Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Not Dead

But damned close.

Medical Science has determined it's an ear infection, not Avian Flu, that's keeping me prostrate, and now I'm armed with my pals Deacon Gestant and Annie Biotic I should in no time be up and as fit as that paragon of salutary well-being, a fiddle.

Welcome, visitors from Stackitivist and beyond. Poke around in the Archives, have fun. That's about all I have the strength for today.

Smell you later.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Avian Flu: A Query

Is one symptom of the Avian Flu the inescapable impression that, no matter what building you're in, the heating ducts are throbbing out of phase, causing a low-level fluttering bass hum in your ears? Accompanied by an achy neck and an ineluctible desire to sleep, sleep, sleep until you either arise recovered or they carry you out of the room on a mortician's gurney?

I've also started clucking gently and scratching at the ground -- wonder what that means.

You might want to wash your hands thoroughly with carbolic soap after reading this post.

Unclean! Unclean!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Our Harvest Being Gotten In

Thanksgiving, 2005

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

-- Edward Winslow, recounting the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving, Mourt's Relation

As Madeline and I drove up through the Emerald City-like gate to the private driveway, I had an overwhelming realization: Buck was sick rich like nobody I'd ever seen before. I felt like one of the nuns who vomited when witnessing the disparity between the Papa Doc Duvalier palace and the mud shacks of the Haitian poor.

-- Cintra Wilson, A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque Crippling Disease

In the two years since they moved into their voluminous 8,000-square-footer on the edge of Virginia's suburbs, the Bennett family has not once used their formal dining room, where the table is eternally set for eight with crystal, an empty tea set and two unlighted candles.

-- Stephanie McCrummen,
Washington Post Staff Writer, "Taste for Space Is Spawning Mansions Fit for a Commoner: Hot Housing Market Opens Doors to Mini-Taj Mahals" Washington Post, November 20, 2005

"Oh my fucking god."

-- Neddie Jingo, on a casual drive this morning, taking photographs of a neighborhood in the western suburbs of Leesburg, Virginia

Not even guests use the palmy, bamboo morning room beyond it; and the museum-like space Bonnie Bennett calls the Oriental Room -- all black lacquer and inlaid pearl, fur, satin and swirling mahogany -- is also gloriously superfluous.

"It's kind of stupid, because we never sit in here," said Bennett, 32, who bought the largest house she could for the investment.

But she carried around a crumpled photo of the furniture for eight years, and now that she has space for it, she admires it as others might a work of art.

"It's just me," she said.

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

Meanwhile, in Dranesville, Waterford Custom Homes has found a niche building what sales director Debra King, 47, calls "affordable mansions for regular people" in the $2 million-to-$4 million range.

To advertise, King and her husband, Michael Iacovacci II, built their own 14,000-square-foot home on Route 7 near the Loudoun County border, a formidable cultured-stone mansion with turrets and fountains and iron gates with roaring black lions.

Inside, the foyer soars three stories to a small dome that is being painted with cherubs but is now just chubby heads floating in a cloud of blue.

Iacovacci, 42, a down-to-earth man who recently threw a party for 100 people with a full orchestra, thinks it's a gas.

"Look in here!" he said, waving toward the dining room and its reproduction of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. "You ever seen seating for 20?!"

They figured that their house, which is still under construction, would represent the high end of what people wanted -- until a client recently requested a 23,000-square-foot rambler, a size approaching that of the Taj Mahal, which is about 35,000 square feet.

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

There was a palm-studded island sculpted out of textured cement around the ultra-blue waters of Buck's vast, many-laned, cloverleaf-interchange-esque swimming arena. You could almost see the ghostly echoes of past poolside action in your third eye: women with 13-inch waists in vinyl G-strings and breasts the size of speaker cabinets discussing pilot options, ooutrageously bombed on hunger and Chardonnay and vitamin B and the kind of screaming pink self-loathing that burns supersonically through all psyches in L.A. like a dated racing stripe.

-- Cintra Wilson

There are two exits from this Gilded Ghetto; both empty directly out onto Route 7, which is one of the busiest highways in the United States. To go in the eastward direction (toward Washington and their jobs), people leaving this neighborhood have to cross the westbound lane and merge eastbound. During rush hour this must be simply impossible. There are no breaks in the traffic. You drive past at 8 AM; queues of Hummers ten deep wait in vain for a break in traffic, gallons of gas burning away as they idle fruitlessly. One is tempted to salute them with a finger. Or worse.

-- Neddie Jingo

"We have a media room in the basement, a pool table and a moon bounce, so I don't have to take the kids out and fight traffic," said Skinner, 32, a former art director who lives there with her husband; their two children; and, at times, family and friends who come on weekends. "We enjoy it more when the kids come here and play. Specifically, I'm weird, but I'm supersensitive to the kids getting snatched. Like at Chuck E. Cheese, I have to constantly watch them." --

Washington Post, Ibid.

Did you catch that? A moon bounce in the basement, so she doesn't have to worry about her kid getting snatched at Chuck E. Cheese.

