Friday, September 30, 2005

Hold it right there, Avogadro! I've got your number!

I carry one of these things around with my on my keychain. To judge how easy it was to find a pic of one in a Google image search, at least some of the rest of you have one too. To the uninitiated, it's a little dongle that generates random six-figure numbers, one per minute. After I fill in my name and password on my work email account, I get challenged for the current number on this little doohickey. If I've filled in the right number, I'm treated to the ten thousand inanities and veiled humiliations that make up my daily professional correspondence.

The thing has always intrigued me. My burning interest in cryptography and codebreaking ends roughly at about Thirteen Down in the Sunday Post crossword puzzle, so just how the little man at the other end of my login screen knows that I've entered the correct number will, I expect, remain a lifelong mystery. I mean, I can generate a six-digit series of random numbers just as expertly as the next galoot, believe you me, but my randomly generated numbers just don't qualify to open my mail -- only the random numbers fed me by The Man's Little Black Handcuff are the correct random numbers. So what's so goddamned, all-fired, Platonic, piss-perfect random about that?

Can you begin to feel just a tiny frisson of paranoia entering the picture? A soupçon, a thimble, a wee drap, a shiver of the old Thorazine-thirst?

But I am quite piqued at the idea that I allow myself to be coerced by my employer into carrying around a pocket-sized random-number-generator without which I can't function. Something quite surrealistic about it, don't you think?

It occurred to me a while ago that a nice little short story might reside in this premise: A normal guy, no axe to grind, no particular tendency to paranoia, starts noticing patterns appearing in these supposedly random six-digit arrays. One morning, he logs into mail with 123456. Woah, he thinks, what are the odds of that? The next morning, it's 098765. Gaa! Prime numbers, square roots, Fibonacci sequences, Golden Means, all of them appear in his display, one after another. Patterns emerge, sequential predictions come true. All "randomly" generated by a device given him by people who have a vested interest in his servitude.

The climax comes when a number he can't make sense of pops up, a completely unaccountable, truly random number, and he goes into a mathematical crisis trying to discern the pattern of the sequence. He winds up a drooling wreck on the cubicle-farm floor. Of course, the reason he can't fit this climactic number into the pattern is -- you guessed it -- the whole thing's been a creature of his own imagination all along, and any regularities he's perceived have been complete accidents, simply his own projections on the sequences.

And ain't that what paranoia's all about?

(Psst. Help yourself. I'm pretty unlikely to type it up at this point.)

Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

(...and at least a few of you have...)

White House, a recent weekday morning. Oval Office. Preznit George is getting his daily briefing. He's got a bit of a morning head, but he's at least somewhat attentive.

Rove, today's first 60 milligrams of Vicodin masking the agony in his kidneys and giving him Dutch courage, decides it's time to break the Bad News:

"Mister Preznit, six Brazilian soldiers were killed last night, in fighting outside Najaf."

George feels a wave of nausea break over him. Adrenaline summons bile to his throat and a trickle of sweat begins to bead in the small of his back. "Aw, jeeze, Karl! That's awful! Just horrible news! Their poor mothers!"

He collapses on his desk, and appears to sob silently, his arms folded childlike around his head. An uncomfortable silence fills the room as the Inner Circle exchange nervous glances over their supine Commander in Chief.

The head suddenly pops up: "Hey! How many is in a Brazilian, anyway? Is that a lot?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pervy Thursday

What are you, nuts? Don't you have something better to do?

In the last hour alone, I've had people come in on the following searches:

Freddie Moore cock musician

Wheelchairs vagina

and perhaps my favorite:

Evangeline Lilly pee

I would like to make it abundantly clear that none of these exact phrases appears in my blog, but it frightens me a bit how high I appear on the search return.

You people!

Good Dope

Google Mysticism: Just got a visitor who came in on the MSN search term: "How to tell good dope from bad."

Let's see, shall we?

Take a pinch between finger and thumb, crush the sample. Smell -- you're looking for an almond overtone. Maybe a little sage, maybe some thyme. Any of these is good.

Crush buds between palms, rubbing vigorously like a brewmeister with hops. Strong scent of pine, sage: great sinse. Overtones of muskiness: Dirtweed. Lower prices accordingly.

That more or less what you were looking for?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


One of the many delightful things about blogging is the truly international reach of the Internet. I vividly remember a moment somewhere in the early Nineties marveling at the realization that my Macintosh, running Gopher, had just called up a file hierarchy on a computer at a university in Helsinki, and wondering guiltily who was footing the long-distance bill for it. Somebody had to be -- you don't just talk to Finland like that without a whopping phone tab.

Not that I pore over them like a Bible Code simp drooling over Leviticus or anything, but I do take the occasional glimpse at my StatCounter logs, and I've noticed that despite my best efforts I have a heartwarmingly international readership. You guys know who you are -- give yourselves a hand! Got your Aussies, lots of Canucks, Brits, Kiwis, S'th-Africans, plenty of English-speaking cousins. I've also noticed that there's a rather surprisingly (and very thrillingly) sizeable number of folks from non-English-speaking countries too. I assume you're expats and such, yearning for hearth and home under slowly revolving ceiling fans as you get falling-down fractured on stengahs at Raffles, because this ain't exactly the place you'd start trying to practice your new language of English. We tend to get a little playful around here, to the detriment of the most rigorously correct Received American English.

Maybe you folks can help me understand something.

As far as I'm aware, we Yanks are the only people using the Gregorian calendar who express our dates in the form month-day-year; in every other country I've been in (a few, let's say), it's expressed day-month-year, frequently with the month written in Roman numerals.

Which is why I'm wondering why the Day of the Recent Unpleasantness is called Nine-Eleven even by people from the day-first countries. I can't understand it -- is it out of deference? Is it because you're just being nice, granting us our eccentric, nonstandard taxonomic quirk because, well, lots of people died and it just wouldn't be polite to get into a big argument over calendar formalities just now?

If that's the case, I think you're being far, far too polite. The mystical appeal of "Nine-Eleven" derives from the fact that that's the number we in the small-r republican US have settled on as our universal Emergency Phone Number. Many a Yank has died puzzled because he tried to pick up a British phone and call the fire department and 911 didn't summon them. The correct number to call in Britain -- and many other countries as well -- is 999, which won't fit in anybody's Calendrical Mysticism, there being no months with 99 days in them.

I guess I'm bothered by the idea that "Nine-Eleven" has become a shorthand for a bottomless reservoir of symbolism and automatic, reflexive emotional associations, a thing that's so fraught with meaning that "the terrorists were responsible for 9-11" is used as a justification for the most idiotically disastrous war my country has ever embarked on. It's become, in short, a brand name, a thing used to sell the Iraq War to the people paying for it, and I (and, I imagine, a lot of you) would like to see it subverted.

