Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The 2006 Heigh-ho Oscar/Oscarina Moot Movie Awards

Well, the nominations for this year's Oscars have been announced this morning, and it looks like another crop of real winners. Not that I would know, as I haven't seen any of them. I fell asleep on the couch during the opening credits to "Cinderella Man" and the last movie I went to see was "Hoodwinked," which I must have slept through as well because I don't remember anything about it - except it cost me about 80 bucks to take my wife and two children.

Nevertheless, simply not having seen any of the nominated movies has never before stopped me from opining as to which of the worthy celluloid heroes and tomes will walk away with the award. This year is extra special, however, as we have some very controversial subjects in the mix. The current crop of Nominees deal with everything from pimps & ho's, homosexuality, transexuality, sexual harrassment, race relations, homosexuality, Arab terrorism, Israeli anti-terrorism, homosexuality, McCarthyism, drug addiction, homosexuality, the CIA & Middle East oil, to coal mining, country music and homosexuality. I'm just betting that your head is already hurting from sheer magnitude of it all, so I'll try to be gentle.

And now, ladies and gentlemen,

The 2006 Heigh-ho Oscar/Oscarina Moot Movie Awards

  • Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, ''Junebug''; Catherine Keener, ''Capote''; Frances McDormand, ''North Country''; Rachel Weisz, ''The Constant Gardener''; Michelle Williams, ''Brokeback Mountain.''

Heigh-ho Pick: Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardner." This movie is about Africa and evil pharmaceutical companies, so it's got to win something. Plus, she plays an activist, so you can bet that by choosing Ms. Weisz, we'll be treated to lots of rightious spechifying of the type Hollywood loves so. Too bad nobody ever saw the movie.

Who should win instead: Francis McDormand for "North Country," because I think she is a terrific actress and she's married to one of the Cohn brothers, which means she is also very hip.

  • Supporting Actor: George Clooney, ''Syriana''; Matt Dillon, ''Crash''; Paul Giamatti, ''Cinderella Man''; Jake Gyllenhaal, ''Brokeback Mountain''; William Hurt, ''A History of Violence.''

Heigh-ho Pick: Matt Dillon, ''Crash'' . This is a stretch, I know. But Dillon's never been nominated before, and this low-budget (by Hollywood standards) flick has all the right "gutsy performance" criteria to send him home with the gilded doorstop. Also, he's got the best tough-guy line of the year: Officer Ryan: You think you know who you are? [Officer Hanson nods] Officer Ryan: You have no idea.

Who should of won instead: Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man." I thought his dad was the best Baseball Commissioner ever.

  • Actress: Judi Dench, ''Mrs. Henderson Presents''; Felicity Huffman, ''Transamerica''; Keira Knightley, ''Pride & Prejudice''; Charlize Theron, ''North Country''; Reese Witherspoon, ''Walk the Line.''

Heigh-ho Pick: Felicity Huffman, ''Transamerica'' . The plot is : Bree Osbourne is a pre-operative transsexual who has been living successfully as a woman and is preparing for her sexual reassignment surgery. When Bree learns that a teenage son she fathered in college has been arrested for hustling, her psychiatrist insists that she meet the boy and resolve their relationship before the surgery can be approved. A woman playing a man who wants to be come a woman and her troubled homosexual son on a road trip to find the real them. It's got everything! Well, almost everything.

Who should have won instead: Dame Judi Dench, ''Mrs. Henderson Presents.'' She should win every year that she is in a movie. She's royalty for chrissakes.

  • Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, ''Capote''; Terrence Howard, ''Hustle & Flow''; Heath Ledger, ''Brokeback Mountain''; Joaquin Phoenix, ''Walk the Line''; David Strathairn, ''Good Night, and Good Luck.''

Heigh-ho Pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman, ''Capote.'' I know, I know, "Another gay role?" Hey, you've got to work with what you got here. Every once in a while the Academy actually gets one right, and Capote's moral ambivalance makes his gayness more palatable than cowboy-love in the sixties.

Who should have won instead: Nobody else.

  • Director:Director: Ang Lee, ''Brokeback Mountain''; Bennett Miller, ''Capote''; Paul Haggis, ''Crash''; George Clooney, ''Good Night, and Good Luck.''; Steven Spielberg, ''Munich.''

Heigh-ho Pick: George Clooney, ''Good Night, and Good Luck.'' Hey, you didn't think Hollywood's favorite liberal mouth was going to get shut out in his directorial debut, did you? His bold move in making a movie about McCarthyism during the reign of Bushitler will not go unrewarded. Plus Spielburg pissed off the academy last time when he whined about not getting nominated for "A.I." (because it sucked), and now he has the audacity to allow his Arab terrorist characters in "Munich" to criticize Israel's counter-terroism policies? Toast.

