Archive for November, 2004

Buy the Book

by Linus, November 5th, 2004

Nicholas & Alexandra: The Last Imperial Family of Tsarist Russia Events that Shaped the Century Memnoch the Devil The Personal Feng Shui Manual The Simple Living Guide
Liberty! The American Revolution Be Cool The Hearing Rising Sun New Choices in Natural Healing

I’m an available-space guy, by which I mean that when I’m going on a trip I take out a vast pile of stuff, sort through the basics, and then fatally wonder if there are more basics to consider. I mean, what if it gets really cold? What if it rains? OK, rain gear is basic-level basic, but get this: what if it’s cold in the morning, and then it warms up, and then it rains? Guess I’d better bring waterproof sandals. And warm socks, just in case. Two pair. Because the first pair got wet when it rained, see?

That sort of thing. I’ll continue thinking this way until all available space is full, plus about 10% more of space that is purely theoretical. I’m the guy at the airport who says, sure, you can open my bag. But you have to close it again, because it took me 10 minutes this morning to get the zipper done and I’m not going through that again.

Apply this what-fits style to a small studio apartment in Brooklyn, though, and you’ve got disaster. I bought new shelves the other day, and populating them means taking everything out and sorting through it (it’s no fun to have stuff if you can’t take it out and sort purposefully through it now and then). Which is how these 10 books got nominated to be sold at eBay. Please feel free to buy them: the auctions end Sunday evening between 5 and 8. Titles, in case some of the images aren’t clear:

Buy my stuff! Every book that leaves this house under its own steam is a book blessed!

Excess of Evil

by Linus, November 3rd, 2004

Well, that sucked. At least it’s over. Mostly.

NEWSFLASH: Someone Will Win!

by Linus, November 2nd, 2004

Now we’re getting to the nail-biting stage. I’m not very connected in politics, but I’ve heard some starts-with-a-K mutterings and closet exuberance here and there, from places I can’t source or sources that I have no idea what they’re talking about. Or, usually, both. Finally something I can post a link to:

Zogby is calling it for Kerry.

However, since much of the rest of the site comes up with errors, this might just be a hack attack. Time will tell, time will tell. Still 45 minutes before the first polls close!

This Election Has Performed an Illegal Operation and Will Shut Down

by Linus, November 2nd, 2004

Well, well, well: in New Orleans, at least, the electronic voting machines don’t work. What a surprise. I mean, it’s not like everyone in America saw that coming, or anything.

“No, no no. The machines will work just fine.” Riiiiiiiight.

The Election Incident Reporting System at this hour is listing 8,110 reported election events, with New York and Pennsylvania leading the pack - it makes sense that events would cluster in the East, since our polls open earliest and have thus been open longest. 677 of the reports are machine-related incidents, 395 are voter-intimida … oho, the online system just crashed (ha, perfect). I imagine it will be back later. Major media isn’t reporting much right now — CNN, for one, seems unaware that there is a world beyond our borders — so this information is more as-it-happens than it is reliable; that’s the caveat for today.

The Partisan Lonely Hunter

by Linus, November 2nd, 2004

This morning I went up to my old public school to vote. I was at school there only from kindergarten through 4th grade. In 4th grade one Ms. Vend was appointed principal, over the howls and protests of parents and the local school board. Ms. Vend was the sort of shallow, mean, gratuitous, and ineffectual leader — much like the Governor of Texas who sits in the White House today — who inspires her minions to be even more venal than she, and who can be counted on in general to let bad slump into worse.

Naturally I remember this only by proxy, but the neighborhood was tumbling into light poverty and the district was in the throes of one of its ethnic readjustments, and P.S. 163 must have seemed a likely place to dump a patronage body who had worked her way through the system and needed to be put somewhere to pasture her way to retirement. Lucky us.

In the course of a few grim months, everyone who could afford a private school suddenly afforded one. Ms. Vend’s comment on the swelling of her minority percentages was benevolent and terrible: she opined at a public meeting that you couldn’t expect them to learn like we do. The sad thing is that she probably thought this was generous and enlightened, like say the rule of the British Raj in India. I’m sure she just wanted to help.

After a teacher slapped a difficult girl named Shannon in class one day and called her a bitch (in the company of a racial epithet with which I shall not burden these pages), I dutifully toddled home and reported the action to my Mom over lunch recess. Calls were made, authorities were summoned, and suddenly it was time for me to change schools and hop to an adjacent district where I could be terrorized by kids my own age, instead of by kids my own age together with the vengeful posse of an enraged teacher.

So I turn up at the old school building once a year (OK, sometimes I let those little in-between election years slip, but hardly ever) to complete two roughly-annual traditional missions:

  1. vote.
  2. buy a cupcake, strudel, Danish or similar crumbly sticky thing from the Parent Association Bake Sale.

