Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Tim went with B and I to the Comedy Club on State Street last night to see Hari Kondabolu, always a good time.  Hari’s opener was the hilarious Carmen Lagala from New York. I’ve never seen her act before but enjoyed it immensely.  The host was Greg Bach from Milwaukee, who was entertaining and occasionally funny.

Part of the price of admission is a two-drink minimum.  Fortunately most of their drinks are not very strong, but Tim ordered a martini that was at least five ounces of gin.  He got a tiny bit looped that night.

Hari | 8:18 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, April 19th, 2018

I was raking cat turds out of one of the three litter boxes in the basement when My Darling B called down the stairs to me, “Would you come up and look at the shower?”  That’s not the kind of question she asks unless she’s hollaring it, but I didn’t notice the slightest hint of panic in her voice. Her tone was more like, “Well, lookee here…,” so I didn’t immediately dash up the stairs, but I was a tad worried as I made my way to the bathroom.

When I got there, B was in her bathrobe just inside the door, waiting for me, and in her hand she held the handle that turned the shower on and off. It’s made to come off, but not without unscrewing a tiny screw in the middle of it, and anyway it didn’t come off the way it was supposed to.  It came off because B somehow torqued it hard enough to break off the brass stump that sticks out from the valve, and because she broke off the stump, there was nothing to grab hold of to close the valve. The shower was running wide-open, all hot water. I had to shut off the water to the house.  It was either that, or leave the hot water running full-blast until the plumber showed up.

Lucky for us, the plumber could pull the broken valve out and slip a new one in without too much fuss, and he didn’t even charge us too much, for a plumber.  I was expecting he’d have to tear out the wall, saw the pipes off to remove the valve, sweat new pipes on and add a new valve, and I would have been happy to pay him for that because I’ve done that before, when I was crazy enough to want to do it instead of calling a plumber.  Now that I know I never want to do that again, I don’t have any trouble handing many, many dollars over to a professional.

plumbed | 3:28 pm CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
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Monday, April 16th, 2018

Michael Cohen, the man Trump calls his personal lawyer and who everybody else calls his ”fixer,” was arraigned in federal court yesterday where he named TV talking head Sean Hannity as one of his clients.  The only other client Cohen has had is Elliot Broidy, a big donor to the Republican National Committee, who secured Cohen’s legal services to pay $1.6 million in hush money to Playboy model Karen McDougal after she began pregnant with Broidy’s child.  Coincidentally, Coehn also paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about her affair with Donald Trump. So there’s a lot of speculation about what Cohen did for Sean Hannity.

Which prompted Twitter user @drskyskull to post this masterpiece: 

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape for Sean Hannity

Not a surprise
Sean doubles his lies on TV
I’m just a poor boy!
Cohen gave advice for free!

Because I’m easy come easy go
Cohen I barely know
Any way his trial goes
Doesn’t really matter to me
TOOOOO MEEEEEEE

Mama
Just lied again
Polished a big orange turd
Shilled for him with every word

MAGA had just begun
And now we’ve gone and peed it all away!
MAMA
OOOOOOOOH

Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back on the air tomorrow
Carry on, carry on
As if I had advertisers

Too late
My time has come
Send shivers down my spine
Mueller’s calling all the time

Goodbye everybody
I’ve got to go
Heading to a place with no extradition treaty

MAMA
OOOOOOOOH
Don’t want my show to die
Don’t want to be like Bill O’Reilly!
*guitar solo*

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Michael Cohen Michael Cohen
Will you shut your fat mouth-o
Search warrants of writing
Very very frightening me

Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o save us all, magnifico!

I’m just a big prick and nobody loves me
He’s just a big prick broadcasting shit TV
Spare him his life from going to the pokey

Treason come treason go will you let me go?
Fuck you Sean! No! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let me go)

Will not let you go let me go (never)
Never let you go let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no

Oh Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
For me
For meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
*furious banjo guitar solo, Sean dances like the whitest guy ever*

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN SUBPOENA AND TAP ALL MY LINES
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN ARREST ME AND TRY ME FOR CRIMES
OH BABY, CAN’T DO THIS TO ME BABY
JUST GOTTA GET OUT JUST GOTTA GET RIGHT OUTTA HERE

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters nothing really matters on Fox TV

 

easy come, easy go | 4:41 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Saturday, April 14th, 2018

I have to say, Spring is not going well this year. The rain that started yesterday kept on pissing down all night and this morning, but we’re pretty lucky to get nothing worse than that.  Not much farther north, they’re talking about having to shovel several inches of snow, drifting, and other unpleasantness.  I’m pretty sure if I’d looked out the window and seen snow this morning, I’d have just gone back to bed.

[Added: Spoke too soon about “nothing worse than that.” Light snow flurries began to fall after the lunch hour and continued through the afternoon, but without accumulation, thank goodness.]

not going well | 1:46 pm CDT
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For years, I’ve wanted to see the science fiction film “Solaris” by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky because I’ve heard so many good things about it and because I love the book it’s based on, a sci-fi classic by Stanislaw Lem. Last night I finally got the chance, thanks to Cinematheque, a program at the University of Wisconsin that screens out-of-the-ordinary films and does it for free. The guys who chose the movies are the same guys who program the Wisconsin Film Festival. And while they were making announcements the last night or two at the WFF, they mentioned that they would be showing Solaris on Friday night. B and I stopped by last night after dinner to catch the show.

I have rarely been so disappointed by such an eagerly-awaited show. Drab and boring, one scene after another drags on for way too long. I was willing to put up with that in the opening scenes when the main character, Kris Kelvin, was wandering around the countryside to take a last look around before blasting off into space, but what was I meant to learn from watching a long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the ramps and tunnels of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another … I could do that a hundred more times and it wouldn’t be as awful as having to sit through it was.

Reviews of this movie are overwhelmingly positive, I think. I’m not entirely sure, because most reviews tend to sound like word salad:  “Tartovsky examines what it means to be human by emphasizing the interconnectedness of humanity, while simultaneously contradicting the same interconnectedness by highlighting the passive ennui and lugubriousness of modern life.”  That’s not a verbatim quote, but it’s not too unlike what I read afterwards, trying to figure out what people like about this movie. Just FYI, I still don’t know. Or rather, I did find a few reviews that weren’t totally incomprehensible, but I didn’t see the amazing and wonderful things they saw.

In plain English, Solaris is not poetry in cinematic form. Overall it is drab.  The writing is not bad but the pace is dreadfully slow. The acting was wooden and failed to get me to feel any sort of empathy for the characters.  I sat through all 166 minutes of it, hated a lot of it, resented the rest of it for wasting my time, and after sleeping on these thoughts I would only add that I never want to see it again.  In short, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is BORING and I’ve never been so relieved to get up from my seat and bolt from the theater. For the cherry on top, My Darling B agrees with me, and she’s never been wrong.  

Solaris (Tartovsky) | 9:07 am CDT
Category: entertainment, movies, play
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Friday, April 13th, 2018

Yesterday was the closing day of the Wisconsin Film Festival, and the only day we saw not one, not two, but three really good movies. I’ve never rated so many films five or of five. Must be getting soft.

“Celebrating Sacred Twins In Africa” 6-minute documentary that showed some highlights of an annual celebration of twins and their mothers. 3 out of Five

“I Am Not A Witch” Shula is accused of being a witch, so she’s sent to a government-sponsored farm where witches are kept and exploited by a corrupt official. Describing it makes it sound more interesting than the experience of watching it.  One out of Five

“More Worlds Of Tomorrow” was a collection of animated shorts so quirky that My Darling B made a daring escape from the theater in the middle of one of them. “My Burden” featured dancing animals singing about how happy they will be after the burden of the futility of life is lifted from their shoulders. “The Amazing Neckbeard” showed how a cape-wearing nerd can be a hero.  “Obscurer” is a lot like a fever dream I had when I was sick in bed for three days with the flu, complete with creepy dolls, murmuring voices and unreadable graffiti. (This is the on B escaped from.) “The Tesla World Light” is a supposed letter from Tesla begging J.P. Morgan to fund Tesla’s work because he’s in live with a bird. “A Woman Apart” examines the thoughts of a sheriff who is wavering momentarily as he is poised to carry out the hanging of his friend, accused of being a witch. In “165708” a young woman gazes out across lily pads – that’s all I got from this film. “The Servant” wonders whether a frustrated artist is a cockroach and vice-versa. And in “World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden Of Other People’s Thoughts” a girl faces her future with the confidence only youth can bring after she’s confronted by her emergency backup clone.

“The Guilty” A 911 operator works against time to save a woman abducted by her ex-husband. Smart, tense movie with an unexpected twist. Five out of Five

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”  I know I’ll be stating the obvious when I say this documentary about how Fred Rogers developed his TV show is one of the most heartwarming films you could ever hope to see, but what else could I say? It’s Fred Rogers! Five out of Five

“Hearts Beat Loud” Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a record shop owner who decides to close his store the summer before his daughter Sam is due to go to college. He and his daughter, played with a lot of life by Kiersey Clemons, not only have a great relationship, they also make good music together. When Frank suggests that Sam take a year off to write music and perform with him, just like he and Sam’s mother used to do, Sam has to yank him back to reality. An unexpected pleasure and a great film to end the fest on. Five out of five

WFF Day 8 | 5:32 am CDT
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Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Beautiful weather again this morning: sunny and clear, 42 degrees on the thermometer, same as yesterday morning. And once again I’ll spend the day in a darkened room staring at a flickering screen. How crazy is that?

On the other hand, I’m not going to the office.

Yesterday’s films:

“Amarillo Ramp” was twenty-four minutes of abstract scenes shown while discordant music blared and garbage cans rattled in the background. I watched maybe seven minutes of it, just the opening scenes of faded store signs and desert vegetation trembling in the wind, then closed my eyes and dozed off. One out of Five.

“Rodents of Unusual Size” Nutria are an invasive species of rodent that weigh up to 20 pounds. This documentary film does an excellent job of explaining how they infest and destroy the wetlands of Louisiana, how people have gotten used to the nutria and how they deal with them, from the people who shoot every nutria they see to the people who keep nutria as pets. Apparently they’re pretty good in stew, too, if you can get past the idea that they look like big rats.  Four out of Five

“Western” A drama about the clash between rural eastern European culture and modern western European culture.    Meinhard is a German working on an infrastructure project in Bulgaria. He has no family, no friends, and is trying to work out some trauma he experienced in war.  Despite a language barrier, he strikes up a friendship with Adrian, one of the villagers. Three out of Five.

