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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, not Xmas. Halloween.

You get to dress up as a fantasy (even if that fantasy implies killing people for money or enslaving them on the Barbary Coast). You get to panhandle neighbors in disguise. You get candy.

What could be better?

Well, it would be better if this was still true. Urban Legends have co-opted the holiday, at least where I live. The city holds a tax-subsidized ‘Boo Bash.’ Some people trick-or-treat at the mall, something that would have been impossible when I was a kid. The ‘Boo Bash,’ is my tax dollars at work to bleed off the people who didn’t run to the mall, so almost no one but the extremely old are home to give out trick-or-treats. For some reason, we’re to believe that our children are safer in a large crowd with total strangers than they are knocking on their neighbor’s door.

We sallied forth to trick-or-treat nonetheless. I’m old-fashioned that way. I believe in the tradition of it. It’s one of the few holidays America can’t ruin with crass commercialism because it’s vulgar and materialistic by nature. I think of it as Mardi Gras minus 40,000 drunks crowded together to flash each other and brawl. And while some people have custom-made breasts to flash, for the most part, Mardi Gras beads are earned by showing something you have only minimal responsibility for even having. A Grim Reaper costume, that’s something you have to buy or make. And there’s more variety to Halloween costumes than to drunken women’s breasts. The costume becomes an extension of your personality, or an alternate persona you can don for the night.

But everyone is convinced there’s a kiddie-toucher behind every bush, so they run off to the mall and the city-run party, and that means the trick or treating is lamer in the neighborhood, which means more parents will cave and give it up for the government-issue version. This wouldn’t bother me nearly so much if it didn’t stem from the War on Childhood.

While pretending I could handle responsibility for my honyocks last weekend, I drove them through my hometown. It's not far, 17 miles from where we live. I grew up thinking when you grew up you moved away. But I’ve lived my entire life in an area that would fit in an 80 mile (or so) radius. Not that I haven’t had variety: small town, suburbs, overpriced urban neighborhood, incredibly cheap but crime ridden urban neighborhood, back to a small town becoming a suburb.

In the process of driving past my father’s long failed pizza parlor, the dentist I used to go to, the grocery that’s now a junk shop, the barber shop were I got my hair cut when my Dad came to his senses and quit trying to save $2 while making everyone miserable, I showed the girls the church where I went to preschool. Then drove them by the house we lived in at the time.

And here’s the thing: I walked to this preschool. It was a thrilling privilege to walk to and from it, something that made me feel big and independent. Three and a half blocks, and it involved crossing the closest thing to a busy intersection this town has, and rounding a corner so it’s not like Mom could watch me the whole way.

The thought of even letting my nine year old take such a journey is foreign to me, that’s how much ground the anti-Childhood campaign has won. Everyone is convinced that if they turn to read the specials on a restaurant sign that their children will instantly be on a milk carton. Safety is perceived to be hurtling the kid down the Interstate at 70mph in a mini-van surrounded by idiots who have no business driving. I’d wager that your kid is in more danger riding in a car than trick-or-treating on foot with their parents. Or walking a few blocks of sidewalk on their own.

Em went as a snow fairy. Mo went as Hello Kitty, though I think (based on things she's said the past few days) she'd have preferred some sort of cowgirl outfit. She went to school today in an overpriced Barbie cowgirl hat because she was supposed to be a cowgirl today according to the notebook. The notebook, it's smoke signals we use to go back and forth with her teachers/therapists.

Her teachers are above average, especially when you consider that they are both public employees and, in some cases, young enough to be my offspring. But the notebook has it's limitations. I wonder what became of the Barbie cowgirl hat...

I went to work in my pirate gear. Okay, Mayhem's pirate gear mostly. I provided the cheesy eye patch and hoop ear-ring. The wrist-guards, I figured, would interfere with my typing, but they actually are an ideal brace in some respects.

The only other guy at my office who went all-out, I thought he'd come as Boba Fett. He has the full getup, Hollywood ready, but it turns out he also has a Sand Trooper getup.

The guy I work with who has the most Halloween Spirit, he's never at work on Halloween. Even when it's an unexcused absense because of mandatory overtime, he simply isn't at work on 10/31, ever. It's his wedding anniversary in addition to being, for him, the equivalent of the Super Bowl, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and Sturgis Ride-In all rolled into one big joint of holiday.

Zombie always comes up with great costumes, but when Halloween comes around he goes all out.

This is a guy who runs out of room to store hats and false beards. His house, from what I've heard in bits and pieces in the past eight years, looks like the back room of a Toys-R-Us.

Look, it's a Lobster-pirate raiding the fridge!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sailing Over Teach's Grave

Hopefully I'll be able to find Frau Lobster's digital cam tomorrow and post a picture of this year's Halloween Costume. Went as a bearded lady last year, and would this year if I could have found a coconut halter and grass skirt in time to do the Polynesian thing.

When I was in the custom of shaving my head in the summer, I rotated through a series of 'bald' related costumes: Mr. Clean, Uncle Fester, Electric Chair Casualty, etc. Still have some room to run there when I get done growing my hair long. I never did Kojack, The King & I, etc.

I have a friend who's a singing pirate for a living, so I borrowed some threads from him. He's about my size, so they should fit, and by this time of year, he's sick to death of dressing as a pirate and ready for the off-season.

I did have an eerie experience picking up the clothes. The last I saw his step-daughter she was about Em's age, maybe a year or two older. Out of the corner of my eye, I think I see Frau Mayhem coming down the stairs and turn my head and do a double-take because there's a resemblance to Frau Mayhem, but this girl is maybe 17. And gorgeous.

No I don't mean that in a creepy way, just in a factual way. She'd turn heads in any mall. She ricocheted through the room in a dash so as to stay clear of the old men (ages 36 and 38). If you are 17, that probably does seem old, but as the 36 of the pair, I have to say I feel about the same as I did at 17. Slower, fatter, able to buy beer legally (much less thrilling that way), poorer (though curiously, when I was 17, my present hourly wage was enough to keep me solvent he better part of a week).

And if I was Tom Cruise, I'd probably have thrown Frau Lobster over and started chasing teen-age girls like I did at 17, though probably with less success.

I think Mayhem read my face, because he grinned a grin that seemed to say, 'You don't have long to wait.' I'd say it's a 'misery loves company' thing, but I think he sees it more along the lines of 'this too shall pass.'

But where's the edge of the cliff? When did Mayhem go from being a Bad Influence to being a middle-aged father with Bohemian tendencies, living in a split-level ranch in the burbs with his wife and three teen-aged kids? You can't be the teen wunderkind of illicit behavior and the middle-aged father at the same time, yet there seems to be no transit period.

Translating Advertising to English

I finally got curious to pull up Phillip Morris' bullshit website, the one they advertise during football games. I'm reasonably sure it's a result of the liability law suits, probably dictated by a court if not a liability underwriter.

Here's a quote from the front page:
Philip Morris USA (PM USA) agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. Smokers are far more likely to develop serious diseases, like lung cancer, than non-smokers. There is no safe cigarette.

Here's my translation of advertising bullshit to English:
Okay, it's no longer profitable to feign ignorance. We make a dangerous, addictive, deadly drug with very few benefits and horrible side effects. Hell, if cocaine was legal, no way we could compete with it. It's far safer, less addictive, and actually has some less than obscure medicinal uses. As long as the DEA holds our real competition at bay and our lawyers can keep us from actually losing money on a product that should have drawn criminal penalties for our executives decades ago, we'll be fine. In fact, this shit is so addictive, we can afford to put up a web site with links to every known method of quitting. Quit if you can. We dare you.

Plus, Big Tobacco thought they'd be banned from advertising on TV, the most powerful media in the modern world, permanently. Now they can buy prime advertising time with a pretense of responsibility. If they could, they would take Kellog's spot away and be the 'proud sponsor of PBS Kids.'

And their shit about trying to prevent kiddos from smoking, be serious. You have to be in the 10 to 14 year age bracket to pretend you enjoy cigarettes long enough to need cigarettes. If Big Tobacco could pull it off, they'd make it illegal for adults to buy them and legal for children. That way you get the kids good-and-solidly hooked while they extort higher allowances from their parents in exchange for bringing home a carton for Mom and Dad.

Ready to Eat

Fancy Dirt responded to my last post that Mo might be signaling for French Toast when she eats frozen fish sticks dipped in syrup, but maybe I should elaborate.

There is a list of foods Mo prefers straight from the freezer. If you nuke it, bake it, otherwise 'cook' it, it's inedible as far as she's concerned. The trick is keeping her from things like raw chicken that would actually be dangerous to eat. The list of things she'll eat (often a bag/box at a shot) frozen is pretty long, and includes, but is not limited to:

Brussels Sprouts
Frozen Broccoli (dubbed 'snow broccoli')
Snap Peas
Chicken Nuggets
Fish Sticks (with or without faux maple syrup)
Chocolate Chips (and any other sweet like cake or cookies you tried to hide in the freezer)

She also grazes on ice cubes at times. It's better than eating crayons, chewing weather stripping and other 'non-edible' items she seems determined to prove 'edible.'

This Was Not In the Brochure

Lilly Tomlin had that line about how the doctor prescribed Ritalin for her 'hyperactive twins,' and she wouldn't dream of giving drugs to her children, 'but it sure helps when I take it myself.'

