal by 23 hours and 15 minutes.

The good news for Hoosiers is that Congressman Hostettler, who was elected as part of the Glorious Gingrich Revolution of 1994 will no doubt be announcing his retirement soon, since, as a signator of the Contract with America, his time as a citizen legislator has expired. On the minus side, we will be losing his unwavering insistence on balanced budgets.

Fans of political humor may recall that Hostettler's reputation as a religious nutjob is such that when a local humor site ran a story claiming he was going to introduce legislation changing the name of I-69 to something more suitable it was readily believed.

Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Ball

I'm thoroughly disappointed that the NBA players' union would agree to raising the minimum draft age to 19 (though it will still be 18 for foreign players, apparently on the grounds that the NCAA is less interested in foreigners).

There's no justification for this. Yes, professional football managed to get away with get away with the Clarett ruling--a legalism based on the fact that there was a collective bargaining agreement. That meant it was up to the union to stand up for the right of legal adults to make their own decision about declaring for the NBA draft. Players routinely go from high school directly into professional baseball--which finances its own minor leagues. You have to be eighteen to drive in a NASCAR or Indy car race, but you can be offered a contract before that, as Childress Racing recently did with a 15-year-old, and those kids are risking a hell of a lot more than personal disappointment. Children too young to drive have played professional golf and tennis, and they routinely sign endorsement deals in the glamour Olympic sports without losing their eligibility.

Indianapolis is the home of the top NBA prospect among next year's high school seniors, Greg Oden, USAToday's 2005 Player of the Year as a junior, who has just been told by people already on the gravy train that he can't board for another year. By all reports this is a kid with a level head on his shoulders. He hadn't announced his intention to turn pro. What does the requirement to wait a year do, besides give him 12 more months to blow out a knee? Tell the fans in Cleveland the world would be better off if LeBron James had sat out a year.

The Pacers Jermaine O'Neal (drafted while he was still short of his 18th birthday) took a lot of flack earlier this year when he claimed there was a racial component to the drive to raise the draft age. I think it's by and large financial, but it's hard to argue race is not at least a factor when nobody seems to care about baseball players, and nobody sheds any tears over the lost childhoods (and more) of young girl skaters and gymnasts. If we're really so all fired concerned about these kids, let's do something for all of them, not just the top athletes: let's put money into public schools and give even the scrawny, geeky ones a real chance.

Tuesday, June 21

Happy Birthday

Joe Flaherty, born 1940, becomes only the second person to be wished a Happy Birthday by this blog and survive.

Wish I could have found a pic of Joe as Robert Mitchum. His turn as Peter O'Toole in "The Man Who Would Be King of the Popes" is probably my fondest SCTV memory. On every commentary track on the first two seasons, somebody mentions that it was Joe who gave them the little hint that helped them nail down a character.

I've yet to lay hands on a copy of Dave Thomas' behind-the-scenes book, but another of my favorites has a terrific anecdote attached: The Merv Griffith Show, with Rick Moranis as Merv Griffin in Mayberry. Flaherty is a barely-passable Don Knotts in that one, with Catherine O'Hara doing a fine Aunt Bea and Gene Levy a demented Howard the barber, and John Candy as Otis. Thomas was supposed to be Gomer, but he just couldn't get it. So he sings a few bars of something--"New York, New York", maybe, and launches into a truly lame Gomer. Then Moranis/Merv says, "Oooh, doesn't he sound like Gomer? Fred Travalena is with us!"

Baloney and Rice

Caught a minute or two of Condi's performance on whatever Sunday morning program isn't on Fox. She still has that tell--her lips move when she's lying--but otherwise she seems to have undergone some species of American Idol-type makeover. She had cherry red lipstick; she gave Jerry Lewis back his hair. Even her face seemed softened. Then again, I suppose the image consultants had a lot more to work with with Condi than they had with her husband boss.

I never watch the Sunday shows (I was in a holding pattern waiting to start the Father's Day trek). I used to love 'em back when I was a kid and Tim Russert was a journalist. Suffering through the short clip I watched I realized why: I can't bear to watch people lie like that. Must be my upbringing. I can easily turn on the ire reading transcripts, but watching is just too painful. I even cringe more than laugh at the Daily Show remotes. The only exception is that Brit, the one who uses a lot of people in mascot costumes. [Update: Trigger Happy.] When they set up the brass band and the beauty queen and the big banner, "Congratulations, 100,000th Customer" outside a porn shop my wife had to give me CPR.

Anyway, it was interesting in ninety seconds to see that the Official Vietnam War Spokesperson Syndrome is in full effect, same as the official You Traitorous Bastards Made Us Lose Gambit. Rice answered questions with the same responses she used in 2003. Only the lipstick has changed.

I didn't get to hear the Secretary claim the administration had informed the American public that this was a "generational commitment". It's funny, but in the run-up to the war, I don't remember agreeing with the administration on anything. Memory sure plays tricks on you in the twilight years.

TV Guide™ Roundup

My Poor Wife ran to the store for the Sunday paper and the TV Guide™ that as usual wasn't available on Friday. She tossed it on the ottoman in front of me while I was having my morning beverage. I remember seeing the picture of Kelly Ripa in hooker couture, and reading the headline, something like "My Body Is Even Better Since I Had Kids!" Then there was this phosphorus flash and the damned thing spontaneously combusted. Just a sprinkling of white ash was left. The ottoman wasn't even singed.

Oh well, maybe next week.

Monday, June 20

Happy Solstice

Jump on in. Also World Juggling Day. Juggle Pack juggling pattern generator is here.

Disjointed Thoughts

Brought to you courtesy of Michelin Sport and seven F-1 teams which gave the finger to their North American fans, and especially the 200,000 folks who bought tickets thinking there was going to be an auto race. It's bad enough to find your lover is duplicitous. When said lover is vaguely French and less than popular with everyone else in the first place your thought processes get a little scrambled. Plus we had to travel 100 miles roundtrip to pay homage to our respective fathers by eating meals which must be described as forgettable, since it's bad form to criticize one's family or a free buffet, while enduring ritual chit chat and a third-party blow-by-blow account of one brother-in-law's third divorce.

• Tony George, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has taken a lot of grief for fracturing open-wheel racing in this country, but he was entirely blameless in this one. He paid a reported $15 M for the right to stage today's farce, and the culprits got out of town as fast as they could go, with the money. This city's taxpayers have, in the last thirty years, built two basketball stadiums, a minor league baseball park, and a domed arena for football which they will shortly be replacing with another. The Hulman family, owners of the Track, have never asked for a penny in public funds, yet they improve the place yearly, enrich hundreds of thousands of locals, and bring untold millions into the economy.

