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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Moment

I come not to praise William F. Buckley, but to bury him.

Like now, you call them Nazis, they call you queer.

I suppose that it bears noting that in those days you were expected to be eloquent, and at least somewhat expected to listen. In this sense, I suppose that I'm supposed to say nice things about Buckley because he represents a comparative politeness and civility.
But in a 1989 interview on NPR that I heard today, he trotted out that argument I most hate from yer average right-wing bedwetter: that to fail to label one argument as 'bad' and another as 'good' is to be somehow morally inadequate. This is why I may gladly and openly view them as morons.

Whenever some liberal well-meaner says that being judgmental is the worst thing one might do, I of course counter that this is something that every human does, and it may very well define us as beings. We make delineations; the more immature among us will describe them as 'good and evil'.
The difference is that we, as individuals, don't disenfranchise large groups of people by our delineations. Nations and movements do.
This is why this twinky little bastard Buckley is consigned to the nastiest studio apartment in nonexistent Hell, to my mind.

Check how both Vidal and Buckley have what Tom Wolfe would call the 'mid-Atlantic' accent. Once upon a time, many Americans did: we sounded English because a great many of us were only a generation or two removed from being from the United Kingdom.
By the time this debate was filmed, the people who would have had this accent were like Gore and Bill: born in the 1920's, raised in private schools and taught that Europe still had the culture we should attempt to emulate. America? Well, there's time, I suppose...

Thing is, Buckley was one of those guys who did a very good job of being eloquent and even sort of gentlemanly while espousing viewpoints that were basically childish: There is a demonstrable right and wrong, and those who say otherwise are immoral, as are all who oppose our political agenda. Or, I don't want to pay taxes, so those who say that I should are immoral.
Now, is there a difference between them calling me immoral and me calling them stupid? I believe there is. 'Stupid' is provable, and better still, changable. But 'immoral' is something that you either are or are not, and therefore gives a silly and irreducible superiority to the arguments of those who make them. This is why they don't receive my respect.

And that's why I must merely say, Bill Buckley is dead. Largely famous for his televised debates with my man Gore Vidal, he will be remembered, if at all, for giving rise to a generation of pseudo-pundits who would never consider being as courtly as he was, as that might appear faggy, or something. Indeed, it's even weird to note how awfully effete the guy was, despite making a pretty lengthy career of queer-baiting others.
He differs from other conservatives of his time only in that he wasn't a complete thug like Pat Buchanan or Joe McCarthy...In terms of appearance, anyway. But this is also the man who fired David Brooks from National Review for being Jewish, friends, and no amount of weepy testimonials from the likes of George F. Will can change that. There will be a few more days, no doubt, of bullshit stories about how elegant and refined Buckley was, with no mention made of the ugly bigotry and hatred it only barely disguised.

In a wonderful irony of history, after giving Brooks the heave-ho, Rich Lowry took over at the Review. The pasty-faced, eternally whining Rich Lowry that so neatly sums up the ethic of the true children of Reagan. He represents the Neo-Cons, and Bill Buckley hated them.
Not so much because of an ideological disagreement* , but because he seems to have personally despised most of those guys. This would cause him to withdraw his support for the war in Iraq.

It's funny that he would be credited for the Reagan revolution, because there too was someone that was the anti-Buckley (friendly, anti-intellectual), and he began the interesting pattern among modern conservatives of racking up massive national debt. I suppose Buckley might have liked that-as long as you were racking up massive national debt in the pursuit of a moral cause- and of course, he was always quickly reassured that everything we do is moral by the thugs and used-car salesmen who are always in charge of us.

Sleep well, crybaby.

*( Perhaps the old saw about conservatives is apropos here: a true conservative is a person who feels that nothing should be done for the first time, and a Fifties- or Paleo- conservative being a person who says It Should Be Done, But Not Now. I suppose that the corollary to this is that Neo-Conservatives just want to destroy everything because life is a video game.)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Geographical Names

Well, I did it. Had to get out the bible again this morning.

I had been in Government Camp the other day, and found myself repeating the old story that, despite its name, there had never been a camp established by the government on that part of Mount Hood.
It's true, but the real story is: sometime in the 1840's, an army detachment on its way to Oregon City left a bunch of wagons there. To the people who settled there soon after, this conveyed a kinda official feel to the place.

Indeed, in this sense it resembles Battle Ground, Wash. in that they had anticipated a battle with th' Injuns occurring there, and when it didn't actually happen, the folks there sort of looked around and said, "Well, why don't we build a town?"

So I had to go get out my copy of Oregon Geographic Names, the official tome of the Oregon Geographic Names Board, and general settler of arguments. It has been published on a more or less regular decade-wise basis by the McArthur family since the 1920's. The version I currently own, though I've owned several, is from 1974, when Lewis L. (son of Lewis A.) McArthur had the franchise. As of a year ago, his son passed the family nomenclature biz over to his daughter.
As far as I know, Washington state has no comparable book, which is a shame since that state plays home to Twisp, Usk, Pe Ell, Gobbler's Knob, and Mount Colonel Bob.

