Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Old Tübingen Steak

Last night I got dinged (quite rightly) in my Comments section on the Rickie Lee post for having implied that women are uniquely ruled by their emotions. I was shooting for a rationality-versus-intuition deal, a Yin-Yang opposition, and took it one step too far and got into cases. Set off the old fire-alarm, I did. Ah, well. Sorry, Anonymous Reader, I'll try harder next time.

So what am I to make of these two events from this morning?

First, a pal emailed me, alerting me to the discovery of what is being interpreted by anthropologists as the earliest known Personal Massage Device, some 28,000 years old, in a cave in Tübingen, Baden-Wurttemberg. When I read that it measured 20 cm long by 3 cm wide, I did some very quick (and very wrong) mental calculation and imagined something rather unprepossessing in the old Trouser Snake department. Scoffing back to my correspondent, I made a joke about the low expectations of Stone Age Womanhood. Not until I entered "20 cm in inches" at Google Calculator did I realize that the thing is actually rather Digglerian, measuring in at a quite respectable 7.87401575 inches. (Yes, that last 0.00001575 of an inch makes all the difference. You think the old Peter-Meter doesn't measure that fine? Think again.)

Bet that sucker's cold. ("Warm it up for me, darling Glogg!" "Yes, but how...? Suppose I It might be just crazy enough to work!")

But the greatest thing about it, the thing that makes me just cackle like a hyena, is the BBC's caption: "It may also have been used to knap, or split, flints." Let's see you try that with your tallywackers, boys. At least you guys over 40. (Why, in my teen years I bet I coulda....)

You just know that in another few years if they keep digging in that same cave they're gonna find a blowup sex doll made of tanned mammoth hide and boars' bladders, complete with vibrating mouth feature (you shake it real hard). And the anthopologists are gonna tell us it doubled as a food locker. A life of privation enforced an admirable economy.... I imagine a hapless Stone Age would-be swinger begging his mate to do a three-way with it, and getting clocked with the family flint-knapper for his impertinence.

This whole instruments-of-self-abuse-doubling-as-household-implements thing brings us neatly around to the second strange event of this morning.

Lance Mannion erected put up a post in which he notes that two of BlogSpace's more august presences, Michael Bérubé and PZ Myers of Pharyngula, had each had a tree branch come down in their yards during heavy weather and had both wimped out when the time came to man up and use a chainsaw to clear the mess. Once long ago in a context far, far away I had whispered -- apparently quite amusingly -- to Lance that he need not fear the chainsaw, that the chainsaw is well worth allowing into one's life.

Lance remembers this advice to this day, apparently.

What I didn't mention was that I've been told that if you hold an 18-inch Husqvarna 346XP juuust right while you're cutting up that fallen branch -- well, you ain't gonna want to go back to your silly old vibrating bikini-razor is all I'm sayin'. That Husky'll get your attention. And knap a flint into the bargain.

I'm just passin' on the info. Just relayin' what I've been told.

Now I'll leave it up to greater minds than mine to work out the connections here, why the Howlingly Obvious Phallic Symbol suddenly thusts itself into my morning not once but twice. Yesterday Yoni, Lingam today, I guess.

I'll be over here on the floor, playing with my Lingam Logs.

(Yes, that is a photograph of me. That is exactly what I look like.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rickie Lee Jones, Birchmere, 7.25.05

In the full blossom of her life, Rickie Lee Jones now has the voice of 14 completely baked angels on an eternal hash-oil toot. She is so intense, so keyed, in her vocal delivery that sometimes she simply dispenses with consonants altogether and just makes do with vowels -- and yet even in these exalted moments her meaning, her dream-algebra, the holy truth of Woman-Mind, is clear as purest water.

This, my friends, is an Artist.

Last night at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Rickie Lee teetered on the edge of reason, moaning ecstatically her oneiric verses, hopscotching through Illusion, through Maya, like an acid waif through cornflowers, head-faking a slip over the edge into jibbering irrationality but never falling. Always recovering, a perfect high-wire act.

Looking dreamily out into the audience: "So many stories... So many stories in this room. And I know 'em all. It's hard work!" She giggles, gamine, knowing she's reminded us of who else thinks mere living is "hard work."

Jesus Christ with an SM-58, that woman can sing the living shit out of a song! She's not particularly concerned with hitting notes on the head (although perfectly capable of it) but instead she's a sovereign interpreter, sliding into notes, risking blowing everything but supremely confident that nothing is irretrievable, squeezing every drop of meaning out of the lyric. Each line fraught. Pregnant. Loaded.

Music for adults.
There's nothing that has ever been
That isn't loved
By someone who waits
Exactly. Yes.

Near the end of the gig, Rickie began to introduce a song called Tell Somebody (Repeal The Patriot Act Now). In a perfect world, were yin and yang are in perfect balance, you'd be able at a moment's notice to drop out of hippie-waif mode and into incisive-pundit mode and hurl perfectly reasoned polemic at your tormentors -- only to slip back into your customary dreaminess when you're done.

But that's not Rickie Lee Jones. Her argument from the stage, such as it was, appealed to emotion rather than logic, intuition not facts. A woman's argument. A yin argument. An argument from Yoni.

