Did He Say That Out Loud … ?

For best results it generally goes like this:

1. Think.
2. Talk.

Otherwise you end up with hilarious and perhaps revealing babble. Viz:

George W. Bush: Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

Well at least that’s out in the open at last.

The Associated Press appears to have changed the title on its news feed, but from what I can sift this first went out on the wires as “Bush Insists His Administration Seeking ‘New Ways to Harm Our Country’.” It still reads that way on the San Francisco Chronicle and at Tampa Trib sites, at least.

First noted at Psychotria Nervosa. Oh, the bill he was signing? It’s for 417.5 billion-with-a-B dollars for more war, because we don’t have enough already. Some of it seems very solid (e.g., the 3.5% pay raise for troops, though we don’t know whether that goes to grunts or to brass or to everyone), but I’ll leave that punding for other pundits.

Posted in General Musings |

21st Century Schizoid Pocketknife

Better than a tricorder

This is how I know it’s the future. We’re sliding backward far and fast if you want to talk culture, progress, empathy, equality, understanding, illumination, justice, prosperity, or benevolence — but man, we sure have some cool toys. This Swiss Army knife has a stainless steel blade, scissors, a nail file with screwdriver, a ballpoint pen, a red LED light – and a 64 meg USB memory card (or upgrade to 128 megs).

But where’s the fish-scaler?

In the can’t-please-’em-all department, I was kvelling about this to a friend last night. He nodded, unimpressed. “Yeah,” he said, “but there’s no camera.” Sheesh.

Posted in General Musings |

All Of The Above

I’m on the cell this morning with Vikki Walls from the Dewey Beach Music Conference & Festival, one of my favorite annual late-September events. Dewey Beach is a terrific conference, and I love it as much for the meeting and greeting and the enthusiastic young bands as I do for the effulgent juxtaposition of business and beach. Last year I went with Pierre, the year before with She Who Will Not Be Named.

Vikki has a new intern named Nikki, which I heard on the machine as Micki. At first I think I’m talking to Micki, who is really Nikki, who turns out to be Vikki. Eventually this all gets sorted out. A few blocks later we’re finishing up at the subway station when a woman charges up to me.

“I need a writer, I’m looking for a writer,” she says. She’s wearing a disheveled late-model business contraption in a pastel shade of lime green that looks like it planned to be blue but changed its mind at the last minute.

“Hold on,” I say. “What?” Since both of these could be directed at either Vikki or the Woman in Green, both of them are confused. “Wait,” I say, pointing at the woman. “Not you,” I say, pointing to Vikki, who can’t see me point. “Talk talk talk,” says Green Woman, waving one hand, the other on her hip, sullenly put out.

Vikki and I hang up. “I’m looking for a writer,” says Green, not missing a beat. She fishes a torn piece of cardboard out of her clutch; it’s a testimonial, in an uncertain and painstaking hand, promising that she hasn’t had a drink in 20 years, or 20 days, or 20 minutes, or something. I can’t make out the signature but I have a feeling it reads “Love, The Bartender.”

“You’re a writer. Don’t say you’re not, you’re a writer. I can see it.”

It goes downhill fast. I can’t fathom what she’s trying to get across and that piece of cardboard keeps coming out and waving around. We establish that she hasn’t had a drink and doesn’t belong in the insurance industry (but who does). She doesn’t seem to be asking for money. Whatever she does want, I fit the bill. It occurs to me that this is the bit when

  • The Terminator chasing her shows up and kills the guy she’s talking to;
  • The enemy spies chasing her start shooting up the real estate;
  • The vampire/werewolf chasing her materializes and havoc ensues;
  • The alien scheme to gather chemical life force from unsuspecting earth males abruptly involves separating said earth males from their skins, which will be used later as handy disguises;
  • Our chilling saga continues in the next issue of this Grant Morrison story, and boy does it end badly for the extras; or
  • I get cooties.

I’m tempted to wait around to see if it’s (c), because if so Kate Beckinsale can’t be far behind. But I have a sinking feeling it’s (f), so I run.

Note to Powers That Be: portentous messengers of fate are best deployed after I’ve had my coffee. Those sultry dark-haired pixie ones work just about every time. Especially when there’s, you know, chemical life force that needs gathering.

