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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

                     T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

30 August 2007

IT'S ON!!
Phils Sweep Mets! Trail By Two!

Four games which were maybe, just maybe, the making of a season.

They won the first in an old-fashioned slugfest.

They won the second on a 40-foot RBI single by Aaron Rowand and an overtime two-run bomb by the incredible Ryan Howard.

They won the third via a clear obstruction call against Mets' base-runner Marlon Anderson in the bottom of the ninth.

They won today after blowing two large leads when Jason Werth (who just happens to be hitting about .850 this week) walked, stole second and third without a throw in the ninth inning, totally unnerving Mets' reliever Billy Wagner, and then scored on a pinch-hit by Tadahito Iguchi. Iguchi proceeded to steal second and Wagner walked Jimmy Rollins intentionally to face Chase Utley, who ripped a single to right field to drive home the winning run.

You picks your poison with these guys right now.

Did I mention that Pat Burrell smacked two, count 'em, two home runs today and three for the series (he has 41 against the Mets for his career)? That Howard, Rollins and Rowand each hit another one today as well? A wild and near-crazy sellout afternoon crowd?

There's magic in the air. And a month to go.

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[Posted 5:30pm edt]

28 August 2007

An invaluable resource. Use it.
Bob Somerby at Daily Howler is sui generis, a remarkable, if sometimes tedious, website which reconstructs our media like none other. The installment to which I've linked is quite typical and I recommend it, and the site, to those reading this who understand that George W. Bush is the Worst. President. Ever. and who want to understand how he got to the White House and how the people who would carry on his anti-intellectual, anti-American and anti-reason legacy still might prevail in 2008.

For those who believe that George W. Bush is anything less than the Worst. President. Ever. I fall back on the old refuge of the Catholic Church. If you can deny all the evidence of the last six-plus years that this is an incompetent who is seriously damaging our country and our heritage, you suffer from what can only be called Invincible Ignorance.

Or, as well call it in secular terms, the Fox News audience.

Bookmark Somerby's site. Read it daily (Monday through Friday). And PAY ATTENTION.

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[Posted 5:55pm edt]

27 August 2007

Dumb, dumber and incredibly, mind-bogglingly even dumber.
As many people have noted, Alberto (See No...Speak No...Hear No...) Gonzalez handed in his resignation last Friday afternoon. That's SOP in Washington when you have to release the bad news (in this case, Very Good News for most of us); do it on a Friday and let it get lost in the weekend non-news news. So that's what Bush's Non-Brain did.

Then he, and they, waited to announce it today, a Monday, the beginning of a new news cycle.

I swear to god, this nincompoops may be the dumbest, least efficient politicians/bureaucrats in recorded history. They could screw up a ham sandwich if you spotted them the ham and one slice of bread.

Then again, they say every organization reflects its top figurehead so I suppose it's surprising that they got it even halfway right. I mean, the guy nominally in charge not only couldn't figure out that sandwich thing, he'd probably hurt himself trying, considering that a pretzel once almost did him him.

And, yes, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, the guy who screwed up the New Orleans disaster, is the man rumored to be the one who will nominated to take Alberto's place. You think that's not a spiteful, vindictive former druggie offering up a candidate designed to rile the opposition? Just because he can?

Incredible.

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[Posted 1:30pm edt]

Death by any other name.
Mark Evanier has some interesting comments on The Tax That Dare Not Speak Its Name this morning. He's the first guy I've seen call out people on this false argument in clear enough terms that almost anybody can understand what's going on.

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[Posted 10:50am edt]

26 August 2007

The stupidest post EVER on the internet? We have a winner!
I got the image below from the Welcome to Pottersville site, which in turn saved it from Family Security Matters, from which it has now been scrubbed.

Here's just a taste of what it has disappeared:

By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government...

[ ... ]

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his county, and his God by becoming "ex-president" Bush or he can become "President-for-Life" Bush, the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court.

Understand, this is not a joke. Just check out the site. This guy is serious. And it's even worse than that little segment makes it seem. Check out the process by which the author proposes that the Worst. President. Ever. should go about making himself supreme leader for life; you won't believe it.

This should be large enough to read:

And you know what, I bet you could get a sizable number of the scared-out-of-their-(presumed)-wits 28-30% base that supports this administration no matter what to actually vote for just such a future.

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[Posted 10:50am edt]

This one's for the comics readers out there.
Here's the lovely and talented Kristen Bell giving you your props and talking about her next fanboy-approved gigs in an online interview with Entertainment Weekly:

So tell us about [the forthcoming movie] Fanboys.
These Star Wars nerds drive cross-country to break into George Lucas' ranch and steal a print of [The Phantom Menace] so that their friend with a terminal illness can see it before it comes out.

You sort of have fanboys of your own. Are you happy about that?
I'm really flattered. I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the tastemakers of tomorrow. Isn't that funny? The tables have turned. They're a fiercely intelligent audience, which makes filmmakers want to please them. But I'm looking for the fangirl to come out of her shell a little, to be more accepted.

All right, you've held out long enough: What's up with Heroes?
I'm on a sugar high, to be totally honest. For me, starting a new project is kind of like switching high schools--that feeling of excitement and nerves. And because everyone is so nice and I know so many people involved, I feel like I'm switching high schools--but one that a lot of my friends have already transferred to.

Man, am I gonna miss Veronica Mars, even if it did lose a lot of its steam this past, final season as they tried all sorts of ways to earn a renewal. The concept that seemed to have the most traction was to return this season with Veronica as an FBI agent and dump most if all the current cast, which was truly terrible. Better it just go away.

And it has.

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Regular as clockwork.
There's a new Dubya Chronicles cartoon posted this morning, something that been happening (with a few exceptions) every Sunday since January 2001 when this godawful administration moved into the White House. I do believe that a variation of this week's entry will soon be available right here in a couple of forms.

Not that I'm pimping or anything.

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[Posted 8:30am edt]

25 August 2007

Prevaricator or merely out of the loop?
Did you read how our beloved prez-nint said this week that it's up to the Iraqis to choose their own leader and how he stands four-square behind Nouri al-Maliki?

As you read, did you happen to recall that our beloved prez-nint lies a lot?*

Here's Glenn Greenwald to tell you the truth.

