All this talk of the 70's has obviously woken a sleeping giant within.
Today I'll be offering a series of my older pieces on that wonderful, horrible decade. First up:
The Summer of '76:
Summer memory: On my 14th birthday I received Frampton Comes Alive. I sat with my friends behind 7-11, drinking beer hidden in Slurpee cups and smoking cigarettes. I had the album with me, in all it's vinyl glory, and my eyes glazed over in that 14 year-old girl way whenever I looked at the picture of Frampton on the cover. That hair! Those eyes! Swoon!
I never confessed that I didn't really like Frampton's music. I liked his hair. Ok, I went crazy over three songs on the album but the rest was crap. But I was cool for having it, and we went back to my house and listened to the stupid wah-wah pedal thing and when you are 14 and you just smoked some pot and the record player is emitting sounds of "do you feel like we do" played through some voice synthesizer, all you think about is some Charlie Brown special where the teachers are doing that wah-wah-wah voice and maybe playing some air guitar to Show Me The Way.
Holy shit! I was smoking pot at 14? You mean I only have about two years before my daughter comes home reeking of resin and bong water?
Anyhow. As much as Frampton's hair and synthersizer amused me, I had other musical avenues to explore. 1976 was the year the Ramones debuted. Kiss's Destroyer came out that year. Blue Oyster Cult's Agents of Fortune. Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak. And even though I had all that metal running through my brain, there was no way to avoid the musical vomit that came out of the tinny AM receiver that summer.
How many times could you hear Rick Dees singing Disco Duck before you wanted to go deaf? The song that defined my summer of 1976 in the worst way possible was Starland Vocal Band's Afternoon Delight. Sure, I was too naive to know the song was about catching a little noontime nookie but it annoyed the piss out of me anyhow. On one end of the radio dial you had Gordon Lightfoot mourning his Edmund Fitzgerald and on the other end was a constant barrage of More, More, More and Fly, Robin, Fly. I would always hope that somewhere in between I would catch Play That Funky Music, White Boy and I would close my bedroom door and do some spastic dance while pretending to be ultra cool.
I wore my Disco Sucks button with pride. And I spent hours in my air-conditioned bedroom dreaming up ways to change the music industry. I wrote my own lyrics, 4-chord save-the-world type lyrics that would show those white suit wearing disco freaks that there was more to life than dancing.
Save the whales, Save the whales
Send your money through the mail.
Later on, I would form a band called Pond Scum with my little sister and we would have revolutionized the music industry if we only knew how to play an instrument. Even though Lisa could bang out the Theme from M*A*S*H* on the recorder, we didn't think that was quite enough.
I would lay in bed that summer listening to the radio and Nazareth's Love Hurts would come on and I would cry. At 14, I knew nothing of love or hurt, but I knew that the voice coming out of my speakers did and his hoarse cry of sadness always made me feel as if love were nothing to look forward to.
1976 was the bicentennial of our nation, and while I remember the fireworks and the ships in the harbor what I remember most is the local theater only charging 76 cents to see a movie for the rest of the summer. Maybe we saw the Bad News Bears or maybe it was Blood Sucking Freaks, all I know is that at some point in 1976 I saw Burnt Offerings in a movie theater and complained that there wasn't enough gore or scares and that Oliver Reed gave me the creeps. And that year there was Carrie, which made me vow to never go to a prom or date John Travolta, and Taxi Driver, which made me leery of cab drivers and Robert DeNiro and Logan's Run, which made me think of plot holes and bad acting.
1976 was the year that there was all that hoopla about Red Dye #2 and I had to stop eating maraschino cherries by the dozen.
1976 was the last summer I remember feeling so innoncent, so oblivious to the world around me. 1977 brought the Son of Sam and loot-filled blackouts and the feeling that the world wasn't about some pop song and summer would never mean quite the same to me. At least not until 1978. But that's another story.
(And just for the record, Summer of Sam was one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life)
Dhiren Bharot, from Willesden, north-west London, is charged with possession of plans for the stock exchange and Citigroup bank building in New York, IMF headquarters in Washington DC. Along with Nadeem Tarmohammed, again from Willesden, he was also accused of owning documents relating to an alleged attack on the Prudential Building in New Jersey.Eight men were arrested, including a major Al Qaeda figure. ...authorities report the men planned to use radioactive, chemical, toxic, and explosive substances, and that their target was not the UK … rather, it was the United States... News and updates at Command Post. Another blow to the war on terrorism. It's working.
You know what really sucks? When you go to bed secure in the knowledge that you have your morning blog post all sewn up because you saw this article on how the fashions of the 70's were coming back - including ponchos - and you thought to yourself, oh, that's what I'm going to blog about in the morning because that subject is just ripe for picking, and then you form some wonderful sentences and snarky insults in your mind about ponchos and then, you wake up in the morning, pull up The Bleat and see that while you were sleeping, James Lileks was sucking the 70's idea out of your head with a magical bendy straw.
Curse you, James Lileks.
Back to the drawing board.