This is not at all a knock against her. I wish fervently to find in my own mind the ability to summon a "woman's argument." If more of us had "woman's argument" inside us, the world would be a safer and saner place.

Rickie Lee stood on stage and argued as an artist. That is, the reason she is so utterly spellbindingly good as a singer is that she spends all her time in Artspace, where empathy and intuition and love and irrationality are the currency, a place where linearity and causality are banished. She sees the world through those eyes. Only those eyes.

And that was the world that spoke through her mouth when she spoke of the Patriot Act.

She irritated someone in the audience with her circularity, this Washington audience, this unreliably sympathetic Washington audience.

"Sing a song!"

It's like a boot to the chest. It's like a jackboot in the face. It's like watching a leather riding boot grinding down on a butterfly. What has just entered the room and crushed its cigar out on your heart is what it's like to live in George Bush's America. It feels like an axe on your neck.

"Sing a song!"

You know what the guy's thinking, right? (Of course it's a guy.) You know what battle this mouthbreather thinks he's fighting don't you? It's this one.

It's where all interaction between humans is reduced to an economic transaction. Where every man is either a pimp or a john, and every woman a whore. Where art is utterly meaningless, because the Customer Must Be Satisfied. I paid thirty-five fuckin' bucks to watch Rickie Lee Jones sing, and I don't want to hear a bunch of crap about love and peace and the fuckin' Patriot Act! Hey, jukebox! Hey, fuckin' Song Machine! I put my nickel in, now fuckin' SING!

I too try to live in Empathy-Land with Rickie Lee, and maybe that's my problem, but I fail utterly to understand Frother assholes who profess to love music. Are they so completely dense that they don't understand that the words in the songs they claim to love and understand are identical to the words they try to forbid Rickie Lee Jones from saying between the songs?

Rickie Lee, all 5'2" of her, all dreamy-hippie-waif-gamine of her, was boiling furious.

"I stood up here for an hour and a half singing for you, and now that I want to say something, that's what I get? Get the fuck out of here!"

No one moved. No one dared.

"I'm glad you decided to stick around, but don't you ever fuckin' tell me to shut up!"

We didn't get an encore.

Howdy to the Viscount

He's been contributing lively and thoughtful comments in the Jingo Mailroom for months, but now he's decided to hang up his own shingle. Welcome to BlogSpace, Viscount LaCarte! His maiden post, laden with foreboding, shudders at the world that would obtain if the froth-peddling People for The New American Century has its way. The second recounts a lonely Progressive's internal turmoil at having to hold his tongue in the presence of his troglodyte co-workers. I'll be back often!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Theocracy In Action

(...Or, I'm a Lazy Swine. Crossposted at Sisyphus Shrugged.)

Home-Schooling Cult Headquarters Patrick Henry College of Purcellville, Virginia, which was featured in a alarmingly credulous profile in The New Yorker a few weeks ago, has as it stated purpose the preparation of "Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding."

One wonders, then, what lesson about "the spirit of the American founding" was being inculcated in our future leaders this June, when the school fired a college librarian, himself a devout Christian, because he sent a letter to the student body inviting them to attend his church. Now the college has sued the former employee because he sent a letter to school parents explaining why he was fired.

Now pay attention, because this gets a little complicated.

PHC's Statement of Faith, signed by all students and faculty as a prerequisite to matriculation or employment, explicitly states (Paragraph G): Personal salvation comes to mankind by grace through faith.

The fired librarian, Jeremy Hunley, is a member of the Purcellville Church of Christ, which, according to its web site, proclaims itself as part of the Restoration Movement begun in the early 19th century. They claim 2 million adherents. The relevant portion of the C of C's dogma for our purposes is that they believe that only through baptism by immersion can grace be bestowed.

This is in opposition to the Erasmian tradition in Protestantism, which arose in the 16th century as a reaction against the perceived empty rituals and symbolism of the Catholic Church. The Anabaptists -- who would become the Baptists, Amish, Mennonites, Quakers et al. and emigrate to America -- rejected the idea that baptism meant anything. The Lutheran element of the Reformation, the precursor of the Church of Christ, in contrast, firmly upheld the traditions of baptism and the Eucharist.

The Anabaptist attitude is what is being explicitly expressed in Paragraph G in the PCH Statement of Faith.

While it may be arguable that Patrick Henry has the historically more forward-thinking position -- embodying the very height of the most progressive thinking of the bloodsoaked, persecuted European 16th century -- it may also be pointed out that it was arguments --and, indeed, wars -- over precisely these unknowable and unprovable points of dogma that led, a century later, to the search for universal meaning through empirical observation and deduction -- the Scientific Method -- that characterized the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason and its ultimate political expression, the American Revolution.

The question naturally occurs to one: what kind of murky, torchlit, labyrinthine alleys of backward reasoning led the worthies at Patrick Henry College to stake their claim to "fidelity to the spirit of the American founding"?

Their treatment of their dissenting librarian suggests a closer alliance to the spirit of the Salem Witch Trials.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tit for, er, Tat

It's always a nice thing to find oneself perkily perched atop someone's blogroll (I congratulate myself daily on my accidental perspicacity in choosing a nom de blog so near the top of the alphabet), but this one's a particular chest-puffer.

