Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Have Lost the Remote

Somewhere between December 22 and Christmas Eve, an anomaly in the Space-Time Continuum caused the remote control for our family's TiVo unit to disappear from the face of the earth. We have ransacked the house, torn apart the den, rifled the laundry-baskets, scoured the kitchen, combed the bedrooms, trashed the closets... Nothing.

Anomaly in the Space-Time Continuum. It's the only possible conclusion. I imagine our poor little TiVo remote now orbiting some desolate moon of a sunblasted planet billions of light-years away, its infrared signal emitting pathetic little bursts, perhaps changing channels in alien households below, their many-tentacled inhabitants wondering why the hell their slimy, fanged version of David Letterman keeps spontaneously changing to their slimy, fanged version of Geraldo Rivera. They write angry slime-mails to their cable providers, complaining about the poor service; the cowed cable companies, using the most hypersophisticated tracking gear, trace the offending infrared emissions to my poor little TiVo remote in orbit. Dammit, they think with their slimy brains, That's the third time this week!

I worry about anomalies in the Space-Time Continuum that cause common household items to disappear without a trace to orbit around desolate planets. What's next? The toaster? The coffee-grinder? If these anomalies in the Space-Time Continuum keep popping into peoples' homes and making off with our remotes, toasters and coffee-grinders, I think our vaunted American quality of life might suffer. An angry Letter to the Editor is in order. I'm composing one now:
The Editors:

Somewhere between December 22 and Christmas Eve, an anomaly in the Space-Time Continuum caused the remote control for our family's TiVo unit to disappear from the face of the earth. This trend must be stopped, or our vaunted American quality of life will suffer....
I think I have hit upon a fiendishly clever way to get our remote back, though. After I finish composing this missive, I will pop out to Best Buy and purchase a new remote, at hideous expense. The instant I crack the plastic shell packaging on it, there our old remote will be, in some spot I've ransacked four times before. Hello, Remotey, I will say. Welcome home! Did you enjoy your trip to Grabulon-Zeta? Did you happen to see our toaster there?

Later Edit: MegaLOLs!
Went to Best Buy, as threatened. Bought a replacement Universal Remote that the pimple-bearded youth thought would work with our TiVo. Twenty-five clams, not too bad. On the way home, the cellie rang. Wonder Woman. Freddie had that instant found the remote on a shelf in the back of the den where we store our video collection. I am so convinced that the purchase of the replacement remote had exactly the anomaly-reversing effect that I predicted that I'm writing off to the Amazing Randi as we speak.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes

Well, I think I've learned something about myself over the last 24 hours -- namely, that I should stay the hell away from John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" this year. It came on the radio while we were driving into Leesburg to pick out a coffin and make funeral arrangements for Chase, and I blubbered like a baby:
And so this is Christmas (war is over)
And what have we done (if you want it)
Another year over (war is over)
A new one just begun (if you want it)
And so happy Christmas (war is over)
We hope you have fun (if you want it)
The near and the dear ones (war is over)
The old and the young (now)
As some of you know, I've been working with Glue Birl on a little Secret Xmas Project of our own:

Does that Birl have some pipes on her, or what?

(Yes, examine her closely -- there she is, festooned with pipes covering ever inch of her body: tobacco, plumbing (PVC and copper), organ, |||||...)

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the tune, and the spirit in which it's offered.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

(Glue Birl! Next year: "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Whaddya say? We'll dig up a choir somewhere!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Charles Chase Porter, 1922-2006

My father-in-law, Charles Chase Porter, died this afternoon of complications from Alzheimer's Disease. His death was as comfortable as these things can be. My wife, who attended him daily during his long decline, held his hand as he passed.

I remember very clearly a family gathering that took place not long after that awful disease began to take its hold on him. He always insisted that we say Grace before holiday meals, and always took it upon himself to lead the family in prayer. He always began it, "Our Heavenly Father," and then delivered some sweet little homiletic sentiment. This time, he said, "I hope we all lead lives as wonderful as mine has been, and that we always remember them."

I can't think of a more fitting tribute to the battle he fought during his declining years, a battle no one can win. He knew that his identity, his very self, was slipping away from him, becoming erased by this horrifying disease, and he had the presence of mind to tell us he hoped it didn't happen to us.

My wife called me at work this morning. She had taken our daughter with her for a quick visit to see Chase before finishing up some Christmas shopping. Wonder Woman has spent enough time with Alzheimer's patients in Chase's ward in the last three years that she knows perhaps better than many doctors the signs of the Final Days. Chase had, a day or two before, suddenly sat upright from his bed and attempted to walk. The staff were encouraging, thinking this was a sign of improvement. Wonder Woman knew better: That was just what Mrs. X had done a day before she died last September, just what Mr. Y had done on his penultimate day in March.

It was clear to her and to the medical staff that he was going to die soon. She asked me to arrange to get our daughter out of there; she didn't need to watch her grandfather die. My mother obligingly agreed to pick her up and take her to her house. I had a consultation about a root canal scheduled in an hour; when that was done, I was going to get to her side. But as I was making my way to the dental surgeon's, the phone call came. He was gone.

I went to the home. His door was closed. I knocked. Wonder Woman opened the door to me. It was just her and Chase's body. We hugged, said I love you. We sat, waiting for the Hospice-care people to come and tell us what to do next. She held his hand. She stroked his hair. She tried to get him to close his eye. She spoke to him as is he were still in there: "See? My husband's here. Somebody's going to take care of me. It's OK, Daddy. It's OK."

I sat there, loving her. Just...loving her.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Folks: Don't mean to go all Lenny-Bruce-Cranky, but I do have a (small, but loyal) local readership, and this thing has really pissed me off. Local folks: Both of you should write similar letters -- or, hell, just copy-and-paste this one. You've probably either gotten a ticket or been killed by now anyway.

Sent this off this afternoon. I think it speaks for itself.

20 December 2006

The Hon. Pierce Homer
Secretary of Transportation, Commonwealth of Virginia
202 North Ninth St. - 5th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Sir;

This morning at approximately 10 AM I was issued a citation by an officer of the Virginia State Police. The citation was for “failure to observe a highway sign,” specifically a “Do Not Enter” sign that had been posted the day previous at the corner of Broad Street and Route 287 in Lovettsville in Loudoun County.

This would be unremarkable but for the fact that while the officer was issuing my ticket I noticed that three other motorists were being cited for the same offense, and a fourth committed the same error a few seconds after I did.

In my professional life I am a designer of computer interfaces. This discipline has taught me the humility to know a simple truth: If five well-intentioned people commit the same error within the space of ten minutes, the fault is not with the people but with the design.

Sir, I put it to you that the design of the traffic triangle in Lovettsville, which opened yesterday, is bizarre, hopelessly unintuitive and – please mark my words well – potentially lethal.

Your department has taken a simple four-way road crossing and for reasons I cannot fathom turned it into a difficult and dangerous mess. The new “Do Not Enter” signs that five people in the space of ten minutes failed to obey this morning are vanishingly small — extremely difficult to see from the other side of the highway. I also point out that this morning was clear and sunny; West Broad Street looks directly into the morning sun, making the signs not merely difficult but actually impossible to read from an hour after dawn until mid-morning on a sunny day. (Please see the enclosed photographs, which I took a short time after I was ticketed.)

The “Do Not Enter” signs are meant to prevent motorists coming from a two-way road from entering what has newly been declared a one-way road — in essence a T-junction that did not exist before yesterday. I must protest in the strongest possible terms: These signs are woefully — not to say criminally — insufficient warning to prevent a potentially lethal error by an inattentive driver who is not intimately familiar with the traffic patterns.

Another home truth I have learned in my life as a designer is this: If you design a saucer that looks like a cup, people will use it as a cup, and not as a saucer. It is useless to put a sign on your saucer. People don’t read signs. To transfer this truth to the matter at hand, the junction of West Broad Way and Route 287 is still visually indistinguishable from a four-way junction when approached from the west. That is why I, and four other motorists in ten minutes, erroneously used it as such this morning. The potential tragedy in this case, of course, is that misuse of a saucer is a trivial mistake. Plowing into a one-way street against traffic is anything but trivial.

