Monday, November 24, 2008

Head's Up (or is that "Down")

In what seems to be a continual campaign to keep her name in the forefront for Election 2012, Gov. Palin introduces an Alaskan version of how her presidential campaign will deal with "jerks" in the campaign administration and any news reporters who contradict her mission from God.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mr Cooder. Travelin'

Still wondering about Ry Cooder? Is he as great as some people say? What's up with him and his historically based and yet entertaining albums?

Well, this weekend's NYT Travel section should do the trick for some doubters. There's text. There're pictures. There's even short audio clips from "I, Flathead", "My Name's Buddy", and "Chavez Ravine". And, how about a slide show?!

What are you waiting for? Go there!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Government Waste

This movie sounds like a must-see to me. Talk about a total waste of government time, money, and personnel (read that as "a total waste of taxpayer money") to spend any federal time going after Tommy Chong.

Geez....! Leave the Canadian alone.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Money. Their Spending.

I know Mr. Obama has been getting slammed from the time that he started running about how he was inexperienced, how he was always campaigning for the next job, how he never really did anything in the job he was elected to due to time constraints required by the job he was next to have. I won't bother with this fool's errand of a task to deal with the moans and groans.
Instead, if you're not already familiar with this site, let me point you, a site created due to one of Mr. Obama's initiatives that was put into action.

It's a fabulous (and fabulously depressing) place to go to. When they start loading in the $700 billion economy salvation package details, I'll be sure to stop by and check it out. I'll just to make sure not to carry any sharp instruments with me.
So, what's interesting? Well, it seems in the list of the Top 100 Recipients for FY 2008 (Oct 1, 2007 through Sept. 30, 2008), Air India was at #93, having received $900,354,357. Yes, that is 900 MILLION paid not to a foreign government, but to a foreign airline. I did not see any American airlines in that Top 100 list.

Another search revealed that in the federal assistance provided to my home state of Delaware for the FY 2008, coming in at #10, with a total of $12,935,000, was Providence Creek Academy Charter School. $12 Million Dollars. To one school. I'm no auditor, but looking at their financial statements, I did not see any lines on the financial statements indicating outstanding loans of that size, contributed assets of that size, and certainly not income of that size. No magic footnotes either, mentioning such a large windfall. Hmmmmm.

In FY 2002, it seems The Sands Inc, owners of a hotel and restaurant in Rehoboth Beach were #10 in the top ten list of Delaware recipients of US Government assistance, with $19,500,000. Wonder if I could mention this the next time I go as a reason to comp or at least reduce my room rates.

This site is quite useful, as long as you have a long tall glass of Pepto by your side.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Life Lesson #1

Lesson to the kiddies:

Whenever an adult tells you it doesn't matter in this world as to how you look, keep these pictures and this question in mind.

Which one is Director of G20 study group at University of Toronto and which one is a man of mystery, intrigue and action?

Lesson to the 'dults:

Whenever a punk (at this point, anyone under 35) tells you it does matter how you look these days, keep these pictures in mind.

Which one is Director of G20 study group at University of Toronto having an actual effect on countless people and which one is just an actor portraying a fictitious super agent working for an (almost) third world country?

Ah, the magic of perspective.


Quantum of Solipsism

Diamonds are Forever, 1971, was Sean Connery's last 007 film. He starred in Zardoz in 1974, when posing pouches were still acceptable hero...uhhm... attire...and then Baldrick came around and posing pouches seperated themselves from herowear.

So, Daniel Craig! Be forewarned! The drop from 007 formal ware to Clothing by Baldrick (sorry, the only polite pic I could scrounge up) is precipitous and sudden. Not that, from the general glee I heard in the theatre this past weekend, your female fans would protest. But, fully clothed (mostly), with your intensity at full stoke and your life-crushing skills at their coldest, you, sir, are indeed the best version of James Bond for our times. Perhaps, even for all times. Sean Connery's lock on the 007 title is loosening and, if you go on to do 4-5 additional Bond movies, it may need to be relinquished. Your enemies just need to come up with more deserving villains! From "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" to "Quantum of Solace", Mathieu Amalric just doesn't cut it. I mean, what was he going to do to you? Stare you to death. I love his other work, but villainy of the 007 Black/White kind? Nah, he's too sophisticated and subtle to be carrying our dirty deeds. True, he can be malevolent, but such multi-sylabbic words should never be associated with a Bodn villain. Evil! Cruel! Those are words we like for our 007 contrapoints.

Casino Royale, Craig's first Bond venture, was a superior film. It had to be, since the choice of Craig, a fabulous actor, was a gamble. Not to denigrate Quantum of Solace, but it's one thing to have your hero destroy buildings in Venice and quite another to be destroying a Super 8 Motel in some desert. As a movie exploring the inner thoughts of our hero (and Mr. Craig seems to be cup-runneth-over with inner thoughts), the movie does well, considering the baggage this genre carries. There are references to previous Bond's specifically the oil-infused and coated death of one of 007's lovers, dove-tailing with the gold-finished death of one of Mr. Connery's between-the-action trysts. So, a connection is still maintained from Bonds of old. As usual, for the couch-bound appreciative audience, Mr. Bond does a lot of globe-hopping allowing us to experience the underbelly of each country without getting our own throats cut or uncomfortably squeezed. You have your usual Keystone Kops characters, in this case played by the entire Bolivian police force. Bond's guns, always possessing the secrets of the Magic Bullet, as usual kill 5-10 baddies with each shot.
My only regret was that more of the action didn't take place in northern Italy. Waht a beautiful part of the world for fast, furious, and deadly mayhem.

Oh well, there's always next time, when we may go further into the mystery that is Daniel Craig, Agent 007.


Book Avoidance

In yesterday's NYT Book Review, the Endpiece was written by Joe Queenan, who, IMHO, is a gem when limited to a few pages of writing, but becomes dangerously self-immolating when allowed to write a book. (n.b.: Not an original thought on my part; he pokes without mercy at this very trait himself.) Mr. Queenan is a snippety kind of guy, a gem for this short attention span age. Speaking of which, do you think things will slow down in the next decade or so, forced to do so by the ever-aging Baby Blue Whale Boomers, a group whose sheer mass will steer the next 20-25 years of history to suit its ever-engrossed needs? Hey, I'm one of those whales and I offer my sincere apologies before I make some uncalled for demands.

But, back to the NYT Book Reviews.
Read the Queenan article first and then read this piece of trash. I 'm sure the reviewer, Chelsea Cain, took a long hot shower, alone, after submitting this piece. To me, along with this NYT Sunday Mag piece done in September, it certainly seems that Ms. Cheever must have some incriminating photos of someone big at the Times to have elicited such notice for a book that seems an absolute loss of tree life. Contrary to the point of Mr. Queenan's thought piece, no excessive praise is unloaded on this literary dreck. Hopefully, all debts with Ms. Cheever have been settled and she will fade, with utmost haste, to the remainder pile. I'm sure her children would be most thankful. This latest book deals with her version of her own sex addiction (Please! Please! If there is a God of Print, He/She will prevent any further books, by friends, family, lusters on this topic). After reading the article and noting that the doorman was one of multitude crowding her boudoir, I wondered if, as he was carrying out his end of the deal, was he counting how much more or how much less he would be getting in his Christmas letter from Ms. Cheever. Based on the fact that he was mentioned in the book, I hope, for his sake, it was more. To be associated, permanently, with a resident in his building in this manner and possibly have to face her kids when they visited, fairness would dictate a hefty sum for services delivered.

Damn, but those incriminating pics she must have of the NYT bigwigs must have truly been spectacular. That, or they simply have a soft spot for her father.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just, in Passing

John Mitchell aka Mitch Mitchell, a truly under-rated drummer died yesterday. In today's NYT's Obit section, Mr. Mitchell was the (gravestone) Headliner.

However, this obit, regarding a certain Nikola Kavaja, is what caught my eye. A scary guy with a ghost-filled resume stuffed with controversies. Among other bizarre facts, if he was the anti-Communist and Tito-hater he preached he was, what the heck was he doing living in Serbia when he died? Last sentence of the article about sums his life up.

"A classic Balkan fable, long on drama, short on truth," Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., said Tuesday least in Mr. Kavaja's telling, his own life makes Chuck Norris look like a wimp. At least when he was alive, I would have probably agreed.

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A Warning Shot over the Bow

It's raining. That cold rain that usually precedes either Thanksgiving or Christmas here in the low state of Delaware. Just a few more charitable chilly degrees and white stuff would be floating but, alas, those degrees are being held close to the chest a bit north and west in Pennsylvania where hills and mountains seem to magnetically attract snow. So, with only two full weekends left this month to prepare for the 27th, this year's fourth Thursday of November, I'll leave you with Bruce McCall's:

Thanksgiving Rules Revised (New Yorker 12/01/2003)
By Bruce McCall (famous Canadian gone south)
(as typed painstakingly by yours truly)
Post this document within ten feet of all liquor cabinets, TV sets, sofas, and any distant relations who are still sitting or standing upright on the Day of Thanks and Overeating (or, "Overcooking" if one is in the mode to not blame the victim).

Article XII of the 1663 Jamestown Convention has been amended as of this date to include the following:

1) Thanksgiving-dinner guests are no longer required to play Scrabble, Go Fish, or Monoploy with children under the age of ten. Withholding of liquor is coercion.
2) A shaker of Martinis no longer has official standing as Thanksgiving breakfast. Early risers: the Thanksgiving Day cocktail hour now begins only after you have arrived at the venue and parked your car, and never before sunrise.
3) You cannot decline the Kansas Riesling served with dinner out of professional adherence to the claim that "the official Thanksgiving mascot is the 101-proof Wild Turkey." This is apocryphal.
4) The mandatory minimum number of guests related by blood to the host/hostess is increased to sixteen. Seating them on the sun porch, in the attic, or in the basement for the Thanksgiving meal is no longer permissible, nor is the requirement that they wear bags over their heads and/or name tags. Asking how they’re doing remains optional.
5) In-laws must now be accorded full human status. Their chairs must face the dinner table, and they must be offered a choice of dark or white meat.
6) Native American guests must no be offered bourbon, Scotch, gin, or other alcoholic beverages by name. They must not be described as "heap strong firewater".
7) When you are handed a family scrapbook or photo album, you must keep such article in your possession for at least a hundred and twenty seconds (or 120 silent repetitions of“Thanksgiving stuffing”) before passing it on to the next person. You may not ask if your hundred and twenty seconds are up.
8) Precocious children under 12 years of age may now be fitted with muzzles by a non-parent after the first hour.
9) Reminiscences that touch upon parental favoritism, unpaid personal loans, and arrests of blood relations’ children are discouraged.
10) You are entitled to ten naps per twelve-hour Thanksgiving Day period. Moments after 4 P.M., when time itself seems to have stopped, do not count as naps. Do not commence a nap when a blood relation older than you is addressing you directly.
11) You will be videotaped by your most moronic relation. Failing to cooperate by smiling/making funny faces/rushing the lens carries the penalty of spending next Thanksgiving at this relation’s house. Keep in mind that whatever your cooperation level is, there is always a possibility your potentially embarrassing behaviour may end up with 15,798 view on YouTube.
12) Vacating the premises before Thanksgiving dinner is served in order to "get a breath of fresh air", "check the pressure in the tires", or "watch shooting stars" will now be considered a desertion of familial responsibilities, punishable by talking college football with an in-law for thirty minutes without the aid of an alcoholic beverage.
13) The host/hostess cannot depart the house, for any reason, until one hour after the last guest has left, been expelled, or vanished. (Check corners, crawl spaces, and under the dinner table before lights-out.)


Monday, November 10, 2008

Marcin Wasilewski Trio at Chris' Jazz Cafe

Chris' Jazz Café, in Philly, is an "L" shaped room with the band of the night parked on a slightly raised staged located at the bend of the "L". Tables and chairs are packed tightly leaving little for the wait staff to be but very thin and very flexible. Our lovely waitress was of the service staff training that believe by letting you know what they liked on the limited menu was all the reason for you to order and like it yourself. She was also quite proficient in mouthing apologies, a talent that was de rigeur as the food delivery was quite spotty.
The Ever Loving Wife and I arrived at 7:00 pm for an 8 p.m. show on Saturday, November the 8th. Reservations were a good idea but they did not guarantee your table location, so the early seating resulted in fabulous sight lines. As we were guided to our table, I noticed 3-4 guys sitting at some tables in the distance. Well, that distance became more immediate, namely the desired target area of the maître d's depositing of the two of us. She leaned over to one of the fellows and whispered something in his ear. I recognized him in the darkness and as he walked past us with his other mates I said, "Look, we're not making the band get up, are we?". Michal Miskiewicz, the drummer of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio (and the fellow on the right in the picture), turned his head a bit and snarled a definitive "Da!" in my direction. My pleads to sit elsewhere went unheeded, we sat down, opened our menus, and had the band pissed off at us. Well, I’ll leave it as "me", not "us"; nobody gets p.o.-ed at the ELW.

The description of the meal portion of the night's events will be short. I overheard another waiter mentioning to his table that the chef had just come from a stay at Le Bec Fin, one of Philly’s top five restaurants. After eating but not finishing any of the 4 courses I assumed his stay there was not ended due to his desire to leave but rather theirs.

Good enough! We were here mainly for the music. The band spent about an hour tuning up and getting mic levels set and commenced with their performance promptly at 8:05.
Why would promptness matter? Well, we’d decided to take in the early show rather than the 10:00 p.m. one, so a prompt start meant we’d hear a good hour and half, perhaps two hours of music, right?
The Trio immediately went into a selection from January, released in early 2008. The fabulous album has 10 songs, spanning 79 minutes 14 seconds. This night, Marcin Wasilewski and crew elected to play 4 songs, spanning 55 minutes. At 9:00, on the nose, the last gorgeous note floated through the air, all three musicians stood up, Wasilewski spoke for the first and only time, quickly introducing his bandmates, and then all dispersed to a table at the front of the club for a meal.
The four songs they played were not recognizable by yours truly. I've been listening and re-listening to January at home, trying to match the concert notes memories to the CD notes with minimal results. The playing was intense, connected, interwoven with reactions between all three musicians, and seemingly perfect. Little "jokes" poked their short-lived heads on occasion as Mr. Wasilewski went on one of his runs. The sound was precise without any touch of coldness. Michal Miskiewicz’s drumming was a solid backboard for the playing and poking of Mr. Wasilewksi and the double-bass player Slawomir Kurkiewicz. While "sameness" may be a condition thrown out to cover the general mood and projection of the pieces they played, one can’t deny the tightness of the band and the elasticity of the songs they played around with. The ELW had to excuse herself for 5 minutes or so, between songs #2 and #3. At the end of the rather short playlist, she glanced at her watch and noted that 3 songs in one hour was truly amazing. When I tried to point out that she was away for the ending of one composition and the start-up of another, she insisted that it was three songs, period. Only a too loud "Da!" on my part to her "Four songs, ha!" comment seemed to convince her.

We stuck around another 45 minutes, hoping that the trio would come on for one more short set. The snail-like delivery of our food made our stay legitimate although I personally was not awaiting our meals' arrival with anything other than trepidation.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

How Not to Mince Words.

Jack Bruce, making sure that his opinion re. the Led Zeppelin regrouping leaves no wiggle room for mis-interpretation.

The last line in the linked piece is especially gruesome/delicious.

...awaiting the return salvo from the Led, especially Jimmy Page.


We'll Always Have Philly...

The Phillies are world champions. Barack Obama's the next White House resident. All other sports seasons are just staring or midway. What's interesting to read then?

Well, thank God there's always Philly.

Never a shortage there, folks. Never.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Where's the honeymoon I've heard about? Welcome to the new world.....a lot like the old world, Prez. Obama. And even though our foreign allies and those countries we've been courting as allies seem to be quite pleased, Russia's already jumping up and down about how the USA's financial crisis is TOTALLY to blame for Russia's and where they'll be posting new missle bases.

Where is the love

n.b.: The Ever Loving Wife and I were staring at the tube late last night, marveling at the fact that, after eight years, we would have a president who truly knows the meaning of his own words and a person who I am not supposed to be tempted to have a beer with to prove his capability but, rather, a person whose mind and tongue are well-connected. We won't be hearing any nicknames attached to important people because this president attaches importance to what the person's true name is. We preach to our children that honest, hard work, and always, always furthering one's education are admirable qualities. There's nothing wrong with being elite, just as long as you're not elitist...being of the former, you should know what the difference is to the latter. Isn't that what the USA's supposed to be about? Aren't we supposed to strive for the improvement of ourselves and, more importantly, our children?

Then, after Obama's speech, Joe Biden came strolling onto the stage. This was the most unbelievable part for the two of us. Joe Biden, Vice-President Elect. Who woulda thunk it?


Monday, November 03, 2008

Adjectives & Mr. Chase Utley

I had an English teacher in high school we called Professor Tweed. He was a fastidious older gentleman who looked absolutely resplendent in tweed. Pants, kerchief, suit jacket, we even swore his clipped greyish mustache was woven of tweed as well. Having a bit of free time after retiring from professorial duties at Princeton and other colleges on the Ivy circuit, he signed up at our lucky high school to teach a few English lit courses. Those of us high on the self-delusion scale as regards our writing abilities were thrilled to have someone of such caliber at our small college prep school.
"Ha!," we crowed, "now, we’ll have someone on staff who would truly appreciate the pains of our craft." Well, we were half right for 95% of us. Professor Tweed was truly in pain with the majority of us, most probably wondering if some gastric pains had caused his mind to be hobbled enough when he decided to offer his services to our school. One of our classmates went on into the writing trade while another ended up at NPR where he's been writing and producing various shows of national note, including "This American Life". For the rest of us, having our scribblings evaluated by such a talented editor made for quick realizations that our future writing would be limited to the Great American Office Memo or The Employee Review:A One-on-One Study in the Modern Sado-Masochistic Relationship. Being young, coltish, and doltish, the pain to our souls was quick to hit and hurt and quick to depart. "Oh, well. There’s always (law/med/MBA) school…..where my writing may REALLY be appreciated.

One of the many remarkable qualities about Professor Tweed was his acerbic wit. As he handed out marked papers, he would drop a quick line or two at each desk, like a samurai delivering flicks of his sword down upon a loathsome enemy. We, like the on-charging victim would stand straight for a second or two, before collapsing in slices of ourselves at our desk. For most of us, it became an honor and a contest to receive the most withering of praises. Like true lunks, still deep within our inner inkwells, we still believed in our suspect writing talent. So, rather than taking Prof. Tweed's prickly advice, we entrenched in our faults, constructing bunkers that would have had doughboys' admiring glances.

I had a special arrow in his quiver, one he launched practically with each of my paper’s returns. "Mr. Deadwood, I presume, was his familiar greeting to me. I had, have, and will have a preternatural affection for adjectives. "The more the better", was my battle-cry. I was personally responsible for Prof. Tweed's racing through a box of red carbon pencils in my senior year. My papers were skyscrapers of descriptive additions. They were returned, marked down to a ranch house. He did admire the depth of my research and my footnotes; a ton of work in those days when the Internet was available for use to only the top levels of our armed forces. He was a Hemingway Man, with limited admiration for Charles Dickens, so I was the fully loaded sentence that need to be skinned. By the end of the year, my writing did weigh less, spurred on by the forced diet he had us on. My last gasp at my old self appeared on the final exam and he, true to form, red-inked out the battalion of adjectives I had marching to and fro in my submitted answers. In one particularly heavy and ponderously loaded sentence, he drew a sword and red-marked all of the adjectives, with the sword emerging form the red pile like Arthur’s sword. He loved King Arthur and spoke on occasion of how that era is the time he’d like to come back to. The red pitched battle on my paper was his final attempt at curing what he thought ailed me. A note at the end of the exam, "Mr. Deadwood, we have fought the gallant battle. I am withdrawing from this war.", brought tears to my eyes. My over-adjectivizing was more of an adversary than I’d thought.

So, whenever I read or wrote anything after high school, I did try to economize on the clothing I’d put my nouns in. Being neither a fan of Hemingway’s nor of Dickens’, but a grudging admirer of their talents and their works, I have tried to corral my inner adjective.

Sometimes, though, there’s nothing like the great use of an adjective.
Case in point.
Citizen’s Bank Park.
Celebration for becoming baseball's world champions.

Chase Utley, the Phillie’s brilliant shortstop, rises from his seat. He is a notoriously soft-spoken guy who avoids journalists and interviewers as if they were low and away fastballs.
He steps up to the mike.
World Champions!", he yells to the adoring crowd.
Applause, of the polite quality ensues.
He steps back to the mike.
World F%$#*ing Champions !!!
Hysterical applause. Players and coaches behind Utley clutch their chests. Parents cover their children's ears (O.K., maybe not in Philly). Taxi-drivers listening on the radio in the city crash into light posts. Mounted Philly cops try to calm their steeds.
A legend is made.
T-shirt's coming outing shortly.

NSFW, but definitely funny.

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Palin, Rubbing it in in Pittsburgh

In her ongoing campaign in Pennsylvania, VP candidate Sarah Plain is striving to be booed at all major sporting events. Gov. Palin of Alaska either doesn't get it or her not-so-hot-at-handling her personnel don't get it. You don't come to Pittsburgh, home of the most beautiful, IMHO, baseball stadium in baseball and home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, a professional baseball team that hasn't caught a whiff of the playoffs since Barry Bonds was 175 lbs., and rub it in to the home crowd about the cross-state rivals being World Champions.
...and then, after being a dimwit with her words, she puts on that dimwit smile? Come on PA! Get with it and start the "O" landslide, staring from the western cornet all the way to Philly. Home of the Champions.

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Back and Hands

A great NYT article from Sunday, written by Stanley Fish. A lifetime ago, I remember having a memorable meal in the train car restaurant he mentioned in his piece. I'd quibble with the location, though. Unless the train tracks or cars moved, the restaurant is in Carrboro, NC (The Paris of the Piedmont) and not Chapel Hill, N.C. There definitely was something about eating in a rail car, stationary or ripping on the rails, that promotes easy and gradually ratcheting up conversation.
What rings true for me with Mr. Fish's article is the Slavic tone and the concomitant attitude toward politicians. Entwined like rope, this mind-set is what throws, for me at least, the whole RNC "Joe the Plumber" scenario into disbelief and a touch of empathy for the poor guy. Somehow, a guy working with his hands, dealing literally with the muck of humanity, and associating with politicians, of either stripe, throws in doubt his very connection with the working guy. Having laboured during my high school and college summers in various jobs involving back muscle, excessive sweating, and colorful language I graduated college thankful that I had other work possibilities and grateful that I had worked with such great people. There was such a sweet pleasure at the end of a day and particularly at the end of the week, when my hands and back had a chance to recuperate. Callouses were a visible reward for another day's work. The approval of my elders at work, transmitted by their calling me by name rather than by "Kid" or "Punk" stayed withe me longer than any "A" in high school or college. Those summer jobs were probably why I always tended to work for companies after graduating that made something rather than simply serviced something. The tangibility of manufacturing rather than the construction of words was primal, in a way.

Am I happy with the choices we've been provided for tomorrow? Absolutely not. It is a shame that this great country can come down to Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. Perhaps the Max the Plumbers know what an unfulfilling and dirty job it is to run for president. They would rather deal with the pipes than what runs through them.

But, vote we must. So, I'm sticking with Hope rather than Hate. I'm voting for Obama's plumbing company.

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