Oops, guess not.
- Two words:
The fundamental difference between McCain 2000 and McCain 2008 is that he put his name on a law that forbids people from speaking out against their congressman within 60 days of an election.
That’s what I told the exploratory committee volunteer who called me up; I would absolutely not support McCain for president based on the BCRA.
“Even against Hillary Clinton?” she said BOO!
“What’s the difference?” I said.
How does that make you feel, Senator? You engender the same response in a former supporter and a former money donor as Hillary Clinton does.
(Link seen on Instapundit.)
Someone’s attempt at planned obsolescence has gone horribly, horribly wrong:
- Six years before the RMS Titanic set sail on its doomed maiden voyage, a Great Lakes steamship was launched, and it’s still in operation.
Now called St. Marys [sic] Challenger, it is the oldest ship still in service on the Great Lakes. This winter, the 101-year-old Challenger is docked in South Chicago while a maintenance crew from Milwaukee does minor repairs to get it ready for spring sailing.
No, wait; back in the old days, they built simple things that could run for a long time instead of complicated things that break right away. Because in the distant past, quality was a virtue more important than mere profit to companies and a feature more important than any bell or whistle to customers who had attention spans measured in generations instead of seasons.
- The Allen Cab Co., whose owner was recently found after a seven-day disappearance, appears to have closed.
A makeshift sign hangs on the front door of the building along 17th Street that once bustled with about 120 drivers and 100 cabs. It reads: “Sorry, we’re closed. Contact the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission for further questions. Thank you, #321.”
In another breaking report, we find that Nelson’s Haberdashery is Out to Lunch – Back at 1:15!
As if this wasn’t encouraging enough.
(Link seen on Instapundit.)
As I age, I concern myself with subtle imperfections that I’ve ignored for the majority of my thirtysomething years. Blithely, throughout much of my youth, I skipped through life without taking care of things, without worrying how that indifference would lead to consequences later. Now that I am older, sadder perhaps, but wiser, I have learned the importance of proper drainage and water control around a domicile.
Some years ago, when I was an impertinent youth of but eight and twenty, my wife and I bought our dream house of the moment. It looked spectacular in the early spring, with the last traces of the winter’s snow decorating the lawn in the picture. When our realtor walked us through the building, we appreciated the vinyl hardwood-looking floors in the kitchen and foyer, the gas fireplace in the basement den, and the affordable lower Bobo price. Of course, our youthful zeal for home ownership and our overappreciation of the possibilities for the fourth bedroom, we didn’t fully appreciate the impact of a below-grade walkout basement at the bottom of a hill whose sliding glass doors were guarded by a single drain beneath two blossoming crab apple trees.
Fast forward and flashflood two years to a dark and stormy night, where a torrent of water tumbling down the concrete steps outside the basement doors made the exterior look like a leaking fish tank from inside that den with the fireplace. I kneeled in ankle-deep water to bail the blossoms and crabapples from the drain almost as fast as they collected at the base of the vortex. I sniffled in the torrenting chill, man against nature, while my wife frantically sopped the inside seepage with towels and blankets.
We weathered that particular storm with only an extremely damp carpet, and I have learned a lesson. I now spend a portion of each afternoon sweeping the deck above and the concrete steps and drain below free of leaves, cut grass, crab apples, and other assorted detritus. My efforts only ensure my comfort in the hour immediately following my sweeping. I’ll fidget and fuss during any heavy rainfall, looking through the doors frequently to scry how much might accumulate around the drain. Often, I will obsessively or compulsively venture into the rain to clear the drain, removing a crab apple or a palmful of leaves to ensure my own unease of mind.
Perhaps I would enjoy the romance of a good thunderstorm more if I only worried about the drain at the bottom of the basement steps. I also worry about the gutters.
One morning, circa 2:30 CDT, I awakened from a light slumber to hear the soothing—or so I thought then—prattle of rain through the downspout. As I listened to the gentle cascade of water, I realized that I heard a soothing cascade undimmed by exterior walls. I slapped glasses onto my nose and hastened to the dining room, where I encountered a stream of water pouring from the dining room window onto the vinyl, but hardwood-looking, dining room floor. For some reason, water rolling from the roof ignored the best-designed systems of man which proffered a downspout at the house’s corner. Instead, the water fell directly against the side of the house. The charming but energy-efficient sliding window track offered a handy cup to collect this water, and when the cup overflowed, it runneth over into the dining room. Once again arming my beautiful and sleepy wife with towels, I ventured into the maelstrom.
