Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

One of my favorite times of year. Here's why.

I hope 2006 brings great things to you and yours.

Rob

Virus

Click here to get the Amish computer virus. (This won't hurt your computer, I promise.)

Rob

Rubberneckin'

If you're not reading Josh Marshall's daily coverage of the DeLay/Abramoff scandals at Talking Points Memo, you're missing the best political car crash since Nixon. It's like sitting on the guard rail, watching the pileup. Best seats ever!

Rob

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thank you, 2005!

Paul Krugman looks at the difference between where the country stood on the Bush presidency at the beginning of the year and where we stand at its close.

Of course, it would have been even better year if Chimpy McPretzlechoker had turned out to be a competent president. But since this isn't Bizarro World, we'll have to settle for three more years of the country increasingly turning against him and his corrupt little cabal. Too little, too late.

Rob

Kickin' Ricky

There's no good way to link to it, but Jack Curtin (at I've Heard the Mermaids Singing) has a nice look at Senator Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum's most recent backpedaling over so-called "Intelligent Design." Click here and scroll down to Dec. 22. I'm glad Jack's move has turned out okay, and he's back to posting regularly. He had me at "Creepily babyfaced."

(Presumably once we flip to 2006, you'll have to click to the archives. I'll try to update the link.)

One more thing about Rick Santorum. At the infamous office Christmas party I wrote about earlier, somehow Rich Santorum's name came up. A coworker (a lifelong New Yorker) said, "I'm surprised anyone ever took him seriously. Doesn't his name mean something dirty?"

So not only is spreadingsantorum.com the first link on a Google search (I just checked to set the link above), but Dan Savage's efforts to equate his name with a sex act Mr. Beastiality would find distatasteful are working. (Here's the column that explains it all; if you clicked on all my links you already know which option was chosen.) Which is a fine Christmas present indeed.

And, as always, welcome to the folks who only stop by when I kick Ricky. Say hi in the comments!

Rob

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Times Honors a Hero

You'll only have a couple of weeks to read it before it goes behind the NY Times' pay wall, but take a moment and read their profile of Cmdr. James Stockdale, who passed away in 2005. Like most people of my generation, I knew him more as a failed VP candidate; I had a sense that he was an impressive man, out of his depth in political waters and treated unfairly by the media, but I had no idea what he'd done before siging up with Ross Perot.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the Times piece. If they don't make you want to read the rest, I don't know what will.

Cmdr. James Stockdale parachuted out of his nose-diving Skyhawk over the North Vietnamese jungle in September 1965, the war was still young. Little was known about the fate that awaited American prisoners of war. It didn't take Stockdale long to gain a clearer sense. After a few months in solitary confinement in Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, he was introduced to "the ropes," a torture technique in which a prisoner was seated on the floor - legs extended, arms bound behind him - as a guard stood on his back and drove his face down until his nose was mashed into the brick floor between his legs. The North Vietnamese knew they were overmatched militarily, but they figured they could at least win the propaganda war by brutalizing American P.O.W.'s until they denounced their government and "confessed" that they had bombed schoolchildren and villagers.

For his part, Stockdale intended to return home with his honor intact. One afternoon, he was given a razor and led to the bathroom - a sure sign that he was being readied for a propaganda film. Instead of shaving, Stockdale gave himself a reverse Mohawk, tearing up his scalp in the process. More determined than ever now, his captors locked him in the interrogation room for a few minutes while they fetched a hat for him. Stockdale glanced around, looking for an appropriate weapon. He considered a rusty bucket and a windowpane before settling on a 50-pound stool, and proceeded to beat himself about the face. Then, realizing that his eyes were not yet swollen shut, he beat himself some more. By the time the guards had returned, blood was running down the front of his shirt. For the next several weeks, Stockdale kept himself unpresentable by surreptitiously bashing his face with his fists. The North Vietnamese never did manage to film him.
He spent eight years as a POW, organizing other servicemen to resist their torturers, and developing a code of conduct which allowed them to keep as much dignity as possible in that situation. His efforts kept himself and the men he was imprisoned with in better psychologial shape than they would have been without him. It's an amazing story.

Here's to you, Commander Stockdale.

Rob

Via Steve at Political Animal

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Ho Ho Ho!

Media inTrouble has posted the final NJ Carnival of Bloggers for 2005. Merry Christmas, y'all.

Rob

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Blank to you

I will likely be swallowed up by the holidays this weekend, so let me wish you the merriest of December 25ths, whether you wish to call it "Christmas," "Hanukkah" or "Sunday." Merry knows no boundaries.*

Rob

*This was a constant source of tension between him and Pippin, by the way.

Meme o' Sevens

’Twas the day before the night before Christmas, and I’m finally picking up the gauntlet that Jeri threw down:

(But since I’m typing this on the train, I’m doing it from memory. Bear with me if I forget any.)

7 favorite books or series
87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Madeliene’s Ghost by Robert Girardi
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Matt Scudder mysteries by Lawrence Block

Since I know I won’t remember all of these, I’m adding 7 favorite comic-book series (available in trade paperback for your easy browsing)
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon’s Preacher
Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham’s Fables
Warren Ellis & Darrick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan
John Broome and Carmine Infantino’s The Flash (available in Flash Archives 1-3, with more on their way soon, I hope)
James Robinson’s & Tony Harris (and Peter Sneljberg)’s Starman
Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen

(Holee smokes, those are all published by DC. I'm sure there are some indies I'm not thinking of, but that's what I gots now.)

7 movies I could watch again and again (despite my love for certain movies, I’m limiting this to ones I’ve seen at least 3 times—once, again, and then again)
Joe vs. the Volcano
Payback
The Big Lebowski
Miller’s Crossing (I’m limiting Joel & Ethan to two; even that was tough.)
Casablanca
Goodfellas
The Shawshank Redemption
Silence of the Lambs

7 places I’d rather be
New Orleans (helping out by day, becoming part of the problem by night)
Galway
Paris
Nolay, France
High in the air, in a glider
Seaside, NJ, with a whole mess a’ friends
Aboard a pirate ship, yo-ho!

7 things I say most often (I’m leaving out “I love you,” since y’all don’t come here for that)
“Beanie!”
“You’re nuts. You’re like some nutty nut girl, you know that?”
“Worst…president…EVER!”
“Fuckity shit!”
“EZ Pass! Kiss my ass!”
“duke duke duke duke duke!” (or any other noises to stir up the ferrets)
“You’re a geek too, y’know.”

7 (okay, 8) people I’d like to rope into doing this
Sharon & Andrew
Greg (if I’m in under the wire for the three of them)
Rob
Chris R.
Chris A. (even if they have to start up a new blog to do it!)
KTBuffy
Jim the Bastard

And I’m missing one…umm… 7 new dwarf names?
Sticky
Rusty
Ornery
Shifty
Randy
Weepy
and Chet.

Rob

UPDATE: Here are the three “official” ones I forgot (I must’ve pulled 7 places I’d like to be from elsewhere in the memosphere):

7 things I cannot do:
Remember every last detail of memes
Doodle anything but the same few faces. I think these are the faces of people who will one day kill me. (And they’re sorry-looking sons a’bitches, lemme tell ya.)
Whistle between my fingers
Raise only my left eyebrow (the right one works fine solo; I practiced for a long while after watching Moonraker as a kid)
Play basketball (with any success)
Hold a note
Respect the President (He had his chance and blew it.)

7 things that attract me to people…
Y’know, I really hate this one. It’s the same thing that attracts YOU to people. Because we’re all wired pretty much the same in that respect. I can say eyes, smile, sense of humor, and four more (oh, let’s just say tits tits tits tits) – and they’re pretty much what you’ve got too (aside from tits four times. Maybe.) But we all like the same things in general, and we all enjoy different versions of those same things. Some people like a wide, friendly smile. Others like a warm but subdued grin. All of these things should be followed by “…that I like.” So here goes.
Smile that I like.
Eyes that I like.
Sense of humor similar enough to mine, but not exactly the same.
Way of expressing emotions that I like.
Physique that I like.
Someone who likes me (in a way that I like) for who I am.
And must love old Warner Brothers cartoons.

I think we can all agree on that stuff, right?

And 7 things to do before I die:
Publish some comic books, including writing an issue of the Flash.
Have a play produced off-Broadway
Ride a considerable distance in a submarine
Skydive
Roll down a hill in a Zorb
Publish a buncha novels
Wish for three more wishes

Rob

My Furley Sense is Tingling…

True story:

Our office Christmas party was Wednesday night, and we’d pretty much taken up the back room of a bar. After a while, we were all pretty well lit, and I went downstairs to hit the head.

