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Oct 24, 2008

Joe the What?

Not to diss Joe Wurzelbacher in any way, but I'm surprised that no one I can find on the internet has yet linked "Joe the Plumber" with the classic "But you f*** one goat" joke.  So now it's done.  For a related story, check out Joe the Fallout Shelter's post from a few months ago.

01:10 PM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Oct 22, 2008

He'd Turn 45 Today, It's True -- That's What Brian Boitano'd Do

When I travel, I try to buy the local paper to see the local flavor.  But on Sundays this means that I waste time reading the frickin' USA Weekly "magazine".  But amid its uselessness, there are four column inches of celebrity birthdays.  Today, South Park's favorite olympian:

Also born today, Zac Hanson who turns 23.

12:55 AM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oct 21, 2008

That's Right (I'm Not From Texas)

Maybe I'm seeing something different because I expected something different.  But man, Texas is different.  Late last week I drove eight hundred miles from El Paso (at the western tip) to Mission (near the southern tip), and what I've seen makes me believe I can understand why Texas thinks of itself as "apart from".

I can't at all explain it, but Lyle Lovett will sing you the distance between his people and me:

I've been listening to Lyle all week -- my tour guide and friend in an unfamiliar space.  In Las Cruces, NM near the border, I had acquired two Obama stickers and put them on my back window.  At the Texas welcome center I added a "Don't Mess With Texas" sticker (handed out free with every tour magazine) underneath. Kind of for protection. 

Last night at an open-air honky tonk on the Rio Grande (you could throw a baseball into Mexico if you wanted), I discussed politics with folks who did not necessarily share my point of view.  A Border Patrol SUV prowled the parking lot nearby.  And my cell phone frequently reminded me that automatic time zone changes were not guaranteed for where I was sitting, and that roaming charges would apply.

12:44 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (1)

Oct 17, 2008

Southwestern Swing


Yes we telecom.

Last night I dropped by the Obama HQ in Las Cruces, NM, while I was overnighting with a splendid couchsurfing.com host who needed to do some pre-canvassing tasks.

Pictured above, Team Obama was on their (maybe nightly?) conference call.  Various teams were reporting on the numbers of doors knocked on, number of people contacted, etc.  It was nice to catch my first glimpse of the ground-level organizing that I've been hearing about for the last year.*

Slate just ran an article on how every tiny town counts in this complex swing state whose five electoral votes are getting plenty of attention.  Click here for It's the Little Things -- In the New Mexico presidential race, no town is too small to matter. By Jacob Leibenluft


In 2000, Gore won the state by a margin of 366 votes. By comparison, 2004 was a landslide for Bush, who carried New Mexico's five electoral votes with an edge of 5,988 ballots. Campaigns in New Mexico have gotten used to thinking in small numbers.

Southern New Mexico presents the ultimate challenge to a campaign that is counting on its ground game: It's got a lot of ground and not many people. New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District—which covers the southern half of the state—is bigger than Pennsylvania. It's very rural and very conservative.


LAS CRUCES—As southern New Mexico goes, Las Cruces is about as liberal as it gets. It's home to New Mexico State University, as well as a growing community of East Coast transplants who have moved here for the weather. But for a good example of New Mexico's ideological diversity, consider this: Santa Fe, in the northern part of the state, was one of the first cities in the country to pass a living-wage ordinance. Las Cruces, on the other hand, doesn't yet have curbside recycling.

I watched most of last night's debate at the New Mexico State University student center, along with a dozen or so folks.  One of the audience made a series of disparaging comments about how "McCain's face looks weird".  Another said, "well, give us fifty years and we might all look like that.  I want to hear about his policies."


*I volunteered for the Gantt campaign all of October '96.  It of course looked nothing like this.

Unrelated: I left Las Cruces this morning and drove just over 600 miles to San Antonio.  That's a solo record for me.  I'm now in a hotel watching America's Funniest Videos and they really are hilarious.  I just saw a stork swallow a big fish, and then I saw a seagull swallow a whole hot dog and then yarf it up.  No one's gotten hit in the nads yet on this show, but I saw one of those on Corner Gas.  I love television.


01:20 AM in Editorial, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (2)

Oct 16, 2008

Things for Men


Who knew that snack foods were gender specific?  Those darned Japanese sararimen.  Also for men only, rushed and slightly careless mucking around with fire-producing objects, followed by cursing.  That's my pal Dave.  He has done smarter things on that same San Francisco kitchen table.