-- Neddie Jingo

As the Psihases saw it, moving into a bigger house was not something to be questioned, but something to be accepted, an axiom of American life.

"Bigger bigger, better better," Georgia Psihas said. "It's just a part of life."

And one that builders understand very well.

In Orlando, workers are busy finishing up the New American Dream Home, the showpiece of the annual national conference of home builders.

It will be 9,506 square feet, a place Alex Hannigan, the builder, calls "an all-about-me home."

It has a guest wing, five fireplaces, three laundries, a hobby room, an elevator, a spa, a home theater, a summer kitchen, a chandelier lift -- not things that the average American can necessarily afford at the moment, Hannigan said.

But, he added, "we figured we'd make this home in keeping with where our country's going."

-- Washington Post, Ibid.

"For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned by true reports."

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

All photographs taken by me this morning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Grilled Banana

Wanna know what made the Beatles so goddamned untouchable in 1965? Huh? Wanna?

'Cos even the throwaway tunes, what they called the "work songs," the written-to-order knockoffs, had these amazing little bits and pieces that still even now sound perfectly artificed, brilliantly contrived, conjured out of gossamer by some musical god made flesh, daring, challenging, perfectly strange and strangely perfect.

Take this slick little honey of a tune: "You're Going to Lose That Girl." (Edit: Link streams the tune in a new window; read and listen!)

Lyrically, we're clearly in Young Lennon Country, pre-Yoko, a place where women are possessions to be fought over, won and lost, and all men potential rivals. In a way, it's a mirror piece to "She Loves You"; this time the news being delivered from one man to another is a warning not an affirmation. Lennon's rough voice, fattened by double-tracking, alternates with mocking echoes from the other two singers (Paul high, George low), sounding slightly menacing, aggrieved. He goes high into head voice on the word "lose," foreshadowing the Amazing Moment to come.

Harmonically, it's pretty interesting in the early stages. We're going E-G#-F#min-B7 in the verse (I-iii-ii-V7), with only one chord changing in the chorus: The G#min becomes a C#min, changing the progression to a more classic I-vi-ii-V7. It's that F# minor that interests us here, first because it's a substitute for the subdominant A (use A major instead of F# minor and the chorus becomes the simplest doo-wop progression, which the Beatles scrupulously eschewed until they parodied it in "Happiness Is a Warm Gun") -- but also because it will act as a pedal point for the utterly wonderful key change that begins the middle eight. That's the BeatleMoment in this tune, the little detail that rose these guys over any of their contemporaries and will be the reason people listen to them two hundred years from now.

I mentioned Lennon going high on the word "lose"; the second time he does this, it triggers the sparkling key change, pivoting on the F# minor to an ambiguous D major chord, which turns out, after a moment of utterly delicious tension, to be the dominant of the new key, G. I've raved about it before, and no doubt will continue to bore people with it until I shuffle off this Strawberry Field, but when you assemble your song and lyrics so that the most important word in the song -- in this case "lose" -- is also the pivot-point for a key change as unspeakably deft as this one... Well.

That, my friends, is songcraft.

But it goes on. Notice the vocal texture change in the middle eight: Instead of the derisive call-and-response of the main body of the song, we get block harmonies, gang singing. And what's the difference lyrically in the middle eight? Our hero has gone from warning his friend that if he's not careful his girl will leave him, to "I'll make a point/Of taking her away from you!" Now it becomes plain: The girl ain't just leaving; he's taking her. So why wouldn't he want, at this point, to be backed up by his gang singing along with him? The point at which his aggressive intentions are revealed, he recruits a solid group to do his talking.

And getting back to E! Oh, my god! Getting back to E! "The way you treat her, what else can I dooooo?" He visits a third key, C, for the sole purpose of introducing that F (C's subdominant) under "dooooo," which slides unctuously, viscously, like a grilled banana into a bucket of corn syrup, one half step back to the home key. Unnnnnnnggghhhhh....

Help! has been unfairly stigmatized as a transitional album. Well, OK, certainly transitional it is, but in so many ways it's a high-water mark as well: It's Lennon/McCartney at the height of their powers as the sort of commercial tunesmiths who could knock out a guaranteed pop hit pretty much without breaking a sweat. By this point in their careers, they had the unutterable luxury of being able to regard something as sparkly and shiny and streamlined and novel as the middle eight key-change in "You're Going to Lose That Girl" as a knockoff, a commodity, a deliverable, to use the au courant word. They would go on from here to their period of experimentation and the resulting gradual dissipation; never again would they be as effortless as this.