And that's where you, my international friends, can make a difference.

My suggestion: Insist on calling it "Eleven-Nine," just as your own national conventions dictate. Boy, that'd confound a lot of people who desperately need some confounding. Imagine -- just by gently insisting on the rightness of your own nomenclatural convention, you remove at one blow "Nine-Eleven's" mystical associations. You'd also strike a major blow against the notion of American Exceptionalism, of linguistic hegemony, of cultural imperialism. Strike a blow for Relativism.

Come on! Who's with me?


There's a new spring in my step today....

Have we turned a corner? Have we? Have we?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Small Victories

Sometimes things turn out OK after all. Sometimes you do win one against the Loveless Ones. We live through a long, cold, lonely winter, with awful, saddening, depressing news striking blow after blow, both here and around the world.

But sometimes you really do win if you fight hard enough. Sometimes history shows a little mercy.

After a summer dreadfully marred by resentment and outright enmity in a rural neighborhood badly divided by an effort by a small contingent of residents to enlist the County to widen, straighten and pave our beautiful, historic road, the Forces of Good have won out -- for at least a few years, anyway -- over the greedheads who look at our little corner's green and pleasant beauty and see nothing but money to be made, subdivisions to be zoned, ticky-tacky boxes to be built for a million a pop.

Our lovely, crazy-winding little ribbon of dirt is safe for now: 250 years old, lined on both sides for several miles with stone walls built before the Revolutionary War by scrabble-assed Pennsylvania Dutch antinomians, with hedgerows that saw the Civil War; a tiny narrow road that saw countless -- countless! -- travelers over it in its day: farmers humping their hundredth load of wheat and corn to the River Mill and around the points into Harpers Ferry to the C&O Canal and Washington; itinerant tinkers, feed merchants, Fuller Brush men, Irish navvies fresh from a layoff from the bankrupt Loudoun Branch RR, drunks stumbling to the river stillhouse for a snort, quarrymen hauling limestone to the kiln to be reduced to soil-sweetening lime; hunters, trappers, loggers, journeymen, schoolmasters, slaves, ferrymen, coopers, smiths, preachers, Harpers Ferry whores; horses to be shod, plows to be repaired, wheels to be given new tires, at Painter's Smithy; drippy-nosed children walking home from Georges Mill Schoolhouse, pausing to skate joyfully across the newly frozen pond on the Everhart farm; gelid Union subalterns escorting local young women home from regimental balls in the terrible winter of 1864 after Sheridan's Burning Raid, forbidden flirtatious laughter erupting from horsedrawn sleighs, fingers exploring safely away from parental eyes under thick and safe fur blankets; doomed, crazy twenty-year-old John Mobberly, three short months away from his murder on the eve of Appomattox, scouting the 35th Virginia Comanches over Short Hill to attack General Devin's 6th New York encamped on Dutchman Creek.

The guy who killed himself in the log cabin where I'm typing this.

These ghosts -- Oh, I feel them! Oh, they are here! -- have been given a few years' reprieve. They are never far away, and it's an act of love, of mercy, to keep them present. I feel a duty to them.

Small victories.

Pardon my Spanish

He encontrado, entre los visitantes que se listan en mi cuento Statcounter, uno que descubrió mi sitio blog al entrar la frase SICK AND TIRED OF SPANISH IN LOUDOUN COUNTY en el sitio Google.

Esta búsqueda produce una lista irracional de sitios no relacionados. Ni uno contiene la frase entera.

Me temo (sin evidencia, por supuesto) que el busquero esperaba encontrar algun sitio racista o supremista donde se discute la superabundancia de inmigrantes hablahispanas en nuestro condado. Me agradece mucho que tal sitio no se encontró, y que en vez de un sitio Klan o Skinhead, fue encontrado el mio.

Quiero decir una sola cosa si este persona vuelve a mi sitio:

Bésame el culo, hijo de puta cabrón racista.

[Later edit: This post is quite amusing if you filter it through the AltaVista BabelFish translator]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Washington, DC, September 24, 2005

It's late, I've had a giggly, bibulous dinner, and I'm having Tone Trouble -- can't summon the careful balance between frowny-faced earnestness and ribtickling satire that is the Insouciant Jingo Formula, so I'm just going to play it straight. I want to get these thoughts down and these photos before you, Dear Reader, before they get blunted -- because, after all, Service Is Our Middle Name.

These, then, are the impression I garnered today. My most fabulous pal Todd, who comments here under the nom-de-guerre Xtcfan, accompanied me to the festivities and provided a sovereign sounding-board for my jokes -- not all of them in the most pristine taste. At one point, a call-and-response went up in the crowd: "Show-me-what-de-moc-rac-y-looks-like! This-is-what-de-moc-rac-y-looks-like!" and I set up a damned fine obbligato right in the pocket: "Five-foot-two, eyes of blue, ootchy-cootchy-cootchy-coo, de-moc-rac-y might look like this..." It was Lovely, dammit.

Before the march began, I was looking for the perfect expression of Nowness that illuminates the Hipness of the Immediacy of the Vroom-Vroom-POW-ness of the assembled hepcats. I believe I found just the thing:

After we paid our obeisances to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (I, for one, felt not only Touched, but indeed Fondled, by His Noodly Appendage), we went and watched some speeches. These were of (to say the least) uneven quality, but Jesse Jackson and Cindy Sheehan stood out as attention-grabbers. We cheered, chanted, generally psyched up -- it felt like stretching exercises right before the U-10 Boys' Soccer Tournament kickoff -- and then made our way to 15th and Constitution, where the march was to kick off.

Here's where things got a little swimmy.

We were attempting to meet with some fellow bloglodytes from The American Street. We'd made cell-phone contact, but our mutual self-descriptions ("I'm wearing a black t-shirt," I said, helpfully) were a little ineffective, I think, and we never did find each other. But while we were milling around waiting for the show to start, we noticed that a gaggle of VIPs had emerged from the stage on the Eclipse and were passing right next to us. Cindy Sheehan, Jesse Jackson and Joan Baez were the ones we could recognize. Just as they were passing (I swear to you this is true), I felt a commanding arm in the small of my back, and I felt myself being herded not away from the VIP coterie, but into it. We looked around, and realized the Security bods (not hired goons, but volunteers) had assumed we were, you know, with them, and now we found ourselves inside their cordon.