Anyway, this will teach me not to wear Hawaiian shirts to the office.

Posted in General Musings |

Et Tu, Peter Pan

Times Square underground is like Sigil, the City of Doors, in that it can take you anywhere, often when that is not where you want to go.

For the unwary, Times Square is a time sponge. You ride the #2 train (say) into the IRT station with the clock at 2:47 (say), perfectly lubricated for a sober 2:55 arrival at your 3 p.m. meeting four blocks away. But the clock reads 2:51 when the train doors open, 2:52 when your feet touch the platform. You swarm up onto Broadway at 2:56 – nine minutes? who sets these clocks, anyway? – and sprint the distance, dodging traffic, collapsing into the building lobby at 3:02. When you lurch out of the elevators at 3:06 they are waiting for you, crisp and faintly vague. “No, you’re not late, I was just having a cup of coffee.”

You are a blotchy streaming mass of discomfiture, and a pen has broken in your right pants pocket. You will not know this until you reach in and streak ink along your fingers. The gods hate you. You will sneeze, and wipe your face with the pen hand. Later, at home, you will discover what your cat/ dog/ bird/ snake/ otter (choose one) has done on the couch. On the book you left on the couch. On the library book you left on the couch. On the overdue library book you left on the couch.

But in skilled hands, when your heart is pure and your quest is worthy, Times Square can act as a sort of time machine: thus the name. You ride the #2 train (say) into the IRT station with the clock at 2:47 (say), which looks grim for your 3 p.m. bus from Port Authority, a long avenue-stretch tunnel away and the ticket still to buy. But take the stairs up, to the headwaters of the escalator down to the #7 tracks, not down to the tunnel, and when you rage up the joining stairs halfway along the clock says … 2:48. It’s 2:49 at the exit.

Ignore the crowded Greyhound ticket office, of course. Duck into the empty Peter Pan terminal next door, where the sign says “ATLANTIC CITY CASINO BUS LINES.” Glance at the clock as you settle into line, two scant riders away from the ticket window. It’s 2:49 still. The round trip to Boston is a trim $30, unexpectedly on sale. The ticket is time-stamped 2:51, and Gate 84 is right downstairs. The world, last sunny Friday, is my erster.


Time was, Greyhound seated every passenger at major stations along their route. If the bus held 40 and there were 41 passengers, number 41 got a bus to himself. It might not have been the soundest policy, but once upon a time in America the customer was king, and if you sold a ticket you had to honor it.

But it’s 2004, even counting the effects of Times Square. Two dozen people already in line, along with my time-traveling self, have to make do with the 3:30 bus. These days, when the bus fills up the waiting rest are out of luck, at least until the next scheduled departure. And the in-drive movie is Bringing Down the House.

Thinking fast, I take the pens out of my pocket.

Posted in About Last Night |

Meat It Is I Set It Down

New York is at its best when you can shake your head and smile and say, “Only here; this could only happen here; only in New York.” Tuesday night the upper reaches of the A train whisk me to the rainswept battlements of 181st Street, near the tip of the island, where I hear mysterious luminous fish haunt the rivers and the winds roar into a tunnel to the middle of the world. All right, maybe not, but I rarely get above 14th Street so it is miles foreign and the subway does run as much as 19 stories underground up there. Does that count as the middle of the world?

And perhaps “whisk” isn’t precisely the word; I could have walked most of the way there in the time it took.

Torrential rain chases the last of the Hot Nights/Cool Sounds outdoor summer concerts indoors, and the gleeful machinations of the subway leave me too late for the opening act. But six pieces’ worth of bluegrass band set up in the haven of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center across the way, and soon enough The Dixie Bee-Liners are tangling along through a thicket of classics on banjo, mandolin, fiddle, doghouse bass, and guitars. Kids cavort, one guy in the audience knows all the words, and we all have the startled look of people who haven’t been to temple in a good long time.

I’m jubilant. The text message I send to Pierre is:

> I am seeing bluegrass in a synagogue!

Only in New York.

Open Wide!There’s the Beef: Over at Ramblings of Silverblue we spy the story of the Monster 6-Pound Burger out of Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania.