I may have snickered, I don't know. Mom ran into the bathroom and turned on the little radio she kept in there. I remember the voice. I remember the exact sound of the tinny, staticy voice that relayed the news to my mother in a much softer way than I did. Elvis was dead. My mother's eyes filled with tears and despair while her face registered only that small "o" one's mouth makes when they hear shocking news. That "o" stayed there for a while, but the despair in her eyes had become hard and angry. She was pissed at me. How could I have told her like that, knowing that she idolized Elvis in a pure, passionate way? How could I do that? What kind of daughter was i? Well, I was fourteen. That's my only excuse. I was a fourteen year old whose mother made fun of her own idolization of another self-obsessed, overly dramatic singer who similarly became a bloated replica of himself. And later, dead and bloated. Maybe it was my way of evening up the score. My mother had this friend Noreen. Noreen was the largest woman I ever knew. Not just heavy large, but tall and wide and her hair was piled up on her head so she looked even taller. Her voice roared even when she whispered and her sneezes were legend in the neighborhood, said to be heard from at least three blocks away. She wore mumus and housecoats and tons of hairspray and sometimes she wore an ugly fur coat that made her look like a small woodland creature was nesting on her shouler. Noreen and my mom were the Elvis duo. They worshiped him. They loved him. They knew everything about him and owned everything to do with him including Elvis commemorative plates and I think one of them had an Elvis wristwatch. I grew up with Elvis's hips grinding in my face and his voice grinding in my ears and I have to admit that at some point, I realized what the attraction was. When I would lay in bed on summer nights, trying to sleep while my mother and Noreen and the rest of their crew played Pinochle in the kitchen and had Elvis on the stereo, I knew. His voice would come drifting into my room and I could feel the sensuality, the danger, the passion that lied within his words. I would never tell anyone this, of course. I went about my daily business of bowing before Jim Morrison and Robert Plant and never let on that I thought Elvis was cool. Especially to my mother. That would just ruin the taut, tenous relationship that we both thrived on. Who was I to break the rite of passage of mother-teenage daughter bitterness and anger? Noreen and my mother were going to see Elvis in August, 1977 at the Nassau Coliseum. They had seen him many times before but this one was special. They had a feeling this would be his last tour ever. They were like little giddy school girls in the weeks leading up to the show. Sometimes my mother would take out her ticket and look at it. As I write this I realize that my mother was 39 at the time. The same age I am now. When I was fourteen, 39 was old and withered and wrinkled. 39 was too old to be getting worked up over a hip-shaking idol. Yet, here I am at 39 and I'm not old or withered or wrinkled and I would certainly get worked up over my hip-gyrating idol. She was so happy. And I crushed her world. It would have been a much softer blow if it came from Cousin Brucie or Uncle somebody on whichever oldies station she was listening to. It would have been a bit easier to take if her teenage bag of hormones didn't make some smarmy remark about dying like a fat, beached whale. When Noreen found out we heard her from two blocks away, bellowing and carrying on. Her booming voice sounded through the neighborhood like a siren, a mourning call for all Elvis fans in East Meadow to gather on her lawn and weep. Not really. But it was something like that. I don't think my mother ever told Noreen the way in which she found out about the death of their hero. I probably wouldn't have lived to tell this tale if she knew. She would have kicked my ass all over town. When Noreen died, my first thought was that she would finally get to see Elvis again. My second was that I was now safe from my mother ever spilling the beans to Noreen about my youthful indiscretion. 25 years later,my mother still has not forgiven me. Maybe that's what drives every argument we have, every nit-picky little fight we endure. Maybe she's still mad at me. I know she still resents it, still thinks about because yesterday she told my daughter that I laughed at her when Elvis died. I didn't laugh. I may have snickered a little. Maybe. I sent an email to my mother this morning:
I'm sorry, mom. I'm sorry I told you like that. But in a way it's your fault for making me sit through Viva Las Vegas and Jailhouse Rock, for forcing that horrid "In the Ghetto" on my ears, for making me tried fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It's been 25 years, mom. I promise to play Elvis at my wedding next week if you promise to get over it already. Deal?Maybe I should reword that.
Why a half review? Because I've only read about half the book. And I'm not going to read anymore.
I can't fathom what possessed Chabon - author of the fabulous Kavalier and Clay - to write Summerland.
Oh, wait. Yes I can. Money. I imagine one day his publisher came to him and said, "Hey, Michael, why don't you write a children's book so we can cash in on the Harry Potter-fueled children's fantasy book craze?"
And Michael said "What a fabulous idea. Except I never really wrote for children before."
To which the publisher said "Oh, that doesn't matter, make it up as you go along!"
Which may work well for some people - after all, Rowling had never written a children's book before she wrote Harry Potter - but it does not work for Chabon. In fact, by the third or fourth chapter of Summerland it becomes painfully obvious that Chabon is in way over his head.
Chabon takes the tried and true formula of putting an ordinary kid in an extraordinary situation and mutilates it. He 'borrowed' liberally from Lewis, Rowland, Eager and L'Engle, taking their ideas and themes and mashing them all together in what amounts to a big mess of a story with no direction and no coherence.
The idea of taking all the things that made other children's fantasy books work and putting them into one story may seem like a genius idea at the start, but imagine it this way: taking all of your favorite desserts and sticking them in a food processor to make one uber dessert would not turn out well. Not only would you not be able to tell the peanut butter from the chocolate, but it would taste like ass.
In Summerland, Chabon goes by a formula that's worked for kid's movies for ages (and don't for a minute think that Chabon wasn't penning a screenplay so much as a novel when he wrote it): a misfit kid, his misfit, skeptical best friend, a mean adult, an adult who manage to see the magic that kids see, an absent (in this case, dead) parent and the idea that human beings are shit. In what can be called a misplaced stroke of genius, Chabon decided to make his story different than all the others by giving it an underlying theme of baseball. What could be better than marrying magic and baseball? Too bad the baseball theme gets tiring and burdensome about 60 pages in.
Summerland could have been good. No, it could have been great. Fabulous. Stupendous. A giant leap in the realm of children's fantasy. But Chabon can't tell the story, which is surprising. While he knows how to string words together to make a beautiful sentence, he can't string the constantly changing plot lines together. Story lines come out of nowhere, leaving the reader disjointed and confused. Too often, things don't make sense and the baseball metaphor appears forced, throwing the story into further disarray.
I'll probably give in and read the rest of the book, just to see how he wraps up the myriad story lines and closes the gaping holes. I had high expectations for this book and for Chabon. Summerland was touted as the greatest thing since Harry, but it's the children's fantasy version of Goosebumps.
Of all the things to anger me this weekend, this is probably the one I should have let go. But I won't. Call it pettiness or whatever you will, but the story of the rise to low-level stardom of one Jessica Cutler sets my nerves on fire.
A five page article in the Washington Post yesterday details Cutler's rise from obscure whore to Playboy poser and six-figure author. The author tries to make the article appear to be a bit more than a fluff piece propping up yet another famous slut by interspersing the Tales of Jessica with studied quotes on moral relativism and the sexual mores of our younger generation. But it's hard to read this piece as any kind of morality tale when there are sentences like this:
Jessica tottered down the Russell Building's marble hallways atop the cute, nude-colored sandals that she liked to think made her legs look longer and sexier.
