Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Wisconsin’s license plates are white with black letters, pretty boring. There’s a little banner across the top with “Wisconsin” spelled out and, off to one side, what looks like a maybe a sailboat, a couple of sandhill cranes in flight, and a cartoon barn. Not even a credibly nice try at making it look interesting, and definitely not an improvement over the old yellow license plates, if you ask me.

But as boring as our license plates may be – on a scale from one to ten, with zero being the most boring, I’d give them a two – what I want to rant about today is collector plates.

Did you hear that? That noise was the sound of My Darling B rolling her eyes. I don’t know how she makes an eye-roll audible, but there you go. Amazing, isn’t it?

Collector plates are blue with red lettering and, according to the statue that authorizes them, are supposed to be used to license historically significant cars more than 20 years old that are being maintained as part of a collection.

What nearly everybody uses them for, though, is licensing their junkers. If you own a crap car that’s more than 20 years old and you don’t want to pay the yearly registration fee, no problem! Get the collector plate! It costs twice as much as a regular license plate, but you never have to renew it! A collector plate pays for itself in just two years, provided your junker holds up that long. Congratulations! You may now drive your piece of shit until it falls apart or you restore it, whichever comes first.

I know this because, although I very occasionally see a ’57 Chevy Bel Air sporting a blue collector plate, they more often have a vanity plate that says something like CHVYLVR. The blue plates, which I see nearly every day, are on Chevy Astro Vans, a vehicle so rare these days that they command sale prices in the hundreds of dollars. Serious collectors must be tripping over themselves to get hold of those.

collector plates | 9:39 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

I’ve been on the road for a couple days in the service of the Great State of Wisconsin, which means that I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee until just this morning. The hotels we stay in on these trips are all the kind that serve a complimentary breakfast of dried cereal or make-your-own waffles, and the coffee they set out for us comes out of a great big stainless steel urn. I was very hopeful the first time I saw that. Although coffee that’s been stewing all morning in a great big urn does not always taste the best, it’s usually strong enough to strip the paint off the sides of a battleship. Alas, chain hotels have apparently figured out how to water down urn coffee so it wouldn’t wake up a light sleeper if you poured the whole thing on his head.

I’m a light sleeper, but I’d like a strong cup of coffee in the morning, preferably two. That’s just not happening, not at the hotel and not anywhere near the hotel. The off-ramp territory where chain hotels are built seems to be the last places on earth where Starbucks fears to tread. I don’t like the coffee Starbucks makes; it all tastes burned to me, but at least it’s strong. I’d trudge a quarter-mile on foot and gratefully slug back a cup of their French Roast if I could just get my hands on one, but no joy.

There’s usually a McDonald’s nearby, but I won’t set food in a McDonald’s again until after the apocalypse.

Which reminds me: Whatever happens, even if the zombie hoards are overrunning the city, do not resort to drinking the stuff that comes out of those toy coffee makers in hotel rooms. Not only is that stuff not coffee, it’s not drinkable. It may even be injurious to human health, but I’m not saying anyone should be forced to drink it just so we can find out.

javaless | 9:40 am CST
Category: coffee, food & drink, random idiocy, travel, work, yet another rant
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Sunday, November 10th, 2013

The song stuck in my head all last week was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Pick just about any one of their songs and I’ll tap my feet or sing along with it, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be bothered if one was stuck in my head for days on end, but Manic Monday is arguably the worst song The Bangles ever recorded. And I will argue the point right here and now. To death. You’re welcome.

What the hell is it about Manic Monday that made it so goddamn popular? The tune’s not especially catchy. Try whistling it. If you’re not bored after the first two lines, you will be by the time you get through the three-note bridge of the song. I’m not saying that every pop song has to be as intricately complex as a Beethoven minuet, but I’d like something a little more imaginative than a tune a chicken could peck out on a toy piano.

Then there are the lyrics. Even in a pop song, they’re supposed to be, well, lyrical.

Six o’clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream

Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Okay, I’m listening. What happened next?

I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream

I’m not going to question how you knew it was an Italian stream. In dreams, sometimes you just know you’re in Italy, or the dog you’re talking to is actually your mom, or something really weird. But Valentino? Who dreams about Valentino? How many people these days even know who Valentino is? And Valentino was in movies before they were in color. Well, never mind. Bring on the next line.

But I can’t be late ’cause then I guess I just won’t get paid

What the hell was that? Did you write that on a napkin that was too wet to let you cross it out? That line’s as clunky as a 98 Ford Escort on its last legs! Fifteen-year-olds composing their first poems in the margins of their algebra workbooks write lines that scan better than that!

You guess you just won’t get paid? Why are you guessing? I think it’s a law that they have to pay you. Maybe a couple dollars less, and maybe your boss is going to yell at you, but all the places I’ve worked at had to pay me even when I was late.

And why just? Why won’t you just get paid? That doesn’t make sense. Don’t use “just” when it doesn’t make sense. There’s a special ring in songwriting hell for people who pad lyrics with junk syllables.

These are the days when you wish your bed was already made

I don’t make my bed unless I’ve got lots of extra time. First I shower, then I make my coffee, then I drink my coffee while I’m catching up on Facebook or watching cat videos, then I get dressed, and so on down the checklist of things I do every morning. Making my bed is the last thing on the list. If I don’t get to it, no biggie.

Anyway, you tell us later in the song that your boyfriend’s not working. Tell that shiftless bastard to make the bed. It’s the least he can do while he’s mooching off you.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

I’m still not getting why it’s manic, other than it’s Monday and you’re making the shift from the weekend to the working week. Elvis Costello did it a lot better, by the way. You’ve got to do it, so you’d better get to it.

Have to catch an early train, got to be to work by nine, and if I had an aeroplane I still couldn’t make it on time

Okay, you’re not making sense again. You woke up at six o’clock. Most people don’t wake up that early unless an alarm goes off. You set an alarm for six, right? This is what you do every day, right? If so, how did you not have enough time to catch the early train? How early does that train have to be? How far away do you live from work that you couldn’t get there in time even if you flew, for shit’s sake?

And “aeroplane?” Are you kidding me? Who says “aeroplane” anymore? You’re padding again. Knock it off.

‘Cause it takes so long just to figure out what I’m going to wear.
Blame it on the train ’cause the boss is already there.

Oh. I’m starting to see now. You’re an employee with a record of attendance issues, aren’t you? “Sorry, boss, I missed the train.” “For the third time this month? Sure you did.”

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Buy some work clothes. Black slacks, white shirts. Wear those every day. Stop thinking about what you’re going to wear and you won’t have to run for the early train any more.

Out of all nights, why did my lover have to pick last night to get down?
Doesn’t it matter that I have to feed the both of us, employment’s down?
He tells me in his bedroom voice, “Come on honey, let’s go make some noise.”

Wait a sec, why does he get to pick? You’re the working girl, you pay the rent, you bring home the bacon. This guy’s got it made! He’s getting all of that and you’re staying up late for him when he wants nookie! Even when he uses a laugh-out-loud line like “let’s go make some noise.” Does a line like that really work? I can’t believe that works.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Those have got to be the worst rhymes for Monday ever.

Manic Monday | 4:51 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, yet another rant
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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Woke up this morning, rubbed the sleepers from my eyes, tumbled out of the van and went staggering up the road to the office-slash-general store to get a cup of coffee.

Halfway back to our camp site I slowed to a stop as I caught sight of B standing just outside the van, binoculars in hand, getting quickly back into the van and closing the door behind her.

Turning to see what she might possibly be looking at that would make her seek the safety of the car, I noticed an elk standing among the trees. Then I noticed a couple more elk just beyond the edge of the treeline. And then, finally, I noticed there was a whole freaking herd of elk slowly making its way through the field just beyond the edge of the RV park. Okay, so I missed them at first. I bet you’re not exactly Old Eagle Eye before you’ve had your coffee, either.

We found out later that they come though almost every day. And they’re used to having lots of people around. They weren’t in the least spooked by us, and a few of them came startlingly close as they made their way through an open field to the trees on the other side.

elks

Elk, by the way, are huge. You don’t realize just how big they are until one of them is close enough to spit in your eye. Or stomp you like the bug you are.

After the excitement was over and we had all our crap packed up, we hit the road to look for some breakfast. On the way, we stopped at the entrance to Redwood National Park to take a few selfies with the notices that the park was closed due to the federal government shutdown. I was on vacation, so why did I care? Oh, I am so glad you asked. Because: Of all the places in California I’ve wanted all my life to visit, Redwood National Park was in the top five. This was my third visit to California, but only the first time I was close enough to the park to stop by. And what happens? The doot-brains in Washington get into a pissing contest and shut down everything, even the parks. When the feds shut down a park, they don’t just tell the guys in the Smokey hats to take the week off. No. They make the rangers set up sawbucks to block the entrances, then stand outside them and turn away visitors. No trees for you! Natural beauty is off limits this week! Thanks, federal government, for availing yourself of yet another opportunity to reinforce my opinion that you’re a sack of bastards.

