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Showing posts from 2010

WHEN BEING RIGHT IS NOT RIGHT ENOUGH

--Uh oh, you printed something off the Internet. Never a good sign.
--Just a little confessional. An interlude to share during drinks.
--Who’s the confessor?
--Our good friend Congressman Bob Inglis, Republican from South Carolina. But only for a few more weeks.
--Whoa, South Carolina. That requires wine, I’ll be right back.

--OK, what’s the latest from Bubba Bob Inglis?
--He’s had it, he’s kaput, out of a job. He lost the primary to a Tea Party type.
--What happened?
--He told his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck, and he failed to use the S word about Obama.
--The S word would be Socialist?
--Correct. When pushed to describe Obama as a socialist, Inglis waffled. All he’d say was that Obama, quote, “wants a very large government that I don’t think will work and that spends too much and it’s inefficient and it compromises freedom and it’s not the way we want to go.” It says his audiences paid no attention because they were just listening for the S word. When he didn’t use it, they looked di…

I SPY

As in spyware, malware, mal a la teteware.
The recent sweep that netted a posse of Soviet-era spies seems to have come up one short. That would be the viral mole who's holed up in my computer. When he is found and traded for a good hitter to fill a slot at the end of the Detroit Tigers batting order, Drinks Before Dinner will be back in business.

RECIPROCITY

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Barbara has the week off. If she didn't, she might caution against writing on something about which I know so little. But since that admonishment applies to almost everything in Drinks Before Dinner, onward and upward


























Glenn Beck:
“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up.’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”

“The only [Katrina victims] we’re seeing on television are the scumbags.”

Michele Bachmann:
“I don’t know where we’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”

Rush Limbaugh:
“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. Income Tax.”

Ann Coulter:
“I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating [Dr. George] Tiller in the 203rd trimester…. I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don’t want to impose my moral values on others.”

“There are a lot of bad Republicans. There are no good Democrats.”

Rand Paul:
(on BP) “Sometimes, accidents just…

SPIES AND WHALES

--It’s a beautiful evening. Want to sit on the patio?
--You go ahead.
--What’s wrong?
--No, go on ahead, I’m fine. I just want to sit here.
--Come on, fess up. What’s wrong?
--“Fess up.” That’s an apt phrase. Eleven Russians were arrested for spying this week. The cold war ended twenty years ago, but they were ordered to maintain their deep-cover mole status anyway.
--I read about it. They were all posing as suburbanites.
--The FBI’s been tracking them for seven years. Seven years, Barbara.
--So what? You thought the Russkies just Fed-Xed all their spycams and shotgun mics back to Moscow? Their wigs and fake beards?
--Apparently, they never learned anything to pass along.
--Well, isn’t that a good thing?
--One of them tried to buy a cell phone. She gave her address as Fake Street. That’s how the crack FBI operatives nabbed her. The only reason the Bureau sprang into action is because one of the others bought a one-way ticket to Cyprus. You can’t invest seven years of taxpayers’ money on monitori…

THE SPARTAN AND THE PRESIDENT: SECOND THOUGHTS

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--Sweetheart, you’re talking to yourself again.
--I was dressing myself down. I was taking myself out to the woodshed.
--Please don’t tell me you forgot to turn off the coffee maker again. We don’t need any more caffeinated tar.
--Nope, on top of the coffee maker.
--But you needed dressing down. Discipline.
--That’s it, I lack discipline. Toughness and grit. Those are the qualities in short supply with me. But not with General Stanley McChrystal. I just read his discipline level allows him only one meal a day.
--Well, he’ll have lots more time for the gym now. Maybe he can add a snack.
--He will, that’s true. Although they run a pretty tight ship at these cable networks. I imagine he’ll be spending lots of time there soon.
--You see him doing color commentary on the war in Afghanistan?
--Almost certainly. After all, TV has welcomed back Elliot Spitzer. Notice how they’ve been rehabilitating him lately? He has his own show now. I see the same thing figuring for McChrystal.
--Ah well. Life goes o…

