Archive for December, 2007

…but why is it falling in mine?…

The weather has been lousy for about a week, rainy, cloudy, dreary, just plain miserable.

That’s good in a way. New Year’s Eve fireworks are customary and in a few hours, all sorts of explosions and blasts will begin. The wall of sound will build and build until it reaches a crescendo at midnight, continue at peak level for about thirty minutes, and then begin to tail off.

So why will the lousy weather be a good thing? If it rains, most people will stay inside. Not much noise, very little smoke. Some people like the noise and smoke, some don’t. The people who really like the combat zone are the revelers who toss firecrackers from Waikiki high-rises onto crowds below.

The ones who don’t like the noise and smoke are the ones whose hair gets ruffled from the force of the blasts, mostly from tiny poppers but occasionally from cherry bombs. Those things are loud and dangerous.

And some people have been known to fill balloons with some kind of gas and then toss them on the streets. When those things go off, they can be as powerful as a real explosive. Plus a few people toss firecrackers in drains, which magnify the sound and shake the earth.

All of these activities are illegal, but it’s New Year’s Eve. As long as no is killed or seriously injured, everything is good clean fun.

To all of my blogging friends and to all who may stumble across this post:A Very Happy New Year!


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Here’s a quote from the article with that headline:

Public esteem for the Congress is falling, and today it is probably lower than ever before in our history.

I looked in vain for a mention of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, but there was none. As far as the author was concerned they didn’t exist.

His ignorance is excusable, however. The article appeared in the October 22, 1942, issue of the Reader’s Digest. At the time, Nancy was two years old and Harry three.

This relic of another age (the Digest, not Nancy or Harry) magically appeared on the bottom shelf of a small library in my home, squirreled between a book about the Three Stooges and the Art of War by Sun Tzu. When, where, or how it got there is a puzzle.

Nevertheless, I thought it interesting and browsed through its list of article titles. The first one my eye caught was the Congress thing. How apropos, I thought. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

All told, there were about 37 articles. The subject of war was paramount. That’s understandable because the Second World War, which had begun in December 1941, was barely three months old. Some representative war titles were:

  • Our “Impossible” War. The article was essentially an attack on the naysayers who argued against the war.
  • Wanted: Air Assault on Germany Now. The article opened with a reputed complaint from some British that American planes provided to Britain were shoddy. The author proceeded to debunk those claims.
  • Sex as a Nazi Weapon. Nazi strategy was essentially birth control among the non-Aryan peoples under Nazi occupation and enhanced fecundity among tall, blonde, blue-eyed Nordics, an odd policy considering that Hitler and most of his henchmen were rather swarthy.

Almost all of the remaining articles related to the conflict. War production and home-front contributions to the war effort were common themes along with the usual Digest features such as quizzes, word meanings, and anecdotes.

The Digest is still around but the only places I’ve seen one has been in a waiting room or at a checkout line in Long’s Drugs. If the thrust and tone of the magazine have changed between 1942 and 2001, it’s mainly in a sophisticated 21st Century layout. Today you can find a large-print edition for the weak of eye. Personally, I’ll take the internet.

Explanatory B.S. This is something I worked on a long time ago and filed on my laptop. It’s as good a memory as most on a very rainy and dreary day.

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America is a diverse society and a successful politician must appeal to a broad cross-section of citizens. Mike Huckabee’s newest approach is to hunt pheasants in Iowa. Decked out in 21st Century hunter chic, he stands resolutely in a snow covered field with a .12 gauge shotgun. The intent of Huckabee’s handlers is to craft an image of a man’s man fully in tune with the Pheasant Hunter’s Association of the Civilized World.

Huckabee is only the latest in a long line of presidential candidates to demonstrate their bona fides (pronounce that fie dees), meaning presidential qualifications. The one I remember most vividly was a squatty little Michael Dukakis peering out of a tank. Willie Horton was nothing compared to the sight of Mikey in a helmet so big it covered his face.

One wonders how far the candidates will carry their exhibitionism before it becomes ridiculous. Well, it already is, but I’m thinking in terms of numbers. Leaving aside the symbolism of pheasant hunting and focusing on the number of potential voters, it seems standing in a field of snow and shooting a pheasant is counterproductive. My guess is there are more bag boys in Iowa than pheasant hunters. Huckabee would look good as a bag boy. At least he wouldn’t freeze his buns off.

Of course, some will argue that everybody hunts pheasants. If that were true, the pheasant population would equal the buffalo population after we denuded the prairies. Even if “everybody” somehow means “a lot of people,” the number of pheasants would still be mighty small. Pheasant breeding would become a top economic pursuit, on a par with fish farming in Hawaii.

Just for the heck of it, I checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the State of Iowa and here’s what I learned. First of all, the data are arranged in so many separate tables, a person better be prepared to spend a lifetime glancing through them. Second, I didn’t find a single mention of an occupation called Pheasant Hunter. I found an occupational group called Hunters and Trappers and clicked link after link but everyone sent me to another one ad infinitum. Even the BOJ Search engine failed to return a Pheasant Hunter.

So I gave up. Never was the most patient person around. And numbers never a strong point. Besides, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that looking silly will reduce the numbers in proportion to the number of times a candidate poses in a silly costume or strikes a silly pose. If a candidate isn’t a natural pheasant hunter or tank driver, pictures will reveal the fakery. Only a fool would provide the opposition with a tailor made opportunity to look stupid. At least Clinton could play that damned sax.