I met Lewis L. when I was a kid, and already enthralled by these books. He wasn't exactly young, and told me tales of scooting down Mt. St. Helens on his ass, back when it was a full-size mountain, and the eruption of (whatever the hell that mountain's name was) that gave rise to the myth of Atlantis.
And the reason I was speaking with him at all was due to the fact that my family had been members of the Oregon Geographic Names Board going back at least as far as my grandparents generation. They were a wonderful bunch of (largely speaking) retired academics and state government figures who spent their retirements tearing ass all over the hinterlands, getting drunk and telling stories with their friends.

But also, they debated important points, since no one else would: Should we rename Whorehouse Meadow 'Naughty Girl Meadow'? (They did, but later changed it back.) If we were to rename Squaw Tit Butte, what would we name it? (I don't remember, but there actually was a law passed in Oregon on this subject, in 2001.)
Matter o' fact, this law also considered the few places in Oregon that were named after black people, which were all uniformly prefixed either 'nigger' or 'darky'. (At least Centralia, in Washington, which was started by a black settler named George Washington Bush, just got named for its central-ness.)

"Negro Ben Mountain, Jackson County. For many years this 4500 foot peak in the Siskiyou Mountains, a little to the southwest of Ruch and Applegate River, was called Nigger Ben Mountain."
Then he gives the history of the place. But then old Lewis L. starts to editorialize:
"In 1964, when integration was the watchword, the USBGN in Decision List 6402 changed the name to its present form. There is no evidence that the original name was derogatory, and if every name that might now or in the future offend some ethnic group must be altered to suit the changing times, the authorities might just as well resort to a simple numerical designation."

This is about as close to 'fuck you' as an academic gets, I think. It's weird though: I don't recall the book being this lippy. Check this out:
"Deathball Rock, Lane County. This rock is southeast of Blue River. It received its name because of an attempt made by a surveying party cook to bake some biscuits. It appears that he was not entirely successful."

"Picture Rock Pass, Lake County (...) The name comes from some strange designs or pictures on the rocks about a hundred feet south of the highway. These peculiar marks, made by Indians, are strongly suggestive of a WPA style painting project operated by the aborigines."

Like I say, just plain weird: I've owned at least three editions of this book, and I can say with some certainty that the '80's and '90's editions weren't trying to be funny. It always struck me as a deadly serious business -geographic nomenclature- to these people, and if humor happened, it happened on its own. Consider what Lewis L. had to say about a geographic feature named for his own father:
"Tam McArthur Rim, Deschutes County (...) After McArthur's death in 1951 many people felt that some geographic feature in Oregon should have his name...In retrospect it is interesting to note two curious facts; the Broken Top alpine uplands was one of the few spots in central Oregon that McArthur had not visited, and he probably would have expressed some dissatisfaction at the inclusion of a nickname in otherwise serious nomenclature."

In many places where the place name is prefixed by 'big' or 'crooked', he goes out of his way to note, "the place name is descriptive". This still leaves room for plenty of great stories about actual pioneers contacting 'the original compiler' (i.e. his father) with their various arguments about the origin of certain names, many years old and largely forgotten. If necessary, he'll say things like "the usage 'North Forks River' is wrong", and just leave it at that.

The just-plain-strange is well represented here, as Oregon is a large state, and seems to have always been given to a particularly strong strain of self-mythologizing. You can almost hear the excited drooling that accompanied the writing of the following passage:
"Baby Rock, Lane County. This rock is on the southwest shoulder of Heckletooth Mountain, and above the track of the Southern Pacific Company just southeast of Oakridge. It was named by the Indians. Mrs. Lina A. Flock has given the compiler an unusual legend about the name. Indians who slept near the rock were believed to have been bitten by some animals that left the footprints of a baby. The wounds were fatal.
Finally two Indians determined to exterminate these peculiar animals , and hiding in the rocks above, they surprised the visitors, jumping down on them and covering them with blankets in such a way that they could not escape. The animals were twisted in the blankets and burned up. Indian Charlie Tufti would never go near this rock.
Mrs. Flock's grandfather, Fred Warner, was of the opinion that the peculiar animals were porcupines, which make tracks not unlike a small baby. Indians asserted that the baby tracks remained about the rock for many years, hence the name."

Kinda like "Life In These United States" from Reader's Digest, except on acid, ain't it? I like the friend-of-a-friend style of tale-telling, plus the wide scale dismissal of the humble comma. And 'Heckletooth Mountain'? Named by Mrs. Lina A. Flock's grandmother, of course-"...because of the tall rocks with which it is surrounded near the summit. These resemble the teeth of a heckle, an instrument for handling flax."