There’s something frightening about that much meat slathered between two trammels of bread. I have in the past terrorized visiting Europeans by taking them to eat at Jackson Hole Burgers, where the sizzling promontory of meat and drippy toppings has more beef in it than a reasonable person needs to see over the course of several weeks. This takes the field to new extremes.

The whole wahoonie thumps in at 9 pounds soaking wet, and if you can finish it in three hours or less it’s yours for free (medical intervention not included). Otherwise your boasting rights will run you $23.95 with a Great Dane of a doggie bag. The beast is made from

  • 6 pounds of beef
  • Two whole tomatoes
  • A half-head of lettuce
  • 12 slices of American cheese
  • A full cup of peppers
  • Two entire onions
  • A river of mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard

The Beer Barrel reports that no one has finished it to time yet. At least we all have something to look forward to, something to strive for, a dream to drive us through the days. Paging Morgan Spurlock

Weekend Alert: I’m reuning with my family up in Maine this weekend, starting on Friday. It’s unlikely that there will be any blogging on my part until I’m back in the City; wish me luck with the allergies, and don’t forget to frolic. It’s almost August, after all.

Posted in General Musings |

Stijl and Class

I hadn’t had the pleasure of Greg.org until this morning, when a chance browse brought me to his thoughts on how he would protest the Republican convention. As the Democrat omelette starts its sizzle up in Boston, grappling with paranoia, security, unity, official bloggers, and the mechanics of trying to drag our nation’s head out of its collective butt in time for the election, his post is timely and welcome.

It’s inappropriate on many levels for the Republican convention to happen here. Apart from security concerns – hello, like we really need more potential risks – there’s a simple reality that should have smelled like coffee to someone, somewhere along the way: they don’t belong here, and we don’t want them.

New York is not voting for their man and New York is not buying their agenda. They will not win in this city or in this state, even if they squick Giuliani in as the Vice President nominee at the last minute “by acclaim.” Setting the convention here is an insult, a backhand, a selfish and cynical act by an administration of mean and empty men.

Greg’s classy riposte, quoted in part:

I would be eerily, even unsettlingly, quiet and orderly.

I would take seriously my responsibility as a New Yorker who lived through that horrible day, and take its symbolism back from the politicians who ignored the warnings, did nothing to prepare, sat or flailed wildly when it happened, sowed fear with it ever since, used it to falsely justify a war of misplaced vengeance, put us all in even greater danger than we were before, and who are now coming to town to usurp the most widely shared monument to their failure.

Enough is enough. I am angry that they’ve chosen this city for their carnival. I like Greg’s idea. I remember the last time this city was eerily quiet and orderly; I still cry about it, and I will never stop. We are not here to serve as a symbol for cyncial, desperate politicians of any party, of any stripe, of any orientation. We didn’t survive for that.

Thanks to Zeebahtronic for the link.

Posted in General Musings |

The Monkey Wench

The media, having failed to rouse Nessie from her estival slumber, are all jumping up and down and scratching their armpits about a female macaque named Natasha, that started to walk upright after a severe illness that likely caused brain damage. Which explains a lot about human behavior.

Posted in General Musings |

The —ing Truth

The Truth, by Terry PratchettSome books are like winter coats. They languish out of sight in trunks and closets like reproaches, as we lope and bay in the fertile seasons. And then, by climate or whimsy, out they come, a bit bent or rickety, a bit threadbare, a bit last-year’s-model, bearing memories.

I’ve only read a couple of books by Terry Pratchett, whose Discworld novels are not what you think. They are not science fiction, they are not fantasy, they are not shallow, and they are not weighty. What they are is gorgeous high comedy, bubbling with wit and keen fancy, jubilantly drawn in a setting that allows just about anything to happen.

Per Pratchett’s site:

… well, it’s like this. If you started watching Star Trek halfway through the series you probably wondered why one guy had pointy ears. But since you liked what you saw, you probably let the question ride for now and just got on with enjoying the show.

Discworld is like that.

Anyway, once again Pratchett’s The Truth has come stumping out of its dusty lair, and once again I’m reading it with joy. This time through – my fourth? fifth? – the binding is letting go. Soon it will be time to move on to another one.

