Thursday, September 30, 2004

STAN LEE SOLVES THE MIDEAST CRISIS

Meryl Yourish offers up “The Stan Lee Solution” to the problems in the Mideast and elsewhere:

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that from time to time, I’ve been taking the Hulk perspective on various problems, specifically the Middle East. Well, when you take a hard look at things, I’ve realized that there is no problem so complex that you can’t apply the Hulk perspective to it. Let’s give it a try:

The problem: The standoff at the Church of the Nativity. Palestinians refuse to come out unless allowed to go to Gaza or stay in the West Bank, no Israeli arrests allowed. Israelis want to arrest or exile to a foreign country known terrorist leaders; the rest may go free.

The solution: Hulk smash Church wall! Hulk smash puny humans with guns! Hulk not smash puny humans without guns! Hulk take puny humans out of Church! [Editor’s Note: If the IDF doesn’t pull back while this happens, Hulk will smash them as well. He never was much good at differentiating between groups of men with guns.]

The problem: The United Nations would like to send a “fact-finding mission” to Jenin to determine whether or not “massacres” occurred. The Israelis refuse to allow a committee of people already known to be hostile to Israel into Jenin, and also refuse to allow the committee to interview their soldiers. Kofi Annan wants to disband the committee rather than make any changes suggested by the Israeli Cabinet.

The solution: Hulk smash puny humans! Hulk smash puny UN! Hulk smash Kofi-man! Hulk smash! Wait - didn’t Hulk smash UN before? It near river, right? Uh-oh.

The problem: The world media is extremely biased against Israel, choosing to yammer about massacres without evidence while subsequently ignoring the evidence that there was no massacre. People like Robert Fisk make up facts on a regular basis, while Oxford poets discuss their desires to see “Brooklyn-born Jews” shot. American newspapers ignore major pro-Israel rallies and put on the front page pro-Palestinian rallies, even if only sparsely attended.

The solution: Hulk smash puny newspaper men! Hulk smash puny editors! Hulk hate Daily Bugle! Daily Bugle mean to Hulk! Hulk SMASH!

The problem: Yassir Arafat refuses to keep his word, won’t clamp down on terrorist activity, indeed, has been traced to payments to suicide bombers, the importation of 50 tons of weapons on the Karinne A, including C-4 to build more terror bombs, and has not even tried to negotiate in good faith to end the conflict in Israel.

The solution: Hulk smash ugly man in head-scarf! Hulk smash! And - phew - ugly man need bath! He smell worse than Hulk!

There’s more - go to the original blogpost here. Simply MARVELous.

See, all problems are easy to solve when you devote the appropriate resources to the job. Chimpy, pay attention!

MORE CRAP ABOUT ME THAN YOU EVER CARE TO KNOW

Here’s another one of those infamous “memes” that has been circulating in Bloggyworld. No, this is not that “100 Things About Me” list that everybody and his brother seem to have tacked up on their blog sidebars. This is a list of things that, presumably, you will have done if you’ve lived a full and satisfying life. Well, done some of ’em, anyway. There are a few things on this list that I have absolutely no desire to do.

I ripped this off of Gut Rumbles (thanks, Acidman!) but, of course, these are my answers.

200 Things

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink - Naw, still waiting for that hole-in-one.
02. Swam with wild dolphins - No, but watched the kids swim with domesticated ones.
03. Climbed a mountain - Define “mountain.”
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive - Not yet, dammit.
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid - No. It’s a tomb, innit?
06. Held a tarantula. - Hell, no.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone - Oh, yeah.
08. Said “I love you” and meant it - Yes.
09. Hugged a tree - Climbed, yes. Hugged, no.
10. Done a striptease - Does it have to have been in public? If so, no. However, I did show my man-boobs on Bourbon Street last year and was rewarded with a bead necklace for my efforts.
11. Bungee jumped - Hell, no, and I don’t want to.
12. Visited Paris - Yes, once. For just one night.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - From the shore, yes.
14. Stayed up all night long, and watched the sun rise - Too many times, mostly in college.
15. Seen the Northern Lights - Nope. But I want to.
16. Gone to a huge sports game - Yes, the US Open Tennis Tournament in 1982 and the Masters in 1992-93. The Masters was the real thing, not the practice rounds.
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa - No.
18. Grown and eaten my own vegetables - No, unless you count some scraggly basil leaves and raspberries.
19. Touched an iceberg - No.
20. Slept under the stars - Not lately.
21. Changed a baby’s diaper - I’ve got two (now adult) kids. Cloth, disposable, been there, done that. Feh.
22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon - Not yet.
23. Watched a meteor shower - Oh, yeah. Very romantic, just me and SWMBO on the deck.
24. Gotten drunk on champagne - Yes. Well, maybe just slightly loopy.
25. Given more than you can afford to charity - No.
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope - Yes.
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment - Does it count if you rupture yourself trying to restrain it?
28. Had a food fight - Does digested food count?
29. Bet on a winning horse - No, dammit.
30. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - Would Grandpaw do that?
31. Asked out a stranger - A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
32. Had a snowball fight - Of course!
33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier - No. And the office staff is grateful.
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can - Yep, on any given roller coaster.
35. Held a lamb - Yes. Internally. Cooked, masticated, and swallowed.
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy - Don’t think so.
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip - Yep.
38. Taken an ice cold bath - Not as an adult. As a feverish kid, probably.
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar - Nope, sorry. Now here’s your nice, shiny dime.
40. Seen a total eclipse - Closest I’ve come was an annular eclipse I saw in downtown Atlanta in 1984. Rarer than a total eclipse but not quite as spectacular, because it doesn’t get pitch black. Awesome, nevertheless.
41. Rode on a roller coaster - Yes.
42. Hit a home run - Not that I remember.
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days - I’ve fit three days into three weeks...
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking - Anytime I dance, OK?
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day - No, mainly because SWMBO won’t put up with it.
46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - Not yet.
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment - Yes.
48. Had two hard drives for your computer - One at a time, bub- one at a time.
49. Visited all 50 states - At last count, I was up to 47.
50. Loved your job for all accounts - Liked, maybe. Loved, never.
51. Taken care of someone who was shitfaced - Yes. Nobody’s gonna drown in his own puke on my watch.
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - No, but whose fault is that?
53. Had amazing friends - Yes.
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country - No.
55. Watched wild whales - Do wild porpoises count?
56. Stolen a sign - No. Why, is Libra missing?
57. Backpacked in Europe - I’ve briefcased in Europe.
58. Taken a road-trip - Hell, yes.
59. Rock climbing - Only the ones in my head.
60. Lied to foreign government’s official in that country to avoid notice - Can’t recall...
61. Midnight walk on the beach - Yes.
62. Sky diving - Not yet, and if SWMBO has anything to say about it, not ever.
63. Visited Ireland - Does Irish whisky count?
64. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love - Yeah, over my first love.
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them - Two notable places: Hong Kong and at the Carnegie Deli in New York.
66. Visited Japan - Yes, several times.
67. Bench pressed your own weight - I could bench press my own bench.
68. Milked a cow - Yes, at the Oil Ranch in Hockley, Texas. Not a lot of fun.
69. Alphabetized your records - Not even I am that anal retentive.
70. Pretended to be a superhero - Sure. Super Baciagalupe.
71. Sung karaoke - Yes. Even in Indonesian, once.
72. Lounged around in bed all day - Many times, but never enough.
73. Posed nude in front of strangers - Naw. I’m allergic to other people’s projectile vomiting.
74. Scuba diving - No way. Watched too much “Sea Hunt” as a kid.
75. Got it on to “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye - No. Kinda trite, what?
76. Kissed in the rain - Yes. Once even got picked up by the TV cameras at a rainy Mets game doing so.
77. Played in the mud - Hell, yes.
78. Played in the rain - Of course - not even counting No. 76 above.
79. Gone to a drive-in theater - Hey, this is America! Of course.
80. Done something you should regret, but don't regret it. - Sure.
81. Visited the Great Wall of China - Not yet.
82. Discovered that someone who’s not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog - Naw. Who’s not supposed to know?
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better - Define “better.”
84. Started a business - Not anything legitimate.
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken - SWMBO has never broken my heart. Kayn ayin hora.
86. Toured ancient sites - Yep. Teotihuacan, in Mexico.
87. Taken a martial arts class - Nope. Not marital arts, either.
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman - What the fuck?
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight - I may have been a nerd when I was in high school, but I was never that bad.
90. Gotten married - Once. To SWMBO, the love of my life.
91. Been in a movie - Home movies only, dammit.
92. Crashed a party - I’m sure.
93. Loved someone you shouldn’t have - Naw.
94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy - You’ll have to ask SWMBO. Made me dizzy, for sure.
95. Gotten divorced - No!
96. Had sex at the office - No. And if I were to have sex at the office, the answer to No. 95 above would likely change.
97. Gone without food for 5 days - No. 27-28 hours without food or drink is about the most I can manage, but, hell, I do that every year.
98. Made cookies from scratch - Is there any other way?
99. Won first prize in a costume contest - No.
100. Rode a gondola in Venice - Gotta get to Venice first, eh?
101. Gotten a tattoo - God forbid.
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on - Oh, yeah. That’s why I avoid silk boxers. Too much fun to wear.
103. Rafted the Snake River - No.
104. Been on television news programs as an “expert” - Only in media training role play exercises, so “no.”
105. Got flowers for no reason - No, but I have sent flowers for no reason.
106. Masturbated in a public place - No.
107. Got so drunk you don't remember anything - Not that I remember.
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug - “Addicted” or “habituated”?
109. Performed on stage - Yes.
110. Been to Las Vegas - Several times.
111. Recorded music - My own? No.
112. Eaten shark - Yes. Not as good as swordfish.
113. Had a one-night stand - In the dim days of antiquity...
114. Gone to Thailand - Yes, several times.
115. Seen Siouxsie live - No, and no Banshees either.
116. Bought a house - We’re on number seven.
117. Been in a combat zone - Drove through the South Bronx a few times...
118. Buried one/both of your parents - Yes: my mother, olav ha-sholom.
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off - Now, why would I want to do that?
120. Been on a cruise ship - Not yet. Have been on the overnight ferry between Holland and England, though. That’s kind of a cruise. A real low-rent cruise.
121. Spoken more than one language fluently - About the only one I’m semi-fluent in is French, but I can manage a few phrases in German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Japanese, and Bahasa Indonesia.
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone - No.
123. Bounced a check - No, thanks to overdraft protection!
124. Performed in Rocky Horror - My kids would die of terminal embarrassment.
125. Read - and understood - your credit report - Not lately. Too weird and depressing.
126. Raised children - Yeah, two. Best contribution I’ve ever made to the planet.
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy - Do comic books count?
128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour - No. One show here and there doesn’t count as “followed.”
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars - Yeah. Hey, look there! It’s the Shitweasel!
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country - No.
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did - Yeah - they got the fuck out of Europe, which is why they didn’t get killed off in the Holocaust.
132. Called or written your Congress person - Not lately.
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over - Do corporate transfers count? I thought not.
134. ...more than once? - more than thrice? - See above.
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge - No. Drove it, though.
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking - All the time.
137. Had an abortion, or your female partner did - No to both.
138. Had plastic surgery - I had a mole removed this year, but that doesn’t really count - it ain’t cosmetic plastic surgery.
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived - No, kayn ayin hora.
140. Wrote articles for a large publication - Only if the Princeton Tiger counts.
141. Lost over 100 pounds. No, not even if you add up all the gain-lose cycles I’ve lived through.
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback - What? No.
143. Piloted an airplane - Yes, but not solo.
144. Petted a stingray - No.
145. Broken someone's heart - Probably, and I’m not proud of that.
146. Helped an animal give birth - Gawd, no.
147. Been fired or laid off from a job - Yes.
148. Won money on a TV game show - Well, I helped win something-or-other for my high school in an appearance on “It’s Academic,” but nothing for me.
149. Broken a bone - Not yet, kayn ayin hora.
150. Killed a human being - No. Not that there aren’t some that need killing...
151. Gone on an African photo safari - No.
152. Rode on a motorcycle - Yes. An old BMW - fun!
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100 mph - Two words: Interstate 610.
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced - No. Got cystoscoped once, though, does that count?
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol - CO2 rifle, back in day camp. Long time ago.
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild - Are you nuts? That shit’ll kill ya!
157. Rode a horse - Yep - but the Mistress of Sarcasm is the real rider in my family.
158. Had major surgery - Minor, yes. Major, no.
159. Had sex on a moving train - No, dammit.
160. Had a snake as a pet - No. Too bad, they’re cuddly bastards, they are.
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon - No. Looked at it from the top. Less sweaty that way.
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing - Yes. Most of one, anyway.
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours - Doubt it.
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states - No.
165. Visited all 7 continents - No. Four so far.
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days - No.
167. Eaten kangaroo meat - Not intentionally. Have no immediate plans to do so.
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground - Huh?
169. Been a sperm or egg donor - Not the way you’re thinking, no.
170. Eaten sushi - Today? This week? This month? How many times?
171. Had your picture in the newspaper - Yes. Not lately, though.
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime - Yes.
173. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about - Yes.
174. Gotten someone fired for their actions - No.
175. Gone back to school - No...but I have nightmares in which I do just that.
176. Parasailed - Yes, with Elder Daughter. Yee-ha!
177. Changed your name - Aside from blog aliases, no.
178. Petted a cockroach - Petted, no. Squashed, yes.
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes - More times than I can recall.
180. Read the Iliad - Well, a little. Does the Odyssey count?
181. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read - Yes.
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them - No.
183. ...and gotten 86’ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you - No.
184. Taught yourself an art from scratch - Yes...calligraphy.
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - No, lobsters excepted.
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt - No.
187. Skipped all your school reunions - High school, yes. But I go back to college every five years.
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language - Yes.
189. Been elected to public office - No. Never tried.
190. Written your own computer language - No.
191. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream - Hey, life is a dream.
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care - No, kayn ayin hora.
193. Built your own PC from parts - Was that parts or farts? Oh. No.
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you - No.
195. Had a booth at a street fair - No.
196: Dyed your hair - What, give up my dark brown locks?
197: Been a DJ - No.
198: Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal - No.
199: Written your own role playing game - No.
200: Been arrested - No. Coupla traffic tickets, though. Yawn.