“Life and Nothing More” Regina is a single mother struggling to raise a three year old and a fourteen year old, Andrew, who’s going through a rocky, rebellious phase. This was a well-made drama that was only improved by the spectacular debut performance of the woman playing the lead role.  Four out of Five.

“Joe Frank – Somewhere Out There” Before I watched this documentary I had never heard of Joe Frank. All I know about his much-loved and celebrated radio shows I learned through this documentary. I would probably be reviled for saying this, but his odd style of ruminations about life, death, time and space reminded me of the quirky observations of Jack Handy, but without the funny punchlines. Three out of Five.

WFF Day 7 | 8:43 am CDT
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After I rolled out of bed this morning and started the morning pot of coffee brewing, I checked in to Twitter to see what’s new in the world and the first thing I see is OH MY GOD TRUMP IS GOING TO BLOW UP SYRIA!

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

I’m not all that worried, really.  The rest of Twitter responded with “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as if Trump hasn’t done this before.  He needs to do this every so often to “look presidential,” because nothing gets the pundits to say dumb shit like “this is the moment he finally became president” as blowing shit up.  And that’s pretty much all he’ll blow up, after he gave literally everybody in the world plenty of advance warning by tweeting it. Any soldiers, Syrian or Russian, at whatever target he agreed ahead of time to hit will be long gone.

Cynical?  Oh, a tad.  

Trump followed the “get ready” tweet with:

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

“There is no reason for this,” I love that.  As if threatening to shoot missiles at a Russian ally wouldn’t be a good reason. And then he bats his eyes and asks, “Stop the arms race?”  Because why wouldn’t they? Aside from the aforementioned attack, of course. Sort of justifies my cynical feeling that the pyrotechnics are only there to make everyone go “Oooo! Ahhh!” and repeat the inevitable drivel that Trump is strong and bold and presidential.

get ready | 8:48 am CDT
Category: current events, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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We saw just three films yesterday, and they were not our favorite films.  That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

I think probably “Hitler’s Hollywood” was made for people who are so hardcore about film they study it the way biologists study rats or fruit flies. As an exhaustive catalogue of films, directors, and actors from the years of the Third Reich, it seemed to be a pretty good film, but the total significance of it was lost on me. Three out of Five.

“First Reformed” Ethan Hawke as a priest suffering a crisis of faith, Amanda Seyfried as the good woman who saves him with a kiss. I mean honestly, does a story get more contrived than that? One out of Five.  

“You Were Never Really Here” Joaquin Phoenix hits lots of people in the head with a hammer while trying to forget something awful that happened to him while he was a kid and also he loves his mother but she’s a little weird and he suffocates himself with plastic bags as a coping mechanism but he’s really good at hitting people in the head with a hammer and there’s lots of loud edgy music and so much blood if you like blood this is your movie and did I mention the fake suicide?  Sorry if I spoiled that but it was just more gratuitous blood and gore and didn’t mean anything, you’ll get over it. One out of Five.

WFF Day 6 | 7:49 am CDT
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Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

This morning I learned I’m a man of very poor taste.  Here’s how I know: I accidentally boiled a pot of coffee this morning.  I walked away, I got distracted, and when I remembered and ran back to the kitchen, I found the pot boiling furiously.  “Well, that’ll never be drinkable,” I said to myself, and set it aside to cool while I brewed some more. When I was done brewing the new batch, I wondered to myself, “Self, don’t you wonder what that tastes like?” And I answered, “You know, Self, I kind of do.”  So I poured a bit of it into a cup, slurped it up, swished it around on my tongue, and what do you know, I liked it. Straight, black, boiled coffee. Filled up the cup and enjoyed it. I wonder how the barista at Java Cat would react if I asked her for a cup of black coffee, and added: Would you please boil it for a couple minutes?

poor taste | 8:04 am CDT
Category: coffee, food & drink
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We’ve upped our game!  4 movies yesterday, starting with “Saving Brinton,” about Mike Zahs, an Iowa farmer who finds a treasure trove of silent films, magic lantern shows and other bricabrac from the era of silent movies in the basement of an Iowa farmhouse. Zahs tries to get someone to preserve them, but when no one is interested, he moves the whole collection into his house (“my wife was not too interested in having it in our house”) and bits and pieces of it on the road to put on shows across the county.  Finally he gets help from the University of Iowa, and ultimately ends up in Bologna Italy, showing one of his films, thought to be lost forever, to an appreciative crowd. Four out of Five.

“Don’t Forget Me”  An anorexic girl meets a psychotic boy. I’m not quite sure what happened after that. I liked many scenes but felt lost in others, especially in the final scenes. I liked the boy quite a lot, but the girl was churlish and bigoted and there wasn’t much at all to like about her. If she had one good quality, it was that she spoke to him honestly about her eating disorder, telling him he would just have to accept that she would always have it and would probably die from it. In the closing scene of the movie, she is planning their wedding banquet: nothing but food that is white, and lots of ice. He listens passively to her, looking trapped. Good acting, anyway, and beautifully shot. Three out of five.  

“World of Facts” I really liked this one a whole lot but I’m not sure how to explain why, even after sleeping on it.  I was fascinated by the way it used film to tell a story in a way I’ve never seen before. Lots of shots that lingered on faces or minute details that almost, but not quite, went on for too long, and many were very abstract, the kind of camera shots used in “experimental” movies that have annoyed or bored me to the point that I walked out, but in this movie they were compelling.  Dialogue was sparse – no, concise would be a better word. And there was a bar scene that every man in America should watch if they want to learn why women think men are creepy jerks. Five out of Five.

“American Animals” was a caper movie with an interesting twist: It really happened.  Not exactly a documentary, although all four of the college students who were involved in the caper were interviewed. Their motivation: they did it just for the thrill of it, which would have been typical for teenagers if they had TP’d a house, but in this case they stole rare books worth millions of dollars, with the ultimate goal of selling them to a buyer in Amsterdam.  Spoiler alert: they get caught because, duh, they’re kids. The heist is reenacted in a devastatingly comic manner that I couldn’t help liking even while I knew they were doing Bad Things . Five out of Five.

WFF Day 5 | 7:46 am CDT
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Monday, April 9th, 2018

B noticed yesterday that the thermometer in the fridge was indicating sixty degrees and the food wasn’t cold, which is sort of the opposite of what you want in a refrigerator.  I’d noticed the night before that the beer I grabbed from the door wasn’t as cold as the one I’d drunk the day before that, so I’d adjusted the setting but apparently that hadn’t worked.  We’d had this problem before and I’d fixed it by using the vacuum cleaner to suck great big wads of dust out of the radiator that some genius designer wedged into the inch of space under the fridge where all the dust bunnies in the world go to die instead of on the back where all other fridges have their radiators.  That’s where it’s easier to clean them, that’s where they get more air. It’s where the radiator should be, dammit. I’d really like just one minute alone with the guy who stuck it underneath our fridge. No, three. Three minutes, coz I wouldn’t be able to strangle him in just one minute.

So once again I had to spend an hour or so flat on my front, cheek to the floor so I could see into the cramped space under the fridge as I wiggled a little extension hose attached to the vacuum, trying to suck bits of dust out from between the coils of the radiator.  When I was done, I couldn’t tell whether I’d gotten all the dust out or most of it or hardly any at all because I couldn’t really see much from where I had my head cranked around as far to the left as it would go, but I had to stop because if I spent five minutes more in that position it was going to get stuck like that, and I couldn’t go through the rest of my life explaining to everyone why I was perpetually looking over my shoulder.  

The temperature settings on the fridge go from one to seven, with seven being the coldest, so before I went to bed last night I turned them all the way down until the digital indicators showed a dash, which I took to mean that the compressor was off and it wouldn’t cool at all, but it did.  There was still frost on the cooling fins when I got up this morning to feed the whiniest cat in our bunch. I unleashed a broadside of my most powerful cusses but that alone didn’t fix the problem, so I wrestled the fridge out of its niche far enough to reach the plug, still cussing the cussiest cuss words I could think of, until I finally wiggled the plug out of the wall and the fridge went silent and dark.  Then I brewed a pot of coffee because there’s no going back to bed after my heart rate has been elevated by that much cussing.

While the coffee brewed I rigged up B’s blow dryer so it blew a steady stream of hot air into the fridge to melt the accumulated frost off the cooling fins.  I knew it was working when I had to sop up a big pool of water off the floor. I left the fridge off for about an hour after that, then plugged it back in and walked away.  Either it would work or I would be shopping for a fridge today. It worked. I get to watch movies today.

frosty | 9:28 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Take Richard Pryor near the peak of his career, put him in a caper movie with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, and what have you got? Well, in the case of “Blue Collar” you have probably the most tragic waste of time and talent of 1978. This movie is a manic-depressive roller-coaster that rolls from the whacky comic antics of three zany buddies to the gritty portrayal of union corruption on a factory assembly line, and like a roller coaster it never really gets anywhere. And I really DID NOT need to see Harvey Keitel in tighty-whities. One out of Five.

“Wisconsin’s Own By The Dozen” was a mixed bag of twelve short films by Wisconsin directors. You never know what you’re going to see at one of these, but there’s usually at least one film that makes attending worthwhile. In this case, I thought it was “She’s Marrying Steve,” about a woman going to the wedding of her ex. Although it was maybe just a little too quippy in one or two places, overall it was well-done and the ending was heartwarming. Among the other films, “A Voicemail” was as emotionally honest a rendering of a phone message left to say “I miss you” as you could ever hope to see. “Experiencing OCD” is a simple and declarative depiction of how one woman experiences her affliction. I’d give each of these Four out of Five. “Marieke,” a straightforward look at a Wisconsin cheesemaker, and “Outrun The Night,” an animated short that illustrated the scariness of nightfall, Three out of Five.

