Friday, December 29, 2006

Stormy Weather

President Bush was escorted to a storm shelter when a tornado warning was issued for Crawford, TX earlier today. Mr. Bush was allowed to go about his business when someone tightened the valve in his ear and the high winds stopped.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shared Destinies?

Ray Charles – died June, 2004
Ronald Reagan – died June 2004

James Brown – died December 2006
Gerald Ford – died December 2006

My advice is for George H.W. Bush and Little Richard to start looking out for each other.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stocking Stuffers

The Crazy Like Me Correspondent has decided I should take care of stocking stuffing this year. Something about losing the mystery of her stocking’s contents if she does it herself.

She’s taking a risk. My idea of a perfect stocking stuffer is Nicole Kidman. I doubt that Craze and the Sole Heir share my tastes, so I had to get creative.

My first idea was to get her a deeper stocking, then watch her try unsuccessfully to reach all the way to the bottom for the small, but valuable gift I told her was there. That had the benefit of being extremely economical, since it will still be there next year.

Since the element of surprise is so important to her, I also thought of wrapping up things we already own but don’t use everyday, so they wouldn’t be missed in the days leading up to Christmas. Imagine this little Christmas surprise:

Her: Thanks, but I think I have two of these now.

Me: No, you don’t. Trust me.

I like that idea. It combines the element of surprise with a guarantee the person will like the gift. How many Christmases have you racked your brain for the perfect surprise, only to find out the recipient didn’t like it? Or found out exactly what the person wanted, but missed the joy of seeing her surprise upon opening it? Not any more. Take a favorite CD, book, video. Wrap it up, put it in her stocking. Not only will I guarantee she’ll like it, she’ll definitely be surprised.

I’ll bet in fifty years, when this is an accepted piece of Christmas tradition, I won’t even get credit for it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Speaker Centipede?

Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker of the House has been fraught with peril, with potential mutinies, missteps, and feet in mouth. This is an impressive record for someone who won’t even start work for three weeks yet.

Pelosi hit the ground running by trying to anoint John Murtha as Majority Leader. Steny Hoyer was in line for the job, but he and Pelosi had a falling out, and she apparently has some Irish in her family. (Define Irish Alzheimer’s Disease: All you remember are the grudges.) Murtha is a loyal Pelosi ally, and well-qualified as point man in the fight against Shrub’s Iraq policies. He also carries ethics scars from the Abscam scandal, making him an odd choice to lead a party allegedly dedicated to refuting the ethical malfeasance of the deposed Republican regime.

It was also a battle that didn’t need to be fought. Even if Pelosi had been able to shove Murtha down her peers’ throats, the resulting hard feelings could only hamper the Democrats’ hopes to make a quick start following up on their campaign promises. God knows they need it.

This did not bode well for a supposed master politician, but no one’s perfect. Pelosi’s recent actions with the House Intelligence Committee are downright scary.

Jane Harmon was the committee’s ranking minority member, thus in line for the chair. What being head Democrat of anything qualifies one for is debatable, considering their track record as the opposition party, but you don’t get to live with the politics you want, you have to live with the politics you have. (Where have we heard something like that before?)

Not in Nancy-land. Pelosi didn’t think Harmon had been hard enough on Shrub as ranking member, and decided to pass her over. This caused more hard feelings, but could be justified by the above paragraph. Pelosi’s new problem was that Alcee Hastings was next in line.

Hastings has been a newsworthy name far longer than his tenure in Congress, having been impeached and removed from his seat as a federal judge. He then won the Adam Clayton Powell Award by convincing his constituents that being removed as a judge for taking bribes was not a disqualification from further public service in Congress.

Given the furor over Murtha’s abortive nomination and ethics record, Pelosi didn’t dare submit Hastings’ name. This set off the Congressional Black Caucus, incensed because she passed over a brother. Granted, Hastings is as qualified as Duke Cunningham for the job, but Pelosi had pissed off another core constituency.

This brings us to her current choice, Silvestre Reyes, a member of the Intelligence Committee for several years. When asked by a reporter if al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite, Reyes replied, “Predominantly, probably Shiite.” Oops. Wrong. Reyes was then asked about Hezbollah. “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah?...Why do you ask me these questions

at 5 o'clock?'' Apparently punctuality is among Rep. Reyes’ virtues. Miller Time cannot be kept waiting.

Lest this come off like a hatchet job, here’s Reyes’ comment in his own defense: “It’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.” Just what you want to hear from one of the key people overseeing a war that has already killed 3,000 Americans.

Maybe these are the kinds of glitches that naturally occur when a party has been out of power for twelve years and isn’t used to as much media attention. Pelosi has already shot herself in her left and right feet. Does she have enough feet to get her through two years?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Curiouser and Curiouser

The first words phrase Republican babies are taught to speak is “less government is better.” Let’s see what this means in everyday usage.

History will show George W. Bush’s lasting legacy to the federal government to be the addition of a huge, inefficient, cabinet-level department that adds nothing to the agencies brought under its umbrella except an extra layer of bureaucracy, aka the Department of Homeland Security. It appears the only aspect of government diminished under Shrub’s expert guidance is the Constitution.

Social entitlement programs? Read what conservative icon George F. Will wrote in December 7th’s Washington Post: the leaked Donald Rumsfeld memo… echoed the 1960s Great Society confidence in government-engineered behavior modification: jobs programs for unemployed young Iraqis, reallocation of reconstruction funds to "stop rewarding bad behavior" and "start rewarding good behavior," and bribery ("provide money to key political and religious leaders").

Increase efficiency by running government like a business? Over half of those hired to work on the Coalition Provisional Authority, ostensibly to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq, obtained their first passport to make the trip to Baghdad. Two CPA staffers said they were asked their position on Roe v. Wade before they were hired. The traffic code the CPA wrote for Iraq had the following libertarian passages: “the driver shall hold the steering wheel with both hands;” and “rest should be taken for five minutes for every one hour of driving.” Try to pass a law requiring an American from driving an eighteen-wheeler less than fourteen hours a day and you’d think the only thing standing between our economy and Haiti’s was No-Doz.

I don’t have much to say about this. As Will himself says, “[it] would be hilarious were it not horrifying that so much valor and suffering have been expended in this context.” It’s just that every so often I can’t resist pointing out what hypocritical sons of bitches these guys are, have been, and will continue to be. Let’s hope the Democrats are better. Let’s face it, the bar’s been set low enough for even their flea-like efforts to be enough.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Press Release From The Home Office

The Home Office is proud to announce New Mystery's Reader's publication of the short story "Fringe Benefits." Go to the New Mystery Reader web site and click the December Short Story link at the right of screen.

Take a quick tour of the rest of the site while you're there. Lots of cool stuff. The November Review of the Month of Robert Wilson's The Hidden Assassins is also a product of The Home Office.

Thanks to Stephanie Padilla and everyone at NMR for their continued support.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do Tuba-lieve in Miracles?

It's a well-known fact that the trumpets are the gods of the orchestra, and the trombones are the most manly. Tuba players are definitely the coolest, though. Check this out from today's Washington Post, and look for a Tuba Christmas event near you.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fall Day Afternoon

What started out as a relentlessly pleasant extended holiday weekend was dealt a devastating blow when The Home Office learned today’s football game between our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and the Team Formerly Known as the Official Team of the Anti-Christ (now merely the Baltimore Ravens) will not be televised here.

It’s not like I was asking for some obscure and one-sided contest with no local interest, like 8–2 San Diego vs. 2–8 Oakland. I can watch that at 4:00. Nope, the Steelers play the Ravens not twenty-five miles from here, in a sold out stadium where tickets were going for over $300 apiece. Thousands of Steelers fans live in the area, as well as hundreds of thousands of otherwise honorable Ravens fans. How has this travesty been allowed to transpire?

Part of it has to do with the NFL’s doubleheader policy. This is Fox’s fair and balanced weekend to show two games. The 1:00 game, directly opposite the Baltimore Battle of the Titans, has the Washington Redskins (aka The Current Official Team of the Anti-Christ) receiving their weekly pummeling. Granted, the masochistic tendencies of Redskins fans mean that game will easily win the ratings timeslot, especially in the wilderness of Northern Virginia, where George Allen voters have been known to stop testing their nooses during close games.

Still, for WUSA to show paid programming (read: infomercials) instead of the Baltimore game is a perversion. Even worse, the second game on fair and balanced Fox is Chicago at New England, which will trounce the San Diego-Oakland game. The Steelers and Ravens would at least have done pretty well in the Maryland suburbs.

What could cause such short-sighted arrogance? Washington is the ancestral home of The Man, who recently took a pretty good election beating in Maryland. Could this be payback? I’d hate to think so, in light of the recent rhetoric promising bi-partisanship, but one has to wonder.

There’s only one solution. By the time you read this, The Home Office will be officially boycotting all programming from WUSA-TV9 in Washington, DC, with the exception of future Steelers’ games, playoff contests, and certain other key match-ups with playoff implications. We will also boycott all known sponsors of today’s invisible game, a prospect made considerably easier by our inability to see who they are. We will most certainly boycott the manufacturers of whatever Chinese-made piece of Wal-Mart reject junk is featured on the paid “programming.”