While I was remonstrating with the officer this morning, he pointed out that warnings of a new traffic pattern had been posted for some time. I suggest to you and to whoever designs VDOT’s warning signage that there is a world of difference between the hopelessly vague “New Traffic Pattern Ahead” that was posted and the less concise but infinitely more informative “Warning: On Dec. 19 This Street Will Become a One-Way Street.”

To prevent others from making the innocent but possibly life-threatening error that I and at least four other motorists made this morning, and to rescue others from the personal embarrassment, expense and inconvenience of a traffic citation engendered not by malfeasance but by the dreadfully poorly executed reconfiguration of that intersection, I submit the following proposed changes:
  1. An orange, diamond-shaped sign (see Photo 1) with a hopelessly vague warning on it (“New Traffic Pattern Ahead”) is absolutely unacceptable as the sole warning of an oncoming T-junction that continues to look exactly like a four-way junction. I suggest a reworded sign – much larger, with blinking lights and whatever other attention-grabbing devices can be appended to it: “Warning: Broad Street Ahead Is No Longer a Two-Way Street. Be Prepared to Turn Either Left or Right, But Do Not Proceed Straight.” This sign should be permanent.
  2. Two large arrows that point left and right should be painted on the pavement of West Broad Street in light-reflecting paint.
  3. The arrows should be reinforced with appropriate text on the road.
  4. The “Do Not Enter” signs on the east side of Route 287 (shown in Photo 2) must be made much larger, must be illuminated, and must be reinforced with blinking lights. If a sign can be suspended over the road rather than posted by its side, so as to resemble a barrier, so much the better. I repeat in the most urgent terms I can muster: The near-invisibility of these signs will get someone killed.
Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.


Nedward L. Jingo

Cc: Elaine Walker, Lovettsville Mayor
Scott York, Chairman, Loudoun Country Board of Supervisors
Sally R. Kurtz, Catoctin District Representative, Loudoun BOS
Editors, Loudoun Times-Mirror
Editors, Leesburg2Day

Supporting photos (click to enlarge):

Photo 1:
Does this sign even hint that you're about to come to an extremely dangerous T-junction that only yesterday was a four-way junction? I think not, sir!

Photo 2: Can you read those "Do No Enter" signs? Can you even see them?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Did I Mention We're Chumps? Of Choice?

Will Divide, proprietor and chief bottle-washer at Huck and Jim, has posted a mindbendingly great summary of the second portion of Against the Day that we're group-reading over at The Chumps of Choice.

Chumps who may have forgotten about our Monday-to-Monday schedule, hop on over.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, we're group-reading Thomas Pynchon's latest doorstop, Against the Day. In a group. We're The Chumps. Of Choice. We're only up to page 50. You'll have no problem catching up. At The Chumps. Of Choice.

Head on over! Apply directly to the forehead!

Those Pesky Editors!

Wolcott's already had his fun with it, but I really really really hope that's an actual shot of the cover.

Because there's nothing -- that's nothing -- funnier in the graphic-design biz than getting a full shipment of books back from the printer, opening the box with trembling anticipation, and only then seeing the howling typo in the book's subtitle.

(It's published-on-demand, so the cover's probably a PDF file that can be instantly corrected. In the spirit of Historical Accuracy, though, I'll just grab the live version and reproduce below. Let the Schadenfreude begin!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pinochet Passes By

June, 1975: Santiago de Chile

Your Ned, the son af an American diplomat, is a sophomore at an international school at the farthest edge of town, in the Andean foothills. His anti-authoritarian teenaged years in their fullest pimply bloom, he insists, despite his parents' entreaties (or, who knows, perhaps because of them) on affecting the uniform of the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen: the long, ratty hair, jeans worn through at the knee, the general surliness.

In a fascist dictatorship -- gun emplacements on the public thoroughfare, DINA agents prowling the streets in unmarked cars ready to pounce and "disappear" you to torture chambers on Dawson Island, itchy-trigger-fingered Carabineros on street corners stopping any random passerby who looked vaguely "socialist" -- the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen look is the sort of thing that the Authorities lick their chops at. It's utterly impossible to understand, in a cosmopolitan democracy, the raw, adrenaline-pumping fear that can gnaw at your vitals when you can be hauled off the street at any instant for the way you dress. I'm sorry, punk rockers and Disaffected Victims of the Man: you can't know. There is no comparison. I came to dread with a sickly nausea those knee-trembling moments when a machine-gun-wielding cop would pick me out of a crowded sidewalk, step in front of me, and accost me for my ID: "A ver, joven..."

And I was safe! I was untouchable! I had Diplomatic Immunity! I had a diplomatic carnet de identidad that rendered me literally untouchable! Most of my friends were theoretically untouchable, too -- but try explaining that to my pal Joe, son of the Bolivian chargé d' affaires, who got his knee broken in just such an encounter. He'd forgotten his wallet. Boom. Rifle butt to the patella. Don't forget, punk.

The trip to school that year was a bouncy, uncomfortable ride with several other kids in the back of a covered pickup truck. A few families had banded together, hired a driver for the duty. Our outbound trip wound its way through Santiago's fashionable districts, picking up kids, then out to Calle Las Condes for the drive to the beautiful foothills.

One morning, we were going down a one-way street on our usual route. Minding our own business. Obeying the speed limit. Being good citizens. Out of nowhere, coming directly at us, came two motorcyle cops, gesticulating wildly -- get out of the way! Get out of the way!

On a one-way street. Going the wrong way.

Directly into oncoming traffic.

The motorcycles were followed by several police cars, Carabineros leaning out the windows, also waving their arms. One of the cars slowed momentarily, and a particularly vehement cop shouted directly into our drivers' face; apparently the rather deft dive the driver had made onto a spare patch of sidewalk hadn't been fast enough to please him.

Then a Mercedes limousine passed imperiously by, oblivious to the strewn traffic on either side of the quiet city street. A profile in an ornate military peaked cap, distinctive brush moustache clearly visible, adorned the opened back window. Generál Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, Presidente de la República de Chile.

It's a good thing those Carabineros were so preoccupied ahead, clearing the way for the Great Man. I'm not sure they would have taken kindly to the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen Neddie's upraised middle finger that extended from the back of the truck.

I hope dying hurt a whole lot, you rat-faced son of a bitch. I hope you suffered the tortures of the damned. I hope no one wiped your brow or comforted you while you suffered and died. I hope you died alone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What the Thinking Man Is Thinking

The Buzzcocks were the thinking man's Clash. The Clash were the thinking man's Sex Pistols, and the Pistols were the thinking man's New York Dolls. The Dolls were the thinking man's Gary Glitter, and Gary Glitter was the thinking man's brother-in-law -- a fact that he's still trying to live down.

Audi is the thinking man's Volvo; however, unexpectedly, Volvo is also the thinking man's Audi. The Committee is working on that one. Airstream is the thinking man's Winnebago, when he can afford the gas. The alto saxophone is the thinking man's Stratocaster, but only when wielded by Ornette Coleman; in the hands of Charlie Parker, it becomes the thinking man's Les Paul.

Ontogeny recapitulates the thinking man's phylogeny, existence precedes the thinking man's essence, the personal is the thinking man's political, the Medium is the thinking man's Message, and a mighty fortress is the thinking man's Lord.

Women are the thinking man's chicks. The delectable skin of the throat is the thinking man's bodacious ta-ta, the graceful thigh the thinking man's Brazilian wax, the demure cleavage the thinking man's low-rider love-handles. Asses are the thinking man's tits.

The Epson Stylus CX5800F Inkjet Printer, Copier, Scanner, and Fax: Inkjet Printer (20 ppm Black, 19 ppm Color, 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi, 4" x 6" Photo in 48 seconds) -- $119.99 -- is the thinking man's Epson Stylus CX4200 Inkjet Printer, Copier, and Scanner: Inkjet Printer (20 ppm Black, 19 ppm Color, 4" x 6" Photo in 48 seconds, 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi) -- $125.99 with rebate.

George Clooney is the thinking man's puking little bitch.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Staple and the Stage Hand

Rock and roll doesn't know it (I mean, what the fuck does rock and roll know?), but its finest and most emotionally acute writer is Bobby Lightfoot.

Jesus Christ. Please read this essay. Everything you need to know about the Rock-n-Roll Life is in here. The raging egos, the blistering idiocy, the desperation of the Thinking Person in the World of Unthinking People -- it's all in here.