So I’m there at the urinal, and I can tell there’s someone in the stall next to me. But there’s conversation, low and quiet. A man’s voice, saying something I can’t quite hear. There’s some jostling going on in there, some maneuvering for position. A thump against the barrier between the stall and the rest of the men’s room.

And you’re thinking what I’m thinking, I know you are. S-E-X, with a capital X.

And then I hear something that makes my jaw drop. A higher voice, a woman’s voice I guess, singing.

Singing the dreidel song.

“Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made you out of clay…” And I think: This is the single kinkiest thing I’ve ever been witness to. This is Surrender Dorothy territory.

I wash up and head up the stairs to my coworkers. One of them’s coming down the stairs, and I pull him aside and say: “There’s a couple doing it in the men’s room stall – and she’s singing the dreidel song!”

Then I go up and report the same exact thing to my horde of coworkers. I get amazed looks, and laughs, and every reaction you’d hope imparting that news would provoke.

And then a father and his preschool-age son come back up to finish their dinner, and I know exactly what was really happening in the stall: potty training.

Mortified is the word.

Sheesh.

Rob

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Lazy Sunday"

SNL was really on their game this weekend. Jack Black was the host, but he doesn't appear in this clip -- a pre-made spot which is one of the funniest things all season.

Check it out. (It might take a while to load, but it's worth it.)

Rob

There's a clot in your sink

"You haff a lot uff tartar," she said, as she scraped my teeth with something sharp and unyielding.

I'd already figured that out. It was taking an awfully long time for the hygenist to clean my teeth. At first, I thought my teeth were being sprayed by a high-intensity beam of water -- sort of like power-washing your siding. Certainly, the tube in my mouth was sucking a lot of fluids out. Then I realized the tool she was using had not tube attached to the handle. The pointy feeling in my gums was due entirely to a pointy object poking around in there. Knowing this made it hurt more. Water never hurts as bad as metal, even if it's the exact same pain.

"It us just pressure," she said when I flinched. "No pain." Maybe it was a painful pressure.

And man, was it taking a long while to get down to my teeth under the archaeological layers of cheesesteak and doughnut that had evaded my brushing. I was waiting for her to pull a jackhammer from a sanitary sealed plastic pouch.

Eventually, I decided to spit.

I have never spit anything with such a deep red color in my life. Just a torrent of blood. I drank from the cup, and the next spit got pink -- or rather, it was pinkish with floating blobs of red suspended in it. I tried to make them swirl down the sink, but one of the globs didn't make it past the drain screen. I assume these were platelets.

One thing I knew: I wasn't about to spit again until it was completely done. No sense grossing myself out twice.

Eventually, my teeth cleaning was done, and I thanked my hygenist for doing such a thorough job. She stressed that regular six-month visits would make things go a lot more smoothly. She's right, of course. Hopefully the nightmares will have stopped by then.

Rob

It's Carnival Time

The Carnival of NJ Bloggers is up at the Rix Mix. As Hannibal Lecter would say: Go! Now!

Rob

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Three Cheers

Not a bad week, all (well, some) things considered. The Iraqis had (mostly) violence-free elections with a higher turnout rate than we’ll ever see here. The Prez was dragged kicking and screaming to the moral high ground on torture (thank you, Mr. McCain, for this and your delicious frozen krinkle fries). And Friday, the Dems (with at least one Repub, Chuck Hagel) successfully filibustered a cloture of debate on the Patriot Act extension, So we may see some debate on whether or not some of our freedoms really need to be abridged after all. Whatever the outcome, shouldn’t we at least talk about it? Cheers to all of these developments.

Rob

Jeremiah (Lobster) Johnson

Two items of note: First of all, I’m about a month into a new face. Kathy suggested that I grow a “mountain man” beard a while back, and after careful consideration (and a sufficient amount of laziness) I decided that I’d stop shaving. It’s soft by this point, and only a little itchy. It also keeps more warmth in that my bare skin and fuzzy chin. So chances are, it’s in place until March. Until then, kiss my cheeks goodbye.

(And I just learned Kathy's secret motivation for the beard. Quoth she: "I wanted some hair to run my fingers through." Ow.)

Second of all, my friend Jim the Bastard told me that he’s probably going to stop calling me left-hand rob on his blog, and my new nickname will be Lobster Johnson. This is after the Hellboy character, and (as far as I know) is not an editorial comment on my Johnson or its carapace.

And if that doesn’t leave you wondering why you even bother stopping by my little corner of the outernet, nothing will.

Rob

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Trouble with Narnia

Okay, this is really appalling.

From what I understand, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie, there are four kids, and one of them, Edmund, is tempted by an evil queen called the White Witch. She lures him onto her sledge and convinces him to betray his brother and sisters and Aslan, the titular lion and analogous Christ. He’s the Judas of the story.

But what does the White Witch use to get him on board with the plan? How does she tempt him?

Afternoon Delight, my friends.

Now look, I know my code words, and I know that sex equals sin and death in these Bible allegories – the lessons of Friday the 13th didn’t completely escape me, y’know. But can we please have a little innocence in what is ostensibly still a children’s film? He’s a kid, for cryin’ out loud! Why not lure him with candy?

What?

Turkish Delight?

What is that, Afternoon Delight in a bath?

Rob

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's so cute when they eat their young

As you may have heard, President Bush sent out a bunch of greeting cards with the words "Happy Holidays" on them -- and the usual Christian Right nutjobs have gone apeshit.

Peter David has a great post about it.

Rob

Friday, December 09, 2005

Whoa.

Looks like I’ll be buying Aquaman again. Lookit that sweet art.

Rob

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Starve the beast... with steak!*

Very interesting post by Ed Kilgore at Newdonkey.com today, about how the corruption that runs through the Republican-controlled government like fat marbled through a ribeye is inherent in conservatism itself, and not merely the corrupting influence of absolute power. Their power makes this corruption possible, of course -- but it's their philosophy which made it inevitable.

Here are the money paragraphs at the end, but read the whole thing:

The ready embrace of "starve the beast" ideology by the Republican Party of the W. era has also exposed another rotten underpinning of conservatism in power: if you don't believe in the actual ability of the federal government to do anything of real value, then why not turn federal agencies into patronage machines and well-paid holding pens for rising young ideologues?

This question, I suspect, explains how you get from Reaganesque critiques of bureaucratic incompetence to Brownie, in less than a generation.

In other words, I believe the endemic corruption of conservatives in power we are witnessing today is not just a morality play about power's corrupting influence, or about the descent of ideologues into the practical swamps of politics. Worse than that, it's about the consequences of entrusting government's vast power to people who can't think of it as a force for the common good, and thus, inevitably, treat it as a force for private gain.

Rob

*analogy only. No actual cattle were consumed
.

It just hit me.

I’m four years older than Bill Hicks was when he died. I better get moving.

Rob

Our Hideous Economy

Stepping out of Penn Station today, I couldn't help notice a guy wearing a big sign that said "Women and Children Sample Sale 35% to 70% Off".

Good grief. Sample all the women you want, pal, but leave the children out of it.

Rob

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bible (T)humpers

A German Protestant group is releasing calendars featuring nude photographs inspired by erotic scenes of the Bible. Save the date!

Rob

On the Battlefield

James Wolcott’s “Scenes from the War on Christmas.”

Go. Read.

Rob

Monday, December 05, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

They're Cousins....Identical Cousins...

While I always regret turning over a rock and finding Coulter, at least I can cheer myself up by watching Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum's campaign woes. Now there are questions raised by footage in one of his campaign ads that's identical to footage in an Americans for Job Security ad. Campaign and 501(c) groups (such as AJS) are not allowed to coordinate.

This is better than NASCAR. Can I watch this car wreck in slow motion, please?

Rob

Coulter and O'Reilly

I just don't fucking believe those two. They're bottomless pits of venom. And little crybabies, to boot. Their buddies rule the whole fucking universe, and all they can do is whine that they're being persecuted. They best part a' them ran down their daddies' legs, I tell ya.

Rob

Choi Wins Recount

The Home News Tribune has reported that Jun Choi has won the Edison mayoral recount, adding one vote to his total. Stephens has still not conceded, saying he will either concede or file another challenge by Dec. 8.

Personally, I think we have our mayor.

Rob

OnStar...with a side of jibberjabber

NavTones and TomTom, two voice services that can be downloaded into your car navigation system, are adding celebrity voices. Among them are John Cleese, Burt Reynold, Dennis Hopper ... and Mr. T.

I really think they're missing a bet by not giving William Daniels all the money he could ever want to do this.

Rob

Podcast Alert

My friend Rob, of Usdin.net, just posted the first installment of The Jersey Jamcast. It's a half-hour podcast showcasing Jersey music talent that you can probably find playing in clubs around the state. This one features the harder rock of Cold Promise, singer-songwriter Lori Malvey, and (my favorite band of the bunch) the New-Brunswick-based Amphibians. He caps it all off with a really nice tune by the Candy Butchers -- not a NJ band, but certainly worth straying from the formula.