Who should have won instead: Paul Haggis, ''Crash.'' Because his last name in the Scottish National Dish.

And finally, if you're still awake:

  • Best Picture: ''Brokeback Mountain,'' ''Capote,'' ''Crash,'' ''Good Night, and Good Luck,'' ''Munich.''

Heigh-ho Pick: (drumrolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll) "Brokeback Mountain" Don't tell me that you're surprised! Hell, dopey as "Titanic" was, it won Best Picture too! It's all about love Peoples! Just forget that image of John Wayne and the Marlboro Man, okay? Ride 'em cowboy!

What should have won instead: "Hoodwinked."

I think.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Want To Be A Fugitive From An I-Tunes Chain Gang

Holy crap.
I am just losing this battle completely. Ever since I announced to Portia a couple of weeks ago that I would share my jazz collection with her via the fascist I-tunes program , I have been sinking my elbows into the depths of my collection. Where the hell did all this stuff come from? Seriously, I went from 1300 I-pod songs last weekend to almost 2500 as of this writing. Oh, it ain't all jazz, believe me. I have got blues coming out the ying-yang. How? Damned if I know. "Little Smokey" Smothers stuck a CD in my hand somewhere along the line and it stuck to the collection ( and a good thing too). NRBQ is rubbing shoulders with T-Bone Walker and Jerry Lee Lewis has taken a bead on Charlotte Church. I've got Buddy Holly singing "Oh Boy" while I am typing this and there's only more to follow. Where to stop? I've loaded enough reggae, zydeco, and "world" music to completely smoke every Willie Nelson braid from here to Davos, and enough swing to cause a major zoot-suit riot at the Mall of America.

But how did it ever get to this? Where's the freakin' Stones and Charlie Christian? Where's Gil Scott Heron and Rassan Roland Kirk? Where's Rickie Lee Jones? Where's Eric Dolphy? Where's Ethel Waters? WHERE'S MY DAMNED RECORDS? You know, the black things with the hole in the middle and the scratches. Everything I've got now is on CD, but now that I've mined the collection I realize that I'm missing damned near everything.

I hope the kids find funding for college...soon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Posting About Cars

I was somewhat uninspired this morning...on account of a long day yesterday and a short night's slumber. So rather than being witty and urbane, I'll be listing instead.

This is a list of every car or motorcycle that has ever found its way into my garage, in order of how they came into my head.

I'd love to see your list, too.

Because I'm bored.

# means currently in the stable, *means wished I hadn't ** means it was a piece of crap.

1964 Ford Station Wagon**(bomb)

1963 Ford Galaxie 500 (a real beauty with a long story)

1972 Fiat 124 Special ** (Oh, it was "special"all right.)

1970 Honda 125 (my first "street legal motorcycle")

1954 Willys (Army green, built like a tank, slow & uncomfortable, but it would climb Mount Everest in 1st gear)

1972 Triumph 500 (shakin' all over!)

1963 Beetle (red, with dents - the only car I ever owned to have 3 different engines)

1970 Triumph 650 Bonneville (leaked like hell, but still my favorite, crashed it)

1970 Dodge van**(junk)
1973 Ford Econline van (boring, but reliable)
1968 Volkswagen Beetle (yellow- chick car)
1973 Norton 850 Commando (Beautiful bike that I couldn't afford for long.)

1966 Chevy Panel Van** (Navy Surplus junker - squid party wagon)

1976 Honda 750 Four (great bike took me up and down the East and West Coasts and everywhere in between- including most of Canada- victim of BIG smash-up with truck)
1972 Chevy Nova (Army green with a white top - 4 door uglymobile that I bought for $700 when I got out of the hospital - put a hundred thou' on it, and then sold it for $650)
1976 Chevy Vega** (came with the wife - when it got totaled, I opened champagne.)
1980 Buick Skylark Sport* (Silver and black leather, 4 speed - fun until I blew the engine)

1972 BMW 2002 (A top 3 favorite- I still cry when I realize what I sold this car for- idiot)

1984 Dodge Aries K** (company car- an incredible piece of sh*t -we saved Chrysler for this?)
1986 Nissan Pickup (good truck- I sold it to my bro-in-law who took it over 300K before it got totaled)
1986 Ford Taurus (another boring company car)

#1975 Yamaha Xs-650 (Basically a Triumph without all of the Brit eccentricities and problems - still own it, but it hasn't run in years, and never will again)

1970 Porsche 914 (My only mid-engined Nazi slot-car, thus far, and an absolute pisser to drive. Donated to Salvation Army in 1997)

1990 Toytota Camry (dull, reliable transportation for a few years)

1985 Jaguar XJ6 (outside of the Porsches, the Jag was clearly the most beautiful car I've ever owned - I had a true love affair with this car - donated to Salvation Army in 1998 - I kept the grill and the "leaper" which now sit on my home office bookshelf
1991 Ford F-150 King Cab 4x4 (blue with truck cap - nicknamed "Gigantor")

#1982 Porsche 911 Targa (black on black, whale tail, and still the King of the Garage)

1991 Yamaha TDM-850 (last of the parallel twins - a real carver for it's day. Also my last ride. I gave up on two wheels after my third serious crash in 21 years in 1994.)