A DAY AT THE RACES

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In recent days, BP CEO Tony Hayward has taken what few rational Americans would begrudge him—a break back in England from the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Except Mr. Hayward has a gift for getting it wrong. He took his break in a way guaranteed to dig his Stateside public relations hole even deeper: racing his 52-foot yacht Bob. From the position of average Americans, the most telling feature of this latest gaffe, and others by BP’s Swedish board chairman, is simply this: it underscores that in the new millenium, class distinctions in the Old World remain firmly rooted. So much so as to blind corporate plutocrats to any idea of how their words and deeds are perceived by those who don't belong to their "set." If any of us thinks European society no longer maintains sharp divisions based on privilege, the toffs at BP have set us straight.

--Tony! My God, what a surprise.
--Trevor! When was it last, Ascot? Boxing Day? I hope not, I was rather in my cups, I should think…

LEARN AND EARN + DENIABLE CREDIBILITY

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--What are you reading?
--A Free Press story about Samantha Ivory, fifteen, of Detroit.
--Let me see. Nice picture. Samantha is hard at work at her computer.
--She’s going to Cass Tech.
--I know Cass, my dad went there. What’s this? The Freep for May 25. Today is June 18.
--So?
--Well, honey, we’ve talked about your memory “issue.” I don’t actually think there’s a problem, but seeing you reading a three-week-old paper…
--Leads you to conclude my issue has finally set sail for real.
--Not necessarily. I’m sure you have your reasons. The Freep’s not much of a paper anymore, and June 25 might have been a good issue. You could be saving good ones to reread on rainy days.
--Nice catch. If it will ease concerns about needing to tether me before letting me outside, please understand I set this aside to look at later. Intentionally, on purpose. I promise I am not reading a three-week-old paper for the second or third first time.
--Good. And what’s Samantha’s claim to fame… “Searching for a fix: should …

RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE

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Today’s post focuses on dog fanciers and their object of interest. Or, from the FBI and the dog’s point of view, person of interest.

Often, dogs and cats are thought of as baby substitutes. Those of us suffering from one or more of the diagnosed disorders related to dog obsession would be more comfortable with children classed as puppy substitutes, but it’s best not to go there. Not if the writer wants to avoid harsh email from parents and grandparents.

What might serve everyone better is to dump the substitute idea and replace it with marriage. Or, in the case of those actually hitched, with extra-marital relations. If you own a dog or cat, you can ponder this idea in terms to your own experience. If not, please consider the writer a fairly reliable source.

Honest people know that the concept of 50/50 marriage is nonsense. It’s the sort of thing dreamed up by counselors, encouraging couples to believe that a few dozen more sessions will ultimately lead to a finely tuned, symmetrical equ…

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

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Anyone not on life support will by now know what happened last Wednesday night at Comerica Park in Detroit. Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game when veteran umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called the twenty-seventh batter safe at first.

Understandably surprised, Galarraga did not need to be restrained by his teammates as we have come to expect in such moments, struggling with vein-popping rage to get his hands on the ump. Instead, the pitcher reacted with a bemused half smile as the crowd went crazy. After seeing the instant replay umpire Joyce, obviously tormented by his mistake, apologized to the pitcher. Later, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said simply, “I make mistakes, players make mistakes, umpires make mistakes.”

This would be a big enough story in any case, but it has gone viral or nova or whatever current jargon applies. It has captured people’s imaginations. The reason I think must be understood in terms of those pictured above, people who represent so many oth…

RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE

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Today’s post focuses on dog fanciers and their object of interest. Or, from the FBI and the dog’s point of view, person of interest.

Often, dogs and cats are thought of as baby substitutes. Those of us suffering from one or more of the diagnosed disorders related to dog obsession would be more comfortable with children classed as puppy substitutes, but it’s best not to go there. Not if the writer wants to avoid harsh email from parents and grandparents.

What might serve everyone better is to dump the substitute idea and replace it with marriage. Or, in the case of those actually hitched, with extra-marital relations. If you own a dog or cat, you can ponder this idea in terms to your own experience. If not, please consider the writer a fairly reliable source.