He's done a great job with it, so give it a listen. Congratulations, Rob.

Rob

Thursday, December 01, 2005

…and Checkin’ It Twice

A New Jersey State Superior Court judge, Yolanda Ciccone, has authorized a recount in the Edison mayoral race. Democrat Jun Choi is currently considered the winner, by 269 votes. That’s barely more than 1 percent of the total votes cast. His opponent, William Stephens, has challenged the vote, and the recount is scheduled for Wednesday.

Stephens plans to be there for the recount. The Sentinel quotes him as saying, “Tapes will be pulled out of the machines to make sure the numbers are correct.”

That’s the way these things should go. Voting machines should leave a paper trail that can be checked during a recount, whether it’s for a mayoral seat or a national election.

Computers make errors. They crash, they freeze, they can be hacked. We need to know that the votes that register in voting machines at the end of the day are the same votes we cast, and not the product of a bug or an intentional attempt at rigging the election. The best way to do this is HR 550, a bill in the U.S. House to require a voter-verified permanent paper record of votes. Sharon has an excellent post on the subject at The Center of New Jersey Life. And its sponsor, NJ Congressman Rush Holt, has started an online petition. Sign the petition, but also write to your representative to ask him or her to support the bill. We should know that we’ve gotten the leaders we asked for.

I’m hoping Choi wins the Edison recount. But I don’t begrudge Stephens asking for it, and I'm glad the recount should be reliable. Whoever wins, I want our mayor to be the guy we voted for.

Rob

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm gonna sit right down

…and write myself a letter…

Here’s why.

Rob

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Last Gasp of Spring

It was unseasonably warm in New York today. It threatened rain (and eventually delivered), but it felt, in some small way, a bit like spring. It was a good day to walk to work.

Most of that has to do with someone I’ll never see again, a stunning woman who walked out of the subway at Greeley Square and headed toward Park at pretty much my pace. She was dressed well, but not fancily, wearing a light pink sweater and gray pinstriped pants. She was a skinny girl, but the pinstripes took a few pleasant detours before they reached the ground just the same.

She had everyone’s attention. At one point, I was walking ahead of her, and I heard a guy maneuvering a hand truck say to her, “You’re really beautiful.” Not lasciviously, but like she had done him a favor just by being there, and he wanted to acknowledge it. I heard him over my headphones. She never broke her stride.

Wherever I looked, people’s heads were turning. Every man's, and quite a few women's. She crossed the street, and some workers unloading boxes stopped moving just to watch her. I liked seeing them slow down, one by one, as the realization of her presence shot from one guy to the next. This is from forty feet away.

Looking so good – having the world react to you in such a way – may be a blessing or a curse. I suspect it’s a little of both, and that I’m not doing her any favors by writing about her here. Still, it was an entertaining start to the day, watching people’s expressions as this unassuming beauty passed them. But I’d be lying if I said it was more fun than watching her walk in the first place.

Rob

National Strategery

The Prez is two and a half years behind the curve, but it’s nice to know it’s still on his mind.

Rob

It's not all dead celebs...

Seriously. Play Mark's new game.

Rob

Monday, November 28, 2005

Take Your Smiles Where You Find Them

Pies in the face are good. Egg is better. Ha.

Rob

I got it from KTBuffy...

... who got it from Yi Shun:

10 firsts:
...first boyfriend/girlfriend: Beth Kinder
...first best friend: Dave Holdsworth
...first screen name: grimmbeau
...first kiss: Bridgett (last name lost to time)
...first piercings: ain’t got no
...first crush: Colleen Clendennin
...first music: Styx – “Too Much Time On My Hands”
...first car: silver Mercury Tracer
...first stuffed animal: Dapper Dan (and all that dressing-myself practice shows, don’t it?)

9 lasts:
...last cigarette: Folk Fest, 2003
...last alchoholic beverage: Margarita. Lunch. Today.
...last kiss: hmm. This morning. My beautiful grumpy wife.
...last movie seen: Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
...last phone call: to the bank to order new checks
...last cd played: Rumor and Sigh by Richard Thompson
...last bubble bath: The night of April 26, 2003
...last time you cried: who knows? Probably the last time I heard Cat Stevens “Father and Son” on the radio.
...last date: Heck what’s a date? We do everything together. (I should probably work on that.) Depending on the definition, either last week or this summer.

8 have you evers:
...dated one of your best friends: yep
...skinny dipped: check.
...kissed somebody and regretted it: ditto.
...fallen in love: certainly.
...lost someone you loved: yep.
...been depressed: oh yeah.
...woken up and not known where you were: got that covered too.

7 places you've been to:
...Ireland
...France
...Vancouver
...Quebec City
...San Diego
...Las Vegas
...Dominican Republic

6 things you've done today:
...ate half a burrito
...rode the train
...proofread some magazine pages
...catalogued five different types of land mines
...bought two belated birthday gifts
...listened to podcasts

5 favorite things in NO order:
...sleep
...comics
...Folk Fest
...deadlines
...Mardi Gras

4 people you can tell [almost] anything to:
...Kathy
...Greg
...Drew (or Sharon, but if it's husband stuff it's Andrew)
...Chris

3 wishes
...long & happy life together
...make a comfortable living writing
...an exterior to the house that’s not pink

2 things you want to do before you die:
...retire in New Orleans
...publish some comics

1 thing you regret:
KT wrote: not spending more time with my dad – and yeah, that’s about right.

Kung-Fu for Peace

The BBC is reporting that the Bosnian city of Mostar has unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Bruce Lee, who would have turned 65 this weekend. The story reports:

Lee was chosen by organizers as a symbol of the fight against ethnic divisions.

"We will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," said Veselin Gatalo of the youth group Urban Movement Mostar.

"But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

What can I say? I love the global village.

Rob

Saturday, November 26, 2005

R.I.P., Pat Morita

Pat Mortia passed away yesterday. Mark Evanier has a nice post about him on his blog. All I can add is that Pat secured a place in American culture with his role as Mr. Miyagi. I've never seen any of the Karate Kid films, and yet parts of it have been familiar to me for years. And generally those parts feature Pat Morita.

Wax on, everybody.

Rob

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

In this time of Thanksgiving...

There's one thing we can all hope for.

Happy turkey day, all...

Rob

Golden Age Heroes

I don’t know how long they keep these up for, but check out this Worth 1000 gallery for your highbrow crimefightin’ kicks.

Rob

Monday, November 14, 2005

It Finally Clicks

So I've been hearing great things about Shopgirl, the new movie starring Steve Martin and Claire Daines. It's based on Martin's novel, which I read and enjoyed, about an older man who falls for a younger woman. It's more complicated than that -- or rather, it's just as complicated as that, which makes it more complicated than the simplistic treatment most books and movies give that subject.

I haven't seen the movie. But I've heard some really nice reviews about Steve Martin's subtle, nuanced performance of the well-off suitor. And for a few weeks now, I've been trying to reconcile this in my head with the character I remember for them book -- a neurotic, agoraphobic guy who had tics that make Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets seem like the man in the gray flannel suit.

And then it hit me -- I'm thinking of the main character of The Pleasure of My Company, the novel Martin wrote after Shopgirl. I listened to both on audio, Martin read them both, and they blended in my head. Both of them are good reading, but the two leads couldn't be more different.

What a weird movie I was expecting.

Rob

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Where I Stand, and Where I Turn

I’m at one of my satellite locations in Pennsylvania. I started writing this post about a newcomer’s impression of NJ, and to give the readers at the Center of NJ Life an idea of where I’m coming from, politically. The post totally got outta hand, as you can read, below:

I used to be registered as an independent in Pennsylvania, although I would tend to vote for the more liberal candidate. Then, after the 2000 election (or whatever it was), as the Republican party got more and more conservative, I felt the only way to fight their hard-line fire was by having a strong party to oppose them, so I registered as a Democrat – first in PA, and then once I moved here. And I’m happy to say that the Democrats are finally showing a little of the backbone I’ve always dreamed of them having. I thought Reid’s closed session maneuver was magnificent, and like how the terms of the debate in Washington is changing.

Now, that’s all national stuff. On a local level, I have to confess – I’d vote for anyone, Democrat, Republican, or Satanist Party of America, who would let me make a left turn on Route 1. One of the biggest shocks of living in NJ is that, after a year and a half in Edison, I still feel like I don’t know how to get anywhere. I know a few different ways home from the train station, but my brain just doesn’t connect these routes with my home. I don’t have a visual map of any kind – it’s almost like some form of teleportation – just make a left, a right, a left, keep going, a right, and ping! I’m home.