The most useful part of this story, I think, isn't the president's mendacity--we're all too familiar with that sort of thing--but the revelation of the GOP lobbying going on behind the scenes and the manner in which ABC-News calls them out on it (scroll down to "Update IV"):

When ABC News interviewed Philip Zelikow on August 21, he did not disclose that he was working for Barbour Griffith & Rogers; this information did not become public until several days later. We are deeply disappointed that Mr. Zelikow did not disclose his lobbying relationship to us. As a former advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and now a professor at the University of Virginia, we believe that his statement to us accurately reflects ongoing, internal discussions at the State Department. Nevertheless, his statement is sullied by the fact that he did not disclose his relationship with Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
That came days after the fact, sadly, and the network hasn't yet shown the integrity to report on the air what happened.

*Okay, let's cut Dubya a break. Maybe Cheney just didn't bother to tell him what's going on. I suspect that happens a lot.

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Who watches the watchmen?
J'ver wonder just how much you can trust Wikipedia as a reliable source? Especially after you've gone back and seen that an entry you'd read previously had been changed?

Well, this site will allow you to find out who's been changing things and possibly deduce why they might be doing so. And this site will tell you how and why that site came about.

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[Posted 10:00am edt]

19 August 2007

"Shame is the appropriate word."
Their names are Army specialist Buddhika Jayamaha, Sgt. Wesley D. Smith, Sgt. Jeremy Roebuck, Sgt. Omar Mora, Sgt. Edward Sandmeier, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray and Staff Sgt. Jeremy A. Murphy.

All of them are on active duty in Iraq, coming up on the end of a 15-month deployment.

You will mostly likely soon be seeing and hearing them referred to as "appeasers," maybe even "traitors," definitely accused of being "soft on Iraq," by all the usual Scream Machine phonies.

This is why.

None of those you will hear defaming and attacking these heroes were ever deployed anywhere.

Time's Joe Klein, not exactly a left-wing icon, has this to say about the piece:

This is the most accurate and courageous...account of the war in Iraq that I've seen. It puts to shame--and shame is the appropriate word--all the Kristol, McCain, Lieberman, Pollack and O'Hanlon etc etc cheerleading of the past two months.

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As long as we're on the subject of telling quotes from unexpected sources...
How about this one from Ryan Sagar in the New York Sun, commenting on the GOP Primary in Iowa:

The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate. The pandering from the stage told the story. Mr. Romney promised not a chicken in every pot, but "a button on every computer" for parents to block obscene material. Anti-immigrant ranter Tom Tancredo nearly brought the house down decrying the fact that Americans sometimes have to "Press 1" for English. Mr. Huckabee earned his second-place finish in part by making the specious claim that farm subsidies safeguard America's food independence. (You think it's bad depending on foreign oil, Mr. Huckabee asked? "Wait until our country messes up and has to depend on foreign food.") Senator Brownback of Kansas, the third-place finisher, declared as he often does in his stump speech, quoting Mother Teresa: "All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus."
Sagar and the Sun, it should be noted, are serious players on the right side of the political spectrum.

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And one more.
Pardon my ignorance, but I have no idea who Olin Miller is and all the links I can find to his or her name are merely collections of quotations attributed to him or her, so I give up.

This one, though, strikes me as a right good mantra for getting through the day:

You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.

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[Posted 12:40pm edt]

Open media?
We all bitch, left and right, about the increasingly obviously failure of the media and traditional "journalism" in these contentious, complicated times. This analysis of the issue is as good as any I've seen:

Google's new program is a very rough approximation of what truly open media provides, something the newspapers themselves should be doing.

It seems journalism is the new Catholic Church. Without the savior. smile

IMHO, the pros are right to be worried. It's the last quarter of a game they're losing, and the opposing team is deep in their territory. They need to get the ball back and then connect on a few Hail Marys to even be in the game. Yet all they do is weakly protest that "this isn't journalism." We need information. To say it's not journalism now is like a priest saying it's not Catholic to a bunch of agnostics. You're answering a question no one is asking.

A news story should summarize points of view that are available in full on the newspaper website. The newspapers should try to host the blogs of the people they quote. Instead they cling to the fiction that they have the exclusive wisdom to decide which soundbites and points of view are relevant, and the reader needs nothing more than what they provide. This is wrong, the world is too complicated, and the resources of news organizations are shrinking and our appetite for information is exploding (and the tools for creating and using news are getting better all the time).

If a reader wants to find out what's really going on they have to search thoroughly for many views of the same event and try to piece it together. The first news organization that embraces that view wins. Google is taking first steps to be that news organization.

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Tell me again, why is he considered a genius?
For reasons that I cannot possibly comprehend, failed political mastermind Karl Rove is getting a triumphant last tour of the major Sunday morning talk shows where, you be assured, the hard questions will be non-existent.

Why?

Last Wednesday, in the Washington Post (a newspaper which is, sadly, beginning to show a real dichotomy between its news pages and its editorial pages along the lines of the Wall Street Journal; i.e., the editorials seem oblivous to the news being reported in the rest of the paper as they push a obvious agenda), Harold Meyerson, commenting on Joshua Green's perfectly-time article in the current Atlantic Monthly, had this to say:

In the wake of Bush's 2004 reelection, Green reports, Rove, newly promoted by Bush to domestic policy czar, concluded that the time for this realignment had come. Green documents Rove's mistakes as he set out to undo the major social legislation of the mid-20th century:

He assumed congressional and public support for policies on which Bush had not campaigned; his relations with Republican members of Congress were abysmal; his incessant campaigning against the Democrats ensured that there would be no bipartisan support for programs that entailed considerable political risk.

But Rove's miscalculations were actually more fundamental than those that Green enumerates. At bottom, he and Bush overlooked the epochal growth of economic insecurity in America. They refused to see that the very economic changes they celebrated had made Americans understandably nervous and pessimistic to an unprecedented extent about the nation's long-term economic prospects. And so, as employers were abandoning their provision of retirement benefits to employees, Bush and Rove called for abandoning the government's commitment as well. At a time when ordinary Americans' incomes were stagnating, and when growing numbers of Americans understood that they were in some nebulous competition with millions of lower-paid workers in other lands that the government seemed powerless to mitigate, Bush and Rove proposed legalizing the undocumented immigrants who had flowed across the border.

Could there have been a more profound misreading of the American temper? As political and policy czar rolled into one, Rove should have understood that Americans craved the security of a controllable border and a predictable and decent income. Instead, Rove's wish was father to the thought: Realignment required dismantling Democratic programs. It required winning more Hispanic voters (never mind that on economic issues, Hispanic voters are resoundingly liberal). It required the Rove program. Damn the torpedoes.

In the end, the Rove program for Bush's second term was stillborn for lack of support. And yet Rove and Bush seem to have bequeathed their tone-deafness on economic insecurity to a number of the Republicans seeking Bush's job. Rudy Giuliani, for example, has proposed a health-care plan modeled on Bush's: It has no expanded role for government, relies on the market and will not alter our current system or cover any additional Americans. Indeed, on health care, pensions, trade, the bargaining power of American workers, the affordability of higher education--on a whole set of issues that shape Americans' lives--the Republican field is largely silent. Rove retires; his cluelessness lives on.