It's a Jackie Collins novel come to life.
The article goes on to detail Jessica's sexcapades and offers up justifications for her taking money for sex. It's a sordid story and I can't for the life of me figure out not only why Cutler seems proud of her tale, but why she's being feted by the media as if she were the spokesmodel for today's woman. Good god, let's hope it's not that.
Reading the rest of the story, I came away with a worse opinion of Cutler than I already had. She's a shallow, vain, self-centered woman who is going to crash and burn at a very early age, book contract and Playboy money notwithstanding.
I don't wish that on her. I'm sure it can't be good for one's self esteem when you look in the mirror at 30 years old and realize that everything you've done for the past few years has led you down the road to psuedo-celebrity hell. "I was a Trivial Pursuit Question" isn't something you want to add to your resume. Unless, of course, you're trying out for a gig on The Surreal Life.
Wait for it.
"I was only blogging for, what, less than two weeks?" she says. "Some people with blogs are never going to get famous, and they've been doing it for, like, over a year. I feel bad for them."
Note to Jessica: There's famous and there's infamous. Guess which you are.
And honestly, most of us don't want to be famous, per se. Sure, I'd love to get that six figure book deal, but I'm not gonna bang dirty old men to take the fast track to fame.
And therein lies most of the problem. What do young girls think when they hear the story of Jessica Cutler? Were they to read this WaPo article, they would see a woman who has slept with men in exchange for expensive meals and cash. They'll see her described as a fashionable, hip chick with all the right clothes, all the right connections, living the party life with no regret. It's no different than Paris Hilton, to an extent. A B-list celebrity cavorting in the spotlight, most often seen half naked in front of night clubs or fully naked in a home video. How does the media react to Hilton's sexual exploits? They give her a hosting spot on the Teen Choice Awards. It's soft-core porn, mass media style.
I'm not a huge moralist and I don't think there is no place for sex - or sexuality - in our society. But there is a big difference between promoting sexuality and promoting sex.
Perhaps my moral standards have changed as my kids got older. I see this blitz of breasts on even network television every day and it saddens me to think that my daughter is growing up in a media-crazed society that rewards most the women - and girls - who show the most. Maybe I've become a bit of a prude in my old age, but I cringe when I see women parading around in next to nothing because I know that teenage girls are impressionable and will emulate these women. What does a girl want, anyhow? Fame, fortune, Hollywood nights and hunky celebrities/rock stars dangling from their arms. No matter how
"good" your teenage daughter is, it's a safe bet that these are the things she's daydreaming about as she stares out the window. Now, thanks to women like Jessica Cutler, the media that gives play to them and the people that open the doors to their virtual pink Cadillacs to pimp them, our daughters can further see how being a vapid, self-centered, materialistic whore can get you five pages in a major newspaper, a spread in Playboy, a book deal and a chance at fifteen minutes of fame.
[photo and WaPo link from OTB]
[Saudi team enters] Couric: I love when the athletes wear their traditional clothing. This is not traditional, this is worn still in Saudi Arabia. Costas: Since the wakeup call of 9/11, Americans have become more aware of aspects of Saudi society beyond the oil and their nominal status as a U.S. ally. Those aspects include widespread religious extremism and an antipathy towards women's rights, and here in Athens, there are 21 members of the Saudi delegation. None are women. Couric: [Silence. For nine seconds.]Of course there was silence. Couric has nothing of value to add to a statement like the one Costas made. She suddenly found herself in a situation where a big smile and perky laugh wasn't appropriate to see her through. Don't even get me started on the U.S. basketball team. Though Alan Iverson did manage to smile once, they sauntered around looking like a bunch of kids who escaped from the Group Home for Attitude Problems. While the media is crowing about the wonderful start the Olympics got off to - because everyone knows that frilly costumes and prancing ponies signifies that everything is A-OK - I've already got a bad taste in my mouth because this anti-Semite and his back-turning brethren have already tainted the proceedings. Let the games begin. [if anyone finds a photo of the lady with the glowing stomach, please let me know]
[The following is my entry in the First Annual John Kerry Fiction contest. I wrote it at 4am. Read it as such.]
The motion of the boat had begun to make young John Kerry sick. If he were back home, his mom would rub his tummy and give him an aspirin to calm his nerves. But this wasn't home. This was Nam. Or somewhere near Nam.
They were cruising the MeKong. While his boat mates were busy getting stoned and listening to Jefferson Airplane, John was busy writing letters home. Oh god, how he wanted to be home. He signed off his letter to his girlfriend with a flourished signature - Sensitively yours, Johnny - then cursed aloud when he realized he had run out of stamps. One of his boat mates heard his four-letter utterance.
"What's the matter, Johnny? Can't find something to rhyme with roses are red?"
The other guys laughed, like they always did when John was the butt of the joke.
"Ha. Ha. Very funny. I ran out of stamps."
The captain of the boat shot a furtive glance to one of the other guys, a lanky redhead whose eyes often matched the color of his hair. John didn't see the look, but Red did. And he got the message.
"Here ya go, Johnny. I've got a stamp for you." Red reached into his pocket and pulled out a small baggie that appeared to be filled with stamps. Red pulled out a single stamp and handed it to John.
"Mickey Mouse? I didn't know they put Mickey on a stamp!" John grinned bemusedly, a girly, naive grin that often made the girls back home swoon. The Captain and Red exchanged another glance and each suppressed a giggle. They watched as John licked the back of Mickey Mouse and carefully attached the stamp to the corner of the envelope. He let out a contended sigh, knowing that eventually his girl would get the letter and know that he was safe.
John leaned back on a pile of dirty clothes and closed his eyes. The night wind rustled his hair and his hand reflexively went up to pat down the strays. As his fingers went through his hair, he felt a strange sensation. It was as if his hair had this depth, this texture, he never knew before. The nerve endings on his fingers had become ultra sensitive and he explored his hair as if it were the deep jungle of Viet Nam.