The omissions include the odd street and neighborhood names in Portland proper -which I've always held is a serious oversight- and out of the way, unincorporated places like Beggar's Hollow and Ironton. But a lot of what the McArthur family learned over the years has more to do with who had a post office, who was on a rail line...This leads to relatively lengthy posts about places like Box, which was briefly a town, but now is a corner in some guy's pasture.

My daughter might be pleased to note that the origin of the town nearest her home, Helix, "was named because a local resident had a painful experience in the helix of his ear. The testimony is not as conclusive as it might be, but is probably true." He then goes on to tell the somewhat unlikely story there, accompanied by two or so other bullshit-sounding stories.

And this book also brought me the wonder that is Opie Dildock Pass (actually, I think I first heard about it in Spy magazine, back in the '80's, if you can believe that):
"It was named in 1932 by Dee Wright and Ralph Engels, then USFS District Ranger at McKenzie Bridge. They had had difficulty finding a good way down into White Branch canyon but finally found one small, practical passage. They were both reminded of a comic strip character of the early 1900's named Opie Dildock who always found some way out of impossible situations so they decided to honor the pass with his name."

Again; commas, Mr. McArthur! But note here how some very specific spot on some trail I've never even heard of gets serious, loving attention. And there's more:
"The compiler has spent many hours trying to locate a copy of this comic strip to give credit to the cartoonist and verify the spelling. Donald J. Sterling, Jr., of the Oregon Journal and Robert Frazier of the Eugene Register-Guard have also given generously of their time in this quest."
The Journal went out of business and was subsumed into the Oregonian in the early 1980's, (which is why we have two pages of comics, incidentally). Bob Frazier and his wife Rosemary were dear friends of my family, and when he found out he had Alzheimer's, he went into the bathroom and shot himself in the head. There is where the general becomes personal, and where you realize that while we're wandering around living our lives, we are becoming History, whether we like it or not.

But anyway: "The only fact that can be added is that the name is a variant spelling of Knight's Opiedildock, a well known camphor and soap liniment of bygone days. If the reader can add further information, it will be greatly appreciated."

Curiously, it would seem that the book has no online component. Matter of fact, Googling it will net you some pretty interesting things, including this. . The 1974 edition is apparently the one where Lewis L. took over from Lewis A. (the Fourth Edition). I've never read any of the first three, and now see that I need to.
I'd be interested to see what the current generation is doing with this enterprise, being as completely personal yet jokingly serious and scholarly as it is. I imagine that it remains one of the longer tall tales you'll ever encounter, mixed with good, solid research work, and hopefully just as idiosyncratic as any of its forebears, with a solid imprint of the personality that decided it needed discussing.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


One of the spooky things about the internet is how people continue to misinterpret the function it serves. I routinely see people discussing the phenomenon known as 'internet dating' who honestly think that the entire enterprise is conducted over cable, and never results in actual humans actually meeting. There is usually some sort of 'Call me old-fashioned but, I like human contact' comment that follows.

Or the continuing moon-eyed thoughts of various cultural commentators who feel that since everything can be done over the internet now, we're going to lose all that manly backbone and ingenuity that made our country great. Forgive me for saying so, but: just because you order the thing from the place using a computer (still) does not mean that it will magically appear on your desk-top. There is still a warehouse somewhere that has your thing, and people who work there get to go look for it, bring it over to shipping, package it, ship it, and have it then delivered by a person on legs who delivers things for a living. You yourself might very well have to sign something before you may take ownership of the thing.

Or the already over-used trope of You The Audiophile finally making some room in the house because now you can just put your entire music collection on some sort of tiny digital player that fits in your pocket. This is true, but isn't there a law of sorts from an earlier age in computing that says, Always have a backup, always have a hard copy? Yes, there is. You might very well drop your iPod or Zune or whatever in a very real toilet, and lose all that memory. It might get crushed under the wheels of a bus. You might just fuck up and erase everything yourself.
Now, it's not like there isn't still music out there to be had if any of these cases occurs, but all the same, you might be glad to know some asshole like me with my roomful of vinyl after Shit Goes Down, Man.

So anyway, technology doesn't solve everything, it just provides more options, I guess would be my point here. You already knew that, because you're very smart, but I just feel it needs repeating.

Here are the Mosier Twin Tunnels, which lie on the Mark Hatfield trail, which is a remnant of the old Historic Columbia Gorge Highway that runs between Hood River and Mosier. This isn't the greatest image of it, but it will have to do for the time being.
Th' Bee and I have been spending a great deal of time there lately. It provides a sort of nice walk along the cliffs that is pretty flat but also damn pretty. It is also only three or four miles long.

I had wanted, as a small child, to walk the length of the old highway, at least in the many places where it was abandoned; those glimpses of tunnels and bits of bridges up there among the rocks were tantalizing. I knew too that most of the highway is either still in use, already a trail or underwater. A fair amount of it is under I-84, too.
As you walk on this road, you gotta ask yourself, And how exactly would a '47 Packard and a '49 Merc do passing each other on this skinny ass, winding road? It also is high up enough off the Gorge floor that it is more likely to be snowy or icy up there. It's incredibly susceptible to landslides, as well, so why put a road up there?
In the '20's, when it was built, the dams were yet to come. Down there in the valley, the Columbia routinely flooded (and occasionally froze, if you can believe that), so building a road down there on the floodplain would have been a singularly bad idea. Hell, as late as the '70's there were still walking sand dunes along a fair amount of it. These would occasionally cover the freeway.