And, for extra credit, my own contribution:

201. Gone more than 30 years without puking - Hell, yes!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SMOKING IS GOOD FOR YOU...

...if you’re a fish.

Most mornings, I follow the same general routine: wake up, shower, shave, get dressed, run to morning minyan, a quick breakfast at Ye Local Bagel Emporium, then off to the Great Corporate Salt Mine. Once in a while, (yesterday, fer instance) I’ll sleep in and miss minyan, and of course those occasional early morning teleconferences or not-so-occasional business trips may intervene.

Ye Local Bagel Emporium may be the first restaurant where I genuinely qualify as a “regular.” The bagels are the real thing, with a glossy exterior and just the right “tooth” to the innards. Some say there are better bagels to be had in the greater Atlanta area, but I haven’t seen any such evidence. If you’re not up for a bagel, the rye bread is to die for, although the challah is not quite as good - too dry. Bialys and onion pletzels, fantastic. The coffee? Well, it varies. Some of the Minyan Boyz take delight in bad-mouthing the coffee, and a few will even go so far as to refrain from drinking it. I think it’s perfectly acceptable most days, although, as with Forrest Gump’s chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Today, for example, it tasted a wee bit... off. Bitter doesn’t quite do it justice. But, hey, a couple packets of Splenda and some half-and-half, and you could almost drink it despite that lingering pong of oil refinery and athlete’s foot. I had three huge mugs full, and my heart feels like an alligator.

[A good way to tell whether the coffee will be drinkable: Dump in a couple of those little half-and-half thingies. If the coffee turns a nice, warm, brown color, it might be OK. But if it turns grayish brown, it’s guaranteed to taste like ass.]

But the bagels and coffee are not what set this place apart from the plentiful local alternatives. It’s the fish.

Delicately perfumed smoked salmon, both Nova Scotia style and the saltier belly lox. Baked salmon (AKA kippered salmon), in meaty, aromatic chunks. Vinegary herring filets, enrobed in cream sauce and garnished, nay, smothered, with sliced onion. Golden-skinned whitefish chubs. Assertive slices of sable - not for the faint of heart. And for an occasional treat, smoked sturgeon.

All of these delights are what the Old Man used to call “appetizing.” That’s a noun, not an adjective - although it’s a perfectly apropos adjective. When I was a kid, “I’m going to the deli to pick up some appetizing” meant that Sunday breakfast was going to be special.

If you can tolerate the carbs, just take a bagel, bialy, or onion pletzel (toasted or not, your preference), slather with some Philly cream cheese, and then decorate with the smoked fish of your choice. Mmmmmmmm, good. Or if you’re avoiding breadstuffs, just take the fish, wrap it up in a few nice leaves of romaine lettuce with some Vidalia onion, and presto! Jewish breath freshener.

Just don’t be putting that fish on a cinnamon-raisin bagel. That’s just plain wrong.

If you live in the great cities of the Northeast, you may take the routine availability of high quality smoked fish for granted. But if you live in the South, getting decent lox for your bagel ain’t always easy. No Zabar’s here, bruthuh.

[Ahhh, Zabar’s. Smoked fish heaven, where you can even score exotica like pickled lox (cubes of salmon picked in vinegar just like herring). Last time I was there (it’s been about 14 years!) I had a veritable fishgasm... so many delicious kinds! Twenty-five different types of smoked salmon alone!]

But if you know where to look, you can satisfy your Breakfast Fish Jones in the unlikeliest of places.

True story: About 25 years ago, I was working on a project in Texas with a bunch of Japanese colleagues. After several weeks of eating Tex-Mex, barbecue, and hamburgers, they were starting to get a little green around the gills, so I decided to give ’em a treat. Picked up a dozen bagels, some cream cheese, and a pound of honest-to-Gawd lox and schlepped it out to the plant one Sunday morning. With great ceremony, I sliced the bagels, applied the schmear, and layered on the lox. And these guys watched the proceedings with eyes agape. They tucked in...and then did something completely unprecedented. They asked for seconds. “Suchibu-san, this is best food we have had since coming to United States!”

Smoked fish, the key to international cooperation and understanding. Try some today!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

NO RULES, JUST RIGHT

That’s the slogan of Outback Steak House, a popular mid-brow family restaurant sporting a pseudo-Australian image.

Bullshit. Just you try to skip out without paying your dinner check and see what happens.

OK, one rule: Pay for yer frickin’ dinner or we’ll pound the snot outta yer, mate.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS



September 2003. She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, and the Mistress of Sarcasm go to the Famous K-Mart PhotoBooth. Wheee! 

SUCH A LOVELY COUPLE

This recent wedding announcement in the Forward reminded me of when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I tied the knot our ownselves. Thanks to E for passing it along!

WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS:
Bathsheba Bloomingdales Shmutz,
Baron Ezekiel Gideon Rothschild


By Catie Lazarus
July 2, 2004

Bathsheba Bloomingdales Shmutz, 29, and Baron Ezekiel Gideon Rothschild, 69, were married today at the home of Queen Noor in St. Lucia. Rabbi Moishe Gawlshplatz officiated. Mr. Rothschild’s father, Baron Judah Jonah Rothschild, a cantor, participated.