Jeremy Cherfas, a tip of the straw boater to you! May your manhood never be redundant.

She's Gonna Regret This....

Sisyphus Shrugged had to step out to take a leak or something, and she's asked me and a few other nice folks to watch the premises while she's in the alley. I'll be popping in (and popping off) over there this week through next Thursday, feed the cats, bring in the mail, completely discredit her forever more in Blogtopia, you know. That sort of thing.

Let's see if we can't get that girl some actual readers (eldritch chuckle).

You're not gonna believe it, but I went to school with a guy, a brother from Greenville, SC, named Eldritch Chuckle.

Man, would you get a load of the tan-mittys on Sis' moai up there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

We Dress Like Pigs

Over at the American Street I've put up a piece about a trove of photographs that have been unearthed in the Smithsonian's archives -- pictures taken in Dayton, Tennessee, during the Scopes Trial.

Eighty years ago today, in point of fact.

Because the Street's a mostly political sort of place, I kept the subject matter mostly in that sphere, letting H. L. Mencken's scathing essay on William Jennings Bryan, "In Memoriam, W. J. B." do most of my talking.

But over here, since we're making nicey-nice and keeping the polemics down to a dull roar, I thought I'd just dust off a favorite bugbear of mine and take it for a spin.

Let's take a quick gander at young John Thomas Scopes, aged 24, who was the schoolteacher on trial on July 20, 1925:

I put it to you that the straw skimmer hat is the single most beautiful thing ever to adorn the human male head. Look at the utterly insouciant swoosh it makes across the forehead, extending its rakish devil-may-care angle out on both sides of the head. Admire how the angle is echoed by the flat top of the chapeau, the whole thing a celebration of circles and angles and planes and intersections, completed by a wide ribbon hat-band, and worn at an elegant and playful angle.

Of course, walking around looking like John Scopes in that photo today, you might as well be wearing a sign that says "I Like It Rough." But oh, what a country we would be if we could revive a sense of shame in a man if he leaves the house in the morning without a sack suit, brogues, waistcoat with watch chain, shirtfront, string tie and skimmer! What a noble cause it would be to revive social opprobrium for crimes against elegance! A national Jeeves to sniff scornfully at the backwards baseball cap, logo-encrusted leisurewear in the office, the low-rise love-handle, the flip-flop, the peeping tattoo! You're not going out dressed like that, are you?

What, too William F. Buckley? Too Larchmont Lockjaw? Too Lilly Pulitzer?

In Mencken's gloriously vicious essay, he describes meeting Bryan on a street in Dayton the day before the trial, taking care to ridicule "the preposterous country shirt that he wore — sleeveless and with the neck cut very low."

I read that description and realized, "Fuckin' hell -- William Jennings Bryan was wearing a wifebeater!"

Go get 'em, H. L. M.!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ol' Westy

It's July, it's hotter than the hinges, I'm sweating even in an industrially air-conditioned building, and I've got obligations that are demanding my time today, so I'm gonna hold my nose and put up a rerun.

Ol' Westy's bitten it. My old playmate, my old sparring partner. If he was in charge in Iraq, do you think we'd be in these straits with the IEDs and the foreign insurgents? Huh? Do you? Hell, no! We'd have "reached an important point, when the end begins to come into view," that's where we'd be. That's 'cos he wouldn't have his hands tied by hippie protesters and pusillanimous Congresscritters.

And hapless dingleberries like me.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Fighting Words

Imagine my delight when I opened my WashPost Sunday Supplement (which comes on Saturday mornings now, for my convenience!) to find that the cover story on the Post Sunday magazine featured my Wednesdays American Street-Mate Barbara O'Brien.

Feather: meet Neddie. Neddie, meet the hot kiss at the end of this wet feather. Down he goes!

Yes, that Barbara, who actually is listed at the American Street's roster of regulars, as opposed to moi, who posts regularly there and gets all the emails and stuff but can't get himself on the actual list of members despite repeated reminders to the Management -- not that I'm egocentrically bitter or anything.

In the piece, Barbara is paired with a Right-globber, one Besty Newmark -- a literal schoolmarm obviously chosen for her uncanny resemblance to Dana Carvey's Church Lady in a very unfortunate wig.

The piece isn't so much a wind-them-up-and-let-them-go-at-each-other kind of gestalt; more it's an isn't-it-wacky-how-much-these-women-share deal. Which is pretty much what you'd expect from a Sunday color supplement.

At any rate, overall I find, in debates of this sort, that the fairer, more enlightened position is invariably held by the Leftist.

[Whisper: Never mind that the article kinda einforces-ray some of the oints-pay I've just been making about the utility-fay of olitical-pay ogging-blay. A gentleman would never point that out.]

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hullo Clouds, Hullo Sky

Some while ago, Lance Mannion put up a wonderfully insightful pair of posts in which he lamented the divide between the "wonks" and the "writers," (his words) in Leftovia. His immediate text was the dearth of links to women bloggers from the Wonk Contingent -- the Editorialists, the Reporters -- but Lance arrived at his wonk/writer dichotomy when he opened the excluded category to the male bloggers who tend not to get the High Numbers either, because they don't dwell obsessively on politics or sex.