The tunnels are now a place where the wind whistles, and the shoring-up work they did along the approach looks like something Christo would do, except it's way more interesting. There's still a portion of the wall in there where two guys carved their names: they were stuck there for six days after an avalanche, some time in the '20's.
This is how we spend our time. Well, when we're not snowmobiling.

This is not a picture of either of us. Also, until last weekend, I had never participated in this activity (I'd think twice about calling it a sport).
Maybe I'd call it a sport, actually. The challenge is somewhat of an equestrian one: at first, the damn thing is so squirrelly, and every inconsistency in the terrain seems likely to throw your ass. Your arms go numb both from the vibration and the need to have them stuck in exactly the same position for a couple hours.

It's actually sort of amazing that I grew up in eastern Oregon and managed to escape this sort of thing. Of course, I wasn't taken hunting by my father, either. I've only rode a horse once in my life, too, and I was Four, or something.
But anyway it was tremendous fun, though another example of technology vs. personal culpability: the faster it goes, the less squirrelly it is-but- the faster it goes, the worse the damage if something goes wrong. And if you flip one of those fuckers, it'll crush you.

Above all else, I enjoy a trip to the pseudo-alpine architecture of the high Cascades. I love the sharply pitched roofs and gingerbread n' beaverboard construction. The sun shone down on snow that stood a good five feet taller than I am, and though pretty much everybody was a douchebag (I can't really stand skiers/snowboarders, in general), they were happy douchebags.

The day before, on a hike up to Angel's Rest, my back was screaming at me, as was my right ankle that pops so much these days. I was hyperventilating and somewhat tachycardic, at one point feeling like I'd pass the fuck out.
Then-after leaning panting and wheezing against a damn tree-I felt much better, and made it the rest of the way to the top. But all the same, Angel's Rest is not an especially high peak, and I was reminded yet again: You must change your life.

So I rode my bike to the store today. Baby steps. Tryin' to clean out m' colon, too. Bought some milk thistle to make liver cleansing tea...Eating more greens...Next week it's smokes quittin' time again.

Thread idea: I've already thrown out my thoughts on the Worst Presidents Ever (oh hey-happy Day of Celebrating the Concept of the Presidency, by the way), now how about your top five Worst Bands Ever?
I'll go first.
1. Starship
2. Bachman Turner Overdrive
3. Styx
4. The Sundays/The Cranberries (they're one item, I feel)
5. (I'll need to think about this a bit, clearly. The criteria here is that the band in question needs to have never ever made a song that you liked. For instance, Emerson, Lake and Palmer don't quite make this list; I think they may have one song I don't mind. There could certainly be some measure of wasted potential in the equation-I'm lookin' at you, Starship- and they also need to be blithely unaware of how terrible they are. If anything, that's still too many people we could be discussing here.)


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A brief note: as I've said before, this guy has been the subject of much mirth around the house for quite some time, and as is usually true of the cripplingly depressed/insanely unrealistic, he is deeply self-absorbed. I shouldn't have been amazed that he found his way back here after Googling himself, but even more strange was what transpired thereafter. The basic text of this post was composed early last year, but only printed now, since I really don't want to talk to him. Now, here is a video of him, ostensibly awaiting a visit from some lady I assume he met on the internet, and I don't currently know if she ever showed up.

I was recently shocked and vaguely concerned to see that someone I'd been writing about had found their way back here. Perhaps you recall This Guy. Well, he was Googling himself the other day, and found that I'd written a post that was, partially, about him.
In my world, it's at least a misdemeanor to be mean to a stranger. But in this case, I was just doing my usual and making fun of shit I've found on the internet. Still though, the thing that should have made this harmless is that the intended focus of said poking of fun is never, ever to find out about it.

So, looking back through the comments, I find:
"Thanks for your in depth comments about my blog. I appreciate your honesty. I'm glad you could laugh at my audio entries. I do suffer from depression. But, I'm getting better now. (If you care to know.) How'd ya find my blog? And how many postings did you view? Are you subscribe to my RSS?"

This was from Ronnie. And then, more recently:
"How's it going up in Oregon? I skimmed over your plug. Good Stuff. Any chance you could give me more in myself? You seem so confident in your judgments. How do I get that way?"

It raises questions. For one thing, he avoided the trope that most people would have thrown out here; Well, that's just your opinion. Who the fuck are you?, which has the virtue of being true, though so completely self-evident as to not need mention, and therefore, sort of a lame argument.
But he didn't do that. He also didn't do the other thing, which pretty much goes; I agree with this and this, but you got this here wrong, and...What he did was go in another direction altogether: he felt that, amongst other things, his privacy had been invaded.

