Thursday, November 30, 2006

This Too Shall Pass

Today I celebrated the nominal anniversary of the last time I had a sick day. Three years ago, on the Thursday after Thanksgiving, I passed a kidney stone. To celebrate this blessed event, I took a day off. That and because I couldn't escape the horrible burning pain that roared through my lower abdomen.
Let me back up and begin again. Three years ago, after I had done my annual ten kilometer run on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I neglected to hydrate myself properly. This combined with the excessive amount of Coca-Cola that I had to drink in the week preceding the event and the calcium supplements that I had been taking to help me sleep left me with an excessive amount of calcium in my system. Excessive to the point of ridiculous. When it all got dried out and run through my kidneys, there were some nasty large bits referred to politely as "stones" that would not go lightly into the good night. Or into anything. They were stuck there. Waiting for their chance to spring on their unsuspecting victim.
That victim would be me. The Thursday after we returned from Thanksgiving, I woke up feeling like I might be "coming down with something." I did my cautionary vitamin C, and took an extra few deep breaths before I climbed on my bike to pedal to school. Before morning recess, I had begun to sweat, and nausea was making me feel foolish for not calling for a substitute before I left the house. Still, I'm a good soldier, and I figured I could tough it out a few more hours and then go home and collapse.
That's when the cramps started. I consider my threshold for pain to be fairly high, but these pains were all but folding me in half. I excused myself and made it across the hall to the Teacher's Lounge (toilet). I tried in vain to imagine what alien creature might be trying to gnaw its way through me from the inside, recalling wistfully my previous experience with food poisoning. Did that hurt this much?
I pulled myself together enough to waddle back across the hall and send my kids out to recess, then headed back to the Lounge to try and turn inside out. The only solace I found was the cool tile floor, and I began to wonder if I might die there, and how long it would take for the paramedics to find me, since the downstairs Teacher's Lounge (toilet) was so rarely used. By this time, the pains had become most pronounced and specific in their aim and direction. I thought about how I had, in my youth, torn a number of Gumby dolls apart by pulling their legs apart.
Another pause allowed me to hobble up the stairs to the office to ask if someone could take my class until I came back from the brink of death. The looks on the faces of the office staff confirmed my suspicions. I had already died and hadn't taken the body's subtle hints. I was sweating profusely and could no longer feel my finger tips or my lips. Someone suggested that I sit down and wait, but I knew that recess had just ended and my class needed to be picked up off the yard. Another trip to the playground and back down the stairs to my classroom, and I vaguely remember pleading with my students for their sympathy. When at last my relief arrived, I headed back up the stairs to the office, where I was given a ride to the emergency room.
What I remember the most about that trip was how I left a sobbing message for my wife because I felt certain that I would never see her again. I also remember the story I heard about the guy who was driving me, and how his appendix ruptured because of George Bush I's motorcade. He was sure that I had a ruptured appendix. I had no reason to doubt him. Of course, if you had told me at that point that I was about to have kittens, I would have believed it.
There are those who will tell you that passing a kidney stone is a painful as childbirth. If that's true, then I must say that passing a kidney stone has to be worse. Giving birth has a wonderful side effect. When you pass a kidney stone, the doctor shows you a little grain of sand, "There it is." That's it? "That's what was causing all the trouble." For this I went into shock and was nearly sawed in half and got to jump to the front of the line in the emergency line and got a big old shot of morphine?
For the next few weeks there was a lot of interest by doctors and my wife about what went into and out of me. Samples were collected and disseminated. Every trip to the bathroom was an adventure and a possible collapse. I took a long weekend to recover. Since then, I have been healthy enough to make it to school every day. Head colds or a little cough just mean I move a little slower. After all, I lived through a kidney stone. When I give birth in my classroom, I'll take off another day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hi, We're The Opening Band...

For the second time in my life, I bought an album by the opening band. To be more specific, I downloaded Mike Doughty's CD from iTunes after I got home from the Barenaked Ladies show last night. It was an impulse buy with the purest possible motives.
I've always had a soft spot for the opening act. They get to plug into the headliner's PA, but the mix is always just a little rough. There are always a group of well-wishers in the very front row cheering them on while the auditorium fills with people looking for their seats - or the nearest restroom, or both. They make the most out of the space they are given on the stage apron and the wild applause generated by the friends of the band. They've got thirty minutes to play their set while the roadies for the main attraction work out the kinks in the fog machines and lasers backstage.
If they're lucky, the crowd isn't openly hostile to them. For many opening acts, this is a fact of life on the road. The are the obstacle between the fans and the object of their adoration. "If I wanted to see Mike Doughty, I would have paid to see Mike Doughty." Much derisive applause erupts at the suggestion that they're "going to play just one more." I imagine that the self esteem of these burgeoning rock stars must be very durable indeed.
I remember seeing Ellen Foley open for The Electric Light Orchestra back in the early eighties. She was full of punk attitude, and she wasn't connecting with the ELO crowd at all. She was finally booed off the stage after just four songs. Jeff Lynne and company took the stage forty-five minutes later and played to a series of pre-recorded tracks and special effects that included a poor imitation of R2-D2. I was left wondering what the rest of Ellen's set was like.
Back to that impulse buy. I went to see Warren Zevon, God Rest His Soul, in 1991. Opening for him, and eventually joining him on stage, was a Canadian group called The Odds. They seemed to understand their place on the show business food chain better than most, and they played their set with confidence and their tongues firmly in cheek at all times. They knew that the guy in the twenty-second row hadn't paid to hear their new single, he was getting drunk in anticipation of singing "Werewolves of London" at the top of his tone-impaired voice. When they were through, I wanted to hear more, so the next day I went out and bought "Neopolitan." Their amusing power pop from north of the border was probably the reason I sought out Barenaked Ladies. Fifteen years later, I had a very enjoyable evening of music and comedy provided by this group of Canucks. And the bonus? I discovered Mike Doughty. Nice deal, eh?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yada, Yada Yada

