I've had this Deep Purple classic in my head for days so it's time to share. This live version comes from a 1993 reunion of the Machine Head lineup featuring Ritchie Blackmore tearing it up on lead guitar:
Her name was Ellen Shoshany Kaim and she taught me the
secret to life while we were waiting for a park board meeting to commence.
A blizzard was pounding Madison, as wind swept across the
isthmus from what seemed to be every direction. It was the kind of day where
you wanted to sit home and do nothing. In my case, I had to work at the
newspaper and I was praying for a quiet night of making cop calls and writing
briefs out of the briefs bin.
For reasons past my understanding, the dayside editor had
received pressure from the upper management to get more work out of the
nightside reporters. In an attempt to appease someone or other, he had me
slated to cover a park board meeting.
Nothing of importance ever comes out of a park board meeting
and nothing of importance was expected to come out of this one either. My boss
had circled three minor agenda items and told me I could patch together a
byline story out of them. As I listened to him tell me what he wanted, I stole
glances out the newsroom windows, which were being buffeted by angry
The drive was about six or seven miles, but I was driving a
1991 Pontiac Firebird. This car took to snow like oil took to water. It had no
back end weight and often fishtailed out of control, despite the fact I’d
dumped my dad’s entire collection of weightlifting equipment into the trunk in
an attempt to improve the traction.
The snow had been falling for about two hours at a rapid
pace and the streets department wasn’t clearing the roads. The theory was that the
folks with the plows would wait until most of the snow had fallen and do one
good clearing because what kind of idiot would be on the road in this crap?
I got to the meeting with about ten minutes to spare, only
to find that no one from the board was there yet. The only thing in the empty
room was a microphone and a small, rumpled woman who looked to be about 900
years old. She sat quietly among the chairs in about the fourth row.
When I entered the room, she looked back at me with a smile spreading
across her wrinkled face. “Why are you here?” she asked me in a very thick
European accent that I couldn’t quite place.
I told her the newspaper sent me out here to cover the park
board meeting and I wasn’t sure if the meeting was still on. She explained that
the board members had an event or something downstairs that was still ongoing
and it had been delayed because of a ridiculous amount of snow. She said she
had taken the bus here much earlier in the day and had been waiting for the
“I came to talk about my rock,” she said.
Given the accent, I wasn’t sure I heard her right, so I
repeated what she told me. She greeted the response with a perfunctory nod of
pride and agreement.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I told her. “Your rock?”
Her eyes lit up as she realized I was a trapped audience of
one. She explained that she had saved about $30,000 and was donating it to the
parks department to create a memorial to the Holocaust. She was having a giant
boulder put into one of the area parks with a plaque on it to remind people of
what had happened all those years ago. Two benches would face the boulder and
would be dedicated to two men I had never heard of who, like Oskar Schindler, had
aided Jews in their survival.
She didn’t look like she had a pot to pee in or a window to
throw it out of. She also had taken the bus here, lived in an apartment in a
less-than-stellar part of town and seemed a bit off. The idea of her having
$30,000 and just giving it to the city for a giant rock didn’t seem plausible.
As a reporter, I’d heard all sorts of stories over the years and I had learned
to be wary of stuff like this.
As I was pondering all of this, she seemed to see a look of
quizzical doubt creeping across my face.
“I do this because there is guilt in surviving,” she said.
“You have to help people remember. We aren’t many left.”
She then told me the tale of how she came from a family of
well-to-do German Jews in 1930s Berlin. As Hitler rose to power, her father was
warned to find a way out of the country. A week before the military started
closing down the borders, she was ferried out of Germany along with the rest of
her immediate family.
They made their way to America, where she grew up and
eventually met a nice Jewish boy she wanted to marry. His trip to this country
had been sidetracked by a stay at the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp.
