Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I had a hard time finding my mojo today, or at least I think I did, if “mojo” means what I think it means, and it probably doesn’t. I really didn’t want to be pounding a keyboard at my day job today, is what I’m saying. My demeanor was much more appropriate for sitting on the sofa in a sweatshirt and baggy pants, sucking down a pot of coffee as I drilled through chapter after chapter of the latest book I’m caught up in.

Which is volume one of The Glory and the Dream, A Narrative History of America – 1932-1972, by William Manchester. I never heard of either the writer or the book until I found them both at the local library’s book sale and picked up the two-volume set for a couple bucks. I can’t get over the idea that you can still buy books in this age of Twitter bots and #FakeNews. I’m going to be the guy in your dystopian future who has hundreds of books hidden in the walls of his house. Come see me when books are a good thing again.

missing mojo | 6:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Most mind-blowing thing I learned last week:

This guy …

… and this guy …

… are the same person! Holy shit!

I went on a business trip last week that seemed to last a whole year, because that’s how much of your life gets sucked out of your soul when you’re behind the wheel of a car for three days driving on the interstate and backroads, getting stuck in traffic jams caused by oh my god another construction zone, and sleeping in one anonymous hotel after another. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that again for a while.

The one good thing about the trip was a travel companion who liked the same movies I liked and grew up on the same songs I grew up on. To pass the time, we played the “Who’s your favorite actor?” game, and we took turns playing songs from our phones through the car stereo and singing along, me always slightly out of key (thank goodness she didn’t mind. At least I think she didn’t).

One of the songs that kept coming up on her playlist was All Good Things from the musical Godspell, and each time it started to play she told me “That’s Victor Garber,” like I should’ve known a singer named Victor Garber. I was pretty sure I didn’t, but only because I didn’t know Victor Garber the singer was also Victor Garber the actor. I didn’t even know he could sing! It’s not like he ever broke into song in Legally Blonde or Sleepless In Seattle. And why would I ever have connected the kid in the blown-out afro with the gray-haired guy in Titanic? In my defense, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only person who has remained this blissfully ignorant.

So last weekend I got reacquainted with the music of Godspell. I had the album once upon a time and listened to it so incessantly that I learned the words through osmosis, although not always the right words. The version of Godspell that bubbled up from my memory was filled with lots of Whoa Nipsey Russel and Elvis Is A Watermelon, because my LP didn’t come with the lyrics printed on the liner, dammit. I didn’t have a decent stereo to play it on, so I learned to sing lots of words that I knew were wrong but I would have to make do with them because I couldn’t figure out what the right words might be.

What’s interesting to me about this alternate version of Godspell is not only how comically wrong I was about the words but that, after all these years, I could recall the wrong words so clearly. I mean, these are songs I haven’t thought about in more than fifteen years, and yet each and every misheard word came back to me as clearly – or, rather, as garbled – as they did when I pressed my ear against a tinny speaker back in high school, straining to learn the words, any words, to the song.

Just as a for instance, one of my favorite songs was All For The Best, sung in two parts by Jesus (Victor Garber) and Judas (I don’t know). I could easily decipher the words of the part Garber sang, but I got the words to the other part almost entirely wrong. The way I heard it, it went something like this:

Some men just want to live at ease, doing what they please, richer than the bees are in honey
Never growing old, never feeling cold, pulling pots of gold from thin air
Your bets from every town, bets are shaking down, bets are making mountains of money
They can’t take it with them, but what do they care?
They get those sandy pots of meat, pushing down the street, outside on the street where it’s sunny
Summers at the sea, which are warmer treats, all of this when we have progressed
But who is the land for, the sun and the sand for?
You guessed, it’s all for the best!

But now I have the internet! I can look them up! Which I did, and was astonished to discover that I actually got some of the words right! But the words I got wrong were oh so comically wrong:

Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please, richer than the bees are in honey
Never growing old, never feeling cold, pulling pots of gold from thin air
The best in every town, best at shaking down, best at making mountains of money
They can’t take it with them, but what do they care?
They get the center cut of meat, cushions on the seat, houses on the street where it’s sunny
Summers at the sea, winters warm and free, all of this, and we get the rest
But who is the land for, the sun and the sand for?
You guessed, it’s all for the best!

I think “sandy pots of meat” is my favorite mis-heard lyric.

If there’s a down side to this, it’s that I’ve had All For The Best playing on a loop in my head ever since. Well, sort of a down side. That was one of my favorite songs, so I’m not entirely bummed that I can now sing it the right way.

Mind blown | 6:30 am CST
Category: entertainment, movies, music, play
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Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

I brought a big box of CDs along on our three-day road trip last week so we would never be out of fresh songs to listen to. Turned out we reserved the only damned car in the DOT fleet that didn’t have a CD player.

But good luck was with us: Each of us had lots of our favorite songs saved on our phones, and the car was a late model with a stereo that would connect to our phones so we could play our music loud.

The most amazing thing about long road trips? How easy it is to get someone to sing along with Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ when you’ve been trapped in a car staring out the window at endless miles of concrete for hours and hours.

songs for the road | 6:30 am CST
Category: business travel, entertainment, music, work
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Monday, October 30th, 2017

I put the storm windows on last weekend. It’s finally too late in the year to put it off any longer. Luckily, it’s not especially hard to do. Most of the windows of Our Humble O’Bode were updated many moons ago, except for the window in the dining room, the windows around the back door, and the big picture window in the front, which is flanked by a couple of double-hung sash windows. I replaced the old windows in the dining room and around the back door years ago, so the two storm windows hung over the sash windows flanking the picture window are the only ones left. They’re part of the picture window; I don’t believe they can be replaced without replacing the picture window, too, and I never had the moxie to believe I could replace such a large window, even if I asked for help, so the picture window and its accompanying sash windows remain the last original windows in the house.

The house has settled enough over the years that the sash window on the left doesn’t fit squarely in its frame any longer. There’s a big enough gap around the window that a pretty noticeable breeze can blow through it when the storm window is not in place. Our one recliner sits in front of it and when the wind is up, whoever is seated in that chair can count on the breeze to turn pages in their book if they’re not holding on to them.

When I put the storm windows on, I tape plenty of weatherstripping around the left window, which helps a bit, but the window is so out of true now that the only solution that’s going to keep the winter winds from seeping in is a total replacement of the whole window. I’m really not looking forward to that, partly because it’s going to cost a lot of money and partly because I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford another picture window. I really like that picture window and I’d really miss it if we had to replace it with something like a row of casement windows.

storm windows | 6:30 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I drove more than 800 miles last week to make sure that DMV employees in offices all over the state are doing the very best job they possibly can for the Wisconsin taxpayer by auditing their procedures. I’m happy to report they are. (The best part about the trip was that the employees were so nice to me even as I was auditing them. Not that they aren’t nice to me anywhere else; they are. It’s just that it’s always such a pleasant surprise.) It worked out to about 18 hours of driving over three days. That’s a lot of windshield time.

The first leg of our trip took us from Madison to Ladysmith, a distance the Google tells me is 252 miles and takes 3 hours 45 minutes. The mileage is accurate as far as I can tell, but it took us five hours, not just under four. My best guess as to how that happened: Google doesn’t include slowdowns for construction and stops to pee in their calculations. I’m sure the first one is almost impossible to account for, but I would suggest they could ask how old you are to get a more accurate figure for the second one: Over fifty and they add fifteen minutes to each hour of travel. Bonus points if they put a star at exits where you can find a public restroom.

From Ladysmith to Ashland we went another 104 miles and took us about two hours. When I climbed out of our car in Ashland the feeling of using my legs to walk was so unfamiliar I had to slowly unbend myself from a sitting position with each step. A time-lapse photo of me would’ve looked like that drawing of the ascent of man, a crouching ape to a hunched-over Neanderthal to a fully erect modern human. I did a few deep knee bends every time I was out of eyeshot, just to keep the circulation in my legs going.

We stayed in Ashland overnight and drove from Ashland to Hurley in the morning, just 38 miles down the road. The skies were clear to the east so the sun shone through, making it a very pleasant drive. We passed through the town of Saxon on the way; one of the women who lives there and works at the Hurley DMV told us she saw some snow flying that morning. So glad I wasn’t there to see it.

Our next stop that day was the Iron River DMV, back the way we came. Skies in the west were cloud-covered and dark as cast iron, so the drive was a bit more somber. We stopped in Ashland for an early lunch at The Black Cat coffee house (I recommend their egg sandwich). Hurley to Iron River is 65 miles, most of it along the coast of Lake Superior, the first time I’ve seen the big lake since I was in college when I went hiking in the Upper Peninsula.

Our last stop that day was Superior, which is 38 miles from Iron River, making Wednesday the day we spent the shortest time at the wheel, about three hours. I spent the rest of the day looking out the window of my hotel room, which perversely faced traffic racing past on the highway, while I worked at the desk to complete the paperwork of the offices I audited.

Fun Bit O’ Trivia: The hotel where we stayed in Superior is just off the highway that feeds traffic to the bridge across the Mississippi River into Duluth. I missed the exit and we had to drive across the bridge into Minnesota to turn around. That’s the second time I’ve done that while we’ve been auditing; the first time was in Prairie du Chien, at the extreme southern end of the state.

The last day was our longest behind the wheel when we drove two-hundred thirty-some miles from Superior to Madison in an almost uninterrupted shot. We stopped about every ninety minutes to switch drivers, get some fresh air, stretch our legs, use the rest room, and we pulled off the highway in Eau Claire to enjoy lunch at a sit-down restaurant, but altogether we were driving for about seven and a half hours.
I have never been so grateful to get out of a car.

milage | 10:24 am CST
Category: business travel, work
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I took my cell phone out of its protective case yesterday to clean it.

Me: “I always forget how small this thing is.”

Tim: “That’s what she said.”

*rimshot!*

rimshot | 8:29 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, October 28th, 2017

I have to travel to do my job. Not always. In fact, not more than a few months out of the year, and that’s a very good thing because if I had to do this year-round I think I’d blow my brains out with a bazooka. Driving hundreds of miles a day, waking up in hotels, and eating complimentary “breakfasts” is not my thing. I don’t know whose thing it is, but if it’s yours, you can have it all to yourself. I will stay here in my cozy little town while you drive drive drive.

Let’s talk about those complimentary “breakfasts.” First, the eggs. What is the spongy substance those eggs made of? I would venture to guess it’s the same stuff actual kitchen sponges are made of. It holds water just like a sponge and it has no taste at all. But they wouldn’t offer actual kitchen sponges for breakfast, would they? Seems to me that might leave them open for some kind of lawsuit. So if it’s not an actual sponge, what is it? Any ideas? Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be an egg-like substance at all, other than it has a vaguely egg-like color. Why can’t they just make them out of, you know, eggs? Is it so hard to find people who know how to crack an egg into a frying pan? I guess it must be.

And then there are those sausages, the kind that look like they were extruded from the end of a grease gun. They seem to be standard issue at all hotels everywhere, same as the spongy eggs. If the same corporation makes both the egg-like substance and the grease-gun sausages, we could put an end to complimentary “breakfasts” once and for all by nuking it from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure). Full disclosure: I kind of like grease-gun sausages. But I can’t eat more than two links at a sitting or I’ll shit my brains out. I have a theory they make those sausages super-greasy so hotel guests don’t get constipated eating eggs made of kitchen sponge. These are the things you think about when you’re on the road a lot.

The only other item on the complimentary “breakfast” menu I willingly eat is toast. I used to eat the waffles, but I can’t stomach the mucilage they call syrup, and I won’t eat them dry. I suppose I could drown them in melted margarine, but it would take forever to wait for the semifrozen tabs of margarine to melt, and I’m already grumpy enough in the morning without adding that kind of frustration to my day.

road trip FOREVER | 9:47 am CST
Category: business travel, food & drink, soylent green, work
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One of the best things about waking up at home instead of a hotel? The coffee doesn’t suck.

I don’t know how many hotels I’ve stayed in while I’ve been away on business trips these past three months — getting close to a dozen, I would think — but I can say without hesitation that the coffee they served at almost every one of them (except the Best Western in Hudson; good job, Hudson) was not coffee anybody should be proud of serving to the customers, even if it was free. And in particular, somebody ought to be hung for the coffee I tried to drink from the urn in the lobby at the Microtel in Rice Lake. I don’t know how you screw up coffee so badly it tastes like water used to rinse underwear & socks, other than actually using water you soaked socks & underwear in.

On the plus side, I’ve been to quite a few very nice little coffee shops in towns all over the state. I thought we here in Madison were spoiled for choices of cozy mom & pop coffee shops, but really they seem to be everywhere, and thank goodness for them because I don’t know how I would have survived these trips without them.

road trip FOREVER | 8:41 am CST
Category: business travel, coffee, food & drink, work
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Friday, October 27th, 2017

I had to wear gloves today for the first time since the snow melted. And I’ve been wearing my winter coat all week. *sigh* Guess I’ll just go looking for my scarf already.