• The incredible arrogance of Governor Emperor Mitch Daniels and his crew is having a palpable reaction that looks like it could become permanent. The latest flap is over his director of the BMV, who tried to close a couple dozen license branches--with a couple dozen more on standby--by fiat just after the legislative session ended, then relented on two, including one in the home district of the Republican Speaker of the House. The BMV chief is the former president of Galyan's sporting goods, which under his leadership was busy expanding regionally just as an out-of-state competitor moved in, built mega-stores within blocks of all the Galyan's, and took them over within six months. These are the folks bringing a business-like efficiency to state government.

• And speaking of business, Lil' Mitch, who made it a big campaign issue that the Democrats were doing business with out-of-state suppliers has announced criteria which would make, among others, Wal-Mart an Indiana business.

• The downstairs toilet, with which I've had a running battle for the last five weeks over a tiny but persistant leak, was the source of a sudden Zen insight on Saturday. I realized, in a pure blue flash, that the flapper valve construction I'd been subjecting to repeated applications of plumber's epoxy was, in fact, the wrong friggin' valve someone had jury rigged God knows how many years ago. And the correct parts are still readily available. The battle has now shifted to a single rusty bolt which must be removed without cracking the porcelain. Metaphysical connection to plumbing fixtures will, I hope, end there.

• Preliminary test results: I tried out some of that paint for plastics on some crappy pots this spring and so far it works a charm. I hope the next major technical innovation will be plastic paint in something other than glaring primary colors.

• My wife's friend was in town from Arizona over the weekend, regaling us with her tale of the nest of Africanized bees on her property and the exterminator she called who said, "Bees? Oh no, I hate bees." After two incompetent attempts by this guy she wound up calling another exterminator who was five times as expensive but expert at the work: he told them he had been on a Discovery Channel program about the subject. I went inside to fix a sandwich--they had a girls' night out planned--and grabbed the teevee listings for some consolation companionship. The killer bee program was on in two minutes. Though the following one, about killer ants, was more entertaining.

Friday, June 17

Edelstein and Morgenstern Are Tied

Interesting Point/Counterpoint, or whatever they call the thing, in this week's Slate, with David Edelstein and Joe Morgenstern discussing a topic near to my heart: "Did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg Ruin the Movies?" So far it's mostly notable for the fact that Morgenstern has yet to show. I'm still going to call it a draw at this point, because Tuesday Edelstein confessed his love for Jaws.

Maybe you love Jaws too. Maybe you think it's a tightly-plotted thrill ride of an entertainment. I've got no real beef with you. There are certain blockbuster flickers on the DVD shelf or upstairs with the prerecorded videocassettes that I would go on a strict Brussels-sprouts-and-Coors-Light diet rather than watch, yet I still love my wife. Feel free to enjoy whatever you like, without asking my permission. After all, this is America, or at least it used to be. But I hate blockbusters. I'm allergic to them. Not only will I not pay to see a blockbuster, I won't see any movie that shares a theme with one. Or a cast member. I won't see a movie if it has a gaffer who's ever worked with Spielberg. My reaction is so strong that I can come to hate movies retroactively. After Troy I now refused to acknowledge I ever saw Das Boot. In fact, I now pronounce it "boot" just out of spite.

About a year ago I thought I might actually start watching all the blockbusters I'd missed. As it happens, that began and ended with Jaws, a movie I found so utterly pedestrian, so silly and shoddy that I almost welcomed the intense pain that is Richard Dreyfus, like it kept me from falling asleep in a snowstorm. There are experiences you avoid for years and once you finally cave in you realize were no so bad as your imaginings. This was worse. Several orders of magnitude worse. I had thought I might work up some shared cultural capital with my fellow citizens. What I wound up sharing, with some, was that it gave me nightmares.

The list of blockbusters I've never seen is impressive. Titanic, certainly. E.T., Lord of the Rings, anything with Arnold, Bruce, or even Tom Hanks. I've never seen more than a two-minute segment of Gone With The Wind. Nothing animated, Roman numeralled, or named for a comic book. I've got no real objection to their hegemony over the nation's dwindling number of movie screens. I'd just as soon stay out of those places as do prison time for making the guy behind me eat his cell phone in under thirty seconds.

I did see the original Star Wars. It was not my choice. I was in the company of a college student/waitress with the carriage of an Amazon, except she still had both breasts. It wasn't worth it. Dear God, it was not worth it. The crowd--mostly adults, this was--started stomping their feet and cheering and hissing the Bad Guys. Yes, hissing. I couldn't believe what was happening. Had there not been one of a very fine pair of boobs resting on my arm I would have yelled, "Fire!" honest to god. Or marched to the front of the screen and screamed, "You are not dirt-besmirched Depression kids trying to laugh off your empty bellies for a hour! You're effing proto-Yuppies, though we haven't had need to invent the term yet. Fuckin' get ahold of yourselves, go home, do some bong hits and listen to Boston, or the next thing you know Ronald Reagan will be president!"

I have never forgiven myself for putting my own needs above those of my country.

Friday Shuffle

Cactus World News, The Bridge
Robert Johnson, Stop Breakin' Down
Tracey Ullman, They Don't Know
Brinsley Schwarz, The Ugly Things
Cab Calloway, St. James Infirmary
The Three O'Clock, Her Head's Revolving
Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Dumb Things
The Dead Milkmen, Do The Brown Nose
Leon Russell, Roll Away The Stone
Dionne Warwick, Walk On By

Thursday, June 16

Friday Thursday Cat Blogging Humor

I had a bunch of work to do in the garden this evening, so I swiped my Poor Wife's boombox to keep me company. I put on John Hiatt's Little Head, which starts off with the title song which has a series of little two or three note guitar fills at the end of each line. I hadn't paid much attention coming out the back door with my arms full, and Ol' Lonesome Stinky snuck out the door behind me. I was off in the yard, and I'd left something on the deck so I walked back and discovered him, all fluffed up and looking desperately around him for the cat invader. Which was what the guitar fills sounded like. I don't own any electrics, but I'm gonna try to learn those licks.

Responding To Visual Stimuli

I was planning to do a rundown of all the corrections and apologies from the Right's star Schiavobloggers. The research took a little time. The list doesn't take any at all.