I was of course very flattered to be listed on Lance's Writers team, but it did bring to my mind the question of why I mostly tend to leave the political stuff up to the hypertensive set and content myself to rooting around, oinking gently, in the leaf-mulch of life and finding the occasional truffle.

I think that if you read me fairly closely, you'll find that actually I am pretty pinko. But I mostly assume, since you are here and reading, that you agree with me on that stuff. That's just a starting point: Given that we are both firmly convinced that George Bush is a smirking fratboy cipher surrounded by evil swine, that our country is sliding slowly into fascism, that our shared culture has been dunked into a vat of molten Saran-Wrap, and that young men and women are dying in a misguided, manufactured war the transparent purpose of which is to control a major source of oil while posing as a War on a Paramilitary Tactic ... what else can we find to talk about?

In other words, I don't think there's anything I can say that's going to improve your understanding of that stuff, and anything I do say on the matter will only add to the cacophanous background dissonance against which it becomes increasingly difficult to discern a coherent truth.

I finally got around to finishing "The Home Front: A Soldier’s Father Wrestles with the Ambiguities of Iraq" by George Packer in the July 4 issue of the New Yorker, in which he does an excellent job of laying out -- as if it needed to be done yet one more time -- the spectacular serial incompetences of the Bushites in Iraq. But in the course of this evisceration, one thing he said reached out and grabbed me by the throat:
Whereas the street fights of the late nineteen-sixties were the consequence of Vietnam, the word fights of this decade were not the consequence of Iraq—if anything, it was the other way around. It was the first blogged war, and the characteristic features of the form—instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life, the echo chamber of friends and enemies—helped define the tone of the debate about Iraq.
Yeah. That sounds about right. Instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life. Echo chamber. Yeah.

But especially that remoteness from life.

Lance is really on target when he says that Liberal culture's advantage is that it's by definition open. While the Opposite Camp lectures and hectors and demands Adherence to Universal Principles, "Liberalism," says Lance, "does not have a doctrine," and he's quite right. The effect here is that it frees us up to make heretical connections -- joining up the dots! -- with a dispatch and guiltlessness that you won't find in the Frother Mind.

That, I would like to think, is the Jingo Principle. While the Wonks of both wings racket on at each other with wordwordswordswordswordswords, I'm free to sit in my little tree, hullo clouds, hullo sky....

I think, if I really boil it down, I'm trying to show (prove? hint? suggest?) that there's another way.

Ken Kesey, I think, was onto the Jingo Principle when, in 1965 at a huge antiwar rally at Berkeley he lampooned the militant crowd: "Holding rallies and having marches," he said, between blowing "Home on the Range" on his harmonica, "you're playing their game.... There's only one thing to do.... And that's everybody just look at it, look at the war, and turn your back and say... 'fuck it.' "

Now, I'm not suggesting that we drop a bunch of acid and drive off in a silly painted bus, but I do want to suggest this:

Acting like Them makes you, well, act like Them.

The Right waves around this Culture of Life crap, and we've forgotten how to wave our own Culture of Life back at them: We're alive.

We breathe. We love. We fuck. We sing. We eat. We drink.

With joy.

Yes, of course, goddammit, the world is in pain, people are dying in agony, injustice & bad faith & ugliness & intolerance & the whole fucking depressing batshit insane ball of ear wax. I know. I know, all right?

But let me ask you, if I started racketing along with all the rest of them, shrieking indignantly about whatever passes for the fuckin' Latest Outrage of the Last Ten Minutes...

Would that change anything a single goddamned iota? Would that Push the Pendulum even one tiny degree back into True? Would it save one starving kid, one soldier in Iraq, convince one crazed, bulging-eyed monotheist to put down his Bible or Qu'ran and just relax for a second?

I put it to you that it would not.

So instead I turn my back on it and say fuck it. Instead of contributing more noise, more howling, more indignant huffing, I try instead to celebrate in my own quiet way those little joys that a true Culture of Life would hold dear.

That's what I do.

Fuck it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You Can Stop Helping Neddie Jingo Now

Ah, what the hell. I'll use her room for my home gym.

Hey, here's a feel-good for you. I've been getting quite a bit of traffic in from my Freda Sorce post from Monday, all of it generated by search-engine returns. The queries have mostly been things like "Freda Sorce," (got it) "Freda Sorce AND accident," (still, OK) "Freda Sorce AND picture" (errr, I think it's OK, but starting to lose me here) and finally, a few minutes ago, "Freda Sorce AND accident picture."

You fucking ghoul. I hope your dick dries up and blows away.

By the way, the Don and Mike website, which has been dark since Monday, has posted this:
In lieu of flowers please make a donation in the name of Freda Wright-Sorce to the Worcester County Humane Society.

Worcester Humane Society
P.O. Box 48
Berlin MD 21811

All cards and letters may be sent to

Sorce Family
10800 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

You Can Help Neddie Jingo...

...Or you can turn the page.

People, I need to get my hit-count up to 500 page-loads today, or the Child Welfare Authorities will take my baby away. Won't you please help? Any small gift or tax-deductible contribution will help, but please, please, please -- don't delay.