“Three Identical Strangers” This was a documentary so extraordinarily convoluted, you literally wouldn’t get away with making it up if you were writing fiction. Triplets separated at birth are reunited nineteen years later when one of them shows up for his first day of school at the same small technical college his brother attended the year before. A buddy puts them in touch with one another, their story makes the local paper, then a national paper picks it up, and the third brother sees the story. But that’s not the most outrageous part. Their happy reunion takes a dark turn when they learn more about the reasons the adoption agency that placed them separated them at birth in the first place. Five out of Five.

We had planned to see “Vanishing Point” as the final film of the day, but we were still suffering a 70s movie hangover headache from “Blue Collar” that was so bad we just didn’t feel we could take a chance on another one, so after “Three Identical Strangers” we hit the road, stopping at Salvatore’s pizzeria for a pie and some beer.

WFF Day 4 | 7:58 am CDT
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Sunday, April 8th, 2018

We watched only four films yesterday.  It’s like we’ve already given up trying to squish as many film as we can into each day.   What kind of losers are we, eh?

The amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the subject of our first documentary film of the day, “RBG.”  My Darling B had probably the most concise review: “They didn’t hit one wrong note in that whole movie.” And B had probably the most endearing reaction: she cried tears of joy through almost all of it, so heartwarming and inspiring was the story.  For myself, I can’t wait until we can buy it on DVD to watch it again. B doesn’t want to wait that long; she wants to watch it when the film fest shows it again on Wednesday. Five out of five.

“The Blood Is On The Doorstep”  In 2014, Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney shot Dontre Hamilton to death in front of more than a hundred witnesses.  Manney was apparently walking a beat when he found Hamilton sleeping on the pavement in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. Two pairs of officers had already spoken to Hamilton that morning; the second pair to be called to the scene asked the woman who called them to stop because Hamilton wasn’t doing anything wrong.  When Manney found Hamilton he asked him to get up off the ground and began to frisk him. Hamilton turned, Manney grappled him, and when the officer raised his billy club, Hamilton grabbed it and twisted it from the officer’s hand. Manney later said Hamilton struck him in the head. In his frantic radio call for help after the shooting, Manney said he didn’t know whether or not he’d been hit, and asked an officer at the scene if his brains were coming out of his head.  In photos taken of him immediately after the shooting, there were no signs of injury to Manney, other than a scratch on his thumb. Manny shot Hamilton 14 times. Four out of Five.

“Dinner With A Murderer” was everything a humorous short should be: tightly-written, well-acted, and beautifully filmed.  Four out of Five.

“Ironwood” was a comedy buddy movie sort of like “Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle,” in which a mismatched pair of college buddies go to interview for the same job and try to outdo one another while they simultaneously try to sabotage each other’s chances.  Hilarity should have ensued, but the humorous vibe of the movie never connected with me, which felt odd because virtually everyone else in the movie theater, including My Darling B, thought it was lots of laughs. Two out of Five.

“Brewmaster” was about people who love beer: love to drink it, love to talk about it, love to brew it, and love to use their enthusiasm to encourage other people to enjoy beer.  Four out of five, and not just because I’m a beer-lover.

WFF Day 3 | 7:56 am CDT
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Saturday, April 7th, 2018

“12 Days” was a somber, repetitive, and apparently pointless film that gets its title from the period of time a person can be held against their will in a psychiatric ward before they must be allowed a hearing before a judge to determine if they were rightfully interred. The film opened on a scene of a slow walk down the corridor of a psych ward that went on way too long.  I mean, we were watching a full three, four minutes of an empty hallway. Maybe to establish the mood? Then they showed the first interview with no explanation and no follow-up, and then several more minutes of the slow walk down the corridor. Then the next hearing, and more hallway. Several of the people clearly needed help, such as the guy who heard voices, but the woman who wanted to die was very reasonable and the soccer star appeared to be tranquilized to the point that he was barely conscious; how is that a fair hearing?  A little more expository material would have been helpful. Although to be fair, the last fifteen or twenty minutes may have been devoted to a detailed reveal of the point of the film, but I walked out to get some fresh air. The film is over when I’ve had enough. Two out of Five.

“Under The Tree” was billed as a very dark comedy and it was SOOO DARK and a little comic so I suppose they weren’t being wilfully misleading, but I had to stretch my imagination to see the comic stuff.  I mean, I chuckled a couple of times in a “what the hell?” kind of way, but there were scenes other people in the audience were laughing at that I felt like crying over. This much tragedy is normally found only in Russian films.  A very short synopsis (spoiler warning): Two houses, alike in dignity, in fair Reykjavik where our story is set. In the one house, a recent death in the family that the matriarch is drinking her way through while the patriarch watches helplessly.  In the other, divorce and remarriage. The wine-swilling matriarch of the first house resents the new bride, apparently for no reason other than she resents everybody’s happiness, and from that resentment a series of unfortunate escalations grows until everybody lies dead in pools of their own blood.  As I said, very, VERY dark. Four out of Five.

“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”  Woman gets everything she ever wanted, loses everything but the kids in the economic crisis, spends the rest of her days sleeping in the library of one kid’s house among hundred of shoeboxes filled with the bricabrac of her life, pining for death and an end to her suffering.  One of her kids makes a film about how great her life was. It was billed as a film about a “mischievous” “hilarious” woman, and maybe she was, but what I got from this film was that she was a packrat with kids who put up with way too much of her nonsense. I’d let my mother in my library if that’s what it came to, but all those shoeboxes would’ve ended up piled in the yard, doused with gasoline and turned into the biggest pyre ever. Two our of five.

“Cold November” Good acting, bad cinematography, and a weak story about a life lost and coming of age.  The film focuses on Florence’s coming of age, a story told entirely in the context of her first deer hunt, which is as central to the lives of families in the Midwest as high school football is to people in Texas.  There’s another story about how her family is dealing with the death of Florence’s cousin, Sweeny, but it’s so disjointed that I never did work out how they were related until after the film when I could talk about it with others.  Way too many of the film’s scenes were shot in hand-held shakey-cam. Bring your Dramamine. Two out of Five.

“A Woman Captured” A fascinating documentary about Marish, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship by Eta, a woman who forces Marish to work day and night in her house through the simple expediency of belittling her, beating her, and making sure Marish has no money and nowhere to go.  It’s not institutional slavery, but it’s something like it. The filmmaker spent a year and a half documenting Marish’s miserable life with Eta, but also Marish’s escape and her very happy reunion with her daughter. Five out of Five.

WFF Day Two | 9:55 am CDT
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Friday, April 6th, 2018

After I got out of bed this morning and went to the bathroom to dress because B was still sawing logs in the bedroom, I found this note waiting for me on the top of the toilet tank: “Be careful – there might be a dead mouse somewhere.”

B gave me the full story later on: Last night she heard Scooter and Sparky hissing at each other in a way that was not normal.  When she went to investigate, they were playing keepaway with a mouse under the dining room table. By the time she got back with something to scoop up the mouse, Sparky had stolen away with the mouse to the living room, where he was flipping it in the air by the tail and batting it around on the floor.  Try as she might, B couldn’t distract Sparky with anything to get the mouse away from him, and that’s when she wrote the note. Then she either came up with a new idea to distract him or he got tired enough of the now-dead mouse, and B threw it away, forgetting about the note.

careful! | 10:31 am CDT
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Yesterday was the opening day of the Wisconsin Film Fest.  I didn’t take the day off from work, but My Darling B did. Didn’t get her out of the office, though; she still had to go in for a ten o’clock meeting.  That’s just how awesomely important she is: The DMV can’t go on without her at the ten o’clock meeting.

She went home after she was done with that nonsense, did some very important things (napped), then returned to the office to pick me up after I bolted at quitting time.  

Opening night ceremonies consisted of a catered party before the show, which was all right but we probably paid too much for it.  The noshies were not bad, the beer was pretty good, but the venue was too small for the fiftyish people who sardined themselves into it.  And it was too loud: when an acapella group of college students came in to sing us a few songs, the attendees wouldn’t shut up. I moved as close as possible without getting into their faces and yet I was able to hear only one song, and even then I think I was filling in because I knew the words.  

Then, on to the show!  This is the 20th year of the Wisconsin Film Fest, so the director of the first film fest (can’t remember his name & can’t find it on the internet) came out to give us a little talk about the festival’s history, followed by Ben Reiser, the festival’s PR man, who usually comes out to thank all the people who made the festival possible and somehow makes it sound like a standup routine.  A panel of jurists interrupted Ben to hand out the Golden Badger awards to three talented film makers, after which the acapella group from the party filed on stage to sing their arrangement of Ice & Snow, the song featured in the opening sequence shown before every movie at the 2014 film fest and which has become the theme song of every opening sequence ever since.

Finally, the movie!  Or movies, because there was a short (“Elemental”) before the feature film, “Mountain.”  The short was a guy dancing, filmed in various outdoor settings. I liked it, but it really wasn’t much more than that.  “Mountain” was sort of a video collage of mountains and the crazy things people do on and around them. And they were pretty much all crazy things: aside from the obvious (skiing, snowboarding), they climbed up them with bikes over their shoulders, then rode the bikes down at breakneck speed; they jumped from helicopters onto peaks overloaded with snow and rode snowboards ahead of the avalanche they started; they skimmed the rocky flanks of mountains in their wingsuits; they climbed hundreds of feet up the sheer, granite walls with no ropes for safety; and always, always they hurt themselves doing it.  But, presumably, they kept on doing it, because people are stupid. Willem Dafoe read a voiceover script that took a stab at explaining the how and why of all this, and he sounded great, but I’m no closer to understanding why anyone would want to snowboard through an avalanche.

Fun bit o’ trivia: Willem Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin – same as your friendly neighborhood Oman.

WFF opening night | 10:31 am CDT
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Thursday, April 5th, 2018

When we get orders delivered from Amazon, we usually leave the open boxes on the living room floor for a couple days (okay, weeks) for the cats to play in. The latest Amazon delivery came three or four days ago and Scooter’s been having one hell of a time jumping in an out of the box we left open for him. Trouble is, we found out just this morning that he’s been jumping in and out of the box to pee in it.  I noticed the other day there were little brownish spots in the newspaper we piled in the box.  (I know, I know; it’s like we were asking him to pee in it, right?) On the bright side, he could have been peeing elsewhere. At least he’s been peeing in a box. Okay, I’m reaching.

So I folded the box up and threw it in the trash, and Scooter just had to get over not having a box in the living room to jump into any more.  A couple days later, B asked me, “Have you seen that new tablecloth I ordered?”