Historical Authenticity Dept.: Check out the terrible, horrible, no-good ski-boots George is wearing in this pic:

Do you think that perhaps your legs might be a tad sore after a day spent with them chopping relentlesly at your anklebone? Now: When did the sport of skiing really take off as something people other than International Playboys did in Gstaad? I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that those boots, completely lacking in calf support and thus affording absolutely no control over either pitch or yaw of the ski, kept the sport of skiing in the Stem-Christie Doldrums until the Lange company introduced the high-backed boot in the early Seventies, bringing on the era of Avalement, making possible the elegant and graceful bump-skiing we practice today. How do I know this? I learned to ski in boots exactly like the ones George is wearing in this pic, and I remember as clear as yesterday the terror I felt of the slightest bump or irregularity in the piste. After I got me a pair of high-backed Lange boots about 1974, the difference in my skiing was unimaginable -- I hopped over moguls like a little puff-coated Slinky. As world-changing in their way as the short surfboard or the jack-rabbit-ball, those Lange boots. When did people start Hot-Dog Skiing? 1974, yessir. All in the boots.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What's the Frequency, Brad?

The things that go on, right below the Surface, at only one remove from Ordinary Life...

I walk past this graffito each morning at work. It's on the concrete wall of the stairway that leads from the parking garage into the building proper. It's scrawled at eye height in pencil, maybe three or four inches tall -- I've put my finger in the photo to give it some scale.

It appears to be a curly right bracket, with the middle peak circled, with a line pointing at the circled area and labeled "Brad."

What is being signified here? At first glance it would appear to say that Brad is to be found at the pointy part of the bracket, but what does that mean? Bracket...bracket... Income bracket? The thing that closes an algebraic aggregation? A pair of shots fired (as in front of and beyond a target) to aid in determining the exact distance from gun to target (Webster's Ninth)? Look out, Brad!

The more I ponder it, the less I like Brad's chances. Being declared to be on the pointy part of anything is never good, and when mysterious and unseen and apparently deeply malicious messengers put your name up on a public wall in such a mystifying but vaguely threatening context, you may think about throwing in the towel and Surrendering Completely to the Forces that beset you and everything you love...

See this thing, right here, the pointy part of this thing, the part that looks like it would really really hurt if it poked you in the eye? Well that's where you are, Brad old sport, that's where you are to be found, and there ain't a goddamned thing you or anybody seeing this can do about it... And I'm putting it up right here so eeeeeeverybody who walks by will know at a glance just how deep the shit is you're enmired in today, Brad-me-lad, so don't do pissing and crying to Mommy or the cops or the Feds -- cause ain't a single one of 'em gonna believe you, chum. They're aaaaall gonna think Well, there goes Brad, poor bastard, just another victim of the Crazy Shit that takes ten-fifteen good people and true every day in this city alone, what can you do about it, there's nothing you can do....

It's be nice to think that Brad was on the peak of something, instead of sitting his sore ass on the pointy, hurty end of the bracket, yeah, that'd be optimistic, wouldn't it. Let's go with that. Brad: He's on top of things! He's a winner!

Nah, I just can't see it.

I can' t help thinking Brad's a victim here, a fellow tormented soul, another kindred spirit that The Con got its deadly meathooks into, the perennial schlub who can't stay out of the way of Vast International Conspiracies that pencil his name into Death's Dance-Card and pursue him into madness....

We Await Silent Brad's Empire.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Weird One

This has been happening for weeks.

They come in from Israel. The IP number and ISP don't seem to follow a pattern. They always are marked as having never been to this blog before.

They always come in through Google.

They always search for the phrase "When in the courfe of human events." They always come to this post, in which I jokingly replicate the confufing calligraphy of the Declaration of Independence.


Seriously, there must have been 50 Israelis through here on that search term in the last couple of months. Weird with a beard.

Any of you folks who would like to Enlighten (ha ha) me, please leave a Comment or drop me a note at neddiejingo at aol dot com.

Dead to Rights


You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on Earth. Probably what first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy.

You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful, irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way.

Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably open another bottle and say there’s no contest.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thick and Ordinary

Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
-- John Lennon

In the December Harper's, (the very one graced by the warmly welcome return of Harry Flashman on its back cover) Erik Reece accomplishes a feat of syncretism so mighty that it deserves its own goddamned ZIP code.

The piece in question is titled "Jesus Without the Miracles: Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas." Reece, a Virginian and a fallen-away son of a Baptist preacher, asks just what the hell Thomas Jefferson thought he was doing when he edited the New Testament to expunge all the gee-whiz miracles, the Virgin Birth, the dubious historical narrative, the He-Died-For-Our-Sins guilt-trippery, and indeed, even the Resurrection, and stripped the whole thing down to what Jesus actually said and taught. This edited New Testament is now published by the Beacon Press as The Jefferson Bible.

Any faint hope Christianity had of counting me among its flock was lost when, in an undergrad course on New Testament hermeneutics all those decades ago, it became howlingly obvious to me that the John the Baptist story was a piece of religiopolitical propaganda, stuck into the middle of an existing narrative with the sole purpose of attracting members of one of many rival cults that were hopping around in the highly charged, Roman-occupied, apocalyptically inclined Province of Judea, barely post-Jesus. Read it with that in mind, it couldn't be more obvious: Look, your guy, John, yeah, he was cool, sorry about the beheading and all -- but check it! He said he wasn't even fit to tie our guy's shoes! No, for real! He said that! It says it right here in this book we call Q that won't be the New Testament for two-three hundred years... Come on, let's be pals and go hassle some Romans!