You know what? We camped in one of your goddamn campgrounds anyway. Up yours!

government shutdown

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. We stopped at Antlers the last night we camped in California and found three or four other campers at the site who said all the forest rangers packed up and left when the feds shut everything down. Before they left, though, they told the campers that what they didn’t see, didn’t happen. The bathrooms were open and the lights were on, so we slipped thirty bucks under the door of the office and stayed for the night. The photo I took of My Darling B expressing her outrage at The Man for shutting everything down was too good not to share it with you at this point in the story, though. Now, back to Wednesday.

We had breakfast at the Palm Cafe and Hotel in Orick, and it was amazing! Their hospitality was top-rate from the moment we walked in the door. The host greeted us right away and showed us to a table by the window in the morning sunshine where he poured us a couple mugs of hot coffee and made sure they never got cold the whole time we were there. B zeroed in on the biscuits & gravy, her very favorite thing to order any time it appears on the menu, and she was very happy with the freshly-made biscuits and generous portion of gravy she got. I had a stack of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever been privileged to stuff myself silly with. We were both well and truly serensified by the time we climbed back into the van to hit the road.

Welcome to OregonFrom Orick we went straight north, or as straight as the twisting road would let us, planning to make as few stops as possible until we got to Crescent City to fuel. We made a hard right turn onto State Highway 199 out of Crescent City and crossed into Oregon shortly afterwards, making a big loop just over the border through the town of Grants Pass before heading south again.

Grants Pass, by the by, is probably not a place that you’ve ever heard of but was made famous, or maybe infamous, by the initiation of Tony Roberts into a club known as Mountain Man Anonymous in 1993. To become a member of the club, Tony let one of the club members try to shoot a one-gallon fuel can off his head with an arrow. The arrow went a little south of the mark. “Surgeons removed the arrow from Anthony Roberts’ head by drilling a larger hole around the tip at the skull’s back and pulling the arrow through,” the AP story explained, which has to be the single most ewww-inducing sentence ever printed in an Associated Press news item. I used to carry it around in my wallet for years so I could read it to people just to watch them squirm.

We did not plan to go to Grants Pass just so I could be in the place where this happened; it was just a lucky accident.

We made one stop at Medford to visit the Apocalypse Brewery, but they weren’t open, darn it, and didn’t open until four o’clock, too late for us to hang around and still make it to the show in Ashland we were headed for, so I can’t say anything about their beer, too bad. If you go looking for it, it’s really hard to find because it’s at the back end of a business park in what looks like a U-Store-It unit. Don’t give up until you check behind the fast-food store.

Caldera Brewery Ashland OROnward to Ashland where, after driving all freaking day, we stopped for a much-deserved beer and some food at Caldera Brewing, a brewpub in a cavernous metal barn where hundreds if not thousands of beer bottles are lined up on shelves up the wall. I spent way too much time searching them to see if I could find two that were alike, then gave up after the food arrived.

Before heading into town to see the show, we checked in at Glenyan campground, an old KOA that still has the easily recognizable teepee-shaped front office. I still feel a happy little twinge of nostalgia whenever I see one of those. My family used to stop at KOAs whenever we went on our annual winter camping trip to the warmer climes of the southern states. A lot of the campsites at Glenyan were occupied by big RV trailers, most of them with pop-outs and most of them more or less permanently affixed to the property, making the tightly-packed grounds seem even cozier, but we were there just to stay the night. All we wanted, really, was a place to park and go to sleep. They let us use the rec room to charge our phones and tablets even though everything else was shut down or turned off, so bonus points, Glenyan, and thanks!

The show we were going to see in town was Cymbaline, just one of the many shows being staged at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We picked Cymbaline because we hadn’t seen it before and because it was presented on their Elizabethan stage, an open-air theater encircled by the audience seats, sort of like the old Globe Theatre in London. Figured that would be a more authentic Shakespearian experience, somehow.

There was a stage just outside the theater where a local and apparently well-loved band was performing a few of their own numbers just prior to the start of Cymbaline, so we hung around outside the doors to see what they were like. I’m not sure how to describe their music without resorting to clichés like “drug-induced” and “hippy-dippy weirdo with a side order of dissonance.” I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it bothered me, either. Mostly, I was just bored with it. Not so the gathered crowd; they lapped it up and cheered for more, which made me feel as though I was somehow missing something. I kept listening for it, whatever it was, but I never got it.

Because the theater was open to the weather, naturally it rained on us. Quite a lot. We had seats right up front by the stage, which would have been the greatest if they hadn’t been out in the middle of the open roof. “I’m sure it’s going to stop any minute now,” B kept saying to me, as we were slowly being soaked through to our bones, and once or twice it did seem to be letting up just a bit, but then it would start coming down again, and of course it seemed like it was coming down a little bit harder, but that was probably only because we were already wet, chattering and miserable.

We eventually found an usher and begged him to change our seats for a couple in the shelter of the balcony, which would’ve been great if we weren’t already sodden as disrags, but since we were, we slowly froze all the way through to our cores as the first two acts played out. At intermission, we ducked out to the car, cranked up the heater as high as it would go and headed back to camp where we huddled together in a tightly-knotted ball under the quilts. I didn’t start to feel warm again until just before daybreak.

California Day 6 | 8:06 pm CST
Category: brewpubs, food & drink, restaurants, travel, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

A man walks into a bar and orders a martini.

And the bartender asks him, “Any preference of vodka?”

The man walks out.

This is not a joke. It’s what you do if you cross paths with a bartender – a bartender, for shit’s sake! – who thinks a martini is made with vodka.

The man, not incidentally, was chef and writer Michael Ruhlman, so we’re not talking about just another martini snob. Okay, he is, by definition, a martini snob, but he’s got more qualifications for having an opinion about it than most people. So when he Mr. Ruhlman says, “The “vodka martini” should be referred to as a Kangaroo, “vodkatini,” or as one Twitterer suggested Lousy-tini,” you should take note.

perfect | 5:13 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, August 19th, 2013

We went to see 2 Guns last night because My Darling B wanted to see a flick with lots of action that didn’t require a lot of thought. We certainly got what we were after. And I don’t mean that like it’s a bad thing. In almost all of the right ways, it was a wonderful popcorn movie.

Speaking of popcorn, a trip to the snack bar for two buckets of popcorn and two bottles of water ran up a grand total of $22.75. The tickets cost $20.00. They’re not even pretending that this is about the entertainment any more, are they?

priceless | 6:45 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, movies, play, yet another rant
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Saturday, June 29th, 2013

I’m beginning to despair that I will never be able to read the news again without having to look at Paula Deen’s freakishly bright smile hovering over some story about how she lost yet another endorsement or book deal. It’s only been going on for, what, a week? Feels like ETERNITY. Our language needs a word for shit that’s been in the news forever despite no longer being, you know, news.

paula dean | 7:58 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, June 10th, 2013

I was sitting here just now, gazing out the window at the misty morning as I sipped piping hot joe from an oversized cup, wondering where the hell the weekend went already. Last week was like drowning for five days straight, smothered in a sea of dumbassery (special thanks to Charlie Pierce for my new favorite word) and only breaking the surface to take a breath come Friday. Breath taken, it now seems to be Monday morning already, so I repeat: Where the hell did the weekend go? I’ll take my answer off the air, thank you.

lost weekend | 5:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, April 29th, 2013

Here’s a headline you just can’t ignore: “Karzai’s Office Gets Bags Full of C.I.A. Cash” (the online version of the story is headlined “With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan,” which isn’t nearly as eye-catching, if you ask me).

That’s not hyperbole:

For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plast shoppingg bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president – courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Bags of cash. Literally.

“There is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought,” the article goes on. “Some American officials said, … ‘The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”

The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.

Bags of cash! Wads of it, stuffed in bags! We’re not gonna do the electronic transfer to the secret Cayman Island bank account that we will later pretend we have no knowledge of – tiptoeing around like that is for sissies! We’re going to drop off a shopping bag filled with wads of cash every so often. Or, when there’s too much cash for a shopping bag to hold, we’ll stuff it in a suitcase! You’re welcome!

bags! of cash! | 7:36 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013

neenerHave you stockpiled supplies for The Day After The Sequester? Because that’s tomorrow, you know. If you didn’t have the foresight to make sure there were a couple extra cases of gin, whiskey and vodka in your basement, you messed up big time. I’m not coming home without a 2-liter bottle of soda water and a glacier-sized bag of ice from the corner store so that, when the power goes out at midnight, I’ll be on my second or third mixer. Then as the house slowly cools because the furnace isn’t running and the sun rises on chaos in the streets, I’ll just snap a nipple over the mouth of a vodka bottle and nurse myself into oblivion. With any luck, an alcohol-induced coma will force me to stop wondering how our country ended up being run by a pack of infants.

“Your plan to balance the budget is stupid!”

“No, your plan is!”

“Nuh-uhhh! Yours is the stupid plan!”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, stupid!”