Gloved | 6:13 pm CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Thursday, October 26th, 2017

I’m here to ruin another song for you! Or maybe not. The song I’ve been thinking about today is Undercover Angel by Alan O’Day. Ever heard of it? It was on the radio constantly in 1977 but I haven’t heard it since I graduated from high school. So maybe you haven’t heard it, in which case I won’t be ruining it for you.

Likewise, I won’t be ruining it for you if you’ve heard it but, like me, you’ve always thought it was more than a little weird that a pop song about a guy’s wet dream made it all the way to number one in the charts. That’s really what the song was about. The songwriter himself, Alan O’Day, described the song as a “nocturnal novelette,” which I guess he thought was a kind of sly way to say it but I thought was about as sly as sneaking into a woman’s locker room by crashing through the wall with a truck.

Here’s the first thirty seconds of the song; what does this sound like to you:

Crying on my pillow, lonely in my bed
Then I heard a voice beside me, and she softly said
Thunder is your night light, magic is your dream
And as I held her, she said, See what I mean?

I said, What?
She said, Ooo-wooo wooo-weee!
I said, All right!
She said, Love me, love me, love me!

Undercover angel, midnight fantasy
I’ve never had a dream that made sweet love to me
Undercover angel, answer to my prayer
You let me know that there’s a love for me out there

So either a total stranger snuck into his bedroom while he was crying and boned him, which doesn’t seem likely given the actual words of the song; or a literal angel appeared and likewise there was boning, which doesn’t strike me as likely, either, given what I was taught in Sunday school about angels; or he dreamed the whole episode, which seems most likely to me because he was in bed, at night, crying about how he was soooo lonely.

Full disclosure: I was the kind of angsty teenage guy who was so bunched up about girls that I mostly lived my so-called social life in my own fantasies. The idea of getting it on with the literal girl of my dreams held an admittedly adolescent appeal for me. I didn’t think it was necessarily weird to write about it; god knows I did some of that myself, but I thought it was unquestionably weird that the repressive culture I grew up in would elevate a song about boning a dream girl (or an angel; which would be weirder?) to the highest tiers of musical fame.

Further disclosure: I like this song. Still. I liked it then, because of the aforesaid social fantasy life I lived, and I still like it now, mostly because it tells me that, no matter how awkward adolescence was for me, it was just as awkward, maybe more so, for other people. Say, other people who are song writers, for instance.

another song bites the dust | 5:00 am CST
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Pop Music Confession Time: I think John Cougar Mellencamp’s old songs get better and better every time I hear them.

Tangent: I know he’s John Mellencamp now, and I’ve heard he doesn’t much care for the “Cougar” name, but I’m an old dog and his old name was stuck in my head just now, and I include it here because I’m a pedantic completest.

Another tangent: I specify Mellencamp’s old songs, i.e. the songs he recorded in the 70s and 80s, because it turns out he’s been recording right up to the present day, but I didn’t know that until I googled his name as I was writing this drivel. Until just now, all the Mellencamp songs I knew about were pre-1984.

So when I say I think his old songs get better and better, I’m talking about Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. I don’t know how to account for this. I didn’t like his songs much when they were popular on the radio forty years ago. Truth to tell, I didn’t like his songs at all except for Jack & Diane, which was insanely popular in spite of the fact that nobody I knew liked it. I had to enjoy Jack & Diane in private; turning it up when it came on the car radio invited an instant egging.

Then, for many years, Jack & Diane was the only Mellencamp song I heard on the local oldies radio station, with maybe an occasional Hurts So Good thrown in every couple of weeks just to remind us of the Mellencamp That Was, same as they did with Elton John and Crocodile Rock. How many times have you wanted to kick a radio across the room in a Hulk rage, hollering “HE WROTE OTHER SONGS!”

And now, for maybe the past five, ten years, I’ve been turning up the old Mellencamp songs when they come on the car radio and belting out the tunes

Random Bit O’ Trivia: I learned to sing along with Jack & Diane in the age before the internet, when the only way I could learn the words was by listening to the song, usually through the tinny speaker of a cheap stereo set or, even worse, a car radio, then by comparing what I learned with what my friends learned and either accepting the mistakes they made or continuing to sing the mistakes I made. Now, forty years later, I can look up the words to any song, if I remember to, but very occasionally I will still just ask somebody, as I did recently when My Darling B and I were singing along to Jack & Diane. The line in question was: “Hold on to sixteen as long as you can / changes come along real soon, make you women and men.”

I turned to My Darling B and asked her, “What’s he say there? Because I always heard, ‘Changes come along real soon, make you swim in a van.'”

Such a look she gave me.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” I shot back. “You’re the one who thought ‘Roam if you want to’ was ‘Whoa, Nipsey Russel.'”

John Cougar | 5:00 am CST
Category: entertainment, music
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Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Our office had an electric kettle. I used it to make myself a hot cuppa tea every morning. It was perfect for making tea because I could set it so it would shut off when the water reached 190 degrees, which is too hot to drink but if I set the cup aside for five minutes, it was just the right temperature.

Not too long ago the kettle sprung a slow leak that got a little worse with each passing day, and last week somebody finally threw it out. Without the kettle, my choices were either do without my morning cuppa (barbarous!), use the coffee maker to boil water (and end up with a tea-coffee hybrid), or fill a cup with water from the tap and boil it in the microwave (not what I’d like, but better than the other two options).

I boiled the water in the microwave & took it back to my desk, where I added the tea and set it aside to cool. Then things got a little hectic.

First thing I have to do each morning is prepare a list of names and addresses in a spread sheet that one of my coworkers will use to print up a batch of letters our office sends out every day. The list is usually just four or five names; ten would be a lot. On this particular day, there were twenty-two people on the list. Not the most we’ve ever done, but it’s unusual. I looked at the office calendar to find out who was scheduled to print the letters so I could give them a heads-up, and what do you know: I had the duty that day.

Yay, me. To celebrate my great good fortune, I picked up my cuppa, which had been sitting about five minutes, and slurped up some tea. That’s when I was reacquainted with whichever physical law it is that says a cup of water at 212 degrees takes longer to cool down to a temperature that won’t burn my mouth than a cup of water at 190 degrees.

After a bit of huffing and puffing, I cleared the decks and got ready to print up the letters. It’s a little more complicated that just printing them; we have to copy & paste unique images into each letter, we have to track who sent each letter and when on a spread sheet, we have to add notations to several reports so management will know we sent the letters that day, and a second coworker has to check each and every one of those steps to make sure we don’t miss any of them. When there are just five or six names on the list, this can take more than an hour. When there are twenty-two names, it takes all morning.

I was in the middle of copying & pasting the images when my boss asked me for some information that she needed right away. Well of course she did. When does the boss ever say, “I need this information but I don’t need it right now; take your time and get it to me whenever you feel like it.” I’m pretty sure that’s never happened to anybody.

After I gathered the information, I asked my lead worker to review it with me so I could be sure I gathered the right information before reporting it. As I was explaining what the boss wanted, I poked the computer monitor with my finger. It went blank. Then it displayed the message “power saving mode” and shut itself off. I turned it back on, but it shut itself off again. I shut off the computer, disconnected the video cable, reconnected it and powered up the computer again. Still no joy.

At this point, I had less than an hour to get my computer monitor fixed, report the information the boss asked for, then finish the letters, before I had to be at an appointment across town. To top it all off, somebody pointed out that I was scheduled to do the letters again this coming Wednesday, when I would not be in the office to print them, so I would have to ask one of my coworkers if they would cover for me. I think they call this a perfect storm?

I’m happy to say this story has a happy ending. My computer is a laptop, so I disconnected the monitor and worked on the laptop screen. My lead worker found the information my boss needed, and I got the letters done just as the clock was ticking down to the last few minutes before I had to leave to make my appointment. Crisis overcome, victory is mine, I need a drink.

perfect storm | 5:00 am CST
Category: office work
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Monday, October 23rd, 2017

My Darling B has been making a quilt with lots of little triangles on it and she wanted to know how long the sides of the triangles should be, which means she would have to a) draw the triangle on a piece of paper, then measure the sides of the triangle, or b) ask me for the equation she could use to calculate the length of each side of the triangle. She chose b).

I’m trying to think of a way to describe how outrageous it is that she would think I remember anything about geometry thirty-eight years after I last cracked open a geometry book. It would be sort of like asking an elderly aunt how to build a steam locomotive because you remember that she once read Thomas the Tank Engine to you when you were a child. That’s sort of close. I mean, I did actually study geometry, and I think I even got a passing grade at the end of the semester, but I’m pretty sure it was a C minus. The only thing I remember now about geometry is that A squared plus B squared equals C squared, but knowing that is of absolutely no use to me because my ruler doesn’t have squared numbers on it and I don’t remember how to unsquare numbers. I’m not sure I have ever known, now that I think of it.

So, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t help B solve the riddle of the triangles. “Ask the google,” was the only thing I could suggest. In the end, I think she just eyeballed it.

geometry | 5:00 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Here’s a weird confession, and it’s weird not because it’s going to shock anybody or change the history of the world; it’s weird because it’s hardly a confession at all. I really like the songs of KC and the Sunshine Band. I don’t like them so much that I ever bought any of their records, not even so much as a single, but I turn up the volume and sing along whenever one of their songs is played on the radio. I even do the disco-dance finger-pointing thing. It’s muscle memory at this point. Why fight it?

I’ve always known these were kinda cheesy songs, but you know what? They’re easy to dance to, even for a guy with two left feet like me, and girls loved to dance to them, so I got out there on the dance floor and danced my brains out. And now, forty years later (geeze Louise!), I can still get My Darling B to do a fun little disco-like jig in the kitchen when I’m Your Boogie Man comes up in my playlist, and my friends and I do a sing-along when Shake Your Booty comes on the car radio. After all this time, KC still inspires us to have fun. How great is that?

Random bit o’ trivia: When the song Get Down Tonight was popular (1975), the cheerleaders at our high school wanted to sing it at a rally before a game but were forbidden from uttering the line “make a little love.” The line was apparently considered way too scandalous as written, so they left out the word “love” to satisfy whoever was doing the forbidding, which to my mind was way more suggestive.

sunshine | 9:37 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, story time
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We got rain today. I woke to the sound of great big sheets of rain drumming down on the roof of the house early this morning, and although the clouds are done dumping heavy rain on us, there’s still a steady fall of light rain this morning, so my plans to take my kayak out for a paddle around the lake are sunk, so to speak. I mean, I could still go. I’ve got foul-weather gear I could wear, and I could stop every so often to bail water from the bottom of the boat, but that’s not really the kind of experience I’m looking for when I go paddling, you know? I like to have the sun and clear skies above me and a gentle swell below, and I don’t necessarily shy away from a headwind but I’d rather not have to exert myself too much. One of the truly beautiful things I’ve discovered about paddling is there really isn’t any need for me to over-exert myself. The natural buoyancy of the boat does almost all the work; I just show up for the ride, and provide an occasional push. I’m not exaggerating here; I admit I oftentimes do that but honestly, if you knew how little upper-body strength I have, you’d believe me when I say paddling is not a pastime that requires great big guns of steel. I do not have those. My guns fire Minie balls. *rimshot* Sorry, gun nerd joke. Had to be done.

sunken plans | 9:04 am CST
Category: daily drivel, hobby, kayaking, play, weather
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Saturday, October 21st, 2017

I’m going to ruin another pop song, buckle up!

The song is Aimie by Pure Prairie League, and before I get started I want to say that I’ve always loved this song, and I mean always, from the very first time I can remember hearing it. I sang along every time it came on the radio, I eagerly awaited the next time I would hear it on the radio, I turned up the volume on the radio every time I heard it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve bought copies in every format since vinyl records.

And I’m probably going to ruin it for you now. I don’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself, but I can’t help but think about the meaning behind the words every time I sing it, and I get more uncomfortable with the meaning every time I sing along. My discomfort starts with the very first two lines:

I can see why you think you belong to me
I never tried to make you think or let you see one thing for yourself

The only thing I can make of this is that he (I’m assuming it’s a he because I’m assuming Aimie is a she; I could be wrong, but let’s go with that for now) is a controlling asshole. I mean, there’s not a whole lot to go on here, but there sort of is. He never let her see a single thing for herself? That’s cretinous behavior.

The idea of women as possessions has always made me uncomfortable, too. I mean, I get it that “you belong to me” is sort of like saying “we belong together,” but it’s not, it’s absolutely not at all the same. “We belong together” is a sweet sentiment; “you belong to me” turns a sweet sentiment into a statement that sounds like I hold title to your body and soul. It’s kind of creepy. And I think that’s the meaning of the first line of the song. Why else would Aimie leave him? Oops, spoilers.

