please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

History is my Demon

Some interesting paralells are suggested by the two major leaders of World War Two. Both Hitler and Roosevelt inherited countries torn apart by economic depression, and both inaugurated massive public works projects to put their citizenry back to work. This worked, to a certain degree, in both cases, but wasn't quite enough to fully pull their chestnuts out of the fire. What they really needed was a system-wide infusion of cash; the sort that having to prepare for a war would bring.
Further interesting paralells can be observed between the presidential races of 1940 and 2000. Both involved the scion of a political dynasty, for easy starters. Both victors inherited an economy that had recently crashed (though FDR had got his eight years before '40, of course) after years of prosperity-in both cases, prosperity that was predicated on stock profits from largely illusory corporations, and the bubble always was going to burst: why someone didn't plan for that inevitability is astonishing.
America in the '20's and America in the '90's (under Clinton, anyway, and Bush I only did it once) both pursued paths that didn't include the overt declaration of war, but nonetheless featured many military adventures abroad.
When FDR made the unprecedented move of running for a third term, he had a nation that was 80-90% isolationist. His main opponent in the GOP was one Robert Taft, who was making a great deal of hay telling his skeptically isolationist constituency that their president was already paving the way to war, and would lie to get them into it, the same way Wilson had. Just before the Republican convention, the man in charge of seating for the hall, a dedicated Taft man, suddenly died, after being in rude health just before. The one who took his place was the Republican boss of (Philadelphia? Pittsburgh?), Ernest Cuneo, who saw to it that Wendell Willkie got the nomination.
Willkie was a Wall Street lawyer, though with a rural background, and a good, folksy manner that served him well on the stump. His main backers were Thomas Lamont (chief financial officer of the House of Morgan), and the publishers of Time/Life and "Look" magazines. A former Democrat,he was skeptical of the New Deal, though the idea of intervention in Europe appealed to him. It appealed to his bosses in the money powers, as well, who seem to have put up a candidate so like FDR (in his views on intervention, anyway) that even if Roosevelt lost, they'd still have their war candidate.
In 2000, the younger Bush got as far as Florida on election night, and things started to get interesting. My notes from that evening show that before Florida, Bush was ahead in electoral votes, and running about even in the popular vote. My notes also note my pleasure at seeing the son of Richard Daley, who stole Illinois for Kennedy in 1960, stealing Illinois for Al Gore, forty years later.
As Master of Operations for a public radio station, I got to sit there every afternoon in the control booth, listening to the growing nightmare as the outcome became a series of court cases, with each side claiming only an interest in fairness and legality, and when they'd lose, they'd say, "We'll see..." It was win/lose, win/lose for both sides. When news items about all 15,000 absentee votes in Seminole county, Fla. (for example) being found to be fraudulent, and people who thought that they were voting for Gore having their votes counted on the voting machines (owned by Diebold, a large contributor to the Republican party) as votes for Pat Buchanan, a recount was ordered. The recount happened in the face of what sure looks to me like mob intimidation. Nonetheless, it went on, with the Bush people in particular asking the Florida supreme court to stop it. They said they wouldn't, so the case went to the federal supreme court. Instead of recusing themselves (Scalia had a son highly placed in the Bush camp), they went right ahead and stopped the recount, a judicial coup leading to the victory of Bush.
Mind you, Al Gore may very well have been the Wendell Willkie of his day: a horribly stiff presence on the stump, he also had very little not in common with his opponent. The Dems, as usual, were under the impression that they could somehow sway the religious right to their cause by throwing a few bones their way (gay marriage being "wrong", abortion being "wrong", though the law of the land, Lieberman's quote about how the constitution provides freedom religion, not freedom from religion, etc.). He at least partially deserved to have his ass handed to him, by my observation, but not in the way it happened.
From my notes during this time:
"Frankly, the whole thing is just getting creepy. Bush got his people to do the oldest shoplifter's trick in the world-walk out like you own what you stole. They said he won Florida, so people think he won. And now the polls reflect this, which no doubt gives Al Gore pause...
"The senate is going to be split right down the middle, now that arch-reptile Slade Gorton is gone (which itself only happened after a protracted legal battle). Exciting. Terrifying. We'll see if this prevents Bush from packing the federal courts with back-water troglodytes."
It remained split down the middle, until Jim Jeffords became an independent, over the outraged howls of his fellow Republicans (who basically were making the point that one simply can't do that, which isn't true). Then, Paul Wellstone's plane mysteriously dropped out of the sky, five days before the midterm elections, and now we have a Republican majority in congress.
Naturally, the new president in 2000 had a record that made him look a bit suspect. The new president in 1940 would have, too, if the press was a bit more vigilant, and less likely to keep secrets on behalf of their political sources (to my conservative friends: Just think! If the evil liberal media had the big mouth that they have these days-allegedly-you wouldn't have all those socialistic New Deal programs to complain about!). Everything Mr. Bush tried, legislatively, was failing due to a deadlocked senate and widespread mistrust of the government at large, the administration in particular. I had to chuckle: for as long as I had been watching politics, people who referred to themselves as "conservatives" had been getting themselves elected by going on about how they weren't really politicians, beholden to certain interests, and government itself was evil, somehow. They'd hamstring every protective measure that government is there to provide, and underfund needed programs (including schools), and step back, proudly, and say, "See, I told you it doesn't work!" Now, nothing was. Something needed to change.
Roosevelt had already been doing everything he could for England (paralell there too; both he and Churchill had been head of their respective navies, at one time. Both had American mothers, too, for whatever that's worth). England was broke, and their ambassador had, rather bluntly, came out and said so. So, in return for the use of various outposts in their crumbling empire, we leased them battleships and gave them money, which irked the largely isolationist congress not just a little. Roosevelt had promised, in the election, that we would not go to war unless attacked. Eventually, in speeches after the election, he started leaving off the 'unless attacked' part.
Pleas from China to help them in their fight against Japan had largely gone unheeded, but we used our connections to the remains of the British and Dutch empires to see to it that not only were no Japanese battleships going to be fuelling up anywhere in the Pacific, but that no goods whatsoever were going to Japan. Naval intelligence operatives had already cracked the code books, so they knew that Japan was going to attack the Pacific fleet, the only question was where. Conventional wisdom in the administration held that it would probably be in the Phillipines, or Java. At the last minute, the Secretary of State Cordell Hull sent one last possible set of suggestions to Japan as to how they could avoid war with the United States, a document that seems to have been a bunch of things that were obviously unacceptable to a sovereign power, no matter how belligerent. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Japanese embassies all over the world were burning their cabled dispatches.
Then the order came from Tokyo, on December Sixth, to Yamamoto's fleet, quickly translated, it read, "East Wind Rain".
Pearl Harbor was largely the home of old, on their way to decommissioning battleships. For reasons that the head of the Navy never got to hear, they were all lined up in a row. Admiral Richardson had resigned, a couple months before, over this. The rest is history.
As to what happened on 9/11, I suspect that the truth will come out, say forty years or so in the future (as with Pearl Harbor), if at all. These days, you don't need to burn incriminating paper memoes, you just hit 'delete' on your keyboard. After December 7th, 1941, the only people who questioned the circumstances on that day that led to so much death (the historian/teachers Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes) soon found that they had no jobs, no book deals. Their voices are largely forgotten.
On September Twelfth, 2001, Richard Armitage (who had been the United States ambassador to the United Nations) was asked whether or not there was any possibility of 9/11 being an inside job, in the most roundabout of ways. He said the usual, "I will not dignify such a disgusting assertion with...", which is to say that he didn't answer the question. Anyone since who has raised the question is faced with accusations of 'insensitivity', which is weird, since I think that it's far more insensitive to not seek justice for the dead, and perhaps let their true killers walk free.
But I do know that the arab world stood to gain nothing on that day, short of yet further bombs falling on them (which had been going on steadily since 1991), more starvation (ditto), and occupation, seizing of their oil fields, etc. It has been said that Saddam Hussein was preparing to nationalize the Iraqi oil fields, by the way. I also know that the electorate in both '40 and '00 were in no way enthusiastic about the idea of war against the rest of the world, unless attacked, of course, and right on schedule, there came the attacks.
The questions have to be asked, because it all just looks too damn strange. The government in this country has a long history (Republican, Democrat, Whig) of lying to its people to get them to do things that not only did they not want to do, and work counter to the interests of the people. The very rich few happen to control the media, and the government, and pretty much every avenue of possible employment for your average person, so why is it such a stretch to say that they wouldn't kill their own to get their way?
Remember the Maine. Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember 9/11. Hell, Remember the Alamo while you're at it.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Farther Along, or the Importance of the Liturgical as of Use to the Secular, In the Unending War Against the Chuckleheads