The most intriguing aspect of photo-ops and such is their aftereffect. Talking heads flash all kind of before and after poll numbers and for some odd reason, the after numbers are always higher for their candidate. Which leads me to conclude that the people selected as poll-ees are pretty stupid. How in God’s name could someone change his or her mind just by looking at some guy holding a dead pheasant and a shotgun?

Get real, guys and Guy-in-chief Hillary. Try to look like some real people. Tromp around on a pig farm. Angle for a guest shot on Dirty Jobs. Join the Army. Be all that you can be, not some dammed faux-pheasant hunter.

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By now, you know that Benzir Bhutto has been killed by a gunman at a rally in Pakistan. What an absolute abomination. Such a talented young life ended by an anonymous coward. Here was a woman who had been elected prime minister of Pakistan in 1988 at the age of 35 and at the time of her death was a candidate again in Pakistan’s upcoming elections. More than likely, the elections will be postponed or cancelled altogether as Musharraf reinstates martial law.

How will we in the United States view the assassination? America’s Ignorant Cass will condemn the “uncivilized” Muslim heathens as in need of the firm guiding hand of American democracy and Christianity. The Ignorant Class will not mention that the U.S. has had four presidents assassinated, most recently John Kennedy in 1963. They also will omit from the discussion many more unsuccessful attempts on the lives of presidents. Why omit such info? As I continue to argue, our heathenism is more civilized than theirs.

At the highest political levels, the administration will trot out the old bromides: “this cowardly act was carried out by forces who despise democracy, who oppose freedom, who are sworn enemies of the American people.”

Then behind the scenes, the planners, strategists, tacticians, and generals will gather for their daily mundane work of developing all kinds of scenarios and contingency plans, which they already have but must reassess in light of Bhutto’s death or, as a spokesperson might describe the process, “a re-review of plans in light of the current situation and with a view towards a reassessment of the probabilities of a threat to America and to realign our forces as deemed necessary to offset any future incidents of the nature herein described and alluded to in Section XXXXXX.” Bureaucratic-ese is always alive and well in D.C.

Among the political class, at least one politician, probably several, will use the assassination as an example of the dangers we face in a hostile world and warn “I am the only one with the experience and resolve to lead our country in a time of extreme peril. My opponent is a wimp leftie bowing scraping little pissant who hates America.”

I may be wrong in part or in whole in my assessment, since we’re on vacation and I’ve just patched this together on the run. But if past patterns hold true, I’ll be pretty darned close.

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Now that Christmas day is behind us and all that remains is to return those gifts we hate, I think it’s safe to reveal the things that really bug me in the run-up to Christmas.

  1. Drop Bys. Too many people dropping by to leave a thoughtful gift, an act that mobilizes the old “in-kind” response, thus taking time away from the latest Diane Lane rerun. This may surprise many people, but I prefer a one-dimensional freeze-frame of her legs to a tiny lapel pin that says “Support Doggie Bags.” You know I don’t own a dog, Clarence.
  2. Gifts by Mail. I am sick and tired of pecan pies, especially the ones that say something like “Mom’s Authentic Good Ole Made-in-the-USA Texas Pecan Pies.” A little research reveals that Mom cranks out 900,000 homemade pecan pies every holiday season in Mexico and delivers them on an underground assembly line between Juarez and El Paso, Texas. Please, Mom, make it a fruitcake next year, or a can of salted Virginia peanuts.
  3. Gift Certificates. Most of them are for redemption in stores offering 19th Century goodies like Karo Syrup and hog jowls. Not only that, you must redeem the full value of the cert or lose any remaining balance. It’s mathematically impossible to locate a combination of goods that add up to the exact amount of your gift cert. Send a check next year, Auntie.
  4. Books. Let’s face it. There isn’t a human on the face of the earth who wants to read The Top Selling Political Science Textbooks of All Time. You can’t even find one in a Borders trash bin. That’s why the title is sold only in Murphy’s Bar, Exotic Grill, and Used Books. Who but a faithful bar habitué would lay out a dime for one? Try Superman comics next year, Uncle Harold.
  5. Office Parties. You have to fake the Christmas spirit with people you despise. Well, this is one of those grin-and-bear it situations, good training if you aspire to become a politician.

Okay, family members, try to do a little better next year. And in return I promise never to recycle any more flashing neckties.

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Where is my heart?

…paraphrase of the Song from Moulin Rouge

On this special day, my heart is with…

  • Every single member of my family, near or far, alive or departed, horse thieves and saints.
  • All of my friends all over the globe.
  • Individuals who through no wish of their own were born and remain in poverty.
  • Individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide or any other tragedy.
  • Individuals struggling to recover from an addiction.
  • Children suffering at this moment from child abuse and those attempting to recover from child abuse.
  • Women who have been beaten, belittled, and raped by their own husbands and significant others.
  • Children with terminal illnesses in hospitals and out.
  • Children without parents.
  • Lonely and abandoned seniors.
  • All who have been discarded by society.

We claim to be the richest nation on Earth. If we had a national heart as deep as the pockets of the rich and powerful, we might have a legitimate claim to moral riches, which is the pinnacle of all that is good and right.

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