Michelle Malkin managed to note yesterday that the Schiavo autopsy results would be released the next day, following what she called "a long and unexplained delay". Nationally syndicated talk show host Hugh Hewitt, and the Bloggers of the Year at Powerline don't seem to have gotten the news yet. The guy who claimed that Michael Schiavo's motive for killing his wife was the big bucks he'll be making for book and movie rights wants to argue about the WaPo lead, because it quotes the pathologist without containing any quotes, so we can't know if it contained "some sort of 'condensation'". It is, of course, too early to expect Bill Frist to offer his informed medical opinion.

Then there was the gang at the Corner. I actually went there following the Good Roger Ailes' link to this Jonah Goldberg howler: "He can solve pie to the 8 billionth place..." Believe it or not, this came as Jonah arrived late to a discussion of the Holodeck. This from a man who says:

But I don't think one can glibly say that just because the book was scientifically correct (speaking broadly, we've discovered lots of new things since then) and pioneering, doesn't mean it can't also be harmful. Darwinism certainly led to many horrors and abuses across the ideological spectrum, often through misapplication

though it had nothing whatever to do with the Indiana state legislature attempting to define pie as "a circular, fruit-filled pastry equal to 3.2" I just love the "we've discovered" there. Like he was holding Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould's lab coats for them.

I bring up The Corner Kids because John "Let's Kill Chelsea Clinton" Derbyshire wondered why, if supposed questions about Terri's persistent vegetative state no longer drive the argument now that it's been established, it was ever brought up in the first place. It seems very odd to me that someone like the Derb can spend so much time with those folks and still be unaware of their thought processes. But I guess the Schiavo case brought out a lot of that, sort of like all those folks who were shocked by Bush's kowtowing to the money interests on Social Security.

And the real fun came from checking the archives. There's Andrew McCarthy in NRO:

Notwithstanding the Post ’s insistence, it is not clear that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state (merely watching the video footage strongly suggests otherwise, and even the Post ’s editorial does not endeavor to defend the manifestly inadequate medical examinations that purport to underpin the PVS diagnosis)

Or the various icons from Powerline:

the political ramifications for the Democrats, should they use their political power to ensure her starvation, would be devastating.


Predictably, mainstream news outlets are trying to defuse the video's impact. Like this Reuters report: "Schiavo Videotape Misleading, Experts Say" :
Studies of people whose cerebral cortices are damaged in the way Schiavo's is show that their eyes will respond to stimuli such as movement or a human face, but there is no way for them to be conscious of what they are seeing.

Still, every time I wade through this stuff I get increased admiration for s.z. and TBogg, who make it a daily diet and still thrive.

And speaking of admiration, Majikthise takes down Joan Didion, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it was she who first brought the facts of the case to my attention, while it was still under the radar.

Wednesday, June 15

The One-Liner of the Week Has Nothing To Do With Kings Or Pop

I think I waited a reasonable amount of time. Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged:

Our nation's editorial boards. Like prep school with a paycheck.

Nor Any Drop To Drink

Went to make a cup of tea yesterday afternoon. Very low water pressure. Ran around the house interviewing possible suspects. Nothing leaking. I was starting to wonder if this was part of the Great Indianapolis Water Shortage. Slipped into my shoes, went outside to check with the neighbors. Met giant wall of water coming the other direction.

Not quite, but a water main had burst one block south and one block east, on the exact spot where it burst two summers ago. That one was torrential. This one was maybe two-three inches worth. But it all comes right at us, or more specifically the usually dry creek bed two houses north. The last one roared into the creek and roared away into the big drain it disappears into. This one was moving slow enough that we got more of it in the front yard, just a happy little marsh between the two maples.

Then it started to rain. Very loud, violent thunderstorm with rain blowing sideways. Two inches in the rain gauge, for what that's worth, in about twenty minutes. But thankfully this morning it was just a memory, except that the mulch from underneath the shrubs out front had been rearranged and peppered with floating trash. And may I say I'm grateful so many people have stopped smoking.

It also pooled in my head, at the confluence of The Great Indianapolis Water Shortage. Last week the water company asked us, kindly, to restrict watering our lawns to the hours of 1AM to 6AM, later amended to start at 10PM. See, it had been hot and dry for a week, and people had started turning on their sprinklers. This created a problem. Not a problem as in running out of water; the three reservoirs are full to brimming. The problem was the water company was struggling to keep up with peak usage. The announcement pissed me off, well out of proportion to the request. I probably ought to note here that although I'm an avid gardener I'm not lawn-obsessed. I have probably the second-worst lawn on the block and the fifth worst in the neighborhood. It's shady, with big, shallow-rooted trees. There must be five different grasses growing there, in at least two colors. I not only refuse to poison the thing in the pursuit of some suburban astroturf wet dream, I harangue any neighbors who hire a lawn service. I've got a file folder full of info about the sort of crap (like 2,4-D) they spray on your lawn. I've been helped in this by the fact that the worst offender on the block watched his daughter's pet dog die of brain bubbles. The lawn care bozos make only two stops in the neighborhood these days.

But then, I do take care of the thing, up to minimal standards, anyway, and I'm not going to watch what grass I do coax to grow turn brown just so they can water golf courses with no reduction in pressure. Nobody tells them to water at midnight. Nobody said anything about pool services or laundromats or, for that matter, lawn services. Sure, it was voluntary. But they can, and do, announce ozone emergencies where you can be ticketed for mowing the lawn (not me; I've got an electric, and a push mower if it comes to that) but the commercial operations are exempted. I'll be the first in line to cooperate when it's a serious matter. Til that point, y'know, I just don't feel like pitching in to make life easier for a bunch of people who bitch about having to pay taxes.

And at that point it occurred to me that there's been some fundamental change. I'll never waste a natural resource. Future generations, if any, don't deserve it. I've been pretty damned green all my adult life, though compared to most of the rest of the planet I'm still an energy hog. But somehow the idea of being courteous to my fellow citizens, regardless of their return of those courtesies, is under serious revision. It's no longer just the polluters and the racists and the me-firsters. Everybody who votes Republican, and every Democrat who thinks it's worth tossing environmental regulations on the public incinerator to win a few votes. Everybody who doesn't get involved. I'm not gonna shoot up a fast food joint. But it just isn't the America I once hoped to make even better.

The rain had ended by the second half-hour of local news. They relayed the warning to stay out of the creek two miles downstream from where we once caught frogs and bluegills and chewed on wild mint. The three-inch rainfall Sunday, the one that had saved all the non-commercial lawns in town, had caused another overflow in our 19th Century sewage system.