*sigh* Pass the whiskey.

infants | 5:59 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Have you heard of this sequester thingy they’re doing in Washington DC? It’s basically like the time that Jim, Spock, Scotty and Bones threatened to destroy the Enterprise when a couple of bad guys wanted to take it over. Each one of them had to tell the computer, very slowly and deliberately, not to mention boringly, to blow up the ship by reciting their names, birth dates, serial numbers, and secret identity codes. Very. Very. Oh. So. Very. Slowly. And the bad guys just stand there and let them do it. If they’d have punched Scotty in the throat, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the computer his secret code and Kirk wouldn’t have been able to pretend he wanted to blow up the Enterprise. Even weirder, one of the bad guys (Frank Gorshin, it turned out) could shoot hot blue electric lightning from his fingertips, which he used later to fry the computer so Kirky and the boys couldn’t do that self-destruct thing any more. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans and Democrats who wish they had that superpower.

Or better yet, Frank Gorshin himself could walk through the halls of congress zapping senators and representatives right out of their socks with hot blue electric lightning bolts until they stop trying to make the government self-destruct and get back to work. That would be awesome!

gorshin | 6:03 am CST
Category: current events, television, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

I flew down to Arkansas last weekend to visit Mom. I used a web service to book my flight because I know bugger-all about that sort of thing. For instance, I was naive enough to think that I could simply call the airline on the phone and ask them to book a flight for me. They’ll do that, but they’ll also charge twice what an on-line agency charges without mentioning that teensy tiny little factoid.

I ended up booking a flight through a web service that helped me find the airport near the town where Mom lives. When I searched for flights into the nearest airport, it spat out a list of a couple dozen, showed how much they cost, where they had layovers and how long the flights took. Since the prices were all about the same, give or take ten dollars, I picked the ones that I would have to spend the shortest time on. The only way to fly is the quickest.

I flew down to Arkansas on American Airlines. That flight went very well. We boarded on time, we arrived at O’Hare on time with more than an hour between flights so I didn’t have to run from one end of the airport to the other to catch my connecting flight, which also boarded and landed on time.

I flew back from Arkansas on United Airlines. That flight did not go well AT ALL.

I got to the airport an hour and a half before I was supposed to board, leaving me plenty of time for a proper Wisconsin good-bye. Mom and I hung out in the terminal lobby chatting for a solid twenty minutes before we hugged and kissed and then talked a little longer about the next time I’d visit. Then we chatted a bit longer about how nice it was to see one another again. Then one final good-bye before I climbed the stairs to the security checkpoint to take off my coat and shoes, everything but my pants, although that’s probably coming soon.

After I was through the checkpoint and had put all my clothes back on, I consulted The Big Board to see which gate my flight was boarding at. The Big Board said Gate A6, so off I went. There were a few people already waiting when I got there but I snagged a seat near the desk, pulled out a book and settled in to read until they called for the first group.

They usually start boarding about a half-hour before the scheduled takeoff time but not only was there no boarding announcement then, there was nobody at the desk, the screen behind the desk was dark and, most crucially, there was no plane at the gate. Felling a tad nervous, I strolled down the hall a ways to double-check The Big Board. My flight was still listed as being at Gate A6 and departing at ten-thirty, right on time. I went back to my seat and tried to read some more, but the persistent lack of anybody at the desk or any information appearing on the screen made me so uneasy that I couldn’t concentrate. I eventually gave up and put the book away.

Fifteen minutes before my plane was supposed to leave, I still didn’t see an actual plane parked at the gate outside the window and there was still nobody at the desk to explain why. I went back to The Big Board: My flight was still scheduled to leave on time, still at Gate A6. Hmmm.

There did seem to be a lot of activity at Gate A5, right next door, where four airline representatives were working at the desk. I didn’t want to bother them, though, because a long line of people were waiting to talk to them. At one point, one of the representatives got on the PA to tell the people in line that they were working as fast as they could to re-book everyone.

When ten-thirty came and went without any further announcements, I went back to The Big Board one last time to check on the status of my flight. The Big Board said that it had departed. At that point I thought, To hell with worrying about bothering people. I stopped one of the representatives when she came over to A6 from A5 to use the computer.

“Excuse me, is this where the flight to Chicago will be boarding?” I asked, showing her my boarding pass.

“No, this is Houston,” she answered, glancing at my pass. “Chicago’s over there.” And she pointed at A5, where the long line of people where waiting.

Oh. Okay. Thanks for announcing that. Good thing I didn’t need to ask.

I went next door to Gate A5 and, flashing my boarding pass, asked the woman behind the counter if this would in fact be the gate where the flight to Madison would be boarding. She said yes, it would, so I stood to one side while she fiddled with the computer while answering questions from a bunch of other people.

When she announced that they would begin boarding the aircraft for the flight to Madison, she used a flight number that was not the flight number on my boarding pass. Marching back up to the desk with my boarding pass held out in front of me again I asked her, “Excuse me, you said this was the flight to Madison? Which flight is it?”

She looked at my boarding pass, then at her computer, and then she picked up the microphone again and announced that the flight to Madison – and here she said my flight number this time – would begin boarding.

Sweet Jesus.

We took off forty-five minutes later than we were supposed to, yet somehow we arrived in Chicago only twenty minutes late. I’m not sure how they pulled that off, but I’m not going to complain about that, especially considering what happened next.

The flight pulled up at Terminal F. I went straight off the plane up to The Big Board to find where my connecting flight was supposed to board. It said F12, right down the hall, but when I got there the screen behind the desk said that the flight was going to Frankfort, Kentucky, so once again I held out my boarding pass and asked the guy behind the counter where I could find the flight to Madison.

“Oh, yes, let me just check,” he said, tapping keys on his keyboard. “Ah, I don’t seem to have your name here … wait a minute … oh, yes, this is the flight to Frankfort. You’re on the flight to Madison. They’re a little different, Kentucky and Wisconsin.”

Oh! Hello! We have a comedian! Very funny! Hah! Hah! Hah!

“I get that, thanks. Where can I catch the flight to Madison?”

“Right over there,” he said, pointing to the next gate over.

“No, this flight’s going to Georgia,” the lady behind the desk at the next gate said. “To get to Madison you’ll have to catch the flight at Gate B1.”

Sweet Jesus Christ on a bicycle.

So, with less than twenty minutes to spare, thanks to the comedian, I had to run from Terminal F to Terminal B. I’m pretty sure they’re in separate counties because I barely arrived on time to catch my connecting flight to Madison, a flight so short that they didn’t serve drinks or I would have bought at least two and as many as six before getting into a fight with a flight attendant and ending up being led off the tarmac in handcuffs, so maybe that’s the one thing that went right on that whole trip.

flight risk | 9:20 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Mom, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I’m not sure I understand one of the arguments against the regulation of guns. Help me out here.

I’ve read on teh intarwebs that The Most Holy Second Amendment says that we, the people, should all be allowed to have guns so we can shoot tyrants. Either my copy of the bill of rights is completely different from everyone else’s, or it’s the same but I’ve had a stroke that swapped around the meanings of all the words in my head, because I don’t see how the second amendment says that at all. There’s something about a militia, security, bearing arms, but no mention of shooting tyrants.

Assuming that it does, though, and that a citizen’s right to own as many guns as he wants of any kind is absolute: What, exactly, is the objection to registering guns? The one I’ve heard used most often is, if we let the government keep a list of everyone who owns guns, then the guns can be speedily taken away when the tyrants take over. But if one of the reasons for owning a closet full of guns is shooting tyrants, then when the tyrants show up to take the guns, wouldn’t they just get shot? Or am I not understanding how the ‘shoot the tyrant’ thing works?

what then | 10:09 am CST
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Saturday, January 12th, 2013

There are lots of reasons I’d rather not argue about guns — excuse me, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “argue,” I meant to say “join the conversation about guns.”

It’s not that I don’t like guns. I do. I’m a gadget geek all the way down to my bones. As far as I’m concerned, guns in almost all their incarnations are some of the coolest gadgets ever contrived by the human mind. They’re shiny; the best ones have lots of moving parts; they make enough noise to thrill just about anybody; and, if you have a really good gun and you practice every day, you can hit the bull’s eye of a target a mile away. Don’t try to tell me that’s not cool, because I won’t listen.

On the flip side, most guns are made to do just one thing: Kill people, immediately, from a safe distance. Not cool at all. A very douchey thing to do, when it comes down to brass tacks. If you want to kill someone, man up and do it with your bare hands. Argue all you want about how you need to kill people with a gun, but I won’t listen to that, either.

Which brings me to the most important reason I’d rather not argue about guns: I don’t want to get shot. Arguing about guns seems to elevate the blood pressure of the people doing the arguing. I’m not saying there’s going to be a shooting in every argument, I’m just saying it’s a lot more likely in a heated argument where you can be pretty sure at least one side has a gun. You can just have that argument between yourselves while I go play with my toys in my basement lair. You’re always welcome to join me, of course. Don’t bring your gun, though.

That said, I’m going to argue anyway. Shoot me.