Please click here 500 times.

Thank you so much.

One meelyon hits. Skippy wants one MEELyon hits by tonight. Yeesh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Vulgar Fractions

A friend has lent me something of incredible value, and I'd like to honor his kindness by sharing a little bit of it with you. I only wish I could share the whole thing, but that's not possible, curse the luck.

In 1840 a 15-year-old boy, Benjamin by name, of northern Loudoun County, Virginia, toiled at his lessons. His penmanship was superb, far better than any modern hand, and his figuring was done in supremely confident pen and ink.

Young Benjamin could not possibly know, on May the 7th, 1840, that his notebook, which would survive against enormous odds through flood and fire and mildew and war, to be found some 165 years later, could cause a 44-year-old man to go weak in the knees.

Vulgar Fractions.

Of course he means "common" fractions, but it's funny how words gain and lose meanings. We would never think to describe something as "vulgar" -- that adjective is reserved strictly for naughty language, now. Certainly that's how I first read it: the schoolboy's resentment toward a difficult subject -- "Oh, no, it's time for those filthy, vulgar fractions again!"

Quite a few days of Benjamin's April and May studies were spent learning to convert foreign currencies. There are pages and pages of calculations turning pounds, shillings and pence into guilders, francs, reales, thalers. Many transactions in the 19th century in the newly constituted United States were still done in foreign currency, and old coins found in archaeological sites are just as likely to be British as American. Even this late.

Remember those posters in the Seventies: "Plan Ahead"? Looks like Ben could have used the advice:

Several times throughout his notebook, young Benjamin carefully writes the name "Philadelphia," in different styles -- all capitals, cursive, block letters. Don't know why. Maybe he was practicing. But what's particularly wonderful about the above is the at-first confounding phrase, "Locofoco or Demicrat."

Turns out this was a Burning Issue in Benjamin's Current Events class. Ripped straight from the headlines. From the Wikipedia:
The Locofocos were a radical faction of the Democratic Party that existed from 1835 until the mid-1840s.

The faction was created in New York City as a protest against that city's regular Democratic organization (Tammany Hall), and contained a mixture of anti-Tammany Democrats and labor union veterans of the Working Men's Party. In the 1840 election, the term "Locofoco" was applied to the entire Democratic Party by its Whig opponents, both because Democratic presidential candidate Martin Van Buren had incorporated many Locofoco ideas into his economic policy, and because Whigs considered the term to be derogatory.

In general, Locofocos supported Andrew Jackson and Van Buren, and were for free trade and greater circulation of specie and against paper money, financial speculation, and union-busting.
Wow. Thirty years later, they'd be Communists.

The name "Locofoco" comes from a brand of friction matches. Here's a corking good political cartoon from the time illustrating the issue. Boy, they don't make satire like that any more. Thank God. I speculate Ben's "Locofoco or Demicrat" is a punch line, a pun he heard -- "Demicrat" being only half a Democrat, you see.

OK, here's the History High moment for me. This one really blows my tiny little mind:

Just a doodle, a little squib in the margin, doesn't mean anything, no connection to the surrounding schoolwork.

But here's the thing: Young Benjamin thought to himself in an idle moment, "I think I'll draw a picture of a man." Maybe a caricature of his teacher, who knows. But the man he draws is wearing a stovepipe hat and a clawhammer coat.

That's the part that destroys me. To Ben, that wasn't a-picture-of-a-man-in-a-stylized-hat-and-coat -- that's just a picture of a man. In other words, that's what men looked like to Ben. That's not a theatrical costume. You're looking right at 1840, through the eyes of this boy.

I have a hard time not misting up at the immediacy of it, the feeling of awe that wells up. A hundred and sixty-five years ago.

I believe I've found Benjamin in the 1850 Loudoun County Census. Boy, I hope the Civil War was kind to him.

A Golden Memory

Pursuant to the Freda Sorce post, I just remembered how I got that toilet-flush sound effect that I used in my Homemade Jingle.

The toilets at home were those silent jobs, no good for recording, but the ones where I worked at the time were fantastically loud. Industrial Strength.

One Saturday I put the weiners -- aged about 4 and 3 -- in the car with my 4-track and a good mike, stand and cables, and off to the office we went. Into the mens' room. Set up the 4-track on the washstand, mike on gooseneck stand stuck right down into the bowl. Set levels. Cued tape.

Shushed the kids. Bought them both a Coke to keep 'em happy.

Hit "Record." Flush.

"Daddy, when are you gonna be done?"

"Oh, buddy, you've got to keep really quiet until the toilet's done, OK?"

"Oh, OK, Dad!"

"Record." Flush.

"You done yet, Daddy?"

Arrrgh. "No, honey, I'm going to need to do it again, because you talked!"

"Oh, sorry, Daddy!"

"Record." Flush.



Silence. Flush is finishing up, gurgling's coming to an end, this looks like the Good One...

"See, Dad? I kept quiet the whole time!"

Fingers to bridge of nose. Oh, well. I'll fade it in the mix.

I love those kids.

Attention Users...

Hate to use this space for Tech Support issues, but this is getting irritating.

Have any of the rest of you stopped getting email notification when new Comments are posted? I have, for about a week now, and it's hosing me off.

