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Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Banner

Much has been blogged about "The banner" -- the "mission accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln that Bush recently disavowed -- and as long as we all remember that the White House fussed over the details so much that it made the Navy turn the ship around to hide the San Diego skyline, I don't have any outrage to add. Try here, or here, or here for good outrage, and "The Daily Show" did a good job last night too.

But I think the real story here is deeper and richer. My take on the situation is that Bush wasn't lying. I think Bush is so insulated from reality, so cocooned within his false world of sycophants, that he genuinely thinks the people of America loved him so much that they spontaneously decided to put up a massive "Mission Accomplished" banner. After all, as I blogged earlier, this is a man that admitted he gets no news that isn't spoon-fed to him by Condi Rice or Andy Card. LBJ had three televisions installed in the White House so he could watch all three networks' news at once; Bush just trusts his appointees to tell him anything he needs to know.

Hell, he may be right. The news is becoming increasingly irrelevant. After all, the Pentagon won't let journalists see the coffins of our dead soldiers, and no one seems to care.

In more important news, the kid still hasn't got the memo on Daylight Saving Time. We tried to keep him up late last night, but that didn't help. I've even tried to explain it to him in my Elmo voice, but I don't think he understands.

This is not a problem I want to have until Spring.



 9:12 AM

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Quick note: You should check out the rabbinical shocker that comes a few paragraphs into this article about Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak. And definitely don't miss the accompanying photo on the side.

I always wondered how far this would go. And now I know.

 12:37 PM
Another Modest Proposal

I am for the complete and total abolition of Daylight Saving Time, right now, no excuses. It's a bunch of Jimmy Carter nonsense, even if it was invented by Benjamin Franklin. The energy supposedly saved by this half-baked scheme may be logically defensible, but there is a flaw in the plan that I have never seen adequately addressed: babies have no use for our ridiculous fiddling with the clocks. Thus, Mommy and Daddy go to bed an hour later than normal, but Jonah gets up an hour earlier.

If we're going to all agree to delude ourselves that the clocks have changed, I would appreciate it if someone would explain it to Jonah.

Poor kid. He smashed the end of his finger with a wine bottle on Sunday night -- it's a long story -- and now there's a big bloodblister under the nail. The pediatrician says there's really nothing to do about it in a kid that small, though I have memories of my grandfather offering to drill a hole in my toenail under similar circumstances.

I'm grateful that he didn't get hurt any worse than he did, but I feel terrible for the little guy. I think I'm going to have to start calling him "Bruiser."

 9:37 AM

Monday, October 27, 2003

A Modest Proposal

I'm going to hunt and kill Neil Gaiman.

No, really -- hear me out here.

First, give the devil his due. Neil Gaiman is one of the authors I most respect. The "Sandman" series counts as a genuine work of great literature, and I surely don't throw that phrase around often. (Especially -- dare I say it? -- about fantasy or comic books.) I was a little disappointed with the ending of "American Gods," but "Good Omens" was a friggin' riot. So I'm not suggesting that I'm going to hunt and kill Neil based on his works. In fact, his genius would normally militate against it. Strongly, even.

Second, hunting and killing a human being is usually very, very wrong -- self-defense and Hitler being a couple of exceptions that spring to mind. So I'm not suggesting that I'm going to do it for sport. In fact, I'm not recommending that anyone else do it. Killing = bad. M'kay? Unless Gaiman attacks you in cold blood, of course, in which case you can feel free to defend yourself.

It's just that I'm infected with the earworm from Hell and I'm willing to do anything to have my revenge. Gaiman's work 1604 infected Merideth with an earworm (see below) by setting a song to the tune of "Saints of God," and she has passed it along to me. (Is this the first instance of a virus whose vector is a blog?) Now I can't get that f*ckin' song out of my f*ckin' head no matter what I f*ckin' do. Not even the Chili's babybackbabybackbabybackbabyback gets it out. AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

At least I've started rewriting the lyrics:

"And one was a writer who wrote comic books
And all he gets now are dirty, dirty looks
'Cause I just can't stand this stupid goddamned song
By God I will have revenge."

Now, I'm sure that there are some of you who are wondering why I'm not taking this out on Merideth, under the theory that she is a sort of "Typhoid Mary" who should have kept her suffering to herself.

1. It's like my personal hero, Newton C. Estes, once said. When asked why he suddenly started pummeling Justice Byron White while shouting "That busing and pornography has got to go," he explained: "he was causing four-letter words to come into my living room through my TV set. I don't know how else to stop it except to go to the source." Well said. Neil Gaiman is making songs come into my head and I don't know how else to stop it except to go to the source.

