The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

GETTYSBURG: PART 1—LEAVING HOME: My many apologies to one and all for my enforced absence, but I was, as I’ve previously mentioned, engaged in a prolonged sociological study of the long-term effects of large-scale political violence on a small American community. While it is difficult to draw meaningful or even very accurate conclusions from a visit lasting only a few days, no one else in the blogosphere seems hampered by a lack of available evidence for their pet conclusions and so I see no reason why I should be bound by this unreasonable convention.

The test community for this study is a small town in south central Pennsylvania named Gettysburg. I am not sure who Mr. Getty was, although I am certain that you don’t much care who he was one way or the other. He may have been a man of some importance, or this may be just a way of sucking up to a rich guy. This sort of thing is not unheard of, naturally; it happened here in our happy little burg. The wise council of solons that governed our civic existence then induced the owner of a paper mill to move here, offering all the usual bribes, tax concessions, and the untouched bodies of their virgin daughters that came with such an exercise in the 19th century. The paper mill owner went along with the deal, but only if the city council renamed the city after his company, thereby cementing the relationship between the private and public sectors into a harmonious whole. The city council, who were running out of bribes, tax concessions, and suitable daughters at that point, agreed to the terms and, after a long fight with the county, the state, and the United States Post Office, changed the name of our happy little burg from its previous, somewhat poetic Indian name, to its current dull and prosaic one. What’s worse, of course, is that the paper mill owner, having taken the bribes, spent the tax money, and rendered all the suitable daughters in the neighborhood unsuitable for marriage in polite society, promptly took off for parts unknown with all of his hard-earned swag and the mayor’s wife, leaving his own wife and three children and several more on the way, although this did not become obvious until a few months later, as well as a raft of unpaid hotel bills, to add insult to injury. Having gone through the trouble of changing the name, the city council decided that the new name was the least of their troubles and decided to leave the name as it was; changing the name back was just too much trouble for these men to contemplate at the time.

Now, to study any test population in its native habitat, one must get there; I did this using Korean ground transportation, i.e., my brother’s Hyundai Sonata, complete with the brother to drive said vehicle. This leads, inevitably, I think, to New Jersey, a place critics malign as a matter of course, and often without much justification. The Garden State is a beautiful place, filled with small traffic signs that the unsuspecting out of state motorist couldn’t possibly read while doing the speed limit without screwing binoculars into his eyeballs all the way from the Delaware to the Hudson, and pols who think that because they don’t have to obey the laws they inflict on everyone else in the state they don’t have to obey the laws of physics, either. Still, New Jersey, Benjamin Franklin liked to remind people, was a valley of moderation between two mountains of arrogance, and is (or was) the home of Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Thomas Edison, Bruce Springsteen, the United States Equestrian Team, and the Shakespeare Company of New Jersey, a troupe renowned for its vigorous avant-garde interpretations of the Bard’s works:

“To be, or not to fucking be,
That is the fucking question.
Whether ‘tis fucking nobler in the fucking mind to suffer the fucking slings and arrows of outrageous fucking fortune
Or to take fortune’s fucking arms
And fucking twist them around his fucking back until this lousy fuck’s fucking eyeballs fucking bust out of his fucking head
Like overdone fucking ravioli…”

Clearly, the text gains in pithiness what it loses in poetic and philosophical intensity. However, as there was no time for this sort of foray into postmodernist Shakespeare, we did not stay to catch the matinee; Pennsylvania awaited us.

My mother was not sanguine about our going to such a strange and far-off place. Mom is one of those Irish people who got off the boat in the Vampire State back in the 1950’s and never really moved any farther inland than our happy little burg. For her, New York is America and any portion of this our Great Republic where you cannot see the Hudson River on a daily basis is a suspect place awash in lions, tigers, savage Indians, and equally savage Protestants. She knows that Pennsyltucky exists; the Mets have to play the Phillies and the Pirates during baseball season, after all, but baseball players are millionaires paid to take ungodly risks and her sons are not, so before we went Mom doused us with holy water and we recited an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and an Act of Contrition so as to ask for the blessings and protection of the Almighty on our hazardous journey.