A book so obviously constructed with the intention of Impressing the Easily Impressed with woo-amazing miracles and magical tales of Resurrection plainly belonged on the same bookshelf as Jack Chick tracts and Dianetics. So overbearing were the insults to my intelligence perpetrated by its obvious appeals to my Id's childish desire for magic and wonder that the social-justice aspect of Jesus' teachings, the primacy of the poor, the murderous hypocrisy of the powerful, the revolutionary inversions of the Sermon on the Mount, became far more palatable coming from other mouths, post-Enlightenment mouths uninclined toward the poetry of prestidigitation: Marx, Nietzsche, Wilde, Joyce.

This must have been something like the train of thought in the mind of Jefferson, Scion of the Enlightenment, when he set out to expunge Magic from the New Testament. Says Reece,
To read the Gospel of Matthew or Luke is to be dazzled by one miracle after another. In that context, the actual teachings seem almost mundane. But to read Jefferson's to face a relentless demand that we be much better people -- inside and out -- than most of us are. Which leads, as Jefferson must have suspected, to this unfortunate conclusion: the relevance of Christianity to most Americans -- then and now -- has far more to do with the promise of eternal salvation from this world than with any desire to practice the teachings of Jesus while we are here.
Here is where Reece performs his Syncretic Leap, with a graceful pirouette of scholarly panache: He brings this tension forward 1800 years, and places it firmly in the context of the Founding of America. Jefferson, the Agrarian Utopian, who believed so strongly in the humanist and naturalist nature of Jesus Christ that he quietly edited the New Testament to play up this side of the man, wrote in his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his deposit for substantial and genuine virtue." Continues Reece:
The manufacturer, by contrast, is a specialist, a cog, a wage-slave. "Dependence," Jefferson concluded, "begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." A manufacturer can only be a citizen of a democracy, only a consumer within an oligarchy.
Enter Alexander Hamilton, chased by a bear.
Four years later [1791], Hamilton submitted to Congress his Report on Manufactures, in which he dismissed Jefferson's agrarian vision in favor of developing industry, division of labor, child labor, protective tariffs, and prohibitions on many imported manufactured goods. Today, fewer than 1 percent of Americans work on farms, and many of those are huge, industrial farms that generate massive amounts of toxic by-products. That Jefferson's self-reliant farmer is so unrecognizable to us today is evidence enough, should we need any, that we have inherited Hamilton's America, not Jefferson's.
Reece gives us this chilling syzygy:
The difference between Jefferson and Hamilton is the difference between a version of Christianity based on Jesus' life and death and Resurrection, and one based on his teachings.... To live by Jesus' teachings would be to live virtuously as stewards of the land; it would be to create an economy based on compassion, cooperation, and conservation; it would be to preserve the Creation as the kingdom of God. Jefferson was proposing a country of countrysides, a pastorale in which we would want to live; Hamilton was was giving us a nation of factories from which we would want -- perhaps in the end need -- to be saved. [Emphases mine.]
Yes. There you have it, as stark as you could possibly want it: the thing that divides us so deeply. If you penitent faithful are idly wondering why the rest of the flock doesn't come, trailing our tails behind us, into the MegaChurch, here's the Question You Ain't Answered Yet: Either the Kingdom of God is immanent, or the Kingdom of God will obtain only after everything in Creation is utterly, irretrievably destroyed. We're waitin' to hear what you think.

Of course your answer won't make a good goddamn. The path's already been chosen.

Hope you enjoyed votin' for 'em. Bright move, guys. Bright move.

It must be said, I have only scraped the surface of Reece's astonishing piece in Harper's; not even having mentioned the Gospel of Thomas I can't be said to have summarized even half of Reece's piece. Please forgive me. Go read the whole thing, please, only $6.95 at your local newsstand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Some Kind of Milestone

This morning at about 2AM, StatCounter totted up the 100,000th page-load for By Neddie Jingo!

For the record, (Telecom Italia S.p.a. Tin Easy Lite)

Lazio, Marino, Italy, 0 returning visits

was the lucky winner of the five-minute shopping spree at Nichols Hardware, courtesy of the Purcellville Lions Club and the Ayn Rand Club of Patrick Henry College., come on down and claim your prize!

(I will need proof of an IP addie match, of course...)

Happy Birthday to me, I suppose!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Everything I Know I Learned from Harry Flashman

Well, perhaps not everything; Flash Harry hadn't much to say on the matter of modulation to the relative major in the bridge, and anything he might have bothered to teach me about user-interface design would probably have been a trifle vieux jeux. What's more, forty years of feminist indoctrination have expunged the Flashmanic from my seduction technique. But it's a rock-bottom guarantee that my knowledge of Victorian history, culture, diction, mores, politics (sexual and otherwise) and military life, while not encyclopedic by any stretch, would have remained as sparse as they were in 1982 when I read my first Flashman -- Flashman and the Redskins, as it happened -- and became a lifelong devotee.

