One of my favorite times of year. Here's why.
I hope 2006 brings great things to you and yours.
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Friday, December 30, 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.
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!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
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.
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.
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.
Here's to you, Commander Stockdale.
Via Steve at Political Animal
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
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.*
*This was a constant source of tension between him and Pippin, by the way.
’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
The Big Lebowski
Miller’s Crossing (I’m limiting Joel & Ethan to two; even that was tough.)
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)
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)
“You’re nuts. You’re like some nutty nut girl, you know that?”
“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)
Chris A. (even if they have to start up a new blog to do it!)
Jim the Bastard
And I’m missing one…umm… 7 new dwarf names?
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
Roll down a hill in a Zorb
Publish a buncha novels
Wish for three more wishes
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.
Monday, December 19, 2005
"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.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
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.
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.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
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 is that, Afternoon Delight in a bath?
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
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.
*analogy only. No actual cattle were consumed.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
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.