01:55 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (3)

Oct 14, 2008



Interior of the back wall at my aunt and uncle's place in Surprise, AZ (just outside Phoenix).  It's dry here.  85 in the day and 50 at night.

The back yards in this neighborhood have solid walls around 7 feet high.  When I amble the sidewalks behind, I get barked at by invisible dogs, every tenth house or so.  I hope they are not in the yards of houses that have been foreclosed upon.

04:06 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (4)

Oct 13, 2008

Fasting in California

Last week in Claremont I attended not one but two Break Fasts at the end of Yom Kippur.  I hadn't fasted for the ~24 hours beforehand, though I might have, had I known more and given it some thought.  At the first Break Fast, three items came from the host's favorite deli at home in New York.  There was smoked whitefish, pickled herring in sour cream, and smoked salmon.  Oh. My. G-d.  So good.

Meanwhile (or sort of -- if you go back to July), six hours to the north in Salinas, Mayor Dennis Donohue took a week-long one-meal-a-day Fast for Peace.  The mayor was looking for a new method to create change in his gang-troubled town, and he was joined by a city council member and the chief of police, and an untold number of others.  See here for the July fast coverage and here for the mayor's call to take the Fast for Peace statewide.

11:50 PM in Food, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shopsin Style and Style-Guide

from The Way We Eat -- Flipping the Bird by Christine Muhlke, NYTimes, 9 October 2008

...after 28 years behind the stove, Shopsin wants only to cook for people he likes. “I’m not a very mature person,” he says after a lunch shift, his white hair kept at bay by an appropriately McEnroesque headband.

“Sometimes my mind works a bit too fast, and I come to the conclusion of a relationship with customers faster than they get there. The abruptness of my understanding the essence of what’s happening is really upsetting to them and makes them vindictive and angry.” (One man, refused service at the original Bedford Street grocery-turned-restaurant, ripped a toilet out of the floor.)

I love this article for several reasons.  Muhlke manages to tell two of Shopsin's stories (the restaurant and the book) and one of her own in a few sharp paragraphs.  And I do so like the way she writes.  Add to that, the article employs two different means of showing a quotation where part of the quote is deleted or changed.


“We kick [expletive] out. Regularly.” Up to three times a day.

And second:

I waited weeks to tell Shopsin, who softened and got borderline misty for a second before bellowing: “I’m glad you didn’t tell me. I would’ve kicked the” you-know-what “out.”

I've never seen the second option done before, at least not in an instance where it seems that few words were being changed.  Interesting. 

More of my struggle -- I wasn't sure of a best (or even very good) way to "quotate" those two items, above.  I think I should buy a journalism textbook.  Even if it doesn't explicitly explain how to quote quotes from other texts, I suspect it would have examples of just that.

BTW, I've just remembered to follow up to one of Valerie's comments on quotes within quotes, at this old post.

03:21 PM in Food, Words | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oct 09, 2008

Two Quotes on Talking with Enemies

If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.

-- Moshe Dayan

Whatever you think of Dayan's actions and policies, I hope you would agree with his statement here.  But if you still doubt the sentiment because of the source, here is another:

It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends.  But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion.  The other is mere business.

-- Mahatma Gandhi

11:37 PM in Editorial, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (5)

Toonlet.com -- Make Your Own Comic Strip


Toonlet.com won't turn you into Randall Munroe.  But if you hanker for your own comic strip, check it out.  I constructed the above example in just minutes.

03:01 AM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Oct 07, 2008

The Presidential Debate -- With Chris Rock

On the occasion of tonight's second debate between McCain and Obama, here is Chris Rock as presidential candidate Mays Gilliam in Head of State (2003).  This movie cracked me up, but I'm a sucker for any of Rock's stuff.

The NYTimes review suggests that this movie (with Bernie Mac as Rock's older brother and eventual vice presidential candidate) is more mockery than satire (see yesterday's post for my comments on same).  Decide for yourself if you wish.  This excerpt is 9:03 long:

01:57 AM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oct 06, 2008

Satire and Mockery are not the Same: The Left and Sarah Palin

As I've watched friends and peers over the last few weeks, I've been disturbed at what I see is a massive waste of energy mocking Sarah Palin.  In the company of like-minded people, making fun of someone for being unqualified or misguided may be fun and stress-relieving for a few moments.  But after that, it's time wasted.  Time spent wallowing in the negative instead of doing something useful.  That's what I've been thinking.