My argument, in fact, is with Thomas Jefferson, who gets dragged into this “conversation” by way of his famous quote about the tree of liberty:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

It’s a strange quote to invoke, not least because I would think that patriots wouldn’t like it implied that they’re full of the same kind of shit you’d find in tyrants. It’s one of those metaphors that sounds all lofty and highfalutin, but only if you don’t think about it too much.

If you’re going to quote one of the founders in support of your argument in favor of taking up arms against the government, it seems to me that Jefferson is probably not your best choice, either. You might consider quoting somebody like Washington instead. A guy who will sneak up on the enemy in the middle of the night and kill them in their sleep, on Christmas, carries a little more weight than a career politician who picks up a pen instead of a gun and writes a few grand words now and then about how great it would be if somebody else did the rebelling. There’s my two cents on that.

The rebellion Jefferson was talking about in this quote above is not the American revolution, but Shay’s Rebellion. Shay led a bunch of armed citizens on a raid of a federal armory. He gets a lot of credit for moxie, but his rebels got stomped like bugs, and Shay’s Rebellion, instead of warning the country’s rulers not to fuck with armed citizens, pushed them instead in the direction of a stronger federal government. Maybe I’m getting the wrong message here, but I feel like that’s a story you’d want to stay away from if you’re arguing for less government, particularly when, four years later, Washington used his newly-ratified constitutional powers to stomp some more rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion and, not incidentally, make him more badass than before.

It seems to me that armed uprisings aren’t all that Jefferson seems to think they’re cracked up to be. I wonder how he’d feel about rebellions if he’d fought in one? I could be wrong, but maybe he’d have put it the way Major General Smedley Butler did:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Butler was a badass Marine. And a two-time Medal of Honor winner. And his name was Smedley. Nuff said.

smedley | 8:35 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

We got to talking about Wayne LaPierre’s proposal that there ought to be armed guards in every school in the nation, and came up with a little back-of-the-envelope business plan for Nationwide Public School Armed Security Service that just might work because, really, this ought to be done with private security guards. They’re easy to license and, best of all, we could put a lot of combat veterans to work almost immediately because most states accept the military training that veterans received to satisfy the requirements for being an armed guard. Besides, police would be much more expensive to train and payroll.

There are something like a hundred thousand public schools across the land. Some of them are so small they’re probably need only one or two armed guards, but some of them are absolutely huge, big enough to need maybe a dozen or more armed guards. I don’t know what the average would be, but for the sake of argument we’re going to say it would average out to five armed guards in each school any time there were students present. That’s half a million armed guards per shift.

There’d have to be at least two shifts. We’d have an early shift to sweep and secure the school each morning, looking for attackers who might have hidden themselves in the vents or utility closets, and a late shift to stand watch after classes, while the kids are at football practice, playing basketball games, that sort of thing.

In larger schools, it’d probably be prudent to have a third, smaller shift to keep the building secure at night. Let’s say an average of two per school. And we’ll need at least another hundred thousand guards nationwide to cover for the guards who get sick, or need a day off to get the car fixed. Altogether, there’d be an immediate need for at least 1,300,000 armed guards

That many guards working forty hours a week for thirty-six weeks is 1,872,000,000 hours. Private security guards around these parts get about twelve dollars an hour. I imagine they get more in big cities, but it probably averages out to twelve when you include schools way out in the country. If we make them pay for their own uniforms and guns, we can keep the annual payroll under $23 billion.

Add another twenty percent for overhead and we’re up to $27.6 billion … round it up to, say, $30 billion to include the costs of setting the whole thing up. Sounds very doable to me. I can’t imagine that public schools would have any trouble anteing up when the safety of their kids is at stake. And after we put armed guards in every public school and the shooters move on to other crowded places like churches and restaurants, we take ‘public school’ out of the name of our business and branch out. Want to get in on the ground floor? Call me.

The LaPierre Plan | 5:25 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night watching Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a television show so special it went straight to YouTube before they broadcast it on the SyFy Network.

In a few words: Looks great, stupid as hell. Or how about this: War movie cliche mashup in space. And there’s this: Badly written, and the lead actor is a block of wood.

Back to looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots!

But then, stupid as hell: Space ships in flames. Uh, flames? In space? Well, duh. Looks great, stupid as hell.

And, looks great: Um. Well, space ships, of course, in outer space. And robots. Um. Did I mention outer space?

Back to stupid as hell: Killer robots that lurch and shamble into combat like old-school zombies. Every once in a while one of them squashes an expendable extra, but only because he was too stupid to get out of the way of the killer robot, who snuck up on the humans even though it goes whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

But I stuck with it to the end, or the almost-end, because there’s one more ten-minute YouTube episode that won’t be released until Friday. I’ll probably watch that, too, even if I have to stay up late.

BSG | 8:55 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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Saturday, November 24th, 2012

It appears that my weekend will begin with a plumbing emergency.

After brewing the morning pot o’ coffee, I tramped down the stairs to the basement to check on the two batches of beer that were still happily fermenting away on the work bench. As I passed the basement sink, the dark, wet stain around the drain caught my eye. The only way that stain could be there, I said to myself, is if water came up from the drain. There’s a part of my brain that likes to taunt the rest of me with thoughts like this at early hours of the morning.

I tramped back up the stairs, turned on the faucet in the kitchen and left it running, then went back downstairs. Yep. Water coming up from the drain. Terrific.

So that means I’ll spend an hour or so hauling out the hoses, breaking apart drain pipes, mucking out the sewer stack and getting very, very wet. I hate plumbing emergencies. Hate ’em.

To make the morning even less enjoyable, I seem to have slept with my head cocked at just the right angle to make it impossible for me to turn and look in a certain direction. If I do, one or two of the muscles in my neck threatens to spasm and lock my head permanently cranked all the way around to the right. I’d give all the money in my piggy bank right now for a powerful muscle relaxant, or to have Arnold Schwarzenegger twist my head off the way he’s done to the bad guys in just about every action movie he’s ever been in.

twists | 6:53 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

And the greatest arrogance of all: Save the planet! What? Save the planet? We haven’t learned how to care for one another, but we’re going to save the planet? Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine! The people are fucked. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great! The planet’s been here four and a half billion years! We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand, maybe two hundred thousand years? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, solar flares, sunspots, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of cosmic bombardment by comets, asteroids, meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … and we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere – we are! We’re going away! The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas! The planet will be here for a long, long long time after we’re gone. The air and water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, then the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: The Earth Plus Plastic! The earth doesn’t share our prejudice about plastic. Plastic came out of the earth! The earth probably sees plastic as another one of its children! Could be the only reason it allowed us to spawn in the first place! It wanted plastic. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to that age-old philosophical question: Why Are We Here? Plastic.
 
– George Carlin

 

plastic | 6:00 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I watched the presidential debates Tuesday night, not because I was interested in listening to the same old crap coming out of the mouths of the candidates but, honestly, because I felt guilty about not taking a more active part in the democratic process. What did I learn? Something very important, really. It turns out I can’t stand either one of the candidates for president.

This is no surprise, by the way. I did not tune in to the debates thinking that either one of them would change my mind on anything. I’m not likely to vote for the smug, self-important Republican candidate any more than I’m likely to vote for the disconnected, blah blah Democratic candidate. Neither one of the choices who get top billing fire me up, and the other candidates (Quick! Name one!) leave me just as indifferent, but there’s enough of my fifth-grade teacher’s civic pride stuck in my hindbrain to make me feel bad that I don’t at least pretend to pay attention to what’s going on in the national political realm. Also, I knew My Darling B wanted to watch, so I fired up a laptop, found a good live feet on teh intarwebs and plugged in a set of external speakers so we could watch from the sofa with a couple cold beers.

Thank goodness for alcohol, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Is there currently a more uninspiring speaker in the political area, other than Reince Priebus, than our sitting president? This question has come up in every administration since G.H.W. Bush (without the part about the guy with the made-up name) and the answer, every time, has been “no.” Sometimes Mr. Obama can rev up a crowd, but whatever makes the magic happen seems to be dependent on the barometric pressure, or the pizza he ate. The pundits all seem to think he did rather well on Tuesday, but I was watching and it looked to me as if his performance was at best lackluster. If I’d been standing where he was standing I would’ve punched that Romney guy right in the nose on at least three different occasions. Bam! “Who’s a failure now, punk, huh?” If Mr. Obama had done that, I’d respect him a lot more today.

I’ve got to admit, Mr. Gotta Have The Last Word put on a pretty good show. Too bad I can’t believe a single thing he says, because in order to do that he would have to tell us how he thinks he’s going to balance the budget. “I know how to do it,” he kept saying, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!” But he never explained how he would herd the cats in Congress together to make that happen. Every president since Jimmy Carter has said he’s going to balance the budget, but from what I can remember off the top of my head the only one who pulled off a budget surplus was President Gropius Maximus. I’m pretty sure that was done with smoke and mirrors, though, because how can you balance a trillion-dollar budget? Anything with the word “trillion” in it isn’t a budget. It’s an accounting nightmare.