The camp took on many stages of use, ranging from a POW camp
to a “shoe” work camp. Eventually, the former leaders of Auschwitz took over
and converted it to a death camp. Although the camp lacked the traditional
tools of death associated with these facilities, such as gas chambers,
approximately 50,000 people died there, mainly due to typhus. The camp gained
notoriety in 1945 after images of the liberated camp become public and it remained
in the collective conscience when it became known that Anne Frank had died
She spared me the details I’m sure her husband shared with
her over the years. The one thing she did tell me was that she married him in
the late 1960s and until the day he died, he slept with his arms folded and his
hands placed on his shoulders. He never moved an inch during sleep. She
explained that was how he was forced to sleep in the camps and despite his best
efforts, he could never shake the habit.
The Nazis cost her aunts, uncles, cousins and more. As the
years went by, she found that more people showed more doubt about the stories
she shared and information that emerged. She kept saying to me that it was
important for people to remember and for the people who saw and experienced
these things to keep finding ways to remind people so it never happened again.
I found myself taking notes, forgetting all about why I was
there in the first place. I then asked her name and asked if I could tell her
story. After three attempts to have her spell her name for me and me screwing
it up, I handed over my reporter’s pad and she printed out “Ellen Shoshany
The park board had found its way into the meeting room at
this point and its members were shuffling through their paperwork. Mrs. Kaim
and I settled into our seat and got ready for the meeting to start. I was
looking toward the front of the room when I felt a tug on my arm. I looked down
and saw her gnarled hand.
She had a small twinkle in her eye and asked, “Would you
like to know what I have found to be the secret to life?”
She beckoned me in with a bony finger and I leaned in close,
as to not have her voice disrupt the meeting as it was called to order.
“Spend all your money on education and travel.”
I gave her kind of a strange look.
She answered my stare.
“Those are the two things no one can ever take away from
The meeting began and Mrs. Kaim took to the front of the
room, explaining the rock and her plans for it. The board passed it with no
trouble at all. I had to duck out of the meeting early to make my deadline.
When I got back, I explained to my boss what I had found and that, yeah, sure I
could do the three boring briefs or I could tell this story. She not only
agreed to let me do Mrs. Kaim’s story, but she managed to carve out a premier
spot for it. The story drew praise from the dayside crew as well.
About a year or so later, I got an invitation from the park
board to come to the unveiling of the boulder. I was about two weeks from
leaving the state for what would be a decade, so I skipped the ceremony without
much of a thought.
Still, I often found myself replaying that moment in my head
and her secret to life: education and travel.
I hated travel, but I did get about as much education as
possible. When my formal degrees had reached their end, I tried learning about
other things. I learned how to work on cars, small engines and other mechanical
items. I taught myself how to refinish furniture and how to cane chairs. I
learned how to use different computers and various programs. I also dedicated
myself to teaching people so that I could share what I had learned and maybe
find a way to help other help themselves.
Over the years, I’d bump into a copy of the story I had
written on her and the note my boss had scrawled across it, complimenting me on
a job well done. I could still recount, practically word for word how she
explained why she was giving the city a “rock.”
About two weeks ago, during a break in one of my classes, a
couple kids were yammering on about a chance to take an interim class on travel
photography and how cool it would be and how great it would be to go to all
these places and photograph them and…
“So go,” I piped up, drawing the attention of everyone in
the room. It was as if E.F. Hutton had shown up or something. “What’s the
The young lady shot back, “Uh… It’s called MONEY! I can’t
spend all that money on a trip for something like this.”
“Spend all your money on education and travel,” I told her.
“Those are the two things no one can ever take away from you.”
She paused. “What?”
I told her the story of Mrs. Kaim and the rock and the
secret to life. The kid paused and pondered and then said, “I wonder if I can
use some of my student aid for this.”
She then looked at me. “Whatever happened to that lady?”
“I really don’t know,” I said. “I’ll see what I can find
The rest of the day, I Googled the terms “Shoshany Kaim” and
“obituary,” figuring on her being dead. Nothing came up, so I started going
through various guides and online phone books. No luck there either.
I saw that her rock was listed on the website of a Jewish
community center near the park, so I emailed the office and asked for any
information on her. I received a perfunctory email about an hour later:
“Mrs. Kaim passed away a number of years ago.
