I trust that this lays to rest any questions about our journalistic integrity. We thank you for your patience and hope you all have a nice day.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I trust that this lays to rest any questions about our journalistic integrity. We thank you for your patience and hope you all have a nice day.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I think I can say, without too much fear of contradiction, that the world would be a much better place today if Mr. Watson had not heeded Alexander Graham Bell’s poignant plea of “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you,” and had gone out for pizza instead. The acid Bell spilled on his trousers that night would have eaten through his leg and come out the other side, and then Bell could have lavished his inventive genius on building a new and better wooden leg, which is something the world can actually use, as opposed to that infernal squawk box that makes it technologically possible for my relatives to hound me for money at all hours of the day and night. I suppose it is too late at this point in time to go back to some civilized form of communication, like smoke signals, for example, or running signal flags up the yardarm like Nelson did at Trafalgar, although, in the interests of fairness, I should point out that in Nelson’s case, he didn’t read all that legal boilerplate that came with the flags and wound up dead as a result.
As far as I can tell, the only practical use of the cell phone is that it allows you to call in an order for an Italian combo on a hero and some macaroni salad to your local deli from your car. The thing of it is, though, I wouldn’t order anything from my local deli if my life depended on it. Now that I think of it, my life does depend on not ordering anything from them. I do not know if the people who own and operate this establishment are familiar with the concept of ptomaine poisoning and I have no intention of finding out. I am sure that there must be swarms of people interested in having a near death culinary experience; I, however, am not one of them. There are no thrill seekers here, thank you very much.
In any case, there is something about an establishment that sells food and also advertises that it sells live bait above its entrance that makes for some queasiness on my part. Live bait, for those of you who are entirely urban in your day to day life, means exactly that: the earthworms, nightcrawlers, and other invertebrates sold to the local fishing fanatics are all alive and sufficiently yummy to attract the attention of even the most finicky of fish. Obviously, there are many places in this country where such a sign is so utterly commonplace it would cause absolutely no head to turn at all. In almost any Southern state you care to mention, for instance, not only is it possible to buy live bait, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, a six pack of Budweiser and a Slim Jim in your local deli, you can also get yourself a couple of boxes of ammunition for your shotguns or pistols if you feel the need to shoot something before going home for the night. It’s just that I’ve been in this deli on more than one occasion and I know they keep the live bait back near the cold cuts, and I like knowing that my salami, tomato, and provolone hero is pig, plant, and cheese, and in no way, shape, or form includes a nightcrawler busting out of this lousy joint and making a run for it. I am in no way a vegetarian; I have no moral qualms about consuming meat and I think that most of the animals human beings consume have it coming; but I draw the line at live bait, or even dead bait, for that matter. It’s just a personal quirk, I guess.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I will grant you, however, that it is difficult, at best, to imagine a set of circumstances in which someone could make the police arresting the mayor of our fair micropolis for assaulting a real estate developer with a fully charged fire extinguisher during a meeting of the City Council sound worse that it really was, but I am sure that someone with enough imagination could do just that if they really wanted to. And I would be remiss in my duties here if I did not point out that the mayor was provoked almost beyond the limits of human endurance, and that, frankly, both the developer and the nuns had it coming. The facts of the matter are these: last Thursday, at the semimonthly meeting of the solons who govern our fair community, the question of what to do with the nuns came up for the millionth time. The good sisters are leaving us—their order has decided to sell their convent and move them to another house further upstate—and so the question of what to do with the land the convent now stands on has turned the usual placid flow of municipal politics into a raging torrent of hatred and recrimination. One faction is for turning the whole area into a park, another wants to sell the land for development. I will not bore the reader with the ins and outs of this dispute; suffice it to say that the mayor wanted a new city park and the rest of the board wanted development and the mayor lost this argument big time, and I mean big time; he lost this vote by a wider margin than we denizens of the egregious mold pit lost the vote for a new library, and I didn’t think that was possible in any city-wide election unless the dead voted too, which they are sometimes wont to do in this neck of the woods. Our happy little burg is a very inclusive community, unwilling to damage the patriotic self-esteem of even the most deceased of our citizens, and so we are one of the few places in the United States that can boast that many of the same people who voted for John Quincy Adams also voted for George W. Bush twice; family is just that important to us here.
Defending the honor of his family was, in my opinion, the root cause of the events that marred the civil calm our citizens have grown accustomed to. At last Thursday’s meeting the developer, a thoroughly unlikable man with pretensions to obnoxiousness, if not outright swinishness, brought up the fact, as if we didn’t already know it, that he had bought the convent and wanted to start building his cookie cutter McMansions right away, and would the mayor therefore stop throwing legal obstacles in his way at every opportunity? The mayor denied right away that he was doing this, which, I must point out in a spirit of fairness, is codswallop piled on poppycock topped with balderdash. The mayor may have lost the vote over the land’s fate, but he’s been strangling the project in so much red tape ever since that everyone knows he’s just waiting for the developer to give up and move on to other projects. Most people either know or can find out for themselves that the German Army shot the last extant aurochs on this planet during the invasion of Poland in 1939, no doubt finding the beasts a welcome change from a diet of sardines and bratwurst, and as a result the developer should not have to provide an environmental impact statement detailing his project’s impact on the aurochs’ native habitat.