I want to just hug him, hold his hand, mumble comforting words. It's OK, bro. I understand. I'm with you, and always will be. All You Need Is Love.

Why It's Called the Orchestra of Sweet Regret.

(By the way, every fuckin' word of this is true. He told me at the time. It's true.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Launch the Good Ship Inconvenient!

Now, Everybody!
the Chum of Chance is a pluc-ky soul
Who shall neither whine nor ejac-u-late,
For his blood's as red and his mind's as pure
As the stripes on his bla-a-zer immaculate!
And we're off!

Our Against the Day reading group, The Chumps of Choice (one of Will's, one of Will's!), has a spanking-new blog, and we're ready to begin the festivities!

Everyone who expressed interest in our little Online Pynchonian Experiment is invited to pop over to the Chumps of Choice blog and prepare for devilment and spifflication!

Your Humble and Ob't Servant will kick off proceedings next Monday, Dec. 11, sharp. Our first week we will be examining pp. 1-25 of Pynchon's latest doorstop, moderated by li'l old moi. The second week, with the sure hand of Will Divide on the tiller, we'll delve into pp. 26-56.

At this rate, we'll steam into the Aerodrome at the annual convention of the Garçons de '71 at approximately this time next year -- bloodied but unbowed, and replete with knowledge won and friendships solidified.

Will and I do have one major-ish concern: We need folks to step up and take over moderator roles. The duties will be as light as they can possibly be: You'll be asked to introduce a small (20-30 pages, max.) section of the novel, elucidate what you can, and throw out discussion questions to the group. You will not be asked to lead any discussions, mediate in any disputes, answer any imponderable questions, or pose nude for overhead balloonists' delectation. If you'd like to help with these tasks, please email me at neddiejingo at aol dot com -- or, for that matter, just indicate your interest in Comments either here or at the Chums of Chance blog, which you could do worse than bookmark right now.

I've begun a calendar for moderator duties (best viewed in "Month" mode); if you see an opening you'd like to volunteer for, please let us know through the methods outlined above.

We will do two weeks before the holiday break. We'll go dark from Dec. 24-Jan. 7, and pick up again after we've all thanked God for the delivery of Baby Jesus.

Later Edit: QRED poses an interesting question -- one that is quite revelatory about attitudes toward Pynchon:
Speaking as someone entirely unfamiliar with this author beyond the first 5 pages of this book, which I do not yet own, I have this one innocent question: Am I likely to relysh Pynchon if I could not finysh Myst?
Fascynatingly, the answer in Yes. Pynchon is not a puzzle to be solved. He quite deftly refuses to be solved. He is a novelist, not a game-maker. What he does, rather than set puzzles, is to ask questions that have no answer. In the words of Pynchon for Newbies:
Against the Day is a large and complex work. But one must be reminded that beneath the wide-ranging erudition and complexity there beats a rock 'n' roll heart, and the daunting mystery and "high seriousness" is counterbalanced by flights of zany (and often quite dark) humor. And, of course, there is simply the sheer beauty and breathtaking power of the writing, the subtly interwoven plots and themes, the rich detail and, as Penny Padgett (who helps maintain the Thomas Pynchon Home Page) put it, "the way you can find something amazing on just about every page, the way these amazing things have a way of connecting to each other, giving you that 'aha!' experience every time you look closer."
Yes, Myst, but so, so, so much more than Myst.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Join the Chumps of Choice!

"Don't believe what They tell you. Don't believe what you've heard, and here's what you've probably heard: Thomas Pynchon's novels are brilliant but difficult; the multiple plots twist and turn and rarely resolve; there are a gazillion characters; you'll need a dictionary and an encyclopedia to understand all the scientific metaphors and obscure words. This is the rap, and there is some truth to it. But it's not the whole truth, not nearly. As one seasoned reader of Pynchon put it, 'difficult, schmifficult!'"
-- "Advice for Newbies" at

Look carefully at that cover shot. See how, under the type announcing the title & author, some ghostly images appear? Its the title & author again, twice more, in different typefaces, straining to break the surface of the paper and be seen, but suppressed by the black gothic letters of the topmost words.

Isn't that intriguing? Don't you just want to grab Pynchon by the lapels and demand an explanation?

The cryptic (ho, ho) image on the front cover is only the first of hundreds of delicious -- and oh, so often unfathomable -- conundrums that lie in wait for the intrepid reader of Pynchon's latest. It clocks in at a mere 1,100 pages of dense type -- a mighty, mighty daunting prospect indeed.

And yet...and yet...

From the jaunty boys'-adventure-story parody -- The Chums of Chance! -- of the opening pages, I'm absolutely sucked in. I resist the urge to plow forward into it, enticed by the utter wonder of Pynchon's effortlessly mesmerizing virtuosity. I want to savor; Pynchon's no spring chicken, and at an average of 12-15 years between his books, we may not get too many more of them. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to set one of his volumes down after a careful reading and parsing of one of his knotty paragraphs and whistle in wonder: How the hell did he just do that?

And he's funny! Is there any other "serious" novelist who's as funny as Pynchon? I think not, sir! But the jokes are deeply embroidered in; often constructed so you don't get them until a second, third or fourth reading. In Gravity's Rainbow, we are informed that one Brigadier Pudding, a secret coprophile, has published a book on current events titled What Can Happen in Europe. Not until my third or fourth time through the book did Pudding's true title hit me: Shit Happens in Europe! O-or there's a long and ornately filigreed paragraph in Mason & Dixon, invoking the Greek gods of Love, the Air, and the Forest -- but when you parse it out and reduce it to its simplest expression, it becomes "Ass, Gas or Grass -- Nobody Rides for Free." Then there's the lovely scene, again in Mason & Dixon, of the collier Mary & Meg feeling its way out of port on a foggy morning, following the clanging bell of a Tagareen Man -- a ship-to-ship vendor -- and you wonder why you suddenly find yourself humming:
Hey, Mister Tagareen Man,
Play a song for me
In your jingle-jangle morning
I'll come following you...
I've been jawing with Will Divide over at Huck and Jim, as enthusiastic a Pynchonian as I am -- ask him about his M&D ampersand tattoo! -- and we got to thinking: How about a group read?

So that's what I'm proposing, here. Anyone within the Jingosphere is hereby invited to kick off your shoes, read a chapter or two, and follow along in the company of friends. I know at least some of you are serious fans -- show yourselves!

The way I think it'll work is, we "assign" a few pages, say 30-40, each week, and at the end of the week we pop in and discuss. Will and I are willing to provide our blogs for the forum, and any other participants who have their own blogs are encouraged to volunteer to host for a given week.

Come on! Any takers? It'll be fun!

I note that Against the Day already has a pretty ornate page at Wikipedia, and the intrepid scholars at HyperArts have started an Against the Day wiki that looks like a really great source of information.

During the composition of this post, it occurred to me that a nice reply to that awful lecturing-nanny grammar book
Eats, Shoots and Leaves might be Eat, Shit and Die...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Fuck Yeah, It's Funny.

Besides my conversation with Jazz Aristocracy (and Lori and Wonder Woman's death-defying deep-fried turkey, which I was sure would immolate chez Lightfoot to a crispy crackly crunch but which turned out delicious), the high point of the trip to Western Mass. was a Boys' Night Out at the Flicks, wherein Bobby and I took in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.

Naturally, it was absolutely incumbent upon us that we assume what in certain circles is known as The Proper Frame of Mind, which resulted in me saying one of the stupidest things I've said in many a moon during the Coming Attractions, but, hey. It's Tenacious D Time.

There's many a belly laugh in this flick. Jack Black is a fine, fine physical comedian when he's playing the part of the Rock True Believer, the last unironic adherent to the Power of Rock. His wide-eyed wonder at Kyle Gass's sloppy recital of a Bach Bourée and Beethoven's "Für Elise" while busking on a beach road, and his improvised lyric announcing KG's genius to the indifferent passing crowd, are by themselves nearly worth the entire price of admission. And his casual and creative use of the F-Bomb has an undeniable insouciant artistry, unlike anybody's I've ever admired. He's also a great singer, but we knew that.