When I think about the times in my life that I couldn't get a word in edgewise, I think of conversations I had with my younger brother. These weren't conversations in the traditional sense, where one person speaks, the other listens and considers a response, then takes a turn speaking while the other listens. My younger brother has some zen-yogi master way of circular breathing that allows him to speak even while he is gathering air. Please understand, I find him fascinating, but sometimes I feel the need to take notes so that later I can respond to the often lyrical and amusing notions that pour out of his head.
The other thing that should be pointed out at this juncture is the fact that there were several years in which my younger brother said nothing. It wasn't like he took a vow of silence, he had one enforced on him by his older brothers. His "quiet time" came about primarily from the luck of the draw, being the youngest, and therefore he got stuck listening to his older brothers and his father hold court at the dinner table, and social gatherings, and antisocial gatherings. All of this stifling led, no doubt, to his rather profound ability to walk and talk in his sleep. It was the only time that was left for him to be interactive.
Then, suddenly, there were no more roadblocks to his train of thought. When my older brother and I left the house, suddenly his voice rang out. A decade and a half of sitting quietly while the same tired stories and heated objections were passed around in front of him, the way was cleared for him to spout forth. His monologue began slowly, but began to build steam as he went to college, and then to the free speech haven that is California.
And this brings me, at last, to my point. Dr Luan Brizendine of the University of California says the average woman works her way through 20,000 words per day, compared with just 7,000 for the average male. This "self-proclaimed feminist" psychiatrist has arrived at this conclusion after years of research (and plenty of discussion, no doubt), saying "women devote more brain cells to talking than men." I think it's even easier to figure out than that. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that we lived in a world where women were kept out of the "really big conversations" about politics and religion for thousands of years. Wouldn't they eventually find other avenues of expression? Constant elucidation on their own state of affairs and feelings with their female counterparts, while men sat in rooms, glumly mumbling to one another about stock prices or global thermonuclear war. If you can imagine a planet like this, it's no wonder women talk so much.
It's not so much a matter of brain chemistry as much as keeping a genie in a bottle. If you don't believe me, ask my younger brother - just make sure you have a few minutes to spare.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Big Pitch

Ed Begley Jr. wants you to buy an electric car. He wants you to buy an electric car now. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting until there is a truly versatile hybrid engine? Are you waiting for a wider selection of models and sizes? Are you waiting to find out who the heck Ed Begley Jr. is?
The easy answer would be that he is the son of Ed Begley, noted character actor. Ed Jr. is also a thespian (not that there's anything wrong with that), and is perhaps best known for his role as Doctor Victor Ehrlich on the NBC series "St. Elsewhere." One might have gotten a whiff of what he was to become watching the existential struggles of a California surf boy shoved through the intense regimen of becoming a surgeon in an urban Boston hospital. Truth is, Ed was busy with the whole "save the planet" thing while Woody Harrelson was weaving hemp hairpieces for Ted Danson. A vegetarian for many years, his home is completely solar powered and he usually rides bicycles or uses public transportation.
Did you know this? In 1990, the auto industry was forced into the electric car business when CaliforniaÂ’s Air Resources Board (CARB) took the audacious step of establishing a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program: 2% of the vehicles produced for sale in California had to be ZEVs, increasing to 5% in 2001 and 10 percent in 2003. So what happened to the fourthousandd battery-powered ZEVs placed in California by major automakers between 1998 and 2003? (Most of the cars were leased rather than sold.) Despite the overwhelming enthusiasm and advocacy of electric car drivers, Ford, GM, Honda, and Toyota have all scrapped their electric vehicle (EV) programs, saying there's just no market for the cars. Don't tell this to Ed. He's been driving an electric car since 1970 - sure it was essentially a golf cart with windshield wipers, but that was thirty-six years ago. There are many moreoptionss today.
Are you convinced yet? It wouldn't have to be one of those little nodule sized "cars of the future." How about if you could still drive an SUV? The truck that Ed wants you to buy can go one hundred miles on a charge, has a top speed of ninety miles an hour, and can be charged from a dryer outlet in about six hours. It's a truck, kids. It's made by Phoenix Motorcars, and you can get one next year. Now you're ready to whine about how fossil fuel burning power plants make the electricity for these vehicles. Put a solar panel on your garage and quit your whining. And make Ed happy.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pick Up The Pace

Somewhere around the third mile, I lost Yellow Hat. He had been just off my left shoulder for some time, and I expected to use him to pace myself through the second half of the race. Then I looked up and saw him ten yards ahead, then twenty. Where was this kick coming from? Why wasn't I moving ahead with him?
It seemed like a good way to keep myself connected to my yearly physical exultation. Most of the time when I run, I go about three miles with the attendant potty stops for the dog. Once a year I sign myself up for a ten kilometer race, just to see how I stack up. I used to wear a watch to time myself, since I routinely had people asking me what my pace per mile was. I have often wondered how it could possibly matter, since the days of my competitive running have passed by decades ago. Now it's mostly about the exertion and the knowledge that I ran the whole way without stopping.
Today, however, was a little different. It was a cool morning and I was feeling good, even though I dragged myself and my family out of bed and across the Bay Bridge to run in San Francisco as the sun was beginning to peek through the morning fog. I left my wife and son at the start, where they took off on their own five kilometer odyssey. I turned to the right and picked up Yellow Hat's pace because it seemed about right and he had a way of navigating the crowded first mile that worked for me.
For two miles I took turns staying just ahead or just behind Yellow Hat. I have no way of knowing if he was aware of our connection. Mostly, we just picked it up and put it down. Over and over. Then came mile three. I could feel my left leg complaining about the knee that was repaired so many years ago. The ligaments were straining and turning my foot out, so I had to compensate to keep my stride straight. When I recovered my focus, Yellow Hat was gone. Going up the hill I looked for him, hoping to catch a glimpse aided by the angle of the course. I pushed on up the hill, swishing and gargling a cup full of cool water, but not swallowing any for fear of cramping.
By mile five I had resigned myself to never seeing Yellow Hat again. I saw Yellow Shirt ahead, and lengthened my stride to catch her. I caught her on the crest of the last hill on the course and never looked back. My mind did the simple math that told me I had less than a mile to go, and so I pushed still harder, hoping to catch Yellow Hat at the finish line.
That never happened. When all was said and done, I had run ten kilometers (6.2 miles) in just about an hour. I think I ran a little faster than I ran last year. I met my wife and son at the fountain as we had agreed, then we all went to grab our swag. I looked for Yellow Hat in the milling crowd, but I'm sure that he had already taken his bag of Power Bars and Propel Fitness Water and headed for home. Thanks for the race, see you next year.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