Climbing onto a stepladder, I discerned through trial and error, using the flashes of lightning for illumination and the crashes of nearby thunder as motivation for quick action, that the gutter had pulled from the house so that the water from the roof was streaming between the roof and the gutter. When I held the gutter up with my hands, the stream against the window abated. When I let go, the stream resumed. I pondered the prospect of holding the gutter against the house all night, but I remembered that I had a single stalk of wood in my personal lumberyard that I could prop against the window sill to hold the gutter in place and…. Success!
Of course, success in this case meant that I could dry off, but that I would spend the rest of a mostly sleepless night checking both the drain and the kludged gutter brace to ensure that most of my house remained dry. I took a personal day from work the next day to clean my gutters, to bolt the loose section to the house with the largest bolts I could muster, and to place gutter screens on the gutters beneath the two crab apple trees just to be thorough or just because I was in that aisle in the hardware store.
So as I age, and as I own a home, I pay greater attention to the weather and the water falling outside of my house. As Mr. Fix-It might have said in his book, water is a friend, but it’s also an enemy. Perhaps he didn’t say that, or perhaps he was talking about the copper piping through which we invite the beast into our home. Still, you can be sure that when my wife and I move to our next dream house, I will inspect the topography to ensure that the entire neighborhood does not funnel its watershed to my basement door. I’ll also resist the temptation to use the basement (if we don’t buy a home on a sweet, sweet slab of concrete) to store our extensive library or electronic equipment.
Until then, though, I will arm myself with brooms, buckets, and two-by-fours to prepare for the inevitable unexpected, which undoubtedly will require something other than brooms, buckets, or two-by-fours. Ultimately, though, I know I can do little but study the skies like a native, looking for signs that I have personally angered the rain gods.
It’s 1985, and you’ve just moved to Missouri from the great state of Wisconsin (Snow Be Upon It). You’ve spent a year in your rich relatives’ basement before your poor sainted mother could work her way off of the frozen onion assembly line into a typist (with typewriters!) position with the government and could afford to shelter you and your brother in a 12′ x 60′ trailer in a semi-rural Missouri trailer park. You’re not supposed to leave the trailer as a “latchkey kid,” and all you’ve got for amusement is the Polaroid Instant Camera you got for selling cards adverised on the back of comic books (thank you, Captain Olympic!), a film cartridge you might have earned with some months’ worth of fifty-cents-a-week allowance for cleaning the said trailer and cooking dinner every night, a stray dog herded from traffic into your household, and a kid brother. What do you do for fun?
You stage a set of photos illustrating how your dog is a genius. Just like she told you to.
Cricket, The Genius
Cricket reading Omni on the sofa of our 1968 Star mobile home.
Cricket reading the financial pages at the table. The cookie there is for later, not to draw and hold the dog’s attention while the photograph was taken. It’s a real shame we didn’t take her advice and short everything in October 1987.
Cricket playing my brother at cards, looking for her stake to short sell everything in October 1987. Unfortunately, preteen children from trailer parks rarely have the scratch needed to impress brokers.
Cricket did my brother’s homework. Although she was smart for a dog, apparently she didn’t care much for elementary school social studies.
Cricket loved crossword puzzles, but the ones in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch didn’t challenge her much.
One of my first short stories, written in middle school, was a little two page bit written from Cricket’s point of view. The short story was fittingly rejected by McCall’s in my first magazine submission. I’ve lost that rejection letter, which would otherwise be the pride of my extensive collection.
As a hare-brained money making scheme, I created the official fan club for that dog. For some princely annual sum, you would get a membership card printed on dot matrix, cut crookedly, and laminated with some sheets I bought at the flea market:
Wonder of wonder, I think I actually sold one of these to the kid across the street for a quarter. I even produced the first monthly Cricket fan club newsletter, but then it tailed off to some other projects.