The problem with the flick is the damned story keeps getting in the way. It's at its best when it sticks to little blackout episodes that illustrate Tenacious D's fundamental ridiculousness; when it tries narrative it becomes trite and a little boring. I couldn't help thinking, too, of the potential wasted to make fun of rock's pretentions. It begins with a quite brilliant parody of Tommy (featuring a child actor who's an absolutely amazing miniature Black), but that's the only point at which it attempts to engage rock history. Wouldn't it have been great to have seen a few parodic pokes at The Song Remains the Same, or Sid and Nancy, or Oliver Stone's The Doors?

Looking back on the movie now, I think the funniest conceptual sally in the movie (and, really, in the whole Tenacious D gestalt), is JB's interpretation of the meaning of rock. Conspicuously absent from any Tenacious D performance in either the movie or any of their TV shows is an audience of any appreciable size -- and what audiences they do perform for, hate them very much. If the Power of the Rock isn't for the audience, then who is it for? In the climactic showdown with the Devil (Dave Grohl again, natch), the challenge isn't "The audience will like our rocking better," it's "Our rocking will kick the ass of your rocking!" It's a wonderfully cockeyed and self-deluded joke, pretending that the potentiality of the Power of Rock exists entirely in the mind of JB's True Believer, utterly independent of what any objective observer might conclude.

What pimply 15-year-old playing a tennis-racket-guitar in front of a mirror hasn't had the same delicious delusion?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lefty-Backbiting Brouhaha

You'd have to have been living under a rock the last 24 hours not to have caught the Lefty-Backbiting Brouhaha over at Tom Watson's place. An individual traveling under the monicker Pachacutec posted a screed at FireDogLake in which he said of Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, "She can slurp the gnarly nub of power with the very best, gamely grinning to the gushing finish: a working girl's working girl."

Tom called him on his misogyny:
But in a world where a hero like Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan overcomes court-ordered gang rape and a corrupt regime to help educate the children of her attackers, we kid ourselves that we're advanced enough, cool enough, hip enough, or evolved enough to throw around this low-brow gender-based garbage and think it won't stick - to us, to the left, to the Democrats, to our candidates, to our movement.
Tauscher is an evil, crabbed, nasty individual; no arguments here. In general, I ignore blogs of both the right and the left that wallow in rancorous denunciation of whoever's happened to piss them off in the last ten minutes, and I believe the health and well-being of my liver is the better for it.

In Tom's comments, however (fascinating reading, BTW), Pachacutec managed to piss me off but good:
Face it. We [at FireDogLake] do punk rock posts and you're into Guy Lombardo.
OK. Passion of the moment, blah blah. Anybody can look stupid when angry. Happens all the time.

I'm not particularly offended by the blatant misogyny employed to characterize Tauscher. I see worse fifteen times a day on Comedy Central. I think Tom's comment thread contains a lot of rote lifting of skirts and automated feminist scolding. If you're offended by the word "cunt" as a term of opprobrium, you'd probably better stay out of Britain, where it's extremely common currency among both sexes. As I've observed before, the blogosphere is a tiny, tiny, tiny little cross-section of the American voting public, and what some idiot hothead said on FireDogLake in November of 2006 has zippy chance of becoming an issue in some future election.

No, what pisses me off about Pachacutec's awful, hateful screed is the fact that he went for the cheap laugh by calling his object-of-the-moment a whore. And then turned around and called it "punk."

Pach', kid: Punk happened. Note tense. This weekend I loitered in Claire's Boutique at Tysons Corner Mall while young Betty rooted around for some bauble or another. I was not particularly surprised to find, in among the Hillary Duff-branded bracelets and the Aly and AJ-branded earring collections, a stand dedicated to Green Day-branded necklaces and wristbands for the delectation of teenybopper girls. These treasures came complete with adorable photos of the eyeshadowed lads looking all disaffected and pissed-off, their American Idiot hand-grenades featured prominently on the cheapjack teenaged gauds.

Punk is deader than goddamned Vaudeville. Fuckin' get used to it.

The notion that you can shock, vilify, curse, and gob the bourgeois into recognition of their fundamental uselessness has played, kid. We're shocked, vilified, cursed and gobbed every fucking day by the slime oozing out of our TV sets. We're numb. We've been épaté'd so many times by so many lazy goddamned "revolutionaries" that the sight of some self-appointed artist's hairy moon shining out over the waistband of his dropped pleather pants provokes precisely nothing. We've seen the act, chum. It's easy. It's cheap. It's the laziest, crappiest, most slothful kind of self-indulgence a person can grant himself.

You wanna know how to be a fucking revolutionary, Pachacutec?

How about this: The most revolutionary act you can perform in this fell, death-infected year 2006 is to act like a goddamned adult.

Isn't that just blisteringly clear? Could that be any more self-evident? They act like children, Pach' -- all those bulletheaded, leather-lunged, lantern-jawed jocko-homos down at Little Green Footballs -- if you play their game, you are no better than them. If you, through intellectual laziness and sloppy thinking, go for the cheap laugh at a perceived enemy's expense, you are no better than them. Misogyny's got nowt to do with it -- it's just goddamned lazy to call your opponent a whore and expect to get laffs-n-applause for it.

To continue your metaphor, Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians played in tune, with precision, and were ashamed -- as adults, professionals, are ashamed -- when a note was clammed, a cue missed, a beat dropped. I once gloried in punk's shambolic sloppiness; but it's become the accepted norm. Now it's just fucking lazy, Bad Musicianship.

We -- that's you and I, Pach' -- we can do better than that.

Monday, November 27, 2006

And Where Is Our Nedward Tonight?

Starting at about 9:30 EST, I'll be over at Lance Mannion's place, live-blogging tonight's broadcast of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Come on by, razz the clueless goober! All the cool kids are doing it!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jazz Aristocracy

The historic Summit Meeting of the Jingo/Lightfoot Clans now over, we slowly reacclimate to Life Not on the Road. The dogs happily resettle into their daily routine (sleep, eat, bark, repeat) and the humans prepare for the hideous Christmas season.

I call to your attention the fact that the photographs of the Soulfinger gig I'd earlier promised, fail to actually appear in this post. Funny story about that....

Thanksgiving Day at the Lightfoot household was only slightly marred by the fact that Bobby (who now, it appears, has had his personality entirely subsumed by that of a rather cranky Indian Doctor of Rock named Anoush Devendra -- as haven't we all at some point or another) was due to play a gig with Soulfinger that night in Hartford. It being the sanctified holiday season, however, roughly half of Soulfinger had begged off the gig, leaving, I was informed, a skeleton lineup of drums, bass, keyboards and...trombone. Yes, the main melodic duties of the evening were to be performed by that King of the Comical Musical Instruments, the 'Bone. The wielder of this instrument, though, was somebody pretty special in Bobby's eyes; he'd given him the Lightfoot nom-de-blog Jazz Aristocracy.

I inadvertently eavesdropped on a phone call from Soulfinger's booking agent & bass flogger, Ace McClintock, to Bobby in the early afternoon: "M-hm. Yeah. Oh, yeah. No I haven't asked him yet. I will now." Bobby put the phone to his chest. To me, he said, "Dude, you want to sit in?"


New England's finest Motown/Stax bar-band. Wants me. To sit in. On guitar.

I spent a good two hours that afternoon boning up on the band's setlist on Bobby's groovy Yamaha axe -- "Knock on Wood," "What's Going On," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Superstition," "Who's Making Love." My nervousness drifted away as I came to the realization that these chestnuts ain't exactly Yngwie Malmsteen territory for a guitarist; as long as I had the home key and some idea of the structure, I'd be able to fake it convincingly. The scariest item on the setlist was "Brown Sugar," the only number to feature the guitar out front. I reached waaay back into deep storage for that one, finally finding it. I was ready.

Even Lori Lightfoot and Wonder Woman were prepared to abandon hearth & home to catch the spectacle of Soulfinger Featuring Neddie Jingo -- they tucked the teenieboppers into their Playstation comas and followed the lads to the gig in their own car.

But, wouldn't you know it, just as Bobby and I were hitting the outskirts of Hartford, his cellie rang. It's Ace McClintock. Terrible news: The gig's off. Whether the cancellation had anything to do with the previous night's shenanigans -- Ace, a great dévoté of the Grape and the Grain -- had fallen out the door of the club during a set and had completed "What'd I Say" from the alley -- or the extremely light turnout this Thanksgiving night, was immaterial. The only thing that counted was that my Date with Destiny was to remain a chimera.