“No,” I said, genuinely ignorant of the tablecloth in question.  “What tablecloth?”

“The one that was delivered just last week,” she said.  “Came in a box?  The one Scooter peed in?”

“Well, I threw the box out,” I said, thinking this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do with a box the cat peed in.

“Did you take the tablecloth out?”

“Nope,” I said, “and I’m assuming you didn’t either, which means the cat peed on it, as well as the box.  Did you want to use a tablecloth that’s been peed on?”

In the end, she did not, so the search for the tablecloth ended almost as soon as it began.

Scooter did something almost like this a few months back. We have a plastic wash tub in the kitchen sink to pile dirty dishes in, just to keep them all in one place and to one side. There are typically always a couple of dishes, cups and glasses in there but every once in a great while after I unload the clean dishes from the washer and load up the dirty dishes, the tub will be empty for as long as an hour or two, and then someone will have lunch or a cup of coffee and it’ll start to fill up again.

Well, Scooter apparently saw that plastic wash tub and it made him think of his plastic litter box, because he jumped in there are least a couple times and marked it as his own. I didn’t notice until he also marked a corner of the sink.  I was tempted to throw the wash tub out, but after scouring the sink clean I decided to soak it in chlorine bleach, just to make sure, and I figured, why not try that with the wash tub, too?  Everything gleamed a bright white afterward, so I kept the tub.  Sprayed it with vinegar, though, to keep the cat out of it.  He hates that smell.

scooter | 8:52 pm CDT
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Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Saw this rubbish on Facebook:

These two short sentences tell you a lot about our government and our culture:

1. We are advised not to judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge All Gun Owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how that works.

And here is another one worth considering.

2. Seems how we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare running out of money? What’s interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn’t.

Profound isn’t it … Think about it … Pass it on.

Not all that profound, no.  More than a little bigoted, yes.  Let’s see if I can explain why I think so:

Point number one implies that if we are advised not to judge all Muslims for the actions of a few, then we should be advised not judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, which I believe is an odd thing to have to imply because we should all have been advised that both are a no-no.  I can’t cite sources and frankly I don’t think I should have to; surely one or two responsible adults have offered the sage advice that not all gun owners are to blame for the actions of a few.  Nobody can reasonably claim that advice hasn’t been uttered once in the defense of gun owners.

Point number one also implies that since we are encouraged to judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, then there is nothing wrong with encouraging us to judge all Muslims for the actions of a few.  See how bigoted that sounds?  And not only because the meme flips judgment from gun owners onto Muslims in particular, but because it flips “advising” with “encouraging,” which is not a small difference at all.

I’m willing to believe that some people are shallow enough to encourage us to judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, because I’ve seen people do that in person and on television.  It’s not a hard premise to swallow.  But I have also seen and heard people encourage us to judge white supremacists based on the actions of a few white supremacist lunatics, which I believe is much more to the point.

Point number two is bigoted because it judges people who collect benefits guaranteed by law as lazy moochers, saying they don’t do any work while they collect those benefits.  Although it allows that Social Security beneficiaries “worked for” the money, the air quotes imply they didn’t really work.

Saying you never hear that welfare is running out of money is just being willfully ignorant.  If you haven’t heard that welfare is running out of money, you’re trying not to hear it, or you’re conveniently forgetting you heard it.  It’s a constant refrain with the small-government conservatives.  I hear politicians say “we’re broke” or “we can’t afford it” all the time when they talk about cutting benefits.

two things | 4:05 pm CDT
Category: yet another rant | Tags: ,
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The first 12 tweets I read this morning and my reactions to them, for no reason whatsoever:

@brookingsinst: “Empirical evidence rules out high and rising inequality as a cause of the Arab Spring uprisings. Was the Arab Spring a black-swan event?” I wish I knew more about the Arab Spring uprising, but my first thought is: When people take to the streets in large numbers, inequality is typically the motivator, so I distrusted this tweet immediately and I didn’t bother reading the linked report.

@AFP “Stephen Hawking’s funeral will take place in Cambridge, close to Gonville and Caius College where the British scientist worked for more than 50 years.” This tweet made me feel guilty because I still haven’t read A Brief History of Time. It’s been on my TBR pile for years, but I haven’t summoned up enough courage yet to dive in.

@chrishayes: “This is sci-fi-future-dystopia-level creepy” with a link to a YouTube video titled “Local TV forced to denouce ‘one-sided news’ by America’s largest media company” which shows local news anchors all parroting an identical disclaimer about biased reporting and a promise to do their best to be unbiased, now that they’re all owened by the Sinclair media group. I wasn’t especially creeped out by this because television news has been so sensational or so bland and has been reported by identical-looking Ken and Barbie bots for so long that I stopped watching it years ago. And the sci-fi dystopia? It’s here, Chris. We’re living in it.

@charlesbblow: “LOL…” followed by a link to a story in Cosmopolitan titled, “Stacey Dash Withdraws from California Congressional Race.” No reaction because I don’t know who Stacey Dash is or why her withdrawal from a congressional race would spark mirth in Charles M. Blow’s heart. Wait, I do have a reaction: I’m glad to see Charles M. Blow happy. He doesn’t LOL enough on Twitter.

@FoxNews: “A little girl celebrated finishing up two and a half years of chemotherapy treatment by ringing a special bell created for such purposes.” The tweet is accompanied by a photo of a child wearing a t-shirt with “I DID IT!” printed across the front and she is in fact ringing a brass bell, but there is no link to a story. It’s just a bit of fluff you’re supposed to re-tweet or favorite because who doesn’t like good news about kids? And a re-tweet or a favorite puts the FoxNews icon in more Twitter feeds, or is that being too cynical? I don’t think so. I think lazy fluff like this deserves the full force of my cynicism. You’re welcome.

@iwriteallday: “I am still laughing about this” followed by three laughing emojis and a retweeted story from the New York Post, “JUST IN: @PageSix sources confirm Sanaa Lathan was the actress who bit Beyonce.” I’ve seen this story referenced many dozens of times over the past couple of days but apparently I am not enough of a Beyonce fan to understand why it would be funny that someone bit her.

@aravosis: “Retweet if you’d like to know whether the @NRA has been coopted by Vladimir Putin.” I would, but I frankly doubt that retweeting this tweet will satisfy my curiosity. I did not retweet.

@chicagotribune: “Man in wheelchair robbed of cellphone at Blue Line station on Near West Side” with a link to a story titled “Man accused of robbing man in …” and what looks like a mug shot. Is it a mug shot of the robber? Don’t know, didn’t click on the link because if I read every story about every petty theft in Chicago, I’d lose my mind.

@thedweck: “‘Taylor!’ *everyone turns around*” and a retweet of a post from @phillipindc: “The White House has released this photo of Trump with White House spring interns. Diversity this ain’t.” Of the 91 interns, two appear to be African-American and one, maybe two could be Asian (it’s a very small photo, so it’s hard to tell). Is it unusual that the two African-Americans are together in the corner?

@cmclymer: “When you put on pantyhose and don’t realize until 10 minutes into the ride to your destination that there’s a hole in the calf. How did I miss that?” I can’t speak to the pantyhose thing, never having worn them, but I’ve gone all morning with my underpants on backwards and noticed only after I hunted around for the fly for a solid minute on my potty break.

@zachweiner: “Dance like no one is looking! *dances while shoplifting*” No reaction. Just repeating it here because I thought it was funny.

@ppppolls: “He won Vice President twice Irene I hope that doesn’t trigger you” in response to a tweet from @obzerve51: “that poll is the stupidest god damn thing I have ever seen. Biden could not win dog catcher.” I get such a kick out of snark when it’s so obviously deserved, even needed. I mean, a statement like “Biden could not win dog catcher” is so stupidly false that it begs for snark.

tweet and response | 8:06 am CDT
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Sunday, March 18th, 2018

The best weekend things:

Drinking 63 cups of boiled coffee: I drink one, sometimes (but rarely) two cups of coffee a day, because being jittery at work hinders more than it helps me.  I make the coffee for B and I drink a cup in the five minutes or so I have after finishing my morning chores and putting on clothes, mostly just to fill the time and because it’s there, but during the week I mostly drink tea.  Early Grey.  Hot.

But on the weekend I like almost nothing else more than making a big pot of coffee first thing after getting up, and drinking three or four cups while I read a book or scroll through Twitter or type up drivel like this.  And it doesn’t make me jittery.  There must be some way to explain that, but I don’t know it and honestly I don’t care enough to dig into it.

Likewise, I have no idea why I especially enjoy drinking coffee that’s been sitting on the burner for hours until it’s acquired a satisfyingly metallic tang that reminds me of sucking on the end of a nine-volt battery.  I know that makes me some kind of freak but it’s my very favorite kind of home-brewed coffee.

The best weekend things | 10:44 am CDT
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Saturday, March 17th, 2018

As I watched the sun rise the other day, enjoying the warmth of its golden rays I thought, “If I was doing this on the moon right now, my face would be melting. “

Melted | 12:24 pm CDT
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Scooter the cat shows affection to Barb: He snuggles up against her chest and buries his face in her neck.

Scooter shows affection to me: He scratches my knee to get my attention and when I reach out to pat his head, he turns around and shows me his butthole, hoisting it high in the air so I can get a good look.

scooter | 8:15 am CDT
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Someone cut the cheese in the elevator we took down from the top floor of the parking garage Wednesday morning.  Whatever he ate must’ve died inside him because that elevator still reeked by the time it climbed up to our floor and we got into it.  All the way down B whispered under her breath, “Please don’t stop, please don’t stop, please don’t stop.”  She was terrified someone would get on and think one of us had done the dirty.  I wasn’t as worried, but I don’t like taking credit for other people’s handiwork, so it’s just as well the elevator didn’t stop to pick anybody else up.

stinky cheese | 8:00 am CDT
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A coworker was very alarmed to learn that my ears have been ringing non-stop for the past twenty years.

When I overheard him mention he’s been losing sleep because one of his ears won’t stop ringing and he couldn’t figure out why, I thought I’d rib him a little, throwing in my two cents by saying, “Oh, that’s called just getting old.” He wanted to know what I meant by that.  “My ears ring all the time,” I said.  “They’ve been ringing for years.”