These Kids Came To Play

I can now acknowledge that the people that I watch each weekend and depend upon for my ongoing moods and hopes are all about half my age. These are kids, for the most part, and why I would choose to hang my dreams on the actions and efforts of a group of boys who have only recently begun driving legally.
The rational response would be to admit that I have a problem, and move on to step two. Instead, I use this opportunity to reflect on my own experience on the gridiron. When I was very young, we played football in the backyard. Not our backyard, since we had a dog and all the attendant challenges and messes that would allow. We played on my friend's lawn because we could play tackle. That was when I used to be called "Tank." I would not be stopped.
As we grew out of the backyard, we moved to the street. There was a good deal of incidental contact, but the rule was pretty solidly two hand touch - below the waist for the sticklers - and "all pass." This rendered the "Tank" obsolete. Street football is a game for the fleet of foot. Typical huddles included the instructions, "Buttonhook after the driveway" or "Go long past the station wagon." You were not allowed to rush the quarterback until after you had counted five Mississippi, or bananas. We would play until the streetlights came on, or until it got dark enough that someone caught a ball with their nose.
As a fourth grader, I joined Young America Football. My team was the Patriots. We practiced hard, got to wear pads, and played tackle. I learned that my size and speed would earn me a spot on the offensive line. I learned the difference between run blocking and pass protection was largely a matter of a few seconds. I learned that chewing on a mint-flavored mouthguard is a mildly reflective habit.
I waited until I was in eighth grade before I went out for the team again. This time I played on the middleweight team. I have a very vivid memory of my responsibility on punt coverage, as I recall my coach grabbing me by the facemask and screaming it at me after I had allowed a punt return for a touchdown.
It may have been at that precise moment that I decided to let somebody else take care of my football dreams. It's a whole lot easier to watch.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"When Black Friday comes. I'll collect everything I'm owed"

I remember when our President told us to go shopping to help the country through the trauma of the September 11 attacks. I understand the power of retail therapy, and I sometimes find myself standing in Best Buy with a glazed look on my face as I try to make sense of my life by purchasing consumer electronics.
Still, I have a hard time imagining why anyone would drag themselves out of a warm bed before five o'clock in the morning to participate in what has become affectionately known as "Black Friday." For many, this is the opening round in a month-long frenzy of high-stakes capitalism that ends with Christmas, or the cancellation of your Visa card, whichever comes first. Black Friday is typically the busiest shopping day of the year in terms of customer traffic, it is not typically the day with the highest sales volume. That is usually either Christmas Eve, the last Saturday before Christmas, or December 26th. Even so, the local news teams were out in force with on the spot coverage of people spending money on Black Friday.
That name. Where have I heard it before? As it happens, there are dozens of "Black Fridays" throughout history, beginning in 1869 and continuing right up until 2004. Many of them have to do with financial crisis, but many of them refer to civil and domestic unrest. Maybe that's where the connection is made. Armies of slack-jawed bargain hunters take to the street with their bodies still suffering the effects of tryptophan overdose, looking to finish their Christmas shopping in the six hours allotted them to sleep off those same symptoms.
I stayed close to home today. I heard the traffic helicopters churning overhead, getting a good look at the parking lot at Wal-Mart. I wanted no part of it. I'll be doing all my purchases on-line this year, just as soon as I get the new Archie McPhee catalog.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Prairie Home Companion

How was the drive? How were the roads? Can I take your coats? Did you bring the extra cooler? Do you want some help up the stairs? Who's watching the dog while you're away? Did you bring the grasshopper pie? How many rolls did you eat last year? Do you want to put that in the refrigerator? How's school? How's that nephew of mine? Want a pickle? Do you want to see pictures from our trip? What's new?
All of that before we had even gotten in the door. The Great Big Family Thanksgiving On The Farm. We tensed for it. We cooked for days in anticipation. We packed our play clothes for after dinner. We secretly wished that we could have Thanksgiving at our house so that we could see the whole Macy's parade. We all packed into the car with coolers and boxes full of food that would be effectively unnecessary but nonetheless required. We drove for hours until we reached the cousins' house.
A good year would give us clear weather and dry roads, but hefty drifts of snow to remind us of the season. The snow would provide us with the recreation to work up a hunger for a second helping of turkey, potatoes, yams, stuffing (aptly named), gravy, and another half dozen rolls. The danger was not usually in the extreme motor sports that our cousins would provide for us to enjoy, but that we might not have room for dessert afterward.
When the sun went down and we were back inside, the grownups would pass the bottle of Cold Duck around while the kids huddled around the television, anticipating one more pass at the bountiful leftovers. Eventually it would be time to pack up and leave, bellies full and coolers empty. Fat, happy, and thankful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In Loving Memory of Giff Eddy - Beloved CPK

I've done my time stuffing various toys and small parts of toys down toilet paper tubes. By the way, if you can fit any part of any toy through the circumference of an ordinary toilet paper tube, that means that you are a parent. The folks over at Mattel sure took their sweet time figuring this out, as they decided to recall 2.4 million Polly Pocket doll play sets after three children suffered serious injuries from swallowing small magnetic parts. They don't recall toys because they are incredibly lame (like Polly Pocket), those toys just end up on the Clearance shelf at your local Toys R Us. As if to prove my point, Mattel is suing competitor MGA Entertainment for allegedly stealing the concept for the popular Bratz doll by recruiting former Mattel employees and convincing them to surrender valuable trade secrets.
An urban encephalitic version of Barbie? Why aren't they recalling those? Bratz probably won't kill anybody, but they're not exactly adding to anybody's quality of life. Not like the TMX Elmo, which is already fetching one and a half times its retail price on Ebay. Supply and demand, baby, that's the name of the game. Every year some toy manufacturer wins the lottery because of labor shortages and hype and gets picked as the must-have item on every child's list.
I lived through the 1984 Cabbage Patch Kid Onslaught when I was working at Target. Happily, my contact with the rabid buying public was limited, as I was only unloading trucks at the time. Harried teenagers in red vests would come to us on the dock with a desperate look in their eyes, pleading with us to unload "those damn dolls" as quickly as possible. Sensing the fear in these poor souls, we pulled as many of the big headed (sensing a trend here?) creatures from the trailer as we could and piled them on a rolling cart. The red-vested victim would then wheel the cart slowly to the swinging doors, and out onto the killing floor. They were lucky to come back with all their limbs and eyes intact. It was capitalism at its most frenzied. Six months later, a thin layer of dust began to appear on the display as consumers walked past with vague indifference. It was during this lull that my room mate "adopted" his very own, Giff Eddy. He sat in a corner, mint in box (for the most part) until he moved away to New Jersey.
Here's what I noticed: Nobody every died from playing with a Cabbage Patch kid, but I don't know if the same can be said for those who were sent to their local toy retailer to purchase same. In this way, it would seem that the safer the toy is for kids, the more dangerous they are for adults.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanks For Listening