There’s a ton of traffic out there, and I know that it’s not just a problem in New Jersey. There are more and more cars on the roads everywhere in the Northeast, on roads that in many cases weren’t built for that sort of capacity. Solutions to this problem fall into three different categories:

Civil Engineering: Widen the roads, adjust traffic patterns, that sort of thing. These are the most common solutions. This, of course, means giving more space to our roads – space that is almost certainly being used for something else. New public transportation might also fit into this category, or the next, depending on what’s being proposed.

Technological: Change what it is we drive on the roads. Smaller vehicles need less space. The Segway is an example of this – although since the President and then Gob on Arrested Development have made it a laughingstock, it certainly won’t take off like its inventors intended.

Sociological: This is, in a certain way, the most drastic sort of solution – but it leaves no physical footprint at all. If we were to shift into a 24 hour lifestyle – with almost every job having a second and third shift, with almost every workspace shared by one or two other people – there’d be no more rush hour. Or rather, there’s be three rush hours, each cut down by a third, and traffic would unjam as the roads operate at the proper capacity.

That last idea may be a crackpot solution – it’s certainly a Rube-Goldbergesque way of solving a specific problem, turning every aspect of our lives upside down to stay out of traffic jams (and maybe make a left turn on Route 1). But I can’t help think that we’re almost at a tipping point, and our current car and road system won’t be viable much longer without some changes. Maybe those changes are coming – with higher gas prices, people might drive less, or combine trips when they do. Traffic certainly isn’t Public Enemy Number One – but I hope someone comes up with some options while we still have some room to maneuver.

Rob

(Cross-posted at The Center of NJ Life)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Development Arrested

Fox is putting Arrested Development on hold. Not entirely unexpected, but horrible news just the same. I really don't understand why a show this funny gets such lousy ratings.

Rob

Bush at 36%

Per Newsweek poll.

The last time Bush saw numbers this bad, he got them from a professor.

I also notice these figures on Sploid: Is your country heading in the right direction? 47% of Iraqis think so; only 26% of Americans.

Oof.

Rob

My Main Street

I thought I'd take a moment to highlight the excellence that is downtown Metuchen. Metuchen has one of my favorite main streets in the world. A couple of highlights:

Afghan Kebab House #7: This is fantastic Middle Eastern food, served in a cozy atmosphere. There’s a dish that comes with this pistachio rice that’s to die for. I recommend opting for the lamb over the chicken; the do a really nice job with it.

Main Street has a couple of nice ice cream shops, as well as Café Paris, a neat little French bistro. My wife and I honeymooned in Paris, and it’s great to have a local source for crepes. We haven’t really been able to master them at home yet.

There’s a liquor store on the corner that I’ve only stopped in once, but I had a great experience when I did. I bought a saki set for a housewarming gift for some friends. When we were picking it up, the proprietor (an Indian man) asked if I liked saki. I said I hadn’t had it in years, but this set was a gift – and what really drew my eye to that corner of the store was the soju. He told me how much he loves a cold shot of soju after coming home from work on a hot day. He keeps it in his freezer. I’ve still got to go back and buy a bottle from him, because man, that’s good stuff.

But my point is: one Saturday afternoon, an Indian guy and a Caucasian mutt stood around for a minute, talking about Japanese and Korean liquor. That’s America, right there, boys and girls. Cheers.

Probably my favorite place on Metuchen’s Main Street is a bookstore called the Raconteur. Their motto is “Get Lit,” and I think that’s a great example of their attitude. More than simply a bookstore, they’re becoming more and more of a cultural hub in the town. They show old movies in the back of the store (or, in the summer, in the parking lot), and serve complimentary snacks and drinks. They sponsored the first annual Metuchen Film Festival (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get a chance to go). They have readings and meetings (a new Sherlockian Society is starting up Nov. 29th) in the store, and on top of that, they’ve got a great selection of new and used books. Give it a look.

Rob

(Cross-posted at The Center of NJ Life)

America, the Beautiful

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo offers about a hundred and fifty reasons why, with his 100 Greatest Americans list. There are some nice surprises there, and it's a great list all-around. (And Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. made-it -- woo-hoo!)

Congratulations on hopping to the finish line, Skip.

Rob

(cross-posted at The Center of NJ Life)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And Special Guest Villain... The Joker!

I'll be guest-blogging at The Center of NJ Life through the weekend. Thought you might like to know.

Rob

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Relief

I just got word. Apparently National Guard members who have been recalled through IRR have been give the option to resign their commissions. They're sending the paperwork to my brother-in-law now. He's not going.

Whoever is responsible for this decision, thank you. Thank you so much.

Rob

Weird “Science” Defeated

In what was probably the most closely watched school board race in the country, all eight members of the Dover, Pa., school board that introduced creationism (so-called “intelligent design”) into the biology curriculum have been shown the door by voters.

Word is that the defeated school board members plan to spend more time with their families, including a possible group vacation to see the edge of the earth.

Rob

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good News, Everybody!

John Corzine is New Jersey's new governor. And, surprisingly, Tim Kaine is Virginia's new governor, even after (some might say because of) President Bush's last minute push for the Republican candidate, Jerry Kilgore.

But the squeaker of the night for us was mayor of Edison. The Democratic candidate, Jun Choi (who had beaten our incumbent mayor in the primary), was challenged by "People's Choice" candidate Bill Stephens. There was no Republican candidate. When I had checked in a little earlier, Stephens was ahead by a considerable amount, but in the end Choi pulled it out by 201 votes.

Mr. Mayor, Misters Governor, congratulations.

Rob

The Videotape

Some New Jersey bloggers have been hinting around about a videotape that will "dramatically change the direction of this race,"meaning the NJ governor's race. It should be showing up any time now, since it was promised in "the next 48 hours." Of course, that was almost two weeks ago. It's apparent that this was just a weaselly tactic to put an inkling of doubt into supporters of Jon Corzine. Maybe the blogger pushing the tape's existence was taken for a ride by his source, or maybe he was intentionally putting out disinformation to help his candidate win. At the moment, it doesn't really matter.

Nonetheless, this morning I've got to say he's probably right. . In the next 48 hours -- hell, in the next 24 -- a videotape will emerge that will dramatically change the nature of this race.

And I, for one, will enjoy watching Doug Forrester's concession speech when it airs.

Rob

42

In Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut writes:

"Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different!"

Makes sense to me.

Rob

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's the Torture, Stupid

I think Fareed Zakaria is exactly right in this piece for Newsweek. Not only is torture morally amd ethically wrong, and not only is it ineffective at providing trustworthing intel, but it undermines our war effort at every step. Zakaria wrote:

This is a case of more than just bad public relations. Ask any soldier in Iraq when the general population really turned against the United States and he will say, "Abu Ghraib." A few months before the scandal broke, Coalition Provisional Authority polls showed Iraqi support for the occupation at 63 percent. A month after Abu Ghraib, the number was 9 percent. Polls showed that 71 percent of Iraqis were surprised by the revelations. Most telling, 61 percent of Iraqis polled believed that no one would be punished for the torture at Abu Ghraib. Of the 29 percent who said they believed someone would be punished, 52 percent said that such punishment would extend only to "the little people."

When you think of the victims of torture, you think of that grotesque human pyramid overseen by Lyndie England and the other "bad apples." But the fact is, as the insurgency grew, some of their recruits were people who turned against us specifically because of those practices. The very people so eager to torture to keep us safe are putting our troops in greater danger.

We can't be successful in any measure in Iraq until we hold the administrators responsible for the torture debacles of the past few years, and we come clean on the so-called "black sites" where we're holding unaccounted, unmonitored prisoners. (And, of course, the Vice President stops being the cheerleader for torture that he is today.) We have to renounce this behavior. We have to end this behavior. We have to let people know that it will never happen again.

Rob

Thursday, November 03, 2005

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry... Or Would You?

Luke at the Comics Cave directed me to this amazing optical illusion. I've never seen anything like it. It's a far cry from the Vase/Face, I'll tellya that.

Rob

Imus & Santorum

Santorum Exposed has a Quicktime clip of Senator Man-on-Dog's impromptu call to Imus's show yesterday. Brian at SE gives a synopsis, but give it a listen just to hear Imus tell Santorum he's "so misguided it's almost disturbing." And to wonder how so much horseshit can get stuffed into such a small package. He's like a neutron star of neocon propaganda.

Oh, and Santorum brings up a threesome. Funny how these self-appointed Moral Arbiters like dirty jokes the same as the rest of us, isn't it? Somebody call the FCC!

Rob


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Set the wayback for November 1973

CBS News has Bush at a 35% approval rating. They also show comparison charts to where other two-term presidents were on the first anniversary of their reelections, as well as approval ratings for presidents in scandals. In November 1973, Nixon had 28% approval.