1983 Mercedes-Benz 300D (Turbo diesel driven, car was with us until 2003)
1995 Chevy Suburban (first of the sport-utes - white- nicknamed "The Fridge")

1991 Mercedes 560 SEL (Huge, plush, fast and comfortable- the "Dictator-mobile")

1987 Porsche 944 Turbo*(I'm sure that there were better ones than the one I bought - fast, but nothing but trouble)

1990 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL ( I liked mine so much I bought the same model for my eldest daughter - "Big Pimpin'")
1998 Vokswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition (beep beep we go go speedy #1)
#2002 GMC Yuknon Denali XL (My wife likes big things. Excellent unit.)
#1990 Mercedes 560 SEC (Coupe version of the same M-B 560 model- I drive this everyday)

#2002 Chevy Tahoe (Horse hauler- forest green - "Spruce Bruce")
#1998 BMW 318i (beep beep we go go speedy #2)
2003 GMC Envoy (Youngest daughter's "dirtbucket" - Likes to take out mailboxes)


So there you have it. I might have forgotten one or two company cars, but they are so forgettable.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Confessions Of An Ugly Car Owner

At left is the closest picture I could find of my first car, a 1964 Ford Station Wagon. Everybody has one in their past - the "Blue Bomb," the "Red Terror," the "Yellow Weaser," the "Brown Smoking Pile of..... " You catch my drift. We're talking ugly cars. Really crappy cars. Your first car. Cars that you had to drive because they were the only way you'd get there. Not the type of vehicle that your children would ever be subjected to today. Heavens no! Thanks to that little known, but seminal case regarding freedom of expression and First Amendment limits on parental notification, the Supreme Court has forever established that those, as yet unable exercise the franchise or capable of providing for themselves in any manner - up to and including the making of "toast," - nevertheless retain a fundamental constitutional right to select their personal vehicle, for which they will pay nothing. ( See, spd rdr v. Sixteen Grubby Daughters and Their Mother, 1539 U.S. 861 (1997), and progeny).

Such liberal social attitudes were not always the fashion in this nation. We boomers, spoiled as we were are, began our driving experiences in our parents' cast off vehicles. After many years of exemplary family service, these worn out, hulking masses were turned over to the kid bearing the most freshly minted license with a hardy congratulatory pat on the back. “It’s all yours, Son/Daughter. Take care of her and she’ll take care of you." You instantly suspected that this lie registered somewhere between Santa and the Tooth Fairy. But, like always, you weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. You took the proffered keys eagarly, visions of absolute freedom playing like "anthropology" filmstrips in your head.

But let's be honest. As I recall, the prevalent term for these rolling post-familiar nightmares was "shit-boxes." No heat, no air conditioning, no music, no class, plenty of dents. But maybe there was a great back seat! And, maybe, if you were lucky, and your were parents clueless enough, it was a station wagon! The possibilities were suddenly endless. "I got a '64 wagon and I got me a woody! Surf City, here I come!"

In any event, your only limitation was curfew...and insurance. And who paid attention to that?*

So what I'm looking for is this: What was your ugliest car? Find us a picture. And then tell us a story about your ugly car. I don't care what, just make it sound real.

*Ahh... youthful exuberance. I often wonder whether half the crap I think happened to me actually happened to me...and then I run into some old friend and the history churned up just gets worse and worse for mrs. rdr. I've found that when anyone asks you did as a kid, the best answer to give is "nothing felonious."

I Want To Be A Dog

No... I want to be THIS dog.

Good boy.

Meanwhile in Florida.....

Nothing out Florida's Florida. Don't bother reading the whole story, all you need to know is in the first sentence:

BRADENTON -- State officials have ordered a prominent Bradenton gynecologist to stop treating women after alleged sexual misconduct with a female patient.
That narrows the field a bit, eh?.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Opity The Crackbe3ry Adsict

Dear judge spen cer: now that the sup ct has refsed crt on the RIM patetn suit it will be up to youto stop thjs scourge on manknd. I know that you r a good judge as i have been to your courtroom many tmes (As lawyer not adefendment). I know you temper when lawyerssay stupid thngs in your courtrrom too. But now i must beg you to somehw findthat blackberrys should getturned off 4ever. Please do thiss for me and my poor fingrs. Thx you. spd rdr
This message sent from a wireless handheld device.