When they're selling parenthood, they don't disclose what truths are uttered in jest. Being on my own with the kiddos I didn't take my clonazepam at bedtime. It's good at keeping my REM behavior disturbance in check, which makes it safer for Frau Lobster to sleep in the same bed. It's also good at making a Lobster sleep through a named storm system.

A few years of taking the stuff most of the time, I don't know about 'dependence' but when you're used to taking something that amounts to an 'off-switch' it takes longer to fall asleep. Chief Broom talks about (I think it's Seconal, though I don't recall if Kesey named it) the pills that the booby hatch hands out that don't make you sleep but make you blink out of existence until morning. It's not a barbiturate, but you predictably fall asleep with clonazepam.

But then when you're sole guardian of two kiddos, one with autism and epilepsy who's a flight risk, you don't want something that zonks you out. And when you had to full out sprint because she bolted in the parking lot of an Applebee's after dark the night before, it's also a challenge to be easy enough in your head to go to sleep even when you're tired.

I lucked out Friday night, Mo slept until 6:00, which got me five hours of sleep, really better sleep than what I get with the clonazepam, probably more productive REM cycles and so on. Still five hours is less than Lobsters require.

You'd think after the taxing day that followed (the eight hours I spent at the office on Saturday while the girls hung with my in-laws was like a vacation within the day), I'd fall asleep straight away. But no such luck.

I finally succumbed to the Sand Man at 1:00 or so, I think. I thought I wanted a few stiff drinks and some Seconals so I could sleep in the Valley of the Dolls, but really, I just wanted to know that someone besides me would wake up and notice if Mo got up and started raising hell. At 3:00, Mo got up. For the day. I tried telling her it was still night time and going through the bedtime ritual.

'Night-night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite. Nighty-noodle. Time to get your beauty rest, Princess. I love you little Honyock. Midwest Rock Lobsters.'

Two minutes later, the child was screaming through the house again. After a half hour or so of repeating this nonsense, I despaired of convincing her it was really still the middle of the night.

To give you an idea of how it's gone, this pathetic post has taken me over an hour and a half to hack out on Frau Lobster's laptop. Mo's been setting new records on Time Outs Earned. She's pissed that Mom isn't here, and her main entertainment is trying to inspire me to yell, something I've been trying to break myself of.

Yelling does no good, and at her last parent-teacher conference they asked about why she was spontaneously shouting, 'NO, NO, NO!' and 'DON'T YOU EVER, EVER!!!' I've (relatively calmly) had her in the time-out chair at least seven times today. Puts me in mind of the Army recruiting ads I remember from my childhood about how the Army does more before breakfast than most people do all day. Part of autism is that facial expressions and tone-of-voice are blind spots. As near as I can tell, when I have a fit, it's entertaining to Mo. Which means that even if my ranting is meant to be an ersatz shock-collar, it's really just positive reinforcement.

At the moment, I think a respite has come in the form of PBS Kids. The Propaganda Broadcasting Scam can have their tax subsidy if it keeps toys from being flushed down toilets, whole bottles of hand soap from being poured out, and so on. If PBS could get her to use toilet paper instead of clothing without hand-over-hand supervision, I'd even forgive them for their non-children's programming, as wretched as it tends to be.

Bet you didn't know that frozen fish sticks are best served straight from the freezer, dipped in faux maple syrup. At least, that appears to be Mo's assessment. No harm in it, if I can get her to quit using the clean laundry for napkins.

I hesitate to actually post this now that I've written it. It probably sounds like I'm whining (or posting from the Sixth Circle of Parenthood). And I can't imagine that I do my best writing on two hours of sleep and an overdose of Wrathful Adrenaline.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Un-Homemaker

Frau Lobster is camping and canoeing this weekend, by the way, leaving me to play the Lobster version of Mr. Mom. Except in my case, you shave six figures off the income it’d take to live like they do in a Hollywood movie.

This is where I’m supposed to appreciate all Frau Lobster does to keep the house going, but ‘appreciate’ isn’t the word. It’s on a scale that requires awe. And I don’t really do all the things Frau Lobster does; I just try to keep the kids alive. And keep at least one toilet unclogged.

The Bog of Eternal Stench

Those of you who come to Lobster Land often (both of you) might remember I had a deluge in my den a few months back. Not a New Orleans scale thing, but it managed to ruin a few hundred dollars worth of library books, a ten year archive of 'Zymurgy' magazine, and made my den uninhabitable for a considerable period of time. Also damaged were family photos, yearbooks, sentimental stuff that can't be replaced.

I have a little mini-fridge in my den that was way, way overdue for a defrost. The door no longer closed all the way. I haven't had any beer to put in it for a few days, so I've been letting it defrost. It 'automatically' defrosts when you unplug it.

The plus side is the door willingly closes fully now. I'm also probably saving on my electric bill since I'm not cooling an empty fridge. The down side is the melt has soaked the carpet in that corner of the den, reconstituting the stuff in the carpet fiber that the steam cleaner didn't get out. The result is, as I write this, I'm choking on the fumes of refrigerator piss.

Dry carpet versus dry Chixulub, I am experiencing evidence that chronic sobriety stinks. If I don't get some booze to justify plugging this fridge back in, I'll have to take up smoking again. Stale tobacco smoke would actually be an improvement over this.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hot Sauce Porn

I was accused by Frau Lobster of shaking with excitement as I opened the envelope from Avery Island: Tabasco had replied to my love letter. They sent a fairly stock PR note and the catalog for the Tabasco Country Store.

Remember that great line when the hobbits get to Bree and one marvels that beer can be served in pints? Tabasco comes in gallons! Yikes! All five varieties can be had this way, and most Americans have trouble getting through a 5 oz. bottle before it oxidizes badly.

They also sell both gallons and 12 oz. bottles in personalized versions. A topper for the habanero version that's made to look like a grenade handle/ring. Smoker chips made from the decommissioned oak barrels that have been used to age the sauce, etc.

And as someone in the ad specialties business, I should be more jaded about novelty items, but Tabasco trivets, Tabasco salt and pepper shakers, seven designs of Tabasco cooking aprons! Bar towels, hot pads, oven mitts, placemats, barware, stainless measure cups and spoons with the handle stamped in the image of the Tabasco bottle, trays, throws, art chairs, wind chimes, wallpaper border, ball caps, Xmas lights...

Not to mention several cool boxer shorts designs, T-shirts, neckties, golf shirts, money clips, etc. Tabasco bikinis!!!

This is pepper sauce pornography. It's getting me hot!

Friday, October 21, 2005

You Aren't Ready For Some Football?

Friday Night Footbal, in America, means 'high school.' Where you'll find future NFL players, but not nearly as many as you'll find future Gas & Sip assistant managers, unemployed actors, stock brokers, Realtors, and maybe an occasional loan shark or sports book enforcer.

The guys in the NFL, almost without exception, if you go back to high school, it was the guy who not only played both sides of the ball but dominated it. A running back the Chiefs drafted years ago who didn't pan out, who lost his first game as an NFL player. Went from Pop Warnter through college undefeated. Pretty bizarre place to land your fist loss: even recruits from colege powerhouses have usually lost a game or two by the time they finish college, no matter how talented they are.

The fact that such an obviously exceptional athelete didn't do anything of note in the NFL is a testament to how good the worst (Lyn Elliot) NFL player is. I don't mean how good they are as people: you luck out if they turn out to be something other than total turds. I mean that in terms of the game, they can outrun Maurice Green in uncomfortable shoes, take the equivalent of a car crash and get called for taunting the guy who put the hit on them, etc.

The Chiefs visited Miami tonight, violating the shit out of high school football where anyone cared abut Dolphins or Chiefs (if Native Americans are offended by the Chiefs, should someone tell the aquatic mammals about how the Miami franchise is abusing them?)

The longest game ever played was the Chiefs and Dolphins, the year before the Dolphins went undefeated and the Chiefs started to semi-permanently suck.

So I wonder, what kind of bellweather this is: The Chiefs are the only team in the history of the NFL to travel the same day they played. Basically caught a red-eye for that business meeting and came back with the deal and more.

I'd hate for this sort of historical precedent to also be the precent of almost two decades of mediocrity on account a the Dolphins. It'd make me want to go back to older techniques of tuna fishing...

Of course, my concerns are utterly biased. My first reaction to the change in schedule was that NFL players who are tough enouth to play the same year they had a stroke ought to be tough enough to play through a storm surge/tidal wave and keep their passing game alive in 170 mph winds.

But the NFL was wiser than I, recognizing that while you could give floatees to six-foot-forty dudes who never learned to swim, the stands would be full of drunken, shouting idiots who would forget how to swim and drown.

Would those fans leave a better world in their demise? Perhaps, if you are selling footbal tickets, it's in your interest to keep them alive...

Good to have a historic game though: the Chiefs not only won (unlike the double overtime game way back), but did it convincingly. And they're the only team in the history of the league to travel and play the same day.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Labia Could Be Better

I like this Halloween costume, but the labia need work.

If I can hook up with Mayhem next week, I'll be borrowing some piratical stuff for my costume. He's a singing pirate by trade and it's his off season. He's about my size and by Halloween he's had ten weeks to get sick of being piratical.

Regrettably, his codpiece has broken straps (I'll let you conjecture to cause there), but maybe that's a good thing because I freak my coworkers out enough without any costume, let alone coming to work in not only an eyepatch and hoop earring, but also a peasant shirt, wrist-guards, tights and a codpiece.