The bridegroom is known as Pish and invented the zipper. He served as the Senior Undersecretary to Presidents Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson and the Chief Cultural Attache to President John F. Kennedy. Most recently, as the chairman on the Select Committee on Intelligence, he rewrote the U.S. corporate tax code.

Mr. Rothschild sings soprano in !Zest, the Afro-Jewish barbershop quartet, and is a member of the board of Zouth Ball, a Zionist ballet camp for teenage Ugandan Jews. His paternal grandfather invented the button, and his maternal great-great uncle was the official phrenologist to the Coolidge White House.

Ms. Shmutz is known as Sheebs. She graduated summa cum laude from the Massachusetts School of Technology and, as a Rhodes Scholar, received a joint master’s degree in postmodern poetry and public health at Oxford University. While hang-gliding over the fjords of Tierra del Fuego, she wrote two Booker Prize-winning novellas, “Perspiration” and “Wind” (Samson & Goliath Press). On vacation in Laos, Ms. Shmutz stapled herself to a tree to salvage the nest of the last remaining Pile birds known to exist, for which she received the Clara Barton Medal of Empathy from Greenpeace.

Ms. Shmutz’s father, Shmul Shmutz, is a psychoanalyst and co-chaired the Freudian Society’s Rorschach Subcommittee that arrived at the color black for most of the blots. Her mother, Norma L. Shmutz, an activist, volunteers for Go Freedom Go!, a non-profit organization that supplies flotation devices to Haitian émigrés. Ms. Shmutz’s paternal great-great-great grandfather created long division, and her maternal grandfather invented the “summer sale.”

The couple met four years ago on the Hampton Jitney, the bus between Manhattan and the eponymous summer get-away on Long Island. Mr. Rothschild’s plane was being reupholstered by clothing designer Marc Jacobs, so he boarded the bus known to him as a child as the “maid mobile.” The only unoccupied seat was next to Ms. Shmutz, who was clipping her nails.

It was not until her cuticle nearly sliced his cornea that they actually spoke. Embarrassed, Ms. Shmutz blushed and mustered an “excuse me,” but when her two and his one good eye locked, time stopped. The pair rode the jitney together the entire summer. When Mr. Rothschild confessed to his beloved that he owned his own plane, a g-70, she admitted she did not even have a home in Hamptons.

The bridegroom’s three previous marriages ended in divorce.

— CATIE LAZARUS

Catie Lazarus, a comedienne, is the writer of the forthcoming film “Dream Squashers.”

WHAT THE HAL(OSCAN) IS GOING ON HERE?

I just converted this blog over to the Haloscan comment system. My main intention was to enable trackbacks, but it looks like there’s one small side effect. All of the old comments on the blog seem to have disappeared.

Yeah, I know: they’re probably hiding somewhere in the bowels of Blogger. But for right now, I can't get to ’em. So, if you know how to fix this, let me know. In the meantime, please don’t be too pissed off if you made a comment on Blog D’Elisson and you can’t find it.

Like a kidney stone, this, too, shall pass.

I STILL LAUGH OUT LOUD...

...when I read the funny papers.

Yesterday, I nearly came unglued when I read “Get Fuzzy.” I’ve spent enough time in Asia that the idea of monkey as a pizza topping isn’t all that far-fetched.

I love the comics. Whether it’s the Sunday pages in color or the weekday editions in black-and-white, I read ’em all... even the few I can’t stand.

Single panel gags. Soap operas. Joke-a-day strips. Adventure strips. Slice o’ life strips. Political strips. Each one is a little work of art. And what constantly astonishes me is that the artists have to crank out these little gems every single day.

I can still remember what a treat the Sunday funnies were to me. Growing up on Long Island, I lived in a household that took two newspapers: Newsday during the week, and the New York Times on Sunday. Back then, Newsday did not have a Sunday comics section (in fact, I’m not even sure they offered a Sunday edition at all) and of course the Grey Lady never has sullied her pages with comic art. The only time I ever saw the color comics - the honest to goodness Sunday funnies - was when we visited the grandparents. Most of the time, that meant the New York Journal-American on our forays into Brooklyn. When, in 1962, the Journal-American folded, my Dad’s parents started taking the New York Daily News, which conveniently absorbed the J-A’s comics. And on our annual trips to Florida, it meant the Miami Herald.

In those days, the Sunday comics were very different from today’s dinky-ass, shrunken pages. Each strip took up either a full page or, at the very least, a half page. Tabloid size, in the case of the Daily News - full-size, in the case of the Miami Herald. That’s gigantic. Today, it’s not uncommon for there to be four different strips on the same page... or even more. This miniaturization makes it more and more difficult for the artists, who have to be sure that their work remains crisp and legible even when highly reduced in size. Frustration over this shrinkage trend is, I’m convinced, what drove Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”) out of cartooning.

Things aren’t totally bad. Color printing is dramatically better than it used to be, and the comics are now generally printed on higher-grade newsprint. Color rendering is also a lot more sophisticated, with all kinds of subtle gradations that would have been impossible years ago. If only the damned things were a little bigger...

And the humor has evolved, too. Maybe there’s no “Krazy Kat” out there today, but the recent decades have given us (besides C&H) “The Far Side,” “Bloom County,” and “Bizarro.” I’m not sure what the newspapers readers of 50 years ago would have made of some of today’s strips, but then again, I’m sure that early 21st century American culture would totally confound them anyway.

There are geniuses out there writing and drawing these things, and I could pack this post with names if I felt like acknowledging all the ones I love. [A tiny sampling: “Opus,” “Zippy,” “Mutts,” “Get Fuzzy,” “Doonesbury,” “Pearls Before Swine,” “The Boondocks,” “For Better or for Worse” - hell, I even like “Blondie.”]

Rather than do that, I’ll ask you: What are your favorite comic strips? Your least favorite?

And do any of them still make you laugh out loud?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

CLEAN SLATE, FOR NOW

Well, another Yom Kippur is history. Another day of spiritual renewal, of breast-beating, of acknowledging that we’re human and make mistakes. Another tear-jerker sermon. Another afternoon nap. Another (almost) entire day in shul. Another day of mixed feelings: on the one hand, you’re glad it’s over (27 hours without food or water will do that to you), and on the other hand you want the emotions it engenders to last forever.

Another clean slate. For now.

Friday, September 24, 2004

HERE I STAND...

Impoverished of deeds. So begins a small but deeply emotional component of the Yom Kippur liturgy: Hineni, the prayer of the Shaliach Tzibur at the beginning of the Musaf service.

And who, or what, is the Shaliach Tzibur? This is the person who, as representative of the congregation, leads the prayer service. Sometimes this role is filled by a Chazan (cantor), sometimes by a rabbi, sometimes by a layperson. No special training is required, other than a deep familiarity with the prayers. A reasonably pleasant voice helps, but it's not mandatory.

OK, thanks, great - now, what's Musaf? Observant Jews pray three times a day: morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Minchah), and evening (Arvit, or Ma-ariv). On Sabbaths, festivals, and the High Holy Days, an additional service - Musaf - is tacked on after the morning service as a commemoration of the additional sacrifices that were made at the Temple in Jerusalem "back in the day." And on the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Musaf service is fairly lengthy, filled with emotional touchstones.

One such touchstone is the U-netaneh Tokef prayer, which envisions God as both Judge and a sort of cosmic shepherd. One by one, as a shepherd's flock passes under his staff, we pass under the judgmental eyes of God, who decides our future: who shall live, who shall die. It's a sobering metaphorical image, one that resonates in our hearts more and more as we grow older. But lest we use the metaphor to justify becoming fatalistic, we're taught that sincere repentance, prayer, and charity can mitigate the severity of the decree. In other words, don't give up - there's always room for improvement.

Another is the Vidui, the communal confession of sin. As Jews, we know that all of us fall short of the mark from time to time - it's a part of being human, after all. And that, indeed, is the Jewish conception of sin: falling short of the mark. Not living up to expectations. What I like about this definition is that it leaves open the possibility that you can do better next time. But since we, both as individuals and as a community, have not met God's expectations, we owe an apology to Him. And that's what Vidui is all about. We enumerate our sins, one by one, and beat our breasts in rueful acknowledgement that we can always do better next time. Room for improvement.

But you can klop your chest all day, and it's not enough by itself. For the wrongs we do to our fellow human beings, asking God for forgiveness just won't cut it. Not His problem. For those, we must ask forgiveness of the people we hurt or offended.

This, to me, is one of the most intellectually attractive aspects of the Jewish belief system. Even if I were not born a Jew, I would (I hope) feel drawn to a way of thinking that teaches that you atone for sins by asking forgiveness of those whom you have wronged - God or man. Nobody else can do it for you...but it is not something that is beyond anybody's capabilities. To say you're sorry - and to mean it - requires that you accept that you are not perfect. That you are human.

And that you can do better.

Here I stand, in deep humility. Hineni he-ani mim'as. As Shaliach Tzibur, tomorrow I will stand in front of two thousand people and ask that, despite my faults and weaknesses, my prayers as emissary of my congregation be considered acceptable - that my shortcomings not fall on anyone else's shoulders.

Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, whatever - we're all humans. May we all live in a world where we act like it.

Gemar chatima tovah - a favorable decree, signed and sealed, to all. And now, off to shul for Kol Nidre.

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING


Hakuna.


Matata.

They act just like sisters. One minute Matata is chasing Hakuna around and trying to bite her on the ass. Next thing you know they’re all cuddling and snuggling up against one another. Sweetness and light.

