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)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

JUST A THOUGHT HERE: Dick Morris said something last night on television that struck me and I thought I'd just make a comment on it. Commenting on The O'Reilly Factor, Morris said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might still have the votes to pass the Obama health care bill. When O'Reilly pointed out that Pelosi only got the House version of the bill through with three votes to spare, Morris said that the Speaker knew she had the votes to win and let the Democrats with marginal seats vote against the bill in order to preserve their chances in the midterm elections in November. Now that the momentum is against her, the Speaker would be able to call on those votes to get the bill through now. I think Morris is a pretty astute observer of the political scene, but I can't but think that he's wildly misreading this. Nancy Pelosi may have had a reservoir of yes votes in reserve on Monday, but after Scott Brown's election to the Senate on Tuesday that reservoir dried up and did so at near light speed. Everyone of those Democrats who voted against the bill is now thinking that they can go home and campaign for re-election on their no vote. There is absolutely no political or personal percentage in any of them changing their vote now; all of those guys know that they have gotten off the hook of the most contentious domestic political issue Congress has faced in a long time, and that they did so only through a trick of political fate. I mean, really, a Republican winning in Massachusetts? I know I didn't think it was possible and I'll bet you didn't either. Unless they have all taken a huge swig of Ms. Pelosi's Kool-Aid, I just do not see any of Mr. Morris' House reserve yes votes volunteering to get back on the hook any time soon. Only Kate Winslet could jump back onto the Titanic and live; it was in her contract. No one else gets her deal.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

ON WRITING WELL: For those of you interested in writing English well, there is no better advice that this from William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well. It's a shame I don't actually practice what Mr. Zinsser so eloquently preaches, but at this late date I am a mass of bad habits that are almost impossible to get rid of. But there is hope for you.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

XMAS GIFTS: If you’re a kid, this is the most wonderful time of the year (or it was when I started this piece). First, there’s the anticipation of Christmas Eve and then the joy of Christmas itself, followed by a week off where you get to play with all of your new stuff. It’s a wonderful time for adults as well. The Christmas shopping season is over until Labor Day (or is it the Fourth of July? It’s very difficult to tell anymore) and the bills haven’t come in yet and everyone gets to sit back and relax for a bit. So life, at least for the moment, is good. Of course, the gifts the adults got are nowhere as interesting as the stuff the kids got, but then that’s just the way life works, isn’t it? Adults know that there is no right jolly old elf handing out free stuff on Christmas Eve, just other adults who have to pay for the merchandise. If all this sounds like I am being philosophical about the Christmas spirit of giving, it’s because I am. This year I got a tie and twelve pairs of boxer shorts.

The tie is a very nice tie—it’s bright red with some kind of yellow design on it—but let’s face it, if a kid had gotten a tie and underwear for Christmas you’d be able to hear the screams of outrage from one end of our happy little burg to the other. Every kid knows that Santa keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, and that according to the best evidence available he checks that list at least twice before the big giveaway on the 24th of December; the unspoken corollary to all this checking and rechecking is that if a kid has been going out of his way to be nice, the kid expects Santa to come across with some pretty damn good gifts or he can forget about the free milk and cookies next year. Kids can be remarkably unforgiving that way. They want great Christmas gifts, and ties and underwear are definitely not what kids have in mind when they come running down the stairs on Christmas morning.

When you’re an adult, of course, things are different, and I must admit that the boxer shorts intrigue me. Allow me to say here that no, I do not have an underwear fetish, for those of you filthy-minded enough to think such a thing. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a boxer fetish, in any case. Boxers are too plebian a garment to support the incredible weight of the erotic imagination, which tends to prefer the frillier foundation garments of attractive young women. The foundation garments of middle-aged men tend to be much less interesting. What makes these particular pairs of boxers interesting is their color. I now own multiple sets of dark green camouflage boxer shorts, complete with a rippled leaf effect. Other pairs feature skulls and crossbones, also with the same dark green rippled effect.

I must tell you now that I regard the sudden militarization of my underwear drawer with no small degree of trepidation. I do not know right now what my policy should be in the event these new boxers attempt to extend their control from the underwear drawer to the sock drawer or, worse yet, should they attempt a violent overthrow of my tee-shirt drawer, which may lead to a destabilization of the world underwear order and the possibility of a conflict hitherto unheard of in the annals of underwear. Appeasement does not appear to be the right policy; we all know what ultimately happens to appeasing powers when they passively face an aggressor; but nothing in the boxers’ current behavior suggests that there is any immediate cause for alarm. There is merely a vague disquiet settling over this particular chest of drawers, a troubling disquiet similar to the psychic tension that haunted Europe in the years between 1933 and 1936.

I must also tell you that I am not quite certain what the point of camouflaged underwear is in the first place. At a time when newspapers print photographs of US Marines fighting while wearing flak jackets, bathroom sandals, and IheartNY boxer shorts there would seem little need for camouflaged underwear at all, much less give several pairs to someone with as unmilitary a disposition as mine. The purpose of camouflage is, as I understand it, is concealment from people who are naturally, politically, or personally hostile to you. To achieve this admirable circumstance, nature and the world’s militaries do their best to blend into their natural surroundings. Given that underwear’s natural surroundings are under your trousers, hence the origins of the word underwear, the whole point of camouflaged boxer shorts would seem an exercise in inutility, if not just plain dumb. The wearer, of course, might choose to make use of the boxers’ camouflage effect by wearing the shorts on the outside of their pants, but this will cause chafing after a while, especially on a hot day, and the practice does tend to lead to political and social upheaval in Central America, a tragic and for most part unforeseen consequence that the American political philosopher Allen Konigsberg first pointed out in the early 1970’s.

I suppose that one could argue, and some people will, if only for the hell of it—some people are like that— that one might use camouflaged boxer shorts in order to confuse any passing sexually transmitted diseases and thereby escape their notice unscathed, but as the wearer of camouflaged boxer shorts is seldom wearing said boxers when the passing sexually transmitted diseases actually pass, this argument seems a bit weak, if not positively foolish. Many of the other proposed arguments also seem flimsy when held up to examination. The use of such underwear in deer hunting, for example, founders on some of the same reasons that limit the boxers’ military utility. Deer have little or no color vision; they cannot even see the bright orange hunting jackets the law requires hunters to wear here in the Vampire State; and they have no X-ray vision at all, rendering the point of camouflaged underwear moot. Camouflaged underwear might, in theory, be of some use in certain situations, but when such situations depart from the realm of theory and enter that of the quotidian it is almost always the result of excessive beer consumption and often concludes with some dumbass falling out of the tree their hunting stand is in (no, it wasn’t me, and no, this part of the story is not apocryphal). Now, your average American white-tailed deer is not the brightest bulb in the animal kingdom, but they are intelligent enough to know that seeing a beer sodden human being falling out of a tree in the middle of the forest is not at all a good sign, whatever the color of his boxer shorts, and that the best way to extend their chances of living to a ripe old age is to scram, split, and otherwise vamoose in as expeditious a manner as possible. The camouflaged boxers might hide our gravity challenged hunter from a crew of searching paramedics, but I think the low moans interrupted every so often with long bursts of profanity would probably negate the ripple leaf effect of the underwear. Actually, I think the swearing would be a dead giveaway, but you never can tell; stranger things have happened, you know. Did I mention that the tie is red?

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