“Wait, what?  Not literally for years, right?”

Oh shit.

“Well, yes.  Literally, for years.  It’s called tinnitus.”

So then he wanted to know what the ringing sounded like (like when your ears ring after a loud concert) and did I have it in just one ear, like he did (no, in both ears), and exactly how many years was I talking about?  I couldn’t answer that last one without going back to my medical records, but when I told him I remembered joking about it with a friend who also had tinnitus back in 1998, he damn near cried.  I felt pretty bad about that.  I only meant to crack a joke about falling apart as we get older, you know, as you do.  Based on his reaction, I would guess he’s still too young to have the gallows humor most people develop after their 50th birthday.

Ringing | 7:28 am CDT
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Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Let me tell you about one of the fun things we did on the boat. A guy named Travis McElroy hosted a sing-along on the main stage on Thursday night. I’d never heard of Travis before this cruise but a sing-along sounded fun, especially as it was billed as a Disney sing-along. Turned out Travis had a couple hundred song videos from Disney cartoons on his laptop which he projected onto the big screen of the main stage. It sounded like a great idea, but the technology wasn’t entirely with him at the beginning. The opening number was Part Of Your World from the cartoon The Little Mermaid. The video was working fine, but there was no audio the first time he tried to get it going, so he stopped it, which made the audience go “AWWWW!” It didn’t work the second time, either, but that didn’t stop the audience from singing the first couple lines of the song before Travis talked them into stopping while he fiddled with the computer a bit longer. Third time is usually the charm, right? Wrong. He still had video but no audio, and the audience wasn’t going to wait any longer. When Travis realized they were going to sing the song with or without him, he grabbed a microphone and joined us in an a capella version, which was pretty wonderful.

Eventually he figured out the technical glitch and the rest of the sing-along went even better than that. Travis invited other members of the on-board talent to join him on the stage to sing their favorite tunes. The last guy was Jim Boggia, a singer-songwriter from the east coast who chose When You Wish Upon A Star as his favorite song, and when I say “favorite,” I can’t convey just how much he liked this without mentioning that he was wearing a light blue suit jacket spangled with white stars and a matching pair of pants. He provided his own music instead of singing along karaoke-style to a video, coaxing as sweet a verision of the song as I’ve ever heard from a ukelele he held in the crook of his arm. The audience ate it up.

There were lots of other excellent musical performances on the cruise, but the sing-along was probably the most fun.

sing-along | 8:33 am CDT
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Chem trails.  One of the cab drivers we ran into in San Diego spent fifteen minutes or so telling us about how chem trails were controlling the weather over the city.

Have you ever heard of this conspiracy theory? When weather conditions are right, trails of water vapor condense behind aircraft.  Some nutjobs think these are trails of chemicals the government is clandestinely slipping into the gas tanks of commercial aircraft.  Other nutjobs believe military aircraft that have been converted into high-altitude cropdusters are spraying chemicals into the sky.  The reasons for this seem to be as varied, but the one I like best is that the government is spraying mood-altering stuff that turns us all into sheeple, to make it easier for them to manipulate us.  As if Twitter and Facebook aren’t already doing a bang-up job.

We listened politely to our cabbie’s weirdness for five minutes or so, then I changed the subject by asking a question about the neighborhood we were in. He answered, then went right back to chem trails. He was really into it. The idea seemed to appeal to him in a very visceral way.  I might’ve been worried about where he was taking us, but luckily we were circling our destination when he started talking crazy talk.

I don’t run into these conspiracy whackos too often, but when it happens my reaction is immediate, like suddenly coming across a snake.  It’s all I can do not to jump and run away.  There’s one exception: I talked with a couple of guys who believed the moon shot was faked.  I was so utterly gobsmacked by the idea that real, sentient human beings could somehow believe something so outlandish that I talked to them as long as they kept talking.

sheeple | 8:32 am CDT
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Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Here’s a somewhat strange, wonderful, cool thing that happened to me just thing morning: I was flipping through my Facebook notifications while waiting for the coffee to brew and among the usual likes and comments from my more familiar Facebook friends I saw one in particular that stood out: Hari Kondabolu liked one of my comments and replied to it.

Hari Kondabolu is, among other things, a stand-up comedian whose performances are hilariously funny to me. I stumbled across his work more or less accidentally while I was watching comedy videos on YouTube and ended up binge-watching every video of him I could find. There aren’t many comedians who I think are laugh-out-loud funny, but Hari is definitely one of them.

Not long after I watched the videos of his stand-ups, he appeared at the local comedy club. Barb thinks he’s hilarious, too, so we snagged a handful of tickets and invited Tim to go with us. All three of us were in stitches by the end of the night.

Fast-forward to last December: Hari (or maybe someone who works for Hari, but I like to think it was Hari) posted on Facebook, “Where should I tour in 2018?” I answered, “Please come back to Madison WI! We enjoyed your show so much!” I pretty much forgot about the post and my reply after that, even though he scheduled another performance at the comedy club and Barb snatched up another handful of tickets for it.

Then this morning I got a notification that Hari Kondabolu replied to my Facebook comment, and I was
like, Huh? As soon as I pulled it up I remembered, but what made it really cool was he hadn’t answered just my comment, he’d answered every comment from someone who asked him to come to their city with the dates of his performances. So not only is Hari really funny, he’s pretty cool, too.

Hari cool | 9:09 am CDT
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Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

We’re back from our cruise. The cruise ship docked on Sunday morning, then we stayed overnight in San Diego and flew back to Madison on Monday, a trip that took pretty much all day because our flight didn’t leave San Diego until eleven and we had a layover in Denver that was almost three hours. So no big surprise that when we finally got home, we almost immediately changed into our jammies, hit the hay, and slept and slept and slept.

The weirdest thing about going on a cruise is getting off the boat and feeling like we’re still on the boat. Both of us were walking like a couple of drunks all day yesterday. We were at sea for a little over two days on the way back from La Paz and the trip up the coast was especially roller-coastery, which may have had something to do with it.

Our trip took us down the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas, the port at the very tip of the peninsula and very much a tourist trap. Think Wisconsin Dells in Spanish, but for cruise ships filled with a couple thousand people each. We went ashore to go whale watching, a whole lot of fun although that’s when My Darling B got sunburned.  Kids: Wear Sunscreen.  The whale watching guys took about a dozen of us out to sea in a speed boat about twenty feet long, which I’m sure was safe as it gets.  Finding whales to watch isn’t as hard as you might think: All we had to do was look for all the other whale-watching boats. Every group of whales had at least a dozen boats of all sizes circling around it. Whales must be very patient creatures to put up with that.

We wandered around in Cabo San Lucas a little while but not too long. Once you’ve seen one vendor selling t-shirts, hats, and assorted trinkets, you’ve seen them all. We stopped at a quiet little restaurant for lunch before we went back, and that turned out to be about the best idea we had in Cabo. The food was just delicious and I had the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted. Well, I had two of the best Bloody Marys. Couldn’t have just one.  They were the best.  When was I ever going to be in Cabo San Lucas again to have another one?

The next morning, Wednesday, we stopped in Loreto, a very small town trying very hard to be a tourist trap, mostly by selling Mexican-looking blankets and straw hats painted with the names of American football teams. We went ashore in the afternoon to get a bite to eat, then wandered around but there wasn’t much to do, so we cooled our heels in a little brewery and nursed a couple beers. The talent on the boat put on a concert in the town square in the evening which we were really looking forward to, but it got a lot colder than I thought it would.  I couldn’t tough it out to the end of the concert because all I was wearing was a pair of shorts and a rugby shirt.  With less than an hour to go I was on the verge of hypothermia, so we went back to the boat earlier than we had planned.

Thursday was our last port call, this time in La Paz. All these towns are along the “inside” east coast of the Baja Peninsula, and La Paz is the capitol city. The only harbor near La Paz that’s deep enough for cruise ships is ten or fifteen miles away, so the city ran buses out to the dock all day to take us into town, and some of the locals rode along to provide us with some color commentary during the ride. The countryside is sand and rocks and scrubby-looking trees, so there isn’t much to describe, but they did their best, pointing out a derelict building here or there and telling us it used to be the tuna cannery or something similar.  There’s not a lot to see or do in La Paz, unfortunately. The beach would have been nice in the summer, but on the day we visited the temps were in the mid-60s, too cold to go swimming or even lay in the sun comfortably. We had lunch at a nice open-air restaurant. Couldn’t read a thing on the menu except tacos and empenadas, so we had tacos and empenadas.  We strolled along the beach after lunch, then went back to the boat around three.

The rest of the time we were at sea. There were lots of things going on so we were never bored, and even when we weren’t interested in what was going on, we weren’t bored. B and I each spent maybe 2-3 hours each day reading, and when we weren’t doing that, we were soaking in a hot tub or hanging out at the bar or just leaning against a rail, watching dolphins play in the wake of the boat. Very nice.

And now it’s over and we have to go back to work. Boo. Well, I have to go back tomorrow. B has one more day off. She plans to finish washing her clothes and cleaning up around the house a bit, but I wouldn’t blame her if she kicked up her heels a while and just relaxed a while longer.

post cruise | 6:43 pm CDT
Category: travel, vacation | Tags:
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Sunday, February 11th, 2018

I just got over a pretty nasty bug that seemed to be hitting just about everybody I worked with. One after another, my coworkers would drop out of sight for a day or two and when they came back, they had tales of a ‘stomach flu’ that kept them on their toes. Some of them looked as though they had made a full recovery, but some of them looked like they had just come in from a thousand-mile death march through freezing rain.

It was vitally important that I didn’t get sick just now, so of course this bug got me. It got me even though I kept an arm’s length from everybody who came to talk to me, I pumped gobs of sanitizer into my hands every time I touched a door knob, and I held my breath all day long. None of that mattered to this bug. I probably couldn’t have dodged it if I’d gone to work every day in a space suit. Which I totally would have done if I had a space suit because if I had one I would wear it every chance I got.  “No, I’m not an astronaut, I’m just a nerd with a space suit.”

Lucky for me, if you can think of this as luck, I caught my bug a little more than a week ago, so I’ve had all week for this thing to go through me. And it went through me like nothing’s ever gone through me before. I’ve taken prescription laxatives that went easier on me. My stomach growled like a jungle animal, my guts wrung themselves out like a dish rag, and for the first day or two I didn’t dare wander any further than a quick trot from a toilet.