That wasn’t what bugged me most, though. What bugged me most was the countdown clocks. Did you see the countdown clocks? If you did, would you please tell me what they were for? They didn’t seem to be there for the benefit of the candidates. No matter how bitterly they complained about the other guy’s time, each of them was loath to stop rambling when they could plainly see on any one of the dozen or so clocks in the room that the countdown had reached zero, and the moderator was just as reluctant to mention it to either of them. What were those clocks for? I never did figure it out.

There’s one more presidential debate on the calendar, but I’m not sure that all the beer in Milwaukee would make me feel numb enough to sit through it.

debates | 5:45 am CST
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I would be such a terrible moderator for presidential debates.

“Let’s stay on topic, please.”

“Would you please answer the question, sir?”

“Stick to the facts without trying to spin them, please.”

“Hold on: Do you have any statistics on that?”

“Time, sir.”

“Time, gentlemen.”

“Time, goddammit, time! TIME!”

moderation | 5:39 am CST
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Monday, September 24th, 2012

There’s something so wrong about using the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter to sell crappy beer.

image of an advertisement on a city bus

rosie | 6:09 am CST
Category: beer, current events, daily drivel, food & drink, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

I got a phone call from a moocher this morning. Stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign, or make the most of technology and call me on the phone; either way, you’re just a moocher if you’re begging me for money.

It was so unusual for the phone to ring any time before nine o’clock that I picked it up, in contravention of my rule never to answer the land-line because only telemarketers call us at that number. We keep a land-line only because I’m stuck in the past and have an old rotary phone. I can dial it, and the handset has the reassuring texture and heft of bakelite that can’t be faked by any plastic phone. Also, it’ll work when the power goes out, and it weighs in at about ten pounds. Clock somebody over the head with that and they’re going down! You may be able to tuck a cell phone in your pocket and use it to make calls from anywhere, but as self-defense weapons they suck.

Anyway, I answered the phone even though I knew in the back of my mind that I really shouldn’t have. The caller asked if My Darling B was home, and I gave the usual response to that question when asked by a voice I wasn’t familiar with: She’s not available right now. May I take a message?

“Are you a member of the household?” There’s another red flag that you’re talking to a telemarketer. But I thought I’d play along with him for the moment, so I said yes.

“Well, then I can direct this call to yourself,” he said cheerily. Sounds like somebody didn’t pay attention in English when they were studying the use of the reflexive, assuming students even study English in school any longer. A lot of the e-mail I get seems to suggest they haven’t for years, or, if they do, the bar is set so low that Tyrion Lannister would have trouble limboing under it. (Geek joke, sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

“I’m calling on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” he began, “and this call will be recorded for training purposes. Did you know that for only twenty-five dollars —”

I stuck with him that long only to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity to take part in a national poll, which I wouldn’t miss for anything, given they’re much more significant than my one paltry vote. As soon as he flipped up his little cardboard sign (I WORK FOR POLITICIANS PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS), I dropped the handset in the cradle without a word.

You need twenty-five dollars? Go ask your lobbyists.

moocher | 9:51 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, play, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently there’s this election coming up? If you haven’t heard, then I’m just going to assume you don’t have a television or radio and you live miles from anyone who does and you don’t have a car and you never talk to anybody and, as far as you’re concerned, the rest of the world can go to hell and you’re never coming down out of your tree again. Did I get it right? Would you mind if I climbed up into the tree next to yours? Just for a little while. You can show me how to hunt for squirrels and then I’ll go find a tree far away from yours, promise. Just don’t make me stay here and listen to Romney and Obama and Ryan and Whatshisname bicker until November. I can’t take two more months of their crap.

can’t wait till it’s over | 5:35 am CST
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Monday, August 20th, 2012

Whoah. What the hell is this? It must be Dr. No’s man cave! Who else but a mad scientist would need to know the time in five time zones as he relaxes in the basement of his volcano island headquarters after a long day of scheming his way towards world domination? Who else but an evil genius would combine indirect fluorescent lighting with recessed multicolored spotlights? Who but the evil Dr. No would even think of setting an ultramodern glass-topped coffee table with chrome legs in a room with a ceiling criss-crossed by faux rough-hewn timbers? And who the hell but a stark-raving lunatic would have a potted fern – a fern! – in his man-cave?

Of course, Dr. No would have done it all in white instead of camel-shit brown, but otherwise it’s evil genius all around.

playground | 5:51 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

image of pint glassesI check out the shelves of the thrift store at Saint Vincent de Paul’s at least once a week. It’s just a few blocks from the office where I work and I need to get out of that office and take a walk every day or my head will asplode and the cleaning crew hates it when that happens, so I wander around the neighborhood. At least once a week, my wanderings take me past St. Vinnie’s, so I stop in.

And a find like the one I found yesterday is exactly why I keep stopping in. There, on the bottom shelf, almost completely hidden behind a row of novelty “pint” glasses with the label of a boring beer emblazoned across them, I could just make out the top of what appeared to be an oversized beer glass, so I stooped over to get a closer look. And a good thing I did, because there were four of them – a set! And they were actual pint glasses, not those fake pints that every hip craft beer brewpub is serving beer in.


image of pint glasses

Do you see the difference? Do you see? The glass on the left is what bars nowadays are calling “pint glasses” and the glass on the right is an actual pint! It holds sixteen ounces of beer or water or other fluid, which is the dictionary effing definition of a pint. Two pints in a quart. Four quarts in a gallon. It’s a measure, it’s not a hip way to describe a beer glass.

If you still doubt, here’s a little experiment you can do the next time you’re in a bar: Order a bottle of beer and ask for a “pint” glass. Most beer comes in twelve-ounce bottles. Pour the beer into the glass. Do you see?

Why am I getting all wrapped around the axle about this? Because in more than one of the bars I’ve visited, the price they charge for bottled beer is less than the price they charge for the same beer served in a “pint” glass. That ain’t right. Also, I’m kind of a didactic asshole. It shouldn’t be called a pint if it’s not.

Anyway, I found these great glasses at St. Vinnie’s and I was really jazzed about it and it turned into a rant. Sorry about that. It jazzed me because I bottle my own beer in pints and for a while all we had in the house were those fake “pint” glasses and I couldn’t pour a whole bottle of beer, so when I finally got my hands on a pair of real pint glasses I felt well and truly chuffed the first time I could pour off a whole bottle of homebrew without mixing any of the yeast at the bottom of the bottle with the clear, delicious brew. And ever since then I’ve been looking for real pint glasses, and that’s why yesterday’s find was so drop-dead awesome. Come by and I’ll pour you a pint.

pints | 6:13 am CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, hobby, homebrewing, play, yet another rant
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Hello, and welcome to “Rhetorical Phrases That Have Got to DIE!” Today’s Phrase: “The American People don’t approve of the direction in which the country is heading.”

Hey, American People, guess what? The country is a vast blacktop of rock oozing up from a gash in the earth near Iceland, and it’s unstoppably headed toward a gash in the earth on the Pacific Coast line, where it will be CRUSHED AND SWALLOWED BY THE EARTH! And it doesn’t give a wet slap whether or not you approve.

Wait, that’s not what you meant by that empty, rhetorical phrase?

direction | 5:48 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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What a gorgeous day! I think I’ll get the bike out of the garage and take a long, slow ride through the early morning coolness as the sun slowly rises until I get to an office building that’s hermetically sealed off from fresh air and sunshine and I’ll sit in a little room for nine hours while I shuffle papers and answer phone calls. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect way to experience this beautiful, beautiful day. I can’t wait to get started!

gorgeous | 5:48 am CST
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Friday, May 11th, 2012

I’m thinking of opening a store. I would call my store “Dave’s Tough-Shit Store,” because the store’s motto would be, “You think you deserve special treatment? Tough shit.” The motto would be chiseled in stone over the entrance, and over every customer service station you would find it lovingly cross-stitched in crisp linen, framed in gilt oak. All my employees would greet customers with a warm smile and carry out every transaction as professionally as possible, but the moment a customer asked for special treatment of any kind, the employees will smile, point at the motto, wait a moment for the customer to read it, and then ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

That kind of attitude probably won’t bring in as many customers as, say, Wal-Mart gets, but the customers that did come to Dave’s Tough-Shit Store would be the kind of customers I wouldn’t mind having. All the rest can go suck eggs.

tough | 8:26 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, May 7th, 2012

The day I begin to enjoy getting greeting cards “from the dog” is the day I want you to put a big, fluffy pillow over my face and hold it there until I stop struggling.


smothered | 10:29 am CST
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Saturday, April 28th, 2012

As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”

I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.

I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.

This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.

I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam

Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.

But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.

blowin’ | 8:38 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Broccoli. I can’t open a newspaper, switch on the radio, or surf the internet without being reminded of the wisdom of supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, who wonders if the federal government will be forcing us all to buy broccoli soon.

