Rodney Crowell recently collaborated on an album with writer Mary Karr. Here's one of the tunes:
Rodney Crowell recently collaborated on an album with writer Mary Karr. Here's one of the tunes:
The staff participates in "Big Block of Cheese Day", a fictional workday on which White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry encourages his staff to meet with fringe special interest groups that normally would not get attention from the White House. Big Block of Cheese Day also is mentioned in "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail."
The rationale for the day, as recounted by McGarry (much to the consternation of the Senior Staff), is that America's seventh president,Andrew Jackson, had a two-ton block of cheese in the White House foyer from which everyone was welcome to eat. This symbolized the openness of the White House to the American people. White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler derisively refers to the day as "Throw Open Our Office Doors To People Who Want To Discuss Things That We Could Care Less About Day", and Deputy Chief of StaffJosh Lyman refers to it as "Total Crackpot Day".
My random lunatic issue suggestion (you can read everybody's here) was mandatory lighting/glow-in-the-dark-ing of address numbers, because have you ever tried to find a suburban house with one of those lovely old-fashioned plates on the door with the numbers in a delicate brass font in the fucking dark?
You wind up looking like a stalker/cat burglar and/or being lost for hours, driving around peering up people's driveways. It makes me goddamn crazy. How hard is this? The numbers are there so visitors bearing food and beer can find your place. Or so paramedics can bring the ambulance to the right spot. Wouldn't you want those folks to know where you are? GRRR.
What's your Big Block of Cheese issue?
Singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Dave Alvin was a part of one of the greatest brother act in rock and roll history. He and brother Phil were the heart and soul of the roots rock classicists, the Blasters.
Unlike the brothers Davies or Gallagher, the Alvins remain on good terms. That's why everyone always asks Dave about Phil and vice versa. This is a more or less a song about being a brother act:
I recently took a job that made it necessary to take a hiatus from volunteering in person at the ferret shelter, and I miss all the adoptable beasties there terribly. Especially this fella, Toby, who's four pounds easy and is the sweetest, lolling-est, cuddliest furball you ever met, and is thus referred to as Stuffy, Mr. McStuffins, Sir Stuffs-a-Lot, and other nicknames that imply that he is, in fact, a giant teddy bear:
I have a major thing for the striped-headed ones, apparently.
(Ed. Note: In writing about Betsy a few years back, I was accused of creating the "haigiography of a gas guzzling testament to why we don't have widespread public transportation." Thus, I understand that another “car” story opens me up to that again. Point taken. Also, please excuse the “colorful metaphors” others have used to describe foreign cars. As I tell my kids, violate AP’s rule regarding derogatory terms only if you have good reason. I think I met the burden, but either way, consider this a pre-strike apology. Part 2 is next week, as this just kept growing beyond what was sane to do in one shot. Thanks. – Doc.)
A Mustang discussion board I frequent for repair hints and automotive advice had an interesting question pop up a few years ago:
“What’s your favorite rice burner?”
The poster noted that obviously Mustangs were God’s gift to the automotive world, but if you had to choose a Japanese import (a.k.a. a rice burner) to own, what would it be?
The answers tended to be what you’d expect: high-speed, low-drag “Fast-and-Furious” mobiles that ate nitrous and crapped flames.
I thought about responding to the post for a while, as my answer was clearly going to be different. I finally figured I’d add to the mix.
“My dream rice burner is a 1998 Honda Civic EX,” I wrote. “It has no street mods, offers no high-end speed options and it doesn’t even have a spoiler. The reason I love it is because I own it. It gets 36 mpg, I have put about $37 in repair parts into it over the past ten years and it starts every time I ask it to, regardless of weather. Thanks to that car, I can afford to dump a ridiculous amount of money into my Stang.”
No one really said anything about it, but I felt my point had to be made: You can call them whatever you want, but the Accords, Civics, Tercels and other imports had a lot to like.
Growing up as I did, I never expected to drive a foreign car, let alone defend one. Dad was an America First-er and I was expected to follow suit. I still remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was about 16.
“When are you going to get a haircut?” he asked.
“I’m not,” I told him, running my fingers through my nearly shoulder-length mane.
“Hmm. Why don’t you get an earring then?” (Keep in mind, this was when a guy with an earring was either a rebel or a gay. In fact, the issue of “Which ear means you’re gay?” was hotly debated among the pierced and unpierced alike.)
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Then you can get a foreign car and a new place to live.”
The next day, I had my head shaved.
I learned to distrust and dislike foreign cars even more when I worked at the garage. The master mechanic, Tom, had an aversion to working on these “Jap pieces of shit.”
In many ways, he had a point about them. The econo-box cars that rolled out of Japan in the 1980s were impossibly difficult to work on when compared to the traditional American vehicles of that era. Front-wheel drive flipped the engine sideways, thrusting three sparkplugs on a V-6 up against the firewall. The smaller engine bay and additional electronic options led to less open area and more busted knuckles. Even more, the cars were designed by engineers, not mechanics. The sense that you should put an oil filter somewhere near an open space since you change it every three months never seemed to dawn on these people.
The one I remember working on most was a mid 1980s Toyota mini-van. The battery was under one of the seats of the car. The oil pan was hiding in some ridiculous spot that required you to practically create a Tennessee Valley Authority irrigation project to drain it. The radiator was… well… you get the idea.
Foreign cars were strange. Foreign cars were crappy. Foreign cars were, well, foreign.
The first time I went car shopping with The Missus was not a fun event. The Firebird I’d owned since college was suddenly car-non-grata.
I was sitting at a bar when my cell phone rang. It was my lovely fiancée calling from her job at the police station.
“Did you park in the ramp today?” she asked.
“Get over there. I just ran your plates for Jenna. Seems that someone slashed a shitload of tires and a couple of them are on the Firebird.”
I paid my bill and hustled over to the parking structure. Sure enough, I had two flats with giant ugly gashes in the sidewalls. Jenna, the police officer investigating the situation, had me hop in the car and she took me back to the station.