Tuesday, June 14

21st Century Ethics Questions

I'm hoping some of you younger readers will help me out here.

A) You are a middle-aged man with plumbing problems. That is, your house has a plumbing problem. Let's call you "Riley".

You are presently returning to Lowe's because the 3/8"/3/8" OD female connection angle valve you purchased, and have the water in your house shut off in anticipation of installing, turned out in fact to be 3/8"/1/2". Pursuant to exchanging the product you are driving in the parking lot at the unlisted but reasonable speed limit of 15 mph when, from behind an unattended van parked in the loading lane there suddenly appears directly in front of you a twenty-something whatever-you-call-Yuppies these days who is dedicating 100% of his attention to the cell phone which gives every appearance of never leaving his ear while he's in public. Questions:

1) Is it proper to just hit him? Or should you follow him as he returns to his SUV, block in it, and urinate on it?

2) Whatever do you call Yuppies these days?

B) You are a member of the grand jury seated to hear the case against the guy who shot whatever MSNBC genius gave Tucker Carlson yet another show. Do you vote:

1) Justifiable homicide?
2) Performing veterinary euthanasia without a license?
3) To put him on a stamp?

Thanks in advance,

Thinking About Not Thinking About Torture

Joseph Lelyveld: Interrogating Ourselves in The New York Times Magazine, June 12, 2005.

I approach this piece expecting to be irritated about it, and it ultimately didn't disappoint. Sure, that's partly a sign of the times: faux balance has decimated the foundation of what used to be called the "think piece". You can start with the cover, which asks, "Do all forms of intimidation constitute abuse?" and "Would you really be better off in a world where no interrogator ever bent the rules?" Such questions may be pertinent, but there's no ignoring the fact that they occupy the middle ground only after they tilt the table.

In the grand tradition of the faux balanced piece, Lelyveld begins by denouncing torture:

In order to get to the nub of the question of what we as citizens really expect and require of American interrogators facing supposed terrorists -- how far we're prepared to allow those asking the questions to venture into the dark realm of brutalization and coercion -- let's for argument's sake put aside the most horrific, shameful cases, those of detainees who died under interrogation: that of Manadel al-Jamadi, for instance, whose body was wrapped in plastic and packed in ice when it was carried out of an Abu Ghraib prison shower room a year and a half ago, where he'd been handcuffed to a wall; or Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who, elsewhere in Iraq, appears to have been thrust headfirst into a sleeping bag, manhandled there and then, finally, suffocated. By anyone's definition of torture -- even that of the Bush administration, which originally propounded (and later withdrew) a strikingly narrow definition holding that torture occurs only when the pain is ''of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure'' -- these cases answer the question of whether torture has been committed by our side in what's called the global war on terror. No one steps forward to condone what's plainly illegal under United States and international law.

No one? Really? Just because no one in the administration or the military is willing to come forward and condone overtly illegal acts it doesn't mean no one does. Eugene Volokh rather famously expressed his admiration for public flogging and his wish we'd adopt it in the US, a position he later retracted, but not before Glen Reynolds clucked approvingly. That's two law professors and bloggers of influence. We can find a lot worse with a casual search of LGF, just as it's easy enough to find denunciations of torture followed by "on the other hand..." I'm sure I've subjected myself to more extremist ranting than Mr. Lelyveld has. More power to him. But that's also the reason why I'm no longer hoodwinked by the disclaimer.

Now, let me admit that following this Lelyveld uses most of his 8000 words to examine claims of the efficacy of torture and techniques he distinguishes as "torture lite". He will conclude early on that the case for torture "remains shaky even by the most amoral and pragmatic standard." He will use the 1999 Israeli Supreme Court decision which declared not just torture but all forms of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" illegal under Israeli law. He will suggest that that decision, while it may not always be followed strictly to the letter, has brought about a genuine change in their interrogation practices without diminishing their effectiveness.

Fair enough, I suppose. But we also get this dismissal of the idea that the United States, of all nations, ought to expressly disavow any such coercive practices as contrary to its principles:

For the same reasons, civil libertarians of all stripes -- those who would extend constitutional rights and the protections of international law to foreign detainees wherever they're held -- don't get much traction because they have no ready answer to the question of how this would make Americans safer. Specifically, they mostly don't say what kind of interrogation they would conduct, under what rules, if they were charged with preventing the next terrorist attack. Would they, for example, give presumed Al Qaeda terrorists Miranda warnings in Arabic about their rights to a lawyer and to remain silent?

So, just as "no one" condones the use of torture, no justification of a strict commitment to international law and human decency has managed to answer a strawman argument. Thus the sane observer straddles the fence--we've got to allow ourselves room to make Americans safer, even if there's no justification for claiming that torture would do so. This is the familiar, and ugly, face of faux balance--unreasonable, absolutist idealism vs. a somewhat ugly pragmatism which is undertaken mostly in sorrow because we exempted its worst abuses in the first paragraph.

But just as the case for torture doesn't need--or benefit from--an 8000 word examination of its effectiveness, the case for an absolutist disavowal of coercive interrogation does not require a blueprint or money-back guarantee of "safety". Both positions have their idealist side and both can lay claim to pragmatism. In the case of civil libertarianism it is that--stripped of the nonsensical idea that we'd be forced to treat enemies in wartime the way we treat suspected shoplifters at home--scrupulous adherence to international law and norms of humanity are the only way we will assure our safety in the future, if we are able to do so. Use of torture offers no guarantees of safety; it simply has adherents who will justify it with such. George Bernard Shaw once noted that hanging the wrong man will deter crime as surely as hanging the right one, but torturing forty innocents will not produce any useable intelligence, though it may produce forty new enemies. This is not an arcane argument, and there's no reason for it to be lost on Mr. Lelyveld.

Someone recently remarked that what the Nixon administration did it private the current one feels free to do in bright sunshine. There's no way to take a realistic look at the exceptions to our moral objection to torture without looking at the sum total of our moral pronouncements to the rest of the world. We have both practiced and condoned the torture in Vietnam, the Philippines, the Middle East, South and Central America, and in every case we had "compelling" reasons to justify its use. In every instance the temporal advantage became a long-term liability. We have squandered the moral argument to the point where we now believe we need only talk to ourselves, where American exceptionalism is no longer a product of exemplary behavior, but an excuse for its easy dismissal.