Monday, January 23, 2006

On Second Thought: A Response to My Friends Re: Kelo

To catch the drift of this thread you've got to start over at KJ's Cheese. This is a conversation , among friends, and you're welcome to join in. Go there, read, and then come back.


C'mon, tee bee! You surely recognize the connection that I was trying to make between Sheehan and whatshimname was not about their respective causes, but about their methods! My modus operandi is to convince lawmakers both behind the scenes and through open discussion about the correctness, or incorrectness, of the position taken by the Court, not to threaten or embarass them personally. However much we might dislike the outcome, it was the result of a great deal of thought by some of the smartest jurists on the planet. The result sucked, in my view, and it begs for a response a legislative response fashioned state-by-state.

Consider, however: But for the media's (and my own) victimization of the "little old lady in New Haven," isn't this decison exactly the kind of inflamatory libertarian kindling a federalist movement should cherish? The Supremes have thrown down, in spades, a gauntlet, through which the American people might choose their course, and it has provided them the reason to excercise the very rights we have accused the Court of denying us. Kelo (might) stand for the proposition that it's for the states, not the Feds, to decide the extent of eminent domain. Its message is clearly: "Get off your ass, people. Fix your own rights." I am not entirely sure that was not the real "point" the Court meant to be taken away.

On the face of it, of course, the Court's decision flies in the face of the "takings clause." More subtley, perhaps, the Court has invited the states... no, it has forced the states, to come to grips with the internal conflicts existing between the pervasive and state-promoted inequalities between in-state and out-of-state interests, fostered by interstate competition for economic expansion, and reflected in permissive state laws granting exorbitant tax breaks and sweetheart zoning deals, and the state's primary obligation to protect the property rights of its citizens. As much as I disagree with Kelo, I must admit that the court has (purposefully?) handed the citizenry a cause célèbre to challenge the corrosive effects on social planning the states have fostered through unchecked abuses of emminent domain.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is just plain over-reaching by the Court (which was my initial impression). But from such misguided teachings may spring great justice. And maybe I'm just catching on to the lesson.

Translation: Run Like Hell

Punting On First Down

I was discussing with Cassandra last week the strange case of Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood in which the Supreme Court unanimously (!!!) vacated and remanded a First Circuit decision holding New Hampshire's Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act unconstitutional.**

Basically, the Court completely side-stepped the issue the case presented and sent the matter back to the District Court to find a way "to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief." (*cough* What?)

Moreover, by deciding not to decide the case and by rendering a non-opinion a mere six weeks after oral argument, the Court transparently signalled that it intended this result long before any attorney ever opened his mouth.

"Why would they do that?," I wondered. They know that the issue of parental notification won't be going away on its own. In addition, it's a Section 1983 claim, which means if Planned Parenthood prevails it gets attorney's fees from New Hampshire. Therefore neither side will lay down or settle the dispute, and merely sending it back down to begin it's inexorable years-long march back to the High Nine spits in the face of "judicial economy." If they didn't want to decide the case, why didn't they just deny certiorari and let New Hampshire fix the statute?

Because they do want to decide the issue...just not right now.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has evidently been thinking the same thoughts over the weekend, and he's penned a pretty good analysis of the situation. At bottom, it's a political decision masquarading as a non-decision. (Duh). But he goes into some depth and lays out all the reasons for the Court's punting the case, how the Court made a calculated decision not to decide, and why it was a good idea. Definately worth a read.

** A quick reach down between my legs informs me that this discussion will not be on the merits, or lack thereof, of any argument where the words Roe v. Wade might appear. Suffice it to say that in the last 33 years more ink and blood has been spilled over that lousy two-legged stool (in a legal sense) than this nation deserves. Somebody has to grow a pair and deal with it once and for all. I don't care what the outcome is anymore, either. Just so's I never have to hear about it again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trains of Thought

I am going to be busy today, so you'll have to find the kind of tremendous head-rush that Heigh-ho normally supplies by looking elsewhere.

Here, for example. A whole gallery of pictures of trains and subways, and the stations they serve.