Honest people know that the concept of 50/50 marriage is nonsense. It’s the sort of thing dreamed up by counselors, encouraging couples to believe that enough sessions will ultimately lead to a finely tuned, symmetrical equality. We …

THE MAID AND THE PIT BULL

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"From Napoleon to the present, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory” (Wikipedia).

The quote refers to Joan of Arc. Here, though, the image invoking her memory is not that of the Maid of Orleans, but of the Pit Bull of capitalism, Ayn Rand. Yes, that’s the same Rand Texas Congressman Ron Paul chose as the namesake for his son, the Kentucky ophthalmologist running for the U.S. Senate.

Since repeatedly confusing his area of medicine with podiatry by fitting his foot in his mouth (the better to say what he really thinks), Rand has taken to appearing in scrubs. Presumably, this authenticates his status as a healer, a man anxious to treat the nation’s ills.

So it makes sense to reflect on his namesake Ayn Rand, suited up in full armor on a poster at a Tea Party rally last month in Naples, Florida. Mounted on horseback as military leaders always are, Saint Ayn is carrying the colors into battle. This time, it’s not the Siege of Orleans in the fifteenth century, but th…

SCHADENFREUDE

I am grateful to the German language for a word—schadenfreude. It refers to the warm glow that honest people can’t deny feeling when someone they don’t like suffers in some way. It’s nothing to be proud of, this feeling, but it’s definitely there.


--Are you happy to be back in Michigan?
--Very.
--Happy to be teaching again this summer?
--Almost very.
--Anyway, you look pleased with yourself. What are you so jovial about?
--A mental image. I see Ayn Rand’s namesake down in Kentucky.
--Really? Seeing Rand Paul should produce something very different in you. Say, a Tourette moment.
--Oh, I’m sure a Tourette moment can’t be far away, but just now I’m enjoying the mental picture.
--Do you know who Paul looks like to me? Bill Hailey, of Bill Hailey and the Comets. Remember him? Rand Paul has the same hilarious hairstyle.
--I’m trying to avoid ad hominem arguments. You have your Rand Paul, I have mine. I see him wearing one of those headlamp reflector things. Ophthalmologists used to …

PREPARE FOR LIFT-OFF

It’s time to go, time for the dark side of the moon. That would be the days spent in our van, on the Interstate between Florida and Michigan. Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio—here we come.

Please understand: “dark side of the moon” is not meant to suggest some unflattering opinion of these states. It just indicates that, like astronauts facing the dark side in actual terms, we will be cut off, a human caesura in the space-time continuum, floating in relative silence as we watch what lies outside our porthole. With the added bonus of not needing to read or write anything.

But first, some house-cleaning.

--I almost peed in my pants.
--Sorry.
--No, it’s all right. But when it happens, there’s no preparation, no intro for what’s about to happen. All at once comes this chesty, Robert Goulet-John Raitt broadway voice belting out something. I dropped my toothbrush.
--I’m sorry. I knew what was happening when I heard the choking sounds. You really do get hysterical, you collapse.
--What can I …

"HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE" (THANK YOU JEAN PAUL SARTRE)

If something like this never happened to you, good.

Barbara calls our cul de sac in Naples The Dead Zone. That’s because, with two notable exceptions our neighbors are either out of town most of the time, or families have inherited the property and are trying to sell it, or the residents are in town, but only so to speak. Or, they have finally succumbed to the facts of life, and are set up for the last lap of their run in the very posh assisted-living operation waiting patiently at one end of our development.

Such an atmosphere can be depressing, but for us it also has an important upside. We like our privacy, our peace and quiet, and we have had both since moving in. Then the villa two doors away sold. I introduced myself to the wife one afternoon. With flame-red hair and blazing porcelain caps, she came off as bouncy and appealing. New blood, I thought. Much needed here in The Dead Zone.

And then the New Blood spread its wings. Or so I thought.