Between labia needing work and codpieces with broken straps, this post must be doing wonders for my 'meta.'

It turns out that wasn't Opportunity knocking, it was the cops.


I notice I've attracted at least one comment from an anarcho-syndicalist. I love this, because it's my obscure opposite. I'm an anarcho-capitalist. This is the political equivalent over a debate like "Which is more disgusting, blood sausage or vegan 'hot dogs?'"

Normal people shy away from both.

But despite my loathing of socialism, I have a soft spot for the Wobblies. A century ago, I'd probably be one, as we didn't have the illustrated history of socialism as practiced beyond an oddball commune.

So what's the difference? The difference is how you view humans and how you define 'government.

Humans are flawed. Very flawed in some cases, not so much you'd notice in other cases, but that's only if you look at them as individuals. In groups, they do well to order lunch without injuring someone.

And government is the use of force or fraud to get someone to act in the interest of another person or persons.

For the first part, I'm not Utopian enough to think that a group larger than an Amish colony can even come close to sane governance. I live in a town of 12,000 and the municipal government is idiotic, inadequate, wrong-headed and overbearing. But only a little. It's not like living in Ceausescu's Romania.

For the second part, the Mafia is a government. It levies taxes (called 'protection'), provides services (gambling, dope, prostitution rings, cheap cigarettes). Unlike the 'official' government which claims to provide 'protection' while charging taxes to provide services like gambling, and the imprisonment of people who like dope, prostitution rings, and cigarettes that haven't been taxed as much.

A mugger in an alley is a government of one over one. 'Your money or your life,' that's government. 'I'm thinking about it,' Jack Benny's famous comeback to the proposition is the kind of thing that really pisses governments off.

So I'm all for the private sector over the public as long as it's not coercive or fraudulent, which rules out roughly 900 of the companies in the Fortune 500.

This is why almost any school district that's not an act of child abuse to enroll your child in consists of, at most, one high school and its tributaries. At most.

Because when there's a $600 million annual budget, you don't get interested parents on the school board, you get politicians. Politicians are a blight on humanity, but one, like influenza, that can at best be held to a merely irritating level.

The best immunization against politicians is to keep taxes so low the government can barely function at it's basic services. And broken into little, tiny, ineffectual pieces. It's not like the alternative makes you safer: the Department of Homeland Security actually made the response to Katrina/Rita less effective than it would have been in a pre-9/11 run.

As for the global corporation, it's just an arm of government that has to get its revenue from voluntary sources. Wal-Mart's cheap jeans are a sort of arbitrage, where Bangladesh gets to go through the exact same growing pains every industrialized country went through while industrializing. Wal-Mart profits from the 'backward' conditions in Bangladesh, liberals in industrialized countries get to suck their teeth and wag their fingers that Bangladesh should do better by Bangladeshis (while wearing their Faded Glory jeans to a rally).

And Americans will look a bit French or Italian in a few years, when the two superpowers of the world focus on their own rivalry and we're left to pretend at being more sophisticated while India and China run the show. I wonder if India and China will have a nuclear bomb-building contest, build up ridiculous militaries and tax themselves out of prosperity like us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Carpe Brewski

Having a spot of beer before bed, I happened to recall a joke I heard back when I was afraid Reagan was going to draft me and send me to wherever.

Back before baseball had relief pitching, you pitched the game. All nine innings or more if it went into extras. There was no such thing as a 'starter' and a 'reliever,' they were all just pitchers and if they started it, they finished it or the team forfeited.

This is also before two other big influences on sports: major sponsorship deals and Prohibition (which still lurks in the hearts of MADD who is panic-struck that while I intend to go to bed right after this, I could theoretically take my car keys and go driving around in my truck, maybe even stop off at a bar for a quick one to boost my blood alcohol level). But the Ballantine's endorsement was a big deal, of sorts, at the time. He was one of the few players to endorse a product for compensation, and it was also the last time the product manufacturer got off so lightly: all Ballantine's had to do was keep Milt in free beer.

Anyway, results counted, as they do now. Which is why baseball only cracked down on steroids when they had to explain why their leading home run hitters were also competing in the Mr. Universe competition. And Milt Famey, he could fucking pitch. Back then, no AL, so if you pitched, you also took a turn at bat if you played pro ball anywhere. Milt Famey might have achieved a sort of Babe Ruth status if he had been better at bat. His career average at the plate was only 142, but his pitching was art.

He pitched no-hitters, perfect games even, and always in the dugout was his cooler of Ballantine's. He drank beer like they were going to ban it (which they unsuccessfully tried a few years after his retirement, so it wasn't entirely irrational on his part). He drank beer with his breakfast, drank beer in the locker room, drank it in the dugout between innings and his deplorable at-bats. Ballantine's made a lot of hay out of the fact that he pitched so well after drinking their beer. They neglected to boast about how he it as if he couldn't decide which ball to swing at (he always saw three).

But he'd get on the mound and he was a god. Never threw around a hitter, always shot to strike them out and usually could. Who was going to tell him to quit the beer when he was winning games?

All good things come to an end though, and one day, Milt Famey lost it. He kept walking guys. He hit two batters in a row with pitches, and this is from the strike-out king, a guy who typically got a ball called outside the strike zone only when the batter was willing to bribe the plate umpire. And since there was no rule allowing a reliever, his team had to sit on the bench and watch him do it until the fielders managed to catch a few pop flies and get them a brief at-bat.

He walked run after run in that sad day, the last day Milt Famey would ever pitch.

One pitch was so wild it went over the backstop and into the stands, beaning an otherwise intelligent boy who might have been a surgeon or inventor, but was consigned by a spectator's injury to four terms in the U.S. Senate.

They didn't have lights back then. Okay, Edison had invented it, but they didn't have stadiums with lights. Night games? Forget it.

So while Famey's team was loath to forfeit. But, the sun was setting on them with a 47 point deficit and Milt Famey drinking even more Ballantine's, thinking that it might improve his pitch (it couldn't worsen it). The game was called in favor of the visiting team.

The few fans who had remained trickled out, and a couple of players from the visiting team were walking past the home dugout and the stench of Milt's empties overwhelmed them. Imagine a beer can pyramid but with the cans crushed (those old steel cans took some effort to crush), and jumbled in a pile by Milt's place on the bench.

Stale, empty beer cans assaulted their noses and made them stop and look at the mess. The wreck of beer cans, Milt's cleats literally hung up on a peg above them, his glove abandoned on the bench.

And one of the visiting players says to the other, 'Well, I guess that's the beer that made Milt Famey walk us.'

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Catching it Again

I read 'Catch-22' when I was a senior in high school, in a rare deviation from my policy of never reading anything on the 'recommended' list the English teachers had put together.

I bullshitted my way through papers on books I never cracked open while acing an advanced placement honor's course that I got college credit for. Don't tell the teacher, he can't take back the great grades, but I like the guy. He was a Rhodes Scholar, so I was pretty stunned at some of the things I got away with. I'm not someone with a great gift for reading people, but I understood enough to know that if you paraphrase someone's ideas, when they read it they're prone to think it's brilliant.

But I did read 'Catch-22.' I almost didn't. The teacher of this class didn't often allow us class time to read in, it was more fun to tell us what he thought so I could paraphrase it to ace a term paper. Everyone has a bad day, and maybe he was having one, because I think he gave us most of the period this one day as time to read.

I'd picked 'Catch-22' for a term paper because I knew there were enough opinions about it that I could pick up by osmosis. It wasn't an assigned book, so I wouldn't have the luxury of actual lectures and led discussions to crib from, and I've never used Cliff's Notes (mainly because I figured that was what teachers look for first and foremost, stuff that smacks of Cliff). Still, I figured I could find a couple of pieces of literary criticism that could be read with dramatically less effort and time. Keep in mind, this was only a few years after Moby Dick sunk my interest in anything an English teacher would recommend. And almost a decade before Ken Kesey and John Steinbeck won me back to the classics (and 'contemporary classics,' whatever that term means).

I started reading the book to look busy. I planned to spend the time meditating on the breasts of the girl who sat a row ahead and an aisle over. I'm sure if I saw her today (not her 36 year old version, the 18 year old one), I'd think she was a kid, but at the time she looked like a woman in full.

By the middle of the second page, the teacher cautioned me that I should pipe down. I'd forgotten about the boobs for a few minutes and was laughing to tears. Hooked.

You couldn't have prevented me from reading that book at that point.

I tried to read it again a few years later but I remembered too much, and so much of comedy is surprise, it didn't work. I even wondered if the book was worth a shit or if it just caught me in a weak moment.

I've been listening to the audio book of 'Catch-22' at work this week, and I can say the book was worth a shit. More than one shit even.

Of course I remember Major Major Major Major, and the bit about how you were crazy if you didn't ask to be grounded, but sane if you asked and thus required to fly. I vaguely remembered Milo's syndicate, though I'd forgotten that he contracted with the Germans to bomb his own base.

And I remembered the chaplain was an Anabaptist, but I never looked that up when I was 18. Didn't know what an Anabaptist was, and despite my natural curiosity, I didn't bother finding out.