Now, as Josh Marshall says, "once you get down below, say, 40% you've really, really gotta earn every new lost point on the way down." But Bush has never been one to back down from an challenge. And Nixon is only 8 percentage points away. I think he's up to it.

Rob

5000

I just logged on to the blog at work and noticed the odometer had flipped. 5000 hits. Which is 4,999 more than Dexy's Midnight Runners ever got.

Rob

Monday, October 31, 2005

Got my mojo workin'...

..but I sure hope New Orleans doesn't lose its juju.

Newsday: Voodoo Practitioners Scatter After Katrina

Rob

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blue Blog Bloc


Earlier today Kathy & I went to a house party that was both a meetup of various NJ bloggers and an opportunity to meet Rush Holt, congressman for NJ’s 12th District. Rep. Holt was a friendly, sensible speaker, and I’m sorry I only got there a little before he wrapped things up. But, if you weren’t there at all, don't despair. He was liveblogging at bluejersey.net, and you can read his posts here and here. Be sure to read the comments under the first link, since there’s more there as well.

Rob

I Should Be In Advertising

I was recently in a neighborhood with a sign for a company called Double D Construction. I don't know what their slogan is, but if they're in the market for one, I offer this one free of charge:

"When it's Double D, you know it's built."

Rob

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Through With Carrots

I'm an idiot.

Two weeks ago, while playing D&D, I gobbled my way through a 2-pound bag of carrots. I can't vouch for every single carrot in the bag, but I know I ate the majority of them. With all that fiber, I had some gastrointestinal issues that night and the next day...but in the end, no one got hurt, and they kept me from eating the Doritos, which is their job. (Keeping me away from other orange food.)

So I tried it again this week. Another two-pound-bag of baby carrots, another D&D game. I think, if anything, I ate even less than I did the week before.

This time -- not so good. I tossed and turned all night, bloated and feverish, trying to focus my dreams and my waking brain, which seemed to be betraying me. All was a blur, as I burped my way through the night. My burps smelled a bit like carrots, but that seemed a little crazy to me. Just another trick of my fevered brain.

Finally -- after taking some Gas-X, sleeping some more, and hoping things would work themselves out, I couldn't take it anymore. I went to the bathroom for one last try. When conventional methods failed, I washed my hands and thought, "maybe I should make myself throw up."

If you're easily grossed out, I'm surprised that you're still with me. But it gets worse.

I stuck my finger down my throat and got nothing. Again, with similar results. One more time, and--hurrk!--success!

A bright orange ball of shredded carrots plopped into the toilet bowl.

These weren't digested, or even nearly so. They looked like they were ready to be combined with cabbage and mayo and made into slaw. They were the healthiest thing I've ever vomited.

I washed the carrot chunks off my hands and tried some more. I got a similar clump, larger this time. Then again, and I started getting to the carrots my stomach had actually done some work on. Still bright orange, but less solid.

After a few minutes of this, I was finished. I flushed the toilet, washed my hands again and brushed my teeth. My stomach muscles hurt, but I felt much better overall.

All, that is, except psychologically.

See, I remember a time when if I was going to throw up after a night out, carrots had nothing to do with it. (Hell, when I was in college I used to down two-pound bags of carrots in a funnel!) And yet here I was, hurling essential vitamins into the abyss. I'm an old, old man.

But I've learned my lesson. No more carrots for me at D&D.

Next week I'm bringing two pounds of grapes.

Rob

Friday, October 28, 2005

Quick Poll

Which is more irritating: Getting your knickers in a twist or your undies in a bunch?

Rob

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Absence

I haven’t written anything for a little while. Some of it’s been the standard too-busy-to-blog excuse, but most is that I learned something this weekend that I really wanted to process before writing about, and I didn’t want to write about anything else until I did.

My brother-in-law, Brian, has been recalled to the National Guard. He’s been promoted to captain and is leaving for training in a few weeks, and then plans call from him to go out to California for more training for about six months. After that, he’ll be sent overseas.

The news knocked me flat. I can only imagine what he’s going through. What my sister Sally will be going through, and what their sons will be going through once they find out.

Brian left the National Guard eight or nine years ago. He'd never formally resigned his commission because he enjoyed his service, and planned to return to it when he was in his fifties, once the kids were grown. I had heard that a lot of Guard units were going to Iraq, and knew that some people who had left were being recalled. I asked him about this a while ago, and he said something like, “I’ve been out for like eight years. They’d have to be really desperate to call me.”

Aside from the fact that he’s my sister’s husband and my nephews’ father, the Guard couldn’t have made a better choice. Brian’s a sharp guy who can understand and solve problems quickly. He’s a natural leader, and I know he’ll have the people in his unit performing at their absolute best. But I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that he’s my sister’s husband and my nephews’ father and should be home with them.

I have to reevaluate my thinking about the war, and about the soldiers’ job in it. I know in my bones that we were deceived into this war, and that if the President had been honest with us about the expected costs up front, we wouldn’t be there. I have a lot of issues with the President, but the war encapsulates all of them. I think it was a wrongheaded decision, handled incompetently at the top levels. (Like Katrina, like the plan to destroy Social Security, like so many other things.)

That’s not what I’m thinking of now. I’m thinking of the soldiers on the ground, doing their level best to keep everyone safe. Of maintaining security while schools are built and votes are counted. And of presenting, one-on-one, the decent face of America. I know Brian will excel, and I hope the presence of him and others like him will foster goodwill there. We need more than we have now.

I can’t help worrying. I’ve seen the headlines, and I know the chilling landmark we passed yesterday. And I know that the future is uncertain for us all, no matter where we are when we think we’re safe, or healthy, or secure. Anything can happen anywhere. In that light, Iraq is no different from where I grew up, or where I work now. There are no guarantees.

But if I had only one guarantee to give out, I’d give it to him. To keep him safe, and return him home the same man that I’ve always been so glad to have as my brother.

Rob

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lazy Day Yesterday

Spent most of yesterday lazing on the couch, watching TV and movies and enjoying the ferret rumble. Now that the Dude has been reintroduced to the pack, he has to reassert his dominance. Kathy’s seen this sort of behavior before. I haven’t. There’s scratching, biting, chasing, wrestling, and a whole lotta chomping. The Dude and Gus are having a knockdown-dragout these past few nights, although when they get tired they’re more than happy to nap together. It’s weird, but I guess I’m getting used to it. As long as there’s not too much squealing.

We watched Buck Henry’s and Mike Nichols’ 1970 adaptation of Catch-22 yesterday. What an odd, elliptical movie. It’s certainly appropriate for such an odd, elliptical book. There are so many scenes and characters cut out, I would hardly know where to begin cataloging them all. But what there is there is engaging and mysterious, as it’s never entirely clear how the movie fits together. The cast: Alan Arkin (as Yossarian), Martin Sheen (as Charlie Sheen – nope, scratch that, as Dobbs), Martin Balsam (Col. Cathcart), Buck Henry (Col. Korn), Bob Newhart (Major Major), Art Garfunkel (Nately), Anthony Perkins (the Chaplain), John Voight (Milo Minderbinder), Jack Gilford (Doc Daneeka), Orson Welles (Gen. Dreedle) Charles Grodin (Aarfy) and Bob Balaban (Orr) can certainly be called an all-star cast, even excluding Norman Fell, Paula Prentiss, and Austin Pendleton, who have small parts. Plus Marcel Dalio, a French actor who was in Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion. Not a bad pedigree. (I’ve gone back and added to the cast list at least three times so far, thinking, “Oh yeah…HE was in it too!”)

Afterward, tonight and this morning, we watched the commentary track, a conversation between Nichols and Stephen Soderbergh, who probably loves the film more than Nichols does. Their conversation occasionally drifts into technical minutia, but it offers some fascinating recollections of the shoot.

One thing about Catch-22: It’s staunchly anti-war. It isn’t a movie that vacillates. You’re always aware of what it’s saying, even if you’re not quite sure how it’s saying it. Ultimately, even though it’s Cols. Cathcart and Kron sending men out to die, Milo Minderbinder’s profit engine is powering the whole thing. Voight is a genial villain, the man who doesn’t get the ball rolling, but sees a way to take advantage of things as long as the ball keeps rolling. And it he has to give it a little push now and then, he’s not above that.

I want to again recommend that you read Joseph Heller’s novel. But if you can’t find the time for it, the movie’s worth a look, just the same. If you can see it with someone who’s read the book, it might be a little clearer for you. (Or it might make it murkier; who knows?)

Rob

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hussein's Big Day

Hammerheart at Captain Comics' Comics Cave directed me to Jay Pinkerton's blog -- specifically this post. Funny stuff.