But now you’re off with someone else and I’m alone
You see, I thought that I might keep you for my own

The classic “BUT” of pop songs — she was in his life, he didn’t treat her right, she’s seeing someone else and now he’s feeling regret. Is it regret that he treated her wrong, or regret that she’s not with him any longer?

And there’s that creepy idea again of making her into one of his possessions. Not something like, “we could be so good together,” but “I might keep you for my own.” Squick.

Aimie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
For a while, maybe longer

I love singing along with the chorus of this song, but it’s not exactly the most rock-solid of commitments, is it? “I could stay with you — could happen, maybe, or maybe not. For a while, anyway. Maybe longer than a while. But I’m a guy, and we don’t like to hang around. That’s just how guys are.” I’m digging a lot more out of those lines than maybe the songwriter intended, but it was a common theme in pop songs of the 70s that guys don’t stick around much, so I don’t think I’m reaching here.

Don’t you think the time is right for us to find
All the things we thought weren’t proper could be right in time
And can you see which way we should turn, together or alone
I can never see what’s right and what is wrong

I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to say here. I’m not even sure he knows what he’s trying to say. He wants to get back together with Aimie; that’s in there for sure. I’m a little bummed that he’s using the “I can never see what’s right and what is wrong” excuse to dodge responsibility for treating her badly. I’m alarmed he’s proposing that she might come to think the way he treated her before they broke up will be “proper,” given a little time. If it was wrong then, why wouldn’t it be wrong a year from now? There’s at least one good reason Aimee broke up with him, is what I’m saying. Probably more than one.

Also, just to be way too nitpicky (and I might as well, since I’m ruining the song already), none of those lines end in words that rhyme.

Now it’s come to what you want, you’ve had your way
And all the things you thought before just faded into gray
And can you see that I don’t know if it’s you or of it’s me
If it’s one of us, I’m sure we both will see

“So you’ve had your little fling; doesn’t that make everything that passed between us all right now?” Um. No? I love this song, but I hate this verse. Maybe it was just a fling, but I feel it’s really quite presumptuous of him to assume that’s all it was. Maybe she’s off with someone else better than him, and she knows it.

I keep fallin’ in and out of love with you,
Fallin’ in and out of love with you
Don’t know what I’m gonna do …

Again, the level of commitment here would not inspire a whole lot of confidence in me, if I were to put myself in Aimie’s shoes.

I haven’t enjoyed ruining this song. I still love singing it — I was singing it in the shower just this morning, but I’m never going to be able to stop thinking the guy in the song was a jerk to Aimie and that she’d be a fool to get together with him again. Stay true to yourself, Aimie!

another song bites the dust | 11:21 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music | Tags:
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In my dream last night, I was riding to work in the company of science fiction author John Scalzi, who asked if we could pull over at a local coffee shop to pick up a cuppa joe to go, which surprised me because he’s a well-known drinker of Coke Zero. I’m under the impression he drinks nothing else, maybe not even water. But it was a dream. Talking goats are not uncommon in my dreams, so whatever. I pulled over to the curb and he popped out, but before he went in he asked me if I wanted anything, and I asked him if he’d get me a ultra-double venti double-spiced vanilla chai latte. I’m not sure that’s a thing. I’ve heard those words before, but I don’t know if they go together even in theory. I drink black coffee and that’s it. But it’s a dream, so. Scalzi said no problem, ducked inside and came out a couple minutes later with two of those gallon-sized coffee thermoses that dispense coffee when you press down on the pump built into the top. And then we hit the road with enough coffee to get us to Sacramento, California.

coffee break | 8:17 am CST
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Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Not sure what to write about tonight. Went on a road trip that took all day, because it was two hundred nineteen and a half miles of windshield time: ninety-six and a half miles from Madison to Tomah, forty-four miles from Tomah to Adams, and seventy-nine miles from Adams back to Madison. There’s just no other way to get there from here. We have to drive every mile of it.

A road trip sounds like it should be a lot of fun but it was all business, no funsies at all. We audited a couple of DMV offices to make sure that you, the taxpayer, are getting your money’s worth when it comes to awesome customer service. Pat me on the back.

Well, not all business. We stopped for lunch at a pretty good Mexican place in Adams that I enjoyed very much, but I pretty much HAVE to eat so it’s not like I’ve been living the high life, you know?

on the road again | 8:23 pm CST
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Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

An old dog learning new tricks:

When I rake the cat boxes, I start by pushing all the kitty litter to one end. I used to use the litter box rake, which is made so the litter sifts through it. Not the best tool to push the litter around, but I never thought about it much so I kept on doing it that way. Then about a week ago I lifted one end of the box up to unlatch the cover. When I opened it, I noticed all the litter was bunched up at the other end. *smack my head*

Oh, yeah, that reminds me:

After a shower, I used to dry my feet by carefully gathering up my towel as I move it down my leg so it wouldn’t sop up the water on the floor. Then I went to college where I had to take showers in a community bathroom, and I noticed the other guys lifted their feet up off the floor to dry them. *smack my head*

old dog | 6:16 am CST
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Monday, October 16th, 2017

I had to back the car out of the garage this morning after My Darling B parked it last night. Took me a minute to figure out how to do it. It was just about sideways to the door. Okay, not exactly sideways, but it beats me how she got it in there at the crazy angle it was parked. To back out without knocking off the rear view mirror on the passenger side, I had to swing the nose around so far that I was backing toward the neighbor’s yard instead of down the driveway. I stopped with the tail end of the car sticking out of the garage, cranked the nose around the other way, and pulled in again, trying to buy a little space between the car and the wall of the garage. Then I backed out toward the neighbor’s again, and again cranked it back into the garage. That gave me enough room to straighten it up and back out.

B said she was sorry when she got in. She couldn’t explain how she did that any more than I could.

Funnily enough, B normally parks so far away from the opposite wall of the garage that I can just barely crack open the driver-side door. I have to suck in my gut to squeeze in. And to be completely fair, our garage is a challenge to park in. It’s just barely wide enough to park our car and still have enough room to get out of the driver’s side door. B has to get out before I pull the car in because it’s not possible to leave enough room for both the passenger and the drive to get out after it’s parked. Seems really weird, because the house was built in 1950. Ever seen a typical 1950s car? Huge whale-back thing? There’s no way you could park one of those in our garage unless maybe you climbed out the driver’s window.

She took the car to yoga tonight. She may have to back it out in the morning.

crooked | 8:13 pm CST
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[This is one of my favorite passages from Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi. In it, Twain describes one of the earliest days of his training to become a riverboat pilot at the hands of Horace Bixby, a crack pilot and Twain’s teacher:]

Now and then Mr. Bixby called my attention to certain things. Said he, ‘This is Six-Mile Point.’ I assented. It was pleasant enough information, but I could not see the bearing of it. I was not conscious that it was a matter of any interest to me. Another time he said, ‘This is Nine-Mile Point.’ Later he said, ‘This is Twelve-Mile Point.’ They were all about level with the water’s edge; they all looked about alike to me; they were monotonously unpicturesque. I hoped Mr. Bixby would change the subject. But no; he would crowd up around a point, hugging the shore with affection, and then say: ‘The slack water ends here, abreast this bunch of China-trees; now we cross over.’ So he crossed over. He gave me the wheel once or twice, but I had no luck. I either came near chipping off the edge of a sugar plantation, or I yawed too far from shore, and so dropped back into disgrace again and got abused.

Presently he turned on me and said: ‘What’s the name of the first point above New Orleans?’

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.

‘Don’t know?

This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before.

‘Well, you’re a smart one,’ said Mr. Bixby. ‘What’s the name of the next point?’

Once more I didn’t know.

‘Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of any point or place I told you.’

I studied a while and decided that I couldn’t.

‘Look here! What do you start out from, above Twelve-Mile Point, to cross over?’

‘I — I — don’t know.’

‘You — you — don’t know?’ mimicking my drawling manner of speech. ‘What do you know?’

‘I — I — nothing, for certain.’

‘By the great Caesar’s ghost, I believe you! You’re the stupidest dunderhead I ever saw or ever heard of, so help me Moses! The idea of you being a pilot — you! Why, you don’t know enough to pilot a cow down a lane.’

Oh, but his wrath was up! He was a nervous man, and he shuffled from one side of his wheel to the other as if the floor was hot. He would boil a while to himself, and then overflow and scald me again.

‘Look here! What do you suppose I told you the names of those points for?’

I tremblingly considered a moment, and then the devil of temptation provoked me to say: ‘Well—to—to—be entertaining, I thought.’

This was a red rag to the bull. He raged and stormed so (he was crossing the river at the time) that I judge it made him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow. Of course the traders sent up a volley of red-hot profanity. Never was a man so grateful as Mr. Bixby was: because he was brim full, and here were subjects who would talk back. He threw open a window, thrust his head out, and such an irruption followed as I never had heard before. The fainter and farther away the scowmen’s curses drifted, the higher Mr. Bixby lifted his voice and the weightier his adjectives grew. When he closed the window he was empty. You could have drawn a seine through his system and not caught curses enough to disturb your mother with.

cub pilot | 5:00 am CST
Category: books, entertainment, play
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Sunday, October 15th, 2017

A very tender spot over my left eyebrow is keeping me from rubbing my eyes, which are always very dry about this time of the morning.

Kids, pay attention: One of the warning signs of old age, like hair growing long enough to dangle from your nose like the legs of a dead fly, is dry eyes. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night to toddle off to the bathroom for yet another pee (old-age warning sign), I have to keep my eyes shut because the insides of my eyelids are so dry that opening them feels like dragging sandpaper across my eyeballs. When that happens, they’re usually still so dry in the morning when I get up for real that I have to view the world for fifteen minutes or so through the blurry slits of my barely-opened eyelids. I want to rub them so bad to get the tears going, but when they’re that dry I’d rather stab them with steak knives than rub them, because stabbing them would feel a lot better. When I can finally open my eyes all the way they sting for about an hour, and then the dam breaks. Tears flood my eyes so freely that I have to grab a hankie to dab them away and blow my nose over and over again. This goes on for about ten, fifteen minutes, and then I feel almost normal again, but I look like a teenager who’s broken up with his girlfriend and has been crying for days. So you have that to look forward to.

Anyway, back to the tender spot over my eye: I pranged my head on the windowsill yesterday afternoon because I pinched a loaf that plugged the toilet. This will all make sense if you’ll just give me the chance to explain.

I have this superpower. It’s not the superpower I’d want. That would be the power to fly through the cosmos at hyperlight speed, but what I’ve got is the power to clog any toilet with my over-muscular poo. I can even clog those pneumatic toilets in public restrooms that flush with a whoosh like a jet engine. Not every time, but often enough to make it embarrassing. So like most people I try always to wait until I get home, but not for the reasons that most people do. And I always have a plunger in hand when I flush because I know that, more often than not, I’m going to need it.

And this is no wussie plunger. It’s one of those plungers with a nozzle extension, the kind that plumbers use. It’s so effective I feel I could probably plunge a basket full of golf balls through the toilet with this baby. Even my monster dookie cannot resist the relentless crush of this plunger. So when the toilet continued to back up after I gave it a plunge yesterday afternoon I was surprised, but I wasn’t really trying very hard. I just leaned into the handle and gave it another good, solid thrust, then stood back to watch it drain.

Still no joy. Well, crap. So to speak.

The water was rising at an alarming rate at that point, so I carefully reseated the plunger in the drain at the bottom of the bowl to make a good seal, then pumped with all my strength three or four times with no regard for slosh or splatter. I could easily wipe up a little slosh. I did NOT want to deal with overflow.

But when I withdrew the plunger from the bowl, expecting to hear the satisfying gurgle of water rushing down the sewer stack, I heard no such thing. The water continued to rise and was just an inch or two from calamity. Panic set in and I dove to shut off the water by turning a valve under the tank.

It’s important to picture our bathroom at this point. It’s a very tiny bathroom. Before we bought this house, I didn’t know houses had bathrooms this tiny. I thought only airplanes and trains did. It’s more like a utility closet about four feet wide and maybe six feet deep. The toilet is at the far end, between the sink and the wall, and the toilet tank is almost rubbing shoulders with the wall. There’s barely room to get one arm between the wall and the bowl to reach for the shutoff valve, so when I dove for it, I misjudged the space and pranged my head on the windowsill, hard. Really hard. So hard I folded up into a fetal position, rocking on my heels while pressing the heel of my hand against my cheek to cover my eye. So hard I couldn’t even utter words. I think I made a noise, but it probably wasn’t recognizable as a human sound. The total panic that had possessed me was gone and my brain could not spare a single synapse to think about what was happening to the toilet because there was too much pain to process.