2. Merideth could kick my ass.

And what of Dave, who proposed the topic in the first place?

1. He has dirt on me.

2. He's hidden the negatives.

3. Dave could at least fight me to a draw, using his mystical power to cloud men's minds.

And what of personal responsibility? Shouldn't I take responsibility for myself?

1. No.

2. Are you kidding?

So, I'm going to hunt and kill Neil Gaiman. I don't know what he looks like, or where he lives, or anything like that. And I'm really kind of busy right now, come to think of it.

Hmmm.

But if I bump into him, I'm gonna totally go Bruce Lee on his ass.

 11:22 AM

Sunday, October 26, 2003

And a Big Dose of Anger and Resentment Goes Out To...

Merideth, whose mention of the Episcopal chestnut "Saints of God" has put that tune in my head nonstop for the last two days.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

I suppose the blame should really fall on Dave, for getting us to name the Songs That Must Not Be Named.


 12:33 PM

Friday, October 24, 2003

Friday Five

Dave's topic:

I've been reading a lot about Neurology lately, and the rhythm's behind our thought processes. As if by fate, I came across this article yesterday that sums up one of the most insidious kinds of mental loops we all fall into. They're known as earworms.

"Earworm" is the term coined by University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris for the usually unwelcome songs that get stuck in people's heads. Since beginning his research in 2000, Kellaris has heard from people all over the world requesting help, sharing anecdotes and offering solutions.

"I quickly learned that virtually everybody experiences earworms at one time or another," he said. "I think because it's experienced privately and not often a topic of conversation, maybe people really long for some social comparison. They want to know if other people experience what they experience."

So, what are the top 5 "earworms" you've faced in your life?


First, I would like to offer a rule that I concocted at some point (college?) and have found to be true ever since.

The Mental Loop Rule
If you have a song stuck in your head, the only way to get it out is to start humming an even more annoying song. It's up to you to decide whether the change of pace is worth the increase in irritation.

The Captain Kirk Corollary
The nuclear bomb of songs--the tune that eradicates all other tunes--is the theme from the original "Star Trek" TV show. Use with extreme caution.

Five earworms that I have suffered:

1. "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants. Although I could have listed any number of TMBG songs.

2. "Start the Commotion" by the Wiseguys. A.K.A. "that Mitsubishi song"

3. "Lovefool" by the Cardigans, off the "Romeo + Juliet" soundtrack

4. That nine-note lick from "Money" by Pink Floyd. Do DO de dum ba da dum dum DA do DO de dum ba da dum dum DA

5. Iwantmybabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackribs
Iwantmybabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackbabybackribs
[repeat until brain splitting headache erupts]

I think I may have to revoke the "Captain Kirk Corollary," because I think that stupid babyback ribs thing may be even harder to get out of your head.

 4:32 PM

Thursday, October 23, 2003

More Thoughts on End of Life Issues

I wanted to respond to two of the comments to my post below.

First, Will notes that in Texas, the person named as the guardian in your will is a "suggestion," not anything legally binding. That is only true in the sense that no court ever considers itself obliged to hurt a child just because of a provision in a will. Naming a guardian has a powerful effect. Without naming a guardian, the court decides who will be the best guardian, and any applicant can come forward and make his or her case for why he or she should be chosen. But if there is a guardian named in the will, the court will choose that guardian unless someone can prove that the named guardian should not serve. In other words, alternate choices can't merely argue that they are a better choice, they must first prove that the named guardian is an unacceptable choice. If you've chosen your guardian with care, that would be very, very hard.

Second, Craig makes two common statements about wills and living directives. He asserts that he doesn't need a will because he merely wants everything to go to Colleen. If Colleen is your wife (we haven't met, so I don't know) then that would indeed be the most likely result reached by the probate court after a long and irritating period of probate. A will would allow Colleen to cut through the red tape with less loss of time and money. Probate is less onerous in Texas than in many states, but it's still a pain in the ass. If you have significant assets, a will is even more critical for avoiding red tape and taxation problems. And if Colleen is not your legal spouse -- a problem that (unfortunately) strikes many gay and lesbian partners under the current law -- a will is absolutely necessary. The only people who don't need wills are those who (1) want all of their relatively-insignificant assets to go to their legally recognized spouse, (2) are certain they don't have kids, (3) and who don't care where the money goes if the spouse dies first or simultaneously.