"As for the human case, the generation of men come and go and are in eternity no more than bacteria upon a luminous slide, and the fall of a republic or the rise of an empire-so significant to those involved-are not detectable upon the slide even were there an interested eye to behold that steadily proliferating species which would either end in time, or, with luck, become something else, since change is the nature of life, and its hope."
That's Gore Vidal up there. Inspiring words are hard to come by, and it's even harder if you've taken away the Appeal to the Almighty. The language of religion comes ready made to sound a bit bigger, taller, stronger. It speaks of the primeval and puts a face on it, and don't discount that almost everything sounds cooler in a dead language.
That's why most of your freedom movements of the past have been religious in origin-you've already got a Higher Principle that you, in theory, serve, and already have songs to sing, words to quote. It always gets a little thick, too, as an the eye of the historian considers it, watching both sides claim that Gawd Itself is on their side. If one were a little too literal, one might get the headache: Segregation is the will of God/God frowns on the subjugation of his people...And that's only one example.
Anyway, I said a few posts back that my favorite song of them all is The Carter Family's "In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain". It's true. It's not exactly a hymn, though The Flood is mentioned, as the source of all waters. That strikes me as beautiful imagery, and that song is just odd anyway, since springs and trees and birds are spoken of as loving and sharing the same songs as people: an oddly pagan notion to come out of a staunchly conservative 1930's Christian woman from the South (for the exact opposite of this song, check out their just-plain-evil "Hold to the Right"). The other, somewhat more important thing about this song is that it has that intangible moment-out-of-time quality that all really great music has for me. You have been taken outside the boundaries for a moment, to receive A Gift, and A Lesson.
Then I started looking at the list, if there was one, and noting that there's actually a lot of at least gospel-esque material in there. "Uncloudy Day" by the Staple Singers: gospel, and nothing but. Or-well, only your ethnomusicologist types will come out and actually say this, but...There's a lot of sexual energy in gospel. In fact, this is one of the sexiest damn songs I've ever heard. Its circular structure, insistent, throbbing tempo, dreaming twangy gui-tar...It makes me forget that as usual, it's a song promising you that one day, there'll be more than just a grave waiting for you, at the end of this life. And one of my favorite melodies is "Hold To the Unchanging Hand of God", as done by Ry Cooder. The words aren't bad either, but I do like them better when Janis Joplin stole the melody to make it into "Mercedes Benz".
They work because they're bigger than what they are. There's plenty of songs about God, and about heaven, and plenty about hell, certainly. Lots and lots about Jesus (Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" being the best, I feel), lots and lots about the Devil. These ones work because they are universal in scope. God as The Great and Venerable Mechanism of the Universe, or Justice, or Fate. The Devil as the Combine, or The Bullshit Engine (my term for it), or The Exact Opposite (my other term for it), or the military/industrial complex: when Uncle Tupelo sings "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down", I'm certainly not envisioning a guy with cloven hooves. I'm seeing the friendliest guy in a suit to come this way in a while, and he says Exactly What Everyone Wants to Hear.
When Mississippi John Hurt sings "Farther along/ we will understand why/ cheer up my bro-ther/ live in the sunshine/ we'll understand it/ all by and by"...He's talking about one day seeing heaven. Like the Staples were up above. Black? Miserable? Enslaved? Nothing at all you can do about it? Believe you on the pie in the sky, and do nothing here about it. But flash forward: the song becomes an anthem of the civil rights movement without changing a single word. Magic, and bigger than religion.
So it's time again, I feel, to use the tools of the...Oh look, do I even need to come right out and say it? Right after WWII, America basically found itself in charge of the world, or so it felt it needed to be. If it had chosen not to police the globe, frankly, I imagine this world would have been far better off (ah-ah-don't say it: the Soviet never had a chance). Since it chose to do so, it at least could have chosen to be a decent and wise steward with this rather fragile gift, the world. But no. Instead, we went about being every bit as rotten and deserving of scorn as every empire before it, causing much of the world to despise us, and not without reason.
Now it's not even an empire. It's an oligarchy that is rapidly going broke. (And an oligarchy without money is called?...) It is having some rather nasty tantrums and spasming at its end, and threatens to take a lot of Earth with it. Those of us left to fight the bullshit engine this time are badly outnumbered, largely by apathy, and those who oppose are well funded and very, very On Point.
So, all a person can really do is win the metaphorical war. Take back the tools of Bullshit from its host Engine, make it the marching tunes of a happy, bloodless revolution, where the enemy dies from ridicule. Until the next time this happens, of course. Every twenty years or so, it does.
Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