Or, as a recent post of his puts it:
"The internet is a savage place.
Complete strangers will judge me...
Not that I care.
But I do feel vulnerable."

The post is titled, "I've got to be more careful". What strikes me here is that this is the internet: public domain, that is, and if you choose to publish your diary in this medium, someone is bound to say something back, eventually.

Matter of fact, this continues to fascinate me; this idea that just because you say it's yours, you think this thing that you've consciously chosen to share with the entire world is somehow sacrosanct.
This is true of pretty much all means of telecommunication (and pretty soon, entertainment, as the strangely mandatory switch-over to all digital television begins): everything you do is not really your possession, legally speaking, and can be tracked by basically anyone.

Even more disturbingly than this, though is the idea that yet again, as has often happened throughout my life, a deeply annoying and needy son of a bitch has identified me as the sort of person who would be glad to walk them through the painful process of identifying why people shun them, and then somehow managing to go through some sort of Skill Improvement Montage from an '80's movie with them, resulting in them finally scoring with Kelly LeBrock, or something.

So then Ronnie wrote this post-actually, he recorded it to Gabcast, and I typed it out verbatim.

Hey, I’m … I’m kinda trippin’ out on myself, because … I did a google search on myself and I found that these people—or this one person—was commenting on my website, on my blog, and I don’t know. It’s just weird. I just felt so vulnerable, I didn’t think anybody was listening. And um he wrote this whole thing about his perception of who I am. And at first I was kind of offended, but I don’t know this person, who lives up in Oregon. I don’t know who he is, or what he does, or how he found my blog and why he would spend the time reading it. So, it’s just weird.

I don’t know if what I’m doing is good, bad, or indifferent or entertaining or laughable or pathetic, but I’m just trying to be as honest as I can. And when I speak on these audio blogs, they’re for me. You know? It’s an outlet for me, because, you know, that’s what I choose to do. So I don’t know if I need to be more careful and edit the things that I say, and, you know, be aware that people are listening, that we do live in an interconnected world. But it’s like what does it matter? Because these people respond, you know, they write a little posting or a comment, and then that’s it. They don’t reach out to try to meet me, and I don’t reach out to try to meet them. We’re just kinda like passing by, you know? We’re still strangers to one another. How can one person know another person by reading their blog? It’s just a (stutters) fraction of who I am, and it’s a fraction of who that person is. So … I don’t know. I feel weird.

Like I said, I don’t know if it’s a good thing, if I should be flattered? Or I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, that people are listening to this, that people care, and people judge it, you know. But it’s good. It makes me realize that, you know, you can’t lie on the internet, because …. I don’t know, maybe you can. But it seems like, the more forthcoming you are, people tend to believe what’s on the internet, whether it’s true or not, you know?

All this could be a character, Ronnie Reyes could be a character, you know, and not even a real person. It could be a character study. I don’t know. But like I said, how could anyone know or judge who Ronnie Reyes is when Ronnie Reyes doesn’t know who Ronnie Reyes is? If that makes any kind of sense. And I don’t know if this is juvenile, I don’t know if this is amateurish, I … it doesn’t matter. Does any of it matter? All that matters is that right now I guess I’m feeling a little bit better, a little bit vulnerable, a little bit relieved, a little bit um intruded upon. But again, like I said, also kinda flattered. So I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I’m just talking in circles here.

And if anything, it is my hope to entertain somebody. And if only myself, then only myself. And if some stranger who’s cruising the internet happens to stumble upon this and read it, well cool. Make an effort, leave a comment, and, my goodness, introduce yourself, you know? Let’s get beyond just these blogs and postings. And be people again, and try to relate to one another. I know I need that. Maybe you do too, if you’re sitting there, at your computer, plugging away, typing, feeling kinda lonely and wondering if anybody’s trying to … or if anybody is paying attention.

Sure they are. Somebody’s paying attention. And it’s my effort to try to make an interaction with somebody. It would be neat if I could, you know, meet somebody. It’d be neat. It’d be cool. Whether it’s a friend, or a date, or somebody else. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I’m babbling. I tend to do that a lot.

Yeah, you do, and that's part of the problem. Also, it's clear that this is not some sort of performance art (although if it were, it'd be brilliant), so if in fact you manage to find this once again by searching for listings about yourself, my only advice would have to be: either be fine with people reacting to what you say (in its massive, Byzantine structure) in their own personal way, or don't publish your fucking diary on the internet.

In the meanwhile, one may check out:


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Chickwatch '08: Stupid Tuesday!

Welcome to that super-est of Tuesdays. So far, any attempt (or desire) on my part to live-blog this sucker will be thwarted by the tendency of all the cable news networks to over-analyze every single fucking second of this somewhat ridiculous day.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. The complaint, once upon a time, might very well have been that there wasn't any substantive analysis at all. Now, there's what I first noticed eight years ago: if you're looking at/listening to these assholes for raw numbers while trying to draw your own conclusions, it's difficult. They'd like to do the thinking for you, in short.