In a surprising bit of moral victory, Fox TV has cancelled plans to air O.J. Simpson's "hypothetical" account of the killings of his ex-wife and her good friend/waiter/lover Ronald Goldman. This really is a victory of morals, as it shows that perhaps as a nation, we may have finally been tweaked to the point of squealing "Enough!"
What about the central figures in this media circus? On the flying trapeze, we have Ms. Judith Regan: Under a barrage of criticism, she says she published O.J. Simpson's book "If I Did It" because she was a victim of domestic violence and thought the proceeds would go to Simpson's children. Meanwhile, in the lion cage, Rupert Murdoch held forth: "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, which owns both FOX and the bookÂ’s publisher through HarperCollins, ReganBooks. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson." Piling out of the clown car in front of the grandstand is O.J.'s lawyer: The latest issue of Newsweek quotes Yale Galanter as saying he's "p*ssed" about Simpson's deal for the upcoming book "If I Did It," adding, "I definitely would not have approved this ... I wouldn't have done it for a gazillion dollars."
And in the center ring - well, the center ring is empty. As it should be. Innocent or guilty, the twisted soul of Orenthal James Simpson will not be on display anytime soon. The spotlight can be turned off, the tents can be rolled back up, and the show can move on. Now we can get back to using our public airwaves for what they were intended - watching football stars do the merengue, and survivors on desert islands both real and imagined.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Up And Down, In And Out

The options have been dubbed "Go Home," "Go Big" and "Go Longer." These were the choices suggested by a Pentagon panel to improve the situation in Iraq. If it all sounds a lot like sports metaphor, then maybe we should dig a little deeper.
Thirty-plus years ago, Chevy Chase reported on Weekend Update that "Marines are pulling out of Angola. A frustrated Angola couldn't be reached for comment." The Pentagon has already dismissed the "Go Home" option anyway, as they felt it was likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown civil war, as opposed to the trial version in which they are currently participating.
I get e-mail all the time suggesting that I should "Go Big." I tend to delete these as a matter of course, since even peeking at them suggests that I may lack a certain, ahem, confidence and maturity. For Iraqi purposes, "Go Big" would mean more troops from America, participating in that previously mentioned trial-size civil war.
"Go Long" is all about endurance. The song "Workin' In A Coal Mine" includes the marginally musical question: "How long can this go on?" Metaphysically speaking, it will go on as long as it needs to, and since the history of conflict in this region is approximately as long as history, we can only assume that the United States will do all that it can to satisfy the burgeoning democracy and the flowering of liberty.
If it's all the same to you, I'm just going to roll over and go back to sleep.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

TV Party

About fifteen years ago, I stopped reading Rolling Stone on a regular basis. This was primarily because I had to tear out half a dozen scented fragrance ads, and wade through twenty pages of ads for anorexic boys wearing underwear. The other reason was that culturally I was out of step. I would turn to the back page to see how many of the top one hundred albums I could imagine owning. Once that number dipped below zero, I felt more comfortable with my memories of Rolling Stone, rather than the corporate reality that it had become.
Last week when I was in the grocery store, I picked up a copy of TV Guide while I was waiting to check out. The most startling realization was the most obvious - it had swollen to twice the size. No longer "digest size," TV Guide now contains more stories, and fewer listings. In other words, they're dropping the "guide" part. This saddens me, as I can remember anxiously awaiting the arrival of each week's issue and planning my TV viewing for the upcoming week. This magazine was my lifestyle contouring guide.
I live in a Tivo world now. Why would I need a TV Guide to tell me which shows I have no intention of watching? A study conducted by Harris Interactive suggests that the television industry's obsession with youth is backfiring. Getting at the prized 18-49 year old demographic is vital for the evil geniuses who run TV. ABC and NBC conduct all of their business with advertisers in the 18-to-49 demo. From a financial standpoint, if you're 50 or over, you mean nothing to those networks' executives. For Fox, the CW, MTV, BET and countless other networks, even 40 is too old.
I haven't watched an episode of "Lost." Or "Grey's Anatomy." Or "Dancing With The Stars." ABC has become the place where I watch college football. I did try an episode of "Heros," but I have already lived through my otherworldly obtuse phase with "Twin Peaks." I no longer watch "ER" because all they killed all the people my age to make room for more airplane crashes. I have become that crabby old man. "You kids and your 'reality TV.' When I was a boy we had one reality show and the host was Walter Cronkite - and we liked it that way." Now that "Saturday Night Live" has become a punchline for two different NBC shows, I no longer feel any guilt for "missing" it.
It's not going to be long before my son finds himself in the sights of that target demographic. Nickelodeon already has their hooks in him, and he's already figured out how to program the Tivo. I'm a little bit afraid. And a little jealous.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Opportunity Knocks

Given my rather dark mood of yesterday, imagine my great relief when I opened my electronic mailbox this morning to find this message:
"I do recognised the surprise this letter will bring to you, most especially as it comes from a stranger. My name is Mr. Khalid Utman. I am from Dubai. I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer. It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone (not even myself) but my business."
Okay - so maybe that in itself isn't such great news, but it turns out that Mr. Utman, in a change of heart almost Grinch-like in its three-sizes change, has decided to "close one of my accounts and distribute the money which I have there to charity organization in United States, Asia, Middle East & Europe." What a humanitarian! Sadly, even though he has already showered his immediate and extended family with riches, they are unwilling to help him carry out his most benevolent wishes. Can you imagine that?
This guy just wants to give something back - to the tune of eighty million U.S. dollars (which he kindly writes in both word and numerical form, with decimal point). He's looking for someone who is willing to help him in this endeavor. "Kindly note that 40% of this funds must go to victims of Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Wilma and South Asia Earthquake, 55% to other Charity Organizations around the World and 5% for your effort and time." Hey now! Five percent of eighty million is - well, it's a whole lot more than I was going to make this weekend.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Why not call this guy up and check him out to see if he is what he says he is. Sadly, "I cannot talk with you on the phone due to my health situation and reasons in regards to relatives, as I am using my Lap Top Computer to communicate with you. You should respond to this e-mail if you are interested in carrying out this assignment on my behalf." The poor soul has become so gravely ill that he can hardly type, let alone talk on the phone.
What better way to start the blessed holiday season than helping spread a little sunshine (and cash) to those less fortunate? And if I ended up with just a four million dollar slice of that pie for myself? Well, as Mr. Utman so eloquently quotes from the Qaran, "Thou wariest only him who followeth the reminder and fearieth the beneficent in secret to him bear tiding of forgiveness and a rich reward." Boy howdy. Maybe I should set about reading the Qaran...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Well It's Been Ten Years Or Maybe More...