And best of all, they crap in a box!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

THURSDAY PIE BLOGGING

Another Thursday night with the evening minyan crowd. This time, Greenwood’s on Green Street: perfect place for an upscale meat ’n’ three (actually, meat ’n’ two, but the cornbread muffins more than make up for the difference). She Who Must Be Obeyed was at a school inservice dinner function, so it was just me and the boys. Mostly boys, anyway.

The majority of the gang opted for the grilled salmon; Irwin and I dared to be different and ordered the rotisserie chicken in plum sauce. That’s half a chicken, folks, and we’re not talking about some dinky pullet. This was a hen that could have ripped Foghorn Leghorn a new one.

However, nobody really cares about my chicken dinner, not even me. Good food, but it’s just food. And it’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post on account of the pie.

Greenwood’s Holy Shit Chocolate by Gawd Cream Pie.

Mere mortals cannot eat a whole slice. It is far too dense, too rich, too obscene. No, one slice, passed around the table about five times, allows each of us to get just enough.

Most people have no idea what a real chocolate pie is, or should taste like. They have been raised on graham cracker crusted monstrosities filled with (gasp) instant chocolate pudding. Feh.

This was a pie. Real pastry crust. A filling – how to describe it? – a filling that seemingly contained the output of all the cacao plantations of West Africa, the egg yolks of all the chickens of North America. Bittersweet. Glossy. Smooth.

Hey, I know it’s fattening. I only had three, maybe four forkfuls. And, hell, I ain’t eating or drinking for 26 hours or so, beginning tomorrow evening. So don’t bust my chops.

You’re just seething with envy. And you should be.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

I’ve been hammering away at Blog d’Elisson since early July, and it occurs to me that I ought to have some kind of mission statement. What is this thing called Blog? and why should you give a crap about it? More important, why should you invest your time and carpal tunnels in clicking to this little corner of the Internet-O-Bloggysphere?

So here’s my attempt to explain What This Is All About (cue ponderous music).

The masthead calls this “Another Monumental Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement and Time Wastage.” Which it is. The original Monumental Exercise still resides on AOL with a mirror at Bellsouth, but that’s a website - a pain in the ass to update, so I maintain it on a very sporadic basis. I’ll slap a few new pictures in there when the urge seizes me - that’s about it.

There are plenty of ways to aggrandize oneself and to piss one’s time away. There are almost as many blogging styles as there are bloggers: everybody has his or her own individual voice. But what style works for me?

Well, there's political / punditry. Loads of those out there, both right-wing and left-. But to do a political or current events blog in a quality way is really a full-time task. Me, I’ve got a day job. So this will not be an Instapundit or Vodkapundit. It will not be a BottleOfBlog - I can’t keep up with Ricky’s amazing bile-filled (and hysterically funny) rants. And it won’t be a World O’Crap, as I don’t have the time or energy to read eight thousand blogs, yank out pieces here and there, and then write brilliant, acidulated commentary...much as I regret not getting comments from the likes of Anntichrist S. Coulter.

Then there’s the domestic blog. The diary-style look-what-happened-to-me-and-the-kiddos blog. The packed-with-memes blog. The personal feelings blog. The poetry blog. The photoblog.

There are the written-by-illiterate-teenagers blogs. And the exotic blogs from Brazil, Germany, East Jeezus, Yenemvelt.

Nope. Not this one.

I will write about whatever seizes my fancy at any given moment. What I ate for breakfast. Funny crap I’ve read or seen. Daily life. Movies. Music. Other people’s blogshite. Family stuff. My stupid-ass poetry. Travel - both routine biztrav and vacations. (Years of traveling have taught me that nothing is truly routine when you’re on the road.) Once in a while, current events. Even politics and religion - but in smaller doses. And hopefully, something to make you laugh. Even if only for a second.

I will, as is my wont, use the occasional coarse word. I will say “shit” or “crap” and every once in a while, I will drop in a fuckbomb. Hey, it’s the way I talk. But I try not to overdo it. This is a blog my Momma could read. (If she were still walking the planet, that is.)

I’m not out to remake the world... just to make my corner of it a little better. Tikkun Olam, ya know. And if that means I write stuff that amuses you, great. I write it mainly to amuse myself, but I’m more than happy to have you along for the ride.

Hang on.

WHEN YA GOTTA GO...

ya gotta go. Especially when it seems to take the form of a direct order:
A woman was killed Wednesday when a nearly 7-foot-tall metal crucifix fell on her head in a small town in southern Italy, police said.

Maddalena Camillo, 72, was walking in the main square in the village of Sant’Onofrio when the crucifix toppled from a monument being restored for a religious celebration, police said.

Gee, I didn’t know Vince D’Onofrio was related to a saint. The things you find out in Bloggity World!

Thanks to Mr. Poon for finding this one.

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 3.

Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

[See Volumes 1 and 2 in the Archives.]

short bus (adj) - Special...in the sense of “special education.” From the type of vehicle used to transport special-ed students.
“Jerry’s a real short bus kind of guy.”
“Yeah, I know Ann Coulter. Used to ride the short bus to school, if you know what I mean.”
Thanks to pesky’apostrophe for this lovely turn of phrase.


stupid loaf (n) - Item that, if eaten, reduces one’s intelligence.
“Chuck’s been chewin’ on the old stupid loaf, I see.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

BEAUTIFUL DAY, BEAUTIFUL DINNER

Every day since this past Saturday has been absolutely glorious. Cool, (almost) crisp mornings; warm, sunny afternoons; brilliant blue skies.

And on a beautiful day such as this, what better treat to enjoy with dinner than a nice tomato and onion salad?

On the way home from The Corporate Salt Mine, I stopped off at Fresh Market for a couple of pieces of fish, and those nice big beefsteak tomatoes caught my eye. So in the cart they went.

Once home, I hacked up some lettuce for She Who Must Be Obeyed. This is because there is no way on Earth she will be eating any tomato and onion salad. Raw onions (according to her) would cause instant projectile vomiting. I have never felt compelled to call her bluff, if bluff it is.

Anyway, after getting my sweetie’s salad ready, I sliced up one of those huge-ass beefsteak tomatoes into nice, quarter-inch discs. Then I did the same with a red onion. Laid the tomato and onion slices on a heavy white oval plate, scattered crumbled Maytag blue cheese on ’em, and then drizzled the whole mess with some extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Shoulda taken a picture, it looked that good.

And then I ate the whole Gawd-damned thing.

She Who Must Be Obeyed is probably not thrilled. After eating the better part of a whole red onion – raw – my breath smells like ass.

But I’ll fix that. Fresh raspberries and cream. Some Grand Marnier, or perhaps Chartreuse.

Followed by a gallon of Listerine.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

DECLINE AND FALL, Y’ALL

On the MTV award show,
There’s Madonna kissin’ Britney.
And when we watch the Super Bowl,
Hey! Check out Janet’s titney!

Just stroll into the courthouse
Where ev’ry Dick and Harry
Can sign upon the dotted line,
His boyfriend for to marry.

Our morals are degenerate,
And when shove comes to push,
You cannot watch a TV show
And not see someone’s tush.

But Fearless Leader is averse
To everything that is perverse:
How ironic that his name is Mr. Bush.

MEAT, MEAT ’n’ MORE MEAT, PART TWO

(For Part One, visit the archives.)

It’s September and the change of seasons is beginning to make itself felt in our part of the world. Daytime temps are still mostly in the 80’s, but after Ivan’s passage, we’ve had several days of gorgeous blue skies and cool mornings. Cool, here, is defined as anything under 60°. This morning it was 59° - almost brisk!

With the shift in the weather, we have the fall holiday season. Time to trot out all the traditional dishes. And what could be more traditional than beef brisket, cooked Jewish style?

Saveur magazine recently ran a piece about beef brisket. The thrust of the article was that there are two kinds of people who really know how to cook a brisket: Texans and European Jews. Texans will typically make a smoked brisket - dry-rubbed with spices and slow-cooked over mesquite or hickory - the classic Texas barbecue. Jews will take that same piece of meat and braise it. The two styles are dramatically different, but each is superb in its own way. And I have the best of both worlds, because She Who Must Be Obeyed is that most rara of avises, a Jewish Texan.

I learned how to make a real Texas-style brisket from my late father-in-law. How to prepare the dry spice rub. How to season the meat. How to smoke it - slowly, carefully. And to this day I’ll put his brisket up against anybody else’s. Even you, Jim Goode. But this is the time of year for the other kind of brisket.

There are hundreds of ways to make a Jewish-style brisket. An old standby is to braise the meat in Coca-Cola blended with Lipton’s powdered onion soup mix (She Who Must Be Obeyed swears by this one). But ever since I tried the following recipe, I see no point in making it any other way - it’s that good.

Lil Pachter’s Braised Brisket (adapted from Saveur magazine, April 2004)

5-7 lb beef brisket, trimmed of some of its fat
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, even better)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
3½ cups chicken stock or broth
1 28 oz can diced or chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine the salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano in a small bowl and sprinkle generously over the meat, rubbing it in well.

In a large, heavy pan with a close-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat and brown the meat, about 10 minutes on each side. Remove the meat and place on a platter to hold. Pour the excess grease out of the pan and add the chicken broth, tomatoes, and bay leaves, stirring and scraping to deglaze the pan. Put the meat back in the pan and smother with the chopped garlic and sliced onions. (If you're using fresh oregano, which I recommend, it doesn’t hurt to throw another small handful in at this point.) Cover the pan and put it in the oven to braise for 1 hour.

After an hour, remove the cover from the pan and continue to braise another hour.

Push the onions and garlic into the braising liquid and cover the pan. Braise for 1 or 2 more hours - however long it takes to make the meat nice and tender. After one hour, check the meat for doneness by sticking it with a fork - when it’s done, take it out.