Before I go, I want to pass this important announcement:

D.C. May Make Cherry Its Official Fruit
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New York has the apple, Florida has the orange and soon the District of Columbia could have the cherry as its official fruit.
With the nation's capital lacking a designated fruit, a group of elementary school students made a pitch for the cherry to the City Council, saying it was the obvious choice.
"We have a cherry blossom festival every year and it was a cherry tree that George Washington chopped down in a famous story from his youth," said Marcus Parker, 11. The kids said there was no second choice.
"It does fit right in to the theme for Washington," said Council Chair Linda Cropp at Wednesday's meeting. "From the mouth of babes we have a good idea."
Many babes, but only one mouth. Sounds like D.C.

What is your state's "official fruit?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Splice The Main Brace

I say, Leftenant Wanker, I believe that hangover of yours is about to get a whole lot worse.

Secret British Navy file found in pub

PORTSMOUTH, England, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A secret British Navy file with information on a warship's Middle East tour of duty was found lying on a pub table in Portsmouth, the Daily Mirror reports. Michael Blown, 22, a student, spotted the papers showing the movements of the frigate HMS St. Albans as he played pool with his friends. He later handed the file to the newspaper.
"I was playing pool with my mates when I spotted it on view. It was on a small table. I wondered what it was and as I read it I couldn't believe my eyes," Blown said.
If it had fallen in wrong hands, the information could have exposed the sailors to an attack similar to the suicide bombing of USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 in which 17 died, the report said.
Ministry of Defense officials thanked the newspaper for returning the document, the report said.

Jolly good show, what?

Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm Not Going Anywhere...

until somebody buys me a beer for working on another holiday.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Place To Drink

Everyone has one. A place, either in their past or their present, where they have gone to sample adult libations in the company of friends and strangers. Sometimes these places are dark and cozy, with just the right mixture of stale cigarette smoke and peanuts to lend authenticity and heritage. Others are gargantuan clubs, filled with people and lights and music and fun. Give me the former.

At left is pictured the Plough and Stars, once one of my favorite haunts. The Plough is located on Massachusetts Avenue between Central and Harvard Squares in Cambridge, Mass. In other words, between M.I.T. and Harvard. It's a destination to walk to, as parking in nigh impossible and it's smack in-between T-stops.

The Plough is an Irish bar, of course, taking its name from the banner of the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rebellion of 1916. (It is most definitely not taken from the infamous Sean O'Casey play that shocked and outraged Ireland.) It's a tiny place, with a long bar on one side and rickety tables on the other and a long bench built into the wall. There's usually a good crowd there everyday, from opening to last call.

I was introduced to the Plough around 1973-74 by friends of my older sister, who also lived in Boston at the time. These two gents, whose names are lost to me but whose faces I will never forget, ran their own business: Deathwish Piano Movers -which, thanks to Google, I am happy to report apparently thrives to this day. As piano movers should be, these guys were roughly the size of cement trucks. They were also avid rugby players, a game that was utterly foreign to me. But they sized me up, and then over a few pints of Guinness at the Plough convinced me that rugby was a game that would suit my build and temperament. Being a young, cocky idiot, I agreed to give the game a try the following Saturday. It was the single most painful experience of my life. I never played again. But I had found the Plough, and to me that was sufficient reward.

The Plough catered to a strange mix of blue collar locals, students, professors, and ex-pat Irish terrorists (I'm not positive about the last). Walk in, say, around four in the afternoon, and you'd see a bicycle mechanic lacing a wheel while enjoying a good pipe and playing chess with a Harvard physics professor. Conversation came easy at the bar while you waited for the barkeep to draw a perfect pint of stout. It can't be hurried, so patience was a key ingredient to being a welcomed guest of the Plough. Sometimes things got a little fuzzy. Like the time I took to talking to a German motorcycle tourist and he showed me how good a Guinness tastes with a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey added. To this day I honor that unknown lad by calling the concoction a "Hamburg Sidecar." But trust me on this, folks: be very careful with this one, or you will be dusting the floor from your shoulder.

On Sundays there was a jazz brunch. Local guys and students from Berkley School of Music would jam while you quaffed your morning pint with the paper. Good food, too. Things like lamb stew and corned beef and cabbage were usually available. The music was the thing, though. It was so cramped that sound systems weren't necessary, and any Johnny with a fiddle or pipe could play whenever he wanted. (One day I'll tell you the story of St. Patrick's Day, the one-legged fiddler, and the older woman.)

The last time I was in the Plough must have been in the early 90's. I was in Boston on business and had some time to kill after a day of meetings. I wasn't sure if it was going to be as I had remembered, or whether the damned yuppies had wrecked it. It was comforting to see that, short of a fresh coat of paint on the door, the Plough looked just the same. I stepped inside and the memories of a squandered youth cheered my soul. Same people, different time. Same me.

The pint was perfect.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What Is Eight Minutes In Light Years?