We Cannot Fancy

The boy walks half missing person...
Interest that I was not who chateei, that I annoyed it, that I ordered with the goblet of pipocas รก to it head when saw the soccer in the other day and it did not bind none to that I was to say... Interest to it that was not this!
I know there, walks entertained...
E later leaves me it difficult task to write any thing here, only because yes...
I find that I go to finish for it to make an ultimatum style:


posted by girl @ 12:11 4

The above is an example of what happens when Google tries to translate foregn languages. Hilarious, no? It feels like a transmission from elsewhere: a broadcast from Mars. Except there's bits of English. 'I was not who chateei' indeed.
There also is the completely wonderful book English As She Is Spoke, which is a Portuguese-to-English phrase book originally published in 1855 by two Portuguese gentlemen who had no command of English whatsoever, but did have a French-to-English phrasebook, so they used that. The result is a trainwreck, with such well-known English colloquialisms as "This girl have a beauty edge", "It can't to please at everyone's", "Amuse you to cull some flowers", and "These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in my mouth".
I was, for a while considering writing a semi-scholarly study titled, So I Says To Him: A study of the American Venacular, but abandoned the project when I looked at The American Language (volumes 1&2) by H.L. Mencken. Those were written in the '20's, though, and maybe could use a bit of updating. All the same, like on a lot of things, the guy just got there first.
I live in a neighborhood that is not entirely certain what it wants to be. It is equal parts residential and industrial, with a little smidge of retail thrown in. ('Smidge', huh? I bought a pair of Levi's from the I'd-have-to-say-1960's the other day, and a label within promised me 'With a skosh more room'. Was that word in any sort of common usage outside of largely Jewish communities back then?) So there's lots of warehouses, but they are largely becoming residences, whether or not the landlords know it. There is the B&O, where Bang and Olaufsen turntables used to be made, and then it was a corn flake manufactory (I had friends that lived in the roasting tower). These days, it's just storage, and bands practice there, and yeah, folks live there, but don't tell anybody. Across the street from this is the City Signs building, where they had a full-blown speakeasy operating on the roof (!) until the inevitable arrival of too many fucked up young people coinciding with no one really making sure that the whole thing was staying discreet mixed in with all the people in charge being idiots. I believe the whole enterprise lasted less than six months.
One day I left the B&O after band practice, and I had my camera, so I asked my friend who was with me to pose in front of one of the other warehouses nearby. The intermittent boarding up of windows had produced a surreal interplay of texture, surface, and occasional text, saying God-knows-what to whoever it was intended for, previously. Half a sign, obscured by boards, read, 'WE CANNOT FANCY'. That pic never came out, damn shame.
The thing is, I keep on having these conversations lately (or maybe I always have) that resemble this sort of selective perception. Where the person I'm speaking to heard maybe half of what I actually said, and it's not like a full half sentence, it's more like every other word. Then they proceed to respond to what they heard me say, and we spend the next half hour parsing the sentence structure. It's both maddening and terrifying.
I'm a person who chooses his words very carefully, as communication between people is one of the most important things to me (unless I'm drunk; but even then I do okay, and that's most people for you, if you ask me). When I have my own words misquoted back to me five minutes after they have been spoken, I worry. A lot.
I don't mutter (though my hearing is shit), and I have a clear speaking voice from radio and advertising work. I enunciate, and my speech patterns aren't monotonous. This doesn't help at all. It makes me realize too that if anyone is going to write down the story of all the fascinating people I've known, and all the things we have done, it's going to have to be me, and I'm a flawed vessel at best.
I am about to get my first byline: a restaurant review in a local weekly. I have been told to 'punch it up (though I hate to use that phrase)' by Keisheimer (check 'Disorder', from the March archives). She means I should make it snottier, as is the tone generally affected by that paper. Fine. No problem, but then I have this minor ethical quandry to contend with.
The next review is of a new place around here, in the district where we put our fanciest restaurants. A great deal of money was spent on its conception, and the head chef is one of those superstars who has worked at all the places you hear about on the Food Channel. My pal The Provost is the dessert guy, who is finally getting a chance for the world to really see how good he is, and he's amazing. He's been patissier at a lot of places around town, but none of them has been anyone's idea of four-star, and he never gets any credit anyway (though a recipe for his scones, oddly, appears in Chuck Palahniuk's book of essays about Portland). I have an opportunity to help a friend whose star, quite deservedly, should rise. Then I ate the rest of the food there.
A lot of it was free because The Provost had warned them that I was coming: I don't view that as inethical because it gave me a broad overview of what they could and could not do, and besides, free or not, if it sucked, it sucked.
About fifty percent of it sucked. I told The Provost this, and now the head chef wants me back, saying that I didn't sample enough of the menu, and especially to taste some of the signature dishes. They tell me the duck (cooked in duck fat, natch) is incredible.
Well, and maybe just maybe this is all a matter of opinion, and I'm the one who doesn't know anything about food. I know what I like, and what I like is made simply, but tastes complex. This place tries to be simple, but fucks it up by throwing three fantastic ingedients that don't really belong together into some weird, gritty broth...For instance. Tryin' too hard to be arty with food is something that can be done without sacrificing the all-important taste of the food.
So, I want to help my friend (potential ethical violation one), and that might lead to my writing an honest evaluation being compromised, because this is one of the best chances he's ever had, and I don't want to fuck that up for him (potential ethical violation two). I'm gonna go back there on Thursday, and I'm gonna be honest (I would love to get paid to both eat and write, and if you only write good reviews, you're...Homer Simpson, come to think of it), but I also have to find that middle ground.
The Tulsa Kid has already weighed in on this one, and someone (Press? You out there?) else could maybe toss me a bone here.
I came very close to leaving all my typoes in here, uncorrected, just so's I could keep with the earlier theme.