But let's take things one giant step further, in the words of Joe Bageant who points out that time spent mocking is time spent shooting our gun-control-selves in our organic-hemp-sandaled feet:

Sarah Palin's real coup is that she brings out the snobbery of the left in their dismissal of her as an ignorant hick typical of small town red state America. They vastly underestimate her. Just like they have underestimated George Bush for the past eight years. While they laughed, George Bush managed to get everything he wanted and assist the looting of America in his spare time. No matter that he is vastly unpopular now even among Republicans. He has fulfilled his purpose to the powerful corporations and financial institutions that animate American politics. You do not have to be smart to be president, just malleable to the greater forces at work.

Yet Palin is not stupid. She may be religious and a right winger, but that doesn't mean she is stupid and incompetent ... [snip] And each time Democrats and liberals take a shot at her religious beliefs and moral choices, which just happen to be those of tens of millions of heartland voting Americans, she gains political ground, or at a minimum, holds some for herself and McCain.


Liberals and leftists, theoretically at least, have more common national interests with red state heartland white working class Americans than any other current political group. And the way to communicate that is NOT sneering at the only candidate who resembles ordinary Americans, their beliefs and lifestyle. When we do that, the Republicans grin like Cheshire cats, our global financial oppressors turn the screws down a bit harder, and the Devil takes a nap, because his work is done for him by fools using the most efficient tools available -- arrogance and hubris.

For some reason, I feel the need to mention that I'm not anti-humor.  I think of satire as critical humor written with the hope and aim of helping people to see a better way.  Satire seeks to help.  Mockery, on the other hand, seeks only to put down.  And I don't see the point of that.

HT: Barry C. at En Revanche


p.s., here's a dose of (mostly) satire from Chris Rock talking about the Clintons, Obama, and Palin (and one NFL star).

11:23 PM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (3)

Oct 05, 2008

Strong Odds, No Guarantees, and One Ugly Spectre

Is Obama's current lead with four weeks to go a guarantee?  Not according to past results.  Since 1936, the only lead this strong at this time that has been lost was... Gore v. Bush in 2000.

Bryan Schaffner: 50%, 8% and October: Some Historical Context, at Pollster.com.

02:08 PM in Editorial, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oct 03, 2008

Johnny Delegate-Seed, 277 Votes on the 12,000-mile Campaign Trail


At RealClearPolitics.com, you can create your own delegate map.

Above, a Johnny Delegate-Seed record of my 16-week road trip. If you give Obama every state that I will have visited between July 15 and Election Day (when I arrive back in NC), he gets 277 electoral votes to McCain's 261. 

The "home stretch" is key -- I'm picking up 96 delegates between October 11 and November 1 on the southern third of my route. 

And of note: every little decision counts.  I almost skipped Oregon and Wyoming for a ten delegate swing.  Whew.

11:06 AM in Editorial, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (1)

Oct 02, 2008

Bike-Friendly Berkeley


University Ave., Berkeley.

I can understand why most of the bike is gone (i.e., the bike owner was lazy or stupid).  But why the tire and the innertube?  The tire would have taken some effort to steal, since the bead is pretty sturdy.  The tire underneath (even if cut) would be useful like a bungee cord for a homeless person (and there are many in Berkeley).  But still...  I'm guessing someone removed the tire and inner tube just because.  Kind of a moral obligation to penalize someone for locking their bike poorly.  (It sometimes seems that people in the big cities have different rules -- like the mafia guys who say, "look, this isn't personal.  I'd love to forgive you and let you live.  But if I don't kill you, other people are going to think I'm weak, and they're going to make a mess of the system.  So...  Sorry.  Bam.")

When I was an undergrad, I once locked my bike very carefully to a parking meter post that I later realized had no parking meter on it.  Someone could have slipped my bike right off the top.  But no one did.

I was once in New York City walking past Rockefeller Center at Christmas.  Big fluffy snowflakes were falling slowly and quietly.  The sidewalk was packed with people.  It was lovely.  Then in front of me I noticed a (presumed) out-of-towner holding up a small stack of twenties that he was apportioning out to his family.  I wanted so badly to yank them out of his hands and to shove them back into his pockets while yelling, "Hey are you a complete idiot?!"  But I didn't.  Because, you know, I was also an out of towner.  The locals should have first dibs on fun stuff like that.

Gosh -- why am I sounding so gruff and grumpy?  I hope it isn't just because I've been in the big city for a few weeks.  I hope it's just because I've got one of those eyeball headaches.  OK.  To bed, then. 

03:52 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (1)