Do you have eight minutes to be chilled? No, not the hep kind of "chilled," but the other kind - the goose-bump kind- the kind where you sink into your deepest ruminations and think: "Holy crap, can that really happen?"

Portia was kind enough to dump such an experience into my mailbox this morning. It's a flash movie entitled "EPIC 2014." It's not new, having come out in 2004, but I've must have been asleep since then. The movie has evidently become a worldwide smash. And I think you will find it deservedly so.

We know how the internet has exploded in personalized communications the last few, short, years. I blog. You blog. The world blogs. We bookmark. We choose our inputs. We choose our news. What, then, is the logical extension of such instant, insular behavior? Could it be this? And if, so, who will gain from that social trend? The movie poses a reality too...close... to ignore out of hand.

And if you're a libertarian, what's wrong with this future?
Why the hell not?
Why the hell not.

Good questions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What. An. Asshole.

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"

Joseph Welch, 1954

Have you left no sense of shame, Massachusetts?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And So It Begins.....

At precisely noon this coming Saturday, Virginia's Governor- elect, Timothy Kaine, will become the first Virginia Governor since Thomas Jefferson to be inaugurated at the old Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Williamsburg (pictured at left). The current Lt. Governor, Mr. Kaine is a Democrat, and most likely a liberal in moderate sheep's clothing. But he is also an honorable man, a good man, and the best man of the three offered for selection by the voters. So be it.

The inauguration itself is merely an "event," as is the "swearing in" of the new and returning Delegates and Senators this morning. There will be multiple balls and galas to attend over the course of the week, not only in Williamsburg, but also in Richmond, Virginia's modern capital. (Yes, my wife will hate my guts and livers before the week is out.) Although the whole inaugural show is worthy of the attention of non-brain-dead Virginians, it is not where the sauce of state politics is stirred.

For the last week or so, I have attended at least one, sometimes two or three breakfast events, held by the various office-holders and office-holders-elect as we ramp up for the coming General Assembly Session (which starts next week). By eight or nine or ten that same night, I have attended at least two or three more caucuses, meet-and-greets, and get-to-knows. It's all about you offering hearty hand-clasping congratulations to, and expecting meaty thank yous from, the legislators (and soon-to-be-legislators) for all the "support" that has been provide by you and your clients during the recently concluded election.

You, of course, have played both sides of the aisle. And they, of course, know that. But now your quiver is full. You've got your agenda. You've polished your legislation. You've sized up the opposition, prepared your concessions (if necessary) and fortified your redoubts. Now begins that perfect dance of propriety and dead-panned self-interest, choreographed with such earnestness, decorum and grace as to truly astonish those who have only frolicked in the cooler, more direct, climes of impersonal "business." You are there only to "educate" the lawmakers, and they are there only to listen, without any guilt, and without any promise, as to what it is your clients want. There is no "deal" to be made. Only friendships.

Of course, one has to visit the soirées thrown by both sides equally, and display similar conviction for each party's "agenda" (although, outside of the issue of taxes, there is little to distinguish them). As a rule, always greet the elder statesmen first; they are already your "friends" and they'll know where you'll be coming from. Prime targets are those that wield Committee Chairmanships. These friends may not agree with everything you say in support of your measure or measures, and they certainly won't commit to anything at this early stage. But they will listen to you out of courtesy, and with the respect that comes from knowing that you will support them yet again. Your clients' reputations preceed you.

Next approach those who have been re-elected. They are no doubt breathing sighs of relief, and should be made to feel as though their continued service was, most deservedly, a certainty; especially since your clients supported them so fervently. Let them know that, as friends, you will mention their names to the aforementioned elder statesmen, with whom you were just speaking, as "solid" whatevers. But never attempt to push a choice on that Chairman for any spots on his committee. Subtlety is rewarded in these latitudes. Brashness or overreaching will find you persona non grata, and your clients sunk.

Finally, seek out the new faces. Scared as they are (and should be) of making any alliances before they even take the oath of office, your only goal is to soothe and relax them. You know more about the process than they, so you offer your support and assurance that they will be well received by others with whom you have long relationships, and with whom you were just speaking. Make these persons feel happy and safe as friends. Ask for nothing. One day you will need to educate these new faces, but you should take your time so as to not scare them off.

Perhaps most importantly, you should make sure to kiss your enemies in front of your champions. This simple act makes it so much easier for those so empowered to feel better about making their own decisions in favor your clients, and yet still feel open to accepting the support of your opposition at a later date as their friends. An amicable solution is always the sugar in the coffee.

And so, dear friends, for the next few months your otherwise uncommonly insensible blogging host will once again turn into a sensible, but common, political whore. But please remember: I only do it for what's right. And for what's just. And for what's deserved. And for what's good for the children.