When I could think again, I stood and opened my eyes, expecting to see a pestilential flood. Instead, the clog was gone and the toilet bowl was drained. I blinked at it, unbelieving, then I turned to the mirror to see if my eye was turning black and blue yet. It wasn’t. It still hasn’t*. I should have put some ice on it but I didn’t think of that then. I was just too dazed, and perplexed that the toilet didn’t overflow. If I had to guess how that happened, I would say that maybe my real superpower is that when I hurt myself in a panic, I can emit waves of intense pain that can move poo-poo, but I’m not willing to duplicate the circumstances to see if I can do it again.

[*P.S. It really hadn’t when I checked this morning, but not more than 15 minutes after I wrote this I was passing the mirror in the bathroom and I caught my reflection and went WHOA! What the hell is THAT? Looked like I was wearing red eyeshadow.]

pranged | 9:38 am CST
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Roomba roomba roomba
Roomba roomba roomba

Wow how whirr haff way they ah
Wow how live in ah nah pray ah

I got schooled last night by my youngest son, born in 1990, regarding a 70s pop song. It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

It was, if you didn’t recognize the lyrics, Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer. I said it wasn’t Bon Jovi because I was thinking Van Halen and to me, a guy who spent his high school years singing along with John Denver and Barry Manilow, Bon Jovi and Van Halen are virtually the same thing. Mea Culpa.

schooled | 7:58 am CST
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Saturday, October 14th, 2017

I took another business trip to the farthest regions of northern Wisconsin this week. This time I ended up staying overnight in a hotel in Hudson, which is all the way to Eau Claire and then some.

Hudson has a prettified downtown area where they kept most of the old buildings and rehabbed them for modern business, and to their credit it worked pretty well. The hotel we stayed in was not in the downtown area, though, and it was not in an old building, or it was, but not in the sense that I was using when I mentioned the downtown area. The building was definitely old; it looked like it went up sometime in the 70s. And they’d made some attempts to prettify it over the years, but it looked like a 70s building with new wallpaper and generous placing of crown molding and gingerbread geegaws. The overall effect was of a hotel that was meant to look grand but ended up looking rather sad and kind of lonely next to the eight lanes of traffic tearing past just outside the front door.

The room I checked into was decorated in shades of harvest gold, a color scheme that went out of style just after I graduated from college. They’d made some updates: the door opened with a card, not a key, and the television set was a flat screen, although reception was fuzzy unless the refrigerator was running. The TV, the fridge and all the lamps on that side of the room were plugged into the same power strip, so I jiggled the plug and reception cleared up for a while. Had to get up to re-jiggle it when the reception dropped out periodically, though.

If there was one thing above all others that bothered me about the hotel, though, it was the towels. Every hotel I’ve stayed at this summer, no matter how good or bad, old or new, cheap & run-down or well-maintained, they all had big, fluffy towels in the bathroom. Lots and lots of them. Like, usually four. I don’t know how many other people need, but I typically use just one. Maybe I should use all four, just to see what that’s like. Anyway, the hotel in Hudson had the cheapest, un-fluffiest towels of any hotel I’ve stayed in, just limp, rough towels, and they weren’t as big as the bath towels I’m used to, whether at home or away. I don’t think I ask for too much, but I do expect to get fluffy towels in the bath.

On the up side, it served a great complimentary breakfast, probably the best I’ve had at any of the hotels I’ve stayed in during this round of business trips. It’s usually some watery eggs and greasy sausage, or a bagel that’s hard as shoe leather, but this hotel served a breakfast cooked to order from a menu in a cozy sit-down restaurant, with all the coffee you could drink. A table in the back was surrounded with regulars stopping in for their morning coffee and plate of eggs & bacon. It was a real pleasure.

on the road again | 8:10 am CST
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People don’t really believe the world is flat, do they? I know there are lots of people with narrow minds and stupid opinions, but the people who claim that the world is flat, they’re only trolling the rest of us, right? It’s just not possible that they could be serious.

whether or not 2 | 7:45 am CST
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I can no longer tell the difference between parody news, such as The Onion, and real news (or what has become known as “fake news,”) such as The New York Times or NBC.

The Daily Shit reported yesterday that Trump announced “he is much better at sexual assault than Harvey Weinstein & Bill Cosby and is willing to prove it.”

I’m pretty sure that’s parody news, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be real.

NBC reported today that “to get Trump to accept the current deployment of U.S. forces worldwide, NatSec [national security] leaders chose to show how positions benefited Trump Org.”

That should be The Onion, but it’s NBC. Probably not parody, but I won’t know for sure until the White House officially denies it, or Trump tweets more threats to pull NBCs FCC certification (he did that yesterday).

whether or not | 7:43 am CST
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Monday, October 9th, 2017

[This was originally posted on September 15, 2008, and is reposted here mainly for my own amusement.]

Between early last week and the weekend, somewhere in there, Tim discovered the laundry basket that holds all the socks.

We have three or four large, rectangular laundry baskets and one, odd-man-out square laundry basket, and because I’m the only person in the house who ever folds laundry ever, I unofficially designated the square basket the one to hold all the socks. It just works, that’s all. As I pick the clothes out of the other baskets and fold them, I toss the socks into the square basket where they remain forever. We all have sock drawers, but each and every once of us, and I include myself here, goes to the square laundry basket in the morning to find a pair of socks. Nobody ever gathers up all their socks, mates them, tucks them into tight little elastic wads and puts them in the sock drawer. We simply don’t have that kind of ambition. And so in the basket they stay.

Which brings me to Tim, who was bitching one morning abound how he knows he has forty-two dozen pairs of socks, but there’s never any in the pile on his bed where he keeps all his clothes. It’s much more efficient than putting them in a dresser drawer, and don’t even ask about folding them. We tried to explain how nobody knows where the socks go, it’s just one of those mysteries of life that you grow to accept after a while, but it was like trying to explain heaven to an atheist: the clearer we tried to make it to him, the madder he got. Finally he stomped off to his room, presumably to pull up the floorboards looking for socks.

And then the other day as he was scuttling back to his room after wolfing down a bowl of Cheerios, he pretty much tripped over the square laundry basket, which was sitting on the living room floor next to the sofa, the spot it’s been occupying since we moved into the house in the spring of 2006. “Holy shit, my socks!” he shouted to nobody and everybody. “How long has this been here?”

I was truly mystified by his question, so I asked, “How long has what been here?” I wasn’t kidding. It really has been sitting there since 2006.

“This!” he shouted, gesticulating fervently at the basket heaped with socks of all colors and sizes. “This basket filled with socks! How long as it been sitting here?”

“I dunno, how long have we lived here?” his mother asked, not unreasonably. It didn’t seem possible that he hadn’t seen the basket sitting there for weeks, months, years, and yet he seemed truly flummoxed by its presence. We wanted to ask him about it, but he wasn’t listening to us at that point. Instead, he was burrowing through the basket of socks like a squirrel digging up his nuts. In just a minute or two he was headed back to his room with an armload of socks that may or may not have belonged to him.

discovering the sock basket | 8:08 pm CST
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Sunday, October 8th, 2017

I had a million things to do today, but I crossed 999,997 of them off my list because all I felt like three’s a good number and that’s all I felt like doing. And it’s the weekend. Not that I needed an excuse, but it feels like I should type one anyway.

My #1 goal was to find some way to store my kayak, which has been sitting on the ground in the back yard all summer because it’s too long to hang in the garage. My kayak is seventeen feet long; our garage is not, so I have to figure out how to protect it from the elements that will otherwise ravage it this winter. My solution was to hang it from a pair of aluminum shepherd’s crooks fixed to the posts of our deck; that’ll get it off the ground. I’m also going to mail-order a heavy nylon storage bag, but that doesn’t have to be done today. Today, I just wanted to get the shepherd’s crooks and screw them into the deck, and I found out that I could buy a pair of them from the store with the name I’m never going to get tired of saying out loud: Dick’s. Childish of me? Oh, a tad.

Dick’s is out by the East Towne Mall, and so is Half-Price Books. I’m required by law to stop at Half-Price Books every time I pass within a block of it, which I did, so I did. I went straight to the science fiction section to look for my favorite authors, and for any books by Octavia Butler, who I’ve read little of but want to read more. Found no joy in the sci-fi section, so I moved on to the movies, where I finally found a copy of Mister Roberts.

I’ve been looking for a copy of Mister Roberts for years, in several different cities. I don’t know what’s made it so hard to find. Bargain bins were lousy with copies of Mister Roberts when VHS tape cassettes were still everywhere; I had one that I watched at least once a year. Much of the movie is corny as hell but there are parts of it that are brilliant and I could watch Henry Fonda all day long. Couldn’t do that after our last working VHS machine went on the fritz several years ago, though, and I’ve been looking for a copy in DVD format ever since. Half-Price Books has hundreds of movies on their shelves, but this is the first time I’ve been able to snag a copy of Mister Roberts. Can’t wait to fold the laundry, which is traditionally the time I pop in an old movie I’ve already watched a dozen times.

Then, right next to the checkout counter, my eye caught sight of the new Jeffrey Kluger book, Apollo 8. I honestly doubted there would be anything in it that I didn’t already know, but that’s never stopped me from buying a book about the moonshot before, so I grabbed that, too. All in all, Half-Priced Books was very good to me today.

After stopping at Dick’s to pick up the kayak hangers I headed back home, indulged in a short intermission from the day’s errands to take My Darling B to brunch, then went back home, selected the appropriate tools from the workbench and got to work. Didn’t take long to hang the hangers on the deck railing and, after that, the kayak on the hangers.

The weather today was just beautiful for working outside, and I took advantage of it by dragging the hoses out of the garden and stretching them across the driveway to drain and warm in the sun. By the end of next week, temps will be in the fifties and the hoses will be as hard to bend as steel springs. After the sun beamed down on them for a half-hour or so I coiled them up so easily that I had them put away and was washing my hands fifteen minutes later. That left me lots of time to break out a book, curl up on the sofa with a hot cuppa and read quietly for an hour and a half before dozing off in the evening sunset. A pretty good day!

errands | 6:07 pm CST
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[The management begs me to advise you that this drivel was originally part of a longer post I wrote on October 6, 2007, after I had the overwhelming pleasure of hearing Susanne Vega performing live at the Barrymore Theater.]

Richard Julian was the opening act for the Suzanne Vega concert. I’ve never heard of him, and we weren’t sure what to expect. He played maybe a dozen songs accompanying himself on guitar and, as it turned out, was a whole lot of fun. When we saw Leo Kottke play guitar I thought it was funny that he barely moved. Julian, by contrast, couldn’t hold still. When he wasn’t singing he be-bopped across the stage, and when he was singing he bobbed and weaved around the microphone like a hummingbird at a blossom. His voice was delightfully mellow, and he could make his guitar sound as though it were playing two different musical phrases at once. The audience gave him an enthusiastic and well-earned round of applause as he finished up the final song of his set, God, the Third.

After a short intermission Suzanne Vega took the stage, posed alone in front of the microphone and sang Tom’s Diner a capella, snapping her fingers, as the rest of her band strolled out one by one to their places. It was a surreal experience, I have to tell you, after hearing her only in recordings, to have this blue jeaned woman with a fedora slouched down over her eyes standing before me singing in Vega’s unmistakable voice.

Suzanne Vega’s got a voice as cool and soothing as a Tom Collins on a dog day in August. And she writes lyrics that are poetry. These two aspects are without question trademarks of her music, so I don’t get why the sound guy buried her voice by cranking up the volume on the band’s instruments until I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Seems counter-productive to me.

The finest moment of the concert had to be when the band members faded from the stage early in the set, leaving Vega alone to sing Gypsy, accompanying herself on a six-string guitar so sweetly it became a moment that should never have ended. I wish she’d done that for at least one more song, old or new, I wouldn’t have cared. (Actually, I could have died if she’d played Ironbound, a song that had been going through my head all day.) Truly, I loved every song she sang that night, except for the DNA remix of Tom’s Diner. I’ve never gotten used to that.

A night to remember | 5:36 pm CST
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Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Today the local library was selling used books to raise money, and right across the street a local children’s theatrical group was raising money by selling pies, so guess what I’ve been doing today? If you guessed a) stuffing myself with pie, and b) buying armloads of books, YOU’RE RIGHT!

I thought pecan pie was my favorite pie ever, but somebody at the pie thing baked a pecan pie with a layer of chocolate and now I know what heaven is going to be like.

And I scored two volumes of Best Science Fiction of the Year (collected by Gardner Duzois), the 20th and 21st 22nd edition, each one fat as a steamer trunk and chock full of so many short stories that I will probably still be happily reading them months from now, if not years.

stuff myself | 3:26 pm CST
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Shortly after Trump won the election, somebody who calls himself “Presidential Trump” on Twitter began retweeting Trump’s tweets and rephrasing them in a way you would hope a more grown-up version of Trump would talk. For example:

Presidential Trump

In a surreal twist this morning, Trump himself plagiarized “Presidential Trump” like so:

Every time I think he can’t possibly get any weirder than he already is, he gets weirder.

plagiarizingT | 11:36 am CST
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[The management wishes to inform you that this drivel was originally posted on September 28, 2008. We beg your indulgence to repost it mostly so B can rub my face in it.]