I could do a whole term paper just on the chaplain if I'd have known. Anabaptists, for starters, would be conscientious objectors even by WWII standards. I knew a Quaker who did two years in prison rather than fight in that war. But Anabaptists have German/Bohemian roots (which would make them unlikely targets for the U.S. military recruiting in WWII) and mainly exist in America as Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites. All of which are pacifist sects that enjoyed some protection from Uncle Sam in World War II on account of their senseless persecution in the prequel (The Great War).

Since there aren't enough Anabaptist-related faithful to staff a meaningful regiment of soldiers, Uncle Same quit pestering them even quicker than he quit pestering Quakers and out-of-the-closet homosexuals.

Anyway, I'm glad Heller didn't go the obvious route and give them a Quaker chaplain. Since there are no clergy in the Society of Friends, it might be a good joke but it'd still be an obvious one on its face. The Anabaptists of various stripes have some clergy, though with less of a 'if you do this then you are that' approach. They approach it more like becoming a spiritual lawyer: you can go through seminary or whatever religious study, but you still have to pass the bar. Metaphorically anyway.

And if you'll join the army and sign loyalty oaths and all that shit, you're unlikely to pass any Anabaptist bar from what I can tell. If anything, it'd make you anathema, the Anabaptist analog to excommunication...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Getting it Wrong

Getting things wrong is a bit of an ideé fix in my novel, but in a different way. After my self-induced crisis of theme, I came to realize that the impossibility of fidelity was really my central idea. Not just marital fidelity or obeying laws, religious duties, etc., but the one-zero-ness of the digital age.

I am not listening to Liz Phair. I mean, beyond the fact that I'm tuning her out on a level to write this post. But she's not in my den with her band singing this shit to me. I'm listening to a CD which converted this data to 1's and 0's and a Rotel CD player is converting that back to an analog signal with a pretty nice DAC.

A software engineer I know says all digital-to-analog converters are the same, but he's wrong. I've done enough A/B comparisons to know better. Because not only did I spend more money on my stereo than any car I've owned in the past decade, but I took comparison shopping to a ridiculous conclusion whiel I was saving to do so.

So the DAC/transport sends a signal to the preamp. Also Rotel. All my separates except my turntable are Rotel. My turntable is an old Fisher, and while I still believe in the superiority of vinyl, I have roughly four times as many CDs as records, and a lot of those CDs are duplicates of the LPs. I don't use the turntable a lot. It's not convenient enough.

Which gets me kicked out of most audiophile clubs...

Ever look at a newspaper photo up close? Those dots, they're a halftone, the analog equivalent of the digital lie. Offset printing will not support contone prints of photos, so the photo is shot through a screen (or rendered via 1's and 0's to imitate the screen) to a line screen. If it's newsprint it might be as low as 80 lines per inch; an art book might go as high as 300 lines, but generally people can't tell past 200 lpi. 150 to 175 is commercial printing standard.

The standard is a lie. It's an industry set on a standard that amounts to the number of people who can tell Pat Metheny's 'Bright Size Live' sounds better in it's 1976 vinyl pressing than it does in the CD reissue. Better if you have playback equipment that reveals that one sounds more like the band is in the room.

There's a trade-off. What I spent on my stereo is a pittance in audiophile-land. 'Entry Level' is what the best of my separates are defined as. There are people (with deeper pockets) who spent more on a CD transport or DAC than I spent on my whole system.

What did I buy for $3500? I got a stereo that is less inaccurate. The truly accurate is impossible without a concert ticket. Could I afford my stereo? No, but I paid for it in cash.

Which gets back to the whole 'fidelity' thing. I paid for it in cash, but I couldn't afford it. If money had been no object, I could have spent $300,000 on my den's stereo without effort. With effort, I could have pushed the $1 million mark (while testing David Wilson's ability to keep a straight face about such efforts being put into a den prone to flooding and smaller than some walk-in closets).

But even if you spend the million and up on a stereo, at best it will fool you into thinking the band's in the room. Or that an incompetent engineer with a tin ear has hijacked your house.

Which is a LONG way around from what I set out to with this post. Jay mentioned that he had refrained from joining the throng recommending 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' because he hasn't had the fist-hand experience to tell if it's 'Rainman' for people who can read.

There's some marked differences between the ficitonal Christopher and my younger daughter. Tactile defensiveness often leads to an aversion to hugs, but not always. Mo has tactile aversions, but Frau Lobster and I both count our lucky stars she likes a snuggle. At least, if the snuggle is on her terms.

The timetables in 'The Curious Incident' are true to the disorder, but picture schedules we've used with Mo can cut both ways. You can velcro up the order of the day for her to see and gain some much-needed stability; you can also look back to the calendar and find she has replaced your 'plan' with icons representing a different series of events. This is where logical and literal thinking becomes magical thinking. 'If I put Grandpa's house on the schedule, they have to take me there,' is what one switch might mean.

Another switch might be Mo's way of saying, 'you may think we're going to take a bath, but fuck off, I want to go shopping.'

As far as the book being geard to a juvenille audience, I'm not sure. Maybe a teen audience but by the time I got the notion that Chrisopher's Dad and employee found some relief in marijuana and that the Mom was maybe less than ideal in other ways, I quit wanting to have my nine-year-old read it next. Whimsically formed families disolve on little more than whimsey and when you have a kiddo with autism or any other developmental or learning problem, it's that much worse when you split. I find it appalling that people have sex with anyone they wouldn't want to have a baby with; I find it worse that people would marry someone they wouldn't want to have a baby with.

AMG noted that (and she's, as far as I can tell, 'pro-choice' in Americn parlance), and she finds this appalling, there are people filing 'wrongful birth' suits against people who failed to detect and warn them of birth defects they would have had aboritons to avoid.

It's your child, not a potential employee. If you think you can abort potential problems, watch out: schizophrenia often fails to manifest itself until the freshman year of college or similar trauma. My brother rolled an SUV at 35 while not taking his meds (again) for bipolar disorder, resulting in his being in a rest home on a feeding tube. His mother is retired, but he's still her son.

Don't lsiten to Jay, have as many kids as you want, but know this: no matter how old they are, they're still your kid. You will still want to look after their interests. They'll have to go to great lengths to avoid this. Change names, countries, etc., and they'll still be you're kid. If child or parent is determined, a divorce of sorts is possible past 18 years but dont' fucking count on it.

In the meantime if you get married and have kids, if your kid has some extra challenges to bring to the game, don't kid yourself. Maintaining two households is more expensive and more stressful for all concerned.

Which gets to the heart of 'The Curious Incident,' because as flawed as the Dad is, he at least understands that there is both no running away from Christopher's problems nor any benefit to pretending to run away. Both parents are flawed, but who's weren't?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Griefs Are on the Warpath...

The Politically Incorrect Bowl was the highlight of my day. The Chiefs hosting the Redskins. If you can ignore genocide and deal with it on an 'honor' basis, the Chiefs are less mocking in all.

Not that any of that matters as much as Allen getting three sacks, two forced fumble sand two foumble recoveries. Last time we had a D player do that kind of shit was when Derrick Thomas was alive.

The lowlight, you ask? Okay, you didn't ask, but so what?

Mo got up in the night, went through the garage security and was in the neighbor's back yard hosing things down in the dark. Thank Fortuna for Frau Lobster because I'd have been asleep after the kiddo walked across a state line or something.

I went shopping for shoes and groceries. The former would invoke Jewish sterotypes since I tried on seven 'clearnace' pairs at three stories bofore I gave up and shopped the merely discount.

I settled on a pair at half their 'retail' price' while making myself conspicuous to an unfortunate 18-year-old child who's been left in charge of an outlet that attracts guys like me: fussy about footwear and unable to adjust our price expectations past 1988.

Then the grocery store. I was on their blacklist because I'd bounced a check at a time when we'd changed phone numbers at least once. The whole abandonning our land line for cell phones, then getting pissed off at Verizon and getting a landline (with a different number, as it happens), made it tricky for the store to tell where to call. We're in the book, but no one looked there.

So anyway, this was months ago, and we took care of it. I gave an unreasonable amount of time where I'd get cash before going to the grocery store to be sure I didn't get another check refused. It sucks bad enough grocery shopping, worse to have a whole cart of bagged groceries and no way to pay.

The shift manager was actually pretty decent about it, offering to sort the fozen stuff into their freezer and put the rest in the cooler until Monday when things like Corporate Offices are open to take care of such hoo-haw.

I come home, groceriless (sp?), and find that Mo has gotten the Borax powder from the lockup and is using it as fairy dust in the kitchen. Sometimes I think her goal is to spend the rest of her life in 'time out.'

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Curious Incident of The Unexpectedly Awesome Book

Okay, I have an autistic daughter, caveat emptor and all that hoo-haw.

But I was reluctant to read this book (in part because I failed to pay attention when Frau Lobster recommended it). Most people, to the extent they think about autism at all think:

Einstein was autistic.
That just means she's smart.
It's mercury from her MMR shot.
It's a food allergy.
She has too much yeast in her intestines.
Just give her this amino-acid supplement I get from the coop.

And so on.

They don't just think these asinine thoughts, they say them out loud. She's been tested for heavy metals, food allergies, we tried the Nysatatin, we've tried diets, she's had a chromosome screen to rule out Fragile X, and so on and so forth.

And Rainman was not an autistic character in the strict sense: Hoffman's character was more an Aspberger's case, which is the same spectrum, different disorder. If that confuses you, think about having a headache in your foot or colon cancer in your elbow. If it was in your foot or elbow it would not be labeled 'head' or 'colon,' right?