Over on Mark Maness's blog, he is in a list-making mood. He has now provided two long lists regarding himself, and it makes me want to do something along the same lines, though I'm a little tired of talking about myself, so here are some items drawn at random, from observation.

Selected Track Titles From "Best of Friends", by The Smurfs, ca. early '80's:

1.Smurfing All Around The World
2.Follow My Smurf
3.The Best Smurf of All
4.If You Come To Smurfing Land
5.Dance With The Reggae Smurf
6.Smurf Rodeo
7.Sleep Until The Brand New Day
(I suspect that last one is more for the parents than the kids. Feel free to interpolate possible replacements for the word 'Smurf' in any of the above, of course.)

These Are Names of Actual Gas Stations.

2.Food Chief
3.Freedom Value Center
5.Grease Monkey
7.Kum n' Go
8.Kwik Trip
9.Lil' Champ
12.Smoker's Express
(I realize to my readers in other parts of The States that you probably get your gas at any number of these places and haven't found their name funny for years, but when I saw this list for the first time, I busted up.)

Very Long Song Titles By Actual Bands

1."What need have I for this, what need have I for that, I am dancing at the foot of my master all is bliss all is bliss"-Shakti, featuring John McLaughlin (27 words)
2."Several Species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a Pict"- Pink Floyd (16 words)
3."At Least the Native American people know how much they've been fucked over"-Chuck D. (13 words)
4."In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven there were women and men"-Tortoise (11 words, with points added for mentioning H.L. Mencken)
5."The Venerable Song (The Meaning of Which is no longer known)"-Sun City Girls (11 words)
6."A small package of Value will come to you, shortly"-Jefferson Airplane (10 words)
7."Ain't Gonna Bump No More with no Big Fat Women"-Joe Tex (10 words)
8."As the world dies, the eyes of God grow bigger"-Sebadoh (10 words)
9."Get outta that spaceship and fight like a man"- The Grifters (9 words)
10."Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Dance"- Buffalo Springfield (only 5 words, but feel like so much more when spoken)

Ideas For Bumper Stickers I Have Had:

1.Stop That (white letters on red backgound)
2.Quit Thinking About Bumper Stickers
3.They Cheat and They Lie (for folks of all ideological persuasions!)
4.Appreciate It
5.Notice How You Can't Stop?
6.The Clock Lies
7.This Is The Way Home. Be Careful.

Recurring Phrases in Rock n' Roll Songs which sound Ominous when Spoken

1.Can't Live Without You.
2.Can't Get Enough of Your Love.
3.Keep on Rockin' Me.
4.Tonight, I'm Gonna Rock You.
5.Cancha' hear Me Callin'?
6.What About that Diamond Ring?
7.(Anything talking about how neat it is that it's Summer, or Saturday Night.)

Place Names In the North Cascades

1.Mt. Terror
2.Mt. Fury
3.Forbidden Peak
4.Mixup Peak
5.Mt. Torment
6.Sinister Peak
7.Mt. Forbidden
8.Hurry Up Peak
9.Dumbbell Mtn.
10.Frosty Pass
11.Foggy Pass
12.Rainy Pass
13.Doubtful Lake

1a.Perfect Pass
2a.Easy Peak
3a.Magic Mtn.
4a.Mt. Colonel Bob

Strange, Disquieting Names Of Portland Law Firms

1.Hagen & Dye
2.Bodyfelt, Mount & Stroup
3.Lane Powell Spears Lubersky
4.Ransom, Blackman & Maxfield
5.Black Helterline

Oh, and there's so many more. Some very, very long ("Possible Responses to the Bumper Sticker; 'Jesus Was A Liberal'."), some only one item ("The Only Conclusion I've Reached After A Thorough Study of History"-'It has never been fun to be poor'.). In other cases, it's too damn tough. My top ten favorite songs? Couldn't do it, except that I know that "In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain" by The Carter Family has been sitting at number one for the last eleven years. My list of favorite albums is arranged more like the Periodic Table of the Elements.
But anyway, here's some of the things that crowd my mind, when perhaps I coulda/shoulda/woulda been thinking of other topics.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Living

Yesterday was a day of Removal. My mom had a tumor the size of either a volleyball or bowling ball removed, as well as her gallbladder, as it was filled with stones. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor The Smiler had one removed from her brain that was the size of either a walnut or a baseball, depending on who you ask. Everyone seems to be doing fine, as far as I can tell.
Big theme of injury and illness around here. The Babbler's mom was telling me the other day that she has fibromyalgia, and hasn't really been able to eat lately, there was Gringa 1's bike accident of two weekends ago, Hazel just got back from New York, where apparently three friends of hers went to the hospital in the three weeks she spent there. While she was away, one of the girls who is a bike messenger met her end under the wheels of a truck, here in town. Actually, the last four people there are all people who ride their bikes in traffic for a living, so the odds go rather severely up.
Every now and then at their parties, I remind them that their occupation is not a revolutionary choice, but in fact that they're risking their lives for the very corporate beast that they claim to hate. Makes me popular.
I've had jobs that risked my limb (nearly had my arm taken off in an industrial mixer I was cleaning), and maybe my life (taxi driving, auto parts delivery), definitely ones where I was risking a lawsuit or at least a good beating (security guard), jobs where I could make a mistake that costs thousands of dollars (my first job, hand inserting advertising fliers into newspapers), jobs where I was certain that all I was doing was fleecing the elderly (my short time spent telemarketing), a job in which I was well on my way to 'white lung' (baking), then there's dispatching taxis, processing fish, modelling for artists, various weird office jobs, working in a greenhouse, shipping/receiving, years of every aspect of work in restaurants, marketing/fliering, box office, exhibit design grunt, AV tech, market/political research, proctoring (in which one hands out tests: final medical exams, law boards, and makes sure the testers don't cheat on them), debris boy on a demolition site, janitorial stuff, processing applications for college, stagehand, "lighting director", food critic, barista and of course, washing more dishes than I even care to think about.
Did I leave anything out? Probably. This would be a much longer post if I went through and told you a story about each of them, and they all have a story.
Ne'mind. I'm goin' to the beach. See ya.