The developer, who along with being disagreeable in the extreme, is also a fairly excitable guy, lost his temper at this bald-faced departure from the facts as everyone knows them and began shouting at the mayor, liberally peppering his threats of legal action with a stream of invective that veered wildly from the merely libelous to the scatological, the profane, the blasphemous, and the obscene, sometimes combining all four at once. The mayor took the abuse with the stoic aplomb that more than one opponent has commented on, and then the developer brought up the mayor’s wife. Doing this is always a mistake. The mayor’s wife is a very nice woman these days and it does no one any good to bring up events from thirty years ago that really weren’t anyone’s fault; it’s not like anyone involved died as a result, except the goldfish; but the mayor is understandably touchy about the subject and those of us who live here understand his feelings and never bring the matter up amongst ourselves except when we are really bored and have nothing else to do. Having some smarmy loudmouth developer from out of town bring the subject up, and in a public forum, no less, was just too much for the mayor to bear, and he went sailing over the table and into low earth orbit to defend his wife’s honor, such as it is, in what was probably not the most graceful leap in the long annals of local politics.
Having gone up, the mayor then came down, and many witnesses told the reporters the next day that it was a good thing the mayor landed on the nuns sitting in the first row or he might have really hurt himself; the sisters are doing well, except for Sister Mary Margaret, who bore the full impact of the mayor’s nearly three hundred pound carcass landing on her lap. She is still in intensive care, but on the whole she held up much better than you would expect an eighty-five year old woman would to such an impact. The mayor pushed the developer up against the wall and then grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall and tried to bash the real estate reprobate over the head with the thing. At this point, some members of the local gendarmerie came rushing into the City Council chamber in the not so nick of time and pulled the two men apart, arresting the mayor for assault and battery. They may have arrested the developer as well; I haven’t heard of any charges against him, though; being a first rate jerk is not yet a crime here in the Vampire State—if it were the state would as empty as Montana.
And that is all there is to the matter. I find having to recount such vile tales disagreeable in the extreme, for if those who lead us think so little of themselves and their obligations to the people who voted them into office, what hope is there for the ordinary citizen who only wants to lead a simple life free from civil strife? But in a democracy, the public must have the unvarnished truth, so that it can make wise decisions about the issues of the day and the people they send to the halls of power to represent them. If this screed helps the ongoing American experiment in democracy advance in any way, I will be satisfied. And no, I am not going to tell you about the damn goldfish.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
But in many ways, Christopher Hitchens remains a man of the Left and no more so than when he denounces religious belief. He pours scorn on his brother’s Anglicanism, but either cannot or will not see that his own longstanding Marxist views are simply religious faith in secular guise, although why anyone would want to replace Christianity with Marxism is a mystery to me. I do not understand why anyone would turn away from the soteriological benefits of religious faith, where in return for a life lived in accordance with the wishes of God, one gets to spend all eternity in the presence of the Almighty, from whom all good things come, in order to follow a discredited 19th century economic philosophy that didn’t work in any country that tried to implement it, usually at a horrific cost in human suffering. That confuses me, but then, I am easily confusable, or at least this is what people tell me.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
UPDATE: Here’s an update to the above, although it’s not really much of an update, since it’s has nothing to do with what I’ve already written, but I thought it was interesting and maybe you will, too. Bill O’Reilly pointed out a couple of days ago that the New York Times put the story of the terrorist plot to destroy JFK International Airport on page 37 of this week’s Sunday paper, for which he has gotten a lot of grief from all the usual left-wing suspects. Now, in fairness to the Times and for those of you who may not get the city edition of the paper delivered to your doorstep, page 37 of last Sunday’s paper was the first page of the Times’ Metro section. This is the part of the paper wherein the Times, which likes to think of itself as the nation’s newspaper, pays lip service to geographic reality and reports what’s going on in New York City. The Times doesn’t like covering the city beat and frankly, it shows. If you want real coverage of what goes on in New York City, read the Post or the Daily News, the Sun or the Observer; read Newsday if you want to catch what’s going on in Queens; even read a left wing rag like the Village Voice and ignore the classified ads for the transsexual prostitutes and those Korean bordellos in the West 30’s. Read almost any other newspaper coming out of New York and you will get better news coverage of the city than the Times offers. But lousy or not, the terror plot was there, on the first page of the Metro section and above the fold, too.