Seems about right to me.

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[Posted 8:00am edt]

18 August 2007

Now here's an idea.
In Friday's Philadelphia Daily News, columnist John Baer suggests that the "media should put front-runners on the back burner" in their coverage of the seemingly eternal presidential race:

AMONG ANNOYANCES of the presidential race--apart from its length and its focus on Hillary's cleavage, Obama's "blackness" and Rudy's wives--is media fixation on top-tier candidates.

It isn't good for democracy.

At a time voters want something different (polls put President Bush's approval rating at 29 percent, Congress' at 25 percent), maybe it's time to rethink things.

Like the measure of a candidate's worth.

What a concept.

Baer singles out Dems Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel and GOPers Mike Huckabee as folks we might want to hear more from and about.

He cites Richardson's over-all resume (which has impressed me, but his recent forays in public statements have cooled any developing ardor); Kucinich's proposals for national gun control, universal non-profit healthcare and a complete end to the US occupation of Iraq and Gravel's argument that the income tax (and the IRS itself) should be abolished in favor of a national sales tax as things we might all like to know more about. I'd toss Joe Biden into that mix, because of his grasp of foreign policy (many people think he's running now as a audition for Secretary of State in a Hillary Clinton presidency).

On the GOP side, he says that Huckabee's back story and positions as an anti-abortion, pro-gun fiscal conservative who cut taxes as Governor of Arkansas and left the state with an $800 million surplus certainly ought to appeal to the Republican base (as opposed to the "base" of the base, which is just plain nuts and loves the war) and Paul's Libertarian approach (he calls for more access to alternative medicine, has never voted to raise taxes or taken a political junket, voted against the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq, plus doesn't participate in the Congressional pension plan) as definitely attention-getting.

For what's worth, Huckabee and Paul are by far my favorites among the Republican contenders, announced coy, which you can interpret as "I can't stand any of the others." I'm up in the air on the Democrats, leaning toward Clinton but still open to changing my mind (that Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton thing over a possible 27 years bothers me, though that's not her fault and shouldn't, I suppose, be held against her. I think my indecision is probably based upon the overwhelming indications that the Democratic nominee will be the next president in a possible landslide (consider all the terrible things that Bush might still do over the next 16 or 17 months) and I (we) need to make the right choice.

"The measure of a candidate's worth." When's the last time we actually talked about that?

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Coming attractions.
If you're awfully good and the dish don't run away with the spoon (obligatory periodic Uncle Wiggely reference), sometime real soon I'll recount the story behind this photo by my pal Ross Watson:

It's a tale of fear and loathing and me threatening violence against a Philadelphia icon even though he was right and I was wrong and I knew it.

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[Posted 12:25pm edt]

17 August 2007

A Wonkette triple play.
Ana Marie Cox first made Wonkette a hot website with a combination of sexual innuendo (well, often just straight forward dirty talk, skip the innuendo) and wild, exaggerated attacks on the Washington elite, be they politicians, media members or socialites/social-climbers.

The guys now in charge don't hit that same high level all the time, but when they do...

Yesterday was a Three-fer.

This was filed under the Dept. of This Is What Happens When There Are No Eisenhowers Around:

Jenna Bush To Marry Rich White Rove Staffer
Stock markets shot back to 14,000 and the Iraqi resistance surrendered today on news that America's Sweetheart, Jenna Bush, is marrying that guy she used to date before she split for South America. Henry Hager is the son of former Virginia lieutenant governor and state GOP chief and tobacco exec John H. Hager. Even better, young Henry worked directly for Karl Rove in the White House, so there's a good chance Jenna's new husband will be forced to testify at her dad's war-crimes trial.
This was filed under the Dept. of Manson Family Values:
Rudy Wants You To Forget That His Kids Hate Him & Are Voting For Obama
Nothing says "Family" like marrying your cousin, getting your pedophile priest friend to annul it, marrying somebody else, carrying on public affairs with various floozies while your shamed wife is in the New York mayor's mansion, holding a press conference to announce you're divorcing your wife and mother of your children, enraging your kids to the point that they never speak to you again, and then marrying some nutty whore and running for the president of terrorism.

But with Loathsome Rudy Giuliani, there's an added bonus, because his daughter is also vocally supporting the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama.

Asked about his Manson Family Values in New Hampshire today, Rudy lashed out at the voter who wondered if anyone should really trust someone who so viciously fucks over his own wives and children.

"There are complexities in every family in America," Giuliani said calmly and quietly. "The best thing I can say is kind of, `leave my family alone, just like I'll leave your family alone.'"

So there you have it, America. Rudy has gone from threatening all your cities with a million 9/11s to threatening to destroy your families like he destroyed his own.

And this, sans headline, was filed under Let a Thousand Guantanamos Bloom Forever:
Last month, Mitt named Ambassador Mel Sembler--former United States Ambassador to Italy, Australia, and Nauru and Chairman of the Board of The Sembler Company, Florida--one of his national finance chairs. Mel Sembler is also the gentleman behind the Straight, Inc. camps where misbehaving teens were sent to be tortured, beaten, and raped until they admitted to being "druggie whores." Mitt's plans to open a chapter for misbehaving dogs has yet to find financial backing.
If you don't get the Mitt dog joke, you just haven't been paying enough attention.

Good for you.

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[Posted 7:23am edt]

16 August 2007

The place where I was robbed and met Stephen King.
Duane Swierczynski, editor of the Philadelphia alternative weekly, The City Paper, crime novelist and the author or The Big Book O' Beer: Everything You Wanted To Know About the Greatest Beverage on Earth (a fun book with all sorts of useful information which writing about here has brought to my attention has mysteriously disappeared from my shelves), writes about Art Bourgeau and his mystery bookstore, Whodunit, in the latest issue.

I worked at Whodunit for a stretch about two decades back, going in once or twice a week to do a six hour shift, usually alone, to supplement what was a "writer's income" even less than it is now. It was a pretty good deal. Staff was paid a minimum wage but got about 15% of all sales made during his or her shift, plus could bring in books of our own or ones we went out and sought at garage sales and price them as we wished and keep 85% of the sales price. During my time there, I even convinced him to allow me to add select current and new releases to the stock, with the arrangement that I could use that capability to add any new titles I wanted to orders and pay just the wholesale price for them.