Gee, Mr. Scalia, would that really be so bad for anybody? Considering what the federal government can already force me to do – fork over thirty percent of all the money I make every year, submit to a search every time I want to get on a commercial plane, pick up a gun and kill people – it would seem to me that making us all buy broccoli is, excuse the mixed metaphor, small potatoes.

mandate | 11:30 am CST
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Saturday, February 25th, 2012

My Darling B is trying to work out how much we should pay in sales tax for all the purchases we make on the internet. According to what she found in the tax code, we do not have to pay sales tax for the subscription to the ISP that hosts this blog because we are purchasing a service instead of an intangible product. Weirdly, we do have to pay tax for the songs I buy from Amazon – not CDs, not music downloads, just the ninety-nine cent fee they charge to let me listen to a song. No tangible product is ever handed over. They just provide me with the ability to listen to music on-line, sort of like purchasing a service. Seems like apples and apples to me.

apples | 1:51 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Sunday, February 19th, 2012

OMFG:

Some Wall Street investors made money as the mortgage market boomed; others profited when it fell apart.

Having reaped big gains during both of those turns, Greg Lippmann, a former star trader at Deutsche Bank, is now catching the next upswing: buying the same securities built from mortgages that he bet against before the financial crisis erupted.

Bonds Backed by Mortgages Regain Allure, New York Times

Seriously? Seriously? A worldwide economic collapse wasn’t enough to warn investors not to do this? I don’t know what I’m more disgusted by, the realization that this was never made illegal, the implication that investors seem incapable of learning from their mistakes, or the sad fact that a majority of the nation isn’t out in the streets with pitchforks and torches, bent on revolution.

collapse | 11:57 am CST
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Sunday, January 29th, 2012

“I don’t get art,” My Darling B confessed, as we wandered from room to room at the former Madison Public Library on Saturday night.

All the books and most of the shelves had been removed to a temporary location while they build the new library, and to collect a little extra dough they opened up the empty library building to any and all comers for a party they were calling “Bookless.”

To make it a little more interesting, whoever was in charge of the party invited someone, maybe artists, maybe not, to come in advance of the party, showed them the piles of microfilm, book ends, paper, shelves, ceiling tiles and whatever else was left over, and invited them to get as creative as they knew how. The result could have been art, but wasn’t. Hence My Darling B’s confusion.

Someone tore all the ceiling tiles down and stacked them in a straight column.

Someone taped boxes of microfilm together into cubes.

Someone knocked a hole in the wall, cut out a picture of a building they found in a magazine, and stood the picture up in the hole.

Someone painted a room and the desk in it pink.

Someone piled plush toys in a room.

Someone collected hundreds of metal bookends and stacked them in waves on a window sill. I have to admit I liked that one.

But most of it was not art. “You get art just fine,” I answered B. “This is junk.”

bookless | 9:07 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, yet another rant | Tags:
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012

And now, a summary of every news bulletin, editorial and talking pundit I’ve heard on the radio this week:

Monday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Tuesday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Wednesday: Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Santorum. (Even though they were tied for first. Go figure.)

Wow, am I glad that’s over.

Today, when I turn on the radio: New Hampshire? Are You Kidding Me? This is never going to end, is it?

interminable | 6:41 am CST
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Monday, January 2nd, 2012

A few words about shellac, in case you think you might ever use it to finish and unfinished item of furniture: Don’t do it. But, if you do, don’t underestimate its power to frustrate you.

First of all, it takes forever to dry. The label on the can says you should wait an hour for it to dry before you apply another coat. This implies (at least to me) that it dries in an hour. Not even close. It takes days for shellac to dry enough for you to even touch it without leaving fingerprints all over it. Ideally, you should leave it alone for at least a week because, if you shellac your desk, then wait only a day or two so that it feels as though it’s dry, you will probably make the mistake of setting things on it, things like your computer keyboard and your telephone, which will then become much more permanent parts of your desk than you ever intended. You will become become part of your desk, if you casually lean on it with your elbows while pondering a news article or chatting on the phone, which, after sitting on the desk for a few days, had to be separated from the shellac with a good, strong jerk. I had to stand up to get enough leverage.

The long drying time highlights one of the other problems with shellacking anything: You’ll need a place where you can leave the shellacked item standing out to dry for at least a week. If you’re applying more than one coat, you might as well clear a spot for at least a month.

Another thing that kind of sucks about shellac is that you have to use denatured alcohol to clean up your brushes after you’re done brushing it on. That can be a problem because the can that denatured alcohol comes in looks just like the can that mineral spirits comes in. (Mineral spirits come in? Is/Are mineral spirits singular or plural?) Mineral spirits have no thinning effect at all on shellac. You might as well use water. If you mix up the two cans and use mineral spirits by mistake, and you will, you’ll end up with brushes so firmly shellacked that they could best be used to scrape ice off the windshield of your car once the shellac dries. It dries pretty damned quick when your brush is soaked in it. Go figure.

On the plus side, I very much like the look of a desk finished with shellac, but I would rather have my teeth drilled than use it again.

don’t | 9:08 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, painting, yet another rant
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Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

While I was driving around all weekend I listened to more pop music on the radio that I usually do in a whole month. A whole lot more. So much that I exceeded all my quotas and won’t have to listen to pop music again for at least a year, thank goodness. I think I might have sprained my eardrums.

Flipping between stations, I heard the same song three times on a single afternoon. It turned out to be “Faster” by Matt Nathanson, but I didn’t know that the first time because I caught the end of it and was only half listening. All that really sunk into my brain was the chorus, backed up by a guitar riff so jazzy that I couldn’t help but slap the edge of the steering wheel with my fingers as I sang along:

You own me, you own me
You rattle my bones
You turn me over and over
‘Till I can’t control myself
Make me a liar, one big disaster
You make my heart beat faster

A little further down the road I punched up a different station and caught the song from the very beginning. The guitar riff gave it away. I cranked up the volume to see if I could catch the words and it turned out I could, but it also turned out I didn’t really want to:

You’re so delicious
You’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue
You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum

Oh. My. We have a poet here who knows what the sun tastes like. Talk about the best way to put the brakes on an otherwise decent lyric, this one will be included in the how-to: Start off with a terrific hook, like “You’re so delicious,” then set the hook by adding pure sex, like “you’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue.” Finally, yank on the line as hard as you can and totally lose it by making a comparison that absolutely nobody can experience. If you’re going to drag the sun into a song about sex, there’s heat, there’s sweat, there’s nuclear fire erupting volcanically into the sky, but unless you’ve got a tongue ninety-three million miles long and you slather it with ten million SPF sun block, there’s no taste.

But he wasn’t satisfied with that. He had to go all Rod McKuen on us and compare her to strawberry bubble gum, too. How does anybody over the age of eight think a girl would like being compared to a gob of overly-sweet, spit-soaked glop that ends up a black smudge on the sidewalk? Yuck.

Almost forgot: The third time I heard it was when he sang it during a visit to a radio studio. It sounded even clunkier in the live acoustic version.

I liked this song a lot more before I listened to the words.

faster | 9:56 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Thursday, July 7th, 2011

When I read a headline like “U.S. Warns Of Terrorist Bombs Implanted In Humans,” I have to stop whatever I’m doing and read the story. Because, you know, bombs. In people. Wow.

Short version of the story:

Bombs-in-the body is not a brand new idea, but recent intelligence indicates a fresh interest in using this method, as people-scanning machines in airports aren’t able to detect explosives hidden inside humans. Still, there is no current information that points to a specific plot involving surgically implanted explosives, a U.S. security official said.

Not brand new? Are U.S. security officials getting so jaded by this national security stuff that they can’t come up with shiny new things to scare us with? What the hell are we paying them the big bucks for?

I’m really confused about the point of this story. Or warning. Whatever it is. There are terrorists out there; they’re thinking about hollowing out people and filling the emptiness with explosives; the billion-dollar bomb detectors installed at airports across the country can’t detect these bombs; thank you, and have a nice flight.

Hello, and welcome to O’Hare Airport. Have your bags ever left your possession? Has anybody you don’t know asked you to carry anything onto the flight today? Have you been to a doctor lately that may have implanted explosives inside you?

Is that a bomb in your abdomen or are you just excited about flying American Airlines?

kablammy | 7:57 pm CST
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Monday, June 20th, 2011

I’ve recently become afflicted with old man smell. I’m going to assume you know what I mean by that and just plow ahead with my story. This is going to get pretty gross, so what I’m going to do is babble for a little bit here about how gross it’s going to get so you have a few minutes to think about how badly you want to read this and have plenty of time to bail out before any serious psychological damage has been done, because once you read this it cannot be unread.

If you’re still here, I’m going to assume it’s okay to press on. Any time you spend on your analyst’s couch trying to talk-therapy your way out of what follows is your own responsibility. I won’t be paying for any of it, not because I’m an uncaring asshole, it’s just that I don’t have any money. Sue me from now until the planet Nibiru crashes into Earth and all you’ll get out of me is court costs. It won’t do you any good after an interplanetary collision, anyway.

Still here? Wow, you must be really bored. Well, you asked for it.