This is where I add a snappy conclusion that leaves you with some bon mot to mull over. I don’t got one. All I have is a handful of cutesy dog pictures and a couple of memories to share. Make your own bon mot.
Number 19 on Google for
Damn, how many copies of Google Apps Premier Edition do I have to buy to keep this quiet?
I can’t believe I read the whole thing.
Sorry to be summoning forth the memory of old Alka Seltzer commercials, but zowie, this is a 601 page book. It’s an Anna Karenina-sized collection of mystery short stories.
It’s a large collection of short stories, to be sure, but it’s a very good collection of short stories, so don’t get me wrong. It took me a couple of weeks to read it, but that’s because even the best book of short stories might be hard to put down, but sometimes they can be hard to pick up again, particularly when they’re 600 page books of short stories and you’re a fellow who likes to read a couple of books a week.
This collection, though, is definitely of higher quality than some of the collections of short stories I’ve picked up in the recent past (even better than The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction Fourteenth Series). This book runs a gamut, from serious literary writers like Pearl S. Buck and Bernard Malamud to science fiction luminaries like Robert Silverberg (see my review for Three Survived) to my mystery standards (John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, Ross MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillaine, and Ellery Queen).
The styles vary, but the quality is definitely high, and it’s worth the buck I paid for it at St. Michael’s book fair this winter. Heck, for the dollar, I got a lot of nights’ reading from it, which is both good (efficient spending for prolonged reading) and bad (prolonged reading means less clearance of the to-read shelf and too little blog fodder).
The link below lists it as low as $.34 currently (plus shipping). Worth all of those pennies and more.
And when you’ve read it, explain the Bernard Malamud story (“My Son The Murderer”) to me, because I didn’t get it. Since it was the last story in the book and the only thing standing between me and logging the book as my 15th trophy of the year, I didn’t mind. But I didn’t get it, either. Blending multiple 1st person points of view across multiple paragraphs? The intro said there was a crime in it, but I didn’t see it.
What do the numbers mean? Why were those guys at the ice station? What’s the deal with Desmond? Why did Locke become paraplegic? Those are all simple, pedestrian mysteries on Lost. No, sir, there’s one mystery that surpasses them all given what we’ve seen or not seen in the last portion of Season 2 and the first half of Season 3:
Who ate the dog Vincent?
Here are the data points:
- We haven’t seen him since a late episode in Season 2.
- His two main contacts (protectors) from the survivors (Walt and that chick) are gone.
- We haven’t seen the survivors hunting boars lately.
The inescapable conclusion is that the either Vincent dog-paddled to Asia or someone has killed and eaten that yellow lab.
Let’s run down the possible suspects:
- Jin and Sun: Come on, they’re Korean, but that’s too obvious and the writers of the television show would not play to the stereotype. No.
- Charlie: Sure, in a fit of heroin pitique, perhaps he was jonesing for some meat. Maybe.
- Hurley: Dude needs some calories, but he’s more the sort to raid the stash from the hatch. Probably not.
- Desmond: Dude crazy. Maybe.
- A polar bear: Hey, why not? Walt got attacked by a polar bear; the recurrence of a polar bear would tie back to other appearances by polar bears and could probably amount to nothing. Maybe.
- An tribe of native Pacific Islanders: Sure, we’ve never seen nor heard from them, but why would that stop them from appearing? Maybe.
- The ghost of Jack’s father: Well, ghosts don’t eay, but perhaps Jack’s father must consume flesh to reincorporate. Maybe.
- The shark: Sharks eat things in the ocean. Hasn’t the dog been known to go into the ocean? Maybe.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. But you can rest assured, I’ll be watching for the clues, such as someone in the background of a shot sucking marrow from dog bones or a character suddenly sporting an Australian rabies tag on a chain around his or her neck. Because I must know.
Today, I received this message:
Oh, no, I thought like good little phishbait. I didn’t even bid on that.
But instead of clicking through on the e-mail, I go to ebay.com and search for the item.
Well, low and behold, the item number in question was an actual item and it was offered by the seller mentioned in the phish e-mail:
Of course, it’s still obviously a phish because:
- That’s not the e-mail address tied to my eBay account.
- The e-mail lacks most eBay header/footer details.