Answer by email please, NeddieJingo at aol dot com, because otherwise I won't know if you've posted anything (duh).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Through the Looking Glass

This just appeared in my server logs.

(Note second item in the return.)

RIP Freda Sorce

This is just awful.

I've just heard that Freda Sorce, the wife of Don Geronimo, has been killed in a car accident.

Don is half of Don and Mike, a local D.C. institution, wacky bad-boy afternoon-drive shock jocks who've been enlivening my evening commute since I discovered them in the late Eighties.

Ordinarily I'd have nothing at all to do with Morning-Zoo-style radio; it's silly and insincere and calculated and cynical. But Don and Mike have always evinced a healthy detestation of the radio business -- this becomes plain if you follow the show for a bit; they do a masterful job at subverting the whole stupid genre and making their show as honest and real as talkity-talk radio gets.

I loathe Howard Stern. I can't even be in the same room as a Don Imus broadcast. That should tell you how different and lively and, yes, dammit, humane the Don and Mike Show is, while never being mawkish or sloppy. Coarse, yes. Vulgar, absolutely. But in the right hands, these things can be funny.

Don and Mike are gay-friendly. Not a misgynist bone in their bodies. Although they don't make a big deal of it, politically their hearts are in the right place. Do you remember a few years ago, when that horrible hump Michael Savage lost his cable TV show because he raved out at a prank caller? The prankster was a Don and Mike listener. We were all proud of that moment.

One of the ways they make their show so uncharacteristically humane is by involving their families in the act, and this is why Freda's sudden death is such a gut-punch. She phoned in to the show nearly daily, along with their son Bart, whom I first "met" as a four-year-old wiener, and who is now a rising sophomore at Clemson. She browbeat Don for his gaucheness, his rudeness, his impecuniousness, but never in a way to make you dislike her.

Although I never met her, I considered Freda a friend.

About ten years ago, they had a Homemade Jingle Contest, in which they encouraged listeners to send in their songs. I whipped up a little something and sent it in.

Boy, did they like it.

(And now you know my real name.)

Some of the inside jokes: the "Queeg" referred to is shorthand for G. Gordon Liddy, who shared their studio and who famously bragged about the size of his tallywacker. Don and Mike had a running war with him. That's Wonder Woman doing the vocal there. Ain't she great?

Man -- that's 4-track cassette. Allowing for the compression from the radio, which breathes like a mutha, I didn't do a half-bad job. You really could load those things up with signal, couldn't you. God, I did the orchestral build of "A Day in the Life" on a 4-track. Beat that, George Martin.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Signs and Portents

See, I think there's a plan. There's a design for each and every one of us. You look at nature. Bird flies somewhere, picks up a seed, shits the seed out, plant grows. Bird's got a job, shit's got a job, seed's got a job. And you've got a job.

--Maddy, in Cold Mountain

There's a very strange feeling that arises when you approach an abandoned 18th-century Colonial log cabin deep, deep in the woods, miles -- centuries -- from the nearest Wal-Mart, Dodge dealership or strip mall.

I want to say reverence, but that's not quite it. Fear? Awe? Wonder? Yes, these enter into it.

You tend to start at every sound, every snapping twig, because these places are just suffused with ghostliness, with a presence that you dare not disturb. This feeling is not at all lessened by the appearance of a huge black vulture who has taken up residence in the attic of another nearby abandoned house, and who takes a very keen interest in your every movement. The first time we came through here, she hopped out of her attic window, perched on a nearby dead tree, and posed with her wings outspread to threaten us away.

This is not a sight that brings thoughts of blessings, comfort and joy, here deep in the woods. A less rigidly ordered mind than mine might tend to see Signs and Portents in such a thing.

We humbly beg your pardon for the intrusion, madame. We will be on our way directly.

The first homestead we found had a junction box for electricity, indicating it had been occupied well into the 20th century. The clapboard siding was a much later addition. We also found some pop-top soda cans outside the first house that implied occupation in the early 1980s.

Try and imagine that. Living in a one-room log cabin during the first Reagan Administration. Think about that when you're vacuuming the guest bedroom and thinking it's such a goddamned hassle.

This is an outbuilding for the first homestead. My companion today, my neighbor Tom Bullock, restores old houses for a living, which is why I'd invited him along on this hike. He's one of the amateur archaeologists who came to survey the old site of my cabin a couple of weeks ago. Unlike many of the mere souvenir-hunters who inhabit this little world, Tom's in it for the history and the emotional connection to the past. He was plainly thrilled to find these historically pristine, unimproved cabins that sit on land belonging to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.

Above is another view of that same outbuilding. About the size of a walk-in closet. Tom speculates it was a chicken coop, or perhaps a place to hang and smoke meats. There are still racks inside, and care was taken by the proprietors to make the interior inaccessible to predators.

This is the other homestead, deeper in the woods. An 1853 map of Loudoun County, the Yardley Taylor Map, marks this as belonging to the Demory family. (Another house, further out nearer the road, is also a Demory house. That's being excavated by archaeology students. The one we're looking at now hasn't been touched, except for a little desultory shoring-up work. Without preservation, this one will collapse before very much longer.)