Monday, June 13

Cable News Roulette

Inspired by Norbizness and Daily Pepper, who was herself inspired by The Liberal Avenger, I've decided to share my private fun with CNN and MSNBC.

I do not/cannot watch either channel under ordinary circumstances, "ordinary circumstances" being defined as any time my Poor Wife doesn't have control of the remote. But awhile back I hit upon the idea of turning to the one, then the other, sometime in the AM and simply noting what they're talking about, as opposed to what an informed, concerned citizen of about my height and weight might consider "news". This is not a game for the faint of heart.

Rules: turn on CNN, followed by a bump up to MSNBC. Commercials and "official" weather reports do not count, but weather-activity related stories do. If there's a run-down of top stories, note each and what they lead with after. Otherwise, note just what story is on the screen at the moment. Rinse. Repeat.

Today: CNN was in commercial, so I flipped to MSNBC, for a talking heads discussion of Mike Tyson. Back to CNN for a weather update, followed by Rush Limbaugh's concubine reeling off Today's Top Stories With Enticing Video. In order: Bush Meeting with Five Africans, Saddam Hussein Interrogation Video Released, Shooting on California Freeway (with tantalizing static shot of an underpass), and Missing Teen Still Missing; Mom Has Opinions, which was intoned over a scanned photo of a dozen blonde nubiles on the beach. They led with the Bush story.

I know there's been much comment recently about Missing Blonde of the Week™, but the idea that anything that involves a Class A Misdemeanor and a California roadway is national news is at least equally disturbing.

Our Man Mitch

Time to check back in with America's most pugnacious diminutive governor, Indiana's Mitch Daniels.

In his first six months in office Daniels, Bush's first OMB director, has displayed a heretofore unsuspected talent for throwing snit fits every 72 hours. He oversaw a rough legislative session despite having Republican majorities in both houses. He had to retreat almost instantaneously on his proposal to levy a surtax on incomes over $100,000, called Democratic legislators "car bombers", threw his political weight behind daylight savings time, which has pissed people off and may wind up not changing anything at all (except probably costing at least one Republican legislator, who reneged on his promise to vote against, his job), had his BMW director try to close dozens of license branches by fiat, and slashed school budgets across the state.

His final legislative battle of the year may wind up costing him dearly. Republican legislators balked at Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson's proposal to finance a new stadium for the Colts with slot machines. Daniels stuck his teensy nose into the process, quite possibly averting a crisis but winding up with a stadium/convention center project which will be paid for with new taxes on the so-called "doughnut counties" around Indy and an increase in the city's restaurant/hotel tax. And the sweetener for the counties is they get to keep half the tax.

So instead of paying for the stadium with gaming money, Mitch has grabbed the project for himself and his party. And now he's got to sell a bunch of disgruntled citizens on the idea of paying for a new stadium while their schools layoff teachers and cancel programs. And it's not playing too well. Mitch has been holding a series of townhall meetings in the counties, but he forgot to hand-pick the audiences. Here's the Star's new political columnist Matthew Tully on a bit of political comedy theatre:

Standing in the back of the room with his arms crossed, the 33-year-old dad from New Palestine waited for his chance to pounce on Daniels.

He had to wait and wait. Other pouncers were already in line.

But when Stockton finally got his chance, he didn't waste it.

"A couple of weeks ago I read in the newspaper that they're cutting money out of my kids' school," he said. "And the first politician I talk to after that is here asking for money for a stadium."

On the defensive, Daniels blamed the stadium project on Mayor Bart Peterson, even as he took credit for saving it. Then he defended his stingy state budget, saying past Democratic spending had made the stinginess necessary.

"You've got a state that's broke -- flat broke," the governor said. "You know how you get broke?"

"By building stadiums," Stockton shot back before Daniels could answer his own question.

The real capper came this week, when it was learned that the $48 M payment the city owes the Colts to close the lease on the RCA Dome wasn't included in the state funding package. State officials had overlooked it until city officials pointed it out to them. Daniels tried at first to insist that the bill was the city's problem, while simultaneously reassuring everyone it wasn't a deal breaker. Peterson said nope, it's your project now. By the end of the week the matter had been solved--by the project's directors agreeing to foot the bill out of the contingency fund. Which will be no problem, they now say, because they overestimated everything in the first place. Besides, nothing could wrong go possibly.

I don't think Bart Peterson could have mapped this all out, but it couldn't have worked more in his favor. He's run rings around Little Mitch, the former Lilly CEO who's now bought himself a $500 M stadium project in a time of extreme belt-tightening, a project he won't get any particular credit for but stands to absorb any blame if things go south. Peterson, like most Indiana Democrats these days, is more of a moderate Republican, but he's kicked every ass that got in his way. Don't be surprised if you hear Indiana has a new governor in 2008.

Sunday, June 12

The Movie Thing

Courtesy eRobin, who also wanted to know why I'm always dissing Turner Classics. It's love. Simply out of love. TCM is the only channel I ever check the listings for, and when it lets me down I fall hard.

Total number of films I own: Depends on how you count. A conservative estimate is that there's 700 films stashed somewhere in the house, representing maybe 500 separate titles. I "stole" my first Betamax in 1977 or '78 for $500--it was a demo. I had around 200 titles on Beta when the format became untenable. Most, but not all, have been transferred. I have a filing system for VHS tapes but it's seriously behind at 427 titles. And that doesn't count teevee series like Crime Story, Wiseguy, and especially nearly every Simpsons episode. There's a lot of videotape lying around.

The last film I bought: Rules of the Game and Drôle de Drame (Bizarre, Bizarre) at some Border's 2 for 1 sale or something. I love DVD but it's a rare occurrence when, as above, I buy things I already have. I generally live with the videotape versions. In the case of Drôle de Drame the original screen aspect was so odd that the first videotape version I bought cut everyone's head off through the whole film, and the second wasn't much better. The DVD is thankfully pristine.

The last film I watched: By coincidence, the original 1945 version of The Big Sleep which was never shown in theatres (they decided to expand Lauren Bacall's part). Doghouse Riley, that's a funny sort of name.

Five favorite films I either watch frequently or that mean a lot to me: It has to be ten, and that's not nearly enough. The ten I've watched most often, I guess. are: Renoir's Rules of the Game, Jean Vigo's L'Atalante and Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, all of which were famously lost or mutilated or both; the Coen's Blood Simple, Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Fellini's The White Sheik, Sturgis' Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero, Leo McCarey's Ruggles of Red Gap and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. Which leaves out way too much.