If I can be of further assistance please feel free to
A follow-up inquiry directed me to an obituary in the paper
I used to work for. She died about four or five years ago. I hadn’t really
thought about her in years other than when that moment comes up to talk about
education or travel. Or when I want to tell kids about how sometimes a great
story can just fall right into your lap. Or when I have to explain how some
things just stick with you, like the image of a man sleeping with his hands on
Or on this Thanksgiving, where I realized that a park board
meeting and a chance encounter gave me the gift of perspective and a sense of understanding.
I think I said this last year, but I find the bitching about Black Friday to be almost as tiresome as Black Friday itself. Go shopping if you want to go shopping, but honestly, the carping about how awful it all is just smacks of classism to me. Herf derf, lookit the stoopid poor people trying to get a cheap TV, how dare they?
Um, well, stores are handing out hot chocolate to people in line and advertising "door buster" sales, and allowing people to camp on their property weeks in advance, so you'll pardon me if I reserve my contempt for the people selling the shit and creating the dangerous situation in the first place.
And the coverage never fails to make me stabby. Here we are, Bob, standing outside a Wal-Mart to interview crazed shoppers, just hoping somebody gets trampled to death for the tail end of November sweeps. It just encourages bad behavior that we can then all soberly deplore in editorials a day later. How's about you stop covering it like it's fucking D-Day? And by the by if I read one more asshole comment about how Kids Today just don't stand in line for anything that matters, I will take hostages.
What is at times overlooked is that Occupy Wall Street was always about mutual aid. The most shared images were of protests and pepper sprays, but the scene in Zuccotti was a common kitchen, a free library, shared living space, a medical tent and endless conversations in which people listened to and learned from each other as they modeled a mutually invested society as an alternative to the culture of Big Corporations…and Big Government. Had OWS found a way to make mutual aid its loudest message, it may have found even more followers from the start.
Empire impresario Terry Winter put the pedal to the medal with last week's
entry, A Man, A Plan. Whereas the previous episode meandered in a concussive daze, episode-10 was
chock-full-O-payoffs and, not surprisingly, revenge.
Day: Nucky's war against Gyp Rosetti and Joe Masseria isn't going
well. Not only does he lack allies, but Charlie Lucky and Meyer Lansky sold him
out to Masseria with tragic consequences for Margaret and IRA Man Owen. The
former had formally decided to run off with the latter but bootlegger
fratricide got in the way of their escape.
of course, was deputized to whack Masseria. Unfortunately for the savvy and
experienced hit man, they saw him coming and the poor bastard was delivered to
the Atlantic City Ritz-Carlton in a crate hence the title of the post. Making
matters worse, Margaret was there for the delivery and flipped out. I think
even the usually clueless Nuckster may add 1 and 1 up and get 2 instead of 11.
Okay enough arithmetic, I don't want to exhaust any Gopers who may be reading
One of my favorite things to do when we're having a party is leave the room.
See, we live in this little hole in the wall. The silverware doesn't match and the furniture has seen better days and no matter how much I dust, it seems like there are always corners that never truly get clean. I think the rug is 10 years old. That kind of stuff.
Whenever we're having a party it seems like the rooms are too small. Most of my friends my age have houses, with guest rooms that don't double as storage, with yards and driveways and sets of china without chips in every plate. Basements. Patios. Things like that. And every once in a while when we're having a party and I'm trying to figure out which two people can make seats out of the one piano bench and whether I can steal a card table from work to make more places to set up board games and I'm feeling insecure because somebody somewhere has something better and always will, I like to leave the room for a second.
Because it reminds me the house is too small to contain the laughter. It echoes down the hallway, and hearing it fill whole other rooms reminds me that a house too tiny to fit all those I love is a wonderful problem to have. Plates that are chipped because we've used them for so many meals, that's a prize, not a punishment. Throw another handful of pasta into the pot and risk it boiling over -- that's the reward for a new face, a new friend, and the walls seem to expand then, and take in more than I thought they could hold.