I know that, absent George MacDonald Frasier's idol-busting, feet-of-clay needling of the Great Man approach to history, I'd never have been moved to read Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians, Kipling, or the more "serious" books I devoured about the destruction of the British Army at Gandamack, the Siege of Cawnpore during the Sepoy Mutiny, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Little Big Horn, Harpers Ferry. Flashman's unlikely and hilariously reluctant presence at these epochal events both reduce them to comic backdrops and simultaneously magnify them into impossibly momentous, history-changing, but above all real things.

I could be a tour guide at Harpers Ferry, a few miles over the mountain from here, based only on the indescribably vivid -- and grimly funny -- setting forth of the events in Flashman and the Angel of the Lord. We visited the Kennedy Farm where John Brown prepared his lunatic raid, an impossibly tiny place; I walked around thinking Flashy said this here, and Brown was standing there when he said that to him.... Mindbogglingly present, it was.

Hell -- look over there at the John Mobberly Story in the right column: When I discovered Mobberly earlier this year, found that he'd operated a Civil War guerrilla operation on what I've come to think of as my mountain, my first attempt at parsing his character, at making him real, if you like, was to gauge how well Mobberly would perform as a Flashman character. Answer: very well indeed, of course. Insanely bold and foolhardy raid on a Federal camp, Flashy as reluctant participant, his bowels dissolving in fear. Perfect. He escapes by betraying Mobberly's plans to a passing Phil Sheridan, on his way to Washington to tell the President that Our American Cousin is a lousy play, which Lincoln refuses to believe because of Flashy's presence.

[Digression: I know I've let the Mobberly research lapse, but I promise a Major Breakthrough directly. Treasure trove imminent.]

So it was with squeaky joy that I turned over the Harper's that came in today's mail to find an advert for Flashman on the March, the twelfth installation in the series, which began in 1969. Honestly, I'd almost given up hope of a new one, as Frasier is in his eightieth year and Flashmans have become farther apart and (it must be admitted) less robust in the last decade. But here it is, and I'm ecstatic. Frasier's immersed Flashy in the events in Abyssinia in 1868. (Oh, surely you remember! Mad King Theodore of Abyssinia! He took umbrage at a snub from Queen Victoria, and captured a few hundred foreigners who had to be rescued!) reveals grumblings among the hidebound crowd who make a fetish of Flashman's cheerful Colonialist chauvinism, who perceive in the choice of events veiled criticism of the Disastrous Iraq Adventure, but I say anything that makes them uncomforable can only be a good thing.

Expect, then, along about Birthday Time (coming up soon, thanks for asking!) for Flash Neddie to appear in full fig on the Boulevard, back from Afghanistan, covered in laurels and Queen Vickie's blushing encomiums to his bravery (utterly undeserved, of course), his tile on three hairs, his pocket jingling with Dost Muhammad's shilling as, the lecherous twinkle in his eye betraying his true intent, he ducks down a side street to the place of business of that wicked-looking little black-haired piece with a turned-up nose and a saucy smile, always ready for a rogering....

Huzzah for the Ripping Yarn!

Friday, November 11, 2005

That's What They WANT You to Think

Oh, ha ha.

Oh, ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Oh, I am just quaking with laughter. Excuse me while I split my sides.


Cleverdick "science" students, snickering into their Nutella sammidges and cocoa, think they've added to the annals of world humor by performing experiments that show that while the classic paranoid's tinfoil helmet does attenuate some frequencies of radio signal, it also boosts the signal of frequencies between 1.2 and 1.4 GHz, which have been allocated to the US Government for use in "radio location" (i.e., GPS positioning).

They sum up, "It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings."

Well, [he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm] it looks like everything I know is just wrong, then, huh?

These young smartypantses from MIT have pretty obviously never actually had a genuinely paranoid thought in their short, clean-limbed & abstemious little lives. Take it from this expert, Paranoia is a damned sight more resilient than some punk-assed comedians in the EE Dept. give it credit for. Sez Lyle Zapato, who would know:
The "current helmet craze" may indeed have been propagated by government forces, but that has nothing to do with the effectiveness of AFDBs [Zapato hocks a line of Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies] or their non-crazed use by sensible paranoids. It is a common MO of the NWO and allied conspirators to disingenuously promote that which they aspire to destroy. The current rise in joking references to AFDBs -- which is what Rahimi et al. are referring to by "the current helmet craze" -- is most likely a calculated ploy to scare off would be paranoids from the mental protection of foil. That the forces of mind control are bothering to do this is itself evidence of the effectiveness of AFDBs.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Be Careful Where You Pee

I don't believe I've ever told you about the time I pissed on Augusto Pinochet's back garden wall.

En serio, huevón. Ni cagando.

The time, 1976; the place, Santiago de Chile, Ñuñoa district, Calle Elidoro Yañez. Just down from Tobalaba westward, in the direction of Pedro de Valdivia -- you remember.

Young Ned, a downy-cheeked lad of fifteen summers, son of the Assistant Commercial Attaché at the US Embassy, fell in with a Bad Crowd from el colegio Nido de Aguilas. Always felt the need to act older than his age, the young fool, so he hung with the Fast Crowd -- sons and daughters of American astronomers at the La Serena Observatory. Since La Serena, three hundred miles north, didn't have an English-language school, their parents boarded them with bourgeois Santiaguino families. The kids ran roughshod, natch.