Rob

Didn't Wanna Do It

I hated to do it, but I'm finally getting enough of those automated blog posts to be annoying. For a while I seemed to slip under the radar of the spammers. no more. I don't know how many times I've been praised for the information I provide about Technical Writing, and then directed to another site. I've also been directed to a great online blackjack site. I don't get a ton of these by any means, but what bugs me the most about them is that they're not commenting on the current posts -- they're somewhere deep in the archives, and I get an email notification but no clue as to how to find these posts so I can deep-six 'em. So now the word verification system is up. We'll see how long it takes the Secret Posting Agents of Marketing (SPAM) to circumvent my defenses.

Sorry about the extra step, y'all.

Rob

I Heart Keith Olberman

Come for the newscast, stay for the Happy Dance.

Rob

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BusyBusyBusy

Four ferrets can make a guy busy. Too busy to post? It turns out the answer is yes.

All the ferrets are doing well. Snowball has been renamed The Dude, and Blinky is now Blink, so the group as a whole is Blink, She-Devil, Gus and the Dude.The Dude is still quarrantined, although I don't think that'll last much longer. He only has one small bit of scab that we're waiting to fall away from his neck. Throughout it all, he's been cool and happy, and a great fuzzy guy to be around.

Gus and She-Devil are two of a kind. We can usuallyfindthem wrestling each other, but when they're not thus occupied, they'regettingpast the various guardsa and wards we've put up in our family room.The screenaround the baseboard heating? Breached in a day. Luckily, it doesn'tget super-hotwhen we turn it on. Still, we've got to keep them out of it somehow.

Also, I managed to get rid of the awful blackberry bush behind our house, conveniently placed right next to a thorofare so it can scratch whoever passes by. No more! I showed the bush who's boss. And the boss was me!

More stuff: I wasjust hired to write another book. This one's on Angola, so if you know of any good books on Angolan history, please let me know. Research is beginning chop-chop. My one regret is that this pretty much scuttles Nanowrimo for me. I'll have to do my own personal Nano after my deadline. Or revise my previous one to make it readable. Which might take some doing.

Anyway, that's where I've been, and where I'm going. Or actually, it's more like where I am now. Either way, I'm

Rob



Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In this corner...

Despite my worries, a few choice bouts of ferret wrestling make everything better...

Rob

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ferret Day

For a few weeks now, Kathy & I had been looking forward to getting ferrets on Sunday. At first I had been worried, given that we would be taking four of them into our home. That’s a lotta care, a lotta vet bills, and—of most concern to squeamish me—a lotta poop. But I soon found myself really excited about the new arrivals, even to the point of dreaming about them. Even more than my birthday, it was going to be a real treat. I couldn’t wait to play with them once they were all situated.

Well, it was supposed to be a treat. We picked up all four ferrets late Sunday afternoon: Gus, Snowball (who isn't white), Blinky and She-Devil. We got home and put the huge cage their previous family gave us. Then we took them out of the carrier to put them in the cages. Two of them, Gus and Snowball, had little collars on. Kathy thinks they're stupid (and I gotta agree), so we took them off. Gus's came off easily. It was on pretty tight, and had made a crease in his fur. We had trouble taking Snowball's off.

It was on so tight it came off with fur and skin.

His neck was red and raw and wounded. It was horrible. Happily, it didn't seem to us that he could feel anything was wrong. I don't know why that is, but I'm glad for it.

Kathy took him to the emergency vet while I straightened up the room they'll be staying in for a while. But instead of playing with the ferrets like I was looking forward to, I just looked at them like they were strangers, wondering what they thought of their new situation. I was shaken, afraid to touch them.

Eventually Kathy came home with a hurt ferret (that we have to keep isolated from his friends), some medicine and a hefty vet bill. We set Snowball up in his own little cage, resolved to change his name, and watched some TV to calm down. Before we went to bed, we took She-Devil out (she was the only one awake) and played with her a little. It centered us and made us both feel a little better. But I can't say that I slept well last night.

Rob

Post-Birthday Post

Last year, I posted 35 entries for the 35 years I was alive. This year, I was hoping to get out of the house a little more than that. But it was a rainy Saturday, perfect for getting up late, and after a 3:30 pancake breakfast with Kathy and my mom- and sister-in-law, I had to face the fact that it was essentially a lazy day.

A good one, though. Kathy & I went out to see A History of Violence, which isn’t all the critics have cracked it up to be, but I still enjoyed it. Then we came home and had my birthday dinner of crabcakes, with angel food cake for dessert. Kathy outdid herself with both of them.

Then we watched Shaun of the Dead, which Kathy gave me on DVD. Wotta great movie. I still crack up thinking about them singing “White Lines” with that zombie.

A happy birthday, all in all.

Rob

Friday, October 07, 2005

grindgrindgrind

This could be the longest day, ever.

Ever ever.

Rob

Feelin' Groovy

For the most part, that is.

I went to the doctor yesterday, and after hearing my symptoms, he suggested that it might not be a cold after all, but a more nasty allergy than I'm used to . I disagree, but he's a doctor, and I'm not. He wrote me out a few prescriptions -- for a nose spray, some Allegra D, and an antibiotic, telling me to have the antibiotic scrip filled only if I started feeling worse, and getting mucus and all. He didn't want me left without medicine over the long weekend (looks like he gets Columbus day off; not me, sadly).

Well, I am getting a bit of mucus now, but on the whole, I feel a lot better. Maybe because I stopped taking Sudafed (which he warned me was making my blood pressure skyrocket -- to the point where he wants to see me in a week to see if its gone down).

Please go down, blood pressure! I love my steaks and my pizzas!

On the other hand, Monday begins a new stretch at the gym. So maybe I'll get healthier that way.

Rob

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A little tune

I'm ridin'...
Ridin'...
Ridin' the Sudafed Railroad....
and I don't know if I'll make it home alive...

(cue banjo)

Rob

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Anti-School

More on Blackjack Bill Bennett, via Kevin Drum. In a nutshell: This former Secretary of Education wanted public schools to fail. How very Republican.

Rob

Friday, September 30, 2005

SPX Report

Since I'd already submitted my NJ Carnival of Bloggers link, I included my SPX Con Report as a rather extended update in a previous entry. This one here, in fact.

Rob

Thursday, September 29, 2005

William Bennett Can Stick His Moral Compass Up His Ass

The radio host said: "You could abort every black baby in the country, and the crime rate would go down."

I know that they have to let him speak at the Gambler's Anonymous meetings ("Hi Bill!"), but do they have to give this holier-than-thou racist yahoo a radio show? I wonder how many Republican rallies this guy speaks at?

Rob

Serenity Now!

Thanks to an offer from Josh at Talking Points Memo, Kathy & I had a chance to see a preview of Joss Whedon's Serenity tonight.

I was floored.

This is good stuff. I don't say it as a fan of Firefly, the show it's based on; I've only seen one episode. But this was flat-out great. I don't want to say too much about it -- there's plenty to surprise you and get your pulse racing. But unlike a lot of action/adventure movies, there actually feels like there's something at stake. And unlike the staid SF of Star Trek, the people actually act like people, instead of uniforms with people in them. This is an awesomely entertaining movie, and you'll do yourself a favor if you don't read any reviews more detailed than that. Just go see it.

(Man, that Firefly DVD set is going to start flying off the shelves this Friday...)

Rob

The best thing about chickens...

...is that the come home to roost.

Tom Delay indicted, steps down as Majority Leader.

Rob

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hey! There I Am!

I haven't had time yet to post about this weekend (with the Small Press Expo, Jeff's wedding, and other events) but there's a good SPX review here at Mike Manley's blog. Mike's a Philly-area artist who's done a ton of comics work, both oncompany-owned characters like Captain Marvel and his own material like Monsterman. He's also the editor of Draw! magazine. But my main point is this: scroll about a third of the way down through his con report.Over a the caption "The Philly Crew" is a group of cartoonists sitting at a table. But in front of them, and actually facing the camera, are (leftto right) my wife Kathy, me, and my friends Jessica and Mike. It looks likeI'd just picked up my sample copies of the hurricane benefit anthology (from the Baton Rouge Cartoonists Society) that Mike (Bencik, not Manley) and I had a two-page story in.

And yeah, I'm psyched about it. But I also think it's damn cool that we're all in a photo on Mike Manley's blog.

Robert from the BRCS and Richard and the other guys at the Philly Cartoonists Society were very cool, by the way.

UPDATE:

Here’s a bit more about the Small Press Expo. It’s all bundled into this post since it’s the link I provided to the Carnival of NJ Bloggers this week. (Funny how delivery can drive content, innit?)