You can serve the meat right away, but for best flavor, let cool, refrigerate, and let it sit 1-2 days. This also makes it easy to scrape off any excess grease. Reheat thoroughly in a 350° oven. Remove the meat from the braising liquid, slice against the grain, and arrange on a platter. The braising liquid should, at this point, have cooked down to a nice sauce-like consistency. If it’s too thin, put the pan on the stove on medium-high heat and reduce the liquid to the desired thickness. Remove the bay leaves and spoon the sauce liberally over the meat.

..........

I made about 24 pounds of this stuff for one of our Men’s Club functions a few weeks ago, and it was a huge success. Tragically enough, though, there were leftovers, and something had to be done with ’em. So of course I packed up a couple of pounds of meat and sauce “to go.” Stuck it in the freezer and thawed it out for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Mmmmmm, boy.

And still there were leftovers. So I did what any serious gourmand would do: I made Brisket Pot Pie.

I took two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat, stirred and scraped continuously for about 5 minutes to make a light-brown roux. Then I hacked up the remaining brisket into little bite-size nuggets, threw it in the pan with the rest of the tomato-onion sauce, added a couple of diced carrots and a package of frozen green peas with pearl onions. (Yeah, I know, I could have used fresh peas and onions, but to blanch and peel the onions would have been a major PIA, and we wanted to eat sometime before 10 p.m. Tough toenails, bub.) Brought all this to a nice bubbly simmer.

Meanwhile, I’d been preheating the oven to 400°. Using another lazy-ass shortcut, I had elected to use a prepared pie crust rather than make my own from scratch. So sue me. Unrolled one crust into a 9-inch deep dish ceramic pie pan. Then dumped in the hot brisket stew. Then unrolled the top crust onto the pie, sealed and crimped the edges, cut a few slits in the top, and shoved the whole mess into the oven. After 40 minutes it was nice and golden brown, so out it came.

And, ooooh, boy, was that one damn fine, tasty pie. Between me and She Who Must Be Obeyed, we demolished a goodly amount of that bad boy. Just enough “remains of the day” for a pleasant lunch.

Hmmm... is it noon yet?

Monday, September 20, 2004

SWEET HOME ALABAMA

Turn the clock back about four years. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are making the annual summer pilgrimage to Destin, Florida. As is our custom, we are caravaning with our friends Gary and JoAnn. As is also our custom, we will all stop and have breakfast at the first Waffle House we hit after crossing the Alabama state line. Since that’s also the boundary between the Eastern and Central time zones, I will then have a chance to make my usual stupid comment: “A minute ago it was an hour from now!”

It takes the usual hour (thereabouts) to reach the Alabama border. The exit for Opelika looms, and the familar sign is visible from the freeway. But before pulling into the Waffle House, we stop to gas up.

It’s a classic country filling station like you might have seen thirty years ago, except for one startling modern addition: a prominent display of condoms right in front of the cash register. Geez, is there something about Opelika that I don’t know?

Of course, I can’t resist asking the clerk about the merchandise.

“Do any of these come with ribs?”

And his answer was...

(wait for it...)

“Nope - but we got ’em with Brunswick Stew.”

True story. Well, mostly.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

HEY, KIDS! WHAT (ARRRR) DAY IS IT?

Why, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, of course!

And how appropriate. Just a few days ago, I was sitting in an airplane, reading Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s, Humor Category, and I stumbled upon an old piece entitled “Pirate Riddles for Sophisticates.” Pants-pissing funny.

And I guess I’m not the only one laughing. Time to get with the program, ye scurvy swab!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE

Dinner-and-a-movie today with Dr. and Mrs. T. We saw “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and followed it up with a visit to Minado for unlimited sushi.

She Who Must Be Obeyed remarked that, earlier today when we were having lunch at Moe’s, we had run into a neighbor who informed us that Moe’s will be expanding their empire to include a salad ’n’ shawarma restaurant (!) called Mr. Green’s. Interesting enough. She also noted that Mama Fu’s Noodle House (another Moe’s-owned restaurant chain) appears to have renamed itself “Mama Fu’s Asian House.” [When I googled Mama Fu’s to drop in the link, I noticed that they’ve renamed the restaurant but haven’t gotten around to renaming the web page, which still says Noodle House.] Her theory – and I think it’s spot-on – is that the name change is yet another manifestation of low-carb diet mania.

We’ve seen this phenomenon before. Remember when Kellogg’s used to sell cereals like Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, and Sugar Frosted Flakes? Now it’s Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, and Frosted Flakes of Corn. Sugar has become a dirty word... politically incorrect, at the very least. You’d probably have as much luck selling “Turd Pops” as you would “Sugar Pops” today.

Of course, the changes are in name only. These cereals all have just as much sugar as they used to. It’s all about the name. Marketing.

Thus, “Mama Fu’s Asian House.” Just as many noodles as before, but not quite as obvious. At least they get you in the door before you realize, Hey, there are noodles here, dammit!

At this point our discussion swung around to the impact the low-carb craze is having on one of our local companies: Krispy Kreme. Sales are down and earning targets missed because people would as soon eschew a donut as chew on one. Tragic, innit? One day, the darling of Wall Street, the next day kicked to the curb thanks to that Atkins sonofabitch.

And that’s when I trotted out an old theory of mine. There are two kinds of people in the world: Krispy Kreme people, and Dunkin’ Donuts people. And the differences are as sharply drawn as those between Democrats and Republicans – except we don’t have Ann frickin’ Coulter to deal with on the donut front. No Rush “My Ass Be Fat” Limbaugh of the Fried Dough Brigade. Thank Gawd.

And I, friends, I am a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of guy. I wanted to like KK, I really did. I wanted to be a part of the crowds queuing up for fresh, hot glazed donuts when the light went on. I wanted to support the South, good adopted son of Jawjuh that I am.

But I could not.

Because what I want is a nice, dense, cakey donut. The kind Dunkin’ Donuts makes better than almost anybody. With some really nice DD coffee to wash it down with.

Not for me, KK’s sweet, puffy glazed donuts and mediocre coffee. Yes, I know they make cake donuts too. It’s not pretty. Play to your strengths, say I. KK, stick with the fluffy, raised glazers. They’re fine... if you like that sort of thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Give me a good ol’ DD sinker any day. And if I can’t get one from them, and I am grappling unsuccessfully with my donut jones, I will get a box of mixed donuts from Entenmann’s. Nice and cakey. Heavy. Serious. Laden with sugar and grease. Mmmmmm, yeah.

Honey, where are the car keys? Gotta go out for a moment...

Meanwhile, tell me. What kind of person are you? DD, or KK? The fate of the civilized world hangs in the balance.

BACK TO THE FUTURE - BACK, I SAY!

The initial reviews (thanks, Pete!) are coming in for “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” and I am encouraged. Last year, when I first saw a trailer for this little epic, I thought, “Hey! Finally, a movie that shows what the 1930’s would have been like if the Hindenburg hadn’t blown up!” And I also thought, either this movie will be really, really good, or it will stink like last week’s fish dinner. [Actually, I hadn’t originally thought of “last week’s fish dinner” as being Number 10 on the stinkometer. But it sounds so much more polite and refined than “a steaming mound of shit.”]

So far, based on an early sampling of reviews, I am pleased to report that Sky Captain is attracting positive notice. Storyline may be a little thin, and the screenplay may not have the snap of, say, Lawrence Kasdan’s best work, but Sky Captain entertains nevertheless. In its own way, it owes its vision to classic films of the 1920’s, ’30’s, and ’40’s, as well as to the serials and cliffhangers of that same era, the same movies that informed “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Kerry Conran reportedly was inspired to make this film by an image that somehow stuck in his mind – the image of a zeppelin docking at the Empire State Building. And, if my memory serves me properly, the Empire State Building indeed was built with a mast that was intended for that purpose. Whether it was ever actually used is a question I can’t answer without doing some research. Which means maybe one day I’ll stumble over the data somewhere.

But it’s the use of CGI that inspired me to write this post. Sky Captain was filmed with actors working almost entirely against blue screen, with the backgrounds and pretty much everything else generated by computer. How effective this is, I won’t be able to comment on until after I see the movie, but the AJC review opined that it’s a $40 million movie that looks like a $200 million movie.

[Update: Saw Sky Captain 9/18 and was not disappointed. Amazing production design. A zillion subtle filmic references. Basic storyline with Smilin’ Jack-type aviator–scientist hero, techwhiz sidekick, intrepid reporter sorta-girlfriend, even more intrepid former girlfriend, mysterious villain, deadly bitch with goggles. You know the kind of story I mean: Indiana Jones meets Metropolis by way of Skull Island. Is it a great movie? Not quite. But definitely good entertainment, and worth spending your ducats on, if only to reward someone who had an original vision and made it happen.]

At dinner this evening, one of our friends commented that with this new level of CGI capability, stories that were previously unfilmable could now be made into movies. LotR is one example of a film that could not have been made – not with any degree of quality and verisimilitude, anyway – without modern technology. But it has been made, and it is a triumph. [Actually, LotR is three separate examples, and the technology evolved noticeably between the first film and the third.]

So, what movies should they be making now, with this wonderful new box o’ tools? SF is the logical first step, since that genre depends on visualizing that which does not exist in our world. Here are a few I can think of:

Ender’s Game. This one has been in development for several years. With the right effects technology, it could be a good or great adaptation of an excellent story. With the wrong technology, it will be a bitter disappointment to fans of the book.

Childhood’s End. Yeah, I know. The “big spaceships” thing was ripped off by “Independence Day,” but I’d still love to see this Arthur C. Clarke story on the big screen. Done right, it would make “2001 – A Space Odyssey” look like the Teletubbies.

Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation – Isaac Asimov’s classic trilogy. Never mind the latter-day additions to this venerable collection of stories – this is the real deal, classics from the rocket ship and ray gun era with a Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire motif.

Cities in Flight. James Blish wrote several short novels about a future in which anti-aging medication and antigravity drive technology allowed entire cities to leave Earth and roam the galaxy looking for work. Adventure tales set against a backdrop of economics, politics, and history.

There are plenty of others. Which ones can you suggest?

Assuming, of course, that Hollywood doesn’t take these wonderful books, chew ’em up, digest ’em, and crap ’em out as the usual “product.” All the technology in the world can’t help a lousy screenplay, and there’s already plenty of “last week’s fish dinner” at the supermulticineplex.

Friday, September 17, 2004

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR


Elephants and Donkeys Be Damned! Vote Kitty!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

JUST WHEN YOU THINK IT COULDN’T GET ANY WORSE...

Comes news that the brainboxes in Hollywood are planning to unleash this gob of shit onto the silver screen. Thanks to Cartoon Brew for the link.

O-kaaaay!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

T’KIAH, LIME, NO SALT

Time to bug outta work early and get ready for Rosh Hashanah. That’s the Jewish New Year, for all y’all gentile-type people out there.

This is the beginning of a ten-day penitential period in our calendar. A time of thoughtful introspection, of self-examination. It’s during this period that we try to mend broken fences, bury hatchets, make apologies. To make sure our relationships with our fellow humans are in good order. And then, at the end of those ten days, we stand before our Maker on Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness for all our failings. The things that make us human.

Serious stuff.

This is not a sad holiday, but it is solemn. In a figurative (and maybe literal!) sense, we’re having our annual performance review with the Big Guy Who Sitteth In The Corner Office On High, and we are asking to have our contract renewed for another year. Compensation is not an issue: Raise, shmaise, so long as you’re healthy.

There’s a lovely piece of liturgy that is unique to these High Holy Days. It’s called the U-netaneh Tokef, and it paints a picture of God as a shepherd, watching as His flock passes under his staff one by one.

“A great trumpet is sounded and a still, small voice is heard.”
And that’s when your fate for the upcoming year is decided: who shall live and who shall die.

That image - metaphor - call it what you will - became very powerful for me after my mother died sixteen years ago. Even more so, now that we’ve arrived at a point in life where we have lost other family members and friends. It brings a tear to my eye every time.

Who shall live and who shall die.

Is it only a metaphor? Who knows? As Jews, we’re taught that belief is less important that deeds, and that there are some things we just are not privileged to know while we walk this planet. But real or not, the idea that we are judged for our behavior makes us think about whether we’re living right. Which is probably the point.

I know I’ve got failings; lots of them. I tend to let the mail pile up. I am a master of the art of procrastination... shit, my basement is still a mess after six years in this house... oh yeah, and I sometimes use crude language. Plus others too numerous to list.

But (like the guy said in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as he was being loaded onto the cart with the Black Death victims), I’m getting better!

Now, if I’m a Really Good Boy, I won’t be blogging over these next couple of days. Well, we’ll see about that. Maybe I’ll give myself something else to atone for by posting some stuff.

To anyone I have offended or hurt in any way during this past year, my sincere apologies. And at this Rosh o’ th’ Shanah, heartfelt wishes to all for a sweet and healthy year.

FUN AT THE LAKE

My buddy Irwin just sent his younger son off to school at UGA this semester. And Irwin was kind enough to rent a cabin in the North Georgia mountains so his son’s pledge class could enjoy a weekend getaway.

Must have been some weekend. This is the actual text of the letter Irwin’s son received from the landlord:

The total due of 1472.00 was charged to your father’s credit card on 9/13/04. Due to the condition of the cabin on your departure, including the extra cleaning and repairs listed: repair the bed, rehang things torn off the walls, repair the refrigerator shelf that was broken, clean beer that had exploded in the freezer, take the comforter to the cleaners where someone had thrown up and stuffed it in the washer, washing dirty laundry that vomit was wiped up in, cleaning the floors free of vomit and smell, and cleaning the hot tub to remove vomit, sand, leaves, beer, etc., the owners have asked that I retain the deposit of 200.00 to pay for the extra repairs and cleaning charges incurred during your visit.
What I want to know is, how the hell did leaves get into the hot tub?

Ahh, boys, boys. Such amateurs. It ain’t serious debauchery unless excrement is involved. My brother-in-law - the younger of two - raised a lot of hell at the University of Texas during his freshman year. He once told me a story

[WARNING: Gross stuff ahead! Proceed at your own risk!]

of one memorably drunken night in which a friend actually crapped on someone’s windshield. Now, how you can be that fried and still manage to climb up on someone’s car to crimp one off, I have no clue...and to make matters worse, when you’re that drunk, things tend to get, er, ah, messy. Yep: the dreaded Whiskey Shits.

I’m not sure whether Irwin will be taking any consolation from this, but he should. Things could always be worse.

As for me, I’m parking the car indoors.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

BURNT HEINIE SANDWICH

It’s perfectly amazing how the Internet and Blogosphere have shrunk the world. But every so often there are these little... disconnects.

Looking at the list of recently updated blogs in the Blogger dashboard, I noticed one with an interesting name: ToChAs da Fé. This intrigued me. Uppercase and lowercase usage aside, here was a blog with a creative name. One that seemed to make reference to auto da fé, the “act of faith” of the Inquisition in which heretics (usually converted Jews or their descendants who secretly continued to practice their old faith) were burned at the stake. And to “tochas,” the Yiddish word for “arse.” Butt. Heinie. Derrière, for you delicate types.

But no, it ain’t that at all. It’s a new blog, and near as I can tell with my limited Portuguese, it’s written by some Brazilian Jesus freaks. Or something like that.

I blame myself. Who else would assume that a blogname would be a bilingual pun?

SHARE YOUR BIG FAT BRAIN WITH THE WORLD

Tony Pierce has a heap of useful guidelines in his post on “How to Blog.” You may not agree with all of Tony’s blogging philosophy, but he gives great blog. This is one that I discovered courtesy of The Gweilo Diaries, which goes to show you how random all this bloggity crap is. So go read!

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE - DAMMIT

Back in July, the Mistress of Sarcasm was having water trouble. And her parents viewed the proceedings from a distance of 260 miles with complete sympathy. Little did we know that we’d soon be dealing with water trouble of our own...

We denizens of the early 21st century don’t realize just how spoiled we are. We push a button and we have light and entertainment. Turn a knob and have hot food. Open a door and have cold food. Our homes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

And if you turn the faucet, water comes out of the tap. Hot water or cold, it’s there at our fingertips.

And, oh, how we take it all for granted.

While I was up in Montréal last week, She Who Must Be Obeyed came home to see a small river of water running down our street. Turns out our sprinkler system blew a valve. And since Mr. Smart-Brains (that’s me) couldn’t locate the cutoff that blocks off the irrigation system from the main water supply because it was conveniently buried under six inches of red clay and pine straw, the only way to stop that river from flowing was to shut the water off at the meter.

That meant no water in the house. And that is no fun at all.

No water on tap. No shower. No flush toilets. (Well, I suppose you could flush each toilet once. It reminded me of the Great New York Water Shortage of the late 1960’s. Remember “Save Water - Shower With A Friend”? And how about “If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow...”)

And since we were coming into the weekend, getting the sprinkler people out to fix the problem was an exercise in frustration. Which meant that, until Monday, our routine was: turn on water (i.e., go outside, kneel by bush adjacent to driveway, use wrench to turn valve), run in, take shower, flush toilets, fill up pitchers with water, go back outside and shut off water. Repeat as needed. To our delicate 21st century sensibilities, this qualified as a Major Pain in the Ass. The only good thing was that it didn’t rain, so I didn’t have the Mud Factor to deal with. Except for where the leak was. There, if you stepped in the wrong spot, you could lose a shoe.

By Sunday night, She Who Must Be Obeyed had had enough of this crap. Off to spend the night with friends. Meanwhile, I was headed off to Ohio on a business trip, so I had water courtesy of Marriott.

Several hundred dollars later (well, there were a few other things that needed fixin’), we have our water back and no leaks. For now.

To celebrate, I think I’ll have a drink.

WE NEED A NEW NAME...

...for the Atlanta airport.

Yesterday I was on my way back home from one of those quickie one-day business trips. Well, not really as quick as it could be. Quick is when you fly up to New York for lunch and come home the same day. This involved an overnight stay...but just one night.

I got lucky with this trip and was able to come home earlier than originally planned. Not too much earlier, as it turns out - the Atlanta airport was inexplicably shut down for part of the evening, and so we sat on the runway in Cincinnati for the better part of an hour. One of the perils of riding the Great Flying Bus.

Of course, on arriving at ATL, we end up at Gate B30 - almost all the way at the end of the concourse, dammit - but I guess it could have been worse. Could have been D36. Or E anything.

So: walk from near-end of concourse to center, schlepping heavy briefcase and garment bag. Ride escalator down. Take choo-choo to Baggage Claim. Ride escalator up.

And this is one loooong escalator ride. A full two stories. People with vertigo need not apply.

And as I’m riding, I’m looking up at the sign that tells you which airlines are in the South Terminal and which ones are in the North Terminal. And that's when it really hits me: Our airport has a really long name.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.”

Geez, that’s fourteen syllables. Almost enough to write a freakin’ haiku:
Welcome to Hartsfield-
Jackson Atlanta Inter
national Airport.
This incarnation of the Atlanta airport was built in 1980 and was named after William B. Hartsfield, one of Atlanta’s great civic leaders. His clear vision and leadership as mayor during the years of the civil rights struggle helped set the tone for Atlanta, which gained the reputation of being the “city too busy to hate.” Hartsfield served as mayor for 23 years. Naming the airport after him was a way to honor that vision and leadership, as well as to recognize his contributions to what was then a nascent aviation industry.