Who’s with me? Are you tired of The Man sticking it to you? Think it’s time for a new Man Law? Me, too. All together, now. Attica! Attica! Attica!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael Richards is an Alcoholic

Right? Isn’t that the current excuse for any unsavory act? Gives you an idea of how Shrub must have been putting them away in his drinking days. He’s been dry twenty years, and he still can’t keep things in line.

Personally, I think Michael Richards is getting a bum rap. He’s not a racist; he’s the farthest thing from it. Kramer’s performing one of history’s noblest acts, taking one for the team, so to speak.

It can’t have escaped his notice that The Man has been sticking it to O.J. pretty good since this abortive If I Did It book and television thing started to unravel. Richards couldn’t bear to see this unfortunate African-American shoveled into the maw of mainstream media yet again.

“What can I do?” Richards said. (I’m projecting Richards’ thoughts here, a technique made ethical and sexy by no less a journalist than Bob Woodward. How cool am I?) “What can a single man – whose career has been defined by an extended fifteen minutes of being the comic relief for a situation comedy, and who has done nothing noteworthy since then – what can he do to correct such a public flagellation. I know! I’ll accept the burden myself. I’ll commit an offense so foul that the vultures and parasites who make up the media – and who have ignored me in droves since Seinfeld went off the air – will have no choice but to flock to my every statement and parse every denial of my racism. Climb on my back, O.J. You ain’t heavy, you’re my brother.”

I just saw Al Sharpton interviewed by Tucker Carlson. (Not deliberately; the channel was set to MSNBC when I turned on the television.) Not once did the man who made Tawana Brawley a household name utter a single word of appreciation for Richards’ munificent self-immolation.

Farewell, Cosmo. We knew you too little, and appreciated you not enough.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why We Fight

Two headlines from the Associated Press today:

McQueen Shades Net $70,000 at Auction.

Poor Pakistanis Donate Kidneys for Money.

Don't belabor whatever interpretations you think a liberal pussy like me would put to this. Just see if you can think of a better recruiting poster for Al Qaeda.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Keep One Hand on Your Wallet

The election is over, and politicians everywhere are making kissy faces and promising to work together for the “good of the people.” This is why you can’t trust politicians. Their standards are so low as to be non-existent.

Shrub made the following statement at a rally eight days before the election:

However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.

So he’s saying the Democrats are the party of the terrorists, and that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for terrorism.

Now it’s a week later. Democrats are now the majority party. The two top House Democrats meet with Shrub to bury the hatchet. Everyone shakes hands, one big happy family.

There’s no way I’d shake Shrub’s hand. A week ago he as much as called me an enemy of America; now it never happened? Holding grudges is a bad idea, but this SOB either lied to get what he wanted last week, or he’s lying to get what he wants now. Either way, the only place I want to bury the hatchet is in this bastard’s head.

All politicians do this, and always have. Shrub and his minions just raised (lowered?) it to such a degree that to consider it anything other than offensive is to have no standards at all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This Just In

Fox News (Fair and Balanced) announced at 8:23 AM Eastern Time that their exit polls are projecting not only that the Democrats will lose every election today, but that angry mobs with torches will spontaneously gather outside the candidates' homes after the polls close.

On CNN, Lou Dobbs, behind the curve as usual, blamed everything on immigrants. "This country was heaven on earth before the Indians and immigrants screwed it up," Dobbs said.

Geraldo Rivera is in North Korea, interviewing one of Kim Jong Il's concubines, and was unavailable for comment.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another Precinct Heard From

Lest anyone think I'm too hard on Republicans and the Shrub Administration because I'm a liberal pussy, read this article from The American Conservative.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Man of Steele

The scariest thing about elections, even more than whether your vote will get counted, or if you’ll even be allowed to vote, is the people voting. Recent election results, and current polls, leave little choice but to conclude the American voting public consists of a large number of mouth-breathing drunks and/or drug addicts, unable to hold more than one idea in their minds at a time.

Remember the movie Fifty First Dates? Drew Barrymore has a brain injury that prevents her from remembering anything that happened before today. It’s cute, but not one of Adam Sandler’s best. (Drew Barrymore has no bests.) That’s how Americans vote. Like nothing happened before right now.

Take Maryland senatorial candidate Michael Steele. Steele has been a lifelong Republican, one of three black Republicans in Maryland. This appears to have been his unique party qualification, as he has virtually no accomplishments other than being Maryland party chairman and the current lieutenant governor. If his middle initial is T, it must stand for “Token.”

Steele has run his entire campaign without any reference to being a member of the Republican party. I encountered him at my Metro station a few weeks ago, and asked several of his supporters why that was. “Party shouldn’t matter,” they said. “He’s his own man”

I asked them about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d accepted from the Republican Party, and about his recent, well-publicized request for more. That’s when they got a little snippy.

So here we have a do-nothing hack who is a recent party chairman and lieutenant governor to one of the most partisan governors in the country, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of indebtedness to the Republican, running as – what can I call it? – something other than a Republican. Not a Democrat, and he’s certainly not an independent.

And he’s kept the election close. Maryland is essentially a one-party state. Republicans aren’t even running in most of our local races. Yet Steele runs TV ads that show him as a nice guy, as his opponent as a career politician. Like Steele’s not. Cardin actually has forty years of accomplishments to run on. All anyone remembers is that Steele would be someone nice to sit next to at a ball game.

We have another local candidate, who lost the Democratic primary decisively, probably at least in part because he’s a self-aggrandizing egotist. (Saying a politician is such a self-aggrandizing egotist that it distinguishes him from his peers is going a ways.) He immediately switched parties, welcomed with open arms by the Republicans. I guess the Shameless Whore Party didn’t have time to get their ballot petitions together.

These guys get votes, They lie and cheat and (some of them) steal for anywhere from two to six years, then tell you how things are going to change as soon as you vote for them again. “Are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?” they say. And they get away with it! Your vote can only be construed to mean what they’ve done during their term is okay with you. So why should they change?

This may be a good election for protest votes. My congressman is running opposed by only the Green Party candidate. He’s the Number Three Dem, and will have quite a bit of pull if they take over. I’m voting for the Green, and sending my guy a letter if the Dems win. “Be careful what you ask for,” I’ll say. “Now you’re in charge, and accountable. If things don’t get better, we’re coming for your ass next.”

Anyone with me?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fly the Friendly Skies

In case you have to fly any time soon, rest assured our domestic airlines are safe as Fort Knox. Last night the Sole Heir was pulled out of line while waiting for her flight and subjected to the full “there better not be a bomb stuffed down your jeans” search.

I’m not complaining about the search so much as much as what it represents. Ethnic profiling can be offensive. There’s no reason to pull every swarthy-looking individual out of line, just because the insidious enemy du jour is Arab. Current policy bends over so far in the other direction, they’re frisking middle-class teenagers and retired Norwegian-American schoolteachers. Aside from being stupid, it’s a waste of time.

Someday someone’s going to get a bomb or a gun or a utility knife on a plane, because some TSA employee is going to figure he’s over his quota of swarth searches for the day, or has done so many random searches the line is backing up and the natives are getting restless. Meanwhile, certain designated individuals (read: not you) can buy their way out of passing through checkpoints altogether if they’re frequent flyers. I guess the Powers That Be assume a busy and wealthy businessman willing to pay for the privilege of jumping the line must be a Republican and not a terrorist.

The logic is dubious. Catching Osama bin Boogeyman has been the GOP’s Job One for 1,881 days, and they aren’t any closer to finding him than they are to finding Amelia Earhart, Judge Crater, or Ashlee Simpson’s talent. They have to be “in” something. I just can’t make up my mind whether it’s incompetent or in cahoots.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stealing the Limelight

On this date in 1897 a man was born who has provided inestimable assistance in making the Bush Administration what it is today.

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, gave his name to “The Goebbels Technique,” the policy of repeating a lie until it is assumed to be the truth. I’ll bet Shrub doesn’t even give him credit for it.

(Note that the Nazis were at least honest enough to call propaganda what it was.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A New Low

This article appeared in Slate magazine on Friday, October 27.

When the Justice Department Played Defense.

I defy anyone to find any legitimate justification for passing a law that defies not only the letter of the Constitution, but the spirit of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

They’re only coming for terrorists? Who gets to decide whether you’re a terrorist or not? What if they’re wrong? (Even the most well-intention will be wrong from time to time, and it’s a long, uphill fight to declare Shrub or Darth Cheney “well-intentioned.”)

Most of us know at least part of this poem. It was never more relevant in America than it is today.