So Kathy & I headed south for the weekend, first to Bethesda, Md., then to Falls Church, Va, The only reason I’ve ever gone to Bethesda is this: Small Press Expo. It’s the comics convention that in many ways, doesn’t feel at all like a comics convention. There’s not Superman or Spider-Man, or even Hellboy or the Savage Dragon. There’s just a bunch of in independent creators selling the small-print-run books they’ve worked on, often by themselves.

There’s wonderful stuff here. Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder, for instance, is a terrific b/w comic set in a science-fiction world of nomads and clans. It’s wonderfully realized, and I won’t be able to do it justice. So go here. And here, where she discusses her new online plans for the comic. I had a chance to speak to her about it this weekend.

I picked up a bunch of anthologies, from the Hurricane Relief book put out by the Baton Rouge Cartoonists Society (It's the one that Mike & I have a two-page story in. You can order it here; all proceeds go to the Red Cross), to the Philadelphia Cartoonists Society Anthology. I also grabbed one put out by the con itself.

I had a good conversation with Don MacDonald, an amazing artist who’ll be publishing a book on Machiavelli in 2006, and I also spoke with one of the guys who publishes the playful and informative Action Philosphers comic. I’m waiting to have a decent chunk of time before I dig into Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison, a hefty trade paperback I bought at the show, and I’m waiting for Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards, Jim Ottovani’s newest comic on paleontology to arrive in the mail (he’d sold out on the con floor).

Plus, I had a great time hanging out with friends Mike and Jessica. Mike and I really have to work on more comics stuff together. He has half a script of mine, and hasn’t done much with it beyond character design. But I can’t really harp on him for not getting any further into it, since, as I said, he has half a script.

After the con we stopped off at a New Orleans-style restaurant, where I had some terrific seafood jambalaya and a bottle of what may be my favorite southern beer, Abita Turbodog. TURBO!

Rob

An Astounding Coincidence

Surprise, surprise.

Rob

Friday, September 23, 2005

Overheard on the Train

"Yeah, he's fucking me, but I don't know why. What's his motivation to fuck me?"

That's an honest-to-god quote from a woman sitting across the aisle from me on thetrain, talking on her cell phone at around 10:30 tonight.

If I can add my two cents, it's this: His motivation to fuck you? It's fucking you. I've been married for a little over two years, but I haven't been out of the game that long. Believe me: We're not that complex.

Froma completely objective point of view, the woman on the phone was... well...plain. Which is fine. Plain has never been a serious obstacle to any guy's libido. Not a big secret.

What may be a big secret? Plain has never really been a serious impediment to any woman'slibido, either. Trust me; I'm a plain guy. And--once I found some self-confidence--I did just fine. It's the confidence that's the key, not the looks.

Testify, my semi-attractive bruthas.

Rob

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bzzzzzraaoooommmmmmmowowowowowwww

One of the reasons I like my electric toothbrush is that, by simply opening and closing my mouth slightly during its operation, I can change the pitch, creating a didgeridoo-like effect while I brush.

It's the yuppie-harp.

Rob

Monday, September 19, 2005

Okay, heroes...

Check out Alien Loves Predator. How did this escape my notice for so long?

(Thanx, Alan M.)

Rob

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush Tease

The President comes off like a callous, indifferent asswipe in Brian Williams' blog. There's probably a reason for that.

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

Rob

Got Plans Sunday Night?

I'll be participating in Freshly Squeezed II, a play reading this Sunday, organized by Jason Green for Wild Child Productions. It's at the Theatre for the New City, and there will be short plays read from Jason, Mac Rogers, James Contois and myself.

The plays will be performed by Brian Luna, Tiffany Clementi, Jennifer Moses (who was in my most recent Spontaneous Combustion play), Gerry Lehane, Jennifer Terpak, David Ian Lee, Anne Johnson and Laura Benson.

My plays are short vignettes I wrote about a trip to New Orleans I took with my buddy Chris way back when. Yeah, Chris; the time-share of the damned.

It should be a fun night. Admission is free, but no one would object if you want to throw a couple bucks toward the theatre space.

Here are the details:

THEATRE for the NEW CITY
155 1st Avenue, New York, NY
Sunday, September 18, 7:00pm
Phone: 917-854-6493

The closest Subway Stops to THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY
are:

6 at Astor Place & Lafayette Street - Walk 3 blocks East to 1st Avenue.

L Train at 1st Avenue and 14th Street.

N,R,W Train at 8th Street and Broadway.

F,V Train at 2nd Avenue and Houston Street.

Hope to see you there!

Rob

Thursday, September 15, 2005

More than 50% of U.S. Teens Have Had Oral Sex

According to a the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The 54-55% figure may be a little off, but it's certainly more than a handful. So to speak.

Reuters has more.

Rob

Rove's in Charge of Katrina

Shameless.

Rob

Another Music Smackdown

Sploid reports that cops in Los Angeles busted a rap concert to benefit Katrina victims. We'll probably hear more about this.

Rob
(I'll have an update on the developments in the Utah rave raid soon, promise.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kyle Baker fans, take heart

Although it looks like Plastic Man has been cancelled, the Beat has the goods on a hot new exclusive.

Rob

Justice at Home (Plate)

In his opening statement of his confirmation hearings, John Roberts used a baseball analogy (a pretty good one, in my estimation) to explain how he saw his role as Chief Justice: he's like a baseball umpire. "It's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat." It's a simple explanation, and one that will certainly play well over TV and radio.

Ed Kilgore at Newdonkey.com takes it further (on a handy double-play from Armando at dailykos.)

Rob

Monday, September 12, 2005

Snakes Aloft!

Doc at the Comics Cave brought this brief Samuel L. Jackson interview to my attention. It's the pause for emphasis that gets me.

Rob

I'm never more nervous...

...than when I'm driving a tank of propane for the grill back from the hardware store. I'm on high, extra-jumpy alert for any little bump or jostle. It's like driving all night, hopped up on crystal meth with two dead hookers in the trunk and a busted tail light.

Maybe I've said too much.

Rob

Recovery

Mike Parnell is a pastor with experience in flood relief. He'll be traveling from Virginia to Mississippi to help with recovery efforts there...and blogging about it.

Go see what he's doing. It's on-the-ground coverage from someone who's unquestionably one of the good guys.

Rob

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Freedom's Just Another Word...

...for doing things our way or else.

As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, "What a country!"

Rob

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Dog of Netflix

Woody: "I thought I was one step ahead of her the whole time, but she played me like Chinese chess."
Gina: "Checkers."


One great thing about Netflix is that, since you're paying for a service and not for each particular film, you get to see some movies that you wouldn't necessarily pay for. Sometimes they're better than you might think.

And then there's Palmetto, easily the worst film we've ever gotten in the mail. Easy phony kidnapping plot turns real, with all the fingers pointing at the patsy. Starring Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Shue and Gina Gershon, this movie wants to be noir in the worst way. Which is exactly how it goes about everything.

Confession time: I rented this primarily to see Elizabeth Shue play a femme fatale. I've liked her in other movies -- Adventures in Babysitting always springs to mind, but I liked her in The Saint, too -- and I've always found her very easy to look at. But man oh man is she lousy in this. Clumsy double entendres, clumsy seductions -- it's almost like she's acting in a porn movie, without any of the nudey bits. I think she's supposed to be insane, but I'm not quite sure. That isn't a good sign.

And Harrelson, I know, is capable of much more than he shows here. Here, he's supposed to be a former reporter, an innocent man released from two years of wrongful imprisonment, but he comes off as a dimbulb without a shred of competence in anything he tries. He can't even lie well. It's like he's playing Woody from Cheers, but in way over his head and without the least glimmer of charm.

Gershon is pretty much wasted as the nice girl staying at home while Harrelson screws everything up. Her first scene is a ham-handed smouldering reunion on the street after he's released, but after that, she's whitebread. Why hire Gina Gershon to be so bland?

With so much bad acting, much of the blame has to fall on the director... um.. looking it up... Volker Schlondorff. IMDB says that most of his films (with the exception of The Handmaid's Tale, which I liked -- although I wonder how much I'd like it after having read the book, but at the very least, introduced me to Margaret Atwood) aren't in English. Suddenly everything falls into place.

Well, I've rambled on long enough, and you've probably gotten my point: Palmetto sucks. And you'll giggle during the steamy parts because it's so damn stupid.

Rob

Twirlie-whirlies

Via ktbuffy, here's a short imagined monologue in McSweeney's: Trent from Swingers (the Vince Vaughn character) performs an exorcism. Go forth and read.

Rob

Anti-Looting Sign Updated

Since I posted this last week, I thought you'd like to know things were progressing. Via warrenellis.com.









Rob

Friday, September 09, 2005

Horrifying.

The government of Jefferson Parrish was keeping people from walking across the Crescent City Connection bridge away from New Orleans.