The next day, I had the guys at the garage put four new tires on her. I also asked them to put an alignment on the car, since she seemed to be pulling to the left. About 30 minutes later, I got a less-than-encouraging phone call.
“We can’t align the car,” the guy told me. “The steering knuckle is shot, the rack and pinion is pretty much worthless as well. You’ll need to put about another couple grand into this thing to make it right.”
I hung up the phone and went down to the garage to get the car. Tires were fine, steering sucked. I parked her outside the apartment and went upstairs to discuss the situation with the Missus. We agreed we might need to trade her in, but that we’d give it a couple days.
I went back downstairs and planned to drive to the grocery store. The car refused to shift into gear at first before finally lurching into drive.
I shut the car off, walked upstairs and told her, “We’re buying a new car tomorrow.”
It was the Missus who broke me out of the “rice burner” mode by suggesting a Nissan Xterra. It was big, it had 4-wheel drive and it would be a good car for a family when that time came. Truth be told, she actually wanted it because it had a first-aid kit built into the back of the trunk and that just seemed cool.
Our foray into the world of automotive purchasing wasn’t a good one. The cars were iffy and the salesmen were pushy. Worse yet, they committed the mortal sin of treating my wife like a handbag.
She’d ask a question that was important and completely on point. The guy would ignore her.
I’d reiterate the question and he would perk up with, “Excellent point, sir! Let me explain that to you!”
By the time we had arrived at our fourth lot, I think she wanted to geld me for the sins of the other penis bearers.
Buying the car at this place wasn’t that hard. The kid selling us the car looked like he could shave with a Kleenex and he had been on the job for about two weeks. He was still working out of the “Official Salesman’s Handbook” when it came to his pitch. At one point, he’d gone through Stages 1 and 2 of the program and he stopped and stared at us. After about a minute of awkward silence, he leaned forward and whispered, “You haven’t asked me for any money off yet…”
I said, “OK, I’d like some money off of the price.”
He then launched into the Stage 3 of the sales guy thing, explaining how we could work on price.
Eventually, we agreed on stuff and this kid had his first sale. Got the plates transferred, the car insured and everything else ironed out. Things seemed fine until later that night when I had to call home. Here I was, a faculty member who was pushing 30, living three states away, worrying that I had to call home and tell Dad I bought a “Jap piece of shit.”
He handled it better than I thought he would, although he handled it worse than when I told him the Missus ran away from home and was now living in sin with me in Missouri.
Kind of strange where some priorities lie.
After we got married, we realized we needed another car. The one we had been borrowing from our folks to hold us over as we saved for the wedding needed to be returned. What we were looking for was a Dodge Neon or something like a “grocery getter.” Gas was about $1.20 a gallon so “mpg” wasn’t a huge buzzword for us. Still, we were trying to find something small, smart and that would get us around town.
The search was spectacularly unsuccessful. The Neons we drove had huge braking and steering problems. The Saturns were beat to hell and had engine problems. Everything else either had a million miles on it or had some other massive flaw.
We decided to consider a new foreign car. The Hyundais were horrible to steer at that point and it felt like you needed a jet-assisted take off rocket to get onto I-70.
The Kias weren’t any better. I remember being on the lot with a sales guy, when I pointed out that the gas hatch looked like it was bent out. That seemed strange to me for a new car.
“Oh,” the guy said, reaching over and bending it back into place with his hand. “There we go.”
It reminded me of the “Adobe: The cute car made of clay” sketch from SNL.
We expanded our search to the outlying areas of the county. Then, we expanded it to the surrounding counties. Still, nothing looked right, worked right or felt right.
Finally, one Saturday morning, I took a drive to a city called Boonville to check out a used car lot off the freeway. When I got there, they had not only no cars of value, but no salespeople. I walked the lot for 10 minutes and couldn’t find another living soul. The thought of hotwiring something occurred to me, only to be overcome by the sense that nothing out here would be worth hotwiring. I got in the car and headed back to the freeway.
As I was approaching the on ramp, I spotted a dealership on the other side of the road. Decision time: pass up the ramp and waste more time, or go home. Hell with it… Let’s stop.
The first thing I realized about this place is that it was different. It was a Chrysler dealership. This was farm country and everything here appeared to be a diesel.
When I pulled in, there were about four old guys in bib overalls huddled around the engine bay of some gas-guzzling monstrosity. One guy in a corn-feed cap looked up and pointed at me.
“Foreign truck,” he muttered.
“Yup,” the guy next to him said, shaking his head.
There were exactly two “foreign” vehicles on the lot: The one I drove there in and the one I bought.
I still remember introducing my wife to the salesman at this lot in Boonville. His name was Jim Ray Cluck. He was a rotund man who had the distinction of being on the same high school offensive line as either the police chief or county sheriff in the area.
His business card included the slogan, “The Round Man with the Square Deal.”
I’d driven the car earlier in the week and was now getting the final approval from my wife.
The car was a 1998 Honda Civic EX model. It was four years old, had 40,000 miles on it and contained every option you could possibly imagine. It had been on the lot for almost a year without a single taker.
Jim Ray (you said the whole thing, much like “A Pimp Named Slickback”) had explained to me that the dealer bought three of these Civics from an auction house in Kansas. The first two sold in a week, because they were stick shifts and the kids in the area were tricking them out. The automatic remained untouched.
I wasn’t entirely sold on this car, but it was one of those “this is better than nothing” moments. If I could get him to move on price, I’d take it. If not, to hell with it.
Jim Ray’s boss wouldn’t move on price at all. It was a take it or leave it kind of thing. My wife had become so frustrated by the process that she finally got up and left. When I followed her to the car, she told me, “You’re really pissing me off. Either buy it or don’t but I’m not coming back in there.”
I returned to Jim Ray and told him, “She’s not happy with you.”
He sighed and took a sip out of a Styrofoam coffee cup. He then leaned in and in a conspiratorial tone, told me something that changed the dynamic.