When the Nazis came for the communists
I remained silent;
after all I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats
I remained silent;
after all I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists
I did not speak out;
after all I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Think it’s too harsh to describe our current state as resembling the Nazis? The Nazis didn’t look so bad to the Germans when they started out. Times were tough, and the nation was suffering from a paranoid impression of being assaulted from all sides. Someone had to be blamed. Eventually the scapegoats were everyone except those in power.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 makes me ashamed to represent myself as an American.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Putin His Foot in His Mouth Again

It’s not just American media who have strange sensibilities. The recent contretemps over comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin shows the international media can be just as shallow.

Here’s Reuters’ description of the incident:

The Kremlin said on Friday President Vladimir Putin was joking and not condoning rape when he commented about the virility of Israeli President Moshev Katsav, whom police suspect of raping female employees.

Unaware a microphone was switched on during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Putin called Katsav a "mighty guy" and said: "Raped 10 women! I would never have expected that from him. He surprised us all. We all envy him."

I’m fifty years old and twenty-five pounds overweight, so giving Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt could take more bending over backward than my back can stand. (All right. Thirty pounds, damn it! Are you happy now?) I’m still willing to try, in the name of journalistic excellence. (Even I’m laughing at that.)

Have you ever said anything sarcastic, intended for a select audience you assumed would get the joke? Ever felt embarrassed when it leaked out? Ever had it leak out in an international forum, where a thousand journalists hang on your every word because catching you saying something dumb allows them to get credit for a day’s work without having done any?

Putin said something he shouldn’t have said, in a situation where he shouldn’t have said it. It’s the resulting outrage that’s disturbing. Forget these comments; Vladimir Putin’s record speaks for him. His mission in life is to reunite the Soviet Union under the umbrella of Greater Russia. He’s done all he can to stamp out Russia’s post-Gorbachev democratic reforms, and ruthlessly suppressed dissent of all flavors. And people have their shorts in a know over something he said?

Nothing Putin says can disgrace his actions. The same pundits now debating how many rapists can dance on the head of a pin spend most of their editorial time painting around his neo-Stalinist actions.

It’s bad enough we live in an era where people like Putin, Dubya, Ahmadinejad, and Hu Jintao run things. (Forget Kim Jong Il. He gives ruthless dictators a bad name. They make him sit at the kids’ table at the annual Evil Tyrant’s Dinner.) Media, self-proclaimed watchdogs of a political correctness they alone define, have reduced even the most serious news to sound bites. Their apologists say it’s the only news their readers or viewers want to hear. They smirk when they say it, because they mean it’s the only news their audience can understand. That may be true. But at least some of us recognize bullshit when we see it, which is more than can be said for many of those who have “recognizing bullshit” as part of their job description.

Improving College Aid?

A recent Washington Post editorial, “Improving College Aid,” makes several good points, but overlooks several others.

Need-based financial assistance is shamefully neglected in our educational system. Omitting platitudes about The American Dream, everyone suffers when any deserving student is denied the opportunity to be a doctor, teacher, nurse, or other professional, merely because they can’t afford to go to college. It is society’s loss when talent goes unrecognized. For it to happen in a nation with our resources is unconscionable.

That being said, the existing system does a questionable job of determining who is “in need.” Families who have conscientiously saved for their children’s education may have their sacrifices held against them, as they have money available. Financial aid decision-makers wield influence well beyond college assistance, as they have the ability to help to determine how much a family has left over for retirement, future medical expenses, or the proverbial “rainy day.” After college has been paid for, of course.

Picture two families, with the same number of children and the same income, living across the street from each other. Family A limits their vacations to an annual week of day trips, maybe a weekend in Ocean City. They eat out a couple of times a month. Their Honda/Nissan/Neon is nearing 100,000 miles.

Family B flies to Florida for spring break, and takes a comfortable vacation every year, and owns a second home in the mountains. They eat out twice a week and buy a new Acura/Infiniti/Mercedes as soon as the last one is paid for.

Family A had money in the bank for education; Family B does not. Who gets more financial aid? Family B, of course.

Also at issue is America’s continuing celebration of mediocrity. Should not an excellent student reap some reward other than a hearty “Well done” for making sacrifices of her or his own? Social functions are skipped and extracurricular activities are foregone in order to make the grades needed for a better school. Should such a student be confronted with another hurdle because his or her parents were too conscientious in their habits?

If merit scholarships are to be eliminated, athletic free rides must also go. (In its current usage, “athletic scholarship” is an oxymoron.) The elimination of legacies would also be a reasonable step, as it would make available more spots for deserving students.

What’s needed is a sliding scale that considers both merit and financial circumstance, and defines financial circumstance as income, not savings. People who make more money have more flexibility in how they dispose of their resources. Let’s not reward their bad choices at the expense of others.

There is, obviously, an income level above which financial aid should not be considered. I think anyone absorbing the Washington area’s cost of living for even a modest lifestyle would agree that $92,400 is not the amount after which their children should be on their own.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Prick From Beyond the Grave

I feel like Steven van Zandt playing Silvio Dante impersonating Al Pacino as Michael Corleone: Every time I think I’m out, they pull me in again.

For several months I have made a conscientious effort to avoid overtly political posts. There’s already too much ill-conceived, unproven garbage accepted as Truth on the Internet, creating enough heat to melt Barbara Bush’s heart, but not enough light to see Dubya’s frat boy smirk from three feet away.

The Crazy Like Me Correspondent has goaded me in covert, deniable ways for several weeks. Others have wondered recently what I thought about certain news items. Blame them the next time I piss you off. I was willing to let things go along as they were.

What pushed me off the fence (with some coaxing from the Low Brass Correspondent) was word that Ken “Kenny Boy” Lay had his convictions set aside because he’s dead. There’s no conspiracy or back washing here. His appeals had been filed, and your day in court extends until all actions have been resolved. The presumption of innocence remains in effect while the appeal process moves forward. Since Lay’s death rendered his appeal moot, the court action could not be completed, and, since he’s not a Presidentially-declared enemy combatant, he must be presumed to be innocent. Let’s just say “not guilty.” Ken Lay’s innocent like Britany Spears is a natural blonde.

The primary effect of the ruling will be to make it a lot harder for those Lay screwed out of their life savings to get any of it back. The reimbursements were going to be spread pretty thin in the first place, with anyone getting ten cents on the dollar looking like a lottery winner. Now extra hoops will have to be navigated, as the civil plaintiffs will not be able to use Lay’s conviction as proof of his culpability.

The real winners are the lawyers. (Now there’s a shocker for you.) Extra hoops to means bigger fees. Plaintiffs who receive three cents on the dollar now should consider themselves luckier than Paris Hilton was in her choice of parents.

It’s only a matter of time before we start to hear anew that Lay isn’t really dead. With $44 million he can afford to make Howard Hughes look like Donald Trump in the publicity department. Maybe Lay can bunk with Elvis and Princess Anastasia for a while, keeping an eye on Kennedy’s brain.

Get over it folks. The term is “screwed” for a reason. Once your cherry’s gone, all that’s left is the pit. And that’s what you’re going to get for your trust in Enron.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Boy, Is My Face Red

The Washington Post is running an editorial today titled, "Blowing the Easy Ones." It's about the failure of authories to screen the mail of incarcerated terrorist suspects.

I thought it was going to be about Mark Foley.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life Imitates Art

Congress has approved the construction of a 700 mile long fence to keep people from sneaking across our 2300 mile border with Mexico, apparently on the premise that no one will go over, under, or around the fence. One suspects that which 700 miles to be protected will be determined less by the frequency of crossings, and more by which patriotic representatives with districts on the border voted for the bill.

Does this remind anyone of the movie Blazing Saddles? Remember the scene where Slim Pickens and his posse are riding toward Rock Ridge, and Cleavon Little needs more time to set up his trap? Little sends Gene Wilder and Alex Karras out to set up a toll booth. Pickens stops everyone, right in the middle of about fifteen gazillion square miles of open prairie, and sends one guy back to town for a “shitload of dimes.” Everyone then goes through, one at a time, thus buying the sheriff enough time to save the town.

I’ll bet they won’t even give Mel brooks credit for the idea. They should at least name it the William J. LePetomiane Memorial Boondoggle, or something like that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On This Date in History

A lot of cool and interesting stuff has happened on September 24. For example, in 622, Mohamed began his hegira, thus effectively marking the point from which the Muslim religion begins. (Both the violent and non-violent sects.)

The first Supreme Court convened on September 24, 1789. The Mormon Church decided one wife was (more than) enough in 1890.

The first Model T was finished in 1908. Jim Henson was born in 1936. I Love Lucy went off the air in 1961. The Warren Commission Report was delivered to President Johnson in 1964, naming Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin and starting a cottage industry that thrives to this day. Hurricane Inez beat up on the Caribbean in 1966.

All were noteworthy in their way. Another event, of somewhat less historical significance but very important to me, also took place on September 24: the birth of the Desert Flower Correspondent. I don’t have the year handy, but I do have this recent picture, so I’m guessing early to middle 70’s. Somewhere in there.

Happy belated birthday, BDF.

Globalization Just Got a Little Smaller

Convenience store chain 7–11 has announced it will no longer sell Citgo gasoline, as Citgo’s primary source of oil is Venezuela.