It's still morning, though, and...I have things to do. Things that don't include flipping back and forth between CNN, MSNBC and yes, Fox News while constantly going over to Wonkette and Zogby, online.

Zogby stopped polling early on election night, 2004. I remember noting how openly sad and dismayed all of the big three (Brokaw, Jennings, Rather) looked, after Ohio went to Bush. That state had been a big surprise, and in the time since, it has been shown conclusively that it was no accident: that one made Florida in 2000 look nice n' orderly n' above-board.
But yeah: Brokaw in particular looked like he was gonna cry. I wondered, looking at the three of them, if they'd been told, If this guy wins the presidency again, the time of people like You is at an end, and therefore you must all leave network news.

Sure enough, right after that, Brokaw leaves NBC on his own, destined to spend much of his time on the controversial topic of how people who fought in World War Two are deserving of praise. Rather gets burned in a very intricate way (see Mary Mapes' Truth and Duty), and is out at CBS. Peter Jennings doesn't leave ABC; quickly develops cancer and dies.

(MSNBC just called West Virginia for Romney, with 41%, at 10:13 A.M. I wouldn't mind it if Mittens is the GOP guy, this time. Most people could beat that cardboard man-thing like a gong, even a schmuck who never actually says anything, like either Clinton or Obama.)

The other day I was at a truck stop in Woodburn, Oregon. There was an entire rack of Jack Chick tracts there, and I grabbed a handful.

It's tempting to say that as goes the views of Mr. Chick, so goes the views of most of middle America. It's not quite true, though. Plenty of Americans are Mormon (which he hates), are Catholic (ditto) or Jehovah's Witness (he has at least one pamphlet on the subject of Witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses). He's so thoroughly invested in his hatred of Masons, Moslems, Homosexuals and Men in Turtlenecks that he could scarcely be said to be a mainstream Christian so much as he is Anti-Human.

(10:30 A.M.- it appears that the dirty tricks have begun. People in the hundreds tramped dutifully off to the polls today in Virginia, which isn't having a primary today, but next week. This of course might just be an honest mistake, and not foul play. Brian Williams said something along the lines of "Voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia, stand down. I recommend you go home and enjoy our coverage.")

Back now, after a few hours abroad. Turns out Huckabee took West Virginia, not Mittens. Good? Push them as far right as possible, so they'll definitely lose?
It has its appeal, bein' a nut. Huckabee's good at going on 'The Daily Show', for instance, and being friendly and not-crazy-seeming. His ideas on social engineering, at least on paper, infuriate the likes of Jonah Goldberg. This doesn't change the fact that Huck votes his religion first, which makes him unfit to lead a country as diverse as this one.

So...What, am I one of those knee-jerk anti-religion types there that would seek to deny all the wonderful things that organized faith does for the greater run of humanity? Of course not.
But most of the things that I feel are good about America were the work of secular types, and tended to be actively opposed by the churchy types. Forget this at your peril.

For instance, the early Abolitionists tended to be Christians, but they were liberal Christians. The Civil Rights movement, on the other hand, tended to be actively opposed by most white churches, and they found plenty of scriptural reasons to back this up.
And as much as one might disparage the lives of women in Islamic nations, I suspect that things wouldn't be all that much different in the West, were it not for the Suffragist movement, which was violently opposed by the better part of your churches.

I've reopened the dialogue, for the moment, with the Tugboatcapn. He was good enough to answer a question I put to him the other day. I've heard Ann Coulter (and as of today, Rush Limbaugh) say that voting for Hillary Clinton was desirable, over voting for John McCain, and I wondered what he thought about that.
Tug had said as much (minus saying anything good about Hillary) over two years ago, and I wondered about it then. At the time, I believe I expressed astonishment that compromise, of all things, would be viewed as a bad thing.

I used to be a big habitue of the right-wing blogs, largely because I felt that the dialogue was important. But I got a few too many glimpses into what I truly consider the darkest parts of both Man's Soul and the real heart of the American electorate: I don't ever hear liberals talking about wanting to kill conservatives, but I often found conservatives who at least really enjoy joking about killing liberals. This is when they aren't talking about how mean spirited liberals are.
I've said it before: even among the evangelical types I've met in my life who were good people, they still seem to forget that there is a biblical proscription against wrath. To say nothing about not following a multitude to do evil, but that one's up for personal interpretation, of course.

Unlike most guys over there, I don't believe he's insane; I just don't happen to agree with him on 90% of the issues. This is why I don't comment on his blog, unless I agree with something he's said, which happens once a year or so.

Jack Chick's work tends to be characterized by the classic approach: we meet some easily dismissed straw-men, and they are witnessed to by someone who makes sweeping generalizations.