“Look,” he said, furtively turning his head left and right on its non-existent neck. “My boss doesn’t want me to sell this car to you. We have a thing here where if you sell three used cars in a month, you get a good-sized bonus and the profit he’ll make on the car won’t be big enough to cover the bonus. What if I gave you some money back out of my own pocket to close this?”
“You mean cash?” I asked.
“If you bring cash,” he retorted.
We drove back home to clean out our bank account and return with the most money I’d ever had in my hands at once. When we sat down with him, I tossed the thick envelope containing $100 bills on the counter.
“What the hell is that?” he asked.
“Your money. Cash.”
“Jesus Christ!,” he yelped. “I meant just that we didn’t have to finance you. You coulda brought a cashier’s check!”
“Hey. You said cash.”
He had an envelope with about 200 bucks waiting for us as well. Ten minutes later, we were on our way.
As I drove home, I thought, “Well, two or three years and we’ll trade it in and get something good.”
When we moved to Muncie, the goal was to see if I could get 100,000 miles on the car before it went to shit. When we moved back to Wisconsin, the goal was to get 120,000 before the problems outweighed the benefits.
Somewhere last year, the car hit 150,000 miles. I had to do the routine repairs (exhaust, brakes etc.), but I’d only put about $37 worth of replacement parts in her, thanks in large part to a place called “Wally’s U-Pull-It.”
It was a graveyard of dead, smashed or otherwise damaged vehicles. They would gladly pull pieces off of these wrecks for you, but if you were willing to sign a “go out there at your own risk” form and wander the yard, you could pull your own part and save a bundle.
My first experience with Wally’s came when the Civic’s power steering started to squeak. Turns out, the reservoir had a giant crack in it somehow and the fluid was leaking all over the place.
I’d called a few shops and part houses to see about getting it replaced. $120 for a new part, $50 for installation, both of which seemed a bit excessive to me.
Wally’s price? Ten bucks if I could find one myself.
Found it, replaced it and fell in love with my car. There always seemed to be an ample supply of dead Civics on the lot thanks to kids who drove them like maniacs and people with Grateful Dead bumper stickers who didn’t know red means stop and green means go. The mechanical features of the car were more simple than I remembered and more intuitive than I gave them credit for.
When the AC died, I figured out it was the fan, not the compressor. The cost for diagnostics would have been $50 just to hear that from a guy in a greasy shirt. It was half that for a replacement fan from Wally’s.
When the radiator blew, I managed to swap it out for a new one (never use a used radiator; consider that “one to grow on”) along with hoses, a thermostat and several wiring harnesses I pulled from Wally’s
With the exception of tires, brakes and exhaust, which all required special tools, I did all the work myself. The car was more than holding its own and I had come to bond with it in a very weird way.
It wasn’t like the Mustang, a dream car.
It wasn’t like my Thunderbird, my first car.
It wasn’t like anything else I could put my finger on. It was just a really good used car that ran like a top and survived like a tank.
My new goal was to put a quarter million miles on her and drive her until 2018. Then, I would get “Collector” plates on her and demand that I be allowed to drive her in the Fourth of July parade, as she would be a classic.
Fate has a funny way of screwing with you.
It wasn’t a transmission or an engine or an axle that was on its way to dying that forced me to think about selling my car.
It was my great uncle.
Uncle Ronnie was my mom’s mother’s brother and he was not doing well. He had survived a bout with colon cancer somewhere along the way, but remained on borrowed time. He lived alone, having never married and often was the after-thought by some folks in the family. After Grandma died, Mom made sure Uncle Ron was always invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, which were often the only good meals he had. When the Illinois branch of the family invited Mom down for birthday parties, she made sure Uncle Ronnie had a seat in the car and was able to attend.
Two months ago, he was hospitalized with a MRSA infection. A week or so later, they sent him home, only to have him hospitalized again the next day. Mom knew he couldn’t live on his own any more and together they began the process of getting him into “a home.”
Things must have been terrible for that to happen. When Mom’s grandma was dying and riddled with dementia, great-grandma found a moment of lucidity and with terrified eyes begged Mom, “Please… Don’t let them put me in a home.”
My grandmother was crippled with cancer to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed. Still, she was adamant: I’m dying at home.
Three weeks after our wedding, she did just that.
For him to say he didn’t want to live and that he couldn’t be on his own, well, that just wasn’t our way.
As the power of attorney, Mom had to make some moves. She had to clean out his apartment, settle his banking and take care of anything else that he wouldn’t or couldn’t use. The car he had became one of those things.
The 2001 Civic he owned was unlike anything else in his life. While he ate Spaghetti-Os cold out of the can and abhorred changing his clothes, the car was in perfect working order. Oil changes every 3,000 miles, tires every 40,000 and anything the guy said was broken got fixed. He pretty much was the stereotype salesmen talk about: the little old person who only drove it to the senior center. After 11 years, it had 46,000 miles on it.
Mom and Dad had long since gotten out of the life of selling their old cars by putting a “FOR SALE” sign in the window. They also lacked the space to keep it at their place.
For all Dad’s proclamations that he’d love a little “get around” car, he had no interest in this thing. It wasn’t a Cadillac and it was still a foreign car (never mind that it was probably built in Kentucky).
I told them it wasn’t a problem. They could store the car on our land until they figured out what they wanted to do with it and I’d drive it occasionally to keep the seals lubed and the battery charged.
Two days later, Mom had a different idea.
“We’d like to sell you the car.”
The Missus had been dropping hints that it might be time to trade in our Civic. It’s getting a bit old, she’d note. Hey, there’s a sale at (fill in the name of the car lot) this weekend. Maybe we should look, she’d mention.
It wasn’t going to happen. The Civic was like an old pair of shoes: it fit just right.
I knew what was right and wrong. I knew how it acted on the road. I could practically set the cruise and drift off to sleep and let the car drive me to work.