This makes Venezuelans the only third world citizens that don’t work at 7–11.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just Plain Bob

I’ve been a fan of Bob Newhart since I heard the Abraham Lincoln routine when I was about ten. He’s had two successful television shows since then, made several movies, was a regular guest of Johnny Carson’s, a headliner at Vegas, and the teller of the funniest golf joke I ever heard, as recounted in Rick Reilly’s outstanding book, Who’s Your Caddy?

Newhart appeared at a local Borders Bookstore last Friday, flogging his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This. About four hundred people overflowed the store to hear him speak before the business of book signing began.

Some suit from the American Film Institute asked questions that were, unfortunately, both too long and obsequious. Newhart replied with stories, invariably funny, delivered in the style anyone familiar with him would instantly recognize. The stories were often forty years old, delivered in a style Newhart perfected that long ago. And they still killed.

Watching Newhart in person for the first time confirmed something I suspected about his longevity. His delivery hasn’t been “perfected;” that’s how the man talks. His body language and demeanor are unassuming, but confident. He’s been doing this too long to be surprised by a warm reception, but humble enough to still be delighted.

Newhart remains popular because there are few people as likable. The affection was palpable in the room. (Not adoration as for a rock star or athlete; affection wears much better.) Newhart sat in a comfortable chair and conversed with us, never mind that only he spoke. It was a relaxing pleasure at the end of a work week.

Bob Newhart is 77 years old and hasn’t lost an inch off the old fastball. True, his act is low-energy. It’s also high endurance. He wears on you like a favorite sweater you’ve had forever and can’t bear to part with. It’s too bad he doesn’t do stand-up anymore. There’s no higher compliment than to say I’d pay money to listen to this man talk.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday Night (Dim) Lights

I spent Friday evening watching a high school football game, a benefit of spending the weekend as the Official Limousine Service to The Sole Heir. The plays aren’t real sharp, the stands have maybe a thousand people total, but it’s a relaxing, small-town way to spend an evening while waiting for the Sole Heir to conclude her social obligations.

This week’s game, between Sole Heir High School and Other High School, had some features that make high school games memorable, so long as you don’t take them too seriously, or go too often. I’ve gotten used to the idea that none of these kids can tackle a bag of laundry hanging from a pole; you don’t too often get to see a false start penalty when your team is taking a knee, either.

The kids’ foibles are nothing compared to watching the adults muck things up. Friday’s game contained two record-setting gaffs.

We’ll start with the zebras. SHHS, well into their only sustained drive of the evening, had fourth and less than a yard on the OHS 37. (I know this to be true, since it was right in front of me.) The SHHS coach eschewed a measurement and went for it. The referee signaled first down and the head linesman had the chain gang move the sticks up the field.

But wait! The OHS coach thinks they’re short and demands a measurement. As Nick Saban has learned, there’s a time to ask for everything during a football game; after the sticks have been moved is not the time to ask for a measurement. The officials, having learned nothing about the timeliness of challenges from the previous night’s Steelers-Dolphins game (another glorious victory for the Official Football Team of The Home Office), moved the sticks back to pretty much where they thought they were originally, and measured. Lo and behold, SHHS was short and lost the ball on downs.

I’m not a big fan of the SHHS coach, but he gets props for restraint. I would have had light streaming out of my eyes like the climactic scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark if that call had gone against me.

No big deal; SHHS scored on their next two possessions and took a 21-14 lead. The game played out until SHHS punted the ball out of bounds at the OHS 15 yard line with about two minutes to play.

A penalty, an incomplete pass, a sack, and a short scramble by the quarterback left OHS with fourth down and 16 yards to go, inside their own 10 yard line, 1:30 left on the clock, and no time outs.

What do you call? Sixteen yards is fur piece. Throw deep? A trick play, maybe a hook-and-ladder to try to eat up a large chunk of ground? Possibly a screen pass to take advantage of what figures to be an aggressive pass rush and a spread-out secondary.

The OHS coach’s answer: punt. Honest to God. Of course, the SHHS players avoided the ball like it was smeared with the AIDS virus, then took a knee three times and the game was over. This not only gives the OHS coach The Home Office award for the dumbest coaching decision ever seen, it retired the award. No one’s going to top this, short of pulling the team off the field and forfeiting a game in which you have a lead.

Coaching is teaching. I don’t know if the OHS coach meant to teach his kids how to lose gracefully, but he’s sure teaching them new and exciting ways to lose.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Has anyone else seen the irony in the recent bizarre death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin? I mean, one time in his life he’s not fucking with a potentially dangerous animal, it kills him. He messed with crocodiles, sharks, poisonous snakes, lawyers, you name it; not a scratch. Then one day he’s minding his own business and a stingray gives him one right through the pump.

I don’t think it’s an accident. Somewhere some crocs and snakes got together, used a shark as a cut-out. They had to find someome – er, something – Irwin would trust, but could still push the button on him. Stingrays are so rarely fatal to humans, there aren’t even good statistics on how many humans are killed by them. You have a greater chance of being killed by the French military than of having a stingray take you out.

The stinger probably got free squid for a year. All over Australia, crocodiles are crying their own special tears as they tell each other, “Steve Irwin sleeps with the humans tonight.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

Charlie Schlueter

The conclusion of this Tanglewood season coincides with the retirement of Charlie Schlueter after twenty-five years as principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony. Information on Charlie’s career and his influence on other trumpeters can be found in any number of places, notably among his many recordings. An inventory of orchestra rosters shows his students well represented. His work with trumpet builder Dave Monette will leave a legacy far beyond both of them.

I first heard Charlie Schlueter play one otherwise unmemorable night in Atlanta. Coming home from a gig, I turned on the television on my way to the kitchen for a snack, thinking I might catch the end of the Braves’ game.

My first thought when I heard the final movement of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra was that I had forgotten to check the channel. I continued with whatever I was doing until the trumpet parts started winding up for the finale. I noted the second trumpet’s entrance, then stood flatfooted when the first trumpet came in.

It was as close to a religious epiphany as I had ever come. (Seeing my daughter born has since eclipsed it, but barely.) I’d had what I considered to be the perfect trumpet sound in my head for years. Until that second, that’s the only place I’d ever heard it. To paraphrase Marlon Brando’s in Apocalypse Now, it was like being struck between the eyes by a diamond bullet.

I ran to the living room and found only an unrecognizable orchestra. Younger readers should make note that it was not unusual to see symphony orchestras on public television in the early 1980s; the New York Philharmonic was actually on live several times a year. I cut my teeth on orchestral trumpet styles in large part by watching Armando Ghitalla on the BSO’s weekly Evening at Symphony broadcasts. Just seeing an orchestra on television didn’t automatically tell me who it was.

I finally recognized Seiji Ozawa, then Symphony Hall in Boston. “That must be the new guy, Schlueter,” I thought as the piece finished and I went back to salvage whatever was burning on the stove.

After that I started looking for Boston Symphony broadcasts on the radio. (Yes, in those days out-of-town orchestras had regular, tape-delayed, radio broadcasts of their concerts.) Those led me to apply to graduate school at New England Conservatory, so I could study with the one man I thought could make me sound like that.

He couldn’t. The man is a great player, possibly even a better teacher, but he’s not God. He did what he could with someone who scraped through the entrance audition and helped craft a better player out of my tools than anyone would have reason to expect. I was too intimidated to learn much for the first month or so, but I walked out of my first lesson feeling that I was about to learn things I never knew existed about the trumpet. I would have laughed at anyone who told me I was selling the experience short.

Charlie worked on my breathing, and my tonguing. Taught me (along with Ben Zander) how to find the music in any phrase. I realized after a year or so that his method of teaching was far more insidious than I suspected. Charlie taught me to give myself permission to miss a note, thus ensuring I wouldn’t miss it. To play broader instead of louder, enhancing the breadth of the tone so the volume would come without effort and not sound forced. To shape the ends of notes as much as the beginnings. To hear all the notes passed over in a slur to ensure the slur itself remained connected to its beginning and end.

Every technique listed reminds me of another, and we’re not halfway through. Somewhere in my second year I realized Charlie was teaching me about a lot more than trumpet playing. Through his personal interest in my life, he was helping me to place, and to keep, trumpet in its proper role, so that I could allow myself to become a better player, rather than trying to will it.

I haven’t played serious trumpet in fifteen years; not at all (worth mentioning) in over four. Still, there’s not a day goes by I don’t do something because of what Charlie Schlueter taught me. It took longer than two years; I’m privileged to say we became friends and have stayed in touch. Charlie and his wife, Martha, had dinner with the Crazy Like Me Correspondent and the person she’s crazy like in Baltimore the night before closing on the current Home Office; he had a gift for popping up during milestones in my life.

I’ve thought a lot about this as his retirement approached, and can safely say that my father is the only man to have greater influence on the person I have become than Charlie Schlueter. (I’ll leave to you to decide whether that is damning with faint praise.) I can’t use his recordings as background music when I write; I wind up listening to them. Even now, over twenty years away from my weekly exposures, I still pause at times and wonder why I did something the way I did it, then remember it came from Charlie; then I’m okay with it.