The May 1861 Vote on Secession shows two Demorys, John W. and William, of this area, as having voted for the Rebels. Their neighbor about a quarter-mile away, John P. Derry, voted Union. No Demorys voted Union. No Derrys voted Secesh.

Besides being neighbors, the two families were intricately linked by marriage -- the mother of Rachel Derry, whom we met in my last Mobberly post enduring the beatings and depravities of John P.'s nephew Philip Derry, was Mary Demory Dowling Potts.

I can't help but gape in amazement thinking about the events these walls have seen. All that time. All that passion. All that blood.

Here's a little History of American Vernacular Architecture lesson for you. I picked this tidbit up from Christopher Fennell's Ph.D. thesis -- he studied yet another Demory house on the side of Short Hill, a few miles from here.

The construction technique on display here is Pennsylvania Dutch. On log cabins further west, you're more likely to see unhewn notched logs that are stacked such that some of the end of each log extends a few inches from the corner. Remember Lincoln Logs? Like that. Weave your fingers together at the second knuckle and look at the result from above. That's what most log cabins' corners look like. Now notice here that the ends meet exactly, without that overlap, so the house more resembles a true box. The hewn -- squared-off -- logs, whittled down with an adze and a draw-knife, give the walls a more civilized, flatter appearance. The Pennsylvania Dutch technique was adopted by the Scots-Irish who settled here in the late 18th century.

But Tom pointed out something very interesting: notice in the photo above that in the lower three logs, the older part of the house, the builder took care to cut a v-shape on the top of each log and a corresponding concavity on the lower face. This technique, no doubt time-consuming and fussy, locks the logs together. But look at the upper three tiers -- the notched-v technique was either lost or ignored when the second story was added later!

All right, Mrs Vulture. You'll be glad to know we're off, and we haven't disturbed your babies. Guard this place well for us, won't you? And thank you for letting us see it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

...and no birds sang...

The man he came at six o'clock
The man he came at six o'clock
The man he came at six o'clock
And now I'm gonna cry.

It's this goddamned cathedral I live in.

The cathedral of trees.

Our Lady of the Larches, the Chartres of the Chestnuts.

Blocking the line of sight from the transmitter, you see. The bosky microwave penetrateth not the green lushy walls.

Foiled by the Beauty, oh the Arnie, the Postmodern Arnie....

But all is not lost. The Man Who Came speaks of a repeater station to be emplaced on a nearby silo that will receive the microwaves, translate them into tree-conquering 900-gigaschmertz thingummies, and Bob, he cheerfully implied, would be my uncle. And when shall this great Bob-enuncling day arrive?

Oh, Real Soon Now.

I will retire to my bed, then, mumbling a phrase only too familiar in these degraded times: That which does not kill me makes me stronger, that which does not kill me makes me stronger, that which does not kill me makes me stronger....

Oh, the Man Is Coming

The man is coming at six o'clock
The man is coming at six o'clock
The man is coming at six o'clock
To survey my house for BROADBAND

He'll be riding six white horses
Oh, we'll all go out to meet him
We will kill the old red rooster
We'll all have chicken n' dumplin's
We'll all be shoutin' "Halleluja"

I will blog from my BED
I will blog in the HEAD
I will blog wearing RED
I will blog till I'm DEAD

Sittin' out there on the screen porch, feet up, sippin' a morning julep and scanning the Sunday headlines, Hey, Wondie! The Harridans have a new long-player out that the Post is comparing favorably to Rotten in Denmark! Let's down that corksoaker on this handy wi-fi Mac laptop -- I'll beam it to the family Victrola! Why look, some of our other broadband-sporting friends have sent us a frisky video that we should eyeball right this minute -- why it's only 250 MB, we'll have it in no time! While that's chugging, I'll simultaneously call up all 15 of my favorite news outlets in separate tabs while doing an RSS search for all blogs containing my name, finish a round of Shadows of Isildur, and -- oh yeah, I owe Larry and the boys a guitar solo, I'll just Dropload the uncompressed .AIF file to 'em, doot-de-doo...

Christ. You just don't know what torture this 28.8 stuff has been for the last year.

Here's the thing, boiled down to its essence:

You're afraid to click on things.

That's it. That's the crux of the biscuit. With this Jurassic dialup connection, every link that everybody sends you is immediately suspect of being something that's gonna choke the line for the next half-hour. You really, really have to want that content on the other end of that hyperlink, you have to be willing to commit to it, because if the link is to anything other than a bare-bones text-based, well-optimized HTML page, your wait is going to be anything from two to five minutes. And just forget streamed audio. Video? It is to laugh. Want to send a graphic to the server you keep your blog on? Oh, be prepared to wait ten minutes, during which if you initiate any kind of TCP activity, you will double the duration of not ony your upload but whatever you initiated as well.

This is close to the Chinese Water Torture.


Sing it with me now...

The man is coming at six o'clock....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vegetable House

Hanna Rosin's recent piece in The New Yorker, in which she finds an odd humanity and pathos in the home-schooled android student body of Patrick Henry College, evinced in your humble and ob'd't sv't a damned nearly irresistible desire to stuff my mouth to overflowing with mashed potatoes, run up to the first PH student I see, and violently extrude the whole load in his face: "Get it? I'm a zit!"