Thanks, but no thanks, I’d tell my wife. We’re fine for now.
When this deal came up, though, I felt I had to do this. My wife was right: our car was getting older. I found myself doing more work on her. I found the problems I knew were going to be coming up and I knew we weren’t far from seeing them in full flower.
She needed new brakes in about six months.
The timing belt was about 20,000 miles past the “you should really change this” line.
The alignment was drifting a bit. The tranny was getting old. I wasn’t sure how much longer the engine had. It had gone from a worry-free tank to a “how long do you want to let it ride?” roll of the dice.
My uncle’s Civic was fine. It was a good car. It was well maintained.
But it wasn’t mine.
Still, we agreed on the price, which was more than reasonable and I set about trying to sell my Civic.
At first, I did the things that most people do when they don’t want to do something: I sabotaged myself.
I set the asking price at about $400 above what AutoTrader told me to. I explained in the ad that I didn’t want to sell it. I failed to list a few attributes that would draw people to the car. I took the cheapest ad possible, thus making it a bit harder to find.
The thought of selling my uncle’s car instead entered and left my mind quickly. It would piss off pretty much everyone involved for a variety of reasons. Plus, logically, I knew I needed to do this. Still…
After about a week of no real interest and a couple calls, I decided to get serious: bigger add, more features, lower price.
As it turns out, I probably didn’t need to submarine myself. The car was doing just fine on its own in that regard.
As I was cleaning the carpet on the passenger’s side floorboards, I noticed the carpet felt tacky. I figured it was either a coffee spill or some Midget-related beverage debacle.
I rubbed the carpet and put my fingers to my nose. The sickly sweet chemical smell chilled me.
The heater core blew.
A heater core is a simple thing: it’s a mini radiator that sits in your car. Hot coolant from the engine runs through it and a fan blows air across it to heat the cabin. It’s also a stupid thing, in that engineers tend to hide them in some of the dumbest places around. Of all the things that were intuitive on this car, the heater core was not among them.
To get at this thing, you had to disassemble the entire dash. You then had to remove several parts of the heating system. You then had to take out part of the steering system, the radio, the dash panel and more.
If you wanted to do it right, you also had to have your AC system professionally drained of Freon and have the condenser in the car removed. You also had to be inverted during the entire process so you could see under the dash. You had to force the seat to recline all the way, hang your feet over the headrest and descend into the foot well.
In other words, this was not an easy job.
The cost for a pro to do this was well over $1,000. The part alone cost upwards of $250 and that’s on a good special. Of all the things that could break that mattered but didn’t kill the car, this was the worst.
I talked to a couple guys at the parts store, who told me, no, you could actually do this without draining the AC. They also said you could get into it without any special tools.
The choice was simple: fix it yourself or the car is dead. The cost to get it fixed wouldn’t be recouped and I could get more money from Wally’s by turning it in for parts than I could if I paid to have the core redone and then sold it for what it was worth.
After two days of bleeding hands, scarred arms and a coolant headache, I got to the point where I could see the heater core. I still couldn’t touch it, but I could see it.
After two more days, I could touch it but not move it.
Of course, as is Murphy’s Law, now I had a ton of people calling with great interest in the car. They wanted to come out on the weekend and drive it.
It was Tuesday. I had five days to figure this out.
By the time Thursday rolled around, I had to make a choice: Was I going to replace this the “Honda approved” way or was I going to actually make this happen? This heater core was the full fruition of every racist stereotype Tom spat forth while working on Hondas and Toyotas in the garage: Stuff was too tight to fit, they built it so you couldn’t work on it, the thing wasn’t engineered for repairs…
I went back into the house and grabbed soda. The Missus looked at me and said, “Oh my God, your head is bleeding!”
I wiped the blood off of my head, once, twice and then stopped. Turns out, my head was fine. I was just bleeding profusely from both of my hands and I had touched my head. I wiped my hands on my pants and sat on the steps.
She chose her next words slowly and cautiously.
“You know,” she began. “We got a great deal on the green Civic. If you can’t fix this, it’s OK. We can just call Wally’s and take whatever they’ll give us for it.”
It was this car that took us through the ice storms of Muncie. It got us home when her beloved Xterra failed on some shitty road near Lebanon, Indiana. It took me to Minnesota every summer. It never quit on me. I couldn’t quit on it. I couldn’t see her out there when I went through the yard to pick the bones of some other car.
I stood up on wobbly legs.
“I’ll be in the garage.”
Joey the shark chewed up and spat out that weenie little wingnut from Janesville, Wisconsin. Joe was commanding and avuncular whereas Ryan looked like he bought his suit in the kid's department.
A few quick comments:
Martha Raddatz won some admirers in the Crack Van for playing dominatrix with Ryan. She refused to call him Mister and stuck to Congressman even though the little fuckmook's handlers made that a "debate rule." We never saw whether or not she was wearing dominatrix boots but she was no Jim Lehrer, y'all.
Ryan forgot to be a fake moderate when he admitted that they'd ban almost all abortions. So much for a week worth's of weasel words from the Mittbot.
The most important thing that the Veep brought to the debate was energy after the President's flat performance in the jinxed for incumbents first debate. He was on fire, calling Ryan on his prevarications and general malakatude.
If Paul Ryan is the "intellectual leader of the Republican party," they're in deep trouble. Nonsensical word salad kept spewing out of his mouth and he made no sense at least half the time. The only thing that he made clear was that Romney-Ryan have a secret plan for everything.
I call it a decisive victory for our lovable lunch bucket Democratic Veep. I guess Andrew Sullivan and Tweety can return those Depends that I sent them. Not really, but I wanted to...
I'll let Split Enz have the last word, why I'll never know? Oh yeah, the post title:
Scout will be your guest driver this evening. Or just take turns at the wheel. NO VIOLENCE. Also no bogarting of the ferrets. Posts in the van belong to their posters, not to anyone else at First Draft. The good scotch is under the front passenger seat.