Quite surprising. Bet the Secret Service would have been a bit more careful, but there we were: Three positions back from our new most excellent buddies Cindy and Jesse and Joanie Phonie. Just as I was about to ask Joan for the chords to "Diamonds and Rust," we noticed that the crowd behind us was getting restive. The chant was going up, "Start-the-March! Start-the-March! Start-the-March!"

The problem, as far as we could see it, was that the Liberal Media had blocked 15th Street, besotted as they were by their access to the March Celebs -- my good pals, Cindy and Jesse and Joan. As the crowd began to press forward dangerously, Cindy turned around and said, in her best crowd-control voice, "We're starting in two minutes!"


Strictest honesty demands I say, I don't know if it was me or Xtcfan who took the pic -- we were trading the camera back and forth depending on our relative vantage points, but it was my camera, anyway. But, man, check this picture out!

Here's another one, seconds later. Jesse turned around, asked to borrow a sign he could be photographed waving. How I wish the Flying Spaghetti Monster lady had been available.

Eventually the cops led the Celebs away, presumably to remove the object of the MSM's curiosity so the deal could get started. The next thing that caught the eye was this thing, an astonishingly effective bit of theater:

This was an amazingly powerful device, the brainchild of another mother whose child had died in Iraq: A piece of string, 3,000 feet long, with a single page of 8.5 x 11 paper for each American soldier who'd died in Iraq. Name, photograph, rank and serial number. It took thousands of volunteers to march it all the way through the parade route -- apparently spontaneously; the piece had been on display on the Washington Monument grounds when someone suggested parading it through the streets.

Think about 3,000 feet of dead soldiers. Ever flown a kite, gotten it out to the standard 500-foot length that kite-string is sold in?

Six of those.

Street Theater:

Street Thespians: Wallace Shawn and lovely lady-friend. They couldn't have been nicer when Xtcfan did a little (entirely merited) fawning. I was sorely tempted to ask him to say that the Iraq War was "Simply In-con-Thieve-able!" into my little pocket recorder, but thought better of it.

Finally, the guy who started it all. After a nice chat over some hot chocolate and pretzels, we all realized that the war was just a big misunderstanding, and and that the troops will be home next week. I was expecting a big jerk, but you know? He was actually a Real Nice Guy. We're gonna have a beer next time I'm in town.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Text for the March

To pursue and ponder, as you tiptoe your way down Pennsylvania Avenue:

Proverbs for Paranoids:
  1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
  2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
  3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
  4. You hide, they seek.
  5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
And this --
It's been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home -- only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.
-- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

I'm Going

I'm really looking forward to the march tomorrow.

I imagine I won't be the only one allowing the parameters of the Topic Under Discussion to expand a bit, if only in my own mind.

I don't think I'm the only one who's allowed a bit too much steam to accumulate over the last five years, the only one who's allowed the War in Iraq to become conflated with the bigotry and anti-intellectualism and smug-assed casual bloodthirstiness and arrogance and cruelty and Hummer-balling, SUV-house-erecting, brown-people-torturing, poor-blaming, flag-waving, ANWR-drilling, wilderness-raping, intelligence-insulting, kleptocratic-tax-cutting, deficit-ballooning, future-generation-impoverishing, crony-enriching, church-state-wall-destroying, evolution-denying, media-oligopoly-conglomerating, treason-accusing, John-Bolton-recess-appointing, academia-slandering, Joe-Wilson-slandering, Richard-Clark-slandering, Paul-O'Neill-slandering, Eric-Shinseki-slandering, Hans-Blix-slandering, Kofi-Annan-slandering, John DiIulio-slandering EVIL of the perpetrators of this war to become all wrapped up together into one burning, white-hot ball of napalm that rages in my stomach and keeps the entire antacid industry in the black.

No, I don't think I'm the only one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Masks We Rent

All right, let's see if I can get this down right.

Yesterday I cited a passage in Sore Winners: American Idols, Patriotic Shoppers and Other Strange Species in George Bush's America, by John Powers. Powers is the film critic at Vogue, editor-at-large of LA Weekly and critic-at-large for NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross." The extract's worth quoting again:
Since the fall of Communism and the rise of centrist Democrats, even the faith in action [among the Left] has largely disappeared. The remnant of the Left is largely defined by patterns of consumption -- which magazines we read and which movies we see -- or by newfangled ideas of organizing -- such as Howard Dean's Internet-grassroots campaign. What passes for the serious Left isn't a set of shared ideas or values attached to a living social movement. It's an audience brought together by big-name freelance "radicals" -- [Michael] Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, and showbiz figures like Susan Sarandon or Martin Sheen. What these folks have in common isn't a vision of the world -- it's fame.
Matt of The Tattered Coat commented that from his reading of the passage he assumed that Powers is a conservative -- but as you can see, his liberal bona fides are pretty impeccable. I don't think Powers' critique is particularly conservative. Let's see if you agree.

Powers isn't the first to point out the fact that political expression has become a series of visual symbols that we acquire and display outward to the world, a mask we rent. The problem first arose, I think, with the emergence of Counterculture as an alternative to Old Left activism. While at first blush a reasonably logical outcome of the Culture Wars of the Sixties, Counterculture became a way to avoid hard work: Instead of the slogging tedium of neighborhood canvassing, union organizing, running for office -- the sort of tedious Melvinism that was referred to sneeringly as working within the System -- it became possible for the intellectually lazy to declare their enmity against the Squares by grabbing a few contentious signifiers and pasting them to their bodies.

At the cost of long-term detriment to its case, for a short vogue around 1970 or so this actually worked. Hardhatted, buttoned-down squares took deep umbrage at the hair, the slovenly clothes, the herbal smell, and freaked out most gratifyingly. I remember quite clearly the offended-hinterland rage that I felt directed at me, at the age of ten, during a family trip from the Degraded East Coast into deepest Minnesota: I had hair approximately as offensive as Danny Partridge's at the time, and a man in a plastic gimme cap had a grand time projecting all kinds of rage onto me at a County Fair. Wow, I remember thinking, those protein strands really got under his skin!

I enjoyed Matt Taibbi's evisceration of the Burning Man Notion in Rolling Stone last week:
Burning Man presents itself as something new and progressive, but in reality it's something old and reactionary: it's the ghost of the Sixties, kept like a castrated, defanged zoo animal in a cage, wallowing wistfully in its own muck. Forty years ago American kids thought they were going to end war, eliminate hunger and seize the reins of the crass commercial society their parents had built. They stormed the hill and came away with a few real victories here and there, but in the end the system swallowed up most of their causes and left them with changes that were mostly cosmetic. Dress however you want. Fuck whoever you want. Take drugs and party. Be yourself. Do your own thing. As for the can leave the hardcore stuff behind, but cling to a few vague principles that cost little or nothing to espouse: tolerance, diversity, a fuzzy environmentalism. The politics that were left at the end of the Sixties were a flimsy cover story for an ideology of adolescent self-centeredness -- an ideology that raised a generation of political sheep, who also happened to be perfect and enthusiastic consumers.
There's that word again: Consumers.