Our hazardous journey would not be so hazardous if Gettysburg was located somewhere convenient, as, for example, the town of Matamoros is. I could drive back and forth to Matamoros every day to conduct research if I ever felt the need to, and with gas back at $3.00 a gallon I would almost never feed the need to do something like this. Unfortunately, Gettysburg does not border New York; it borders Maryland, necessitating a much longer drive than I ordinarily like to make. Sociology, however, is a hard science, and those of us who labor in its vineyards must constantly provide our master with the raw data that sociologists, pundits, and bloggers need to prognosticate about the future of modern American society. Almost all of these prognostications will be too wrong for words, given, as they will be, overtaken by events that none of us could have predicted in a million years, despite the tons of data we’ve got stashed in our computers. You just can’t predict a guy like Bucky Dent, you know.

And then we came to Gettysburg, of which more anon.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007


am back from the great adventure with my investigations nearly
completed. I just need a little time in which to digest all of the
sociological data I have gathered while I was away and then I will
report here just as soon as possible. In the meantime, look at the

UPDATE: I have been asked to explain just what it is
you folks are looking at here. I'm not sure why I didn't put captions
in before; captions have been around for quite a while now, so I guess
I have no real excuse except laziness.

In descending order:

1.) A view of the Codori farm on Cemetery Ridge, taken from the positions held by the Vermont Brigade on the third day of the battle.

2.) A monument to the 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry on McPherson Ridge. The white farmhouse in the background belonged to the McPhersons and was used as a field hospital on the first day of the battle.

3.)The monument to Major General John Reynolds, taken at sunset. Reynolds
brought his infantry corps up to this line on the first day of the
battle and was killed in the fighting for the woods a few hundred yards
to the left of where this statue is now.

4.) A monument to the 84th New York Infantry, although absolutely no one in that regiment would ever concede that title for a moment. As far as the men in that
regiment were concerned they were the 14th Brooklyn and dont you ever
forget it, smart guy. This was taken at the railway cut, an unfinished
(at that time) pass through a hill that large numbers of Mississippi
infantry got caught in and were forced by the 14th and the 95th New York to surrender.

5.) Union artillery on Cemetery Ridge.

6.) Detail, 143rd Pennsylvania monument.

7.) Silhouette of the monument to Major General John Buford, commanding officer of the 1st Cavalry Division, at sunset. Buford was the one who saw the potential of fighting on this ground and almost sacrificed his division holding the line on the first day of the fighting so that Reynolds and the infantry could come up and take up positions. Buford is, in my opinion, the unsung hero of Gettysburg, as his decision to take and hold ground so favorable to the defensive was the key one in the
Union's ultimate success. In a bit of trivia you may or may not care to
know, there are a great many statues of generals mounted on horses at
Gettysburg: Reynolds is mounted, as are George Gordon Meade, Robert E.
Lee, Oliver O. Howard, and James Longstreet. John Buford is not
mounted, which is strange, really, because of all the generals I have
just cited Buford was the only career cavalryman. The others were
engineers, artillerymen, or in the infantry. There is something odd, I
think, about a man who spent most of his army career on horseback and
who commanded a cavalry division on the battlefield where his service
is so just commemorated not rating a damn horse. Who makes these
decisions, that's what I want to know. Just as a sidelight, I will be
adding more Gettysburg pics to thephotoblog as they become available.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

AND FOR THOSE WHO CARE, I am going on vacation this coming week, so my guess is that the posting will be even slower here than it usually is, if there is any way of actually detecting the difference that without a seismograph. I am off to Gettysburg, there to conduct in-depth research on the long-term effects of combat on a small rural American community. See you all on the flip side!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

MY DEBUT: That's right, I am debuting as a co-contributor over at Eternity Road today. Come on over and see the wisdom flow in buckets.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

COMMENTARY: The Rev. Al Sharpton is outraged, which should come as no great surprise to anyone, since outrage is the man’s business, and from the nice three-piece suits he wears I’d say business is pretty good nowadays. I am not sure why this week’s particular bit of nastiness from Don Imus set him off, though; one can hear African-American women called much worse on BET every day of the week and there’s nary a peep from the good Reverend. Now that I think about it, I am not sure how Reverend Sharpton fits into this equation at all; he neither attends Rutgers nor plays basketball for that college, nor is he a woman, and I think it’s been a while since anyone applied the first part of Imus’ insult to him, but only his hairdresser knows for sure.