Art is the author of a series of paperback novels in the Kinky Friedman vein of crime/humor which starred the team of Snake & J/T. and began with The Elvis Murders. He also wrote very good, Philadelphia-based erotic thriller, Seduction (a book which seems to give away its primary secret midway through but saves a truly shocking surprise for the final pages). His best known title is non-fiction, a reference book, the Edgar-nominated The Mystery Lover's Companion, published in the late '80s (now a collector's item and another volume that has disappeared from my collection).

He was married, at least back then and maybe still, to writer Patricia MacDonald and living in Cape May, NJ, so he wasn't around very much. Those who were, though, were more than enough company.

One of the guys I worked with and who often came in while I was there was another budding mystery writer and, I found out, a devotee of world-class Scotch. I spent one afternoon at his apartment sampling about 20 or 30 of same, an afternoon about which the only thing I really remember is that when I got home I couldn't remember how I got home.

The customers were a fascinating bunch in themselves. One thing you learned quickly was that the dirtiest, most disreputable looking ones were, more often that not, undercover cops, who stopped in for their fix. Another was a woman I had worked for in my first "real" job, in public relations for a major insurance company; she had devolved in an alcoholic "cat lady" and was a truly sorry sight. Among the rest were a whole bunch of avid collectors who would stop by and drop a bundle and leave lists of books they were looking for. Many of these people were, well, strange. Strange is good and fun, but a whole afternoon of it can be disorienting.

My wallet was stolen there one day, my having foolishly left in my jacket pocket in the small room at the rear of the store. Luckily, I discovered the theft within less than ten minutes and was able to cancel my sole credit card (American Express) within the hour. Over that stretch, though, the thief managed to run up a $400 bill at a jewelry store a few blocks away and "rent" out the card to half a dozen people who made enough overseas calls to run up another $200 or so. I didn't have to pay any of it, but I did have to go and rebuild my identity with a new driver's license, social security card, credit card et al.

That's my second clearest memory of the time I worked there. The first is the Saturday morning that Stephen King came in, with his son.

I was pretty sure it was King because his was--is--a pretty damned famous face. He was dressed downright casually, complete with a big hunting knife on his belt, looking very much like the the Down-Easter he was. Still, I decided to hold back and not ask him until he came up and paid, because I think celebrities get enough of the "Are you..'?" stuff. Between the two of them, they quickly accumulated enough books that the total was going to definitely run into three figures. But he paid in cash and I was left nonplussed.

I watched as they walked outside and waved and a big limo pulled up to the curb and they dropped the books into the back seat. Then, after a brief discussion on the sidewalk, they came back into the store. Another huge pile of books was gathered and brought to the counter. King pulled out his credit card this time, giving me my opening to start a conversation. Why was he in Philadelphia? "I was here for a book signing a few weeks ago and really liked the city, so we came back to walk around."

The conversation naturally moved to books and I told him I was currently reading Stone City by Mitchell Smith, a thoroughly gripping and well-written novel sent in a prison where a history professor, in the slammer for a drunk driving accident which killed a young girl, has to solve the murder of two inmates and as graphic and ring-true a picture of prison life as I could imagine. I recommended it to him and he laughed. It was, he said, the book his wife was reading and she'd turned to him in bed two nights before and said much the same thing about it. He then suggested the book he was reading to me (I forget the title) and it was my turn to laugh, since it was the second next book in the "reading pile" beside my own bed.

A cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon, it was, talking with one of the world's most famous authors. And the $200 pus dollars he dropped didn't hurt either when I went to take my cut at the end of the day (we were paid in cash, another benefit of the gig).

Of course, my most memorable moments with famous writers were probably sitting in the dark rear room of an Ardmore bar drinking martinis with Robert Ludlum while he told me the plot of his next novel and tried to convince me it was true, or drinking margaritas with Peter Gent in Stauffer's (a long gone, very genteel sort of place) of a Wednesday afternoon, tossing peanuts at a table of Main Line ladies who were trying to enjoy their weekly Tea.

Remind me to tell you about those sometime.

Or not.

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[Posted 1:10pm edt]

14 August 2007

The truth will be painfully clear amidst the wreckage that "Bush's Brain" leaves behind.
In my not-always-so humble opinion, the major change in the Bush White House with the departure of evil eminence Karl Rove (an observation which has been mentioned nowhere else I have seen except briefly in passing by Sydney Blumenthal) is that it will now be crystal clear--frighteningly so--just how completely and without objection or opposition Dick Cheney runs this presidency as if it were his own.

To an extent, despite the carnage he wreaked upon the presidency, the nation and the Constitution, Rove's most destructive contribution to the body politic for the last six-plus years was to function a useful straw man behind whom vice-president Vader could carry out his maniacal plots.

For all the crap we've been fed about what a political genius he is (look at the shambles his policies have made of the GOP as a viable political party), Karl Rove's greatest shame when history comes to judge him may be that he was the distracting shadow who prevented the light from seeping into that darkest corner into which no one looks, a place we've come to know as an "undisclosed location."

In the coming months, Dubya's puppet status will become so evident that only the Washington press corps, cautiously "he-said-she-said"-ing along in the name of balance, will be able to stand with the right wing noise machine to pretend it's not right there in front of their lyin' eyes.

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[Posted 4:10pm edt]

13 August 2007

Chronicling Dubya.
The question about Karl Rove's latest move, of course, is whether he's just deserting the Titanic with the rest of the rats or whether he's getting out of town one step ahead of the Sheriff. Either way, and while I'd still prefer to see him marched out of the White House in handcuffs, this is a Good Thing for the country.

Bad thing, on the other hand, for the Boy Prez-nint, and, come to think of it, just about everything that's good for the country these days is bad for Dubya and vice-versa, innit?

Some of the reasons he too ought to be in handcuffs and on his way to the slammer, or be a humiliated figure heaped with derision and contempt at the very least, are at the heart of the latest Dubya Chronicles cartoon by the incredible Rob Davis and me.

I really like this one a lot and it will be one of the kickoff items for our new Cafe Press store when it launches, maybe as early as this coming weekend.

I haven't told Rob yet (no sense giving him an anxiety attack), but I plan to dream up a few LDO and Mermaids items to offer at the store as well. Stay tuned.

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[Posted 10:22am edt]

Thank You.
I would like to thank everyone so very much for all your expressions of support and condolence over this past weekend following my posting about Fergie's death. Kind words from friends and family do indeed help sooth and heal.

Your messages came in both the "comments" sections at LDO and Mermaids and, to an even greater degree, direct emails to me. I've decided not to post them en masse, both because those that came through email might not have been meant for public consumption and because there are so many. Know that I did receive every one and am very appreciative.