I tried to sneak past this one, but it jumped up and bit me just the same. November's just not as easy as October yet. I had a lot of synergy pointing me at my father's memory in the past week, with a pair of trips past the airport in Oakland, where I had my last bear hug from the man who gave me my hairline. A lot of people will tell you that you get your receding hairline from your mother's side of the family. I'm here to tell you that's a lot of hooey.
Aside from the vast expanse of scalp that I have grown into, my father gave me an endless array of truly horrible jokes. I would like to confess that I have done nothing but add to that repertoire over the years, but some of my best knee-jerk responses came from my old man (emphasis on the "jerk"). I know that I learned the value of a hard day's work from him as well. He was the guy who chopped wood by the light of a Coleman lantern before we were old or crazy enough to do it.
I don't miss him so much as I miss the idea of him. I've got his smile in my head and a series of snapshots that give me scrapbook memories. That's not the whole, it's just a piece. Just like this date in November that snuck up on me while I was busy doing all my other dad and teacher and husband and citizen duties. It's a signpost up ahead. It's the Twilight Zone. It's the abyss and it's heaven and it's hell and it's another day. Today my father is more notably missing from my life. Today it feels like a horrible cheat that my son doesn't know the man that shares his name. He knows of him, and if I have my way, he'll get sick of hearing about him.
That's what I do. I'll wallow for a few more hours, then listen to Steve Goodman sing "My Old Man," and head on into the next day. And I'll remember then, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

He's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

History is best when it comes in bite-size morsels. This new book by O.J. Simpson is entirely too hard to swallow. A friend of mine sent me this quote from the SF Gate article by C.W. Nevius seems to have hit the nail squarely on the head: "The fact that a father would write and publish a book about how he would have gone about killing his children's mother is completely beyond my understanding."
Whatever may have transpired once upon a time in the halls of justice, or on the highways of Los Angeles in the backseat of a white Bronco, or outside Nicole Brown's condominium, what person should stay parsecs away from this topic? How about the guy who was found liable for the wrongful death of Ronald Goldman, battery against Ronald Goldman, and battery against Nicole Brown? He'd be pretty much the top of my list. And the middle. And the end.
In 2000, O.J. won custody of his children in a second trial after convincing the judge that it was in the children's best interest to live with Simpson. I wonder if that judge is sleeping soundly this evening. Or if he will be one of millions who will no doubt tune in to Fox TV (Fair, Balanced, Run By Money Grubbing Idiots) when The Juice shows up for the two one-hour television interviews with Simpson to be conducted on Fox television by Judith Regan. Ms. Regan began her career with The National Enquirer, and a former friend described her as "the highest functioning deranged person I've ever known." In this way, the event certainly holds all kind prurient interest. Some people like to watch cock fights. Some people like to watch Fox News.
Not me. I would sooner buy a Tivo to record it, then take it to a vacant lot, bash it into its smallest component parts, and bury the remnants, salting the earth as I left so that nothing could grow in its place. With God as my witness, I am more interested in Tom and Katie's pending nuptials. Creepy and annoying trumps psychotic every day of the week for me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Finger Lickin' Good

I was perilously close, last week, to going into a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. The coffee house that we usually hold our Dads' Club meetings was closed for the evening, and we were looking for an alternate venue. Two doors down we could easily have dropped ourselves into a molded plastic booth for an hour or two and nursed a large Pepsi or two because we needed a place to sit. Cooler heads prevailed, and we ended up heading over to a house with a real table and chairs - and real food.
Because that's what the real issue is, after all. Real food. Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC as they have become more radically known, has been pioneering new frontiers in food-like food. KFC had dropped "fried" from its name and logo over a decade ago as it expanded its non-fried menu items to appeal to the health conscious. Now they're heading back to the beginning, returning to those eleven herbs and spices that made them famous. Fried is no longer something to be ashamed of - it's a legacy to be embraced and savored. That doesn't mean they're not going to stay on the cutting edge of "food." Take their KFC Famous Bowls, for example: "We start with a generous serving of our creamy mashed potatoes, layered with sweet corn and loaded with bite-sized pieces of crispy chicken. Then we drizzle it all with our signature home-style gravy and top it off with a shredded three-cheese blend. It's all your favorite flavors coming together."
Drizzling crispy mashed and layered all in one bucket? How can I get me some of that? My nearest reckoning has it somewhere at about a dozen years since I went into a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. They've just redesigned their logo - with bolder colors and a more well-defined visage of the late Kentucky Fried Chicken founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, who will keep his classic black bow tie, glasses and goatee. Don't get me wrong, I'm awfully fond of fast "food." Many decades ago, my younger brother announced our return to civilization by shouting to our assembled family that he had just seen "a Colonel Tucky's!" Welcome home, I must be going.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Itchy and Scratchy

Every so often, the school nurse will show up at my door. She's always very polite and especially discreet. I walk across my classroom with the expressed intent of getting some mildly unpleasant news about the health of one of my students. The little things- headaches, stomach aches, sore ankles, sore throats, skinned knees, and hangnails - those are usually taken care of with a polite note or a three word entry on our pistachio green student medical forms. Nope. If she has come all the way down to my room, then it won't be about a band-aid or an ice pack.
For the past few years I have grown accustomed to getting one of these visits regarding lice outbreak. In an elementary school, there's always way too much touching and sharing of things like coats and hats, so once it's begun, it's almost impossible to stop. Unless every child who has come in contact with those already afflicted is checked and inspected and the offending heads are scrubbed or shorn.
Today it wasn't lice. It was chicken pox. One of my students had come down with it over the weekend, and there was a good deal of concern that before she had left for the three day holiday that she might have shared it with some or all of us. We all got official notice on school letterhead explaining our situation. Even though I had chicken pox decades ago, I had the immediate need to scratch my forearm. And my shin. And the back of my head. It was essentially the same reaction I invariably have to the lice announcement, only this time I was even less likely to be infected.
Then I had a moment to consider my options. Quarantine would keep me at home for at least a week. Then again, the thought of five days of daytime TV would probably keep me inoculated from any of the more virulent strains of childhood. Thanksgiving is coming. Soon.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Free Ranch Males