We went to the Black Horse auction north of DeForest and planned to spend pretty much all day there. Haven’t done that for quite a while. Haven’t gone to the auction first thing in the morning in quite a while, either, but it pays to get there early so you can have a good look around at all the junk laid out on the tables. That way, you can get some idea where the most interesting action might be.

We go there for the drama, not to buy the junk. Somehow we usually end up buying junk, but the fun in going is watching the junk get sold. I watched two guys furiously bid against each other, upping the ante ten dollars at a time, until one of them ended up paying one thousand dollars for an old book. A single old book! As he looked it over, I heard the guy standing next to him ask: “Did you get what you wanted?” The buyer gave his head a quick shake, not to answer “no” but as if to clear out the craziness rattling around in there. “I sure hope so,” he answered.

The most amazing drama we saw all day, I have to say, was right in our laps. As we made our first rounds, My Darling B zeroed in on a sewing machine table at the far end of the back room, not because she needs a sewing machine but because, if she spots anything that appears to be related to sewing, she has to stick her nose in it, just as sure as her cat has to stick its nose in a door that’s left cracked open. And a good thing she did, too, because when she flipped open the folding top of the table she uncovered a Bernina, a brand of sewing machine that even dopey old me can recognize as a high-quality machine that’s sought after by anybody who likes to sew. It was an old machine, but old Berninas are like old Chryslers; they’re built to last and are even more sought-after as they get older.

So even though she didn’t need another sewing machine, there was really no question that we should buy it, if it went for a reasonable price, meaning ten bucks, maybe fifteen, tops. That presented us with a couple problems: B figured that a reasonable price for that particular Bernina might be somewhere in the neighborhood of two-hundred dollars. We were deeply conflicted between our usual inclinations to be tightwads and our recognition that this was a rare find. And, if we bought it, we would have to figure out a way to get it home. Not the sewing machine, that was the easy part. The sewing table it was mounted on, though, stood about waist-high and was three feet wide. I eyeballed it and declared that we would have no trouble getting it into the back seat of the car. Okay, I lied. I wanted her to have it, and I would have gone begging for a screwdriver and a pair of pliers off somebody so I could take it to pieces if need be. But I didn’t tell her that, I only told her not to worry about it.

The only other problem we had was that, at every auction, there are invariably people prowling around who buy up all the best furniture, appliances and various knick-knacks, stuff them into the huge panel van or trailer they’ve got parked in the middle of the road outside and take it all back to their shop or sell it on e-bay for a tidy profit, and they know their profit margin to the nickel. If you find yourself bidding against one of these guys, you’ve got to be prepared to bid high and take comfort in knowing that, if he’s still outbidding you, it’s worth a lot more than you thought it was.

After talking it over, we decided B could go as high as two-hundred, but even with a cap as high as that she spent the rest of the day with a nervous knot in her stomach, worried that one of the collectors would be there waiting when the auctioneer got to the Bernina. It was one hell of a long wait. An auctioneer didn’t get around to the back corner of the back room where the Bernina sat waiting until much later in the afternoon, but B watched him like a hawk all day to make sure she didn’t miss it. I ended up watching him pretty closely, too, because her nervous flitting back and forth got me wanting to see how this was going to play out.

You can never really tell how high the bidding’s going to go on any item. If it’s an antique, you can guess that somebody will probably recognize its value and it will sell for a mind-boggling amount of money, but every so often nobody will realize what it’s worth and somebody will walk off with it for a buck or two. And sometimes you’ll have your eye on a worthless piece of junk like your favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, and you’ll get used to the idea that you’re going to walk away with it for a buck as you wait all day for the auctioneer to get around to it, but when he finally does there are six other people in the crowd who remember it was their favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, too, and the bidding rockets insanely to a hundred fifty bucks, leaving you to trudge away empty-handed.

As the auctioneer sold one item after another, getting closer and closer to the Bernina, B pointed out the people in the audience she suspected of being dealers, or sewers who knew what the machine was worth, or just people who saw her coveting the machine and were there to ruin her day. The auctioneer sold off some picture frames, a king-size bed, and a repulsive coffee table before he came to the Bernina and by that time there was a very thin crowd of only a dozen or so die-hards eagerly waiting for him to get to the last item. They stood poised to bid. I expected no less than a fist fight to break out.

It didn’t help B’s nerves any that the auctioneer himself recognized the Bernina as a quality sewing machine and said its name loudly, over and over. “What am I bid?” he began, “Who’ll give me a hundred fifty?” Nobody flinched. Nobody ever takes the opening bid. Nobody ever takes the first two or three bids the auctioneer starts with. I don’t know why he even bothers starting so high, but I suppose there must have been a few times he’s hooked an over-eager newbie that way. He backed the opening bid down until he got to ten bucks, and B couldn’t stand it any longer. “I’ll take ten bucks!” she yelped.

“I’ve got ten dollars!” the auctioneer barked out. “Who’ll give me twenty?” No takers. “Who’ll give me fifteen?” Still no takers. “Twelve-fifty? Who’ll give me twelve-fifty?” Amazingly, still no takers. What in the name of seven flaming hells were these people waiting for? He prompted the crowd several more times for a bid of twelve-fifty before giving up and selling it to B for ten bucks. Ten bucks! When I checked later on e-bay there was an enamel pin that looked like a Bernina selling for fourteen ninety-five!

And, lucky me, I didn’t have to take the table apart. It just squeeked into the back seat of the car after we turned it upside-down.

a memory hole | 10:09 am CST
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We used to let our cats sleep with us, but after we brought Scooter home from the Dane County Humane Society two Christmases ago, we had to lock them out because Scooter wanted to sleep on our heads.

I don’t like a cat sleeping on my pillow. Anywhere else but my pillow is okay, but for whatever neurotic reason is buried deep in my hind brain, I get squicked out by cats on my pillow. It might have something to do with waking up with a cat butt parked next to my face. Ew.

My Darling B doesn’t mind having a cat on her pillow, but Scooter isn’t satisfied by just curling up on top of her head and going to sleep. He also wants to shove his nose in her ear and purr loudly while kneading the back of her neck with his razor-sharp talons. This, for obvious reasons, does not fly with B.

So we locked him out, which meant that we also had to lock Boo out. I felt bad about that, because she never bothered us. Well, she never bothered me. She usually sleeps curled up next to B’s butt, and I’m okay with that, but B says she’s like a hot-water bottle, and B doesn’t need a hot-water bottle. I’d like that, but I like sleeping under five or six layers of quilts.

The downside of locking Scooter out is that he usually scratches at the door in the middle of the night, whining to be let in. B can sleep through that. I can’t, so I have to lie there, wide awake, until he gives up and goes away, and then I have to lie there a while longer until I fall asleep again, or until the alarm clock starts to bleep, whichever comes first.

So it was either let him in and get squicked out when I woke up and found his butt parked on my pillow, or lock him out and lose an hour or more of sleep a night. Waking up with a cat butt in my face was worse, I figured, so we kept locking him out.

My job required me to hit the road almost every week starting in July. I drive to the farthest reaches of Wisconsin, so far away that I sometimes have to stay there overnight before driving back. When I’m gone overnight, B lets the cats into the bedroom at night, to keep her company. Scooter still climbs up on her pillow at night to knead her neck and give her a wet willie with his cold nose, and Boo still curls up right next to her and turns up her thermostat until she’s red-hot, but B seems to think the comfort of having the cats in bed with her is worth it. Oddly, Sparky does not feel the need to crawl into bed to join the party.

Just to see what this was like myself, I left the bedroom door open last weekend. I figured I wouldn’t lose any more sleep than I would when Scooter came scratching at the door, and if he planted his butt in my face, I’d just scoop him up and chuck him out. He’s got white fur; he’s not hard to find in the dark. To my amazement, I slept through the night. Best night of sleep I can remember having in a long time. When I mentioned this to My Darling B, she said something like, “Sure, ’cause Scooter and Boo were all over me all night.” I said we could go back to closing the door if she wanted. She said it was up to me, so I left the door open again, and again I slept through the night. *bliss!*

And they’ve been sleeping with us ever since. Sparky still doesn’t climb into bed with us. I’m still not sure why. He’s probably just used to sleeping on the sofa, but I get the feeling that if he ever does decide to join us and discovers just how warm it is, especially in winter, that’ll be the last time he sleeps alone.

sleepy time | 9:57 am CST
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Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson visited New Berlin West high school last week, where one of the students asked him, “Senator Johnson, I understand there’s a big movement right now to try to repeal and replaced the Affordable Care Act. Do you personally consider health care as more of a privilege or a right?”

Johnson answered, “I think it’s probably more of a privilege. Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness … Past that point, everything is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us so we can afford those things. … Senator Rand Paul said, The minute you consider health care a right, well, who’s going to satisfy that right? And those people that have the skill to satisfy that right, what does that make them if they’re forced to provide you with that rightful product or service? I think it’s obviously a privilege to have food and shelter. And what we need to do as public officials is try and have our economy healthy so that we have as much prosperity as possible so that we can actually increase the resources available for as high quality and as highly accessible health care as we can possibly can.”

This is why I can’t stand politicians. The Affordable Care Act is a law to secure the right of health care for all Americans. Guess which other rights were secured by the government through laws written by legislators?

“What we have as rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And Jefferson went on to say, in the very next sentence, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men.” So without a government to secure those rights, they’re no more than talking points.

Whether or not Johnson “personally” considers health care a privilege, the Affordable Care Act is a law, and until it’s changed or abolished, health care is a right, not a privilege.

Guess which other rights could be changed or abolished by the government?

privilege | 9:23 am CST
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Friday, October 6th, 2017

I honestly think Trump was just talking out his ass when he made the “calm before the storm” remark. Trump’s a guy who’s been the boss of his own business for so long, and the star of a reality show about being the boss on top of that, that he thinks everything that comes out of his mouth is smart, witty, clever, funny. He’s that boss who doesn’t know people laugh with him because he’s the boss, not because his jokes are funny. (They’re so not funny.)

He shows up for a photo op with a room full of generals. He has to make small talk. He can’t just stand there. “You know what this represents?” Of course we do. They’re soldiers. Whenever there are soldiers around, it’s politically correct to acknowledge them as heroes or thank them for their service. It’s small talk.

But the press doesn’t do small talk. They always want to drill all the way down to some deeper meaning. “No, what does it represent?” one of them asks. At this point, it’s not chit-chatty small talk any longer. To a guy like Trump, who’s used to his minions chuckling at his every pronouncement whether they understood what he was talking about or not, it’s like calling a bluff. He has to say something now, but it was small talk. He doesn’t have anything to say. Not that that has ever stopped him from making small talk. He’s pretty good at saying something vague and noncommittal. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” There you go. Doesn’t mean anything, but sounds like it just might. “What storm?” everybody asks, and he just smiles that Cheshire-cat smile because now he’s got the upper hand again.

Almost twenty-fours hours have passed and nearly every single person on the planet with an opinion about Trump has speculated on what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” but nobody knows, not even his own press secretary. But it’s no mystery. It didn’t mean anything. Idle chit-chat.

a tempest in a teapot | 4:25 pm CST
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Thursday, October 5th, 2017

I stayed in a “microtel” this week, which I guess is a marketer’s idea of making a hotel with small rooms and no amenities sound good, and as an idea it really isn’t all that bad but in practice there are so many things wrong with it that I just have to hit the keyboard for a while to work out my frustrations. Ready? Let’s begin:

First, a good thing: The room is smaller, which sounds counterintuitive: Isn’t that a bad thing? Maybe, but the rooms in most of the hotels I stay in are huge. There are usually two king-sized beds, a dresser or a credenza with a flat-screen TV as big as the beds, an easy chair or two with a table for your drinks, a coffee maker, an ironing board with an iron, and sometimes floor lamps. I could live comfortably for weeks or even months in most hotel rooms. It’s way too much when all I need is a place to lay my head for a night.

The eensy-weensy microtel I stayed in, by contrast, was designed precisely for just that. It has one queen-sized bed, a wardrobe, a desk that’s really just a shelf hung on the wall, and a very modest TV hung on the wall above the desk. That’s it. There’s no easy chair, no table, no coffee maker, no ironing board, and not a whole lot of room to move around. It reminded me of a college dorm room. I could live there, but only if I spent a lot of time outside the room.