This is nice, because you get that glimpse again: The chosen headgear of today's wayward youth is a forest ranger's hat, apparently. Also, they are so bored that they gladly listen to a complete stranger who told them to quit swearing, several panels previous to this.
The disaffected youth are quickly swayed-true, by the way, they are-and somehow immediately begin to conform to the worldview of the moustache guy.

Then, a little confusion results, as the Tripartite Deity needs to be explained. In this particular tract, it is somehow assumed that today's youth have never heard of Jesus at all, but also that they've never heard of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (which Mr. Chick, like all of them, wisely avoids too much discussion about).
There is a great deal of talk about Baby Jesus running around doing things in the Old Testament (which he did, although only in kind of an ontological cheat, as he was busy being God at the time), which-easily swayed as these young punks are-is where most people would at least say, "Wait a minute..."

I love, as always, that this universal, omnipotent, tripartite deity is for some reason concerned with where and how people have sex. I also love the unending assertion that since some teachers in some places will sometimes say that being queer isn't a bad thing, this translates as those damn liberal teachers promoting homosexuality.
This also underlines something I've noticed about religion at its most primitive: along with a desire for community and unconditional love, there seems to be an equal desire for revenge.

Along with that 'homosexuality smells bad' non sequitur from above, now we have the closeup on creepy moustache guy with his dead eyes fantasizing...'clean...clean...'
You can tell so much about the mental health of the author on this one. Sex is bad, and ladies must be prevented from having it...Unless it is with Me.
And he's wrong, of course, about the nature of Mary, but that gets us back into the whole Centuries-of-Translation argument again.

Okay, teevee back on again now. CNN projects Obama winning Georgia, as does Fox. Probably means nothing.
We've already noted this season that people are a lot more likely to say they will be voting for someone black, when asked by a pollster, than they are to actually do so. This has a broader corollary that I noticed a few years back: people talk big about their beliefs, and then vote for whatever they feel is safest, every time.
In other ways, I've seen this manifest as people having a great deal more in common than you'd think, to hear media tell it. The common interests of a community, at ground level, generally cause people to treat each other in a more or less civil way, and I'm tempted to say that they only turn on each other because they are encouraged to do so. Not sure that's quite true, though.

All the polls seem to be closing, but that still doesn't mean anything. It'll take a few days to count the absentees. It's interesting to see the return of Mike Huckabee, so soon after so many were declaring him Over With.
McCain's running in a dead heat with him in Georgia. I maintain, as usual, that they'll put up whoever is the most mediocre, just as the Democrats will do.
And between the two final Dems, who is that, exactly?

There is a woman who wrote into Wonkette a week or two ago, furious that they'd dare to criticize/ridicule Hillary. She overlooked the fact that all politicians get treated roughly there, and rightfully so.
So a commenter went looking for some sort of info on who this incoherently angry person was, and they found this:
Reverend Allyson/Life Coach.

Needless to say, there's plenty of cheap laughs over there, but what struck me was how overinterested in evaluating her own personality she was. Fortunately, Quizilla is there to provide a barometer for every possible way of examining oneself, no matter how absurd.
The woman has so much crap on her MySpace page that it takes a half-hour to fully load. And what important things do we/does she learn?
Your Hidden Talent (hers is "interpersonal relations")
How Evil Are You? (she isn't!)
How's Your Attitude? ("...Better than 70% of the population")
What Does Your Birthdate Mean? (being born on January 18th apparently means you work well in groups)
What Kind of Seducer Are You? ("fantasy lover")
How Boyish or Girlish Are You? ("40% Boyish")
How Is Your Inner Child? ("happy")
Which Character from the 'L-Word' Are You? ("Bette")
Are You Prejudiced? (nope!)

But then, since this is a New Agey lady, we need to ask the really important questions:
What Kind of Angel Are You? ("this quiz has amazingly Beautiful Pictures!", Allyson notes, before getting the reassuring news that she is a 'Pure' angel)
What kind of Jewel Are You? (diamond)
Which Ultimate Beautiful Woman Are You? ("Goddess!", natch. Gee, I wonder which kind of Endlessly Handsome Man I am...)
What's Your Celtic Horoscope ("You Are an Elm Tree"!)
What Flower Are You? ("You are a lily")
Which Irish Goddess Are You? (Aibell)
Are You High Maintenance? (against all reason, she is Not)
Which Tarot Card Are You? ("The High Priestess")
What Sign of Affection Are You? ("a cuddle and a kiss on the forehead")
How Scary Are You? ("Everyone loves you. Isn't that sweet?)
and my favorite...
Monkey? Pizza? Death? Oompa Loompa?
You are a MONKEY! You rock my sox! You wear your emotions on your
sleeve, and is LOUD LOUD LOUD!

(I gotta actually take that one. I'd love to know how one scores as 'pizza'. I'm not saying that Rev. Allyson is your average Clinton fan [she just won Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, by the by], I just...Well, the politics...Uh...)