And may God have mercy on my soul.

Monday, January 09, 2006

If You Still Had Any Doubts...

Marcus Vick.

But, thanks to your belated actions, Coach Beamer, at least he'll never become a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and thus besmirch the reputation of every other young man and woman that spilt their blood, not on the grid iron, but in the laboratories and the libraries of that fine Univerity, and on the field of battle in service to their nation.

Oh, I 've still got "issues" with you, Coach Beamer. You and the brain trust at Tech pawned all your principles for the slimy buck that comes with prime-time, showcase football. I hope y'all can now find a price to put on character. Your stewardship of this public University, as pertains to your lapse of judgement concerning this individual, is "under concerted review" and expect a subpoena from we parents for the contents of your underwear drawer. That sound you hear at the bank? That's the sound of alumni wallets slamming shut. You screwed up. You embarassed us. We told you so two years ago.

Never. Ever. Ever. Again. The people of Virginia, the parents of Virginia, will NOT stand for any such future acceptance of the kind of thugish crap that we have seen from Mr. Vick and others involved with the Hokie, the very PROUD, Hokie football program. Clean it up. Now. Or we will clean house.

We send our children to you so that you might teach them, might make them into honest, caring, productive citizens. Can you honestly say that your stewardship of Marcus Vick has produced even a single one of those attributes? The Univerity's blind acceptance of the continued and unrepentant anti-social behavior of Marcus Vick poses genuine questions as to who is running the asylum. Virginia will expect answers. And y'all can well expect to be made to feel as uncomfortable as we do.

Consider the whole administration as being on probation.
Double Secret Probation.

But don't you dare smile, assholes.
I'm not. Virginia is not.

Good day.

Uncle Teddy's Fairy Tales

I never do contests, mainly because I always win. But this, this... monstrosity just begs for some snappy wit and abuse.

I can't thank Cassandra enough for providing what is most assuredly a sign that The Apocalypse is upon us.

What should Uncle Teddy's next children's book be titled?

How about: "Splish, Splash, I was Taking a Drive?"

Now its your turn. The best entry gets a copy of Teddy's book. Ha!

Good Morning, Your Honor

Okay. The day has arrived for Judge Alito.
And I couldn't be more excited.
Well, yes I could.
A lot.

Good luck, Sam.
And remember,
I've got your back.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"If the pastrami sandwich goes down the drain, there's no hope for this country at all."

Jackie Mason wasn't trying to be funny when he said that. That man doesn't have to try. But the truth be told, he's right.

Portia sent me this horrific story from today's New York Times. The Second Avenue Deli is shutting down.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of my gentile heart breaking.

The Second Ave. Deli has been a staple of the Lower East Side since the year I was born. And no matter where I roamed, I could sleep at night just knowing that there was a heaping mound of hot, lean pastrami skulking between slabs of good seeded rye waiting for me at Second Avenue and East 10th St. Now those dreams are dashed forever. Gone like a bowl of free pickles. The world has grown darker.

You think I'm exaggerating, don't you. Well, I am...but not by much. The Second Ave. Deli was a Kosher Mecca for delicatessen junkies such as myself. Most of the time I was in the City, I'd be working 50 blocks north of 10th Street, and so I would have to haunt the Carnegie Deli,
or the Stage Deli. They were excellent, especially the Carnegie. I mean where else on earth could you get a corned beef, chicken liver, and tongue sandwich (don't forget the bermuda onion) at 10 o'clock at night? In fact, I remember getting scolded by my boss when she looked at my receipts for a week's stay and discovered that I had eaten every single meal at either the Carnegie or the Stage. "You're going to kill yourself eating like that," she said as she handed me an apple. She was right of course. But everybody's gotta go sometime, so give me some kasha and don't hold back on the chicken fat.

The Second Avenue Deli, however, that was more than just a mind-blowing sandwich. It was an adventure. Just going that far down the island was a trip. It was like climbing out of the subway into another country. In every store window there were signs in both Hebrew and Spanish. Hasidic men in black homburgs and payot (side curls) shared the sidewalks with transvestites and artists and junkies. The sounds of Yiddish mixed with Latino rhythms and cab horns in an other-worldly symphony. It was the essence of New York City. It was cool. And everybody knew about it, even people in San Francisco. And the Second Avenue Deli served the best sandwiches on Earth. Period.

And now they've killed the Second Avenue Deli.
And now I am going to cry.
Is there no hope for New York? For America?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the Passing of the Last Block

Meet the offensive line of the undefeated 1937 Fordham Rams. From right to left, John "Tarzan" Druze, Al Babartsky, Vince Lombardi, Alex Wojciechowicz, Nat Pierce, Ed Franco and Leo F. Paquin. These gentlemen went by the moniker "The Seven Blocks of Granite," and are considered by many, including myself, to be perhaps the greatest offensive line ever seen in college football. "How would you know", the little voice asks. "You weren't around in those days." True enough, little voice. In fact my father was just 13 years old himself.