The drive to the grocery takes me past Patrick Henry. This somnolent time of year, "the men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding" are to be found on the campus quad playing a suspiciously polite game of Ultimate. Well, no, hold on, it's only the fellas. The women aren't much in evidence, which would follow because they're inside convincing each other that "committing to Christ" is like "sticking to a long-term business plan," and that business plan emphatically does not include the sweaty torsos and dewy loins of the breathless boys. They're laboring to take to heart the nine-page e-mail sent out to the entire student body by one of the (male) students this year: “Lust is sin. It is sin for you to tempt us. It is...unloving. Unsisterly. Un-Christlike.”

I'm glad to see that the future of Christian rape counseling is in such capable hands. You'll enjoy being succoured by such a fine, empathetic mind, ladies. Welcome to it. What a catch!

Says Rosin:
Girls talk about not “stumbling” a guy, the equivalent of tempting him, and resident advisers keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t wear shirts that show any bra. If they do, they’ll get a friendly e-mail—“I think I saw you in dress code violation,” followed by a smiley emoticon.... Smoking, drinking, and “public displays of affection in any campus building” are forbidden. Matthew du Mée, who was an R.A., told me that if he saw a boy and girl sitting too close for too long he would pull the boy aside and tell him to stop, because “the guy is supposed to be the leader in the relationship.”
[A momentary digression, if I may. The chink in the armor of the Christly home-schooling cult -- and cult is exactly the right word for it -- is the women. If you were to set up a table at the nearby Giant supermarket offering Deprogramming Services to Patrick Henry coeds, business would, I'm certain, boom. These girls know damned well what's being done to 'em, and at least half of 'em won't stand for it if they see any kind of alternative that doesn't make 'em think they're headed straight for Hell. They're not stupid, just enslaved.]

Wistfully, I close my eyes and conjure up the future Misty Memories that these youngsters will enjoy years from now: the awkward home-schooled maladroit's dread of using the wrong fork at the Liberty Ball, (whee doggies, that looks like a good time!) or at the annual school Hoedown at which the rigidly sexless student body, glass tubes firmly inserted, mills about drinking decaffeinated apple cider, noshing saltless popcorn and scrupulously ignoring the 800-pound gorilla glowering in the middle of the room.

It's the goddamned Omega House. An eternal, ceaseless, permanent Omega House, where extravagant displays of the prissiest, most nauseating virtue are rewarded with (let's not beat around the bush) status, favor and privilege. Which in Real Life means Money.

An Omega House, that is, that has managed to completely eradicate the Deltas from the face of the earth. Expelled. Double Secret Probation. Dean Wormer Triumphant. Thank you, Lord, may I have another?

A house that's all Apollo and no Dionysus just can't stand. It must collapse. And collapse it will, spewing forth all the deeply repressed libido and id that it built up inside, like mashed potatoes in Bluto Blutarski's mouth.

Particularly since the 2004 election, the bastards have managed to nullify our most potent weapon: our sense of humor. Goddamn it, under most circumstances, we are the funny people. We use satire, sarcasm, ridicule -- merciless, pitiless ridicule -- to expose the ludicrous and risible pieties of the Omega House. Would Hunter have left Patrick Henry College's lawn untorched? Hoffman? Zappa? Al Jaffee's Private Doves?

The first order of business is to nip that goddamned Ultimate thing in the bud. These little bastards are NOT ALLOWED to play Ultimate Frisbee. That is OUR game, and they are NOT WELCOME to it. Henceforth, when I drive past them, they will be reminded by a leather-lunged heckler that Junior Fascists do not play Ultimate. They need to be TOLD.

But that's only a drop in the bucket. What needs to happen, what desperately needs to happen, is a cataclysmic prank, something so truly desperate & weird that the little androids will be absolutely convinced that the End Truly Is at Hand, something that permanently fucks with their well-ordered little Apollo-minds and declares the triumphant return from exile of Bacchus to Purcellville.
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: [whispering] Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.

Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough... [thinks hard] the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go! [runs out, alone; then returns] What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer -

Otter: Dead! Bluto's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.

Bluto: We're just the guys to do it.

D-Day: Let's do it.

Bluto: LET'S DO IT!!

I am willing to entertain suggestions.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Perhaps Now She Can Finally Loosen Up

Yeah, I know, radio silence, blah blah. Couldn't sit on this.

Nobody seems to remember the incident but I looked it up.

Paul Slansky's The Clothes Have No Emperor, the go-to book when you want to remember, day by day, just how awful the Reagan Years were, records that on January 30, 1985,
Redskins star John Riggins gets drunk at a Washington dinner. "Come on Sandy baby, loosen up," he tells his tablemate, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "You're too tight!" He then falls asleep on the floor, snoring loudly during a speech by George Bush.
Thus raising himself to immortality in my Pantheon of Heroes.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy Froth of July!

Retiring to country retreat to lick wounds, wife.

Visit from Bobby Lightfoot imminent. Do not intend to lick him, but you never know.

Expect radio silence for duration of conflict.

If you will insist on being entertained, try to pick some holes in this thing. I tried. Failed.