As for the I-man, well, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but when a man publicly smears a woman’s character in this manner, it behooves the man to make a public apology for his boorish and altogether contemptible behavior to the woman, or in this case, women, whose character he held up to slander and calumny and to do so as quickly as possible. I must admit to a certain malicious happiness in Mr. Imus’ present discomfiture, however. He does not mind insulting the President of the United States whenever he takes the notion to, as well as those of us who support the President, and so the sight of Mr. Imus tripping face first over a liberal shibboleth is, for me at least, an altogether gratifying experience. I mean, really, what was he thinking when he said something so completely stupid? Or was he thinking at all?

In other news, we now know who the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s child is, and the proud father announced the news to the awaiting media not as a man about to take on the most serious task any man can undertake, but as a man who has hit the number in the MegaMillions jackpot. Our condolences to Dannielynn, who is not yet a year old and has, in her short life, lost a brother and a mother and become the meal ticket for a crew of voracious parasites that make tapeworms and bot flies look positively beneficent and beneficial by comparison.

UPDATE: CBS has just fired Don Imus, so yesterday's broadcast was the I-Man's last. I wondered why they went to this extreme, since networks don't usually fire people who make them a lot of money. Usually what happens in such cases is for the dolt who put his foot in his mouth to apologize to everyone you can possibly think of and then announce that he was a drug and/or alcohol abuser, and Imus certainly has the history to back this story up, and then go into rehab for a month while the scandalmongers move on to newer and fresher targets of opportunity. It then occurred to me that most of this country's major media companies are located in New York and have their flagship stations in the eponymous metropolis, and the broadcast licenses of all New York television stations are up for FCC renewal this year. In fact, those licenses are up for renewal in June, and everyone gets a month to file a petition to deny that license. To deny a license a complainant, if there is such a word, has to show that the current licensee is not acting in the public interest, and let's face it, having one of your employees use the air waves you license from the government to defame a mostly African American women's basketball team using a racist and misogynist epithet is not acting in the public interest by any conceivable stretch of the imagination.

Now if the I-Man had had the wit to slander those women in August, he might have saved his career; he might even have survived the loss of all those advertising revenues-advertisers, a noticeably gutless crew, would have stayed away for a while, but would eventually come scurrying back, drawn to Imus's high ratings like ants to that open bag of brown sugar in my mother's cupboard; but he didn't, and when you add the loss of advertising revenue to the cost of defending your license from the Reverend Sharpton and his minions, the obvious recourse is to get rid of the source of the problem. No Imus, no complaints, no petitions to deny license, no bad publicity, no court fights, no problems. All is well in medialand, and here I was, thinking that maybe CBS got rid of Imus because a sudden wave of the idealistic warm and fuzzies swept over the corporate superstructure. I think it's heartening to know that CBS remains a foursquare bastion of moneygrubbing bastards who'd gut their own mothers with a dull fishknife if they thought it'd add five cents to this quarter's profits. Yes indeed, God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

BUDGET BLUES: You may not know this, but here in our happy little burg a bicycle’s rear reflector must be amber. No other color will do: not scarlet, not strawberry, not crimson, not vermilion, not Kelly green, not even on St. Patrick’s Day; only amber will serve the purpose at hand. Now, in fairness to the always wise council of solons who govern our mighty micropolis, this particular bit of legal fluff was not their idea, although they might have come up with it if they weren’t busy plotting ways of injecting politics into the annual civic homage to the power of Gina DiNapoli’s breasts, of which more at another time. No, indeed, this legal privileging of amber over all other shades in the visible spectrum comes to us courtesy of the state legislature, an educational institution best known for annually demonstrating the concept of inertia to visiting high school physics classes. You see a lot of this sort of thing here in the Vampire State; worrying about the colors of bicycle reflectors (the reflectors on the front of the bicycle can stay red, for the time being) gives the assembled malfeasants who would otherwise be circling the state budget like a pack of starved lawyers at an accident scene the feeling that they are actually accomplishing something without actually letting them do anything, which would require them to bestir themselves and actually do something, and there’ll be none of that here, thank you very much. Here in the Vampire State we also have a state muffin (the apple muffin; we may graft, but we are regular), a state insect (Joel Steinberg), a state fossil (Mario Cuomo), and a state beverage (milk) that everyone in the state legislature is in favor of, just as long as they don’t actually have to drink the stuff. That’s odd, too, now that I think about it, given the power of the dairy lobby in this neck of the woods; you’d think the milk peddlers would come up with a forty proof chocolate milk, just to grab the legislators’ attention in between their prolonged bouts of looting and pillaging on the public dime.