He’s not perfect; his battles with Ozawa are legendary. (It should be pointed out that the characteristics in Charlie’s playing and personality that Ozawa found fault with were exactly the things Ozawa bypassed the audition process for to hire Charlie in the first place. Why Seiji hasn’t done the honorable thing and throw himself on his baton to die for the Emperor is beyond me.) Imperfect is always better in a role model; I was lucky to be close enough to know that what he told me had been tested, and worked, if I maintained enough confidence in the final outcome.

Congratulations, Charlie. Your retirement is well-earned. I’ll miss the opportunities to come to Symphony Hall and Tanglewood to hear you play. (Not that I’d been to either in over ten years. Everyone has schedules.) I’ll never miss the friendship, good will, and lessons you taught me; I still have them every day. I hope your new free time will allow us to get together more. You’ve taught me enough to know that I still have more to learn.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Boss

I first heard Maynard Ferguson play in person in 1972 at Springdale (PA) High School. Maynard and his band gave a clinic before the concert for local high school musicians, who hung on every word like Moses listening to the burning bush. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago, when his band shared a gig with Glenelg (MD) High School’s excellent jazz band. In between were more good times than I can recite here, even though I think I can remember every one, given a little time to think about it.

I remember sitting in line at 5:00 one cold morning in February, 1974 so I’d have enough gas to get to the Holiday Inn in Blawnox, PA. Maynard did three shows that night, even played baritone sax (well) on one number while Bruce Johnstone soloed on bass clarinet.

Ron Melani and I got stuck in traffic and were almost late for the gig at the Grand Ballroom of the Duquesne University Student Union. The students wrecked the joint every time Duquesne graduate Randy Purcell soloed. Maynard made sure it was often.

The whole trumpet section came down front to play the opening to “Be-Bop Buffet” up an octave at the Moonshadow bar in Atlanta; Maynard closed with a scary cadenza on “Pagliacci.”

Another Holiday Inn, this one in New Kensington, PA, where Maynard signed my copy of MF Horn between sets before heading off to his room to practice.

And my favorite: the Casino Theater in Vandergrift, PA, February, 2002. I drove the Sole Heir up from Maryland to see the gig with my parents. I didn’t expect much, but thought it might be cool thirty years from now if she could say she’d seen Maynard live, since she’d taken up the horn that year. The old man blew the walls down. Even better was the look of shock and discovery on the Sole Heir’s face as she became baptized into the Church of Maynard. Most parents spent their whole lives looking for ways to bond with their children; I spent fifteen bucks. Thank you, Maynard.

That’s not all I have to thank him for. Maynard Ferguson was one of the two people most responsible for me trying to make a career out of music. My lack of success is not held against him; far from it. I went places, met people, and did things I would never have done otherwise, in part because Maynard (and Doc Severinsen) got a high school kid so jazzed about his instrument.

I’m not here to get maudlin and start whining like John Lennon or Elvis died again. What I’ll remember most about Maynard, more than the shock at hearing him play unimaginable things (even though I’d heard him do something similar just a few weeks before), was the fun. More than the fun I had; the fun he had. No one ever had a better time at their work than Maynard Ferguson. He was still touring eight months a year at age seventy-eight. His last musical act was to record a new CD just a couple of weeks before taking ill for the last time.

Maynard played first trumpet on the soundtrack of The Ten Commandments. (In a trumpeter’s irony, Herb Alpert played drums.) I saw it noted somewhere on the web that Gabriel has now been bumped down to second trumpet.

Maynard was a big deal before I was born, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s always been there. His passing severs one more connection to my youth. (Careful now, you’re teetering on the edge of the Great Maudlin Swamp.) The good news is, thanks to recordings, I can pull up any phase of his career to keep me company: the early years, when he did things I still shake my head at; his middle years, when he set the hook so deep in me during my teens and early twenties; and most recently, when I can listen to a man in his sixties and seventies play and not feel bad over the erosion of his skills, mainly because it’s obvious he didn’t, and there’s still so much left.

What I think most of when I listen to Maynard is how much fun it must have been to be able to do what he did every night. Not just playing for a living; I did that for a while. I mean to know that every night he might do something that would amaze not just the audience, but the guys on the bandstand. The looks that were exchanged when Maynard would catch an eye on a night when he was really feeling it and give an expression as if to say, “listen to this.”

Fun’s fun; there’s a lot more to being a pro. Check out a video on YouTube and see the concentration on his face, the physical effort. James Brown is called The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, but no one ever left more of himself on a stage than Maynard did every night. A showman to the end, his last recording will be released after his death; for Maynard, there’s always one more show.

(For another, even better, take, read David Von Drehle's tribute from Saturday’s Washington Post.)


Arizona came one step closer to properly caring for its at-risk youth this month, finally granting the Desert Flower Correspondent her counseling license. It was not a hasty decision; she rolled up enough other certifications that she now has more letters behind her name than in it. These last are, for her, the sweetest.

I know this because I have been privileged these last five years to be her friend and occasional confidant. We met during difficult times for both of us, and moving through things that could have become crises without the right person to listen and make constructive suggestions. Or not. I knew she’d be a great counselor because she has an innate ability to know when to talk and when to shut up, qualities I have yet to master.

Our sole contact has been through the Internet, with occasional phone calls. We could quite possibly be in the same room some time and not know it unless we knew to look. That’s okay, because we’ve seen things in each other that people who only deal with corporeal presence would never think of.

So if you need help getting over a hump, or know a kid who is about to make some bad decisions because some parents make it their life’s work to set kids up to do so, get yourself to Tucson. I know someone there.

LYG, BDF. (Don’t bother asking; this is like Carol Burnett tugging on her ear. If you don’t know what it means, I’m not going to tell you.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Volatile Mixture of Sports and Religion

Note to all Cleveland residents:
It has been a week since any Browns' center has been injured, retired, or suspended for drug use. Forget the chickens and rabbits; sacrificing the goat worked.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Floyd the Roid

For those of you who are somewhat out of the sports loop, American bicyclist Floyd Landis recently was stripped of his victory in this year's Tour de France for failing a performance-enhancing drug test with superhuman levels of artificial testosterone. Since then, Landis has seemed less like Lance Armstrong than George Bush, with his reason du jour for going to war in Iraq.

With the cooperation of the Crazy Like Me Correspondent, The Home Office has uncovered the

7. All men's testosterone levels were elevated when they heard Christie Brinkley might be available.

6. Hearty pre-test breakfast of Rocky Mountain Oysters.

5. Someone substituted one of Lance Armstrong’s samples.

4. Dehydrated from strict training regimen of binge drinking.

3. High levels of artificial testosterone run in his family.

2. Mennonites use testosterone for Communion instead of wine.

1. Shook hands with Barry Bonds right before giving the sample.

Why only seven and not ten, you ask? You get what you pay for.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Actor Rob Schneider has announced that he will never work for, or with, Mel Gibson, after Gibson's recent drunken, anti-Semitic tirade. Good for you, Rob. Way to put your money where your mouth is. A leading part in a major Mel Gibson production was probably just around the corner, and you'd never have to do the What's-His-name by the copier or Deuce Bigalow shtik again.

I'm with you man. So much so that I'm announcing on this blog that I will never, ever work in any capacity with Mel Gibson ever again. Fuck him.

All together now. "Attica! Attica! Attica!"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Breaking News

To the best of my knowledge, no Baltimore Ravens players have been arrested today.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Passion of the Mel

Mel Gibson asked Jewish leaders to help him to heal the rift caused by his allegedly anti-Semitic comments because, “it’s the Christian thing to do.” Gibson went on to say that he is “not a bigot. Hatred of any kind is against my faith, the one true faith,” and that he bears no ill will to any other faith, as he believes that eternal damnation and burning in hell are sufficient punishment.

In a related story, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed Gibson to be an honorary Muslim, and declared he was ready to forgive Gibson’s many years of being an infidel in recognition of the actor’s efforts to bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims.

In Washington, president George W. Bush named Gibson Special Envoy to the Middle East, charged with solving the current crisis in Lebanon. “Who better to send?” Bush said. “Them Arab types don’t like talking to women, so Condy was kind of in over her head from the git-go. Mel speaks their lingo, and the Israelis figure he owes them big time. He’s the perfect choice.”

All Democratic Senators voted against Gibson’s confirmation, except Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who declined to comment when asked why he voted against his party on such a sensitive issue. A spokesman said the Senator was being rushed to Walter Reed Army Hospital for an emergency rhinoplasty for injuries sustained when President Bush stopped walking without sufficient warning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Retraction, of Sorts

For five years I have steadfastly maintained that no dumber man walks the planet than George W. Bush. I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. Peter Cook is way dumber than Dubya.