The Truth concerns an ethical journalist – remember, we’re talking a kind of fantasy here – in the vast strange city of Ankh-Morpork. Hilarity ensues, some of it pointed. Toward the end, where I am now, one of the denizens meets a timely end, and since he meets it without his potato (it’s a long story), he has a difficult interview with Death:

“Is this the bit where my whole life passes in front of my eyes?” he said.


“Which bit?”


Posted in General Musings |

PG-13 Woad House

Being a Condensed Treatment of the New Moving Picture King Arthur, in Hopes that 115 or More Minutes of Your Life might be Devoted to More Fruitful Purfuits. By Linus Gelber. Copyright © 2004 Linus Gelber, All Rights Reserved.

There there be Dragoons

The Steppes of Sarmatia. Fires, huts, mud.

Lookout: Look out!
Elders of Sarmatia: What’s wrong?
Lookout: The Romans are coming!
Elders: What about it?
Lookout: They are coming as they do every 15 years to reap their bounty under treaty, to take our children away to the cold north where they will train them as cavalry riders and force them to patrol dangerous lands near Hadrian’s Wall! Shall we rally to arms and stop them?
Elders: No.
Lookout: But why not?
Elders: For one thing, our tribe disappeared over 200 years ago.

The Romans seize young Lancelot.

Lancelot: But wait! You can’t do this!
Romans: Why not? We’re being mostly historically accurate.
Lancelot: Yes, but I’m a made-up character! Even if Arthur is real, it’s known that I never existed!
Romans: Shut up.

Hadrian’s Wall. Arthur’s knights escort Bishop Germanius to someplace that whatever it is, it’s definitely not Camelot, because that wouldn’t be historically accurate.

Soldier: Camelot!
Knights: Shut up.
Soldier: But look, you’re Arthur and this is England, and –
Knights: Shut up.
Soldier: Where are we going then?
Arthur: North.
Soldier: Fine, be that way.
Tristan: Whoa!
Arthur: Where?
Tristan: What?
Arthur: Where are they?
Tristan: Who?
Arthur: Woads. The Woads. You know, the blue warriors who attack without armor, screaming as they race toward our swords?
Tristan: I was just stopping my horse, is all.
Knights: You mean the Picts?
Arthur: WOADS!

The horses stop.

Tristan: Nice one.

Woads attack from the forest. They wear no armor, and scream as they race toward the armored knights.

Woads: Woooooo!
Arthur: Woads!
Knights: What?
Soldiers: Whoa!
Guy Dressed Like Bishop Germanius: Ow!

The Knights slaughter the Picts Woads. Arthur interrogates a survivor at swordpoint.

Woad Survivor: …and really it’s a complete misnomer. Everyone believes the Picts painted themselves blue and tattooed themselves with hallucinogenic dye from the woad plant, but there’s very little evidence in the historical record. Woad isn’t psychotropic, for one thing, and it doesn’t work as a tattoo dye. The only eyewitness account of naked blue warriors is in Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul, and that justifies both Caesar’s losses in battle and the further commitment of forces to the Gallic campaign, so he needed to make the Picts sound terrifying and fearsome, which makes the text highly suspect.
Arthur: Sort of a Weapons of Mass Destruction thing.
Woad: Exactly.
Arthur: So that kind of messes up Braveheart too, doesn’t it?
Woad: Look, did you see The Passion of Christ? That man wouldn’t know history if it sat on his –
Sir Bors: Arthur, the guy dressed like Bishop Germanius is dead.
Arthur: Oh no. And Bishop Germanius was supposed to free us of our servitude tomorrow. What will we do now?
Bishop Germanius: Snag! Here I am, dressed as a common footsoldier.
Knights: Whoa!
Arthur: Where?

Inside a big stone building with curtain walls that is not Camelot.

Bishop Germanius: Nice place, for England.
Arthur: You can sleep in my room.
Bishop Germanius: Hmm. I hardly know you. But when out of Rome, do the pagans.

The Round Table.

Aide to Bishop Germanius: A round table! What kind of evil is this?
Sir Lancelot: It’s Modernist.
Sir Gawain: Sets off the carpet as well.
Sir Galahad: And look at the inlay.
Sir Dagonet: Arthur says that all men are created equal, and the round table signifies —
Bishop Germanius: Dagonet? Sir Dagonet? Never heard of you.
Sir Dagonet: Yeah, like you’d heard of Bors.
Bishop Germanius: But he’s really good. I like him already. Anyway, I have good news and bad news for your leader.
Arthur: What’s the good news?
Bishop Germanius: My men and I survive this movie.
Arthur: And the bad … oh, I see.
Bishop Germanius: Yep.