It was of course Tom Frank and his merry band at The Baffler in the early Nineties who shone the laser on the fatuous notion, then fashionable in academia, that the act of consumption of culture is somehow itself inherently rebellious. Their satirical disemboweling of the idea of the Rebel Consumer was righteous to behold. It was a thought that had lain unexpressed in my own mind since about 1980, when I watched the finest expression of my own generation, Punk, become a defanged and denatured parody of itself at the hands of a vengeful fashion industry. It took approximately 14 seconds somewhere near the end of Bobby Lightfoot's 1979, to castrate the Clash. All it took was one slice from Betsey Johnson's razor finger: You will!

You can't change anything by buying something.

You'd be amazed how many people don't know this.

This is what made me so uneasy during the runup to last year's election, when we were all trooping out to watch Fahrenheit 9-11. I was appalled by the people I talked to afterward who told me, hope springing eternal in their breast, that the mere fact that a film had been made that validated their worldview was somehow a telling blow against the Man. I imagined Karl Rove just licking the drool off his lips: Yeah, you fuckin' chumps. Go watch movies. Go make the fat boy rich. Go stuff some more of that packing-peanut popcorn into your maws, fart your complacency into the theater seats. I'll just be over here talking to my most excellent buddy from Diebold....

Allow me to end this back where it started. Now I'd like to give you the first half of Powers' paragraph that sent me down this train of thought:
For all his skill at making pop culture, [Michael] Moore's recent prominence says less about him than about the slow degeneration of the Left, especially the wing that is more liberal, or even radical, than today's Democratic Party. A hundred years ago, the Left took its strength from offering a muscular blend of theory and action. American radicals -- and this included genuine proletarians -- read Marx and Engels to understand the workings of class struggle, the ironclad laws of history. It was considered essential to the Left that its action would be grounded in a coherent social analysis based on the study of history. Over the course of the decades, that faith in theory was lost, and by the 1960s, the New Left was putting the premium on action. I remember how my fellow students sneered at Old Left professors for being all talk -- we were supposed to take to the streets. Since the fall of Communism...
So much water under the bridge.

And at the same time, so little.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Now I Am Ready For Some Football

Washington at Dallas, Monday Night Football.

For those who don't follow these things, this has been a damned frightening 15 years or so for Redsticks fans on Monday nights vs. Dallas. Almost enough to make you put aside your firmly-held skepticism against the Supernatural and believe in jinxes.

Let's see... They're kicking off now. I've got a good feeling about this one.

[10:48, 2:09 into the second half: Dallas scores on a flea-flicker to go up, 10-0. the Skins look like the Harlem Globetrotters' perpetual patsies, the Washington Generals. Jesus, it's a Calvary rooting for this team... Gonna be a long year, I think.)

(11:23: The way Al Michaels becomes a disgusting, slobbering homer for WHOEVER is leading going into the fourth quarter. I could follow him home and slash his tires. If I were some kind of psycho.)


Lordy Lordosis am I sick of sitting around in a codeine fog. I have a followup visit with the surgeon tomorrow and after that, no matter how hard my ass hurts, I'm going to do a half-day at work. Anything to stave off this horrible, soul-sucking, creeping enervated ennui.

Promised Movie Reviews, best to worst:

The Life Aquatic: A fine, quirky, but decidedly minor movie. I don't share many people's high regard for Wes Anderson, but this was quite worth watching. Two codeine-soaked medical recuperations ago (early 2004, rotator cuff repair) I rented "Lost in Translation." I guess being laid up on dope produces some sort of visceral need for Bill Murray's late-period deadpan. But "Translation" was not the movie to watch while you're face to face with evidence of your body's inexorable decline into middle-aged uselessness. Bit too close to the bone.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Why did they take such care to surgically remove all the, you know, jokes? Aren't they rather the point? It's exactly what I predicted would happen. Douglas Adams was an amazingly gifted comic writer with an obsessive's ear for rhythm: Anything resembling carefully balanced verbal humor was simply removed by (I'm sure) writing committees who "polished" the script into complete inanity. That's not what I come to Douglas Adams for. (Found another gem the other night while suffering through the horrors of Colonoscopy Prep: "The Vogons are not above a little graft in the same way that the ocean is not above the clouds." That is why I love Douglas Adams' writing.)

Donnie Darko: I quit three-quarters of the way through. I'm not a fan of science fiction at all -- it's the sort of thing you outgrow in your teens, like Prog Rock or Ayn Rand. Adults who are still impressed with the sort of gee-whiz, what-if thinking that produces a science-fiction plot like Donnie Darko's... Well. We're not going to grow old together. Tangent Universes... Manipulated Dead... Ah, to be sixteen and enjoying my first bong-hit again. While I'm mildly embarrassed to say I share a planet with the writers of Roberta Sparrow's "Philosophy of Time Travel," I'm utterly mortified to admit I belong to the same species as Drew Barrymore.

I Heart Huckabees: Yack-yack-yack-YACK-YACK-YACK-yackety-yackety-yack. Yackety-yackety-yack nihilism. Yack-yack Theravadin Buddhism. Oh, look, they're fucking in a mud puddle -- and not even enjoying it much. Yack-yack Existentialism? Yack-yack Nietzsche! Yack-yack Bell's Theorem, Niels Bohr quantum mechanics, yack Heisenberg, yack Wittgenstein. This thing keeps telling you it's a comedy -- people knock each other over in elevators and punch each other in the face with balloons, so it must be a comedy -- but it's as unfunny as a church drama club reenacting Cheech & Chong routines.

Completely Out of Left Field Dept.:

Have also been reading John Powers' Sore Winners, a survey of the cultural landscape of the Bush Years by LA Weekly's media critic, who is also a film critic at Vogue. He put his finger on something I've been trying to formulate for some time:
Since the fall of Communism and the rise of centrist Democrats, even the faith in action [among the Left] has largely disappeared. The remnant of the Left is largely defined by patterns of consumption -- which magazines we read and which movies we see -- or by newfangled ideas of organizing -- such as Howard Dean's Internet-grassroots campaign. What passes for the serious Left isn't a set of shared ideas or values attached to a living social movement. It's an audience brought together by big-name freelance "radicals" -- [Michael] Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, and showbiz figures like Susan Sarandon or Martin Sheen. What these folks have in common isn't a vision of the world -- it's fame.
This bothers me. Doesn't it bother you? Discuss among yourselves. In your discussions, please consider this month's Theme Statement: Blogging provides a comfortable illusion of activism. In fact, it is no such thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

On the Power of Visual Narrative

Life Its Own Self sometimes does better than any old comical strip.