Here I sit in my living room, beginning my first night of single parenthood. This doesn't come as any kind of nasty surprise. I was warned for weeks in advance of this eventuality, but I've got to say that I still don't feel completely prepared for the experience that awaits me. Yes, there are stacks of TV dinners in the freezer, and pages of phone numbers tacked to the bulletin board. I still have sense of mild dread.
My wife took off for Miami today at noon. I'm fine with that. She promised she'd come back. She's the one who wrangled all the bachelor food - heat 'n' eat stuff primarily. She made lists of all manner of contacts and even recipes for cold remedies to keep my son from succumbing to pneumonia in her absence. Pressure? What pressure?
I know that I'm a good father. I know which end of my son is the eating end, and which end isn't. Even if I didn't, he's plenty old enough now to clue me in on what I'm getting wrong. It really isn't the skill set that I'm worried about. I'm fantastically aware of the void that exists in our house. I know how to take care of my son. I'm just not used to doing it without help.
We're looking forward to the challenge, my son and I. We like the notion that salad is an option. We like the idea that the living room can be a base of operations. We know that there are enough televisions in the house to watch football and cartoons at the same time. We promise to keep the piles free of the entrances and exits. We expect to hold things together for three whole days so that mom will be proud of us. We miss her very much.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

But Wait, There's More

We had houseguests overnight, so I was awake early, flinching in anticipation of the video game eruption that would no doubt be taking place in our living room as soon as both boys (home and away) were conscious. I turned on the TV to wile away the moments before Nintendo became my soundtrack, and watched an infomercial.
Why would I choose to watch an infomercial? Mostly because I could stare at the images and avoid the sound issue because I didn't really care what was being sold. Then something happened. I realized that I did care. Not enough to scramble from my safe warm bed to dial the eight hundred number, but I was caught in a demographic induced trance that kept me gazing at the television for more than fifteen minutes. Time Life was hawking a series of CDs. This nineteen disc set was called "Classic Soft Rock." I lay there, staring at the faces of artists and bands of yore, trying to guess what Soft Rock Classic that each one would have to contribute to such a collection. Seals and Crofts, America, The Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Christopher Cross, and even Boston. All for the low, low price of just - well, I confess that part was lost on me, since I didn't intend on buying it. The part I did notice was their insistence that all of these Classic Soft Rock Hits could be yours for "less than one dollar a song." That puts them on a par with iTunes.
I guessed that Rod Stewart would show up singing "Maggie May." David Gates and Bread would be on hand for "Make It With You." The whole show was being presided over by Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, better known to the world as Air Supply. They even did a little stripped down version of their hit, "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All."
That's when I realized that even though the sound had been off all this time, the music was playing in my head. I fumbled for the remote control and turned off the TV. It was time to get out of bed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Lights Are Off, And Everybody's Home

The doorbell rang at quarter to five this morning. The persistent humming from the hard drive of the Tivo in our bedroom was reassuring. These were the sounds that helped me get back to sleep. For about two hours before that, I lay awake, listening to nothing. I pressed myself to the bed, straining to pick up the faintest noise.
My wife stirred as well - at first. She has the distinction of sleeping through earthquakes. This is not hyperbole. It is an established fact. When the power went out before dawn, she suggested that I relax and imagine that I was "at the cabin." I appreciated this notion. She wanted me to return to a place of tranquility and calm, a place with no electricity, phones, or hard drives. Outside I could hear the rain. I could hear cars pass by into the distance. I could hear the steady pendulums of the grandfather clock in the living room, and the fainter but reliant cuckoo clock in the kitchen. Then I started to fill my mind with all the things I couldn't hear.
I couldn't hear the hum of the refrigerator. I couldn't hear faint electric hum that all houses have in the civilized world. I was going to have to reset the clock in my son's room. And the one on the microwave. I wouldn't have to change the clock radio next to our bed, but I would have to fret about the possibility that the automatic reset function on it didn't work.
What if the power didn't come back until much later in the day? How would I watch sports on television? How would I watch anything on television? If I wanted to read, would there be enough light? If there wasn't enough light, did we have candles after we burned one to celebrate the elections? What if there was an earthquake now, and I couldn't get the lights on to find our earthquake supplies? Was that a mouse I just heard?
When the power surged back on, I was filled with the warmth and security of a twenty-first century lame-oid man. I drifted off to sleep with the sound of Tivo, ever vigilant, watching reruns of "Newsradio" for me. Now with all the racket back in my life, I could finally relax.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Overseas Service

Here's an interesting thing about a military draft: it provides a common experience for the youth of a nation. I thought about this on Veteran's Day because it occurred to me that I know very few verterans. I have tangential relationships with people who were in the army, and my older brother considered a career in the Air Force for a short time back in college. But the veteran I knew best was my father.
He missed out on being part of the Greatest Generation, and the Korean War, but he claimed to have served with honor and distinction as the guy that Elvis replaced in Germany. My dad drove a radio truck. I have tried, primarily in my youth, to romanticize this job, but it never held the cachet of "tail-gunner" or "sniper." Nope. Dad drove a truck, and on one particularly memorable evening, managed to get it high centered while on maneuvers. I like to imagine it as being somewhat reminiscent of "GI Blues" - with a frustrated Juliet Prowse waiting for him back in the Café Europa. It was one of the only "war stories" I can ever remember him telling, and I don't remember that it had much of an ending either. They just came out in the middle of the night and hauled the truck back to the base. Somewhere in there was a reference to his sergeant, who had a deep and abiding affection for fried chicken. My father never did get to go up on the stage at the local beer hall to belt out a number for the troops.
I do remember he had a number of old army shirts that eventually found their way to his sons' wardrobes. He was also fond of telling us that it was the helmet that they made him wear in the army that made all his hair fall out. Back when I had hair, I hoped that really was the reason. What a patriot. He gave his scalp for his country. Go ahead, just try and imagine a bald Elvis.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Swing to the Left

I remember sitting outside in the warm July evening of 1992, listening to the television inside blaring the sound of Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. I was on my way to California to start a new chapter in my life, and it felt like the country was doing the same. He reminded us that we were all in this together, and it was time for us to pitch in and get the job done. It was one of those "big tent" moments of which Democrats are so very fond. I watched the sun set for what seemed like hours that night, and I had a sensation of hanging on to the end of a pendulum that has just reached the far end of its swing. We were pausing for just a moment before we headed back to the other side.
By November 2000, we had made it all the way back to the left, and there was that bizarre week where everything we knew turned out to be wrong. I learned to fear and loathe the electoral college. I sat slack-jawed as the keys to the kingdom were handed over to some guy who used to be managing partner of the Texas Rangers. We blamed Al Gore for not being charismatic enough. A year later, fans of Armageddon got their first real shot at proving Nostradamus right, and a year after that we began our "slog" through Mesopotamia.
I watched the sun come up this morning and read the news accounts of Senator George Allen graciously conceding defeat and the Senate became a Democratic majority. Nancy Pelosi had lunch with the former owner of the Texas Rangers. It was a brand new day again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Just Like That, The World Changed