In the pub.

Knights: Look! We’re jovial and cheeky. This makes us sympathetic to the audience, since we have no scripted personal lives.
Sir Bors: I have a personal life. I have lots of little children and a big penis. See? They love me already.
Sir Lancelot: I carry three big pointy swords and am very pretty. Does that count?
The Other Knights: We are so not going there.

In the spooky Woad encampment.

Merlin: I am Merlin. I just wanted to say that.
Woads: Cool. Do you have any more scenes?
Merlin: Not really. Let’s go ambush Arthur. He hates that.

The Knights travel to the Roman Villa at Hamburgerus Hillum.

Sir Lancelot: And if I fall in battle, do not bury me in this foreign land, but burn my body and scatter my ashes on a strong east wind, so I may return to the place of my birth.
Sir Tristan: No way am I standing next to you in the big battle scene.
Sir Gawain: Knights, which one am I?
Arthur: You’re one of the “G” ones, you and Galahad.
Sir Galahad: Which one of us has the cool beard? I forget.
Arthur: Anyway, look. We’re north of Hadrian’s Wall in enemy territory. The Woads are all around us, the Saxons are invading with a staggering army, and Rome is preparing to withdraw from England. We need to rescue the wealthy Roman family from the northern wastes, evade the armies in our path, and make it safely home. Piece of cake.
Sir Bors: How many enemy men are there?
Arthur: About 60,000, including the CG armies.
Sir Bors: And how many are we?
Arthur: Including retainers, I count 11.
Sir Lancelot: I’ll just call you “Aragorn” then.
Sir Tristan: What’s a wealthy Roman family doing up here in the northern wastes? That doesn’t make any sense.
Arthur: Shut up. Everyone just shut up.

At the site of the Saxon invasion.

Cerdic: Brother, that is so not how you rape a wench. Someone kill some extras, while I admire my private parts.
Cynric: You’re so awesome, father. Can I kill some of the extras too?
Cerdic: Zip it and fetch my Harley. Oh, and go ambush Arthur, he hates that.

At the gates of the Roman villa.

Arthur: I am Arthur, King of the Britons. I mean, a Knight of Rome.
Guards: How do we know you’re Arthur?
Peasants: Because he hasn’t got any shit on him.
Peasants: We know, but we’ve been dying to say that for an hour.
Arthur: In fact, I am very clean.
Marcus Honorius: Hello, I’m fat, cruel, piggish, and stubborn, welcome to my home.
Arthur: We only want your son. He’s a favorite of the Pope.
Marcus Honorius: Some things never change, do they?

Arthur prepares to rescue the peasants, and good deeds are done.

Arthur: You’re all free, you know.
Peasants: Get a grip.
Arthur: My friend in Rome, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Pelagius, teaches that — wait, what’s behind that wall?
Guards: Umm … nothing.
Arthur: Citizen Honorius, tear down this wall!
Monks: Hello. We’re creepy Christians. This way to the mummified bodies.
Arthur: Look! A delirious child! And look, a beautiful Woad girl in chains! You fiends, what have you done to her?
Monk #1: Nothing! We haven’t touched her! Come on, we’re Christians! She’s a girl!
Monk #2: Ewwww!

The Knights, with the peasants and young Alecto, leave by the Eastern route.

Sir Tristan: The armies have cut us off from the South. We must go East, through the mountains.
Arthur: How do you know all this?
Sir Tristan: I have a hawk.
Arthur: And you what, speak Bird?
Sir Tristan: We have a special relationship.
Keira Knightley: Hello, I can say “Guinevere” in one syllable. Set me loose and I will paint myself blue. You may run a picture of me now.

The Woad goes ever on and on

Arthur: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like –
Keira Knightley: This.
Arthur: Oh. I see. Do that again.

Night, forest.

Merlin: Hello Arthur.
Arthur: I thought you didn’t have any other scenes.
Merlin: Just this one.

Snow along the trail; the Saxons approach.