--The new people.
--Which ones?
-…

"FIRST, LET'S HANG ALL THE TEACHERS"

Ever since the debacle that was the 2000 election—you know, the one that saw Al Gore defeated by hanging chads and five members of the Supreme Court--Florida has been an especially newsworthy state. Tea Partiers are much in evidence, and have had a lot to do with forcing Republican governor Charlie Crist to consider running for the Senate as a Moderate. That’s because he’s not “pure” enough for conservatives.

The strongest evidence that Crist is not fit came last week when he vetoed a bill to eliminate teacher tenure, and tie teacher pay to student test scores. Right wingers love this sort of thing: it’s driven by their favorite Platonic ideal--free markets. I had to write about it. NOTE: Golden Apples are awarded in Naples, Florida to top-rated teachers.

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In chapter four of The Dilbert Principle, “Great Lies of Management,” author/cartoonist Scott Adams examines the thirteen bogus assertions relied on most often by manag…

BOTTOM FEEDERS

Blogging affords excellent opportunities for garrulous senior citizens to hone their typing skills. As a newly retired person, I honed mine in pre-blogging days by writing letters to the editor of the Naples (Florida) Daily News. Reading the feverish rants of right-wingers did it to me. People for instance who denounced talk of global warming, then pointed to heavy snow in northern states to support their position. Reading such “thoughts” day after day, I lost patience and sent off responses.

But I came to see the futility in this: the mad hatters on the right were impervious to factual arguments (it snows when the temperature rises, you dunce you). So, I turned to other topics. Most recently, The Daily News published a letter of mine calling for a more dog-friendly policy in Naples. I argued that since the real work of dogs in our time is to serve as companions—mental-health care givers—it made sense for dog owners to be allowed to share public places with their leashed pets.…

MORE MUSIC: JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

More and more often, the hectoring, demanding voices that deliver the evening news turn us off. Wolf Blitzer was once a fairly responsible on-air journalist. Now he’s a ringmaster, a carnival barker. The same holds true for the crew on MSNBC. Chris, Keith and Rachel—there’s plenty of talent to go around, but deploying it night after night in a ceaseless news cycle turns everything into white noise. As for Fox, the only reason to watch Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly is to prep yourself for a colonoscopy.

So, before and during dinner Barbara and I often put on some music. One night, we were listening to tunes Johnny Mathis had recorded over fifty years ago. The quality of his voice and the orchestrations were remarkable to us, a comfort that brought solace. We needed some, after news of a horrible natural disaster (the earthquake in Haiti), and two that were man-made: a male pinup elected to the U.S. Senate, and a stake driven by the five conservative members of the Supreme Cour…

POP CULTURE: THE LIMITS OF GREATNESS

Barbara enjoys popular music more than I do (I prefer keyboard jazz), but we have both remained fans of the great names from our younger days--The Beatles, Stones, Carly Simon and others. Especially we share a love of Ray Charles. How is it possible to listen to, say, “Georgia” or “Hit the Road, Jack,” and not be moved or made to smile?

Getting old with music and musicians makes these associations all the more affecting. Over drinks, we recently listened to a CD of duets Charles recorded before his death, “Genius Loves Company,” released in 2004. As always, the music touched us. But whereas some artists’ voices age wonderfully, taking on rich, new qualities, others don't. It can be painful when favorite singers at the end of their careers test your loyalty. And make you think about your own future.

--It’s really a great album, don’t you think?
--Yes, I do. Very good. Now this is who?
--Diana Krall
--They must’ve been fighting each other to be paired up with him. I mean t…

HEROES IN WORD AND DEED

The Masters is over, but the most recent controversy surrounding Tiger Woods is not. This one has to do with a stark black-and-white Nike ad, in which the voice of Woods’ deceased father Earl demands to know of his son whether he’s learned anything lately. The commercial ends with Woods, somber-faced and saying nothing, still squarely centered on the viewer’s TV screen.

Although the ad’s been called weird and creepy, it’s also been described as one more from Nike that does what good ads should, gain attention and create a buzz. Either way, it provokes questions.