I was afraid the 'Curious Incident' would be like Rainman for people who can read.

Especially since the LOC info and whatnot indicates the kiddo is gifted at math. My Mom's next door neighbor, when the subject (thankfully rarely) comes up, asks what my daughter's special talent is. Like autism automatically comes with one. He talks aobut how the Pentagon has rooms full of them, like they're tropical fish or cutting-edge computers.

But Christopher is not only a very human character, his shit washes with the non-fiction I've read about and by autistics. Plus, it's a gripping read, and as a father who throws up his hands in despair, it gives me some hypothetical 'other side' views I hadn't thought of. I thought one of Craig Clevenger's accomplishments with 'The Contortionist's Handbook' was to write a credible savant character on the autistic spectrum, but it's small beer by comparison. And Christopher isn't really a savant, he's just fixated on a couple of subjects enough to do better than his 'normal' peers. Also, this book takes the 'less than ideal parents' rather than the 'worst possible parents' and is the more real to me for it. At least insofar as I'm a parent.

Still, it's a book I wish I could force on people. I'd rank it easily with 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' and 'The End of Alice' in terms of contemporary books that do what literature is supposed to do (make you think and feel things you wouldn't otherwise).

From the Department of Redundancy Department

I got this link from Justine's (formerly inaccurately cited as 'Justin'—I'll have to fix that deplorable lost 'e'). It's one of those things that, when I stumble on it, I feel compelled to share it with the world. Well, okay, I'm not sharing it with the world here, I'm only making it available in a very theoretical way to the world. I'm increasing it's visibility, but not by a measurable amount. Unless has been lying to me, most of you are a few friends and online acquaintances. Possibly a relative or two. Not sure, because Lincoln, NE could be Frau Lobster's childhood friend, the friend's husband, and if parental guidance is slack, their son. Or Lincoln, NE could be one of the bloggers I've encountered who either cop to living in Lincoln or who could live in Lincoln but are rightfully cautious about their anonymity. Especially if they blog about how they can't stop touching themselves and post profile shots that arouse even the unaccountable.

But I won't blow anyone's cover. Despite the pretty un-anonymous way I blog, I'm not a twenty-something who has reason to factor stalkers into the equation. If I had a stalker, and by that I mean one that I didn't owe money to, the stalker would not be a cause for fear as much as an object of pity.

But I digress. Again. Redundant fucking Lobster, ain't I? I only started this post so you could read about this guy's leather pants. Pity they're not still for sale, I might bid on them. Well, I mean, I would if they were about ten inches bigger at the waist, inexpensive, and I was planning a Halloween costume more drag-queen than last year's.

As you can see, a Lobster in a dress is about as drag as it gets. I crack up when Dorian Green tells Ignatius Reilly that he looks like Charles Laughton in drag, and refers to him as 'Gypsy Queen.'

I've talked about trying to find a grass skirt and coconut halter for this year, Thing One objects, thinking that her Daddy has not fully debased himself and doesn't want to see it come to pass. My hair is still long, my beard is still long. Okay, they're both longer, but pardon the beard, it's the price you pay for a kid to get a decent wig after dealing with cancer treatments that make them go temporarily bald. If I'm growing my hair to a donatable length (I'm sweating, so please, God, if you're there, make it happen by the time it gets warm out next year. Warm to me is 65ºF).

Thing One always wants me to be some character from Kim Possible, but since I find that show ImPossible to watch, I can't do it.

Meantime, I hope you enjoy the dude's unfortunate choices. His mistake, no doubt, made DKNY think they'd done something right, right enough to justify a sum comparable to a good entry-level preamp or a speaker-wire upgrade. You know, shit with actual value (as opposed to pants that make you look like an ass, make your ass sweaty, and mainly attract guys who are not just homosexual, but who chose their partners by rear-view only). In my case a 44” waist, which was probably not even made by DKNY. Unless there’s a ‘DKNY Big and Tall’ (euphemism for normal height and fat).

This is Where They Faked The Moon Landing...

Pseudo-Minister Louis Farrakhan and the midget-director, Spike Lee, have been making press lately with a theory they admit they can't prove that the U.S. Government bombed the levees that failed in New Orleans, specifically to flood black neighborhoods.

In the first place, Farrakhan is giving the U.S. Government too much credit. The U.S. Government may be run by men wicked enough to think of such things, but it hasn't been run by anyone smart enough to pull that off since the Small Pox Blanket days.

The reason the idea can get any traction at all probably has less to do with the Tuskegee Experiment than it does with the blatant racial profiling, selective enforcement of drug laws, and other institutional racism that still amounts to a defact Apartheid system in America. Folks who give credence to the bombed-levee theory of New Orleans flooding are really saying is, 'Well, I wouldn't put it past Uncle Sam.'

To be sure, Uncle Same is an unfortunate relation to have, no matter your skin color.

Consider this: Bill Cosby types didn't put Marion Barry back in office after his cocaine conviction. Gangsta types didn't either, they don't vote. In a predominantly black district, Marion Barry was elected by people who feel they have more in common with Barry than they do with, say, Bill Cosby.

Not that they necessarily fiddle with cocaine, but maybe they have a brother, a mother, a son, who's doing time for nothing but taking the poor man's vacation. Seen how economically marginalized a person is not just for being black but for having to answer 'yes' on that 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' question on job applications.

No, I don't believe the levees were bombed. Neglected, but not bombed. I do believe that the number of people who'll give credence to a given conspiracy theory is a good indicator of whether that theory speaks to a deeper truth.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I wasn't tagged, but...

Justine responded to a couple of my posts, and I started crusing Justin's blog. Added a link and all, and found myself (again) writing a response that amounts to a blog entry of its own. I was going to post the shit here, but some of it was numerically ordered response to Justin's post. So check out Justin's blog, I said it there in the comments on the 'facts about.'

Katrina Who?

I'm not belittling the damage the Gulf Coast suffered from Katriana and Rita, but the reaction to the Pakistan/India earthquake seems muted here in the states.

As far as I can tell, the relief available is inferior even to FEMA executives who do product placement for Blackberry cell phone/PDAs to prove they're 'in touch.'

One account I saw said $350 million had been pledged to help the victims of the earthquake, which makes the 1906 look like a tremor in terms of damage done:

SF '06: 700 to 3000 dead (depending on who you ask).
Pakistan/India '05: 25,000 dead (again, not an exact figure, and this soon after I'm sure its subject to radical revisions).
SF '06: The town did look like a nuclear bomb had hit it because of fires that hit after the quake. I couldn't find a figure on how many people it displaced, but the whole city, as far as I can tell, had 400,000 people (if that) in 1906.
Pakistan/India '05: 2.5 million homeless. I'm suspicious of such a round number arrived at so quickly, but it gives persepctive if they can even take a stab in the dark and come up with a number like that.

From what news I have heard, Soviet-style concrete construction (where you use barely enough support columns to keep the thing standing in a strong breeze, use so much rock in the aggregate that the concrete crumbles when you remove the forms, then fill the structure with poor people) probably contributed to both problems in the current crisis. San Francisco in 1906 probably had no major advantages over modern Pakistan and Kashmere, but it would be nice if the progress made in this century extended to housing in places like Pakistan. I doubt you could even replicate the crappy construction that was knocked down with $350 million.

And of course, 'pledges' don't necessarily mean cash is coming. And when it gets there, if it has to percolate through the impossibly corrupt governments of India and Pakistan, $350 million might as well be two dollars and some good intentions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Nobel Schmobel

Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year. A new winner will join her tomorrow, the rarified ranks of Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Hemingway, Camus, and Saul Bellow.

I haven't read her work, though four of her novels are published in translation by Serpent's Tail, the U.K. publisher of 'We Need to Talk About Kevin.' Serpent's Tail also unabashedly promotes Emily Maguire's 'Taming the Beast,' the cover art of which is erotic enough to make me want to buy.

So what's up this Knut Ahnlund's ass? He says Jelinek winning was a 'travesty.' He said he could no longer be a member of the academy as he sees himself as an 'outsider.'

From what I gathered (this may be compromised by translation), the dude is a Swedish puritan of some sort. I think he finds Jelinek pornographic. Or that she's some sort of Austrian feminist (the Governator would be appalled at that, I'm sure). Or maybe both, an Austrian feminist and pornographic writer. In any case, the fact that an 83 year-old Swede thinks she's unworthy just makes me more likely to read her. What does he make of Toni Morrison, I wonder? She's a Nobel laureate with novels dealing with black-on-black violence, the occult, justifications of infanticide, etc. Jelinek is more outrageous than Morrison? Where's that order form?

In any case, I gather the old fart was past his prime when he got nominated to the academy and has done doodly squat the past ten years or so. But it leads to another thing I've been wondering about.

I have not read all the books that have won Pulitzers in modern times. It'd be a project to try, but I haven't done it. What I have noticed is that there seems to be a formula for winning Pulitzers.

It has to be long, have a homsexual character and/or theme:

A Confederacy of Dunces, 1982, Dorian Green
The Shipping News, 1994, The Aunt
American Pastoral, 1998 (Okay, I can't think of any gay characters, but with all the sex in that book, someone was gay).
Kavalier & Clay, 2001, Sammy is in his own words 'a fairy.'
Middlesex, 2003, is hermaphrodism an overlap with homosexuality? Or do the Pulitzer people just want sexual abberation in any form they can get it?