MSNBC predicts that Obama takes Illinois, and Mittens takes Mass. I predict that the presidential race will feature McCain versus Clinton. Now turn off the damn teevee and go live your life.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Fun with Follow-up, or, The Girl With Glasses Smarter than You

(Two posts ago, I mentioned that in my old 'zine from the late '90's, I had forwarded the idea that Anything At All could be reviewed as "art", including things like conversations had loudly in public. Enjoy.)

Meeting of the Editorial staff of whatever the literary/poetry mag at Marylhurst College is called, Late December 1997 @ The Pied Cow

Three loud, pretentious women, one very submissive man-not barely getting a word in edgewise-are seated at the window table in the comfy pillow room of the Cow.
The youngest is this girl with the requisite horn-rimmed glasses. She speaks almost entirely through her nose, as well as sounding like she has a cough drop in the back of her throat. She is enthusing about an upcoming trip to Spain, with the memorable line, "Spain's not nearly as provincial as you might think!"

(Well, yes. Sure it's mostly Catholic and all, but they are a country in Europe, which suggest that they have a culture that goes back a couple thousand years at least. A culture that blends many diverse elements, gracefully. So it's just plain precious that some snooty little try-to-be aesthete from this young-as-hell, basically culture-less country would find it Not Wanting.)

The other ladies (no doubt with encouraging nods from the man's head) were then enthusing about how cool it would be to have a famous (?) editrix corresponding from Spain!

They were comparing themselves to other magazines (loudly! The loudest table in this rather intimate space), like Bikini, for instance. They spoke of how they dislike the "smart-ass, snowboarder" tone of the mag, but that the writing itself was pretty good. Then they spoke of Zzyzva (or however you spell that) lit. mag, and how all their contributors seemed to be on that shock-for-shock-value's-sake vibe. They also were very proud that they (unlike some unnamed mag they clearly felt was their competitor) had put out three issues!

There was a long discussion about the fact that at least one of them was going to have to learn how to write grants. I wish I could remember it. It was interesting.

A long discussion followed about how they weren't going to review books they didn't like. They wanted to avoid the snotty, just cuttin' on every thing attitude of "most reviewers". (Well sure...But at the expense of only printing reviews of things you like? One of the other problems endemic to criticism I've noticed is this nasty tendency to write glowing reviews of one's friend's work, ignoring all else. In many ways, this whole We Musn't Discourage Anyone shit has already gone too far. So this means that no matter how honestly come by a negative opinion of something is, it has no place in that mag? The Tyranny of the Mediocre continues. Besides, I learn more from examining why I don't like something than gushing about why I like it. But that's me.)

Our token Rapist Male raised his head at this point. Struggling to complete a sentence without being interrupted, he started talking about a book he was reviewing. It was written by a woman, -and furthermore- a feminist. He pointed out (accurately, though needlessly) that there were quite a few women out there who would be offended by the mere fact that the reviewer was male.
(My own take on that? Yeah, of course there are. In any realm, there's people who will be offended by anything anyone undertakes. They think that they are claiming power by doing so, and will bitch about fuzz on a carpet if they think they can get away with it. That's fine-if completely deluded-for them, but to try to please this particular group of people is to stoop to one of the lowest common denominators possible.)

The three women began stomping all over each other, trying to be first to respond to this. The one that did respond said, "Yeah, but at least you're open-minded. Not like some..."
I looked over at this point: would she say it? "Al-most!", I even said out loud.
Like some-what? Who is it that open-minded types like yourselves hate? C'mon! Afraid you'll have to turn in your Nice Person badge?

But the speaker realized this and said, "...Whatever. In any case..." and went on to explain that his good intentions would shine through, regardless of gender.
(Probably not, though. If he doesn't care what the Constantly Offended population thinks, fine. If not, he'd better sign his name Ariel Waterwomyn or something every time he reviews a feminist text.)

A sort of brainstorm happened next. They decided it would be a good, "fun" idea to write a review as if the spirit of Dorothy Parker were being channeled to one of them. To be fair, they were kind of joking, and this did happen at the end of a long session of throwing out ideas. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but consider what Dorothy Parker would have thought of all this adulation from a bunch of smug, shrill, upper-middle class women who bear nothing in common with her, who she'd probably hate, were she actually here.
She also would be grimly amused, I suspect, that she seems to have taken Frida Kahlo's place as Womyn Martyr from Herstory of the Semester. Last but not least, she wrote scathing reviews of things she didn't like, so it's not like she'd ever be published in this mag, anyway.

It just went on and on. I kept thinking, "So that's what it looks like!"

They said so many stupid things, I feel I've written enough. And if they have any problem with me critiquing a "private" conversation they were having, maybe they should consider the fact that they were so damn loud that one guy left, and the rest of us couldn't hear ourselves think.

(ed.'s note: That's pretty much it. I tried to correct for grammar, but that's pretty much what I had to say about that, as of 1999. Since pretty much no one ever read my zine, I never heard back from the ladies who edited the magazine under discussion here.)