Van's pulled into the gas station to fuel up for next week. See you then!
"I want to be blunt: We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work, and access to birth control, in 2012. These issues were resolved years ago – until the Republicans brought them back.”
That oughta rate at least 4 tomahawk chops...
Detroit Lions all-time great, broadcaster and actor, Alex Karras, has died after a long illness at the age of 77. Unfortunately, more people are mentioning his part on the junky sitcom Webster than his days as one of the fiercest and best defensive players of the NFL's early days. Karras' name also surfaced recently during the Saints bountygate clusterfuck since he and Paul Hornung were suspended for the 1963 season for betting on games but never against their own teams. That's probably why Karras is not in the football hall of fame but he should be since Hornung is in like Flynn...
If you've ever read George Plimpton's classic book, Paper Lion, or seen the Alan Alda movie based on the book, you know that Karras was an intelligent, articulate and funny man. If you're unfamiliar with Paper Lion, check it out: Plimpton practiced with the Lions, and even played QB in an exhibition game. No, not a pre-season game, they hadn't come up with that dread euphemism in the 1960's.
Since Karras was one of the first Greek-Americans to achieve national prominence, my late father offered his classic commentary about that fact: "He's Greek, you know. He's doing very well."
The main reason I am posting in honor of Alex Karras, however, is his indelible performance as Mongo in the Mel Brooks masterpiece, Blazing Saddles. I am prone to employ Mongo speak when it suits me, as I will now: "Mongo sad."
I'll be out tomorrow night, but Scout has promised to be your guest van driver for the evening as Joey the Shark and that other dude debate. I'm hoping it's just two hours of Biden standing there with one eyebrow raised while Ryan blithers on endlessly.
“When you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you,” he said. “When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they want to kill themselves.”
I don't usually recycle other bloggers' material but this sums up panicky pundit syndrome in a nutshell.
Finally, I'm considering passing the hat to buy Andrew Sullivan some Depends. He's been shiting himself since the debate so he's bound to be in need...
Mitt Romney said Tuesday he has no plans to push for legislation limiting abortion, a softer stance from a candidate who has said he would "get rid of" funding for Planned Parenthood and appoint Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the Republican presidential nominee told The Des Moines Register in an interview.
Oh for fuck's sake. Just take a position and stick with it. Own your evil. I have more respect for movement pro-lifers at this point because at least they're being consistent in their contempt for women and their placing slogans above substance. At least you know where they're at, even if it's on the street corner holding pictures of dismembered baby dolls in ketchup.
Nucky Thompson is still in a bad mood when Blue Bell Boy begins. Beating the legal system hasn't improved his disposition at all. I'm not sure that being all-gangster works with his self image but it's been great for the show. The post title was said by the Nuckster to one of his lame henchman. Good help has always been hard to find, y'all. And it bites Nucky in his skinny Irish ass.
Okay, time to ramble. I'm feeling kinda like Dicky Betts, only without the tats, cowboy hat and coke habit:
V is for Vagina: The Margaret-Hospital story really clicked for me this week. The dialogue with the nun was hilarious as well as, uh, gravid. A word the sister liked better than pregnant. It's a medical term that only nerdy geeky science/medical types know. It sounds like a gravid image or something.
The sister also objected to the word menstruation, and to Dr. Pipe Smoker who had the audacity to remind her that it was a Latin word. She was unimpressed and called the word a "regrettable tautology" and the doctor a smarty pants. I hope we see Sister Weisenheimer again. That's probably not her name, sounds more like one of Meyer or Benny's kith and kin. Speaking of da boys:
The Mustache Pete as anti-Semite: Joe Masseria is a nasty piece of work even for a Mafioso, folks. He calls Charlie Lucky on the carpet for not wetting his beak *and* for having the effrontery to have Jewish partners. Masseria goes on and on about how "they have no heart" and "will stab you in the back." Actually, the latter is a Sicilian specialty as is the garrot, which is typically performed from behind, Italian doggy style.
Benny Bugsy is now, uh, bugging Meyer to have a "place at the table." What is he? A waiter in the Poconos? Meyer, in turn, is vaguely jealous of not having a double name like Charlie Lucky and Benny Bugsy...
That's Why They Call Him Greasy Thumb: Meanwhile in Chicago, there's a bullying epidemic. Capone's bagman, Jake Greasy Thumb Guzik, apparently, smells like a noxious mixture of garlic, dill pickles and onions. After Capone urges him to clean up, one of Dion O'Bannion's thugs cleans Jake's clock in a Southside speakeasy. Capone's Southside. Bad move, boy-o.
The other bullying victim is Scarface Al's young deaf son. Tough guy Alphonse tries to teach the boy how to box but the kid breaks out in tears. To Capone's credit, he hugs his son and foregoes punishment. The only ones who were disciplined were the viewers who had to listen to Capone's bad singing and crappy mandolin plucking.
Upon hearing that Jake got his ass kicked in the outfit's territory, Al goes to the bar, meets the Irish wiseguy and promptly beats him to death. In a sort of twisted hommage to Della Streeet the cat, the coup de grace is delivered with a bar stool. Okay, it had nothing to do with Della but she's really into stools...
I guess a therapist would day that Al's brutal beating of the Irish lackey was trasnference from his desire to beat down his boy's bully. What would Capone say? Fuggedaboutit.
Speaking of Lackeys Who Lack Brains: I mentioned before that Nucky has a problem with the help; especially with the dim braggart, Mickey Doyle, in charge of his bootlegging operation. Mickey is warned by Brother Eli that Gyp Rosetti is planning to ambush their trucks at Taber Heights. Nucky had ordered Doyle to stay off the main road but the moron did not listen, with disastrous results. You know you're in trouble when Eli is one of your smartest henchman. Little brother may be on the verge of a comeback.
The IRA Man, The Kid and Nucky In The Basement: One reason that Doyle is in sole command of the ill-fated Rothstein convoy is that Owen and Nucky have tracked down that pesky hijacker who stole an earlier Rothstein order. For a professional gambler, Arnold was sure an unlucky goniff...