That said, I will break my rule to post portions of two of those messages. I liked this one from "Bill" a great deal because it point up the extensive reach of this medium (which I sometimes forget about) and underlines one of the reasons why I write:

From a friend who've you not met; a friend who reads your thoughts and comments often, my condolences on the loss of an other friend and companion.
It was signed "A Friend" and that he surely is and will remain so even if our paths in the physical world never cross.

And I hope my ex-wife won't mind my quoting her (I won't tell her if you don't) as she express the way dogs insert themselves in our lives and never let go:

I'm sitting here and tears are running down my face. Fergie and Di haven't been a part of my life for a long time but they ARE a part of my life.
Things are getting better, as things must. My recovery is, of course, greatly helped by the fact that another dog still lives here. Di has shown little angst or outward manifestation that she recognizes that Fergie is gone, but there are signs. For one thing, and touchingly, she seems to have taken on the "duties" of her departed sibling. Saturday night she chose to lie at my feet by the couch rather than repair to the bedroom or the cool tiles by the front door as is her wont; Sunday morning she came over and nudged the bed to tell me it was time to get up, which was Fergie's morning habit, and yesterday she spent most of the afternoon lying here beside the computer area, not quite in Fergie's preferred spot, but close enough.

Yesterday evening, not wanting her to feel an separation anxiety, I took Di along to my daughter's place for an early dinner. She's stayed there several times so it wasn't a real shock but, for the first time, she seemed very intent on knowing where I was and staying close. When we first went outside to the pool, I'd decided just to block off the stairs down to the lower level so she wouldn't try to use them but then stood there in the stairwell trying not to laugh as she suddenly awakened from her nap, looked around, or more accurately, sniffed around since she is nearly blind, and found...nothing. She struggled to her feet and walked through the kitchen, to the dining area and around the table and them back to the family room, thorough confused. I went over and picked her up and took her outside, laughing all the while.

Good thing.

When we settled at the table on the far side of the pool, she walked around a bit and then settled beside us and went to sleep. As dinner neared, I got up quietly and walked around to go into the house for another beer. As I neared the door I looked back and Di's head shot up, she looked around and stood up. She walked over to the edge of the pool looking across to where I stood...and calmly walked right over the edge. My son-in-law stripped off his shirt and dived in to retrieve her as her head broke the surface and my daughter rushed over to help him lift her out. Given her bad leg, it's not clear whether or not she could swim (she's never been in deep water before), but I'd bet, given her determination, she'd have made it.

I dried her off and joked with her and it was all good. Di is doing her job.

[NOTE: This message has been cross posted
at Liquid Diet Online.]

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"He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since."
New York City deputy fire chief Jimmy Riches is not exactly a fan of Rudy Giuliani and his patently ridiculous claim that he spent as much time, if not more, at ground zero exposed to the same health risks as did onsite workers after the Sept. 11 attacks:

"He is such a liar, because the only time he was down there was for photo ops with celebrities, with politicians, with diplomats.

"On 9/11 all he did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since."

Thanks to outspoken critics like Riches, investigative stories like this one and emerging contentions about why he forced the city's Office of Emergency Management be located at the Twin Towers site against all reasonable advice that it was dead wrong to have the command center be so close to such obvious terrorist targets, Rudy's in for some rough times.

As to those contentions, the reason that "America's Mayor" insisted that office be "within walking distance" of City Hall appears to be because he used his personal suite there (with private elevator) for convenient trysts with his then-mistress, now-wife before their relationship became public knowledge.

All of which suggests, given how it all turned out, a rather macabre new definition for a Quickie.

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[Posted 9:45am edt]

11 August 2007

Fergie.
My dog died this morning, somewhere around 6:30am.

Her name was Fergie and she would have been 15 years old at the end of this year. She passed quickly and without apparent pain, as we had both hoped she would since we found out that the end was near.

Fergie had been dying for weeks and weeks, something we learned together on March 1. That morning, before coming out from under my bed (where she insisted on sleeping even though she was barely able to fit), she let out a long, howling moan that bespoke of pain and despair and being totally lost. Then she dragged herself out, did that dog shake thing, and moved on with the rest of her life.

In the vet's office that afternoon, I saw the X-ray of the giant heart which appeared about to burst from her body, the heart that would fail her one day soon and which was crushing up against her lungs and windpipe. She was in the late stages of congestive heart failure. The vet said she had one to three months to live; Fergie and I both shook our heads and laughed at her. She was too tough for that. She had more time than that. Not enough, not nearly enough, but more.

She lasted almost six months and, for the most part, seemed to enjoy all of those precious days. She had periodic attacks of hacking coughs, sometimes breathed very heavily and with an effort, and she had to endure the humiliation of my forcing pills down her throat several times a day, but otherwise we proceeded as usual. She could even still run and jump a bit, mostly when it was time to go out or when it was time to eat.

Fergie and her surviving sister Di are Lhasa-Poos (a mix of Lhasa-Apso and Poodle), brought home in January 1993 by my (then) wife and (still) stepdaughter roughly two months after Harris, our previous dog, had died on Election Day 1992. They decided it was time for another dog; I wasn't so sure but, as they went out the door, I shouted "get two" and they did. I chose their names (they seemed cute and funny at the time) and we decided that their birthdays would be celebrated on January 1, though they were a few weeks older than that.

They were incredibly cute and intelligent and a great joy in our lives. One of my happiest memories is of sitting with a cup of coffee on a bench in our back yard on many a morning to watch them tumble and frolic together on the lawn, then run hellbent toward the dog door cut into the breezeway, hitting it at full speed and right square in the center every time, somehow skidding to stop before crashing into the other side of the narrow passageway between the house proper and my office.

When our marriage ended in 1995-96, I took the girl dogs with me.

Thank God for that.

As I have written several times and told more people than probably wanted to hear it, I believe to the very core of my being that Fergie and Di saved my life. Literally.

In the fall and winter of 1996 I had sunk into deep despair, the sort of angst and inchoate anger that burdens the soul and manifests itself in the wee hours of the morning, when the darkness hasn't faded and the new light of day hasn't dawned, and terrible ideas about how to solve all your problems seem somehow reasonable. It was that mental state which suggests pulling the covers over your head and just staying in bed forever.

Depression is a terrible thing but I was convinced then, and remain convinced now, that dealing with it by gulping down "happy pills," which seems to be the accepted answer throughout our society these days, is absolutely the wrong solution. If I have reason to be depressed and I pop pills which allow me to no longer feel my pain, who then am I? What becomes of the me who needs to grieve and move on, to accept rather than to evade?