Thursday, July 14, 2005


If you Google 'Rich Bachelor' right now, you will find that the first hit is on the 'My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy' blog.
It would also seem that she (?) obviously missed the joke in my screen name, and spends a great deal of time ridiculing same, and then never actually addresses the point. Typical. The fact that I used the appelation 'darlin'' is commented upon at length, making her (?) sound like twice the vindictive-fool-who-happens-call-themselves-a-feminist that I ever had to deal with back in the '90's, since I had the temerity to disagree with her. At least she doesn't hide behind this "we are nice people over here on the right, and never engage in name-calling" thing that most people on the right seem to engage in, shortly before the calling of names. She just openly does it.
We're just never going to be able to talk again, as a society, are we?



I'm going to be leaving town for a few days. Well, a week, actually. I'll be relaxing down at the coast, in the top-secret Bachelor family retreat, about twenty miles south of where Lewis and Clark made it to the ocean, two hundred years ago. Cell phones do not work there unless one is standing on top of a large hill, and I don't own a laptop. Furthermore, my mother is going into the hospital tomorrow for exploratory surgery on some Thing that is in between her liver and colon. So maybe I'll instead be spending a bit of time hanging around a Lane County hospital.
The nice thing is, as I've spent the better part of my life in dentist's chairs (I had bad teeth before I even had teeth), I'm not one to be bullshitted by health care professionals. Later, when I worked at a hospital (movin' stuff: well, Material Transportation Technician, then later in Medical Records), I noticed the stunning arrogance displayed toward the patient by the provider. Like they were busted cars or something, and didn't need anything in the way of explanation for what was happening to them.
I understand why this is often the case: you can't become too emotionally attatched to strangers who are currently clients who might just die. However, if the staff doesn't provide me with clear explanations, or are oblivious to the fact that maybe I am more familiar with my case than they are, or are lax in their attitudes toward pain management, I go all commando and remind them that, despite the enormous amount they spent on their educations and current God-like omnipotence, they are still my employees. Fortunately, my stepfather is the same way.
Along the lines of not getting too attatched: my job as a mover of stuff required me to be in the emergency room a lot, waiting for lab samples to run. I had gotten my friend a job there too, and one night it hit him:
"Those two guys from the motorcycle wreck they just brought in? They're our age!"
"Yup," I said, "And people our age, older and younger, die every day."
He got all red for a minute. "So you just harden yourself to it?"
"But you have to accept it."
This puts me in a mood to do a posting about all the jobs I've had, and I've had a lot. Maybe that will be the last project before I go. I've got some pretty big worries on my mind, but I can't really even worry yet, since we don't know anything.
You know, this one was going to be about Lewis and Clark. The Corps of Discovery found their way to the ocean about two hundred ago, as I said, and on the anniversary year, Oregon always goes nuts. I'm really in the mood for quiet, so I'm probably not going to be joining in any of the festivities, but all the same, Meri and Will, belated congrats. "Ocean in sight. O the joy!", indeed.
Mind you, Clark couldn't spell to save his life, so it was really 'Ocian', 'site' and 'joi', but you get the picture.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

'Things or other things'

A pal of mine teaches English As a Second Language here at the University in town. Every few years, she returns to China, to teach English, as she enjoys herself there. Not a small-bodied person, she is treated as a goddess of sorts there, as her girth is viewed as a sign of both wealth and health. Unlike what she encounters here.
Nonetheless, she finds their answers to certain essay questions funny, and sends them to me. Here are some selected responses to the question, "Describe the most interesting person you've ever met".
1. "I met two guys before. They are very funny. First one, she's name also called 'Funny'. I lives with her. She always forget something. So, I always remind her that things or other things. One day, when I remind her something, she is angry and yell to me. 'Don't Boring Me.' I shoked."
('I was shocked'? 'I choked'?)
2. "We went to Something Road. I heard that there are famous-sight and most people like Something Road. But I don't like there. The reason is that I have bad remember. I met interesting person when I walked to there. Interesting person is man. He has raider bicycle. That time, he touch my hip. I felt so so bad and I'm cried. I remember that felt still. It's terrible! I can't understand. So I'm interesting still now. If I meet that kind person I want to ask. Why did you do? Finally, he want to that too? I really wonder that."
(I've read a lot of these things, and I've noticed that 'hip' seems to mean 'ass'.)
3. "I think interesting person is my dog. She is not person. One day maybe she was really hungry. She was eating her dinner. She loves beef. If her meals is beef she can't hear anything. She watches only beef. Sometimes she's bad. She wants to my meals."
(I've also noticed the strange use of 'maybe' in a lot of these mostly Asian students' replies. It doesn't really mean 'maybe' as it is understood in English.)
4. "His name is Hwan Jan-Lon. I think he is a king of forgot everythings and doing everythings slowly. When the sir says maybe move your asses guys. It's time to stick together. Maybe he just finish his shower and he says what? Why so fast? This thing let all of my friends in the army feel he is a joke. Nevertheless, he's still my friend. At least, I think a man who is much stupid won't lie to you and it's better to be friends with him."
5. "In 1973, at that time I lived in Ulsan (my hometown) Samyong-Bae visited there. To meet him, I woke up early and went to the park. Many people were gardening there, so it looks like a cloud. I was standing in front of the stage. Mr. Bae came closer to me and asked me to shake hands. I was full of joy then because he was the most famous comedian in Korea. So I didn't forget that event."
(I love that thing about " it looks like a cloud", and it reminds me of 1977 in Lake Tahoe when Rich Little addressed me directly, sitting in the front row, unaware that my six-year-old self had been sitting there peeing my pants, unaware of how to find the bathroom unaccompanied, in a large casino.)
6. "My boss is best teacher. I ever met many person, but He's special, because he knows everything. He select me in my company member. I have to do my best. I want to succese (sic) in U.S. My boss too. My best teacher is him. I have to do his level. In future, I want to teach young man for look like him."
(That last one is the scariest one of all, if you ask me, since it sounds like he has a gun to his head.)
I have many, many more of these, on many topics. One includes the famous amount of rain we receive around here ("I don't have my white umbrella so I'm hungry"). They're all great, but I have so many that I can't include them all. What can I tell you? It's a fine opportunity for cheap laughs at the expense of those who do not currently speak English. A fair amount of what makes the assignments funny is misuse of tense, though a fair amount are just plain typoes, mixed with clumsy use of American slang (one of them described his disappointing morning meal as 'sucks breakfast'). The beautiful thing about it is, you can tell in almost all cases what they were trying to say.