They corner the kid and are, in turn, cornered by crooked prohibition agents who ransack the house for booze but, quite sensibly, only give the basement a cursory look-see. Everybody knows that basements are for ghosties, zombies and survivalists, and are often used as a burial place by serial killers and other assorted evil doers and no-goodniks.
The kid talks a smooth line and charms the hell out of the IRA man, Owen, who is usually immune to blarney. I think he sees something of himself in the rakish Irish youth and wants to spare the urchin's life. Said urchin reminds me of one of the Dead End Kids from the 1930's Warner Brothers gangster movies. They later morphed into the East End KIds and finally the Bowery Boys. Where have you gone Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey? Yeah, I know. They're dead. I only hope neither is buried in a basement somewhere...
Nucky plays his cards close to his bespoke vest whilst he, Owen, and the Kid are stuck in the basement over night. He's vexed with Owen and is getting more paranoid every day. The only reason for him to mistrust Owen is that the latter is smart enough to mount his own personal Easter Uprising.
The Kid, alas, reminds Nucky of his late ward, Jimmy Darmody, and despite the Kid's convincing palaver about what an asset he'd be, his fate is identical to Jimmy's. A bullet in the back of the head. That, too, was a bit of projection, transference or whatever the hell they call it nowadays.
Owen is stunned that Nucky killed the Kid and says,"I thought you were going to let him go." Nucky eyes him coldly and says, "Where did you get that idea?"
Owen's meek reply: "I misundersood." But deep down, he understands that there was no misunderstanding and that his cranky boss is sending him a message. Holy projection, Batman.
My only complaint about episode-4 is that I'm suffering from a Chalky White deficiency in my diet. More Chalky, please, it's a Gyp without him...
I'll let Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford have the last word this week:
Because don't get me wrong, your first fall is always the hardest and oh my GOD, the Three Garridebs and the Granada version and the BBC series and even Elementary isn't terrible, but in answering Melissa's question I have to go with Michael Jericho:
I've loved Robert Lindsay since the A&E Horatio Hornblower series, in which he took a character that I'd never thought much about and made him the weight and conscience of the entire program, such that the Internets invented elaborate and varying backstories for him and the fanfiction had fanfiction, we all gave that much of a damn. Watch "The Wrong War" (or "Frogs and Lobsters") when he says he stands accused by his own conscience, and just try not to feel it like a punch in the gut.
But Michael Jericho ... it's not just the hard-boiled thing. Those are a dime a dozen. It's the compassion he shows towards victims and the cruelty he displays towards himself and those who love him the most, it's the intense race and class consciousness of the show itself. I've got a whole post somewhere about Law and Order: UK and the ways in which British crime shows deal honestly with divisions Americans like to pretend don't exist. (I've been watching Prime Suspect for the first time and holy shit.) Servants and employers, black and white, immigrant and native-born, gay and straight, the show jumps right into it and chews it all up and finds no easy answers.
Mostly, though, it's that Jericho is a story about people coming back from the war, and if you've been reading here since the Galactica days you know there's nothing I love more than a story about the aftershocks. Jericho and his partner, Clive Harvey, came back from World War II and the world they left didn't exist anymore. Jericho's one true love married someone else. Clive's wife and kids lived through the Blitz, but barely. All around them boundaries are blurring and the old rules no longer apply.
And everything they do, everything that happens to them, everything they do to one another, comes from the absolute disorientation you feel when it wasn't the world that exploded, it was you. The world is the same. You're the different thing.
I know it's been said before like a thousand times but the overwhelming butthurt coming from our multimillionaire class has gotten way old. I'm tired of it, I really am. I would like you people to take a steaming cup of STFU and please, go Galt or go to your island in the Caribbean or the south of France or whatever better place you think exists for people like you and just leave the rest of us alone. We'll clean up your mess, just like we always do. We're used to it by now.
Today we learn that timeshare kingpin David Siegel, whose crashing empire was chronicled in the documentary "Queen of Versailles," has sent a letter to his "valued employees" in which he tells them they will all be fired if President Obama gets reelected. Because of taxes and stuff. And fairness. And class war. And on and on.
So, y'know, no pressure or anything, just something to keep in mind as you head into the voting booth in a few weeks.
Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me- there is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I'm the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed. Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I've made.
Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn't.
Now the economy is falling apart? Now? Where were you in October 2008, buddy? Remember who was president then? Your good buddy George W. Bush, the man whom you claim to have single-handedly re-elected in 2004 through "probably illegal" means (and I'm quoting you from Queen Of Versailles here). You support people who treat the global economy like their personal gambling casino and when it all falls apart you want to blame us? Don't think so, buddy. You created this mess, now you've got to live with it, just like the rest of the hoi polloi. You think you're special? You're not.
He closes with this:
You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.
Yes, please go. Go now. Don't wait until November. You are a bloated leech on the hard work of the middle class, the real engine of our economy, and the very people whom you deride as living a worry-free existence thanks to your sacrifice. This country would be better off without you. Ta-ta. Buh-bye.
I suppose I should be a little more gracious to these poor dears. I should find that last shred of Christian charity that still lurks somewhere deep in my soul. But right now I'm so over this shit, I can't even be bothered to muster the energy to look for it.
MSNBC host Laurence O'Donnell is a world class name dropper. He has a hard time getting through his show without name checking Pat Moynihan or mentioning his time as a technical adviser and producer on The West Wing. I don't object to name dropping, actually. Gore Vidal was a world class name dropper who could drop world class names at the drop of a world class hat. I've been known to drop a name or two in my day but I'm a piker compared to Laurence.
Anyway, there was a whole lotta name droppin' goin' on last night on the Last Word. The West Wing's Toby, Richard Schiff, did a turn segment announcing and discussing Mitt's Big Bird hokum. I'm abashed to admit it but I'd forgotten about the Muppets appearance on The West Wing. Woe is me, bop.