Or as roughshod as you can run in a full-on goosestepping fascist dictatorship.

Whenever we got two escudos to rub together (or maybe they'd switched to Milton Friedman's devalued pesos by then, it gets fuzzy) the pack of us would hop on mopeds or little 100-cc. motorbikes and scram up to an eatery in Las Condes that served these extravagant hot-dog confections piled high with any number of exotic fixin's -- avocado, fresh mayonnaise, corn relish, weird flavors of mustard. The dogs were quite an attraction, but perhaps even more of an incentive was the huge glasses of draft beer that they served, at maybe a quarter a throw.

After the gluttony, this buzzed gaggle of pimply expats might wander down Providencia to catch a movie. Papillon, Live and Let Die, Jaws -- anything with wide lapels and muttonchop sideburns.

But let me tell you about wandering around with a beer-buzz in a goosestepping fascist dictatorship.

I have no patience -- none -- with people who throw that f-word around thoughtlessly. I'll buy fascist leanings, okay, I'll tolerate the off-the-cuff employment of fascistic as an adjective of opprobrium -- but fascist is not a word to be flung lightly.

I'll further express sympathy for people who are harrassed by local police simply for the color of their skin or the level of English they speak. This truly sucks. But that's at least officially illegal in the USA.

In a goosestepping fascist dictatorship, a police state, Jeanne Kirkpatrick's weaselly authoritarian state, the police answer to no one. This is foremost in one's mind at all times of the day. Police in Santiago were stationed on random corners, often hidden, to detain and question absolutely any passerby they saw fit. And here's the Great Mind-Concentrator about this practice: At any time, for any reason or indeed for no reason at all, if they took a mind to it, THEY COULD SHOOT YOU DEAD.

And nobody would even raise an eyebrow down at the precinct house.

So you never left the house without a very firm, believable alibi in your mind (Guilty Until Proven Innocent is the Whole of the Law) and, most importantly, with your Get Out of Getting Shot Free Card, your Diplomatic Carnet de Identidad, in your pocket. They almost always respected that. They kinda had to -- Diplomatic Immunity and that. But if you forgot it, you were a Commie agent provocateur until the US Ambassador himself could vouch for you. Or they sent you home in a box.

So that's what you had foremost in mind when wandering the streets of Pinochet's Santiago with three very large draft beers making your tiny little teenaged virgin bladder increasingly uncomfortable as you made your way to catch Papillon at the Las Flores moviehouse.

Santiago's not a Washingon, DC, in the sense that while it's always been the capital of the country, it's not a one-industry town. National government is only one of its functions, and so it doesn't really have a Federal district or the equivalent of a White House or a Number Ten. Instead, it had in 1976 an area where the Rich Folks lived, and in among these several blocks of walled urban compounds was the home of Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Citizen. You can imagine that the front of the place was easily identifiable by the machine-gun nests and searchlights and cop-cars, but the back of it, facing the side streets of Ñuñoa, was much like any other.

So on the night in question three or four beery lads made their way through the back streets off Calle Elidoro Yañez, when the effects of the beer became unbearable, and it was plain I wasn't going to make it to the theater. Glanced up and back the street: "Hang on, I've got to drain the weasel..." Wall. Shadows. OK. Here. Ahhhhh....

SCREECH.... Blasting around the corner on two wheels comes a Black Mariah, as indignant-looking a vehicle as I've ever seen, before or since. Fuck. I pinched it off, zipped up and tried to walk on looking casual, hoping they were after somebody else -- which was often the case, anyway. And remember -- running is certain death.

No. I'm the one they want. My young testicles retracted up into my throat. That's painful, in case you've never experienced it.

Before they could even approach me, I had my Diplomatic ID card out, rudimentary Spanish flowing. "I am the son of a US Diplomat! This is my ID! I am very sorry! It was very stupid of me to make the peeing in the street! I will not repeat it!"

Do you know where you are?


Do you know whose house you are PISSING ON?


Stand there and do not move.

While an underling covered me with his machine gun, he went back to the cuca, the paddywagon. Talked into the radio. I picked up, "Son diplomáticos," which gave me some hope -- he understood the implications of just shooting me, and I might escape intact. A few minutes later, he came back, handed me back my card, and gave me the dressing-down of my young life while I bowed and scraped and tugged my forelock and generally behaved like the most craven, contrite puppy-dog that ever messed on the carpet.

Your President lectures us of human rights yes, sir, it was very stupid, sir and you come to our country with your yes, sir, quite agree, sir, won't happen and you speak with self-righteousness of HUMAN RIGHTS yes I quite agree, sir, AND YOU SHIT AND PISS IN OUR STREETS well, I didn't actually SHUT UP yes sir....

Wonder where he is these days. Love to meet him again. We could have a nice chat about Human Rights, this time without the machine guns.