It began three, maybe four weeks ago after I had finished a particularly hard day of yard work, mowing the grass and clearing brush and I don’t know what else. Whatever it was, it left me stinking like a wet goat and I was so glad when I was done and I could peel off my sweat-soaked clothes, climb into the shower, scrub all over with plenty of soap, and then stand under the hot running water for ten or fifteen minutes. After a day like that, almost nothing feels as good as a hot shower, don’t you think? I sure did, until that day.

On that day I came out of the shower and, while I was toweling off, I caught a whiff of a sort of moldy smell that I thought was coming from the towel. It was the same towel I’d used the day before, so I didn’t think it was all that unusual. I just grabbed a fresh towel and kept drying myself off. And don’t tell me you’ve never used a towel more than once. If you’ve got the time to wash towels after using them just once, tell me how you do it. I’m just barely keeping up with washing my dirty underwear. Okay, actually I’m not.

A short time after my shower, when I should have still had that really good feeling from being freshly soaped up and washed off, I was sitting in the recliner in the living room with a beer while I watched videos on my laptop of kittens playing in boxes, the tell-tale sign of the imminent collapse of civilization. We have the technology to invent computers small enough to hold in our laps, built by semi-indentured laborers in China, and we’re using this amazing boon to view semi-amusing photos of kittens who speak in leet. In the big scheme of things, interplanetary collision is really not going to be the tragedy we imagine it to be. But I digress, as I always do.

While I was sitting there, suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, at once, without warning, out of nowhere, as if it were a message from the gods, although it was really more like the warning sign of a stroke, I was overwhelmed by the smell of old gym socks. It was so powerful that it distracted me from my kitten video enough to make me turn around to see if someone or something had snuck up behind me and was standing just over my shoulder for the sole purpose of emitting this powerful stench, because I certainly couldn’t believe for an instant it was coming from me. Even after I saw there was nobody else around, I got up out of the recliner and sniffed it, but it just smelled like upholstery. The odor of smelly old socks was gone.

But the smell kept sneaking up on me again and again, and there didn’t seem to be any common trigger. It would come back when I was brushing my teeth, when I was folding the clothes, when I was eating my lunch, when I was picking my nose … in a car, in a plane, in a box, on a plane! I began to smell that smell everywhere! But the time I caught a whiff of it that really blew my mind was when I was squatting on the shitter, pants down around my ankles, thoughts wandering idly around the vacant corners of my mind, enveloped in a cloud of my most vile stink, when I caught a whiff of WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT KIND OF INFERNAL ODOR CAN OVERPOWER POOP?

It drove me so crazy that, at one point, I actually asked My Darling B to smell me. I really didn’t want to, because that’s got to be the last stage of either dementia or decomposition, but I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Would you do me a favor?” I began, and then I realized what I was doing and almost couldn’t finish, except that I was already sort of committed. I guess I could have made up something on the fly, distracted her by chopping off my own hand, anything that wasn’t quite as weird as I was really thinking of doing, but I was so shocked at myself and so weirded out by that smell sneaking up on me again that I just bulled my way through to the question I really wanted to ask her.

My Darling B has a very talented and sensitive sniffer. Even if I’d been emitting a mild odor, she’d be able to detect it. Heck, if I was as rotten as I was starting to believe I was, she should have been able to smell me from another room. I’d been half expecting her to say something to me before now, or at least pinch her nose as she walked past me, but she’s too nice to do something as low as that. But she also happens to be honest to a fault, so if I asked her point-blank to tell me if I smelled like a moldy gym sock, I think she’d do it. So I did.

“Smell me, would you?” I asked, sitting down beside her on the sofa. “Do you smell anything, um, musty?”

Such a look she gave me. Like I asked her to pick my nose. Then, ever so daintily, she leaned in and sniffed. Closed her eyes and thought about it a moment. Sniffed again.

“Nope,” she finally said, and then, because I’d brought it up, she had to ask, “Why?”

Might as well admit it now and get it over with. “I think I’m getting old man smell,”

She sniffed once more. “No, I don’t smell anything.”

Well, if she couldn’t smell it, it wasn’t there, which made me feel worse because the only other rational explanation was that I was going insane. Almost better to have old man smell. I can’t tell you how long I brooded over what it would be like to slowly descend into a madness that would be made up mostly of rotten smells. Can you imagine waking up every day wondering what kind of stink would flood your senses for the next twenty-four hours? It was like that joke about the guy choosing his hell: “Break’s over! Everyone back on your heads!”

Then, early thing morning, I was combing my hair when I caught a whiff of eau de gym socks again and was about to get all freaked out about it, except that I happened to pause with my comb in front of my face and couldn’t help but notice it reeked! My comb stunk to high heaven! It was on my comb! My goddamn comb smelled like rotten old sneakers! And I was combing that stink into my hair! No wonder that smell was haunting me.

And this is how the story ends: All my combs are getting a long bath in a beaker filled with vinegar and won’t be coming out for a long, long time. Happily ever after. The end.

old man smell | 9:21 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

We finally have a law allowing everyone in Wisconsin to stuff handguns down their pants if they want to. This is so very important that the fine people of our state legislature passed this law before they passed a budget.

And of course the law comes with the usual restrictions: You can’t take a gun into a courthouse, or into a school, or past the security checkpoints in an airport. I don’t get that. People who want to carry a concealed handgun have to undergo a background check and must show they’ve been trained, whatever that means. So they’re licensed, they’re trained and they have no criminal record. What’s the reason for restricting them?

bang | 6:36 pm CST
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This literally makes my head hurt: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, listening to testimony regarding man-made climate change, asked a witness if any thought were being given “to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” Ouch. Really? Ouch. Yes, really. Ouch.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not climate change is being aggravated by human activity, I thought that everybody that’s ever been to school knew that trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. I thought everybody knew that trees store carbon dioxide, but emit it as soon as you kill them by cutting them down. I thought everybody knew that there is no way to dispose of a tree that does not emit carbon dioxide.

I thought every person with a basic grade-school education knew these facts. I’m pretty sure I learned about photosynthesis as early as third grade, and I know they threw it at us more than once in grade school, junior high and high school. Just as an aside, it seemed like every time somebody made a film about photosynthesis, and it felt like they did that about once a week, they sent it to our school to try it out on us. Which is why I kind of assumed that anybody with a grade-school education had heard of photosynthesis, but now I’m not so sure.

Maybe Congressman Rohrabacher is not an educated person. Or he went to school but he was sick the day they explained photosynthesis. Or he was there and he read it, but he didn’t believe it. Or, the teachers at the school he went to didn’t explain it because of budget cuts, or because they didn’t believe it, either. The possibilities are endless, really. And they still make my head hurt. Ow.

Mr. Rohrabacher doesn’t believe carbon dioxide causes global warming, as his press statement makes clear (ouch), although the rest of it is confusing. “I simply asked the witness, Dr. Todd Stern, … if he was considering a policy that would address naturally emitted carbon dioxide, which makes up over 90% of emissions.” So even though he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a problem, the amount of naturally emitted carbon dioxide is still a concern, for some reason. Ouch.

ouch | 9:12 am CST
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Friday, May 27th, 2011

I just heard a right-winger and a left-winger on a morning talk show debating the latest political circus acts here in the great state of Wisconsin, the most recent being the enactment of a law requiring citizens to present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, but touching on other topics such as the elimination of collective bargaining for public worker unions and the proposal to allow everyone to carry concealed handguns regardless of whether or not they’re trained to use them. The left-winger and the right-winger had nothing new to say, really; I’ve heard the party positions so many times that it doesn’t make me think about the issues so much as it just pisses me off, so I don’t know why I even listen to their crap any more.

The legislature virtually eliminated collective bargaining because, as the governor repeated endlessly, the state is broke. The voter ID law was enacted to eliminate voter fraud. Oddly, there’s very little evidence of voter fraud in Wisconsin. Evidence from the recent recount backs this up and suggests, in fact, that the procedures used by clerks and poll workers to handle ballots are pretty sloppy, but yeah, let’s enact a multimillion-dollar voter ID law.

Hey, I thought we were broke.

I’m sick and tired of that refrain. State government is not a business. Legislators can raise revenue, or they can lower spending, but the state cannot go broke and there’s no semantic issue of laws being the product, or our vote giving us the same kind of choices that consumers get. I’m a voter, not a consumer, and elected officials are not offering us a product that we have any choice in buying because voting one legislator out of office so that another one can shove his product down our throats is not a choice. They’re not asking us for our input any more, they’re telling us what we have to buy. That’s not business.

And the idea that requiring us to show ID to vote is somehow reasonable because businesses ask us for ID when we cash a check doesn’t wash with me, either. First, same reason as above: The government is not a business. I’m not cashing a check, I’m voting. I should be able to walk in and say ‘aye’ and walk out again. That’s voting. Having to prove who I am before I am even allowed to speak is, well, you know what that is. And if your argument is that a vote is so much more important than cashing a check that I should be in favor of more ID, not less, then my argument right back at you is, if it’s that important, then you shouldn’t be asking for an ID card that anybody with a computer printer can make counterfeit of. A nationwide database of every citizen’s DNA would be the only sure-fire way of proving our identities. Would you be willing to have your throat swabbed every time you cast a vote? Don’t even think of saying yes.