He then noticed other strange sensations. There was a metallic taste in his mouth and his tongue seemed to be vibrating. His arms and legs tingled with something not unlike ecstacy. He was at first unnerved by this, but then relaxed and enjoyed it as Grace Slick's voice flowed out of the small radio's speakers and into his ears. It ran through his veins and his blood. Grace Slick was inside him, singing! "Yes, I want somebody to love!"
"John?" Red was looking at him, and John swore there was a twinkle in Red's eye. "You ok, John?"
"Man, I never felt better. I feel....groovy!"
Red laughed and the sound of the laughter echoed in John's brains, sounding his own private laugh track to this crazy night.
As John looked up at Red, he notices small, white spots swirling in the air around him. The more he stared, the bigger and thicker the white spots became.
"Red! It's snowing! It's snowing!" John laughed giddily and stood up to try and catch the snowflakes in his mouth. As he danced around with his mouth open and tongue hanging out, his boat mates gathered around to watch.
"It's snowing!" He yelled again. "It must be Christmas!"
Red encouraged John's trippy fantasy. "Yea, it's Christmas, Johnny. Tell Santa what you want!"
"Oh, I want a pony! I want a pony! And I'm going to name him Bongo!" John, for the first time in his life, felt sheer joy and he began to cry as he became overwhelmed by happiness. As he spun around in his child like dance, he caught a glimpse of something off the side of the boat. "Is that an island? Is that Santa's magical island?" His thoughts became wild and disjointed.
Again, Red prodded John. "Yea, Santa's over there and he's got your pony, John."
John squealed with delight. "I'm gonna get a pony for Christmas!" Without hesitation, he stepped off the side of the boat into the water.
"Ohh...it's wet here. Why is it wet?" His boat mates said not a word and John could still hear Grace Slick in the distance.
And if you go chasing rabbits, And you know you're going to fall..
And it all made sense to John. Treading water, he yelled to his boat mates, "It's my tears! My tears of joy made a river so I can swim to Santa and my pony!" And he began to doggy paddle furiously towards the island.
When he reached shore, he was soaked and out of breath. He wanted to sit down and rest, but the thought of Bongo made him push on. John swatted huge branches out of his way as he followed what he thought was a nearly hidden path. Eventually, he came to a clearing. In the middle of the clearing was a small, square hut. Santa's house!
"Bongo! I'm coming! I'm almost there!" Exhausted, John fell to the ground. But he did not give up. He began to crawl on his belly, a snake like crawl that might have looked stealthy and dangerous if someone else were doing it. But this was a wild-eyed, soaking wet kid who was yelling out BONGO! every three seconds and the island natives who had been watching him could do nothing but break out in laughter.
Finally, one of the natives, a short, heavy set woman in a straw hat, walked over to him and grabbed his arm.
"Get up. Get up like man. Walk."
Aware of the villagers for the first time, John looked around in wonder. All these short, brown people! And all wearing funny clothes and hats.
"Santa's elves," he whispered with wonder. He stood up, brushed himself off and hugged the little woman by his side. "Where's Bongo?" he asked. "Where's my pony?" The woman looked towards the other villagers and shrugged. They all shrugged in response. No one knew what this American whack job was talking about.
A village man, much taller than the others and much whiter, stepped out from the hut then. He sauntered over towards John and whispered to the woman holding John's arm "Bad trip." The woman nodded knowingly and pushed John towards the tall, white man.
"Santa is gonna give me a pony for Christmas. Where is he? Where's Santa? Where's Bongo?" John was whining a bit and this irritated the man.
"Yea, you'll get your pony. In a few minutes. First things first." Then the man began to pat John down, feeling his shirt, his pants, his boots. He even patted him on the ass. John giggled. The man turned towards the villagers. "He's ok." The villagers went back to doing whatever they were doing before this strange American crawled into their lives.
"Follow me." The man spoke with authority. John followed.
They entered the hut and the man pointed John towards a table laden with food. John assumed it must be Santa's Christmas feast. He sat down and waited for his host to summon Santa and Bongo for him. As he waited, he played with his food, feeling the fine textures of the exotic vegetables, examining them as if they were archeological artifacts.
The villagers entered the hut then, and it became obvious to John that these were not ordinary Santa's helpers, but his closest confidantes and helpmates. They whispered to the tall man as they cleared dirty plates off the table and replaced them with platters of desserts. John began to wonder if the tall man was not Santa himself, perhaps down a few pounds after all that world traveling. Finally, John became impatient.
"Bongo?" He looked expectantly at the man, whose face - in John's mind - was contorting at a rapid speed in time to the music that played in the hut.
The man became angry.
"What is it with this Bongo shit? I thought the code word was calliope? You keep saying Bongo!"
John stared blankly. "Bongo. Hehe. Bongo is a funny word. But it's a good name for a pony, right, Santa?"
"Santa? What the hell? This guy is crazy!" He yelled to the short, heavy woman. "Get him out of here, now! I don't need this shit. My god, you try get one fucking covert operation going and they screw it up by sending me a hippie. Just once, I'd like things to go right."
The woman came to the table and grasped John's elbows to lift him up. She was surprisingly strong. And John was surprisingly slack.
"Hey, American psycho. Up! The blue bus is calling you!"
"Ohh...the blue bus is calling us. We better get on."
"No we. You. Move." The lady kicked the chair and John ended up on the floor. He began to cry.
"Santa, you are mean! You promised me a pony. I want Bongo!" He banged his fists on the floor and kicked his legs up and down. The tall, white man whispered something to the short woman and she scurried off into an adjacent room.
"Hang on, hippie. Santa won't let you go back empty handed."
The tall man was amused with himself. He very rarely made light of anything, but this was too good to pass up. John, oblivious to the man's sarcastic tone, stood up and embraced the man awkwardly. "I love you, Santa."
"Yea. A word of advice, kid. Don't eat the yellow acid."
"Ok, will do, Santa."
Soon, the woman came out of the other room. John was distressed to see she was not accompanied by a pony. In her hand was a hat.
"Here. Take this. It belong to my boss. He say have it. Now get lost, hippie."