Kevin Drum has details.

Rob

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Eleven days

The countdown begins.

Rob

Operation CYA

The Repugs see "this whole hurricane thing" as just another image problem for their beloved chimp of a president. So naturally, steps are being taken to keep the truth away from the voters. Steps like keeping reporters away from rescue efforts, as Josh Marshall details.

And stuff like avoiding an independent investigation like the 9/11 committee in favor of a Republican-run one.

It's the usual Republican fuckery, only more urgent now, as their feet seem to finally be held to the fire. Hide the bodies, hide the mistakes, cover up and whitewash and hope everyone forgets.

It's all a result of the negligence on the part of our leaders. People should have been evacuated sooner. FEMA should have responded more quickly. The President shouldn't have gutted the funds New Orleans needed to keep itself safe. Time and time again, the chimp and his handlers have swept mistake after mistake under the rug. He's a hideous president. He's a god-awful embarassment. I am ashamed that our country elected him, and hope to god that nothing else this bad happens on his watch.

Because he's not equipped to handle it in any way, shape or form.

I can't convey how angry I am, and how let down I feel by the whole electoral process that would let this ape become president. Better we let the cast of Survivor decide than the American people. Better we leave it to chance, a big game of keno with 100 people picked at random from all walks of life. Better we get an infant, because at least a baby will cry when he shits himself. Better we pick our leaders with pie-eating contests or spelling bees or mumblety-peg. Better we all hang ourselves, and whoever dies last gets America.

Better no one than him.

Rob

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bruuuuuce!

Paul Harris, ofKMOX in St. Louis, is one of my favorite raido talk show hosts -- and withoutthe internet, I'd never have heard of him. Check out his interview with B-movie legend (and zombie-slayer) Bruce Campbell -- there are a couple great stories about Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead (which he wasn't even in!), as well as other goodies.

Also, Harris (via his Picture of the Day feature) links to this great anti-looting sign in New Orleans. The city ain't dead when its spirit lives on.

Rob

Presidential Incomptence

As always, read Frank Rich:

Most of all, we're going to have to face the reality that with this disaster, the administration has again increased our vulnerability to the terrorists we were supposed to be fighting after 9/11. As Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar, pointed out to The Washington Post last week in talking about the fallout from the war in Iraq, there have been twice as many terrorist attacks outside Iraq in the three years after 9/11 than in the three years before. Now, thanks to Mr. Bush's variously incompetent, diffident and hubristic mismanagement of the attack by Katrina, he has sent the entire world a simple and unambiguous message: whatever the explanation, the United States is unable to fight its current war and protect homeland security at the same time.
And here's this gem from Avedon Carol:
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
That, as they say, is the shoe that fits.

Rob

Hear Ye

The Times Picayune has posted an open letter to the President.

Rob

On Beyond Rehnquist

A few months ago, when Justice O'Connor retired, I wrote:

I hope Rehnquist retires soon. It's a given that Bush will try send one ultraconservative to the Supreme Court. But it'll be more difficult to send two up at the same time than it would be to get one approved, then another 6 months or a year later.

I know some folks disagreed with me about this (although not in the comments, so I can't remember who it was), saying Bush will nominate ultraconservative after ultraconservative, no matter how many positions are open. They may be right. It looks like we'll have a chance to see, for better or worse. But I think it'll be a little while before the Supreme Court speculation game steals the front page away from Katrina's destruction and the aftermath.

Rob

Disgusted

Our response time to Katrina is appalling. We're the greatest nation in the world, and we can't do better than this? It's stupefying.

Here are some links, all adding up to an appalling lack of leadership, from the President on down.

On the late arrival of the National Guard: Yahoo! News

On halting the Superdome evacuation to clear the nearby Hyatt (where people were clean and dry and not killing each other): Assiciated Press

On Michale D. Brown, the head of FEMA, being the former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association (before he was, y'know, fired). Cronysim at its worst, courtesy of Knight-Ridder.

Here's Editor and Publisher on Bush's cuts to the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). This is what conservatism brings -- the idea that states and cities should be able to raise the money for these sorts of things themselves. It works wonders, doesn't it?

And finally, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) account of yesterday's presidential appearance at the efforts to restore the 17th Street levee. Turns out that most of the machinery and equipment was pulled in just for another one of his increasingly transparent its-all-under-control photo-ops. And here's more, from Laura Rozen: Apparently the food distribution point Bush was photographed in front of was torn down immediately after the shoot. My stomach turns just thinking about it.

But at least Halliburton will make some money! (Houston Chronicle)

You know, there were times prayed that the rest of the country would see this president as I do: an inept thug who puts this country in more and more danger every day he's in office. But I'd rather have 52% of the country think he's perfect than to have something like this happen. This is awful.

And it wouldn't have been half as bad with competent leadership.

Rob

UPDATE: Noah Diamond comes to the same conclusions, only citing a lot more evidence to back him up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

Needless to say,I'm horrified by the devastation that Katrina has wrought. I can't watch much of it on TV; I prefer to get my news from the internet, not for immediacy, as usual, but for a bit of distance.

Of course, some of that coverage is more immediate than others. Reporters at The Times Picayune, even after abandoning their office, are giving frequent, on-the-spot updates online. I'm glued.

There are plenty of places you can give money to, such as the Red Cross, Operation U.S.A.,and others. Chances are pretty good that if you work for a large firm (as I do), your company will match your contribution in some way. It's worth looking into.

I'm feeling selfish and foolish, grieving for the loss of a city I've only visited, while so many people have lost their homes,their family, their livelihoods, their friends. It's a place my memory andmy imagination are drawn to, a place I've always wanted to live. But I don'tlive there. I just visit.

I'd give up every future visit I ever had coming, if that would put it in one piece again. It won't, of course. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Someday, not tomorrow, but someday --they'll be back on their feet again (with the help of tireless rescue and aid workers and donations from generous people all over the world). Afterthat they'll still need money. Beyond the incredible expense of dealing with the disaster, businesses will have been dormant, possibly for months. They'll need our support in the future, not just in the now. Tourist dollars are an excellent way to do that.

(This idea is no substitute for giving now. It's just something to keep an eye on for later.)

For now, this story by Wright Thompson for the Kansas City Star offers a little hope.

Rob

The People's Bid-ness

Sharon's right. This is a freakin' scream.

Rob

(For the maybe three people who read my blog and not hers.)

Festerin’!

Back from the Philly Folk Fest for a day, and I’m still a little dizzy. It’s so strange to be completely immersed in a small community for even just a few days only to reemerge back into the world. But it certainly makes you treasure every shower like it’s your first.

The music was phenomenal. Kathy & I bought seven CDs between us; the past few we’ve only bought a few. The Red Stick Ramblers, a Cajun swing outfit, were probably my favorite band of the show. But maybe it was the Mammals, a bluegrass band with a sharp political tongue. Modern Man was certainly the funniest act we saw; it’s not on their album, but their bouncy theme song for “Abdul the Reluctant Martyr” had me in tears. The Avett Brothers have a crazy energy to their live show, and it carries through on their album, Mignonette; it’s gotten the most play from me so far. Kathy got three other discs, but I only saw one of the artists: the Wailin’ Jennies, a terrific female harmony group whose name must drive hard-of-hearing booking agents crazy. Marcia Ball, Ann Rabson, Arlo Guthrie, The Glengharry Bhoys – so much good music.

Campwise, it was fairly small this year: just me & Kathy, Jay and Mick. Fot the first time, we had a banner: we’re “The Confediracy of Duncez.” Gotta get the strategic misspellings in – no dunce is without ‘em. For some reason, we adopted the Robot Chicken theme song as a marching tune, and would cluck happily as we tromped around the muddy camp. (The very cool Lauren from Huzzah told us that there used to be another Confederacy of Dunces at fest, but they stopped coming a few years ago. I don’t remember them, but who remembers all of Fest, anyway?)

And dunces we were. Kathy and I were rushed in packing (having just come home from a vacation and being inveterate procrastinators besides) and completely forgot ponchos. They mighta come in handy on Saturday and Sunday. We did, however, have a brand new tent (which performed quite well in the rain) and an inflatable mattress (bliss!), which made camp life much more comfortable. When we weren’t soaked.

Sunday night is usually my favorite night in camp. A lot of people have gone home by then, but there’s still a decent amount who stay. There’s a lot less to see, musicwise, and I never find myself wondering what else is going on. I stand there, wobbly but completely in the now. Had a great conversation about music, movies, and technical writing with a gent named Leon who camps with the Flamingos. Wandered around the camp one last time. Enjoyed it all.

I should go now. Work needs me awake, which means I’ll need to sleep before then. But it’s hard adapting to a normal schedule again.

Rob