Enter Maynard Jackson. Jackson, elected in 1973, was the first African-American mayor of Atlanta - of any major Southern city, for that matter - and was the driving force behind the construction of the airport that would be named for Hartsfield. In addition to championing affirmative action, his policy of “joint venture,” in which white- and minority-owned firms were brought together, was credited with creating over two dozen new African-American millionaires. Inclusion was his watchword, and under his tenure as mayor, the city prospered and grew. When he died last year, the community cast about for an appropriate way to honor him.

But how? That was a difficult and (unfortunately) divisive question. Renaming the airport for Jackson was one option, one that was championed by many of the city’s African-American leaders. But to have done so would have been dismissive of William Hartsfield. And to simply name a new terminal after Jackson seemed, well, inadequate for someone who had had such an impact on the city’s fortunes, someone so charismatic.

Eventually it fell to Mayor Shirley Franklin to resolve the impasse. She did so by using the time-honored method of splitting the baby: Henceforth, the airport would be named for both Hartsfield and Jackson. Thus we have the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the War and Peace of airport names.

That’s quite a mouthful. So what I’m looking for is a shorter version that is better suited for everyday use. A nickname.

One that occurred to me was “Har-Jack,” but that sounds uncomfortably close to a word that might create problems for you. Say it too close to the TSA folks and you might find yourself whisked off for a few hours of cavity searches and intensive, nosy questions.

So what else is there? Ho-Jo? Hey Jay? There’s gotta be something we can use. Suggestions, anyone?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

LOSE THAT YELLOW RIBBON

There are people who insist on decorating their cars with miscellaneous artifacts, stickers, and gewgaws. Plenty of vehicles cruise around town plastered with bumper stickers saying everything from the sublime (Visualize Whirled Peas) to the extremely ridiculous (Bush-Cheney 2004). Easy Does It. Excrement Takes Place. If You Can Read This, You’re Too Damn Close.

I’m sure there’s at least a coffee-table book’s worth of material on bumper stickers alone, but then you have the Ever-Proliferating Assortment of Jesus Fish. You have the basic Jesus Fish. You have the Darwin Fish eating the Jesus Fish. You have the Truth Fish eating the Darwin Fish (which presumably is still munching away on the first Jesus Fish). And you have people like our rabbi, who has a Gefilte Fish.

And let’s not forget the flags. Plenty of flags these past three years, although Flag Madness seems to have settled down somewhat.

But there’s one decoration that bugs me. Some time ago, I began noticing these “Yellow Ribbon” decals on cars. On closer examination, I noticed that the ribbons bear the legend, “Support Our Troops.” OK, fine – a very worthy sentiment, but wazzup wit’ da yellow ribbon?

If I remember my pop culture etymology correctly, the yellow ribbon first showed up in an early ’70’s Tony Orlando song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Old Oak Tree).” The song was about someone who had been sent Up The River (i.e., in prison) for “three long years” and who wanted a signal from his Significant Other as to whether he was Persona Grata or Non Grata once he got out. [What you have to do to get sent up for three years, I have no idea. Second-degree murder? Pederasty? Harelipping the Governor? One of the Great Mysteries of the 1970’s, I guess.]

During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, the yellow ribbon became a popular symbol of our eagerness for the release of the hostages. It had been too damn long, and we still wanted them (to paraphrase the song). OK, fair enough.

But it’s a quarter-century later now, and how the yellow ribbon mutated into a symbol of support for our troops, I have no freakin’ clue. Do we want them back home safely? Yes. Are they being held hostage? No. Are they currently imprisoned for a crime? No. So the song doesn’t explain it.

Even worse, the color yellow is still the color that many people associate with cowardice. Whatever our troops are, they’re not cowards.

These soldiers are out there (wherever “there” is) to do a job. A difficult, unpleasant job. An unfortunately necessary job. And I support them – regardless of my opinions on how necessary, unnecessary, correctly or poorly prosecuted our current military operations may be. But putting a yellow ribbon decal on my car ain’t gonna help too much.

Cowardice. Tony Orlando. Two things that the yellow ribbon means to me. And you want me to put one on my car?

Ya want a ribbon? Fine. Make mine red, white, and blue.

IF I FORGET THEE...

O New York, Washington, and Shanksville,
may my right arm wither.

It has been three years, and the memories are still fresh, just below the surface of our daily consciousness.

Today we concluded our services with a special Service of Remembrance to honor those who lost their lives in the horrendous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. At the end, we sang “America the Beautiful.” And, oh, was that tough.

Since 9/11, I cannot sing “America the Beautiful” without getting moist eyes and a catch in the throat. The rarely-sung third verse resonates with special poignancy now:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown Thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
I used to think that “America the Beautiful” was a much better candidate for our national anthem than “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which at its core is nothing but a paean to a scrap of cloth that survived a battle, set to the melody of an old drinking song. AtB is easier to sing; it doesn’t require a tremendous range. It evokes images of what makes our land great. And now that we are once again at war, I’m even more convinced. So what if it has no bursting bombs, no rockets? How can you hear that third verse without feeling a pang – and remembering that we are now fighting World War IV against the Cult of Jihadism?

It’s a war we must win. May our alabaster cities never again be dimmed by dust, debris, smoke, and human tears.

Friday, September 10, 2004

HELLO, KITTY

A former star
who graced that smaller screen in days gone by,
I recognized him,
his ginger pelt and tiger stripes
announcing his arrival.

Retired now,
he still commands attention with aristocratic voice,
a voice that holds a note of condescension,
or of boredom.

No more 9 Lives for him,
our little tiger.
His palate has a worldly bent today.
Shall it be French? Or Thai? Perhaps Chinese -
but then, with that aristocratic voice,
he casts his vote for sushi.

O Tempura! O Morris!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

BAD CHEVEUX DAY IN MONTRÉAL

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Montréal on a chilly, rainy night. All of the remnants of Hurricane Frances seem to have descended on points north of New York today, so I got to enjoy them all over again. Definitely a bad hair day.

The hotel is the Marriott Château Champlain, the very same hotel where She Who Must Be Obeyed and I kicked off our honeymoon a little over 27 years ago. Back then, Québec was in the throes of separatist fever, so Anglophones were treated with a certain level of disdain - especially if they were mistaken for Canadians. This is not the case today, at least in my brief experience.

The stop signs, of course, all say “Arrêt,” just as they did 27 years ago. According to my Montréalais expatriate buddy Irwin, there was a movement a while back to change them all to read “WWT” in order to give them that real Québecois flavor: Whoa, whoa, tabernac! But it never got through...

Visited a customer, then had a very pleasant dinner at a place called Med, the cuisine of which was simultaneously modern North American and Asian. Raw tuna, wasabi, the works. The grilled trout was superb. My dining companion was one of our Northeastern US sales reps, a guy whose voice and general demeanor places him somewhere in the cast of the Sopranos. A guy who knows where to find a good meal.

Gotta love this place. I’m a cartoony kind of guy, and there’s something delightfully perverse about watching Spongebob Squarepants, the Simpsons, and King of the Hill in Québecois French - perfect background noise while bloggin’ away and checking office e-mail.

Too bad this is such a short visit to this delightful (if moist) city. I’ll be up at the Butt-Crack of Dawn tomorrow to catch an early flight back home. Meanwhile, there’s a split of vin rouge and a honkin’ hunk of Brie calling my name - you better believe I’ll eat the whole damn thing before turning in (which I will be doing any minute now).

Bonne nuit, mes amis du monde de Blogosphère.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

FLABBERGASTING FLAP OVER FLIP-FLOPPIN’

Thanks to Tim for this wonderful piece from the APAF. Boo-ya, Chimpster!

[Be sure to note my comments at the bottom of this somewhat lengthy screed.]

President Bush: Flip-Flopper In Chief

September 2, 2004, Updated

From the beginning, George W. Bush has made his own credibility a central issue. On 10/11/00, then-Gov. Bush said: “I think credibility is important. It is going to be important for the president to be credible with Congress, important for the president to be credible with foreign nations.” But President Bush’s serial flip-flopping raises serious questions about whether Congress and foreign leaders can rely on what he says.