Saturday, June 11

I Asked Poor Howard Where Can I Go

Our friends Hokie and Pepper have good takes on Howard Dean.

When I was thinking about starting a blog--I gave it all of thirty minutes; in retrospect it should have been at least forty-five--I figured I'd write mostly about politics, and the hook would be "Here's a red-state Democrat who understands more than you do about red-state voters." It's a conceit, certainly. I come from a long line of Lincoln Republicans, and I've seen how their attitudes changed over the last twenty-five years. I was getting hate mail from über-patriotic religious zealots before a lot of you were born. I know how a lot of my friends and neighbors think, but I'm as clueless as anybody about why.

But I'm pretty sure about one thing, and that's that Democrats aren't going to win over many Republican voters by pretending to be moderate Republicans. It won't fly, and it shouldn't. It's contrived. And outside of the Republican hardcore, where it won't work anyway, it's totally unnecessary. The moveable center is not going to get a case of the vapors because Howard Dean says Republicans represent White Christian monied interests. They know it's so. They know that racism is a real problem in this country. They are well aware that the voices of religious extremism run counter to most people's understanding of Christianity and threaten the secular foundation of our freedoms. They know that the playing field is unbalanced, economically, socially, and in the public debate. The one thing which stands a chance of changing people's minds is...the willingness to try to change people's minds. The Democrats need someone who sounds like he's speaking from the heart, not the latest polls. Republican candidates get to confuse the two because their base has been celebrating public disingenuousness since Nixon. The best response is not to try to split the difference; the best response is to bring our issues forward, boldly, bluntly, and honestly.

I worked for Gene McCarthy in '68, before I was old enough to vote. I consider my self a McGovern Democrat, as opposed to a McGovernite, which is a different thing. George McGovern was the first ballot I cast, and still, I think, the best and most qualified man I ever voted for. I became highly disillusioned with the way the party treated Jimmy Carter and the way it allowed the Republicans and the media to treat him. I was disgusted by how it fled in panic from Ronald Reagan. I'm an anti-Reagan Democrat now, a Democrat by default, not that I feel there's no value in being a party member. The way to Goshen is through articulating the American values which Democrats share, which the moneyed interests of the Republican party have tossed in the ashcan. Those values are not dead in every red-state voter. I don't know if Howard Dean is the man to articulate them, but we can't continue to tremble any time it happens.

Friday, June 10

Karen, Early Morning

I don't take many pictures of roses, since they're a paradigm of beauty and you're supposed to look at the picture and say, "Isn't that beautiful," and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the photo itself. But here's Karen Blixen anyway. She's not our most beautiful rose (that's the chronically underperforming Elmhurst), but she is the most stunning, because while classified as a hybrid Tea (that's your classic, long-stemmed florist's rose) she sometimes produces clusters of flowers, as here. Just look and the picture and go, "Ooooh," already.

Speak, Mnesomyne: The Concert Edition

This looked like an interesting exercise when I saw Corndog's list. It was. Though it's probably not so interesting to read.

Curious discovery: Potency of concert enhancement had nothing to do with recollection. I can, for example, name a good dozen or more of the acts which played the Indianapolis Rock Festival in 1971, despite their almost uniform obscurity (Atomic Rooster, Curved Air, The Pure Food and Drug Act, Grass Harp...), and the fact that I was not exactly inhabiting the same plane at the time. I left them off the list because I didn't go to see any of them. Oddly, it's some of the more recent, more-or-less sober stuff that was irretrievable, especially a summer series from seven-eight years back. Also gone are several shows in Chicago, where I used to go mostly to hang out with friends who were the ones who chose the shows. They had execrable taste, which is probably why I blanked it out. Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer make the list because of them. I also left off opening acts I wanted nothing to do with, as in the inexplicable pairing of Creedence with The Peppermint Rainbow, who, I'm sure, would have been killed had they played one more song.

Most memorable (tie): Hendrix, 1970; Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Mink Deville, 1978. Honorable mention: The Beatles (natcherly. It was my first concert. I've totally lost the twenty other acts that ran through doing one song each, but I've read Jackie DeShannon and the Righteous Brothers were among them). Jethro Tull, the Aqualung tour, playing what was essentially a high school gym. Los Lobos, one hot summer night in an non-air-conditioned theatre, with everybody dancing on the seats. Iggy smearing himself with peanut butter and walking out into the audience on a sea of hands at Riverfront Stadium. Lyle Lovett announcing his marriage earlier that afternoon to whatsername, the actress. Zappa doing an hysterical take on Indianapolis' annexing the rest of Marion County. Bob Marley.

Beatles, The
Beck, Jeff Group
Berry, Chuck
Big Country
Big Head Todd
Black, Frank
Black Sabbath
Bowie, David
Butterfield, Paul Blues Band
Carpenter, Mary Chapin
Case, Peter
Cash, Johnny
Cheap Trick
Chenier, Clifton
Costello, Elvis (3)
Cray, Robert
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crenshaw, Marshall
Davis, Miles
Deep Purple
Doors, The
Dr. John
Dylan, Bob and The Band
Edmunds, Dave/Rockpile
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Fabulous Thunderbirds, The
Faith No More
Feelies, The
Fleetwood Mac (pre-Buckingham/Nicks)
Fluorescent Leech and Eddy, The
Nancy Griffith
Guy, Buddy
Heat, Reverend Horton
Hendrix, Jimi
Hiatt, John (3 times since he moved to Nashville, twice while he lived here)
Hicks, Dan and His Hot Licks
Hooker, John Lee
It's A Beautiful Day
Jane's Addiction
Jason & The Scorchers
Jefferson Airplane
Jethro Tull (2)
Jones, Rickie Lee
Hooker, John Lee
Kershaw, Doug
King, Albert
King Crimson
Kotke, Leo (2)
Lane, Robin and the Chartbusters
Led Zeppelin
Little Feat (3, but never when Lowell George was alive)
Living Color
Lobos, Los (3)
Lovett, Lyle (3)
Lowe, Nick/Rockpile
Mahal, Taj
Marley, Bob
Marley, Ziggy
Material Issue
Matthews, Iain
Miles, Buddy Express
Mink Deville
Mo', Keb'
Modern Lovers, The
Mott the Hoople
Neville Brothers (2)
New York Dolls, The
Nixon, Mojo and Skid Roper
Pink Floyd
Pop, Iggy
Prine, John
Puente, Tito (2)
Raitt, Bonnie
Ramones, The (3)
Rolling Stones, The
Roxy Music (2)
Rundgren, Todd
Russell, Leon
Savoy Brown
Setzer, Brian Orchestra
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
Smith, Patty
Stooges, The
T. Rex
Talking Heads
Taylor, Koko
Ten Years After
Thompson, Richard (2)
Waits, Tom
Wall of Voodoo
Waters, Muddy
Who, The
Wilder, Webb
Winter, Johnny And
Wonder, Stevie
Yoakum, Dwight
Young, Neil (2)
Zappa, Frank and the Mothers (2)
Zevon, Warren
Zydeco, Buckwheat

Thursday, June 9

Happy Birthday

Jackie Wilson, 1934-1984.