If you don't have homosexual or other characters, themes, elements to freak out the average American, a Pulitzer can be won if you deal with slavery (the book still has to be long):

The Color Purple
, 1983, about black-on-black oppression/battle of sexes (some homosexuality come to think of it).
Beloved, 1988, not only slavery but an apologetics for infanticide.
The Known World, 2004, about Southern 'free' blacks who owned slaves.

I didn't read Ironweed (1984), but I remember seeing a movie of the same title with Jack Nicholson in it a long time ago. Probably the same depressing story, though I can't recall any homosexual or slavery themes in it.

My point? I have to have one, huh? Well, it's that 'critical acclaim' seems to follow books that don't just make you think; the book has to make you think a certain way about certain things. I'm suggesting that if you don't push particular buttons, politically, socially, you won't get considered. I've read too many books that reduced me to cinders in my boots without stirring major critical acclaim or staking a claim on the best-seller list. And I've read too may 'award-winning' books that were only good. And more than one book that won awards like the National Book Award where I get 30 pages in and say to myself, 'why am I reading this shit?'

Kickball: Let The Healing Begin

I've been volunteering with Youth Friends for seven years. As a kid who crossed the 'picked last' boundary to being told that an even number of players were selected for each team and I could suck an egg, kickball is just one of the sports (all of them) I feel at odds playing.

But when me and my Youthfriend joined a game, the teacher announced it would be simply boys against girls. I was not only automatically on a team, but which team had been decided back in 1969 when I was an 'unborn baby.'

I had as good a chance as anyone at booting one into the gymnasium wall or folded bleachers (a home run), and despite the fact that one line drive was caught directly by a four foot girl, as if I'd been playing 'catch' with her, a boy on the Y-Chromosome team commented that I played well 'for someone my age.' By 'my age' he meant 'old.'

My muscles are sore, but I had the kind of genuine good time playing that eluded me as a child.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Elvis, King of Junk Mail

Anonymous Midwest Girl posted a way to get back at spammers that may have some technical drawbacks. One of the feedback responses noted that the post office isn't that game for 72 lb packages with business reply envelopes glued to them.

To my knowledge, business reply permits require that the piece be automation compatible, so some of the things I did way back probably didn't reach their recipients.

Like the condom with a squirt of Lubraderm to make it appear used put in a business reply envelope from a junk mailer.

The envelope of dead flies probably lay flat enough.

Another favorite was to take out anything that might identify you from two or three and send them each other's crap, postage paid by them of course because its a business reply, no postage necessary if mailed in America.

But you can make junk mail FUN. Really. Remember that preacher asshole who wanted you to touch the screen?

I called, claimed I was Elvis Presley, that we had the last name by coincidence and that my Mom was such a fan she'd named me Elvis and it had ruined my life. Said that between the drugs, alcohol and urge to grow a pompadour, life was unbearable. I gave them my work address, promised to donate when I was 'back on my feet.'

My but the mail came. Prayer cloths (which are handy for wiping computer monitors clean), pictures of the freaky preacher, etc. It all came to Elvis Presley, 7950 Wornal Road, KCMO. There is no 7950 anymore (redevelopment through tax increment financing even more bogus than a televangelist), and I think that preacher went to jail. But we sure had fun with Elvis' religious mail. We kept hoping to get a pre-approved credit card in the King's name, but I guess it's probably better we didn't. I'd hate to be in jail for impersonating Elvis.

If I'm going to serve time, I want to be trying to pass as that creepy Burger King guy from the TV commercials.

The Trouble With Unions

You've seen this all before, I'm sure. Ten, twelve guys just standing watching one person perform an apparently simple and possibly meaningless task.

THIS is what makes housing so damned expensive. And everything else. I'm just glad the girl isn't a Teamster, there'd be trucks running into ditches and crossing the center line in the name of higher wages and better benefits for the so-called working man.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lucky Thirteen!

Today, I've been married to Frau Lobster for thirteen years. She's tried, but failed, to find the ladder to the oubliette's door.

And I’m glad. I’m not about to show her the ladder. Besides, I welded the oubliette’s door shut as a child-proofing measure.

When they had the bridal shower for Frau Lobster, most of the women there were girls I’d dated at least marginally in my high school years. Others, I’d hit on and failed. And their mothers, who, of course, knew all about me.

So the future Frau Lobster walked in to be introduced as the girl who was marrying me.

Oooooh! Came the nervous unison

My wife took this as surprise, but actually it was relief. I was off the prowl, officially, and they could relax and holster their pepper gas and taser guns.

We dated for several years prior to marriage, so she can’t claim she didn’t know what she was getting into. Well, no more than I can, anyway.

But thirteen has been a lucky number for us. We have two daughters born on the 13th, thirteen months apart. I wanted to go for a hat-trick, but Frau Lobster isn’t that triskadekaphilic.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I got curious and looked at the keyword analysis on my counter. I made this mistake once before, finding such keywords as 'hot gusshing orgasm,' with the double-s mispelling.

So, what search engine clues are leading people to me?

  • 5.41% why am i getting so much tightness in my chest

  • 5.41% work songs kuwait chanties

  • 2.70% fully exposed paris hilton

  • 2.70% haunted hoses in massachusetts

  • 2.70% pic off nasty olds 442

  • 2.70% bangladeshi porno album

  • 2.70% dark meat white treat pimp my black teen

  • 2.70% is it secure to let any body make copy of my credit card

  • 2.70% what shoe store sells camoflauge shoes for kids

Okay, that top one: I hope you're not fucking dead, because if you're having the kind of tightness in your chest that I had before my heart attack, the last thing you need is my blog. You're not even using the right machine: a computer is a very awkward way to call 911. You need an ambulance, not a Lobster.

Some of the others, I don't know what to say. I didn't know Kuwait had a nautical tradition that would account for chanties and bawdy folk tunes. Paris Hilton has fully exposed herself in so many places, I can't imagine anyone looking here. Or why they're looking. She's showing herself off so aggressively, you shouldn't need to search.

The only haunted hose I know of in Massachusetts is Ted Kennedy's.

The Olds 442 is a classic, and I can't imagine one being nasty or trying to pick them off. Is this a sign I've been visited by some highway sniper?

As far as Bangladeishi porn and/or 'dark meat' (I presume from context clues that someone was looking for young, nekkid black chicks), sorry man, wrong number.

And no, it's not secure to go letting people copy your credit card, not even if they promise to sell you camouflage shoes for your kid.


This is the inscription on an Alaska car tag being used on billboards to promote Alaskan tourism. No kidding.

What kind of morbid, seasonal-affective-disorder freak thought this was a good advertising slogan? 'See Alaska before you die?'

This is the kind of ad that they cooked up for the movie 'Crazy People.'

'Metamusil. It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die.'

'Jaguar: For men who want hand-jobs from beautiful women they hardly know.'


Friday, October 07, 2005

The Answer's in the Question

Okay, on the way home I was indulging in an exploration of AM talk radio. This might not seem an indulgance to you, but my piece of shit F-150 has a broken AM tuner. It also has a broken CD player. FM comes in but only on the left speaker (I'm not making that up just because NPR tends to be the most tolerable choice on the FM dial).

So I'm listening to an AM call-in show in the Buick I'm debating about. I mean, it's practically free, this 1988 LeSabre my Dad would have traded in except they only offered him $50 for it. He felt insulted.

Rightly so, considering that the tires are relatively new, and worth at least $50. he put a fairly nice radio in it too, a Pioneer CD player & radio that's got to be worth more than $50. It also will fit my whole family when the van is broken without Frau Lobster having to ride in the bed.

I like having a pickup. I mean, if I have to own motor vehicle at all, a truck is the thing. And it's not four wheel drive (big waste of gasoline considering it's useful 2.2 days a year where I live), and it's not a V-8 (unusual for a full-size truck, but it's the straight six witha five speed manual, so as full size trucks go it's fuel efficient).

Of course a fuel efficient full size truck is only slightly less wasteful than a Kuwaiti Oil Rig Fire. The fact that an '88 LeSabre is cheaper to gas is proof of that.

For that matter, the gas in the tank is worth $50.

So Dad's driving his 'new to him' Avalon and I'm on a sort of extended test-drive with the Buick. Basically, whatever nominal price it changes hands for, I'd just have to commit to taxes and liability insurance in a couple of weeks. Cheaper than an MTA pass, actually.

If the MTA ran here.

To get back to what I was talking about (AM radio), I usually like AM talk radio. It's full of opinions that either piss me off or fill me with self-righteousness. Or both.

But this show, I didn't catch the name of it, but the guy was having people call in for a quiz.

'Who's Donald Rumsfeld?'

No one got this on my commute. The closest to an answer that happened was a guy who thought Donald Rumsfeld was a real estate developer who fired a lot of people on TV.

'Name two states that have 'North' in their names.'

One girl got this, but the guy who thinks Donald Rumsfeld is building skyscrapers in New York could only name 'North Dakota.' When he gave up and the host told him it was 'Northtopia,' he mumbled something like 'Oh, right.'

My nine year old can answer the 'North' question.

Other stumpers offered were: 'What city is the NYPD in?' 'What show stars Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria?'

The callers were so out of the loop, he got one woman to record a plug for an FM music station that doesn't exist when she (you would think) knew she'd called an AM talk show.