I had to find another way, something which would work for me, and Fergie and Di gave me that. Their needs were a basic reason to get up every morning and to function through the day. I promised them when it was all falling apart that I'd see to it that they were taken care of for as long as was necessary, and that was a promise I had to keep.

I did have a life, and it was black and furry and walked on eight legs.

With that incentive, with the process of getting up each day and then the next and the next because I had to, I was able to fight through the demons and build a new me, one who can function these days almost as if he were normal.

The girl dogs saved me and have been my constant companions and recipients of my old man mutterings ever since. Fergie took on that role in particular, since she was most secure when she was closest to me and was therefore always close to me. We've gone through the good and bad, the most dramatic and difficult of the latter, before this terrible moment, beginning one night in February 2005 when Di and I walked up the stairs together on the way to bed. At the top, she stopped, looked up and me, and slowly slid all the way back down the landing. She had torn her interior cruciate ligament in left hind leg. That was the beginning of months and months of extra care she needed, from an operation through months spent living in a cage except when I walked her out side using a sling to support her hind quarters and then slowly learning to walk again. Her other leg had atrophied considerably in the meantime and she is still prone to having one or the other give out on her.

What Di taught me then--and Fergie taught me in the past few months--was courage and determination. In the day or so before I could get her to the vet (these things do seem to happen on weekends), and didn't know what to do, Di would drag herself to the door, insisting that I let her outside rather than relieving herself inside the house. And she never showed a single sign of giving up during all the many days she had to be lifted from her cage and carried outside.

Nor did her sister these past weeks, although she did seem to express some understanding that her time was short. She developed a new tendency to slide herself more and more beneath my feet here at the desk, even though that meant she had to scramble out of the way whenever I moved the chair to get up or reach for something. It was if she wanted the time to be more intense. And, after a particularly serious bout of coughing, she would usually come over and press against my legs, trembling and with her chest pounding, just to have the consolation of my running my hands gently over her body.

Yes, they're just dogs, I know. And all that stuff is probably purely reflexive. But to me it was courage and determination and love and that's the way it is.

Fergie was the dominant personality of the two, the one who would steal her sister's biscuit if she wasn't careful, the one who always wanted the first bite and all the attention. She behaved almost like a male dog in her aggressiveness. I saw her, several times, thrust herself protectively between her sister and much larger, aggressive dogs, giving as good as she got (vocally) and yielding not an inch. On the other hand, like her sister, she loved people amd was quick to offer herself up for a friendly pat or an ear scratching.

When we moved from two-story living to a smaller, one level apartment in November 2005, we became closer companions than ever. Given her bad leg and passive disposition, Di tends to lie in far corners and unobtrusive places, safe from having to scramble away from some awkward human not watching his step, periodically awaking and limping into the center of the room to look around and see what might be happening. Fergie, on the other hand, was always underfoot and followed me everywhere even though everywhere was but a few feet away. She was the canine presence in the house--her house, dammit, and neither Di nor I was ever allowed to forget it. She stood directly beneath me when I worked in the kitchen, hoping for something to fall her way; she was always here at the desk and under the coffee table right in front of me when I read or watched television on the couch.

Whenever I would go out, Fergie would follow me the door and proceed to lie directly in front of it, staying there until I returned. To check that out and make sure she wasn't just scamming me by hustling to the door once she heard the key in the lock, one day after I'd gone out the front for my regular walk around the property, I went around the back of the building and in the rear door. When I stepped inside I could see her the length of the living room, office area and hallway away, lying by the front door, staring at it. Waiting. For me.

Our set-up here is such that I could let them out of that rear door unleashed, to snort, snuffle and relieve themselves on a grassy hill behind the building, while I dutifully followed behind with plastic bags. As a result, they were rarely leashed to be walked as are most dogs who live here. When they were, they had to be taken out separately because Fergie needed all my attention as she pulled, pushed, reached out for more of the world around her.

Fergie always wanted more, wanted it all. She lived right to the end.

That's another lesson I'll file away.

Last night, Fergie went out at 11pm as usual, then she eagerly gulped down the biscuit I gave her and more water than should have fit into a dog of her size. As was her custom, she carefully studied my every move to make sure I was actually going to climb into bed and, when she was satisfied, proceed to scrumble (a word I invented to describe the task) her way beneath it for the night. Di was already there, on the far side of the bed next to the wall, fast asleep. Her sister and I soon joined her, fully expecting to awaken to more days to come, more time together.

But this morning, Fergie howled out her pain one last time, that same awful moan that began her bittersweet final days last March, and then she was gone.

Ave atque vale, old girl. I will miss you terribly.

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[Posted 1:00pm edt]

9 August 2007

Trust us, they say. Not in a million years.
First they came for Pearl Jam and unless we wake up, they'll soon come for all of us.

Timothy Karr has more:

Over the weekend AT&T gave us a glimpse of their plans for the Web when they censored a Pearl Jam performance that didn't meet their standard of "Internet freedom."

[ ... ]

...AT&T routinely rails against Net Neutrality as a "solution without a problem." They say Net Neutrality regulations aren't necessary because they wouldn't dare interfere with online content. At the same time they tout plans to become gatekeepers to the Web with public relations bromides about "shaping" Web traffic to better serve the needs of an evolving Internet.

Such spin needs to be held up to the light of experience. AT&T's history of breaking trust with their customers includes handing over private phone records to the government, promising to deliver services to underserved communities and then skipping town, pledging never to interfere with the free flow of information online while hatching plans with the likes of Cisco, Viacom, RIAA and MPA to build and deploy technology that will spy on user traffic.

The moral of this story is never trust AT&T at their word. The company acts in bad faith toward the public interest and will do whatever it can get away with to pad its bottom line -- including sacrificing the freedoms its users have to choose where they go, what they watch and whom they listen to online...

You, me, everybody, we need to make it clear to our elected representatives and communications industry power brokers that we will not stand for big corporate entities trying to become "gatekeepers" to the internet. We need to do it now, do in often, and do it always.

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[Posted 11.10am edt]

And you thought we were making this stuff up.
Once more, I direct your attention to the current installment of The Dubya Chronicles by Rob Davis and me.

Allow the cartoon to unfold. Wait for the punchline. Then go here and read this.

It is almost impossible today to think of anything in the political realm which is so absurd that it can't, or won't, happen. It is the price we pay for eight years of an administration for which reality is but an annoyance to be overcome.

"Life in a Post-Rational World" is the theme and subtext of this page. That was never meant just to be clever or memorable.

It's an indictment.