John took the hat and ran his hands over the thick material. He wondered why the lady was giving him a hat. And then his mind cleared just a bit and he figured it all out.
"BONGO!" He let out a wail of distress that stopped the jungle animals in their tracks. "BONGO! What have they done to you, Bongo?" Great, heaving sobs came from somewhere deep inside John, from a place he didn't even know existed. The sadness and despair he felt were unlike anything he experienced before. The woman was shoving him out the door as he cried and moaned and stroked the hat.
"Oh, tears, carry me away again. I came here on tears of happiness and I leave on tears of sadness. How poetic!" With this, he walked into the water, the hat held aloft so it wouldn't get wet.
His boat was still right where he left it. Red was standing at the helm of the boat, eyeing John with pity. He threw him a life raft and dragged the sorry, exhausted soldier on board.
Red eyed him suspiciously. "Dude, what's with the hat?"
"It's not a hat, it's my pony."
Red chuckled. "You’ll be coming down soon, my man."
"Coming down from what?"
"Ah, never mind."
John fell asleep on the same pile of laundry he started this crazy trip on. Red silently pulled the hat out of John's hand and examined it.
"My friend went to Cambodia and all he got was this lousy hat." He snickered to himself and put the hat back in John's hands.
[Notice: comments from people with no sense of humor or an overblown sense of righteous indignation will be deleted]
Golan Cipel, a former McGreevey aide, was hired as his homeland security advisor following the Sept. 11th attacks -- but resigned under suspicious circumstances months later. McGreevey relied on his anti-terrorism credentials to justify hiring Cipel, a 33-year-old Israeli national, as a highly paid adviser. Cipel, an Israeli citizen, was hired by McGreevey for the $110,000-a-year security post in the governor's office, even though he was ineligible for a federal security clearance. Cipel's appointment as personal homeland security adviser to the governor created a firestorm of criticism, with Republicans aGeez, I beat CNN by more than half an hour. And no, I didn't see this coming. I heard many rumors about him, but none that he is gay. Update the last:
N.J. governor James McGreevey says he resigning as governor of New Jersey, that he is "a gay American" at a press conference in Trenton and that he had engaged in "an affair with an adult male man." "Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact on my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign," McGreevey said. "To facilitate a responsible transition, my resignation will be effective on Nov. 15 of this year." Gov. McGreevey will resign as early in mid-November. The mid-November timing would allow the Democrats to pick another candidate to run in 2005 primary electionsWord is Nov. 15th. One more update: It's Karl Rove's fault! [some parts edited for clarity after posting]
"If I'm walking in the Opening Ceremony, that's enough for me," said swimmer Mohammed Abbas, one of seven Iraqis competing via a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee. Most athletes qualify for the Olympics by meeting standards measured in seconds or meters. These athletes qualified because they are alive.This is a wonderful testament to freedom and democracy.
And for nearly two decades, until the Saddam Hussein regime toppled in spring of 2003, the Iraq Olympic Committee was run as the personal fiefdom of his older son — the psychopath Uday — who tortured and imprisoned underperforming athletes, especially soccer players. He was just as punishing to athletes who performed to their capacity but still lost, thereby denying him the reflected glory. An exhibit in a Baghdad stadium last month showed some of the dreadful tools that Uday employed against his cowering athletes: An iron-maiden-like casket, with spikes on the inside, into which he forced those who displeased him, and chain whips with steel barbs the size of tennis balls attached to the end.I'm incredibly happy for the Olympic athletes of Iraq and their proud families. Just a short time ago, this would have been impossible. Now, they are free to compete and free from fear. I can't wait to see the athletes holding the flag of Iraq high tomorrow night. Update: The Iraq soccer team defeated Portugal today, 4-2, in a preliminary match. Go Iraq!
The story told by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is compelling: A woman undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer continues working for fear of losing her health insurance, because her husband is unemployed. In television ads, e-mails and speeches starting before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary last January, Kerry has used the plight of Mary Ann and John Knowles, both 57, to criticize the Bush administration's health care policies. But an account from John Knowles in the New Hampshire Sunday News contains more details. He said Mary Ann could have taken disability leave without losing her health insurance, but needed to keep earning her full salary. "Her coverage is very good," he said. "It's not something that is a problem with her employer.If the shoe was on the other (Bush's) foot, the left would have been all over him, calling him a liar, accusing of him of using the plight of others for his own good and holding him up as untrustworthy. Crickets. Imagine the Cambodia issue on Bush. The left attack machine would be in full-frontal assault mode. Liar. Fibber. Crazy. Dishonorable. Unfit for the presidency. That's just the beginning of what they would be hurling at Bush. Defense. That's all I see on the left is one defense after another of Kerry's "searing memory" gone haywire. And if it's not defense, it's justification. It's as if they can't comprehend - or don't want to comprehend - the information given them so they either gloss it over, ignore it, or find some way to shoot spitballs at the people bringing the story to the front. Found over at VodkaPundit today: an excerpt from a story that appeared in the American Thinker in May. Here's just a small part:
It got to a point where Wright told his divisional commander he no longer wanted Kerry in his boat group, so he was re-assigned to another one. “I had an idea of his actions but didn’t have to be responsible for him.” Then Wright and like-minded boat officers took matters into their own hands. “When he got his third Purple Heart, three of us told him to leave. We knew how the system worked and we didn’t want him in Coastal Division 11. Kerry didn’t manipulate the system, we did.”To which Stephen replies: bq. Let me get this straight. Kerry used his authority recklessly, and it cost him his job. Tell me again what his beef is with George W. Bush? Not sure, but I can certainly tell you what the left's new beef with Bush is. Ready? He's a dirty rugby player (yes, this is four days old, I'm a bit behind on my blog reading). In the mind of Bob Harris (who posted this story over at Tom Tomorrow's place), Bush's elbow to an opponent is fair game as long as we are "revisiting the 60's." Apparently, you can tell a lot about a person from one photo taken from a game he played in 1968. Even though we have no idea what went on before