[Later edit: Dammit, the punch line is Photoshopped, thanks Devil's Rancher. Ugh, I just hate getting gulled like that.]

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pantone 368, a Symbol of Growth

Seems there's some embarrassed throat-clearing down at Quark World Headquarters these days. Their trumpeted unveiling of a new logo and visual identity, meant (in the press release's words) "to signal that the company is leaping forward into the future of creative communications," has instead signaled a leap forward into the future of trademark-infringement, as the new logo bears an astonishing resemblance to that of the Scottish Arts Council, whose logo has been public since February of 2001:

In his dreary workaday life, your Ned toils not a million miles away from the sort of people whose job it is to impress corporate-communications bods (and especially, oh dear me yes, each other) with the sort of verbal tohu-bohu that sells corporate-identity design to gullible SVPs of marketing. I've managed to put a nicely unbridgeable moat between us, and so it's only with the warmest nostalgia and a gratifying sense of better-you-than-me, that I read this, from the Quark press release:
According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, renowned color psychologist, and author of five books on color, “PANTONE 368 was the perfect choice for an innovative company such as Quark. This yellow green, a symbol of growth, is invigorating and revitalizing, and breathes new life into a brand, in addition to drawing attention to it. By embracing this color for its new logo, Quark is giving its customers the connotation of the continuing growth of ideas and concepts, and that it is on the edge of new technologies.”
(Still trying to parse that last clause. Failing.)

Think of it, children: Only a world drowning under Himalayas of festering bullshit would confer prosperity on a "renowned color psychologist" who has authored five -- five! -- books on color, a person capable of uttering, without a hint of shame, howling inanities like "Pantone 368...[gives Quark's] customers the connotation of the continuing growth of ideas and concepts...." Yes, my naive and uninitiated friends, there are actually people who are paid very well indeed to shovel horseshit of this magnitude. And you thought Paris Hilton was a waste of carbon.

This Quark imbroglio does remind me, though, of an incident I was lucky enough to watch from the sidelines many years ago. The company I worked for, a small three-letter Beltway Bandit that reached liquidity during the Reagan Yard Sale of the mid-Eighties, decided the logo that had been hand-drawn by the CEO back when the company had consisted of three employees and a typewriter, needed a complete rethink. A gang of cutpurses from Rockville was hired -- the question of by whom, exactly, caused many a finger-pointing exercise later on -- but hired they were.

In the late Eighties, these people were still an absolute novelty. They filled their offices with plush toys and beanbags, flew gliders and Frisbees about the place, and encouraged barefoot brainstorming sessions on the floor of their cushion-strewn common areas. I participated in a few of these things, gaining just enough experience to inculcate a grudging admiration of their snake-oil skills while giving in to a growing conviction that the company's Corporate Communications office was paying through the nose for expert flim-flammery.

After long and stunningly expensive consultation, this is (approximately) the logo we were given:

Hmmm, we thought. "Equals PDQ." "Nothing Equals PDQ." By principle of inversion, "PDQ Equals Nothing."

No-no-no-no! Everything Equals PDQ! Expand your mind! Don't be so closed!


The CEO of PDQ (by the way, Not Its Real Name), a Jewish gentleman of skeptical bent, thought he detected something wrong with that equals-sign bug. Something, you might say, spoke to some sort of Racial Memory -- can't quite put a finger on it, but... Better do the Due Diligence, he thought wisely. Asked for a trademark search.

Oops! Yikes! Jinkies! Boomps-a-daisy!

The...Austrian...flag. Oh, dearohdearohdearohdear.

Bullshit artists.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On the Dignity of Honest Labor

An Anonymous Friend writes:
My very first paying job was cleaning [procto]scopes after use (along with all other manner of medical-surgical equipment...the skin graft scraper-thing-ey was by far the worst). Now, whenever I find myself in a round of "who here among us has had the worst job" I nearly always win. It's the job that keeps on paying.
Since your Pappy is laid up with the rheumatizz, and since Old Doc Johnson done shot him fulla that crazy-talk nerve-medicine, our usual fiddle-faddlin' around with solvin' the troubles of the world and spittin' baccy-juice in the direction of Town Hall is forthwith suspended until further notice, and Pappy's gonna indulge in a mite o' reminiscing.

No, Nonny (nonny, nonny nonny hey no), although your World's Worst Job bar-bet winner is impressive, and is certain to place you dizzyingly high on the list of history's Suspected Typhoid Marys, for sheer dehumanizing humiliation you'd be hard pressed to top the $2.35/hour number that Your Pal Ned scored himself in the halcyon summer of 1979.

[Breaking News: Wonder Woman just whooped with laughter in the next room. She explained that some airhead on the local evening forecast had had a slip of the tongue: "Katrina victims are starting to return to their homes, and President Bush is back on the golf course -- GULF COAST..."]

Back to the raconte: The son of a US diplomat in Madrid, home on summer holiday from a fairly prestigious US institute of higher learning, it may have been in the cards that your boy needed taking down a peg or two. While I do come from plain Midwestern bourgeois stock, I also have to admit that my Foreign-Service-Brat childhood didn't exactly lack for creature comforts. Yes, it was painful tearing up roots every three or four years, but when the roots are in European and South American capitals, it would be churlish to carp.

But though the Gummint paid for my holiday travel home and my parents' housing and other expenses, it didn't mean that I had an unlimited fund to draw from for beer and cigarettes at school. That sort of thing, it was decided, should be earned through the honest sweat of one's brow rather than just bestowed. So, grumbling, I applied to the Embassy for a summer job. They had a program just for dip-kid punks like me -- keeping us out of trouble on the Mean Streets of Alcalá and Plaza Cibeles, I suppose. So it was that they gave me to the Embassy grounds crew. Here, they said. Find him something to do.

Now, these were very decent guys. Salt-of-the-earth Spaniards they were, chorizo sandwiches, olives and watered wine for lunch. Bicycled to work from the west side of town. Blue coveralls, vivid, filthy vocabularies. It helped with them that I spoke pretty fluent Spanish, and I think they were amused by my Chileno accent and my refusal to use the ceceo (which to my New World ears even now sounds pretty mariconao). My effect on them must have been about like that of a Belgian kid in Manhattan who speaks with a proud Australian accent.