After two days my guts were empty, but if I drank anything but water or any anything that wasn’t as bland as bananas, I was just asking for trouble. After four days I would have murdered for a hamburger. Thank goodness there are these things called restaurants. We went out to eat Thursday night and I ordered a cheeseburger as thick as a city phone book (does that metaphor work anymore? I don’t care, I know what it means) and wolfed it down as if it didn’t matter whether I dumped it an hour or so later.  Turns out it didn’t matter, because I didn’t dump it. I was already on the mend.

I had only one or two relapses since then but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it beat now. I’m not constantly mapping routes to the nearest bathroom and I’m not worrying over what to eat. I went out to brunch with My Darling B Saturday morning, and we had biscuits and gravy for dinner that night and I gobbled it all up without any ill effects. No pun intended, but there it is anyway.

buggy | 9:25 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, February 10th, 2018

I dropped a piece of toast on the floor this morning, bobbling it in midair as I was transferring it from the toaster to my plate. Picked it up, waved it around a bit, blew the germs, and trusted that the 5-second took care of the most deadly pathogens.  Buttered it, cut it in half, but didn’t eat it. By the time I finished the other piece of toast, I had spent too much time thinking about the cat hair and food spills and god knows what that had been on that floor, and I talked myself right out my faith in the five-second rule. Does this mean I’ve come to my senses or that I’m old?

When I told this story to my Mom, she responded: “Old has nothing to do with it. It’s WHAT’s been dropped. Yesterday at the library I dropped a peanut butter cup on the floor behind the counter. Imagine the army of germs dwelling back there. But it was a peanut butter cup. There was no hesitation, no fear of disease or death, I just blew on it a little and ate it.”

toast | 7:25 am CDT
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Sunday, January 21st, 2018

I’m about halfway through Monty Python Speaks, a sort of oral history of the show, the movies, and everything else Python.  I happened to find a copy while I was at the library trying to convince the desk clerk I returned the copy of The Geek Feminist Manifesto that I checked out last year.  While she was on the phone talking to the branch that alleged I kept the copy for myself, I wandered over to the shelf of staff picks and my eye was immediately drawn to the obviously Gilliam-influenced cover art of the book, flipped it open, and started reading about how the Python boys got started in comedy, how they got together for the series, how they wrote material, how they filmed it and, eventually, how they started to get on one another’s nerves.

I’m a total geek for this stuff.  I took the book home and I’ve been reading it almost non-stop ever since.  Right away, an odd thing happened: I was reading about how they developed characters for the sketches and they kept on naming a character I couldn’t recall ever hearing about.  I’m a pretty hardcore Python fan.  I can’t recite whole shows from memory any longer (I could when I was a teenager, though), but I can tell you all about the sketch you’re going to see if you show me the first five seconds of the video.  Yet somehow I couldn’t recall this Mr. Neutron guy they kept mentioning, so I searched the internet and of course I got my choice of about ten thousand videos to watch.  It was an episode from Monty Python Season 4 I couldn’t recall ever seeing.  It kind of rocked my world.  I was so sure I’d seen them all.  So now I’ll have to start at the beginning and watch them all.  I’m going to get very little sleep this next week.

Mr Neutron | 6:13 pm CDT
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Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Fare thee well, John Young, and we thank you.

John Young

John Young | 11:43 am CDT
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And now, a few words from the American president, Donald Trump:

Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.

Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.  Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everybody knows, went down in flames.  I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try).  I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!

Genius. Trump thinks becoming a “top T.V. Star” makes him a genius.

Hey, Genius, first try? Did you forget the time you ran for president 2012? How’s that memory working for you?

Actually, there aren’t a lot of “VERY successful” businessmen who know how to bankrupt the casinos they own, so maybe Trump is sort of, like, really smart.

Here’s what I think is really smart: Saying Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is a hoax perpetrated on the American public.  Nice going, genius.

like wow | 9:04 am CDT
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

While I was taking a shower the other day I sneezed and a two inch long greyish-black booger came shooting out of my nose and landed in the far end of the bathtub. I actually felt it pop out, as if a chunk of my head suddenly broke off, and I watched it go flying away.

I couldn’t help but stare at it for a minute or so.  It was so large I half-expected it to crawl toward the drain under its own power, like something from The Upsidedown.  It never made a move, though, so I figured it was safe to point the shower head at it to wash it down the drain.  I hope I haven’t made a terrible mistake.

booger | 7:00 am CDT
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Monday, January 1st, 2018

I dropped something down the drain of the bathroom sink yesterday, so I had to take the trap off the drain to get it out and when I did, the pipe broke, spewing grease and hair and greyish chunks of minerals from the hard water  all over my hands and arms.  I’ve never had a drain pipe vomit on me quite so disgustingly before.  Not only did it puke sewage all over me, there was a great, big greasy hairball dangling from the tail pipe that I had to dig out with my fingers.  There isn’t enough money in the world to make me want to be a plumber.

The only thing to do at that point was take it all apart and figure out what had to be replaced, and that’s when I found out I couldn’t get a wrench around the nut that held the trap on the tail pipe.  It’s one of those bathroom sinks that sits on a pedestal.  The tail pipe – the pipe that runs straight down from the drain hole in the bottom of the sink – is surrounded on three sides by the pedestal, a column of porcelain with a narrow opening up the back.  I couldn’t even see the tail pipe.  I could get one hand on the pipe, but I couldn’t get a wrench in there, and I tried two kinds of channel locks and three kinds of monkey wrenches.  I have a lot of wrenches.  There’s no way a plumber put that trap in without a couple of mirrors and a special wrench made for just this purpose that probably costs a couple hundred dollars.

The good news is, I only had to make one trip to the store to buy a new trap and whatever the pipe that connects the trap to the wall is called.  These adventures in plumbing almost always require at least two trips to the store after I get home and discover I guessed wrong on the size of the pipe or bought the nut but forgot to get the bolt, something like that.  I felt pretty good about getting it right on the first try.

Cleaning all the spew off the wall and the floor was not fun.  On the other hand, standing under a hot shower for an indecently long time felt great.

bent pipe | 9:28 am CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
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I dreamed a friend asked me to be the official photographer at his wedding.  I said sure, I’d be honored. Then my friend asked another guy to also be the official wedding photographer.  Not only that, he paid the other guy 500 dollars.  When I asked my friend why the other guy got 500 dollars, he told me the other guy was just someone he knew from the office, but I was his friend and I was doing it as a favor to him.  I said no, I wasn’t, and got the hell outta Dodge.

pro bono | 8:33 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, dreams
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Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

I’m washing a ton of dirty clothes today, and that means I’m folding a ton of clothes, too, and THAT means I’m watching a movie while I fold clothes.  Today, I’m watching Twelve O’Clock High.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it’s not enough.  I’m still not tired of it, and I haven’t memorized all the lines yet.  I like to play favorite scenes over and over to make sure I’ve got the sound of the lines right as well as the words.  If I could deliver the lines where Savage chews out Gately as devastatingly as Peck did, I could die a happy man.

Today’s favorite scene was Savage meeting Cobb for the first time.  If you’ve never seen the movie, Savage is a general sent to take command of an army air force base in England during the early years of World War Two.  He is played to perfection by Gregory Peck.  I would like to say this is the role Peck was born to play, but I know he likes Atticus Finch best of all his roles, so I’ll say only this is *a* role he was born to play.  Maybe I can get away with that.

Cobb is a pilot in one of the units stationed at the base.  Savage wants to give Cobb the job of Air Exec, which would make Cobb second-in-command of the base, but Savage would like to know more about Cobb’s character first, so he goes looking for Cobb in the officer’s club the night he arrives.  The club is a quonset hut with a fireplace at the far end and a tiny bar to one side in the middle.  Someone is banging out “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree” on the upright piano right next to the entrance.

Peck strides manfully to the bar and barks, “Beer!” at the bartender.  As Savage, Peck barks a lot in this movie.  He’s good at it, too.

A major who had been standing in the foreground, just to Savage’s left, glances at the general’s star on Savage’s shoulder, then looks down into his beer as he decides he doesn’t want to make small talk with a general and wanders away, leaving Savage standing at the bar just one other officer, a major in a flier’s jacket and cap, slouched against the bar next to a half-empty shot glass of scotch.  The major has his back to the general.  Savage doesn’t know it yet, but this is Major Cobb, played by John Kellogg, who is about to steal the scene from Peck.

Peck looks the major up and down, then narrows his eyes at the major’s cap.  Military personnel do not normally wear any kind of hat indoors, which is handily telegraphed to the audience by the fact that nobody else in the club is wearing a cap.  Savage says evenly: “Remove your cap in the club, major.” He delivers the line just sternly enough that anyone would know it’s an order, but not so sternly that it’s a big deal, yet.

This is where it gets good: Kellogg swivels his head in Peck’s direction with enough of a glassed-over look in his eyes to give you the idea he isn’t drinking his first shot of scotch.  He looks the general up and down and says, with enough disregard for the general’s rank to get noticed, but not enough to get him into trouble, “That’s regulations, is it?”

Before Peck answers, he stands a little straighter, a little stiffer, and he looks a little more serious.  He clips his words a little shorter. The major has obviously ticked Savage off a bit.  “It is,” Peck growls.  He growls a lot in this movie, too, and he’s as good at growling as he is at barking.

Kellogg stands up straight, turns toward Peck and slowly takes the cap off his head, chucking it onto the bar between them.  Then he scoops up his drink and tosses it back.

Savage picks up his own drink and downs a gulp, narrowing his eyes as he watches the major’s carefully balanced demonstration of defiance and obedience.  Then his eyes widen a bit as he notices the major’s name tag, a tiny strip of black cloth with “MAJ J.C. COBB” in gold letters barely half an inch high on the left breast of the jacket.  It’s almost invisible, and Peck’s reaction is so subtle that I missed this part of their interaction so many times.  Really well-played.

Kellogg scoops up his hat and makes as if to go when Peck delivers his next line in an inviting, even friendly tone of voice, “Have another, Major Cobb,” he says, and Kellogg pauses long enough to let it register that he realizes he’s not in trouble, that he really is being invited to stay.