Oh come on - you knew it was coming. It's been in the wind for weeks, if not months after all. Who was surprised by Britney and Kevin heading for splitsville? I wish I could say that I was saddened by the news, but I feel that life for all concerned, especially the young ones, will be better once this difficult period is past.
This is exactly how I feel about the resignation of Donald "We Will Be Greeted As Liberators" Rumsfeld. I wish I could say that I was saddened by the news, but I feel that life for all concerned, especially the young ones, will be better once this difficult period is past. As for this being in the wind, that putrid smell that has been hanging around the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the stench of love gone bad. Wasn't is just a week or so ago that Rummy got the "dreaded vote of confidence" from the Pinhead in charge? I believe he said "if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round."
Maybe it's more like a circus, and Pinhead has just now discovered that he is no longer the Ringmaster. Nancy Pelosi is now cracking the whip, and it's almost a sure bet that we haven't seen the last shift in what has been a hard line on Iraq, and any number of social and economic issues. I confess that I find it hard not to be just a little smug, as the past twelve years begin to trail off into history. This doesn't mean I'm going to forget about what brought us here. A lack of vision on the Democratic side created the vacuum that was filled by these greedheads. Now it's time to put up, or shut up. It's like the other team decided to let us play with an extra player or two. We've got to do something now.
Meanwhile, out in the West Coast Capitol, "Kevin is prepared to go the distance in order to do what he feels is necessary to protect and safeguard the children and will not be intimidated or dissuaded from pursuit of those goals," said Michael Sands, spokesman for Federline's attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan. I just hope that our new national referendum can keep K-Fed in funky hats and gold chains, because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sometimes The Magic Works...

Last week about this time I was miserable. I had suspended two boys from my class for different and uniquely ridiculous behavior. The first was for throwing rocks at another student. The second was for fighting. Not the usual fourth grade chest thumping, but actual fisticuffs. This came on the heels of the standard "If you don't improve your behavior, you won't be allowed to go on the field trip next week" lecture. They both got a day off, and came back the next day as contrite as any ten year old boy ever gets.
The new week began, and neither boy had managed to return their permission slip to be allowed to go on the trip. I figured there was a measure of self-selection involved, so I didn't push the matter. Yesterday at the end of school, both of them asked me if they could still come if their mothers, respectively, signed their forms.
Should I have made it a hard line, and told them that they had missed the cutoff and there was no way I could take them along on such short notice? We were going to visit the shoreline park to watch birds, examine plankton, and investigate native and non-native plants. If they stayed home, they would watch another six hours of Cartoon Network. I told them I would bring them along if they showed up with signatures.
They both managed to deliver. Getting on the bus, I was a little concerned as I watched the two of them, bobbing in and out of the throng that is the rest of the fourth grade. Could they maintain for the whole day? Would I be stuck with the two of them, sitting on a curb while we waited for their parents to come and pick them up? Or worse, would they erupt and when I called their parents, I might only get the polite voice-mail message as I restrain them.
None of that happened. Instead, from the moment they got off the bus, they were fascinated by the world around them. Being in nature absolutely brought the best out of them. The rock thrower was fascinated by the plankton swimming in his petri dish. The fighter stepped off the bus, and immediately began taking notes - shocking his teacher who generally has to beg him to write complete sentences on his weekly reading test. It was, for lack of a better metaphor, like magic.
At the end of the day, when the bus dropped us off at the front the school, I took a moment to congratulate both of these young men for their attention and composure. It made me wish for a program that would get all these kids out into the world on a regular basis. Could I teach my class outside every day? I know the reality. I know that it is the specialness that made the moment, and the challenge is to keep as many days as the system will allow special. I had that Grinch-swelling-heart feeling that sometimes comes with a good day teaching.
After school I was talking with another teacher when a third grader ran up to inform me that my fighter was down the street, living up to his reputation. I thought about rushing off and pulling him out of harm's way. I thought about all the things I could do to save him. I thought about how sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Proud To Be An American

Bill Clinton called yesterday. I was so excited, I forgot what he wanted me to vote for. Over the past few days, a number of very important people have taken time out of their busy days to remind me how to vote. But heck, this was the President of the United States calling. How could I say no?
Truth is, I will probably play it pretty straight down the middle, Democrat-wise. I vote early, but not often. I like to think that my vote counts more if I'm there when the doors open. I suppose that if I was really interested in getting my ballot in first, I could go the absentee route, mailing my wishes for a better world out into the electoral ether. Someday I suspect that we'll be using Al Gore's Internet to cast our ballots, while we're taking a break from managing our Netflix queue. That would be sometime after they figure out the whole paper trail problem.
I like the booth experience too much anyway. From the 100 Foot Limit signs that keep my rights from being infringed, to the little American flags hanging around the doorway. Once I'm inside, I greet my neighborhood poll workers with a smile. If I'm here to do my civic duty, these folks are hall of fame. Tomorrow will be a biggie - lots of measures to be decided, senators, representatives, and even the governor. They should be busy. That's not always the case. When we elected a new mayor last year, you could have fired a cannon down the aisle between the voting stations without harming a single citizen.
Not that I'm recommending artillery as a means of exit polling. And I'm pretty sure that Bill would back me up on this one too.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Barely Legal