that play, the photo is proof positive that Bush is an arrogant cheater who is not fit to be president. And we (Republicans/Bush voters) owe it to ourselves to really think hard about this when we vote for Bush because, after all, it's the moral equivalent of Kerry's actions in the same era. Right. This is the way Harris introduces the incriminating evidence: bq. As long as we're re-examining the 1960s, looking for signs of character, trying to decide if a man who volunteered for combat and was decorated five times was more or less courageous than a guy who didn't even show up for his own medical exam... here's George W. Bush during his college days, hitting a fellow sportsman in the face. He writes the rest of his post with a giddiness that belies the unimportance of this clue to the inner workings of George W. Bush. One would think that Harris h himself has uncovered a smoking gun in Bush's closet. So here we have a guy - Kerry - who, according to sources that were present with him - lied about his service in Vietnam. And now we see that a story that was seared in his memory is not the truth. This is a story he told to Congress. But, hey, let's compare that to a punch thrown in a rugby match. Granted, it looks like it was an illegal move. But I'll be damned if I was so desperate to take the heat off of my candidate that I would drag this photo out and proclaim it to be evidence of some great character flaw that makes him worse than his opponent. Alas, it's the M.O. of the left these days. You did it first. Your guy did something worse than ours. Yea, I know you are but what am I. They don't want to address the issues, they want to obfuscate them. Indeed, before the day is out, there will be at least one comment here saying something along the lines of "Bush lied, people died. Let's talk about that." And the issue here -t hat John Kerry is dishonest in some major areas - will get passed over as the comments will once again end up in a fight about WMDs. I think the main thing to remember here is that for most of the Anybody But Bush voters -who make up a good deal of the left - Kerry is not their candidate of choice. No one is. So in order to campaign for what they want to see happen in November they must spend their time throwing stones at Bush rather than supporting Kerry. Most of the people I talk to from the left don't even like Kerry. He's just not Bush and that's good enough for them. But that makes for some dishonest campaigning, as it all becomes so much rhetoric. Of course they won't address the issues. They can't. If this were a football came they would be running a hell of an offense. Unfortunately, their defense is non-existent. And they don't even have cheerleaders to take your mind off the ugly game on the field. What they have is a sold-out crowd of fair-weather fans, most of which bet the over-under and are just hoping for the right score without caring who wins. (Damn, maybe I should have went with a rugby metaphor)
Upcoming zombie movies:
That's enough to keep me shouting BRAAIIIINS for a long time.*
*best shouted in the middle of the night in front of your eleven year old son's room after he spent the day telling you that there is not a zombie movie made that could ever scare him. be prepared to change sheets
More upcoming goodies here.
I have a new advertiser over on the right.
The Playmakers, a celebration of classic toys and a tribute to the people who brought them to life. This 312-page book promises to take you on a toy trip of epic proportions, covering nearly 100 years worth of playthings and offering a delightful look back at many childhood favorites.
So I took a trip to the website this morning and immediately got lost in a wave of nostalgia. And we know what happens when I get nostalgic.
There is a poll running on the Playmakers site now: The Greatest Toy Ball Ever Created. Your choices are Magic 8 Ball, Wiffle Ball, Super Ball, Nerf Ball, and Koosh Ball.
I came pretty close to voting for the Nerf ball. How can you not give props to a ball that you could actually play with in the house without breaking mom's favorite vase or play with outside without breaking your sister's nose?
While the other balls are fine specimens, indeed (have you ever tried to see how many times a Super Ball can bounce in one room on one throw?) I had to vote for the Magic 8 Ball. It was, after all, my introduction to all things other-worldly and probably led up to my love of horror movies.
I'm not sure when I got my first Magic 8 Ball. I just know that, unlike its relatives that exist today, my 8 ball was heavy (relatively speaking - I was little). When you held one of those babies in your hand, it felt like you had the weight of the world sitting in your palm. The heaviness gave it an authenticity that the cheap plastic of today can't convey.
We would spend hours huddled in the backyard asking the 8 ball questions that only the Mystical Spirit of the Blue Goo would know.
Will I marry Bobby Sherman?
Does Paul Carey really wet his bed?
Does my mother hide the Christmas presents in the attic?
Of course, you know the pat answers. Outlook not so good. It is decidedly so. Outlook good. Ask again later (which meant ask two seconds later). My reply is no (which meant try again).
Eventually, we gave up on marrying Bobby Sherman, Paul Carey moved to another state and we found the Christmas presents. And, we grew up. Who would ask a silly 8 ball for relationship advice, anyhow?
But we didn't throw our 8 balls away. Unbeknownst to each other at the time, we all kept our 8 balls close at hand. Just in case. Will the Yankees win this game? Will my breasts ever grow?
The 8 ball tide turned at a sleep over at Arleen's house in 7th grade. After all our cache of scary urban legends had been exhausted, talk turned to all things supernatural. We talked about ghosts and vampires and shadows under the bed. This led to a mini-fight, pitting those of us who believed in things that go bump in the night against those who were quite sure that we were out of our minds. Or heathens. Arleen decided to quell the fight by consulting the Magic 8 ball. Which, when you think about it, shouldn't have solved anything, as those who didn't believe in ghosts were not likely to believe a toy. But by then the Magic 8 Ball had become somewhat of a mascot to our little group, and the other girls could not deny its power.
Are there such things as ghosts?
Arleen shook up that 8 ball with the same vigor which she would later in life shake her martinis.
Better not tell you now.
Well, that gave Lori the heebie jeebies. She surmised that if the all powerful 8 ball did not want to tell us, its because....because.....they were already ghosts in the room!
I grabbed the 8 ball from Arleen.
Are there spirits present here?
We held our collective breath as I shook the the 8 ball, the blue goo forming foaming bubbles that obscured the words for a few seconds. And then the bubbles subsided and the answer was revealed:
Yes - definitely.
Lori (who, looking back, had a mother reminiscent of Carrie's), grabbed the 8 ball out of my hands and flung it across the room. Obviously, the thing was possessed because not only did it not break, but there wasn't a scratch or dent on it when Arleen retrieved it from under the bed.