Who’s Peter Cook? Christie Brinkley’s husband—for the time being. Just last week I nominated him for suicide watch when Christie moved out. I blamed her for her series of failed relationships, figuring any man worth his salt would put up with whatever he had to because at the end of the day he’d sleeping with Christie Brinkley. It was beyond my imagination that any man would mistreat her in such a manner to compel her to leave. A direct quote: “Anyone who would do that should be banned from the International Brotherhood of Men forever. Intentionally mistreating Christie Brinkley is like peeing on the Mona Lisa.”

Looks like I was wrong again. Twice in one posting; I’ll have to resist the urge to register Republican. Turns out Peter (an apt moniker) was banging a nineteen-year-old employee of his architectural firm. “I’m stupid,” he said in a statement today.

Stupid isn’t the half of it. You are—soon to be were—married to Christie Brinkley, dumb ass. A woman who looks like Christie isn’t someone you cheat on; she’s someone you cheat with. Maybe Cook thought he could taste the forbidden fruit, get Sissy home before Dad grounded her for missing curfew, and still have time to ride the merry-go-round at Christie’s Fantasyland, enhancing his climax by thinking of all the men who weren’t him.

There’s something about some men that makes them unable to resist younger women. Maybe they’re afraid of their own mortality. Whatever it is, they’re ruled by Lord Priapus (thank you, Tom Wolfe), led around by their probably undersized dicks by whatever fresh conquest looms. They miss out on the best parts of a woman because they’re too involved in the Quest to think about what they’re looking for, or why.

I used to work with a man about fifteen years younger than me. He, too, was into younger women. (Not to mention his third marriage.) Considering his age at the time—thirty-two—I assumed he’d given up on bars, and was looking for his next ex by going to confirmation parties and bat mitzvahs.

“You know what’s cool?” he said. “You find a young girl, and she’ll do stuff because she doesn’t know it’s dirty.”

“You know what’s really cool?” I said. “You find an older woman who likes it.” I couldn’t have confused him more if I had tried to explain Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

What did Peter Cook and his chickie talk about after sex? Back-to-school shopping? The Homecoming dance? Zit medication? I’m as much a pig as the next guy; I like girls. A lot. I like women better. How to tell them apart? A girl is someone you just want to sleep with; a woman is someone you want to wake up with. It’s obvious Peter Cook isn’t awake yet.

As for my comments about Christie (“how wack must she be?”), a thousand apologies. I stand ready to sooth your hurt feelings in any way possible, which is a considerable number, since you’re on The List. As long as it doesn’t involve spending money. A man’s got to have standards.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Up or Down

(Editor's Note: The following essay was written well before I met the Crazy Like Me Correspondent. None of the events described have transpired on her watch. )

I will confess, I leave the toilet seat up as often as not, but I live alone. I am aware the seat may be up or down any time I use the facility and over the years I have developed a simple plan for checking whether I should change the position before beginning my task.

I look at it.

For a gender who delights in reminding us what sloth-like troglodytes we are, that simple action, accomplished billions of times a day by men the world over, seems to be too much effort for women. “But if you leave the seat down, you'll always know it’s down,” they say. Big deal. If you leave it up all the time, you'll always know it’s up.

Then the argument shifts to, “You have no idea what it’s like to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and fall into the toilet because the seat is up. That’s why it should stay down.” Personally, that’s why I would look carefully before flopping my behind down, but we've already discussed that. Here’s something they never mention: we'll fall into the toilet, too, if the seat’s up. That’s why we look first.

As bad as dropping into the toilet may be, it has nothing on its reciprocal occurrence in a man’s life. Picture this. A man has awakened in the middle of the night to answer nature’s call. Half asleep, he staggers into the bathroom and, doing what a woman asserts is her God-given right, fails to check the seat location before draining that night’s consumption of malt beverage. He finishes, flushes, then returns to his blissful sleep.

A few minutes later his bride follows him. She goes into the bathroom, exerts her right not to have to check the seat, and the entire neighborhood is shattered by her resulting scream.


He leaps out of bed and runs to defend his one true love from whatever has frightened her, be it burglar, mouse, spider, or O.J. Simpson with a chain saw. As he reaches the bathroom he sees her, tears of rage on her cheeks and a look of hatred on her face.

“You bastard!! You peed on the seat!!”

Harry can only console himself with the knowledge that it was a good, relaxing purging, as that’s the only exercise the Big Guy is going to get for about three months.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Kid

I hate people who can tell you when their kid first walked, spoke, spit up, wiped his/her own butt, whatever. I love the Sole Heir as much as any of them love their kids; I just don’t feel the need to inflict it on you.

That being said, today she told me she received a score of 5 on an Advanced Placement exam. For those of you not hip to AP tests, they’re usually given to high-achieving high school seniors. A score of 3 might get you college credit; 4 is almost always credit; and for a 5 some schools waive the proctologic exam of your parents’ finances before awarding aid. I don’t know how many freshmen get a 5 ; I just know it’s at least one.

Good job, Bink.

A Manly Metaphor

Christie Brinkley is now separated from her fourth husband, Peter Cook. Forget her public persona; how wack must she be? No one can get along with her.Any guy with the skills to get close enough to her to marry her, given the competition he’s bound to face, should be man enough to cowboy up and eat whatever he has to for the relationship to last. I mean, whatever else happens through the day, he gets to sleep with Christie Brinkley. She’s fifty-two, and she’s still on my list. (Granted, I’m into marginally older women.)

What must go on that the man either can’t keep her happy enough to stay, or she makes him unhappy enough to leave. We don’t even want to consider the idea that he treats her so poorly she’d have to leave. Anyone who would do that should be banned from the International Brotherhood of Men forever. Intentionally mistreating Christie Brinkley is like peeing on the Mona Lisa.

Don’t worry about Christie; she’ll land on her feet. (Cook should be on suicide watch for at least six months.) Christie is like the baseball pitcher with a 99-mph fastball. Even if he walks a batter every inning and throws six wild pitches a game, some team will want him. Show them the stats, the history of teams that gave up on him, some pitching coach will always say, “Yeah, but look at him! He throws ninety-nine miles an hour! They all missed something. Maybe I can stabilize his release point. Fix his arm slot. Something. Think of the potential upside.”

That’s Christie. The 99-mph heater with the inconsistent release point.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Internet Dating, Part II

A woman will tell you that looks aren't that important to her. She stares openmouthed, hands to her cheeks in dismay, at any word that might pass your lips to indicate that one of her peers is unattractive, or that, God forbid, you would not be interested in a woman because you think she looks like John Goodman in a halter top.

They would never sink to such depths. They know there is much more than that to everyone, and true beauty can only be found by getting to know someone and exploring the nooks and crannies of his or her psyche, and finding the truth in her or her heart. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and we had a word for comments like that.


There are only two things more important to a woman than your looks: her looks and money. Money comes second because so much of it will be earmarked for the maintenance, or creation, of her looks. Calm down, I have proof.

I haven’t counted, but at least half the Internet ads I've seen of attractive women specify in them, “No replies without photo.” If a guy put that in there, he’d be roasted and his picture put up in every ladies room like it was a post office. Half of the women who do reply will ask for a picture right out of the chute. Then they get cute when they don’t think you’re a hunk.

I had one who insisted on a picture, then blew me off. It wasn't that I was unattractive, she wrote, but I looked too much like an old boyfriend. She didn't want to hurt my feelings by saying someone else’s name during an intimate encounter.

Hurt my feelings? Lady, it’s been so long since I had a intimate encounter I wouldn't care if you whispered “This is going to cost you an extra fifty dollars” in my ear. This is called “living in the moment.” My feelings can be hurt later, I’m busy now.

There was another one, who seemed like a very nice woman from the emails we traded, who then posted her picture on the site. I’m not going to say anything nasty about the picture. I'll let her do it. She wrote me a couple of days later to tell me that her responses had dropped to zero since posting the picture. People who had been corresponding with her had stopped, and she would understand if I didn't want to get together after all.

I wrote back and said not to worry about it. I tried to lighten the moment a little by saying it was no big deal, that I had posted my picture for a while with the same result.

I never heard from her again.

Having already acknowledged that I am not Mel Gibson, I’m not the Elephant Man, either. I have no problems with women rejecting me because of my looks. I do it. You do it. (Be honest.) Everyone does it. I just don’t like being told you don’t do it when we all know you do.

While we’re on the subject of putting pictures in personal ads, what are some people thinking of? Ladies, a word of advice. If you are trying to attract a man via a personal, do not attach a picture of you and your dog/cat/ferret dressed in matching outfits, especially Christmas suits. Men do not find this attractive. We find it scary. We would rather order a Cosmopolitan in a biker bar than deal with the possibility of having to help you dress Skittles for next year’s Christmas card. We are also not crazy about the idea of you having a dog/cat/ferret that would tolerate such behavior.

The Male Ego comes in for quite a bit of bashing, and deservedly so. I, personally, am convinced that it is no coincidence that Nicole Kidman dumped that squirt Tom Cruise shortly after I became available. That being said, try this headline on for size, written by an actual woman to attract a man’s attention:

“The woman you wished you’d married.”