There are a bunch of people from Kansas, uninvited, in a small city in upstate New York, right now. They are there because the mayor of that city is gay.
Clinton county is an odd place. It bears a certain amount in common with the wheat-growing section of Oregon that I grew up in. This didn't prevent the people that I worked with, two summers ago, from saying, "Have a good time in New York City!", when I went there to visit someone. I was nowhere near the city, but that would have required some sort of geographical knowledge on their part.
In any case, Clinton county is an odd place. Governor George Clinton himself is one of the few people who didn't want to ratify the Constitution, back in the day. The rich men down in the Big City then threatened to secede from the state, if he did not, and so he did. Today, it is the only 'red' county in New York State. Nonetheless, the mayor of Plattsburgh, New York is gay as treeful of parrots, and folks around there don't seem to mind, really.
The problem here is that it is now the time of the Mayor's Cup, which is some sort of community-wide celebration. To help celebrate, the Rev. Fred Phelps has arrived, dragging the better part of his followers with him. For some reason, they've been blocking the entrance to churches, going so far as to tell some 70-odd-year-old woman in a wheelchair who was attempting to worship at said church that she was a "slut".
Why? Because that particular church refuses to turn people away for being gay. The Rev. Mr. Phelps is a loving man of God. His organization was the same group of people that distinguished themselves by appearing at the funeral of one Matthew Sheppard. Mr. Sheppard was a college student in Wyoming, when he was put to death by an ad hoc committee of local dignitaries for the unquestionable crime of being gay. Tied to a fence, as I recall.
So- funny story here-the nice Mr. Reverend Fred and his followers showed up at the funeral, and decided to make the day of his grieving parents a little easier by pointing out that God, as they understood it, was glad that their son was dead, and that furthermore, the little faggot had it coming.
Now he and his clear-thinking friends have taken an important field trip to an obscure location in upstate New York. They have tried everything in their power to provoke violent disputes between themselves and the locals. The upturn? Local law enforcement and the local residents are entirely in agreement: we will ignore these assholes until they go home.
It's a funny thing: the election of that guy to the mayoralty seems to have been a largely apolitical thing. He didn't run on some sort of gay ticket: there isn't really much of a gay community there. He was elected because people thought that maybe he might be a good mayor. The Mayor's Cup is hardly connected to any sort of gay political agenda; it predates the current mayor by quite a bit. The fact that Fred and his friends went this far out of their way says more about their zealotry than it does about anything actually happening that should concern them. They have, it seems, a great deal of time and money.
And if I truly was rich? I, and everyone I know, would be down at their church in Kansas, each and every day they tried to worship, not calling them names, but simply standing there holding signs that read, "You Are Not Christians".


Monday, July 11, 2005

Late Night Teevee, and a Question

They run 'The West Wing' around here, from midnight to two in the morning, Monday. On the particular episode I am watching, there is a parenthetical story about a (no doubt) fictional place in Arkansas where they want to replace all laws with the Ten Commandments.
'West Wing' is liberal fantasy, of course. There are (okay, were) three ex-Clinton staffers on the show. It was, regardless of how you feel about that particular administration, a mirror image of whatever is going on in current politics. So here we are these many years later, still talking about this. There were a number of debates regarding the possible role of these ten rather obvious suggestions for how to live one's life, in publicly funded places, recently.
What I said to one of my respondants was, "Well, they've certainly done a fine job of keeping us from killing each other and coveting each others' wives, these last 2000 years."
What I meant was, I'll be okay with hanging them in places that my taxes pay for when the people who claim to venerate them so much agree to live by them. That includes 'Thou shalt not kill', kids.
Not 'except if they're Muslims', or 'when we're at war', or 'with exceptions made for pretty much anything, given political expediency'. Thou shall definitely not.
Don't even get me started about the wives.


Sunday, July 10, 2005


The ten o' clock news is on now. Local news is always a joke, especially when it's the Fox affiliate, but they're all pretty awful. However, the little stings they pull (while almost certainly illegal) can be amusing.
Tonight, they seem to have taken the politically questionable move of burning this developmentally disabled guy who was trying to solicit underage girls on line. He's a four time Special Olympics champ, too.
Having lived with a few too many social workers in my time, I must say that the motivation for going into that line of work has never struck me as entirely altruistic. At least one of my housemates I can honestly say seemed to find her clients cute, the way the rest of us might view a puppy. Rest of the time, it's a job, and it pays better than working at a mini mart. It appeals to people with control issues, too. In any case, the reason why we idealize the developmentally disabled has less to do with any true fellow-feeling, as far as I can tell, and a lot more to do with this awful need to cute-ify everything, learned from movies, I'd wager. I'm suspecting that they're just like anyone else, aside from some absence of certain functions, and are just as likely to be awful in all the ways everyone else is.
So they lure this guy to the front door of this twelve year old, and then film him running away when he notices the cameras. This is where the fun begins.
Hm. Excuse me. On the way to the big teaser of the evening news, it would seem that there were two crashes at air shows (in Delaware and Saskatchewan), it's flooding badly in China, and Dennis the Storm is whipping the hell out of the Gulf Coast. Themes. Christian video games, developed in response to the extreme violence of the normal ones, are here. Hm. They look pretty violent, too. This is news? But back to the pervert tard.
Hmmm. Now there seems to be some group called Take Back The Memorial that is protesting the inclusion of actual New York institutions in the memorial at Ground Zero. Maybe they need to remember that the people who died that day were from New York. I know that they, like Jesus, have greater political uses whilst dead, but this is still the Big City here, source of all evil to hear some tell it, and got its just desserts on that day from God, for all its liberalisms and diversity, to hear Loving Man of God Pat Robertson tell it. Nice one, folks. You're making yourselves look like real pros on this one.
I had it pointed out to me on the comments aspect of this blog, earlier this evening, that I sounded to the respondant like a spoiled child that hadn't gotten his way. Perhaps, if what it was that I wanted was adults to have reasoning skills and the ability to express themselves in some way that could be described as thoughtful. Mind you, I stopped hoping for that one years ago, but that doesn't mean that it won't still astound me.
Let's see (still watchin' the news here): apparently there's lots of illegal aliens. In a largely agricultural economy like my home state is, we spend harvest time looking the other way, then spend the rest of the year acting like we never wanted all these Mexicans, and have no idea how they got here. It'd be interesting to see what would happen if we really honestly sealed the border, and couldn't harvest without them. Then the ag combines would have to pay a living wage. Imagine. The weekend Hollywood totals follow.
Okay. The group who did the sting was called 'Perverted Justice', for starters. The sting-ee calls himself The King of Lovemaking. He is blaming the straw victim: "If they're gonna talk that way? What man wouldn't?" It would seem the fellah has procreated, too. The Tulsa Kid says to me yesterday that he thinks that all males should receive reversible vasectomies at birth. Then, later, after really really thinking about it, if they wanted to have kids, they can pay the money to get it reversed and do so. I've heard worse ideas.
His current fiancee is named 'Maral Lien'. Does that sort of sound like an acronym? Or a pseudonym? The stingee is noting that he can say anything he wants online (true), as long as he doesn't act on it (which he did, and was only prevented from doing so by the presence of a camera crew). He then blamed the roughness of the neighborhood for his panic, causing him to run upon seeing cameras.
Looks like they're going to do this tomorrow night, too. The stingee in that one says, perhaps out of context, "If the Nazis had won the war, I wouldn't be addicted to the Internet."
Amen, ya' schmuck.