“Scotch,” he says to the bartender, and starts to dig out some change from his pocket, but Peck beats him to it, laying one of his own coins on the bar.  “I’ve got it,” he says.  (I love it there used to be a time when you could pay for hard liquor with loose change instead of folding money.)

“No regulation against buying my own, is there?” Kellogg says, not asks, a little proudly.

Peck says flatly, “That’s right,” and regards Kellogg with an icy look that reads: Are you sure you want to get into it like this?

Kellogg seems to waver for a moment but slaps his change on the bar after deciding he’s made his bed, now he’s going to lie in it.  The bartender takes his money and sets a shot glass in front of him, and Kellogg settles an elbow on the bar.  Peck grins at him but Kellogg doesn’t seem to notice, gazing straight ahead as he sips a bit of scotch from the glass.  His expression says, I refuse to stick my other foot in my mouth.

The next day, after Cobb apologizes to Savage for the snark, Savage tells him admiringly, “You gave it to me straight.”  These scenes where manly men beat on each other (sometimes literally – The Silent Man holds the gold standard for this) to size one another up are cliche, but I still love them, especially when they’re played as well as this one.

regulation | 4:38 pm CDT
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If the furnace goes out today, I just want to say it’s been nice, because that’ll be the end of me.  The rescue team will probably find me frozen solid in my chair at this keyboard, icicles dangling from my eyebrows like Jack Torrence.  I’m not even going to try to get to the corner store and hang out there all day because frankly I doubt I’d survive to walk the quarter-mile or so.

As usual, I’m exaggerating a tiny bit.  It’s cold here today, about two below zero this morning, but not as cold as it gets in, say, Fairbanks, Alaska, which I hear is a lovely place but one in which I don’t think I’d survive for long.  Cold weather is not my friend.  I cannot abide feeling cold.  I don’t know how I’ve lived in Wisconsin for as long as I have.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why I didn’t move to Arizona after I retired from the military, when I had the chance to be warm for the rest of my life.

Actually, I do know why: Because Arizona is hot, not warm, and if there’s one thing I can’t abide more than being cold, it’s being hot.  I’m comfortable only when it’s about seventy-two degrees out, sunny, and maybe forty percent humidity.  The problem with my condition is, the ideal place for me to live is a terrarium.

 

shiver me timbers | 7:26 am CDT
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Monday, December 25th, 2017

I had to look up the word “unabashed” today.  My dictionary told me the definition of “unabashed” was “not abashed,” which is Webster’s way of saying, “look up the word ‘abash,’ you dolt.”

Abash: to destroy the self-possession or self-confidence of; disconcert; see embarrass

So not only was Webster’s telling me to look up “abash,” they were trolling me, too.

Well-played, Webster’s.  Well-played.

abashed | 6:30 am CDT
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Sunday, December 24th, 2017

I’m seeing a whole lot of dumb shit about Santa on the internet:

Worst was a explanation for how Santa visits so many houses in a single night.  Explanation included a lot of noise about velocity and crap you would have heard in physics class if you’d been paying attention. (Props to anybody who was awake and did pay attention.  Wish I’d been one of you.) This is a dumbshit thing to say because SANTA IS MAGICAL.  He does not travel from house to house at any speed.  He squeezes his fat old elf butt and his magical sack of presents down your chimney no matter how small it is.  He lingers long enough to carefully stack the presents under the tree and stuff them in the stockings and eat the cookies and drink the milk everybody leaves out for him, and then he levitates up the chimney by laying a finger aside his nose.  And he does that in every single house where children believe in Santa at exactly the same time: MIDNIGHT. Can’t convince me there’s no magic involved in that.

A local sheriff’s office will track Santa across Wisconsin, starting at nine o’clock this evening. What?  Who doesn’t know Santa comes to your house at midnight?  Duh.

NORAD continues to claim they can track Santa.  Using what, exactly?  Like radar bounces off a magical elf?  I don’t think so.

dumb shit about santa | 9:19 am CDT
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Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

From my keyboard in front of the window here at Drivel HQ, I can see it’s snowing at the lazy rate of about 6 snowflakes per second.  At this rate, it will take ten thousand years for us to have a white Christmas.

(That’s a wild-ass guess. I did not do the math.)

slow snowfall | 10:01 am CDT
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Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Mike Pence is a colossal suck-up.  But don’t take my word for it: Here he is, in his own words, sucking up like the suckingest thing that ever sucked:

Trump: Mike, would you like to say a few words?

Pence: I appreciate it, Mr. President. As I told you last night, shortly after the Senate vote: I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet, and millions of Americans, when I say congratulations and thank you, thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country. You described it very well, Mr. President: from the outset of this administration, we’ve been rebuilding our military, putting the safety and security of the American people first; you’ve restored American credibility on the world stage; we’re standing with our allies; we’re standing up to our enemies.  But you promised economic renewal at home.  You said we could  make this economy great again, and you promised to roll back regulations, and you signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any American president in history. You’ve unleashed American energy, you’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records, but you promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts and it would be a middle-class miracle, and in just a short period of time that promise will be fulfilled.  And I just I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.  Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership  in the congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle class miracle.  You’ve actually got the congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with ANWR for forty years.  You’ve got the congress to do with tax cuts for working families and American businesses what they haven’t been able to do for thirty-one years.  And you got congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare.  I know you would have me also acknowledge the people around this table, Mr. President.  I want to thank the leaders in congress once again for their partnership in this.  I want to thank your outstanding team: your secretary of the treasury, Steven Mnuchin; for Gary Cohen; for Ivanka Trump; for your great legislative team; all the members of this cabinet who partnered to drive your vision forward over the past six months after you laid out that vision for tax reform.  But mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began: I want to thank you, Mr. President.  I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of, and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of  your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more, and we are are making America great again. Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.

Trump: Thank you, Mike, that was very nice, I appreciate that, thank you.

That is some primo ass-kissing right there. I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t roll their eyes at a display of brown-nosing as obvious and ham-fisted as that. And the whole time Pence was groveling, Trump sat with his arms folded tightly across his chest, clearly channeling Benito Mussolini.

suck up | 9:39 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, December 21st, 2017

It’s been eighteen months since The Deluge, the plumbing accident that created a virtual monsoon in our basement. As bad as it looked then, and it looked REALLY BAD, quite a lot of our possessions escaped The Deluge unharmed. We had hundreds of books down there, for instance, and almost every one of them survived without water damage.

I started to build the model train layout of my dreams in the basement many years ago.  There’s no more to it than the bench and track; I never got to the point where I landscaped it, or built any tiny train stations or other buildings, and a good thing, too.  All of that would have been washed away by The Deluge.  The track wasn’t affected by the water; it’s still all firmly in place and shows no signs of corrosion.  The bench is made of scraps of lumber that doesn’t appear to have warped at all in spite of all the water that washed over it.  So essentially the layout is unchanged from the day before The Deluge, presumably in working order.

The room the layout’s in, though, has been a mess ever since.

Two of the overhead light fixtures fell from the ceiling when the water-soaked overhead wallboard panels began to buckle under their own weight and the anchors that held the light fixtures up lost their grip in the sodden panels.  Same with the electrical conduit and outlets I screwed to the ceiling to plug the lights into, so there’s been no electrical light in that back corner since The Deluge.

The floor was a scattered mess of scraps of drywall and all kinds of jetsam that got washed off the bench by the floodwaters.  Cleanup was such a daunting task I never quite mustered the motivation to get in there with a broom and a vacuum cleaner. It was too depressing to look at, much less think about cleaning up, until last weekend.

It began when I swept a path through the debris wide enough for me to walk in.  Then I ran a couple extension cords to the two overhead lights that remained hanging from the ceiling.  I crossed my fingers and yanked on the pull chains, not knowing if they still worked.  They did.  That gave me enough light to keep going.

I pieced together the electrical conduit and outlets that fell from the ceiling.  Wouldn’t do any good to hang the lights if I couldn’t connect them to power.  Putting the outlets back up was easier than I thought it would be and took less time; I dreaded the idea I might be at it all weekend, but they went up in just a couple hours.  I even did it right the first time: The lights came on when I flipped the switch, same as if I knew what I was doing. Always pleasantly surprised when that happens.

LoCo Railway

With the lights taken care of, I had to get down into the dirt.  Literally.  There was so much dirt and dust and many, many dead spiders. Lots of broken glass. Bits of wallboard and insulation everywhere. More dirt.  It was an unholy mess, and there was nothing to do for it but get down on my hands & knees with the business end of a vacuum cleaner.  Kept me busy for the rest of the afternoon.

The next step is to close off the room so the cats won’t be able to get in there.  No use wiring the track up again if they’re just going to swipe at the wiring like it’s their favorite new toy.  That’s a project for next weekend.

revenant | 9:05 pm CDT
Category: LoCo Rwy
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Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

When you can’t think of anything to write, post a photo of a cute kitten:

sparky | 9:26 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I can’t walk into the kitchen without two cats following me. Three when Boo is hungry (not so much these days). The other two are always hungry, or at least they’re always interested. If I stop in front of the kitchen cupboard where we keep the kitty kibble (now that’s a lot of alliteration!), they swarm around my feet and I have to be careful not to trip over them or, if it’s early and I’m still having trouble focusing, just stepping on them. Which I’ve done. It pisses them off, but it hasn’t stopped them from swarming my feet.

That’s really all there is to our relationship: I’m the guy who feeds them. Or in Scooter’s case, I’m also the guy who pats his butt. He’s one of those cats.  Their only other interest in me is incidental, like if I happen to be around when they want to get into a room behind a closed door; then they think I’m there to open it for them.  They’re usually disappointed when they believe that.

feeder of cats | 6:30 am CDT
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I woke myself up from my dream last night by spitting on myself.  First time that’s ever happened.

In my dream, I’d dropped a drinking glass while I was standing in line on the sidewalk outside a movie theater.  I picked up the biggest pieces and threw them in a trash can some distance away, but there were several smaller pieces that could really hurt anyone who accidentally stepped on them barefoot, so I went back, picked them up one at a time and put them in my mouth to carry them to the trash.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

When I got to the trash can, I stuck my tongue out as far as it would go and gently peeled each of the pieces of glass of it and let them fall into the trash.  Then, because I’d just been carrying glass in my mouth, I hawked up as much spit as I could, rolled it around on my tongue, and spit, thinking that would clear my mouth of any stray shards of glass.