Second, have these legislators even been to a store lately? I haven’t presented my ID card to make a purchase by check or charge in I don’t know how long. Nobody asks me to show ID any more. Card goes in, money comes out. The checker at the Menard’s doesn’t even look at me when I pay with a card.

Third, if the state’s going to require that we present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, then they damn well better provide each and every voter with two kinds of photo ID free of charge. make it possible for every last citizen to acquire two forms of photo ID free of charge. As it is now, a driver’s license, the de facto photo ID issued by the state, costs thirty-five bucks. So now we’re required to pay a fee in order to vote. Ever heard of a poll tax?

Lastly – well, no, not lastly. I’m sure I can think of lots more, and though this may be last for now it is certainly not least: Requiring people to show ID whenever a government employee asks for it is the kind of shit we used to make fun of the Soviet Union for, yet for reasons that I cannot grasp, most Americans think this is okay now. It’s so weird. I enlisted to fight the Cold War, and was told that we won. How did I wake up in the Twilight Zone?

[edited to add the part about free voter IDs – and a tip o’ the hat to My Darling B!]

twilight | 12:00 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Nathan Bootz, Superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools, in an open letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in the Gratiot County Herald

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Fucken A well told.

consider | 7:37 pm CST
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Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Last night, just before we went to bed, My Darling B assured me that we wouldn’t have to worry this year about an aerial assault of our fair city by squadrons of cropdusters spraying yellow shit (otherwise known under the trade name Killer Yellow Shit) to poison all the gypsy moths who so sneakily hide under the branches and leaves of the tress in our neighborhood. I believed her, because she read it on the internet and, as everybody knows, anything you read on the internet is true.

Except this one thing. The skies over our house were buzzing with cropdusters for almost an hour this morning as soon as there was enough daylight to see. I could hear them as soon as I got out of the shower, and as soon as I realized what was going on I toweled off as quickly as I could and went from room to room shutting windows. ‘Cause that keeps all the poison out. Really. And you don’t have to worry about getting any on you when you walk out to your car ’cause it’s perfectly safe, as far as poison goes. And it’s just a little poison. That’s been dumped by the ton from airplanes. On us and our house. And our garden.

dusted | 5:47 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yet another rant
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Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Jumping on the internet bandwagon, here are the few thoughts that buzzed through my brain cell at the sight of TSA goons frisking an eight-month-old baby:

Ah. Well. They’re doing that to be fair. Yeah! That’s the ticket! They grope everybody else, so it’s only fair that they give the baby a patdown, too. Babies aren’t any different from the rest of us! There are lots of really good reasons to pat down a baby. Yeah!

Most Obvious Reason: Baby Splosion Terrorists could shove several pounds of highly-explosive explosives down a baby’s diaper. Heck, after the underwear bomber, diaper could be highly explosive. And the mother could be the terrorist who’s just posing as a mother but she’s not, really, she just bought the baby on craigslist so she could stuff it full of explosives. That could happen.

Or maybe that’s not the most obvious reason. Maybe TSA thinks that terrorists stuffed a gun in the baby’s diaper. Might not be a very big gun, and it would be really gross after it’d been down a baby’s diaper after any length of time, but they’re terrorists, they’re capable of anything.

And, um … uh … I can’t think of any more reasons, but those two are some pretty damn good ones right there! Babies could be highly dangerous to airline travel! You can’t be too careful! This is for your own good!

baby! | 7:40 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A typical truck driver taking a corner, like the one we saw turning on to First Street from Atwood Avenue, both two-lane city roads. The inside wheels of the tractor truck climbed the curb because he cut the turn way too close, not that he was aware of that; a quick flash of the brake lights ratted him out. Then the outside wheels of the tractor ran over the median he hadn’t left enough room to avoid. More brake lights. Finally, the inside wheels of the trailer humped over the corner curb stone again as he lurched around the turn with all the grace of a hippo dancing a ballet. It’s dickheads like this guy who make me pissed that trailer trucks are allowed to use city streets.

On exactly the same street the day before, but one block north, we saw an example of the kind of truck driver who I stand in awe of. He was headed southbound on East Washington Avenue, a six-lane arterial road into the city, and at first I thought he’d switched on his left turn signal by mistake as he drove almost all the way through the intersection before cranking his wheel hard around and folding that big rig like a jackknife. I grabbed the gear shift of my own car out of reflex and glanced in the rear-view mirror to see how far I could back up if I had to, but there was no need. This truck driver was a real artist. The outside wheels of his tractor cleared the curb with room to spare, and the trailer, an oversize sway-back rig loaded down with an excavator or some other piece of heavy construction equipment, never really came close to the outside fender of our car. And he never hesitated, he just glided right into that one lane next to mine and kept on going.

Truck | 7:52 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, yet another rant
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Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Ears: Still ringing. Voice: Intermittent and hoarse. Smile: Still broad and frequent after last night’s concert at the Majestic with Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton.

Paul & Storm did a great set, starting off right this time with “We Are The Opening Band.” They tried mixing it up when they came here once before by opening with another song and didn’t get to “Opening Band” until two or three songs into the set, confusing the hell out of ever fan who came that night. We have never fully recovered, but last night’s concert went a long way toward our hopes for a full rehabilitation someday.

Jonathan Coulton had a back-up band with him last night! So we got to hear lots of old favorites, as well as some new songs, in full rock-out mode. The new songs would have been even more exciting if we’d been able to hear the lyrics … and here I go again into my grumpy old man riff:

Why doe the backing band have to be so goddamned loud? Are there really people who go to a Jonathan Coulton concert who don’t want to hear the words? I find that really hard to believe. Although the music is great, the nerd appeal of the lyrics has to be a huge draw. I snatched a phrase or two out of the cacophony but, for the most part, the new material was completely lost to me. I’ll have to buy the album after it’s released to find out just how great those songs really were. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ploy. Clever, Coulton, very clever.

Not that overblown volume of the concert kept us from enjoying ourselves. My Darling B was dancing in her seat just about the whole concert through, and we had great seats up in the balcony, the same seats we had when we saw this show for the first time, many moons ago. Of all the times I’ve seen them here in Madison I think I liked the show they did at the Barrymore best, but every show has its own pluses and the full-on rock mode of this one added a lot to it.

Full-on | 11:15 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Please, WOLX, please stop playing “The Pina Colada Song.” My generation put that song at the top of the pop song charts so many moons ago, but we never liked that song. We bumped it up the charts by mistake. Haven’t you ever drunk-dialed a request line and asked them to play a song that you knew, even while you were blitzed out of your mind, was so bad it stunk on ice? That’s all we were doing back then. “Hey! Play that song about peeing in a closet! You know, ‘If you like peeing in a closet,’ that one! Whatever! Play it!” It was a joke that’s backfired on us disastrously. How were we to know that, thirty years later, there would be radio stations like yours that would torture us by repeating our drunken pranks over and over, day after day, week after week? Please stop. Please. Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it. Just make it stop.

Stop already | 1:08 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Watching the legislature work is like watching The Three Stooges trying to fix leaky plumbing. Larry does one thing, Shemp does another, Moe wangs them both over the head with a monkey wrench, yelling “Because I said so!” and makes them do it his way. In the next scene the botched job blows up in their faces and they have to start all over again, except this time substitute Shemp with Curly just to make things even more confusing.

We’ve got this new law in Wisconsin, maybe you’ve heard of it. The governor called it his “budget repair bill” and a key piece of it dismantled the state worker’s union, which he said time and again was necessary to balance the budget. Trouble was, he couldn’t get it through the senate because half the Stooges fled the state to keep Moe from bashing them over the head with it.

As long as the bill had all that stuff about the budget in it, he needed all the Stooges to call a vote, but if he tore off the part about the budget, all he needed was Larry and Shemp. Curly could hop around in the corner and holler “Whoowhoowhoo!” all he wanted. And he did, but the rest of the Stooges voted to pass the bill.

Then Moe signed the bill and we had a new law … or maybe not. The various Stooges can’t seem to agree on this. It was published on Friday in spite of a court order barring its publication. I’m not sure why it has to be published; I thought an act of congress became a law when the executive signed it, or at least that’s what I learned watching Schoolhouse Rock.

But apparently to make it the law of the land it has to be published, whatever that means. Anybody can “publish” it by standing on a corner and reading it aloud, or printing it on handbills that they then staple to telephone poles, which would suit the Three Stooges theme just fine here. The legal definition of “published” seems to be up for grabs, though. At least one news story I read said it had to be published in a newspaper. A newspaper? In 2011? Is that really what the state statute says? I don’t know; I couldn’t find it.

And it appears to make no difference. The administration (Moe) is going ahead as if this new legislation is law (“Because I said so!”) and will let the courts sort out whether or not they checked all the boxes that make it legal even though they’ve done an end-run around a legal injunction to show how much stock they put in the court (“Whoowhoowhoo!”).

The pie fight starts on Monday.

Stooges | 10:37 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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