Ah, well. I lived to tell about it. Could have been worse.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The People Have Spoken

The people of Dover, Pennsylvania, have overwhelmingly repudiated the local school board that attempted to introduce Intelligent Design Creationism into high-school biology classes and who were sued for it by a group of local parents.

All eight members of the board who were up for reelection, including two who testified in favor of the move in the recently concluded Federal District Court trial, were voted out of office yesterday.

Sez the NYTimes:
[I]f the intelligent design policy is defeated in court, the new school board could refuse to pursue an appeal. It could also withdraw the policy, a step that many challengers said they intended to take.

"We are all for it being discussed, but we do not want to see it in biology class," said Judy McIlvaine, a member of the winning slate. "It is not a science."
She did not add, while channeling Al Swearengen: "So shut the FUCK up and sit the FUCK down."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We Shall Fight on the Beaches

It's with quiet satisfaction and no small amount of state pride that I can announce I've just seen the first definitive report (ABC News) that Democrat Tim Kaine has taken the race for Governor of this Commonwealth by a comfortable 51-47 margin over the miserable, dishonest-ad-sponsoring, death-penalty-baiting Jerry Kilgore.

A last-minute blitz by George Bush in Richmond yesterday was about as useful as a Fallujah fire alarm.

These people are fond of quoting Churchill, so we might as well start reclaiming some history: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Meet you at the corner in 2006, kiddoes.

PS: Corzine's won in Jersey. A thousand chickens coming home to roost...

Monday, November 07, 2005

This Is the House Where the Murders Happened

Some time ago, a friend slipped me a few xeroxed pages from True Detective magazine from the '60s. "Happened around here," she said. "You'll like it."

I slid it into my bag. More or less forgot about it until this Friday, when I was looking for some bathroom literature, some Excremeditatory Text.

Turns out that in 1943, on a particular road on the outskirts of Purcellville, Virginia -- that is to say, about 10 miles from my house -- a horrific five-victim mass murder took place. The xeroxed article, contrary to expectations, was surprisingly well researched, with references to local geography that were quite accurate when tested against an older local map.

The article recounted the murder of five residents of a farm near Purcellville. The farmer, one Morris Love, was beaten to death with a croquet mallet. His wife and son were also brutally murdered -- shot to death -- and a tenant farmer and his wife likewise slaughtered. The murderer, a resentful debtor named Thomas Clatterbuck, was eventually caught some days later on the strength of the discovery of part of a discarded shotgun on the side of Route 9 west of Hillsboro. He was executed later that year.

This Sunday, running errands in town, we decided to try to find the Murder House. We analyzed the text closely, with maps, and narrowed our search down to a patch of land south of Purcellville that would have been farmland 60 years ago, but that now hosts a newish elementary school.

As we drove around the outskirts of Purcellville, Wonder Woman began working on a Conceit -- that the Murder House, like a character in a very bad horror movie, was summoning us by whispering extrasensorially, on the wind:

This is the house where the Murder happened... This is the house you're looking for....

"Ah! Can't you hear it?" she whispered excitedly. "The house wants us to know where it is!"

I was perfectly willing to let her posit a talking psychic house on this lazy, gas-wasting Sunday, but thought that it was quite unfair to the other houses: OK, so the Murder House had a horrible, deadly crime attached to it, but why would that imbue it with ESP? If the Murder House can whisper its secrets, can't the other houses as well?

So, following this logic, we began to speculate what voices the different houses might have. The Murder House would of course be ghostly and solemn and reverberant, but that brick-fronted, vinyl-sided piece of Toll Brothers crap with the Lawyer Foyer and the three-Hummer garage on 287 ("Five bedrooms from the low $900s! Start vacuuming now!") would be a high-level project manager from Unisys with absolutely nothing interesting to say at all -- "How 'bout them Hokies?"

Psychic houses might be competitive, you never know: "Well, old Murder-Britches up the road might have had a quintuple slaughter, but I had a nasty argument last week that nearly came to blows! They're still not talking!" "Oh! That's nothing! Mom gets mouthy when she drinks! Nyaaah!"

And what if the houses are lying?

What if they're all trying to impress us with their histories -- which, after all, would naturally be the key to a Psychic House's self-worth -- to the point where they trample the truth to impress? What if, among Psychic Houses, the prestige accorded by having hosted a quintuple murder is so great that they'd tell baldfaced stretchers to receptive passersby?

At this point, it was only one more step to hysterical, quaking laughter: Why limit it to houses? Why not all buildings, in fact all inanimate objects?

This is the Costco parking lot where the murders happened!

No! This is the Medical Arts Building where the murders happened!

Don't listen to her! This is the storm sewer where the murders happened!

No! This is the self-checkout lane at Giant where the murders happened!

Liar! This is the Comedy section of Blockbuster where the murders happened!

We did that all day.


PS: The xeroxed True Detective story included a small part of a different story from the same issue, entitled, "Murder Became Part of the Dwarf's Sex Life!" It contains, among many intriguing if incomplete things, this graf: "Katzensteiner broke into tears. 'Ma!' he sobbed. 'Ma! It was all my own fault! I brought that bastard of a garden dwarf into the house! I left him alone with her! It's my own fault! I've killed my own mother!'"