The noise of the 8 ball rolling on the wooden floor, plus the hysterical whimpering of Lori woke up Arleen's older sister Tammy, who stormed into the room demanding to know what we were up to. Lori, crying by this time, announced that we were playing games with the devil. Lori pointed to the Magic 8 ball.
This thing? Tammy laughed. You think you can call out the devil with this stupid toy? Hang on girls, I've got something better for you.
And so we spent the next few hours learning the proper way to read an Ouija board. Well, most of us did. Lori went downstairs and slept on the couch, away from us devil worshipers.
The Ouija board did not hold the same mysteries for me as the 8 ball did. It was too easy to manipulate and Arleen was a horrible speller, so we knew when the the triangle disc pointed us to GOHSTS in the room, Arleen had something to do with it. So Tammy decided to go one better, and showed us how hold a seance.
We called up on the ghost of Ben Franklin. We figured we would start with someone benign.
Lesson: Never call upon the ghost of Ben Franklin when the weather is ripe for a thunderstorm. No sooner did Tammy say (in a deep, spooky voice) Ben Franklin, if you are here, give us a sign, then a bolt of lightning lit up the night sky.
Have you ever heard five 13 year old girls scream in unison? The irony was not lost on us, all of whom knew the story of Ben Franklin and the lightning bolt. It all made perfect sense.
I saw him, I saw him! Grace, who had remained quite until then, was pointing towards the window, where the curtains were now billowing the wind and the tree branches were scraping against the glass. He was there! I saw his glasses! He was smiling and it was evil! Ben Franklin is the devil!
It was chaos for a few moments as we all scrambled to the window, looking for a sign of a bespectacled Satan. He was nowhere to be found.
An argument broke out as to whether or not Ben Franklin actually appeared at our sleep over, or whether Satan appeared disguised as Ben. No one questioned Grace's sighting; she was the smartest among us and would never steer us wrong.
I decided to settle the argument the easy way. I grabbed the Magic 8 ball off the night stand and gave it a shake.
Was Ben Franklin here?
Without a doubt was the answer.
Is Ben Franklin the devil?
Don't count on it.
I have to say, that answer was a bit disappointing. The mere thought of Ben Franklin being an agent of Satan was too delicious to not believe.
Alas, the Magic 8 ball was always right. After all, the presents were in the attic and the answer to Will I Marry Bobby Sherman was always very doubtful.
I'm afraid to ask it about the election.
"I am from San Francisco, California," the young man in the video said, dressed in a plain beige T-shirt and seated on a chair. "We need to leave this country right now. If we don't, everyone is gonna be killed in this way," he said. "I have been offered for exchange for prisoners here in Iraq," the terrified-looking American said, rocking back and forth in his chair, his hands tied behind his back. "We need to leave this country alone. We need to stop this occupation". The video then showed a hand with a large knife slicing through the neck of a limp body.Paul smelled something rotten and he was right.
The man from San Francisco, said he videotaped the staged beheading at his friend’s house using fake blood. On the tape, Benjamin Vanderford, 22, sat on a chair in a dark room, his hands behind his back, trembling and rocking back and forth.Interestingly enough, there is Benjamin Vanderford from San Francisco running for office (District 5 supervisor seat, running as Independent). A little research later and yes, they are the same person. bq. Vanderford, 22, said he began distributing the video on the Internet months ago in hopes of drawing attention to his one-time campaign for city supervisor. When his political aspirations waned, he thought the video would serve as social commentary. So, his political hopes dashed, he decided to engage in some recreational deception instead.
The video was titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Slaughters an American." Zarqawi is an Al Qaeda-linked militant whose group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks across Iraq, including the beheading of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg. Vanderford's video also showed images of disfigured and injured people in Iraq. A recording of the Quran, Islam's holy book, played in the background. Sipping soda in his kitchen, a shirtless Vanderford said he spliced images he took from a Hamas Web site showing mutilated bodies. He later edited the 55 second video to downgrade the quality so it would look similar to beheading tapes distributed since the war in Iraq began. Vanderford offered no apologies for his stunt. "That was another experiment that was part of this to see how quickly that system will spread news," Vanderford said.What a way to get your point across. Benjamin gets my nomination for Idiot of the Day. Maybe even the year. I'm sure the families of those who were really beheaded by terrorists appreciate having to relive their nightmares over again when Benjamin's stunt made the news. And I'm sure the Muslims in his community equally appreciate Benajmin's big lie. James Joyner has more. Update: I'm at a loss in trying to figure out how Ben's stunt would garner sympathy for the anti-war movement. He was only furthering the anger towards the "insurgents" and "militants" in Iraq. Perhaps he really had no goal except to feed his own ego. Update the second: I have to agree with Laurence in the comments that this speaks volumes about the media's willingness to soak this stuff up.