I have been asked to respond to the following four questions by the Cap'n. Here goes.
1. "How many books do you own?"
A lot less than I used to. I've been dragging a library around with me for much of my life, and after a while, it just makes moving too difficult. Especially when you consider that I also have an enormous number of vinyl records and rusty sharp things to contend with, as well. I'd estimate the number of books at five hundred or maybe more like four-eighty.
2. "What is the last book that you read?"
Depends on what you mean. Some books you can knock off in an afternoon (David Sedaris's stinkin' hilarious Me Talk Pretty One Day, which I've read multiple times), and others take some effort. In the latter category, I offer Nick Tosches' Dino: Living High In the Dirty Business of Dreams, a bio of Dean Martin (excellent!).
3. "What is the last book you purchased?"
Life In a Putty Knife Factory by H. Allen Smith (newspaper man/humorist from the '40's favored by my grampa). Right before that, A Mencken Chrestomathy by H.L. Mencken, and Closed Chambers by Edward Lazarus (a look inside the rise of the Rehnquist court).
4. "Name five fiction books that mean a lot to you."
That's a hard one. Sometimes A Great Notion by Ken Kesey remains one of the greatest books I know, and certainly one of the best portraits of life as a logger in the soggy forests of Oregon. Gain by Richard Powers (an overview of American history as told through the story of a corporation). Any of Robert Anton Wilson's stuff on the Illuminati. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (all about what makes up a family). The last one? A three way tie beween Billy Phelan's Greatest Game by William Kennedy, Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard and A Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosely. Whoops. The Brothers K by David James Duncan (about growing up in the Northwest, again): the winnah!
I'd like to add a few more questions which others may answer if they wish (Gringa? Carrier? Bitchslap? Erudite Redneck?):
1. "What was the last book someone bought for you?" Gringa Alta Prima bought me Zbignew Brezhinsky's The Grand Chessboard.
2. "What is your favorite biography/autobiography?" Harry Crews' A Childhood: The Biography of A Place, Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory. Gore Vidal's Palimpsest. The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow.
3. "What is the greatest political tome you've ever read, fiction or nonfiction?" I honestly cannot say. There's too many.
4. "What book have you had the longest, that you still read?" James Thurber's My Life and Hard Times.
5. "What's the greatest spiritual book you've read?" Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah or The Boo Hoo Bible: Catechism of the Neo-American Church by Arthur Kleps.
6. "What book do you turn to when you're feeling down?" That'd be Palimpsest, again.
7. "If you could force everyone to sit down and read one book, what would it be?" Listen, Little Man! by Wilhelm Reich.
8. "What reference volume do you turn to the most?" Well, the dictionary, then it's gotta be Dictionary of Classical Antiquities by Oscar Seyffert, whenever I'm doing a crossword puzzle and need to know who one of Zeus's daughters was.
9. "How often do you and your pals sit around and talk about books?" A lot.
10. "Name your favorite comic book/graphic novel." I'm gonna have to say Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, but that's sort of a hard one, too.
Man, this is fun. I may just make up another survey here sometime soon.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Destiny's Red-headed Stepchild