Now, a few of the things that are wrong with it: First, no coffee maker. I get what they’re trying to do: cut back on the extras to save a little money. A fine idea. But I’m just going to say, and I think 99.9% of Americans would be with me on this, that in the scheme of things a coffee maker probably ranks above the television set, the hair drier, and maybe even the air conditioner. How the designers of the microtel believed getting rid of the coffee maker was even acceptable is beyond me, especially when the coffee they make available in the lobby tastes like dishwater. Whoever made the coffee I tried to drink should’ve been hung. I had to walk across the parking lot to Kwik Trip to get better-tasting coffee. I’ll repeat that: I GOT BETTER-TASTING COFFEE AT KWIK-TRIP.

The television set didn’t have a channel guide. Oh wait, it did, on channel 20, right where anybody would expect to find it, right? I didn’t get to it for about a half-hour because the TV was on channel 50 when I turned it on and I went channel-surfing up from there. The remote had a button for a channel guide, but when it came on-screen every channel said (NO INFORMATION), and that started me surfing. In the wrong direction. Learned my lesson there.

On the wall behind the bed in my room there was what looked like a semi-silvered mirror. That’s not just wrong, that’s creepy. I couldn’t look at it without imagining the guys from True Lies watching me from the other side. I walked around the room in my underwear anyway. Can’t wait to see myself on YouTube.

The switch for the light over the bed was in the farthest corner of the room. It was literally the last switch you would turn on, unless you stumbled through the room in the dark to the far corner and started from there. Bizarre design choice, guys.

But to finish up, a good thing: Four big, fluffy towels in the bathroom, all for me.

teeny-tiny | 9:17 pm CST
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Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Am feeling much better today, thank you. The only remaining symptom of my week-long sickness, whatever it was, is that my sinuses still continue to decongest, a process which takes the form of me soaking one Kleenex after another by filling my lungs with as much air as they can hold, then blowing for as long as I can. The stuff that comes out of my nose when I do this is as dark and slimy and scary as a Stephen King novel.

Hey, you came here to read this. I just write the stuff.

I have been not writing much in my blog these days because the stuff I’ve been thinking about is not the kind of stuff I can write in an offhanded, flip and funny way, the way I like to write stuff that goes in this blog. I don’t know why that should stop me, but it does. And it’s not for lack of trying to write about it in a funny way. I know it can be done. I see people doing it. But either because of my demeanor, or my age, or because I just don’t think it’s funny that our country is governed by politicians who are determined to bend us to their fucked-up vision of how they think we ought to behave, I simply can’t find it in myself to write funny commentary about it. It’s not funny, it’s tragic. I weep for the days when I believed politicians were merely ham-fisted instead of malevolent.

That said, I have to tell you that, for my money, the stable of writers at Seth Meyers’ late-night talk show are unquestionably the most hilarious when it comes to lampooning Trump, hitting just the right note time and time again. I still think what’s going on is tragic in the extreme, but those guys can always get me to laugh at the worst of it, and god dammit I need that every so often. Okay, every night. Also, I think Meyers himself does the best Trump impression. The others are pretty good, but Seth’s combination of voice, face, and gestures makes me chuckle the most often.

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, driving hours and hours to the farthest reaches of our great state for reasons that are, honestly, too boring to get into even in the rolls of a blog titled “This Is Drivel,” and you can believe me when I say that sets the bar for what makes things boring. Maybe I’ll explain it later, with a spoiler warning so you can bail out before you get to it, but for now I want to talk about the hours and hours on the road, which are sometimes boring and sometimes not, depending on where I’m going and who I’m going with. I should very quickly add that none of the coworkers I travel with bore me; I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and in the hours we’ve spent criss-crossing the state they have told me things that are right up there with the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard. Even so, if I put you in a car with the most interesting person on earth and set you on a course up the interstate from Madison to Superior with only occasional stops at a Kwik-Trip here and there to break the monotony, I guarantee that by the time you caught sight of Eau Claire through your windshield, you’d be so numb that you’d be perfectly happy to sit in silence for the next two hours. There’s a reason they call non-stop trips “deadheading.”

Most of our trips are not that long, thank goodness, and usually about half of most trips are not on the interestate, but on the much more interesting country roads that wind through countryside I can’t help but describe using words such as pleasing, picturesque, quaint, cozy, homey, or just plain old pretty. There are also places that are run-down and awful, but not many. Having mentioned that, I can’t help but add there are places that are not run-down but still godawful. There’s a stretch of road through Oshkosh that has to be the ugliest part of Wisconsin I’ve ever seen; for the better part of a mile you have to drive through a gauntlet of billboards that look like the montage of messages flashing past the eyes of some poor bastard who’s being brainwashed by a grinning evil genius. I avoid it whenever I can because it gives me nightmares.

When we’re not admiring the pretty stretches of countryside, or we’re not being numbed by the interminable stretches of interstate, we pass the time by picking a topic ripped from the day’s news, exploring the edges of it at first if it was maybe a little controversial, and what news story these days isn’t? Even the weather, a topic that was once so safe and boring that it was a staple of every conversation between strangers and family alike, has become controversial. I stay away from it these days not because it’s political, but because I’m so militant when it comes to the subject of human-influenced climate change that I know I’ll end up ranting, and nobody wants to see that.

Somewhat surprisingly, the latest stupid thing our president has done or said is often a topic of conversation, surprising because I’ve long been led to believe that you should avoid talking about politics in mixed company if you can help it, and Trump is nothing if not a politically-charged topic, but he’s always in the news and he’s always saying or doing something monumentally stupid. And it just occurred to me that some day, someone’s going to put a monument to Trump in a city park somewhere, and when that happens, I will drive for hours and hours cross-country just to see pigeons shit on his head. I’ll post a selfie here when I do. Watch this space.

Even more surprisingly, I was asked on one of these long road trips for my opinion on the second amendment. If that’s not a politically-charged topic to stay away from, I don’t know what is. But my coworker wanted to know what I thought, and I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the subject, so I took a deep breath and let fly. Then, just to show her that I was as willing as she was to listen to other people’s opinions on a controversial subject, I asked her whether or not she believed that NASA landed men on the moon. When she said no, I had to admit to myself that I was not as willing to listen to controversial opinions as I thought I was. Actually, when she said no I thought at first she was messing with me and waited several seconds for her to laugh and shout, “Gotcha!” When she didn’t do that, I asked her why she didn’t believe it and we had a long conversation about conspiracies and the cold war and in the end I think I got her to believe it, or maybe ninety-five percent of it.

I’ve known for a long time that people say the moon landings were faked but even so, the first time I met a couple of them I was absolutely gobsmacked by their steadfast determination to disbelieve that it was even possible, much less that it happened. Those first two were of the “Well, you weren’t there, so you don’t really know” school of thought, which made me want to drag them up in front of all nine (at the time) of the surviving moon walkers to see what kind of doofishness they would continue to spew in front of the very people they would have to consider to be credible witnesses. If I could have just one super-power, by the way, it would be a bloodhound-like tracking sense that would allow me to find those people, a steely grip that I could use to grab them by the back of the neck and the seat of their pants, and the ability to leap far enough to give them a bum’s rush all the way to the moon, where I would give them a tour of each and every one of the six landing sites. My super-power would also have to include some way for both of us to hold our breath for a long time, and not freeze to death in the icy vacuum of space, or the whole exercise would be sort of pointless.

on the road | 7:45 am CST
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Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Hi.

I’m sick. I’m not sure what kind of sick it is. The kind that makes me cough up chunks of my lungs. Not literally, mind you, but it sure feels that way.

I’m going to go out on a limb and blame this sickness on the coworker who came to work sick. I feel I can confidently put the blame squarely on her because I was locked up in a car with her for eight hours on Tuesday and another eight hours on Wednesday, and she was hacking and coughing the whole time. I’m not a virologist or whatever kind of scientist studies the spread of Coughing Up Lungs Sick, but the transmission of this bug seems like a no-brainer to me.

I was feeling fine when we left Tuesday morning, but by the time we got home Wednesday night, I had a cough that was starting to sound a lot like hers. I called in sick on Thursday and went in Friday for about an hour to finish my time sheet and clean up a couple things. I spent a lot of time flat on my back sleeping both days, and again on Saturday. It’s that kind of sick. I haven’t feel nauseated or even very tired, I’ve just never felt as though I was ever fully awake.

I’m still a little under the weather today. Still hacking, although it sounds a bit drier than it did before, not like I’m trying to bring up bits of tissue from the depths of my soul. I’m beginning to allow myself to feel optimistic that I might be over this by tomorrow. I hope so, anyway. Tim’s going to come over to burn some burgers with us and I don’t want to give it to him.

My Darling B has somehow avoided catching the bug, or if she has, she’s showing no symptoms yet. She has a very strange constitution when it comes to these things. Allergies kick her ass all the time, but a virus comes along and she’s just, Eh, I don’t think so.

sicko | 1:02 pm CST
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Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Our president is a bullshit artist. Not the greatest. He seems to prefer quantity over quality, but in that respect, he sure knows how to crank it out:

“The first order I gave to my generals … my first order was, I want this our nuclear arsenal to be the biggest and the finest in the world. And we spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and it’s in tip top shape, and getting better, and getting stronger.”

“What have you actually done? Experts say it takes years to modernize the nuclear arsenal.”

“We’ve done a lot of modernization, but we’ve done a lot of renovation. And we have it now in very, very good shape. And it will be in much better shape over the next six months to a year. It’s a very important thing. Actually, it was the first – military’s very important to me. As you know, I did extremely well with the military vote, Mike and I, but we are, my first order was, we have to do the military, but before we do the military per se, we’re going to do the nuclear.”

On second thought, maybe “artist” is giving him too much credit. I’d like to amend “bullshit artist” to “straight-up bullshitter,” please. Thank you, and have a great weekend.

bullshitter | 7:31 am CST
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Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Did you know that most bees nest on the ground? Me, neither. And I never would have found that out if I hadn’t mowed the lawn last weekend. I should’ve skipped it and gone paddling instead, like I wanted, but nnooOOOoo. I had to be a responsible homeowner.

I must’ve mowed the lawn a couple hundred times in the past twelve years we’ve lived in our little red house, but this has never happened before. I was plodding across the front yard, pushing the mower along, about halfway through the job when I felt someone or something stick a hot needle in my foot, just above my left ankle. I jumped and grabbed at it, expecting to find something roughly arrow-shaped and about six feet long sticking out of my foot, but nothing.

At about the time I was looking at my left foot, another hot needle jabbed me through the right calf. That one felt like it went in so deep that I spun around and danced all the way across the lawn to the driveway before I came to a stop. I would’ve won the trophy on Dancing With The Stars. Honest, you would’ve been impressed. When I stopped, yet another hot needle jabbed my right calf. This time I looked down in time to see the bee, a big, fat bumbler, jabbing away at me with his butt. Smacked the shit out of him.

My dance must’ve gotten me far enough away from wherever they were bedded down in the grass, because I didn’t get stung any more. I didn’t know they were in the grass then. I was looking up in the tree like a dummy, expecting to see a swarm among the branches, like mowing the lawn would’ve pissed them off way up there. It wasn’t until later when I told My Darling B about getting stung that she googled bees and told me that something like seventy percent of all bee species make their nests in the ground. I don’t think they were nesting, because I went back much later and finished mowing the lawn without getting stung again. I think maybe they were resting somewhere in the grass when I mowed over them and pissed them off. Next time I mow, I’m going to use B’s flamethrower.

stung | 9:55 pm CST
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Monday, August 7th, 2017

I made my first road trip with the kayak on Saturday, to take it for a paddle on Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells. It’s only about an hour away from Our Humble O’Bode if you take the interstate, which I did on the way up, an experience I wouldn’t care to repeat. All three lanes were virtually bumper-to-bumper with every kind of recreational vehicle, as well as cars and trucks piled high with bicycles, canoes, kayaks, and camping supplies, all fighting for the honor of the front of the line like it was a Nascar race. If I ever go anywhere with a kayak strapped to the roof of my car again, and I’m pretty sure I will, I’m going on state highways. They may be narrow and some are in bad repair, but I won’t have to fight the constant backwash of one big-bodied vehicle after another blowing past me at eighty miles an hour.

Mirror Lake is beautiful, if maybe just a tad too popular. There’s a pretty little state park right next to it with two neat little campgrounds that I might have to check into one of these days. The park rents kayaks, canoes and those stand-up paddle boards that are so popular right now even though they don’t go anywhere at a speed faster than a lazy amble no matter how hard you paddle, so the south end of the lake by the campground is absolutely lousy with campers having fun splashing and tipping each other over. The farther I went from the campground, though, the quieter it got, so I kept to the shore and paddled off into every inlet and river I could find.

And there were a few of them. None of them were much longer than a hundred yards or so, but there was something to see in every one of them: muskrats, log cabins, a fawn wading in the weeds along the shore. The last one I went down turned out to be a river that connected to another lake after meandering for about a quarter mile through a picturesque sandstone gorge where the rock walls towered over my head. I didn’t have enough time to go further than about halfway down the river, though, so I’ll have to find another weekend to go back and get a better look.