From Bad To Worse

After a hard day's labors and two hours spent trying to keep the garden from spontaneously combusting--"It's 90, but it feels like 96!" says the Weather Geek, hiding the fact that his experience of either consists of the time it takes him to go from air-conditioned office to air-conditioned SUV--I sit down for a hour of television. It's not too much to ask. I've all but abandoned the other 23 hours of television to the terminally slack-jawed, but suddenly The Daily Show has decided to see how much pain and suffering I'll endure in the interview segment in exchange for the laughs that come before. (The laugh's on them, actually, as the interview is also known as Go Make A Sandwich around here.) Dennis Miller (with a double time allotment!) is followed by Zell Miller is followed by Newt Gingrich? Could we get Craig Kilborn back to do these?

Watching the rerun of the Tuesday show last night, I was too tired to move far enough away. Hey, kids, it's Wired's Pop Culture Cheerleader Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good For You, which I hear is really good. If you catch my drift. Anyway, Johnson's fearlessly contrarian point is that far from being toxic sludge, video games and television actually make you smarter, and pop culture on the whole is just incredibly more complex and interesting than ever before. Because, like, dude, 24 has all these interwoven story lines an' stuff, and that's so much more intelligent than he remembers Starsky and Hutch being.

My first inclination is to introduce him to my nineteen-year-old nephew and be done with the argument. But this sort of thing irritates me all out of proportion to Yet Another Guy trying to sell books by telling people who don't read they're right about everything, and even more than the whole Digital-Cyber-Holo-Video-Interweb Is the New Messiah! crapola which must be at least ten years out of date by now. I think that by the time you're in your mid-thirties you ought to have realized that the world isn't something they found in your diaper when you were three months old, and maybe we can expect your perspective to reflect that.

I don't have any opinion about video games. I think play is an important part of being human. Some people think video games are stupid, or too violent, or that kids waste too much time on them. That's a far cry from saying they dumb players down, and it's hard to argue that playing a game for eight hours a day will make you smarter than playing it for two hours a day and spending some of the remainder, I dunno, reading a book?

Let's move on to television. Johnson thinks multiple story lines are both a cerebral stimulant and a mark of the march of pop culture progress. I think the fact that someone hopes to make a pile of cash off the argument is its own disproof. Okay, Hill Street Blues may have ushered in the trend for prime time series--twenty-five years ago--but that's a matter of being innovative for teevee, a notoriously status quo commercial operation which had for years aimed its programming at a nine-year-old mentality. Being the first person to say "ass" in prime time does not make you Lenny Bruce. Multiple perspective had been around in film for fifty years at that point, in literature for at least one hundred and fifty. Hell, they've been running multiple story lines on soap operas since the 60s. Do soap operas make people more intelligent? Have you ever listened to people talk about them?

Johnson apparently gets into movies in his book, though he said nothing about them with Jon. If he can honestly look at the great French films of the 30s, at the Japanese or Italian cinema of the 50s, at Buñuel and Kubrick, at the great American films of the 60s and early 70s, and still claim that the post-Star Wars era of blockbuster entertainments is cultural progress we should be handing out Ph.Ds for setting off fireworks. There's nothing wrong with enjoying pop culture. There's something amiss when educated people have no sense of anything that happened more than ten years before they were born.

And while I'm happy to defend your right and mine to wallow, there's such a thing as recognizing shit when you eat it. Witness Stephanie Zacharek's paean to the glories of Disco in Salon:

Whenever any of my allegedly liberal music-nerd friends tell me how much they hate disco, I always like to ask, mischievously, "So are you a racist, a homophobe, or both?"

Expletives fail me. If Disco truly was the "fabulous, gender-bending revolution" you claim, it wouldn't need to resort to name-calling just because a lot of people hate it.

Or historical distortion: "possibly the most democratic form of popular music ever conceived"? "as much a political statement as punk would later [sic] be (maybe even more so)"?

Fer cryin' out loud...rarely memorable, frequently execrable, over-produced producer's music was revolutionary? Jesus, rock and roll had been gender-bending since Little Richard first set foot on stage. Elvis could have been shot any time in the 50s. Lou Reed and David Bowie were professionally out when a twelve-incher was only found in porn loops. I find it a little hard to accept that being a gay male going to dance clubs in New York City in the late 1970s was much of a political act. The death of three Ramones was national news. When they dedicate a portion of Central Park to the memory of Vicki Sue Robinson, give me a call.

But then again, we're faced with cultural pundits who imagine the world began about the time they first heard of it, and have an irresistible urge to justify their teenage tastes into middle age. Zacharek writes:

And although by the '70s white kids had already been listening to, and dancing to, black music for decades, the merging (and recombining) of soul, jazz, Latin and R&B that disco represented -- not to mention its role in the genesis of rap and hip-hop -- was more than just a co-opting and repackaging of music made by minorities for the consumption of privileged whites.

I'm sure all the folks at Motown and Stax will be interested to learn they were cranking out unsophisticated platters for Mistah Charley all those years before you New York club kids came around and revolutionized things. Wanker.

Wednesday, June 8

The Livin' Is Easy

This is the first full week of my Poor Wife's summer break, a week which traditionally is spent moving stuff around at school, since art teachers tend to have enormous caches of supplies. This year, though, as they've thoroughly screwed up the room assignments she finds herself stuck waiting for someone else to clear out her new room, so it all came home and currently fills the shed and the guest room, and the dining room is now the command center for the summer class she'll be starting in a week. So I'm trying to dedicate my free time to her, and my little charges in the landscape which are being assaulted by a late-spring series of 90º days. All of which has somewhat curtailed my reading time, and has meant composing posts in my head and trying to write them down later without spending hours at it. If I disappear for a day or so, rest assured I'm not enjoying myself.