The Show is dead, long live the show. Yep, much like my short-lived time as Master of Operations at a studio that broadcasted for five radio stations in southern Oregon and northern California, my time as Lighting Director, and calling myself something far more important than it actually was, has come to an end. I ran into Schmidt the other day, and he tells me that the boys on the show have gone back to doing it in a live context. I mentioned that it was really unfortunate that this odd combination of hubris, poor communication skills and unrealistic goals had led to this place where we would no longer be on TV. "Do you really think we can't be on teevee anymore, without Funland's help?", he asked. Yep, I assured him.
I know for a fact that they can't, with or without my former production company's help. My ex-boss, Coach Z, last time he sees me, he says, "It's all gone, Rich. All gone.", and hung his head in a world-weary way.
"Whaddya mean?" I asked. "You've finally gone bankrupt? The boys on the show don't want to work with you anymore? You're not getting any work making commercials?"
He looked at me like I had taken a shit on the sidewalk. "No. Where'd you get that idea?"
"I believe it was your line about 'it's all gone'."
But it is, in fact, all gone. The boys on the show were not realistic, the folks at the production company were awful businesspeople, and enough of us were not getting paid often enough to feel like the entire operation was unstable. I ran into one of the former cameramen today, in a small coffee joint in NoPo. We shared our stories, and I realized that I had previously had no idea why he'd left the show. Turns out they weren't paying him, either.
Then I consider my other job prospects: my stagehand gig is fairly rosy looking, unless you count the fact that the person who initially hired me is one of the poorest communicators I've met in my life. When I initially asked her where she'd be, so I could fill out some paperwork and therefore get paid, I had made it clear that I knew where the theater was, and where the office was. I just needed to know at which of those two places she would be.
"Well, the theater is at the corner of-" she began.
"I know where the theater is. I just wanna know if you're gonna be there, or the office."
She then provided me with at least two seperate sets of instructions for how to reach her at the theater. This only happened after we had undergone this agonizing process in which she had said that I needed to fill out all my paperwork again. I pointed out that the time card itself had not been included in the packet I'd received, so I understood that I'd have to fill that out, but...
"No, Rich. The first form wasn't signed."
"Yes it was. By me. In your truck. By you and me."
"But I'm not really your supervisor. You need to have Theeeera (or whatever her name is) sign it."
"Okay, fine, but-"
"And you didn't fill out your W-2 or I-9 forms."
"Yes I did. Just look around. You'll find them."
"Okay, but you didn't fill out your time card."
"Which you didn't give me, explaining that I'd get it later. Is tomorrow later?"
"Yeah, are you free?"
I almost wanted to begin the theater vs. office debate again, just because at this point it had become absurd enough to be fun.
What else? Well, I'm actually going to have my first piece of real live pro-fessional journalism published next month: a review of my favorite I-talian restaurant. This is due to that two weird weeks I spent following around that girl from the local weekly (Check 'Disorder' from the March archives), after she dumped her deadbeat boyfriend and decided to see what it's like to be a rich bachelor-ess. This is, in theory, good, since I will now be paid to both eat and write, two things I really like doing.
I come from a long line of small town newspaper-people. They were known, in their day, for their fairness and willingness to not rile people up for no good reason. It remains a historical fact that the reason McCarthy era loyalty oaths never became law in Oregon was due to my grandfather and a number of his editor pals lobbying the state legislature. It was a smaller state in those days, and everybody knew each other, even more so than they do now.
Can't you just see it? 'Look, we all see that this is the political reality of the moment, but later generations will view us as fools if we cave to this petty, whoremongering bullshit, and you owe it to yourselves, if not all who follow, not to do this silly-ass, soon-to-consume-itself thing.'
Nonetheless, the picture of myself at age seven speaks volumes. My grandfather has just explained to me where our family money comes from, and pointed out that the whole enterprise falls apart without people who are willing to sustain it. The picture, taken by my mother, has me pausing, tongue literally in cheek, before I say what I said.
With gravity far beyond my years, I explained to him that none of my family members seemed happy with their lives, and that I could say in particular that I knew that their family lives suffered due to the long hours, harsh deadlines and time spent travelling. That above all else, I considered it far more important to be happy than it ever was to fulfill the role that destiny had, for some reason, felt like throwing me.
That happened on the deck of the Bachelor ancestral beach cabin, where I will be going next weekend, as always, to reflect. He's dead now, grampa, and when he went to ground, all manner of high mucky-mucks-judges, ex-governors, current representatives, etc.-came out to praise him as a great man, which he was. He didn't know shit about family, but he was in all other senses a good guy. He used to tell stories about being beaten by his father in the woodshed for such heinous crimes as speaking at the dinner table, and chuckle, as if he never saw any reason why such practices were suspended, among the general run of society.
After the service, I asked my dad if he felt just a little bit, you know, like he was standing in someone's very long shadow. He explained the necessity of not judging one's own life and achievements in the context of somebody else's. I felt a little deflated: I had introduced that idea to him some five to seven years previously.
Every now and again, I note to myself the path that I have taken and note further that I've largely deprived myself of that High Place To Stand and scream so that everybody can hear me. I could perhaps have the ear of every fisherman and dry land farmer this side of the rockies, but I have to remind myself of the truth.
My dad, until recently, edited a farm weekly that went to four states. When he suggested, in the meekest of ways, post-9/11, that we ought to actually figure out who actually attacked us before going off on some big rampage, the better part of his readership decided that he was the devil Itself. This is due to the fact that they want the easy part-who do we get to kill?-and questions are for the sissyboys. The fact that they do not see their own ultimate fall in this is testament to just how not terribly far from apes we really are.
And my uncle? Oh, he's that guy that no one listens to anymore because he's a liberal newspaper editor in a largely conservative county. He likes opera and cigars, and is a pretentious son of a bitch, largely because he has no idea that the world around him has changed. He also has been in some sort of weird walking psychosis since 1991, by my estimation.
But the real reason that the good people in that county don't trust him? Some small-time Rush Limbaugh wanna-be claimed that my father's brother was a pedophile, on the radio.
Now, since no proof was offered, and it was a legal assertion made in a public forum, you'd think that a fairly clear-cut case of slander could be made there. Nope.
Folks there just don't like him. The defense brought in one Dummy Smith, who used to represent The Beaver State at the federal level, through the '80's. He pointed out that my uncle often had said, in print even, that he was a bad representative. Of course, just like you or I have the right to comment on the shit job done by a bad plumber, there is nothing slanderous about that. If we claimed the plumber also molested our children, we'd need to prove it, but those good folk out there in Bob Seger County just basically didn't like my relative, which is his fault, but they found his accuser not guilty, which is their fault, and eternally to their shame, whether they realize that or not.
So let's see: do I care that I haven't really taken up the quill here? Naw. It's a lot easier to rile up these assholes on the internet, as I suspect you've noticed. Note how they lie even to themselves about the nature of their religion. The old saw that religion has caused 90% of the wars in history is not entirely accurate: economics is a far clearer culprit. However, religion (no matter which one) certainly provided a handy excuse, in every case. So now they content themselves by saying that their god is a god of love, and somehow Islam's (which is the same god, by the way) is somehow persuading the irrational camel-jockeys of the oil-fields to do things that they know for a fact will just lead to more bombing, starvation, and torture-followed-by-jokes (and by the way, let's never hear that 'why do they haaaaate us?' question again, shall we? the question is answered in those last four words).
And I like the fact that I am not high profile at all. I like my anonymity, my lack of a credit card or bank account. I like the fact that no one knows I'm here, except for this perhaps-fictional account of my life. That means that if I drop out of sight, I could turn up anywhere, and nobody'd know about that, either, at first.