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[Posted 7:25am edt]

8 August 2007

I hate to say "I told you so"...
...but since I already did just that on the Comments page last night and because I sorta backed away from my prediction in this post on Monday, I now call your attention to this report, which supports what I wrote a while back.

It will be pleasure to read Paul Krugman legally twice each week, somewhat less so but, I must admit, a guilty bad habit to see Maureen Dowd's often silly meanderings the same number of times and a reminder that being a clever writer isn't a virtue in itself when I can force myself to read David Brooks. Oh, and Gail Collins, one of the writers who helped the Times perform so atrociously during the later Clinton years and the 2001 election, is also apparently a columnist again these days. Whoopee.

Welcome back to the real virtual world, my friends. You have nothing to lose but your protective cover.

Finally, in the interests of accuracy, I have to say that I actually like saying "I told you so" when I can. It gives me a warm, cosy feeling, it does.

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[Posted 4:20pm edt]

6 August 2007

Secret Times exposed.
Thanks to my bestest li'l pal, gummint infiltrator and moving company of one, I've just added Behind the Times to our Links. The full name of the site is Behind the Times (Subscription Wall) and that's pretty much what it is, a posting of major columns and blogs hidden behind the newspaper's infernal online "premium subscriber" firewall.

I predicted several posts back that the wall would be coming down, based on some information I was given, but so far there's no indication I was right, so this site (one of at least six the woman behind the controls appears to write) is a very useful resource.

I've periodically linked readers to sites like Welcome to Pottersville, which reprints a lot of NYT blocked columns, such as yesterday's Frank Rich column, but BTW appears to be an even better, more complete resource. If you want Maureen Dowd's foolishness, however, you'll have to go elsewhere: BTW don't play that game and Pottersville does so only now and then.

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How dare they say such things?
I must admit I got a real chuckle out of this post:

I suppose it was bound to raise eyebrows when, in the midst of the YearlyKos convention, John Edwards said, "We're about to enter the seventh year of this phony war...and we're losing."

What's more, Fox News is bound to play up remarks from Barack Obama, who noted that a black male in Detroit is more likely to go to prison than graduate from high school -- and the GOP doesn't care. "How can we tolerate systems more likely to send young Americans to prison than college?" Obama asked. "Republicans have this maniacally dumb idea of Red versus Blue. They say, Detroit is a blue place, so we're not going to go there."

Chris Dodd, meanwhile, will no doubt get hammered by the right for arguing that instead of the current counter-terrorism strategy, we should focus on energy independence. "We have to have a national energy strategy, which basically says to the Saudis, `We're not going to rely on you.'"

And Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, took the opportunity to blast the Republican Party's basic approach to government. "Republican political doctrine has been a failure," she said. "Look at New Orleans. How can you say that was a success? Look at Baghdad... I don't think you can look around and say that was a great success."

Wait, did I say Democrats at YearlyKos? Actually, all of these comments came from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, during a speech at the Young America's Foundation National Conservative Student Conference in DC.

My mistake.

Did I ever tell you I know a guy whose three political heroes are Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush?

Really.

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[Posted 8:45am edt]

5 August 2007

A newspaper as good as its editorial page?
With Rupert Murdock in charge, the now esteemed Wall Street Journal will most likely soon begin printing "news" of the same value and reliability as the rantings in its editorial columns:

Sic Transit Gloria.

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[Posted 8:45am edt]

Whatever became of Dan Quayle?
I am particularly delighted with today's Dubya Chronicles cartoon. Check it out and let us know what you think, either here or there (preferably there, 'cause ain't nobody responding there as yet).

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A long way from George Costanza.
Jason Alexander is the star of one of the funniest (yet sad at its center, 'cause it seems so real) youtube spots of the the year:

Actually, it would have been even better if Big Dick had come in at the end and blasted Rove away with a shotgun blast and a string of profanities. You know, adding just the right touch of realism to it all.

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Rowdy boys and rowdy girls.
I don't generally agree with columnist Christine Flowers on much of anything, but she makes a serious point about how our mutual Alma Mater reacted to a serious crisis situation last week when three incoming freshman football players were expelled before the school year even started after being accused of rape by an incoming female student athlete:

My law school alma mater obviously learned some lessons from Duke. When you mix boys and girls and sex and alcohol, you end up with nitroglycerine. Handle with extreme care.

But at Duke, there wasn't time for that. The klieg lights were almost immediately focused on Durham, and the sour-smelling truth was eventually revealed. Three reputations were destroyed and countless others compromised, but there was ultimately closure. And justice.

I'm not so sure that's going to happen on the leafy Main Line campus because the powers-that-be have decided to keep their lips sealed. They've accepted the word of a female student that she was raped, and took immediate action against her alleged attackers. In the "he said-she" said scenario, she came out on top.

It's interesting, and troubling, that we'll probably never know what actually happened on the night of July 14 at a campus party. The alleged victim has made sure of that by refusing to pursue criminal charges.

Keep it all in the family, so we don't have to deal with any real inquiry. The boys have been punished, the standards of the school vindicated, the honor of the "victim" preserved, and all is well.

Not so fast. There are a few questions left unanswered by the wall of silence erected by the school.

First, what type of an investigation was conducted? It's true that since the boys had not yet matriculated the usual disciplinary procedures could be bypassed. But how did the school make a determination that misconduct occurred? Did the accused have a chance to be heard? Was the accuser's credibility put to the test? Were the young men represented, if not by counsel, at least by advocates?

And why hasn't the school been more forthcoming? Privacy is a compelling interest, but so is accountability. Who's being protected here? The alleged victim, who's unwilling to cooperate with police? The alleged attackers, who've been expelled from the academic community? Or could it be the school itself, which surely doesn't want to open itself to a Duke-like public flogging?

Perhaps they're afraid history will repeat itself. A few short years ago, two La Salle basketball players were charged with raping a fellow student. Remember the controversy surrounding the accusations, the character assassination of the athletes, the firing of the coaches, the questions about the behavior of the accuser? And then remember when the young men were acquitted of all charges?

Oh, you forgot that part? The acquittals, I mean. Well I can't blame you. Media attention dropped off at that point.

I love Villanova, where I learned how the law must be tempered with compassion, integrity and honesty. The philosophy of St. Augustine distinguishes the school from its secular counterparts.

So I fully understand the decision to rescind admission to the three young men who may have violated the code of conduct by engaging in underage drinking and sexual promiscuity. But I'd feel less queasy if I thought the boys were treated fairly and not subjected to some strange double standard that says rowdy boys get axed, and rowdy girls are forgiven...