Sir Tristan: Bad news, Arthur. There is a frozen lake ahead.
Arthur: Well that’s lucky.
Sir Tristan: No, it’s dangerous.
Arthur: Look. If it weren’t frozen, we wouldn’t have any chance of getting across it, would we? What would we do, swim across in armor, with wagons? Why is this road plunging into a lake anyway? For that matter, what is a huge road doing here at all? This is supposed to be a disused path through the mountains.
Sir Tristan: The Saxons are right behind us, too. And look what I found.

Tristan tosses a crossbow to the ground.

Sir Tristan: It’s Saxon. Armor-piercing.
Arthur: You do realize that the crossbow won’t be introduced into Europe for another 600 years.
Sir Tristan: Must be a prototype.
Arthur: Tristan, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for some time now.
Sir Tristan: Yes?
Arthur: Are you sure you’re in the right movie?

The caravan begins crossing the frozen lake. The Saxon army rides up behind; they are equipped with fearsome bad beards.

Knights: How can seven of us stand against this horde?
Keira Knightley: Eight!
Knights: LEGOLAS! You’ve come!
Arthur: Wrong movie!

The ice begins to crack.

Arthur: Patronus Patronum!
Knights: Arthur, totally wrong movie!

The Saxons plunge into the lake and the Knights are victorious.

Back in Camelot the walled stone fortress.

Arthur: We lost one of the “G” ones.
Bishop Germanius: The rest of you are now free. Hey, is that big army over there yours?

Before the gates, the Saxon leader meets with Arthur.

Cerdic: So you’re Arthur. Funny, I thought you’d be taller.
Arthur: Nice ride.
Cerdic: Thanks, it’s a Harley four-cylinder Indian. I rebuilt it myself.
Arthur: Sir Bors has a bigger one than yours.
Cerdic: No way.
Arthur: Like a baby’s arm. Wrapped around a moose.
Cerdic: It’s war then.

The Saxon army charges. Woads, now allied with Arthur, pour out of the woods and engage the invaders. From far back, a bank of trebuchets flings flaming masses of flaming mass at the battlefield.

Arthur: Nice work. You do understand that the trebuchet won’t be introduced for another 800 years. Let me guess – prototype?
Merlin: Just a little something I’ve been working up on the side.
Arthur: I thought that other scene was your last one.
Merlin: Sort of like magic, isn’t it?
Keira Knightley: Woooooo!
Arthur: Whoa!
Keira Knightley: Yes.
Arthur: What’s that you’re wearing?
Keira Knightley: I found some string.
Arthur: That’s what I thought.
Keira Knightley: So this is the big battle scene.
Arthur: Yes. And I must find Cerdic and fight him alone.
Keira Knightley: Why are all your knights running away from Lancelot?

The battle is joined, and is heavily edited to preserve a PG-13 rating. Cynric kills Lancelot. Arthur defeats Cerdic. Sir Bors has another child. There is mourning and rejoicing.

The Mysterious Forest.

Keira Knightley: Kiss me here among the standing stones and the free Woads will welcome you as King of the Britons.
Arthur: That’s not really going to work in this version. I’m Christian all right, but the Round Table has fallen and my knights are scattered. Lancelot is already dead, which eliminates the love triangle bit unless someone does some serious work on the backstory. This “Woad” business is never going to make it through another picture. There’s no Lady of the Lake, and we debunked the Excalibur legend when I drew the sword as a child from my father’s burial mound. Merlin’s a shaman, not a magician. We don’t need to leave the sequel door open; there’s not going to be one. People won’t stand for it.
Keira Knightley: That’s what they said about Highlander.
Arthur: Um … good point. But really, Excalibur was much better.
Keira Knightley: Was I even born when that came out?
Arthur: Er, no. Good point.
Keira Knightley: Kiss me.

Posted in General Musings |

Two if by Sea

Sexy Sea Monkeys Baby Sea Monkey
Temptress Little Mermaid
The rare yellow-feathered merman Pink

We Peppers were at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in late June, Pierre in the crowd and me on the shaky clattery Temptress float. This is some of what we saw: visit our Mermaid Parade photo gallery for the full flashy splashy story. When you get there, click on the pics for enlargements and expansions and other big-big sorts of things.

Posted in About Last Night |