I had two gardener overseers: Don Rodrigo, who possessed ample seniority, and Juan Felipe. Don Rodrigo was nominally JuanFe's boss, and he reserved the more intellectually challenging tasks of gardening to himself -- the bed-planning, the topiary, the budgeting. The younger man had Ambitions and Aspirations, and he plainly chafed at his subordinate position and the more physical jobs he had to do. It was JuanFe's task to find something useful for me to do each day.

This was to prove a problem.

In order to give me tasks, JuanFe had to carve off some of his own duties, his own daily round. And since he resented his lack of seniority, he certainly wasn't inclined to allow me to be seen doing labor that qualified as "skilled" in any way.

So during the first week, he worked out how to foist the most time-consuming and menial jobs onto his charge. Any leaf-sweeping, pool-skimming, or trimmings-raking that JuanFe considered beneath his dignity, became mine. These I did with aplomb, because I knew this, too, would end. Hell, two-thirty-five an hour! That ain't chicken-feed!

In the second week, JuanFe finally worked out how to save his prestige. He told me one morning (we both knew as soon as he said it that it was a baldfaced lie) that the Embassy's one mechanical water sprinkler had broken, and it was time for everybody to step up and pitch in. This, of course, meant that it was time for me to step up, etc. He impressed on me how vitally important it was to achieve even moisture distribution, to carefully gauge the sunlight so the sun wouldn't focus itself through new droplets and burn the grass, to estimate the number of hours it had been since the last watering (hint: you use your watch).

Which is how it came to pass that I became the Official Deputy Assistant Emergency Back-up to the Mechanical Lawn Sprinkler of the United States Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Spanish Crown in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy Nine. JuanFe shook my hand. Enhorabuena, hijo. You've scored one against the machines!

For the next nine weeks, that became the sum total of what I did for a living. Arrive, 9 ante meridiem. Water, by hand, carefully and painstakingly, leaving no spot unmoistened, the three-acre front lawn of the US Embassy until lunch. After lunch, sprinkle the back lawn and the grounds surrounding the US Ambassador's Residence. By hand. Until the whistle blew.

Best lesson in economics I ever had.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thanks to All!

Procedure went swimmingly. I'm back home and feeling quite fine, all things considered. Docs said that not only is actual-factual not-a-joke ass-cancer not in the picture, but that the colonoscopy was so clean that I don't need another one for ten years. I'll post scans of the printout tomorrow. (And monkeys will subsequently fly out of the aperture depicted.)

Think I'll take up cigarettes.

Despite the glowing 'scope report, I'm still sporting a pretty impressive bandage. The original not-ass-cancer needed to be excised, and thanks to my man, it's gone, gone, gone.

I do reserve a special ring of Jingo Hell for the Jonas Salk who came up with the bright idea of cleansing the bowel for scoping, which essentially consists of artificially inducing the symptoms of dysentery for 18 tormented hours. Among the several things that I'm desperately short of right now, electrolytes and sleep number prominently.

Thanks to everybody for your sympathetic and funny words. I'm humbled by your kindness.

For the convalescence, I've rented some flicks that I missed in the theaters:
  • Downfall, starring Hugo Ganz. Desperation in the Führerbunker. Got raves, all kinds of honors. So of course I missed it.

  • Donnie Darko, the Director's Cut. Nope. Never seen it. Something about a guy and a big rabbit. The anti-Harvey. We'll see.

  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The tufty-chinned dork at Blockbuster told me this was the worst film he'd seen this year. I asked him to recommend a better one. He came up with Monsters-in-Law. Ah. Thanks. I'll stick with this one, I think.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Yeah, I razzed it sight unseen. And I was probably right. During the Long Dark Teatime of Scope Prep, while I sweated and strained with junkie-cramps and shaking sweats, the tome that kept me sane was The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Cover to cover. I'll give the damned movie a chance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Other Shoe

The other shoe is about to drop from the Ass-Cancer Incident of last month. The Man with the Knife is comin' tomorry for that ass-cancer, and it's slice-a-ma-dice time for old Captain TMI.

I'm going to be laid up for a few days in a dreamy haze of painkillers. I think it's more than a little sick that I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.

The good news: I write real crazy on Vicodin.

(PS, friends and relatives: It's not actually ass-cancer. That's a gallows-humor deal. What it is, is just...

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed an addition to the Jingo Blogroll: phronesisiacal has joined the Happy Few in the Right Intention category.

This gink is so French your teeth will hurt. You'll want to start sucking on Gauloises and rotten milk-curds until you reject the European Union constitution. That's how French this cat is.

My kinda people.

Wait'll you get the OED out and figure out what "phronesisiacal" actually means. You'll stop showering and shaving your armpits, is what you'll do. You'll eat cheese that smells like feet. You'll surrender to Germany.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bobby Hit Me with that Fender Rhodes

Bobby Lightfoot is the finest musician you've never heard in your life.

I know you pick Bobby out of my Blogroll and zip off to read him, knowing you're going to find some of the most left-field, angry, borderline psychotic -- and piss-your-pants-funny -- ranting you've ever come across. He is sui generis.

What you probably don't know is that Bobby is also an utterly mind-bogglingly skilled poet, songwriter, arranger, singer, and instrumentalist. This is a side he chooses not to show you. You wouldn't expect levelheaded sanity out of old "I'm going to start killing you at stoplights," would you?

Well, guess what.

Here are a few of Bobby's musical confections, for your perusal and delectation. He's going to put up more, to keep things fresh, but for the moment, these four tunes should keep you interested:

I think these are some of the finest, maturest, most clear-eyed, musicianly songs you're going to hear this or any other year. Influences range from Stevie Wonder to Brian Wilson to Steely Dan to late Andy Partridge, and the things he does with voice-leading and chord coloration are as accomplished and assured as Bert Bacharach in his prime. I shit you not, Jackson.

Welcome to this balanced, brilliantly sane, and astonishingly talented musician.

Freedom = Sterility

From today's Washington Post (who should be good and ashamed of themselves for ever touching this idiotic thing with a ten-foot barge pole):
The [Freedom] march, sponsored by the Department of Defense [and, RIP Katharine Graham, not the Washington Post, they do not add], will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.
Interesting word, that. Sterile.

We think that means "free of germs," maybe, or "cleansed" or "disinfected." That's obviously the sense in which Ms. Barber is using the word, as police and crowd-control jargon. Let's leave aside the slanderous implication that anyone who might not wish to join this festival for Embarrassing White People (Clint Black, anyone? How many fans does ol' Clint enjoy among the evacuees of New Orleans?) is a potential source of sepsis.