We still pressed on to the club, though -- Bobby had to retrieve his Rhodes and help load out. As we entered, shaking the pissing-down rain from our sou'-westers, Ace greeted us and pressed frothy beverages into our shaking hands. As Bobby got to work, I took a seat at the bar next to a rather unprepossessing figure, already fairly festive from the Jägermeisters he'd been pounding down. This personage, Bobby informed me while coiling patch cords, was Jazz Aristocracy.

We made small talk, did Jazz A. and I, touching on this point and that. Early in the proceedings, I got my first taste of how Mr. Aristocracy had earned his name; he casually let it drop that he'd once been a member of one of the later Chet Baker Nonets.

"Say the who, what -- di-did you just say Chet Baker?"

"Yeah." This with a world-weary sigh. "See, I'd just come off the road with Maynard Ferguson, Chet was looking for a trombonist, and --"

Holy creeping shit! Jazz Aristocracy! I'm sitting here in this shitty little Connecticut bar with Jazz Aristocracy! I almost sat in with Jazz Aristocracy! My cobwebby little guitar riffs and stone-cliché fills, desperately worked out that afternoon, might actually have shared a sonic space with a cat who's played with Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, and Dizzy Motherfucking Gillespie!


We stepped outside so Jazz A. could have a smoke under the club's awning, out of the bucketing rain. The thought's been on my mind, Jazz was, as I say, on the outside of more than a few Jägermeisters, so I thought I might as well bring it up.

"I've been having an email conversation with a guy in Australia on the topic of Musical Archetypes, you know? Like the chord progression i-VII-VI-V, is amazingly often associated with cats--"

I didn't have a tape recorder, so I can't reproduce it perfectly, but here's Jazz Aristocracy's answer as best I can do it:

"Musical archetypes? Archetypes? Yeah, I know what you're talking about. It's the Golden Mean, man. Two over three, man, that's the archetype right there, Jack. The clave in Brazilian music. Voom-tick-n-tick-tick, voom tick-n-tick, that's the archetype right there, man, that's all you need to know, the Golden Mean, the 1:1.618 ratio that comes to us all the way from the Renaissance to today, man, it never changes, it just assumes different forms, dig? From the nautilus shell to the Parthenon to the time signatures in 'Well, You Needn't,' it's always the same ratio, man, it's always that same Golden Mean, the distance from your eye to your chin and from your chin to your bellybutton, it's always that Golden Mean, and that's all the archetype you need right there, all you need, yes, sir...."

Jesus. Yo, Soulfinger. You need a guitarist -- however easily impressed with tall talk from Jazz Aristocracy -- you call me, OK? I can drop whatever I'm doing to sit in, dig? That is, if it means I can sit at Jazz Aristocracy's feet and soak in his grade-A, high-test, primo bullshit. Bullshit for the ages, man. Bullshit from a pro.

You want to know a little more about Jazz Aristocracy, I found this. That's the guy, man. That's the guy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Nectarine of My Fourth Vertebra

Things may get a little quiet in the Jingosphere over the Thanksgiving weekend, as we pack up kits, cats, sacks and wives to visit Bobby Lightfoot in St. Ives.

(Actually, there's only one wife, and she's the apple of my eye, the Asian pear of my pancreas, the grapefruit of my left knee, the mangosteen of my uvula, the kiwi of my peritonium, the carambola of my latissimus dorsi, the chewy caramel center of the Godiva bon-bon that is my life.)

I'm reliably informed that I'll be witnessing a Soulfinger Gig on Thanksgiving night -- the middle-aged punters don't stop bein' on-the-make for nuthin' -- and I'll be sure to bring my camera to record the humiliation.

Happy Holiday Hint: Don't anthropomorphize the turkey in front of vegetarians!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Civic Education: A Dialogue

(Crossposted at The American Street)
We owe ourselves, and the United States that we will pass off to our children, to relearn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate. And those things are the nonpartisan basis of democracy, and without them, you can kiss this thing goodbye. [Applause]...

What happens now, in this partisan-addicted country of ours is, that Democrats are afraid that if they send their kids to civics classes they might not come back Democrats, and Republicans are afraid they might not come back Republicans, but civics -- the expertise needed to understand Western Enlightenment and civil liberties -- is not something you're born with, you have to learn it. And we teach our kids what we want them to know, and we don't teach them what we don't want them to know, and that's not a conspiracy, that's human nature. And you have to -- we have to -- remember that unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle in government -- a miracle that everyone knows is a miracle -- unless we teach what that means, then it will go away in your kids' lifetime, then we will be a fable. We will be a tale told about this place that used to stand up for blah-blah-blah. You have to teach it, you have to find the time and creativity to teach it in school. If you don't, you will lose it to fundamentalists of any stripe, you will lose it to stupidity, you will lose it to the darkness.

And what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty, and if it lasts for more than our lifetime or our kids' lifetime, it is only due to the fact that we put some effort into teaching what it is is, the ideas of America, the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly -- and if you don't teach it. it'll go away. And in the middle of the night, when the towers fall, we will not say, "What am I responsible for?"; we will say, "Tell us what to do!"

And remember, democracy in any form is only two or three hundred years old.... The idea of being personally responsible for your government is a twinkle...and we have to support it or we will else instinctively react as we have for ten thousand years -- "Tell us what to do!" -- and we will chuck these liberties the moment the next terrorist horror happens.

-- Actor Richard Dreyfus, now a senior research advisor at Oxford, on Real Time with Bill Maher, Nov. 17, 2006 (YouTube link.)

At a rally to expose the "myth" of church-state separation I attended this spring, Orwell was quoted at me four times, most emphatically by William J. Federer, an encyclopedic compiler of quotations whose America's God and Country -- a collection of apparently theocratic bons mots distilled from the Founders and other great men "for use in speeches, papers [and] debates" -- has sold half a million copies. "Those who control the past," Federer said, quoting Orwell's 1984, "control the future." History, the practical theology of the movement, reveals destiny....

Federer and I were riding together in a white school bus full of Christians from around the country to pray at the site on which the Danbury, Connecticut, First Baptist Church once stood. It was in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists that Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase "wall of separation," three words upon which the battle over whether the United States is to be a Christian nation or a cosmopolitan one turns. Federer...wanted me to understand that what Jefferson -- notorious deist and author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom -- had really meant to promote was a "one-way wall," designed to protect the church from the state, not the other way around. Jefferson, Federer told me, was a believer; like all the Founders, he knew that there could be no government without God. Why hadn't I been taught this? Because I was a victim of the godless public schools.

"Those who control the present," Federer continued his quote from 1984, "control the past." He paused and stared at me to make sure I understood the equation. "Orson Welles wrote that," he said.

-- Jeff Sharlet, in "Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian Right is reimagining U.S. history," in Harper's, December 2006.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Grammar-Boy Redux

Would it be horrendously pedantic of me to point out that the title "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened" is grammatically solecistic, and that "If I Had Done It, Here's How It Might Have Happened" is perhaps a less problematic construction?

Oh. OK. I'll shut up, then.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Band is Blowing Dixie Double Four Time

Damn it!

This evening, as I hopped out of the truck and ankled toward the house after a long day at the salt mines, the most perfect name for a consultancy company ever just popped into my head:

The Consultants of Swing.

I was ready to lunge for the Trademark and Patent Office website, to dope out how I could register this surefire moneymaker.

Turns out I'm not the first to think of it.

Damn it!

Gimme Some Truth

Crystal City, Virginia, is an awful place. It mushroomed into being in the early Sixties, an oppressive glass-and-concrete wart just to the south of the Pentagon, which is its reason for existence. Its main street is a six-lane highway, uncrossable by foot without grave personal danger, and no businesses or restaurants line the main road -- only chain hotels housing innumerable iron-jawed defense-contractor reps with Trent Lott hair and huge wire-rimmed glasses, in from out of town to finagle this or that bloated DOD deal on behalf of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumann, whose logos decorate every office building. While sidewalks do exist, the residents of Crystal City are encouraged to scurry from point to point by means of a ratlike maze of underground tunnels, dank expanses relieved of fluorescent dimness only by the rare skylight and the depressing neon glow emanating from McDonalds and Subway franchises.