- The message headers indicate it came from somewhere besides eBay.
- The auction that I was “delinquent” for hadn’t ended by the time I received an e-mail.
But still, the sophistication of this particular phish is remarkable. It scrapes an actual auction off of the eBay site before or at the time of mailing to make it seem more authentic.
I’m almost afraid enough to vow to never click a link in an e-mail again, but I’d probably get fired.
Will city planners and those who’ve mistaken government service for a real-life game of Sim City take note about this development that, after a number of years, lacks the foot-traffic sorts of business it promised?
- At first glance, a trip to the New Urbanist community taking shape on Hercules’ bayfront is reminiscent of the neighborhood depicted in the Jim Carrey movie “The Truman Show.” Each Craftsman, Victorian and Italianate home couldn’t be more perfect, glistening in an array of tasteful pastels.
But at least Carrey’s character, trapped in a seemingly idyllic seaside community, could walk to the local cafe for a cup of coffee. Three years after moving into the Promenade section of Hercules’ New Urbanist Waterfront Redevelopment District west of Interstate 80, residents still have to drive or take a long walk for items as mundane as a cup of coffee. The bustling just-walk-to-it village, touted as a model of the New Urbanist movement, has yet to materialize.
One of the tenets of the movement is that residents should be able to access essential services without having to drive to a strip mall on the outskirts of town. The idea is to locate retail hubs within walking distance of neighborhoods, or within easy access to mass transit. Currently, the mixed-use, live-work spaces on Railroad Avenue, which are meant to house these shops and services for Promenade district residents, contain real estate offices, finance firms and, of course, a company that specializes in staging homes for sale.
No, of course not; your community leaders know they’re smarter than those saps in California, and that their misunderstanding of how urban areas grow from central planning instead of organically based on industry/employment won’t make the same mistakes.
Of course, they will. They’ll drive out stinky heavy industry to beam down a Star Cups (an off brand coffee shop, because a profitable corporation knows that light residential areas are risky for sustained business operations). Meanwhile, the affluent types who can live in New Urban areas because they commute to higher paid jobs elsewhere or because they’re on a trust fund/retirement will continue to draw the sorts of businesses they can support–expensive places that can survive when the customers aren’t frequent. Like real estate offices, financial firms, a company that specializes in staging homes for sale, and expensive beauty salons.
Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch proud his paper is hated:
- We are not liked. We are a liberal paper, and these are conservative times. What’s more, many of the people who you might think would normally like a liberal newspaper don’t particularly like us.
It bothers the new owners from Lee Enterprises because they have to keep a business afloat. Apparently, it doesn’t bother the actual employees of the Post-Dispatch, though, because they’re on a mission.
I used my translucent pink clipboard the other day. I had an essay I wanted to proofread, so I detached the clipboard from its underused lined pad and clipped the essay onto it. The lined pad, with its years’ old plans and next big thing ideas, I put back into the organizer on my desk. I have things so well organized in that rudiment of civilization that I hate to take them out. But I needed the clipboard, so it came out.
I am reaching the age where every little trinket in my life has an origin in the mists of my time, and the clipboard originates from my college days. Not so much my college days, but the weekends in between my college days. For a brief period, I gamed with a couple of friends in B—’s basement on Sunday nights. Sunday afternoons, I could use my father’s car, so I would round up the gang and we would spend Sunday afternoon and evening in the basement of the townhouse where B— and his mother lived. The basement had the décor of a middle 20th century rec room, with a tile floor, the old couch, and a card table. On the off-hand weeknights, we’d gather to game or to pretend we could play musical instruments together. But on Sunday nights, we’d game.
A couple of late adolescents, dice, pencils, and paper called for something more, but we didn’t know what. Until B— discovered it. One weekend, he presented each of us with a clipboard to make it easier for us to maintain our personal character score sheets. As he produced them from somewhere offstage, he said he’d been to an office supply store and found a sale. Considering that we all earned a minimum wagesque paycheck at the time, his bounty probably represented a not insignificant portion of his disposable income. Much to our chagrin (and, no doubt, to the office supply store manager who eventually put them on sale), the clipboards were pink. No right-minded young man would use a pink clipboard.