Anyhoo, here's that very amusing segment featuring a bird, a name dropper, an actor and a robot:
The Mittbot gave a foreign policy speech on Columbus Day. He's discovered, not the new world, but the fantasy President Obama. You know, the dude who runs around apologizing for America instead of deploying drones and shit. That's right: the one who doesn't exist. Mitt's speech was typically vague but since all his foreign policy advisers are B-list neo-cons such as Dan Senor and John Bolton, we know he's ready to go McCain on the world's ass, and invade anyone who the neo-cons don't like. Anyone? I guess I meant to say anywhere, anyhow, anyway I choose...
Time to circle back to the post title. Other than the heavy drinking and his time as a Liberal government minister, American conservatives love Winston Churchill, or at least think they do. He and Mrs. Thatcher are probably the only British PM's they've heard of. Me, I'm more partial to Atlee, Asquith, the pre-Iraq War Tony Blair, and Disraeli, who makes me dizzy, but I digress. One more digression: that picture of the never totally drunk nor completely sober Winnie with the tommygun scares the shit out of me. I keep imagining some sensible chap in the back taking cover out of concern that the PM is about to fire a few rounds...
Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, an unarmed Winston Churchill. My favorite Churchillism is "better jaw, jaw, jaw than war, war, war."
Mitt and the B-list/chickenhawk neo-cons have inverted that formula. Like John McCain, Romney never met a country he didn't want to bomb and never saw a world crisis that he didn't think could be resolved by military action. Of course, Senator Walnuts *actually* meant it whereas with the Mittbot ya never know. Let's hope we don't find out. There's one former Republican US Senator who loathes the idea of the chickenhawk Romney as Commander-in-Chief as much as I do.
I'll let those staunch Republicans, Silvio Dante and Tony Soprano, have the last word this Columbus Day:
I think this sort of thing demonstrates the inadequacy of our educational discourse. First, it really should give pause to anyone who is among the “blame teachers first” crowd; how can a teacher be blamed for the results of processes that begin, at the latest, during the toddler stage? But more to the point, it demonstrates that our educational outputs are conditioned by a host of factors that are really beyond society’s control. We don’t take children from their parents, and of course we shouldn’t. But a growing body of evidence suggests that parental input at the earliest stage of life have a huge impact on the success of children. How do we square that with our egalitarian aspirations, when we know that not all parents are made equal? I don’t have an answer, except for this: to protect all of our people from disadvantage through a robust and generous social safety net.
I can't tell you how important it is to be able to write. Not from an artistic perspective, but from a practical one when searching for jobs or doing those jobs. If your e-mail is entirely AOL kiddiespeak, or misuses words, you don't get to the next stage of the interview. If you can't fill out a form in plain language, or read a paragraph to understand insurance benefits or a doctor's instructions, or write a request letter, it stymies you in ways that go far beyond just the inconvenience of not expressing your thoughts clearly.
Part of solving this is equalizing the opportunity for exposure: better funding for libraries and musuems, especially in economically disadvantaged communities. Part of this is also making sure we close the digital divide; there are whole libraries online and I know the joke is that today's technologically connected kids don't read but reading on a screen is still reading.
And part of this is making sure there is time in which to read. It's easy to bag on parents who don't read to their kids, but if you're working two jobs and aren't home for bedtimes, if you're so exhausted when you get home that you've got nothing left to give to your family, if you're miles from a university or school of any quality or ambition and don't get paid holidays to take trips, if your every thought is about the rent and the phone and electric bills, where exactly are you supposed to find the reserves to pick up Dickens, or even Judy Blume?
I joke all the time that as the oldest of three I was the starter kid, and my dad, though working full-time, did stuff like taking me to see Star Wars when I was two and reading me The Hobbit when I was five and generally treating me like an equal when it came to culture from the time that I could talk. He just sort of popped me into a backpack and went on about his day, and as a result I got exposed to a lot of things we now consider luxuries, or think of as adult pleasures. We would take annual trips down to Chicago and spend the day wandering around the Art Institute looking at paintings. One night we stayed over in a hotel (exciting!) and after dinner happened upon a play that was just starting in a cramped theater upstairs in a college. It was To Kill a Mockingbird, and it blew my tiny little mind.
We could do things like that not just because we had (relative) money -- museums have free days and there's all kinds of low-cost theater options available even in small towns, and libraries too -- but because we had the time. Vibrant literature is evidence of free minds, and a great society is one that can support the freedom to expose oneself to great writing, the mental and physical space in the day to take it in. Quality child care, sensible family leave policies, living wages, all of those have as much to do with creating generations of readers and writers as anything that happens in a classroom.
Good morning, my fine friends - feeling run down? Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular?
Well, old Professor T's got the cure for what ails ya, right there in this little old corroded drum, and I'll tell you what I'm gonna do! For a fee of absolutely nothing, I'm gonna give ya a little peek at what real despair is!
Yessiree Bob, there's nothing that can make your debate doldrums go away like a little peek at a - Posting from Magda Goebbels!
Last Night I Cried
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:32:28 AM by SandyLynn
Last night, I gave in and cried. As the Mom of 3 kids, I feel hopeless. The polls show that Obama is winning, whether we try to deny it or not. I keep asking myself "Who are these so-called Americans who will re-elect this disaster we've had in office for almost 4 years?" I am scared. Scared for the lives my children will have to live, thanks to the resident currently occupying the White House. No, I will never call him my president..in my opinion, you have to EARN that title. And the man who currently occupies the White House is much more concerned about being popular with the "in" crowd..you know, the Hollywood Liberals. Who cares that gas prices have tripled since he took office? That food prices have skyrocketed? That most of us who work for a living are struggling from paycheck to paycheck while the lazy people live off of our hard work? Hopeless. I keep going back to that word..because I feel as though we have nowhere to go. And shock. Because I cannot believe we have so many stupid Americans in our country! Don't get me wrong. I will vote, and cast my vote for Romney. But really, is it enough? I don't think so. Fellow FReepers..is all lost, as I think it is?