Target acquired. Objective accomplished. De-briefing:

  1. full Democratic line, top to bottom — on an old-style flip-lever analog voting machine, the kind that actually counts the votes.
  2. lemony cupcake with light sugar frosting, home-made and yummy.

Go Kerry! America, keep out the Bushes!

Ecce Manny

by Linus, November 1st, 2004

I worked my way through college. My family was middleward in the middle class, which means we starved for nothing, and did without fancy gadgets and disposable fads. Books yes, movies sometimes, fancy birthday parties of the soul-cringing variety, never. We favored original art over coloring books, which left me craving coloring books into early adolescence (there’s a lesson there, somewhere). We had enough of everything and took care of most of it, lest we not have enough further down the line. We turned off the kitchen light when we left the kitchen. Waste not, want not. Don’t worry, be happy. A stitch in time saves nine. Old 20th Century wisdoms.

For four years at school I was a student security guard, first on dim scary Detex night shifts in the Physics labs and then, over time, on easier tours in comfier spots with chairs and windows and sometimes a kitchen or a cleverly-placed sofa that could not be seen from the entry.

Junior year I was in love with Lehze, and she lived in the Yard, so in a bit of clever thinkin’ I took a couple of Delta shifts there. Weeknights in the Yard there was only one student security detail, from midnight to 7:00 a.m. The rest of the day real guards did the work; student security was a pay-the-kids and save-some-money makework compromise. We weren’t meant to actually do anything risky or securityish on the job. Ideally we’d just sit in the Guard Shack and watch TV, and occasionally walk someone to her room or respond to a lockout. Or, and I say this just for argument’s sake, one might go visit one’s girlfriend and spend the night in her room in Weld. Just theoretically.

Most Yard nights I would relieve Manny, a Uniform Guard, at the Delta shack by Widener Gate. Manny was Lord of the Manor in the shack, and he brooked no nothin’. It was his fridge and his comfy chair and his TV, and nights when WWF wrestling was on, your turn in the chair didn’t come until the last slam was slammed and the last fist was pumped. Manny was a fan. You were in his shack. Therefore, you were a fan too.

I got caught up in the exploits of the Federation. It was absurdly over the top, and it functioned more or less as a comic book for television. Heroes, villains, mercenaries, turncoats, and the righteous Hulk Hogan ruling above them all like a sleeping Zeus or Odin. My favorite was King Kong Bundy, who was to meat as Spongebob Squarepants is to sponge and square pants. But the others were wonderful too: Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Andre the Giant, George “The Animal” Steel, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Honkytonk Man, Brett “Hitman” Hart. The cast of characters was no less than mythic, or Shakespearian.

I commented one night to Manny how awesome it was that the story ruled in wrestling just as it did in literature. Manny turned to me, his moustache eloquently drooping in cold scorn. There is no story, he told me, all ice. Voice low and anger barely checked, he ticked through the articles of WWFaith. This is a contest between men of power and great heart, he hissed. Combat among heroes. It comes out as fate will have it, not according to some kind of script. It is obvious, he sneered. These men prove their strength week after week, battling their enemies and rushing to aid their friends. This, my young friend, this is life.

When WWF was over that night he refused to get up from the chair. He sat there for almost an hour, silent, time ticking past in the shack. When he left he left without a word, and he padlocked the fridge behind him. The next week when I came to relieve him, he took the TV home. He punished me with silence, betrayed by my failure to believe in the hard truth of professional wrestling.

Eventually Manny thawed, and cautiously we shared the closing bouts of WWF shows again in the overlapping minutes of our shifts. I never talked about the games any more, and as far as he was concerned my heresy was purged. One night some bit of choreography went woefully awry. An unlikely dive off the ropes to shoulder-block a floored and writhing victim slipped off-time. The guy on the floor got up too early, realized his mistake, and tried to dive back down; but his nemesis was already airborn, and he hit the floor where no body lay. There was a stunned pause, and the man who was not on the ground rejoined his script by throwing himself down with a howl, as if he had been slammed after all. The leaper rolled on top of him, and from that point it all went forward as planned chance would have it.

The silence in the shack debated itself and turned in place like a dog getting ready to sleep. I said nothing, and nothing, and nothing. Finally Manny turned, his chin held high, and he sniffed, ready to make his pronouncement.

“Well,” he said. “Well. I’ve heard people say this before but it’s nothing I ever saw before with my own eyes. And until I see it with my own eyes, I don’t like to think bad of people, because everyone deserves an even break. But what just happened here, I saw myself, and I don’t like to think that I can’t see the truth when the truth is in front of me.”

He paused, and sucked his upper lip. “That,” he said, “was one crooked ref.” And with that he shut off the TV, left the padlock off the fridge, and headed out into the after-midnight dark.

I can’t help but think that come Tuesday morning, if he votes at all, Manny will be voting for George W. Bush.