Today's Vocabulary Builder

Crapulous \`krap-ye-les\ adj. [LL crapulosus, L. crapula intoxication, fr. Gr. kraipale] (1536) 1 marked by intemperance esp. in eating or drinking; 2 sick from excessive indulgence in liquor.

Use today's Vocabulary Builder Word in a sentence:

I stayed up till oh-dot-thirty last night watching the Washington Brewskies administer a righteous pasting to the Philadelphia Egos -- the first such drubbing since somewhere during the Norm Snead Administration -- and, despite my judicious purchase and restrained consumption of only the finest, most reputable of America's microbrewed beers, this morning I feel somewhat (sense 2) crapulous.

Friday, November 04, 2005


You may not believe it to look at me now, but there was a time when The Jingmeister was not the international playboy you see before you.

Back in the time of Legwarmers and Jheri-Curl, your correspondent toiled in durance vile at Satan & Shyster, the Sixth Avenue purveyors of Pocket Books, the nation's oldest paperback publishers.

It's now been officially an eon since I darkened the door at 1230 Sixth, so I have no idea what publishing salaries are like these days for production drones like me, but in those days the pay was rather less than princely. I started at the company making a salary I liked to exaggerate grandiosely as "in the high four figures"; when I bolted in 1987 I had, by dint of Horatio-Algerian sticktoitiveness, worked my way all the way up to fifteen large. Wonder Woman (a graphic designer's assistant) and I lived as cheaply as one in a third-floor walkup in Red Hook (now, I'm given to understand, rechristened "South Park Slope" by real-estate weasels, which just cracks my ass up).

As a man who takes some pride in his appearance, it became evident very early on that if I were to aspire to be a dandified clothes-horse -- or indeed, wear any clothes at all -- I would have to take in extra work of some sort. It was well known among the Publishing Poor that local outfits farmed out copyediting work to freelancers, which is how it came to pass that I curvetted home one evening, dollar signs where my eyes usually reside, with my first moonlighting job under my arm.

A Harlequin Romance. Cha-ching!

Eventually I would work my way up from Harlequins to extremely louche Westerns; if you've ever perused any of Loren Zane Grey's mid-period Lassiter novels -- not Zane Grey, now, this is Loren Zane Grey, who was actually a collection of five or six pimply, simian hacks who churned out this dreadful crap by the bucketload -- you'll have seen my work. Likewise if you've ever have the pleasure of reading any of W. E. B. Griffin's earlier warnography, you'll see my sure editorial hand.

But Harlequins, now. I cut my teeth on those things, and even now they hold a special place in my heart. I can close my eyes and fondly recall how the evanescent plotlines, sprightly virginal prose and scrupulously chaste sex scenes induced a mild seasickness that I fought by working in a vat of Dramamine the Harlequin people nicely sent me.

I was a warrior. I did what had to be done.

Which is why I'm somewhat bemused by the report that Harlequin has recently entered into a cobranding deal with, of all things, NASCAR. "Harlequin will publish women’s fiction books with stories revolving around NASCAR - and featuring NASCAR's brand on the covers." we hear. "The first NASCAR-themed tome is In the Groove, by Pamela Britton. It'll hit bookstores in late January to coincide with the Daytona 500."

You'd have to be an absolute plank -- really, a rock, a stone, a worse than senseless thing -- not to just itch to know what happens when the immovable object of sprightly, virginal prose meets the irresistible force of a 5.9 Litre Magnum V-8 with 530 foot-pounds of torque at 6,500 rpm.

Well, I think in this Pamela Britton, Harlequin has got just the firecracker wordsmith who can pull it off. Check out another racing-themed page-turner she penned: Dangerous Curves, in which Special Agent Cece Blackwell heads up a team to investigate the murder of a NASCAR driver. I can't link directly to it, but you must must MUST allow yourself the ineffable pleasure of the passage exerpted at the Harlequin site. It begins, "She was five foot six of spandex-wrapped, thigh-high-boots-wearing, bustier-clad woman. And she wasn't happy."

When a book starts with a fizzy corker of a first salvo like that, you know you're in for a helluva ride, and the rest of the pertly snappy exerpt leads me to the chopfallen conclusion that when I ran screaming from my moonlighting job editing Harlequin Romances in 1987, I might have made a big, big mistake.

Honey, get me Rewrite!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dearie, Dearie Me

A CBS poll taken today has Bush's approval rating at 35%. The only preznit lower at this point in his second term was Nixon, who on November 17, 1973, a year after his landslide reelection, found himself obligated to point out that "I am not a crook."

Cheney, at 19%, is approximately as popular as the BTK Killer, and the Republican-controlled Congress is at 34%.

Doo'ness Dwacious, America! Why so glum? Who's for some cocoa and a rousing game of Scrabble?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Me and Hank

Me and ol' Hank Adams, we're purty proud of something we just ginned up at The American Street. Check 'er out.