I hope you all have somewhere warm to go today, and someone you love to spend it with. And I'm thankful that here, in our little virtual house, you ignore the fact that the forks don't match, and dig into the meal anyway.
I've always liked Thanksgiving. You get to gorge yourself, drink too much and get into arguments with right wing relatives or just have your basic family fight. I'm grateful that we have a holiday about, well, gratitiude.
I'm also thankful that one of my favorite films, Barry Levinson's Avalon, has a Thanksgiving scene is that is clearly more awesome than Jude:
I'm particularly grateful for our weird little online blog family here at First Draft. We've got it all: from a crazy ferret lady to a neurotic academic to an allegedly awesome former squid to a blonde lady in a ham suit to a photoshop ninja to Southern Beale and her little dog Toto Tommy T. That's right, Tommy T too. But it's our readers who make this quirky community quiver or some other word beginning in Q. Why Q? It could have something to do with the character from Star Trek TNG but otherwise it beats the hell out of me.
Finally, I'm grateful that the tune I'm posting for this all-American Plymouthy Rocky holiday is written by a Brit-Richard Thompson-who is married to an American and lives in Southern California most of the time. Here's a version of Now Be Thankful performed with his ex-wife Linda who is a Brit who lives in Southern California. I seem to be repeating myself. You lot have got to be used to that by now.
Wilmette-based Make It Better, an online and print publication for families on the North Shore, produced the article. Tips include avoiding play dates with “a dad you find attractive” and asking your husband to chaperone a play date with a stay-at-home dad and his children.
Now, the article was called to my attention by a group of at-home dads, many of whom actively advocate for full-time fathers. Their reaction mirrored my own, which was equal parts astonishment and feeling offended. One of my buddies even referenced the article on his Facebook page and changed his status to read, “I’m too sexy for your play date.”
Like we're not already paranoid. Now every guy taking his kids to the playground is a potential sex pervert? Christ.
And a CHAPERONE? I get how going blind on tequila with somebody you secretly think is a babe is probably a bad idea, but "HUNNY, come along to the jungle gym with me and the kids so I don't accidentally make out with Dadster McHottie over by the swings?" Really?
(Also, apparently lesbian moms are not a threat, though you would think, if being around someone who could potentially want to sex you was cause for concern, this would be an issue, too.)
It's one thing to say to YOURSELF that perhaps the texting with the guy down the street is getting out of hand and you should back it off. It's another to view even the presence of menfolk as a de facto temptation. The idea that men and women can't be friends because mere proximity sets off some kind of MUST SCREW NOW beacon needs to die a bloody, painful, most of all quick death. Then we can stake it, cut off its head, bury it at the crossroads, salt the earth, buy a spaceship, and nuke the site from orbit just to be sure.
I hate this trope. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. It's demeaning to women, it's demeaning to men, it advances dangerously sexist nonsense about how we're separate species who can only speak through interpreters, and it teaches us not to trust each other because OMG SEXING. If we don't think of one another as people, how can we have any expectation of respect?
Yes, high-pressure situations can blur boundaries and yes, people cheat on each other all the time, but none of those situations are occasioned by geography. We're not guinea pigs, where if you put us in the same aquarium we have to hump.
On the Sunday talk shows, senior Republicans, former Romney surrogates and prominent conservatives piled on their defeated presidential nominee for telling donors that he lost because President Obama bought off minorities and young voters with “gifts.”
“It’s nuts,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean, first of all, it’s insulting. … The job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can’t offer a better future that is believable to more people, we’re not going to win.”
Rumored 2016 presidential hopefuls in the party saw an opportunity to distance themselves from Romney.
“I absolutely reject what he said,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on “Fox News Sunday.” “We as a Republican Party have to campaign for every single vote. If we want people to like us we have to like them first. And you don’t start to like people by saying their votes were bought.”
And I have a solution here. If you don't like being a Republican anymore because you don't like standing next to smelly, sticky people at parties and getting their cooties, then don't be a Republican anymore. Because until you started losing elections, you didn't have a problem with any of this at all.