But, you know, the arrest of these would-be jihadis made the actual front page of newspapers all over the United States, whereas the Times, on its actual front page, had yet another Guantanamo story, poor Indian brick makers, and a piece about the gentleman who plays the violins at the violin museum in Cremona, Italy. I should point out here that I am a tremendous admirer of the Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri families and all of their products; no one likes listening to Itzhak Perlman swing a hot Strad more than I do; but I think we would all agree that in terms of news value a disrupted terror plot beats keeping great violins in musical trim any day of the week, especially when the target of the disrupted plot lies only a few miles from the Times’ corporate offices in Manhattan and those violins do not.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
This time my slightly batty Aunt Cathleen was the reason for the trek southwards. Aunt Cathleen was my father’s oldest sister, and therefore you should not, in any way, shape, or form confuse her with my mother’s sister Aunt Cathleen, who died about a year and a half ago, or my other Aunt Cathleen, who is married to my father’s youngest brother Bill and has not died yet; Uncle Bill has suggested she shut up and drop dead on numerous occasions, but Aunt Cathleen appears uninterested in a sudden change in lifestyle at this time. My maternal Aunt Cathleen and my Aunt Cathleen by marriage are or were, my maternal Aunt Cathleen having died, both Irish, as is my mother, but I’ll bet you figured that out already, and were not batty, slightly or otherwise, except in those ways peculiar to the Irish condition. While I would rather my paternal Aunt Cathleen had not passed away at all, especially on a holiday weekend I had plans for, the fact of the matter is that death has done the family a favor of sorts by eliminating the longstanding familial confusion of which Aunt Cathleen we are talking about when we talk about Aunt Cathleen. Clearly, any reference to Aunt Cathleen in the present tense means my second Irish Aunt Cathleen, who is now my only Aunt Cathleen, the other two Aunt Cathleens having moved on to bigger and better things.
Having solved the mystery of the decedent’s identity, we can move forward to the wake, which is the only part of the festivities I actually attended. I suppose I could have stayed on for the funeral Mass the next day, but that would entail two trips to the city in as many days and I would prefer not doing that; I do not travel well. The wake was very nice, if you can call wakes nice. I suppose some people do; it always seems to me that you can see the same set of old women at every wake you go to, always sitting off to the side and looking at the corpse and whispering to each other while everyone else in the room is studiously ignoring the guest of honor. I don’t know if those old women are there to gloat over outliving the deceased or whether they are there to judge how the undertaker did his job, with how well the deceased looks for someone in their former state of ill health being just one of the many criteria necessary for an absolutely superlative gold medal performance. I have not seen any of those old women hold up scorecards or appear on ESPN yet, but I am pretty sure they are angling for a contract.
There was the usual polite chit—chat you always get at this sort of thing: how well you look, how was the trip down, how’s your mother doing, how’s everything going with you, it was nice of you to come on such short notice. I agreed modestly with that last point; it was nice of me to come, considering I could pass some of these very same people on the street and not realize that they are my relatives. I went over to the casket and paid my respects; Aunt Cathleen looked about as well as anyone in her condition could look, what with cosmetics slathered on like butter on an English muffin, veins full of embalming fluid, and that odd pink lighting undertakers seem to prefer. I am not sure why they have this type of lighting in funeral parlors at all; I imagine they believe it makes the deceased look more life-like, but it doesn’t really. Aunt Cathleen didn’t look like she was alive or asleep or whatever effect the undertaker was aiming for; she looked like she was auditioning for a spot in the Epcot Center’s American Adventure animatronics exhibition and about to learn that Anna Nicole Smith was getting the part instead.
Things were going quite well up to this point; the younger generations of my father’s family didn’t know us, we didn’t know them, and so we were all on our best behavior. And then the other relatives showed up, which reminded me of why I usually go out of my way to avoid these people like the plague. Some people showed a certain consistency that you have to admire; my Uncle Paddy (yes, Irish people have uncles named Paddy—this is not a Hollywood invention) was an obnoxious jerk the last time I saw him twenty-five years ago and I am happy to report that time has not softened him in any way: he’s still an obnoxious jerk, the only change being that back in the day he would poke you over and over again with his forefinger to emphasize whatever nonsensical point he was making at the time. He doesn’t do that anymore; now he pokes you with his cane. Uncle Bill and my only Aunt Cathleen showed up as well, bickering about something or other. They used to bicker much more than they do now, and I am certain that anyone outside the family wouldn’t know the difference, but I’ve noticed the slacking off in their ongoing disagreement about everything under the sun. This is the inevitable result of age; sometimes you just can’t keep an argument going no matter how hard you try; and then my uncle is slowly going deaf, although he is not going deaf fast enough to suit him. He could afford a hearing aid, of course, but then he would have to listen to Aunt Cathleen morning, noon, and night, and why on earth would he want to spend good money to do something like that? This is a good question and one for which I could not provide an equally good answer, and even if I could, what good would it do? Uncle Bill couldn’t hear what I was saying anyway.
In any case, the wake went well; I am not sure how wakes do not go well, as the guest of honor at these affairs is not likely to get drunk, do a striptease, or tell dirty jokes about the other guests, but I am sure it must happen. Not doing well is part of the human condition, as two of my Aunt Cathleens can now verify, as they are not doing very well at all these days. And for those of you interested in such trivia, those plastic or metal tips at the end of your shoelaces are aglets. No, I do not know if anyone from Texas A&M was involved in the discovery of the aglet or whether the word originally meant a coed at that august institution; I just know that’s what the dictionary calls those tips now. Argue with Noah Webster, if you feel the need. He’s dead, too.