Sandy Lynn - before you hand out cyanide pills to those younguns, take heart.
Sure - your dream candidate Fred Thompson Sarah Palin Rick Santorum Rick Perry Herman Cain Newt Gingrich Mitt Romney will save you!
To: SandyLynnDespair is a sin. Trust in God.
Christ is Victorious.
To: SandyLynnI'm also beginning to get that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pray every day for Our Country, and I'm beginning to think Divine Intervention may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves.
AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s where I stopped reading.
Dont have time for people that watch left-wing news outlets and then come to FR to emote and look for therapy.
If you are for real, get a grip and act like an actual conservative.
I’ll try to be nice. No, I won’t. You are a jerk. You never bump a prayer thread? You never offer a word of compassion or concern to a FReeper? I’d like to think you are operating in a tough love style of “help” here.
But I doubt it.43 posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:49:40 AM by Responsibility2nd (NO LIBS. This Means Liberals and (L)libertarians! Same Thing. NO LIBS!!)..
“I’ll try to be nice. No, I won’t. You are a jerk.”
In a war like this, you’re damn right I’m a jerk. When you sit and watch BS on networks you know are full of BS and fall for it, I DONT have sympathy for you, PERIOD.
You want to cry? Cry in a private message. Too many people here are already too darn wobbly to have a textual breakdown show up, it causes other nervous-Nellies
"Nervous Nellies"?? Did he really say that?? Dude - 1935 called, and wants its slang back.
to lose focus, and just gives spies from the other side encouragement to ramp up the BS further.
So sorry if it seems “mean”.
To: SandyLynnTurn off the media except real conservative talk radio and message boards like FR.
Zero is nowhere near as strong as the Godless communists pretend him to be.
61 posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:58:36 AM by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.).
Certainly, if we give out lump sums of cash, there will be people who just blow it on drugs, gambling or alcohol. But the current social safety net isn't immune from fraud either. The research in the story is compelling, showing that most people who are given cash transfers use it to educate themselves and take care of their children.
Word. I'm just about done worrying about what could possibly happen if we give someone who's poor a truly pathetic amount of money so that he doesn't STARVE TO DEATH, when shit like this is going on:
Ed Burke's Juicy Fruit
"Ten years ago, Chicago's most powerful alderman, Edward M. Burke, and the rest of the City Council signed off on a deal that promised $16 million in taxpayer subsidies to the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. to help it build a new corporate campus on Goose Island rather than move to the suburbs," the Sun-Times reports.
"Three years later, Burke's law firm, retained by Wrigley, persuaded Cook County officials to lower the property assessments for two buildings the chewing gum giant had bought down the street from the new campus. Burke's legal work helped Wrigley cut its property taxes by more than $412,000 between 2006 and 2008, records show.
"For that, the company says, it paid the alderman about $90,000 in legal fees."
So Wrigley still came out more than $15 million ahead.
Obviously we can't trust these schmucks with lump sums of cash, so why not put them on some kind of punitive voucher system and drug test them frequently while mocking them in campaign speeches and on Facebook with stupid memes? I mean, give them lump sums of cash, and every banker schmoe in sight is going to be blowing it on ill-advised IPOs and badly designed vacation homes, or they're going to lose it altogether. Parasites.
In all seriousness, OF COURSE we should just give people a wad of bills every month (or every week, or whatever) so they can make the same life-or-death decisions about which bill gets paid when that everybody who isn't Mitt Romney is making these days. Then they could put off buying spaghetti sauce in order to get diapers. Then they could duct-tape the hole in their shoes, so they can go to the pharmacy and get a flu shot. Then their lives would be up to them, the way yours is when you're not beholden to the crabbiest busybody on the Fox News block.
The only downside to giving away a lump of money is that it would interfere with our need to create a situation where we can be sure they won't be spending "our" taxpayer dollars on booze, or organic vegetables, or sugary soda, and if there is one thing we absolutely love in this godforsaken country it is getting our national back up over $2.50 worth of fucking groceries. We love that more than football and chocolate cake and handjobs. Telling stories about shitty poor people we know is like our national Olympics and it never ends.
We love it because it gives us a pass not to give a shit about the enduring nature of poverty in America. If we can pull up an anecdote about JUST ONE SINGLE POOR PERSON being an asshole then that means we don't have to feel bad about the next poor person we see. Because people who aren't Us are all the same anyway, and love is a bowl of sugar and there's only so much so don't waste it on the unworthy. Instead, just sit around on your damn couch and wait for a really worthy cause to come along. I'm sure it'll be here any second.
Number two, by making it about "our taxpayer dollars" and which side of the line we're on, we're giving ourselves the righteously indignant self-esteem boost of thinking we're on the upside. In truth, welfare of any kind isn't me paying for your groceries. It's goddamn INSURANCE that if I need groceries that bad someday and am broke, I can get some. Put it just that selfishly, if you want. It's not assistance to someone else. It's making a deposit at the bank of karma and if you don't ever have to visit that ATM, be fucking glad about it instead of complaining.
We absolutely should have a lot more trust in the inherent decency of the overwhelming number of people who need help in this country, and spend a shitload of a lot less time crabbing at them about the exact brand of pickle relish they buy and whether we think they deserve to splurge on the brand-name stuff this month.
Mitt Romney continues to show improved numbers in polls published since the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday and has now made clear gains in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. The forecast gives him roughly a 20 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, up from about 15 percent before the debate.
TWENTY PERCENT. We are so fucked.
In all seirousness, if Uncle Fluffy shows up for the next two debates Romney might make a game of it but in no way is it all over. Because I don't think Uncle Fluffy's gonna show up again.
Here's Clapton from a long run at the Royal Albert Hall in London during the Journeyman tour. I saw this band in NOLA and they kicked some serious ass. The opener, Pretending, is one of my favorite EC tunes: