Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Urban Moment
I was walking down Market Street after a music rehearsal, on my way to an ATM to see if a check had cleared, thereby enabling me to buy dinner, cigarettes, and beer. A 70-ish African American man stepped in front of me, shouting, “You’re next!”

He wanted to shine my shoes. For some reason, this stopped me in my tracks. My shoes, I felt, were not really worthy of shining. They were cheap shoes, purchased last summer, but durable, and comfortable. Sneakers, one might call them. I wear them every day, and I suddenly realized that I LIKED these shoes.

Clearly the shoe shine guy was an aggressive marketer, if you know what I mean. He informed me that he had been shining shoes for thirty years. “But these shoes…?” I objected. “A man’s got to be proud of his shoes,” he said. I thought about it for half a second. “I only have three bucks,” I said. “Sit down,” he ordered.

So I sat down. And I had another realization that I had never had my shoes shined professionally before. I had shined my own shoes, of course, in anticipation of getting laid, or impressing an employer, or not getting fired because I had shoddy footwear. But this was the first time I had ever actually sat down at a shoe shine stand, and had my shoes shined.

The shiner would glance up from time to time during his work to check out the shoes of the passers by, and shout at them to come on over, get a shine. He was largely ignored, but one man, a large blonde man with tassled loafers said he would be back.

The shoeshine guy muttered, “He won’t be back. They never come back.”

After my shine – and I have to admit, my poor dog-covering armor looked great – I hopped on the BART, and discovered at the end of my ride that my wallet was missing. My pocket had been picked! I said as much to the BART authorities, who let me go (bless their hearts), but seemed remarkably incurious about the circumstances of the theft.

I walked home, feeling not depressed, but strangely exhilarated. I had had two urban experiences I had never had before! My shoes shined, and my pocket picked, both on the same day! Inside the same hour!

I cancelled my bank card, and was making a list of stuff I remembered that lived in my wallet that I had to deal with. I stepped outside to smoke a smoke, when the doorbell rang, which I did not hear. Returning inside, I found my commiserating wife with my wallet.

Apparently it had fallen out of my back pocket and wedged into the seat on the BART. Some Samaritan had found it and dropped it off. There was no money in it, so the Samaritan could not have received a reward even had he desired it.

I was glad to have my wallet back, yet oddly disappointed. After all, I would have had two unique urban experiences in an hour if my pocket had been picked. Instead, I had an even more rare urban experience. A kind soul had come to my door to return my wallet, which had not been stolen, but merely lost.

So I am not a crime victim. Just a moron. And the team of goniffs, molls, and grifters I had invented in my mind vanished in a puff of smoke.

I am in the throes of mounting my new show, SLOUCHING TOWARDS DISNEYLAND, which premieres on November 8th at the Marsh in San Francisco. Go to www.themarsh.org for full info. And, if you’re in the Bay Area, come. It’s gonna be a great show. Be back to blogging when, you know, I’ve memorized lines, finalized schtick, and otherwise prepared myself for the full media onslaught that will ensue when this show finally melts the minds of America. I can’t wait!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Stop presses, courtesy New York Times…
“Mr. Obama probably inherited a minute fraction — one divided by two to the 11th power — of Mareen Duvall’s genome, which would amount to less than one gene, assuming the Y chromosome was not inherited. Much the same would be true of Mr. Cheney. The chance that they inherited the same one gene is vanishingly small. So the fact of their genealogical relationship, whatever its political symbolism, is genetically meaningless.”

So the story about Dick Cheney and Barrack Obama being distant cousins is really a non-story, resulting in… this story?

Sudden and random thought.
Failed PBS series: “I’m Walleton Keyes and this is…. AMNESIA.”

What is going on?
Congress is debating whether to call Turkey’s slaughter of Armenians a hundred years ago genocide. If not now, when? President Bush objects. Oh, he’s still relevant, he reminds us. In the meantime, he chooses to honor the Dalai Lama, thus alienating China. Vladimir Putin is going way out of his way to offend us. He kept Condi and Bob Gates waiting for 40 minutes, before he could again reiterate his objections to a U.S. missile base in Eastern Europe, which we want (apparently) for the sole purpose of scaring Iran. Putin was later photographed mouth-kissing Ahmadinejad. President Bush is crestfallen. And relevant.

Umbrage update
Senator Harry Reid (D- Nev) wrote a letter, co-signed by some forty-odd Democrat colleagues, to Clear Channel protesting Rush Limbaugh (Asshole – NY)’s characterization of some guy as a “phony soldier.” Limbaugh put the letter up on eBay as a fundraiser for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. Last I read, the bids were close to two million dollars. Harry Reid took the floor in response: “I don't know what we could do more important than helping to ensure that children of our fallen soldiers and police officers who have fallen in the line of duty have the opportunity for their children to have a good education." Mr. Limbaugh, making hay once by converting criticism to charity cash, made hay again on his program with Reid’s reaction: “Think of this. He's using the word ‘we’. He has inserted himself into this, ladies and gentlemen! …[T]hey want in on it!”

In other news…
Britney Spears has been given custody of Iggy.

Save our precious umbrage.
There is only so much left, my friends. Please conserve it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Old Gray Blog

I went to the DMV to get my license renewed. After waiting 45 minutes, I went to the window with my form, and was told by the bureaucrat, pointing to a line on the form: “I hate to break it to you, but your hair is no longer brown.”

Heartbroken, I slid my debit card to pay for the transaction and unwanted information. When the transaction went through, the bureaucrat said, “Congratulations. Big Brother has noticed and approved you.”

Then I had my picture taken. I did not smile.

Flap du Jour
Graeme Frost, a 12 year old boy, delivered the Democratic radio address prior to the President's veto of S-CHIP. He said:

“If it weren’t for SCHIP, I might not be here today. ... We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program. But there are millions of kids out there who don’t have CHIP, and they wouldn’t get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. ... I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.”

Conservatives quickly weighed in:

Rush Limbaugh: “They filled this kid’s head with lies just as they have some of these soldiers about me.”

National Review: “Mr Frost [Graeme’s father], the ‘woodworker’, owns his own design company and the commercial property it operates from, part of which space he also rents out; they have a 3,000-sq-ft home on a street where a 2,000-sq-ft home recently sold for half a million dollars; he was able to afford to send two children simultaneously to a $20,000-a-year private school; his father and grandfather were successful New York designers and architects; etc.”

Michelle Malkin: “The Democrats chose to outsource their airtime to a Seventh Grader. If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man’s job, then the boy is fair game. As it is, the Dems do enough cynical and opportunist hiding behind biography and identity, and it’s incredibly tedious. And anytime I send my seven-year-old out to argue policy you’re welcome to clobber him, too. The alternative is a world in which genuine debate is ended and, as happened with Master Frost, politics dwindles down to professional staffers writing scripts to be mouthed by Equity moppets...”

Apparently, Ms. Malkin actually went to Baltimore, where the Frosts live, and obtained photographs of their house, and the private school which Graeme’s sister attends. She needs special education, you see, because she suffers from brain damage, which is why she is a CHIP recipient.

Anyway, who’s exploiting whom? Liberals, for getting somebody who was helped by CHIP to speak for it, or conservatives, who are calling the kid a welfare queen.

Well, both, I guess.

Still, I’m with E.J. Dionne, who wrote: “Most conservatives favor government-supported vouchers that would help Graeme attend his private school, but here they turn around and criticize him for … attending a private school. Federal money for private schools but not for health insurance? What’s the logic here?”

And: “Conservatives claim to be in favor of stable families, small businesses, hard work, private schools, investment and homeownership. So why in the world are so many on the right attacking the family of Graeme Frost?”

Story of the month?
MAIDEN, North Carolina (AP) — A South Carolina man who stored his severed leg in a barbecue smoker that was later auctioned off is locked in a custody dispute with a North Carolina man who found it.

John Wood's leg was amputated near the knee after a 2004 airplane crash. He asked doctors to give it to him so he could be buried as a whole man when he died.

The limb, which Wood had kept in the smoker in a storage facility after he lost his home, was bought by Shannon Whisnant last Tuesday in an auction held by the storage company because Wood had missed his monthly payments.

Whisnant initially gave it to police, who subsequently turned it over to a funeral home when it became clear it was not the result of foul play.

But Whisnant, who put a sign on the empty smoker charging adults $3 and children $1 for a look, now wants it back.

"He's making a freak show out of it," Wood told The Charlotte Observer for a Monday story. "He wants to put money in his pocket with this thing."

Whisnant, who was unsuccessful in his bid to get the leg from the funeral home, consulted with a lawyer and decided his best move was to persuade Wood to share custody and profits.

"It's a strange incident and Halloween's just around the corner," Whisnant said. "The price will be going up if I get (a stake in) the leg."

Wood, who is heading to Maiden to pick up his leg, said the two men can meet, but he is not interested in using the leg to make money.

"I just think it's despicable," he said. "I don't mind having the 15 minutes of fame, but I'm not looking to really profit off this thing."

Stop presses.
Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Gore was attacked by right wingers.

Here is a sample, from a blog called Grizzly Groundswell: “…[H]is 20-room, eight-bathroom mansion in Nashville sometimes uses twice the energy in one month that the average American household gets through in a year. The combined energy and gas bills for his estate came to nearly $30,000 in 2006. Ah, say his defenders, but he uses rainwater to flush his lavatories. Is there enough rainwater in the world, I wonder? [After all he is so Full of Crap]."

Where does Mr. Groundwell get this information?

The blogger also calls Mr. Gore a “lardbutt.”

Cackle update
Ms. Clinton appeared on MSNBC; CBS reported: “During the twelve-minute interview, the former first lady chuckled in response to Olbermann. But she never unleashed the highly-scrutinized, overly-analyzed belly laugh known as ‘the cackle’ that has been the focus of national media over the past few weeks. Which raises the question: Has the tightly-managed Clinton campaign put the kibosh on the cackle?”

Again, stop presses: Hillary Clinton did not cackle during an interview. She also did not twirl a baton. She did not put her thumb to her nose, wiggle her fingers, and say “layler layler layler.” Assemble pundits. Discuss.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The telltale scent of bitter almonds....
I’ve been dipping into the novels of Charlotte Macleod, of which the Child Bride seems to have many. Because we are married, they have become my possessions as well – which is probably why I’ve decided to read them. It’s kind of like walking the grounds of the vast estate, to see the extent of our holdings, if you know what I mean.

Macleod’s one of those Agatha Christie-ish writers (although a bit more able, if I may say so): solving murders of scholars, eccentric aunts at Renaissance Faires, etc. I haven’t approached this genre in a while, and there’s something very exotic about now. It’s like visiting another planet. Not even Mystery! on PBS explores this world much any more. On the first page, for instance, a character says (or “expostulates,” I suppose) “Now what in tarnation am I going to do?”

Who talks like that? I come from a line of people who SHOULD talk like that, but don’t. “Land’s sake,” this same character says at another point, and “I’ve a good mind to…”

I’m fascinated. What if characters in porn talked like that? “Land’s sake but you’re large! Tarnation! I’ve a good mind to put my mouth around that thing….”

Stop presses!
The appendix has a function after all, according to a new study from Duke University Medical School. AP informs me:

“The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most of it is good and helps digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.”

But what about tonsils? That little groove above the lip and below the nose? Why two nostrils? Why two testicles? Why four fingers, and not just three? Why do we have two sexes?

Neighborhood moment
I was down to the Chainsaw Market buying some beer. One of the kids who runs the register was sitting with one of the Chinese butchers, who was tying a necktie on him. I watched as the kid loosened the tie, lifted it over his head, and hung it from the back of a stool.

I asked: “Learning how to tie a tie?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m going to visit my family, and I can’t show up with just white tee shirt and baggy pants."

Then he smiled, and added: "Fucking Arabs.”

Umbrage War
Last Friday, Slate ran a tally of Republicans and Democrats, and which were trotting out indignation at MoveOn.org (“General Betray Us”) and/or Rush Limbaugh (protesting soldiers are “phony”). Apparently the GOP is winning, as Democrats decline to get all that upset about the bloviations of Rush Limbaugh. Though Keith Reid did send a letter to Limbaugh’s bosses, asking that he disavow what he said. He did not. And Move On, as of this writing, moves on.

Can I move to a different planet now please dept.
AP “It can take your pulse, check your body fat, time your jogs and tell you if you have bad breath. It even assesses stress levels and inspires you with a pep talk. Meet your new personal trainer: your cell phone.”

Can I have sex with it? Then what's the point?

“And here’s Johnny to tell them what they’ve won!”
AP “The Saudi Arabian government will temporarily release 55 prisoners recently transferred from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and will give each of them about $2,600 to celebrate the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a newspaper reported Saturday.”

After the holiday, though, they have to go back in the clink.

Here we go again, dept.
Seymour Hersh, in the New Yorker: “First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.”

New angle? Iran is why things are going so poorly in Iraq. Let’s go get ‘em! And then when things go south there…. well, we’ll find somebody to blame. The Uzbeks maybe. The neocons.

New insult.
According to a New York Times editorial, “neocon” has replaced “liberal” as the worst thing you can call somebody, politically.

The last week has been host to dozens of articles and features about the launching of Sputnik back in 1957, and what that meant to the Cold War, the stepping up of our space program, and its effect on popular culture. Everybody seems kind of nostalgic about it. I do not share that nostalgia.

I was seven years old when Sputnik was launched, living in North Dakota, surrounded by missile silos. You know those “Duck and Cover” films that were shown back in the fifties, that everybody mocks today? We never even got to see those. What was the point? In the event of World War III, North Dakota would be Ground Zero, and everybody knew it.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush may be major assholes (may?), but at least the kids in North Dakota today don’t drop into slumber at night wondering if they’re going to be vaporized in their sleep.

On the other hand, President Bush isn’t out of office yet, is he? He has a real gift for alienating world powers, I think. One could even call it a talent.

Good news?
UK Guardian: “Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.”

Can we eat it? Have sex with it? Well then, what good is it?

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