It would take a reward of rare value to get me to darken Crystal City's plate-glass doors, and only the availability of such a bauble explains my presence yesterday in the Conference Room of the Crystal City Marriott. Once a decade or so, I am able to wangle a paid day off -- oh, so professionally developmental, don't you know -- to catch the exquisite balance of corn and roughage served up by the magisterial Edward Tufte.

Tufte's self-published books on information design are stunningly beautiful things that are, now that I've revisited them, curiously difficult to actually read. Tufte himself projects a combination of humaneness with more than a touch of rather delicious arrogance that makes me quite grateful I'm not actually one of his students. Having spent quite some time in the info-design business myself, I found plenty to quibble with in his talk, particularly in the realm of Web design -- quite a few times I found myself resorting to the old refrain: Yeah, pal. Easy for you to say! Ivory-tower design gurus all too often betray a coldness to the predicament of the Working Stiff -- cranky clients, malfunctioning tools, comically inadequate budgets, tragically foreshortened schedules.

But his themes are indisputable and admirable. Summing up his section on the Principles of Analytic Design, he says this:
The purpose of an evidence presentation is to assist thinking. Thus presentations should be constructed so as to assist with the fundamental intellectual tasks in reasoning about evidence: describing the data, making multivariate comparisons, understanding causality, integrating a diversity of evidence, and documenting the analysis. Thus the Grand Principle of analytical design: The principles of analytic design are derived from the principles of analytical thinking.
Tufte's illustration of the masterful information-design skills of Galileo is nothing short of breathtaking: by simple and direct presentation of his astronomical observations in his texts and notebooks (that is to say, by applying Tufte's Grand Principle), Galileo gave life to the profoundly important notion that the evidence of our senses -- and the careful and unambiguous transmission of that evidence -- trumps received wisdom. Cat invented science, didn't he. It's a sad illustration of human idiocy that it took somebody until 1612 to come up with that simple idea -- and that he was put in a cage for doing it.

Tufte is particularly scathing when information-design is used to mislead, to prevaricate, to lie. I've already said my piece on PowerPoint presentations (I'm agin 'em), and much of my objection to that sack-of-shit software predates -- but is in complete agreement with -- Tufte's own essay on the topic, which is magnificent in its spleen. In his talk yesterday, he made the fairly self-evident yet tragically disregarded point that "pitching out corrupts within":
If a corporation distorts evidence presented to consumers, stockholders, and journalists, then it may soon lie to itself. Or, similarly, the chronic problem of government intelligence agencies: once the collection and selection of evidence starts to become fixed around a pre-determined policy line, intelligence agencies may become perpetually unintelligent, confused about the differences between detective work and marketing.
During the lunchtime break, Tufte signed books for queued-up punters while munching on what looked like small squares of pressboard and a bag of nuts. I lined up for an audience, but instead of Beautiful Evidence, Tufte's latest, I held my copy of Thomas Ricks' Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Regular readers may remember I had a few things to say about a PowerPoint graphic reproduced in its pages a few months ago. I wanted to get Tufte's comments on it, and maybe snag an amusing autograph. When my turn came, I held up the book and said, "I can't imagine no one's ever brought this book to your attention."

To my surprise, he looked a little puzzled, only half-understanding. I opened the book and showed him the PP graphic in the photo section. "Ah!" he said, "I've heard of this one, but I've never actually seen it!"

Wow. OK. I let him absorb it for a bit, and he quickly began to understand the full horror of it. I said, "It's not actually competely incomprehensible; it's a timeline, chaos on the left, order on the right and these arrows, see, they're pushing--"

He chortled. "Hah! Nothing like a little 'aimed pressure to achieve your end-state over time,' is there!"

"Ain't that great?"

"Great?" he sad a little sadly. Then his voice went very hard indeed. "They've only killed a couple of hundred thousand people."

He did autograph the page. I'm amused now at his refusal to include any commentary on the graphic in his autograph (people were, after all, waiting for their own audiences with the Great Man). It looks like he signed it, as one would a painting:

Laughing to myself over the exchange, my newly-more-valuable book back in my bag, I tottered out of the auditorium to try to find something worth eating in the rat-tunnels of Crystal City.

(Later edit: Here's an out-fucking-standing post, from somebody who appears to know what the hell he's talking about, describing just how deadly is that PPT graphic reproduced above.)

Monday, November 13, 2006


As I am one of natuar's proofreaders, this sign snagged my eye as I whizzed past it on my way home from work this afternoon. My fellow motorists were treated to the comical sight of me hippity-hopping down the side of Hirst Road in Purcellville, camera in one hand, cane in the other, dodging giant Ford F-250s to capture this lovely wild typo in its natuaral setting. There was a flap about typos being an endangered species a few years ago -- what with spell-checkers and all -- so it's good to be able to catch one in natuar before they all dye out.

Now natuarlists -- they're the naked people, aren't they? With the butt-towels and the sun-cream and the volleyball? I do hope they manage to put some clothes on while picking up trash on the highway they've adopted. All I'm saying. Kids use these roads.

I can understand a modicum of chapped-assedness among the Loudoun Valley Natuarlist Society at the woeful proofreading down at the state pen where these signs are whipped up by our brethren the Incarcerated-Americans. But that's not a patch on the irritation stirred up by the sign down on Route 28, which has apparently been proudly adopted by the Ted Nugent Untied Sportsmen of America. How many shotgun blasts can one poor road-sign take? Not many -- and that's a natuaral fact.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"She's Leading the Team in the Northeast"

This guy shows no signs of actually being falling-down, weeping drunk. Which pretty much removes his only excuse.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Through All These Years I Burned For You

With trepidation I clear my voice (wobbly and tending to flatness an it may be) and unveil my entry in the great "Cover a Bobby Lightfoot Song Contest" of 2006. In a magnanimous gesture of farewell, I dedicate it to the outgoing United States Congressional Class of 2006. The lyrics are pretty fuckin' apt, thought of that way. Were I some kind of HTML boffin I'd scroll the names on the screen, each miserable, hellbound name fading tastefully into the background as the song plays: Santorum... Talent... Burns... Fuckin' Macaca...

This Goodbye. (Pops.)

To say I was knocked out by Bobby's song when I first heard it last year is to understate the case a bit. His original is utterly gorgeous, detailed, chewy -- an intimidating thing to approach as a musician with an eye to covering it. But it wasn't until I prepared to record it, tweezing it apart note by note, that the full mastery of Bobby's songcraft became apparent.

The first thing that struck me was how Bobby uses major/minor tension to heighten the effect of his lyrics. The first few lines, the lyrics self-reflective and inwardly directed, are sung over a fairly standard chord progression (E/C#minor/G#minor), but when the lyrics begin to introduce a note of anger at the subject of the song ("Through all these years I burned for you...") he introduces an A minor -- a chord not in the home key -- exquisitely underlining the word "years." Through the song, he uses the tension between A minor and A major to surprise us, keep us on our toes. Building surprise by introducing the minor voicing of a IV chord that "should" be major is a McCartneyism borrowed from jazz; "Blackbird," for one example, employs this trick to great effect.

But there's a second, even more subtle major/minor tension going on in this tune. In the line following the one quoted above -- "You see I've burned myself right out" -- the chords are E major/F#7/A major. Now the A is "correct" -- that is, in keeping with the home key -- but the F# isn't. And oh, hey! Check out the word that's being sung on that "incorrect" chord: myself. Once again, an example of the perfect marriage of unexpected tonality and lyric: You burned yourself out? Really? Are you quite sure someone else isn't actually responsible?

I also fell really hard for the lovely syncopation of the "And all these years" line -- to the extent that I included it during the guitar passage, where Bobby left it out of his version.

As you listen to the song, you'll see that the word "goodbye" ends each of the three verses. But it's sung to different intervals each time. In the first verse, it's a quietly resigned descending major second. The second time it's sung, it's a descending minor second to accommodate the B tonality of that beautiful and disturbing and, I think, quite frightening bridge, which hints at suicide ("And ain't there just a million stars..."). It's in that bridge that we really learn what the song's about: towering rage directed inward that we, the audience, can clearly see should be targeted outward toward a capricious lover. You'd never think such cognitive dissonance could occur to the serene and Earth-touching bodhisattva who writes at Bobby's blog.