The first has to do with exploiting a dead father’s voice to help shore up a son’s shaken reputation and lucrative contract with Nike. Is this OK? On one hand, nobody made a fuss when Natalie Cole sang duets with her long-gone father. That, too, had to do with a child’s career being enhanced or promoted by using a dead parent’s voice. On the other hand something tells us a mute Tiger being admonished by his recently de…

BREAKING NEWS: GROWING OLD WITH JESSE

--How do they do it?
--Do what?
--Get Jesse Jackson so fast.
--You mean this thing with the governor of Virginia.
--The governor, the tea partiers smearing Obama. Any race-related breaking news story. Within hours--no, within seconds Jesse’s in a network or cable news studio.
--Providing grave-faced observations.
--For years. Decades. I’ve grown old with Jesse.
--We all have. First the Civil Rights Movement, then globe-trotting to trouble spots. Running for president
--That’s our Jesse.
--He’s no fool, though.
--He most certainly isn’t. I haven’t really heard much of what he says for the last ten or fifteen years. Because he’s a rerun for me now, and I tune out. But the very fact he’s still in there punching, still on every TV news operation’s Rolodex is a testament to longevity.
--It’s really true. You have to be built to last to be on after all these years. Even after you’re overheard saying you’d like to cut off the future president’s balls. Even after that, they’re still setting a…

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH

There’s no point in repeating what’s been said about how half the population of his state—that is, the 500,000 slaves who lived in Virginia at the time of the Civil War--somehow slipped Governor Bob McDonnell’s mind when he proclaimed April Confederate History Month.

And it shouldn’t need to be said that informing people about Confederate history is a good thing, or that using a state’s history to promote tourism is a legitimate role for a governor.

But something does need to be added: no politician of high rank, certainly not the governor of one of the fifty states, is ever solely or even principally responsible for what he does or says. What this means is that we must assume the 500,000 slaves either slipped the minds of all those who make up McDonnell’s circle of advisors and handlers, or it registered with them, but got shelved. Those are the only two ways their boss could have been allowed to blunder the way he did.

Think about it: think about all the meetings and chalk talks, a…

OF BIRTHDAY CAKES AND PEEPS: ANOTHER ADDRESS TO CROSS OFF YOUR LIST

In a few weeks, Barbara and I will leave Florida and return to Michigan. There, a really daunting task awaits us: trying to sell a tatty old four-bedroom colonial full of charm but with few other inducements. That is, inducements to buy, which assumes there are people still alive who can qualify for a mortgage. If the whole country is punch drunk from the collapse in real estate, the Detroit area is down for the count.

Perhaps as a way of persuading ourselves there's hope, late last fall we started looking at apartments. If nothing else, we thought this process would get us started imagining ourselves in different digs, digs demanding a huge, sudden leap in the level of rigor and self-discipline we bring—OK, fail to bring--to the world of stuff.


--Thanks for baking me a cake.
--Well, it’s your birthday.
--Thank you for making me a real homemade cake.
--So to speak. A real mix made at home, anyway.
--You know, you’ve never said a word about those apartments we looked at.
--Whic…

THE NEXT GENERATION

For what seems all too few spring breaks, we have enjoyed the company of two of our grandchildren here in Florida. But time is the evil genius that brings adolescence, and we have reluctantly waved goodbye for a few years, as they extend their range to places like New York City.

But we’re resourceful. For four days, we had company, friends from Florida’s Panhandle. Like us, they have grandchildren, and we arranged for them to bring theirs, so we could have our own spring break from ourselves.

There were three, all different, all high energy. It was great fun, not only having them under but also raising our roof. When at last our revels ended, they didn’t want to leave. When you’re old, that’s one of the better compliments you can be paid: a little girl you met three days ago plops down next to you and asks if she can stay.


--The peace that passeth all understanding.
--I feel stunned. Do you feel stunned?
--I feel exhausted.
--The house seems so big to me. Empty. No one’s her…