So, short takes: President Clinton is in town, he spoke tonight and will be signing 500 copies of his book tomorrow. I'd have gone to the speech, but I didn't find out about it until it was long past sold-out. The book and the autograph I can do without. But I did get to hear some local hairdo on the Constant Tape Loop of Local News we're blessed with on cable call him, "the controversial former president" (do we have one that isn't?), note that he would "only be signing copies of his book," (and not, evidently, Your Left Breast), that "some people" had "paid up to $500" for a ticket to tonite's speech (I suppose they'll be sending their Investigative Team to find out if it was their own money), and concluding with a note that the Controversial Former President is the highest-paid speaker in the land. God, I hate these motherfuckers. That was essentially the content of my email to her.

The ever-charming Kathy takes on the Kos Kontretemps and other bloggers she no longer reads. I do read Roxanne, and I'm sorry to have dropped Kevin Drum, who does a lot of good work. But I wanted to point out here that the high-traffic bloggers who are genuinely funny, (e.g. TBogg, s.z., norb) as opposed to the wonks, never seem to do any ego tripping. I've met a celeb or two in my day. Johnny and June Carter Cash were as nice as nice could be. Liberace was a genuine, sweet guy. I got to shake the hand of Jorge Luis Borges. I played violin for Josef Gingold. The only person I ever met who was on a star trip was z-lister Lorna Luft. Curious, ain't it?

My Poor Wife tells me that CNN went wall-to-wall for about three hours this afternoon with a California police chase, then simply dropped the story. Nothing on their site about it now. Apparently there weren't any blonde girls in the car.

Nuts and Bolts, Mostly Nuts

Yesterday's comment from Jill Smith of Writing or Typing sent me to her piece on Big Box hardware stores eating one's brain, which put me in mind of my own hardware situation. Get ready, d. sidhe, more clues.

I live within walking distance of a Lowe's. This is almost purely a boon, the only drawback being I'd much rather trade with a Mom and Pop. That and the fact that once Lowe's appeared, the Sears Hardware which was just two blocks further away ran like a mongrel with a tin can tied to its tail, the mizable bastids. There's a family-run Ace Hardware a couple blocks from that, one of those small businesses with a clientele so firmly established that it was oblivious to both the Sears and Lowe's invasions, though everyone figured they'd be gone in a month. It's one of those places where you can't find anything, because everybody who works there also owns the joint and no one can be bothered with organizing shelves or clearing stuff out of what passes for aisles, and if you're brave enough to strike out on your own, and lucky enough to find what you're looking for, there may be five or six different stickers on the same object and you can choose your favorite decade's price. If you have to ask for assistance, though, you're stuck, because the one guy who's paying any attention to customers whatsoever is busy talking the intricacies of fishing lures with some toothless gent who seems to live there. I don't think you could even dust the place without contacting HazMat first.

Then there's the other guy.

He's a mile up the road. Ramshackle building just off a busy corner, the place is the flagship of a four-or-five store empire. I used to trade with him semi-regularly, though I just didn't like the guy. Too much of a glad-hander, plus his prices are guaranteed to be higher than anyone else's. And he's got a cashier who's a real type. You may know her. Worked there for twenty-five years, probably, and thinks she's part of the floor show.

I was in there one day a few years back, renting a carpet shampoo-er, and she's got a radio going in her little cube there, and I realize she's listening to Rush Limbaugh. I run into Mr. Glad Hand in the parking lot, and I complained about it. Now, I'm one of those people who's sort of physically memorable. I do look like that picture. I have this enormous cranium. And I'm usually wearing my Jeff Gordon shades, because they're polarized and I like to drive in 'em. So I bring the shampoo-er back Monday morning, and go to get my deposit back, and the cashier glares at me, then makes a big production of going over and snapping off the radio. So, instead of suggesting to his employee that she play something which didn't insult some customers, he told her the asshole in the sunglasses complained about Rush.

But I still traded there from time to time, until shortly after the invasion of Iraq. I was there to buy some mulch, and hanging next to the price list was a tee-shirt with a map of Baghdad on it, and on the map a little sign that said, "Future Home of Bob's Hardware. Opening Soon."

I didn't bother to complain that time, and needless to say I don't shop there anymore, but I did take the opportunity, several months later, when our little adventure was clearly turning to shit, to indulge in my baser instincts. I sent the owner a letter. On it I'd printed out a particularly gruesome photo of Iraqi war dead, several bodies burned to ash. And I wrote, "Hey, Bob, they're already lining for your new store. When's it gonna open, again?"

Tuesday, June 7

Cranky? Irritable? It's Like You're Readin' My Mind, Doc

One of the first things I did when we bought this house almost eleven years ago was to replace the horrid light fixture in the kitchen. The next thing I did was call an electrician to do the job correctly, but that's another story.

The new fixture uses three reflector-type halogen bulbs. The first set lasted about 4-1/2 years. The second set lasted about 4-1/2 years. Since then I've replaced them twice, and one blew out this morning when I went to put the kettle on.

The single variable here is that my neighborhood Lowe's switched the brand they carry between lots two and three. As Dean Broder would no doubt point out, were he to suddenly try to wrest David Brooks' Long Distance Suburban Sociology crown from him, my response is clearly informed by the Vietnam War: I think the fuckers are lyin' to me. I think Lowe's switched brands because Sylvania, the corporate giant which still manufactures household goods in a peaceful glen somewhere, pays them more money or gives them more free goods in exchange for the valuable Lowe's concession. That, or they sponsor the annual Holland: Hardware, Hookers, and Hashish junket. It sure ain't that the bulbs are better.

And this is everywhere. My local grocery chain, the one formerly owned by the Coors Marsh family, now a publicly traded company which employs the Coors Marsh family to tell you about their continuing commitment to quality, decided last month they weren't going to carry Gulden's mustard. It's possible they could convince me the decision was based on exhaustive consumer taste tests, but then I can go to the shelves and find eight different flavorized versions of French's Yellow Goop. So, if I suspect this has more to do with several sets of titanium clubs finding their way into the Coors Marsh boardroom, just blame Lyndon Johnson.

Speaking of Local News

Since I'm their biggest critic let me be the first to pat Channel 13 on the back, avoiding any mussing of hair, for covering the Court's medical marijuana decision with a fine profile piece on a woman who is bedridden by MS and who's already been convicted of possession once. I'd have enjoyed it even more if they'd pointed out she could be growing her own pain relief for pennies, but then more than one reporter's seen the ghost of Eli Lilly down on McCarty Street.