I never went inside when it was called "Middle Earth." Back then, it was a hard-rock venue for cover bands that served 3.2 beer. Truth is, it probably should have had massive appeal for me, as both metal music and watery beer were things that I sought out for my voluminous spare time. But I was going to school in Colorado Springs, and "Middle Earth" was across the street from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Instead, I found myself in a number of similar taverns in Colorado Springs, usually on "Southern Rock Night." On those nights, cover versions of "Freebird" could last forty minutes. The cadets from the Air Force Academy and the soldiers from Fort Carson (Zoomies and Doggies, respectively) would drink themselves into a frenzy and then retire to the parking lot to pummel each other for choosing the wrong branch of the arm service to join.
I could tell you that I moved back to Boulder because the nightlife in Colorado Springs was just too tedious, but it wouldn't be exactly true. But by the time I got back to Boulder, the New Wave had crashed on the Hill, and "Middle Earth" had evolved into "Pogo's." Yuppies ripped up their t-shirts and poured into the low-ceilinged basement to hear music they wouldn't admit to liking in the light of day: Devo, Human League, The Cure. Sometimes I like to wear my punk badge of honor, which is to announce loudly that I attended the same high school as Jello Biafra, but I know for a fact that Jello wouldn't have been caught dead in "Pogo's," even if it was just a few short blocks from his parent's house.
"Pogo's" was a place that always felt more dangerous than it was. Probably because of the harsh black and white decor, but more because of those low ceilings. Truth is, drinking 3.2 beer and listening to the Vapors wasn't going to get you into any real trouble, it was probably going to give you a headache in the morning, not a safety pin in your cheek. This was the early eighties, and conformity was still a hot commodity. New Wave washed off. Punk was more of a permanent stain.
And so it went through the eighties. By the time I finally hauled myself out of my undergraduate malaise and earned my degree, "Pogo's" had morphed once again into the industrial outpost called "Ground Zero." In 1987, 3.2 beer fell by the wayside when a "national drinking age" was established, and the need for "baby beer" disappeared. Coincidentally, this is right about the time my own personal prohibition began, so when I went to "Ground Zero," I was there to dance. To be more precise, I was there to thrash about wildly, just outside the mosh pit, and sweat myself into a tumultuous frenzy. That's where I met my wife. Again, to be more precise, we had already met, we just had one of our first real dates there.
I have no idea what is in that basement on College Avenue today. My hope is that they sealed it up, salted the earth, and no one has ever set foot in the place again. Or maybe not. I have many varied and mostly lucid memories of that spot, and those years.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Doogie Howser is gay. He said so himself. "(I) am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest," the Doogster told People "Fair and Balanced, If That Really Matters" Magazine. Neil Patrick Harris, the actor who played Doogie was shocked by the allegations.
Okay, so he wasn't. They're the same guy, and he's coming out now because of "speculation and interest in my private life and relationships." All right, raise your hand if you were speculating or interested in Neil Patrick Harris' private life and relationships. Time's up.
I would say that this ranks on a par with the revelation of Lance "best known as the former bass singer for the American pop group 'N Sync" Bass' sexual preference. I was more intrigued by the notion that a guy named Bass (with a short a) would sing bass (with a long a). Did you know that Lance has already had quite the acting career as well, including a role on "Higglytown Heroes" as the "Electrician Hero." And he's gay!
Which brings us to Pastor Ted. He may or may not be gay. People "Truth Hurts" Magazine hasn't given us the definitive word as yet. In the meantime, we have only hearsay and his own admission that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a male prostitute. But the influential Christian evangelist insisted he threw the drugs away and never had sex with the man. Thank you, Ted. If only Lance and Doogie could have been so strong.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Workin' For The Weekend

"Look out, 'cause here she comes" - Lennon and McCartney, "Helter Skelter"
Yes sports fans, hold on tight, because if you thought October was hellish (hell-like? hell-ique?), get ready for this weekend. Iraq has canceled leave for all military officers two days before an expected verdict — and possible death sentence — in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Try to imagine what would happen in Detroit if the Tigers had won the World Series. Then add automatic weapons. On second thought, since automatic weapons would already be there, let's add car bombs. And motorcycle bombs. And Razor Scooter bombs. Then multiply that by a factor of at least fourteen. And make it worse still, since there won't be a parade the next day.
Sunnis and Kurds are expected to burst into a righteous and intense fireball of rage if the sentence is death. Shiites will be just as outraged if the verdict is anything but death by hanging. Shiites are so difficult to please.
Meanwhile, Nearly 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing each month to Syria and Jordan, forcing the
United Nations to set aside its goal of helping refugees return home after the U.S.-led invasion. That's about 2,000 a day leaving for Syria, and another 1,000 heading for Jordan. So here's my plan, delay the verdict for a few more months, maybe ten or more. Then there will be one million less Iraqis to stir up trouble when the gavel comes down. Last one out of Baghdad, please turn out the lights.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Daily News

Should I feel guilty about the turkey vultures coming home to roost on the quivering remains of Newt Gingrich's twitching corpse and the shriveled husk of the Republican Revolution? Should I feel remorse for the way that the media seems to have turned, all at once, back to that real and true liberally-biased institution it was accused of being for the past six years? Wait, I'm starting to feel a twinge. Nope. Just a touch of the vapors.
It's 2006, and just before the mid-term elections, TIME magazine is running a cover with a picture of President Pinhead wandering off the page (to the left, for you fans of semiotics) with the legend: "The Lone Ranger: He's faltering in Iraq. He's out of favor with his own party. He's increasingly isolated. Why this election is all about George W. Bush and the world he's created." Do these crazed lefty nuts think they can steal an election by printing this kind of slander? Or is it libel? Whatever the case, it would seem that is exactly what they are attempting to do.
Up the street at Newsweek, it's almost like 1975 when Bruce Springsteen appeared on the covers of both national news magazines in the same week. The News for this week": "Rethinking Iraq: The Way Forward - The drawdown option: It is past time to confront reality. To avoid total defeat, the United States must reduce and redeploy its troops and nudge the Iraqis toward a deal. Here's how."
Somehow, we've all woken up from a five year long nap, and discovered that the Pinheads have taken over the asylum. The emperor, aside from having no clothes on, has a pointy head. Am I comforted by the choices available to me from the other side? Alas, I cannot say that the Democratic party has fared well in their self-imposed stasis, but maybe now that there is blood in the water, metaphorically speaking, they will start to swim for the bait. We can only hope.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Should They Stay Or Should They Go Now?

"Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them," so sayeth President Pinhead in regard to his loyal henchmen, Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld and Dick "Dick" Cheney. Let's take just a short trip in the way-back machine to Pinhead's comments about FEMA director Michael "Brownie" Brown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Yeah. Right. Okay.
Hungry for more irony? If only it was some sort of dietary supplement. Pinhead would be supplying us with more than our daily requirement. Remember when George Tenet was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Considered to be equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honor, Tenet earned his prize by supplying faulty, if not patently false, intelligence on Iraq on the eve of our invasion. He was the one that said that pinning weapons of mass destruction on Saddam Hussein would be a "slam dunk." Oops. Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Hank Aaron, Lucille Ball, Jim Lovell, Nelson Mandela, Danny Kaye, Martin Luther King Jr., and L. Paul Bremer. Does that last one sound familiar? Probably because he and "Slam Dunk" got their medals on the same day. Bremer was the Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq. I don't suppose you'd need to see too many photos of "post-war" Iraq to figure out why this guy lost his job. Still, it was worth a medal. In his book, available exclusively from Whiner's Press, "Paul" maintains that he was used as the Iraq "fall guy" for "postwar setbacks." Not the least of these setbacks would be that the war seems to be going on still, and postwar setbacks can't really occur until the war is over.
Okay, stop it already. Now you're making my head hurt. Rummy and Dick are guaranteed a job until the end of Pinhead's administration, so the only logical conclusion is to terminate Pinhead's administration. That way we won't hurt anybody's feelings.