In any case, the citizens of the Vampire State must endure this legal nitpicking because the legislature finds that it has precious little to do most of the time; our state, like all other states in this our Great Republic except Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature, an arrangement that no doubt came about because those good and sensible prairie folk objected to shelling out their good hard-earned tax money to support not one but two sets of work-averse peculators, follows the organizational format of the Federal government, with its two houses and a chief executive and a snappy looking capitol building. This is what all of us who live here learned in the seventh grade, when the main focus of history class is the history of our state. This bit of civics instruction is, of course, pure nonsense; the Vampire State is a triumvirate, a government of three men: the governor, the senate majority leader, and the speaker of the assembly, none of whom like each other very much at the moment. There are other state legislators, to be sure, and I would like to think that some of them want to do a good job for their constituents, but you could drive a herd of sheep into the capitol building and get the same results that you get now. And better yet, sheep work for less than a legislator makes these days and during the spring and summer legislative sessions you can turn them loose in the public parks to graze, thereby saving a fortune in lawn mowing and fertilizer costs.

Now, the reason why none of these gentlemen like each other is fairly easy to grasp; it’s budget time and the state budget will be late yet again, just as it has been late for the past several decades. The reasons why the budget will be late this year need not concern us here; suffice it to say that pols in search of boodle exhibit all the table manners of an ill-bred shark in a feeding frenzy, and if they’re not trying to get money out of the taxpayers’ hide then they are out to give their campaign contributors in the much loathed special interests tax breaks that mere voters are not important enough to rate. At this point, Vampire Staters no longer wonder if the legislature will pass the budget on time, but rather how late the budget is going to be this year, a topic of immense interest for people from one end of the state to the other. Betting on when the budget will pass is a major part of the gaming industry here, with tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars put on dates from April Fool’s Day, which is when the legislature, by law, must vote on the budget, a date that, frankly, only suckers play, to New Year’s Eve, which is pushing the far edge of the fiscal envelope, but is not entirely outside the range of fiduciary irresponsibility, especially in this neck of the woods.

This year, though, there’s been a mad rush to get the budget in on time, or at least within spitting distance of on time, and so most legislators had to make some sacrifices, one of which was the pleasure of actually seeing what was in the budget before they had to vote on it. Usually, your average state legislator will get his copy of the budget out of the mail, peruse the table of contents and see if there’s anything worth reading, and then check the index and see how many times they get mentioned in this over-baked screed (they also want to make sure the printer spelled their names right) before looking over their shoulders and taking a quick look at the centerfold. This year the speaker and the majority leader thought that it would be better for everyone concerned if the legislators just skipped reading the budget altogether, as the budget can be a fairly boring bit of prose in need of a good Indian attack in order to hold the reader’s interest. Since, however, passing a budget without actually looking at the text makes people wonder why we bother electing a legislature in the first place instead of simply having the finalists of the state spelling bee legislate on the public’s behalf—they are available during summer vacation, if they don’t already have plans to go to Disney World with their parents and their annoying younger siblings—the speaker and the majority leader did make sure their legislative comrades each got a copy of this morbidly obese tome an hour or so before everyone had to vote on the contents; some legislators, bemused by this turn of events, pointed out to all and sundry that their copies were still warm when they got them, the ink still wet, and many a conscientious legislator wound up accidentally smearing charts and tables for subsidies to the state barge system all over their fingertips. Life is hard in the state capital, there’s no doubt about that, boys and girls.

But all is not lost, I hear. Rumor has it that lost in all of that verbiage there really is a good Indian attack; it’s in the ninth chapter, in between mandates for school bus purchases and a member item for a new state monument to Grandma Moses. After years on the warpath, the Trump Indians may finally get a reservation in their ancestral hunting grounds in the Catskills, and if you call now, you can get a reservation to see the grand opening of the brand new and absolutely spectacular tribal education center and casino. I know I want to learn all I can about Trump culture and show girls, and I’m sure you do, too.

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