Rage directed inward that should be targeted outward: Isn't that a perfect expression of Life Under Bush?

It's the interval given to the the last "goodbye" -- an ascending perfect fourth -- that resolves the whole song. In my current mood, it's an immensely satisfying resolution, a transcendent, orgasmic kissoff to those crooked, bile-rising bastards who have made every morning's approach to the newspaper such a frightening event: Good-byyyyyyye!

Because I can't play keyboards to save my life, I've simplified and, I hope, pared down Bobby's arrangement. Where his piano is all subtle colors and delicacy, my fingerpicked guitar has, I hope, a Lennonistic directness. I also closed my eyes and blindly lurched in the direction of George Harrison in the lead guitar bits, and to my quiet, surprised pride, think I may have actually hit the mark in spots. The twin Harrisonian slides that come up during the fade particularly please me; I'd intended them for the guitar passage following the bridge but they were a bit unprepossessing in a lead setting. Moving them to the fade gave me a pleasant surprise.

One last thing: I've listened to both Bobby's original and my pallid copy of this song about 600,000,000 times now, and it's only just now occurred to me what inspired the genesis of the song! "But it's hard to say/The words get in the way"... Where have I heard that before...?
I would have made this instrumental
But the words got in the way
Rock on, Bobby. Rock on forever.


PS: Speaking of surprises, I know it'll come as a major shock to all of you, but Bobby Lightfoot actually did survive the Bush 43 Administration and lived a full and happy life to the end of his days. Here's the proof. Lori Lightfoot took a new name when she converted to Zoroastrianism, but that's her in the pic, all right. What a hottie.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Senate Is Ours

It's over.

The Associated Press has projected Jim Webb as the winner of the Virginia Senate race:
The Associated Press contacted election officials in all 134 [Virginia] localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.

An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening.

The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

If Webb pops up and says he has a Nude Erection for America, I might just take him up on it.)

More of It!

On NPR this evening, DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel was asked what he thought of the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. His reply: "I think the message of the election is clear: the American people want a nude erection..."

Dammit, that was not the message of the election! The message was Iraq, it was corruption, it was subpoena power! It was not about some naked San Franciscan running around with a boner! That's not what we voted for! I mean, it might actually be possible that quite a few American voters actually would regard a disrobed stiffie with a kindly eye -- either behind or in front of it, if you follow me -- but I must insist that our leadership's insistence that American voters expressed a desire for bareback beef bayonet on Election Day does not play well with Values Voters! Stop flogging it!

Stop it, Dems! You're blowing it!

The Allen-Webb Recount

Larry Framme, former chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, sent an e-mail to Couric & Co. this morning, which is posted here. He says,
I ran both the 1989 statewide recount for Doug Wilder and the 2005 recount for Creigh Deeds. It's nice to be on the sidelines for the first time in state-wide recount history. The Wilder and Deeds recounts were about as many as I wanted to run in a lifetime!

There is a big lesson for us this year from those recounts:

The Certified Winner will not lose a recount unless the certified results differ by 50 votes or less. Whichever candidate wants to change the election night result MUST do it in the next few days during the canvas process.

Here is why:

1. The Wilder recount changed about 20 votes net from the CERTIFIED results. The Deeds recount changed about the same number from the CERTIFIED results. Since the certified results are based on the results of the canvases that will be conducted over the next few days, history tells us that there is virtually no chance the RECOUNT will make up a 100 vote difference in the certified results, much less nearly 8,000.
He concludes,
In short, Allen might as well forget about winning a recount and putting VA and the nation through weeks of waiting (remember, under the statutory timetable, a recount cannot realistically be completed until the week before Christmas). However, Allen and Webb better have a lot of lawyers on the ground over the next three days to observe the canvases. The canvases are the ONLY place this election can change.
It's pretty encouraging, although I'm witholding my own optimism until the moment Macaca officially concedes.

Read the whole thing.

(Edit: Richmond Times-Dispatch sez Allen may not even ask for a recount but is waiting to see what the certified (or CERTIFIED, in Framme's style) totals are. Via Blah3 and Skippy, who surmise that Allen's goons might not want the FBI asking too many uncomfortable questions about Robo-Calls, which they're already on the ground investigating. Me, I'm taking that speculation with a grain of salt.)

A Nice Little Bit of All Right

A sweet day. A sweet, sweet day. First a Nude Erection, and now Rummy's bitten it. CNN's called Montana for Tester, Webb's up by 6,708 votes. Fifty Senate seats guaranteed, fifty-one tantalizingly close.

A sweet, sweet day, years in the waiting.

Check this out: Not so fuckin' red now, is it?

I note that The Almighty hath favored Michele Bachman in Minnesota's Sixth, so we'll still have her around to lampoon mercilessly. That'll be fun.

The Insidious Agenda of the Angry Left

I didn't last much past midnight last night watching the election returns, so I had some catching up to do this morning. Bouncing down the driveway in my truck, I switched on NPR just in time to catch Nancy Pelosi's haymaker to the chin -- in one brief sentence confirming everything the lantern-jawed Defenders of Freedom at Little Green Footballs have been howling about San Francisco Liberals:
"The campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead. Mr. President, we need a nude erection in Iraq. Let us work together to find a solution."
Say what? A nude erection? Oh my whistling Jesus -- what have I voted for?

I just don't think that's a good idea! You retake the House and maybe even the Senate, and you start pushing your pornographic gay agenda the very next day?

Let some time elapse, Madame Speaker-Presumptive!

But it didn't end there! Not a few minutes later, I heard Sen-Elect Bob Casey declaring victory over Rick "That Frothy Mix" Santorum, and he did it again!:

"Tonight, I believe in my heart that Pennsylvania is where the nude erection for America is beginning..."

As I say, this was radio, so I can only imagine the visual that must have accompanied this mortifying declaration.

Guys, this is not cool! Yeah, maybe a raging ten-foot hogan is just what America needs, but you've gotta soft-peddle that kinda talk at least until you're sworn in!

And quit being so smug! You won an off-year erection! That's not so hard!


Turning to humor perpetrated by actual competent professionals, I took Wondie and Freddie to see the Borat movie last night. I thought I was going to cough up a vertebra -- this movie is absolutely fuckin' relentlessly funny. Mercilessly funny. Oh Em Eff Gee it's funny. I'm not going to publish any spoilers, but there's a scene involving a fight in a hotel room that spills out into a Realtors Convention that I quite seriously thought I wasn't going to survive. Noises were coming out of me that should have alerted the medical authorities to come running with a defibrillator.

That said, I have to confess I was a little uncomfortable having brought the boy along. Yes, he's thirteen going on twenty-two, a young man of the world and nobody's idea of innocent, but it's just a little off-putting to be howling at sex-toy humor with your son at your elbow. Even if the joke's at the expense of Alan Keyes.


WOOO!!!! Come on Jim Webb!

Been watching all night... Just saw on CNN, with 99% of precincts reporting, Webb ahead by about 2000 votes! After being behind by 7000 for hours! The precincts yet unreported are urban, suburbs around Richmond...

Come on, motherfucker!!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Regular visitors to these pages may have noticed a weeklong hiatus in posting. (Or hell, you may not have noticed. Well, it happened.)

I have to confess that it has not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, and a series of blows to the head and thorax have left me in a state of bloggenschmerz that I now feel lifting.

Wonder Woman, whom I hereby nominate for beatification and, in the fullness of time, promotion to full-on sainthood, is helping to care for her father, who finds himself in the late stages of Alzheimer's. Last week we had a scare -- he appeared to be showing symptoms of pneumonia, and was remanded to the hospital. He underwent gall-bladder surgery, which the doctors warned could very easily have carried him off in his weakened state. I'm happy to report that the old bull came through it with flying colors, and, after some postoperative lethargy, seems to be improving nicely -- as much as someone with that horrifying condition can be said to improve.

One of the many lessons I've learned while watching my father-in-law slowly disappear over the last few years is simply this: write everything down.

That's not meant to be funny. It's serious advice. Write everything down. Leave words behind. Preferably a whole lot of words. Leave a record of what you thought, what you did, why you did it. People who love you will be glad you did.

Hence, this blog. Come to think of it.