Maybe Jay's right. It's better they die before they reveal their stupidity.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11

Okay, Jay wants to know if I buy the 'sneak attack' theory the Ministry of Propaganda (public shools) teach about the beginning of World War II.

Personal theory: FDR was dying to get in the war, but he hated Jews too much to take Hitler on the basis of genocide. There was intense isolationist pressures on FDR to stay the fuck out of the war.

So how do you get into a war when no one would support it? You engineer an excuse.

Japan invading China makes total sense if you look at it from the standpoint of Japan. You're starving, the emperor is both God and the subject of numerous assassination plots/attempts, particularly by the military.

No Popemobile for Hirohito, either.

The miscalulation was to hit America while China could still fight. Much as if Hitler had gone South to the middle east and tied up the oil he needed before betraying Russia, he'd have taken the European theater absolutely. If he did that while Japan left Pearl Harbor, (a part of the U.S. in the same way San Juan is today) alone, Japan would have taken over China and Southeast Asia with ease. Hitler would have gotten the oil he needed and Russia and England would fall to the Reich.

Then, America. Full of strategic minerals, open land, productive agriculture and people who think Hitler is the best thing that could have happened for Germany. I think if Japan had focused on Asia, Hitler would have beent he first to attack the U.S., focusing on NYC and DC at first, then taking the Manahattan Project at his leisure.

Would he test atomic bombs over Japanese cities? Of course. Well, he'd get to it eventually. I think he'd test them first over population centers in Africa, then South America. Then he'd enact a population control on China and Japan that would make the Cultural Revolution look like Tennis Camp.

Herein lies the problem of moral relativism. From the first Trade Center attack to the embassy bombings to Flight 800 America either ignored or denied Al Queda's attacks. We didn't just fail to feel the pea, we slept on a bed of rocks and claimed it was a waterbed. Then, four years ago, they hit us with some stank on it and we pretended to be surprised.

About as surprised as FDR was when Pearl Harbor blew. I'd bet $50 he had the declaration of war speech for Congress written before those Zeros fueled up.

Gochisou-sama deshita!

Or something like that. I would say it worse than I type it. My brother in law's birthday feast was held at a combo Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar.

I enjoy juggled knives and onion volcanoes as much as the next guy, but give me sushi any day. Living out here in flyover country, it's pricey, but worth it.

You should know that prior to my pigging out on this delicacy, I had the shit day of shit days. I got the call at work that Mo was seizing again, second time in less than a week. My wife was on the way to her school. Then I got the call that they'd called 9-11 and my wife was going with her to the hospital.

I took off for the hospital, and by the time I got there, of course, there was little to do but wait and be disgusted with the staff of Mo's pediatric neurologist (six unreturned phone calls since our last ER visit).

Should probably also advise you that it is not easy to find pediatric neurologists, and this one is a HUGE improvement over the dork we were seeing before. The previous neurologist would ask more than once in a single visit, in unintelligibly broken English, what dosage of Tegretol Mo was taking. Uh, his name was on the vial, he was writing the script, and he was asking us?

The last time I talked to him, I asked if Mo's Tegretol dose might need adjusting, based on her seizure activity. His answer was that 'Tegretol is a very good drug.' At least I'm 70% sure that's what he said. The Depakote hadn't worked at all, so I wasn't questioning the quality of the drug, just the dosage.

This neurologist, when you can get her, is much better. Her staff sucks ass. I don't mean a little, I mean severed, inverted colons hanging out of their mouths. I'll be sending a letter to the present doctor tomorrow to let her know that if she can't get her staff problems resolved, we'll try yet again. Em sees a different one, for migraines, but he's already been ruled out as barely capable of dealig with a relatively typical kiddo who has migraines. An autistic kiddo who has seizures is a different sport.

Mo set the endurance record (for her) this time, with a seizure that lasted over 15 minutes (even with 10mg of Diastat given at the five minute mark). Diastat, for the uninitiated (that covers pretty much everyone) is a rectal syringe of diazepam. Think of it as a valium the size of a hockey puck shoved up your ass. If any of you think you can take 10mg of it administered rectally (the fastest route to the bloodstream short of smoking it, if you can even smoke the stuff), and still walk, be my guest. I'd function better on a fifth of whiskey based on my limited experience with valium's cousins.

Mo's hands had turned purple by the time Frau Lobster got to the school. You don't breath right when you're having a grand mal seizure. You can't swallow your tongue, but that doesn't make a 15 minute seizure non-serious.

The one other time we've used the Diastat, instead of going into a postichtal slumber, Mo bounced off the walls like she'd been given a few rails of cocaine or something. This time she wasn't as lively, but she was still a lot more alert after a lot less sleep than is usual for her after a seizure.

So with some trepidation we set off for the birthday feast. That first 24 hours after is a sensitive window, and when your kid has sensory issues aside from epilepsy, it's hard to figure a restaurant where they literally juggle knives, set fires on the table and light strobe lights for extra-cool juggling action.

But Mo LOVES sushi. We discovered this the first time we went to Izumi, a place that does that cooking on tables thing and has a sushi bar. I ordered sushi, the rest of the fam had the tempanyaki coming. Mo started scarfing my salmon and tuna, my shrimp. She left me Uni and the rice and not much else.

So when she seemed up to going to dinner, we figured we'd keep the date with Uncle Steve's 41st. We went to the restaurant to find my father in law who'd stayed behind to let us know that we were at the wrong place, we were supposed to eat at Kyoto, not Izumi. We’d never heard of this Kyoto joint, except for a treaty the U.S. looks bad for breaking, though I wonder if it was something we ought to have signed...

Anyway, we trekked down the way through the traffic of suburban sprawl at its worst to Kyoto. We found my mother in law and my wife’s cousin there, waiting for us. Then, my father in law showed up to tell us he’d gotten another cell call and we were actually supposed to be at the restaurant he’d directed us away from.

Confused yet? We were, to the point of marital conflict.

At last we were seated, the eleven of us, four of us unduly stressed out to begin with and everyone a few hours later than we’re used to eating.

I won’t say starving or famished. Because really, there’s at least 200 million people in Africa with a better handle on those terms than any American has with the possible exception of some anorexics and Jane Buddhists.

We were fucking hungry, though, by American standards.

I figured, why bother with a ‘kids meal’ that Mo has historically ignored in favor of raiding my sushi plank? So I filled out the sushi order with two in mind, and then Frau Lobster talked me into ordering her the kiddo shrimp meal. I revised the sushi order, but not as drastically as I probably should have. There was probably still at least $30 worth of sushi coming to the table. Maybe more. Not to mention a couple of large Kirins. Yes, Frau Lobster drove, though Kirin is definitely small beer. Crisp and dry, it’s Japanese Budweiser, but like with a light Riesling it goes great with fish.

Mo ate Grandpa’s shrimp and her own. She also ate almost all the fish off my plank. I’d ordered both smoked and plain salmon, yellow tail tuna, uni, a couple types of shrimp, and a California roll. I got a taste of most of the fish, but the shrimp and urchin was the only thing she didn’t go for. She even grabbed a slice of pickled ginger, taking it for more fish. My wife’s cousin, she asks me if I mind about the ‘raw fish.’

What, because of mercury? I don’t think that cooks out. And the kid loves it. I’m going to try and figure how to make it at home, must be cheaper than ordering it in a restaurant.

If sushi (technically the rice Mo doesn’t touch), was that dangerous, how’d there get to be enough Japanese people to start WWII’s Pacific conflict? Basically, you had 70,000 Japanese people who couldn’t fish or grow enough food to feed themselves. Since the emperor underestimated the market for Mitsubishi cars in the U.S., he sent us their airplanes instead.

So it goes.

Anyway, I shared with Cuz this theory I’ve had for years:

Restaurants are capitalist operations; they function on a profit motive and nothing else. I don’t work for free, why would a restaurateur? If something on the sign or menu seems bizarre (brain sandwiches, blood sausage, raw shrimp, steak tar-tare, roasted sweetbreads, pig testicles, alligator tail, etc.), it’s there for a reason. I let the waitress at a German restaurant talk me out of the blood sausage thing and I’ve always regretted it. Turns out, that restaurant was owned by honest-to-badness Nazi types who got so much bad press for hosting an American Nazi Party meeting that they went out of business.

I bet their blood sausage was awesome.

All the other shit I’ve tried from vegemite to calf-brains-on-rye has been spectacular. Of course it has, otherwise the restaurateur, at least one smart enough to avoid public Nazi leanings, would replace whatever it is with chicken nuggets.

Chicken nuggets may be, if anything, spookier. I heard a news item recently that they’ve figured out how to make white meat from dark. It involves taking the chicken’s dark meat, making it into a slurry, and centrifuging the dark pigment out, leaving plain, white, chicken protein that can be formed into whatever shapes McDonalds or Tyson asks for.

White meat made from a slurry of dark meat, and I’m supposed to be afraid of raw fish?

Still, despite Mo’s raiding, I had my uni, my totally raw shrimp (uncooked, it lacks the pink highlights that identify it for Mo), and my California rolls. I also got Mo’s rice, soup, salad and a bit of my mother in law’s chicken. In other words, I pigged out.