But they were free enough at the time, and no right-minded minimum wage earner overlooks the generous excess of a friend. Particularly when that gaudy and potentially effeminate excess can be enjoyed in a basement where overlooked New Year’s parties, games of strategy, and Ghostriders’ band practices occurred. We accepted the plastic clipboards, no doubt edgy statements at a time where clipboards were still made of laminated chipboard, and we used them throughout those Sunday evenings in our youth.
As I proofread whatever it was I wanted to revise, my attention was split to include the history of the device upon which I was working and those nights long ago. I’ve had the clipboard longer than I’ve had my degree, my wife, my career, my Web log, and my son. Whenever I need a place upon which I want to correct my printed scribblings or, for some reason, to attach tablets which already feature their own hard cardboard surfaces, I turn to this single pink, semi-transparent piece of plastic.
Of all the things I’ve mentioned, it will survive. When these words are forgotten, when my marriage and my line have faded into even greater obscurity than from which they have sprung, when my Internet postings have finally emanated into the ether, when the library has given me much pleasure has moldered into fertilizer for future weeds, some archeologist aeons hence will dust off this pink clipboard from the remnants of this homestead or some landfill. With some thought and study, future historians might regard this one possession of mine and will find it reflective of its owner and his civilization.
A plate upon which this primitive dined, no doubt, with a metal clip to hold upon it the wriggling prey.
This book, unlike those named above, centers around a crime. A former national sports columnist who retired after the subjective of an investigative story killed himself returns to his hometown on Long Island. A high school student who covers high school basketball games for the local paper comes to the adult sportswriter with a possible clue in the death of the high school basketball manager’s death and its possible relationship to a hazing incident with the team.
So there’s your setup.
What follows is decent prose and a passable story interrupted too often with exposition about school hazing and its barbarity. I mean, brother, sodomy with a broomstick is enough in its description; you don’t have to have two separate characters in a limited omniscient point of view reflect at the page’s length about how brutal it is. I mean, we don’t get that sort of thing in other murder mysteries, unless I’m missing the entire cockfighting murder mystery subgenre (Well, I wouldn’t say I’m missing it, Bob).
The action builds credibly once you get past the editorials against high school hazing and the meticulous recounting of other incidents nationwide (almost requiring end notes). Until we get to the extraordinary double deus ex maquina at the end, where someone else sums up the story and lays it at our investigator’s feet and someone else appears to get the investigators out of the climactic jam at the end. Unsatisfying.
However, I still like Lupica and will gladly accept any and all gifts of his work in the future.
Here’s today’s CNN.com home page:
Featuring the the Secretary of State as Nosferatu and a headline about the sitting president: Doctor plays whack-a-mole on Bush’s face.
Well, I guess the world’s first and most self-important news network has to compete with the Daily Show.
It’s Mardi Gras time here in St. Louis, which means Soulard is putting on its schizophrenic finery wherein it tries to celebrate in a family-friendly fashion the last minute drive to get in as much debauchery as possible before Lent and repentance came due. But that’s neither here nor there.
Fact of the matter is, I’ve worn face paint twice in my life, and neither time was for a sporting event. The first was, in fact, Mardi Gras 10 years ago. A couple of my friends and I decided to go down the Saturday before Fat Tuesday and take it all in. Familiar with the concept of the New Orleans Mardi Gras and its festivities, I said, “Hey, people paint their faces for Mardi Gras, right?”
“Sure,” my lifelong St. Louis resident friend said.
So I designed a concept for my motif: On one side, the happy drama mask, and on the other side, the unhappy drama mask. Done in black and white. We went to Johnny Brock’s and got some black and white facepaint so we could do the happy side in black on white and the unhappy side in white on black. Johnny Brock’s actually had colored hair spray, too, so I messed the hair up manically on the white side and patted it down flat on the black side. My friend and fellow displaced Wisconsinite Walter, an artist by self-definition, actually did the face painting (and signed his initials under my chin). Dressed in black and white completely and wearing a trenchcoat, my Mardi Gras garb was complete:
So my lifelong St. Louis resident friend put on purple mask, and off we went. Once we got to Soulard, I discovered the “Sure” had an asterisk on it. People paint their faces up for Mardi Gras.*
* In New Orleans and Brazil.