Until it started costing you at the ballot box and the piggy bank, until people started to cross the street to get away from you, you were absolutely fine with being the party of racists, sexists, general jerkbags, warmongers, vulture capitalists, ignorant-ass 'necks and everybody who's vaguely creeped out every time they overhear someone speaking Spanish in the grocery store.
That's your base. It's been your base for four solid decades. Mitt Romney ran an entire convention appealing to exactly those people, and you said dick. You were fine with it as long as he was gonna win the election according to Karl Rove's super-secret math. Then he went out there and lost, and was pissed about it, and said slightly more bluntly that I BUILT THAT, and magically it was beyond the pale and demeaning to the future of your magnificent party.
“It’s been well said that you have a political problem when the voters don’t like you, but you’ve got a real problem when the voters think you don’t like them,” said conservative columnist George Will on ABC’s “This Week.” “Quit despising the American people.”
The entire RNC was about ownership, about owning a business and taking responsibility for it. Yet the minute the election went the way everybody but that unskewed polls asshole knew it was going to go, Republicans were torching the place on their way out. They owned Mitt Romney wholly, and would have done so if he'd won. They shouldn't be able to get away from him in his loss.
As a film buff and political history junkie, I *really* enjoyed Lincoln on both levels. I was a bit nervous about the tone because at his worst Spielberg's film can be treacly and saccharine. BUT the film captured the rollicking, melancholy and devious complexity of the real Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis checked his hammy impulses at the door and disappeared into the role so I gotta give this latest opus a big thumbs up/4 stars/A kinda notice.
Comparisons to our current body politic (corpus delicti?) are inevitable. It's no surprise that I'm pretty sure that Lincoln would be a moderate Democrat nowadays. He was a reasonable man who believed in progress and science and wasn't big on organized religion. The Tea Party would primary the hell out of him or anyone else who supported the 13th Amendment. If it's not in the original Constitution, fuck it, they'd say.
Speaking of Confederates neo and old school: Southern pols haven't changed at all. Veteran character actor Jackie Earle Haley plays CSA Veep Alexander Stephens who leads the least covert "secret" peace delegation ever. Despite the fact that the Confederates are losing the war on the battlefield, he presents a list of demands, which go nowhere. The C in CSA did not stand for compromise, after all. It reminds me of certain party that lost a national election that centered on tax policy insisting that it's their way or the highway. Speaker Boner may be an Ohioan but the GOP is Confederate to its core.
Anyway, go see the flick, which also features great turns by Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Sally Field and James Spader. A special commendation goes to Walton Goggins of The Shield and Justified who is known for playing crazy-eyed, homicidal villains. In Lincoln, he plays-get ready-a spineless pussy of a Congressman who's undecided on the anti-slavery 13th Amendment. Nice to see him cast against type: Boyd Crowder would have caused some serious mayhem but this dude wobbled and waffled before caving at the end.
Let's end with some Goggins before and after pictures:
1. I haven't been around here as much because I took a second job, and while it is awesome, it is also an office job, which I haven't had in quite some time, and it involves a commute, which I also haven't had in some time. Plus I have some volunteer commitments I was kind of hoping wouldn't manifest for a couple more months that decided to be all OH HAI YOUR ATTENTION WE NEEDZ IT. Mr. A, who is working full-time and in grad school and running a nonprofit, you know, on the side, is in a similar situation. Yesterday he came to bed at 5 a.m., only to be woken up by me at 7 a.m. because I'd locked myself out of the house and forgotten my car keys. Neither of us is bitching that we're employed or busy, I mean, hello. This is just to explain that we are both so tired we feel like we're high all the time, and so I am primed to forget something major I have promised to do. Have I promised to do anything for any of you? If so, remind me of it frequently, okay?
First, as longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry knows the issues cold. Second, in his first term, Obama called on Kerry many times to serve as de facto envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he did well, persuading Afghan president Hamid Karzai to hold elections and smoothing over tensions with Pakistani officials (in the days when there was still something to smooth). Third, Obama owes Kerry something. It was Kerry who chose Obama to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention, the address that catapulted him from Illinois state senator to superstar. Kerry asked for the job of chief diplomat after Obama was elected in 2008; when Clinton was picked instead (a move that stunned him), he settled back into his job and, among other things, did yeoman’s work steering Obama’s New START nuclear arms treaty through the Senate—no easy task, since ratification required a two-thirds majority.