(es+u+cs+t) squared +s+ (tl+f)/2 + (a+dr+fs)/n + sin x - 1. Where: es = escalating music u = the unknown cs = chase scenes t = sense of being trapped s = shock tl = true life f = fantasy a = character is alone dr = in the dark fs = film setting n = number of people sin = blood and guts 1 = stereotypesTheir winner? The Shining. On which I call BS. The Shining had its moments, but Shelley Duval and that little kid were so annoying it was hard to be sympathetic towards them. Plus, I read the book and was sorely disappointed that there was no topiary scene in the movie. I'd been having a conversation with Allah in which I bemoaned the fact that there are no good horror movies anymore. Even the latest crop - 28 Days, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, Jeepers Creepers - none of them succeeded in scaring me. And what more does one want from a purported scary movie than to be....scared. While I am a big fan of cheesy slasher flicks (see, Prom Night) and general gore (see, Dead Alive), those things don't scare me as much as entertain me. When it comes to being frightened, I prefer my scares to be psychological. I find movies are also scarier if the fear is subtle or unnerving, as opposed to making you jump out of your seat on cue with the scary music. Which is why movies like Friday the 13th are fun and movies like Session 9 are scary, and movies like Last House on the Left can leave you feeling creeped out for days on end. Using the formula above, I went over a few of my own favorite horror/scary movies. Now, math just isn't my thing, especially alegbra, so I'm sure some mistakes were made in the computations. Regardless, I was able to come up with a list of movies that scored well. And The Shinging nor Blair Witch (which I thought was heinous) are nowhere to be found. Also: Before anyone opens up the discussion, The Wickerman was NOT scary. It was horrid. Bad. Laughably bad. * The Exorcist. Probably the last movie that frightened the bejesus out of me. * Candyman. I found this movie to be both evil and frightening. Not only could I not look in the mirror for days after (I know I wouldn't be able to help myself from saying the dreaded words), but it's one of the few movies I have not been able to watch a second time. It comes on the tv, I go running from the room. * Magic. Anyone remember this? Anthony Hopkins is a ventriloquist with an evil dummy. Probably frightened me more than most people because I always thought dummies were evil to begin with. See, also: evil monkeys. * Evil Dead. Most of you know that the Evil Dead trilogy rank as three of my favorite movies ever. ED2 and AoD weren't so much scary as they were fun, the first, Evil Dead, was truly creepy. * Lady in White. One of those psychologically creepy movies. * The Entity. Ok, this wasn't really a great movie. But I will never, ever in all of my life forget the image of those invisible fingers pressed into Barbara Hershey's breasts. That's what I put through the calculator for now. I'm sure you'll come up with dozens of your own, and several arguments as to why my choices are wrong. But, as always, I welcome dissent.
A television station is reporting three bank robberies happened about the same time President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry were speaking at separate venues in Davenport Wednesday morning. WQAD television station, located in the Quad Cities, reported the first robbery happened at the First National Bank. The names of the other two banks weren't immediately available. Davenport police say they could not comment and were helping to direct the political leaders' motorcades.Gotta love that last line. Which reminds of something I've been meaning to blog about. This week, our town is having something called Night Out. It's supposed to be this big gathering/candlelight vigil at our "town square" to call awareness to crime and drugs, letting the criminal element know that we're on to them and gosh darn it, we're not gonna take it anymore. Did anyone ever think that putting up these signs all over town proclaiming every man, woman, boy and girl will be at the town square at this given time and place is a blanket invitation to the criminals to perform some quick house robberies? Sounds like the makings of a Simpsons episodes.
Yesterday, on my way to Pete's wake, I saw a woman standing on the side of the road with her children, holding up signs pointing to the local flea market, where they were accepting donations to send to the rescue workers. I saw lawns and fences decorated with flags. I saw a whole schools dressed in red, white and blue. I keep thinking back to high school, when the hostages were held in Iran and everyone drove around with their headlights on during the day in a show of solidarity. We stared out of the window of our classroom, awed by the swelling patriotism that engulfed our country. I remember the Gulf War, the yellow ribbons tied to trees, the signs on windows of families who had loved one overseas "Pray for Claude," said one, and I know a lot of people did, whether they knew him or not. Times like these tend to bring people together. I am not a flag-waving patriotic kind of person. If you are a regular reader here, you know I have my problems with this country, with our leader. Yes, I know I am lucky to live in a free country. But living in a free country also provides me with the freedom to criticize it. I have railed against George W. Bush here many times, almost on a daily basis. But now I have to place my trust in him, and the people he chose to surround himself with during his term. I have to put aside whatever came before this and trust him to do the right thing. And I have no idea what that right thing is. I can't imagine being the people in the unenviable position of having to choose what that is. We have to trust. We have to have faith in our leaders. We cannot become divisive. We cannot take our anger out on the wrong people.United
What I just witnessed was strength in numbers. I was taking a quick drive to the store. One block away. As I pulled into the lot, I saw a couple across the street standing outside their building, holding candles. There was supposed to be a candlelight vigil at 7, but it was too light out then. So I figured this couple just came out when it got dark. Very sweet. Then I looked down the block. At least every other house or building had people outside of it, candles and flags held high. I forgot what I had come to the store for and drove out the lot and down the road. All down North Jerusalem Rd., the people stood. They waved, they sang. I turned north onto Gardiners Avenue and the numbers doubled. Down the side streets, they were there. The people who weren't outside had left lit candles by the sidewalks. Old, young, parents, children. They were all out. I decided to swing home and stop at my mother's to let her know. I passed DJ's school and had to stop my car to get a better look at what I was seeing. There were about 400 people, maybe 500. All with candles. All singing, holding hands, hugging. And I couldn't get out and join them. Because I finally broke down. I pulled over down the next street and stopped the car. I cried. Finally, I cried hard and long and I hyperventilated and had a panic attack. And I stayed there, gasping for air and wiping my tears with my sleeve and sobbing like a little kid. I cried for everything that happened the last few days. I cried for my father, who is walking around like a lost child. I cried for my cousins, who have been sifting through rubble and body parts non stop and will never be the same again. I cried for the vicitms, the survivors, the witnesses. I cried for everyone in this country. And I cried for my kids. Because they will never experience the freedom and safety I felt as a child. There were some good tears. There were tears of thanks for every rescue worker, every hero, every volunteer. Tears for every person who has comforted someone who needed it. For every kind gesture, every candle lit, every person in another country who has grieved with us. Then I had a thought. They think they broke us. But I think maybe they fixed us.Well, hindsight is interesting. We're still very much a broken country. But I suppose it will always be that way. I was naive to think that something of that magnitude would bring us all together permanently. I really, honestly thought that I wouldn't be the only one crossing that line and embracing the other side. And no, it didn't happen overnight, it didn't even happen after those two "defining" moments. It takes time to break free from the things that hold you down. And, like my separation from my ex, it took time to work up the courage to say, I cannot live like this anymore. So, yes. I did say those things Angry American wrote and I thank him (her?) for bringing those words out again, to remind me of how far I've come personally, from a time when I could barely look at myself in the mirror to now, being very comfortable with who I am. There was a lot more than politics mixed into the path from here to there, but the letting go of that part of me was a big part of it. I'm sorry, Mr. Angry American, but your desired results are probably quite the opposite of what you were attempting to do. This insane, deranged, cowering Long Island housewife kindly asks that you kiss her proud American ass.