I was one of three people in face paint among the thousands thronging the streets and bars. People thought I was supposed to be The Crow, the Joker, or Ace Frehley. Only one young lady correctly identified it; she was a Webster University student and quite probably in the Theatre Department. Somewhere along the line, my lifelong St. Louis resident friend ditched his mask to better blend in with the “beads are the Mardi Gras costume” crowd.
But it was a good night. We drank liquor until the police chased us out of Soulard and ended up at the Venice Cafe, where a bunch of older (mid 40s) women hit on me and kissed on me to my chagrin. My lifelong St. Louis resident friend explained that, at the tender age of 25, I looked like a middle aged hottie. Needless to say, I haven’t spoken to that friend since before the turn of the century.
Wow, and I still wear that trenchcoat. Maybe it is time to get a new one.
As I mentioned, I’ve painted up twice in my life, and both were in that year: 1997. Perhaps one could read something psychoanalytical into that. But the second time, in the autumn, was at GenCon, the roleplaying game convention. My lifelong St. Louis resident friend from Mardi Gras, my best friend from college, and I drove up to Milwaukee to attend. Even though we all had jester costumes, something on the GenCon sales floor triggered my imagination; I think it was some press on fangs. Suddenly, I wanted to enter the costume contest. As the Weresmurf:
I bought some blue face paint and the aforementioned fangs, and my friend sacrificed a t shirt. I plunked down the entry fee and took my shot at fame. The contest featured a bit where you came on stage, and the MC introduced you. You could write your own intro and have the contest leader make special preparations for you. I asked them to lower the microphone and wrote out my introduction.
When my time came, the MC read my beautiful words: “When the moon ripens to fullness, something dark prowls Smurf villiage. It’s the Weresmurf?” Actually, I didn’t pen the rising inflection at the end, but the MC turned it into a question. With that, I leapt from behind the curtain, ran sniffing and hunched from one end of the stage to another, snarled at the MC, and ran up to the microphone, where I preceded to howl out the Smurf theme, finishing with a poignant “root rooooo!” I then leapt from the front of the stage, ignoring the stairs so carefully pointed out by the staff, and ran up the aisle snarling and sniffing until I was out of the spotlights.
At the time, I was a regular on the poetry open mike/slam circuit in St. Louis and had hopes I could get some kind of thing going where I’d give readings at colleges or whatnot (I’d seen the Nuyorican Poets Live that year, too, so it wasn’t out of left field–you know, like painting oneself blue for fun). But the largest crowd I ever performed in front of to that point–and let’s be honest, since–my only vocalization was a Smurf howl.
Adding salt to my pretentious wounds, the only national magazine exposure I’d gotten to that point (and, honestly, up until last month) was in the December 1997 issue of Inquest, which had a photo essay from GenCon:
That’s right, it took me 10 years to get my name into a publication with a circulation rivaling that of my appearance in blue paint with a humorous dialogue balloon pointing at my mouth. But wow, blue paint really does bring out my blue eyes.
On the plus side, I did win my category, so I came home with a trophy dish and a pair of commemorative d6. Of course, the category was the equivalent of “everything else” and my only competition was a couple of teenaged girls who put bones in their hair and tried a sitcom skit about feuding vampire sisters. So perhaps my resounding victory isn’t a testament to my genius or proper sense of the absurd and only reflects that I wasn’t as bad as the kids.
But I got the trophy, and I got the Polaroid, and I got the two d6s. I’ve also got a scannerful of photographic memories of that brief moment in my youth where painting my face seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I don’t know that that time will ever come again, but I haven’t been to Lambeau Field, either.
Wow, has this fallen off the front page already? Moscow May Break Arms-Reduction Treaty, Russian General Says:
- top Russian general said yesterday that Moscow may unilaterally opt out of a Soviet-era arms reduction treaty with the America, Russian news agencies reported.
General Yuri Baluyevsky, the chief of the Russian military’s general staff, was quoted by ITARTass and Interfax as saying that Russia could pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, negotiated between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan in 1987.
Can’t anyone muster up some no nuke signs for outside the Russian embassies worldwide?