After packing up and hitting the road, I made a wrong turn and my one-hour trip home turned into three hours because I thought highway 113 went straight through to Madison, and it does, sort of, but there’s a significant gap in it that I missed the first time I looked at the map. The gap first made its presence known to me when I got to Merrimac and turned south as the road signs directed. The road went directly into the lake. That can’t be right, I thought as I turned around and consulted my map. I went all the way through Merrimac looking for the highway before I noticed my map mentioned something about a ferry. Going back to the road that went down to the lake, I saw many cars lined up, and signs that also mentioned a ferry.

Ordinarily I would be totally down with a ride on a ferry, but this one could only take fifteen cars at a time, and there were at least thirty cars in front of me. My stomach was growling and I was already going to be late getting home, so I pored over the map for an alternate route. From what I could tell, though, the options for getting around the lake were limited. Essentially, I would’ve had to drive almost all the way back to Wisconsin Dells. Bowing to the inevitable, I got in line and waited.

As a consolation prize, there’s an ice cream stand on the Merrimac side of the crossing, and as I had to wait at least ten minutes for the ferry to cross over and come back, I took the opportunity to ask them to dish up a scoop of butter pecan for me. No more growling stomach after that.

When I finally drove aboard, thirty minutes or so later, the trip across was quick, maybe a little more than five minutes, and I was headed south again as fast as a county highway would let me go. Forty or fifty miles an hour, mostly, slowing down for the tight turns and to pass through the little burgs along the way. Didn’t pull into the driveway at home until just after seven o’clock where the rest of the O-Folk were patiently waiting for me to light the barbeque and grill the pork tenderloins we had for dinner that night.

Mirror Lake | 12:01 am CST
Category: kayaking
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Sunday, August 6th, 2017

I bought a kayak. This may turn out to be my latest fad buy. I’m not training for an intense plunge down a raging river of whitewater. That’s not something that has ever been on my bucket list. My ideal of paddling is very sedate. I put the kayak in the water at the boat launch down the road or at the park down the other end of the road and I paddle it in a big circle around the lake. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell: Buy a boat that most people use to shoot between boulders on the Colorado River at high water. Paddle it placidly in circles on a lake. I’m a low-impact kind of guy.

I’ve been thinking I would like a canoe, but My Darling B is not someone who cares to paddle a canoe with any regularity (once or twice a year would be about it), and canoes are too heavy for me to carry by myself. I’d need help getting it down to the water, let alone lifting it high enough to put it on a cartop roof rack. A canoe would probably spend more time in our back yard than on the lake.

One-person kayaks have never had much appeal to me because the ones I was most familar with were the plastic twelve-footers you can rent. They’re fat across the middle and flat on the bottom, which is great if your plan is to slowly drift down a quiet stream with the current, but whenever I’ve tried to get them to go anywhere, they were about as easy for me to steer as your average dairy cow.

About three weeks ago I was talking with a guy from the office who’s so into outdoorsy stuff, he and his wife have his and hers matching kayaks. The way he talked about the trips they’ve taken got me thinking about paddling again, and a few days later I found myself haunting the bargain racks at Rutabaga, a local store that specializes in canoes and kayaks. Unfortunately for me, the kayaks that are considered a bargain at Rutabaga had price tags that started at nine hundred dollars and went up from there. That’s practically as much as a new kayak and about five hundred dollars more than I was willing to spend for any boat, used or new. When I checked the used kayaks for sale on-line, they were no more of a bargain.

After two weeks of looking I started to think that, if I wasn’t willing to pay a thousand dollars for a kayak, maybe this wasn’t the hobby for me. As it turns out I didn’t have to.

Round about the end of June, I was browsing the used kayaks at Rutabaga when I found one for just $350.00. I strongly suspected that had to be a mistake, but I hunted down a salesperson anyway to ask if I could take it for a test drive. Rutabaga has a pond out back of the store where they teach classes in how to paddle, send customers off in rentals, and let potential buyers test the canoe or kayak of their dreams by paddling it around. As the salesperson helped me take the kayak down from the rack I asked about the price. No, that’s not a mistake, she said; that was the correct price.

“Well, then, I have to ask: What’s wrong with it?” I didn’t mean to be insulting, but if it was a fixer-upper, like maybe it had a hole in it somewhere that I couldn’t see, then I’d probably have to take a pass. But she said nothing was wrong with it. It was old, so it didn’t have the appeal the other kayaks had: the finish had lost its shine, the bungees and straps were frayed, but the hull was sound and the rudder worked. She helped me carry it down to the water, scrounged up a life jacket and a paddle, and after adjusting the foot rests and settling in, I took it for a spin, so to speak.

I knew I wanted it before I’d gone more than ten yards. It’s seventeen feet long and almost as skinny as I am (full disclosure: I’m not as skinny as I used to be), but the cockpit is almost as easy to get in and out of as the gaping cockpits of rental kayaks. It’s got a sharp keel fore and aft and it’s fitted with a rudder I can steer with my feet to keep it lined up straight as an arrow even when I lean hard on the paddle, which I’m not inclined to do most of the time, but it’s nice to know I can if I should have to. And there’s a big hatch behind the cockpit where I can stow a small trolley I use to move it from the car to the shore, or when I walk it down to the lake, leading it by the bow like it’s a puppy. The only thing it doesn’t have that would make it better is a wet bar, and I could probably improvise something for that.

I took it for a paddle the very night I bought it, making a big, slow circuit of the bay and didn’t fall in the water once, even thought I’ve had no training. (I’ve haven’t ever fallen out of a canoe, either, and I think there should be a medal or a patch for that, but so far I haven’t heard of one). And I’ve taken it out on one lake or another every weekend since. Luckily for me I can walk to two lakes from my house and paddle to three more that I can return from in just a few hours, a nice day out. I could paddle even further if I took food and a tent, but I haven’t decided whether I want to make this a lifestyle change yet or not. I haven’t gone camping in so many years that I’m not sure whether or not my body would remember how.

kayak | 10:45 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, August 5th, 2017

The dealership we bought our car from fixed a cracked window for free. Now there’s something you don’t expect to happen.

Our car has a sunroof. I have mixed feelings about sunroofs. I owned a VW bug with a sunroof, which gave the car a wide-open feel I liked, but I also had a Mitsubishi van with a sunroof that leaked like a seive when it rained, and I never want to have that happen again. But in the top ten list of things I hate to do, shopping for a car is way up there, so when we found a car that had just about everything we liked, the sunroof wasn’t a deal-breaker.
And then the sunroof cracked. I’m not sure how. I noticed the crack about a week after I put a kayak on the roof, but the kayak weighs just sixty pounds or so, and it was sitting on a couple of foam pads, only one of which rested on the sunroof, so only half the weight of the kayak was on it, cradled in foam.

The guy at the dealership said the crack looked like something heavy fell on it, and that it wouldn’t be covered by the warranty. I figured as much, but it never hurts to ask, you know? Then he said he’d take some photos and see what he could do, and a couple days later he called me and said they would replace it free of charge, what they called a “goodwill repair.”

I’ve never heard of a “goodwill repair” before, but I was all for that instead of the $500 deductable we would have to pay if we got our insurance to fix it. So I took the day off from work yesterday and waited in the lobby of Don Miller Subaru while they fixed our sunroof. Good as new! So if you’re thinking of buying a car, I can recommend a good dealership.

After they fixed the sunroof, I had to stop at Half-Price Books to patrol the shelves because I was in the neighborhood. Picked up a collection of short stories by James Tiptree Jr. and a three-volume set called The History of Physics or something like that.

Then, back at the ranch with the rest of the day all to myself, I did a little light cleaning, because we mammals are messy animals, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. Mostly all I did was sweep, vacuum, and take out the trash, but the bathroom needed a bit more attention and I needed a hot shower afterwards.

The weather was cold and blustery with lots of dark clouds overhead, so I curled up on the sofa with my books and read about molecules and the electromagnetic spectrum and stuff. And I had a short nap, because I could.

At the end of the day I had to venture out again across town to pick up My Darling B from work, and we stopped halfway home in a neighborhood called Schenck’s Corners to grab a bite to eat and wash it down with some sudsy stuff at the Alchemy Cafe. The weather still wasn’t quite nice enough for us to consider eating outside.

cracked | 8:38 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, April 15th, 2017

For whatever reason, all the cats see me as The Chosen One when it comes time to feed them. There are two hairless apes in this house and we both have working, opposable thumbs, but I’m the one the cats circle and paw at when they’re hungry. The only time they bother My Darling B is when she’s here and I’m not.

Add to that, when they come begging for food first thing in the morning, I’m the one who feeds them by default because I’m the light sleeper. I can’t just sleep through their crying and pawing at the door the way My Darling B can. I wish I had that super power, but I don’t. They’re outside the bedroom door, whining and scratching, a noise I can’t block out even if I wrap my head up in both my pillows. Meanwhile, B is blissfully snoring away. Is it possible to hate the one you love for just one thing they do? Because if it is, this would be that thing.

So this morning at oh dark thirty they gathered in the hallway outside our bedroom door to start crying and pawing, and once again I got up to feed them because it’s either that or lay in bed in the dark, imagining Rube Goldberg devices that will drop anvils from the ceiling on their heads with the pull of a string.

The youngest little troublemaker can’t keep his face out of the other cats’ food, which makes them really grumpy, so he gets fed by himself in a separate room where we can dish out his kibble and lock the little glutton in. I let him into his room, grabbed the Tupperware with his kibble in it off the shelf, scooped out a breakfast-sized portion, and I must’ve bumped the Tupperware when I turned to put the scoop back in because it tipped over and fell to the floor before my groggy brain could even think about grabbing it.

Luckily for me it landed on an improvised cat bed, really a laundry basket with a pillow and a bath towel in it. If it had hit the floor, the kibble would have exploded all over the room. Instead, the bath towel caught most of the kibble so I could scoop it back into the Tupperware, but about a cup of it was scattered across the floor. For a couple of minutes, the kitten ran around like a kid in the front room on Christmas morning, snorfling up kibble. He’s probably going to remember this as one of the greatest days of his life for years to come.

snorfle | 7:24 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Woman goes into a big, dark house with creaky wooden floors and heavy doors that go boom when she closes them. Just your basic soul-eating house. Woman slowly wanders through every room of the house, doesn’t turn on any of the lights. Ghost appears. Of course it does. I mean, what did you think was going to happen? Woman doesn’t see the ghost at first, because it always materializes in the air behind her somewhere, then fades away. Then, when it’s time to really scare the piss out of her, it … turns on a faucet. Yeah. Ghosts have the awesome power to disappear, float in the air, walk through walls, make spooky noises. This one can turn on faucets.

This was the ghost in a movie we saw at the Wisconsin Film Fest. The movie was “Personal Shopper,” and the woman was kind of pointlessly looking for the ghost of her brother, who died earlier that year. The woman says she’s a medium, and she eventually sees the ghost in the spooky house, but she’s the kind of medium who gets her information about ghosts from, just to name two sources, a movie about a seance, and the internet. Because where would you possibly get better information about the realm of spirits?

The first time the ghost turns on the faucet, it was kind of scary because I didn’t know what that noise was at first. The woman had to wander through most of the rooms in the house to find the tap that was running, because it was just a thin trickle and a bit hard to hear. Then the ghost opened the bathtub spigot all the way, and I was thinking, “Okay, he’s really good at turning on the water. What else can he do?” I mean, it’s not an especially malevolent activity, is it? It’s not even scary, after the first time. First time was, Oooo, what’s that noise? And the second time, meh.

It turned out the ghost did have a few other tricks up his sleeve: he could scratch the table, and he could tear up a piece of paper. Really scary stuff. (Full disclosure: I walked out halfway through the movie, so maybe it got a whole lot better after that. My Darling B stayed; she said it didn’t get any better. I trust her.)

all wet | 7:31 pm CST
Category: entertainment, festivals, movies, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Monday, April 10th, 2017

I read Ann Leckie’s debut novel “Ancillary Justice” about a year ago, which means I don’t remember how long ago it was. In the bible, they would’ve said “forty days and forty nights.” It was a long time ago. So long that I don’t remember all the details of the story now, but I do remember that I liked it and wanted to read more of Leckie’s work.

Luckily for me, “Ancillary Justice” is the first volume of a story Leckie eventually expanded into three volumes, the seemingly-standard trilogy of the fantasy and science fiction genre. She called the second volume “Ancillary Sword” and the third “Ancillary Mercy,” which is better than Roman numerals but still just confusing enough to my tiny little brain to make me stop and carefully look over all three volumes to make sure I was buying the right one. It doesn’t help that all three volumes have cover art that looks more or less the same: needle-nosed jet aircraft with razor-like wings painted in bright, primary colors.