UUUUGGGH I can't stand it I love him so much. I want him to be Secretary of Everything. I really have a hard time about it.
The piece goes on to argue that Kerry's kind of a crap manager, which, okay, I buy that somewhat. Being awesome in one aspect of your life doesn't mean you're awesome at everything, so maybe his heart isn't in remembering to print the meeting agendas on the right kind of paper so as to soothe the feelings of the prissy assholes to whom things like that matter more than getting shit done.
Still, you can't tell me Donald Rumsfeld kept track of every paper clip. This is what you have interns for.
3. It's 2012. There's no reason every voicemail greeting has to begin with a lesson about how to leave a message. One guy I call all the time, who is lovely, has like this 30-second instructional reel going, where there's a noise, and then he lists all the things you have to leave and repeats it. Every time I call him I want to stab an ice pick through my ear. WE ALL KNOW THE DRILL. Wait for the beep, etc.
3a. When leaving a message, put your number before the part where you ramble on for 20 minutes about who you are and what you want. That way if I figure it out in the first ten seconds I don't need to keep listening to the yammering. Name, number, and then your problem and all its parts and why I should care, please.
Never mind that the NFL itself has morphed into a money-gobbling, corporate-whoring, shit-eating behemoth. It's still incumbent upon the PLAYERS to be ambassadors and moral exemplars for their sport, even though sports don't need any such representation. Forget what it says about a player when he hot dogs and showboats and glory boys around. What does it say about YOU if you're the kind of person who considers himself a moral policeman for the rest of the sporting world—the last decent man?
This is a cousin to my other favorite argument, that once upon a time you could make racist jokes and everybody (white anyway) just understood you were kidding. Do sports need to be less venal and disgusting? YES, of course. But 'twas ever thus, and if you think otherwise, Charlie Comiskey would like a word. If we're going to start cleaning up the NFL's image let's start with the rapacious bastards in the front office and then get on to someone's diamond grill or whatever once we're done with everything else.
Hostess workers remained on picket lines across the country Thursday night, refusing a company ultimatum to return to work or face the liquidation of the national baker.
The shutdown will result in the loss of about 18,000 jobs.
"Many people have worked incredibly long and hard to keep this from happening, but now Hostess Brands has no other alternative than to begin the process of winding down and preparing for the sale of our iconic brands," CEO Gregory Rayburn said in a letter to employees posted on the company website.
He added that all employees will eventually lose their jobs, "some sooner than others."
Privately held Hostess filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. The company cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing. Hostess contends workers must make concessions for it to exit bankruptcy and improve its financial position.
All Friday long halfbright assholes have been arguing with me that the unions just had to give in, because apparently it is now the job of the American worker to take it in the anus all the time regardless of whether that's really necessary. Only unions must make concessions, by the way. Bosses can do whatever they want:
Today it has been announced that Hostess along with Wonder Bread is going out of business. Of course the right-wingers are foaming at the mouth claiming that it is the unions' fault what with their ridiculous demands of fair compensation for work given to the company. Of course none of those on the right will acknowledge the CEO at Hostess got a 300 percent raise from $750,000 to $2,250,000. Now, I find $750,000 to be an outrageous amount of money for anyone to make ... $2.2 million is beyond outrageous and a 300 percent raise is well into the territory of obscene greed.
Let's be clear about this. To act like the workers had some kind of imperative to save the company that exceeded the imperative of the CEO is monstrous and insane. Especially since ain't none of those workers making off with 2.5 million. If there was an obligation on the part of the workers to save their own jobs, where was the obligation of the people in charge? Why does all the onus fall upon the lowest run of the pay ladder here?
Plus, while I cherish memories of my grandparents giving me Ding-Dongs when I finished my homework, let's not act like this is the equivalent of torching the Louvre.