The other comment is that Colleen would be willing to lovingly smother you with a pillow. It's a funny comment, but there's a dark problem under that joke. Here's the difference between having an Advance Directive and not having one: if you have an Advance Directive, a doctor will assist you in peaceably departing this life with a minimum of stress to your loved ones. If you don't, anyone that lovingly takes your life will be prosecuted for murder. Don' t make Colleen serve time in jail just because you couldn't fill out a preprinted form.

 1:48 PM
End of Life Instructions

I would like to point you to my friend Adam's recent spittle-flecked rant on his own desires for end-of-life care, spurred by the emotional and clumsy fight over Teri Schiavo's persistent vegetative state. I point it out because it is well-meant, well-said, and completely worthless.

If you feel strongly about how your end-of-life care should be handled, you need to complete the proper legal forms. Without them, doctors can -- and will -- justifiably refuse to let you die. All the blogging in the world won't help you against the Hippocratic Oath and the fear of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Thus, you should be aware of two documents if you want care to be withheld from you:

1. The Written Advance Directive. This is a set of instructions to your doctor, and in Texas, the form for it is very conveniently set out at Tex. Health & Safety Code sec. 166.033. Literally, the concepts are spelled out in great detail, and you check the boxes as desired. Execute the document as directed, and you're set.

2. The Written Medical Power of Attorney. This gives permission to a particular person to make decisions about your health care when you are incapacitated. The form is at section 166.163 and 166.164. This is, of course, a bigger deal, because now you've given another human being certain power over your health care decisions.

(There is also a document called an Out-Of-Hospital Do-Not-Rescuscitate Order, which is explained at section 166.081 et seq. and which has a narrower purpose than the other two documents.)

These are big decisions, and require a lot of thought, but the forms themselves are fairly self-explanatory. (Be very sure to follow all the requirements for executing the documents. Those rules are there for a reason.) If you have any questions about these documents, how they work, and how to properly execute them, discuss them with the attorney that prepared your will. Don't merely go by this pathetically inadequate guide.

You have a will, right?

Actually, I mean, you have a will. Period. The Legislature of your state has already decreed how your property will be divided, how your children will be cared for, and how those people will be compensated for their service. If you don't like the way your Probate Code is written, then get off your duff and write a will. If you make the hard decisions before the attorney's clock starts ticking, and if you don't have a lot of assets, it doesn't cost a whole lot. And somehow, I think that you can do a better job of deciding what to do with your kids than the state Legislature.

 9:29 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Thoughts on Fame

Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

-- Naomi Shihab Nye

I like this poem because it reminds me of More's advice in "A Man For All Seasons" and the gentle fame of the Chief in Salinger's "The Laughing Man" and everyone who ever changed the world just by living.

 8:53 AM

Friday, October 17, 2003

Synchronicity

A 74 year old man recently bowled a perfect game and shot a hole in one in the space of 24 hours, a feat that was apparently matched only three years earlier. On the same day (or close to it), a poor schmuck grabbed for a fly ball -- reasonable as it might have seemed at the time -- and accidentally destroyed the Cubs' chances to make it to the World Series.

Either way, it seems to prove that God isn't all that interested in an equitable distribution of luck.

Insert deep navel-gazing here.

 10:22 AM
Friday Five

Today's topic by Gina:

I don't have children myself, but I love to hear the knee-slappers that my godson, his siblings, and my nieces come out with. Or, for that matter, the "logic" espoused by the adults around them when speaking to them.

To whit, what are the most amusing things you've ever heard in a household with children?


I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here, compared to other Friday Fivers, but here goes:

1. Drew was banging the hell out of a table with a wooden recorder, and Melissa (thick with irony) said, "No, honey, that's a woodwind, not a percussion instrument."

2. My three-or-four-year old cousin Hannah -- ever the spitfire -- booming in her thick Southern drawl at her slacker cousin Ashley, who was ignoring a bucket of toys that had been tipped over. "ASH-lee! HAY-yulp!"

3. The same cousin, earlier this year, quietly asking her mother if I was a cowboy. After all, I was from Texas, and I was wearing boots.

4. While visiting my grandparents as a kid, my sister and I asked to go to a video arcade not too far from my grandparents' house. My grandmother replied that it wouldn't be a good idea because -- this being south Georgia -- the arcade "had a dark complexion." A moment passed. Not understanding the racial subtext (or the word "complexion"), my very young sister piped up, "Well, maybe that makes it easier to see the dots and things."

5. Jonah: "dadadadadadadada [bam bam bam bam bam] yayayayayayaya {raspberry} ya ma mada nananananana{grunt}." He's so witty.

Other F5 participants are: Melissa, Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Gina, Dave, Colleen, Craig, Gord, Adrienne, and Nanette, Marvin, and Rob.

 10:02 AM

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Damn You, You Dancing Bug!

I'm always a fan of "Tom the Dancing Bug," but today's strip has me absolutely flabbergasted in its accuracy.

As one who has been known to "self-medicate" stress with peanut butter sandwiches, I don't know that I appreciate the faint comfort of knowing that my liver is becoming rich and creamy like fois gras.

 3:45 PM
Disappointment

I spent a long, long time getting ready for a hearing yesterday morning. It was a big case in federal court in New Orleans, and I had immersed myself in a peculiar area of Louisiana law to prepare for my argument. This was going to be my first chance to argue in court, on a $3.5M case no less. (That's the peculiar thing about working for a big firm with big institutional clients -- you get fewer opportunities to appear in court early in your career, but when you finally get the chance, you play for big dollars.)

The bad news was that I didn't even get the chance to argue, after staying up well past 1:00 a.m. preparing demonstrative exhibits and studying the cases. I was to follow another attorney for our side, who got cut off by the judge before I got the chance to speak. Apparently, the judge wasn't in a mood for lengthy arguments that day (and rightly so), and the case was so complex that my part got jettisoned. I was completely crushed, to say the least.

The good news is that the first words out of the judge's mouth were that he agreed with one of the legal positions that I had worked so hard to brief. So, I lost the chance to persuade him at argument, but I won at least one issue for my client through my writing. Nevertheless, I would have really appreciated the chance to get the experience. It was a long trip home; I was exhausted physically and emotionally.

Oh, well. I got a couple of good meals out of the trip. The other attorneys have been shuttling back and forth to NOLA so often that they're sick of it, but I was hell-bent on good food.

 1:39 PM

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Well If That Ain't The Pot Calling The Kettle...

I know that I swore off of wasting my time with outrage over politics, but then I pick up the paper and see a jewel like this one on the front page.

"...a frustrated President Bush on Monday defended his administration's reconstruction plan and lashed out at the "filter" through which Americans get their news.

It was the latest go-round in an effort by the White House to regain control of the message on Iraq, which polls have shown an increasing number of Americans doubting.

"'There is a sense that people in America aren't getting the truth,' Bush said in an interview with Hearst-Argyle Television."


This is, of course, from the man that admitted to Fox News that he only gets his news from his advisers, who he feels certain will tell him anything that he needs to know.

The hypocrisy of the man makes me gag; the fact that he gets away with it makes me puke.

Sigh.

I guess I'll go back to linking to lewd photographs of Alyson Hanigan. It's a lot better for all involved... though maybe not for her new hubby.



 8:57 AM

Monday, October 13, 2003

My day has been thrown completely off-stride by the discovery, via Fark.com, that Rachael Ray recently posed in FHM magazine. For those of you who don't happen to follow the Food TV network -- perhaps there was just one too many "bams!" for your taste -- Rachael is the cute and perky host of Thirty Minute Meals, a show about learning to cook good cuisine when you're short of time. She also hosts a series called $40 A Day, about the world's most luxurious getaways. Just kidding. She's all about middle-class perky. So, as you might have guessed, Rachael isn't cut from the "sensualist" cloth of Nigella Lawson et al. She's very much more in the Doris Day mold of television personalities.

So Rachael Ray has posed semi-nude in FHM magazine. That's her prerogative as an adult. She is certainly in excellent health, gauging from the photos.

But it's the context of the photos that has flummoxed me. Take this one, for instance. A beaming Rachael and her pie. Or especially this one, a beaming Rachael and her turkey. If FHM had merely done its usual starlet-slut photography (like this), it might have been less interesting, but it would have certainly been less jarring. Somehow a nice home-cooked meal never works its way into my sexual fantasies. The near-nudity seems like an accident, like the usual Food TV photographer didn't tell her that she forgot to put on her shirt. Or, more to the point, it has the stilted feel of early adolescence, like a boy's first sexual fantasy about his cute young teacher.

Or is it me that has the stunted sex drive? What's wrong with an overtly sexualized Donna Reed, or Dinah Shore? Should I just get over it?

Altogether weird, and ultimately more thought-provoking than anything else FHM has ever published.

 2:33 PM
Items of Interest

Once again, Tom Tomorrow manages to get to the heart of the matter better than anyone else. This may be the best description yet of the Valerie Plame affair.

At the same time, the U.S. Military is engaging in a campaign of misinformation right here in the good old USA.

And, Rush has admitted that he's a pill-popper who took thirty opiates a day. Of course, now that the hypocrisy alarms are going off at full blast -- given Rush's famous lack of compassion for drug addicts -- people are starting to comb through the record. Buzzflash pretty much shoots down the "I have been in excruciating pain from a back surgery" theory here.

Finally, our long national wait is over. Monkeys can finally control robots with their minds. Charlton Heston has announced his unconditional surrender to the damn dirty apes.

 9:22 AM

Friday, October 10, 2003

A Side Note on the Friday Five

As I've been compiling people's responses to the Friday Five this week (no kidding, I'm really thrilled with the good advice), I have been interested by the way that some have addressed the implicit gender issues. Boys are different than girls -- not so much so as some would believe, not so little as others would believe, but different nonetheless. As I look back on my experiences in childhood, it seems to me that boys have an aching need for heroes and role models that is just not present in girls to the same degree. (Of course, insert the usual disclaimers -- broad classifications cannot define particular individuals, and it's merely an expression of degree.)

It is that need for heroes that makes me wonder about whether the development of "character" in a boy would be particularly formed by his choice of role models. My own heroes were particularly countercultural, from the rebel farmboy Luke Skywalker to blacklist breaker John Henry Faulk. I almost cannot contemplate the reverse, in which a boy's heroes were of the system, instead of in opposition to it. I have no connection to Washington or Lincoln; I have a knee-jerk reaction against the idealistic representation of anyone except the countercultural heroes like King and Gandhi. And I am particularly alienated from the young men in "All Quiet on the Western Front," who went to war drunk on glamorous notions of honor and glory. But that is the extreme case, seen as error by all. Did I err too much in the opposite direction? Could I have benefited from a little more of the usual flag-waving? It's something that I have been contemplating lately.

At any rate, these musings do not have to affect the actual question that was posed. I certainly agree that any recommendation of children's literature would be appropriate for both boys and girls, with the possible exception of girl-cootie stuff like "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

In the end, it's all just nudges and suggestions. Jonah will find his own way, and develop his own tastes. And I will be fascinated to watch it unfold. Until then, I'll read to him about the great green room and the Cat in the Hat and Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and Mike Mulligan and giving a pig a pancake and a dinner that was still hot. And if he's still in the mood, I'll get him to tell me about Charlotte, and the Vermicious Knids, and the land that lies just behind the wardrobe.

And if I also deform his tender brain with Monty Python, who can blame me?

 1:52 PM
The Friday Five

My topic this week, so I can't wimp out:

People once thought that it was important for boys to study the works of the great Roman orators so that they would develop both their language skills and their sense of honor, duty and propriety. (This was a particular theme in the biography "John Adams," as the love of these boyhood texts stayed with the honor-bound Adams all his life.) I often think about the books that had a profound impact on me as a boy, because I came of age in a post-Watergate world. My tastes tended toward the sarcastic, ironic and humorous, and I sometimes wonder if I would be a different man today if I had read different literature as a boy. What if I was reading Cicero instead of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy? I seldom read biographies, but what if I was reading biographies of Lincoln and Washington and other "great men"? Would that have even made sense? Are the Roman ideals even relevant anymore, in our world of irony and instant gratification? Who are the proper heroes for boys? Should we strive to sustain the old ideals, or look toward a new formulation of them? Where should we find such ideals?

That's the background; here's the question. I want to expose my son to the very best literature as he grows up -- "best" being defined as "engaging his interest, challenging his intellect, and building his character." Based on your own life experiences, what five books would you recommend?


Of course, I ask the question because I'm a bit baffled myself, not because I have any great hold on what the answer is. But I have some thoughts:

1. The Princess Bride. It's a wonderful and spirited tale of adventure for any teenager. But what makes the book so unforgettable is the quality that was least prominent in the filmed version -- the author's present-day musings about how he had to come to terms with the fact that life isn't fair. That is the moral of the story, and the moral of life itself. And this is as good a way to learn that lesson as any.

2. The Phantom Tollbooth. Not so much a moral guidepost, but an intellectual stimulant. I found this book absolutely intoxicating as a kid, because it took a playful attitude toward language that has stuck with me to this day.

3. Le Morte d'Arthur. The Arthurian ideals will never die, not really, not as long as people still believe that the individual should follow his own code and his own view of God. Of course, all that foolishness about the King being the land and so on has got to go.

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Shannon rolls her eyes every time I get off on my rant about how the film version of this book completely f*cked up Roald Dahl's point by introducing mush-mouthed 1970s relativistic thinking. Say it with me once again: CHARLIE NEVER DISOBEYED WILLY WONKA! That's the point! Self-control is not impossible, it's just a difficult but worthwhile skill to acquire. And then there's the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which is wonderful for a different reason: it introduced my favorite villains of my childhood, the Vermicious Knids. Come to think of it, pretty much everything by Roald Dahl is going to be on the list.

5. Where The Wild Things Are. I have long believed that one of the most profound endings in literature -- better even than "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" -- is "and it was still hot." When Jonah was one day old, I held him in my arms in the hospital and read him this story. He didn't get much out of it, but his daddy sure did. It's a great story of wild childhood and parental love.

P.S. Of course, the landscape of my childhood was most clearly formed by Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A Thousand Faces." Frankly, it profoundly affected every aspect of my play as a kid. Well, I say that. I was actually enamored of George Lucas's particular telling of the universal hero tale, featuring a farm boy with feathered hair and a dream of greatness.

So, thanks to everyone that has answered. I have been absolutely fascinated by people's suggestions.

Other F5 participants are: Melissa, Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Gina, Dave, Colleen, Craig, Gord, Adrienne, and Nanette, Marvin, and Rob.

 11:11 AM

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Frickin' Joe's Crab Shack. That's the other dumbass commercial that really sticks in my craw. Hey -- it's really funny that this family of crabs thinks that it's being employed by the seafood restaurant, right? Instead of being eaten there? Hee-sterical. Really makes me want to rush out and stuff my gaping piehole with crustaceans!

Once again, I have personally killed a basket of live crabs and made soup from them. They were not cute, they did not seem confused about their employment opportunities, and they did not plead for their lives. They did nothing except squish like a bug when I hit them with the mallet. So I'm a heartless savage, but I don't want my nose rubbed in it. I'll go somewhere where my animalistic nature can be sublimated. Like "Red Lobster." I hear they have a new shrimp combination this month! If you can imagine! And it involves lots of butter!

Frickin' idiots.

 10:17 PM
"Please Don't Eat Me" Is Not An Advertising Slogan

I have become thoroughly repulsed by the sub-moronic thinking behind advertising campaigns in which the product being sold is (1) an anthropomorphized foodstuff, that (2) confronts the reality of its death at the hand of the consumer. The most repulsive entry is the most recent: the new "Chips Ahoy" commercial in which the cookie is having a great time at the kid's birthday party until it realizes that there's no cake -- he is the cake! Close up of wacky look of dismay on the cookie's face.

Ha ha! We're all heartless, murdering bastards! And we ourselves are but flesh and dust and will one day die! Boy, I sure want a cookie!

Frickin' idiots.

And I feel the same damn way about the hapless M & Ms who run from their attackers, and all other variations of this theme. If you're trying to sell to me, don't call me a heartless, murdering bastard willing to devour a living, talking, anthropomorphic being that is capable of reasoning with me. It's really that simple.

Do they just not get it? The Chick-Fil-A cows are funny becuase they are (1) an anthropomorphized foodstuff, that (2) confronts the reality of its death at the hand of the consumer, and (3) fights back. They offer an alternative. They're cows that want you to buy chicken. Same with the chickens in "Chicken Run" and the pigs in "Babe," who are anthropomorphized into feisty fighters. And the antithesis of this thinking is in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," where Douglas Adams cleverly dreamed up an intelligent animal bred to want to be eaten. Arthur Dent finds it barbaric, but isn't the alternative worse?

Listen, I eat meat, though I think that every meat-eater should have to (1) meet a living, breathing cow and (2) be able to explain, in detail, the disgusting, mechanized process used to turn that cow into meat. I devour the flesh of animals, but I'm not a hypocrite about it, like people that want meat to be something pink and pre-packaged. And I assure you that my conclusion would be different if the animal had the power of speech, and was capable of trying to reason his way out of the situation.

And that goes double for baked goods. If I meet a talking cookie, I'm not going to eat it, I'm going to immediately join PETA, the Krishnas, and the Cookie Anti-Defamation League.

Frickin' idiots.



 11:15 AM

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Two interesting discoveries today:

1. An interesting exchange from the beginning of the third redistricting session, which occurred in the senators' lounge at the Capitol:

Sen. Letitia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio): "Why are you [Republicans] being so punitive?"

Unnamed Republican Senator: "If you're going to act like Mexicans, we're going to treat you like Mexicans."

[nodding from four other Republican Senators.]

2. On a less infuriating note, I was very pleased to run through the California recall results and find that both Larry ("A Smut Peddler Who Cares") Flynt and Gary Coleman had done very well, with porn star Mary Cook rounding out the top ten. I was even more pleased that tired prop-comic Gallagher was further back, and that Bumfights star Todd Richard Lewis brought up the rear. But who were the 170 other folks that thought it would be a good idea to have the "Bum Hunter" as Governor?

 1:51 PM
I experienced a strange form of synchronicity yesterday, as I suffered from a serious stomach virus while California held its recall election. It literally started at about the time the polls opened, and the fever broke just as the "Daily Show's" live coverage began. Accordingly, I emerged from my clammy intimacy with the toilet to discover that Arnold Schwartzenegger was the governor of California. And it all made sense. Somehow my convulsions were a sympathetic reaction to the pangs wracking California.

So, here's hoping that California doesn't suffer from a "morning after" like I'm feeling today.

But, because the California recall is even less meaningful than the usual political drivel, I have a few thoughts that might be more worthy of your time:

1. John Adams, by David McCullough, was a fine biography and history, but contrary to the prevailing winds of opinion, I thought it wasn't as good as Joseph Ellis's bio of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx. I was particularly taken with McCullough's ending, in which he noted that Adams (ever the stolid New Englander) had refused to have an epitaph, and offered this line from one of his letters as a fitting epitaph for Adams:

"Griefs upon griefs! Disappointment upon disappointment! What then? It is a gay, merry world notwithstanding."

God grant that we could all have such an epitaph. And God grant that we could reconcile ourselves to our greatest enemies, as Adams and Jefferson did.

2. Other fine books that I have read recently include "The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big, Hungry Bear" and "Sometimes I Like To Curl Up In A Ball." Both are epic works of literature, full of adventure and tension. Frankly, I feel that "John Adams" would have benefited from more focus on wombats and strawberries.

I am also pleased to report that as the little guy gets older, he turns more of his attention to looking at the book and less of his attention to trying to eat it.

3. I've been getting more and more into the album "Shootenanny!" by The Eels. It's definitely an interesting mix; the lyrics seldom match the tone of the accompanying music (except in the mournful "Restraining Order Blues"), and the songs get under your skin in the most interesting way. Given the overwhelming tone of depression on the album (even in the uptempo songs), it seems particularly apt that the lead singer's side project is a jokey series of dance tunes under the nom de plume "M.C. Honky."

4. "Mr. Show: The Third Season." I've seen every episode at least a dozen times by now, and I still love them. At its best, Mr. Show was hilarious and achingly smart -- and the third season was the very best. Run, do not walk, to buy these discs. Give them as Christmas presents. Use them as drink coasters. Decorate the house with them.


 11:18 AM

Monday, October 06, 2003

Politics, Schmolitics

You know, when you emerge from a cocoon of overwork, it seems fairly ridiculous to get exercised over politics. I start to think that "Where's the outrage?" is a question demanded by people that don't have enough to do. Don't take it personally, just make your mark and move on to things that you will care about on your death bed. Here's a good test: think about how long you're going to be dead. Really think about it. Do the math. Now, do you really need to watch another pundit show?

So much of it is a tempest in a teacup anyway. For instance, this crap about Schwartzenegger saying that he admired Hitler. It was the thinnest of stories when it broke, it depended entirely on transcripts of interviews that were acknowledged to be suspect (if you think his accent is bad now, imagine it in the mid-70s), and now it appears that he said that he didn't admire what Hitler did with his power to impress people. It's still an unseemly quote, but it's nowhere near as damaging as the accurate quote in which he claimed to be motivated to enter politics by a presidential debate that never occurred. But that didn't get the same play in the media. (Same thing with Rush Limbaugh -- the allegations of painkillers are just allegations. Where's the proof? Until I see some proof, I refuse to let my schadenfreude get the better of me.) None if it is important. Not one bit.

And even though no man of integrity could ever say that the Kay report somehow justifies the invasion of Iraq, and even though the White House said it in the knowledge that people don't tend to read past the headlines -- as demonstrated in this terrifying poll -- I'm not going to lose sleep over it. It simply doesn't bother me that this goofball is our Commander-in-Chief. And I won't cackle with glee that the Republicans can't even agree on redistricting now that they have a quorum.

And do you know why? Because in its own way, it's just as stupid and unhealthy as obsessing over J. Lo and Ben. I will stay conversationally literate on current events, I will vote, and I will not let those political bastards steal my joy. When I'm on my death bed, surrounded by my family, will I be glad that I spent time stewing in my anger over the venalities of the Bush administration? No! There's so much more that is important; so much more that expands the mind while shrinking the waistline. For instance:

TEN THINGS THAT ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHISTLE-ASS'S LATEST BULLSH*T
And this is just ten things picked at random, not the Top Ten, which I'm pretty sure was copyrighted by Letterman anyway.

1. My son can stand up without holding onto anything. It's only for about five seconds, but I foresee Olympic greatness in his future. And his cough is getting better.

2. My wife is more gorgeouser than anybody else's wife.

3. Keeping in better touch with friends and family, because it's really pathetic when your major form of communication with them is via "blog."

4. Rebuilding my running stamina. It's a little late to try to make the Olympics, but I want to be healthy enough to meet my great-grandchildren. Who will be Olympic athlete Supreme Court justices.

5. Trying to write something useful, insightful, original and lengthy about the law. By March. Which will be so enduring that my great-grandchildren will cite it in their opinions.

6. The never-ending path of home improvements that ensures that they know me by name at Lowe's. Today it's the windows, tomorrow the world!

7. The new season of "Alias," which much to my surprise is back on track after a fairly uninteresting end to last season. Where was Sidney? Why did she kill Sark's dad? And is Spy Daddy that terminally stupid, or is Spy Mommy that terminally irresistable?

8. Listening to good music, and trying to come up with a pithy description of The Beginning Stages Of..., the debut album of The Polyphonic Spree. (Best try so far: "Imagine if Pink Floyd tried to stage a performance of Hair.")

9. Two words: "Kill Bill"

10. Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


 5:16 PM

Friday, October 03, 2003

By the way, I'm feeling a little more relaxed now. The storm has passed, and (to stretch the metaphor too far), things are starting to dry out a bit.

 2:09 PM
A few notes, three weeks later

I have been adrift in endless hours of work over the past three weeks as I get sucked into a very complex project at work. And when you're working fourteen and sixteen hour days, and when you're desperate to cling to whatever free time you can get with your family, blogging doesn't seem like the best way to spend your time.

Thus the absence.

It's funny, because I've been thinking about things. But I can't write about it here, because it needs to remain confidential for quite a while. (I have managed to find blogs from other attorneys at my firm through name connections and so on. I have never used my own name on this blog, but others have linked to it with my name.) Thus, "himself" will need to maintain radio silence on this particular issue. It's probably a bad idea to even mention it -- I think John LeCarre said "half the secret is knowing that it exists" -- but I've been getting e-mails from concerned friends and thought I should finally post something.

Those of you that have received a mix disc from me will find more information about those thoughts in the accompanying letter. Ironically, these thoughts will make my work load much worse for a while, but it will be worth every second.

The kid's getting bigger and stronger every day, though he has a persistent cough. I recall that the people of the 18th and 19th century thought that sickness came from bad air (e.g. "mal aria"), and I have to wonder if Houston hasn't come full circle and imbued all of those old alchemical theories with a certain truth. We work for a living here, and we don't complain about the conditions. Yes, boss. Right away, boss.

Finally, a story. This is a fictional story. Completely fictional. About someone else.

This guy I know, he was working late one afternoon when the managing partner came by his office. The partner stuck his head in the door and, completely in keeping with reputation as a flatterer, complimented my friend on having kept a trim figure. You see, when my friend first came to the firm one year ago, he had lost a great deal of weight and was exercising daily, and was happy, and this partner remembered that fact. That's all the partner remembered.

And my friend said, "Pull your head out of your ass for one moment and actually look at me! I have gained fifty pounds in one year -- everything I worked so hard to lose -- all because I spend my days sick to my stomach from stress and worry and anxiety, and because I drown that stomach acid with Twix bars and Starbucks pastries and thousand-calorie food delivered right to the office from the Chinese restaurant across the street, and I don't exercise anymore because I don't have time for it, especially if I want to see my kid, and my colleagues joke about which one of us will be the first to 'get their heart attack' -- even the women, except for the one that talked about how she was hoping the Rapture would come soon -- and all of us either gain or lose drastic amounts of weight and if any of you actually cared about us, you would see these symptoms and realize that you were sucking us dry and leaving us as hollow, hour-billing shells useless for anything but worrying and fighting, and would understand why the frickin' attrition rate is so high, and if it's true what I've heard -- that it's a lot better here than at other firms of a comparable size -- then Houston has been taken over by the Living Dead."

Well, he said that in his mind. What he actually said was "No, no" and then smiled.

And, you know, I'm glad that story was just fiction, and was about this friend of mine and not me. But I'm glad that my friend has been thinking a lot.

Anyway, did I mention that I'm on a diet, and I'm exercising again?


 9:07 AM

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