I did finish my wassabi. God that’s good stuff, the Japanese answer to Tabasco sauce. But it goes straight to your nose, like the mustard sauce in better Chinese restaurants.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tattoos: A Big Commitment

I’ve wanted a tat ever since I knew what hey were. Had an uncle with a naked lady on his forearm who would boogie if he flexed his fist.

But what to get? It’s permanent, and when I was still 18 or 19, I worked with a guy who got Bart Simpson on his delt with a balloon that said, ‘Underachiever, and Proud of It.’

Yeah, that’s something you’ll be proud of when you’re 70.

But my buckaroo lobster, the one Roj drew for me, maybe that. Lobsters have been fixed in my psyche for decades, the logo itself is over 15 years old, so maybe that’s my design....

Frau Lobster is all for it. It’s an excuse for her to get her second tattoo. When we met, I don’t think she EVER figured she’d get marked up, and I was the opposite, wanting marked but not knowing what with.

As far as ‘trendy’ goes, in what group? I think the fact that I’ve noticed it is proof that the ‘fad’ is over, so I’d be a retro-wannabe at best.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Rule of Lawyers

The only people more hysterical about Bush's latest Supereme Court nominee than the liberals I know? Conservatives.

They're freaking out because they never bought the idea that any member of the Bush family was much more of a conservative than Al Gore. Not really, it was more a evil of two lessers choice for conservatives.

The real difference between Bush and the two alternatives we've been offered? Modest tax cuts, that's the ONLY difference. Both so-called alternatives are capable of spending money like Paris Hilton loaned them her credit card. Both will continue the holocaust of unborn babies by extending a ridiculous 'privacy' theory to children who can't legally consent to tattoos and ear piercings, much less sexual intercourse. Bush as proved almost as able as Clinton in the area of lying and then denying it in the face of irrefutable proof.

And in any case, does anyone really believe that the individual playing the role of 'President' has any say in anything at all? Of course not. He's an actor, reading the TelePrompter for whatever the goons figure he should say next. That's why Reagan comes off as a good President, it wasn't a change for him from what he'd done his whole life. It's why the Governator isn't more of a conspicuous boob. I mean, yeah, he's a conspicuous boob, but the only reason he'd stand out at a State Governor's Convention is he's a Kennedy by marriage and has an Actor's Guild card. No weirder than being a WWF wrestler.

So who makes these decisions? As far as I can make out, it's a kind of mob-rule situation, where people who have their jobs by virtue of patronage tell their patron what to say. Ever see the movie 'Amadeus?' The emperor and the goons around him, I think it works along those lines even if the emperor is ostensibly elected. Elected in a pageant or born to the throne, the result differs little.

As far as the Supreme Court goes, I don't know that you even have to have a law degree, technically, to serve on the court. That would be a refreshing change, put someone who's not a lawyer in the robe.

On the plus side, being a life appointment, people get awfully independent when they have that kind of power with zero accountability. Unfortunately, to even be visible to the selection team, you have to be a political animal. Bad enough that you should have to be a lawyer.

Justice Black was a Klansman, bona-fide KKK, but since he was a member of the Senate, he was confirmed without hearings. They called that 'courtesy.'

Justice Marshall was deficient in everything except the pigment to make him the 'first black justice.' He was never an intellectual powerhouse, but in fairness, how many black folks got into law school at all when he was in his early 20s? That lifetime appointment has some drawbacks though, he spent his final years watching soap operas and letting his clerks write his 'opinions.' He had little regard for the Constitution, the document he was supposed to be interpretting; at the same time, it was a Constitution that had been used to protect slavery for six decades, so if I was him, maybe I'd wipe my ass with it.

In any case, cats like Souter and Kennedy have been abominable choices in the eyes of 'conservatives.' Clarence Thomas is the only Supreme Court Justice to even come close to the Scalia or Renquist model, despite the fact that except for GOP has held the White House for 25 of the past 37 years. Thomas may be the smartest cat on the Court, even though I don't always find myself agreeing with him.

What would I want from a Justice? Someone who would point out that the 'privacy' laid out in Roe is largely an excercise in semantics that profits a few doctors and leads to such ethically problematic theories as 'benign demographics.' For the uninitated, 'benign demographics' is a quietly voiced liberal theory that boils down to the drop in crime in the late 1990s correlating to the rise in poor (mostly black) babies aborted after Roe. Down that road lies concentration camps, enforced eugenics, things that (much to liberal's chagrin) were championed by Maragaret Sanger, the Patron Saint of Aboriton.

I'd also like a justice who would uphold privacy where the ingestion of drugs is concerned. The same people who say a 12-year-old should be able to abort her father's incestuously conceived child without so much as parental consent (much less notice to the authorities that, barring a virgin conception, someone's been fucking a 12-year old), these people say that Indians who's continent they stole should be jailed for ritual peyote use that predates written language in Europe. They say the government should be able to kick down my door if I buy glass lab equipment that might be used for yeast culturing (legal) or methamphetamine production (curiously illegal). Where's my right to be free in my home from unreasonable search and seizure without due process?

For that matter, the Income Tax, I know there was an amendment that allowed the creation of the IRS and the taxation of income, but since when does Uncle Sam have the right to even know what I earn? That's a very private thing, my income. I don't share it with my neighbors, my friends, very few members of my family. My daughters don't know what I earn, my parents have a vague notion. But the Federal Government not only knows what I earn, but what I can document I spent earning it. Hello, privacy???

The burden should be on the state to prove I've engaged in a crime, not a livelihood. The fact that I make art for fridge magnets instead of making crank is irrelevant. Advertising is, arguably, at least as destructive as drug abuse. Give me a Supreme Court nominee who will strike down IRS audits as a violation of my privacy, burden those fuckers with due process and proof. A nominee who will say that it doesn't matter if a drug is fun to take, it's up to the individual to decide what they take. If you do three rails of coke and have a heart attack, I hope you go out happy. But if you do three rails of coke and just talk a lot for the rest of the night, don't expect me to provide you with food, shelter, and a public defender with a 'Born To Lose' tattoo for the next few years.

Or like Tom Lehrer's perfect summation of the obscenity issue: give me a justice who will admit that it's enough that dirty books are fun.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Puke & Snot (the universal appeal of scatalogical humor)

Took the honyocks to Ren Fest yesterday, which cost more than I wanted to spend, but there you go.

What do they take away from their visit to the Renaissance?

I remember a movie quote delivered so perfectly by Jeneane Garafolo: 'In medieval times, there were no forks, therefore we have no forks at Mediaeval Times. Do you want regular or diet Pepsi?'

What thrilled them? The piratical sea chanteys of the Jolly Rogers? The joust, featuring guys at least as crazy as any bull rider? The high school choir singing in Latin? Nope.

Scatalogical humor. Em learned a tapeworm joke that she will apparently never tire of retelling, and the stand-up team of 'Puke & Snot' provided her with an apparently endless supply of nautical gags based on bodily funcitons. The poop is a few feet above the main deck. They do a 'who's on first' thing with the masts of a three mast frigate. The first mast is your fore, responded to by 'then what's with the three masts?

Where's the second mast? It's mizen. If it's mizen, how's it a three mast frigate? And if nature calls, do I just add to the poop? No, you go in your head.

In my head? I can't even picture a comfortable postion; what about the rest of the crew?

They don't have heads. Roughnecks, you know.

And so on. Hail Puke & Snot. Wish I'd had the dough for an 'American Idiots' shirt.


Most people about to have a baby go a little berserk with childproofing. They seem to imagine a baby born already walking, talking, and picking locks.

I've got a kid who's not a baby any more, but who is a bit of a challenge when it comes to childproofing? Challenge? No, that's not the word.

Or if it is the right word, then the only other things even remotely challenging are the North Face of Everest and finding credible evidence of Big Foot.

The last plumber I had out, I told him he'd need to snake the cleanout all the way to the street on account of toys. He didn't believe me. He got his monkey wrench on the access cap with the expectation of toilet paper and shit. What came out, instead, was pencils, gizmos from Happy Meals and Whacky Packs, doll heads, the cap to an aerosol can, etc.

I can't tell you how many times the hall toilet has been pulled. I should get a bulk discount on wax rings.

So tonight, I plunge to sweating on both the toilet and the sink in the hall bathroom, and no sooner than I get that done and the toilet in the second bathroom is stopped up and flooding the bathroom. I locked the hall bath to let the potent disinfectants I'd dowsed everything with evaporate without poisoning my kids, and now I can't find the key to it. And no amount of plunger work seems to do for the bathroom I can get into.

I'm sure I'd get a stellar rate if I called a plumber out at 10:30 on a Saturday night to figure this out. And for all I know, it's another collection of toys in the pile.

But this comes back to the whole issue of 'child'-proofing anything. I have a plan on how I can offset the expenses incurred in fixing the damage done by the child who disproves even the theory of child-proofing.

For a fee, say $200 (average plumber's fee for a snake job), I'll bring my kiddo to your house. I'll turn her lose and video tape what happens. Your $200 will get you an actual idea of what a kid 'can' do if they decide to experiment. I am not responsible for damages: if you thought something was out of reach, tough shit. If it can be climbed to, it is not out of reach. If you thought something was nailed down, fuck off. If it can be pried loose, it is not nailed down. If you thought something was locked away, locks only keep 'honest' adults out of anything at all.

If you can get to it, a kid can get to it. I have the kid to prove it. For a fee.

I see no reason to take this show on the road without making a profit off it, so don't ask for freebies.