1. Social Security Surplus

BUSH PLEDGES NOT TO TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS... “We’re going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus.” [President Bush, 3/3/01]

...BUSH SPENDS SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS The New York Times reported that “the president’s new budget uses Social Security surpluses to pay for other programs every year through 2013, ultimately diverting more than $1.4 trillion in Social Security funds to other purposes.” [The New York Times, 2/6/02]

2. Patient’s Right to Sue

GOVERNOR BUSH VETOES PATIENTS’ RIGHT TO SUE... “Despite his campaign rhetoric in favor of a patients’ bill of rights, Bush fought such a bill tooth and nail as Texas governor, vetoing a bill coauthored by Republican state Rep. John Smithee in 1995. He...constantly opposed a patient’s right to sue an HMO over coverage denied that resulted in adverse health effects.” [Salon, 2/7/01]

...CANDIDATE BUSH PRAISES TEXAS PATIENTS’ RIGHT TO SUE... “We’re one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage...It’s time for our nation to come together and do what’s right for the people. And I think this is right for the people. You know, I support a national patients’ bill of rights, Mr. Vice President. And I want all people covered. I don’t want the law to supersede good law like we've got in Texas.” [Governor Bush, 10/17/00]

...PRESIDENT BUSH’S ADMINISTRATION ARGUES AGAINST RIGHT TO SUE “To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits ‘would be to completely undermine’ federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23. Moreover, the administration’s brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas’s law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states.” [Washington Post, 4/5/04]

3. Tobacco Buyout

BUSH SUPPORTS CURRENT TOBACCO FARMERS’ QUOTA SYSTEM... “They've got the quota system in place -- the allotment system -- and I don’t think that needs to be changed.” [President Bush, 5/04]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION WILL SUPPORT FEDERAL BUYOUT OF TOBACCO QUOTAS “The administration is open to a buyout.” [White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo, 6/18/04]

4. North Korea

BUSH WILL NOT OFFER NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM... “We developed a bold approach under which, if the North addressed our long-standing concerns, the United States was prepared to take important steps that would have significantly improved the lives of the North Korean people. Now that North Korea’s covert nuclear weapons program has come to light, we are unable to pursue this approach.” [President's Statement, 11/15/02]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM “Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be - what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature.” [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 6/23/04]

5. Abortion

BUSH SUPPORTS A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE... “Bush said he...favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question.” [The Nation, 6/15/00, quoting the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 5/78]

...BUSH OPPOSES A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE “I am pro-life.” [Governor Bush, 10/3/00]

6. OPEC

BUSH PROMISES TO FORCE OPEC TO LOWER PRICES... “What I think the president ought to do [when gas prices spike] is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots...And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price.” [President Bush, 1/26/00]

...BUSH REFUSES TO LOBBY OPEC LEADERS With gas prices soaring in the United States at the beginning of 2004, the Miami Herald reported the president refused to “personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds.” [Miami Herald, 4/1/04]

7. Iraq Funding

BUSH SPOKESMAN DENIES NEED FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR THE REST OF 2004... “We do not anticipate requesting supplemental funding for ’04” [White House Budget Director Joshua Bolton, 2/2/04]

...BUSH REQUESTS ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR IRAQ FOR 2004 “I am requesting that Congress establish a $25 billion contingency reserve fund for the coming fiscal year to meet all commitments to our troops.” [President Bush, Statement by President, 5/5/04]

8. Condoleeza Rice Testimony

BUSH SPOKESMAN SAYS RICE WON’T TESTIFY AS ‘A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE’... “Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it’s a matter of principle, not a matter of preference.” [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 3/9/04]

...BUSH ORDERS RICE TO TESTIFY: “Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States that my National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony.” [President Bush, 3/30/04]

9. Science

BUSH PLEDGES TO ISSUE REGULATIONS BASED ON SCIENCE...“I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good.” [then-Governor George W. Bush, 1/15/00]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS IGNORE SCIENCE “60 leading scientists—including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/04]

10. Ahmed Chalabi

BUSH INVITES CHALABI TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS...President Bush also met with Chalabi during his brief trip to Iraq last Thanksgiving [White House Documents 1/20/04, 11/27/03]

...BUSH MILITARY ASSISTS IN RAID OF CHALABI'S HOUSE “U.S. soldiers raided the home of America’s one-time ally Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday and seized documents and computers.” [Washington Post, 5/20/04]

11. Department of Homeland Security

BUSH OPPOSES THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY...“So, creating a Cabinet office doesn’t solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn’t solve anything.” [White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, 3/19/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY “So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people.” [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 6/6/02]

12. Weapons of Mass Destruction

BUSH SAYS WE FOUND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION...“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.” [President Bush, Interview in Poland, 5/29/03]

...BUSH SAYS WE HAVEN’T FOUND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION “David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons. And when David Kay goes in and says we haven’t found stockpiles yet, and there’s theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we’ll find out.” [President Bush, Meet the Press, 2/7/04]

13. Free Trade

BUSH SUPPORTS FREE TRADE... “I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue.” [President Bush in Peru, 3/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE “In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection.” [Washington Post, 9/19/03]

14. Osama Bin Laden

BUSH WANTS OSAMA DEAD OR ALIVE... “I want justice. And there’s an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’” [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01]

...BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT OSAMA “I don't know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him...I truly am not that concerned about him.” [President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02]

15. The Environment

BUSH SUPPORTS MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE... “[If elected], Governor Bush will work to...establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide.” [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]

...BUSH OPPOSES MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE “I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a ‘pollutant’ under the Clean Air Act.” [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 3/13/03]

16. WMD Commission

BUSH RESISTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE... “The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency.” [NY Times, 1/29/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE “Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.” [President Bush, 2/6/04]

17. Creation of the 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION... “President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11.” [CBS News, 5/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION “President Bush said today he now supports establishing an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.” [ABC News, 09/20/02]

18. Time Extension for 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION... “President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” [Washington Post, 1/19/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION “The White House announced Wednesday its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work.” [CNN, 2/4/04]

19. One Hour Limit for 9/11 Commission Testimony

BUSH LIMITS TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF 9/11 COMMISSION TO ONE HOUR... “President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel’s top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday.” [NY Times, 2/26/04]

...BUSH SETS NO TIME LIMIT FOR TESTIMONY “The president’s going to answer all of the questions they want to raise. Nobody’s watching the clock.” [White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 3/10/04]

20. Gay Marriage

BUSH SAYS GAY MARRIAGE IS A STATE ISSUE... “The state can do what they (sic) want to do. Don’t try to trap me in this state’s issue like you’re trying to get me into.” [Gov. George W. Bush on Gay Marriage, Larry King Live, 2/15/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BANNING GAY MARRIAGE “Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife.” [President Bush, 2/24/04]

21. Nation Building

BUSH OPPOSES NATION BUILDING... “If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road.” [Gov. George W. Bush, 10/3/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS NATION BUILDING “We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people.” [President Bush, 3/6/03]

22. Saddam/al Qaeda Link

BUSH SAYS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEEN AL QAEDA AND SADDAM...
“You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.” [President Bush, 9/25/02]

...BUSH SAYS SADDAM HAD NO ROLE IN AL QAEDA PLOT “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11.” [President Bush, 9/17/03]

23. U.N. Resolution

BUSH VOWS TO HAVE A UN VOTE NO MATTER WHAT... “No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.” [President Bush 3/6/03]

...BUSH WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR VOTE “At a National Security Council meeting convened at the White House at 8:55 a.m., Bush finalized the decision to withdraw the resolution from consideration and prepared to deliver an address to the nation that had already been written.” [Washington Post, 3/18/03]

24. Involvement in the Palestinian Conflict

BUSH OPPOSES SUMMITS... “Well, we’ve tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn’t all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area.” [President Bush, 04/05/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS SUMMITS “If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting. I’m committed to working toward peace in the Middle East.” [President Bush, 5/23/03]

25. Campaign Finance

BUSH OPPOSES MCCAIN-FEINGOLD... “George W. Bush opposes McCain-Feingold...as an infringement on free expression.” [Washington Post, 3/28/2000]

...BUSH SIGNS MCCAIN-FEINGOLD INTO LAW “[T]his bill improves the current system of financing for Federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law.” [President Bush, at the McCain-Feingold signing ceremony, 03/27/02]

26. 527’s

BUSH OPPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON 527’s: “I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising [in McCain Feingold], which restrains the speech of a wide variety of groups on issues of public import.” [President Bush, 3/27/02]

...BUSH SAYS 527’s BAD FOR SYSTEM: “I don't think we ought to have 527’s. I can't be more plain about it... I think they’re bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold.” [President Bush, 8/23/04]

27. Medical Records

BUSH SAYS MEDICAL RECORDS MUST REMAIN PRIVATE: “I believe that we must protect... the right of every American to have confidence that his or her personal medical records will remain private.” [President Bush, 4/12/01]

...BUSH SAYS PATIENTS’ HISTORIES ARE NOT CONFIDENTIAL: The Justice Department…asserts that patients “no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential.” [BusinessWeek, 4/30/04]

28. Timelines For Dictators

BUSH SETS TIMELINE FOR SADDAM: “If Iraq does not accept the terms within a week of passage or fails to disclose required information within 30 days, the resolution authorizes ‘all necessary means’ to force compliance - in other words, a military attack.” [LA Times, 10/3/02]

...BUSH SAYS HE’S AGAINST TIMELINES: “I don’t think you give timelines to dictators.” [President Bush, 8/27/04]

29. The Great Lakes

BUSH WANTS TO DIVERT GREAT LAKES: “Even though experts say ‘diverting any water from the Great Lakes region sets a bad precedent’ Bush ‘said he wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien about piping water to parched states in the west and southwest.’” [AP, 7/19/01]

BUSH SAYS HE’LL NEVER DIVERT GREAT LAKES:“We’ve got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin... My position is clear: We’re never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water.” [President Bush, 8/16/04]

30. Winning The War On Terror

BUSH CLAIMS HE CAN WIN THE WAR ON TERROR: “One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we’re asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can.” [President Bush, 4/13/04]

...BUSH SAYS WAR ON TERROR IS UNWINNABLE: “I don’t think you can win [the war on terror].” [President Bush, 8/30/04]

...BUSH SAYS HE WILL WIN THE WAR ON TERROR: “Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror].” [President Bush, 8/31/04]

You can get these gems as a nifty .pdf file, too.

And now, my take on this Pile o’ Crap:

“OK, lotta nice quotes ’n’ snippets, but is this fair?,” you may ask. Well, to be perfectly honest, not entirely. You have to be very careful with snips and quotes that are non-contemporaneous and that are taken out of context. Sometimes it’s perfectly reasonable to change positions on a given issue. There may be a change in the political environment. Current events may intervene. New information may come to light. Is there anyone who is so hardheaded - so stupid - that they will claim to never have changed their thinking on any issue?

What’s the point, then? Why this litany of reversal?

Simple. If you’re going to accuse your opponent of waffling, better check your own ass for grid marks.