After flipping through the first dozen pages or so and feeling certain that I knew which was the first and which was the second, I took my purchase to the check-out counter. It wasn’t until I was outside the store, headed back to the office, that I realized I’d put the wrong book back on the shelf and checked out with “Ancillary Justice,” the first book in the series, the one I’d already read. *facepalm* Too late at that point to turn around and ask them to swap it; I had just enough time to get back to my desk, no more.

I swung by the book store right after work, found the copy of “Ancillary Sword” that I meant to buy, tucked them both under my arm and headed for the checkout. Halfway there, I remembered the receipt that I’d tucked into the pages of “Ancillary Justice,” which I’d probably need to return the book, so I riffed through it, expecting the receipt to pop right out. It did not. Slowing my brisk walk to a slow amble, I started flipping through the pages a bit more slowly. Still couldn’t find it, so I flipped through it again, even more slowly this time. No joy.

By then, I was at the counter. “Hi,” I said to the young lady waiting there. “I bought this book —” holding up book “— earlier today, but I meant to buy this book —” holding up other book “— which is the second in a three-book series. I’d like to exchange one for the other, if that’s okay?” She said that would be no problem, so I began flipping through the pages again, explaining as I did that I was looking for the receipt. She waited patiently but, when I failed for the third time to find it, I asked her if we could just swap.

Apparently she couldn’t do that, not exactly, but she could process the first book as a return, give me store credit, and I could use the credit to buy the second one. Seemed needlessly complicated to me, but whatever. So she did all the hocus-pocus she had to do with the register, I signed a credit slip, she put the credit on a card, then charged the second book against the credit, and somehow I ended up with a couple bucks on the card. Don’t know how, but it was okay with me. I thanked her, scooped up the book, and headed out to the car.

Went to tuck the book into my backpack: It was “Ancillary Justice.”

Back into the book store. She looked at me sideways while she was finishing up with another customer. I smiled and waggled my fingers at her. When it was my turn, I flashed the cover of the book. She didn’t get it. Of course she didn’t. It looked just like the other book. “We got the books mixed up,” I explained, sliding it across the counter toward her. “I need the other one.” She gave it to me reluctantly, as if i was pulling a fast one on her. She didn’t seem entirely convinced I knew what I was talking about. But I finally got the right book. At least, I think I did.

Ancillary Mixup | 7:26 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment, play
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Sunday, April 9th, 2017

The Freddie Fender ballad “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” has been playing on a fucking loop in my head for the past 48 hours. I loathe this song in capital letters: LOATHE. I can’t say why; it’s one of those gut reactions that makes me instantly change the radio station. I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that I have loathed this song since it was released in 1975. I would’ve been fifteen years old then, growing up in a tiny rural town that was smack in the middle of Wisconsin. The local radio station played just about anything, but music by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Johnny Cash were featured prominently. I remember hearing “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights” what seemed like every fucking day, although I’m sure now that’s an exaggeration. Although maybe not.

I have just learned that Freddie Fender was born with the name Baldemar Garza Huerta. That’s about the coolest name I’ve heard in my life. I can’t imagine why he wanted to change it. I want to have a son right now just so I can name him Baldemar. Also, Fender was in a band called Los Super Seven, another very cool name, and another band named Texas Tornados, which is a cool name but not as cool as Los Super Seven.

“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” is stuck in my head because I watched a documentary film about a guy with Aspberger’s who sang through his nose in that atonal way just about all of us do when we want to sing but there are a lot of people around so we try to make it look like we’re not singing by not moving our lips and by looking out the window pretending to be interested in the clouds. This guy wasn’t pretending not to sing, though. That’s just the way he sang. He knew all the words to “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” even the ones in Spanish, and he sang them with such deep, emotional feeling that I couldn’t help but be touched by it.

I still hate that song, though.

That’s not the only song that’s been stuck in my head this weekend. Another is “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France, and it’s because of another film I saw this week (I was at the Wisconsin Film Fest with My Darling B last week, so I saw a lot of films; bear with me) called “Frantz,” about a young French soldier who travels to Germany to meet the family of the German soldier he killed during The Great War. It was “great” in the sense that it was really big, not in the sense that everybody thought it was a lot of fun and we should have another one again as soon as possible, even though we ended up doing just that. This is why choosing the right name is so important. “Baldemar” — good choice. “The Great War” — not such a good choice.

Back to the film: One of the principal characters of the film, a young German woman who was engaged to the German soldier who was shot by the French soldier I mentioned earlier, travels to Paris to find the French soldier because … it’s complicated. Anyway, she’s in a cafe in Paris when a couple of French soldiers come in for coffee and everyone stands up and sings “La Marseillaise” because what else would you do, right?

If you’ve seen “Casablanca,” you saw almost the same scene: Victor Laslo leads the customers of Rick’s Cafe in a rousing verse of “La Marseillaise” to flip the bird at the Germans who are after him. What they didn’t do in “Casablanca” was subtitle the words to the song, I guess because they figured everybody knew what it meant back then. I didn’t, and I never looked it up, either, thinking it was the usual stuff of national anthems: “We’re the best, you guys suck, our country is better than your country.”

But the version of “Frantz” we saw was subtitled, and they went on subtitling the words to the anthem during the cafe scene, so this is the first time I’ve heard it and known what they were singing about:

Arise, children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, tyranny’s bloody banner is raised,
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let an impure blood soak our fields!

The camera kept flitting from the puffed-up French people singing their yoo-rah-rah song to the uncomfortable face of the German woman, who spoke fluent French and knew just what they were saying. And there were a few disgusted-looking women in the crowd who did not stand up and did not sing; I assumed they were mothers of French soldiers who didn’t go for all that yoo-rah-rah crap.

“Kind of a different effect when you know the words to the song, don’t you think?” I whispered to B, who agreed.

While I’m on the musical theme, the last song I want to tell you about isn’t a song at all. It’s a kind of music: jazz, sort of. One of the duds we saw at the film fest was a musical review called “The King Of Jazz,” featuring the Paul Whiteman band. The final number was how they imagined jazz was created: a whole bunch of white people from Russia, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and every other northern European country sang ethnic theme music (“Every laddie has his lassie” for the Irish people, that sort of thing) as they descended into a melting pot. Paul Whiteman gave the pot a stir, the sides of the pot swung open, and for one terrifying moment I thought the musicians and dancers were all going to come out in blackface singing “Mammie”! Instead, they sang what I guessed was supposed to be a jazz number, which was about as jazzy as any song can be when there isn’t a single African-American involved.

musical | 10:11 am CST
Category: entertainment, festivals, movies, music, play, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I was on the sofa with a book this morning, curling up into a ball, tighter and tighter, for more than two hours before I realized why the house was so goddamned cold: It’s Tuesday. I’m not normally in the house on Tuesday morning. I’m usually at the office, more’s the pity, so the smart thermostat at home is programmed to turn the temperature down to sixty-seven degrees after seven o’clock and keep it there until four, when it cranks the heat back up in anticipation of our return home. I’d forgotten to turn the thermostat up when I got out of bed and that’s why I was curling up into a ball so tight that I would’ve collapsed into my own gravity well if I hadn’t figured it out when I did.

I’m at home — well, not right now; right now, I’m in the library writing this drivel because they’ve got a damn computer that works and I don’t — because it’s day six of the Wisconsin Film Festival, so instead of going out into the world to be a productive member of American society, I’ve been slouched in the chairs (benches, medieval torture devices) of various darkened movie theaters around town, watching more movies in one week than I’ll probably watch the rest of the year. We’re shooting for thirty this year (B counts it as thirty, but it’s really more if, like me, you count the shorts separately, because they’re stand-alone films, right?), a slightly less ambitious schedule than last year when we saw something like thirty-five films, even by the weird way of counting that B uses. We used to arrange our schedule so that we crammed in as many movies in a day as we possibly could; this year, we’re taking it easy and today, like yesterday, we’re seeing just four films, when we could have probably squeezed in five or six a day if we wrestled with the schedule for hours. We didn’t feel like pulling our hair and gnashing our teeth this year, hence our more relaxed schedule.

We were at the Sundance Cinema from eleven in the morning until ten at night yesterday, which is nice inasmuch as we didn’t have to dash across town, hunt for a parking space, trudge through the rain or go without food or beer (Sundance has a concession stand that sells hot sandwiches and several brands of beers from local breweries; the downside is that the prices are just this side of extortion), although I have to say that being cooped up in one theater all day long leaves my head foggy at the end of the day. When I have to run from one theater to the next, at least it gets my legs moving, my blood pumping, and I have to blink at the sunlight a little more often, which is not a bad thing.

This has been a good week to stay inside all day. We’ve had rain for three, maybe four days *shrug*? So we’ve been invoking our head of the line privileges, a benefit of buying the all-festival pass instead of getting individual tickets for each showing, which is a royal pain in the neck when you’re trying to buy tickets to thirty-plus films. Actually, it’s typically a pain in the neck to buy tickets to just a handful of shows, because the on-line ticket-selling vendor is almost always instantly overwhelmed by the volume of people trying to log in and buy tickets the day they go on sale. We had pretty good luck the first year we did it that way, not so much the next year, and the year after that we threw our arms in the air and got the all-festival passes. It turned out that cost less than buying the individual tickets anyway. We found out about head-of-line privileges later but only invoked them when the line captains all but twisted our arms to take us to the front of the line, leading us past dozens of grumbling ticket-holders who’d been waiting to get in. But this year, waiting in line outside the Barrymore, I watched as people butted in line ahead of us, clustering around others who held a place for them, or crowding in behind friends who waved them over, shouting, “YOOO-HOOO! Join us!” After seeing at least a dozen people do that shit, I went up to the line captain, showed her my pass, and asked her how that head-of-line privilege worked. And we’ve been jumping to the head of the queue ever since, which came in especially handing last night because all the films we wanted to see were in theaters where the line was outside. We were warm and dry even as the rain fell all through the day.

Another plus to the Sundance theaters is their seating: big, plush chairs with so much leg room that you don’t have to stand up to let people get by and you can stretch out during the movie, a sharp contrast to, for instance, the clamshell seats in the Chazen Theater where my knees are firmly butted up against the back of the chair in the next row in front of me. God help you if you have to excuse yourself to the washroom from a seat in the middle of the row during the show. At Sundance, there’s enough room to walk past them without turning to one side and standing tippy-toe. There’s even a tier of seats in the middle of the theater with a handrail you can put your feet up on; the competition to snag those is fierce, with many a harsh word spoken between people who seek them and others who “reserve” seats for friends who aren’t actually present in the theater yet. I’ve never had the moxie to try that. A woman at one of the showings last night was holding at least half a dozen seats (I couldn’t tell exactly how many she was laying claim to with her outspread arms) and had to absorb more verbal punishment to do it than I could have withstood in a year; the resentful glares alone would have reduced me to a withered husk.

in the dark | 10:01 am CST
Category: entertainment, festivals, movies, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Monday, March 13th, 2017

Tim bought a new car, a Honda Civic, which is coincidentally the same make and model he’s been driving since 2008 but, while the two cars share the same name on account of their common heritage, that’s about as far as the resemblance goes. Tim’s 1992 Honda Civic is small and round and handles like a go-cart; his 2017 Honda Civic is long and lean and sporty-looking, and although I haven’t had the pleasure of driving it yet, I’m pretty sure it handles like a sports car.

Tim’s going to donate his old car to a local charity but, since he has just one parking space in the lot at his apartment building, he asked if he could park it at our house for the few days it would take for the charity to process his request and come get the car, and we agreed. He parked it in the driveway to vacuum all the detritus out of the carpets and the trunk. I gave him a ride to the dealership to pick up his new car. He came back to our house, and somewhere in there. he lost the key. Can’t find it anywhere. The charity will still come get it but, until they do, his car is immovably parked in our driveway.

Because Tim’s car is parked immovably in the middle of our driveway, and we have to park our car at the end of the driveway, it follows inevitably that it snowed last night. I had to shovel a path around both cars, brush a couple inches of snow off our car, then shovel the driveway again because the snow that was on the car was now on the driveway. What will tomorrow bring?

immovable | 8:45 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, March 10th, 2017

I’ll just leave this right here:

“… many want to hypothesize that this is just a very clever stratagem, a distraction, in this case from the controversy swirling around Jeff Sessions. And certainly there may be an element of distraction, but I think following on the heels of the president making an equally astounding and baseless claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted and that’s why he was deprived of the popular vote, he says these things with such a conviction that … we have to admit the very simplest explanation, and that is he can’t separate what is true and what he wants to believe … what he gets from conspiracy theories. And he’s willing to express these just bizarre ideas. And frankly, this is probably the most troubling prospect of all, that this president can’t separate fact from fiction. And in the context of the constitutional scheme of things with separation of powers, his attack on the courts, his attack on the free media, that he also has difficulty separating right from wrong.” — U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) via National Public Radio

 

conspiracy theorist in chief | 5:46 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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