But actually the dictionary, font of far more Everlasting Wisdom than any -- that's any -- other book, Good or otherwise, reveals an interesting subtlety. My desk Webster's Ninth gives two major senses for "sterile."

The first sense is of barrenness: "failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring, fruit, or spores." Well, we know the Embarrassing White People reproduce like hamsters, so the parade route won't be sterile in that sense -- unless you use the word metaphorically, where for "offspring" you read "anything of value." That might apply.

I think the second sense works better here: "Unproductive of vegetation, free from living organisms and esp. microorganisms." Yes, that's the ticket. Free of life. I think sense c) offers the most applicable definition:

Lacking in stimulating emotional or intellectual quality.

Let's see: Meet at the Pentagon; marshal the protection of the entire force of the Park Police of Washington, DC, on foot, on horseback, and in helicopters; march around Washington with 3,000-10,000 of your Embarrassing White People brethren through a parade route demarcated by razor wire and snow fencing that is characterized approvingly by its organizers as sterile; to watch a concert put on by one of several hundred indistinguishable Nashville jingoes* that will be capped by a song titled with a pun so fucking moronic I can't even bring myself to type it;** all of which is meant to buttress the most deadly lie ever told to the American people by its leader.

Yeah, that's sterile, all right.

I want to know the answer to something I haven't seen asked in the paper: What the hell are these people afraid of? Are they at this point in US history seriously going to try to convince us they're afraid of a terrorist attack? Really? Or is it something else they want to keep out?

Could it be the, you know, infectious?

*(I've stopped trying to tell them apart, and just lump them all together as "some asshole in a cowboy hat" -- Dwight Yoakam being the sole exception: Dwight Yoakam: Not an asshole, despite the cowboy hat)

**"Iraq and Roll." I can copy and paste it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Rueful Confession

It is with no small measure of self-reproach and a gnawing sense of having failed my country, my family and my God, that I stand before America and confess, with great shame in my heart...

I Am Not Ready for Some Football.

There. It's out. I've said it. Let the Healing Begin.

Support Your Local Police

If you read only one article about the treatment of the poor and black victims of Katrina in New Orleans, this is the one you should read. Written by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky (respectively chief shop steward and steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790), who were in town for a conference and became trapped in the aftermath of Katrina.

These people know from rescue efforts.
We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and other people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads....

So I Just Killed and Ate My Grandmother

(Program Note: If you are an Israeli who has arrived at this post through a Google search on the phrase "When in the courfe of human events," please read this post and tell me what on earth you're up to.)

In a world far, far away and a time long passed into the mists of Yore (a small town in New Hampshire), I was a copy editor at an ultrafamous publishing company whose name I will disguise here as Satan and Shyster. Believing that this extremely junior position conferred on me by default the authority of decades of learning, I delighted in playing the role of Mister Language Person with friends and family, correcting dangling participles and split infinitives in their casual speech and writing with the benign assholery that can be displayed by only the most truly pedantic fuckwit.

I was saving the world from Poor Language, what can I say? That's good, isn't it?

Now in calmer early middle age, I've managed to find within myself the strength to forebear irritating those around me. I can now simply make myself

This usually works -- but I'm cursed constantly to have* a bell inside my head that goes klonnnnnggggg whenever a grammatical solecism, trite phrase, or poorly constructed sentence wallows into view. Sometimes I get a headache from it.

All of which serves to explain the gentle ringing between my ears in a meeting at work a few weeks ago. When asked to explain a particularly strange design request, the young representative of the Department of Strange Requests mentally cleared his throat by issuing a meditative "So..." and then finally rid himself of the explanation: "...Marketing would like to see blah-de-blah..."

(At this point I invariably go happily to Dreamland and a muted trombone takes over the sound of the speech. Nobody should have to actually pay attention to that -- Shit sorrysorrysorry -- Nobody should actually have to pay attention....)

This would have been only a tiny event, certainly not worth noting here, but since that one little throat-clearing "So..." a trickle has become the Thames. Everyone I meet is suddenly starting every goddamned sentence with a completely irrelevant and grammatically unnecessary "So." My bell is clanging like Notre Dame.

Have any of the rest of you noticed this?

"So pass me the salt, please?"

"So do you know what speed you were going, sir?" ("So you're the fast one around here, pig, why don't you tell me?")

"So when in the courfe of human events it becomes neffefary for one people..."

"So four score and seven years ago..."

"So now is the winter of our discontent turned glorious summer..."

What, to employ a trite phrase, the fuck is up with that?

*See? See?

Sovereign Sarcasm

Billmon, on The War on the Weather:
But worst of all, we'd have to listen to Shrub strut and shout about how he's going to "smoke Katrina out of her seahole," and "bring the evildoer to justice" -- only to turn around a few months later and explain that he isn't really concerned about hurricanes any more, now that the entire U.S. miltary is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


"New Orleans in George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. The only difference is that tens of thousands of people didn't die in ML's vagina."
-- Jon Stewart

Asphalt & Vinyl

A few days back I hinted that Katrina and her aftermath weren't the only things causing psychic tsuris chez Jingo. Now I've calmed down enough to talk about it.

My tiny little corner of Loudoun County was once a truly rural place -- one of the last remaining rural spots in Eretz Washington, DC. When I moved here last year I was proud not to have caused a home to be built out here. Instead we moved into an existing home, increasing the pressure on poor Loudoun by a factor of precisely zero.

There is in the American breast a shame in buying something somebody else has already owned. I remember the first time I heard the term "used house," somewhere back in the late Eighties: It was a the husband of a friend of Wonder Woman's, a man not given, let's say, to deep introspection. He had just bought, in the sarcastically named Countryside, what was at the time a rather magnificent house -- but one that in today's absurdly (clownishly! comically!) inflated architectural fashion would be considered pretty modest -- and he convulsed with horror at the idea of moving into a "used house." Someone else's germs might crawl on the toilet seat, the very thought!

This White Flight attitude -- that one must without exception buy new and farther out -- has led to a situation in my little corner that is ripe for conflagration.

We have on the one hand the newly arrived, who live in (I'm sorry, but it's true) ridiculously grandiose boxes less than a year old made of warping two-by-fours, Tyvek insulation, and vinyl siding on three sides. Brick fronts boast such a degraded sense of vernacularity that Queen Anne gables crown Georgian fan windows over Federal porticoes, vinyl skirts ersatz chimney stacks, false gables create the ego-inflating impression of yet more house. These ridiculous piles, sited in relation to the road rather than natural factors like southern light, seasonal winds or natural snowdrift patterns, sit with their windowless sides turned blindly against some of Virginia's most beautiful views. And of course, not a tree or bush or blade of native ryegrass shades these idiot-boxes that bake in the September sun while running three heat pumps to cool them enough for habitation.