Funny thing: When I spat in my dream, I also spat in my bed.  Woke myself up from a sound sleep.  Had a great big loogie stuck to my face.  Not a great way to wake up.

hawking | 5:42 am CDT
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Monday, December 18th, 2017

PERSIFLAGE (PER suh flazh)

from the French persifler, “to banter”

Light banter; idle, bantering talk; a frivolous style of treating a subject – The New Century Dictionary 1927

A light, flippant style – Funk & Wagnalls Practical Standard Dictionary 1942

852. RIDICULE, derision, irrision, raillery, mockery, banter, persiflage, bandinage, twit, chaff; quiz, quizzing etc. v.: joke, jest; asteism; irony, sarcasm; sardonic grin or smile, snicker or snigger, smirk, grin, leer, fleer; scoffing etc. – Roget’s New International Thesaurus 1956

‘whistle-talk’. Irresponsible talk, of which the hearer is to make what he can without the right to suppose that the speaker means what he seems to say; the treating of serious things as trifles and of trifles as serious. ‘Talking with one’s tongue in one’s cheek’ may serve as a parallel. Hannah more, quoted in the OED, describes French p.l as ‘the cold compound of irony, irreligion, selfishness, and sneer’. Frivolity and levity, combined with gentle ‘leg-pulling’, are perhaps rather the ingredients of the compound as now conceived, with airy as its stock adjective. Yeats said of it that it was ‘the only speech of educated men that expresses a deliberate enjoyment of words. … Such as it is, all our comedies are made out of it.’ – Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 2nd Edition 1965

frivolous or lightly derisive talk or manner of treating a subject – Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary 1969

persiflage *bandiage, raillery bantering or banter, chaffing or chaff: ridiculing or ridicule, twitting, deriding or derision – Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms 1973

882. BANTER, bandiage, persiflage, pleasantry, fooling, fooling around, kidding or kidding around, raillery, rallying, sport, good-natured banter, harmless teasing; ridicule 967; chaff, twit, jest, joke, jape, josh; jive; exchange, give-and-take – Roget’s 4th International Thesaurus 1977

persiflage | 6:30 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations | Tags: ,
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Sunday, December 17th, 2017

I’m a huge fan of the 1966 R&B hit song “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations, not that I heard it all that often before 2006. I came late to my appreciation of classic Motown music, but I love it now and this is one of the best.

Been thinking too much about the lyrics, though, and you know what that means: TIME FOR ANOTHER SONG TO BE RUINED!

I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go
If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy
I don’t mind, ’cause you mean that much to me

Whoa! “I refuse to let you go?” No means no, dude! Don’t be a creeper!

Ain’t too proud to beg and you know it
Please don’t leave me girl, Don’t you go
Ain’t too proud to plead, baby, baby
Please don’t leave me, girl, don’t you go

Let’s talk about relationships that are based on begging, because this guy begs a lot. I get that it’s supposed to be romantic, this notion that he’ll crawl through the mud for her, but how’s that relationship going to endure? It’s not, because neither one of them will have any self-respect. If she caves in and stays with him, she’ll hate herself for caving, and he’ll hate himself for giving up his dignity. Begging is not the way to go. Not that he’s going to stop doing it.

Now I’ve heard a cryin’ man is half a man with no sense of pride
But if I have to cry to keep you, I don’t mind weepin’
If it’ll keep you by my side

Well, now we have a complete lack of dignity with a generous helping of emotionally manipulation on the side. Very nice.

If I have to sleep on your doorstep all night and day just to keep you from walking away
Let your friends laugh, even this I can stand,
’cause I wanna keep you any way I can.

Okay, this has veered wildly into the world of the weird. I mean, is he LITERALLY sleeping on her doorstep to stop her from going anywhere? Because I’m pretty sure that’ll get him arrested just about anywhere in the world. And what kind of friends has she got if all they do when her ex behaves like this is laugh? Not very dependable friends, if you ask me.

Now I’ve got a love so deep in the pit of my heart, and each day it grows more and more
I’m not ashamed to call and plead to you, baby
If pleading keeps you from walking out that door

And now he’s making harassing phone calls.  Dude, we’ve all been there. You can survive this, but only if you put it behind you.  Stop already.

another song bites the dust | 7:00 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Saturday, December 16th, 2017

I’ve got to stop reading Twitter first thing in the morning.

One of the first things I saw when I flipped through the stream of comments this morning was a phrase in Russian: “Everything’s much worse than it was yesterday.”

My first response to seeing this was a self-satisfied frisson of joy: “Hey! I understood that!” Because it’s been a few years since I’ve read a phrase in Russian that I understood from beginning to end without grabbing a dictionary.

My second response was: “I’ll bet that’s a phrase they’ve been saying for a while,” because it sounds like something Russians would say almost every day when, for instance, old friends ran into each other in a bread line.

My third and final response was: “What a perfect phrase for Twitter,” because if there’s one place on the internet you can go to feel as though everything is worse than it was yesterday, Twitter is the place.

The next thing I saw that sent me to a bad place was a video of Senator John Kennedy interviewing Matthew Spencer Peterson, one of the five nominees submitted to the Senate as a candidate for US District Court judge.  Peterson’s testimony was a train wreck.  He couldn’t answer a single question, and the two times he tried to snow Kennedy under with a blizzard of verbiage about his job at the election commission, he hemmed and hawed in fits and starts so badly that I don’t know why he wasn’t heckled, or at least laughed at by the people in the visitor’s gallery.

I’ve lots seen excerpts of congressional testimony before but never watched a senate review from beginning to end, so I can’t say this kind of debacle isn’t par for the course; maybe it happens all the time. I’d like to believe, though, that candidates such as Petersen, who will become federal judges for the rest of their lives if confirmed by the senate, have been thoroughly vetted by someone, rather than being chosen by how ardently they campaigned for Trump in the last election.  Not that I’m implying that’s the case here.  Okay, I am.  That’s exactly what I’m implying.

Just for fun, here’s a transcript of Petersen’s testimony:

Senator John Kennedy: Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?

Matthew Spencer Petersen: (raises hand)

K: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

P: No.

K:  Civil?

P: No.

K: Criminal?

P: No.

K: Bench?

P: No.

K: State or Federal court?

P: I have not.

K: Have you ever taken a deposition?

P: I was involved in taking depositions when I was an associate … when I first came out of law school.  [“I was involved in” is pretty common double-talk when padding a resume; it usually means “I was at the meeting where the subject was discussed.” In this case I’d guess it most probably means “I had to proof-read the depositions.”]

K: How many depositions?

P: I would, ah, I would be struggling to remember.

K:  Less than 10?

P: Yes.

K: Less than 5?

P: Probably somewhere in that range.

K: Have you ever tried taking a deposition by yourself?

P: Ah, I believe, no.

K: Have you ever argued a motion in state court?

P: I have not.

K: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?

P: No.

K: When’s the last time you read the federal rules of civil procedure?

P: The federal rules of civil procedure? I, ah, in my current position I obviously don’t need to stay as, ah, y’know, ah, invested in those on a day-to-day basis but I do try to stay up to speed. We do have, at the Federal Election Commission, roughly 70 attorneys … [Petersen continues to ramble, badly, haltingly, for thirty seconds, avoiding the question.]

K: I’m sorry to interrupt you but we’re only given 5 minutes for five of you, so: When’s the last time you read the federal rules of evidence?

P: The federal rules of evidence all the way through? Well, comprehensively, would’ve been in law school. Obviously, I would have been involved in, when I was an associate … [Continues to ramble again, winding down the clock.]

K: Well, as a trial judge you’re going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the Daubert Standard is?

P: Ah, Senator Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal, but I would happy to take a closer look at that.  That is not something that I’ve had to contend with. [*eye-roll* Petersen is testifying before the senate and answered a question with, “I’ll have to get back to you on that?” Which is another way of saying, “I don’t know.”  He used thirty-one words to say “I don’t know.”] [By the way, the Daubert Standard is a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses’ testimony.]

K: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

P: Yes, ah, I have, and, again, my background is not in litigation [rambles for a full minute about his job at the election commission before Kennedy interrupts him]

K: I’ve read your resume. Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?

P: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition here at the table. [A motion of limine is a motion, discussed outside the presence of the jury, to request that certain testimony be excluded.  Full disclosure: I have no training in law.  I googled this stuff.  But these questions, especially this one, seem to be pretty basic questions of law.  I could be wrong.  These could be really esoteric, arcane rules that lawyers rarely encounter.  I sort of doubt that, though.]

K: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?

P: I’ve heard of it, but I … [Stops dead.] [A Younger abstention is used by a court to refuse to hear a case if hearing the case would potentially intrude upon the powers of another court.]

K: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?

P: No.

Federal courts use the Pullman abstention to avoid decisions of federal constitutional questions when the case may be disposed of on questions of state law.  Again, I have no training in law, but the honorable Mister Petersen has and, as he’s been nominated to become a federal court judge, I would’ve felt a bit more confident about him if I thought maybe he’d at least googled the most basic questions of law he might have been expected to answer.  I mean, it’s not like he didn’t know questions like this would come up.

Finally, George Carlin would love this: In a meeting at the Centers for Disease Control, CDC officials who oversee the budget have told policy analysts there are seven words or phrases they may not use when writing any official documents: those words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

This would be laughable if it weren’t so dire.  Honestly, when I was a young airman learning about Soviet oppression from expelled dissidents, we had a pretty good laugh about this same exact kind of thing, mostly because we believed we were part of a society that would never tolerate this kind of behavior from its government.

And yet, here we are.  Writers of future CDC publications must find a way to write about fetuses without using the actual word “fetus,” a ham-fistedly obvious way to get them to use the term “unborn children.”  And there is apparently no such thing as a transgendered person now.  I’m guessing there’s no politically-correct term to use instead of “transgender,” but I haven’t looked.  The ban against “entitlement” is odd, as right-wingers use that one all the time.  I’d have thought it would be a shoo-in.  But the loss of “science-based” and “evidence-based” is especially egregious.  As a replacement for “science-based,” managers suggested “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”  In other words, whatever you want to believe.

Everything’s much worse than it was yesterday.

much worse | 8:36 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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