But that's the thing. My father was a 13 year-old kid living in The City with 3 brothers much older than he, all of whom attended Fordham. (Uncle Bob the Priest later taught there for many years). He had, as they might say today, drunk deeply of the Fordham Kool-aid. Where do you think he went to college after the war? Yepper! So who do you think heard incessantly about the famous Seven Blocks while growing up? Right again. Everytime the Green Bay Packers were on the TV, my Dad would regale anyone within shouting distance about how Vince Lombardy was once a Fordham Ram, and not just any Fordham Ram, either. He was a BLOCK!

You must admit, these guys were pretty damned good. As the story reads:

The 1936 Rams finished 5-1-2 and lost a possible Rose Bowl bid when they were upset by New York University at Yankee Stadium, 7-6, in the season's final game.
"That was always a blood game," Druze told Newsday in 1986, referring to the rivalry. "Forget about the records. It was like Purdue and Notre Dame."
Fordham's 1936 team shut out three opponents and gave up only 33 points.
The 1937 Rams were 7-0-1 and held five opponents scoreless.
Not too shabby, especially considering that their biggest guy was 6'1" and a whopping 220 lbs. And, Mister, they all graduated from that pretty tough Jesuit university in four years. Redshirt? Hell no. Go study.

Here's where I come into the picture. See that fellow at left end? Leo F. Paquin was my latin teacher in my freshman year at St. Francis Xavier High School on West 16th St. Mr. Paquin was also our football coach, and though I was still in J.V. myself, I got the wisdom of the ages from that man. He was still strong and would run with us as we took the inevitable post-practice laps.

We beat the Fordham Prep Rams that year 36-0. Or, as the Yearbook pronounced "We dined on Lamb." When it came time to award us our letters at the "Block X" dinner, guess who showed up? THE MAN HIMSELF. Coach Lombardy. I thought my dad was going to wet his pants. Hell, he might have wetted his pants for all I know, I was so busy staring at the hand that shook the hand of THE MAN himself.

And now the last of the Blocks, Tarzan Druze, has passed into memory. But I still have some old football books and memorabilia from those glory days of Fordham football that I found among the attic treasures when I was cleaning out the family home. My father was an artist- a good one- and his skills with a pencil as a youth were unbelievable. Among the drawings of his I have are sketches he made of the Seven Blocks from newspaper reports. And when I get home tonight I'm going to pull them out, pour me a glass of Basil Hayden, and drink to the memory of the Seven Blocks of Granite, and to the man who made them real to me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The (Soon To Be) Annual "Skitching" Post

Portia's comment about skitching in the post below reminded me of a comment I made over at a small victory (*sob*) a long time ago. I found it and now share it with you (again). The whole thread's a pretty good read. Enjoy!

"Skitching" was a time-honored Long Island ritual signifying the passage from sheltered childhood into pre-teen loutism. How many gloves did I lose in the quest of the perfect slide down Nassau Blvd? (An instant give-away to the sharp-eyed Mom.)

VW's were the best, of course, with their round tubular bumpers making for the easy grab-and-go, but the Bug's lack of horsepower sometimes meant that two or three thirteen year-olds could anchor the thing at a dead stop, giving the driver an opportunity to get out and yell, and for his trouble get pelted with snowballs. (Local legend had it that three friends were left sitting on their asses holding an unsuspecting Bug owner's bumper as the Beetle scrambled away into the distance.)
The wildest ride I remember was on the back of a Daily News truck. It was easy to ride because the bumpers were so high. But the driver was an absolute maniac who, of course, made every damned light. Eventually, we had to just bail out and tumble down the street a couple of miles from where we started. I never touched a newspaper truck again.

Glad to here that the practice continues up on L.I., and happier still that my Virginia kids don't know anything about it.
Posted by: spd rdr December 20, 2004 11:15 AM

Oh to be a kid again...in the snow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To Be A Boy: Part Eleventy -Two

Please don't tell my wife about what we did as kids.
She wouldn't understand.
Or worse. She would.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Pano Rama Rama Ding Dong

I missed New Years this year (don't ask), but thanks to the niffty folks at Panorama.dk, I can visit the big moment in Times Square again and again. Check out this 360 degree Quicktime panorama and drag you mouse around to get all trippy and sh*t.

You should also take time to look at some of the other panoramas they've got going on over there.
This site is a New Shiny Thing for certain.

Enjoy yourselves.