The "used houses" around here -- the ones that preceded White Flight -- tend to tuck themselves away, back in the woods away from the elements, modest in scale, situated according to the wisdom of those who lived much more intimately with the weather than we do now. Many of them have been here for 200 years and even more. Many a wing or bedroom or cookhouse or outbuilding is made of logs that predate Valley Forge.

A very good indicator of the nature of the growing conflict came when I was doing some neighborhood canvassing this weekend. Someone in one of the Vinyl Homes expressed surprise that my home even existed: "You mean, there are houses back there? I've never looked!"

Terrific. You've lived here a year and you've never once had the intellectual curiosity to drive past your piss-elegant subdivision entrance to see what else you share a planet with. Boy, I sure do love you.

Well, what's giving me heartburn, then, is that the People of the Vinyl want to get our tiny little gravel road paved. The tiny gravel road is one I spoke about in this post. The same road down which John Mobberly led remnants of the 35th Virginia to attack Gen. Devin's Sixth New York on the night of January 17th, 1865, as he entertained local loyalist claimants for recompense for General Sheridan's Burning Raid of 1864.

They've submitted a petition to the local government, utterly mendaciously claiming that it represented the consensus of the neighborhood. The Virginia Department of Transportation has issued an edict that says that the response to the petition -- despite the petitioners' explicit request to the contrary -- will be to emplace a 30-foot-wide road (if not the 44-foot-wide model), taking farmland to straighten curves, killing countless ancient oak trees and destroying 250-year-old stone farmers' walls.

All for the privilege of driving 35 MPH instead of a dusty 25 MPH.

That's what's got me a trifle upset, these days.

That, and of kourse, Katrina.

So the last few days I've been actively reminding myself just how much dead bear I blow as a door-to-door canvasser. Standing on porches, soliciting signatures on a counterpetition, trying hard to "make the sale"and failing completely. My first job out of college was with NYPIRG, and I quit before I was fired. I just couldn't make poor people give me money. And now, I just can't force fence-sitters to just sign the goddamned petition. Even when their quality of life, the future value of their homes, the safety of their roads, is at stake. I suck.

I'm a lot better at whining.

Long Weekend Roundup

FUH1, actually, today. An excellent score. How's that $3.75/gallon gas workin' for ya?


Hoo-WEE -- check out all them dead Republicans! Got your Haley Barbour right there, lying on top of Dick Cheney cheek by jowl with Condoleezza Rice who's making Trent Lott's life uncomfortable while Phyllis Schlafly crushes the life out of Jeb Bush....

Well, no.

That's Freddie Jingo offering a sense of scale to the five-foot-tall pile of weeds we pulled out of the vegetable beds and various flower beds around Jingo Acres this weekend. But given the marvelous human capacity for transference, that pile of pokeberry, wild strawberry, thistle and milkweed becomes an epic mount -- a Tower of Babel -- of rage, of Channeled Anger.

You want to fuck up the New Orleans rescue effort? [yank!] Aaaaaall right, [yank!] then, I've got your motherfuckin [yank!] blag-slabbering [yank!] slap-grabble right fuckin' here, [yank!] you pissant profiteer slap-flacking [yank!] cock-grapplin' namin'-to-FEMA-some-cushy-patronage-asshole-incompetent, glab-flagglers! George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People!!! [Yank!]

Jolly fun, and so soul-cleansing.

I reserve my tenderest thoughts, though, for this guy (via Wolcott). Ach, du lieber Gott what a spectacular asshole. What a ripe, febrile, incandescent, well-lit asshole, caulked to the brim with healthful and delicious lime! You simply must spend some leisure time perusing his Take on Reality: "Crypto-Fascist" only begins to describe the wares on display; what you got here is a Comment-editing True Believer. Prick him and he doth bleed. I'd heartily recommend the prickage. Mercy sakes, is he entertaining!

Christ on a unicycle with a tray of martinis, I ask you: someone actually looked at this graphic and thought to himself: Fuck me, what a great header that would make for my blog!

This man has never been laid in his life.

He may actually have fucked something; he may once have buried his barely tensile tallywacker in something soft and wet; he may well have sired some terribly unfortunate progeny somewhere -- but he has never once in his cobwebby life made love to anything. Not so much as a brick wall with a hole drilled in it. Dear God, what a self-important, pompous, pompous, pompous asshole.

Monday, September 05, 2005

dear god


Strength, Simon. I'm trying with every fiber of my being to send you some. Can I fax it? Email you some? Can it be wrapped up in a PDF document, a ZIP file? Sent to your account by File Transfer Protocol?

Strength, Simon. Please find herein, and know that everyone who knows you wants you back with us.

What a world.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Smokin' Hot Mantis Porn

While out in the garden today, slaughtering an enormous pile of cocksuckin' Republican weeds (photo posted tomorrow; quite an impressive pile!), I noticed that my asparagus ferns, once liberated from the creepers that had overwhelmed them, harbored a rather impressive number of praying mantises. Out of concern for the public weal I would not ordinarily call attention to the licentiousness on display, but the thoroughly unChristian lubricity of these creatures needs to be pointed out.

The female's head turned toward me just as I focused the picture as if to say, "What the fuck are you looking at, pervert?"

I kinda wanted to warn the dude about some of the stories I'd heard about postcoital moodiness among the females of his species, but you know what? If getting laid means she's gonna bite your head off, I kinda think it's worth it....

I mean, speaking entirely as a male, you understand....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Save Me

Ordinarily I detest blog posts that simply point to other blog posts, without adding anything of any use.

But these are not ordinary times. I'm tired, I'm deeply depressed -- the result of a three-day-long wallow in Vituperative Vindication -- and I've been screaming at my windshield all day. Such a state of mind isn't conducive to urbane observations or nuanced reasoning. And so instead I'm gonna use the magnificent Steve Gilliard as my crutch and look forward to a return to my usual equanimity after I've kicked the living shit out of the goddamned miserable motherfucking Conservo-Wank weeds that inhabit my vegetable patch and the cocksucking Neocon invaders that infest my perennial bed, choking out my zinnias and peonies. They Shall Bear the Full Brunt of My Anger.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the barest, paper-thinnest wall prevents me from slashing the tires of the next fucking vehicle that drives into my purview.

I'll explain later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Submitted Without Comment

What can I say?

From Editor & Publisher, extracted at Yahoo! News (emphasis mine):
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the
spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming....Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."...