As if her ego wasn't off-putting enough, she goes on to prove that she not only has no clue, she doesn't even know where to shop for one.

Since my divorce, I seem to be a magnet for married men. Something like cats, that seem to know I’m horribly allergic to them, and can’t keep their fuzzy little paws off of me. I think it’s because I’m so much more interesting that the women they are actually married to.

It occurred to me at this point that her headline should have read “The woman you wish you’d slept with.” I know enough about guys to know that “unsuitable, attached and wannabe philandering men” (her words) aren't looking for a woman to marry. They are looking for a woman (how can I put this delicately?) to shack up with. Her copious list of virtues are not what men who cheat are looking for. They are going to look pretty much in the area between the neck and the knees and leave it at that.

With that last sentence we have come full circle and admitted that men are, indeed, pigs. Fine. I wish I was a better person. Let’s be honest, though. We’re all about the same, and we’re all in this together. Let’s try to have a little fun and do the right thing at the same time.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The Sole Heir’s mother was called in from vacation for a meeting at 4:00 PM on Monday, July 3. Granted, Monday was a work day; still, it is not clear what was so urgent to demand accomplishment so late the day before a major holiday, since half the country’s on vacation, and no one would be available to do anything about it until Wednesday.

In a related note, an acquaintance was called in from vacation on Monday to do a report. These are two glowing examples of managers trying to show what big dicks they have, and succeeding only in showing what big dicks they are.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

As American as Falafel and Quiche

While Congress was distracted with whining about who should protect our ports and whether our phone records should be available to every fed with a bug up his ass, the terrorists took over ESPN.

Today is the Fourth of July, the most American of holidays. As recently as last year ESPN celebrated with five baseball games, starting in the early afternoon and running past midnight, moving through all four time zones to allow everyone a chance to glimpse our National Pastime.

What are they showing today? ESPN has poker and soccer, followed by Barry Bonds’ weekly festival of self-aggrandizing video masturbation and concluding with more poker before Baseball Tonight, their one-hour wrap-up of the day’s games, none of which they thought worthy of showing live. ESPN2 is even worse. Hours of Wimbledon and a replay of the afternoon’s soccer game (for the fifteen people in the country with cable but no VCR) are sandwiched around a hot dog eating contest.

I realize they have marketing surveys out the wazoo; I also understand all twenty-something marketing geniuses know more about this than I ever will. Doesn’t tradition count for anything? ESPN and The Deuce also ditched baseball on Memorial Day, replacing it with other two staples of Americana: poker and competitive paintball. All day. On both channels. Honest to Allah.

Now tell me the terrorists aren’t winning.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Internet Dating, Part I

Editor’s Note: This was written well before I met the Crazy Like Me Correspondent. None of the comments apply even remotely to her.

People living in the Washington area don’t need anyone to tell them how busy they are. High-stress jobs and traffic consume more potential leisure time than anyone cares to think about. Creating a social life from this chaos of obligations is always a challenge. This is the primary reason for the rise in Internet dating.

Internet dating provides an opportunity to deal with various aspects of the female personality in a compressed time. Instead of meeting and dating women over a period of months, you can encounter dozens in a day, and may actually communicate through email or chat with several in the course of a week.

Notice that I didn't say if this was good or bad. I prefer to take the Zen approach and say that it is not good or bad, it just is. It is certainly educational.

Before I get into full rant here, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. I am well into my second divorce, which carries with it the implication of damaged goods. I am forty-five years old, so approximately half the women on the planet will consider me a pathetic old lecher if I even ask them where to find the Metamucil. I have never been mistaken for Mel Gibson. (I’m considerably taller.) My sense of humor is not for the faint of heart.

I am also a guy, with the base tendencies guys have. Everyone knows what those are. Some will be discussed here, some won’t. Suffice to sat that the women with whom I have been dealing should assume I have these tendencies.

I’m not going to get all New Age and start talking about Mars and Venus. It’s not that complicated, and there are copyright issues I’d rather nor deal with. I also don’t want anyone to think I’m being misogynistic. I’m being as honest and forthright as I can, from my perspective, which is the only one I can have and is, therefore, the only one that counts in my little corner of The Big Picture.

It is widely assumed that women are deeper and more sincere than men. This idea must have come from their ability to bear children, which supposedly gives them insight into the meaning of life and our place in it, as well as the cosmic and supernatural forces that guide our pitiful existence, regardless of our feeble attempts to exercise some control. Lots of people think that.

They’re wrong. Women are just as shallow as men. They’re just shallow about different things.

I realize I am throwing away any chance I have of being a guest on “Oprah,” or “The View.” I’ll get over it. I’d prefer a shot at Jim Rome’s show or “Win Ben Stein’s Money.”

Probably the favorite piece of evidence thrown in men’s faces by women who wish to establish themselves as superior life forms is our predilection for sports. We like to play sports, we like to watch sports, and we like to talk about sports. Sports occupy a major part of our attention. Maybe not as much as sex, but it’s close.

Women have loftier things on their minds and will not sully their gray matter with such base concerns. Life as we know it would change fundamentally if women were to adjust their thinking and worry about sports, even a little. Entire nations, especially this one, would see their economies shrivel and die should the female population waver even an inch from their ramrod-straight focus on what rules their world. Men have sports. Women have shopping.

Don’t laugh, the parallels are too tight. Men love to play sports, women love to shop. Men watch sports on television, women have gobs of cable channels devoted to nothing but shopping. Men will talk about sports all hours of the day. Women will talk about shopping the same way. You don’t think so? Tell me you’re never heard the following conversation, or one just like it.

“Where did you get that blouse?”

“Do you like it? I got it at Bloomingdale’s.”

“What did you pay for it?”

“It was only forty-five dollars.” (Note: I have no idea what any article of women’s clothing costs, and I don’t want to know. I picked a number at random, and I don’t want to hear about it if I’m off by several orders of magnitude.)

“You know, I saw one a lot like it at Nordstrom’s, but it was sixty-five dollars.”

“I know. I think the one at Nordstrom’s was a little nicer, but not twenty dollars nicer. Feel this material. The thread count can’t be that much different.”

“Speaking of thread count, did you see the sheets on sale at Hecht’s? They were a hundred twenty count and were on sale.”

“No! Get out! How long is the sale good for?” And on and on.

How is this different, or any more elevated, than a manly discussion of why A-Rod may hit thirty points higher than I-Rod, but I-Rod plays a tougher position and is therefore a more valuable player? It’s not. It’s even lower, because they’re talking about a blouse, and we’re talking about baseball. Millions of people will not be thrown into paroxysms of joy or despair if she misses the last sheets at Hecht’s, but they will if Bill Buckner lets an easy ground ball roll through his legs to lose the World Series.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An Alternative Solution

It’s hard to have confidence in Dubya’s pledges to keep illegally obtained data from being seen by unauthorized persons; the government can’t even keep the personal data it obtains legally from being seen by anyone who wants a peek.

I am one of a select group of 26.5 million veterans and their dependents, whose personal information was stolen out of some GS moron’s home. The government’s response was to tell us how sorry they were, provide the phone numbers of the three credit reporting agencies, pat us on the butt and send us on our way. They didn’t even tell us the name of the shitweasel who kept taking home computer files without authorization until someone finally stole them, allowing us the satisfaction of beating the snot out of him. The least they could do is publish his information, so he share in our enforced paranoia. (Veterans are the Rodney Dangerfield of interest groups in this country. Kids cook Mom breakfast in bed on Mothers Day; Fathers Day is for Dad to fall asleep watching the U.S. Open. When’s the last time you got a Veterans Day card? It should be a federal law that no veteran works on Veterans Day. It’s not like it would be a major sacrifice. You’d still have 98% of elected officials and corporate executives coming to work.)

This week the USDA had its systems hacked, jeopardizing the records of 26,000 DC area employees and contractors. Lucky me, I got nicked again. (I’m not complaining; my boss is a three-time loser.) At least the USDA will pay for a year’s worth of credit checks. The vets got bupkes.

I have a solution: publish the personal information of everyone who has ever dealt with the government in the Washington Post. Military, civilian, contractor, retired, active, elected, or appointed. Include anyone who ever got a student loan, FHA mortgage, farm subsidy, or small business loan. Then we’ll know for sure our confidences have been breached, and can avoid all this “we have no evidence anyone’s records have been used improperly” bullshit. The government then pays for the credit and identity protections they keep telling us we need every time someone steals our records. The cost would be zeroed out from all the money they’ll save by not having to pay for ineffective computer security any more.

It has to work better than what they’ve been doing.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Tunnel Vision

A leading indicator of 21st Century hell is the presence of advertising everywhere. On the walls above urinals, blue screens at ballparks for ads only television viewers can see, before the movie (trailers don’t count; Pepsi ads do). A gas station in Breezewood, PA has video ads on its pumps.