Next, Wondie woke up late last week with a deer-tick nibbling away at the (admittedly delicious) skin of her tum-tum. Then, this weekend, she came down with flulike symptoms. As of this writing she's at the doctor's demanding the meds to help her fight off Lyme disease.

The question does occur: when was it, exactly, when we humans started to allow our hunting-companions to share our beds? I seem to remember that in simpler times we kept the dogs in separate quarters where their vermin could not transfer to our wives' yummy tummy-flesh. I'm not sure it was a wise decision to let them in the house, with their shedding fur and their sloppy eating habits and their throwing up disgusting things on the good living-room rugs and hogging the warm spot on the bed.


I truly haven't been able to face the blogosphere this week, so I don't know how much currency was gained by this story I read in Saturday's Washington Post:
N.Va. Boys' Championship Dream Doomed by a Moment of Vengeance

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006; Page A01

The South County Raptors, a scrappy football team made up of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County, were supposed to meet the Herndon Hornets today in the first round of the county playoffs.

Instead, the Raptors are at home, their season over with no possibility of a championship after a league commissioner fired the head coach and the assistant coach this week. Their offense? They moved the commissioner's son from defense to offense for the final game of the season last Saturday, an overtime win that put the Raptors in the postseason.

"Scott does not sit out on defense -- ever," the commissioner, Dan Hinkle, had warned the head coach, James Owens, in an e-mail sent before the season began about how he should play Hinkle's son, 12. On defense, the father said, "he goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense on the best team in his weight class. . . . He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."
I have bad memories of my Pee-Wee Football days, when our head coach gave the quarterbacking position to his beloved little blossom, and treated the rest of us proletarians like handservants to his spoiled-rotten Little Field General. I'll let you folks discuss the philosophico-ethical ramifications of Mr. Hinkle's inspiring example of fatherhood. It's what Comment threads are for. Me, I've got some tires to slash.


Oh -- and in case I don't get to say it before tomorrow: You Virginians, do take a minute out of your busy day tomorrow and pop down to your local polling station and pull the lever for Fightin' Jimmy Webb, won't you? Do it two, three times. Feels good. All the cool kids are doing it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Goose for the Gander

(Cross-posted at The American Street)

Some twenty-odd years ago, I received a phone call at my desk at Simon & Schuster from an erstwhile colleague. Now a freelance editor, he was trying to palm off a fractious client on me as a moonlighting job. He'd grown frustrated with the client, a retired Russian general who'd fought with distinction at the Siege of Stalingrad and who now wanted to sell his memoirs of that epoch-making battle. My editor friend told the general that his memoir, while undoubtedly a record of heroic resistance to the Nazi invasion of his homeland, lacked the one ingredient guaranteed to make American publishers sit up and whinny: There was not a single sex scene in the whole book. The good general absolutely refused to embellish his otherwise admirable memoir with made-up nonsense about a weekend of unbridled passion at a Black Sea dacha with a toothsome Party apparatchik while the German mortars fell.

My friend did a pretty good impression of the general's outraged objection: "Pippil vere not fuckingk at Stalingrad!"

The unspoken thought went both ways down the phone line: Oh, yes they were, if you're planning to sell any books about it...

I popped into the Purcellville, Virginia, library this morning on the off chance that any of Jim Webb's novels -- now a cause celebre in the Webb-Allen election owing to Allen's hilariously outraged trumpeting that the books contain -- gasp! -- sex scenes! -- were on hand.

Perhaps predictably, there yawned a four-book-wide gap between Weaver and Webster on the fiction shelves. I thought to ask a librarian how long ago the books had been checked out, but realized that a good librarian might take umbrage at the question -- people's library activities being the sort of thing they're touchy about revealing. I can't help but think, though, that prurient interest in Webb's novels might have been piqued pretty recently.

I realize Allen's pretty desperate if he's reached the point of trying to shock Virginia voters with the intelligence that his opponent's novels have sex in them, but I can't help remembering this passage from a "Talk of the Town" piece by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker a year ago, about Scooter Libby's squishy attempts at writing right-wing stroke-books:
Libby has a lot to live up to as a conservative author of erotic fiction. As an article in SPY magazine pointed out in 1988, from Safire (“[She] finally came to him in the bed and shouted ‘Arragghrrorwr!’ in his ear, bit his neck, plunged her head between his legs and devoured him”) to Buckley (“I’d rather do this with you than play cards”) to Liddy (“T’sa Li froze, her lips still enclosing Rand’s glans . . .”) to Ehrlichman (“ ‘It felt like a little tongue’ ”) to O’Reilly (“Okay, Shannon Michaels, off with those pants”), extracurricular creative writing has long been an outlet for ideas that might not fly at, say, the National Prayer Breakfast. In one of Lynne Cheney’s books, a Republican vice-president dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress.

I'm shocked! Shocked!

Friday, October 27, 2006

God Wants Me to Run for Congress

The ineffable Michele Bachmann, a Republican running for the open seat in the U.S. Congress from Minnesota's Sixth District, has prompted a thought, and I wonder if anyone in the woodwork can help me figure it out.

Bachmann had this to say to a Minnesota church congregation recently, speaking about her spiritual development:
And in the midst of that calling, God then called on me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, "What in the world would that be for?" And my husband said, "You need to do this," and I wasn't so sure. And we took three days, and we fasted, and we prayed, and we said, "Lord, is this what you want? Is this your will?" And along about the afternoon of Day Two, he made that calling sure. And it's been now twenty-two months that I've been running for the United States Congress...
(You can watch the video at YouTube -- but be warned: it's pretty excruciating.)

Now, you can say all you like about the Sin of Pride oozing out of the foregoing. My own secular upbringing may have left me bereft of God's Love and irrevocably doomed to the Lake of Fire, but I do recall from what little religious schooling I received that to claim to know God's will is frowned upon in the politer circles. Be all that as it may, what interests me -- and what I'm hoping to get a little enlightenment on -- is the mechanism by which these citizens are informed of the Almighty's divine will.

That is to say, exactly what form did Old Nobodaddy's bidding take? How was it clarified to Michele that, for example, the Sixth District -- and no other -- was the seat for which she should throw her hat in the ring? From her testimony above, the divine commission came as a complete surprise: Sorry, what? You want me to do what now, Lord?

Now, as far as my poor atheist brain can figure, there are only two possible ways that information of such specificity can be transmitted. First, an unexpected apparition, perhaps accompanied with some pyrotechnics (one's tempted to imagine a flaming rhododendron) but one in which the exchange is largely verbal:

Really, Lord? Is that Thy divine will?

Forgive my denseness, O Lord -- I am but a poor, humble sinner. The United States Congress is a mighty big organization... Wherein shall I fit?

The only other possibility that I can encompass involves some sort of divine affirmation that a decision taken after some consideration is the right one. In other words, you have to have some inkling of running for Congress in Minnesota's Sixth District, and your prayer and fasting while considering the question results in some kind of sign -- a vision of behaloed blastocysts, perhaps, or maybe just a nice warm, fuzzy feeling like you've just peed your pants. In the non-batshit-loony world, this might be thought of as "going away and thinking really hard about it, coming to a decision, and being happy with it."

To boil it down further, you can either testify that:

1) "God wants me to run for Congress";


2) "I want to run for Congress, and I think/hope/pray that God's good with that."

Is there any third way? I certainly can't see one.

Quite clearly, Bachmann's testimonial makes Claim 1) above. I would certainly never accuse her of cloaking the second claim with the first -- that is, of claiming that God directed her to run for the open Sixth District seat when in fact the decision to do so was made by her alone. Heavens, that would be lying! In church, no less!

Hence, my interest in the mechanism by which the Lord of Hosts -- who, I might point out, hasn't actually dusted off the Burning Bush act in quite some years, and whose public appearances in the last few millennia are mighty sparse on the ground -- lets a Midwestern
lawyer know that He would smile upon an old-fashioned barn-burner of a campaign in the Sixth.


(I'm also really amused by the three-day fast thing. If, on the second day of your fast, Old Smokey pops in with a choir of angels, trailing glory and hosannahs, and directs you to run for Congress, do you really continue your fast for another day? Haven't you, you know, got your answer? Others have pointed out that it's never a good idea to make important decisions on an empty stomach, and I heartily concur.)