Look, I understand (or try to, as best I can) all the trauma and embarrassment and potential humiliation which is part and parcel of coming forward about a rape, but once you've put it on the public record and the presumed assailants have suffered serious consequences, I think you ought to be obligated by law to pursue the matter and allow a formal investigation to be conducted.

There has been no report on whether one or all of the accused deny the crime; there has, indeed, been no word at all from their side of this sad divide. And there's probably a reason for that which has nothing to do with guilt or innocence or something in-between.

Villanova football coach Andy Talley was on a local radio sports show this week and added something to the story that makes me even more convinced that this should not have been allowed to end the way it did. He said that is university policy that, when such situations arise, coaches are removed from the mix and cannot talk to or advise their athletes. That makes some sense in the abstract, but in a situation where the accused are all incoming freshmen, on the campus for some early summer courses, and they have no recourse to their coaches, where exactly can they turn?

Nowhere.

Talley also said all three expelled students were "good kids from good families" and that university policy does allow them to apply for entrance again the following year. It's hard to imagine any of them doing that, again whether guilty or innocent.

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[Posted 6:45am edt]

1 August 2007

Recalling a rare Philadelphia moment...and a magic one.
An old college pal who's from Chicago just emailed me:

Eureka! The Cubs are in first place!!! Savor it while it lasts--if only for a day.
He was talking, of course, about this god-awful loss last night on a freakin' wild pitch.

This was my response:

Well, okay, but I wasn't happy with the way it happened.

Many years and a couple of lifetimes ago, a friend and I took our near teenage sons to a Phillies/Cubs double-header just before the All Star Game break and the Phillies swept both to take over first place, Then, around 1am we took them down to Pat's Steaks to stand on the street to eat big, greasy dripping steak sandwiches amidst a crowd which was made up of cabbies, dope hustlers, people in formal dress, cops, hangers-on, late night regulars and, for all they knew, a few aliens.

It was magic, combining a Truly Rare Philadelphia Event with a Quintessential Philadelphia Right of Passage.

Now that's Good Parenting.

That, my friends, is what you call turning a lemon into lemonade.

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[Posted 9:45am edt]

1 August 2007

Memories from the comics world.
There's a very nice piece about fantasy writer Neil Gaiman in the current Time, written by Lev Grossman. I like Neil's thoughts about fame:

It's pretty much time. Gaiman has been an icon in the world of comics and fantasy fandom for almost 20 years. He's notorious for having sold more ideas to Hollywood, without any of them actually getting made, than almost any other living person. Now, all at once, the year of Gaiman is finally upon us. Stardust opens Aug. 10, starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro. Beowulf, written by Gaiman and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is coming in November. Next year Dakota Fanning will star in Coraline, based on Gaiman's children's book. Is he about to cross over from the weird world of cult fame to the equally weird but more lucrative world of actual, real-world, mainstream fame? "Oh, God," says Gaiman. "I hope not."

[...]

"Five years ago, I was absolutely as famous as I wanted to be," he says. "I'm now more famous than I'm comfortable with."

I follow Neil's career with great interest (and visit his popular website with some regularity) because we were, as he might say, "mates" for a while there back in the late '80s, early '90s. And when I made that still-unkept promise here a while back to bring you up-to-date on what I'm reading this summer, his latest collection of short fiction, Fragile Things, was one of the books I wanted to pimp. So I'll do that now: it's coming in paperback in October.

Anyway, I was writing in the comics book industry in those days, both for the trade press and for DC Comics, doing some promotional pieces and various interviews they set up for me with creators about their forthcoming projects which the company then placed in the press as they could. No I never got to write a comic, which I'd have loved to have attempted. Closest I came was a promotional piece in comics format for one of those "Things Will Never Be The Same?" universe-changing special projects, called Zero Hour, in 1994. I thought it never got published but I ran across a copy of it online a few years back (and have since lost the link).

I'd first met Neil on the old Compuserve Comics & Animation Forum where we both used to hang out. "Hang out" in those days, which seem like the Dark Ages now, meant you logged on, downloaded a list of messages, logged off, listed those you wanted to read, logged on again to get them, logged off, read them, replied to any you felt inclined to, logged on again, posted, logged off.

Whew.

He did me the first favor I mentioned during that time. While I was planning a trip to Ireland in 1992 he urged me to spend a night at Bantry House, which I did and it was one of the highlights for my then-wife and me. We ended up in the room feature in Bantry House brochure (i.e., one of the best they had) and the stay included a self-guided tour of the building and grounds. It was our third night, after two nights in Dingle Town, and we ending up going to a local dancehall after dinner on a Sunday night, one where all the locals from the surrounding area came for the evening to socialize and it was a wonderful piece of advice.

It was after I started writing about him that the second favor happened. I got a call from Patty Jeres, DC's legendary PR gal, to be told that, as Neil's life was getting busier, there were only two or three interviewers he preferred to talk to and I was at the top of the list. It wasn't really clear, still isn't, if this was really Neil's idea or Patty's, but I gratefully accepted the role of Designated Interviewer and did a half dozen or so Gaiman pieces over the next couple of years. I learned, after awakening him a few afternoons (or being fended off by his wife from doing so) that he was definitely a night person and I developed a pretty sold pattern for our talks to keep them short and on point so he could get back to more productive pursuits.

A third "favor," albeit indirectly, developed from that relationship. I was writing one or two stories per month for Wizard Magazine on a regular basis and was assigned the Neil Gaiman feature for a special issue they were doing devoted to renowned comics creators. Then I got a phone call from my editor, asking if I'd be willing to trade off the story to a writer named Paul Grant, a lawyer who was a Comics Forum mainstay under the name Zeus and another on the Gaiman shortlist of interviewers. The reason? Neil said he could only do the interview if it was done at him home near Minneapolis and Grant lived in, I think, Illinois, a much cheaper plane ticket.

It wasn't a bad deal in the end. The tradeoff interviewee I got was Frank Miller, he of 300 fame (the graphic novel series then, the movie now), as well as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and several other Bat classics. It was the only time I ever got to interview Miller and it was the cover feature of the issue.

Hell, chalk up a fourth "favor." A few months later, convincing my editor that he owed me one, I talked Wizard into flying me to Toronto for two days to interview then-hot artist Dale Keown. It was pretty much the last hurrah. Not long after, me, Grant and any other writer past the stage of acne was dropped by the magazine. All of us older guys, that is, except for the now legendary "Mr. Silver Age", who hung on for about a year longer and still plies his trade in the comics world.

Wow. We sure wandered a long way from an article in Time, did we not? Sometimes you just go with the flow and let us old codgers wallow in the sordid past...

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[Posted 12:50pm edt]


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