A new low has been reached in Washington, DC, America’s nexus of new lows. Video ads are now displayed on the walls of subway tunnels, sequenced to move in time with the train so you don’t have to risk whiplash watching them. (Swear to God this is true:

My trust of marketing people falls somewhere between politicians and lawyers. They won’t lie to you all the time, just when transmitting information. Their expertise is alleged to lay in a more directly profitable direction than honesty: they’re supposed to know how to contact just the right people your business needs to sell more of your product, which most of them probably don’t need. (The American economy is now almost wholly based on things we don’t need.)

The current ad playing on Metro tunnels for the Lincoln Navigator makes me wonder about their marketing team. How many of the people jammed into a Metro train are actively considering a luxury SUV purchase. “Hey, Ethel, screw the Lexus dealer. I saw an ad for a Navigator in a subway tunnel today.”

Let’s think of who Metro riders are, especially on the Red Line headed out for Northeast DC and Prince George’s County. Isn’t this comment any more likely to be generated: “Fred, instead of that KIA from CarMax, what about a Lincoln Navigator?”

I shouldn’t make too much of this; I’m sure these folks are smarter than me. (I live near Washington, DC, where everyone is smarter than me. Just ask them.) I mean, you’d have to be smarter than me to run a major American automobile manufacturing company, role model to industrialists around the world for forward-seeing, profit-building vision and efficiency. Wouldn’t you?

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Flag Amendment

Here's the letter that went out today to both senators:

I am a veteran and a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. (Inclusion in both groups is not an oxymoron.) I am appalled by the upcoming vote to amend the Constitution to allow Congress to pass laws outlawing flag burning. While I have no intentions of burning any flags and think those who do are reprehensible, I am frightened by what would be the first step to abridge the rights specifically laid out in the Bill of Rights over two hundred years ago. Passing this amendment would serve no constructive purpose other than to start us on a slippery slope to Constitutionally limiting our rights.

Americans’ rights have taken a beating over the past five years, with the Constitution being our only safeguard. Please don’t allow even that fragile bulwark to start to erode.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Casting an Increasingly Narrow Net

It seems like just a few days since I wrote to my senators and representative about a matter of high importance. I used to rant to all of you about them, but, frankly, none of you ever did dick to make things better. Now I’m going over your head.

Not that I’m kidding myself that these guys care. Every elected representative has one primary agenda item: get re-elected. Senator Sarbanes is retiring this year, so that doesn’t apply to him, yet he is the only one of the three to reply to my last letter. All right, I know it wasn’t really him, it was his office, but it was a nice note, written with an eye toward allowing the less enlightened to delude themselves.

Today the Washington Post ran an op-ed piece about legislation before Congress that would allow a handful of major telecommunication companies to control access to the Internet. (For more on this, visit the Post’s website at

Here’s the note I wrote to my elected representatives. I know they don’t care what I think, and they don’t care what you think. Enough of us get mad enough, and they might care what we think. Go ahead. If you have time to read this and half of the other crap you skim or watch on TV each day, you can write a letter.

As the gap between the richest and poorest continues to grow, the Internet has become a prime method for economic and educational advancement by those who may not have the resources for more formal education, or traditional

business opportunities. Pending legislation eliminating net neutrality endangers these opportunities.

Allowing telecommunications companies to control Internet access essentially makes them censors of the Internet. They may dispute this, but we have an excellent of their good intentions in our own back yard: Comcast’s refusal to

provide its cable customers with access to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) because MASN is a competitor of Comcast Sports Net. Other cable companies have refused specific programming that differed with their corporate agendas. This legislation would allow them the same control of the Internet.

Aside from the educational and economic opportunities, the Internet has become the ultimate safeguard of our First Amendment rights. Allowing large telecommunications companies to provide access based on the content provider’s ability to pay (or their political, religious, or personal convictions) has the grim potential to shackle large avenues of open discourse. This is anathema to the values America holds most dear.

In these times of domestic surveillance and government credibility gaps, an unfettered Internet serves a valuable function. Maryland is fortunate to have someone of your experience and considerable influence to represent us.

Please take advantage of the respect and influence you have earned from your peers to help to defeat this restrictive and un-American legislation.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Just Another Dick Head

A side benefit of last summer’s Colorado sojourn was listening to the Sibling Correspondent pimp the virtues of Dick Dale. For those of you not in the loop, Dick Dale is The King of the Surf Guitar, pretty much having invented the style, then remaining its prime practitioner. (His son is also an accomplished guitarist, known, of course, as The Prince of the Surf Guitar.)

The Crazy Like Me Correspondent and I were lucky enough to catch Dick in concert this week at The Ram’s Head in Annapolis. (An intimate venue with much to recommend it.) Going to one performance doesn’t really qualify us to be Dick Heads (as his camp followers are called), but it’s a good start.

Dale doesn’t just give a concert; he puts on a show. He plays some tunes you wouldn’t expect: “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “Folsom Prison Blues” (to which he sings as much of “Ring of Fire” as he can remember), “Fever,” and the timeless surfer classic, “Hava Nagila.” (Dale makes you wonder how the Beach Boys missed covering this one.) Of course, the evening couldn’t go by without the classic, “Miserlou,” made famous (again) as the theme for the movie Pulp Fiction.

His relaxed banter is corny, but genuinely amusing. He also plays drums (well), double teams with his bassist on the same ax, plays bass using drum sticks instead of his fingers, and knocks off a few choruses of jazz trumpet quite nicely.

Dale turned sixty-nine last month but looks like he’s having too much fun to stop making his annual tour any time soon. That’s good news. Anyone looking for a fun evening watching an accepted master would do well to become a Dick Head for a night.

I took the Sole Heir to see Maynard Ferguson when she started playing trumpet; I wanted her to be able to say thirty years from now that she’d seen Maynard play in person. (Incidentally, Maynard and Dick Dale share May 4 as a birthday.) She had a ball, and I think she appreciated the sentiment. Now I can thank my brother for the same thing, as I have seen the King of the Surf Guitar and lived to tell about it.


Piling On

It’s not bad enough some hooplehead (don’t forget: at Veterans’ Affairs lost my (and possibly your) personal information; the credit reporting agencies have to pile on, too.

Yours truly recently requested a fraud alert to be placed on my account at the three credit reporting agencies. Instructions indicated that I only had to inform one, and the others would be notified and would comply.

I called TransUnion. They had an easy, automated, phone system for taking my information as securely as could be expected, and the alert took effect earlier this week. Experian notified me of their compliance a couple of days later.

Yesterday I received word from Equifax that I had to send them much the same information as was “misplaced,” except in a more current form. They wanted photocopies sent to a Post Office box.

This makes me feel much better. This is private information, the disclosure of which prompted the fraud alert in the first place. I feel a whole lot better dropping it into a computer system than leaving it in a batch where some minimum wage-earning cracker (they’re in Atlanta) can slip it out of the pile and sell it for a hundred bucks.

Here’s the real problem: they’re The Man. They have me (you, us) by the short hairs. Our private, personal information is now their property. They may do with it pretty much as they want; our wishes and intents don’t matter.

If this bothers you as much as it bothers me, all I can think of to do is get The Other Man involved: the government. (I almost wrote The Bigger Man, but then I remembered who really runs things in Washington.) Below is a copy of the letter I just emailed to my representative and both senator. Feel free to borrow from it if you wish.


I am one of the veterans affected by the recent loss of records by a VA employee. I immediately contacted TransUnion to place a fraud alert on my credit history. They had a special phone line set up to accommodate the high volume of calls expected. The process was quick, relatively painless, and fully automated, which relieved some of my worries about passing along private and potentially sensitive information. The web site I checked, and the TransUnion phone message, indicated that the other two major credit reporting agencies would be informed, and that fraud alerts would be placed at both of those locations.

Yesterday I received in the mail a notice from Equifax, informing me they would not place a fraud alert on my account until I provided photocopies of the following:

  1. Social Security Card, W-2 form, or current pay stub with Social Security Number.
  2. Driver’s License, State Identification Card, Utility Bill, or Lease Agreement with current address.

I’m asking for the fraud alert because personal information (such as my Social Security number) may have been obtained by parties unknown; Equifax now wants me to send the same information through to a Post Office box so they can “assure” me some minimal level of protection from someone else using it. This borders on the surreal.

There’s no practical way to live in contemporary society without access to credit, so the credit agencies are a necessary evil. Why they are allowed to grant requests as to individuals’ personal information, without informing that individual, has always been a mystery to me. (It seems all the vaunted privacy protections we have in this county are primarily intended to protect out personal information from ourselves. Credit agencies are under no obligation to inform us of irregular activity; my medical records belong to my doctor, not to me.) To create an additional potential security hole to an already extraordinary situation only adds insult to injury.

This is a relatively trivial matter when compared to the suffering of those veterans who are currently returning from Iraq less than whole. Still, millions of veterans who have served their country well and honorably have had their financial lives jeopardized through no fault of their own, and no one seems to want to do anything about it.

I’m just one individual, and I expect I’ll complain abut, but will comply with, the Equifax request. What I’m asking is that you use your considerable authority and respect in the Senate {House} to see to it that all those affected are protected as well as they can be.

Thank you for your time and attention.